Jonathan Archer meets an unusual artisan on Lluvian. She has more than one surprise for him.
March 11, 2151
3 days after "The Batty Engineer"
The Harvest Faire on Lluvian reminded Jonathan Archer of a Renaissance Festival and an exotic street bazaar rolled into one. Milky-white tanaba gowns hung on clothing racks; some high-necked and fitted to the arms, others low-cut and not leaving much to the imagination. Crimson silks and emerald satins, orange swaths of fabric, rainbow-colored glass jewelry...the colors alone were awesome
“Can I interest you in dance, kind sir?” called a dark-haired, violet-eyed Lluvian courtesan. She dipped low into a curtsey in front of Jon, her gold chains swinging at the movement. “It would be my honor.”
Jon smiled and bowed slightly. “Of course.” He took her hand as she led him to the middle of a ring of musicians. Drummers beat a steady rhythm as buskers provided a lively tune with lutes and exotic windpipes. He followed her lead for several turns, at least until he memorized the steps, and then he swung her around with a flourish. The dancer laughed they went for another round among the musicians.
The crowd clapped and cheered as the musicians went into a different key. Other couples took up the dance, improvising their own moves. Jon whirled like a dervish in the middle with his partner, trying to keep up with her for all he was worth.
He spotted some of Enterprise's crew in the audience. Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker stood there in his multicolored tropical shirt, a wide grin on his face. Nearby was Commander Travis Mayweather; the first officer was in the middle of a group of adoring courtesans. Jon recognized several people from his Communications department. They chuckled at the sight of their six-foot-plus tall boss dancing with a five-foot-odd Llevan.
Finally, the musicians finished with an instrumental flourish. The dancers clapped their approval and threw coins or tokens into their cases. The Lluvian courtesan tiptoed and gave Jon a kiss on the cheek.
“My name is Elava,” she whispered, “and if you're so inclined, I will be at this place at nightfall.” She pressed a card made of translucent plastic into his hand.
“I might be.” He winked at her. “Thank you for the dance.”
“Jah'laheva, Redai,” she said with another curtsey. Thank you, Milord. She twirled on her tiptoes once, then vanished into the crowd, leaving a bemused Jon in her wake.
Trip came over to his side and whistled low. “I haven't seen you dance since...when? That trade negotiation shindig with the Orion Consolidation women? And what was her name? Navaar?”
Jon rolled his eyes and warned him, “Don't remind me of that, Trip.”
“Aw, c'mon. You two made a cute couple.” Trip grinned and let the subject drop. “Better check your coin purse before we head off to lunch. The local constable told me the courtesans are also trained in pickpocketing.”
Jon patted the vest he'd bought at a clothes stand earlier that day. The small pouch of currency was still intact within one of the interior pockets. “I'm fine, Trip. You worry too much.”
“It's my job.” He chuckled and snatched the courtesan's card before Jon could protest. “Huh. Purple and gold ribbons, green ink...isn't the color supposed to mean something?”
“Purple and gold is an invitation to a meal and entertainment. If it's just gold, it's a proposition. Purple by itself is an equivalent of a chat over a cup of coffee.”
Trip smirked. “So she must really like you. You gonna take her up on her offer?”
“Maybe. I guess it depends on what's going on later.”
“Yeah, right.” Trip shook his head and dropped the subject. “C'mon, I'm gettin' hungry.”
Tantalizing smells drifted from food stands: spicy meats and honey fish, flaky pastries and sweetened vegetables. They selected some of the honey fish and vegetables, with some sort of fruit custard for dessert. As usual, Jon kept his Universal Translator off and attempted to use the Lluvian trade speak. The Lluvians felt no fear from this “Gentle Giant” who posed such insightful questions. It wasn't often Jon met people who had a genuine interest in other cultures.
“It's too bad that we've only got one more day on Lluvian. I think I can live here when I retire,” Jon remarked through a mouth of fish.
“I can actually see that,” Trip agreed. “Hoshi said there were twenty-five different languages in the capital city alone. I think Travis said some of his childhood friends used to live in one of the agricultural communes on the city limits.”
“Yes...I think he was over there this morning with some of his science staff, helping with the greenhouses.” Jon waved a fork in the general direction of the Healer's Pavilion. “Malcolm told me their botanical medicines are remarkable. I don't think I've seen him so excited about a bunch of herbs.”
Trip chuckled. “He takes his job pretty seriously. Anything that helps him do it is a good thing.” He dug into the custard with a sound of amazement. “Wow. This stuff's delicious. I wonder if we can get the recipe.”
“I doubt it. You'd have to go through the Baker's Guild, then wait two months as they verify your request. Chef's the only one with a special dispensation, and that's only because he made a double chocolate cake with cherry icing for the Head Guildmaster.”
“Hey, that isn't fair!”
“It's how things work around here. They're pretty tight on their trade regulations. It's part of the reason why Lluvian is so successful. The Guilds make sure no one infringes on anyone's creative expression.”
Trip shrugged slightly. “In a way, that kinda makes sense. Your idea's protected from anyone tryin' to steal it. This place must be a businessman's paradise. It's a miracle they haven't been overrun by galactic corporations.”
Jon tasted the fruit custard and raised his eyebrows. “You're right; this dessert's amazing!”
“Isn't it? I bet whoever owns the patent on this is a rich person by now.”
He laughed, causing several heads to turn in their direction. “Probably. Well, I hope Hoshi's meeting with the governor went well. This would be a great jumping point for new commerce.” Jon collected the remains of his meal and deposited them into the trash bin. “I want to pick up a few souvenirs before we have to leave.”
“To add to your collection?” Trip pulled a face, but the smile lines around his eyes deepened. “Geez, how much stuff do you have in the cargo holds now?”
He made a scoffing noise. “It's not that much. Besides, I like to keep a visual record of my travels. You want to come along?”
“Yeah, if it isn't a bother.”
Jon shook his head and grinned. “Your company is never a bother, Trip.”
“I'll remind you of that the next time I arrange a security detail for you.” Trip rolled his eyes as Jon laughed again. They headed towards the colorful tents of the Artisan Guild. Neither man saw the sleek, furry quadraped with the gold-green eyes and three-inch fangs that followed them.
Two hours and several gifts of jumja sticks later, they came to the last stand in this section of the Artisan's Quarter. To Jon's amusement, a fabric designer had struck up a conversation with Trip about his tropical shirt. Trip made some gestures with his hands, and the designer responded with a happy nod. She went into her tent and returned a moment later with the Lluvian equivalent of a measuring stick.
“Are you getting one of her shirts?” Jon called from across the row of tents.
“Yeah, she said that she could improve on the design of this one. The colors gave her some sort of inspiration. Who am I to argue with creativity?”
“You'd better not let Malcolm hear that. I think he'd never let you hear the end of 'populating the universe with another eyesore'.”
Trip grinned and shrugged. “I'm not gonna be the one who tells him. Let him find out after the fact.”
“I want to be around to see his reaction.” Jon shook his head as he went by the last vendors on the row. He came upon an emerald-green tent at the end of the Faire grounds. A brightly colored bouquet of Lluvian roses marked the tent's entrance. To Jon's surprise, a soft voice called out:
“Please, come in. I've been expecting you.”
Jon frowned and ducked his head into the tent flap. A tiny, black-haired Lluvian woman sat in the center of the tent, in front of what look like a loom. The green and orange threads were woven into a complicated pattern. Several tapestries adorned the interior of the tent. Folded blankets were stacked neatly on nearby tables.
“You're a weaver.”
“I am a life-threader. I pull many stray lines together and make them whole.” She patted the carpet next to her. “My name is Rennika.”
“From the Enterprise.” At his surprised look, she said, “Your people are the only humans at the Faire at the moment. They speak of a man who wishes to know others, how they speak and think and feel. I knew it was you.”
Jon raised his eyebrows, for her description of him sounded quite accurate. “Word spreads fast here.”
“Yes, we are all connected here. Those from the Guilds and those not.” Rennika slowly blinked her large greenish-golden eyes as she took up a weaving shuttle in each hand. “Jonathan, you are connected very closely to your people as well.”
He chuckled and replied, “When you are in an enclosed space with 82 people, 1 dog and 1 Pyrithian bat, you grow very close to them indeed.”
“Of course.” She reached over and touched her shoulder with two fingers. “Your fate is entwined with some of theirs, Jonathan. You are destined for great things.”
“Really?” He resisted a smile and a shake of his head. Delusions of grandeur, only not from me. “You can tell the future? Just like that?”
“Not exactly. I am not one who peers into the future to intone mysterious riddles.” Rennika smiled to take the sting out of her words. “I simply use my Talent to tailor a beautiful object for each of my customers, one that he or she will enjoy for years to come.”
He looked over at the woven blankets that hung all over the interior of the tent. Each one featured its own unique color and pattern. The one closest to him was as black as night, with silver threads suggesting a calm sea. Another one appeared to have been made out of orange sherbert, with cinnamon-colored starbursts at random intervals. And a third was a deep hunter green, with a simple golden border along the length and width.
“How long does it take you to make one of these?”
“It depends on the life path of the intended owner.” Rennika nodded at the orange blanket. “That one took me several turns of Nature's Wheel. The one like a verdant forest was only seven tenjek. The pattern is one of the most simplest.”
He smiled again. “A simple life?”
“Uncomplicated, but life is hardly ever just 'simple'.”
“I stand corrected.” Jon looked back at Rennika, who sat back on her haunches and watched him. “You don't make a blanket for everyone who asks for one.”
She laughed, a sound like clear bells. “No. My Talent doesn't work that way. It only identifies those who really needs one, and acts accordingly. I can make one for you, if you will allow me to.”
Jon regarded her guileless expression for a long moment, then nodded. “All right, but my ship leaves orbit tomorrow. Will you have it ready by then?
Rennika nodded with a bright smile. “Yes, I will. You will receive it before your ship departs.”
He bowed his head in gratitude. “Thank you. I appreciate your kindness.”
“You are quite welcome, Jonathan.” She gazed back towards the tent entrance. “Your friend is waiting for you...I will let you know when your blanket is ready.”
“In that case, I'll see you later, then.” Jon got up from the center of the tent and with a final smile and nod, left the tent. He could feel her gaze on his back as he left. He spotted Trip just exiting the shirt designer's tent with a bright grin.
“You look like the cat who ate the canary. What'd you do, convince her to throw a pair of pants into the deal?” At Trip's shrug, Jon narrowed his eyes at him. “You didn't.”
“I didn't do anythin' but look over her shoulder as she cut out the fabric and applied the inks. She said to come back in an hour or two while she sews it all up in one piece.” Trip raised an eyebrow at him. “And where did you go?”
Jon sighed and shook his head. “I met a weaver named Rennika. She's going to make a blanket for me...each one's unique to the owner.”
“Huh. She sounds interesting. Where's her tent?”
He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “Over there, the green tent at the end of the row. Can't miss it.”
Trip frowned as he scanned the line of tents. “Over where? I don't see it.”
Jon turned around and was about to point it out, but suddenly, the tent wasn't there at all. The one at the end of the row was swathed in crimson silk and proclaimed “Medicinal cures here.” Rennika and her weaver's tent was gone.
“I could've sworn her tent was there---”
“You sure you didn't imagine it, or maybe it was another tent?”
“Maybe---” He sighed and shook his head. Or maybe I was just dreaming things. “Anyway, I think I'm going to need a drink.”
Trip laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “I remember Travis talking about the Lluvian version of the local pub...let's see if we can find one. I'm buyin'.”
“If you're buying, I'm not complaining.” He spared a final glance at the tents, sighed, and followed Trip out of the Artisans Quarter.
A pair of golden eyes watched them go, then drifted in the opposite direction.
The Lluvian sunset streamed over the hills and into the valley, painting the air an amazing scarlet. Trip sat on one of the outdoor trestle benches, with his feet propped on a low stool. Travis sat at a nearby table, surrounded by a gaggle of courtesans who hung onto every word. Both Malcolm and Jon watched with bemused expressions.
“How does he do that?” Trip groused. “I mean, geez. I know he's a Boomer, but---”
“His charm is rather understated, Mister Tucker, but the ladies obviously find it appealing,” Malcolm replied. He eyed Trip's dye-splattered tunic with the unspoken, unlike a certain eyesore.
Trip rolled his eyes and took a long swig of the local brew. “Don't even say it.”
“I wasn't going to say a word about your eyesore.”
“You just did.”
“I'm not going to say another word about it.”
“This is a unique, one-of-a-kind garment, Malcolm. Please don't insult the fabric artisan who made it. She put a lot of sweat and tears into makin' this.”
“I heard that.”
Jon couldn't help but smirk. The 'fabric artisan' in question had privately admitted that all she did was gracefully mix her palette and spatter the result onto the bright yellow silk, cut to Trip's size. She asked him to keep her secret. Jon reassured her that his lips were sealed.
He slid a hand into a pocket of his vest and took out the courtesan card. Maybe he should look for Eleva and ask her for another dance. Jon's mouth quirked upward as his eyes scanned the beautiful characters in purple and gold. Life's too short to pass up opportunities. You never know what's going to happen.
Jon sighed and shaded his eyes against the glow of the sunset. Was Rennika just a figment of his imagination, the result of too many jumja sticks? The whole event felt real, but no one had even heard of a life-weaver by that name, or had seen a green tent marked by Lluvian roses.
“You all right?” asked Trip. “You seem quiet.”
“Still wonderin' about that weaver?”
“Yeah. I'm still not convinced it was all a hallucinogenic dream.”
Trip chuckled and took another swig of his beer. “We should've laid off the jumja sticks. I think I'll be feeling it for a while.”
Malcolm rolled his eyes and sighed. Jon couldn't help but laugh aloud and give the doctor an embarassed shrug.
He caught a shadow out of the corner of his eye. He turned to see a folded piece of fabric at the far end of the table and a cat sitting next to it. The cat yawned, showing long, thin fangs to match the claws gripping the trestle table. Jon frowned and reached for the bundle. The feline hummed as it moved to sit next to him.
“I guess you're the messenger?” Jon asked softly. “You aren't afraid of me. Most cats don't like me much because I'm a dog owner.”
He unfolded the blanket and stared at it in surprise. The velvety black background was dotted with green and golden stars, and along the bottom were the outlines of many planets. Some were covered with azure water, others with silver ice, and still others with brown vegetation. Two familiar worlds dominated the bottom two corners of the tapestry: a red-orange desert and a shimmering blue ocean with white swirling clouds.
“Wow,” Trip breathed from over Jon's shoulder. “That's pretty impressive!”
“Where'd you find this?” Travis chimed in.
Jon shook his head as he told them about his meeting with Rennika, the life-weaver. He said nothing about her prediction for his future, that he was fated for something. It still sounded fantastic to him; he was a person who took life as it happened. If it came to pass, that was well and good, but until then...
He ran his hand over the pattern of the thread; it was a complicated weave that both enhanced the design and strengthened the overall durability of the blanket. Despite his doubts, he smiled.
“Thank you,” he murmured as he looked over at the Lluvian feline...
...but it was long gone.