Lupin was hanging out at the local snack bar at the edge of town. Everyone had agreed to meet here later that day, so right now was all about wasting time. The owner of the town’s only restaurant served the foreigner a local drink, a glass of bonan wine. Bonan wine was an alcoholic drink that people would frequently brew in Finiku villages, every place had their own recipe. It wasn’t uncommon to give some of yours to a friend, or to someone of importance, the restaurant owner Javi explained.
Javi was proud of the wine produced here in Tiputa, “siri de yorala!” Then noticed Lupin’s vacant expression, and understood that the Verido didn’t understand Finic. “Best in the land!” Javi said again in the Common Tongue.
“Think others in the land say this too of their wine?”
“Ora,” the restaurant owner said, “but they be wrong!”
Lupin laughed. “I’ve had bonan before, cut thin and dried as chips, never as a drink. How do you make it?”
Lupin spent much time conversing with Javi, that is, until Gree showed up. Gree was also a Finiku, and captain of one of the supply ships Nono had mentioned. Gree’s hair was licked back with such tautness that it caused the eyebrows to float higher on the face. By Finiku standards, this new character was good-looking, and of good social standing given the uniform. Lupin imagined that Finiku mapas aspired to have leaflings like Gree, with a job that came with a title. One of the supply vessels was moored outside of town, it came in just a few hours ago, a huge two-masted sandfin with a green hull, the name ‘Beobug II’ was painted on its side in golden letters. The Finiku sitting here now was in charge of Beobug II, and was explaining how Ilk droppings were treated to be turned into gas to power machinery and vessels in Montore.
“It simple,” Gree began, “the gas undergo process. Beobug remove carbon dioxide to improve performance. Such good good work ora?”
A worded speech by a devoted employee, sourced straight out of Beobug’s hiring manual, Lupin thought. It was like watching a moving advertisement, especially with Gree wearing a matching company hat and ensemble. Lupin knew of this company, the Volare elders spoke ill of them most times, they thought it disrespectful to the Ilk to trail it in such a way. When in cities, the Ilk would be fed its weight in teaweet, then inevitably, came time to dispense of it. Beobug was always there to catch it all. The younglings always laughed, watching the adults, as near to Vol’s rump as they dared, to better shout down at them, forbidding them to take the droppings. Of course the ships and its occupants paid them no mind, and it served to amuse the youth of Volare.
“Those accursed Beobug sandfins are out there again!” Pumra would say, “using excrement for energy, it’s unnatural and downright sacrilegious!”
Beobug had plans to convert Montore to a fully-automated town. They tried to export barrels of fuel to other towns, but not many could afford it, nor had the systems in place to use it and instead relied on the wind for energy. The wind, as well as Ilk dung, was an inexhaustible source of power, but one of the two had a price tag. After Gree had finished paying homage to the gods of Beobug, the captain threw an arm around Lupin.
“Nono good friend to you da sa? You arrive on the same sandfin.”
“You want something?” Lupin said.
Gree smiled, pearly whites coming into view. “I see Lupin prefer to speak plain, so Gree do this for you. Nono be best sandfinner, but package delivery, it is…how you say? Waste of talent! Beobug I need captain, Gree ask and ask but always, Nono say no. I ask too too much! I need Lupin to do this. You Voice of the Volare Ilk! Maybe could use this prestige to persuade Nono?”
It was a mistake to mention being Voice, Lupin blamed the bonan wine. No one had ever said that being Voice was prestigious, perhaps it was viewed as such to outsiders. Seeing that the Verido seemed hesitant, Gree spoke up again.
“Lupin talk to Ilk! You authority! Use this title to get good thing for YOU!”
Lupin’s head was swimming. “Are we still talking about Nono? I don’t understand why a title is so important.”
“Sousou’iana… so much hesitation in you, this should not be so. Lupin grand being! If talk big, make all around listen da naa?”
This, was an insight into Montore, a place where titles were important and where currency reigned. Perhaps Gree befitted the title of captain, but this did not mean that it could be used to dismiss or influence others Lupin thought.
“I don’t know.” Lupin said, attempting to move away but Gree’s arm was as a solid and unyielding as an iron bar. “You really think being the captain of a vessel that recycles Ilk dung is worthy of praise?”
“ORA!” Gree threw hands up into the air, as if in praise of some invisible deity in the ceiling. “No limit to the energy! Beobug give Montore great success! Gree swim in all the coin! No poor, no pain, no more no more!!” Gree said, eyes aglow.
“Wind is free.” Lupin said, “why bother with anything else? It creates smokestuffs doesn’t it?”
Gree smirked, “Little little smokestuff friend, nothing so so bad! Lupin seem to think Verido’wati taint-free, take free ride on Ilk! How long you do this, umm? 3 centuries, da naa? Up there, it keep you from worse of desert. Lupin no understand true misery Soronan’wati know.” The captain eyed Lupin carefully then. “Well, Lupin learning this now ora? You are here in the dust with us.”
“The Ilk is a friend. We co-exist.” Lupin said, trying to hide the anger brewing in this heart.
“This what Beobug do too friend, co-exist. Mou ipaya Javi!”
Javi went to pour a generous serving of bonan wine to both, a bit of it overflowing outside the mugs.
“The dung helps to fertilize the land, if you take it all things will not grow.” the Verido insisted.
“Lupin think Beobug take it ALL?” Gree said, laughing aloud. “Even so, even so, foodpstamp solve this.” The captain lifted up a sleeve to show one of those stamps, pressed onto the skin. “Lunch. Much better than real thing oro!”
“Yoroi di!” Javi said, inspecting the stamp. “Bam cake stamp, this good one.”
Lupin was unphased, “aah I see, another Montore industry. Another way to amass coin, a path to the creation of more titles.” a glass of empty bonan wine sat in Lupin’s hand, “did I drink all of this just now?” Gree’s glass was also empty, but Javi was there to fill them right back up again.
“Industry mean progress.” Gree said, leaning into the Verido.
“Progress means coin.” Lupin replied.
“Coin is future Voice of Volare Ilk.” Saying this, Gree smacked Lupin hard in the back, resulting in Lupin nearly spitting out a mouthful of bonan wine.
“What is there to do with so much coin?” Lupin said, coughing and trying to inch away from Gree, with little success. “It sounds like a burden.”
The Verido believed in trading, they did not accept coin for services or items, attributing value to a seemingly worthless piece of metal was a strange concept for them. Coin makes people crazy, for some reason everyone seems to want to amass a vast amount of it. Lupin tried to picture Gree in a bath of coin, and failed to see the enjoyment in it. People seemed to attribute more worth to coin than to the services they pay for.
“Many coin, much success,” saying this, Gree pulled out a shiny golden coin, which in turn, found itself into the palm of Lupin’s hand. The coin had a face printed in its centre, but the quality of the engravings made it hard to make out its features. Montore was inscribed on it, and on the flip side was the number one hundred. Lupin was going to return the coin but Gree refused it.
“Keep this, is payment for favor I ask. Lupin ask Nono for Gree ora?”
The Verido thought it strange to be entrusted with such a task, but with a gift of such value, with this coin that presumably had the power to elevate one’s spirit in such a way, it was better to pocket it and to accept. Lupin would mention it to Nono, but would not insist on it. Just then, Gree said goodbye and stepped off of the stool, jelly-legged, and returned to the crew aboard Beobug II.
Lupin stayed at the bar then, couldn’t put a phrase together. Javi laughed at the state of this stranger, “have muckwheat dumpling, healthy with bobonion, dilly herb and looma root. Verido like looma root da sa? Will imbibe bonan in stomach.” Javi pushed a plate of steaming dumplings in front of the Verido. “Eat, eat.”
Not long after, Nono re-emerged from a client’s house, content, and ready to relax. Now armed with a bottle of plumpkin ale, Nono felt it necessary to treat the crew mates to a drink. All three gathered at the snack bar, savouring their drinks, although the Verido had opted for tea instead. Lupin had a headache, the dumplings helped with the jelly-headedness but did little to ease the other pains of drinking your weight in bonan wine.
Eka told them of the incident with the pomparu, the fixing of the waterstone pump and all the other items on the list they’d been tasked with. Because of Eka’s experience with the pump on Nono’s sandfin, it took just a minute to get it done. Today, they crossed many other items off that list, they managed 3 days work in just a day’s time. Eka still wore the wide pair of overalls, large clothing was always more comfortable, even if they were black with soot and streaked with grease.
Lupin spoke of the encounter with Gree, upon hearing that name Nono’s face showed disgust.
“AH! This…this NAIBAKA ask Lupin to ask Nono to captain Beobug sandfin? IA’! Ianaaaaaaa,” the Finiku’s head began to shake, the shaking did not stop for some time. Eka wondered if their friend was stuck in a loop and needed help, but Nono recovered moments after that. “IA’ is what Nono say and always say!”
“Being on a sandfin like that must be impressive, sounds like a prestigious post too. Why not do it?” Eka asked, the large ship at the edge of town was hard to miss.
“Mai no yorala aini masayo, coin iana.” Nono said with pride.
“The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness, not coin.” Eka translated, grinning.
Both Eka and Lupin laughed at this. Nono went on to say that they were both grown on the same plot of land, because of this Gree thinks them to be close.
“Nono spend young time on sandfin, Gree stay home village, make mapa think Nono useless! Say Nono waste time, that only good job is Beobug job. NAIBAKA DI!” Nono said, cursing at the air. “Beobug fiendling! Beobug do scam. All profit, no work. Beobug sandfin need no captain, it drive itself!” After saying this, Nono leaned in to whisper to them. “Nono watch Beobug sandfin always. Ponopo follow Beobug II, two other woth watch Beobug I and Beobug III. Nono go to village after fiendling leave, and Nono correct misdeed!”
As the evening went on, Nono began to tell some sandfin stories, like the one about the notorious Dorake’s passage [^80], a passage feared by many, one known to have buried countless sandfinners over the years. Nono made the passage to teach the route to a young colony of messenger woths. Dorake’s passage was a shortcut to the southern dust plains, the woths would make better time if they used it. They only needed to do the route once with a teacher, after that, they would remember it for the rest of their lives.
Nono whistled, and called over a personal woth messenger, the creature was small, but looked tough. It had short antennae, as well as delicate yellow hairs all over its body.
“This Ponopo. Ponopo carry message for Nono, has good memory and know desert well.”
Ponopo fluttered off of Nono’s hand, and landed on Eka’s head.
“Yora’nae Ponopo!” Eka said, watching Ponopo hover back down onto the table. Its antennae wiggled about, as it happened upon a patch of spilled plumpkin ale.
Nono pulled out a box, laid it out on the table and opened the lid. Six round eggs sat in it, laying over a soft blanket.
“Woth egg.” Nono told them, “Nono carry many.”
Nono’s hand reached into the box and picked up an egg. “This woth egg ready! BUT, woth only come out when it find someone it like. Woth be loyal, it follow you always.”
Nono reached over the table and grabbed Eka’s hand, and placed a single round woth egg into the small of it. As soon as the egg came into contact with skin, it turned a sky blue colour.
“It’s blue!” Eka said, amazed by the unborn woth.
“Blue? Woth egg never blue.” Nono said, looking very confused “No no no matter! Put finger on egg, do gentle stroke…”
Eka did as Nono instructed and put a finger on the egg, stroking it.
“Less stroke, better woth!” Nono continued. A loud scream bellowed from the tiny body when the blue egg cracked open, after only a single stroke! “Ara’ara! Impossible!”
Lupin and Eka watched as a new woth emerged from the egg, its body was blue. It’s antennae were long, and it had a quite a wingspan too.
“Yoroi di naaa! Strong woth!” Nono said, shaking a head in disbelief, a reaction they had gotten used to by now.
Eka knew many things, but knew little of woths, although this one, did appear larger than Ponopo. Nono grabbed a measuring tape and jotted down every detail, the colour of its fur, the length of the hairs and of the antennae, diameter of the eyes too, everything.
“Nono visit hatchery and ask question to friend. Friend is expert.” Nono put the tape away, and continued to marvel at the quality of Eka’s woth.
“What should we name it?” Eka asked Lupin.
“Iana! You no choose name, woth choose!” Nono said, waving a finger at them. “Guess name no easy!”
“Yea. I mean, the name could be anything! How long did it take you for Ponopo?” Lupin asked.
Nono took a long sip of plumpkin ale, after 4 pints the Finiku’s skin should have a red tinge to it, but it remained unaffected. “5 year. Only after Nono eat bad herb, herb help stimulate imagination! For Nono friend… take 20 year.”
“Ora ora! Name is ‘Mu-mu-mu-mu-mumford’. Woth stutter, make the guessing difficult.” Nono paused, only to give way to a loud belch. “Woth listen with and without name, but name make connection strong! Some other think woth no choose name, that woth wait to hear name it like.”
Eka hoped it wouldn’t take that long, a 20-year long guessing game did not sound fun. “You’ve got an easy name, isn’t that right… Tom-tom?” a finger traced along the soft hairs on its back. The woth went about its business, and joined Ponopo on the table to get some of that sweet plumpkin juice.
“Tom-Tom?” Lupin said with a laugh. “It looks more like a Pino.”
The 3 had an unsuccessful evening of name-guessing, after a few hours of this, Eka and Lupin said their goodbyes to Nono. Nono gave them an updated map of the desert between Tiputa and Montore. The Finiku’s finger traced a line around a specific area. “This big place. Many floater, not kind here. Waran di aikana.” After this, they to raise their tent in a clear space on the outskirts of town.
“Would have loved to continue to travel in a sandfin,” Lupin said, watching the unnamed woth wing its way through the air, drawing shapes as it did. They wondered if this was its way of communicating its name, but it turned out to be complete gibberish.
Eka agreed. “They’re wonderful aren’t they? Wish the cabin was taller though, must have hit my head on the cross beam 10 times during the voyage.”
Lupin thought about something then, about name-giving, Verido had their names written on their faces, but this wasn’t true for everyone. “Did you pick your own name?”
Eka didn’t answer right away, brows furrowing as if in deep thought. “Yes, I’ve had many names though.”
“Do you remember being grown?”
“Nope, but I have slept for long periods of time. I imagine being born is like waking up after a long sleep.”
Another question burned at the Verido’s lips. “What about dying? Where do you suppose we go after we’re dead.”
“Your body stays right here.”
“What about my mind? Where do you think that goes?”
“Think about that time before you were grown. That was an okay time wasn’t it?”
Lupin shrugged. “Yea. I guess so…well. I don’t remember.”
“We’re all part of the grand sweater that is our universe. We are a single thread and together we form a complex design, criss-crossed and stitched over one another into a variety of interconnecting patterns. Sometimes these individual patterns unravel, but they’re not lost, they remain part of the grand sweater.” Saying this, Eka began to unravel Lupin’s sweater, tugging on a loose bit of twine.
Lupin noticed this, and moved closer to help undo it. “I like this analogy.”
“Analogy? You mean you don’t adhere to the idea of a sweater-verse?”
Both spent the evening unravelling the isilk sweater until it was back to not being a sweater at all, just a collection of thread.
“You’ll be there to watch me unravel.” Lupin said, the bundle of thread in hand.
Eka leaned over to rub noses with the concerned Verido. “You need not think about such things Lew.” Seeing that Lupin wasn’t feeling any better, Eka locked foreheads with this stubborn worrier and spoke again. “How about some bobonion soup?”
“I’d like that.” Lupin replied.
Eka cooked up a pot of bobonion soup, which they ate with some slices of toasted muckwheat bread. Then, they recited poems about the sweater-verse until they feel asleep. Lupin did not dream of death that night, but rather of a world where everyone looked like a stuffed knit plush. Sproutlings made a game of unravelling each other’s arms, while the adults scolded them. The sand was soft to the touch, with giant stitches keeping it all together. The vegetables were comically overstuffed, round and made of hairy fabric. Lupin was in this dream, and there, hanging from the side of this wrist was a connecting thread, connecting this Verido to an Aodal, to a Finiku, a Terin, a Looma root. This was the thread that bound all things in the known world and beyond.
The next day, Lupin and Eka spent some time with Bou. Since they’d finished their tasks early, the repair shop clerk closed the store for the day and introduced them to some of the locals. They ate muckwheat bread, a local specialty. Everyone they came across would give them their own batch of bonan wine, they sampled some of it but when Lupin’s words began to merge with one another they decided it best to stop. One of Bou’s friends, had Vennec babies and insisted on showing them off.
Vennecs were large, humpbacked, furry beasts with thin snouts, large pointy ears and a long slender neck. The vennec babies were all asleep in a pile, it was hard to tell where one started and another ended. Though soon, the babies were on their feet and ran circles around them. Eka laughed, stroking their soft hairs. Lupin’s face was buried in the fur of one of the larger cubs.
“Vennec sprout too young now, but in one year you come back. Vennec be strong, make good travel companion.” The vennec grower said.
Having a pup now would not be practical, they had much travelling to do with all the places Eka wanted to visit. Lupin liked the idea of adopting a vennec, and made a promise to return in a year’s time. "You’ll keep this one for me won’t you?
The grower nodded.
Lupin caressed the vennec between the ears, “see you later then, little Aristollo.”
“Aristollo?” Eka said, eyes wide and glancing over at the Verido. “But that’s the name of a—”
“Skyrock? Yes, I know that.”
“No. Well yes. But it’s also the name of an—”
“Iridi?” Lupin’s mouth curled into a smile, it was nice to appear all-knowing for once, a rarity around someone like Eka.
“Yes again! WOW! Lupin you know everything!”
“I know of a hundred ways to prepare looma roots,” Lupin began, “but I don’t know the story of Aristollo. I’d like to hear it, if you know it.”
Eka smiled, “It’s better told through the mouth of an Iridi. We’ll find someone to tell it to you, and on the way, you can tell me of the hundred ways to prepare Loomas.”
“I really couldn’t. Just the word itself, even after having just eaten, never fails to make me hungry.”
“The muffled cries of your stomach pairs well enough with my singing.” Eka said.
Both were making their way back to the camp, Lupin held a hand up to make a landing platform for the woth. That morning, they had received a little portable house for their new friend as a gift, a round glass ball with a gap at its side to be used as a door. Inside it was an inner wall of soft fabric, there was so much of it that the woth could easily find a spot in there and stay hidden. The ball was wrapped in yellow thread and had a permanent attachment to Lupin’s backpack. Bou had left the gift hanging at the entrance of their tent. Vacation time was a rarity in these parts, people worked all day everyday. Eka’s help in the shop made it happen, and in thanks the Finiku made a little something special for them. The woth landed on Lupin’s hand, and then climbed down and found its way into the glass ball, burying itself in it.
“Rest well Duster,” but the woth did not react to this name either.
“Not even a twitch,” Eka said, looking at the sleeping messenger, “it’s a nice name, maybe it didn’t hear me say it?”
They weren’t sure what the rules were, how would the woth react once it heard its own name? Maybe it would produce a sound, flutter extra harder, or maybe it would change colour again? Lupin wished they’d asked Nono more questions, but the Finiku left last night for another delivery, both suspected that Gree had something to do with their friend’s hasty departure. The three had already said their goodbyes, and had accepted a gift of a bottle of bonan wine, which they guessed would be stronger than all the others they’d tried today given Nono’s high tolerance to alcohol.
The following morning, even before Eka had time to slip on some day clothes, Orin appeared at the door a bundle in hand. The clothes were ready and the tailor was eager to see them on a person. Eka changed out of these night clothes while Lupin brought the Finiku some herbal tea, served with a slice of lemoni lime and some grated sweet root. By now, word had spread in the village that the Voice of Volare was here, in a small town like this there could be no secrets. Gree had told others, and it made it to Orin’s ear. The tailor was unusually quiet, and stared at the Verido. They were rare in these parts, Ilk did not pass in this village given its modest size. They passed by Edonor every year, but there was so much to do in the shop that neither Nok or Orin had ever glimpsed it.
Eka appeared before them, wearing a new set of clothes designed for desert travel. The trousers were loose, yet tight in the right places. They drew up over Eka’s midriff and held there without the need for a belt. The undershirt looked plain to the untrained eye, but it was quality fabric, made of 100% banabo fibres. The stitching was reinforced around the neck and shoulders. Orin even made a scarf with sleeves, large enough to throw over your head for added protection.
“You are a true master! These are wonderful!”
Orin’s face reddened at those words. “Oh it nothing, really! It please me that you like it.”
“I LOVE it!” Eka said.
The tailor had not noticed then, but Lupin had moved to the end of the room. The Verido came back with a large bundle of thread and placed it onto the Finiku’s lap.
“Vo-vo-vo-lare isilk…?” Orin said, voice high with emotion.
Lupin nodded. Just the night before, the thread of the sweater was re-bundled and bound with a matching blue ribbon.
“Now you can make something for yourself with it,” the Verido said.
Just then, Orin began to bawl, fingers curling around the precious bundle of thread. “T-t-this is too much!” there was no stopping those tears, “Y-you be t-too k-kind.”
It was a great way to end their time here in Tiputa. They packed away their tent and began their long walk to Montore city of coin and titles.Continue to Chapter 7