Friday, December 25, 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)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
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)


A vast fairground tent had been erected over the killing field on Saya, extending to the edge of the jichang. Lumber and supplies lowered by sinner were forklifted under the canvas to protect them against the rain and cold of Kall. Pyosz felt bad for the timmers, out all day in the weather.

"Seems like a rough time of year to build a Manage" she remarked to Mrebbe.

"Well, when it rains it's a bother, though next week when the roof's on, that'll be like night and day. The advantage is that we're all motivated to stay in motion, for the body heat" said Mrebbe.

It was a cliche that work crews of any sort could expect to be fed monotously with haidan bean paste sandwiches and vegetable rice roup. Maar was funneling large quantities of fish Pyosz's way so she was, in fact, serving chowders at least three times a week but these were thick with a variety of seafood, savory and accompanied always by Pyosz's bread and Kolm's djoste. There was a midmorning boiled egg and fruit roll break every day, midafternoon pie and tea break, and Ot lunch centered on a large roast.

Pyosz shopped daily at Gitta's and spent hours each day preparing or cleaning up after meals. Despite her worry that she needed to be pouring herself into potting, as a replacement income after harvest, she simply didn't have the time. Maar or Dekkan began delivering hundredweights of flour and grain by sinner each week, to keep pace with Pyosz's extra baking. The aga was always on full blast, which both katts and timmers needing a chance to warm their hands appreciated. Pyosz's compost pile began growing noticeably again, though she said half of it was tea leaves.

Whenever she didn't have to be in the kitchen, Pyosz was at the construction site. Mrebbe always gave her work to do, at first unskilled -- carrying, clearing, handing things to someone else -- but soon everyone was giving her small lessons and Pyosz was a quick study. She often had to milk with scraped knuckles or a blackened fingernail. She had Maar take a close-up photo of her hands one week after a venture without gloves left her needing a few stitches from Briel. When she included this picture home in a letter, Qala told her later that Prl had paced and ranted for an hour. Lawa said only "Stupid to work without gloves, I thought folks on Pya were sharper than that." Which was extremely effective in persuading Pyosz to take more care.

Mrebbe's second-in-command was a small bronze-colored woman named Xante about whom Frahe said, without condescension, "She's almost as good with wood as I am." Xante was there when the wide tongue-in-grove boards intended as sheathing for the exterior of the Manage were delivered. She yelled to Mrebbe "Hey, come over here, they've brought the wrong levvin' order." Dekkan, who had made the delivery and was now hanging about, flushed red, and Pyosz joined the cluster near Xante.

Mrebbe said "No, that's what we're using."

"But you can't lay shakes over this" argued Xante.

"Not going to shingle it, this wood will be the final layer" began Mrebbe.

Xante wheeled to glare at her and Pyosz both. "Are you mad? In short order this will split and let water through, feltpaper won't stop that." On Pya, all buildings except for the handful made of brick or stone were sheathed in redwood or cedar shakes, mold-resistant and lapped to shed constant rain.

"She wants to paint it" grinned Mrebbe.

"Paint? What, the outside walls?" Xante literally rocked back on her heels.

"The same kind of paint used in marine applications will resist the salty rain we get here" spoke up Pyosz. "A hard enamel. I'll have to redo it every so often, but Owl Manage will be a color you can see for miles."

Xante burst into laughter. "That orange on your wain? It'll be a joke."

"No" said Mrebbe, "it's a smoky blue. Like her eyes, not flashy a bit."

Xante stared at Pyosz's face and nodded slowly. "That'll be a first." She walked off with Pyosz to look at the five-gallon cans of paint Pyosz had had mixed and stashed in her store room.

Mreebe took to returning after Market was over on Roku, often with Xante in tandem. They would putter around the construction, doing work that apparently pleased them at a relaxed, chatty pace. Their presence often coincided with Nk and Frahe's arrival to survey the progress that week, and the four of them would come up with new ideas that Pyosz always responded to with "Whatever you want to do, as long as I have stairs to the second floor and an indoor privy." She would roast a stuffed turkey or a pair of geese, anticipating Pank and Tu's arrival at dinner with some delicacy from the recent pig slaughter. If Maar was in town, she joined them as well.

Near the end of Kall, the timbers and jumble of framing covered by tarps turned into the promise of a Manage when a steep gabled roof began going on. Mrebbe said with satisfaction "This time next week, the hidraler and fadian can start inside. If you're going to give us tile to lay in a month, you best get started."

Pyosz went to her clay field that afternoon and dug clay to fill her wain. Xante helped her transfer it to 50 gallon drums beside the timmer tent for washing. Once it was ready, she was given a corner of the tent to set up a board table onto which she could roll the clay, only able to work at night when sawdust wasn't gusting about. She began with the tiles which would have a repeating pattern -- the floors of wet rooms, the backsplash around her kitchen sinks.

That Shmonah dinner, which was held at Dodd's because Briel was coming and going to the clinic with two seriously ill patients, Mill announced "We're going to start excavating rock on Teppe."

"It's a go, then?" said Maar.

Api said "All within regulation because we have multiple use at play. The rocky end of Teppe will be leveled, and that debris will go toward creating pylons for ferry expansion to Borso, Grasak, and Byerle." These were Pea Pods south of and closest to Herne, and the cousins leaned forward with interest.

"That's a longish ferry route" observed Tu.

"Yes, but we have Pyans who want those islands. Manages with children who need to commute to school" Api said, looking at Dodd.

"Plus the couple who wanted Saya" Mill added. "They're going to share Grasak with another young family."

"What about Dou?" asked Uli quietly. Dodd glanced at her.

"We're going to have the geothermal hooked up there as well, while the other islands are being developed, save on future fees" said Api. Pyosz wondered how the budget was suddenly allowing for all this -- anticipation of enhanced tax revenue beginning at midwinter she guessed.

"Second stage on Teppe, we're excavating a 20-foot deep pond in the center of the now flattened rocky uplift" continued Mill. "There's a cold springs already at the edge which will fill it. We'll be able to use it as a cranberry bog once it clears and gets planted. There are a few groves on that end we'll have to leave undamaged -- that'll be your job" she said to Maar. "We'll import topsoil and have room for 3-4 manages around the pond, looks like. Cranberry worker and others."

"What about the flat end of Teppe?" asked Pank.

"It's great pasture, equal to Saya" said Mill. "When we need to expand either our goat or sheep herds, it'll be a perfect zone. We're also building a ferry from Teppe to Saya, at the corner by your hot springs." Pyosz was about to react but Mill said "Don't worry, it'll be for emergencies only, the strait there is possibly not morrie vaseo all the time because of leviathan access from the northeast. Commute to and from Teppe will have to be by air, like Trumpinne."

Pyosz was still worried about new settlers on Teppe slipping over to use her hot springs. She could see the same possessiveness on Pank's face, who soaked in the springs at least two evenings a week after dinner.

"What will you do with all the rock from the pond excavation?" asked Maar.

"It's fine quality stone, we hope you'll remove it in slabs that can be used for exterior building construction" said Api.

"For future use" said Mill with hope in her voice. "As soon as contracts with Skene expire, we're going to Shu and remove the meaning of its name -- eliminate every shu there and level it to 20 feet above the high tide mark,"

"That's a lot of rock" said Maar. And a lot of killing thought Pyosz.

"Enough to pave every dirt or gravel road that needs it in Pya, for starters" agreed Oby.

"What will happen to Shu then? I mean, it's pretty far north" said Nk.

"We'll topsoil it, plant cover and trees, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to live there for at least a generation" said Api. "It's an important weather break for the Pea Pods, it gets fierce storms."

Pyosz was still mulling over all the expansion around Saya, sharing her ferry with even more newcomers, and the fret of a second capriste in Pya. She didn't care about the future settlement of Shu.

Abbo left right after they ate, not staying for singing, which had now become her custom. Pyosz wasn't sure if it was the absence of swimming or the usual presence of Uli, Dekkan and Pava these days. Uli was immune to Abbo's version of charm and was attempting to school Dekkan in the same. The teenagers' deportment also seemed to point out that it was no longer appropriate to treat Abbo as "the baby" of the family, a position Pyosz suspected Abbo had rather liked no matter what she said.

I wonder if she'll even attend these meals at all once my Manage is built and we can eat there sometimes thought Pyosz.

The following week, Pyosz discovered she could be diverted from the wonders of her own Manage by the island-shaping that was beginning on Teppe. When a sinner flew close overhead and landed at the rudimentary jichang on Teppe, Pyosz tried to find a good rubbernecking point from her end of Saya, but even with binoculars, her view of her neighbor's southwest third was blocked by the bulk of Saya itself. Citing a sudden need to make sure her bees were fed for the winter, she gathered sugar water and bustled through the kissing gate.

Halfway across the pasture, she heard Pank and Tu call her name. She waited on them and they went to Saya's western cliff together, looking directly onto Teppe. Pank rooted around for a stick to whittle, pulled out her claspknife, and settled comfortably on a rock next to the springs. After checking her hives, Pyosz joined her. Tu stripped down and slid into the springs with a moan.

Mill was there with a camera, clipboard, and bulky roll of maps. Maar's guibba was buckled tight, and she wore heavy gloves plus a visored helmet. Two of the roadworks crew from Pertama were on hand as well to survey and read terrain. The identity of a fifth person was uncertain until she pulled a roll of white flagging from a pocket and put a belt of it around a large tree.

Pank borrowed the binoculars to announce "That's Ulcha. Lives on Chwet." Pyosz noted Maar made a wide berth around the marked owl tree. The actual rock blasting began adjacent to the jichang on the southeast corner, in full view of the Saya audience. Maar lay down rock in arcing swaths while one of the road crew rode a forklift with a bucket scoop down the sinner ramp. Rubble was deposited in a large carrier basket next to the sinner.

It was all very orderly -- and silent, except for the occasional throb of the engine in high gear drifting across the strait -- until Maar unroofed a cavern swarming with shu. Vermin and workers scattered in all directions, even the forklift driver making a run for the sinner. Except Maar, who coolly mowed down the largest of the shu first, some of whom were alarmingly big, and then drove the rest either over the cliff or toward Teppe's northern pastures.

Pyosz looked over the edge of rock she was sitting on, trying to see any shu-friendly clefts in her own cliff. She glanced at her watch, cried "Oh shit, my bread!" and hit the forest at a lope, her thudding otos kicking up flecks of mud from last night's rain. Killer was waiting for her at the other end of the woods and decided they were in a race, nearly tripping Pyosz and leaving her breathless from laughter at the kissing gate.

The loaves were dark but passable. A few pies were too crunchy at the edge to sell, and Pyosz set those aside for the timmer crew. She reluctantly stayed in her kitchen, shredding baked ryba and cooked vegetables into a thick salad while toasting herb bread for sandwiches. She filled two thermoses with hot tea, and when the timmers arrived for lunch, she suggested they all traipse down to the western end of Saya to eat while watching the Teppe goings-on. There was enthusiastic agreement. She piled her plate with extra sandwiches and pie for her cousins, and they headed out, fending off kids in the pasture.

Whether by accomodation or accident, the Teppe bunch didn't stop for lunch until the timmers were done with their pie. Mill came to the cliff edge to wave hello, and with a combination of shouting and sign language, Pyosz conveyed an invitation for them to come have dinner that evening on Saya. Tu said "I'll slip home and bake a ham, mash some turnips, and we'll join you."

Pyosz rattled through dishes, began a slow-simmering chicken stew, and cooked five pounds of nutty rice before she could zip back to the hot springs. She carried towels and discovered Tu was gone -- presumably drip-drying in the chilly air -- but Pank was now in the springs. She reported "They done filled and hauled off two pallets full, cleaning up to finish the third one." Leveling seemed to be complete, and Dekkan was on the scene, apparently having landed an agile single-person lighter on the now-expanded jichang. Ulcha had wandered off into the northern grass area.

Maar conferred for a long time with Mill and the road crew folks, Dekkan eavesdropping, before shouldering her mezi ray and getting into the lighter. She had on a headset and through the binoculars Pyosz could tell she appeared to be in conversation with Mill, standing next to a surveyor with an open map. Pank said "They have to even out the cliff edges, make 'em stable. Only safe to do that from the air."

Maar began at the escarpment adjacent to the lower two thirds of Teppe. She hovered with foot controls, only 20 feet above the ocean, and aimed her ray out her open hatch to the left to neatly dissect rockface from the island. The boulders and slabs fell into the surf below with lovely white splashes. Pyosz thought It's like she's trimming a cake for frosting. The expertise of Maar's hand-eye coordination gave her a small shiver.

She was still glued to the binoculars ten minutes later when Pank said "Hang on, Dekkan's pointing at something." Pyosz lowered the glasses to follow Dekkan's line of sight, which everyone on Teppe was also doing. Mill was speaking urgently into the hand radio. Maar climbed ten feet and banked to give her a look behind, north.

Long channels of deeper water stretched from the open ocean around Shu into the reef-protected region around Saya. Most of these dead-ended at underwater cliffs safely north of Saya, according to the map Maar had given Pyosz. One of them, though, snaked further south along the edge of Teppe, past the escarpment and disturbingly close to the strait between Teppe and Saya. Pyosz's read of this underwater terrain agreed with Mill's earlier statement that perhaps between that channel and the leviathan-patrolled water west of Teppe, a lev could find egress through the strait.

It now appeared a leviathan was considering making a try. Or maybe it was just drawn to the crash of rock hitting surf. It was not a full-sized adult, rather a juvenile strong enough to bring down a lighter but still slender enough to thread the channel. Realizing it had been spotted, it had now stopped and gone as deep as it could, but a dim pinky-grey shape was dimly visible below the surface.

Pyosz saw Maar hover again, not directly over the lev but close enough for the best view any of them had -- and for the leviathan to reach her with a lunge, Pyosz thought with her heart in her throat. Maar leaned out her hatch, mezi ray securely shouldered, and thumbed the switch that flipped it to full power. Pyosz could see a feral grin on her face. Maar lifted one hand and lazily shook her finger back and forth in the symbol used for misbehaving children everywhere: Don't even think about it.

Leviathan song hit them like a wave, a chorus from the deeps north of Teppe. Two or three leapt high into the air from the deeps between Teppe and shu -- "Trying to get a better look-see" said Pank. Bubbles and silt reached the surface above the submerged juvenile, and Maar's grip on the mezi tightened but she did not fire yet. After a few seconds, Pyosz realized the juvenile was trying to turn around in a space inadequate for that purpose. A minute later, it gave up and instead started backing clumsily the way it had come.

"Huh" said Pank. "Didn't know they could back up."

"Abba once said they have to learn how, it doesn't come natural to them" said Pyosz. her glasses glued on Maar. Two minutes later, the juvenile was able to swivel and stream into water deep enough for concealment. The wash of lev song trickled away, and Maar spoke into her headset with a laugh and shrug.

Dekkan, to her eternal credit, had picked up the camera and shot a series of photographs covering this facedown, including a still of Maar shaking her finger that was the front-page cover of next week's newspaper on both Pya and Skene. That night at dinner, Mrebbe shooed her crew on home but stayed behind with Xante to eat with Maar and the rest. This time, Maar allowed herself to be treated as a hero. "Just part of my job" she kept saying, but with obvious pride, and she always made sure to point out that it was Dekkan who had first sighted the leviathan, "A born sinner" she said.

Once Maar finished the cranberry bog excavation later that week, Pyosz was able to refocus on Saya's activities as soil was imported to Teppe and winter rye planted to hold it in place. She had created small stamps from scraps of flashing and wood that she used to impress a repeating pattern into her wet clay tiles. One was of dancing goats, one was a swooping owl, and one was a bowl of fruit and nuts sitting amid bread and pies. She glazed these with various washes, turning out 36 at a time. She also produced a greater number of unpatterned tiles in complementary colors. Her kiln was fired every other day, and boxes of completed tiles began to clog access to her store room in the barn.

She bought a new album at Naki's just to hold the Manage construction photographs. As midwinter and Vote Day approached, Pyosz arranged for Nk and Frahe to assume caretaking of Saya for the five days she would be gone. Fortunately, milking was at its lowest point of the year. The timmer crew would be taking the holiday as well, and the tillage was dormant except for winter vegetables and root crops.

Pyosz arranged to vote by proxy and spent one entire evening researching her options, as well as preparing her taxes to pay early. Tu, Pank, Mill and Dodd all planned to go back to Skene the same time as Pyosz, along with a dozen other Pyans returning home to visit family. Tu and Pank were going to stay in Pyosz's old bedroom, Mill had a bunk at the Lofthall and Dodd was in the living room loft at her emmas' Manage. All of Skene would be crammed with visitors.

The huolon left at dawn. Abbo insisted on taking the first leg, and made a production of the preflight checklist process. Maar quietly winked at Pyosz and accepted her pillow for a try at sleeping in the front side seat. The midpoint meal was a picnic, every passenger sharing from their hampers. After the pilots traded seats, Maar called in their position and heading. The radio connection was staticky, but Pyosz suspected Maar raised her voice a little more than necessary to confirm that they were off course and the correction she would need to make to bring them in to Yanja. Pyosz did not allow herself to look over at Mill in the silence that followed, but from where she sat, she could see red on the backs of Abbo's ears.

Prl, Lawa and Qala were among the crowd at the jichang to meet them. Maar took her leave, saying she had a pallet on the floor of her family's Manage for the length of her stay -- she had told Pyosz her emmas were pleased with the publicity about her in the paper. Pyosz's family streamed into the copper cao door to shouts of welcome and the smell of frying bacon. Pyosz passed around dried cherries with the breakfast and urged orange juice especially on Pank and Tu, who already looked fatigued. By midmorning Skene time, Pyosz persuaded her cousins to the Genist Manage for a nap and less hubbub. Dodd and Mill could fend for themselves.

Skene's tasting was that night, and Pyosz helped Abbo carry Halling to the Lofthall early for a good seat. She gave the small shares on her plate to her abbas, taking tea and toast instead. There was no rabbit, and Yoj said the bixi sauce was not nearly as good as hers. Pyosz took a taste and agreed, explaining what step had likely been missed in its processing.

The next morning, Tu and Pank left for Motu Fling to spend the day with Moasi while the rest of Moasi's family attended debates in advance of Vote the following day. Vants had arrived and was passionately involved with a question of lagoon revision, for once too busy to talk goats. Prl had consented to speak on behalf of a curriculum change for the school, and she picked Dodd's brains about it over lunch. Pyosz felt like her family was a throbbing organism helping provide the very heartbeat of Skene, and for once she wasn't fumbling for her place among them: She knew where she belonged, and it wasn't on this scatter of islands.

Late in the afternoon she caught sight of bright red hair through a throng and excused or bullied her way to Maar's side. She was introduced to Maar's emmas, Dru and Adnes, who didn't examine her directly the way Prl would have but Pyosz still felt just as scrutinized. Thleen climbed into her arms, almost too heavy to be carried any more, and demanded they all go see the abbas "because my abba couldn't come, her legs hurt too much". Dru and Adnes balked at this suggestion, saying "The Ethicist and all won't have time for us", but Pyosz finally persuaded them to allow at least their children leave to go say hello.

As they threaded the University corridors, Pyosz said to Maar's sibs "I have midwinter gifts for each of you, but they were too bulky to fit in my bag, will you be here again tomorrow?"

"We will" answered Maar. "My emmas are going to submit their votes before we head home tonight, but the rest of us are returning to Riesig for the fun of it." Indeed, it did look like the teenagers were having fun. Listening to adults lose their usual Skene aplomb over issues that hardly warranted raging arguments was entertaining to those still under the thumb of grownup authority.

"Let's meet for lunch, then, at Thina Bowl, my treat" said Pyosz, which got her grins all round. A few minutes later, Thleen now in Yoj's lap, Pyosz said quietly to Maar "Adon and Su both resemble your aggie Dru strongly, though in different ways. But no red hair or chin dimples there."

"No, Thleen and I take after our abba Gusu. And nobody looks like Adnes, which I think was a sore point" replied Maar, something sparking in her memory.

At dinner, Tu was unusually subdued. She kept bringing up how isolated Moasi was, how ill she appeared, until Lawa said "We're doing all we can, you know. Vants takes ferries half the day every bit of time she gets off to go visit her aggie, and we go every weekend with books and treats."

"I'm not blaming you" said Tu. "It's just -- I never realized how tiny Motu was. And no trees except for the lilacs."

Halling looked suddenly suspicious. "Are you going to ask her to come live with you, then, on Herne?"

There was a tense silence. Tu said "We already did. She turned us down, said most of her sibs and children lived here." She rubbed her cheek tiredly. Halling managed to squelch whatever she was going to say.

Frank, who had arrived for dinner, leaned against Pank and said "Well, I'm coming to see Herne next month" which brought a smile to Tu's face.

The following morning, Halling stayed home with Tu keeping her company, sending her proxy vote with Yoj. Bux had her final speech to make as Ethicist and Halling agonized over missing it, but the day was bitter cold and drenched, and Bux pushed her to stay by the hearth. "You've listened to me gas on long enough" she said, giving Halling a tender kiss.

After the last speeches and the crush to enter ballots, Bux was called away to Verzin where an accusation of theft had erupted into a screaming match. Danaan and another Sheng Zhang went with her. Bux told Pyosz "I'll be so glad to never do this again -- I'll catch up with you at dinner, right?"

Pyosz peeled away to meet Maar and her sibs at Thina Bowl, making her apologies to Prl and promising to rejoin them in the afternoon. When she entered the restaurant, she heard Thleen shout "There she is, and she's got a bag of presents!", causing a ripple of laughter. Pyosz had bought two of the flat keepsake boxes Frahe made by hand, of distinct woods and intricate carving, to give Adon and Su. Adon's had chased silver hinges and latch, with a repeating surf pattern around the sides and a raised xiao on the lid, its tentacles snaking in every direction. Su's had bright gold fittings, a tangled braid trim brushed with gold leaf, and a relief of an erupting volcano on its top. Both were lined with velvet which could be cleverly lifted back in one corner to reveal a secret drawer large enough to hide coins.

Thleen was given the rabbit made of squirrel fur, which caused a sensation at nearby tables, other customers and even the cook coming out to look and touch. Pyosz planned to give the second rabbit to Ehall tonight at dinner. She said to Maar "Your gift is waiting on Saya."

"So is yours" said Maar with a mysterious grin.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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