Sunday, January 3, 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 stocked up from Gitta's and promised to return in early afternoon with bread and pastries. Gitta said she'd put a sign in the window. By the time the timmer crew arrived, she had breakfast ready, sponges started, and a stew simmering for lunch. Mrebbe gave her a long hug before taking her on a tour of the Manage, carrying her sausage roll and mug of tea with her. It began raining as they returned to the kitchen.

"It's s'posed to freeze hard tonight" said Xante. "I put all your clay in the barn."

"Thanks so much, Xante. Thank all of you for keeping things going here, and for building this Manage -- " Pyosz's voice broke.

"We're proud to be part of it" said Xante.

"Proud to have you as a citizen of Skene" added Mrebbe.

At 10:00, Maar landed in a small lighter, dressed in ordinaries and carrying a flat of lawei. "I'm here to help" she announced. "Maybe start by scaling and finning these?"

"That would be lovely" said Pyosz, rolling the last of her pie dough. "I'll use some for dinner tonight, fry the rest for crew lunch tomorrow." Maar went to the rocks south of the kitchen for her cleaning, trailed by katts despite the drizzle, but immediately called back "You've got folks wanting your attention over here!" She was pointing to Kacang.

Pyosz joined Maar and waved back at Ziri and her next youngest sibu, Koben, who were doing a frenzied semaphore. Two of their emmas were nearby, installing a high metal link fence topped with wicked looking bladewire around the perimeter of the cliffs. "Gotta keep little ones from killing themselves" remarked Pyosz. "What on earth is it Ziri's trying to get across to me?"

"I think she's asking to come over for a visit" grinned Maar, with an expression of "you asked for it".

"Oh, it's such a crazy day, I don't know" said Pyosz. "I'm surprised they're not in school."

"Maybe the emmas imagined they'd be more help than hindrance, getting settled in" chuckled Maar. "Listen, let me do the fish and then I'll go fetch 'em by ferry for half an hour or so, I'll keep 'em out of the timmers' hair. Give 'em the grand tour and let their emmas breathe a bit."

"The 2-year-old too? What's her name again?" said Pyosz, nodding.

"Meamea." Maar was trying to communicate back to Ziri, with no luck. "You know, the abbas who are coming soon, one was a sheep breeder on Faar, one managed a tofu factory in Verzin, and the third is retired from the geothermal guild."

Pyosz whistled. "Why on earth did they pay to have someone else install their geothermal over there, then?"

"Politics. Pya's still under contract. Plus the guild is having conniptions, threatening to strip that abba of her accreditation now that she lives here. But she's officially retired, early as it turns out, and when our contract with Skene expires, there's nothing at all to keep her from forming a new geothermal guild here, take on apprentices and train them for Pya." Maar was gleeful.

"They've been planning this a while, haven't they?" mused Pyosz. "I bet with Mill's help. Well, they'll need all that income if they really do have the heaps of children Ziri's bragging about."

Not much later, Ziri blew into her kitchen like a gust, Koben running as hard as she could on Ziri's heels. Maar was carrying Meamea who was shouting at her to hurry up. Pyosz handed them each a warm fig cookie before Maar dragged them away toward the goat pasture. When they returned, the timmers were washing for lunch and Ziri begged to stay, but Pyosz said they'd have to plan it for another day. She sent them back with gifts of seeds, jam, and raisin bread, and a promise to come visit one evening this week.

All four Herne Island cousins arrived before lunch was cleared. "You hungry?" asked Pyosz, her mind racing -- I could fry the lawei now, there's rice left...

"Nah, we ate" grinned Pank. "Though I'll take a slice of pie in a bit."

"We're here to give you our midwinter present" said Tu, very pleased with herself. "From us and Maar. Plus Mrebbe did a part, and she's going to help us install it."

"Wait here" said Mrebbe as she and Maar headed for the barn. Nk said "We hid it in the hayloft, didn't figure you'd go up there last night."

Pyosz stepped out of the kitchen to watch their return, joined by the rest. Maar and Mrebbe were carrying a massive oval of fitted wood with a scrolled border amd two 4x4 posts like legs near either end. They waited until they were close before pivoting around to reveal the other side: Beautifully chiseled from the mahogany face in large letters was "Welcome to Saya Island -- Home of Owl Manage". Beneath it in smaller flowing script was "Pya Djoste and Chevon, Pyosz Pottery, Saya Island Honey, Jams and Sauces, Owl Breads and Pastries". Above it all, stretching from edge to edge, was an owl in full flight with a wingspan of 11 feet and her body embossed in gleaming copper.

Pyosz was speechless. Tu said "We thought you could put it at the little rise behind the ferry dock, it'll be visible to all of Koldok and the kuono between."

After another half minute, Maar nudged "Say something, Pyosz."

"It's the best gift ever" Pyosz got out hoarsely. "It's magnificent. Let me go get my camera right now, so I can take a picture to send my -- " But she was overtaken by a mix of emotions, and had to cry on Tu's shoulder while Frahe took the photo. Mrebbe and three of her crew went to dig holes and mix concrete to anchor the sign against all tempests. Pyosz blew her nose and said "It's a work of art. Every single time I look at it...That copper is going to weather so beautifully."

"Mrebbe did the owl" said Frahe. Nk added "You can't really see it, but we cut a tiny gutter under the owl's bottom margin to catch the metal oxidation runs; it'll come across as outlining due time."

"I can't believe how perfect it is" said Pyosz, going to each to give a hig and kiss. "I have to bag up my delivery and take it to Gitta, but on the ride home, I'll see the sign in place, won't I?"

"We'll come back for dinner, we'll bring chicken and succotash" said Pank. She sat down at the table with tea and pie as Maar helped Pyosz carry crates of baked goods to the dock. On the way home, she felt as if she were coming to Saya for the first time, as her banner greeted her. She took Maar's hand and said "This was your idea, wasn't it?"

"Not this time, it was more of a collaboration" said Maar. "The morning sun is going to make it look as if it's on fire."

"Ziri will have a lot to say about it, I bet" giggled Pyosz.

"Ziri has a lot to say on every topic. Thleen is missing her so badly, I don't know if she'll make another friend as good" said Maar.

"Thleen should be here" said Pyosz.

"My emmas will never let her go" said Maar hopelessly. At the dock, Pyosz turned to her and said "I've been learning family secrets I can't tell you, from my emma, that -- well, I'd give anything to talk over with you, but I never can. However, one thing you should know: My emma did not provide the Contribution which led to Thleen's birth. You and your sibs, yes, but not Thleen. Were you aware of that?"

Maar looked stunned. "No. I have a vague memory of -- well, that green canister folks carry the Contribution home in, but maybe it was for Su. Or -- where else could they have gotten one? They're -- both Xs, don't ever repeat that. Wow. Can you find out more?"

"No. She won't divulge anything directly, and she may not know" said Pyosz.

Maar looked at her sharply. "Your emma knows. One way or another. Lev, and I certainly can't go home and ask. I wonder if there's any way I could get my abba to talk about it? Does that mean Thleen isn't my sib in the same way as -- "

"No" said Pyosz firmly. "Biologically you all have the same aggie, and emotionally, well you two were meant for one another."

"You're right" affirmed Maar. After a few seconds, she said "Who else in your family knows?"

"I can't say, I haven't brought it up. And I won't, of course, unless you ask me to." She started up the ladder. "Come on, Mrebbe is dying to see my reaction now that the sign is up. We'll talk more later."

But the afternoon was nonstop chores, and dinner was crowded, with Dodd and Briel dropping in. Dodd wanted details of the week Pyosz had spent with Yoj and Halling. Despite the dropping temperature, Pyosz had another round of bread and fruit rolls baking, and that plus the extra bodies kept the kitchen cozy.

Pyosz gave Maar her gift, the elaborate ceramic Gong Tong set, which dazzled everyone. Maar immediately asked for a game, and the eight of them played together, a few too many but part of the focus was disussing family in Skene, so long waits between turns weren't noticed. By the time Pyosz went to bed, she felt like she'd been up for two full days instead of one. Still, as she lay down in a katt-warmed bed, she dialed the Genist Manage.

"I was hoping you'd call this morning. I know my emmas want to hear from you too" said Prl.

"It'll be tomorrow morning -- after their dinner, tell them for me" said Pyosz. She asked detailed questions about how they were doing, then told Prl about the owl sign.

Prl chuckled. "Yeah, Tu told Lawa and Lawa told me" she said. "Can't wait to see it."

"Does that mean you'll be coming for a visit soon?" asked Pyosz, her pulse racing.

"Oh, no, I meant photographs. I do want to see Saya and your Manage, darling, but I'm more tied to being here for my emmas now than ever. I'm hoping to get them to travel with me" said Prl. "Probably in the summer, when the cold isn't hitting Halling so hard."

To cover her disappointment at the wait, Pyosz told her about the new family on Kacang, whom she and Maar had already nicknamed "The Heaps". Prl remarked testily "Nice of Mill to let you pay through the nose for geothermal there when she knew an alternative was on the horizon."

"But emma, it wasn't definite, and besides, I couldn't wait for heat and guaranteed electricity, I'd be wretched right now without it."

Or have come home Prl allowed herself to think. She said instead "Makes me wonder what other big developments are in Mill's pipeline."

"Yeah, me too. I'll send you a bottle of Kacang wine and a leg of their lamb as soon as it's available" said Pyosz.

"The former will take at least three years to arrive" observed Prl. "By that time they'll have two more children, from what you've said."

"Which reminds me -- Maar had no idea that Thleen didn't come from a Contribution. It has an impact on how she engineers those family dynamics, perhaps on Thleen's future, is there anything else you can tell me?" pleaded Pyosz.

"No, it was appallingly indiscreet of me to let that much slip, although technically it's gossip, not Genist knowledge" said Prl regretfully. After a few moments, she added "If it was me, though...I'd pursue it."

Pyosz felt a tingle on the back of her neck. "Thank you, emma" she whispered.

In the morning, frost made the ground shimmer like a sequined scarf. Pyosz warmed the mash for her goats as well as the udder rinse water. The sky was clear, however, so she turned them out to pasture, trying as usual to spot signs of pregnancy in her bred does without success.

A few icicyles hung from the bottom of her new sign, and the ferry chain screamed louder than usual. Gitta was selling cups of hot chocolate from a hot plate behind her counter. Pyosz drank one with relish while she looked over the winter squash array. At the wharf she ran into Ziri, Koben, and their emma Nezi, on their way to a first day at Pya school. Pya offered to go with them, and two small mittened hands immediately latched onto hers. Seeing how Dodd set them at ease, she regretted not for the first time not having had Dodd as her leraar.

Taking a hint from Gitta, she made luxurious cocoa to go with the timmers' breakfast. She left the aga door open after the meal to warm her kitchen while she talked with her abbas for half an hour. She went to Saya's western end to check on her bees and glean a final frostbit harvest from her orchard. A foot-deep pale green mist hung over the hot springs. The ferry dock on Teppe was being built, and tomorrow afternoon Dekkan would be helping lower a pylon into place midway between the islands. She reminded herself to come watch.

She fried the lawei and served it with barley miso soup and spicy steamed squash. She mucked the barn and chicken house, since it was impossible to work with clay, and waved from her cliff to the Heaps children when they were home from school. Late that afternoon Uli and Dekkan arrived with a dozen eel, an out-of-season surprise in that day's sinning. Pyosz raved over the eel, and Dekkan said diffidently "Yeah, Maar said I should use my pilot's perk to the max when I'm taking a gift of fish, it's okay to go for the best." THANK you, Maar Pyosz thought to herself.

They cleaned the eel while Pyosz milked. She broiled three of them with potatoes and chard. Afterward, as they were sipping hot cider, she said "If I take the other eels to Pank, she could smoke them overnight."

"I'll do it" offered Dekkan, reaching for her flash, "I need to ask her something anyhow."

Once she was gone, Uli leaned forward and asked Pyosz "So how are you really? Your abbas?"

"Out of plumb with a draft we'll have to live with always" said Pyosz.

"It's had a strong effect on Qoj" said Uli. "She wrote me, said she's realized she cannot possibly stay in Skene while her emmas grow old here. She says whatever it takes, she'll be moving back. But please don't tell anyone else that."

"I'm not surprised" said Pyosz. "Does that mean she wants to inherit their Manage?"

"Yes. She...she asked me to wait for her. To keep getting closer to her emmas, because she wants us all to live together eventually." Uli was almost whispering, despite their solitude.

"Wow, Uli. What did you say?"

"Well, I started writing her back, but decided it wasn't good to make her wait. I called and said yes."

Pyosz jumped up to squeeze Uli's neck. "This is huge! Who else knows, Dekkan?"

"No, it would be too hard for her to keep secret. Just you" said Uli with a terrified smile.

"What does waiting mean? Are you okay with that?"

Uli raised her eyebrows. "Funny question for you to ask. I mean, you and Maar are waiting on each other, yes?"

Pyosz felt her cheeks growing hot. "We're not waiting. We've never said so, and I'm not sure it's a good idea. For me, I mean."

"So you're open to the idea of finding someone else as a lifetime partner?" said Uli skeptically.

"I'm not looking" said Pyosz. As I think I've told you. "My focus, my ambition, is elsewhere for the time being."

"Oh but come on, you and Maar are already functioning as a couple, there's not a hairsbreadth of room for another romantic interest to approach either of you, so let's call it what it is" pushed Uli. "You'd be crushed if Maar dated somebody else."

"I don't expect her to wait on me" said Pyosz stubbornly.

"Because you already know she will. She's changed completely since you arrived" said Uli with a bare tinge of bitterness.

"What about you, have you changed?" retorted Pyosz.

"Stars help me, I have, in ways I don't understand. I'm scared silly" said Uli, suddenly raw.

They heard the crunch of Dekkan's otos, to Pyosz's relief. She whispered quickly "It will work out. Qoj is Dodd's child" before Dekkan opened the shutter door. "Pank says she'll bring 'em back before lunch and invite herself to join you" laughed Dekkan.

"Keep your guibba on, let me give you both a tour of the Manage so far" offered Pyosz, grabbing her large flash.

A rain front moved in overnight dumping so much water that non-rocky areas turned into near bogs, but the temperature climbed enough that, with canvas walls down and a blower heater under the timmers' canopy, Pyosz was able to roll out clay and start on her bath room tiles. She did the butternut walls first, since they were a uniform glaze. By the weekend these were firing and she had a sheet of 4 inch square tiles, 64 of them, ready for incising into a portion of the Skene map.

The huolon returned from Skene early on Sju. Maar slept a few hours, then met Pyosz at Kacang Island with a passenger sinner to take The Heaps on a tour of their new world. This time emmas Nezi and Aleri stayed home, while pregnant Meko accompanied the three children. Pyosz had her camera and claimed the front seat because she was gathering images for her mural.

They went first to long, forested Linmu on the southeast corner of Pya. The workers there, delighted to have visitors, allowed the children to slide down towering piles of sawdust on peels of skinned bark. Pyosz looked over their nut orchards -- she had beeches in her regular woods and asked for harvesting advice -- and sketched one Manage that was adorned with elaborate carvings on every surface, finally spilling out into the grounds as statues and totems.

Next they buzzed the small "days of the week" islands east of Dvareka, uninhabited and without ferry links, but "Pea Pods of the future" said Maar. They flew over Fjer and Sepek to Kumme, which had a cobalt-blue pond near its center fed by rocky streams that Maar said had flickerling runs each year. The children practiced skipping stones until Meamea complained of cold and thirst.

Maar grinned at Pyosz and said "Nearest town is on Trumpinne." Pyosz replied "I need more zayit anyhow, and I'll pay for rides." Ziri began interrogating "Rides? What rides?"

Despite artful begging, Ziri was prohibited from the zipline, and Pypsz declined it as well because of the rain. But the bump wagons, the octopus, the screaming chicken, and the spinning kite were plenty to make all the children flame-cheeked and a little queasy. Meko sat out everything but the carousel. She wouldn't let Pyosz pay for the candied popcorn or hot apple juice, and she also bought a crate of assorted wines, all reds, "for market research" regarding their own vineyard.

On the flight back, Ziri put a sticky hand on Pyosz's to ask "When will the carnival be back?"

"It's there every weekend" said Pyosz before she noticed the warning glance Meko was trying to send her.

"Every weekend!" exclaimed Ziri. She said to Koben confirmingly "Way better than Skene."

Pyosz worked late that evening on her mural, creating tiles for the olive grove of Yanja but drawing on her recent look at Trumpinne's central valley, as well as Beras and the flings nearby. On Isola Fling, she inserted a tiny brown-haired girl standing on the gabal over a sea thick with listening leviathans below, an homage to Yoj who tried singing to levs as a child.

They gathered for Shmonah the next day on Herne, where Dekkan arrived with two buckets of the tiny red clams that were most hard to come by. The cheer which greeted her offering cemented the lesson Maar had given her. "Come on" said Pyosz, "I'll show you how to braise them in a wine and butter sauce that accents them perfectly." She handed Pava an apron as well, giving her a quick lesson in cooking onion rice noodles to go with the clams.

They were doing dishes afterward as Dodd tuned her fiddle and Frahe brought out drums for the teenagers to use when the radio buzzed. Nk answered and said "Yes, she's here." She held the radio out to Maar, saying "It's Jiips at the Lofthall, she said one of your emmas is trying to find you."

The kitchen went silent. Maar spoke briefly to Jiips, then clicked off and told them, her face bloodless "They wouldn't tell her. I need to call home."

"You can use our room" said Pank, pointing to a door nearby. Pyosz walked right behind Maar, her arm over her shoulders. Maar didn't close the bedroom door before dialing, and Mill stood in the entryway, Oby beside her, listening.

"What happened?" asked Maar. Her shoulders sagged and she began crying. "How -- do you know why?" Then "Was Thleen sleeping with her? How is Thleen?" Pyosz felt her own pulse return. She mouthed to Mill "Her abba."

After a few minutes Maar was saying in a high voice "Please don't schedule the funeral before 5:00, emma, I can't get there until then and I have to be there!...Yes, I fly it, but it's a cargo craft, we can't leave according to a personal timetable...Don't worry about the ferries, for lev's sake, I'll make sure you all get picked up, anybody who wants to attend, and flown to Yanja and back...Yes, whatever you need from my allotment, just ask Roln down there, she has my standing authorization...All right, let me talk with Thleen first."

Mill and Oby disappeared, presumably to inform the others. Pyosz stayed wrapped around Maar until she was done talking with her sibs. When she clicked off, she lay her head on Pyosz's shoulder and cried, saying "Thleen still needs her so much, I don't know what they'll do without her." Slowly she told Pyosz her abba Gusu, who had heart failure that made her legs swell, had apparently died in her sleep. Thankfully, it was Dru who had discovered her, not Thleen who was out at the privy at that point. Still, the bed Thleen shared with her abba, the fold-out couch in the living room, was the only place Thleen had to sleep.

"I asked Adon and Su to take Thleen in between them for tonight. It'll be very crowded but they didn't grumble. Tomorrow night I'll be there" said Maar.

Sleeping where your abba's body lay thought Pyosz. And what about Thleen when you have to leave?

When they returned to the living room, Dodd had put away her fiddle. Mill asked "What can we do?"

"I don't know" said Maar tonelessly.

"I want to go back with you, to the funeral and to help your family" said Pyosz.

"You can't, you're just catching back up -- " began Maar.

"We'll cover Saya" interjected Tu. Dodd said "I'll make breakfast each morning for the timmers before they ferry over, and handle Mrebbe's questions."

Maar looked at Pyosz and said "Really? It would make such a difference..."

"I need to be there with you" said Pyosz. "So it's settled. Let me go call my emma before she starts her work day."

When she returned to the living room, Dodd's fiddle was back out and she was listening intently to Maar: "...can't remember the name but abba used to sing it to us, it was so sad..." She repeated a few of the words, and Dodd said "I know it, all the bands from the mining islands play it. Yoj said it came almost intact from the original planet, at least the tune, though we've of course translated the words."

Pyosz slid in behind Maar and pulled her back against her chest as Dodd began

"The water is wide, and I cannot cross o'er"

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Blue said...

Beautiful. And that Saya sign is so gorgeous in my mind.

C. Diva said...

A death in the family is never a good time to meet the in-laws for the first time,
Or at least in my experience.

Maggie Jochild said...

Draw it, paint it, sculpt it, Blue, whatever form you want, Then send me a photo and I'll post it here.

And Cowboy Diva, they met briefly on Vote Day but yeah, this is not a rich environment for getting to know each other. Of course, in my experience there IS no good time to meet in-laws.

Blue said...

True Maggie.