Wednesday, April 21, 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)


By the time Ngall and Ehuy arrived to move into their bright purple Manage on Dou, with Omill already pulling herself up on furniture and Ehall transferring to first grade at Pya school, life on Saya had rearranged itself into a new schedule.

Nioma spent weekends at Owl Manage, every other weekend bringing her grandchildren with her. Pyosz's old bed from the Genist Manage was put in one spare bedroom, the double from Prl's bedroom was put in the other, and Prl resuming her massive, ornately carved pewter bedstead from Skene in her room. Pyosz's small bed from her first year on Saya was returned to the cabin for overflow guests.

During the week, Nioma slept at Talaba, although she and Prl radioed every day and at least twice a week Prl met her for lunch in Pertama. Not sleeping together half the week gave added ardor to their weekend visits. Prl said there was no plan to change this arrangement for years to come, not until Nioma's grandchildren were old enough to not need her during the week. When Pyosz diffidently asked if they intended to partner, then, without residing together, Prl said "Not yet" and left it at that.

It didn't matter. She was deliriously happy, and unencumbered in a way Pyosz could never have imagined.

The main difficulty the newly blended Manage experienced was with their katts. Yoj had finally decided to leave most of the Archive katts there, taking with her only the ancients, as they called them, the trio most attached to her: Gakusha, Starchy, and Shima. These three had once lived in proximity to Cha and Curds, and it had been expected that they would all fall back into some version of their old familiarity. Instead, pitched battles over territory took place several times a day. Ember and Clicker were wise enough to not be drawn in. Curds and the ancients left ripped-out clumps of fur along floor moldings, and application of Ulcha's antiseptic ointment was frequently necessary. Yoj kept reminding everyone "Don't intervene, they'll sort it out eventually."

Halling got up early with Lawa and fished at the point for hours. Thleen joined them on weekends, and often Tu and Pank walked over to fish as well. Yoj spent her mornings with Qala in the tillage, joined by katts. Prl accompanied Pyosz to Koldok every morning, shopping and visiting around town where she was already popular. One day a week Prl returned to Koldok at noon to eat with Dodd at the school, having private time in Dodd's office.

Two afternoons a week Maar flew the ramp sinner at noon to pick up Moasi so she could come spend the afternoon on Saya. Tu would join her sibs and they'd sit on the porch or around the large table working on projects together, quilting, mending, cooking, making gifts, while music playing in the background and slow conversation never stopped.

During those afternoons, Yoj and Prl each retreated to research and writing, either sharing the study or at the desks in their rooms. Pyosz again found time to pot, and Qala began roaming Saya, doing what she called nature study. When Thleen came home from school, Yoj or Prl helped her with homework while dinner was made collaboratively. Vants, Lehen and Pava joined them for dinner often, staying for singing afterward.

Yoj and Halling stayed up til 11:00, working on Halling's Lofthall book. They had crafted two proposals that Mill, Dodd and Api were now going over before submitting it to the midwinter Vote. One was to create Pya's flight school, and the other was to establish Pya Polytechnic. Yoj and Halling were offering to fund much of the construction cost of these adjacent institutions, with the proviso that they be employed as instructor and gakusha once they were up and running. It would deplete their savings, but Pyosz insisted it would benefit furure generations of their family, and she was going to support her abbas in any event.

Everyone pitched in to help make jams, jellies, dried fruit and roasted nuts, vinegars and sauces. Yoj became a mainstay for Pyosz's baking, and the herd's milk yield remained high. Pyosz's ceramic sold quickly, especially her stoneware vinegar jugs and the cheese pots with the dancing goat etched into their sides. Even without future teaching salaries, Saya's home industry combined with Maar's income (minus her commitments to Adon and Su) and their shared allotment resulted in a small but growing savings for Owl Manage. Not to mention whatever Qala, Lawa and Prl had stashed away for children's educations.

Even so, when Pank made a proposal that Saya build a special greenhouse, Pyosz had doubts about its affordability. Pank outlined her idea at the dinner table one evening. "Remember that cake with the white flakes on it we had at the last tasting? And that sip of what was like sweet milk with a rich flavor like nothing else we know?"

"Yeah, it was called kelapa" said Lawa. "It's a tropical, only Pya is growing it."

"It is warm-loving" agreed Pank, "and even the dwarf versions can reach 50 feet in height. So you'd need a towering greenhouse. But it could be glass at the top and for the bottom ten feet, and wood walls in between. Likewise, there's another tree about as tall, another tropical, which produces vast clusters of fruit that's as sweet as maple syrup, called jari. Each tree makes over 200 pounds of fruit a year, and you just wait til you taste it. Plus the seeds have numerous medicinal and industrial uses. The kelapa fruits every month, all year long, and its nutritional content is through the roof. Even a couple of each of these trees would pay high eks."

"But the cost of building a greenhouse four stories high -- that's why only the ejida can afford it" argued Lawa.

"So far. Until folks start wanting the product." Pank was excited. "See, on the ground around it. you could plant cacao or that new tropical dye, indigo, which grows on bushes. The trees will take seven years to reach production, but tne ground crops will turn a profit the first year. Near as I can calculatem by the eighth year, the greenhouse would be paid off, and after that it's all extra. Heaps of coin extra."

"Well if it's such a great venture, why ain't you doing it?" asked Lawa.

"I can't find the space on Herne" said Pank. "Needs direct sun and not in the path of north winds. But you got that bare spot between the goat pen and the cliff, you could build a 30 by 20 greenhouse there at an angle, easy. You'll have to make soil, two feet I'd say, to root it all in 'cause that's just sand over fissured rock right now. But making soil is one of your industries here on Saya."

"We mentioned it to Vants, but her hands are gonna be full when her herd reaches full strength, her and Pava both. And Lehen has a job elsewhere" said Tu.

"See, what's great about it, harvest is light work compared to other crops" said Pank. "Cacao and indigo can be picked by somebody in a chair. The tall trees will take an agile climber in a harness shimmying up to cut and toss down" -- she grinned at Thleen, who was hanging on every word -- "but otherwise, everything has to be sent out for processing, 'cept what you eat pronto. So it;s the kind of crop made for retired folks who want a high return for an initial investment."

"I've always wanted my own greenhouse" mused Lawa.

"Will the ejida take kindly to such competition?" asked Prl pointedly.

"Their greenhouses are maxed out, they can't expand into this market without more expensive construction theyselves" said Pank. "They're only going to produce enough to whet an appetite. And I know for a fact they want to build for smaller trees with crops in established demand, mainly bananas, mangos, and limes. Don't head in that direction, those three, prices are only going to go down in the next decade."

Pank had good sources. Tu added "You'll have to pollinate with Y dust from the ejida. But you can get the botaniste's full assistance if you agree to use the habitat for some tropical butterflies, whatever variety won't prey on your trees. Plant a few flowers to take care of them and the botaniste will give you one of the moons on a platter."

They all laughed. Qala said "You know, in the bestiary there are rainbow-colored tropical birds with huge beaks. Yoj told me once they lived as long as people do and could acquire the ability to speak, is that true?"

"According to the oldest records, yes" said Yoj. "You want to hatch a pair and give them a protected paradise on Saya, Qala?"

"Think about it, on the coldest, wettest days, going into a warm, sweet-smelling outdoors room to converse with birds" said Qala. "What a way to spend your last years." She looked at Lawa.

Lawa said to Tu "You draw up a detailed plan, including every cost you can imagine, give it to us." Pank rapped on the table in agreement. Pyosz raised her eyebrows at Maar as Thleen said "Talk Skenish, you mean? The birds can understand Skenish?"

Paradise seemed completely out of reach two days later when Pyosz returned from Koldok to find Vants and Pank waiting beside the jichang, as slaughter sleds were lowered by Abbo. Lawa was putting a final edge on blades. Prl sat on the porch, holding Pyosz's leather apron.

"Do you want me to come watch?" said Prl.

"I really don't, emma. The fewer who actually know what this is like, the better, I think" said Pyosz. Her head was already starting to ache.

"Yoj asked what to make for lunch" said Prl.

"Salad. Potatoes or rice" said Pyosz, distracted by bleating from the goat pen. Prl came down the steps to kiss her. A few raindrops were already starting to fall.

Pank was assembling the A-frame drain rack as Pyosz joined them. "Oldest first?" asked Vants. Lawa handed a boning knife to Vants and Pyosz said "Abba, you don't have to do this -- "

"It'll go faster, better for all of us" said Lawa. Pyosz looked up at the sky, seeing droplets bead the frizz along her dreads like miniature jewels. She shook her head and walked to the barn.

All of the older goats sequestered there looked at her with rank fear. Except one: Molars. Molars seemed to have no expression at all. Patently past breeding and now producing no milk, it had been simple to put her on the slaughter list. Pyosz approached her carefully, sure that Molars would look for one last opportunity to exact her retribution on humans.

But Molars didn't so much as flick an ear as Pyosz clipped a tether around her neck. "Come on then" said Pyosz, backing toward the door. With an audible breath, Molars followed unresistingly. They stepped out into a downpour and still Molars didn't pause, walking beside Pyosz with a stoic gait.

When they reached the killing field, Vants said "You want me to hold her?"

Pyosz said "No, if you don't mind, I think it should be who holds her against this final betrayal." She braced herself and reached her arms around Molars' neck from behind. But Molars offered no fight, made no move to bite. Pyosz stood bent over, in a close contact she'd never experienced with this doe, even when milking.

"Pyosz?" asked Vants, waiting for Pyosz to move so the top of Molars' head was clear for the punch to be applied.

"Wait" said Pyosz, straightening and stepping to the side so she could look into Molars' eyes. The odd pupils were dilated, but what Pyosz read was complete resignation. The day Molars always knew was imminent had finally arrived.

Pyosz looked away, facing east, watching sheets of grey blow over Puaa Woods. She was soaked to the skin already, her leather apron hanging heavily on her like sheet metal. "No" she said. She looked back at Vants. "I'm the capriste."

"Yes" said Vants. Pank looked at her quzzically.

"I can afford to have one goat who's in retirement" said Pyosz.

"But this one?" asked Lawa.

"She gave us Killer's emma" said Pyosz. She met Molars' eyes again. "I know you hate me, but I don't hate you. I don't like you much, but I don't hate you. And I refuse to be the one who fulfills your worst expectation. I'm your capriste. Come on, let's go to pasture.:

This time, Molars didn't follow immediately. She stared at Pyosz in confusion, moving only when Pyosz tugged firmly at the lead. She hesitated again when they bypassed the barn, heading for the kissing gate. Inside the gate, Pyosz unclipped the tether and said "Go. Live out your days." From 100 yards away, Boulder had stopped grazing and was watching them intently. Killer started in their direction, and Pyosz went swiftly back through the gate, unwilling to accept any goat love today. She went to the barn and tethered the next oldest doe.

When Maar came home for lunch, they were finished. Pyosz had stripped and scrubbed at the outdoor shower, wrapping herself in the robe Prl brought her and walking back to the Manage under a shared umbrella. Pyosz stayed in her robe at the table, rubbing her hair with a towel while Yoj and Qala carried in food. Maar sat down beside her and asked "You all right?"

"Scraped raw. But okay. Better than in the past." She took a sip of milky tea.

"Why better?"

"I didn't kill Molars. I don't know why I feel so good about that, of all the goats I've loved and done in, but I do." Pyosz spread her hand over her belly. "I feel terrible about the rest."

"But you have a small, unexpected gap in the guilt. I get it" said Maar. She filled a bowl with rice and asked Pyosz "What else?"

"Some of those butter beans on top. And the steamed squash. That'll do." Pyosz accepted the bowl and kissed Maar's cheek lightly.

"You are such a gift to Pya" murmured Maar.

"That you are" echoed Pank, ripping a roasted chicken leg from thigh with a crack. Pyosz didn't look her way but she smiled briefly.

That autumn, Thleen and Ziri learned to rock-climb under the tutelage of Pava and a forester friend of Ulcha's. Two days later, Thleen was walking across the great hall, tripped over her own feet and broke her wrist. Pyosz painted her cast with scenes from Lupanalom.

A vein of green marble was discovered in the quarry at Uscat that Mill said they could charge almost any amount for, it was so beautiful and rare, Frahe and Nk finished enough dining chairs to fully seat the table at Owl Manage, 22 people. A week before midwinter, Qoj returned to live with Dodd and Briel, Uli moving in with Dekkan's cheerful assistance.

At the mindwinter Vote, Pya overwhelmingly approved construction of the Polytechnic and flight school. A law was passed requiring the signed consent of "any living donor of reproductive material" before such material could be used for pregnancy. Genist salary was reduced by 10%. The proposal to fill in the lagoon between Verzin and Faar was defeated, and with it funding to create undersea probes. Nioma promised they would try again the next year.

The tallest building ever erected on Skene was constructed on Saya Island, a greenhouse that altered flight paths westward from the Lofthall. One-foot kelapa and jari trees were planted under the gleaming pyramid, surrounded by less ridiculous-looking bushes, a tiny pond and bench carved by Nk with designs of fantastic birds who had speech spirals issuing from their beaks. During that severe winter, all the elders found sanctuary for their aching bones inside that thermally-heated space, condensation dripping occasionally from the glass above.

Ulcha and Frank were partnered early in Jian, followed three weeks later by Uli and Qoj. Twice massive leviathans were detected by radar trying to infiltrate sinning nets, once each in Pya and Skene. After the attempted sabotage in Skene, a rattled pilot fired her mezi ray at a surfacing lev who may or may not have been the culprit. The leviathan was wounded and vanished, and condemnation from the public was so severe, Danaan had to ground the sinner indefinitely. Both Lofthalls were on edge for weeks.

Despite being over seven months pregnant, Pyosz insisted she participate in rice planting during Yaomur and a pair of waders was found to fit her. She kept having to leave the field, however, to visit the privy, laughing at how sloshing through water aggravated her already overactive bladder.

A week into Lamminsade, all the kids were born, the tillage fully planted, but nowhere was the year's renewal more evident than in Pyosz's bulbous form. She was cranky, complained about the heat even when it was cool, couldn't find a comfortable sleeping position, and went off certain foods in mid bite. Meals became a smorgasbord of various offerings to keep up with her ravenous but variable appetite.

The only person who never lost patience with Pyosz was Prl. Her previous risability at Pyosz's caustic turn of phrase had vanished. She kept saying "She doesn't mean it, I remember what it was like when I was carrying her." Qala would roll her eyes at Lawa and say "Yeah, we remember it, too." As her due date came and went, they were all offering Pyosz several cups a day of the tea Frank had mixed for her, urging shamsjooz sauce on her plate, and once Yoj had sent Maar into bright crimson mortification by gently suggesting that orgasms helped shake a baby loose.

"What's a orgasm?" Thleen had asked from the doorway. Maar had simply stood and walked out the back door into pouring rain. Qala had replied "It's part of sex, in a couple of years I'll tell you all about it." Yoj saw the expression on Thleen's face which indicated she didn't want to wait that long -- likely she and Ziri would launch their own investigation.

Frank was checking in every day, and this Roku morning she said "It's warm enough, Pyosz, wading at the oyster beach. Take someone with you, make sure you go at least waist deep and swish around for an hour."

Grumbling, Pyosz donned the waders Maar brought her and waddled out the front door. Thleen declined to accompany them, waiting until the door was shut before saying "She's so crabby." Frank finished her tea and left, saying "Call me if this works."

"If what works?" asked Thleen.

'We're trying to help her start having the baby" said Prl.

"Wading in the water makes you have a baby?" asked Thleen, startled and concerned. Prl explained as they all got ready to leave for Market.

When Pyosz returned, she complained about being fatigued, which eventually transmuted into the statement "I think I pulled a muscle in my back." Prl looked alert, placed her hands on Pyosz's low back, and said "Right about here?"

"That's it, rub there, emma" said Pyosz. "I think something was off with the eggs abba made at breakfast, I keep trying to go to the privy but nothing is passing." Prl grinned at Maar and said "You may want to send Thleen to get Frank. No urgency, but I think it's starting."

"Oh don't be a shuwit, emma, you're leaping to conclusions!" burst out Pyosz. Maar wrote a quick note and sent it by Thleen to Herne. By the time Frank responded, trundling in with her bag an hour later, Pyosz had spotted her knickers with clear fluid and was walking back and forth in the upstairs hall, arm in arm with a pale-faced Maar.

Frank handed Prl a fitted sheet with a plastic liner and said "Remake her bed with this, lay in -- oh, good, you've already got towels and extra pillows in here." Pyosz had come to the doorway, and Frank said to her cheerfully "You're extrenely fit, you have a generous pelvis, you're young and the baby is in good position. She's large but we're hoping for a fast delivery. Keep walking while you can, I'm going to eat and scrub."

Back in the hall, Pyosz said to Maar "I'm not ready for this. Why didn't you ask us to wait a few years? Why am I having to go first?" Maar blinked at the injustice and said "I'm with you, darling, every step of the way." To which Pyosz made a rude sound.

Briel and Dodd came in late afternoon. Briel did an exam and confirmed Frank's assessment. She and Dodd stayed for dinner, and Dodd pulled Thleen into musical duets afterward. She offered to take Thleen home with her. The cries from overhead were regular and loud. Qala said to Thleen "It's up to you. She's in serious pain but it will go away, she's not being damaged. We won't let her be damaged. Does it matter most to you to be here in this Manage when your sibiya is born, or would you like a break from how hard a birth sounds?"

"It'll still be just as hard on Pyosz whether I'm here or not. right?" asked Thleen, squaring her shoulders in perfect mimicry of Maar. Qala nodded. "She's my emma now. I want to be here when she becomes another emma" said Thleen.

Qala hugged her and said "Then how about if you sleep in our bed tonight off the kitchen? I think Lawa plans to sit up, and you can keep me company." Relief flooded Thleen's face. "With Clicker?"

"We'll see what Cha has to say about it" offered Qala.

Halling stretched out on the settee in the upstairs hall, and Lawa took the easy chair next to her. Yoj decided to make bread and stews as the night and labor progressed. Maar was leaned against their nickel headboard, Pyosz arced back against her, yelling "Oh lev it's too MUCH, you have to find a way to stop this if you love me!" Frank was kneeling in front of Pyosz, coaching her patiently, while Prl reached from the bedside chair, wiping sweat from her child's face and chest with a cloth dipped in cool mint water.

Once Thleen dropped off, Qala got up to shut both katts from the room and returned to sleep while she could. At 2:00 Prl opened the bedroom door and said breathlessly into the hall "Soon now". Lawa went downstairs to get Yoj and Qala. They found Pyosz kneeling, held up by Maar, with Frank bent to catch the baby as she dropped into her hands. Prl held the newborn while Pyosz sobbed and Frank tied, then cut the cord. Pyosz collapsed onto Maar and the baby, wrapped once, was placed into her emmas' arms.

Pyosz was having trouble focusing on her, but she managed to say "She's got your hair!"

"It's pitch black" said Maar.

"Yes but look how it sticks straight out, even wet as she is, that's yours. And a tiny dimple in her tiny chin, oh she's perfect." Pyosz covered her face with kisses.

"Your mouth, she has your mouth and cheeks" said Maar, finding it hard to draw a full breath. Frank said "Here's the afterbirth, one more push, Pyosz." Pyosz grunted and shrieked, and Frank said "You're going to need stitches. Lie back more, let me clean you and numb you a little." Maar passed the baby to Prl with visibly shaking hands, saying "Here's your abba. Abba, meet Qux."

A gasp went up at the name. Pyosz's eyes remained on Qux and Prl as the damage of a 9 lb birth was deftly remedied. Prl's face was streaming with tears. She said "She smells exactly like you did at birth." Eventually clean sheets and pads were put down, Pyosz was sponged and wrapped in a cotton schmatta, and she fell asleep on Maar who was holding her and Qux both.

Yoj gave Maar sips of tea. Frank cleaned her materials and went to the empty bedroom next door for sleep. After half an hour, Pyosz woke again when Qux began fretting and Prl talked her through the first nursing. Pyosz stared down at the face pressed against her with a terrified expression and whispered "Maar, I've never needed anyone like I need you now. I've been loved well all my life, but this is a whole other world of dependence."

"I know. I'm here, I feel it too."

Pyosz continued "How did emma bear it, being on her own?" She didn't seem to remember others were still in the room.

"She's an extraordinary woman, and she has your family" said Maar.

"Plus I wasn't on my own, I had you" said Prl. "You told me immediately you'd be there for me in every way you could. And you have. She will too."

"How can she know to eat like that?" marveled Pyosz. Maar had just felt Qux's fist grasp her finger, and she was beyond words. Halling said "She's going to be a good eater, look at her. Like her aggie."

After another half hour, Pyosz drank a glass of water and went to sleep like a light was turned off. Maar curled protectively beside her, Qux swaddled atop them, and Prl stretched out in the easy chair next to the bed, turning off the lamp. Everyone else returned downstairs to sleep for what was left of the night.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


Margot said...

Awww... brought a tear to my eye, and I don't even LIKE babies!

Blue said...

Big, huge SIGH