The vast and romblent parasol of the kekicopter was flapping open and close before the descending children, but the difficult about their crash landing as that the small decks that reached down from the main billow towers were all spinning around in gyres like the movement of planets and moons in an orrery and the divine Dance of the Stars wherein the fate of the billion, billion worlds are woven into Qyál the Great Music of the Spheres. Puîyus reached out with his legs and holding onto Ixhúja tried to land as nimble and lithe as he could, but both he and the Martian Princess siineqhimpíya from the antipodeans dreamlands had been building up a great deal of momentum in their descent, and the explosion of the janyajhuîxyhong was still breathing out flickers of light tendrillar about them, so that Puîyus’ wooden sabots skidded against the deck and tried as he might he could not quite land as nimble as a cat, but rather he and Ixhúja crashed against each other and were rolling around and around in slight wrestling positions, they rolled out upon the upper decks and crashed against some pylons and came spilling about some columns and fell out upon some of the long and winding lower decks and rolled out around each other again and again and again. Upon one of the lower decks against the plinths of some of the great springs that were powering the huge ojówi ondegoj billowent upwards, all about some long and winding jhùkhpe lofts lay small priedieu all of entwined circles and triangles, and upon the niġġivIk lay messages that Qìtien the Acolyte had collected by Raven from all of their journeys high within the sky seas, and prayer books and prayer stones littered the srurd, parchment and quills yscattered in all directions. Sitting right at the desk was sitting Qìtien, he was looking through some pages, beside him lay a mandala whereon he was trying to trace the progress of this vrijbuiter vessel up through the øde wastes of the north, and beside him lay open some books that denoted the customs concerning the inthronising and apotheosis of a new Emperor and Empress and the various commandments concerning the Holy Sun House of the Pwéru, and he had copied out some passages and were studying them, for it was not often that a mere Acolyte should chance to come across the new Tusùrthir the Divine Twins and have to protect and smuggle them, let alone help them in stablishing the next generation of their Clan. The acolyte turned, he dipped his quill into some ink and drew out some elegant and swirling glyphs even as Puîyus and Ixhúja and their accompanying clockweyth thralls came crashing outwards about the layers of the jhùkhpe loft and down the sides of the ondumi ojówi and came rolling out right before the escritoire where the Acolyte was copying and musing in deepest thought uffische.
The clockwork creatures spun out of Ixhúja’s hair and muttered unto themselves saying – Kîsarnê: khyèva:sái khmeza:lù! – And then they looked one to another and befluttered their wings about at the nonesuch they were saying. – E chu ta! E chu ta! E chu ta! – they giggled unto themselves. The children were still rolling about each other as they settled before Qìtien in his desk, they were slowing a little, their feet were almost touching the very sides of the desk. Puîyus and Ixhúja landed upon their sides, but Ixhúja sprang upwards and landed upon his chest and began punching Puîyus a few times in his face. As for Puîyus, he was completely concerned o'er such a mere sensation as pain, bue he was a little conscious of the need for quietude, especially since they had come crashing down before Qìtien, a presentative of the holy and apostolic Sylvanhood of the Dreamtime, one who in time would become a sylvan priest of the poploe. Ixhúja punched Puîyus several more times in the face, and he caught up her wrists and twisted her away. She kicked at him, and Puîyus bound upwards and landed upon her. For several moments the twins were fighting each other, although they were as silent as possible as they did so, sometimes they were poking each other, and sometimes they were a bit more vociferous as they snarled and growled and struck each other, and around and around they came spilling about, the clockwork wihts drifting out of the Princess’ flavicomous tresses and in their own bebuzzing language urging the children to keep striking one against the other. Puîyus and Ixhúja poked each other a few more times, and were springing upwards and wrestling each other to the ground like a couple of squid cubs frolicking outside of the den, and as the children arose and were slapping and gnawing at each other and hitting the edge of the escritoire, they both looked up at the same time and then unto each other, and blinking told each other the same gestalt, namely, The acolyte didn’t see us! Qìtien hasn’t heard us yet! And at once they let go their grip upon each other and felt a little silly at the fighting spirit that had swelled up within them both, and the clockwork creatures came drifting downwards and were flowing through the layers of the golditresses and nestling themselves for the peradventures for to come.
Ixhúja threw Puîyus down and wrapping her arms about his òfhelail torq drew her face close to his and purred a little in a feline language which meant, Since the acolyte neither sees nor hears us, do you want to start kissing?
Puîyus shook his head in negation for response.
Ixhúja licked Puîyus face a few times and then blinked unto him as if to say, Are you sure you don’t want to steel a few kisses from me, especially since my Sister Éfhelìnye is gone and has no way of knowing?
Puîyus shook his head in negation again.
Just checking, Ixhúja winked at him, and then bounding up she kicked Puîyus a few times in his ribs and came dashing away from the desk. Puîyus drew himself from the deck and saw that Ixhúja was already bounding up the billows and springing up unto the wharves of the ship. He turned and saw that Qìtien was shuffling through some more leaves of papyrus and muttering unto himself all the while and saying – The Emperor is the Lord of Life, his domain is o'er past and present and things to come, and yet at the shores of death his authority ends, just as it does beyond the reachens of the Suns empyrean. Beyond that lie the alliances of Spirit Kind and the ineffable might of the Clan of Ása, the High and Holy Ones who cannot die. – So the acolyte was saying unto himself. Puîyus spun around, he bowed unto the Acolyte his elder even though Qìtien knew not that the gosson was there, for it was the elegant and proper thing to do, and he came spinning away from the buzbin priedieu and soon was clammering up after Ixhúja and landing again upon the higher deck of the ship, sparkles of frost forming all about the bow and pipes and ropes of the resurrected vessel, petals still falling in the ice winds about him.
Puîyus came bounding up upon the highest of the decks and unto kàmpi cabin smadomik glistening of circles and triangles and he saw that the most fantastic lwúnìqte was crawling away from the threshold, its torso was growing several new legs, it was undulating from side to side, its wings were sprawling outwards in a complex series of wire and scales and cape, its head was drawing upwards and ekflapping its gills tsaûneu and it was bleating a little and sighing, for Princess Ixhúja was come to its face and was rubbing its ears and cooing unto it and slowly leading it out from the threshold. Puîyus came slipping up from some of the lower chains, he saw that Ixhúja kept pointing off unto the horizon, in the very same direction wherein the pirates were sending their vessels for to investigate, unto the zone where the smoke was arising in whisps of grey. Puîyus had to duck about, for pirates were still skipping about him and taking up their bandanas and knives and pointing unto where the battle must have been, excitement was dancing in the air, even though the rest of the bucchanneers were remaining within the rainbrella ship to protect the future Empress and the ship. Puîyus ran up unto the threshold, he poked his head right into the cabin and saw that several pirates were still within and were watching Éfhelìnye in her sleep, so calm, so placid she appeared, that for half an heartbeat he almost decided to stay with her rather than venture out for excitement, but the thrill of glory was too great upon him. He came springing out, he saw that upon the edge of the ship the fantabulous ban-yip was waddling upon its angular legs, that Princess Ixhúja was leaping up around its neck and laughing all the while. The lwúnìqte was arising into the air, its wings were beginning to turn and flap, Ixhúja was drawing a sword, she was pointing unto the smokestrewn telbië, she was grinning, her hair was flapping about her, glistening free and golden, and unto Puîyus mind she almost looked a little like a Khyoâr a Flame Maiden such as dwelt within Khmèlte Tetlhákhàyejikh the Halls of the Slain and who ride out with Emperor Eilasaîyan and chose warriors valiant enough to patrol upon the edge of the coronæ of the Suns, so bright and terrible and beautiful she appeared unto him. The lwúnìqte was already fluttering upwards several cubits and arising into the lower free airs, it was soon making its away and overtaking some of the lower skiffs pirateheavy before them, when the mörkö noticed a slight weight upon its ondolous tail, and Ixhúja felt a creeping behind her, and both she and the lwúnìqte saw that arising behind them was a kanípwa a kaŝvojaĝanto a stowaway sitting down and playing with some of his free and indanthrene tresses sorm. Puîyus plunked himself down next to Ixhúja and off they were soaring upwards unto the mystery beyond.
Can’t you get your own fantastic creature? Ixhúja hissed at Puîyus in a deep and subharmonic language partially of purrs and partially of squeals and altogether of her own melody. You just can’t admit that I shall ineluctably beat you in the race.
One already found one’s own fantastic lwúnìqte, so Puîyus sighed in response. He drew out his hands and began to create some symbols and glyphs and signs as if to say, We both shall honor the Ancestors of our people, the sons of Sweqhàngqu and the daughters of Ifhrúri, all the children of Khiêro by serving the Emperor and protecting his daughter and investigating the battle fought upon the smoke horizon.
That sounds like something a sylvan priest would say, so Ixhúja was blinking and murmuring, or even a juiltènthe sannyasin who seeketh pyùjern the machine ghosts. It almost sounds a little like something Éfha would say.
Puîyus made a curious sound. Ixhúja scratched one of her ears and wondered, Indeed, indeed she has a saying, doesn’t she? Something about honoring the first language. Was it it again?
Puîyus muttered some sighs and sounds in a rather musical voice, and in Ixhúja’s mind they were welltranslated into the murmurs of words, even unto Fhúrathine ker Khlìjha qoe púr túxing! May’st thou honor Ülpük Väpük Fairy Language by creating words! It was certainly something that Princess Éfhelìnye had quod from time to time, although it did not quite seem apropos in this particular situation. But neither Puîyus nor Ixhúja considered themselves to be philosophers, even if Puîyus grew to be wizen’d and long of beard fhliêyuqei lombardic, not even if Ixhúja ventured for three generations unto the xájhas the holy warrior pilgrimage and mastered the way of battle and feud and fansword. The winds were blasting up about them all, the lwúnìqte was sniffling a little and crying khmàryor khmàryor khmàryor as it came spinning around the skiffs that the pirates were employing. The tàlkhi jitneys were spreading outwards, in some of them were the Kurkuîlo lifting up their claws and tossing up their bandanas and waving unto the children as they passed, soon the lwúnìqte was passing above the fiacres where the Khnenyènwa and Xhmaûmumum were crowded together, they were eager to see what lay beyond the horizon of asteroids, but seeing the lwúnìqte’s spinning about them they could do naught by bounce up a little and laugh, and upon the highest of the caiques were the Fhlùltekh balancing upon their tripedal legs, Captain Euqliîna was in the forefront and was waving all four of his arms, and the captain reached up unto the suŋauraaq feathery about his head and was trying to reach unto his captain hat so as to wave it to the children, but no matter how he scrambled for it he found the cap not at all, but Puîyus was reaching unto his head and holding up the cap that the Captain had lent unto him and shook it in exaultation, and the Captain and all of the rest of the pirates just cried out all the louder, and the lwúnìqte outpaced them all, its wings all aflutter ablurr aglow beyond the boats builded by the hands and tendrils and wings of mortal man.
And so it came to pass that the pirate naves became just a slight murmur behind the children, and the lwúnìqte descended untowards the asteroids, soon it was skimming upon the outer gravitational waves of the izarraide, and waves of atmosphere golden and bright flew about the creature and the two mortal children holding unto its neck, and Ixhúja was chuckling a little to herself, she almost felt like crying out in laughter and bouncing upon the back of the creature as it danced down throughout the reaming skies of the asteroids, and Puîyus felt slightly less grave, he even let himself glow with a slight melancholy smile, not a full smile, but just enough to lighten him a little. Asteroidal skies enveloped them all, the lwúnìqte came swirling down through clouds of slight green and pink, and springing up before the gaze of the children appeared a world of dead trees and broken fungoids, a world completely gefilled of chasms drifting with dust, a world whose ground was all the bones of soil, a world completely dark and failing. The children looked back, the clouds above them were breaking apart, visions of cheerier colors fading, pinks and greens getting lost before the ground all of brown and grey and black. The lwúnìqte was hovering above the surface, it was darting from side to side like a great overgrown gnat, the children were crowding about its neck and they almost felt as if they could see through the dead trees, the crumbling archways of stone, the slight ruinations of bridge that had once resided within this world. The lwúnìqte was turning and following the whisps of smoke flowing out from the side of the world, it had no desire to remain here in the shadows colorless. It swerved unto itself and let the worlds spin around aneath it, the blur of the ground, the leagues upon leagues of dark wastes unto the children’s eyen revealed themselves to be ruins of utterly ancient age, ruins of some civilization so utterly ancient that the children could not even guess its name and shape and form, all they could discern was the slight outline of what had once been walls and pipes and burgs but which long ago the forest had reclaimed, and layers of soot ashque fallen upon, and then somewhere upon the crumbling smokestrewn horizon, a battle had been waged even upon this very day. For a time the children just sailed within the ruins, great globes gaping before them, the vague outline of colosea and warships of a distal age, and then all at once the battle opened itself before their gaze, the ruins of what was left after the battle wrath.
The Children saw before them nothing but fields of bodies, the bodies of thousands of warriors who must have fallen within this very hour, and with a sense of expectancy they looked up into the streams of clouds and knew that crows and blackbirds and jays and ravens were fluttering somewhere within them, although the carrion eaters were not yet descending to bask in the glory of slaughter. The lwúnìqte did not remain long in any single place, it was swimming above the fields where the bodies of Qhíng and Kháfha and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu all lay entwined together. The litches were shattered, the weapons were broken, Qhíng and Qlùfhem lay dead even in a moment of strangling each other, Kháfha and Thùlwu were tumbling about each other, their spears impaling each other, the combatants all dead in a single strike. The scope of the jekekajùqya the senjō the battlefield was far larger than the lapsi had imagined afore, they could see that a thousand warships of the peoples had all converged upon this place, most of the living ships had lacerated each other with beams and flames and bechoked one another with long unraveling chains, and the living ships were drawn down unto the ruins of this alien zone, and out had come the soldiers to wage combat khàkhar. The children saw fallen banners of the various classes of the Qèlreqakh Caste of the Qhíng, they saw the shattered flowers and artistic weapons of the Qlùfhem trampled beneath their own bodies, they saw the Kháfha caught up with their own swashbucklent sword, their armor gleaming black here in a colorless world where only the mörkö and blue Puîyus and golden Ixhúja lent color, and they saw the Thùlwu tumbling about, body against body, sad and forgotten and crushed beneath chariot and pack dinosaur and wheel. The children had both been welltrained in the arts of war, they were able to see a little the falling of the corses and guess a little the structure of this battle. They thought that the Qhíng and the Kháfha must have come together, their great cadlongs must have joined forces somewhere within the turning asteroids high within the northron wastes, and the forces of the Aûm had arisen in a different direction, the Aûm living ships were smaller and sleeker and had come dashing outwards in many directions, for after all the Aûm volk had the reputation of being kìkhma, of being stragglers, scatterlingry ciψans wandering world fro world to, the Kháfha had set out some of chattering probes, they had seeded these asteroids, they had tried to see all that lay hidden in these realms. And yet at some time, although both of the great forces had set their vessels sneaking about the other, although the Qhíng and Kháfha alliance and the Aûm Brotherhood were spying upon each other and watching each other watch the other, but at some time they had clashed and the great fields of black and brown and grey were all left of this mighty battle. The lwúnìqte was surging upwards. Ixhúja and Puîyus leaned against its ears, they were wondering how exactly the battle had begun, who had struck first, perhaps the Qhíng had urged the Kháfha to fire their first volleys high in the heavens, perhaps the Aûm had set some of their forbidden mines throughout the skies and tricked the Qhíng into chasing after them, and so set all of the wolcen aglistenent. Or perhaps the battle had all begun of its own accord, the Qhíng and the Aûm were so zealous to fallen upon each other that the moment that antennæ sniffed and eyestalk swivelled, the two mighty forces of vessels had clashed, and the bodies came spilling downwards unto this colorless world. The lwúnìqte dashed upwards about the chasms, the shattered hills were even more crowded with bodies than the plains, the wounded land was gaping a little and gasping with soot and heat, bodies falling into it, the lwúnìqte skipped upwards above some of the tangled hillocks of bodies, some of the Qhíng were so mangled that their skulls were split open and their brains rilled down in great pools, some of the Aûm were split open with their torso split open from their sphere legs all the way up to their celia, bits of exoskeleton and bones shattered and even from this distance the children could smell a little the taste of Qhíng xhmaûng and Aûm blood. With a single mind both of the children looked upwards, the clouds crumbling about them, with a single mind, the clouds beckoning unto them. Their eyen were narrowing, they were sensing the movement of raven wings, they looked down unto the fields of untouched bodies, and wondered whyever it was that the œf that feast upon khyèka the carrion food of raven should chance to leave these fields alone. Puîyus and Ixhúja looked one to another, they had no answer to this riddle, and the nameless possibilities in this oppressive and colorless world was filling them with dread.
The lwúnìqte arose upon new dreamlands of the battlefield, and at first the children could see just a little hint of movement, the dead winds flowing about the whisp of banner and ribbon of armor, but as the fantabulous creature came deeper within, the children could see that something else drifted within the deadlands. The lwúnìqte was slowing, it also could feel the weight of something horrible within this land, something just at the edge of imagination. Several shadows were rustling about the bodies, from a distance the shadows looked a little like conglomerations of legs walking among the dead, and as the children came forwards they could see that slight bodies were glowing from the shadow legs, long and wavering tentacles drifting from side to side and brushing through the heads and shoulders and eyestalks of the fallen. Some of the shadows were especially tall and angular, they were like shadow trees, and the tentacles flowing down from them were incredible masses of darkness seeping into the eyen and wounds and blood, some of the shadows were scurrying up the side of the cliffs, they were clammering about the bodies and sucking at the broken heads and bones, some of the shadows were coming unto the edge of the desolation and merging one into the other and becoming greater shadows, while other shadows were finding themselves utterly lost within the immeasurable fields of shattered ship and tumbling winds and broken body, the shadows were becoming like wavelings and were breaking apart and flowing about them all. A few of the shadows were lifting up their heads.or at least great twisting whorls that reminded the children a little of heads, the shadow visages were turning and revealing gapes that could have been eyen, or at least long streams of smoke which culd have been the wounds of eyen or noses or mouths or ears or almost anything at all. All shadows and wounds were the wights fluttering among the dead, Puîyus had the rather uncomfortable memory of being upon his Father’s plantation and harvesting maize and wheat and potatoes, the shadows were walking among the dead and drawing their umbrage bodies about them in just such a fashion. The lwúnìqte veered away, it was in no mood to bring the children untowards the shadow wihts, and yet as it arose and began fluttering outwards in different directions upon the evergrowing battlefields, it was learning that there was now no place within all of the asteroid worlds where the shadows were not approaching. Some of the shadows were shooting themselves up a little like arrows, while others were blobbing together in great and flowing amœbic waves, they were drifting about the shattered living ships and licking the faces of the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm alike, the lwúnìqte surged upwards into the air, its trunk lifting upwards and trying to taste its way through a path of safety, the children were looking from side to side and saw that the oily clouds were dripping down upon them, great splashes of darkness crumbling upon the bodies, everything flowing outwards higher and deeper, it was almost as if the children had been plucked out of the real worlds and set into one all of lightless horror heavy against them, as if all of the air were being drawn out and replaced with ash, it was as if here in the Emperor’s wasteland there were shadows far worse than merely falling in battle most glorious. And in the descending oil darkness the children could almost feel the shadow wounds reaching outwards to grasp their spleens.
Puîyus remained utterly still, he was a stalagmite growing about the neck of the most fantastic lwúnìqte who was arising and trying to find a way for them to flee from the great shadows reaching outwards unto him. The mörkö however began to quaver a bleat a little, and Puîyus brushed against the ears of the beast and reaching o'er ran his hands about its gills and rubbed its face and kissed its feathers several times, so anxious was the great beast becoming, so great were the shadows that were arising unto all sides of them. And yet the lwúnìqte could feel in its coralline bones that slow and growing eldritch horror that was coming untowards them all. One of Puîyus’ hands was reaching out unto the scabbard at his belt, the sétlha, the double set of glass swords which faithful Fhèlkhur, his Mother’s housecarl had commissioned for him the heir the last son of the Sweqhàngqu when he was still a tiny infantling. Puîyus’ eyen were bright and sharp, he looked to Ixhúja, she kept looking from side to side, and the walls of the darkness arising about them were hissing, and she was shaking her hands and hissing a little in respone. Some of the splashes wide-umbraged and twining were splashing up o'er the edge of a great field choked in its own ash and dust, the field completely tangled with the fallen bodies of the Qhíng and Kháfha and the Aûm and the dark creatures were walking all about them and sending down their harvesting feelers and setting palms upon the dead. Ixhúja began to shudder a little. Several of the dark creatures were turning around, they were turning their faceless faces towards the children and gazing at them with their bodies that reflected not a feature at all. More and more of these carrion beings were appearing, dripping out from the oceanry and the fluent oil clouds. Puîyus looked to Ixhúja, he tapped the glass swords at his bauldric a few times in an effort to reassure her that he would protect her. Ixhúja just shuddered all the more. Puîyus was not used to seeing her affected by gathering shadows, he had seen Ixhúja hurl herself against wild beasts and wilder machines and armies of fell men, and yet the snarlent carrion crowds, insubstantial and looming was filling her with a great dread. Puîyus reached out unto the leathern scabbard that lay at his belt and pointed unto the glistening dragon brand that lay there, irrational numbers and flame drifting through it, and he blinked a few times and told her in their own private language saying, The revered Emperor’s honor’d blade will surely fend off these shadows, or at least buy us time to escape. We have come and already accomplished our task, there are no wounded living for us to rescue, only the dead, and nothing more of interest to learn within this tsuntanisòkhtii cemetery. We shall leave now, and if these shadows try to do battle with us, we shall give them such war as will cause all monsters to quake for the ten thousand generations.
Ixhúja bowed her head before him and purred a little to say, It would be a great honor for us to die side by side in combat, for us to sell our lives dearly to defend my beloved cousin Princess Éfhelìnye.
The lwúnìqte was rearing up a little, it was trying to arise o'er a wall formed of thousands of fallen litches of Qhíng and Aûm well intangled, but as it arose several of the shadow creatures were leaping up towards it and spreading out wings all of tendril darkness, and the fantastic lwúnìqte shouted and almost fell o'er, but Puiyus crawled back to its head and soothed it a little and its wings continued to arise and buzz and seek away to escape from the descending fog. Be thou not afraid, my friend, Puîyus was whispering unto it in a most fantastical tounge. I shall be with you, even until the end of my life.
It is best for a warrior to die in glorious battle, Ixhúja was purring unto herself, and she slipped down beside Puîyus. The creatures descend all about her, soon we shall have to fight them.
One would rather that you not die, Puîyus whispered unto her in a slight and murmuring language, the sound of it was a little like knives and swords bescraping against each other. Sharp, terrible, bitter your death would be for beloved Princess Éfhelìnye, even if there be the possibility of resurrection for you.
The creatures were splashing up around several long and winding ruins of broken warships. The lwúnìqte tried again to arise, great archways of darkness were looping downwards and crumbling about what had once been mast towers and great turrets whereupon the blossom of the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm alike had fought and died together. Several of the shadow creatures were wading through the bodies, they were still intent upon surrounding the lwúnìqte and were curious about its cargo, and yet they were also drifting about the bodies one by one and resting their palms upon the brows of the dead, and the children could only wonder at that. The lwúnìqte tried to arise again, and long tendrillar ropes of darkness were splashing outwards and licking at the insectoid legs of the ban-yip and dragging it downwards, and Puîyus came slipping down the legs and just at his approach the shadows were disappating about him, the carrion creatures remaining far below and hissing at the children who were trying to escape the pervasive horror. Puîyus drew himself up back to the neck of the creature, the lwúnìqte was trying to arise again, but the clouds were covering all of the heavens, and the clouds were made up of thousands of these shadowy creatures descending and bleeding downwards.
Princess Ixhúja looked upwards and could see nothing but the coming ghilan darkness. She tugged upon Puîyus’ damasked sleeve just to get his attention and pointed unto the descending negative horror she murmured unto him and clicked a few times, as if to say, My beloved Twin, oh Feral Child Játanikh, please grant me a boon, especially if it is our doom to die within these slades of the dead.
Puîyus nodded unto her, he knew how to repress fear and not to let it escape unto his face, and he knew that Ixhúja did not quite have that skill, perhaps her growing up alone with only clockwork creatures and thralls who do not quite have all of the humors of zoetic creatures had made it difficult for her to understand her own emotions, while Puîyus had grown up having to contend with his rather rambunctions Sisters and Cousins and his Elders and the Priests and Monks who had taken him in and Grandfather Pátifhar who had trained him with a stern hand, and Abbá Íngìkhmar who was the perfect stoic paragon of knightlihood. Puîyus lifted up both of his hands to her in a sign of peace, he wished for her to be comfortable, even as the darkness was creeping about them all, and told he her in a private language of hisses and clicks saying, Anything will I thee grant, my beloved Twin, without question, for after all, you did beat me fairly in our last martial contest, and as reward I have to grant you wantever you desire, but even if you had not won, nothing can I deny you.
Yes, I did conquer you, but we can discuss that later, Ixhúja began to purr and click.
I was not conquered, the Son of Íngìkhmar cannot be conquered.
I conquered you.
Was there a boon I could grant you?
Éfhelìnye conquers you all that time, that makes her more powerful than any warrior or army or foe or monster or dæmon or dragon.
May I do something for you?
My request is simple. If we should fall together in battle, for one of us were to fall both of us would, I cannot conceive of it in any other way, I would ask you to aid me in the Netherworld, that is, if I am not born again within the crystalline light and wheels of my Father’s alchemies. In the Undergloom I shall be alone and friendless, I have no Ancestors to claim me. I beg that in death you can find me an home.
Puîyus gazed into Ixhúja’s large eyen, they were especially vulnerable and liquidic, winedark they were glistening, murmurs of ice and glacier and sea sky flickering within the vitrious layers of it. Puîyus took her hands and squeazed them. The lwúnìqte was roaring about them, it was trying to fend off the approach of several shadowy hills besplashing it, but the attack did not last long, the shadows were more curious than parlous as of yet, even though the lwúnìqte was growing frantic in an attempt to find means of escape. Puîyus patted Ixhúja’s hands a few times and mewed unto her a few times, and she understood it to mean, I am the very last Son of the glorious, weorÞfull, and altogether ay-elegant War Clan of the Sweqhàngqu, in death I shall see to it that the Ancestors grant you the respect you deserve. When you reach the nethershore, you shall be neither alone nor cold nor friendless, but embraced by the loving hosts of generations.
Ixhúja reached out an hand to touch Puîyus’ cheek. She enjoyed the feel of his face, it reminded her of the soft flowers that once grew within her Father’s biomechanical garths. Perhaps if we survive this, it would be best if we arrange a formal relationship between us, something which the Ancestors will be forced to honor, so Ixhúja was purring unto him. Perhaps when we finally return to civilization, we should consider with careful thought the advise that Qìtien gave me, that I become one of your concubines, the Ancestors will have to acknowledge one of your junior brides, won’t they?
Puîyus was certainly not used to Ixhúja’s placing her hand on his petal cheek, so he took her hand and placed it down in her lap and mewed unto her to say, It may be best if I ask Abbá Íngìkhmar formerly to adopt you as his Daughter, than we can be foster siblings in fact. I am unsure as to whether the priests will accept your relationship to the Princess, but ritual fosterage they surely will.
Or I could be your concubine, Ixhúja purred.
One would think sister would surfice.
I can be Éfhelìnye’s sister. Ixhúja placed her hand again upon Puîyus’ face softer than dewstrewn petals. She and I walk side by side, but you and I compete and fight. I could be a concubine to make you proud.
Sister is a good idea.
Mayhap we can discuss this later.
Of course, my beloved twin, oh Son begotten of Raven.
The lwúnìqte cried out a few more times, it was trying to swerve in one direction, but the walls of darkness were drifting up about it. Puîyus set Ixhúja’s hand away from him, it was confusing enough with Ixhúja’s sometimes fighting him, sometimes being nice to him, and always trying to best him, she was utterly complex. He slipped down about the ban-yip’s neck and cooed unto it and tried to keep the creature calm, but Ixhúja was able to read a little the confusion in Puîyus’ movements, and she slipped up next to him and purred a little to tell him, You must think that we Princesses cause all this trouble, don’t you? Neither Éfha nor I can help ourselves. Just think how dull your life would have been if you had not met us both, how dull your battles would have been without a Princess or two to muddle your life.
Puîyus bound up about the gills of the most fantabulous creature and drawing out his green and glassen swords waved them from side to side to threaten the gathering shadows, and they did back off a little, but not too much, they were still flowing about the bodies and wondering about the glass and the light and the gossoon warrior lad and the creature of pure heart and the virgin princess who had trapsed into the domain of the corpses. The lwúnìqte tried to hiss in a threatening manner against the shadows, but the beast just blurred and sighed and bleated a few times, and the shadows turned and giggled one to another and were not entirely impressed.
Puîyus seathed the swords, the shadows were not quite retreating, the clouds of the creatures were not parting to make a way safe for them. Ixhúja hopped up beside Puîyus and crossing her arms purred unto him to ask, Is the story I hear about you true, that when you were in training to become a warrior of your people that you especially liked spending your time as an acolyte, in meditation and study and ritual?
That is true, so Puîyus told her in a few elegant gestures.
So at once time Qìtien was doing what you did.
I was an acolyte of a very junior rank, I was in training to be a warrior, that requires a great deal of religious education, although not the type that takes one from one’s birth caste.
Do you think you could really have been happy entering the priesthood, assuming that your Father had another Son or so to take his place, if you had the chance to become one of the sylvans.
One does not think of such things, one only thinks of honoring one’s Clan and protecting the Princess.
That’s the point, do you really think you could have been happy married to the sylvanhood, when I always see you defending maidens, especially princesses. It is conceivable that you could have been a priest of your people, you enjoy the rituals, but they are not your blood, combat is, and being with princesses.
The lwúnìqte bleated a few more times and flapped its ears, it had become part of Puîyus’ thoughts and memories, and it thought that Puîyus should always be in the presence of a princess or two, but neither Puîyus nor Ixhúja were particularly paying attention to the most wonderous boon-yip at this moment, as it struggled to arise through heavens filled with darkness incarnate.
Forgive me my rudeness, but why must you speak of such topics at the moment? asked Puîyus in several furious and serious blushes and blinks and glances. One does not think of hypothetical situations, only duty.
It’s just, the priesthood is not part of your blood, that’s all, it’s princesses. And you really should be married to at least one, I would think, if not more, Ixhúja was glancing and blinking and blushing in his direction. One must face the combat of reality, that is all that I’m saying.
Several whisps of shadows arising tall and gaunt and skeletal about the ban-yip, and it murmured and swung its trunk through them several times, its rostrum was transforming a little into the shape of a lroâ or xhàfhle or tsàmpa or pinánxhe harpoon shovel guzimsome striking from side to side, it struck against the growing ghilan shadows drifting upwards, and they dispursed just a little.
Puîyus was trying to turn away from Ixhúja, there was nothing else to discuss at this point, as far as he could think of it, but she tapped him a few times on his shoulders, and once she had his attention, her bright and shining face alerted him to the fact that ideas were shimmering within her, and she purred unto him to tell him, There is quite a simple and elegant solution that will solve all of your problems, although you’re just going to protest and tell me that you have no problems, but I must beg to disagree, you have cosmoi of problems upon your strong and beautiful shoulders. There is quite an easy way for you to marry as many princesses as you want and still enjoy the rituals of the flamenhood, you can still become an aníletsaqokhùsqi ragam, a jètlhom kolscanz, a pùrthair borb, a priest, kUgau, sagairtín, but among the juîle, the mendicant class among the Khnìnthans.
Puîyus was waving his hands through the gathering tendrils of smoke, he was trying to keep his back away from Ixhúja, for he had no intention of discussing princessly complications in his life, but he choked a little to hear the gestalt of her latest suggestion. He turned unto her and coughed – !! –. He blinked a few times in shock, and no language, be it of Immortal or wild beast or dream could have found a suitable frame for his dismay.
One simply brings up the idea that you become a juiltènthe, an Khnìnthan … Ixhúja began, but Puîyus, quick, abrupt, rude, slipped up to her and blinked as if to say, Dare you suggest that I become an Heretic!
Ixhúja shrugged. This way, as a qtorèngothe, a nefied, a remontados, a ġedwolmann, as an Heretic, as a Priest of the Heresy you can marry a couple of Princesses, gather up an harīm for yourself, still perform the rituals you love so … Ixhúja stopped. Puîyus’ face was becoming far whiter and colder than she had seen it before. He stopped blinking or breathing as far as she could see. She leaned towards him, she could hear that his heart had stopped. She looked to the lwúnìqte and shrugged to it. She turned back to Puîyus. She leaned her head against his chest and found, in sooth, that his heart was completely still. She poked his chest a couple of times. At last the heart shuddered into a beat. Puîyus blinked. For half that eyeblink, Ixhúja was not sure whether it was such a good idea for her to be standing so close to him, and for the other half of the eyeblink she slipped away from him.
Heresy! Puîyus spat out to her in growls and snarls.
I’m sure being an heretic can be very fun, Ixhúja purred unto him. So many of the Southron realms are heretics, and you get along well with me …
Clockwork Heresy! Puîyus’ eyen were bulging a little. But I don’t even like machines!
You can get used to them! Anyway, I’m just trying to figure out a way for you to solve your problems, or situations, or issue as you may see it. No one is suggesting that emerse yourself in machine oil and start crawling around the sampo engines of the floating machines, all that I say is that it seems very difficult for the Winter Imperium to force its young men to choose between marrying beautiful loving warm Princesses and becoming a priest. But as an Khnìnthan you can have it both ways.
Heresy! Puîyus’ knees were wobbling together. He forgot how to breathe. Ixhúja reached up to steady him, she had no intention of having him roll down the side of this fantastical creature, especially as the shadows continued to gather about them. The lwúnìqte was doing its best to fend them off, but the shadows were sprawling upwards and reaching up for them again.
Ixhúja saw that Puîyus was about to start falling backwards, she had to wrap her arms about his shioulders to keep him and and walk him up unto the head of the creature. She saw that his face was glowing pink, she thought she could see the shadow of a white scar about his brow, although that might have just been the light struggling through the gathering darkness. She reached into her pocket and drew out a quetzal fan and began to fan him a little, she was wishing she had not brought up this topic, and yet her solution seemed so obvious to her, she did not quite understand why Puîyus had not been giving it serious consideration before. She knelt down beside him and fanned him all the harder and added, Forgive me, I do not mean to upset you, that is the farthest from my intention. And yet I could easily see you happy as a priest of the moon people. You met Syeîteko the High Priest and his son Treîtel, and their lives were not so very different to those of the youth of the Empire, save the Priests had their own families rather than being children of the Empress. I could see you in some of the palasides in our great machine cities, your little children scampering about the clockweyth garths, you arise to enjoin services in the temple, clouds of incense billowing around you, and princess wives to serve you. This is all very elegant.
Puîyus arose. Several of the dark shadows were drifting about the lwúnìqte, strange beings flowing about and ready to harvest them all, and Puîyus was in mood to discuss the Heresy even within his Twin Sister, he was ready to fight and make their way back to the Princess and warn the pirates to stay away from these infested planetoids. He turned to Ixhúja and mewed unto her to say, One shall never even consider becoming part of the Heresy, the children of the Moons waste their dreamlands to build their machines, they even ruin their own forests and plantimals and beasts to feed their clockwork. Íngìkhmar’s Son shall always honor the Ancestors, and the commandments of Jaràqtu.
Does that mean that you shall reveal unto your Ancestors a bride of your people, appropriate unto the glory of the Sweqhàngqu, so Ixhúja asked him in purrs and pokes.
I am heir to the Sweqhàngqu, they must see the wisdom of my choice. I am not Khnìnthan, there is nothing of Khnìntha in me, neither their machines nor cannals nor …
Except for that side of the family, descended from Ifhrúri, Khiêro’s third daughter, his fifth child, the first Queen from whom the Grand Khlaînator was descended, as well as Princess Aiyísei Kàliil and cute, cute Qlenólakh with her shimmering green hair, and me of course.
I am no Heretic! Puîyus pointed unto himself. Pariah Heretics are those who turn their back on the Emperor and the love he grants unto all people freely and openly and with great prodigal arms.
Aren’t you the one leading the War to topple the Emperor from his heavenly throne and marry his Daughter to start a new dynasty?
I am in service to the Emperor and in filial piety to the Ancestors, I shall restore Jaràqtu unto its great glory, I shall make the Warrior Clan Sweqhàngqu thrive, and the Emperor will reward me for aiding him in blessing all the land.
Ixhúja blinked. She was riant. She was grinning that smile that Puîyus was coming to recognize meant that she believed she had won the argument. She leaned o'er towards Puîyus and purred into his ear, in her own private languagee to mean, Puîyos?
Puîyos? May I call you Puîye? No, I don’t like that. Puîyus?
Puîyus growled all the louder.
May I tell you something, Ixhúja purred into his ear.
Puîyus crossed his arms.
Ixhúja leaned close and purred whispering, Thou, Íngìkhmar’s Son, Puîyos of Jaràqtu, defier of the Ancestors, rebel against the Crystalline Throne, descendent of both Sweqhàngqu and Ifhrúri, art the greatest qtorèngothe, the greatest Selenite Heretic e'er to have lived since the dawn of time. And at that she spun away from him and began skipping about the back and the fluttering wings of the lwúnìqte. Puîyus’ eyen bulged. He jumped upwards and began chasing after her, he could not possibly let her get away with that conclusion, he was Puîyus after all, quiet and obedient and pious and not at all an heretic. Ixhúja slipped about the beating wings, the lwúnìqte was rearing up again, this time the shadow creatures were tumbling about them, and the beings were arising tall and sepulchral arising. Ixhúja skipped behind the wight’s left wing, Puîyus came sliding about, he tried to catch Ixhúja by her arms and the swinging of her sleeves, but she just slipped about the wing and stuck out her tounge at him and came bouncing about the back all the fater, she jumped about the rustling dance of the gills, it was as if she and Puîyus had somehow generated a spontaneous game of qlòfheqhe of Qlùfhem tig tag, and if he could just catch her, she would have to confess that he were not an Heretic in fact, but a true Son of the Empire. Ixhúja bounced upwards, she was skipping about the right wing now, Puîyus was trying to slip ahead of her and head her off, but she was already bouncing around in a perfect sommersault and jumping back unto the head of the creature.
Puîyus growled. His voice was deep and still and steady, he only had one thing to tell her, it shoud be easy to say, I am not an Heretic.
Ixhúja thrust her head from side to side to say, Yes you are!
Puîyus lunged to grab her. I don’t even know how clockwork works, so how can I be one, he tried to ask her.
Being a Moon Child is far more than just machines, it is a struggle, and yours, despite what you may believe of yourself, is a struggle against the Winter Patriarchy, Ixhúja was laughing at him and clicking. I don’t think that I’m the one you need to be convincing.
Puîyus caught Ixhúja and shook her a little to tell her, I serve and honor and love Emperor Kàrijoi.
Ixhúja just smiled at him. Of course, that’s why you’re trying to replace him. She tried to punch Puîyus aside, but he was grasping her ankles and keeping her down, they struggled against each other, and she managed to slip up a little and purr to him saying, So are you going to start tickling me again? Haply you’ll tickle me until I confess that you are indeed an harmless, obedient, dutiful citizen of the Empire.
Ixhúja managed to slip away, and Puîyus chased her in little circles about the winds of the frantic, empanicked lwúnìqte, as the khmìmu ghilan were slippende upwards and reaching outwards unto the children. Puîyus launched himself up against Ixhúja and shoved her down, and she laughed all the harder to tell her, Fine, fine, I confess that you love the Emperor and want nothing to do with all of our big and terrible machines, even though you ride clockwork trains and clockwork trolleys and wind your clockwork clocks and even have springs and gears in girdles and lockets et cet et cet. Fine. You are Íngìkhmar’s Son, pious et al.
Puîyus nodded, good, it was good to be righteous.
Ixhúja lift did up an hand and tapped her chin a few times and added in a feline language to say, Then I take it that you’ll be honoring the Ancestors any day now and marrying a Jaràqtun maiden and bringing up children in the ways of your people.
Puîyus blinked a few times. Perhaps I can have Abbá foster Éfhelìnye into our family, then she shall be Sweqhàngqu. But then again, it is impossible for one of Xhelkhajàkhta the Divine Pwéru House of the Sun to leave that family …
Ixhúja reached up and tickled Puîyus in the place where his torc and neck met, and he swayed away from her and giggled a little dispite himself. Ixhúja bound up and wondered, This family is getting far too confusing, I’m not sure unto whom I’m related now, nor how Éfhelìnye is related unto either of us half the time. Perhaps if you become Emperor, it would be best if you marry both me and Éfhelìnye, it will unite the Pwéru and the Heresy into a single dynasty and heal the schism, plus it will leave the Sweqhàngqu of Jaràqtu dominant in the age to come. Feel free to ignore the advice I am only an khwiníka, a heathen who is machine-fain. Puîyus bound away, but Ixhúja still jumped up and tickled him a little, and they ran around chasing each other until they forgot why they had even started, and the lwúnìqte was screaming out all the louder, for the creatures were falling upon them all.
The shadow forms were upon them all, they were drifting upwards with their suckers and tendrils, they were wrapping them about the lwúnìqte, and at once Puîyus and Ixhúja realized the waves of shadow were grasping at them, and that there pathway at all was afforded unto them, and the creatures were turning about in their harvest of the dead and regarded the children with their faceless visages. And Ixhúja remembered just how unhealthy it was to dwell too much among the Dead. Puîyus motioned for her to come behind him, and he drew out the glistening and sun fire eilwiyusàrti the Dragon Sword of plasma and unrational numberment, the token that the Emperor had granted unto him, and at the flickers of Kàrijoi’s light, the beings began to back off just a little.
And all at once Puîyus realized what the creatures were, walking among the Dead, they were not shadows, they were not carrion eaters, they were Monsters quailing before the sunlight, they were creatures whose wight imagine he had beheld in picture books and of whom dark tales were spoken at night to frighten children into obedience. Puîyus swung his sword from side to side, bursts of white and golden light were flowing up and down the side of the sword, rubescent numbers were bleeding out from the surface of it, long orbs of light were slowly arising up the surface of the brand blossoming in sferics and tweeks, flashes of sun shadow were sparkling, and wherever the flairs appeared the monsters were backing away a little. These creatures were the monsters that dwell just at the edge of death, they drip down from tombstone and steeple, they are beings of heaviness and shadow, they are not mortal nor living creatures, they are the khmìmu, the ghilan, and they were harvesting the edge of death.
Puîyus swung his sword around. The khmìmu were walking among the broken Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm, many of the khmìmu remained high in the heavens, they were the clouds that were keeping the lwúnìqte prisoned within the battlefields, others were swirling about the beast and reaching out unto it, but many of the khmìmu were content with their primary tasks of honor among those who had fallen in the horrors of battle. Princess Ixhúja tapped Puîyus a few more times on his shoulder and pointed unto where several of the khmìmu were gathering in their flow about the fallen warriors of the qèlreqakh caste among the Kèlor Masters, for the khmìmu were fluttering as tall and skeletal creatures, gnarled as trees, and without any faces at all, their tendrils wered dripping downwards unto the face of one fallen Qhíng warrior, and all at once the head of the khmìmu refected that Qhíng’s face, it was revealing eyen and quetzal beard, and then it became a swirl of images, it was the exploding of living ships and the sound of the falling of one’s cater-friends and the impact of impaling spear into one’s flesh. The khmìmu walked unto several other dead Qhíng, their tentacles were snaking about the beak of one and the shattered skull of another and the smashed eye sockets of a third, and the Khmìmu were reflecting what it felt like to have swords thrust into one, to fall down from a burning vessel, to leap upwards before Aûm warriors and give one’s life to save a friend, the Khmìmu were flooding outwards in greater numbers, for the taste of these last moments was especially sweet nto their senses, the Khmìmu tendrillar and drifting were turning unto Puîyus and Princess Ixhúja, the bulbous and arboreal heads of the ghūls were reflecting Qhíng marching out into battle, but it was not the view of someone from without watching the ēoreds of the Qhíng, but the view that the Qhíng had of themselves from their own ebon eyen, and these visions were flashing from the visage of one Khmìmu unto the next, others of the Khmìmu were spinning around and sucking up the very last thoughts of some of the elite Qháma warriors, their heads were all become sunset and flame and light, they were the Qhíng riding upon their great beetloid beasts of burdhenry. Ixhúja poked Puîyus again and drew his attention unto where the Khmìmu were flowing about the Kháfha swasbucklers, but only Puîyus could guess what was happening, from the stories he had been told about these monsters, the Khmìmu were feeding off of the last horrific moments of those who been slain in battle and not received proper burial rites, and Puîyus bristle brustled at the thought, to be unburried, uninterred by the hands of one’s beloveds, the Khmìmu were drinking in thoughts of death and horror and of dying without the honor of one’s clan. The Khmìmu were coming upon the Kháfha, the bodies of the ghilan were sprouting up with great crowns of flesh and shadow, they were scintillant to gaze with the sight of swordsmasters finding themselves surrounded by many Thùlwu at once, to be caught up with nets and struck with hooks, the Khmìmu were dancing around, their tentacles were dripping down into the shattered chests and wings of those who had once been great fighters among the Kháfha, the tentacles and flesh were merging together, and the Khmìmu were harvesting the utter despair of the dead. Puîyus and Ixhúja both felt the wanhope as the ghouls were migrating about the Dead, the shattered battlefield and the warships strewn unto all sides. The Khmìmu that came unto the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were sparkling with many different visions, the bodies of the Khmìmu were glancing out as if they could see either with the single quite versatile eyestalk of the Qlùfhem or the evertwinent bushes of eyetalks that the Thùlwu have, and the ghilan were reflecting the last sight of those who had been struck with knives and rended apart with sharp whip-brands or who had found themselves trapped by the cunning of the Kháfha, and so it was that the Khmìmu in their great tendrillar clouds were flowing about the tens of thousands dead in the battle of dust and ash in the asteroid wreathes.
Puîyus bowed his head and then lifting up his arms in an orans position of prayer turned unto Ixhúja and whispered in a language of despair and waves and bleating as if to say, Great is the shame for a warrior to die and for his body to be food for crows and ravens, but greater is it to remain unburied here in the wilderness where such fiends as these can touch them and tamper with their final memories. They harvest deathknells as if they were fruit.
It is none of our concern, Princess Ixhúja purred unto him. The fate of these warriors should not fret us, there are none for us to save here, we must warn the pirates and the Princess.
It is indelicate that these men should remain unburried, Puîyus murmured unto her.
Their myriads are many. The monsters arise against us. We must deliver the ailing princess my cousin unto someone who can help her.
We can at least scatter some dust upon them and whisper some words.
One can hope that this involve a battle.
Just a little dust, just a few words.
The ghouls are arising against us. Hold up your sword. They fear it.
Well they should, it belongs unto the Emperor.
Are you planning on returning it to him, before or after you defeat him in service to him? I’m just wondering. How am I supposed to know these things? I was born a million light years away from the Imperial City in the enhallowed East!
This would be a glorious time to defend the honor of the warriors. Puîyus came hopping about the gills and twining head of the fantabulous lwúnìqte, and the great beast was growing new wreathes of feathers, spilling up about its nape the ban-yip was growing a great bone crest and antlers were flowing upwards and Puîyus was hanging upon it and swinging the sword of dragon flairs from side to side. The dread Khmìmu, the ghilan were splashing up about some walls that were completely iformed of the bodies of the fallen Kèlor Qhíng and the Aûm in their many phatries, the Khmìmu were spinning around, their tendrils arising and become a little like unto the wings of some strange and wading trees, but more and more of the ghūls were turning unto the fantastic lwúnìqte and the children hanging onto it, the ghūlry were becoming antlers, all of their bodies were becoming reflections of the last moments of horror of all of these fallen soldiers, and yet the horrors were flickering about a little, they were blinking through the shadows of the Khmìmu, they were a blur of the flash of impalent spear and the crumbling of targe, they were become the flash of fansword and thrown knife, they were become the crash of phalanx against phalanx, the crumbling of ēored against the legs of pack dinosaurs and giant beetle, and the Khmìmu were spinning downwards all one by one in their great oily hosts, and even as they were sucking up the terror of the fallen, they were reaching upwards untowards the struggling alary boonyip and Puîyus and Princess Ixhúja.
Puîyus looked upwards, all of the horizon was filled with the hundred thousand bodies of the fallen soldiers, and the ten thousand Khmìmu flowing gaunt and undulous and sepulchral, the Khmìmu were driftent as they were creatures that were perpetually aneath the waters, they were turning their faceless visages one by one by one untowards him, and some of them were trying to see as Puîyus saw even out from his own eyen, some of them were reflecting back their own images unto themselves, and when Puîyus blinked, all of the faces of the Khmìmu shadow became, and when he turned unto his left vel right, so too changed the ken of the great and gathering Khmìmu as they bedripped themselves around the dead unhonored with burial and funereal rights. Puîyus looked up and saw that the clouds of the ghūlment were blocking the path through mountain and ravine and heaven, and he slipped down from the back of the ban-yip and walked upon the ground of ash and dust, he tried his best not to step upon the broken tendrils and wings of the fallen men, nor to trip upon the whisps of banners and the shreds of targes and the remnants of the tartans and twàya coats of arms and khrèwepu clan crests mon, he wished to show no disrespect unto these men even though the Qhíng had been his enemy for so long, and the Qlùfhem had only been allies unto the war clans of Jaràqtu when it suited the will of the twin Duchesses Pereluyàsqa and Khosyaràsqa. Princess Ixhúja hung back for a moment and remained upon the twining back of the ban-yip, she tried to sooth it even as the Khmìmu were bouncing up around it and jibbering all the while and reaching out with cool insensate shadow tendrils that rustle did a little like unto fhwúqha meeth, the óoloó tlepapalotl moths, but even though her teeth were chattering as Puîyus walked among the bodies, even though the beast of pure heart was rearing and roaring in panick, even though the hecatebeletes Khmìmu were drinking in the utter darkness of the battle that had rive herewithin, still she could not quite leave Puîyus alone to walk among the horrors flowing. She patted the lwúnìqte a few more times and jumping down from it ran after Puîyus. Smintheus he was walking up the crest of a hill that reached unto the downfall of the soldiers, and heavy, oppressive, light-drinking came the endless Khmìmu all gazing upon him and wondering how delicious his khnaînikul tlhuxusuyutyayàjhwen tsuwenetlhayùlkha kúxhrejoring, his deathknells, would taste, and so they came flowing upwards, their shadow cape drifting outwards, and all of their faces became nothing but gapes that were both eye and mouth and longing for warfare.
Puîyus walked into the midst of the corpses. He knew not any of the Qhíng in their many classes of the honored Qèlreqakh, although he knew that they had kin who had slaughtered his people, and mayhap some of these same brandmen and spearvolk had been among those who had tempted to occupy the sacred garthlands of Jaràqtu, he could not identify the tartans and runes of the Kháfha that lay about him. Of the Aûm they were the most alien unto him, even though he had dwelt with Jeûr’s family for a time, the Kuqùlkhe schalmindibiz the lamatux that dwelt in habitant upon the edge of the winds, and from what little he knew of the Aûm in their geminite species, he knew that they were quite particular in the way that they honored their dead, they preserved the bones and exoskeltons, they mummified their elders, sometimes while still alive, the wore and preserved remnants of their ancestors. He knelt down. His hands grasped dust and ash and he scattered it in all directions, so that some touched the Aûm pikemen and Kháfha swashbucklers and Qhíng hoplites all about him. Although he could not provide them with honored burial, although he could not raise xhràrjhe, funereal games for their glory, such as had been played at the death of his beloved Grandmother Tàltiin, he could do something about the shame of being unburied. Puîyus gathered up more dust and ash and scattered it in all directions, he drew up great clouds of dust and breathed upon it so that a slight windfall of kār was descending upon them, and then he reached deeper unto the ground, it was not just enough to scatter some dust, there had to be more he could do for those who were left unmourned uninterred unremembered unsung unsepulchred those for whom no fasting would be undertaken, for whom no great monuments would be builded, about whom no epics would be raised up, someone had to weep for them, the hundred thousand who had fallen about the planetoids in the wasteland of winter. The Khmìmu were holding back a moment, their entire bodies blinking, they were unsure of what Puîyus was about to do, they could see that the lad was holding up the flickering dragon sword and laying it upon the dust glebe, and flames were breathing out hot and deep from it, and the Khmìmu were quailing at being reminded of the Emperor’s vast and solar presence. Puîyus struck his hands deep into the ground, clouds of ash were billowing about his wrists, but he drew out no bones or bits of shatter’d armor or the memories of weaponry, rather he drew out warm and black and good earth. He clasped the earth unto himself, several more handfuls of atramentous loam he clutched to himself, kwrsnós, go-waz, bedhb, maŋaq dripping soil. He heaved a little, Íngìkhmar’s Son. He could think of no proper words for a prayer, as a few tears trickled down his face, what could he possibly say to ask the Immortals to show mercy on warriors left forgotten upon the battlefield, all he could do is beg that they be permitted to join their Ancestors with all proper honoria. The tears were swift and hot and seeped into the warm earth. He sniffled a little. He drew up several more armfuls of the soil, it reminded him of the everfecund land in Jaràqtu, the plantation of his Fathers where wheat and maize and barley in abundance had grown, it reminded him of the vast alluvial plains within the steads of the Khatelèstan, their fields where the wheat grew for leagues upon leagues, and he and his cousins Ìkhnos and Pàlron used to run through the edge of them and listen to the rustle of wind about the stalk and rejoice in the feel of wind and movement and volitation, he was reminded of the tilling grounds in the plantations of the Saûqyufha clan to the south, and he remember’d the feel of the good soil in the hanging gardens of the Tásel families within their forested dreamlands. He knew soil, the Knight’s only Son, he knew that at any other time all of these asteroids would be blossoming with thick foliage and ferns and flowers, that if only the Emperor would bless the land again, all things would prosper. If the warriors who had fallen here were to remain forgotten among the living, it would be best, he hoped, that a garden grow above them, for then in the Nethergloom the warriors could say with pride that their flesh had become the beauty of the Land of Story. So it was that Puîyus parted with some swift and warm tears as he gathered up soil which had once been thick and fresh and good, and then he arose, he gazed outwards unto the untold outer wastes where the hundred thousand lay, and he scattered the soil wet with tears about him, and the soil broke apart in globs and caosga glebe, and the earth was scattered until it became bits of grain and dirt, and a few bits fell upon all of the hundred thousand bodies, a wee shadow of land and tear falling upon all who had died, and Puîyus could do nothing but bow his head in reverance for the fallen.
Princess Ixhúja slipped up unto Puîyus from the alars ban-yip, and although the customs of her people were quite different to Puîyus and unto the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm who had fallen here, she could feel the respect that Puîyus imparted to the warriors slain, and the reverance of his actions. She bowed her head next to him, and then tugged upon his sleeve and pointed unto their winged beast, and she indicated that perhaps now would be a good time to leave, afore the Khmìmu remembered the children again. Puîyus shook his head, he wanted to stay for just a few more moments, for he was remembering the stories he had been told of the deaths of both of his Grandfathers upon the crimson sands of Tsànyun, Jàkopar of the Sweqhàngqu and Khangisqrírles of the Otòrfhexes, and the downfall of the Tùqhalu the Holy Rose Knights of the Imperium. Ixhúja turned around, she investigated the fallen bodies and saw that indeed some few humble specks of soil were fallen on all the dead, the very least that one could do as an act of corporal mercy.
All at once the Khmìmu were turning, they were still attempting to suck in the despair of the fallen soldiers, but one by one the wanhope flickered away from them, it was as if the bodies of the Khmìmu ghilan were candles that were being puff’t out one by one, and the flame was the horror taken from the fallen men, and the Khmìmu realized at once that something was amiss. The deathcries were seeping away and becoming part of the soil and tears, and the despair flowed out along with it, and no longer were these fallen wretched unsepulchred unsung unremembered uninterred unmourned, now they were the dead becoming the first fruits of a garden. And all of the Khmìmu in their ferocious numbers untold, realized that they were robbed of their delicious prize.
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