Stars fell across the night darkened skies of Ginevra, just as the industrious folk along the equator awoke from the heat of the midday Sun, such a show in the sky, a rare treat leading up to an important holiday.
Mati was the last to wake among her roommates, as was expected of her, they knew her after all. That didn’t change the enormity of her friend’s behavior.
Her friend was having a conniption, she hadn’t known at first why. Her friend who was on most days a fairly happy person, was livid as a result of her cousin’s failure to procure the much needed Kouchu root.
It was already the wet season and Mati had had no clue how she’d missed it.
Ayo’s complaint regarding the natural insecticide was in all honesty the first she’d heard of it.
It was thanks to the monotony of Island life, that Mati had managed such ignorance.
One too many summers had blurred with winter, leaving her displeased with life and the passage of time.
Out and about watching her friend go mad in the ever coveted role of community organizer for the rites of Natyra Moa, was the most entertainment Mati had managed in four years.
All while Ayo worried that she wouldn’t be able to source the Kouchu root on such short notice.
Mati felt the dissonance, she should at least be a little ashamed right? She should, but she wasn’t.
So she tried to help anyway with a complete lack of shame regarding her lacking interest. For whatever reason she was disappointing the mysteries, yet again, and she was certain to pay for it. Luckly, Mati wasn’t important enough to ruin that year's harvest.
Even if she were that suspicious she was at most risking some minor personal misfortune over the next year or so. She could make peace with Natyra’s curses, so long as she took her lumps as far as her friends.
Gino found her predicament hilarious upon hearing it, “How did you manage to miss the year, Mati? You haven’t caught the plague have you?”
Gino cracked laughing as much at Mati, as at Ayo’s glare.
“yeah that's real funny Gino, you’ve got a real sense of humor for a Lad with no follow through.” Ayo said, very much done with this entire interaction.
Gino being every bit an Arse kept Cackling.
Aalis, Ayo’s Cousin, had overheard the entire discussion, and being a bit cleverer than Gino brought up a solution to Ayo’s troubles. “Why don’t you put us both to work? I mean I failed but that doesn’t mean you don’t have other responsibilities, it might even get Mati into the holiday spirit!”
To that Ayo, with all the decorum expected of the statement, said, “You know what? for once you’ve actually said something useful, Aalis. You can do it with Mati, since you need a chaperone!”
In Ayo’s defence, Aalis had walked right into that one.
So Mati and Aalis were sent on their way, Aalis griping about her Cousin on the way, “Why aren’t you angry over that? Ain’t it a bit mingy to treat your friends like that?”
“Do I really need to explain it to you?”
“What makes you think you can just skate your responsibilities? I might be chronically bored, but why take a job you won’t do?”
So they were quiet after that. When they managed to get to the Growers out in the ways, they were surprised by the relative Vitality of the area.
The hustle and bustle was unexpected, being as it was about a week early for ‘spring thrashing’ Mati was curious.
Then she saw the crash site.
It was a deep pit of scorched earth, glancing downward from the forest’s edge, force broken.
The ‘meteorite’, or what the people back home thought was one, was actually a vehicle, the town folk who’d found the crater had nothing but good things to say regarding their discovery.
Aalis was shaken, more scared than anything looking at the site.
Mati felt alive.
So much so that while Mati remained thoroughly enthralled, Aalis unprompted, went on her way for the Kouchu root. Which was less the co-badger arrangement that Ayo wanted, and more a thoughtful avoidance of an already distressing situation.
The thought of a rock from the sky falling so close to where they all lived wasn’t comforting in the least, for either of them, the fact of origin was a trauma unto itself, but it didn’t stop Mati from pulling her weight to see the Ship’s Pilot.
The ship hadn’t been pulled free, and given the secluded area it was wedged in, the farmers were unlikely to concern themselves. But the Pilot was most certainly alive, and being on mostly good terms with her neighbors she was going to meet them.
She could've felt sorry for Aalis, but Mati was excited for once, and she was gonna make the most of it.
The Farmer who was housing the Pilot was willing to let her in, the creature himself wasn't all that large and was far less damaged than she had expected given the depth of the crater.
The creature, who she knew was also a Pilot, was a very odd fellow to look at in the relatively familiar space that was the Farmer’s cabin. He had a bold vermin esk face, and a smooth form that seemed to slip past the hand as easily as the eye.
He was a marvel to look at to spite his familiarity to the pestilent.
He opened his eyes to look at her, revealing a pronounced white around the eye. It was a strange addition to a strange face, one that made him look angry whether he wanted to or not.
In any case she was likely an unexpected presence to the creature from inside the falling star, while she didn’t know whether or not the Pilot could speak, she wanted to express her curiosity without worrying him.
“Hello?”, she’d said in her softest tone, trying to be as clearly seen as possible. He simply watched her rather than give any response, the tilt of his face didn’t change for her greeting either.
She looked away, staring was rude after all. She’d never much thought of something like this. Tall tales existed of course, strange Lads from strange places crashing on little islands like her’s. But those characters were always Moa or Heroes, not off putting creatures like the one in front of her, and they never crashed so far inland.
The pure fascination she felt in that room, was all it took for her to overlook it.
The intrusion of the farmer was what finally pulled Mati from her thoughts, the Creature looked up also, the farmer was far more jovial with him. Like those concerning barriers, of language and distance didn’t exist. “Now, you see this Lass is very interested in you. But she’s very nervous as you can see.” he said calmly, introducing her like he’d understand.
“Gythan Fiat?”, he said, she could see his eyes move a bit, before holding his upturned hand out to her. She put her hand in his, before she could think better of it, “Proud, yeah?”
“Good then,” his face seemed much softer then, studying her rather than simply staring. Mati was ecstatic, she’d gone and made a new friend, he was as fascinated by her as she was him.
“So you can look happy.”, she said, out loud. Feeling a bit rude.
They talked for a while, though they didn’t much understand each other beyond the occasional specification, Lad and Lass, parts and the like. He was extremely hospitable to her rambling, he’d interject often enough, in note of what she’d said, and they’d be back to naming things.
It was more fun than she’d have thought, considering their mutual language gap. She was learning something, she was touching something from far away, farther away than her home islands trade routes.
She wanted nothing more than to stay as long as she could.
Then Aalis had to remind her why she was there in the first place. “Oy, I’ve got the Kouchu. Are you ready to go?” she said, through the doorway.
Mati was not in fact ready for the guaranteed most awkward ride home ever, so instead of popping up from her spot and going to Aalis, she stayed and continued her conversation with the creature.
She was told to leave finally by the farmer, who would’ve been willing to accommodate her if she wasn’t so entranced by the Creature. Considering the time, it would be the next day either way by the time they got home.
She was quick about goodbyes when actually leaving, getting a hug from the Creature and his real name while she was at it, before going home with Aalis, and seven bushels of Kouchu Root.
They were yet again quiet the entire way back, though this time it wasn’t over an argument. Aalis was simply too tired to bother scolding her.
It was nearing morning when they finally got home. Ayo wasn’t surprised, they were rather hostile toward each other, she was of course more than happy with the extra Kouchu Root.
Aalis was not as congenial about the entire situation, “I never want to hear about ‘responsibility’ from you again!”
“Oh, she took a bite too? What a little virago!`` went Gino, praising Mati.
“You’d say that, but she’d gone and abandoned me for a Falling Star Lad!”, she said, stealing Gino’s AjinEddy. Gino wasn’t happy about this, but to spite his usual antics backed away on account of Aalis’s mood.
“Falling Star Lad? What was Mati romancing a roadside attraction?”, went Ayo, a quip toward Mati’s relative disinterest in such things. “It’s not as if anyone, Lad or Lass, could come directly from a Falling Star, right?”
“That’s where you're wrong! There are crash landings that far inland, and the Farmer was worried that she’d do something untoward to him!”
“Oh, really?” She asked Mati directly.
“I’m not that comfortable with Natyra’s wrath, I was curious is all.” Mati defended, while she might’ve been diluted by the passage of time; she wasn’t going to break celibacy before thrashing.
“Curious? They talked for the entire visit, he couldn’t speak a word of Ginevran, but she managed to spend all day with him!”, Aalis retorted, “that isn’t normal curiosity!”
“It seems like it was if we’re talking about Mati,” Ayo pointed out, “besides there was very little the Farmer could’ve done if you’d left her behind.”
Aalis, very done with her cousin’s dialectics, left the house with the rest of Gino’s AjinEddy. Ayo feeling much more charitable than the day before made him another.
Mati having been freed from one duty was left with quite a few of Aalis’s, luckily most of them were last day efforts that she could afford to wait on. Which left her with a lot of time on her hands.
As a Lass of leisure, she felt a certain right to use it as she pleased. Using it to visit the Creature was simply the most pleasing thing she could do at the time.
So she went about bothering the Farmer, and his visitor every free day that week. It helped that the Farmer was so close to other growers. Kouchu wasn’t the only important crop to Natyra Moa or to her fertility rites. There was Therin Weed, and Prielwyne for Thrashing day, and Nousha Oil for the night after.
Nousha Oil is traditionally used to induce euphoria, Mati had always been unresponsive to the substance, but considering that Thrashing day was enjoyed while mostly naked she wasn’t about to bereave anyone of it. Mati didn’t think Aalis or Gino would ever talk to her again if she pulled that.
The Creature, or Teva as she’d learned, was well entertained by her pantomiming Nousha insobriety. She was glad he was doing well, in the week she’d known him, whatever had him in need of the Farmer was seemingly healed, and she was waiting for the long goodbyes she’d learned from folktales.
With notice that his ship hadn’t been pulled free yet, she could trust in at least a little more time before then, it would likely need repairs given how damaged the loam around it was. So she’d at least have a little while after the rites.
Mati knew that times like these were busy, and the thought of missing his ascent was heartbreaking.
Teva in any case was still willing to listen to her rambling, and while Mati wasn’t a lonely person in general, she felt close when he was near. It was as if she’d never been close to anyone before, and somebody was finally there. She didn’t much like the thought of letting go.
Maybe the romance of the season had deafened her senses.
She thought on it, he might not have a language in common but Teva was exceedingly accepting of her. It was obvious to her that he understood the gap too. It’s because he knew where the gaps were, that he could accept them in her, the farmer, and in the moment, Mati thought, her friends.
She knew it might be a shock to his system, so many people, but the experience could be worth it, right? “Teva,” she called to him, “the party is happening soon, do you want to go?” Mati tapped her foot on the town’s main path, she held out her hand, as an offering.
He looked at her and waited for her to lead a bit, before following. She was happy that he understood. That he didn’t reject her, or the chance to see how she lived.
The path would seem short to her that day, having taken it back and forth for the better part of a week, and she’d be greeted by most of her close neighbors, family, and friends.
Festivities always started during the second quarter of the day, with Prielwyne and discussion about the previous year. The Joys and sorrows that befell the community, the gossip and quarrels people had managed with Natyra Moa’s blessing.
Teva had nothing to say, and Mati had scarcely more than their week together to tell anyone about. It wasn’t too hard for her though, he was good enough company.
As per usual, fruit and spicy food would be served before Therin Weed was brought out, dried and braided for the thrashing.
Mati was exempt as she didn’t have a partner that season, Teva would likely just observe with her.
Teva was all together bracing himself, watching the attendees pick their Therin braids. He seemed to recognise the use of them, and could surmise the following events of the day. He showed her the white of his eyes, and she just held his hand to calm him, he seemed to accept whatever fate he’d assumed, and sighed.
Gino went straight to Aalis, and swatted her with his Therin braid. Aalis knowing exactly where the irritant was chased him down with the intent of giving more than she got.
He was entranced by the behavior of the guests, realising he wasn’t a target, and secondarily that everything was fine. Mati watched as whatever tension was tied in him went lax.
Teva pointed at the braids leftover then to the other guests, before pointing to himself and her.
He, in the way he was able, asked her if he could go along with the rest of the party. Given the time they’d spent, and the trust he had in her she didn’t refuse.
She, being rusty, and he uninitiated, managed to make fools of themselves in front of her friends and family. She was happy anyway.
When the last hours of the day finally came, Nousha oil was brought out, to sooth the minor injuries inflicted that day.
Teva smelled it, knowing the name, and her pantomimed effect, but not its application. He tasted some of it, which was not a good idea, as Nousha tastes incredibly bitter no matter it’s smell.
The last activity of the day was traditionally between those who targeted each other, Nousha was rubbed into the skin, it was meant to make one close to the Moa. Everything about the holiday was meant to do that.
Mati didn’t mind watching people in that state, but as everyone touched, and cared, she felt lonely. She could not be soothed by it. But watching Teva become exasperated by the injuries she’d inflicted, wasn’t a better feeling. She rubbed some across his back, and legs, along his arms to try and sooth him.
She watched as the state she was incapable of experiencing overtook him, a twist in his posture, and a face full of bliss. Teva readjusted himself to attend to her also, trying to inspect with the same gentle touch. He watched her as she felt nothing. He was a stranger who’d just touched Natyra Moa on her Holiday, he knew what it felt like and she couldn’t.
She felt rejected.
But then she wasn’t. Teva seemed to realise something while she was stuck in her feelings.
He took a container of something from his clothes, a strangely colored cream. He rubbed some on her arm. When nothing on her skin changed, he went forward with more, across her back, legs, and wherever else he found a Therin braid scrape.
She felt it, the warmth, the care.
He’d gone and given that to her, everyone else was merry and warm together, and she felt it too.