Planting Life in a Dying City (S3: Kolchais, E8)

This season ended up being on the short side — next episode will be the season finale, and then we’ll pick up with Season 2 of Last Lady of Luna the week after.

Season content notes: ableism, internalized ableism, violence, autistic meltdown

The next morning, the Spinner returned to help with the building. When ey went to the market — Eastern Market today, Lefeng started to follow em. Kolchais tapped Lefeng on eir shoulder and shook eir head. Lefeng’s strength was needed to help build. Lefeng grimaced but nodded. “Buying supplies?”



Kolchais pushed emself to catch up with the Spinner. It took only a short time to buy enough food for the next few days and arrange to have the heavy things delivered. Once ey had everything they needed, Kolchais settled down next to the Spinner and watched the market.

The Spinner stopped spinning early this time and seemed to gradually return to awareness. But that appearance was mistaken. If Kolchais understood, ey had never been unaware, only so focused ey could not respond to eir immediate surroundings. When ey looked at Kolchais, Kolchais waved and gestured to eir purchases. “Can you help me carry all this?”

The Spinner looked at em for a moment, then nodded.

They arrived back shortly before dinner, and the Spinner stayed to eat with them instead of returning immediately to eir home. After dinner, ey looked at Kolchais, Lefeng, and Paiokp and offered to Kolchais a skein of thread. It was not the yarn ey had spun in the market that day. That had been thicker and coarse. Pale brown where this shone whitely even in the dim firelight. “I am Kyawtchais, near-adult of the Silent Spinners. I hope you will find a use for this.”

Kolchais accepted the yarn with a nod and outward calm. Inside, ey was shaking. The gift — the gift should be given to one of the leaders of the courting group. That couldn’t be em? Surely it could not. Lefeng was the leader, the one who forged ahead and created their new family. Surely the Spinner knew that?

But a glance at Lefeng and Paiokp showed that they didn’t understand the gift, didn’t recognize this city-custom. Kolchais reminds emself — again! to sit down and explain city customs to the two villagers. In detail.

So, rightly eirs or not, there was only Kolchais to take this duty. Well, it would do no harm — this even ey couldn’t fail.

Looking back at the Spinner — Kyawtchais, another fire name, if a very odd one. Nearly as odd a name as Lefeng! — Kolchais said, “I am Kolchais. I and mine will see what use we can find for this gift.”

They nodded to each other, not quite deep enough to be a bow, and Kyawtchais’ hands danced and fluttered before ey gripped eir spindle and distaff and excused emself, returning to eir birth family for the night. Lefeng escorted em to the gate and barred it behind em. Ey returned to the fire, looking pensive. “Was that…”

Kolchais nodded. “A formal request to court us. If we wish to accept eir offer, we tell em that we ‘have a use’ for eir gift.” Ey found emself stroking the skein.

Chotaikytsai nodded to the skein and asked, “May I?”

Kolchais handed it over and watched while the grandparent examined the thread. “Fine linen. Very fine. I could have made a tunic so thin you could see through it.” Ey returned the yarn to Kolchais and stood with a small groan. “It is your choice, of course. But we are here if you wish our advice. Though I think you know what it would be.”

With that, the grandparents gathered up Chestef and withdrew into the season-shelter.

Lefeng didn’t sit but instead started pacing around the fire. It was clear the tall-one preferred to walk while they talk, but ey stayed close. Kolchais was grateful. Once Kolchais stood, ey was walking only as far as their bed. Ey had already pushed emself hard today and didn’t dare risk walking further.

Whatever Lefeng might have said, it was Paiokp who spoke first. “I don’t know if I can do this,” ey said quietly.

“Do what?” Kolchais asked.

“This! Any of it! I can’t… ” ey sighed and ran a hand through eir hair. “I don’t belong here. I’m not sure I belong anywhere. I’m just… marking time, I guess.”

Confused, feeling the first stab of long-expected pain, Kolchais asked, “Do you not wish to be married to us?” To me?

“No, that’s not… I mean… I don’t even know why you’d want to marry me. What the hell do I bring? I’m a curse to everything I touch.”

Curse? What curse? Kolchais had seen no curse — nor had Chotaikytsai or ey would have said something long before. Even more confused, Kolchais looked to Lefeng, hoping ey would understand, explain.

Lefeng snorted. “Why do you still let village superstitions drive you? Your parents and your former betrothed were fools. You know it.”

So… Lefeng knew of this ‘curse’ and thought it foolishness. The watching-one, guarding-one, would not let danger to eir new family go unanswered. Whatever this was, Kolchais would trust eir judgment.

“You know nothing about me,” Paiokp cried.

At this, Kolchais rolled eir eyes, “I have lived with you for over a month, and the loud one there crossed a mountain with you. We may not know everything, but we know far more than nothing.”

Lefeng stopped pacing to squat across the coals from Paiokp, glaring at the once-fisher. “Yes, we came together as strangers. But we are not strangers now. And any of us could leave if we did not wish to be together. I could return to the mountains. Kolchais has lived as familyless already. You could sell your work here in the city as Tsouchm and I have been doing. Why is this so hard to believe?”

Paiokp shrank into emself but said nothing. Understanding came, and Kolchais put a hand on eir knee, asking, “What are you afraid of?”

Lefeng started, but Kolchais ignored em, focusing on Paiokp.

At first, the caring-one, hurting-one, said nothing, but Kolchais knew how to wait — as did the guarding-one, watching as if the answer to Kolchais’ question would reveal long-hunted danger.

Finally, Paiokp whispered, “I can’t believe this is real. That this will last. I can only live each day as it comes and hope this won’t be the day it is all torn from me again.” Abruptly, ey stood up and went in the shelter, leaving Lefeng and Kolchais to speak without em.

“I know how ey feels,” Lefeng said. “It was easier before we met you and Chotaikytsai. I could focus each day on what needed to be done and just forget… everything outside of that moment.”

“I lived that way too when my family rejected me. But we can’t stand still forever. If we do, we become dead things.”


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Planting Life in a Dying City (S3: Kolchais, Season Finale)

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Planting Life in a Dying City (S3, E1)
Planting Life in a Dying City (S3: Kolchais, E7)

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