September 1st – Revolution Day

All through the day the Revolutionary Flag of Buentoille; a spade, a wrench and a pen crossed over in black on a red background; will fly from all the public buildings of Buentoille, where other flags (including the monstrosity that serves as the current Municipal Buentoilliçan Flag; shared power and diversity is wonderful in most ways, but flag design is not its strong point) would normally fly. And throughout the streets it flutters in the breeze, alongside the stark red and black flags of anarchists and socialists, held aloft by the thronging crowds with their chants and songs. There are marches and parades, speeches in the parks and the squares, feasts in the halls. Today is Revolution Day, the greatest festival in Buentoille!

Today is one of the few days that nobody in the City works, except for the essential tasks of food preparation and the emergency services. In fact, for the next few days not much will get done; Buentoille is used to dealing with stoppages, with absent workforces; this is the City of a Thousand Festivals after all and all are entitled to their time off, but Revolution time is a time of universal celebration, of thanks giving to all those who struggled so valiantly so that today all Buentoillitants can live at peace, without fear of violence, either physical or economic. It’s on days like these that you notice how full the City is, when you see the heaving crowds that move with singular purpose.

By the time today cam around, the resistance to the Traitor King had been going on for years, but had been brutally repressed and failed to gain traction with the populace as a whole. Many of the initial strikers and agitators, the anarchists and socialists trying to organise in the aftermath of the shocking 1890 coup when the King reinstated an absolute monarchy, were either imprisoned, driven off into the countryside or killed by monarchist thugs and the more official Royal Buentoilliçan Police Force (RBPF). Any who dared to question the monarchy were visited by dreadful paramilitaries given power by royal decree or unspoken consent, and the populace continued to suffer great deprivations at the hands of the Great Grain Crisis, with many of the poor dying from starvation and malnutrition.

People tend to be very good at putting up with poor situations, if you convince them that there are no alternatives, that this is the best it gets. Yet you can put up and put up and eventually at some point something breaks and it all comes spilling out. For Buentoille, the moment the City decided it had had enough was the terrible events at Benetek station. It was such a shocking atrocity that the fear and false logic which had held people back before dissipated like mist, and there they were, running through the streets yelling ‘STRIKE!’ It only took until lunch time the next day and pretty much the whole City knew. There were some attempts at misinformation, but the bodies were there to see and suddenly the anger bubbled over. Businesses belonging to the King or his family were targeted first; bricks through windows, small fires here and there. Great roving gangs of workers with improvised weaponry milled around, incandescent with anger yet at that moment without clear direction.

Years back the King had bought the loyalty of the City’s Defence Brigades with extra bread and oaths of allegiance, but now they began to step out of line. Commanders were disobeyed, imprisoned, sometimes even shot if they had been unpopular enough. When ordered to march on the protestors they stood meekly, unhearing, or turned on their erstwhile masters. The RBPF stayed loyal; after all, they were and had always been little more than monarchist thugs and mercenaries without morals; here and there they fought with protesters and the well-armed Defence Brigades. A few died on that day but not as many as would, later; mostly the monarchist forces were too scared to confront the masses head-on.

By the evening fires were lit in every square, the expression of discontent carrying on well into the night. The streets were of the Revolution, but few realised the power they now wielded in their numbers. Around these fires the people were organised, filled with purpose. The gassing of those students and the elderly the previous day showed that nobody was safe under the regime. Word was sent out to the forests, to gather back those who had left, had been hounded out. This year as every year those same fires are lit, placed at the exact same points as they were in 1905 – you can see from the blackened pavement and grass and cobbles. There was looting of food and drink by the famished then, certainly, and whilst the victuals consumed today are less desperate, more legally procured, the consumers try to let loose with the same abandon their ancestors once did.

Most of the people gathered around the firelight back then were working class, but there were middle class folk there too, those who had realised that not even they were safe, or who were of more progressive sentiment. Only the foolish and the upper classes hid in their homes, or fled the City altogether. There is a painting by Bernae Revish, who was present at many of the Revolution’s great moments, which captures that day perfectly: on the right of the painting, coming out of the City clutching jewels and crouching in fear are an upper class family. On their left, framed by the rising sun of the following day, are the driven-out resistance fighters, returning proudly home.

They call today Revolution Day because it was the day that the power balance shifted, the day that Buentoille awoke from her slumber and realised that those who had her in shackles were weak and illegitimate. The Revolution was not done with in one day; it would be two more at least until the monarchy was properly deposed and for now the masses stayed in the streets, fighting here and there with monarchist forces, but not taking the municipal buildings, the Parliament building and the palace. The worst of the violence was still to come. Some say that the Revolution was not done until the end of the Communal Reconstruction, long after the last shot was fired. But no matter when it finished, on this day in 1905 the City realised there was no going back.

There are no other festivals happening today

September 2nd – The Festival of the Tower Fallen

It’s difficult to disentangle today from yesterday in the minds of most Buentoillitants. The celebrations continue long into the night, and little sleep is had. Despite this, there are few complaints from the weary or ill-tempered; complaining about Revolution Day festivities is like complaining about a long-foreseen eclipse, or the rising sun itself. The bonfires set across the City will be allowed to turn to ash this morning, but the excitement, the echoes of Revolutionary fervour do not die with them. There will be a short recouperation period, communal breakfasts cooked on the coals left over, or taken at one of the many breakfast establishments, which buzz and thrive like no other day; their pre-prepared scents particularly enticing.

On this day, all the way back in 1905, there was probably a similar lack of sleep, though perhaps there was not the same joviality. There was a sense of freedom, certainly, but it was tinged with uncertainty, with fear that they had somehow overstepped the mark, that they were in uncharted territory. In the cold light of morning, some went home, fewer still to work, afraid of retribution from their bosses. Yet most were steadfast, steeled by the words of organisers and agitators, fuelled by the anger that still burned deep within. Many felt powerful for the first time in their lives, and it wasn’t a feeling they were willing to let go of with any haste.

It was at about 11am when the convoy returned to the City, the half-famished resistance fighters who had fled into the countryside. They were expected, and were met with cheering crowds, with friends and family, with an escort of armed folk, the mishmashed members of Buentoille’s Defence Brigades, those who had turned on their captains and commanders, whose fragile loyalty to the King had been broken by the atrocity at Benetek. The Traitor King had never truly trusted the Brigades, hence the creation of the Police and the King’s Finest (the secret police), but neither did he expect this coup, this mass desertion. We must be thankful for the many mistakes and miscalculations he made.

They paraded the secluded socialists, the absent anarchists, those anti-monarchist activists who had been forced to flee for their lives to the forests around Buentoille after their comrades were arrested and murdered by monarchist thugs both official and unofficial. They returned to a city transformed, a place that overnight had begun to organise itself. The formless anger had become sharpened, directed by the committees that coalesced around those street bonfires, points of light connected like constellations. As they walked through the streets they picked up groups and individuals, and soon there was a great mass moving towards the Monarch’s Tower.

It had stood for many years, fortified and entrenched as those years passed, turned by successive monarchs into a place of power, of imprisonment. The Monarch’s Tower had originally served quite a different purpose; it had been a divination tower built by Queen Matilda in the fifteenth century, where gold-painted oak leaves were dropped down the centre. At the bottom the pattern in which they fell, unaffected by the wind, was interpreted by multiple seers, those favoured by the Queen. Later, when witch hunting swept across the City like bacteria in a wound, she leased the tower to the Holy Knights of Buentoille, who used it to manufacture pistol and musket shot. Later still it was fortified, ditches were dug, walls erected; it became a place of refuge against a supposed Strigaxian invasion that never came. Eventually it was taken back by the monarchy, and the rooms of refuge became cells for dissenters who could not be executed for fear of martyrdom.

Today the parade comes through the City, taking a more winding route than it might once have done, picking up revellers the whole way. It starts in the south, coming down the river banks as it once did, and feeds through the City, coming to rest at Traitor’s Square, where the Tower once stood. Around the edge of the Square, which is one of the largest in Buentoille, the revellers will gather, at about 5pm. In the centre, a dance troupe of five hundred performers will act out the events of that day; the short siege, the confrontation on the bridge, when those prison guards who were more sympathetic walked out over the bridge to join the besieging forces and were shot in the back by their erstwhile colleagues. The rush of resistance fighters across the bridge, the remaining guards thrown from the walls, the cells thrown open.

Other than to enjoy the spectacle, there is a reason that the audience keeps to the edge of the square; in the centre is a tall tower made of wood, painted to look like stone. In the fifteen years of his rule, the Traitor King had turned the Tower into a symbol of his power and ruthlessness; many a Buentoillitant had been kept there in chains, tortured and stripped of hope. Many a Buentoillitant had been broken, and it was only right that it in turn was broken. They carried the prisoners out in their hundreds, emaciated bodies held aloft in stretchers, and then they set the explosives. Tonight they use fireworks, and they aim them high so the whole City can see. The tower burns long and hot before it falls.

There are no other festivals happening today.

September 3rd – The Storming of the Traitor’s Palace

On the third day of the Revolution, the fighting began in earnest. The arms held by the Defence Brigades were added to from secret caches located by the famous spies Yasinda Umer and Wassily Herman, and from those stored at the Monarch’s Tower, before it was felled the day before. In the aftermath of that event, which could be heard from all across Buentoille, there were some short skirmishes in the nearby streets. In Counterlark street there was disaster as a group of twenty or so armed monarchists began firing into the packed crowd, most of whom were only armed with rough improvised weapons; tools and bricks and clubs. Eventually the crowd managed to round the corner, to safety, but not before about thirty of their number had been killed. A counter-attack was organised quickly, having heard the shots, and the monarchists were routed, but the event served as a sober reminder that the Revolution would not be uncontested. Today flowers will be laid along the narrow street, red roses to remember the blood spilled there. The road surface will be covered completely with them, save a thin walkway and several islands in the red sea, where the names of the dead are written on brass plaques set in the floor, scattered around where they fell.

The power that the Traitor King wielded over the City was always based upon meek acquiescence, on the assumption of a disorganised and disunited opposition, rather than force of numbers or superior fire power. When the coup came in 1890, it wasn’t an armed insurrection, but a legal rewriting, a political usurpation of a status quo that had become mistrusted and ineffectual. Many saw the danger from the off, but more people, encouraged by successive Parliaments to be politically disengaged, derived their worldview from the papers owned by the upper classes and the Traitor King himself, and remained blindly unfazed. When activists started to go missing they believed, as they were told, that they were deviants from whom they needed protecting.

By the turn of the century, however, things had begun to change. The better life that the King promised had not materialised. The upper classes seemed to be benefiting, surely, but there was no ‘cascade’ of wealth down from them. Stories of how the King had murdered his brother began to surface. ‘Ordinary’ people started to be targeted when they repeated these stories. It is sad that it took something as terrible as Benetek to shake folk from their stupor. But, shaken as they were, they realised their power in numbers, and they saw the fear in the eyes of the monarchists. They shaped their anger into organisation. They prepared to strike.

Darksheve’s district was a particular flashpoint, a place where the fight could have gone either way. The district had always had a large fighting presence, which was more loyal to the King than most. On the second day of the Revolution they locked down the bridges that led into the district, and built barricades at other key points. Most of the local Revolutionaries had left the district to watch and participate in the felling of the Tower, but those who did not were now trapped, arrested, killed and dispersed by the temporarily more populous monarchist forces.

The distance between Darkesheve’s and Ranaclois district, where the majority of the Monarchist forces had retreated to and fortified, meant that there was little communication between the two, so no backup forces were coming for the monarchist holdout. If it were not for the information on the emergency procedures of the Darksheve’s forces provided by the window-cleaning spies Umer and Herman, there would have been far more Revolutionary casualties in the assault, but as it was weak points were easily identified by those who managed to get out, and a group of roof-hopping Revolutionary fighters, with surprise and preparation, managed to break a hole in the defences and storm the barricades. From the rooftops where the Revolutionaries positioned their snipers many flags will be flown today.

The majority of the violence was, however, centred on the King’s palace and the Parliament buildings. Whilst the Revolution had been taking shape, most of the monarchists had been fortifying the already well-equipped area, sealing off underground routes and placing soldiers in key positions. The main approach to the fortified zone had two cannons guarding it, but other routes were equally well protected with troops and snipers at the ready. The Revolutionaries, however, were ready with a bold plan: through the monarchist barricades ran a train line which went right up to the gates of the palace, a personal line for the King. Along the track they set a train car at great speed, packed with explosives and shrapnel. The cannons had been loaded with cannister rounds, intended to rip through crowds to devastating effect, but these did little against the carriage, which had been armoured with metal sheeting over the windows. The cannons and the monarchists manning them were made short work of by the explosion.

A second carriage then came down the tracks, this time much slower, filled with armed Revolutionaries, who cleared up the remaining barricade troops. Behind them came the main body of the Revolutionary forces. By the time they fought their way to the Parliament building, many of the monarchists were surrendering, but inside the palace they met with more fierce resistance, as the last monarchists attempted to protect the King. Surrounded, the King came out onto his balcony to plead, to make concessions, to make empty promises. He was shot almost immediately, and the remaining forces surrendered. Buentoille was free!

That original party, fuelled by the reserves of booze held in the palace cellars, lasted for many days, and whilst its modern counterpart will continue on into the early morning, few have the stamina for parties of that length after the past two days of revelry. Still, the celebrations are something to behold: out in the square a huge bonfire is built, with monarchist symbols and effigies being burned on it all night long. From midday the People’s Palace, as it is now termed, will host thousands of Buentoillitants, with different music and entertainments filling its many rooms.

The Parliament building is now the home of the Council of Logistics, the primary governing body of Buentoilliçan life who are voted in each year, but today even this building will be open to the general public, though important files and equipment is cleared away to make room for revelry. Nobody is in charge of the festivities each year, save for perhaps those who make it their business to supply the intoxicants. Bands set up, play their set and then make room for the next, and then the next. Dancers and stage magicians perform in corridors or makeshift stages here and there. There are rooms where party games are played, hide-and-seek or sardines amongst the crowds. Cupboards and what were once servants bedrooms hide discrete lovers, stealing an amorous moment. It is the greatest house party that Buentoille has to offer.

There are no other festivals happening today.

September 4th – The Festival of Shifting the Hangover

In Buentoille you’ll find as many hangover cures as there are trees in the parks, which is to say (for those unfamiliar with the Buentoilliçan recreational estates) a great deal. Generally, however, these cures can be divided based on location: in the west of the City hangovers are banished via the consumption of some kind of food or drink, whereas in the east cures are based around some form of activity or medicinal preparation. This is a rough division, to be sure, and doesn’t always hold true; there is, for example, the Revolved Runners Society, a group of hungover western Buentoillitants who run for thirty miles and then have a very hot salt bath together in Dimitri’s Park of Bathing.

The bathing, without the running, is actually a popular cure in the east, where the Park of Bathing is located. Various mineral preparations are favoured by different individuals and groups, with magnesium salts being particularly favoured. The Servants of Caul, who only drink fresh spring water from their holy well located in Jutêgarde Parish, will prepare baths in the park for a fee, scrubbing down the marble basins between each user, providing the salts and carting the water. Many will also take advantage of the ‘tribulations’ offered by the Servants, where they are soundly beaten with camphor laurel branches in one of the Park’s many sauna houses, before then being lifted and tossed into a deep cold pool. It is apparently an extremely unpleasant experience, but afterwards leaves the tribulatee feeling so relieved it is finished that they forget they are hung over.

Exercise is, however, also a large part of eastern cures, although usually the methods are a little more gentle than a thirty mile run. The Tree of Regret is a popular hangout today, hangout being a literal term here, as once the Buentoillitants have climbed the tree, a gargantuan oak which has many horizontal branches, they hang upside down and perform inverted pull-ups. Quite when or why this tradition started is unclear, but it could be something to do with the mythical Venerik Monks, as great gouts of incense smoke are wafted towards the hanging people. The use of incense during exercise was apparently a central element of worship for the Veneriks, who believed that there was a small godly being within them which gave them life. The being was apparently agitated (and could therefore be located) by exercise and the smoke of special incenses. Those ‘hanging out’ their hangover today claim that the exercise pushes any toxins away from their stomachs, and out of their pores, were the smoke neutralises them.

In the west the most likely place you will find the hung over is drinking coffee and various herbal remedies in the many open-air cafes that line the streets. Some of the western herbal remedies are purgatives, such as winterberry tea, which results in five minutes of sudden vomiting and then three hours of a euphoric, floaty sensation, but it is considered poor form to drink these in public. More acceptable herbal remedies include sweet golden love, an infusion made from honey, lemon and the leaves of the littlehammer plant, which have a pleasant peppery taste and an analgesic effect.

Other Buentoillitants are suspicious of these cures, favouring instead a hearty breakfast of fried goods, in the hope that the fat and carbohydrate will ‘soak up’ the excessive intoxicants. This is actually a popular cure in both the west and the east, although in the east fried meats and eggs are unlikely to be on the menu. Pastries, especially those filled with pistachios and pecans, are a popular morning snack whilst nursing a coffee at one of the open-air cafes in the west, as are hearty potato soups. Ettienne’s Cafe is famous for its ‘garlic stoop’ which according to some patrons has panaceaic qualities, and is sure to straighten you out in no time at all. Cucumber drinks and salads are also on the menu in pretty much all eating places for those of more delicate sensibilities.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Wishing Well
  • The Festival of Blessings and Tinctures Half Price at the Homertine Temple
  • The Festival of Silence

September 5th – The Church of the Children of Stone’s Day of Vindication

In 1811 it rained unnaturally hard for about a week, in the lands to the south of Buentoille, in the hills where the Moway has its source. Buentoille only received the edge of this weather directly, and things continued much as before, but indirectly the river swelled up, flooding some of the City and severely damaging some bridges and buildings. Buentoille was rebuilt in much the same way as before, but in amongst the debris were items which had not been there before; as well as the branches and river stones thrown onto the banks were ornately carved statues of children at play, statues that nobody remembered seeing before.

These cherubs were gathered up and closely studied. They were mostly damaged in the deluge, but here and there a full statue seemed to have remained unscathed. The stone they were made from is thought to be a kind of red-veined marble only found in the Hoodsworth foothills, an area somewhat downriver from the Moway’s source. Obviously some riverside ancient settlement had been uncovered by the rain, dragged from the earth and washed down the river, yet perhaps not; there were no other items of civilisation found, none of the detritus of life, of broken combs, pieces of pottery, any masonry or metal. Perhaps these pieces simply did not settle on Buentoille’s banks, or perhaps the masonry became mixed in with that of the partially destroyed Buentoilliçan buildings. An archaeological party sent up river failed to find the source of the statues.

But there were others who had a keen interest in the statues. In the week before the flood many of the fishers who laid nets in the waters of the Moway started pulling out smaller statues of children, possibly better described as trinkets as they could fit in the palm of your hand. Unlike the statues, these trinkets were made of a kind of obsidian, and depicted the children asleep, either curled up, or laid out flat with their arms at their sides. Perhaps they were supposed to be dead, not sleeping. According to the fishers, these trinkets were warm to the touch, even after they’d just been pulled from the river. Most were caught in nets, although at least two were cut from fish stomachs. The fishers began to demand access to the statues, but were consistently rebuffed by the Royal Buentoilliçan Archaeological Company, who were holding the larger stone children for study.

Quite why the Company denied these fishers access to the statues is disputed. At the time there were accusations of classism; the Company was primarily made up of the upper-middle classes, whereas the fishers were working class. The Archaeological Company’s justifications, given to the Buentoilliçan Record three weeks after recovering the artefacts from the river beds, centred around the ‘aggressive and threatening behaviour’ of the fishers. When this was disproved by calm and considerate letters sent between each side shown to the papers by the fishers, the Company changed tack, complaining of the ‘worrying cultish behaviour’ of the fishers, who had apparently begun building shrines to their own small figures, where they worshipped them and made offerings.

These claims were clearly intended to provoke a sense of discomfort and religious zealotry towards the fishers, on the part of the more hard-line Chastise Church-goers and those who were simply wary around the term ‘cult’, envisaging moral depravity and child sacrifice, something hinted at but not directly accused by the Company. This tack was effective in some quarters, to be sure, but mostly it backfired because it made the Archaeological Company look somewhat absurd. More importantly, it gave the fishers an effective line of attack which eventually allowed them to gain ownership of the statues: religion.

This is not to say that the Company were wrong when they suggested there was something of a nascent cult building around the little child idols, or the Children of Stone, as they became known; whether the Church of the Children of Stone was formed as a result of the Company’s claims or not is a point of contention. There is certainly something strange about the determination of the fishers to gain access to the statues which cannot be explained by mere curiosity. According to Senelios Buffe, a cultural historian who has written various articles about the formation of the Church of the Children of Stone, the fishers ‘felt some connection to these little children that warmed the palms of their hands, and by extension their larger cousins, a connection which possessed them in ways that perhaps they themselves did not recognise.’ Whether or not the fishers got the idea for the Church from the archaeologists, there was certainly something beyond curiosity or a desire for class justice driving them.

Even back before the Revolution, religious freedom was an ideal to which Buentoille held true, and once the fishers had established their Church, which met in a specially adapted boathouse, they found it easy to get a court order which granted them access to, and later on ownership of, the Children of Stone. That court order came through on this day in 1814. Today they celebrate that court order, which itself has formed part of their religion, by staging a mock trial, a kind of pantomime, in Uer Deame’s Square. The Royal Buentoilliçan Archaeological Company is vilified perhaps more strongly in this retelling than it once was, due to its absolution after the Revolution, and the modern dislike of all things royal. After this ceremony, another is held, this time in their main church building, a far larger version of that original boathouse, where the statues are ‘bathed’ in the river by the faithful.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Dark Promises
  • The Festival of Enduring Musical Accompaniment
  • The Dangerous Beetle Festival

September 6th – The Raddek House Fig Festival

Raddek House is an old collection of buildings, far older than the buildings which surround them and their walled gardens in Tallboy’s district. Whilst they have been well looked after over their many hundreds of years in existence, the old walls affect a ‘distressed’ air, with the stucco crumbling off the brickwork here and there, the wooden beams blackened by age. Under the terracotta tiles and their crusting of lichen the gable-end paintings of workers picking figs are still clear, though a little less vibrant than they once were. Nowadays it’s not workers who pick the figs, although the worker’s cooperative that run the House does nurture them.

Everyone knows that the best way to eat figs is raw, straight off the tree as soon as they ripen. There is nothing worse than a bland fig that has lost its taste by being too long from the tree. Everyone also knows that the best place to get the tastiest figs is Raddek House. It always has been and always will. Today fig connoisseurs from all across Buentoille will congregate in the walled gardens, where the eighteen fig trees grow, their boughs now laden with near-nectar-dripping fruit.

The exact timing of the harvest varies year on year, but because the garden is walled the temperatures can be controlled, and it is certain to occur in early September or occasionally very late August. The cooperative has experimented with glass houses in the past but found that these methods prioritised ‘quantity over quality’ and so stick to their traditional ways. Due to the variability in exact date, the House provides a notification service where runners are sent out with letters to the subscribers when harvest time is here. Occasionally, when the festival coincides with the days of the Revolution, the cooperative will pick the fruit themselves and bring it out into the streets, or to the palace or Traitor’s Square. Whilst this somewhat ruins the feel of the thing, it is considered far superior to letting the fruit over-ripen on the branches.

Whilst everyone knows the best way to eat a fig, fewer know how the House creates such delicious figs, and how it ensures that they will (mostly) ripen at the same time. The secret to the ripening is partly to do with controlling the conditions, as well as selective breeding of the fig trees over the many hundreds of years that the House has stood; back in the early days, when the Raddek family, originally immigrants from Catrosondia, first kept the garden, the harvest festival would have taken place over several days. The secret to the taste is to do not with the trees they use (although the fig cultivar they use is certainly part of the deliciousness, other fig farms who use similar cultivars do not have the same brilliant tastes to their wares), but instead with the particular types of wasp that they breed.

For those who are not quite as polished in their pomological knowledge as the Buentoillitants who today visit the gardens, all eating figs will have had a dead wasp inside them. This is because in order to be fertilised, wasps must crawl into the fig, where they either lay their eggs (in the case of the male fig), or are unable to do so and die of starvation (as in the case of the female fig). With female figs, those which are mainly produced and solely eaten, at the House today, the wasp carcass is digested via an enzymatic process into the body of the fig. In the case of the Raddek House figs, these wasps are what give the fruit its particularly delicious flavour, that of nectar sweetness and floral undertones (it is worth remembering that figs are an inverted flower).

There is a whole building in Raddek House dedicated to the breeding of these peculiar varieties of wasp, in intricacies of which are a tightly guarded secret. Most of the work of the cooperative actually centres around this process, rather than the keeping of the trees, and as such the workers are most likely seen in bee-keeping suits. At various times of the year according to their arcane schedule, these wasps are funnelled into large glass vessels and then released into specific segments of the trees, kept from escaping or pollinating those fruit reserved for other wasp varieties by large mosquito nets which are cast over the trees in odd configurations.

Today there will be no wasps or nets in sight, only the long green benches placed in the centre of the garden; the trees line the walls; laid out with little chopping boards and small paring knives, to reveal the sensual red innards of the fruit before consumption. There are stepladders available to reach the higher fruit, although the trees are trained in such a way that this should not be necessary for a tall person. On the trees are placed small labels with tasting notes, explaining what kind of wasp and cultivar was used on each branch. The revellers will cut a fig from the tree, take it back to the table, cut it open and then savour the scent of the succulent flesh for a long moment, before biting in and chewing slowly.

By each plate is placed a small wide-brimmed cone-shaped glass, which will be periodically filled to the brim with fig wine (made from the figs which do not ripen fully but are too large to be left for the following year’s harvest – the figs proper are too good to be wasted on wine making) for those who want it. The glasses are made so full that they bulge over the rim with the surface tension, just as the fruit bulge with ripeness, meaning that the revellers must first dip their heads to drink from them, an accidental motion of respect.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Aching Bones
  • The Festival of Such a Trifle
  • Careless Serville’s Day

September 7th – The Festival of Taming the Ideox

Today, in the big clearing in Votive Park, three people will try to tame a bull. Or rather, they will make a show of taming a bull which is already tame but is pretending to be wild. It is a bull specially trained to appear untrained, which the tamers will make a show of ‘taming’. A lot of people will turn out to watch this spectacle, and probably all of them know it is all just for show.

They put up the enclosure in the morning, ready for the start of the show at 12pm. The enclosure is pretty simple – traditional wooden fences – but around it they construct the seating which will be packed with eager audience members by 1pm, happily chomping down on the sandwiches, pasties and chips hawked by various sellers who walk between the seats. There is a speaker system set up too, and the Master of Ceremonies, one Maybell Quimvere, will stride around in the dusty chalk arena (the chalk is laid down specifically for today, to make the wild motions of the bull appear more dramatic with the white plumes it kicks up) and loudly introduce each act; the lasso competition, the plough contest (where farmers lead their horses with a ‘plough’ that draws as straight a line as possible into the chalk), and the main event: The Taming of the Ideox.

This final proclamation announces what everyone has come to see, although the supporting events are a pleasant distraction, and it therefore warrants a significant build up, which Quimvere (whose non-stage name is Carolin Derelleye) seems to relish. There is even a drum roll, played on a large instrument slung around the neck of a stagehand. ‘The ideox!’ Quimvere shouts, getting clear of the stage with some haste, as there, running out tossing its horns in the air, destroying some stacks of hay and watermelons placed especially for the purpose, is the bull, playing the part of the mythical ideox, painted with stripes or circles or spots or chevrons, depending on the artistic interpretation favoured each year.

The fact of the matter is that nobody is exactly sure what an ideox looked like, nor even truly what they were. There are no contemporaneous paintings or drawings of the creature, only a few lines of text and an enduring folk legend. The primary source of information is Tales of Foreign Lands, a Waegstallasian text from 1024 which dedicates a few pages to Buentoille. Hegom Aier, the text’s author, visited the City only briefly on his journey around the Inner Sea, through each of the Seven Cities that line it, and in that time he witnessed the Taming ritual, which then happened five times a year, when the ideox’s migratory patterns brought their enormous herds close to Buentoille. The beasts were described by Aier as ‘Mighty cattle, something like oxen but larger, with great curled horns and enormous shoulders. Their hide is patterned, and they make the most excellent beasts of burden.’

The ideox was, apparently, never eaten in the City, it being considered too intelligent to be treated in such a way, a fact that Aier seemed much put out by. A liberatum translated in 1792 by the Pohlatiné Mission seems to suggest that the ideox actually buried their own dead, although this is understandably a point of contention amongst scholars, with some claiming the ideox in this context are a complex metaphor. Whatever the truth of the ideox is, they are no longer in existence, as far as anyone is aware, with some claiming that they never actually existed at all, and that the modern vision of them labouring alongside humans in the construction of Buentoille are based around myth alone.

It is important to point out that these naysayers who doubt the ideox’s existence are in a minority, and that the persistence of today’s festival points to the fact that belief in these mythical creatures is strongly held by many. The ceremony itself, after the bull is released into the arena, is thought to have changed very little since those days when the creatures were penned in on their ventures near the City, except for all the artifice. The three tamers will first bunch together with two waving their arms in a synchronised-yet-sporadic manner, whenever the bull turns to face them. Eventually the animal will focus on them long enough for the third tamer to raise their arms, under which two large eyes are painted on their sleeves, which attach to a long gown they wear. At this point the bull becomes (or pretends to become) transfixed, looking nowhere else but at the eyes.

Once the beast’s attention has been fixed, the two tamers who were waving their arms will slowly approach in a pincer movement. The person to the animal’s left shakes a bag of grain, symbolic of the material gains the ideox would stand to receive via its labour, and the person on its right plays a small, haunting mouth harp. The warbling tune of this instrument is supposed to sound similar to the cooing of a mother ideox when speaking to its child, though there is obviously no way of verifying this notion. Slowly these performers will circle their cattle, dancing in ponderous motion as they do, making sure to duck around the head so they do not break its line of sight to the eyes. Slowly the performers make their way closer and closer to the ideox, then they begin to stroke its flanks, and eventually they take hold of its horns and whisper something unknown (to all but the Forthright Ideox Order) into the animal’s ears, simultaneously proffering the bag of grain under its nose, the eyes disappearing back down as the performer lowers their arms.

The lilting music of the mouth harp, usually accompanied by the slow beat of the drummer off-stage, suddenly falls short at this point, where the tamers and audience wait with baited breath to see if they have been successful. If they have the animal will eat, taking on a symbolic debt to humankind as it does. If not then it with thrash its horns, throwing the two performers to the sides, and the whole thing will start over, after some more wild behaviour on the part of the bull. It usually takes two to five tries for a ‘successful’ taming to occur, at which point there is great fanfare and jubilation from the audience.

One thing which definitely differs from those original festivals, besides the artifice, is the ending of the ceremonies; instead of entering into a contract of subservience by eating the grain, as was once the case, the bull instead gains its freedom; the bull is put in a trailer and driven out to the start of the plains that stretch eastwards, where it is released. It walks out that way, the sun setting behind it, just as the ideox did so long ago. They never came back, either.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Rip Day
  • The Festival of the Call
  • Risk Prevention Seminar and Festival Eighty Six

September 8th – The Festival of Locorhythmic Poetry

There are lines you can take around the Buentoille which mean you never have to leave your train carriage; they just keep going around and around in perpetual locomotion. The trains do stop overnight, but it is entirely possible to spend and entire day swooping around the City, occasionally dipping underground or reaching up above the streets on raised rails. There is a certain rhythm to all of this, to the rattle of the wheels on the tracks, the singing of the rails as the engine pulls to a halt, the voice through the crackling speakers reading out the names of each station as they come and go, the click and slide of the doors, the step of passengers getting on and off.

For some, this experience is meditative, for others is is repetitious and frustrating. There are at least two saints of the Chastise Church who gained their Attunement through meditating on the rhythmic nature of the Buentoilliçan rail. Since 1966 there has been an added noise on a certain carriage on this day, every year: the poetic stylings of the Carriage D Commutarian Rhapsodists (CDCR). Whilst its glory days are over, the group still garners significant interest from their fellow passengers, although some might argue that they have something of a captive audience, and several people actually avoid that particular carriage, or the trains altogether, today.

The CDCR was first formed over a number of meetings on the First Unified Line, the primary cyclical rail line, between the stations of Cantacle Roof and Beltwithy Spa, where several like-minded commuters frequently bumped into each other. After seeing the same person enough times you tend to nod in recognition, and slowly, if you are willing to share your time and personal space, this recognition can lead to communication, and even friendship, if you are lucky. It is not only lovers and enemies who meet on the daily commute, as films and television might have you believe. The CDCR started when Iamolo Dessanteviche was (perhaps somewhat rudely) looking over Bernard Kater’s shoulder at the poetry he was writing, and suggested an edit. It was a small thing, a word better suited to the tone of the piece, and once Kater had gotten over the unintended insult that only he felt, they became fast friends; both of them worked in publishing, after all, but had always wanted to produce their own work.

At its peak there were only five regular members of the Rhapsodists, their numbers swelling as the train progressed onwards, then ebbing again as everyone got off at their stops. New members joined here and there, as folks were drawn in by the small performances they gave once a week. Mostly the time they spent together, a short, liminal time, they spent writing together, editing each other’s work. They made a few performances, but nothing spectacular. A lot of the time they did no work, but just chatted about their days, about art, about their hopes and dreams. Eventually, as Kater and Dessanteviche moved on with their lives (Dessanteviche actually became a full-time writer, mostly of news articles, but she had five books of poetry published too; Kater wrote a few books for his children, but had never been interested in being published) and no longer travelled the same routes, the CDCR began to fracture. Eventually there were no meetings twice daily.

Yet despite their inability to meet up every work day, the Rhapsodists decided after some years that they missed each other, and so they designed the festival. Nowadays when the CDCR meets, none of those original members attend, but instead a new generation of poets visit that carriage, with its telltale marks of the first members; under the table are scratched the first three stanzas of Dessanteviche’s ‘Light and Dark Pass Over the Windows of Life’. A metaphor of life as a train continued to be a strong presence within her work for the poet’s career, and is what most remember Dessanteviche for.

The work of the new poets, who will today spend their time writing, editing and performing their poetry in sporadic bursts, tends to be characterised by long, free-form splurges of rhyming, rhythmic words which do not tell a tale directly, but which invoke certain sensations when taken as a whole. The more skilled poets (and there certainly is quite a range of skill, with some today making their first foray into the genre) manage to intertwine these concatenations of verse with the rhythms of the train itself, modulating their voice and pace so that they almost appear like another everyday element of this space, blending in with its familiar rattles and screeches.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Shiniest Rock
  • The Brakes of Love Stop the Sinful World – a Festival of Deep Prayer
  • The Festival of Hammers

September 9th – The Festival of the Saviour Returned

In 1467 Jinni Metchlasin was eleven years old, and had become obsessed with the paintings on the walls of her father’s wine cellar. She went down with an oil lamp and sat in front of the red and blue cave paintings staring at the figures depicted there, trying to make sense of the thing. When her father or one of the workers would catch her there she’d scamper away, then return later when the coast was clear. Her mother was concerned for her, said she’d be better off playing outside, in the fresh air with the other children, but nothing she said would dislodge the obsession. Jinni would ask her parents about the paintings, which covered the eastern side of the roughly circular natural cave beneath the Children’s Mound, but they didn’t know much about it themselves. ‘Farthyr ewesd to say hys farthyr sed thy wer pikturs of the Sayvyor,’ wrote Metchlasin later on, in 1489, ‘but he newe no maw then that.’

As they grew up, Metchlasin moved on from sitting in the darkness, and indeed did spend longer outside with the other children, and eventually started work, and eventually took over the winery from her father when he died. Through all of this she pretty much forgot about the wall paintings, until one day, after checking on some barrels, she turned around and they were there again, and she was back to being elven, staring in wonder at these ancient paintings. Who was this saviour? Who did they want to save? What were they saving them from? Who had painted this on the walls? All these questions came flooding back, but now she felt a determination to answer them.

There have been many archaeologists that have scrutinised the images, which depict a lone figure holding aloft a sword, coming out of a wood and over a hill toward a settlement, which presumably represents Buentoille, or what was here before the City. Today the image has been destroyed somewhat by time and moisture, as well as vandalism thought to have been hastily committed by Chastise Church faithful, who saw the images as some kind of veneration of the Waylayer, but via carbon dating and other methodologies, they believe that the paintings were made in the early half of the third century. Little is known about this period of Buentoilliçan history, when there were certainly settlements on the site, but no City as we would know it today. Back in her day, there were no professional archaeologists, only a few antiquarians who used rather unscientific methods to reach their conclusions.

Going on the little that Metchlasin knew about the flaking paintwork as much as anything else, the antiquarians decided that this was some kind of martyred figure who had been killed after the settlement in which the painter lived had been occupied by antagonistic forces. This fresco was made down here in the dark to keep it secret from those forces, those who the images foretold the fall of, when this great martyred figure arose from the dead. Apparently there was once a large tree painted to the left of the figure rising over the hill, which is now all that is left, out of a wound in which the figure was climbing. To the right of the hilltop scene, the image would have shown soldiers falling dead at the sight of the mysterious figure.

There are no distinct ethnic, religious or geographical groups known to modern historians which neatly fit into each of these roles, the oppressors and the oppressed, again mostly because so little is known of the geopolitical landscape of the time. If such a conflict did happen, this image, now mostly crumbled away, is our only record of it. To Metchlasin, this only made her ‘discovery’ feel all the more important, and she named each of the groups as ‘ancient Buentoillitants’, who were the oppressed people, and ‘the Occupation,’ a nebulous term that has come to describe illegitimate monarchs, mercantilist elites, and foreigners, depending who is using it. There were even early Revolutionaries who advocated waiting until this Saviour presented itself, to save them from the monarchy. The idea of this ‘Saviour’ who will one day rise from the grave and liberate Buentoille became ingrained into the public consciousness, especially when Metchlasin began celebrating them with something akin to a mystery play each year.

Metchlasin allegedly chose the date of September the 9th because of the position of the sun in the images and how it correlated to the hill range, which she claimed was the Children’s Mound; today would be the day the Saviour would return. The fact of the matter is, however, that this makes no sense, and it’s more likely that she just chose a date at random, or perhaps a date that had some significance to her personally. The pageantry, which continues to this day, begins on one side of the Children’s Mound, where a Buentoillitant clad in a suit of armour cuts their way out of a ‘tree,’ a paper mâché and cardboard construction which several branches are affixed to. The crowds will then follow this figure up the hill, cheering and laying paper flowers before them the whole way. At the top they will pose for a good while, and make a speech.

The speech is normally short, and varies around the preoccupations of the age. There were times in which people actually looked towards this mythical, probably apocryphal, Saviour, especially during the Great Grain Crisis, when they promised to ‘remove from office those who starve us’ and ‘let the grain flow freely once more.’ The festival’s resurgence in those times is partly why it survives to this day. There have been various organisers over the years, each with their own agenda seeking to swing public opinion, and most have been tolerated over the years by those in power, who recognise that there is little danger from a fictional saviour who will never actually arise.

Today this speech is played up for comedic effect, more than anything else. The people of Buentoille saved themselves, after all, and the joke here is that the Saviour arose a century or two too late; they promise to ‘depose the vile monarchy’ and ‘feed the masses,’ whilst folk stand to the side enjoying a festival snack. When the figure once again descends the hill and reaches Falen Drochyt’s Square, the crowds assembled there will all fall over at once, giggling as they do.

We might never know for sure who this alleged ‘saviour’ was or what else the painting was supposed to represent. Today there will be works carried out to attempt to preserve some of what’s left, and there will also be a new research paper released, which allegedly claims that the ‘saviour’ is actually supposed to represent an ancient folk story of a greene man or woman who comes to a settlement to avenge the deaths of their fellow trees on the people who live in their seasoned carcasses.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Truly Being You
  • The Charlatan of Nought Festival
  • Away Day

September 10th – The Festival of the Big Chicken Dinner

Up until today life was very good for Dulsy the chicken. She’d had pretty much full reign of the pub’s big garden, and there were always plenty of worms and feed and nuts and things that the patrons threw out for her. She had a pretty good perch in the old pear tree, and for the last year she’d been chief chicken, first in the pecking order with the other, younger fowl. Occasionally the cat next door would come in trying to cause trouble, but pretty soon she was big enough to give it a nasty scratch if it pushed its luck. This is all set to ended this morning at about 10am when Keith Lorastor, the owner of the Imprudent Canticle, will snap her neck and start pulling all her feathers out. It probably wouldn’t be much of a consolation for Dulsy to know that her body will be the primary part of what some call Buentoille’s best chicken stew, but she will. Folk get pretty excited about it.

The Imprudent Canticle is a pub in Druether’s Mark, a district on the western edge of the City. Apparently it got its name after worshippers who should have been in church turned up and sang in the pub garden instead, and then were harangued by the priest later. This isn’t really what the Canticle is known for, though. The Canticle is known for its good food and music that both continue well into the night, and not normally the kind of music that happens in a church either; the Canticle is the place to be if you want to hear some traditional Buentoilliçan drudge.

Drudge isn’t as bad as it sounds, or rather, it sounds better than the name would imply. The name actually refers to the drudgery of the poor working classes, around which most songs are based. There are usually two singers who perform songs in a call and response style, cataloguing the problems that life has beset them with in a self-effacing manner which can sometimes broach into comedy or tragedy. Each singer usually plays some kind of stringed instrument, either a fiddle, arched bass, or twelve-stringed guitar, and with these they make mournful, crooning melodies that accompany their singing.

The genre is thought to have originally come out of traditional working songs, sung to get through a hard task of manual labour and to provoke a sense of solidarity with your fellow labourers, which were then modified into other forms. Whilst fiddles and guitars might create the wailing higher notes to accompany these songs, the bassline is usually a plodding, two-note thing, which frequently shifts key. Whilst more famous bassists have used these bones to build more complex musical expressions, the basic nature of the bassline has led to a (probably unfounded) stereotype of drudge bass players as simpletons.

The Big Chicken Dinner, that is, today’s festival, is said to have started in 1820, when a gang of workers who’d just finished laying a new underground rail line, rolled into the pub, demanding ‘drink, music and a big chicken dinner.’ Douglas Newberry, the then owner of the establishment, was only too happy to oblige, knowing that the labourers would have just been given a nice pay packet. At the end of the night, when the workers started filtering home, they declared that they’d had an excellent time, and looked forwards to doing the same thing again soon. Newberry told them they’d have to wait until the next chicken fattened up enough, and that would be about in a year. So it was that the festival became an annual celebration.

Since then the celebration of good food and music has become very popular, and whilst a limited amount of people can fit in the pub itself, the windows onto the street are left ajar and there are tables and chairs set out next to them for latecomers who can’t fit inside, through which food and drink are handed. The stew is a fiery sort of thing, made with plenty of chilli and smoked paprika, though things are tempered somewhat by the large quantity of potatoes therein. Apparently it goes really well with wine, although beer and cider are more usual accompaniments. Perhaps part of the reason why so many people applaud the food is because of the round-bottomed bowls it’s served in; you can’t simply leave it on the table whilst you chat and listen to the music; you have to devote your whole attention or risk spilling it everywhere.

A peculiar tradition is observed at midnight, about half-way through proceedings, which usually continue on until about four in the morning, when the pub owner comes out and presents the players with the chicken’s wishbone. They each hold an end and snap it in two, and then each place their piece of bone inside their instrument, where it rattles around to the music, creating a kind of resonant buzz which suits the genre well. Apparently this practice began on that first night, when the bones were dropped into the bass by accident, and could not be extricated without unstringing the instrument. Whilst the bones are taken out when the instruments (which are normally kept at the pub above the bar) are restrung, and then placed in a large glass jar under the counter, this happens rarely and there are usually four or five bones jumping around inside at any given moment. According to Lorastor, by putting half of the bone into both the bass and the guitar, the musicians are harmonised with each other, and also the audience, whose bellies contain the chicken from whence the bone came.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Saint Buchanbar
  • The Daring Heist of Dibber Howe Day
  • The Festival of Ugly Necklaces and Hairpins