November 20th – The Festival of Cheating the Wolfgod

Winter isn’t far away now, and the first frosts have begun to appear, making the green parks of Buentoille turn white like an old man’s beard. It is traditional to taste the first morning frost of the year, and many folk claim that they can tell by the taste what sort of a winter it will be. Divining in this manner has always seemed important as winter is a time of peril, peril which comes in more guises than mere cold; in the lands that surround Buentoille, winter brings more corporeal dangers.

The festival happening at the edge of the City today, by the pathway that leads north out toward the Ancestor Mountains, plunging first into a remnant of the Calewynch forest, is less a method of divining what sort of winter it will be, and more an attempt at preventing it becoming too dangerous. Just into the treeline, where the pathway crosses another that travels east, there is the stump of an old elm tree, which would have stood tall and stout whilst it was alive. To the north the pathway twists away into the forest, quickly rounding a bend out of sight, and to the south, across a field and small brook, is the City’s edge, specifically the Tredegor Municipal Housing Estate. It is in this liminal place that today that you can watch a young Buentoillitant be ritually sacrificed by The Cult of the Winter Wolf.

Wolves are, of course, the corporeal danger that haunt the lands around the City in the depths of winter. Eastern white wolves are the most populous of the different breeds; normally living in the moorland and mountainous regions to the north, harsh winters tend to bring their hunting range further south. Whilst once they posed a significant danger to travellers, since the invention of the lupine warding whistle (a whistle that creates a high pitched sound humans can’t hear but which dogs and wolves find intolerable) they generally leave humans alone, though cattle and sheep herders still go to work armed. They certainly stay away from the City itself, except occasionally on Buentoilliçan Lunar New Year, when, if it has been a particularly harsh winter, they have been known to make tentative forays amongst outlying sections of Buentoille.

Still, despite people generally avoiding their predations, wolves have made a lasting mark on the Buentoilliçan psyche, one consequence of which is the festival today. Preparations can take most of the day, not so much in terms of the liminal space where it takes place; this is sparsely decorated, with blood-red fabric tied between the trees, lining each side of the path that leads north; more so of the sacrificial victim. First, they bathe for several hours so that their flesh is more relaxed and supple, a suitable morsel for the Wolfgod, the celestial being who governs the movements of the eastern white wolf, according to the Cult. Hairs are plucked, cut and general beautification takes place, though no make up is applied as this could sully their taste. All of this happens before midnight tonight, when the torchlit ceremony takes place.

There are three main roles in the ceremony: the Sacrifice, the Wolf and the Butcher. The Wolf is generally a high-ranking member of the Cult who dons a wolfskin robe, addresses the assembled crowds, and wields the special knife used in the act itself. The Butcher has a different blade, and a large black sheet that they cast over the body whilst they do their bloody work. Of course, most of the butchering has already been done before the festival, earlier in the day. It would be entirely illegal to actually kill a person, chop them up and feed them to wolves, not to mention immoral. The festival is controversial enough in the City without any actual human death occurring; it does look very real, at least at first.

The primary sleight of hand is in the knife, which is blunt, retractable, and has a good deal of fake blood contained within. Once the Sacrifice has been ‘stabbed’ in the neck on the tree stump, the Butcher moves in, with a good deal of meat (usually pig meat) chopped up small, and the aforementioned black sheet. Underneath, the meat is exchanged for the (alive) human, and the Sacrifice is led away beneath. Whilst the Sacrifice has no loss of life, limb, or blood inflicted upon them in the proceedings, before they come out from underneath the sheet they do lose something very precious: their name. From today onwards for the rest of their life they will live under a new name; after all, the person they were has died, and they must continue to pretend this is the case, instead the Wolfgod knows he has been cheated and sends his wolves to claim reparations directly.

It’s unlikely that any wolves will actually come this close to the City to eat the meat left out for them; normally it’s foxes, cats and other small mammals who make the most of the free meal. Still, it is there if they wanted it, and more importantly the Wolfgod has been sated for another year. Hopefully no travellers will go missing, and the winter will be short lived.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Keeping it Movin’
  • The Shoelace Tying Speed Championships

November 19th – The Festival of the Mill Street Oracle

In 1928, Mill Street was due for demolition. In this part of Darksheve’s district there were plenty of slum streets like Mill Street, where the constructions were hastily thrown up and unsanitary. Folk had mostly moved out to other parts of the City before 1928, and the houses were falling derelict all around. Except that, amongst the mouldering debris around them, the house at 78 Mill Street was a little different; they may not have had access to the best materials or architects, but the inhabitants had put a lot of work and love into making their home a pleasant place to live. They weren’t particularly happy with the idea that all that hard work was going to be crushed to brick dust in a few months.

Buentoille prides itself on its local democratic structures, but sometimes in a democracy individual concerns can get overridden by what’s best for the majority. Mill Street was to be turned into wonderful new apartment blocks, spacious and hygienic, with its own primary school and a health centre not too far away. The houses were prioritised for anyone who still resided in the crumbling road, and everyone was pretty happy with the idea, except for the Passener family, the family who lived at no. 78. Their house, which they had spent so long improving and personalising, was to be replaced by the primary school.

Despite their petitions, the rest of the local community clearly didn’t think that the Passener’s house was worth the loss of a primary school. Something else had to be done. The only thing guaranteed to stop a demolition in Buentoille is evidence of historical significance, or of an established festival or tradition that takes place there. The only issue for the Passeners was that there was no such significance or festival, and everyone locally knew it. It seemed that there was no hope; the demolition had already begun on the rest of the street and the family were given two weeks to get out before they were forcibly removed. It was then, in an outing to the Hidden Library, that Feram Passener found hope, buried deep in a dusty old book.

The book Feram had found was actually a diary, specifically the diary of the artist Hermennia Jauche, perhaps the most famous painter of the eighteenth century, whose portraits and domestic scenes of Buentoillitants from all social classes are considered some of the greatest artworks to ever grace a canvas. In this diary, it was revealed that Jauche had painted her masterpiece ‘Oracle at Work’ on-site, whilst the eponymous oracle performed her prophetic magic, ‘in a house near the end of Mill Street, in Darksheve’s.’ The identity of the ‘Oracle’ had long been a point of mystery and frustration amongst Jauche scholars, who had somehow never found the diary. Feram claims that it was placed in front of him on his desk (at which he had been reading about compulsory purchase law) by a passing Pohlatiné, who said nothing and then walked away.

The Passeners couldn’t believe their luck. Very quickly they set about creating a festival around this fact, glossing over the fact that this could have been any house on their street. At this point that small detail seemed less important, given that the rest of the street had been demolished; who could say that it wasn’t this house? When designing the festival, they took cues from both the painting and the diary, getting auntie Maggy to dress up like the Oracle (with dark shawl and ring-encrusted fingers), and providing her with all the necessary prophetic props: the seaweed hanging in the hallway like a curtain, the bowls full of eggs, the black candles and mice bones. They invited everyone from the local community to come along and have their fortunes told, in celebration of the house’s ‘historical significance’. They chose the 19th of November because it was a few days before they were due to be forced out, but since it has been post-rationalised as the likely date that Jauche visited the original Oracle.

From the fact that this is still a festival today, you can tell that the ruse worked, although not quite for the reasons that the Passeners gave. Nobody really cared that this may have been the house that a famous painter once used as a studio, and whilst they enjoyed the fortune-telling they didn’t really accept that this was reason enough to save the house, but what they did see when they went inside the Passener household was how nice it was inside. Most of those who voted for the new construction where the house was had assumed it was just like all the others on the street, and that the Passeners were simply stuck in their ways. From the outside it didn’t look like much, but inside there had clearly been so much love put into the home; there were beautifully carved ceiling beams and walls painted with touching murals, there were handmade cabinets and a clay oven that flowed around the space, heating the entire house through ornate sprawling piping. Everywhere they looked there were personal, artistic touches.

Two days after the festival that the Passeners put on, an emergency council meeting was held, and amendments were made to the building plans. The Passener house now exists in a narrow gap between the school and a huge housing block next door, a lone reminder of the past, small in stature but not personality. Most years, the line to have your fortune told (but more importantly to get a look around the delightful Passener home) stretches right around the block.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Ancient Rites Made Modern: a Historian’s Conference Festival
  • The Maple Syrup Tasting Festival
  • The Festival of the Blighted Hare

November 18th – The Festival of the Dieiner Box

The Museum of Traditional Antiquities is without doubt the largest museum in Buentoille, so long as you don’t count the Unfathomed Archive, which to be fair doesn’t really meet the definition. There are over seventy exhibition rooms within the sprawling building, which was purpose-built in monarchic times but has since been expanded, each cataloguing in its own way the twists and turns of Buentoilliçan material culture throughout the City’s long history. The room which is usually of most interest to both Buentoillitants and visitors is the so-called ‘Mystery Room’, in which various undated, unidentified objects reside.

Most obviously within the Mystery Room is a miniature wooden tower that appeared on the Museum’s doorstep one morning in 1956, presumably made as an architectural model of a potential build, though no further information has ever been intuited or discovered. In addition to this item in the collection, there are various other objects of intrigue, including undeciphered manuscripts, a small collection of miniature wooden hands, and perhaps most intriguing of them all, the Dieiner Box.

The Box rests in a small glass cabinet for most of the year, and it doesn’t look like much. At a casual glance the Box is a simple wooden cube, sized at just under a foot in each dimension. It’s dark, shiny hardwood, with a few tarnishes here and there, but no other obvious markings or openings. Along the edges of the top plane, where it meets the other sides, there is a hairline gap, almost invisible to the naked eye. If you whistle next to this gap at the correct pitch (precisely 2000 Ux) then there is a small click, and the top side of the Box slowly slides out and up, revealing a smaller box inside, with what appears to be a simple keyhole. This is as far in as anyone has ever got.

One of the reasons that the Dieiner Box is included in the Mystery Room collection is that nobody knows what’s kept inside, but there’s also the fact that, as with many of the objects displayed there, nobody knows really where it came from. It came into the museum’s possession via Isyu Dieiner, a locksmith from Whight Hollow who was apparently sold it in a pub in 1916. Her written account of the distinctly dodgy deal is displayed next to the glass cabinet; apparently she was well into her cups when the ‘tall, handsome man’ entered her local pub and spoke to the barman ‘as if they were childhood friends,’ although the barman later stated that he’d never met the man before. After a few minutes, this stranger walked over to Dieiner’s table, set the Box down in front of her, looked straight into her eyes, and whistled. ‘The box opened and he named a price, just like that. I laughed, of course; it was far too much for a silly box. Then he said, “open it and it’s yours, for free.”’ Three frustrating hours later, Dieiner’s pocket lockpicks had done nothing. ‘I need to take it home to get a better look with my good picks,’ she told the man, but he simply pushed the cube closed and named the price once again. This time she paid, and moments later he was gone.

She had managed to get some information out of the stranger as to where he got the little hardwood cube; apparently he’d looted it from the home of an aristocrat during the Revolution. She kicked herself later that she’d been too engrossed to pry further. It wasn’t until 1952, when Dieiner died, that the Box came into the possession of the Museum; her family had seen her obsession with the Box throughout the rest of her life and they didn’t want anyone else to fall foul of it. They ensured that as part of the terms of ownership, the Museum could only take the Box out of its cabinet once a year. Unwittingly, they got the whole City hooked.

Today is the appointed day, when the Museum will take the Box out of its cabinet, perform the appointed whistle, and invite people from all across the City to bring a key. There are thousands of found keys in Buentoille, and the theory is that presumably one of them will fit, where lockpicks have failed. Not that they aren’t tried also; whilst the afternoon is taken up by key-toting Buentoillitants trying their luck, in the morning seven professional locksmiths are each given an hour with the Box. Not that the result is ever any different; in the words of Dieiner; ‘it’s like the thing changes itself each time you push down a pin or rotate a sub-cylinder. But it’s more than that, more than reactive; it’s like it knows what you’re going to do before you do it.’

Of course, there’s one surefire way to get into the box; by breaking it or cutting it open. However, since nobody knows what’s supposed to be inside, there is a general reluctance to try this method, seeing as it might break the contents as well; presumably they were of great value to have been protected so securely? Given the mind-boggling complexity of the lock, some have theorised that there’s conversely nothing inside at all, because it would need all the space inside to change its design so often. To these theorists, the lock is a prototype, a proof of concept that was perhaps being sold to the aristocrat from whose house it was taken. Others think that there was no aristocrat at all, and that, given the debilitating obsession the box created in Dieiner, the stranger who sold it to her was actually the Grenin Waurst himself, with one of his fiendish tricks.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Beneficent Smugglers
  • The Rude Festival

November 17th – The Festival of Life’s Threads Revealed

There is a place deep in Dunmonii Wood where the bracken grows thickly between the Dunmonii and birch and alder trunks, and out of this browning sea rises an island of boulders where stunted oaks make their home. If the weather reports are correct, the bracken will have mist flowing in and over it this morning, nothing like the fog of the month’s beginning, but disorienting nonetheless. If you clamber up into the boulders and their lush green covering of moss, you’ll notice that there’s something unnatural about the boulders; at some point someone placed them here in a circle, creating a little world inside, a bowl, separate from the surrounding forest.

On the oaks in this space, of which there are five, randomly spaced around, the same moss which covers the boulders is thickly plastered alongside exotic-looking lichens in red, mustard yellow, or the more traditional turquoise, their tiny tentacular fronds reaching out to the sky. The oak branches are heavily laden, not with leaves and acorns (which have, at this point, mostly strewn the floor beneath or been blown out of this little otherworldly bowl), but with curtains of hanging moss. In the morning mist that flows over the top of the bowl everything is saturated and dripping in succulent silence.

It’s this moisture, more than anything else, that the visitors to this seldom-seen place are seeking. They collect it in little glass jars, squeezing the curtains as if they were udders. It takes some time to get a jam jar full, which is how much each person takes. There is no shamanistic dress code, yet still many of the visitors will look very similar: they wear their hair long, and any amongst them old enough and able to grow beards do so with great pride. The fact is that most of the folk who gather there today will be teenagers, or that peculiar kind of twenty-something who is still convinced in their heart that they are a teenager, despite all evidence to the contrary. The details of this ritual have been passed down from teenager to teenager since 1939, when Giddia Supreme and Daley Harrist first visited the secluded spot.

It had seemed as good a place as any to camp out. They were supposed to be at school really, but Daley had just got herself kicked out of the school play and Giddia had never been one for classrooms when she could be outdoors instead and anyway they had just recently fallen in love after a long period of courtship so who needs school? It was in the morning that they realised they’d run out of water, so they squeezed it from the moss and boiled it in a pan because that’s what you’re supposed to do with water to make sure it’s clean. The only issue was that they left pot on the boil a bit too long; they’d gotten back into their sleeping bag because it was cold out and had become somewhat preoccupied in the way lovers do, and had forgotten about making their morning cup of tea until most of the water had boiled away.

When they finally remembered the water, they found not a dry pan, nor just a smaller quantity of water, but something quite different indeed. The substance coating the bottom of the pan was somewhere between jelly and water, a kind of viscous gel that appeared completely clear. Most people might have been alarmed and discarded their odd creation, but, being as they were teenagers they ate it, half each. Apparently it didn’t taste like much, but the texture made them wrinkle their noses anyway. It’s likely there will be similar reactions from some of the twenty-or-so teenagers gathered there today.

Quite what everyone sees when they eat the gel, known as ‘moss syrup’, is presumably individual, a sacrosanct moment between the human and the cosmos. What you are supposed to see, if you believe the stories at least, is the threads of life; like the moss hanging around you, they extend up past the foliage and into the sky, connecting your limbs to the eternal, and you know that somewhere up there, beyond the clouds and stars, a great hand is guiding your movements. The threads were always there, they say, but the gel simply allows you to see them. If your threads entangle with those of another person lying on their back in the moss, staring up through the bare branches into the sky, then you know that you must be in love, although if you follow them up high enough, we’re all tangled together in the end. Presumably you can come and drink moss syrup on any day of the year, but only on one day, today, will there be so many others there with you, showing you the way, and perhaps your threads will entangle with one of them.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Terrible Tuba Players
  • The Indecipherable Language Gameshow Festival
  • Cake Day

November 16th – The First Night of the Haunted Coast

Every Buentoilliçan knows not to go down to the coast in mid-to-late November at night. The sounds of ghosts are unmistakable, their strange hoots a squeals echoing off the cliffs and being cast out across the bay. There are little flickers of light, bright blue flickers here and there, barely noticeable; perhaps they are the energy that comes off these ghosts as they bump into each other? According to Buentoilliçan folklore these are all the unsettled spirits that inhabit the City, clamouring as they petition the boatman to take them to the Other Shore. Quite why the boatman is on the Buentoilliçan shores for a couple of weeks, starting tonight, is a matter that has never been settled; perhaps he is on holiday? Perhaps he awaits a special passenger?

If you were of a brave, foolish, or merely sceptical and curious disposition, you might choose to walk down to the coast, to see these ‘ghosts’ for yourself. Many have done this over the years, and few have come back with anything interesting to report; it seems that as soon as a human presence enters the coastline, the ghosts fall silent and hide away, yet from afar you can see their faint blue lights in the dark, and hear their voices, a chilling call often rising in unison, that strikes straight to the heart of any normal Buentoillitant.

There is no centrally organised response to the haunting tonight, no mass exorcism or ghost-laying, thought this is not to say that these things haven’t been tried over the years. There have been hundreds of attempts to lay the shoreline spirits to rest over the years, but none have ever succeeded; each year the ghosts are there once again, causing an unholy racket. There are, however, certain protective rituals undertaken by the City’s seaside residents, and by any fishers who are brave enough to venture out on the sea tonight. Above the windows, doorways and fireplaces of those in earshot of the terrible noises that emanate from the shore are placed wreaths of dried chilis or (more traditionally) thyme, both of which are thought to protect against errant ghosts. Others like to place mirrors in their windows, or hang black cloth behind them so that they appear to be mirrors from the outside. Another common trick is to place lines of salt beside routes of entry, or to rub lamb’s fat into door and window frames.

The edges of fishing vessels are specially painted with red zigzaging patterns before fishers set sail. These patterns allegedly confuse any ghosts trying to climb aboard, keeping them circling the boat, recursively looking for an entry point. Fishers are also known to sing special songs, such as ‘No Way Through’ designed to deter any ghosts from mistaking them for the boatman. A common tale told in the pubs that surround the Buentoilliçan seafront features a fisher who sings the song wrong, and sees three sets of ghostly hands grip the side of the boat. She grabs the oar and begins hitting them, but only succeeds in capsizing the boat. Then, in a comic twist, she is mistaken for a ghost herself when she tries to board her friend’s vessel in a similar manner.

The issue with all of these ghost-warding measures is that they are entirely pointless; there are no ghosts, only birds, spectral curlews to be precise. There is nothing truly ‘spectral’ about these migratory seabirds, and the name only came about because they’d been mistaken for ghosts for many years. The curlews are nocturnal creatures, which are excellent at hiding behind rocks and the like when approached by potential predators, rather than flying away like many other species. It is in this manner that they remained undiscovered for so many hundred years; it was only in 1822 with the invention of the electric torch that they were first discovered. Before, with simple hand lamps, those searching for the source of the noise had to get very close, and the spectral curlews heard them coming and managed to evade notice. The occasional bird may have been seen, but as they go deathly quiet in the presence of people, the connection may not have been made. As torches cast their light much further, the birds could be spotted together and watched whilst they made their strange calls.

And what of the flickers of ghostly light? Do these birds glow-in-the-dark? This was something of a mystery to scientists for a long time, as dead specimens didn’t exhibit any bioluminescent characteristics. This cast enough doubt on the bird theory that many maintained, and still maintain, their belief that the sounds and lights were ghosts. The birds must simply be attracted to their ethereal presence, folk thought. It wasn’t until the beginning of the last century that the flickers were explained, when it was discovered that the primary food of the spectral curlew was the piddock, a common clam that burrows into the rocks of the Buentoilliçan seashore, and which emits a faint glow when plucked out of its shell and squashed between the curlew’s long beak. Spectral curlews are specialised in digging the clams out from their burrows, a feat that few other animals are capable of. As such their diet is almost entirely comprised of piddocks, and they have to move on once they’ve depleted the population in any given area.

Still, tonight is the first night they’ll arrive on, and they usually stay for about two weeks before moving on. If you are the superstitious type you may wish to stay indoors for this time, away from any potential malign spirits. If, however, you are a bit more adventurous, you may wish to join the school science clubs that gather by the shore after nightfall with high-powered torches, trying to catch a glance of the shy spectres.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Ferris Wheeler’s Day of Fun
  • The Blinkered Ape Festival
  • The Festival of Icy Water Wading

November 15th – A Day to Remember Breiad Offat

The way in which Breiad Offat is remembered across Buentoille, if he is remembered at all, is as a bore. If you lived in Buentoille in the 1960 and 70s and you turned on your television late at night, you most likely would have seen him, droning on about some complex element of mathematics or physics that went well over the heads of most watching. He probably became most famous as an insult used amongst school children, his name becoming a byword for lessons that they loathed, or teachers who sent them to sleep (‘Mrs Pollock is so Offat’). This usage of the name persisted long after the man died, and indeed still does, although now it is falling out of use, in part thanks to the good work put in by today’s festival, which has been happening every year since 1998.

The issue that the festival’s organisers (the children, grandchildren and friends of Breiad Offat) have with the pejorative use of his name is that, in person, he was actually a very engaging and interesting man, nothing at all like the dry academic he appeared on television. Within his extended family he was known for his great sense of humour, his doting, kind nature towards everyone he knew and loved, and his great generosity of spirit. Offat was the kind of man who would always get you a birthday present, even if you’d never got one for him, and somehow you wouldn’t feel awkward about it. He made treehouses for his daughters, his marriage proposal to his wife was an intricately planned treasure hunt, when he told stories everyone went quiet to listen, even if they’d heard them before. He was the kind of irrepressible man who made life seem full of domestic magic.

Reconciling these two personalities might seem a difficult task; was he afraid of cameras? Did something about the physical proximity of this man change the way he came across? The answer lies in his job; for most of his life, Breiad Offat worked at Benetek University researching and teaching sleep science (where everyone taught by him naturally corroborates his fantastic personality and engaging presence). In the course of this employment, whilst he made some less obvious and more complex discoveries, Offat realised the true extent of damage that sleep deprivation has on the health and personality of a person, and the benefits that could be gained from regular, fulfilling sleep. Because of this, he always had a special sympathy for those who, unlike him, found it difficult to sleep, especially insomniacs. In 1962, when he was eighty seven (and still active as if he were forty) Offat decided he’d try to put his research to good use, and began recording his television show.

Called Offat’s Educational Oration, the programme was shown between 12am and 3am, and it mainly consisted of Offat reading from a mathematics textbook in the most boring way he could muster. The aim was, clearly, to send any watching insomniacs to sleep, but in order to achieve this, Offat realised that he had to avoid drawing any attention to this purpose, as thinking about sleep tends to make the sleep-deprived frustrated and perversely more awake. In the background of his speech, Offat included subtle synthesised tones that his research had found were conducive to sleep, and he kept his voice as soft and boring as possible without falling asleep himself (Offat recorded the episodes ahead of time so as not to disturb his own sleeping patterns). Offat even ensured that the colour scheme of the sparse set was tweaked to the most sleep-inducing shades.

After his death in 1980, as per his dying wishes, the Offat family chose to keep showing re-runs on television for many years, but when they received data showing that repeated exposure reduced the effectiveness of the programmes (and could even have the opposite effect), they decided to close the station down (in 1992). This was also no doubt in response to the fact that their family name had become an insult, and they wanted the great legacy of Offat to be remembered properly. Tonight, from 12 to 3am, the family will air a special show celebrating Offat’s life, with interviews from themselves and the students he taught over the years, as well as some of those who suffered from sleep deprivation who he helped. A physical gathering is also held in the studio where Offat recorded his shows, where many of the same people will come to eat, drink and tell stories of the man they all loved. This gathering, however, won’t be continuing quite so late: in accordance with the great man’s advice they’ll be in bed by 10pm.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Gathering of Silema
  • The Festival of the Fastest Ungulate
  • The Festival of Nascent Victory

November 14th – The Festival of Saint Etole

For a long time, Etole was a disputed saint, and whilst she had many who quietly celebrated her, it was an underground worship, not outlawed but certainly frowned upon by the Chastise Church authorities. She was originally canonised by Hierarch Rebbem, but has since been disqualified and re-confirmed many times; Rebbem is now generally considered to be forward-thinking for his age, but at the time he was embroiled in claims of sexual licentiousness, and was actually put on trial by his rivals in the Church, then imprisoned for the last half of his life. The saints that Rebbem canonised during his time as a Hierarch were therefore discredited along with him, Saint Etole in particular, due to the undeniable sensuality of her life and Attunement.

The exact nature of the sensuality that Saint Etole is said to have engaged in was long brushed over or avoided as a subject in less sexually liberated times than this, and as such she is often confused with Saint Hursuite, who Attuned with the world via orgasm. Whilst Etole’s method was certainly sensual, it was less overtly sexual than Hursuite’s, yet even now there is still a taint of the taboo that clings to the festival today, which may account for the fairly low turnout at the Trellow Walled Gardens where it is held.

Not a lot is known about the life of Saint Etole, probably due to the suppression her story faced over the years. It is known that she lived as a servant in the home of a rich Buentoillitant, and that she was a wrestler and possibly a woad grower, too. The specific type of wrestling that Etole, who’s original name has been lost, engaged in was a niche form that seems to have started in Tender Bract district when it was home to the City’s dying industry. Indigo was a popular and easily produced colour of fabric, and is made by processing the woad plant into a paste or liquid which the fabric is then bathed in. Woad is also excellent at dying skin, a fact that the workers producing it would have found out very quickly. Quite how these workers turned to wrestling as their main form of entertainment is a mystery (perhaps it all stemmed from an argument?), but eventually the sport became honed and developed until it resembled the form by which Etole gained her attunement.

Tender Bract wrestling, or Etoleian wrestling, as it is often known is performed naked or almost naked, by participants of all genders who have been intricately painted with woad in strange flowing patterns. Waves seem to rise and crest across the body, like ripples in a pool into which a stone has just been thrown, making way for strange symbols like eyes placed haphazardly across the skin. All of this serves to disguise the human form, obscuring its topography with a new, strange one implied by the lines. The actual wrestling is performed by four or five wrestlers, each painted in a similar manner, and it mostly takes place on the ground, the bodies entangling in such a way that it is difficult to tell where one ends and another begins. If you unfocus your eyes, the swirling implied topographies leap out, making some great seething ball of flesh, more similar in form to eels than humans.

It’s thought that there was once a complex rule set that accompanied this sport-cum-art-piece, but due to the suppression of Etoleian wrestling this has been lost by successive generations. The wrestlers who will perform outside in the bracing cold at the Trellow Walled Gardens today will be mostly trying to create a spectacle worthy of Saint Etole, rather than trying to ‘win’ the bout. To further aid the strange visuals that the crowds are presented with, a ‘pit’ of mirrored glass is constructed for the festival, with raked seating for the spectators circling it. The Gardens are the traditional home of this celebration, which had been happening in one format or another since the thirteenth century. This is possibly due to their ‘intimate’ feel, the high walls keeping proceedings fairly private, but also because the gardens grow many plants used for dying cloth, in particular the woad plant.

For what is now an official Chastise Church festival, there is a curious lack of Church iconography or ceremony on display, and indeed whilst the Church now provides some funding, it is organised by The Followers of Saint Etole, a once-persecuted group who’ve now been brought back into the fold. Since 1938 the Church sends the priest from the nearby Church of Saint Rabbole as their official representative, who performs a small, quiet liturgy and the start and end of the performance, mostly to themself, seeing as they are roundly ignored by most of the assembled spectators.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Symbolic Crust
  • The Festival of Deep Creatures
  • The Bitter Nose Festival

November 13th – The Hottop Parade Festival

The Bright Guildhouse, the headquarters of the Guild of Tallow and Wax Merchants is famously bright, as its name suggests. At night, it is quite a spectacle; the thousands of electric lights, oil lamps and candles which burn inside cast great swathes of warm light through the huge windows onto the cold street, and it’s a good job there are few residential buildings close by because they’d need very thick curtains to sleep at night. All along the street are similarly hundreds of lights, hanging from cables between the buildings in long strings. There is always a small fire-fighting team on hand in the Guildhouse, ready to jump into action at any moment.

Today there will be more lights added to this display, although these will be more mobile in format, and only hand around for a short while. At 7:00pm tonight the Hottop Parade will file out of the Guildhouse and into the surrounding streets. The paraders are all members of the Guild, which in the modern day functions more like a worker’s union than a mercantile lobbying body, as it was initially conceived; this was, unsurprisingly, one of the many effects of the Revolution. Despite these changes, the workers have chosen to retain the organisation’s name, and many of the traditions that it carries out.

Various titles are handed out to guild members, as per these traditions, with each title conferring different status and function within the Parade tonight. At one time, various insular political machinations would accompany the granting of the titles, but now they are simply handed out with seniority; the longer you’ve been a guild member the more advanced your titles become. At the back of the procession are the Novice Lightbearers, and at the front there are the Keepers of the Roaring Flame, and the Master of the Inferno, the current most senior member.

Hottops, or as they are variously called, lampheads, tallow hobs and wick goblins, are an old Buentoilliçan house spirit, one of the varieties that is said to be very helpful, if treated right. They were originally a very small element of the pantheon of house deities, getting only a side note in Tichaw’s Homelee Spyrett Gyde when mentioning candle pushers, a type of malevolent ghost that can burn down homes when angered. According to the Gyde, the hottop (so called because its head is made of flame) was a tallow or oil eating spirit that snuffs out unattended candles or lamps, taking a little of the fuel savings for its services of fire prevention. This creature became well known across Buentoille not because of this book, but because of the Guild, who made it their official symbol. You can still see the original carving above the main doors of the Guildhouse: cut out of the marble is a small childlike figure with their legs crossed and a flame for a head.

It is because of these household spirits that ginger-haired folk are actually statistically more likely to join the Guild of Tallow and Wax Merchants than any other union or guild; in Buentoilliçan lore, the spirits feel an affinity for redheads, and grant them luck, protection and sometimes labour in all matters light-related. As such there will be a slightly higher percentage of redheads amongst those taking part in the procession that winds around the Catathon district today (along a route which has avoided the Mackmara Distillery since the Tragic Whisky Explosion of 1701), not that you would notice; you won’t be able to see the heads of any participants because they’ll all be dressed as hottops.

The classical hottop outfit, which will be worn by many of the paraders is fairly simple, consisting primarily of a special hat which is strapped to the head. It has two ‘shoulders’ which jut out to either side, and on top a small brazier with a protective ash-plate below it. Paired with a suitably long shirt or dress, the outfit makes the wearer look, in a fairly convincing manner, as if they have a flame for a head. As this outfit necessitates poor visibility the wearers generally tend to hold hands, which, combined with the absolute silence of the marchers, give the spectacle a somewhat disconcerting edge.

There are, however, various other versions of this basic costume, worn by various Guild members, regardless of rank. With the advent of electric lights there are some hottops that have light bulbs for heads, or bulbous heads made of tissue paper and willow, their moulded faces smiling sweetly, lit from within. Some have lampshades over them like hats, others are capable of spurting flame high into the air (and are appropriately given a wide berth), or feature under-lit columns of steam, or even laser displays shooting out from a neck cavity. Each year there is always something new to see, alongside the old classics, in this mobile display of seven hundred years’ lighting technology.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Ischiri Duggawe Festival of Foul Medicine
  • The Festival of Well Behaved Children
  • Truthteller’s Day

November 12th – The Annual Hedgehog Tea Party

Today is a good day to cycle or drive slowly, or to step carefully if you are walking or taking public transport to get around Buentoille, especially if you are in the north of the City. This is because, unlike your average commute to work, today’s journey may feature some added obstacles that have the potential to make your tyres very flat and your heart very heavy if you run over them: hedgehogs.

These snuffly little creatures, which can today be found out and about in small groups and alone, are not normally seen during the daylight hours, given that they are nocturnal beasts, a rule to which today seems the only exception. At places in the north where the roads converge, the streets can often be full of hedgehogs, all travelling in the same direction, in broad daylight. Some of them have been walking since late last night, making slow progress through the wee hours, trying to avoid the various hazards (late-night trams, urban foxes rats) that line their pilgrimage. At these intersections and convergences, the sense of direction within the hedgehog crowds becomes immediately clear to any onlookers, as they all shuffle onwards like a little prickly conveyor belt. It’s clear as they coalesce that the hedgehogs are not rudderless travellers, but that they are all going to one very specific location – a party, to which they’re all invited.

Whilst folk have been leaving out food for hedgehogs for many hundreds of years, the first documentary evidence of something like the Annual Hedgehog Tea Party was in 1853, when the early wildlife photographer Milsom Wetflannel staged a set of photographs which later became a triptych called ‘More Tea, Billy?’ These three images, which still grace the front of many a greetings card today, show four small hedgehogs clambering over, eating and drinking from a fine porcelain tea set which had been laid out especially for them. Unlike those free hogs who make their journey today, these had been captured for the shoot, which took place just before the hedgehogs went into hibernation, when they were a hot topic across the City. It was in part thanks to the timing (but mostly to do with the cuteness of the images) that the triptych kick-started Wetflannel’s career and turned him into an influential figure in the wildlife image industry.

When these captive pricklepigs were freed after the photoshoot, they presumably told their friends, because the next year, after they’d bedded down for the night, there were fifteen hedgehogs snuffling around in Wetflannel’s back garden, where the shoot took place. Obviously hedgehogs, like many humans, have an excellent memory for places they got a good meal. Wetflannel was certainly one of these people (he remembered the layout of the Buentoilliçan districts by the restaurants he ate at in them, much to the frustration of his wife), and perhaps it was for this reason that he took pity on the little spike-bearing-intruders, and decided to feed them in much the same way as before, filling the cups with mincemeat, dried fruit, nuts and water. Of course, the next year twenty more turned up.

It was a good job that Wetflannel had friendly neighbours, and a large communal front garden and play area between their houses; it was certainly something he needed by year ten. By this point people had started coming from all over the local area, bringing their children to watch the curious little creatures have their tea party on a long rug laid out in the centre of the communal garden. Nowadays folk come from all over the City, standing at the sidelines, and pointing, chatting with their young children or holding them back from trying to pick one up, carefully stepping over a small rivulet of hogs and hoglets that stoically head towards the banquet laid out for them. Much of the food on offer these days is bugs and the like, captured for them by local children, and refilled periodically by the ‘waiting staff’.

When a hedgehog has filled up all the corners of its stomach, it readies itself for hibernation, usually in the immediate vicinity; the garden and all the back gardens of the housing development (Collafield Crescent) are peppered with little hog homes and readily available leaf litter. These are usually similar to a birdhouse, but at ground level, but some are intricately constructed things, with chimneys and extensions and little terracotta roofs. The hedgehogs do switch houses some years, but normally they stick to the place they lived before they went off into the wider area for the spring and summer, and as such many have names written above the doors. In recent years the garden has come to look more like a model village. The hedgehogs here are all the hedgehogs from miles around, which obviously think that the feast and safe housing they receive is worth the effort of walking throughout the day. This pilgrimage inevitably leads to some deaths each year, and as such criticism is often levelled at those who live in the Crescent, but the defence they always give is that it wasn’t their idea – it was the hedgehogs’!

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Clash of the Westhall Teeth Day
  • The Festival of Mystic Mead
  • The Yobbish Sparrow Festival

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