May 21st – Teremar’s Day of Alternate Management

Today Mr Gaston Teremar is going on holiday. He does not allow himself any other day of the year off. The shop needs to be looked after. It’s very important that the shop is looked after. Mr Teremar is going to go to the beach, he is going to stroll along the shoreline, and he is going to look out at the sea for a while. He might get an ice cream if the weather is nice. He is definitely going to get a plate of chips and some haddock because it’s not a holiday without chips and haddock.

Mr Teremar’s daughter, Heltspar Teremar, is running the shop today as a favour to the old man. Close? What if someone wanted to buy something? The only time Gaston closes the shop is Revolution Day. He lives in the little flat above, where he rises at seven each morning and readies himself for opening. He’s washed and fed and dressed by 8:30, although the coffee is still brewing, so he takes it downstairs with him and sets it on the counter, taking care not to spill any on the stairs (despite the fact that there are plenty of stains on the stripy stair carpet which mark the passing of more youthful, less careful days).

After he has dusted the dolls and toys, lit all the spotlights, opened up the shutters and doors, he stands, not sits mind you – stands, behind the wooden counter and sips his coffee. At about 10ish Urlam the postwoman drops by with the papers and whatever book he’s ordered from the library. She used to bring him tools and parts and materials too but she hasn’t for a few years. ‘Good thing, too,’ she says ‘it was all a bit heavy, did my back in and I’m not as young as I used to be!’ Urlam is 34; there will be a joke about age.

There is a workbench besides the counter, drawers neatly packed with tools, spigots, cogs, balsa wood and aluminium sheets, glue and wire. There is a soldering iron and a collection of old circuit boards and motors. In small crusted pots sat in a little holder are a number of paints. None of it has been used in some time. Gaston used to sit and work there all day making new toys, stopping only when customers came in, which was often. He has enough toys now, he says, boxes of them, out the back. There’s no need for any more.

Occasionally a customer might come in, browse a little. Mr Teremar will greet them kindly, crouching and speaking quietly with children. He’s a very good natured man, never angry, but he’s a little strange about the glass cabinet at the back. If you ask him to unlock it he might notice a toy out of place the other side of the shop, or pretend he didn’t hear. If you ask him again he will open it, but ask that you don’t wind or shake any of the toys inside. ‘They make a dreadful noise,’ he says, ‘and I have a bit of a headache.’ He moves a little wooden duck further towards the back of the cabinet. But he’s very kind, very patient.

The shop gets maybe three visitors a day, but perhaps as many as fifteen when it’s busy. Today there will be significantly more people there, and many many children. This isn’t because people dislike or avoid Mr Teremar, or that they particularly love Heltspar. There’s no special party organised in her father’s absence, like a naughty teenager. Nobody says it, but there is one simple reason that more people come to the toy shop today; Heltspar makes it fun again. She makes it like the untidy days of old when Mr Teremar would run about the shop, scattering cogs and wood shavings in his wake, making the voices of toys for children, pulling sweets from behind their ears, the sound of clockwork and noisy electronic toys intermingling with laughter and giggles. Heltspar makes it like the days of her childhood, when behind everything was a buoyancy, a magical zest to the simplest of things.

Mr Teremar eats his haddock today with a studied sense of justification, of righteousness, as if he is preparing his case, showing to the world that he doesn’t feel guilty for treating himself; he is on holiday, after all. At one time he might have had a beer too, but he usually doesn’t feel much like beer these days. The walk is long and he brings his book to read whilst he eats his fish and chips. He watches the sea birds carefully, but with a seeming nonchalance. ‘Albatrosses mate for life, you know,’ he might say, seemingly to nobody. He makes sure that he tires himself out before he gets home, an easier task than it once was.

Heltspar makes sure that she’s cleared up nicely before he gets back, replacing sold toys with back stock, and returning the noisy toys to their cabinet. Before she leaves she writes a note detailing the day’s takings and places it carefully by the till. She’ll talk to him tomorrow, or the next day. She’s an only child so they’re close, the two of them, close enough for her to understand what today means to him.

Before he ascends the coffee-stained stairs, to his single bed in the box room, surrounded by boxes of toys, he stops in two places. First he stands by the cabinet and says a few words to the wooden duck, snippets that have passed around his head in the day or maybe just a greeting, like normal. The duck is called Percy, and was the last toy he made. Secondly he stands at the doorway of the main bedroom, looking in at the well-dusted ornaments, mementos of a long life, at that rug they bought in 1968, at the starched white sheets of the double bed. He stays there for slightly too long.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Iterative Instruments
  • The Festival of Snorkelling
  • A Dance for the Divine Essence

May 20th – The Bread Festival

People have been making bread for thousands of years, and it is only right that this should be recognised and celebrated in some way beyond the daily consumption of the delicious baked goods. Today folks from all over the City will bake their own loaves, and some bakeries will give over their wood-fired ovens entirely to home-made creations; usually a small section of these ovens are set aside for keen home bakers in exchange for a small sum. Proper bakery ovens reach a far greater heat than those found in most homesteads, which it turn gives a more enjoyable result.

The home-made dough creations which grace the industrial ovens today will greatly vary; children will donate scruffy animal-shapes, or depictions of themselves which bloat out of proportion as they rise, intricate knotted creations are common contributions from adults, as are family crests stamped into loaves. The smells of hundreds of different spices and additives (fruit, cinnamon, rosemary, Saint Adrienne’s herb, pepper, olives) all intermingle alongside that glorious warm smell of flour and water being heated together that we all know and love. The finished creations are laid out on the counters and visitors take whatever piques their fancy. It is considered very gauche to take your own creation, although children frequently do.

The origins and placement of today’s festival are linked to an old folk tale about, unsurprisingly, a baker. The baker, known for her extraordinary beauty, is told by the king that she must either marry him or be burned at the stake as a witch (for why else would you refuse the hand of the king?). She begrudgingly assents to the proposal, but asks that she may name the day. She pours a small portion of dough into a baking tin, and tells the king she will marry him when it rises to the top. Thinking that this will take no time at all, the king agrees, yet he doesn’t know there’s no yeast in the dough.

Every day the king stops by to see whether it has risen yet, and every day the baker makes sure that she does something disgusting; offering him bread with toenails in, eating with her mouth open, or farting loudly. After the fifth day the bread rises (from the natural yeasts found in flour), but the king has gone off the idea entirely. The baker bakes the loaf and it is delicious. The oldest version of the story, found in the Garimand Manuscript, says that the king initially visits the week after the spring deer hunt has ended (traditionally May the 7th), looking for an ‘easyer chayse’ than than the does that he had failed to ‘greet wyth hys speare.’

The idea of a day to celebrate bread was introduced in 1854, perversely enough in the midst of the Great Grain Crisis, when flour and bread was kept artificially expensive by the Seven Cities Trading Company. The festival was intended not as a gluttonous day of plenty (as some complain it has become), but a radical rallying cry which sought to reinterpret bread as the traditional food of the people, rather than the middle-to-upper-class icon it had become in the last few decades. One way the organisers sought to point out the working class history of bread was the date of the festival; today is the day that, according to what we can extrapolate from the Garimand Manuscript, the baker enjoyed her victory loaf.

Baguette fights are a frequent occurrence in the streets today, and a particularly violent bout is organised by the older members of the Union of Children in Saltcaster’s Square, involving over fifty children. There are various methods for hardening the long loaves (such as drying them out over a long period of time so that they become stale but not mouldy), most of which are allowed in the rules of the skirmish, although after 1934 it was decided that no hard objects may be baked into the baguettes after one child was knocked unconscious by a dough-encased iron rod.

Another popular attraction is the Romoré Bakery’s ‘special Bread Festival sourdough’ which purports to have the oldest sourdough culture known to humankind. The mixture of flour and water was allegedly first begun in 1202 by Agnez Romoré, and has been passed down from mother to daughter ever since, as their personal ‘stash’. Whilst the culture has been used as a starter for various commercial projects here and there, it was not until 1911 that the family chose to reserve it for the Bread Festival. Nowadays a small quantity of flour is added to the mixture every day for a year, until enough starter is available for 365 loaves and a portion to keep for the next year. The taste of these limited edition loaves is reportedly acquired, but delicious, and they are sold for vast quantities.

It seems, however, that as of this year the Romorés may have a rival for the title of ‘oldest sourdough culture’ as dried yeast recovered using new scientific methods from an ancient brewer’s vat, which was unearthed last year, is reportedly being revived and used to bake a loaf today. If the experiment is successful the archaeologists in charge intend to make the baking a yearly occurrence.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Title Deeds
  • Moisturisation is of SUPREME Importance! Day
  • The Day of the Kettlefish

May 19th – The Festival of the Boar King

Very few people know the location of today’s festival, and given that it has variously been described as ‘a sunny glade,’ ‘a pool by a very large oak tree,’ ‘atop a waterfall,’ and various other locations, it is likely that it changes each year, depending on where the sounder of Buentoilliçan boar has been tracked to. Yet it is also the case that the Cult of the Boar King maintains that they congregate at a single location every year, but will not reveal that location publicly for fear of hunters, and therefore the reputedly varied nature of the location may be an attempt to keep maintain the secrecy of this famed congregation point. Today, they say, is they only day that they will know where to find the Boar King.

The Buentoilliçan boar, also known as the ‘stupendous boar’ or ‘thumper,’ is a species of wild boar that inhabits Luck’s End forest and a number of other wooded areas that are near the City. Unlike other species of boar, the stupendous boar is able to cunningly disguise its scent and trail from hunting dogs, although it is not quite clear how this is done; only the Cult seems to be able to track them with any accuracy. This goes some way to explain why they still exist when many other species have been hunted to extinction by successive royal Buentoilliçan courts.

Remarkable intelligence is not the only thing that separates Buentoilliçan boars from their counterparts, they also exhibit a particular form of polymorphism which means that the dominant male of the sounder becomes remarkably large. Due to the lack of scientific research on the species, little is known about what benefit this strange change confers upon the species, although they are clearly doing something right to have survived this long next to such a large human population that has been, until very recently, intent upon destroying their habitat and eating them for thousands of years.

It is this dominant male that the Cult of the Boar King is named after, and worships. The Cult is thought to be thousands of years old, once being a powerful force within the ancient Escotolatian tribes. It is thought that once there were a number of woodland shrines in which stupendous boars roamed freely and were venerated, but these seem to have disappeared with the passing of the ages (and the felling of much of the woodland). The Boar King is considered a source of animalistic power for those who worship it, and it is frequently invoked as a symbol of fertility.

Members of the Cult are known to have very large families (a factor which may have kept it going for so long, rather than withering away like many other similar nature-based religions), a fact they ascribe to today’s ritual, where couples looking to conceive are led to the sounder and present roots, truffles and other prized foodstuffs for the Boar King, known to have a prodigious appetite. Some stories tell of couples bathing the boar with holy spring water, or even stripping off and engaging in the conjugal act there before it; there is little information besides snippets extricated from drunken or gregarious members of the Cult. Besides hopeful couples, Cultists of all genders looking to improve their persuasiveness or physical strength will visit the Boar King, with his sounder court, hoping that he will share some of his power. Strangely enough, there seem to be very few injuries sustained, despite such closeness to powerful wild animals.

There have clearly been a number of Boar Kings since the inception of the Cult, but the official belief of the Cult is that they were one and the same, each body like a new overcoat to be worn and shed when it grows too old and shabby. The figure beneath this overcoat was once a man called Odumlin, a man of extraordinary physical prowess, arresting charisma and an appetite for power that could not be sated. A primal spirit, he would have been a great and terrible leader of the world, they claim, were it not that he was cursed by a witch, contained as an animal, unable to conceive of any greater achievement than to grow vast and have many children. One day, they say, a foolish wanderer will come and free him of his bonds, and the world shall be cast beneath his shadow.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Amplifier
  • Debtor’s Day
  • The Crystal Sphere Festival

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

May 17th – The Festival of the Kissingate

Never underestimate the ability of Buentoillitants to wilfully misinterpret history or small details in the service of a festival or celebration. Today’s festival is down to one such misinterpretation, namely a misspelling of a last name intermingled with, and used as an excuse to celebrate, an ancient folk tradition.

Architect Bellatrix Kissine was the foremost purveyor of grand kilnerstead architecture, a style which she developed from the decorations commonly found on the homes of tile workers in the Sleade Yard district of Buentoille. The doorways and windows of Sleade Yard homes are surrounded by colourful tiles, often painted like flowers growing up a trellis, a cat or dragon sleeping on the sill, and other imaginative designs.

The older examples of the folk kilnerstead style clearly use broken or faulty (i.e. the glaze did not take properly) tiles which were taken from the pottery factories of the area by workers to decorate their homes. Older buildings can be identified by the mosaic-like appearance of the tiled designs, which were placed before the style caught on and tiles began to be custom-made to adorn the outside of houses. The grand kilnerstead style, on the other hand, uses only custom-made tiles, usually textured, featuring raised designs with a limited colour range, and it covers entire buildings, not just sections.

Kissine was from a family long-entrenched within the potteries of Sleade Yard, and both her mother and father worked with clay; her mother was a glazer and her father was a kilner (someone who operates a kiln). From a young age, Kissine exhibited an excellent sense of proportion and accuracy, and was a remarkable drawer; as such she was taken on by an architect as an apprentice, and before she was twenty she had been awarded the contract for her first civic building, the Sleade Yard wellhouse. Little more than a hut, the structure which was built to house the pumping and water purification apparatus shows a little of the style Kissine would later develop; the natural curves of the arches, the sloping roof that eventually meets the ground at each corner, the way in which the space guides the entrant to a central point (in this case, the well itself).

By the time she made the Gate, the entryway into Sleade Yard, her home, Kissine had been commissioned to build a number of other civic buildings, including a bathhouse and library, and the grand kilnerstead style which she developed in the process dominates the district to this day. You would think that a building almost entirely covered in tiles would be all flat surfaces and right angles, but this is not the case with Kissine’s constructions: as with the wellhouse, natural arches and sloped roofs are a common element, although unlike that early example the walls are covered in the complex, raised designs of terracotta tiles. Key features, such as fired clay figures in recessed alcoves, are picked out with colourful glazes, but most is left in the natural, earthy red terracotta colour.

Given her impact upon the district, it is only natural that the people of Sleade Yard would wish to celebrate her memory in some way. Given that she only died 200 years ago, you would think that today, the day of her death, yet that is not the focus of today’s festivities. Granted, the Union of Potters and Clay Workers does hold a tour or two today, pointing out the stories told by the complex arrangement of the tiles on Kissine’s buildings, but far more people gather at one particular construction, the last building that Kissine designed before she died, the Sleade Yard Periphery Gate, more commonly referred to as the ‘Kissingate’.

For thousands of years there has been a tradition in Buentoille that if two lovers are out walking and they come across a gate, one of the lovers may deign the gate to be a ‘kissing gate’ and extract the ‘toll’ of a kiss before they allow their counterpart to pass. The tradition is old enough that few know where it came from, although presumably it began after the invention of tolled roads or entryways. Claims that the term ‘kissing gate’ comes from a particular form of gate with two gateposts on one side which the gate ‘kisses’ between as it opens have been repeatedly proven untrue.

It’s easy to see how attributing Kissinge’s name to the gate she had designed would lead to associations with the ‘kissing gate’ tradition, and the design of the gate certainly doesn’t dissuade this; the gate is a solid construction, a low arch like a whale’s back breaching the water’s surface, in which several entries are cut. The central gateway is the largest, allowing for the passage of goods and vehicles, but on either side are five other, much smaller passages, which only allow one person to pass at a time. These passages provide the perfect place to stop your lover and demand a kiss.

This isn’t to say that the lovers who flock to the Kissingate today do so with no knowledge of the woman who built it; most know that the gate was never intended for the purpose they give it, but why should that stand in the way of an excuse for a good snog? A particularly popular spot on the gate today is the westernmost passage, wherein the wall is ‘signed’ by Kissine; on all her buildings she included one particular tile depicting a lover’s kiss.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Rain Falls in my Heart: a Festival
  • The Day of Lost Toys
  • The Festival of Articulated Vehicles

May 16th – The Festival of the Transposition of Vedosk

In 1828 the musician, scientist, philosopher and self-described witch Celami Vedosk struck the edge of a metal ash tray, which at the time had a light dusting of ash, with a cello bow, as if she were playing it. What happened next was, she later wrote in her journal, ‘a moment of pure magic; a pattern was drawn in the ash, as if by an invisible hand. It formed itself, the ash coalescing together into intentional lines, unbidden but for the noise. I thought to myself, “this must be how life began, order from disorder, patterns from dust – god is a cellist.’ She didn’t know it at that moment, but what Vedosk had made was the first documented cymatic image; she took a photograph of the symmetrical ash-pattern, which you can still see today at the Shrine of the Holy Vedoskian Movement (HVM).

Vedosk kept the photograph close to her for the rest of her life (sadly only an additional five years; she was 78 when she made the image), and became obsessed with creating cymatic images and patterns. She worked out how that first image had been created; the ash tray, a metal plate, was affixed to a wooden stand in the centre, so could vibrate freely. Different sections of the metal vibrated in differing directions, and so the ash was pushed along by the force of these vibrations to coalesce in lines where there was no vibration. Vedosk refined her method for creating the images, using fine sand instead of ash to give it clearer definition, and using metal plates of differing shapes and sizes mounted on similar wooden stands. Most of the successful stands are used for the purpose of worship today.

Vedosk was a solitary woman who rarely shared the findings of her research, or talked about it to her few friends. It was only after her death, when her estate was sold off to a young entrepreneur, James Scornbrow, that much of the work she did in her later life surfaced. Scornbrow had intended to repurpose her house for use as a grain store and had gutted most of the interior when he began to read her journal and then later research logs, at first with idle curiosity, but then with an increasing obsession. It seems that Vedosk’s words had, no pun intended, struck a chord with the young Scornbrow; five years later he had set up the HVM, and had turned the building into a shrine.

The Movement contests that the world was created by an ‘Eternal Musician’ who played a long, powerful ‘note’ which set everything in motion. Sound, as everyone knows, is created through vibration, as is heat, the primary form of energy; the beliefs of HVM are often explained in this manner, couching them in pseudo-scientific terms which are familiar to many Buentoillitants. Worship is primarily directed towards the Musician, although Vedosk is obviously Venerated too; she is remembered as a prophet. Today the Movement will celebrate her ‘transposition’ (i.e. her death) from a flesh and blood being to a diaphanous, spiritual sound-being.

The Movement is a chimerical religion which draws not only from the writings of Vedosk, but also from a misconstrued, exoticised version of Chenorrian mysticism, and a number of other sources in a lesser capacity. Chenorrian influences are certainly the most obvious stylistically; in the large garden of the former home a number of tall yurts stand; spaces for worship of the Eternal Musician and generalised spiritual contemplation. Perhaps a more important ‘borrowed’ element from the Chenorrian Empire is the reading and interpretation of ‘Spirit Maps’ or ‘Zemegale.’ These are diagrams, hundreds of years old, which bear a remarkable resemblance to cymatic images. Stranger still, each diagram is linked to a particular polyphonic chant which, in some (but not all) cases can be played through a modern ‘cymatic imager’ to produce a pattern which matches the corresponding Zemegale with an extremely high degree of similarity.

The modern method of creating a cymatic image is to play a tone through a specialised speaker which in turn vibrates a plate at a given frequency, onto which salt or sand is scattered. These plates are usually circular, but can vary based upon function. The creation of these magical patterns is the primary form of worship for members of the church, a spectacle in which the acolytes all sing in a polyphonic manner either together or as a group, into a microphone, which in turn feeds the sound through an amplifier and into a cymatic imager. The shapes created shift as the frequency of the song changes, a fantastic animation of esoteric patterns. These tones and shapes are thought to be different letters or syllables in the speech of the Eternal Musician, and they are often sung in an order which has an assigned meaning.

This language is constantly being studied and taught by HVM acolytes, although only a few combinations of ‘letters’ have yet been assigned a meaning. One of these combinations, a thirty second long chant, apparently roughly translates as ‘Oh Eternal Musician, let our Lady Vedosk who did show us the way into your kingdom of heavenly music,’ and will be repeated over and over by the entire Movement today in a hymnodic manner, after the ritual feast of celebration and admiration for the memory of Vedosk.

Interestingly, despite her veneration today, Vedosk was very discouraging towards any form of religion, and would have probably been horrified to have had one founded after her. Vedosk’s journals were intended for personal reading, but now they form much of the religion’s holy book.

When the pattern has moved through the twelve positions eighteen times, the sermon ends and Vedosk’s soul is considered officially transposed into the spirit realm, at least for this year.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Lovely Warm Bread
  • The Festival of Watching Other People Try to Open Wine Bottles
  • The Day of the Rustling bush

May 15th – The Day of the Rain Children

There are always horror stories and urban myths circulating around schools designed to scare younger children, tales of an old janitor who was sacked but still haunts the tunnels beneath the school, or of a child who fell into a sausage machine and was eventually served up in school dinners. It goes without saying that all these tales are untrue, though they might have a basis in fact somewhere along the line; janitors can be sacked and you never know what’s in sausages. Sometimes, however, there are stories so weirdly specific that even some adults begin to wonder if they are true.

There was a thunderstorm on the 15th of May 1878, this much we know for sure. It rolled over from the plains towards the east, which was a strange enough occurrence for the papers of the time to comment on, considering it was of the rainy variety and not the dry storms which sometimes grope their way across the plains, through Buentoille to the sea. It was a sunny day, when very quickly it went dark across the City and lightning forked into the conductors atop tall buildings, and it rained intensely for about half an hour. None of the weather forecasting technology had predicted it.

The reports of the shadow that spread across the City on the same day of the following year are less certain. Whilst once again the interest of the papers was piqued, the stories that were run seem to suggest that the darkness, as if an unseen cloud had passed overhead, was some kind of mass psychogenic occurrence, as only a quarter of the population seems to have noticed it. The Buentoilliçan Observer ran a piece on it entitled ‘The Mystery of the Phantom Shadow,’ which featured a couple, Dan and Emily Hargreaves, who claimed to be out in the garden when it happened. ‘It was as if someone covered up the sun very suddenly, but there were no clouds about, and I could still see the sun right there, just dimmer’ said Dan, but Emily seems not to have noticed any change. The phenomenon apparently persisted for around half an hour, long enough for Emily to become worried for Dan’s health and take him to the doctor.

The ‘phantom shadow’ has apparently appeared on several other occasions, always on the same day, but the veracity of these claims have been refuted due to the lack of widespread reports, and the addition of details which do not match the original occurrence (such as a feeling of cold or dread), the suggestion being that those who reported it later were lying for attention, or were mystics and occultists who wanted something to back up their claims of ‘psychic sensitivity.’

Perhaps it was natural that urban myths would grow up around claims of ‘phantom shadows’ and mysterious storms, and this would explain the strangely specific timing of the tale which has spread across various Buentoilliçan schools. Usually when urban myths pass between schools the details change to match their new environment (there are at least twenty schools where a subterranean janitor allegedly lurks, for example), but any child could tell you that it was on the roof of Trioli Hill School, at exactly 1:23pm on the 15th of May 1878 that the Rain Children disappeared in a flash of lightning.

The science block was the highest building for some miles, and the sports court atop them (with accompanying safety fencing) could be easily accessed via a stairwell. There were apparently six children up there that lunch time when the lightning hit the top of the building, although the school claims that this is not the case, and no records can be found of the existence of these famed children. The myth eventually became so widespread that the Office of Disappearances was even called in to investigate, although of course they to found no record of the children, or evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the school (the rooftop sports court was even locked that lunch time, according to the OD report). The children who religiously tell the tale today claim that this is because the lightning did not only disappear them, it removed their very historical existence from the face of the earth.

This latter detail in part might also help explain the persistence and specificity of the myth – generations of children have felt the need to keep the memory of those unfortunate children alive, as there is no other sign that they ever were. Today the story will be retold across many schools, as it has been every year since it surfaced in the mid 1880s; groups of children will sit in circles at lunch time, the older children imparting everything they know (the names of some of the children, how old they were, the details of how they disappeared) to the younger children, who repeat it all back to ensure they have properly remembered all the details.

In some schools there are apparently relics, passed from storyteller to storyteller through the generations; an old scorched textbook or fragment of satchel that it is claimed was taken from the scene of the disappearance, or found there in later years. These are venerated today by groups of curious children, then hidden once again in a forgotten locker, or behind a loose brick. The route by which they came into the hands of those children is sometimes forgotten, sometimes rigorously documented, an accompanying story explaining how a child had moved school from Trioli Hill and brought one with them.

And yet these fragments and memories are not, apparently, the only way in which the disappeared children are manifested in our world; it was said that if you walked up to the roof of the science block at the exact time they disappeared, and if it was raining, you would see them, or rather the absence of them; places where the rain disappeared and did not wet the ground. Some say they danced in a circle, some say they stood still like six invisible standing stones.

The science block has now been demolished, a newer, taller building put in its place, and so the Rain Children have apparently gone with it. Yet there are those who claim they persist; the new building is not perfectly aligned with the old and if you go to the third floor today at the assigned time, and if it is raining, and if you squint very hard out the rain-speckled windows looking west, there you might just see six child-sized rain-shadows, hovering in the afternoon sky.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Unheard Promises
  • The Festival of the Magnificent Sun
  • Malting Day

May 14th – The Festival of Coracle Fishing

There is an extensive archaeological record of coracle fishing in the Buentoille region, primarily because of craft preserved in the marshes which border the City. It seems that for hundreds of years the coracle, a small, usually circular, one-person boat made from animal hide or tar-covered material stretched over a wooden frame, was a primary source of sustenance to the people of the region, and they became embedded in the Buentoilliçan culture as the City developed.

In the early days of the City, peasants would supplement their crops and earnings with trout and crayfish, and this tradition became a working class pastime when no longer needed for survival. Coracle fishers could be seen each Wednesday after church, zipping across the surface of the water to reach their crayfish traps, or holding a net between them to catch fish. River and marsh eels were also a popular catch of coracle fishers.

The coracle was particularly popular with the working classes not only because of the tradition behind it, but also because they were comparatively cheap to build, and could easy access shallow parts of rivers because of their high position in the water. Unfortunately, this and their potential fragility made them unsuitable for sea fishing, were stronger, more expensive craft were used, even in the comparatively calm waters of the Buentoilliçan Bay.

Unfortunately, their restriction to the river meant that the practise of coracle fishing and indeed of making coracles all but died out in the fifteenth century when industry began to pollute the Moway river in earnest. As fishing the river was primarily considered a working class activity, there was little effort from legislators to stem the flow of pollutants, which were not only killing the fish, but also, according to more more modern research, probably causing cancers and other such nasty diseases in the folk who ate the fish. Parliament’s response to the pollution was to re-route the river out of their way, and the way of the richer neighbourhoods, because of how malodorous it had become, but as they owned many of the factories causing the pollution they did nothing to stop the cause.

It about a century later, in 1545, that the Working Group for the Preservation of Working Class Culture was formed, an offshoot of which eventually becoming the Society of Coraclers. Little to no actual fishing was done on and around the Moway at this point (although upstream a wealthy aristocrat, Bertaine Devil, built a large lodge and selection of supporting servant’s cottages for the purpose of fly-fishing, now called Devil’s Elbow) for the simple reason that there were no fish, but the Society would build coracles nonetheless, in an attempt to keep the craft alive for future generations. Each member would build their own coracle in their spare time, then send it down the river with a scarecrow-style fisher in it (to actually pilot the craft would leave one perilously close to the foul waters).

Heavy industry lessened somewhat in and around the river towards the end of the 18th century, although the river was still too polluted to allow life back. After the Revolution, however, the workers who now ran the factories instigated far more stringent controls on the waste they produced, ensuring that it was properly disposed of rather than simply being dumped directly into the river. Hundreds of years of poisoning doesn’t go away overnight, but there have been significant improvements in recent years; river weeds are once again prevalent, and they are attracting in turn much of the biodiversity that once existed there.

Perhaps the most significant sign that things are returning to their pre-industrial form is the re-emergence of the migratory spring trout spawn. The spring trout, partly named for the time of year it appears, partly named for its tendency to jump out of the water to catch insects as it makes its way upriver to spawn, was always considered a great delicacy, and used to appear in such great numbers that they would feed many families for a good few weeks. The first few trout began to arrive last night, so today the coracle fishers will be out in the water, as they would have been all those hundreds of years ago.

Because numbers are still low fishers are limited to five fish each, and licenses are handed out sparingly, but there are hopes that in the next few decades stocks will return to pre-industrial levels. The Coraclers still build their unmanned craft, in addition to those actually used for fishing. At some point in the nineteenth century it became popular within the Society to grow flowers in any coracles which survived previous journeys downriver, and then to set them loose once again. As the fish returned, the Society has coincided the release of the coracles with their spawn, meaning that today the Moway will be full of life, as spring trout surge through the water, fishers lay out their nets whilst being emulated by scarecrows, and large baskets of bright spring flowers float aimlessly on by.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Excellent Excuses
  • Hat Maker’s Day
  • The Festival of Extremely Small Accessories

May 13th – The Festival of Lies

If you’ve been in Buentoille for long enough, someone has probably told you that, strangely enough, there are actually no cats in Strigaxia, or that because of a ‘weird quirk’ in the lay of the land there is a patch of ground in Helmuud’s Hill where it has never rained. Tourists are frequently sent out in search of fictional treacle mines, or of the ‘enormous foot of Saint Etienne the Monoped.’ The teller of these tall tales is unlikely to gain anything besides a good chuckle from lying in such a strange manner, but nevertheless these lies and many others like them are very common in the City, and have become something of a civic pastime. Today’s festival is held to recognise and encourage these good-natured untruths.

Whilst lies for outsiders, rather than the merely tricked or gullible, such as the ‘treacle mine’ story, have been around for as long as anyone can remember, the unsettlingly believable stories which are developed anew at today’s festival were popularised and developed by a group of dock workers and sailors in the early 19th century, when it was common bar-side entertainment to tell long-winded jokes at the expense of each other and the congregated pub-dwellers to whom they suspiciously chattered. Eventually, in 1826, the League of Extraordinary Liars was formed, a group of silver-tongued gadabouts who swaggered from pub to pub telling tall tales.

It obviously didn’t take long before essentially all the group members were known to be supremely untrustworthy throughout Buentoille, so they thought up an ingenious solution. For one day, May the 13th, they would all do nothing but tell the truth, promising upon various oaths that the side of them that was, as it can be charitably expressed, ‘creative with facts,’ would be firmly buried. Of course, this too was a lie, and it wasn’t long before the news got out.

It was too tantalising, easy to engage in, for the festival not to spread beyond the League. Today most Buentoillitants will, if not engage with, be wary of the festival. Simply put, most Buentoillitants will not believe a word they are told today, or will carefully study each claim made to them, in case a truth is presented as some pseudo-lie with which to cause further confusion. Lie detectors are a popular accoutrement for today’s festivities, yet they seldom if ever properly work. Over the years many hand signals, special phrases and code words have been used to signify that the speaker is telling the absolute truth, for the avoidance of potentially dangerous situations, but as is the way with these things, they have all been used to solidify a lie by more irreverent folks.

Today is an important, problematic day for The Veracious and Faithful Order of Absolute Truth, a small but dedicated religion which teaches that god is always around us, judging us for our misdeeds and untruths. In the Faithful Order’s dogma god is the universe itself, and therefore truth itself, and to tell a lie is to distance oneself from god, which is in some way to distance oneself from existence. Put in the words of the Order, ‘to lie is to wilfully obviate the self.’ Today the order will stage a small but pugnacious march across the City, with preaching and public ‘educational meetings’ held at each end, which hope to ‘teach the population of this sinful city that to lie is to commit suicide.’ One particularly cruel trick which is often played upon the Order is an untrue promise to join them.

The Order are deadly serious about their message, and point to a number of real-life cases to support their point. A common refrain is the tragic story of Alywin Tellerman, whose mother was suddenly close to death on May the 13, and who, when he was told, believed that he had been lied to, and therefore did not travel to see her last few hours in this world.

Eventually the League found a way of enjoying a good lie without the sport of belief and disbelief being spoiled by the knowledge that the speaker was from a club dedicated to lying. A competition will be held this afternoon in which each contestant has to tell two truths and one lie, and the audience have to work out whether or not they are telling to truth. And yet things are never that simple; a number of innocuous lies are invariably slipped into the introduction to the competition (e.g. ‘last year we had a deacon of the Chastise Church competing’), just to keep things interesting.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Terrible Lunches
  • The Veracious and Faithful Order of Absolute Truth’s Day of Soul Saving

May 12th – The Festival of Marginalia

Buentoille is a very textual city; literacy is prized and printed media have been going strong for many hundreds of years, showing no sign of faltering or being superseded. Beneath Ranaclois hill the Hidden Library stretches for miles, an old labyrinthine set of tunnels and salt mines filled with books; the City is built on literature. For Buentoillitants, writing is one method of immortality, and if you can’t write an entire book, there are other ways for you to stamp your existence into the world.

Today, at the Surface Reading House a small exhibition of books and other written materials will be held. At first glance there is no linking subject between the fifty-or-so books laid out on the angled reading benches, especially commandeered for today, but at closer inspection one might realise that they all contain marginalia of some sort; doodles, drawings and annotations. The usual wall decorations explaining the proper use of books (‘NO EATING OR DRINKING IN THE READING HOUSE,’ ‘DO NOT DRAW ON, ANNOTATE, OR IN ANY OTHER WAY MARK THE BOOKS: USE THE PROVIDED DOODLE PADS’) are replaced today with large, blown-up photographs of exactly what they forbid.

The festival has been going on for some time. It began in 1756 when scholar Burstan Swen decided that the marginal illustrations in the old illuminated manuscripts that they were finding with some frequency in their studies deserved to be exhibited in their own right. Since then, however, the festival has taken on numerous other interpretations, with many scholarly debates about what forms of marginalia are considered valuable, or even can be gifted the title of marginalia. Swen set up the Buentoilliçan Coterie for the Appreciation of Marginal Illustrations, which still runs the exhibition at the Surface Reading House to this day, its small, selective membership curating the space according to their current tastes.

Things have moved on somewhat since the eighteenth century, but the Coterie still makes a point of including a large number of illuminated manuscripts in their selection. From these manuscripts a number of pages will be picked out and bookmarked for the exhibition-goers, in which painted people make lurid gestures, strange chimerical creatures joust and trick each other. Everyday animals are turned on their head in action; a fierce wolf kindly cradles a baby, a rabbit hunts a hunting dog. Social hierarchies are turned upside-down too; a peasant sits on a throne, her feet propped up on the back of a king, a lascivious monk ogles the behind of a washerwoman. Any books which are considered too old and fragile will instead have a photograph taken and placed on the walls. In order to be considered ‘proper’ marginalia none of these images may relate to the text itself in any way, yet other restrictions that the Coterie once had are now wiped away.

Pressure from competing exhibitions seems to have had the greatest effect in forcing the Coterie to include more modern works in their collections. In 1839 a group of archivists, curators and artists who were denied entry to the Coterie set up their own group, the Buentoilliçan Open Group for the Appreciation of Transformative Marginal Markings, which exhibited on the same day other forms of marginalia, such as annotated university books, edited manuscripts, defaced political posters, the original copy of Jina Jeert’s Message from the Margins, the famous long-form poem that is written over (and interacts closely with, in a pseudo-editorial style) a copy of My Neighbour’s Daughter, a genre-defining work by Olivia Simine. The Open Group’s definition of ‘proper’ marginalia states that the additional markings must in some way transform the original text, bringing new meaning to the table.

As previously stated, the Coterie have adapted their selection process over the years, and now written marginalia is included, if it is considered valuable enough. Their written exhibits are usually in some way connected to famous folk, and could be, for example, their crayon childhood scribbles in a family book, or a blasphemous shopping list written in a copy of the Sanctotemporal Index, the religious text of the Chastise Church. In another instance, the Coterie exhibited a coffee stain in a book which had been outlined with pen; it was thought to be the first evidence of coffee in the City. Yet despite this there have been a number of public disagreements between the two groups in the past, and instances where the exhibits have been in some way ‘sabotaged’ by the other side, who choose to add their own, new marginalia to the texts, in some instances irreparably damaging a text that they perceive as worthless, when the other side sees enormous value in it.

It is a well known saying in Buentoille that ‘in war we are all artists,’ or put more simply, where there is conflict there is inevitably art. As such, marginalia has become fertile ground for the creation of new art, specifically in reference to the two groups, albeit not usually as aggressive or destructive as the marginalia they create is. Today (and also throughout the year in general) a number of artists both conceptual and visual will attempt to add a piece of their work to a text in the Hidden Library, in the hopes that it will eventually be picked up by one of the groups. The librarians are empowered to confiscate any drawing implements as a result. The works they produce are inventive and at times nefarious; in 1987 the Coterie exhibited a faked old illuminated manuscript which had previously been a simple text before Yeran Stau added her careful, historically accurate paintings to the margins.

Artists have occasionally hosted their own, separate, exhibitions as well: in 1993 Malphos Draen showed How I Passed My Degree, an extensive collection of university textbooks which had been annotated by other students in the past, often giving valuable insight into the text. Draen’s own writing can be seen next to each annotation in bright red pen, rating and commenting upon its usefulness. A number of facetious or banal marginal scrawlings (‘this makes no sense…’ ‘V. interesting,’ ‘man, I hate this writer!’) are labelled ‘unhelpful – try harder next time,’ or simply given a ‘1/10’ rating, whereas other, more insightful annotations are praised, built upon, given high ratings.

Both the exhibitions are open all day today, and to get a full idea of the history and art of marginalia in Buentoille, it is recommended that you visit both. If you do wish to do so, ensure that you wash off the hand stamps they give you at the door before you visit the other exhibition or you will be refused entry. The Hidden Library would like to stress that any deliberate destruction or defacement of public property will be dealt with harshly.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Unknown Vows
  • The Festival of Friendly Birds
  • Municipal Mutual Understanding and Tolerance Day