Friday, December 11, 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)


Tu and Pank chose Daisy the future chanticleer and Peeker the future hen from the chicks Dadd had given Pyosz as the breeding additions to their chicken flock on Herne. Tu took two of the lilac starts but insisted the third stay by the kissing gate on Saya because "You're descended from Motu Fling as well." Pyosz took photos of every corner of Herne Island, inside and out, to share not only with her family but so Nk and Frahe could send a filled album to Frank as enticement to move back home.

When Pyosz was packing for her birthday visit to Skene, she paused as she was putting her Saya log book in her bag: If they crashed, all her records would be lost forever. She instantly felt disloyal and tried to not think about it any more. But the clothes she chose for the journey itself were warm and loose, she put matches, knife and flash in her pack, and before she went to the Lofthall she stopped at Naki's to make a copy of her logbook to leave behind.

She stashed their lunch hamper on the seat beside her and quietly verified the location of all emergency equipment in the forward compartment. Loading took a long time; Maar said they were packed to the gills. Even so, Maar did a rigorous preflight check, with Abbo's slightly snarky assistance, and solemnly reviewed emergency procedures with Pyosz. The two pilots signed the clipboard and Abbo walked it over to the signaler as Pyosz buckled herself into the front passenger seat -- Maar said she was taking the first leg of most flights right now.

Abbo stretched out in the second seat, putting the hamper on the floor and using Pyosz's pillow without asking. As soon as the engines turned over, a crate of geese in the back began protesting vociferously. Abbo groaned and pulled her cap down over her ears.

They hit twilight within an hour. Pyosz turned sideways and asked Maar endless questions about her childhood, Thleen's babyhood, what every instrument was for, and what she thought of the latest book they had both read. It was liberating right at the moment to leave all her endless chores behind. She worried slightly about her katts having to sleep alone in the cabin for a few nights, but the radiator was thermostatically controlled and otherwise Herne woukd care for Saya, she knew.

Pyosz helped unload at Yanja before they crowded into a short-haul sinner to Riesig shortly before dawn. Pyosz wanted to offer her bed to Maar again -- she could sleep with her emma -- but she didn't want to ask in front of Abbo. She was surprised to see Prl standing beside the Riesig jichang, wrapped in a dark grey manteau. "I couldn't sleep" she said happily. Prl hugged Abbo and Maar, then said to Maar "You want to come back to the Manage with us? I'm sure Pyosz will nap with me so you can have her room."

Abbo looked incredulous, ignoring the pilot who was clearly waiting on her at the Lofthall entrance. Maar blushed deeply and said "Uh, I'm going to pick up Thleen in a few hours, best if I stick here. But thank you."

"Offer's open" said Pyosz, handing her bag to Prl and stacking the empty hamper on her heavy crate to start the walk up to the Shatters. After breakfast with Qala and Lawa, she slept half the day, getting up in the afternoon to go see her abbas. Prl, Qala, and Lawa arrived as dinner was being made, and Maar appeared with all her sibus in time for the meal. At one point, Pyosz heard Adon quietly asking Bux about the real risk of Maar going down in the ocean. Bux lied to her adroitly, with the long practice of a pilot's partner, and Pyosz saw both Adon and eavesdropping Su relax their shoulders -- as much as they ever relaxed.

Yoj asked Maar why it was that Pya had their Tasting at the start of autumn while Skene had traditionally coupled it with the annual midwinter Vote. Pyosz jumped in, saying "I know the answer to that, I asked Api about it. She said it was much easier for Pyans to travel and gather in a central location, so folks didn't have to bribed to do their civic duty with the Tasting. Her words, not mine. Also, most of the new crops were fresher at the end of harvest."

Maar added "Vote Day is actually three days of lobbying and debates culminating in a Shmonah where we all vote, have midday dinner together, the results are announced, and then there's games for the kids, a dance for the adults. And fistfights outside for those who are disappointed with the outcome."

Bux commented "You seem to have a tolerance for aggression that works itself out -- I mean, I don't think there's been a murder on Pya. Certainly no one's been sent to Peisuo for exile."

There was sudden tension at the table, as there always was anywhere with mention of Peisuo.

Maar cleared her throat. "There was what was probably murder my first season on Pya. Two workers on Pirinc had a conflict over -- well, let's just say it was love-related." She rolled her eyes toward Thleen, who was listening intently. "But both deaths were ruled accidental, although it seems likely it was a killer followed by remorse and suicide."

Bux was deeply shocked. "I never heard about this."

"Yeah, we don't much believe in turning to Skene for justice" said Maar as tactfully as she could. Thleen interrupted with "What's that mean, love-related?"

Yoj answered her. "It means somebody mistook their own need for love as a thing they could demand instead of ask for, and when they felt hurt because of that mistake, they made a second mistake in trying to exact revenge instead of simply feeling all the hurt and letting it pass through them." Thleen pondered this for a moment, then abandoned philosophy for what was more interesting: "How did they kill that person, with a rock or something? Was there blood everywhere?"

Pyosz giggled as Maar said "I don't know, and it's not dinnertime conversation." Almost immediately contradicting herself, she continued to Bux "If somebody shows a propensity for fighting, they get hauled to Trumpinne for six months' labor in the vineyards or olive groves. There's no ferry off Trumpinne, only flights arranged through the Lofthall. It cools people out."

"Yes, and everybody I saw on Trumpinne had a knife sheath on their belt" added Pyosz. "You said it was work-related but it would keep me from picking a fight there."

Su instantly said "What kinds of jobs are available there, any appremticeships?" The look Maar gave Pyosz was conflicted as she began to answer.

After dinner, Pyosz played a video she'd bought from Naki that was someone's highlights of Mchele Fair. The last half-hour was of the final parade, and they replayed it several times to cheer Pyosz and Killer, Tu and Pank, and marvel over the Owl People and the giant lobster. Thleen opted to sit in Maar's lap during the latter bits.

Maar took her sibus home, and not long after their departure, a knock at the Manage door revealed Vants in her hot pink manteau. "Cousin Capriste!" cried Pyosz. "You're a day early for the party!"

"Yes, I arranged someone to take my place tomorrow" said Vants.

"Then come home with us, we'll give you a bed and breakfast" said Prl, nodding at Pyosz. They left for the Genist Manage within an hour. As soon as they were in the kitchen, Prl making tea while Lawa and Qala went on to bed, Vants said "I want to give you my birthday present early. It's a blank chart of the type we use on Yagi to track goat breeding and lineages. I'll help you fill it in for Saya, and come up with a comprehensive plan for improving your herd."

Pyosz literally squealed with excitement. Prl said "How long will this take? Because we were going shopping tomorrow, and her party starts in the afternoon, and then she has to leave early the following morning -- "

But Pyosz had already retrieved her logbook and said "We'll start right now, and I can shop another time if we don't finish tonight." Vants shrugged at Prl, grinning, as she handed Pyosz a wrapped tube. Prl said "Well..There's clean linens on the bed already, and towels in the bathroom. Pyosz, come crawl in with me whenever you get too tired to stay up."

Pyosz turned and stared at her. "Where are you going? I can't do this without you, emma, not only would the fun go away but I'd be crazy to not use the finest genetics mind Skene has ever known!" She was visibly agitated.

"My genetics knowledge is human -- " began Prl.

"Biology is biology, I'm sure someone as brilliant as you can translate across species. I need you, emma" pleaded Pyosz.

Which of course was enough. And after an hour, with Vants' expertise and in fact Prl's brilliance that was not just Pyosz's hyperbole, Prl had not only grasped the variables, she was hooked by the puzzle. Pyosz later said it was the most interesting discussion she'd ever had with Prl.

Three hours in, Pyosz sat back in dismay and said "I'm getting clear on what would be best. But the contributions available on Pya -- I don't see any way to turn them into what I need, even on down the line."

"You're absolutely right" said Prl. "You don't have enough of a sample. I wonder if the Botaniste has more she could release?"

Vants cleared her throat. "It has all been released already. We have it on Yagi." She began pointing to attributes Pyosz and Prl had listed. "We have this, and this -- we have it all."

Pyosz's face lit up. "Oh good, then what forms do I fill out to requisition certain contributions? I bet Nioma will know. If there's a fee, I'll have to see if I can get that offset by my production contract -- "

But Prl was looking somberly at Vants. "They'll never give it to Pya, will they?" she asked quietly. Vants said "They never have before. I mean, it's worth a try, and I'll use all my influence, you know I will."

Pyosz blew up. "I don't believe this, how can they be so narrow-minded. so levving out of balance?!! I'll bring charges against them with abba, there must be some statute about acting contrary to the public interest." She slammed her fist on the table.

Prl shushed her, reminding her the apprentice was sleeping at the other end of the house. "In fact, we all need sleep" she said, standing. "We've completed your chart and devised a plan. We'll figure out the rest with fresher minds." Pyosz realized suddenly how tired she was.

"You're right" she acquiesced. "But what a perfect present this was." She hugged Vants and let her have first turn at the privy while she gathered up her papers. Prl, warming milk at the aga, said "You should definitely include Nioma in this. We were friends in fourth grade, before she started dating Avani seriously, and I remember her as having a keen, independent mind." After a moment she said almost to herself "We lost her to Pya, too, when Avani died."

"She's a left-behind, then?" asked Pyosz.

"Yes, but she's close with the child she immigrated to Pya with" said Prl, adding cinnamon and honey to the milk. She smiled at Pyosz. "A good child makes up for other tragedy."

As they dropped off into rapid sleep, Prl murmured "Tell Nioma hello for me when you see her." But Pyosz didn't answer.

None of them got to sleep as late as they wanted because Lawa dropped a cast-iron pot in the kitchen, cracking the stone floor. She apologized and immediately offered breakfast, which happened to be ready. Pyosz remembered sourly that when she was a teenager, Lawa had been baffled by her need to sleep in on weekend mornings. Buxkwheat waffles with mango syrup did not give her the energy she was lacking.

They visited for an hour. Prl eventually handed a list to Qala and said "I'm still lacking these items for the party tonight, could you run then down for me? Take coin from the housekeeping." Qala said "We'll get this, don't worry" as she jerked her head at Lawa. Once they were out the front door, Prl said to Vants and Pyosz "Back to bed, the both of you, I've snagged you at least an hour."

Pyosz grinned and said "You too, right?"

"No, I have to clean and set up for the party."

"It's here?" asked Pyosz, surprised.

"We have more room. Two young pilots have offered to carry Halling, don't worry." Prl paused, then said "You were born under this roof 21 years ago." Pyosz hugged her before going to the bed she was born in for more sleep.

They needed the extra space. Ngall and Ehuy came with their two children, Qoj and Mruch arrived together, and Frank dropped by, in addition to all the closer family. Plus Maar and all of her sibs, with a card they had signed together and small presents from the three younger sibs, which touched Pyosz a good deal. Maar told her she'd have to wait until they were back on Pya for Pyosz to receive her gift from Maar.

Ehall was carrying the gift from their family, one corner of the wrapping peeled away by small fingers. She handed it to Pyosz with the announcement that it was "not a toy", her attitude clearly indicating it wasn't worth opening.

"Oh that's too bad, I like toys" said Pyosz, her eyes sparkling.

"You gave me a boat" remembered Ehall. Thleen, who had edged close, now said possessively "She gave me a boat too, her and siba."

"Where?" asked Ehall, looking at Thleen's hands. Pyosz intervened, asking Ehall "If I give you another toy, will you let me play with you?"

Ehall appeared to be holding her breath as she nodded, wide-eyed. Pyosz pulled from her pack a small metal bus identical to those which drove the roads of Dvareka. Its wheels rolled and its roof opened up to reveal a removable driver, three passengers including a child, two sheep, a goose, and a cage full of tiny white chickens, all carved from wood. Everyone exclaimed over it, but Ehall was entranced.

Thleen immediately moved in on her, with poor skills at sharing since she was the youngest in her family, and Maar had to warn her to "let Ehall control it" several times. Pyosz had thought it too young a toy to get a duplicate for Thleen, but now regretted that decision. The way Ehall looked at Pyosz after that, however, was gratifying: Pyosz was now the cousin who brought wonderful things, a position Pyosz meant to sustain.

Pyosz herself was overwhelmed by the presents she received. Yoj gave her starts from the massive red rose bush by their Manage front door, roses which had begun life with Yoj's abba Dodoj on Isola Fling. "They'll love it in the new world, too" she smiled, wiping Pyosz's tears.

Prl gave her a gold ring with a smoky blue stone which had belonged to her habibi, B'ruch, "Who also had this color eyes, like ours. I don't know who had it before her, but aggie gave it to me the day you were born" said Prl. Pyosz, now undone, sobbed on both Prl and Bux's shoulders. The ring fit her middle finger perfectly.

But it was Lawa and Qala who topped everything. Sitting together on the easy chair, they announced they would be flying to Pya in a week "to see Saya and your life there, and experience a Pya Tasting for ourselves." Pyosz jumped up and down, screaming, which Thleen and Ehall immediately imitated.

Lawa said "We've already accepted a bedroom on Herne Island, and we hope to go with you all to Arta after Tasting on Shmonah."

"But mostly we'll be with you" added Qala. Pyosz, with a wicked grin, said "I'll come wake you up then each day before I start milking." Which Vants, Prl, and Qala found especially hilarious.

Dinner was buffet style, and after dessert was placed out, Vants and Ndege pushed living room furniture into the hall while Yoj started a music disk. Pyosz accepted Thleen's plea to be her first dance partner. Mruch and Qoj asked Adon and Su to dance, and the teenagers accepted with blazing cheeks. Maar cut in at Thleen at the end, making it a galloping three-way. It wasn't like the dances on Pya but Pyosz still had the best time ever, she said.

When pilots indicated it was bedtime, including the two who had carried Halling up the hill, Maar left with her sibus and so did most everyone else. Vants and Pyosz rearranged the living room while Lawa and Qala packed a hamper for the next day's flight. Vants had a deal with a pilot to be dropped off at Yagi before the lighter reversed the length of Skene to get Pyosz to the huolon on Yanja by 5:00 a.m. "Capriste hours" Pyosz said to Vants, ignoring Lawa's small snort.

Prl couldn't stop crying the following morning and Pyosz didn't have the means to console her -- she couldn't say exactly when she would be back. She cried herself until they reached Yanja. She slept until Abbo woke her for food, and went back to sleep during the second leg of the flight. When they landed at Koldok, no one was standing out by the jichang, though it was a lovely clear day.

After unloading, Maar said "Come in with me while I drop off the lading papers and I'll help you carry your things to the ferry before I shower." Pyosz felt a second disappointment at this impending separation. At least Curds and Ember will be waiting for me she thought.

Of course when she walked into the Lofthall, a great shout went up from all her Pya family and friends gathered there for a surprise party. Maar had organized it, as well as the communal gift, which was a fully-insulated and wood-paneled cabin plus shuttered weather walls for her kitchen area -- they'd all been working on it while she was gone.

"So I can stay into winter" she said, weeping on Maar's neck. Maar didn't need to reply.

At milking time, Tu and Pank stood to "go tend to Saya".

"Oh no, the party's about over, I'm ready to go home" protested Pyosz.

"Uh" grinned Maar, "there's one last gift, from me to you. C'mon -- leave your stuff, others will take it home for you."

They stopped at the canteen to pick up a small hamper, and Maar retrieved a backpack from her bunk as well. They went out to a small lighter. After they were in the air, Pyosz struggled with her memory of Pya's geography to determine their route. Finally she said "Well that's Trumpinne to our left, and that last big island to the west must be Zhao Ze because it's covered in marshes. But what are we circling?"

"You'll recognize it eventually" said Maar, mystifying Pyosz. They landed on a little-used jichang, and Maar handed the hamper to Pyosz as she pulled a long metal bar from behind the seats.

"What is that thing?" asked Pyosz.

"There's not a heavy shu presence here, lots of owls, but just in case, this is a jolt stick." Maar led Pyosz over a ridge where they got a clear view of the setting sun. Pyosz heard the distant sound of water. As they hiked along, making their own trail, the rush of water grew louder, until finally they could see a small river below them. They were walking northeast against the current, and Pyosz figured it out seconds before they emerged from a clearing and saw the cataracts throwing rainbows into the last of the daylight: "Pubu Falls! This is exactly the same view as the postcard I have up by my bed!" exclaimed Pyosz.

"Yep" said Maar in quiet triumph. She pulled a quilt from her pack and spread it out, then a candle which she affixed to a flat rock and lit. "Mill would have a conniption if she saw an open flame here but we're right next to the river, I declare us safe" she said.

Pyosz opened the hamper to find cold shrimp, delicately sauteed scallops in a lemon sauce, corn cakes, tomato and artichoke salad, a tiny chocolate cake, and a small bottle of sparkling wine. "I spelled out the recipes for the canteen" said Maar. "I would have cooked myself but there was no time."

"Oh, Maar, you've outdone yourself" choked out Pyosz. "And you must be exhausted."

"Not yet" said Maar. "But no wine for me, that's for sure."

"Well I for once am going to indulge." They ate as full dark settled over them and the candle became a comfort. Licking chocolate from her fingers, Pyosz said "I wanted to see the falls closer up, on the postcard it looks like there might be a cavern behind the water."

"There is" said Maar, standing. "We'll take the big flash, unless you're too tipsy."

"Just the right amount of tipsy" said Pyosz, taking Maar's hand. The bright light was jarring but necessary. As they threaded their way among the slick rocks, a thought occurred to Pyosz. "You've been here before, haven't you? With somebody else."

She stopped in her tracks, and Maar stopped too. "I confess" said Maar in an amused voice.

"Who?" demanded Pyosz.

In a lascivious tone, Maar answered "Mill...and Oby."

"Oh" said Pyosz, allowing herself to be pulled along again.

The play of light through the cataract was other-worldly, the sound deafening. It took a small leap to reach the hidden cavern, which Maar did first, turning to steady Pyosz in her arms as Pyosz reached the small space. Maar kept her arms around Pyosz to whisper in her ear "I'm so glad your aggie had you." Pyosz began shivering as Maar continued "But Prl would murder me for what I'm about to say -- Lawa and Qala aren't just coming to visit, they're coming to check out retiring here. Because they don't think you're going to leave Pya."

Pyosz waited for Maar to ask her "Are you?" But Maar did not. She relaxed against Maar and whispered back "No wonder emma cried that way."

"You'll make up your own mind, there's no doubt of that" said Maar. When they pulled apart, Pyosz was no longer trembling. Maar turned on the flash again, showing a high narrow vault above them that sparkled with crystals. Maar said "I have longed to break one of those off to give to Thleen." She looked full at Pyosz as she said "But I'm too self-disciplined." Pyosz began shivering again.

Maar said "Time to go" as she leapt nimbly into the night outside. Pyosz followed her back toward the single spot of light from their guttering candle. Maar packed the quilt and blew out the candle. The smell of wax filled Pyosz's nostrils, and she said quietly "I want one of those crystals, too." Maar looked at her but couldn't read her expression in the dark.

Later in her cabin, Pyosz unpacked while chatting to her katts. She pinned the goat chart over her map of Saya, fingering her new ring. She went to sleep with her lamp on, looking at the postcard of Pubu Falls.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.