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Tifirf - Location
Written By: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Ellen Million (Artwork)
A city near the center of the Empire that specializes in agriculture.

Name: Tifirf ("Flower Town") (City #41)
Population Size: 40,000

Major Industries & Trade: Tifirf is a large town, not quite a small city, focusing on trade and certain local products. It is well positioned on the rail line between the large city of Affamarg and the smaller town of Tiflail. During its three main festivals, Tifirf tends to loosen the standards for licensed usage of public locations and facilities, for residents only. This way they may provide good hospitality and company for out-of-town customers or guests, even if the traveler holds higher licenses than the local (which is common, since well-to-do people are more likely to travel). Collectively these festivals account for about half of Tifirf's annual trade.

Tifirf is widely known for its flowers. It has two weekend festivals celebrating the peak bloom time of different flowers. The Spring Flower Festival spans Romimev 9-20 when spring bulbs, spring shrubs, and early fruit trees blossom. The Summer Flower Festival spans Jumimev 19-30 when annuals, perennials, and summer shrubs blossom; the first soft fruits and some vegetables also ripen at this time. People come to admire the blossoms and to buy ornamental or practical plants to take home. Edible flowers also figure prominently in local cuisine. Restaurants offer "festival specials" featuring fresh seasonal foods. Although it lacks a university of its own, Tifirf does tend to attract horticultural specialists on a temporary or even permanent basis.

The third main festival is the Fall Horse Fair spanning Fimimev 29-Tashimev 10. (Various smaller equestrian events such as shows and races happen during the last week of Fimimev, in preparation for the fair.) Local horse breeders bring out their best stock to display, along with whatever animals they wish to sell. Demonstrations of plowing, riding, jumping, racing, and other activities illustrate the horses' skill. The Equestrian Guild gives free or cheap lessons in horseback riding and care. Blacksmiths, farriers, saddlers, leatherworkers, wainwrights, and other crafters also have booths at the fair and/or special demonstrations at their shops. Visitors primarily come to improve their equestrian skills, buy horses, or shop for horse gear. However, some visitors bring horses to sell, particularly unusual or exceptional ones.

Less prevalent, but still significant, Tifirf has a respectable mining and metalworking community. These activities contribute to the availability of equestrian gear (plows, horseshoes, etc.) and splendid flowers (thanks to mineral fertilizers such as phosphate rock) but are not limited to those areas. Tools, jewelry, clays, ceramic ware, paints, and certain scientific materials are also produced in or near Tifirf. A particular style of "horseshoe chain," named for the shape of its links, originated here and remains popular.

Pet fanciers know Tifirf as the home of the "squiggle mouse." These are white mice with slightly longer, curly fur. They are friendly and popular as pets. Squiggle mice are gradually spreading as people buy them while visiting the town during festivals, and take them home. A special license is available for this purpose, certifying the squiggle mouse as a harmless sub-breed of the ordinary white mouse widely approved as a pet.

Necessary Imports: Staple foods such as grain, beans, etc.; while local farmers produce some fruits and vegetables, there is not much large-scale farming of staple crops.

Fertilizer components that are not mined or composted locally. Blood meal and bone meal are imported from areas that process livestock. Fish meal, seaweed fertilizer, and seabird guano are imported from the coast.

Many art supplies are imported. Textiles are used for crafts and clothing. Some paints and dyes for woodworking and other crafts must also be imported.

Important Landmarks & Features: Flowerway Botanical Garden is a display of Tifirf's pride and joy, just over 5 acres of carefully tended plots. Different sections are devoted to cultivated flowers (spring and summer), wildflowers, trees and bushes, and fruits. The grounds are beautifully hardscaped in various colors of marble or slate flagstones, walls, pond edges, plus some paths covered in gravel or bark mulch. The visitor center has a nice gift shop. One-day licenses are sold cheaply during the festivals.

Faibatiya Scientific Library is notable not only for its splendid collection of books (specializing in botany and zoology, among other fields) but also for its unique architecture. The tall building has walls of marble ... in four different colors. The east wall is pink, the south wall is yellow with gold pyrite flecks, the west wall is blue-gray, and the north wall is white with gold pyrite streaks. The library stands on a hill a little east of the city's center, as the heart of its academic and cultural area. (Just west of center lies the political area with the town hall on its own hill, license offices, etc.) So if you can see the library, you know the directions. Some other buildings echo those colors, so for instance, there are white marble buildings in the north part of town and yellow ones to the south.

"The Statue of Breath" is a large, walk-in marble sculpture at the center of Silver Park. The footprint is about 12x12' and the monument itself consists of various upright slabs of pink marble carved into odd shapes. When you stand in the center, if there is any breeze at all, the flowing air makes a rhythmic sound very similar to breathing. It is a memorial created for 14 miners who died during a cave-in of a silver mine in 1422, which has since come to represent all those who lose their lives to mining accidents.

The oldest tree in town is believed to be an amaranthine oak that stands outside the town hall, called the Judge's Oak because it was used to hang criminals during the time of separation. It predates not only the founding of the Tifirf but also the Upheaval. The tree's leaves sprout purplish-red in spring, turn to a deep green-bronze in summer, and then show their vivid colors again in autumn; and the dead leaves persist on the branches through much of winter. Seedlings and preserved acorns from this tree are popular souvenirs. Near the Judge's Oak lies a granite marker with an Ancient inscription and a picture of a tree, etched with a precision that modern Imperial masons cannot match using this hard stone.

Dominant Groups: The Mercantile Guild dominates much of Tifirf as it oversees trade. Also strong are the individual guilds which oversee the town's major products; these include the Horticultural Guild (hosting the Spring and Summer Flower Festivals), the Equestrian Guild (hosting the Fall Horse Fair), the Art Guild (in charge of such things as quilts, stenciled pottery, etc.), and the Mining Guild. Behind those come Food (especially Restaurants and Catering) and Housing (chiefly Hospitality for putting up visitors, but also a nod to local architecture).

On the academic side, Horticulture and Botany are the most prestigious sciences, followed by Zoology and Genetics. These fields closely relate to the main festivals. Metallurgy and Geology well respected because of the mining industry, which produces a variety of raw materials in addition to metals. Geometry has a toehold because of Tifirf's stylized art forms, many of which incorporate geometric designs.

Entertainment guilds are low in power here, except for the Carnal Guild. Worth noting is that the Carnal Guild makes creative use of local interests -- the House of Hot Pink Flowers famously dresses its joy workers in flower arrangements, while the Hard Riding House trots out the leather and riding crops.

Basic History: Tifirf has a deep history. Its location marked the position of the main population center for its time shard. The population density was never very high, but people survived well enough that the town was surrounded by a scatter of smaller villages. People came to town to trade and to find a mate who wasn't also a relative. The flower festivals actually originated as courtship opportunities. Also, people raised decorative plants in tiny dooryard gardens for cheer against the cold winters and the isolation following the Upheaval.

What is now the center of the town has two hills that began as low rises and now have modern buildings erected above a palimpsest of older layers. The large spring-fed pond between them has gone from a natural source of drinking water to an open sewer to part of a protected park. Several yards and about half of the parks boast old-growth trees.

When the time-barrier fell, traders and explorers ranged outward to see what they could find. They discovered first the town of Tiflail and then several others. Contact with the Southern Empire led to largely peaceful assimilation due to trade. However, enough early visitors from the Empire got fleeced to cause some tension and make the Empire a little wary of the savvy local merchants.

Tifirf's beautiful flowers also attracted attention from scientists. Locals responded with interest in plants from other parts of the Empire. For a while, Mayaloi slaves and hothouse flowers became very popular.

The collapse of the time-barrier also caused some problems, such as localized famines as the formerly separate ecosystems exchanged insect pests. Most people managed to survive because Tifirf is a source of hardy plants, but they still felt the pinch. Afterwards, Tifirf devoted energy to breeding food plants that would be even hardier and more bountiful. Several local experts who wished to specialize in grains or other staple crops emigrated to areas known for growing those.

Joining the Empire also introduced the people of Tifirf to more types of animals than had survived in their shard. Tifirf began to express more interest in livestock as well as plants. They first explored the exotic dogs, but the Yasiluu were so firmly established as experts in that field that nobody else could compete. Somewhat disappointed, the people of Tifirf shifted their attention to horses.

In 1360, spreading rail lines connected Tifirf with other towns and cities. This hastened and strengthened trade between Tifirf and its neighbors, Tiflail and Affamarg.

Greater connection and commerce inspired the first Horse Fair in the summer of 1366. It ended in a riot between the Horticultural Guild and the Equestrian Guild, with the flower growers demolishing the fair. Dozens of horses were injured, killed, stolen, or driven away. The Horticultural Guild was heavily fined for various acts of violence, but they responded that the Horse Fair created undue competition with their long-established Summer Flower Festival. The court agreed that they had a point, and ordered the Horse Fair moved to autumn. But it was five years before the breeders could collect enough horses -- and justifiably wary buyers -- to hold another fair.

Following the development of time crystal technology in 1470, Tifirf merchants and scientists quickly realized its potential. Within a decade, they had collaborated to design a case enclosing a vase and a flower in a slowing field. First used in universities and museums to display botanical specimens, the cases eventually spread to private homes. These continue to be high-selling items at the flower festivals today.

As news arrives of newcomers from the far North, Tifirf responds with interest. Some merchants wish to open trade with the Northerners. The botanists are intrigued by reports of Northern flowers, but especially by news of the bizarre Lichenwold. Horse breeders are fascinated by descriptions and sketches of the massive snow-unicorns. (They don't know how unhorselike the caprine snowies really are. They're in for a surprise...) Tifirf personages are quietly discussing how to invite some Northerners for a visit, but they haven't made a move yet.

General Climate Notes: Tifirf lies in the northerly part of the Empire, far inland and somewhat near the mountains. This gives it cooler weather and snow in the winter, mostly moderate with one or two bad storms per winter. Spring brings early rain followed by several weeks of beautiful temperate weather. Summer tends to be dry and warm, with occasional heat waves. Autumn sees a return of heavy rain, eventually turning to snow as the weather cools.

The area is a patchwork of microclimates, created by tall ridges with long green slopes and sheltered valleys. The valleys are pitched rather than flat, so that instead of the whole floor being a frost pocket, much of the valley is protected with one deep cold spot at the lowest point. Traveling along the slopes, a person can cross through several climate zones of plants with different tolerances for warm or cool temperatures.

Arts & Culture: The people of Tifirf prefer arts and crafts to stage entertainment. Their cultural activities include such things as garden tours and plant shows; horse shows, competitions, and races; and quilting bees or other creative projects. Many clubs exist to give people an outlet for their creativity and a chance to spend time with fellow craft mavens.

Stylized art appears in many places including appliqué quilts, stencil designs on walls and possessions, geometric designs in crocheted sweaters, parquet woodwork on floors and tables, and woodblocks nailed to signs. Earth tones prevail: brick red, maroon, burnt orange, golden yellow, olive and forest green, slate blue, and all shades of brown. Flowers sometimes display pastel or bright colors, but these usually overlay a background of dark green, tan, or cream. Horse patterns such as pinto and appaloosa sometimes appear in fabrics or other items. Floral and foliage patterns are widely popular. Tifirf follows Imperial fashions only on a casual basis; its society figures are far more concerned with this season's "fashion flower," which appears on fabrics (usually stamped or hand-painted locally) and other wearables. The brilliant tropical hues and riotous patterns of Tifijimi are generally considered overblown.

Hobby licenses are cheap and plentiful, with "whimsy markets" where hobbyists can sell their handicrafts. These appear in various parks, and half of each booth's profits go to the park for its upkeep. This provides dual benefits of supporting the parks and giving professional merchants an edge. Conversely, some licenses that are easy to get elsewhere, such as street performance or amateur acting, are more expensive and limited here. Tifirf also has fewer stages or other performance venues tucked into schools or the backs of shops.

Tifirf does have a tradition of long ballads including the tragic, the romantic, and the absurd. This is aided by the frequent allusions to the "petal code," a lengthy and complicated symbol set wherein flowers, leaves, and other plant parts convey hidden messages. A few street corners have spaces reserved for professional troubadours to perform, and several parks have a bulletin board for broadsides.

The local cuisine is characterized by heavy use of seasonal fruits and vegetables, especially salads made with edible flowers in addition to greens and herbs. Many exceptional cultivars grow only in this area and lend their unique flavors to each dish. Tifirf recipes and cookbooks often specify particular varieties instead of generic ingredients, such as "three Eastern Blush" instead of "three apples." This is not easily duplicated elsewhere; visitors are delighted, but travelers from Tifirf are frequently disappointed by restaurants and farmer's markets in other towns.

Related Art:

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Stories and poetry related to this article:

  • Squiggles: Excerpts from Nleimen's Journals (Part 1: First Form) (1502.01.11)
  • Squiggles: Excerpts from Nleimen's Journals (Part 2: Second Form) (1505.01.30)
  • Squiggles: Excerpts from Nleimen's Journals (Part 3: Early Third Form) (1509.01.21)
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