September 28th – The Festival of the Bloodthirsty Sword

Almost all the organisations which were linked to the monarchy have now been extinguished, or have at least been transformed, and changed their name from ‘royal’ to ‘municipal’. The cultural capital that ‘royal’ once conveyed has now become somewhat taboo. There are a few exceptions, besides the neo-monarchist rabble and their onerous leader Regent June, one of which is the Fraternity of Royal Physicians, who have survived the Revolutionary age with their name intact mostly because nobody has told them to change it yet.

As with a lot of things in Buentoille, the name remains the same more out of a (perhaps misplaced) sense of tradition, rather than it being a source of pride, or even an accurate descriptor of the group in its current form. Indeed, the ‘physicians’ (inverted commas are here used because most members of the Fraternity have no medical qualifications) are presumably, like most people in Buentoille, fanatically anti-monarchist. And yet, the group persists in the primary duties it fulfilled prior to the Revolution; keeping the current monarch safe from a very specific threat.

The Well of Saint Quella is not actually a well. That is to say, there is no water at the bottom; it’s just a very deep pit made to look like a well. Nor is Saint Quella actually a real saint, but, like the Well, a fabrication designed by the Fraternity to keep something hidden. Before 1916, when the Fraternity went public, today would have been a private festival, where they drew ‘holy healing water’ from the Well, which would then be used to form tinctures with which they treated the monarch. It seems that nobody ever bothered to check up on this story, and even the Chastise Church became convinced that this entirely fabricated saint was one of their own (in fairness there are so many it is difficult to keep track). What the Fraternity actually do today, what they have always done, is remove the iron grate that keeps the Well locked, remove the water pail from the end of the rope, and then fasten a young ‘physician’ to said rope, who abseils down, returning with a large, long metal box.

At one point, whilst the name was mostly a cover for their real activities, the Fraternity would have actually have been made up of royal physicians, men and women whose job it was to tend to the health of the monarch of the time. They would have done these jobs well, or rather, as well as one could before the advent of modern science, but this was not their job within the Fraternity; what they were mainly there to do in this shadowy, secret society, was gain samples of the monarch’s blood for today’s festival.

The box from the Well is laid out on a ceremonial bench, alongside a heart, that of a cow or pig, which has had the blood drained from it, replaced with that of a human. These days, it is the Fraternity members themselves who provide this blood, though pre-Revolution it would have been that of the monarch. The box is carefully opened, the various padlocks removed by their keyholders, who wear masks to conceal their identities. Inside the box is lined in blood-red velvet, sitting in a groove of which is a sheathed sword. It is very old, the scabbard blackened ancient leather and wood. When drawn, the blade is shiny and bright still, despite the age. Apparently this is because it was forged from meteor iron, but this is disputed. The blade is then plunged into the heart thrice, each time with a slightly different angle, so that a six-pointed star shape is pieced into one side and out the other. The blade is then cleaned, put back into its box, and lowered back into the Well. The festival is over.

Whilst to the casual observer (of which there are few; the festival is still held in semi-secret), this sequence of events may seem a piece of macabre but arbitrary theatre, but for the Fraternity it serves an important function, indeed it is the very reason for their existence. According to the ‘physicians’, the stabbing of the heart in this manner tricks the sword into believing that it has killed a monarch that year, meaning that it does not contrive to attempt an actual murder. This allegedly sentient blade was apparently forged in Strigaxia, with the intention of wiping out the Buentoilliçan royal line, and indeed it managed to kill two monarchs (King Blaneweld and Queen Volupt, from whom we get the word ‘voluptuous’) in the hands of two different assassins. There are rumours, too, that these ‘physicians’ have not always had the monarch’s health in mind, and have been, at certain moments of history, swayed by political reasoning to let the blade loose for some time. Why else would they not simply destroy it?

So, with the monarchs gone, why do they still persist in performing this yearly ritual, held on the day of both Blaneweld and Volupt’s assassinations, and why has an organisation whose job it was to protect the monarchy been allowed to survive after the Revolution? The answer lies in a quirk of Buentoilliçan law; instead of a formal dissolution of the monarchy, the Revolutionaries instead decided that the Monarchy would be converted, its powers conferred onto every Buentoillitant; in essence, every person living in Buentoille today is the monarch. The Fraternity of Royal Physician’s job has never been more important.

Other festivals happening today:

  • An Annual Protest in Favour of Please Just Melting Down the Sword
  • The Festival of Unpassed Time
  • Gerome Semmap’s Day