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