Thursday, October 1, 2009


Leviathan splash
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 woke before dawn, but it was not pitch dark around her because a nearby street light leaked through her clerestory window enough to show her this was her old room. She was snugged up against Prl's back, very warm and clean all over. She didn't linger, however. She got out of bed without disturbing Prl's soft snores, grabbed a beloved shati and nice linen dubikun from her clothes cupboard, and dressed in the kitchen with a mug of quick tea from the aga.

She went to the privy, escorted by numerous curious katts who made her wonder how Curds and Ember were coping with the invasion of their cabin by Pank and Tu. This in turn made her worry about how her goats were doing. She found the absence of dawn chorus disturbing. She opened the chicken house and turned on the light to cranky hens, feeding them and cleaning the water dishes to a squabble of protest at the early hour. She carried warm eggs in her shati, stopped to pull green onions and chervil, and returned to an empty quiet kitchen. A glance out the window showed Qala and Lawa's kitchen was also still dark.

She made spoonbread from Arta Island corn, beat eggs in a bowl with herbs and grated Pya djoste added, and couldn't think of what to do next. From force of habit, she started a couple of sponges, adding some of her parsley oil and sunflower seeds to one batch, dried cherries and filbert meal to the other. She had just brewed a second pot of tea and punched down her sponges the first time when Prl shuffled from her bedroom, rumpled cheeks below half-closed eyes.

"Have a seat, I'll scramble you some eggs" said Pyosz cheerily. She turned on the overhead light and began humming to herself. Prl went silently past her to the back door, returning from the privy with Lawa and Qala behind her.

"I've been up for hours" said Pyosz, hugging them gladly.

"Is that sausage I smell?" said Qala, pouring herself tea.

"Made by Pank from acorn-fed Mti pigs" said Pyosz. She served Prl's eggs and began scrambling a new pan for Lawa and Qala. She sat down to eat with them all once the food was ready, opening a jar of her blackberry jam to slather on the spoonbread. She didn't realize how heartily she was shoveling in her meal until Prl said "You eat like this every morning?"

"Not all at once" said Pyosz. "I have a starter breakfast, to keep me going through milking and hauling hundreds of pounds to Koldok, then usually come back to have a second plate before doing all the rest of Saya's chores." The kitchen timer went off, and she stood to punch down her sponges a second time.

Qala said "Why is it that we're not seeing any of your goat or kid meat coming our way here? I'm not complaining, just curious."

Pyosz explained about the slaughter schedule, adding her own reluctance to eat animals whose faces and names she knew. "I've done my best not to name the bucklings who will have to die in a couple of months" she added, "but their personalities come through and inside my head they are familiar to me."

"It's good you'll be able to turn their slaughter over to someone else" said Lawa. Pyosz looked away, silent. Lawa continued "Is that your ejida book? May I look through it?"

"Yes" said Pyosz with sudden excitement. Qala scooted close to Lawa to view with her, and Prl came to stand behind them. Pyosz leaned over the table, rattling on about each page's data, as Lawa leafed slowly through, opening the double-folded pages of charts and maps with her glasses precariously on the end of her nose.

When the timer went off again, they all jumped. Pyosz began deftly dividing her sponge into loaves. Lawa said "I want to go visit Moasi, but you'll come there for lunch, right?"

"And dinner later, if we're all gathering" said Pyosz. Qala opted to accompany Lawa, saying she wanted to see how Halling was doing. Prl got dressed as the apprentice got up very late, accepting Pyosz's offer of more eggs and sausage. She took her plate to her office, where she was assuming Prl's duties for the day. After doing the dishes, Pyosz said to Prl "Come with me in my room while I look through my clothes. I want to take another set of silks or so back to Pya, for the frequent dances where dressing up is appreciated."

She went through her wardrobe, discovering every item fit her to better advantage. "I've not lost weight" she said, looking at herself in the mirror, "but things seem to have rearranged themselves."

"You also have dreadfully rusty elbows and knees" said Prl, clucking her tongue. She took a bottle of lotion from Pyosz's cupboard and made her sit on the bed while Prl rubbing moisturizer into her child's patches of dry or sun-baked skin. Pyosz gave herself up to this attention, momentarily enjoying the delicious idleness. They talked nonstop. Eventually Pyosz said "I really could use some new underwear, and another warm schmatta."

"Let's go shopping downtown" suggested Prl.

"I can get my photographs developed as well" agreed Pyosz. "And buy more books." As she changed her pantuflas for her otos, Prl remarked "Those seem to fit you like a second skin now."

"I live in my otos and red cap" agreed Pyosz. They headed down the lane which led past the school.

For generations, Skene had followed a school schedule linked to agricultural need. Children were released to a three-week holiday right as the eel migration arrived, freeing them to serve as their Manage's daily eel trap monitors. They returned to school after this holiday for another six weeks, and were let out again in time for Mchele Fair. This time the break was for two months, which coincided with the bulk of harvest, slaughter, and food preservation chores. They returned to studies as rain and cold began in earnest. Students in third and fourth grades cynically understood their "vacation" was liable to see them rousted out of bed for labor earlier than the school bed generally rung.

This schedule, however, was not the case on Pya, which at first might seem counterintuitive, given that Pya's economy was more heavily reliant on agriculture than Skene. A few reasons explained this difference. One is that Dodd, who early on became head leraar at Pya School, firmly believed that children needed a sustained break from scholarship to be good students. In particular, the higher temperatures and greater exposure to sunlight on Pya were meant, she said, for children to be swimming, exploring woods, and engaging in other forms of unstructured, unlimited play.

Since Dodd was diligent about ensuring the level of academics covered during the school term was equal or superior to that provided in Skene, her practice was widely supported. Bolstering this support was the fact that youth didn't require as much adult supervision on Pya to remain safe, engaged, and out of the way of adult activity.

Another factor contributing to the different approach was Pya's geography, where more land was devoted to ejida use but it was concentrated on a single island which was flat and had wide roads reaching every corner. This meant that the great fields of crops could be managed by machinery rather than hand labor, and thus adult workers were more efficient. Once harvested, products could go to centralized factories or processing areas, still on Dvareka, where again equipment made quick work with only a few operators necessary.

Thus, while Mchele Fair on Skene was not the several-day event it was on Pya, it still loomed large in the lives of children Thleen's age as the demarcator of relative freedom. When Pyosz and Prl approached mid-morning, the schoolground was flooded with children at a recess that barely took a dint off their agitation for the impending holiday. Thleen spotted them and ran to the fence, shrieking "Pyosz! Pyosz! Only three more days of school! Where are you going right now, could I go with you, I could go ask my leraar -- "

"We're doing grown-up shopping" interrupted Pyosz. "But after that we'll head for my abbas' Manage, where we'll see you for lunch, remember?"

"I wish you still lived at the Genist Manage and you could walk by here every day and see me" said Thleen. Another child had joined her, and Thleen said "This is my best friend, Ziri. This is Pyosz, who writes me letters!"

The bell rang and they zoomed off, not out of eagerness to go back inside but because there was some sort of hierarchy involved in lining up and they appeared to be power players in that activity. Prl and Pyosz stopped in at the abbas' Manage briefly to ask if they needed anything from downtown before proceeding on. Yoj had made corn pancakes which Halling and Moasi had eaten with rare maple syrup.

Pyosz went into the new apparel section of the clothes store first, rejecting the idea of buying used knickers. In short order she carried a stack of sokken, knickers, two schmattas, and several maillot to the counter, including one maillot cut in the style Maar preferred. She said to Prl "I'm just going to glance over the used shatis, all right?" Prl nodded and headed into the silks section.

After half an hour, Pyosz had draped over her arm three adorable shati in modern fabrics and designs that she really didn't want to pass by, three scarves that would give Killer conniptions, two new-looking gilets that would go with most of what she owned, plus several pair of broeks, ku, and kaidang ku that were quite reasonable to replace her already worn work garments. When she took these to the counter, she found Prl with a stack of silk hanshans, celanas, nadraj, and skarpetki, plus one luxurious uwagi in black velvet and a new kabat of oatmeal linen.

"I'm buying these for you" said Prl challengingly. "I mean, whichever of them you like and fit you well."

Pyosz wanted that uwagi. She consented to try on all of Prl's selections and wound up saying yes to most of them: She and Prl did not dress alike, but Prl thoroughly understood her child's preferences. The store clerk, heady from all the sales, suggested a new hat for Pyosz and Pyosz clasped her hand over her head, saying melodramatically "My very reputation resides in my red cap!"

The cartagen said it would take her an hour to print out Pyosz's photos, though there were no other customers in the place. I miss Naki -- and I have no barter here thought Pyosz with a tinge of homesickness. They walked to the booksellers, where Pyosz filled a crate with volumes to be delivered to the Lofthall for her flight back to Pya. They went on to the fish docks, selecting items for lunch and dinner, before returning to pick up Pyosz's photos and heading for the abbas' Manage, laden with bags.

Halling was sitting on the stoop. "Waiting for Thleen" she said. "I'll sit with you" offered Pyosz. She went inside briefly to give fish and bread to Yoj in the kitchen before rejoining Halling.

"How did you sleep?" she asked her abba.

"Poorly" said Halling. "But that's common these days. It would take me a minute or two to figure out what was wrong when I'd wake up. I didn't feel like I could go in the kitchen, because it would bother Speranz and Tlunu overhead. Like the old days here" she said reminiscently. "Just between you and me, I'd like to offer Moasi to move in with us. Motu Fling is stretched to its limits, with Mwiva's youngest living at home with her partner and a toddler, another baby on the way. The toddler is sleeping with Mwiva over their kitchen, the young couple is over the living room, and Moasi is on the couch, having to use a chamberpot because the privy is up a small hill. Just as limiting as when my emma Ng was there and Yoj insisted we give her a room here. But with Speranz and Tlunu inheriting, and Xunu living in the room out back, asking to have Moasi join us would mean permanently displacing Speranz and Tlunu to a public loft. I don't think it would be right for me to request it. If I was them, I'd offer, but..." Her voice trailed off.

"When we were downtown, it felt strange to see so many people around everywhere" said Pyosz. "And that's with all the children here in school. Like there was no privacy to be found. I remember when my cousins would come for the summer, how much they complained about lack of space. I understand it now. We cope with it on Skene, but it's a real limit." She heard her name being called, and looked automatically up the lane before she realized it was not a child's voice. Instead, it was Vants walking up from downtown.

Pyosz stood and rushed to hug her cousin, saying "I'm so happy I get to see you! How are your goats?"

"I persuaded someone to take over for tonight and tomorrow morning" said Vants. She turned to Halling and bent to kiss her sibemma's hand, saying "I wanted to make the funeral or at least the wake, but could not find a replacement until now. I am so very sorry about Szebel's death."

Halling motioned for Vants to sit beside her. "Your abba is inside, visiting us. She'll be as thrilled to see you as I am. Will you stay with us, then? We have a spare loft."

"Thanks for the offer" said Vants. She pulled two packages from her carryall, handing them to Halling. "A half-gallon of Yagi yogurt, and a carton of oregano-flavored soft djoste." She grinned at Pyosz. "Nothing to compare with your herd, perhaps, but still good eating."

Pyosz slapped playfully at her cousin's shoulder and said "No competition between herds, now."

When Thleen spotted Pyosz, she changed her skipping to a headlong race down the lane, Pyosz catching her before she fell onto the cobbles. "I'm so hungry!" said Thleen in a near shout.

"Me, too" said Pyosz, following the others into the Manage. Moasi was crowing over Vants' appearance, and Prl was setting the table while Bux finished a salad dressing and Yoj served a buffet of leftovers. Pyosz immediately began talking goats with Vants across the table. Thleen was given a chair between Halling and Pyosz, and cleaned her plate before asking "Are there any of those funeral desserts still here?"

Before Yoj could answer, Tlunu walked in the front door. "I was beginning to wonder where you were" said Bux.

However, behind Tlunu was Maar. Thleen yelled "Siba! Come eat with me, okay? But get your own piece of pie."

"Let me wash first" said Maar. Pyosz filled a plate with Maar's favorites while Bux did the same for Tlunu. Smelling of ocean and soap, Maar slid in next to Pyosz, settling Thleen on her lap.

"How was sinning today?" asked Halling.

"Electrifying" said Tlunu. Maar added quickly "And we hope to talk it over with you once Thleen goes back to school." There was a knowing silence, broken only by Thleen's smacking lips.

"So, sibu, what happened at school today?" asked Maar.

"Ziri got in trouble because she ate a bugger from her nose in front of everybody" said Thleen. Maar set down her fork abruptly. Halling, chuckling, gave herself another helping of rice and opened the jar of Pyosz's shamsjooz sauce to put a tablespoon on top.

"Uh, Sheng Zhang" said Maar worriedly.

"Not any more" said Halling.

"I mean, Nan Halling, if you haven't tried Pyosz's recipe for that yet, I'd recommend a small taste before you dig in" said Maar apologetically.

Halling blinked at her, then tried a few drops of the dark amber sauce on her tongue. "Lev!" she swore loudly, stuffing a large bite of plain bread into her mouth.

Thleen whispered loudly to Maar "The Sheng Zhang said a bad word."

"If there's anybody ever in the history of Skene who is permitted to refer to leviathans as an obscenity, it's this hero beside us" said Maar in a tone that made Pyosz look at her. Tlunu frowned. As Halling began pushing most of the shamsjooz to the side of her plate, Thleen continued "But the only reason Ziri ate her bugger is because a second grader said she'd give Ziri two pieces of barley candy if she did it. But the second grader lied, she only gave Ziri one piece, even after Ziri got yelled at by the leraar, so she didn't have an extra piece to share with me." Thleen was aggrieved.

Halling said "And everybody knows, it takes more than one piece of candy to clean the taste of buggers from your mouth." Everyone else laughed, but Thleen solemnly thought this over.

"They're kind of salty" she agreed. She was looking at her own extended forefinger consideringly. Maar whispered to her with quiet force "Don't even think about it."

Raising her voice, Maar added "Speaking of taste, this bread is as good as Pyosz's -- no insult intended, Pyosz." Everyone laughed again. "I made it this morning" said Pyosz.

"No goats at dawn?" commiserated Maar. Vants laughed with Pyosz. After finishing her plate, Maar made Thleen help clear the table, setting pans and plates to soak in soapy water. Thleen asked Pyosz to walk with her and Maar back to school, and Pyosz told Prl "Don't let them wash those dishes while I'm gone, that's my chore."

Saying goodbye to Thleen was very hard, since Pyosz didn't expect to see her again this visit. "I'll send you something from Mchele Fair" promised Pyosz, "and any time I'm in Skene, I'll be visiting you."

On the way down the lane, Pyosz slid her arm through Maar's and said "You look much better. Good sleep?"

"Yeah, even with getting up early to go sin" said Maar. "You?"

Pyosz giggled. "My emma cuddled me all night, and I'm not embarrassed to admit I woke up feeling nurtured."

"She's not as scary as I thought she'd be" said Maar. "Overwhelmingly powerful, but kind, you can tell. And extremely interesting."

Back in the Manage, everyone was still at the table, sampling morsels of cookies and pie. As Maar sat down, Tlunu said to Halling "A leviathan leaped at Maar's sinner today. Came within two meters of hitting her."

Pyosz all but fell into the chair next to Maar, her legs weak, as everyone reacted. Halling was extremely grave. "Tell me every detail."

Tlunu and Maar talked over each other. There had been unusually light leviathan presence, and on afterthought, they'd seen no babies or juveniles, only a cluster of mature adults.

"The lev who made the try was what I think of as middle-aged" said Tlunu, "one stage below the massive ancients."

"I was at 40 meters" added Maar. "So it was able to exceed the safety zone we think is their limit. I didn't know what was happening until racket broke out over the radio." Pyosz pushed her foot against Maar's under the table.

"What did you do?" Halling asked Tlunu. Pyosz realized as head sinner, Tlunu was responsible for ordering use of the mezi laser against leviathan attack.

"Nothing I could do" said Tlunu. "As soon as it hit the water again, it sank deep. So had every other lev in sight. They knew in advance, Halling, it was a planned leap, a coordinated attack." She swallowed and said "I'm afraid to tell my emmas about it."

Tlunu's aggie had been sib to Xaya, killed and eaten by leviathans when Xaya and Halling were young lovers and working as a lighter team, back when lighters were all the protection sinners had, before Pax Piscata.

There was a long, tense silence. Pyosz noticed everyone was looking at Halling, as if she had the answer. Maar said "That's not all of it."

Tlunu sighed. "About a month ago, a lev got in our nets during a sin. A big one, coming up from the bottom of the load. I noticed an irregularity on radar before we completely sealed the net and began lift. I abort the sin, we released grapples, and when it swam off, I was able to confirm it had in fact been a leviathan. We had to relocate, but we did a full sinning that day."

"That one was also an adult" said Maar. "A large one."

"Why didn't I hear about this?" asked Halling.

Tlunu said "I told the Sheng Zhang." Pyosz saw Yoj and Bux react with the same offense she felt at this remark. Retirement doesn't mean an end to expertise, or the expectation of respect in the form of continued communication she thought. Tlunu said "Danaan agrees with me that it was a meaningless incident. Certainly not connected to today's attack -- it wasn't the same lev, not the same size."

Maar's foot was returning Pyosz's pressure as she said in a measured tone "I don't agree. I called my Sheng Zhang, and neither does she. We've put all our pilots on full alert." Nice touch, referring to Mill as her Sheng Zhang -- but no one is going to forget she's Halling's eldest thought Pyosz.

Tlunu's irritation broke through. "What your Sheng Zhang thinks is irrelevant, since this is happening in Skene, not Pya." To me Maar's expresson said. Tlunu's voice rose. "I mean, there's no reason for a mature leviathan to deliberately let itself get caught in a net, where it could easily be crushed by the load if we don't discover it, or where it would die when we lifted clear of the surface. The whole premise of Pax Piscata is that they're not suicidal."

"Not the whole premise, no" argued Maar. "Equally important is the assumption that levs can problem-solve, can anticipate into the future, and can communicate with each other over time and distance. The last of which absolutely makes this a Pyan problem, too."

Halling regarded Maar with an expressionless face. "What connection do you make between these two incidents?"

"Both while sinning -- for fish, not kelp. Both by experienced adults, who are usually the ones we most count on to enforce the Pax Piscata from the leviathan perspective." Maar was ticking items off on her fingers. "Both required advance planning and furtive action. Both moves kept them out of range of retaliation." Maar was leaning so far forward now, her thighs were all that touched her seat. "But in particular, if you had tried to lift that lev in your net, the load would likely have been dangerously unbalanced, and certainly would have slowed your ascent to the point where all four of the sinners grappled together would have been an easy target, easy for a single lev to leap and bring down. With all the rest joining in the feast once you sank to a depth where the mezi ray couldn't reach. Five minutes, in my estimation."

Tlunu stood up. "You're concocting scenarios out of thin air!"

"What happened today was 2 meters of thin air between me and death, that's what you mean" retorted Maar.

"You're just rattled" said Tlunu. "Maybe you need to not offer yourself for sinning shifts here in Skene." She stalked to the bath room and shut the door. They heard the tub begin filling.

"I guess I should go" said Maar, looking at Pyosz.

"Please don't" said Bux. "This is our Manage still." She was gazing down the table at Halling. "What do you think, honey?"

Halling said slowly "I think leviathans are problem-solvers who anticipate the future and communicate across time and distance." Pyosz felt a shiver down her spine. "I think this can't possibly be a coincidence." She turned to Maar. "What else is gong on that I don't know about?"

""Well, I only just noticed this and told Mill today" said Maar, her cheeks flushed. "On my approach to Skene yesterday, the Morrie Strati in every direction were a deeper red. They've been that way around Pya, too, for a couple of months, but only in regions adjacent to fill migration corridors."

"What does that mean?" asked Moasi. Vants had scooted her chair closer to her aggie and was now holding Moasi's hand.

"I have no idea" said Halling. "Nor I" added Maar.

"Maybe it's a seasonal variation?" suggested Lawa.

"No" said Halling and Maar in the same breath.

Qala asked Maar "Did Mill have any ideas?"

"She asked me to come tell Nan Halling everything. She's going to call you later. But whatever she knows, I know" said Maar. "I'm her eyes and ears around Pya."

"I need to ponder this" said Halling. "Please call me directly with any news or ideas, will you, Maar?"

"Yes, Shen-- Nan Halling" said Maair.

"And be careful. I have to talk with Danaan as well" said Halling, rising stiffly. "But first I need a nap. How about you, Moasi, you want to lie down with me?"

Moasi patted Halling's hand. "No, I sleep too much on Motu. Lawa and I are going to putter in the tillage, I miss having my hands in soil."

"I'll lie down with you" said Bux. She and Bux exchanged a look Pyosz couldn't interpret before Bux followed Halling to the bedroom. Lawa helped Moasi out the back door as Prl refilled the teapot.

"What do you think?" Maar asked Pyosz, leaning toward her. Pyosz took a moment to choose her words.

"My experience with other sentient beings is that they cooperate with humans only to the extent that it benefits them or they have affection for us. I'm guessing we can rule out leviathan affection." She and Maar laughed together, bumping shoulders. "So, I think something is afoot. And I'm scared to death for you."

Vants said "When my goats plot against me, it's because I'm keeping them from something they want, something they think they have a right to."

"Which in this instance would be having me for dinner, I guess" said Maar.

"If that were the case, they'd go after kelp sinners. Or find a way past Morrie Vaseo"said Prl.

Maar stared at her. "You're completely right, of course" she said. "I guess I am rattled, to have not figured that out already. I didn't say this to anyone here, but I wondered if the lev today singled me out because it knew I wasn't a regular part of this sinner crew."

There was another long silence. Vants said "Can they see that well, especially upward through air?"

"It might not be visual" said Qala. "They hear all the radio transmissions, we know that." Vants looked startled.

Yoj added "And they were able to learn songs the lighters used -- it took them only a week to memorize which flight patterns went with a particular song. Which I'd call fairly advanced auditory intelligence."

"So you think maybe they knew Maar's voice didn't belong here in Skene?" said Pyosz, feeling a little sick to her stomach.

"Or there's enough crossover between leviathan populations that they know I'm from Pya most of the time" said Maar. "I don't think it ever pays to underestimate their capacity."

Yoj looked at her bedroom door. "Something Halling said over and over. I bet she's really missing Szebel right now."

"I wish Qen and Veida were here" said Qala quietly.

"And Yerush" added Yoj, with a tone Pyosz wished she understood. Yoj leaned toward Maar. "Take photographs of the Morrie Strati, here and on Pya, will you? Send us copies." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "And don't let Tlunu get to you. She's head sinner but her leadership and understanding don't go beyond that. She's not your equivalent at Skene."

Maar's face flushed again. Prl said "You must be exhausted, don't you need a nap, too?"

Maar looked at her watch. "It's an hour until I go pick up my sibs after school, there's no point now." She said to Pyosz "We're going shopping, I'm getting them several sets of new clothes, not just the silks you suggested. Thleen is in dire need of new kiatu. Then we'll grab dinner to eat on the ferry, because the island championship kickball game is tonight on Chloddia."

"Did you bring enough money for all that? I can loan you some coin until we get back to Saya" said Pyosz.

Maar grinned. "I have extra because I was planning to buy my next service bracelet this trip, my four year anniversary is next week. It has to be Chloddia silver, you know."

"Let me see" asked Pyosz. Maar leaned back and lifted her left leg into Pyosz's lap, pulled up the cuff to show the three silver chains around her ankle. "No two are the same design" commented Pyosz.

"Yeah, well, every year is different" said Maar. Yoj was leaned forward, examining the chains with interest. Pyosz said to her "Wouldn't abba have an amazing jangle if she were wearing a chain for every year she's been at the Lofthall? Her walk would be more musical than Mill's."

"Mill wears these?" asked Qala.

"All Pya pilots do" said Maar.

"How many chains would you require?" Pyosz asked Qala, as Maar lowered her foot to the floor again.

"I'll have to count" said Qala, grinning at Yoj. "You too, Dichter is service to the Lofthall. Maybe we should scandalize Skene and all begin wearing these -- what do you call them, service bracelets?"

Maar said to Pyosz "So while we're shopping, I thought I'd pick up more Seda wine for Tu and Pank. Any other suggestions for gifts back home?"

"Another bag or two of baicang" said Pyosz. "I'm getting smoked salmon, so don't you duplicate that. Ummm -- smoked eel for all of us, mulberry syrup for Nk, some of that new golden rice for Mill and Oby."

"Oh, and Dodd is always going on about Faar lamb, can I find that this time of year?" wondered Maar.

"We have some in our freezer, let me be the giver of that" said Yoj. "I have more sheet music for her anyhow."

Vants said to Pyosz "We have a new cheese on Yagi, I don't have it with me but it's in the stores."

"I'll take a round of it to Kolm, my djostiker, she'll be able to back-engineer the recipe, I bet" said Pyosz. She pulled out her notebook to make a list, and retrieved her logbook as well, passing it over to Vants. Within two minutes, they were deep into the charts, discussing milk yield and pasture requirements.

Prl didn't want to relinquish Pyosz to goat frenzy, as she thought of it. She asked pointedly "So, how are things going with Uli?"

Pyosz held up a finger signaling for Prl to wait a minute, as Qala frowned at Prl. Maar said "You mean since she kissed Pyosz?"

Pyosz whirled toward Maar and everyone distinctly heard the impact of her oto against Maar's ankle. "Ow!" said Maar, but she grinned at Prl, who suddenly grinned back, illuminating her face in a look very reminiscent of Pyosz.

"Uh, it was a brief lapse on her part and we're clear it's not going to be repeated" Pyosz said defensively. "Besides, she and Qoj seem to be maybe getting interested in each other."

"That is, if Dodd decides not to intervene" said Maar. This time Pyosz dug her elbow in Maar's ribs. Yoj laughed out loud and said "Maar, I think you should be coming for lunch with Thleen and filling us in on the family tidbits Pyosz isn't passing on."

"Which reminds me" said Maar. "I'm not sure I'm going to make it to visit Ngall and Ehuy this trip, we're leaving at noon tomorrow and I'm going to sleep in if I can. Will you take my 2 ek piece and baby gift to her?"

"Yikes, I almost forgot!" said Pyosz. She stood to look at the ferry schedule by the sideboard. "If I run, I can just make it." She took the packets Maar and Vants handed her, gave quick kisses all round, and said "I'll be back for dinner." To Maar she said "Don't pass on your hooliganism to your sibus tonight. I'll see you tomorrow" before she dashed out the door.

"Have another piece of pie, Maar" said Yoj in her wake. "What are Dodd's objections to Uli, exactly?"

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.



Cluster of massive stars in Nebula 30 Doradus (R136: A Cluster of Massive Stars in Nebula 30 Doradus. Click on image to enlarge.)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite.

Musée des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

~ by Wystan Hugh Auden

Bruegel's painting of Fall of Icarus (Bruegel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus", painted ca. 1558, hanging in the Musée des Beaux Arts)


Tuesday, September 29, 2009


(Lavafall entering ocean at southern tip of Yanja)

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 woke up in chilly darkness, hearing a steady roar and feeling something fumbling around her feet. She thought it was one of the katts trying to wake her during a rainstorm, and she kicked out. She heard Abbo say "Ow!" and opened her eyes to utter disorientation for a few seconds.

"I was trying to reach the thermos with tea in it" said Abbo in an aggrieved tone, "I didn't mean to wake you up."

"I thought you were Curds" said Pyosz dopily. "Here, I'll pour you a cup." She poured herself one as well, and Abbo said "You got food for me in that hamper you brought aboard?"

"Yeah." She'd made sandwiches with grilled samaki and chopped vegetables in Qen's egg dressing, plus spinach onion fritters and lemon tarts. Abbo began talking immediately, which woke up Maar, and they all ate together. Pyosz had filled her large thermos with corn soup, and they drank that down as well. Maar said "Old pilot trick, using calories to replace sleep. Works for a while."

"We might as well switch" said Abbo, though technically she had another half hour of her leg to go.

"Fine" sighed Maar. "Privy first." Once Abbo was bunked down in the back seat, using Pyosz's silk pillow again, Pyosz poured herself and Maar more tea from the Lofthall thermos and said "I can't see a thing, stars or ocean."

"Yeah, no visibility. I'm flying by instruments, and if they're correct, we're OFF COURSE BY HALF AN HOUR." She raised her voice, aiming it toward the back seat, but Abbo didn't stir. "Every levvin' time" Maar muttered to herself. "If I don't take the first leg, we always pull in late because she just won't course correct in the early stages. Says it'll work out, which it does because I MAKE IT WORK OUT."

Pyosz was silent, and Maar said "Sorry. It's just, we're trying to hit a very small target in a world of ocean, and without stars to run down, it's all about faith in the instruments."

"I have faith in the pilot" said Pyosz softly.

"Listen, once the adrenaline chocks back down and all that food hits my bloodstream, I'm going to get a little sleepy again. We'll hit dawn soon, would you mind staying up and talking to me until I have light to keep me alert?" asked Maar.

"Of course" said Pyosz.

"Tell me about Szebel. How did she and the Sheng Zhang come to be lovers?" said Maar.

"I'm not sure. It was some time when emma was little, because she remembers the ruckus about it. Szebel was part of a multiple partnership herself, six or seven others, I can't remember. They're all dead now except for her and one other -- well, now just that other. How hard that must be." Pyosz considered the cruelty of such loss at the time in your life when you need the memory of others most.

"How many children did they have, with all those partners?" asked Maar.

"None. Didn't want any. They have a huge manage on the western ridge of Yanja. Szebel was closest to two of the bunch, one of whom died before I was born, and the other -- you remember that terrible yanjanging accident when we were around four or five, blew up an entire chamber, killed a lot of workers?" asked Pyosz.

"Not really."

"Well, you remember playing glow on the flow in the schoolyard? And how for a while we weren't allow to play it?" persisted Pyosz.

"Yeah, vaguely."

"That's when it happened. My emma and her sibs made up that game, by the way, after watching Szebel's partner yanjanging" said Pyosz.

"No kidding." Maar was impressed.

"Anyhow, her partner whose name I can't remember was killed in that explosion" said Pyosz. "After that death and another one, they let one of the partners' sibiyas move into the Manage with her family, children, and Szebel didn't much like it but who else were they going to hand on the Manage to? Abba Bux sometimes made snide comments about Szebel's disdain for kids and family life, what on earth did Halling see in her, that kind of thing. But it was pretty clear what Halling saw in her, power and sex. At least, that's what emma said."

"So, Szebel wasn't like a sort of extra abba to you, I gather" said Maar.

"No. Although she did show an interest in me once I began demonstrating an aptitude for maths" said Pyosz. "I'm going back for abba's sake. Well, and I'm missing them all pretty fierce, it'll be really good to see them all, despite the circumstances."

"I was planning to attend the funeral with you and Abbo, if you think that's all right" said Maar.

"Of course, Maar." Why wouldn't it be? Why is she asking my consent?

They talked on until dawn overtook them and raced ahead of them. When Maar began sounding distracted, Pyosz looked at the dashboard clock and realized they were 20 minutes from landing. She went silent to give Maar room to focus. She reached back and roused Abbo, giving everyone a final cup of tea. Maar radioed to Skene, reminding them she and Abbo would not be able to unload this huolon because they had a funeral to attend.

"Got that" came the reply. "We have a large sinner on standby to carry your funeral party back to Riesig."

"We'll have one large crate to transfer to that" said Maar. Pyosz felt her heart fluttering in her chest, seeing Yanja in the distance and knowing her abbas and emma were already there, waiting for the sound of their engines. Or probably Halling has heard them already she thought.

They were a cluster in white silks at the edge of the jichang. She waved vigorously through the streaked side window and saw her emma wave back. She turned to Abbo and said "Abba Halling will require a motorized cart to get to the lavafall, I don't see one nearby. Can you go round that up once we've said hello? Don't let her argue with you."

"Okay" said Abbo. Pyosz explained "I have to go change into my funeral silks."

"I do too" said Maar, surprising her. Abbo looked a little sullen. Pyosz couldn't think when she'd seen Abbo outside of uniform. Buying ordinaries costs coin, but the Lofthall provided uniforms for free she thought.

She was out of her harness and through the hatch door before the huolon was chocked, leaving her personal belongings behind to run across the tarmac and into Halling's arms. "Oh abba, I'm so so sorry" she whispered. She could feel Halling fighting back tears. She was dismayed at how much Halling seemed to have aged in only two months. Bux and Yoj were hugging her from either side. When Maar and Abbo walked up, Pyosz pulled free to go be encircled by Prl, Lawa and Qala. Prl had a garment bag over one arm but that didn't impede Pyosz's urgent embrace.

"My word, look at you!" said Qala. She said to Lawa "You're right, she does resemble a Jiang Giant." Prl kept cupping Pyosz's face in her palm, saying "You seem so much older, and you've darkened beautifully."

Pyosz turned to introduce a very pale Maar to her emma and other two abbas. Maar was very formal and attentive. Prl's gaze was dissecting. Pyosz said "I should go change. Abbo's getting a vehicle for Halling and whoever else needs to ride." Prl handed her the garment bag, saying "I had them cleaned for you."

Pyosz returned to the huolon to retrieve her crate, hamper, carryall and pillows. Maar went with her, piling her own belongings on top of the crate and insisting on taking one handle to help carry it into the jichang office. They were pointed to a store room as a changing space. They each went to the privy first, washed their face and hands, before meeting in the store room. Pyosz felt unexpectedly shy, and turned away from Maar to change her clothes.

Pyosz had had her funeral silks made two years before, a rush job after the death of Yoj's friend Z'bef. They were of cream-colored silk in a subtle herringbone pattern with flecks of crimson silk here and there. Her hanshan had a rolled collar with crimson piping, and her gilet had crimson ties and accents. Over it was a matching uwagi with flared lapels and exaggerated shoulders. Her zaoxue of black patent leather had been polished by someone, she noticed. She wasn't sure how the garments would fit on her current body, but the drapes hung beautifully and the cut was more comfortable than she remembered it being previously. She adjusted her dreads, and turned to face Maar.

Maar's hanshan and celanas were of stark white brocade with a faint ripple pattern. Her long hanshan had dropped boxy sleeves which narrowed to a wide cuff fastened by a row of waterdrop-shaped buttons in lapis lazuli. Lazuli was also used for the row of breaking waves encircling her high stiff collar.

There was no gilet. Instead, a vast damask cummerbund covered her middle, bedecked with dangling strands of lazuli and silver beads. The celana's balloon legs had kick pleats from knee to ankle inset with lapis-colored silk. Her zaoxue were of silver leather. For the moment, at least, Maar's parted hair lay flat against her head in a coppery burnish.

"Waves and ripples" marveled Pyosz. Maar's cheeks went pink, which only added to her glamour. When they rejoined Pyosz's family, Halling, Yoj, Bux, and Qala now sitting in an electric cart, Pyosz saw Prl appraise Maar's attire in a swift glance. It shouldn't matter, but it will to emma thought Pyosz with a mixture of pride and irritation.

Pyosz claimed the walking spot next to Halling in the cart, with Prl on her other side, linking her arm through Pyosz's. Speranz and Tlunu were both there, though not their children. Neither was Moasi, Halling's other sib, too disabled on Motu Fling to make this trip. Prl said in a caustic murmur that Ndege claimed she couldn't get away from Sigrist duties for the funeral, though she would come to the wake later on. Other members of the funeral party were Szebel's surviving partner, in her own electric cart with a few friends from the vetriste guild, and a couple of younger great-sibiyas from Szebel's family. Still, it was an impressive turn-out when you considered the titles of those in Pyosz's family.

They began the slow cavalcade to the lavafall. Szebel's body would already be there, wrapped in a white shroud and watched over by the coroner. Prl whispered that she had gone with her emmas to help prepare Szebel's body, and Halling had almost passed out during the washing; they'd had to put her in a chair and bring her tea.

Yoj was driving the cart, and Halling kept barking instructions at her, which Yoj accepted patiently. As they approached, the busy industrial district would clear for ten yards ahead, people standing respectfully to one side as they passed. The yanjanging building was still visibly new, and Halling stared at it silently as they went by. But when the glow of the lavafall came into view, with a small white-wrapped figure on a table before it, Halling gave out a cry of anguish. Pyosz pressed close and Yoj drove on.

Bux delivered a beautiful eulogy that Yoj had clearly helped write, which made Pyosz impressed with both of them. Halling and Szebel's partner each said a few choked phrases, and the head of the vetriste guild talked about how much Szebel had contributed to the development of Skene. Then her organic remains were returned to Skene, tipped into the lavafall, and with the brief flare, Halling gave up control entirely, shrieking onto Yoj's shoulder with Bux holding her from behind.

They went to the coroner's office for tea and a rest. Szebel's Manage was having its own wake, but Halling made her apologies, saying they needed to return to Riesig. She looked ashen, and they used the cart again to get to the jichang. Maar came with Pyosz to load her crate, and Abbo flew them to the Lofthall, where Danaan and Rark came out to meet them.

Prl insisted that Halling allow others to carry her through downtown and up the cobbled lane to her Manage. Pyosz and Maar instantly volunteered for this job, and Abbo, with a touch of sullenness, agreed to help carry Pyosz's belongings with Tlunu. At the Manage, Halling was put into a chair before the hearth and more tea was brought to her. Prl said to Pyosz "At least the rain held off" as they began cutting pies and cakes already delivered to the Manage by neighbors. The parade of visitors began arriving to offer condolences and casseroles. Yoj and Bux sat on the couch facing Halling. Ndege came early, without Gerra or any of their grown children. Pyosz gave Halling the cards and letters from family on Pya, and she began slowly reading through them, her battered gold glasses having to be wiped clean of tears periodically.

Abbo left after half an hour, citing exhaustion, to sleep at the Lofthall. Maar refused to go with her, despite Abbo pushing at her. Instead, Maar sat in a chair in the corner of the living room after all her offers at help were turned down. She listened to the various conversations going on and smiled at Pyosz whenever Pyosz looked her way. Pyosz couldn't resist whispering to Lawa "Maar did a lot more of the work getting us here than Abbo did". Lawa said "Doesn't surprise me", and when Pyosz turned around, she had the distinct impression Prl had been eavesdropping.

After an hour, Halling consented to eat a small plate of food, her first meal of the day. Her color improved with this. When Pyosz went to gather her plate and fork, she noticed Maar had leaned her head against the wall and was fast asleep, upright in her chair. Yoj followed Pyosz's gaze and stopped her, whispering "We can give her our bed for a nap. I know how pilots need recharge time."

"What if abba needs to lie down?" asked Pyosz.

"She won't. She deal with grief by surrounding herself with talk and people" said Yoj.

Pyosz went to Maar and knelt in front of her, shaking her arm gently. Maar awoke with a jerk, then went bright red with embarrassment. "Yoj says you can lie down for a while in their room" said Pyosz. "You need it, buddy. Don't you have to go meet your sibus in an hour? I'll wake you up for that, it's all right." She more or less pushed Maar down onto her abba's large old bed, pulled off her zaoxue, handed her a quilt and said "Get rest, you're needed later." She knew how to talk to driven people.

As she clicked the door softly shut, she saw Prl watching her from the dining table. She walked directly to Prl, sat down and put her arms on her forehead. "My body is on Pya time, too" she said tiredly. "It will be so good to sleep in my own bed tonight. Even more glorious will be a tub bath, I haven't had one since I left." Prl put her arm over Pyosz's shoulders and said "I've cleared my schedule for tomorrow."

"Good" said Pyosz. "Except I need to go visit Ngall, I have gifts from Pya for her."

"I'll stay here with my emmas while you do that" said Prl. After a silence, she said in a careful voice "Where will Maar be sleeping tonight?"

"I don't know, probably either the Lofthall or maybe a couch at the Chloddia jichang office" said Maar. "You should ask Abbo, not me."

"She doesn't stay with her family, then?"

"Either there isn't room for her in that Manage or -- her emmas don't much respect Maar. Because she became a pilot and left Chloddia, apparently" said Pyosz, her eyes closed.

"But they allow her to look after her sibs." Prl was probing.

"They seem to be happy to leave some work to her, yes. And Thleen would never shut up if she was denied access to Maar" said Pyosz.

"Is she supporting her family?"

Pyosz opened her eyes. "I haven't asked her directly, emma, you can be that intrusive if you like. But I assume so, Maar can't stop herself from being helpful in every way imaginable. She brings me food all the time, flushes my privy on Saya, cares for the katts and chickens, flies me around, she even did my laundry for this trip. I'd have really suffered without her friendship."

Their conversation was interrupted by a neighbor looking for a spot to set down her bowl of soup. Pyosz went to the corner where her crate had been placed and unpacked the items she'd brought for her abbas. Bux joined her and exclaimed over them all, then stashed them at the back of the larder, saying "We don't want to share this right now, we want it for ourselves later." She and Pyosz stood side by side at the sink to wash all the dishes used so far, while Bux told her about Szebel's decline and Halling's vigil with her at the hospital.

After an hour, Pyosz went into her abba's bedroom and gently shook Maar awake. Maar didn't actually look any more rested. "Part of it is simply traveling across all those time zones" she said blearily. "Did you bring dried cherries in your crate?"

"Yeah" said Pyosz. "How come?"

"Eating a handful helps. I need to go drink down a lot of water, eat some cherries, drink some orange juice. Then walking up the lane in sunlight will help my body adjust, too. You should try all those tricks as well" said Maar. Pyosz went with her in the kitchen and complied. Maar made her rounds of farewells. When she got to Halling, Halling said "You're bringing your sibus back to the wake, aren't you?"

Maar looked uncertain. "I hadn't thought I would, no, I mean -- "

"I'd like to see them" said Halling. Maar glanced at Yoj, who nodded briefly. "All right" said Maar. After she left, Pyosz felt such anticipation at spending time with Thleen that she went back into the kitchen and began cleaning the counter, to distract herself.

She went to the dining area when she heard the front door open. Thleen stood on the steps, scanning the room until she found Halling. She crossed directly to Halling, throwing her arms around her and saying "Nan Halling, siba says someone you loved died and you had her funeral today."

"That's right" said Halling, leaning into Thleen's hug.

"I don't really understand about dying. Siba said when someone dies, we never get to see them or talk with them again. I think that's so sad." Thleen began crying. Halling pulled the child into her lap and began weeping as well.

"It is terribly sad" said Halling. "I miss her so much, and I can never make it better."

"I don't know what to do" cried Thleen. Adon and Su were in the living room now, and Maar was going to Thleen. Pyosz could see a resemblance between Maar and her next two sibus in terms of facial bone structure and body mass, but not in coloring. Thleen, however, despite the darker red of her hair and the deep brown of her skin, reminded Pyosz so much of a young Maar that she couldn't tear her eyes away. Maar put her hand on the back of Thleen's head and whispered to Halling "I can take her, if you want."

Halling held onto Thleen tightly. "No, this is just what I need" she said.

Pyosz waved at Adon and Su, offering them seats at the table. They threaded their way through the crowd and shook Pyosz's hand awkwardly when she introduced herself. Adon, in a not quite adult voice, said "I, uh, my condolences for your loss."

"Thank you" said Pyosz. "It's very good to meet you, Maar talks about her sibus all the time. Can I get you some tea or juice? Let's make you a plate of food, shall we?"

Su seemed to be too shy to meet her eyes, although she did talk with Bux more easily. They ate with the rapid gracelessness of teenagers, and answered Pyosz's attempts at conversation with monosyllables. Maar came to stand nearby and accepted another glass of orange juice from Pyosz.

Thleen and Halling reached a point of calm, Thleen wiping her face on her sleeve. She began looking around the room again, noticing people holding plates with cake or pie on it. She said "Nan Yoj, why are they all these desserts?"

"People bring food of all kinds to a Manage that is grieving" explained Yoj. "Would you like a snack?"

"I'll get it for her" said Pyosz from the doorway. Thleen slid off Halling's lap and started toward her, then did a double-take and flung herself into Pyos'z arms, shouting "You're Pyosz! You came from Pya?"

"I did" said Pyosz, feeling an electric shock throughout her body at contact with the small child. She picked up Thleen easily and carried her into the kitchen, Thleen fingering her dreads and asking "What about your goats? And the katts, who will keep them safe from the owl tonight?"

Pyosz explained as Thleen selected a piece of cake and two slivers of pie for herself. She sat down with Thleen in her lap and whispered to remind Thleen to wipe her hands. Thleen drank a glass of milk and looked back toward the counter, asking "Can I have some more pie, some other kind?"

Before Maar could say "No" and Yoj could say "Yes", Pyosz said "First you should eat something that isn't dessert. There's more yummy things here than in a restaurant, how about if I tell you what's in every dish?"

They made the rounds and Thleen came back to the table with a full plate. Pyosz cut up her chicken and buttered her roll for her. Prl appeared with another glass of milk and sat down beside them. Thleen stared at her, back at Pyosz, and said "You've got the same color eyes! Like Nan Bux."

"Nan Bux is my emma" said Prl, "and I am Pyosz's emma." Thleen slid from Pyosz's lap into Prl's, cupping Prl's cheek with not quite clean hands to say softly "They are so pretty. I never seen prettier eyes."

Prl's face lit up. She speared green beans with a fork and began feeding Thleen, who was still sideways on her lap. Thleen took the bite, chewing noisily, and moved her hand down to lightly touch the dark green velvet collar and medallion of office around Prl's neck. "This is like Nan Bux and Nan Yoj, but it's a different color, what's yours for?" she asked Prl.

"I am the Genist of All Skene" said Prl. Su choked slightly on what she was swallowing.

"I don't know what that is" said Thleen. Pyosz glanced at Maar, whose face was paper white. Prl fed Thleen another bite and said "I help emmas have babies."

"Oh, I know all about that" said Thleen. There was a tiny strangled sound from Maar. "What's this a picture of, then, Nan Prl?" Her fingers were now on the gold double helix over the hollow of Prl's throat.

Prl began explaining, then asked Pyosz to bring her paper and a pencil. Within five minutes, she had explained genetics and DNA in a way that a seven-year-old could comprehend, lightly and lucidly. Adon and Su were listening intently. Thleen took the pencil from Prl and drew a picture of a face with light-colored eyes, asking "Will Pyosz's babies have blue eyes, too?"

"Possibly" said Prl, grinning at Pyosz. "I can't control the science, only guess at probabilities."

"I like science in school" said Thleen. "I like history too. I don't like maths much." She gave a guilty glance toward Maar. "But my favorite part of school is when we play kickball."

"I loved running and jumping games in school" said Prl, something Pyosz hadn't ever heard. They chatted on, and Pyosz remembered how vast her emma's attention had always been for her as a child. In a different world, Prl should have had a Manage full of children thought Pyosz.

The radio buzzed on the sideboard and Speranz squeezed around them to answer it. She carried it to Halling, saying "It's your siba, Moasi." Prl said quietly to Pyosz "It's killing both of them that Moasi's not here."

"Does she need someone to go pick her up?" said Maar. "I could borrow a lighter, I'm sure." Pyosz went to relay this offer to Halling, who talked it over with Moasi, then said "She'll need to be carried from her Manage down to the jichang, it's steep, and again from the Lofthall to here. But if that could happen, we can put her up for the night. Or a few days."

"I'll help carry her" said Lawa. Qala put her hand on Lawa's shoulder and said "Let's allow the youngsters to do that chore. Moasi will need you in other ways."

Speranz said "We'll give her our bedroom, we can go into the loft over the kitchen." Halling's face picked up animation as plans were made. Tlunu said she would accompany Maar. Maar turned to look at her sibs and Adon said urgently "I want to go with you, too, I can help carry. I'm very strong for my age." Indeed, her shoulders were almost the match of Maar's, but the panic on her face showed her real motivation was not be left behind at a wake of mostly strangers. "Me too" said Su, pleading, "I want to go, too."

"I need someone to look after Thleen" Maar said to them quietly.

"I'll do that" interjected Pyosz. She and Maar looked at each other levelly, and Maar said "All right. She needs periodic reminding that this is a wake, not a party."

The four went out the front door, as Halling jubilantly told Moasi an escort was on the way. Pyosz went into Speranz's bedroom with her to change sheets and put a chamberpot under the bed. Thleen remained in Prl's lap, having a third sliver of pie, until Halling clicked off the radio and called for Thleen to come visit with her some more. Pyosz came with a damp washcloth to wash Thleen's hands and face. Thleen submitted to it impatiently, then ran her hands over the ivory silk of Halling's embroidered hanshan. She confided "I would have come to the funeral, too, but I don't have any silks, not of any color. Emma says silks are for grown-ups only."

"Well, you're here now, that's the good thing" said Halling.

"Did you know Szebel since you was in school with her?" asked Thleen. Halling began telling the story of how she and Szebel had joined their lives together. Pyosz moved close to listen. She noticed Bux was becoming agitated, until Yoj pulled her to sit close and whispered something to her. Ndege took her leave, and Prl joined the cluster by the hearth.

Almost an hour after they'd left, Maar and Tlunu's group returned, Maar and Adon carrying a frail-looking elder between them. Halling got to her feet and wept as she settled on the couch with Moasi next to her, Lawa on the other side. Pyosz's camera memory was all full, but she borrowed Yoj's camera and began taking quiet photographs.

Maar's face was shiny with sweat, and she rested a few minutes at the table, drinking more cold water. Prl put her hand on Maar's arm and said "Thank you. For all your service to our loved ones." Maar turned red and said "It doesn't feel like service."

Tlunu said "There's a lighter held at the Lofthall for you, Danaan said, so you can run your sibs home to Chloddia when you're ready. Also a bunk at the Lofthall."

Maar looked at the clock and said "I need an early night. Thleen, pry yourself off Pyosz's lap, it's time for us to go."

"But I don't want to go to a restaurant, I like eating here better!" protested Thleen.

"You'll be having lunch with us tomorrow" said Halling. "I'm looking forward to it, and my siba Moasi will still be here."

Pyosz walked them to the front door, kissing Thleen on both cheeks and whispering "You are every bit as wonderful as I thought you would be." After a moment, she also kissed Adon and Su on their cheeks, thanking them for their help. She pulled Maar aside and told her what Thleen had said about funeral silks. "I'd like to buy her a set of silks, if you think your emmas wouldn't be upset" she whispered.

Maar looked thoughtful and replied "Let me do it. I'll get them all silks, I know what each of them will like."

"And you've certainly got the fashion sense" said Pyosz. She kissed Maar lightly on one cheek, looked her deep in the eyes to say "Thank you so much for being my buddy", then kissed her other cheek.

"See you soon" said Maar, and they left. Visitors had stopped dropping by, and soon there was only family left in the Manage. They gathered in the living room, listening to Halling and her sibs tell stories, eating off one another's plates, until Pyosz felt her eyes drifting shut. Prl noticed and stood, saying "I need to take my child home to bed."

"Your child is almost twice your size" laughed Moasi. "But we'll see you tomorrow for lunch, yes?"

Pyosz and Prl nodded. Lawa and Qala decided to stay a while longer. Pyosz allowed Prl to carry her small bag but lifted the crate herself, saying "It's not as much as milk cans, emma."

At the Genist's Manage, she went from room to room, noticing small changes, feeling a shift in the size of the place, reveling in the heat and space.

"I'll start you a bath" said Prl. Pyosz put her carryall in her room and found an old schmatta in her cupboard to wear. She fell asleep in the bath, and when Prl roused her, she dried in utter exhaustion. "Do you want tea before bed?" asked Prl.

"Mm, no. Emma, I very much want to be in my own bed, but would you come crawl in with me? Like when I was little?"

Prl's face glowed. "Go get settled, I'll be there soon." By the time she joined Pyosz, Pyosz was sound asleep. Prl rubbed her head gently for a few minutes, thinking over the expression on Maar's face every time she looked at Pyosz -- and the expression Pyosz gave in return. But I don't want my grandchildren growing up on Pya she thought as she, too, went to sleep.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.



Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. As usual, those from little gator lead the pack.

Subwoofer Kitteh


Sunday, September 27, 2009


Hot pink sokken
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 next morning, Pyosz made cornbread with warm milk and rough-ground meal, eating a piece slathered with peach jam for breakfast. She tore lemon verbena leaves in half and dropped them into well water in her new pitcher. She heated honey with mint, adding enough water to make a syrup which could be mixed with the lemon water for a refreshing drink. She deviled eggs and steeped porridge.

Tu and Pank arrived via sinner flown by Abbo. They unloaded pruning poles, toolboxes, and a flat-bottomed metal boat with coils of cable and rope in its hull. As Pank and Tu ate, Pyosz chopped chestnuts and sausage for stuffing. She prepped the goose for roasting, then walked with Tu to look over the two dozen potted volunteer trees from her orchard. She labeled them according to Tu's identification, and they sorted them into those Pank and Tu wanted for Herne, those which Pyosz thought she could find a site to transplant on this end of Saya, and the rest donated to the ejida.

Pank had wandered off through the kissing gate with a bucket and rake. Tu and Pyosz went to see what she was doing, finding her at the sandy beach north of the pasture, hip deep in the water. Her sokken, otos, and ku were piled on shore.

"Oysters!" Pank called out to them.

"Really?" said Pyosz.

"Lots. Enough to harvest once a week or so, if you're not greedy" said Pank.

"Then we'll all share them, Saya and Herne" replied Pyosz. "Sea-based harvest is not part of my production contract."

She and Tu sat on a rock, watching Pank pull up oysters and rubbing Killer's ears to keep her from chewing Pank's hot pink sokken.

"I don't understand why Halling and Moasi are both being slowly crippled by arthritis" said Pyosz, "When you and Lawa are so agile and strong into your old age. I mean, not to be indelicate, but all four of you sibs have the same genes, both sets. Seems like this must have come from Ng's line, since she had bad arthritis too -- and that means my emma and her sibs may be at risk for it as well."

Tu frowned. "Well, for one thing, emma had her hands in wet clay or was on open-water ferries most of the time, Moasi's career was in damp chilly silkworm caverns, and Halling flew for years over cold ocean updrafts. Whereas me and Lawa, we've lived in exposure but with lots of sunlight and dry air. More to the point, though, genes mix and express themselves uniquely. We get the recipe we get. I think even Prl would say that."

Pyosz thought that over. Finally she said "I'm worried about abba."

Tu looked at her. "If you are, then so am I."

They sat with their own thoughts for a while. Tu said "I hope she doesn't cut her feet out there. Walking on stilts is difficult enough without an injury."

"Tu, if you fall -- I mean, don't you think your hips can break?" It was out of Pyosz before she could stop herself.

Tu grinned. "Sooner or later, one or both of us'll be stopped in our tracks. But all the good in our lives has come from taking big risks -- falling in love at 40, having a child at the end of our fertility cycle, moving to a new world in middle age...We'll keep going until we're stopped, and then we'll reconfigure."

"How did you know you were in love with Pank, not just making a close friend?" asked Pyosz.

Tu gave a belly laugh. "You mean besides the fact that her face popped in my mind every hour of the day? Or that I found a reason to see her at least once a day? Well, I may be what from your vantage point looks old and dried up, but your ginny never stops talking to you. I'm getting hot right now imagining what she's going to taste like after wading in the sea all this time."

Pyosz felt her face go crimson as she hugged herself, chuckling. Killer butted against her hands, and Pyosz extended her hug to the little goat, squeezing her until Killer bleated in protest.

"So..." said Tu. "How was your date last night?"

Pyosz said "It wasn't a date date." Tu smiled as Pyosz told her all about the evening. By the end, Pank had joined them, sitting in the sun to dry her lower half. Killer nuzzled the bright white hair on Pank's calves.

Pyosz concluded with "So, seems like Maar was braving the cynosure of Uli and her cadre but had to drag along yet another ex-lover to the mix. With Abbo who knows where. I don't understand how it all works, I really don't."

Pank was tickled. "I'm guessing Uli didn't tell you she's slept with every one of those friends you named. Spent a year with Cremen, she did."

"You're kidding" said Pyosz.

"Not a bit. Maar was just adding weight to her side of the fulcrum, I think" said Pank.

"And hanging above all the shuffling for centerpoint is Pyosz, our plumb bob" Tu said to Pank. They laughed together.

Pank began putting on her sokken, having to fend off Killer with one hand. Once they were back at the barn, stashing their pail of oysters in the store room, Pank pointed to boards Pyosz had leaned against the wall and said "What are you planning to do with those? They've been planed and jointed, I see."

"Yeah, they're left over from the work you did earlier" said Pyosz. "I want to put them together into a couple of big plaques for my cabin walls, to hang my Saya map and some photos, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet."

"Slots and biscuits" said Tu with a tone that implied "obviously".

"I don't have the tools for that" said Pyosz.

"We do" said Pank, shouldering the boards and carrying them to near the kitchen. She and Tu showed Pyosz how to get started, with gouges and planes from their toolbox, before they left to go prune in the woods. Pyosz put her goose in to roast, then worked contentedly for a couple of hours until she had her plaques hanging in the cabin, map already pinned to the one opposite her bed. She sat on her bed, sweat and sawdust limning her face, studying her map with intense satisfaction.

A shadow appeared in her doorway. "Are you napping?" asked Maar.

"No, look what I made!" said Pyosz proudly. Maar sat beside her and praised how neatly the boards fit together.

"You get off early?" asked Pyosz.

"Yeah. I need to change, though" said Maar. She patted her carryall and said "Brought my own duds this time."

Pyosz stood and went to her cupboard. "I need to wash and change my shati, too." She heard Maar say "What's this you're reading?" She wheeled in panic until she realized Maar was looking at the history book Yoj had sent her.

During dessert, a lemon marmalade tart, Pank said "We're going to drive spikes in boulders on either side of the inlet to Herne, and run a cable between here and there. There's a better access point on the northeast corner over there. We'll leave our boat tethered on your side for now."

"Instead of a ferry, we should build an arched bridge" said Pyosz. "With a gate to keep my goats from visiting you."

Tu looked at Pank. "It would mean a world of permits. And more expense."

"Let's think about it" said Pank.

Maar had a two-seat lighter at the jichang. Pyosz brought her camera and took a dozen photos as Maar flew them over Hamsa, Gando, Hari, and Zhao Ze before reaching the western end of Trumpinne. Pyosz was kept wondering about their final destination. When they began circling to land, Pyosz squealed "Trumpinne?!! I've never been here!"

"They have a popular carnival which operates most weekends, we run a sinner back and forth several times on Sju" said Maar. "Charge a fee for it. But it'll be quiet today, everybody's focused on Mchele Fair this coming week. These folks are bringing several of their rides to the fairgrounds."

It was a packed, golden afternoon. Maar first led them up Layl Poke overlooking the small village on Trumpinne. A zipline from the top deposited them back near the carnival grounds. Pyosz screamed the whole way down.

They rode the merry-go-round and bumper cars, rides which would not be hauled over to Dvareka for the fair. They then hiked almost the length of Trumpinne, visiting olive groves and vineyards, eating ripe grapes by the handful.

Back at the village, they bought a wide assortment of olives, oils, vinegars, raisins, and wines. Maar added in some edamame for their dinner from the soyfields which were pocketed among the olive groves. Pyosz had used all of her film by the time they started back.

On Saya, Pank had the grill going, roasting potatoes in coals and veggies ready to go on the grill. Tu was shucking oysters, planning to also grill these with a dollop of shamsjooz sauce in each shell. As Pyosz went to milk, Maar said "Can I make the marinade for those ducks you're bringing tomorrow?"

"Sure" said Pyosz. With only a few hints from Tu, Maar mixed red wine with apple vinegar and reduced it, adding onions, garlic, and mustard, before pouring it over the ducks in their roasting pan.

After dinner, they sat around the fire pit for an hour, burning dead limbs cut that day. Pank recited poetry, but Pyosz only half-listened, reliving her afternoon on Trumpinne. When Tu said she needed sleep, Maar gave them a ride to Koldok where they were spending the night at Dodd and Briel's.

"Carynn bye" Pyosz called to them. She doused the fire and sat at her table to choose photos to hang on her other plaque. When these were up, she fell asleep looking at the faces of her family, leaving her lamp on.

Shmonah dawn, Pyosz put her duck in the oven before milking. She made saffron rice to go with them, and decided to get her bread and pie baking out of the way. It was 11:00 before she reached Arta. The sky was overcast but rain was still holding off.

Abbo, Nk and Frahe were already there, the latter with oatmeal cake and avocado salad. Abbo was already nibbilng on an ear of corn from Ollow's boil. Pyosz put her duck in the oven and grabbed herself an ear of corn.

"We have news!" cried Mill when she saw Pyosz. "Ngall had her baby this morning!"

"A week early?" asked Pyosz. "Is she -- "

"Fine, aggie and baby are fine!" said Mill, doing a jig step. "Fast labor, and baby one ounce shy of 7 pounds. Black hair and curls, Ehuy says she's the image of Ngall."

Oby, now outside too, added "And they named her Omill!" Pyosz rushed to hug Oby and Mill.

"We can't get away this week at all" said Mill, "But next week we'll head for Skene with bags of Arta corn and platinum eks to shower on them." It was traditional for close family members to give newborns a 2-ek piece; more distant relatives gave a gold ek. Pyosz realized suddenly she had not budgeted for this expense. In fact, for Ngall's birth of Ehall, Pyosz was embarrassed to remember it was Prl who had made Pyosz's gift for her. Well, this time she'd come up with her own 2 eks somehow -- another member of their youngest generation!

Dodd, Briel, Tu and Pank arrived with banana cream pie, bacon-wrapped scallops, stuffed peppers and tomato salad. The news of Omill's birth was celebrated all over again. Maar's sinner landed just as Pyosz was taking the ducks from the oven.

"Hey" said Maar, "How'd that marinade work out?"

"You struck the perfect balance" said Pyosz, handing Maar a morsel to taste. "You wanna carve these?"

"Uh...Sure, except I haven't really done it -- " said Maar.

"I'll give you a lesson" said Briel. Abbo came to hug Maar and brag about her new sibiya, whom Maar already knew about via the radio. Pyosz went to swim until lunch was on the table.

Maar had brought chilled wine. Pank said "I thought your dish was partly this duck."

"It is" said Pyosz. "The only thing I did with it was put it in the oven."

After their feast and another swim, Pyosz sat on the grass near Nk, who was rebraiding Pank's frowsy white hair. Pyosz kept scratching her own head, and finally Dodd said affectionately "I think your scalp needs oiling, sibiya."

"You're right" said Pyosz, pulling a bottle from her carryall.

"Shall I do it for you?" offered Maar. Pyosz handed her the bottle. As Maar poured oil into her hands, Dodd took a sniff and said "This reminds me of when you were born."

"What do you mean?" said Pyosz, trying not to slur her speech from the flooding sensation of Maar's fingertips rubbing gently at the base of her dreads.

Dodd said "Once you were delivered, there were hordes of us in Prl's bedroom, passing you around. You were peaceful about all the attention, and you nursed very early. But then you got fussy, even when Prl insisted she be the only one to hold you. Finally Qen said 'Her head itches, you need to oil her scalp.' And she was right. Prl had every possible baby product Skene produced, and she'd put two drops of gardenia scent into the bottle of baby oil she had -- she said it was the rarest scent on Skene, and that meant it was for you. It was very faint, diluted like that, but as soon as she began massaging your beautiful little head, you dropped right off. We all used to love oiling your scalp for you when you were a baby, with that signature Pyosz smell." Her smile was wide and nostalgic.

"How did Qen know that?" asked Frahe.

"Oh, three children of her own, five grandchildren, and Pyosz was the tenth great-grandchild, you pick it up along the way" guessed Dodd. Pyosz was fighting the urge to slide into blissful sleep at the moment.

Abbo said to Mill "Did you tell Pyosz about Sey?"

Pyosz's eyes came open. "What about Sey?"

Mill glanced at Abbo with quasi-irritation. "It's not final yet, but she's thinking about immigrating to Pya."

"Whyever for?" asked Pyosz, taking the bottle of oil back from Maar and thanking her softly.

Ollow spoke up. "She's applied for a job opening we have at the factory, as head of R&D in the chemical section, and honestly, she's the most qualified applicant by far."

"She would be" agreed Pyosz, struggling to be fair. "But I don't think your salary or even that job title explains her leaving Skene. What's going on?"

Mill cleared her throat. "She lost her position with Woalt's family's business. She and Woalt have, uh, parted ways."

"Lev, that was fast" said Pyosz, almost to herself.

"Still, why Pya?" pursued Dodd, looking at Pyosz. "Is she -- well, to be blunt, is she chasing Pyosz?"

Ollow said "I doubt it, since she was under the impression Pyosz would be returning to Skene soon. She did ask after you, though, which was natural under the circumstances." She, too, was looking at Pyosz. It seemed everybody was.

Mill added "I've heard her letters of recommendation are nonexistent, especially from University folk. Does that fit with her academic career?"

"Not at all" said Pyosz. "She had the highest honors, and earned it."

"Well, something must have changed" said Dodd, her eyes fixed on Pyosz's. Pyosz mouthed "Prl" and Dodd nodded. Pyosz felt Maar react beside her.

"Maybe you and she can reconcile, if she's learned a lesson" said Abbo disingenuously. Pank snorted and Pyosz didn't even look Abbo's way.

"I hardly think about her, which is a little shameful but true" said Pyosz. To Ollow she said "She'd be living in Cogio near your factory there, I hope?"

Api said "Actually, she's asked for lodging in Koldok if we can find it, or Pertama as a second choice."

Pyosz said straight-faced to Dodd "S'bemma, you and Briel have spare rooms, perhaps she could move in with you." Dodd and Briel immediately burst into laughter, and after a shocked second or two, the rest of the family joined them. Pyosz finally said dismissively "You know, it's nothing to do with me. I'd rather not stumble across her in the streets of Koldok, but if I do, I'll say hi and go on." So much for running away from Skene to avoid her thought Pyosz.

"Well, to change the subject, I finally remembered to bring the photographs Qoj took on her visit here" said Dodd, pulling a stiff portfolio from her carryall. "Gather round." She lifted her arm to allow Pyosz to snuggle in close. Maar sat on her knees behind them, looking over Dodd's shoulder. They lingered over each shot, taking in the exquisite detail of the velvety black sky and shimmering stars. Pyosz remembered the deep chill of that night flight and was glad to be surrounded by warm brown bodies in the intermittent sun.

"I'm getting these framed and hanging them at the schoolhouse" Dodd said, when they were done. "And while we're bragging about our children" said Briel, "Mruch assisted in the surgical repair of a cleft palate on a baby this week."

As they continued talking, Briel said to Maar "The collar on that shirt you're wearing is gapping in the back and it looks to me like your skin is burning on your neck, let me have a look." Confirming it, Briel said "We need some aloe vera, there's a bunch in the kitchen tillage."

"I'll go cut it" offered Pyosz. "Somebody loan me a knife?"

Maar was the first to ease a claspknife from her kalsongers, although everybody seemed to be reaching for one, Pyosz noticed. As she walked toward the house, Api emerged from the back door and called to Mill "Urgent call for you on the radio." Mill passed Pyosz, going into the house. Pyosz heard Api stand close to Ollow and say in a low voice "There's been a death on Skene. Nobody from our direct line." Her voice was grave.

Pyosz cut the aloe stem with automatic motions, her mind in adrenaline overdrive. "Nobody from our direct line" meant it wasn't Ngall or her children. But the abbas -- Api considered them kin, yet would distinguish them as not direct kin. She walked blindly back to the cluster near the pond, handing the dripping stem and open knife to Briel without caution.

"What's wrong?" asked Maar, examining her face. "Are you -- sit down, Pyosz, are you going to pass out?"

Pyosz dropped heavily onto the grass, leaning her forehead onto her knees. She wanted to stop time -- no, reverse it, keep at bay whatever had happened on Skene. She heard Briel saying "Get us some cold water", but beyond Briel, she could hear Api and Ollow whispering under the pergola in words she couldn't make out. Then she heard the back door slam, and Mill's footsteps approaching.

Mill said "I just got off the radio with emma. Yoj, I mean."

Then it wasn't Yoj.

"Someone we know has died after a brief illness. It's Szebel, from Yanja. Intimate of my emma Halling. Emma is pretty tore up. I'm going to call back in half an hour to talk with her more -- "

Pyosz cried out "Oh thank the stars, thank the stars it's Szebel!"

There was a horrified silence around her. Pyosz said "I heard Api say -- I thought it was one of my abbas who died, or..." She couldn't bring herself to even consider Prl's death. "I don't mean I'm glad Szebel died -- "

"S'all right" said Maar, patting her on the back. "We get it."

Mill still looked shocked, however. "I thought you were friends with Szebel" she said.

"I am -- I was. I'm just -- Oh, Halling must be stricken!" said Pyosz. "I have to go back to Skene, I have to be with her during this loss."

Mill looked at Oby before saying "I don't see how we can swing that, sibiya. There's nobody to take over your work on Saya, not this week, not with Mchele Fair. I mean, I'm not going to be able to attend the funeral, much as I want to go comfort emma. Abbo is flying the huolon, she'll have to represent our family from Pya for us."

"No" said Pyosz stubbornly. "Abba's been having a hard time, I need to go talk with her myself. Maybe the milking could be rotated among a different ejida worker each morning and afternoon, the rest of the work can wait -- "

"They'll laugh at my request" insisted Mill. "Some of them are only getting five hours of sleep a night right now as it is."

Pyosz felt a mixture of despair and rage. She was trapped here, this is something of what it felt like to be one of those first colonists, severed from the people she loved.

Pank and Tu had been whispering. Tu now spoke. "I feel torn, too, I want to be with my sibu. She does have her partners, though, and Lawa. And I'll be making a long visit at midwinter. But -- "

Pyosz gave her a cold look as she said "By midwinter, she'll have sunk into who knows what, abba will. They need me, right now as much as Saya does!"

"I understand" said Tu. "That's why, me and Pank, we'll take over Saya while you're gone. We can stay there, we're taking the week off anyhow and need a place on Dvareka to sleep while we get ready for the Fair."

"I'm not nearly as fast as you, but I can milk goats" said Pank. "We'll share the lifting of milk cans, and make sure your katts and chickens are all right. We won't have time for anything else -- "

Pyosz leaped toward them, pulling them both into her arms. "Thank you, thank you" she blubbered, tears finally filling her throat.

"Well, all right" said Mill. "That's an elegant solution. I can tell my emmas, then, that you'll be coming? The funeral is to be at 11:00 day after tomorrow. The huolon is scheduled to leave tomorow at 4:00 in the afternoon, fly all night and should get to Yanja about an hour before the funeral."

"I'll be ready" said Pyosz. "But I should go back to Saya now, I have to make bread for the days I'll be gone, and get everything ready." She was putting on her sokken and otos.

"I'll come help you" said Maar firmly. Pyosz said to Mill "Tell abba I'll call her in an hour or so. And I'll call emma, too." Dodd said "We'll leave condolence letters at the Lofthall for you to carry for us, along with gifts for Ngall and Ehuy."

"We'll be at Saya by 2:00 tomorrow" said Tu.

The first time Pyosz did back at her kitchen was make a list of everything she needed to address while Maar made cold lemonade. Maar took over the laundry and chicken-house cleaning. Pyosz began sponges before she rattled her wain to the orchard for a rushed harvest. By the time dinner was over and rows of baked goods were stacked in her larder, Pyosz felt utterly drained. She had talked with all her abbas, bleeding inside at the numbness of Halling's voice. She asked Prl to bring her funeral silks to Yanja early so she could change on arrival. She still had a full day ahead of her on Moja, and Maar had to work the morning sinning before grabbing an inadequate nap prior to their flight. They parted by 8:00, so they could both go to bed early.

Pyosz had cleaned her cabin, hidden the rice paddy workers novel, put new sheets on her bed, and made a dinner hamper for the flight before Pank and Tu arrived. She wrote out everything she could think they might need to know, because she wanted to take her logbook with her, along with her map of Saya and a crate of her various products to share with her family. She had a platinum ek and other coins from her secret stash in her pocket as Tu and Pank, flanked by distressed-looking katts, waved her off at the dock.

She took the passenger seat up front so one pilot could lay down the second row of seats into a single bench for sleeping. Abbo asked to take the first shift flying, which meant Maar would be handling the full-dark, into-a-storm hours approaching Skene. Once they were clear of any sight of Pya, Pyosz pulled a small silk pillow from her carryall and handed it back to Maar. She took a second pillow out for herself, wrapped her manteau about her snugly, and leaned against the window, thinking Skene...I'm coming home.

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.