June 1st – The Elderflower Festival

Whilst the elderflowers in the hedges and fields that surround the City have been ready for a week or two, the start of June is generally considered the beginning of the traditional harvest. Folk today will line the hedgerows, cutting the sweet fragrant flowers from the bushes, for use in the prodigiously fizzy elderflower champagne, or perhaps in elderflower cordial, or to be eaten as fritters, in cakes or salads, even in some medicines. Some perfumes use elderflowers as a primary ingredient, and some people just use them to decorate their homes.

Walking groups set out with large sacks, looking to sell them later on street stalls, or to dry them out for use throughout the year. Cookery schools will today dedicate various classes to the use of the well-loved bouquet. It’s safe to say that almost everyone loves elderflowers, perhaps partly because they are a sign that summer is around the corner, that the sharp knife of winter is a distant memory. Yet there is one group that professes a love for elderflowers greater than any else: witches.

Elder trees have long featured in folklore and mythology as signs of evil (you must not drink water from a pool surrounded by elder trees, or you will be driven mad), or conversely as bringers of great medicinal benefit (the flowers are said to cure all manner of ailments, some of which are actually proven). Perhaps this dual ‘personality’ is down to their differing appearance at different times of year; whereas they look angelic now with their whitish bouquets, later in the year they appear potentially sinister, with their wizened wood and dark, purgative berries.

According to other elements of folklore, witches are said to have been descended from each aspect of the elder. The two main Buentoilliçan covens, The Infused Sisterhood and the Coven of Irah, perpetuate this belief in their claims of descendence from each element; the Sisterhood claim the ‘brightening’ mantle of the elderflower witches, whereas the Coven claims the ‘darkening’ berries for their own. Whilst there appears to be some witchery associated with the elder tree in Strigaxia, it doesn’t seem to hold the same primogenitive status, understandable since Strigaxians are often thought entirely separate to the Buentoilliçan concept of a witch.

Today, then, is one of the primary days of celebration for the Infused Sisterhood, and they will spend it, like many others, gathering the flowers for their own uses. Yet the method of gathering, and the uses themselves are somewhat dissimilar to the general population of Buentoille. Firstly, when gathering the flowers the Sisters must repeat an incantation, an askance of the Elder Mother, the first witch who dwells still in the trunk of every elder tree, so that they may take of her bounty. The incantation is sung, and involves not only words, but also hand and foot movements, so the harvest resembles something of a twirling, light footed dance. They use only brass instruments to cut the flowers.

Secondly, instead of making elderflower wine, champagne or cordial (the most popular uses for other Buentoillitants), all of which they disdain as ‘sugar-filled nonsense,’ the sisterhood make elderflower tea. Again, there are very specific processes involved in the making of the tea: it is not merely for enjoyment, but made as a method of communing with their origins. Before any tea is made, they first elect a witch and make her a dress from the flowers themselves, strung together with white thread, then given greater structure with the application of spider’s silk. The effect is very pretty, like a natural lace, and is intended to symbolise the first Bright Witch. They then, against the advice of folklorists everywhere, take three pails of water from a pool surrounded by elder trees, and pour them into a cauldron before the chosen witch. Old, dried elder wood is burned beneath the cauldron, and the chosen witch stirs the elderflowers in when it begins to boil.

A few minutes later, the infusion is ready to drink, and the Sisterhood all gather around to receive their cupful. This is perhaps one of the simplest teas made by the witches. Another song is sung, low and slow this time, as the witches sit cross-legged, each with an elderflower in their hair, and meditate on their origins together. When the sun has set the witches will return home.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Helpful Nudges
  • The Festival of Deliberately Spilling Milk and Crying

June 2nd – The Festival of the Vocavaroe Family Protection Squad

In 1714 the writer Joules Mendyr published his first children’s book, The Family Vocavaroe, and it has been a best seller ever since. Perhaps it is the essential naive beauty of the watercolour illustrations, revolutionary for their time, that has carried it this far. Or perhaps it is the wholesome themes, the warm characterisation, the gentleness of the story. Either way, having a festival dedicated to the books must help.

Perhaps it is not entirely true to say that the festival is dedicated to the book; whilst it certainly forms a large part of the festival, and whilst the festival certainly wouldn’t have come into being without it, the celebration, like many Buentoilliçan festivals, is perhaps more about a specific tree. Part of the genius of the books (for there were many sequels) is that they purport to be entirely truthful accounts of the life of the Vocavaroe family, a family of small green tree spirits who live inside what is now called the Vocavaroe Elm. ‘In the centre of Doubleman’s square, next to the bakery and the post office and framer’s shop,’ reads the first line of the book, ‘there is a large elm tree in which dwells the Family Vocavaroe.’

Well before the festival began, folk would take their children to see the elm tree, leading them across the cobbled square and pointing up into the verdant canopy, ‘did you see that?’ I think I saw one of the Family running across that branch!’ Children would climb up the tree, which at the time was easily accessible either from a window of the cafe in the first floor above the bakery (then Double Brother’s Bakery and Cafe), where one of the thick branches reached out, or from a running jump to a lower branch if you were tall enough. Once up there they would search for signs of the Family’s existence, of little doors and windows leading into the tree, but every time the Family saw them coming, presumably little Eidwine with his miniature telescope, and closed all the hatches.

And then, in 1777, the new owner of the square, Douglas Treidsham, decided that the tree had to be cut down; its roots were damaging the local buildings, and keeping the cobbles swept in the autumn was a nightmare. Needless to say, folk weren’t best pleased with this plan. They lobbied the local authority to stop him, but as the square was technically private land (it had five gates, one for each entry, which were shut for one day each year to maintain this status), and the authority could do nothing. Folk took the gates off their hinges, but apparently this didn’t help. They put out notice that any willing tree surgeons or lumberjacks to do the actual dirty work would face a boycott, but one was found nonetheless.

Yet when it came to the day of the felling, the first of June, the lumberjack found that there were five children in the tree, all reading The Family Vocavaroe, heedless to his calls to get down. By midday there were several adults up there too, feet dangling amidst the branches. By the end of the day a watch was set up, a rotation of people coming through the cafe (whose owners, despite the frustration they’d had over the years with kids running through their shop to get up the tree, were wholeheartedly in support of the protesters), all reading the books, so that there would be no time of day to cut it down. Eventually, Triedsham came out to see what the fuss was all about. Someone handed him a book. Three hours later he decreed the tree was safe.

Ever since that first year, folk have sat up the tree, reading their books in the dappled sunshine. The tree has grown to such an extent that two of the buildings have had to be rebuilt around the roots, and the bakery-cafe (still in business, but under the name ‘The Family’s Cafe’) has actually built a balcony which rests on the extended branch. Their waiters are specially trained and will carry drinks out to the revellers resting on the branches. A bookshop has opened across the way, where the framer used to be, which sells Joules Mendyr’s books most prominently.

Another new addition are the tiny constructions which have started popping up over the tree – little doors, storehouses of tiny crates slung in nets beneath branches, balconies, ladders, chimney pots, even a landing pad complete with feeder for the birds which the Family rides. Perhaps it is the work of local artists, or maybe, just maybe, the Family are feeling less shy nowadays.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Careful Dave’s Day of Half Price Brews
  • The Placement of Art is Tantamount to Success: a Rallying Talk
  • The Day of Listening to the Wind

June 3rd – The Festival of Electromagnetic Dreams

Outside the City, atop Whiteacre hill, there are the foundations of an ancient tower. Archaeologists estimate that it was built about 1000 years before the beginning of the Common Buentoilliçan Calendar, and would have stood at about 50ft tall. Whilst this has been extrapolated from the scale of the debris and the conical shape of the tower’s base, very little of the tower remains; that which is aboveground is only there because of extensive excavations at the site.

The most popular theory about the purpose of the building is as a defensive structure for the protection of people and livestock. The absence of surrounding earthworks or other defensive features has, however, led others to believe that the tower, made from many small stones dug from a nearby quarry, may have been a beacon tower in an early long-distance communication system, or perhaps a watchtower for the Buentoille Bay it overlooks. There is little decisive evidence either way, nor is it known what eventually felled the tower, which appears to have cascaded down the side of the hill in a rather dramatic fashion. There are other, more controversial theories surrounding the tower, mainly relating to a 1984 school trip.

The notes from Saleph Woefenn’s interview for the position of history teacher at East Hollow Secondary School don’t give any real indication of man’s strangeness of character, which would later lead to his dismissal and prosecution. There is one point in the transcription where, after Woefenn seemingly loses concentration for a few moments, staring out the window into space, the (as yet uncovered) spiritualist apologises and says (in what the interviewers took for a joke) that he was waiting for his ‘energies to realign,’ yet other than this once strange remark, he seemed totally normal.

The first concerns about Woefenn’s teaching style were raised by a teaching assistant who apparently ‘found Mr. Woefenn teaching the children from Dinearis’ Historikal Stupor,’ a pseudo-historical text written by prominent spiritualist Andrea Dinearis, in which she claims to elicit ‘real first hand accounts’ of famous historical events from the ghosts of people who where there. The concerns were brushed aside for a time when Woefenn claimed that he was using the text as an example of an unreliable source, but resurfaced quickly after the events of June the 3rd, 1984.

It was shortly after excavations of the tower first began that Woefenn took his history class out to see the site, ostensibly to learn about the archaeological process. Yet, according to testimony given by all twenty five children, almost the entirety of Woefenn’s year nine history class (excepting Ezrah Berstom, who was ill that day), at Woefenn’s trial, it was then that Woefenn unveiled a strange electronic device attached to a large battery, which he called an ‘electromagnetic modulator.’

Whilst subsequent investigations have found that the so-called ‘modulator’ did not produce an electromagnetic field of high enough power or frequency to do any harm to the children, the verdicts of ‘reckless neglect’ and ‘potential intentional endangerment of children’ found in the original case were upheld, and amongst the other punishments meted out to Woefenn, he was barred from teaching for life. Whilst Woefenn garnered sympathy from some sections of Buentoilliçan society, the general consensus is that it is entirely necessary to protect others from a man who wilfully exposed children to experimental, untested electrical equipment, especially given the effects they claim to experience to this day.

‘I didn’t notice anything strange on the day,’ said Ignatius Repthalm in an interview with The Buentoilliçan Mystik, ‘but I guess it must have done something, because the next year I had a very vivid dream that I was in a room that I could swear I’d been in before, but I couldn’t quite place it.’ The interview, conducted in 1998, twelve years after the incident on Whiteacre hill, was centred around an unexpected meeting of those same school children, now all 25 years of age, back atop the hill. Apparently they all arrived individually, convinced that they had to return, yet unaware that anyone else felt the same way. ‘The dream happened year after year, always on that same day, but I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t want to make them worried. Eventually I realised that the room was part of the tower, and I knew I had to return.’

Strangely enough, the other thirteen classmates claim to have never experienced any such dreams, and disavow entirely the group who still meet each year atop Whiteacre hill today, to dream their ‘electromagnetic dreams,’ as they call them. ‘There is something about actually being here,’ said Wyatt Mandrill, another erstwhile classmate interviewed in the same article, ‘above the tower; maybe it has some innate magnetism, or something, but I see them in my dreams, the people who built it, just as Mr. Woefenn wanted us to, on that trip so long ago.’ Whilst Mandrill has distanced herself from what she said then (only six of the original twelve still return), the sentiment was echoed by every one of the twelve dreamers.

Whilst many spiritualists and occultists have joined the dreamers on each of the nights since the meeting was first talked about in The Buentoilliçan Mystik, none of them have experienced the dream which each is said to experience each year; many believe that the ‘modulator’ wielded so recklessly by Woefenn somehow ‘calibrated’ the dreamers to the space, allowing them to ‘perceive the ghosts of the Constructors,’ so called because they are only ever building in the dreams. Detractors state that this theory has absolutely no foundation in scientific fact, and that there are no known processes which could explain this alleged ‘calibration.’

At one point there was a contingent of experimental archaeologists who became somewhat interested in what the dreamers had to say about these ‘Constructors,’ just in case there was anything of import contained therein which could shine a new light on the physical findings. However, when the dreamers were asked about the building methods the Constructors used, they were vague to the point of nonsense; in fact, the only thing they seemed certain of was the purpose of the walls. ‘They’re not making it to keep people out,’ they told the archaeologists, ‘they’re making it to keep something very big in, although they won’t tell us what.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Spoons and Ladles
  • The Festoval of Termendos Mispellings
  • Municipal Tree Care Day

June 4th – The Festival of Quarto Pamphleteering

Whilst we think of most religions as venerable, indelible institutions, there are of course religions which only last a generation, or a few years. Yet history is strong in Buentoille, this city of cultural hoarders, and everything leaves its mark. The Followers of Bandonelli are now long defunct, disbanding at some point in the late 14th century, but their methods of worship, their central ethos lives on, stripped of its religious connotations.

According to Bandonelli, a self-described ‘hedge prophet’ who had allegedly spent three years lost in some forgotten branch of the Hidden Library, god is knowledge, or at least a conglomeration of knowledge, and that to gather, spread and understand knowledge is to understand and be closer to god. This revelation was apparently gleaned during the prophet’s time lost in the Hidden Library, where the concentration of knowledge allegedly formed a ‘kynd of sponnetanias innetelijents, a presents, a lessere god’ which spoke to her and conferred the teachings she followed. This itself was not a particularly fantastic revelation, having formed part of many other religions before and after, but the particular approach to this form of worship that Bandonelli put forth has remained a small part of Buentoilliçan culture ever since.

Bandonelli had little money of her own, but with her proselytising she managed to secure funding from Thamo Grundy, who gave over one of his printing presses to the cause. Bandonelli surmised that the best way to spread knowledge effectively to the widest available audience was through the printed word, in particular through small, quarto pamphlets (a single large piece of paper printed onto and folded twice) on specific subjects. Because the Followers had no particular hierarchy of subjects, their aim principally being the spread of knowledge, no matter what that knowledge pertained to, they initially printed whatever information they had available, summarising chapters on the proper process for the distillation of acids into handy guides, or paraphrasing epic poetry which charted the formation of empires.

With baskets full of random information, the Followers went out door-knocking to spread it as far and wide as possible. Very quickly they found that certain subjects were far more popular than others, and there was a great demand for those texts covering the proper storage of food, methods of effective contraception, and other such themes of import to everyday life. This is not to say that the more arcane subjects were not received well, just that they required the right person to find them interesting, and the Followers found they had a great surplus of some texts and shortages of others.

Eventually, the Followers realised that the best way to educate the population of Buentoille was to ask them what they wanted to learn about, and provide accordingly. For a small donation to the cause, the Followers canvassed opinion, then spent the following year researching the asked for subjects, collating the knowledge they found into a series of easy-to-understand pamphlets which were distributed about the City. This cycle eventually led to a ‘release day’ when new, long awaited pamphlets would be released, and the creation of this festival day inevitably led to other groups attempting to cash in on the popular event.

Slowly, over the next few hundred years, the Followers’ funding ran dry, and the religious fire that lay beneath their ideals faded out and was replaced by hundreds of different publishers, religious organisations spreading their own ideals, and individual authors. Instead of the donation and consultation model once upheld, today the hawkers who travel door-to-door charge a small contribution for each pamphlet, should the residents wish to buy. Each house can expect to be visited by at least seven hawkers today, each trying to educate the populace in their own way. Authors have often used today as a method of self-publishing, producing short stories or poetry collections for mass consumption, with some creating novels stretched out across various festivals. Historically, before printing became cheap enough, those who did not have the funds to print their offerings handmade them instead, either laboriously copying them out by hand, or by hand-printing with crude stamps.

Whilst many of the quarto pamphlets are semi-disposable, made for quick consumption and uptake of knowledge, some have become collectors items, either because of the small numbers still in existence, the beauty of their printing, or the value or comically antiquated nature of the knowledge contained therein. The Museum of Traditional Antiquities and the Hidden Library both hold large collections, much of which is displayed today in special exhibitions. Another collection of note is within Garrik’s Museum of Infernal and Occult Curiosities, where the various arcane pamphlets on ghosts, fairies, magic and mystical ceremonies have been collated for public viewing. Of particular interest this year is Garrik’s Museum’s recently acquired Reel Lifes ov the Sayntes, an exceptionally rare early pamphlet which made outrageous claims that the various saints of the Chastise Church canon had all gained their Attunement through a deal with the Grenin Waurst, and was subsequently suppressed by Church activists.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Bridge Building
  • Deer Following Day
  • The Day of Knife Sharpening

June 5th – The Festival of Rebirth

The Hollow Stone has stood in place in Hollowstone square for thousands of years, long before the buildings popped up around it, since the last ice age in fact. The Stone is a prominent example of a glacial erratic rock, i.e. a chunk of stone picked up by a glacier in the far north, brought south through glacial drift, and deposited here when the big melt came. Being scoured across the land for hundreds of miles has given the Stone a number of striking features; firstly it looks nothing like the local stone, but is made instead of a bluish granite, secondly it is smooth on most surfaces, as if polished by the journey, thirdly it has a hole in its centre after which it has been named.

The shape of the strange Stone has always been a source of fascination for the people of Buentoille, and some say for many folks who came through the Buentoilliçan lands before the City was built. Over time various folk tales have been ascribed to the rock, identifying it as the eye socket of a giant, or the fossilised vagina from which the first person was born. Some say that if you pass through on the harvest moon you are transported to an alternate, subtly different Buentoille, one where they decided to build your house a few feet over, just noticeably, or where someone you never met was given a different name at birth.

Other magical properties have been ascribed to the Hollow Stone, such as the curing of birth defects and other ailments, an increase in fertility, or the divination of truth; peace negotiations between warring families have apparently been conducted with the negotiators sitting either side of the Stone, looking at each other through the hole so they could not make false promises without the other knowing. Today’s festival pertains to one such magical property of the Stone; its ability to give a fresh start, free from the detritus of a previous life. By passing through the Hollow Stone you can be reborn.

The idea of being reborn through the Hollow Stone is certainly an old one, as Liberatum have been found which apparently describe the ritual in great depth, as part of the Day of Sin, an Escotolatian celebration held on the 5th of June each year where one would attempt to rid themselves of the year’s accumulated sins. Passing through the Stone was actually a sideshow in this day long celebration, which focused primarily on the digging of a large hole into which sins would be buried, later to be eaten by the worms. It’s unclear how this process actually worked, but it seems to have involved self-flagellation with birch twigs and washing the broken skin with special oils.

Traditions morph over time, changing meaning and emphasis with the times. Today there is less focus on sin with the festival, more on escape, change, remaking. A long white tent is constructed, attaching to one side of the large, perforated triangular rock. At the opposite end enter those who wish to start their lives again, those heartbroken or tired, those who see only failure when they look in the mirror. Before they reach the rock they must complete three trials: the trial of labour, the trial of generosity, the trial of death. In the first trial we see something of the Day of Sin, reformed into its modern setting; those undergoing the ritual must dig a large hole, then bury something in it, something they wish to be rid of. The small grass island in the centre of the square is full of old photographs of lost loves, letters describing mortifying mistakes, decomposing slowly.

After the large tent of the first trial, they move along to the second, adjoining tent, a smaller, more personal space, where someone dressed as a beggar blocks their way, hands outstretched. To the beggar must be given something of great value, whether it be for its emotional significance or monetary value. If the beggar senses a large enough toll has been taken, they step aside. In the last tent is a tall figure with a skull mask, holding an electric razor in front of a barbers chair. They do not speak, but the intent is fairly obvious. Most folk also undress before they wiggle through the hole in the Hollow Stone, out into the sunshine.

In the square, the gathered crowd cheers raucously as each person emerges, reborn anew, naked and bald as they were on their first days on this earth. A band plays a loud serenade, and kindly folk run over with dressing gowns to cover the modesty of those who want covering. ‘What’s your name?’ the assembled crowds ask, plying the newly born with food and drink. They are free to answer with whatever they choose.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Whisper to Me Nightly – A Weeklong Festival
  • The Trap of Saint Dolmew Festival
  • The Day of Singing to the Grasses

June 6th – The Day of Safely Opening the Deadly Glasshouse

Idacious Finnik was remarkable in her lifetime for the primary reason that she was, that most un-Buentoilliçan of words, unsettled. Some say there is something in the air here, some goodly feeling that means few ever want to leave. For whatever reason this had little effect on Finnik, although after her travels she did always return, always with some new story or delight for the City to share in.

The (mostly absentee) owner of several factories, Finnik moved in genteel, elitist circles, and, with her good looks and unruly golden-orange hair was much loved by the society press of the time. These were pre-Revolutionary days, days when people looked up to the wealthy for direction and trends. Finnik brought various new clothing styles and ‘exotic’ fashions to Buentoille, pioneering a new trend termed ‘lavish explorer chic’ by the Buentoilliçan Cultural Digest, which involved highly patterned loose silk gowns and firmaments of golden jewellery.

Even Finnik’s working clothes, usually a subject of little interest for the society press, were obsessed upon and emulated. Her rough, hard-wearing tweed suits and white linen shirt-and-short combinations, each suited to various foreign climes, were all the rage in their respective seasons. There are many photographs which show her climbing up sand dunes or rocky escarpments, the wind catching her hair, a thin scarf trailing behind her, along with a train of servants carrying the vast amounts of luggage she took with her everywhere. ‘One must have the luxuries of home wherever one is,’ Finnik said often, ‘that is the trick to not getting homesick.’

Whilst many of the new delights that Finnik returned with were clothes, plants, and in particular flowers, were her greatest love, and were it not for them Finnik would likely have left little lasting impression upon the City. There are over a hundred species of flowers, including rare orchids, roses, lilies and tulips, which were introduced to the hothouses and gardens of Buentoille by Finnik, and she was reportedly happiest when surrounded by fragrant blossoms. How excited she must have been when she saw her first siren flower.

Finnik kept few accurate maps or notes from her travels, and fewer photographs, so there is no consensus as to where siren flowers originate from, except that there is an island entirely filled by the worrisome growths. Whilst travelling through a ‘southerly zone of the Outer Ocean,’ Finnik’s boatswain spied an archipelago inhabited by a number of tribespeople who avoided the ‘siren island’ as if it were the plague, and who smeared animal dung on their noses when sailing past. A translator hired by the Finnik crew explained that this was down to the extremely alluring scent produced by the flowers, which had often led to a deadly stupor up close, the afflicted person wishing to do nothing but fill their lungs with the musk.

Through bribery and charm, Finnik managed to persuade the islanders to let her crew onto the island to collect a seed to take back to Buentoille. Two sailors died in the attempt, one not having applied enough sealing wax to his nose, the other being killed by the afflicted sailor when she tried to physically remove him from the island. The third and final sailor returned with the seed which was locked in an airtight box. Upon their return the seed was planted in a glasshouse within Finnik’s walled garden, into which a specialist air filtration system and air lock was fitted. Airtight hazard suits were used to tend to the plant, and to perform various experiments upon it, including the extraction of the scent into a usable fragrance.

When she next returned to Buentoille, the plant now grown, Finnik became obsessed with the flower. She had caught the slightest, most tantalising glimpse of the smell from the boat whilst her sailors died on the island, and it had been tormenting her ever since. When she realised that the stupor-like state was caused not by the smell itself but instead a pollen-like secretion which coats the delicate blue petals, she would spend hours tied to a pole by her servants at the other end of the glass house, where she could luxuriate in the scent but not be affected by the secretion. If she had not been tied down she would undoubtedly have thrust her nose straight into those petals, and would then likely have died as a result. This is essentially how Finnik spent the last twelve years of her life.

Today there are many flowers in the hothouse; they almost fill the entire space, and today the greenhouse will also be opened to the public. Yet there is little fear of death or stupor; today is the one day of the year when the stupor-creating-powder ceases to be produced, undergoing a chemical change which essentially renders it harmless, instead becoming an actual pollen. The theory, put forward by Patsy Jerche (Finnik’s chief botanist, the person who was apparently responsible for the greater portion of Finnik’s success), states that today the plants want to breed, using insects (similarly affected by the smell) to transfer their pollen from plant to plant, rather than to kill every living creature that comes near so that they fertilise the surrounding soil.

Whilst the smell is luxurious, lustful and addictive (as well as actually banned as a personal fragrance for reasons of sexual consent), it is possible to reason without the stupefying effects of the accompanying ‘pollen,’ and the visitors are able to be escorted out by the hazard-suited gardeners, when the sun begins to set. The lustful nature of the scent makes the hothouse popular with lovers, who find plenty of places to hide amongst the thick, fleshy foliage of the plants. A thorough search is conducted by the gardeners before closing time, to avoid any unnecessary deaths.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Moths and Flames
  • The Festival of Bigotry
  • Yarn Day

June 7th – The Festival of Saint Orchal

‘There is a certain presence / a beatific communication / within the sounds of the train station.’ These are the words of Linen Eurgul, poet and dancer, and they were apparently the words which convinced James Careform, later known as Saint Orchal, to become a wheeltapper. Careform had spent most of his childhood in and around churchyards, his mother being a ward of the Chastise Church due to her poor health, and there had been exposed to the poetry of Eurgul, a local man who often performed his work at Church gatherings. Careform’s experiences as a wheeltapper led to their canonisation as Saint Orchal upon their death on the 7th of June 1887.

The patron saint of trains and railways, Orchal is often invoked as an additional safety measure by religious rail workers or passengers. Beside the driver’s seats of many Buentoilliçan trains can be found the symbol of Saint Orchal, the hammer and wheel, indicative of the way in which he found Attunement. According to the official story, after attending the sermon at which Eurgul performed their poem about train stations, ‘A Certain Presence,’ Orchal walked straight across to the Darrius Finachre Rail Yard, where they sat on a stack of unused timbers and listened carefully.

When Orchal was only six when he lost his sight after being struck across the head by a barrel which fell from the back of a cart. According to the doctors the trauma caused a severe and irreversible retinal detachment. As a result he had learned early on to appreciate sound more keenly, and had a well-developed sense of hearing. It was this that got him his job as a wheeltapper. As he sat there on the timbers he listened in to the soundscape surrounding him; the slow release of steam from the engines, the rumble of their furnaces, a quiet conversation between three workers, two women and a man, about their boss, someone hammering a rivet into place some way away, a seagull wheeling overhead.

Nobody seemed to mind him there; perhaps they hadn’t noticed. A train was coming, you could tell because the rails had begun to sing quietly. Eventually you could hear the chugging sounds of its engine as it approached, the squeal of its breaks, the hiss of steam as it stopped, something akin to the sound of someone relaxing suddenly, settling into a soft chair. There was the ‘ting ting ting’ of the hot metal engine starting to cool, as the wheeltapper started down the side of the newly arrived train, striking the wheels with his long hammer, a pause as he listened to the sound, and then the next strike. ‘Why did that last one sound different?’ asked Orchal.

‘It doesn’t,’ said the soon-to-be unemployed wheeltapper, who had obliviously moved on to the next wheel. Orchal begged to differ, explaining how there had been a small but clear difference to the ring of the wheel, a minor dullness that the others didn’t have. He didn’t realise at the time that this meant the wheel needed replacing, that this was exactly what the wheeltapper was supposed to be listening out for, or that one of the people listening to their conversation was the wheeltapper’s boss. He was offered the newly-opened up position there on the spot, at the age of fifteen, he had never worked before, but was delighted.

Orchal kept the job for the rest of his life, the whole time he was there thinking about Eurgul had said, listening out for some greater communication within the noises he heard around him, trying to sense the ‘presence’ the poet had identified. For most of his life, Orchal was unsuccessful in sensing anything greater, though he greatly enjoyed listening to the sounds around him, and spent many hours listening to the rattle of carriages, the heave-to of the engines. He would hum quietly in concordance with them. Then one day the B361 unexpectedly came into the station, a new purchase by Darrius Finachre from a rival train company.

Each wheel has a different sound. It mainly depends on the design of the wheel, and whether or not it has any cracks or imperfections which impede the ‘ring’ as they would with a bell. Yet there are other factors which change the shape slightly, and therefore the sound, such as how hot it is, how far it has travelled, whether it has got wet at any point in its journey. According to Church dogma, the masterful ears of Saint Orchal could even discern differences in tone from where it had been on its journey, the shape of its route, the sounds imparted onto it from the carriage above. When he struck the fifth left wheel of the B361 that day, he became Attuned; he suddenly understood the world, the connections therein, as never before. The feeling began to fade, so he struck the wheel again, and was once again Attuned, but less so; he no longer remembered as he did a moment before what it was that motivated his fellow workers, the granular details of their lives that he had never asked after.

By the fifth hammer blow it was gone; the tone had changed infinitesimally, but to such an extent that it no longer unlocked that secret place within his mind, no longer Attuned him to the reality of this strange world. Yet he had managed to hold on to something in that flood of information, a few scraps from the lives of others; he turned to his colleague, a man called Sitvus, and said, ‘make sure you tie the flowers to the door knocker, or the wind will blow them away, and she won’t believe you.’ Later, Sitvus claimed this random, unasked for piece of advice had kept his marriage together.

Orchal spent much of the rest of his life trying to emulate that tone, that one experience, yet never again did the B361 take that same route, have the same passengers talking of the same unknown things in the carriage above the fifth left wheel. Today this man is celebrated with a poetry reading in Trisaint Church, then a processional striking of small ritual wheels along the theorised route of the B361 on that fateful day. The procession actually takes place inside an old, renovated carriage, fitted to look as it would have in Orchal’s day, which is shunted down the tracks by a specially-scheduled service.

When the train reaches its destination, the Darrius Finachre Rail Yard (now known popularly as the Fine Acre Rail Yard), the acolytes will tie on blindfolds and walk around the carriage, striking the wheels and chanting hymnodically. Many non-religious folks join in the festival proceedings because they believe it will protect them from rail accidents.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Crustacean Harangueing
  • A Day to Climb the Ritual Tower of ERNATE
  • The Festival of [Editorial] Additions

June 8th – Singersnight: The Festival of Very Old Songs

Unlike the epic poems of the Helicans, nobody wrote down the sagas of the Clan of Talmuirud, not once during the thousands of years in which they have been performed. The Clan, one of the few Escotolatian tribes still in existence today, has instead passed their stories down the generations orally, and refuses to allow any permanent record of them to be made. Tonight is Singersnight, the night when all the Talmuirud will gather in their Roundhouse to keep their oral traditions alive.

There are several reasons why the Clan has outlawed the transcription of their poems and songs, but contrary to popular myth none of these reasons are because they believe that the process of writing will somehow strip the words of their power or magic, nor that it will steal their collective soul. The Talmuirud write things every day as part of their active contributions to Buentoilliçan society; they are not some stunted group, out of step with the modern world.

The reason the Talmuirud will not write down their stories is because, they believe, that is how you lose their meaning; they have watched over thousands of years as similar Escotolatian tribes have written their stories down and in the process stopped performing them, and then forgotten all about them entirely, the intricacies of the performance which help convey meaning lost. ‘We think it sounds like this,’ they might say, whereas the Clan know. In some cases the written copies are lost or destroyed altogether, and the ancient culture which made them is lost too. It is much harder to lose your culture if you are still part of it, still practise its traditions every day.

This adherence to reciting the stories at least once a year may even be why the Talmuirud have survived so long, and why they are considered a distinct ethnic group within the City. Other reasons that have been proposed are their community cohesion, and their belief in a single Talmuirud soul, shared by all current 1463 members of the Clan. Whilst a sense of belonging is instilled in Clan members when they are very young, there is little hierarchical structure, or even many rules or observances to uphold, so few feel the need to rebel against their upbringing.

One of the few things which all Clan members have to do is attend the Roundhouse tonight, and at the very least listen to the tales which are told. The Roundhouse is a large construction on the eastern outskirts of the City, made from exquisitely carved wooden posts and beams, exposed stone, and an enormous conical thatched roof. Inside it is something more akin to a theatre than the ancient dwellings on which it’s based, though it still has an enormous fire pit in the centre and an opening at the centre of the roof for smoke to escape from, just like those originals.

In the central space the singers will stand, five of them at once, each reciting perfectly in time with their counterparts, facing outwards to the circular, raked seating that surrounds them, like a full circular amphitheatre. A traditional strong wine made from plums called Svitglam is distributed between the assembled Clan members, and any guests they might have this year. Non-Talmuiruds are permitted to tonight’s performances, after they have been searched to ensure they have no recording equipment, and after all the Clan members have been allocated a seat. Tonight is the biggest event in the Talmuirud calendar, so spirits are usually high, and the crowd normally chants well-loved verses from The Singer and the Adversary, or The High Council Brought Low before singers begin singing.

Due to the pace of modern life, many Clan members are unable to meet up frequently, and tonight might, for some folk, be the only night of the year they have to see their fellow Talmuirud’s properly. No Clan members live in the Roundhouse, unlike the traditional structures where the festival would have been held in ancient times. The man who maintains and lives in the Roundhouse, Leif Stomm, is not actually a member of the Clan, but an ex-Litanchan who is very enthusiastic about the space itself; there’s something about not living in a square, man. It makes your head less square.’ He receives a small stipend for his labour keeping the building in good condition, and is given residence within it, an arrangement which seems to work well for both parties.

For obvious reasons no section of the songs can be written here, but what can be said is that the entire First Saga, which covers the early days of the Clan, their formation and the adversities and monsters they fought off, will be performed tonight, along with a number of other miscellaneous works. The songs focus in on the exploits of individual heroes (including exploits martial, cerebral and emotional), and explain how these individuals came together in life and death to form the essential character of the Clan of Talmuirud, the ‘soul’ which they all share and have shared over thousands of years.

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Day of Discussion and Research on Oral Tradition – No Pens Please
  • The Squid Tentacle Festival
  • The Festival of the Broken Hand of God

June 9th – The Festival of The Eldritch Sword

They say it’s made from the sharpened bones of a waurst, or the iron from a meteor which caused an extinction event, or even that it is sharpness itself, realised in material form. They say it was wielded by Targoth Shull, the famous mercenary captain who held Buentoille to ransom for three days in 1294. They say that if you open the wrappings in which it is held, you will become a ghost, invisible to all those around you for the rest of time. Nobody can verify any of these claims, because nobody has ever seen the Eldritch Sword.

That is to say, nobody has ever seen inside the five boxes and bundles of protective wrappings which cover what is allegedly a sword; undoubtedly plenty of people saw the sword of Targoth Shull, which later entered Buentoilliçan mythology as the ‘Eldritch Sword,’ though it appears never to have been named publicly during Shull’s lifetime. The Order of True Kings (TOTK) who currently owns the boxes and their contents refuses to open them to anyone, citing ‘safety concerns,’ whereas critics claim that this is because there’s nothing but dust beneath the wrappings.

The Sword surfaced in 1636, long after Shull’s failed attempt to become the king of Buentoille through military prowess and extortion. Many historians have disputed the authenticity of the Sword, since the story surrounding its surfacing seems to adhere more closely to fanciful folk tales than to actual historical fact. According to TOTK, the Sword was found within its wrappings, nestled into a crevice atop Overlook Tor, the closest of the tors which litter the hilltops of Ceaen Moor, north of Buentoille and south of the Ancestor Mountains. This perfectly aligns with the events within The Life of Targoth Shull, a pseudo-historical book written in 1510 by Glarn Morgan.

In The Life, Shull is depicted as an invincible warrior from a distant, ice-covered land, who has been sent out by his king to conquer the lands to the south. He gains his strength from his blade, the Eldritch Sword, conferred to him by a dark, mysterious being called The Undertaker of Gods. When he enters the City, he and his band of 100 warriors are greeted with little resistance, the City-goers believing them to be emissaries. They are brought to the king to talk, at which point they seize control of the palace, holding the king and his court hostage.

Whilst most of the prelude to the hostage-taking of the king is ahistorical (Shull was a disaffected mercenary from Helmuud’s Hill, not a mythical northern realm, and The Undertaker of Gods is merely a fanciful flourish on the part of the author), the City’s solution to this violent problem was essentially the same in both reality and the story: they simply ignored it. It turns out that kings are pretty easy to replace if you need to, and they don’t tend to do a lot anyway. Most of the aristocrats who had a vested interest in protecting the king had been captured with him, and after a meeting of the municipal authorities it was decided that it would be best to act as if the aggressors didn’t exist, unless they began to pillage or loot the City in any way.

On the third day, realising that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with his requests for power and money, Shull left the City with fewer warriors than he had come with, about thirty of them choosing to stay. According to The Life, in that time he had managed to extract the crown from the king, making him technically the ruler of Buentoille, but it meant nothing. He left dejected, vowing to give up the life of violence he had led, leaving his sword on the moor, knowing it would never bring him happiness. Some historians claim that this may have some basis in fact, as the census of the following year shows one ‘Targin Sholl’; perhaps the warrior laid down his arms on the moor and returned for a peaceful life in the City?

Today, the anniversary of the day the king allegedly gave up the crown to Shull, The Order of True Kings will parade the encased Eldritch Sword around the City, a mirror of the coronation proceedings of old Buentoille. Since the Revolution, membership of the Order has dwindled to about six or seven people, but before they gathered groups of hundreds, for the primary reason that they were crowning an alternate monarch, the ‘true’ king (there have never been any female ‘monarchs’ proclaimed by the Order) as the crown was legally passed to Shull all those years before. This practice was generally tolerated by the proper monarchy, until the reign of the Traitor King, when they were publicly hanged as ‘treasoners.’

Whilst the ‘crowning’ ceremony, where the new ‘monarch’ is handed the Eldritch Sword within its wrappings, is held out in the public eye, the Sword is usually kept in a secret location to avoid tampering. In 1829 a thief apparently got to the last layer before she was accosted by the Order. ‘There were all these bloody locked boxes, and layers of clay and leaves and linen within them; I would have got though if it wasn’t for some clay that got stuck in the last lock,’ she later told Buentoillitant Spirit Guide Magazine. In 1987 the cases were surreptitiously scanned by a fake sword-bearer in the employ of a newspaper during the ceremony, but due to the lead casing of the third box, they were unable to see any sword in the centre.

Yet if what TOTK believes is true, many people may have seen the sword before, yet we know nothing of it. They could be walking amongst us, turned invisible by the curse of the Sword, just as Shull was unseen by the people of Buentoille.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Undisturbed Sleep
  • The Festival of Polling
  • The Festival of Good News

June 10th – Eidel Aeke’s Day

Eidel Aeke, born on this day 1592, loved patterns and symmetry, that much is clear from the intricate wallpapers and fabrics on show today at the Museum of Rural Life, an old tithe barn on the outskirts of the City which collects and exhibits items which help Buentoillitants to understand those who choose to live outside the City’s bounds, often in single houses out in the middle of nowhere. Aeke was one such ‘woman of the country,’ whose life is today celebrated by the exhibition, as well as a trip to the (now sadly dilapidated) house in which Aeke spent most of her days.

Today Aeke’s patterns are well known, with the originals (many of which are on display as part of the Museum’s one-day exhibition) being reproduced for many modern furnishings, yet during her life they were seldom seen outside her own home. Whilst she made a few sales to other homes, and even managed to get a few designs stocked in Billert’s Seven Stories of Home Furnishings, they never took off whilst she lived. The designs were perhaps ahead of their time, with Buentoillitants previously favouring cleaner, simpler styles than the busy, organised chaos of many Aeke works.

The most famous print, which graces the walls (either in wallpaper or framed format) of many Buentoilliçan homes, is called ‘Perfect City,’ and depicts a symmetrical, walled City made from pleasing blocks of colour in a naive style. Between the houses, little smiling simplified figures performing various labours are depicted in an almost identical manner, so that they appear to form part of the ‘Perfect City’ itself; little cogs whirring in the greater, symmetrical whole. The design is constructed in such a way that it can either be repeated ad infinitum, the walls snaking here and there around the room, or placed as a single image with the walls forming a perfect circle.

From the sketchbooks of Aeke we can gain some insight into her personal world, with its scribblings and scribblings out, its failed ideas and successful prototypes of famous designs. In the margins of the first draft of ‘Leaf Bouquet III,’ another highly successful design in modern times, there is a far less delicate feel to the foliage, perhaps because at that point (if the accompanying notes are anything to go by) Aeke was obsessing over by the symmetry of the piece rather than those details. There is a roll of wallpaper which has a small female figure out of place in one repetition, as if it were standing back to look at the design before it. Scholars have disagreed for some time as to whether this was a misprint or a deliberate placement; a depiction of Aeke within her work.

Like ‘Leaf Boquet III,’ many of the pieces that Aeke created were focused on naturalistic themes; the passage of water over rocks, the formations of birds, innumerable species of plant and flower, real and invented, and hilltops. The natural world is perhaps a strange subject for one so obsessed with symmetry, but according to Aeke symmetry was a ‘nayturale funktion of nayture,’ it was just a matter of finding the correct perspective. The City, she claimed, was much harder, the intentionality of the space working against its natural symmetry and patterns. Aeke sought to bring some of the beautiful symmetry of nature to the City-dwellers through her work; it is ironic that ‘Perfect City’ something of an outlier in her body of work, is now the most popular.

Aeke created her designs from a tiny, octagonal, one-room house next to a deep pool in a river valley to the west of Buentoille. Her bed was in the loft space, raised up above the perfectly symmetrical space below. The central line passes though the fireplace, with long wooden workbenches lining each side, joining up by the wash basin at the other end of the room, interrupted by the two doorways. On one side she would cook, the other she would sketch her designs. Outside a small garden mirrored the shape of the house it surrounded on all sides. Almost all of this is gone now, become overgrown, hollowed out. Only the eight walls and part of the roof remains, the rest wasted partly through time and neglect, partly wrecked by the actions of the witch hunters who murdered Aeke.

It was ‘Perfect City’ that attracted their attention; it was found in the house of another woman Tellius Frene, also murdered for alleged witchcraft (although in her case this was almost undoubtedly a plot by her husband to distract from the sustained campaign of emotional and physical abuse he had subjected her to), and the witch hunters had decided that it was some kind of magical glyph, a curse on the City, especially when they found out that it had been made by a woman living on her own in the deep countryside. On the eighth of August 1634 she was dragged from her home by a small mob of men, her garden was trampled, her windows were broken, and they drowned her in the deep pool.

When the walkers, admirers of Aeke’s work one and all, reach the remains of the house today they will cut back the plants that grow over the old walls, mow the grass that surrounds it, and sweep up inside. The benches are gone, rotted away, but the sink can be cleaned, the flagstones swept. Flowers are left in respect, symmetrically laid out in the centre of the room. The festival has only been going for thirty years, since her works were rediscovered and popularised, and is attended by only about thirty Buentoillitants. Most of these are artists and graphic designers who have been inspired by Aeke’s work. Five years ago the group, which goes by no official name, started to raise funds to repair and renovate the building, and it is thought that by next year they will have enough for everything they have planned.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Day of the Bog Flute
  • The Anniversary of the Fat Diocese Riot