Thursday, December 31, 2009


Here's a New Year's Eve edition of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. This is the last LolCats round-up of 2009!



(Saturn's Dynamic Auroras)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite, followed by poetry after the jump.


by Alicia Suskin Ostriker

To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God's love
washes right through you
like milk through a cow

To be blessed
said the dark red tulip
is to knock their eyes out
with the slug of lust
implied by
your up-ended

To be blessed
said the dog
is to have a pinch
of God
inside you
and all the other dogs
can smell it


Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Click on image above to enlarge and take the quiz. Answers can be found here.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Pertama fish docks

To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Start of Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


The day after Bux's funeral, Pyosz went with the rest of the Genist Manage to see off family at the jichang. They returned to her abbas' Manage -- one less abba, thought Pyosz -- to make breakfast and keep company. Tlunu had gone to sin, and both Speranz and Xunu decided to work as well, saying they needed the distraction. Plus they know I'm here thought Pyosz.

Pyosz borrowed the radio and went into the study to call first Gitta. "I heard, we all are so sorry for your family" said Gitta. "Don't worry about us here, folks want you to help your abbas."

Next she called Mrebbe, who repeated these sentiments. Pyosz said "I know you'll have to bring your own lunches or ferry over to the cafe all this week, I'll return that portion of your fee when I get back -- "

"You will not" said Mrebbe firmly. "This is a tragedy that you don't owe nobody for."

Pyosz let herself cry while talking. "If you have questions, you can call me at my abbas' here or the Genist Manage. Or if the hours are wrong, I've given full authority to any of my cousins on Herne."

"We've got it covered. All right if Xante digs and washes more clay? She said you're going to need it for the remaining tiles" asked Mrebbe.

"That would be wonderful, but make sure her time is compensated on the hourly sheet. Listen, speaking of the tiles, what are the finished dimensions for the interior walls of the bath room going to be?" Pyosz jotted down the figures and folded the note into her pocket.

After breakfast, she and Yoj collaborated on breadmaking, experimenting with a couple of recipes. Pyosz made two kinds of pie, both favorites of Halling. Halling herself sat in the tub for a long soak but once dressed, she didn't want to go into the tillage with Lawa or even make conversation.

Finally Prl said "Emma? The book you're planning to write?"

Halling looked at her dully. "Bux was going to help me."

"Well, I'm offering to -- " Take her place? Not possible. "Where are your notes, let's look at them together."

"I don't know" said Halling, waving vaguely in the direction of Yoj's study. Yoj stood with a grunt and walked stiffly to her desk, returning with a folder and notebook which she handed to Prl.

"Emma, sit at the table with me" asked Prl. Pyosz sat beside them, looking over Halling's shoulder as Prl drew her out with questions about the unfinished outline. Yoj retrieved a second folder and began writing on a pad.

"You writing the prologue for the collection of essays your publisher wants?" Qala asked her.

"No" said Yoj, hesitating for a moment. "I'm making a list of what I need to do so I can retire."

Halling stared at her. "You don't have to babysit me. None of you do."

Yoj flared instantly. "First of all, you persistently treat our seeking your company as some sort of charity on our part, I'm tired of it. And secondly, you'd levvin' well lay around in your schmatta eating cold bacon and staring at the walls if we left you to it, you're as bad as Ng was. Bux wasn't retiring to babysit you, how come you aim that accusation at me?"

"Because Bux volunteered it of her own accord, she didn't wait until she was pressured into it -- " began Halling.

"She may have volunteered it but she waited too late to make it actually happen, as it turns out, eh?" said Yoj. Her meanness took Pyosz's breath away. "She's gone, and I'm not going to levvin' walk out that door every morning with you here alone all day. I love you as much as she does -- did -- and if you don't believe me, you can ram your thumb up your ass and suck on it!"

Nobody reacted, or even appeared tp breathe. This is where Bux would have done something thought Bux. Broken, broken. Half a minute later, the kitchen timer went off, signaling the sponges were ready for more kneading and another rise. Taking a huge risk, Pyosz stood and said "I'll do it, abba, I'd rather you not put your hands in my dough with your apparent thumb habits."

Halling gaped at her, and it was another long breath before Yoj believed it had been said and that it was Pyosz who said it. She roared incredulously, and Lawa slapped Halling on the back, releasing Halling as well. Yoj went to Halling and said "I'm terrified of losing you, I want to spend every minute I can with you now. I have things to write, too, can't we find a way to work together?"

Hallling pulled Yoj onto her lap with a wince. "I still can't believe it" she whispered. "Will it ever be real? And when it is, how will we ever be happy again?"

"We'll do it together" answered Yoj. "We've done everything else together since fourth grade."

There was still strain and bravado in it. However, Pyosz saw Qala's shoulders relax. She worked the dough, returned it to bowls beside the aga, and interrupted Prl briefly to ask "Emma, could I borrow more of your chart paper? It's regarding a design for my Manage."

They all looked up with interest as Prl said "Of course, what -- ?"

"I'll show you, I'll be right back." Pyosz snatched her burzaka from the hook and zoomed out the door. At the schoolyard full of shrieking children, Thleen spotted her and ran to the wall. "You could come visit me every day you're in Skene!" she said hopefully.

"Well, tomorrow and Empat you'll see me at lunch with my abbas -- you still come, tell the leraar and your emmas we need you as much as ever. But the other two days, yes, I'll stop by for a visit" agreed Pyosz.

When she returned, she had several sheets of the heavy outsized paper, a roll of tape, and Prl's aluminum T-square. She washed half the long table while, at her request, Qala pulled the most detailed maps of Skene to be found in Yoj's study. There were few better at map-reading than Qala. Lawa was chopping vegetables for soup at the counter. "Will you roast those brussel sprouts the way you do with lardons of bacon?" Pyosz called out. Halling looked up at the mention of bacon. Lawa grinned a yes.

Pyosz retrieved the page of wall dimensions from her pocket and covered the back with math to determine the appropriate scale grid she'd need. She taped together several sheets and used the T-square to cover the expanse with penciled squares exactly 1/8 the size of the clay tiles she meant to make.

Lawa's curiosity broke through first. "Okay, what is that?" she called out.

Pyosz held up the sheet. "This is a reduced rendering of the wall behind my copper tub in my bath room. I'm going to assemble a second sheet that will be the oppsite wall, above the sinks. I'm doing a pair of tile murals but I have to sketch 'em out first."

"What will the murals be?" asked Qala, recognition dawning.

"Big one is my rendering of Pya, all the islands. Smaller one is Skene. On the other two walls will be butternut colored plain tile, floor will be ocean-colored tile with occasional sea creatures, and I'm going to paint constellations directly into the wood ceiling" said Pyosz. "I can see the whole thing in my head, I just hope I can get the clay to cooperate."

Qala whistled softly. "It'll be a room no one wants to leave." She exchanged a glance with Yoj. Pyosz spread out the sheet and said to Qala "Now, will you hold up that third map there, I need to eyeball the quadrants? Yeah, like that." Her hand began deftly sketching inward from one corner.

When it was time for the dough to be made into loaves, Yoj unobtrusively did it and set the pans in the aga. Pyosz was too engrossed to notice the growing delicious odor of soup and bread. Her progess drew their attention frequently, and it was with reluctance that Prl finally interrupted her to eat with them.

The mural was an excuse for them to all sit at the table, working together and slowly absorbing the reality that Bux was not ever going to come in the front door again. It took Pyosz three days to finish, with breaks for lunch with Thleen and visits from family. Maar or one of the Herne cousins called every morning before breakfast to give an account of Saya's construction from the day before, and Pyosz's repetition of these conversations also gave the group around the table something to discuss and anticipate.

Halling and Yoj began crying now when grief hit them and washed through. Pyosz herself felt desolation mostly two times a day: Approaching the copper door each morning, and then at bedtime. She kept crawling into Prl's bed at night, needing to hear her aggie's breathing shift as she slid into sleep.

At the end of dinner on Roku, Pyosz was on her feet instantly when a knock came at the front door. She pulled Maar inside and wrapped around her in relief. Maar leaned back to look at her and said "Much better." She scanned the faces turned her way from the table and murmured "All of you look much better."

She distributed mail and accepted a plate of food. "Sure have missed your cooking this week" she said, chomping into a cheese-larded roll. "Did Mrebbe call you today?" She added "Yes" to Prl who was offering gravy for the mashed parsnips.

"No, I figured it's their day off -- why, what's up?" asked Pyosz, starting to worry.

But Maar was chuckling. "She and Pank, plus a couple of gobsmacked timmers, got an owl visitation." She took a few seconds to swallow. "Mrebbe had stayed through dusk because one interior door wasn't plumb, she finally had to pull it loose and rehang it, kept crew behind to help her. Pank had finished milking and heard them, walked over from the barn to chat. They were in the house about 15 minutes putting away tools, Mrebbe said, before they came out the front door -- the porch has been partly framed but the decking isn't down yet, so they were walking a wide board to the edge. Mrebbe saw it first. On the side rail, nearest the trees, sat the owl. Your owl. It was facing them directly, eyes reflecting what little was left of sunset, and Mrebbe said it was taller than most first-graders. One of the timmers screamed and fell off the walkway into the crawlspace below, starting to thrash around in panic even more. Mrebbe pulled out her flash and they all bent over to pull out the woman, and by the time they looked around again, the owl had vanished. Never made a sound. Mrebbe said the timmer who fell, they had to walk her like an escort not just to the ferry but all the way home outside Koldok, she was so rattled. Except Pank, of course, who set off into the dark pasture whistling cheerfully on her way back to Herne."

Pyosz enjoyed the reaction Maar was getting around the table. She could imagine Mrebbe was dining out on the story this weekend.

"So she comes at night to check the day's progress" mused Pyosz.

"Your porch has such an excellent view, perhaps it's a boon to her shu patrol" said Maar.

"Well, that eliminates the hope I had that sometimes I could sit out there at night with a katt on my lap" said Pyosz.

"They're both well, by the way" said Maar. "Whenever I stop by, I've been combing their fur, so Ember now comes at a trot when she sees me. I brought a flat of isda one day, brushed them with tarragon butter, grilled them with some eggplant, made hot rice, and fed the timmers lunch. Frahe's been making cakes at night and Pank bring them each morning to leave in your kitchen for the midmorning tea break. Oh, and Killer's really looking for you, so yesterday afternoon I let her through the gate for half an hour of getting ear rubs from all the crew. First though she made a beeline for the katts, sent them both up trees."

"I'm never sure if it's just curiosity on her part or whether she might do them harm" said Pyosz. "Curds mortally hates her."

Maar had cleared her plate and accepted the fruitcake Yoj offered. She leaned back, suddenly somber, and said "The memorial service for Nan Bux was beautiful. It will be the front page in tomorrow's Pya paper."

Hakking said "Tell us everything." Maar recounted Dodd's playing, the tribute from Api, Mill's repetition of Prl's eulogy -- "Except she had to read from notes and she kept breaking down" -- and the firelight procession up Pertama Poke. "I heard several folks saying how sorry they were that you weren't there" she said to Pyosz. "Two people said at least her eyes live on in yours."

After a moment, Speranz spoke up. "I heard today that the woman whose factory where it happened, who was the one that probably left the machinery unstable -- she hasn't been back to work, her family says she's not able to sleep and isn't eating unless they force her. They're afraid her mind is breaking."

Yoj said softly "She called Bux in because they were actually quite close and she trusted Bux to help her calm down about the theft."

"Alleged theft" said Speranz. "Turns out, something may have just been midsplaced."

For nothing, don't tell me she died for nothing thought Pyosz.

But Yoj and Halling were looking at each other. Finally Halling sighed and said "I'll write her tomorrow."

"I'll help you" said Yoj.

After Maar was finished and they began to clear the table, Qala said to Pyosz "Show her what you've been doing, I want to see her face." Pyosz spread her pencil-sketch mural before Maar, who instantly stood to bend over it.

"Stars, Pyosz, this is like a sinner's view -- except it's more impressions, isn't it? You put in the zip line on Trumpinne, and the noodle factory up here at Talaba -- the rice paddies, the giant forest, the new volcano -- oh, Pubu Falls..." This last was said in a tone that made everyone glance at Maar, then Pyosz. "But there's some blanks, I see."

"I need more flyovers" grinned Pyosz. "Soon as we can fit them in."

"This is simply extraordinary" marveled Maar. "Thirty years from now, as you give your grandchildren baths in this room, you can show them what Pya used to look like."

"When half the Pea Pods were still wild, and before Pertama was as crowded as Riesig" agreed Pyosz, a little wistful. "Here's the second sheet of Skene, this one is all done." The symbolism of her statement rocked Prl back on her heels, though no one else seemed to notice.

After an hour, Prl leaned toward Maar and said "You look tuckered. Will you accept a bed from us tonight?"

"I'd be honored" said Maar. "I'm leaving early to meet my sibs, though."

"Bring them for a visit" said Halling. Yoj added "And Shmonah dinner here with everyone." The week anniversary of Bux's death.

They left for the Genist Manage not long after. Maar carried her bag into Pyosz's room as directed and sat down wearily on the bed, removing her otos with a soft groan. Pyosz pushed her down on the bed and curled beside her, lying her head on Maar's shoulder. Prl appeared in the doorway and looked at them askance.

Pyosz said softly "You need a bath."

"Indeed I do" said Maar, smiling. She shifted so it was her head lying on Pyosz's shoulder. "You kmow, Briel met Dodd when we landed and Dodd sat down on the tarmac, blubbering about her aggie. Briel sat in her lap as if they were alone at home. It was very moving."

"Come sit down, emma" said Pyosz, noticing Prl. She raised her voice to call Qala and Lawa as well, pulling up her feet to make room for Prl. "What else?" she asked Maar.

"Mill looks wretched, and she's forgetting things. I think she's bottled up. She overhead Abbo saying to some pilots 'Well, the mercy is that she died instantly' and she went off on her, yelling there was no mercy in any part of it" said Maar.

"Is Oby looking after her?" asked Pyosz.

"Much as she can, Api looks suddenly older as well. I did the schedules this week, and Oby said I could be in charge of it next week too" said Maar. "What else with you?"

"It's getting better, which I often feel is a betrayal to abba, you know? I'm sometimes like Halling, I think we shouldn't be able to ever get over it" said Pyosz. "I'm still having moments where I feel like my feet are not solid on the ground and I don't know what to do next."

"Mm-hm" said Maar.

"And honestly, Maar, I've questioned my decision to move to Pya. It feels utterly selfish in the face of all this." Maar closed her eyes briefly.

It was Prl who answered. "Oh, no, you mustn't be tricked that way. It was emma -- Bux -- who helped bring around Yoj and Halling to the fact that your tenancy on Saya, your finding what you are meant to do, is exactly what we intend in how we raise children in this family. She was enormously excited about your Manage, said several times if Qen and Veida were still alive, they'd move there right away."

Lawa added "A good life leaves a hole nobody can fill when that person dies. But new shoots naturally travel away to fresh soil."

Buttressed by others, Maar could find words to say "But you can have doubts as long as you want. Nobody's pushing you through the kissing gate." Pyosz snuggled closer. "What else else?" she whispered.

When Maar fell asleep, Pyosz got up quietly and unlaced Maar's gilet, removing it and her kalsongers with Qala's help. She covered Maar with blankets and set the alarm before leaving the room with Prl.

In the kitchen, Prl asked "She helps take care of Mill, then?"

"Mill and Oby were like the emmas Maar never had" said Pyosz. "They took her in, not because of Abbo but because they could see how special Maar is. And her desperate need for family. Maar is protective of all of us."

"No one I'd rather have on my side" remarked Qala.

"I'm almost asleep myself, I'm heading straight for bed" said Pyosz.

"You need me? -- " began Prl.

"No, I'm fine" said Pyosz, kissing them goodnight. Prl noticed, in fact, the strain had left Pyosz's face for the first time in several days. "Dream sweet" she called after her child.

When it was time to leave to meet the huolon, it was Prl who tugged a sobbing Pyosz out the copper door and down the lane. This is what it means to be an emma she kept reminding herself brutally. This is part of the deal.

Pyosz had wiped her eyes enough as they circled to land at Yanja to see Maar and Abbo helping load a family onto the freighter. The new folks on Kacang she remembered. Then, seditiously, I'm going home.

As she handed her bag in to Abbo, she got a close look at Maar's face and saw she was ragged.

"You haven't slept enough, have you?" she asked.

"No. Thleen's having a hard time. In fact, if you'll take the front berth next to Abbo, she says I can stretch out the second bench and sleep the beginning leg back" said Maar. Pyosz nodded and help Maar fold down the second row. The space behind it was stacked with carriers containing screaming katts, some of whom were clearly already voiding in terror, from the smell of things. The next sets of seats contained three adults, one of whom was visibly pregnant, and three young children making as much noise as the katts. Behind them were crates of cargo, and in the far rear corner, a savvy Pyan traveler had folded down a jumpseat: Better to sit on metal for seven hours than deal with all the odors and racket of new migrants.

Maar sat up long enough to go through checklist and take-off with Abbo, then lay down with a sigh Pyosz could hear over the engines straining to climb. She lashed herself into the netting, zipped up her guiba, put her cap over her eyes, rolled into Pyosz's blanket, and appeared to go instantly to sleep. Pyosz kept looking back at her.

Instead, once they reached altitude and some of the noise died down, Abbo began nattering on about the dance they'd had on Bosco over the weekend, how she'd dazzled everybody with her footwork, how it was too bad Pyosz missed such a good band. Completely ignoring the sad family gathering they'd had that night. Pyosz wanted to tune her out. However, she suspected if she tried to read or catch a nap herself, Abbo was not above "accidentally" waking up Maar just to have someone entertain her. She was not long on inner resources, their Abbo.

When Abbo decided to begin reminiscing about past dances, Pyosz felt desperate. She interrupted her to say "I've been thinking of tackling a math problem with regard to Pya. Well, concerning all of Skene, actually."

To her surprise, Abbo didn't glaze over. Instead, she said "Creating an equation or simply totting up columns?"

Pyosz suddenly remembered that the family had always talked about how good at numbers Abbo could be, if she only applied herself. Mill had added "You could say that about all sorts of things in relation to Abbo -- that she could excel if she'd only apply herself." Halling had replied with some story about Mill nearly failing a term when she was school, because of the influence of some early crush, it sounded like.

Pyosz began outlining the question she and Yoj had discussed the night before: At what point would the population on Pya and Skene combined be enough to forestall possible extinction from all but a comet strike or self-destruction? And what kind of resource husbandry could help them reach that goal?

Abbo sunk her teeth into the idea immediately. Eventually Pyosz retrieved her bag, quietly, from the bench underneath Maar and extracted a notebook to begin jotting down ideas as they talked back and forth. After filling a couple of pages, enjoying her cousin's mind in a way she never had, she pulled a thermos of hot tea from her bag and offered Abbo a cup.

Abbo accepted, but then exclaimed "Look at the time! We've gassed on for three hours. Wake up Maar, will you, I need to move and stretch."

Pyosz put her hand on Maar's belly and shook gently. Maar awoke with a jerk, her cap dropping to the floor as she tried to sit up and could not because of the harness. Her weary eyes registered memory of where she was, and she unfastened herself, running both hands through her fine red buzz. Pyosz started to reach out her own hand and cup it over the top of Maar's head, but stopped herself. Instead, she said "I have tea, if you want it."

"I do" said Maar, her voice gravelly from fatigue. "But first I have to hold my breath and use the privy."

By the time she returned, Pyosz had moved to the bench and turned it back into two seats, taking the one behind Abbo so she could look diagonally up at Maar as she piloted. Abbo and Maar negotiated transfer of the controls, and Maar accepted a cup of tea from Pyosz. Abbo took plates of food from the hamper and was already talking a blue streak about the dance again. As Pyosz leaned back, pulling on her shoulder harness, a small figure slid into the seat beside her. Multiple adult voices of protest came from the rear, and the child turned to shout at them "Up here there's a window so I can see."

Pyosz released her harness to face the emmas and assure them it was all right. She buckled in the child before resuming her own harness again.

"We're emigrating" the child announced proudly. "To Pya." As if there was any other destination from Skene.

"Are those all your katts back there?" asked Pyosz.

"Yes, and they're not usually so stinky. Emma says they don't understand what flying means. But I do, I want to be a pilot when I grow up."

Pyosz saw a smile appear on Maar's face in the rear-view mirror. Pyosz held her hand out to the child and said "My name is Pyosz, and I live on Pya. What's your name?"

"Ziri. I know who you are, I met you with Thleen, remember? I used to live on Verzin, but now I'll be living on Pya." It was a wonder that couldn't be repeated enough, apparently. "That's my emmas, and my sibus. There's three of us children, and aggie is going to have another one soon, but she'll be born on Pya."

"Ah, you're Thleen's best friend, aren't you? She must be heartbroken about your moving." Pyosz looked with comprehension up at Maar.

"I don't want to talk about that" said Ziri, studying her harness buckle. After a minute she said "My emmas have been to Pya already, lots, but I had to stay home with my abbas. But in a few weeks, my abbas will be coming too, all three of them. They have to put their affairs in order first." Ziri clearly was proud of this adult phrase passing her lips.

"What do your emmas do?" asked Pyosz.

"Emma is a hydrologist" -- another big word glibly spoken -- "aggie is a botanist, and emma is a manufacturer of machine parts." Ziri craned around to point fingers at her emmas, busy dealing with outraged younger children who wanted to move up front, too.

Pyosz was impressed. These were badly needed skills on Pya, Mill and the rest must be dancing in jubilation. Ziri continued "See, my emmas want to have heaps of children, but they can't on Skene. So we're gong to Pya. We've got a whole island to ourselves, plenty of room for heaps of children. Do you know what the Pea Pods are?"

"Indeed I do. I live on Saya, which is the pod that all the peas fall from. I happen to know the island you're moving to, Kacang, you can see it from my kitchen and we'll be sharing a ferry, you and me." Ziri was electrified, even more so when Pyosz said "You'll have to come visit me as soon as you get a chance. I'm the capriste on Saya, and also a keramiker."

"Can I pet your goats?"

"They would like that. Most of them, anyhow. I have two katts as well. And a woods of my very own, and beyond that a hot springs you could soak in. I have bees and make my own honey, too." Pyosz could tell she had now become a Magical Being to Ziri.

"Emma says I'll ride the ferry to school every day, but there's always Morrie Vaseo." Ziri wanted confirmation.

"I use that very ferry twice every day, sometimes in the dark of night, and I have never once seen a leviathan in our kuono. It's too shallow for them to come into that part of the channel. Safe as worlds, those boats are. Let's see, how old are you, Ziri?"

"I just turned eight."

"Oh, excellent, you'll be starting second grade then. My sibemma Dodd will be your teacher. When you meet her, be sure to tell her you are already friends with Pyosz, she'll welcome you especially after that." Ziri could not believe her good fortune. Pyosz piled it on a little. "My other sibemma is Mill, the Sheng Zhang. And through her I'm related to the Ethicist as well. We're all neighbors there in the Pea Pods."

There was a silence behind them. The emmas were listening in, and figuring out exactly who Pyosz was -- or had been -- on Skene. Despite Abbo's drone, Pyosz thought Maar was eavesdropping as well.

"Have you ever seen an owl, then?" asked Ziri.

"Yep, there's a famous one on Saya. Scared me silly once, because she's so big, but she's no harm to people. She keeps the shu away for us."

"Is there an owl on Kacang?" Ziri hoped and dreaded at the same tme.

"I don't know for sure, but if there are several trees, then it's likely. You won't see her during the day, you know, you'll have to watch for her after the sun sets."

Eventually Abbo folded a small blanket into a pillow shape and leaned it against the side for her head, going to sleep as effortlessly as Maar had. Ziri, however, had endless stores of energy and questions. The next three hours passed easily. The emmas broke out sandwiches and water bottles to feed their children. Pyosz helped Ziri negotiate the meal, and when they were done, she shared some of Yoj's cookies with Ziri and the rest of her family.

A few minutes later, Maar shook Abbo and said "We're 20 minutes out." As Abbo roused herself, Ziri said "What does that mean?"

"It means very soon we are going to catch our first glimpse of Pya. Only you know what, the view is best from where I'm sitting. Let's trade seats, you deserve to have a good view of your new world." Ziri was so restless, Pyosz had trouble getting her buckled in again. Her small puffs of breath were steaming up the cold glass six inches away as she yearned for a sight of something more than blue ocean or red morrie strati.

Pyosz told her where to keep focused and that if the blue started looking greenish, that meant it was the forests of Mti on the horizon. Maar gave a small waggle of her orange eyebrows at Pyosz only a few seconds before Ziri gave an ear-splitting scream: "I see it! Pya, that's Pya, right?"

Pyosz narrated what they were passing over. She wasn't sure how much penetrated through Ziri's fevered state, but she found herself choking up as she said "And that's Saya, my home island. See, the goats are heading to the barn to get milked and then put to bed for the night." She felt an ache in her hands, wishing it were her doing the milking.

Once they were on the tarmac, Ziri's emmas were personally welcomed by Api and Ollow. Pyosz stuck around to help them contend with three excited children in an industrial work environment. Mill arrived to give Pyosz a long hug before handing a basket of stopgap groceries to the new arrivals. They all helped load luggage and family into the ferry, Ziri's high voice a nonstop echo over the still water.

Pyosz remained on the wharf, waiting for the ferry to return. Maar kept her company, talking about Thleen with worried fatigue. Mill sent the ferry back from the pylon, returning to help settle in the Kacang family, Pyosz felt itchy to get to Saya and waved bye once to Maar before facing her own dock.

It was full dark by the time she walked the rocky path to her cabin. Lights were visible across the water on Kacang. Pyosz opened her cabin door to yowling katts, willing to pretend they had not been fed that night.

She decided to check on the other animals. Grabbing a flash, she went first to the chicken house, where she found two freshly-laid eggs and a chanticleer trying to throw her weight around. Killer and a few other goats met her gladly at the barn door, and she noted the floor needed mucking out again.

She poured herself a pitcher of cold milk and returned to the kitchen. Then she toured her new Manage, feeling bittersweet excitement about all the visible progress which had been made in her absence. She went to the porch railing, looking for talon marks or droppings, but found none.

She didn't feel like cooking tonight, and the cold box held the makings of a salad plus a plate of bridies made from Pirinc mutton and Herne onions. She assembled the salad and dressed it. She heated two of the bridies briefly in the aga as water came to a boil for tea. She sat down to her homecoming feast with her notebook and began assembling the ideas from her conversation with Abbo into an elegant report and sets of equations she could send to the abbas.

By the time she was done, the paper was damp with dew and both moons were visible. She cleared her dishes, noting residual stiffness from the long jarring flight, and went to bed. "Home" she whispered to Curds as the katt curled into her side.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.



Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.


Saturday, December 26, 2009


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Start of Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Pyosz was sharing a bowl of ice cream with Thleen at Thina Bowl when she saw Vants come in the door. She waved, calling "Come join us, cousin!"

But Vants was not returning her grin. Pyosz set down her spoon as Vants knelt beside her chair and said quietly "There's been an accident. You need to come home."

"Who?" said Pyosz. "What happened?"

"The factory where Nan Bux went to settle the dispute -- there had been a struggle earlier and a stack of machinery was unstable -- I'm so sorry, Pyosz, they say she died instantly."

"Not abba, tell me it isn't abba!" Pyosz's voice had risen.

"We need to go home, everyone is waiting for you" said Vants, her voice breaking.

Emma...Halling and Yoj...thought Pyosz.

"I don't understand" said Thleen in a panicked voice. Maar stood and dropped coins on the table, telling her sibs "Pick up your things, we need to leave. Quickly and quietly, I'll explain outside." Her face was impossibly pale. Pyosz wasn't sure she could stand, but Vants' strong arm came under her elbow and eased her upright. Chairs scooted out of their way as they filed to the front door, whispers already loud.

On the sidewalk next to the fish docks, Maar said "I'll take them back to Chloddia, but we'll come -- "

"Oh no, please don't leave me!" begged Pyosz. "You need to come with us, all of you, please."

"Come where?" said Thleen. "What did Vants say about Bux?"

Maar picked her up and said quietly "Nan Bux has been killed in an accident. Her family is just finding out. If we go to their house, it is to grieve with them, to be as kind as we know how to be. Can you do that, or should we go home to grieve on our own?"

"She's dead? She's really dead?" said Thleen in a tone that matched what was inside Pyosz's head. She burst into sobs, saying "That's wrong, siba, can't you fix it just this once?"

Maar began walking away from the view of those staring through the window. Tears streamed down her own face as she murmured "I'd give anything to fix it." Vants helped Pyosz keep taking steps, and Pyosz felt an arm slide through hers on the other side -- Adon, looking ashen and almost adult.

Later she wouldn't be able to remember the walk up the lane, only that copper door suddenly appearing in front of her and her coming to a halt: Everything was changed on the other side. But Vants swung it open and she heard Yoj's wails, and that pulled her inside.

In retospect, it really wasn't fair of Pyosz to have insisted Maar come with her. The Manage was in chaos, and it was all Maar could do to contend with her own sibs on top of her grief. The coroner was still there, seated at the table filling out a death certificate in her ornate copperplate. Ndege and Gerra were both present, and Gerra was on the radio making funeral arrangements with Yanja. Iro and Ektr were also at the table, too shell-shocked to move.

Yoj roamed the living room, yelling a stream-of-consciousness refusal to accept this loss. Prl was on the couch with Halling who registered no emotion at all, and Dodd sat on the floor, leaned against a wall, weeping onto her knees. Speranz was on her bed with the door open, Tlunu murmuring beside her.

Mill seemed the most approachable, sitting beside the coroner. Pyosz sat down across from them and said "What happened? Are you certain she's -- gone?'"

The coroner said patiently "I am certain. She was carried to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. Danaan said she never moved, not a flicker, after -- there was a tall stack of turbines on pallets which had been disturbed by an earlier search and fracas, though no one saw the imbalance. Nan Ethicist reached out a hand while walking to steady herself, and the top portion of the stack fell directly onto her head. She would not have even known it was happening, she had no time to cry out."

She was crushed, then. Pyosz fought the need to vomit.

Halling's voice came from the living room. "Whoever caused the argument which took her there and left things in disarray, they are directly culpable. I want their names, I intend to file charges and have them exiled." There was a wholly unfamiliar venom in her voice.

Yoj sucked liquid back in her throat to say "You will not."

Halling stared at her in what Pyosz now recognized as rage. "You cannot stop me. Someone must pay, she deserves more than this. She had just levving retired, she had decades to go in peace and happiness, I can't stand this!" She was screaming by the end.

"I can't either, but killing another won't change a thing. And if I can't stop you, Bux will, she would never ask for exile for an accident, you know that about her" choked out Yoj.

"I don't know what she thinks, I need her to tell me, I always need her -- " Halling's shrieks turned into sobs. Prl pulled her close. Yoj did not go to her, however. She just stood in place, tears still pouring silently down her cheeks.

They're broken now thought Pyosz. An essential piece is gone and they don't know how to fit together any more. She ran out the back door and made it to the privy before retching.

When she went back inside, Pank, Tu, Lawa and Qala were just arriving, having been located by Vants. Maar filled them in quietly, Thleen silent on her shoulder. Tu and Lawa went to Halling. Qala wrapped herself around Yoj. Pank began making tea.

"Where are Danaan and Rark?" asked Pyosz. "And my cousins?"

"At the hospital sitting with the remains, Danaan and Rark" said the coroner. Mill added "Abbo has gone to Pomar and to collect others in the family."

The coroner cleared her throat and said "I've arranged for Nan Ethicist to be carried to my office for washing and wrapping this afternoon, and visitation for family this evening. I -- strongly recommend you allow me to do the preparation, and that family not view until I am done."

"What do you mean?" asked Dodd stupidly. "We're who she wants for the final rites -- "

Pyosz said "Because it fell on her head, is what you're saying? That she's been hurt?"

"Yes. Not a memory you need to retain" replied the coroner. Yoj began wailing again.

"I don't care, I want to clean her and put her in linens" said Pyosz. "I'm her direct descendant, it should be me, I can handle it." It came out of her mouth before she thought about it. All heads swiveled to look at her. I killed Echo and cut her apart, I already have memories no one should carry she thought.

"I'll go with you" said Pank firmly. After a moment, the coroner said "All right."

"No, wait" said Halling. "We can't let you, child, we have to be there, too -- "

"You can sit in the anteroom until I've done the hard part" said Pyosz. "Then I'll call you in to finish and say goodbye."

Qoj came in the front door, gasping, and Dodd stood to embrace her. Prl left Halling and came to Pyosz, saying "Are you sure?"

"I am, emma. I don't want to but I do, if that makes any sense."

"You're just like her" said Prl. "She helped her own aggie die so the burden wouldn't fall on Veida or Qen. You have her iron love in you." She and Pyosz began crying together.

After drinking a cup of Pank's tea, which was fortified with something more than milk and sugar, Pyosz said to Gerra "The funeral is when tomorrow?"

"Noon" said Gerra. Pyosz remembered briefly this woman had captured her emma's heart, but she didn't care about that now.

Pyosz said to Prl "I don't have my funeral silks with me, do you have an extra set? Or any whites that might do?"

"Not that would fit you" said Prl.

Maar spoke up. "I have mine, I left them at the Lofthall here in my locker accidentally after -- "
Szebel died finished Pyosz, turning to look at Halling.

"But then what would you wear?" asked Prl, as if she were one of the family. "No, we'll buy Pyosz a set off the rack, the store downtown will open up this afternoon to accommodate community need."

"Then I'll go buy them for you" said Maar. "I know your size, I'll get what you want." She stood and motioned to her sibs. "We'll be back later." She kissed Pyosz tenderly on the cheek and repeated "I'll be back."

Pank stopped her in the living room and dropped coins in her hand, gesturing to herself and Tu. Silks for them as well. She called out to Maar and said "Wait -- Mill and Dodd..." Who were out back talking with Ndege and Speranz about funeral details. Prl carried more coins to Maar, who said "Not for Pyosz, I'm getting those" as she picked up gold from Prl's palm.

Casseroles and soups had begun to arrive with stunned neighbors. Pank made a light plate for herself and Pyosz, sitting down beside her to say "Refuel for the work ahead." Pyosz whispered "Can I really do this?" She saw Prl's reddened eyes go wide. "Yes" Pank whispered back, and Pyosz picked up her fork.

Two hours later, she and Qoj took Halling between them and led a long procession to the coroner's establishment downtown. The family was settled in the waiting room, folding chairs being brought in to accommodate them all. A samovar of tea was on a corner table, with cubes of sugar and a large pitcher of cream next to a plate piled with pastries. Sugar for shock thought Pyosz. She squeezed Prl's hand and followed the coroner into an adjoining room.

A round-bellied form lay on a table, covered by a sheet. Small stains had leaked through the sheet. The coroner and her assistant filled basins with hot water. Pyosz and Pank were handed large plastic aprons, which Pyosz tied on with trembling hands. It was so cold in the room, wisps of steam rose from the basins.

Pyosz went directly to what had been her abba's beautiful head and pulled back the sheet. She remembered later saying "It's better to know than to see what my imagination was creating inside." Someone at the hospital had made a start on cleaning. Still, they had to refill the basin twice before the area from shoulders up was washed and dry.

Pyosz rinsed her hands at the sink in an alcove and returned to say "We can't wrap her like this. It will be clearly misshapen, I can't let my abbas face this."

Pank handed her rolls of linen and scissors. "You're the shaper of clay, use cloth instead." With Pank's murmured feedback, an hour later she was satisfied with the wrapped contours that lay before them.

"They must be crazed with the delay, we can let them in now" she said, drained.

"No -- take off that apron, wash your hands and arms again" said Pank gently. The helpers whisked soiled items out of sight and refilled the basins before the antechamber door was opened. A chair was carried in for Halling. Prl looked at Pyosz first before turning her gaze to her aggie.

Halling had one gnarled hand on Bux's foot, and bent over to kiss her instep. Yoj tucked petals from Isola Fling roses into one of Bux's hands and a sprig of Motu Fling lilac into her other. Dodd dropped rosemary from Bux's Manage into the basins of water. Every child and grandchild had a chance to touch Bux's hand and say words of love before Yoj and Halling began slowly washing her legs, arms, belly, and ginny.

Pyosz got another chair from the antechamber and sat in a corner. Prl came to stand beside her, and Pyosz leaned her head against Prl's hip. When Bux was dry again, Dodd and Mill stepped forward to hold up arms or legs, tilt Bux to one side or the other, as Halling and Yoj passed wrapping linen between them.

When Bux was entirely covered except for her hands, Ehuy and Ngall carried in their children. The baby's hand was pressed against Bux's and Ngall whispered to her "Habibi will love you for always." Ehall didn't want to touch Bux, even with Ehuy's gentle coaxing. She kept saying "Why doesn't she wake up? How can she breathe with that cloth over her mouth?"

Pyosz had been Ehall's age when Qen died. She wondered if Prl or Yoj had murmured the same explanations and reassurance to her that Ehall was being told now. Finally, Ngall took Bux's hand in her own, weeping hard, and kissed its back, saying "I'll never forget you." Ehall burst into tears and lunged forward in Ehuy's arms, placing her small hand on her emma's and habibi's both as she cried out "Never forget you."

The front doors were opened for visitation, letting in a chill to match that of the washing room. Halling, Yoj, and the five children returned to sit in a row in the antechamber, blankets on their laps, tea refreshed often. Pyosz was overwhelmed by the line of people who streamed in to pay their respects. It wasn't merely homage to an important personage, most of the visitors seemed to be racked by sorrow.

When Maar's face appeared, Pyosz motioned her to come join her in her corner where she sat vigil over Bux. Maar kissed her again and whispered "I have to help my sibs through this, then fly them home. But I'm returning to Riesig to sleep. I'm flying shuttle in the morning to take folks to Yanja from all over Skene."

"We don't have an extra bed at the Genist Manage, but you could have the couch, it's long and soft" said Pyosz.

"I accept" said Maar. Pyosz stood and went with her, to guide her sibs through the farewell process. Thleen wailed, and Su turned to bury her face against Pyosz's shoulder, unable to stop her sobs.

At 8:00, the front doors were closed and Pyosz rallied herself for another carry. Yoj, however, went back to Bux's body, spreading her hand on the covered belly and saying hoarsely to Halling "I don't think I can leave her, she so hated to sleep alone."

"When we first became lovers, she would beg me to stay another five minutes in the mornings, she'd say the fish could wait, Skene could wait, she'd gone so long hoping we'd turn and love her.." said Halling.

"She didn't have any of that old longing left" said Prl, Her emmas looked at her, startled. "She was utterly contented and sure of you. She was one of the happiest women who ever lived, didn't you listen to all the people who came tonight? They loved her because she was confident and full of hope, from her life with you."

Still, it was a sharp pain to step out onto the street. Maar was waiting for them at the Manage, with Danaan and Rark. Danaan was haggard, her lips chewed raw. "I wasn't looking her way, if I had been -- " she began as soon as Halling was inside the door.

"Nobody blames you" said Mill, a little curt. She got Halling settled. Dodd took the radio and stepped into the larder for a scrap of privacy. A few minutes later, Pyosz overheard Dodd say urgently "You've never lied to me, Briel, and you need to trust me now, tell me even if you don't want to: Would she really have died right away? Did she suffer?" Pyosz froze, watching Dodd's back. When she saw Dodd's shoulders relax and Dodd whisper "Thank you. Thank the stars", Pyosz found she could breathe deeply again.

Mill and Dodd were bowled over by the funeral silks Maar handed them. Each of the five outfits she'd selected were distinct and a perfect fit for those she had shopped for. Pyosz wasn't surprised, she knew about Maar's ability to choose garments. "I hadn't even thought about it" said Dodd numbly. "Here, let me reimburse you -- "

"Don't worry about it, it's my gift to my sibs" said Prl. Mill gave her an awkward hug.

After an hour, Pyosz went to Halling and Yoj, sitting in silence on the couch, and knelt before them. "You need to sleep. Which means going in to that bed in there. How can I help? Massages, sleepy tea, draw you a bath? And if you can't face being alone, I'll stay with you, like I did when I was little and you used to roll over on me during the night, abba." This last was directed at Yoj, and drew a ghost of a smile from her.

Yoj and Halling looked at each other. "I don't know how to do this" Halling whispered.

"How can you?" said Pyosz. "But you do have each other, wounded as you are. And look at the family you created, crammed into these walls."

"Bux, it was Bux who gave us family" said Halling.

"You gave each other family" said Prl. joining in. "She relied on you for every dream she had,"

Halling's eyes were fixed on Yoj. "Don't you leave me. Don't leave me alone. I know that's unfair for me to ask, but I'm not strong enough..."

Pyosz felt ice in her belly at the shameful hunger on Halling's face, the desperation on Yoj's. After a minute, Yoj said "I won't. I'll never leave you."

"Come on" said Pyosz, suddenly angry with Halling and forcing herself to go against it, "I'll help you to the privy, abba."

The two of them shut the bedroom door ten minutes later, refusing help getting undressed or being tucked in. Tu was sagging against Lawa, and Qala said "We all need whatever sleep we can find." Qoj and Mruch offered to walk Mill to the Lofthall. Vants accepted Dodd's offer to share the overhead loft. Ngall, Ehuy, Gerra and Ndege had left an hour earlier.

The walk to the Genist Manage was silent. On the kitchen table were more offerings of food and condolence letters. Prl began sorting through them while Qala made tea.

Maar turned to Pyosz, pulling her close to say "All right, we have to keep you from going so far you spike a fever. So, tell me: What was it like?"

Prl wheeled and Qala looked as if she were ready to interrupt. Pyosz, however, had no intention of sharing the details of what had been underneath those linen wraps. Pank knew, that was enough. She understood that wasn't what Maar was asking.

"It helped a lot to have something to do" she answered. "It was ghastly, but it was a job I could do for her, for my family. Now I don't know what to do. I can't help what's happening to all of us."

Maar said softly "And what is that? What's happening to you?"

"I'm the youngest" said Pyosz, panic starting to knock at her chest. "Abbo doesn't count, and even my other cousins -- and I only have one emma, my aggie, who just lost her aggie, I'm all the blood line she has left -- I don't think I can face...I feel like I'm a goat trapped on an island, just counting the days to random, unavoidable slaughter. Or, even more, I'm that poor rabbit, sooner or later I'll be the last of my kind -- " She began sobbing, gasping out moaning breaths. Maar held her tight, saying "I know, I know."

Prl swept in behind her, her forehead pressed against Pyosz's neck, weeping "I won't leave you, my darling, not for a long long time." But it was not a credible promise, not with what Pyosz had just seen done to Bux's fragile body. It was the crying, voicing the unspeakable, that Pyosz really needed. She scrubbed herself out and relaxed against Maar. After a minute she said "Is Thleen all right?"

"She's sleeping with her abba tonight, she'll get what she needs from that" said Maar. "Tomorrow she'll attend her first funeral, but it's with this family, she'll hear what she should hear."

Prl leaned around to look into Maar's eyes and ask "You'll be there for her, right? When the time comes, you'll make sure she's not alone?"

With a jolt, Pyosz realized Prl was not asking after Thleen.

"Of course" said Maar. "She already knows that, she wouldn't have been able to tell me about it if she didn't know I'd be there."

Pyosz heard Lawa make some small sound behind her. "You get first dibs on the bath tub tonight" Pyosz said to Maar. "I'll start the water and make a bed for you on the couch."

"I need to use the privy" said Maar, grinning exhaustedly.

"I'll go with you" said Qala. Pyosz scrubbed her face after starting the tub and dropping gardenia salts into the steaming water. Prl had already spread her best sheets and quilts on the couch when she got there. Pyosz hugged her and said "I'm so glad I'll be with you tonight."

She was surprised that she slept. She woke up shortly after dawn with the sense of having had a nightmare. Her mind kept trying to remember, even as she stretched and wanted to go back to sleep, until reality hit as if she were hearing the news for the first time.

She wanted to wake Prl but couldn't face Prl remembering also. She eased out of the room into the dark kitchen and sat in the chair against the sideboard, her knees pulled up under her schmatta, listening to the aga shift and pop as she thought about Bux.

Pank was next up, shuffling toward the back door and jumping violently when she spotted Pyosz's shadow in the corner. "You scared the piss out of me, almost literally" she complained as she comtinued on. After she returned, she fried sausage while Pyosz made biscuits and sliced oranges, the two of them working in silence. Maar and Tu joined them half an hour later, and the sporadic conversation they all had was still in whispers.

Maar left and Pyosz carried a tray in to Prl, now able to face what this day was going to hold.

At 11:30, when the sinner circled to land at Yanja, Pyosz looked down on a sea of white silk. Maar had two electric carts ready. Her sibs were somber in their unworn clothes, and Thleen's face was puffy from crying.

Pyosz later didn't remember much of the funeral. She kept looking at Yoj and Halling, who had no light at all in their eyes. Once they reached the lava fall, with Bux's body waiting on its pedestal, she felt utter bewilderment again. She turned to Thleen beside her and picked her up. The small, wiry body wrapped around her and Pyosz whispered "I think abba Bux's is here among us, can you feel it?"

Thleen nodded solemnly. She remained in Pyosz's arms, while Maar stood between her other two sibs, her arm around their shoulders. Each of Bux's children spoke, and in addition Mill read a statement from Api. Every Sheng Zhang who had ever worked with Bux had words to offer, as well as guild heads, gakushas, and assorted citizens. Pyosz had decided she didn't want to try to distill the maelstrom inside her into coherent speech.

Yoj and Halling stood together and talked in fragments of their love for Bux. Or perhaps it wasn't in fragments, perhaps it was that Pyosz's attention came and went. She wasn't able to focus until Prl moved to face them all and deliver the final eulogy.

"The woman we return to Skene today, who spent her entire life in joyous service to Skene, is my aggie Bux la Yerush na Qen + Veida. Her aggie was Yerush na B'ruch na Melli. Her aggie was B'ruch na Lusa..." Prl continued on, quietly reciting complete lineage details for 19 generations before Yerush, never hesitating, until she said "And her aggie was Pearl Goldfarb, ancestry unknown, immigant to Skene in year zero." It was an extraordinary capsule of Skene history, all the more remarkable because clearly Prl carried it around in her memory, a definition of who she was in relation to every other human who had ever lived here.

Into the hushed silence, Bux said "We will never see the likes of her again." She had to pause, to swallow a sob. "But 500 years from now, one of her descendants will read about her and wish she had known her. We, here and now, we are lucky enough to have heard her laugh and felt her touch. We are blessed by her memory for the rest of our days."

Pyosz looked away as Bux's body was dropped into the lava. She was frantically worried by Halling's stoicism, Yoj's distance. She kept a grip on Thleen as they returned to the funeral home. She was impatient for them to return to Riesig, to get safely behind the copper door and fall apart.

Except once there, nobody fell apart. After pathetic attempts at eating, they subsided into silence which no one knew how to break.

Until Dodd climbed heavily into the loft and returned carrying her fiddle. Mill looked at her in disbelief, and Ndege said "What -- what are you doing?"

"I'm going to play aggie's favorite song" said Dodd stubbornly. No one could find words to stop her. But as her bow hit the first notes, Halling broke into sobs and dropped her face on Yoj's shoulder. Yoj embraced her, and Dodd went on into the full melody, tears soaking her cheeks. Pyosz cleared her throat and began singing, and those who could joined her.

After several song, they switched to telling stories. Pyosz sat down on the floor, Adon pulled down beside her, Su next to her and Maar on the end, and listened, sometimes laughing and crying at the same time. During one break, she leaned forward and said to Maar "I'm not going back to Skene tomorrow, I can't. I need to stay here another week, help them face -- this new kind of life."

"We'll take care of Saya while you're gone. I'll be back in a week to fly you home" said Maar. Tu, who was eavesdropping, nodded at them all. Thleen sighed and pushed back tighter into Pyosz's lap.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, December 25, 2009


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Start of Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


A vast fairground tent had been erected over the killing field on Saya, extending to the edge of the jichang. Lumber and supplies lowered by sinner were forklifted under the canvas to protect them against the rain and cold of Kall. Pyosz felt bad for the timmers, out all day in the weather.

"Seems like a rough time of year to build a Manage" she remarked to Mrebbe.

"Well, when it rains it's a bother, though next week when the roof's on, that'll be like night and day. The advantage is that we're all motivated to stay in motion, for the body heat" said Mrebbe.

It was a cliche that work crews of any sort could expect to be fed monotously with haidan bean paste sandwiches and vegetable rice roup. Maar was funneling large quantities of fish Pyosz's way so she was, in fact, serving chowders at least three times a week but these were thick with a variety of seafood, savory and accompanied always by Pyosz's bread and Kolm's djoste. There was a midmorning boiled egg and fruit roll break every day, midafternoon pie and tea break, and Ot lunch centered on a large roast.

Pyosz shopped daily at Gitta's and spent hours each day preparing or cleaning up after meals. Despite her worry that she needed to be pouring herself into potting, as a replacement income after harvest, she simply didn't have the time. Maar or Dekkan began delivering hundredweights of flour and grain by sinner each week, to keep pace with Pyosz's extra baking. The aga was always on full blast, which both katts and timmers needing a chance to warm their hands appreciated. Pyosz's compost pile began growing noticeably again, though she said half of it was tea leaves.

Whenever she didn't have to be in the kitchen, Pyosz was at the construction site. Mrebbe always gave her work to do, at first unskilled -- carrying, clearing, handing things to someone else -- but soon everyone was giving her small lessons and Pyosz was a quick study. She often had to milk with scraped knuckles or a blackened fingernail. She had Maar take a close-up photo of her hands one week after a venture without gloves left her needing a few stitches from Briel. When she included this picture home in a letter, Qala told her later that Prl had paced and ranted for an hour. Lawa said only "Stupid to work without gloves, I thought folks on Pya were sharper than that." Which was extremely effective in persuading Pyosz to take more care.

Mrebbe's second-in-command was a small bronze-colored woman named Xante about whom Frahe said, without condescension, "She's almost as good with wood as I am." Xante was there when the wide tongue-in-grove boards intended as sheathing for the exterior of the Manage were delivered. She yelled to Mrebbe "Hey, come over here, they've brought the wrong levvin' order." Dekkan, who had made the delivery and was now hanging about, flushed red, and Pyosz joined the cluster near Xante.

Mrebbe said "No, that's what we're using."

"But you can't lay shakes over this" argued Xante.

"Not going to shingle it, this wood will be the final layer" began Mrebbe.

Xante wheeled to glare at her and Pyosz both. "Are you mad? In short order this will split and let water through, feltpaper won't stop that." On Pya, all buildings except for the handful made of brick or stone were sheathed in redwood or cedar shakes, mold-resistant and lapped to shed constant rain.

"She wants to paint it" grinned Mrebbe.

"Paint? What, the outside walls?" Xante literally rocked back on her heels.

"The same kind of paint used in marine applications will resist the salty rain we get here" spoke up Pyosz. "A hard enamel. I'll have to redo it every so often, but Owl Manage will be a color you can see for miles."

Xante burst into laughter. "That orange on your wain? It'll be a joke."

"No" said Mrebbe, "it's a smoky blue. Like her eyes, not flashy a bit."

Xante stared at Pyosz's face and nodded slowly. "That'll be a first." She walked off with Pyosz to look at the five-gallon cans of paint Pyosz had had mixed and stashed in her store room.

Mreebe took to returning after Market was over on Roku, often with Xante in tandem. They would putter around the construction, doing work that apparently pleased them at a relaxed, chatty pace. Their presence often coincided with Nk and Frahe's arrival to survey the progress that week, and the four of them would come up with new ideas that Pyosz always responded to with "Whatever you want to do, as long as I have stairs to the second floor and an indoor privy." She would roast a stuffed turkey or a pair of geese, anticipating Pank and Tu's arrival at dinner with some delicacy from the recent pig slaughter. If Maar was in town, she joined them as well.

Near the end of Kall, the timbers and jumble of framing covered by tarps turned into the promise of a Manage when a steep gabled roof began going on. Mrebbe said with satisfaction "This time next week, the hidraler and fadian can start inside. If you're going to give us tile to lay in a month, you best get started."

Pyosz went to her clay field that afternoon and dug clay to fill her wain. Xante helped her transfer it to 50 gallon drums beside the timmer tent for washing. Once it was ready, she was given a corner of the tent to set up a board table onto which she could roll the clay, only able to work at night when sawdust wasn't gusting about. She began with the tiles which would have a repeating pattern -- the floors of wet rooms, the backsplash around her kitchen sinks.

That Shmonah dinner, which was held at Dodd's because Briel was coming and going to the clinic with two seriously ill patients, Mill announced "We're going to start excavating rock on Teppe."

"It's a go, then?" said Maar.

Api said "All within regulation because we have multiple use at play. The rocky end of Teppe will be leveled, and that debris will go toward creating pylons for ferry expansion to Borso, Grasak, and Byerle." These were Pea Pods south of and closest to Herne, and the cousins leaned forward with interest.

"That's a longish ferry route" observed Tu.

"Yes, but we have Pyans who want those islands. Manages with children who need to commute to school" Api said, looking at Dodd.

"Plus the couple who wanted Saya" Mill added. "They're going to share Grasak with another young family."

"What about Dou?" asked Uli quietly. Dodd glanced at her.

"We're going to have the geothermal hooked up there as well, while the other islands are being developed, save on future fees" said Api. Pyosz wondered how the budget was suddenly allowing for all this -- anticipation of enhanced tax revenue beginning at midwinter she guessed.

"Second stage on Teppe, we're excavating a 20-foot deep pond in the center of the now flattened rocky uplift" continued Mill. "There's a cold springs already at the edge which will fill it. We'll be able to use it as a cranberry bog once it clears and gets planted. There are a few groves on that end we'll have to leave undamaged -- that'll be your job" she said to Maar. "We'll import topsoil and have room for 3-4 manages around the pond, looks like. Cranberry worker and others."

"What about the flat end of Teppe?" asked Pank.

"It's great pasture, equal to Saya" said Mill. "When we need to expand either our goat or sheep herds, it'll be a perfect zone. We're also building a ferry from Teppe to Saya, at the corner by your hot springs." Pyosz was about to react but Mill said "Don't worry, it'll be for emergencies only, the strait there is possibly not morrie vaseo all the time because of leviathan access from the northeast. Commute to and from Teppe will have to be by air, like Trumpinne."

Pyosz was still worried about new settlers on Teppe slipping over to use her hot springs. She could see the same possessiveness on Pank's face, who soaked in the springs at least two evenings a week after dinner.

"What will you do with all the rock from the pond excavation?" asked Maar.

"It's fine quality stone, we hope you'll remove it in slabs that can be used for exterior building construction" said Api.

"For future use" said Mill with hope in her voice. "As soon as contracts with Skene expire, we're going to Shu and remove the meaning of its name -- eliminate every shu there and level it to 20 feet above the high tide mark,"

"That's a lot of rock" said Maar. And a lot of killing thought Pyosz.

"Enough to pave every dirt or gravel road that needs it in Pya, for starters" agreed Oby.

"What will happen to Shu then? I mean, it's pretty far north" said Nk.

"We'll topsoil it, plant cover and trees, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to live there for at least a generation" said Api. "It's an important weather break for the Pea Pods, it gets fierce storms."

Pyosz was still mulling over all the expansion around Saya, sharing her ferry with even more newcomers, and the fret of a second capriste in Pya. She didn't care about the future settlement of Shu.

Abbo left right after they ate, not staying for singing, which had now become her custom. Pyosz wasn't sure if it was the absence of swimming or the usual presence of Uli, Dekkan and Pava these days. Uli was immune to Abbo's version of charm and was attempting to school Dekkan in the same. The teenagers' deportment also seemed to point out that it was no longer appropriate to treat Abbo as "the baby" of the family, a position Pyosz suspected Abbo had rather liked no matter what she said.

I wonder if she'll even attend these meals at all once my Manage is built and we can eat there sometimes thought Pyosz.

The following week, Pyosz discovered she could be diverted from the wonders of her own Manage by the island-shaping that was beginning on Teppe. When a sinner flew close overhead and landed at the rudimentary jichang on Teppe, Pyosz tried to find a good rubbernecking point from her end of Saya, but even with binoculars, her view of her neighbor's southwest third was blocked by the bulk of Saya itself. Citing a sudden need to make sure her bees were fed for the winter, she gathered sugar water and bustled through the kissing gate.

Halfway across the pasture, she heard Pank and Tu call her name. She waited on them and they went to Saya's western cliff together, looking directly onto Teppe. Pank rooted around for a stick to whittle, pulled out her claspknife, and settled comfortably on a rock next to the springs. After checking her hives, Pyosz joined her. Tu stripped down and slid into the springs with a moan.

Mill was there with a camera, clipboard, and bulky roll of maps. Maar's guibba was buckled tight, and she wore heavy gloves plus a visored helmet. Two of the roadworks crew from Pertama were on hand as well to survey and read terrain. The identity of a fifth person was uncertain until she pulled a roll of white flagging from a pocket and put a belt of it around a large tree.

Pank borrowed the binoculars to announce "That's Ulcha. Lives on Chwet." Pyosz noted Maar made a wide berth around the marked owl tree. The actual rock blasting began adjacent to the jichang on the southeast corner, in full view of the Saya audience. Maar lay down rock in arcing swaths while one of the road crew rode a forklift with a bucket scoop down the sinner ramp. Rubble was deposited in a large carrier basket next to the sinner.

It was all very orderly -- and silent, except for the occasional throb of the engine in high gear drifting across the strait -- until Maar unroofed a cavern swarming with shu. Vermin and workers scattered in all directions, even the forklift driver making a run for the sinner. Except Maar, who coolly mowed down the largest of the shu first, some of whom were alarmingly big, and then drove the rest either over the cliff or toward Teppe's northern pastures.

Pyosz looked over the edge of rock she was sitting on, trying to see any shu-friendly clefts in her own cliff. She glanced at her watch, cried "Oh shit, my bread!" and hit the forest at a lope, her thudding otos kicking up flecks of mud from last night's rain. Killer was waiting for her at the other end of the woods and decided they were in a race, nearly tripping Pyosz and leaving her breathless from laughter at the kissing gate.

The loaves were dark but passable. A few pies were too crunchy at the edge to sell, and Pyosz set those aside for the timmer crew. She reluctantly stayed in her kitchen, shredding baked ryba and cooked vegetables into a thick salad while toasting herb bread for sandwiches. She filled two thermoses with hot tea, and when the timmers arrived for lunch, she suggested they all traipse down to the western end of Saya to eat while watching the Teppe goings-on. There was enthusiastic agreement. She piled her plate with extra sandwiches and pie for her cousins, and they headed out, fending off kids in the pasture.

Whether by accomodation or accident, the Teppe bunch didn't stop for lunch until the timmers were done with their pie. Mill came to the cliff edge to wave hello, and with a combination of shouting and sign language, Pyosz conveyed an invitation for them to come have dinner that evening on Saya. Tu said "I'll slip home and bake a ham, mash some turnips, and we'll join you."

Pyosz rattled through dishes, began a slow-simmering chicken stew, and cooked five pounds of nutty rice before she could zip back to the hot springs. She carried towels and discovered Tu was gone -- presumably drip-drying in the chilly air -- but Pank was now in the springs. She reported "They done filled and hauled off two pallets full, cleaning up to finish the third one." Leveling seemed to be complete, and Dekkan was on the scene, apparently having landed an agile single-person lighter on the now-expanded jichang. Ulcha had wandered off into the northern grass area.

Maar conferred for a long time with Mill and the road crew folks, Dekkan eavesdropping, before shouldering her mezi ray and getting into the lighter. She had on a headset and through the binoculars Pyosz could tell she appeared to be in conversation with Mill, standing next to a surveyor with an open map. Pank said "They have to even out the cliff edges, make 'em stable. Only safe to do that from the air."

Maar began at the escarpment adjacent to the lower two thirds of Teppe. She hovered with foot controls, only 20 feet above the ocean, and aimed her ray out her open hatch to the left to neatly dissect rockface from the island. The boulders and slabs fell into the surf below with lovely white splashes. Pyosz thought It's like she's trimming a cake for frosting. The expertise of Maar's hand-eye coordination gave her a small shiver.

She was still glued to the binoculars ten minutes later when Pank said "Hang on, Dekkan's pointing at something." Pyosz lowered the glasses to follow Dekkan's line of sight, which everyone on Teppe was also doing. Mill was speaking urgently into the hand radio. Maar climbed ten feet and banked to give her a look behind, north.

Long channels of deeper water stretched from the open ocean around Shu into the reef-protected region around Saya. Most of these dead-ended at underwater cliffs safely north of Saya, according to the map Maar had given Pyosz. One of them, though, snaked further south along the edge of Teppe, past the escarpment and disturbingly close to the strait between Teppe and Saya. Pyosz's read of this underwater terrain agreed with Mill's earlier statement that perhaps between that channel and the leviathan-patrolled water west of Teppe, a lev could find egress through the strait.

It now appeared a leviathan was considering making a try. Or maybe it was just drawn to the crash of rock hitting surf. It was not a full-sized adult, rather a juvenile strong enough to bring down a lighter but still slender enough to thread the channel. Realizing it had been spotted, it had now stopped and gone as deep as it could, but a dim pinky-grey shape was dimly visible below the surface.

Pyosz saw Maar hover again, not directly over the lev but close enough for the best view any of them had -- and for the leviathan to reach her with a lunge, Pyosz thought with her heart in her throat. Maar leaned out her hatch, mezi ray securely shouldered, and thumbed the switch that flipped it to full power. Pyosz could see a feral grin on her face. Maar lifted one hand and lazily shook her finger back and forth in the symbol used for misbehaving children everywhere: Don't even think about it.

Leviathan song hit them like a wave, a chorus from the deeps north of Teppe. Two or three leapt high into the air from the deeps between Teppe and shu -- "Trying to get a better look-see" said Pank. Bubbles and silt reached the surface above the submerged juvenile, and Maar's grip on the mezi tightened but she did not fire yet. After a few seconds, Pyosz realized the juvenile was trying to turn around in a space inadequate for that purpose. A minute later, it gave up and instead started backing clumsily the way it had come.

"Huh" said Pank. "Didn't know they could back up."

"Abba once said they have to learn how, it doesn't come natural to them" said Pyosz. her glasses glued on Maar. Two minutes later, the juvenile was able to swivel and stream into water deep enough for concealment. The wash of lev song trickled away, and Maar spoke into her headset with a laugh and shrug.

Dekkan, to her eternal credit, had picked up the camera and shot a series of photographs covering this facedown, including a still of Maar shaking her finger that was the front-page cover of next week's newspaper on both Pya and Skene. That night at dinner, Mrebbe shooed her crew on home but stayed behind with Xante to eat with Maar and the rest. This time, Maar allowed herself to be treated as a hero. "Just part of my job" she kept saying, but with obvious pride, and she always made sure to point out that it was Dekkan who had first sighted the leviathan, "A born sinner" she said.

Once Maar finished the cranberry bog excavation later that week, Pyosz was able to refocus on Saya's activities as soil was imported to Teppe and winter rye planted to hold it in place. She had created small stamps from scraps of flashing and wood that she used to impress a repeating pattern into her wet clay tiles. One was of dancing goats, one was a swooping owl, and one was a bowl of fruit and nuts sitting amid bread and pies. She glazed these with various washes, turning out 36 at a time. She also produced a greater number of unpatterned tiles in complementary colors. Her kiln was fired every other day, and boxes of completed tiles began to clog access to her store room in the barn.

She bought a new album at Naki's just to hold the Manage construction photographs. As midwinter and Vote Day approached, Pyosz arranged for Nk and Frahe to assume caretaking of Saya for the five days she would be gone. Fortunately, milking was at its lowest point of the year. The timmer crew would be taking the holiday as well, and the tillage was dormant except for winter vegetables and root crops.

Pyosz arranged to vote by proxy and spent one entire evening researching her options, as well as preparing her taxes to pay early. Tu, Pank, Mill and Dodd all planned to go back to Skene the same time as Pyosz, along with a dozen other Pyans returning home to visit family. Tu and Pank were going to stay in Pyosz's old bedroom, Mill had a bunk at the Lofthall and Dodd was in the living room loft at her emmas' Manage. All of Skene would be crammed with visitors.

The huolon left at dawn. Abbo insisted on taking the first leg, and made a production of the preflight checklist process. Maar quietly winked at Pyosz and accepted her pillow for a try at sleeping in the front side seat. The midpoint meal was a picnic, every passenger sharing from their hampers. After the pilots traded seats, Maar called in their position and heading. The radio connection was staticky, but Pyosz suspected Maar raised her voice a little more than necessary to confirm that they were off course and the correction she would need to make to bring them in to Yanja. Pyosz did not allow herself to look over at Mill in the silence that followed, but from where she sat, she could see red on the backs of Abbo's ears.

Prl, Lawa and Qala were among the crowd at the jichang to meet them. Maar took her leave, saying she had a pallet on the floor of her family's Manage for the length of her stay -- she had told Pyosz her emmas were pleased with the publicity about her in the paper. Pyosz's family streamed into the copper cao door to shouts of welcome and the smell of frying bacon. Pyosz passed around dried cherries with the breakfast and urged orange juice especially on Pank and Tu, who already looked fatigued. By midmorning Skene time, Pyosz persuaded her cousins to the Genist Manage for a nap and less hubbub. Dodd and Mill could fend for themselves.

Skene's tasting was that night, and Pyosz helped Abbo carry Halling to the Lofthall early for a good seat. She gave the small shares on her plate to her abbas, taking tea and toast instead. There was no rabbit, and Yoj said the bixi sauce was not nearly as good as hers. Pyosz took a taste and agreed, explaining what step had likely been missed in its processing.

The next morning, Tu and Pank left for Motu Fling to spend the day with Moasi while the rest of Moasi's family attended debates in advance of Vote the following day. Vants had arrived and was passionately involved with a question of lagoon revision, for once too busy to talk goats. Prl had consented to speak on behalf of a curriculum change for the school, and she picked Dodd's brains about it over lunch. Pyosz felt like her family was a throbbing organism helping provide the very heartbeat of Skene, and for once she wasn't fumbling for her place among them: She knew where she belonged, and it wasn't on this scatter of islands.

Late in the afternoon she caught sight of bright red hair through a throng and excused or bullied her way to Maar's side. She was introduced to Maar's emmas, Dru and Adnes, who didn't examine her directly the way Prl would have but Pyosz still felt just as scrutinized. Thleen climbed into her arms, almost too heavy to be carried any more, and demanded they all go see the abbas "because my abba couldn't come, her legs hurt too much". Dru and Adnes balked at this suggestion, saying "The Ethicist and all won't have time for us", but Pyosz finally persuaded them to allow at least their children leave to go say hello.

As they threaded the University corridors, Pyosz said to Maar's sibs "I have midwinter gifts for each of you, but they were too bulky to fit in my bag, will you be here again tomorrow?"

"We will" answered Maar. "My emmas are going to submit their votes before we head home tonight, but the rest of us are returning to Riesig for the fun of it." Indeed, it did look like the teenagers were having fun. Listening to adults lose their usual Skene aplomb over issues that hardly warranted raging arguments was entertaining to those still under the thumb of grownup authority.

"Let's meet for lunch, then, at Thina Bowl, my treat" said Pyosz, which got her grins all round. A few minutes later, Thleen now in Yoj's lap, Pyosz said quietly to Maar "Adon and Su both resemble your aggie Dru strongly, though in different ways. But no red hair or chin dimples there."

"No, Thleen and I take after our abba Gusu. And nobody looks like Adnes, which I think was a sore point" replied Maar, something sparking in her memory.

At dinner, Tu was unusually subdued. She kept bringing up how isolated Moasi was, how ill she appeared, until Lawa said "We're doing all we can, you know. Vants takes ferries half the day every bit of time she gets off to go visit her aggie, and we go every weekend with books and treats."

"I'm not blaming you" said Tu. "It's just -- I never realized how tiny Motu was. And no trees except for the lilacs."

Halling looked suddenly suspicious. "Are you going to ask her to come live with you, then, on Herne?"

There was a tense silence. Tu said "We already did. She turned us down, said most of her sibs and children lived here." She rubbed her cheek tiredly. Halling managed to squelch whatever she was going to say.

Frank, who had arrived for dinner, leaned against Pank and said "Well, I'm coming to see Herne next month" which brought a smile to Tu's face.

The following morning, Halling stayed home with Tu keeping her company, sending her proxy vote with Yoj. Bux had her final speech to make as Ethicist and Halling agonized over missing it, but the day was bitter cold and drenched, and Bux pushed her to stay by the hearth. "You've listened to me gas on long enough" she said, giving Halling a tender kiss.

After the last speeches and the crush to enter ballots, Bux was called away to Verzin where an accusation of theft had erupted into a screaming match. Danaan and another Sheng Zhang went with her. Bux told Pyosz "I'll be so glad to never do this again -- I'll catch up with you at dinner, right?"

Pyosz peeled away to meet Maar and her sibs at Thina Bowl, making her apologies to Prl and promising to rejoin them in the afternoon. When she entered the restaurant, she heard Thleen shout "There she is, and she's got a bag of presents!", causing a ripple of laughter. Pyosz had bought two of the flat keepsake boxes Frahe made by hand, of distinct woods and intricate carving, to give Adon and Su. Adon's had chased silver hinges and latch, with a repeating surf pattern around the sides and a raised xiao on the lid, its tentacles snaking in every direction. Su's had bright gold fittings, a tangled braid trim brushed with gold leaf, and a relief of an erupting volcano on its top. Both were lined with velvet which could be cleverly lifted back in one corner to reveal a secret drawer large enough to hide coins.

Thleen was given the rabbit made of squirrel fur, which caused a sensation at nearby tables, other customers and even the cook coming out to look and touch. Pyosz planned to give the second rabbit to Ehall tonight at dinner. She said to Maar "Your gift is waiting on Saya."

"So is yours" said Maar with a mysterious grin.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.