June 21st – The Longest Day

Today is the summer solstice, the first official day of summer but also midsummer, the longest day of the year. While the days will now only get shorter, that is a very pessimistic outlook; the heat of the year will accumulate slowly, warming the sea and land nicely, the long nights won’t be here for some time yet. It is the longest day! It is time to celebrate.

The sun will rise just before 5am today, and for once most folks in the City will be up to see it, walking out in the dark and cool morning air to parks, the tops of tower blocks, anywhere you can see the sun rise from. Everyone is very quiet at first, smiling and waving to their neighbours as they make their way to their preferred location. The main library at de Geers will be full of students on the top floor, all at this point some way into their cups, irreverently hooting as the first tendrils of light reach over the horizon. In the parks great cheers will rise from the gathered masses, and there will be a great deal of hand-holding and kissing; it is considered very lucky to look into the eyes of your lover as the sun rises today.

There is a certain order to today’s activities that every Buentoillitant knows instinctively. They’re written down in countless books, books that remain unread by all but foreigners; if you grew up in the City the order of things is ingrained within you. After an early breakfast, traditionally a salad made primarily from oranges and other citrus fruits, folks head out to the forests and fields to gather greenery with which they adorn their homes. Small branches of new, fresh growth are placed over the doorways and windows of homes, churches and other municipal buildings. Cut meadow flowers are displayed in windows, and tied in bunches to door knockers. Children grab fistfulls of goosegrass, sticking them to eachother’s backs just as Saint Ermenine was said to have done on this day.

Quite often a couple of drinks are taken in the fields and forests, perhaps a young batch of elderflower champagne, or something stronger; a gin punch, white wine or a demijohn of cider. Most families have their favourite stopping point on the way home where they pause for an hour or so. They sing drinking songs and walking songs and songs about the sun and the fecund land. Whilst adults drink, children grub for pignuts, a small tuber that tastes something akin to hazelnuts and celery, which is then wrapped in a garlicky jack-by-the-hedge leaf and eaten whole. Younger children are shown by older children or their parents how to find the illusive ‘nuts’ which are thought to help make the children ‘grow up big and strong’ when unearthed today.

After the fields, home, to place the bounty of nature, and to eat and drink more. Lunch is usually a fragmentary affair, with many small dishes prepared the day before and presented outdoors, if possible. For those without gardens, and even for some who do, waterside locations are favoured for lunch; the perfect staging spot for the next part of the process, the obligatory after-lunch swim. Whilst the sea is the most popular option here (the beaches throng today), the People’s Mirror and even the Moway river itself are dipped into, now that the latter is considerably cleaner than it once was.

Most of the afternoon is usually spent like this; eating and drinking and lounging in the sun between dips. Honey cake is brought out at some point, as are punnets of strawberries, traditionally eaten with ground black pepper. Lunch is stretched out across the afternoon because dinner is eaten so late, when the sun has set. Huge bonfires are lit across the City, the heat not wanted but the spectacle a necessity; you cannot have a midsummer celebration without fire! By this point spirits are usually high, just in time for the whirligig, a fairly dangerous dance where groups of five stand in a circle, hold the forearm of the person to their left and spin, right next to the fire, often holding a burning branch in their spare hand. They sing a note together, of increasingly high pitch as they spin faster and faster. Someone usually has a drum to frenetically beat as several groups twirl around, screaming and laughing.

When things die down a little, dinner is prepared by placing a skewer in front of the fire loaded with fish, meat, vegetables or bread. After dinner the drinking continues, long in to the warm night, new lovers breaking off to find some secluded spot, out of the light of the fire. It’s not unusual to see folks walking home as the sun rises tomorrow, worn out but happy.

Whilst this is considered the proper way of things, some obviously deviate, holding their own family traditions instead, or attending religious service. At midday in the Celestial Church of His Burning Highness, the sun perfectly streams in through the ceiling, casting a pattern on the mosaic floor, lighting up the halo of light around the beaming face of their god, His Highness. For the worshippers there this is a holy day, the most holy day, and they spend most of it in deep contemplation on their sun loungers.

There are no other festivals happening today.

June 22nd – The Trooping of the Proof of His Promise

The Temple of the Unforgotten Promise has been around for a very long time, but has never been that popular, existing as a tight-knit group of about thirty people for many hundreds of years. Today they will attempt to remind the universe of what was promised to them, of the alleged debt they are still owed. Today is their most holy day, the day they claim to have been promised ‘unimaginable riches and power,’ by their god, the Debtor, and today they will parade the Proof, an item given to their founder in lieu of full payment of what they claim to be owed, as His Chosen People.

The parade will pass out from their temple in Tallboys district, out Horseman’s Gate and through the surrounding suburbs, then up to Ceaen Moor, to a small barrow cut into the side of a hill. Inside the barrow is the tomb of Dratch Mordovo, the founder of the Temple, and upon his grave they will place the Proof, a matte black cube made from some unknown substance (the Temple refuses to submit the Proof for testing), although it is generally assumed to be some kind of stone. The cube is, however, said to be surprisingly light, so perhaps it made from preserved wood instead. Very few people have had close contact with the Proof, today being the only day it is brought out into the public, so it is difficult to make any real pronouncements about its composition.

According to the group’s legends, the Proof was given to Mordovo directly from the Debtor, after he met the godly being whilst walking out on the moor in this very spot in 1198. Details of the encounter are sketchy; the few written sources the Temple has were written long after the fact, and there seems to be much scholarly debate about the details between members. They all agree that Mordovo helped the Debtor out of some predicament, that he performed some essential service for the god, who promised great things in return. The most popular form of the myth says that the god was lying in a pool of water and could not leave, and that Mordovo dug a channel that connected him to a nearby stream, a channel which there are still remnants of to this day; a slight depression in the peaty soil.

Mordovo was a money lender, a loan shark of sorts, and he made sure to extract a good deal from the prostrate god before he agreed to help. The Debtor showed him images of fame and wealth and power in the reflective pool, which suddenly appeared very deep. Seeing that this being was powerful and that he could stand to gain from the agreement, Mordovo agreed to help so long as he could have some material sign of the deal. From some deep crevice in the pool the Debtor took the Proof and let it float to the surface. Apparently it repeated back to him the words of their agreement, recorded faithfully and perfectly, and would do so whenever placed in water.

Every member of the Temple is in some way a descendant of Mordovo; this is important to note because Mordovo never received any of the promised payment within his lifetime, presumably because no time limit was ever agreed upon, or because the payment took place in the afterlife (again, there is something of a rift within the Temple on this point). What Mordovo did agree upon was that when he died any of the benefits would pass to his children, and his children’s children after them, and so on. This is probably why the church has remained so small for so many years.

On the tomb is a small indentation which the paraders will fill with water and place the Proof into after. These days, there is no noise, no words are spoken. The last person to hear the voice in the box was Martha Shoreham in 1520, who heard it as a mere whisper whilst all those around her were deaf to it. According to the Temple’s legends, at one time it would be audible to all present, excepting non-family members. The theory is that over the centuries the blood of Mordovo thinned in their veins, watered down by other lineages, causing the Proof to quieten for them. According to the old Buentoilliçan law under which the agreement was made, however, the deal still stands, and so the Temple will wait, slowly accruing interest on what they are owed.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Removal
  • The Day of the Fastest Dog
  • The Aural Fantasy Festival

June 23rd – The Night of Nightmares

There is something under your bed. If you put your feet down on the floor it will grab your ankles. If you peek under it will be right there, staring straight at you. There is something under your bed.

At least that’s what children tell each other at school today, their tales developing more gruesome details as the day wears on. Tonight around 60% percent of children will have nightmares, dark visions in their sleep, and will wake up shaking and scared. Nobody is quite sure when the correspondence between particularly plentiful nightmares and tonight began, but it was first noticed in 1759 by Gaelphum Teller, the mistress of Teller’s Orphanage for Unfortunate Children, who kept a detailed diary. Children who were usually fine would tonight wake up, screaming. Others wouldn’t sleep at all. Perhaps it was something to do with the summer heat?

Teller conducted a study over five years, in which she saw a marked increase in nightmare reports from her children on June the 23rd every year. The report was published in the science journal Scientiffik Matteres, and then found its way into the general press, where it was sensationalised greatly, with less reputable tabloids and magazines proposing that there was some kind of ghostly presence lying across the City on this night. The Prostrate Cockrell, an eclectic magazine no longer in existence, known for its general disdain for the truth, published an interview with an ‘expert on the supernatural’ who claimed that the effect was caused by a group of children who were murdered on this night in their sleep, and whose spirits linger still.

Many children will not sleep tonight for fear of what they might see beyond closed eyelids, of what lurks beneath their bed. Adults on the other hand, appear to be completely unaffected. Subjects are various, but as is the way with these things one subject is allegedly the most prominent; waking up and realising that everyone else is gone. At first it is excellent fun, getting to do all the things you are normally not allowed to (eat all the sweets in the jar, play with the record player, draw on the walls), but then you start to get lonely, to miss your friends and family. And then you start thinking about where they went, and you realise, in that strange treacle flow of dream logic, that they are all dead. Obviously, because there are their coffins, they were there all along. But there is no time to grieve, because behind the coffins there is… well, there’s a reason they’re dead, isn’t there? Behind the coffins, you can hear long fingers scrabbling.

Of course there are those who say there is a perfectly natural explanation for the dreams; the children expect to have nightmares so they do. All across the City children are telling stories about the horrible nightmares and creatures that will visit their comrades tonight, and as our dreaming mind is affected by what we saw and heard in the day it results in the terrifying dreams. This is all well and good for explaining the latter incidents of nightmares, but how did it start? Why is it associated with this one day? This is more difficult to answer, but some have made a fair go of it. Maxine Ermentine has sought to dispel the mystery by pointing out that today is also Saint Armenet’s Day, a saint traditionally celebrated by smoking koshgrass, a drug that was subsequently suppressed by the Church. Whilst koshgrass has no hallucinogenic properties, Ermentine claims that it may have other effects on children when smoke passed through the open bedroom windows of the children by street smokers. Others are critical of this theory.

Many children will be excused from school tomorrow, after refusing to sleep all night but falling asleep as soon as the sun rises. Others retain a haunted look for a few days, and some are entirely unaffected, teasing their peers. It is important for any affected children to remember that they are not alone, and specialist counselling services are available on demand.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Hopeless Inquiries
  • The Magical Razor Festival
  • Municipal Salt Sifting Day

June 24th – The First Day of Hagiography Week

Before the Hierarchs of the Chastise Church there are today set many papers, interviewees, objects, all alleged proof of sainthood. There are written pleas, arguments and threats to include certain persons, historical or otherwise, into the Church’s saintly canon, there are accounts of miracles delivered by pen and mouth, there are allegedly transmuted objects, crutches no longer needed, artworks inspired by saintly presences. It is one of the few times in the year all six of the Hierarchs will sit in the same room, as they are usually distributed in their individual churches. In seven days they may have decided on a new saint, although they probably wont have.

The last time there was an addition to the canon was 1989, when Saint Marrus the Many-Sighted, the Undaunted, the Beast Slayer gained her sainthood. At one time there might have been as many as fifteen new saints a year, but in modern times things seem to have slowed down. Not that the number of applications has at all; there are well over a hundred applications each year, and today will be no exception. Perhaps this is the reason that there have been no recent canonisations; the Hierarchs are flooded with so many stories and unverifiable ‘proofs’ that they simply cannot attend properly to each and every one, and would choose missing one over giving the Church a bad name by canonising a charlatan.

Another reason that the Church is somewhat more tentative about the creation of new saints nowadays is there is a far higher burden of proof. There were several instances in the 1960s where the ‘miracles’ that supposed saints are claimed to have performed in death were disproved (such as the prize marrow grower who was found to be using liquid fertiliser, not just the ‘tears of Saint Mrytlee’), and even an instance where the atheist magazine, Death of the Spirit, made up a convincing lie that they had received Attunement (a kind of divine understanding of the world) in the manner laid out by a fake ‘saint’ candidate, revealing all in a lengthy attack-piece later on. Gone are the days when a saint could be created with little more than a fanciful story.

Of course, the reason for this slowing down in saint creation could be that there are no more or at least very few undiscovered ways in which to achieve Attunement, uncovering a new approach being pretty much the only sure-fire way to enter the canon. Other routes to everlasting fame and worship include extreme devotion to the Church, the performance of superhuman feats, serious contribution to the knowledge of the Church (as with Saint Gilyant, who ruled out pain as a method of achieving Attunement), or posthumous miracles, especially those relating to Attunement. More than one of these ‘secondary’ criteria is necessary, usually.

Sainthood usually only comes after death, but that doesn’t stop living persons from making their claims to sainthood, telling the Hierarchs of their ‘new’ ways of Attuning, or the mystic battle they fought with the Waylayer over a person’s spirit. Usually, however, the candidates do not have the encyclopedic knowledge of past saints that the Hierarchs do, and they fail to realise that someone has Attuned in the way they have before. If they do come up with a novel method, they are interviewed extensively about the experience by the six learned theologians, who prod and poke for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies in their story. Assuming they get that far, they may be asked to exhibit the feat live for the Hierarchs, teach the method to at least one other person, or exhibit lifelong devotion to the Church.

Each decision is made individually, and must have unanimity amongst the Church’s leaders, else it will be thrown out. This year a hot favourite for latter sainthood is Gabriella Monsoori, who has allegedly achieved Attunement on several occasions through the application of deep brain stimulation with electrodes, and is researching the effects of strong electromagnetic fields. These controversial and invasive techniques have the potential to bring the notoriously evasive practice of Attuning with the world to a mass audience, and the Hierarchs have necessarily been excited for the conversion opportunities. The chances are, though, that by the end of next week Buentoille will have no new saints.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Softest Pillow
  • The Raconteur’s Festival
  • Middling Day

June 25th – The Festival of Saving the Babies

If you are from Litancha, you might have heard terrible tales of today’s festival, horror stories of the chase gone wrong, babies wantonly killed. These stories are without a shred of evidence or truth, and are based on a lie, a deliberate misrepresentation of the festival as a way of discrediting Buentoille shortly after the Revolution. The ruling elite of Litancha were scared that a similar revolution would occur in their metropolis, that the sorely downtrodden and exploited working classes would rightfully rise up against those who live with obscene decadence on the fruits of their labour.

The lies were originally told by Sincharo Savalle, a propagandist from Litancha who travelled to Buentoille to see for herself the poverty and violent anarchy unleashed by the Revolution. Obviously she found nothing of the sort, save for the deaths caused by the occasional monarchist attack. Times were hard immediately after the Revolution, but folk understood the need to stick together, and were managing well. By 1919, when Savalle arrived, food was no longer in shortage, and she was met with scenes of midsummer revelry and plenty. Buentoillitants were optimistic about their future. Savalle was rather disappointed.

Of course, the truth is no obstacle for a propagandist, although they sometimes need some inspiration to make their lies interesting and compelling. For Savalle, this came in the form of the Festival of Saving the Babies, who used it to portray the City as a barbaric zone where real babies, not dolls, are cast down a hillside. Alongside this stark image she reported in the Litanchan tabloid, The Daily Posting, that there were cannibals and murderers roaming the streets, and seems to re-written whole sections from Vimm Guman’s Devyls Island in which infants are boiled alive by witches. All of this she wrote whilst cheerfully eating her morning eggs in a Buentoilliçan bed and breakfast.

Ironically enough, today’s festival that was so aggressively slandered actually had rather un-Revolutionary beginnings; it was started by the mayor of Guilgamot district, Aereme Filuto, a rich courtier who had inherited the position from her father, the builder of the Grand Boulevard some years before. The Boulevard is a very wide, long street, designed to made ascent of the cliff-like hill to which the district clings to the side of less steep. The street is, however, still very steep, and it was because of this that today’s festival exists.

Today a large crowd will gather atop the hill and all along the sides of the central causeway. Nobody stands at the bottom for safety reasons. Also atop the hill will be arrayed twenty prams, side-by-side, and behind them 100 or so contestants, lined up, waiting. Inside the prams are twenty dolls with large goose eggs for heads. The children at the local schools paint the faces on the eggs, which are uncooked. Each of the shops on the Boulevard have stalls selling refreshments to the assembled crowd, who murmur excitedly as they wait for the race to begin. And then, after a short speech from the previous year’s winner, the brakes on all the prams are released at once and they begin to roll down the hillside. When they get about a third of the way down (and are going at a fair rate of knots), a klaxon sounds and the contestants run down the hill after them.

The idea for the festival came to Filuto when something very similar happened to her baby. According to the official account, some ‘nefarious agitator’ undid the brakes on her pram, sending it hurtling down the hill whilst she was talking to a stall owner. It was only thanks to the quick thinking and athleticism of Veracity Truthteller, a kindly passer-by, that the baby’s life was saved, and as such Filuto awarded her with her with the festival in her honour. At those first festivals the whole event would be pantomimed, with a cackling, hand-rubbing ‘baddy,’ releasing the pram brakes, to the sound of booing and hissing. This character would be dressed up in the colours of whichever political group was deemed threatening or dangerous at the time, a transparent piece of propaganda long before its more modern counterpart.

Over the years, the festival morphed into what it is today, becoming less of a pantomime and more of a competition, the propaganda being dropped. Most people knew that Filuto left the brakes off herself but had wanted to direct the blame elsewhere. Whoever manages to catch a pram first without breaking the egg inside is still referred to as that year’s ‘Veracity Truthteller,’ in respect for that original saviour.

With the large numbers of people taking part, the festival has become a lot more dangerous, and medical services are on hand to help any casualties. There have been numerous incidents of serious injury as the competitors speed down the steep hill, often flying head-over-heels if they trip. The tarmac is not a welcoming landing pad, so crash mats line either side of the road, separating the crowd from the racers. Nevertheless, there have been seven broken necks resulting in three deaths in the history of the festival; it is not for the faint of heart.

Despite the danger, the festival is still popular, perhaps because of the extreme adrenaline rush it gives folks participating and watching alike; the actual catching of the prams is usually down to the wire, and competitors have to run at full speed to get to them before they are dashed on the wall at the bottom of the hill. There is palpable relief when they do; something in the audience forgets for a moment that there is only eggs inside the prams, that there are no real babies at risk.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Bun Day
  • The Festival of Long and Fearless Silences
  • The Festival of Peaches

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

June 27th – The Signal Day of Uride’s Satellite

There are lots of things orbiting the Earth, with only some of them, like the moon, being consistently visible. Yet there are many other small rocks up there, and even a couple of alternate moons with odd, distant orbits, spinning around us without a care in the world. Today one such rock will pass by, or at least it is assumed to be a rock, the truth of the matter is that nobody is quite sure what it’s made out of; they’ve only seen it a handful of times.

Uride’s Satellite, so named after Salman Uride, the 15th century astronomer who discovered it, has a complex ‘horseshoe’ orbit, meaning that it only comes close to the Earth twice a year, although usually not in the sky over Buentoille. It is even more unlikely that it will pass at night, and therefore be visible via telescope as a slight winking of light in the sky. In that case, how do we know it is there at all? Well, besides the complex calculations of astronomers, there is one other way by which Uride’s Satellite can be recognised: it seems to put out a constant, short range radio signal.

There are several listening stations across the City at which scientists, cryptographers and conspiracy theorists alike gather today, but those dedicated to accuracy will travel out to the Ancestor mountains where listening posts and observatories have been built that are not affected by radiodance, an unexplained modulation of the electromagnetic spectrum in the Buentoille region which could potentially cause interference. Because of the general background radiation of the universe, the extremely weak signal given out by the Satellite is drowned out at long distances, but becomes detectable on days that it passes close to Buentoille.

The signal itself seems relatively simple; several ‘blips’ in the upper part of the radio section of the electromagnetic spectrum which repeat with near-perfect regularity. Each blip lasts for about half a second, and there is a gap in-between that lasts for around two minutes. At first, believers in aliens was convinced that the signal and its regularity was evidence that the Satellite was artificial, placed there by some ancient alien race, or even a long-passed Earthbound one who were far more technologically advanced than modern Buentoille is. Sceptics of these theories pointed out that there are plenty of regular movements and signals coming from space, such as pulsar stars.

But then, after a few more visits from Uride’s Satellite, more data was accrued with more sensitive instruments, and it appeared that there were small inconsistencies in the regularity, the blips and gaps being slightly longer or shorter here and there. Surely this was evidence of some intentional communication from civilisations beyond the stars? The Guild of Conspiracy Theorists certainly seemed to think so, hiring several cryptographers to attempt to decode the signal, but so far they have been unsuccessful in creating anything but meaningless strings of numbers. Perhaps today will change that, the first new data since 1994 might have some crucial detail, some key to unlocking the mystery.

Obviously there are several other explanations that have been posed by less eccentric scientists. For example, it has been proposed that the changes in timing between the blips could be down to interference from radiodance and the atmosphere slowing the signal inconsistently because of dense clouds, or even because of using oversensitive equipment. They will never find meaning inherent in the changes, because there is none there. However, this does little to explain why what is presumably a lump of rock is transmitting a signal in the first place.

There are plenty of scientists who insistent (with a fanaticism that rivals the conspiracy theorists) that the signal is entirely natural. One such theory states that the signal is created by interaction between the Earth’s electromagnetic field and that of the Satellite, which could be made partly of iron or other magnetic metals. Another states that the gravitational field of the Earth produces a regular cracking of the Satellite’s rock, creating small electromagnetic pulses. Or perhaps the Satellite is rotating regularly, reflecting light and radio signals from a nearby star from one of its surfaces towards the City. Much like the conspiracy theories there seems to be no way to prove or disprove any of these theories.

Whatever the reality of this rock on its visit today, it certainly does something to bring the community together; groups of respected scientists and alien watchers are cramped into small buildings today, huddled around recording equipment, taking turns to hold headsets to their ears, the initial icy atmosphere inexorably moving toward good-natured argument and a certain strange camaraderie. After all, they all seek the truth, just from different viewpoints.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Timing of the Duck
  • The Classical Operatic Society’s Annual Picnic
  • The Festival of the Jaundiced Lovers

June 28th – The Festival of the Righteous Fall; Saint Oggand’s Day

If you have ever wondered why there is a hole in the roof of the west annexe of the Church of the Holy Host atop Ranaclois hill, today is your chance to find out. Today those followers reverent of Saint Oggand will travel up the steps to remember the day that Church was built, the day that the Waylayer, the eternal enemy of the Chastise Church, audaciously tried to convert the Church’s followers in their own holy space, but was foiled by the Attuned mind of Saint Oggand.

The Hierarch of this new church had been voted in only a few months prior to its completion, a process that took fifty eight years. The previous Hierarch had died of old age and sadly never saw the construction he helped plan and fund come to fruition. Shortly after the new Hierarch, Jumile Fatton, was voted in, she became reclusive, spending long periods of time holed up with books rather than tending to her congregation. Whilst this was slightly unusual, most took it as a sign that she was preparing holy words for the church opening, and wanted to get them right. Little did they know, Fatton was actually spending that time in conversation with the Waylayer.

Nobody’s quite sure how she began her talks with the lying creature, how it manage to worm its way into her mind, to convince her that it was god. The Church doctrine does seem to see such words as unnaturally persuasive, and as a convert from the Church of Our Great Lord (the older religion from which the Chastise Church spawned), it’s easy to see why Fatton might have found it difficult to shake the notion of a personal god with a direct line of communication to their subjects, and why she may have mistaken the Waylayer for this being. No matter how it happened, the effects were clear; on the podium where Fatton was supposed to give her opening speech, the Hierarch began speaking instead of ‘God’.

The inhabitants of Buentoille, those acolytes of the Church who had turned out to have their faith reaffirmed with this great construction at the highest point of their City, were understandably stunned. Nobody was quite sure what to do. She was speaking of a great destruction of the earth that was to come, saying that the non believers would perish if they did not affirm their belief in god and ascend to heaven with her now. Just as the hecklers started up, and a small burly contingent readied themselves to drag her offstage, the Hierarch said, loud a clear, ‘It shall be proven unto you,’ and stepped onto an invisible staircase.

In the paintings, frescoes and sculptures that commemorate the event, the staircase is sometimes depicted as if it were made of glass, sometimes only the edges can be made out, as they catch the light of that rainy afternoon, or the staircase is only visible where the rain collected upon it. Usually, however, the staircase is entirely invisible, the figures climbing it into the clouds stepping up on thin air. This latter interpretation fits better with the church dogma and written accounts, but perhaps is a little more difficult to understand in static pictorial format. Five followers from the crowd followed her up the staircase, the others watching in amazement as they slowly ascended into the arms of the Waylayer. Except for Saint Oggand, who was the only one taking action.

Saint Oggand was born Anther Quickthigh, and had also converted to the Chastise Church from the Church of Our Great Lord. Oggand is the patron saint of converts and the wavering of faith, who wish to emulate his example, rather than that of Fatton. A moment of Attunement had been central to their conversion, a moment they had gained by spinning very fast on the spot, deliberately inducing extreme dizziness whilst still standing upright. Confronted with the fantastical, heretical sight before them at the church opening, Oggand once again spun on the spot, hoping to achieve Attunement so they would know what to do to stop the Waylayer taking the followers for its own. In the magical state of insight he saw the Waylayer clearly beneath him, casting a spell in the cavern beneath the newly completed Church of the Holy Host. Oggand quickly ran down there, grabbing a handful of salt from a merchant on the steps as he did.

The cavern beneath is another point where artistic interpretations vary. In the fresco on the wall beneath the hole in the roof, the cave is depicted like a normal cave, yet upside-down, the Waylayer sitting on the roof within a casting circle, adhered there as if gravity were inverted. In other depictions the creature is depicted bat-like, hanging from the cave ceiling with large clawed feet. In the official story Oggand ‘entyred thee caveryn ande saweth there thee WAYLAYER pyrformyng richural fowl,’ but disrupted it by casting his handful of salt at the mythical beast, at which point the ‘caveryn turnned to yts rytefulle direktyn’ and the Waylayer disappeared.

At that same point, the story says that the invisible staircase became, once again, thin air, and those ascending to what they thought to be heaven fell to the ground, or more accurately, through the newly finished church roof, breaking both it and the paved floor beneath. All six falling people died, but were saved from the clutches of the Waylayer. Both these marks can still be seen to this day, the hole now finished on its edges so the rain doesn’t seep into the roof beams. On the floor the cracks are present still, as is a slight dip in the floor where rain gathers. Today this water, considered holy, is daubed onto pilgrims by a priest (the Hierarch is officially disallowed from the site for the day), in the hopes it will restore their faith. Pilgrims also come wearing several small weights attached to their clothes, a reminder of the gravity of this world.

There are, of course, plenty of sceptics of today’s festival, those who believe that no such thing could ever have happened, that six bodies could not damage the construction in such a way, that the hole and cracks were made by a large piece of masonry which fell from a crane whilst the building was being constructed, and which was later interpreted into a religious story. Yet those who say such things are seen by the faithful as agents of the Waylayer, trying to get them to abandon their faith and float to its fake heaven.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Mashed Potato
  • The Ampoule of the Director Day

June 29th – Gang Ball Day

The practice of ‘ganging’ the boundaries of a district is extremely old, serving as a way for districts to mark their boundaries in the days before maps were widespread and accurate. Whilst the shape of the City is relatively sedentary nowadays, it was once fast-changing, new buildings springing up all over. The maps there were quickly went out of date, and the perception of space changed with the new constructions, meaning that disputes over territory were common, especially as the districts and parishes all charged different taxes, were governed differently, and had a sense of identity and near-xenophobic pride.

Ganging still takes place in most districts today, despite the fact it is no longer necessary, as districts are less important in the management of the City and their boundaries are now accepted. The process is fairly simple; a group or ‘gang’ of Buentoillitants gather at their district centre, then run or walk around the boundary, checking off the boundary markers (small stones, plaques or even just wall or floor carvings, each showing the district’s particular glyph-like mark) verbally and with painted tallies. At seemingly random points all around Buentoille you will stumble across hundreds of these markers, some with enormous tallies on the wall next to them, demonstrating the hundreds of years they have been observed.

This is how most districts carried out the ganging of their borders, and whilst there were certainly boundary disputes that resulted in occasional violence between the gangs, it was primarily a peaceful practice. Peaceful that is, except for between the districts of Sleade Yard and Whight Hollow. There is only a small border between the two, but despite its side it was invariably the site of internecine violence, started from some unknown scuffle in an attempt by one side or the other to claim additional land for their district (the details of the original slight were lost in the hundreds of years of argument that followed). Gradually the violence became worse, and those who dwelled in the immediate vicinity started leaving for the day to avoid the bloodshed.

There is still some rivalry between the districts today, but it tends to be of a far better nature than it once was. This is primarily down to the introduction of Gang Ball, a sport that was invented as a way of quelling the worst of the violence. Games give rules to conflict, they isolate it and prevent it from spreading, this is something the women of Sleade Yard and Whight Hollow knew well, and sought to use to their advantage when they introduced the sport. Whilst some of those fighting in the streets were women (the papers of the time went into great detail about the exploits of ‘Stomping Betty’ and ‘Frying Pan Anne’), it was mainly perpetuated by the men. Deciding they’d had enough, the women of each district convened one year, after a young man had died, and decided on the rules.

To win the game for the year, Gang Ball players must get one of the ‘balls,’ heavy pieces of spherical masonry that would have once adorned the gateposts of Vincent House, a building that straddles the district line, from their opponents’ district centre over the boundary into their own. Whoever does this first wins. This is tougher than it sounds; whilst a very strong person can lift a ball, they are more easily rolled, and hundreds of people are trying to do that at any given time in both directions. Whilst no punching, kicking or other forms of outright violence are allowed, the game is full contact, with each team usually splitting in three: one group to protect the ball, one to get the opponent’s ball and one to line the district boundary. Injuries are common, but the hatred and death that had once marked this festival day are firmly in the past.

A common complaint of Sleade Yard players is that the ground slopes down slightly towards their opponents’ district around the boundary line, but this is usually counterbalanced by the fact they field more players, being a larger district. Most of the games usually come down to a scrum in Drakeman’s Arch, a point on the border where many of the roads funnel to, making the flats above it particularly good spots from which to watch the action. Most of the photographs you see of the sea of people pushing each other back and forth will have been taken from those flats. Obviously there is some danger of crushing to these situations, so as a safety measure each person has a whistle around their neck which they can blow to pause play.

A common tactic is for team members to link arms and push as one, the progress they make being determined by the strength of their bonds, but trickery and guile have been used on more than one occasion. On more than one occasion fake balls have entered the play (a move that became banned very quickly), and once or twice a team have succeeded in rolling the ball into a tenement building, locking the other team out behind them and then passing it though a window that crossed the boundary. On one occasion a team formed a long line and passed the ball between their legs, various ‘guards’ fending off the opposing team on each side. It worked, but the next time their opponents were wise to it and it never worked again.

Whilst Sleade Yard are the overall winners, as marked by a long tally in Drakeman’s Arch, Whight Hollow have won the last fourteen matches, and are the favourites to win this year. Whatever the result, both teams will leave their differences aside when play is out, shaking hands and hugging their opponents. Some even go for a drink with their rivals after, the losers buying, of course.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Tub Day
  • The Festival of Castoffs
  • Rumble in the Jungle Festival

June 30th – The Checking of Reim’s Stone

Geological science has progressed a lot since 1489, when this festival was first begun, and despite the fact that it was born out of ignorance, you could perhaps charitably say that the Checking of Reim’s Stone was one of the first geological experiments. Less charitable folks might say that it is a nonsense, the fruit of a drunken argument that we gained the answers to long ago, but what would Buentoille be without its traditions, however silly they may seem to modern eyes?

It was on this day in 1489 that Lord Orphel Reim, a man disgraced within the aristocratic community for his wilful association with the working and middle classes, was drinking with a young woman whose name has not been recorded. Due to his status and gender it is Reim who the festival came to be named after, whereas, because of the assumptions and values of that less enlightened age, we know very little about the mystery woman. This is a shame because what we do know is very interesting; she was purportedly a labourer, some kind of brick maker it seems, and according to the other folks at the Respectful Dowager Inn who were later interview by the Buentoilliçan Consolidated Gazette, he had the appearance of ‘a laydee of grayte nowelyge.’

It seems that Reim, who frequented the pub, had been drawn to the young woman because of her physical charms and, looking to persuade her into a ‘liaison’ through virtue of his status and wealth, ended up becoming embroiled in a complex discussion with her about natural sciences instead. The Lord was generally disbelieving of the claims the woman made (nobody from the pub remembered much of what these claims were, except for one young man who had been rather captivated when she had begun speaking on the subject of deer), although as his higher status was his primary argument against them, he let most slide. When she began talking of the formation of rocks, however, Reim felt he had superior experience and credentials, and butted in.

Reim owned a lot of agricultural land, and spent much of his youth on that land talking to the farmhands and local folk who lived there. The eldest farmer and supervisor on his primary farm, a lady known locally as ‘Wise Aunt Meldrew,’ knew a great deal about when to plant seeds, which wild plants were good for digestion, when to cut the corn so parasites didn’t get into it, and one of the first things she had taught the young Reim was that rocks grew in the soil. Why else would you always keep digging them up every year? Rocks grew in the ground, that everyone knew, but now this young precocious woman was trying to tell him they were made at the bottom of the sea, or in some kind of primeval furnace! An argument ensued, and a bet was called for.

The mystery woman didn’t turn up the next year, or the one after. She was never seen again, after that night when they drunkenly walked out to one of Reim’s fields and buried a stone in the corner, under a marking post. He kept digging it up every year, nonetheless, partly in hopes that she would return and partly because the folk who’d been at the pub had told their friends and made their own bets and he would look rather silly if he gave up on it now. When he died in 1513, Reim was defiant still, despite the fact the rock hadn’t grown one inch, no matter which way you measured it. ‘They just grow very slowly,’ was the essential gist of his argument.

When the City grew over those fields where the stone was buried, it was moved further out, and then further out again, and then they decided they’d moved it enough and built the courtyard around it instead of moving it. It would never grow if you kept moving it. At some point during this period of turmoil someone seems to have switched the original stone for a larger one, probably because they had made an ill-advised bet long ago. Either that or the stone has actually grown, which seems highly unlikely. The first stone was said to be ‘abowt the siyse of a nywebairn chylde,’ whereas the new stone has to be lifted by two people. Next to the patch of grass beneath which the stone is buried is another stone, inscribed with the proportions of this new stone, so that you’ll know if it ever changes.

A few times folk have found slight changes in the stone’s size, but this is thought to be primarily because of inaccurate recording equipment or methods. There were, however, two definite occurrences where the stone became slightly smaller, both times because an over-eager digger had chipped a piece off when trying to dig it up. Once the topsoil is unearthed two strong Buentoillitants raise it out of the ground and it is bathed in stout in a tin tub. This rather odd part of the process comes from a need to clean the stone to accurately measure it, but at some point water was replaced with stout, presumably by those hoping it would help it grow. When all the mud has been washed off it is once again lifted out of the tub and measured carefully, a point at which the gathered audience (usually in the region of 250 people, all supplied well with food and drink by the households of Stone’s Rest Courtyard) becomes silent with anticipation. The results are then announced, accompanied by a humorously deflated cheer from the crowd, usually followed by laughter.

Of course, few believe that stone will grow, yet the audience’s mock disappointment is perhaps tinged with some that is real; wouldn’t it be wonderful if the stone did grow? That would be a turnout for the books! And of course there are some who truly believe that the stone would grow, if only we gave it a chance and left it alone, instead of digging it up every year; in fact this is the origination of the well-worn saying, ‘a watched stone never grows.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Skaification
  • The Festival of Too Many Trumpets
  • Ulterior Route Day