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

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

They spent the afternoon singing and learning each other’s songs. There was no way to know what songs they would sing in the future. Family songs were always built around the family trade — the rhythm and pace of the work. But for now they had these songs to share and make their own.

When the last song ended, the Spinner set aside eir thread and began to hand-speak. Hesitantly, as if ey had trouble finding words, ey put voice to signs so they could all understand.

“My family… we get overwhelmed. Too much noise, too much movement. Too much to remember or to think about. To much change, or new things. The market hurts me if I stay too long. The spinning helps. It anchors me, protects me. And normally I am okay.

“Being here… it is difficult. So much I don’t understand, I can’t just follow my routine but constantly figure out what to do next, how to be. And talking. So much talking.”

Kolchais winced, ey had not realized how hard it was for the Spinner to be with them. “Perhaps it would be better if you stopped coming? We don’t…”

“No.” The word was flat, as the Spinners voice often was, but the hand-sign was as much a yell as the spoken word was not. “No. Listen. Talking it hard enough without interruptions.

“Is difficult being here, but worth it. Worth it make friends, maybe family. You listen to my hands, and you care, and you make me welcome. Difficult things are not bad things.

“I shouldn’t have gone to the market today. I should have rested. If I hadn’t pushed myself too hard, I would have seen that chaos-taken person. I would have remembered to be sure I was looking at my hands or the ground or the clouds because other families get angry when they think we look at them.

“But that does not excuse what ey did. When ey grabbed me, it was like thunder in my skin, like lightning in my mind, and all I knew was the pain of it.

“I lost the strands of my spinning and… I’ll never find them again. I’ll never find out what shipment the trader and shipfolk were arguing over or who the weaver thought was cheating em. And I had just started spinning the voice I swear was a pickpocket, and I lost it completely so I don’t even remember what ey sounded like.

“I spun just enough of the voices to know that there is some major change in the market. Prices on fabric goods have gone down, and cured wood have gone up, and the Spiral Carvers and Dark Masons are acting friendly with each other, and some of it is probably because of the new Temple the priests have been talking about building, but some of it is probably because of what you are creating here, and now I’ll never be able to fully piece it together!”

The Spinner looked up, and Kolchais realized ey was staring. Ey looked away, not wanting to make the Spinner uncomfortable, and saw the rest of the family, even Chestef, were staring as well.

When the Spinner didn’t speak further, Kolchais asked, “How did you hear all that?”

The listening-one (for so ey clearly was) didn’t respond, and Kolchais was afraid ey had asked too much, pushed too soon. But finally, the Spinner shifted and said. “One of my parents, who married-out to us, once told me that in a crowded room, ey could listen to just one conversation, and the other talk… faded into the background. Is that how it is for you?”

“Of course.”

“Not for me. Not for most of my siblings. We hear all of it, all the time. It is hard to focus on a single conversation and ignore the rest. I hear all of it. Whether it’s Chestef playing across the room while we talk or five different conversations at once in the market. Sometimes, I can get so focused that I don’t hear anything. But it’s everything or nothing.

“When I get overwhelmed, I don’t stop hearing. But what I hear stops making sense. Gibberish.”

“No wonder your family gets overwhelmed!” Chotaikytsai said with a shudder.

“And that’s why you need us to repeat things so often,” Paiokp added.

“Yes.” The Spinner nodded and started signing in a flurry Kolchais has no chance of keeping up with. And Kolchais understood why Lefeng called the Spinner dancing-one

When the dancing-one stopped, Lefeng asked, “Can you repeat that? Slowly?”

The Spinned laughed and repeated eir signs, saying the spoken word with each sign. “I hear you, but I can’t understand what you are saying, and I need to figure it out, like trying to understand writing, putting meaning to one word at a time.”

When ey finished, Lefeng laughed too. “Or like me with your hand-talk.”

“Yes.” Again, the voice was flat, but the hands showed delight and pleasure.

Kolchais smiled to emself. Ey was beginning to understand this strange maybe-spouse.

Conversation trailed off after that. They had sat around the fire so long that it was dinner time. Chotaikytsai pulled hot tubers from the coals, glistening with fat and spices. They ate quickly, laughing again over singed fingers and burnt mouths.

Kolchais watched the Spinner, trying to make sure ey was okay. Eir face remained impassive, but Kolchais noticed that eir hands moved lightly and quick, no longer weighed down or frantic. The hands would always be the key to understanding how the dancing-one felt.

When the food was gone, they sat quietly together.

Eventually, Lefeng got restless and took Tsouchm and Paiokp to start working on the walls again. The Spinner excused emself, saying ey needed to speak with eir siblings and parents. Then Chotaikytsai and Chestef took the dishes to wash.

Kolchais remained, staring into the fire and thinking.

Planting Life in a Dying City (S3: Kolchais, E6)

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

Like most mornings, Kolchais woke slowly. Eir thoughts moved sluggishly, fighting their way through a haze of pain. Ey reached out, confused, and felt a warm spot next to em.

Lefeng. Always up and active as soon as possible.

Kolchais rolled over and buried eir head in the blankets, enjoying the spicy musk scent Lefeng had left behind. The scent followed em back into soft morning dreams.

Sometime later, ey woke again and crawled out of bed. Kolchais stretched carefully, watching eir body’s reaction and deciding that today would be a bad day. Lefeng had brought a walking staff into the city, but Kolchais had never seen em use it. Instead, it had rested next to the door of the seasonal shelter since they had finished building it. Hoping Lefeng wouldn’t mind, Kolchais picked it up and tried walking a few steps. The support helped.

Kolchais hobbled outside and blinked against the sun, trying to see where everyone was.

Chotaikytsai and Chestef were easy to find — ey were building a small hut in the back corner of the compound. Kolchais vaguely remembered Chotaikytsai talking about getting some ground birds to keep for eggs and meat. The birds were nasty and loud but would keep bugs out of the garden and eat any rodents they could catch. Kolchais wasn’t sure they were worth it, but such matters were a decision for the grandparents.

The Spinner was up and squatting by the fire pit. Ey rocked slowly, ignoring the bowl of food someone had left for em. Tsouchm, Lefeng, and Paiokp were working on the family’s new home, doing the delicate work of weaving the wall sections around the doorway.

Kolchais shuffled towards the firepit to check on the Spinner and get some food. Ey was just squatting down when the knocker outside the gate sounded. To Kolchais’ relief (but not surprise), Lefeng went to answer the knock. Ey returned a few moments later carrying a small staff wrapped round with wool. Whoever brought it stayed outside the gates, most likely a messenger.

Hopefully, not someone Kolchais had once known… with an effort, ey wrenched emself away from thoughts of messengers and family. Ey forgot the messenger to focus on what ey had brought —

Lefeng brought the wool to the Spinner. That was no surprise, but the Spinner responded to seeing it. Ey moved for the first time since Kolchais woke up. In moments, the wool was set to eir spindle, and the spindle was spinning. As the wool twisted between eir fingers, the Spinner began crooning. The croon was a quiet, monotonous drone, barely loud enough for Kolchais to hear. It should have been annoying but instead, it was soothing.

Kolchais had heard it before — the Spinner crooned to emself almost all the time, and Kolchais had disregarded it as another oddness of the Silent Spinners. It was so constant ey had forgotten it was there. Its return made em realize how disturbing the Spinner’s silence had been.

Kolchais smiled and looked at Lefeng to see if the protector had noticed. But Lefeng was looking at eir staff on the ground by Kolchais.

“I’m sorry,” Kolchais said, “I should have asked…” but Lefeng was shaking eir head, seeming surprised.

“No. A staff is meant to be used. It surprised me to see it here. But it has been sad to see it each day leaning against a wall. If it helps you, I am glad.”

Lefeng’s mountain dialect was much stronger than usual, making Kolchais think there was some meaning ey didn’t understand. But ey recognized the gift Lefeng offered. “Thank you.”

What was left of the morning passed quietly. Kolchais did not try to help with the house. Ey stayed by the fire pit listening to the Spinner and thinking.

At midday, the others gathered around the fire pit. Normally, they only ate together in the evening. But today, it felt right.

A few minutes after everyone settled, the Spinner stopped crooning. Before Kolchais could worry, the Spinner started singing — a quiet song about the sound of the spindle being the sound of the world being created. After a few verses, Chotaikytsai joined in, mostly singing, sometimes humming if ey lost the pace of the words.

The song sounded odd to Kolchais. The rhythm was very different from the running songs of eir own family or the instrument-backed songs of the musician families that busked the markets. But ey could see how the rhythm and pattern of it fit the rhythm of the Spinner’s hands on the spindle and wool. And the words were fascinating.

The song ended, and in the quiet, they could hear the sh-sh-sh- sounds of the spindle echoing the melody.

After a moment, another voice — Lefeng — began to sing. This song too was unlike any Kolchais had heard. Lefeng’s voice shifted with each line as if ey were two different people. The song itself was a silly song that repeated itself often. Paiokp joined in, picking up one of Lefeng’s voices, but not the other. Then Lefeng dropped those lines, letting Paiokp sing them alone.

It was a conversation, Kolchais realized: Lefeng’s voice led and Paiokp’s responded. It was a story! A story about a farwalker near-adult who thought ey could catch the sun in a bucket of water and stop the bright months from coming.

When they finished, Tsouchm started a song. After that, Chestef in a shakey child’s voice sang a song of eir lost family.

Singing… it was a private thing. A family’s songs were shared only with their most trusted friends and, sometimes, extended family.

They were family.

In time they would make new songs, but for now, it was right that they share the songs of their childhoods.

When it was eir turn, Kolchais shared a good memory from eir childhood — a song of wind and running eir Baba had taught em while they worked the family garden together.

Planting Life in a Dying City (S3: Kolchais, E5)

Rough edits on this one bc life stuff. I don’t think there’s any content notes on this one, but may have missed something. Sorry.

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

For the rest of the day, they spoke quietly and checked on the Spinner often. Ey was unchanged when they gathered for dinner. Paiokp, always caring-one, left a bowl by the Spinner, but ey didn’t seem to notice.

They were still eating when there was a knock from the gate. Lefeng got up to answer it. As ey walked to the gate, Kolchais saw em checking the grip of eir long knife.

Somehow, that gives em the final key to understand the lanky farwalker. Ey was a guardian who puts emself between danger and eir loved ones. And, considering the mountain cat fur ey had gifted to Chotaikytsai, ey was definitely the best fit of them to take such a role.

They were too small a family to have someone regularly guarding the compound — nor did they need such. But violence wasn’t unheard of in the city. Far from it. Having one willing and able to guard was not a bad thing.

Kolchais was now handling (and spending) more money than ey had ever seen. Having Lefeng at eir back in the market would be reassuring. Perhaps a guard for Chotaikytsai to and from council meetings would not be amiss. Kolchais had not forgotten the talk of Tchyawfu, assassinated by the council for being a family-less who dared to gain open power.

A few minutes later, Lefeng returned from the gate, accompanied by a stranger. But something about the way the stranger moved, the way ey avoided looking at Lefeng or any of them at the fire, was familiar. Kolchais kicked emself.

“Greetings, Spinner,” ey said. “It’s good you came. We should have thought to send for you.”

The Spinner seemed to ignore the greeting. Instead, ey squatted by the fire without waiting for an invitation and spoke as it by rote. “My sibling did not return this night. And we heard of a disturbance in the market. We wish to know if ey is here and safe.” Ey stopped and eir hands fumbled for a moment, much as Kyawtchais’ did when ey was groping for eir spindle. “This one,” ey nodded towards Lefeng, “tells me my sibling is here, but says ey cannot say how ey is.”

Kolchais looked around and saw everyone else looking at em. “There was a disturbance in the market today, and your Spinner-sibling has not yet recovered from it,” ey said. “Ey is as safe as we can make em, but either does not respond or responds badly when we try to speak with em. Perhaps you can help.”

Kolchais looked at Paiokp, expecting the caring-one to step in. But ey shook eir head and looked at Lefeng, who was still gripping the handle of eir knife.

Right, the protector wasn’t going to be happy letting a stranger near one of eir people when unwell. Kolchais caught Lefeng’s eye, but as Kolchais was coming to expect, ey didn’t understand what was needed. “Why don’t you show our guest where the Spinner is resting?” Kolchais asked the guarding-one.

After a moment, Lefeng nodded and stood up, signing for the visiting Spinner to join em. Kolchais watched as they walked across the compound and squatted down by the Spinner. Then forces emself to focus on finishing eir meal.

By the time Lefeng and the visiting Spinner returned, Tsouchm had taken Chestef to bed and Paiokp was helping Chotaikytsai clean up. Kolchais had allowed emself to drowse in the heat from the coals. The days never got cold, not like some of the stories Lefeng told of traveling in the mountains. But the evenings this time of year were cool and nights could be chilly. The warmth seeped into eir muscles and bones, helping em relax and chasing away some of the pain that never fully left em.

Lefeng and the Spinner squatted down near em, talking with their hands. They were moving to fast for Kolchais to keep up, especially half asleep. But ey could follow enough. Their Spinner needed rest and calm and peace. That ey could stay here for the night. That the Spinner will something…

Kolchais was surprised by a yawn that split eir head open. Embarrassed, ey tried to sign an apology, but the visiting Spinner brushed it off and stood to leave. Ey stayed a moment, mouthing something, then spoke slowly, as if testing each word before ey said it, “Thank you for caring for our sibling.”

Kolchais nodded, fighting another yawn. “Always.” Ey managed to dredge up enough thought to recall the hand speech for ‘good night’. Then Lefeng was escorting the Spinner out and Kolchais was alone at the fire pit.

After a few minutes, Kolchais stretched and stood, then shuffled over to check on their spinner. Ey found em sleeping and Paiokp wrapping a blanket around em.

“It will be safe for em to sleep outside tonight,” the once-fisher said. Kolchais nodded agreement. It was well past the season of storms and the sky was clear. Paiokp spread another blanket on the ground, a short distance from the Spinner.

“You’ll stay with em tonight?” Kolchais asked.

“Aye,” Paiokp said. “I don’t know if it’s the right thing, but I’d want someone nearby if it was me.”

Kolchais nodded, wishing ey could do the same. But even with a blanket, a night on the ground would leave em in agony the next day. So ey said goodnight and shuffled back to the shelter and the bed Lefeng had made for the adults from rags and rushes.

It was big enough that they didn’t need to sleep on top of each other, and with Paiokp outside there was even more room. But when Lefeng came in a moment later, Kolchais found ey couldn’t stand the idea of sleeping alone. Ey reached for the once-farwalker, for the beautiful stranger who wanted to be eir spouse. Lefeng came to em, curling up with eir head on Kolchais’ shoulder. “The gate is barred,” ey murmured. “Everyone is safe.”

“Yes,” Kolchais said, understanding everything behind those simple words. Ey nuzzled Lefeng’s hair. “Is this okay?”

Lefeng shivered. “I’ve missed being held, but…”

Kolchais yawned again and closed eir eyes. “Nothing else. Just… we don’t need to be alone anymore.”

Lefeng shifted closer and wrapped an arm around Kolchais. “No,” ey murmured, “No, we don’t.”

Planting Life in a Dying City (Kolchais, E3: The Worries)

This one’s a bit rougher than I prefer. Figured that getting back in routine and getting it out was more important that getting it fully polished.

Season content notes: ableism, internalized ableism

The next few days passed quickly. The charcoal family arrived to collect the ruins of the Colorwork Weaver’s home. Chotaikytsai watched them go with tight lips but said nothing when Kolchais asked if ey wanted to talk. The Spinner came each afternoon, though ey was often silent and sometimes moved in a jerky and unsteady fashion. When ey did speak, it was disjointed with much repeating of words.

One morning, seeking something ey could do, Kolchais asked Lefeng to teach em what Lefeng knew of the hand-speech. Lefeng agreed and immediately squatted down with Kolchais to show em the basic hand-shapes that made up the signs. After that, they practiced a little bit each evening.

A few days later, Kolchais started using some hand-speech with the Spinner. Ey felt awkward and was sure ey was making a fool of emself. But the Spinner lit up. Lefeng quickly caught on and soon the Spinner, who Kolchais was starting to think of as Dancing One for how eir hands fluttered and swayed when ey didn’t pay attention, started regularly using the hand-speech for simple things like ‘yes’ ‘no’ and ‘get that’.

When Lefeng asked the Dancing-One to teach em more of the hand-speech, Kolchais quickly seconded the request. They couldn’t very well practice while weaving the walls, of course, but that evening the Spinner stayed to join them for dinner. “Here,” ey said, skimming eir hand over Kolchais’, “Knife hand, not cup hand. Cup hand to the shoulder is secret.” Kolchais flattened eir right hand and brought it up to pat eir left shoulder twice. The Dancing-One bounced twice while eir hands fluttered about eir head, then shaped themselves into snake hands, and the two snakes kissed. Or that’s what it looked like to Kolchais.

“So if the Short-One is saying ‘give me,’ are you refusing?” Lefeng asked with a laugh, “Because that’s not how you say ‘yes’.”

Kolchais reached up to flick Lefeng on the forehead. The once-walker stood a hand or more taller than anyone else in the family, and often teased Kolchais for eir height. Kolchais would have been bothered by it more if ey didn’t enjoy the way Lefeng could loom over em.

The Spinner laughed. “No. Agree. I say ‘agree’.” Ey made the snakes kiss again. “Agree is own word. I could answer em ‘yes'” This time ey made a single snake hand nod. “But ‘agree’ is better.”

Each day, on breaks or over dinner the Spinner would try to teach them more and they’d practice together in the mornings over food.

Kolchais noticed that Paiokp took no interest in the hand-speech, though ey did pick up a few common gestures. Chestef, with the curiosity of the young, frequently abandoned the grandparents and the work of the gardens to spy on the lessons.

After a few days of lessons, Kolchais started to worry about the Dancing-One. Ey had assumed many of the Spinner’s mannerisms and speech difficulty were just part of the strangeness of the Silent Spinners. But the lessons forced them to interact more and the Spinner’s odd mannerisms and difficult speaking were becoming more noticeable over time. Kolchais tried to ask the Spinner if ey was okay, but ey didn’t answer and Kolchais wasn’t sure if something was wrong or not.

The next morning Chotaikytsai announced that ey would be going out to attend a council meeting that afternoon. Kolchais shakes eir head but doesn’t say anything. Ey knows these meetings are important, but ey doesn’t have to like it.

Lefeng and Tsouchm make this a day to stay home. They see Chotaikytsai off mid-morning.

It was only the second time Tsouchm watched Chestef on eir own. The new grandparent was quickly run ragged, to the amusement of all the parents. (Kolchais froze as ey realized ey was thinking of emself as a parent. Ey was a parent. An actual parent.)

Kolchais knew better than to try to keep up with a young child emself, but ey wanted to start acting like a parent and hadn’t really spent any time with the child. So when Chestef was finally willing to be still for a while, Kolchais pulled out a double handful of smooth pebbles and drew a rough game board in the dirt. Chestef learned the game quickly, and they played several rounds while Tsouchm caught eir breath.

The Spinner, when ey arrived shortly after noon, stopped and looked around the entire compound twice before cautiously asking “Is the Silent Spinner-cousin well?” Ey accepted the explanation of the council meeting well enough but seemed uncertain. Eir hands twitched and pulled eir hair and clothes, and ey looked around frequently as if worried something would sneak up on em.

The Spinner, Lefeng, and the silent-one worked on weaving the walls. But none of them are fully paying attention and after they have to unweave a withe for the second time, Kolchais tells them to stop.

“We aren’t getting any more done today,” ey says. “Honored parent,” ey turned to Tsouchm, “We will need mud for the walls soon anyway, right? Will you and my Golden-eyed spouse-to-be and the child go to market and see what that will cost us?”

Paiokp and Tsouchm agree though Tsouchm asks, “Is it wise for the child to come?”

Lefeng, to Kolchais’ surprise, supports em. “Ey needs to start seeing the city and making friends here. A quick trip to the market is as good a way as any start.” Ey thumped the walking stick ey leaned on in emphasis.

Kolchais eyed the staff warily. Lefeng usually didn’t carry it inside the compound. Lefeng had shown the least distraction, but that didn’t mean ey wasn’t feeling the tension. The last council meeting… had not gone as well as they had hoped. As Tsouchm, Paiokp, and Chestef head out, Kolchais considers Lefeng. “Door ward?”

“That… would suit,” Lefeng replies after a moment. “Is it needed?”

“Most of the family is out of the compound. Having someone on watch can’t hurt.”

With a decisive nod, Lefeng strode over to the still-broken gate. Ey squatted down where ey had a clear view of the street beyond, staff at the ready. Kolchais was beginning to suspect that far-walker staffs weren’t always used for walking.

For em self and the Spinner, Kolchais pulled out their saved coins. The Spinner sat with em and Kolchais started calculating (again) how far they can stretch their funds. Ey didn’t ask for the Spinner’s input (that would be… presumptuous to ask of one not yet part of the family) but did speak out loud in a tacit invitation for the Spinner to contribute.

Which the Spinner might not understand. But…

The Spinner said nothing, but after a minute, took the coins from Kolchais’ hands. Ey began sorting them by value — and in the process correcting Kolchais’ estimates in a few places.

It’s only mid-afternoon when they finish, so they start making dinner. Kolchais decides a stew will be easiest and if they make enough will serve for breakfast as well.

Chotaikytsai returned from the council long after the others were back. Ey was clearly exhausted. Paiokp, as Kolchais had come to expect, hurried to meet Chotaikytsai and brings em a drink and a blanket to sit on.

By unspoken agreement, they all gathered around the fire. While they ate, Chotaikytsai shared eir impressions of the council.

Most of what the council discussed wasn’t immediately (or at all) relevant to their new family. The only thing that caught Kolchais’ attention was that the council was largely divided into factions based on family trade — all the families whose trade involved thread or fabric, for instance, had come together in one political faction.

Kolchais allowed eir attention to drift further after hearing that. The Silent Spinners were clear they hoped the trial family would take up a fabric trade. Kolchais had assumed they were looking for a customer to buy their thread but were they also looking for political allies? Ey started considering the implications of the Silent Spinners and how the trial family’s accepting (or rejecting) their suit might play out. So ey started when ey half heard Chotaikytsai mention the Far Message family.


“I was surprised to,” Chotaikytsai said with a sad smile. “But the elder from the Far Message family was very clear. Ey is not going to give us a chance to prove ourselves. Ey has already decided to be against us and is trying to convince others. Others are… not happy, but ey is the only one speaking out openly right now. Perhaps the only one willing to risk angering the priesthood.”

A buzzing started in Kolchais’ ears. Ey blinked a few times, then struggled to eir feet and walked away. Not all the withes had been stored properly. Kolchais picked one up and start weaving it through the uprights by brute force. It bent and strained in eir hands, fighting every inch of progress. Eir arms and back screamed, legs shook, but ey welcomed the pain. It distracted and drowned out the pain in eir heart. Ey managed a bare hand-length process before eir arms gave out.

Ey sank down into the dirt and stared up at the dangling withe, not knowing how ey would stand up again.

A hand rested on eir shoulder and Paiokp squatted down next to em.

Hot tears fell on Kolchais’ knees. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“I’m not asking you to,” Paiokp replied.

They said nothing else. Kolchais was vaguely aware of Chotaikytsai keeping the others away, giving eir space. Eir heart-parent would understand.

Long minutes passed with neither of them saying anything.

“I am tired of being a burden,” Kolchais finally whispered.

Paiokp said nothing but put an arm around eir. They sat together until the sun sank beneath the walls of the compound. Then Paiokp helped Kolchais to eir feet and led em toward eir sleeping blankets. As ey drifted off, ey heard, “I don’t know how Lefeng and I would have survived this strange city without you.”

Planting Life in a Dying City (Kolchais, E2: the Spinner)

Season content notes: ableism, internalized ableism

The sun on eir face woke Kolchais. Ey blinked a few times, eyes trying to adjust to the brightness. The warmth was soaking through em, leaving eir limbs feeling loose and relaxed for once.

Not wanting to lose the feeling, Kolchais didn’t move. Instead, ey reviewed eir memories of the night before, trying to piece together a coherent whole.

The Silent Spinner’s approach was unexpected. Kolchais knew little of the family save the gossip. That they were afflicted (or blessed) with some strangeness of spirit. That they were honest to a fault. That they spoke strangely and acted strangely. That they were frequently confused by (and confusing to) other people.

To the best of eir knowledge, Kolchais had never met one of the Silent Spinners nor known anyone who had. The times Kolchais had seen the near-adult in a market, the Spinner had been sitting quietly in a corner. Ey had stared, seemingly at everything and nothing, and spun, and the regulars of the markets seemed to ignore em. The Spinner didn’t seem to frequent a specific market but could be found in any market throughout the city.

Kolchais’ didn’t remember the near-adult speaking much the night before. Eir parent had done most of the talking. But ey had spoken, so could speak normally and not just with their hand-speech.

All that was not nearly enough information. And half of it was based on rumor and gossip, so untrustworthy.

Lefeng and Paiokp wouldn’t even know that much…

Footsteps approaching pulled Kolchais from eir thoughts. A moment later, Paiokp crouched down next to em and offered a cup of water.

Slowly, Kolchais stretched eir body, the movement triggering pain that washed away the warm comfort of lying in the sun. Doing eir best to ignore the pain, ey propped emself up on an elbow and took the water. “Thank you.”

“Chotaikytsai said it was best to let you sleep. How are you doing?”

Kolchais actually looked at the sun and winced as ey realized how high it was. “You didn’t need to do that.” Ey forced emself to sit up and climb to eir feet. Ey swayed a moment and stumbled before finding eir balance. “We have too much to do for me to waste time sleeping.”

Paiokp put a hand on Kolchais’ shoulder. Ey felt a tingle deep in eir gut and swallowed. Lefeng was impressive in eir own way, and Kolchais was quickly coming to respect and trust em as family. But Paiokp… Kolchais doubted either Lefeng or Paiokp would lay with em except to get children. And it would be far more than ey ever expected to get. Surely, when ey had been given so much, it would be selfish to want more?

Ey realized Paiokp had been speaking and blushed.

“I’m sorry, I was thinking and didn’t really hear…”

Paiokp smiled. “It’s okay, I was saying not to worry about it. Lefeng and I can do the heavy lifting, you don’t need to push yourself.”

Kolchais shrugged away the pulse of shame at eir uselessness and brushed out eir clothes. “We should see about going to the baths today or tomorrow.”

Paiokp let Kolchais change the subject, saying, “A bath would be welcome. I’m used to spending much more time in water. Let me bring you some food, and we can make plans.” Kolchais might have argued, but if the once-fisher was willing to make plans, Kolchais wasn’t going to interfere. Like the grandparents, Kolchais had noticed how the fisher-folk kept eir distance unless helping care for someone.

So they ate and talked about which bathhouse the family would visit and what time would be best. When the food was done, the distant-one went back to digging a trench for the new home’s foundation beams.

After moving around a bit, Kolchais had to admit that ey needed to let distant-one and Lefeng do the ‘heavy lifting’, at least for today. Chotaikytsai was with Tsouchm and Chestef clearing the weeds and wreck from one of the garden patches Chotaikytsai had allowed to go to seed. When Kolchais finished eating, ey joined them. If they were talking about a marriage to the Silent Spinners, Kolchais needed to know more about the other family.

Chotaikytsai surprised Kolchais by being happy to talk about eir Spinner parent. Starting by assuring Kolchais that eir cenn was not eir Silent Spinner parent so there was no risk in a close relationship with the near-adult. Then ey shook eir head and laughed. “What am I thinking? It’s not like I am cenn to any of you, of course, there is no risk!”

Tsouchm chuckled and teased Chotaikytsai about already having a grandparent’s memory. But Kolchais impulsively gave eir heart-parent a hug. No matter what Kolchais’ doubts, Chotaikytsai fully accepted and supported em, and eir slip of the tongue was just one more proof.

Then they talked about the Silent Spinners for a time. Chotaikytsai warned Kolchais that ey knew few of the spinning folk and from what ey saw, eir parent was not representative. But Kolchais learned some of how their hand-speech worked and a few things they might expect from the near-adult

Shortly after sun-high, the knocker at the gate rang. Kolchais waved for Chotaikytsai and Tsouchm to stay and moved as quickly as ey could over to answer it. To eir surprise, ey reached the gate before cautious-Lefeng. A glance showed that Lefeng was watching, but the once-walker only nodded for Kolchais to go ahead. Confused, Kolchaise opened the gate

The Silent Spinner near-adult was there. Pleased, Kolchais greeted em and invited em in. The Spinner seemed friendly enough, but Kolchaise noticed how ey avoided looking at Kolchais. Clearly, ey had already heard Kolchais’ reputation.

Kolchais bit eir lip and showed the near adult around. Ey said little, but willingly pitched in to help with placing the foundation beams for the new house. Hoping to make a better impression, Kolchais threw emself into the work, ignoring Paiokp and Lefeng’s hints that ey didn’t need to.

Ey was so focused on the work that ey doesn’t notice the odd way the spinner is acting. Ey frequently to stopped to wipe eir hands of dust and dirt. If that didn’t work, ey would stop for minutes at a time picking the little bits off eir hands.

Lefeng and Paiokp were clearly confused and kept glancings at Kolchais as if asking what was going on. Kolchais wasn’t sure and honestly doesn’t care. For once ey wasn’t the only one who had trouble with a simple task that everyone was capable of. Whatever the problem was, the Spinner was still willing and able to do the work, and Kolchais wasn’t going to hassle em about how. Just one of those things about the odd Spinner family.

Halfway through the afternoon, Paiokp abruptly stopped what ey was doing, dropping the sharp stick ey had been using to dig (they only had one shovel), and walked away. Kolchais ignored it, assuming ey was going for water or to relieve emself, though Paiokp usually timed such breaks for the end of a task.

A few minutes later, though, ey returned with wet several rags and gave them to the spinner, who took them with a brief “Thank you.”

Kolchais looked at Paiokp and mouthed, “What?”

Paoikp shrugged and whispered back, “Ey doesn’t like stuff on eir hands.”

Kolchais shook eir head. Of course. With the rags, the spinner was able to clean eir hands more easily.

As it got close to sundown, Kolchais was forced to move even slower than usual, stopping to rest even more often. Ey wanted to take the time to get to know the spinner, but just breathing was almost too much. Finally, when it was time to position the foundation beams, Paiokp insisted that Kolchais and the spinner allow em and Lefeng to do the lifting. And Kolchais couldn’t argue. Once again, failing to do eir part.

The spinner abruptly took their leave, barely taking time to say goodbye. Kolchais worried for a moment that Paiokp had offended them, but didn’t have the current left to worry about it. Ey barely managed to eat dinner and went to sleep early.

The next morning, Kolchais remained wrapped in eir blankets until almost sun-high. When ey finally got up, it was only to move to huddle near the coal. How long, ey wondered, until they have a proper hearth again?

Planting Life in a Dying City (Kolchais, E1: the Fog)

Season content notes: ableism, internalized ableism

Kolchais trudged through the market, doing eir best to ignore the thudding pain accompanying each step, each breath. Ey couldn’t take day work like Lefeng and Tsouchm, could barely help clear the debris and prepar the ground to build their new home.

But ey could do this. Little as it was.

In a corner of the market, a soot-covered young adult was selling sacks of charcoal. Charcoal was necessary for the city, smiths used it, and the fishing folk preferred charcoal to wood for drying their catch. But it didn’t pay much, and the charcoaling families usually struggled.

Kolchais didn’t recognize the young adult but did recognize the sign of eir family—High Slopes Charcoal. It was sketched on the blanket. Smudged, but recognizable. In spite of the name, most of the family’s charcoal came from close to the city. Many family names were like that. Chotaikytsais’ family hadn’t specialized in colorwork for several generations.

Well, the sign was recognizable to Kolchais, at least. Time with Lefeng and Paiokp had changed many of eir assumptions about how much other people saw and understood.

Ey stopped in front of the blanket and hesitated. Courtesy would have eir squat down. But if ey did that, ey might not be able to stand up.

“Greetings,” the charcoaler said. “Do you have a need?”

“I am…” Kolchais hesitated. “I am a parent of the Trial Family. Several years ago, a parent of your family approached my parent about buying the remains of a fire in our compound. My parent wasn’t ready to sell then but is now. If your family is still interested.”

The young adult nodded. “I will speak with my family. Someone will come to your home tomorrow.” Ey hesitated, clearly torn about something.

Kolchais could figure it out what. To ask a family where they lived was rude, implied the family was so unimportant one did not know about them. But no one had heard of “The Trial Family” before. “Our home was once the home of the Colorwork Weaving family.”

“Of course.” The charcoaler blushed.

While they talked, others had gathered. Some were waiting to buy, but most were staring at Kolchais and gossiping about the new family. In pain and not wanting to be drawn into conversation, Kolchais said, “Thank you for your time,” and walked away. Ey tried not to notice to eyes and voices following em.

Unlike most of the city, the market was paved with stone. It had heated under the sun. That heat soaked through the leather of eir shoes, into eir feet. The heat felt good, easing some of eir pain. Still, ey had to stop at the edge of the market and rest a few minutes. Ey had gone out to buy food this morning; a second trip to the market the same day had probably not been wise.

But ey had done it. And ey would do it again. Ey gasped as ey straightened up and started walking. Eir new family had taken a chance on em, giving em what ey had never thought ey would have again. Ey would do everything ey could to be sure they never regretted giving em this chance.


Two outings had definitely been too much. After the evening meal, Kolchais huddled close to the fire, hoping the heat would soothe eir aches. Nights like this, the pain meant ey had trouble thinking. It was like eir mind was filled with mud, slowing eir thoughts to a crawl. Ey didn’t recognize the knocking at the gate until after Chotaikytsai had gotten up to answer it. Lefeng was already at the gate, waiting for their parent.

Kolchais blinked again and must have dozed or blacked out briefly. When ey opened eir eyes, Lefeng and Chotaikytsai had returned, escorting two strangers. Though one looked somewhat familiar. Between the darkness and eir pain befuddled thoughts, Kolchais couldn’t recall from where.

Chotaikytsai waited for everyone to gather, then introduced the strangers as a parent and near-adult of the Silent Spinning family. To Kolchais’ eyes, the ‘near-adult’ was of age to have been a parent for several years.

The Silent Spinning parent made an odd gesture, and Kolchais remembered who this family was. The strange ones, half of whom don’t talk and spoke only with their hands.

The Silent Spinning parent looked each of them in the eyes. “We come to offer our family’s support to the new family in our city. We bring these,” ey reached into a bag and offered two small skeins of yarn, “as a gift of welcome. We hope they will be useful in your trade.

“If you will allow, my child,” ey gestured to the near-adult, “will come by each day to help however ey can, or one of eir siblings, if you prefer.”

To Kolchais’ surprise, Chotaikytsai began gesturing silently. Ey must know the hand-language.

Kolchais didn’t bother trying to understand what Chotaikytsai was saying. The Silent Spinners’ handspeech had spread through the city, and most people knew at least a few gestures. Many familyless had learned as much as they could, adding their own gestures and meanings so they could talk semi-privately while in public. But Kolchais had never made an effort to learn. Now, with mud-filled thoughts, was not the time to try.

Instead, ey pondered the Silent Spinning parent’s words. There had been the sound to them of a speech, often practiced. But the words themselves were flat, without inflection to give them meaning beyond the simple words themselves.

Chotaikytsai stopped gesturing and finally spoke out loud. “I believe I am the only one of our new family familiar with your family and your ways. I do not wish to offend with our ignorance, especially when you are so gracious to one who knows your loss.”

Kolchais blinked, confused. The Spinning parent shook eir head. “Ey was my sibling, but your parent. And all of your family.”

Oh, one of the Silent Spinners married out to the Colorwork Weavers. That’s how Chotaikytsai knew the handspeech.

By the time Kolchais’ thoughts caught up, the near-adult was speaking. “I spend much of my time in the markets, among those who know little of my family. I may not always understand, but I do not offend easily.”

“Oh!” Kolchais exclaimed, the mention of the markets clearing away some of the fog. “I remember you.” With eir thoughts momentarily clear, ey finally pieced together why the Silent Spinners were here.

Rumor said the Silent Spinners preferred bluntness, which would explain the stiltedness of the parent’s speech. Ey wouldn’t be comfortable with the indirect traditions the rest of the city followed. But Kolchais didn’t mind bluntness. Especially when ey was in pain.

“Three isn’t enough for a marriage. Four, barely. But we don’t have the tradition and bond of a sibling group to anchor us. The more we add, the more we risk fracturing the marriage group.”

“Change does not come easily to our family,” the near-adult said, “but we have no wish to stagnate. Perhaps some of what we have learned about _choosing_ to create new traditions will help.” The near-adult, Kolchais noted, had more tone and expressiveness than eir parent, enough that Kolchais thought ey might learn to understand em. For now, ey responded only to the words.

“I would like that. I’m afraid I’m not thinking clearly tonight. Can we discuss it more another day?”

The near-adult nodded, “Yes.”

“This is my child, a parent of our family,” Chotaikytsai told the Spinners, introducing Kolchais as best ey could without a family name to give. Kolchais nodded a belated greeting. The Spinners remained still and silent.

After a moment, Chotaikytsai began to introduce the others. Kolchais tried to watch and listen, curious what they would think.

Tsouchm also knew some of the handspeech. Ey asked the Silent Spinners outright what they wanted from the new family. Kolchais winces at such blunt-speaking, but the Silent Spinners actually seem to relax.

Kolchais tried to understand what they said. Unfortunately, ey had lost the brief moment of clarity. The Silent Spinner’s words faded in and out.

“Our family lost a great deal with the destruction of the Colorwork Weavers… will take up a similar trade, and we may regain some of what we lost…debt to the priesthood. The priesthood wants…”

Then Tsouchm’s voice… “don’t speak this bluntly in council!”

Paiokp was there then. Kolchais was surprised that ey didn’t seem interested in the strangers. Ey was polite but left quickly, saying only that any help the Silent Spinners gave would be appreciated.

Kolchais blinked, and Lefeng was there. Ey was laughing and… alert… for the first time in days, eir hands moving in the hand-speech.

Kolchais shook eir head and forced emself to focus. The Silent Spinner parent was speaking. “I had a grandparent who married into the Trackless-Path family. I had no idea the hand-speech might have traveled that far.”

Lefeng made another gesture and grinned. “Farwalkers travel, well, far… last winter gathering several folks were experimenting… hunt-sign.” And then the laughter was gone. “…didn’t think I’d ever use it again.”

From the little Kolchais understood, Lefeng seemed oblivious to the Silent Spinners’ marriage offer or its political implications. But that was okay. Kolchais or Chotaikytsai could fill em and Paiokp in later. Right now, the Silent Spinners have caused Kolchais’ spouse-to-be to set aside eir grief for a time. For that alone, Kolchais would be grateful to them.

Kolchais stopped trying to focus and let the voices flow around em, wrapping em in their current.

Planting Life in a Dying City (S2 Finale)

Season content notes:

Pronunciation guide

The next day Tsouchm and Lefeng went out again to turn logs into boards for the city. Tchyawfu met them again but said little. And nothing of their discussion the day before. Tsouchm left em to eir silence. Some things need a little time; others need a lot of time.

On the third day, they stayed home. They needed to be on the road crew at least five days of the week or lose their places. In other circumstances, Tsouchm would have worked every day of the week. But as much as they needed the money, they needed time at home also.

The silent-one and Kolchais had cleared the last of the debris from where the colorwork weavers home once stood. Chotaikytsai had, embarrassed, asked that their new home be built elsewhere. Everyone had agreed, and the youngsters had spent part of the night before discussing where it would best be located.

Before Lefeng even ate, the silent-one grabbed eir to clear ground for the new building. They set to work at the back of the compound, very near the wall. Tsouchm frowned when he saw where they worked. If Colorwork-weavers’ house had been built so close to the wall, the fire would have jumped from home to wall and destroyed the entire compound. Or so it seemed to em.

Tsouchm shook eir head and grumbled, but it was early, and ey was quickly becoming spoiled by the chance to break eir fast right after rising. Chotaiktysai had set a pot of porridge in the embers to cook overnight, and a bowl of that was just what Tsouchm needed to wake up.

Well, two bowls.

After ey finished eating, ey got up to help clear the ground, only to be stopped by Kolchais. “I’ve been trying to figure out money stuff. Can you go over it with me?”

Tschoum hesitates — but Chotaikytsai is busy in the gardens, working as hard or harder than Tsouchm at the logs so they’d have enough food. And Lefeng and the silent-one know less of money than ey does. “I can try.”

So instead of another day of physical work, Tsouchm spent the morning discussing with Kolchais money and needs. The amount of money ey and Lefeng would earn by the time the rains started, if Kolchais’ numbers were right, astounded Tsouchm. Tsouchm has never seen so much money in one place. Never mind had such an amount eirself.

“But… you said you’ve done day labor with the roads for years?”

“Yes, but I didn’t get to save the money!” Tsouchm looked at Kolchais. “Child of mine,” ey savored the words, the connection, “You lived as familyless. You know what it is like.”

“But… but you could work! I thought…” ey hunched eir shoulders in, “I thought it was so bad because I couldn’t. That people who could do the day labor at least could do well.”

Tsouchm thought a moment before responding. “It is true, that some familyless can become wealthy — wealthy for familyless anyway! I suppose I might have done better if I hadn’t been alone. I needed less, taking care only of myself, but I also had no one to help me when I needed it. If I did manage to save money — and you know how hard the city makes that!–”

Kolchais grimaced and nodded. Everything was more expensive for the familyless: the families willing to deal with them charged extra for the ‘privilege’. That the city charged a head tax on all residents who weren’t members of recognized families didn’t help. The council claimed it was meant to keep foreigners from overrunning the city, but Tsouchm had never believed a word of it.

“–then I lost it quick enough when I got sick or injured, or in the rainy season when there was little work, and I wasn’t desperate enough to take it.”

“I’m sorry,” Kolchais muttered.

Tsouchm reached out cautiously and ruffled Kolchais’ hair. Ey’s Cenn had done that, and ey had seen many others. But Tsouchm had never made the gesture emself. “It’s alright, child of mine. It’s good you ask. We may be family, but we still need to learn about each other, right?”

Ey hoped it was right. Stillness knew ey was making this up as ey went. But Kolchais smiled and said, “Right!” So ey had muddled through that well enough.

“You had it worse in many ways because you couldn’t take the daywork,” Tsouchm murmured. “If you and Chotaikytsai hadn’t found each other, helped each other… it scares me what might have happened to you.

“But even those of us who work every day rarely manage more than to be a little comfortable between disasters. The wealthy ones… you stay away from any ‘familyless’ with real wealth. They didn’t make it at day labor.”

Kolchais swallowed. “Yeah. I know those.”

Tsouchm nodded and took a deep breath, then turned back to the question of money. There was too much they didn’t know for sure. What it cost Tsouchm to feed emself did not predict what it would cost the family to feed many. Tsouchm had never been able to buy more than one or two days’ food at a time, nor had ey had gardens to supplement what ey bought.

“We will have enough for now, that is certain. For the future? I am not a clerk to know numbers that complicated.”

Ey looked around. At Lefeng and the silent-one, laughing together, free briefly from the stillness of their losses. In the garden, which Tsouchm dreaded working in, Chestef crouched down, watching Chotaikytsai point something out on the stem of some plant or other. What would their future be? What currents — good and bad — would it bring?

“We must save some,” Ey murmured.

Kolchais shook eir head. “What did you say?”

Tsouchm cleared eir throat. “I said, child of mine, that we must save some. Some of the money should be set aside for the future.”

Return to:
Planting Life Season 1 Episode 1
Tsouchm Episode 1
Planting Life (S2, E8)

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Webserial Catalog
A VERY Different Kind of Family
First Came Trust (E1)

So, we’re leaving Tsouchm & fam here for now. Tsouchm’s found eir feet as a grandparent and the family is moving forward towards the future they all see together. Rough patches on the horizon though. We’ll be back to see how they navigate some of those rough patches next spring.

For now… I goofed, and we’re going to miss a couple of Fridays. But when we come back, we have a new story. For once, I’m trying to write an actually romance story. Wish the characters luck — they may just need it.

The Last Lady of Lună

I was a child when enemies destroyed our clan. My mother escaped and tried to raise me in secret, but without my fathers’ blood, she aged and died. Now I am the last head of the Lună vampire clan. My enemies think I am dead, my clan is scattered to the winds, and I am just coming into my powers. I will claim my birthright, rebuild my clan, and destroy our enemies. I’m just going to need a bit of help.

Luckily I know where to find it. A hot team of human mercenaries specializing in security is looking for their next job. They’re exactly what I need. Now I just need to convince them to believe me, keep my secrets, and rain hell on my enemies.

And if Lună is still watching out for me, maybe I’ll finally get laid.

Posting starts 5/20/2022

Planting Life in a Dying City: Tsouchm (S2, E8)

Season content notes:

Pronunciation guide

Tsouchm and Tchyawfu spoke of small things on the way home. Tchyawfu, unlike Tsouchm, was part of a ‘pseudofamily’ and had news to share of what eir partners were up to. The few children they had had were gone, living their own lives. Some with partners of their own, one going Tsouchm’s route and living a solitary life. One had taken ship on one of the great trading boats that crossed the sea and had not returned.

Nor had Tchyawfu expected em to, of course. The great sea voyages were safe enough except during the bright days, but the land on the other side of it… Who could say? The great sailing families did well, but the familyless who sailed with them did not return as often as not. And the child had always had what Tchyawfu called ‘an itchy foot.’

Lefeng nodded with understanding. “Itchy. That is a good way to say it. My feet itch, sometimes now. But not so much as I feared they would. Ey would have done well in the mountains, perhaps.”

Tchyawfu turned over eir hands in a small shrug. “Perhaps in a different cycle, but in this one?”

It was Tsouchm’s turn to nod. “I have heard you say that one who walks the mountains alone has a fool for a trail partner.”


Little else was said until they reached the gate. While they waited for Paiokp to answer their ring, Lefeng glared at the broken barrier. “Fixing that must be our next priority.”

Tsouchm clapped eir on the shoulder. “Protective one.”

Lefeng blinked, “That is not…” ey stopped. “Am I truly?”

“Is it such a surprise?”

“I have been so named before. I am not… I was never…”

The gate opened before ey could put thoughts to words. Tsouchm said what seemed obvious to em, “You have lost much. Is it any wonder you do not wish to lose again?”

“Oh…” Ey blinked then, blinked again. “Forgive me, friend of my parent. I think… I think I must excuse myself…”

Tchyawfu looked between Tsouchm and Lefeng. “Yes?”

Tsouchm watched in concern, Tchyawfu in confusion, as Lefeng hurried away.

Paiokp, standing by the open gate, cleared eir throat. “My parent? You have a guest?”

“Yes,” Tsouchm struggled to pull eir attention back to the present. “This is an old friend of mine. Ey is known as Tchyawfu.”

Paiokp nodded, “Welcome, friend. Excuse me.”

Ey closed the gate behind them and slouched away.

“Is this what a family is like?” Tchyawfu asked.

Tsouchm shook eir head. Ey knew why Lefeng, at least, was so rude but was not sure how to explain. Especially after Lefeng had worked so well with Tchyawfu all day.

“Come, let’s get some food and talk.”

To Tsouchm’s relief, Chotaikytsai was more open in eir welcome. “I apologize for my children,” ey said. “None of us came to this family without grief, but theirs is the most recent.”

Tchyawfu took the opening and asked how the family had come to be. So Chotaikytsai told the story of the wave, of Lefeng and Paiokp’s loss and Paiokp’s idea to start afresh, to create a new family.

“But while Lefeng suffers the grief of eir loss and throws eirself into our future, the caring one I fear is stagnating.”

Tchyawfu nodded. “No apology is needed, then. There are none of us untouched by grief.”

“Truth,” Tsouchm said.

“And more grief coming soon, it seems.” Tchyawfu narrowed eir eyes at Tsouchm. “You spoke of Chopaums.”

Tsouchm sighed. “A fear only. But the priests have plans.”

“You as well, I think.”

“I have hopes.” Tsouchm stirred the banked fire, causing embers to jump into the air. “I am no longer of the family-less, but still to be familyless is anchored in my heart and soul. I would not see this priest bring death upon those I grew up with and care for.

“And having been both now, familyless and familied, some things I see more clearly.”

Chotaikytsai slapped eir wrist to get em to leave the fire alone, then buried some tubers in the hot ashes. “You will join us for dinner, friend?”

“Ah… yes. Thank you.”

“Good.” Ey squatted down with them. “Our quick child and I might share some of that understanding, but I at least was never really part of the familyless. Ey… ey lived among you long enough to know some. But not to understand as my spouse does, in eir blood and current.”

“And what is it you see so clearly, then?”

Tsouchm shrugged, “Only this — if you had seen the chance I did — if someone you knew was creating a new family, would you seek to join them?”

“No!” Tchyawfu burst out. Then hesitated. “I mean… it is a dream. You know it well, Tsouchm, all of us dream of being part of a family when we are young. But…”

“But you are not young. And you have a family of your own.”

“What?” Tchyawfu and Chotaikytsai spoke at once. “What family could I possibly have?”

“You know.” Tsouchm met eir eyes steadily. “Why do you say you would not join a family?”

“Because I will not… leave… my partners…” ey trailed off as Tsouchm smiled.

“Your partners. Your spouses. You have a family. It is a different kind of family. But still a family.”

Chotaikytsai closed her gaping jaw. “You… are right. You are right, for if any of my old spouses had survived, but none of the grandparents or children, still we would have been family.”

Tchyawfu was still staring. “But. But…”

“We are not bound as a family,” Tsouchm said. “We have not gone before tree or wave. But still, we name ourselves spouses, children, parents.

“It was our protective one who threw it in our faces — asked if the council refused us permission would we… stop being family, go our separate ways?

“Of course not. We have made promises to each other. So we are, whether the council recognizes us or not.”

Now Tchyawfu started out of eir shock, “Whether the council recognizes you or not?”

“Just so.”

“And you say we are family? My partners and I?”

Tsouchm reverted to familyless courtesy and took Tchyawfu’s shoulder, shaking em. “My friend, why does it matter what I say?

“What do you say?”

Blinking as if ey had stepped into bright sunlight, ey whispered, “Yes.”

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Planting Life Season 1 Episode 1
Tsouchm Episode 1
Planting Life S2 E7

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Planting Life S2 Finale