June 11th – The Treearch Cove Ghost Ship Festival

On this day, in 1833, a paddle steamer called Auntie Grace crashed in Treearch cove, a small, sandy inlet with high cliffs on either side, a little along the coast from the Buentoille Bay. The lighthouse keepers at Watchman’s Point, a couple called Ray Ives and Furnace Brompstein, were the only people to witness the wrecking, watching in dismay as it apparently steamed straight past them for the bay. At first they assumed it was a particularly audacious smuggling craft, trying to land in the cove right under their noses. It was only when it beached violently on the shore that they realised something was wrong.

Ives set off to inform the coast authority, whilst Brompstein rand down to the crash site to see if anyone had survived. There was still a little light left in the sky at this point, and the sea was calm; it appeared that the craft had intentionally beached itself, wrecking the metallic hull in the process. ‘I got a funny feeling when I got up close,’ said Brompstein in his later interview with the Buentoilliçan Coast, Boat and Port Authority (BCBPA). ‘It was too quiet, I supposed they must all have died, yet the boat was mostly intact – surely someone survived.’ When he clambered aboard to look for survivors he found only three long-dead corpses, their flesh dessicated by time and the salty air.

When the official report was concluded the Authority took charge of the scrap and hefty cargo of thousands of large red candles. The candles were transported off to a warehouse, but not before a couple of local families had salvaged a few crates-full for their personal usage. The report was officially stumped; the bodies had clearly been long dead, but surely someone must have been keeping the boilers going, stocked with coal, for the Auntie Grace to steam past in such a manner; I made no sense. The Authority proposed two theories: firstly that someone had been on the craft not long before they set it on its final journey to the cove, then had bailed out into the sea for reasons unknown. Secondly, that the lighthouse keepers were simply too drunk to provide any accurate reportage of the event; presumably it had just drifted into the cove unbidden; it was Brewer’s Day after all.

The three dessicated corpses were never identified, but were estimated to have been dead for at least a month. Had this boat been riding the waves for so long, the engines churning over, nobody at the helm? There was nothing to indicate what had killed the men, no marks or traces of poison found in the extensive autopsy. They were buried on the cliffs above the bay. The whole thing was something of a mystery, folk started calling it a ghost ship, and before long it attracted ghoulish visitors of occultist tendencies. When one of the families (the Eityand family) who had salvaged the red candles all died in the night (now thought to be as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, an unknown cause of death at the time), the mystery surrounding the craft only intensified.

With the death of the Eityand family, those others who had taken candles from the hold returned them with haste, as did the BCBPA, a remarkably superstitious organisation when it was in existence. The candles sat there, crated up in the split hold of the steadily rusting ship, and would still today were it not not for the actions of the Society of Nautical Spirits, an organisation of sixteen occultists who hold a séance today in the old rusting captain’s quarters of the Auntie Grace.

If you want to witness the proceedings tonight, your best bet is to either moor a boat outside the cove and look in, or to find a gap in the literal arch of trees which acts like a roof over the cove; the one path down to the derelict boat is guarded by a hooded, menacing guard. All that is truly known about the actions of these would-be ghost whisperers is that they take a brace of candles from the hold each year and place them all about the wreck and the surrounding cove. Sometimes the path leading down is illuminated on either side. Perhaps they are trying to find out what happened to the unfortunate souls onboard the paddle steamer, or perhaps their seances deal with more traditional, personal matters.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Broken Discus
  • The Ageless Toad Festival
  • The Festival of the Tall Man’s Burden

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

June 13th – The Festival of the Shadowed Man

In 1956 the celebrated photographer Kait Echinae was looking through the photographs she’d taken the previous day, the contact sheets laid out before her, when she noticed that one of a set of near-identical photos (a model, nude, posing in her studio) was off somehow. It took her a moment to realise what had changed the composition so subtly – the mirror in the back of the shot had something dark reflected in it. She found the shot on the film roll and projected it through her enlarger onto the desk. There was a man in the mirror, cast in shadow.

The man himself wasn’t particularly scary or strange, but for him to be reflected in the mirror he must have been stood in the doorway, around the corner of the studio; he must have been standing there, uninvited and unnoticed as she worked. He was probably a visitor, a new client or new model, maybe she left the door unlocked and he walked up the staircase, only to see she was busy, so he left. Still, there was something about the whole thing that made her uneasy.

After she had showed the image to her friends, to whichever of her various lovers she was most emotionally involved with at the time, they all agreed it was weird and forgot about it. Yet the image obviously made some kind of mark on Echinae, and memory of the shadowed, out-of-focus face was ingrained somewhere at the back of her mind, because six years later, in 1962, she saw him again.

She was at a special exhibition entitled ‘LABOUR’ at the Museum of the Buentoilliçan Image, when she saw him. There was a selection of photographs depicting various different defunct factory unions, assembled before the camera, crowds large and small standing beneath banners or the signage of their place of work, some carrying flags that were presumably bright red, or black, though the photograph was in black and white. There, amongst the gathered workers of the Warren Road Brewery, was that same figure. Unlike the other women and men, he didn’t stand smiling at the camera with arms folded or around other union-members; he looked as if he were trying to traverse the scene, to squeeze past them (they were taking up most of the street, after all). Perhaps this movement is what made his face blurred, difficult to make out.

This, at least, is the story that Echinae told at the opening of her last ever exhibition in 1975, after she had allegedly spent the following years seeking out and acquiring images of this mysterious figure. The exhibition was called ‘Have You Seen This Man?’ and was markedly different from the type of work with which she had made her name. Usually Echinae’s images were sensual things, focusing on the texture of skin, the beauty of the naked human form, both within and outside the context of sex work. Yet this new exhibition simply contained thirteen images of the mystery man, all taken at different times, by different artists.

Most visitors took the exhibition to be a step into avant-garde territory, a playful lie-as-art, believing that Echinae’s almost fanatical insistence on the authenticity of the images was a performance. Yet there were those who took her word as the truth, and began to seek out other images of this strange man, spread across Buentoille. It was with a group of these believers, Searchers of the Shadowed Man as they called themselves, that Echinae spent most of her time with before her death. She would spend long hours with them, searching the Hidden Library, and various museums and galleries, for images of the man, all the time concealing from them, even those with whom she had formed more intimate relationships, the pernicious cancer that was slowly killing her. It wasn’t until she became to weak that she was confined to her bed that she revealed it to her newfound followers. She died three weeks later.

Today those same followers, and a number of people who have joined the group since Echinae was still alive, will exhibit all those images collected in the first exhibition, held on the same day as today, alongside new finds they have gathered since. This will be the first exhibit held by the group since 2011, due to a general paucity of finds in recent years. There are now 58 images in the collection, although around 26 of those have been rejected by critics as it is not at all clear that the figure is the same shadowed man. Those same critics have generally poured scorn on the group and their shows, claiming that even the original thirteen images were fakes, very skilful photographic manipulation intended to deceive the viewer. An attempt to avoid being forgotten by a woman who knew she was dying.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Organ of Holy Fire Conflagration Day
  • The Festival of Palmistry
  • Municipal Tree Climbing Day

June 14th – The Festival of Woven Dreams

It must be insufferably hard, longing for your home, knowing you can never return. The wounds left in the wake of the Flood that took Catrosondia have not yet healed, and almost all the Catrosondians in Buentoille have lost nearly everyone they know. Yet the bonds, the shared identity which they have with their fellow diasporans has strengthened, and they try still to keep the traditions and ways of their homeland alive. Today’s festival, the Festival of Woven Dreams, is one such tradition.

One of the most obvious visual characteristics of a Catrosondian is their extremely long hair, which is the same in all genders. It is not unusual for a Catrosondian to have sections of hair which brush their toes, although other sections are invariably shorter, and they often wear their hair up in head wrappings or intricate knots to keep it out of their way and disguise the hodgepodge lengths. The sectioning of hair in this manner is called ‘coppicing,’ and is down to its use in today’s festival, once the central axis of Catrosondian civil society.

In the centre of Catrosondia was a large, freshwater pool of water that bubbled up out of the ground. For most of human history on that island, the pool was the primary source of fresh water on the island, and was given great religious significance. Near the centre of the pool was a very large tree, called the Dreamer. A large section of the tree’s trunk was hollow, a space almost perfectly sized to fit a single human. According to Catrosondian folklore, it was from this tree that the first woman was birthed, dreamed up by the Dreamer from some alternative realm where there are no trees, only naked humans standing stock still across the landscape as trees do.

It’s difficult to tell when the Dreamer was named as such, or when the day of this original ‘birthing’ was decided to be June the 14th, as there is very little textual evidence left about early Catrosondia, on account of the Flood, and as none of the survivors from that terrible cataclysm were expert historians. Regardless of the reasoning, today became the day to celebrate the creation of humanity, but also a day to take advantage of the power of dreams, thought by Catrosondians to have influence over the material world.

For Catrosondians today has always started with the cutting off of the longest section of hair available on their heads. This long strand is then woven into threads and then rope, along with the hair of every other Catrosondian in the City. At one time, this rope would have been hundreds of metres long, and require the labour of thousands of people to be completed before the end of the day, but nowadays it is more modest in length and required labour. When the rope was completed, a single member of the community, a girl 15 years of age, was chosen from a group of volunteers, then placed in the hollow of the Dreamer. As the sun set, the rope would be wound around the tree, sealing off the entrance (though leaving holes here and there so that the girl could breathe) for the entire night. The next morning the volunteer would be cut free.

Whilst the Dreamer is gone from this world, Catrosondians still practice this yearly ritual today, choosing another tree, an ancient oak some way into Luck’s End forest, with a similar hollow, a little smaller. They practice it now as more of a matter of cultural preservation than dream magic, as it once was viewed. As the girl inside the tree fell asleep and dreamed the powerful dreams of the Dreamer tree, those dreams of creation, the dreams would be transmitted to the other Catrosondians through the hair (once thought to grow directly from the brain) they left entwined around the trunk. The girl inside the tree would have some power over the direction of the dreams, just as a baby does over its mother’s, and she would try to funnel the dreams in a certain direction, into certain events which would have positive benefits for the community.

There is a certain sadness to the way the diaspora form their hair rope today, the way they choose their little dreamer, the way they place her in the tree; there is a resignation to it. No matter if the hair is cut at the right time, on the right day. No matter if the girl is the correct age, the rope bound anti-clockwise, the correct incantations said in the process. The tree is not, and never will be the Dreamer, and therefore it cannot work. No matter how skilled the girl is in dream-wrangling, there is nothing to wrangle with, no force to nudge and funnel in the correct direction. It does not matter how hard each and every Catrosondian wishes for the re-emergence of their island, their own city, it will never come to pass.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Glitterball
  • The Cup and Candle Birthday Party
  • The Festival of Very Fiddly Electronics

June 15th – The Grand Midsummer Truffle Hunt

It isn’t like modern Buentoillitants to fight; yes, in times past violence was commonplace on the streets of the City, but nowadays folk are much less prone to anger. There is, however, one thing that will spark a fight between even the fastest of Buentoillitant friends; midsummer truffles. Once upon a time there were riots, even killings, over access to these wondrous fruit of the earth, but today bloodshed should hopefully be avoided by the regulations which have been in place since 1933.

Last night it rained a lot. A storm brought about by a long-enduring area of high pressure over the Buentoille bay area. Thick raindrops soaked the fields and forests, they ran off the City streets and into the parks. Anyone going out for a walk this morning will come back with sodden boots. Inside, safe under their roofs, the people of Buentoille listened to the rain with a sense of calm and a certain romance, and then, when it was clear that the rain wasn’t going to let up, and the lightning bolts flashed across the dark sky, with a sense of excitement; they knew that today the truffles would be emerging.

It almost invariably rains like this at some point around the summer solstice, and when it does the truffles, for some reason, pop up out of the ground, as if they had been pushed up by the tree roots. It is immediately obvious when one strays into truffle territory on a day like today; the aroma is overwhelming, a mixed in with all the other earthy smells kicked up by the cascade of water the previous night. Nobody has quite worked out the action by which the midsummer truffle accomplishes this feat, or why they presumably find it beneficial to all reveal their fruiting bodies at once, although scientists point out that it is not, as is asserted in much of the folklore surrounding the fungus, because they are actually a small mole-like animal which burrows to the surface and then dies, as a fish would out of water.

The scent and taste of midsummer truffles is legendary, and extremely difficult to describe. Many allude to ‘earthy’ and ‘garlicky’ scents, although for others this is far off the mark, comparing them to sweet pea or jasmine, yet somehow more intensely sweet with a deep, musky undertone. Whatever the exact make-up of the aroma, both humans and animals are quite besotted with it, far more so than with other, less tasty and more difficult to procure varieties of truffle. The subterranean mushroom is known for its aphrodisiac qualities, presumably a consequence of the high levels of human and animal pheromones it contains. Us humans have to be quick to get to the truffles when they come up for air, else they are eaten by the other denizens of the forest; this is one of the primary reasons for the existence of the Midsummer Patrol.

As with most other valuable natural commodities, the midsummer truffle was, in monarchist times, exclusively the property of the monarch, who would distribute them amongst their courtiers as tokens of favour, or eat them all in a large banquet. King Ernest the Common once presided over an expectedly large bounty of the fungi, and accordingly invited a larger-than-normal selection of guests, including some well-to-do merchants and other upper-middle class folks, an unprecedented move which earned him his moniker, though he was referred to as ‘the Charitable’ or ‘the Philanthropic’ as a way of alluding to this when he was in the room. In Tremain’s Lineage and Deeds of the Great Buentoillitant Kings a large amount of space is given to the power dynamic arising from this decision of banquet guests, a great deal more than the ‘horyyd stampyyd’ that killed over 200 Buentoillitants attempting to gain access to the palace, caused by rumours that the king was giving out midsummer truffles to the people.

Thousands of Buentoillitants have been killed over the years by disputes arising from truffle ownership. Most of these were executions of truffle ‘poachers’ who attempted to take their own share of the midsummer truffle harvest, an act considered tantamount to treason. At one point in the seventeenth century there were gangs of Buentoillitants who would conduct pitched battles with royal truffle officials and their guards in an attempt to gain access to the prized mushrooms, but eventually they were all killed or driven off the idea after several failed raids. The Traitor King successfully used the truffle emergence to lure and kill fifteen rebels who were hiding in the woods, and like many other kings was said to ‘eat himself into a violent, lustful frenzy,’ in the throes of which he once murdered a courtesan with his own hands.

Even after the Revolution, in the kinder, more communal atmosphere it brought to Buentoille, there was a yearly brawl which took place in the woods, rival gangs and individuals trying to procure the largest possible portion of the bounty for themselves, now they were no longer forbidden to do so by law. The scenes became slowly more violent year after year, as two gangs consolidated their share of the harvest, and had essentially begun an arms race. By 1933 the harvest was generally considered a disgrace, a blight on the face of the Revolution, and something had to be done. Previously it was considered somehow ‘monarchist’ to regulate access to the fungi, but once people started getting killed over them the tone changed.

The Midsummer Patrol was formed in 1933, a group of heavily armed guards voted in each year and tasked with protecting and overseeing similarly democratically elected pickers. The Patrol was in turn overlooked by the people of Buentoille, their names being made publicly available and the positions only valid for the day, to avoid foul play. The Patrol and harvesters go out into the forests as soon as the rains end, where they wait for the truffles to emerge. Each district has a proportional number of pickers, and all the midsummer truffles they gather are brought to a hall in their district, where a great feast is cooked for most of the City’s population, a few gratings of the heavenly fungus being carefully placed atop the pasta, risotto or other specially-designed meal served to each person in attendance.

Every part of the process is subject to intense public scrutiny to avoid unfair pilfering, to the extent that it is a common joke that the only thing more highly scrutinised than voting in Buentoille is midsummer truffles. It is important that the truffles are all eaten today as they lose their beatific flavour very rapidly after they emerge from the soil around the tree roots of Hope’s End forest, the only place on the earth they are known to be found. There is a general sense of healthy competition between the districts as to who can put on the best feast, but there is little way of comparing them; to avoid attempts to eat in several different districts the meals are set at an agreed time, soon after harvest to minimise flavour loss. Be at a district hall at 11am today if you want to experience the heavenly taste yourself.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Stone Lanterns
  • The Festival of Prehistoric Beasts
  • Diving Day

June 16th – The Trolls of Claxoncliff Remembrance Festival

If you follow the coast around to the north of Buentoille, there is a point where it raises up, far over the sea, the Ceaen Moor granite reaching out over the waves as imposing cliffs. Atop the highest of these, Claxoncliff, are two large standing stones, the last remaining from a stone circle, most of which has fallen into the sea below. One is slightly larger than the other, which is leaning over, resting on the bigger stone. They stand right on the edge of the precipice. Below them, in the side of the cliff, a small cave has been revealed where the land has been cut away by the sea.

Yana Markosc had come to the stones many times when she was little, they were something of a tourist attraction, affording beautiful views of the surrounding sea, coast and moor. But more than the view, she loved the stones themselves. ‘Look, they’re in love,’ her father said to her, pointing at the way the stones leant into each other, on the first time they went up there as a family. The concept stayed with her for a long time. Later, when her life took a number of harrowing turns, Markosc returned to the stones; to her they were a place of solace.

Unfortunately for Markosc, she lived at a bad time for LGBT+ folks, and was persecuted for much of her life. Even before the coup of the Traitor King, there were festering parts of the City where ant-LGBT+ sentiment was growing, becoming more emboldened, correlating directly with the rise of far-right, monarchist groups which created the conditions for the coup to be possible. As a transgender woman, Markosc suffered more than her fair share of abuse, but under the rule of the Traitor King, things got even worse, her very existence being considered an affront to the new, xenophobic Buentoille the King was building. Many LGBT+ folks were driven underground through aggressive laws and the tacit permission to commit acts of violent hatred given by the new state to far-right militias. Because they were targeted so early, LGBT+ folks founded much of the armed resistance.

Markosc did her part in the Revolutionary struggle which eventually freed the City, but before that, in the days when the persecution she faced was less pointed, she wrote a book, called The Trolls of Claxoncliff. ‘Troll’ was a vile term of abuse used to describe transgender people, intended to cast them as something against nature, but through the book Markosc sought to claim the word as her own, to recast it in a more positive light. The book, written in the style of a folk tale, tells of two trolls who live in a cave cut into a cliff. They used to have a ‘delightful home in the village,’ but the neighbours accused them of stealing children, and had driven them out to this lonely point. They try to live a peaceful life, bothering nobody, but still the village abhor their existence, sending out groups of armed villagers who declare increasingly tight restrictions on their lives, ‘you cannot drink from the well,’ ‘you cannot plant crops on the land,’ ‘you cannot come out in the day in case the children see you.’

As the trolls assent to each change, as they accept their definition by others, they change physically, becoming uglier from their time in the caves and their diet of cave fish. The sun begins to burn their flesh. Eventually, when the villagers come again, saying that they can no longer live together so that cannot ‘breed more trolls,’ the trolls decide they’ve had enough. They stand on the cliffs to watch the sunrise, and are turned to stone, one lovingly leaning on the other. The villagers try to move them, to push them into the sea, but try as they might to erase them they cannot.

Later on in her life, when she joined the resistance, Markosc spoke about what the book meant. ‘I wrote it as a personal working-through, working-out of my feelings. For so long I had been taught to hate myself, to hide from those who had done me harm, to let them define me. We are not trolls, especially not the trolls of this story, we are human and we must assert our humanity. We must fight back against those who do us harm. We cannot afford to be turned to stone, we must live on, we must prove that we exist, not that we existed.’

The book was and still is very popular, and the real trolls, the standing stones atop Claxoncliff, have come to be emblematic for those LGBT+ folks who were killed by the actions of bigots and monarchists. These stones which once presumably held some other great meaning to the people who placed them there have been re-worked into a memorial for the dead. On this, the anniversary of Markosc’s death (from old age in 1929), folk will gather atop the cliff all day, reading the long list of names on a brass plaque placed on the ground nearby, remembering those who died so that they can be free. They will place flowers around the stones, the troll lovers, and stand as they do, looking far out to sea.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Interpreting the Work of Vignt Ufel
  • Compost Day
  • The Festival of Washing

June 17th – Diary Day

Every single year for his birthday, Timothy Bradley was given a diary. ‘Thank you!’ he would politely say to his grandmother, the gift giver, and then place it under his bed with the others, completely unused. He was more likely to be climbing trees and fighting with sticks than sitting down and writing anything. His childhood was made out of grazed knees and grass stains. His little brother, Maremor, was a little quieter.

Timothy didn’t really think much about where the diaries went, nor did he really think much about them at all. There were girls to be chased, fires to be lit. In fact, he didn’t notice at all when the diaries began to go missing, even though Maremor was scared he might. He was never going to use them, so it wasn’t stealing, it was repurposing, recycling. Good words. Things to be encouraged. Maremor was given his own diaries, but he got through them extremely quickly, despite his tiny, cramped handwriting. When he ran out of paper he used sections of newsprint, old pieces of cardboard packaging, anything he could find. He spent all his pocket money on paper and notebooks.

Part of what makes Maremor Bradley’s writings memorable to this day was the times in which he lived; these were frightening times, the monarchy had just fallen and civil society was only just beginning to re-emerge. Commodity shortages were common, as was violence for the first few years, before the remnants of the monarchy were stamped out or rehabilitated into civilised ways of living. Yet perhaps what is more important was the fact that he was a child, yet wrote with such startling clarity, and in such a prolific manner.

Maremor wrote about everything, anything which encroached on his expansive field of vision. He wrote about those events with seeming importance, the school trips, holidays and exams of his short life, but more space was dedicated to small details; to the particular cadence of the birds outside his window each morning, the feel of old dry leaves underfoot, the fear that one might tread on a hedgehog hiding within. The way grandfather looked at his mother that time, when she gave him extra ice cream, as if she had done something mortally offensive. What Timothy had been arguing about with his friends as they left the house to go ‘fishing’ (an activity which, Maremor rightly observed, was actually just attaching an old piece of twine to a stick and dangling it in the water).

There is a certain sophistication to the style of his writing, it is not the tiresome, interminable lists of actions found in the scrawlings of his contemporaries (‘and then we went to the park, and then we fed the ducks, and then mummy said…’), yet the observations he makes are simple, pure even. Where his insightful descriptions are cutting about their subjects there is no malice, just truth. It is certainly the world of a child he presents, and yet there is no mistaking the strife which surrounds it, in the adult world that frequently encroaches into that detached zone of childhood summers. Lack of food is a constant annoyance of the children around Maremor, although he seems unconcerned. ‘I have seen my first dead body,’ writes Maremor at the beginning of one entry, ‘Timothy said he saw one last year but I don’t know if I believe him. It used to be a lady, she was killed by monarchists, the doctor said. Her face was grey and sad. The doctor seemed very concerned for me, when he saw me looking, but I lied and said I had seen one before, which seemed to make him less worried.’

Tragically, it was this violence about which Maremor seemed so nonchalant about that claimed his young life. He was only sixteen when a monarchist bomb went off at a bar frequented by Revolutionary veterans which he happened to be walking past at the time. He was crushed to death by flying masonry. They were troubled times. It was three days later, whilst Timothy was helping to clear out Maremor’s things from their once-shared bedroom, that he found the diaries, reams of them heaped beneath the bed. At first he thought they were his long-lost presents, still untouched, but then he noticed the dog-eared edges, the cracked spines. Maremor had somehow kept them hidden from the family for the entirety of his life.

Timothy spent the next five years reading the diaries, his brother’s ghost a constant presence beside him in textual format. ‘He made much better use of the diaries than I ever would have,’ said Timothy later, ‘my words would be mortifying, trite, simply boring. Yet somehow he managed to perfectly capture the time, and himself, between those sheets of paper. After he had read them all, he read them again, and then edited them into a book, Maremor’s Memoirs; Growing Up in the Communal Reconstruction. It was an instant hit.

Today, the anniversary of Maremor’s birthday, youngsters all over the City will be given diaries and encouraged to write in them. They will read from the Memoirs, and from the works of other famous diarists. They are told they can write about anything, whatever seems important or interesting at that moment, and are told that they don’t have to fit everything in. ‘Better that you fill up fifteen pages writing about one ice cream than trying to recount all the different places you went,’ was the advice Timothy gave his own children. He was the driving force behind the donation of the diaries across Buentoille, and even today they are still funded by sales of the Memoirs. He made sure that one was given to every Buentoillitant child, even if they didn’t want it. ‘Remember, even if you don’t want to write in it, perhaps your little brother or sister might.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Bashful Apprentice
  • The Ring of Gold Festival
  • Willow Withy Day

June 18th – The Festival of Minuscule Revelations

You’d think, for an exhibition about very small pieces of art, you wouldn’t need much space, but for whatever reason, the opening night of the Buentoilliçan Festival of Miniature Art is held in the very large Saint Dondrite’s Hall. Perhaps it is to emphasise the smallness of the objects themselves, although it may also have something to do with the fact that the creation of miniature art is a fashionable and ever-growing endeavour, and there are many, many pieces to show.

Surely it would be much more fun to sit in front of an easel on a bright sunny day, to messily paint with large strokes and a certain abandon? Yet there is a kudos, a sense of achievement which goes with making your art very small. By far the most popular form of miniature art is the mini painting, seconded only by dolls houses and set designs, and these litter the walls of the hall today like insects swarming on the walls, grouped according to subject. They are usually painted onto polished bone fragments or porcelain, following the traditional methods pioneered in the 15th century, when miniature paintings first became popular.

Paintings of any sort are very time consuming, and necessarily expensive to produce, so they were primarily the reserve of the royal court and upper-middle classes. The first known practitioner of the art to have gained any critical acclaim was Gadol Lenn, who painted rather risqué images of unclothed or semi-clothed ladies and gentlemen which were exchanged between those having affairs or essentially kept as a less detectable form of pornography. Often the images would be mounted onto a small chain and kept around the admirer’s neck, or formed part of a locket which contained a strand of the admired’s hair. Other artists eventually caught their share of this profitable trade, although Lenn’s work was always most sought after. This may go some way to explaining why he was targeted by King Juttegard the Pious in the crackdown on this kind of sexually liberal behaviour which had scandalised the court.

Whilst many of the works on display today will feature frank depictions of the human form, it is no longer the only subject depicted within the medium. Very small maps with articulated magnifying glasses attached are common, an expensive but pocket-sized way of navigating Buentoille. Non-pornographic portraits are also common, as are still-life studies, but truly the subjects are as varied as any other art form. Amongst the paintings on the walls are little dioramas, or tiny houses, mouse kitchens with tiny knitted jumpers and minuscule television sets. Fruit stalls with remarkably lifelike foods are manned by dead flies and other insects. A factory is in cross-section, the threads whirring through the looms, seemingly operated by the smallest of workers, perfectly formed scarves dropping out of one end.

Whist most exhibits come with their own large magnifying lamps, it is wise to bring your own just in case, especially given the recent trend for making the small even smaller, so small that it is barely visible to the naked eye. The artist Ogden Stanley is the foremost artist in this developing field, where grains of sand, salt crystals, tooth picks and pencil graphite are carved into minute sculptures. Stanley mounts her masterpieces on pinheads and on the sides of matches to emphasise their smallness, and shows them with specialist high-magnification lenses, else they simply cannot be made out by anyone but a Pohlatiné. In order to actually carve the artworks, Stanley drinks a special heartbeat-slowing brew and makes all marks in the slightly extended periods between each beat, else the very slight hand tremors they cause would ruin her work. In order to achieve the requisite steadiness of hand she must meditate for over an hour.

Stanley’s more impressive works feature many figures at work, rest or riot, with beach scenes, call centres and political demonstrations with somehow-readable placards. Perhaps Stanley’s most famous work is called ‘The Exhibition.’ It is a postage stamp onto which has been mounted a scale replica of Saint Dondrite’s Hall, the ceiling removed, with hundreds of perfect, implausibly small paintings lining the walls. Expectations are high for what she will bring this year.

Please note that any members of the Perspicacious Union of Optical Workers receive free entry to the opening night and private viewing earlier in the day, with a valid membership card.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Great Index
  • The Jolly Festival of Unknowable Good

June 19th – The Buentoilliçan Symposium on Ancient Food and Cookery

Today, in the College of Cooking Excellence of Yerbai Noon University, the kitchens will be full of the smells and sounds of food long gone from this world, the lecture halls full with eager students wanting to learn about how cooking has developed over time, what their ancestors ate, how they might create authentic dishes for themselves, or use old flavours in new ways. Today is the Buentoilliçan Symposium on Ancient Food and Cookery.

The symposium began in 1873, under the auspices of Dean Harmarinthe, who had been relocated from the College of Historical Fact after three students were severely injured in a lecture hall re-enactment of the battle of Devil’s Elbow and parents were becoming concerned. An eccentric figure who held all lectures dressed in the death-robe of an Isle of Myantre bard, the dean took to her new position with zeal. Before her entrance, the College was almost entirely practical in its teaching approach, but Harmarinthe instigated a more theoretical subsection, probably because she herself was an awful cook. One of the first things the new division organised was the Symposium.

The first symposium was a relatively humble affair, in which researchers presented papers explaining the possible ways in which famed historical dishes may have been created, or which theorised possible affects certain foods had on history. Of particular note that first year was a paper on the Egg Riot of 1534, when there was a violent reaction to the fashion amongst rich Buentoillitants to adorning the outsides of their homes with boiled eggs, which was seen as a terrible waste by poorer folks. Whilst the first five or six Symposiums were entirely theoretical, eventually more and more practical elements began to filter in, until we reach the point today where there is a healthy mix of the two, most theories being accompanied by a practical demonstration.

Over the years these practical demonstrations have yielded delicious, disgusting and downright strange results. In 1932 Ophelli Tightgusset made the first example of cottonbread the city had seen since the death of the last member of the Caustman family, who held the secret of its creation to the grave. They had apparently created the fluffy foodstuff after many years of experimentation and reading contemporary accounts. Now the secret is out, cottonbread has achieved its historical popularity once more, and is served alongside coffee in many of the street cafes and breakfast establishments across the City. Other practical demonstrations are less popular; in 1973 a student made a batch of wretch, a foul-smelling yet edible soup eaten by the Castigans, a self-torturing religious sect. The whole college was evacuated.

In some of the practical demonstrations, ‘ancient food’ is perhaps taken a little too literally, with extremely old ingredients being used. Sometimes this is entirely benign, such as when a yeast culture taken from a 700 year old bottle of beer was used in the production of new, eminently drinkable, beer and a delicious loaf of bread. Other times things are a little less agreeable, such as when students were served 2000 year old bog butter (quite literally a large hunk of butter left in a bog for preservation long ago) which had been fished from the marshes that year. According to a food safety test there was nothing wrong with the butter, although several students were sick, presumably because of the unexpectedly pungent, gamey taste imparted by its long sojourn in the peaty mud. Three students later reported ‘disturbing hallucinations’ and thirteen others an insatiable desire to eat tree bark.

There are still many talks which do not, or cannot have practical demonstrations attached. In 1956 Mogana de Borsh lectured on the fate of the sorrelrat, a now-extinct woodland rodent which fed exclusively on sorrel (a fragrant, lemony woodland herb), and was as a result extremely delicious. In fact, the ‘rat’ was so delicious that it was hunted to extinction, such was the appetite for dishes such as sorrelrat delight, a kind of meaty, citrussy sweet, where the sorrelrat meat would be jellied then caramelised and served hot or cold as dessert.

This year some of the most anticipated events at the Symposium will be non-practical, such as Iniri Aedele’s talk, ‘Understanding Veganism as Religious Act,’ and Haute Breaker’s lecture on sweet ombrel, or ‘monk’s demise,’ a herb which is much-talked about as an aphrodisiac, hallucinogen and delicious food additive in ancient texts, but which is as yet unidentified. Most scholars agree that it is some relative of the umbrella plant, but that the claims of its effects were hyperbolic, a way of discrediting the religious order who once used it in their rituals, but Breaker claims to have an alternative, more plausible theory, which he will reveal today.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Bird Baths
  • Rabbit Warren Exploration Day
  • Timpani Day

June 20th – The Visitation Day of the Tomb of Glimmer Nandwitch

In 1828 a section of Garimund street collapsed, taking the side of a building with it. The cause was pretty self-evident: some fool had dug out a tunnel beneath it and a heavy carriage had burst through the weakened road crust. The event was remarkable enough to gather the attention of the media Citywide, each hoping for a couple of good pictures of a cart comically poking out of the ground, perhaps with a froth-mouthed horse and some stream for good measure. Perhaps an interview with whoever had dug the hole, or the cart driver, hopefully not too nonsensical with shock. Nobody was prepared for what they found.

Barely half a meter beneath the road surface was a tomb. That much was clear even with the road debris and smashed beer barrels covering it; there was very clearly the foot of a coffin poking out beneath. And there, by the foot of the coffin, was a dead body. Perhaps it had been flung from the coffin when the cart crashed in? The cart driver was certainly alive and well, he and his horse surviving with little more than a scratch (although one publication claimed that the horse was put down later from an injured leg caused by the incident). ‘CART CRASH REVEALS ANCIENT TOMB’ was the thrust of most of the articles. What mysterious old civilisation built the lone grave?

Yet this was obviously nonsense. The tomb was a new addition, else the road would have caved in a lot earlier, and when the investigators came to clear the site they surmised as much; the walls were freshly dug into the limestone. Yet who had built this samizdat tomb beneath the City’s streets, when there were plenty of official and officiated locations to inter the dead? The coffin lid had indeed been broken in the collapse, but stranger still, it seemed to already contain a body. It turned out that the tomb was connected to a tunnel that led to the cellar of the semi-collapsed building, a building owned by one Erghul Virtuoso, failed playwright and mediocre actor. On closer inspection, the additional body sprawled across the floor, fresh and mangled by the rockfall, had also once belonged to the late Mr. Virtuoso.

During the clean-up operation one of the workers sneaked a peak inside the shattered coffin, and saw inside two bright eyes looking out. He screamed and jumped back, then recovered himself and gathered the other workers around to witness him prise the remains of the lid off. Inside was a very odd sight: a porcelain body, formed and painted in an extremely lifelike manner with eyes open and clothes adorning the clay flesh. A fake body inside an unauthorised tomb. A real body lying beside it. What was going on? The papers were having a field day.

After two weeks of conflicting and confused headlines, the truth eventually came out. An associate of Virtuoso’s, Damien Victual, visited the scene to pay his respects and, when he inevitably took a peek at the fake corpse, he exclaimed ‘That is Glimmer Nandwitch! He must have done it, he must have killed him!’ After Victual had been calmed, and the investigators had explained that it was no corpse, just a lifelike copy of one, Victual let known the plans to kill Nandwitch, his greatest rival, which the actor had shared with him, pointing out frantically that he thought it was all a bad joke. It was a fake anyway, Nandwitch was still alive, wasn’t he?

The answer turned out to be ‘yes’ to that final question, not that anybody at the time knew it. Nandwitch, a famous (and extremely skilled) actor had been on a ‘retreat’ in the Ancestor Mountains at the time of the incident, and did not return for three months. He had told nobody that he was leaving, trying to avoid as best he could the attention of the municipal press, and when he returned it was to rumours of his murder. As well as an incomparable actor, Nandwitch was also a master of disguise, and rarely if ever walked the streets without one. As such, few recognised his face, and fewer still believed him when he revealed that he was Nandwitch, still alive and well, having benefited from some rare time off.

Eventually, on June the 20th 1828, Nadwitch visited the tomb, now with a thicker and better-supported road structure built over the gap. ‘It was perhaps the most uncanny sensation of my life,’ said Glimmer to the press, shortly after his sojourn beneath the street. ‘It was a perfect copy of me, I know not how he managed it.’ He did know why, however. It seems that the inferior actor had once been upstaged during a production of the The History of the Knight and had never forgotten the slight, devoting his every waking moment to Nandwitch’s demise. Nandwitch, on the other hand, knew nothing of the obsession, until he started to receive threatening letters and noticed that he was being followed whenever he left the house. Apparently the harassment and stalking was part of the reason the superior actor went off for his sojourn, telling nobody.

The press had great fun taking pictures of the actor lying beside the fake corpse, the two essentially identical except for a certain stiffness of manner. Perhaps another person would have found the whole thing disturbing and morbid, but not Nandwitch; he actually bought the semi-collapsed dwelling and would invite his friends around to see his life-sized effigy. When a year had passed since he first came face-to-face with himself, he decided to host a morbid party, a faux-funeral. He had so much fun he did the same the next year, and the next, until it became a tradition that he had to follow even if he didn’t want to any more. ‘I think I’m the only man who’s been to his own funeral ahead of time,’ he said to the Buentoille Twilight Standard in 1857.

When he finally died for real, Nandwitch was buried alongside his effigy, a pottery man made with such hatred that eventually inspired so much happiness and joy. Today extended family members will party inside the tomb just as they once did when he lived, celebrating the life of the talented actor, and celebrating life itself, too.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Ringing of the Last Alarm
  • The Day of Undue Risk
  • Metaphorical Metaphysics Day