Tuesday, January 5, 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
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


Vants of course stayed the night at the Genist Manage, and after a quick meal of eggs and toast, she asked for a long bath followed by bed. She looked overwhelmed. Pyosz and Prl went on to bed themselves to chat.

"I can't believe they took away the career she's been devoted to for 30 years" said Prl furiously. "My s'bemma Culisa was a capriste, but Vants has been legendary, a real boon to Skene in ways most capristes are not."

"Once again, I have to wonder if Mill suspected this might be coming Pya's way" mused Pyosz. "Teppe's pasturage is actually superior to that of Saya's, you know. When both are in full production, we'll dominate the industry for all of Skene. Seems like someone in that guild could have foreseen such and insisted they not toss Vants to the wind, because she had bedrock on which to land."

Prl looked at her child appraisingly. "If they retract their stupidity and beg to reinstate her, do you think she'll accept? Perhaps all this sudden decision by Vants is designed to force just that realization on her colleagues, she's quite adept at politics, our Vants."

This had not occurred to Pyosz, and she didn't much like it. "Well, but on Pya she'll have 2/3 of a huge island to herself, she'll have a Manage, and she can provide for her aggie. Skene can't match that."

"Vants is not just starting out, she's my age, immigration is wrenching at our age. Even moreso for Moasi, who would be leaving behind her other children, her grandchildren, two of her sibs, and her friends. Not to mention Motu Fling" argued Prl. "I'm not convinced she really will go to Pya."

"You heard Vants, she's requesting packed gravel paths all over the upper end of Teppe, a ramp into her Manage, and all the bigger sinners have ramps. With an electric cart, Moasi will be able to get around her own home and outdoors with ease, on her own -- and a quick flight to Dvareka will give her independent access to the entire island." Pyosz didn't add Plus she has one sib and much other family already there, and if Lawa emigrates also, it'll be three sibs within an easy walk of one another.

As if reading her mind, Prl said "It will flatten Halling, this possibility."

Pyosz didn't want to face that. There were too many people in her life whose very well-being was being eroded by sudden death, and she didn't know what to do about it. After a minute she said "I'm not worried about the ferry link between Saya and Teppe any more, there's that. Vants and I can pick up the slack for each other. Oh, and lots of new goats for me to know and love! Most of whom will not have to face slaughter for meat."

"What do you mean, she'll have mixed herds of does and bucks? And the elderly will die on their feet?" asked Prl, who had paid attention.

Another reality Pyosz had not explored fully, and here she was a capriste.

"Oh, emma. It's been such a hard visit, I'm fearfully tired. Can I just curl up in front of you and go to sleep now?"

Prl clicked off the lamp. "I love you, child, dream sweet."

Pyosz spent most of the following day at her abbas. Halling was jolted by Vants' news, and when Vants joined them for lunch, Halling grilled her about the financial sense of starting over at her time of life in the new world, especially spending her savings on a Manage when she had no heirs. Vants finally said "Perhaps if I live in a place where access to town life is half an hour away, I could actually make my own family, at least join in to one already started." Which made Halling blink and her face go kinder.

Vants still had belongings stored on Yagi to retrieve, and a lot of seeing folks to do, she said, so she did not intend to travel to Pya immediately. Prl glanced significantly at Pyosz, as if to say So they can woo her back to Yagi. Pyosz ignored her, but cast her own look at Prl when Vants said "At least I'll be on hand when your herd starts kidding, it's a 24 hour job for days on end, exhilirating but exhausting for one person."

Yoj asked Pyosz "Who's going to look after Thleen after school each day, now that Gusu's gone?"

"Ah, that's one of Maar's worries. Dru has arranged for Thleen to be dropped by the school sinner on Exploit where her sib lives and go to their house, where an abba that isn't any kin to Thleen will keep her until Dru and Adnes are off work."

"She's talked about those Exploit cousins, I think" said Halling. "They're all much older than her and pick on her, she said."

"Yes" said Pyosz grimly. "But Dru scoffs at it, says it's time Thleen toughens up."

"So no Ziri at school, a hostile environment until dinner, and then going to bed alone" said Halling. "At least Yoj and I have each other, and control over how we spend our time."

Prl asked astutely "Is that how Maar managed it, then, when she was little? By toughening up?"

"I suppose so" said Pyosz. "I wish I'd paid more attention to her when we were in school. And then, at 12, Thleen was born and Maar had a repository for all her hidden tenderness."

"We'll do what we can" Halling told Pyosz, and Pyosz realized Thleen was more of a healthy diversion than the book Yoj was helping Halling assemble.

Still, all the goodbyes that day felt fundamentally wrong. Maar, blotchy-faced, asked Abbo to take the first leg, and once they were underway, she slid into the back seat beside Pyosz and cried harder than Pyosz had ever seen her. Abbo looked panicked in the rearview mirror. When Maar was emptied, Pyosz wiped her face and made her a sleeping nest again. Despite the frequent clamor from a pair of piglets in a nearby crate, Maar dropped off as Pyosz returned to the passenger seat.

"Big news about Vants, huh" said Abbo.

"Yeah. I need to make a count, but at some point we're going to have more family in Pya than in Skene" said Pyosz. Abbo grinned at her happily, and Pyosz grinned back. Abbo then set her head spinning with the remark "Emma says Vants was in love with Gerra way back in the day, and when Gerra chose Ndege instead, that's when Vants dropped out of the U and became a capriste. Not exactly the same as you -- "

"What is the attraction with Gerra?" burst out Pyosz.

Abbo's eyes went wide. "Dunno, never thought about it." She offered no further conversation, and Pyosz pulled out her pillow to nap.

Over the next week, Pyosz worked without a break, spending late evenings on her mural tiles. She did make sure to write an illustrated letter to Thleen, boxing it with a tin of jam tarts and six pairs of new sokken she had dyed "kickball" green. She sent Adon a music disk she'd heard her mention wanting, and Su a pair of sheepskin-lined gloves made from her leather allotment because Su's mittens had a hole in one palm. She filled the envelope to her abbas with photographs and a draft of the planting scheme for her spring tillage, asking their advice. She called Prl twice as she was going to bed, drained but needing to hear news of Skene.

Klosa sent a request through Mrebbe that Pyosz stop by to discuss furniture for the new Manage. Pyosz did so, beginning with "I'm going to keep the aga I have now, it's working wonderfully. But I want to trade in this current coldbox for the biggest you can locate, preferably with double the freezer capacity."

"To hold carcasses" said Klosa knowingly. Pyosz winced. "And I hear your cousins are making your table and chairs."

"Yes, plus we're working on designs for a custom sideboard and a real dresser in my bedroom" said Pyosz. "But that will take a while, and until they're done, I'm considering buying a rocker or two for the front porch, easy chairs for the main hall, and a worktable for my study."

Klosa was making notes. "What about your bed?" she asked.

"I figured it would do for now" said Pyosz.

"Well, I got something in that made me think of you" said Klosa, leading her into the side room. In the corner was a double bedstead made of iron which had once been painted white but was flaked now to a dappled appearance. The frame was sturdy and showed only spots of rust. The uprights and posts were all chased with a pattern of baby squashes and flambouyant blossoms.

"Oh, it's beautiful" breathed Pyosz, bending over to trace with her fingers a squash vine curling around a post. "Who would have painted over this, it's dulled the clarity of the carving?"

"You could strip it to an original finish, cover it with lacquer to keep the gleam" said Klosa. Pyosz smiled at her: "You know how to tempt me. I won't have time to refinish it until the Manage is done, but I would like to have a spacious bed to go in my big new rooms. I'll need a real mattress, too, though, can you use your connections to get me a discount?"

"Let's barter" said Klosa, sitting down on a nearby chair.

The cold of Kall continued into Jian for two weeks. The third Sju of Jian, Pyosz ferried with Tu and Pank to Koldok to meet the huolon as it landed. Vants was first out the hatch, her smile a little bleak. Abbo called out the door "Grab a handcart, will you, Pyosz, she's got several crates we'll need to drop off later." Dodd and Briel appeared in the next minute, inviting everyone for tea. After a tour of Koldok and a rest at Dodd's, they all went on to Saya, now joined by Maar and Mill.

Vants was starting to look tired but perked up once in the pasture amid the herd. She picked up Killer, nimbly dodged Molars, and paid appropriate attention to Boulder. Vants wanted to at least lay eyes on Teppe, so they walked to the hot springs and gazed across the strait. Vants heaved a long sigh and said "Lovely. I studied the map you sent, Mill, I know where I want the Manage and the goat barns to be."

"Mrebbe says they'll be done with my place in two weeks" said Pyosz.

"We can do basic excavation next week, and use that rock to lay down trails" said Mill. "We'll need 'em to move building materials around Teppe."

"Come on" said Tu. "We've got baked beans and a shoulder roast in the aga, let's get you settled in at Herne." She had to reach up to put her arm over Vants' wide shoulders, but Vants let herself be led like a child.

On Shmonah, when Pyosz left Arta Island for milking, Maar went with her. They sat at the table after eating, talking for hours about how unhappy Thleen was. The following afternoon Vants came through the kissing gate right after lunch, in very muddy work clothes and caked otos.

"Whatcha been doing on Herne to get so bedaubed?" asked Pyosz.

"Not on Herne" replied Vants cheerfully. "On Teppe. I just took our ferry for the first time. Tough current but way nicer than the Western Flings. I was wondering if I could milk with you this evening, I need tp keep my hands in practice and, well, I just miss goats."

"Happy to share what there is" said Pyosz. "Right now, I'm about to lay out my mural in the great hall for the tilers, they're starting on the bath room."

A dropcloth was already protecting the parquet floors Nk and Frahe had laid in her Manage, and crates of tiles were stacked along one wall. Pyosz used a tape measure to chalk the dimensions of each wall on the cloth and, rubbing her hands, unlatched the first crate.

"I'll hand 'em to you two at a time" offered Vants. At first, it was only Mrebbe, Xante, and the two tilers looking on, but slowly the rest of the timmers set down their tools and came to watch the murals unfold in hushed silence.

Pyosz had not left out the morrie strati in a rough perimeter around Skene. Bright blue waters swirling with current was a contrast to the rich rainbow of colors on the islands, the hues of rice paddies, sheepfolds, orchards and goat-dotted hills anchored by maroon walls and sloping black roofs of little buldings everywhere. A kickball game was in progress on the field between Chloddia and Exploit, and if you leaned very close to one tile, you could just make out the scoreboard showing Chloddia far ahead. A sinner was dumping a silver heap of fish at the docks on Riesig, and the glint seemed to show them flapping around. Olive growers were picking trees on Yanja, wheat fields were being neatly mowed on Isola, and bright daubs of lilac speckled Motu Fling. The apple tree at her abbas' Manage was in full bloom -- seasons were all represented concurrently in the magical mural -- and a heavy rainstorm had just hit Peisuo.

"Thunder me down" breathed Xante as the last of Skene was laid into place. "It's alive, it's like you expect that ferry to begin creaking along to Byli, there."

"I'd ask how in the stars did you do this" said Vants, "but I remember what abba Ng could do with plain clay. Except you've taken another leap, with your gift."

Pyosz was too caught up in seeing the whole to take in the comments. She was spotting flaws everywhere, things she should have done differently. Maybe Pya had come out better. She reached for the next row of crates.

She was even less satisfied when the larger mural was assembled, showing squirrels leaping from tree to tree on Chwet, the silvery marshes of Zhao Ze, salt ponds in Cogio, a small black kid standing up to bleat through the kissing gate on Saya. But everyone else in the room was ecstatic. Xante turned to the tilers and said "You break one of these, I'll fire you myself" which made Mrebbe roll her eyes.

Pyosz shrugged and said irritably "I need to go start rice for dinner." After she strode out, Mrebbe said "Let's stack those crates around this area, keep anyone from walking through. Everybody get back to it." But that evening after dinner, when Pyosz brought Maar to the Manage under protest to let her have a look, Pyosz finally saw the splendor of what she had done when she flicked on lights in the great hall. "Wow" she said in unison with Maar. By the time they left, Pyosz was trembling from the responsibility inherent in this Manage.

The following Moja, Vants and Pyosz met Poth near Pertama and rode in a truck with the rest of their shearing crew to the sheep pens near Fjer. Because of their inexperience, they were relegated to carrying fleece to washing bins or helping herd frantic animals into pens. Still, it was a change in labor, and extremely interesting to watch the shearers separate wool from twitching skin without a nick. They were covered in lanolin by the end of the day, and after milking, they grabbed a sandwich and rushed to the hot springs for a soak.

It was still cold enough to necessitate huddling down in the water for the first half hour. Her chin touching the surface, Pyosz asked "You having second thoughts about all this, cousin?"

"I had those before I gave you the contributions" said Vants. "I decided to do what was clearly right, and if my way was blocked, it meant I was on the wrong path. It's like how goats graze anything they can with no upper set of teeth, you know? More than one way to chew through a barrier. Pya sits here as a beckoning contradiction to Skene's terror of making a mistake. The wonder is that more folks aren't emigrating."

"There's a dance next weekend, you wanna go with me?" asked Pyosz.

"As long as it's okay if I don't leave with you" grinned Vants.

Pyosz cracked up, thought one part of her mind wished her emma could take the risks Vants was.

A massive copper tub went into the bathroom under the Pya mural, and twin lustrous stainless sinks under Skene. The constellations overhead, based on Qoj's photographs, were painted with luminescent tint. The walnut-paneled walls upstairs and down were stained and sealed, gleaming under the new nickel light sconces. Bedroom walls had been plastered and painted with colors mixed by Pyosz herself. Pyosz's iron bed and new mattress were put in the largest bedroom upstairs, the only furniture so far on that entire story.

Two slabs of plywood were still serving as the front doors into the great hall, because Mrebbe had taken on those doors as her particular project and she was fashioning them in her shop at home. One afternoon a sinner appeared overhead with a swaying pallet below, and Mrebbe went excitedly toward the jichang, calling out to Xante "It's here!"

The doors were of dark cherry, with nickel hinges and latches, a trio of divided-light panes in the upper section at eye level. Below the windows was inset a roosting owl carved from soft gold, surrounded by a circle of bees with gold and ebony abdomens.

Pyosz wept when she saw them. Nk and Frahe had come out of the sinner with Maar, and Pyosz wept again when she saw what they had brought: Carvings to tuck under the eaves at either end of the porch depicting a doe leaning on a cherry tree, her lips parted to close over ripe fruit.

The following morning, they began painting the outside walls, which caused people in Koldok to openly stand at cliffside with binoculars, unable to stop watching a house go blue. Pyosz's studio had been shingled as was every other structure on Pya. Her kiln and wheel were installed, her tools and clay moved to the commodious cupboards. She hung her sketches of the tile murals on the blank back wall.

The new coldbox was delivered and hooked up, and that sinner, flown by Dekkan, went on to Herne to bring back the tiger maple table in three sections, along with two dining chairs. A pair of overstuffed chairs upholstered in a faded rose and buttercup fabric were set in front of the hearth. Nk had persuaded Pyosz to commision a long curved settee from her and Frahe, and against its eventual arrival, Pyosz bought a dozen thick silk cushions in rich tones to pile on the floor where the settee would go in the great hall. At last the aga was moved into the new kitchen, and when it and the hearth were turned on, the Manage's heart began beating.

Pyosz refused to sleep or eat in her new place yet, however, because Maar was on a run to Skene. She fed the timmers on her porch or in the old kitchen while they stayed on to finish painting, hang bright copper gutters connected to a rainwater tank Pyosz had insisted on, and clean up the grounds. She slept with her katts in the tiny metal cabin, telling them "The new place has litter boxes in the storeroom under the stairs, your version of an indoor privy, eh?"

Finally, the next Shmonah, Pyosz went to Owl Manage after milking and began cooking for the party that day, when not only family but the timmers, Klosa, Gitta, Taamsas, Kolm, Uli, Dekkan, and all of Poth's family were invited. Maar landed after her toxics run with a sinner full of Koldok and Pertama guests, to find music in full swing and Nk sitting by the front door to make sure everyone wiped their otos. The celebration continued when Pyosz and Vants slipped away at dusk to milk. When the Dvareka crowd at last left, Pyosz's family carried her belongings from the metal cabin to her new bedroom, hanging her clothes in the closet, stacking books on the floor, and making her bed with new sheets and beloved blankets. Pyosz and Maar carried the katts, who separated to find hiding places until exploration could be done in the solitude of deep night.

Maar looked out the curved expanse of windows in the upstairs hall toward Dvareka and asked Pyosz "Are you going to feel strange with all this sudden room?"

"I don't think so" said Pyosz. "I'm going to fill every corner with family in due time." She looked out the window with Maar, not touching and not meeting each other's eyes.

She left her bedroom door open so the katts could join her. She had hidden the rice paddy workers novel in her pack and put it under the new mattress, but she went easily to sleep looking at the stars over Puaa Woods.

The next morning, she missed the timmers, missed cooking for ten instead of only herself. She started sponges, wiped down her new greenstone counters a second time, and decided to go to her studio. Before she was out the front doors, the radio buzzed. When she answered, Qala said "You up for another visit from me and Lawa next week, or you need more time alone in your new place?"

Pyosz leaned against the larder door, a little lightheaded, to answer "As soon as you can get here, I want you."

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild


Blue said...


Margot said...

It's gorgeous, and there's loads of room. When can we all move in?

Maggie Jochild said...

Yeah, really, Margot.

C. Diva said...

The tile mural does sound pretty amazing.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I keep thinking about Mill. As a teenager in the first book, I was not at all impressed with her; it was like watching all of the bad parts of Haliing (quick temper, impatience, disdain for the feelings of others [she disagreed with]) in action. Now, in Mill as an adult, I keep catching glimpses of Bux in her chess moves of leading Pya out of Skene's shadow. The subtlety is awe-some, especially as I think it is only Mill's family who are even aware of what Mill is doing for Pya's sake. I hope it doesn't blow up in her face. If nothing else, I think it helps having Dodd and Dodd's reflection of Yoj's creativity to provide a justification of (or, a way to share with others in Pya) Mill's dream.
Thanks for this.

Maggie Jochild said...

Cowboy Diva, VERY astute read of Mill.

The best thing to happen to Mill was her being "rejected" by Halling in favor of Danaan. She was raised by Halling to be a leader and to save Skene -- a role she practiced on her sibs, permanently pissing off Ndege and Prl, seems like (remember how Halling dealt with Mill's jeolousy at the birth of the twins by promising Mill her sibs would more or less worship here? I lifted that from my own family's shit) -- but Halling's inability to protege her as an adult combined with Oby's pragmatism pushed Mill to go find another arena of leadership.

Likewise, it was extremely good for Dodd to leave Yoj's orbit and become the "dichter" of Koldok, if not Pya.

In non-Western cultures where young people cannot really go live on their own very easily, this kind of developmental tension is familiar. Yoj and Qala were rejected by their families, Halling was adopted by the Lofthall, and even Bux who remained at home engineered a break between herself and her emmas by moving in two mavericks. The exodus of younger generations to Pya is not really any different, though (so far) only Bux and Qala grasp it.

Okay, I have to stop before I give away too much. (grin)