Friday, October 14, 2011


And now the Friday blast from Just Capshunz (an unexpectedly dog-centric collection today). Because starting the weekend snarky is a good idea. (Smooch.)


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts.
There are some really creative folks out there.


Monday, October 10, 2011


By the time Pyosz had finished spinning the laundry, Szeko had found her again and pleaded to help push fabric into the wringer. She loved watching items come out flat and stiff on the other side. Pyosz had to keep a seabeak eye on her, to be sure little fingers were not still between the rollers before she pushed the wringer button.

Pyosz insisted Szeko remain behind as she carried the heaping basket to the barn, where she began shaking out the clean rags to hang in the drying rack area. This time of year, there was no competition from fruits or nuts for this part of the barn. However, one of the blowers wasn't coming on. She wrote a note for Su to check it and left it on the bed in the claustrophic metal cabin Su still claimed as her residence on Saya.

Su was now head mechanic in Raki's speedboat business, and had flourished under the responsibility. She was single, and a beloved sibemma to Thleen's children. She generally appeared for weeknight dinners, and kept all things electrical or mechanical in order on Saya as well as nearby family-occupied Pea Pods. She wasn't much of a talker, or particularly insightful, but Pyosz had learned to depend on her presence for what it was.

Pyosz spent the rest of the morning mucking out the barn and bringing down fresh hay from the mow. She made a warm mash before calling in her herd. Massive clouds had gathered and she expected the afternoon would turn rainy. She felt Bolt's undersides and thought she could detect restlessness within. Bolt was standing in a way Pyosz recognized as pre-labor. Pyosz rubbed behind her ears and said "I'll be here tonight, new emma, we'll get through it together."

Prl, Neoma, and the three older children of Thleen and Ziri trooped by on their way to the ferry. Lawoj, at 11, declined the outing and Pyosz told her she had to scrub the porch, then, before holing up in the study to read. Lawoj read for pleasure, and Pyosz could not begrudge her that. Ngus, now, Ngus read like a waterspout, sucking up all information around her. Last summer Dodd had tested her before entering third grade and announced she was proficient at a gakusha level. She suggested Ngus consider skipping the rest of Pya school and instead attend college.

Pyosz and Maar had argued about it for a long time. Maar wanted her to have a "normal" life, with friends and outings and "Yes, even kickball games if only as a spectator!" she had shouted. Pyosz, primed by Prl, argued for allowing Ngus to follow her special bent wherever it led her. Her propensity for music and mathematics already made her unpopular with most children her age.

Eventually Ngus, paler than any of them, with red-gold frizz and Pyosz's eyes, had settled it by calmly asking to "Let me open the doors my mind is knocking at. I need to be happy." The Polytechnic readily granted her admission, with a scholarship.

However, the University in Skene also offered a place for Ngus there, behind Pyosz and Maar's backs, and Ngus enrolled by mail. When she told them, she said the linguistics program in Skene was far advanced, and that was what interested her most.

"Linguistics?" shrieked Pyosz. "I thought it was maths and music!"

"Much the same thing, really" mused Ngus, and when Prl chuckled, Pyosz wheeled on her. "I'm not letting a 13-year-old move into those dorms on Skene, I know what kind of crotch-munching goes on at night."

Ngus said "I asked Speranz if I could live in their Manage. She said I'd have to share her bed, but they'd feed me and look out for me. The U is giving me a private cubicle for study. I think I can get my degree in three years, maybe two, if I apply myself. And you know I will."

Pyosz didn't like the sound of that cubicle, dimly remembering stories her abba Bux had told her. But in the end they relented, and Ngus had flown away to Skene with her emmas sobbing on the tarmac below. She returned at midwinter holiday with excited stories about gakushas who adored her and the Archive contents in Skene. She was not noticeably thinner or paler, and she said Speranz snored but was otherwise quite nice to her, so Pyosz found no reason to bar her return. She did apologize to Prl, however, for leaving Skene at 20 to take over Saya Island.

"It drove me nearly mad. But Ngus is too much of a child, still, to get into the kind of trouble you faced" said Prl. "She'll be back. Seems like nobody leaves Pya for good."


Pyosz was late for lunch, guiltily grateful the only little one present was Pothl nursing silently at Thont's breast. She told the young adults "Kidding will start tonight. I'll be sleeping in the barn."

Thont, with dark rings around her eyes, said "Does it hurt them like us? Birthing, I mean."

"I can't answer that. It does hurt, yes, but animals tend to let pain flow through them. Their pupils get very dilated and they look a little ecstatic once it's over and a tiny jelly-legged kid of their own is there between their feet." She saw Thont look down at Pothl with awe and smiled in reminiscence.

Ziri cut through the sentiment to say "Everyone is coming here tomorrow for Shmonah dinner, are you baking this afternoon? Because we're low on bread."

They were always low on bread. Pyosz sighed and said "I suppose I will, then. Anyone have free time to help?"

Thleen shook her head guiltily, and Ziri said "I have to mop two stories and wash diapers." Pyosz had found her baking job somewhat onerous since Yoj's death. She said now "Then I'll turn on the radio to keep me company."

She started several sponges as Thleen did dishes. She then called the Lofthall and managed to speak directly with Maar. "I know you're busy, but I'm out of buckwheat and we could use some things for tomorrow. If I call in an order to Gitta's, will you swing by there on your way home?" Gitta's second-oldest was now running the grocery, but it would forever be Gitta's.

Maar distractedly said "Okay, I guess so. Listen, how did Szeko get that gash on her forehead, Thiri's version lay all the blame on you?"

"Thiri is a broody pullet. I've got to go, we'll talk later." Pyosz added under her breath If you don't fall asleep first.

As Pyosz began shaping loaves and rolls, Ziri returned to the kitchen and cleared her throat. "Ah, Pyosz, since you're about to be in the barn all the time, I was wondering -- have you finished that platter I asked you to make for my aggie?"

"Oh lev, Ziri, I forgot." Pyosz felt stricken. Two months ago she and Ziri had spent a couple of hours in her studio creating a design of dewlet-dropped grape clusters and split boiled eggs for Meko, who had populated next-door Kacang Island from her one womb. "When is her birthday?"

"San." Ziri looked resigned. "It's okay, I can select something from what's already made -- "

"No, Ziri, that design is too beautiful to miss. In fact, I was going to ask if I could use it later on, after she's had it to herself for a while." Pyosz felt a surge of love for Ziri, who had meant to inherit Kacang for herself. Instead, she was now a backbone at Saya, while her siba Koben gleefully claimed Kacang.

"Listen, after I put these in, I can save the pies for later. If I set the timer, will you come pull them out and place them on the racks to cool? I'll go do the platter now, I really want to." Pyosz suddently felt wild to be in the sanctuary of her studio.

Ziri hugged her and said "And you can fire it tomorrow maybe?"

"I'll fire it tonight." She washed her hands, set the timer, and hurried out to her studio.

But after she pulled clay from her bucket and warmed it by long kneading, she paused, looking down at the mound on her wheel. The peace around her gave her room to remember, and she burst into tears.

Not quite two months earlier, her sibemma Mill had died from a swift, vicious strain of pneumonia which had stalked Pya that winter. They had lost Oby three years earlier from a burst appendix. Mill retired from the Lofthall, throwing her support behind Maar who easily won election, and spent her days managing the fields on Arta Island. Her grown grandchild Ehall lived with her as the intended heir of Arta. Some in the family had grumbled about Ehall being tardy in calling for medical help, but Briel quashed that talk, saying Mill had become frail and easy prey for illness.

Pyosz increasingly found Ehall reminded her of Abbo at that age, and wondered what shaped such a personality in their midst. Ehall tended to brag, she met responsibility often with little grace, and she visited her emmas on Dou much too seldom for their happiness. Her aggie Ngall, Pyosz's closest cousin, had told Pyosz "It's as if Arta Island is her identity. Didn't Yoj write something about how that problem would become more pronounced in Pya?"

Pyosz was further disturbed by Meamea, the middle child of the Heaps, moving in to cohabit with Ehall. Meamea had retained her sweetness despite growing up with overbearing Ziri and manipulative Koben, and Pyosz worried that Ehall dominated her. She found their decision not to partner made her anxious for Meamea's future.

But all that grief and worry was overshadowed a week later, on the winter solstice. Qoj, her cousin via Dodd and Briel, contracted a night flight with one of Maar's favorite young lighters to photograph constellations at annual midpoints. She did this regularly and had accumulated a vast scientific database which made the astronomer in Skene green with envy. This night, however, something completely failed in the lighter engine, and despite heroic efforts by the pilot, they had crashed in a fallow soybean field in the middle of Dvareka. They were both killed instantly, and a fire burned the craft down to struts.

Shock reverberated through all Skene. Dodd had to be hospitalized for a week to keep her partly sedated and taking in nutrition. Uli, Qoj's partner, took indefinite leave from her job to look after their 12-year-old child, Ulodd. The Lofthall altered schedules and mourned their dead.

Even worse, under Maar's rubric, was that no one understood what had gone wrong with the lighter engine. It was one of a new model manufactured in Pya, with a modified power relay, and after a year of trial in all circumstances, this engine had been installed in every new craft on Skene, including the huolon which flew Ngus back and forth from Pya to Skene. Maar was not an engineer, but she carried a roll of schematics now with her everywhere she went, trying to find a glitch which might prevent a future failure.

Su had looked over the diagrams at Maar's request one evening, and finally said "I can't find a flaw. The fact is, it could be a freak malfunction. They do happen. And you have exponentially more evidence for the success of this model, with only one incident of trouble."

Pyosz had stood up from the dining table where they had been sitting and said "One incident of trouble. That's how you refer to the horrific death of my cousin?" Her hands were trembling, and Maar reached out to hold one, but Pyosz jerked away.

"That's not all all what I meant" began Su. Pyosz was by then halfway out the door. She didn't return to the Manage until everyone else was asleep. When she slid in under the covers next to Maar, she stayed on her half of the bed.

Now, weeping in her studio, she thought Nothing has gotten better since then. There are no answers, and no security to be had. She cried until she had to stop and blow her nose. Her eyes, at least, felt clearer, and she began reworking the clay to loosen it again.

She was able to finish the platter and glaze it before milking. Bolt turned down her serving of oats, which was the final sign Pyosz needed. She hurried through dinner, made a snack box plus an insulated carafe of tea, and grabbed blankets before walking back through sleety dark to the barn. Bolt was on her front knees, straining and looking a little panicked. Pyosz calmed her down and began singing what she thought of as her goat song to the rest of the herd, who were restless and looking frequently through the bars of Bolt's stall.

Bolt delivered before midnight, a smallish dappled grey kid that Pyosz helped towel dry. She was, blessedly, a doeling, so Pyosz picked her up and kissed her cheek before whispering "I name you Flood, may your waters flow forever" before helping her find Bolt's teat. Mildew bleated demandingly from the pen, and Pyosz went to let Mildew sniff her hands. "New citizen of Saya" Pyosz told her. She made a nest in clean straw, drank her tea, and dropped off, her shoulders aching from the effort of not remembering Qoj.

© 2011 Maggie Jochild


Sunday, October 9, 2011


[This may be Chapter One of a new Skene novel, following both Skene and Pya. You will need to open several auxiliary files to understand some of the terminology and characters if you have not yet read the first two books. Check my Labels in the sidebar for Skene/Pya Glossary, Skene Lineage Chart, and the basic introduction to this science fiction world. For the rest of you, this action starts about a decade following the epilogue of Pya. Maar and Pyosz are both about 40 years of age. And please give feedback.]


It was so cold Pyosz felt a shock stepping outdoors. Rain had stopped at midnight, leaving rimed puddles and a slippery crunch underfoot. She was glad of her sheepskin-lined gloves, not only for herself but also for the few non-pregnant doelings she had to milk this time of year. The rest of her herd was either rambunctious kids or very gravid emmas-to-be, whose bulbous sides barely seemed to fit in the stalls.

She felt a little guilty driving them out to pasture, but they needed the air and graze, however reluctant they felt. She left her cans of milk in a row beside the feedbox, where Thleen was already hoisting them into a small cart. They were silent dawn workers, she and Thleen, each occupied with their own goat-related contract to Pya. Thleen didn't have the new baby, Pothl, born from Thont, strapped in a yameen to her back as she did most mornings. Pyosz assumed it was because of the freeze outside.

She wanted to ask Thleen how she kept peace with her official partner Ziri while having a child with Thont, but it felt too personal in the close crowded quarters of Owl Manage. Pyosz was also feeling out of touch with Maar, who had been insanely busy lately dealing with the recent loss of a lighter and an experienced pilot.

Pyosz skittered away from that crash and all its attendant tragedy. She let the lead goat, Mildew (Killer's great-granddaughter, she always reminded herself), select a spot she deemed suitable for the herd that morning. She followed them out into the pasture, reluctant to return to an always cacophonous breakfast table in the Manage. She pulled her cap far down, wrapped herself tightly in her new grey manteau, and squatted despite protesting knees to conserve her own body heat. One yearling came to lean companionably against her for a while as the sun rose high enough to hint at a warmer day, though Pyosz retained her doubts.

She didn't realize she was scowling until her cheeks began to ache from the unused muscles overlaid by cold. She rubbed her face smooth and returned to brooding. On top of all else (don't think about that right now, she warned herself), her best friend Jinya had visited her at the studio yesterday afternoon to confide news Pyosz had later decided she'd rather not have heard. Jinya's oldest child, Raki, was partnered with Pyosz's firstborn, Qux, which had consolidated the kinship they felt to each other. Pyosz still struggled at times with the grief she felt at Qux no longer living on Saya Island. Qux would inherit Grasak Island with Raki, and her destiny lay there, visible across the kuono from Saya.

But visible wasn't the same as having her grinning Qux's face under the same roof. And she hated that Qux had followed Maar into sinning. Especially --

She wrenched her thoughts away again. She reminded herself that despite her responsibilities elsewhere, Qux managed to stop by almost every day for a few minutes, tying at the dock one of Raki's speedboats from her transit business around the Pea Pods, between Dvareka and Hamsa. And Pyosz always sent something of Saya home with Qux -- her breads or pies, jams, honey, or Thleen's djoste. She proclaimed them gifts for Raki, now in her third trimester, but underneath was her desire to still be the one who fed her own child.

Thinking of Qux puttering up to the dock reminded her of the fight Merrl had picked with Qux two days ago, shouting at her that her speedboat mooring sometimes block the ferry from Dvareka. Merrl had threatened to ram the smaller boat next time it was in her way, and Qux had flown into an uncharacteristic rage, screaming if she damaged Raki's property she'd call out the Ethicist to extract damages from Merrl's salary as an administrator at the Polytechnic. Maar had not been home, and there were no elders now to wade in to dispense peace. Pyosz didn't think of her emma, Prl, as an elder, although in fact she was.

Eventually Ziri had handed off her 2-year-old to wide-eyed Lawoj and waded into the fracas, accusing Merrl of displaying territoriality -- a taboo on Skene -- and telling Qux to stop acting like she was Raki's plaything. They had separated, now pissed at Ziri, and in the subsequent silence both babies began crying.

Pyosz shifted her squatting weight from one side to the other, making sure her manteau stayed tucked into her otos instead of settling on the icy ground. She could tell Mildew and the other emmas-to-be were not pleased with the grass they were finding, giving her sidelong looks which seemed to suggest Pyosz could make warm mash in the barn and fill the ricks with hay instead. Pyosz ignored them. She was now head of the capriste guild for all Skene, alternating election each year with her cousin Vants. What she didn’t know about goats wasn’t worth knowing.

Her thoughts returned to what Jinya had told her, insisting she not share it with anyone else yet, even Maar: Jinya and her partner were seriously discussing taking a third into their partnership, an old friend named Dero who had recently become a left-behind. They all loved each other and the balance seemed possible.

Three-way partnerships were common on Skene, though not as common in Pya itself for reasons which the gakushas loved to speculate about. Pyosz had not held a strong opinion about which she preferred until she had fallen in love with Maar, and then her need to have Maar to herself became ferocious. Since then, she had felt occasional discomfort when witnessing women she knew working out the dynamics of a trio, and she avoided conversation about it. Now, two of her closest friends were bringing it right into her family, and the best she had been able to give Jinya was attentive listening with a neutral face. Even that had drained her energy.

She ached for Yoj right now, someone she could ask about what it really meant and felt like, who would not be disappointed at her prejudice. She could not remember a time when her abba Yoj had been disappointed in her. She felt a few tears spill down her cheek, instantly leaving unpleasantly cold tracks.

She shifted her weight again, wiping her cheek with a gloved palm, and her gaze took in the kissing gate. She focused on a blur of red halfway up the bars of the gate, and realized it was Szeko, the two-year-old, trying to work the latch. With a sigh, she stood, hearing her knees creak in that new troubling way, and strode toward the gate. Before she reached Szeko, the child began yelling “Abba, abba, you missed breakfast!” She saw half a piece of jammy toast in the child’s grubby mitten, waved at her triumphantly.

Pyosz’s mood melted a little. This child seemed as eager to feed Skene as Pyosz and Maar both, and maybe she would become the Saya Island capriste when Pyosz had to retire, keeping Owl Manage in the family. Certainly her other descendants show no inclination: Merrl liked being a balky bureaucrat at the Polytechnic and never dated the same person for more than a couple of tempestuous months. Lawoj only wanted to read and play Gongtong, it seemed. Precocious Ngus had hied off to the University in Skene, and her rare letters home were at times bewildering. Thleen would never take on slaughtering goats, and Qux – well, Qux had been nabbed by Grasak. And the Lofthall, blast it all to magma.

So Pyosz was now pinning her hopes on babies. She scooped Szeko up and balanced the toast on a fencepost as she tucked the toddler under her own manteau, sharing the neck-hole with her. A doeling who had followed her managed to steal the toast while Pyosz was occupied, and when Szeko spied this, she burst into wails.

“Ssh, ssh, it’s alright, she’s about to have babies and she needs the jam” Pyosz murmured as she carried Szeko back to the herd. “When I go back into the Manage, you can butter me a warm piece of toast, yes?” She squatted again and let Szeko sit on the lap this made, her hips now protesting as well as her knees. A couple of the younger goats came to nibble at Szeko’s red cap, and Pyosz shooed them away.

“Why you out here?” asked Szeko.

“I’m a capriste, and I feel like something is up with my goats. Before the week is out, one of them will kid, but it could be as early as today or tonight” said Pyosz. “Kid means having a baby goat, a kid” she added at the look on Szeko’s face.

“Who?” asked Szeko, twisting her face around in the neck-hole.

Pyosz gave voice to what her gut had been telling her. “Bolt. I think Bolt will be first. That’s her over there, with the black face and a white streak on it? I think I’ll name her baby Flood, if it’s the right color.”

“Fud” repeated Szeko, with a smug tone. Pyosz kissed the side of her head and whispered “This can be your herd someday, if you want it.”

“Okay” said Szeko. She burped lightly and wrapped her fingers around Pyosz’s wrist under the manteau. They kept chatting about the goats for several more minutes, until a high voice reached them from the gate: “Abba! We’ve lost Szeko, come help!”

Pyosz stood up, this time groaning at the jolt to her joints, and faced the gate so Szeko’s siba, 10-year-old Thiri, could see her. Thiri made an exasperated face and gave an imperious “Come here” sign in their direction.

Pyosz’s sour mood returned. She carried Szeko as far as the slope up to the gate, where Thiri had opened it and glared down at them. She set the wriggling toddler on the ground and let her surge up the small hill under her own power: Szeko was adamant on doing things herself.

Pyosz said sarcastically “It’s nice somebody in the Manage missed her. She’s been out here at least 20 minutes, roaming around on the coldest day we’ve had.”

Thiri flared at her “Why didn’t you bring her back, then?” At that moment Szeko slipped on the mud and slid down backwards, somehow scraping her forehead on a chip of frozen rock. The sobbing face she turned to Pyosz had streams of blood on it already, but after quick examination, Pyosz said “It’s a small cut, she’ll be all right. Take her to Ziri.” She handed Szeko over to a shocked Thiri and returned to the pasture, scowling at the fresh blood droplets on her new manteau.

She gave herself another half hour before hunger pushed her back to the eastern end of Saya. Even then, unwilling to face domestic drama just yet, she stopped in at the djostiker building they’d added when Thleen took over those duties. Thleen was sieving cooked milk, pulling out curd, her face red and sweaty. Pyosz helped herself to a wedge of yesterday’s product, along with a mug of tea and some of the crackers Thleen kept on hand for customers. She sat on a cooling box and ate silently.

Brushing crumbs from her lap onto Thleen’s immaculate floor, she remarked “That eldest of yours can be a real snot.” Thleen raised orange eyebrows and decided not to reply. Pyosz added “And she doesn’t get any of that from you.” Thleen grinned at her and said, “No. But some is from you.” Pyosz began laughing, and Thleen joined her. After that, Pyosz pushed herself upright and headed for home.

The seven-year-old, Aleqa, was on the porch hammering at nail heads in the wood. “No new nails, no pulling anything out” Pyosz reminded her.

“Will you come play with me?” pleaded Aleqa.

“I can’t, it’s about to get very hectic for me. But I’ll call around the cousins and see if I can find a playmate for you this afternoon” offered Pyosz. “Put your gloves back on, even timmers hammer with gloves on this time of year.”

Inside the Manage, Ziri was holding a still-sniffling Szeko while trying to warm a bottle for the baby. “How did this happen?” she demanded of Pyosz. Pyosz took the toddler back in her arms and explained succinctly, ignoring Ziri’s exclamations. Szeko said “We make toast now?” Pyosz considered and said “I need a bit more, yes. You sit here on the counter while I slice bread and fry some bacon. You want another piece?”

“Wif honey?” said Szeko, fluttering her black eyelashes.

“Sure” said Pyosz, followed by a snort from Ziri.

“Where’s Thont?” Pyosz asked.

“Sleeping” said Ziri in a clipped voice. Pyosz unwillingly remembered the days when there were plenty of elders to hold babies or entertain toddlers. “I miss Qala today” she said aloud without meaning to.

Ziri glanced at her, and said in a kinder voice “I’ve always regretted her not getting to see Aleqa before she passed.”

Aleqa, her and Thleen’s child, had been born one month to the day after Qala died. Pyosz remembered that the next day, as Thleen had held her new baby, she began weeping and said “I know it’s not logical, but I think she resembles Qala.”

Pyosz had been startled, because she’d had the same thought. Ziri, sitting up in bed, had said “Maybe Qala’s spirit distilled itself from the wasa and came back to be breathed in as Aleqa was born. She could be looking up at you right now.”

Pyosz was furious about this particular superstition and wanted to snap it off like a bean, but Thleen’s face looked so hopeful, she let it slide.

Now Szeko asked “Who died before me?”

Everybody thought Pyosz. She said “Too hot to pick up yet, sweetcakes, let it cool a little more. Here, let’s get the honey out instead.”

They ate at the breakfast bar, Pyosz calling Vants on the radio as Szeko chewed. “I think Bolt may go as early as tonight” she said.

“Two days early” observed Vants. “But the cold will do that. She look like she’s dropped?”

“Yeah. How about yours?” She and Vants had bred their herds four days apart so there would be some extra help available at the ends of the birth cycles.

“Mebbe Grunter, she tends to go early. But call me if you need help,” said Vants.

“Same to you” said Pyosz.

“Well, I’ve got Lehen” reminded Vants. It was not meant to be snarky, Pyosz knew, but it still irritated her, this reminder that her own partner did not share in her vocation. She had completely forgotten their early years together, when Maar slept in the barn with her during kidding, before Maar became Sheng Zhang of the Lofthall.

She called Herne Island next and got her cousin Chank. She left a message for Chank’s emma, Ulcha, the veterinarian they all used. As she was clicking off, looking with dismayed resignation at the honeyed fingerprints left all over the breakfast bar by Szeko, the front bedroom door opened and Prl emerged from her room, followed by Neoma. Neither looked groggy, and Pyosz thought perhaps they had been up for a while, barricaded behind a locked door.

Well, Sju is the one day of the week they sleep in Pyosz told herself. Prl went straight to the privy but left the door open so Szeko, scrambling in her direction and shouting “Habibi!”, could mar Prl’s clean clothing with sticky hands. Neoma came to kiss Pyosz’s cheek and take the now-fed Pothl from Ziri for burping.

“Oh, you smell so good” she murmured into the baby’s neck. Aleqa came in the front door, sans hammer, and yelled to Pyosz “Did you find somebody to play with me?”

“Not yet” said Pyosz. “Put the hammer away.” Aleqa went back out, leaving the door standing open until her return.

Neoma said “We’re going to Talaba after lunch, we could take her to visit my little ones there.” Aleqa shouted “Yes!” which startled the baby. Prl took Szeko directly to the sink to wash her hands, and asked “Yes, what?”

“I said we’d take these two with us.” Her nod included Szeko. Ziri said with relief “That would be a blessing.”

Prl frowned briefly. “I had promised Dodd we’d eat lunch with her on the way, but I suppose that will work. If Dodd needs to talk privately…” She didn’t finish but looked at Neoma meaningfully. Neoma replied “Of course. We’ll go visit the Lofthall, see if we can visit Maar.”

Pyosz did not want to be part of this conversation. She left the mess on the breakfast bar and stalked into the bath room to start washing all the milking rags she’d brought from the barn. They’d need every rag and sack they could find, once kidding started. As she ran the washer crank, she distracted herself by trying to come up with more names for the three dozen new goats who would arrive soon. Well, at least the ones I won’t have to slaughter in four months she thought.