May 18th – Magnus Walpurt’s Day

There have been few magicians in the history of Buentoille, but Magnus Walpurt was, whilst he lived, undoubtedly the worst. Yet this seemed not to bother the street performer, who survived primarily by the good grace of his friends; he was convinced he was one of the best. It was only several years after his death that others came to agree with him.

There was something unintentionally funny about the way in which Walpurt performed his magic tricks. It wasn’t that they always went wrong, were shabbily transparent, it was the fact that Walpurt performed them with such gusto and self-assurance, that he was absolutely convinced that they were perfect. This bizarre self-belief may have been down to the constant support that Walpurt received throughout his life from his close friends, who found much to love in this eccentric figure, but whilst they encouraged him they claimed never to have deliberately misled him, and said that his obliviousness to the tragically bad nature of his ‘tricks’ was merely down to his ‘giant ego.’

Walpurt was from a rich family, and spent the first 23 years of his life without employment. Yet after his father died, Walpurt was deemed ‘unfit’ to take his place as Head Merchant of the small trading guild he ran, and, despite a modest pay-off, he was forced to seek a means of living. It seems that early on into this process Walpurt consulted a fortune teller, who told him that he would ‘become a brilliant magician.’ From this point onwards Walpurt did as his father had taught him; he set his sights on the prize (becoming a successful magician) and never deviated, never mind that he showed absolutely no aptitude for it whatsoever.

Part of Walpurt’s problem was that he seemed unable to construct a deception, to put himself in the shoes of his audience and imagine how they were seeing the trick he was trying to perform. Frequently he would perform the ‘slight of hand’ in plain sight, rather than concealing it in any way, or would recite lines of instructions (from the book he had exclusively learned magic from – The Wizard Triev’s Guide of Pracitkal Magik) out loud, essentially telling the audience how he was doing the trick as he was doing it. This may also have been down in part to the way Triev’s Guide presents magic tricks; it was intended for intermediate students of magic, ones who had mastered the practice of misdirection and illusion, so focused almost exclusively on hand movements and the intricacies of technique. The subtitle of the book was: ‘Once You’ve Read This You’ll be a Master Magician,’ a piece of advertising which Walpurt appeared to take literally; he never learned magic in any other way.

Walpurt’s magical career began and ended on the streets of Buentoille. He attempted various times to receive entry to the Guild of Extraordinary Gentlemen (a group of aristocratic dabblers in the occult, which had a female counterpart, the Guild of Supernatural Ladies), to book concert halls, pubs or bars, but these attempts were all unsuccessful (except one time when, against all the odds, Walpurt gathered a crowd of fifteen people in a dockside pub and performed a single trick before being manually ejected). Yet perhaps Walpurt’s most famous attempt to gain recognition were his claims to be the ‘Royal Magician.’

Walpurt had been performing tricks near the royal palace when he suddenly received a letter of warning from the King’s Guard, bearing the royal seal. The letter essentially told the street magician that he was not welcome in the district near the palace, and that he should take himself elsewhere, but said so in the overtly polite tone common to royal communications. Because of this tone and his wilful disregard for the opinions of others, Walpurt decided that the letter was of commendation, rather than contempt, and, given that it also carried the royal seal, he declared himself the ‘King’s Magician,’ or ‘Royal Magician,’ hand-stitching a sash which said as much which he wore everywhere he went. Whenever challenged on this front, Walpurt would proudly produce the letter as evidence.

Using this letter and sash, Walpurt even attempted to gain entry to the palace on several occasions, claiming that he needed to perform before the king. The magician was, as one might imagine, turned away every time. Unfortunately for Walpurt, it may have been these visits which eventually led to his demise. Whilst there is little evidence either way, it is generally believed that it was a group of thugs associated with the King’s Guard who gave Walpurt the life-changing, and ultimately deadly, injuries, as he was walking home from a hard day’s magicking in a backstreet. It seems that these rampant monarchists had taken some offence to the visits and the sash which the magician always wore, and had decided to punish the defenceless man.

It looked as if Walpurt would recover for some time, before he died of an infection. Both the magician’s ankles had been broken, but was back up and about in a wheelchair shortly after the beating. It seems that the doctors had missed a broken rib that had caused some internal bleeding, and by the time they noticed it had already become septic. In the fifteen years he had been performing, Walpurt had become something of a local celebrity, and many turned out to watch his coffin be lowered into the ground. It turned out that even more people watched it coming back up the other way.

Three years after his funeral, the bodies of gangs associated with the Royal Guard began appearing, each with a stricken look upon their faces, and a complex glyph etched into their chests. Nobody seemed to have any clue as to who was committing the murders, and why, until someone noticed that the first letter of each alley they were found in spelled out the name ‘Walpurt’. Rumours of the magician’s ghost began to surface, but the authorities were more interested in Walpurt’s friends, believing that one or many of them had committed the crimes out of revenge. Whilst this is still the general leading theory today, no evidence has ever been found that links them to the scene of the crimes.

One piece of evidence that was found, however, was in Walpurt’s own copy of Triev’s Guide. It seemed that this particular copy was printed wrongly, and actually included a spell from a 12th century grimoire, Essenshul Magyk, a mystical text which seems to describe a charm of immortality and vengeance. ‘Inne thy innestants that ewe are kylld,’ the spell header reads, ‘thyss inkantashun wyll reak havok on thy kyllers.’ The spell is difficult to understand, but it seems to ask the magician to somehow replace their own body with an effigy made from bog-wood.

Of course they had to check. The grave site showed no signs of disturbance before they exhumed Walpurt’s coffin, but of course it may have been dug up shortly after the original burial. Inside the coffin, just as expected, was a lump of bog-wood, dark and knotted. Interestingly, the wood seems to have no markings made on it by human hands, but instead is naturally shaped somewhat like a human body, two knots and a split in the wood forming a face. The unsettling artefact, which can still be viewed today in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, even bears some resemblance to the few surviving photographs of Walpurt. Perhaps he was not such a bad magician after all.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Sitting Dog Statues
  • The Festival of Insignificant Insects