November 2nd – The Festival of Hunting the Greedy Lord

Looking out over the marshes from atop one of Buentoille’s hills of a morning is often a rewarding sight, as the morning mist is slowly evaporated away by the morning sun. Alternately there is that which crowns the hills of Ceaen Moor, occasionally reaching down into the valleys below. Mist and fog are common in the spaces that surround the City, and sometimes in the dead of winter misty tendrils work their way into the streets themselves, but the kind of blanketing, suffocating fog that covers the City today only happens once a year. It’s always at the start of November, or sometimes the end of October, that it comes, creeping over the City in the night so that, in the light of morning when you look outside it is as if someone had placed a white sheet over your bedroom window.

Today Buentoille is a dreamlike place. People and places suddenly strike out of the white seemingly from nowhere, as there is usually only a few feet of visibility, and it is easy to get lost if you don’t know your way very well. It is possible to feel entirely alone in what is normally a bustling, busy street. It is impossible to drive safely, so for today (and possibly the next few days – the fog can last for some time) the automobiles, trams and carriages of the City are all left well alone, excepting of course the emergency vehicles which are still active, just a little slower. It can be quite startling to have your little quiet world suddenly interrupted by a blaring siren and bright lights dissipating strangely through the clouds.

With the restricted visibility and hearing range, today is perfect for performing secret tasks and rituals. It’s likely that more of these happen than most are aware of; the Coven of Irah for example, are very cagey when questioned about what they get up to in the fog (this doesn’t necessarily mean a lot, really, seeing as they are cagey around any questioning), and tales abound of lone walkers stumbling upon strange scenes in the parks and streets. If these are to be believed then there are trees full of men hanging from their feet chanting Chastise Church liturgies backwards, naked women dancing around stones, black-garbed strangers burying goose eggs on the beach. Some of these are simply stories told indoors tonight by the fire in the pub, but some surely have an element of truth to them.

One ritual which definitely occurs today is the Hunting of the Greedy Lord; it’s been going on for hundreds of years although those who participate in it claim that it has not, or at least that they aren’t involved personally. They say this with a knowing wink. If you hear their horn calling out in the mist today, get quickly to the roadside, lest you be knocked over by a masked rider going hell-for-leather, seemingly careless of anyone in their path. This reckless manner is part of the reason for their masks and hooded grey riding cloaks, to protect themselves from prosecution, not that anyone is under any illusion as to who hides beneath. For a long time this garb has been worn mainly out of tradition rather than as an actual disguise; everyone knows that the riders are all priests of the Chastise Church.

Thankfully there haven’t been any deaths from the festival for many many years, although after a Tallboys district woman had both her legs broken by the wild horses of the Hunt in 1743 many local folks hunted down the hunters and beat them thoroughly. Similarly, when the Hunt attempted to enter the Warrens one year, they found themselves severely punished. Eventually the violence got so bad in Tallboys and the surrounding districts (the locals lay in wait each year with nets and clubs) that a route was set through several wide streets, through which the riders had to keep off the walkways, which were fenced off accordingly with bright red tape. This has remained same the way ever since, although the hunters have been known to go off course, whether by design or accident, considering that the priests are usually inexperienced riders.

The quarry of these hunters is, as the name of the festival suggests, a lord, or rather, someone dressed as a lord. This person has their own horse, and is decked out in traditional aristocratic riding gear; a gaudy jacket in bright red with several golden tassels. This ‘Lord’ will these days actually be another priest, usually one who lost some arcane forfeit. The longer they stay out of the clutches of the hunters, the more reparative wine they will be plied with later on in the evening. Once they would also have had to spend a night in the stocks, as did the Lord of Iglow’s Garden, Kannis Moldreddi upon whom their character is based, but this has now been replaced with an effigy instead.

Moldreddi was a dilettante and a carouser, who held lavish parties in his father’s mansion that were notorious across the City. He was famously cruel to his servants, and had a hatred of all things to do with the Church, which he saw as stuffy and boring. When his father died he forbade any of his staff from going to church, and turned the abbey attached to the manor into a brothel. He also stopped paying any tithe to the Church, which was traditionally taken at harvest time. The clergy decided that something had to be done, and since Moldreddi seemed to care not a jot for the shame of his actions, they decided to take more drastic action. When the thick fog of November fell that year they masked themselves and attempted to abduct the carouser on his way home from a drinking club. After a horse chase they had him, and publicly shamed him in the stocks outside the district courthouse, inviting folk from all around to come throw the contents of their privies and bedpans at him.

Initially the events were re-enacted to keep the Lord’s memory of the event sharp, to display their power, but eventually it became tradition, and a good way for normally stuffy priests to let off some steam anonymously. The event is still technically disallowed by the Hierarchs of the Church, but that does little to discourage more junior members, for whom the event is almost a rite of passage. Not every priest is actually involved in the Festival; there are plenty who are vociferously opposed, so in this regard the masks do still serve some purpose. Be careful out there in the fog today.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Closed Space
  • Mittens Day