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)
Mrebbe grumbled a little when Thleen asked for the week before Mchele Fair off, as well as the week of, so she could go to Adon's partnering ceremony in Skene, but the timmer acquiesced. She was much more cranky when Thont decided she had to travel to Skene that week as well.
Pava at first opposed the idea of Thont leaving, accurately blaming it on Thont's unwillingness to be separated from Thleen for even a week, no matter how much Thont tried to claim she wanted to see her emma and sibu again. Vants pointed out that Thava getting to see Thont as she was now, after only a month away, newly muscled with clear bronzed skin and refreshed manners, would do much to persuade the emma to relinquish another child to Pya. Pava relented but insisted Thont actually visit her family while in Skene instead of tagging after Thleen. Vants bought Thont some new clothes, including a set of silks, and loaded her down with gifts for her emma from Pyas's midsummer largesse.
Thleen herself was more concerned about missing a week of practice stilt-walking and rehearsal with Tu and Pank's theater troupe. She had landed two walk-on roles this year, her first time on stage, and in one brief appearance she actually had a line. Pyosz began to feel that if she had to listen to one more interpretation of "The rice harvest is feared to be scant this year", she'd faint from ennui.
Prl reported that lodging was proving hard to find. Speranz had generously offered a cot in the tiny room which had once been Yoj's study, and Prl accepted that for herself. Maar and Pyosz wanted a private room in a bucky where there was also space for the little ones, Su, and Thleen, and this was eventually found on Verzin. Thleen was assigned the bunk over that of the little ones, with Su on one side to help keep watch. When Thont indicated she hoped to sleep in the bucky as well, Maar surprised Thleen by saying Thont could share her bed, then. She later grinned at Pyosz "Between all the onlookers and the excitement of her sibus, Thleen won't be able to get up tp much with Thont."
"Sleeping together will be feverish enough" predicted Pyosz.
The day of the flight, Maar went into a cold sweat about how many family members she would be responsible for piloting the huolon, even with all the elders staying home at Owl Manage. She pulled Su and Thleen aside and gave them such dire instructions about who to rescue if the craft went down that Thleen found herself unable to focus on practicing her line once they took off.
After they reached altitude, Merrl began crying, then shrieking in real pain. "It's her ears" Prl said, "it's very hard on babies." Maar looked like she wanted to turn over the stick to Abbo and crawl back to somehow fix it, although Prl had Merrl on a bottle and it wasn't helping. Finally, after half an hour, she began trying to convey the process of blowing out ear pressure to Merrl, promising a piece of cake if she could manage it. It took another 20 minutes before Merrl more or less accidentally pulled it off. She looked as relieved as everyone else. Cake was distributed, and Merrl barely managed to down hers before falling asleep, exhausted, against Prl's chest.
Qux had the window seat with Pyosz and while daylight lasted, she pointed out every Morrie Strati they passed, looking at Pyosz with a troubled face. As they hit darkness, her attention transferred to the illuminated instrument panel. Pyosz passed her up to Maar, who explained every button and light pointed to by Qux's pudgy finger, then let Qux "fly" the huolon for a while.
The time on Skene was hectic and, for Pyosz, jarring without the Genist Manage as home base and all the changes evident at her abbas' former Manage. Qux was intoxicated by the bustle and the numbers of people. She bonded quickly with Adnes, whom Pyosz belatedly realized had the same uncontrollable hair as Maar and Qux. Merrl aimed her brash charm at Dru, who astonished Maar by responding with patience and humor.
Su and Thleen were very dapper in the new outfits Maar had bought for them, and Maar didn't interrupt when Su captivated a crowd at the post-partnering party with an embellished version of her speedboat race with levs. The next day, Dru and Adnes offered to take the two little ones on a tour of Chloddia's main mines. Pyosz felt fear hit her stomach but Maar instantly said "What a wonderful treat, you two will love it." Thleen accomapnied them, and after they left, Maar told Pyosz "It's a rare thing to have a family visit, they'll have a big fuss made over them." She looked gratified, and Pyosz swallowed her misgivings.
After their return, Qux climbed into Pyosz's arms and said "We was way down in the ground, aggie."
"How exciting for you" said Pyosz, looking into her liquid eyes. "You know, your ancestors have been doing the important work of mining for Skene since people first arrived here. You have 500 years of their blood in your veins, I'm very glad for you." As she hugged Qux, she saw Adnes watching her, eyes filled with tears, but Adnes looked away as Pyosz noticed her.
When it became clear that Dru and Adnes were flying back to Pya with them, both little ones began a campaign to have their new abbas live with them permanently. Merrl offered them her room, or even better, trotted out her frequently expressed idea that all mattresses be piled in the hall and everybody sleep together, her at the center. Qux said if they'd rather sleep "down in the ground", there was a rock shelter right next door, which got a big laugh from Dru. Pyosz explained that Su was moving out to the cabin and the visitors were being given her room, next to Thleen's. Which got a small wince from Thleen that Pyosz didn't miss.
During the climb, Abbo taking the first leg, Maar pulled Merrl up with her to nurse, but this didn't work any better than a bottle had. After another half hour of abortive attempts to clear her ears, Maar agitatedly handed her back to Prl, who eventually managed the trick again. Merrl lay her tear-stained face on Prl's neck and said "No more flying, 'kay, abba?"
"All right, my darling, not until your ears are as big as siba's and won't hurt you up here" answered Prl. Merrl said softly enough that only Prl heard "You my best abba, abba", melting Prl to her seat.
Adnes and Dru were very silent as they banked over Pya in morning light and landed in Koldok. They remained quiet and close to each other riding the ferry to Saya, with its glinting sign, greeted by all the elders at the dock. Pyosz thought it might be the expanse of the island and the size of Owl Manage, or simply the evidence of plenty everywhere. Maar showed them to their room, and Pyosz made a pitcher of cherry-ade, urging glasses on all the travelers to help with the time lag. They sat around the table, eating from the spread Yoj and Qala had prepared, telling stories about their visit.
Thleen offered to give her emmas a tour of the rest of Saya, and after hesitating, they agreed. Qux and Merrl clamored to go along. Pyosz conferred with Maar: "They could use a nap but I don't know if we can get them down right now." Adnes said, "Oh, do let them come" and Maar said "Of course. Thleen, go get towels in case any of you want to soak in the hot springs." Out of earshot, Qala told Thleen "Inform but don't brag."
Su vanished, either to her cabin or back to Koldok. The rest of them distributed gifts from Skene, gossip and letters, staying at the table and helping themselves to more corn chowder from the tureen.
The visitors returned after more than hour with damp hair and Qux squalling from a beesting she'd just received beside the porch. Lawa swiftly treated it, and Pyosz said "Now we lay down for a rest, both of you with me." Dru said "We'd like a nap as well, if that's all right." Thleen expressed her need for rehearsal and headed for Herne.
After escorting her emmas to their room again, Maar came to join Pyosz, the four of them jostled comfortably in a pool of afternoon sunshine. Pyosz forgot to set her alarm and they slept until Thleen came to call them for dinner. The downstairs was full of Pea Podders and Koldok family, and it looked like Dru and Adnes had only just gotten up as well. The variety of food and talk of Mchele Fair events seemed to keep them at ease. Thleen cajoled them into the twilight out front to see a demonstration of her stilt-walking, and Su returned in time to eat, with oil stains on her kalsongers.
During the music afterward, Yoj and Dodd both kept asking the Chloddians for songs they'd heard growing up. Once Adnes was convinced their curiosity was genuine, she began dredging tunes from her memory, and eventually Dru joined her. Dodd was able to grab each melody quickly -- many of them seemed ideal for fiddle -- and Qala's memory was sparked as well. Pyosz was sure these would become new fare at Pya dances. Thleen sang loudly and on key, though often got words wrong. The expression on her face, and on Maar's, made Pyosz want to weep.
The next morning, Maar was gone by the time her emmas got up. Su and Thleen both ate hasty breakfasts, rushing off to set up the carnival and create sets respectively, so it was left to Pyosz and the rest to usher the visitors into Mchele Fair. As they met up with other family, the buffer of friendly faces helped with what must have felt like overwhelm to them. Pyosz kept telling them with funny self-deprecation about her own first encounters with Mchele Fair as Pya did it, explaining everything they encountered, and the little ones' over-the-top enthusiasm was also a place for Dru and Adnes to focus. Ngall's children were openly jealous about their cousins' sudden conjuring of new abbas.
When they reached the carnival, Su, wearing only a revealing maillot on her sweaty torso and sporting a rakish hat, shoved a fistful of ride tickets at them and insisted they try everything. Her emmas gamely followed through, taking the little ones on anything safe for their small size, and they laughed like children themselves. Pyosz sat out everything but the giant wheel, for which she claimed Qux and Merrl as her seatmates. Qux babbled as they rose into the air about her own beloved toy, how it was just like this for the tiny figures which rode it.
Despite the harnesses, Pyosz kept a death grip on her babies, not quite enjoying herself as she once had, and wondered when she had gotten to be such an old fogey. Once back on the ground, she bolted for the nearest privy and threw up her breakfast. Qala got her a ginger soda and Prl used her scarf to wash Pyosz's face, but she felt much better after the purge.
As Thleen declared every year, it was the best Mchele Fair yet. Pyosz and Yoj won a black ribbon for their coconut cream pie with date-caramel drizzle, Qala also won a black for her lime-onion chutney, and Herne Island's smoked honey-glazed ham won a green ribbon. One of Kacang's wines came in second at the wine tasting, and yarn from Vants' fiber goats was the talk of the textiles tent.
Thleen was stretched in so many directions, she barely noticed Ziri and Xoan walking arm in arm everywhere. Though she did look after them sadly sometimes, Pyosz observed, and she also thought she saw Ziri frowning several times at how Thont laughed gaily at everything Thleen said, or played intimately with the baubles in Thleen's hair.
They had an early dinner from foodstalls before the theatricals. Thleen was barely eating, and Su said casually "That line you got about the rice harvest being scant? I was thinking about how funny it would be if you got flustered and instead say -- " She uttered the Skene word for dripping with pus, which was only one letter different from the word for scant. Color drained from Thleen's face.
Pyosz reached over and smacked the side of Su's head, her partnership ring making an audible thunk on Su's skull. Su went rigid in shock, and Pyosz said "Pick on Maar but not Thleen. What she's doing is admirable." Adnes and Dru burst into laughter, and then everyone else joined in, even Su. Later when their theater troupe finally won the black ribbon, Thont said to Thleen "It's because you're performing with them now." Which was not the case -- Thleen had done a creditable job for her small bits, but it was Tu's rendition of the leading role which swept through the audience.
Thleen was also on second string for the Koldok kickball team, which impressed her emmas more than anything else. She didn't actually get any time on the field and they came in fourth this year, but the celebration afterward flowed as if they were champions.
Dru had been fascinated with the goat herd, and she asked to accompany Pyosz and Maar as they hopped back to Saya on the last day of Mchele Fair to get Killer, her kid Peril, and the two small wains. The larger of the wains, pulled by Killer, had been fitted by Lawa with a seat to hold Qux. A similar secure rig had been attached to the front of Halling's scooter to hold Merrl. but Pyosz predicted once the parade was underway. Merrl would realize Qux's conveyance was the more attention-grabbing and throw a tantrum. She said "Tough beans, she's too little to ride in a goat-cart yet."
Dru remained with Pyosz at the animal pens, holding Peril in her arms to calm her. They didn't talk much but Pyosz had become very comfortable with both of Maar's emmas. A distraught sheep in the pen directly beside them released a loud and noxious fart, and they laughed together for quite a while.
The Saya Island contigent marched early in the line-up because several of them were also walking elsewhere in the parade. Dru and Adnes lined up behind Maar and Pyosz with the goats, and they were flanked by Su and Thleen, beaming with family pride. Pyosz loved hearing children shout "Look, it's Killer!" as they came into view. Once their stroll was over, Adnes and Dru carried the little ones into the stands while Halling, Yoj, Prl and Nioma went to join the Polytechnic throng and Thleen rushed for the parade finale. Maar and Pyosz sat at the side of the speaker's circle, feeding treats to Killer and Peril while having a good view of Maar's emmas.
There was a reprise this year of the owl demonstration by some of Ulcha's kin from Chwet, and Pyosz saw the sick horror on Adnes's face. Not her little ones, though; they were unafraid and animated. She thought she could make out Qux's gleeful words, "That owl's not as big as ours on Saya." She repeated it to Maar, who grinned "Good thing they take after you in that regard."
Uli and Qoj marched with Cawl Fe, carrying hand drums to swell their percussion, and afterward they sat down in the dirt beside Maar and Pyosz. Dou and Arta Island marched together, but Kacang, Gisantes, Herne and Teppe each had their own contingent. Pava peeled away to parade again with her ejida crew, and Pyosz motioned for Thont to come join them. This whole fair, she had been moved by people recognizing Thont, crying out "Look, it's Poth's child, how much you've grown, we've so missed you!"
The final band were the bagpipers, tuba and rest from Cogio. As their thrum and skirl filled the parade ground, Pyosz could see the stilt-walkers above the gates at the far end. Thleen gave her a discrete wave. Pyosz had painted her mask for her, a metallic green dragon breathing fire with polished copper eyes, and it shone brilliantly in the sun.
Thleen claimed the inside rail as they gamboled in, her youthful energy carrying her a few strides ahead. She lunged at friends in the stands, who screamed and dodged in spite of themselves. As she approached her emmas and sibus, Dru's expression was one of complete disbelief. But Qux cried out "It's siba!" and reached forward to touch her fingertips to the talons at the ends of Thleen's multijointed limbs. Thleen tossed a shower of red confetti over them before moving on.
At the end, as the others vanished through the gates. Thleen sat down on a fence to unbuckle all her extensions and mask, stripping down to shorts and a maillot. She was soaked in sweat, her face beet red, and the emergence of a near-child from a stilt-walker persona inflamed the ambitions of every child avidly watching her in the stands. Pyosz noticed Ziri's eyes were also locked on Thleen. Thleen plopped down beside Thont, keeping her bright gear carefully away from Killer's mouth, and Thont planted a brief but daring kiss right on Thleen's mouth.
Two of the bagpipers had stayed behind, playing nearby, and their music now changed to a high-pitched drone. Thleen asked urgently "Where's Su, I want to see her face for this?" and Maar pointed her out in the stands, sitting among the carny folk with whim she'd also marched.
The far gate swung open with a crash, and a speedboat roared into the parade ground, its engine clearly audible in the bagpipe shriek. The "driver" was actually standing in a light papier-mache craft, her running legs providing all the locomotion but concealed by a seafoam drape underneath the hull. She tacked from one side to the other as there emerged behind her, in hot pursuit, a life-size leviathan, its dentrifigous maw agape, its rows of eyes flashing with malevolent light.
The entire stands either screamed or gasped. The lev's velocity was terrific, again provided my many running women inside the slimy torso and concealed by a wave-like curtain below. The body did not actually spiral like a real lev but that perception was provided by rotating sections of the trunk with Thleen later told them were extremely difficult to operate while at a full gallop.
The speedboat managed to elude the monster time and time again, once circling back behind it and running up the other side. Pyosz stole a glance at Su, who looked disturbed for reasons Pyosz didn't entirely trust. Pyosz had been keeping Peril's face pressed to her bosom, while Killer had so far managed every sight with relative aplomb that Pyosz suspected was a mix of emma bravery and having seen Thleen practicing in the pasture. Now, however, Killer gave a strangled bleat and Maar pulled her into her lap, covering Killer's face with her own cap.
Finally, in a cloud of dust, the speedboat escaped through the far gates. and as the levi kept up the chase, the bagpipes slowly died, to a thick silence broken here and there by a baby crying. Merrl, mashed against Dru's chest, was not weeping but she looked like she might at any moment. Qux looked directly at Pyosz, who forced a silly grin to her face and made the sign of "what a joke", relaxing Qux's squared shoulders.
Mill later said that not only had there never been a leviathan portrayed in any way at the Mchele Fair, there was an unspoken taboo against it. This time the puppeteers felt current events eked out an allowance for their depiction, although Halling said drily she was certain any family who had lost someone to the levs, or come close, would have gone home with a sick taste in their mouths. Pyosz wondered what on Skene the Chloddians would make of it all. And it was a huge secret Thleen had managed to keep, which was also something to think about.
The next day, Dru came to watch the milking and go with Pyosz on her delivery. She periodically asked questions about one of her children which Pyosz felt revealed some pain at the distance between them. Adnes went fishing with Thleen and the others at the point, then ferried with Thleen to Teppe to watch her at her timmer job for an hour.
Thleen took her afternoon break so she could be at the jichang to see her emmas off with the rest of the family. Dru and Adnes gave long hugs, appearing distressed at Merrl's wails and Qux's confused weeping. Maar ran the checklist with Abbo, no doubt irritating Abbo but Maar felt guilty about not flying her emmas home. They were handed a loaded hamper and waved off until all sounds of the engine were gone to the northwest. Maar then wheeled and flung her arms around Pyosz, sobbing onto her shoulder "My aggie, my aggie!" Thleen pressed into them, also starting to cry, and Pyosz waved Su in as well. That night at dinner. Pyosz thanked her family for their open-handed welcome and, breaking down herself, for never making her doubt how much she was loved all her life.
A few days later, Qala got up as Maar and Pyosz were finishing breakfast and told them quietly that she needed to accompany Thleen to the clinic before work.
"What's wrong?" demanded Maar as Pyosz said "I can take her when I do my delivery." Qala chose her words, saying "Her ginny is infected."
"What do you mean?" said Maar, half rising from her chair before Qala waved her back down.
"She has an inflammation around her hood that's showing signs of pus" said Qala. "I think it needs at least an antibiotic cream. It's quite painful and she's mortified about it, and she asked me to help her deal with it."
"How did she get an infection there?" challenged Maar. "Did she catch something from -- somebody?"
Pyosz turned and looked at the stairwell, wondering if Thleen was eavesdropping.
"No, she got this entirely on her own. From overuse of the area" said Qala, allowing herself to grin a little. "Which tells us worlds about what she's not doing with -- somebody."
Pyosz put her hand over her mouth to muffle a giggle, remembering periods during her own adolescence when she had needed inordinate amounts of time alone behind a locked door. Maar said softly "Poor little dummy. Thanks for doing this, Qala. Let us know how it goes."
"She didn't want me to tell you too, but I said I had to" added Qala. "Please don't take it any further."
"Of course" said Pyosz. Thont did not come home with Thleen for dinner that evening, and Thleen went to bed early after a long soak in the tub.
A month after school started again, Frank delivered her baby with the help of a comadrona and several family members on Herne Island. Once the child was swaddled and had eaten, Ulcha daubed blue on her forehead and carried her outside to present her to the four directions, singing something Pyosz was sure she'd never heard. They named her Chank. She had Pank's skin color, Frahe's curls, and a tiny blue spot on her lower back in the shape of a carrot.
That night, Maar inspected Pyosz's belly as she did every night and said "You are really showing."
"Two more months" said Pyosz. She added "I want you to wean Merrl before the new baby arrives."
"Why?" asked Maar. "It's my milk. not yours."
"I don't want to contend with Merrl demanding to nurse me as well" said Pyosz. "And I don't want to see Qux's face when she's the only child being denied. Plus it's just time, Maar."
After a minute, Maar said "All right" in sad resignation.
The autumnal slaughter this year felt newly hard to Pyosz because of being pregnant. Killing bucklings who had had only a few months on Saya was a betrayal to their emmas, she was sure. She sent two of the frozen carcasses to her Chloddia kin in expiation. As was their custom, she and Vants sat down to a day of planning next year's breeding with Nioma the weekend after slaughter, making sure the space they had just bought in blood went to maximum use.
As she got waddly in her walk, as she thought of it, she began spending time each afternoon on Herne with Frank and Chank, holding the new baby while her tired emma either napped or caught up on chores. She felt tugs in her breasts when she looked down at the tiny face trying to focus on her.
Mill reported each visit to Nastere revealed several untouched carcasses of crabs, shu, and seabeaks scattered on the beach near Su's speedboat. Maar hectored Su in for a complete check-up with Briel, who said she was extrenely fit but she wouldn't recommend trying to get pregnant for several years. Su snorted at the very idea.
Nevertheless, Mill and Halling conferred with the rogue gakusha about her idea of creating pipe barriers filled with dhakin as reef supplements. As long as the pipes didn't contact cortices used for kelp collection or abutt crab colonies, the radiation dispersed by water flowing over the toxic pipes would be swiftly dispersed by strong currents running through the Pea Pods. Oby wrote a proposal to try the pipes between Teppe and Saya, which would come up for a vote at midwinter. The faryaste between Isola Fling and Yanja in Skene copied the wording for a similar trial along her shaky morrie vaseo.
Thont was allowed to remain in Pya but "only if she gets her grades all the way up and stays out of trouble" Thava reluctantly conceded, "and I may change my mind". As the autumn term progressed, Thleen occasionally went on outings with other classmates that didn't include Thont. Pyosz and Maar raised their eyebrows at each other when they heard this, but didn't pry. Xoan resumed her once-good friendship with Thont but Ziri remained cool toward her.
As midwinter approached, one Moja Pyosz was in her studio working when Thleen burst in from school, looking turbulent. "Where's Qala, she's not in the greenhouse" she said urgently.
"She went to the rock shelter to bring in the oldest preserves for us to use up. What's -- " but Thleen was already gone. Neither Qala or Thleen reappeared until shortly before dinner, where Thleen showed signs of having been crying for quite a while. Maar decided not to chastise her for failing to do her chores. After the meal, Prl took her to the study for homework help, and Qala motioned Maar and Pyosz into her room.
"She begged me not to tell anyone, but..." began Qala. Her voice was very serious and Pyosz sat down on the bed. A small voice outside the door said querulously "Aggie, let me in!"
Maar went to the door and denied Merrl entrance. Lawa came to pick her up as she began crying. Once they were settled again, Qala said "On Sju, when we all flew to Doimoi to look over recycled materials for various projects? But Xoan said she had an upset stomach and stayed here on the couch?"
Maar nodded. She'd had the idea of building a play sinner for the little ones to go alongside The Saya out front. Pank and Lawa were collaborating with her on the construction.
Qala rubbed her hands together. "Well, The Heaps also had an outing that day to visit cousins on Dvareka, except Ziri claimed a stomach ache and remained home. Xoan went over there and...today it was all over their grade, that they'd had sex. Real sex, as Thleen put it."
"At fourteen?" Pyosz was horrified. "And Xoan is a Y, do they even know yet if she's fertile?"
"All I know is what I've just told you. Thleen was as upset as I've ever seen her, and I levvin' can't blame her" said Qala. "She said it was all Ziri's plan."
"I can believe it" said Pyosz. "Which one of those two spilled the beans, I wonder?"
"We have to tell" said Maar grimly. "Nioma and the Kacang elders, they have to be told."
"And Dodd" added Pyosz. "I understand Thleen not wanting to be a snitch, but this is too dangerous to keep quiet."
"Agreed" said Qala. "How about if you go tell Prl, let her call Nioma? I'll ride over and speak with Ko, she and I are good friends."
"I'll go talk with Thleen" said Maar, straightening her shoulders. "This is going to be messy." She stopped on her way to the door when Pyosz said "I'm so relieved it's not Thleen -- that Ziri decided to experiment elsewhere. Because Thleen would never have said no to her. Not Ziri." They all looked at each other in silent communion before heading out for their various difficult conversations.
(Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.)