Sunday, December 13, 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)


The tongue-in-groove paneling used to line the interior of Pyosz's cabin had been milled from the poplar felled in her woods by Tu and Pank. Frahe had told her it would take paint or stain very well, but her first morning waking up with its light grain holding her snug, she couldn't imagine ever wanting to cover it. The movable shutters for her kitchen were not yet completed, being fitted together by Nk and Frahe on Herne, though the framing for it was in place. They had assured her it would be easy to install and would be finished by Lawa and Qala's arrival.

Pyosz had returned from Koldok and was making a list of what she wanted to get done in the next five days when the radio buzzed. It was Api, telling her that an electronics factory had found a use for her clay and they needed another 200 lb., preferably already washed and ready for shaping. Pyosz laughed a little bitterly and informed Api how labor intensive prepping clay was, the factory was on their own with that.

"I don't have scales to weigh large amounts. I can guess it fairly closely and go over to be sure, but I'll want it weighed impartially, like at the Lofthall, before it gets delivered to them" said Pyosz. "And I want a craft to come pick it up, but I need a delivery of more feed and hay anyhow, we can make it one trip." She arranged for the exchange in two days, called the ejida to place her order, and then, almost as an afterthought, asked to be connected with Nioma.

She told Nioma about the work she and Vants had done and the conclusions reached. Nioma said "I'm fascinated, I'd love to go over the chart with you. And I can verify what Vants said, the Guild on Skene has never released any contribution or goat which offers a substantial alteration from the initial herd Pya received."

"Now which Guild is this?" asked Pyosz.

"Well, actually there are three who have to sign off on contracts between the Skene botaniste and any entity on Pya regarding goats in particular. One of course is the Capriste Guild, which Vants is a member of" said Nioma.

"Could I apply for membership? Was Ferk in it?"

Nioma laughed gaily in reply. "Second is the Nudzaak Guild, which is chaired by the Sheng Zhang of Tanyan and interfaces between all farm products and the Allotment Ministry, theoretically insuring that basic nutritional needs are always met on Skene. And third is the Meragi Guild, which is peopled by the djostikers, kaasyastes, tofu and tempeh makers, and for some odd reason, those who produce rice syrup -- no other rice products, just the syrup. Must go back to some reason early in Skene history."

Pyosz reminded herself to ask Yoj or Buz about Guild origins. "So what you're saying is, Vant's vote is only one among many and her influence won't extend to guilds that don't even know her" she said.

"That would be my guess. But I remember Vants as being extremely well-spoken and powerful in a quiet way, even in grade school. Plus contracts are up for renegotiation in a year -- less than a year, now -- and I'd expect smart folks to want to create good will as a replacement for legislated coercion" said Nioma.

"Smart folks don't populate bureacracies" said Pyosz. Nioma laughed again and replied "That sounded exactly like something Prl would say. Or the Ethicist -- is it true that Bux is retiring, just when the redistribution of power is going to become extremely interesting?"

"The spice of power is something abba was schooled herself to imbibe in limited amounts, I think" said Pyosz.

"Ah, well, with Yerush -- never mind, I'm speaking out of turn" said Nioma. Pyosz realized this woman might be very knowledgeable about her family. Before she could ask more, Nioma said "Too bad we can't enlist Prl somehow in the breeding question."

Pyosz had meant to tell no one of Prl's hand in the goat chart and plan, but she decided to trust Nioma and confided in her. Nioma said earnestly "I'd have given a week of Shmonahs to be privy to that discussion the three of you had."

"Emma said to give you her regards, by the way, and to definitely enlist you as an ally in our effort" added Pyosz. Nioma giggled with pleasure like a schoolchild, and Pyosz suddenly wondered if this was who her emma had been in love with long ago. She found the idea so arresting she had trouble following the conversation for a minute.

"So stop by after the Tasting, we're rather crunched until then" Nioma was saying. "Bring your plan and we'll scout out the forms that we'll have to submit." After Pyosz clicked off, she recalled Nioma's face in her artist's mind, her hazel eyes under a wide forehead and long black and silver hair: Very attractive for an old person she thought.

She dug the clay that afternoon, using her muscle memory of milk cans to estimate 200 lbs. She wrapped it in wet burlap and kelp plastic, making a careful notation in her logbook. She had planned to check her orchard, but couldn't resist the lure of potting. She scooped two palmfuls from her own bucket and had no difficulty in forming a shallow soup bowl with a flared lip. She lightly etched the outline of a bunteen chasing a buzzbeetle in its bottom, knowing exactly how she wanted to glaze it. She set it in her cupboard next to the Moko plate with a cry of satisfaction.

She only had time after that to make a rapid harvest of her orchard before milking. She'd have to process the fruit and nuts after dinner. As she milked, she daydreamed about an entire set of bowls featuring the songbirds of Pya -- salad plates and cups too, maybe. Of course, the bunteen will have to go to Thleen.

Going to sleep that night, she revised her intention to have Saya in perfect condition by the time Qala and Lawa arrived. For one thing, perfection was out of balance. For another, her abbas were not the sort to sit around drinking tea for very long, and especially on Saya, they were both going to want to dig in, literally.

She was right about that. The huolon landed late afternoon on Ot, and with Pyosz at the jichang were Pank, Tu, Dodd, Mill, and Oby. Mill and Dodd competed with offers of tea before the visitors settled in at Herne, but when Pyosz said "I'll catch up with you all later, I have to go get ready for milking", Qala said firmly "We're going with you" as Lawa pulled a pair of work gloves from her pocket. They did allow time to drop their bags at Herne and take a brief tour before returning to the goat barn.

Lawa sat in a squat, watching Pyosz's technique intently, while Qala leaned against a stall laughing at the kids, at least until Molars sneaked behind her and got in a chomp. They departed at dusk for chicken and katt duty. When Pyosz emerged into twilight, the table had a basket of produce and Qala was back in the tillage, bent over a row of radicchio. Lawa had a long stick she was using to knock fruit from the upper limbs of the old fig tree. Pyosz called out to her "Stay on the east side of that trunk, abba, the oak just to your west is the great owl nest and she'll be waking up right about now." Lawa stopped for a wide-eyed minute, then continued cautiously.

Pyosz went to her generous new coldbox, delivered that week, and rashly stood with the door open, considering menu in addition to the fat capon she'd roasted earlier and whatever Qala had pulled. Simultaneously the Herne Island cousins arrived with sausage-stuffed squash, apricot cake, and a mushroom gratin as Maar appeared on the trail carrying an ice bowl. "Mill and Oby are close behind with cold beer" she called out. "and Dodd is meeting Briel at the clinic to come with her, she made planked kahe with dill and potatoes."

Lawa and Qala converged on the kitchen, Lawa's gilet full of figs and one in her mouth. Qala lifted the towel over Maar's bowl and said "Thunder me down, that's ehr!" It was, dark green roe in a huge mound. Maar put it in the cold box and began making toast points without needing Pyosz's instructions.

"You eat like this every night?" Qala asked Pyosz, joking. But Pyosz answered "Often", and Qala exchanged a glance with Lawa that Pyosz didn't miss. She was giddy with happiness, and carried a teaspoon of ehr into her cabin to split between the katts.

After dinner, they built a fire in the pit and Dodd pulled out her fiddle. She had a harmonica stashed in the case and handed it to Qala with the remark "I don't think it's completely full of my spit." During the first song, Pyosz heard a persistent familiar bleat from the barn and went to carry out Killer. The goatling of course wanted to graze on the nearby flower beds, but Pyosz kept a supply of raw green beans at hand and Killer eventually dozed off, on her neatly folded legs in the warm sand beside Pyosz. Briel took photos with Pyosz's camera.

It was a late night, and Pyosz was glad Maar had the next day off, from the looks of her weary face. As they were saying goodbyes, Dodd invited them all to breakfast at her place the next morning after Pyosz's delivery. Most of the rest said they had work conflicts, and Qala said "We were going to come over and make Pyosz something to eat before milking -- "

"But they'll want to see your place, and investigate Koldok after, I think it's a great idea" said Pyosz.

"What time do you get up?" Lawa asked Pyosz, who had the satisfaction of seeing Lawa's shock at her reply. "We'll be here" said Lawa after a few missed beats.

Mill said "Tomorrow afternoon I have a large sinner on standby to fly you around Pya, give you the grand tour." Nk added "Dinner is part of the Tasting, we should be at the fairgrounds in Pertama early", and they all nodded. Maar said "But it's not a full meal, I suggest we also get lentil patties from Pyosz's favorite stall."

It rained in patches all day, but Pyosz remembered it as golden. Having Qala and Lawa in her immediate orbit was utterly normal, relaxing and energizing at the same time. The only negatives were how much she missed Prl, and the near absence of Abbo from all family gatherings. Not that I'm sorry Abbo isn't here, but I know Qala and Lawa must wonder she thought.

Maar volunteered to fly the sinner around Pya so Mill could narrate and direct her. They stopped on Nec to venture into the gargantuan forests, and at Qala's request, Maar was also able to set them down on Gul with its glowing yellow hot springs, toxic and breathtakingly beautiful. Maar offered to ferry Pyosz home for milking while she ran to pick up the stall food, then return her to the fairgrounds' jichang while the others met up with Herne Island folks at the edge of Pertama.

At the initial offering of the Tasting, they all concurred that stewed rabbit with peppers was delicious and that the soft-eyed sole survivor held close to Brek's chest was not an animal they could kill. Pyosz was more excited by a new green globule covered with sticky leaves which had to be peeled away. Cooked, it made an enticing sauce in which she saw much possibility -- they were calling it tanim, which meant gift as in the small wrapped presents given to children at midwinter candle-lighting, and she thought that was an apt name. Qala begged for seeds as soon as Pyosz could acquire them.

Tu and Pank went into a subdued fervor over the seeds of a shrub which made a claret-red liquid or paste and held a subtle flavor like nothing else they'd ever tasted. The Botaniste extolled its virtues as a food coloring as well, but mentioned it was a tropical, meaning it could only be grown in greenhouses. Tu wrote down the name -- bixi -- and said in a low voice "Limitless potential for export." Pank excused herself to go talk with an ejida official. "You'll keep us supplied?" Lawa asked Tu, and her sib nodded.

There were new varieties of rice, a small loose-skinned orange called kahel which was also a tropical, and, the Botaniste being who she was, five proposed species of butterfly. There was harsh questioning regarding the habits of these insects during the larval and caterpillar stages, and the Botaniste was near tears by the end as it became clear the consensus was going to vote down her beloved butterflies again: The reward of floating scenery counted for nothing among those who grew crops for a living.

Dessert was cake and ice cream made from yet another tropical, shaped like a massive pine cone with a top knot, that was land-consuming but gloriously acidic. "Lev" Pank swore to Nk, "We'll have to choose between this or bananas."

"This" said Nk, her mouth full. "Chakka, they said, right? And at least one of those kahel trees."

"We'll have to be sure to attend the seminar tomorrow" Tu said to Pank. "It has a unique photosynthesis, have to figure out what that might do in a greenhouse."

The second day of Tasting was given over to nuts-and-bolts demonstrations on how each new crop was grown. On Shmonah morning, those which the ejida agreed to leave on the ballot would be voted on by each Pyan, but part of the vote was a commitment to grow the new item for personal use or sale, as well as agreeing to export. Cottage industry was critical to Pya's economy. Qala and Lawa expressed an interest in attending some of these trainings, and Pyosz waved them on.

They ran into Uli with her family and they were absorbed into their group. Dekkan seemed to be struck dumb both by proximity to Pyosz and to Qala, the famous Lofthall dispatcher and second-in-charge during its most illustrious era. Uli, however, was voluble and charming as always, and the abbas chatted her up.

"There's a rumor that our local distiller in Koldok is thinking about relocating" she said with a wink at Pyosz. "I've heard she's complaining she's not getting enough raw materials locally to justify remaining in town."

"Is that so?" said Oby challengingly, while Api made a face. Uli's emma Licoro replied "She's asking after an unused building in the sugar mill complex, with an attached Manage. It's on the river, easy transport and more central, plus she's hoping to negotiate a discount on bulk sugar from the mill."

"That means hard liquor" pointed out Mill, looking at Api.

"Well, I'd be happy to lose their custom as my near neighbor" said Dodd. "And I daresay the aftermath of kickball games might alter without spirits immediately at hand,"

"She has a good but underused tillage" Briel said, looking at Dodd. They're thinking about Qoj or Mruch guessed Pyosz. As if to confirm this, Dodd glanced at Uli speculatively, something Uli missed but her aggie did not.

Qala startled them all by suddenly rising to her feet and crying "It can't be!" She plunged into the crowd, where they saw her embrace a woman around her age at another table. Lawa excused herself and went to join them. When they returned, Qala was radiant. "That's my cousin, we grew up together on Exploit!" she burbled. "I had no idea she'd migrated. She runs the resin distillery on Hayashi. Wish we had time to go visit, I was closer to her than my own sibs."

Pyosz felt a foot nudge hers under the table and knew it was Maar without looking.

As they were leaving, they saw Abbo across the room at a table with a few other pilots and friends her age. Qala was quiet a moment, then said to Mill "It must be very hard for Ngall to be raising her little ones away from the plenty here." Mill flushed and said "Thanks."

The next morning after breakfast at Dodd's again, Lawa and Qala left with Pank and Tu while Pyosz returned to Saya, feeling suddenly alone. When the radio buzzed and she heard Prl's voice, she said "I'm so glad you called!"

Prl said, not quite lightly, "I thought maybe since you had your abbas there, you'd forgotten me." Pyosz snorted, and Prl let herself laugh.

"Actually, I have a specific reason to call, I have news from Skene which will probably reach there tomorrow" said Prl. "There's been a murder here. Well, an alleged murder I guess I should say."

"That's dreadful, emma" said Pyosz, sitting down with a thump. "Anyone we know?"

"Not really" said Prl, who of course knew something about every person on Skene. "Though Briel might, the deceased is from Wyspa Fling in the Western Tendril."

"The remotest of those flings" remembered Pyosz. "Who killed her?"

"Her partner" said Prl. Pyosz felt a second shock travel through her, and she thought to ask "Is this a private line?"

"Of course. And I'm not going to tempt you by telling you information that might have come from my aggie, only what's generally known and you can share" said Prl.

The dead woman had been in a three-way partnership with two others since right after high school. They'd raised three children who had all left home -- one was on Pya -- and showed no interest in inheriting Wyspa, which was foggy year-round and an onerous commute to most places. The women were in their 60s and the last of their emmas had died, leaving them alone on the fling.

Over the last few years, the dead woman and her other partner had decided they no longer wanted to have an intimate emotional or sexual relationship with the third partner. The drift had been gradual and not talked about at first, but eventually a confrontation occurred and rejection was openly expressed. The two explained to the one that they still loved her, wanted to live with her and considered her family, but their desire had altered and they preferred to sleep alone from now on.

That had been a month ago. No one else had been confided in. Then, that afternoon, the rejected one had come upon her partners kissing outside the chicken run. Without a word, she'd grabbed the nearby axe and flown at them in a frenzy. One had eventually gotten away, severely injured, and ran for the ferry though it was not morrie vaseo. "And she was gushing blood" Prl added grimly. Somehow she had escaped leviathan notice and reached a neighboring fling, where her wounds were staunched and help was called.

"By the time Danaan and Bux reached Wyspa, the murderer had gotten rid of the body and burned her bloody clothing" said Prl. "She denied the entire incident and said she had no idea where her partners were."

"What do you mean, gotten rid of the body?" asked Pyosz in horror.

"There was a drag trail to a high cliff over the Western Wasa" said Prl. Pyosz found this as bad as the murder itself.

"They have her locked in a cubicle at the University, sedated on a cot" Prl continued. "They didn't want to take her to the hospital because her surviving partner is there undergoing surgery. The trial will be delayed until she's recovered enough to at least state whether she wants to testify."

"Oh emma, can you imagine what she's facing? She's lost her entire world" said Pyosz. "Does she send her only partner left into exile?"

"Whether she testifies or not, the murderer is going to Peisuo" said Prl. "In my opinion, that is."

"How eerie, that we were just discussing something like this a few days ago" said Pyosz. "How is abba doing? She'll have to sit in judgment on this, just as she's ready to retire."

"She's not able to talk about her feelings freely, not yet" said Prl. "Plus, exile is a sore topic between her and Yoj, and I'm pretty sure she's worried about how you will react."

"Because of what happened when I was 8, you mean?" asked Pyosz.

That year, another murder had occurred. A woman had killed her sib-in-law but claimed justifiable circumstances because she had just learned the sib-in-law was molesting her 4-year-old child. Details of the incident had been kept from Pyosz; children on Skene were virtually never at risk from adult sexual predation and it was believed passing on information might create an unhealthy interest.

But Pyosz knew the child in question, who had suddenly stopped attending school and whose emma was in custody, facing trial by her own abba. Some adult had voiced their opinion, in Pyosz's hearing, that the murderer had "every right to defend their child", and that night at dinner with her abbas, Pyosz began demanding to know the whole story and would not back down.

Bux tried to explain that while in fact the child had been harmed, the emma's duty was to seek community justice, not act violently from emotion. She added that the emma's reaction was not entirely altruistic: Under Skene law, children "hurt in a particular way" were removed from their families and sent to be raised elsewhere. This child would be fostered on Pya, and the emma knew that would happen no matter how she reacted.

"Why?" Pyosz kept shouting. Bux said "Because certain behavior does not occur naturally, it's always learned, and where you learn what's right and wrong is in your family. So if certain behavior arises in a family, that entire family is tainted and must be kept from access to children for a generation or two until the pattern is broken. Otherwise it will be handed on and our entire culture will be infected."

This had only bewildered Pyosz further. She screamed at Bux "I think you're mean and bad, to make her lose her whole family, and if you send her emma to Peisuo I'll never stop hating you! I'll move to Pya myself to get away from you!"

Bux had blanched, and Yoj was on her feet instantly, jerking her head at Pyosz and saying "Outside" in a tone Pyosz seldom heard. In the dark tillage behind the house, Pyosz said defiantly "I'm not going to apologize."

"That's up to you" said Yoj. "But you're hurting your abba's feelings unfairly -- wait -- and I think it's maybe because you don't understand all of what has happened. I'm willing to tell you the whole story, but it will upset you a great deal and it will change how you see the world forever, not entirely in a good way. You'll lose a piece of your childhood. So you get to choose. If you'd rather not know, I want you to try to remember that grownups sometimes have to do things that are extremely hard and to have compassion for us."

It had stopped Pyosz's tantrum. She remembered how scared she'd been, and she had to consider that decision. In the end, she opted for disclosure, and so in a damp dark smelling of tomato vines and new onions, staring up at stars, she had shivered her way into adult knowledge.

Still, it had taken over a week, after the emma had committed suicide the night before exile and the child with her siblings had vanished into the new world, before Pyosz went to Bux and told her she loved her.

"I'm not that righteously indignant any more" Pyosz now said to Prl. Prl smiled to herself, "I'll call abba when we hang up and tell her I believe in her, express my empathy and support."

"That would be good" said Prl.

Before dialing her abbas' Manage, Pyosz wondered briefly where that child had found a home on Pya. The question arose again during dinner that night on Herne, when talk of the murder dominated conversation. Api said tersely "They live on Chwet."

"The Owl People took them?" asked Maar, raising her eyebrows.

"They're very contented, they belong, and we don't gossip about them" said Api.

"But they can never have children of their own, and may never be chosen as a partner" mused Pyosz. Api, her eyes glinting, said "The oldest sib has already partnered. And yes, no rearing of children, but wounds can be knit and fecundity takes many forms."

Qala intervened, saying "We haven't made it to your hot springs yet, Pyosz, could we go partake of it now? There's no clouds in the sky."

Later in the springs, Ptosz drifted close to Maar and whispered "Do you know them, on Chwet, I mean?"

"I found myself trying to guess and then I stopped myself" Maar whispered back. "We all have the right to leave our past behind, if we so choose." Pyosz squeezed her hand under the water.

The following day at the afternoon dance, Pyosz made sure she was in a position to see her abbas' face when they heard Yoj's anthem performed by Cawl Ffa. She wept all over again at their expressions, even as she shoved her fist in the air and yelled "To Pya!" She could not watch them during the dawn chorus because the room was dark, but Qala kept breaking into delighted laughter the rest of the evening, making a small bleat or cluck.

They ferried to Arta en mass at dusk, carrying pails of lobster and cartons of late-season raspberries. Pyosz joined them after rushing through her Saya chores, and got to swim in the pond by moonlight while watching Qala and Lawa pretend like they hung around with family naked all the time. The presence of Dodd, Oby, and Frahe meant Qala's ginny was commonplace.

Pyosz had trouble sleeping that night. She didn't want them to leave. They met her for milking, their bags in the kitchen, a steady rain falling, and silently helped her with observant proficiency. At Kolm's, she packed extra cheese and prym to send home with them. They already had a hamper of leftovers from the night before, plus a jar of diced golden chakka Pank had somehow acquired.

Another pasenger was waiting at the Lofthall, talking sporadically with Api. Her ashen face and clinging sweetheart or partner made Pyosz suddenly realize this must be the grown child of the woman who had been murdered -- and of the murderer. Going home for a trial and a funeral thought Pyosz with heart-choking empathy. Despite Qala's connection to Bux, Pyosz guessed she would find a way to make conversation with this woman on the long flight and offer consolation, Qala was gifted at that. Her own sadness at separation was quickly ratcheted into perspective.

Lawa's face was streaming as she hugged Pyosz goodbye. Qala simply said "See you soon" and pulled her lime green cap down over her eyes. Pyosz watched them disappear west, with a last wing-waggle from Maar, then went to load her clanking empty milk cans into her ferry.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.


C. Diva said...

Yep, racing through this draft.
::shakes head in amazement::
I'm remembering the conversations about exile and community values that took place in the Riesig manage in the first book; knowing that similar conversations are going on in the same place due to the events of the second book, but given our perspective of the 3rd generation (4th to Yerush), they have a different import. Is it the distance of Pya to the Skenish Islands, the distance of Administrative work to the ejida work Pyosz is doing, or even the distance created between people at different stages of life? Pyosz, even though her ancestors took to politics like water, and Pyosz herself has the appreciation of politics as a topic of conversation that seems endemic to Skene/Pya*, she doesn't seem quite so involved; her needs and values seem to change her focus. What I'm getting at I guess, is this; how does the Administrative arm of Skene keep itself from being an oligarchy?

*sigh. This could be a sly comment about lesbians and their processing but given that I really have no other excuse for the length of my own comments...

Blue said...

So good to finally have internet, and there's a new chapter! Thank you, Mags.