Thursday, August 13, 2009


(Saya Island eastern end, cabin and outdoor kitchen; click on image to enlarge)

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)
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 woke up with a sense of imminent danger. She had to turn on her flash to remember the owl. Curds had not made any racket all night, which Pyosz thought was significant. She sat up warily, and immediately noticed while she was still sore, there were not the burning flares of the past few days. It wasn't raining, though she could hear a slight breeze. She decided to wear her wellies anyhow, give her feet time to heal.

She walked outside into fog so thick she could barely see her kitchen. Great she thought. What's on the agenda for tomorrow, hail? She made tea and ate a wedge of cheese while the water came to boil, then filled her thermos and followed the trail to the barn. The goats were unusually quiet. She opened the pen-side doors and only two kids ventured out, coming right back in to stand near their emmas.

I wonder what owls do in the fog? she thought. I know they hunt in the rain.

She separated the seven bucklings into a stall and had to badger the rest of the goats toward the kissing gate and out into the pasture. She gave grain to the bucklings, out of all custom, and watched them sadly for a minute as they ate greedily. She decided to leave the katts and chickens for the time being, and leave for Saya now. She looked at her watch when she reached Koldok wharf and gave a small whoop: it was right on 7:00, meaning she had cut half an hour off her milking time. Kolm asked her if the blankets had worked, and Pyosz said yes, she had slept through warmly, despite her visitation. She told her about the owl dropping down on her table, and was gratified by Kolm's amazement. She figured by noon it would be all over Koldok, if not the rest of Pya.

She went to the shop of Naki the cartagen, finding her chatty and inquisitive. Naki printed her two copies of each photo, and sold her a cardboard album with tissue paper between each wide page and a packet of corners for a good price. Pyosz put photos into each of the envelopes with letters to her emma's Manage and her abbas' Manage, keeping one set for herself, sealed it, and dropped them off at the Lofthall for delivery to Skene. Maar was nowhere in sight, and Mill was on the radio but got off soon to talk. Pyosz repeated her owl story for Mill and Jiips. Mill said "I knew there were some big 'uns in your woods at the other end, but I think this means the one you saw has a nest somewhere on your end as well. They're pretty territorial, from what I hear."

Pyosz instantly decided she didn't want to try to find the nest somewhere near her cabin.

Mill said the fog would likely burn off when in an hour or two, but if it didn't, she wouldn't send Abbo out in it this thick. Pyosz put in her request for fresh hay and a recycling pick-up, and signed the forms Mill drew up.

Back on the smoky, eerie main street of Koldok, she realized she was hungry and decided to treat herself, checking out the local cafe. She sat at the counter, and by the time she left, the counterperson and no less than three other customers had found reason to tell her how much she had liked old Ferk, that Ferk surely loved her goats, and they hoped no big change was going to occur at Saya because Pya liked their cheese the way it was. She felt sour back on the street. However, she finished her errands, going to the grocery halfway between the djostiker's and the mercantile.

Gitta greeted her before she reached the counter, saying "You must be Pyosz, I've already heard a lot of good things about you." They talked vinegar for a few minutes, Pyosz asking which varieties were most in demand. Gitta seemed to know a lot about her orchard. More than I do thought Pyosz guiltily, since I haven't had the nerve to go explore that end of the island yet. Eventually, Pyosz pulled out one of her new loaves of bread, along with some rolls cut into samples, and gave Gitta a taste. Gitta's eyebrows climbed high on her high forehead, and she said "You can barter that with me any day. How many loaves a week can you give me?"

Again, they talked varieties and came up with a deal. In the future, Pyosz would take cash, but for today she said she was low on shampoo, did they have castile flakes and essential oils?

"Over there" pointed Gitta. Pyosz browsed and found they had no gardenia oil, her preferred scent. It was hard to come by, requiring greenhouse growth. On impulse, she bought instead lemon oil, and added a 20 lb. bag of oat flakes.

When she climbed back down into the ferry boat, the fog was still as dense as when she'd come over, although now it was strangely backlit by silver light. The water beside her was smooth as glass, flattened by the fog's hand. Just as she reached the central pylon, a loud boom and wail of leviathan song blew around her, sounding as if it were ten feet away. She jerked the ferry to a halt and then froze, unable to make herself look in the direction the sound had come from. She was terrified she'd see a row of black eyes in diminishing size along a massive pinky-grey body, watching her with the alertness of a katt about to kill for dinner. She seriously considered climbing onto the pylon, as high as she could get, and waiting for the sun to return. But there was no safety out here, no pylon high enough.

After a long minute, she creaked her head sideways and looked beside the ferry. Only still water, dark blue today. Another drift of song sent tremors through her body, and she flew into action, transferring around the pylon and hooking onto the chain for Saya. Please please please she kept repeating to herself. Let me not die out here alone.

When at last her dock burst out of the swirl before her, she shoved the lever down and clambered up the ladder, sitting down on the dock with rock at her back and panting. She waited ten minutes, until she was damp and chilled, before she had the nerve to go back to the ferry and rescue her milk cans. Once she was ten feet up the trail, she considered herself immune to any kind of flying leap, and her legs almost gave out underneath her. She dropped the handle of her wain beside the kitchen and opened the cabin door, scooping Curds into her arms. Curds, however, didn't want to be held and wriggled away.

Pyosz put on the kettle and sat for a few minutes, until Ember rubbed her legs, reminding her it was feeding time. She said "Snap out of it. You're okay, evader of owl and lev." Her voice didn't go far in the fog but it didn't need to. She fed the cats, released and fed the chickens, and returned to a screaming kettle. After a mug of tea laced with honey and milk, she felt her strength return. She realized she could see the rocky edge of the cliff in front of her, which must mean the fog was lifting.

She made another mug of tea and set about making her shampoo. She went to the tillage and returned with burdock root, comfrey leaves, nettles, and rosemary, which she steeped in boiling water. She poured more boiling water over the castile flakes in a glass jug, shaking it at the end to mix it thoroughly. She strained the herbal infusion into the jug, added several drops of lemon oil, and declared it good.

By this time she could see the goat pen to her left and the chicken run to her right. Believing the sun would find her, she washed her hair in the sink, watched by both katts in fascinated disgust. She used some of the oatmeal and more castile flakes, plus lemon oil, to make a bottle of shower scrub. She walked into her cabin to put this in the cupboard, and realized she could hear the rustle of a breeze against the metal walls. But it was completely still outside. She walked in and out the door several times to verify this, arousing Curds' suspicion, before she reached to a section of the grass matting pressed into the wall spaces and tugged at it. The dry stuff fell apart in her hands, releasing several black beetles which began skittering toward her wrist. She screamed and wiped them away savagely, lunging backward. More beetles were exposed on the metal wall underneath where the matting had been.

She ran outside, fighting the need to retch, bending over with her hands on her knees. She kept imagining she could still feel the beetles on her hand. Then she realized they were loose in the cabin. She ran back inside and dragged out her trunk, tossing her otos out the door, gathering her bedding in one wad and dumping it on the table, then lifting the corner of her pallet to see if beetles had infested her bed. No sign of them, but she carried the pallet as far away from her body as she could and dropped it over the edge of the wain. She went back to jerk open cupboards, looking for invasion there, and found none: That pennyroyal oil she'd cleaned them with, that must have kept them away.

Once the cabin was bare of anything but her metal bed frame, she dug a deep hole in the sand next to bare path and returned to the cabin with a large bucket. She jerked matting away from the walls, dumping it into the bucket and stomping any beetles who escaped. When the bucket was full, she emptied it into the hole and tossed in a match. The blaze made her grin in feral satisfaction. Belatedly, she remembered Mill's admonition about the fire risk and ran to get the seawater hose, leaving it near her firepit as she went back and forth until all the matting was stripped from hr walls and no living beetles remained in her cabin. She let the fire die out on its own before dousing it lightly with water and shoveling sand back into the hole.

She was considering what to do next when she heard the buzz of aircraft from the north. The sky was nearly clear, so it must be Abbo. She shifted her bedding to on top of her trunk, moved the pallet to the table, and began pulling her wain to the jichang. Abbo had a large metal carrier slung underneath her sinner full of hay. Once she'd lowered this to the ground, she did a sideways jog and landed on the jichang proper. Pyosz waved hi as she unlatched the sides of the carrier and began lifting hay into the wain. It pulled at her muscles but there was new power in her body, she could tell.

Abbo opened the side hatch of the sinner and dropped down a ramp before coming to say hello. "You got the goats ready?" she said.

"In a stall. I'll need to lead them over here -- is the crate up that ramp?"

"Yep. Can you get 'em up it, it'll be a lot easier than loading it down on the ground and trying to winch it up." Abbo sniffed the air. "Do I smell smoke?"

Pyosz paused to put her arm to her nose. "Yeah, that's me. I had to light a fire."

"What the lev for?" Abbo looked around, scowling.

"Turns out, the walls Ferk's homey little cabin were swarming with literally thousands of beetles, I had to burn all her buggy decoration. I've done nothing but clean up mess since I got here" said Pyosz. "Furthermore, a giant owl landed on my kitchen table last night right in front of me, and I heard lev song close by when I was taking the ferry back this morning."

"Lev song? They can't get into Koldok Kuono, it's morrie vaseo all the time" said Abbo deprecatingly.

"I heard what I heard" said Pyosz, finishing the hay loading by herself.

"Must've been the fog, it distorts sound" said Abbo. "For sure they weren't nearby. As for owls, of course they're here on the island." Pyosz waited for her to explain away the beetles, too, but Abbo went silent.

Pyosz lifted the wain handle and said "I'll bring the goats in a minute. The recycling is over there, you can load the carrier yourself." She was proud of getting the wain started rolling without a groan.

At the barn, she immediately discarded the idea of trying to get the bucklings into the wain. They'd just jump right out and make a game of it. She searched for rope and finally found a few ancient-looking tethers that she hoped would hold. She slipped these around the necks of three goats, who were not at all cooperative but she stayed patient, pitying them. They were not willing to be led at all, however, until she filled a scoop with more grain. which got their attention and kept them trotting after her.

Even grain, however, could not persuade them up the ramp. Abbo was tossing metal and glass carelessly into the carrier. Pyosz handed her two of the tethers and said "Hang onto them, and don't let them mount you. Unless you're into that sort of thing." She picked up the third buckling and carried her up the ramp, getting her into the crate by pouring the can of grain onto the floor inside. She loaded the other two goats, trying hard not to gloat at her newly-discovered strength -- she was six inches taller than Abbo and for once felt her physical equal.

She returned with the other four goats and another scoop of grain. Abbo, leaned against the sinner, said "That's wasted food, they won't have time to digest it."

"They don't know that" retorted Pyosz, "and I'm glad they don't. It's bad enough what's about to happen to them, they don't need any more fear and confusion added to what's already hitting them."

Abbo pulled a clipboard from her seat and had Pyosz sign several more forms. As she did so, Abbo said laconically "Emma just got a call from her emmas. Seems you called there last night wah-wah-wahing like a baby about how hard it was on you here. Emma's pretty ticked, because she said she's been offering you help and you keep insisting you're okay."

"I am okay. I had a little blip, is all, and I called my emma for comfort. I should've known they'd go overboard. But you know what I'm talking about, trying to be a grown-up when all they want to do is coddle you forever."

Abbo stiffened in deep offense. "I've never been coddled a day in my life, I've worked hard for everything I got."

"Never mind, then" said Pyosz, tired of the whole interaction and hating the increasingly frantic bleating she heard from inside the sinner. "Tell Mill -- no, I'll call her myself. Thanks for all your help." She shoved the clipboard back at Abbo and stalked off.

As she approached her kitchen, she glanced to the left, toward the kissing gate, and saw several goats standing there, looking at her. She felt a surge of guilt about the never-named bucklings she'd just sent to their death. No wonder Vants wants a herd of fiber goats she thought. Animals you can keep all their lives and never think about eating. She picked up the radio, longing to call her emma. Instead, she dialed the Lofthall. Jiips answered and said Mill was out, did she want to talk with Oby?

"Oby, I just talked with Abbo and I wanted to call and apologize for what my call home apparently stirred up yesterday. I didn't ask them to interfere, believe me, and I did not complain about how you've treated me here -- " she began.

"Don't worry about it" came Oby's easy-going voice. "Mill gets calls from her emmas all the time trying to tell her how she should be doing things differently, this is just another excuse."

"But I really appreciate the opportunity you've give me, I want you and Mill to know that. Yes, it's hard right now, and there's -- disorder here, shall I say, but it's not your doing and I'm pretty sure you didn't know about it all" said Pyosz.

"We think you're doing a bang-up job" said Oby. "I wish Abbo hadn't decided to whinge at you about it, Mill certainly isn't upset. Did she get the deliveries done, by the way? Abbo, I mean."

"Yes, it's all handled. Well, I wanted to make sure you know I didn't intend to stir things up. Who called, Yoj?"

"Halling" said Oby with a certain note in her voice.

"See, I didn't even talk with abba Halling" protested Pyosz. "I cried on emma's shoulder, about stuff like seeing an owl and having a goat bite me, how can they think that's Mill's fault?"

"Emmas are not that rational about their children" said Oby. "You know, when Abbo went off to flight school in Skene, Mill called Halling and asked her to please exempt Abbo from parachute training because she was convinced Abbo would break her leg and be lame the rest of her life."

"You're kidding!" said Pyosz. Part of her hoped Abbo was listening in on this open radio conversation.

"Yep. Halling pointed out that not having parachute training would actually make Abbo less safe, in the long run, and would certainly cause her problems with the other pilots around her. 'Course, it turns out Abbo wound up breaking her collarbone because she pulled her cord at the wrong time, but what can you do? Some kids learn the hard way." They chuckled together. Oby said "Anything else we can do for you?"

"No, and I will ask for help when I need it, I promise. Oh, wait, do you know the forecast for this evening and tomorrow?"

"Clean and sunny today, sleepy moon tonight, and clear through the afternoon at least tomorrow" said Oby.

"Okay, thanks, that gives me an idea of which chores to tackle next. Morrie vaseo, Oby."

With two moons, Skene had a complicated schedule of moon rises and sets, as well as phases. A sleepy moon was when one moon was in the dark and the other was just barely crescent. As the visible moon moved into a quarter phase, it became a flirting moon, as if one eye was winking while the other was shut. When both moons were half-visible, it was called a waking moon.

With a dry day ahead of her, Pyosz hefted her pallet over the laundry cistern and made a bucket of pennyroyal tincture. She sprayed this onto the pallet and watched the seams anxiously to see if any beetles made their way out to fresh air. When none emerged, she decided her pallet hadn't had time to become infested -- or maybe they were only drawn to those nasty reeds.

She took the bucket into her cabins and scrubbed down every wall, then the ceiling and the floor. She opened the window to help air it out. Both katts had disappeared far from the strong odor. She shook out her bedding and folded it into her trunk. Then she went to use the loft's pulley to load hay upstairs in the barn. She saved out one bale and scattered it over the chicken run.

She stopped to drink down cold water and realized it was lunch time. She made a cheese and tomato sandwich, and while munching on it, she called the Genist Manage, not bothering to figure out what time it was. After several rings, Prl answered, sounding froggy and panicked.

"What's wrong?" she said.

"Hi, emma, nothing's wrong, I'm eating lunch and wanted to talk to you again. Did I wake you?"

"It's the middle of the night. But that's okay, I'm glad you called. Are you doing better?" asked Prl.

"Much. Much better. My muscles are starting to bulge instead of ache, I got a great night's sleep in spite of what happened after I hung up with you, and it's a bright sunny day here now. I should tell you, thought, Halling called s'bemma Mill to giveher what-for about me, apparently."

"Oh, no, Pyosz, that's unfortunate" said Prl, secretly exulting. "Is Mill upset?"

"Oby says no, Abbo says yes. Hard to tell. I called to apologize. The state of this place is not Mill's fault, I want you to make that clear. I suspect the capriste before me was a secret brandynose, if you want to know the truth. Oops, this isn't a private line. Well, it's out, too bad" said Pyosz, eating a carrot and sending strong crackles over the line that Prl thought was static.

"What happened last night after we hung up?" asked Prl, who was never too sleepy to miss a clue when it came to Pyosz.

Pyosz told her about it, about the lev song, about sending goats to slaughter, about the new blankets, and everything else that came into her head. Except Maar bringing her hamsa, for some reason she left that out. She said "I wrote you and the abbas all this and mailed it today, along with photos, but it's lots better to tell you directly."

"It's lots better to hear it from you" said Prl.

"Oh, and emma? I found that box of spices and it made me cry. I've been using them in every dish" said Pyosz gratefully.

"Let me know when you're low on any of them, I get them free as part of my Genist allotment" said Prl. "Not that I wouldn't buy them for you, of course -- "

"I know, emma" said Pyosz, giggling. "Okay, well, I should get back to it. I'm going to repair the chickenhouse roof, work on my rickety wain, and maybe do some weeding before milking comes around again. Give my love to everybody, and tell the abbas I'm going to want to consult with them about this tillage, get some of their good seeds and advice. The herbs are scanty and poor here."

"Sweet dreams, my child" said Prl. Pyosz giggled again before she clicked off.

She rooted through the items she'd saved from recycling and found a square of rubber, taking that plus tin to repair the roof. She cut new copper mesh to patch rusting holes in the chicken enclosure. She gathered a couple of dozen ripening pears from a large tree near the wellhouse and arranged them in Ng's bowl on her table. She scrubbed out the wain, and while it dried, she did a load of her own laundry plus a load of milkrags, hanging them in the drying room.

She went back to the kitchen for another glass of water and decided to roll out some pie dough to make a pear and walnut pie. Once this was in the oven baking, she sanded down all the metal on the wain through two progressions of grit, wiped it with a tack cloth, replaced the cotter pins and washers, and oiled the axle until it didn't squeak. She opened the gallon of marine paint, noting it was a very bright orange indeed, and began applying a coat to the inside and outside of her wain. While that dried, she set the pie to cool on the table and tried sharpening her dull kitchen knives with the new whetstone. It was a skill she'd only watched others perform, and she didn't have much luck with it.

She remade her bed, put all her belongings back in the cabin, and reveled in its fresh smell. She found Curds' katt comb in one cupboard and sat down in the kitchen, calling Curds who came running. She combed out the long, creamy fur, finding an inordinate quantity of sand next to her skin. "You must be rolling in the dirt here" commented Pyosz. When Curds had finally had enough, she sat on a corner of the table to wash and rearrange her do. Ember had been watching from the other chair, and Pyosz said "You want to be combed? Come on, it feels great." Unexpectedly, Ember made a long leap into Pyosz's lap, almost knocking the breath out of Pyosz and drawing a hiss from Curds.

"You're a big katt" remarked Pyosz, starting to comb out the matted fur. Ember was around 30 lbs., large even by Skene standards, and much of it felt like muscle. A rusty, intermittent purr arose from Ember's throat, and it filled Pyosz with pathos. She took her time, getting scissors eventually to cut out matts, and Ember never stopped purring. She was gleaming and silky by the time Pyosz was done.

"Now, aren't you both beauties?" declared Pyosz, giving Ember her chair. She returned to the wain and gave it a second coat. When she was done, she saw more goats at the kissing gate and decided it was time for milking. The barn doors had stood open all day and the odor was a little better inside, but "tomorrow I muck this out" Pyosz promised. She finished before it was completely dark, another milestone to cheer about.

She put away the chickens and had just fed the katts, closing the cabin door, when she heard a voice call out "That's so bright, it glows in the dark!" It was Maar, carrying a couple of packages and pointing to the wain.

"Hey, you" said Pyosz, thinking this day had gotten steadily better.

"Is that pie?" asked Maar.

"Yes, and you're invited to dinner" said Pyosz.

"Good, 'cause I brought fresh shrimp from the docks" said Maar, setting a packet on the table.

"Shrimp is my favorite!" exclaimed Pyosz. "What's in the tube, leeks?"

"No, it's a map of Saya Island and the surrounding area" said Maar. "I got you a copy, thought you'd like to have it. But the main thing I want to show you is the underwater geography that's on it. I heard from Abbo that you thought there was a leviathan in Koldok Kuono today -- "

Pyosz's good mood evaporated. "Talk about meddling and gossiping!" she exploded. "I confide one thing, and now everybody has to treat me like I'm an idiot. I heard what I heard, I don't want your snotty explanations of how wrong I must be."

Maar stopped still, then held up her hands. "Whoa. I'm not treating you like an idiot. I know what fog does to sound, especially lev sound, and I believe you heard it. But you deserve to know the terrain, to know what's around you when you're out on the water, instead of having to take someone else's word for it. And frankly, I'm not the one being snotty here."

Pyosz took two deep breaths and sat down heavily in her chair. "All right. It's been one thing after another, and I guess...I apologize. I'm just -- I hate people talking about me behind my back. I've had to deal with it all my life."

"Why is that?" asked Maar.

"Oh, you know why" said Pyosz, irritation creeping back into her voice.

"Your family being well-known?" guessed Maar.

"No, the -- circumstances of my birth" said Pyosz, looking at her keenly to see if she was feigning ignorance.

"Oh, right" said Maar, remembering. "But there's so many folks like you now, are you still being treated weird?"

Pyosz realized she hadn't throught about it. "I don't know. Anyhow...let's call truce, all right? How about if I start the rest of dinner and you go gather salad, like last time?"

"You must know what a lousy cook I am" joked Maar, setting down the tube and getting the garden basket.

Pyosz sauteed the shrimp in butter with garlic and ginger, pouring it over rice noodles. She made a honey-mustard dressing for the salad and cooked green beans in chili oil. Adding a basket of warm roils to the table, they dug in, Maar making almost indecent sounds of pleasure.

After several bites, Pyosz pointed to where the salad bowl rested and said "Right there is where the owl landed. I looked today and you can just make out faint traces of where its talons scraped the table."

Maar stopped in mid-chew. "Owl?" Her pale face drained entirely, which Pyosz found fascinating.

"So Abbo didn't get around to telling that tale?" said Pyosz. She repeated her story, starting to expound on the details and enjoy herself. Maar didn't resume eating.

"Stars, Pyosz, what did you do?" she asked.

"I felt blessed that my bladder had already been emptied and I slunk into the cabin" said Pyosz.

"I'm scared to death of owls" said Maar hoarsely. As if it didn't show thought Pyosz. "I'm about owls the way you are about leviathans."

"That's pretty funny, because the fact is, you actually have to face levs and they actually do want to kill you" said Pyosz. "Whereas this owl -- I think she must have simply been curious. I was sitting here in the dark, and she could certainly see me, abba says they can see better in the dark than we can in daytime. As well as phenomenal hearing. It was during that downpour, you know, and yet she still heard a shu out there and took off after it."

Maar shivered. "Was her ears that large, then?"

"No, it's her face. Here, let me show you." Pyosz got her notebook and a pencil, drawing a quick sketch of an owl.

"That's a pretty good drawing" said Maar.

"Yeah, I have a talent for it" said Pyosz dismissively. "Plus abba Yoj has this fabulous book, the bestiary, she calls it, full of pictures of animals from the original planet, that she put together for her kids, and I used to pore over it when I was little. So see, the feathers around their face are concave, like a dish, and all the sound that comes her way get collected and directed toward her ears. Pretty clever construction."

Maar still wasn't eating. "And how big was she?"

Pyosz stood up to show how high the owl's head was in comparison to the table. She sat down, took a couple more bites, and said "I don't know how long her wings were. Here, you stand up on the opposite side of the table, where she flew in, and hold out your arms like wings. Nope, not nearly long enough. Okay, walk over to the coldbox and make an imaginary mark in the air about an inch from the post there, because she nearly brushed it with her wingtip. Now go to the vent pipe of the stove, and come in, oh, six inches, I guess. That's how far her wings extended."

Maar turned around and measured with her eyes, then turned back and said in a hollow voice "That's eleven feet, Pyosz." She got her chair and moved it to the other end of the table, where the wall of larder and cupboards behind her would keep anything from flying at her back. She resumed eating, finally.

"So, owls and then leviathans. No wonder you're wound a little tight" said Maar. "How's your shoulders, need more liniment rubbed in?"

"I won't say no. But I wonder if I can ask a big favor of you" said Pyosz. "I haven't been to the other end of the island yet, with the hot springs and bees and orchard. I'm -- I'm scared to walk through the woods. After we eat, could we go down there together, with a flash? If that's too much to ask -- "

Maar swallowed hard, more than just food, it looked like, but she gallantly said "Of course."

"I'd like a soak in that steaming water, too, if you're in the mood" said Pyosz, not looking at Maar's face. "I'm rather funky with just one outdoor shower since I got here."

"Sure" said Maar easily. They ate pie with milk, cleared the table and did dishes together, before Maar rolled out her map.

"See, each line in brown is a foot change in elevation" began Maar.

"I know how to read maps" said Pyosz. "My abbas were always dragging them out to argue over things. Wow, it's really only two feet deep at low tide there by the pylon?"

"That's why the ferries are all flat-bottomed" said Maar. "Only four and a half feet at high tide. Even a baby leviathan couldn't manage it. And that's if they could get in that far, which they can't. See, there are some deep channels here and there coming in from the Northern Wasa past Shu and Teppe, those are pale blue on this map. But they all come to dead ends, and this line here, it's like an underwater wall, sorta. Protects the entire north end of Saya. And below the Pea Pods, extending from Hamsa all the way to Dvareka, there's another natural formation like that. It's why Mill says most of Pya's growth is going to be wastward into the Pea Pods, because they're so protected, and from there into Hamsa and the central islands."

Pyosz had to admit, the cold facts were reassuring. "Thanks" she said softly.

"Plus, you know, I've listened to a lot of lev song, and I think there's something about how they produce it that lends itself to rebound and echo" said Maar. "No telling what it sounds like underwater."

"I'd love to get you together with my abbas" said Pyosz. "You'd have a lot to talk about, all of you."

Maar's normal color had returned, and now she began going a slow pink. At that moment, the radio buzzed. "Speak of the missing" said Pyosz with a giggle as she answered it.

"Hello, darling, it's emma" said Prl. "I have a question for you, and don't give me a hard time about this: Is the mortar and pestle you're using any good, or would you like a new one?"

"Oh, emma. Well, to be honest, it's crap, and yes I need a new one. I need a lot of kitchen stuff, but I'm making do fine, I just made dinner for me and a new friend, who is still here so I can't talk long" said Pyosz, winking at Maar.

"What friend?" demanded Prl.

"Maar. She's one of the pilots who flew me here, and she's been bringing me fresh fish and helping chase away the spooks here" said Pyosz.

"Maar? From Chloddia?" asked Prl.

Now that's not a good sign, my emma knowing about someone I haven't mentioned thought Pyosz. She said "Yes" in a careful voice.

"Well, I won't keep you then" said Prl briskly. "Everybody sends their love, and expect a package from us on the next huolon back to Pya." After she hung up, Pyosz said "They're sending me a package. I shouldn't complain, it'll be things I want."

"I'm heading for Skene in the morning" said Maar. "Got to get to bed early tonight. But let's go explore the hot springs first, I gotta live up to how you just bragged about me."

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Blue said...

"feral satisfaction" - awesome.
And I absolutely love the moon cycles. This book is SO imaginative. I love it!

ps: I'm extremely picky about fiction.

Maggie Jochild said...

Your feedback is like cold Saya well water on a hot day, pal.

Pyosz keeps marching into my dreams, she really takes up a lot of room. We'd like her a lot, I think.

Blue said...

definitely. I think Pya's been in my dreams, as a setting.