May 4th – The Festival of the Foolish Archaeologists

On this day in 1943 five experimental archaeologists carried out a burial ritual based upon descriptions found on an ancient liberatum (a clay tablet with odd script, indecipherable to all but the Pohlatiné), and from studies into an ancient mummified cadaver fished from the bog. Three weeks later every one of them was dead.

The liberatum had been known about for some time, and formed part of a larger text on burial and ancient magic. It was found on the edge of the bog in 1789 by a group of workmen who were digging a trench in an attempt to extend a housing estate (only one extra house was built, which sank into the bog three years later). The tablet was cylindrical in shape, and had been placed inside a hollowed-out tree trunk (which had become preserved as bog-wood) along with the other liberatum in the set. The translation was not released by the Pohlatiné Mission until 1845.

Very little is known about the civilisation that created the liberatum, as, until the discovery of the Bog Woman of Buentoille, there were almost no other signs of their existence. The Woman was not discovered in the same location as the liberatum that describes, in great detail, the manner in which she was buried, but instead was accidentally discovered nearby the half-submerged graveyard by a ‘stray’ (a person afflicted by bog-mania brought on by noxious gasses).

According to the Buentoilliçan Observer, in 1911 a man called Herman Ingartelbrod had been bog-led out into the waters, where he began to thrash violently. The commotion thankfully brought him to the attention of the nearby residents (and sometimes bog wardens) who hauled him out onto their flat-bottomed boat. The cause of Ingartelbrod’s distress was plainly clear when they saved him; he had somehow contrived to get his foot tangled in the wrappings of a mummified corpse, and was being dragged into the water by its weight. The unfortunate man retained no memory of the event (a common side-effect of the bog gas), but his rescuers claim that as he fought to stay afloat he was screaming ‘she’s got me, I’m done for!’

By 1942 technology had progressed enough that scans of the Bog Woman were able to reveal many details about what lay beneath the linen wrappings. Its seems that there were five layers, applied in different directions and patterns, with an item stashed underneath each layer. The significance of these five items is often stressed by the organisers of today’s festival, the The League of Protection Against and Avoidance of Ancient Magics (LPAAAM), who believe that each item was in some way linked to each of the five experimental archaeologists who re-enacted the burial.

The League, an offshoot of the Chastise Church who believe that the Waylayer (the ancient adversary of the Church) is present in all things magical, will today perform a yearly sanctification of the souls of the five archaeologists, in the hope that they will become free from the Waylayer’s grasp in the afterlife. For the two archaeologists whose family’s have given their consent, this sanctification will take place of the graves of the deceased, with holy oil and a liturgy. The families of the other three have expressly disavowed the work of LPAAAM, and thusly banned them from visiting their gravesides. For these three the League will hold a public vigil in Saint Dondrite’s Square tonight, although they can only refer to them as the ‘three lost archaeologists’ as their families, who have often spoken out against the vigil, have forbade the use of their names.

The primary complaint of these families is that LPAAAM are using the deaths of their loved ones as publicity for their movement, and that the vigil has essentially selfish purposes at its heart. The League’s case is certainly not helped by the fact that they have often publicly described the deaths as a ‘textbook case of foolishness and disregard for the evil power of magic,’ and that before the vigil they have a stall set up all day in the square that allegedly seeks to ‘educate Buentoillitants as to the dangers of ancient magic and liberatum through [the archaeologist’s] example.’

In the re-enactment of the burial, the archaeologists used the body of the lead researcher (Fioram Bedeli)’s wife, who expressly wrote the donation of her cadaver in such a manner into her will. Before the wrappings were applied, five types of chemical were used to dry out and preserve her body, and like the Bog Woman, her eyes and tongue were removed. All of this work was carried out by Elizabeth Crough, who was coincidentally the first to die. Crough also applied the first layer of wrappings, underneath which she placed a small knife made from bog iron. Crough was stabbed to death the next week in a mugging gone wrong.

The second to die, the lead researcher Bedeli, placed a feather in the next layer. He contracted avian flu in the next few days and died a day after Crough. The third to die was Movayith Gun, who had placed the tongue of the cadaver under her layer of wrappings. She choked to death on a sweet upon hearing the news of Crough’s murder. The fourth was William Xanthe, who died of age-related causes two weeks after the experiment; he had placed a small sundial inside his layer. The fifth and final archaeologist to die was Denil Undaar, who placed the cadaver’s eyes beneath the wrappings. They disappeared in the third week and have not been seen since. As such they have been pronounced legally dead.

It is easy to see why LPAAAM believe that magic may have had some hand in proceedings, but the families of Undaar, Xanthe and Bedeli all dispute their assertions, believing instead that the deaths were all extremely unfortunate coincidences. They have requested that the Council of Logistics ban today’s festival, a request which is currently under consideration pending a public vote.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Broken Swan
  • The Festival of a Deathly Chill