October 12th – The Festival of the Bone Shaking Ride

Yesterday, in 1888, the student protest group, the Benetek Revolutionary Army, staged a mass protest outside the High House, a large, domed hall with accompanying library tower that serves as the central point of Benetek University. They were calling for the removal of the Vice Chancellor, Vitor Lamm, who had recently passed a pay review that reduced the pay of junior lecturers, and the house and grounds-keeping staff, whilst raising his pay to astronomical levels. As well as students, many of the lecturers (both junior and senior) and staff were there to make their voices heard too.

After some time there was an attempt to enter the High House through the main doors, which was unsuccessful as they had been locked and barricaded by the University management and security teams earlier in the day. Instead, the crowds walked around the building, chanting all the way, trying different doors as they went. The building had about thirty entrances, and it seemed as if most were barred and could not be entered with anything less than a battering ram, not a piece of equipment anyone had thought to bring. However, the security team had forgotten about one door.

The Museum of Earth Sciences was supposed to be open to the public, and it was, but it was so boring that barely anyone ever went there. It was hidden away at the rear end of the High House, below ground level, with little semicircle windows meeting the cobbles outside. The protestors poured down the little set of steps and through the door which was unlocked for them by Squigg, a dusty little caretaker and expert in various academic fields who was sympathetic to the cause. The protestors then hauled a large glass cabinet out from its place in the wall, creating an opening through which they gained access to the High House proper. Before long they had the place occupied, the security team subdued (three priceless vases were smashed in the fracas) and their own barricades constructed.

There was one problem. The protestors had intended to occupy the High House until such a point that the Vice Chancellor was forced to resign. They had hoped they might catch him inside and take him hostage, even, but he was elsewhere in the City, in his private mansion, and just hours later he was coordinating a response, hoping to use his contacts with various militia-wielding aristocrats to besiege the building. This had not been planned for; the protestors had expected to be able to send out teams to get supplies with no resistance as the security team had been dealt with. Instead, when they woke up from their makeshift beds the next day, they looked out the windows and saw a cordon of hundreds of burly soldiers surrounding the House.

The Benetek Revolutionary Army (BRA) were not without their own friends though, the question was, how did they call on their help? They were entirely surrounded, and anyone leaving would be sure to be arrested immediately. Eventually, that night when pretty much all the food in the High House was expended, they hit upon a plan. Under cover of darkness, one of their number would sneak out and steal the bike which had been chained to a drainpipe near one of the entrances for about six months, which they would then ride down the hill and to safety, whereupon they would gather help from other revolutionary groups of anarchists and socialists, with whom the BRA had great solidarity. A rope pulley system was devised, so that these black-clothed groups could drop off supplies into a basket, which would then be raised to a window, at a lesser protected part of the High House, in the dead of night.

That ride, originally performed by Yaan Harvouria, is today re-enacted by whoever leads the Benetek University Steering Committee, the group of students and staff that now manages the University, having replaced the Vice Chancellor later that year when the occupation proved a success. Another Vice Chancellor was appointed by the Traitor King when he saw the University as a challenge to his power, but the Committee was re-established when the Revolution came. In scenes reminiscent of the occupation, students and staff will today enter the High House via the museum, heading to the main hall, where the Committee is voted in. Whoever becomes the Chair is then led to that side door, and placed on the same old rickety bike. The trip down the hill is very uncomfortable, the bike having no suspension, and the hill being cobbled, rather than tarmac-clad. Yet it is a necessary sacrifice that the Chair must make to show their dedication to the University. It is considered good form to remain seated for the entire trip, to bear the bumps and bruises that leave you unable to sit down for a week, the results of this Bone Shaking Ride.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Untimely Health
  • The Disciples of Naryman’s Death Day
  • The Euphoric Backpack Festival