Friday, April 2, 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)


Maar slid down the rain-soaked slope beyond the kissing gate on the soles of her otos, but then noticed Qala emerging from the wood at the other end of the pasture, pulling a basket-laden wain. She didn't want to feel coerced into helping with Saya's chores. She made a sharp left, leaving the path to soak her kalsongers to the knees in late summer growth, angling her own route to Herne's bridge. She didn't wave at Qala and sped up when she thought she heard kids bleating after her.

Pyosz has her goats thinking they're part of this above-it-all family she thought savagely. At least until she slits their throat.

She strode by the woodworking shed so fast that neither Nk nor Frahe noticed her. She was headed for the jumble of boulders over the southern cove where Pava still kept her sailboat moored, but when she saw Tu emerging from the smokehouse, on what would be an intercept course, Maar ducked into the greenhouse and plunged between rows of crocus plants toward the other end.

Once there, she discovered Pank sitting on a bench rasping a flat bar of metal. Nearby stood a ladder underneath an opening in the ceiling where a glass venilation pane had been removed and leaned against Pank's bench. Pank glanced at her and said "Hey. This louver is already starting to rust shut, the solar self-vent isn't working right." With every pass of her rasp, orange flakes of oxide drifted onto the stone floor, beside the circle of moisture from rain coming through the roof gap.

Maar didn't reply. She went to a corner barrel and perched on it, pulling her knees up to her forehead and resting her face against her damp kalsonger knees. She could hear the sound of rain on glass, punctuated by Pank's rhythmic rasping. Her own breathing was very loud for a while, until her pulse slowed. The air smelled of loam, fish emulsion, and spice. After several minutes, a mister came on somewhere to her right. She heard a buzz saw start and stop randomly, and somewhere Tu cursed at an animal, probably a pig. But Pank left her to find peace.

Another several minutes passed, and Pank grunted as she bent to retrieve the window. Maar heard the squirt of an oil can and then the sound of a bolt being turned by pliers. When Pank stood, Maar raised her head and watched Pank begin to climb the ladder with the window awkwardly clamped under one arm. Maar slid from her barrel and said "Let me help, I'll hand that up to you."

As Pank began reattaching the louver arms to their brackets over her head, Maar held the ladder and said "You partnered into this bunch."

"Yep" said Pank, her eyes on what she was doing.

"Did they bother you sometimes?"

" and Tu were mostly on our own. Seeing kin was an occasional treat, not daily sup. I need those other pliers, the locking ones, will you hand 'em up here?"

A minute later, Pank requested the oil can as well. She added "You stayed at the Genist's in Skene, right?"

"Yeah." Maar fell silent again. I've dragged Thleen into this clan, I don't want her growing up thinking her opinion matters more than the rest of Skene, she'll take to it too gladly Maar thought.

Pank shifted on the ladder to attach the other side of the pane. She said "I never understood why my sibemma Veida was so loyal to Yerush, but the rest of 'em turned out to be good folk. Most of the time." She farted softly and a smell of brussel sprouts drifted down to Maar.

Five minutes later, Pank said "Will you step over and push that manual button on the vent panel, see if this is working?" When she was satisfied with its function, she came slowly down the ladder and looked at Maar's face for the first time. "I'll tell you what I told Frahe a long while ago: You're not just your sweetheart's secret room she can retreat to when she's riled about her bossy elders. You are your own territory and they have to all respect that. Don't let 'em carrot and stick you into silent belonging. Now, I put a tenderloin with prunes in for lunch, you want to join us?"

"No. But thanks." Maar recrossed the bridge, pushing Killer back from the gate, and headed for the springs. Despite her clothes being wet and wrinkled, she folded them neatly atop her otos before sliding into hot yield with a sigh.

After Maar bolted from the Manage, Pyosz had gone to the privy to throw up again. She was in the kitchen, sipping tummy tea and nibbling toast, when Qala came back carrying a bushel of green apples. Qala said "I saw Maar hotfooting it to Herne, there a problem?"

"I don't know" said Pyosz crossly. "We had a fight."

"What about?"

"I don't know" said Pyosz, her voice raising. She left for upstairs carrying her mug of tea. Qala muttered "Pardon me for caring" and began clamping the apple peeler to the counter.

Qala loved the simple functionality of the apple peeler, the weighted curved blade which adroitly separated skin from fruit as she cranked. She liked to peel first, then plunge the globe down onto the attached corer. After one apple was done, she remembered the need to prevent browning. There were no lemons in the house. She decided this batch was going to become pies and apple butter, then, and could afford to go into a bath of vinegar water first. She hummed to herself in rhythm to the crank, an old song of Yoj's few people recalled any more.

She was halfway through the basket when Pyosz came back to the kitchen. "Has Maar been here? Or called?" she asked miserably.

"Nope. That blue bowl I've set aside for pies, if you want to make them this afternoon" said Qala, starting another round of cranking.

"I threw up again" said Pyosz.

"Is it worse than usual?"

Pyosz nodded, making fresh tea. "But maybe it's just upset."

Qala opened the coldbox and pulled out a bowl of leftover rice. Eggs were still on the counter, Pyosz would only use them at room temperature for baking. Qala added brown rice syrup to red bean paste, finely grated two carrots into it, and added handfuls of cooked rice to the mix before starting to shape them into balls. She made two trays of riceballs, rolling them in brewer's yeast before setting them in the aga to crust over. While they heated, she made an omelet from butter and yolks only, folding it onto a plate in less than a minute.

Pyosz said "I still feel puke-ish."

"You always keep down my omelets" reminded Qala. Pyosz took a few bites and accepted a hot rice ball. Qala set the rest on the counter to cool. Thleen ate as many as she was allowed to each day, and Qala's addition of grated vegetables made her feel fine about Thleen's gorging. She remembered being hungry the way Thleen was.

"She's mad at my emma" said Pyosz, with no explanation but Qala knew what she meant.


"She thinks emma is about to hurt people. I guess including Thleen" said Pyosz, sliding off the stool to get another riceball. Qala looked at her sharply to ask "Is Prl about to hurt Thleen?"

Pyosz sighed. "There's stuff I can't tell you yet, but no. I think who really hurt Thleen are her own emmas. But Maar is shit-plugged about something else, and she stomped out of here without confiding in me."

"No telling what all happened in Skene" said Qala. "Give her some room. You want another omelet?"

"No, this is working" said Pyosz. "How long were you and Lawa together before you stopped having blow-ups?"

Qala laughed at her. "Who said we stopped? They're just in slow motion now, but we can still really piss each other off."

Pyosz looked happy to learn this. "Like what?"

"Well, every time she pulls out that silver pick and starts digging between her teeth while we're still at the table eating, I want to scream" said Qala. "It's disgusting. And she wears her sokken two days in a row, turning them inside out for the second day, despite the fact that she's got a week's worth of clean pairs in her drawer. Unless I take them from her otos after she's asleep and go stuff them down under wet stuff in the hamper. All those Motu Fling sibs have a streak of crudity they think is just fine. The only reason Halling has any polish is because Xaya and then Bux worked on her for years."

Pyosz was now giggling. "Can I tell you a secret? I think kickball is boring and stupid." Qala whistled in mock horror. Pyosz stood to wash her dishes and begin sifting flour for pie dough. She said "Yoj's baby crib is in the barn, out of the rain. I'm going to rub it with lemon oil and let it air out before we put it in our bedroom."

"Your emma and all her sibs took naps in that crib" said Qala. "You, too, when we could stand to set you down. Where in your room are you going to put it?"

"I thought in the southeast corner, where no direct sunlight hits" said Pyosz. "We need a sturdy table with a lip and storage below for changing."

"Don't go buying things like that, folks are already looking around for what they can give you" said Qala. "I'm going to teach Thleen how to crochet by making little sokken for her sibu."

They heard the front door open and Pyosz walked hopefully to look through the great hall, but it was Thleen and Lawa. "Only one ryba but it's a huge one!" announced Thleen. "Are those riceballs for now?"

"Wash your hands first" said Qala. Lawa lay the cleaned fish on the counter and said "I could poach this in a ginger broth with noodles, it would feed us all for lunch that way."

"Add zucchini to it, we're drowning in zukes right now" said Qala. "Who caught it?"

"We both did" said Lawa loyally. Thleen still smelled slightly of entrails but was gobbling riceballs with wet hands. She said "I slept the whole way here, I don't need a nap before tonight."

"Well, then, it's good weather to forage for mushrooms in the woods after lunch" said Lawa.

"Can Ziri come?" asked Thleen.

"We need to invite her sibus, too, so see if you can find someone here at the Manage to play with them while we three go off alone" said Lawa. Thleen turned to Pyosz hopefully and was about to spray her with rice from a full mouth when Qala said "Koben and Meamea can sail The Saya while I string beans and shell nuts on the porch." Pyosz mouthed "Thank you" at Qala. Thleen impulsively hugged Qala and said "I really missed you. Don't tell, but you two are my favorite habibis."

Qala's face melted and she stopped cranking to hug Thleen back. Lawa said "Having you around is a little like getting to see Qala as a child. I didn't have a chance to be her friend then, you know."

Pyosz said to Thleen "I'll call Kacang for you. Go out and pull a leek, salad greens, and two zucchinis for lunch."

"Four zucchinis" amended Qala. "And cut some tarragon. Thleen, take the basket with you."

At Qala's insistence, they didn't wait lunch. Maar walked in the front door before they were quite through eating, wearing only her otos and a wet shati which barely covered her buttocks. Thleen exploded into giggles. Maar gave them a wan smile as she kicked off her otos and headed upstairs. Thleen was prevented from following her. Maar returned in her robe made, as most robes were, from patchwork of worn old blankets. She thanked Qala for the plate of food handed her and said to Pyosz "Can we talk after I eat?"

"Yes" said Pyosz shortly, standing to pull pies from the aga. Lawa and Thleen cleared the table while Qala sat with Maar, sipping a glass of cold mint tea in companionable silence.

Pyosz was kneading bread when Maar carried in her empty plate, so she started a load of laundry and scrubbed the tub until Pyosz said "Okay" and headed upstairs without her. Pyosz was sitting in the velvet chair when Maar came into the bedroom. Maar sat against the headboard, retying her robe discreetly.

"Well?" said Pyosz.

"I got capsized. Thax -- one of my sibs in that book -- we almost became lovers" said Maar. Pyosz sucked in her breath. Thax always asks to dance with her when they're at the same dance she thought, her jealousy flaring. Until she took in Maar's face.

"I love and trust your emma, and still my reaction was anger toward her for telling me what I didn't ever want to know" said Maar quietly. "I'm worried about her now. But I'm also worried for us all."

"You mean us her family?" asked Pyosz, leaving the chair to sit beside Maar.

Maar laughed sardonically. "Who on Skene is not her family?" Cousins all she thought as her smile faded. "This information will alter not just how current families are defined, sending some unknown number of us reeling -- " and even as she said it, she thought Although Prl may well have calculated the percentage of sib on sib near-misses out there -- "It's going to reshape our definition from now on. It's the second swing of the culture-shattering blow she took with your conception. Resignation may not be enough to protect her, but we're all going to be reacting as if to a threat. A threat to how we have formed our most important connections."

"Reality is not a threat" said Pyosz.

"That doesn't mean it won't feel that way to a lot of people" said Maar, feeling testiness resurge inside. "Part of Halling's reshaping of the Lofthall was to insist on public knowledge about the extent of leviathan hostility, and that caused massive upset. There's still denial about it. And this is much more personal. Think about it, Pyosz: What if when your emma was a child, they had all found out Halling was their half-sib and Ng was some version of an emma? How would their relationships have changed? Would they have felt the same way about Yoj, for example?"

"I've thought about all that, Maar. But the alternative to disclosure is worse" said Pyosz.

"You...your family always seems ready to give Skene a shove in what they think is the right direction" said Maar.

Pyosz leaned away from her. "And what do you do when Dekkan ties down a load lopsided, wait for her and the folks who get a ton of wood dropped on them to learn things at their own pace?"

"Leadership comes in many forms" said Maar. "I need you to see my point of view, too, Pyosz. Because it's what I want Thleen to share, and what I mean to hand on to my children." She felt like her voice sounded strange but she crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.

Pyosz thought of a dozen retorts. She looked at the tangle of golden leg hair on Maar's calves and decided she didn't want to extend this fight. "Well" she said "what do you think emma should be doing differently?"

"She needs to consult with more than just us and Nioma. She should run it by someone who might know how to challenge her" said Maar.

Pyosz said "Who, the Dullard?"

"I was thinking Yoj. Or Qala" said Maar. "I think it's significant that she hasn't included them before now. And don't repeat that 'I'm protecting them' line, that's not enough explanation. If you don't feel up to insisting she talk it over with them, I'll tell her."

"No" said Pyosz slowly. "No, I can see the sense of it. I wanted to talk with her about the directory anyhow, I'll do it." She lay down on her half of the bed, letting her shati ride up over her middle, and reached for the lotion Frank had made her to rub into her belly skin against stretch marks. As she began slow strokes, she said "Explain more of what you mean about your viewpoint and what you want to hand on to OUR children."

Maar watched her for a minute. "I know levvin' well what you are doing."

Pyosz giggled. "I know what I'm doing too. That wet shati was completely see-through, you know."

"I have a point. I'm making a stand" said Maar.

"I picked you because you make stands" said Pyosz. "You know what, I take it back, you should be the one to talk to emma, go for it."

Maar shifted, and her robe gapped open. She didn't adjust it. She said "I didn't finish going through my list of sibs."

Pyosz stopped applying lotion. "Oh. Well, it's in my drawer here..."

"But at least we know for sure none of them are you, right?" said Maar with a grin, tugging her belt all the way loose. Pyosz handed her the lotion bottle and put her arms behind her head.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.


C. Diva said...

Thleen's quite the lanky teenager, eh?

Maggie Jochild said...

Not quite yet. She's about to turn 11. But she will be tall and lanky. She has years of slight nutritional deprivation to overcome -- if Qala had had that extra as a child, she'd be as tall as Thleen will become.

Skene human physiology had to revert to compact peasant anatomy to survive for a few hundred years. They are much shorter than Americans on average (though strong as hell). This is starting to shift. Milk and cheese are an extreme dietary advantage.