Tuesday, December 8, 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)


Maar was up at first light. She tried to bathe and slip out of the Genist Manage quietly, but Prl heard her and insisted she stay for breakfast, calling Lawa and Qala for back-up. Lawa made her apple pancakes, Qala farmer's eggs with sausage and cheese, and Prl pulled out the photo albums of Pyosz growing up. When Maar insisted she had to go after eating, she and Fohol were desperately needed on Pya and they had to fly with the sun, Prl persuaded her to wait ten more minutes while a hamper was filled for their lunch and a cake was wrapped for Thleen, whom Maar planned to visit briefly on Chloddia before heading back to Pya. Qala assured her Abbo would have all the family care and visiting she could handle, and Lawa said "I'll be talking with my siba, she'll call you herself later."

Once she had gone, Prl called Pyosz to give her the likely time of Maar's arrival in Koldok. "Abbo's going back with the huolon tomorrow and I don't want her to get all the fanfare" said Prl.

"Don't worry about that" said Pyosz. "We've been talking with that saved child's abbas, there'll be a reception for Maar and Fohol. How did she sleep?" In my bed she thought.

"She looked pale but she always is, I gather. The lines in her face were gone and she looked determined." Prl paused, then deliberately gave her child what she wanted. "I think it was restorative to her to be in your bed."

"And under your roof" Pyosz generously returned as she hugged herself. She went right to bed, and in the morning whipped through her baking so she would be at the jichang by 10:30. Cawl Ffa was there, as well as anyone else who could spare an hour. Maar and Fohol were abashed, their bodies stiff and exhausted after the 10-hour grind in the slower sinner. The band played them into the Lofthall canteen, where a spread had been laid out. Pyosz stood behind Maar's chair, rubbing her shoulders gently.

When people began clamoring for the story, Maar wearily stood and said "I don't want to steal Abbo's thunder, she gets to tell what happened to her for herself. And what I'd rather hear right now are folks' memories of Moko, who is forevermore absent from among us."

The music ended, and people stared at each other. But Dodd set aside her fiddle and began telling tales from school about Moko, and after that, it easily turned into a wake. Pyosz regretted Moko's family not being there. She noticed the stone faces on Mill and Oby, and wondered if it was simply overwhelm or in part a realization that Abbo would not be able to resist the public attention Maar had just turned into appropriate mourning.

Afterward, Pyosz walked Maar to her bunk area and invited her to dinner that evening if she was up.

"Nothing I'd like more" said Maar, letting Pyosz remove her boots. "But I have to meet with the Sheng Zhang."

"Do you want me there with you?" offered Pyosz in a low voice.

"I do, but it's better if you're not" said Maar. She looked to be asleep by the time Pyosz pulled the curtain against light. On the way home, Pyosz stopped at Klosa's and bought herself a new wool cap, this time in lime green. Things have changed she said to herself.

She picked her orchard and did the usual preserving, but mid afternoon she set her alarm beside her potting wheel and uncovered the neglected vase. She crumpled it down and returned the clay to a wet bucket. Taking fresh clay, she began forming an oval plate with rippled rims. On the right half, she etched the outline of the secano where Moko had died -- she'd gotten a duplicate map of the secano route from Uli two days ago and pored over it. After a long breath, she began carving a likeness of Moko into the left half of the plate.

She astounded herself by well it came out. She'd only seen Moko a few times, but she was good at seeing and drawing faces. On the back she wrote Moko's lineage name into the clay, adding "Died in service to Pya." She set it gently into her curing cupboard. She knew exactly how she wanted to paint it, but she didn't have the glazes yet and she wanted to experiment for a while before proceeding on with this precious memento. However long it took for her to give it to Moko's family, it would be welcomed by them. My first effort as a keramiker, none better she thought as she fed her katts and chickens, only a little behind schedule.

Maar landed at the jichang the next day and Pyosz met her as she got out of her lighter. "I got our favorite sandwiches" she said, "and they had gorgeous banyu at the fish market, I got enough to feed your new neighbors as well for dinner. But I only got 10 minutes to eat right now."

"Let's sit here on these sunny rocks, then" said Pyosz, leading her to the cliff. "And you're coming for dinner, yes?"

"I'll try. The huolon gets in at 5:00 and we're all expected to be there" said Maar.

"Well, I'll be milking, and I don't imagine Abbo will notice my absence" said Pyosz, splitting the onion rings and zucchini fries between them.

"Mill and Oby will" said Maar neutrally.

"I'll talk with them in due time. I'm involved here, I have feelings about all this I need to sort out, first with my abbas and emma. Made much easier by you including them, thank you. How did the conference last night go? How are you doing?" Pyosz gave her pickle to Maar, who was already halfway through her lentil burger.

Maar half-grinned, tomato in her teeth, as she began "Mill asked me not to discuss particulars with 'her family' as she put it. She was pretty steamed when I told her those goats had already left the barn. I may get uninvited to future Shmonahs in Arta Island."

"Then we'll gather here, or on Herne, or at Dodd's" said Pyosz.

"Okay, I have to give you a nutshell: I asked that we find resources to go to every secano and get them all in working order; I asked for a revision of emergency protocol that puts the main responsibility on the senior pilot; I insisted preflight checks be submitted in writing before takeoff; and I asked that transmissions of current position be radioed to Skene and here each hour of a huokon flight." Maar took a long swig of lemonade and said "Sheng Zhang was frosty and asked what I was implying. I told her I wasn't implying anything, I was flat-out stating we just lost a life on our Lofthall's watch and human error played a role, we had to do all we could to keep a similar error from ever occurring again."

Maar giggled. "Emma would have paid platinum eks to hear you do that."

"Oby was giving me the fish-eye, and Mill started in about the budget, how this loss of a huolon was devastating, plus how they had to pay a life annuity to Moko's family, but Oby cut her off and said 'Of course the most important thing is figuring out what went wrong so our pilots and passengers are utterly safe'. You know, if she runs for Ethicist when Api retires, I think she could win." Maar wiped her greasy fingers on Curds' back instead of giving the handout Curds was angling for and stood, saying "Can I leave my bottle and wrappers with you?"

"Go" said Pyosz. "Come as late as you want for dinner, or not at all if need be."

As Maar climbed in her hatch, she said "The lime green looks even better on you."

Pyosz fileted the banyu, giving the skin and heads to her katts instead of starting a stock, for once. She set the delicate flesh to marinate in curry-laced milk and walked over to Herne. Killer always registered disbelief when Pyosz closed the bridge gate in her small face.

The two-story Manage on the southeast corner of Herne was entirely framed and roofed, as was the woodshop, lumber yard, smokehouse, barn and chicken house. Nk and Frahe were doing fine detail inside the Manage, laying parquet floors and fitting facings. The timmers worked around them, wishing they had their skill and time.

The metal lattice for the greenhouse was also in place. rooted deep in the concrete foundation. Pank was on a ladder, methodically glazing panes of glass into the slanting roof. Tu was doing the same for the lower wall, sitting on a three-legged stool. Pyosz stopped to admire the multiple reflections of silver hair and rich brown skin coming and going around them. When this massive space was crowded with exotic plants and warm humidity even on icy winter days, she was going to come visit and imagine she was in the jungles lavishly painted in Yoj's bestiary.

She overturned a bucket and sat down between Tu and Pank. They kept working as she gave them an account of Maar's return. When she invited them to dinner but added it would conflict with Abbo's homecoming, Tu glanced at Pank before answering "We need to stay here until 6:00, at least. We'll see Abbo on Shmonah."

Another pane was fitted, pointed, and neatly caulked by Pank's veined fingers before she spoke. "I worked with Moko's aggie for a couple of years. On days when we were just tagging or putting out new sets, she'd sometimes bring Moko with her. Even as a toddler, she was interested in everything, and adventurous but not stupid about it. She'd have made a big difference to the Lofthall."

They sat in silence for five minutes. Over the timmers' chatter and hammering, Pyosz could occasionally hear a forlom bleat from the direction of the bridge. Finally she stood and said "I'm making curried banyu and coleslaw with apples. Would you rather have potatoes or rice with it?"

'Whatever's easiest" said Tu. "We'll sort this all out, you know. We'll help Mill along. She'll do the right thing, she always finds a way to it." Pyosz bent over and kissed her forehead before leaving.

Two weeks later, the Manage on Herne was complete enough for Pyosz's four cousins to move in, though, as Dodd remarked, Frahe and Nk would never be done with improvising details of woodworking inside and out. The woodshop was also ready, and it took two runs of a heavy-duty sinner alone to haul over all the fine lumber Nk and Frahe had been stashing for years. The greenhouse was plumbed and vented, though not planted. Tu started making charcoal as furniture was moved in, and Pank walked around the heavy metal fencing encircling the tillage, chicken yard, and ornamental trees, testing it against the cleverness of pigs.

That Shmonah, the extended family gathered on Herne for a barbecue and housewarming. Pank's newly pregnant prize sow intimidated Pyosz until she learned the old aggie simply wanted to be scratched behind her ears. A sextet of three-month-old black and white piglets from another Mti line explored every corner, including the bridge where their snouts sniffing through the gate scandalized nearby goats. Pyosz had offered Tu and Pank all the mast they wanted from her forest floor to feed pigs and burn in the smokehouse.

The only pebble in the beans was not having a place to swim. Shmonah gatherings had held a frisson of unexpressed tension since Moko's death, and swimming was great for distracting horseplay. Maar had had two long conversations with Pyosz's abbas, once at their Manage in Skene and once on the phone from Saya's kitchen. The changes Maar had requested were all in at least the planning stage, though Pyosz secretly worried the current seasonal shorthandedness causing delay would somehow drift on after the heavy fish runs ended.

Change on Pya was not as creeping and incremental as on Skene, but nearly so. Prl surprised Pyosz by advocating patience with Mill. "What she has to see, and take action on, is not just a Sheng Zhang's problem, but that of an aggie. Nothing harder" said Prl.

That Shmonah on Herne, Pyosz felt she could sense Mill's unease at not being the host, at not having a means to burn off Abbo's restless energy once they had feasted and taken a nap on the wide front porch, where inquisitive piglets were prohibited by a metal gate. She turned to Dodd and said "I'll play spoons if you'll break out your fiddle."

Dodd reached for her case, but Tu stood and said "I'm hot, I'm going to take a dip." Briel repeated "A dip?" as Pank followed Tu. Nk said "Yeah, there's a sort of natural rock stairway down the southeast cliff, where a small point diverts the worst currents away from shore if you don't venture too far out. There's a shingle bottom about three feet deep. You can't swim a great distance but as long as you keep the point behind you, the worst that'll happen is you get pushed back into the rocks. It's extremely refreshing."

Abbo was already on her feet, and everyone except Api and Ollow formed a line on the trail, piglets trotting along with them until the first clamber down a rock at cliffside. Pyosz looked down at the turquoise and plum shades of Herne Kuono and kept repeating to herself "Morrie vaseo all the time."

It was much colder than the pond on Arta, and the seawater stung Pyosz's eyes and nose. but it was a relief to fight the waves and splash her family. She got out when her teeth started chattering, wrapping her arms around her knees on a sunny rock and reminding herself to wash off the rime when she got home, it would play hob with her skin. Not long after, Maar hoisted herself out after a hard mini-swim and sat nearby, squinting up at the sun as if denying it permission to burn her. Her face was sad, and Pyosz said softly "Missing Thleen? She'd really love the thrill of this, I bet."

"She would" answered Maar. "But no...I was thinking about...Moko."

She died in cold water like this, only in the dark deep with -- Pyosz couldn't finish the thought. She stood, looking for her otos, and said "I'm going to wash dishes." Maar let her go. She wanted a little more time watching people play in safe ocean.

Mrebbe's crew had transferred their attention to buildiing the many structures on Kacang for the immigrants who would arrive after midwinter break. The three-story Manage going up was almost due north of Pyosz's kitchen, though far enough across the water that she had no sense of intrusion. They'd be bringing several new children to Koldok school, and Pyosz's ferry would be shared by them as far as the first pylon. The Pea Pods were populating.

Pyosz invited Uli to dinner one night, ostensibly to go over the underground terrain of Saya on Uli's latest map, but also to give Uli a chance to talk about what was going on with her and Qoj. No further visits had occurred between the two, and Qoj's one letter to Pyosz had been cryptic. However, Uli avoided the topic through the meal and dessert. They cleared the table and spread the map, leaning together to examine details as an explosion of late summer buzzbeetles tried to immolate themselves on the overhead light,

A light rain started, and Pyosz said "Did you bring a burzaka? I'll loan you one of mine when you go home, or an umbrella if you'd rather."

Uli leaned back, her dark eyes happy, and said "It's so good to be off Dvareka, away from Koldok. I've daydreamed about asking for a small Pea Pod, but they'll never give one to a single person and my aggie can't ride ferries."

"You and Dekkan could team up. Dou is tiny and closest to Koldok, I bet a Lofthall pilot could get priority" suggest Pyosz.

"I love Dou" said Uli with longing. "It has a cold springs, did you know that? But -- one of us will have to stay in Koldok and inherit the Manage there to look after our emmas. And Dekkan's career will keep her busier than me, plus she'll probably find a partner before I do..." Uli trailed off, then said "Sorry, I didn't mean to gossip about -- your family."

"You can talk to me as a friend, I'll keep your confidence" said Pyosz.

"Even if it's Dodd doing her soft excavation?" said Uli with a grin.

"I've been known to say no to Dodd" said Pyosz. grinning back.

Uli sighed and said "Qoj says she won't be in a position to transfer a career to Pya for at least a year, and she doesn't think it's fair to ask me to wait. I can't tell if she means it or just wants a clean out -- not in a letter or over the phone."

"Then go visit her, ask her in person. I'm heading back for my birthday in 10 days, you could travel with me, meet the rest of my family, so all the pressure isn't on her to entertain you." Pyosz saw alarm on Uli's face and said "What?"

"One of those beetles, it's in your hair." Uli helped her extricate it, with Pyosz only squealing in revulsion once. Uli then said "Between you and me, I'm a little leery about flying in the huolon right now."

"I guess I understand that, except with Maar on watch -- " Pyosz stopped herself but she saw Uli's apprasing look. Uli said quietly "I share your opinion. I've pressured Dekkan to, well, avoid working with Abbo alone. If I thought Abbo was ever going to be Sheng Zhang, I'd be raising the roof to make Dekkan change careers."

Pyosz let out a long breath. "Is that an opinion generally shared or just yours?"

"Well..." Uli temporized. "Most of my friends know them both firsthand, you see." There was a troubled silence. Uli jumped in with "But I'd go to Skene, of course, if I wasn't afraid Qoj'd shut me down cold once I got there. I'd rather wait it out. And aggie wasn't happy about me dating Qoj, anyhow. Nothing against Qoj, it's just that she figured if we coupled, we'd go live in Dodd and Briel's Manage instead of ours, theirs is much nicer."

"Did you and Qoj talk about that?" asked Pyosz.

"Not about us, no" said Uli hastily. "But she did make it clear she wants to have that Manage eventually, and not to share it with Mruch. I'll be honest, the idea of living under the eye of Dodd doesn't sound any better than winding up with aggie." Uli's voice was bleak.

"Hence the dream of a Pea Pod" commiserated Pyosz.

"You've got it all" said Uli softly. "I mean, you deserve it, but it's a singular opportunity."

"I wish my aggie could hear you say that" replied Pyosz.

"So your birthday is in 10 days? Surely you'll have a celebration here as well" said Uli. "And the following week is the annual Tasting, it's much better here than on Skene."

"I wouldn't miss it" said Pyosz. "I heard from Pank that there's another problem with a new animal they tried out this year, somewhat akin to the squirrel experiment."

"What, you mean the Owl People have purloined the creatures for Chwet?" laughed Uli.

"Not yet. These are small furry animals from a similar family to squirrels, though larger and with extremely long ears, only a stub tail. The meat is delicious, they're herbivores, and the fur is highly desirable" said Pyosz. "Plus they breed at an incredible rate all year long."

"So what's the problem?" asked Uli.

"Well, the reproduction rate combined with their appetite for crops became alarming. If they ever got loose -- and they're apparently good burrowers -- no field on Dvareka would be safe. Skene has flat-out refused to ever try growing them and demanded no animals be brought there from Pya. But even worse, the ejida workers became very attached to them, began thinking of them as companions like katts. When the first few were killed and dressed, they apparently looked enough like katts what one of the hardened ejida staff actually cried" said Pyosz.

"Hard to imagine" said Uli.

"So now the question is what to do with the ones that remain" continued Pyosz. "The ejida workers who tend them have neutered them all, but they're petitioning to have them not be slaughtered for the Tasting. They want to keep them as, well, pets."

Uli was laughing. "I'll have to go have a look at them for myself. You think the ejida workers will get their request?"

"Pank says not a chance, the Pya Botaniste has a soft spot only for butterflies and chilis."

At the end of the evening, they parted with a warm hug. The next day Maar tried to find out what they had discussed over dinner, and became wounded when Pyosz evaded her questions. Pyosz was focused, however, on getting far enough ahead that she could take off four days for a visit to Skene, even with Herne Island cousins at hand to do the milking.

copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild

1 comment:

Blue said...

Oh it's wrong, wrong that I have to go to work instead of reading this!