October 1st – The Festival of the Frozen Sip

When two of explorer-librarians (Gerrine Bessant and Turkmenster Vao) were looking to extend the Hidden Library in 1836, they came across a dessicated corpse in an antechamber of an old salt mine, kneeling and holding a wooden cup to its lips. The coroner was called, and the results of their investigation showed that the body had been mummified by the salty air, and that they had likely died of dehydration, too. This was not a recent death, however; the coroner estimated the time of death to be the early fourteenth century; so more extensive tests were not carried out. There is no mention in the report of the cup or any possible substances it contained; this is because the cup was taken by the librarians shortly before they viewed the body.

The Father’s Cup is an old and well-known tale in Buentoille, one which tells of a father and his three sons, one of whom is found dead. Both of the other two sons are suspected of the murder, but both deny it and blame the other. The father takes a cup, fills it with the blood of his dead son, and tells the other two sons that they must drink it, and that whoever was truly the murderer will fall dead. Both sons die when they drink, having both had a hand in the murder. Later, this vessel, which has been depicted in many different forms over the years, seemed to pop up in other stories, with the ability to divine the untrue heart (as it does in The Lady’s Suitors), or to make folk speak the truth (as in The Mandrake’s Daughter). It was this cup that the explorer-librarians thought they had found, and wanted to keep for themselves.

The cup, which is today held at the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, certainly does have a reddish-brown stain within, as if it had once held blood, so it is easy to see how the librarians jumped to that conclusion, given the circumstances of how it was found. They attempted to find a buyer for the piece, but had trouble convincing anyone it was genuine. Eventually, however, they agreed a hefty price with an industrialist, on the condition that they had the ‘blood residue’ tested and dated. When the results came back, it turned out that it was not blood at all, but some other red substance which, it was declared, was ‘unknown to science.’

The deal fell through, but the two librarians were now intrigued by this substance that lined the cup, thinking that perhaps this it instead could earn them some money. Apparently oblivious to the risks, Vao convinced Bessant to fill the cup with water, into which some of the residue became incorporated, and then drink it. The moment they did, they became frozen in place, and could not move for over an hour. It seemed that the substance (now called ‘Bessant’s folly’) was actually a powerful paralytic and anaesthetic, and that the corpse which once grasped the cup had, presumably, drunk so much of the stuff that they eventually died of an inability to water and feed themself.

It has never been determined quite how the substance was produced in the first place, but scientists have since managed to copy its chemical structure, synthesising large quantities for various medical applications; there are no known side-effects to Bessant’s folly, so it has been used to save many lives over the years. Today, in a small ceremony which acknowledges the foolish bravery of Bessant and the history of the chemical, medical practitioners will drink a precisely measured quantity of the paralytic whilst posing, forming a number of statues on the streets of Buentoille that will last for almost the entire day. Apparently it can be a difficult experience to be under the influence of Bessant’s folly for that long, but an exciting one too; users report strange out-of-body experiences whilst drugged. Visitors to the City are reminded under threat of prosecution not to prod, push over, or otherwise harass these living statues who stand in vigil today as thanks for one of the great scientific advances of the last century.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Goose’s Delight Festival
  • The Festival of Fairness in Distribution
  • Slider Day