Wednesday, December 2, 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)


Pyosz remarked to more than one person that her new aga arrived just in time. Her plum and fig trees were still producing a decent amount, but the rest of her orchard was at its peak. The drying racks in the barn ran every hour of the day with apple, pear, and nectarine slices. The generous oven roasted deep trays of almonds, chestnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and pistachios. On top of the aga were heavy pots cooking down applesauce, pear preserves and quince jelly, as well as marinara sauce since tomatoes had hit their stride as well. If Pyosz wasn't in the orchard up a tree, she was in the sweltering kitchen turning ripe yield into preserved savories.

Maar returned from Skene with a second-hand potter's wheel on board, but Pyosz had no time to dig or clean clay, much less trying to throw something. Midweek Pyosz ran into Api outside Gitta's, and Api said starchily "The allotment clerk says you're delivering very little fresh fruit or raw nuts. The numbers are strikingly different from past years."

"Is that a problem?" asked Pyosz, taken aback.

"Not from my perspective" said Api, almost smiling. "Most folks have access to fresh items from their own trees this time of year; traditionally the allotment center has had to funnel Saya's bushels on to a factory which did the work you're doing, for a fee. I went over the books with her, translating jars of jam, for example, into original bushels, and it turns out you're turning over twice what Ferk ever did."

Most of Ferk's fruit went to the spirits distiller Pyosz thought but did not say.

"She then dared to complain that what you were going to earn in barter from your higher percentage from processed crops was an unseemly amount -- you already have an income from the goats" said Api.

"I work my ass off for every copper hundreth-ek I manage to add to my pocket!" Pyosz's voice climbed in outrage, and two people outside the kelp factory turned to look their way. "If she spent one day doing as much as I cram into an hour, she'd crumple on the ground like -- "

Api waved her silent. "Everybody's quite aware of your industry. And the benefit to Pya is considerable. Which I pointed out to her. Your share is less than we paid the factory last year. A factory owned by her relatives, incidentally." She grinned.

"Aaah" said Pyosz. But she was still irked by the unfair criticism. Three days later, when she and everyone else who could spare a few hours descended on Pirinc for the main rice harvest, Pyosz scanned the faces of those being assigned to teams and gloated when she didn't find the allotment clerk -- the indolent shu.

Pyosz had been keyed up since awakening that morning. After milking, she'd put on extra sokken but only knickers under the booted waders. She chose a bright red maillot. because Dodd had told her that despite standing hours in cold water, the effort of harvest combined with the insulating rubber outer layer tended to leave workers soaked in sweat, and most folks stripped down as much as they could on top as well. She put on a linen shati for the sinner ride to Pirinc but she kept imagining the moment when she got to bare her muscles next to the scarlet maillot.

She was assigned to a crew headed by Poth which included Dodd and Uli as well as two vineyard workers from Trumpinne. After half an hour, she had to go use the privy -- all this aquatic stimulation she thought -- and although she wasn't actually warm yet, she returned to her crew bare-armed. Uli grinned at her and Pyosz flashed her underarm hair with a wink. Dodd looked shocked.

By their midmorning tea break, Dodd was stony silent. As Pyosz walked by her, Dodd whispered in a furious voice "I thought you weren't interested in Uli!"

"I -- I'm not" protested Pyosz.

"You've been flirting with her since we got here!" Dodd's eyes were dark green.

"I promise you, s'bemma, I haven't. Not consciously. I'm just in high spirits.." faltered Pyosz.

"Knock it off" hissed Dodd, stalking away. Pyosz was bewildered, but focused her banter on the vineyardists until lunch. Dodd sat beside her as they drank mugs of vegetable soup and devoured thick bean paste sandwiches. Pyosz was having an exhilirating exchange of double-entendres with a dashing iron miner, and didn't notice the glances between Dodd and Poth.

Maar arrived, shuttling an exchange of volunteer workers after getting done with sinning. Pyosz sprang to her feet and sprinted toward Maar as best she could in the waders, crying out "Look at how much I've sweated already!" She leaned over to give Maar a look down her bib.

Maar began laughing nervously, saying "Yeah, buddy, I can tell you've worked up a bit of funk" as she playfully pinched her nose. Pyosz riposted "Imbibe it while you can!" and dragged Maar back to the bench, pushing Maar down and plopping herself squeakily into Maar's lap. Maar's eyebrows climbed up her forehead and her cheeks went dull red as Pyosz squirmed on her lap. A few minutes later, Maar extricated herself to take people back home. Abbo came in her stead for the end of shift shuttle, which Pyosz found intensely disappointing.

After milking, Pyosz waited for someone to drop by during and after dinner, but she was alone in her kitchen, ladeling green jam and red sauce into quart jars. She was reluctant to take a shower, finding she enjoyed the wafts she smelled of herself. Finally she decided to go to bed a little early. It wasn't until she turned out her lamp and slid her hand down her still slick torso that she thought of the riceworkers' novel. With sickening mortification, she realized what had been gunning her engine all day.

"Oh no, Ember, I made a public spectacle of myself. What must Maar be wondering? And I can't explain it to her, not even to s'bemma." Ember was sound asleep and didn't move. A few minutes later, Pyosz sighed, turned on her lamp, and reached under the mattress.

Work was well under way on Herne, building Manage, greenhouse, woodworking studio, and all the outbuildings. Tu had asked to leave her Motu Fling lilacs safely on Saya for the time being, and the starts were thriving. Every morning Mrebbe's full crew filed by her kitchen on the way to Herne, and every other day she walked over at noon with two fresh pies in lieu of the hands-on help she wished she had the time to offer right now. Still, with Nk and Frahe there all day in addition to Tu and Pank, the construction was rapid as well as beautiful.

Pyosz made quick sketches of Herne and its workers in her letters home. She fed her four cousins late dinners when they stayed on Herne until full dark, and it already felt to her like she had near neighbors. Saya ceased to feel separated from the rest of Pya, and she found it a relief.

After catching up from the day devoted to rice harvest, Pyosz squeezed an hour out of one day to go dig blocks of clay from her field, assisted by an inquisitive Killer. One foot-square block she wrapped in wet burlap, then kelp plastic, and delivered to Mill for Pya's use. The other she began laboriously washing when she could spare half an hour for it. After three days, she had clay suitable for throwing. She stored it in am airtight comtainer and had to wait two more days, until a Sju afternoon when freedom from baking gave her time to start her wheel and sit before it on a chair, her pulse racing.

She was lost to everything until Maar showed up with a paper packet of fresh kabwiri. "Hey!" said Maar loudly, wresting her attention away from a coiled vase. "It's full dark, can't you hear your goats?"

Pyosz looked at her foggily, slowly taking in the clamor at the kissing gate, her katts sitting close together under the kitchen table, then Maar's worried face.

"Been potting" she explained unnecessarily.

"Go milk, I'll take care of everything else" said Maar. Pyosz reluctantly stood, wincing as the blaze of muscle pain in her back, and she wet a kitchen towel to drape over her vase before trudging toward the pasture. Maar had to scrub down the table and counters before cooking because a fine green silt had drifted everywhere from the potting area.

She had steamed squash, made a mixed salad, and fried the kabwiri in their own skins coated with cornmeal by the time Pyosz reappeared. Her hands and arms were scrubbed clean, but silt streaked her face and dusted her dreads.

"Lev, I'm so hungry" said Pyosz in a near moan, stealing a green bean from the salad as she pulled plates from her cupboard. "i don't know what would have happened if you hadn't shown up and dragged me from the wheel. I guess the owl flying by with a screaming katt in its talons would have gotten my attention."

They laughed together ruefully. Pyosz wasn't satisfied at dinner's end. She used precious cocoa to make hot chocolate, and spread thick wedges of toast with mustard, sliced boiled eggs, and green onions. It was an odd but savory combination, and Maar joined her. They stacked dishes in the sink and walked to the hot springs, Maar talking animatedly about a change in tracking fish migration that she was trying to get Oby to adopt.

Pyosz washed her hair and body, but after rinsing, Maar looked at her critically and said "You've still got clay in the nappiest parts. Here, let me do it." She poured a palmful of shampoo and stood very close to Pyosz's back to rub her head. Pyosz closed her eyes and steeled herself against the urge to lean back into Maar's wet, warm length.

"You need to build a screen between the potting area and the kitchen" said Maar, turning to pull a bucket of water from the springs for rinsing.

"And set an alarm on the wheel" added Pyosz.

"That vase looked good, how long had you been working on it?" asked Maar, taking the shampoo to wash her own hair.

"Dunno. I'd started over at least eight times, it wasn't coming out the way I wanted" said Pyosz, feeling a tug to resume shaping clay between her palms. When they returned to the kitchen, she used familiar willpower to avoid even lifting the edge of the towel to look at the vase. Instead, she did dishes while Maar dried. It began raining lightly, and Maar said "Big storm due in tonight, you got anything needs lashing down?"

Pyosz looked at the wet towel and upended a stock pot over the vase. She and Maar shared an umbrella walking to the jichang. Maar looked at her closely before shutting the hatch and said "Yet another side of you surfaces."

Pyosz didn't ask for reassurance about what that might mean. She found she didn't need it.

The following day, with rain still coming and going, she used her mid-afternoon break to look over goat records in Ferk's old logbook instead of returning to the potting wheel. Vants kept reminding her to chart a complete lineage of every doe in her herd, and Molars was the oddball, with no siblings in the herd and an unfamiliar name for her aggie. Pyosz called the ejida office on her radio and asked to consult with someone who might have back records on goat breeding for Pya.

After three transfers, she was finally connected to Nioma: The woman I stole a soil record from Pyosz thought guiltily. She explained her quest and Nioma said with a laugh "I'm weak in goat knowledge but I'm still probably your best bet. Let me go pull what files we have, I'll call you back."

Pyosz had time to make a pot of tea, stir her jam, and peek under the towel at her vase before the radio buzzed again. "All right, I've got everything going back to the first shipment of eight does to Pya" said Nioma. "It's not organized in one place, a lot of the info is buried in bills and accounts, but bear with me. What's your question?"

"Let's start with a doe named Molars. She's ten years old and her aggie is listed as Midnight, but I don't find that name anywhere else in the log, why is that?"

Nioma repeated to herself "Molars, Midnight" as papers rustled. "Ten years ago...there was no breeding doe on Pya named Midnight ten years ago. Let's look at imports -- there was a doeling brought from Skene that year, age three months, just weaned. Her name is given as Sandy, not Molars. Aha, but yes, her aggie was Midnight. from Yagi. Probably Ferk changed her name."

"She's got a buff coat, Sandy would fit. Why did we import her, does it say?" asked Pyosz.

"Just 'Herd vigor' which is an all-purpose explanation. I can tell you that Ferk was not in the habit of experimenting with breeding or new blood, this was a rarity. She didn't even request Contributions from Skene but relied entirely on our small frozen stock from a few billys. Which cost nothing but isn't good for a herd longterm." Nioma sounded disapproving. "Hang on, there's some appendixed note about that year, let me find that page..."

Pyosz poured a fresh cup of tea and stirred her jam again. Ember had spread out in all the available space underneath the aga and Curds was hunched on a chair, her fur damp, sulking.

Nioma continued "Well this is interesting. Seems Ferk got sick and didn't tell anyone right away, just holed up. By the time the djostiker raised an alarm, three does had gone dry from not being milked and a fourth died of mastitis. We had someone going out there for a week to do the milking before Ferk recovered." Nioma's tone sounded to Pyosz as if she knew full well Ferk had been on a bender. "This all coincided with the arrival of the doeling, and since she needed supervision to be introduced to a new herd, she was kept here at the ejida instead. At first she was put in with some ewes, since we don't keep goats, but they apparently mistreated her, so after two days she was put in a stall by herself, except for feedings."

Pyosz was wracked by sudden empathy for baby Molars, torn from all that was familiar to fly on a chilly roaring monster to a strange place, where she was tormented by big sheep and then put into isolation. Goats are intensely social animals, it's a miracle she survived it thought Pyosz. No wonder she doesn't trust humans, and has never bonded with the herd except for her own offspring.

"That explains a mystery" she told Nioma. They ran down other lineage questions, and Pyosz clicked off with all her gaps filled in. She was scalding canning jars an hour later when the radio buzzed again. It was Pank, saying "One of the crew left the gate open and several of your goats have invaded. We can get tethers on all but one of them, who's biting and kicking every time we get near."

"Molars" breathed Pyosz. "I'll be right there." She slipped a small apple into her pocket, turned off the jam, and shrugged into her burzaka. When she got to the Herne bridge gate, a few kids were being shooed back into the pasture by Frahe, who said to her "The bad 'un is in a thicket on the southeast point." As Pyosz went by the lumber shed, Tu was treating a wicked-looking bite on Mrebbe's palm. Pank fell into step beside her, offering a loop of rope.

Molars was ripping bark from a small tree and wheeled around defiantly as Pank yelled "Hey, you shitter, stop that!" Pyosz halted and went slowly into a squat, looking at Molars steadily. Her silence and calm momentarily interrupted Molars' chewing. Pank stared at Pyosz sideways.

Pyosz said quietly "I found out today what happened to you. Wish I could change how you got neglected. I guess you've figured out, this island isn't where you were born, either."

Molars spit out the rest of her bark and regarded Pyosz unblinkingly.

"Well, we have to go back to the only home you've got, with a nice dry barn. I'll make you all a warm mash tonight, since you've been out in a storm for hours. In the meantime, you have to let me put this rope on you, but I'll sweeten it with an apple. Deal?"

Molars' expression didn't change. The standoff lasted over a minute. Pank sighed and walked off. Finally Molars came forward and bit into the apple with what Pyosz swore was a sneer. Pyosz dropped the loop around her neck and waited until Molars was done with her apple before walking toward the bridge. Molars trotted easily beside her until they came level with the lumber yard. Then Molars turned swiftly and sank her jaws into Pyosz's thigh.

With the thick workpants she was wearing and the burzaka, it didn't hurt as much as usual. Pyosz smacked Molars' flank and said "Cut it out." Once in the pasture, Pyosz called the other goats and took them in early.

(Pirinc, Pya island dedicated to rice, goose and duck production)

copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild