Saturday, December 26, 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)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
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 was sharing a bowl of ice cream with Thleen at Thina Bowl when she saw Vants come in the door. She waved, calling "Come join us, cousin!"

But Vants was not returning her grin. Pyosz set down her spoon as Vants knelt beside her chair and said quietly "There's been an accident. You need to come home."

"Who?" said Pyosz. "What happened?"

"The factory where Nan Bux went to settle the dispute -- there had been a struggle earlier and a stack of machinery was unstable -- I'm so sorry, Pyosz, they say she died instantly."

"Not abba, tell me it isn't abba!" Pyosz's voice had risen.

"We need to go home, everyone is waiting for you" said Vants, her voice breaking.

Emma...Halling and Yoj...thought Pyosz.

"I don't understand" said Thleen in a panicked voice. Maar stood and dropped coins on the table, telling her sibs "Pick up your things, we need to leave. Quickly and quietly, I'll explain outside." Her face was impossibly pale. Pyosz wasn't sure she could stand, but Vants' strong arm came under her elbow and eased her upright. Chairs scooted out of their way as they filed to the front door, whispers already loud.

On the sidewalk next to the fish docks, Maar said "I'll take them back to Chloddia, but we'll come -- "

"Oh no, please don't leave me!" begged Pyosz. "You need to come with us, all of you, please."

"Come where?" said Thleen. "What did Vants say about Bux?"

Maar picked her up and said quietly "Nan Bux has been killed in an accident. Her family is just finding out. If we go to their house, it is to grieve with them, to be as kind as we know how to be. Can you do that, or should we go home to grieve on our own?"

"She's dead? She's really dead?" said Thleen in a tone that matched what was inside Pyosz's head. She burst into sobs, saying "That's wrong, siba, can't you fix it just this once?"

Maar began walking away from the view of those staring through the window. Tears streamed down her own face as she murmured "I'd give anything to fix it." Vants helped Pyosz keep taking steps, and Pyosz felt an arm slide through hers on the other side -- Adon, looking ashen and almost adult.

Later she wouldn't be able to remember the walk up the lane, only that copper door suddenly appearing in front of her and her coming to a halt: Everything was changed on the other side. But Vants swung it open and she heard Yoj's wails, and that pulled her inside.

In retospect, it really wasn't fair of Pyosz to have insisted Maar come with her. The Manage was in chaos, and it was all Maar could do to contend with her own sibs on top of her grief. The coroner was still there, seated at the table filling out a death certificate in her ornate copperplate. Ndege and Gerra were both present, and Gerra was on the radio making funeral arrangements with Yanja. Iro and Ektr were also at the table, too shell-shocked to move.

Yoj roamed the living room, yelling a stream-of-consciousness refusal to accept this loss. Prl was on the couch with Halling who registered no emotion at all, and Dodd sat on the floor, leaned against a wall, weeping onto her knees. Speranz was on her bed with the door open, Tlunu murmuring beside her.

Mill seemed the most approachable, sitting beside the coroner. Pyosz sat down across from them and said "What happened? Are you certain she's -- gone?'"

The coroner said patiently "I am certain. She was carried to the hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. Danaan said she never moved, not a flicker, after -- there was a tall stack of turbines on pallets which had been disturbed by an earlier search and fracas, though no one saw the imbalance. Nan Ethicist reached out a hand while walking to steady herself, and the top portion of the stack fell directly onto her head. She would not have even known it was happening, she had no time to cry out."

She was crushed, then. Pyosz fought the need to vomit.

Halling's voice came from the living room. "Whoever caused the argument which took her there and left things in disarray, they are directly culpable. I want their names, I intend to file charges and have them exiled." There was a wholly unfamiliar venom in her voice.

Yoj sucked liquid back in her throat to say "You will not."

Halling stared at her in what Pyosz now recognized as rage. "You cannot stop me. Someone must pay, she deserves more than this. She had just levving retired, she had decades to go in peace and happiness, I can't stand this!" She was screaming by the end.

"I can't either, but killing another won't change a thing. And if I can't stop you, Bux will, she would never ask for exile for an accident, you know that about her" choked out Yoj.

"I don't know what she thinks, I need her to tell me, I always need her -- " Halling's shrieks turned into sobs. Prl pulled her close. Yoj did not go to her, however. She just stood in place, tears still pouring silently down her cheeks.

They're broken now thought Pyosz. An essential piece is gone and they don't know how to fit together any more. She ran out the back door and made it to the privy before retching.

When she went back inside, Pank, Tu, Lawa and Qala were just arriving, having been located by Vants. Maar filled them in quietly, Thleen silent on her shoulder. Tu and Lawa went to Halling. Qala wrapped herself around Yoj. Pank began making tea.

"Where are Danaan and Rark?" asked Pyosz. "And my cousins?"

"At the hospital sitting with the remains, Danaan and Rark" said the coroner. Mill added "Abbo has gone to Pomar and to collect others in the family."

The coroner cleared her throat and said "I've arranged for Nan Ethicist to be carried to my office for washing and wrapping this afternoon, and visitation for family this evening. I -- strongly recommend you allow me to do the preparation, and that family not view until I am done."

"What do you mean?" asked Dodd stupidly. "We're who she wants for the final rites -- "

Pyosz said "Because it fell on her head, is what you're saying? That she's been hurt?"

"Yes. Not a memory you need to retain" replied the coroner. Yoj began wailing again.

"I don't care, I want to clean her and put her in linens" said Pyosz. "I'm her direct descendant, it should be me, I can handle it." It came out of her mouth before she thought about it. All heads swiveled to look at her. I killed Echo and cut her apart, I already have memories no one should carry she thought.

"I'll go with you" said Pank firmly. After a moment, the coroner said "All right."

"No, wait" said Halling. "We can't let you, child, we have to be there, too -- "

"You can sit in the anteroom until I've done the hard part" said Pyosz. "Then I'll call you in to finish and say goodbye."

Qoj came in the front door, gasping, and Dodd stood to embrace her. Prl left Halling and came to Pyosz, saying "Are you sure?"

"I am, emma. I don't want to but I do, if that makes any sense."

"You're just like her" said Prl. "She helped her own aggie die so the burden wouldn't fall on Veida or Qen. You have her iron love in you." She and Pyosz began crying together.

After drinking a cup of Pank's tea, which was fortified with something more than milk and sugar, Pyosz said to Gerra "The funeral is when tomorrow?"

"Noon" said Gerra. Pyosz remembered briefly this woman had captured her emma's heart, but she didn't care about that now.

Pyosz said to Prl "I don't have my funeral silks with me, do you have an extra set? Or any whites that might do?"

"Not that would fit you" said Prl.

Maar spoke up. "I have mine, I left them at the Lofthall here in my locker accidentally after -- "
Szebel died finished Pyosz, turning to look at Halling.

"But then what would you wear?" asked Prl, as if she were one of the family. "No, we'll buy Pyosz a set off the rack, the store downtown will open up this afternoon to accommodate community need."

"Then I'll go buy them for you" said Maar. "I know your size, I'll get what you want." She stood and motioned to her sibs. "We'll be back later." She kissed Pyosz tenderly on the cheek and repeated "I'll be back."

Pank stopped her in the living room and dropped coins in her hand, gesturing to herself and Tu. Silks for them as well. She called out to Maar and said "Wait -- Mill and Dodd..." Who were out back talking with Ndege and Speranz about funeral details. Prl carried more coins to Maar, who said "Not for Pyosz, I'm getting those" as she picked up gold from Prl's palm.

Casseroles and soups had begun to arrive with stunned neighbors. Pank made a light plate for herself and Pyosz, sitting down beside her to say "Refuel for the work ahead." Pyosz whispered "Can I really do this?" She saw Prl's reddened eyes go wide. "Yes" Pank whispered back, and Pyosz picked up her fork.

Two hours later, she and Qoj took Halling between them and led a long procession to the coroner's establishment downtown. The family was settled in the waiting room, folding chairs being brought in to accommodate them all. A samovar of tea was on a corner table, with cubes of sugar and a large pitcher of cream next to a plate piled with pastries. Sugar for shock thought Pyosz. She squeezed Prl's hand and followed the coroner into an adjoining room.

A round-bellied form lay on a table, covered by a sheet. Small stains had leaked through the sheet. The coroner and her assistant filled basins with hot water. Pyosz and Pank were handed large plastic aprons, which Pyosz tied on with trembling hands. It was so cold in the room, wisps of steam rose from the basins.

Pyosz went directly to what had been her abba's beautiful head and pulled back the sheet. She remembered later saying "It's better to know than to see what my imagination was creating inside." Someone at the hospital had made a start on cleaning. Still, they had to refill the basin twice before the area from shoulders up was washed and dry.

Pyosz rinsed her hands at the sink in an alcove and returned to say "We can't wrap her like this. It will be clearly misshapen, I can't let my abbas face this."

Pank handed her rolls of linen and scissors. "You're the shaper of clay, use cloth instead." With Pank's murmured feedback, an hour later she was satisfied with the wrapped contours that lay before them.

"They must be crazed with the delay, we can let them in now" she said, drained.

"No -- take off that apron, wash your hands and arms again" said Pank gently. The helpers whisked soiled items out of sight and refilled the basins before the antechamber door was opened. A chair was carried in for Halling. Prl looked at Pyosz first before turning her gaze to her aggie.

Halling had one gnarled hand on Bux's foot, and bent over to kiss her instep. Yoj tucked petals from Isola Fling roses into one of Bux's hands and a sprig of Motu Fling lilac into her other. Dodd dropped rosemary from Bux's Manage into the basins of water. Every child and grandchild had a chance to touch Bux's hand and say words of love before Yoj and Halling began slowly washing her legs, arms, belly, and ginny.

Pyosz got another chair from the antechamber and sat in a corner. Prl came to stand beside her, and Pyosz leaned her head against Prl's hip. When Bux was dry again, Dodd and Mill stepped forward to hold up arms or legs, tilt Bux to one side or the other, as Halling and Yoj passed wrapping linen between them.

When Bux was entirely covered except for her hands, Ehuy and Ngall carried in their children. The baby's hand was pressed against Bux's and Ngall whispered to her "Habibi will love you for always." Ehall didn't want to touch Bux, even with Ehuy's gentle coaxing. She kept saying "Why doesn't she wake up? How can she breathe with that cloth over her mouth?"

Pyosz had been Ehall's age when Qen died. She wondered if Prl or Yoj had murmured the same explanations and reassurance to her that Ehall was being told now. Finally, Ngall took Bux's hand in her own, weeping hard, and kissed its back, saying "I'll never forget you." Ehall burst into tears and lunged forward in Ehuy's arms, placing her small hand on her emma's and habibi's both as she cried out "Never forget you."

The front doors were opened for visitation, letting in a chill to match that of the washing room. Halling, Yoj, and the five children returned to sit in a row in the antechamber, blankets on their laps, tea refreshed often. Pyosz was overwhelmed by the line of people who streamed in to pay their respects. It wasn't merely homage to an important personage, most of the visitors seemed to be racked by sorrow.

When Maar's face appeared, Pyosz motioned her to come join her in her corner where she sat vigil over Bux. Maar kissed her again and whispered "I have to help my sibs through this, then fly them home. But I'm returning to Riesig to sleep. I'm flying shuttle in the morning to take folks to Yanja from all over Skene."

"We don't have an extra bed at the Genist Manage, but you could have the couch, it's long and soft" said Pyosz.

"I accept" said Maar. Pyosz stood and went with her, to guide her sibs through the farewell process. Thleen wailed, and Su turned to bury her face against Pyosz's shoulder, unable to stop her sobs.

At 8:00, the front doors were closed and Pyosz rallied herself for another carry. Yoj, however, went back to Bux's body, spreading her hand on the covered belly and saying hoarsely to Halling "I don't think I can leave her, she so hated to sleep alone."

"When we first became lovers, she would beg me to stay another five minutes in the mornings, she'd say the fish could wait, Skene could wait, she'd gone so long hoping we'd turn and love her.." said Halling.

"She didn't have any of that old longing left" said Prl, Her emmas looked at her, startled. "She was utterly contented and sure of you. She was one of the happiest women who ever lived, didn't you listen to all the people who came tonight? They loved her because she was confident and full of hope, from her life with you."

Still, it was a sharp pain to step out onto the street. Maar was waiting for them at the Manage, with Danaan and Rark. Danaan was haggard, her lips chewed raw. "I wasn't looking her way, if I had been -- " she began as soon as Halling was inside the door.

"Nobody blames you" said Mill, a little curt. She got Halling settled. Dodd took the radio and stepped into the larder for a scrap of privacy. A few minutes later, Pyosz overheard Dodd say urgently "You've never lied to me, Briel, and you need to trust me now, tell me even if you don't want to: Would she really have died right away? Did she suffer?" Pyosz froze, watching Dodd's back. When she saw Dodd's shoulders relax and Dodd whisper "Thank you. Thank the stars", Pyosz found she could breathe deeply again.

Mill and Dodd were bowled over by the funeral silks Maar handed them. Each of the five outfits she'd selected were distinct and a perfect fit for those she had shopped for. Pyosz wasn't surprised, she knew about Maar's ability to choose garments. "I hadn't even thought about it" said Dodd numbly. "Here, let me reimburse you -- "

"Don't worry about it, it's my gift to my sibs" said Prl. Mill gave her an awkward hug.

After an hour, Pyosz went to Halling and Yoj, sitting in silence on the couch, and knelt before them. "You need to sleep. Which means going in to that bed in there. How can I help? Massages, sleepy tea, draw you a bath? And if you can't face being alone, I'll stay with you, like I did when I was little and you used to roll over on me during the night, abba." This last was directed at Yoj, and drew a ghost of a smile from her.

Yoj and Halling looked at each other. "I don't know how to do this" Halling whispered.

"How can you?" said Pyosz. "But you do have each other, wounded as you are. And look at the family you created, crammed into these walls."

"Bux, it was Bux who gave us family" said Halling.

"You gave each other family" said Prl. joining in. "She relied on you for every dream she had,"

Halling's eyes were fixed on Yoj. "Don't you leave me. Don't leave me alone. I know that's unfair for me to ask, but I'm not strong enough..."

Pyosz felt ice in her belly at the shameful hunger on Halling's face, the desperation on Yoj's. After a minute, Yoj said "I won't. I'll never leave you."

"Come on" said Pyosz, suddenly angry with Halling and forcing herself to go against it, "I'll help you to the privy, abba."

The two of them shut the bedroom door ten minutes later, refusing help getting undressed or being tucked in. Tu was sagging against Lawa, and Qala said "We all need whatever sleep we can find." Qoj and Mruch offered to walk Mill to the Lofthall. Vants accepted Dodd's offer to share the overhead loft. Ngall, Ehuy, Gerra and Ndege had left an hour earlier.

The walk to the Genist Manage was silent. On the kitchen table were more offerings of food and condolence letters. Prl began sorting through them while Qala made tea.

Maar turned to Pyosz, pulling her close to say "All right, we have to keep you from going so far you spike a fever. So, tell me: What was it like?"

Prl wheeled and Qala looked as if she were ready to interrupt. Pyosz, however, had no intention of sharing the details of what had been underneath those linen wraps. Pank knew, that was enough. She understood that wasn't what Maar was asking.

"It helped a lot to have something to do" she answered. "It was ghastly, but it was a job I could do for her, for my family. Now I don't know what to do. I can't help what's happening to all of us."

Maar said softly "And what is that? What's happening to you?"

"I'm the youngest" said Pyosz, panic starting to knock at her chest. "Abbo doesn't count, and even my other cousins -- and I only have one emma, my aggie, who just lost her aggie, I'm all the blood line she has left -- I don't think I can face...I feel like I'm a goat trapped on an island, just counting the days to random, unavoidable slaughter. Or, even more, I'm that poor rabbit, sooner or later I'll be the last of my kind -- " She began sobbing, gasping out moaning breaths. Maar held her tight, saying "I know, I know."

Prl swept in behind her, her forehead pressed against Pyosz's neck, weeping "I won't leave you, my darling, not for a long long time." But it was not a credible promise, not with what Pyosz had just seen done to Bux's fragile body. It was the crying, voicing the unspeakable, that Pyosz really needed. She scrubbed herself out and relaxed against Maar. After a minute she said "Is Thleen all right?"

"She's sleeping with her abba tonight, she'll get what she needs from that" said Maar. "Tomorrow she'll attend her first funeral, but it's with this family, she'll hear what she should hear."

Prl leaned around to look into Maar's eyes and ask "You'll be there for her, right? When the time comes, you'll make sure she's not alone?"

With a jolt, Pyosz realized Prl was not asking after Thleen.

"Of course" said Maar. "She already knows that, she wouldn't have been able to tell me about it if she didn't know I'd be there."

Pyosz heard Lawa make some small sound behind her. "You get first dibs on the bath tub tonight" Pyosz said to Maar. "I'll start the water and make a bed for you on the couch."

"I need to use the privy" said Maar, grinning exhaustedly.

"I'll go with you" said Qala. Pyosz scrubbed her face after starting the tub and dropping gardenia salts into the steaming water. Prl had already spread her best sheets and quilts on the couch when she got there. Pyosz hugged her and said "I'm so glad I'll be with you tonight."

She was surprised that she slept. She woke up shortly after dawn with the sense of having had a nightmare. Her mind kept trying to remember, even as she stretched and wanted to go back to sleep, until reality hit as if she were hearing the news for the first time.

She wanted to wake Prl but couldn't face Prl remembering also. She eased out of the room into the dark kitchen and sat in the chair against the sideboard, her knees pulled up under her schmatta, listening to the aga shift and pop as she thought about Bux.

Pank was next up, shuffling toward the back door and jumping violently when she spotted Pyosz's shadow in the corner. "You scared the piss out of me, almost literally" she complained as she comtinued on. After she returned, she fried sausage while Pyosz made biscuits and sliced oranges, the two of them working in silence. Maar and Tu joined them half an hour later, and the sporadic conversation they all had was still in whispers.

Maar left and Pyosz carried a tray in to Prl, now able to face what this day was going to hold.

At 11:30, when the sinner circled to land at Yanja, Pyosz looked down on a sea of white silk. Maar had two electric carts ready. Her sibs were somber in their unworn clothes, and Thleen's face was puffy from crying.

Pyosz later didn't remember much of the funeral. She kept looking at Yoj and Halling, who had no light at all in their eyes. Once they reached the lava fall, with Bux's body waiting on its pedestal, she felt utter bewilderment again. She turned to Thleen beside her and picked her up. The small, wiry body wrapped around her and Pyosz whispered "I think abba Bux's is here among us, can you feel it?"

Thleen nodded solemnly. She remained in Pyosz's arms, while Maar stood between her other two sibs, her arm around their shoulders. Each of Bux's children spoke, and in addition Mill read a statement from Api. Every Sheng Zhang who had ever worked with Bux had words to offer, as well as guild heads, gakushas, and assorted citizens. Pyosz had decided she didn't want to try to distill the maelstrom inside her into coherent speech.

Yoj and Halling stood together and talked in fragments of their love for Bux. Or perhaps it wasn't in fragments, perhaps it was that Pyosz's attention came and went. She wasn't able to focus until Prl moved to face them all and deliver the final eulogy.

"The woman we return to Skene today, who spent her entire life in joyous service to Skene, is my aggie Bux la Yerush na Qen + Veida. Her aggie was Yerush na B'ruch na Melli. Her aggie was B'ruch na Lusa..." Prl continued on, quietly reciting complete lineage details for 19 generations before Yerush, never hesitating, until she said "And her aggie was Pearl Goldfarb, ancestry unknown, immigant to Skene in year zero." It was an extraordinary capsule of Skene history, all the more remarkable because clearly Prl carried it around in her memory, a definition of who she was in relation to every other human who had ever lived here.

Into the hushed silence, Bux said "We will never see the likes of her again." She had to pause, to swallow a sob. "But 500 years from now, one of her descendants will read about her and wish she had known her. We, here and now, we are lucky enough to have heard her laugh and felt her touch. We are blessed by her memory for the rest of our days."

Pyosz looked away as Bux's body was dropped into the lava. She was frantically worried by Halling's stoicism, Yoj's distance. She kept a grip on Thleen as they returned to the funeral home. She was impatient for them to return to Riesig, to get safely behind the copper door and fall apart.

Except once there, nobody fell apart. After pathetic attempts at eating, they subsided into silence which no one knew how to break.

Until Dodd climbed heavily into the loft and returned carrying her fiddle. Mill looked at her in disbelief, and Ndege said "What -- what are you doing?"

"I'm going to play aggie's favorite song" said Dodd stubbornly. No one could find words to stop her. But as her bow hit the first notes, Halling broke into sobs and dropped her face on Yoj's shoulder. Yoj embraced her, and Dodd went on into the full melody, tears soaking her cheeks. Pyosz cleared her throat and began singing, and those who could joined her.

After several song, they switched to telling stories. Pyosz sat down on the floor, Adon pulled down beside her, Su next to her and Maar on the end, and listened, sometimes laughing and crying at the same time. During one break, she leaned forward and said to Maar "I'm not going back to Skene tomorrow, I can't. I need to stay here another week, help them face -- this new kind of life."

"We'll take care of Saya while you're gone. I'll be back in a week to fly you home" said Maar. Tu, who was eavesdropping, nodded at them all. Thleen sighed and pushed back tighter into Pyosz's lap.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Friday, December 25, 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)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
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)


A vast fairground tent had been erected over the killing field on Saya, extending to the edge of the jichang. Lumber and supplies lowered by sinner were forklifted under the canvas to protect them against the rain and cold of Kall. Pyosz felt bad for the timmers, out all day in the weather.

"Seems like a rough time of year to build a Manage" she remarked to Mrebbe.

"Well, when it rains it's a bother, though next week when the roof's on, that'll be like night and day. The advantage is that we're all motivated to stay in motion, for the body heat" said Mrebbe.

It was a cliche that work crews of any sort could expect to be fed monotously with haidan bean paste sandwiches and vegetable rice roup. Maar was funneling large quantities of fish Pyosz's way so she was, in fact, serving chowders at least three times a week but these were thick with a variety of seafood, savory and accompanied always by Pyosz's bread and Kolm's djoste. There was a midmorning boiled egg and fruit roll break every day, midafternoon pie and tea break, and Ot lunch centered on a large roast.

Pyosz shopped daily at Gitta's and spent hours each day preparing or cleaning up after meals. Despite her worry that she needed to be pouring herself into potting, as a replacement income after harvest, she simply didn't have the time. Maar or Dekkan began delivering hundredweights of flour and grain by sinner each week, to keep pace with Pyosz's extra baking. The aga was always on full blast, which both katts and timmers needing a chance to warm their hands appreciated. Pyosz's compost pile began growing noticeably again, though she said half of it was tea leaves.

Whenever she didn't have to be in the kitchen, Pyosz was at the construction site. Mrebbe always gave her work to do, at first unskilled -- carrying, clearing, handing things to someone else -- but soon everyone was giving her small lessons and Pyosz was a quick study. She often had to milk with scraped knuckles or a blackened fingernail. She had Maar take a close-up photo of her hands one week after a venture without gloves left her needing a few stitches from Briel. When she included this picture home in a letter, Qala told her later that Prl had paced and ranted for an hour. Lawa said only "Stupid to work without gloves, I thought folks on Pya were sharper than that." Which was extremely effective in persuading Pyosz to take more care.

Mrebbe's second-in-command was a small bronze-colored woman named Xante about whom Frahe said, without condescension, "She's almost as good with wood as I am." Xante was there when the wide tongue-in-grove boards intended as sheathing for the exterior of the Manage were delivered. She yelled to Mrebbe "Hey, come over here, they've brought the wrong levvin' order." Dekkan, who had made the delivery and was now hanging about, flushed red, and Pyosz joined the cluster near Xante.

Mrebbe said "No, that's what we're using."

"But you can't lay shakes over this" argued Xante.

"Not going to shingle it, this wood will be the final layer" began Mrebbe.

Xante wheeled to glare at her and Pyosz both. "Are you mad? In short order this will split and let water through, feltpaper won't stop that." On Pya, all buildings except for the handful made of brick or stone were sheathed in redwood or cedar shakes, mold-resistant and lapped to shed constant rain.

"She wants to paint it" grinned Mrebbe.

"Paint? What, the outside walls?" Xante literally rocked back on her heels.

"The same kind of paint used in marine applications will resist the salty rain we get here" spoke up Pyosz. "A hard enamel. I'll have to redo it every so often, but Owl Manage will be a color you can see for miles."

Xante burst into laughter. "That orange on your wain? It'll be a joke."

"No" said Mrebbe, "it's a smoky blue. Like her eyes, not flashy a bit."

Xante stared at Pyosz's face and nodded slowly. "That'll be a first." She walked off with Pyosz to look at the five-gallon cans of paint Pyosz had had mixed and stashed in her store room.

Mreebe took to returning after Market was over on Roku, often with Xante in tandem. They would putter around the construction, doing work that apparently pleased them at a relaxed, chatty pace. Their presence often coincided with Nk and Frahe's arrival to survey the progress that week, and the four of them would come up with new ideas that Pyosz always responded to with "Whatever you want to do, as long as I have stairs to the second floor and an indoor privy." She would roast a stuffed turkey or a pair of geese, anticipating Pank and Tu's arrival at dinner with some delicacy from the recent pig slaughter. If Maar was in town, she joined them as well.

Near the end of Kall, the timbers and jumble of framing covered by tarps turned into the promise of a Manage when a steep gabled roof began going on. Mrebbe said with satisfaction "This time next week, the hidraler and fadian can start inside. If you're going to give us tile to lay in a month, you best get started."

Pyosz went to her clay field that afternoon and dug clay to fill her wain. Xante helped her transfer it to 50 gallon drums beside the timmer tent for washing. Once it was ready, she was given a corner of the tent to set up a board table onto which she could roll the clay, only able to work at night when sawdust wasn't gusting about. She began with the tiles which would have a repeating pattern -- the floors of wet rooms, the backsplash around her kitchen sinks.

That Shmonah dinner, which was held at Dodd's because Briel was coming and going to the clinic with two seriously ill patients, Mill announced "We're going to start excavating rock on Teppe."

"It's a go, then?" said Maar.

Api said "All within regulation because we have multiple use at play. The rocky end of Teppe will be leveled, and that debris will go toward creating pylons for ferry expansion to Borso, Grasak, and Byerle." These were Pea Pods south of and closest to Herne, and the cousins leaned forward with interest.

"That's a longish ferry route" observed Tu.

"Yes, but we have Pyans who want those islands. Manages with children who need to commute to school" Api said, looking at Dodd.

"Plus the couple who wanted Saya" Mill added. "They're going to share Grasak with another young family."

"What about Dou?" asked Uli quietly. Dodd glanced at her.

"We're going to have the geothermal hooked up there as well, while the other islands are being developed, save on future fees" said Api. Pyosz wondered how the budget was suddenly allowing for all this -- anticipation of enhanced tax revenue beginning at midwinter she guessed.

"Second stage on Teppe, we're excavating a 20-foot deep pond in the center of the now flattened rocky uplift" continued Mill. "There's a cold springs already at the edge which will fill it. We'll be able to use it as a cranberry bog once it clears and gets planted. There are a few groves on that end we'll have to leave undamaged -- that'll be your job" she said to Maar. "We'll import topsoil and have room for 3-4 manages around the pond, looks like. Cranberry worker and others."

"What about the flat end of Teppe?" asked Pank.

"It's great pasture, equal to Saya" said Mill. "When we need to expand either our goat or sheep herds, it'll be a perfect zone. We're also building a ferry from Teppe to Saya, at the corner by your hot springs." Pyosz was about to react but Mill said "Don't worry, it'll be for emergencies only, the strait there is possibly not morrie vaseo all the time because of leviathan access from the northeast. Commute to and from Teppe will have to be by air, like Trumpinne."

Pyosz was still worried about new settlers on Teppe slipping over to use her hot springs. She could see the same possessiveness on Pank's face, who soaked in the springs at least two evenings a week after dinner.

"What will you do with all the rock from the pond excavation?" asked Maar.

"It's fine quality stone, we hope you'll remove it in slabs that can be used for exterior building construction" said Api.

"For future use" said Mill with hope in her voice. "As soon as contracts with Skene expire, we're going to Shu and remove the meaning of its name -- eliminate every shu there and level it to 20 feet above the high tide mark,"

"That's a lot of rock" said Maar. And a lot of killing thought Pyosz.

"Enough to pave every dirt or gravel road that needs it in Pya, for starters" agreed Oby.

"What will happen to Shu then? I mean, it's pretty far north" said Nk.

"We'll topsoil it, plant cover and trees, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to live there for at least a generation" said Api. "It's an important weather break for the Pea Pods, it gets fierce storms."

Pyosz was still mulling over all the expansion around Saya, sharing her ferry with even more newcomers, and the fret of a second capriste in Pya. She didn't care about the future settlement of Shu.

Abbo left right after they ate, not staying for singing, which had now become her custom. Pyosz wasn't sure if it was the absence of swimming or the usual presence of Uli, Dekkan and Pava these days. Uli was immune to Abbo's version of charm and was attempting to school Dekkan in the same. The teenagers' deportment also seemed to point out that it was no longer appropriate to treat Abbo as "the baby" of the family, a position Pyosz suspected Abbo had rather liked no matter what she said.

I wonder if she'll even attend these meals at all once my Manage is built and we can eat there sometimes thought Pyosz.

The following week, Pyosz discovered she could be diverted from the wonders of her own Manage by the island-shaping that was beginning on Teppe. When a sinner flew close overhead and landed at the rudimentary jichang on Teppe, Pyosz tried to find a good rubbernecking point from her end of Saya, but even with binoculars, her view of her neighbor's southwest third was blocked by the bulk of Saya itself. Citing a sudden need to make sure her bees were fed for the winter, she gathered sugar water and bustled through the kissing gate.

Halfway across the pasture, she heard Pank and Tu call her name. She waited on them and they went to Saya's western cliff together, looking directly onto Teppe. Pank rooted around for a stick to whittle, pulled out her claspknife, and settled comfortably on a rock next to the springs. After checking her hives, Pyosz joined her. Tu stripped down and slid into the springs with a moan.

Mill was there with a camera, clipboard, and bulky roll of maps. Maar's guibba was buckled tight, and she wore heavy gloves plus a visored helmet. Two of the roadworks crew from Pertama were on hand as well to survey and read terrain. The identity of a fifth person was uncertain until she pulled a roll of white flagging from a pocket and put a belt of it around a large tree.

Pank borrowed the binoculars to announce "That's Ulcha. Lives on Chwet." Pyosz noted Maar made a wide berth around the marked owl tree. The actual rock blasting began adjacent to the jichang on the southeast corner, in full view of the Saya audience. Maar lay down rock in arcing swaths while one of the road crew rode a forklift with a bucket scoop down the sinner ramp. Rubble was deposited in a large carrier basket next to the sinner.

It was all very orderly -- and silent, except for the occasional throb of the engine in high gear drifting across the strait -- until Maar unroofed a cavern swarming with shu. Vermin and workers scattered in all directions, even the forklift driver making a run for the sinner. Except Maar, who coolly mowed down the largest of the shu first, some of whom were alarmingly big, and then drove the rest either over the cliff or toward Teppe's northern pastures.

Pyosz looked over the edge of rock she was sitting on, trying to see any shu-friendly clefts in her own cliff. She glanced at her watch, cried "Oh shit, my bread!" and hit the forest at a lope, her thudding otos kicking up flecks of mud from last night's rain. Killer was waiting for her at the other end of the woods and decided they were in a race, nearly tripping Pyosz and leaving her breathless from laughter at the kissing gate.

The loaves were dark but passable. A few pies were too crunchy at the edge to sell, and Pyosz set those aside for the timmer crew. She reluctantly stayed in her kitchen, shredding baked ryba and cooked vegetables into a thick salad while toasting herb bread for sandwiches. She filled two thermoses with hot tea, and when the timmers arrived for lunch, she suggested they all traipse down to the western end of Saya to eat while watching the Teppe goings-on. There was enthusiastic agreement. She piled her plate with extra sandwiches and pie for her cousins, and they headed out, fending off kids in the pasture.

Whether by accomodation or accident, the Teppe bunch didn't stop for lunch until the timmers were done with their pie. Mill came to the cliff edge to wave hello, and with a combination of shouting and sign language, Pyosz conveyed an invitation for them to come have dinner that evening on Saya. Tu said "I'll slip home and bake a ham, mash some turnips, and we'll join you."

Pyosz rattled through dishes, began a slow-simmering chicken stew, and cooked five pounds of nutty rice before she could zip back to the hot springs. She carried towels and discovered Tu was gone -- presumably drip-drying in the chilly air -- but Pank was now in the springs. She reported "They done filled and hauled off two pallets full, cleaning up to finish the third one." Leveling seemed to be complete, and Dekkan was on the scene, apparently having landed an agile single-person lighter on the now-expanded jichang. Ulcha had wandered off into the northern grass area.

Maar conferred for a long time with Mill and the road crew folks, Dekkan eavesdropping, before shouldering her mezi ray and getting into the lighter. She had on a headset and through the binoculars Pyosz could tell she appeared to be in conversation with Mill, standing next to a surveyor with an open map. Pank said "They have to even out the cliff edges, make 'em stable. Only safe to do that from the air."

Maar began at the escarpment adjacent to the lower two thirds of Teppe. She hovered with foot controls, only 20 feet above the ocean, and aimed her ray out her open hatch to the left to neatly dissect rockface from the island. The boulders and slabs fell into the surf below with lovely white splashes. Pyosz thought It's like she's trimming a cake for frosting. The expertise of Maar's hand-eye coordination gave her a small shiver.

She was still glued to the binoculars ten minutes later when Pank said "Hang on, Dekkan's pointing at something." Pyosz lowered the glasses to follow Dekkan's line of sight, which everyone on Teppe was also doing. Mill was speaking urgently into the hand radio. Maar climbed ten feet and banked to give her a look behind, north.

Long channels of deeper water stretched from the open ocean around Shu into the reef-protected region around Saya. Most of these dead-ended at underwater cliffs safely north of Saya, according to the map Maar had given Pyosz. One of them, though, snaked further south along the edge of Teppe, past the escarpment and disturbingly close to the strait between Teppe and Saya. Pyosz's read of this underwater terrain agreed with Mill's earlier statement that perhaps between that channel and the leviathan-patrolled water west of Teppe, a lev could find egress through the strait.

It now appeared a leviathan was considering making a try. Or maybe it was just drawn to the crash of rock hitting surf. It was not a full-sized adult, rather a juvenile strong enough to bring down a lighter but still slender enough to thread the channel. Realizing it had been spotted, it had now stopped and gone as deep as it could, but a dim pinky-grey shape was dimly visible below the surface.

Pyosz saw Maar hover again, not directly over the lev but close enough for the best view any of them had -- and for the leviathan to reach her with a lunge, Pyosz thought with her heart in her throat. Maar leaned out her hatch, mezi ray securely shouldered, and thumbed the switch that flipped it to full power. Pyosz could see a feral grin on her face. Maar lifted one hand and lazily shook her finger back and forth in the symbol used for misbehaving children everywhere: Don't even think about it.

Leviathan song hit them like a wave, a chorus from the deeps north of Teppe. Two or three leapt high into the air from the deeps between Teppe and shu -- "Trying to get a better look-see" said Pank. Bubbles and silt reached the surface above the submerged juvenile, and Maar's grip on the mezi tightened but she did not fire yet. After a few seconds, Pyosz realized the juvenile was trying to turn around in a space inadequate for that purpose. A minute later, it gave up and instead started backing clumsily the way it had come.

"Huh" said Pank. "Didn't know they could back up."

"Abba once said they have to learn how, it doesn't come natural to them" said Pyosz. her glasses glued on Maar. Two minutes later, the juvenile was able to swivel and stream into water deep enough for concealment. The wash of lev song trickled away, and Maar spoke into her headset with a laugh and shrug.

Dekkan, to her eternal credit, had picked up the camera and shot a series of photographs covering this facedown, including a still of Maar shaking her finger that was the front-page cover of next week's newspaper on both Pya and Skene. That night at dinner, Mrebbe shooed her crew on home but stayed behind with Xante to eat with Maar and the rest. This time, Maar allowed herself to be treated as a hero. "Just part of my job" she kept saying, but with obvious pride, and she always made sure to point out that it was Dekkan who had first sighted the leviathan, "A born sinner" she said.

Once Maar finished the cranberry bog excavation later that week, Pyosz was able to refocus on Saya's activities as soil was imported to Teppe and winter rye planted to hold it in place. She had created small stamps from scraps of flashing and wood that she used to impress a repeating pattern into her wet clay tiles. One was of dancing goats, one was a swooping owl, and one was a bowl of fruit and nuts sitting amid bread and pies. She glazed these with various washes, turning out 36 at a time. She also produced a greater number of unpatterned tiles in complementary colors. Her kiln was fired every other day, and boxes of completed tiles began to clog access to her store room in the barn.

She bought a new album at Naki's just to hold the Manage construction photographs. As midwinter and Vote Day approached, Pyosz arranged for Nk and Frahe to assume caretaking of Saya for the five days she would be gone. Fortunately, milking was at its lowest point of the year. The timmer crew would be taking the holiday as well, and the tillage was dormant except for winter vegetables and root crops.

Pyosz arranged to vote by proxy and spent one entire evening researching her options, as well as preparing her taxes to pay early. Tu, Pank, Mill and Dodd all planned to go back to Skene the same time as Pyosz, along with a dozen other Pyans returning home to visit family. Tu and Pank were going to stay in Pyosz's old bedroom, Mill had a bunk at the Lofthall and Dodd was in the living room loft at her emmas' Manage. All of Skene would be crammed with visitors.

The huolon left at dawn. Abbo insisted on taking the first leg, and made a production of the preflight checklist process. Maar quietly winked at Pyosz and accepted her pillow for a try at sleeping in the front side seat. The midpoint meal was a picnic, every passenger sharing from their hampers. After the pilots traded seats, Maar called in their position and heading. The radio connection was staticky, but Pyosz suspected Maar raised her voice a little more than necessary to confirm that they were off course and the correction she would need to make to bring them in to Yanja. Pyosz did not allow herself to look over at Mill in the silence that followed, but from where she sat, she could see red on the backs of Abbo's ears.

Prl, Lawa and Qala were among the crowd at the jichang to meet them. Maar took her leave, saying she had a pallet on the floor of her family's Manage for the length of her stay -- she had told Pyosz her emmas were pleased with the publicity about her in the paper. Pyosz's family streamed into the copper cao door to shouts of welcome and the smell of frying bacon. Pyosz passed around dried cherries with the breakfast and urged orange juice especially on Pank and Tu, who already looked fatigued. By midmorning Skene time, Pyosz persuaded her cousins to the Genist Manage for a nap and less hubbub. Dodd and Mill could fend for themselves.

Skene's tasting was that night, and Pyosz helped Abbo carry Halling to the Lofthall early for a good seat. She gave the small shares on her plate to her abbas, taking tea and toast instead. There was no rabbit, and Yoj said the bixi sauce was not nearly as good as hers. Pyosz took a taste and agreed, explaining what step had likely been missed in its processing.

The next morning, Tu and Pank left for Motu Fling to spend the day with Moasi while the rest of Moasi's family attended debates in advance of Vote the following day. Vants had arrived and was passionately involved with a question of lagoon revision, for once too busy to talk goats. Prl had consented to speak on behalf of a curriculum change for the school, and she picked Dodd's brains about it over lunch. Pyosz felt like her family was a throbbing organism helping provide the very heartbeat of Skene, and for once she wasn't fumbling for her place among them: She knew where she belonged, and it wasn't on this scatter of islands.

Late in the afternoon she caught sight of bright red hair through a throng and excused or bullied her way to Maar's side. She was introduced to Maar's emmas, Dru and Adnes, who didn't examine her directly the way Prl would have but Pyosz still felt just as scrutinized. Thleen climbed into her arms, almost too heavy to be carried any more, and demanded they all go see the abbas "because my abba couldn't come, her legs hurt too much". Dru and Adnes balked at this suggestion, saying "The Ethicist and all won't have time for us", but Pyosz finally persuaded them to allow at least their children leave to go say hello.

As they threaded the University corridors, Pyosz said to Maar's sibs "I have midwinter gifts for each of you, but they were too bulky to fit in my bag, will you be here again tomorrow?"

"We will" answered Maar. "My emmas are going to submit their votes before we head home tonight, but the rest of us are returning to Riesig for the fun of it." Indeed, it did look like the teenagers were having fun. Listening to adults lose their usual Skene aplomb over issues that hardly warranted raging arguments was entertaining to those still under the thumb of grownup authority.

"Let's meet for lunch, then, at Thina Bowl, my treat" said Pyosz, which got her grins all round. A few minutes later, Thleen now in Yoj's lap, Pyosz said quietly to Maar "Adon and Su both resemble your aggie Dru strongly, though in different ways. But no red hair or chin dimples there."

"No, Thleen and I take after our abba Gusu. And nobody looks like Adnes, which I think was a sore point" replied Maar, something sparking in her memory.

At dinner, Tu was unusually subdued. She kept bringing up how isolated Moasi was, how ill she appeared, until Lawa said "We're doing all we can, you know. Vants takes ferries half the day every bit of time she gets off to go visit her aggie, and we go every weekend with books and treats."

"I'm not blaming you" said Tu. "It's just -- I never realized how tiny Motu was. And no trees except for the lilacs."

Halling looked suddenly suspicious. "Are you going to ask her to come live with you, then, on Herne?"

There was a tense silence. Tu said "We already did. She turned us down, said most of her sibs and children lived here." She rubbed her cheek tiredly. Halling managed to squelch whatever she was going to say.

Frank, who had arrived for dinner, leaned against Pank and said "Well, I'm coming to see Herne next month" which brought a smile to Tu's face.

The following morning, Halling stayed home with Tu keeping her company, sending her proxy vote with Yoj. Bux had her final speech to make as Ethicist and Halling agonized over missing it, but the day was bitter cold and drenched, and Bux pushed her to stay by the hearth. "You've listened to me gas on long enough" she said, giving Halling a tender kiss.

After the last speeches and the crush to enter ballots, Bux was called away to Verzin where an accusation of theft had erupted into a screaming match. Danaan and another Sheng Zhang went with her. Bux told Pyosz "I'll be so glad to never do this again -- I'll catch up with you at dinner, right?"

Pyosz peeled away to meet Maar and her sibs at Thina Bowl, making her apologies to Prl and promising to rejoin them in the afternoon. When she entered the restaurant, she heard Thleen shout "There she is, and she's got a bag of presents!", causing a ripple of laughter. Pyosz had bought two of the flat keepsake boxes Frahe made by hand, of distinct woods and intricate carving, to give Adon and Su. Adon's had chased silver hinges and latch, with a repeating surf pattern around the sides and a raised xiao on the lid, its tentacles snaking in every direction. Su's had bright gold fittings, a tangled braid trim brushed with gold leaf, and a relief of an erupting volcano on its top. Both were lined with velvet which could be cleverly lifted back in one corner to reveal a secret drawer large enough to hide coins.

Thleen was given the rabbit made of squirrel fur, which caused a sensation at nearby tables, other customers and even the cook coming out to look and touch. Pyosz planned to give the second rabbit to Ehall tonight at dinner. She said to Maar "Your gift is waiting on Saya."

"So is yours" said Maar with a mysterious grin.

Copyright 2009 Maggie Jochild.


Thursday, December 24, 2009


Here's the a special holiday edition of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts.



I started Chap 43 but stopped to do serious plotting. It's possible I'll be done with Pya at around 50 chapter. I'm giving you all heads up. Some of you can go back to Skene and even Ginny Bates, lots of reading ahead. But others may see a drought in 2010 -- I really should edit instead of starting a new book.

Not to mention return to full-time real blogging instead of FB Fun.

Here's a question for those of you reading Pya: This is an enormous family spanning the equivalent of two nations. Personal names are distinct but unfamiliar linguistically. I do my best to limit the introduction of new characters, referring to those who are going to appear only once or twice by an occupation or descriptor rather than a name the reader might have to remember.

However, for the plot I need to bring in a couple of new families with actual names and personalities to introduce. Are you already relying on the Cast of Characters and/or Skene Lineage Chart appendices to help keep track? How's it going for you? Any comment or requests?

While I'm asking questions: A major component of the Skene books is imagining a world beyond gender or racial constructs. If I've failed in some area, how and when? Which of the characters not already identified as "Y"s do you think of as maybe "male" in your mind? (There are several.) If you are white, are you having a hard time remembering the only character who looks what we would call white is Maar? Do you attribute a "race" (i.e., ethnic or racial behavior) to a character when I physically describe them as non-white in some way?

Lastly, you're an astounding bunch to write for. Your feedback is extremely useful (esp Cowboy Diva, Genia, Margot) and yes, does affect the course of the novel but don't worry, I have my Voice and you won't alter what I really want to do with this book.



(Dying Star HD 44179, the Red Rectangle, Sculpts Rungs of Gas and Dust)

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.

This week, I'm including information from Wikipedia's Star of Bethlehem:

The Star of Bethlehem, also called the Christmas Star, is a star in Christian tradition that revealed the birth of Jesus to the magi, or "wise men", and later led them to Bethlehem. According to the Gospel of Matthew, the magi were men "from the east" who were inspired by the appearance of the star to travel to Jerusalem. There they met King Herod of Judea, and asked where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod then asked his advisers where a messiah could be born. They replied Bethlehem, a nearby village, and quoted a prophecy by Micah. While the magi were on their way to Bethlehem, the star appeared again. Following the star, which stopped above the place where Jesus was born, the magi found Jesus with his mother, paid him homage, worshipped him and gave gifts. They then returned to their "own country".

In modern times, astronomers have proposed various explanations for the star. A nova, a planet, a comet, an occultation, and a conjunction (gathering of planets) have all been suggested. Some scholars question the historical accuracy of the story and argue that the star was a fiction created by the author of the Gospel of Matthew.

According to modern translations, the magi told Herod that they saw the star "at its rising", which suggests that they observed an astronomical object. The traditional translation of this phrase was "in the East," that is, when the magi were is still resident in their eastern homelands. This interpretation is less likely because the Greek word for "east" used in this passage is singular, yet plural in those passages where it refers to the magi's homelands.

In 1614, German astronomer Johannes Kepler determined that a series of three conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 BC. Although conjunctions were important in astrology, Kepler was not thinking in astrological terms. He argued (incorrectly) that a planetary conjunction could create a nova, which he linked to the Star of Bethlehem. Modern calculations show that there was gap of nearly a degree between the planets, so these conjunctions were not visually impressive. An ancient almanac has been found in Babylon which covers the events of this period, but does not indicate that the conjunctions were of any special interest.

Other writers suggest that the star was a comet. Halley's Comet was visible in 12 BC and another object, possibly a comet or nova, was seen by Chinese and Korean stargazers in about 5 BC. This object was observed for over seventy days with no movement recorded. Ancient writers described comets as "hanging over" specific cities, just as the Star of Bethlehem was said to have "stood over" the "place" where Jesus was (the town of Bethlehem).

Another Star of Bethlehem candidate is Uranus, which passed close to Saturn in 9 BC and Venus in 6 BC. This is unlikely because Uranus moves very slowly and is barely visible with the naked eye.

A recent hypothesis states that the star of Bethlehem was a supernova or hypernova occurring in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy. Although supernovae have been detected in Andromeda, it is extremely difficult to detect a supernova remnant in another galaxy, let alone obtain an accurate date of when it occurred.
NOTE: Whatever the origin of the story, it is not linked to December 25th since Jesus was not born on that date. Nor on January 6th as is celebrated by Eastern Christianity. [See Wikipedia's Nativity of Jesus.] The day and year of Jesus's birth has never been historically pinpointed, and even Biblical sources are in contradiction. Best guess seems to be spring or early summer, 6-4 BC. The decision to claim December 25 or January 6 occurred around 300 BC, presumably in an attempt by church leaders to replace the Roman celebration of Saturnalia or Europe's matriarchal celebration of the Winter Soltice which extends back at least 30,000 years. Strong remnants of both non-christian traditions endure on modern Western Christmas practices. Light a candle, decorate a tree, give presents, eat some fruitcake, and you're carrying on cultural practices that far predate Christianity.

The night sky as it appeared looking south from Jerusalem on November 12, 7 BC from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Going to Bed

by George Bilgere

I check the locks on the front door
and the side door,
make sure the windows are closed
and the heat dialed down.
I switch off the computer,
turn off the living room lights.

I let in the cats.

Reverently, I unplug the Christmas tree,
leaving Christ and the little animals
in the dark.

The last thing I do
is step out to the back yard
for a quick look at the Milky Way.

The stars are halogen-blue.
The constellations, whose names
I have long since forgotten,
look down anonymously,
and the whole galaxy
is cartwheeling in silence through the night.

Everything seems to be ok.


Tuesday, December 22, 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)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
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 flight home didn't offer much nap time because Qoj was with them. Uli met her at the jichang and they vanished quickly. Maar helped carry Pyosz's crates to the ferry after the huolon was unloaded. "I'm grabbing whatever's hot in the canteen and going straight to bed" she told Pyosz. "But I'll see you tomorrow?"

"I'll be stopping by the Lofthall after milk delivery anyhow" said Pyosz. Her wain had been thoughtfully left near her dock, and she had a two-katt escort to her kitchen. She sorted out mail and gifts for Herne, and met the accumulating crowd at the kissing gate with full arms, saying "Half an hour, I have to run an errand first." She did lean over to smooch Killer on her forehead -- Killer was the only kid who could resist a try at face-butting with this kind of proximity -- and said "I'm here to stay, I'll be yours for the rest of your life." Killer's expression seemed to say "Well I already knew that."

As she passed by the woodshop she yelled out "Mail and news!" She let herself into the Manage and found Pank in the kitchen stirring beans. Tu emerged from the bath room while Pyosz unloaded her arms. She distributed mail until a resiny-smelling Nk and Frahe came in the side door. She announced "There's a Faar lamb from Lawa and Qala, Seda mulberry syrup and preserves from Halling etc., Yanja olive paste from emma, and -- me! I'm emigrating permanently and starting to build a Manage on Saya!"

"I told you!" Tu shouted at Pank before they grabbed her hands and danced crazily in a circle. She gave them bare bones but promised to return for dinner after milking.

It was a wonderful evening. The best part was going to the lumber shed to look at her long slabs of tiger maple and settle on the details of the table she was going to have Frahe and Tu make for her. She insisted on paying their best rate, no barter, and added "I'm also going to ask for a chair a month from you, whatever wood or design you want to do that month except no two chairs identical, until I have seating for 22 around my table of tables."

The next morning she broke her news to Kolm, whose stolid countenance almost dissolved into tears. "Thank the stars, there's been a rumor that Saya was going to be taken over by Owl People" she exclaimed. "I can't wait to see the direction your herd is going to take."

Having launched the story in Koldok, Pyosz headed directly for the Lofthall, where Mill was out but Oby and Api received her with somewhat formal welcome. Api promised to draw up contracts, permits, and citizenship transfer that she could come sign the next day. She met Maar in the canteen and said "I'm heading to Pertama, wanna go with me?"

"Yep." It had started raining, so they squeezed into a crowded bus. Pyosz told Maar about playing with Ehall outside their Manage on Pomar, taking the new toy bicycle as well as the miniature bus to ride a road gouged through the dirt with Pyosz's palm. Ehall wasn't clear on how a bicycle was used for transportation, so Pyosz had acted out trying to ride one and winding up in the cornfield. After that, collisions between the bus and bicycle occured every time they took to the road; Pyosz was grateful they were such sturdy toys.

There was only one bank in Pertama, the same one Maar obviously used since she was greeted happily as they entered. The manager was called in to accept Prl's letter of credit, affixed with the scarlet seal of the Genist of All Skene. The deference paid to Pyosz was thick as treacle. She began an account doing business as Owl Manage, whose subsidiaries included Pyosz Pottery, Saya Island Jams and Sauces, Owl Breads and Pastries, and one full-time employee of the allotment system serving as capriste, huertanera, and beekeeper. Maar whispered to her "You're going to split your britches, cramming so many identities in there" which sent them off into giggles that made the bank manager raise her eyebrows.

Released from the bank, they went to the shop where Maar got her otos and guibba made. Pyosz was measured, and hesitated only a moment when her allotment book was requested to "see what kind of leather credit you have". It didn't yet reflect her share of the recent slaughter. She asked for kid gloves to be made in Prl's size as a midwinter gift, choosing pearl buttons at the wrists. She also ordered thick work gloves dyed assorted colors for Qala, Lawa, Tu and Pank.

Pyosz took Maar to the tiny toy store, where another rabbit was in the window. Maar was enchanted by a miniature metal ferry that rolled between two pylons along a gleaming copper twist. "It's exactly like the heavy ferry between Dvareka and Rudni, see, there's an enclosed cabin with look-through windows, a radio inside, and a mezi ray painted on the bottom." They bought it and ordered a second. Maar asked "The artist making these miniatures, she ever try her hand at sinners or lighters?"

The clerk looked at Maar's guibba and said "Could do. She's not a pilot but she's got a seeing eye."

"Tell her I'll buy whatever she sees into reality" said Maar.

By that time, they were hungry enough to have an early lunch at the lentil patty stand, sitting under a shared canopy of Pyosz's burzaka to watch the vetriste yard. After returning their lemonade bottles, they bought three more lunches and went to the ejida office. Brek was behind the counter and Pyosz greeted her with "How's your stolen rabbit doing?", which scandalized her strange coworker but made Brek roar. Nioma was called in to hear Pyosz's news as lentil patties were handed out.

Last stop in Pertama was the fish docks. Pyosz whispered to Maar on the bus back to Koldok "I keep wondering if it was Nioma that my emma was secretly in love with back before she became a Genist."

"Has she mentioned Nioma over the years?" asked Maar. "Does she keep asking about her now?"

"Not really" mused Pyosz. "But emma can certainly keep secrets you'd never suspect."

"Still, if someone broke your heart -- and not loving you back is hearbreak -- there's usually a detectable residue" said Maar. "I'd look at whoever it is your emma avoids mentioning, or has negative things to say about."

"Well, that's mostly Mill and Ndege, clearly not candidates" said Pyosz. "Let's go drop in on Dodd at school, get ourselves invited to dinner tonight, shall we?"

"What else are you doing with your day?" asked Maar.

"I want to go see Klosa, tell her I need to consult with Mrebbe about building my Manage. Doesn't that sound amazing, my Manage? With this rain, I'm going to skip the orchard today. So this afternoon will be baking and tillage" said Pyosz.

"I have Lofthall paperwork, maybe I could bring that and hang out by your aga" suggested Maar.

"Would you please test my bread while it's warm from the oven?" teased Pyosz.

"Maybe. If you have lots of butter" replied Maar.

That night, Pyosz lay awake in her bed, her mind reliving the day, wondering at how much it looked like Qoj was actually in love with Uli, thinking of more details to add to her Manage plans, and then suddenly remembering Prl's box of mementoes. After mulling over the still-shocking revelations about Yerush and the former Genist, wondering how much her abbas or even Dodd knew, she hugged herself in the reassurance that those poisonous pages were no longer sitting in her emma's precious box, next to her baby teeth and family photos.

Funny about those photos -- Prl was very diligent about keeping her albums in order. The handful of shots in her memento box were curled at the edges, well-handled but not remarkable in Pyosz's point of view. One group shot which omitted Dodd, none of Dodd elsewhere, mostly of Ndege and her family, actually, whom Prl had never gone out of her way to visit. The only family member, in fact, who had been in every one of the photos was Ndege's partner Gerra.

Pyosz sat bolt upright. She dialed her radio in the dark, selecting a private line, and breathed out in relief when Prl answered.

"It was Gerra, wasn't it?"

"Pyosz? What -- are you all right?"

"I was lying here trying to sleep, and it all fell together. You were in love with Gerra, your sib's sweetheart, weren't you? Oh emma, and she chose Ndege, and you've had to just live with it, how hard that must have been" said Pyosz.

"Who gave you that information?" asked Prl quietly.

"Nobody. Well, you, I guess, I feel like lately I've been seeing into your mind like never before. Did Gerra know how you felt about her? Did she -- were you --"

"She knew. I told her. And she..I had hopes" said Prl.

"How awful, what happened?"

"Ndege found out. They were friends then, had been since childhood, nothing more. But Ndege is happiest when she's in competition for what someone else really wants, especially if it was a sib. Except Dodd, she left Dodd alone. So she went after Gerra, and she's two years older, determined, ambitious -- "

"Not as determined and ambitious as you!" protested Prl.

"But she was willing to move to Sigrist Poke, subsume her ambition into that of that lofty Manage, so Gerra's emmas saw Ndege as an acquisition that I was not. I was short, portly, plain, and my brains were not a particular asset to the Sigrists, what counted was a willingness to spy on every aspect of Skene life without too much curiosity or analysis." Prl's bitterness was decades old. "So suddenly I hear that Gerra and Ndege are an item, Ndege made sure to drop it into a family dinner. Just like she made sure it was me, not my apprentice, whom they came to when they began having children."

"You were never plain, not an instant in your life" said Pyosz.

"Oh, lev, I forgot to make sure this is a private line -- " began Prl.

"It is. I thought of you that way" said Pyosz.

"You've been thinking of me in a number of remarkable ways" commented Prl. "Ironic. our new closeness as you move away. Or perhaps there's cause and effect at play."

"Who else knows, emma?" asked Pyosz.

"Dodd, of course, who was right in the middle and hated it. And I think Yoj guessed, but she didn't up and ask me like you did" said Prl with a sad laugh. "Child, I'd love to talk more, but I was about to go visit the school for a report when you called, they're expecting me."

"All right, we'll talk later, I'm sure. I love you, and I hate Ndege a little right now."

Prl laughed again. "I won't object. Sleep sweet."

During dinner the night before, Qoj had complained about light from the town disturbing her planned observation of the approaching lunar eclipse from Pertama Poke.

"I can fly you above the clouds again" offered Maar.

"Won't work with this, I need to set up telescopes and instruments in a stationary array" said Qoj.

"Then I could haul your gear to an uninhabited island" said Maar. "Maybe Mbili Kilima, it has two decent-sized hills."

Qoj considered. "It's a lot of equipment, how close is the jichang to a hilltop?"

"Not close at all, but we could lower it by pallet and hike up after" said Maar. "The bad thing about Mbili Kilima is it has only spotty groves of trees, it's mostly highlands and water access which means a high shu presence."

"Science must go forward" said Qoj. "Can you take me to look it over first?"

"At lunch tomorrow" said Maar.

Thus, the afternoon of the eclipse, with reassuringly clear skies, Qoj and Uli worked for hours after Dekkan's pallet delivery to construct an outdoor observatory, with the framework for a canvas canopy in case rain appeared. Pyosz rushed her milking to be ready for the large sinner Maar picked her up in, crammed with Dodd, Briel, seven of Dodd's fourth-graders, and Dekkan carrying a mezi ray. Pava was one of the teenagers and kept trying to persuade Dekkan to let her use the laser "just once, I promise I'll be careful." Maar didn't even look around at Dekkan, who was all uniformed respectability as she stiffly said "You have to be licensed by the Sheng Zhang to even touch this thing."

There was a definite accompaniment of scurrying in the nearby underbrush as they trekked single file up the taller of the two hills. Pyosz was just as nervous about losing an appendage to Dekkan with the ray as she was about shu attack, but Maar walked between her and Dekkan with a large flash.

There was no illumination at the hilltop. Dodd, who was leading, nearly crashed into a folding table filled with instruments. "Turn off that flash" came Qoj's voice, "I have to retain my night vision."

There was only one place to sit, the folding stool Qoj was in before an impressive telescope. Qoj assigned jobs briskly, with Uli giving quick training in non-astronomer language. Maar pushed Dekkan forward to work on some critical viewing monitor with Pava, saying "This is official Lofthall duty, I'll need a short written report tomorrow". She quietly took the mezi ray, dialed it down to minimum, and began checking the perimeter every few minutes.

Dodd narrated scientific principles quietly, occasionally corrected by a distracted Qoj. Once the eclipse began, they were all silent in wonder, at least until a shu bit Pyosz on her calf. She managed not to jostle anything, with a minimum of profanity -- Molars had hurt her worse -- and Maar grabbed the shu by its tail, heaved it into the air opposite where they were all viewing, and killed it with a single short burst.

"In midair!" admired Pyosz, despite the venom starting to burn. "You're as deft as an owl!" Briel pulled her behind a boulder and used a penlight to clean and dress her wound. Pyosz forgot the throb as the second moon went-blood red and then was slowly eaten by a dark crescent.

It was all over by 11:00. Qoj declared the transit satisfactory and insisted everything be packed up for them to carry back to the jichang that night. On the walk back, one of the teenagers was bitten and tried to bludgeon the shu with the heavy instrument she was carrying before Dodd intervened. Once in the sinner, however, they were all giddy. Dekkan took the fourth-graders into the canteen for warm drinks while Maar, Uli, Qoj and Pyosz unloaded the equipment into a warehouse, except for the camera and recording units they carried back to Dodd's house so Qoj could start analyzing her results.

Pyosz had signed her contracts and met with Mrebbe that day. The next morning after delivery she rode a bicycle through cold rain to Dudor to meet with Uli's friend about building plans. After two more visits, these were done and handed off to Mrebbe. She and Pyosz created a materials list and a budget, the latter of which made Pyosz blanche and say she needed to run it by her family first. However, Prl and all five abbas said the expenses were reasonable for what she was getting. Pyosz had subcontracted the wooden flooring in the great hall on the first floor to Nk and Frahe, with Mrebbe's consent, and she hoped to create the tiles for the kitchen and bath rooms herself.

Groundbreaking began on the last day of Burzas, with Maar sectioning away blocks of rock under Mrebbe's direction as the rest of the timmer crew stood nearby, eating the shrimp maxa and persimmon rolls Pyosz had made for their breakfast. Mrebbe had deducted 10% of her labor fee for the whole 8-person crew in exchange for them being fed breakfast and lunch every day. Pyosz watched the owl oak nervously as booms echoed from the escarpment. She could hear distant bleats of alarm, and the acrid smell of burning stone sent her katts under the aga. But the owl did not emerge.

She knows it's her Manage, too thought Pyosz. She took a maxa for herself and sat down on the cliff to watch Maar dig her foundation. She could bake this afternoon, once lunch was cleared away.

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.