December 6th – The Festival of the Telltale Pattern; Leila Hartack’s Day

Buentoille likes to see itself as a sophisticated, civilised city, where serious crime is virtually non-existent, and love, rather than hate, dominates. Yet even in the kindest of cities, terrible things can happen, and as is usually the way, to the most vulnerable people. The residents of Etteridge Care Home were a prime example of this exploitation of vulnerability; they were elderly persons with no surviving family. Many of them were survivors of monarchist violence, the sole survivors of their families, with nobody but the kindly Home staff to look out for them. They were the perfect targets for the serial killer Morad Ferim.

As far as anyone else was aware, Ferim was a model employee, looking after the patients with considerable care and attention. He was a delight to talk to, and was extremely convincing to the other staff at the Home, too, so much so that nobody suspected a thing when the patients began dying prematurely at an alarming rate. These were all very elderly folk, after all, and Ferim was one of the only people who had extended contact with them, so nobody even bothered to fetch the coroner when one of them died. Later, Ferim was found to have used slow-acting lethal poison injections, administered as ‘pain relief’.

Yet not all the patients trapped with this terrible man in their home was oblivious to his predations. Leila Hartack had actually witnessed several murders, and had been told various details of Ferim’s further plans, but she suffered from a rare degenerative brain disease which meant that she forgot recent events very quickly. Ferim told her about the murders with a kind of evil glee, knowing that she would forget all about it before she had the chance to report him. What he didn’t expect was that she knew she was going to forget, so she found a novel way to remember, and to warn the outside world.

Today in the Large Soft Museum, the premier exhibition space for textile crafts in Buentoille, many more people than normal will be gathered around the blankets knitted by Hartack during her stay at the Etteridge Care Home. They are colourful things, with complex patterns of seemingly random colourful flecks. Whilst there is certainly a beauty to them, they are hardly pioneering creations in form or exquisite expressions of the mastery of a craft like many of the other items surrounding them. So why have they become so popular? Well, as we know the best art tells a story, and with Hartack’s blankets this is literally true: the flecks are actually Bemmind’s code, exposing (in good detail) to anyone who can read it the crimes of Ferim.

For most of the time she was making her blankets, Ferim was nearby and neither of them had any idea of what she was writing. She planned the blanket design in great detail on paper, whilst she still remembered the murders, and then placed this design in her sewing box so that she’d begin making it, once she had forgotten the horrifying revelations. The code wasn’t spotted until another veteran of the Revolution came on a visit to the care home, a way of getting the residents to make new friends. She’d worked as a cryptographer for the Revolutionary forces, and instantly understood what they said as soon as she saw them, displayed proudly around the home, on the laps of every resident. Ferim was caught soon after with several vials of the poison, and various exhumations proved its use. Hartack lived on for fourteen more years, oblivious to her own heroism. She was treated well.

Twenty five years ago, a film (Memory Blanket) was made, dramatising these events. It brought the story of Hartack to a new audience, many of whom will be visiting the Museum to see the originals today, or re-watching the film at home. There will also be a one-off knitting class held in the craft space within the Large Soft, where knitters new and experienced are encouraged to make blankets with (less macabre) secret messages in them. This style of textiles could be considered twee, given the sweet messages that are usually written into the blankets, if it were not for its considerably edgier origins. Finally, there will be an auction today, where some of the finest proponents of the Hartack style will sell their works to raise extra funds for MHS dementia research.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Wobbly Sleigh
  • Teenage Angst Day
  • The Interdistrict Candlestick Polishing Challenge Finals

December 5th – The Worrisome Jump Festival

There are many ways that you can wind down after a hard day’s work. For a lot of Buentoilliçan history, many chose alcohol as the route to relaxation, or blissful oblivion, oblivious of the pains of life. Yet as we all know, alcohol is a fickle mistress, and many have suffered from its abuses. In modern Buentoille, those having trouble with alcohol and other mind-changing chemicals are helped by MHS treatments which address the underlying causes of their self-abuse but in the past these treatments were not available, and other help could be hard to come by. For those in privileged positions, it didn’t matter if they treated those around them terribly, or could not hold down a job; this was par for the course. As always it was the working classes who suffered most.

Yet there was help available. For some, the temperance movement of the nineteenth century was helpful, but for others it was a moral crusade that vilified rather than actually helped. In small groups here and there folk gathered for self-directed therapy, but it was never a widespread phenomenon, nor were the results quite as positive as the professionally run services freely available nowadays. Usually these groups weren’t well publicised, or even available to the general public (we only have records of them today because of the work of the pioneering cultural historian Sameera Sthutz), but there was one group, a group of working-class Buentoillitants committed to beating their addictions via non-conventional means, who gathered a fair bit of public attention: The Society of Sober Adventurers.

Today the Society is very different from what it once was; nowadays it functions as a charitable organisation, raising funds to help those suffering from substance abuse, a problem which is far less prevalent but which has not disappeared completely. Whilst many of the members are still recovered or recovering alcoholics, they are not exclusively so, as would once have been the case. The festival today, the biggest fundraising event in the Society’s calendar, traces its roots all the way back to the group’s formation, indeed to the very first meeting when Deer Franklö initiated the first set of recruits, then only fourteen individuals.

There are few differences between that first initiation and that which will happen today, the primary one being the safety net which is strung between the buildings, a fact which Franklö would consider sacrilegious. The Adventurers were not some expeditionary force, nor a military group of any sort, but thrill-seekers, who exchanged the highs and lows of alcohol for the highs and lows of the City: they ran across rooftops and delved deep into the Buentoilliçan bowels. The first jump, they say, is always the hardest, and it seems that this difficulty is more than a matter of nerves; the Sixth Geermande Avenue Jump, or the Worrisome Jump, as it is more aptly known, is a considerable distance, and perhaps more startlingly, to a higher ledge than that which the prospective Society members launch themselves from. A good deal of upper-body strength is required to pull oneself up, even if you manage to catch hold of the opposite ledge.

For Franklö, it was not just the adrenaline that helped stave off alcohol cravings, but the sense that one’s life was constantly at threat. ‘Only by risking our lives so tangibly can we see its true value,’ was how they expressed this sense, ‘there is no better way to understand what we throw away when we lose ourselves to drink.’ Whilst it is technically still not possible to join the Society without completing the jump, at least according to the organisation’s charter, these ‘official’ members are actually treated more as a particular type of fundraiser, rather than the only members; originally the system obviously discriminated against less able folk, all of whom are offered full membership now. Hopefully the sponsorship raised by the jumpers today will help out a lot of folk who are currently suffering, and hopefully nobody will fall, and miss out on their momentary place in the sun.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Fastest Fingers
  • Take Home Your Hope Day

December 4th – The Annual Buentoilliçan Automated Showcase

A perfect world where work isn’t necessary. Robot butlers to tend our every need. Leisure as the only human occupation. This is the world put forth today by the Council of Automators at their Showcase today. The Council is made up of various groups; including the Eternal Fraternity of The Designer, the Second Autonomous Collective and The Pohlatiné Discipleship; who come together to show off their latest prototypes, which they claim could theoretically change the very fabric of human society.

The Showcase takes place in the Carol Sebney Gallery, the regular exhibits from which are, for one day only, stored in the tunnels beneath. The building was chosen because it is deemed to a suitably ‘futuristic’ location at which to display the various mechanical creations that the Council of Automators has been working on for the past year. Most of Buentoille is formed of stone and brick, so buildings like the Gallery, which is all angular metal and glass, stand out starkly. The Council, more so than other groups, are concerned with ushering in this future, and the visual statement that the Gallery gives is therefore very important to them.

In the grand scheme of Buentoilliçan festivals, this futuristic festival is also very young. It began in 1950, a way of commemorating the half-century, of looking forward to what could be. The day was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Withee Sahn, the inventor of the mechanical loom, itself a bold statement given that at one time she was a very controversial figure due to the job losses incurred by her invention, but has since become well loved for the prosperity she brought Buentoille. It was originally intended to be a one-off show, but afterwards the organisers got together, discussed the Showcase’s success, and the exposure that it afforded their ideas, and decided to run it as a regular festival.

So what is on show this year? The billing advertises some old favourites, no doubt improved somewhat since last year, such as the ‘Automatic Chef’ and accompanying ‘Robowaiters’, the ‘Autonomous Chimney Sweeper’ and the scale model of an entirely automated Buentoilliçan rail network. As always, viewers are led around the exhibition space by robotic guides, programmed to follow a set route, and say set things. There have been experiments with making these guides look human in the past, but this has been met with significant discomfort and backlash from the Buentoilliçan public, and the guides today, whilst having pre-recorded human voices, look more like steel cubes on wheels.

Indeed, the Council’s relationship with the public at large is what this show is all about, really. The building and dissemination of automated devices is a tightly controlled industry as it is seen as a threat to the Buentoilliçan way of life. This is, after all, a city where automatic streetlamps have been banned due to historical precedent and the power of labour unions; instead lamplighters wind through the streets each day, manually keying in codes that turn them on and off. The City is dependant on full employment to ensure social stability, and the rhetoric around labour has always been concerned with pride and fulfilment, at least since the Revolution. The Council’s creations directly challenge this and many Buentoilliçan traditions, proposing a world where menial tasks are a thing of the past, but truly satisfying work remains, for those who want it. ‘ROBOTS CAN DO THE WORK’ reads the banner hung above the main entrance.

Where once this ‘second Revolution’ once seemed a far off pipe-dream, as the technology simply wasn’t there to support it, it is now starting to seem much more possible, and the Showcase today has become a steadily more popular nexus for debate. There are machines for refuse collection, methods via which robots would communicate with each other, enabling supply chains and other such complex structures to function well. There are all manner of methods of manufacture for which new processes have been developed that require no human intervention whatsoever. And socially the City seems more ready; there is a well-functioning welfare system for those between work, which could, the Council claims, be modified to pay everyone whose job was taken over by robots.

And yet, this is a City deeply in touch with its past, a past which could be lost if these plans were to come to pass. Critics posit that surely people would miss working, or become lazy? And what of those who genuinely enjoy their work? Will they be able to continue, or will they see no point when nobody has need for the product of their labour? Without work, will life seem hollowed out, empty? What will happen to the skills of humanity? What happens if something breaks? These are all valid questions which are difficult to answer without the change simply happening, and once it has happened, it will be impossible to go back. They are also questions that the Showcase today is less interested in answering; the Council is primarily interested in showing that it is possible.

Indeed, the Council has been criticised for callousness in the past, such as when it created a small group of robotic protestors to replace those who gather outside the Showcase each year, a motley mix of traditionalists, religious fanatics, labour advocates and robot emancipationists. There is a well-worn joke that usually shows up in at least one of the daily papers each year, that the Council will make a robotic audience this year, or the next. Yet, unlike in Litancha, there are few anxieties about out-of-control robots, or a robot uprising, for two major reasons; firstly, the controls are very tight in Buentoille, and there is not an uncontrolled upper class who force ‘progress’ on the rest of society. Secondly is the matter of the Buentoilliçan power source, which is currently working near capacity. In order to realise the robotic future, either utopian or dystopian, the City would have to first make massive investments in new sources of electricity, a prospect that seems far off in itself.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Brutalist Platform
  • The Festival of the Synthetic Note
  • The Wake Festival

December 3rd – The Night of the Swelling Moon

Tonight the full moon will appear much larger and brighter than normal. This is a fairly simple phenomenon to explain: it’s physically closer to the Earth than at other times of the year when it was full. The moon’s orbit is not a perfect circle, and so upon each of the twenty seven days of the cycle it resides a different distance from the Earth. The distance it’s at tonight is called the perigee, and it is at this time that the tides will show the greatest variation (except of course for the Day of the Lowest Tide). Whilst the moon is directly above, the tides will be at their highest, and marginally higher than a normal high tide. It is perhaps this ‘swelling’ of the oceans that caused the folklorish associations that today holds.

The link might not immediately seem clear, but tonight there will be large amounts of gifts donated to the surgeons at all the medical centres across Buentoille today. This is partly in recognition of the general good work that they do, but also because they will be far more busy tonight than on any other night of the year. Normally, routine surgeries are carried out during the day, when the surgeons are naturally more awake, and even some more urgent operations are postponed until daylight hours. Yet for the past few weeks, many patients have opted to postpone their operations until tonight, out of a (probably misguided) belief that it will grant them good luck.

This renegotiation of timings is not something that’s encouraged by the MHS, nor is it tolerated in many instances where it would pose a risk to the patient by causing unnecessary delay, or to other potential emergency patients by causing services to near capacity. Yet for some routine surgeries, the renegotiation is allowed on the basis that it will decrease the patient’s stress levels and lead to more positive outcomes. The MHS is very clear that there is no evidence that the ‘Swelling Moon’ leads to more successful surgery, that this is unsubstantiated folklore, and doctors will always attempt to explain this to any patient before they commit to any scheduling of surgery outside of normal hours. If you were in the City in the past few weeks you likely saw a number of official posters and leaflets on building-sides and trains attempting to educate the Buentoilliçan population about these facts.

The source of the misinformation that the MHS simultaneously fights against and begrudgingly accommodates can be traced back to the 15th century, hardly the highest point of medical skill and knowledge, so it is difficult to pinpoint quite why the idea has remained so persistent. Surgeons at the time would operate under the light of a Swelling Moon in the belief that it would ‘swell’ any malignant areas, making them more obvious and therefore easier to excise. The idea is also linked to bloodletting, as swelling indicated that the ‘unpure’ blood was being brought to the surface. The first mention of this entirely fictional phenomenon seems to be the works of Deirach Temmiule, a charlatan who somehow duped his way to being the monarch’s head physician, a feat which probably says more about the state of the profession at that point than Temmiule’s deceptive skillset. Since then, the idea seems to have just been repeated, sometimes verbatim, with little analysis or criticism until modern times.

Despite their strong stance on the issue, the MHS treats the organisation of tonight’s operations with a particular seriousness and care, and as a result the rate of complications and the like may actually go down. A whole reserve force of surgeons volunteer to work extra hours to ensure the success of the night, and they are appropriately rewarded by the public. All donations made to each medical centre must be anonymised or they will be turned away, as there can be no implication of preferential treatment for payment of any kind. Portions of home-cooked food are a popular gift, along with alcohol and other consumables like candles and flowers. The idea isn’t to financially enrich the surgeons, but to show appreciation for their vital work. Whilst most of the gifts are aimed at surgeons, there is usually more than they can eat, drink and carry donated, and so the gifts tend to be shared fairly out amongst the other medical professionals and staff as well.

Of course, there are other folklorish associations with this ‘swelling’, and it is to nobody’s surprise that the birthrate spikes nine months after each Swelling Moon. Again, there’s no known mechanism via which the moon affects human physiognomy tonight to lead to these results; the effects on libido are presumably due to the romantic nature of a larger, brighter moon, and a healthy dosage of that ever-useful medicine: the placebo.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Singing Wrights
  • The Festival of the Third Machinist
  • Terrible Terrible Day

December 2nd – The Festival of the Doppelgängers

It’s strange how, when they look at other people’s faces, people focus on different features, interpreting them in an individual manner. Some people even interpret expressions differently, being more likely to see a stronger degree of anger or happiness. This strange element of human neural processing is probably part of the reason for different people finding different things attractive. It is also an important part of today’s festival, and the reason for the publicly-judged competition that takes up most of the day, which ennables the organisers to get a good average opinion of the participants’ visual characteristics.

What the audience are looking for is similarities between two faces; they are looking for doppelgängers. In order to win the competition the two contestants must get through several rounds of eliminations, until a single pair of candidates remains. They cannot have been in the presence of each other for more than ten full days, so most identical twins are banned. The competition is often fierce in the later rounds, and it can even come down to differences in mannerisms, but the early rounds tend to be full of those who bear little more than a passing resemblance. Again, because of the ten day rule, few past winners are able to compete, yet the entrants keep coming every year.

Buentoille is thought to have a higher-than-average number of near-identical citizens, at least when compared to its neighbouring cities. This could, however, be down to factors like the vast number of mirrors on show in shop windows and on the streets today, an old tradition that’s thought to link back to the Heinbrow play, The Bashful Poisoner, in which the Druid says that famous line, seemingly to the audience given that there are no other characters on stage at the time: ‘You will see yourself reflected yet not in glass, and not of thy kin’s flesh. This thing shall come to pass when there are but two days elapsed of the yere’s final month. The integument of the world shall draw thin.’

Quite what Heinbrow meant by these words is lost to time and scholarly argument, but in the general population it has been treated almost as a prophecy waiting to come true. It is the last line of this ‘prophecy’ that is of most interest to today’s organisers, who are looking to perform strange magic with the two chosen doppels resulting from the morning’s competition. By sitting them in precisely the same positions, wearing the same clothes, and given the same exact haircut, the esotericists who organise the festival hope to be able to ‘crack and then peel away’ the surface of reality, to see whatever lies beneath. The idea is that, by placing an empty picture frame between them, the world will be tricked into thinking that this is a mirror of one person, and so reality will waver, allowing the esoteric practitioner to reach into the resulting ‘crack’ of thin air, and to tear it.

Perhaps thankfully, and certainly not surprisingly, they have never been successful, yet they keep trying every year, blaming their failures on the lack of an identical doppelgänger pair. They must have spent out several fortunes over the years, as the prize, necessarily to ensure anyone coming across their doppel quickly organises to meet them at the festival and does not linger in their presence, is a large sum of money. Quite who funds this is seemingly unknown, a mysterious benefactor, thought probably to be resident of a nearby city. The Magnificent Coterie of Esoteric Practitioners are frequently in trouble with the tax authorities for failing to disclose any details pertaining to the prize.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Roomy House Day
  • The Invisible Scent of You Festival
  • The Festival of Careworn Satisfaction

December 1st – The Festival of Withstanding the Visage

Darius Ouvres was having something of a personal crisis in 1927. He was a well-respected painter, with excellent credentials in creating beautiful, colourful, happy images. He painted cats and dogs and children and beautiful young people petting cats and dogs and giving sweets to children. He painted the queue for the ice cream shop in summer, a young boy and his dog going sledging in winter. Before the Revolution middle class folks commissioned Darius Ouvres to paint their children, but since then he mainly sold prints or quick pieces to everyone else. Everyone was always smiling in Ouvres paintings, but since the Revolution, the man was smiling less and less.

It wasn’t so much a loss of income that began to niggle at Ouvres, as this remained fairly unchanged (before he had been paid lots for a single piece, but there were big gaps between work, whereas now many folks could afford to buy these cheaper pieces more regularly), it was that he felt his work was being devalued by this turn of events. Before he spent many days on a single piece, of which there was only a single instance. Mass production was cheapening things, sucking the individual soul out from them, he felt. Ouvres often described himself as ‘apolitical,’ but seeing as this is impossible, it seems that he was broadly in favour of how things had been, and treated the new world with grumpy disdain.

It’s easy to see why Ouvres might have felt this way, despite a lack of change in his material circumstances; it was all about a sense of importance. Being commissioned to create art that he would spend days on made him feel more important than simply selling a print. The 1920s were riddled with folks like him: those who’d lost out in the Revolution, but were too apathetic to do much about it except complain and sulk. Except Ouvres’ sulking took a particular, unexpected turn: he decided, in order to become once again ‘authentic’ and respected as a ‘serious’ artist (which it’s debatable that he ever was in the first place), to entirely change his artistic style.

Few of the paintings from this period of Ouvres’ life survive still, as the painter himself destroyed many of them in the fits of rage that he became prone to, at first almost as a performative element of the artistic process, but it seems later this element of his personality took over. Those paintings that do survive are dark and brooding, depicting monsters and murderers and executions. The dogs that had been petted previously were drowning, the cats took on haunting stares, their eyes startlingly human. The innocent children took of malicious tendencies. Sunflowers wilted and died. The change was so extreme that it seemed to some as if Ouvre had become possessed, or had succumbed to some terrible mental ague.

Indeed, the idea that Ouvres became possessed before he painted The Terrible Visage is a notion that persists, drawing many esotericists and occultists to the festival today. The festival takes place in the home of Terrence Snedvik, specifically in the sitting room. Snedvik’s mother, Selena, had seen Ouvres’ early works and loved them dearly, so much so that she decided to commission the artist to paint a mural in her sitting room, expecting some cheerful scene that would forever brighten her days. Snedvik was not aware of the ‘moody phase’ that Ouvres was going through at the time, and apparently expressed little surprise at the moody appearance of the artist, who was unkempt and sallow-faced. ‘He obviously has a great warmth inside,’ Terrance remembered her saying to his father, ‘Beauty comes from inside not from without.’ The artist locked the door, pulled the curtains closed and stopped up the gap beneath the door, so that nobody could watch him working. He never came out again alive.

The official prognosis of the coroner wasn’t suicide, as many had expected, but accidental death by prolonged exposure to paint thinners. By stopping up the door and keeping the windows closed, Ouvres gave no route for the fumes to escape, and he likely suffered a prolonged death. They found him after ten days, when Terrence’s father, Erdvard, forced the door down, an act that Terrence was not allowed to witness, but heard, just as he had heard the tapping on the wall a few days earlier, but had thought nothing of it. When the officials had been and gone, the sitting room was boarded up, and Terrance was forbidden from talking about it.

It was only much later, when both his parents had died, that Terrance finally looked inside the sitting room, and saw The Terrible Visage, that hideous self-portrait, all anger and malice, staring back at him. Before she died his mother had told him never to open the room up, but when once again, on the anniversary of those terrible events, he heard the tapping on the wall, he had to. At least this is what the Buentoilliçan Spiritual Times reported had happened, in a piece which caused a huge amount of attention and calls for Snedvik to open the painting to public viewings. Eventually, after a couple of week’s pressure, Snedvik agreed to open the room (which he had hastily closed back up again, apparently unable to withstand the evil stare of the mural) to the public once a year, on the anniversary of Ouvres’ corpse being found.

The revellers will line Snedvik’s hallway today, waiting their turn to see the painting, to attempt to withstand its terrible gaze for longer than three minutes and twenty six seconds, which is the current record. The door is locked after each entrant, so that they are alone with the artist, and it will only be unlocked if they frantically knock on the door. Without exception, each viewer looks drained as they exit. Snedvik, now 97 years old, has no children, and is looking to pass the house on to anyone who can withstand the gaze for 5 minutes or longer.

Other festivals happening today:

  • William’s Day
  • The Festival of Getting Down With It
  • The Festival of Bruised Pride

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

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 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 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