Saturday, December 19, 2009


(Pregnant Goat, painting by Brian Simons)

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)


At the dance in Koldok a week later, Pyosz couldn't bring herself to do Echo's funny bleat during the dawn chorus. She did make a persimmon-colored platter with Echo in the middle eating green plums from a low-hanging branch.

The night she spent with Maar was the best sleep she could ever remember having. She found herself daydreaming about outlandish scenarios where they would have to share a bed again. She longed to ask Maar if it had been good for her, but that was forbidden conversational territory.

She made three trips to Pertama to hole up in Nioma's office with Vants' data, planning her breeding program. The last visit, they called Prl on a private line, waking her up, to get her take on the final strategy. Pyosz watched Nioma become like a schoolchild while talking and laughing with Prl. She wished for a speaker like Halling's so she could hear the tone of Prl's replies.

They agreed on 36 does to breed, 9 of whom would be first-timers. The others had been dried off and Pyosz had nursed two cases of mastitis. One of the does was Molars, who had been bred last year but failed to become pregnant. She was only 10, however, and her lineage blended perfectly with one of the new contributions, so they determined to try her again. Echo's offspring Stutter was given a chance at using a premier contribution from Yagi.

"You're likely to be producing kids with new coat colors, body conformation, ear shapes" said Nioma. "Poth may notice, but I doubt anyone else will."

"And you said the milk may alter" said Pyosz.

"For the better, but since it all gets blended, it will be hard for Kolm to tell" said Nioma.

"I'm not so sure about that. But she doesn't gossip, not about things that matter. She and her partners know all there is to know in Koldok, and they never hurt others with that knowledge" said Pyosz.

"I've often wished our Manage was in Koldok instead of Talaba" said Nioma. "For one thing, my grandchildren could walk to school, and take music lessons with Dodd. But my child's inlaws all have work in the north Dvareka area, so..."

"Do you still miss your partner?" Pyosz dared.

"Every day, though it's been three years. But not acutely any more, not most of the time. She was my grand passion, I was never in love with anyone else, and I have good memories. I wonder if our does miss not getting to choose partners and have grand passions?" grinned Nioma.

"Some of them do, some of them form extra-kinship attachments that all the others respect. As do I. One of those pairs died together in the slaughter, I won't separate such a pair" said Pyosz. It was the first time she'd mentioned the slaughter since what she thought of as Fever Day.

"Good for you" said Nioma softly. "And, you had our sympathies in the aftermath. Poth told us all how responsible you were without ever becoming cold, a hard line to walk. She fell apart after her first slaughter, you know. Missed two days of work, she said, with a migraine."

It helped to hear. And it was interesting to learn that if Nioma had been Prl's one-time heartthrob, Prl's feelings had not been returned. Pyosz felt another pang of empathy for her emma.

Mill paid Pyosz her summer wages, 5 eks, which Pyosz immediately sent to Lawa and Qala along with the rest of what she owed them from her savings. She went on a month to month contract for Saya. Mill diffidently asked if Pyosz wanted to barter some of her goat meat in the freezer at the allotment center for another ejida product, maybe lamb or turkey. Pyosz gave her a flat look and said "All right. But don't ever bring it in a dish to a family meal."

Does began going into heat, creating unusual displays of behavior in the barn. The entire herd got jumpy, and Pyosz had a hard time being sure the "to-be-bred" does were actually in estrus. Once they all were, she called Poth whom she had requested for this training as well. Nioma sorted out the contributions, labeled by numbers which matched Pyosz's innocuous for-public-view chart, and sent them via Poth in dry ice. Keeping in 36 does from the pasture on a clear morning caused a near riot in the herd. Pyosz finally sequestered each individually and dragged her on a tether to the outside pen. Boulder was furious and Molars quietly dangerous.

"We do that biter last" declared Poth.

"I'd agree with you except the sooner we get her out of our vicinity, the better" said Pyosz. So she learned a slightly unpleasant invasive procedure on Molars, who was tied in all four directions with Poth keeping an almost throttling grip on her head. When Pyosz released Molars, she said "Now you got every reason in the world to hate me. But you do love your babies, you just remember that."

They were done before noon. Poth decided to delay calling in and stay for lunch instead. Over their meal, the two of them hatched a scheme for Pyosz to invite both Dekkan and Poth's eldest Pava to Schmona dinner.

"In fact" said Pyosz, "if it won't stop your heart, Dekkan could pick her up in a sinner big enough to carry the little sailboat you just got Pava. There's an inlet off Herne where they could safely putter about, we'll tie them to shore with a long lead. Pank and Tu are talking about getting a boat themselves, Pava could be the expert."

"And Maar would be there, if rescue was needed?" said Poth, the veins prominent on her hands. Pyosz noticed it was Maar she mentioned, not Abbo the hero of their local paper.

Poth left reminding her "Some of them does won't have took; when they come back into heat, call me right away, we got a narrow window to try again. And you can't tell if they're pregnant by looking, and even if they do start heat again, they could still be pregnant. We'll do blood tests on the doubtful cases."

Maar came for dinner and thus was there to hear Pyosz wake up her emma with a radio call announcing "I got three dozen goats pregnant today!" Pyosz couldn't tell which of them laughed harder.

Molars didn't "take", as Poth put it, and was one of five who required a repeat visit from Poth. "We'll give 'em a month before we draw blood" she said. She left detailed prenatal care instructions with Pyosz.

Who was having increasing time to throw pots, with the orchard slowing down, milking taking less than half the time it once did, and her tillage reduced to a third. She dumped all the compost she could into the fallow beds and offered the rest of her pile to Tu, who asked Dekkan to deliver a groaning pallet of it by sinner. Pyosz noticed ejida bags stacked inside the sinner labeled "bloodmeal." She now knew where that blood came from, and looked away.

The "sailboat Shmonah" experiment was a great success. Being pilot of her own craft in an uncertain medium turned Pava into Dekkan's equal again. Having two teenagers around was energizing for everyone else.

Dodd turned to Uli at one point and said "Qoj write you about the eclipse?"

"Yes" answered Uli carefully. Dodd explained to the others "There's a double lunar eclipse in two weeks, the first in 32 years. Qoj pointed out to her superiors that shipping astronomical equipment to Pya, along with her, would give them twice the coverage and data. So she's coming for a week's stay." Shw turned back to Uli. "She'll have a private room this time, and I'm very busy with school."

"That's what she said" replied Uli with a wry smile. Dodd barked out a laugh.

The following Shmonah they gathered at Arta and stood around a blaze in the outdoor pit. Pava and Dekkan were the only ones who dared a swim in the chilly pond, and Uli had warm blankets for them when they raced back to the fire, lips blue and voices loud. They ate outside but gave up even the pergala when rain started, carrying everything indoors to grab floor space by the hearth, After half an hour, Mill motioned to Pyosz and led her upstairs to the claustrophobic office.

"I wanted to let you know -- there's nothing definite yet, but someone has expressed an interest in taking over Saya Island, becoming the capriste and caretaker there" said Mill.

Pyosz had to sit down. She cleared her throat to ask "Who?"

"You don't know them, it's a young couple who've only recently partnered. They live on Chwet and have a small savings, not enough to reimburse you for all the improvements you've made but they're trying to borrow the rest. They'll live in your cabin for a year or two until they can pay off the loan, then move out another cabin so the sib of one of them can join them. With the three of them working on Saya plus part-time jobs in the area, they anticipate having enough to build a Manage within five years and start having children." Mill's tone was slightly apologetic, but there was some other unreadable emotion in there.

Pyosz was having a little trouble sorting through this information. "They're Owl People?"

"Not exactly. But they are very interested in Saya's owl, protecting her. They have excellent forestry and orchard skills. All the capriste end of things they'll have to learn from scratch, but so did you and that worked out well. Listen, Pyosz, we're not going to boot you out right away, or at all if you male a commitment to stay. But we need a permanent commitment, with contracts undergoing revision next year, every aspect of Pyan economy and production has to be predictable. I think you can understand that. So mull it over and get back to me in, say, a couple of weeks, okay?" Mill patted her on the back and led the way back downstairs. Pyosz moved like a sleepwalker. Inside she was shouting "They're MY goats, not Pya's, and there's three dozen more on the way who are even more mine, if you only knew!"

Maar looked at her questioningly and Pyosz shook her head briefly. She resumed singing, sitting close to Dodd and looking around the faces of her family as if it was her first night here. When Pank and Tu stood an hour later, saying they had to go unload their smokehouse and feed pigs, Pyosz rose also to go with them. She murmured to Maar in the kitchen "When do you leave tomorrow for Skene?"

"Ten a.m. this time, I get to sleep in because of a front. What's up?"

"I'll talk to you in the morning before you go" whispered Pyosz.

Once she and her cousins were in the ferry, she said "I have to ask you for another favor. I need to go to Skene and talk with my emma, my abbas. Will you look after Saya while I'm gone?"

Tu stared at her. "This connected to whatever Mill had to talk over with you?"

"Yes, but that's all I can say right now, I have to talk with emma first." Pyosz felt like the ferry was creeping.

"Of course we'll tend Saya for you" said Pank. "I'll bring you some bacon to take the folks back home."

"I'll come back after milk delivery but I need to go to the jichang around 9. Don't tell anyone about this trip, it's a surprise visit" said Pyosz.

She was up til midnight, making bread and pastries for Gitta, packing a single bag, and whenever she could, sitting at her table to draw and write in her notebook. She packed a hamper, adding bixi paste for her family in screw-top ceramic pots she'd made with rabbits on the sides. She added the two miniature bicycles to give to Thleen and Ehall. When she finally fell into bed, she moved her alarm up to 6:00, buying more sleep time.

But the goats and her trying-to-crow chanticleer got her up at the regular time. She wearily went through her routine, picking up rounds of fudgy prym cheese from Kolm to take home. Back on Saya, she washed a load of milk rags and hung them in the drying room, then changed the sheets on her bed and swept her cabin. At the last minute, she unpinned her map of Saya from the wall and put it in a carrying tube to take with her.

Maar met her at the wharf because she had searched Koldok for Pyosz and was about to ferry over. "What's all this?" she said.

"I'm going to Skene with you" said Pyosz.

"Mill didn't say a word to me -- " began Maar as she lifted the hamper.

"She doesn't know, I just decided. If you'll stow that for me, I'll go talk to her now."

Pyosz repeated to Mill "I need to talk with emma before discussing things with anyone else. Please don't tell her I'm coming." Mill didn't like it but she gave Pyosz releases to sign and wished her morrie vaseo. Pyosz wrapped her manteau around her in the second seat, made a nest with one of her blankets and pillow, and stayed awake only long enough to see Mti vanish behind them.

She woke up to feed them from her hamper, avoiding Abbo's questions and Maar's silent curiosity. Maar let her keep the second seat, saying "You look done in", and Pyosz went back to sleep. It was 6:30 in the morning when they landed, and Skene was awake. Pyosz said to Maar "Come for dinner tonight? With your sibs if you have them. I'll tell you everything then." She couldn't bear the furrow on Maar's brow and gave her cheek a light kiss to erase it. She stretched her back before shouldering her load for the trek up the lane. She didn't knock before entering the Genist Manage. Prl was standing at the aga in her schmatta, her hair uncombed. She whirled around and stared at Pyosz in disbelief.

Pyosz set down her hamper and said "Hello, emma. I've come to talk with you about our future."

After a long breath, Prl said "Where did you come from?"

"Funny you of all people should ask that." Pyosz's giggle made her real, and Prl flew into her arms.

"Come here to the table, into the light -- you look worn, child, are you hungry?"

"Worn is a good word for it. Just tea for the moment." Pyosz let Prl wait on her. She knew sooner or later her opening sentence would work its way back to the front of her emma's keen mind. Prl made toast, she couldn't stop herself, and then while that was in the aga she dropped eggs into butter . Soon two plates were before them, and Prl fried eggs exactly the way Pyosz preferred them, the blackberry preserves were from Pya, the bread had been made by Yoj, who could resist?

Prl stood to get the green glass milk pitcher from the coldbox, but stopped herself and asked "Are you drinking milk again? Dodd told me -- "

"I am but it would be better for me to have juice, cherry or grape if you have it."

Prl said "Only orange."

"That's fine. Emma, come sit down, I'm here to have time alone with you, I didn't tell anyone I was coming but Abbo will blab it soon enough."

Prl slid in next to her, handing her orange juice and looking at her minutely. "What's wrong? You said -- our future -- "

"You know all of what's happened with me this month, I'm all right. Except for one piece of news." She repeated what Mill had told her, and felt weight lift from her instantly.

Prl's eyes were blue ice. "You won't want to hear this, but she's playing you."

"For once, emma, I think you're right. I mean, I'm sure the Chwet couple are real enough -- in fact, I suspect one of them is the child abba Bux sent to Pya when I was eight, isn't that ironic? But I think Mill is giving me a shove with regard to the timeline." Pyosz poured a second glass of orange juice and drank half of it before adding "There's something else I need to tell you in absolute confidence, nothing to the abbas." She shared the truth of how Pya had come by its goat contributions.

Prl said softly "She knows. Mill -- somehow she found out. And she either wants you in place to take the blame when it blows up, or maybe she wants you back on Skene for the same but they'll still have the herd you've launched."

"I don't agree with you that she wants me to be a target, emma, but yes, I think she knows. She's as ambitious as anyone in our family -- "

Prl burst in "Except she's clumsy at it!"

"I disagree, I think she's been wildly successful on behalf of Pya, it's all for Pya, and she expects the same of me" said Pyosz. "And she's not off the mark, only for me it's all for Saya. It's as if I was born to partner with Saya, in a way. Whatever Mill's manipulation is in all this, I realized I cannot leave Saya, I cannot turn over my herd to someone else, I even feel maternal about my owl." She put both her hands over Prl's.

With welling eyes, Prl said "This is it, then."

"It is, and soon as I knew, I came straight to you. Emma, I mean to claim Saya for my legacy, I mean to fill it with my children and their children, I intend to build a massive Manage visible for miles around, and I want you there with me. You first, and then somehow all my abbas."

Prl turned her hands upward to meet Pyosz's with a tight grip. "You already have Qala and Lawa, they'll move as soon as you have a place for them."

"They told you that?"

"No, and they may not have told one another. But I know them, what feeds their soul." Prl began crying softly. "I can't go, child, I have one more piece of work to do and I can't see how to do it, but the future of all Skene depends on me figuring it out."

Now Pyosz's grip was tight. "What is it, emma, trust me and I'll help you think it through."

"I long to, Pyosz. But -- it would be breaking a serious law and put you at risk of prosecution or perjury if I were to confide in you. I can't do that to you."

"Oh emma." She pulled Prl's face onto her wide shoulder and they wept together. "Retirement, then, when you retire you'll come spoil my children and make house pets of each new generation of kids" murmured Pyosz. Prl did not reply, instead going to the sink to wash her face. When she returned to the table, she said brightly "So, a massive Manage? Two stories?"

"Plus an attic. Long porch facing Koldok Kuono, separate keramiker studio -- I've drawn plans, would you like to see?"

They were still at it, the table covered with sketches and lists, when Lawa and Qala walked in. Qala almost dropped the eggs she had cradled in her shati, and after a few seconds, Lawa rounded on Prl with "Why didn't you tell us she was coming?!!"

Prl grinned at her, but before answering she said to Pyosz urgently "I'm the one loaning you the money for construction, me alone, promise?"

"Construction of what?" asked Qala.

"A glorious Manage and various other buildings on Saya Island, where Pyosz is to become a permanent resident!" said Prl with brittle pride.

"Whoa." Lawa sat down, picking up a drawing and gaping at it. Qala delicately transferred eggs to the bowl in the coldbox, looking around when Lawa said "Maar must be over the moons."

"She doesn't know yet" said Pyosz, knowing that would quietly thrill Prl. "Emma was the first, and now you two are the second."

"Well fill us in" said Qala, kissing Pyosz's forehead before sitting next to Lawa. Ten minutes later a knock came at the front door, and Prl looked at the clock in horror. "Oh no, that's a consultation, and look at me!"

"I'll go see them in to your office" said Qala. "I'll make tea and take in, how many of them?" asked Lawa.

"Three adults and a two-year-old" said Prl, scurrying to her bedroom. Pyosz poured another glass of juice before reaching for the radio. Lawa looked around as Pyosz said "Hi, Rark, it's Pyosz...Great, actually, how are you and yours?...I'm calling to see if Sinner Maar is there...I know, and usually I would never interrupt her sleep, but she'll really want to hear from me, could you ask someone to fetch her to the radio? Thanks a bunch."

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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