Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there. And the first one on this page is by little gator.


Sunday, August 22, 2010


Type your summary here
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)


The following day, Thleen reported Ziri had been absent from school, and Xoan wouldn't speak to her. She kept asking any elder nearby why Ziri stayed home, was she all right or was it punishment. Finally Qala said "If I tell you, will you keep it to yourself no matter what? Including Thont?"

Prl glared at them but Thleen swallowed and said "On my honor, habibi."

"Her emmas took her to the clinic to have her tested for pregnancy. Briel confirmed she's fertile" -- (As fertile as her aggie is what Ko had said) -- "but didn't turn up pregnancy. And yes, it's partly punishment. She won't be allowed to see Xoan any more except on school grounds, and they'll be watched closely there."

Thleen tried to hide her pleasure at this news. Qala erased it for her by adding "After school Xoan was taken to the clinic to test her fertility two years early. Is there any reason we need to do that with you?"

"No, habibi" said Thleen in a hollow voice.

Pyosz and Maar were up late that night talking about the problem with Ziri, who had as far as they could see had been given an excellent upbringing, yet had brought near disaster on herself. They felt great empathy for the Heaps emmas, and worried they were not really on the beach yet with Thleen, no matter what Qala said.

In the greenhouse the following afternoon, Thleen dropped her bookbag on the path and followed it to the ground, announcing "Ziri was back today."

Qala looked up from the graft she was splicing. "How was she?"

"Kinda bad. Like a light had been turned off." Unusually poetic for Thleen. "She avoided Xoan, even though Xoan kept trying to get her to look at her. I mean, I know it's a mistake and all, but it seems kinda harsh. And she didn't act mad at me a bit."

"Good. You did her no harm, truthfully. And...well, depending on what you do, your first time at real sex, as you call it, can be frustrating or even hurt you. Maybe the first few times. She may be in shock by how it turned out."

Thleen's mouth was agape. "Hurt? How can you get hurt?" She sounded almost indignant.

"You need a good flow of juices, and to go very slow, and learn each other. Thleen, you know very well how abrasion can happen. It doesn't work quite right until you're older, physically and emotionally."

Thleen sucked the inside of her cheek, thinking for a minute. "Xoan didn't look like it hurt her, or went wrong for her."

"Everybody's different. But having to lie about intimate behavior diminishes pleasure, always. I learned all of this the hard way, without people I could talk to about it." Qala put bark dope on her graft and set it on some moss to start a second. "Being kind to Ziri right now will be something she remembers for the rest of her days."

Qala heard the cheek-sucking continue. It was a sound that drove Pyosz half-crazy, but it never bothered her. Thleen said softly "I think she might be mad at Xoan for telling another kid at school. That's how it got around."

"I'd be mad, too" said Qala. "Xoan may be older than you but she's not nearly as mature." She saw Thleen take that in. After another minute, Thleen said "I was wondering if for next Mchele Fair, for the puppets at the end, if we could somehow make a giant chicken that squawks around a bit, then lays an egg. And somebody small in a chick costume could hatch out of the egg. Wouldn't that be great?"

They began discussing construction materials.

Two weeks later on Roku after Market, Pyosz answered a knock at the door to discover Ziri standing there, with Koben and Meamea behind her. "Since when do you knock?" asked Pyosz, giving her a hug as her two sibas pushed past her inside.

"Emma sent over some tempeh and mutton, and asks for bread and butter" said Ziri.

"And pie!" added Meamea, likely an improvisation.

"Come in the kitchen with me, let's get you something warm to drink" said Pyosz. Merrl and Qux had fallen on Meamea with adoring cries. Koben went to the piano and began plunking out a tune.

Yoj was already pouring milk in a pan to heat. As Pyosz emptied Ziri's basket and refilled it, Ziri leaned against the counter, fidgeting, before asking as casually as she could muster "Thleen around?"

"She's on Teppe practicing kickball with Thont. I'm sure they'd like it if you joined them" said Pyosz, putting two pies in the basket. There are heaps of Heaps.

Koben's voice rose over the ivories "Emma said you could only come to Saya, nowhere else." Ziri made a vicious face in Koben's direction. Yoj said "Well, Saya's glad to see you. Cocoa will be ready soon."

Once mugs were filled, Pyosz asked Ziri out to her studio to see a new design and managed to keep Koben from tagging along. She sat on her stool and said "You have my sympathy, Ziri, I know it's been rough, being talked about in public."

Ziri shrugged, looking away.

"You know, Maar was first lovers with someone when she was only 15. Nobody found out about it but she said it still went very badly."

That got Ziri's attention. "Who was it? Are they friends now?"

"Someone back on Skene, and no, they're not particularly friends." She was two years older than Maar, barely in sui, and I frankly loathe that woman thought Pyosz.

"I just wanted to know what it was like" said Ziri heatedly. "My emmas do it all the time, and Nezi did it with Aleri when she was only fourteen -- they don't think I know about it, but I do!"

"They were very lucky to have it work out" said Pyosz, stashing away that nugget of information. "I'm sorry you didn't have the same kind of luck."

A knock came at the door and Koben stuck her head in, obnoxious superiority in her voice as she said "Emma told us we could only stay a few minutes." Pyosz took Ziri's empty mug from her hand to keep it from being hurled at Koben.

"Let's get your basket and I'll walk you to the ferry" she offered. "Do you want to leave a note for Thleen, or just have me tell her you stopped by?"

"Do you have an envelope that seals?" whispered Ziri. Stifling a sigh, Pyosz showed her to the study and the stationary drawer. Ziri put her envelope on Thleen's bed, taking in the room for a long minute, before reluctantly returning home.

When Pyosz told Maar about it that night, Maar asked "What did her note say?"

"I didn't read it, of course. Thleen holed up in her room for an hour before dinner."

Maar rubbed her forehead. "Dekkan told me today that Thont's been crying at night because Thleen doesn't want to date only her. But stars, Pyosz, I don't want her dating Ziri instead."

"As friends. Being friends for a long time is a good thing" said Pyosz, and Maar smiled at her, the furrow still in her brow. She whispered "I'm terrified of what Merrl is going to throw at us when she gets to be that age."

"Strong-willed, lava-spirited emmas can expect to produce at least some children in their own image" laughed Pyosz. "Oh -- put your hand here, she just kicked hard!"

On Roku, the extended family returned to Saya for a late lunch. Children finished early because they wanted to play on the new quarter-scale sinner in front beside the now less-appealing boat. Thont was whispering to Thleen -- No doubt to persuade her off somewhere alone, thought Pyosz -- when Yoj said to Nioma "I got that page translated last night."

"She had the light on til midnight" complained Halling.

"What page?" asked Dodd.

"It's the first sheet of the rotting journal left behind in the cave at Pertama by the original colonists here at Pya. There were gaps from mold and disintegration, so even with the best of copies, it's taken me a while" said Yoj.

"Shall we go up to the study and peruse it?" asked Nioma.

"Well, I thought everybody might want to get in on it" countered Yoj, to which Dodd and several others nodded animatedly. She shuffled slowly to her room while some of the table was cleared and Dodd plinked bits of melody on the piano. Pyosz remembered Prl telling her that whatever anyone's expertise, in the Manage where she had grown up, all puzzles were brought equally to the dinner table in the belief that every vantage point was essential to a balanced solution. She had told Pyosz about the night they had realized, without a doubt, there was other land on Skene besides the islands of Skene itself: the first proof of what would become Pya. She said she had been in the arms of an abba, and she had felt a shuddering thrill pass from the older woman's body into her own, a kinesthetic understanding that bypassed her toddler mind.

Pyosz saw Thleen take a chair at the table and was glad. When Qux chose that moment to run in, yelling "I hafta use the privy!", Pyosz said to Halling "Wait for me" and went to help Qux. She returned holding her firstborn, whispering "I think we're about to hear something very interesting, let's find out." They took the chair next to Thleen.

Yoj polished her lenses before setting them on her nose. "So...I believe this to be a summary description of Pya sent back to the original planet by a scout ship. It's mostly statistics, scientific readings, as it were. Since the page is mostly numeric or dry, unwieldy terminology, including several abbreviations or acronyms, it's gone unselected for translation before now."

Nioma, sitting next to her, was looking at the sheet of paper. "Most of these numerals are similar enough to ours, I think I can -- is that a 9?"

"8" said Prl over her shoulder. She pointed and said "That's what they used for a decimal holder, this means greater than, this is less than, and this -- emma?"

"A unit of measure equal to 2/3 of our square meter, I believe" said Yoj. "Most of this table here is a tabulation of the area of each island in Pya carried to the fifth deceimal point, which will be valuable for comparison, I imagine."

"It certainly will" said Nioma. "Prl, can you bring me a calculator and a pad, I want to -- "

"That's not what you were so worked up about last night, is it?" asked Halling, sounding disappointed.

"No, indeed" said Yoj with a wide grin. "I went to the Poly library to get a reference to be sure I was reading it right."

"What?" said Mill. suddenly leaning forward. Prl, too, was fixed on Yoj's face. "What?" echoed Qux, whispering in Pyosz's ear.

'This" said Yoj, tapping the sheet "in the most general way is a count of species fond on Skene at the time of human arrival, categorized by sea-based, land-based, airborne, fauna, and so on."

Nioma bent over it, then gaped at Yoj. "You must be in error. Even by my rudimentary read, these numbers are huge."

"Yes, they are" said Yoj quietly. "There's a codex meant to accompany this which gives a name and description to each life-form. I can say with certainty I've never seen that document -- well, it would be a volume, really, or several volumes. We do not have it in any archive on Skene. But I believe these totals are real."

"Thunder me down" said Nioma. "What in lev happened?" She sagged back against Prl. Pyosz was whispering in Qux's ear, whose eyes were wide but her expression unafraid, her small fingers interlinked with Pyosz's hand.

But Yoj had already hit this realization, had time to get used to it. She went on "And this is a list of minerals available from land and sea; this appears to be a chemical analysis of seawater as it was then, which even with my poor comprehension of that science is quite deviated from what we have now; and this one, charting the composition of land masses, is most intriguing for what it doesn't show." She waited a breath before answering everyone's question: "Soil. There wasn't anything like what we consider soil back then, just rock and mineral, and things that grew without needing roots in dirt."

"No dirt on Skene?" repeated Lawa, incredulous. "What kind of nightmare -- why would people come here, then?" Qala took her hand tenderly.

"We made it all, then" said Nioma, as if something had been confirmed for her. "But how?"

"And when" added Yoj. "Answers not on this page. We just have some new questions."

There was a long silence. Finally Pyosz said "If it wasn't so cold out there, I'd go dig my bare toes into the tillage and give thanks." Qux giggled and said "Like you was planting youself, aggie?"

Pyosz squeezed her and said "Saya already took my seed and gave me new growth, truth be told. Why don't you go play now?" Qux slid from her lap and trotted toward the door.

After a little more converation, talk turned to other topics except for Nioma. Prl, and Yoj meticulously translating numbers and ratios. Then Dodd struck up a song, during which Thleen and Thont vanished out the back door.

The rest of the family left by 9:00. Halling said she wanted toast and tea, and the children chimed in for the same. Halling made a tray and brought it back to the table, loosening her belt buckle before she ate. The little ones were allowed jam even though it was bedtime. Fruit grown in rich Pya soil thought Pyosz.

Yoj had Qux on her lap and they were alternating sips of milky chamomile tea. She mused "Pilots' kalsongers are so baggy, only those of us with a Lofthall connection know how muscular their thighs and asses are. Ripped, really. A treat for the lucky few."

Qux echoed "Ripped", then added "You mean emma?"

Maar's face was so red it looked combustible. Yoj nodded down at Qux "Yes, your emma and my sweetheart Halling." Halling grinned at both of them and said "My sit-down zone is not what it once was." Qux began giggling, repeating "Sit-down zone" while Yoj picked up Halling's hand and kissed the back of it. From the corner of her eye, Pyosz saw Lawa caress Qala's rump, and Maar managed to look even more embarrassed.

Prl said crisply "If everyone's done at the table, I'd like to clear it and finish the dishes."

"I'll help" said Maar swiftly. Had she known that much of the room turned to look at her as she bent over to pick up food particles dropped by Merrl, she'd have probably passed out, Pyosz thought.

That night in bed, Pyosz said to Maar in the dark "Don't take this the wrong way, but maybe the leviathans have reason to hate us."

Maar gave a long sigh. "I don't think I can go there, sweetheart," Pyosz pulled her close and said "Yeah."


Merrl of course could not yet tell time but she had learned that when the hands of the kitchen wall clock reached a certain configuration, it meant school was letting out or that Maar might be coming home. That Moja she was underfoot, demanding Pyosz hand her scraps of dough or vegetable cuttings which she could use to "cook" at her own small-scale stove. When she noticed the clock approaching the magic hour, she began asking every minute "Sibas coming home now?"

Finally Pyosz removed her pot from its simmer and said "Go put on your wellies and manteau, let's walk to the dock and wait for them there." Merrl rushed to comply. They met Qala on the porch, bringing in a basket of freshly dug potatoes and turnips. "I'll go with you" she offered.

Pyosz lowered herself to sit on the edge of the dock, feeling the ache in her feet and wondering how she'd get her bulk upright again from this position. Merrl insisted on emulating her, and Qala sat on her other side, one hand firmly gripping the back of Merrl's manteau as Merrl swung her feet vigorously and chattered about what it would be like next fall when she could join Qux and her cousins in first grade. And I'll be home with a quiet, sleeping baby thought Pyosz with equal anticipation.

Merrl was the first to spot the Pea Pod children gathering on Koldok's wharf. Ziri hopped into the ferry and helped Ura and Omill in first, followed by Qux and Raki scrambling down the ladder far too carelessly, Pyosz thought. Merrl kept waving and shouting as the ferry went first to Dou, then back to the pylon and chugged their way.

The ferry drew level with the dock and Thont grabbed the ladder with one arm as Thleen handed her pack to Qala, saying "At the noon kickball game, I scored a goal from almost half-field -- " Merrl had scrambled to her feet and now tried to pivot, but instead somehow pitched herself neatly backward into the swift water. Pyosz screamed and tried to shift her gravid torso. Thleen, however, had been looking right at them and she instantly dove from the side of the ferry.

Merrl's face appeared above the surface briefly, already choking, but went under again, swept away by current. Thleen kicked her way as Qala began shucking her otos and manteau. Pyosz found herself continuing to scream. She could see a dim shape under the surface, heading south to sweep past Arta, but Thleen was closing on it. A few feet away, she arced under and, after long agonizing seconds, resurfaced with Merrl's gasping head under her arm.

Merrl was out of her mind, flailing at Thleen, sometimes smacking her in the face, but Thleen doggedly began trying to swim against the current, toward the dock. "Let go!" Ziri yelled at Thont, shoving the lever to start the ferry on an intercept course. Thont was left hanging on the ladder. Qux began crying. Ziri shuddered the ferry to a stop still ten feet away from Thleen, who was now beginning to look grey with effort. Ziri bent and rooted through the underseat area, grunting as she located the boathook. She steaded herself against the side and extended it toward Thleen, yelling "Look here -- Thleenie, look at what you can grab!"

Thleen seemed to be having trouble focusing, but just as Qala was posed to dive in, her hand closed around the iron crook at the end of the pole. Koben and Ehall grabbed hold with Ziri to help pull Thleen toward them. Ziri bent and dragged Merrl, now terrifyingly still, over the gunwhale, dropping her at Qux's feet, before swiveling to pull in Thleen as well, which took three tries.

Koben dropped the boathook into the kuono in her haste to reach the level and start the verry back to the dock. Ziri had Thleen's face between her handsm forcing her to say a few words. Qux sat down in the wet bottom of the boat and cradled Merrl in her lap. Before the ferry reached dock, Lawa ran down the path, and she was first in the boat, handing Merrl up to Pyosz's arms.

Pyosz stripped the sodden manteau from Merrl's body, noting her hands were icy and one wellie was missing. Thont was there, saying "Lay her down, here, let me clear her lungs." As Thont began mouth to mouth revival, Lawa and Qala hauled Thleen up to the dock. Now all the younger children were crying. Nezi had come to the Kacang dock and was in a second ferry headed their way.

Pyosz heard Thleen behind her say through chattering teeth "I'm okay, I didn't swallow any water, I'm just freezing." Qala said to Qux "Sweetie, run to the Manage as fast as you can and start hot water running in the tub. Hot like for a bath, we have to get your sibs warm right away." Qux wiped her face and galloped up the path.

Suddenly Merrl retched, convulsing in Pyosz's arms, and then began crying, loud but normal shrieks. Pyosz stood effortlessly, adrenaline charging her body, and started for the Manage. Lawa and Thont put their shoulders under Thleen's arms and began walking her in the same direction. Qala waited to tell Nezi what had happened, thanking Ziri over and over again, before following with bookbags and Merrl's dripping manteau.

Lawa stripped Thleen on the porch, saying "Your new guibba, lev, it weighs as much as iron, however did you swim in it. And your otos -- I'll come clean them later, don't worry." Now shaking violently, Thleen was assisted to the steaming tub where Pyosz was holding Merrl in the water, repeating endlessly "I've got hold of you, I'll never let go, stay down in the warm, my darling." Thleen slid into the other end of the tub with a moan, submerging as much of her body as she could. Qala picked up the radio and dialed the clinic.

An hour later, when Maar landed the sinner, she shoved herself out the hatch first and left Su to lower the ramp, thudding up the porch steps past discarded garments of her children and bursting into the great room. Thleen was wrapped in quilts, asleep in the wide armchair before the hearth, her head on Thont's shoulder. She had dropped off after downing a cup of hot soup. Pyosz was in the other armchair with Merrl swaddled against her chest, Merrl also asleep after drops administered by Briel and a mug of hot cocoa. Pyosz began weeping silently when Maar knelt in front of her, spreading her hand over Merrl's back.

As the elders joined them, Pyosz told the story, slowly and with anguish in her voice. Prl sat on the arm of Thleen's chair and pulled her to her chest, waking her. Maar began crying too, pleading for Merrl to be in her arms, and as Pyosz handed her over, Merrl woke and wailed. Pyosz kept repeating "Thleen beat all of us, she saved Merrl, she saved her life." Thleen squirmed a little under the gazes leveled on her.

"What did Briel say?" Prl finally asked.

"Thleen will be sore tomorrow but otherwise fine. Thont got most of the sea out of Merrl's lungs but there's enough left to maybe cause bronchitis, infection, we're to watch for signs. Both are a little shocky. As we all are, really. Briel gave me some drops too" said Pyosz. "If Thleen hadn't been there, if it had been me jumping into that icy water..." Maar bent to kiss her, terror on her face.

Qala and Lawa were sitting together on low stools between the two chairs. Qala now said "All we have is soup, we haven't wanted to leave to go cook." Yoj kissed the top of Pyosz's head again and said "I'll go make a casserole, with all Thleen's favorite things in it." She picked up Qux and said "You keep me company, okay?"

Merrl's crying had slacked off and Maar tried to get her to blow her nose. "She sounds congested already" she said worriedly.

"We'll keep them in with us tonight, open the heat vents all the way" said Pyosz, allowing exhaustion to overtake her.

Maar looked around at Thleen. "I love you so much" she whispered. "Do you want Thont to stay over tonight?"

"Yeah." Thleen's voice was dull with fatigue. "I have a levvin' paper due tomorrow..."

"We'll write Dodd a note" said Prl. "You keep resting. Thont, let's call your Manage and then I'll help you with your homework, all right?" Thont unwillingly left Thleen's side and Qala took her place. Su asked what she could do, and Lawa said "Bring in that sea-soaked guibba and the rest, will you? I'll run fresh water in the cistern and let's see if we can rescue the leather and sheepskin."

That night, Maar slept poorly. She kept waking up to listen to Merrl's breathing and look at her face in the moonlight. After milking, Pyosz called Briel who came to confirm Merrl had a fever and heavy mucus but said "It's not pneumonia, she'll shake this off. Keep doing what you're doing."

At the family dinner on Shmonah, Halling struggled to her feet and made two toasts. The first was to "our Chloddia line, who are all exceptionally brave, quick thinkers and devoted to others." Su blushed as deeply as Maar and Thleen. Then Halling commended the "exceptional children of Pya, who grow up to find balance with whatever nature presents to them, including the vagaries of the sea." She nodded at Ziri then, and Yoj blew her a kiss. Pyosz thought The vagaries of a sea permanently unbalanced by us, but smiled at Thleen without showing any uncertainty.

(Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild.)