Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bellringer's Day

On new year's day, the streets of the rainy city are filled with the ringing of bells. 

It is a well-known fact that the ringing of bells drives away evil spirits, fairies, and storms, and the custom of ringing the bells to sound in a new year is an ancient tradition of the city. The ringing begins in the dim grey dawn and lasts throughout the dim grey day until the dusk returns the city to darkness and quiet. 

There is not a moment in the day when somewhere bells are not ringing.

Bells are sold on every street corner in Old Town in the days leading up to the holiday, and children rise early with their families on Bellringer's Morn to ring in the day. New bells are said to bring good luck, and it is true that lucky children have parents who can afford to buy new bells for the holiday. No labor is done on Bellringer's Day, except that which profits the people food and drink. Bells are fastened to carriages in the Mids and Embassy Row and to boats and ships' masts in Harboursides. All church doors stand open with a bellringer by the door. The city's gargoyles flock in Old Town, hanging thick as bats to the outer walls of the Alchemists' Guild and Opera House, ringing the bells they hold in their teeth. 

In the Mids, youths attach bells to kites, flying them as high as they can in the storm. Their mothers affix tiny bells to their cloaks and hang them from tea cups. Messengers secure bells to their boots. Barkeeps keep a gong next to the tap, clanging it each time they pull a pint. Bell races are held on the waters of the murk, as the ferrymen navigate the guide posts in the bay as fast as they can without allowing the bells on their barges to ring. Tower Cliffs wizards send their apprentices, and the occasional bound demon, to walk the streets of the city ringing sigil-engraved bells while proclaiming that evil and rain shall be banished in their master's name.

And, of course, everyone attaches bells to their umbrellas. 

In the gloom before dusk, the ten thousand mystery cults and fraternal brotherhoods of Levee Town emerge to walk the city in their full ceremonial regalia, bells in hand, fervently praying to drive the storm away. Some cults march in solemn procession. Others dash naked and screaming through the streets. The townsfolk fill the streets to watch the cults promenade. 

At nightfall, it is time for the Clamor. Every bell in the city is rung, from the lowly Sump to the high Tower Cliffs, until the din builds to a crescendo.  

As darkness settles in, so does the quiet. The people of the city retire to their dining rooms for their Bellringer's Night Dinners. And for one more year of rain. 

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