Thursday, September 9, 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)


Pyosz was no longer able to make milk deliveries because of the lifting, so Vants was coming to do it for her each morning. After she saw her off, Pyosz ate a second breakfast with Merrl, who was especially garrulous today. She did the dishes and escaped to her studio, trying to finish a commission in case the baby came early. As she was finishing one set of glaze, Merrl burst in the door.

"Habibi say come now!"

Merrl grabbed her hand and tugged her back to the house. Lawa and Qala were standing beside the second radio, which Qala often used to eavesdrop on radio connunication by the Lofthall.

"She's all right" said Qala instantly, seeing Pyosz's drawn face. "But there was some sort of incident sinning, I can't make out exactly what. They're headed back."

"I'm going to Koldok" said Pyosz, wheeling.

"Me too, emma, me, take me!" implored Merrl, clutching at Pyosz's knee. Qala said "I'll go with you, come on, fava-bean, let's get on your manteau."

At the dock, Merrl became clutchy and cautious, as was her behavior now around edges next to water. Pyosz didn't try to reassure her past this nervousness. She was distracted anyhow, scanning the skies over Dvareka for a distant glimpse of sinners returning: No sign of them yet.

But as they approached the Lofthall, she heard a drone she recognized. She picked up Merrl with a grunt and walked directly to the jichang. Fohol landed first and gave her a brief hug with a whispered "Glad you're here" as she strode angrily to the Lofthall. Abbo landed next, and she only waved at them as she tied down her sinner and began washing it. Pyosz knew Maar would be last because she was always who did the final delivery at the fish docks. She got tired of explaining the delay to Merrl and handed her off to Qala, standing with her hands on her lower back to each the constant ache she felt these days.

As Maar was circling to land, Fohol came back outside and stood on the verge. Abbo offered her the wash jet and Fohol shook her head curtly. Pyosz saw Qala step back and saw she was talking with Mill at the Lofthall door while struggling to keep a grip on Merrl. Pyosz felt sudden apology for having sent her contrary spirit with the egg she gave Maar, which now resided in the child Maar had carried and loved so absolutely.

The sinner engine had not yet completely stilled before Maar boiled out her hatch and shot across the tarmac toward Abbo. She grabbed the lapels of Abbo's guibba and shoved her backward against the shed with a thud Pyosz heard clearly. Fohol crossed her arms to watch but Pyosz began hurrying toward Maar.

"I tell you to release, you levvin' RELEASE!" screamed Maar, leaning into Abbo's face. Abbo got her hands between them and began trying to push Maar away, but Maar's rage made her immovable. She continued shouting "I have HAD it with your shit, your constantly taking chances, you don't get to put my life in danger! I have children, a baby almost here, a Manage that counts on me absolutely, you will NOT play games for your own sick thrill, I'm not a depressed teenager any more!"

Pyosz stopped two paces away, not sure what to do. Maar's face was almost magenta. But Mill reached them and shouted in Maar's ear "Sinner Maar! Back off!" Maar looked at her unfocused for a few seconds, then let go of Abbo.

Mill said "Both of you in my office now." Maar looked beyond her and saw Pyosz.

"No" said Maar, breathing heavily, "I can't be around her right now. There's two other sinners and Dekkan who can tell you what really happened. I'm going home for lunch." She pushed past Mill, who said to her back "Them stay there, don't return today." Maar linked her arm through Pyosz's and kept going. When they reached Qala. Maar took Merrl from her and said with an effort "How's my darling baby?"

As they made food, Maar said "I know you all want to hear it, but I'd rather wait until everyone's here and tell it once."

"Fine with me" said Qala. "Since you don't have to go back anyhow." After lunch, Pyosz offered to lie down for a nap with Maar but Maar said "I'm going to take Merrl with me and what I want most is sleep, can we save it till tonight?"

"Yes." They kissed lightly and Maar carried a protesting Merrl upstairs.

Thont came home with Thleen after school. Thleen asked where Maar was, and Pyosz told her, adding "She's going to talk to us all after dinner. Did you hear something already?"

"Yeah" said Thleen, looking worried. Pyosz turned to Thont. "You two do your homework and help with dinner. Thont, call Vants and tell her you're here. Tell her after dinner we're having a family council which she's welcome to join or else we'll catch her up later. But if I may, I'd like to impose on you as a member of that Manage, will you look after the little ones for an hour while we all talk? Thleen can relay to you what was discussed afterward, but we need someone responsible to keep them from this conversation."

Thont looked conflicted for a moment, and came down on the side of being honored. Pyosz added "If you want to spend the night and Vants says yes, that would be all right." Qux tugged at her sleeve and said "Emma, what happened?"

Merrl gleefully grabbed the front of Qux's shati and shoved her, saying "Aggie did dis to Abbo, and she shouted 'I had it wif you shit!'" Thleen gasped, gratifying Merrl, but Qux burst into tears. Pyosz picked her up and carried her to the kitchen to reassure her while Qala corrected Merrl.

Before all the plates were cleared, Prl brought fresh tea to the table and a tray of lemon bars. Thont grabbed three and used them to lure the little ones upstairs. Halling ate two bites with visible appreciation before saying to Maar "I talked with Mill before coming home."

"What did she say?" asked Maar, challenging.

Halling sipped tea before answering "I'd rather hear from you first. Tell us what happened." The implicit trust in her tone relaxed Maar's shoulders.

"It was back-assed defiance, I guess you'd say" began Maar. "We had to search for almost two hours before we found the bulk of the migration. But it was at last an excellent territory, wall-to-wall schools, and we'd deployed and begun gather. Then Dekkan said she wasn't sure about a shape in the bottom of the net. I studied my screen and, honestly, I could have called it either way. Except the current criteria we're using in Pya is that if there's any doubt, assume the worst. So I gave the order to release."

"Of course" said Halling.

"But Abbo -- she was filling in for Kuus, who's out sick today, and she was flying a sinner which also had radar -- she says the image is breaking up, it's just panicking fish, and we shouldn't waste the load, it would mean we could only do one sin and would have to go back out in the afternoon. And she adds 'Don't let caution make you old before your time', which -- " Maar had to stop, her face set in revived fury. "The point is, while she's jawing at me, Fohol had already initiated release because -- well, you just do, you operate as a team and I call the shots. So one wall of the net is hanging, rendering us all off balance. So I said again for her to levvin' release, and she finally did, and then Juny, and then me. Dekkan watched tight and never was able to confirm we had a big one infiltrating. We had to start over in a new location, much smaller load, and Abbo says 'What a waste of Lofthall resource'. Which means that's the line she's going to take. And -- I blew."

Pyosz took Maar's hand, sharing her anger. Prl turned chilly eyes on Halling, who said "I don't condone assault, but you have a real complaint here. Mill didn't love what I had to say any more than I imagine Abbo is going to welcome what Mill tells her." Pyosz squeezed Maar's hand. "Your assessment of the risk, and action taken, is not in question, Maar. At least not by anyone besides Abbo. The question I want to ask you is, Does this mean a serious or perhaps permanent rupture in your working relationship with Abbo?"

Say yes thought Pyosz. Maar leaned back and rubbed her forehead, thinking. Pyosz listened to the thuds and shrieks from upstairs and hoped Thont wore them out completely. Eventually Maar said "Serious, yes. I need her to stop acting like rebellion is always productive. But permanent...I'm not willing to go that far." She sighed. "If I pull away from her, every other pilot will too, she'll have difficulty working in any team situation."

Prl couldn't stay quiet any more. "But isn't that a difficulty she's helped create?"

"Yes" said Maar, "But I'm not willing to drive her out of the sibaste. We on Skene find ways of mending instead of throwing away. Especially family." Pyosz wanted Maar to have a longer time to be outraged and unyielding. Yet her nature, her gift for leadership, always hurried her along. Pyosz lifted her hand and kissed the back of it.

Yoj said "Do you want one of us to go in with you tomorrow when you talk with Mill?"

Maar gave a startled laugh. "Lev, no, I can just imagine how well that would go over. No, I'll be able to talk it out with her. I got a good break this afternoon."

Pyosz picked up the last lemon bar and handed it to Maar. A crash came from upstairs and then Merrl's wail. "I'll go" said Prl. "Should I bring them back for singing?"

"Yes" said Maar. "Merrl needs a bath, but..." Her voice trailed off, exhausted again.

"I'll take her to the hot springs in the morning, I need a long soak anyhow" said Qala.

That night in bed, Pyosz asked Maar "How much of this is her starting to resent your growing authority?"

"That is the question" said Maar, rubbing the small of Pyosz's back. "I'm going to ask her to her face tomorrow, in front of Mill. That usually works. Abbo does value bluntness, says it makes her feel more at ease."

Pyosz fell asleep while Maar was still massaging her. On Roku, she felt like she had a slight fever and mild diarrhea, so she stopped making the round at Market and sat at the cafe counter sipping tea to stay warm. After the family returned to Saya, leaving Maar behind for an afternoon shift, Pyosz lay down on the sofa in the great room and let Prl tuck a quilt around her.

Lawa felt her forehead and said "We were planning to go to Herne to help with a greenhouse harvest, you want to stay here?"

"I do" said Pyosz. "I could get a nap."

"Should I stay with you?" asked Prl, coming to look at her worriedly.

"No, you'll be needed to keep the little ones out of trouble" said Pyosz, thinking Another two weeks and there'll be a third little one. "Bring me a pot of abba's tummy tea and leave the radio on low, they play nice music in the afternoons."

Once they all traipsed out, the silence of the Manage was heavenly. She dropped off right away. She woke up an hour later when Qoj and Uli came in the door.

"Oops, didn't mean to wake you" said Qoj gaily. "Where is everybody?"

Pyosz sat up with a groan. "Herne" she said briefly.

"Are you sick?" asked Uli.

"The privy" said Pyosz, pushing back the quilt with an urgent look on her face. "Oh, lev, I'm cramping so bad -- " She stood but before she could take a step, a flood of bright red liquid gushed from her, soaking her buksers. She stared down at herself before crumpling sideways to the floor.

Uli dropped to her knees beside her, cradling Pyosz's head in her hands. "What's wrong?" she cried. She looked around at Qoj, motionless with shock, and said "Call Briel."

Pyosz rolled onto her back and said "Oh no, the baby -- I think it's moving!"

Uli grabbed a sofa pillow and put it under Pyosz's head before untying the buksers and pulling them off. She dashed to the bath room and returned with an armful of towels, using one to mop at Pyosz's thighs, now spread as Pyosz moaned and arched back her head.

"Don't push" said Uli urgently. "Wait until Briel is here."

"I don't think I can!" cried Pyosz. "Oh no, it's too early!"

Qoj dialed the radio again, reaching Herne where it rang 20 times before Frahe breathlessly answered. Uli was pressing a wadded towel between Pyosz's legs as Qoj rejoined them, saying "They're on their way."

Frank arrived first in a dead run with her backpack, followed seconds later by Thleen who paused when she saw the blood on the floor. Prl pushed by her and knelt beside Pyosz, taking her hand.

"I can't stop it" said Frank briefly. She had splashed something from a bottle on Pyosz's thighs and said to Uli "All the towels you've got."

By the time Briel got there, Pyosz was screaming nonstop and the baby was crowning. Lawa and Frahe had taken the little ones upstairs, where they both sat on Lawa's lap, asking over and over to "go see emma". Briel took vitals while Frank delivered the baby, handing her to Briel who immediately tried to persuade the baby to breathe. Frank tied and cut the cord, then worked on delivering placenta. Pyosz could not see the baby's face and kept asking "Is she all right? Why is she so quiet?"

After almost a minute, suddenly the baby gave a thin cry and Briel said "There you go! You made a surprise visit, you must really want to be with us." Prl wiped away tears and looked at Pyosz, but Pyosz's eyes had closed and she wasn't responding.

Frank took the baby from Briel. Briel said "She's lost too much blood, lev it, and we don't have time to fly her to Koldok." She began pulling tubing and needles from her bag as she looked at Prl and said "I know you're a match to her blood type." Prl, ashen, began rolling up her sleeve. Briel said to Yoj "Call the clinic and find out who else here under this roof is a match to Pyosz." She deftly linked Prl to Pyosz and a red stream began flowing from Prl to Pyosz.

Qala tugged Thleen into the kitchen to make orange juice for the blood donors. When Yoj reported back to Briel "Tu and Thleen", however, Thleen rushed into the great room and said "Me, take my blood first!" Briel glanced at her and nodded. Prl sipped at the orange juice and kept murmuring to Pyosz at Briel stitched her examined her.

At that point the front door slammed open and Maar looked at the scene with horror. She didn't close to the door but dropped beside Pyosz, cupping her cheek. "What happened?" she said wildly.

Briel said "I think the placenta ruptured. The bleeding's slowing but if we can't stop it, we'll have to get her to surgery." Frank added "Your baby is fine." Maar looked up at that, her gaze closing on Frank. Maar numbly took the bundle in her arms as Briel said "She also has a blue spot on her back. We'll need to watch her closely, have oxygen on hand, but she's able to make it just fine, I think."

Maar whispered "Welcome, our precious one. I am your emma." She clutched her baby close and leaned over Pyosz, saying "She's beautiful, our Ngus, you did it."

"Ngus" repeated Halling in approval. Briel said to Prl "That's as much as we can take from you, let me switch you out." Prl scooted next to Maar on the floor as Thleen took her place, not even flinching as the needle was slid into her arm. Thleen said to Maar "I have the same blood type as Pyosz."

"Of course you do" said Maar, weeping silently. "But I don't understand what happened here."

"She stayed home alone, said she was feeling a little sick and wanted to sleep" said Qala, guilt heavy in her voice. "We should have known better -- "

"Qoj and I stopped by because we had news, and we found her as she began bleeding" said Uli.

Briel said to Qoj "It's great luck that you were here, because I don't think she'd have made it otherwise." Maar shuddered and leaned over to kiss Pyosz's cheek again. "Please come back" she whispered, "please don't leave me."

A few minutes later, a hospital tech arrived with a crate of supplies. Briel put a tiny oxygen tube on Ngus, who was trying to wave her arms and focus on Maar's face. As she began putting a mask on Pyosz, Pyosz's eyes opened and she startled.

"What -- Maar, you're here!" She raised a listless arm and Maar pressed close, saying "Here she is, my love, our Ngus! Ngus, this is your aggie." Maar held the baby to Pyosz's chest for her and Pyosz said "I feel so weak. And cold."

"We need to get her off this floor" said Briel.

"Our bed" said Halling promptly. Qala went to change sheets while a stretcher was assembled. Thleen was disconnected from the transfusion for the transfer, and Briel told Tu to wait, Pyosz's blood pressure was responding. The mess in the great room was cleaned as best it could, soup was heated, and Pyosz remained awake, huddled under blankets with Maar and Ngus on one side, Prl on the other.

When Pyosz finally stopped shivering, she said "My milk came in a few days ago, can I see if she wants to nurse?" The baby blanket was peeled away to reveal a child as pale as Maar, with the shape of Pyosz's eyes and a fine gauze of red-gold hair on her head. Prl said "Those eyes are going to be blue, I'll lay an ek on it." After several tries, Ngus finally latched on and a cheer went up when this was reported to those in the great room.

Thleen said "The little ones, can they come in now?" Pyosz nodded and Thleen ran to get them. As they entered the room, Thleen was telling Merrl "Now you get to be a siba, too, as well as a sibu, just like Qux." Prl took them on her lap one by one to peer at Ngus, get a kiss from Pyosz, and have pointed out to them how Ngus resembled them. Qux began crying and Yoj took her, carrying her back to the great room with a stream of reassurance, avoiding the blood stain on the gleaming floor.

It look a long time for Pyosz to regain her strength. She spent hours in front of the hearth, once she could move around, communing with Ngus. Vants assumed care of the goats and Yoj did her best to fill in for the baking, with Thleen's help. Maar took a week off and struggled to fend off Merrl monopolizing her without sending Merrl into frenzies of sibling jealousy. When Pyosz did venture outside, it was mostly to the greenhouse because she became chilled easily.

Ngus was quiet but not in Qux's attentive way. Pyosz thought her beauty was ethereal. She was nearly consumed with interest in her, and glad to see Maar felt the same way. It wasn't until nearly sheep-shearing time in Jian that Pyosz felt able to resume her full chores on Saya, but almost always with Ngus tucked in a yameen, a dreamy heartbeat distinct from her own.

The news which had fortuitously brought Uli and Qoj to Owl Manage the day Ngus had been born was that Qoj was pregnant. She came to visit Pyosz more often than usual, wanting to discuss what was going on with her body, yet always eyeing the blood stain with apprehension. Maar acted differently around Uli now, with no reserve at all, hugging her gratefully. At one point, Uli asked her "Will you come for our birth? You and Pyosz?"

"Yes" said Maar firmly. That night in bed, as Pyosz was nursing Ngus, Maar said "I hope you're done with being pregnant. I'm still not over the fear I felt."

Pyosz smiled at her. "I think I am, though not because of what happened. I feel accomplished. Now it's just about raising them."

Maar cupped her hand over the entire reach of Ngus's back. "You know, Thleen brings up whenever she can that her blood is now in your veins. It has enormous meaning for her."

"Does for me too. I'll remind her tomorrow that the milk I'm making is also carrying her blood into Ngus" said Pyosz. "Merrl asks me at least twice a day if I'll nurse her too, and she gets aggrieved when I say no. But who I think it's really bothering, silently, is Qux. I'm trying to make sure we have at least half an hour each day of me and her time."

Still, time and attention were at a premium all around that season. Oby had won her election as Ethicist by a handful of votes and was consumed with her new duties. Which meant Maar's paperwork and other Lofthall jobs had also increased greatly. Mill looked haggard and was often bad-tempered. Api didn't seem to know what to do with herself, evincing no real interest in the agrarian work of Arta Island. She began coming to Saya early to fish with Lawa and whoever else was at the point. But Lawa had never been especially fond of Api, whom she called a "pebble arranger", and her non-confrontative nature was strained with this intrusion of family which must be tolerated.

A prankster, or perhaps more than one, was making their presence felt at the Polytechnic. It began with an empty wine bottle being left in the outstretched hand of Yoj's statue one morning. Naki managed to get a photograph of it to run in the paper. Yoj laughed about it merrily, saying "I know how popular I am, it's an honor, really." Prl was not so entertained.

Periodically a new offering would appear, and Naki began checking on the statue at first light. One time it was a Pertama kickball jersey with a long-dead shu inserted in the neck. Another time it was a copy of the green directory with the names of everyone born to sib-sib relationships circled in red and labeled "Future Gakushas at Pya Polytechnic", which made Prl's eyes seem to freeze in their sockets. Pyosz's favorite was the appearance of a very used blossom. Yoj and Halling laughed about that all evening, wondering who it had belonged to, whether it had been stolen from mortified emmas somewhere.

But then one morning there was a vivid color drawing of a fleet of mezi ray sinners raining destruction down on a bay of leviathans, with dismembered levs lapping up on shore, including babies. Across the bottom was written "True Balance." Yoj's brown eyes were deeply troubled, and suggested she try to match the handwriting to the papers of Poly enrolled.

"It's not necessarily a student" said Yoj. "Or even someone who left the other items."

"Do you think this represents a widespread sentiment out there?" asked Prl. She looked at Neoma, who said "Not that I've heard, but most of my free time is here."

Maar pored over the drawing and said "You know, these depictions of the sinners are completely accurate."

"Anyone with a flair for art could be that observant" said Pyosz.

"Yes, but so are the mezi rays, even down to the controls on this one in the foreground, see?" said Maar, leaning over so Halling could confirm.

"And they have the levi blood color just right too" said Halling slowly. She and Yoj looked at each other. Maar swore under her breath, and Thleen "What does that mean?"

Merrl was occupied trying to tie a cap on Barter, who was considering drawing blood. Qux was listening, so Maar replied "It means this is a statement of dissent from someone with inside information.: Which Pyosz saw go over Qux's head except for her emma's grave tone. Pyosz glanced down at Ngus watching her intently, her red-gold hair a perfect frame for those bright blue eyes.

After half a minute, Halling said heavily "I set this in motion, and I'm not going to be able to see it all the way through." Everyone but Yoj looked instantly upset. Yoj replied "No, it was set in motion 500 years ago. We're still trying to deal with those choices, often in the dark." She patted Halling's hand and said softly "I miss her right now."

Halling half-smiled. "Yeah. She'd have something helpful to say."

"Who?" asked Qux, but before Pyosz could explain, Barter declared her independence with a gash across the back of Merrl's hand, plunging the room into dealing with the tempest at hand.

(Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild)