Tuesday, December 22, 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)


The flight home didn't offer much nap time because Qoj was with them. Uli met her at the jichang and they vanished quickly. Maar helped carry Pyosz's crates to the ferry after the huolon was unloaded. "I'm grabbing whatever's hot in the canteen and going straight to bed" she told Pyosz. "But I'll see you tomorrow?"

"I'll be stopping by the Lofthall after milk delivery anyhow" said Pyosz. Her wain had been thoughtfully left near her dock, and she had a two-katt escort to her kitchen. She sorted out mail and gifts for Herne, and met the accumulating crowd at the kissing gate with full arms, saying "Half an hour, I have to run an errand first." She did lean over to smooch Killer on her forehead -- Killer was the only kid who could resist a try at face-butting with this kind of proximity -- and said "I'm here to stay, I'll be yours for the rest of your life." Killer's expression seemed to say "Well I already knew that."

As she passed by the woodshop she yelled out "Mail and news!" She let herself into the Manage and found Pank in the kitchen stirring beans. Tu emerged from the bath room while Pyosz unloaded her arms. She distributed mail until a resiny-smelling Nk and Frahe came in the side door. She announced "There's a Faar lamb from Lawa and Qala, Seda mulberry syrup and preserves from Halling etc., Yanja olive paste from emma, and -- me! I'm emigrating permanently and starting to build a Manage on Saya!"

"I told you!" Tu shouted at Pank before they grabbed her hands and danced crazily in a circle. She gave them bare bones but promised to return for dinner after milking.

It was a wonderful evening. The best part was going to the lumber shed to look at her long slabs of tiger maple and settle on the details of the table she was going to have Frahe and Tu make for her. She insisted on paying their best rate, no barter, and added "I'm also going to ask for a chair a month from you, whatever wood or design you want to do that month except no two chairs identical, until I have seating for 22 around my table of tables."

The next morning she broke her news to Kolm, whose stolid countenance almost dissolved into tears. "Thank the stars, there's been a rumor that Saya was going to be taken over by Owl People" she exclaimed. "I can't wait to see the direction your herd is going to take."

Having launched the story in Koldok, Pyosz headed directly for the Lofthall, where Mill was out but Oby and Api received her with somewhat formal welcome. Api promised to draw up contracts, permits, and citizenship transfer that she could come sign the next day. She met Maar in the canteen and said "I'm heading to Pertama, wanna go with me?"

"Yep." It had started raining, so they squeezed into a crowded bus. Pyosz told Maar about playing with Ehall outside their Manage on Pomar, taking the new toy bicycle as well as the miniature bus to ride a road gouged through the dirt with Pyosz's palm. Ehall wasn't clear on how a bicycle was used for transportation, so Pyosz had acted out trying to ride one and winding up in the cornfield. After that, collisions between the bus and bicycle occured every time they took to the road; Pyosz was grateful they were such sturdy toys.

There was only one bank in Pertama, the same one Maar obviously used since she was greeted happily as they entered. The manager was called in to accept Prl's letter of credit, affixed with the scarlet seal of the Genist of All Skene. The deference paid to Pyosz was thick as treacle. She began an account doing business as Owl Manage, whose subsidiaries included Pyosz Pottery, Saya Island Jams and Sauces, Owl Breads and Pastries, and one full-time employee of the allotment system serving as capriste, huertanera, and beekeeper. Maar whispered to her "You're going to split your britches, cramming so many identities in there" which sent them off into giggles that made the bank manager raise her eyebrows.

Released from the bank, they went to the shop where Maar got her otos and guibba made. Pyosz was measured, and hesitated only a moment when her allotment book was requested to "see what kind of leather credit you have". It didn't yet reflect her share of the recent slaughter. She asked for kid gloves to be made in Prl's size as a midwinter gift, choosing pearl buttons at the wrists. She also ordered thick work gloves dyed assorted colors for Qala, Lawa, Tu and Pank.

Pyosz took Maar to the tiny toy store, where another rabbit was in the window. Maar was enchanted by a miniature metal ferry that rolled between two pylons along a gleaming copper twist. "It's exactly like the heavy ferry between Dvareka and Rudni, see, there's an enclosed cabin with look-through windows, a radio inside, and a mezi ray painted on the bottom." They bought it and ordered a second. Maar asked "The artist making these miniatures, she ever try her hand at sinners or lighters?"

The clerk looked at Maar's guibba and said "Could do. She's not a pilot but she's got a seeing eye."

"Tell her I'll buy whatever she sees into reality" said Maar.

By that time, they were hungry enough to have an early lunch at the lentil patty stand, sitting under a shared canopy of Pyosz's burzaka to watch the vetriste yard. After returning their lemonade bottles, they bought three more lunches and went to the ejida office. Brek was behind the counter and Pyosz greeted her with "How's your stolen rabbit doing?", which scandalized her strange coworker but made Brek roar. Nioma was called in to hear Pyosz's news as lentil patties were handed out.

Last stop in Pertama was the fish docks. Pyosz whispered to Maar on the bus back to Koldok "I keep wondering if it was Nioma that my emma was secretly in love with back before she became a Genist."

"Has she mentioned Nioma over the years?" asked Maar. "Does she keep asking about her now?"

"Not really" mused Pyosz. "But emma can certainly keep secrets you'd never suspect."

"Still, if someone broke your heart -- and not loving you back is hearbreak -- there's usually a detectable residue" said Maar. "I'd look at whoever it is your emma avoids mentioning, or has negative things to say about."

"Well, that's mostly Mill and Ndege, clearly not candidates" said Pyosz. "Let's go drop in on Dodd at school, get ourselves invited to dinner tonight, shall we?"

"What else are you doing with your day?" asked Maar.

"I want to go see Klosa, tell her I need to consult with Mrebbe about building my Manage. Doesn't that sound amazing, my Manage? With this rain, I'm going to skip the orchard today. So this afternoon will be baking and tillage" said Pyosz.

"I have Lofthall paperwork, maybe I could bring that and hang out by your aga" suggested Maar.

"Would you please test my bread while it's warm from the oven?" teased Pyosz.

"Maybe. If you have lots of butter" replied Maar.

That night, Pyosz lay awake in her bed, her mind reliving the day, wondering at how much it looked like Qoj was actually in love with Uli, thinking of more details to add to her Manage plans, and then suddenly remembering Prl's box of mementoes. After mulling over the still-shocking revelations about Yerush and the former Genist, wondering how much her abbas or even Dodd knew, she hugged herself in the reassurance that those poisonous pages were no longer sitting in her emma's precious box, next to her baby teeth and family photos.

Funny about those photos -- Prl was very diligent about keeping her albums in order. The handful of shots in her memento box were curled at the edges, well-handled but not remarkable in Pyosz's point of view. One group shot which omitted Dodd, none of Dodd elsewhere, mostly of Ndege and her family, actually, whom Prl had never gone out of her way to visit. The only family member, in fact, who had been in every one of the photos was Ndege's partner Gerra.

Pyosz sat bolt upright. She dialed her radio in the dark, selecting a private line, and breathed out in relief when Prl answered.

"It was Gerra, wasn't it?"

"Pyosz? What -- are you all right?"

"I was lying here trying to sleep, and it all fell together. You were in love with Gerra, your sib's sweetheart, weren't you? Oh emma, and she chose Ndege, and you've had to just live with it, how hard that must have been" said Pyosz.

"Who gave you that information?" asked Prl quietly.

"Nobody. Well, you, I guess, I feel like lately I've been seeing into your mind like never before. Did Gerra know how you felt about her? Did she -- were you --"

"She knew. I told her. And she..I had hopes" said Prl.

"How awful, what happened?"

"Ndege found out. They were friends then, had been since childhood, nothing more. But Ndege is happiest when she's in competition for what someone else really wants, especially if it was a sib. Except Dodd, she left Dodd alone. So she went after Gerra, and she's two years older, determined, ambitious -- "

"Not as determined and ambitious as you!" protested Prl.

"But she was willing to move to Sigrist Poke, subsume her ambition into that of that lofty Manage, so Gerra's emmas saw Ndege as an acquisition that I was not. I was short, portly, plain, and my brains were not a particular asset to the Sigrists, what counted was a willingness to spy on every aspect of Skene life without too much curiosity or analysis." Prl's bitterness was decades old. "So suddenly I hear that Gerra and Ndege are an item, Ndege made sure to drop it into a family dinner. Just like she made sure it was me, not my apprentice, whom they came to when they began having children."

"You were never plain, not an instant in your life" said Pyosz.

"Oh, lev, I forgot to make sure this is a private line -- " began Prl.

"It is. I thought of you that way" said Pyosz.

"You've been thinking of me in a number of remarkable ways" commented Prl. "Ironic. our new closeness as you move away. Or perhaps there's cause and effect at play."

"Who else knows, emma?" asked Pyosz.

"Dodd, of course, who was right in the middle and hated it. And I think Yoj guessed, but she didn't up and ask me like you did" said Prl with a sad laugh. "Child, I'd love to talk more, but I was about to go visit the school for a report when you called, they're expecting me."

"All right, we'll talk later, I'm sure. I love you, and I hate Ndege a little right now."

Prl laughed again. "I won't object. Sleep sweet."

During dinner the night before, Qoj had complained about light from the town disturbing her planned observation of the approaching lunar eclipse from Pertama Poke.

"I can fly you above the clouds again" offered Maar.

"Won't work with this, I need to set up telescopes and instruments in a stationary array" said Qoj.

"Then I could haul your gear to an uninhabited island" said Maar. "Maybe Mbili Kilima, it has two decent-sized hills."

Qoj considered. "It's a lot of equipment, how close is the jichang to a hilltop?"

"Not close at all, but we could lower it by pallet and hike up after" said Maar. "The bad thing about Mbili Kilima is it has only spotty groves of trees, it's mostly highlands and water access which means a high shu presence."

"Science must go forward" said Qoj. "Can you take me to look it over first?"

"At lunch tomorrow" said Maar.

Thus, the afternoon of the eclipse, with reassuringly clear skies, Qoj and Uli worked for hours after Dekkan's pallet delivery to construct an outdoor observatory, with the framework for a canvas canopy in case rain appeared. Pyosz rushed her milking to be ready for the large sinner Maar picked her up in, crammed with Dodd, Briel, seven of Dodd's fourth-graders, and Dekkan carrying a mezi ray. Pava was one of the teenagers and kept trying to persuade Dekkan to let her use the laser "just once, I promise I'll be careful." Maar didn't even look around at Dekkan, who was all uniformed respectability as she stiffly said "You have to be licensed by the Sheng Zhang to even touch this thing."

There was a definite accompaniment of scurrying in the nearby underbrush as they trekked single file up the taller of the two hills. Pyosz was just as nervous about losing an appendage to Dekkan with the ray as she was about shu attack, but Maar walked between her and Dekkan with a large flash.

There was no illumination at the hilltop. Dodd, who was leading, nearly crashed into a folding table filled with instruments. "Turn off that flash" came Qoj's voice, "I have to retain my night vision."

There was only one place to sit, the folding stool Qoj was in before an impressive telescope. Qoj assigned jobs briskly, with Uli giving quick training in non-astronomer language. Maar pushed Dekkan forward to work on some critical viewing monitor with Pava, saying "This is official Lofthall duty, I'll need a short written report tomorrow". She quietly took the mezi ray, dialed it down to minimum, and began checking the perimeter every few minutes.

Dodd narrated scientific principles quietly, occasionally corrected by a distracted Qoj. Once the eclipse began, they were all silent in wonder, at least until a shu bit Pyosz on her calf. She managed not to jostle anything, with a minimum of profanity -- Molars had hurt her worse -- and Maar grabbed the shu by its tail, heaved it into the air opposite where they were all viewing, and killed it with a single short burst.

"In midair!" admired Pyosz, despite the venom starting to burn. "You're as deft as an owl!" Briel pulled her behind a boulder and used a penlight to clean and dress her wound. Pyosz forgot the throb as the second moon went-blood red and then was slowly eaten by a dark crescent.

It was all over by 11:00. Qoj declared the transit satisfactory and insisted everything be packed up for them to carry back to the jichang that night. On the walk back, one of the teenagers was bitten and tried to bludgeon the shu with the heavy instrument she was carrying before Dodd intervened. Once in the sinner, however, they were all giddy. Dekkan took the fourth-graders into the canteen for warm drinks while Maar, Uli, Qoj and Pyosz unloaded the equipment into a warehouse, except for the camera and recording units they carried back to Dodd's house so Qoj could start analyzing her results.

Pyosz had signed her contracts and met with Mrebbe that day. The next morning after delivery she rode a bicycle through cold rain to Dudor to meet with Uli's friend about building plans. After two more visits, these were done and handed off to Mrebbe. She and Pyosz created a materials list and a budget, the latter of which made Pyosz blanche and say she needed to run it by her family first. However, Prl and all five abbas said the expenses were reasonable for what she was getting. Pyosz had subcontracted the wooden flooring in the great hall on the first floor to Nk and Frahe, with Mrebbe's consent, and she hoped to create the tiles for the kitchen and bath rooms herself.

Groundbreaking began on the last day of Burzas, with Maar sectioning away blocks of rock under Mrebbe's direction as the rest of the timmer crew stood nearby, eating the shrimp maxa and persimmon rolls Pyosz had made for their breakfast. Mrebbe had deducted 10% of her labor fee for the whole 8-person crew in exchange for them being fed breakfast and lunch every day. Pyosz watched the owl oak nervously as booms echoed from the escarpment. She could hear distant bleats of alarm, and the acrid smell of burning stone sent her katts under the aga. But the owl did not emerge.

She knows it's her Manage, too thought Pyosz. She took a maxa for herself and sat down on the cliff to watch Maar dig her foundation. She could bake this afternoon, once lunch was cleared away.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

Blue said...

You weren't kidding - you have been hard at work! Awesome!