May 31st – The Phantom Festival

Sound travels in strange ways through the lands to the west of Buentoille; the valleys and hills and forests twist it and turn it and carry it far away from its source. This is what Quercus Millstone found out for herself when she took the dog out to relieve itself before bed on this day in 1982. There was a low thumping sound, like faraway music, as she watched the sun setting between the two tree-lined hills in the distance. ‘Kids,’ she thought, and went back inside.

The next year the same thing happened, and then the same the next. On the fourth time it was the week after Millstone’s dog had died, and she was mainly standing outside out of habit. ‘There’s that sound again,’ she said, to a dog that wasn’t there. ‘Let’s go see who it is.’ It was sunset, so there was only a few minutes of light left, but she knew the lands all about well and brought a torch.

She tried to aim straight for the music, and tried to make out what it was as she did so. It was the same music each time, she was sure of it, although she supposed all music sounds pretty similar that far off when all you can hear is the bass. A couple of times, when she snaked around the corner of a valley or rocky outcrop, she lost the musical trail, but she soon caught up with it again. The music started to get a little clearer, a little louder, and then she lost it; no matter which way she went she couldn’t catch the trail again. She was tired and suddenly uninterested, so went home.

The same thing happened again the next year, and then the next, and the next. On the Eighth year she happened to have a friend around, sampling the country air, and they both set out together. Eventually they got to the same place. ‘Have you looked in the papers to see if there’s a festival being put on in the woods out there?’ asked her friend. Of course she had. ‘Okay, well…’ her friend chose her next words carefully, she knew how Quercus didn’t like to rely on others, ‘You should see if there’s an acoustician or something who’d be interested in finding it – it’s quite the mystery!’

The next year, responding to adverts Millstone had placed in the papers, an acoustician and a topographer arrived at her house at around lunchtime. They brought a number of maps, made various mathematical calculations, ate the home made pea fritters that Millstone served, asked her questions about the lay of the land, told her to point where the sounds were most audible. After dinner they all set out together, the acoustician carrying some complex recording apparatus, the topographer with one eye on his maps, making marks here and there. ‘Watch out with the slope here,’ Millstone would say, ‘the ground is very slippery.’

Fast forward twenty six years, and folk are still trying to work out where the noise is coming from. Three years ago the song changed, which seems strange, but essential location didn’t seem to change. They’ve tried making complex simulations of the local area, sending out large groups of people across the countryside, putting adverts in the papers asking the music-makers to reveal themselves, but nothing seems to work, not entirely at least. They seem to have tracked the sound very close, much farther than Millstone ever got alone, so that you can hear the music clearly (it is some kind of funk), but as soon as you pass into gulley from which the sound appears to emanate, it disappears.

The main theories about where the sound comes from suggest that there is either some kind of underground cave system with hidden openings where sound escapes, or that the sound is actually very far away indeed, a directional cone of sound from a complex speaker system bounced off various hills, with the valleys acting as amplifiers. ‘Just because it sounds as if it is just around the corner doesn’t mean that it is. We are going to have to build some much larger simulations of the surrounding area; it’s going to take some time.’ said Guilliame Termid, Head of Acoustic Sciences at de Geers, last year. It seems that, at least for a couple more years, this particular mystery will not be solved.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Historical Depictions of Mythical and Magical Trees: A Day-long Exhibition

  • The Festival of Untimely Woolen Hats

  • The Festival of the Eighth Troubadour

  • Curtain Removal Day

May 30th – The Festival of the Waylayer’s Roulette

Religious dissent is as old as religion itself. Religion is so varied, has such control (for the most part) over the lives of its followers, that there will always be someone ready to disagree, to propose alternative theories or disavow it entirely. This has always especially been the case with the Chastise Church, with nonconformists choosing to modify the organisational structure (finding the hierarchical nature of the Church anathema to religious Attunement) or specific teachings. Rarely, though, do you find a group of people who deliberately go against Church teachings seemingly just because they can, whose teachings are not defined by their own logic or predilections, but through simply being the opposite of what the Church teaches.

One such rare religious grouping are the Most Unholy Church of the Waylayer, who will today gather in black gowns, wearing well-maintained stainless steel manacles around their wrists (rusty, broken iron manacles are a sign of the Chastise Church, symbolic of their emancipation from the Waylayer, the false god), as is their normal ceremonial clothing. Today they are going to gamble, an activity proscribed by the Chastise Church, but not only will they gamble with coin; to the pot they will add their eternal souls.

Most of the Unholy Church goers do not believe in what they are doing in any true sense. The Church was created in 1732 by a group of parishioners from Tallboys district who, in response to a particularly over-zealous local priest, had come to question the Church’s teachings, especially in response to gambling. Eventually they brought these questions up at the end of a service, their argument being that if the Church truly did not believe that a god exists (this is at the core of all Chastise Church teachings), then why did they treat the Waylayer with such fear and reverence; surely this was tantamount to worship? ‘Why should we be afeared of gambling? Surely if the Waylayer is not god and if humans have such control of our destiny as you claim, then he cannot get to us through any means, let alone gambling!’

The priest’s response to their questioning was to excommunicate them, perhaps not the wisest response, especially given that it spurred them on to create the Most Unholy Church of the Waylayer. This new Church was initially intended to prove their point, that the Waylayer did not exist and had no power over them, so they could worship it all they wanted and experience no ill effects; it was a way of getting back at their dogmatic, fearful local priest. It was essentially a gambling club for a group of disaffected churchgoers. Yet over time, it gathered new worshippers, folk who had also been disavowed by the Chastise Church, or who generally disliked its teachings and wanted to get back at it. There were some who joined who were true believers, too. Slowly the Unholy Church became an alternate religious institution, with its own dogma to boot.

Before they begin the ceremony proper, the acolytes will sing backwards versions of Chastise Church liturgies, carefully learned by singing along with backwards recordings, then recording one’s own voice singing backwards, playing that in reverse and seeing how close to the original it sounds, modifying their songs appropriately. The game which will be played today, Waylayer’s Roulette, is supposedly much older than the Unholy Church itself, it being modelled on a game called ‘Waurst Wheel’, a form of roulette said to summon the Grenin Waurst or one of his kin, capricious mythical beings, capable of granting great happiness or unhappiness to the players depending on where the ball comes to rest.

There have always been associations between the Grenin Waurst and the Waylayer, with some historians going so far as to say that the Waylayer was modelled on stories about the Waurst. Others dispute this, pointing out that the Chastise Church is an inter-municipal organisation, whereas the Waurst is a uniquely Buentoilliçan myth. In any case, it is true that Waylayer’s Roulette is indeed a modified form of Waurst Wheel, the main difference between the two being the rules and the absence, in the younger version, of the ‘incantation ring’ which sits around the edge of the Waurst Wheel. This counter-spinning ring of glyphs is supposedly the part which does the actual summoning, the markings forming the image of several eyes when spun, and in the one example available for public viewing (in Horst Belnetch’s Museum of the Cursed) it has been nailed down so it cannot be spun.

When they have lit five black candles around the edge of the room, the acolytes all gather around the roulette table, a black lacquered construction with ornate bone detailing. Money and favours are played for interchangeably, with certain slots meaning a particular forfeit is required of the participants, such as being the next person to buy a round of drinks, or having to give a small amount of blood to the cup before the statue of the Waylayer in the next room. Only two players can bet at once, and if the ball falls into one slot marked with a skull cut from real human bone those two players have their souls ‘taken by the Waylayer’; i.e. they are considered ‘out’ and cannot bet any longer today.

Whilst betting is performed almost every day by the acolytes of the Unholy Church, today is their anniversary, the day those first parishioners were excommunicated, and it is only today that they will play Waylayer’s Roulette.

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Righteous Protest Against The Blasphemous Unholy Ones
  • Urvil Kant’s Tie Tying Competition

May 29th – The Glade Road Gardening Competition

At one time it would have all been forest where Calewynch district now stands, and indeed the district borders on a small sliver of what would once have made up Calewynch forest, which itself would, once upon a time, have connected to Dunmonii wood to its south. Calewynch district is right on the edge of the City, and Glade Road is on the furthest edge of the district. Here there is room to breathe, and each of the thirty seven houses that sit on the other side of the road from the last dregs of forest all have large and beautiful gardens. Today they will all look particularly beautiful, because today they are being judged.

Some gardens are designed for those long summer nights of July and August, some are made to look good the whole year around. The gardens of Glade Road are all designed to look their best in late spring, specifically for today, when the Calewynch Horticultural Society will send a contingent of board members to judge them. The competition is fierce, and whilst there is neighbourly love between the residents at most other times of the year, there are only hard glances and suspicions in the spring. It’s thought that there’s something about the soil on this verdant edge of the City which encourages the growth of the late spring flowers here; they overflow from planters, hanging baskets and borders.

Here in the gardens there are roses climbing trellises, delicate orchids hiding in sections of wild grassland, startlingly clear pools topped with flowering lily pads. Gardeners create intimate spaces where frogs hop peacefully over dewy grass, sun streaming through the wisteria arches overhead. Paths are laced through these delicate spaces, winding their way about the intricately layered flower beds, creating vistas pleasing to the eye. To dwell in these viridescent spaces is a salve for the weary soul. For pretty much all of the Glade Road residents, gardens are an obsession, an art which gives meaning to their lives.

Besides the judges, plenty of Buentoillitants will travel to the gardens today, to experience their delight first hand, after the judges have marked each garden, of course. Often they ask, as they gaze at the blossom on a tree, there much later than it should be, or at the perfect shape of the roses with not a brown petal or leaf in sight, how do they manage it? How can a place be made so perfect, even if it is only for a day? The answer they give is of course hard work, resolve, experience, but there are other clues to a more esoteric, less believable explanation, hidden in the shrubbery or a quiet corner of each garden, if you know where to look.

In 1845 there lived on Glade Road a woman called Martha Hindergall, a brewer who worked quite some distance away, and had little time for gardening. Every year, when the competition came around, she realised that she had entirely underprepared, and her roses wilted, there were weeds in the beds, in short it was (for Glade Road standards) something of a disaster. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to compete, or that she didn’t care enough, she just simply didn’t have the same time and energy as the other gardeners, nor did she have the experience or skill. After seven years of the same story she was tired of always having the worst garden, of the way the other gardeners talked about her (not with malice or harsh words, but with suppurating pity), so she looked for outside help.

The word ‘surprise’ does not really cover the feelings of the other Glade Road residents when Hindergall won that year. The idea that this frankly useless girl had managed to create such a glistening spectacle in her garden, when days before it looked a scraggly mess, was beyond belief. Magic must have been involved, surely! Perhaps she was a witch? All the other gardeners surreptitiously walked around the public showings, trying to spot the trick, trying to see how she had managed it. What they found was a small shrine in one corner of the garden with a dozen cut flowers and three yew branches laid upon it, and in the grass all about strange cloven footprints, yet not foot prints because there was no impression on the ground, just a lengthening of the grass in the shape of a footprint. They knew what it was immediately.

In many Escotolatian myths there are forest spirits, spirits that once roamed all across the land which was then all wooded. They take many forms in these myths – that of animals, ghosts, the trees themselves. One of the most popular was a mysterious figure, somewhat akin to a woman but with the legs and head of a deer, who made plants grow wherever she stepped. This is who Hindergall must have summoned, they thought, this is how she must have done it. In fact, they were so preoccupied with the notion, with making their own shrines for the next year, they did not notice the other footprints in the soft grass; the bootprints of many workmen and the wheel ruts from reams of freshly grown flowers she had carted in, all technically against the rules, but later admitted by Hindergall on her death bed. It seems, however, that the admission did nothing to stop each gardener trying to gain an advantage with their own shrines, just in case.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Inexorable Impresario
  • The Golden Tongue Festival
  • Herbert Machievn’s Dark Art Festival

May 28th – The Aerial View Festival

For a very long time, humans have wanted to fly. You can trace the urge all the way back to the Helican myths (interestingly, Escotolatian myths seem more interested in what lay beneath the earth), with the tale of Traciam, who built a giant catapult, hoping to land atop a cloud. Today’s festival leverages that urge in the service of music and revelry.

Aerial are an elektronika band from the east of the City, who make music from recordings of everyday sounds. Each year they host a festival called the Aerial View in an old converted warehouse, which is invariably filled to the rafters. Just below those rafters is a large screen, onto which around fifty pieces of footage will be projected, flickering between them as the music plays. On each of the walls is a similar construction.

How is this connected to flight? Well, at 12pm today, as the festival begins, the band will release fifty greater swifts, chosen for the amount of time they spend in the air and their larger size than most other types of swift. Each bird has a very small camera and radio transmitter attached to it. To avoid excess bulk the camera only has enough batteries to last for 9 and a half hours, enough to produce footage until just after sunset, and when the batteries run out the strap which attaches the camera and transmitter to the bird’s body will detach harmlessly from the animal.

The footage from each of the birds is played live on the screens which line the venue, one of the band mixing a number of feeds to create the most visually pleasing arrangement. Whilst the festival goes on much later than 9:30, usually continuing well into the morning, it is then that a break is organised for the revellers to take on food and fluids, before the footage from the day is remixed live into the night’s entertainment.

Whilst Aerial has produced some dance numbers, their musical style is characterised by floaty reveries that have often been referred to by reviewers as ‘spiritual’ and ‘transportational.’ Low beats undercut the reverberative electronic sounds that make up the melody. All the music at the festival today will be mixed on the spot in response to the footage on the screens, but certain popular refrains will undoubtedly surface.

The music is delivered by several enormous speaker stacks that encircle the space. Inside those are hundreds of hammocks, all hung between a number of metal rings which themselves encircle the dance floor in the centre. If you want to dance there is always room, or if you would prefer to lie back and watch the swooping footage above you, that too is always an option; whilst the place is always packed you never have trouble finding a good spot.

Much of the appeal of the festival is that it provides a new way of looking at the City; the birds usually end up swooping around the countryside catching small insects and water droplets from the air, but before that they will hover high over the City, seeing it laid out below like a great jigsaw puzzle. ‘There’s my house!’ you might hear someone shout. Besides hot-air balloon rides, this is the closest you can get to flight. Yet the main appeal must surely be the strange, floaty sensation you get as you hang in a hammock, slightly drunk, and look up at the footage above you, the twists and turns tricking your brain into feeling some alternate gravity. Even on the dance floor, folks often crane their necks to look at the ceiling, which often leads to a few collisions. Yet there are no fights or harsh words here; it’s difficult to get angry with such calming music.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Three Wines
  • The Orvis Benaldor Festival of Comedic Sneezing
  • The Day of Bedtime Stories

May 27th – The Festival of the Wrathful Cauldron

At one end of Dimitri’s Park of Bathing, just along from the amphitheatre, is a small, ornate bath house. It has large marble columns, elaborate cornices, it has the grandeur in style (not in size) of a mausoleum, though now ivy trails its way across the façade. The wrought iron gates are locked most days and the place is left alone save for an inquisitive rattle here and there. In a way it is a mausoleum, for it was here, on this day in 1347 that Lord Einsteele-Pottinger was boiled to death.

Details are sketchy as there are little written records of the affair save for the trails of the perpetrators which were essentially superfluous, the guilt of the accused already having been established in the eyes of the king. The trials mainly served as a way for the accused to explain their actions, to give reason for the horrific murder they had committed, and indeed not one of the five murderers denied what they had done. If anything they seemed rather proud.

It’s a testament to the unpopularity of the Lord that the murderers were given any chance to speak of their reasons; Jaques Simm, author of Seven Gruesome Buentoilliçan Deaths, states that ‘The judge himself had been wronged by Einsteele-Pottinger in his time, and whilst he could not contradict the will of the king, he did his best to let them speak for themselves, so that the other districts would understand their actions, and so that they would not go down in the history books as monsters.

It seems that Lord Einsteele-Pottinger had spent a long time making himself unwelcome and hated in the district he ruled over (Whight Hollow), and was generally considered a boorish, disgusting man, but by virtue of being the king’s cousin he mostly got away with it. It also seemed that he had a vastly inflated and fragile ego, and always insisted on making everything a competition. If ever he lost any of these competitions he would fly off the handle and persecute the winner. One of his killers, a doctor called Vennius Fynn, was stripped of his medical degree after Einsteele-Pottinger made false claims to the king that he was stealing corpses for research, all because Fynn had corrected the Lord’s assertion that ‘women have smaller brains’ at a dinner party.

Unsurprisingly, the poorer folks of Whight Hollow also had unpleasant run-ins with the Lord. He had on more than one occasion gotten incredibly drunk and ridden his carriage through the middle of a crowd, on one occasion severely maiming a young woman. The staff in his mansion, two of whom joined in the plot to kill Einsteele-Pottinger, were frequently abused, emotionally, physically and sexually. Any who left his service were tarred as thieves and could not find further employment as servants. He ran up huge debts with various alcohol merchants, then accused them of illegal practices if they came to collect. On the other hand he sent bruisers around to each house to collect on-the-hoof taxes whenever he needed some extra revenue. He demanded that any crayfish caught in the Moway by the Which Hollow fisheries were reserved for his table, whether he bought them or not, leaving fishers constantly out of pocket. In short, the Lord was not, by any metric you wish to apply, a nice man.

It was one of the fishers, Wesley Treeving, who headed up the plot to boil the Lord, thinking it a fitting end to a man who professed such a love of crayfish yet rarely bought any. He found his four co-conspirators (a former housemaid called Juniper Aslef, the Lord’s butler, Ergol McDranter, doctor Fynn, and a wine merchant called Luxe Riefend) mostly by lingering at the bar of various pubs for long enough that people would start complaining about Einsteele-Pottinger. The bathhouse had not been standing for long when the plot was first formed, and the doctor had actually worked in the construction of it, seeing as they could no longer practice medicine. Inside, the baths were actually large cauldrons, heated from below by log fires. These would be burned for long enough to get the water hot and then put out by closing the furnace door, cutting off the air supply.

The butler informed the Lord of the opening of the bathing house, ensuring that he found it enticing enough to got there at the right time. The ex-housemaid and doctor took on jobs working the bathing house fires. The wine merchant added a paralysing agent to a bottle which she supplied him for the occasion. He was unable to move as the waters got hotter and hotter, his skin reddening like a crayfish. They only got found out because someone unexpectedly walked in whilst they all sat around toasting Einsteele-Pottinger’s death (with unadulterated wine).

Every year since the murder folk have gone back to the scene and toasted the conspirators, who were all hanged later that week. The bathing house shut down shortly after the murder as people got scared off, not wanting to meet the same soupy end. Before the Revolution this was an illicit affair, a small gathering of brave Whight Hollow dwellers, but since then the festival has become much more popular. Today the metal doors of the bathhouse will be thrown wide, live music will be played, the wine will flow plentifully and in the bath, known locally as the Wrathful Cauldron, crayfish will be cooked en masse and served to the gathered revellers.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Peer Review
  • The Festival of Cups
  • A Link in the Eternal Chain of God Day

May 26th – The Festival of Televisual Nostalgia

Normal programming will resume tomorrow, but for today two of the three Buentoilliçan Broadcasting Service (BBS) stations will show only repeats of old footage. Generally the BBS is very good at producing new and interesting content, and rarely shows repeats, but occasionally there are those moments when old friends sit around a table and ask, ‘do you remember that show we used to watch when we were young? The one about the little girl who lived in a clock?’; today is for those moments, a chance to be transported, briefly, into the past.

It is for these reasons that most of the shows put on today are old children’s TV shows, although early episodes of long-running family programmes are also shown. Last year a memorable episode of Eldritch Visions, a weird science fiction programme that began in 1956 and still runs to this day, was shown. It was the episode in which the protagonist of the time, Jason Kettering, is cloned and this clone takes over his life. People who were children when the episode was first aired (in 1973) felt once again a sense of primal fear when the cloned Kettering smiles manically, something most younger folks didn’t understand.

The festival began in 1987 when the legend of broadcasting, Arlene Fulsome, died at the age of 104. Fulsome’s career was long and illustrious, as she worked in television essentially since its inception, as either the Creative Director of Fiction for the BBS, or some very similar, more hands-on role. Fulsome gained a reputation very early on for having an excellent eye for good scripts and potential adaptations, having already cut her teeth as the director of The People’s Stage, and throughout her tenure brought some of the most loved programmes to the eyes and ears of Buentoillitants. This was greatly helped by Fulsome’s genre-agnosticism; she broadcast gritty realist drama such as Kitchen Talk in the same sweep as the mystical, fantastic, All the Fairies I Once Loved. Fulsome ensured that the BBS had something for everyone. In celebration of her life, the BBS spent a day showing the highlights of her career, the gambles that had worked out and some which had not.

Whilst a small segment of today’s broadcast is set aside for a celebration of Fulsome, the day has morphed into a general festival of nostalgia. When the license fee collectors came around last week they took suggestions from each age group as to what they’d like to see again. The only age group not consulted is 0-10 year olds, who, it is supposed, don’t have much to be nostalgic about. Each age group has its own section of the day set aside, in which a few of their chosen programmes are shown, but at the end of each section there is another, ‘randomised’ section, where a programme is snatched out of the archives at random and shown for 30 minutes. Some years these programmes are the most popular, as people have entirely forgotten about them until that point, leading to an even greater sense of nostalgia.

The BBS archive is a locked sub-section of the Unfathomed Archive beneath Ranaclois hill, quite some way away from the actual Broadcasting House and transmitter atop Twoshill’s Barrow. Broadcasting House holds a number of recordings too, yet there is only space for the last five years of tapes; at the end of each month the oldest are carted across the City to the Archive. Perhaps it was in this transportation process that the Tugboat Wanderers incident occurred, seeing as the BBS archive is generally well protected from thieves and meddlers.

Tugboat Wanderers was a popular children’s television show in the late eighties and early nineties which featured five childish puppets living together on a tugboat that made its way through a strange world made up primarily of endless canals. They didn’t seem to have any true destination or purpose, and each episode, only 15 minutes long, focused on a meeting with another boat or canal-side dwelling, or some other interesting incident. Whilst the children of the time seemed to love it, the adults found it, frankly, somewhat unsettling; the puppets moved inelegantly, spoke with strange, reedy accents, and there was always the suggestion of some unknown threat lurking beneath the still waters.

I still have the nightmare, sometimes,’ wrote Daniel Yerman, in an article in the Buentoilliçan Broadcast Schedule, ‘It must have been part of an episode I watched, that got stuck in my head somehow, morphed and twisted. In it I am on the tugboat with the puppets, and we all hold hands in a circle, and then, before I know it we are in the water, sinking slowly to the bottom, and I can’t get free. I remember the quality of the water well, cold and thick, and there were these water weeds all around, red and green like seaweed except it was a river, I remember that much, it was a river very much like the Moway, but not quite. It would recur every night for months, but I didn’t tell anyone, because I knew they would tell me to stop watching TV and I liked watching TV. It always ends in the same way; suddenly I am outside my body, looking at the circle of children holding hands, and it’s as if I am looking into a fish tank at these little figures, all set in the water which has thickened still, and I know then that I am dead.’

Yerman implored the other residents of Buentoille to ask for any episodes they remembered which sounded alike to his dream so that he could have some sense of closure, and, to his surprise, many did, some out of kindness to him, some because they too had had the same dream. Someone at the BBS identified a similar episode, entitled The Wanderers Go Diving, and put it on as part of that year’s festival. It seems that someone must have switched the tapes, because instead of Tugboat Wanderers, what was actually broadcast to all of Buentoille that year was fifteen minutes of something else entirely. The BBS claimed after the incident that it was no mistake on their part, and that the alternate footage was not simply another tape that had been mis-catalogued; it matched nothing else they’d ever produced. Quite where it had come from was anyone’s guess.

What was on the tape? Nothing horrific, or even as unsettling as most people had found Tugboat Wanderers, just sixty five shots of household items, views, trees swaying in the breeze. The shots are grainy, often slightly out of focus, and last only for a matter of seconds each. In one a topless man writes something on a blackboard – ‘the square of the’ is all he writes before it cuts to the next shot – the whole shot is off centre in a frustrating way. In another shot someone climbs out of a bin, but it’s angled so you can’t see their face. No sound accompanies each shot, except a constant low hum, occasionally interspersed by a conversation between a man and a woman where no individual words can be made out, as if it was recorded from the apartment next door.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Getting Outside – It’s Good For You
  • Teacher’s Day
  • Municipal Pavements Day

May 25th – The Cooperative Fashion Show

If it is sunny today, brilliant bright light will stream in through the windows of the Grand Atrium, through the diaphanous clouds of butterfly and moth wings like a great fluttering stained glass window. If it is not sunny, no matter, the Fashion Show organisers will set up a few large lamps and mirrors outside the tall glass ceiling, and the effect will be almost the same. You’d think it gets awful hot in there, beneath all that glass, but the climate is controlled by a number of near-silent fans and tunnels which connect to icy underground rivers, in order to keep the temperature constant for the butterflies.

Buentoille has a long and glorious history of producing clothes, with some even claiming that the City was founded by clothes makers, as the name ‘Buentoille’ comes from the Old Buentoilliçan words for ‘successful’ and ‘garment prototype’; an experimental habitation that went right. For most of its history, the Buentoilliçan fashion industry was controlled by three main fashion ‘houses’: Earl Stockfort’s, Vedaime’s and Morana Trapp. All three clothed the higher echelons of society, (the court and aristocracy mainly, but also the landed gentry and industrialists, to some extent) and the other fashion producers took their cues from them. Of course, there was actually a larger section of the industry devoted to making traditional working clothes for the working classes, but this for the most part did not call itself ‘fashion’.

All of this changed when the Revolution came, and two of the three fashion houses closed down, no longer having the clientele to sustain them. Morana Trapp, always the most forward thinking of the three, decided to attempt to move with the times, restructuring so that it created stylish pieces based upon working outfits for mass consumption. A new market was beginning to flourish as workers had more leisure time (so were not always in work clothes) and had higher incomes, yet the pieces created by Morana Trapp were considered patronising and artificial, and they did not do well. Faced with poor sales, mass worker walkouts and higher labour costs for those they did manage to maintain, Morana Trapp eventually shut down too.

Nature abhors a vacuum, so it wasn’t long before something else filled the space the fashion houses had left. There was a sense that the world had changed fundamentally, and new ways of working were being adopted all over; it wasn’t long before the Buentoilliçan Fashion Cooperative was formed. The Cooperative was made up from a number of designers, artists, machinists and a large variety of representatives from each stage of the clothes production process. Faced with shortages of materials in those first few years after the Revolution, when the Seven Cities Trading Company’s effective embargo of the City was in full effect, the Cooperative had to ensure what they did have was used effectively. It was then that the first Cooperative Fashion Show was held.

A huge variety of styles are shown in the Fashion Show each year, but there are, of course, some trends and themes which stand out or are more prevalent. In those first few years the shortage of new materials meant that recycling was a key part of the production process, and many designers sought to play this up; was it not, after all, indicative of the Revolution? They were restructuring an old, broken thing, breaking it apart and making something new and beautiful. There were of course those who argued that Buentoille must be done with the past, that we must burn it and begin anew, and as such entirely new styles made from new materials (one such newly discovered material, morphose, made from the fibres of a woody, bioluminescent mushroom, was particularly prevalent) were also very popular. The cultural historian, Urlham Venn, sums up those first few shows well in their essay Style and Fashion as Revolutionary Battlegrounds:

There was a definite sense of antagonism in the air, yet not in the brutal sense that had characterised the past decades. This was a more gentle, competitive antagonism, more akin to the disagreements of academics than of soldiers. And rightly so, for those first few shows were live-action theses, cloth dissertations on what direction the Revolution should take. Fashion became one of the battlegrounds where the Restructuralists and Erasers clashed.’

Of course, the Restructuralists eventually won that battle (tradition is ultimately too important to Buentoillitants for them to let it be erased), but the new ideas formed in the dialectic from both sides both went on to reinvigorate the Buentoilliçan fashion scene. Quilted, patchwork clothes were some of the most popular items from those first few shows, but the difficulty of producing large quantities of new material such as morphose meant that they featured less prevalently despite their popularity. Nowadays with access to more materials and better production methods, luminescent clothing is staging something of a comeback, but the legacy of recycling fabric has also left its mark.

The fashion cycle in Buentoille is much slower than neighbouring cities such as Litancha, where throwaway fashion is king. Buentoillitants find this approach somewhat distasteful, and most Buentoilliçan clothes are made to last and look good for a long time. Quilted robes and jackets are still popular, though nowadays they appear less motley as recycled components are bleached a re-dyed; whilst recycling is still valued highly, drawing attention to the recycled nature of a garment so obviously is less common.

Today the most popular items are likely to be long, squarish robes and dresses, alongside baggy trousers and padded jackets, although there has also been rumours that the Cooperative is releasing a line of floaty morphose capes. Hundreds of thousands of Buentoillitants will turn up to watch the catwalks and flick through the catalogues today, the moths and butterflies flickering through the air above them throughout, occasionally resting on the head of a model. The models are, as always, randomly selected from a pool of volunteers, who will have been fitted with a perfect prototype garment in the preceding weeks. The audience will then vote on which garments they would most like to see in the shops, and in this democratic way, the most efficient use of material is maintained.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Myth of the Undone Bride Festival
  • The Festival of Acids

May 24th – Mayfly Day

Yesterday a couple of mayflies were spotted over the Moway, skimming across the river in the evening light, which means today will likely be Mayfly Day, when the spawn will begin in earnest. There were many years when Buentoillitants would have to travel outside of the City, to other nearby rivers, to witness the mayfly rush, so polluted was the Moway. Today, happily, like many other species, the mayflies have returned.

For any migratory trout, or more sedentary trout, in the river, today will be a good day, as the mayfly nymphs emerge from the mud and rocks at the bottom of the river and flounder on the water’s surface, trying to get their newly formed wings working, suddenly an easy target. Those who live in riverside accommodation put netting around any open windows tonight, to catch any wayward bugs desperately trying to breed in the short time they have on this earth. This may seem like an overreaction, but the swarm in full swing is a sight to behold; in just a day or two millions of mayflies rise out of the water and die of exhaustion once they have mated.

As well as fish, gablelarks and other birds swoop low over the river in great numbers, a cacophony of wings and noise, scooping up beakfulls of the insects, and occasionally catching a fish or two in the process, as they lurk close to the surface. It’s a common sight to see children running along the river banks with nets and sticky-switches (long thin sticks coated at the end in honey, syrup or another sweet, sticky substance), trying to catch the ungainly insects. Some catch them for sport, others to study them, to marvel at they way they move, the strange translucence of their bodies. A good proportion catch them to eat them.

It seems it’s not just other animals that benefit from the protein-rich bugs; humans, too, enthusiastically consume mayflies. Some choose to eat them raw, wings, head and all, whereas others choose to pick these parts off before chomping down. Both groups agree that the crunchy critters taste remarkably grass-like uncooked. Another popular way to eat mayflies is to sugar-coat and then bake them, yielding a taste rather like sweet crab, apparently. Frying or boiling are a little too rough for the fragile bodies of mayflies, and seldom lead to a tasty result, although large quantities either caught or collected after their death (large piles of mayfly corpses often litter the streets at the end of the day, when the spawn has ended) are squashed down into burgers and fried. The results are apparently nutty and earthy.

Besides the culinary experiences which await the visitor to the City today, there are some more carnal pleasures which may be sought out. Tonight is known as a night of passion between strangers, of love affairs that spark for a day and die as the sun rises tomorrow. Mayflies have long been associated with one-night-stands and they are even the symbol used by the Steadfast Union of Sex Workers, members of which bear an enamelled mayfly badge denoting their Unionised status. Whilst promiscuous relations are relatively common in Buentoille, tonight few will find it difficult to find a like-minded partner.

Visitors are reminded that tonight, as with all nights, they must obtain enthusiastic consent from any potential sexual partners, lest they wish for a visit from the Female Defence League.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Heel Dancing
  • The Undue Attention and How to Avoid It Festival
  • The Day of Casting

May 23rd – The Festival of Stubborn Drenshawl

Stubbornness is often presented in a negative light; we think of recalcitrant old men stuck in their ways, or petulant children demanding that things go their way. True stubbornness is a refusal to accept viewpoints other than your own, to ignore the prideful inner voice and bend to the ways of this world; it is a refusal to compromise. Yet surely, in certain circumstances, stubbornness is important, admirable, even? The folks who turn out today to memorialise Stubborn Drenshawl certainly think so.

Helen Drenshawl, born 1732, was an anarchist campaigner and theoretician from Darksheve’s district, and is often described as the most stubborn woman ever to have lived, famously coining the phrase ‘I’m too stubborn to die.’ From an early age, Drenshawl was brought into conflict with authority, and every time she refused to back down. At the age of eight she was kicked out of school because she insisted on wearing trousers rather than a skirt, as was the custom for girls back then. This was the final straw, apparently, after she had refused to perform homework that she saw as ‘pointless and beneath me,’ and had broken the nose of an older boy who had insulted her.

Whilst many people go through a rebellious phase, they usually grow out of it, eventually seeing that life is much easier when you compromise your pride, when you go along with the ridiculous things the world asks of you, at least when anyone is watching. Drenshawl was home tutored, never bothering to learn maths, abjuring team sports, focusing instead on that which she saw as ‘truly important’ history and political theory. By age 13 she was a precocious campaigner, by 17 she had written dissections and responses to the prominent economic theories of the time. Many of these works are still studied today; their incisive disdain for older theories a master-class in polemic.

Yet despite this seeming genius and extraordinary drive, Drenshawl went through long periods of inactivity, where nobody was able to persuade her that there was a point to getting up, to performing any of the academic activities that the previous day she had found so compelling. These depressive episodes lasted from a day to, in some cases, a number of weeks. It was when she was on the way out of a particularly long episode, at the age of 21, that she decided to pen poetry, beginning with a short piece simply entitled ‘Capitalism’:

We were not made for this world;

it bends us against ourselves.

We fracture under the pressure

of this machine, as it stamps

us in its dreadful image.

Many of the poems that Drenshawl wrote over the next five years have been picked up and adapted into songs, marching ballads, anthems of revolution. Alongside these poetic inclinations, Drenshawl continued her activism, writing pamphlets and attending marches against the ruling order, the shape of society. She was frustrated with those around her who understood the cause of their suffering, yet did nothing to change it, with how slowly people are ‘habituated, institutionalised to the system, coming to believe, against their true self, their inner child who innately knows what is right and wrong, who sees and feels the cracks and contradictions keenly, that this is how things “should be,” that the status quo is “the only option.” This viewpoint sickens and weakens me daily.’

From the beginning, Drenshawl was set on a collision cause with the Buentoilliçan state, and it is frankly surprising that she was able to continue her agitations as long as she did. Eventually she was tried and sentenced to death for her position as ‘ringleader’ (as the court put it) of the First Buentoilliçan Commune, and for the killing of several soldiers who had been tasked by the aristocracy to destroy the Commune. Drenshawl was given the option to have the death sentence commuted to imprisonment, if she were to renounce her anarchist views and denounce the Commune. Her response was perhaps predictable; she gave an impassioned speech denouncing the court, which she did not recognise, upholding her own values, topping it all off by spitting and swearing at the judge.

It took five attempts to kill her. First they tried poison, but she made herself sick. Then they tried hanging, then they tied her behind a horse and rode it through the City, then they shot her several times with an old rifle. It was at this point that Drenshawl apparently said those historic words, ‘I’m too stubborn to die,’ as she began to cough up blood. Shortly after she slipped out of consciousness and, presumed dead, her body was given up for scientific research, as were all convicts at the time. On the autopsy slab two days later she sat bolt upright, managing to strangle the surgeon almost to death before she died from blood loss on this day, 1765.

After her death, Drenshawl became something of a secular saint, a martyr for anyone opposed to the Parliament, aristocracy and monarchy. Much later, many of the participants of the Revolution claimed that they had been given strength and inspiration from the life and teachings of the stubborn woman. Although her body was cremated from fear that she would once again reanimate, folk have gathered to remember her every year since her death, standing in human walls which replicate the barricades that she helped build, that she long advocated for, singing the songs inspired by her poetry. Successive attempts to move the crowds have led to several riots in pre-Revolutionary times.

A memorial has been built where the Commune once squatted, it is a large statue of Drenshawl, designed from one of the only surviving pictures of the activist; in both the picture and statue, Drenshawl is standing proudly, a rifle in one hand, the other defiantly raised in a rude hand gesture at the viewer. Beneath her heavy brows is a classic smirk, but in the photograph there is something else, a certain sadness in her eyes which wasn’t copied over in the statue.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Yelp Said The Dog – A Poetry Night
  • Saint Maekvard’s Day
  • Dashing Dermon’s Dishy Dame Dance

May 22nd – The Click Clack Club AGM

There are hundreds of clubs, secret societies, guilds, coteries and other such groupings of people in Buentoille. Folks just seem to like coming together and sharing in the gifts of this world, whether they be cheese, video games, birdwatching, or, in the case of the Click Clack Club (CCC), making their joints click. Today the members of this particular regular gathering will have their Annual General Meeting, or AGM, in which they will decide the general direction and policies of the club.

Some people get a little disturbed by it, but at some point we have all clicked our knuckles, back or other joints; it’s a natural function of the body. Some scientists claim that clicking a joint releases several pounds of pressure from it, and that this is part of the reason that we find it so satisfying. A common refrain you would once have heard levelled at joint clickers is ‘you’ll give yourself arthritis!’ but according to various studies commissioned or carried out by the Click Clack Club this claim has no basis in fact. Fighting back against this ‘pernicious myth’ is one of the founding principles of the CCC.

The Click Clack Club began in 1964, a particularly good year for the creation of new clubs and societies, by Andronycus Fynch, a carpenter who was trying to join exactly 100 groups. They were a member of the Chastise Church, the Catalepsy of Krakon, The Dauntless Order of Her Mysterious Web and several other religious groups. He had joined eight walking clubs, three rail enthusiast groups and five bird watching societies, including the Buentoilliçan Secret Bird Boys, in which he had obtained the rank of ‘falcon’ despite wanting to stop at ‘finch’ because of his name. The Union of Woodworkers and Fabricators was an obvious choice, but he had a harder time justifying his membership of the Guild of Shipwrights, or the Union of Metallurgists. He had got to group number 99 (the Society of Rude Japes), but was stuck on the 100th; that was when he decided to make his own club.

The CCC initially had only two members, Fynch and his friend, Hershall James, a fellow carpenter that Fynch roped in. Despite his complete disinterest in the act of clicking his joints, James visited Fynch’s home once a week where they spent three or four minutes together in the bathroom (the most echoey room of the house, amplifying the clicks and cracks) clicking every joint that they could. They then went out drinking together as part of one of the several drinking clubs to which Fynch was attached, where James was bought a drink for his service. This all changed in 1968 when the Odd Spigot, a quarterly magazine about Buentoilliçan culture, ran a piece on Fynch and his 100 clubs. Suddenly the Click Clack Club got a lot more members.

Many societies, secret or otherwise, have particular handshakes, and whilst the CCC is a little different in this regard, it certainly has its own greeting ritual; when two members meet they identify themselves by clicking their preferred joints in unison. To avoid the embarrassment of having ‘run out’ of clicks when you meet a fellow club member, Click Clackers (as they are often called) often keep one joint unclicked especially for this purpose. To gain entry to Deadman’s Hall, the location of this year’s AGM, members must click this joint, often referred to as the ‘greeting card’ although some members prefer to use their ‘business card,’ the most impressive-sounding joint.

At the AGM today the main point of business is expected to be a recent report which has identified soft-tissue damage around the joints of several habitual knuckle-clickers, and there are worries that this will ‘damage the public image’ of joint clickers and the CCC. The Club might choose to take action by blacklisting the publisher and writers of the study, as has been done once or twice before, but some members think that this approach is too heavy handed (and has earned the CCC a poor reputation in the past), and might suggest an alternate approach, such as reviewing the study to point out its deficiencies.

The medical benefits of joint clicking have been a central part of CCC campaigning from the beginning, campaigning intended to ‘alleviate the stigma’ of joint clicking. Their pamphlet, Joint Clicking is Good, Actually is a common sight in train carriages, cafes and other public spaces across the City, yet many are very critical of the scientific accuracy of the claims made within, and of the CCC in general, which is often accused of ‘overt bias’ and ‘disregard for public health.’ The MHS is yet to publish any official guidance on the subject. As might be expected, there was quite the furore in 1989 when psychologist Asquin Beetlehammer identified a new ‘addictive syndrome’ called Compulsive Clicking Disorder, often called ‘Click Clack Syndrome’ in the media.

Besides the discussions and other main points of business at the AGM today, there will be other activities common to CCC meetings, such as small competitions for who has the loudest clicks (usually won by a neck clicker as an open mouth can be used to amplify those particular clicks, although often these competitions are subdivided by joint type). Stretches and exercises designed to click joints and release tension are led by trainers licensed by the CCC. Another popular occurrence is ‘sympathetic clicking’ where Click Clackers help each other with hard-to-click joints in the back and spine. At the end of the AGM the CCC song will be sung in honour of the now departed Andronycus Fynch. Everyone will join in, especially as the song ends with a crescendo of clicks.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Beastly Proclivities
  • Trapezoid Marshal’s Day of Undue Praise
  • The Hyacinth Festival