Thursday, January 7, 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)


Because of the huolon schedule, Qala and Lawa had a choice of staying for either four days or eight, the latter of which would mean almost 10 days away from Skene but they opted for more time "at the opposite end of the growing year", as Lawa put it.

They arrived with a list of plans. After a family potluck that first night, Qala asked to take a long soak in "your jewel of a bath room." After a moment, she asked Lawa if she cared to join her, and Lawa accepted with a lidded look.

Pyosz had moved her cabin bed into the small back room off the kitchen that she thought would be her study so she could give her abbas the double bed in her room. She left the door open, sleeping in there the night of her guests' arrival, and enjoyed the occasional pop or creak of the aga as she drifted off. The next morning, she ate tea and toast before going to milk, but was tracked down by Qala as she was loading her cans into the wain. "I made hotcakes and poached eggs, come eat with us and we'll go to town with you."

The older women insisted on stopping in at the grocery, mercantile, and Klosa's in addition to the djostikers, making small purchases and chatting up everyone they met. They also visited Briel at the clinic, Dodd at the school, and the Lofthall office before returning to Saya. Qala poked through the barn store room while Lawa walked over to Herne to visit Tu. She shooed Pyosz on, saying "Go make pots, I'll call you in for lunch."

But ten minutes later, Qala came to the studio to ask "What are you planning to do with all that beeswax in the barn? Is it yours or Pya's?"

"They've already gotten their share, that's all mine. I'd figured on making candles if I ever found the time" said Pyosz.

"Could I -- would you mind if I did that?" asked Qala. There was muted yearning on her face.

"I'd be thrilled. Take all the wood you need from the stack by the compost, there's old pots left in the outdoor kitchen for melting wax in the grill, and molds are in the tool room. If you want colorings and scents, Taamsas can set you up."

Qala's light brown eyes sparkled. "I'm heading back to Koldok, then."

An hour later, Maar stuck her head in the studio. "Hey, you. I brought mussels, and I found Qala, but where's Lawa?"

"Sitting on the northernmost cliff with tackle she's borrowed from Pank, hoping to pull something from that deep blue hole just beyond the surf there" said Pyosz. "I suspect lunch will actually be up to us, come visit a while and I'll cook with you in a bit."

"Qala asked if I could take them to see Pubu Falls this afternoon" said Maar, sitting on a covered bucket of clay.

"Did she now? Well, it's a clear day for it, sounds like fun" said Pyosz. Half a minute later she was sucked back into the plate she was shaping. Maar quietly let herself out and put sweet potatoes to roast in the aga, pulled onions amd greens for braising, and began shucking mussels on the front porch, flanked by winter-furred katts.

Qala came to lunch smelling deliciously of smoke and wax. Lawa was triumphant over her catch of a medium-sized balik which she declared was dinner. They packed a thermos with hot tea for the jaunt to Pubu, accompanied by Vants. By the time they returned, Qala's first candles were cool enough to unmold, and she proudly lit one to place on the tiger maple table for dinner. Pyosz told her "You clearly have a gift for it, so I turn over all my wax to you. Do what you want with the candles, except if you sell them, please go through Taamsas as she already requested the consignment. No, I won't take a percentage, my wages pay for the beeswax harvest and if you wouldn't take interest on the loan you made that developed my geothermal, I'm not about to accept profit from what is entirely your artistry and labor."

Their second day, Lawa caught two kala "off the point", Qala designed her own Saya Island product label for Taamsas's shelves, and Mrebbe's crew trooped through on their way to Teppe to start work on Vants' Manage and goat barns. Pyosz offered her kitchen and dining room for Vants' use in making lunches for her timmers, and Vants accepted with the admonition that she was buying all ingredients and doing the work.

Their third day, Pyosz heard Lawa shouting at the top of her lungs and met Qala in front of the house as they ran to the point. Lawa was trying to subdue a thrashing red octopus. Qala and Pyosz stood back, leaving her to it. "You'll have to pound the flesh for a while to make it tender, you can use the boulders at the killing field" said Pyosz. Dinner that night was superb, and afterward Tu rubbed arnica on the sucker-shaped bruises on Lawa's arms.

Maar left for Skene, and the next afternoon Vants had an appointment to plan her new herd with Nioma. She invited Pyosz along, who said "Yes but as an apprentice, let's clear." Lawa and Qala went as well, but Lawa soon wandered off to talk with Poth, then followed her outside to visit the nearby greenhouses. Qala left as well, venturing into the shops district where she found Pyosz's small toy store. When they met up again, Lawa had four avocados tucked in the top of her gilet, which Qala said make her look like a six-breasted fantasy. Qala opened her bag and pulled out a miniature wheelbarrow, pail, rake and shovel, cunningly made of metal and wood, painted in primary colors. "For Ehall" she said,

"You're usurping my role as the bringer of magical toys" said Pyosz, not entirely joking.

"I bought a second set, you can give it to Thleen" said Qala.

"No, it will mean as much coming from you" said Pyosz. After dinner that night, Vants and Pyosz kept talking goats. Lawa filled a small tray with sand and played with the ejida toys, harvesting beans and marveling at how the wheelbarrow rolled. Qala said "Be sure to dump that out before bed, Curds is eyeing your tray speculatively."

A few minutes later, Qala interrupted the capristes to say "You know, Pyosz, that area just north of your Manage, outside the kitchen door here, has the perfect exposure for herbs. You should expand your herb growing anyhow, move some of it over here from the tillage."

Lawa, dumping a load of beans into a tea saucer from the wheelbarrow, added "And flowers. You could be growing a lot more flowers."

"Go for it" Pyosz said to Qala. "I have compost out my ears, lay out the beds however you want, I'll follow your plan." Qala borrowed a pad and pencil to begin making a diagram, Lawa scooting beside her, pointing at the paper periodically with her rake to show where something should go.

The next afternoon, Tu and Pank went with Qala and Lawa to another region of ejida, north of Pertama. That morning Qala, having used all the beeswax, began piling soil in new beds. After catching two more kala, Lawa helped her frame the beds with leftover lumber and L-braces at the corner. They returned shortly before dinner in a sinner flown by Dekkan, with flats of starts, bags of bulbs and soil additives, and a four-foot tall redbud tree. The starts were stored on a dropcloth in the empty front bedroom, door shut against the katts. Pank said the redbud would be all right on the porch overnight. Pyosz had baked the kala but also roasted a small turkey with cornbread and current stuffing, and she radioed the other Herne folks to come join them for the meal.

"How's the potting?" Vants asked her around a mouthful of turnips.

"I'm going to fire a load tonight, I can't believe how much I'm getting done" Pyosz answered, grinning at her abbas. "How's Teppe?"

"Xante doesn't understand why I'm asking for both an indoor and an outdoor privy" chuckled Vants. "But if you're mucked up, might as well go outside, I say."

"I still use both" agreed Pyosz. "At least in daylight."

"Mill brought out a couple today who might want to farm the cranberry bog" said Vants. "Course, it's not a full-time or year-round job, they'll need other work, but once my herd is producing, I'll need sinner pick-up of my milk each day, so they could catch a ride at least one leg of the commute. I made it clear I want no Manages built in line of sight of mine. Not while I'm alive."

Nk said to Pyosz "If they're picking up Vants' milk, they could stop here and get yours from the jichang, too, yes?"

"Nope" said Pyosz. "I need to keep the muscles I have from lifting, and I have the wain and carts for the short land hauls. It's different for me. In fact, I'm going to offer to meet that sinner each morning in Koldok with a cart and take Vants' milk to Kolm for them along with mine."

Tu said "Before I forget, we ordered two bee colonies for Herne today at the ejida, one strictly for the greenhouse. You want bees on Teppe?"

"Yes" said Vants. "But I don't know how to manage them."

"I'll teach you" said Pyosz. "Put her down for two right now, and order me two more, I can place them at the other end of the orchard."

The next day after milk delivery, Pyosz ferried with Vants, Lawa and Qala to Arta Island where their fields of winter wheat were ready for harvest. A small combine had been dropped at the jichang along with a large grain crate. Lawa was certified to run a combine and after sharpening its sickle, she declared this one would do. Pyosz and Vants were assigned to level the grain as it came from the hopper and occasionally hand-harvest tight spots. Qala kept hot tea available, called for pick-up of almost full crates and delivery of another empty, and listened to Lawa talk about combine work. Ollow fed them lunch, and they were done by 3:30.

On the ferry home, they ran into Ziri and Koben, and Qala invited all three children over for dinner, going to Kacang to ask emmas and pick up Meamea. Qala let them all help dig a hole for the redbud tree near the corner of the porch and it was planted with applause from Lawa and Pyosz. Vants had gone on to the hot springs.

Pyosz helped Ziri with homework while Qala started dinner and Lawa took the two younger children to visit goats. The Herne crowd, Mill, Oby, Dodd and Briel came for dinner. Following dessert, with a permission call from the emmas, Pyosz let all three children have a bath in the mural room, dressing them afterward in old shatis in lieu of schmattas. They were wrapped in quilts and found laps while music began. Pyosz glanced at the clock, grabbed the radio, and motioned for Ziri to follow her upstairs. She dialed the Manage of Maar's family, and sat happily listening for the next half hour as Ziri and Thleen talked over each other at the tops of their voices.

They carried the children home at 10:00, all three sound asleep, Vants shouldering Ziri. The emmas were in schmattas and effusively grateful. On the ferry back, Qala said "Will Maar be back tomorrow in time for the dance in Pertama?"

"Yes" said Pyosz with satisfaction.

The following night while waltzing, Maar said to Pyosz "That was a really good thing you did, helping Ziri call Thleen."

"I'm sorry I didn't think of it sooner" said Pyosz.

"She failed a spelling test this week. She's never failed a test in her life" said Maar.

"Oh lev" breathed Pyosz.

"Kickball practice is in full swing, so Su and Adon really can't take her home and help her with homework" continued Maar. "She had a bad dream, woke up thrashing around the second night I was there, but she couldn't tell me what it was about."

Pyosz kept worrying about Thleen the rest of the evening. In the morning, eating rice porridge with fermented plum sauce, she said to her abbas "Should I encourage Maar to think about moving back to Skene for a while, several months or even a year, so she can have daily contact with Thleen? I could ask Halling to use her influence with Danaan to ease Maar into the Lofthall there, and I could talk to Mill about keeping the door open for Maar to return here,"

Qala and Lawa looked at each other before Qala said "I can't imagine you have any ideas about helpng Thleen that Maar hasn't already considered and, for whatever reason. rejected as untenable. It dominates her thoughts, and she knows more about it than you do."

Lawa, less tactful, said "She don't need you talking to Halling or Mill, she made her own way with both of them before you ever met her."

"Well Thleen's in trouble and I don't know what to do" retorted Pyosz.

"So deal with your feelings about that, then. Clear your mind so's you can keep listening to Maar as she finds a way through" said Lawa.

Pyosz briefly got a stubborn look on her face that Qala knew well. Unlike Prl, she knew not to push, as Pyosz would simply dig in deeper. But Pyosz surprised her by tugging at the front dread Lawa used to say must be connected to Pyosz's common sense button, it was her inevitable gesture when she'd decided to stop being contrary. She said softly "I keep trying to go forward, hoping it's enough. But then -- things happen I can't fix. Can't even comprehend, really."

"It's terrifying" agreed Qala.

"And as we sit here in this huge Manage at this gorgeous table, Maar is getting ready to fly all the most dangerous crap Pya produces out to a volcano, all by herself, to get rid of it for us." Pyosz finally began crying. "Her emmas are clearly assholes, except once I saw them get alone in that cramped ancient Manage and shut their zinc door, they stopped being so hard and suddenly looked like a couple of women doing the best they could. Maybe I'm being disloyal to Maar to even think that -- "

"I'm willing to bet Maar would love to hear you say it. She took you home hoping you'd love her emmas in ways she can't afford to" said Qala with conviction.

Pyosz washed her face and joined her abbas in making the dishes they were offering for Shmonah. Lawa said "Those Heaps kids are coming here today to eat with us today, right?"

"Yeah, if Ziri has her way they'll be the first to arrive" said Pyosz.

"Well, that huge old chestnut other side of the goat barn, it's got a branch that'd be perfect for a swing" said Lawa.

Pyosz grinned. "Rope and boards are in the barn."

When they began settling down after lunch to make music, Pyosz sat on a cushion to lean against her walnut paneling and set another cushion in front of her, patting it and looking at Maar. Red-cheeked, Maar sat between her legs and let Pyosz pull her back against her chest. After one song, Pyosz whispered "Those begonias beside the door of your Manage on Chloddia, what color do they bloom in?"

"Pink and white" said Maar, craning around to look at her.

"Must be lovely next to the green of the door, can't wait to see it" said Pyosz. She felt Maar relax all the way then.

The next morning a lighter flew low over Saya heading west as Pyosz was ferrying back from delivery. She walked to the point and asked Lawa, fishing, where it had gone. Lawa leaned so far forward Pyosz wanted to grab her back belt, saying "It landed at Teppe, looks like Mill and Api, I think."

Pyosz knew Maar was sinning but still felt a little disappointed. She went to her studio.

Two hours later, Qala burst in and said "Jiips just broadcast on a general frequency that there's a leviathan in Koldok Kuono, north of Saya!" She had the radio in her hand. Pyosz took off in a dead run for the point. Lawa's pole was thrown back into the sand and Lawa had both hands over her brows to shut our glare as she stared along the eastern coast of Teppe.

"I'm not sure where it is" she said. Pyosz thundered in the house to return with her binoculars. Qala had her clasp knife out and the back of the radio was exposed, Qala delicately poking electronic innards with knifetip, volume wide open to static. Pyosz had to hold her breath to steady the glasses, and finally she said "It's not in the same channel as that juvie was -- it's here in the middle, but -- shit, it's a baby! It's trying to get over the reef, or around it maybe, I can't remember the underwater shape of that particular trough."

A wall of lev song reached them, and an instant later Mill's voice blared out of the radio " -- mezi at your discretion when you get here." Qala dialed down the volume. A few sputters later, they heard Maar say "Will do, expect to reach you in two minutes. Fohol, you take north wing, survey the deeps around Shu. Dekkan, circle the Koldok strait."

Pyosz turned her glasses toward Koldok and saw people beginning to line the cliffs. She recognized Uli and her aggie. Dodd would be keeping order at the school, and Briel getting the clinic prepared.

"We can't see well enough here" she said, running again, this time toward the kissing gate where she met the Herne cousins and yelled "Follow me." She loped to the bulge mid-Saya north of her clay field and had caught her breath by the time everyone else reached her.

Qala's rigged radio had Maar's voice narrating as Maar zoomed into view flying a heavy-duty deep ocean sinner. She rattled off coordinates and asked for a "topo read". Jiip replied "Uli just walked in, give us a sec." Maar continued "Extreme juvenile, no typical grey stria yet, length just under six feet. No visible damage. Fohol, what you got?"

Before Fohol could answer, Uli's voice said "Length of that channel 121 meters, deepest section 7 meters but at southeastern end it's 3 meters. Reef comes to 18 inches of surface at high tide, down to 1.5 meters of surface at low tide. And at the southeastern corner, there's a ridge that's 2 meters wide but if something could shimmy across that, channels at least 3 meters deep go all the way past Koldok into all of the Pea Pod zone."

"Tide is currently receding" observed Pyosz grimly.

Fohol broke in. "There's a mass of 40 to 50 levs at the point where the baby must have slipped over. They are flank to flank and seemed to be moving in waves. I can feel percussion, Maar, and the water is bright red with extrusion but I'm also seeing swirls of grey fluid."

"Blood" confirmed Maar. "Are you saying they're ramming the reef at that end?"

"I believe they're trying to" said Fohol.

"Request suggestions" Maar said.

Mill said "I see two options. Kill the baby and hope that interrupts the adults' behavior, or wait to see if either the baby retreats, dies on its own eventually, and/or the adults give up on it." She named another pilots in the air and sent them to patrol the reefs on the Pea Pods' other borders.

"These levs are not going to stop, in my opinion" said Fohol. "There's a hundred more congregated east of Shu that I can visibly count, without radar."

Maar said "I concur. I was going to report that there was nearly no leviathan presence during today's sinning. I suspect this is the reason why, although cause and effect is not determinable at this point."

Lawa turned a stricken face to Qala. "Please tell me I didn't attract that baby by my fishing!"

"No, that's not what she's talking about" said Qala. "It's possible the leviathans congregated near Shu for some reason -- which was NOT your reeling in an occasional kala, trust me -- and their concentration allowed a baby to slip away and explore where they couldn't follow. Or they are here to rescue an errant baby. I think that's what Maar meant. Questions we'll have to try to answer but not right now."

Mill said "Query to experienced sinners: Have you ever witnessed the death or remains of a baby lev? If so, what was the behavior of adults in the vicinity?"

Before anyone could answer, Uli said "I've determined the reef where the mass of levs is reported to be is tufa that is possible to fracture under stress. According to the mineral survey."

"So they know the weak point" said Tu. "Interesting they haven't exploited that knowledge before now." Pyosz gave her a disturbed glance.

Fohol said "I've never seen a dead or dying baby." The other pilots echoed this, and Lawa said "Mill wouldn't have asked that question if she knew, either."

Maar said "We have the current response as evidence they react in an unprecented fashion to the distress of juveniles, that's enough for me to extrapolate. With all respect, Sheng Zhang, I believe assaulting the baby will be interpreted by the leviathans as a unilateral act of aggression and likely some other humans will agree. Further, the death and decomposition of a leviathan in Koldok Kuono will have untoward environmental consequences that could endure for days or weeks. I suggest we rescue the baby ourselves and remove it from vicinity to inhabited Pya."

There was an incredulous silence. Pyosz swung her glasses toward Teppe, looking for Mill's face.

Mill's voice was neutral as she said "Do you have a strategy for accomplishing this?"

"I have sinner nets on board. I can drop mine with a single grapple, I have charge and lift enough to transport this much additional weight. If the bottom doesn't present insurmountable obstacles, I can close around the lev and shift it" said Maar. "Me alone -- this is not a team endeavor."

Pank's arm suddenly went over Pyosz's shoulders.

"Leviathans lifted from the ocean die quickly, especially babies" said Mill. With firsthand knowledge thought Pyosz, remembering how Mill had been present as a child when Halling had brought the first dead leviathan back to Skene for actual scientific examination.

"Agreed. I propose to drag it slowly through the channel back to the reef and briefly lift it over into outside water" said Maar.

"What outside water?" said Mill.

"Into the mass at the reef" said Maar.

"No!" shouted Pyosz. "No no NO!"

"You'll be a doomed target" said Mill.

"I don't think so" said Maar. "The baby will be communicating distress and alarm, but their echolocation is phenomenal, the others will know it's heading in their direction. And that it's alive. They won't attack a sinner holding a live baby without a few seconds of visual confirmation. And in a mass like that, they can't generate velocity or dive enough to leap. If I lay the baby gently on top of the mass and release, then retreat instantly, I'll catch them unable to attack -- and. I think, unwilling to risk killing the baby until it's rescued. It'll actually be safer than trying to take it elsewhere to clear deep water."

"Pure supposition" broke in Oby's voice on the Lofthall radio.

"Based on established leviathan patterns from decades of observation" replied Maar. "But I need a read on the path to follow, to keep from having my net snagged on underwater projections."

"I cannot order you to take this action" said Mill. "I agree with most of your conclusions, but it's still a profound risk and you have people who depend on you."

"Thleen!" shouted Pyosz at Maar's sinner.

"Not a reminder I need" said Maar. "Pya also depends on me. I believe this incident is somehow a larger territorial issue we need to comprehend, with the input of others. I'm volunteering with sober mind, Sheng Zhang."

Pyosz began pounding her own thigh with her fist.

Uli's voice said "I can talk you through the channel, Maar."

"I have an additional request" said Maar. "I'd like Fohol to stay open channel and her broadcast to be continously taped. Someday we're going to be able to decode lev communication, and this is an important resource,"

After a few seconds, Jiips replied "We're setting it up here."

Mill ordered every craft into the air with rescue netting, grapples, and rafts on board. "Are you geared up?" she asked Maar.

"All set."

"Fohol, level at 35 meters and hover just north of Maar's target destination. Open your hatch and deploy the mezi. Report any alteration in lev configuration instantly" said Mill.

"Got that" said Fohol.

Abbo's voice came through. "Request permission to serve as back-up to Fohol, Sheng Zhang."

"Take eastern point" agreed Mill. "But your priority is pilot rescue. Fohol, you have leave to use the mezi at your discretion. Uli, are you ready?"

"Yes, Sheng Zhang" said Uli in a husky voice.

"Maar, you have go... Carynn bye." Pyosz saw Mill make the pilot's sign.

"Thank you, Sheng Zhang" said Maar. Pyosz suddenly couldn't stand any more. She sat down heavily on a rock. Killer began nibbling at the binoculars strap, and Pyosz handed the glasses to Lawa, since she couldn't see Maar's face from this angle. Qala came to stand close behind her.

Time seemed tp go in slow motion. Pyosz didn't notice when Frahe left or when she returned with a camera; later Frahe said "Maar's talking about recording it made me realize, well, in case..."

Maar and Uli conversed in geography and numbers, Maar patiently tracking the baby leviathan on radar until it bumbled into a zone that felt clear to her. A shimmer of rusting metal fell like bangles onto the kuono, sending up an irregular plume of spash. Pyosz saw the sinner rock ever so slightly. She heard the drop after a second, and then a whine she realized must be the grapple as Maar closed the bottom of the net.

Two heartbeats later, all the distant lev song stopped. Pyosz clamped her lips tight, fighting the urge to heave. One thin high wail could be heard intermittently. Maar said "Fohol, checking in."

"They're not moving. The water is barely rippling" said Fohol. Abbo added "Over here, near the periphery, anything recognizably juvenile has just submerged."

Pyosz saw Maar's sinner creep forward. The high wail changed in intensity, and Uli's voice gave steady feedback with an occasional "Got that" from Maar. Every minute she'd ask "Fohol?" and Fohol would answer "No change."

"Do me a favor, Fohol" Maar said suddenly. "Shift seven degrees west of where you are, they're problem-solvers and they'll guess you're providing cover. I'll track toward you until the last minute. Gives me a little more surprise time."

Pyosz wished she could see inside Maar's mind right now, all the different demands being made on it. While she was wishing, she'd rather be in that sinner with her right now. She saw Maar slide open her hatch and the end of her mezi poked out at lap level. All four limbs on controls, eyes scanning several instruments, computing the meaning of Uli's instructions -- pure adrenaline thought Pyosz.

Finally Maar was a meter from what must be the reef, because even from this distance Pyosz could see a blurry line of difference from -- what, extrusion, body temperature, blocked current? Or maybe I'm just imagining it. The sinner rose languidly, easily, the net shedding water like someone standing from a bath. Until abruptly there was a writhing pinkness right below the surface, starting to be enmeshed by the metal links.

"Here she goes" said Maar. The sideways hop combined with thrust and lift was familiar to Pyosz from how hauling pallets were dropped and taken away at small jichangs, and nobody did it more elegantly than Maar. She zigged to the right, the baby's screams loud and crisp in the air, and immediately eased the mesh into what looked like a solid surface. There was a delayed clunk, and by the time Pyosz registered the sound, Maar was banking like a dragonfly back and even more to the right, the bottom of her net skiffing the surface for several yards. The baby leviathan slowly subsided, but it was in Pyosz's peripheral vision -- she couldn't look away from Maar's sinner streaking down the kuono, her net crawling back up like rolled skarpetki.

Fohol said "They're trying to separate and dive. The baby looks viable."

"Ascend and follow Maar" said Mill. "You too, Abbo. Requesting fresh volunteers to fly perimeter around inner Pya waters for the next two hours."

Dekkan was the first to say "Count me in" which Pyosz was sure would bother Uli, she'd rather have Dekkan back at the Lofthall right now. But then Maar broke through, an exuberant tenor singing

I embrace this good green earth
Rising safe I am this hour
Above the ocean's salty scour

Multiple voiced joined her, including Mill, and at the end, everyone on Saya shoved their fists in the air to shout "To Pya!"

Pyosz started back to the kissing gate. Mill's voice suggested that Oby go tell Dodd she could release early any child who had adults who wanted them home. Qala said to Lawa "Let's go ferry over to Kacang and offer to get their kids for them, prove it's safe to be on the kuono again."

"Yeah, they must be counting their pubic hairs right about now" agreed Lawa. She turned to Pyosz. "You okay?"

"I need toast and tea" Pyosz said. "I think I'll call abba. Is that radio usable for calling out now?"

"Yeah. But don't share around what I did to it" said Qala. "You might want a second radio here anyhow."

Pyosz walked slowly into her Manage, still weak in the knees. She lay a slice of bread in the aga and poured boiling water over tea in a pot. She decided to start a sponge before calling Skene and sifted flour into her wide wooden bowl. She was dropping in salt when she smelled the toast and pulled it out by fingertip, slathering it with butter, then blackberry jam. She cut it corner to corner, reliving in her mind Maar's zig into easy reach of malevolent death. She was pouring milk into her tea when she heard the front door open.

"Vants?" she yelled, leaning around the aga to look down the great hall. But it was Maar, her hair stiff with sweat, her face ghostly. Pyosz leaped toward her and wrapped her arms around her waist, under Maar's guibba. Maar reeked of fear and ketone, and she was shivering.

"I didn't hear your sinner" Pyosz whispered.

"I ferried over...Not safe to fly right now" answered Maar.

"Here, eat this. Drink. I'll be right back." Pyosz ran to the bathroom and started hot water in the tub, dropping a handful of lemon salts into the froth. When Maar had finished the toast, Pyosz walked her to the bath room, undressed her, then stripped herself and sat down in the tub first. Maar leaned against her sideways, knees pulled up in a fetal position, and began sobbing.

"You did it, buddy. You did it" murmured Pyosz. "We'll figure the rest out." After Maar went abruptly to sleep, Pyosz used her big limber feet to keep adding hot water to the tub so it stayed toasty. When she heard Qala and Lawa come home, she woke Maar and said "Come on, I'll dry you off and get you into bed. Do I need to call your emmas?"

"No" said Maar groggily. "I'll do it later." She dried herself, trying to comb flat her hair, and looking at herself in the mirror she whispered "Pax Piscata." Pyosz felt a chill down her spine, and turned to take the schmatta Lawa was handing in the door.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

1 comment:

Blue said...

Pyosz wasn't the only one with a chill down her spine.