Friday, December 4, 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)


Three days later there was a ceremony at the Lofthall for two new pilots who had completed flight school on Skene and now were returning to Pya to work. One of them was still 16, Dekkan, the sibu of Uli. She had not yet attained her full growth, but pride threatened to burst the seams of her new robin-blue uniform. She blushed and stammered when Pyosz introduced herself, and at the party afterward, every time Pyosz turned around, Dekkan was standing there in mute admiration.

When they had a moment alone, Maar teased Pyosz "Someone's fallen for you rather hard."

"Yikes, I know. But unlike you, I'm not interested in 16-year-olds." It was a risky joke. Maar grinned as she protested mildly "Hey."

"So will having two more bodies help decrease your work load?" asked Pyosz, taking a bite of toast from the Lofthall canteen and frowning to herself at the texture.

"Theoretically, once we get them sorted out as to our way of doing things. Short-term, they'll need a lot of supervision, which will fall partly on me" said Maar.

Though you're only 19 yourself thought Pyosz.

"They need to rack up flight hours without a lot of risk to themselves or others" continued Maar. "Dekkan wants to sin, so we'll put her in a lighter with radar to give her something she's responsible for. We're hitting peak migration for some fish species, and Mill's putting us on two sins a day starting tomorrow. The other greenhand, Moko, wants to focus on hauling, so Mill asked me to sit out the huolon run this week, let Moko do it with Abbo instead."

"Oh, no, that means you won't see Thleen!" said Pyosz.

"Yeah, neither of us are happy about it. But I'm going to be swamped, and it's just this once, and it would be good for the huolon run to have an alternate" said Maar, sounding as if she were convincing herself. "I've asked to be the trainer in the future for that territory."

"Uh-oh, the band is about to start and Dekkan is headed this way, pull me out on the dance floor, will you?" whispered Pyosz.

The next morning she was beginning to sift flour in her massive bowl when the radio buzzed. It was Prl, saying cheerfully "Do you know what today is?"

"Uh...two days until Raccolto?" guessed Pyosz.

"Exactly one month until your birthday!" said Prl. "You'll be back home, and I thought about planning a surprise party for you, but then I decided you might rather organize it yourself as part of your return."

Pyosz set down her measuring cup, then sat down herself.

"Pyosz, are you still there?"

"Yeah, emma." A long tense silence was filled with small static, birdsong, and the remote crash of waves on Saya's cliffs.

"You will be back for your birthday?" demanded Prl. "You promised when you left, I specifically asked you -- "

"I will be home on my birthday" said Pyosz, realizing immediately the wording wouldn't slide by Prl. "But emma, I can't imagine that I'll be finished with what I need to do here by then."

"What are you talking about?" said Prl aggressively. Pyosz thought maybe her emma had worked herself up to make this call. "I'll pay for the shipping of your kiln and wheel, I've already figured out where you can set up a studio. All the rest of it there is the responsibility of your replacement."

"There is no replacement -- " began Pyosz.

"And there never will be if you don't inform Mill to do her end of the bargain" said Prl. "It's one thing to try your hand at so many new things, I understand that, but you have a real life waiting for you."

Mrebbe and her crew appeared on their way to Herne, waving and calling hello. Pyosz waved back numbly as Prl ranted on. Once the timmers were out of range, Pyosz said "Emma -- I will be home for my birthday. But harvest on Saya includes goats, and as sick as I am about the idea of killing any of these beloved animals, I'm not going to leave them in the hands of strangers for those last terrible minutes. And I also want to be the one to launch the next generation of my herd, which you of all people ought to understand. So there's no way I'll feel done here until Burzas at the earliest. I'll talk to you more about it after you've discussed it with Qala and Lawa, whom I'm sure are not there, not the way you're going off on me. I love you, and this is my choice, emma, this is my real life."

She clicked off and stood with a surge of anger. That's when she noticed Tu and Pank beyond the aga. Pank grinned and said "We've all been waiting for that kettle to boil."

"You okay?" asked Tu, setting a slab of bacon on the table.

'I am, actually" said Pyosz.

"I'll talk to you another time about what slaughter entails" said Pank, clapping Pyosz's shoulder before they walked on. Pyosz waited over the next half hour for a furious call back from Prl, but finally relaxed, marveling that her emma had listened to her.

Prl, in her office in Skene, hurled the radio across the room. It bounced off a stack of paper files and skidded into the corner. She surged to her feet and snatched it back up, but after a split second, she punched in another number instead of Pyosz's.

When Dodd answered, Prl all but shouted "She's staying through Burzas! She's not coming back at summer's end like she promised."


"I counted on you being around to help me raise her, maybe if you hadn't taken off she'd respect me more." To Prl's horror, she slid abruptly into sobs.

"Is Pyosz okay? What's going on?" asked Dodd. Prl couldn't answer right away, and when she could talk, she kept repeating "She's not coming back, I've lost my child, my only child."

"I'd commiserate with you, sibu, both my darlings are in Skene. But I do have two, and I have Briel, so I'd be farting in my palm to presume I know exactly what you're feeling" said Dodd. "I will say, however, that Pyosz loves you every bit as much as you love her, and she doesn't want to live apart from you."

Prl sobbed again. Dodd continued "And I have always treated Pyosz like one of my own children. I've been especially involved with her this summer."

"Then stop her from throwing away her future to milk goats and wait on that levving pilot!" wailed Prl.

Dodd listened for a while. Eventually Prl blew her nose and grilled Dodd about Pyosz's life, which got her complete information if not reassurance. In turn, Dodd confided her concern about Qoj and Uli. "I mean, Prl. I've heard Uli has made a move on everyone in her sui. I don't understand these kids and how impulsive they are about sex. At the rice harvest last week Pyosz was trying to get strangers to sniff her armpits."

By the time they said goodbye, they were united as sibs and as emmas. Prl decided to have dinner that night with her own emmas and set them on the task of getting Pyosz back to Skene. Yoj will pull out all the stops she thought.

The next morning when Pyosz dropped off her milk at the djostiker's, Kolm grinned at her hugely and said "I think I've cracked it."

"What?' asked Pyosz, and then she noticed a plate holding a small round of dark caramel-colored cheese. "Oho!" she cried, reaching to slice a piece.

"It's from the whey, after I removed the curds, and it's about the process mostly" said Kolm with intense pride. "Cooking temperature and times, when to stir, how.." Her voice trailed off as Pyosz, her mouth full, began slapping the counter in ecstasy. Pyosz lingered over the flavor before swallowing, then said "You'll never be able to keep this in stock. It's like chocolate!"

"That's what Gitta said." Kolm was wringing her hands in happiness. "Well, I'll take it to our Sheng Zhang, then, but I want to keep it for Pya as long as possible -- us first, and maybe Skene if we have extra. The recipe will be something we can contract for."

"I agree, Kolm, except my abba Yoj is who funneled the idea our way, could I please send them some? Not to be shared or even talked about outside my family? They're trustworthy, I promise."

"Of course" said Kolm, well aware of what personages would thus be in collusion with her. "I have a five pound round wrapped for you, that's half of this batch that finally worked the way I wanted it to, I'll do more in the next few days."

"Well, let's cut my share in half again, and can I use some of your wrap? I'll send this to my abbas on the huolon that's leaving within the hour." Pyosz scribbled a quick note and sealed it in with the package. She put the rest of her share in her gilet -- she didn't think she could resist nibbling on the way home.

At the Lofthall, Abbo and the new pilot, Moko, were loading the last of the huolon. "I have an addition to my crate home" said Pyosz. "You'll have to find it yourself" said Abbo irritably. Pyosz climbed in the hatch and rooted through the lashed crates, having to restack them to reach the one addressed to her abbas. As she was rebuckling the straps, a woman about ten years her senior with a five-year-old child boarded and began making a nest for themselves in the second row. Two older women stood in the doorway, saying "Give our kisses to your baby sibu!"

The child looked stormy. The emma said "We will, and she'll be able to come along with us next year for Mchele Fair." The child burst out "I don' wanna go back home, there's no swimming or trees there and the baby stinks! Can't we stay one more week?"

The emma seemed too tired to have this argument one more time. Before the child could work her way into a tantrum, however, her eyes lighted on Pyosz and she said "I know you -- you were in the parade? With the little goat?"

"Killer, yes" affirmed Pyosz. "Listen, would you like an extra special treat that's made from the milk of my goats, including Killer's emma? It's a new kind of cheese that nobody has ever had before."

The child nodded vigorously. Pyosz retrieved a slice and handed it to the emma, who took a small bite while ignoring the cries of "Gimme, she gave it to ME, emma!" Her face registered astonishment and she forgot to take more for herself before passing it on to the small clutching hands.

"Morrie vaseo!" said Pyosz, making her exit while everybody was happy. Back on Saya, she resolutely put what was left of the brown cheese in her coldbox, thinking about the looks on the faces of her family -- and Maar -- when the rich, melting flavor landed on their tongues. She'd have Maar take some to Thleen in the future, too, but for this week, the box of jam tarts she'd included with her letter would keep Thleen sated.

That evening, Pyosz had just returned to her kitchen from milking, planning to make stir-fry for dinner, when the radio buzzed. She answered to hear Prl say in a grave voice "Darling, have you heard?"

"Heard what?" Pyosz felt chill at the bone despite the torpid air around her.

Prl paused, then said "Are you alone? Can you go to Herne and call me from there? Or Dodd's -- "

"Emma, just tell me what's happened." It was early morning on Skene, something terrible had woken up Prl.

"The's missing, Pyosz. Tlunu got a call to go out on a search, but they're not sure even where to start, the last radio transmission was three hours ago. Halling called me and I called you first, I haven't even told Qala and Lawa yet. Pyosz, my heart is breaking for you, I'll get there as soon as I can but I don't know when that might be." Prl's voice was choked.

"I don't believe it -- does our Lofthall know? Oh, no, Mill and Oby..."

"Emma Halling said they were starting a search from their end, so yes, they know. I'm presuming they're calling Maar's family but if you want me to call them or even go to Chloddia, I'll do whatever you think is right. But first we need to get you with family as we wait for news."

"Maar's family? Oh, emma, Maar isn't on this huolon, it's a new pilot, a teenager, with Abbo. And oh lev, a child -- a small child flying home with her emma, oh lev, I saw them take off!" The flash of relief which had ripped through her at the realization that Maar had escaped disaster was entirely overridden by her memory of that small face, the grin when Killer's name had been mentioned -- a child whose name she didn't even know, but whose well-being now felt as crucial to her as that of her cousin. Pyosz began crying, and realized Prl was, too.

"Emma -- I really want to talk with you, I really do, but I need to get to the Lofthall, for Mill and Oby. And Maar, I know Maar will be out of her mind. I'll be there until -- well, they have to be found, that's all. Thank you so much for calling me."

"I'll be at my emmas, all of us will. Pyosz, I'm glad beyond words that Maar is all right."

"Me, too, emma. But others need our hearts and minds right now." Pyosz grabbed her flash and burzaka before loping down the trail to her dock.

There was already a small crowd in front of the Lofthall. She threaded her way through to the office, where Oby was on one radio and Jiips on another. Mill was bent over a table littered with maps, and a cluster of pilots were listening to her, including Maar and Dekkan. Everybody looked unfamiliar, they were so serious. Briel and Dodd were in a corner, and Pyosz went to them asking "Any news?"

"No" said Dodd. Oby motioned to a pilot, then to Dodd, and Pyosz went to hear. "I've tracked down Moko's family on Nec" Oby said to the pilot, "I need you to take the small school sinner and pick them up. Dodd, will you go with her? They'll need reassurance and I want my pilots focused right now."

As Dodd and the pilot headed for the door, Pyosz heard Maar say "We can carry extra batteries to get us through to morning and then ditch them when they're just dead weight, that sinner can recharge itself indefinitely once we have enough light if I fly it right."

Mill was shaking her head, saying "I want you in the other huolon -- " Oby moved in closer as Maar interrupted "Skene already has several search planes out that will intercept our other huolon, that's going to be half a dozen craft covering basically the same territory. I'm telling you, if she was in any way off course or had advance warning of trouble, she'd head for the only dry land to be found and ignore the route. It's what I'd do and I've said it to her more times than I can count."

"What's she talking about?" Oby asked Mill. There was a ripple at the door, Api and Ollow coming in accompanied by two elders that Pyosz recognized as the abbas of the missing child. Mill left the map table to go talk with them. Pyosz felt the lump in her throat grow thicker.

Maar turned to Oby: "I want to take a fast, strong sinner and go from secano to secano instead of following the huolon route. Partly it's gut, Oby, partly it's logic. We've got other pilots who can take the huolon but I'm the only one who's been to the secanos in the last two years, it needs to be me."

Oby seemed to be choosing her words. "We may need the mezi ray, and parachute rescue."

Not after this long in the water, if that's where they are thought Pyosz. She saw the same thought on Maar's face, but Maar wasn't going to say that to Abbo's emma. Instead she said "We may need it more where I want to search, and besides, we have huolon back-ups who've had the basics in both."

Uli had a map of the oceans between Skene and Pya, and she was carefully marking in the secano-hopping route, adding distances and indicating the divergence from the straightforward huolon route. Now she looked at Maar and said "I agree with you, at certain points in the trip heading for a secano would be the rational choice. And you're right about the charge, according to my math."

Maar's cheeks went red with urgency as Mill returned to the discussion. "Please, Sheng Zhang, I want to find them as much as you do. The toxics sinner will hold six of us plus rescue gear, I can fit floodlights onto the underbrackets, it's got new nav and it's fully charged right now."

"Who would you wamt to take with you?" asked Oby, and Pyosz saw Dekkan start to move forward but Maar said "Fohol" and Fohol said instantly "I'm in, it's what I would do, too."

Maar's exes all stand by her thought Pyosz.

Mill looked at Oby and Oby nodded. Mill said "All right, go get the gear you'll need, I want you in the air inside ten minutes." She turned to other pilots and made assignments for the huolon search, but Dekkan's name wasn't mentioned. Oby added "It's going to be no sleep for some of us. but come daylight, Pya will need us as usual and we'll be stretched thin. The rest of you, eat and go right to bed, find a way to sleep. I promise to come wake you when we find them."

Uli handed her maps to Maar, then turned and wrapped Dekkan in a hug which embarrassed the young pilot but she didn't pull away. Pyosz decided to go to the canteen and help put together a hamper for Maar's search sinner, but the canteen staff didn't want her intrusion. She walked instead to the jichang, a maelstrom of activity, and asked Maar if there was something she could do.

Maar didn't pause in her swift, concentrated preparation. "Uh,,,no. Wish I'd been here when they took off" she muttered.

"I was" Pyosz volunteered. "I talked with the child and her emma."

Maar stopped and stared at Pyosz. "Who took the first leg, Abbo or Moko?" she asked.

"Abbo. She was being very crabby with everybody" said Pyosz. Maar said quietly "Then my hunch that they could have been way off course is more likely." But without you there to correct it once the piloting changed hands to a raw beginner thought Pyosz. Fohol at their elbow murmured "Plus she skimps on preflight checks, especially when there's passengers, no telling what got missed."

Maar looked grim: "Well not us." She returned to her clipboard. Mill and Oby both came out to wave the sinner and huolon into the air. Mill embraced Maar and said quietly "Bring 'em back. But don't risk yourself."

"Yes, Sheng Zhang" said Maar. Pyosz intercepted her before she reached the hatch and jammed her red wool cap on Maar's head as she said "Stay warm. Carynn bye."

After the rumble of both craft could no longer be heard, Pyosz's adrenaline plummeted. She wasn't sure what to do with herself. She wished she could go curl up in Maar's bunk, but it might offend the other pilots. Dodd met her at the Lofthall entry and said "I need to stay here with the families, and Briel is also on call, you can sit with us if you like."

Pyosz leaned against her briefly. "I think I'll go home and call emma back. She thought Maar was on the huolon, she was beside herself for me. Then I'm going to follow Oby's advice and find a way to sleep because, no matter what, I have goats at dawn. But will you call me with any word, no matter the hour?"

"I will" said Dodd.

copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild


Blue said...

It really sucks that this chapter is over.

C. Diva said...


Maggie Jochild said...

Yes, C. Diva. Also known as prim.