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)
When Pyosz arrived at the Lofthall, holding Thleen's hand, she was taken aback by how small the crowd was. Mostly it seemed to be folks with a direct connection through family or occupation to the Lofthall itself. She was glad to see Nioma, and Ulcha. Not even all the Sheng Zhangs were present. Maybe it was too short notice for folks to make it she thought.
Maar came over to kiss her and the rest of Owl Manage, but she returned to sit next to Mill at the table heading the room. Oby and Api were on the other side of Mill. All the pilots were in rows near Maar. Abbo looked emotionally shredded, and Pyosz made the sign of shared sorrow at her, which Abbo responded to with a thank you sign.
Thleen whispered that she wanted to go sit with Ziri. Pyosz murmured in her ear that they were members of a Lofthall family, in fact kin to Lofthall leaders, and others in the community would be watching them to see how seriously they reacted to the current issue. She said it would be better if they stayed together and listened with concern, since pilots just like their kin had died in a terrible way. Thleen looked at her wide-eyed and slid into her lap. Pyosz held her close.
Mill began by indicating a radio receiver on the table that Pyosz recognized as the same type that Halling had. Mill said this meeting was going to be on two-way speaker with the former Sheng Zhang of Skene Lofthall, the retiring Archivist of Skene, and the Genist of all Skene. She dialed the radio and Pyosz heard beloved voices say hello. Thleen twisted around in her lap to grin at Pyosz.
Pyosz wondered why Danaan was not part of the Skene end of this conversation. Perhaps it was simply too early there, or she was overwhelmed with current Lofthall duties.
Mill told the story of the leviathan attack in Skene, which was essentially as Maar had related to them except Mill gave full lineage names of the dead and injured, with a reverent "Carynn bye". Maar reached over to squeeze Abbo's hand. She asked if anyone wanted to add to her report, and Halling, sounding like the Sheng Zhang of historic broadcasts, gave a succinct account of the two known previous attempts at similar leviathan sabotage in the past year. Pyosz saw this news come as a surprise to a few non-Lofthall folks present.
Thleen turned to whisper "Like that lev who tried to hurt siba when she sinned in Skene?"
"Yes, that's one of the instances abba is talking about."
Thleen seemed to just now make the connection. "So if that lev had done what this one did, siba would have died?"
"She very well might have." Pyosz felt the fear travel through Thleen's body. "And that's why all of us smart, committed people are having this meeting, to keep it from happening."
Maar glanced their way before saying "We have not witnessed identical leviathan behavior in Pya, but we've had unusual activity, as you all know" -- That you've dealt with directly, my love thought Pyosz -- "and I've seen shifts in fish migration, leviathan concentration, and morrie strati borders whose meaning has remained so far undecipherable."
Nioma said "Are you quantifying these shifts?"
"To the best of my ability" said Maar.
"I'd like to look at what you've got and suggest ways to perhaps track it more usefully" said Nioma. "My degree is in animal behavior, and I want to be of help here."
"Glad to have it" said Mill.
Uben, Ziri's abba, said "Is there any reason to expect leviathan assaults on what is now morrie vaseo here?"
Api said "We have no expectation of such." After a pause, Halling said with a slight crackle "But we don't have enough information to rule it out." Pyosz saw Api frown and Mill hide a smile. Halling continued "Clearly we were caught off guard in Skene, despite almost a lifetime of studying their behavior. Something has changed. Are you seeing higher leviathan presence around open-water ferry lanes?"
Mill answered "None has been reported, but we're instituting daily flyovers and counts tomorrow."
Maar spoke again. "What I can say with evidence is that their presence at sinning fluctuates noticeably, and they have twice demonstrated group interest in the Pea Pod area, not other regions around Dvareka."
The tension from the Kacang family was palpable. Mill said "Therefore, we're asking those on Pea Pod islands with line of sight view of levi zones, namely Teppe and Saya, to also do a daily survey and data collection for us. Spotters, as it were."
"Count me in" said Vants. "Same here" said Lawa.
Halling asked "What about your sinning procedures?"
"We're revising those as well" said Mill. "It's a difficult line to walk, because we're aware Skene has just lost four sinners, craft as well as valuable pilots, so we intend to ship frozen fish to Skene for as long as it takes for you to get back into production. Which may mean two sins a day for us."
Maar and Pyosz's eyes met.
Mill continued "We won't let you go hungry." There was a sudden tender pride in her voice, and it was mirrored in Halling's tone when she said "Skene thanks you, Sheng Zhang."
Udek, Uli's aggie, said "What about the idea of reinstituting lighters with song patterns to protect sinners? We have someone capable of being dichter." She looked at Dodd, who was taken aback. As if Dodd doesn't already have a more than full-time job thought Pyosz.
Yoj's voice came from the radio. "The kinds of attacks our pilots are facing now wouldn't be helped by a dichter, I'm afraid. This isn't simple predatory reaction or flight response on the leviathan's part. This is premeditated."
"And being implemented by their elders, a far more ominous sign" said Nioma. Udek gave her a glance full of despair. Dekkan shifted in her chair, embarrassed.
Mill said "But I appreciate your putting your mind on the problem, Udek. I believe it will take a collaborative effort and some sort of breakthrough to restore Pax Piscata, and I encourage you all to not leave this merely to the Lofthall."
"I second that" said Halling. "Skene, as you can imagine, is reeling from our crisis. If we didn't have Pya's assistance, we'd be in serious trouble. We will be pooling our creative resources to address this unsettling change, and I assure you, if we have any ideas at all, I'll make sure your Lofthall is notofied instantly. But the fact is, it's more than likely your Sheng Zhang and those of you in collaboration with her will find a solution before we do here. I want that to occur before you have any losses of your own."
Pyosz suddenly wondered where in her abbas' Manage this call was taking place, and if Tlunu or Speranz were overhearing it. There was no newspaper reporter from Pya present, and Pyosz thought it possible that Mill had neglected to invite them. She wished she had been able to overhear the conversations between Halling and Mill must have gone on earlier today.
Thleen whispered to Pyosz "Is Halling my habibi now, too? And Yoj?"
"Yes" said Pyosz without hesitation. "They came up with the original Pax Piscata to save Halling's life, and all their pilot friends. They're going to help your siba create a new Pax Piscata."
"Me and Ziri will try to come up with ideas, too" said Thleen.
"Good" whispered Pyosz.
When the meeting adjourned, Maar came to tell them she'd be home later. Pyosz kissed her with restraint. They were still in one moon dark, one moon crescent, and the ferry ride was silent. Pyosz began drawing Thleen's bath with scented bubbles, but before they were done, Qala took over, saying Prl was on the radio for Pyosz.
"How are you doing?" asked Prl.
"I'm not sure, emma. I'm so focused on keeping Thleen reassured, I haven't gone into my own fears yet. And I need to hear what Maar thinks."
"I'd like that myself" said Prl. "Which reminds me, that woman making the extremely astute observations during the call, was that Nioma?"
"Yes indeed" said Pyosz.
"I wish I could have a long meal with her and plumb the depths of her thinking, she's even more interesting than I remembered" said Prl.
'Emma, how is Tlunu doing? Since she was the only sinner rescued without serious injury, but she's crew head?"
"She's in a simmering rage that's completely nonproductive" said Prl. "Halling tried to tell her that survivor's guilt had to be faced head on, but what Tlunu heard was Halling somehow blaming her. She began screaming at emma, and I had to intervene."
"I'm glad you were there" said Pyosz, feeling anger quickening her own pulse. They talked until the 15 minutes of the private line was up and agreed to call often. Qala had washed Thleen's thick red hair, and Pyosz combed it in front of the hearth until it was dry before they went out into an early summer coolness to sing on the porch.
Thleen heard Maar's lighter before the rest of them, and leaped from Pyosz's lap to run barefoot to the edge of the jichang. Qala said "I had to scrub her feet twice, they were so grubby." Maar held hands with Thleen walking to the porch, swinging their arms back and forth, and settled with a long sigh against Pyosz on the steps, grabbing a kiss before Thleen sprawled over both their laps.
"Siba, will you sleep with me tonight?" the child asked, a flicker of anxiety in her voice. Maar paused, giving another sigh and looking at Pyosz, before saying "Yes, of course."
Pyosz said "We could all squeeze into the shiny nickel bed, if you'd rather."
"Really?" said Thleen excitedly.
"But no katts, then" said Maar. "Those big katts take up an astonishing amount of room."
They went to bed early, taking mugs of warm milk with them. The novelty of sleeping between Maar and Pyosz left Thleen wriggling, keeping herself awake. Pyosz offered to share a riddle story Yoj had often told her at bedtime. She swiftly altered it to fit Pya. "There's this maple sugar maker on Mti, see, who needs to cross Caj Creek when it's swollen wih flood. She has a tiny wooden boat that's only big enough to carry one thing besides her. The problem is, she has three things she needs to carry across the creek: A katt, a basket of figs, and a shu. What is she to do?"
Thleen kicked her ankles around as she said "I know, she can make three trips!" Pyosz reminded herself to wash these sheets tomorrow.
"Well but think. if she leaves the shu alone with the figs, it will eat the figs. And if she leaves the katt alone with the shu, it will eat the shu. So how can she make three trips and still have everything uneaten on the other side?" Pyosz could see Maar grinning, but her eyes were drifting shut.
"Is this a trick riddle?" demanded Thleen.
"No, there's a real answer" said Pyosz. Thleen began laboring through the possibilities. When she finally declared "Okay, she takes the shu and leaves the katt with the figs, then takes the katt and brings back the shu, then takes over the figs, but then she whistles for an owl and goes on with her katt and figs because who wants to take a stinky shu anywhere?", Pyosz laughed delightedly. Maar, however, was fast asleep. Pyosz spooned Thleen and whispered "We need to drop off before your siba's snoring gets too loud", sending them into further giggles.
In the morning, Maar and Pyosz slipped out of the room together, Maar washing naked at the downstairs sink while Pyosz made tea and toast. Maar came to the kitchen in clean bright knickers and maillot, and Pyosz pushed her against the larder door for long, yearning kisses.
"Missed you last night" she murmured.
"You were so sweet to take Thleen in with us" replied Maar. "I kept thinking about if she still lived on Chloddia when this happened, how frantic she would be. I called Su yesterday, only had a few minutes but had a chance to reassure her. She said she'd pass it on to Adon."
"And what did you say to reassure her?" asked Pyosz, finally moving to a chair.
"That I'm in charge of the sinning crew and my vigilance is unimpeded by either Lofthall concerns or complacence" said Maar. "That I assume every leviathan's primary goal is to kill me and they conspire across the expanse of Skene's oceans to do just that. And that the mezi ray was a polite artifice, a temporary obstacle they are finding their way around."
Pyosz felt unable to finish her toast. Maar said "You and I need to talk. I have to do a double sin today, and although I'll have two hours between, I need to spend it sleeping. So, after dinner?"
"Yes. And I'll sleep with you, too -- sleep, hold you in slumber, nothing else."
When Pyosz made her deliveries, she brought frozen lobster at Gitta's and brought it home to make a gratin with potatoes, Maar's favorite. She made brownies with Thleen's messy assistance and wrapped two to send with Maar on her afternoon sinning. She hadn't changed the sheets yet as they lay down for a nap, which was just as well because the smell of ketone and sweat from Maar was strong. "Thick today" said Maar tiredly as she lay her head on Pyosz's shoulder. "Juveniles kept to the perimeter, big 'uns deep below, not good."
Pyosz did her baking and laundry in the afternoon while Qala and Lawa took Thleen to the orchard. Thleen trailed Vants back to the barn for milking as Pyosz made dinner and began processing cherries and almonds. They all ate as soon as Maar arrived home. Afterward, Maar and Pyosz excused themselves upstairs for an hour. When they returned, Thleen had held off her bath by asking for Maar to do it with her.
"That's a good idea" said Maar, and Thleen grinned at Qala smugly. "But first we need to have a family discussion." Pyosz had clearly been crying, and Lawa put a pot of tea on the table before joining them all.
Maar ran her hands through her hair, which stuck out in gummy spikes now. "I need to consult with you, my immediate family, about what course to take. With these recent developments, the risk of my chosen career has increased dramatically. I have to consider the impact of that on not only my own mortality -- that means how long I live, sibu -- but also your well-being. To begin with, I just asked Pyosz if she would become your official emma, Thleen, should anything happen to me. I have an appointment in two days to revise my will, and I can create documents which will ensure she assumes raising you, if need be."
The furrow in Thleen's brow was identically deep to Maar's at the moment. Pyosz said "I told her yes, absolutely, as long as that is what Thleen wants and my abbas raise no objection."
"I thought you said you were my other emma already" said Thleen.
"Yes, I am, in heart and spirit. But this will make it so in the eyes of the law" said Pyosz.
"That's what I want" said Thleen. "I want to live with you all here, on Owl Manage on saya, for the rest of my life. Except when I go exploring with Ziri, but that won't be for a few years."
Pyosz laughed through new tears. Lawa said "An excellent plan, and I say yes."
"Me too" said Qala, taking Pyosz's hand. Pyosz could tell Qala was trembling. She wondered if Qala had trembled when Prl asked them to become abbas before she was born. Thleen slid into Maar's lap and said "I don't want you to die, siba."
"Well, that brings me to my second question. In my job, I'm responsible for all of Pya. I'm responsible for my sibaste of pilots, and at the moment, I'm also helping to feed Skene." Maar flexed her shoulders unconsciously, as if rearranging a burden on them. "I feel -- a sense of purpose. I think I'm perfectly suited for what is asked of me, most days, anyway." Some of her overwhelm showed briefly. "But...my commitment and sense of purpose to you, who have made family with me, is more. And if you would rather I change careers, find a meaningful line of work that does not risk my life so much, then I will. I put it to you now."
Qala and Lawa looked flabbergasted. Pyosz thought Halling must never have entertained the question, at least not since recovering from Xaya's death. Halling may have cleared the path for pilots to make their own families, but Maar was perfecting that possibility. And she's mine.
Thleen said "You mean you'd stop being a pilot, because we're so scared you'll die?"
"That's it exactly, Carrot-Top." Thleen grinned and reached up her hand to muss Maar's hair, repeating "Carrot-Top."
Lawa said to Pyosz "Did you already give her your answer, then?" Pyosz nodded. Thleen asked "What did you say?"
"I don't want to influence any of you, I want to hear what you think first" said Pyosz. They all looked at Thleen, who squirmed uncomfortably and said "I don't like thinking about this."
"I'll go" said Qala. "Will you be truly happy not being a leader at the Lofthall in the way you are?"
Maar turned pink. "I can find other routes to leadership, as you put it. I think of it as service and stewardship. And I have the ability to find goodness in any situation."
"You do make your own happiness" said Qala. "I'm not sure I want to be part of this decision for you. I'll support you with everything I've got whatever route you settle on, that's the best I can say." She and Maar looked steadily at each other. Pyosz's chest felt full, as if she weren't breathing enough out.
Lawa said "I think more folks will live if you keep doing what you do than if you switch. I trust you. That's my take on it."
Thleen said to Maar "Why don't grown-ups give simple answers? Like yes or no?"
Maar laughed. "Well, I guess being taller must cloud our brains. What about you, yes or no?"
"I want you not to die" said Thleen,
"I can't promise you that, no matter what I do" said Maar, suddenly solemn. "Someday I will die. I hope to reach 100 years before I do, but it's not in my power to know for sure."
Thleen burst into tears, which as Pyosz said later was a brilliant response. Maar said "I know, I know. I never want to be separated from you, either, baby sibu. I will do everything I can to stay with you, and so far I've had a lot of success, hey? Things keep getting better. So you let me handle this, it's not up to you, it's my job to figure out what's right for me. It's not your work, it's mine."
"We're part of your team, too" reminded Qala. Thleen looked at Pyosz and said "What did you tell her?"
"I told her to keep doing what she's doing, it's part of who she is and I'll honor her best by believing in her as much as she believes in herself" said Pyosz.
"Okay" said Thleen. "I'm on the team, too."
"You are at the center of our team" said Maar, wiping her face. "Okay, I'm stinky, I need a hot bath. You want to go get your schmatta and sailboat?"
"Pyosz made bubbles we can use" said Thleen, sprinting for the stairs.
While they bathed, Pyosz called Prl. "Emma, I know you're just waking up, but I have some important things to tell you and ask your support on. You have tea already? Good. First, Maar asked me to become Thleen's legal guardian if anything happens to her, and I said yes...She's signing the papers day after tomorrow, I'll send you a copy...I know, I'll get mine drawn up, too, but I need to consult with that person whose name you gave me, I'll talk to you about their recommendations before I make mine final...Second, Maar asked me to partner with her...Yeah, it's not news except we've decided to do it at Mchele Fair, two months from now...I don't know, we may have to have two ceremonies, one here and one in Skene, we can work out those details later. You may be the only emma present for either of us, however...Yes, there's a third. I told Maar I want to have her baby, as soon as we can get our cycles in sync and produce eggs together that Briel can fuse...Emma, don't cry, you're happy for me, right?" Pyosz saw Qala and Lawa break into a jig in the great hall. "Yes, we have moved it up because of current -- circumstances, but it's been my intention for over a year now...We have all these empty bedrooms, I intend to fill them with children, I told you that...No, let me be the one to share it with the abbas there. And we haven't told Thleen yet, either...My guess is she'll see it as another competition with Ziri and want us to rush things along so she can wind up with more sibus than Ziri has. She'll be out of luck with that ambition, though, the Heaps are out of my league...I need to go, we're about to run out of time and I have to go change sheets on beds...Love you back."
Qala and Lawa swept into the kitchen and caught her in their dance. "Baby, baby, baby" Qala chanted.
Maar's genes thought Pyosz. Handed on for all time.
Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.