Thursday, October 1, 2009


Leviathan splash
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 before dawn, but it was not pitch dark around her because a nearby street light leaked through her clerestory window enough to show her this was her old room. She was snugged up against Prl's back, very warm and clean all over. She didn't linger, however. She got out of bed without disturbing Prl's soft snores, grabbed a beloved shati and nice linen dubikun from her clothes cupboard, and dressed in the kitchen with a mug of quick tea from the aga.

She went to the privy, escorted by numerous curious katts who made her wonder how Curds and Ember were coping with the invasion of their cabin by Pank and Tu. This in turn made her worry about how her goats were doing. She found the absence of dawn chorus disturbing. She opened the chicken house and turned on the light to cranky hens, feeding them and cleaning the water dishes to a squabble of protest at the early hour. She carried warm eggs in her shati, stopped to pull green onions and chervil, and returned to an empty quiet kitchen. A glance out the window showed Qala and Lawa's kitchen was also still dark.

She made spoonbread from Arta Island corn, beat eggs in a bowl with herbs and grated Pya djoste added, and couldn't think of what to do next. From force of habit, she started a couple of sponges, adding some of her parsley oil and sunflower seeds to one batch, dried cherries and filbert meal to the other. She had just brewed a second pot of tea and punched down her sponges the first time when Prl shuffled from her bedroom, rumpled cheeks below half-closed eyes.

"Have a seat, I'll scramble you some eggs" said Pyosz cheerily. She turned on the overhead light and began humming to herself. Prl went silently past her to the back door, returning from the privy with Lawa and Qala behind her.

"I've been up for hours" said Pyosz, hugging them gladly.

"Is that sausage I smell?" said Qala, pouring herself tea.

"Made by Pank from acorn-fed Mti pigs" said Pyosz. She served Prl's eggs and began scrambling a new pan for Lawa and Qala. She sat down to eat with them all once the food was ready, opening a jar of her blackberry jam to slather on the spoonbread. She didn't realize how heartily she was shoveling in her meal until Prl said "You eat like this every morning?"

"Not all at once" said Pyosz. "I have a starter breakfast, to keep me going through milking and hauling hundreds of pounds to Koldok, then usually come back to have a second plate before doing all the rest of Saya's chores." The kitchen timer went off, and she stood to punch down her sponges a second time.

Qala said "Why is it that we're not seeing any of your goat or kid meat coming our way here? I'm not complaining, just curious."

Pyosz explained about the slaughter schedule, adding her own reluctance to eat animals whose faces and names she knew. "I've done my best not to name the bucklings who will have to die in a couple of months" she added, "but their personalities come through and inside my head they are familiar to me."

"It's good you'll be able to turn their slaughter over to someone else" said Lawa. Pyosz looked away, silent. Lawa continued "Is that your ejida book? May I look through it?"

"Yes" said Pyosz with sudden excitement. Qala scooted close to Lawa to view with her, and Prl came to stand behind them. Pyosz leaned over the table, rattling on about each page's data, as Lawa leafed slowly through, opening the double-folded pages of charts and maps with her glasses precariously on the end of her nose.

When the timer went off again, they all jumped. Pyosz began deftly dividing her sponge into loaves. Lawa said "I want to go visit Moasi, but you'll come there for lunch, right?"

"And dinner later, if we're all gathering" said Pyosz. Qala opted to accompany Lawa, saying she wanted to see how Halling was doing. Prl got dressed as the apprentice got up very late, accepting Pyosz's offer of more eggs and sausage. She took her plate to her office, where she was assuming Prl's duties for the day. After doing the dishes, Pyosz said to Prl "Come with me in my room while I look through my clothes. I want to take another set of silks or so back to Pya, for the frequent dances where dressing up is appreciated."

She went through her wardrobe, discovering every item fit her to better advantage. "I've not lost weight" she said, looking at herself in the mirror, "but things seem to have rearranged themselves."

"You also have dreadfully rusty elbows and knees" said Prl, clucking her tongue. She took a bottle of lotion from Pyosz's cupboard and made her sit on the bed while Prl rubbing moisturizer into her child's patches of dry or sun-baked skin. Pyosz gave herself up to this attention, momentarily enjoying the delicious idleness. They talked nonstop. Eventually Pyosz said "I really could use some new underwear, and another warm schmatta."

"Let's go shopping downtown" suggested Prl.

"I can get my photographs developed as well" agreed Pyosz. "And buy more books." As she changed her pantuflas for her otos, Prl remarked "Those seem to fit you like a second skin now."

"I live in my otos and red cap" agreed Pyosz. They headed down the lane which led past the school.

For generations, Skene had followed a school schedule linked to agricultural need. Children were released to a three-week holiday right as the eel migration arrived, freeing them to serve as their Manage's daily eel trap monitors. They returned to school after this holiday for another six weeks, and were let out again in time for Mchele Fair. This time the break was for two months, which coincided with the bulk of harvest, slaughter, and food preservation chores. They returned to studies as rain and cold began in earnest. Students in third and fourth grades cynically understood their "vacation" was liable to see them rousted out of bed for labor earlier than the school bed generally rung.

This schedule, however, was not the case on Pya, which at first might seem counterintuitive, given that Pya's economy was more heavily reliant on agriculture than Skene. A few reasons explained this difference. One is that Dodd, who early on became head leraar at Pya School, firmly believed that children needed a sustained break from scholarship to be good students. In particular, the higher temperatures and greater exposure to sunlight on Pya were meant, she said, for children to be swimming, exploring woods, and engaging in other forms of unstructured, unlimited play.

Since Dodd was diligent about ensuring the level of academics covered during the school term was equal or superior to that provided in Skene, her practice was widely supported. Bolstering this support was the fact that youth didn't require as much adult supervision on Pya to remain safe, engaged, and out of the way of adult activity.

Another factor contributing to the different approach was Pya's geography, where more land was devoted to ejida use but it was concentrated on a single island which was flat and had wide roads reaching every corner. This meant that the great fields of crops could be managed by machinery rather than hand labor, and thus adult workers were more efficient. Once harvested, products could go to centralized factories or processing areas, still on Dvareka, where again equipment made quick work with only a few operators necessary.

Thus, while Mchele Fair on Skene was not the several-day event it was on Pya, it still loomed large in the lives of children Thleen's age as the demarcator of relative freedom. When Pyosz and Prl approached mid-morning, the schoolground was flooded with children at a recess that barely took a dint off their agitation for the impending holiday. Thleen spotted them and ran to the fence, shrieking "Pyosz! Pyosz! Only three more days of school! Where are you going right now, could I go with you, I could go ask my leraar -- "

"We're doing grown-up shopping" interrupted Pyosz. "But after that we'll head for my abbas' Manage, where we'll see you for lunch, remember?"

"I wish you still lived at the Genist Manage and you could walk by here every day and see me" said Thleen. Another child had joined her, and Thleen said "This is my best friend, Ziri. This is Pyosz, who writes me letters!"

The bell rang and they zoomed off, not out of eagerness to go back inside but because there was some sort of hierarchy involved in lining up and they appeared to be power players in that activity. Prl and Pyosz stopped in at the abbas' Manage briefly to ask if they needed anything from downtown before proceeding on. Yoj had made corn pancakes which Halling and Moasi had eaten with rare maple syrup.

Pyosz went into the new apparel section of the clothes store first, rejecting the idea of buying used knickers. In short order she carried a stack of sokken, knickers, two schmattas, and several maillot to the counter, including one maillot cut in the style Maar preferred. She said to Prl "I'm just going to glance over the used shatis, all right?" Prl nodded and headed into the silks section.

After half an hour, Pyosz had draped over her arm three adorable shati in modern fabrics and designs that she really didn't want to pass by, three scarves that would give Killer conniptions, two new-looking gilets that would go with most of what she owned, plus several pair of broeks, ku, and kaidang ku that were quite reasonable to replace her already worn work garments. When she took these to the counter, she found Prl with a stack of silk hanshans, celanas, nadraj, and skarpetki, plus one luxurious uwagi in black velvet and a new kabat of oatmeal linen.

"I'm buying these for you" said Prl challengingly. "I mean, whichever of them you like and fit you well."

Pyosz wanted that uwagi. She consented to try on all of Prl's selections and wound up saying yes to most of them: She and Prl did not dress alike, but Prl thoroughly understood her child's preferences. The store clerk, heady from all the sales, suggested a new hat for Pyosz and Pyosz clasped her hand over her head, saying melodramatically "My very reputation resides in my red cap!"

The cartagen said it would take her an hour to print out Pyosz's photos, though there were no other customers in the place. I miss Naki -- and I have no barter here thought Pyosz with a tinge of homesickness. They walked to the booksellers, where Pyosz filled a crate with volumes to be delivered to the Lofthall for her flight back to Pya. They went on to the fish docks, selecting items for lunch and dinner, before returning to pick up Pyosz's photos and heading for the abbas' Manage, laden with bags.

Halling was sitting on the stoop. "Waiting for Thleen" she said. "I'll sit with you" offered Pyosz. She went inside briefly to give fish and bread to Yoj in the kitchen before rejoining Halling.

"How did you sleep?" she asked her abba.

"Poorly" said Halling. "But that's common these days. It would take me a minute or two to figure out what was wrong when I'd wake up. I didn't feel like I could go in the kitchen, because it would bother Speranz and Tlunu overhead. Like the old days here" she said reminiscently. "Just between you and me, I'd like to offer Moasi to move in with us. Motu Fling is stretched to its limits, with Mwiva's youngest living at home with her partner and a toddler, another baby on the way. The toddler is sleeping with Mwiva over their kitchen, the young couple is over the living room, and Moasi is on the couch, having to use a chamberpot because the privy is up a small hill. Just as limiting as when my emma Ng was there and Yoj insisted we give her a room here. But with Speranz and Tlunu inheriting, and Xunu living in the room out back, asking to have Moasi join us would mean permanently displacing Speranz and Tlunu to a public loft. I don't think it would be right for me to request it. If I was them, I'd offer, but..." Her voice trailed off.

"When we were downtown, it felt strange to see so many people around everywhere" said Pyosz. "And that's with all the children here in school. Like there was no privacy to be found. I remember when my cousins would come for the summer, how much they complained about lack of space. I understand it now. We cope with it on Skene, but it's a real limit." She heard her name being called, and looked automatically up the lane before she realized it was not a child's voice. Instead, it was Vants walking up from downtown.

Pyosz stood and rushed to hug her cousin, saying "I'm so happy I get to see you! How are your goats?"

"I persuaded someone to take over for tonight and tomorrow morning" said Vants. She turned to Halling and bent to kiss her sibemma's hand, saying "I wanted to make the funeral or at least the wake, but could not find a replacement until now. I am so very sorry about Szebel's death."

Halling motioned for Vants to sit beside her. "Your abba is inside, visiting us. She'll be as thrilled to see you as I am. Will you stay with us, then? We have a spare loft."

"Thanks for the offer" said Vants. She pulled two packages from her carryall, handing them to Halling. "A half-gallon of Yagi yogurt, and a carton of oregano-flavored soft djoste." She grinned at Pyosz. "Nothing to compare with your herd, perhaps, but still good eating."

Pyosz slapped playfully at her cousin's shoulder and said "No competition between herds, now."

When Thleen spotted Pyosz, she changed her skipping to a headlong race down the lane, Pyosz catching her before she fell onto the cobbles. "I'm so hungry!" said Thleen in a near shout.

"Me, too" said Pyosz, following the others into the Manage. Moasi was crowing over Vants' appearance, and Prl was setting the table while Bux finished a salad dressing and Yoj served a buffet of leftovers. Pyosz immediately began talking goats with Vants across the table. Thleen was given a chair between Halling and Pyosz, and cleaned her plate before asking "Are there any of those funeral desserts still here?"

Before Yoj could answer, Tlunu walked in the front door. "I was beginning to wonder where you were" said Bux.

However, behind Tlunu was Maar. Thleen yelled "Siba! Come eat with me, okay? But get your own piece of pie."

"Let me wash first" said Maar. Pyosz filled a plate with Maar's favorites while Bux did the same for Tlunu. Smelling of ocean and soap, Maar slid in next to Pyosz, settling Thleen on her lap.

"How was sinning today?" asked Halling.

"Electrifying" said Tlunu. Maar added quickly "And we hope to talk it over with you once Thleen goes back to school." There was a knowing silence, broken only by Thleen's smacking lips.

"So, sibu, what happened at school today?" asked Maar.

"Ziri got in trouble because she ate a bugger from her nose in front of everybody" said Thleen. Maar set down her fork abruptly. Halling, chuckling, gave herself another helping of rice and opened the jar of Pyosz's shamsjooz sauce to put a tablespoon on top.

"Uh, Sheng Zhang" said Maar worriedly.

"Not any more" said Halling.

"I mean, Nan Halling, if you haven't tried Pyosz's recipe for that yet, I'd recommend a small taste before you dig in" said Maar apologetically.

Halling blinked at her, then tried a few drops of the dark amber sauce on her tongue. "Lev!" she swore loudly, stuffing a large bite of plain bread into her mouth.

Thleen whispered loudly to Maar "The Sheng Zhang said a bad word."

"If there's anybody ever in the history of Skene who is permitted to refer to leviathans as an obscenity, it's this hero beside us" said Maar in a tone that made Pyosz look at her. Tlunu frowned. As Halling began pushing most of the shamsjooz to the side of her plate, Thleen continued "But the only reason Ziri ate her bugger is because a second grader said she'd give Ziri two pieces of barley candy if she did it. But the second grader lied, she only gave Ziri one piece, even after Ziri got yelled at by the leraar, so she didn't have an extra piece to share with me." Thleen was aggrieved.

Halling said "And everybody knows, it takes more than one piece of candy to clean the taste of buggers from your mouth." Everyone else laughed, but Thleen solemnly thought this over.

"They're kind of salty" she agreed. She was looking at her own extended forefinger consideringly. Maar whispered to her with quiet force "Don't even think about it."

Raising her voice, Maar added "Speaking of taste, this bread is as good as Pyosz's -- no insult intended, Pyosz." Everyone laughed again. "I made it this morning" said Pyosz.

"No goats at dawn?" commiserated Maar. Vants laughed with Pyosz. After finishing her plate, Maar made Thleen help clear the table, setting pans and plates to soak in soapy water. Thleen asked Pyosz to walk with her and Maar back to school, and Pyosz told Prl "Don't let them wash those dishes while I'm gone, that's my chore."

Saying goodbye to Thleen was very hard, since Pyosz didn't expect to see her again this visit. "I'll send you something from Mchele Fair" promised Pyosz, "and any time I'm in Skene, I'll be visiting you."

On the way down the lane, Pyosz slid her arm through Maar's and said "You look much better. Good sleep?"

"Yeah, even with getting up early to go sin" said Maar. "You?"

Pyosz giggled. "My emma cuddled me all night, and I'm not embarrassed to admit I woke up feeling nurtured."

"She's not as scary as I thought she'd be" said Maar. "Overwhelmingly powerful, but kind, you can tell. And extremely interesting."

Back in the Manage, everyone was still at the table, sampling morsels of cookies and pie. As Maar sat down, Tlunu said to Halling "A leviathan leaped at Maar's sinner today. Came within two meters of hitting her."

Pyosz all but fell into the chair next to Maar, her legs weak, as everyone reacted. Halling was extremely grave. "Tell me every detail."

Tlunu and Maar talked over each other. There had been unusually light leviathan presence, and on afterthought, they'd seen no babies or juveniles, only a cluster of mature adults.

"The lev who made the try was what I think of as middle-aged" said Tlunu, "one stage below the massive ancients."

"I was at 40 meters" added Maar. "So it was able to exceed the safety zone we think is their limit. I didn't know what was happening until racket broke out over the radio." Pyosz pushed her foot against Maar's under the table.

"What did you do?" Halling asked Tlunu. Pyosz realized as head sinner, Tlunu was responsible for ordering use of the mezi laser against leviathan attack.

"Nothing I could do" said Tlunu. "As soon as it hit the water again, it sank deep. So had every other lev in sight. They knew in advance, Halling, it was a planned leap, a coordinated attack." She swallowed and said "I'm afraid to tell my emmas about it."

Tlunu's aggie had been sib to Xaya, killed and eaten by leviathans when Xaya and Halling were young lovers and working as a lighter team, back when lighters were all the protection sinners had, before Pax Piscata.

There was a long, tense silence. Pyosz noticed everyone was looking at Halling, as if she had the answer. Maar said "That's not all of it."

Tlunu sighed. "About a month ago, a lev got in our nets during a sin. A big one, coming up from the bottom of the load. I noticed an irregularity on radar before we completely sealed the net and began lift. I abort the sin, we released grapples, and when it swam off, I was able to confirm it had in fact been a leviathan. We had to relocate, but we did a full sinning that day."

"That one was also an adult" said Maar. "A large one."

"Why didn't I hear about this?" asked Halling.

Tlunu said "I told the Sheng Zhang." Pyosz saw Yoj and Bux react with the same offense she felt at this remark. Retirement doesn't mean an end to expertise, or the expectation of respect in the form of continued communication she thought. Tlunu said "Danaan agrees with me that it was a meaningless incident. Certainly not connected to today's attack -- it wasn't the same lev, not the same size."

Maar's foot was returning Pyosz's pressure as she said in a measured tone "I don't agree. I called my Sheng Zhang, and neither does she. We've put all our pilots on full alert." Nice touch, referring to Mill as her Sheng Zhang -- but no one is going to forget she's Halling's eldest thought Pyosz.

Tlunu's irritation broke through. "What your Sheng Zhang thinks is irrelevant, since this is happening in Skene, not Pya." To me Maar's expresson said. Tlunu's voice rose. "I mean, there's no reason for a mature leviathan to deliberately let itself get caught in a net, where it could easily be crushed by the load if we don't discover it, or where it would die when we lifted clear of the surface. The whole premise of Pax Piscata is that they're not suicidal."

"Not the whole premise, no" argued Maar. "Equally important is the assumption that levs can problem-solve, can anticipate into the future, and can communicate with each other over time and distance. The last of which absolutely makes this a Pyan problem, too."

Halling regarded Maar with an expressionless face. "What connection do you make between these two incidents?"

"Both while sinning -- for fish, not kelp. Both by experienced adults, who are usually the ones we most count on to enforce the Pax Piscata from the leviathan perspective." Maar was ticking items off on her fingers. "Both required advance planning and furtive action. Both moves kept them out of range of retaliation." Maar was leaning so far forward now, her thighs were all that touched her seat. "But in particular, if you had tried to lift that lev in your net, the load would likely have been dangerously unbalanced, and certainly would have slowed your ascent to the point where all four of the sinners grappled together would have been an easy target, easy for a single lev to leap and bring down. With all the rest joining in the feast once you sank to a depth where the mezi ray couldn't reach. Five minutes, in my estimation."

Tlunu stood up. "You're concocting scenarios out of thin air!"

"What happened today was 2 meters of thin air between me and death, that's what you mean" retorted Maar.

"You're just rattled" said Tlunu. "Maybe you need to not offer yourself for sinning shifts here in Skene." She stalked to the bath room and shut the door. They heard the tub begin filling.

"I guess I should go" said Maar, looking at Pyosz.

"Please don't" said Bux. "This is our Manage still." She was gazing down the table at Halling. "What do you think, honey?"

Halling said slowly "I think leviathans are problem-solvers who anticipate the future and communicate across time and distance." Pyosz felt a shiver down her spine. "I think this can't possibly be a coincidence." She turned to Maar. "What else is gong on that I don't know about?"

""Well, I only just noticed this and told Mill today" said Maar, her cheeks flushed. "On my approach to Skene yesterday, the Morrie Strati in every direction were a deeper red. They've been that way around Pya, too, for a couple of months, but only in regions adjacent to fill migration corridors."

"What does that mean?" asked Moasi. Vants had scooted her chair closer to her aggie and was now holding Moasi's hand.

"I have no idea" said Halling. "Nor I" added Maar.

"Maybe it's a seasonal variation?" suggested Lawa.

"No" said Halling and Maar in the same breath.

Qala asked Maar "Did Mill have any ideas?"

"She asked me to come tell Nan Halling everything. She's going to call you later. But whatever she knows, I know" said Maar. "I'm her eyes and ears around Pya."

"I need to ponder this" said Halling. "Please call me directly with any news or ideas, will you, Maar?"

"Yes, Shen-- Nan Halling" said Maair.

"And be careful. I have to talk with Danaan as well" said Halling, rising stiffly. "But first I need a nap. How about you, Moasi, you want to lie down with me?"

Moasi patted Halling's hand. "No, I sleep too much on Motu. Lawa and I are going to putter in the tillage, I miss having my hands in soil."

"I'll lie down with you" said Bux. She and Bux exchanged a look Pyosz couldn't interpret before Bux followed Halling to the bedroom. Lawa helped Moasi out the back door as Prl refilled the teapot.

"What do you think?" Maar asked Pyosz, leaning toward her. Pyosz took a moment to choose her words.

"My experience with other sentient beings is that they cooperate with humans only to the extent that it benefits them or they have affection for us. I'm guessing we can rule out leviathan affection." She and Maar laughed together, bumping shoulders. "So, I think something is afoot. And I'm scared to death for you."

Vants said "When my goats plot against me, it's because I'm keeping them from something they want, something they think they have a right to."

"Which in this instance would be having me for dinner, I guess" said Maar.

"If that were the case, they'd go after kelp sinners. Or find a way past Morrie Vaseo"said Prl.

Maar stared at her. "You're completely right, of course" she said. "I guess I am rattled, to have not figured that out already. I didn't say this to anyone here, but I wondered if the lev today singled me out because it knew I wasn't a regular part of this sinner crew."

There was another long silence. Vants said "Can they see that well, especially upward through air?"

"It might not be visual" said Qala. "They hear all the radio transmissions, we know that." Vants looked startled.

Yoj added "And they were able to learn songs the lighters used -- it took them only a week to memorize which flight patterns went with a particular song. Which I'd call fairly advanced auditory intelligence."

"So you think maybe they knew Maar's voice didn't belong here in Skene?" said Pyosz, feeling a little sick to her stomach.

"Or there's enough crossover between leviathan populations that they know I'm from Pya most of the time" said Maar. "I don't think it ever pays to underestimate their capacity."

Yoj looked at her bedroom door. "Something Halling said over and over. I bet she's really missing Szebel right now."

"I wish Qen and Veida were here" said Qala quietly.

"And Yerush" added Yoj, with a tone Pyosz wished she understood. Yoj leaned toward Maar. "Take photographs of the Morrie Strati, here and on Pya, will you? Send us copies." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "And don't let Tlunu get to you. She's head sinner but her leadership and understanding don't go beyond that. She's not your equivalent at Skene."

Maar's face flushed again. Prl said "You must be exhausted, don't you need a nap, too?"

Maar looked at her watch. "It's an hour until I go pick up my sibs after school, there's no point now." She said to Pyosz "We're going shopping, I'm getting them several sets of new clothes, not just the silks you suggested. Thleen is in dire need of new kiatu. Then we'll grab dinner to eat on the ferry, because the island championship kickball game is tonight on Chloddia."

"Did you bring enough money for all that? I can loan you some coin until we get back to Saya" said Pyosz.

Maar grinned. "I have extra because I was planning to buy my next service bracelet this trip, my four year anniversary is next week. It has to be Chloddia silver, you know."

"Let me see" asked Pyosz. Maar leaned back and lifted her left leg into Pyosz's lap, pulled up the cuff to show the three silver chains around her ankle. "No two are the same design" commented Pyosz.

"Yeah, well, every year is different" said Maar. Yoj was leaned forward, examining the chains with interest. Pyosz said to her "Wouldn't abba have an amazing jangle if she were wearing a chain for every year she's been at the Lofthall? Her walk would be more musical than Mill's."

"Mill wears these?" asked Qala.

"All Pya pilots do" said Maar.

"How many chains would you require?" Pyosz asked Qala, as Maar lowered her foot to the floor again.

"I'll have to count" said Qala, grinning at Yoj. "You too, Dichter is service to the Lofthall. Maybe we should scandalize Skene and all begin wearing these -- what do you call them, service bracelets?"

Maar said to Pyosz "So while we're shopping, I thought I'd pick up more Seda wine for Tu and Pank. Any other suggestions for gifts back home?"

"Another bag or two of baicang" said Pyosz. "I'm getting smoked salmon, so don't you duplicate that. Ummm -- smoked eel for all of us, mulberry syrup for Nk, some of that new golden rice for Mill and Oby."

"Oh, and Dodd is always going on about Faar lamb, can I find that this time of year?" wondered Maar.

"We have some in our freezer, let me be the giver of that" said Yoj. "I have more sheet music for her anyhow."

Vants said to Pyosz "We have a new cheese on Yagi, I don't have it with me but it's in the stores."

"I'll take a round of it to Kolm, my djostiker, she'll be able to back-engineer the recipe, I bet" said Pyosz. She pulled out her notebook to make a list, and retrieved her logbook as well, passing it over to Vants. Within two minutes, they were deep into the charts, discussing milk yield and pasture requirements.

Prl didn't want to relinquish Pyosz to goat frenzy, as she thought of it. She asked pointedly "So, how are things going with Uli?"

Pyosz held up a finger signaling for Prl to wait a minute, as Qala frowned at Prl. Maar said "You mean since she kissed Pyosz?"

Pyosz whirled toward Maar and everyone distinctly heard the impact of her oto against Maar's ankle. "Ow!" said Maar, but she grinned at Prl, who suddenly grinned back, illuminating her face in a look very reminiscent of Pyosz.

"Uh, it was a brief lapse on her part and we're clear it's not going to be repeated" Pyosz said defensively. "Besides, she and Qoj seem to be maybe getting interested in each other."

"That is, if Dodd decides not to intervene" said Maar. This time Pyosz dug her elbow in Maar's ribs. Yoj laughed out loud and said "Maar, I think you should be coming for lunch with Thleen and filling us in on the family tidbits Pyosz isn't passing on."

"Which reminds me" said Maar. "I'm not sure I'm going to make it to visit Ngall and Ehuy this trip, we're leaving at noon tomorrow and I'm going to sleep in if I can. Will you take my 2 ek piece and baby gift to her?"

"Yikes, I almost forgot!" said Pyosz. She stood to look at the ferry schedule by the sideboard. "If I run, I can just make it." She took the packets Maar and Vants handed her, gave quick kisses all round, and said "I'll be back for dinner." To Maar she said "Don't pass on your hooliganism to your sibus tonight. I'll see you tomorrow" before she dashed out the door.

"Have another piece of pie, Maar" said Yoj in her wake. "What are Dodd's objections to Uli, exactly?"

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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