August 1st – The Festival of the Red Convoy

Tonight Kvira Stormandley is going for a walk. Her friends are going to walk with her. They will all wear blood red robes and masks and gloves; they are quite striking, as they walk alongside her. It’s always at night when she walks; ‘a night walk,’ she once said, ‘makes a person think in new and secret ways.’ They will probably head for a hilltop, or stroll around one of the parks, where the lamplight is less present, Stormandley and her chaperones. She has been dead for sixty eight years.

It was the first of August 1949 when she died. ‘I am going for a walk,’ she said to the doorman, as she did every night she couldn’t sleep. It was a crescent moon that night, almost a half moon. Waxing not waning. She was like to look in at people’s windows, to wonder at the lives there within. From the street level it was mostly light fittings and the tops of bookshelves she saw, the lower windows usually being curtained. But occasionally her persistence would be rewarded with someone leaning out the window, taking in the night air, or the poster of a film star on someone’s ceiling. You could get plenty of thinking done at night, pacing the streets of Buentoille.

Pacing was always a distraction, though, from her work. Real work was mostly done indoors, with the girls. She called them friends but the truth of the matter was they were her, at least that’s how she saw them. Back ups. She taught them everything she knew, in her peculiarly charismatic manner, and they all looked like her, too. They did their hair the same, dark and long and straight, they wore the same red dresses. They knew everything about her childhood, at least everything she remembered. Even the time she killed that cat and hid the body down by Trademire bridge. Later they would dig up its bones, not to act as a relic, but to see if she had been telling the truth. Or was it all some strange joke? Was she really a wizard?

They would sit opposite each other for hours, Stormandley and her friends. She would face them each in turn and look intensely at them, deeply into her eyes. They varied in age but were all younger than her. They had all been invited to her home personally, and when they felt her hand on theirs, cold and warm all at once, they found it difficult to say no. She looked at them, in these daily sessions of staring, the same way as she did back then when she first met them, recruited them. She had them stare into the mirror, too, when she wasn’t sat opposite them herself, one-on-one in her study.

She told them when she first brought them all there what her intention was. She was intensely interested in living. She wanted to keep doing it for as long as possible. She was going to stare at them, and then she was going to keep staring, and at some point she would switch across between the two bodies unnoticed, and for a moment they would not notice but she would be them and they her. They all knew what she was planning, and they all knew she was dying, but none of them seemed to mind, nor did they mind spending half of their lives in this presumably interminable manner. Some of them claimed they had felt the switch happen, if only for a moment, their consciousness jumping across the air between them. They said it was like the feeling of uncrossing your eyes. None of the friends were interested in trying to switch consciousnesses with each other; only with her.

There were other souls drawn into her orbit, none of them had to be there. Doormen and butlers and cooks and cleaners, almost all male. They seemed content with the occasional kind word, the touch of her hand to their cheek, although of course they were paid. When she died, out there on the street, the friends disbanded, their quest unfulfilled. Some of the men went with them, as husbands and servants. Some left and were never heard of again.

It was a heart attack, they said. She was nowhere special, just sitting on a garden wall and staring into a window across the street. It was a cold night, for the beginning of August. The young woman who lived in the house she was staring into was the first on the scene, having heard through her open window, as Stormandley fell backwards off the wall. She was working at her desk under a shawl. Earlier that week she had instigated the masks and robes, trying to make the transfer work more quickly, or for longer. Their eyes were still clearly visible through a slot in the masks, moulded from Stormandley’s face. Perhaps it was a desperate, last-ditch attempt.

Were they sad, when they realised that they had failed? Or was there some sense of relief, now that the woman herself was gone from this world, and could no longer influence them? The friends have never said much about it either way. They had never been that interested in talking to each other, or to journalists, it seemed, and without Stormandley there was nothing to keep them together. They never even talk about where they’re going to walk this year, they just gather outside the house and set off. They feel her presence there with them, weakly, in snippets. Perhaps she spread herself too thinly over them all. They feel her presence there, on that walk, and she guides their steps; they carry her with them. They feel her there with them, not staring in as she once did, but staring out, into the night.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Silver Spoon
  • The Festival of the Seventh Tower
  • The Festival of the Odd General

August 2nd – The Festival of The Headmakers

It was in 1979 when the first of The Headmakers’ records started appearing properly in the music shops of Buentoille, although Greebus Doche’s House of Excellent Music claims they had a home-made EP with a couple of their early songs on it, that had appeared at some point in 1975. They never bought it from anywhere, it just turned up – probably some small band trying to get some exposure. They threw it out after a stock check; it looked unprofessional, was unsaleable. Some say that they never had this record, that they are making this up for some kind of vicarious prestige, in order to be part of the story of The Headmakers.

They never achieved the astronomical success of Ursula Morg or The Greedy Bastards, but The Headmakers have achieved cult status amongst record collectors, and a small but thriving fan base. Party of this reason is that the band have never performed live. It’s difficult, in Buentoille at least, to garner much success without working your way up through the pub circuit and then, if you are lucky, graduating onto the music halls and clubs, the outdoor stadia, live on TV. There are some people who will tell you that they went to an early Headmakers gig in some basement beneath The Sparrow’s Lunch, or in some old factory, but they are almost certainly lying. The Headmakers have never played live, because they probably don’t exist.

There are fifty two Headmakers albums out there, a few of which are only existent in one or two copies, the others presumably lost to similar destructive acts, when the record shops realised that they weren’t on their delivery manifests. After the first few albums, however, it seems that The Headmakers no longer self-published, and began selling their wares through Tornado Sam’s Rootin Tooters, a publisher, manufacturer and distributer of small-batch records. Samuel Windwhip, the sole owner of the business, has been approached by several journalists over the years, looking to reveal the identity of The Headmakers, but apparently they never met in person, only ever conversing by mail that he sent to a (now disused) postal collection box.

Probably the two most popular albums, for their actual musical content, are The Prophecy and Broken Wine Bottles Line the Avenue. The Headmakers’ genre varies across their records, but in these albums it is best characterised as ‘electronic folk rock’. Traditional vocal arrangements are common in these albums amongst their usual mixture of electronically modified potbelly plucker (a kind of guitar common in Buentoille that features an irregular, broken-up fretboard and sympathetic strings), piano and custom percussion. The songs ‘The Handover’ and ‘General Sympathetics’ are stand-out classics with their use of binaural throat singing. Whilst these are the most popular albums musically, there are others which are more sought out for their non-musical content, for what bookends the songs.

Twenty eight of The Headmakers’ albums are presented as one long recording, with the set-up and marginal chatter all preserved on the record. It is this chatter that most fascinates many of their fans, for this is the only information we really have about the famously reclusive band. ‘How was the train?’ asks the lead singer and potbelly plucker player Harris Neuwall, of the pianist Kimae Andonor, at the start of the album The Lord’s Teeth, and so follows three whole minutes of inane conversation, the kind of thing that we all say but need not to, before any music actually begins. In some instances songs will stop half way, Elaim Drugel swearing as they loose the beat on the empty bean cans they were playing, or as an old milk bottle they used for the high notes smashes. They start from the top, ‘we can cut it from the recording later, right?’ says Andonor. For whatever reason they saw these details worthy of being retained in the final, published album.

You can get some post-edited copies of The Lord’s Teeth and the other one-shot albums like it, where everything but the songs has been cut out, but for most Headmakers fans, this is sacrilege. For them, the whole point of listening to the albums is revealing these little conversations, their sitcom-like character interactions, slowly unveiling a narrative beneath it all. It’s clear that whilst Neuwall thinks he is the most important person there, Andonor is the one really running the show. Drugel mostly provides comic relief to these two warring personalities, and can often be heard laughing or scoffing at them in the background. Between ‘All My House is a Lizard’ and ‘Beetle Fulminations’ on the album Interested Parties, Drugel whispers to the listener, close to the mic, whilst the other two argue, ‘they won’t say it but they’re arguing because Kimae slept with his girlfriend and he’s angry even though it was supposed to be an “open relationship”.’

The albums are filled with little details like this, little insights into the world of the musicians which, in aggregate, tell quite the story. Sometimes it is jarring, picking up a new album that was published few months since the last, when you can tell the dynamic has changed, that some argument has been won or resolved or festers still. When the last known album, Saintly Pleasures was published in 2004, Drugel has died in a boating accident, and has been replaced by a new drummer, Wes Quickthumb, who seems very confused by the setup. Neuwall and Andonor keep arguing about who should have been with her that day, whose fault it was that she went out alone with nobody to save her from the water. Their arguments have less fire in them than before.

If you listen carefully, you can work out which street Andonor lived on, which cafe they all frequented for breakfast, where Drugel bought their drumsticks; they were always breaking, but she refused to get them from elsewhere. Avid fans have followed them to these places, closed their eyes, listening out for familiar voices. No faces adorn the album sleeves of The Headmakers’ records, so how would you know if you ever saw them? According to Professor Mitchel Voight of Yerbai Noon University, these fans are fools, waiting for something they will never hear.

In 1992 the Professor published a paper on the band, in which he had analysed the voices carefully and found that they were all probably voiced by one person; the band was a careful creation of some anonymous musician. They attempted to correlate the voice with that of other famous musicians, but none seemed to fit. Since then, this interpretation has been contested, especially by those fans who organise the festival today, a pilgrimage to all the places identified through the marginal album chatter. They knock on all the doors on Andonor’s street, they go to the place they all ate together, they leave flowers by the bend in the river where Drugel died, on this, the anniversary of her death.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Crushed Ice Festival
  • The Festival of Unheeded Retaliation
  • Ham Day

August 3rd – The Festival of the Grave Ever Deeper

When Bernadette Dishwater was seventeen she was walking out in Luck’s End forest, and suddenly she had a vision. She felt herself stepping on her own chest, as she walked through a small clearing. It was similar to that spine-tingling feeling often referred to as somebody ‘stepping on your grave,’ except that it was very clearly on her front, a tingling of flesh and sudden tightness of breathing. She stopped and turned around. She knew at that moment that she would be buried there, deep beneath the sparse grass and leaf mold and roaming tree roots. Later that day, when she got back home and the sun had set, she looked in the moonlit birdbath and asked her reflection when she would die. August the third was what it said back to her.

Well, she didn’t know what year her reflection meant, and technically it could have been that year. In fact, she was pretty sure it was going to be that year, otherwise it presumably would have specified another. So the next day she went out and started digging her own grave. After all, nobody else knew where she was supposed to be buried and they would put her in some horrid cemetery with the other corpses lying close. Out here in the woods there would be nothing but tree roots and worms to bother her.

It took her two days to get the grave how she wanted it. A nice clean square, a pile of dirt conveniently placed by the side so that they could cover her over with ease. She didn’t particularly want to die, but she knew it had to happen, and on what day, and she might as well be prepared. She lay down with her arms crossed to test it out. It was perfectly sized, but too shallow. She’d be dug up by badgers and foxes, she knew it. So she started digging deeper. And deeper, further than six feet, she cut a ramp into the side so she could get out again. She stole her mum’s wheelbarrow and used it to cart out the soil and stones, up the ramp and into the ever-growing pile beside. The deeper she went, the more tranquil she would be, she knew it.

On August the third she kept digging for most of the day, like she had done for her entire summer holidays, but when the sun set she lay down with her arms crossed at the bottom of the pit. She’d dug her grave about eight foot deep by this point, a slow slog through the stony, clayey soil, stopping to chop off errant tree roots here and there. When she woke up in the morning, she was still alive. She’d tried to stay up, but fell asleep shortly after the moon passed across the little window she had looking upwards. She didn’t bother digging the next day.

But yet the next year, and indeed every year after, she would look in the mirror and, was it something about the lighting at that time of year? Each year she would look in the mirror and remember she was going to die, and when and where. When she started work she had less time to go out and dig, so those long summer days with the pick and shovel were, eventually, limited down to one day; the day itself. Today as she has done every other year, Dishwater will head into the woods and cut her grave ever deeper. She begins by touching up the entrance, making sure the ladders and ramps are safe, and then she starts the pump; about twenty years back she hit the water table. She clads the innards of the shaft as she goes, making it water tight, at least for the night, so long as it doesn’t rain. She always falls asleep after the moon passes overhead, and, so far, she has always awoken.

There’s been the occasional walker pass by as she works, the occasional dead animal found in the pit, the occasional journalist pestering her about why she digs there, but for the most part Dishwater’s time out in the woods is peaceful, meditative. With age seems to have come a more forthright approach to life; whereas before she kept her activities from her family and other comrades, the elderly Dishwater has talked about her grave to many people and papers, on the condition that they don’t reveal its location to anyone else. She only digs for an hour or so today, her work mostly confined to maintaining rather than gathering depth; she’s in her eighties now and too frail to work for too long, although paradoxically, she says that building this enormous construction has kept her active and young, has kept death at bay.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Drunken Monkey
  • The Hopeless Festival
  • Littoral Features Day

August 4th – Jellyfish Day

Today Buentoille will witness another effect of the heatwave last month; an enormous quantity of gelatinous, translucent creatures washing up on its shores. Last night fishers out beyond the bay were stymied by the great quantities of the creatures they pulled from the water, instead of the fish they were trying to capture. Given the currents and tides of the Buentoille bay, the moon jellyfish, which do not have any real means of self-propulsion, should be beaching from around 6am this morning. At other times of the year the occasional pod of jellyfish might appear, but the vast quantities we see today are down to the heatwave creating large amounts of plankton, their primary food, which in turn leads to a yearly population boom.

To those whose work and leisure is primarily conducted at sea, these creatures are generally considered a frustrating and somewhat creepy hindrance, a general fouling-up of nets and beaches. Whilst the clear bell-shaped blobs with bright blue or purple horseshoe shapes within (these are actually the jellyfish’s reproductive organs) are generally not considered dangerous, their mild venom can leave those handling them with a rash, and those swimming beside them are also occasionally affected. It’s more that they are gross and tend to get in the way. There has been only one recorded death due to moon jellyfish, and it was unrelated to their venom; a seaside rock-pooler slipped over on one and cracked his head on a sharp rock.

The name ‘moon jellyfish’ has been a point of contention amongst naturalists and etymologists for many years now, since the publishing of Estim Gallelas’ controversial Seventy Sea Words, in which the author claims that the name was invented by the Alchemist Tintagee Vesptracker, who claimed that they appeared in concordance with the full moon, and that the ‘brakkish liykwidde that duse leetch from the fysh uponne the aplikashun af salte and allum’ could be used for the treatment of ‘lunarcey and unnaturalle compolshions.’ Summen Welt, the celebrated etymologist and scholar of Helica, contested that the moon jellyfish had been in most probability been named as such before this text, which was by no means widely read. According to her they had been named after their round, whitish appearance, rather than any alignment with the lunar cycles, which we know from basic observation varies year-on-year. The argument has been simmering for many years now.

The beaching is so significant that most of the bay turns into an odd purple lagoon with the quantity of jellies floating in it, and on some of the beaches you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere clear to stand. As soon as the tide turns later today, many folk will be out with snow shovels, scraping the oozing, sagged jellyfish back into the sea. They die pretty quickly after becoming beached, so the efforts aren’t to save them, but instead to stop the stench of rotting jelly flesh and to deprive scavenging pests of an ample food source. Whilst the jellyfish do little but foul up the shores, the crabs that eat them are a pernicious and aggressive pest that can cause great harm, especially to children, if left unchecked.

Of course the wobbly alien bodies that coat Buentoilliçan shores today are a source of some fascination for children, and there are plenty who receive painful but harmless stings in recompense for their curiosity. Vinegar stalls are set up around the beaches and harboursides by the Orderlies of Good Health today, and will persist for the next week or so until the gelatinous invasion is resolved. Vinegar inhibits the venom-applying structures which attach to the skin, ensuring that they keep their payload from touching or being injected into the skin. Another way of avoiding the sting, whilst still investigating the squishy creatures, is to wear thick gloves or even close-knit tights over your hands, as the stinging cells will stick to them instead.

Knowledge of these two counter-measures to the sting amongst children has led in the last fifty years to a now-traditional Jellyfish day activity: an enormous jellyfish fight. Children from all around the City will don thick clothes, slide tights over their heads and ensure that they are generally well covered, and then sling jellyfish at each other for a number of hours. The scenes are extremely messy, with all of Island View Beach being left uncleared for the purpose. The Orderlies of Good Health will of course be on hand with water pistols full of vinegar for any children unfortunate enough to have their defences breached. Sometimes the fight is a free-for-all, other times distinct war bands form within the flying maritime gore bursting all about. The position of ‘hose bearer’, a child in charge of spraying down the other children after their gloopy battle, is a highly sought-after position within the Union of Children, perhaps because of the opportunity for mischief it provides.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Direct Route
  • The Festival of the First Signs

August 5th – The Festival of Tax Avoidance

In 1352 the district of Chaser’s Valley, which was controlled by the Chastise Church until 1725, gained a new governor. The previous governor (as Chastise Church mayors were called) had died, but because of the complex nature of clerical succession, his replacement was actually from Helmuud’s Hill, rather than Buentoille. The new governor’s name was Sita Berng, and she had never been to the City before.

The position of governor was primarily ceremonial, as any changes to law were either decided by the monarch, Parliament or the Church, and the latter also decided, through the Hierarchy’s council, any major issues of policy. The one duty which Berng was required to perform, other than keeping up postal acquaintance with local dignitaries, was the yearly tax-take. So it came to be that the first time Berng actually travelled to the City was on the 5th of August, 1352, to collect the taxes. It seems that several of the Chaser’s Valley residents saw her coming.

Today, there will be several strange occurrences on the streets of Chaser’s Valley. The primary one of these is that everyone you come across will have a single, old Buentoilliçan coin, scarred with an ‘X’ across the face side. Between each arm of the X, there is also a dot. Each of these people will offer their coin to you, but whatever you do, do not accept; the symbol scored into the coin is that of the Waylayer, the ancient adversary of the Chastise Church and renowned trickster. If you accept then you have been ‘bought’ and must join in the secondary strange occurrence: the ‘filling’ of the scales.

In the central square of Chaser’s Valley today there is a large set of scales set out, with a large plate on one side and weights on the other. At fairly regular intervals, somebody will walk up to the plate and place upon it a single grain of wheat, and then scuttle off the way they came. Almost as soon as they have left, the large gaggle of pigeons that are invariably causing a ruckus next to the scales with descend and eat the wheat grain. This happens for almost the entire day, and the plate never gets any more filled, the pigeons just get fatter. Even when several full pigeons stand on the plate, the weights do not budge.

When Berng arrived to the City, she was met in the appointed place by a young man in priest’s robes. They exchanged the necessary pleasantries, and the man asked her to follow him to begin the tax collection, after saying something unclear about the local Buentoillitants ‘acting strangely.’ This odd behaviour was immediately apparent when they came to the tithing barn (now long demolished), the location where traditionally the local population would bring the fruit of their labours as tax (or as the Church called it, a ‘tithe’), and the place was a hive of frenetic activity, the district-dwellers running two and forth, attempting to fill a set of scales in a manner very similar to the scenes today. When Berng and their guide accosted one of these runners, asking them the meaning of their activity, they said that they were ‘fulfilling an order.’

‘But why do you only carry one seed at a time?’ asked Berng, ‘that is surely madness, and look, nobody is stopping the pigeons!’ The reply, given by various Buentoillitants, was incredulous. ‘Carry more than one! Who do you think I am, Trivam herself?’ (for those unfamiliar with Escotolatian myth, Trivam was a woman possessed by her late husband, a tree, and who possessed extraordinary strength). When Berng realised that she wasn’t going to get any sense out of the runners, she instead demanded the payment that was due. The answer she got from everyone was ‘yes, as soon as we fulfil this order.’

Eventually, with a little prompting from her guide, who you may have guessed by now was in on the plot and not actually who Berng had expected to meet (the plotters had been intercepting the letters sent to the actual clergyman responsible for guiding her for many weeks), Berng asked who the order was for. ‘Oh, we didn’t ask his name. He was tall and dark and wore many funny rings. He paid us all very well.’ At this point, Berng began to get worried; the Waylayer is traditionally depicted in this manner, the ‘funny rings’ containing the souls of those it has entrapped. When she asked to see the payment they were given, and saw the mark etched into the coins, she grew very pale and left Buentoille very quickly, never to return.

To avoid the authorities finding out about their ruse, the people of Chaser’s Valley paid their taxes, but not in full; the Governor was entitled to a third of the final sum as their personal income for the year, and the non-payment of this allowed the district’s poorest to keep food on the table for the full year, rather than going hungry frequently as was usually the case. Unfortunately, the trick only lasted for five years, when it was found out by a Church dignitary insisting on meeting Berng on her visit, the hoaxers not knowing that they had met before.

All of this leaves something of a mystery at hand: why do the Valley dwellers continue their hoax to this day? After that first instance they would have gained nothing from the performance, as the ruse was conducted only via post from that point onwards; Berng never once again visited the City. The answer probably isn’t, as some more fundamentalist Chastise Church followers would have it, that they tempted the Waylayer and actually fell under its spell as a result, carrying out their trickery each year in grim mockery of their actions. More likely, the festival in its modern form began in 1522 as a form of protest to the raise in taxes that year. It was a remembrance of a time that the district triumphed over tax collectors, and was intended to inspire tax strikes, although little further action came of it in the end.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Beating the Living Daylights at Chess
  • The Festival of Tooth Extraction
  • Corkscrew Appreciation Day

August 6th – The Night of Bumblewurze Relocation

A lot of recognising your bumblewurze, if you are not the family member who tends it, is in the decoration. Ribbons, of various colours, are popular, alongside thin patterned cotton handkerchiefs and dangling trinkets – nothing expensive or emotionally valued, just marbles wrapped in wire, or interesting bottle caps, painted corks, beads from old broken necklaces. Some people choose to leave their bumblewurze unadorned, confident that they know it well enough to recognise it the next day, some devise tasteful colour schemes each year. The ‘traditional’ way of decorating these little hardly plants is to let the children loose upon it and see what happens.

‘Bumblewurze’ is a funny name, unlike any other plant names, except maybe the mangelwurzel, a large root vegetable used primarily for animal feed to which bumblewurzes only bear a passing resemblance. The eccentricity of the name was also readily observed in the man who thought it up, Mr. Diggory Ewehurst, known better to his friends and neighbours as ‘Digger.’ It is often mischaracterised as a mandrake variant due to the leg-like exposed root structures that it brazenly flaunts, but the plant is actually more closely related to the money tree, a small succulent with oval-shaped leaves. This is, at least, what the eccentric gardener claimed he mutated the bumblewurze from, using his unique form of plant breeding.

We have known for a long time that exposure to a source of radioactive energy, such as radon, has the potential to create deadly, cancerous mutations in humans. What is less well known is that the exposure of plants and seeds to similar sources has the potential to mutate them in similar ways, some of which are potentially very useful, rather than deadly. It seems that the bumblewurze was created in such a way in Ewehurst’s labs, developing multicoloured leaves and a near-imperviousness to maltreatment that makes it the perfect house plant. If the stories are to be believed, the bumblewurze also has another, more startling feature: it can get out of its pot and walk around in search of new pastures.

The people of Natnit Common, a small suburban section of Calewynch district, were used to the strange ways of Digger, as they called him. He was frequently seen walking his cats (on a lead) at midnight. He held a monthly sale of old junk from his house in his front garden, which tended to be ignored by all but the local children, to whom he was always very kind. His home was only half liveable, the other half being filled with old mechanisms, inventions, and mounds of papers and books. Folk called him a hoarder, but this seems unlikely, considering that many said that if they ever expressed an interest in any of the items in his home it would be quickly foisted upon them, whether they actually wanted it or not. He wore a distinctive knitted waistcoat everywhere he went.

The one thing that people readily took from Ewehurst when he offered it was the bumblewurze; it is a very pretty plant, what with its little round multicoloured leaves, and proved fantastically popular with his neighbours. Atomic breeding has several downsides, aside from the safety concerns (Ewehurst held all the necessary licenses), the primary one of which is that it is almost entirely random, with non-repeatable results. In the process of creating the plant, Ewehurst also seems to have made the plant unable to reproduce sexually, so the only way in which he was able to gift the bumblewurze to others was via growing cuttings. Slowly, throughout his lifetime, the plant spread throughout Natnit Common. The year he died, from old age in 1979, pretty much the entire district had managed to get their hands on a plant. The next year, to celebrate the life of the great and eccentric man, everyone proudly displayed their bumblewurze on their doorstop or window ledge. When they woke up in the morning, their plants had all switched places.

Since his death, folk have still been taking cuttings and spreading the plant throughout Buentoille, and today about three districts will have their streets lined with the pretty, decorated little things. As for the switching of the plants, it has never seemed to have been given any real explanation, and it doesn’t seem as if any was ever sought out. All folk will tell you is that when they wake up in the morning they will probably have a different plant, or none at all, theirs moved on to pastures new. On the street are little trails of potting soil, which the locals enthusiastically point out to their children.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Light Lunch of Saint Jigwyn
  • Scenic Running Day – Get Out of Your Head!

August 7th – The Noylle Brewery Full Moon Festival

Tonight the Noylle Brewery will be full of folks chatting away on little benches and tables set amongst the brewing vessels, drinking the offerings from the last few years. Depending on the weather, they will roll back the articulated roof letting the moonlight shine in strongly. Tonight the full moon will grace the brewery, which is specifically positioned to get the greatest amount of light from the August full moon. All of this is part of the process of creating the legendary beer, the Noylle Moon Daughter.

The Brewery has been standing since at least 1470, when it was mentioned by Dreme Gayle in her book on Buentoilliçan booze culture, Quaffinge, yet its owners claim that their products have a much longer lineage, lasting back before the Brewery was built, all the way to ancient Escotolatian times. The method of brewing was, they say, first devised by ancient Lunar Priestesses, but there is little evidence to back any of these marketing claims up. The singular taste of Noylle Moon Daughter, however, is proof enough that there is some magical quality to their brewing process.

At this stage in the production process, Moon Daughter is not yet officially a beer, but instead a processed wort. It will not become a beer until the end of tonight’s festival, when it has become sufficiently imbued with naturally-occurring yeasts, yet at which point it will still be far from drinkable. The wort is held in large copper tanks with open tops, allowing these air-carried yeasts to drop freely into the solution. With the other beers which the Brewery produces, the wort will be left exposed in this manner for a number of days to allow a good starting culture of yeast before they are sealed, but with Moon Daughter it will be sealed away in a matter of hours. This means that the development of the fermentation culture is slower, and therefore Moon Daughter takes three years to mature fully.

These ‘wild’ beers produced by the Noylle Brewery generally take around two years to properly mature, so Moon Daughter is a significant outlier in this respect. Up until the point at which full maturation is achieved, the beer is not only undeveloped in its flavour profile, it is actually actively disgusting. A week or two into the process and the bacteria which have settled alongside the yeasts (and which all add interesting flavour notes at the end of the process) will have created a layer of foul rime, a mass of suppurating goo that floats atop the beer. Even when bottled the beer continues to taste and smell frankly horrific until maturation, being oft described at this point as smelling like a dead horse rotting on the surface of a bog. At the warm, noisy celebrations tonight the Brewery offers a case of Moon Daughter to anyone who can drink a full pint of another wild variety that has been in the bottle for two weeks.

This jovial atmosphere is part of what makes the beer so good, or so claims the Brewery. Apparently this is only half of what makes Moon Daughter so unique in taste, the other half being the ‘soft touch of the light of mother moon.’ The reason the roof is retracted back is to allow the moonlight in, to touch the exposed wort in the vessels. The vats are tall and cannot be seen into from the ground where the partying goes on, but apparently this is where the drink becomes so clear; Moon Daughter is completely unfiltered by means chemical or mechanical, and yet it looks clear as water, and in fact has no colour to it at all, except the white of the head. Great quantities of Moon Daughter will be drunk tonight by the revellers, who will repeatedly toast to the good health of this year’s batch, hoping that their good will will put the wort at ease, ready to turn clear in an almost magical way.

The festival tends to last all night, beginning when the sun has fully set and ending just before it rises, to ensure that only the light of the August full moon will touch the wort. The beer will not see the light of day again until it is poured into a glass (black bottles are used), although even then experienced quaffeurs say that it tastes better when drunk in the dark. The taste, they claim, is fresh and zingy (yet not particularly hoppy), but with an underlying warmth that fills one’s chest. There is a little sweetness to it, but this is counterbalanced by a generous bitter note. Unlike many other beers it leaves the tongue cleansed and feeling refreshed, and according to many it doesn’t lead to hangovers (whilst still being considerably alcoholic for a beer, at 10%). Some Buentoillitants will drink no other alcoholic drink.

The mysterious chemical changes that come about are yet to be studied in a fully scientific manner, and much of the process and recipe of the beer is kept secret by the Brewery, who have little interest in finding out why it happens when they know how to make it happen again. All requests to set up tests in the Brewery have been met with a firm but polite ‘no’. Recently, the biologist Kaen Winstanley has suggested that the Moon Jasmine, which only opens its flowers for one night, tonight, may have something to do with the idiosyncratic nature of Moon Daughter, as they may harbour a specific yeast or bacteria which is then released along with their potent scent tonight. There are certainly a few specimens of this plant growing up the walls of the Brewery’s small walled garden. No matter how it is created, that Noylle Moon Daughter exists at all is enough for tonight’s gathering, who will chat and drink and laugh and drink in the low lighting well into the night.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Painless Glory
  • The Undulation of Swale Festival
  • The Night of the Moon Jasmine

August 8th – The Festival of the Ancient Self

There are tunnels and caves and passages beneath almost all of Buentoille. They are perhaps most densely concentrated beneath Ranaclois hill, but other hills have their own agglomerated mass of unseen ways worming around beneath their peaks. Beneath Guilgamot district there are arcane tunnels that pierce the cliff-side; some of their entrances are clearly visible, others are less so. One of these hidden entrances appears to have stayed that way for many years, before it was unearthed by Bytam Ogdew in 1744.

Apparently, Ogdew found the entrance when attempting to extend their cliff-side home into the rock, as so many others are. However, past the brick work of their back wall, and after hacking their way through a muddy clay deposit, they came upon a door, seemingly made from solid stone; clearly someone had had a similar idea before them. What they found behind that door has become the basis of countless conspiracy theories, the seed of many scientific studies and theories, and the beginning of today’s festival, The Festival of the Ancient Self.

Today, Ogdew’s house will be visited by many folks from different groups and of different sensibilities, ranging from esotericists to cultural historians to conspiracy theorists and archaeologists. The house now acts more as a shrine than a home, looked after by the Ancestor Foundation, a pseudo-religious group that seeks to ‘unite all those who share the marks of the Ancestors.’ They are a dogmatic group for which the presence of certain DNA markers is a prerequisite to membership, and whilst they are careful to publicly disavow any notion of racial purity or presumed racial superiority, there is certainly more than a hint of this in their internal literature and ‘religious’ practices. The shrine will be opened to the public on this, the day the door behind Ogdew’s home was first opened. The idea is that they will identify others to join their group, although in the process they gather a great many others as well; those eager to see for themselves what lay behind the door.

Why do they call today the Festival of the Ancient Self? Well, because it was on this day, when Ogdew first unsealed the stone door before them, their hair briefly agitated by the air that hissed into the room beyond as they prised it slowly open. And inside they saw something truly bizarre: themselves, dead on a slab in the centre of a small room. Or at least someone or something that looked exactly like them. They were quite rightly very shocked. They ran to get help.

It was probably about an hour or so before they could convince a doctor to come with them. Ogdew was still panicking heavily (not an unreasonable response, it must be said), and wasn’t making a lot of sense, either to themselves or to the doctor, one Marielle Sutogoa. By the time they got back to the room, the corpse’s flesh had melted somewhat, obscuring its features. Within a few weeks it was only bones, but by that point it had been extensively documented by archaeologists and pathologists. According to the latter, the body had died of asphyxiation. According to the former, the introduction of air into what was a near-vacuum before had preserved the body almost perfectly, but that now the decomposition process had started it would be impossible to stop.

Naturally, word got out of this fabulous story of the unexplained, and many theories were bandied about. Most popular was the idea that Ogdew had either made up their alleged sighting of their own features, or had been so shocked to see a dead body that they had got things mixed up in their shocked mind, after the fact. Yet there were other odd elements to this story, most prominently that the body didn’t appear to be a typical human; their arms were slightly longer, legs shorter, and their organs were allegedly placed in the body backwards to the normal configuration, although this final point was not properly recorded and its veracity has been contended since those soft tissues have rotted away. The shape of the resulting skeleton’s skull also seems odd an inhuman, as do he strange bone callouses around its joints.

It didn’t take long for someone to shout ‘alien!’ and the crowds came flocking. Was this box some celestial vessel, crashed into the cliff side. This would certainly explain the tilt it is on, although some claim that this has happened instead because of the soft clay-like soil deposit that the room is constructed within. According to the Ancestor Foundation, the body is an alternate evolution of humankind, and it is the remnants of DNA similar to that taken from the body that they look for to advance their cause. Today the body is back in its central pedestal in that drab, featureless room, placed behind a glass screen, with offerings and gifts lain all about. It is clear to the Foundation that their members have some kind of magical gift, imparted by the genetic roots they share with this shrine-entrapped body.

The miraculous preservation of the body seems proof enough of this ‘magic’ for the Foundation, who they believe deliberately placed himself in such an environment, slowly having the air pumped out, along with any microbes and their own life. Yet there are other, perhaps more scientific theories as well; the room was a tool, a tomb in which they were deliberately trapped and murdered by lack of air, as either a punishment for their sins, or as some murderous method of rendering a strangely mutated person harmless, in the days before such activities were looked down upon.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Tricolour Flag Festival
  • The Festival of Droning

August 9th – The Myre Street Roof Party; The Festival of Welche’s Plateau

Teenagers look at public spaces in different ways to adults. They have a surplus of time, a newfound independence, a need to socialise. ‘Hanging out’ in these spaces becomes the primary method of socialising, when teens turn about 16. Still too young to enter the pubs of the City unaccompanied, a taste for coffee as yet unacquired, the streets that would be hurried past without a second thought by the Buentoillitant adult population are earnest meeting places for small benevolent gangs of teens.

There is nothing more affirming to a friendship than in-jokes, secrets, arcane knowledge kept between a few privileged individuals. So it was that when Namyane Welche found the Plateau, she instantly became beloved by her little group, her friends and followers. She found the place one night, whilst in the grips of terrible insomnia. She’d been walking around the City in the warm, dark summer air, and she spotted the low roof, the handholds. Later, when they all snuck out of their houses, except Charles who was grounded and was being carefully watched by his parents, she showed them the way up: first you climbed on top of he big bin, and then you climbed up the wall side where the missing bricks were and you could drag yourself up to the Plateau.

Today the bin will be replaced, the contrasting bricks once again removed, so the way up into the rooftops of Myre Street are clear. Once up there, you are pretty difficult to spot from the ground, unless you lean over the edge of the building and start chatting to someone below. It was up here that those chosen few teenagers chatted conspiratorially, deepened their friendship by dropping items in front of the pedestrians down below. They would drop, say, a confession of love written on parchment, in front of the occasional complete stranger, a lone night walker down below, then duck back and snigger as they listened to the incredulous readers. They may have sparked a minor incident in a couple once when a young lady took one of their notes a little too literally, seeing it as a proposal of marriage from their significant other, a love declaration from the sky.

Had things not turned out the way that they sadly did, each of these teens would probably have forgotten the route up to that magical space above the city streets, the conjoined, flat roofs of Myre street where the views were excellent and the space vast. Up there on the lead, marked with teenage doodlings near the edge where they normally sat, they hopped between the different roof levels and felt as if they owned the world, but they would have cast it all aside as adults, had Welche not then died in an automobile accident when they were all 17.

Today, on the anniversary of her death, Welche’s friends will all drag themselves onto the rooftops, their stomach muscles complaining, not unused to the climb, and there they will party in her memory. Some time back her best friend, Katarina Dersde, bought the house on the end, where the makeshift footholes reside. She hasn’t changed it externally one bit. This was, and still is, their space, which brought them all closer together.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Compromise
  • The Festival of Black Winged Bat Singing
  • Throat Relaxation Day

August 10th – The Festival of Sole Concealment

You can tell a lot about someone by the way they walk. Do they high-step around, chin out and shoulders straight, or do they drag their toes on the ground as they go, hands in their pockets? Mood is one thing, but then there is temperament, personality. There are those who hold it as a fundamental belief that extroverts wear their boots down on the outside edge, and vice-versa for those who are introverted. Inward-pointing toes have long been seen as a sign of shyness, demureness, even. There are hedge-wizards and urbane seers who practice calceiomancy, a form of divination by which they can allegedly foresee the near future of the shoe’s wearer.

Perhaps it is because of the existence of these sole-reading oracles, who would once have met travellers on the roads outside the City, or accompanied bootblacks and shoe shiners in the concatenated alleys of the Warrens, that today’s festival exists. Although, whilst they were once generally driven out of more ‘respectable’ districts, the festival is observed Citywide. Nowadays you are more likely to see dedicated shops for these once-itinerant oracles, often with shop signs depicting a boot divided into several sections. In 1998 Divination Weekly recommended that anyone looking for ‘true’ calceiomantic services should avoid shops with fancy signage and black velvet drapes (the magazine claimed that these were owned by ‘trendy copycats’), instead opting for those which would appear to be just a residential home, were it not for the several pairs of old boots nailed to the doors and window frames, or slung over the washing lines outside, suspended by their laces.

There are certainly some similarities between the beliefs of calceiomancers and the beliefs that accompany today’s festival, The Festival of Sole Concealment; whilst there are some calceiomancers who will tell you anything you want to hear, if you pay them enough, traditionally they can only tell your future insofar as it involves the boots they are divining from. Once you stop wearing the shoes frequently then that is where their prophetic powers cease. Brand-new shoes, however, are all but useless to a calceiomancer as they are yet to be imprinted with the personality of the wearer; they do not yet bear the creased leather, worn soles, telltale marks and holes that act as divinatory signs. By the same token, those engaging in today’s festival see their old shoes as a kind of record of a past self, imbued with potentially perilous power.

There is a well-worn Buentoillitant saying that goes, ‘spend a day in your mother’s shoes and you will understand what it is to bear a child.’ Popular understanding has it that this phrase (which in modern parlance is used to provoke feelings of solidarity in the shortened invocation, ‘think of your mother’s shoes’) has its roots in an old Buentoilliçan practice of giving ‘pregnand shoes’ to expectant mothers, which would be blessed by a priest and worn up to the point of labour to ward off miscarriage and birthday complications. Because of the different gait that pregnant women adopt, the shoes wear rather differently to everyday ones, making them somewhat uncomfortable for non-pregnant women to wear.

Apparently, when any daughters expressed an interest in having their own children, their mother made them wear her pregnand shoes for a day, a small taste of the pain and discomfort that this choice would entail to ready them and test their resolve. In many of the writings about this practice there is another element of discomfort, other than the strange wear of the shoes and the presumable sizing issues, which is referred to in passing and would be incomprehensible to many non-Buentoillitants; the mother’s ‘vestige,’ or (less commonly) her ‘eidolon.’ Through this spirit-like memory of the pregnant mother, which is absorbed into the fabric and sole of the pregnand shoe, the daughter is said to experience something of the emotional and physical sensation of pregnancy.

It is this vestige that is being carefully stored away today, in The Festival of Sole Concealment. According to Buentoilliçan folklore it is not just pregnand shoes which have their own eidolons attached to them, but every shoe worn for a significant amount of time. Most Buentoillitants do not own more than one or two pairs of shoes at a time, only buying new ones when the old wear out. As such, each pair wears out relatively quickly, and tend to remind them of a particular time in their lives. If the folklore is to be believed, this is because they actually retain some sliver of their essence within their leather or cork and canvas (the most common materials used by vegans, who are populous in eastern Buentoille, especially). Anything extensively handled by Buentoillitants is said to pick up some of this essence, but, perhaps in the same way that they readily retain smells, shoes are thought to be a particularly potent vessel for a vestige or eidolon. It goes without saying that the homonym of sole and soul has not been lost on Buentoillitant poets.

It certainly doesn’t seem wise or natural to throw away one’s self, or rather, one’s former selves, and yet few have space in their homes for the retention of numerous broken shoes. Apart from an instinctual desire to retain these vestiges, there is also the possibility that someone else, perhaps a rogue hedge-wizard or a malevolent witch, could do something sinister with the shoes, that they could in some way use the eidolon against that which it once modelled itself upon. Nobody likes having their past come back to haunt them. So it is that today’s festival came about, wherein old shoes are sealed in the walls, beneath the floorboards and within the rafters of Buentoilliçan homes. There, out of sight and mind, they are thought to act as benevolent guardians to the home, driving off any foreign spirits through virtue of taking up all the available supernatural space.

The festival has been observed since at least 1253, when it was mentioned in passing by Siminam Platesweep, the Catrosondian philosopher who visited the City that year, in her memoirs. Little is know about why the 10th of August was chosen to be the day that shoes are stored in their nooks, but it is now considered supremely unlucky to conceal shoes on other days of the year. Platesweep seems to imply that there was some kind of shoe-based saint or deity connected to the practice, though this is a point of great contention within folkloric academia. There is perhaps more pertinent evidence to be found in some of the older Buentoilliçan buildings, which are presumably bursting at the seams with old worn-out shoes, but there seems to be a general moratorium upon removing them, even amongst Buentoillitants who do not count themselves as superstitious.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Hemichordate Study Day
  • The Festival of Mapstone Blue Synthesis
  • The Festival of Crime After a Fashion