July 1st – The Festival of the Remnant

In 1999, workers digging the foundations for a new building on a long-disused patch of ground uncovered a strange find; a large piece of melted and rusted iron, very similar in appearance to a man. The lumpen shape had no clear discernible features, and the limbs were misshapen, the head flattened, but it did look like a person, and was about the right size, too. One of the workers, a recent arrival from Canaring called Yenlin Breaker, knew immediately what it was. ‘It’s a cast-off from the First Factory,’ she told the Buentoillitant Mystik, ‘a remnant from the hands of He Who Made Us To Work.’

This claim meant very little to most Buentoillitants, but the sense of pregnant mystery that was given to those words, the ‘First Factory,’ enticed a good number of people into writing letters to the magazine asking for more information. Within a few days after publication the rough metal human had been visited by a number of eager occultists and esotericists, in its new location propped up against the wall of a nearby building where it had been placed so that work on the new building could progress. Within five days there was a young protest movement starting up at the worksite; surely they could not be allowed to dig up this site of archaeological significance?

Breaker was intimately involved with the protest movement, explaining to its members the Canaring myth of the First Factory, of how their god, Triglaw, He Who Made Us To Work, had built from the bones of a whale and the skin of a fiery serpent, a manufactory-on-legs, a half-sentient creature that walked across the earth eating metal deposits and forming them into humans within its belly. Each of the eight classes of Canaring were formed from different metals, the highest echelons from gold, then silver, working its way down to iron at the basest level. This story still forms the primary justification for the class system in Canaring today, the theory being that those made from gold are softer and therefore less capable of working, but also less likely to be corrupted, and therefore better positioned to govern than the easily oxidising metals of the lower classes. Revolutionary groups like The Revolutionary People’s Army of Canaring who represent a unified working class and disavow the highly stratified class system are often disparagingly referred to as ‘alloys,’ as are those who marry across class boundaries.

Today is a municipal holiday in Canaring, the centre point of two weeks which mark the birth of their first ‘Golden Father’ (i.e. king), Aurem Canar, after whom the city was (re)named. Unlike his deathday, when all citizens are expected to remain indoors to mourn, for these two weeks they are given time off for leisure. Through a number of earnest letters speaking of the ‘remnant’, supposed proof of their creation story, Breaker persuaded many hundreds of Canarings to use their holiday to visit Buentoille, to see the metal shape in its new home, a shrine within the tenement building beneath which it was unearthed. It sits upright on a special stand, in front of it a small altar built by Breaker, a stone bowl in which many chunks of iron are placed. Breaker acts as a live-in caretaker of the remnant, regularly cleaning it with oil to prevent rust.

Initially, Breaker wanted to export the remnant back to Canaring with her, but their request was disallowed by the Council of Logistics in the first instance, and a public vote in the second. Rather than being spiteful or xenophobic, this decision was based on the fact that the remnant was actually a record of Buentoilliçan history, as was found in the archaeological investigation which was sparked by the protests at the building site. From the extensive charring of the local soil, as well as wealth of material supporting evidence and documentary evidence, it was concluded that the ‘remnant’ was actually a side-effect of the Foundry Fire of 1578, when a whole block of the City burned down. The diary of an artist named Perlor Golea was found in which they complain repeatedly of the money they lost trying to order ‘severnteyn menne caste in eyern,’ from a local foundry for some unexplained installation. One of those figures, perhaps the only one ever made, was presumably half-melted in the fire.

Not that any of this persuades or even phases the Canarings who visit the shrine today. Faith is a strange thing, and can provoke some rather selective ways of seeing evidence. They will file in to the shrine, place a lump of iron brought all the way from Canaring into the bowl, and then tentatively touch the polished metal shape, their unmade brother. Only those from the lowest echelon of Canaring society make the journey; the others see the whole debacle as far beneath them, and this is the primary reason the current Golden Father has not been more active in procuring the apparent ‘remnant,’ or negotiating its release.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Ballpoint Pens
  • The Festival of Recognition
  • Youthly Movement Awareness Day

July 2nd – The Espalan Manor Ball

When the Revolution came in 1905, there was no burning of the lawhouses, no erasure of the past. Buentoilliçan sensibilities would never have allowed for such wanton destruction of history, and besides, there had to be evidence of how things had gone wrong before, so that Buentoillitants could fully understand how to move forwards. Buentoille is a place of aggregated history, and not even the greatest single event in that history could change that.

Technically, some of the old, monarchist laws are still in effect; they were never struck off the rulebooks. The ‘Reconsideration Clause’ states that any laws which work counter to the aims of the revolution (as set out in The Communal Voice, the founding document of modern Buentoille) are considered null and void, but that any laws or legal agreements which are of ‘mutual benefit to all parties, including but not limited to the Common Cause’ would remain. Admittedly, there are not many of these laws; most laws are written with one party in mind, or to stop certain individuals or groups doing something considered detrimental to others. Today’s festival, however, is intricately linked to one such rule.

In 1465 Buentoille had two queens, and they were identical twins. Technically only one of the pair (Crocus) was queen, being born half an hour earlier, but the other, marginally younger twin (Snowdrop) often stood in for or mischievously switched places with her, and was never far from her side. Today, the 2nd of July, was their birthday, and they were often noted (and scandalised) for their lavish and licentious celebrations. The palaces and royal residences would be filled with gallons of drink, spectacular magic shows (the twins had a penchant for trickery) and musical performances, and whichever young, beautiful courtiers or prostitutes each twin had their eyes on. These liaisons typically didn’t last long, and there is evidence to suggest that a few of the more unlucky objects of desire may have been murdered.

One lover who escaped the assassins and the headsman’s axe was Georgio Espalan, a wealthy aristocrat who had spent some time engaged to Snowdrop before they mutually decided to call it off. In the time in which they were engaged, Snowdrop either asked her sister or acted as her sister to bequeath their lover a large, unused mansion house from the royal estate, on one important proviso: the estate should be given over to the queen on her birthday, and that Espalan or the latter owners of the building must organise, as the official documentation rather giddily states, a ‘grayte and gayye balle of rawcuss scayle,’ in the honour of the queen or ‘a sertayn perrsonne who retaynnes her lykeniss.’

These parties continued for many years, until Espalan died, leaving no heir, and the building was deemed no longer desirable by the aristocracy (there was a fashion for buildings built in the High Buentoilliçan style and the manor was far too plain), later falling into disrepair from disuse. The parties were indeed of lavish and ‘raucous scale,’ and featured elaborate displays of dried snowdrops and crocuses, alongside the usual magic shows, bands, and reams of alcohol. Long after, when the roof had caved in, it once again became common property after the Revolution. It wasn’t until 1929, when the head researcher from History Today Monthly, Jiril Wender found the agreement in the law section of the Unfathomed Archive (all legalities pertaining to the monarch were treated as common law, rather than as legal agreements or contracts), that it began to be used once again.

Today there will be a great glittering ball held in the ruin of Espalan Manor. The gardens are long gone, tenement blocks and a power substation built over them (although the ‘magical door,’ an artefact from Espalan’s brief occult phase, in the old garden wall is still visible, that part retained as part of the wall fencing off the substation). Most of the manor has been torn down, or repurposed as a pub, as was the case with the west wing. Only the old eastern tower and kitchens are left, their floors and roof long gone, just the stonework remains. They are jammed between three separate constructions, and can only be accessed through residential buildings, an old raised fire exit, and an underground tunnel that connects to the kitchen cellar; it was once a servant’s entrance. Poor civic planning meant they became sealed off and there is no way to safely demolish or remove them without damaging the surrounding and in some cases adjoining buildings.

There will be a canvas stretched over the top of the tower, inside the old stone will be adorned with long mirrors, and internal scaffolding will be set up to create several floors. On each floor will be a band, another band, a magical display, and in the kitchen will be the bar. This at least has been the layout for the past fifty-or-so years. Entry is only allowed with a valid ticket, to control numbers (the tight space could easily become very dangerous), available as of two weeks ago from the Office of Events and Spaces for free, on a first come, first served basis. They are usually all taken within two hours. The ball has a reputation for showing excellent up-and-coming bands, and the space is pleasantly intimate. The bar will be kept stocked with oodles of free booze, and there will be several snacks available at request, all funded by the taxpayer.

Why by the taxpayer? Well, that is where the law comes in. When Wender found the legal agreement between Espalan and the queen, they went to the Council of Logistics dressed as Crocus, and demanded her birthday party. When the councillors got over their shock at the seemingly royalist garb (something of a faux pas, especially so soon after the Revolution), they listened to what Wender had to say and realised that the common purse, as the owner of the manor, was obliged to hold a birthday party as she fulfilled the prerequisite of ‘a certain person who retains her likeness.’ A public vote was held to verify the legislation (very few people vote against parties), and the ball was reborn.

Technically the common purse owes anyone who dresses up as Queen Crocus a lavish birthday party, but this is generally ignored. The honour is usually handed to one of the many citizens of Buentoille whose actual birthday is today. This person will dress up in the royal garb (though they are welcome to discard this as the party progresses) and be the first to enter the party, which officially starts when they have their first sip of champagne.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Common Decency
  • The Stirrup and Drum Exhibition Day (no piss artists)
  • Open All the Locks – a Festival of Mystic Thought

July 3rd – The Disappearance Day of Leven Allsop

Disappearing was probably Leven Allsop’s best trick. It was the highlight of his performances, usually performed at the end. He would pack out music halls and theatres under the name ‘The Master of Unseen Roads,’ hundreds of men and women there to watch him pop out of existence, only to appear at the back of the audience, step out from behind a curtain, or descend down from the rafters on a rope only moments later. The set up to the trick was the same each time. The magician would make a long speech, performing small sleights of hand as he did so, explaining to the audience to the ways in which one might enter one of the many ‘waurst ways’ which criss-crossed the City, and more importantly how one might exit them when they had reached their desired location. At some point in this speech, he would turn on the spot, as if turning to address an audience member, and he would disappear. On this day, 1884, he disappeared and didn’t come back.

It was an astounding trick, but a trick all the same. Three weeks after his disappearance, Allsop’s lover, a stage hand called Irinius Quern, desperately declared that he would reveal the trick if Allsop did not return. When Allsop continued to be missing, the method became common knowledge (a complex setup of mirrors, trap doors, pulleys and distractions that varied from theatre to theatre. Magicians are luck-obsessed creatures, Allsop included; every time the magician performed the trick he insisted that Quern stood ready to have a kiss stolen as the magician ran to the next position after the initial ‘disappearance’. This added a crucial second or so onto the trick, but Allsop wouldn’t perform the trick without it, citing a premonition he’d had that a terrible misfortune would befall him if the two men’s lips did not touch during the performance. According to Quern, on the day of the disappearance the magician did not come to steal his kiss.

The place of the disappearance was the The Heinbrow Circle, the largest space the magician had ever worked in. It was to be the crowning moment of Allsop’s career, and perhaps the pressure was getting to him. According to Bertha Jackson, a self-proclaimed Allsop ‘superfanatic’ who had seen almost every one of his performances, the magician was visibly ‘off.’ He was unshaven, and his hands shook a little. It’s was to see why he may have been nervous; not only was the crowd much larger than he was used to, but the space is enormous compared to many other venues, and would have required even faster than usual travel to be successful. In fact, it would appear that the trick is near-impossible to be completed properly, a fact which can be attested to by the many magicians who try to perform it every year, in Allsop’s memory.

Yet this yearly return to the theatre, this yearly attempt to repeat the past, is more than an act of remembrance for a much-loved magician. Plenty of people went missing five years later, when the Traitor King staged his coup, but none of them in the way Allsop did; out of thin air, in front of hundreds of spectators. Today’s festival is a pseudo-scientific study, an attempt to create those same conditions and see if the results are the same, to understand what happened to the magician, why he never made it to his ‘reappearance’ position in the rafters, or to the lips of his lover. It seems reckless, dangerous even to some, to tempt fate in this way, to mess with waurst roads in the same way that Allsop did, but for others the risk seems justified, especially after the finding of the Tevlam Marks.

The magical investigators who ritualistically attempt to copy the original performance from eyewitness accounts alone ensure that small details, such as the temperature of the air and the exact seating arrangements and number of the audience are unwaveringly accurate, but for the most part they are unable to actually complete the performance itself. The one year another magician succeeded in seemingly to disappearing, the Tevlam Marks were found on the woodwork struts underneath the stage by Boris Tevlam. The marks are strange shapes and glyphs, scorched into the wood. According to those who believe in the waurst roads, the shapes have been found elsewhere that the alternate plain of existence has been breached, but others see them as a hoax that would have been spotted in the original investigation.

Those who believe that these marks are a hoax point instead to the change in Allsop’s patter on the night. He seemed very agitated, and kept stating to the audience that he had something ‘very important to share,’ in a manner that was not his normal self-assured way of speaking. They also note that the man disappeared mid-sentence, again a change in the normal order of things, one which gained a smattering of laughter from the audience, in those first minutes before they realised something was wrong. He was abducted, the non-esoteric critics say. He had found something out that he was not meant to find. Eyewitnesses report seeing strange figures dressed in foreign clothes leaving the theatre early, before everyone realised he wasn’t coming back.

Whatever the truth of the disappearance, it’s unlikely that treading over old ground, the two groups arguing as they try to complete some esoteric pattern to disappear a modern magician, will teach anyone anything new. By now, Allsop is likely long dead, his knowledge of waurst roads or whatever else he was preparing to reveal onstage gone with him.

Other festivals happening today:

  • I’ve Been Waiting Patient for You to Come to Me Day
  • The Festival of Translating All Your Scrawled Notes
  • The Sea is Hungry Festival

July 4th – The Festival of Ceramic Mystery

In 1979, Gregor Asheater was digging in his garden, when he found a ceramic pot, and then another, and then another. At the end of the day he had a very large hole in his garden and 30 pots. By the end of the week he had three hundred and thirty three, and a larger hole. Each pot was intact, had been sealed with a bung and red wax, and was marked with a number, or to be more precise a date.

Asheater was not a trained archaeologist, and may have missed a number of important clues in the excavation which could have pointed to the reason for their existence. As it is, nobody is entirely sure, although most theories point towards some form of witchery. This is primarily because of the contents of the jars: mandrake roots, a staple feature of witchcraft in the public imagination, preserved in a vinegary red wine. According to Asheater the wine tastes ‘absolutely vile,’ an opinion he developed over more than one tasting, apparently.

Shrotly the first pot was opened and its contents examined by the several scientists who were asked to come see the ceremony by Asheater, the Buentoilliçan covens were all informed, but none of them wanted to claim ownership, with the Infused Sisterhood and the Coven of Irah vociferously denying any involvement. Mandrakes are useless, seems to be the general consensus. They might be associated with witches in Buentoille, but no self-respecting witch would actually want to use them. Just because the roots look like a person doesn’t mean they are magical or hold any power over a person besides symbolic meaning.

The hole has now been filled in once again, more soil brought for the purpose, and with the extra-deep soil, Asheater is growing liquorish. He still has the pots, now all lined up in his garden shed, which has been specially extended for the purpose with several long shelves that line the walls. The pots are all displayed with their dates, cut into the clay before they were fired, facing outwards. Each date is written in the form of day, month, year. The days vary a lot, and the months are all either June, July or August. The years are all in the future.

This last small detail is perhaps the most fascinating thing about the pots. What does it mean, to put a future date on a pot and then fill and bury it? After he had dug all the pots up and laid them all out in the back garden, Asheater noticed that the earliest date was 1982, three years into the future, at the time. He assumed they would be old time capsules, although they did feel a little heavy for that. It took a ‘tremendous deal of patience to keep from opening them early, three years is a long time to wait on a mystery like that,’ said Asheater, when interviewed on the day the first pot was opened, on the date written on its side. He was, understandably, a little disappointed when, a year or so later, the next pot turned out to contain the same thing.

In an attempt to understand what it all means, archaeologists have re-dug up the garden, but have found little other evidence, besides a couple of mice bones, the relation of which to the pots is disputed. They have also tried dating both the ceramics and their contents, but in the process created only more questions; it appears that the pots are significantly older than their contents, being made at some point in the first century, but not filled until about 300 years later. These results are consistent with the contents of each pot, which are now kept in glass jars in the Museum of Scientific Oddities, the pots being held onto by Asheater, who re-fills them with his own garden produce (beetroot, runner beans, potatoes) and spirit vinegar, after he has given them a good clean. He then re-buries them in another, less useful section of his garden. ‘It just seems like the right thing to do,’ he said, when asked why he thinks this is necessary.

Some groups are very suspicious of this yearly ritual, thinking that it is some Strigaxian long-form spell or enchantment, designed to use the Buentoilliçan sense of tradition and ritual against the City, that there will be some great catastrophe or misfortune when the last pot is opened. Others think of the suspicious pots as pseudo-wombs, that the little mandrakes will will come to life and cause mischief, or that they are magical totems, designed to influence the events of the days written on them. Less outlandish claims are that they are merely what they appear to be; preserved roots. Maybe the dates are just the day they will be ready to eat, the disgusting wine having broken down the poisonous compounds in the mandrake by then? Nobody has been brave enough to try eating one of the limbed roots to find out, yet.

In 1998, Asheater claimed that a young woman had come to him after the opening ceremony (a quick and quiet affair, often just Asheater, his neighbours and a couple of occult fanatics) and thanked him for ‘doing the right thing.’ She claimed to have been born at the same moment he opened that first pot, and apparently had within her head the memories of the woman who buried it. The identity of this woman has never been ascertained, and Asheater’s description of her is remarkably vague.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Kissing Your Friends
  • The Dark of the Third Cavern’s Open Day
  • The Festival of Pruning

July 5th – The Festival of the Twisted Spire

The Church of Ermine the Fallen isn’t much used, these days, not that it ever was. It’s kept unlocked, but inside there is little to look at, just a few wooden benches and some whitewashed walls. The priest is nominal, primarily helping out at one of Buentoille’s many other churches. It isn’t a comfortable space, and the local worshippers go elsewhere; they feel too guilty. It gets more use as a place to keep polling booths than as a place of worship, and today is one of the only days that anyone visits it.

The Church’s spire can be seen from a way off, the malignant twist to it a constant reminder of what happened there over 100 years ago when it was first constructed. A casual observer might see the twist as quirky, picturesque even, but today’s festival ensures that the people of Darksheve’s district, where the Church is located, remember the awful circumstances which surrounded its creation.

The spire wasn’t designed the way it turned out. It was hastily constructed between 1876 and 1878, and has never been completed to the design laid out in the blueprints. Those blueprints were drawn up by Garrison Dreamer, an architect who had made his name designing the homes of aristocratic Buentoillitants, but when the plans became reality the architect publicly disavowed the creation, which allegedly bore ‘no relation’ to what he had designed. There were several reasons for this, the primary one being that the Church was a vanity project ordered by Darvil Demoliane, the son of the famous Durstan Demoliane who was killed by Nible Jaques in 1857.

Whilst Darvil attempted to avoid some of the negative associations his father had garnered, which eventually led to his murder, it was abundantly clear that he was cut of the same aristocratic cloth. Trying to portray himself as pious and caring, Darvil made sure he was frequently pictured attending and donating to the Chastise Church. When he decided to make the ultimate act of public devotion and build a church, he was very quickly met with an obstacle: The Union of Buentoillitant Construction Workers. The union had managed to remain strong throughout a period when many other unions were being broken up or coming under pressure from moneyed interests, and was certainly not going to allow its members to do business with a Demoliane, no matter how good and pious they claimed to be.

This frustrated Demoliane’s efforts for a time, but he eventually decided to hire untrained, unskilled workers from the poorest areas of the district he controlled, just as his father had done with his paramilitary ‘daremen’ before him. The construction was a rushed job where corners were cut and inferior materials used. Inside the building today you can see long cracks in the plaster work, held together by metal struts to avoid a dangerous collapse. The church is subject to frequent structural assessments. For Demoliane speed, rather than quality, was of the essence, as the Church was always intended as more of a PR stunt than a serious undertaking.

Without the oversight of the Union the construction site was an extremely dangerous place to work, especially as the workers had almost no training or safety equipment. Unfortunately this was all perfectly legal at the time, as Parliament placed little value on the lives of the poor, and too much on the pocket money of the rich. Injuries, both small and life-changing, were commonplace on the construction site, and it is estimated that about sixty workers were seriously injured and three killed over the two years. For the most part, these injuries were hushed up or simply ignored by the media. Quite frankly, nobody cared until much later, when the awful conditions became difficult to ignore.

The twist in the spire began slowly, unnoticeably, as the cheap, unseasoned wood used in its construction began to warp. It was a very hot day when Ermine Goodland was atop the spire, attaching heavy lead tiles, but it had been raining a lot in the previous few days. Her workmate, Kale Fernwerthy, told the papers later on that she could hear the wood groaning. She had attached the last tile when that groan intensified, and the wood suddenly buckled and bent under the heat, sending a shockwave up the side of the spire, which in turn sent Goodland, Ermine the Fallen, flying toward the street below. She landed on the iron railings of the local school, at playtime.

After that rather public death, there was no ignoring the unsafe conditions at the Church, and when it was finally finished later that year, almost nobody turned up to the opening ceremony. The twisted spire remained, hanging over the district, a mark of shame. Today, on the anniversary of her death, Goodland is remembered by the local residents; flowers are laid at the railings where she fell, and a special service is held within the church for all those others who suffered in its construction.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Doughty Ladies
  • The Day of the Largest Sail
  • The Procession of Saint Meldrew

July 6th – The First Day of the July Heatwave

For the next few days, Buentoille won’t be the most pleasant place to spend your days, if you are sensitive to the heat. The heatwave happens every year with surprising regularity, usually falling in the first two weeks of July. Last year was actually free of temperatures quite so scalding, but this year will be no exception, with temperatures out of direct sunlight expected to be in excess of 35 degrees centigrade. Those who live in more continental or southerly regions might scoff at this being deemed a ‘heatwave,’ but for Buentoille this is often practically unbearable.

Thankfully, the City’s coastal location makes things feel a little cooler, and from today onwards for the next few days the beaches and coasts for miles around will be packed to the brim. The river too, now safe enough to swim in, will be full of swimmers and small boats or rafts, their occupants dipping their toes in the river. Today things won’t be quite as bad as they can get, and the heat should die down, so tonight should be relatively comfortable. The smell of barbecues will fill the air in the afternoon, as folk enjoy the weather before it sours for them.

For groups with cultural or religious dress like the True Traditionalists, who wear thick brocade shawls at all times of year, this can be a tough time, and many simply retreat underground for the duration. The Hidden Library and Unfathomed Archive are both busier than usual, with many Buentoillitants finding solace in the lower, constant underground temperatures.

The Water Brigade will be out in force today, as they have been for the past week, preparing the City’s reserves of fresh water to ensure there will be enough to meet demands. Volunteers will join their core forces, handing out cups of water and electrolyte-infused solutions to ensure heat-induced injuries are kept to a minimum. Their primary function of saving burning buildings is obviously prioritised in the heat, especially with Buentoille’s penchant for outdoor eating, cooking in clay ovens and fire pits from which fire often spreads when not properly attended to. Water from the river is often used to fill their water engines and smaller carts (capable of fitting down the smaller alleyways of the Warren and other tight locales), as clean drinking water is in high demand.

The Brigade has been around for an astoundingly long time, in a very similar form, with mentions of ‘bukett persyns’ as far back as the second century. The group traces its origins even further back, however, claiming that they are directly descended (as a group, rather than through bloodline) from the mythical Dragon Warders. This link they display proudly, the symbol of a dragon adorning their modern protective clothing. Once this would have been a thick jacket, quilted to aid the uptake of water in which it was soaked before tacking a blaze, that was embroidered on both sides, one side displaying a dragon breathing fire, the other a drowning dragon. One they had put out a fire they would turn the jacket inside out to show nearby people that they were safe.

It is because of this ancient link that the Brigade have other, more esoteric duties to perform today, to keep the City safe. In their foundational text, the Dracoveritas, the taxonomy of dragons is laid out: they are nothing like any other form of life, existing in an alternate dimension, a ‘relm of fyre’ as the book puts it. They appear as fiery serpents that twist through the sky, propelling themselves by no obvious means, and everything they touch bursts into flame. When the sky is overcast, the link between our world and theirs is blocked, but on very sunny days, when it has been hot for some time, they are sometimes capable of moving into our world.

When here, dragons can be defeated by the application of several tons of water, at which point they wither and turn to a single long spinal column, or perhaps into ash or sand, depending on which story you believe. One story claims that they turn to glass when cooled sufficiently and if heated would turn back alive. Buentoille was said to be in possession of one such relic, before it was shattered to prevent the dragon’s resurgence. For a long time, the Water Brigade held what they claimed was a dragon’s spinal column, but which, on further analysis, turned out to be that of a whale.

As with all fires, the Water Brigade maintains that the best solution to dragons is to prevent them in the first place. They believe that they can only breach into our world not only when it has been hot for a long time, but when the peculiar unreality of long summer days sets in. When enough Buentoillitants begin to feel that way, that in the bright sunshine things are too bright and beautiful to be real, that they are not quite there, in this world that feels somehow separate from everyday life with its strange customs of cream applying and water-lounging, that is when dragons are able to cross the boundary, and wreak havoc in our world. As such the Brigade holds several ‘grounding’ meditation classes across the City today and for the next few days, under large white canopies to keep the worst of the heat away. The meditation leader encourages the attendees (everyone is welcome) to feel the grass beneath their toes, to listen to the sounds of the City, to realise the physical reality and solidity of the space they are in.

Revellers are reminded to stay in the shade for as long as possible, to keep hydrated, wear a hat, apply sun cream frequently and liberally, and watch out for dragons.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Poultices
  • The Festival of the Pig
  • Acrobatic Display Day

July 7th – The Festival of the Sluice

If you’re lucky, there will be a bit of a sea breeze to cool the streets of Buentoille today, but for the most part things are going to be very, very hot. The trains and trams that wind their ways around the City all have entirely detachable windows, to allow a bit more airflow and to avoid that awful greenhouse feel, but they are still horrid, sticky places. Its on days like this that you need to look to children for the way forwards; they always seem to know what to do when the weather gets too hot, unlike their sometimes-stuffy counterparts. You’ll see more than one adult in the street indulging in a water pistol fight today, and plenty of them on the Sluice.

The Sluice began on a day much like today, at some point about 80 years ago. Record keeping of such details is not really a priority of the Guild of Children, who run today’s event, but it was certainly begun at some point after the installation of fire hydrants across the City. Nobody ever bothered to write down or remember the names of those first pioneering children, but in the Guild’s oral history they are generally referred to as the ‘Cliff Gang,’ named after the section of Guilgamot district, the working-class area adjacent to the Grand Boulevard that is essentially built on the side of a cliff, in which they lived (and made themselves general nuisances).

Apparently this ‘gang’ would often head out to the Grand Boulevard where they would have excellent fun stealing sweets and other small prizes from the shopkeepers there, and other such naughty activities. If spotted they were difficult to catch, having something close to the legs of mountain goats from their time growing up on the cliff. It was on the second day of the July heatwave, and the children were at the top of the Grand Boulevard. The sun was too hot for running around, and they’d already been chased off by one shopkeeper when they tried to grab a bucket of ice from their stall. Sitting in the shade of a big tree at the top of the hill, one of them spied the fire hydrant and had an idea.

The children weren’t particularly popular with the stall owners, as the wares they had laid out on carpets in the street began to get swept away by the torrent of water flowing down the hill. The surface of the Boulevard was perfect for sliding on, polished down with the footsteps of generations, and the whole thing was helped along greatly when a soap-seller’s wares got caught up in the commotion. Before they knew it, the Cliff Gang had a functioning water slide.

It wasn’t long before plenty of other children were in on the act, some bringing specially-soaped wooden trays to slide on. There were probably about two hundred children there, sliding down the hill or generally frolicking in the torrent of water that continued to sluice away the goods of perturbed merchants. A lot of fun was had before the Water Brigade turned up to shut off the hydrant, so much that they were determined to do the same thing next year and the Guild of Children officially adopted it.

Following talks between them and the Guild of Children, the Water Brigade now factor one day’s worth of water for the Sluice into their calculations for storage ahead of the heatwave. The merchants have learned when to vacate the area naturally, and were not given a choice in the matter. Nowadays the Sluice is a little more developed, with plastic sheeting being laid down and covered in washing up liquid to aid the slide. Before only short slides were possible, but now you can get down the entirety of the hill with one run-up, and the wind in your hair as you whiz down is delightful. Plenty of inflatable beach furniture, useful for getting higher speeds, is sold by the merchants, alongside ice cream, cold drinks and other such summer fare, so they don’t complain.

At one point you would have looked rather silly, as an adult joining in the fun, but slowly over time these things become more acceptable, and now there are just as many adults on the slide as there are children. Adults do, however, have to pay a small donation to the Guild, and are given a lower priority than their smaller counterparts, having to join a separate queue beneath the shade of the big tree, as directed by precocious little Guild officials.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Rain Dance
  • The Festival of Sand Drawings
  • Parasol Day

July 8th – The Sleep Out

It’s been happening for a couple of days, but tonight things are hot enough that more than the more pioneering folks will be out in the City’s parks tonight, attempting to get a good night’s sleep in the marginally cooler air. There is a science to this; the transpiration of the trees, the shade they provide during the day, and the relatively low thermal conductivity of plant matter compared to concrete and asphalt means that the temperature in the parks can be as much as two or three degrees lower than in the streets, lower still than the inside of homes where a breeze cannot reach so easy.

For some, a sleeping bag or even a sheet on the parched grass is enough sweet relief from their stuffy bedrooms, and slowly as the night goes on you will see them wander through the streets, down from the nearby buildings, almost somnambulant from fatigue, and almost immediately crash out. Some Buentoillitants are more picky about their sleeping arrangements, or simply more prepared for the eventuality. There is a couple who live a couple of blocks over from Revolution Park who use a winch-and-pulley system to get their impressive kingsized bed out of their window and into the park. Most folks are a little less rigid about how they sleep, but plenty of people go to the effort of dragging out a mattress. Some are prepared enough to have slung hammocks out of the trees, or between lamp posts.

There’s obviously a trade-off in terms of comfort between your bedroom and the park, but it seems that many people prioritise temperature over other disruptions. Many folks will bring out alarm clocks to ready themselves for work, and whilst most people start work in Buentoille at 9am, they all seem to need fractionally different times to get ready. Anyone sleeping near a baker will be cursing as they get their morning bread, as most bakers start their shifts at about 4am. The strange novelty of the situation often leads to groups of people sat up whispering to each other, though in their defence they do try to keep quiet and most of the time they are too tired to stay up too late. There is an unspoken rule that if you’ve been out drinking you can’t traipse through, or conduct a loud conversation on the edge of the park; most Buentoillitants are quire considerate.

Of course there are other disruptions: the lamplight, the near-full moon, the occasional scream from someone who had a moth land on them or a spider run past them. Children are often difficult to calm down in unfamiliar surroundings, with all these strangers about, and babies can be an unmitigated nightmare, especially with new parents who don’t yet know the esoteric tricks of child rearing. For the children, at least, there are some solutions: at 8:00 tonight there will be a communal bedtime story conducted by a group of parents, especially designed to get the more mischievous children to calm down and sleep.

The weirdest part of the whole thing for most people will be tomorrow morning, when they are awoken by the early sun and will wonder for a moment why they can hear a stranger snoring nearby, before the events of the night come back to them. The sleeplessness of those frustrating moments indoors before you made the rash decision to come out here is almost the inebriation to this strange hangover, with its aching joints and hay fevered nostrils from a night lain on grass with little more than a bed sheet. But what a beautiful hangover; the morning light broaching the tops of buildings, hammocks neatly swaying in the breeze, someone stretching like a cat, the relief of sleep etched into the faces of your new neighbours.

And yet that beauty is tinged, tainted even, for some. There is a reason that donations to the Buentoilliçan Foreign Social Fund are raised substantially today and in the following few days as the heatwave inevitable continues: for many years sleeping in Buentoille’s parks would not have been a choice for some, and in places like Litancha with more barbaric systems of governance, sleeping outdoors is a daily reality for many, in far harsher weather conditions. Thankfully, since the Revolution nobody has had to sleep outside if they don’t want to. Those Buentoillitants out in the parks tonight will be doubly thankful for their homes as they walk back to them in the early morning light, thinking of the shower.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of The Lamplight Children
  • The Bustling Walk of Saint Friam Day

July 9th – The Festival of the Night Swimmers

There are two festivals happening tonight under the full moon, both called The Festival of the Night Swimmers. As the name suggests, they both involve swimming at night time, although other than that primary factor they vary greatly; for example, one is very old and little known, whereas the other is very recent, and very famous. Contrary to the claims of the its organisers, the more recent festival was probably based on the second in some way.

In 1958, a few years before colour television was invented, the film Night Swimming was aired on the night of the July full moon. It was a slow-paced thing, wordless and lingering, with fantastic cinematography. For many film experts, the footage represents the height of black and white film as an artistic medium, and it is often evoked by those looking back to a so-called ‘golden age’ of television, before colour footage changed things immeasurably, suddenly making things appear more real and in the process destroying the dream-like, unreal quality offered by films like Night Swimming.

The climax of this lauded film (which has little in the way of narrative, instead being a series of beautiful, well balanced shots that imply a certain feeling or mood) takes place, unsurprisingly, in a large natural pool of water, synchronised swimmers breaking the inky black surface occasionally, sending ripples across the reflection of the huge full moon. If you ask anyone about Night Swimming, this is the scene they will describe; the ethereal movements of the swimmers seem to have touched something deep in the hearts of many. It must have been quite something to have been up that night, early in the morning, when the film was first aired. It was a hot and sticky night, like tonight, and many would have been up staring at their televisions trying to forget about the heat. In that maddening half-sleep, Night Swimmers must have seemed like it had cut through the curtain of dreams and into real life.

The latest, and most popular Festival of the Night Swimmers is based around this well-loved film, taking place tonight in Revolution Park, around and in the People’s Mirror, the small lake nestled like a blue-green jewel therein. A re-enactment of the dance performed in the film is held as the main event, the culmination of the festival after the rest of the film has been projected onto a large screen specially constructed just for tonight. Deckchairs and picnic blankets are provided free of charge, although many people watch from their beds or mattresses that they pitched up there to escape the heat of their flats. The film is very quiet, although the sound of hundreds of people getting up to watch the swimmers in the Mirror might wake up a few people who nodded off early.

For many years, nobody knew who had made Night Swimmers. The BBS (Buentoilliçan Broadcasting Service) were very tight-lipped about their mystery director, on account of their askance for anonymity, but eventually someone got a producer drunk and extracted the information from them. The director was one Lerna Beralle, not a name anyone had heard before. According to the producer who drunkenly outed her (and was later himself dragged from anonymity, revealed to be Gorvalle Thrall), she had turned up to the BBS offices with a fully formed script and a case of wine. Three weeks later the film was broadcast.

It turned out that Beralle had never directed a film before, but had spent most of her life in religious seclusion, as part of the Sisterhood of the Water Lily, a religious order who believe that women were ‘birthed’ from water lilies, brought to grace the world with beauty. Men, according to the Sisterhood, arrived later, a perversion, corruption of that initial beauty. Little is known about their religious practices as they are a very secretive order who do not allow men or ‘women who have lain with men’ into their convent. The only time they leave is to recruit new members. Much of what we know about the intricacies of their religious rituals and festivals was learned from Beralle.

Apparently the spiritualist-turned-director had spent months watching the television of a household that neighbours the high-walled convent from a perch in a cherry tree within the convent, and had decided that she must leave to make these beautiful, silent images. When she was later interviewed about her inspiration for Night Swimming, she ignored the question and told of her life in the convent. She had been ‘donated’ to the Sisterhood as a baby by her mother, an orphan who’d had her when very young and was incapable of raising her properly. The convent is built around a large pool of water, in which water lilies are obsessively cultivated, and she’d spent many thousands of hours as a child sitting by the cool stillness. She’d been taught from a young age that the moon was the mother of all women, and when she was old enough she was initiated into the Sisterhood properly, on the night of the July full moon, as part of the Festival of the Night Swimmers.

Tonight, in that central pool of the Sisterhood, the moon will be reflected brightly, and the women of the convent will undress and swim there together, in a beautiful synchronised manner. Around them, transcendent fireflies will dance, gathering nectar from the water lilies, the primary foodstuff of this particularly bright firefly species. They drift down from on high, entering each water lily for a short period, lighting them briefly like a bright white candle. Between these bursts of light the moon is visible, reflected in the pool, the long hair of each woman (they do not cut it their entire lives) spreading out beneath the flowers.

The transcendent fireflies can be seen doing the same thing anywhere else there are water lilies, and plenty of folks beyond the high walls of the convent will go to watch them. Like mayflies, they only live out of water for a day (or rather, a night), although the emergence of this species also seems to be linked to the appearance of the full moon. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Sisterhood believes that the fireflies emerge from the reflection of the moon, her spores sent to earth to nest in the lilies, where they become the souls of women.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Icy Bucket
  • The Fair of Saint Casom
  • Pine Tree Day

July 10th – The Festival of the Chattering Skeletons

Things are getting cooler today. Apparently the inevitable summer storm that ends the July heatwave will come this afternoon, so the folks sleeping in the parks will likely pack up and go home, or get very wet. Thankfully today’s main festival is held mainly underground, although there are concerns that it won’t happen at all, because of the shortness of this year’s heatwave. There is only one way to find out, really.

The chattering had probably been happening for a few years beforehand, but it was first noticed in 1932, when the heatwave was slightly earlier than usual, meaning that it could be heard before the children of Clifftop Secondary School had broken up for their summer holidays. In one of the small classrooms next to the sports hall, the children started complaining to their teacher, Mr Sotheman, who was partially deaf and at first didn’t notice it. When they persisted for longer than they would with a joke, he investigated, and found that the odd sound was coming from an air conditioning grate in the wall. It was very perplexing.

Mr Sotheman asked the caretaker, Miss Olpheri, a venerable personage who had been serving at the school for longer than anyone could remember, about the noise. She held her ear to the grate, nodded, and then led Mr Sotheman out of the classroom, around the corner to a door on the corridor that he had seen many times but had never thought much about where it led. Miss Olpheri wrangled with her large keyring for a few moments, then found the correct key and opened the door. Behind it a flight of steps led down into the darkness. The rattling could be heard more clearly now. ‘They built the school over an old crypt,’ said Olpheri.

This, apparently, was news to most of the teachers and school administrators. A few of those who had been there for longer had heard tell of a crypt beneath the school, but had thought that it was far underground, or some kind of urban myth. It seems that Olpheri was the only one who’d ever been down there, but her sight was failing her and she didn’t want to go down there again. After a few hours of deliberating, the sports teachers Douglas Trimshaw and Bettle Velair were thrust into the darkness with spirit lamps to investigate the source of the mysterious chattering noise. It came and went, and sounded like the rattling of bones. The teachers were down there for about 30 seconds, before they came running out, shouting about two skeletons sitting upright on their tombs, chattering to each other.

It didn’t take long for the story to spread to the student body, who generally found the whole thing terribly exciting. More than one child was found trying to pick the lock to the crypt, and rumours whipped around the school, gaining force as they did, like a summer storm. The two skeletons were students who got trapped down there, they were old teachers who were buried alive, they were a long-dead wife and husband arguing on their anniversary, they were twins who died on the same day but only given one grave, and who took turns once a year, chatting as they switched. Some of these rumours still float around the school today, even though the real cause of the chattering has been found.

On that first day, Miss Olpheri was scornful of the frightened sports teachers, telling them that those were just tombs. They had stone skeletons carved on their lids, sitting up as if they are in conversation. She told them to go back down there, but then the chattering stopped, a convenient excuse to lock the door and forget about the whole thing. The history teacher, Miss Yeltsam, looked up the crypt and found that it hosted the bodies of the Ambroise family, a once wealthy family who owned a fleet of fishing boats but who died out in the late 16th century. The two skeleton lids were those of Effy and Emelia, sisters who were always chatting together and wanted a fitting memorial. But none of this solved the chattering problem.

The noise didn’t reappear the next year, not that anyone expected it to, except children who believed some of the more fanciful stories surrounding the crypt. It wasn’t until three years later when the new caretaker, Kolarm Greede (Miss Olpheri sadly passed away), was doing some routine maintenance during the summer holidays, in the classroom where it was first heard, that the chattering was heard again. Greede had heard the stories, and (perhaps rather foolishly) went down to investigate. They heard the chattering, saw the stone coffins, but couldn’t find where the noise itself was coming from.

After the third instance, on a different day once again, folk worked out that the chattering happened at the end of the July heatwave, when the air turned colder in anticipation of the storm. Knowing this, it was the geography teacher, Mrs Beedle, who finally worked it out. Looking at the diagrams of the school’s construction, she worked out that the natural cavern in which the crypt was located lay directly beneath the playground, the asphalt laid over a very thin layer of rock. She also found, on the side of the cliff atop which Clifftop School sits, a small fissure which led directly into this natural cavern. With these two pieces of information she formulated a theory which, whilst technically unproven, is the best explanation of the chattering we have.

According to Beedle, in the July heatwave the asphalt is heated up tremendously, which in turn heats up the air in the cave below. Over the course of several days it gets rather hot inside the cave. When the air outside suddenly cools, the hot air from inside the cave, at a higher pressure, escapes through the fissure. Presumably there is a loose stone somewhere in the fissure which is agitated and causes the chattering sound. Because of her discovery, folk are no longer quite so scared to go down into the crypt and hear the chattering, which really does sound like it is coming from the skeleton statues, the fissure being located directly behind them. Today a few visitors will be allowed into the school, which broke up for the holidays at the start of last week, where they will listen to the strange chattering noise, and tell ghost stories in the half-light of their torches. They try their best not to disturb the two sisters and their kin, who, we hope, peacefully sleep in their stone caskets, regardless of the usual noise and ballgames happening above them.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Unborn Messiah
  • Crystal Prescription Service Day
  • The Festival of the Broken Tor