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 on the radio with Maar for over an hour, calling back every 15 minutes to stay on a private line. Curds and Ember both sat up and watched her, interested in her extreme emotion at this hour of the night. When she finally clicked off, she went downstairs, knocked on her abbas' door, and sat crosslegged at the foot of their bed to repeat verbatim the stories Maar had told and retold her.
Qala and Lawa hugged each other in glee. "She still needs to talk with Prl" said Qala.
"Maar said that too, now more than ever. That curandera, it's Ried, right?" said Pyosz. She was fascinated by a ripple of something unspoken that passed between her abbas. "Our family has some sort of history with her, don't we?"
"We do" said Qala "but it's not mine to tell you."
"Is it about emma?" pursued Pyosz.
"I think Prl's difficulty with Ried centers around Ried's illegalities in the realm of comception, particularly her using it for profit" said Qala. So there was something else.
"Skeners don't like to think of themselves as the product of selective breeding, but we are" said Lawa. "Until Prl threw a change in the works. Truth is, some folks shouldn't be emmas. 'Course, a Genist might not be the right person to make that decision, either. Anyhow, Prl will know how to shut Ried down."
"She's your age" pointed our Qala, "I'm surprised she hasn't retired by now."
"Eks to be made" said Lawa. "Prl will have to find a way to fine the shit out of her without getting Maar's emmas into trouble."
"We need Bux" said Qala sadly. "In so many ways."
Lawa lifted the covers to find a spot on her shin that was itchy. After a minute of scratching, she said "So, nine days from now, we have Thleen for all time."
"She was so happy here in winter, can you imagine her this summer?" said Qala.
"Moasi too" said Lawa. "She's spending almost all day outside, in the tillage or just rumbling around upper Teppe in that cart. Tu rigged an umbrella to the back upright that covers her in the rain."
"Has Lehen moved in over there?" asked Pyosz.
"Not officially" said Lawa. "For one thing, Vants doesn't have milk to deliver yet, so without a lighter dropping in each morning, the commute to Doimoi is prohibitive. Mainly, though, the Talaba family really needs her, for income, for the tillage, and for the kids. So she has to come and go. Vants told me, though, that Avik called her sibemma the other day. She was so proud she near busted out her gilet."
Qala glanced at the clock. "You can still get a couple hours of sleep before milking, you should go on back to bed."
Prl kissed them and went into the kitchen, She heated a mug of warm milk and sat in a hearth chair, Clicker sharing her lap and the milk. Pyosz dozed off and didn't wake until Ember, who had a finely tuned katt chronograph, came to tell her it was time for morning fisk.
She didn't tell Kolm or Gitta the news about Thleen. She thought Maar would want to, or Thleen herself. Plus Maar was going to have to renegotiate her schedule at the Lofthall permanently, and that should start without Mill having heard gossip in advance. But it was hard to keep secret this impending uplift in her existence.
At lunch she remarked "This means Maar won't be moving out." Her abbas both stopped eating. Lawa said "What do you mean?"
Pyosz explained. Qala and Lawa exchanged a glance -- Why, after all these years, were there still communications between her abbas that she couldn't decipher? -- before Lawa said "So she and Thleen are a package deal? You really okay with that?"
"I really am. I want Thleen badly. I want her in this family."
"I do too" said Qala. After another glance at Lawa, she said "So now that we have lots of room again. is Maar going to stay sleeping in your room? Especially once Thleen comes back?"
Pyosz couldn't believe she hadn't thought about this question. Lev...Maar would of course go where Thleen needed her to be. Her internal reaction was not nearly as noble as she wanted it to be. Qala patted her arm and went to refill her bowl of soup from the aga.
Prl called the next morning. She said "I had a long talk with Maar today while her sibs visited my emmas. She said it was your recommendation."
"It was, and I'm glad she followed through, emma."
"I'm continually impressed by her, and despite their personal sense of loss, Yoj and Halling are over the moons about Thleen moving into Owl Manage permanently" said Prl.
"Just have to check, you called on a private line. right?"
Prl laughed. "Yes, and I'm in my office with the door locked and my apprentice out on a call. So, you want to hear my take on it all?"
"Panting for it" said Pyosz.
"First, I took those incriminating documents away from her, they need to not be on her person. I made a copy on the copier in the Archive. One set will be stashed in my personal papers, marked to be destroyed unread on my natural death, I have several sets like that and Genists' requests of that nature are always obeyed by Ethicists. The other set I put in an envelope addressed to you and sealed with the Genist seal. They'll arrive on the next huolon. Take them to your bank and store them with your legal papers there." Prl was crispest at details like this. Pyosz took cryptic notes.
"Second, they may realize she's bluffing, dim as they appear to be, so -- "
"What do you mean, emma, bluffing?"
"Maar doesn't have it in her to send her emmas into exile, child. Not even for Thleen's sake. That's a good thing, not a weakness. So she needs to acquire legal guardianship as protection for Thleen. I gave her the name of someone skilled in those matters, she said she would follow up. That will enable her to revise her will to name another as Thleen's guardian should something happen to Maar, a real possibility." Pyosz was rattled by eventualities she had not considered.
"As for Ried, I can't initiate an investigation of her activities without possibly setting the Ethicist on a trail that could lead her to Maar's emmas. But there's an alternative route: Ried's income from all this, which she cannot possibly have enumerated on her annual taxes. She's underreported her income for decades. Her partner is dead, she lives with her child's family in a nice but not palatial Manage in Verzin where her privacy consists of a bedroom and office separate from the rest of the household -- " How did Prl know all this off the top of her head? -- "And she's been clever enough to never obviously overspend, so it's highly likely she has simply stashed her eks in a hiding place in her own quarters. I imagine she intends to hand it on to that child she had late in life. Tax evasion is a crime that is usually punished by confiscation of suspected unreported income, especially with someone as elderly as Ried. So tomorrow I'll visit the Sheng Zhang of Rahat, who governs all aspects relating to curandera practice including income and taxes, and state I am virtually certain Ried has been charging for extralegal services and concealing the income. No mention of extortion at all. My word will be sufficient for the Sheng Zhang to institute a surprise search. If they find a stash -- and I believe they will -- it will be seized pending review of her taxes, her license as a curandera will be revoked, and the news will hit the paper. Which will simultaneously keep her from further extortion and signal to Dru and Adnes that they need to stay silent, hope this doesn't blow their way...and scare them shitless about Maar's influence. Should take care of all loose ends." And eliminates one of your own community problems as well, emma thought Pyosz.
Prl added "The Sheng Zhang will be very happy if they do seize a substantial amount because every governmental entity and guild in Skene is starting to be concerned about the income shifts which may occur when Pya's contracts come up for renegotiation. She'll be grateful to me."
At Shmonah on Teppe, Mill released Pyosz from her secrecy by announcing she'd gotten a call from Mill announcing Thleen was moving to Pya for good. They celebrated, with Ziri especially exuberant. Lehen was present, she and Vants finding any excuse to touch each other. They said a toast to Pava, taking a moment of silence to miss her. Mill also informed them that Ngall and Ehuy had decided to get pregnant again right away, because they intended to stop at three children and they wanted the chance to focus on something past the diaper stage.
On Moja, Lawa and Qala accompanied Pyosz to Koldok. They placed an order with Taamsas which was delivered that afternoon by Dekkan. Dekkan also carried a laser which she used to cut fencepost holes marked on boulders around the perimeter of Saya's eastern cliffs. Lawa had insisted they make Saya "safe for little ones" as Kacang was. She and Qala followed in Dekkan's wake, setting posts in the holes with concrete. Dekkan lingered for an hour after she was done, intruding on Pyosz where she was trying to finish a set of songbird plates Klosa had requested for a customer.
"I haven't heard from Pava yet, maybe there'll be a letter on the huolon with Maar" said Dekkan disconsolately.
"I hope so, but I'm sure she's been busy helping her emma and sibs adjust" said Pyosz.
"D'ya think she and Maar's sib will be friends, now?"
"I honestly hope so, for both their sakes, but my impression is that they are fairly different personalities" said Pyosz. "My guess is that Pava will be pretty lonely until she gets to University and has a chance to meet others her own age."
"She's going to hate the U" said Dekkan forcefully. "She's got the brains but she needs to do and make, not gas on or listen to others gassing on. And she has to be outside, she's just like -- "
"Poth" finished Pyosz.
"Yeah. Don't tell anyone, but she put in an application to the ejida here to apprentice, before she left. Brek helped her. The problem is that the apprenticeships with stipends always go to folks with a family to support, usually immigrants from Skene. Singles need a place to live and emmas willing to support them for two years. And Thava won't give her a fart's worth if she comes back to Pya" said Dekkan.
"She's very young to assume the responsibility of a family, but in some ways she's had to" said Pyosz. "Thont needs her, too -- "
"Thont will be back in Pya the instant she graduates" said Dekkan with conviction. "Pava means to have a home waiting for her. Nobody on Skene knows a levvin' thing about Poth or how much she meant to the whole community here, it's like she's being erased with this stupid move."
Pyosz had no answer for that.
Maar arrived shortly before dinner, with assorted gifts for family including a drawing for Pyosz by Thleen of her scoring a miraculous goal at kickball camp. Pyosz especially liked the open moths of amazement on the faces of those watching the practice. She put the drawing on their cold box.
Maar handed Pyosz her mail, including a thick sealed envelope from the Genist, which Pyosz slid into a drawer of the sideboard. There were three books selected for Ulcha by Yoj, and a gilt-edged scarf from Prl that made them all whistle when Pyosz draped it around her neck.
Over dinner, Maar told her stories of discovery, confrontation, and meeting with Prl all over again, with raucous feedback and laughter. She reported Thleen was assuming her permission to move to Pya was a direct result of passing her test, which Maar said was one blazing comet of reinforcement for studying. Adnes and Dru had made their decision official after news broke of Ried's Manage being forcibly searched on Shmonah afternoon, that gossip lapping the shores of Skenee faster than a storm wave. Su was trying to hide her jubilation at the prospect of having the loft to herself and being the only child vying for her emmas' attention; Maar said she hadn't realized yet how many extra chores would come her way.
When they went to bed that night, Pyosz said to Maar "I guess you'll be bunking with Thleen from now on, once she gets here."
Maar looked at her steadily. "I'm not going to leave her alone when she's needy, but she's old enough to have her own space sometimes. We can all have a talk about it."
The next morning Maar slept in until 10:00. something Pyosz had never known her to do. Qala noticed Pyosz's repeated glances toward the stairs and said "First break she's had since she was 12." Pank arrived with a bucket of oysters from the Saya beach, saying she was taking a bucket to Teppe to as well as Herne. She had a small basket of mushrooms gathered from the woods, and a lumpy brown tuber with soil clinging to it that she named as a faburgon. "Make some plain noodles in butter, or scramble some eggs, no strong competing flavors, and grate a small amount of this over it. A little bit goes a long way. Tell me what you think" she said with an anticipatory grin.
The first apricots, cherries, and currants were arriving on Saya. Qala and Lawa did picking in the afternoons, followed by a hot tub soak, and they all shared processing the fruit for an hour after dinner. Despite increasing demands of tillage and milking, Pyosz still had time every afternoon to go in her studio and work steadily until it was time to help with dinner -- most days, Vants came over to milk, and in return Pyosz made sure half her milk, cheese and butter allotment went to Vants. Vants' yogurt had an extraordinary flavor, and she kept Owl Manage supplied.
On Roku, Maar picked up Moasi with a sinner and flew her to Koldok before heading out to hauling work. The extended family browsed through market stalls with Moasi, who was already popular. She was chatty in a way her sibs were not, and her sense of humor was zany, sometimes surreal. Lawa said she was more like Mweze had been, their aggie, than Ng, whom the other three sibs had emulated.
Maar came home mid afternoon for a nap. She and Abbo were leaving for Skene at 7:00, a night flight because a shipment wasn't going to be ready until then. They made an early dinner. As they sat down, Lawa said "Next time we all share a meal at this table. it will be with Thleen, too."
"Yes" said Maar with satisfaction. "She's mine now."
Qala looked at her sharply. "She's no more yours than she was Dru's."
Maar was startled. "You know what I mean."
Qala raised her eyebrows but didn't rush to reassure. They ate in silence for a minute. Maar finally said "I guess I've been rude in not formally asking you if you're all right with her, and me, moving in here permanently. Do I have your consent?"
Lawa laughed. Qala said "Not rude, but still thinking like a loner under siege. You have a family hunger that's just been met. You need to act like it's not charity and it's not something you have to defend, but a constantly shifting give-and-take."
Maar's eyes were wide. "Okay. I'll think about that."
"And yes, you have my consent and welcome. When you get back, let's sit down and go over your finances together. You're supporting several folks in one way or another, and you're a member of this Manage now, let's plan your security together" said Qala. Lawa nodded, and Maar blinked back tears.
After the meal, Maar said "I've got a little under an hour and I'm packed; instead of a bath, I think I'll go to the hot springs. Anyone want to join me?"
"I will" said Pyosz instantly. Lawa said "I'm going to pack a hamper for your flight", and after a glance at Qala, Qala said she'd stay to help. Pyosz grabbed towels and scrub, and Maar collected her flight uniform. On the way, Pyosz kept hoping Tu and Pank would not be there. Something was buzzing in her bones, something she couldn't name quite yet.
The springs were silent and still. It was a near double dark moon, and Pyosz regretted not bringing a candle. Maar stripped swiftly, asking "How are the new bees working out?"
"So far, so good" said Pyosz. "Those wildflowers I sowed last year are coming in thickly, it's a bee haven around here. I'm going to harvest from the old hives when you and Thleen come back, so we can all share Med honey together,"
"What a great anniversary that will be each year, the first honey harvest marking Thleen's arrival in Pya" said Maar.
Pyosz got in long enough to wet herself, then stood on the shower stone, as she thought of it, to lather herself. She imagined her dark slick skin reflected planes of obsidian light, if Maar was watching, and she was certain Maar did watch under cover of no moons. "Come rinse me" she said, her voice sounding a little thick. Maar did so silently, stepping aside afterward to pick up the scrub and start her own wash. She dipped the pail and rinsed herself when she was clean, glancing at her watch before returning to the springs.
"Ten more minutes" she said. Pyosz thought it sounded like a countdown.
On the walk back through the woods, Maar said "I didn't mean to sound like I own Thleen, or that it's all my doing. None of this would have happened without you and your family, I never forget that."
"I know, Maar." As she opened the kissing gate, Pyosz said "It was when we went to the hot springs together for the first time that you told me you weren't...available...because of Thleen. That you had to put her needs first until she graduated high school."
The air suddenly felt very thick between them. Maar kept walking as she said "You are my heart's desire. That's not going to change, not in the next eight years."
Pyosz felt like she did when she was etching a new design into clay, some part of her brain working way ahead of her conscious will. She hung their damp towels over the porch railing as Maar stepped inside for her bag and the hamper. Qala and Lawa didn't follow her out, and Pyosz carried the hamper to her lighter, stowing it behind the seat.
Maar said "I have to go. We can talk more when I get back."
Pyosz said "I don't want to wait any longer. I don't see any reason for it. If I'm making the same commitment to Thleen that you are -- and I am, there's no doubt inside me and I know what I'm doing, just like I knew to come to Pya in the first place -- then we can do it together. All the way together.
Maar looked frozen. She said "I can't think..."
"Yes, you can. You think better under pressure than anyone on Skene. And you know what you want." She took a step toward Maar.
The radio crackled, and Abbo's irritated voice said "If I do all this levvin' loading by myself, then you get to unload solo. Stop playing house and get your ass to the Lofthall."
Maar hoisted into her seat and reached for the harness. Pyosz reached out to stop her, grabbing the lapels of Maar's guibba to slide her back toward her, slide Maar's spread legs down the outside of Pyosz's thighs, until their open lips met and Maar moaned into Pyosz's mouth. She moaned again as Pyosz pressed her pubic bone up against the underside of Maar's mound, feeling the moisture through two pairs of kalsongers. They kissed without seeming to need air, a perfect balance of ache and release.
Until the radio crackled again and Jiips said "Sinner Maar, is your radio functional? Please check in."
Maar began laughing hysterically. "Everything about Sinner Maar is now functional!" she shouted. She kissed Pyosz again and said "Yes, my answer is yes."
"Smart woman" said Pyosz. Holding Pyosz tight, Maar reached behind her and grabbed the radio. "I'm on my way" she said and tossed the radio over her head into the lighter, claiming another long kiss.
"Here" said Pyosz, pulling one hand free, then the other, to wriggle the blue-stoned family ring from her thumb. "Here's my pledge." She slid it onto Maar's thumb, and Maar said "Perfect fit." Another long kiss, leaving Pyosz having to lean hard against Maar to stand upright. Maar murmured "Why the lev did you leave this until the last minute?"
"Absolute soonest I could get it out of my mouth, love" laughed Pyosz. "All right, go, take no risks, get lots of sleep, and hurry home."
"Tell your abbas Thleen will need a lot of babysitting for a while" said Maar, kissing Pyosz one last time. Pyosz helped buckle her harness and shut the hatch. She stepped backward to wave her off, before whirling to run into the Manage.
Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.