June 26th – The Festival of the Distant Bells

Nobody can remember the church that allegedly stood at the centre of the Buentoilliçan marshes, when the land there was more stable. Nobody is sure what it looked like, to what it was dedicated, what is was called, or even what exact year it disappeared on. This isn’t surprising really, since those who insist upon its existence believe that it disappeared in the 1300s, but it doesn’t explain the lack of any other historical record that it was once there. What they are sure about is that it disappeared today, the 26th of June, at midday, sinking into the marsh as the bells rang out across the City.

You can certainly see why such beliefs would come about; where the bog reaches the edge of the City there is a graveyard, slowly sinking into the brackish waters, and where you find graveyards you often find churches. It is also known for certain that several houses have sunk into the marsh entirely or in part; there are places where you can discern old walls poking out of the mud, a chimney pot here or there. It would make sense if there was a church down there somewhere, too. Except that there are no records anywhere of building any such church. Churches are laborious constructions that require enormous financial resources, and are often decided on by committees; there should be some document, somewhere in the Hidden Library or Unfathomed Archive that at least mentions it in passing.

Of course, a lack of evidence has never been any hindrance to belief, and there are still plenty of folks who turn out to today’s festival, held down in the bog. In the warm summer weather cases of ‘strays’ being led astray due to the marsh gasses are essentially non-existent, said gasses only occurring when the temperature is below four degrees centigrade. As such the environment is relatively safe, although specially-trained guides and first-aiders are on hand to find routes that are sound underfoot and to save anyone who becomes stuck in the mud. It takes about half an hour of winding, ever changing paths to reach the spot, often with the aid of portable walkways and wading stilts. Before the attendees is a large, deep, murky pool.

The theories that surround the sinking are various, ranging from the natural and obvious subsidence of the ground due to tidal erosion underneath, to many more esoteric and unlikely possibilities. Many members of the Chastise Church believe in the sunken church, taking it as one of their own. According to them the parishioners were taken by the Waylayer who tricked them into thinking that the encroaching waters were part of a great flood that it, in the guise of god, was bringing to punish them, unless they repented and worshipped them. When they did they were quickly swallowed up, killed and taken to the Waylayer’s realm.

There are competing religions whose members will also be in attendance today, especially those acolytes of the Church of His Love, who believe that the sunken church became subterranean when two defilers made love in the church without the proper rites being performed, leading to swift retribution. Some of those gathered today even say that the church never sunk, but was built below by an inverted city, populated by Lambenn. Yet despite their differences, there are yet more things these groups agree about: at midday today, the moment when the church apparently begun to sink, you can apparently hear its bells ringing, if you listen carefully.

The difficulty with hearing the bells is that at midday thousands of other bells will also be ringing across the City. The bells in the shops of clock sellers, those in private residences, and those atop churches, temples and towers, all ring in unison, one great magical cacophony filling the first minute of the twelfth hour of each and every day. Those distant bells separated by the mud and deep water of the pool (and perhaps also by reality, if you are a sceptic) have their work cut out to be heard over all that sound that easily carries out here through the clear summer air.

This doesn’t stop each of the religious groups hearing the bells, however, all of them believing that their ability to hear them chime most clearly grants their particular theology ownership over what lies beneath. In contrast, they claim that sceptics are wilfully deaf, or unable to hear the ringing because of a lack of faith, although this latter explanation does little to explain why the many esotericists, folklorists and occultists in attendance today also claim to be able to discern the bells separate to the general racket. In defence of those who believe in the sunken church, there can clearly be seen ripples emanating out from the centre of the pool.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Maleficent Drummer’s Festival
  • The Festival of the Oligarch’s Demise
  • Vulture Day