Sunday, December 21, 2008

All Stories begin In Medias Res

So the days were passing. It took Puîyus many days before he was able to walk normally and not feel as if ice and flame had been injected into his xylem and phloem, and during all that time Ixhúja acted as the perfect Sister unto him, or at least as perfect as she could be given her limited experience with families. Puîyus insisted on sleeping on the floor and guarding Éfhelìnye through the night, although his body was wracked with pain. In the dawntide Éfhelìnye would usually eat a few small apple pieces, but then she would fall asleep for a brief nap. At that point, rather than letting him stay in the cabin and consume himself with worry, Ixhúja insisted that he take a brief walk and lean against her the entire time. Puîyus always donned Euqliîna’s Captain hat, and all of the Pirates bowed unto him and sometimes giggled and called him Captain, and they would dance their little jigs for him. Euqliîna let Puîyus hold the helm sometimes, and sometimes Ixhúja took Puîyus unto the stern and set him down so that he could watch the flying fishes and the seagulls dancing about the asteroids, and Euqliîna would gaze with them and smoke his pipe. All the while Ixhúja was holding Puîyus, she was reluctant e'er to let him go, and seeing her devotion unto him and the proper way that they touched each other, Qìtien was well pleased. Puîyus and Ixhúja no longer were fighting or tickling each other. Qìtien thought that indeed when they got older Ixhúja should become an Imperial Concubine, or if not, at least she would be an honor to the family and certainly help in the caring of the new generation of cælestial princes and divine princesses whom Empress Éfhelìnye would bare. Sometimes when Puîyus sate down Ixhúja hunted around for bits of string and was working on making a great ball and rolling it together and she pounced upon the string like a cat and kicked it back and forth to Puîyus who chuckled a little to see it. And they watched the bagpipe creatures as they migrated from one portion of the deck to the next, and some stray petals were tumbling about in the last flowerflother, and sometimes the fantastic lwúnìqte permitted the children to ride upon its back and even to fly a little.
The only time when Puîyus and Ixhúja did not get along was when the days were lengthening and evengloam was come. By then Puîyus and Ixhúja would retire into the cabin and Qìtien or whichever pirate was watching after Éfhelìnye could leave. As the heavens grew darker Puîyus liked to play his harp for Éfhelìnye, but for the first few days his palms were still sore, so playing the clàrsach was still a great source of frustration and pain for him. But he played none of the less, though his fingers were not quite obeying the orders of his mind, and somehow, as he grit his teeth and stomped his feet in anger, somehow beautiful music arose, although when he was finished Ixhúja had to take a cloth and wipe his brow, for he sweated blood. But slowly he was healing. And also at night usually, when Puîyus’ back was not in flames, and when he was not panting from the exhurtion of walking and playing his kantele he would sit down next to Éfhelìnye and insist upon nursing her all by himself. He held her and cut the apples for her and fed them into her mouth, and sometimes this worked, but othertimes Éfhelìnye was too tired to eat and just slept in his arms a good amount of the time and coughed up blood. Usually what would happen is that Puîyus’ back would start bleeding again, but he insist that he was completely fine. Ixhúja would come to him and try to help. At once Puîyus turns to her and bares his teeth at her in a warning. Ixhúja tries again, but Puîyus snarls. Ixhúja lifted up her arms in frustration. She completely understood why Puîyus could not admit to fear and pain because she had the same weakness herself, but still she thought that she could help. Usually when Puîyus snarled at her, Ixhúja just stormed away and drew a sword.
– Mew? – Puîyus asked her, wondering where she was going.
– Purr! – Ixhúja cried in response, for she was leaving to terrorize all the pirate crew.
– !! – Puîyus chimed, bidding her to have fun.
Ixhúja tapped her sword into her palm, for she intended to have a great deal of fun. The door to the cabin was no longer even a door, it was series of broken flaps which the sky pirates tried to fix every few days or so before Ixhúja smashed through them. At once she spun out through the came and rolled about the lwúnìqte who guarded the Princess, and once Ixhúja landed unto the deck she gave voice to a terrible feral battle cry. The Xhmaûmumum high in the ropes, the Khnenyènwa oiling the motors, the Kurkuîlo baking cookies, the Fhlùltekh smoking their pipes, all of them knew exactly what to expect when Ixhúja shouted in that way. At once the pirates began to scream and scatter in all directions. Ixhúja chose a direction at random and ran after the crying pirates to chase them and wave her sword at them. The pirates tried to hide themselves in barrels and boxes, but Ixhúja always found them. Sometimes she would poke the edge of her sword at them, sometimes she was content just to chase them around the small deck and up and down the ropes, but other times she barked at them and made them clap their hands and tap their wings and knees and dance their sailor jigs. Sometimes she would herd groups of pirates and threatening them with blade force them to sing tnóje mallemarokings unto her, and if their voices faultered or they forget a verse or their knees and wings wobbled they had to sing all o'er again. She never did any permament harm to them, although sometimes when the Khnenyènwa were too slow she pounced upon their heads and slashed off a few hairs just to teach them a lesson. But the pirates were seldom willing to take a chance with the Khnìnthan Princess whom they all wellfeared.
Qìtien the Acolyte and Captain Euqliîna were standing at the rostrum. Qìtien was lifting up his four arms and whistling unto the forests and planetoids forming about them, and although a few flying fishes came spinning about through the heavens, no ravens could he see, and no messages were coming to him from the Regent Sylvan and the holy and apostolic sylvanhood of the Dreamtime. – I wonder what could be delaying Grandfather Thiêfhilos – Qìtien chanted. – They must be taking various avenues unto the estuaries of the North. I’m sure we’ll hear from them soon. –
Captain Euqliîna turned around. Several bagpipes were running in one direction, they were intoning a song of panic, a battle cry that meant that Princess Ixhúja was somewhere behind them and chasing after some hapless pirates. Several accordions who had also sprung to life were dancing a jig, they were completely oblivious to the dangerous play wherein Ixhúja engaged. Captain Euqliîna scratched the feathers upon his head. Eleven screaming pirates came running starboard. A few moments later Ixhúja was screaming and laughing and chasing after them with her sword. Then eleven other screaming pirates came running port. Ixhúja was soon bounding after and swinging knives in her palms. Euqliîna turned around. He turned back and saw that Ixhúja was chasing after a group of Xhmaûmumum who were trying to fly away from her, but she was spinning a rope around and catching them by their clawed ankles and dragging them down where she pounced upon them. A few Khnenyènwa were trying to sneak away from her, but she jumped upwards and started grabbing them by the collars and punched random ones in their faces.
– Ah, honored Acolyte? – asked Captain Euqliîna.
– Yes, Pirate Captain? – asked Qìtien. – Now where can those ravens be? –
– Should we be concerned that Princess Ixhúja is terrorizing my crew? –
– Is the Empress still unwell? –
– I believe she’s getting better. –
– Is the Emperor kissing the Martian Princess? –
– No, they’re perfectly well behaved. –
– Is the Emperor tickling the Martian Princess? –
– Not as far as anyone can tell. –
– Is Princess Ixhúja giving blue lotos or pink lemonade unto the crew? –
– I can assure you that Princess is not. –
– Is anyone wrecking the ship? –
– No. –
– Are you sure the Emperor is not stealing kisses and giggles from her? –
– I’m sure. –
– Then I don’t see a problem. –
– But … the crew … –
Qìtien shrugged his double shoulders. – I am no sailor, but it seems like innocent play. – Euqliîna scratched his jacinth brow. Princess Ixhúja was inventing a game which involved her picking up a few pirates and throwing them against the pirates who were trying to escape her, and the sound of pirate crashing against pirate she found utterly delightful, and when they were all all tumbling down in an heap she clammered upon the pile and set her foot upon someone’s face and screamed and laughed all the while.
– Nope, I don’t see anything wrong with that at all – chanted Qìtien.
– Then who am I to complain? – Captain Euqliîna wondered.
– I don’t like how short her skirt and blouse are, but since divine Puîyos is behaving himself, we might as well ignore that for the time. – Ixhúja was carrying away a large pile of pirates and hurling them down into the skiffs and long boats and dusting her hands off, and then as night was falling she drew her sword and began her guard duty as she marched around the cabin until the pirates arose from their beat up stupor, and by that time Puîyus would be exhausted in his nursing of Éfhelìnye and be ready to sleep.
– It’s always important for us to have our proper priorities – Captain Euqliîna chanted.
– Yes, yes it is – Qìtien looked around and saw that several more accordions and bagpipes were dancing out before them, they were bouncing upon their tips and rolling about in laughter and playing.
– Any idea how those creatures came to be? – the Pirate Captain asked.
– I have no idea, no idea whatsoever – sighed the Acolyte as he left the rostrum, for the upbringing and proper dress of children was far more important than chasing pirates around the deck of a small tsenàsqoqhi takbekEged ship. And spilling outwards about the Acolyte came several elevens of bagpipes and pirates screaming at once, as Princess Ixhúja came leaping intheir midst and was terrorizing all of the crew she could find chasing them about throwing barrels and boxes at them, wavering her swords and in general being chaos incarnate.
As night fell and Ixhúja continued on her guardian duties, the clouds came rolling outwards in tapestries of blues and oranges and the Stars came dancing outwards one by one in scintillatious glories. And Ixhúja sheathed her sword as Khnenyènwa came descending about the raftors, and atsáya raptors came crawling out again and were roosting, and Xhmaûmumum were floating about the grand pistons of the vessel, and Ixhúja came into the cabin and always found that Puîyus and Éfhelìnye had fallen asleep with her coiled up in his arms, and Ixhúja did her best to bring Puîyus down back unto the floor so that he could sleep upon his belly and so that his lacerations could heal again furing the long night. And so the days were passing.
The only change, though, happened when Éfhelìnye’s health took a turn for the worse. For days Puîyus and Ixhúja had a routine, whereby Puîyus tried to heal from his wounds at night while Ixhúja watched o'er him and her Cousin, and during the day Puîyus and Ixhúja would take a walk and later on they could fight o'er who would nurse Éfhelìnye, and Puîyus would kick Ixhúja out, and she would terrorize the crew, and Qìtien and Euqliîna would search for messages from Grandfather Pátifhar, and by then Puîyus and Éfhelìnye would fall asleep in each others’ arms. And during these days, or so Puîyus and Éfhelìnye thought, Éfhelìnye was surely getting better. She was having trouble getting up and walking, though, in the afternoon Puîyus got in the habit of carrying her around the deck, and he kept expecting her to ask him to set her down, but she just held onto him and sometimes just fell into a deeper sleep. But at nighttime she was having trouble eating. One night Puîyus began to cut some apples for her. Ixhúja was standing at the door and keeping watch while new and myriad worlds were coming into being in the midst of the planetoids and isles streaking in the night welkin. She sniffed the air and wondered. Puîyus tried to feed Éfhelìnye a few bits of apple, but Éfhelìnye was struggling to swallow them. The apple dribbled from her mouth, and she began to cough again. The sound of Éfhelìnye’s coughing, although it had such a wonderous music tone unto it, was a sound that Puîyus had grown to hate with an unholy rage. He had heard the sound of men being trampled alive in battle, of wild beasts goring each other, he knew the sound of mustles rent apart as sword and māccuahuitl ripped through bodies, he knew the sound that every single muscle made when he cut through it, he could identify which intestine was being torn alive from a dying man just by its sound and the timbre of the man’s deathknell, he could identify the screams of all manner of soldiery among the nations of the Real People from a league away, and yet the sound of her coughing filled with with endless dread. A lit bit of blood was flowing from her lips.
– I’m so sorry, Puey – she whispered.
Puîyus tried to feed her some more apple, but she just coughed it out, and the pieces were dripping with her own blood. – I can’t swallow. Mine insides feel like ice and flame. –
Puîyus began to cut another piece of apple but she set her hand before him. – I don’t think I can eat them. Hold me. – Puîyus set the knife away to embrace her. She leaned o'er and whispered saying – Please, I don’t want you to be sad if I die. I am not afraid to die. I’ll get to meet my Mother for the first time, I know I’ll love her so. –
Puîyus whimpered and tried to reassure her that she would not die. Éfhelìnye shook her head a little. – All mortals must die, that is how our story must end. Even if the last scene is a great party with pies and apples, or a betrothal feast and everyone is happy, that may be the end of the book, but we know the story ends with the deaths of the characters even if we never hear of it. Why, there may be many different versions as to their end. I’ve always had an end in mind for me. Do you want to hear it? – Puîyus nodded. – We’re old, you and I, very old. Your hair is long and silvery blue, although mostly silver by now. You are robed in white, the Starburst Crown upon your brow. I think I’d look pretty similar to how I do now, the women of the Pwéru do not age too much, although I’m sure my eyen will be filled with wisdom and grace. I think I’d still be wearing white in mine own age. We live in a cottage beside the sea and many wild creatures dwell there. My library is filled with books. I’ve written a grand lexicon and many tracts on mathmatics and linguistics and philosophy. Perhaps I’ve managed to build many different clockwork helpers, I’m not sure. Oh, and we’ll have many children by then, although I don’t know how many, but I suspect quite a many. I’m told that it can take a century or so for a married couple to become fertile, but after that we’ll have many sons and many daughters, and the sons will be strong and brave just like you, and the daughters beautiful and balletic like me, and all will be smart like me and loyal like you, all golden red and blue and lots of different colors of hair! Your Father can train the sons to be great knights, your Sisters can teach them to be princesses. Maybe Grandfather Pátifhar will live long enough to teach them, although I would love to teach them if I can, I could be feeding the younger children while teaching the older ones glyphs and runes, and the oldest ones can be doing research for my books. Yes, we’ll have pets and maybe my wind up toys the Khniqhátui can be pets for the children also. The children can visit their Aunties Siêthiyal and Karuláta and live with them, or maybe your Sisters will live with us, I’m not sure, either way we shall all live close together, within a mile of each other I’m sure. Our Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho will still be causing mischief and sailing high within the heavens. Oh, we’ll have many beautiful children. I’m afraid it may be difficult to stop having children, my love for you is so strong. When we have a little one and he is growing up and it’s time to put away his baby clothing and crib, I just know I’ll start crying because then I’ll no longer have a baby to hold in mine arms, and so I’ll tell you that we need one more child. And then when the next one outgrows her baby clothing and just as you are taking the crib apart I’ll tell you, well the youngest one will need a playmate, we have to have another! And then maybe you’ll return from battle and I’ll say just look at how our youngest ones are playing, but we have an extra room now that the oldest is moving out, so we’ll need to fill it with a new baby. And they later I’ll say, we can’t end now, I don’t like even numbers, we need one more baby. And then later I’ll say, You know, really we should try for twins this time. And so we’ll have lots of children all of whom were intended to be the last one, and by then our oldest will be growing up and getting betrothed and married and having children of their own, and our family will continue to grow, not to mention the children that Siêthiyal and Karuláta will have, plus I want to marry off Ixhúja if I can. So eventually we’ll have grandchildren, and maybe we’ll live long enough to have great-grandchildren, I certainly hope so. But sometimes I think that it may take me mine entire life to write for you the book that I intend to give you, and even if I work on it everyday and have a legion of children and grandchildren to help with research and editing and polishing, still it may only be the very end of our lives when I finish it. Perhaps it will be when our first great-great-grandchild is born. And then I’ll finish the book and give it to you, and we can read it together in bed, and as we come to the end so will it be the end of our story. We will kiss for the last time. You lie down for your final slumber. I give the book to our children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and cousins and everyone else who gets born into or married into or fostered into our Clan. I give everyone a kiss. I lie down next to you. And then we both arise, hand in hand, and we are young again, we look exactly as we do now, and before us is everyone who had e'er died before and everyone whom we have e'er loved and has e'er loved us. Fhermáta runs up to us to embrace us. My Great-Uncle Táto is there with his squamous and purple umbrella. Grandmother Tàltiin is there to meet us as well as all our parents. Jeûr our dear friend is fire and heat and love. And by then Grandfather Pátifhar will be awaiting us, our pirate Uncles will have passed by now, and there standing at the gates of Paradise will be Mamà and Papà, Khnoqwísi and Kàrijoi waiting for us all the while. But who shall be the ones to open the gates of paradise, I think they will be your Ancestors, my love, I see Íngìkhmar and Khwofheîlya, they are happy and proud for us, your Father puts his hand upon your shoulder, your Mother comes and embraces me and calls me her Daughter, and your parents make ready the way. The twain open up the gate, and you and I, still hand in hand arise, and there we have spring and bliss for all time, and we are the honored Ancestors unto all the ten thousand generations that will follow us, and for all eternity, within the place I call Xhmaintiiyáserteilatheplienóqha, the Land of Happy-Whimsicoral-Sunshine-Kissy-Love, we shall enter the Book and be the Story and be Joy for ourselves and all others. So that is our how our story ends. –
Puîyus continued to hug Éfhelìnye. Some of his tears were falling upon her shoulder. She rested against him for a time. He could not think of anything to say, and he burned with shame to think that she could conceive of miracles and delight and he, though warrior train’d, though born of the bellicose scion of Khiêro of Old, was utterly helpless. He lookd to the apples, and he thought to himself that he just had to find a way for her to eat. He looked up and made sure that Ixhúja was guarding the door, and taking up a small apple slice he popped it into his mouth and chewed it up. Then he leaned o'er and he kissed the food right into her mouth like a wild plantimal. Éfhelìnye swallowed. Puîyus took a few small bites of apple, he knew better than to give her too much, and grinding it up he kissed it into her mouth. It was an imperfect process, and a couple of times when Puîyus tried to place food in her mouth their teeth hit each other and they both laughed, and half the time Éfhelìnye chomped on his tounge and none too gently, but at least she was no longer coughing blood, and Puîyus was able to get a couple of apples into her, and a little bit of color was returning to her face, and she was breathing easily. She leaned against him and Puîyus gave her some water to drink. After a time she chanted – Thank you. I love you. –
– Mew. Mew. –
– Pew? –
– ?? –
– If I do die before we get betrothed and married, you are intending on commiting ritual suicide on my beautiful corpse, aren’t you? –
Puîyus nodded.
– Good. I’m not having any other woman hold you or touch you or even think about marrying you. I just want to be clear. –
Puîyus nodded.
Éfhelìnye considered for a moment. – Actually, it would probably best, if you see that I’m about to die, that you go ahead and kill yourself first, so that I know you’re dead when I die, because I don’t want the possibility of my being dead and your being alive and some lovely Princess throwing her arms around you and saying Oh I’m so sorry that your one true love has passed here let me hug and kiss you and you can marry me instead. So, I’d prefer if you died just a minute or two before I go, just to be certain. –
Puîyus nodded, it would certainly be best if he took his own honored life first.
Éfhelìnye sucked on her teeth. – Actually, though, I do want us to die at the same time. We’ve discussed this before, I know, a way that we can die at the very same time, I’m hoping arm in arm, and yet I can still have the satisfaction of knowing that no other woman will e'er marry you? Maybe you could slit both of our throats at the same time, maybe in a single graceful movement. Or maybe we can both be thrown into a volcano. Have you considered possibilities of strangulation? –
Puîyus blinked.
– Pardon? –
Puîyus shook his head in negation.
– So, you’re saying I should get some sleep. –
Puîyus nodded.
– I’m feeling sleepfol. Goodnight Puey. Don’t dream about other Princesses! One day I’m going to find a way to watch you in your dreams, and I’m not having any other Princess look at you in your visions and quests and dreams. –
Puîyus pulled the blankets about her and kissed her brow and fell asleep, and dreamt about living with Puîyus and holding infants in her arms and Puîyus letting children ride upon his back and children learning to box and swim and play Xhwongeîthe diamond ball, and even in her dreams Éfhelìnye was looking around and making sure that no other Princess should come to sneak up upon Puîyus.
Puîyus arose from the stool beside her bed and stretched his arms, and his back felt raw and jagged. Ixhúja returned from guarding the door. She sheathed a sword and took Puîyus by the wrist and observed his palms and saw that they were healing nicely. One does not think she’s getting better, Ixhúja purred in a language of petals and apple groves. But at least her lucid possessiveness of you is a good sign. Her mind and souls are struggling with ailing flesh. Puîyus nodded. Ixhúja helped him to lie upon the floor, and he hoped that he was not recovering from the lashing faster than Éfhelìnye was recovering from her royal illness. It may be a good idea for you to continue to chew food for her and disgorge it into her mouth, Ixhúja whispered. Her health is very precarious. Don’t worry, the mörkö and I shall guard you both the entire time, no Acolyte or Pirate will walk in on you two, I think I can control the crew by now. Puîyus nodded. Something snapped in his back, some stray muscle. He could still feel where glass had torn inside of him. Ixhúja rested her head against Puîyus’ and added Go on and rest, I’ll watch both of you now. Have pleasant dreams, and fret not, she’ll be awake and up and laughing in just a couple of days, I’m sure of it. Can you really conceive that the Immortals would make a Princess like that just to have her die so young? No, go to sleep before I punch you.
Puîyus made a snorting sound. Ixhúja punched him. Puîyus lay down and closed his eyen and was fast asleep. And Ixhúja drew out a stool and sate down to watch both of her friends and kithmen and she wondered whatever it was that she was going to do with Puey and the Princess, and she certainly hoped that the Immortals did not intend to kill a maiden so beautiful and pure.
The next morning the children were greeted with the smell of acrid smoke. Even though the smoke was miles away, Puîyus and Ixhúja awoke at the same time as they sensed it. Ixhúja and Puîyu bound upwards together, although Puîyus still felt ragged and hot and stiff, but he was getting tired of still feeling the affects of the whipping and decided that from no one he would just not even think of it. In fact, just to force himself never to think about the flagellation any more, he clasped the scabbards and bauldric tighter unto himself just they would hug him the tighter, and in doing that, he noticed that he was a little thinner than he had been at the beginning of Tlhexetsopwekùthuwo the Shibboleth Wars, as the Emperor had begun the destruction of all grain and fruit and bread after he had already smitten all flowers bright and beautiful. Princess Ixhúja ran out the ruins of the door and came out unto the deck. Neither the pirates nor the bagpipe creatures nor the ban-yip were noticing the whisp wounds of smoke arising upon the horizon, but they soon would as the rainbrella vessel arose above another ring of asteroids and cascading torquations. Puîyus however dashed unto Princess Éfhelìnye’s bed and stroked her head and saw that she was still fast asleep and beautiful and serene, and he hoped that this would last. He ran out the cabin and came to stand next to Ixhúja upon the deck. They reached o'er and held hands like wellbehaved siblings.
The pirates were busy tending their nets and baking their cookies and scrubbing and smoking and in general just being sailors. Captain Euqliîna was smoking a pipe in his lower jaw while juggling a few atsáya nazischo in his arms and he was dancing back and forth upon the tip of his triple legs and spinning around in a jig. Qìtien was setting up some small eidola in the form of Emperor Kàrijoi and Empress Khnoqwísi and he was bowing before them and praying for their forgiveness and aid. A few of the pirates noticed that the Twins were standing very still. At once both Puîyus and Ixhúja walked outwards with the same pace and came to the edge of the rostrum. They sniffed at the same time. They looked to each other. They blinked in unison. They turned back. They knew that just a few miles away lay a battle and smoke, and they wondered how long ago the battle had been fought, and who had fought it, and whether any survivors were left. They clasped each others’ hands tighter, and skipping up unto the nearest longboat began to unhook it from its place.
Captain Euqliîna dropped his rooster raptors and they tumbled down upon his head one by one and he eeked out – Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Oh, sorry my pet. Ooh! Don’t you bite me, I’ll bite you back! You just wait, one of these days I really will claw and bite you just as you me! Eia! Ouch ouch ouch! – Euqliîna chased after the orthrobóas dawn-criers for a few minutes before remembering that Puîyus and Ixhúja were setting up one of his boats.
– What’s happening! What’s going on! – cried Captain Euqliîna. – This isn’t a cookie emergency, is it? Is it! He slipped upon the deck while all of the other pirates were spinning around in alarum. – Oh what type of cookie emergency can it possibly be! –
Puîyus pointed into the distance and explained – Mew mew mew! –
Ixhúja nodded and elaborated – Purr purr purr! –
Captain Euqliîna pressed his four palms against the side of his lwiikhùwepas, his digir yagin, the side of his head between eye and ear. – I can’t understand a quack you both are barking! Just say it! –
– Mew! –
– Purr! –
– Help! –
– !! –
– !! –
A few bagpipes ran up to them and sang out:
– Honk! –
– Honk! –
To which the children responded:
– Mew! –
– Purr! –
– Just say it! – screamed Captain Euqliîna.
– Honk! –
– Mew! –
– Honk! –
– Purr!
– !! –
– !! –
A few of Princess Ixhúja’s clockwork dragonflies were spinning about her zum zum zumbuzzing about her and sang out:
– Buzz! –
– Buzz! –
And all of the deck was ringing out with:
– Buzz! Buzz! Honk! Honk! Mew! Pew! – And one screaming pirate captain.
Euqliîna screamed and ran around in little circles. Puîyus looked to Ixhúja and gave her a look that meant, Why can’t others learn to understand the simple gestalts and dreams of the tounges of beasts? Ixhúja shrugged and made some clicking and clockwork sounds as if all her throat were becoming escapements flowing from side to side. Puîyus reached out tried to jùptutu to mimic and pantomine living ships crashing together and burning stone and forest and children leaping into the long boat to investigate.
– Pardon? – asked Captain Euqliîna.
Ixhúja tried her own hand at pantomimes. Puîyus’ hands began to do the same thing.
– Is this some new sort of dance? –
Ixhúja’s little clockwork creations came bursting about her tresses and were spinning about her in halos opening upwards. She took Puîyus’ hand and let it rise and fall as if floating in the air. Euqliîna’s upper and lower eye blinked.
– Have you two found my hidden stash of blue lotos? Because you’re acting a little silly. – But seeing the quizzical look on their similar faces he blurted – Not like I have a hidden stash of the blue leaf, I was just kidding, heh heh heh. I’m serious, what are you saying? –
– !! –
– !! –
– You two have been kissing again, haven’t you? Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. Kiss away, just don’t let the petulant Acolyte see you … –
Princess Ixhúja bound forwards since she had enough, and she yanked up Euqliîna by his lower throat and picked up upon a cubit or so from the ground. His limbs flayed from side to side. Only his upper mouth could open, but neither could breathe in her grip. Slowly she drew a sword to set it against his middle eye.
Puîyus set an hand upon her shoulder. Ixhúja wondered whether she should just crush Euqliîna’s twin throats so that he would stop annoying her, or whether she should just content herself with removing parts of his face. Puîyus made growling noises. Ixhúja snarled. Puîyus never let her have any fun. She hurled the Captain down and walked right onto his torso and set her foot upon his face and skriked. Puîyus bound up and picked her up and set her upon the deck, and then he came back to the Captain to help him upwards. Euqliîna reached o'er and adjusted the captain hat that Puîyus was still wearing and chanted – Well, you two have fun! Gotta go! – And Euqliîna arose and staggered and made his way.
Ixhúja was already hopping into the long boat. Puîyus hopped in after her and muttered in a feline tounge saying I’ll investigate first. One of us should stay with the Starflower Princess.
I’m going with you, we’ll let the Acolyte or Pirates look after her.
She likes you, she will respond better to you.
She wuvs you, you should stay with her. I’ll go and investigate the battle. Why don’t you go back to your precious Princess and throw your arms around her and kiss her and tell her own much you wuv her? She’ll like that.
It is mine honor to fight and defend her.
She’ll like hugs better. I’ll fight.
She likes virtue and piety.
She’s also incredibly sentimental. When she wakes up, the first thing she does is ask about you. Let me go and do the dangerous work. Go and pat Éfha on her head and tell her just how pretty and precious she is. Ixhúja grabbed the bone oar and kept it away from Puîyus.
Puîyus yanked the bone oar away and set it back. I’m leaving. Stay or go.
I’m going.
You should stay.
Will you make up your mind? Here, I’ll make the decisions from now on. I’ll go and reconnoiter, I’ll return, the battle smells like it’s long o'er, there will probably be wreckage, by then you can make sure that Éfhelìnye is fine and …
She will prefer your tender hand.
She prefers your tender lips. Ixhúja batted her eyelashes a few times. Does this remind you of anyone? Smoochie smoochie smoo?
Stop that.
I wuv you!
Go back to the cabin, I’m leaving. Ixhúja took the bone oar away from its place and set it on her side of the boat. A few pirates were walking upon the deck and heard the two children snarling and mewling and spitting at each other like so many cats, and they decided to give them a wide berth.
Fine, we’ll both go, but first let’s make sure that Éfhelìnye is fine.
Very well. But I want separate boats.
So that I can race you and beat you and remind you that I’m better at you at everything!
Must we race?
Must you ask?
Let’s go see Éfhelìnye first.
Puîyus hopped out of the boat. He took a few steps before the cabin before he heard the rope slipping away. He turned back and saw that Ixhúja was already floating into the heavens. She stuck out her tounge and waved as if to say, I’ll get there first! I always win!
Puîyus growled and knew that he’d have to hie. He ran into the cabin and the leal lwúnìqte standing at the door and saw that Éfhelìnye was quiet and asleep and skimmed out of it and picked up some random pirates and Qìtien the acolyte and threw them into the cabin to guard her in addition to the faithful and fantastic creature, and already he was slipping out and diving into a different jhuináxhyong shuttle boat and in a single elegant movement yanking aside rope and bone oar and sailing into the heavens and chasing after Ixhúja who was floating many cubits ahead of her. The boat responded well unto his thoughts, Puîyus was natural in his use of bone oar and solar sails, the boat just exaulted as it arose into the twisting clouds of the heavens, when Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho, the infamous snapper-up-ers of sugar and candy and cookie confectionary had first been suaded by Princess Éfhelìnye to teach Puîyus the honorable and peiratical arts, they were amazed at how easily the lad was absorbing the lore of rope and deck and wind and skies, it was almost as if Puîyus had been born partially in the heavens, or at least thought they until they saw his leaping down into the waves and swimming in the deep, then they knew that part of his heart was the blood of the seas, but then their thoughts were completely turned once again when Puîyus began to race upon zavannah and prairie and all of the dreamlands blossom before his gate, surely, they knew Puîyus was autochthonous and sprung from the good and deep black soils. Through the triple worlds it seemed Puîyus was destined to venture, and how his shuttle pod burst outwards upon wings of mist and flame and aimed itself right untowards Princess Ixhúja. Puîyus set the solar sails low, he kept the boat long and sleek, it was an arrow bursting right towards the Khnìnthan Princess and her golden tresses flowing in the winds. Ixhúja may be wiley and cunning, but Puîyus knew he could surprise her in sailing, and he almost permitted himself a bit of a smile, until he remembered the shame that he was bringing unto his family in bringing them a bride unapproved by the Ancestors, and his heart burnt a little.
When Puîyus was only a few yards, though, from Princess Ixhúja, he saw that she was busying herself with the ropes and she was pointing to her clockwork thralls and unto the solar sails and ordering them to help her increase the speed of the vesseling. Puîyus prepared to launch himself, he was thinking of just landing in her boat, to startle her with his mariner prowess. Ixhúja looked up, she was watching the gentle silver whisps upon the horizon when she realized that something was wrong. She took up a small and ifeatherd flag and turning around she kicked up the flag and spun it around one arm and another wrist, and dancing back and forth all the while, swining it in sledge-blows, kicking and letting the flag dance, she spoke to Puîyus in a language of khyoqhíki in vexillology.
I made a mistake, Puîyos my twin, so Princess Ixhúja was saying in the divination of banners and flags. When I left the Starflower Princess asleep in her bed, I started removing her ballet slippers in an effort to make her more comfortable, but in my excitement to investigate the battle, I only removed one red glass fhentaîrlu slipper danüdajuk. I am so sorry, perhaps I should have removed the other, or maybe to remove them would leave her too cold. We should go back and put her dancing slipper back upon her feet. Ixhúja spun the flags around, thus was she spinning and signaling unto Puîyus in the language of the flappent wings.
Puîyus considered for a moment, he did not wish for Éfhelìnye feet to grow cold, it would only be chivalrous for him to return unto her, and even as he though it, he knew that thus would be the right course of action unto him. He nodded and scratching his ears for a moment looked to Ixhúja and drew out the signs that meant, I shall return for Princess Éfhelìnye and then sail back to you and still beat you in reaching the battlefield, for I am Puîyos the Son of Íngìkhmar, Heir unto all of the bellicose Sweqhàngqu! He bowed unto her, and Ixhúja hopped from side to side and stuck out her tounge, and Puîyus spun away and yanked upon the edge of the solar sails and had all of the vessel careen about him in rippling blurs, he kicked at the helm and plasma flames arose from the rudder, and within half an heartbeat he was launching himself into the heavens and came rolling onto the deck right into the midst of fleeing bagpipe creatures and scurrying pirates all spinning around and wondering at this strange lad who chanced to fall of them from out of the heavens. Puîyus bowed unto them and threw himself into the air, and he partially rolled and skipped right up unto the wonderous lwúnìqte who was guarding the door of the cabin, the strange ban-yip was growing long crustaceon legs about it and several winging tails rather than wings, and it fell upon its knees and bowed before the lad as he came leaping through the door which had already been broken many times. Puîyus slipped up unto the bed, he saw that indeed Princess Ixhúja had removed one of Princess Éfhelìnye’s dancing slippers and left it cast rubious glowing upon the floor, and he took the slipper into his hand, it was soft and cool, it actually glistened in many different colors when he held it up, deeper crimsons and brighter saffrons within, flushes of rubies and rhododactylous dawns drifting within the jewels of it all. He knelt down beside the bed and took the Princess’ foot in his own, she was wearing a bright and clear white stocking that almost gleamed as wax beore him, he set the slipper upon her small foot and beneath her glowing white ankles, the slipper fit her as perfect as a glove. For a moment he just gazed upon her foot, and then he set it into her bed and watched her sleeping, even though she was still she appeared unto him to be far more magnificient that he could e'er have imagined her, her hair was a glowing ocean of red and golden waves, a few jewels set in her tresses, her lips a slight part of blood, her face the shine of snow. He reached o'er and patted her hand upon the sheets, and for a few moments forgot that even at this very moment Princess Ixhúja was rushing out to investigate the battle that had been waged somewhere within the ruined worlds, but then he remembered and his spleen burned with shock, it would be difficult he knew to explain to Princess Éfhelìnye just why he felt compelled to compete and beat Ixhúja, why just the merest thought of her outracing him, outpacing him, outfighting him filled him with anxiety, it was a strange paxhmoyàjhwen a syatlhanàjhwen sibling rivalry which could not quite be put into words. He reached o'er and took Éfhelìnye’s small hands into his and kissed them and then spun out of the room, he slipped about the fantastic lwúnìqte and he hurled himself into the heavens and caught the lower fins of the shuttlepod he had set orbiting about the peiratical and bepetalled rainbrella vessel, and upclammering unto the deck he spun the rudder around and directed himself straight unto the smell of smoke and the retreating ship that Ixhúja had commandeered.
By the time Puîyus and his shuttle nave were once again catching up unto Ixhúja, for he was quite a natural and freebootersome sailor, Puîyus the only Son of Íngìkhmar and Khwofheîlya, he could see that Ixhúja and her clockwork devices were bouncing around each other and engaging in a mock shadow battle, Ixhúja was swinging her swords around, the clockwork locusts and moths and dragonflies were spilling upwards and darting from side to side and spilling down about her, she swung at them, they were billowing about her legs and trying to trip her up, and all the while they were jubilous unto the thrill of combat. Ixhúaj heard the sound of Puîyus’ approach from afar, at first she was content just to ignore him, but his vessel was rushing right up unto her at a speed that alarumed her, and the force of the winds billowing off the ship was causing the wee automatalings to spin around and take wing and duck before the onslaught of the dæmonic lad. Puîyus was calling out to Ixhúja, he was wanting her to know that soon his vessel would be overtaking hers and reaching the smoke scar above them, but just as his ship was spinning unto the side of hers, Ixhúja dropped her sword and smacked her face a couple of times and began murmuring unto herself.
– Mew? – Puîyus called out unto her, for he hoped that she was unhurt.
– Purr purr purr! – Ixhúja gasped.
– ?? –
– !! –
Ixhúja spelt out the words xhwupa xhwupa xhwupa’ ei! Oops oops oops!
– ?? – Puîyus quacked.
Ixhúja bit her lips. A slight blush glistened upon her face. Her hands spun together and began to undulate in a language all her own. Ixhúja had never been taught Taûsqo, the language of silent glyphs such as some sylvan priests and monks employ, but with her hands and blinks and motions she was creating of her own accord various signs and signals and fingerdances which Puîyus had no trouble in understanding, and she told him, I was fiddling with Princess Éfhelìnye’s manuscript while she slept, for I like looking at the drawings she makes in pen and pastel and pencil, she is quite good at capturing nuances in faces and in sketching strange cities that only exist in her imagination and creating entire new alien races. Right as I was taking off her ballet slipper I turned and knocked the manuscript o'er, pages were falling in a great array. I just know she’s going to be very cross with when when she makes up, and I could not bare the thought of her being angry with me.
Puîyus brushed one of his glistening sorm braids and scratched the back of his neck. Princess Éfhelìnye’s writings tended to be voluted and complex with a classification and filing system all of its own, and yet she usually numbered her pages, or at least numbers them in one system and then set runes as a different system for another stack. He also did not wish for her to be angry with Ixhúja. He rubbed his nose and already the decision was made for him. His helds clapped together and he blinked as if to say, I shall return and set her manuscript in order, my twin Ixhúja, and if she awakens to see the mess I shall take the blaim, for it is the least I can do for the maiden who protects and watches Éfhelìnye in her illness. And at that Puîyus was already spinning around and setting the rudders backwards, and he called out unto the Moon Maiden in a language of winds and velocity as if to say, But presently shall I return and still beat you unto the nether shore. And already Puîyus was spinning around, the great maat mast was leaning downwards, the entire boat was wrapping itself up so that it became a very sharp and sleak needles dashing through the heavens, and Puîyus blew out and puffed up a wind and caused the ship to dash out all the faster, and behind him the clockwork ornaments that were part of Princess Ixhúja decorations were hopping about and spinning about each other and wondering exactly what he mysterious and ghostly gossoon had meant when he spake of reaching the nether shore, for it sounded cold and terrible and ominous unto them, even in their clockwork pulse.
Puîyus soared high within the heavens once again, and this time, as the gusts came glancing just a little outside of the ranging of the opening and closing umbrella of the ship, he threw himself downwards to use both the momentum of the pod and the swaying of the rainbrella to catch his fall. He slipped down the side of the opening and closing fans and tumbled down right upon the back of the lwúnìqte, who arose and reared and swung its trunk from side to side. Puîyus brushed its great ears a few times and cooed unto it and slipped right off of the creature and rolled into the room where Princess Éfhelìnye in perfect floral repose lay. First he checked her in her sleep, he could sense that she was arising a little from her dreams, her eyelids were fluttering a little, her mouth was partially open, and he knew that he had to be very quiet for she was by nature a very light sleeper. At once he headed towards the table that Princess Ixhúja had been using as a desk, and Puîyus was glad that at least in the recreation of the kekicopter that the cabin had been enlarged and true chairs and a table set within the cabin, and this time Éfhelìnye slept in a real cot with sheets and blankets drifting about her. Puîyus still kept his violet dreamcloak draped about the Princess, just to afford her another layer of warmth, so that custom remained from the earlier version of ship, but these chair were certainly a new dream that had been dreamt. He sate down and examined the stack of pages, hundreds of sheets all in a perfect and neat handwriting, on some of the sheets she wrote in long horizontal waves, and othertimes she used to decorate the sheets and sometimes write in columns or in a diangular fashion. Many of the leaves were covered golden and silver crayon, and some of them were all awash in blushes of pastels, he was thankful at last that Princess Ixhúja had gathered up the sheets exactly as she had found them, for from the size and texture of the sheets of papyrus he was able to see where great chunks lay together undisturbed and only some loose pages had to be inserted. One tall pile of sheets was dishonored but Éfhelìnye had composed a numbering system in accordance with different numerological bases, and although Puîyus had no idea how to figure out base seven or base thirteen or base pi or something like that, he could see that at the side of the pages she had left little drawings that were all in a pattern, images of trees losing their leaves and suns rising and falling and little figures of a warrior and princess who looked to his mind very familiar, especially since she had filled in their hair with blue and red crayons. He flipped the pages and the figures were dancing before his gaze, they were spinning around in a very traditional ballet, bowing towards each other and beginning to skip, they were alive in their movements, and as he came unto the last page the drawings ran to each other and embraced each other. Puîyus nodded in satisfaction, for as far he could discern he had ordered the thousand pages of the manuscript, and everything was good once again. He set the pages down upon the deck and dusted off his hands, and heard behind him a slight stirring sound. Puîyus got up, he slid the chair aside without making a noise at all, and he just hoped that he could slip out without disturbing her in the least.
Puîyus, Íngìkhmar’s Son, was almost untowards the door where the faithful ban-yip stood at guard, when he heard a rustling in the sheets behind him. He looked up and saw that Éfhelìnye had twisted onto her side, but in doing so had knocked off the pillow from beneath her head. Puîyus knew it would be rude not to bring her back her pillow, and anyway he was loathe for her to awaken with a cramp in that perfect white neck of hers, so he tiptoed back untowards the bed and took up the pillow, it was of soft goose down, the pillow had stitched upon it images of happy fields and happy hills and happy suns dancing in the winds. He held the pillow to his face and sniffed it and felt the whimsy of it. He remembered that Princess Éfhelìnye had taught him a couple of fun words about pillows, jaôt, the soft coldness of a kogywd and khyoâmpu the cold underside of a upadhaanam.h. Pillows were quite fun, tré insouciant things he thought, they reminded him of home, and of all those month in training, in abbies and temples and out in the wilderness when he had naught but stone and his own dreamcloak for headrest and he slept like a wild beast, and it reminded him of nights of battle, when bedazzled by strenuous fighting he would return to the tents and have nothing but a shield against which to lean and remain content. He looked to Éfhelìnye, utterly still in her repose, he floated right up unto her, with calm and gentle hand he reached out unto her neck and head and slid the pillow beneath her head, and the Princess was again bepillowed in utter cool softeness, the jaôt as she had taught him. Puîyus nodded unto her. Éfhelìnye’s mouth opened and closed a little. He tiptoed backwards, utterly silent so as not to awaken her, and thus occupied did not notice until too late when he walked backwards into the chair and knocked it o'er, and so strong was his force that he also knocked o'er the entire desk and spilled down the manuscript of ten thousand pages all upon the floor, and the sound of the crashing chair and table was so great that the lwúnìqte began to bleat all the louder and rushing into the cabin and honking at the loudest of their billows came leaping within several backpipe folk singing all the while in their deep drone voices, and behind them came running Captain Euqliîna and the Acolyte Qìtien. They looked and saw that Puîyus was setting down table and chair and holding them both with one palm while with his other hand gathering up a stack of pages. The pirate and acolyte and bagpipes and lwúnìqte all looked at Puîyus in panick at the thunderous sound, but Puîyus just set down the heavy furniture and pointed to Éfhelìnye and whispered – Shhhhh! – and put a finger to his lips. The lwúnìqte and musettelings and acolyte and pirate nodded and slunk away. Puîyus dropped the unsorted pages upon the escritoire again, and looking back to Éfhelìnye and finding her still asleep, he bounced right on top of the desk and sorted as swift and silent as he possibly could. Puîyus sighed as he considered the magnitude of the task, and how he had almost awakened the sick Princess, and how Ixhúja was probably already winning deathless glory for herself, and he slammed his head against the desk a few times in despair and wished that one of the Pirates on this ship chanced to be a fhàrnxha one of the philonoists of the Khlitsaîyart Khlaêr folk, a collater philosopher, for they tended to know how causalities worked together, or even a thwèqa scailo would be useful, a filer cleric among the same people, they were experts on papyrus and leaves, why they could most certainly decypher these complex mathematical puzzles which Puîyus could barely even fathom aside from the fact that they seemed to him to be a very eccentric form of music albeit completely of numbers. The numerical systems that the Princess had fashioned for some of the drafts of her book included heptal and trinary bases for counting, sexagesimal and binary and octal and hexadecimal she had experimenting with counting in nines and tens, although Puîyus not not possibly understand why, she had tried all various variations of non undecal positional numeral systems eleventies, she had used bases which were not positive integers, she had tried negehexadeimcal and negaternary and negabinary forms of negative bases, although Puîyus was still not entirely sure what khnèqwo negatives were supposed to be, some of the pages were filled up with complex and imaginary bases whose twining reminded him of the serpentile dance of dragons, Éfhelìnye had even tried some ghoulish representations of non-integers in her numbering systems, with 2pi and pi and the golden ration phinary sprawling about her, and for an hundred pages or so, just for the fun of it, she had even tried a bijective numeral system that expanded outwards from the first integer to flood all of the pages, and Puîyus just knew that merely looking at these numbers was greaving his spirit to a great degree, he just hoped that he would never have to learn the complexities of the mathematical games that Éfhelìnye liked to play in her own head, the spirals and sequences and dance of the divine waves. He set up all of the pages into stacks and just tried to sort them by the colors and handwriting and little drawings that she set about them, and at lost, he builded up a great stack of images ten thousand leaves tall, and this time, when he finally had it all sprawling upwards before him, he took a bit of twine and bundled it all up in a great pile, and set it inside the drawer of the desk and then picked up the chair and set it aside from door and window and bed so there was no way in heaven or on earth or within the sea or beneath the deep that he could possibly bump into something or trip o'er something or knock aside anything loud at all. He dusted off his palms and walked unto the bed. Princess Éfhelìnye was stirring a little, but she was not yet awake. He approached the bed, he saw that the Princess’ eyelashes were fluttering a little. He reached o'er and kissed her brow a few times, and then he swept aside to leave her in peace and to discover what lay just beyond the horizon.
When Puîyus came unto the deck, the lwúnìqte bowed unto him and revealed that all of the ship was brimming with excitement. The pirates were running from side to side, the Kurkuîlo and the Xhmaûmumum befluttering together and clapping their wings and claws, the Fhlùltekh and Khnenyènwa were spinning around and taking up cutlass and rope and sword. Many of the pirates were pointing unto the prow, far above them were shimmering several tremulous lines of planetoids, and the running points were crying out as the smoke drifted about the asteroids and became part of the migrations of the clouds. Captain Euqliina was skipping around and ordering the men to bring out the shuttlepods, and as Puîyus came skipping about the deck, the pirates were lifting up their boxes and jars and swirling about him, some of them were tossing rope into the departing boats, others were yanking upon the cords that held up the wherries, and they were gasping all the while saying – What do you suppose that could be? There must have been a battle, somewhere at the edge of this gravitational field. Just a small battle, don’t you think? Who can say in these versatile, these dangerous times? The War rages throughout wall and burg and world, it smashes through what had once been firm alliance, it drives extinct all things in its path. – Puîyus rolled out among the pirates, some of them were sharpening their knives, the Kurkuîlo were clapping their claws together and making sure that their pincers were at their sharpest, the Khnenyènwa were shivering in fear, the Fhlùltekh were tossing up weapons unto the Xhmaûmumum fluttering high above them, and Captain Euqliîna came waddling right into the midst of the excitement and cried out – Listen you mneme scurvious fhtóni, you three legged kangaroom bilge rats! Now, I don’t know for the life of me while sailors, and we eccentric sky pirates in particular like to insult each other by calling each other fhtóni rats, I rather like the kúdjbarra myself makropokoj, some of my best friends are luhimuh rats, why just the other day before we picked up this Acolyte and he had us destroy all of the pink lemonade and jacinth lotos that we love so much and are so tasty but we can’t eat or smoke it especially while we have the new Emperor and Empress and their Sister with us, I was visiting a friend whose house was just becrawling with yuŋga seeping out of the walls and curtains and all, and I must say they can be quite clever creatures, dancing about upon their triple legs, these rats can learn tricks and crawl into boxes and play games and run errands and chores, the only problem was when the fhtóni rats came crawling into the kitchen and started eating all of the tàmar lotus so sweet and crunchy and good and, what did you say, those fhtóni were eating the lotos, how dare they, that’s one of my most favorite type of leaf to munch and smoke and eat, why no wonder we sky pirates and others sailors in general don’t like the fhtóni, they crunch on our grub! Listen you! I forgot what was the point of this little inspirational speech! The point is that we are a rare and glorious and reputable fraternity, we pirates are, so let’s find out what that smoke portends, for we may have to send the Emperor and Empress and Sister far away from the danger. – Captain Euqliîna leaned his crew and winked at them with his middle eye. – Perhaps if we’re very lucky we can even get rid of that pesy Acolyte always bossing us around, eh? Then we can invite all of the fhtóni kangaroo bilge rats onto the ship and smoke all the blue lotos we can grasp with our hands and wings and claws, hurray! – And at that the pirates were all cheering, some of them were tossing hats and bandanas into the air, others were hopping into the boats and wherries and already leaping outwards. Puîyus was running like the wind in their midst, he set Captain Euqliîna’s captaincy hat upon his brow, and slipped among them and came scurrying up one of the wire towers and bound right into the jhuináxhyong long boat that he had left in an orbital dance above the rustling billows of the rainbrella vessel.
And this time as Puîyus again found himself arising within the winds, he knew that he would have to be especially eager if he were to catch up with Ixhúja who had such an advantage before him. He set the ship to be as sleek and sharp as possibly, and the rudders were roaring with little comet flames bursting out from them, and as the long boat arose and sailed right unto the direction where Ixhúja was going, he took out the bone oars and hitched them to their place and roared hard against the skies, the oars were brimming out with great fans opening upwards, a little like the quetzalcrest that gamma Qhíng and peacocks sport, and Puîyus swayed back and forth and pushed the oars with such speed and might that he could feel the solar sails have to rustle, the winds themselves having to keep up with him. The bone oars became a blur, the fans were swimming through the air, the ship came dashing upwards, the vessel was roaring far above all of the rest of the boats and wherries that were departing from the rainbrella ship, and far off at last he could see her, Princess Ixhúja in the shuttle boat she had taken, and spinning all about her with her own clockwork minions ready to do her bidding. Puîyus rowed all the harder to see her, he was contemplating a way he could beat her but he was not sure he could get the boat to venture any faster. It occurred unto him that it may be best for him just to launch himself into the heavens and land upon the same boat that Princess Ixhúja was taking, that would certainly solve any velocity concerns that he had about his present mode of transportation, natheless, these particular jhuîxhyong shuttle boats were so small that they were not equipped with any plasma cannons or torpedoes or thrawn harpoonry at all. Puîyus wondered whether his peiratical Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho would be able to craft some makeshift cannon or spring device for him, anything involving elastic and release and coil and fire would surely suffice, yet Puîyus had none of that with him. It was still too far for him just to leap towards Ixhúja, even though his vessel was slowly gaining upon hers, and as he peered at her, her hair was a golden sheen in the light of the asteroids, he could tell that her vessel was having to slow as it neared the outer regions of these torquations. He continued to row with the bone oars until his ship had as much momentum as he could give it, and then leaping unto the prow he drew out the rope that he usually kept coiled at his belt, and affixing one end unto the prow, and the other end made into a sharp lasso, he spun it around high above his head and hurled it outwards and let it spin in an unravellling arch, the rope dashed outwards and grabbed one of the outer spirals of the lower fin. The rope grew taut, and Puîyus lifted up his hands in victory. He checked again to make sure that his side of the rope was still secure, he didn’t think it would do any good to try and draw her ship towards his, it would only resolt in both of the vessels being pulled off course, and he had no desire to try and skim through the outer waves of the gravitational dance of the asteroids while balancing two vessels. No, that would be two difficult, he thought, as he flexed his arms and stretched them a little, it would be far easier just to crawl down the length of the rope and leap up into Ixhúja’s vessel to surprise her. Puîyus scrambled down the face of his ship and grasped the rope tight and began crawling down the length of it, but when he had come down a few yards he felt a quiver in the rope, and peering down with his eversharp eyen, beheld he that Ixhúja’s wee clockwork creatures were crawling throughout the deck and sides of her ship and were swarming down unto the lower fins, they were beflooding the sides of the rope, springing out from their joints were come claws and spinning knives, and all at once, with a single mind, they were attacking the rope, and cutting it unto the same beat and measure, and the rope was shaking and gowing lax. Puîyus already could guess the end of this story, he swung back unto his side of the boat and gave the rope a good yank and snapped it apart, and he coiled it back unto himself, and drawing up the other side, he examined the cutting and could see from the perfect sheen of the edge just how sharp the knife edges had been. How versatile, how useful Ixhúja must find her clockwork slaves, he thought, and although he had no love for clockwork, he did enjoy a well sharpened knife, who did could not love one, they were so utterly perfect for holding and slicing and cutting and hacking and stabbing and ending.
Puîyus skipped from side to side, he was calculating just how sharp the knives were of these clockwork wihts and just how many of them there were and just how much rope he had and how many he could throw at once, now those were the type of ciphers which he understood, not bases and numbers and arithmetic, but leaping and swinging and energy and running. The clockwork creatures on Princess Ixhúja’s vessel were spinning around, some of them remaining dangling upon the fins while others were swinging up unto the side of the boat and were opening up their knives and pincers and were preparing themselves, all of them were thinking that Puîyus was going to try something next, although whether by sky or boat or rope they could not quite guess. Puîyus measured the distance between his ship and Ixhúja’s, it was still to far and treacherous to leap between them and not avoid the hissing of the asteroids. Ixhúja deigned to give Puîyus a look, she stuck out her tounge at him and spinning around she made a face at Puîyus and drew out patterns in the air which she knew he could interpret.
Are you still here, are you still tempting to catch me? Why don’t you go back to the little Princess, she misses and wuvs you! Some of us have real work, warrior’s work to do down here, we can’t be bothered with a silly little emotional male to slow us down.
Puîyus made a face back to her, it was not quite at skilled at gurning as his youngest Sister Akhlísa was, but he could manage to stick out his tounge and make little horn motions about his brow. He could not think of a second face to pull, so he just did the same motion twice.
Ixhúja stroked her golden tresses and played with a few of her crawling and living oiralbriun and almost let out an audible sigh from this distance. Are you sure you want to go down there, especially have I win the race in arriving there first? It may be too scary for your delicate heart where you keep your delicate love for your delicate Princess, the one with the shining hair and little doll’s waist. In fact, I think I hear her right now. She’s calling your name, Puîyos, you’d better go after her.
Puîyus spun around and put an hand to his ear and tried to listen, but all he could hear was the winds and the rustling of the wasteland asteroids and gathering of pirate boats behind him, and it saddened him not to hear any of the music of life and flower any more. He turned back to Ixhúja and made a motion that meant, I don’t hear Éfhelìnye at all, my dearest twin.
I was just inventing that, Ixhúja told him in her blinks and glances.
Puîyus blinked a couple of times.
It was a joke, a trick almost, Ixhúja was trying to tell him.
Puîyus looked around. Are you sure that Éfhelìnye is not calling for me?
She’s fine. I’m going to beat you to the finish.
Puîyus crossed his arms, he was still tempted to return and make sure that Éfhelìnye was fine, but he figured that Qìtien and some of the pirates and the most wonderous lwúnìqte were still aboard the rainbrella vessel and watching o'er her. Still, though, thought Puîyus as he drew out several different ropes at once and measured them using his palms and limbs, it was very sad how much he could not hear within the flowing asteroids forming their own monopolic belts high within the heavens, he heard not the gambollng of deer in the forest, no dinosaurs and lambkins, no bubbles fishes arising in stream and coral, no whispering mountains breathing out their own strange dreams, no fishes flying overhead, no sunrises upon the face of the waters, he could detect just the barest hint of streams of water and dust, just the shadow of trees and leaves within some of the asteroids, and yet not a single flower could he detect, by sound or scent or oneiric presence. It pained him to remember the beauty of the Dreamtime as it had once been, when all of the billion, billion worlds of the living bloomed in the benedictions of the Emperor, and all things had been blue and green with life. If he permitted himself to think too long upon it, he would be tempted to weep, but he had no time at the moment, there was a battle to investigate, and he was not about to have Ixhúja beat him in another race. The clockwork creatures were jibbering on their side of the vessel, some of them were hopping about and snapping their knives and claws at Puîyus in a threatening manner. Puîyus skipped from side to side on his ship and drew out eleven ropes all of the perfect length and strength, and he figured that in the time it would take that horde to cut all eleven of the ropes, he could manage to swing from one ship to the next. Suddenly he became a blur. Ropes were flying from his hands. The clockwork devices sprawled outwards upon Ixhúja’ vessel and were rapidly trying to formulate a plan, as one after another eleven ropes affixed unto the ship and tied themselves around hook and gear and fin and prow. The clockwork gasped, they knew it would take many of them to cut a single rope. Puîyus swung himself into the heavens, and just to confuse thec clockwork all the more, he did not swing upon a single rope but kept changing his stance, so that as the clockwork rolled out unto the rostrum to cut rope number nine, Puîyus was sliding down the length of rope three, and half of the clockwork dashed to three and some of them rolled out unto six because they saw that he was eying that one. By the time Puîyus had slide out about a third of the length from his ship to Ixhúja’s, the clockwork were panicking. Puîyus was just dancing upon the ropes, he swung upon some and clammered about others, he was hanging in the utter void of the heavens, a few clouds drifting about his wooden shoon, and closer he was coming. The clockwork realized that they were going to have to divide their forces and rather than cut one of two ropes quickly slowly cut them all, for Puîyus was quite indiscriminate in the way that he flew from one side to the next, he was just leaping about the cordage and flying about the whisps and cloud. Some of the more adventuresome of the clockwork wihts were bouncing upwards and spinning up unto Ixhúja and trying to get her attention, she was humming to herself and intent upon her own task involving the helm, and whenever the little locusts and dragonflies came too close to her she just brushed them aside or smacked them a little. Defeated the clockwork came rolling back, there was nothing left for them to do but to try and fight the technophobic xhùxha child on their own. By the time that Puîyus was come about two thirds of the way from his vessel unto Ixhúja’s, the clockwork creations had finally organized themselves into a working and hewing force, they managed to cut through two of the ropes, but still Puîyus just swung himself up from one snapping rope and grabbed ahold of one that was still sturdy, and then slide down another. One of the locusts poured out some acid upon one rope and Qìfhte the dragonfly fluttered unto it and snapped at it with his snapping claws and tried to form a small fire, but his mandibles were not kindling the acid in the least. Only three ropes were left, and Puîyus was just a couple of cubits aside. He hurled himself high into the air, the clockwork gasped out in fear, they managed to severe the last of the ropes, but it was already too late, Puîyus landed upon the deck and spun around in a perfect flourish and looked around to see where Ixhúja was.
The clockwork molls shrugged and sighed, they had no idea where their Selenite Mistress had forescampered herself. Puîyus looked down unto the burgeoning planetoids, Ixhúja was not yet down there, he could see, and it was too far for her to hurl herself down safely to glide upon the winds. He looked back through the heavens, he saw a flash of rope, and a golden form was leaping through the heavens and crawling up unto his own vessel. Puîyus ran up to the rostrum, he saw that Ixhúja had taken a rope of her own and done the same thing he had while he was distracted with the clockweythry, she had crawled upon her own spindle of light and come unto the ship he had taken. Puîyus scratched his head, and the clockwork shrugged at him again, and all wondered why she had even bothered, all that Puîyus and Ixhúja had managed to do was switch vessels, and now Puîyus was in the league. He leaned o'er towards the helm and wondered. The wheel screached a little at his touch. He turned around, the ship would soon be approach lower clouds, then he could jump down and find the smoke. The helm began to grind and gurgle about him. The mechanical dragonflies buzzed about Puîyus and began to chirm in alarum. He brushed them aside, it was disconcerting enough to see these little mechanical monstrocities crawling about her, but couldn’t they leave him alone also. The helm began to skrike. The clockwork creatures were sreaming. Puîyus spun around. The ship was quiver and smoke was arising from several pipes. He looked to the help. Several burning wires were twisting about it, some little mainsprings were uncoiling and dying, and all of the helm was breathing out chuckles of smoke. Puîyus pulled upon the springs of the xermoâthe, but the helm just screamed in pain. He blinked a few times, too late he could see that Ixhúja had done something to the rudders of this ship, and although he was uncertain as to the details, in broadest terms he knew that it could only bode ill. The ship was bursting out with streams of smoke, and all of the gills were releasing a dying sound.
The mechanical dragonflies were spinning upwards and in the spinning of their wings trying to spell out for Puîyus the word kulyiyàjhwen, sabotage, but they could not quite remember how it was spelt, but then Qìfhte remembered that they could talk in Babel the tounge of men and he screamed out – Sabotage! Sabotage! Sabota sabot ‘a?māl taxribíyya sabotaasi szabotázs sabotaż sabotáž div’érsija! Kùlyi kunílyi, sabotage sabotage! –
– Mew? – asked Puîyus.
– The most glorious and wise and wonderful Princess and heiress unto all of the machine vassels of the Red Moons of Khnìntha has set this small ship unto destroying itself in a great explosion! – Qìfhte shouted.
Puîyus blinked and wondered why.
– So she can win! – Qìfhte and a few dragonflies settled down upon Puîyus’ shoulders and crawled about him to say – In some ways this is a masterstroke, she tricks you into entering the leading vessel and blows you up, instant win. But then again, that would probably affect the rest of us Tánin tomäts, but that is our lot, even if we be but humble insectoid kind. –
Puîyus scratched the back of his head. He swatted away a few of the insects and looking upwards unto the ship that he had just vacated though it not a little odd that he and Ixhúja had just happened to switch vessels, for she may be a little surprised to see what he had done there. He plucked up a few more dragonflies and threw them away from him, but in his motion and gesture they understood him to mean, One was concerned that Princess Ixhúja may need some succour, even though she seldom asks for aid, but if I had known that this particular ship was just about to explode I would not have done that.
The clockwork insects were screaming and streaming all around Puîyus, and Qìfhte cried out – We’re all going to be blowed up! When are you going to start panicking, Master Puîyos, oh last male of Khnìntha! –
Puîyus however just crossed his arms and gazed back unto his own vacated long boat, for a warrior of Jaràqtu does not panick. And within a moment of that Ixhúja spun up the rope she had been using and landed in the prow of the vessel and brushed an hand through her shining golden hair, and turned to Puîyus and was about to start sticking out her tounge and exault in her victory, but she could see in his glaring at her that something was amiss. She looked down unto the helm of his ship. She searched around and wondered, and then noticed that Puîyus had wedged a couple of pieces of wood into the xermoâthe and nailed them into place. It took her a few moments to realize that Puîyus had set the ship’s course to change when he was not upon it, he had fixed it so that it would come crashing right towards Ixhúja’s own.
Puîyus and Ixhúja glared at each other and gave each other a look that meant, !! followed by a ??.
Are you crazy! Ixhúja hopped from side to side. Now because of you we’re going to crash together! She spat out growls at him, but even as she was fighting against the helm she realized it was too late, the ship was heating up and rushing right towards the one she had vacated.
Puîyus looked back and gave her a look that meant, One did not mean for us to crash together, it was a safety measure, it’s supposed to veer towards your vessel in case you needed help, and one can see that you do need help, you do need to be rescued.
I need nothing! Puîyos! You ship is heating up! We’re crashing!
You’re the one who is having your ship exploding!
That makes perfect sense! That way you don’t win, you lose, I win! That’s the way the game is played!
Blowing up one’s ship never makes sense, this is no game!
You’re the one obsessed with rescueing Princesses!
You’re the one obsessed with winning everything!
At least my philosophy makes sense!
At least my philosophy makes sense!
Maybe we can switch living ships again, Puîyos?
No, I have an idea.
I’m still going to beat you down there.
No you won’t.
Yes I will. I always have been superior to you, Puîyos, in every way possible, including but not limited to beating you in contests of speed and luck and skill and blowing things up!
Puîyus was unraveling yet another length of cordage that he kept wrapped up around his belt, and he was preparing himself for the ineluctable blossoming of flame and light. He crouched a little, and the clockwork insects jumped upon his body, some of them landing upon his shoulders, others hiding in his pockets, not a few crawling about his ears and hair, although he kept trying to brush them away fro the tresses which he only permitted Fhermáta or Éfhelìnye to touch, but here at the extremity of the emergency he could only give the insects a few cursorary pokes. Ixhúja’s original vessel was glowing with a bright white light, black billowing smoke arising from the tubes, he could feel through the groaning of the quick ship that it was just about to explode. The ship whereon he had come was veering right towards him, it was a blur of energy and light, and Ixhúja was standing at the prow and looking around and trying to figure out what to do. Puîyus jumped up high into the air and let the clockwork insects cling unto him. Several things were happening at once. Both of the living ships were crashing together, and the explosions that was beginning on the first ship was spreading together as the metallic hulls buckled and peeling away from them came a skin of stone, and the solar sails came twining together, and all of the bone oars were vaporized at once. As the living ships collided and became nothing but energy, Puîyus came rolling down upon the side of the brilliant explosions, he was swooping up Ixhúja into his arms and wrapping a rope around them both, and for a moment they glided downwards in ripples of flame and crashing wheel and the horror of the dying twin living ships.
This is altogether and completely without a doubt your absolute fault, Ixhúja muttered in a language of growls and clicks and sighs. She hung her head against his shoulder, and spilling and mantid clockwork insects came crawling about both of them and swung down with the children through the blossom of the heaven’s light. Several times the heavens were flexing from side to side, like great arms arising and splashing through the tidal bores, and the children were hurled from side fro to side to because of the violence it. They had already fallen several kutibim downwards when the living ships began to vaporize in even greater peals of white light, and a deep and tonizarttruous sound arose from the crashing together of the skeletons of the two original long boats janyajhuîxhyong, the bone and metal and ribs of the vessels were scraping against each other and creating a floppy grinding cacophony of flesh dying. Puîyus was holding onto Princess Ixhúja all the while, for it was always his duty to protect all innocents and all maidens, especially Princesses and those of the holy Blood Pwéru, but he wished at the very least that he could put his hands o'er his ears and at least pretend not to hear the deathknells of the great living ships crumbling begrinding against each other, as their bone oars and gunwails and skin were blasted apart. The living ships moaned a little like dying orcs cast within wavesqualls, it sad and long and deep and piteous sound, at least unto Puîyus who so loved all things that flew and swam and grew and lived, and yet the dying of the ships above did not last very long at all, their nerve centers expired, the movement of their crystalline systems ended. For several moments Puîyus and Ixhúja continued to sail downwards through the heavens and away from the gaping wound where the two jhuîxhyongeng had imploded, the only sound that came unto the children was their own breathing and the buzzing zumi zumi zumi of the insects flowing about Princess Ixhúja’s head and landing upon Puîyus’ face and crawling about his shoulders and nose and much to his annoyance, the rouage wihts were so close unto him that he could feel the slight tremor of the coiled springs rolling through their escapements, he could sense the sighing of the betoothed gearwheels sliding from side to side forgrindent and he did his best to remain still, the meeth and locusts and dragonflyry fluttering around him and singing zimzim žužžanije brusio zumbido boon zoemen summen brummen surren žužžát’ tnèkher tnèkher tsúm tsúm tsúm. Puîyus tried to think of anything else but the murmur of the clockwork, and the twining unnatural movement of it all, he did not mind the dancing of the toys that the Emperor used to make, in fact he found Tét the Acceptible to be quite charming, and he had been quite fain of the clockwork train set that his Grandfather Jàkopar had repaired for him and which he had been forced to give unto Siêthiyal in order to keep peace in the family, and he did not mind the rather harmonious and beautiful inventions that Princess Éfhelìnye managed to build with her kean hands and craft with her ingenious mind, she had the ability to create quite marvelous devices, the clockweyth that flowed from her fingers was not something in imitation of living beings, rather it almost appeared to be a new form of living creatures, as if Puîyus had spent his entire life dwelling in forests where flying fishes bounced from branch to branch and sang all the while, and he traveled for many a moonphase and lo came into a new land with embrightening zavannah spreading out afore his ken, and for the first time beheld birds arising in the heavens and saw their quetzal plumage for the first time, and sighed with wonder to hear the beauty of their song, so wonderous too was the work balletic of Princess Éfhelìnye. But the insects crawling about his face, the dragonflies turning their faces towards him and snapping their razor mandibles, the locusts crawling about his arms, were only tempting him to reach out and smash them one by one, and it was only out of deference to his twin Sister Ixhúja, the Àrlu the Crown Princess of Martian Heresy, that he did not rend and tear and smash them completely. The silent punctuated only by the buzz buzz buzz of the clockweyth devices did not last too long at all, once the living ships above the children were incinerated, for then came several long and crushing sounds, and both Puîyus and Ixhúja looked up at the same time. Some of the massive ribs of the twin shuttle boats were breaking apart from the blossoms of the explosions, and they were spinning around in long and thundering archs. Several of the great cardiovascular pipes of the boats had also survived, at least in part, the flame light, and they were now crashing downwards right untowards the children. Puîyus held onto Ixhúja with one arm and with his free arm he punched against several titanic and burning pipes crashing down against them, and he spun upwards and kicked against some of the bones of the hull. Several more screaming wrecks of the living ships fell down right towards the children, in flames blue and black and green, and Puîyus smashed against them with such force that they broke apart into smaller contingencies and were soon getting lost within the orbit of the dancing asteroid worlds drifting far about them. The sound of the wailing jigs soared about the children and then faded away, and Puîyus looked around, the spinning oiralbriun about Ixhúja’s ears and her various mechanical servants were quailing themselves and hiding themselves a little from Puîyus, holding his might, and some of them were crawling back into Ixhúja’s golden tresses and shivering all the while, and the sound of the dying ships murmured about the children for some time in their descent.
Princess Ixhúja smacked Puîyus a few times upon the back of his head. He did not mind, in fact that only made him hold onto her all the faster and aim them both towards the rustling of the clouds flowing up before the main asteroids. The clouds were breaking apart a little to reveal to majestic rising and falling of the rainbrella of the sqòqhi, and Puîyus was aiming his and Ixhúja’s body so that they would head towards the deck, he was even unraveling some more lengths of rope and setting them about them both as living webwings. He set out some more cord, it was almost as if he were fishing for himself from banks of cloudburst, and Ixhúja struck him a few more times. She pinched his nose. Puîyus sniffled. He did not enjoy being pinched on his nose. It reminded him far too often of the games that he and his Siblings were wont to play, when Fhermáta and Siêthiyal would touch someone’s nose and say, I have your nose! I have your nose! Now you can’t breathe at all! And Puîyus and Akhlísa would always forget how to breathe until someone told them that it was just a game and they didn’t have to roll upon the flow gasping asphyxiant for air. Ixhúja was able to read some of the disquietude upon Puîyus’ face, and took that as an invitation to poke him a few more times. Truly, my foolish brother, only vaguely related to the warrior blood of Ifhrúri, this entire fiasco is completely without a doubt and altogether your own fault! If you had just let me conquer you fairly we wouldn’t be crashing burning through the heavens, waves of heat convections bursting up from us, clouds spilling about and betickling our faces and knoses! If you were not so overprotective of me, if you had not sent your ship to come drifting by to rescue me, I would already be upon the foggy asteroids and investigating the wrack of the battle! I would be turning back to you and making a face, like this, and you would be stomping yoru feet in anger to know that I’ve beaten you once again! Now humbled we fall back whereunto began we!
Puîyus made a deep and rumbling harrumphent sound and did not think that he had to apologuise for trying to rescue her from another one of her misplanned adventures. He growled a little and nodded towards the white streaks where the shuttle boats had been as if to say, Forgive me, but you were the one who desired the destruction of your own ship.
That was a perfect ruse, I’d destroy ten thousand living ships to beat you in the race! Don’t you understand how honor works? Honor does not grow, we have not forests of it that can spread throughout the desert hills of sand and shrub and ice, so Ixhúja was murmuring unto him. Honor is rare, it must be attacked, tracked, taken, and conquered. It never increases. The honor I have I have won in combat from others, and that person beaten no longer has any honor, and he cannot retain it until he beats me. Therefore I must do whatever I can to beat you in these games. And beat you I always do and always shall.
Puîyus drew out some more rope and spun it around their heads, the rope was urticating about so swift and sharp that the clockweyth insects within Ixhúja’s hair and all about her twining ears were having to murmur and duck a few times lest they be struck and broken apart and their various pieces hurled off into the deep whorls of heaven. He cast the rope aside and hurled it far until it grabbed one of the gnarlent crennelations of the rainbrella vessel, and Puîyus hurled against the rope, and so was able to reel himself and Ixhúja upwards through a league of skies. The insects spun about them and giggled a little. Ixhúja was sulking, she kept looking upwards and saw that eleven skiffs were leaving the ship, and upon them all were pirates all eager and pointing unto the smokedrifting horizon, all of them eager to sate their curiosity the first. How unfair, how ridiculous, how shameful, she turned to Puîyus and wished she could just punch him a little without his being able to overpower her. Somehow it seemed completely unspeakable that althougher Father the Warlord Khan of the Red Moons, borb a bhiadail, Khàxanos, had created her out of some of Puîyus’ own flesh, and altered and modified the development of her bones and organs and body, that although she should have superior abilities in healing, agility, and speed, still Puîyus was the stronger of the two no matter how she tried, truly it was a design flaw, she thought, and not something that was improving no matter how many times she died and felt the butterflies of her souls yanked back through the vortices of realities and born again within blood and egg and clockwork tree. Puîyus gave the ropes a few more good tugs. For good measure, Ixhúja punched Puîyus a few times, but he barely even noticed. The sqòqhi takbekEged drifted up towards them, and Puîyus reached out his hand to steady their fall.

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