Thursday, January 14, 2010


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
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Tu and Pank came to Pyosz with a proposition. They had a new set of six piglets to raise for slaughter, and they wanted to set them loose in Saya's woods for a few weeks. "They'll eat leftover mast, they'll root up the soil especially in your orchard at a time when it seems turning anyhow, and it'll save us feeding."

"I guess they're not big enough yet to hurt the kids" said Pyosz with a little doubt.

"Vants said she wouldn't worry, she's taking two of our sow's litter for upper Teppe" said Tu. "They don't mess with our katts, and I think emma goats can handle themselves against a lot."

"The only thing I wonder about is if the hot springs are hot enough to keep 'em out" said Pank. "First time they jump in where I bathe, I'll be hauling 'em home."

"This could be fun" said Pyosz.

"They come from a line that has faburgon-finding ability, the first day I'm going to trail 'em and see if they sniff any out" added Tu. "We've got one oak that's growing faburgons underground and we've fenced it off so we get to them before the pigs do."

"I've heard of faburgons but never seen one" said Pyosz. Faburgon in Skenish meant "tree spuds."

Pank grinned at her. "Next one we find, we'll share."

Despite their need for economy, the Talaba family had decided on paintable siding for their new Manage instead of shingles. They intended to do the painting themselves after moving in. "We've settled on vermilion" said Nioma, "The color of renewal."

Dru and Adnes informed Maar they wanted Thleen back home in time for Adon's graduation, which would be three days before Thleen's scheduled exam at Skene School and one day after the huolon would return to Pya. Maar said "I agree it's important for us all to be together for Adon's sake, but I wanted to be there when Thleen went in for the exam. She can get so rattled."

"If she does well, are they going to let her come back for the summer?" asked Qala.

"I can't tell" said Maar grimly.

Equally bleak was the news that Thava was unyielding in her determination to move to Skene. Nioma said she wanted to escape all reminders of Poth. "Good luck in that with those children" said Vants bitterly.

It came out that it had been Poth who purloined the rabbit from the ejida, now a beloved family pet. That, too, would have to be left behind on Pya. Brek had openly claimed it, and no one objected, in honor of Poth's memory. Pyosz marveled at Pava and Thont being able to keep the rabbit's place in their home a secret all this time.

On Sju, Ulcha conducted a birdhouse-building workshop on Saya for Pea Pods children and interested adults, assisted by Nk and Frahe. Ulcha said the songbirds of Pya needed help finding safe places to raise their young as owl territory expanded. She explained how different kinds of birds preferred different sorts of dwellings. Makeshift tables were spread across the killing field, and the day cooperated by staying sunny and hinting-at-summer warm. Babies Ura and Eoma were placed on a quilt out of sawdust reach, and there were plenty of grown-ups to oversee little fingers with sharp tools.

It occurred to Pyosz, seeing Uli at Owl Manage on Shmonah, that Uli had really lost weight. She knew Uli was still taking a lot of pain medication, and perhaps that had an affect on her appetite; or maybe it was the additional labor of ambulating on crutches. Her cheeks were noticable. Pyosz brought Uli a plate of seconds containing all the richer dishes that day and sat talking with her quietly as encouragement to eat a little more.

"How are you sleeping?" asked Pyosz.

Uli grimaced. "Can't go more than 3-4 hours without waking up from bad dreams, though I can't remember them a minute later."

"Well, you went through an ordeal. Did you get a chance to talk it all through with Qoj while she was here?"

Uli looked away. "Not really. She, ah, tried to help me open up but I was still too near to it all."

"How about now?" asked Pyosz.

"I can't do that kind of sharing over the radio, even on a private line" said Uli apologetically.

"No, I meant with me. I'm no Qoj but I am a real friend, and a good listener" said Pyosz. "And I keep confidences, believe me." Ask my emma.

Uli looked at her with a thread of hope in her eyes, and Pyosz realized how haunted those eyes had been for a while. Uli said "Maybe some time next week, if you have time?"

Yes, but I also have time right now" said Pyosz softly. Uli glanced around the crowded room and Pyosz said "Not here. And I think upstairs would take you right now, but you managed the front steps okay, we could go out to my studio? They're going to start singing, we won't be missed."

Uli took a deep breath and said "All right."

Maar looked after them as they went out the front door. After a few minutes, she went out to the porch and scanned in all directions, finally noticing a light in Pyosz's studio. She adjusted the rocker and went back inside.

Pyosz gave Uli the comfortable chair and sat on a bucket of slip. "I'll all yours" she said. which drew a ghost of a smile from Uli.

After using a clay carving stool to scratch inside the upper cuff of her cast, Uli said "If I tell you what's bothering me, I'm pretty sure it will bother you too. It'll be a burden, And I really need you to never tell anyone, not Maar, not your emma or abbas. It's information I have to never let free. So I'll give you an out here, you really don't have to do this."

Pyosz thought about it, looking at the interlocking scroll she was bordering a plate with. Designs were infinitely repetitive, if you could find the right overlap spot, and also infinitely changeable. If I didn't know the things others have shared with me in confidence, would my life be easier? She didn't think so, and she would have lost a point of overlap, of connection, between her and them.

Pyosz said "What's a burden for you won't be the same burden to me, no matter what. I want to hear."

Uli looked doubtful. She shifted her weight and whispered "I lied about Poth's death."

Pyosz felt ice at her bone.

Uli continued "Well, I didn't directly lie, I just didn't tell all of it. She was -- conscious. Her head was hit but she didn't pass out. Her breathing was awful, 'cause of her chest being caved in, but she was so tough. She yelled in pain for a while, and I kept asking how she was, and she said it levvin' hurt worse than anything she'd ever felt. She kept asking me to help her, and I couldn't, Pyosz. I did everything I could. After half an hour, by just ignoring what happened when I moved my collarbone. I managed to reach her foot, and I shook it, asking her if she could feel me but she couldn't I think her spine must have been severed."

Pyosz began to rethink her statement that Uli's burden wouldn't be the same burden to her.

"Her breathing kept getting worse, with more liquid sounds and something hard rasping. I've though about it, comes up in my head a lot, and maybe it was bone from her busted rubs rubbing on each other. That was about an hour in. I had my watch on and I could see it. I was trying to figure out when help would come, when would they miss us, and looking at my watch."

An hour? Oh lev.

"Then she started not knowing where she was. She knew how much she hurt, she never got a break from that, but she was calling out to Thava like Thava was in the next room, begging her to come help. She couldn't understand why Thava wasn't helping, she'd cry, sometimes she'd ask Pava or Thont to go get their emma. She said she heard Sziem crying, the baby. After another hour, my own pain was pretty intense, but I started saying I was Thava, I loved her, Sziem was fine, her kids adored her, and it would work for a few seconds. She kept telling Thava and her kids how much they meant to her, how lucky she was, how happy they made her. And I'd be Thava and tell her I knew it. I have to believe it helped her, Pyosz, because then she started choking. She couldn't talk any more, and it was -- listening to it -- I wish I could forget it. I'm pretty sure my nightmares are about listening to her die."

Uli wasn't looking at Pyosz, or anything in the studio, really. She was staring up into a broken canopy of trees, hearing a friend die.

"Once she was quiet, I began to hear the rustling. I tried to reach a long stick, branch, anything to keep them off her, but everything was either a huge log or twigs. I tried to focus on the birdsong. It was too early for owls. But then I started having chills, and by dark I was fading in and out. I just remember flashes after that."

Pyosz was remembering that day, thinking It would be another 3 hours in dark and eventual rain before help reached you. She reached to take one of Uli's hands between her own. Distant notes of fiddle and singing reached them from the Manage next door. Pyosz could tell Dekkan and Pava were on Frahe's booming floor drums.

"So it was at least a day or two before I could really talk, Pyosz, and by that time everyone was saying Poth must have died instantly. I did put out there she spoke about her family, they deserve to know that, but I haven't told anyone the truth. Because anything like the real truth: It will tear them to shred. Don't you agree? If I tell, it'll just be to get it out of my head, but I'll be dumping it forever on Thava, on those children, Pava will be crushed by it. That's not what Poth would want. I'm making the right decision, aren't I?" Uli was almost frantic by the end.

Pyosz scooted her bucket beside Uli's chair and put her arms around Uli. "I think I would have done what you did. At least, I hope I could be that strong. But you can't be this strong alone, you have to let it be shared. So it's half on me now, let it go."

Sobs tore from Uli's throat and she pounded on Pyosz's back with her fists. Her cries were so loud, Pyosz thought it must drown out the music next door, but no one came to interrupt them. It was a long purge, sustained by Pyosz occasionally saying "I'm so glad you told me, I'm so sorry you've been alone with this."

It must have been half an hour before Uli finally slowed down, partly by the need to clear clogged nasal passage. Pyosz had to give her a dusty wipe rag to blow her nose. Uli's face was puffy, her lips red and swollen, but her light brown eyes again were clear. She asked Pyosz "Are you sorry I told you?"

"I'm sorry it's true, she should never have had to die that levvin' way. But I'm not sorry you told me. I'm glad you were with her, for her sake, and you've been the most true and honorable of friends" said Pyosz. Which brought on a little more crying, Pyosz joining in this time. She washed her face at the tap in the corner and came back with wet hands to tenderly wipe Uli's face.

"So, Uli, keep talking to me about all this. Any time you need to bring it up."

"You too" replied Uli. "It goes both ways."

"Thava's not handling what's on her plate now, and Pava is too young at the moment. The day may come when we can tell that Pava should hear the whole truth, I can imagine her growing into that kind of woman. But we can confer then." Pyosz paused, and asked "Her and Dekkan, are they sweet on each other?"

"I think really not. True friends is all. Which is not less than, not in my book" said Uli, looking steadily into Pyosz's face. Pyosz smiled and said "Mine either."

"I'm ready to go back in. I feel like I'm new again."

"Come on, Clank-Walker" said Pyosz, helping Uli to her feet. Inside, Maar and Dekkan looked at them searchingly, but everyone else politely ignored the evidence of weeping. After taking one of the hearth chairs, Uli asked for a piece of pie with a glass of milk, and Pyosz happily brought it to her.

That night, Pyosz lay down face her front window and Maar immediately spooned behind her, relegating katts to the margins. Maar said into Pyosz's ear "Uli looked completely different by the time she left, night and day."

"Good. I hope she starts eating and sleeping normally now."

Maar breathed a few times and tried again. "Do you need to share whatever was tormenting her?"

"It would be a relief, but I can't, Maar. I really can't." After a minute, Pyosz said "Are you -- worried about the connection between me and Uli?"

"I don't know. Maybe."

Pyosz chuckled at this uncharacteristic indirectness. "You know, a while ago Uli informed me that I was waiting on you, said it was obvious." She could tell Maar was holding her breath.

"What did you say?"

"I told her no, we've not asked that of each other. She implied we didn't have to ask because we both knew the other wasn't going to look elsewhere."

Maar breathed again. "She's right about me" she whispered.

"Good" Pyosz whispered back. She looked at the clouds over Puaa Woods and thought about Poth wondering why her beloveds weren't helping her. She said "I want this to never end -- you coming home at the end of every day, starting the day with just the two of us whispering over tea, knowing I get to lie down in your arms and talk about whatever I need to before sleeping...I want us to be like my abbas, like Tu and Pank. There's nothing, and no one, I want more."

She started to turn to face Maar. Maar's arm tightened, and she whispered "I think you better stay facing that way for right now." Pyosz relaxed, linking her fingers through Maar's hand on her belly. "Thank you for always finding balance with me" she told Maar.

"Look where it's gotten us so far" said Maar. Then "I'm glad Uli has you."

"Me too."

The following Roku, everyone attended Pava's graduation from Pya School, a bittersweet occasion. Pava was showered with gifts and attention, Sziem was passed around, and Thont had a farewell romp with Thleen. Thava's family wouldn't be moving for a week, but the next morning Thleen was on the huolon to Skene.

They let her stay up as long as she wanted and have multiple desserts. They all got up in the morning as well to see her off. She wept pathetically at leaving Clicker. Maar refused to pack all of Thleen's clothes, leaving half behind as a lucky omen that she would be returning, but the garments she'd brought with her were outgrown in any case. She was brown, muscled, taller, and more confident. But the furrow between her brows could not be ironed out by Pyosz's thumb.

Vants carried her bags. It helped a great deal that Vants was flying back to Skene with them, going to pick up Moasi. Ziri and her emma Aleri met them at Koldok wharf with Dodd and Briel, Ziri already crying. At the huolon, goodbye hugs were protracted. Pyosz helped make Thleen a nest beside Vants, showed her the treats in their hamper, and gave her a goodbye present, the pouncing metal katt toy. She had strung the wind-up key on a thin leather braid with a ceramic medallion of an owl, and she hung this around Thleen's neck, kissing her on both cheeks and then her mouth.

"I wish you was my emma" said Thleen.

"I wish I was too" said Pyosz. "In my heart I am." She kept it together until the huolon was out of sight, then fell to the tarmac and wept into her hands.

Owl Manage felt desolate to Pyosz when they returned. She picked up Clicker and took her into the kitchen to feed her anchovies from her hand, ignoring the other katts' outrage. She had trouble sleeping that night and went downstairs, finding Qala in a hearth chair with Clicker in her lap. They sat and talked for an hour, until Pyosz could face her cold bed again.

Adon's graduation was on Shmonah. When Pyosz called her abbas that morning, they were dressing to go to the ceremony. Adon and Su had both continued to visit Yoj and Halling, which helped them with how badly they'd missed Thleen. "I can't wait to set eyes on her again" said Halling.

"I know how you feel" said Pyosz. That night her sleep was again patchy, knowing Maar would be getting up from a final night with Thleen, reassuring her about the test and her future, having to say goodbye and face Thleen's abandoned face. She pushed herself through work on Moja, distracted and, underneath, simmering with fury at the world's injustice. By 4:00 the extended family was at the Lofthall, Tu with the new electric cart, to welcome Moasi to Pya.

Moasi looked stiff and cold, The flight had been very hard on her. Vants carried her to the cart and she nearly ran down Briel in her first attempts at its use. Her belongings were transferred to a ramped sinner and she was given a tour of Koldok. Gitta and Tamsaa's establishments had thresholds and aisles that were already cart-friendly. The late afternoon sun warmed her and she began laughing in a way that reminded Pyosz of Halling.

They returned to the jichang, where Moasi rode her cart up the ramp into the sinner with a squeal of terror. Abbo had gone to bed, so Maar was flying Moasi, Vants, Tu, Pank. Qala and Lawa to Teppe for unpacking and dinner. Pyosz begged off, citing goats. While she milked, she listened for the sound of Maar's sinner. It returned just as she was putting away the chickens.

She wrapped herself around Maar and said "How bad was it?"

"As bad as you can imagine for me. Thleen, though, was really bolstered by Dodd's test, she feels certain she'll do well. And she's equally convinced that her reward will be summer in Pya. Nobody contradicted her, for what that's worth. And Su, bless her, when she first saw Thleen she blurted out "Wow, I've never seen you look so good!" They laughed a little.

"What do you need right now?" asked Pyosz.

"To lie down with you" said Maar.

"Lpika and Henar made dinner" said Pyosz.

"We can go grab plates later. And a bath for me" said Maar, shouldering her bag.

The next day, the Talaba family took off work because Mrebbe's crew had finished hanging doors on Shmonah and their Manage was now ready for move-in. That morning Maar used her day off to haul their furniture and belongings. They had a farewell lunch at Owl Manage and rode the sinner afterward to their new home, carrying two young fruit trees for transplanting. Chicks would come later.

Back home, Qala and Lawa washed and swept floors while Pyosz flew with Maar to Herne to pick up her new couch and another dining chair. As metal chairs were retired from around the table, they were placed on the porch, each in a different color of the rainbow, or in the tillage for the comfort of those working raised beds.

"What's next?" Nk asked Pyosz.

"Beds" was the answer. "Three generous double beds for upstairs. Whatever design you want." Nk and Frahe grinned at each other.

After milking, they ferried to Teppe for a family dinner. Moasi looked chipper and scooted around the common space with bravado, though Pyosz noticed gouge marks on the walls here and there. She reported she was able to use the indoor privy next to her bedroom downstairs without assistance, and even get in and out of the tub alone because of railing Mrebbe had installed. She had many questions about the songbirds who had awakened her that morning. Vants was building a bench to place at the overlook between Teppen and Hamsa so they could watch the setting sun.

On the way home, the four remaining Owl Manage residents stopped for a soak in the hot springs. A couple of small piggy snouts sniffed their way from the forest underbrush, but there was no sign of porcine hair in the springs. They had already made a wallow under the trees near the water tank, in goat territory, but the two colonies kept an amiable distance from one another except for the runs and leaps of an occasional kid.

The great hall literally echoed as they walked in. Pyosz went to her pad in the kitchen and wrote "Hand rails for bath room and privy." Maar looked at the clock and said it was all right to call now. She dialed Chloddia, and they each took turns talking with Thleen, even Clicker who mewed into the mouthpiece, sending Thleen into a peal of laughter. Adon and Su were ferrying Thleen to her test in Riesig that morning, which Maar said was better than other options. Thleen's confidence had slipped a little, apparently as the result of a lecture Dru had given her, but Pyosz kept repeating "Piece-a-cake" until Thleen began saying it with a giggle.

Maar talked with Adon before they got off, asking her to call as soon as they knew the results no matter what time it was. Adon said Thleen had asked to go to Yoj and Halling's to wait on the scoring, and Maar said that was perfect, they could call from there. Maar then asked after the three apprenticeships Adon had applied for, and was told there had been no reply yet.

Each of the pairs went to bed with a radio. Just past 2:00, Pyosz woke up to what she thought was Ember purring unusually loud, then Maar sitting up abruptly and saying 'Hello?" Pyosz turned on her lamp as Maar screamed "I knew it, I knew you would, sibu!" She could hear Thleen's excited voice coming out the headset and leaned closer, Maar sharing it.

"I thought it was easy, I kept hearing Pyosz talking about how to break down a story problem into a story, or you showing me all those maps, or Qala doing grammar wrong in her funny-fuddled voice" said Thleen.

"You soaked it all in, you big brain you" said Maar. "What was the final score?"

"93%!" said Thleen. "I guess I keep getting smarter, huh?"

"You sure do" said Maar, looking at Pyosz as if to say "And there's the numeric difference between a Skene and a Pya education, 3%." Lawa on the other radio said "Have you told your emmas yet?"

"Prl tried but they're not home yet. Yoj made me chocolate ice cream and apple cake, my very favorite, so I have to go now so I can eat it. Halling says to call tonight -- call who, me or you, Halling? -- she says both" said Thleen. After a chorus of "I love yous", they clicked off.

Maar flung herself back against the pillows jubilantly. "She did it, she pulled it right out of her tiny ass!"

"Lev, I wish I was there for that party" said Pyosz, snuggling beside her.

"A leap, this is a giant leap" breathed Maar. Pyosz felt some of the energy in Maar's body dissipate. "And the next step is up to me" she continued softly.

"Well, like sibu, like siba" said Pyosz. She rolled to turn off the lamp and returned to cuddle.

The following morning, after breakfast, Pyosz delayed her milk delivery to stand beside Maar as she called her emmas.

"I agree with you, I couldn't be prouder of her...Yep, sharper than we guessed...Well, no, it doesn't mean she could have tried harder earlier -- No, the issue wasn't her motivation, it's how much stress she was under, she was -- you're honestly claiming this was all a plot she and I hatched up to get her to Pya, how can you -- what about Adon? -- a refinery shipping apprenticeship, did you just get the notice? I'm thrilled for her but what -- yes, I told her I'd support her through an apprenticeship, her and Su both -- she's 16, emma, it's normal for someone entering adulthood to want their own bed and private space, even if it's a bucky -- I'm NOT trying to turn your children against you, if they want more options it's your doing, not mine." Maar stared at the radio and said to Pyosz "She clicked off."

"What the lev is going on?" demanded Lawa, her arms crossed over her chest.

Through gritted teeth, Maar said "Emma -- that was Dru -- she said Thleen deliberately failed as part of a scheme for me to bring her to Pya for tutoring, no child could have turned their grades around so quickly otherwise. When they got home, there was a letter waiting for Adon giving her the apprenticeship she wanted most, one that will move her into management instead of hard labor, which I'm sure is what most pissed them off. But it's unpaid, and the little rockwit picked now to tell them I'm paying all her expenses, including moving out into a bucky. So Dru sees a vast attack on her family orchestrated by me. She says since Thleen will have her own space now in the loft with Su, the issue of sleeping on the couch is resolved, and she'll have the summer to get used to living the plain and honest life of Chloddia again, without grades being an issue."

Into the boiling silence that followed, Maar added "I didn't help things with that last crack."

"Don't you dare take any of this on your back" said Qala, "not with all you're doing for your sibs' behalf,"

"I have to go to work" said Maar, looking at the clock. "Let them cool off, and me cool off. Can we all talk at dinner?" They nodded, and each of them kissed Maar's cheek before she shrugged into her guibba and left for the jichang. Pyosz looked at Qala and said "I'm tempted to sic emma on them,"

Qala grinned and said "Wait until we all talk. If Maar says yes, she'll have ideas about how to do it." Pyosz grabbed her cap and headed for the ferry.

Over tofu-stuffed peppers and cream of broccoli soup that night, they brainstormed options. "I'll have to apologize to Dru" began Maar. "Don't give me that look, Pyosz, she won't back down without it, And we have to get her out of the holes she digs for herself."

Lawa giggled. "Funny way of talking about a miner."

Maar smiled wanly. "Aggie doesn't completely agree with her but she seldom stands up to her. Mostly it was abba who did that."

"So what's really happened is that you've just proven the home environment they have to offer Thleen is inadequate. She fails in it. And they are pushing hard to deny that proof. It's exacerbated by Adon leaving, because it seems like she's been seen as the anti-Maar, the child most likely to stay on Chloddia and live like them."

"I think that's an astute assessment" said Maar. "I guess they really expected Thleen to fail her exam -- that's probably why they didn't say anything about her projections about what would happen next, they figured she'd be jerked up short without them having to do anything. And that jolt was accompanied by Adon's defection."

"Kudos to Adon, by the way. I need to write her a congratulations letter" said Pyosz.

"She's still reeling from the 2-ek pieces each of you sent her for graduation. I hope she kept that at least secret from my emmas" said Maar.

"So if Dru backs down, what will that look like?" asked Lawa.

"Hopefully friends and family will give them praise for doing what it took to turn things around. I can imagine that Thleen was a pain in the ass to Dru's sib that was taking her for after school care, maybe they won't want her coming back. Thleen is starting kickball camp this week, which will help short term during the day. And, yes, not sleeping in the bed where abba died will make a difference to her. So maybe after kickball camp and a little while of having her around again, getting used to Adon moving out, they'll consent to her coming for part of the summer" said Maar.

"But not the whole summer" said Qala flatly.

"Not likely."

"And when school starts back up, Thleen's in the soup again" said Qala.

"Probably" said Maar.

Qala glanced at Pyosz before saying "We wondered about the idea of asking Prl to do what she could. Behind the scenes, in her way,"

Pyosz stared at Qala. She must feel desperate -- and she's been in Thleen's kiatus.

Maar looked alarmed. "You mean something like having them sent to Peisuo?"

Pyosz gave a half-laugh. "Only exiling Dru would be enough. No, not even emma has that kind of power. But she does know things. For instance, she knows something about Thleen's conception, I think. She's refused to tell me, so my advice is for you to approach her directly, go to her office and ask her to tell you whatever might help you in getting Thleen into your care."

Maar looked like she'd rather swim with leviathans, but she said "All right,"

"Maybe we can buy her" said Lawa, shocking them all. "We can pool our money and offer 'em 20 eks a year to let Thleen live on Pya until she's grown."

Qala said "It's illegal, honey."

"So let Prl make the offer. It'll be her word against theirs, if they decide to be all high and mighty about it, which I can't see them doing. No offense intended, Maar" said Lawa.

Maar looked too stunned to take offense. Pyosz said "When you play around with illegalities, even for what you're sure is a good cause, you lose internal ground and, on a practical level, you leave yourself open to blackmail. Even emma."

Maar found voice to say "I think I need to go feel them out. And talk with Prl. I'm flying out at dawn on Roku. I could call you from Skene when I know more."

"Okay" said Qala, standing to collect plates. "Anyone else want an orange for afters?

That night in bed, Maar said "If Thleen doesn't come this summer, I have to stop living here."

"Why? Because of the talk, lev the talk, there's been gossip about us all year -- " began Pyosz.

"Because I moved in here for Thleen's benefit, not my own. I mean, yes, it was to my benefit too, but my life decisions right now have to put Thleen first" said Maar.

"How is it not to Thleen's benefit to have you happy? I know you're happy here, Maar/"

"It's not what I really want. What I want is...more. We deserve more. We deserve living without pretense." Maar looked wretched.

But not as wretched as Pyosz. She threw herself on top of Maar and said "So if I lose Thleen, I lose you, too? It's not fair."

"I know" said Maar, wrapping her arm around Pyosz but keeping her cheek safely pressed against Pyosz's.

On Roku, most of the inhabitants of Herne, Teppe and Saya were at the Lofthall jichang to say goodbye to Thava's family. Pava wept on Dekkan's shoulder, and Dekkan promised to visit once a month, even if it meant getting on the huolon pilot roster. Uli wasn't present to hear this; she'd told Pyosz it would be too hard to come see Poth's children fly away from Pya. Pyosz waved the craft off into growing light, then went home to milk her goats.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

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