Friday, December 18, 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)


After lunch, Pyosz went to Koldok, stopping first at Gitta's to buy a large stewing chicken and another gallon can of avocado oil. She went to Klosa's for the suggested leather apron, which was stiff and moisture repellant. She bought a new pair of work gloves as well.

Back home, she poured the avocado oil in a pan and heated it until the handle of a wooden spoon lowered into it produced small bubbles. She turned off the heat, added a cup of the bixi seeds, and covered it with a lid. She cut up the chicken and simmered it in water with lots of garlic and onion. When it was fall-off-the-bone tender, she shredded the chicken into a bowl with salt, pepper, and a dash of shamsjooz. She strained the bixi infusion and drizzled some of it over the chicken, turning it a sunset color and giving it a flavor that made her want to sit down and eat the entire bowl herself. She stashed it in the coldbox, made two veggies casseroles and a massive bowl of buttery rice for reheating, and declared lunch for the following day done.

She set aside two bottles of bixi oil for Pank and finished her baking, saving out a pear and walnut pie for dessert tomorrow. After milking, she exited the barn in a sweat. Once again, she decided to invite herself to dinner at Herne, since Maar had not stopped by. She carried the bixi oil and another pie, and took over frying lawei cakes from Pank so Pank could finish the salad. As Pank removed oversized baked yams from the aga, Pyosz said "I have a favor to ask."

Her tone made Pank look at her. "I've scheduled Poth to come tomorrow for -- it's time with my goats -- she said we'd need a third..."

"Ah. Lawa mentioned it to us a while back. I'll be there, what time?"

As they all sat down to eat, Pyosz asked "Do I do the hardest first, or save it for last?" Nk and Frahe looked confused. Pank said "Usually you kill the ones you love most first, but -- are you going to do it, or ask us to do it while you hold them?"

"I hadn't -- I can't both hold and -- what do I use, is it a knife?" Pyosz was finding the smell of the lawei croquette on her plate nauseating.

"One knife is for bleeding after, and a couple more for skinning and dressing. But the killing tool is a punch that's laid flat against the right spot on their head, and a pneumatic trigger punches into their brain, killing them instantly. Much kinder than a knife" said Pank. "You can either hold them still or use the punch."

"I'll hold them" said Pyosz hoarsely. "Do they -- "

"They die instantly when it's done right" repeated Pank. "I'll do it right. How many?"

"Thirteen". Pank winced briefly as she forked yam into her mouth. Tu, not eating, said "Who have you told about this? Did you call Lawa?"

Pyosz shook her head. Tu buttered a roll and handed it to Pyosz. "Eat this, and drink some tea. I'll call people for you after dinner."

Bread in her stomach helped. Pyosz was able to eat some salad and part of a yam, though not the fish. She took her cup of tea and sat on the floor in front of the hearth while the others had pie. Nk finished early and pulled a wingchair behind Pyosz, combing her dreads gently. Pyosz heard Tu on the radio in the kitchen and tried to guess who she was calling in succession by the way Tu spoke to them. She decided it was Mill, Maar, Halling, and then Lawa.

"I made lunch for everyone" Pyosz said when Tu came to join them.

"Well, I'm under orders from Prl to make you sleep here tonight. Your katts will be all right, and we'll loan you a schmatta, set our alarm for you" said Tu.

Pyosz fell asleep on the battered old couch which Nk kept saying had good structure, it just needed to be reupholstered. But when Tu woke her and led her upstairs to a comfortable bed, she wasn't able to go back to sleep for hours. In the morning, Pank got up with her and fried bacon to slap between toast for them to munch as they walked through the dark to the goat barn. She felt numb as she milked. Pank made them tea and helped her with rinsing udders.

It took long minutes to persuade the five does into a pair of stalls. Pyosz's uncertainty made them nervous, even after she poured cracked corn into the feed trough. She said to Pank "The older ones, they're all looking at me like they know." Pank finished lifting the bucklings into other stalls and said "Do I give the younger ones corn, too?"

"Yes" said Pyosz. She went to Boulder and said "Let's go." For once Molars trotted with the group, not looking around for trouble. As she walked them to the kissing gate, she could hear Echo's unmistakable bleat coming from the barn, alarm repeating itself in another alarmed half-bleat.

Pank helped her load the ferry, but then said "Go on, I'll do the chickens and then reassure the goats."

Pyosz kept thinking As long as I stay in Koldok, it can't happen. But her otos led her back to the wharf and her hand engaged the lever, on automatic.

The radio was buzzing when she reached the kitchen. It was Maar, patched through from her sinner. "I'll be there before lunch" she said. "We're the same, we have to feed Pya and Skene."

"It's Echo" said Pyosz tonelessly. "I'm going to do her first, so she won't hear or smell the others."

"Oh, lev, darling" said Maar. But Jiips cut in and said "They're ready to engage, Sinner Maar."

"I'll be there as fast as I can" said Maar.

Pyosz got a bag of dried cherries and walked to the barn. At least it's sunny she thought.

Three hours later, Maar landed a lighter next to the special crates at the edge of the jichang, one a third full of fly-encrusted blood, the other covered but containing the carcasses of five does and two bucklings. A stack of skins were on a third pallet, dusted with a powder that had blown speckled gusts against the blood-soaked sand of the killing field. A screaming eddy of seabeaks fought over what had been tossed onto the rocks below the eastern cliff.

Gory aprons were hung over the tillage fence. Pyosz was at the freshwater tap nearby, scrubbing already raw hands. She looked up at Maar with no light in her eyes. "Half done" she said.

"Come on" said Maar, taking her wet hands and pulling her to the kitchen. Poth and Pank were setting hot dishes on the table. Maar sat down in a chair and tugged Pyosz onto her lap. "We'll share a plate" she said to Pank. She loaded it with vegetables and rice. "No chicken" said Pyosz. "No milk."

Maar's warmth slowly soaked into Pyosz's interior. Poth and Pank talked about the sugar harvest, the latest earthquake on Tetama, Poth's eldest asking for a sailboat to run the river. Maar took one bite of the chicken from the serving bowl and said "Waves and ripples, Pyosz, that oil is going deluge Gitta with eks."

"Us too" said Pank.

They ate their pie quickly while Pyosz sat with closed eyes. "What are you thinking about?" whispered Maar.

"Tendon attachments" she answered.

Maar stayed for another hour, bearing witness as Pyosz soothed a buckling while Pank approached with a strange metal device, then hefted a suddenly lifeless body to a hook on a tripod that swung over the blood crate for draining. Poth issued occasional reminders as Pyosz detached the hide and dressed the carcass. Pank told her she'd be taking Pyosz back to Herne after milking.

Maar flew her lighter to Herne when she was done with her afternoon haul and joined them for dinner. Pyosz ate some miso broth with noodles and a bowl of applesauce before sealing herself into the bath room for a long solo soak. Dodd and Briel came by with ice cream, and Dodd, then Maar talked on the radio with Skene family when they called. Pyosz yelled through the bathroom door that she'd call them the next day.

When she emerged, dressed in fresh clothes, she said "I don't want to talk about it, I don't even want to think about it. It's over and that's good, can we please focus elsewhere?"

Nobody seemed to know what to say for a moment. Maar decided to keep the bowl of ice cream she'd just dished out. Then Pank offered "Poth said today they've decided where to grow that new crop we just approved, kottin. You know that expanse of barley right off south Dvareka River, between Cogio and Fjer? They're going to roll over all those fields to it, we've got more barley than folks are eating right now."

Tu whistled. "That's a heavy commitment -- it's mostly a fiber, right?"

"Some feed applications for the seed and hulls, and a low nutrition oil, but yeah, it's the fiber they're going for" said Pank.

"Doesn't seem like there'll be that much demand for a new fabric" ventured Dodd. "I mean, it's not dressy like silk or good for cold and wet like wool, and we already have a variety of linens..."

"It breathes" spoke up Pyosz. "It weaves into a variety of textures, it takes dye better than anything we've got, and it endures despite being very economical to make. I'm thinking it will be ideal for children's clothes and for casual wear. I'll be buying garments made from it."

"So will I" said Maar.

"Well, the style-setters have spoken, so I guess the ejida is onto something" grinned Dodd.

"More to the point" said Pank, "it requires a lot of land with a certain exposure to do well. Skene won't be growing a single square yard of it."

"Aaah" said several voices simultaneously. Pank added "Pyosz used bixi sauce in her chicken dish at lunch." She looked at Tu. "It'll sell like saffron, once they get a taste of it."

"Pya's laying pipe for the new contract negotiations" said Briel.

"What new contracts?" said Frahe challengingly. "Let them wonder from one week to the next whether we'll send them what they crave, let them see what it's like for a change."

Into the silence that followed, Dodd said "It occurs to me we have a couple of generations on Pya who grew up on Skene, hearing stories of their emmas' hardships, and we have other generations who grew up on Pya finding their only restrictions coming from Skene itself. A difference in perspective that will continue to shift in favor of the latter."

"I have something I want to tell you" Pyosz blurted out. "But it's a serious secret, and you have to promise to not tell anybody, not even the rest of our family. Especially not Mill and Oby. Because it will threaten the career of somebody we all love."

They blinked at one another. Several looked at Maar, to see if she was in the know, but there was a worried furrow between her eyes that could be interpreted either way. Tu said "I agree, as long as no one is being put in peril." Slowly the rest nodded at Pyosz.

She told them what Vants had done. Tu crowed and slapped Pank on the back, saying "That's Moasi's child for you!" Briel said "Api has mentioned that when our population reaches a few hundred more, we're going to need a second island dedicated to goat raising. This will open all the doors to that." Only Dodd seemed to make the connection between the new opportunity and the necessary events of today. She gave Pyosz a brief sideways hug and said only "Let's hear it for cousin capristes."

Half an hour later, after several wide yawns, Pyosz said "All I can think about is sleep. And no, Tu, not here, nice as it is -- I need to be in my own bed, with my katts and my...barn nearby. I need to go back to normal."

"We'll walk you home" offered Dodd.

But once she was in bed, in a dark rendered oscillatory by Ember's purr against her chest, normal seemed gone forever. There was no late night bleating from Echo. She kept imagining the goats looking at each other, missing their kin, does missing their bucklings, and knowing it was Pyosz who had led them out of the barn, never to return.

The next morning at 6:30, Kolm called Mill. "Listen, Pyosz just called in sick, and I'm worried about her" said Kolm. Mill motioned at Mill, about to leave for the school sinner, and said "What's wrong with her?"

"She said she ached and hadn't slept because it was too hot in her cabin. She also said she wasn't going to milk, because it didn't much matter and besides the goats were loose, all around her cabinm talking to her -- even the dead ones, she said," Kolm paused, then said "We saw there was slaughter over there yesterday."

"We'll go immediately" said Mill. She repeated Kolm's words tersely to Maar who hit the door at a run, Mill shouting "I'll send Briel!" She turned to Dekkan as she dialed Briel, saying "You've copiloted the school sinner twice now, can you do it on your own this morning? With an entire generation of Pya in your hands?"

Dekkan didn't hesitate. "Yes. Is Pyosz -- "

"Your focus needs to be those kids" said Mill sharply. After Briel was on her way to Saya, Mill called Tu and Pank. She decided not to call Skene until she had more to report.

Maar found the cabin door open and Pyosz sitting naked in bed, no blanket over her, painting in her notebook. She was glistening with sweat despite the drafts of chilly air in the cabin. Ember was beside her, and looked at Maar in relief. Curds appeared from the kitchen, meowing.

"What are you doing?" Maar asked, closing the door in Curds' face.

"Painting, I'm having all sorts of ideas for color combinations" said Pyosz. "I'm taking the day off, can you believe how warm it's turned?"

Maar went to her and felt her forehead. "You're burning up, sweetie" she said.

"I know, could you open that door again?"

"No -- Pyosz, you've got a high fever, we have to take care of you" said Maar.

"I just need a day off" said Pyosz. "Lev it, I can't figure out how to mix the green I see in my head."

Maar went to the kitchen and filled a basin with lukewarm water, adding Pyosz's gardenia body rinse. She set a pot of tea steeping and dropped fisk in both katts' bowls before returning to gently take away Pyosz's paints and persuade her to sit on the edge of the trunk.

"I need to wash you -- look, the water's not hot, it'll feel good. Let's start with your face."

Briel and Tu arrived a minute later. "She's raging with fever" said Maar, rubbing the washcloth over Pyosz's back.

"Is that blood on her chest?" gasped Tu as Briel pulled a thermometer from her bag.

"No, she was painting when I got here. No clothes on and the cabin door wide open." Maar began washing Pyosz's chest without any embarrassment about her breasts. "Can we get someone here to milk, I mean, I'll try -- "

"Pank's in there. I'll go do the chickens, call me if you need me quick" said Tu.

Briel did a thorough exam, looked in the chamberpot, and coaxed half a cup of tea into Pyosz by the time Tu returned. "Some bug, probably viral, but what triggered it was stress" was her assessment. She was persuading Pyosz into a schmatta and sokken while Maar changed the sheets.

"My cabin is so full, I can't breathe" complained Pyosz. "And I can't hear the goats any more."

"They're going to the pasture" said Maar. Briel was pulling tinctures from her bag. "I'd like her to eat something with this, and she needs to drink a lot" she said.

"No milk!" announced Pyosz. "I don't deserve milk any more."

Tu said "I'll poach eggs, make toast." Maar tucked Pyosz into bed, saying "I'm going to spend the day with you, we'll have fun, okay?"

After a few bites of eggs and toast, fed to Pyosz by Maar, Briel dropped three different tinctures on her tongue, saying "One for fever, one for inflammation, and one for sleep. She'll be fine, if someone stays with her she doesn't need to go to the clinic." Maar nodded at her.

Pank joined them. "I'll come back this evening" she said. Tu said "We can figure out then about tonight. Maar's here for today."

"I need to call Mill" said Maar, leaving the cabin to use the radio. She said to Mill "It was the slaughter did it. No, not an infection from something, just overload and we all missed it. Listen, let me be the one to call her emma, I'll say I'm doing it at your request and make sure the blame goes on me for leaving her alone last night, not you."

She went to the sink and gulped a glass of water before dialing the Genist's Manage. Prl was upset but said "She'll do that every now and then, try to stuff it all down and then she falls apart, it's why I pry so much. And yes, when she gets high fevers she goes out of her head. Let me talk with her, I know not to get frantic when she's delirious."

Pyosz took the radio with both hands and said "Emma? I killed Echo yesterday, emma, but she came back to talk to me this morning. Except I couldn't really understand what she was saying. Emma, promise me you won't eat any goat meat this year, because it could be her."

When Pyosz's lids began drooping, Briel took the radio and said "I gave her something to help her sleep, that's what she needs most, and the fever will subside as well. I'll come back this evening and call you then, but don't worry."

Prl said she would notify the rest of the family and insisted on thanking everyone in Pyosz's cabin individually before clicking off. Tu and Pank walked Briel to the ferry, discussing how to address rumor control in Koldok to counteract the inevitable "capriste goes mad after bloodletting" story that would arise. Maar set carafes of water and juice on the trunk and read over the labels on Briel's tinctures. She pulled off her gilet -- the cabin really was warm at the moment -- and wished there was an armchair in here.

Pyosz rolled over and opened one eye. "Now I'm starting to feel cold" she said.

"It's cold outside but toasty in here."

"I talked with emma for real, right?"

"Right. Listen, will you drink some more juice?"

Pyosz sat up, her eyes now bloodshot, and sipped at the cup Maar held for her. Her teeth clattered a little against the glass and she said "I feel a chill."

"Your fever's trying to break" said Maar.

"Will you get under the covers with me? I'm so cold" said Pyosz, huddling back into her blankets. After a pause, Maar began pulling off her otos. She stripped to knickers and maillot before sliding in behind Pyosz, who groaned and said "You're so warm!"

Within a minute, Pyosz's shivering stopped and her respirations became long. Maar stayed close, her arm around Pyosz's middle, breathing in gardenia from Pyosz's hair in her face, She looked at the wall of photos beyond, especially drawn to the picture of Pyosz at around one, holding court in Prl's arms, her confident grin and intelligent black eyes the same as now. In another minute, Maar was asleep, too.

Nk woke them up at noon with a pot of bean and potato soup. Maar dressed in hasty embarrassment. Pyosz said she was hungry, and after two bites said "This would be really good with crumbled bacon in it." Maar was on her feet instantly, saying "I'll fry it." "And some chopped tomato" called Pyosz through the closing door.

When Maar returned, Curds and Ember joined them. Maar had to sit on the bed to eat. Pyosz finished her bowl and drank another glass of juice before taking more tinctures and lying down again. "Come back and hold me while I sleep some more?" she asked Maar. Maar glanced at Nk, her cheeks flaming, but she said "After I do the dishes."

"I'll wash up" said Nk with an easy grin. "You two rest well, I think Frahe is making samaki and polenta for dinner."

Pyosz dozed off quickly, this time with her head on Maar's shoulder. Curds and Ember were affronted at there being no room left in the small bed for them, and Maar discouraged them from using her as a mattress. "You're both massive katts" she explained kindly. She lay awake, trying to remember the poetry she'd memorized in school, then mentally revising yet again a plan to visit and rehabilitate all the secanos between here and Skene in the most efficient manner.

The radio buzzed at 4:00 and Maar got up to answer it. She handed Prl to a groggy Pyosz and mouthed "I'm going to the privy." She sat on the pot for a while, remembering against her will the shock of watching Pyosz separate familiar buckling skin from a pale carcass.

She ran into Pyosz on the way back wearing otos and manteau over her schmatta. "I don't want to use the chamberpot" Pyosz said. Maar waited outside the privy, noting that Pank's washdown of the killing ground with the seawater hose had left nothing to draw a single fly. There was still a lot of seabeak noise drifting up from the rocks below, however.

Back in the cabin, Pyosz looked at her notebook paintings from the morning, then said "Emma declares me back to my regular mind. Whatever that is."

After Briel's recheck, Pyosz pulled on clothes and insisted on going with Pank to the barn. "I don't want things to get any weirder than they already are, for them and for me" she said. Maar accompanied them, letting Tu do the chickens and heat dinner on her own. Pyosz milked Boulder, murmuring to her, then went to sit on the feedbox with a pale face while Pank did the rest with Maar as assistant.

"In a week they won't remember, I really believe that" said Pank.

"I will" said Pyosz. "Everything has changed."

"Yep" said Pank.

They ate together in the kitchen, Pyosz lighting a candle for the middle of the table since the shutters would keep it from blowing out. They drizzled bixi oil on the polenta and declared it genius. Maar insisted on doing the dishes alone. Tu said to Pyosz, "So, about tonight -- if you're not up to the walk to Herne, I bet we could find a pilot to fly you."

Pyosz grinned. "Dekkan would be here in a heartbeat." Maar flicked suds at her. "Actually, cousin, I'd rather sleep here if I could impose on that pilot to crowd into my bed with me one more time. And it's not what you might be thinking -- "

"I'm pretty sure it's exactly what I'm thnking" said Tu. "I know you. I can tell the difference between extraordinary friendship and th'other."

Maar looked around at them and said "I'd be happy to stay. But yes, there will be talk."

"There's already so much talk I'm surprised one of you isn't pregnant already from sheer community supposition" said Pank. Pyosz laughed until she coughed.

"I'll be back at dawn" said Pank. standing and hitching up her perpetually sagging kalsongers.

"All right, because Maar needs to go sin, right? But I think by tomorrow evening, I can pick it back up by myself" said Pyosz, "I don't know how to thank you -- "

Pank made a rude noise and ambled into the dark, followed by Tu with the still-wet polenta pan.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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