October 15th – The Festival of the Anguished Howl

The best place to hear the Anguished Howl is out of the City, either on a high hill or a cliff overlooking the coast. At one time the City would have been a fine place to hear the Howl, but since about 1940 it has been steadily reducing in volume, reason for which has not been ascertained; in Buentoille the noises of the City can easily drown out this far-off, wind-carried yell.

This is a shame, because at one point festival proceedings on this day would have centred around Expeditionary Pier. Whilst there have been some attempts to instigate silence upon the surrounding district, there is no silencing the crashing waves of the sea which will be particularly noisy today, what with the high wind speeds that accompany the Anguished Howl. The Pier was not only a good, close location from which to hear the noise (it being on the edge of the City and facing out to sea, where the Howl seems to originate), it was also an excellent location to create an associative link between the Great Expedition and the mournful Howl.

Expeditionary Pier was built in the late sixteenth century to help dock the tallships that Buentoillitants hoped would be attracted to the City by the colony the Great Expedition hoped to set up. As such it is entirely useless for most docking procedures, it being raised several metres in the air, but it has been maintained ever since as a reminder of the hubris it symbolises. This hubris is the central rhetorical thrust designed to be conveyed by the festival, parts of which are still performed on the Pier, but which moves elsewhere to hear the Howl. Yet this is not the way in which Buentoillitants always thought about the Great Expedition – for a short while it was more closely associated with righteous, impotent anger, and a sense of betrayal.

When the Howl first started to be heard in 1616, it was a gift to Aether Tyewell, the anti-expansionist, anti-colonialist writer and activist whose work has shaped the attitude of most Buentoillitants towards colonialism and Buentoille’s brief foray into its waters in the form of the Great Expedition. The Howl sounded the day after the ninth anniversary of the Expedition, shocking many Buentoillitants as, at that point, it was very loud. There was a rush to attempt an explanation of the phenomenon, which sounded like the scream of some giant pining for their dead lover, carried on the strong autumnal wind. There is still no definitive scientific explanation; most theories centre around it being the sound created by a particularly large gust of wind being funnelled through the Tibizian Straits, which acts something like an amplifying cone pointed directly at the City, yet there is no understanding of why this happens at the same time once a year, why it only started in 1616, or how it travels across so great a distance and remains so loud. No matter science, Tyewell saw a great opportunity in the timing of the noise.

Every year the loved ones of those who ventured out with the Expedition, and lost their lives fairly soon after they had exited the Tibizian Straits into the Outer Ocean, where almost all of the boats were sunk or captured by the Picaroon Consulate, gathered on Expeditionary Pier, where they held vigil. This would happen yesterday, when the Expedition set sail, and would be accompanied by various firebrand speechmakers who swore revenge on the piratical fleets and the Seven Cities Trading Company who had betrayed them, by building up a greater, more militaristic fleet of their own. The general consensus was that the Buentoillitants who were killed in the conflict did so for good cause, for the honour and glory of Buentoille; that their deaths were righteous. Tyewell sought to change all this, and they succeeded; today the festival held on the Pier and across the high, quiet places near the City focuses on the hubris and tragedy of the event, the greed and trickery by which it was allowed to happen, and the necessity of ensuring that it never happens again.

When the Great Expedition ventured into the high seas that day, they were expecting to be left alone by the Picaroon Consulate, to be given safe passage across their territory, as negotiated by the Seven Cities Trading Company. The fact of the matter was that only ships flying the Trading Company’s flag were given safe passage, and that the Buentoillitant fleet, unprepared for sea warfare (yet fully prepared to subjugate the natives where they planned to land) were attacked almost immediately. This was all a clever ruse by Golga Cherm, a future Master of the Company, who suggested the Expedition to Buentoille, telling them of the riches they would gather if they made a colony in the (fictional) place he marked on their maps. Cherm’s intention was to weaken Buentoille’s control over the trade routes of the Inner Sea, once almost the entirety of the City’s naval forces were destroyed. Unfortunately for Buentoille, the plan worked. It was not only those who died and their families that suffered; thousands had invested in the colony and they lost that money to the bottom of the sea; a small financial crisis erupted.

If it wasn’t for the Howl and the accompanying work of Tyewell, Buentoille, at this time fertile ground for authoritarian sentiment, might have been pulled down a more militaristic route in response to the tragedy, and more would have died as a result. Tyewell helped the City realise that the Expedition had been driven by greed, and that it wouldn’t have been worth the lives, even had it succeeded. The Howl was, she claimed, an echo of the pain caused by the irresponsible attempt at colonial rule; it was the sound of Buentoillitants dying away from their beloved home, reverberating through time each year to the day they died, a day after they set off. Then, as today, her anti-colonialist sentiments and arguments were formed into speeches, read out on that Pier, backed up by the Howl. The vigil is still held, a reminder of young lives wasted in service of dubious goals, of imagined riches. Candles are lit and the names of the dead read out, and after the final name the Anguished Howl comes, nowadays just a whisper in a gust, still strong enough to snuff out all the candles at once.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Boiled Meats
  • The Brine Slinger Festival
  • Dullen Day