June 12th – The Cleaning of the Ceaen Moor Leat

In 1427 a waterborne epidemic scythed through the population of the (then Chastise Church controlled) district of Chaser’s Valley. Such was the poor state of medical science at the time, it took five weeks to recognise the cause of the outbreak, allowing it to kill over 300 people; there were several putrefying dead animals lying in their water source. Many of the poorer folk of Chaser’s Valley acquired their water directly from the fountain in the centre of the small district, but the problem was by no means apparent there, it was far further upstream.

The Ceaen Moor leat was built in 1358 to supply extra clean water to the burgeoning populace of Buentoille, especially for those folk who had no local well or access to drinkable river water. The leat, which still flows to this day, carries spring water from Ceaen Moor, following the curves of the land downhill until it reaches the Fountain of Saint Gled. Much like an aqueduct, the leat is an artificial stream, a watercourse cut into the earth and lined with large stone slabs. The leat and fountain’s creation was funded by the Church, a way of both serving the people under its protection and commemorating Saint Gled, one of the first Chastise Church monks who founded a monastery where the faithful came to gain Attunement through lying in a fast flowing stream.

Chaser’s Valley is technically still all one monastery, as it was originally termed by the Church, although the land and control of the area has since been taken back by the Buentoilliçan people. As part of their residency in the district, Buentoillitants were offered the chance to reduce their taxes by performing several acts of public worship every day. The fountain was considered a religious monument, the white marble carved in the shape of a nightdress-clad Gled lying against a group of rocks over which the water flows, a depiction of the moment she first Attuned, trying to get cool on a hot summer night. As the act of gathering water from the religious fountain was considered one of the instructed daily acts of worship, it was performed by almost all Chaser’s Valley inhabitants.

The confinement of the outbreak to the Chaser’s Valley area was the primary clue that eventually led to the discovery of three dead sheep lying upstream, although not until a quarter of the district’s population had tragically died. The Church investigated the leat, and found it to be generally unsanitary and in poor repair. A group of monks were sent upstream with hard-bristled brushes to scrub it clean. They waded up the slowly-inclining knee high waters, scraping off patches of slime and algae from the stone slabs, ensuring they were rigorously clean whilst singing hymns of cleansing. On that first journey it took well over three months to complete the cleaning, at which point they worked their way back down. Every year on this day, the day the inquiry was published, they begin again.

Few people have drunk from the fountain since the deaths, despite the fact that it is perfectly safe due to the frequent cleaning. It does not help that the peaty soil of Ceaen Moor lends a slightly yellowish tint to the waters, unpalatable to modern eyes. The fountain, now commonly referred to as the ‘plague fountain’ is generally avoided, and the figure of Saint Gled is frequently erroneously called the ‘plague maiden,’ as it is thought to depict a dead woman lying in the water. A whole mythology has grown up around this woman; according to the stories she was murdered and then dumped in the leat; her hatred for her murderer leaching out into the water as plague.

Nowadays the trip usually takes only about three weeks rather than three months, although it varies depending on what sort of detritus finds it way into the leat. The monks begin today by entering a tunnel atop the fountain, secured by a door of metal bars which is unlocked only today. They walk up the tunnel, scrubbing the floor, ceiling and walls as they go with their specially-consecrated brushes, lighting the way with waterproof lamps. Eventually, the tunnel opens out and becomes the leat proper, winding its way out over the farmland and up into the moor. It seems a lot of trouble given that barely anyone drinks the water, yet the monks view it as a penance, repeated each year in remembrance and chastisement for the deaths which happened on their watch.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Great Opening Day
  • The Festival of Breaking Bread with Thieves
  • Municipal Orphan and Adoptees’ Day