September 14th – The Boat Party

Three days ago a skiff turned up in the Buentoille Bay and a woman standing aboard started waving a green flag with a black circle on it. Two row boats went over to meet her, a couple of fishers breaking off from their work. They had a short chat and then returned to shore, excitedly shouting to others: ‘the Veransi are coming! The Veransi!’

They still roam the seas out there, that remnant of Picaroon prowess, the Veransi live on, enduring well beyond the nautical empire, the Picaroon Consulate, of which they were a central faction. Whilst many of the other political groups broke down and either perished or were assimilated by land-based powers, the Veransi held together, living out their entire lives at sea and seldom if ever making landfall. Way out in the wide, deep ocean, they live by fishing, trade, and occasional piracy.

Yet despite their fearsome reputation, the Veransi are no longer feared or despised by the people of Buentoille; on the contrary, their presence is a cause for celebration! These women who once controlled access to the Outer Ocean through their pirate fleets, and who are generally credited for the failure of the Great Expedition, come now in peace and friendship, and have done so every few years since the Revolution, when they came to congratulate the City for throwing off its oppressors with gifts of food and alcohol. Quite how they came to hear of the uprising is something of a mystery.

These gifts were received with enthusiasm; this was the time when the trade which Buentoille relied upon had been cut off by the Seven Cities Trading Company, and many had begun to starve. Apparently, much of the food that was given to the City was stolen from the Company, as an act of solidarity, but also a historical rivalry between the two groups that has simmered since the Company negotiated a settlement with the Picaroon Consulate that led to the opening of the Tibizian Straits, and paved the way for the Traders’ subsequent domination of the region. Nowadays the City doesn’t require their charity or trade to survive, but trades are made nonetheless, after the greeting ceremonies are done away with, of course.

It’s the women who usually go over first. Men usually feel a little uncomfortable on the Veransi vessels, where the lascivious stares of women long at sea away from men are somewhat unnerving, even (perhaps even more so) for men who are usually the ones directing their gaze in such a manner. Women are better respected by the sailing folk too, who do have some men in their midst, but only those under sixteen, the sons of the women who live and work on the many ships and boats that make up the Veransi fleet. At one time they would have held men as servants and galley slaves, and whilst this practice has long been outlawed it still persists in the minds of those less enlightened Buentoillitants, the same people who refer to the Veransi as the ‘Lesbian Pirates.’ Lesbianism is, of course, common and even popular amongst the Veransi, but it is by no means the exclusive sexuality on their fleet. It is only those identifying as men who are banned from sailing with them, not straight women or folk of other genders.

The ceremonies always happen on the ships, a great knot of seafaring vessels which are pulled together whilst the boat party commences, enabling folk to travel between them as they float out in the bay. Buentoille hasn’t the docking facilities to accommodate all the ships, of which there are roughly 300, but even if it did they would not land or come ashore; the Veransi get terrible, debilitating land sickness. They will arrive at some point this morning, according to the advance scout, the first time for seven years, and folk are eager to see them. Many people have struck up relationships with these seafaring women, and will recommence them for a short period, before they head back out into the Outer Ocean once again.

The Veransi are anarchists, so do not have a leader, but they elect diplomats to speak for them, in much the same way that members of the Buentoilliçan Office of External Affairs are elected. The two groups will shake hands across the bows of their boats, before the Veransi attach three loaves of bread to each pong of a grappling hook and use it to pull the two together. The bread is a sign of friendship. Any male members of the Buentoilliçan side are require to stay put on their vessels until the other side have dropped anchor, whereas others are let aboard immediately. On board, the two groups will then exchange three gifts: an empty bowl is given to the Veransi, symbolic of how they came to the aid of Buentoille in its time of need. The sometimes pirates then place a fish in this bowl and hand it back. The Buentoillitants take out the fish, fill the bowl with nails and then hand it over once again. Whilst this may seem odd, it is a symbolic way of each side declaring its intentions to keep trading and helping each other, whether that be by providing food or boat repairs and other goods and service, hard-to-obtain on the open seas.

Once the niceties are out of the way the drinking begins in earnest, and the other Buentoillitants interested in attending the party board. Boat parties tend to be best in July around the time of the heatwave, but they are well attended even if there is snow falling. The Veransi are notoriously disorganised in their approach to yearly management, and they really could arrive at ant time of year, despite repeated petitions for them to make it a regular festival day. As such, if you want to sample Veransi hospitality, to taste their grog and strange mix of seafood, the spiny horrors of the deep and the farmed seaweed and muscle ropes that hang from beneath their ships, or to see the soilboats where small citrus fruit trees and flowers grow, you will have to take your chance now.

For some, today is a chance to see their children that they may have never met, raised aboard the boats in communal nurseries. Some may make new children, or simply make amorous connections where men are novelties and other newcomers are welcome novelties. There is always a certain exchange of people, as well as goods; the young men who have come of age depart their seaward home forever, enduring several weeks of terrible land sickness in the process. If their fathers cannot be found, then they are initially cared for by the Buentoilliçan Adjustment Contingent, who teach them the ways of the City. Conversely, some women who are attracted by the lifestyle or the company of a particular Veransi, will depart the City and live on the seas. Buentoillitants don’t usually last long amongst the Veransi, however, as they quickly become very homesick. An extra boat is always brought along with any newcomers, in case they want to come back home. Apparently this is common enough to warrant various jokes, and for the Veransi to call someone who is uncommitted or naive ‘a Buentoille’.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Crooning for my Darling
  • Cardinal Caper Day
  • The Festival of Unholy Skin