November 11th – The Festival of the Good Boys

Pet ownership is not particularly common in Buentoille, at least compared to Litancha and the late Catrosondia, where it is and was far more prevalent, especially in regard to dogs. Perhaps it is that Buentoillitants are simply too busy preparing for the never-ending gamut of festivals to walk, feed and generally care for a dog; there are people that need caring for, after all. Cat ownership is certainly more common in the City, but still not by comparison to other cities; it’s likely that Buentoille’s high vegan population is the overall cause. Regardless of the low numbers, Buentoille is still full of domestic animal lovers, many of whom will be out on the streets today.

Along the streets (or to be more specific, the street) upon which these folk will be showing their respects today there was once a cable railway, the tracks of which may still be seen, now embedded in the surrounding asphalt. This railway used to run in both directions, helping to ferry folk up and down Ranaclois Hill, connecting at the bottom with more conventional rail and tram services. As the street they went up and down was very busy at all times of the day, the cable which pulled the trains up and down the sharp incline was embedded in a sheath in the road, so that it would no cause injury to pedestrians or obstruct the movement of other vehicles. The train service was owned by the son and daughter of Getter Muldragh, the infamous rail tycoon of the early 1800s, a ‘venture’ that they were lent money to set up as part of their ‘training’ to fill the shoes of their father then he died.

There were two major flaws with this set up, both managerially and physically, in terms of the location of the cable. Firstly, the two siblings, whilst perfectly sensible apart, became feckless when working together, quickly becoming concerned with the application of drink to their bellies rather than the application of funds within the business. This meant that workers often went unpaid, and as a result there were many strikes and pickets that had to be cleared up by their father’s ‘muscular’ contacts. As a result the rail was constantly understaffed, and went without a single maintenance worker for three months. Combine this with the secondary flaw, that the cable, in it’s concealed underground pipe that often filled with water, could not be seen and casually assessed for damage, rust or wear & tear, and it was a disaster waiting to happen.

The disaster eventually arrived without warning (besides the occasional low creak considered normal by the untrained workers) on this day in 1835, at precisely 4:28pm. The cable, long overstrained by excess loads and corroded by water in the pipe, snapped whilst dragging a train up the hill, sending it hurtling back down again. A handcart had been pushed over the tracks on the busy street, and had become wedged in front of the train, wedging in so that even more strain was exerted upon the line. Due to various cost-cutting oversights, there was no secondary cable, and whilst there was an emergency break in the driver’s cabin, there was no driver in said cabin to save costs (the engine was located at the top of the hill). The passengers (of which there were around sixty) weren’t able to enter the cabin without first leaving the train, a feat which became neigh-on impossible within seconds of the snap, when the carriage had picked up speed. The bottom of the hill, and the end of the line, were getting closer by the second.

Thankfully the cry went out and all the pedestrians who were downhill from the train managed to get out of the way in time, some by barely a whisker, throwing themselves into the gathered crowds on what was then the cobbled street. After that day, so many had witnessed the disaster that this street became popularly known as ‘Runaway Road’. One of the pedestrians there that day was Mister Eelham Decker, an elderly gentleman of notoriously poor hearing and eyesight, who relied on his fifteen dogs (all of whom he was regularly out walking with at once) for navigational purposes. These dogs, all of various breeds and ages, had all been saved from various animal sanctuaries over the years, and he treated them all as individuals, pampering them and essentially letting them do as they please, a fact that meant a short walk to the shops was likely to take half a day. The speed with which the animals moved that day was uncharacteristic, to say the least.

Many people, including most of those attending the ceremony on Runaway Road today, claim that what the dogs did that day was intentional, that they knew how they must save the humans careering towards certain doom. For others, even those who love domestic animals, this is a ludicrous suggestion; they claim that the dogs, being shorter than humans, could not see the train coming, and that they were scared into running by the sounds of screaming and distress coming from the crowds. They naturally ran to where the crowds were thinnest, ripping their various leads out of Mister Decker’s hands, straight into the path of the train, which at this point was going very fast. Unfortunately for the dogs, only one of them survived, but the bodies of those who died caught between the wheels in such a way that it progressively slowed it down, ensuring that the most significant human injuries that day were a broken wrist on Mister Decker and a few bruises on the passengers in the carriage. It was a terrible, bloody miracle.

In recognition of the sacrifice the dogs made, unwittingly or otherwise, in service of human lives, the gathered dog lovers will leave various dog treats and toys at the small shrine by the roadside. Descendants of those who owed their lives to the canine intervention are also expected to attend, leaving similar gifts. The shrine, a bronze statue of the fourteen hounds, has a bowl by each dog for this express purpose. Together, they are commonly known as The Good Boys, possibly because this is what Mister Decker called them when he visited them each day at the end of his life, refilling each of their bowls with fresh food every time he came. Their noses and foreheads are shiny where the generations have petted them.

Before they leave, those who leave the gifts today will pour a small pail of red paint down the street, beginning from the plaque set into the asphalt where the cable broke. It cascades down the road as it did that day, the horrified onlookers today watching with an expression of sadness instead. This rather macabre end to the official festival is a precursor to the gathering that happens later in the night, when occultists from across the City will attempt to record or make contact with the spirits of the hounds, which are said to run along the remaining rails tonight, like electricity along a cable.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Quickening Hearts
  • The Festival of Dannik’s Dive
  • The Reedshaw Jackson Handbook Appreciation Day