Tiputa, one of many towns of the Soronan desert. It is one road, with both sides lined by 5 triangular buildings, built with a slant pointing to the east, all businesses and all Finiku-owned. The road’s very design suggests that you will leave almost as quickly as you have entered, with every service just a short hop away.
Tiputa is on low-lying land, tucked into a valley known for its incessant gales. Strong winds, known in these parts as ‘Shriekers’, pass through here every 10 days. During this time, all activity in the town stops, the flurry of sand it generates can be very damaging to one’s lungs. It is because of these ‘Shriekers’ that none stay in town for long, most come to re-supply, or for repairs, and then take off again.
Tiputa, along with other towns like Kippu, Inepril (now deserted) and Renate, are built in windy places and exist primarily as relief stations for travel-worn visitors.
On this early morning, Finiku workers were outside with their brooms of dry banabo leaves. They brush the sand away from their storefronts, from the street, they dust their floor mats and polish their windows. All of this work will be undone the next day, but no matter, the task is then repeated and no one complains of it.
Eka was wandering through town, looking at the stores and the workers. Everyone on the street said hello and waved, a diligent troupe of Finny sproutlings, armed with brooms, furiously brushed the sand away from the main road. The strip splitting the city was made up of flat stones, though most times, they lay buried and unseen. Eka enjoyed watching the early morning activities of others, more enjoyable was the sound the dry fronds produced when brushed against the flats of the stones. The sproutlings were not aware of it, but there was a rhythm to their brushing. A song came to Eka’s lips then:
“Brush the sands, sweep the lands-”, then Eka’s voice got louder at this next part, “-BRUSH, BRUSH, BRUSH!”, and went lower at this last verse, “sweep, sweep, sweep.”
Eka didn’t see that someone was standing there, blocking the way, an old Finiku with a long white river of hair, flowing downward and coming to a stop before splashing onto the ground. This stranger stared at the sweater, Lupin’s sweater, wrinkled hands hovering close to it.
“Arraaaa! W-where did you g-get t-this?!”
Like all Finiku, the stranger’s body was short and spherical. This character wore a red jacket and matching pantaloons, the jacket overlapping a shirt of delicate silky thread with frills at the neck and cuffs. These clothes didn’t belong in a dusty place like this, the ensemble was worthy of a monarch. Unlike Nono, this character spoke the Common Tongue with a barely discernible Finic accent.
“I will do ANYTHING to get this shirt! What do you want for it?”
Walking away was not an option. The Finiku was gripping the shirt now, feeling the threads with greedy fingers. Lupin’s sweater was put together well, but it paled in comparison to this character’s royal attire, it had no golden stitching or sculpted cuff links. Nothing of that quality.
“SO! You want coin?!”
With every question, and as desperation mounted, the Finiku’s stream of hair would spill out of perfection. Eka tried to back away still, but found the ancient thing still stuck to the piece of garment.
“It isn’t mine to sell!”
Most would think it easy to fend off someone so little, but the stranger held on, as if hanging from a cliff overlooking a fiery pit.
“Please! I must have it! I do anything to get it!!”
With all of that pulling, the seams in the bottom of the shirt ripped open. The Finiku let out a horrified squeal.
“WHAT have I DONE!”
Eka put a finger through the hole in the sweater.
“This is unforgivable! I-I am a fiend! I make it better! Ora! I mend it.”
Eka did not think it was necessary, but the crimson-clad Finiku would not listen and led the sweater – as well as its wearer – over to one of the triangular houses. This one had a red roof, even the outer walls were painted red, although the paint was worn, the sand had a nasty habit of scratching bits of it off in passing. Eka wondered if everything inside was also red, and began to fantasize about a house with objects, walls and floors, so red that they were indistinguishable from one another. A sign over the entrance to the house read ‘Orin the tailor’, with a hand-printed sign underneath it with ‘now retired’. This sign had green lettering, this was enough to dispel the vision of this place being a crimson fun house.
“You make clothes? Convenient.”
“Ora, ora. Well—I used to. Watch your head!”
Eka nodded, taking note of the height of the ceiling before putting knees to the ground. Walking inside like this was easy, if not a bit hard on the knees. Both stood inside the tiny workshop,its angled walls filled with spindles of colourful fabric, between the spindles lay frames with certificates of past commissions for royals and other famous characters.
The retired tailor grabbed a needle, and then a short length of thread from one of the spindles on the wall. The spindle was soon emptied, all of it now lay on Orin’s needle. Then, time came to mend the sweater. Orin’s hands shook with age, but steadied when the point of the needle came in contact with the shirt. The tailor moved with machine-like precision, the thread disappearing into the garment and the hole coming to a quick close. The thread on the needle was the same colour and material as the shirt, Orin had just enough fibre to finish the repair. In the end, it’s like it was never ripped at all.
Eka learned that the tailor used to live in Edonor, a place that—Eka made a point to say—made the very best peachik pancakes. The Finiku’s great-great family opened a shop there many years ago. There was no doubting the popularity of the business, Eka glimpsed on the wall a signed portrait of Bao, the second Monarch of the Iridi. Many other famous characters had come to the shop, all left a signed portrait behind as proof of their passing. Because the shop was so popular, Orin had no time for anything other than clothes-making. The tailor had an itch to make different sorts of clothes, more risqué items, but the customers always asked for the same thing: copies of copies of copies, all copies of past works- nothing new, nothing exciting. Orin did produce different types of garments, but few asked for them. It was then that this tailor decided that it was time to retire to Tiputa, where Bou, a relative, now lived.
“I’m sorry I can’t give this shirt to you, my friend’s mapa made it you see! After I get some new clothes, it won’t be mine to keep,” Eka explained.
“I understand. I apologize for my… un-towardness. Long time since I see this thread, but no matter. You need an outfit? Well. I will make you a set worthy of desert travel. I have a thread here that would suit you. Ora, ora. Come, come!”
After picking out some colours, the tailor pulled out a numbered tape and began to take measurements. It took some time to get all of it, Eka was tall, unlike Orin’s usual customers. The redhead sat upon a stool, putting an arm, or leg forward as required.
“I never see anyone with round ear like this.”
“That is due to centuries of erosion that is! Had ears just like you before.”
Orin laughed. “You and Bou would get along, always has something funny to say this one.” After jotting down all of the numbers, the measuring tape returned to its place at Orin’s belt, it was attached there along with a needle and a single bobbin of thread.
“You keep these with you always?” Eka asked.
“Never leave home without them! This is weapon of the tailor!” Orin went to stand on another stool, a hand over the heart. “As long as I breathe, no fabric will be left unsown, and no pant leg left askew! Iana! Orin will not allow it!”
Eka took a liking to Orin, a talented and honest artist with a good heart.
“It is to be ready the morning next,” the tailor then said, with a shy grin.
As payment, Eka offered to help at Bou’s repair shop, Orin agreed, there was always a lot of work to do there, and with the westerlies coming in 3 days Bou probably had a long list of customers. They exchanged goodbyes, and Eka went to the repair shop. The place was small, again, because of its triangular shape, but could accommodate a few persons. Like the interior of Nono’s sandfin, the workshop was brimming with tools, but in Bou’s defence, a small space was easy enough to fill. The repair shop owner glanced at the tall stranger, standing there at the door.
“Come back later. No time today.”
Bou was dark haired, pale-skinned, with a round body enveloped in a pair of tattered overalls, these, were stained with grease and covered in holes. Those tears must be torture for Orin, Eka thought, how did these openings escape the tailor’s needle?
“Orin is making some clothes for me and I offered to help you here in your shop as payment,” Eka said, knees on the ground and wearing a great big smile. “Yora’nae. I’m Eka.”
The Finiku craned a large head to one side, the top of the door obscured the stranger’s head. “Yora’. Call me Bou. Why Eka want to do this? It dirty, dirty work.”
Eka copied the head motion, “That’s okay. A favor for a favor! Is that weird?”
Bou laughed at this. “In Tiputa yes, no one work without promise of the coin. But Bou no care. Hope Eka like grime, grease and grossness.”
Bou welcomed Eka into the workshop and explained today’s chores.
“Today is pomparu problem, it stuck inside sandfin drain pipe. Then, there be a broke water pump, person think it smart to press juice out of plumpkin. Then, there be many thing that need solder work, and this wagon need new set of spoke, and this list, it go and go… still want to help?”
Eka nodded. Bou looked at what the outsider was wearing, and walked in close to touch the fabric of the sweater Orin had mended. For a second, Eka feared the same reaction in Bou.
The greasy shop owner’s green eyes went round, they had a shine to them, glass-like, two beautiful spheres with minuscule herb gardens growing inside of them.
“Volare Verido make this for you? Verido no make isilk-anything for Soronan’wati.”
Not many people could tell the shirt was made from Ilk hair, even fewer knew that the hair of the desert walkers had a a subtle pigmentation, it could be either blue, green or red. This mechanic, with tattered overalls, had seen it right away. Eka wondered what the tailor thought of Bou’s profession, they were family, yet their lives were so contrary.
“This belongs to my friend,” Eka explained. “Orin was pretty taken with it, even made a hole in it.”
“Hm, ora. Is like finding ghost of friend at your door, a friend you think dead.” Bou said, fingers brushed over the area where the hole had been, no trace of it was left. “Gran-mapa Nok own shop in Edonor. One day, Nok bring home spindle of blue isilk. Suspicious no? Illegal, Bou think. Orin get business pass down after, but blue isilk… it all gone by then. Nok make death suit with thread, then jump into Rupture in it!” Bou sighed. “Orin be sad after this, to see thread so so fine fade into the nothing. Never had chance with it, and never will because Verido no trade it no more. Bou think Eka need know this.”
Bou didn’t give Eka a chance to reply, and walked over to a closet, pulling out a large pair of brown overalls and a mostly clean undershirt.
“Because it be dirty work, Eka need wear this.”
The Finiku knew the value of that shirt now, letting it get covered up with grease would be downright criminal. Eka changed into Bou’s undershirt and overalls, the clothes fit, but there was much room in there, for another Eka or two. The knees had padding to cushion the knees from hard floors, and numerous pockets to keep tools in.
Their first task, was to try and get that pomparu out of that pipe. The sandfin was moored out front, alongside it was the broken wagon, next to that was that box of damaged trinkets, and at the end of the line sat a very sad-looking water pump. Both moved to the back of the sandfin Eka caught a whiff of the pomparu and gasped, hands jumped to cover up both the mouth and nose. Those creatures were renowned for their putrid smells.
“Ora! Smell burn the nose da naa? First time Bou smell this, no eat for one week. All the food, it taste like fart.”
Bou grabbed a jar from a pantleg pocket, and dipped a finger in it, scooping out a thick glob of purple gel. Then without warning, the purple gel was smeared under Eka’s nose, just near and around the nostrils. Bou already had some purple under the nose.
“Lavendiri flowers,” Eka said, the fresh scent helped to cover up the nasty pomparu fumes.
Bou also had a thick scarf on to keep the smell out, and passed one to Eka. The scarf, was just enough to block the stink entirely, and kept the lavendiri gel fresh.
Both turned to the sandfin then. The butt of the pomparu was sticking halfway out of the opening of the pipe, it had numerous sets of legs. Pomparus were plump creatures, pale-skinned and covered in colorful spots, the spots were hard to see because of the brown drain stains. Pomparus were attracted to strong smells, this one tried to push its way inside the piping to get to the source, but got wedged into it. They were not clever creatures. It was common for people to make a pile of stinky rubbish outside of town to get their attention, and to keep them there. Tiputa did have a pile like this, but this sandfin had acquired the pomparu while on transit.
“It’s not dead is it?” Eka asked, noticing its legs weren’t moving.
“Iana. If pomparu be dead, we no stand around to talk about it. Lavendiri gel would rot, and we, we be out in desert with head in sand. But even like this, it no help. Bou have good friend name Fala. One day, Fala find dead pomparu, smell so SO bad that Fala rip nose off. Crazy di naa? Pomparu smell bad, but Bou blame the crazy on Kavava. Kavava make Soronan’wati loopy, and Fala chew it too much.” Bou said, telling this story as if it was nothing.
Eka’s eyes widened, imagining someone without a nose. “How horrible.”
“When it come to pomparu, some say no nose better. Bou make new nose for friend, out of banabo with ground lavendiri flower. Make it purple. Fa love it, call it ‘special nurple’.”
Bou said this, hoping it would reassure Eka, but it had the reverse effect.
“Cannot touch pomparu with skin. Eka say goodbye to all friend if touch it! The smell, it NO come off!”
“So, um. Shall we do this thing then?” Eka’s nose was eager to move on to some other task, it had no desire to be replaced with a purple sniffer.
To get it out, both had to dislodge the pipe from inside the cabin, they took the whole thing out, then cut through the metal of the piping to shorten it. Bou covered the inside of the pipe with avoka oil, and reluctantly did the same for the area around the pomparu’s body, all while wearing multiple thick pairs of elbow-high pinny-tarred hempa gloves, then, Eka shoved the small end of a broom through the pomparu-free end of the pipe, while Bou held it down with both hands. They could just throw the whole pipe away, bury it in the desert, pomparu and all, but that would be most cruel. Bou did not care to do such things. While Pomparus were less than ideal creatures, they didn’t deserve such an end, no one did.
“Ready?” Eka asked.
Eka pushed with such force that the pomparu came flying out and went rolling inside of Bou’s workshop. Bou shrieked, tore the broom from Eka’s hands and ran inside, but it was too late. The floor was covered with a stinky green discharge. The slimy, curvaceous thing, was pushed with the bristled end of a broom, out of the workshop, out of the city – well away from all the houses. Already some of the villagers were outside, noses pinched and eyeing the stinker, all were afraid of what this smell would do to the town’s businesses. They all scurried about, covering the pomparu drippings with ground lavendiri leaves and other strong-smelling flowers, while others began to scoop it up with long-handled shovels and brooms, items they too, would have to discard after us. All had purple gel under their noses.
Bou took Eka’s side, the broom was at the edge of town with that disgusting stink of a thing and marked where it was so no one would go near it. Those creatures were slow, and Bou had plans of putting a bowl of rotten muckwheat far out into the plains to lure it even further away.
Eka looked at the disgusting drippings it left behind. “All this came from one pomparu?”
“Look like Bou add ‘burn workshop’ to to-do list.”
Both laughed at this, although Eka wondered if fire would really be enough to rid the place of that foul odor.Continue to Chapter 6