Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Pyosz na Prl
Capriste, keramiker & huertanista, Saya Island, Pya
Drawn by  ©Genia Bonyun

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 nearly done with milking the next morning when Prl came to the barn with Ngus, letting the baby sit on patient Killer for a minute. "Yoj called. There are hundreds of people arriving at the Lofthall. They want in on the discussion. Mill has managed to keep a private breakfast for the pilots, but she's moving their strategy talk to the great hall at the Poly."

"When?" asked Pyosz. "And where's Thleen, did she get to school?"

"No, she's with Yoj, said Maar okayed it. I think it's set to begin at the same time as school, so emmas can drop off their children. But Yoj said Dodd was coming to the meeting."

"Well, then I am too" said Pyosz, feeling tired at the idea of hurrying with milk cans. However, all of Herne and Teppe, except Moasi, showed up at the Saya dock and the many hands got her to the Poly in good time. She searched the hall for Thleen and found her sitting with Thont and Ziri. She wondered if Ziri was skipping school without consent until she spotted Kacang emmas and elders in another cluster.

"Waves and ripples, it looks like all of Pya" she whispered to Prl.

"The mines and most of the off-Dvareka industry is closed today because ferries aren't running and the pilots aren't flying sinners right now" said Qala, joining them. "Come over here, we've got seats saved." Su was there already.

The Lofthall, plus Oby and assorted Sheng Zhangs, were in the center of the hall where the tiers of seats could gaze down on them. Mill looked as if she had aged overnight, and Oby's eyes were bloodshot. Briel was near Api, who had her eyes closed. Ollow seemed not to be noticing her surroundings, either.

Pyosz chose a chair which gave her best line of sight with Maar. When Maar spotted her, she came over to greet them and whispered "No debris, no new sign. The memorial service has been scheduled for tomorrow, after Market."

"How are Mill and Oby?" asked Pyosz.

"Silent, mostly" said Maar. She kissed Ngus's reaching hands, one then the other, and returned to her place in the middle. She and Pyosz still had not delved in Maar's emotions, not alone as a couple, but Pyosz knew they would, knew Maar was counting on it, and in the meantime Maar was turning an open heart to her sibaste.

Pyosz looked around the room. She caught Sey watching her intently. Sey had long ago broken up with Cremen and been through two more lovers from among Uli's friends, as Pyosz thought of them, though in fact they were simply the members of Uli and Pyosz's sui on Pya. Pyosz had remarked to Maar "I'm not surprised no one sticks with her long-term, she's dull as boiled rice and worse than that in bed." Maar had laughed contentedly. Now Pyosz looked down at the flame-haired child in her lap and said "I certainly found my destiny on Skene, didn't I, baby love?" Ngus nodded her head agreeably, reaching up to tug at the silver lighter at the end of Pyosz's braid.

Nioma joined them, as did Yoj, and Pyosz moved down to the end of the row to give them seats beside Prl. Ngus sought Yoj's lap, and Yoj began whispering a story to her which involved interactive hand motions. Frahe and Nk were behind her -- she could smell the wood resin coming from them -- and Ngall with Ehuy and Vlapi in front of them. When Dodd, Briel, Mruch, Qoj, Uli and Ulodd arrived, they filled the row beside Ngall. Herne was strung out beside Frahe and Nk, and Teppe was the row behind that.

We're almost a village by ourselves thought Pyosz. She waved in Jinya's family across the aisle from her, squeezing Jinya's hand across the gap. The row behind Jinya was all Heaps. When a bloc of Hamsa residents filed in -- The motorboats must be working in relays, thought Pyosz -- they claimed places near the Pea Podders. Yoj whispered to Pyosz "Geography shapes human culture, always has."

When Halling spotted Dodd, she nudged her scooter to the front a few inches and said in a carrying voice "Welcome to this community discussion, we're sorry we didn't anticipate the need for it so soon. We're missing most of the residents of Trumpinne, Pirinc, Doimoi, Paba, and forestry and mining islands. Kudos to Chwet for braving the ferries. We will get you home by air later, ask us." Rustling and whispers ceased as she delivered these prosaic sentences.

She cleared her throat and continued. "I am not a Sheng Zhang but I am Lofthall for life, and I have been asked to begin this conversation. We are...grieving" -- her voice broke briefly -- "and we ask your indulgence for where we have no answers as yet." She announced the time of the memorial service, naming Abbo and Fohol in full. Pyosz saw tears stream down Maar's face. Ngus had gone silent and still, two fingers in her mouth.

"The attack on our sinners yesterday was calculated in advance, with intelligent group knowledge of our behavior patterns and likely responses" said Halling. "They were waiting for a moment they could exploit, and once that occurred, our best thinking and valor was not enough to save more than Dekkan. We've gone over the details and there is no lesson to be learned from it, except to never make the smallest of mistakes which is not an option, we're human beings and glad to be so." Extending mercy to Maar and to Abbo's memory.

"Our Sheng Zhang has conferred with Skene's Sheng Zhang and we are all in agreement, Pax Piscata is history." That caused a stir in the room. "All future human endeavor which involves the open ocean will have to operate with the caution we knew when I was young."

Someone from behind Pyosz, in seats occupied by Sepek dwellers, called out "Did you not retaliate, then? Did you just give them your dead and leave?"

Prl swiveled to lay eyes on the speaker, memorize who it was. Mill leaned forward but it was Maar who spoke in an amazingly contained voice. "We killed eight of them, including one baby and two juvies. I personally fired on every lev in range."

"It was not a deterrent" joined in Halling. "They remained engaged with us, trying for us and only diving when in direct line of fire. Their numbers are vastly more than us, and their domain thwarts our technology. Until such time as we comprehend their logic, we must assume we will remain targets."

"What about the ferries?" came another voice. Pyosz recognized the speaker as a faryaste between Doimoi and Talaba, the emma of a child Qux was attached to at school.

Oby stood up, keeping one hand resting on Mill's shoulder. "We will ask the Lofthall for increased protection of ferry routes without morrie vaseo, but it may be more cost efficient to turn over all transportation in Pya to the Lofthall where it involves open water. Proposals will have to be drafted and voted on. Right now the Lofthall is overextended. To deal with that, next week a new training period will begin for anyone who previously applied to pilot school without acceptance, or who wants to apply now. Equipment orders have also gone in."

Pyosz wondered what kind of person would opt for a pilot position now. Not fourth graders, Dodd would use any means necessary to keep them in school.

"Where will those eks come from?" asked another voice.

Oby turned her palm upward. "Pya. We'll find a way, we're productive and growing. Human well-being will be covered."

Pyosz thought suddenly If there was still a single capriste on Saya, the push to reallocate my land would be overwhelming now. She'd be moved to a distant island with room for goats and a daily air pickup of her milk, like in Skene. Saya's pastures and woods would be divided into Manages and tillages. She felt with 13 in Owl Manage and their multiple contributions, Saya was safe at least for her lifetime.

Various people began bringing up already familiar arguments for creating reefs, building boats with dhakin repellant, and raising tariffs on goods shipped to Skene. Oby's face was weary as she fielded this dialogue, people venting their worry and frustration into disagreements which could not be resolved here and now. Pyosz wondered what was happening on Skene, if there was a similar impromptu convocation brewing at the U or Lofthall. But none of us will be present to help sort it out she thought, with an odd feeling of loss. Ngus became restless and was passed down to sit in the lap next to Ulodd, so the babies could interact.

Then a miner, from the looks of her buksers, stood and said laconically "I think we should be paying attention to how our panic funnels power in the direction of the Lofthall. I mean, they already control our shipping, do we want to turn over all our human transportation to them as well?"

Maar's face was incredulous as she turned her gaze toward Pyosz. Thleen looked ready to get to her feet, and even Oby was momentarily nonplussed. It was Mill who replied, from her chair but stiffly upright. "Anyone who feels the Lofthall is not making sacrifices commensurate with the responsibility we assume is welcome to run against me, vote me out of office and reduce our service role to Pya." Her tone was flat and exhausted. Pyosz felt animosity traveling in waves toward the miner. Still, she thought she had enough support to dare voice it observed the Prl-trained part of her mind.

Now it was Nioma standing, her long hair braided in a rope around the crown of her head this morning, wearing an indigo pu decorated with silver spiral galaxies spilling down its folds. She said "I know most of us are concerned about the change in ferry travel, or the eks we may lose in years to come. I have a family member who commutes to Doimoi, I am concerned myself. However, what brought us here is death, the horrific deaths of two women I knew and loved. They died while trying to feed Skene. As long as we send pilots out to sin, we are asking them to face death. It is an unbalanced request that washes back on us all. One possible solution, for Pya at least, is to alter our protein demands such that sinning is much less frequent. We have land to grow other sources of nutrition. We could also reef in deepwater channels between large islands in a way that allows larger fish migration but stops leviathans from patrolling our borders. It's a long-term and costly idea, yet generations down the road would be able to count the human life saved." She sat down again and Prl's hand slipped into her lap, as Mill studied them.

This unleashed a barrage of contention back and forth. Suggesting Skeners not eat fish is akin to asking them not to wear burzakas Pyosz thought, hiding her grin. She knew the notion was one which Nioma actually believed was feasible to some degree, and she was a strong advocate for greater diversity in Skene's ejida dependence. They had learned that Nioma knew all along Poth had taken home the rabbit. If it were up to Nioma, rabbits and numerous other animals would be given their own islands to inhabit except for occasional culling expeditions, simply to see what adaptations they made.

However, Nioma's comment also awakened this gathering's loyalty to the Lofthall who daily stocked the beloved fish docks, reminding them of their debt to pilots. Pyosz was sure Nioma expected that effect as well from her words. She loved Nioma but was glad she had not grown up with two emmas of Prl's stripe.

A few commenters later, Caax of Dudor stood, small but commanding. She was pregnant again. The child she had been carrying when Maar rescued her from the ferry roof was now in first grade with Merrl; they had named her Maax, which had embarrassed Maar but Pyosz thought it only fitting. Pyosz remembered Caax had been flown back to the Lofthall by Fohol, and she could read particular grief on Caax's face now.

"I know what it means first-hand to see those monsters come for me. I watched my cousin...consumed. I also saw pilots risking their own lives to save us. It's the only reason I and my eldest still walk Pyan soil." The room was hushed. Caax swept her gaze in an arc and settled on Maar. "I say we give the Lofthall as many weapons as we can and set them on a course of driving levis away from waters anywhere near us. I don't believe there isn't a deterrent which would work. Before I give up one wave to them, I'd rather see us litter the kuonos with shards of their carcasses, as long as it takes. Pya is where humans first set down and first tried to make home, and I say we lead the way now in wiping levs back from our proximity. We have a right to be here."

As a roar went up, Pyosz saw Yoj slump in dismay. Though not Halling. Her face remained impassive but her eyes glittered. Pyosz could tell the loud reaction was mixed, and it sounded more affirmative than not. She locked on Maar, who had leaned forward with her elbows on her knees, her forehead deeply creased.

Pyosz turned and motioned to Briel, signing for her to pass Ngus back her way. Ngus looked uncertain until she deduced where she was headed, when relief flooded her small pale face. People were standing and talking over each other, their voices loud and angry. Ngus immediately fingered at Pyosz's shati, and Pyosz unlaced it to lay Ngus against her breast -- she knew Ngus wasn't really hungry, she was looking for familiar comfort, and Pyosz sought that link as well. They sighed together as the connection was made, and Pyosz looked up from Ngus's half-closed eyes to see Maar watching them, her brow now smooth.

The argument for and against a Lofthall-led war on leviathans raged while Pyosz and Maar communicated silently and Ngus dropped off at Pyosz's breast. Eventually Qala stood, and Yoj looked at her hopefully.

"I grew up on Exploit, hearing tales of Lofthall treachery and violence. I was already exiled by the time I joined the Lofthall, but that act sealed the deal. What I found there was a sibaste completely focused on doing what Skene needed. The Lofthall which arrived here 500 years ago is not the Lofthall we have remade according to Skene ethics, any more than we resemble those confused colonists in other ways. I trust our Sheng Zhangs, and I'm -- I'm sick of losing pilots. Sick all the way through."

She sat back down to a pat on the back from Tu. Yoj looked slammed, and Dodd was somber. Pyosz knew in her gut Prl was trying to arrange the right words which would distill and swing this clash into a more reasoned direction. Maar blinked at her twice.

Pyosz stood, squaring her shoulders against the weight of Ngus in her yameen. Ngus's dimpled legs showed on either side of the faded purple linen, and her red-gold shock of hair contrasted with the fabric supporting her sleeping face. Pyosz cupped one round foot in her hand and tugged at her own right front dread as she took a breath.

"I come from Lofthall, three generations counting my habibi Veida. I partnered with a pilot, and it appears that at least one of my children will choose the Lofthall." Many faces swiveled to look at Thleen, who scowled at her hands.

"I just lost my cousin, and a good family friend. I fear death for my sweetheart every day. I grew up with that fear under the roof in one form or another. I want us to do anything we can to create more safety, for pilots in particular." She smiled tenderly at Maar before going on.

"But I beg of you, don't ask our pilots to become killers." She could feel Yoj's eyes on her. "I myself have to kill as part of my job to feed Skene. I have to kill intelligent, sweet-hearted animals who depend on me utterly. Anyone who knows me can tell you, it wrecks my mind and spirit for days, sometimes weeks. It leaves me out of balance. Those of you who likewise perform slaughter for our ejida system understand what I mean, and all of you on some level understand we don't spread that task around on Pya, we have a small number of individuals who can handle the work of large-scale slaughter. My own children judge me for it, and I allow them that judgment because it takes an adult reason to make allowance for what I must do."

She paused to shift Ngus's weight, standing on her other leg. "I know it is sometimes necessary for my partner, for other pilots, to kill a large sentient creature who loathes us and who claimed Skene long before we did. I think we have the right to defend ourselves and the very human right to become temporarily unhinged when we are hunted. But to institutionalize hunting for the sake of sowing death would be to ask our pilots to change their primary instinct, that of looking after Skene, and add on a differing, conflicting logic, that of killing in the way leviathans do. I don't want that change visited on the pilots I love. It won't make them any safer, and it will diminish them. That is my belief, and it is what I will pass on to my descendants in this Lofthall family of ours." She stood a few seconds more, and Ngus woke up at the sudden silence. Her eyes immediately spotted Maar, facing them below, and she flung out both hands, crying happily "Mar!"

The room erupted in laughter. Pyosz sat down, folding away Ngus's insistent point and saying "I know, darling, she's right over there but she's working right now, we'll go see her when this gathering is over, all right?"

Which was not long. Mill stood and said "Thank you all for your concern. I need to take my pilots back to the Lofthall and come up with a plan for resuming our hauling today. If you need a ride today, come tell us. Otherwise..." She couldn't finish, because what was left involved remembering the funeral tomorrow. Halling took her hand, and Mill leaned heavily against her scooter.

Pyosz went against the throngs heading outside and Maar met her halfway along the aisle. Ngus patted Maar's face and said "Come home, Mar?"

Maar took time to kiss Pyosz before answering Ngus. By then, Thleen had joined them, trying to wrap her arms around both their shoulders. "I agree with you" Maar told Pyosz softly. "I didn't know it until you spoke, but -- "

"One of us is always a small step ahead of the other, we take turns" said Pyosz. "Are you able to come for lunch, or leave early this afternoon?"

Maar shook her head sadly. "But after dinner, let's me and you go to the hot springs for an hour."

"All right. Then I'm going to the schoolhouse and eat lunch with all our children" decided Pyosz. "Come on, Thleen, Dodd is waiting for her students."

Dinner was quiet. Qala had made gingerbread with the little ones after homework, and they had that for dessert, dipped into milky tea. A rainstorm had arrived, and Prl lit the hearth, more for comfort than needed heat.

Maar gathered towels and scrub for the hot springs. Pyosz grabbed one of the candle lanterns Lawa had fashioned from recycled tin and the children had painted in gay colors. She said "We'll be back before bedtime", kissing Qux's upturned forehead. Merrl was already protesting, and as they departed, Pyosz heard Thleen telling Merrl "It's okay, Maar's heart is broken right now and emma knows how to fix it when they're alone."

They linked fingers for the long trek through the pasture, mud already starting to suck at their otos. They walked single file through the woods, where the constant aroma of fecund decay was sharpened by the downpour. They folded their attire into burzakas and submerged to their chins in water with a halo line of steam above the surface.

When Maar got out to wash, Pyosz joined her, soaping her back, then kneeling to lather her legs. Pilots needed massage of their lower body muscles as much as their upper. Maar groaned when Pyosz knuckled her calf muscles and slid slick thumbs along the backs of her thighs.

Back in the springs, Pyosz drifted near the candle to show Maar "On the ferry home, Merrl made this gesture and asked me what it meant." She pressed her palms against her face on either side, pulling backwards to imitate cheeks being squeezed by thighs, while extending her tongue. Maar looked very disturbed and said "Shit and thunderation, where did she pick that up?"

"Well, Thleen and Ziri both looked immediately guilty, so three guesses. I impressed upon her that it was never to be done in polite company or as an insult" said Pyosz.

"Which of course means she'll memorize it forever now" sighed Maar. "Funny how obscene that's considered, when we all do it in real life."

"Yeah, like calling someone a turd-dripper or a crotch-muncher" agreed Pyosz. "Normal adult activity, really. In fact, I can only think of one profane phrase that really is hateful."

Maar raised her orange eyebrows in question, and Pyosz said softly "Well, it's particularly horrible right now...You know it." She didn't want to speak it out loud, the curse which wished "May your mouth still be screaming as your feet begin being digested": A graphic description of being consumed by leviathans.

Maar shuddered and said "I've never used that one. Have you?"

"I started it as a teenager once, furious at my emma. Qala was there and she slapped her hand over my mouth, a hard slap, the only time she ever raised a hand to me. She said 'Not in this family' and I was stricken with guilt on the spot" said Pyosz. She glided to Maar now and wrapped her arms around Maar's middle, whispering "I'm glad Thleen has such faith in me, but I don't think I can mend your heart right now. Not all at once."

Maar began crying, and Pyosz joined her. Maar choked out "Every day. I'll miss them every day. They're a part of everything I do at the Lofthall."

Pyosz let herself feel the dread inside her, at Maar going into the air without Fohol there to pick up the slack. And although Abbo was her least favorite relative, no one deserved to die the way Abbo had -- she vowed to begin a stealthy brainwashing to dissuade Qux from going into the Lofthall, ever.

Maar went to the side to blow her nose, then returned to look blearily at Pyosz. "I want to ask you something, and I need you to be honest, no matter what. I can tell if you're holding back part of the truth."

Pyosz breathed deeply, suddenly chilled despite the hot water. "All right."

Maar licked her lips. "Is this -- am I to blame? For what happened to Abbo? Because I..." Maar trailed off.

Pyosz kept her eyes steady on Maar's flushed face. We got this far by never hiding things she reminded herself. "The ability of that leviathan attack to bring down a sinner is the consequence of several things, one of them being that Abbo had not released her grapple. Did you tell her to release? Had you told her repeatedly in the past to release on your direction? Did you insure that no one else suffered as a direct result of her obstinance? The answer to all those is yes, Maar. They were waiting for an error, and the error was hers, not yours. And if you had been in line to rescue her, instead of Fohol, it would be you who was taken down. So yes, there is a series of events, each of which is a consequence of the event preceding it, but you did not set the series in motion and there is no way you could have seen to interrupt it in advance. I mean, do you think I am to blame for Merrl falling off the dock and nearly drowning? Because in retrospect, it seems obvious she was going to make the mistake she did -- "

"No, there's no way to completely predict what another human will do" verified Maar.

"Add in the levs, and it's a maelstrom of uncertainty. I can understand you wanting to take the blame here, because blame might mean you could do something different in the future, which would lessen the terror that is going to hit the next time you have to sin. A terror we are both carrying right now, my sweetheart, the absolute love of my life." Pyosz was crying again. "But blame won't, in fact, make you safer. Or ease any of the gap which has appeared in your days."

This time Maar sobbed without restraint. When they dressed again to return to the Manage, Pyosz felt enervated, ready for sleep. The children were still up, damp-haired themselves from a shared bath with Thleen, in cotton schmattas and on laps. Pyosz and Maar walked them upstairs to once again share Thleen's room, telling soothing stories until everyone, including Thleen, had dropped off. Pyosz carried Ngus back to their bedroom and lay her in the cradle to begin the night.

The next morning after breakfast, Thleen silently took the blue paint from Maar when she was done and wiped her eyes before drawing a cobalt hand on her own face. Qala and Halling followed suit. Maar reluctantly parted from Pyosz to fly elders to Pertama. The sky was clear and cloudless as Pyosz, Prl, Nioma, Su and Thleen helped the little ones ferry to Koldok, standing on the wharf to wait on the rest of the Pea Podders.

Pyosz kept having to beat back waves of panic in her chest as they began the spiral walk upward to join Mill, Oby, Maar and the rest of the Lofthall. Her mind was imagining the day she would have to face this kind of goodbye for Maar, the only emma left for her children, her bed empty forever. When she reached Maar, her hand grip was almost crushing, and Maar looked at her keenly. She had given Ngus to Prl, meaning to focus her attention on Maar.

However, Qux left Lawa to come to Pyosz and plead with her eyes to be held, and when Pyosz obliged, Merrl immediately did the same with Maar. It actually helped to have those small bodies pressed close, and Pyosz motioned Thleen to stand right next to her on her other side. The only relief to be had seemed to be in numbers.

Before it was over, Mill staggered and would have fallen except for Vants quickly moving to hold her up. Halling pulled her back onto her lap, and no one thought it at all odd to see two ornately dressed Sheng Zhangs, one with white hair and one with grey, weeping in an emma-child fashion. Yoj was wrapped around them, and Oby stood between her two frail-appearing emmas, bolstered by Ngall and Ehuy.

Pyosz felt relief that Kuus did not have any bodies to lift off to the volcano, because she looked close to passing out herself. Pyosz met Fohol's three emmas and two sibs for the first time. She was surprised to see Uli until Uli whispered to her "Dekkan begged me to come in her stead. She tried to stand this morning, insisting she could make it, but doubled up in pain and they knocked her out again."

The gathering afterward was at the Lofthall. Pyosz told Maar "Will it be all right with you if I leave for ten minutes and go visit Dekkan?" Maar said "I wish I could, too. Tell her I love her and will be by this evening." Thleen said she wanted to go with Pyosz, and from the look on her face, Pyosz suspected it was partly to look after Pyosz herself, so she assented.

Dekkan was awake when they came in. She had somehow gotten paint to draw a blue hand on her own face, and she nodded at Thleen in sober appreciation. Pyosz repeated most of the eulogies and remarks, drawing on her Yoj-trained memory, and kissed Dekkan right on her cobalt-touched lips before they left.

At the Lofthall, Pava and a few other young adults had taken the smaller children away to the schoolgrounds to play after consuming cake and cookies. Pyosz made a plate in the canteen and sat beside Maar, feeding her small bites and watching Dodd do the same with her emmas. Mill had sat down apart from everyone else and had lain her head back on the chair, her eyes closed. People were telling quiet stories.

Ngus began fussing to come to Pysoz, so Pyosz handed the plate to Su, whispering "Refill it and keep her eating, she missed breakfast". Su looked embarrassed but complied as Pyosz began nursing Ngus, staying in contact with Maar's side. She saw Mill's eyes open after a while, Mill staring up at the ceiling, her face blank with desolation.

A minute later, Prl pushed a chair next to Mill and sat down, taking Mill's hand. Mill looked startled and sat upright, but she did not close her fingers back over Prl's. Pyosz could not hear them. However, she knew her emma's mouth well enough to read her lips across the room.

Prl said "It's not your fault."

"What?" said Mill.

Prl leaned closer. "It's our job as emmas, our entire job, to prepare our children for the life they will face. Once they are grown, we see the gaps in our preparation. And with Abbo, you aren't -- weren't merely her emma, you were her Sheng Zhang. So I know what you must be thinking. You must be scalding yourself for failure, trying to unravel the path which led unthinkably to her death. But Mill, it's not your fault."

Mill gaped at Prl in rank disbelief.

"I know we haven't been especially close, and live our lives somewhat differently. However, I respect the work you've chosen and how well you've excuted it. You are a gift to Pya and to all Skene. And you are a good emma, Mill. You did not fail Abbo. I trusted my own child with you, and I trust you with my child-in-law each day. I don't lie to you, Mill, you know how blunt I can be. I swear to you, Abbo's death is in no way your fault."

Oby was now listening, as were Yoj and Halling. Prl gathered Mill's other hand in her own and said tenderly "My siba, forgive yourself, lean on me and we'll get through this unbearable time." Mill abruptly pitched forward, dropping her face onto Prl's shoulder and starting to wail.

"What happened?" said Maar. "What did your emma say?"

"What Mill needed to hear" said Pyosz, her own eyes welling.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.