The Dragon was soaring far away, and in her vision Àrqotha was almost breaking apart, he was become streams of various rainbow memories murmuring in his flight, thousands of colors drawn out from the prism of his wings and fading into the burning of the forest and the growing jütik wrack of the land, hissing light arising from him as he shattered and faded away. Akhlísa ran up unto the edge of the flames and was shaking her hands in vain, what had once been the dragon was now just the glistening of stained glass crackling together and grinding and gone. Akhlísa looked around and brushing some of her golden tresses wondered just what she was going to do now.
And the air was salty and smelt of oil and churning and calculations. Akhlísa drew aside the curtain of the burning forest, and found herself drifting somewhere in the air. The aurelian lamper·kin upon the top of her head was flapping from side to side in her fall, the jewels which her Sister Siêthiyal had woven into her locks were rattling from side to side in sweet murmurent tintinabultions. The girdle about her corset was ringing, all of the metal and jewels which the janyaTùrkhaka contessas had given her, jewels carven in the runes and symbols of the Aûm and in the various legends of their people, from the original Triplets to the great polysyllabic King to Khlàmfhors Àsqa the first Zodiographer, the bijoux were at sliding from side to side and producing their own music. Akhlísa looked around, she could feel a dark shadow falling upon her, the clouds were all apart and glistening in violets and golds and black, the clouds were mergent together and in the blent she could the clouds swaying like the long-umbraged movements of so many dinosaŭroj in migration, the clouds were almost grinding together and forming out of them a gape, a living void, the clouds were molding the void together, and once the void was completely empty and dark, they took it and dipped it into the seas to fill it. And the seas were completely brimming with salt and the blood of the slain Emperor Khyìlyikh the Mad, and the void drank it up and became salt and blood, and the clouds took the void which they had of their own nebulous tendrils crafted and made it into the shape of legs and arms and a maiden lithe and fair of face. The clouds took the berries of the xhmàrpta rimmôn and the khmàrfhta nyntoaⁿikot and squeezing the juice drew the pomegranates upwards and made them into hair and eyelashes and lips for this maiden, and they cloaked her in the darkness and made her the Shadow of the Last of the Children of the Land. And so as Akhlísa came descending through the darkening clouds, riots of blacks and silvers spilling about her, glamouries of white and gold rolling out before her, and lightning crackling between the two nations, falling down beside her came Ixhúja her netherly Sister, and even as Ixhúja was falling her garments were soaking up cloud and scale, flashes of lightening and falling into her palm and branching outwards to become a sword, and her hair was a long and winding crash of violet which became gold in the flashing of the levinlight, and the Khnìnthan Princess was asleep as she fell through the worlds and worlds and worlds of Pàfhajoir Penyitàkhta the Cloudscapes of Dragons and Weather.
Ixhúja landed in the midst of the ruins, she fell feline upon her hands and knees, and at once awoke, and grasping her sword was ready to fight. Akhlísa was descending through the air in an effort to follow her, and all the while she was grinding her teeth and stomping her feet against the æther and grumbling unto herself-phin and wondering whyever it was that Raven had to have another Daughter. I realize that Our Lord Raven was jhyokakayempaiyòntet jenaiyotèmpai jaikhornayÁsayètyikh, the ficklest and feyest of all the honored Ása, why his houri Eilyaîrfha used to tell me that old Raven spent far more time chasing nymphs and sylphs and sprites than actually doing the task which the divine Clan of Áme had set for him, some say he ended up with Nightmares because he invented them, others because no other Immortal wanted the task, others that it was the only task which the rest of the Áme thought Raven could do with a slight smidgen of competency, but surely in all that time of not doing what he was supposed to be doing, at some point while he was changing the spirtes and sylphs and nymphs into trees and plantimals and dinosaurs to hide them from his wives, surely at some point Raven should have chanted unto himself, Ah, considering that I already have a Daughter and she is the most bestest and fantastic of all the Daughters I could e'er hope to have, beautiful of face and form and feature, in the works of her hand and understand in the accomplishments of weaving, and this Princess Ixhúja if she even knows how to cook is probably terrible at it, no doubt a family trait of the young Princesses related to Éfhelìnye I doubt that Ixhúja could even manage to bake a pie baking is the most easiest of all of the arts of magirics it’s all about the mixing and flavor and testing and not exploding the cockles of the kitchen. Now Raven should have shaking his beaky head and scratched his beak and chanted, With such a wonderful and perfect daughter as Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa, whom Puey loves the best of all of his wives, why do I even need to bother having another one, especially one who is no doubt completely mad! Has anyone actually spoken to Ixhúja recently, not like she can talk or anything, probably those clockweyth knickknacks of hers qheûqakh baubles gimcracks juvelaĉes would do the cooking for her if anyone actually allowed her in a civilized house, this tick-tocking oddmenting wee beasties of hers, no she’s just completely nuts that Ixhúja she’s the type of person who grabs someone and smashes his face with glass just because she didn’t like the way he was looking at her, and then as the person is gasping for air and mercy, she grabs a long sherd of glass and rips his face into shreds just so he can remember her, she has no normal thought processes whatsoever, and I don’t care that her Father Prince Khwìnton did all those experiments on her and kept ripping her souls out of her body I don’t feel sorry for her at all I don’t care in the least who cares Tsàlti doesn’t care that doesn’t give her the excuse to hang around my Puey and cause all sorts of trouble for my Family I think having one Princess around is quite trouble enough and we don’t need to go off in search of any more trouble whatsoever. Perhaps Puey really just can’t help himself, he is just destined always to be selfless and heroic and to find himself in the presence of Princesses that’s quite fine with me why under auspices of the syuîkho the contract for betrothal and marriage, such as mine Abbá sighed in blood along with the rest of the leaders of our Triple Alliance, if I should bare my Puey any children they are to be of the highest caste possible they will be princes and princesses why one could even be the future Emperor and Empress after my Puey so I don’t mind princesses I’ll probably be Mother to a few myself one can never completely know the future so I hope to give Puey three or four of them they’ll all be cute and goldilocked just like me I know Puey will just spoil them completely that’s fine with me because if he’s sweet on them he’ll treat me kindly too because children are the best gift that a concubine can give her beloved lord and husband so Princesses hurray but not all Princess all of the Princess who are not Ixhúja all the khornayIxhújàyaxúng they are quite fine with me now wherezitherwhither did she go?
Akhlísa landed upon the ground, not quite as graceful as her netherly Sister, without any lithe feline grace unto her, and as she arose she could feel her dress changing about her, the labyrinths growing out from her in greater and far more complicated patterns and drifting away from her in volvent smoke which was becoming a part of the glistring æthery, in fact the maze that was growing out from her was becoming real, it was touching the dead trees and twisting them into halls, it was branching out unto the frozen freshlettes and turning the ice of it, it was changing the material of the fog and turning it into ankles and strange hissing calculations. Akhlísa shook her head, the snηf which the Duchesses had given her were rustling a little, and as she took a few steps to try and stop Ixhúja from whatever it was she was intend on doing, and whatever it was no good could e'er possibly come of it, the Fosterling of the deathless Ása paused and realized that even though she was inside a Dragon’s Eye and within their perspective and realities were thus ydrawn and haled and wellskew’d, that in no matter what reality she may end up at the moment, she did not wish to see her Puey while she was dressed as his Concubine, even if it were just a shadow or memory of him, for when she saw in with her waking she, wanted to be able to throw herself at his feet and apologuise for betraying him to the Dragon and ensnaring him in this danger in the first place. So Akhlísa bowed her head, and a few tears trickled down from her eyen, and the tears touched the labyrinth that was growing out from her-then, and the dlendrops hissed and the maze began to break apart about her and become the very evanescence of wind, and she cried and the tears changed her dress, and all of the jewels became burning fractals and swayed away from her in waves and spinnent leaves, and the tears dyed her dress bright and summer blue just as it usually was, and her hair came spilling about her in simpler braids of childhood, and the jewels fluttered away. Only the golden veil of her wifehood remained unto her, and she took it away and folded it and set it into her pocket, along with the string and bits of squished candy and crayons which she usually kept on her, along with the stray mandala and ring and pin she should happen to find, and the pillow which Mother Khwofheîlya had embroidered so long ago with the name of her husband and her children four.
– There. Now I can see him without any shame – Akhlísa told herself. – Even if he is not entirely there for sure for real for dreams. – She wiped away some tears from her face and practiced her smile, she wanted to be all smiles for him and not to have to worry about her. She wondered what Fhermáta would do, and so pinched her cheeks a few times to make them apple blushing.
– Psss! – came the voice. Akhlísa looked around. The dead forest was sprawling all out around her, the ground was the utter confusion of skourn and slough, slight crackles of mud breaking apart under the sheets of mud, strange and smintheus ripples of ice and light flowing within the very vellum of the land. Trees were tumbling about her all the while, the trees were falling faster and faster about her, as if they were great blocks being knocked down by great hands, the violence uabhasach of the falling trees increasing. Behind her she could smell the air all calculating and curning and of oil and salt burning. The voice reached out unto her and cried out – Pssst! Psssssst! Purr! – and a small hand reached out and grabbed her by the sleeve and pulled her down into the bushes.
Akhlísa blinked and found herself yanked down face to face with Princess Ixhúja. – Not you-sa, anyone but you – Akhlísa mumbled. Ixhúja was looking from side to side and hardly paying her younger and netherly sister any attention at all. Ixhúja reached up into the air and pulled Puîyus and Éfhelìnye down beside her. Akhlísa wrinkled her nose. A few clockwork creatures were crawling out through Ixhúja’s golden tresses and looking to Akhlísa waved their wings and limbs at her, and Akhlísa just chomped her teeth at them a few times in warning as if intending to bite them through and through. Ixhúja made a motion to Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa to be silent. The bushes were shaking a little, the icicles breaking apart around them as the great trees continued smashing downwards one by one by one. The sound of the churning wheel and gathering piston was coming closer and closer, and the shadow of great carapaced farwa were approaching, rolling outlines in slightly angled lobsterine patterns.
– Puey … – Akhlísa gasped. – Oh my Puey! –
Puîyus nodded at her, but his attention was elsewhere as he looked from side to side and watched as the machines were coming untowards them. Éfhelìnye turned and saw that Akhlísa was beginning to cry and falling upon her face was grabbing the edge of Puîyus’ cloak and crying into it.
– Oh don’t be afraid, dearest Karuláta – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Puey and Ixhúja know quite a deal about the coming Automata armies. Puey will reach out with his mighty hand and smash them to protect us, and I’m sure Ixhúja will offer some little help, she truly is a good little helper for our Puey, neh? –
– Grrrr! – Ixhúja growled at the suggestion that she was anywhose helper at all.
– It’s just … just … – Akhlísa sniffled. – It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, and I’m so sorry … – Akhlísa burst out into tears, and Puîyus had to take notice and comfort her and wrap her up in his arms.
– But you’ve been with us the entire time – Éfhelìnye chanted. – You’ve never been gone. –
– Shhh! – Ixhúja warned. The forest was breaking apart, and now massive claws were appearing, the long and spiked outline of the ninjitsu Tánin arise and walking upon their many legs reptent. Some of the trees were exploding, the claws ripping through them with swift violence, while others of the Automata were arising and grabbing the edge of the branches and shredding them in their quiverous mandibles. The marching of the Tánin produced long streaks of oil in their wake and long ribbons of smoke arising from their feircesome engines, behind them lay the smashed trees and dribbling khmiyotùrka pollution. Puîyus lifted up his head a little o'er the dead bushes, the leaves shattering about him, and Akhlísa, wiping her tears on his dreamcloak lifted up her dovelike head next to his, and saw that the Automata were taking great pleasure in pulling down the trees and smashing apart the few which were still struggling to live. Puîyus gulped and shook with anger, his hands forming into fists so tight that his knuckles were become the whiteness of his bones, for he saw the Tánin grabbing the trees and jabbing their claws right into the living flows of xylem and pulling them out, and the trees were crying out in a language which only Puîyus and Ixhúja could understand, a long arborescent lament, the leaves ratting like cymbols and tambours, the trees crying out and lifting up their branches in supplication and grown silent again. And still the Tánin were coming, the long and winding and themselves moving a little in the same way that Àrqotha had bewriggled himself through the welkin bright.
Ixhúja drew her head up upon the dead bush, icicles and frost bursting up around her, and Akhlísa could see that Éfhelìnye, not wishing to be alone, and seeing that the rest of the children were doing the same, poked her head up in accordance as before them flowed the waves of Automata ecbeshredding all of the trees before their path. Ixhúja looked from side to side, even the federwerkische insects that dwelt in her aurelian flax were shaking a little infear at the massive machines of war wading before them, and Ixhúja looked to Akhlísa and told her in blinks and purrs and glances, These are Automata armies such as I used to lead, armies sent by word of my mneme leprous Father, of plexèxhma suffering, of being eaten by the Immortals.
– Your Father was being eaten by the Immortals? – Akhlísa asked.
Ixhúja made a vague gesture and then made a few signs which meant, That is what one calls a man who suffers from the nano-disease of plexèxham. Ixhúja was making some glyphs and signals which somehow Akhlísa interpreted as the disease of ngórdo, feared and accursed. Ixhúja considered for a moment and then continued and told her, My Father is gone now, he was completely consumed by his own locust machines, I am not even sure where his souls may reside, whether in our life-giving worlds or in the presence of the Solar Ancestors, perhaps he has completely become the Ghost of the Machine, I cannot say. But even though my Father is gone, the Machines still continue to pour out of Khnìntha, or whatever is left of Khnìntha, whatever machines can still be builded from the materials and resources of our Moons.
– So your Father melted? – Akhlísa asked.
One could describe plexèxhma pasiz pasizio in such a fashion, inelegant though that may be, khmènis, pèsqin, Ixhúja chanted, and the lilting movement of her hand was almost in the fashion of a long-drawn out sigh.
– So your Father melted and became locust machines? – Akhlísa asked.
We need a plan, Ixhúja was saying as she tapped her hands together and purred a little.
– Did your Father really melt? – Akhlísa asked.
Does someone else want to sit next to her.
– I’m just thinking that tnòtho, the lormen, they’re the mneme leprers, right, and it’s just from the desciption I read of them in the Holy Writ, or at least was read aloud to me in those few and infrequent occasions when I stay awake at during Temple except Fhermáta and Auntie are always poking me awake I’m just thinking that the tnòtho they all get liquefied, big glistleglobs of skin and cheek and face falling down right into their hands, their bodies splashing apart, their bodies becoming nothing but mnemes as the Immortals slurp them up srkati from the inside out, I wouldn’t want to be squished and drunk up like that like some iced cream or something no that’s just horrid. So, your Father melted? –
I’m not talking to her anymore.
– That has got to be the grossest thing that I’ve e'er heard. –
Puîyus looked up and was blinking a few times, the Tomäts coming and smashing down through the trees one by one by one, and he was gritting his teeth, his eyen were burning in rage. One Automaton was taking its time in ripping out a still living tree by its thrawn roots and ripping out each root and shredding it in its claws, the Automaton was sinking its spinning scythes into the ice and bark of the tree and flaying it, and the rest of the Tánin were turning one to another, and their gears were grinding in glee to feel the pain of the trees. Slowly Puîyus was drawing his sword, and all things were become red unto him.
A few ravens were descending upon Akhlísa’s shoulders. – I’m just thinking, it would be most disgusticating to be liquidified and made into gooey mnemes vitrious pan stoχa qhuî. Don’t you think so? – Several more dreams were landing upon her shoulders, the ravens lifting up their wings and flapping about her all the time. Akhlísa was not even noticing that Puîyus was bounding high into the air and machine slaughter was burning his eyen. He was becoming a red blur, a knife was yclutched in his jaw, and his swords were swingent from side to side. – Yes child, oh Karuláta among the Sweqhàngqu, we’re sure that being melted must be quite noisome and gross – so chanted the Ravens in their descent, for all dreams call her their child.
Akhlísa spun around. The bushes and the trees were gone. Puîyus was leaping in the air towards the Automata, but he was fading away, just his sword remaining, and the sword was becoming a rain of sunlight, and the Automata were wavering from side to side before him and were become ferns turning and dew swelling upwards. The land was all in change, sometimes it appeared unto her that it was about to become solid hills, and othertimes the crest of the wave, sometimes it was the turning of the grass, and othertimes the mist that forgathers itself within the high reaches of the trees. One again music was coming through this land, it was partially the music of trees and boscage, it certainly had quite a wooden sound unto it, clanging and percussive. Akhlísa was not sure whether she was flying or falling or just appearing somewhere deeper within Àrqothat’s pupil, she thought that by now she was probably swimming within his iris, and in the streaks of light that ribboned about her were flashing a little like the lightning xhyòtikoi she had seen in the Dragon sphincter pupillæ. Within the vitrious domes, and the reflexions of blood and frost and goo, before her she had a vision of an hothouse stretching outwards for many leagues and she was walking within it. It had once been quite a grand thwomájhoil, the ground mostly consisted of pools wherein rare lillypads and blossoms had floated, and gardens of sand paintings and twining trees reaching upwards and becoming a tropical forest here even within the dying winterlands. Steam she could feel must once had arisen hot and breathy throughout all of the herbaria, and once waterforces, bright and flashing had tumbled downwards through the hills and creags tended by careful hand. But the greenhouse had seen better days, most of the glass struts were shattered, a great deal of the rooftop was open, and mos of the plantimals within were dead and strangled. For war had come even unto this thwomájhoil. Akhlísa was walking upwards, flames were arising and consuming much of the rolling garths within, and living ships were crashing throughout all of the ruins of the city, and the force of the living ships as they crashed against each other was great enough to cause many of the columns of the herbarion to shake and crack, the force of the living ships firing and crashing against stone and forest was enough to cause glass to shatter piece by piece by piece, and all of the ground was flexing from side to side sinuous and dracontine as the living ships enflamed fell and exploded.
Akhlísa was spun around, for the hothouse was flooding, the pools were breaking apart in the battle that was come untowards her, the vines and floreal plantimals within reaching outwards and twining themselves about her ankles and trying to drew her within. She resisted, heat and mist were flowing up around her limbs, and the glass was shattering in greater and greater sferic pops. Still the drumbeat continued, it was the same music which the Traîkhiim had been playing when Pfhentókha was brought upwards and adorned by the Elementals themselves, the same pulsation of Khriîno’s heart when he was ushered into the presence of the Immortals and sacrificed alive unto them. But this dreambeat was the utter waging of the battle, ship after ship clangorent together, and the hothouse was exploding about her. Akhlísa struggled out of the grasp of the vining plantimals and struggled outwards, and all at once found herself within the tendrils of the Qhíng and the Qlùfhem. Many of the Qhíng were earing paint and smears upon their quetzal feathercrests, and not a few of them were wearing bright and horrible masques about their faces. The Qlùfhem were all dressed in the ritual bones and rags of war. Akhlísa felt herself being tossed from tendril to tendril, neither the Qhíng nor the Qlùfhem holding onto her for too long, they tossed her dolllike and cared not which of the factions held onto her. As she spun around in the air the maid could see that the shattered glass ruins of the thwomájhoil had become a camp that was overcrowded with the refugees from the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem. Some Qhíng came rolling outwards and shouting right at her were drawing up their drums and beating them with great webs of tentacles, and the Qlùfhem were doing the same, many of them were holding triple drums strapped unto their torsos, and their thrice nine tentacles were all spinning around and beating upon the drums all in a fell and savage time. The Qhíng and Qlùfhem were now throwing Akhlísa harder and further than before, she was like a solar ball such as children use for sport, the Qhíng qhàngi were playing hide and seek and the Qlùfhem qlòfhi were playing tig tag, and yet in the midst of the game rolling outwards and taking unto itself thousands or refugees and tens of thousands of war exiles and hundreds of thousands of pfhàngi rifuĝintoj, still Akhlísa was finding herself in the midst in the midst in the growing growing camp of them all.
– I don’t suppose … any of you … ouch! Have any of you … seen a Dragon around? – Akhlísa was shouting.
Doom doom doom doom came the crashing of the ship.
– He’s a really smallest Dragon, a young adult among them I suppose. I don’t really know how Dragons age, we children aren’t suppose to think about them too much. Dragonlette, rainbow wings, perhaps a little enigmatic. I don’t think any of us really know what’s going on in his mind. Anyone? Dragon at all? Any data to give me in the least? Anyone? – So Akhlísa was shouting, the refugees crying out all the more about her.
The Kháfha, the Ptètqiikh, the Qája, all fleeing.
The camps were spreading out around Akhlísa in long and rolling patterns that almost reminded her of honeycombs or the board of a tnúpa jórqha chess set, although she was not entirely sure of what she was seeing here deep within the Dragon’s Eye. He was vaguely aware of the relationship between Dragons and Chess, or at least somewhere she had heard someone mention it once, something about playing chess with a Dragon, or perhaps she had seen an image in stained glass in the Abby of Saint Kàtriqan, it certainly sounded like something holy and familiar, something utterly metaphoric unto her. The Qája and Ptètqiikh and Kháfha were all fleeing away from her, and after a time the Qhíng and Qlùfhem grew weary of tossing the maiden from side to side and tendril to tendril, and so Akhlísa just came rolling outwards. For a long time she just rolled down the side of the mist hills in the shattered herbarium, the broken waterfalls and waterwheels flowing about her. She rolled for hours. She rolled among the refugees and about the crashing living ships and the running of the folk, she rolled and grew far more lost deeper within the camp. She rolled and in her spinning thought of many things, of the events which had brought her here, when her honored foster Father Íngìkhmar had taken her and her Siblings unto the Holy City Eilasaîyanor upon a matter of honor to be blessed by the hand of most dread Emperor Kàrijoi, of when she had met Princess Éfhelìnye within the twining shadows and memories of the Forbidden Gardens, of the adventures they had had within the City and the rumors of battle between Qhíng and Qlùfhem and the invasions begun within the southlands by the clockwork of Khnìntha, she remembered traveling upon the marvelous trains up throughout the Seven Central Realms and of Éfhelìnye’s earnest and honest attempt to become part of the Clan of Sweqhàngqu, and yet even the heavens of the romantic garthland had to darken, and even as Fhermáta was adorned in the crimson betrothal gown of her revered foster Mother Khwofheîlya, the Qhíng came to shatter the skies, and War consumed all things. And so Akhlísa continued to roll and roll and roll and the war was spreading out all about her, the elementals unto one side and the ancestors unto another, the Prophet Khniikhèrkhmair was taking up staff and book and waddling away, Qhaliwáqhel Thingamapápel was spinning within his burning wheels and fading away, and the Stúwufhe brothers were holding hands and dervishing in their dance, Khmùliqan Stú and Fhìniqan Stú and Pèniqan Stú, and the Traîkhiim were beating upon their drums, and Emperor Khriîno and Empress Pfhentókha were born in the tree and arose and held each other’s hand and walked out into the new creation, and Qhalúxha the Father of all Dragonkind lay in solemn meditation within the cave as the heavens were opening up before her. And in her rolling Akhlísa looked outwards, all things were trouble and sorrow and the enmeshing web of the War in Jaràqtu, and yet blinking her eyen all she could see was nothing but Khòxa Khofhólontóxui the Sunscapes.
Khòxa Khofhólontóxui arising.
Akhlísa’s rolling finally came to a rest when she bumped against some jade talons. Looking up she found that after several thousand leagues and untold miles she had fallen down right next to Àrqotha. The Dragon was preening his rainbow wings, smoke bursting up from each of the feathers that he cleaned, and looking upwards saw the little virgin crash against him and reel about from side to side. Blinking and dizzy Akhlísa fell upon her back and looking up to the Dragon cried out – Okay, I have no idea! Just tell me, make me discover it, just where is my Puey! –
Àrqotha blinked his massive mirror eyen unto her, and breathing out smoke for to envelope her told her – Your Lord and Husband resides with the honored Dead now. –
Akhlísa bound up. – What did you do to him? How did you hurt my Puey! Oh, them’s fightin’ words! – She ran up to his foot and kicked the claws a few times and tried to concentrate on the place where skin and scale and nail met, she figured it would be the most sensitive part of a talon.
– Puîyos only lies where his leal Concubine lead us – Àrqotha breathed out unto her.
– I think you’re going to discover just how faithful this particular Concubine really is! – Akhlísa cried, and she kicked against the talons so hard that she hurt her foot and bounced around on her other foot and wished that Dragons were made out of something are less stern than actual dragonscales.