Friday, December 11, 2009


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Start of Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pyosz grinned and said "You too, right?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What is that thing?" asked Pyosz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who?" demanded Pyosz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, December 10, 2009


(Hubble Image Showcases Star Birth in M83, the Southern Pinwheel)

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, followed by poetry after the jump.


by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.


Tuesday, December 8, 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)


Maar was up at first light. She tried to bathe and slip out of the Genist Manage quietly, but Prl heard her and insisted she stay for breakfast, calling Lawa and Qala for back-up. Lawa made her apple pancakes, Qala farmer's eggs with sausage and cheese, and Prl pulled out the photo albums of Pyosz growing up. When Maar insisted she had to go after eating, she and Fohol were desperately needed on Pya and they had to fly with the sun, Prl persuaded her to wait ten more minutes while a hamper was filled for their lunch and a cake was wrapped for Thleen, whom Maar planned to visit briefly on Chloddia before heading back to Pya. Qala assured her Abbo would have all the family care and visiting she could handle, and Lawa said "I'll be talking with my siba, she'll call you herself later."

Once she had gone, Prl called Pyosz to give her the likely time of Maar's arrival in Koldok. "Abbo's going back with the huolon tomorrow and I don't want her to get all the fanfare" said Prl.

"Don't worry about that" said Pyosz. "We've been talking with that saved child's abbas, there'll be a reception for Maar and Fohol. How did she sleep?" In my bed she thought.

"She looked pale but she always is, I gather. The lines in her face were gone and she looked determined." Prl paused, then deliberately gave her child what she wanted. "I think it was restorative to her to be in your bed."

"And under your roof" Pyosz generously returned as she hugged herself. She went right to bed, and in the morning whipped through her baking so she would be at the jichang by 10:30. Cawl Ffa was there, as well as anyone else who could spare an hour. Maar and Fohol were abashed, their bodies stiff and exhausted after the 10-hour grind in the slower sinner. The band played them into the Lofthall canteen, where a spread had been laid out. Pyosz stood behind Maar's chair, rubbing her shoulders gently.

When people began clamoring for the story, Maar wearily stood and said "I don't want to steal Abbo's thunder, she gets to tell what happened to her for herself. And what I'd rather hear right now are folks' memories of Moko, who is forevermore absent from among us."

The music ended, and people stared at each other. But Dodd set aside her fiddle and began telling tales from school about Moko, and after that, it easily turned into a wake. Pyosz regretted Moko's family not being there. She noticed the stone faces on Mill and Oby, and wondered if it was simply overwhelm or in part a realization that Abbo would not be able to resist the public attention Maar had just turned into appropriate mourning.

Afterward, Pyosz walked Maar to her bunk area and invited her to dinner that evening if she was up.

"Nothing I'd like more" said Maar, letting Pyosz remove her boots. "But I have to meet with the Sheng Zhang."

"Do you want me there with you?" offered Pyosz in a low voice.

"I do, but it's better if you're not" said Maar. She looked to be asleep by the time Pyosz pulled the curtain against light. On the way home, Pyosz stopped at Klosa's and bought herself a new wool cap, this time in lime green. Things have changed she said to herself.

She picked her orchard and did the usual preserving, but mid afternoon she set her alarm beside her potting wheel and uncovered the neglected vase. She crumpled it down and returned the clay to a wet bucket. Taking fresh clay, she began forming an oval plate with rippled rims. On the right half, she etched the outline of the secano where Moko had died -- she'd gotten a duplicate map of the secano route from Uli two days ago and pored over it. After a long breath, she began carving a likeness of Moko into the left half of the plate.

She astounded herself by well it came out. She'd only seen Moko a few times, but she was good at seeing and drawing faces. On the back she wrote Moko's lineage name into the clay, adding "Died in service to Pya." She set it gently into her curing cupboard. She knew exactly how she wanted to paint it, but she didn't have the glazes yet and she wanted to experiment for a while before proceeding on with this precious memento. However long it took for her to give it to Moko's family, it would be welcomed by them. My first effort as a keramiker, none better she thought as she fed her katts and chickens, only a little behind schedule.

Maar landed at the jichang the next day and Pyosz met her as she got out of her lighter. "I got our favorite sandwiches" she said, "and they had gorgeous banyu at the fish market, I got enough to feed your new neighbors as well for dinner. But I only got 10 minutes to eat right now."

"Let's sit here on these sunny rocks, then" said Pyosz, leading her to the cliff. "And you're coming for dinner, yes?"

"I'll try. The huolon gets in at 5:00 and we're all expected to be there" said Maar.

"Well, I'll be milking, and I don't imagine Abbo will notice my absence" said Pyosz, splitting the onion rings and zucchini fries between them.

"Mill and Oby will" said Maar neutrally.

"I'll talk with them in due time. I'm involved here, I have feelings about all this I need to sort out, first with my abbas and emma. Made much easier by you including them, thank you. How did the conference last night go? How are you doing?" Pyosz gave her pickle to Maar, who was already halfway through her lentil burger.

Maar half-grinned, tomato in her teeth, as she began "Mill asked me not to discuss particulars with 'her family' as she put it. She was pretty steamed when I told her those goats had already left the barn. I may get uninvited to future Shmonahs in Arta Island."

"Then we'll gather here, or on Herne, or at Dodd's" said Pyosz.

"Okay, I have to give you a nutshell: I asked that we find resources to go to every secano and get them all in working order; I asked for a revision of emergency protocol that puts the main responsibility on the senior pilot; I insisted preflight checks be submitted in writing before takeoff; and I asked that transmissions of current position be radioed to Skene and here each hour of a huokon flight." Maar took a long swig of lemonade and said "Sheng Zhang was frosty and asked what I was implying. I told her I wasn't implying anything, I was flat-out stating we just lost a life on our Lofthall's watch and human error played a role, we had to do all we could to keep a similar error from ever occurring again."

Maar giggled. "Emma would have paid platinum eks to hear you do that."

"Oby was giving me the fish-eye, and Mill started in about the budget, how this loss of a huolon was devastating, plus how they had to pay a life annuity to Moko's family, but Oby cut her off and said 'Of course the most important thing is figuring out what went wrong so our pilots and passengers are utterly safe'. You know, if she runs for Ethicist when Api retires, I think she could win." Maar wiped her greasy fingers on Curds' back instead of giving the handout Curds was angling for and stood, saying "Can I leave my bottle and wrappers with you?"

"Go" said Pyosz. "Come as late as you want for dinner, or not at all if need be."

As Maar climbed in her hatch, she said "The lime green looks even better on you."

Pyosz fileted the banyu, giving the skin and heads to her katts instead of starting a stock, for once. She set the delicate flesh to marinate in curry-laced milk and walked over to Herne. Killer always registered disbelief when Pyosz closed the bridge gate in her small face.

The two-story Manage on the southeast corner of Herne was entirely framed and roofed, as was the woodshop, lumber yard, smokehouse, barn and chicken house. Nk and Frahe were doing fine detail inside the Manage, laying parquet floors and fitting facings. The timmers worked around them, wishing they had their skill and time.

The metal lattice for the greenhouse was also in place. rooted deep in the concrete foundation. Pank was on a ladder, methodically glazing panes of glass into the slanting roof. Tu was doing the same for the lower wall, sitting on a three-legged stool. Pyosz stopped to admire the multiple reflections of silver hair and rich brown skin coming and going around them. When this massive space was crowded with exotic plants and warm humidity even on icy winter days, she was going to come visit and imagine she was in the jungles lavishly painted in Yoj's bestiary.

She overturned a bucket and sat down between Tu and Pank. They kept working as she gave them an account of Maar's return. When she invited them to dinner but added it would conflict with Abbo's homecoming, Tu glanced at Pank before answering "We need to stay here until 6:00, at least. We'll see Abbo on Shmonah."

Another pane was fitted, pointed, and neatly caulked by Pank's veined fingers before she spoke. "I worked with Moko's aggie for a couple of years. On days when we were just tagging or putting out new sets, she'd sometimes bring Moko with her. Even as a toddler, she was interested in everything, and adventurous but not stupid about it. She'd have made a big difference to the Lofthall."

They sat in silence for five minutes. Over the timmers' chatter and hammering, Pyosz could occasionally hear a forlom bleat from the direction of the bridge. Finally she stood and said "I'm making curried banyu and coleslaw with apples. Would you rather have potatoes or rice with it?"

'Whatever's easiest" said Tu. "We'll sort this all out, you know. We'll help Mill along. She'll do the right thing, she always finds a way to it." Pyosz bent over and kissed her forehead before leaving.

Two weeks later, the Manage on Herne was complete enough for Pyosz's four cousins to move in, though, as Dodd remarked, Frahe and Nk would never be done with improvising details of woodworking inside and out. The woodshop was also ready, and it took two runs of a heavy-duty sinner alone to haul over all the fine lumber Nk and Frahe had been stashing for years. The greenhouse was plumbed and vented, though not planted. Tu started making charcoal as furniture was moved in, and Pank walked around the heavy metal fencing encircling the tillage, chicken yard, and ornamental trees, testing it against the cleverness of pigs.

That Shmonah, the extended family gathered on Herne for a barbecue and housewarming. Pank's newly pregnant prize sow intimidated Pyosz until she learned the old aggie simply wanted to be scratched behind her ears. A sextet of three-month-old black and white piglets from another Mti line explored every corner, including the bridge where their snouts sniffing through the gate scandalized nearby goats. Pyosz had offered Tu and Pank all the mast they wanted from her forest floor to feed pigs and burn in the smokehouse.

The only pebble in the beans was not having a place to swim. Shmonah gatherings had held a frisson of unexpressed tension since Moko's death, and swimming was great for distracting horseplay. Maar had had two long conversations with Pyosz's abbas, once at their Manage in Skene and once on the phone from Saya's kitchen. The changes Maar had requested were all in at least the planning stage, though Pyosz secretly worried the current seasonal shorthandedness causing delay would somehow drift on after the heavy fish runs ended.

Change on Pya was not as creeping and incremental as on Skene, but nearly so. Prl surprised Pyosz by advocating patience with Mill. "What she has to see, and take action on, is not just a Sheng Zhang's problem, but that of an aggie. Nothing harder" said Prl.

That Shmonah on Herne, Pyosz felt she could sense Mill's unease at not being the host, at not having a means to burn off Abbo's restless energy once they had feasted and taken a nap on the wide front porch, where inquisitive piglets were prohibited by a metal gate. She turned to Dodd and said "I'll play spoons if you'll break out your fiddle."

Dodd reached for her case, but Tu stood and said "I'm hot, I'm going to take a dip." Briel repeated "A dip?" as Pank followed Tu. Nk said "Yeah, there's a sort of natural rock stairway down the southeast cliff, where a small point diverts the worst currents away from shore if you don't venture too far out. There's a shingle bottom about three feet deep. You can't swim a great distance but as long as you keep the point behind you, the worst that'll happen is you get pushed back into the rocks. It's extremely refreshing."

Abbo was already on her feet, and everyone except Api and Ollow formed a line on the trail, piglets trotting along with them until the first clamber down a rock at cliffside. Pyosz looked down at the turquoise and plum shades of Herne Kuono and kept repeating to herself "Morrie vaseo all the time."

It was much colder than the pond on Arta, and the seawater stung Pyosz's eyes and nose. but it was a relief to fight the waves and splash her family. She got out when her teeth started chattering, wrapping her arms around her knees on a sunny rock and reminding herself to wash off the rime when she got home, it would play hob with her skin. Not long after, Maar hoisted herself out after a hard mini-swim and sat nearby, squinting up at the sun as if denying it permission to burn her. Her face was sad, and Pyosz said softly "Missing Thleen? She'd really love the thrill of this, I bet."

"She would" answered Maar. "But no...I was thinking about...Moko."

She died in cold water like this, only in the dark deep with -- Pyosz couldn't finish the thought. She stood, looking for her otos, and said "I'm going to wash dishes." Maar let her go. She wanted a little more time watching people play in safe ocean.

Mrebbe's crew had transferred their attention to buildiing the many structures on Kacang for the immigrants who would arrive after midwinter break. The three-story Manage going up was almost due north of Pyosz's kitchen, though far enough across the water that she had no sense of intrusion. They'd be bringing several new children to Koldok school, and Pyosz's ferry would be shared by them as far as the first pylon. The Pea Pods were populating.

Pyosz invited Uli to dinner one night, ostensibly to go over the underground terrain of Saya on Uli's latest map, but also to give Uli a chance to talk about what was going on with her and Qoj. No further visits had occurred between the two, and Qoj's one letter to Pyosz had been cryptic. However, Uli avoided the topic through the meal and dessert. They cleared the table and spread the map, leaning together to examine details as an explosion of late summer buzzbeetles tried to immolate themselves on the overhead light,

A light rain started, and Pyosz said "Did you bring a burzaka? I'll loan you one of mine when you go home, or an umbrella if you'd rather."

Uli leaned back, her dark eyes happy, and said "It's so good to be off Dvareka, away from Koldok. I've daydreamed about asking for a small Pea Pod, but they'll never give one to a single person and my aggie can't ride ferries."

"You and Dekkan could team up. Dou is tiny and closest to Koldok, I bet a Lofthall pilot could get priority" suggest Pyosz.

"I love Dou" said Uli with longing. "It has a cold springs, did you know that? But -- one of us will have to stay in Koldok and inherit the Manage there to look after our emmas. And Dekkan's career will keep her busier than me, plus she'll probably find a partner before I do..." Uli trailed off, then said "Sorry, I didn't mean to gossip about -- your family."

"You can talk to me as a friend, I'll keep your confidence" said Pyosz.

"Even if it's Dodd doing her soft excavation?" said Uli with a grin.

"I've been known to say no to Dodd" said Pyosz. grinning back.

Uli sighed and said "Qoj says she won't be in a position to transfer a career to Pya for at least a year, and she doesn't think it's fair to ask me to wait. I can't tell if she means it or just wants a clean out -- not in a letter or over the phone."

"Then go visit her, ask her in person. I'm heading back for my birthday in 10 days, you could travel with me, meet the rest of my family, so all the pressure isn't on her to entertain you." Pyosz saw alarm on Uli's face and said "What?"

"One of those beetles, it's in your hair." Uli helped her extricate it, with Pyosz only squealing in revulsion once. Uli then said "Between you and me, I'm a little leery about flying in the huolon right now."

"I guess I understand that, except with Maar on watch -- " Pyosz stopped herself but she saw Uli's apprasing look. Uli said quietly "I share your opinion. I've pressured Dekkan to, well, avoid working with Abbo alone. If I thought Abbo was ever going to be Sheng Zhang, I'd be raising the roof to make Dekkan change careers."

Pyosz let out a long breath. "Is that an opinion generally shared or just yours?"

"Well..." Uli temporized. "Most of my friends know them both firsthand, you see." There was a troubled silence. Uli jumped in with "But I'd go to Skene, of course, if I wasn't afraid Qoj'd shut me down cold once I got there. I'd rather wait it out. And aggie wasn't happy about me dating Qoj, anyhow. Nothing against Qoj, it's just that she figured if we coupled, we'd go live in Dodd and Briel's Manage instead of ours, theirs is much nicer."

"Did you and Qoj talk about that?" asked Pyosz.

"Not about us, no" said Uli hastily. "But she did make it clear she wants to have that Manage eventually, and not to share it with Mruch. I'll be honest, the idea of living under the eye of Dodd doesn't sound any better than winding up with aggie." Uli's voice was bleak.

"Hence the dream of a Pea Pod" commiserated Pyosz.

"You've got it all" said Uli softly. "I mean, you deserve it, but it's a singular opportunity."

"I wish my aggie could hear you say that" replied Pyosz.

"So your birthday is in 10 days? Surely you'll have a celebration here as well" said Uli. "And the following week is the annual Tasting, it's much better here than on Skene."

"I wouldn't miss it" said Pyosz. "I heard from Pank that there's another problem with a new animal they tried out this year, somewhat akin to the squirrel experiment."

"What, you mean the Owl People have purloined the creatures for Chwet?" laughed Uli.

"Not yet. These are small furry animals from a similar family to squirrels, though larger and with extremely long ears, only a stub tail. The meat is delicious, they're herbivores, and the fur is highly desirable" said Pyosz. "Plus they breed at an incredible rate all year long."

"So what's the problem?" asked Uli.

"Well, the reproduction rate combined with their appetite for crops became alarming. If they ever got loose -- and they're apparently good burrowers -- no field on Dvareka would be safe. Skene has flat-out refused to ever try growing them and demanded no animals be brought there from Pya. But even worse, the ejida workers became very attached to them, began thinking of them as companions like katts. When the first few were killed and dressed, they apparently looked enough like katts what one of the hardened ejida staff actually cried" said Pyosz.

"Hard to imagine" said Uli.

"So now the question is what to do with the ones that remain" continued Pyosz. "The ejida workers who tend them have neutered them all, but they're petitioning to have them not be slaughtered for the Tasting. They want to keep them as, well, pets."

Uli was laughing. "I'll have to go have a look at them for myself. You think the ejida workers will get their request?"

"Pank says not a chance, the Pya Botaniste has a soft spot only for butterflies and chilis."

At the end of the evening, they parted with a warm hug. The next day Maar tried to find out what they had discussed over dinner, and became wounded when Pyosz evaded her questions. Pyosz was focused, however, on getting far enough ahead that she could take off four days for a visit to Skene, even with Herne Island cousins at hand to do the milking.

copyright 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.

Also, have to brag a bit: One of my LolMaggies from last week made the front page at LolCats for voting! Thanks to little gator for letting me know about it. Here it is again: