Planting Life in a Dying City (Kolchais, Interlude: Kyawtchais)

Season content notes: ableism, internalized ableism, violence

It was late afternoon when the Short-One sought out Kyawtchais.

Kyawtchais was starting to think that Short-One might also be Wise-One, Seeing-One. With a Wise-One, a Guarding-One, and a Silent, Caring-One as parents, the trial family was stronger than ey had been told. Small, but thick yarn poorly spun would break sooner than a well-balanced thread.

The Short-One sat down next to Kyawtchais as ey worked, spinning the fine linen thread. It would have been better spun in the workroom, with fewer distractions and no dust and mud to stain the fibre. But it was tradition to spin the gift-thread among the family a Spinner sought to join. If you could not spin thread among a new family, the Silent Spinners said, you could not spin yourself into that family.

Short-One watched for a time, then asked, “What do you learn in the markets?”

Kyawtchais let the spindle finish the last turn and caught it up, thinking. Not-Spinners rarely understand. Unless they were the sort to marry into the family. None of the Spinners knew why they were different, but they were. As were their children, often. Even if they married-out. “I spin the voices,” ey finally said.

The not-Spinner, once-Runner, Stubborn-One doesn’t understand, of course. (The Guarding-One was also Stubborn-One, ey thought. But not always. Not often.) “How can you spin voices?”

“The market is… loud, many voices. The voices splitter. To understand, they must be spun together.” Kyawtchais hummed for a bit, tapping eir fingers with the rhythm of the spindle. “Today, I spun voices in the Eastern Market. Tomorrow maybe the Western Market.” Ey hummed a moment, remembering the voice-threads ey had spun that morning. One thing there was that would be of interest. “The new winter crops begin to come in, but trade with Far-Walkers has been poor. Meat will be priced high, I think, this season.”

“May I come with you tomorrow? I’d like to see.”

Kyawtchais hesitated. It was rarely… comfortable… having others with em at market. But ey needed to let this family get to know em, and the markets… the markets were special to em. “You must not distract me. Or interrupt me.”

“I am do that,” the Short-One smiled, “Honestly, a chance to just sit around for a morning and watch other people will be… nice.”

Frowning, Kyawtchais looked over the trial-parent. Ey saw nothing in the Short-Ones face, which non-Spinners read as easily as one of eir niblings read animal tracks. But the tightness in shoulders, the slightly hunched posture, the slightly-too-relaxed fingers… “You are hurting.”

The Short-One startled. “It’s nothing, I can do what is needed.”

Kyawtchais shook eir head. “You must stop. Spinners know.” Ey thought a moment, translating hand-sign into mouth-speech. “When you hurt you must stop, or you will…” The sign ey used was two thread-hands ripping apart. The not-Spinner didn’t understand, couldn’t understand. Ey sighed. “You will come tomorrow and sit. When Watchful-One is back from day-work, ey will tell me mouth-words.”


The next morning Kyawtchais left the Silent Spinner compound to spin the market like ey did most days. Unlike most days, ey waited at the entrance of the Western Market for the Short-One, once-Runner to join em. But the currents were kind, and the Short-One arrived soon after Kyawtchais. They entered the market together.

Kyawtchais had a regular spot between a pottery stall shared by three families and the Woven-Reed family’s stall, which sold baskets and some floor and window coverings. They did not mind Kyawtchais’ presence near their stalls, which was not always the case. Ey spread a leather mat out on the ground and squatted down, gesturing for the once-Runner to join em.

It was the work of a moment to set up eir spinning. Not the gift-thread this time, but a thicker linen, suitable to be plied with another like it and woven into sailcloth. Steady, familiar work. Ey started the spindle but couldn’t sink into the rhythm, hyperaware of the maybe-spouse-to-be squatting next to em.

But unlike many who had joined Kyawtchais, the Short-One was still. Ey said nothing as the spindle turned and fibres twisted. And within a few minutes, Kyawtchais was able to the rhythm sweep em away.

The fibres flowed through eir fingers. They made a familiar and reassuring /shh shh shh/ as the spindle twisted it from an indistinguishable mass to a smooth and orderly thread. With a practiced twist, ey wrapped the newest thread around the spindle and set it spinning again to catch up more fibres into the thread.

The feel/sound of the thread and spindle in eir hands grounded em, and Kyawtchais opened emself to the noise of the market. It was as chaotic and messy as the fibre in eir bag. Ey couldn’t hear all of it, couldn’t put meaning to a fraction of what ey heard. But ey heard enough. Like the spindle, eir mind twisted out a handful of sound-fibres at a time, pulling them together and putting them in an orderly thread.

Today ey sat near the potter, but ey pulled sound-fibres from much further away.

‘…don’t know how you can get away with…’ ‘…messengers have petitioned the Dark-Stone…’ ‘Long-ship is back in port with…’

‘…prices like these. Shoddy work. 2 fish tokens…’ ‘…Carvers they won’t ever take Dark-Stone tokens…’ ‘…goods from a great sea within the Trackless Desert and they say…’

‘…no more. Fine, 2 linen fish tokens and take your business elsewhere.’ ‘… You didn’t hear? Dark-Stone refused a betrothal…’ ‘…cloth like you’ve never seen, animal fur!’

Three or four or five sound fibres at a time. Ey separated them from the mass so ey could put meaning to them. Then twisted them into the whole thread of memory. When one sound-fibre ran out, another picked up to take its place.

It was as hard as spinning the linen thread in eir hands was instinctive. But like the spindle, once ey started, ey couldn’t just ‘stop.’ The momentum of the spin needed to run out. If you tried to grab the spindle mid-spin, the friction of it would sting your hand.

The sound-fibres held em tightly, as tightly as the linen fibres wrapped the spindle. So the first sign ey had that anything was wrong was the hand closing on eir shoulder and knocking em to the ground.

Continue to:
Planting Life in a Dying City (Kolchais, E4)

Return to:
Planting Life in a Dying City (S3, E1)
Planting Life in a Dying City (Kolchais, E3: The Worries)

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