Thursday, August 27, 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)
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)


On Moja morning, Pyosz was slightly sore from a combination of the carpentry and swimming. Hauling three times her usual load of milk pushed her endurance but nothing like what she remembered from her first few days, and she sweated it off. She dropped off bread and pies, took her photos to be developed, and then, very conscious of the weight in her carryall, went into the Lofthall office. Mill was talking with a factory owner and Pyosz signaled to her, going to the canteen for a cup of tea and whatever cake they might have ready.

She was standing in the hall when Mill came looking for her. "I need to talk with you privately" said Pyosz.

"Jiips just went on a break, we can be alone in the office but I'll have to answer pilot radio" said Mill.

Pyosz let Mill get seated before she removed the moneybag from her carryall and said "My abbas -- your emmas -- have make a colossal cock-up and I need some help fixing it."

Mill looked guarded, and Pyosz knew instantly Abbo had told her about the money. She lies like she breathes thought Pyosz.

"I don't want their assistance" said Pyosz. "I didn't request it, and I don't need it, I'm earning income plus I have excellent barter, thanks to you and Saya. I'm going to return this to them."

Mill interrupted to say "Have you talked with them?"

"Not yet. I will when I go back to Saya. If they claim this is my inheritance in advance, well, they can either give everybody their share or hold this until it's actually time to inherit" said Pya. "In the meantime, it's not safe for me to have this on Saya. I'm requesting you lock this in the Lofthall vault until I go back to Skene and can deliver it personally."

Mill leaned back in her chair. "I'll need to know what's in the bag to write you a receipt."

"I don't want to break the seals. Can't you just fill out the form 'contents unknown' and let me absorb the risk? Unless you think your fault isn't secure" said Pyosz.

"No, it's secure, only Oby, Api and I have a key. But you'll have to trust us with what may be a fortune" said Mill.

"I trust you" said Pyosz instantly. Mill looked her in the eyes for a long moment. "Does your emma know about this?" asked Mill.

"I don't know. I'll be asking her. I'm furious about it, s'bemma. It's not right, what they've done."

Mill opened a drawer and pulled out a receipt book. She slid her fountain pen from inside her guibba and began writing. "If you do need cash, in an emergency, you can come retrieve this, of course" said Mill.

"I'd rather take an advance on my salary, if it comes to that" said Pyosz. She signed the receipt and handed the bag to Mill. "Thank you for your discretion."

Mill gave Pyosz her copy and began to say "I'm honored -- " but the radio buzzed and Maar's voice said "The rice load here on Pirinc wasn't crated yet, Jiips, I'm going to be delayed at least 10 minutes."

"I'll see you later" whispered Pyosz and left. The door to the hall had been left partly open, and as she pushed it all the way open, it thumped against someone standing there, eavesdropping. Pyosz poked her head around the door and said in a venomous undertone to Abbo "You can now inform all your lowlife friends that the money is no longer on Saya, and if anyone shows up I'll be slicing off fingers and toes to feed to the owl." She smacked the door again harder against Abbo and steamed out to her cart.

It began raining before she reached Saya. She didn't have her burzaka but she didn't care, she put away the cans first and made tea in her new pot before sitting down at her table to call her abbas.

Halling answered. "Hey, Pyosz!" she said happily. "Did you get a bunch of packages yesterday?"

"I did, abba, and the lamp is exactly what I needed, and the binoculars are almost too precious to use. Are Yoj and Bux there?"

"No, I'm on my lonesome, but I have lots of time to talk" said Halling.

"I don't, this is a private frequency and I'm also expecting a delivery this morning. So I'll have to start with you. Abba, I cannot imagine what you were thinking, sending me that moneybag, but it's caused a world of trouble and I'm very upset with you. Was it partly your idea?"

Halling's voice was tragic. "Well, yes. Yoj and I put it together, because of something Qala said. We haven't told Bux yet, we were going to tonight..."

That was interesting. She wondered if they had deliberately kept it from Bux.

"Sending it by Abbo, what a monumentally stupid thing to do. She's deeply offended at you throwing money my way, when I'm technically fully employed, and thinks it is because I cried on your shoulders. She said you only gave her 3 eks when she graduated flight school and, well, I haven't opened the bag, it's currently in the Lofthall safe until I can return it to you because I haven't earned it and also, frankly, it's enough for someone to think about sneaking out here and killing me for. And you better bet Abbo has spilled the beans, she's about as reliable as a shu, abba, don't you know that by now?" It was hard for Pyosz to yell at Halling, but she couldn't stop herself.

"I guess we didn't -- wait a minute, I personally gave Abbo two platinum eks, that's 4, and I know Bux and Yoj did the same -- " protested Halling.

"So she lied about that too, big surprise. It's baffling to me, abba, that someone who could know we well enough to send the rest of those things in the crates could think I am so helpless that I needed to be showered with money, if that's your perception of me I don't quite know what to do" said Pyosz, refusing to let her anger slip into tears.

"It's not my perception of you, it's just that you're spending all your own money on fixing up a place you'll be living in one season, it's not fair -- " Halling couldn't finish her sentences with Pyosz in her current state.

"Like you haven't spent an untold amount over the years on the Lofthall, I know you cut your own salary, and abba Yoj gave away her family's Manage and island for the good of all Skene. Well, Saya is just as important to all Skene, and it's my responsibility now, and I'm not stupid, abba, I know what I'm doing, is this because Sey hoodwinked me and you think I'm just permanently gullible? Because I'm NOT, abba, I'm not letting anybody mess with me at the moment, you have no idea."

Halling jumped in when Pyosz paused for breath. "Clearly we've made a big mistake, Pyosz, I'll call Mill -- "

"Don't you dare call Mill, it's not her problem, it's yours and if you call anybody you should call Abbo, find out what crawled up her ass to die. It's a good thing I love you all so very much, because of course we'll talk this out and fix it, but right at the moment -- " The radio sent into static.

Lev. She stared at the radio, trying to decide if she should call back. She'd just want to yell some more, and she'd gotten her point across. Let them talk it over first she decided. Instead, she pushed the buttons for the Genist Manage, again selecting a private frequency.

"Emma? We've got 15 minutes, and I'll start by telling you all your gifts are spectacular, I slept in a nest of pillows, well, me and Ember did" said Pyosz.

"I'm so happy" said Prl. "We're all still swapping around your letters -- "

Pyosz cut her off. "Emma, I need to know if you were in on the sending me money idea."

"Money? What money?"

Pyosz couldn't tell if Prl was dissembling. She told Prl what had happened. "I just called abba Halling and unloaded on her, and you need to be honest with me if you knew about what they were doing" said Pyosz.

"Honestly, honey, I didn't. I can't claim to not make huge mistakes with you, but even I recognize that would be a bad idea, and I'm inordinately relieved to be able to not get blamed for this one" said Prl. "How much money was it?"

"I don't know, I didn't break the seals. I stashed it in the Lofthall safe, because of course Abbo isn't going to keep quiet about it. I'm afraid Qala may have been involved, is she there?"

"She's next door, Pyosz, I can have her call you later."

"Tell her to go talk with Halling, I have an extremely long day ahead of me, harvesting honey among other things. At least I had a great day off yesterday, despite the tension with Maar. Emma, I know now why you reacted to her name the way you did -- " began Pyosz.

"Oh, honey, I'm sorry, that was unprofessional of me" apologized Prl.

"Unprofessional? What are you talking about?" When there was a silence, Pyosz said "Were you reacting because of something you'd heard in your capacity as Genist?"

"I'm afraid so, that's why I feel badly" said Prl.

Lev, lev, lev, what was going to roll out from under the bed next?

"Then you're right, emma, it was a crappy thing to do. Now I'm wildly curious. Must be about her emmas, because I'm pretty certain Maar hasn't consulted you -- oh, can't you give me any kind of scrap?" pleaded Pyosz, something she had never done. Prl was shocked. And tempted.

"I's public record, in her school report. Her first grade leraar characterized her as 'brilliant but wretched'" said Prl. "That's all I can tell you."

"Not news" said Pyosz. And not what I wanted to hear she thought. "All right, emma, before we get cut off, I'll try to call the abbas tonight but I can't promise, make sure they know I'm not shunning them, it's just that kind of day, all right? And thank you for not sending me money."

"As you pointed out, you're not going to starve" said Prl. "Another time, let's talk about the whole Abbo mess."

Let's not thought Pyosz. But she heard a sinner overhead and said "There's my extractor delivery, I have to go, emma."

She pulled her gloves from her waistband and put them on as she walked to the jichang, saying under her breath "Not Abbo or Maar, any pilot but them." Sure enough, it was Maar who crawled from the hatch, but Pyosz guessed it was her before then by the deft landing of the crate containing her honey equipment.

Maar smiled at her, not quite as openly as she once had, and said "I ate that brownie in my bunk last night when nobody was looking. You make those for sale at Gitta's, you'll clean up. Not that you aren't already the talk of the town."

"Thanks" said Pyosz, sliding the catch-bolt from the crate. "Oops, I forgot my wain, be right back."

They loaded the extractor and hot knife in the wain and rumbled it to the barn, where Pyosz would have to work because of the rain. Not ideal, she didn't want stray bees pestering her goats or trying to get into the milk, but it was better than attracting them to her kitchen area. She set up the extractor over a tarp, Maar sticking around to help.

"You want a snack?" asked Pyosz.

"What you got?" countered Maar.

"Um, various leftovers. And I held back a rhubarb pie from Gitta's" said Pyosz.

"I have a break, I could eat lunch here and pay you by helping you bring honey from the other end" offered Maar.

"All right. But I have to warn you, I'm in a sparky mood" said Pyosz as they walked to the kitchen.

That got Maar's attention. "Sparky how?"

"I just reamed out my abba, Halling I mean, and I'm still simmering in some acid about that stunt they pulled" said Pyosz. She better not pretend like she doesn't know what I'm talking about.

"What stunt?" asked Maar, slicing bread on the new cutting board.

"Oh, Maar" sighed Pyosz in exasperation. "I'm sure Abbo told you, she probably never shut up about it on the flight home. That special package she had to deliver?"

Maar looked at her flatly. "If you're going to accuse me of lying again, you need to be more direct. I don't know what was in whatever she had to give you in private, she was very furtive about it."

Pyosz told her, watching her face intently to catch her in deceit. But she became convinced Abbo had not, in fact, told Maar about it. I don't understand these two she thought.

"Thunder me down" whistled Maar. "I thought they were more sensible than that, your abbas. And I can just imagine Abbo's reaction. Please don't tell her I know, I'd rather not have to listen to her about it."

"They almost always are more sensible" said Pyosz, not sure how she felt about keeping a secret for Maar from Abbo. A guilty pleasure. She was making chicken salad with the last of her uncurried stewed meat, as Maar sliced carrots into a bed of spinach. Maar suddenly giggled, and Pyosz said "What?"

"I'm just trying to picture you reaming out, as you put it, the Sheng Zhang" said Maar.

"She's not the Sheng Zhang to me" snapped Pyosz, "She's a sentimental old woman who apparently has too much time on her hands since she retired."

"Whew" quipped Maar, wiping her brow in mock fear. Pyosz finally giggled with her. As they sat down, Pyosz reached out and took Maar's hand.

"What are you doing?" asked Maar, squeezing her hand slightly.

"It's something we always did at home, and I've been missing it here. We take a minute to look at what we're about to eat, think about where each item was grown, maybe who grew it, what it's going to taste like, welcome it into our bodies. They we look at each other and thank each other for sustenance" said Pyosz. Maar followed her instructions solemnly, and again squeezed Pyosz's hand before letting go and taking a giant bite of her sandwich.

"Oh" said Pyosz. "If you promise not to get food on them, I could show you all the photographs you haven't seen yet."

"Yes, please" said Maar. She kept wiping her hands obsessively after each bite, going through the pictures one by one, dwelling on them. She was stopped for a couple of minutes by the one of her and Pyosz in this kitchen. She also lingered a few seconds longer over the one of Pyosz and Uli sharing flavored ices, laughing into one another's face. When she was done, Pyosz said "I can make you copies of any you want, but I was thinking about sending the two that are of you to Thleen, what do you think?"

Maar wiped her hands again to sort them out. "The one of me and you, yes, and I definitely want a copy. Plus -- the one I took of you alone? But don't send her this one of me and Abbo in the pond."

"Whyever not?" demanded Pyosz.

"Because we don't have clothes on, and my emmas will see it, and they already think pilots are degenerates, it could affect my ability to see her" said Maar sharply. "I do want you to write her, but you have to be careful, Pyosz, she's very young and open, and you have to protect her connection to me at all costs."

"Of course" said Pyosz, abashed.

"I'll be heading back to Skene on Ot morning, I could take your letter to her then if you like" said Maar.

"Ot. Okay. Does that mean you'll be back for the dance on Sju, or --"

"I'll make the dance, don't worry about that" said Maar firmly.

They left the lunch dishes and stopped by the barn where Pyosz loaded her bee gear, the ladder, and a quantity of fruit baskets into the wain. Maar marveled over the ladder's design. She asked "Are we picking fruit, too?"

"Well, I am. You can leave whenever you need to" said Pyosz.

"I'm actually off now, I shouldn't have had to work today except somebody was sick and I'm going to meet up with Oby at the office over dinner to look at fish migration charts" said Maar. "Since you're not quite as sparky as when I first got here, I might stick around." She grinned at Pyosz. "Besides, you shouldn't be scrambling around tall ladders in the rain without a spotter."

When they went through the kissing gate, kids came scampering, more bored than usual on this dreary day. Pyosz unbuckled the sides of her burzaka and began spinning in a fast spiral, making the burzaka flare around her. At first, the kids fled in flight, bleating for their emmas, but soon enough they decided chasing her was a wonderful game. Pyosz spun all the way to the margin of the woods, glad to stop because she was getting dizzy.

"Look at how much bigger the trail is" said Maar. "And what are all those ribbons?"

Pyosz explained. They hunted silently for the owl trees, and spotted one but not the second.

They took turns picking fruit, one of them up the ladder, the other holding it steady and receiving the basket when full. Finally all the baskets were overflowing, and as Pyosz cleared a space at the back of the wain to hold a stack of supers, Maar began pulling off her clothes, folding them neatly under her own burzaka.

"You going for a soak first?" said Pyosz.

"Yep. It's my reward for contributing to fruit production on Skene" said Maar. Pyosz decided to join her, wishing she'd brought her scrub.

A drifting mist hung over the springs, steam from cold rain hitting hot water. It was delicious to lie on the surface, experiencing both forms of moisture simultaneously. Pyosz suddenly remembered what Prl had said -- "Brilliant but wretched" -- and she turned her head to look at Maar, who was in fact watching her.

"I don't remember who your friends were in school" said Pyosz.

"I didn't really have any" said Maar. "I mean, I had playmates at recess, and kickball teammates. But not real friends. I had to go straight home after school to help look after my sibs, and I studied hard, too. In the summers, I got any kind of job I could to earn a little coin. I had more dates than friends." She wasn't bragging, Pyosz could tell.

"My only real friend was Ngall, and she lived here, we only saw each other in summer and at midwinter break" confided Pyosz.

"But you had family" pointed out Maar. "Ferry lines full of 'em."

"I did indeed" said Pyosz. After a minute, listening to the pulse whooshing through her ear that was under water as she kept looking at Maar, she asked quietly "How did you survive?"

"Thleen" said Maar. "I made it until she was born, and then I had someone who loved me just the way I was, no question about it."

"But you've had to do all the looking after" said Pyosz.

"It's enough" said Maar. "It's still love."

"We've barely met each other, Maar, but I have to tell you -- I feel like I need your friendship. Not just want it, but need it. I want us to find a way to keep it clean and honest and growing, despite all the -- other tangles around us" said Pyosz. She held her breath, frightened at how vulnerable she'd just made herself.

"I need you too" said Maar, her voice partly muffled by the mist between them, partly amplified by bouncing through the water over to Pyosz's submerged ear. "Let's do our best."

The gaze became too intense, and Pyosz broke it by standing up. "I just realized two things: We don't have towels and it's raining, so we're going to have to put back on dry clothes over wet skin. And -- I have to find dry bark to get the smoker working." She waded to the steps and got out, feeling alittle overwarm. After she dressed, she said melodramatically "I'm going foraging for bark into the deep recesses of you-know-what territory, if I don't return, tell the Sheng Zhang I didn't mean to call her an oily turd." Maar burst into laughter, revealing a little anxiety.

She was dressed and sitting on the wain when Pyosz returned, holding up the smoker triumphantly. "Mid layer of forest floor!" she said. "And, I stumbled across the other owl tree."

"So what do I do if the bees attack? I mean, even with smoke, are they really going to let you steal half their hive?" asked Maar.

"They're not going to be aware it's going away" said Pyosz. "I put escape boards in, I'll show you. The bottom half is the brood section, where the queen and young live, and that will get defended to the death. But in these upper parts, they've just been stashing honey. And see, bees have terrific directionality except in their own hive, they crawl down through this hole in the escape board but they won't go back up. So it's like these sections have already vanished. You go stand on the trail and mask your silhouette by a tree, if you're nervous. I don't anticipate any problems, though." Pyosz got her smoker blazing hot, put on her veil, hat, and gloves, and decided to shuck the burzaka because it would simply trap curious bees, she was soaked anyhow.

Maar stood five feet away, occasionally backing into the orchard to avoid bee inquisition, but she came forward to help Pyosz carry the extremely heavy supers once the seals had been broken and enough smoke sent most of the bee into the brood section on rescue duty.

"This is at least 50 pounds of honey" grunted Pyosz as they loaded the first super box. "Or honey and comb, I'm hoping. I love fresh comb."

Once all four boxes were in the wain and the side latched, Pyosz replaced the lid of the hive, gave a final smoke, and went to push the back of the wain as Maar pulled. "Go slow, a few of them will follow us a ways because we've got honey and fruit, but we should leave them all behind by the time we reach the pasture" Pyosz called up to her.

Later, Pyosz wondered how she would have managed the extraction without Maar's assistance. They laughed their way through it, gorging on comb and taking turns using the hot knife to magically melt free stuck wax. Finally Pyosz locked the draining wax plus the tubs of honey into the bug-proofed drying room. "I'll have to strain it again" said Pyosz. "But let me scrub out the extractor with boiling water, and you can take it away with you."

"What about all this fruit?" said Maar, helping herself to a handful of cherries.

"Mm...sorting, peeling and coring with my new gadget, then slicing about half onto the drying racks. That will also take me a couple of days" said Pyosz. "That's going to become a daily chore, like the milking, until -- well, until I leave, and afterward for whoever replaces me."

Maar's face went sad and still. Pyosz cleaned the extractor and they loaded it back into the crate. Pyosz said "I'd invite you for dinner, but you have plans, I gather."

"And you have to talk with your abbas again" said Maar.

"You've saved me from working late into the night" said Pyosz. "You're a good buddy. You want a piece of rhubarb pie to take with you?"

"Yes" said Maar. "And you're a good buddy, too."

After Maar left, Pyosz changed into dry clothes before her evening routine. The kids were very curious about the area where the tarp had lain and kept going to sniff at the door of the drying room. For her dinner, Pyosz dipped her last four slices of thick bacon into fresh honey, lay them atop planks of eggplant, and baked it in the oven until crisp. With a barley salad and sliced tomatoes spotted by dark vinegar, she felt ready to handle talking with her abbas again. She began a sponge before picking up the radio.

Yoj answered at her abbas' Manage. "We've been hoping you'd call, Pyosz. I'll begin with an apology, and we can discuss in detail what that means, but first I want you to know, when I came home from the Archivist Manage I found my darling Halling sitting on the couch here crying her eyes out from your call, and that's simply not all right with me, Pyosz, you should have called back." Pyosz could hear Halling in the background saying "Don't tell her that!" Yoj said to Halling "She wants to have grown-up relationships with us, she's going to hear about all the effects of her actions."

Pyosz kept calling back on a new private frequency until, an hour later, everything had been talked through. Qala and Lawa were at the abbas' Manage as well, so she got to talk with them, too.

She went to bed very late because, although doing what baking she could with a radio in one hand, she still had to wait for bread and pies to cool before she could bag them. As she waited, she wrote a letter to Thleen. She had learned the names of two more songbirds -- txikadiis and bunteens -- and she drew them in colored pencil along the margins of her letter, making up a little comic about Thleen the Bunteen. At one point, she imagined telling Maar about having made the Sheng Zhang cry, and she giggled at how scandalized Maar's expession would be. She went to sleep without reading by her new lamp.

It was damp but not actually raining when she got up. She still wore her wellies to Koldok. After getting extra prints made at Naki's, she bought a used photo-fold made of what looked like polished bone, just the size to hold the picture of her and Maar. A leather pouch clasped over the frame, making it safe to carry around. She gave Naki one rhubarb and one peach-currant pie, but still had credit, so she bought two more 10-shot memory disks.

Next she stopped by Taamsas' and swapped four new books for the ones just read. She found a stainless steel grill to fit her new outdoor oven, bought bone meal and kelp flake through allotment, and asked Taamas if she had a seed mix for Pya wildflowers.

"Not as such, no" said Taamsas, interested. "Let's go look at the bulk seed bins, I can tell you what grows best around here." After conferring for half an hour, they came up with a mixture that Pyosz thought would work not only in scant sandy soil, but would actually help fix nutrients. She bought 5 lb. of it, and she helped Taamsas write down the recipe so Taamsas could create small bags of it for sale. When they returned to the counter to settle up, Pyosz deadpanned "Do you get a red cap point when I come into your store?"

Taamsas began laughing. "No, it has to be a spotting of you on Saya by someone not actually standing on Saya." Pyosz pulled out an extra copy of the glow-in-the-dark-wain photo Maar had shot and handed it to Taamsas, saying "You can put that up behind the counter here and start an argument over whether photographs of the wain count as half a point."

As she was heading back to the wharf, she spotted a large puddle in the middle of the packed gravel street and went directly for it, stamping waves and cascades as she charged through it.

"That looks like fun" came Uli's voice from behind her. Pyosz wheeled and said "Oh, you've only got on otos, you can't join me."

"Not for the mudplay, but I was about to get an early lunch at the cafe, could I impose on you to keep me company?" said Uli.

Breakfast had been only a boiled egg and a nectarine. Pyosz said "Gladly." Inside, Uli said "No, not the counter, I like this corner table, it's quieter."

"I've only had breakfast here so far, what's good?" asked Pyosz, looking at the slate on the wall behind the counter.

"Any of the chowders or soups. And they make a sizzling stuffed pepper" said Uli.

Over her cream of celery soup and stuffed pepper, to which she would have added more cayenne, Pyosz said "Are you the one responsible for the map of Saya Island that I have?"

"Possibly" said Uli. "Although I've only been cartographer for two years. Does it have a green or white border?"

"White" said Pyosz.

"Ah, not mine" said Uli. "Try this olive spread?"

"Good" said Pyosz, thinking Needs garlic. "Do you help make the fish migration maps, or the ones that show ocean currents?"

"Yes" said Uli. "For Pya, not for Skene."

"How far out does the range extend, then? I mean, are there maps which show the ocean currents which travel the globe between Skene and Pya?"

"That's a perceptive question" said Uli. "And no, not an updated version. We have the ones from the original colonists -- found by your family, as I understand it -- and one theoretical update. I'm hoping to eventually create a new one, although it requires cooperation from Skene that I can cobble together only from other academics so far, not the state."

"Why not? I can't imagine abba balking at the furtherance of science" said Pyosz.

"It's not the Ethicist who's in the way" said Uli. "It's the Sheng Zhangs, in particular of Tanyan and Verzinnen."

"Verzinnen?" said Pyosz. "That makes no sense, it has nothing to do with their sphere."

"Oh, but get this: The map publisher in Skene has a huge backlog of 20-year-old maps printed on the first good paper to become available from Pya. She says making new maps with information not actually necessary for the general public will destroy the value of her outdated stock. She's the sib of the Sheng Zhang, so there's a deadlock." Uli's voice was lilting when she was entertained.

"Would it be all right with you if I discussed this with my abbas?" asked Pyosz.

"I'd be honored" said Uli. "Are you involved with politics, then, or at least interested?"

"I can't help but be interested, it's mealtime conversation with my family" said Pyosz. "But so is every aspect of service to Skene. I mean Skene the whole planet, including Pya."

"Must be fun mealtimes" said Uli. "And maps, do you have a particular interest in maps?"

"Again, came to me with emma's milk" said Pyosz. "I am especially interested in Pya right now, on a learning curve, I guess."

"My office is at our Manage, and I still have half an hour before I need to meet someone, we could go look at some of my maps, if you like" offered Uli. They got rice-almond cookies to go and walked across the street to Uli's family's Manage. On the front porch, Uli said in a whisper "Emma has one of her headaches again, so we need to make as little sound as possible until we're in my office and I can shut the door." Her office was upstairs, spacious but still paper and books covered every available surface. A large back window gave a view of the tillage and, at one corner, Koldok Kuono beyond. Yoj would love this room Pyosz thought.

Uli pulled rolls from a bin and began spreading them on a cluttered worktable, using pewter paperweights to hold them open. "Now this is a project I'm doing on my own, trying to create a combined map of each island that shows not only surface topography, but also geothermal substrate, water tables, nearby currents and underwater geography, and even soil composition. Right now you have to consult several different sources to find all that data."

Pyosz stood with her side touching Uli, bent over the table in a concentration which didn't quite preclude her noticing Uli's warmth and scent. Lavender, I think. "See, Saya does have strong geothermal potential, I knew it must with the hot springs there" said Pyosz, pointing.

"Your end of Saya I believe is latticed underneath with caverns, some of which are connected, some of which may not be" said Uli, flipping between maps. "Here's the diagram created by whoever dug your privy, another from the water well construction. We lack a good soil composition picture of Saya, though. I guess the decision was made very early to use it as a capriste zone -- they were still thinking Skene-like at the beginning, unable to comprehend how much land they had at their disposal and that single-use islands weren't necessary. We have the orchard soil testing, and the tillage, and that's all."

"I've been planning to do soil testing for the pasture and most of my end" said Pyosz. "So I can do soil amendment and help milk production. How about if I make copies of the results for you directly?"

Uli laid her arm across Pyosz's shoulder, smiling into her face. "That would be marvelous! I'll share the draft I make from that."

"in the meantime, could I possibly get copies of what you do have for Saya?" asked Pyosz, moving infinitesimally closer to Uli. She noticed an anomaly on one map and tore her eyes away from Uli's to inspect it closer. "Why is there a large white gap here, in the middle of the pasture?"

"The early flyovers that provided data for mapping failed to produce a sensible substrate reading for that section" said Uli.

"Interesting" said Pyosz. "That's the region where only gorse grows, and the goats don't graze. I think I'll start my soil testing there."

"I'll get copies made as soon as possible" said Uli. "Maybe later this week -- Roku, if you're free -- we could go out to dinner and talk some more. There's a very good restaurant in Pertama you'd enjoy."

"Well, I'm free but only after milking" said Pyosz. "I could meet you here by 7:00, is that too late?"

"We'll have a leisurely evening of it" promised Uli. They were in the living room now, and whispering.

"Oh, I almost forgot" said Pyosz, reaching into her carryall. "I have goat fibers for your emma, will you pass them on to her?"

"She'll be so pleased!" said Uli. "I'll have her call you about barter when she's feeling better."

"No" said Pyosz firmly. "This is stuff that would simply blow away into the wind, and the labor involved in brushing brings pleasure to the goats -- " At least the ones who don't hate it -- "and it improves their protection against parasites, so it's not an item for barter. Call it my contribution to Pyan art."

Back on the street next to Pyosz's cart, Pyosz turned to face Uli and slid into her arms for an easy, close hug. Her eyes were half-closed, but still she saw across the street, in front of the Lofthall, a familiar figure gone stock still, watching her and Uli's embrace. Pyosz closed her eyes completely. When she and Uli pulled apart, Maar had disappeared.

"I'll see you on Roku!' called out Uli as Pyosz headed for the wharf. Pyosz waved over her shoulder and splashed her way through another puddle.

She was shocked at the lateness of the day when she reached Saya. She threw herself into action. First she started her sponges. It had dried out enough to dig small beds all around her cabin, for transplanting the vines Tu and Pank had brought, so she moved on to that. She created planter soil with her compost, bone meal and kelp flake, filling the boxes Tu had built and arranging them inside the eaves line around her kitchen. She went to the tillage and dug out chives, marjoram, sage, oregano, chervil, savory, tarragon, basil, thyme, and dill starts to plant in the boxes.

She scrubbed her hands before straining honey again. She sorted fruit and began pitting cherries, apricots and peaches. She rinsed and saved all the pits to return to the allotment center, where they would find use in various medicinal and commercial applications. She set up the large juicer and made several gallons of peach and cherry juice. The rest of the fruit she arranged on drying racks, except for enough to make her daily batch of pastries. Today she mixed honey-current scones, apricot muffins with small crisp nuggets of comb inside, and peach tarts, in addition to standard cherry pies.

Once the drying racks were loaded and the blower going, she hauled her honey to a spot near her kitchen and began bottling it. The comb was put into separate containers, and she left the wax in its strainer to be picked clean by bees venturing this far east on the island. She put labels on her jars of honey and stashed half of them in her larder. I'm going to need more room before this season is over she thought.

She put beans on to simmer and potatoes in to bake with the bread. She took baling wire from the barn and created a criss-cross of trellises along her cabin's outside walls stretching from stakes in the edge of her new beds to bolts near the roofline. She collected large round stones to border these new beds, then planted honeysuckle on either side of her door, scarlet runner and clematis on the side facing the jichong, and morning glories on the side facing the barn.

She pulled out her bread to cool, took a quick shower, and went to milk. Her hands were aching by the time she was done, from all the new small-muscle activity that afternoon. She steamed broccoli, spread cheese and tomatoes on bread, and had that with beans and potatoes, a quick and bland meal. When she went to the privy, she flushed it and decided hard labor was done for the day.

She sat at her table to bag and label cooled baked goods, packing them in a crate with honey, comb, and pits. Then she pulled out her paint set and on the little bone photo frame she was sending Thleen, she illustrated a sideways map of Skene on the left, a similar rendering of Pya on the right, and a silver huolon flying either direction at the top and bottom. She managed to create a passable likeness of Maar's face in the window of each huolon, looking happy as she headed for Skene, sad as she went toward Pya. She took a photo of it as the paint dried. She slid in the photo of her and Maar, wrapped it in padded paper and string, put that in a mailing envelope along with her letter, and regarded it with satisfaction. After a minute of thought, she emptied the outer envelope again to decorate it with a map of the neighborhood in Riesig where she had grown up, the Genist's and Archivists' Manages tucked into the Scatters, the school, the lane down to her abbas' Manage, and even a painting of the copper door at her abbas' with the mystical cao engraved on it. She addressed it to "Thleen, Maar's Sibu, Chloddia, SKENE."

For the next hour, she pored over her tillage planting chart with the packets of seeds from her abbas around her, feeling no limit now to what she could grow. She made a final pot of tea in her Qala-Lawa pot, as she thought of it, spread one of the fresh honey-currant scones with yogurt, and took it into her cabin to eat in bed. Ember and Curds decided to share her yogurt, and Ember settled in to sleep beside her afterward, a nightly habit now. She kept thinking about Uli once her lamp was off, as she had been intermittently all afternoon. Finally she turned the lamp back on her and got her rice paddy workers novel from under the mattress. She never advanced further than the second chapter, however, before falling asleep.


Health and Education = Rahat -- school, university, scholars, hospital, midwives, genist (including leave for aggies and partnering), vets
Agriculture = Tanyan -- ejidas, compost and recycling, silkworms, orchards, rice, livestock, seafood
Natural Resources = Recursos -- mining, lava, petroleum, wood, gravel, lasers
Utilities = Potenza -- assignment of Manages, electricity, water, geothermal, radios, plus ferries and mail
Lofthall -- all airflight and manufacture of craft; also includes dichter
Manufacture and Commerce = Verzinnen -- weaving, dying, metallurgy, ceramics, paper and book making, printing, glassmaking, shopkeeping
Ethicist -- answers interim questions of above plus runs prison island

Annual harvest and production report (nian cheng) is published in Raccolto, then two months later during Kall, entire community meets to vote on next year's plan. Voting during the coldest month tends people toward conservation and thinking of the public good.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild


Blue said...

Would it be all right to invite my Facebook contacts to check out your blog? Many of them are good friends, a few are family, and some are people I admittedly don't know extremely well. I'd love to share this work with my community, somehow.

Maggie Jochild said...

Of course, Blue, I'd be honored. It's a wide open blog, international and saved forever (so they say). When I get the occasional spam or hateful comment, I delete them promptly and ban the sender, but that's very rare.

Maggie Jochild said...

But since I don't do Facebook, will you please post here or at your blog whatever it is you say about this blog? Just for my edification. Thx, buddy.

Blue said...

Posted on my Facebook profile: "I'm reading two WONDERFUL futuristic novels, being published online. "Skene" is the first, and "Pya" is the in-progress sequel. The author, Maggie Jochild, a writer from Austin, has an incredibly vivid imagination and an sense of social justice, reflected in her novels. Read a chapter or two - you might get hooked!"

Love you, Mags. Thank you for writing.

Blue said...

Plus, I figured my FB pals would love everything else you post, like I do. Forgot to add that.

Maggie Jochild said...

Hey, Blue, got a proposition for you, which you can of course decline. But ...

Aside from Ginny Bates, who (dammit) hasn't materialized yet, you are the person I'd most like to illustrate my books. Care to draw a picture of something from Skene or Pya? Doesn't matter what it is -- somebody in kalsongers, gilet and otos; a tillage; leviathans; pilot in uniform; Market Day; one of the characters; shu; whatever. If you draw it, it will BE what it REALLY looks like. I'll post it and give you full credit, with copyright mark, so everybody knows it's yours in perpetuity, not mine.

Just an idear...

Blue said...

Holy macaroni. For real?

I would be honored.

Blue said...

"txikadiis". Took me a minute, but I sounded it out. I see them at my feeder all the time, now.