Tuesday, April 20, 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)


Early the next week, Maar came home shortly before dinner and found Pyosz with Qala in the kitchen. "Where's Thleen?"

"At the point. She and Ziri stole my big kawali pan and used it to sled down the sandy slope by the oyster beach. Lawa has her trying to polish out the damage they did, see if we can avoid having it retinned" said Pyosz dourly.

"Those levvin' -- that slope is short, could easily dump them into the water. I mean, we have the riptide fence up, but still..." Maar glared in the direction of the point.

"That's what gave them away, they showed up here drenched. Plus Thleen has a bump on her face that I think will turn into a black eye." Pyosz handed Maar carrots to chop. Maar could make a very symmetrical dice of carrots.

"What consequences shall we dispense? Besides the buffing, and taking the cost of retinning from her allowance if need be?" asked Maar.

"I was pretty mad" admitted Pyosz. "I locked Opicha in the cupboard for a week." Thleen had begun sleeping each night with the knitted animal in her arms. Maar glanced at Qala, who was frowning as she coated sakana filets for browning.

"Just when I think she's reached a new level of maturity" said Maar.

"It'll yaw back and forth for the next five years" predicted Qala. "But adding a baby to the household will take some of the focus off Thleen."

Maar thought Thleen could easily remove some of the focus from herself by not stealing Pyosz's belongings. Or trying to dress the goats in Koben's clothes. Or secretly replacing all the eggs in the chicken roosts one morning with hard-boiled ones from the day before. Maar chuckled to herself, wishing she'd been there to see Pyosz's face as she tried to crack eggs to make pancakes for breakfast.

Pyosz said "Speaking of babies, I asked Frahe to build retracting gates for the top and bottom of our stairs." Maar's pulse shot up. She put down her knife and went to hug Pyosz from behind, cradling Pyosz's belly in her hands.

"Honey, I'm stirring hot broth here, need to move" said Pyosz crankily. Thleen came in the back door, covered in verdigris and grime. Maar went to examine her eye under the light. Qala said "I've got a poultice to put on that. Go bathe now, fast, before dinner." Thleen left, subdued. Pyosz looked over the kawali pan Lawa returned and finally allowed it was all right.

"I'll drive a nail in the wall of the dining room and hang it there, instead of putting it back under the stairs" said Lawa. They won't steal it again, they always come up with a new way to misbehave thought Maar tiredly.

"Wait" said Pyosz, abandoning her pot, "I want to decide where any nails are driven." After she dropped the carrots into a pan of water and pearl onions, Maar resumed Pyosz's stirring as well as tending her vegetables. Qala joined her at the aga to fry fish. "How was work?" she asked Maar.

'I had a free hour so I sat down with all the leviathan photos we have and organized them acording to the classification system Nioma suggested" said Maar, her voice abruptly losing its fatigue. "Then I did the same with what Skene has shared with us, and I compared the two."

"And?" said Qala, setting down her tongs.

"Well, I want to go over it with everybody I can, including Nioma. I think there's a subtle color shift not just at the baby to juvie demarcation but also in some later stages of age and size. Also, on the few shots we have of the really giant ones, who never much surface, they have one more eye in their row of eyes on each side than the smaller levs. Which I've never heard anyone mention, have you?" Maar's voice was now intense.

"I've not, and if Halling or Yoj knew about it, we'd have discussed it" said Qala, her own face animated. "You need to call them after dinner."

"Call them about what?" said Pyosz, returning to the kitchen.

"Maar's discovered a leviathan anatomical anomaly which may have to do with size or age" said Qala, exchanging a look with Lawa, also joining them.

"Or where they live. Or if they are some sort of X vs Y" speculated Maar.

"How did you discover this?" demanded Pyosz. "Qala, those filets are burning."

"Shit" said Qala, grabbing her tongs. Maar repeated her explanation, adding "That's not all, or even the most interesting. I absolutely confirmed that some of the levs who are skulking around Skene's sinning are allso appearing here. Again, it's the massive ones, who are also easier to positively identify, they accumulate markings over time."

Qala whistled. "That's one hell of a trip. Following fish?"

"We need to capture fish in each location, live catch, tag them with sensors, and release them" said Maar. "It will be extremely expensive but I am certain the information we'd gain would pay us back in the long run. If only in pilot lives."

Pyosz moved close to Maar and took the spoon from her. Thleen's voice floated from the bathroom: "Will somebody come wash my hair?"

After a long pause, Lawa said "I'll do it." As she left she said to Maar "Call Halling."

"Got it" said Maar, almost to herself.

As she and Pyosz were getting ready for bed that night, she said "I forgot to tell you, with everything else going on, I don't have a sinning shift tomorrow. If you'll let me sleep until 8, I could go to market with you all."

"Wonderful! And we could go to Pabo in the afternoon, I need -- :

"No" interrupted Maar, "I do have to work starting at noon. They're going to begin quarrying on Uscat and I'm initiating the excavation sites with the mezi. I won't be home until after dark."

"Oh. Does that mean you'll be hauling rock from Uscat any time soon?" Too low over lev-infested waters Pyosz didn't add.

"Yeah, probably the week after. Me and Abbo as a team again" said Maar. not looking at Pyosz. Pyosz silently put on her oldest schmatta, which was faded and twice repaired, but it had worn to a gauzy softness and she wanted the comfort. What she didn't know is that it was almost see-through now.

Maar said "I appreciate more than I can say how much you do to take care of Thleen."

Pyosz looked at her with surprise. "Well of course. Goes without saying."

Maar closed the door after making sure both katts were in the room and turned off the overhead light. "I wish your family didn't see me as a greenie whose every move needs to be checked with the immortal Halling. I mean, she is retired, and I'm the one out there working six days a week."

"Not just working but turning new soil" agreed Pyosz. "I think Qala knows better, she wants support for you from someone who can deliver it. As do I." She sat against the headboard, her schmatta hiked to her waist, and began rubbing oil into her knees. Maar lay down facing her and said softly "Since I don't have to get up early.."

"Yeah?" said Pyosz, with a slow smile. "But I still do, you know, goats at dawn."

"I can make it up to you" said Maar, dipping her thumbtip in the oil pot and running it lightly along Pyosz's thigh.

"Might as well put that thumb all the way in" said Pyosz, holding out the pot. Maar laughed wickedly and turned off the lamp.

There was a dance on Sju in Pertama and all the clan attended. On the ride there Lawa remarked it would be their last public appearance as a family before the directories were distributed on Moja via libraries and allotment centers, one per Manage. Once at the dance, at a cluster of shared tables, talk focused on the leviathan photo folder Maar had brought, now in the hands of Nioma who was theorizing to a fascinated audience.

"What would be the point in growing another set of eyes?" wondered Pank. "I mean, they got a dozen already."

"That's a question we need to answer" said Nioma appreciatively. "The advantage of having several sets seems obvious, because of enhanced visual acuity. The first pair are practically on top of their heads, but the succeeding rows slant not just backward but downward, giving them an almost 360 degree range of vision. They must have spectacular tracking ability."

"And the last extra pair are level with their blue spot on the side" pointed out Maar. "You can only even see them in these shots where the levi is banking and her side is revealed. So if we follow your theory that physical changes arise from need, what do they need to see that is below them? I mean, these giant ones spend most of their time very submerged. What is down there?"

Pyosz felt a shiver. She reached for Ura, who came to her happily, her brown fist reaching for the baubles at the ends of Pyosz's dreads.

"We really need to drop probes into our oceans that can transmit data to us" said Nioma fervidly. Uli was nodding vigorously. "I've been put in touch with the head gakusha of biology at the U, and we're drafting a proposal for the next election, a joint venture between Skene and Pya. Someone in engineering is collaborating as well." Pyosz was certain she knew who was making these connections for Nioma. Emma's retirement will keep her as busy as she's ever been in her life she thought. She realized she needed to pee again and handed off Ura to Qala.

"You'll have to link funding to more than just generic public good if you want it to pass right now" said Mill. "Contracts are not as contentious as they might be, but part of the reason why is because most Sheng Zhangs are opting for long-term growth instead of immediate eks."

Cousins all thought Maar, wondering again how that phrase would sit in the mouth once folks opened those green directories. She listened to the ensuing conversation about possible concrete benefits of ocean exploration. It was Pava who came up with "If you're going to build new reefs and fill in open water to make new land, you'll need to know how long it will take, how much material to collect from the lava flow, right? Plus what you might be covering up. So hitch the probes to that project, and once they're designed and buildable, it'll be easier to suggest other uses for them." Vants clapped Pava hard on her back in congratulation, but it was Nioma's soft "Sounds exactly like what Poth would have suggested" which brought joy to Pava's face.

After a while, Maar became aware Pyosz's visit to the privy seemed prolonged. She looked toward the door and saw Pyosz deep in conversation with Sey. They were standing very close -- well, the music is very loud right now, they'd have to speak into each other's ears almost to hear. But Pyosz's face was intently attentive. Sey's cheeks were flushed. Their height difference meant Pyosz had to bend a little to be on Sey's level, but she was bending from her hips, not her shoulders, as if to receive all of Sey's body. As if their bodies knew each other and fell into familiar intimacy automatically.

Maar looked away and closed her eyes, fighting back jealousy which rose as a lump in her throat. Qala saw this reaction, then turned to locate what had brought on such upset. She decided it wasn't her concern -- no concern at all, in fact -- and returned her attention to Ura.

Maar opened her eyes again to see Thax approaching her: Thax with an easy grin, asking "Can I have the next one, I think they're tuning up for a reel."

She'll never ask me to dance again thought Maar. Not after Moja. "Sure" she said, standing to accept Thax's hand.

It was a short though vigorous romp. Pyosz was just returning to the table as Maar sat down, breathing hard. "That was Thax, wasn't it?" said Pyosz, accusation in her tone. Maar sidestepped the several replies she wanted to make by pouring and drinking down a glass of tea. Finally she said "What were you and Sey discussing at such private length?" She couldn't help the chill in her tone. She heard Nk giggle nearby, and Pyosz's eyes went wide.

Qala unceremoniously plopped Ura back in Pyosz's lap and said "I'd like to hear about Sey as well." Pyosz said "Well, it actually was interesting. She flagged me over to nervously ask me if anybody in my family is planning to run for Ethicist in Skene. She was all apology if I didn't want to reveal any secrets. blah blah blah. I told her no, not to my knowledge, and asked why she wanted to know. Turns out, her sibemma is Sherr. And she does have ambitions to become Ethicist."

Everyone at the table within earshot now leaned avidly toward Pyosz. Ura assumed this sudden interest was in her, bursting into pleased burbles and lunging at Uli, who took her graciously and let Ura drool on the vividly-painted wooden beads she was wearing.

Pyosz continued in a whisper "So I chatted her up about her analysis of the political scene currently over there, who has power in what circles, all funneled to her via her kin. One funny thing, Sherr's sibemma was Wiaki, who was a friend of our family when you were children, right, Dodd?"

Dodd grinned, nodding and looking at Mill. "Tell us what you learned" urged Briel. Pyosz filled them in as the music started up again. When she was done, Nioma said with a wry smile "Sey will feel utterly exploited by you next week."

"Serves her right, she clearly intended the using to go the other way" replied Pyosz crisply.

Uli said "I cannot imagine you having wound up with her, you'd be so unhappy now!" She turned pink instantly and added "I'm sorry, I didn't think before I said that -- "

"S'all right" said Maar, beaming. "I quite agree."

Thleen and Ziri blew in to the table beside them. Ziri accosted Nezi, saying "Can we please have some ginger beer, we're ever so hot and thirsty?"

"Lots of cold water here" said Nezi, pointing to the table. But Lawa was digging in her pocket, saying "Buy the biggest pitcher they've got for us to share, and don't drop it." As the children plunged into the crowd, Maar said to Lawa "I noticed Thleen has been eating as many carrot sticks and spinach puffs from the snack tray here as she does pastries. What changed her?"

Lawa jerked her thumb toward Qala, who said "Oh, we had a talk about mining island heritage and how the failure of emmas doesn't have to mean a lifelong burden. She really does listen."

"Save us a glass of ginger beer" said Pyosz, grabbing Maar's hand as the music changed to a waltz. Once they were on the floor, she murmured "So did you dance with Thax to get back at me talking to Sey?"

"Not deliberately" said Maar, letting herself melt into Pyosz.

"I can't believe you even get jealous, much less of her, you silly" said Pyosz.

"Ah, well, I had no Qala to give me life lessons early on" said Maar. "I wasn't anybody's heart's desire until Thleen was born."

They danced very closely, barely moving, for a while. Then Pyosz whispered "Who did Api select to deliver the directories around Pya on Moja?"

"Me and Dekkan" said Maar. "Well, Oby asked us if we'd mind. I think Abbo had said no."

"Dekkan has a stout heart" said Pyosz. "Wish I'd been here your first year at the Lofthall."

"I'd have crashed my lighter from distraction" said Maar, kissing her. She hoped Sey was watching.

Shmona dinner the next day on Kacang was unusually quiet. Meko announced she was planning to become pregnant again as soon as they could manage it, and Oby said Ngall's family would be arriving in a month. Otherwise, talk was light and focused on harvests around Pya.

Prl told her apprentice about her action at breakfast, as the directories were being delivered everywhere. She later told Pyosz "Ever the Dullard, she wasn't even able to immediately grasp all the implications. I pointed out some of them and left her to puzzle the rest out for herself." Prl had arranged for a Sigrist radio broadcast at noon, a transmission which was satellite-skipped to Pya with only a few seconds' delay. They sat around the radio at Owl Manage together, letting Thleen fall asleep on the sofa because the broadcast was at 11 p.m. their time. They had decided it would be better for Thleen to go to school the next day instead of being conspicuously absent, trusting Dodd to handle the atmosphere there.

Prl was concise, regretful, and choked back tears when she got to her resignation, thanking all Skene for their trust in her. She emphasized that her apprentice had not known of her intention until that morning and was very much opposed to any change. This was intended not so much to shield the Dullard, Prl explained to Pyosz, as to keep the apprentice from feeling pressure to prove her own innocence by being the one who filed charges against her.

Yoj had gone to the broadcast with her and walked her home afterward, weathering silent, unreadable stares in the street. They called from Yoj and Halling's kitchen, with Speranz and Tlunu retired to the loft above in scandalized silence. Prl said "I have to wait at least a week before moving, to make sure it's not interpreted as flight. I'll spend the time transferring records, packing, and helping emma pack what she's taking from the Archives."

"Are you traveling together, then?" asked Pyosz hopefully.

"No, the huolon cargo limit for personal freight won't hold all our combined possessions" laughed Yoj. "Prl will come first, taking as much of our things in addition to hers as she can, and help set up our room, except for our bed. We'll come a week later."

"It's close to midnight there, isn't it?" said Prl suddenly. "I'm going to jump in and be the first to wish you happy birthday, my darling! Twenty-two years ago right now you were making it emphatically clear to me that you were on your way."

"Oh, emma, thank you so much for having me" said Pyosz.

"Sorry for the timing of this, dampening your celebration" said Prl.

"I think it's perfectly fitting, actually" said Pyosz. "After all, I was named after new worlds, and you keep birthing them for Skene. What our family does, I guess."

"I left my present for you in the chest in my room" said Prl. "But don't open it until tomorrow when I'm on the radio again to hear your reaction."

They went to bed after that, leaving Thleen covered with quilts on the sofa. Qala sent small cakes to school with Thleen the next day, to share with her class in honor of her emma's birthday, which was a common custom but had particular relevance at the moment. In the following week, outraged editorials appeared in both papers, along with an avalanche of citizen letters, but most of the letters were positive, pointing out in one form or another that Prl's actions diffused the genist's power rather than enhanced it and thus, it was believed, she must be striving for balance and the greater good of Skene.

By Roku, Pyosz felt their passage through the crowds at Market was not utterly accompanied by whispers. Thleen had reported one older child had called her a bad name, the meaning of which Thleen didn't comprehend, and it had been dealt with by Dodd. Thleen was more upset with Maar not telling her what the word meant than by its use in the first place.

Most of Sju was spent in canning. They had decided to use the new rock shelter as a root cellar, and the rows of gleaming jars filling the new shelves gave Pyosz a sense of security against the future. Shmona on Arta Island, Api was prodded into stating she felt no charges would be filed against Prl, neither in Skene or Pya, but new laws were already being formulated for the next election.

"She finessed this one" said Mill. "Again."

"A skill we all acquired with our aggie's milk" replied Dodd, and Mill didn't say more. Dodd asked Pyosz "She arrives next Roku, right?"

"Late afternoon" confirmed Pyosz happily. Abbo stood abruptly and said "It'll be cold but this may be our last chance to swim before the weather changes, who's up for it?" Thleen and the other children instantly began disrobing. Vants said "I'll go with them, you stay snug", grinning down at Pyosz. Pyosz pulled Maar's arm around her shoulders and watched them head for the pond.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.

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