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Special Report 006: The Drunkship of Lanterns

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Good Evening, my name is Jack Callow, and today I’ll be documenting the event known as The Paper Lantern Festival, conducted by a Group of Interest known as The Drunkship of Lanterns. Before we begin, we will be redacting certain names and locations for the sake of privacy. While some of the participants will be named, others have requested their identity be hidden for the sake of their everyday lives. Locations are redacted to keep potential bad faith actors from attempting to infiltrate their ritual, because that’s what this came across as, a ritual. While claiming to not be a group based on belief, a lot of what was witnessed leaned pretty heavily towards the belief in not just celebrating life, but honoring the dead. This article is a bit different from my usual work, where I would have some audio of the interview conducted, because audio and video recording devices were not allowed during the festival.  Instead, this will be accompanied by an audio version of this report, for those who want to listen to something in the background over reading the report at length. With that being said, we’ll begin with how I was contacted by someone who at the time was going by the initials N.F, and how I was convinced to attend The Paper Lantern Festival. 

006 – A : Contact

The Drunkship of Lanterns didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, in fact they have been within the city for the last four to five months. I first became aware of them though, when I was visiting someone’s grave. When I first arrived at -Location redacted- I almost immediately noticed a large number of lanterns strewn about the area. Hanging from the walls, roof, and even the trees. While suspicious, it didn’t raise any alarms initially. Just seemed like someone had a small celebration and forgot to clean up. None of the graves seemed disturbed, tampered with or anything of the sort.

In fact, it seemed like someone had gone out of their way to make sure they had all been cleaned and maintained very well lately. It was during this visit, that I first met the person going by the initials N.F. They had arrived shortly after me at the location, walking about collecting the lanterns as I said my peace to the person I had come to see. Living in Los Santos, none of us are strangers to masked people. I myself am one of them, and with that in mind, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I had never seen a mask quite like theirs. It looked heavy, very heavy. Adorned in gold and silver, it looked very much like a stag. Vibrant greens and reds took up any space not taken up by the gold and silver, with what looked like crystals of some kind dangling from the horns, emitting a small jingle anytime they moved about.

Minutes passed, time ticked on, and we went about our business, up until it came time to go. There, we exchanged a brief greeting, nothing too out of the ordinary besides a simple Hello and small talk of the weather, until they mentioned, “I’m surprised you’re still here. Did you have too much last night and sleep here?” Confused, I told them I was just here to visit an old friend. “Ah, did you miss them?” I said I did, but knew there wasn’t much point in mourning. “That’s a good mindset. It’s far better to celebrate their life, not mourn their death.” I asked them if they were responsible for the lanterns, or if they had just come by to clean them up on behalf of -redacted-. “Oh, these are all ours. The person who usually does the cleaning flew out early, so it falls to me to clean so we don’t disrespect the dead.” I asked if they always came here, or if there was a reason why they had come here specifically. “Oh not at all. We go anywhere and everywhere we are welcome. We just picked -redacted- because it seemed quiet, and no one comes here on Sundays”.

I was interested, but didn’t know how far I could push for more information. So, telling them I had to go, I asked if they had gone by a name, or was it just a group of friends getting together. “Well, we normally don’t go by any specific titles, but collectively we go by The Drunkship of Lanterns to most. Others call us The Paper Lanterns.” I noted it down for later, telling myself I would look into it and ask around later. Later came sooner than expected though, seeing as I would be contacted by -redacted- to ask if I had heard of lanterns being found by -redacted- a little over three weeks later. Now I was intrigued. Los Santos has always been a hotbed for cult / belief based activities, but very few stuck around for a long period of time, most even fizzling out within the first two months of activity. 

We now had two confirmed sightings of this Drunkship within three weeks of each other, and that was enough for me to start my research on this specific group of interest. I started by going where I had first seen signs of them, hoping to run into N.F once more and hopefully get more information, but I had no luck. It wouldn’t be until another three weeks had passed before I found signs of them, and finally got to ask more questions. I wanted to know why they came to Los Santos, why the ritual involving paper lanterns, how many people were involved, and what was their end goal. “Well, if you’re really that curious, the basic explanation is we drink and build paper lanterns for the dead. We celebrate life and honor the dead.” But is there more to that? Or is it that simple? “It’s hard to explain, but why not come to the next one? Might be better if you see for yourself.”

I told them I would need time to think, run it by a few people to see if it was really the best idea. “Fair. But do consider it alright? If you decide you want to, just light this lantern, and leave it at that tree. I’ll come check within two weeks.” After more research, I decided the only way I was going to get more information was to throw myself into it.  With that, I lit the lantern, and waited. I asked to participate in the festival, on the condition that I could take notes, and report on it to the wider audience. While hesitant, N.F agreed, on the counter condition that I could not bring any form of recording device, which I agreed to. And thus it was set. Sunday, February 11th, I was allowed to witness The Paper Lantern Festival. 

006 – B: Description

The Paper Lantern Festival was what I expected, but not in the way I anticipated. While I expected there to be a lot of drinking (given the name Drunkship of Lanterns) and paper lanterns to be involved, what I wasn’t expecting was all the masks and people. I had assumed there would be more than maybe ten people. I was not expecting to be greeted by over twenty five masked people, all adorned in various colours consisting of green, red, teal, blue, and yellow.

They all shared the similar design to N.F, a stag adorned with gold, silver, or both, and clothes of all the colors mentioned before. The biggest similarity they all shared though, was the flowing robes. The only way to clearly identify them was their mask. There was no indication of tattoos, scars, gender, nothing. When I asked one of the participants, who referred to themselves as Bermuda, they provided more than a few answers as the event went on. “We aren’t ourselves here. Here, we are The Drunkship of Lanterns. Here I’m Bermuda, so why should I look like -redacted- when it’s not who I am here? None of us are who we are out there, while we are here, together. See that person over there? The one with the teal and gold mask and the amethyst hanging from the horns? That’s Clarent. Not -redacted- as they are out there. Here, things like gender, identity, and self don’t exist for a few long hours. We are the Drunkship while here, we can go back to our lives later.”

I asked why they had come together tonight of all nights, and why here, at -redacted-? “No reason. We gather when we can, and not everyone can make it to every gathering. What matters is celebrating now that we are all together again.” I understood that much, but I still didn’t know what all of This actually was. Why did they celebrate with The Paper Lantern Festival? Bermuda was more than happy to explain, all while drinks had started to be dispersed among the participants. I couldn’t make out any labels on the mason jars, nor the bottles being passed around. I declined any drinks offered, I was here as an observer, not a participant after all. With drink in hand, Bermuda started to walk me around the festival as I tried to take in as much as I could.

“We celebrate, because a lot of us can’t let go. We aren’t ready to move on and try to live our lives without those we love, so we cope. We drink all night and build these lanterns with them in our hearts, to show them we are still here for them. We light them and let them fly in hope that it’ll reach them, and when they come back down in the morning we collect them knowing they sent them back.”

I asked if it was required for everyone to come together, or could they celebrate on their own if they couldn’t make it. “Anyone can celebrate it wherever they are. They just have to follow the ritual properly and with clear intent in their heart. I’ll write it down for you later, should you want to celebrate on your own time.” Bermuda did in fact give me that letter later as the night went on. 

When I arrived at -redacted-, it was 8PM EST. By the time the festivities ended and the clean up had started, it was 4am. Throughout the night, I observed a mix of vibrant colors, cloths, golds and silvers all mingling and dancing to the tune of an unheard song. To the laughter of unheard jokes. To cries of unimaginable loss.

As the moon carved its way across the sky and the reverie reached its pitch, I received another note. Instructions on how to build my own lantern, a small note scrawled into the corner. “Rituals are ritual when you give them power. Make your own, do not follow the false way” That attracted more questions. What was the false path? Was there more to this than what was on display? Was this not as unified as I had first assumed? And, was I dealing with another cult now and not just a group of people celebrating? I had to have these questions answered. I couldn’t ask Bermuda. The last I had seen of her was passed out near others on a table, and so, I sought out to find N.F. 

To find a masked man in Los Santos was not hard. Off the top of my head I can name at least five that stand out. To find a masked man in a sea of masks however was a feat that was near impossible. No matter where I looked, I could not find N.F’s particular mask. Many that came close, but the stones on the horns would be different, or the gold was replaced with silver, or the horn design would be just slightly off. It wouldn’t be until far after the lanterns were lit and the clean up began that I would find them, overlooking the masses from a high up point. 

“Did you enjoy the festival? I’m sure you have more than a few questions by now stranger.”  I did. I wanted to know about the false path to start, what did it mean and did it carry any weight. “The false path? Ah, you’ve been approached by Sparrow. The false path is what we do now. How we drink and light lanterns is considered the false path to Sparrow and their circle. In reality, there is no false path. A ritual is what you make of it. We chose to celebrate the dead through reverie, not tokens and gifts.”

Then what was all of this really? If there was a separate branch, would that not make this more akin to a group over just strangers? Would the addition of belief not make this a cult? “Not every group with a belief is a cult, to think so would be rather narrow minded. We are a group who freely come and go. Who are not tied down to one another by anything more than just a place to gather and celebrate the dead. No money, no loyalty, no rules at the end of the day. How can that be a cult? We are wrapping up now. We probably won’t return for at least two months, maybe sooner should another of our own pass away. Until then, do stay safe ok? Oh, and should you ever want to reach me, simply ask for Nicoli Flemeth. Or if it’s during the festival once more, Alchemist.”

With their peace said, I didn’t push for anymore questions. I got in my car, checked the rear view, and made my way back home. 

006 – C: Conclusion

 At the end of the day, The Drunkship of Lanterns, while a group of interest, don’t seem to be a threat to the general populace of Los Santos. They seem to simply want to celebrate with their long gone deceased loved ones, unable to escape the frame of mind that they are beyond reach, because to them they are still here with us. I wonder, do they have a point? Are those that have left us ever really gone? Do they abandon us only when we forget them? Or, are they simply one lit lantern away, ready to embrace our love once more. This has been Jack Callow. Have a good night. 

Amendment 006: Instructions

The following details the notes on the ritual provided by Bermuda. Nothing at this moment is to be redacted, given the mundane and non lethal practices listed within.

Step 1: Take care in how you build the lantern. It’s important that as you build it, you speak to your loved one. Tell them how you have been since they can’t be there every day to see it themselves. Tell them your hardships, joys, and anger. Tell them what you miss from them and how you hope they’ll reach out again tonight. Make sure there is no other hole in the lantern. Any leaks could lead to the lantern coming back down. This does not apply if you are making a stationary lantern for a grave, that is meant to be more decorative than sending a message. 

Step 2: Carefully write your loved ones names along the lantern. At the top, put the names of the departed you are trying to reach, at the bottom, the names of the living trying to reach them. Make sure they are clear and legible, wouldn’t want to have them be confused with those you don’t want to speak to after all. 

Step 3: Belief. No other notes were left for this one.

Step 4: Drink all night and let your mind wander. Hold nothing back and just live and feel every raw emotion as much as possible. 

Step 5: When retrieving your lantern, give your gratitude to those who sent it back, and to any deity you chose to believe in (In this case, a Bermuda states theirs is The Void Mother) 

Those are the noted steps to the ritual, but as Sparrow reminded us. “Rituals are rituals when you give them power. Make your own, do not follow the false way” So celebrate as you will if you choose to. Just remember why you’re doing it. 

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