August 11th – The 190th Annual Meeting of the Wierback Mathesson Appreciation Club

It’s a strange thing to think that at one time Buentoillitants could live their whole lives never seeing who ruled over them. Nowadays, something in the region of 93% of eligible City-dwellers elect the members of the Council of Logistics each year, and most decisions that do not require a quick response are decided via direct democracy, so there is little chance of a similar thing happening. Hearing about political leaders must have been an exercise in imagination, similar to modern day listeners of the radio trying to decide the facial features of their hosts from the disembodied voices.

The now defunct ruling body, Parliament, would have only been visible through court cartoonists and private portraits, perhaps the occasional etching. Members were allowed to submit their own privately commissioned (and far more flattering) portraits to the papers and to accompany their permanent voting record. As such these images were generally deemed unreliable, treated with a pinch of salt. It must have been quite the revolution when photographs came into popular usage.

Weirback Mathesson had endured something of a slander before the advent of easily accessible photography, with many political enemies claiming that he was incredibly ugly, and that the images he had commissioned were a cover-up. Mathesson was part of the Liberal Alliance, one of the primary parties of Buentoille, which generally espoused more centrist values than its adversarial cousin, the Traditionalist Tendency. Whilst there were plenty of politicians who must have seen Mathesson’s face on a daily basis, they knew that the general public could not have laid eyes upon it, especially as the man was the treasurer and made few public appearances. The Tendency even went so far as to hire ugly actors to make fake speeches and disincline any voters against him.

This strategy hideously backfired on the opposing party when photographs were introduced, and Mathesson was not only revealed to be not hideous, but instead a phenomenally attractive young gentleman, who the crowds suddenly began to flock to watch speak. ‘The Dandy Politician,’ he was called, and even to this day Buentoillitants refer to him as ‘The Butterfly of the House.’ Soon street hawkers were selling his image outside Parliament and throughout the City, papers were obsessing over his attire, opponents were criticising him for his alleged focus on style over substance.

At one time, the Wierback Mathesson Appreciation Club would have discussed issues of policy and moralistic stands put forward by Mathesson, who was a stoic protector of the free press, an organisation that frankly didn’t need much protection. Nowadays, what with the man having been dead for well over a hundred years, these issues are barely mentioned, the modern appreciators making no bones about what it is they are interested in: Mathesson’s appearance. There is even an attempt to revise his politics, to see more progressive elements within it that simply weren’t there originally, and there is a semi-serious series of comic books that feature a modern-day Mathesson as their protagonist.

The politician’s dark visage, broad shoulders and frequently open shirts have long been obsessed over by the Buentoillitant citizens who will today (Mathesson’s birthday) compare their fan art: paintings, embroidered shirts, fancy-dress costumes, comic books and all manner of other forms of artistic worship of Mathesson’s semi-divine form. The group seems to have perpetuated itself over the years with the reproduction of these images, and with the mass production of those original, almost pornographic photographs (shirtless, lying amongst silken sheets, a hand through tousled hair), and the encouragement of the desire they invoke. There are those who have the temerity to declare that Mathesson isn’t actually that attractive, that he would be unremarkable were it not for the fact that the Traditionalists had depicted him as such an ogre, yet they are usually shouted down by the Club members.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Stuck Axe
  • The Tryst of Saint Hawile
  • Wine Wine Wine Wine Festival

August 12th – The Repainting of the Maypan Street Monolith

If you are a regular visitor to Sleade Yard you may, at some point, have wondered which artist put the small-building-sized concrete block in the centre of Maypan Street, placed in such a way that the road is forced to split around it, like a river around a large boulder. The answer is that whilst it may today be considered a work of art, no artist placed it there. The Monolith was never intended for the purpose it serves today, although nobody is quite sure what its original purpose actually was.

In contrast to their sturdy canvass, the artworks that adorn the edifice today have very definite creators. On the craggy south-east side, the multifaceted face has been painted as a portrait of Dané Wilder, the woman famous for her fostering of over 700 babies in her lifetime, by the artist Ewe Saronne. Each intersecting plane of concrete is painted with its own image, of her face, her hands, a close-up of her eye. The staircase-punctured western side is painted in such a way (by Quixom Stanley) that it appears that a light is coming from the top of the staircase (which begins from two metres above ground and angles into the centre of the Monolith, ending in nothing but more concrete), a skeleton standing guard at the bottom. The northern side is a single flat plain, painted as a personal map of Buentoille, drawn from memory by Omellious Brauw; it looks similar to the normal maps you can buy from newsagents and street hawkers, except certain roads are longer, wider with more detailed twists and turns than others, some of which are entirely absent.

These artworks in house paint have only been existent for a year, and today will be wiped out, something new created in their place. This years artists are Ardellor Finnacre, a performance artist, Mauve Wittenbrau, a landscape painter, and Caestus Rheums, the celebrated portrait artist. They were decided upon by the inhabitants of the surrounding houses, who make the selection each year from a huge pool of talented artists that have put themselves forward, and have been doing so since Tricciam Winzyev proposed the scheme, intended to celebrate the opening of the road, which occurred on this day in 1953. Both the road and the houses that line it were built some time after the Monolith (which was originally part of a half-finished shopping centre that never gained enough backing to proceed), meaning that the houses face in from almost all directions, and would appear eye-shaped if one were looking down on them from above.

The most popular explanation for the incongruous concrete block is that it was intended to be some central column in the planned shopping centre, although this doesn’t explain the idiosyncratic shape. It was retained after the rest of the site was removed, presumably either because of the difficulty deconstructing such a large, solid piece of concrete, or because of its curious aesthetic qualities. Unfortunately the records which would have explained this decision were destroyed in a fire in 1946, along with the blueprints for the failed shopping centre, three years after the road and red brick houses were constructed. This unusual occurrence has been seen by some as a ‘cover up’ of the Monolith’s alternate, ‘true’ purpose, which is disputed between various theories but is invariably sinister in some manner.

Most prominent amongst these theories is the idea that the Monolith is some kind of (now concrete filled) air recycler for a monarchist hideout beneath the surface of Maypan Street. There is very little evidence to suggest that this was the case, especially as there are no signs of any air shafts, filled in or no, but of course this does nothing to stop many conspiracy theorists from trying to find some access route to the alleged bunker below. Others believe that the concrete hides bodies suspended within it, or that it is a depiction of some brutalist god. Quite what inspires these ideas is unclear.

For those who dwell in the houses that look directly out at the Monolith, this apparently purposeless edifice has become a big part of their lives and identity, and long discussions were held in the past few weeks about who would be cracking open the paint tins this year. For the past three years there have been serious discussions about sympathetically painting the front walls of their houses, as well.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Droll Bell
  • The Great Hot Pepper Extravaganza
  • The Festival of the Seventh Extractor

August 13th – The Festival of Submarine Visions

When a monger whale beached on the shores of Buentoille in 1995, there was nothing that anyone could do to save it. It was some way down the coast, out of sight from the City itself, and by the time it was found by a fisher its lungs had already collapsed; it was too late. The death of any whale is a deeply sad occasion in Buentoille, where their hunting has long been illegal for hundreds of years. They are considered highly intelligent creatures, and are revered amongst fishers, who see them as the rightful owners of the oceans. There are, however, groups who take a more opportunistic approach to such sad events, and foremost amongst these opportunists are the The Church of the Goddess in the Deep (CGD).

After the mourners had left that day in 1995, the CGD set to work. They stripped the whale of all its blubber, organs and flesh, retaining the former and throwing the latter elements back into the sea. It was hard, visceral work, which had to be done quickly to avoid the whale bloating and then potentially exploding. They took the creature’s blubber and boiled it down into whale oil, which they stored in large barrels which were later removed to the CGD’s single place of worship, the High Church. They also sawed up the creature’s bones and took them too.

There were plenty of protests in response to these actions, which were deemed highly disrespectful; whales are usually left to naturally decompose, unless they are too close to the City where the smell would cause offence. The fact that it was a monger whale, the most intelligent species of whale, which had become beached meant that the disrespect was all the more keenly felt. There is, however, no law which disallows the collection of whale remains, just one which prevents their murder. CGD responded to these protests by stating that they didn’t want the oil and bones for material profit, and intended no disrespect. This fraught interaction was pretty much the first that most Buentoillitants had seen of the CGD, and today they are still known primarily as ‘those whale butchers.’

Despite having been around for about many years prior to these seemingly brutal actions, the CGD maintained a fairly low profile, which may explain why they are known for nothing else but the incident in 1995. The religion was started in the late nineteenth century by Phenol Estriss, a scrap merchant who specialised in reclaiming goods and materials from sunken ships in the Buentoille bay, using diving bells. She set up the Church shortly after she nearly drowned when her diving bell struck the edge of a rock on the sea bed and became filled with water. She slipped out of consciousness but was dragged, alive, to the surface by her colleagues. During the time she was out, she was allegedly visited by the ‘Goddess in the Deep,’ a ‘tentacled presence’ that had ‘reached out with promises of a life below.’

The Church of the Goddess in the Deep maintains a constant nautical presence, with members only going ashore for essential goods. Their vessel, the High Church, is the very boat which carried the diving bell that Estriss almost died in, and it is within this vessel that today’s festivities will take place. It mostly drifts around the Buentoille bay, but has been known to venture out into the Inner Ocean on occasion. The fact that the members of the church therefore rarely go ashore might explain to some extent the relative obscurity of the religion, which developed its practices in response to repeated ‘visions’ experienced by Estriss in her sleep; the concept of gathering whale oil wasn’t canon until at the latest 1913.

With the first glut of whale oil, the CGD lit their wave-top church, in the hopes that the oil would reveal messages from the Goddess in the shadows it cast when burned, as was theorised by their founder decades before: the 1995 incident was the first time we know of in which the acolytes actually had a whale carcass to strip. This oil was, however, all worked through by 1997. It was then that the acolytes turned to bone oil, a near-black substance that leeches from whale bones and produces acrid black smoke when burned. In accordance with the teachings of their leader, the CGD burn candles made from the oil in the diving bell itself as it descends into the ocean. As the bell fills with smoke, each member therein is said to experience vivid hallucinations, most probably through lack of oxygen rather than the chemical and spiritual composition of the smoke, as the Church claims. Monger whales, which are capable of diving to great depths, have had their bones infused with the ‘presence of the Goddess,’ or so the theory goes.

The issue with this new ritual that they created is that, whilst the bones do contain a tremendous amount of the oil, they only leech out enough for a single trip beneath each year. This being Buentoille, this is exactly what happens, with the CGD members carefully gathering whale bone oil all year, only to burn it all on one day, today, when they originally ran out of the blubber oil. Quite what sort of hallucinations each member receives is unclear, given their general lack of availability for interview.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Ghost of Progress
  • The Joyful Beating of the Cerna Street Monarchist Festival

August 14th – The Festival of Feeding the Maw

Harvest time is coming up, when the majority of Buentoilliçan crops will be cut and laid into the stores. Historically, a lot has rested on the few weeks leading up to the harvest, when adverse weather conditions and the potential for pests and diseases were a constant worry for farmers. A lower than average harvest could lead to hunger and even starvation in the long winter months. It makes sense, then, that as with other objects of worry there would be rituals and superstitions to avoid catastrophe; today’s festival is perhaps one of the most idiosyncratically Buentoilliçan of these rituals.

The gathering point of today’s festival, the Festival of feeding the Maw, is the south wall of the Church of Saint Euchleda, in Whight Hollow. There, on the green behind the church, cooking stations are set out, inside marquees and tents, where some of the most renowned Buentoilliçan chefs will spend their day, chopping and broiling and basting and roasting and frying. Each will make five to eight elaborate dishes, using the finest ingredients. Just down from these chefs, a beer tent throngs with people, and there are other foods available to nibble at beneath the auspicious August sun forecast for this year’s ritual. When each dish is ready, a raffle ticket is drawn and one of the many revellers drinking beer nearby will come forward to taste it.

There are thousands of tickets sold each year, separated into vegan and non-vegan options, so you will have to be very lucky to get to taste any of the prestigious dishes. Yet it is a prize worth gambling on; not only is the food extremely delicious, but winning the position of taster is said to be a sign of good fortune, and the winners should expect several other lucky occurrences in the coming weeks, so long as they conform with the expectations of their newly won role. The first expectation is easy: they must first eat a single mouthful and declare it delicious, or if it is not they must give it over to a second taster for cross-referencing. This has only happened twice, once in 1703 (the taster hated garlic) and again in 1839 (the taster called their soup ‘overcooked’), and on both occasions the cross-referencer deemed it delicious, allowing it to continue on to the secondary stage.

The second thing expected of the taster is a lot harder than the first, which is usually very pleasurable. In the secondary stage, the taster must take the delicious food, of which they have only eaten one mouthful and are presumably salivating for more, and walk over to the church wall, where a large woman’s head is carved. Into the carving’s mouth, which is open wide, a dark hole extending back and then downwards for an unknown distance, the taster must then throw the rest of the perfectly good meal, plate and all, reciting the words, ‘I commend this meal to the earth, and ask humbly that she might give such delights in return.’ If they take even another bite then the harvest may be sacrificed and they will lose their promised luck (which is usually immediately recognised by a few free beers at the bar), so few have ever dared to do so. There are gruesome stories of stubborn, greedy or ignorant revellers eating more than allowed and being thrown down the hole after the remains of the meal, although these are in all probability untrue, given that the hole is only about a foot across.

You might suppose there is some storeroom below which is emptied by the clergy of the Church of Saint Euchleda, but the Church denies this, and no evidence of any such room has been found on the various occasions when the Church has been investigated. Presumably, then, there is some cave below filled with rotting food and drink (for it is customary to pour the dregs of your pint down the Maw, as the woman’s gaping mouth is known locally), yet there are no discernible smells that would suggest this explanation, nor can the sound of running water be heard, so there is no underground stream carrying the food away. Some suggest that the caves below are accessible to rats and other wildlife, which eat the food and prevent smells rising, though it’s not known where they might gain access.

The other mystery at play here is nobody is sure who the face is supposed to represent. It certainly isn’t Saint Euchleda, who is depicted extensively inside the Church and looks entirely different. The general theory is that she is some nameless spirit of the earth, perhaps modelled after a greene woman (which would explain the leaves in her hair). She isn’t even mentioned by anybody writing about the church until 1532, so it is possible that she was carved some time after her construction, though again quite why this church was chosen is unclear – Saint Euchleda is primarily remembered for her ability to Attune (i.e. to achieve a religious mental state of oneness with the world) through the extended, unwavering observation of ink diffusing in water – surely a far better church to choose to carve would be that of Saint Eulogeen, who gained sainthood by developing a form of Attunement which leveraged the uncomfortable feeling of having eaten far too much.

In 2015, Roachi Callendre unearthed a large illuminated manuscript from a forgotten corner of the Hidden Library, which he claims relates to the construction of the Maw. The manuscript is yet to be independently dated and verified, so his claims must be treated with a certain level of scholarly suspicion, but if true they could signal a fundamental change in the way that today’s festival is understood. Of the two pages that Callendre points to, the first is the least remarkable, but seems to provide the most useful detail; it describes a process for creating regular holes in masonry through the application of various acids and counter-agents. The second page is some way on into the text, and is just an illustration with no text. It shows the outline of a naked woman, sitting cross-legged in a stomach-shaped cave, a stony oesophagus extending up to the edge of the page.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Criminal Wave
  • The Festival of the Retch of Saint Kilnswotter
  • Feather Duster Appreciation Day

August 15th – The Festival of Sour Grapes

Unlike wines imported from more southerly climes, Buentoilliçan wines have long been less sweet and more acidic, or ‘fresher’ as sommeliers are wont to term it. This is primarily down to the climate of Buentoille, which is a too cold to produce sweeter, high yield grapes like mother’s bosom and pearl of nectar. Instead, the most popular variety of wine-making grape in Buentoille is snake’s eye, a dark green variety that has a thick skin which adds subtle, almost herbal, flavourings and a sustained dryness to the juice and consequently the wine. There are very few red varieties of grape grown in the Buentoille region.

Today it is a little early to be harvesting grapes for wine, but according to the chief viticulturalist of the Black Soil Vineyard, today is the perfect day to harvest grapes for brandy (which is distilled from ‘base wine’, itself made from early-harvested grapes), and more importantly for the creation of sting, the drink for which the Black Soil Vineyard is famous. Early this morning, before the sun rises, this year’s workers will despondently arrive, dragging their feet and looking pensively off into the distance. They are all spurned lovers, those who have been recently rejected, and today they have the opportunity to put their pain to good use.

It is the belief of the Vineyard, and of many who drink sting, that the pain of these poor souls, struggling to handle rejection, is what gives sting its characteristic taste and, well, sting. The finished product is somewhere between brandy and the ‘base wine’ from which it is produced, in terms of distillation and alcohol content (about 45%), but it tastes remarkably different from both. In addition to the alcoholic ‘burn’, there is a sourness that is not accompanied by a pain in the stomach as with many too-sour wines. In combination, what is created is something similar to the sensation of being stung by a bee, but on the tip of your tongue only; it is an acquired taste.

The pain of the workers is said to be imbued into sting at every stage of the process that they are involved in; picking and stomping the grapes are the primary two activities that they partake in, the latter apparently being a very therapeutic activity. In the same way that during the stomping process phenolic chemicals leech from the skins into the liquid that later (after partial distillation) becomes sting, imparting flavour, the heartache of the ex-lovers is said to leech from them, usually leaving them feeling much better about themselves.

In addition to these normal wine-making practices, the workers also contribute two other crucial elements to the production of sting. Firstly, they are required to provide written testimony (leaving names and identifying details out) as to the exact nature and cause of their heartbreak, so that it can be balanced with other forms of betrayal and unrequited love, and can be included on the tasting notes later. Secondly, if they have any physical reminders of their now-gone lover, they are encouraged to burn them ceremonially tonight. The ashes will later be used to fertilise the Vineyard, and this is where the name ‘Black Soil’ comes from.

In addition to generous pay and catharsis, the workers will also each receive a bottle from the fruit of their labours, later on when the other processes have been completed. Sting is one of those alcoholic beverages that is seldom drunk, sitting at the back of the cabinet gathering dust, but this is not because it lacks quality. It is a rare product, as the Vineyard is small, so is given due respect in that regard, but also it is usually saved for moments of sombre reflection, for lonely nights and funereal gatherings. The dark green liquid is thought to engender feelings of pensive sorrow, the kind of feeling you have when looking back on a period of your life that is slowly but surely slipping from your memory. Sometimes there is a perverse pleasure in wallowing in these emotional states, and it is in those moments that someone will reach for the bottle of sting, pour a small measure into a little cup, and savour the bitter, stinging flavour, the way it lingers on the tongue like an unwanted lover lingers in the recesses of your heart.

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Day to Remember the Controlling of Sister Mandreeal
  • The Festival of the Straightest Flights
  • The Cold and Bitter Sea – A Festival of Immersion

August 16th – Immortality Day

On any other day in Buentoille, you might pass by someone in Etange grave dress. The odds aren’t particularly high, as there are only about 500 Followers of Etange (or ‘Etangers’ as they are often known) in the City, but still, you might, and the grave dress makes them relatively easy to spot in a bustling street; they wear great circular pleated fans on each of their shoulders, decorated with bright splashes of colour. A third, larger pleated fan straddles between the other two, cresting above the head. Their sleeves are long, loose, and also pleated. The rest of the garment is a short grey dress, not pleated, which reaches down to the same height as the sleeves end: just above the knee. The clothes are the same for all genders, and change only in the colours that are splashed over them. These are the clothes that the Etangers will wear to die.

It is significant that you might see these garments on any other day; the Etangers wear the clothes because they believe (probably fairly sensibly) that they could die at any moment, and they want to look their best for when they meet Etange in the world beyond. Today they cannot die, or so they believe. According to the teachings of their blessed Etange, so long as they do not deliberately put themselves in harm’s way, they will never die on August the 16th, because this is the day that Etange narrowly survived a train crash.

To give them their full name, Giamo Etange (1859 to 1931) was a fashion designer who was unattached to any of the big fashion houses before the Revolution, but was nevertheless lauded for their exceptional taste and skill. Perhaps it was because of this lack of affiliation that they continued their success into post-Revolutionary times, becoming a prominent figure within the Buentoilliçan Fashion Cooperative. It was in 1907 that they were involved in the train crash, an event that had a marked effect on their personality and outlook on life, partly because of brain damage they received in the incident.

At first, there seemed nothing changed about Etange, yet it fairly quickly became clear that they had developed an obsession in their work with fans and pleats. This was, however, only the most obvious part of a new set of aesthetic rules they now felt bound by; a new paradigm of beauty which they had somehow internalised through their injuries. In addition to this new obsessive nature, Etange also realised how fleeting life is, and how it can be taken away by the smallest of things. They had actually almost died during the Revolution, when a stray bullet took a chunk of their arm away, but this new incident seemed more wanton; these were not exceptional circumstances, as in the Revolution, Etange had just been getting their usual train to work, as they did most days.

In the last twenty or so years of their life, Etange began to build up something of a religious group around them, partly as a result of a newfound intensity and belief in the power of their new aesthetic paradigm. Their central belief, that they will go to Etange’s personal heaven when they die, seems to have been influenced by the Chastise Church’s teachings that we as humans are the only thing that makes our afterlife possible, though this similarity was never officially recognised by Etange. The spirits of those Etangers who have an enduring love of the work their leader created in these last twenty years of their life are shaped in some way by this experience of alternate beauty, leading them down what Etange called a ‘different, previously unseen track in the railroad of the afterlife.’

In order to ensure that the universe knows which lever to pull on this ‘railroad’, the Etangers wear their grave dress every day, just in case they are killed randomly, simply by something as innocuous as getting the train to work. Today, then, is the only day that you will see an Etanger out of their grave dress, in ‘normie’ clothes, as they call it. They don’t look particularly comfortable in these clothes, which are usually the same each year, bought many years back. Oddly enough, you can still easily pick them out of a crowd, perhaps it’s something about the way they stand, their backs unused to life without the weight of the large fans attached to them.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Self Defence Classes
  • The Festival of Truculence
  • Seemly Gawlem’s Day

August 17th – The Festival of True Buentoille

On this day in 1730 Homily Stravond’s book, History and Traditions Sadly Lost in Buentoille, was published, receiving a mixed reception in the following weeks. With many folks it struck a chord; these were days of great change and expansion of the City, and with changes like that often things are overwritten, left behind. Political tensions were beginning to escalate, with the ever-increasing population not being matched with increased food production; in the early eighteenth century the Great Grain Crisis was beginning to make itself known, setting the icy tendrils of hunger into the stomachs of the Buentoilliçan poor. The book told the disenfranchised and xenophobic of a now lost ‘true’ Buentoille, a land of happiness and plenty where authority was just and culture more authentic. More importantly, for anyone who could lay claim to a purely Buentoilliçan inheritance, it told them that the City was theirs.

It’s a great thing to have a sense of ownership over a place – it connects you, gives you a sense of belonging in return. It can bring you closer to your community, your neighbours; knowing where you come from is a great and powerful thing. The problems come when your idea of ownership excludes that of others. It was those who felt threatened, who had something to lose or had lost out in the changes that spread across the City, who were most easily drawn to the book’s message, which blamed not only poor leadership for the loss of the ‘true’ Buentoille, but also foreign immigrants and itinerant communities. It was a book full of lofty statements of the beauty of True Buentoille, as this lost city was called, juxtaposed with ugly xenophobic sentiments, sentences filled with words like ‘swarms,’ ‘vermin’ and ‘colonisers.’

The book was, unsurprisingly, mainly codswallop. This was quickly recognised by many of the historians of the time, who repudiated the idea of a Buentoilliçan ‘golden age’. It seems that many of Stravond’s ideas of the past were either entirely made up, based on spurious evidence (for example, Stravond found the higher instances of the word ‘perfect’ in fourteenth century texts, and claimed that this meant the century was naturally more perfect), or inspired by (possibly wilful) misreadings of historical texts and images. The most obvious and famous example of this is Stravond’s dogged insistence that the wide-brimmed hats and thick brocade shawls worn by certain figures in every Kaemen Squina painting were what every Buentoillitant of the fourteenth century wore.

Art historians were, and have remained, equally adamant that these outfits were intended as an allegorical marker of foolish aristocracy; according to Quintillience Sand, a contemporary to Stravond, the hats symbolise a kind of wilful ignorance, the denial of knowledge, which is here symbolised by the sun, and which the hat blocks from reaching their minds. The shawls provide an alternate, self-created warmth to their occupants, and allegorically represent aristocratic culture and belief systems, which are unconnected to the ‘truthful’ knowledge allegorically brought by the warmth of sunlight. The wisest figures in Squina paintings are always those who are naked, taking in the warmth of the sun, accepting the truth of the world with no barriers between them and it. It’s unlikely that anyone actually ever wore those clothes in the fourteenth century.

And yet it is a testament to the popularity and sheer persuasive power of the book, which somehow makes these outrageous statements appear eloquent and well-researched, at least to the relatively uneducated, that there still to this day folk who believe in the mythical ‘True Buentoille’: the True Traditionalists. They even, in what is generally regarded as unintentional self-parody, wear the ridiculous outfits that Stravond was so oddly obsessed with. The True Traditionalists display a fanatical adherence to the traditions and rituals of the idealised and entirely fabricated past laid out in History and Traditions, and disavow anything ‘new,’ i.e. anything which has not been set out in, or acknowledged by that text. This includes all festivals which began after the fourteenth century.

According to Stravond, today is the Municipal day of Buentoille, it’s original founding day, when the people immortalised in the Festival of Landing (now celebrated as the Festival of the Alternate River) decided upon a name for their settlement. Despite the fact that this is based upon (slightly) more convincing (or at least established) myths, there is no evidence to suggest any of this is true, but of course that does nothing to dissuade the True Traditionalists. The Traditionalists celebrate today in the same way laid out in History and Traditions; by flying the ‘True Buentoilliçan Flag’ (a gablelark rampant on a dark blue background), and feasting on venison hunted from the local forests.

Yet even these past-entombed people are subject to change; the Traditionalists celebrate the festival of their own, alternate City, in another way that is not explicitly set out in History and Traditions. It seems that change is acceptable if it’s in service of tradition. Today, in the heat of late summer, the Traditionalists will don their wide hats and their shawls and trudge the limits of their City, the point at which the ‘true’ Buentoille reached in its golden age, before it grew larger and was defiled in the process. As a way of demonstrating their dedication, the most fanatical of the True Traditionalists will not step outside these boundaries their entire lives.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Ditched Foodstuffs
  • The Classical Reminder Festival
  • The Festival of Changing the Bandages

August 18th – The Festival of Spontaneous Combustion

In 1642 the King spontaneously combusted during his coronation. He was sitting in his throne and shortly after he was crowned he just went up, a vertical column of flame and smoke from nowhere. King Formacre Estellius was his name, though it was one he only retained for about five minutes of his life. It was generally considered a bad sign; dark clouds had apparently rolled over the City just before it happened, casting him in shadow. Some said he was too passionate; the court doctor perplexedly suggested he had an excess of manly vigour, a kind of bodily, chemical friction heat. Outside, as his body fats were sizzled away into soot that lined the ceiling of the throne room for two hundred years after (until a more fastidious monarch ordered them removed), it began to rain heavily.

It was definitely a bad sign. No doubt about it, but it appeared at the time that nobody knew what had caused it. Whilst there were oblique references to spontaneous human combustion in ancient Helican texts, few paid much heed to them, and this was the first properly witnessed instance of the phenomenon. There were those who said it was a punishment for some unknown crime, meted out by the King’s ancestors and predecessors. And there were darker rumours too, that perhaps he was a ghoul, caught out by the existence of silver on the crown, which burned into his flesh and started the combustion, leaving him unable to change form or even move to save himself.

The chair still exists, though now it is little more than a couple of piece of charcoal, kept behind gilded glazing. Some of his soot and ashes were scraped up, too, and placed into small vials. Being in possession of such an item is said to grant extraordinary luck, and as a result only one glass has been kept safe, the rest were all stolen. Folklore has it that if a person were to inhale the soot they would be possessed by the dead King’s spirit, and it is thought that this reasoning may lie behind some of the thefts. Once kept in the Palace, since the Revolution the final vial and casing have been kept in Garrik’s Museum of Infernal and Occult Curiosities.

You might be a little confused as to why someone would want to be possessed by a dead king, and rightly so, but there is good reason alongside the arcane, obscure logic of Occultists; King Formacre Estellius was famed for his exceptional memory, from when he was a child onwards. He would memorise the order of cards in a pack, would disturb others with his recollection of conversational minutiae from many years before. Whilst Estellius might be one of the more forgotten Buentoillitant Kings, his photographic memory is thought to be unaffected by death. It is said that if you inhale the soot whilst performing a quick ritual in front of a mirror, the affects are reversed, with the inhaler possessing the spiritual presence of the King, whilst remaining in control, from which advantaged position they can delve the photographic memory and gain great insight into the past.

Apparently there are other ways to simulate the experience, to trick the universe into thinking you had actually inhaled the King’s soot. The primary method of this is to make an effigy of the King and to burn it, a rather seditious activity at certain points, but one which is revelled in since the Revolution. This is what happens at today’s festival, and it gathers a lot more folks than it once would have. When the fire has died down in the morning the ashes are swept together and filtered for possible ‘time travel’.

And yet, this festival has been carried out since the year after the King died, with little or no resistance from the authorities. It seems there was tacit approval, even encouragement around the effigy-burning, until anarchists turned up and began burning images of the current king as well. This is probably because there was no ‘spontaneous’ combustion at all; the King was burned alive by his brother who sought to take his power for his own. In the process of coronation there is a point where ceremonial (and highly flammable oils) are applied to the monarch’s forehead. It seems that on the day of the coronation a whole pail was instead thrown over their head and set alight by a treasonous torch bearer. Later several witnesses to what actually happened went missing, so it would seem that there is a good chance there King’s brother was his murderer.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Cracking the Shells
  • The Wide Angle Lens Festival

August 19th – Saint Etmerstand’s Day; The Festival of the Pain in the Neck

According to the MHS, neck and back pain are the most prominent cause of temporary disability, causing hundreds of hours of discomfort and frustration each year. One cannot help but wander whether today’s festival significantly contributes to these statistics, although unfortunately this information isn’t published by day. Today you will see thousands of people, religious and non-religious alike, rubbing at their necks and making pained faces. The more performative amongst them will wear neck braces, or hold their heads at strange angles.

There is certainly an uptick in painkiller purchases, as recorded by the Union of Pharmacists and Medicine Dispensers, yet it does not seem as significant as the sudden increase of apparent neck pain in the City. This could be down to the fact that many seem to welcome the pain, to bear it with holy righteousness, a reminder of Saint Etmerstand and the pain he endured when he was hanged for his faith. It is this factor that leads most doctors to conclude that the sudden onset of symptoms, are in some way a psychogenic malaise, a self-fulfilling expectation of pain brought on by the festival day of a much loved saint.

Saint Etmerstand was born as Simmon Elgaric in the 13th Century, but only became a saint in 1925, when the Revolution, still fresh at this point, occasioned a delve into the histories in search of saints who better captured the spirit of the times (and, by extension, the spiritual sensibilities of Buentoillitants, who had turned away fro the Chastise Church in record numbers, instead finding fulfilment in their newfound power and responsibilities). They had been a preacher of a kind of radical reinterpretation of the Church’s dogma, called Layism, which advocated for wealth redistribution and sexual liberation, at a time when conservative attitudes were the norm. It wasn’t long before Etmerstand found himself with a noose around his neck, charged with ‘spredinge deyjernate tendenseys.’ Given that, in our modern age, all the things Etmerstand was agitating for have come to pass, you could argue that all Chastise Church members are Layists, so it’s acceptable for him to be included in the canon.

Of course, in order for a new Saint to be made, they must have attained Attunement in some way. There was no specific evidence that suggested this was the case with Etmerstand, but the Hierarch’s accepted a spirited case from member of the clergy that Elgaric’s final words, ‘I should have come later,’ suggested that he became Attuned in his final moments, allowing him to realise that the time would come when Buentoillitants were equal and sexually liberated. In 1971 two relics attributed to the Saint were even found; a piece of the noose that hanged him and the Tree of Saint Etmerstand.

The noose was found at a makeshift shrine in the basement of a Ranaclois district home, alongside a book which detailed the location of the Tree, explaining how it had been a green piece of the hastily constructed hanging post that Elgaric had swung from, which had been planted by his followers. The shrine had been created by Terei Instaldo, the one-time owner of the house above, who was also killed shortly after she created and bricked up the shrine. The Layists were all killed within a generation, and this shrine is pretty much the only thing they left behind.

The Tree of Saint Etmerstand grows in the churchyard of the Church of the Holy Host, where it was supposedly planted long ago in a subversive manner. It is an apple tree, producing fruits which taste very sour but are prized for their restorative properties; they allegedly cure neck pain, which is very useful on a day when everyone seems to be suffering from it. Even folk who do not follow the Chastise Church, even atheists and the decidedly irreligious, will today exhibit sympathetic neck twinges.

After the service held in that imposing structure atop Ranaclois Hill, there will be the annual harvest of the small apples, which will be blessed by the priests, then crushed into a juice and diluted with water. A small cup is given to each follower, a good remainder being retained for use throughout the year. Apparently the stuff is pretty tasteless, yet it seems to do the trick; all the folk you see walking down the steps of Ranaclois Hill tonight will have their heads held high, with wide grins and proud shoulders, whilst those unblessed suffer on still, hands clapped to necks, heads held at awkward angles.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Rowdy Ties
  • The Festival of Unlikely Bedfellows
  • Group Spa Day

August 20th – The Dudlam Street Attic Festival

Children love to go places they shouldn’t. There’s a reason they have to make the public service announcements about power lines and electricity substations so damn scary. But sometimes this urge to explore, to find little dens and places of their own, to journey into forbidden places, can have unexpected and joyful consequences. When Saen Mackyovitch was a little girl she was always told she wasn’t allowed in the attic. But that didn’t stop her teetering on a stack of books with a curved stick she found in the garden, trying to hook it on to the ladder latch. She’d seen her mother do the same thing a dozen times, just without the books and the stick.

She asked if she could go up there first, of course, but the answer was always no, so she had to take matters into her own hands. They told her it was dark up there, so she took a torch. They said it was dusty so she tied a handkerchief around her nose. They told her if she stepped outside the boards she would fall through the roof, so she practised balancing on a log out in the garden. In her backpack she had snacks and water for days. She changed the torch for a head-torch because it was too heavy and she needed to balance. She took one of her mother’s sharpest knitting needles for self defence, just in case her parents weren’t lying about the giant rats (they were). She waited until they had a garden party and were sure to be outside for a few hours. She made her stack of books.

When you can’t go somewhere as a child you start imagining what is so exciting there, and children’s imaginations are fertile ground for any seeds. Saen wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to find, but she was pretty sure it was going to involve treasure, or magic portals, or many tiny people in a tiny little town they’d built in and around the boxes her parents had put up there; she could hear them scampering about sometimes (don’t worry, it was little mice not giant rats, they really were lying about that). There were no tiny people, but there certainly was adventure to be found.

At first the attic seemed to just be an attic. The dust they hadn’t lied about; it fell slowly through Saen’s torch beam, like dirty snow. It was already very exciting. She made sure to walk slowly along the beams and boards, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as she had imagined; the log was much more slippery, for starters. She explored for a little while, poking around in the boxes of old papers and baby clothes her parents had put up there. She turned off her torch at one point, to make it scarier and more exciting. Tiny points of light were dotted here and there where the roof tiles didn’t quite meet. But then there was another point of light, coming from the wall. She walked over (turning her light on briefly to find her way) and close up she saw it was a crack in the woodwork that separated the house from the next on her terraced street. She pushed it, and there was a little ‘clink’ and the hidden door opened.

Behind the door was an artist’s studio, but the artist wasn’t in. Next door had a window in their roof, so there was plenty of light here. She walked amongst the easels and the canvasses and paints like an explorer in uncharted lands, marvelling at these ordinary items as if she had never seen the like. Before long she recognised where she was; in Ignatius’ house; this was his mother’s studio, they’d had the builders in about it last year. She carefully crept downstairs and knocked on Ignatius’ bedroom door. He was grounded because he had drawn on their newly whitewashed wall in crayon, and couldn’t go to her parent’s garden party. She knocked in the code they used when talking through the wall so he knew it was her.

It turned out that Ignatius’ house had a little door, too, and the next and next; 18 houses on the Dudlam street in all, connected in their attics with little hidden wooden doors next to the brick chimney breasts. They crept through these attics, knitting needles in hand, whenever they could get away with it. They headed up through Ignatius’ house because it was easier and you didn’t have to make piles of books to get up there. Before long they had some of the other children in the street in on it too, they had dens and hideouts and little stores of treasure. Each attic was a world unto itself, with different flooring and hazards, different loot to be gained. It was excellent fun.

The woman who designed the houses on the street probably had something to do with these little attic doors, invisible to the functional, bromidic sight of most adults. They weren’t on the plans, but later on in her old age the architect wrote a number of children’s books called ‘The Tunnel People,’ and the tiny portals seem like something straight out of their pages. She died long before they were found, but Saen and Ignatius, now both in their forties, are pretty sure she would have loved that they’d brought them so much joy and mischief.

Today, the anniversary of the first foray into that dusty world, there will be another party, but this time not in the gardens. Ignatius and Saen went away for some time in their twenties but when they turned thirty they decided to settle down together back where it had all began. This time they’ve asked the neighbours if it’s okay, inviting them along to their own homes to a space transformed. The boxes of nicknacks and mementoes are tables, the drinks brought up the stairs from Ignatius’s house. They still fit through the doors, though now on hands and knees, brushing away cobwebs and dust. Each room is laid out and decorated differently, according to the realms they invented there as children; this one is the witch’s house, this is the one where the hermit ascended to heaven, here are the houses of the tiny people, cut into the sides of boxes. There are still no giant rats, thankfully.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Fastest Copier Competition
  • The Festival of Ugly Typography
  • The Braising Festival