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