November 21st – The Festival of Sorrowful, Jubilant Landing

Members of The Circle of Light are fairly easy to spot in Buentoille, what with their golden robes and bright red face paint. They have been an active addition to Buentoilliçan culture for many hundreds of years, since the events that hollowed out Waegstalla, but they have never fully integrated into the general mass of Buentoillitants. Not that this is an outcome that anyone, save perhaps a few monarchist extremists, would find desirable, especially since these refugees brought with them the exceptionally delicious traditional Waegstallasian cuisine.

Whilst of course there are some descendants of those original Waegstallasians who found new religions and cultures, for most the Circle of Light is and has always been the only true religion, and it has therefore become synonymous with Waegstalla for most Buentoillitants, despite the fact that there are no members of the Circle currently residing in that city. Although it would presumably be entirely safe to return to their ancestral homeland, now that the Hollowing has passed, it was declared by their great migrationary leader Tevvik M’ukthan that they could never go back, and so they have not.

It is the great migration that M’ukthan led that is celebrated today by the Circle, as it was today that, after many trials and tribulations, and seventeen days at sea, they finally reached safe harbour in Buentoille. Almost every single member of the Circle (also known as ‘Kindlers’) left the City with M’ukthan, piling into three great ships, or so say the Circle’s legends. Their leader had apparently foreseen the coming of the Hollowing when praying, as Kindlers do, by looking deep into the Holy Flame. The prophet began the construction of the three boats, knowing that they would be safe at sea from the Hollowing’s effects. The originals must have been far larger than the ceremonial copies made today, given that they fitted hundreds of thousands of Kindlers onboard.

The boats round the cliffs and into the bay at 6pm tonight, long after the sun has set, but they are still easily visible because of the segment of Holy Flame they retain atop their masts. In the original ships, this flame, then the only instance of the Holy Flame (which is allegedly the very first flame given to humans, kept going since it was sparked in a lightning strike when the world was new), would have been kept within a special brazier in the ship where it was safe from the elements. When they see the boats round the corner, a jubilant cheer goes up from the assembled Kindlers, who line the docks in the cold November air with not a single flame to warm them.

The cheer goes on for a good few minutes, until a gong rings out across the bay, and all become silent. It is then that the first ship sinks, taking its symbolic inhabitants and real Holy Flame with it. The silence is partly in respect for all those who died on that original ship which, according to the legends, was sunk after hitting a rocky outcrop in stormy seas, but also for the loss of the Holy Flame segment, the extinguishing of which is taken very seriously. After a few minutes, the second gong rings out, and the flame atop one of the ships suddenly cascades down, setting the rest of the boat alight. It struggles onwards for some distance, an inferno on the water getting close to the City before it too slips into oblivion. It is only when the third boat, which remains unscathed, gets close to the docks that the cheering restarts.

When the boat is moored safely, a Kindler climbs up the mast and lights a torch from the Holy Fire there. This torch is then used to light those of all the assembled Kindlers, who had, until now, been standing in the cold. They pass the fire along, each person lighting their neighbours torch, so that it looks like some great flame-snake stretching out across the harbour side. When everyone has lit their torch, they all sing the sacred chants and head to the Grand Temple a few miles south, in a winding procession. When they get there, they encircle the central brazier of the Sacred Fire, which has never been put out since the Circle has lived in Buentoille, and cast their torches into it.

And then they eat and sing and dance and do all the things people do when they are happy that they survived, even when others didn’t. The food on offer is traditional Waegstallasian fare: great piles of spiced rice with dried fruits and nuts mixed in; slow-cooked, highly flavoured meat stews; neatly piled boiled eggs which have had their yolks exchanged for pickled fruit, a delicacy known as Kannanak, normally served with a sauce made from the yolks called Umer. None of this bears any resemblance to modern Waegstallasian food, and the folk who live in that sprawling, mostly empty city now claim that their food isn’t even derived from this more ancient culinary tradition.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Adroit Fiddlers
  • The Remembrance for Argell Festival
  • Tiblau Weedmaker’s Festival of Tempestuous Passion

November 22nd – The Nose Museum Open Day

If you read any of the papers from the year of 1745, you’ll be sure to come across at least a mention of the Notorious Nose Nickers, or the Nasal Scoundrels, or the Nose Vandal Gang, or whatever other ridiculous term the headline writers came up with for the perpetrators of a spree of thefts that occurred in the early summer. In all, well over seven hundred thefts were reported, thefts of, as the headlines suggested, noses. Specifically, the noses of various different statues across the City. Whilst its likely (for reasons that we shall shortly come to) that around two hundred of these ‘thefts’ were carried out by copycats, or were damage, accidental or deliberate, caused by the statue owners and misattributed to the ‘Nose Nickers’ as a way of claiming insurance, the vast majority of the thefts were committed by a single group, a group who were never caught.

How do we know that the crimes were committed by a single group if they were never caught? Well, on this day in 1977, builders renovating homes on Gremmish street knocked through a wall and found precisely five hundred and thirteen of the missing noses, all nicely mounted on wooden plaques, inside what appeared to be a hidden art gallery. On closer inspection of the space, which stretched down through the roof of almost all the houses on Gremmish street, the workers found several secret entrances, each of which connected to the servant’s rooms of each house it cut through.

The houses on the street were all designed and commissioned by one woman, Sarrai Witehome, and they are a classic example of her style: huge, elegant town houses in beautiful yellow limestone, complete with extravagant columns, floor mosaics, and chandeliers. These were the houses of the rich, and they stayed that way until the Revolution; many have since been renovated into normal family homes, with less cold, haughty proportions. As was being attempted with the houses on Gremmish street, this renovation necessarily involves the removal of the servants’ quarters, and their accompanying separate staircase, as these elements of Witehome’s houses are miserly at best. The architect was a notoriously cruel woman towards the working classes, and insured that in the houses she built the servants would not get ‘ideas above their station’ by having access to the luxuries of the homeowners; domestic servants were given tiny box rooms, and had to get around the house via their back staircase that was dangerously steep and dark. In most cases their rooms didn’t even get a window.

The strange cavity that cut through the Gremmish street roofs was a common feature in many of Witehome’s houses. It is on the original designs, and is intended to serve no function at all, save for reducing the size of the servant rooms by several feet. Each house has three tiny rooms, and a tiny kitchen (they were expected to use the outdoor privy in the back yard), each of which backs up against the long cavity-turned-nose-exhibition that the Builders found forty years ago today. Whilst the entirety of the servants’ areas would normally be removed to make the best use of the space, the Gremmish street houses fared slightly differently; in the interests of historical preservation, one of the staircases was retained, along with the cavity itself, and all the bedrooms with secret doors. The rest was demolished, allowing a little extra space for all the family flats that were constructed in the building’s shell.

As the houses are all inhabited, this back staircase, which no longer connects to the rest of the main house on each floor, as it once would have, is normally locked to the public. Yet on this day the ‘Nose Museum’ as it is locally known, is opened up and visitors are given guided tours. What with the cramped nature of the space, it is always surprising how many Buentoillitants turn up each year, and many are unfortunately turned away as there simply isn’t time for everyone. Some come to learn about the life of poverty that many Buentoillitants were once forced by economic violence into (this is one of the last surviving examples of servant housing from that era), whereas others turn up to hear the stories of the nose thieves, to see if being in contact with the stolen noses gives them any better understanding of why they were stolen in the first place.

It probably wasn’t until the seventh nose went missing that the pattern of thefts came to the attention of the authorities, and began to be treated as such by the papers. Despite many attempts, the names of the inhabitants of Gremmish street at the time are yet to be unearthed, so we may never actually know the identities of the collectors, or quite why they did it. The most popular theory is that the removal of the noses was intended as a snub to their owners, or to their subjects. At first, many of the targetted statues depicted rich folk, monarchs and Parliamentarians and aristocrats who the servants presumably thought were undeserving of the accolade. Then again, perhaps they were just letting off steam; the thefts are thought to have all occurred on a Wednesday (although this may not have been immediately apparent at the time, as sometimes the damage was not noticed until later in the week), the Chastise Church holy day, when domestic servants were given half a day off, ostensibly to attend Church services.

Most of the original statues have been matched back to each nose, although none have been returned, as the collection is considered a more worthy piece of art than any individual statue. It’s unlikely that any would fit back comfortably, either; the noses were all chiselled off with one swift crack, but then sanded down so that they fitted nicely on their trophy boards. Given the amount of effort and planning the servants must have encountered in the building of their joint collection (many of the later statues were vandalised inside private residences), they were probably quite proud of it, yet for some reason they reached a point where they stopped, and never spoke of it to any others. They were never caught in the act, but maybe they stole other things, enough to get out of the life of poverty and away from their punitively small rooms. Maybe they lived happily ever after.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Mournful Warble Festival
  • The Festival of the Smell of Drying Washing
  • The Festival of Tromping About Angrily

November 23rd – The Festival of Remembering the World that Never Was

From the moment the Circle of Light arrived at the docks, Gustaf Asgermist knew that he had to speak to them. He saw them at first, from his balcony that overlooked the dock, unloading themselves wearily down the gangplank, carefully bringing their fire to Buentoille. He knew then, seeing them standing around without a place in the world to be, being greeted by the ambassadors, he knew then that they were important in some way, to him, to his life. ‘He looked up at me,’ Asgermist recalled, later, ‘M’ukthan, that is. He looked up at me and our eyes met for a minute and he looked very sad, and I would have gone to him then, but they were being led away.’

It was two days later when Asgermist decided to make a visit to these new refugees. He had been out on the water in his little boat, checking his crab pots, and he found, in amongst the nets and ropes in the hull, his ring. It was an engagement ring, three strands of gold wire intertwined together in a braided band, and had been with him ever since he was a baby, found in a basket outside an upmarket fishmongers in Twille street. Everyone had always assumed it was his mother’s, and sure enough, when he picked it up on this day in 1589, Asgermist remembered that it was his mother’s, but that she had given it to him only a week or two ago. His father had recently died and she didn’t want to keep remembering him. Asgermist was angry at her for this, but he didn’t take it out on her; instead he stole a boat and rowed out into the bay and sat quietly on the still waters. Quite how Asgermist remembered this was a mystery, because he’d never known his mother, he knew this: she’d abandoned him as a baby. It was undoubtedly confusing, trying to hold these two stories, which at once seemed true, in his head at once, but somehow he knew M’ukthan could help.

He’d felt out of sorts since that day, a week or so ago, when he remembered stealing the boat. There had been a swell in the water that disturbed his meditation and then, all of a sudden, he came back to himself, and realised he didn’t know his mother, he never had. Yet there was her face, it’s memory fading in the back of his mind. They had spoken so recently! He began to row back to shore, and by the time he had, he had convinced himself it was all a moment of madness, like some strange version of deja vu. But back in the boat, finding the ring, after he’d seen the refugees arrive, he knew that something greater was at work. He rowed back to shore, gripping the ring, and there, standing on the dockside waiting for him, was Tevvik M’ukthan, the leader of the Circle of Light, the great prophet who had led them across the inner ocean to their new home, Buentoille.

This, at least, is how Gustaf Asgermist said it happened ten years later in his book The Aftershock, but it is a narrative that has many critics, to say the least. According to Asgermist, it was there, by the waterside, that he had his revelatory conversation with M’ukthan, where he learned of the Great Hollowing, that event across the water in Waegstalla where in one moment almost the entire population disappeared, as if they had never existed. Only a few thousand survived, doomed to remake their lives in a vast, empty city, a city which once was the largest in all the Seven Cities, sprawling over the countryside that surrounded it in a manner not even modern Buentoille or Litancha have surpassed. Asgermist’s mother, he was told, was the victim of an aftershock of this terrible event, a quake which spread to Buentoille, only powerful enough at this distance to take less than a hundred lives from history. Somehow, being on the water whilst the Hollowing happened saved the Circle of Light from being extinguished, and from losing their memories of the Waegstalla from before. ‘This,’ said M’ukthan, a hand on the other man’s shoulder, ‘is what happened to you, too. Only we remember the World that Never Was.’

Outside of this central story, The Aftershock reads like fairly standard religious propaganda; Asgermist converted from the Chastise Church to the Circle shortly after the arrival of the refugees, and was looking to prove their cause to the average Buentoillitant. The book was published as part of the Festival of the Bond Across the Sea, a small celebration designed to strengthen the ties between the Circle and their new converts, of which Asgermist was the first. Over time, this has developed into today’s festival, which essentially functions as an initiation ceremony. In the central chamber of the Grand Temple, where the main body of the Holy Flame is kept, the new recruits will today hold hands and stare deep into the flame, all whilst floating on little raft-chairs in the trench of water that surrounds the pyre. They are locked in this room until they see something of the World that Never Was within the fire.

Asgermist was, of course, not the only person that the famously charismatic M’ukthan convinced to join the Circle, after revealing to them that they remembered the World that Never Was, that there was a reason for the feelings of wrongness they’d been feeling about the world, a reason that they felt there was someone missing from their lives, a reason they felt so alone. It is discrepancies in the stories that M’ukthan told these new recruits that sceptics often point to as evidence that he was simply preying on vulnerable, lonely Buentoillitants: whilst he told Asgermist that the reason he remembered his mother was that he was on the water at the time that the Aftershock passed over the City, he told many others who were not that it was because they were in the bath, or on a cart, or that they had a natural resistance. Asgermist’s story certainly seems convincing as it is written, but these sceptics point out that he wrote it long after the fact, and that it is a clearly evangelical text. Others have gone so far as to medicalise Asgermist, saying that he had a form of mental illness that caused the delusion that he had a living mother, but this is little more than a theory.

Indeed, the very concept of the Great Hollowing has been questioned by historians and scientists many times. Whilst it is tempting to believe the Circle’s narrative that it was some kind of magical event, possibly caused (as many suggest) by the Strigaxians, it is far more likely to have been some kind of pogrom, civil war, plague or even a disastrous accident of chemical weaponry, which the Circle managed to flee in time. According to this theory, the survivors, so scarred by their experiences, may have sought to deny that it ever happened, perhaps out of shame for their actions. The records of the Office of External Correspondences, which never held an embassy in Waegstalla due to ‘political tensions’, show that after 1588 there was no contact with that city for around fifteen years. When at last a contingent was sent out, they found the city empty, a tiny population living amongst the Hollowed homes, denying any memory of the people who once lived all around them. Perhaps it is the memory of those who existed and died, rather than those who Never Were, that the new recruits will unwittingly search the depths of Holy Flame for today.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Trail’s End
  • The Festival of the Ordinary Oboe
  • The Day of the Ocean Dweller

November 24th – The Puce Goose Chase

Have you seen my puce goose?
My puce goose is loose!
I just went out to buy juice,
now my puce goose is loose!
Have you seen my puce goose?
         - from Where’s My Goose?

In 1998, Jinnie Borassa got into something of a boasting match with her friend Charles Emptyglass. Both were authors, fairly unsuccessful ones at that (although this was not something either party cared to admit), but they were fairly good libertines, and were wont to get into extended drinking sessions together. It was whilst drinking an old bottle of Dancer’s Poison, a particularly potent brew that Emptyglass had found in his mother’s basement, a drink that Borassa now curses on a regular basis, that the boasting match began. It ranged over most aspects of human endeavour, before settling on writing, as their boasting often did. This time the crux of the matter was who would write the best children’s story, if they wanted to do a thing that they considered so beneath them. Pens were flourished, and by the end of the night, Borassa had written Where’s My Goose?

As Emptyglass had also written a children’s book (a book which resembled more of an extended prose poem), the only way to find out whose was better was to submit them both to a publishing house, and see if either made any progress. Twinkle Star Books had open submissions at the time, and so it became the target of these hastily-penned pieces. Emptyglass never got a response about his work, so presumably they threw it out pretty much straight away. Borassa got a bit more than a response; Where’s My Goose? was an overnight success, becoming one of the best selling children’s books in less than a month.

Whilst today’s festival is a testament to the success of Borassa’s writing talents, she has never attended it, even to say a few words or talk to the organisers. It’s not that she is shy, not at all: she’s never been because, very soon after Where’s My Goose? was published, she denounced it, publicly declaring that she wished she’d never written ‘the damn thing.’ It was Borassa’s first taste of being a published, successful author, with everything that entailed, and it galled her that it was for a book she wrote in a couple of hours, when she’d spent years working on an enormous epic poem, and written three novels that had garnered no interest whatsoever.

It is the publishers, Twinkle Star, who are in charge of organising the main part of today’s festival (it is the anniversary of the book’s release), where, across the City, thousands of small children and their parents will attempt to catch a white goose which has been dyed puce. Generally it is let loose in one of the parks in the early hours of the morning, but exactly where it ends up is anybody’s guess. Anyone who actually catches the goose will get a prize (three golden eggs, like the ones the eponymous puce goose lays at the end of the story), but for those who don’t want their children getting too close to a potentially angry avian, there will be several spots around the City where some poor soul will dress up in a puce goose outfit and be chased around by toddlers.

Whilst Borassa does not attend this festival based on her work, she does host her own, separate festival in Merelake Hall, where she showcases her current projects, and tries to sell copies of her various novels. Due to the name she made herself through her goose book, a small number of people do turn up, although some of these are ejected from the premises when they produce their copy of Where’s My Goose? and ask her to sign it.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Jinnie Borassa Fair
  • Castlemark and the Swinnow Day
  • Whelk and Cockle Day

November 25th – The Festival of Dream Fulfilment

When Edmund Teleglass woke up one morning in 1956, he reached for the pen and paper on his bedside table, but as always was a moment or so too late. He tried keeping the thought fixed in his head, but he got little more than an incoherent sentence written in the fug of his liminal dream state. He always remembered how important the thought was, but never anything about its actual content, which was funny because it always came just before he woke up, a revelation to signal the end of the dream; one of the audience came over whispered it, once they’d finished the last song.

Apart from this incredibly frustrating aspect, the dream was pretty good; he got to be a rock star, after all. Teleglass and his friends were playing a concert, with Janie on guitar and Kite on the bass and himself playing the drums, so that the person getting on stage had to wind their way past the other two first, who completely ignored this stranger’s existence. Everyone just kind of stands still as the stranger approaches, and then whispers something in Teleglass’ ear. They are all standing in the deep end of an empty swimming pool. The diving board looms overhead.

He started getting the dreams after a visit to the pool in real life, then a derelict building (called Rennever Road Bathhouse) in Ranaclois that was due for a demolition that never seemed to materialise. Some locals were always trying to save it for its architecture, whereas others were trying to knock it down so that they could build something more useful there. They’d all broken in together, the friends who made up the dream band, and had stood in the same spot, right down the bottom of the empty pool. Kite said ‘This would be a good place for a gig,’ and presumably something in those few words seeped into Teleglass’ unconscious, as it was on that very night that the dreams started. He has them still.

He’s old now, eighty four to be exact, but him and the others still play the gig as they have every year, same as ever. Kite still looks implacably into the distance, Janie still executes her signature high kicks. Since an interview with Buentoillitant Psychic in 1988 in which Teleglass revealed the reason for the annual gig, some folk will occasionally walk down into the stage area and whisper something strange into his ear, but so far it’s been nothing revelatory in nature. Nowadays Teleglass has a pretty much encyclopaedic knowledge of the dream, and the gig is set up to mimic it as much as possible. It was on that morning in 1956 that it occurred to him that the reason he could never remember what the stranger said was that he never actually heard it. It is a third person sort of dream, and when the person whispers the ‘camera’ pans out, and Teleglass only hears whisper sounds. As dream logic dictates, he knows that the stranger says something revelatory, even if he cannot hear it. It was upon this revelation that he realised that the only way he was ever going to find out was if he staged the whole thing in real life, and hoped that the mysterious stranger would arrive.

It was persuading his friends to learn to play the instruments from the dream that was the tricky bit. They’d never, any of them, even picked up a kazoo, but in the dream the performance was excellent, and the room packed out; they had a lot of work to do. Thankfully, persuading teenagers to join a band is fairly easy, but the learning is still difficult. It was seven years later that they finally had the first gig, and a few people turned up to the derelict swimming pool, at the time and date that was on the frozen clock (8:12pm today). Nowadays that the swimming pool has been permanently saved from demolition, and is now in use, they have to drain it to let the old-timers work, to sit at the bottom of a pool, playing songs and waiting for strangers. Hopefully it will be worth the wait.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Singh Sermini Day
  • The Festival of Ending Tales

November 26th – Krisi Quelstither’s Day

Those of a less charitable disposition might say that they organised today’s festival out of guilt, rather than true admiration or love, ‘they’ being the friends of Krisi Quelstither. It’s not that they didn’t get on, but that, at least face-to-face, Quelstither was a quiet woman, easy to forget. She wasn’t brash or funny or loud and those are usually the things you need to get noticed at the pub, the only place she was ever seen outside of her work as an acoustic engineer at the Underbridge Piano Maker’s Cooperative.

On every Tuesday night you’d find Quelstither at the Taxman’s Due, her local pub, to which she was never invited out, nor did anyone talk to her a lot, but she was always there, politely laughing along, and she always made good conversation, if you wanted it. Otherwise she was happy to drink and listen. She was very good at listening. Before she died, if you asked after her with anyone from the group of friends she sat with, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell you much about her. She was just always there, a welcome but unasked for presence. They’d disagree with each other about how she’d got to know them; everyone thought that she was someone else’s friend from school or work.

You’d think, with the regularity that they saw her, they’d have noticed when she was gone. Unfortunately this was not the case; they were only casual acquaintances after all. It was only when the undertaker sat down with them three weeks after she’d died that any of them put more than a few moments of thought into her absence. The undertaker told them what had happened, the illness and its end, and they sat speechless whilst she gave them the little gifts and trinkets that Quelstither left them, perfect little gifts, things they would have never thought of but loved, like she’d known them better than they knew themselves.

Dinlaw Groveman remembered a conversation he’d had with Quelstither a few weeks back, then, when the undertaker was talking to the group. She was reading out a statement from the deceased woman, (who had left a very specific set of instructions), and there was something about its wording that made her remember it. Perhaps it was the cadence of the speech, or some key word that he’d never heard elsewhere. ‘You’re welcome to come and visit for a coffee or tea, whenever you like,’ she’d said, and whilst Groveman had been entirely sincere when he’d agreed to do so, in the morning he completely forgot.

It was only when the undertaker said ‘half empty teacup’ that Groveman remembered the conversation, which resurfaced to the top of his mind, and then later, when he got to her front door, he somehow knew exactly where to look for the doorkey, which, it turned out, was buried in the plant pot by the door. ‘I looked back at the speech later, and there was the word ‘key’ and ‘plant’ over and over, so I guess that’s how I knew,’ said Groveman to the Buentoillitant Spektator in 1972. When he got in the door, there was a letter there, addressed to him, on the kitchen table. ‘Thanks for coming,’ it began, ‘I have some letters I need you to deliver.’ There were boxes of the things, in big bundles, all addressed to Quelstither, but tied together with string which carried the name and address of the original senders. ‘Deliver them in person,’ said the letter addressed to Groveman.

There were thirty seven recipients of the letter bundles in all, each with years of correspondence. He did as he was told, as she knew he would; Groveman had always been the most inquisitive of her friends; and each time he delivered one, he had to tell them what had happened. These were people who had spent years writing letters to Quelstither, but had never met her in person. They may have wanted to, even, but they sent their post to a box in Ranaclois Station that she collected from. These were people who loved her deeply, a best friend who had been there when others hadn’t, and with each of these conversations the shock with which Groveman reacted to her death turned to true grief.

Each of these strangers had received their first letter when they’d most needed it, slipped into their handbag or pocket on the train, or handed to them by a stranger who’d been asked nicely to courier it to them whilst she left. She’d watched them biting their nails, scratching their heads out of stress, or looking lonesome and melancholy. Edith Borgamm was one of the first. She’d been left by her husband and was riding the same train around all day, looking out at the view without seeing, and when she finally got up the letter was there, on the seat next to her. ‘To the lady who has been looking out the window all day,’ it was addressed. ‘She had kind words and good advice to give. I think more than anything I needed someone to tell me I was worth something,’ said Borgamm.

It was their idea, Groveman and Borgamm, to hold the festival today, the day she died, It’s very simple, they just do what she did, though perhaps with a little less success. Many of the pub and epistolary friends of Quelstither join in, and for the rest of the year they’re in regular contact, with each other and the new friends they made riding the trains, or people-watching in the parks and coffee houses, ready to pen a letter at a moment’s notice.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Careful Diction
  • Denner Blau’s Day
  • The Cable of God Festival

November 27th – The Union of Vintners’ Festival of The Yacht

The Union of Vintners has, for a very long time, collected corks. Bottle collection schemes are common across the City, run by breweries and now the Office for Municipal Reuse, but corks have always been the preserve of the Union of Vintners. For every hundred corks stamped with the Union’s seal, you can receive in return a bottle of Union #36, a very well-appraised red wine, with a good consistency year-on-year. The collections started in the spring of 1811, when it became clear that, due to political tensions in Regia (a farmland kingdom to the south, on the coast of the Outer Ocean, where the cork trees grow) there would not be any cork deliveries that year.

The initial idea was to re-use old corks, and to stop up the holes made by uncorking with either tar or wax. Unfortunately, this plan didn’t go as well as the Vintners had hoped, and due to bacteria which became lodged in the inside of the corks (and therefore were not removed when the corks were chlorine-washed) about four years worth of wine was ruined, with few exceptions. It was not a good time for the wine industry. Eventually, glass ‘corks’ began to be used, in conjunction with a hot wax or rubber seal, and sales returned to normal, but due to the overzealousness of the cork collectors, they had warehouses of used corks lying around, gathering mould.

Today, by the Union Maritime Warehouse you can witness the modern iteration of the solution to this waste disposal issue, originally proposed by Trebban Marrik in 1815. The gathering is, of course, used as an excuse to sell wine, and so the dockside where the Warehouse can be viewed is covered in many little chairs and tables where Union waiters bring fresh bottles and snacks if a little flag is raised. These tables are arranged surrounding braziers to keep away the November cold. Mulled wine is an option, for those anticipating the coming winter. There has been talk of moving the festival to July in order to take advantage of the good weather, but this is Buentoille and it has always happened today, the day when the first Cork Yacht was completed.

When everyone has had the chance to get a few drinks in them, a drum-roll begins, and the great sea-doors of the Warehouse open slowly. When they are almost open, a fanfare sounds out, and the Yacht sails out from the Warehouse, bobbing on the water majestically. Made from compressed corks and wood, the Yacht is luxurious, the result of an entire year’s hard work, and it will be raffled off today; for every 100 corks collected, a ticket is given out, along with the customary bottle of wine. In the hold of the vessel are 100 bottles of Union #36, and a single bottle of #31, a prize worthy of admiration just by itself.

Once the winner has been announced, it is considered good form to take some of the gathered crowds on a trip around the bay, and to break open a few of the 101 bottles in the process. This is generally decided by very quickly queueing up by the waterside. However, given that the new Yacht owner may have no experience of boats whatsoever, it is a risky thing to queue up for, to say the least. At least eleven boats have been sunk on their first outing over the years, quite a feat considering that the cork construction gives the vessels a certain ‘bounce’ when crashing into obstacles. As such, there are safety teams on hand, as well as a team of divers from the Union of Vintners, whose job it is to save the bottle of #31, if it is sunk with the ship. For everyone left on the dockside, a band are floated out on a cork raft, so they stay a little longer, and drink a little more.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Undue Compliments
  • The Festival of the Ditch
  • Leaf-Seller’s Day

November 28th – The Festival of the Dictator Postponed

The counter-demonstrators who were out in the streets fighting the good fight on this day in 1888 undoubtedly saved many lives. It’s said that for every year that the Traitor King was in power five thousand people died, and so the two years without his rule that the events in and around Troughwater Street gave the City are certainly cause for a celebration, albeit one which is tinged with a certain melancholy at the knowledge of what happened next.

The Monarchist League was a fairly short-lived group, partly because of the events commemorated today, but also because their membership was later funnelled into more official forms: the police and secret police that upheld the brutal reign of the Traitor King. Under the leadership of Rennault Castor, who was in the pay of Traitor King, whilst he still remained a prince. Castor displayed many of the megalomaniacal tendencies that his master did, but coupled these with an obsequious manner that made him a particularly good lackey; he followed any orders given to him without question or hesitation. In 1888, the Prince ordered him to organise a march of his pseudo-military forces, right through the Warrens, where the majority of the opposition to the Prince’s authoritarian politics was based. It was intended to be a show of strength, a warning to all those that spoke out against the Prince’s forthcoming power grab (for which he was already positioning), and so it was publicised heavily for a week or so beforehand, to gain the highest number of marchers. The Warrens were, therefore, ready.

They sent the defence brigades in first, primarily those from the more monarchist districts like Ranaclois and Darksheve’s, alongside private mercenaries dressed up in their uniforms. According to the law, it was illegal to prevent a street protest which had been cleared with Parliament, as this one had (Parliament, despite their pretensions at democracy, were always a bunch of rich old men, and never represented the working Buentoillitant), and so the defence brigades went in mob-handed, beating the anti-monarchists who turned out in great numbers to halt the march. They managed to tear down two of the barricades in Toughwater street before they were pushed back, at which point the monarchist demonstrators stepped into the fracas. It’s estimated that a quarter of a million people filled the cramped alleys on the anti-monarchist side; there were communists and anarchists and religious minorities and trade unionists and non-affiliated members of the local community who wanted to take a stand against hate, all working together with common purpose.

Toughwater street is the largest of the streets that worm through that twisted amalgam of architecture, cutting a large arc through the eastern half. Above there are still the customary connecting walkways and clothes lines and tall buildings, so it appears something like a man-made canyon. On the walkways above that day, children threw rocks and pans of boiling water down onto the monarchist thugs below, and the adults below formed tight formations, wielding hammers and broom handles and the like to combat the batons and clubs of the monarchist-supporting brigades. Eventually, the anti-monarchists won the day, and the Monarchist League was defeated, their credibility broken, their outright violence outraging the middle classes, when it was revealed that ‘ordinary’ folk were subject to their predations as well, with the death of ‘Little Jimmy’.

After the celebratory march, with the flags and the chants, the whole street is filled with thronging masses today, and long tables are brought out from the surrounding houses, just as they were thrown out on that day to form the barricades. As with any sort of victory, a feast must be had, and here the traditional dish is an enormous potluck soup, made in an enormous broken drum that was seized from the monarchists, who were using it to try and intimidate the counter-demonstrators. After the aggressors were routed, there was general fanfare, and the people came together to solidify the solidarity between the groups that was forged in the fighting. It is only when everyone has been fed that the attention turns to the memorial, for the three people who died as a result of their injuries sustained in the fighting, and the three anarchists who were killed in the custody of those posing as the defence brigades (seventy counter-demonstrators were arrested, along with three monarchist demonstrators who began shooting at the crowds).

Flowers specially grown in a hothouse are laid in the street underneath the precarious walkway from which ‘Little Jimmy’ and his perhaps less significant but no less important friend Albert Quessinger fell on that day. The two young boys, one from the Warrens, one from an upper-middle class family, who were knocked from the walkway where they were throwing stones by a monarchist thug who threw back a stone. Jimmy Essen was hit square in the head, killing him instantly, and dooming young Albert, who attempted to stop him falling and was taken with him. The death of Jimmy discredited Castor and his League, preventing them from causing too much trouble, and causing Castor to have to flee to Litancha. Later, the Traitor King claimed to have ‘reformed’ the monarchist movement, and even brought back Castor to serve under him during his reign, when most were too scared to object. Victory is sweet, but it’s not always long lived.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Querulous Pigeon Festival
  • The Kiss of Bliss Festival
  • The Festival of Dunn Terror

November 29th – The Festival of Saint Ettom

In Votive Park, there is a church that fell into disrepair long ago, and now its walls are maintained, neatly, with sections of mosaic floor open to the elements, surrounded by concrete. No roof has graced this holy space for hundreds upon hundreds of years, and very few religious ceremonies have taken place here, since a fire in 1690. Today’s festival is one ceremony that has endured at this spot throughout the ages.

In the graveyard within the church cloisters, which are now low wall foundations and nothing else, there is a spiked, wrought iron fence which surrounds a hole in the earth. If you were to open this gate, which is locked all year round apart from today, or if you were to clamber over the fence as teens often do, you would find a set of stairs tunnelling into the ground at a steep angle, At the bottom of the stairs, which turn about on themselves twice, in the darkness a small stream flows in an underground culvert that intersects the end of the tunnel. A statue stands facing the water, his back to any viewers. This statue is Saint Ettom.

It’s important to note that the statue is not a representation or depiction of Saint Ettom, as you may have presumed, but (if you believe the Chastise Church), the petrified body of the Saint himself. According to the Church’s mythologies, the Saint was an alchemist and great leader who invented gunpowder to help the City maintain independence from the Chenorrian empire. Towards the end of his life, he found a way of mixing spellcraft, religious Attunement and alchemical substances to turn himself to stone, so that he might survive into the future, when once again his talents would be required.

This tale holds certain similarities with the so-called ‘Saviour’ that is celebrated on September the 9th, and it’s thought by many historians that Saint Ettom was a way of appropriating this popular myth, of bringing it under the control of the Church. If this is the case, it’s strange that the festivals attached to each myth occur on different days; this day of the year is inscribed into the brickwork by the statue, in what appears to be a hasty manner. Archaeologists have proposed that the date was scrawled in by a person who had interpreted the star charts carved into the arched roof, and wanted to make the process easier for later generations. There are also a number of pictograms which have their own translations, inscribed below by the same hand. These seem to describe the process by which Saint Ettom will be awoken.

Nobody’s quite sure when the City will be in need of the saint, and so the ritual is performed every year, just in case, when the stars align in the way they are depicted on the ceiling. First the space is filled with acrid smoke from burning dried camphor and rose petals. Then, into the slow-flowing water is poured hot tallow and honey, as well as powdered bone and sulphur. Quickly, before it all flows away, the statue is dunked face-first into the water; it is attached to a hinged stand, which has two special handles for this purpose. To stop irreverent teens dunking the statue on non-holy days, this stand is locked to the ground, and the only person who has the key to the padlock is a local priest.

Obviously, the statue has never come to life, as it is thought that it will when the time is right. One year it did detach from the stand whilst being dunked, so that for just a moment it appeared that Saint Ettom had arrived. Presumably the Saint will return in the far future, considering that Buentoille is seemingly safe from any existential threats at the moment; the priests who carry out the ceremony today do not mind admitting that they’re all hoping that the statue stays precisely the way it is. Saviours are all well and good, but it’s better not to need one in the first place.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Clithero Jonnama’s Day
  • The Calmness of the Inner Child Festival
  • The Festival of 20% Off Thermal Socks at Withies

November 30th – The Corolus Kitchen Ghost Festival

Like every year since 1794, today all the eggs in the Corolus House kitchen will go bad. Every single one will stink and produce horrible food. Of course nobody has actually observed this in about two hundred years; they ensure that there are none left on the premises today by making and eating an enormous pre-midnight omelette last night. Still, there’s no proof that the eggs don’t go bad, so who’s to say?

This omelette is eaten by the various cooks of Corolus House, and is only an aspect of today’s festival, which is more concerned with the cause of this strange taint, rather than avoiding its effects. The House is something akin to a restaurant, situated in what appears be be a very grand domestic setting. It was one of the first aristocratic eating clubs, created by Bene Swithain XVIII, after they lost their partner, Edde Swithain. Missing the company of others of their class, the famously gluttonous toff decided to open up their house to any other aristocrats for all meals of the day, to make better use of the award-winning chefs they had working for them.

Obviously, since the Revolution, there have been many changes in Corolus House, primarily the servants and chefs taking over ownership of the establishment, which still retains the ‘eating club’ feel, though now long benches replace the chairs that once lined the long dining tables, and the clientele is significantly less posh. No violence was required to push out the former owners, simply a change of menu to one comprised of dishes such as ‘shank of aristocrat’ or ‘richman’s rump’. One of the things that hasn’t changed is the fact that the House lies on a so-called ‘ghost highway’.

Apparently it was after the first few times the eggs went bad that they sent for the occultist. Twindale Mare was her name, a woman known for righteously swindling money out of aristocrats by making false prognoses of hauntings, and then charging outrageous amounts to ‘lay’ the spirit. According to the organisers of today’s festival, the work she did at Corolus House was ‘different’, and she actually did identify a ‘ghost highway’ or ‘spirit lane’ that surfaced from the spirit realm momentarily, straight through the House’s kitchen. Shortly after giving the prognosis, Mare died from choking on a sugared hazel nut that she neglected to chew whilst giving her explanation. She never got around to how to get rid of this ‘highway’.

The answer, over two hundred years later, is that you don’t, you just watch it, like you’d watch people walking down the Grand Boulevard. Mare explained how to see the spirits, before she died. The trick is to boil as many pans of water as you can, each with a single tear and a good deal of salt dropped in. The idea is that you make as much steam as possible, as it is through the columns of steam rising out of the pans that you can see the occasional human-shaped shadow pass through. It only happens at night, in the early hours of this morning, and the organisers of the festival have consistently denied using any sort of projection technology in aid of creating the shadows; apparently it’s the ‘spectral energies’ of the highway that cause the steam to light up so much and it’s only for health and safety reasons that you can’t go on the other side of the counter.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Getting Your Hands Up
  • The Festival of Frosty Stares
  • Iremea Sansa’s Day