The gablelarks know it is coming, long before the Buentoillitants below. Tonight they won’t settle into their roosts, but will instead circle restlessly in the sky all night, perching warily only for a moment here and there. They are very noisy, continuing to chatter nervously all night. Natural philosophers have long debated the purpose of their circling formations, with some claiming it is to ensure they do not lie vulnerable in their nests to tonight’s other aerial visitors. Other, perhaps those overburdened with a sense of civic pride, claim that it is a hunting formation, or even an attempt at protecting the City’s human inhabitants by scaring off or preying upon the migratory needlenoses that will swamp Buentoille tonight.
The gablelarks are certainly much larger than the needlenoses, and are known to occasionally hunt the new arrivals, although probably for the normal reasons of survival and opportunism, rather than some lofty inter-species sense of duty. It is also the case that the gablelarks will indeed find themselves preyed upon, though not fatally, by the other birds, much like every other prostrate warm-blooded creature that lies in their path. A small, quick-flitting bird with a long, thin beak (its ‘needle nose’), the needlenose’s primary food source is the blood of mammals and other animals, which it extracts from their bodies in a manner similar to which a nurse takes blood donations. Unfortunately for most Buentoillitants, this includes them.
Closed windows is the first port of call when trying to sleep without the dreaded ‘red spots’, the ghastly calling card of the needlenose bird. It’s no surprise that the animals spread disease and somewhat weaken their victims (whilst a single bird takes less than a few thimbles full of blood, en masse they can prove quite dangerous), even with the natural coagulant that their beaks are covered in. One particularly nasty disease spread by the needlenose is Saint Agarix’s Fire, a bacterium which causes damage to nerve endings and creates the sensation that one is on fire at random intervals. Whilst antibacterial treatments are effective, once the damage has been done it is irreversible, and before the burning sensation there are few noticeable symptoms, besides the characteristic red spots of needlenose incisions. Therefore it is imperative that you protect yourself from the depredations of the needlenose tonight.
For a bird that causes such pain, the needlenose is paradoxically very beautiful. It is a dark blue with little white flecks, and seems almost coated in an iridescent sheen. Unsurprisingly, this beauty is lost on those who have, forgetting to secure their sleeping quarters, suffered under the piercing beak of the animal. The creature featured heavily in sixteenth century anarchist propaganda as a stand-in for the aristocratic classes, looking far more malevolent and ugly than it does in real life. Similarly, in late 18th century public service posters, a similar black and greasy appearance is shown, in an attempt to scare folk into keeping the ‘blood stealers’ at bay.
It’s not just windows that must be secured tonight, but also fireplaces, cat flaps, in short any possible point of entry to the home by something which could easily fit in the palm of your hand. The needlenose is a determined creature and seems to be able to seek out large mammals like humans from many miles away. Thankfully this also means that they will not stop for more than a night, being lured away in their migratory fashion by the promise of much larger, more easily accessible mammals across the plains to the east; the enormous herds of horses that allegedly roam the great plains that stretch out in that direction. Presumably they come back around to Buentoille via other routes, as they always pass west to east. Unless they are new birds each time, going east to die. The appearance of the birds is pretty regular, usually falling within five days either side of July the 27th, except for 1912, when the birds are thought to have had their navigation senses confused when the magnetic pole flipped for three weeks.
There are, of course, those who seek out the stabbing wounds, believing them some godly penetration. For these Buentoillitants, The Pierced Covenant, Saint Agarix’s Fire is a blessing; a glimpse of the divine, the infinite pain that their god suffers so that we might exist in the ‘void’. The soporific compound extruded as a powder from between the feathers of the needlenose probably had some hand in creating these beliefs, as it acts as a mild hallucinogen as well as deadening the flesh and keeping the bird’s victim asleep whilst it stabs into their flesh and sucks up the blood through its straw-like beak. Humans have been known to awake during the process, but often in their dazed state they do not view the bird as a threat. This is probably for the best, as killing a needlenose or yanking it out mid-sup can cause fatal bubbles of air to enter the victim’s bloodstream.
If tonight you find a needlenose in your room or attached to your person, or find the characteristic red spots about your body, especially above arterial veins, or even small patches of blood on your bedclothes, then make sure to follow these four steps:
1. Raise the alarm and send a runner to the local paramedic.
2. Do not remove the bird or kill it when it is still attached to your body. Wait until it is full and detached, and then kill it, if you wish.
3. Encourage the wound to bleed for two minutes by pressing the flesh around it, and then wash with clean water and (if possible) an antibacterial compound.
4. Get to the nearest hospital or medical centre as soon as possible, preferably with the aid of the paramedic, if they are available.
If you believe that you anyone you know is planning on wilfully exposing themselves to needlenoses tonight, then please inform your local MHS representative as soon as possible (if necessary, confidentially via the post), so that they can be offered the relevant support. Whilst the Pierced Covenant have long-standing healthcare arrangements, wilful exposure is discouraged in the strongest possible terms, and is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Other festivals happening today:
- The Electric Brood’s Festival of the Second Lens
- The Festival of Buentoilliçan Handicraft
- Bowtie Day