Monday, January 4, 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)


Pyosz got only four hours sleep because she felt compelled to make a double batch of bread to leave for Gitta. While it was rising, she stewed chickens to make stews and casseroles that could be heated up for the timmers' lunch for the next three days. She had left her second set of funeral silks at the Genist Manage, but she'd need to change immediately after they landed at Yanja so she packed her original silks -- which she was glad about, she didn't want to wear the clothes she'd said goodbye to her abba in anytime soon.

She took extra blankets and pillows to make a nest for Maar in the second seat before wrapping herself in a warm cocoon in the passenger seat. For once Abbo didn't wake them up early. After switching and eating, Maar became increasingly terse as they closed the gap to Skene. Pyosz rested her hand lightly on the back of Maar's seat, not touching or talking but radiating comfort in her direction.

There was a decent-sized crowd next to the jichang. Pyosz spotted Thleen's upturned face, and then was stunned to recognize Prl standing behind her. Beside Prl were Qala, Lawa, and oh my stars, Yoj.

Pyosz was first out the hatch, heading toward her family but then remembering to go to Maar's family first to express her sorrow. She picked up Thleen and leaned in to kiss Su and Adon's cheeks. When Maar reached them, Pyosz handed over a now sobbing Thleen and moved quietly to Prl. "I didn't know you were attending the funeral" she whispered.

"I asked us to come" said Yoj. "She's from my generation, and -- well, I wanted to honor her family."

"Where's abba -- Halling? Is she too ill?" asked Pyosz in sudden alarm.

"No. It was simply too soon to be here for her" said Yoj, deep lines of pain in her face.

"Oh, abba" breathed Pyosz, hugging her. She excused herself after a minute to go change her clothes. Maar and Thleen followed her into the jichang office, where Abbo was emerging in her own set of white silks. Seeing Abbo dress for Maar's family moved Pyosz deeply.

There were a few pilots from the Lofthall in the funeral procession, some cousins and sibs from Maar's emma Adnes's side of the family, and a few friends of Dru and Adnes. The presence of the Genist and Archivist was impressive, Pyosz was upset to see -- Personage shouldn't be counted at a funeral, only the loss of a loved life. She linked her arm through Yoj's and subtly shifted her weight to hold up her emma as they began the walk through Yanja.

The remarks were short. Maar was tight-jawed but eloquent, speaking of the values Gusu had passed on to her: Perseverance, industry, humor. Pyosz ached for her, for Thleen's ravaged face, for the fact that she never got to meet the woman who had passed on her looks to Maar abd Thleen.

Near the end, Yoj faced the gathering and said "I met Gusu when we were in first grade. I remember her as very active, very verbal, and especially involved in the games we all played. On at least one memorable occasion, she brought out the best in me. Clearly she did the same with her family, giving Skene four extraordinary grandhildren. I regret not having had the opportunity to thank her for them."

Pyosz saw something pass between Lawa and Qala, but refocused on Maar. When Gusu's body was dropped, Maar's emmas wept in each other's arms, while Maar tried to wrap herself around all three of her sibs. Pyosz rushed forward to embrace Adon and Su from behind, and they leaned against her as they wailed.

The wake afterward was to be at the family Manage on Chloddia. Abbo had a sinner ready to fky them all. Yoj made her apologies, saying she needed to get home to Halling, and Prl, Lawa, and Qala went with her on a sinner returning to the Lofthall. They took Pyosz's bag and crate, leaving her with only her pack. She promised to call Prl later when she knew how she was getting home from Chloddia.

The short flight north was silent. Pyosz had sat on the right next to a window so she could look down on Isola Fling, The deep dark blue waters of the Eastern Tendril was jarringly interrupted here and there with massive pinky-grey shapes. As they circled to land at Chloddia, she was struck by how dingy it was, and she could not call up a memory of ever having been there before, which shamed her.

The jichang was at Chloddia's western center, adjacent to the paved area of mine pits and vent shafts. The five pits, ringed with massive elevators for both humans and ore, went down at least a mile, to countless subterranean chambers and tunnels, a labyrinth of various mines that snaked out in all directions under the surrounding oean. The blowers from the vents were powerful enough to blow over a person walking too close to them, and the vegetation planted nearby in hopes of scrubbing the fume-laden Chloddia air suffered greatly from assorted assaults.

They walked the truck road around the center, past the teeming dorms for miners without children, to the place where ferry lanes intersected at the edge of the small shops district. Along the island's eastern cliff, which had once overlooked Exploit Lagoon before it was filled in during Prl's childhood, was the lane of Manages available to families on Chloddia. With reclamation of the lagoon, several more Manages plus a desperately needed public park and kickball field had become available -- paid for by Halling's Lofthall in exchange for the rights to use the grassy sward for parachute training -- but the oldest lineages on Chloddia still had Manages among those occupied by Maar's family.

As with most ancient structures on land-pinched Skene, the Manages were tiny and relied heavily on lofts for sleeping space. The tillages were unusually large but almost half of these curtilages were given over to what Pyosz thought of as scrub and ground cover. Lawa had told her it was a local ordinance to insure air quality, rain access to the troubled water table, and acknowledgement of the unspoken fact that produce grown in Chloddia tillages would never be accepted in barter off-island -- it didn't grow with vigor or always taste very good.

The ferry lane was a steep climb. Before they reached the intersection, everyone turned into an alley between shops, accessed a small side lane, and reached the Manages via level paths, saving themselves a few steps and heavy breathing. Pyosz thought This is a shortcut Maar, and now Thleen, took every schoolday.

Begonias, rendered to stalks in winter, framed the doorway of Maar's Manage. Pyosz wondered what color they were in bloom. The front door dropped them into the left side of the living room. Directly across was the entry to the dining area and kitchen. Along the left wall were doors to the bath room, laundry room, and larder. In the right front corner of the living room, a couch was against the wall with a pull out screen on one side and a clothes chest on the other: Thleen's bedroom when not in use by the family. Two comfortable old chairs sat in front of the hearth. The dining table had room for eight chairs, though one was permanently set aside because the ladder to the loft over the kitchen occupied that spot. Both sleeping lofts were wide enough for only a double bed and a row of clothes chests. Pyosz wondered at what age Maar had been old enough to sleep in a loft instead of with her abba. Her departure for the Lofthall must have been silently welcomed by Adon and Su simply for the space it would give them.

Once inside the Manage, Dru and Adnes visibly relaxed, hanging their manteaus and starting tea. An array of food lined the kitchen counters, and the teenagers went to lift lids, sample surreptitiously. Thleen said to Pyosz "Do you want to see my kickball net?"

"I'd love to" said Pyosz, taking her hand. Out back, between the tillage and the house, a wide strip of bare sand had a clothesline pole at one end and a metal-framed kickball goal at the other. Pyosz cast a quick look at the tillage: Not thriving, but respectable. The privy was a two-holer and the chicken run generous. Thleen turned on the outside light, got a ball from the shed underneath the greywater tank, then stopped in her tracks, saying "Oh. We can't play because..." Her brown eyes filled with tears.

Pyosz picked her up and carried her to the rongyan wall to sit, saying "It's okay that you forgot for a minute. It's such a hard thing to remember, somebody dying. It takes practice."

Maar came out the back door, looking for them. Thleen said "Me and you, we both have dead abbas now."

"Yes" said Pyosz, hugging her. "We're sharing how it hurts."

"But you have four more" said Thleen.

"I do, and I share them completely with you" said Pyosz.

"Why wasn't Halling at abba's funeral?" asked Thleen.

"She is still missing Bux so badly, she didn't think she could bear coming back this soon to the place where she had to say goodbye to her. But she wants to see you right away" said Pyosz.

"Yoj came. And Prl, Bux was her aggie" pointed out Thleen.

"People don't all hurt the same way" said Maar. "And it was very hard for Yoj to be there, we owe her much thanks."

"She knew abba in school" said Thleen. "Do you think they were good friends, like me and Ziri?"

"Not close like that, no, or else they would have still been visiting each other" said Maar.

"But me and Ziri don't get to visit any more" argued Thleen.

"You will. She'll come back to Skene for visits, and we're going to get you to Pya, too" said Maar.

"It's not enough" said Thleen, starting to cry.

"No, it's not" whispered Pyosz, holding her tight. Maar looked anguished. After Thleen snuffled her way to a stop, Maar said "Listen, if you promise not to shout, how about if you show Pyosz one time how you can kick down the field to the net? I'll guard, okay?"

Thleen lit up. Maar did a masterful job of appearing to menace her as guard while not atually obstructing her, and Thleen darted past to land a solid goal. She cheered, then instantly clapped her hands over her mouth. Adnes appeared at the back door and said "Wash up, people are arriving."

Over the next two hours, Pyosz and Abbo remained the only attendees who were not from either Chloddia or Exploit. Pyosz talked with everyone who approached her, asking questions about Gusu and her life which drew interesting stories she memorized to share with Maar and Thleen if they were not in listening range. She paid attention to the nearby onversations of Adon and Su with their friends, to find out what interested or irritated them.

She noticed whenever, in response to a polite question, she relayed what she did on Pya, there were never any follow-up questions, but there was no curiosity expressed about Maar's life, either. The most animated interaction she had with Dru, Maar's aggie, was when she asked about the symbol engraved on the Manage front door, a sort of fluid closed knot.

"I don't know what it means, it's been there for centuries" said Dru. "That door is solid zinc, can you feature it? We had to have it rehung when I was little, cost a fortune but it keeps out sound and weather like nothing else. One of my ancestors was a zinc miner, I've been told."

"And that lovely green you've painted it, reminds me of ripe broccoli florets" saidPyosz.

Dru looked at her sharply to see if she was joking. "The kids asked for that -- it's the kickball team color."

At 9:30, Sigrist radio announced all ferries in the Eastern Tendril had stopped running. Abbo turned to Pyosz and said "I guess I'm your ride back to Riesig, I've got a small lighter." Pyosz felt the overwhelning urge to flee, back to her familiar kin and the space of the Genist Manage. Instead, she asked Maar "What are you doing tomorrow?"

"My sibs are staying home from school, mostly just because they have permission, I think. We don't have any plans yet. My emmas are taking a half-day off work, going in at noon, and I figure I'll take my sibs somewhere for the afteernoon" said Maar, exhaustion showing.

"Do you think I could borrow that couch in the jichang office for the night?" asked Pyosz. "I mean, if you want me here in the morning. I'll make you all breakfast, and catch a ride to Riesig later."

"Seriously? I'd love it" said Maar. "But aren't they expecting you tonight?"

"They'll understand. I should call, though, could I do that from the office?"

"Yeah, let me walk you down there. I'll grab an extra quilt from our closet" said Maar. Pyosz made her goodbyes, promising to make Thleen an extra-special breakfast in the morning. It was a profound relief to step out into the night air, despite a fog that smelled faintly of chemicals. She put her arm through Maar's and said "How are you doing?"

"Better than I thought I would. I attribute that to your being here, I don't feel so crazy when I've got a friend around my family" said Maar.

The central area around the mines was brilliantly lit and throbbed with machinery. "That couch faces an unshaded window, you'll need to put something over your eyes to sleep" warned Maar.

"I have my cap, I'll pull down the front. Got my silk pillow from home, too, I'll be fine." Don't worry about MY bed tonight thought Pyosz. Maar said she'd be back at 6:00 "but the office clerk usually shows up by 5:30, I'll leave a note on her desk vouching for you." Maar's shoulders hunched up again as she headed out into the bright night.

Pyosz washed and changed into her regular clothes before calling Prl. "I gave up on you when I heard the ferry announcement" said Prl. "Tell me how you are, how they are."

Pyosz made tea on the hot plate, not needing to turn on a lamp to see, as she poured out a stream-of-consciousness account to her emma. It helped ground her. The couch wasn't quite long enough, so she lay on her side, pulling up her knees, and tried to pretend the sound of engines was surf on the cliffs. She fell asleep thinking about Maar's courage, wondering why some people seemed to be born with more of it than others.

The jichang clerk turned out to be someone Pyosz remembered from school, not a friend but still friendly. They chatted until Maar arrived, a pillow crease still in her cheek and her hair in every direction. On the walk back, Pyosz asked about likely ingredients in the Manage larder, and Maar said they should stop at the grocery. There were hothouse tomatoes, cabbage from Byli, fresh milk and oranges, and strands of Bosco sausage, all at a premium expense. Pyosz and Maar squabbled over who was going to pay for it, but Pyosz won, handing Maar a gallon pail of cold milk and a 20-lb bag of new potatoes to carry.

Everyone was up at the Manage, making runs to the privy or starting baths. Maar stood at Pyosz's elbow in the kitchen, asking "What next?" as the cooking chores progressed. Pyosz fried a pound of bacon and set this on the table with a pitcher of orange juice as "starters". She caramelized onions in the bacon drippings, added an entire head of minced garlic, then layered thick shreds of cabbage on top of it all. She sliced tomatoes over that, with a drizzle of shamzjooz-fortified zayit, and set it in the aga to bake.

She cut the new potatoes in half and simmered them in milk until nearly tender, adding a thickener of rice flour and grated cheese before transferring it to the aga as well. Maar had made a quick bread with walnuts, gouging two deep trenches in the top before baking. She fried the sausages in butter with mushrooms while a syrup of orange juice and sugar reduced in a pan. At the last minute, Pyosz made divots in the cabbage-tomato casserole into which she broke whole eggs, letting them cook again until set. Maar took the hot walnut loaf, pierced the top furrows with a fork, and poured the orange syrup into the grooves to soak down through it all.

The bacon was long gone, and Adon's hunger had been channeled into table setting, by the time Maar and Pyosz, sweaty and triumphant, set their dishes on the table. Pyosz told Thleen "That cabbage and egg casserole is my favorite breakfast ever, and my abba Bux made it for me the morning I left to live on Pya." Maar looked at her with recognition and said "Again, what a levvin' idiot I was."

"Agreed" said Pyosz cheerfully.

Adnes and Dru both commented on how accomplished a cook Maar had become. The food vanished, every crumb, even the entire gallon of milk. Thleen said "And we still have all those other pies and things for later" before giving a long burp. She was not so contented when Maar set her at the sink to wash dishes with Su.

"I cooked, remember?" said Maar in answer to her grumbling. "And I'm about to do five loads of laundry, half of which appears to be yours."

"I know abba always says 'You can daydream just as well while' -- " retorted Thleen before stopping in horror. The whole family looked at her, and Maar finished gently " -- while sweeping as while sitting on your ass.' And she was right about that. I plan to keep on quoting her the rest of my days, don't you feel bad about remembering her." She rumpled Thleen's hair and the tension dissipated.

Pyosz went to the privy and then decided to turn the compost, which was overdue. That brought her close enough to the chicken yard to realize it was overdue for cleaning as well. She was getting a rake and shovel from the shed when Adon said from her elbow "You don't have to do that, you're a guest."

"Your sib works all the time on Saya, least I can do is return the favor" said Pyosz, handing the rake to Adon. They were still at it when Maar brought out a basket of wet clothes to hang, grinning at Pyosz with a happiness she seldom showed so freely.

By 11:00, the entire Manage had been set to order and smelled of the lemon suds Maar had used to mop the floor. They heated a meal from the wake leftovers and the chatter around the table seemed unrestrained by Pyosz's presence. She was gratified that the few jokes she made were now drawing smiles from Dru and Adnes as well as their children, The giant laughs, however, came from Adnes starting a story from a few years earlier, when a terrible explosion in the part of the mine where Dru worked had collapsed a shaft, killing two and injuring more.

Pyosz was mystified at the giggles that broke out as Adnes began telling of hearing the news and riding her elevator to the disperal room, desperate for news of Dru. She was almost bowled over by relief when she saw Dru being treated for a few cuts from being in the percussion's path.

"I ran up to her and said 'Oh, sweetheart, I heard about the explosion, are you all right?'" said Adnes, looking at Dru.

On cue, Dru picked up the story with an exaggerated blank expression, shouting "What?"

Adnes raised her voice to repeat "I heard about the explosion, are you all right?"

Dru shook her head and yelled "You need to speak up."

Adnes was now screaming and exaggerating every word: "I heard about the explosion, are you ALL RIGHT?"

Dru screamed back "There was an explosion, I can't hear a word you're saying!"

The whole family collapsed in hysterics, and Pyosz joined them, feeling release of some taut horror inside. They kept setting each other off, and were all still grinning as they left the Manage together for the central district. By the time they got there, however, everyone but Pyosz and Thleen had become somber-faced again. The children said goodbye at the mine entrance with shy hugs.

At the jichang, the clerk was apologetic about no craft large enough to carry five extra being available for at least an hour. "It's a busy day -- " she started,

"No, I forgot to arrange it in advance, not your fault" assured Maar. She faced Pyosz. "It takes an hour and 20 to ride the ferries to Riesig on a clear midday like this, and it's morrie vaseo for two hours yet. You up for seeing the northern half of the Eastern Tendril?"

"Absolutely" said Pyosz, sliding both arms into her pack straps. She made a quick call to Prl to let her know their plan. Maar said to her sibs "We're going to point out everything interesting thing along the way, make a total adventure of it, okay?"

"Can we get ices on Abfall?" asked Thleen, who had just had both cake and pie.

"Yes!" said Maar. She said to Pyosz "You wouldn't think stinky Abfall has the best ices on Skene, but they do." And she was right. They stopped on Abfall, then began the ferry hops to Eyja, Ada, Inish and Refugio Flings, where they had to disembark at each fling, walk across its public path, and catch another ferry on the other side. "Way deep on either side of these ferry reefs" said Maar, "Levs all around us."

Their ices had run out by the time they reached Inish Fling but this left their hands free to pet a horde of katts who ran to greet them. "They LOVE visitors" explained Thleen. "Sometimes we remember to bring fisk in our pockets,"

As the ferry docked on Refugio, however, Maar said "Get ready to run." At the crest above the dock, a flock of large geese set up a hissing clamor, and they were chased all the way to the dock on the other side, one goose landing a nab and twist on Pyosz's calf that she was sure would bruise. They were laughing breathlessly as they filed onto the next ferry.

On Juh, they stopped to pet half-year lambs. Pyosz bought two haunches of mutton, insisting Maar take one home with her, the other for next Shmonah on Pya.

Their trek down the length of Verzin zigzagged back and forth between the two main streets as one or another sib remembered something "Pyosz has to see". It was a little as if Pyosz had not grown up on Skene, and too much of what she was being shown was, in fact, new to her. They bought small presents here and there, dropped coin into the hat of a corner busker playing accordion, and whispered outside one Manage where, Thleen assured Pyosz, none of the inhabitants wore any clothes inside on warm days. "Nekkid all the time" she reveled.

"Must save on clothing costs" remarked Pyosz, which Adon found especially funny.

They stopped at the Lofthall so Maar could arrange a sinner back for 5:30. Thleen said "Can't we stay and have dinner with the abbas?"

"That would mean our emmas would eat all alone, missing abba by themselves" said Maar. Su thumped Thleen on the head and said "Don't be so selfish", but before Thleen could fly at her in a rage Maar stepped between them with a curt "Cool it." Light spirits returned until Thleen pushed open the copper door and spotted Halling. She suddenly burst into tears and all but collapsed into Halling's lap, saying "My abba died, just like Bux!"

Yoj came to hug Adon, Su and Maar before grabbing Pyosz. They had a snack of cheese puffs warm from the oven with cinnamon milk as Thleen and Halling communed. After eating, Lawa said to Su "Would like to see the machinery shed at the ejida? They're tearing apart the hopper they use to grind and mix fertilizer, and I can make sure you get your hands on the tools. You too, Adon."

They accepted swiftly and Qala went with them. Yoj produced drawing paper and crayons which Thleen and Pyosz shared as Pyosz talked to her abbas. Maar leaned back in a chair and quietly dozed off. After a few minutes, Prl woke her gently and coaxed her to the couch, covering her with a quilt.

At one point, Halling said to Thleen "I'm wondering if you and I can make a change in our lunch schedule during the week?" As panic hit Thleen's face, Halling hastened "Instead of Iki and Empat, could we switch to Moja, San and Ot?"

"Three days a week instead of two?" asked Thleen. "Really?"

"I'll arrange it with your leraar and ask your emmas" offered Halling.

"Moja used to be my best day because I got to see Ziri again. But then it got bad. Nobody is a friend like her. But now I'll know I'm having lunch here that day."

"Sums it up" agreed Halling.

After Adon and Su returned, and Maar had joined them at the table, Pyosz said "Tell them that story your emmas told, about the mine accident?" Prl's face went smooth with surprise when Maar began laughing and Pyosz joined her. Su and Adon took the roles of Adnes and Dru, delivering the exchange flawlessly. By the end, Yoj, Halling, and Qala were roaring and pounding on the table along with Maar and her sibs. Prl and Lawa were less swept away. Qala looked at Lawa and said "It's like pilot humor, you know, like that time I referred to Halling as leviathan's version of sushi?"

"Exactly!" said Maar as Qala slapped Adon on the back.

It was hard to say goodbye to them at the jichang. "What are you doing tomorrow?" asked Pyosz.

"I don't want to go back to school yet" said Su. Thleen looked hopeful. Adon added "There's an afternoon game on Yanja between them and Verzin. We could watch it before you take off, I'll get 'em back home by dinner." Thleen began hopping up and down, and Pyosz knew this was the last time she'd see them for this visit. Except at the jichang on Yanja. She hugged them all and walked back to her abbas, suddenly feeling the loss of Bux all over again.

After dinner, she and Prl left to go back to the Genist Manage for some alone time. Pyosz confessed that she had wondered whether Prl's unrequited love was Nioma, which made Prl laugh merrily. She then talked at length about her unresolved feelings toward Ndege.

"Do you think Mill or Speranz know?" asked Pyosz.

"Lev I hope not" said Prl. There was a knock at the door. Prl raised her eyebrows at Pyosz and went to answer it, letting in Vants carrying a large crate and with two bags slung over her shoulders.

"What's wrong?" said Pyosz, coming to take the crate from Vants and almost staggering at the weight -- Must be all books.

Vants dropped her bags on the floor and sat dpwn tiredly in a chair. If she lugged that on the Western Tendril ferry route...thought Pyosz with recent comprehension. Prl handed Vants a cup of tea, who drank down half of it with a long sigh before speaking.

"They found out about what I sent you. They took away my herd and reduced me to barn work. I called Mill this morning and she offered me Teppe for whatever kind of herd I want. I'm going to build a Manage and live with s'bemma Tu until it's ready, then I'll get emma to come live with me one way or another. Can you handle not being the only capriste on Pya?" asked Vants.

Pyosz was on her feet instantly, yelling with joy. Neither Vants nor Pyosz noticed Prl's face, who didn't want to be the one to tell Halling but knew she probably would be.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

No comments: