May 11th – The Festival of Tenebris

Although most of Tenebris is located in one section, mostly under the streets of Guilgamot district, it is a term that refers to any parts of the subterranean City where aboveground streets once existed, and have now been built over. As such there are actually a number of Tenebrian districts scattered across the City, usually only making up a single road or block, usually connected to the other myriad of underground ways. Today the old braziers and oil lamps there will be lit once again (the old gas lamps have long been disconnected), and people will walk those mouldering streets as if they were still lived in.

Usually places like Tenebris are forgotten, and it would have been true here, were it not for the nostalgia and whimsy of one family. The Garkelshelds had only just finished renovating their pub when a new street was built over it, and quite rightly they weren’t best pleased. Access to the old street below was provided through a very small door and a flight of steps, and many passed on by, not knowing what lay beneath their feet. Yet Renée Garkelsheld, the then head of the family, was not one to be defeated; she designed a large array of signage with ostentatious arrows that advertised the pub, once called ‘The Guillemots Nest’ on account of it’s location and the fact it clung to the hillside, now renamed to ‘The Burrow,’ and paid a boy to drum up business above in the evenings.

The reasons behind the creation of Tenebrian streetways varies a great deal from place to place, but in the case of Guilgamot district it was to encourage trade. The district was essentially built upon a cliff face, and was generally avoided as a through-route to the City’s trading areas because of this. The mayor of Guilgamot district decided that the best way to solve the problem was build a new street that went from the bottom of the cliff to the top at a more comfortable angle, which obviously necessitated building over the older street.

The new street created, named the Grand Boulevard, has a wide roadway with many up-market shops placed along it, which very few residents of Guilgamot could actually afford. The street is deceptively steep; you still have to reach the same height, just via less of an incline, and folk are often complaining about how tough it is to walk compared to how it looks. The perception of a less-steep incline was, of course, part of the careful design of the mayor’s architect. There are still sections of the district either side of the Boulevard where the shape of the cliff can still be discerned beneath the buildings; the Prophet’s Steps worm their way up one particularly steep section.

It was on the Grand Boulevard that the entrance to The Burrow was situated, near the top of the street where it was closer to the old streets beneath. The pub was kept running in its subterranean state for about 150 years before it was finally closed. The decision was taken for a number of reasons, primarily to do with lack of business in the summer months, the difficulty transporting new barrels of beer and wine into the cellar given the access concerns, and an ageing owner, Lumphet Garkelsheld, who was having difficulty with the more manual elements of the job and couldn’t afford to employ a young person to help out.

Lumphet did have two daughters, but they were not interested in working an underground pub all their lives, especially as there was a history of rickets in the family. They did, however, feel bad for not having carried on the family tradition, so decided that they would open up the pub for one big party every year. Because it was their father’s birthday, they chose today. The festival, once called ‘Lumphet’s Birthday Bash,’ then later renamed to the ‘Lumphet Garkelsheld Memorial Party’ when he died, kept interest in Tenebris alive, and eventually it morphed into the Festival of Tenebris, when the birthday last full-time owner of The Burrow began to seem less important.

In addition to the party at The Burrow tonight (which has been kept in excellent condition, due to effective foresighted damp and rodent proofing on the part of Renée Garkelsheld), which is still carried on by the descendants of the Garkelshelds, there are a number of other parties hosted in the remnants of old buildings, each with their own musical theme that should fit most tastes. Films are showed in an old storehouse that was cut into the side of the cliff by a collective called ‘The New Film Underground’ who thought the location was apt. In other sections of Tenebris where the street level was only raised slightly, folks crawl on their hands and knees with tour guides to see old graffiti and wall-scratchings, and learn about the history of the place.

Whilst most of Tenebris is accessible all the year around, it is today when brave souls venture into the darkness to light the old lamps and braziers first that most folks will choose to make their way beneath Buentoille; normally these streets are only lit by small shafts of light from emergency drainage grates in the street above. There are, however, some sections of this alternate City that remain off-limits, due to flooding, danger of collapse, or habitation. The Tenebrian Order, a scientific group who study, amongst other things, altered dream states, have taken over and knocked through a number of the buildings beneath Guilgamot District, and they are only accessible via a small guarded office building at street level.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Jaunty Caps
  • The Festival of the Brightest Flame
  • Municipal Appreciation of Good Wooden Carving Day