September 11th – Saint Welgather’s Day

Jannits Velure, priest of the Hope’s End Consolidated Church, can’t visit Saint Welgather’s Circle without bursting out in floods of tears. She’s fine if she walks around the outside of the space, circumnavigating the tall central statue of her most beloved saint, but if she looks up, even for a moment, she’ll be almost incapacitated by the heart-wrenching sobs that appear as if from nowhere. Most of the time she just avoids the place altogether.

In fairness to Velure, the statue very acutely conveys the feeling of grief to the viewer. Saint Welgather is kneeling, or rather sitting on his legs which are tucked beneath him in a formation similar to kneeling. His back is slumped, shoulders limp with despair. His right hand weakly gestures towards the heavens, the other touches his face, which seems to hang from its bones, lips slightly parted, the most woeful expression possible cast upon it. At some point someone rigged up a pump inside the marble, so that the saint’s likeness would actually cry, as the holy personage himself frequently did, and now there are stains where the water runs, cascading over his naked torso and scanty loincloth.

Saint Welgather, born Estus Caregiver, was a loveable rogue, a thief and a swindler, when he was young. He roamed the streets as a child, making his way in the world through guile and a grey moral code, in the absence of any parental control. Estus’ mother died when he was born and his father left him on someone’s doorstep the next day. As a beggar, Estus did well, being able to summon tears at the drop of a hat, a skill which, along with his other dramatic capabilities, secured Caregiver a life off the streets in the theatre.

Caregiver was a famous actor in his time, playing the lead role in many Heinbrow plays. As an adult his attractive physique earned him many admirers, and the man was known for his licentious behaviour and wild party manner. It was whilst performing Einar and Glicelli that Caregiver converted to the Chastise Church, in a moment of spontaneous Attunement. Caregiver’s character, Einar, has a rare moment of self-reflection, and begins to cry when he considers what his actions have wrought. ‘Whatte ys thys warter thatte dus obskure myn eyes?’ he asks, ‘whatte mystcheevyous ymp holdes the nyfe thatte cuts intwo myn harte so softlye?’ Going somewhat off script, caregiver began crying for a good fifteen minutes. According to the Church, the audience were strangely enraptured.

It is this moment that is represented in the large statue in the circle that hangs on Saint Welgather’s road, like a pearl on a string. It was at this moment that Caregiver made his first steps to becoming a saint. The tears were, for the first time since he was a baby, genuine, not feigned for money and prestige, and suddenly everything seemed very clear for the saint, who had that morning passed a street preacher. Everything clicked into place, and he kept crying.

Today, the birthday of Saint Welgather, is the only day in the year when Velure doesn’t look quite so silly, bursting into tears at the mere sight of a statue. This is because there is strength in numbers, and for reasons divine (as the Church would have it) or sociological (as many scientists have attempted to explain the reaction that most people have to the statue today), there will be hundreds of people, of faith or otherwise, unable to control themselves in the presence of this representation of the saint. As soon as they enter the circle, most people will begin crying, apparently feeling a keening sense of loss, yet of what they do not know. They slump over each other in despair, they cover their faces to hide the torrents of tears. A few reactions like this happen before midday, but as the clocks all strike the group arrives, fresh from the service at Velure’s church, and from that point on the circle will be filled with wailing until the sun sets.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Stony Resistance
  • The Passing of the Carrier Dove Festival

September 12th – The Harvest Festival

There’s been a certain bite to the air in the last few weeks, as the summer comes to an end. That’s not to say that the weather hasn’t been good; weather in Buentoille tends to be pretty steady year-on-year, and the last few weeks have provided a good amount of sunshine to grace the fields. It’s just that there is a crispness to the wind, a slight dampness to the air that wasn’t there before, and thoughts have begun to turn to autumn, to falling leaves, longer nights and the harvest, much of which is due to be completed today, whilst the fields are nice and dry.

Harvest time has always been a time of particular togetherness, even in Buentoille, a City known for its communal and interconnected nature. At one time, before mechanical labour-saving devices like combine harvesters and tractors, it would have been a time when workers all across the City put down their usual tools and picked up scythes and sickles, to ensure that the grains, especially, were brought in in a timely manner. This switching of roles was particularly common with quilters and those of associated industries, whose work wasn’t particularly urgent, though it was tolerated by employers across the board, who had their bellies as well as their pockets to think about. The pay was never wonderful, and the labour fairly hard, but it was time spent out in the fields with friends and family, working towards a common goal, and this made up for many evils.

There is still something of this togetherness through common labour retained today, as those fields closest to the City, and many of the green spaces within, are now formed into allotments, where folk from around Buentoille are entitled to grow food or flowers or whatever they like really, providing it can be dug back out of the ground when it’s someone else’s turn after five years. Most of the land that runs between the outreached fingers of the City is set aside for this purpose, intersected by train lines which provide easy access to the gardeners. The main bulk of Buentoille’s agricultural land, however, is farmed by the Cooperatives whose production is directly informed by orders from the Council of Logistics, which still maintains a monopoly on all large-scale food production and trading, to ensure low, fair prices and that there is no return of the Great Grain Crisis. With modern equipment the Cooperative members are far fewer than they would have once been, but they still number in the thousands, and have filled the fields with bustling activity for the last day or two.

There are a number of harvests, of course, because various crops are grown in Buentoille, but the biggest crops grown around the City are by far cereals; wheat and barley, predominantly; and the harvest of these is due to finish today. Like many festivals at this time of year, today’s Harvest Festival chiefly consists of drinking and eating large amounts, in particular beer made from last year’s harvest and bread from this year’s. There are three ‘harvest halls,’ (i.e. repurposed old tithe barns) on the City outskirts where the festivities mainly take place, decked out with wheat sheaf decorations and flowers aplenty; this is one of the year’s highlights for the Cooperative members, and it is treated with due reverence. In addition to hearty stews, roasted vegetables and freshly baked bread, a good deal of roasted meat is also eaten in the western and southern harvest halls, though not in the eastern hall, where vegetarianism and veganism are the norm.

Yet there are some more idiosyncratic traditions which are observed today, as well as these familiar scenes of righteous gluttony. As part of the celebrations, any Chastise Church members amongst the harvesters will deliver a ceremonial wheat sheaf to the Church of the Holy Host, where it will be laid on the main altar, a symbol of humankind’s ability to survive without the help of any god or impostergod. Depending on the roll of a dice made at the headquarters of the Union of Children, a child might burst forth from this sheaf at the beginning of the daily service. It has been this way for centuries, and there is usually a pregnant pause from the Priest after they’ve said the first few words. They aren’t allowed to check the sheaf on delivery, of course. That would be cheating.

There is also the matter of the grain parade, where harvest workers would carry sheaves through the streets singing ‘we will eat, we will eat, to the miller’s you must go!’ This practice was called off, however, during the Great Grain Crisis, for fear of theft. Nowadays, after the feast, a number of tractors are almost entirely covered in wheat and paraded through the streets with accompanying songs. The harvest workers hang off these slow convoys, drinking beer and throwing it over those who pass them.

Finally, there are the straw people. These are small figures fashioned by many households with straw either gotten from the fields by hand or bought from roving straw sellers. They must be completed before the day is out, and installed in the rafters or similar secret spot within the house, and then they will provide protection from all manner of foul spirits and poor luck throughout the long winter months. Some families even make small straw houses for the figures, which are made by every member of the family, and are ‘copies’ of each person that will absorb any bad luck. Legend has it that on the night of the harvest moon (normally in September, but this year in October) these figures come to life and dance arcane dances out of sight. Last year’s figures will also be burned today, expelling all the bad luck that they gathered throughout the year.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Server’s Day
  • The Festival of Doughty Nieces
  • The Festival of the Blackened Foot

September 13th – The Festival of the New Troll Bridge

In 1739 the Troll Bridge in Tallboys district fell into the Withy stream, which bubbles up from the ground in the district and becomes a tributary for the Moway. The Bridge was an old thing, the mortar long rotted, the stone crumbling, and nobody had bothered to look after it or restore it for a long time. It went across the river at an odd place and was seldom used; it’s a mystery quite why they built it there in the first place. It was a foot bridge, arched in design and only wide enough to allow one person across at a time, so it’s no wonder they built another, more useful bridge half a mile down the stream, where it was more useful, and let it fall into disrepair. Thankfully the fall happened in the night, and nobody was hurt; presumably the thing just finally gave up the ghost.

The collapsed bridge did present some issues for the local people, despite the fact that they hardly ever used it. It was called Troll Bridge either because of the festival which happened there every year (on this day), where a man dressed as a troll would hide under it and scare anyone who dared to cross (the bridge actually received far more foot traffic on those days than any other), or because of the stone troll carving at the apex of the bridge. Then again, it’s quite possible that the festival, carving and name of the bridge were all inspired by some earlier event lost to the mists of time, or, as some have proposed, the bridge may have once been a toll bridge. Another theory suggests that the bridge was named as such because people seemed to avoid it, like the bridge in the famous folk story The Kingdom Under Bridge, where a human-eating troll living beneath a bridge is confronted by several great warriors but eventually defeated by an infant flower seller. No matter the origins of the name and festival, it clearly had some significance to the locals, and therefore needed to be rebuilt.

The idea was to rebuild the Troll Brige in a similar design but wider, so that it would be more useful. This led to some disconcert between local people, some of whom were angry that this would make controlling access across it as the ‘troll’ a harder task, but these concerns were swept aside. The work on the new bridge began by first clearing the debris, keeping the carving (albeit in somewhat damaged form) so that it could be later placed back in pride of place at the apex. They then started to dig new, wider foundations. It was only then that they found the bones.

There were the scattered remains of sixteen adults and two children buried beneath the foundations of the Troll Bridge, all showing signs of cannibalistic practice, with teeth marks clear on the bones. Quite how they came to be there is unknown, as all archaeological evidence has since been disturbed by the constructions that followed, and would necessitate destroying or severely damaging the New Troll Bridge. Theories at the time seemed to suggest that some depraved individual living beneath the bridge had buried them there after consuming them, though it’s not clear how they would have managed to dig beneath the bridge without collapsing it.

The bones were said to be ‘very old’ and have since been buried in the churchyard of The Church of Our Lady Versaith, and it was clear that their placement there was not what caused the bridge to collapse. As a result some modern theories suggest that the remains were unknown to those who built the Troll Bridge, as the foundations didn’t go as deep as its wider replacement. There’s little information about who built the bridge, it only being ascribed to a mysterious ‘benefactor’ in some court documents, but it’s possible that they hid the bodies there to hide their crimes, then built the bridge over them, placing the troll carving there as a macabre joke. We will probably never know for sure.

Understandably there was something of a moral panic surrounding the festival, which was now seen by some as a celebration of the gruesome deaths the unfortunates buried beneath had suffered. On the other hand, there were those who said that the tradition should endure, no matter the grizzly connotations. Things seemed to be lining up for a fight, with those who wanted to carry out the festival receiving threats that they would be beaten if they tried. Eventually community leaders stepped in and reached a compromise between the two groups: the festival would go ahead, but not as a jovial thing, with the troll jumping out to surprise people. Two trolls would be employed instead, and they would soberly stand at each end of the bridge, denying access as a gesture of respect for those who were once killed and buried beneath. This rather odd state of affairs is what still happens every year to this day.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Eastern Star Alight Festival
  • The Cream of the Hallowed Ground Day
  • The Festival of Silver and Gold Spinning

September 14th – The Boat Party

Three days ago a skiff turned up in the Buentoille Bay and a woman standing aboard started waving a green flag with a black circle on it. Two row boats went over to meet her, a couple of fishers breaking off from their work. They had a short chat and then returned to shore, excitedly shouting to others: ‘the Veransi are coming! The Veransi!’

They still roam the seas out there, that remnant of Picaroon prowess, the Veransi live on, enduring well beyond the nautical empire, the Picaroon Consulate, of which they were a central faction. Whilst many of the other political groups broke down and either perished or were assimilated by land-based powers, the Veransi held together, living out their entire lives at sea and seldom if ever making landfall. Way out in the wide, deep ocean, they live by fishing, trade, and occasional piracy.

Yet despite their fearsome reputation, the Veransi are no longer feared or despised by the people of Buentoille; on the contrary, their presence is a cause for celebration! These women who once controlled access to the Outer Ocean through their pirate fleets, and who are generally credited for the failure of the Great Expedition, come now in peace and friendship, and have done so every few years since the Revolution, when they came to congratulate the City for throwing off its oppressors with gifts of food and alcohol. Quite how they came to hear of the uprising is something of a mystery.

These gifts were received with enthusiasm; this was the time when the trade which Buentoille relied upon had been cut off by the Seven Cities Trading Company, and many had begun to starve. Apparently, much of the food that was given to the City was stolen from the Company, as an act of solidarity, but also a historical rivalry between the two groups that has simmered since the Company negotiated a settlement with the Picaroon Consulate that led to the opening of the Tibizian Straits, and paved the way for the Traders’ subsequent domination of the region. Nowadays the City doesn’t require their charity or trade to survive, but trades are made nonetheless, after the greeting ceremonies are done away with, of course.

It’s the women who usually go over first. Men usually feel a little uncomfortable on the Veransi vessels, where the lascivious stares of women long at sea away from men are somewhat unnerving, even (perhaps even more so) for men who are usually the ones directing their gaze in such a manner. Women are better respected by the sailing folk too, who do have some men in their midst, but only those under sixteen, the sons of the women who live and work on the many ships and boats that make up the Veransi fleet. At one time they would have held men as servants and galley slaves, and whilst this practice has long been outlawed it still persists in the minds of those less enlightened Buentoillitants, the same people who refer to the Veransi as the ‘Lesbian Pirates.’ Lesbianism is, of course, common and even popular amongst the Veransi, but it is by no means the exclusive sexuality on their fleet. It is only those identifying as men who are banned from sailing with them, not straight women or folk of other genders.

The ceremonies always happen on the ships, a great knot of seafaring vessels which are pulled together whilst the boat party commences, enabling folk to travel between them as they float out in the bay. Buentoille hasn’t the docking facilities to accommodate all the ships, of which there are roughly 300, but even if it did they would not land or come ashore; the Veransi get terrible, debilitating land sickness. They will arrive at some point this morning, according to the advance scout, the first time for seven years, and folk are eager to see them. Many people have struck up relationships with these seafaring women, and will recommence them for a short period, before they head back out into the Outer Ocean once again.

The Veransi are anarchists, so do not have a leader, but they elect diplomats to speak for them, in much the same way that members of the Buentoilliçan Office of External Affairs are elected. The two groups will shake hands across the bows of their boats, before the Veransi attach three loaves of bread to each pong of a grappling hook and use it to pull the two together. The bread is a sign of friendship. Any male members of the Buentoilliçan side are require to stay put on their vessels until the other side have dropped anchor, whereas others are let aboard immediately. On board, the two groups will then exchange three gifts: an empty bowl is given to the Veransi, symbolic of how they came to the aid of Buentoille in its time of need. The sometimes pirates then place a fish in this bowl and hand it back. The Buentoillitants take out the fish, fill the bowl with nails and then hand it over once again. Whilst this may seem odd, it is a symbolic way of each side declaring its intentions to keep trading and helping each other, whether that be by providing food or boat repairs and other goods and service, hard-to-obtain on the open seas.

Once the niceties are out of the way the drinking begins in earnest, and the other Buentoillitants interested in attending the party board. Boat parties tend to be best in July around the time of the heatwave, but they are well attended even if there is snow falling. The Veransi are notoriously disorganised in their approach to yearly management, and they really could arrive at ant time of year, despite repeated petitions for them to make it a regular festival day. As such, if you want to sample Veransi hospitality, to taste their grog and strange mix of seafood, the spiny horrors of the deep and the farmed seaweed and muscle ropes that hang from beneath their ships, or to see the soilboats where small citrus fruit trees and flowers grow, you will have to take your chance now.

For some, today is a chance to see their children that they may have never met, raised aboard the boats in communal nurseries. Some may make new children, or simply make amorous connections where men are novelties and other newcomers are welcome novelties. There is always a certain exchange of people, as well as goods; the young men who have come of age depart their seaward home forever, enduring several weeks of terrible land sickness in the process. If their fathers cannot be found, then they are initially cared for by the Buentoilliçan Adjustment Contingent, who teach them the ways of the City. Conversely, some women who are attracted by the lifestyle or the company of a particular Veransi, will depart the City and live on the seas. Buentoillitants don’t usually last long amongst the Veransi, however, as they quickly become very homesick. An extra boat is always brought along with any newcomers, in case they want to come back home. Apparently this is common enough to warrant various jokes, and for the Veransi to call someone who is uncommitted or naive ‘a Buentoille’.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Crooning for my Darling
  • Cardinal Caper Day
  • The Festival of Unholy Skin

September 15th – The Bleeding of the Lesser Daughter

Elderberries are actually, contrary to popular belief in Buentoille, eminently edible. There are recipes from as far back as the first century which detail how to make elderberry jellies and wines, and if cooked, the poisonous elements of the berries are destroyed. Even if you eat one or two, perhaps by accident, the chances are that you won’t suffer any noticeable harm; you’d need to eat a significant amount of berries for the poisonous compounds to build to a dangerous point. This is not an endorsement of eating raw elderberries.

Whilst we have no way of accurately pinpointing the moment at which elderberries became quite so maligned, the chances are that it happened over a long period of time, and in particular as a fearful reaction to the Coven of Irah, the group of witches who claim to be descended in some way from the berries, the ‘darkening’ aspect of the elder tree, which ripen just before the autumnal equinox, the point after which nights will be longer than days. This day (occurring on the 22nd of September this year) is also a time of great significance for the Coven, but today is perhaps more important as today they will harvest the elderberries before they are all eaten by birds and squirrels. The corrupted reputation of the berries amongst humans is rarely challenged by the Coven, as it gives them something of a monopoly on the boughs laden with clusters of reddish-black fruit.

There is something distinctly blood-like about elderberries; it is as if they are blood pooling on the underside of a butcher’s table, slowly forming into drops. Perhaps this is what makes them appealing to the Coven, a group which has never made comment on the accusations of animal sacrifice. Much like their ‘brightening’ counterparts, the Infused Sisterhood, there are various rituals which the Coven observes before and during harvesting the produce of the elder tree, yet unlike the Sisterhood, these witches do not spin or dance or sing. They move with determined grace, remaining seemingly completely still between motions. They never speak above a whisper. They wear long black garments of silk, and keep their faces covered with sheer black veils.

They begin under the light of the crescent moon. Yet whilst they do not dance per se, these witches do move with a certain rhythm, almost mechanical in their practised motions. They glide up to each bushel they wish to harvest, surround it in a circle, then place their right hand on the shoulder of the person on that side. They lean over, theatrically, in a wave that travels around the circle, and whisper something in their sister’s ear. With their left hand they then, all at once, knock on the elder wood, and appear to listen closely to it for a few moments. Finally, they produce a small silver blade from their cloaks, with which they deftly slice a cluster of berries from the tree. Below, they are caught by younger witches, who crouch low and move with similar arachnid grace.Each witch whispers something inaudible throughout the entire sequence, which is repeated numerous times throughout the night, at different elder plants.

Quite what potions and ointments the Coven of Irah use their cropped fruit for is a closely held secret, though it is likely that they crush the juice out of them before doing anything else, as otherwise they spoil quickly once harvested. If you are out in the fields after the harvest tonight, which generally occurs in Stone Burrow Field where there are a great quantity of solitary elder trees, or ‘witch bushes’ as they are sometimes known; the Coven of Irah’s harvest methodology means they cannot use those plants growing in hedgerows; you might have opportunity to see how they put much of their harvest to use; in the Bleeding of the Lesser Daughter.

It begins with one of the younger witches removing her black cloak and revealing a milky-white lace dress beneath. She gathers up many of the elderberries the witches have harvested and places them in a small sack made from a porous fabric. She holds this close to her, and then the eldest witch comes up behind her and places one hand on her head, the other in the small of her back, as if wielding an invisible knife. The younger witch then squeezes the bag and, as the red liquid steadily drips out from within, the other witches quickly move towards her, their practised grace and head coverings gone, and begin covering their hands in the stream and covering their faces and arms in it. They push and shove, trying to cover themselves fully whilst jostling in this way. A fearful susurration of half-heard whispers fills the studied silence that existed moments before.

Unlike the blood of the Lesser Daughter that the juice symbolises, it dries on the skin a deep purplish blue, not the bright red you might expect. This isn’t a wise thing to point out to the witches, however, who believe that Irah, their progenitor who was created in the blood that flowed from the first Bright Witch when she was killed by her mother for being unfaithful, is physically present upon their skin. By covering themselves in this way, they cement their supposed loyalty to the Elder Mother (the Infused Sisterhood would argue this point), the first witch who resides inside every elder tree, the being to whom the knock is addressed. For new witches this is an initiation, the moment they first become part of the Coven.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Enduring Hate
  • The Festival of Game the Hunter
  • Ranaclois Up and Down Festival

September 16th – The Festival of the Dental Magpie

Everyone knows that magpies like to steal shiny objects. There’s something about the sparkle that tempts them, makes them want to hoard them in their nests, perhaps as gifts for their significant others. Everyone knows that magpies like to steal shiny objects, even though they don’t. There’s absolutely no evidence that magpies exhibit this sort of behaviour. There aren’t even any recorded instances in history, no outlying events where one of these birds picked up a necklace by mistake or under the influence of some unknown stress. Folklore is folklore, and when it comes to the truth, most Buentoillitants aren’t particularly interested.

It’s probably from this widely held belief that the Dental Magpie, or Tooth Bird, as it is also known, spawned. This mythological, and seemingly immortal, creature is uninterested in jewellery or keys or aluminium foil, but is instead obsessed with one thing – (you guessed it) children’s teeth. It’s apparently been around for hundreds of years, collecting these little discarded gnashers on this night only, when it is let out of its cage by its owner, Death itself. It’s said that from their milk teeth, Death will be able to discern when a person will die, and will therefore be there to sever the link between their spirit and body at the correct point.

It’s customary for children to sleep with their windows a crack open today, their removed teeth arranged on the sill neatly, or perhaps placed in a small bag to make them easier to carry away. Some children even make little perches, next to some sunflower seeds or a bowl of milk, the Dental Magpie’s favourite drink, as a welcoming gesture. Some try to stay up all night, to catch the Tooth Bird in the act, but as is the way with that sort of endeavour, they rarely if ever succeed. Apparently the Magpie is very fast – it has to be, to get all the teeth from all the children of Buentoille in one night.

In the day, before these stakeouts, at the Children’s Union Headquarters, there will be several debates, or Important Arguments, as the children call them, about whether or not the Magpie is real. There are spirited arguments on both sides, with some bringing sworn statements from their parents, or their favourite books on the subject, as their evidence. Some children with a greater grasp of biology and natural sciences might point out that a magpie cannot live so long, or move so fast. Others say that because the bird is owned by Death, it presumably cannot die. There is never any consensus reached, no matter how long they argue.

Of course, the most exciting part for any children who left their teeth, collected yearlong, out for the Magpie, are the gifts they receive in return. This usually consists of a few coins, or sweets, or even pieces of liquorish root in some instances. Whatever they get it certainly seems like a good deal for a piece of themselves they no longer need, yet some are unsatisfied with perceived differences in reward between children, and several tooth strikes have been instigated where children have withheld their end of the deal, or given smaller quantities of teeth, in the hopes of getting a more equitable deal the next time around. This ‘industrial action’ is usually accompanied by a short letter explaining the decision, occasionally with a list of demands.

However, these strategies seem to have had little effect, although the more equitable distribution of wealth in the City post-Revolution has probably levelled out the payments given to children. The most common response to a ‘tooth strike’ seems to be the delivery of a single piece of their least favourite vegetable the following year.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Bubble Day
  • The Festival of the Uncouth Steward
  • The Cat in the Box Festival

September 17th – The Festival of Hide and Seek

Mrs Jessam Derilley was what folk would once have termed a ‘lady of leisure.’ She spent many a day looking for idle pursuits, flitting from one fleeting interest to another. For most of 1634 she was interested in literature, becoming obsessed with several different authors, never finishing any of their works. For all of 1635 she took up crafts, focusing in particular on the shaping of resistant materials like wood and metal. She half finished a brooch from silver, and her chair never quite got that fourth leg.

It wasn’t that she was bad at any of the projects she began, merely that she lost interest quickly when some new thing floated into view. One project she did finish was her long box. It was precisely two metres long fifty centimetres high and seventy centimetres deep, made from sturdy teak. She spent about three weeks measuring and cutting all the wood; it was so precise that when you closed the lid there were no gaps at all. She was so proud of it that she never found anything good enough to keep in it, so she kept it up in the aptly named box room, along with various other pieces of craft detritus.

The Derilley family called that room the ‘box room,’ but in most Buentoilliçan households of the time, it would have qualified as a master bedroom, as far as size was concerned. They were pretty damn rich, as it goes, and their house, named Turnstall Manor, was palatial. Nowadays the space has been divided up into thirty three moderately sized flats’ perhaps that gives some sense of how large the space was. Today that space will once again feel as large as it once did, as each and every home within the complex will be opened up to all the other members of the complex, for one enormous and glorious game of hide and seek.

Some people are just plain bad at hide and seek. They panic and jump under the table, or under the bed, or just put a blanket over themselves and hope for the best. Patience is probably part of it, too, you need to be incredibly patient to be any good at hide and seek. On the other side of the scale, there are those who are brilliant at it, finding ingenious ways to bend the space around themselves, restricting their breathing so they cannot be heard. Jassam Derilley’s daughter, Catmyn, was famously ones such person. Hide and seek was her favourite game and she was stubborn enough that no matter how long you called to say you gave up, she stayed hidden. This was, frankly, fairly annoying for everyone else, even if Catmyn enjoyed it, and it wasn’t too long before everyone refused to play with her.

Quite often there were people visiting the house, staying over for a few days. Family, friends of the family, and some business associates of her father, Malpheus. It was one of the latter group that Catmyn accosted, and persuaded to play hide and seek with her, on this day in 1638. At this point her mother was trying to find something to distract herself from completing an economic thesis. She’d been putting some paintings in the (now burgeoning) box room, and had left it unlocked. The visitor to the house knew nothing of Catmyn’s stubborn ways, and gave up quickly, thinking she would come out eventually. He called, half-heartedly that he gave up, then went to get a drink from the cabinet and forgot all about it.

At dinnertime, when Catmyn was nowhere to be seen, he remembered the game suddenly, and a sigh of frustration swept across the table. They sent a servant to find her whilst they ate, but they couldn’t see her anywhere. It was nearly 10pm when they started looking in earnest. Catmyn had been dead for three hours. It took two days for them to find her body, lain inside her mother’s long box, which was so well made that when the lid was closed, as it was for the child to remain hidden, no air could get in or out. The girl died of oxygen starvation, and it was probably quite a peaceful way to go; she would have passed out long before she even realised she was running out of air.

It wasn’t long before this rather macabre story made its way into that great repository of macabre stories; the folk record. Slowly, the story became a parable about negligent mothers, about the corrupting influence of wealth, about the laissez-faire attitude and decadent excess of rich Buentoillitants. Ghost stories began popping up around the Manor, and other similar large houses, which bizarrely laid claim to being the ‘true’ progenitor place of what was now an urban myth. The modern game of hide and seek that tears through the family homes of Turnstall Manor was suggested in this context, rather than that of the original sad and gruesome story. It is a way of claiming the story, and the history of the place for the residents. It’s a way of saying: that happened here, in this very building!

The longbox is still held in the house to this day, although the wood has now warped a little, and two holes have been drilled in the sides, to stop anyone accidentally re-enacting those terrible events once again. It sits pride of place on the stairwell of the third floor, where the box room was once located. If you are having real trouble finding your quarry, the best thing to do is stand beside this box for a few minutes in silence, and the ghost of Catmyn will allegedly show you the way.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Deputation
  • The Wheeze Festival
  • The Festival of Careful Surveyors

September 18th – The Festival of Hat Casting

There is a café at the end of Mokkard street, where the road comes to an end with a small roundabout (the road is very thin, and beyond that roundabout on the left there is naught but a cliff edge, so it’s helpful for folk to be able to turn around at this point). It’s called The Sprightly Balloonist, and was little known in most of the City for a long time, despite the fact that is has some of the best Buentoilliçan views you are likely to find. You can see pretty much over the entire western half of the City, across to the Buentoille bay and the forests to the west, on a clear day. Ranaclois is in the other direction, unfortunately, so it’s spires are not visible, but they are actually marginally higher up than Guilgamot district where Mokkard street is located, so would probably block the rest of the view anyway.

The reason for the café’s relative obscurity is that it resides in what has always been a working class area of Buentoille. Besides locals and the occasional bohemian, few knew about this little hideaway, which serves tea and coffee, with flaky butter pastries and suncakes (a lemon juice and honey saturated sponge cake, usually speckled throughout with poppy seeds, contained within a very short, sweet, pastry casing) as its specialities. The benches outside are a now sure to be packed on any day that is clear and sunny, as, since the loosening of social attitudes precipitated by the Revolution, The Sprightly Balloonist has become rather famous. Today these benches will be even more packed than usual – today is the festival of Hat Casting.

A little way along the cliff and up some from the café is the Clifftop Secondary School. It’s been there since 1867, when philanthropist Gregor Cartpin decided that the children of Guilgamot district who lived near the Grand Boulevard which he often frequented deserved to be properly educated. For Cartpin, education also entailed a strong deference to and respect for authority, which he often observed was lacking in the children of the district when shopping on the Boulevard. In an attempt to fabricate this respect in the children, Cartpin instigated a system of tiered hats which would denote seniority, with each tier acting subserviently to their elders. First form students would wear something akin to a skull cap, second formers would have a very small square attached to the apex of this cap, and by seventh form this would have morphed into a full-sized mortarboard.

Often these kind of divide-and-rule tactics are effective, as they give certain benefits to those ‘on top’ and in turn lever their good will to keep the others in check. It’s easy to see a situation in which this system perpetuated itself, even beyond the Revolution, as younger students anticipated the power they would receive as they got older. Older students were allowed to skip to the front of queues, and were given privileges to leave the school grounds at lunch break. This was, however, not the case. For one thing, students found the hats odious to wear; they were always slipping off their heads and causing itches and scalp pains if they were too tight, which they had to be to stay on, and if they fell off you’d get in trouble. These issues only got worse as you went on, with the board unbalancing things further. The other reason was that many of these children had played in the streets before they had a school to go to, in groups that generally discriminated by location rather than age; there was a great solidarity between students in different forms, a factor unanticipated by Cartpin.

There were, of course, those who were more than happy to be given power over their less senior schoolmates, but these folk were kept from too much mischief by the already well established ‘gangs’ of children from different streets who looked out for each other. The seniority system was always fragile at best, and in 1869, only two years after the school opened, a number of mass protests and speeches held in the school’s public spaces, eventually led to the system’s abolition in all but name. These protests began on September the 16th, when students Umer Wellasi and Tyryan Calle took a chair each from a nearby classroom and sat down in the centre of the Forwyn Vestibule (named after Cartpin’s wife, Forwyn) at lunch time. Each time a student they knew passed them, they told them to get a chair and join in. By the end of lunch the vestibule was packed full of stoic seated students, chanting and refusing to move and return to class. Whilst this protest was eventually broken up by a team of more heavy-handed teachers, the unrest continued over the following days, culminating in the first Casting of the Hats.

Ringleaders were rounded up and suspended (although curiously the teachers failed to notice that Calle was actually one of the movement’s progenitors, and he continued agitating uninterrupted), but this did little to slow the protests. Eventually, however, the protestors realised that it was ultimately they who were responsible for upholding the ‘hat rule’ as the seniority system came to be known, and therefore they could bring it down by simply refusing to participate. This principle was agreed on by the protesters, who had assembled in that same vestibule on the morning of the eighteenth. They then elected a group of committed activists, five from each form, who would be responsible for ensuring inter-form cooperation and respect, and would ‘handle’ any students who tried to use the ‘hat rule’ to gain unfair advantage. The students also felt that there needed to be a final show of their strength; a final protest was planned.

Almost every student in the school followed Tyryan Calle out the school gates later that day, when he sent up the rallying cry. They poured down the hedgerowed ways, all the way along to Mokkard street, and right up to the cliff edge, which is far steeper and more impressive there than the slopes around the school. There they lined up on the cliff edge, along where the handrail and concrete blocks stopping cars careering off are nowadays, and counted down from five. On one, the children cast their hats over the edge, those more senior students projecting them to quite a distance as the board caught the air. The students behind them then stepped up and did the same, until pretty much all the school were rid of their hats. Those students too timid or lacking in solidarity who stayed back at the school, few as they were, hid their own hats pretty quickly the following day, when the rest of the students returned (they were all suspended so took the opportunity to have a day off but then came back the following day when it was clear there was nothing the school could do).

Today, the 238th anniversary of that momentous protest, the students will re-enact this moment of victory won by their predecessors. Today, as the hats are no longer made, they use cardboard replicas, made in art class. The school continued to claim that the hats were an ‘essential item of dress’ for thirty one years after, issuing them to all students new and old, but as these too were swiftly cast over the cliff on this day every year, and otherwise not worn at all, they then gave up. Today a large crowd of parents and bystanders alike will come to watch this scripted moment of dissent, now factored into the school year, as the ‘hats’ of all colours and designs tumble down to the houses below. The elected student body exists still, although nowadays their primary task is to help clean Mrs Rolandson’s roof, which resides directly below the cliff edge.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Screaming Mauve Murder
  • The Festival of Askance and Gifting
  • The Day of Ergonomic Realities

September 19th – The Scarecrow Visitation Festival

Tonight, if you are out late and you see someone watching you, standing stock still at the end of the road where the lamplight doesn’t quite reach, do not be alarmed; it’s probably just a scarecrow come to visit. Thousands of the things, their work now finished in the fields that surround Buentoille, will come to visit this fair City, to sample a life not spend protecting fields, before they are once more employed when the winter wheat is sown.

It’s mostly due to today’s festival that scarecrows are still used by the farming cooperatives that work the land around the City, as they tend not to be particularly effective, especially once the crows and other local animals have gotten used to their presence. And yet, most of the scarecrows who come to Buentoille today, and who number around two thousand, will be individually named, and well looked after by their owners. They might have had their straw replaced, their clothes darned or changed, the sticks that hold them up may have rotted away and new ones put in their place, but they remain the same scarecrows regardless. They say the human body entirely replaces itself every seven years.

Lampposts seem to be a favourite spot for these rustic visitors to lean up against, surveying the different pace of life in Buentoille, but then there are also those who engage in more active leisure activities; some are seated at cafés for the day, a single cup of tea or coffee growing cold, a bird perhaps helping itself to the biscuit laid out next to it. Some, perhaps looking for a better view, are seated atop walls or on roofs, or have got half way up a drainpipe and decided they need a rest. Some decide to spend their free time volunteering at the Wallmin Botanic Gardens, where they pose for photographs holding their watering cans and knelt down pruning the miniature trees. A few like to sit in boats chained to the pontoons on the Moway, perhaps with a glass of something or even a picnic hamper. There is one scarecrow called Andre who frequently visits the Jutêgarde Parish district, where he sits atop a church and dangles a fishing rod over the side. Nobody seems to think he’s ever caught anything, but he seems happy.

Whilst there is technically no group that has owned up to placing the scarecrows about the City in this manner, everyone knows that it is the Union of Reapers, Threshers and Allied Agricultural Workers (URTAAW) who stage these delightful intersections of the pastoral and urban. They officially deny any such suggestions, declaring that the scarecrows, who appear overnight and will disappear tomorrow in much the same way, make their way out of the fields themselves. The suspicion falls on the URTAAW primarily because of the circumstances under which the scarecrows first came to visit Buentoille.

The year was 1575 and the farm workers were agitating for change. At this point the URTAAW were frequently agitating and striking for better pay and conditions, and were winning various concessions. This state of affairs was obviously considered irksome by the landowners and the right-wing press who favoured their interests, and was constantly bemoaned by a Mr Killmore Ageb, in his Buentoilliçan Post column. On September the 17th, the hack wrote a satirical piece designed to humiliate the strikers and devalue their labour. It was a fake manifesto from the ‘Stoik Yewenyon of Scayrekrows and Alyd Farme Tools,’ which, amongst other demands considered ridiculous by Ageb, advocated for and eight hour day and reasonable holiday and sick pay. The manifesto also declared a strike the following day.

The next day, when he woke up in the morning, Mr Ageb was probably quite surprised to see an unruly mob of scarecrows outside his door, holding placards daubed with the manifesto demands he himself had written only hours before. They had also chained themselves to the railings outside the offices of the Buentoilliçan Post, and the sight of them greeted him on his way there. From the incandescent, rambling piece published the next day, it’s easy to see how much this ‘protest’ got under his skin. It was a feeling he was not able to forget, either, as URTAAW created similar scenes on the same day every year after. There’s no evidence to suggest that Ageb ever saw the funny side.

Over the years, the festival acted as a good way for the URTAAW to keep their political aims in the public eye, even when they weren’t actively striking, and thus they kept bussing in the scarecrows each year, well after Ageb ceased to be a target. Besides, it was fun, and it made people laugh, which certainly helped to make the Union appear more friendly and relatable. Eventually, there was little else for the URTAAW to agitate for, as their demands were eventually met, and, since the Revolution, their political representation at work is assured through the cooperative structures. As such, the scarecrows have slowly become less political, although you may still see one or two demanding ‘fresher straw’ or ‘less yobbish birds’ to contend with.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Delayed Satisfaction
  • The Arch of the Empty God Day
  • Moor Walk Day

September 20th – The Festival of Saint Bann

Saint Bann was, reportedly, a very poor soldier within Buentoille’s Defence Brigades. He was constantly forgetting his equipment, not keeping his shoes shined properly, dangerously pointing his gun at other members of his regiment, or dropping it in the mud. One time he accidentally shot a hole in the side of the cauldron the regiment were cooking their dinner in, spilling the lot over. In normal circumstances, Jonathan Ionious (the Saint’s birth name) would have been kicked out of the Brigades, but his mother was a high-ranking officer, and she ensured that he stayed, believing that one day he would learn discipline and coordination if he kept at it.

The fact of the matter was, however, that Ionious’ mother knew nothing of her son, who showed absolutely no signs of improvement, regardless of the punishments meted out to him by his captain. At fist, these punishments involved a good deal of floor scrubbing, washing dishes, and other boring activities that others avoided. However, as he routinely made a poor job of these tasks, or even messed them up catastrophically (he once broke almost all the best china, and managed to gouge a hole out of the wooden floor of the bunk room) these punishments escalated to mere banishment for long periods, or the occasional flogging, if the captain thought the saint-to-be’s mother wouldn’t find out. These were the punishments laid upon him by the captain, but there was also an element of mob justice from the other soldiers, which the captain turned a blind eye to; the blanket toss.

If Ionious had done something particularly odious that annoyed the other troop members, they would wait until dark, and then take matters into their own hands. When they were all seemingly asleep in their bunks, the soldiers would quickly and deftly scoop up Bann, wrapping him tightly within their sheets. Then they would take him outisde and, with a much larger and stronger sheet which they procured from who-knows-where, they tossed him into the air repeatedly, standing in a circle around him as he was thrown high, still wrapped up tight, and landed down on the blanket at awkward angles, knocking all the wind out of him. With no time to recover, he would be cast into the air once again. They kept this up for at least half an hour, usually. Often when they stopped he would be quite sick. Sometimes he was sick mid-flight.

And then, on this day in either 1822 or 1812 (accounts vary), a miracle occurred. Bann had been seeking solace in faith, having made no friends in the Brigades, nor having made a man of himself, as his mother constantly urged him to. He was thirty six and had been in the brigades since he was sixteen. The men and women who bullied him had changed over the years, but the blanket-toss punishment remained the same. Being in church gave him a sense of calm that he didn’t get elsewhere, and he started skipping postings with his regiment (leaving others to deal with the heavy equipment he was supposed to carry) to attend services, but he was too weak and scared of his mother’s wrath to quit the Brigades altogether. When he got back one night, his regiment was particularly irked, so they blanket tossed him for three hours, switching out when they became tired. At some point toward the end of the third hour he achieved a state of Attunement, of sudden religious clarity.

From that point onwards, Bann was a changed man. This change firstly manifested itself in an ability to stay upright during the blanket-tossing, thereby reducing the sickness he felt. He exhibited this skill for hours on end outside the Church of the Holy Host, the primary Chastise Church building in Buentoille, as proof of his Attunement, and trained others to do so, and a few of these performers were even able to become Attuned themselves. He left the Brigades, ignored his mother when she inevitably unleashed her wrath (which was not nearly as bad as he had expected) and became a chaplain at the Church, where he was said to lose all his former deficits, his clumsiness, sloth and his poor memory. Today those who still retain the art of staying upright during a blanket toss will congregate outside the Church once again, to perform in his honour. Members of the public are encouraged to take a turn, but it’s unlikely that most will maintain their balance for more than a minute. The Master’s Ambulance Service will be on hand to handle any accidents.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Disorderly Love
  • The Falcon of Repora Day