March 31st – The Ghost’s Cake Festival

In the east of the City, alongside a stream that feeds into the Moway, once stood a chestnut mill. Chestnut flour was once considered a delicacy in the City, but now it is unfortunately seldom used. Yet it wasn’t economics that killed the mill, it was a fire. Now, where it stood is a small courtyard through which the stream flows in a gulley, paved all around. In the centre of the courtyard is a millstone. Today the inhabitants of the surrounding buildings will use the millstone to grind the flour to bake a cake for a ghost.

Why? Well, depending on which of the houses in the courtyard you go to for information on the festival, you will get various differing answers to that particular question. The Girosane family at number thirteen are very adamant that it is because today is the ghost’s birthday. ‘Everyone should get a cake on their birthday!’ says little Riamue. Across the way, the old man who always smokes a pipe on his balcony says that the ghost isn’t real, but that they need to grind a little flour every year to keep the courtyard officially listed as a mill. ‘It’s like in that old children’s book, about the little boy who lives in a mill and builds lots of clockwork toys and inventions. I always wanted to live in a mill.’ Travue Unirim, the oceanographer who lives in the basement flat, the one with the little street-level window that steam rises from whenever she’s home, says that ‘if we don’t make the ghost the cake it will try to do it itself and nobody wants that.’

The cake is made of chestnut flour, of course. Nobody has ever tried making it with wheat flour, but one thing they can all agree on is that the ghost wouldn’t like that. It wouldn’t be right. In the day today they place a selection of dried, shelled chestnuts in the well in the centre of the millstone, enough for a single cake. Every household has at least a jar tucked at the back of the larder somewhere. Then they go and get the mill arms from where they hang under the archway that leads into the courtyard. The proper mechanism that turned the top stone, or ‘runner stone’ was lost in the fire, so now it is operated by hand, changed to work more like a traditional quern. When the arms are attached to the runner stone, everyone begins to push them around, walking around the circumference of the stone as it turns. Before long flour starts appearing in the groove along the edge of the lower stone or ‘bedstone’.

A household in the courtyard is selected to do the actual baking of the cake, once the chestnut flour has been milled. The recipe usually involves a large quantity of dried fruit. When it is done baking, usually around three in the afternoon, it is left under a tea towel atop the millstone.

Nobody’s really sure when the festival first began, but presumably it was after the mill burned down (an event mentioned in the Buentoilliçan Record of the last week of March in 1478 as ‘A Terybl Chessednut Tradgydee’ that ‘has tayken three lyves.’). The first mention of the festival is in Thy Yeerlee Toame – An Acurat and Correkt Almanak of The Citee of Buentoille in Three Hondered and Syxtee Fyve Daylee Events and Tradiciones (1678) by Lucasz Flaum, when it is referred to as a ‘goodlee ritchural’ to ward away a ghost that kept turning the millstone at night and keeping folk awake. Back then, it seems that a chestnut loaf was baked instead, and the ghost in question was widely believed to be the miller’s wife who had been conducting an affair in the mill on the night it burned down (presumably with two suitors, if the initial report of three bodies is to be believed).

Tomorrow morning there will be great feigned surprise amongst the adults of the courtyard when the cake is revealed to be gone. ‘Well the ghost must be real, if he ate his cake,’ they will say to each other, loudly, knowing full well that you cannot leave cake unattended in the presence of children for long without ‘mysterious’ disappearances, ‘either that or someone else ate it, and the ghost won’t be very happy with them at all.’

At this point another adult voice might chime in. ‘I wouldn’t want to be that person tonight! Did you ever hear what happened to Clarissa back in 1965?’

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Day to Raise Questions for the First Research Council
  • The Festival of Unravelling
  • Honk the Right Horn This Time Jack Festival

March 30th – The Day of Knitters and Crocheters

Today the furious clicking of needles can be heard across the City as people rush to finish their various knitting projects before the day is out. According to Buentoilliçan folklore, all knitting projects must be finished today, else the Waylayer will cause the pattern to go awry, or worse still, allow waursts to hide in each stitch. These superstitions do not seem to have any real age to them, the first instance being recorded in 1836, when Buentoilliçan Fabric interviewed a knitting circle. Whilst these modern myths may grant some added urgency to the situation, the original reason for the haste is far less supernatural.

Back in the fifteenth century the Guild of Knitters, Needle-Binders and Crocheters was a powerful institution, due to the popularity of knitted items at the time. Knitted or crocheted dolls were a common toy in middle-class households, and intricately knitted patterns were sought after as potent status symbols, on account of the time it took to create them and the skill they required. The Guild guarded the techniques and secrets of knitting and associated crafts closely, and only shared them amongst themselves in order to keep supply low and prices high. On the 30th of March hundreds of new potential recruits would present the work they had created in their spare time to the Guild. Only those who showed significant promise, or who created a new pattern or technique that the Guild wanted to learn, were granted entry into this exclusive club that effectively controlled all yarn-craft-related trade.

Over the years the secrets seeped out into the populace and the process of knitting became progressively industrialised with the invention of new machines. There was, however, a desire amongst many to keep wearing and creating hand-made objects, so whilst the Guild dwindled (eventually becoming part of the Union of Creative Textile Workers), the day maintained its meaning as a day to finish knitting projects. Today a number of civic projects that many knitters have spent the last few weeks producing will be publicly exhibited. All the trees in Dimitri’s Park of Bathing will be ‘yarn-bombed’ with colourful patterns around their trunks and web-like constructions strung between them, depicting famous knitters such as Lady Goliyn. Many of the City’s statues will be given outlandish knitted hats, and some of the more risqué naked examples will be awarded equally risqué crocheted underwear. Last year the two bears that guard the entrance to the post office were given fetching waistcoats. In the east of the City, these creations are usually made with linen, cotton, hemp or synthetic yarns, in opposition to wool, due to the high proportion of vegans who live there. A more recent innovation is a wood-fibre based yarn, heralded as the ‘future of knitting’ by its proponents.

In households all across the City, knitted gifts are exchanged between lovers, who have often spent the past year producing them. In another superstitious twist, today is thought to be the only day when knitted gifts can be exchanged and not result in the fulfilment of a ‘sweater curse,’ where the person receiving the sweater (or other knitted item) will break up with the giver shortly after receipt, or just before the item is finished. A knitted item such as a scarf is thought to be a particularly romantic gift, partly due to the length of time they require to be produced, but also because of an old saying, ‘[they] stitched-in their love’, thought to be inspired from a scene in the famous Heinbrow play, The History of the Knight, in which the eponymous knight cannot be killed because they are wearing a jumper knitted by their lover who thought deeply about an aspect of the knight they loved whilst making each stitch. The saying is used to describe any instance of particularly impressive craft.

To save the local wildlife entanglement and to prevent the loss of reusable yarn, most of the exhibits on show around the City today will be taken down tomorrow, so it is advised to enjoy them whilst they last. The old monarchic statuary yard by the river is a particular site of artistic endeavour, where the many depictions of the Traitor King and his kin will be rudely adorned, or made to look like entirely different historical personages. After night falls you might notice some of the exhibits glowing slightly, the result of a bioluminescent compound made from a particular form of mushroom in which the yarn is soaked. A number of the knitted wonders that hang beneath the many bridges of the Moway river will look particularly impressive at night due to their use of the compound. The greenish-blue tinge will reflect on the surface of the water beneath them, creating a haunting, shifting reflection, like ghosts trapped beneath the water.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Happy Fenrich’s Day of FANTASTICALLY Cheap Sunglasses
  • The Festival of Very Fast Shoelace Tying
  • The Crispiest Flatbread Competition

March 29th – The Bovine Parade & The Day of the Meteorite Flower

Thirty years ago today a smallish meteorite fell on Buentoille, landing in the brickwork of a building on the main part of Trader’s Boulevard, though not before it had passed through the body of a cow. The cow, called Dorris, was participating in The Bovine Parade, and was cut in two by the celestial object, which became so well-lodged that it couldn’t be prized out by any of the gathered onlookers. A few months later, when a small red flower began growing out of the meteorite, the surrounding brickwork was carefully detached from the building along with the meteorite and taken to a lab for testing by the Department of Celestial Science (DCS). A small plaque now marks the spot where it landed.

The Bovine Parade is a very old tradition, originally thought to be something to do with cow sacrifice, magic, cleansing or trading. Small snatches of information about the festival in its original form were recovered from a broken liberatum, which states that on this day ‘the cows are painted with [glyphs] and walked through cleansing fire’ and then led through the City’s streets in a complex set of directions. Many folks were interested in the ancient tradition, which was written on a tablet liberatum, translated by the Pohlatiné mission in 1934, that also seemed to contain a number of oblique references to magic spells. A group of experimental archaeologists decided to attempt to re-create some of the spells, but the parade was the only one they had enough description on. Whilst many of the directions they were to lead the cows through didn’t make sense with the modern street layout, they did their best to recreate both the markings (colourful swirls on the cows’ sides) and procession. For the ‘cleansing fire’ they put the cows on leads and had them jump over a small fire on the ground that wasn’t hot enough to harm them with such swift contact. It was on that first parade that Dorris was killed.

There are actually a number of differing festivals that occur today. Firstly, The Bovine Parade is held as always, using a slightly different iteration of street crossings, or a different interpretation of the glyphs. In an offshoot from this festival, a group of worshippers from the Church of Her Celestial Wrath will pray at the site of the meteorite’s landing to Dorris who has now become something of a saint in their fledgling religion, a conduit to the divine. At the Guild of Conspiracy Theorists a special meeting will be held to discuss the topics of extraterrestrial life and meteorite magic in reference to the meteorite fall. Over at the DCS a special room is reserved for discussions with anyone who might have information on the disappearance and supposed theft of the meteorite.

The DCS managed to conduct a number of experiments on the flower that grew from the meteorite before it was stolen from them. The flower was identified by consultant botanists as possibly some form of poppy in appearance, though they expressed some reservations because of its prodigious growth rate and strangely shaped leaves. The plant seemed to be growing from between the brickwork and meteorite, and no attempt to prise the two apart was made because they wanted to ensure that it survived. Whilst the flower seemed mundane in appearance, chemical tests were conducted on small sections of leaf and petal that indicated the presence of several amino-acids not usually found in plants, or for that matter any known life. Despite these strange findings, the Department’s working theory before the flower’s disappearance was that the flower seed was in one of the stomachs of Dorris, before it became lodged between the wall and meteorite, along with a good quantity of blood which acted as fertiliser. The findings of the chemical experiment and the odd shape of the leaves were supposedly down to the plant drawing nutrients from the slightly odd composition of the meteorite (made from stone rather than metal), which somehow affected its development. Further testing was planned to be certain, but the next day head researcher, Yannis Yeraili, walked into the lab and noticed that the meteorite and flower had vanished, but that the brickwork remained.

Although it must be stressed that there is absolutely no evidence to substantiate their claims, many folks have implicated both the Guild of Conspiracy Theorists and the Church of Her Celestial Wrath in the theft, as both allegedly have a particular interest in the artefact. The Church has denied all claims, saying that if they did have the meteorite then they would publicly display it to gather more worshippers. The Guild of Conspiracy Theorists also deny any involvement, although they seem to have a variety of differing opinions on what did happen to the celestial object and its fragile flower. Depending on the spokesperson the story differs: the meteorite, actually a giant alien seed that had begun to grow, detached itself from the brickwork and walked out of the lab on its plant legs; the seed had indeed come from outer space and the DCS, an allegedly corrupt organisation, had hidden the meteorite when they realised this, covering it up just as they had covered up many other instances of proof of alien life; the meteorite had been stolen by a cabal of witches who wanted to use it to call down a doomsday meteorite on the City.

Whatever the circumstances of the disappearance, the room kept reserved for information at the DCS is mainly a matter of tradition, now. There is little hope that any conclusive evidence could be gained from the artefact now, as the flower is probably long dead.

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Vigil for Dorris, Our Bovine Sky Mother
  • The Festival of Meteorite Crystal Healing
  • The Festival of Wind-Up Merchants

March 28th – Saint Pamulak’s Day

Often depicted as a cat-faced woman in Chastise Church iconography, Saint Pamulak is the patron saint of acrobats and thieves, and a famed lover of feline friends. Born in 1790 as Vedina Shawlans, Pamulak was part of a circus troupe who travelled the seven cities of the Inner Sea, before converting and founding a church in Buentoille. It is at this church, the Church of the Seventh Sister, that today’s festivities are centred.

During her time with the circus troupe (Estaldor Trall’s Entertainers), Pamulak learned the fine art of acrobatics, for which she seemed to have a natural talent. When she was just twelve she managed to perform her first high-rope cartwheel, and by sixteen she had mastered the Dance of the Kingfisher, a fast dance where the acrobat never touches the floor, only the very small tops of five tall poles. Throughout her journeys she would always appreciate the company of cats, who seemed naturally at ease around her, even those wilder cats who were skittish or violent towards most people. She would often sing softly to them as they curled up on her lap.

It was during a balance exercise at the age of twenty that Pamulak found faith. According to Church scripture she was balancing atop a very tall pole that wasn’t fixed to the ground, and that bent significantly. Even for a skilled acrobat like Pamulak, the feat required a huge amount of concentration and resolve, as the bend was want to change direction haphazardly. After she had been practising for two hours she closed her eyes. After the third hour she realised that she had been balancing perfectly for some time without thinking about it, but instead was experiencing an immense feeling of connection with the world around her; ‘I did not need to think about balancing because it was obvious how to keep the pole dead straight, just as it was obvious to me that the moth in tree behind me was about to be eaten by a bird, and that the tree was thinking about the particular texture of the soil around its tap root, and that later that year I would sit beneath the tree with a man of faith.’ It was Pamulak’s first experience with Attunement.

Later that year she would travel to the Undying Monastery between Litancha and Buentoille, where the holy folk there taught her the intricacies of the Church’s teachings. Five years later she started performing daily on the streets of Buentoille to gather money for a new church. When she realised that a group of young pickpockets were working the crowds that gathered to see her, she chose not to stop them but instead to demand a cut of their profits. It took her a further ten years, living in the back room of another church and performing every day, before she raised the funds she needed. All the time she promised far more beautiful sights to those who watched her performance, when she had built her church.

The Church of the Seventh Sister is not like most other churches. All up the walls are small openings and wooden board runways, where cats can enter and exit as they please. There is no altar, instead a large stage sports high wires, ropes, tall poles and safety nets. The whole place has the feel of a more solid circus tent. Saint Pamulak was a controversial figure in her time, but the sheer volume of folk she converted through her performances and acrobatics lessons eventually led to her canonisation. Throughout the performance she would relate her actions to scripture, and a small choir would sing verses to the assembled crowds. She continued taking to the high ropes until she was eighty eight, when she stopped under the express orders of her doctor. Yet her own acrobatic feats were only half the performance. Something that she had been developing all through her time performing on the City’s streets was the cat whistle.

Cats have beautiful singing voices, truly, they do. Especially if they train them. The dissonant yowls that you hear outside your window in midsummer are the cat equivalent of the screams of drunken yobs. Cats are also very shy of their singing voices. They would often purr tunefully along with Pamulak as she sang to them, but only so quietly that nobody else would hear them. It took multiple Attunements for her to realise how to develop a way of getting them to sing. Pamulak carved her first cat whistle whilst in this meditative state, atop the bendy pole she used to Attune. There is something about the pitch it plays at, or the sweet quality of the note it produces, that gets cats to sing. The exact design of the whistle is a family secret that has been passed down from Pamulak to Pamulak through the generations.

Today, in the Church of the Seventh Sister, the walls, rafters, stage and pews will be filled with hundreds of patient, well behaved cats. There are usually a few resident cats who perform with an acrobat in the Church each day, but today, the day Saint Pamulak was interred beneath the Church with great ceremony hundreds of years back, they seem to know to come and sing in her memory. Their beautiful song, a little like a rounder-sounding violin but with no true comparator, echoes hauntingly through the church and out into the streets, where the faithful gather.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Darling Whisky Tasting Competition
  • Down the River Without A Paddle: A Drifter’s Race
  • Pigeon Fancier’s Day

March 27th – The Festival of Dump-Dwelling

Sandwiched in between the districts of Hope’s End and Tallboys is the tiny district of The Tip. Only a few hundred metres across, this district that once held the municipal tip (now cleansed and converted into housing) was created in an unusual border dispute, still celebrated as part of the City’s civic history to this day.

Once upon a time, Buentoille’s districts had a great deal more autonomy that they do today. Under the rule of Rigus the Lackadaisical, they were given direct control over the taxes they raised from their populations, because of the trouble that Rigus was having hiring reliable tax collectors. A third of this income they had to pay to the king, but the local mayors were technically able to spend the remainder on whatever they wished. This created a huge problem with inequality between the districts, leaving rich districts with far more tax income to spend on their public infrastructure than their poor counterparts. Hope’s End and Tallboys district both began competing to have artists come to live in their district, as artists were taxed higher than any other group at the time, on account of the art they sold being classed as luxury goods.

Accordingly, neither district wanted to claim responsibility for the unsightly rubbish tip that straddled their borders, thinking that it would drive away the artists they hoped to ensnare. Both mayors bribed the Guild of Cartographers to redraw the boundaries in their favour, with the dump ending up within the other district’s land. The result was a small, ungoverned section of the City, full of Buentoille’s refuse.

It didn’t take long before people started taking advantage of the situation. Tax law was poorly thought through and implemented at the time, as where you paid your tax depended on where you lived on the day of the yearly census. The districts were required to tax their subjects at the same rates, but this did not apply to the newly ungoverned dump, where, technically, there was no tax whatsoever. On this day (the before the census) each year, thousands of people from all walks of life would descend on the dump to claim their residence there and avoid tax.

Homeless people of the time also paid the same tax, but directly to the crown, so there was no advantage to claiming that you had no residence, but this also meant that the folks who travelled to the rubbish tip today had to build themselves something that would legally constitute a dwelling. Rich and poor alike would spend the day constructing makeshift homes amongst the foul-smelling detritus, all in the hopes of saving some money. The tax regime at the time was surprisingly progressive, so richer folks could afford to spend a little more making a more comfortable dwelling, as the law stated that they must have slept there the night before the census-taker came around the following day. According to the archaic laws, dwellings could not be ‘maynle mayd of fabrick of anee sort,’ so tents were out, and small, cheap wooden structures were usually the chosen method, but as the years went by it became a place to display wealth as well as to save money, and many rich folks spent small fortunes on specially-made collapsible dwellings of enormous size that would be carted in by their servants.

After a few years most of the City had cottoned on, and finding a place to build your home became troublesome. Some folks started weeks ahead, finding an abandoned dwelling from the previous year that was to their liking (that hadn’t fallen to pieces, taken apart for firewood by locals, or been burned down by the heat from the decomposing mound beneath) and squatting in it until the census-taker came around. Fights over plots were commonplace, and death by fire was a constant fear. Come the 28th the place would be dead once more, except for children playing house in the alleged dwellings left behind, rubbish beginning to pile up against the walls of the makeshift dwellings.

The strange spectacle persisted for twelve years, before the new king, Cadleswitch the Enlightened, declared the area as an official district after being pressured by the other districts’ mayors, ending the tax loophole. Still, this is Buentoille and this day of construction had become something of a tradition. Despite the renovation of the area into housing, this tradition is still practised to this day: a few hundred Buentoillitants will travel to The Tip where they will construct a wooden house at the centre of the main square there. Students studying architecture, construction and civic planning are usually the main participants, and the event is advertised as a good opportunity for practise and study at the universities.

After the building is finished a large house party will be held there, and a few people will be nominated to stay in the building overnight. In the morning a ‘census taker’ will come and knock on the front door, awarding each a ‘tax rebate’ in the form of a cooked breakfast and a hot cup of coffee, welcome after their probably very uncomfortable night’s sleep. The building will then be either burned to the ground or smashed up by the crowd, depending on a vote. Pictures of each stage of the process have been taken each year since 1926, and can be viewed in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, upon special request, along with earlier sporadic drawings and accounts.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Flautist Magazine’s Opening Party
  • The Festival of Prideful Mistakes

March 26th – A Concert for the Memory of Harrald Lucin

Born on this day in 1725, Harrald Lucin was a masterful classical composer, amateur philosopher and animal rights campaigner. His works, which include the famous song ‘A Sophist Finally Finds Friends’ and ‘Sounds and Smells Float Through The Warm Summer Air’, are still some of the best-regarded classical compositions in the Buentoilliçan canon, the first choice for many an orchestra.

Many of these works were reflections of the natural world; Lucin would regularly make long excursions into the countryside, getting lost several times in Luck’s End forest, a large expanse of ancient woodland to the south west of the City. He was particularly interested in the shapes of nature, in the way different types of valley or woodland would transmit sound faster or slower, in the way the sound of a deer snapping a twig under-hoof reverberated strangely in dense fog. For Lucin, the world was a series of orchestral stages, all designed for him.

Lucin also sought out animals and observed them at length, then tried to replicate these experiences through his music, giving extremely complicated sets of instructions to the orchestra alongside the equally complicated sheet music; a prime example of this finesse and attention to detail is apparent in the first draft of ‘Seeing Chicks Fly for the First Time’, where spidery letters dance around the notes, ‘make sure the reed of the first clarinet is slightly too dry, for maximum raspiness here,’ ‘don’t let the timpani get carried away, this section should be played sotto voice.’ Lucin’s music ranged in setting all across the Buentoilliçan region and beyond, but one place that centred him, that he unfailingly came back to, was Heartthrob Cave.

Heartthrob cave is some way down the coast of the Inner Sea, beyond the Bay of Buentoille, yet still within a morning’s walk. Many of the festival-goers who travel there for the concert there today will set out on foot as Lucin would have, although special buses will be organised for those less able to walk that far. The cave is set into the tall sea cliffs that fringe the sea in that area, and can only be accessed by boat (Goriwald, the ferryman who lives in a hut nearby, charges a modest fee for those without their own means of entering the cave) at low tide. At high tide the sea enters the lower sections of this honeycombed cave, sloshing around rhythmically with the ebb and flow of the waves. This action of the waves, like the beating of a heart, is what gives the cave its name. Small holes in the cave let air in from outside, but they aren’t big enough for a person or any significant lighting to travel through.

The orchestra will wait until high tide before the concert begins. Due to the twisting nature of the cave, most of the audience will not be able to see the musicians, just hear the strange and beautiful music that flows around the odd angles of that singular place. The composition they will play, simply entitled ‘Heartthrob Cave’, is widely considered to be Lucin’s most accomplished work, one which he spent most of his life trying to create. On every visit to the cave, Lucin would attempt to do justice to the space, but never felt satisfied with his attempts. Towards the end of his life he became immensely frustrated with this lack of success, and vowed not to write any more music until ‘Heartthrob Cave’ was completed. It took twenty years, in which Lucin wrote various philosophical treatises on the subjects of inspiration and the ethics of human-animal relations, none of which were particularly insightful or successful. These years may, however, have performed the essential function of condensing Lucin’s thoughts, giving him pause to truly understand what he was trying to convey through ‘Heartthrob Cave’.

Most of the audience will lie down on the sandy floor of the cave, all in their own favourite nook or cranny where they feel the acoustics are best. All of the candles which once lit the cave, flickering as the encroaching sea changed the air pressure, are snuffed out, except for those in the central chamber which allow the orchestra to see. Lying in the darkness, the music flowing around the space, harmonising with the heartbeat of the cave, many audience members report experiencing a euphoric sensation of oneness with the world and their fellow humans. Many find themselves holding hands with complete strangers. ‘Heartthrob Cave’ has a strong choral element, the only of Lucin’s work to feature the human voice, but there are no words; the choir hum deeply, with affecting high notes mixed in. The work is often described as the most ‘religious’ of Lucin’s compositions, yet the man was an avowed atheist. Perhaps in this final work, Lucin tapped the core what we call faith or religion, allowing the non-religious to experience that feeling of vast wonder and togetherness too.

By the time he finished ‘Heartthob Cave’, Lucin was ninety two, and increasingly frail. On the boat ride to the first performance of the work the ferryman of the time, a young man called Hestus, reportedly carried Lucin’s old body onto the boat, cradling his head like a baby. Many say that he died there, in the cave as the music ended. This is a fanciful notion, but untrue; he actually died three weeks later, surrounded by his family, a happy man.

Lucin left the cave in tears and was carried back into the boat by the ferryman, who looked down at him lovingly. ‘Where do you want to go?’ he said.

‘Home,’ said Lucin. ‘It is done, I know what it was all for.’

The boat rocked softly as the sun set.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Museum of Traditional Antiquities’ Donation Drive
  • Cast the Kettle in the Ocean for Us
  • Her Breath; Softly – An Exhibition

March 25th – The Festival of Radiodance

‘Radiodance’ is the name given to the fluctuation of radio signals through various frequencies across the Buentoille region. The phenomenon has not been observed anywhere else in the known world, and its cause is not known. Some theories propose that an extremely powerful super low frequency signal could be spreading beyond its natural frequency range, thereby ‘pushing’ normal radio waves up and down from the frequency at which they were broadcast. It is not clear, however, how this is possible (the expected result would be that the normal radio signals would be simply overwritten), and many scientists have countered that this explanation simply makes no sense. The phenomenon means that conventional radio equipment needs to be fitted with ‘tracking’ equipment that adjusts the frequency the radio is receiving at, as the signal ‘dances’ across the frequency range. High frequency radio signals are subject to frequent cut-outs as they turn into microwaves.

Because of its sporadic nature, radiodance was barely noticed in the late nineteenth century, when radio equipment started becoming more widespread, yet the phenomenon seems to have become more frequent as time has passed. Before it caused any real issues for the population, it was observed by Gillian Hume, a scientist whose work then focused on electromagnetism. She coined the term ‘radiodance’ and invented the tracking system that all modern Buentoilliçan radios still use to this day. These devices were fitted to all new Buentoilliçan radios, a brilliant breakthrough that Hume thought was worth celebrating in her own festival.

When the festival had been going for a few years, the radio stations and papers heard about it, but because the phenomenon is so complex and poorly understood, they chose to spin the story in more understandable manner. As a result, there are actually two festivals today: one is carried on by the descendants of Hume, a small party with cake where new research into radiodance is discussed; the other was sparked by the media reports, and takes the form of a large dancing competition where the tracking device is taken off a radio and contestants have to maintain a coherent dance whilst the signal fluctuates between several stations.

Over the years those who organise each festival have been made aware of the other, and whilst there have been some paltry attempts at connecting the two together, nothing has ever stuck; the two groups are simply too disparate. There does, however, seem to be a level of tolerance between the groups, an understanding that really they are celebrating the same thing.

The more popular dancing festival is held outside in Revolution Park, where a large sound-system blares out a mixture of music, talk-shows and static. The starting frequency is chosen by someone bowling a ball along a path that has various signs that designate a certain frequency hammered into the ground beside it. Wherever the ball comes to rest, that radio station is selected. Various bets are often cast on this stage of proceedings. After this, all who wish to participate dance in a large crowd, overlooked by a panel of expert judges. Every minute the worst two dancers are separated from the crowd until a winner is declared. The festival usually takes around an hour to complete, though it once took two days when judges could not decide between the masterful dancers Freidrich ‘snake hips’ Borcho and Jinny ‘the knees’ Quakeblood. After winning three years on the trot, Izak Ugirin was banned from participating in the competition.

This year the less popular scientist’s festival hopes to discuss plans to gain more funding from the Council of Logistics to study radiodance. Over the last ten years the phenomenon has become more frequent, and they want to know why. The cake will reportedly be ‘carrot cake, although I might make a lemon sponge.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Benighted Journeys
  • The Festival of Insisting Triangle Players are Legitimate Musicians
  • The Anniversary of the Glass Worker’s Lament

March 24th – The Anniversary of the Tragedy at the Tactful Navigator

Whilst the temperance movement was once a force to be reckoned with in Buentoille, since the events that happened today 1868 it has only declined in popularity. In the ten years previous, the movement had risen to power and prominence under the leadership of Hemmut Gallblotter, an outspoken bull of a man whose dedication knew no bounds, who would seemingly stop at nothing to achieve his aim of a dry Buentoille. He gained notoriety in 1859 when he famously said to the Buentoilliçan Observer, ‘If they will not willingly put down the drink through reason, then, like a good father teaching his children, we must beat temperance into them!’

Under Gallblotter’s influence, the movement became far more militant, adding picketing of and intimidatory violence towards drinking establishments to their repertoire of tactics. Temperance campaigners still handed out leaflets extolling the evils of drink, made passionate public speeches and ran charitable houses that helped alcohol and drug addicts, but these traditional methods were now secondary to more pugnacious acts. Property damage was a favourite tactic of Gallblotter’s, and pubs and bars would frequently have their windows smashed or find graffiti on their doors in the morning.

Eventually there was a backlash, there had to be; Gallblotter had simply rubbed folks up the wrong way. Aside from a few minor scuffles between pubgoers and the temperance campaigners desecrating their place of worshipful consumption, there was little organised resistance, until Torgen Smallhead stepped up to the fore. The publican of the Tactful Navigator, a popular pub in Darksheve’s district (an area that had been frequently targeted by the temperance campaigners because it was primarily working class, and the working class were seen as more ‘vulnerable’ to the ‘evils’ of drink), Smallhead was a sly man, skilled in the ways of public relations. He had previously put several nearby pubs out of business through undercutting their prices and spreading rumours of watered-down beer, but now slid easily into the role of an outraged traditionalist, demanding that these ‘unwarranted attacks’ were an affront to ‘proper’ Buentoilliçan values.

Smallhead hired a number of mercenaries to protect his premises from the campaigners, both through coin and by promising a free drink to any person who stood up to the temperance campaigners. Small acts of violence on both sides became more frequent, as gangs of campaigners were set upon by drunken bruisers after last orders, and similarly folk staggering home from the pub found their heads connecting not with a soft pillow but with campaigner’s fists. What remained of Demoliane’s Daremen (a paramilitary force from Darksheave’s District) after the murder of Durstan Demoliane by Nible Jaques in 1857 only intervened when the property of Demoliane (now passed to his son, Darvil) was threatened. With recriminations on both sides, the scene was set for a grand show of violence.

Word got around that Gallblotter was planning to stage a show of force by bringing a large group of campaigners to smash up the Tactful Navigator, which had now gained itself much attention as Smallhead was the de-facto champion of the anti-temperance movement. In response, Smallhead gathered a huge crowd of mercenaries and pub-goers armed with improvised blunt weapons to protect the pub. Before the temperance gang arrived, Smallhead gave a speech about ‘protecting our rights and freedoms’ to rapturous applause. The men and women he had gathered were all given two free beers, and promised more when they had driven off the campaigners. At around midday the temperance gang arrived.

The resulting riot left eighty one people injured and three dead. Two of the dead were temperance campaigners, and one was a pub-goer. After around ten minutes of sustained battle, the campaigners were routed, and the pub escaped destruction, except for a broken window. After they had dealt with the injured and bodies, the pub-goers had a raucous drinking session at the Tactful Navigator, their spirits apparently not dampened by the deaths or the light shower that caught out the folks who couldn’t fit inside the pub at around four o’clock. At eleven the pub was still full, but people were not spilling into the streets as before. It was then that Sylvia Emmett, distraught at the death of her sister (a fellow temperance campaigner) in the riots earlier that day, threw the fire-bomb that burned down much of the pub and brought the day’s death count up to fifty nine.

Today these deaths will be commemorated by a ceremony at the Newly Tactful Navigator, a pub built through donations on burned husk of a site where the Tactful Navigator once stood. A toast will be held to their memory, and drink will be poured into the streets as a mark of respect. A wake will then travel into Ranaclois hill where a mausoleum has been built to house the bodies of those who died in the tragic incident. The mausoleum is a faithful replication of the original pub, with urns containing the ashes of the dead placed on the wooden chairs where they sat before their deaths. The bodies of those who escaped complete immolation, but died still from smoke inhalation before the fire brigade arrived, are mummified, placed at the bar receiving a drink from the barman, the body of Smallhead himself. In front of each urn or body is placed a glass, and into each of these a drink is poured of the finest variety. A small plaque is inset into the tables or bar, naming the occupant of the urns, and giving a few other details, including their favourite drink. These details were faithfully recounted by the survivors of the fire, and the families of the individuals who died.

The incident was to be the death-knell of the temperance movement, and the power gathered by Gallblotter quickly ebbed away. He refused to apologise publicly for the incident until he died, but it was reported afterwards that he had expressed some small remorse to his nearest and dearest on his deathbed. Emmett was incarcerated and then executed later on as a publicity stunt by the Traitor King.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Radio Bill’s Education Day
  • Bee and Insect Rehousing Day
  • The Festival of Chimney Pot Appreciation

March 23rd – The Remembrance Festival of Our Shadowed Mother

Peggy McLauren was still a newcomer to the City when she died, in 1835; she had only been in Buentoille for three months, but in that time she managed to found the Buentoilliçan University of Spiritualists and paint thirty six paintings. Where she originally hailed from before her civil life began is unclear, though the University states that it was the Isle of Myantre, in the northern Outer Sea. Little is known about this enigmatic island, except for its tiny size and strong oral tradition; somehow, despite the fact that less than a hundred people live there, a large number of folk songs have been carried from the island to Buentoille over the oceans.

Today the University will hold a festival of remembrance for the influential woman who they refer to as their ‘Shadowed Mother.’ They will hold an exhibition of her paintings in their gallery on Whitlap Street in the south west of the City, where they will also advertise the courses they offer. In the adjoining rooms, members and graduates of the University will also offer their services as ‘spirit painters’, for a fee. Instructive literature will be on sale throughout the gallery, and a few talks will be held that hope to explain the methods of the University, and to tell the story of the life of their ‘Shadowed Mother’. The event is generally well attended, as all University members and graduates are required to attend to maintain their degree status. A few hundred new prospective students also pass through the doors today, a number that may be higher were it not for the protesters outside.

Those paintings that line the walls of the Gallery today are rarely brought out of storage, and are an object of fascination for many Buentoillitants, University members and bystanders alike. A number of students from the more established universities are also known to attend the festival today in order to study these paintings. Each painting is a portrait of someone who has died, and were dead at the time of painting, and there is a wonderful sense of character to them; McLauren managed to capture extremely well the personalities of people she never met. It is not immediately obvious, but the canvas of every painting is in fact a mirror. Here and there the reflective surface shows through, especially in those works where the background is less fleshed out.

Each painting was commissioned by a different affluent Buentoillitant who wanted to commune with the spirit of their loved ones. They would give the artist a picture of their dead relative or spouse, or perhaps a lock of their hair or a tooth, and with that McLauren would be able to ‘look into’ the mirror and find them in the ‘spirit realm.’ Then she would merely paint over the image of their face as she saw it, fixing it for everyone else to see. The practice of ‘looking into’ the mirror requires a trance-like state to be reached through the administration of a number of narcotic substances that are burned as incense. There are other ‘tricks’ to inducing this state, but they, along with the exact formulation of substances burned are a closely guarded secret of the University’s. Because of this, nobody is allowed to be in the room during a ‘spirit painting’ session but the painter. According to the University, these paintings must then be ‘read’ by a trained professional in order for the ‘message’ from the spirit to be fully understood. This ‘reading’ takes in to account such things as the position of the spirit’s hands, their expression, and the items or background around them.

Next to all thirty six paintings by McLauren there are lengthy explanations about the spirits they depict, and the message that each spirit was trying to convey during the painting. One is of a young girl, about thirteen years of age, who is looking decidedly away from the viewer, instead focusing her rather grumpy attention on a white mouse in a bowl that she is holding. According to the University, this is Helios Emmar, the daughter of a gold merchant who tragically died when she leant on a rotten balcony railing too hard. She is apparently conveying through her pose that she cannot rest, and wants to be avenged. In another painting an old man looks directly at the viewer, anger clear on his face. He has bunched fists, and is wearing a rather silly hat. In the background an eagle is killing a deer with a spear. According to the University this is Unfar Solitherd, a farmer who died in his sleep. He is trying to convey the anger he felt that one of his pallbearers was a sister who he hated.

At either end of the street today, members of the Free Spirit Society, a religious organisation said to have ties to the Chastise Church, will protest the festival with flyers and placards. Whilst it is illegal for them to attempt to physically stop people from attending the festival, they do their damnedest with the other methods at their disposal. The Society was founded shortly after McLauren’s death, when Edquard Yartin saw an exhibition of her works and apparently ‘felt the spirits calling out to me, woeful, desperate.’ The Society’s central belief is that these paintings trap the spirit they have painted, keeping them against their will in the world of the living. They claim that evidence for this entrapment can be seen in the ‘small changes in the posture or expression of the spirits’ that (they say) can be seen across the years. With little access to the paintings, and no empirical evidence to prove their assertion, the Society has pointed to the varied ‘readings’ that the University has produced about the same paintings over time. Many of the scholars attending today who are studying the paintings will look for these changes to verify or disprove these claims, and whilst not enough evidence has been gathered for a conclusive statement one way or the other, the working theory is that the changes in ‘readings’ are simply down to misinterpretation on the part of the ‘reader’.

The festival today will conclude at midnight, when the most well thought of ‘spirit painters’ will attempt to paint an image of their beloved Shadowed Mother, who died of a heart attack on this day at the age of 78. Whilst this ritual is repeated every year, none has ever managed to find Peggy McLauren in the spirit realm. ‘It is as if she has somehow disappeared, or hidden herself from us,’ they often complain. Perhaps this year will finally yield results?

Other festivals happening today:

  • Unlock Your Soul with His Key
  • The Festival of Foraging’s First Spring Outing
  • Ted Ternwall’s Rave of Technically Just Techno

March 22nd – Buentoilliçan-Pohlatiné Friendship Day

Whilst their Mission still houses a number of Pohlatiné, few Buentoillitants have seen any of these once-populous people in recent years. Pohlatiné numbers have always fluctuated, and whilst the Ambassador and their entourage maintain permanent residence, others have been almost always transient to the City, staying for as long as their specific purpose dictates, then leaving to decipher mysteries elsewhere. Pohlatiné tend to be rather shy of public events, so today’s festival, Buentoilliçan-Pohlatiné Friendship Day, often goes unnoticed by most of Buentoille’s population.

The festivities today are decidedly low-key. A few members of the Office of External Affairs (OEA) will today visit the Pohlatiné Mission with a few gifts. The gift selection process is extremely painstaking and forms a large part of the Officers’ remit, as it involves a lot of research and second-guessing on what the Ambassador would find interesting or valuable. Information is usually gleaned from the Ambassador’s Buentoillitant aides about what sort of items they have been collecting for study recently, but this is not always an entirely reliable guide and something unexpected is often better received. The Ambassador will always respond with the same gift: a wind chime. There is a room in the Unfathomed Archive full of them, where no wind passes.

After the gift-giving ceremony, a dinner is held in the main hall of the Mission, an odd, twisting space, architecturally unique in Buentoille. The walls are made from a variety of differing items all cobbled together with sections of whitewashed concrete or clay. On the whitewash and across the items, in seemingly random configurations, are several thick coloured lines; reds oranges and blues that cut across the room like markings on a cycle path. The lighting in the room, an assortment of angle-poise lamps protruding from the walls and scattered across the floor, accentuates the feeling of confusion that you feel when looking up at the conglomeration of office desks, bicycles, doorways, mannequins and other such dissonant items that make up the walls and roof.

Rumour has it that this year the OEA has uncovered a liberatum from some crevice of the Hidden Library, which it plans to give to the Ambassador. These ancient documents were one of the reasons that the Pohlatiné first came to Buentoille; liberatum were some of the first ephemeral written documents, and, like the items that form the walls of the Mission, the Pohlatiné find them indispensable in their quest to divine the ‘shape of the world.’ Most liberatum are clay tablets with pock-marked inscriptions that bear little resemblance to proper writing. As such, many have been destroyed or misplaced through the years, their importance unseen by more modern eyes. For reasons unknown to all (excepting, perhaps the Pohlatiné, who rarely share their knowledge) there is a particularly high density of the tablets found in Buentoille in comparison to the nearby cities. According to the Pohlatiné, most liberatum relate to small trading agreements and personal recollections.

When the Ambassador is particularly pleased with a gift, they are likely to let the OEA in on some piece of knowledge or innovation they have gleaned though their studies. The last time this happened was in 1978, when the Ambassador was presented with thirteen bowls of pea soup left over from the previous day’s festivities by people who had pretended to like peas to fit in. In return, the Ambassador gave the customary wind chime, but also a collection of papers that explained how to make and fit a mechanical heart. To date, over two thousand lives have been saved by this medical breakthrough. In earlier years, the OEA has been given information which has led to advances as varied as a reduction of river pollution, an increase in crop yields, and timely intervention that averted a collapse in the stacks of the Hidden Library. Some people believe that the Pohlatiné were also behind the creation of the City’s power source.

After dinner, the Ambassador dons their dark gown and headscarf (the Pohlatiné are extremely sensitive to UV radiation) and leads the OEA representatives onto the balcony, where the hot air balloon awaits. The group will enter the cabin with its tinted windows, and the Ambassador will take them on a trip around the City. Wherever they land, they will all step out together and take three items from their surroundings, before they are carted back to the Mission, where they part ways. The OEA are uncharacteristically stumped as to the meaning of this last ritual, but it seems to make the Ambassador happy, and after all, it’s tradition now.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Magic of Ronald Capersleigh; A Remembrance Festival
  • Twisted Sid’s Day of CRAAZY Stunts
  • The Union of Filers, Librarians and Administrators’ Cataloguing Systems Trade Show