Friday, January 2, 2009

And the Plot Thickens!

At last as the flame winds began to tumble about the blanket, and all of the crumbling folds and walls of the living ships glowed aurantiaceous oranĝaj before their ken, Puîyus reached out and resting his head upon Éfhelìnye’s shoulder began to mew unto her all in a language of sighs and wonder and longing and told he her, If indeed we survive this war, if life is again restored unto the dreamlands, and my Father and Ancestors give their blessing that you and I be wed and dream the same dreams, than I think it only right that I build our wedding bed with mine own hands, it shall be a wonder, and curiosity, a legend to grow in the family we shall start. If at all possible I would like to make it of living trees, and the branches to reach upwards and become the posts of the bed, and the leaves shall be the canopy for our bed, I shall use Grandfather Jàkopar’s tools if I can, and create a framework all of wood, something in the image of a ship perhaps, a tremendous photonic ark, and I shall carve within it the runes of mine Ancestors and of your Solar Ancestors, I shall press precious iron and silver and gold into the frame, the mattress shall be all of flowing amœbæ waves, roots shall spread up unto the posts and I shall build book cases to surround the bed so that you can read in comfort and while I sleep, beneath the bed I shall create drawers for books and sheets and papyrus, perhaps even compartments for the toys of our children, and places to store sheets and blankets and pillows. Perhaps within the framework of the bed I can make safe compartments to store my swords and knives, so that I alone will know how to grasp them at a moment’s notice, but which will be out of your reach and that of the children, although I know in time I’ll have to reveal all my secrets to my sons so that they can defend the family, especially if they are not yet old enough to go to war and must stay with you and the princess daughters while I must leave. Yes, the bed shall be all completely of my design, even as you shall design the ballistæ. Puîyus nodded, he thought it a good plan, and it permitted him to dream about a future which he could barely even conceive as possible.
Éfhelìnye drew out the book she had been writing, the sketches and doodles and sheets upon sheets of errant words and set them a little out of the blanket so that both she and Puîyus could look at it and read it together. – I still think that with you around there will be no need to protect me at all. I’ve been working a little on writing while you’ve sleep, and some of these pictures you’ve seen my drawing, although what this burning fleet might have been I cannot even begin to guess. – Éfhelìnye flipped through the pages, and flowing upwards unto them were images of the twisting living ships, the towers and the endless leagues of solar sails that appeared almost as a tremendous forest filling all of the skies. They continued flipping through the pages one by one until at last they came to sheets that were as of yet unfilled. Éfhelìnye took out some pastels and began to sketch out a little the bed that he had been describing for her, but she found herself still a little tired and only managed to draw some of the barest of outlines. She set the book aside and leaning towards Puîyus pressed her finger upon his lips and began to spell out words for him in an effort to help him speak.
– Just breathe. Mew or purr or make any sound at all – told she him. – I want the words to arise bright and natural from your throat. –
Princess Ixhúja was sauntering o'er towards them, she was kicking the severed head from foot to foot, and swinging about her arms one of the battle axes which Puîyus had momentarily discarded. As Ixhúja drew nearer, though, Puîyus reached out with one hand and yanked the severed head away vathi ùsqa and tossed it untowards the other side of the ship so as not to imbue undue alarum unto Princess Éfhelìnye. Ixhúja almost felt like pouting, but for some reason felt rather calm this day, perhaps the endless fields of burning were lying heavy upon her also. Éfhelìnye pressed against Puîyus’ cheeks a few times and then playing with his lips again told her – Now, mew something, anything at all! –
– Ahhhh? – asked Puîyus.
Éfhelìnye’s entire face was beaming with glee. – Did you hear that, Ixhúja? Puey, say it again! –
– Ahhhh! –
– There! I’ve taught him the word á, the word for life! –
– ?¿ – asked Ixhúja.
– Ahhhh? – asked Puîyus.
– There, he chanted it again! Á! Á! Á! Á! –
Ixhúja snorted, for it sounded unto her like Puîyus was just saying Uhhhh and that was certainly not a true word, barely even an utterance, she thought. But Éfhelìnye was glowing so exuberant, that Ixhúja could think of no real counter argument to offer. Éfhelìnye was yawning a little as fatigue was resting upon her again, for although she no longer felt ill she did not quite have all of the strength she once had. Puîyus drew himself out of the deweaponed blanket and wrapped Éfhelìnye up within all of the layers and set her against the rostrum, and placed her head upon the pillow and gathered up the book to place in her arms, and then he took the clàrsach down from his aurelian torq and began to strum upon it, and as he played his harp once again, the harpsong aided the Princess in her sleep. Éfhelìnye was soon still save for her breathing. Puîyus continued to play and watch her for a time. Ixhúja was sitting tailor-style koaqing tsìsqu thandawa beside Puîyus, and she sharpened some of her knives and realized that she too had become dependent upon the harp strings, for the music was becoming part of her own heart, and the music was all the song of harpon hearpe Harfe harpa taviġ harfa harpe harppu árpa hárfa arpa harfá clàrsach troman troman-ciùil arp tanbūra kissar simsimiyya rote talharpa begena dita krar jouhikko barbiton kithara kyra sammu zami zinar kinnor kibugander litungu nyatiti obokano giga gue litungu endogo ntongoli crwth.
Puîyus set the harp aside and swung it about his neck and clasped it in its little chainlings and ribbonlettes, the ancient harp that his Father Íngìkhmar had won unto himself as war booty and later gifted unto his Son, and the strings were still dancing a little xhthèjhone teudan as he set them aside. Ixhúja was putting her knives away, she wished that she had more skill at music, although she knew how to play the harp, at least after the fashion of her own bellicose people, she knew that she could not hope to play it with such charm and eloquence as Puîyus did, he could sing with the harp, he used it with wind and sighs and the deep emotions he refused himself to express in any other fashion. Ixhúja looked up to Puîyus and blinked at him a few times, and behind her the heavens continued to flair, and the light of the confragation was spilling into the mass of her golden hair gleam, and she asked him, Puîyos, my heartharp, whatever shall you do if Éfha does die, if in this war she could fall at the claws of some monsters or even at the hand of the Emperor himself? Will you dare to lift up hand against the Master of Earth and Sea and Sky?
Puîyus held up his hand to tell her, One cannot dare impiety against the Lord of Life, the Glistening Noontide Sun Kàrijoi.
He means to slay us all. If Éfhelìnye dies, will you slay Kàrijoi?
If Éfhelìnye dies, I shall die at her side.
For all our sakes I hope you do not, for you are probably the only one mighty enough to topple Kàrijoi down from the heavens.
If I must join Éfhelìnye in death, so be it.
Than you may be unwinding the mainspring for us all. If you fall, so do we all. Here, walk with me just a little while, so Ixhúja was telling him in glances and blinks, and she was wrapping her arm about his waist and leading him away from the rostrum and the slumberent Princess and the great living ships that were stains of light sprawling for as far as they could see. And leaning close unto him she told him in purrs and clicks and some of the echo of clockwork saying, Now, I have been conversing with the Acolyte, perhaps conversing is not the right term, but I have been writing my querries on a chalkboard and he has been answering them unto me. It is quite nice to have an older person to answer my questions, even if he is in the priesthood of your idolatrious nations, although to be perfectly honest I don’t think that the blood sacrifice of the clockwork worlds and of the vegetable worlds are all that different, when you become Emperor you may be able quiet easily to unite the priests of the Heresy and the priests of the Empire, they are like one’s left and right hand. Anyway, so I have been asking Qìtien about what sort of new Empire you are going to found, and as of yet he does not know what role the automata Tánin mekavamenik shall play in it, it all depends of course upon your stern and implacable word, although I sensed that the Acolyte was growing little nervous when my mechanical dragonflies began to crawl about his fingers twenty eight and his four wrists, and some of my locusts began to crawl upon his eyelids and spill about his ears and betickle him a little, but that is beside the point, for in our talks I have learned what concubinage is, and I must tell you that I find it all quite a silly idea. Sometimes the viceroy queens and princesses of Khnìntha may be sister-wives and share an husband, but the idea of having this hierarchy in the harem is a little risible, don’t you think?
Puîyus was not entirely sure how harems worked at all, save for in the references in the Holy Writ, nor did he understand why Ixhúja should want to be speaking of this now. He came slipping down some of the ramps that lead unto the central deck, the pirates were all busy working upon the billows and rudders and making sure that they kept their vessel far away from the great burning wound in the heavens. Ixhúja however was not leaving him alone, she slipped up towards him and purred a little to tell him, So it seems that when Éfhelìnye becomes your wife, she will be the Mother of the children that your wives and concubines and love slaves bear you. She can bare you a single child, but if the rest of the harem bares ten others, she is Mother unto all eleven of them, and her commandments superceed whatever the birth mothers may have to say. I’m not entirely sure whether I like that at all. Hieratick Qìtien told me, though, that as Emperor you may set up your favored wives and concubines with their own households, for instance Éfhelìnye as Empress may dwell in the Ice Palace, but your favorite waves may have their own castles throughout all the worlds, now this makes sense, say you’re fighting a war in the south, than Éfhelìnye can continued to dwell in the east with her children, but then you can stay in the castle that you’ll have builded for me in Khnìntha, that way no matter where you travel for warfare, you’ll always have at least one concubine by your side.
Puîyus ducked away, he was turning around and hoping that Ixhúja would just forget about this topic of conversation, but she jumped up before him and told him in a language of mews and purrs telling him, So I’ve given this some thought, and I’m wondering whether it would be best if I in the days to come I return unto Khnìntha, either you shall have a castle builded for me or we can find some of the ruins of the Pfhaqhaîtsir which can be serviced, and the castle can be your royal residence when you come to visit, and there our automata thralls can dwell, but the castle shall be near the forests and there I can protect all of the wild creatures and nurture the ecosystems that we must cause to blossom anew in the southlands. When you come to visit I can live in the castle with you and be your concubine, and then when you’re gone I can return to the forest, and our Tánin slaves shall remain on contact with us all.
Puîyus made a whistling sound to tell her that although many people were making plans about his future and in his name, he only had just a few ideas concerning himself and the Starflower Princess Éfhelìnye. Ixhúja however wrapped her arms about Puîyus and began crawling upon him a little and mewed to ask him, Do you want me to bare you children? They can grow up in the castle with our servants, and they can be the new Princes and Princesses of Khnìntha, our oldest daughter can be the Àrlu, the Crown Princess of Mars, and with the new Emperor as her Father, it will heal the rift beween Khnìntha and the Imperium, and neither the children of the Empire nor the children of the Heresy will be able to fight the other, for they are all born of the same Father.
Puîyus could feel the hairs on his nape tickling a little, and he was coughing in a sign that he was beginning to panic. Ixhúja was still holding onto him and telling him, You do wish for me to bare you children, right? It’s what the acolyte keeps saying, and the pirates have made mention of it. Anyway, if my cousin Éfha is unable to bare you children, I know that I can. My Father told me that he made you and me compatible with each other, so I should be able to bar eyou warrior children! Our first-born daughter can be the new Queen of Khnìntha, and our first-born son can be the Crown Prince of the Empire, and so everything would be nice and symmetrical, at least in a rather crescented shape.
Puîyus ducked and began wriggling away from her. Ixhúja hopped back up and laughing a little followed after him and cried out in her own feline language to tell him, Just think about it! If the idolatrous Emperor Kàrijoi is defeated, all of the worlds will be throne into chaos, and unless you seize power and frighten all the rest into submission, we may have qlantelingpengiqhomènya warstorms of the south for all the rest of eternity!
But Puîyus, Íngìkhmar’s Son, was running away from her, because he did not wish to think of about rebellion and concubines and the chaos that would be left in Kàrijoi’s wake, nor of the dichotomy between dreamlands desirous of wheels and metal and dreamlands desirous of flower and tree. And so he came skipping back unto the long and winding deck that overlooked the tremendous heavens all of the burning gigantic living ships, and he sate down to watch Princess Éfhelìnye in her sleep, and he gazed upon the red coil of her eyelash, upon the spilling sheans of gold and rubescence, her hair tumbling about her pillow, and the shape of her nose and the curve of her lips, and the mansuetude of her most wonderous sleep.
– Alright, children, into the long boats with you! – Captain Euqliîna was saying, as he was tossing his hat into the air and catching it with a different hand than the one that had thrown it. – Most of them men shall stay within the skiffs, and from the skiffs ropes and floral chains will begin to tow the rainbrella ship upwards. I myself shall stay within the sqòqhi vessel and man the helm and try to navigate it through this wreckage. Honored Qìtien, I want you to stay in in the greatest of the tàlkhi jeton gitney, it will be suitable to your dignity also. Children, you shall stay in the Captain’s own jhuináxhyong shuttle boat, that will be the safest of the vessels. Now, we’re not going to anchor your vessel unto the motors here, that way you can escape at a moment’s notice, in case something bad should happen in our attempt to fly through the ruins, however, I must ask, cælestial Puîyos, since you have some sailing and peiratical experience, would you please honor us by scouting ahead, at least just a little? This manouever may end up being a little trickier than we forsee it. –
Qìtien the Acolyte was wrapping some bands about his prayer book and bowing unto Puîyos and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja and holding up a dish of burning incense before them told them – At first the Captain and I thought it would be bet to separate you three, put each of you in a different ship, but then it occurred to us, my children, that between our warrior emperor and his warrior twin sister, your ship will no doubt be the safest of them all. –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were looking around as they stood at the edge of the ship deck, for they could see that the rainbrella vessel had finally made its away beyond the majority of the burning living ships littered throughout the heavens, but in the tremendous wake, the frozen plasma and twisting smoke, that the ruins of many planets lay, bits and pieces of stone and sea cliff and massive sheans all of stone and precious iron. Éfhelìnye looked back and saw that Ixhúja was sitting upon a barrel and barely even paying attention, rather she was filing down one of her porporate fingernils with the edge of one of her fell knives. The thrawn sqòqhi vessel had many ropes and chains affixed unto the masts, and the other end of the ropes were sprawling outwards serpentine towards all of the skiffs and long boats, and the pirates were tying them unto the boats and setting them out into the heavens. A few Kurkuîlo were jumping onto some boats, some Fhlùltekh and Khnenyènwa into another, and so the skiffs were spreading outwards and tugging upon the nets of the ship and helping the sqòqhi to navigate through the endless and twining trice-dimensional ruins that were filling up all the skies. The Xhmaûmumum since they could fly without the need of living ships, at least for a little ways away from the gravitational wake of the boats and planets, were flittering about the chains and ropes and making sure that everything was still secure, as the boats were tugging and towing and bringing the rainbrella ship up through the huge coralline rafters and the burning fields and the tremendous walls that had once been the side of great city vessels. The great and most fantasic lwúnìqte was picking up the acolyte Qìtien and placing him within his own boat along with a couple of other Fhlùltekh, and the mörkö also entered with him, and the acolyte and pirates and ban-yip all bowed their heads untowards the children and soon were sailing away, and the as the boat arose its tether was spreading outwards and also aiding the sqòqhi rainbrella vessel in its peregrinations. Captain Euqliîna came upwards and picked up Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja within his four arms, and he even had room to carry a few atsáya dawn-criers about his elbows and thumbless hands, and the rooster raptors were tumbling about and reaching out to touch Puîyus’ face and to lick Ixhúja’s hand and obase themselves before Éfhelìnye. Captain Euqliîna carried the children unto the largest jhuináxhyong and set them within the shuttle, and at once it was springing unto life, the solar sails springing up the length of the triple masts, the bone oars dancing outwards and churning against the the air. The Captain bowed unto the children, several more atsáya orthrobóas tumblig about him, and told he them – The rainbrella ship will be far slower of course, I shall be coordinate this rather delicate feat with flag and signal, we should be able to sneak through the great coils and bores and tides of these ruins. I don’t think it should take long, but if anything bad happens, you must flee at once. There are provisions within the jars, food and blankets, all you need to do is sail unto the North and the Regent Sylvan Peróqhi shall find you. –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye turned back. They could see that the gigantic rainbrella which was the crown of the sqòqhi vimāna was folding itself up and becoming a single spiraling tower, and all of the ship was turning unto its side and aiming itself to cut through the twining towers and avoid the plasma streams erupting from where once tower and bow had been.
– May the Ancestors guide you – Euqliîna told the children with a bow, and then he spun around and picking up his flags gave signal unto some of the other living ships arising, all of them tugging upon the ropes and chains and leading the rainbrella vessel through the chaos.
Puîyus placed his hand to the helm and the long jhuináxhyong arose, and he bowed unto Captain Euqliîna in fairwell. Ixhúja threw herself down upon the deck and reached out unto one of her clockwork earrings and began to fiddle with it, for the earring was unfolding itself and creating little whirlwinds and storms within the light of its wings. Éfhelìnye sate down at the wthàsi xiphisternum of the ship and gazed outwards burbefeleiz, and leaned against the fhyú taffrails, and she watched as the rainbrella vessel grew smaller in her gaze, and it almost looked a little like a fish caught up in a tremendous weir, or like a glistening glass insect caught up in a great web, and the long boats were tugging the umbrella ship upwards and helping it travel through the wings and shadows of the ruins.
– Oh Puey, oh Ixhúja, do you have the feeling that we shall never again walk upon that rainbrella ship again? – asked Princess Éfhelìnye.
Ixhúja did not look up from her play. Puîyus looked up to her and adjusted some of the wheels and gnoma of rudder and he gave the Princess a quizzical look. – It’s just a feeling that I have, we shall not walk upon the umbrella ship again. It was such a wonderful ship, beautiful and shining bejeweled. I feel so sad to leave it. – Éfhelìnye looked upwards, and looked upon some of the turning of the slabs and planets and broken warvessels, the great blinking icicles that somehow made her think of the eyelashes of some strange and tremendous creature, the shadows of these ruins spreading outwards and revealing themselves to be shades of blue and green and black, a great and catacombing eald enta geweorc. – It’s as if we are being swallowed by some tremendous creature – Éfhelìnye chanted as Puîyus drew their shuttle boat into the jaws of the ruins, and behind them the rest of the pirates and the rainbrella ship was soon fading away. Puîyus stood up and surveyed the walls and ship and passageway before him, and was ready to signal unto the rest of the pirates if they should find a better way to bring the rainbrella ship through. –It’s almost as if are entering a vast three-dimensional labyrinth somewhere within the northern skies – Éfhelìnye added. She looked around and saw that carven upon the side of the walls and columns were images of horns and feathers of dream spirals slowly blossoment outwards.
Puîyus licked his lips a few times and tasted the air, and let himself think in the fashion of the ice crystals and the mist and the twining clouds that were spilling about the ancient walls and the shattered sides of living ships, until at least he found a pathway that reached throughout the North. Before his eyen wre appearing landscapes that consisted entirely of living ships fused together in their crashing, broken bows and crumbling walls and long and breathing windows, it all lay twisting before her, the smoldering wreckage of a thousand vessels all spinning around in tremendous gravitational surges. He turned back and could see that the pirates and the rainbrella ship were soon fading away from sight, as they were getting lost within the archways that had once been the cliffs of worlds. At once arose a music of wings and calls, not quite a joyful song, it was hushed and avian, for the fhtòngo feadar and the khmepáni seamews were arising and fluttering about the burning living ships, and from other vessels crows were arising, their cries a great and thunderous call whose texture Puîyus could not quite characterize. He drew his hand about the rudder and had the ship dash upwards all the higher, the tangle of broken living ships were become blur of solar sail and flame beneath him, and high above them through the archways and chasms came crackling clouds and ionick storms gathering many hundreds of leagues behind them.
And then all at once it felt unto the children that they were entering a completely new world. Puîyus drew the jhuináxhyong downwards through some of the eaves. The broken living ships were giving way to an horizon where all things were shattered bits of planets and moons. Princess Éfhelìnye drew herself to sit next to Puîyus and gazed outwards and wondered upon the broken worlds crammed with worlds and shadow. At last Ixhúja set aside her clockwork earring and placed it back into her ear and stood up and saw where it was they were venturing, and the Children wre wondering whether blasts and implosions and volcanoes had torn these worlds apart, and left them naught but smoldering ruins drifting throughout the darkness. Éfhelìnye signaled unto Ixhúja to sit down next to them, and Ixhúja did so. Puîyus drew the jhuináxhyong downwards. Golden shards of light were falling upon them all, the children looked back and saw that the pirate vessels were making their way through the coils and shadows behind them, and within their unfolding nets were drawing the umbrella ship behind them. The children turned back, the crumbling worlds were sparkling before thei gaze. Jigs that looked a little like blue worlds and jewel oceans were appearing before them, bits and pieces which had once been plain and mountain, strange shimmerations that had once been part of some forest world. Ixhúja pointed in the distance, for she recognized some of these petrified continental slabs, for some of them had once been part of the crimson plains and whispering mountains of Khnìntha, some sheans of land once part of the rouage Heresy that once tried to consume the worlds of the south.
At once Puîyus pulled upon the wheels and helm and he drew the shuttle boat downwards so that they could investigate some of stones and worlds which had been part of Khnìntha’s pourous coastline, for he knew that it would lighten Ixhúj’s heart to see a little the shadow of her homerealm, and anyway, Éfhelìnye was ay-curious to discover whatever she could find. The long boat came veering downwards and soon was drifting untowards the slabs, some of the slabs were like tremendous trees caught up in a forest, while others looked a little like éjasetsoqhílaqa runestone claws jutting upwards in the darkness, and as the shuttle approached, strange and circular patterns of circles and crescents were appearing upon the surface and then fadinga way. Puîyus drew the ship down through the lower free airs, and flowing upwards through the ether were towers of long silenced factories, and some of the massive claws that were once part of machinery of this world and always spewed out smoke and ash and soot cinem cinif radaro maŝino, as the ship spilt about the outlines the children could imagine a little the fell percussion that the gears and cogs had made against each other, and the smell of bronze and oil and precious iron, and vast and ankylotic and horrid arose all of the great metallic spirals of this place. They did not sail too long about the crumbling xhwopàmle factories fanspηp, soon they were sailing about bits of castle and huge walls that still retained unto themselves a some mosaics and bits of headless and armless statues. Ixhúja a few more times before the crumbling of the walls, for she recognized the castles of the Pfhaqhaîtsir, her own clan, the emblems of flags, of the descendents of Queen Ifhrúri herself, that ancient house which so long had tempted to rebel against the love of the Emperor.
Princess Éfhelìnye looked around and could feel the great tendrillar shadows gathering all about them. – I don’t think we should linger here – she chanted. – I have the feeling that we are insects crawling upon the back of an high-finned tóxheke whale, and although the aġviQ is basking in the afternoontide light, at any moment it is about to dip back into the frigid waters and take us with it. –
Puîyus was not entirely sure what Éfhelìnye was sensing, although being upon such a small vessel and in the presence of ruined planets caught up in ruins he did feel rather small, but he knew that Éfhelìnye was sometimes able to guess about things which no other mortal could possibly discern. He licked his lips a few more times and peered through the darkness, he saw that once again their jhuináxhyong shuttle was outpacing the rainbrella ship and the rest of the peiratical skiffs, even as he and the Princesses were venturing deeper and deeper into the ruins, he tried to peer through the darkness, he could see a slight flexing although he was not entirely sure what they could be, as if all of the ruins were the muscles of some great and tremulous creature, he felt as if cobwebs were gathering all around him and slithering about his heart. He closed his eyen, somewhere he could feel the presence of sounds like unto so many trumps and conch shells, strange and ancient forces gathering somewhere within the darkness. All at once he understood that somewhere vast xàfhar cadlong were flowing about the ruins, and although he could not identify what type of warships they may be, he knew that they were inimical to children and pirates sneaking through the darkness.
Puîyus opened his eyen turning to Éfhelìnye mewed a few times. Éfhelìnye nodded and chanted – You’re right, we do not want to bump intop such creatures like those, especially when we’re supposed to be returning unto Grandfather Pátifhar and the rest of your family. Anyway, I have a strange feeling about this darkness, I feel as if it is watching us all. –
Princess Ixhúja walked unto the rostrum and pointed unto the emblems and flags of her family, and clapped her hands together in anticipation of seeing the items and shades that had once belonged unto her family. Puîyus stood up and gave her a signal to remain where she was, and Éfhelìnye chanted – Please, Ixhúja, we need to leave this zone as soon as possible. We just need to escape, not to start a fight with whatever powers are wandering within the darkness. Why, these could be the same powers that struck aside the great burning fields around which we had to navigate before.
Ixhúja stuck out her tounge at Éfhelìnye and pulled a face and growled a few times to tell her, I don’t have to take orders from you, cousin! If I want to investigate the ruins of the Pfhaqhaîtsir, there’s nothing you can do to halt me! And at that Ixhúja spun around and she ran down the length of the long boat and jumping up into a sommersault she leapt up into the air and dove off the side of the ship. Puîyus ran after her and coming to the side of the ship saw that Ixhúja was descending for a time through the darkness, until she became just a tiny speck far below, and she landed at the side of a great arachnid tower and soon was crawling down the side and exploring the endless fields of ruins far below. Puîyus looked up and sighed, he pointed unto the wheel of the xermoâthe, and at once the rudder set itself unto a sharp dive into the mist below. Éfhelìnye reached out and scrambled unto the triple masts and wrapped her arms around the hooks of one of them, and suddenly the jhuináxhyong curved downwads and began diving thirling through the darkness, and the turms arose in a blur ready to engulf the children.
It did not take Puîyus too long to bring the ship downwards in a long and fluent spiral untowards the towers snaking within the darkness, the architecture all appeared to be a combination of triangles and crescents and bits and pieces of exposed machinery. He could almost imagine that all of these towers and walls had all been part of the edge of some eldritch clockwork tumbling all about, that somewhere within the darkness were spinning some great coils that were unraveling and powering massive wheels whereupon all of these cities had long ago been set, the sheer size of the cities, dwarfed the children within the shuttle jhuináxhyong, and the children could almost imagine that this was one of those Khnìnthan Cities which had been builded up by generations of nations and queendoms, perhaps the earliest of layers had been builded up by the claws of the Xelòrkhta or the Jòrfha and then when the Children of Ifhrúri came and builded up their various tribes, layer after layer of smaller city were builded upon stairs too larger for them, and twining disque roads broke apart from larger slabs, and the shadows of great things which once were. Puîyus sniffed the air but could guess at once where Ixhúja had gone, her slot was a slight pomegranate scent drifting in the winds, and he could guess where she had come dancing upon the edge of crescent end crennelation deeper and deeper within the ruins. Puîyus drew the ship downwards and found where some cliffs were opening upwards and revealing the sides of cities, for it looked as if a great claw had reached down and yanked up half of the city, and clove buildings in twain, so that the children could see the jagged edge of rooms and bits of furniture and wall leading into ancient castles. He set the ship down to hover at the side of a cliff and springing up he took Éfhelìnye by the hand and lead her downwards and into the ruins, and behind them everything was such a dark and gathering haze of horns and feathers and hooves.
– I love my cousin Ixhúja as if she were mine own Sister – Éfhelìnye was saying, as she and Puîyus walked hand in hand through the crumbling corridor. – Sometimes I just wish she were slightly less impulsive. Sometimes she can be so happy and friendly, and othertimes she is a wild creature running and leaping away from me. –
They turned a corner and heard before them the crashing of shelves and walls, the sound of something rushing through glass and shard and smashing at whatever lay in her way, and the children knew of course that Ixhúja was behind this. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye began to turn the corner and they saw before them broken metal and shattered clocks and trampled flags and several shelves crashing downwards. Ixhúja was crawling up and down the sides of the shelves and poking her head within and sniffling and sometimes pulling out something and licking it and then dismissing it by throwing it behind her shoulders and then crawling back within and looking for something else. Éfhelìnye drew herself away from Puîyus’ hand and waded through piles of wheel and rusted gear and drew out several bits of clockweyth machinery and ran them through her hands and wondered what function these devices had once had.
– I’ve always found it interesting how Federwerk mirrors the movement of planets and moons and time and all of the heavens – Éfhelìnye chanted as she spun some of the wheels about and watched as several claws reached out to snatch her fingers. She pulled the pieces back and chanted – Although many times we are told how unnatural clockwork is, and yet it dances unto the same heartbeat of all of fate. In some ways it is quite a seasonal form of technology, it is almost a form of divinations involving wheels, cyclomancy. –
Puîyus turned around. He could feel the shuddering of darkness falling about them, his heart was beginning to race, he knew that they had to leave at once. He ran up to Ixhúja was about to start dragging her away, and Ixhúja poked her head out of the shelves a few times and peered about and did not even acknowledge Puîyus or Éfhelìnye at all, but clammered up the shelves and launched herself unto a different one and crawling downwards at last found what she sought and cried out – Purr purr purr! – several times. She grabbed several books and began climbing down the shells and opening them revealed them to be gefilled up with qájit sheets of metallic paper. She thumbed through some pages and half muttering unto herself wondering whether these books had once belonged unto her Cousin Qlenólakh, Khmàkes Pìngtis’ Daughter, the great Àrlon of the Moon, and she let her hands tiptoe about the glyphs and drawings in the pages. She drew up a pile of books and began piling them into Éfhelìnye’s hands and without even looking to her purred a little in an ancient lunar subdialect to tell her, If indeed I am the very last Martian Princess left, it may end up being my duty to restore the culture of the Clockweyth Worlds. We should save whatever books we can find, from these histories and pictures and fable books I will be able to remember all the tales of storybook days, and from these workbooks my automata thralls should be able to build all manner of devices, in a small way they can restore the grandure lost unto us. Ixhúja crawled into the shelves and grabbed several more metallic books, she knew she could not save them all and it pained her spleen to have choose among them, but she knew it would be best to grab books of ancient myth and engineering. Dropping them into Éfhelìnye’s arms, it occurred to Ixhúja that if she could not find any other Khnìnthan Princesses left in the worlds, then indeed it may end up that she alone would have to continue the culture that Queen Ifhrúri began. Ixhúja sighed a little, and wondered whether in fact she would be able to be married unto Puîyus and become his concubine, whether she could bare him children and teach them about their birthright as best she understood it, perhaps with Puîyus’ help they could make all of the Redlands of Khnìntha blossom with fern and flower, and the cannals could burst with flossy mosstides, and the hills grow again with fungal waves. It would be difficult to train up children in the ways of sword and arms, but to instill in them custom and engineering would be an added challenge.
Princess Éfhelìnye set the books down upon a table, for the pile was becoming a bit too heavy for her. Puîyus found some bands of leather and wrapped them about the books and set them about his shoulders so that he could carry the minilibrary. Already Éfhelìnye was wandering away, she could feel that heaviness of the danger falling upon them all, and yet in this brief moment of opportunitas, she just had to see what else was left within the ruins. She poked into the next room and saw huge bits of fan and wheel, she drew aside some of the bramble on the floor and found bits of petrified wood and masonry, and running into the next room saw great stacks of wood that looked like they had once been furniture, but the walls had come crashing through them and scattered the pieces. – Cousin, oh Cousin Ixhúja! – cried Éfhelìnye looking around. – Where are the dolls and the solar spheres and puzzles? I thought we might as well save some of the toys of your people, at the very least we could give them as presents to Siêthiyal and Karuláta, I know they would just love to have them. –
Puîyus came walking behind her, he was looking unto the walls and doors and wondering whether any weapons had been left, and of the amber glistening spears perhaps that the dome helmeted soldiers of the triple Tribes were wont to carry, he was thinking of ways to hide these weapons within the jhuináxhyong shuttle or perhaps even with Éfhelìnye’s blanket, but he was not finding anything at all. Ixhúja came sweeping within and looking around at the rooms breaking apart even before their gaze and purring a little told her, Khnìnthan children seldom have toys, since toys were made by the hand of the idolatrous Emperor. In ancient times when Khnìntha was still part of the Imperium, our children received toys from the Emperor, but when Eilasaîyan cut out or land and hid it behind curtains of mist and walls of stones, such toys became treasured heirlooms, especially among the Noble Houses of Pfhàqlen and Pfhaqhaîtsir and Pfhàkhan and Qháyatsir. So Ixhúja was purring and doing her best to explain. Some of her dragonflies were arising about her head and turning around were following Éfhelìnye as she came dashing from room to room.
– I’ve found something! – Éfhelìnye shouted. Puîyus and Ixhúja ran after her, and they came into a room whose walls were almost altogether eaten away in ash and soot, and upon the walls lay naught but the dust outline of what had once been people caught in the last moments of their lives and vaporized. Puîyus was looking around and he felt for a moment as if he were talking items that were really offerings to the honored Dead left within their tombs, but he tought that since he was in the presence of a Martian Princess that she should be the one to decide how the artifacts of her people were treated. Éfhelìnye was picking up a couple of plush birds and dinosaurs, and running her hands about them she could feel that a most intricate coil of clockwork flowed within them all, and examinig the tears in the fur and the rustle of the wood she could see that the toys were many generations old and that they had been repaired and repainted many, many times as they were down from one generation of children unto the next. Ixhúja came forwards, she touched a few of the scattered books and the sighing toys and wondered all the while. Éfhelìnye placed one of the mechanical dinosaurlings into Ixhúja’s hand and chanted – These all really belong to you, though. It was presumptuous of me to say that I would claim some as presents for Puey’s Sisters. –
Ixhúja examined the dinosaurling toy in her hands, and she wondered at Kàrijoi’s artistry, of how he had been able to conceive and craft such a miracle, how he had made almost living toys to bring delight unto so many children. She wound the spring of the the dionsaurling and it began to wriggle and growl in her grasp, and although it limped a little she knew that she could fix these toys and give them in proper working order to Siêthiyal and Akhlísa. Ixhúja gathered up the toy birds and dinosaurs, the ones that looked in best condition and looking unto the broken divans and shelves she saw several one horned toys which she could not quite recognize, toys that looked a little like strange zarāfa wights camelopard tall and angular and strange, but since they did not look too cuddly and she only wanted to save the best she ignored them and took up the cuter toys and looking to Puîyus and Éfhelìnye told them in sighs and purrs, I would rather have these be enjoyed by living children and then be left as monuments to the dead. All these ruins will probably break apart anyway in the coming blizzards. Puîyos, your Sisters are still young enough to enjoy these dolls as they were meant to be. I myself was never given toys, but just knives and swords to amuse myself. Siêthiyal and Karuláta shall love these, and I shall love watching their play.
Puîyus nodded in pleasure to think of the happiness of his Sisters. Ixhúja was tying the toys up and wrapping them about her girdle, she wanted to keep them as still and protected as she could, and then while the children were walking in the next room and searching for whatever else they could salvage, the halls began to quaver a little, and the walls were crumbling with shockwaves and mounting clouds of dust. At once Puîyus arose in the air and he plucked both Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye upwards, and all about them columns were spilling downwards, and wall after wall breaking apart and crashing down, and the ceiling breaking apart in great incinerating folds. Puîyus rolled aside and shielded the Princesses with his body as all of the towers fell right upon his back, tonnes of stone and metal and spinning wheels crashing about his head and next, and several storeys of building crashing about him and smacking his head and shoulders. He looked down, even as his back and shoulders held up the towers as they came falling one by one upon him. He looked down as the major boulders and stone subsided and some of the choking dust faded away, and beneath him Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja lay. Éfhelìnye looked to Ixhúja and whispered – Are you alright? You didn’t hurt yourself, I hope. –
Ixhúja shrugged, and poking Puîyus’ on his shoulder pointed up to say, You do know that an entire building has fallen on your back, don’t you? She sighed to herself and wished that she could hold an entire building up, it was reassuring that she could still race faster than her twin, but she knew better than to achieve feats of such enormous and præternatural strength. Puîyus nodded a few times, and squirming a little in his grasp turned around and grasp the falling walls and pillers and slowly drew himself to his feet, and heaving all the while shoved the columns and walls upwards far enough so that with a few mighty blow he could punch the building avalenche away from him. The stone and metal was exploding as he grunted and shoved all of the ruins right off of him and the Princesses. Since the walls were breaking aside he had to keep punching and striking at them to keep them at bay, and as he shoved several towers and storeys away from the Princess there arose the sound of explosions high above then, and the grinding sound of plasma cannonry spinning around and firing. Puîyus turned aside once the towers that threatened him and the Princess were gone, and he helped Éfhelìnye to her feet, for Ixhúja had already arisen and was exploring about the ruins and trying to find a means of egress.
– My Puey’s very strong, an entire building can fall on him and not hurt him! – Éfhelìnye squealed. – Did you see that, Ixhúja! Did you see just how strong and magnificient and beautiful and kissable my Puey is? –
Ixhúja made a dismissive gesture to tell her, Yes, yes, Puîyos is very strong.
– And kissable! – Éfhelìnye cried as she clapped her hands together in glee. She turned to Puîyus and looked at the books strapped upon his back and chanted – I think the books are alright despite the building’s falling on them. Are fine, Puey? –
Puîyus nodded. He looked around, the sound of explosions was growing closer towards them, and although the coils of stone about them were shrouded in dust, he could see a little the outline of living ships alit with painted lanterns, and strange tendrillar designs in the darkness. Ixhúja could see it also, she was scrambling about and looking for jhuináxhyong to see where they had left it.
Éfhelìnye hopped up to Puîyus and puckering up her lips whispered – It’s time to kiss me! –
– ?? – Puîyus asked her.
– You just saved my life, and I believe the standard reward whereon we settled was three kisses on my lips! Now start kissing me! –
Puîyus did not remember entering into exactly such a contract, and at the moment he was more concerned with bringing them out of danger. He grabbed Éfhelìnye by the hand and tried hastening her forwards and looked to Ixhúja a few times, and Éfhelìnye chanted – Oh, it’s fine with me if you shower me with kisses in front of my cousin, I won’t be embarrassed at all. Now, it’s true that you saved her princessly life also, so I should reward you for that also, and so I believe we now have to kiss nine times. –
– ?? –
– Thrice three, Princess kisses should be multiplied. – Puîyus kept trying to hurry Éfhelìnye up, but she just lept up and wrapped her arms about his and was trying to kiss him all the while. At last Puîyus just drew her aside and kissed her forehead nine times, and before she could respond he swept her up in his arms and began running. Ixhúja was running also, for all the ruisn were breaking apart at this point, and all around them were revealed the outline of titanic vessels spilling upwards in strange alien geometries. Éfhelìnye whispered – I take it that means that you’re saving up for some magnificient and huge kisses later on, don’t think that I’m going to forget about these! –
Everything was rush and movement and crash. The walls were all bursting downwards unto all sides of them, the ruins themselves were become like the face of so many waves spilling down unto the seas, and Puîyus and Ixhúja were running down the center and hoping to outrun the coming of the tidal bores. Éfhelìnye grasped Puîyus tight about his neck and kept looking back and saw that all about her the great towers were swaying from side to side like ferns rustling in the winds, and the walls were being uprooted as lances of light were falling upon them, and great tentacles were unraveling themselves high within the stratosphere and reaching downwards were smashing against the tip of one tower and then the next. The ruins of these plains that had once been part of the coastline of Khnìntha were incinerating faster and faster, where shafts of light were falling upon them up arose columns of dust and burning stone, brilliant and gyrating sparkles of flame reaching upwards, they were growing craters of flame sucking in the edge of statuery and tower and bone struts, and as the caldera were widening they were drawing unto themselves more of the edges of stone and ruins. All at once several more giant tentacles came crashing through the burning haze and were grabbing the edge of the crescent turms and hurling them downwards, and flowing down from the edge came smoldering boiling metal which had once been part of ticking machinery. The dust was growing thicker and more acrid, but Éfhelìnye was able to see a little better the outline of huge horns within the heavens, and strange vessels that looked a little like living ships composed entirely of tentacles and jaws, several different vessels that were grappling against each other and turning their turrit towers about and firing upon anything that came too close to them. Puîyus came bouncing up higher and faster still, for all the ruins were being sucked into the great burning seas formed from the gigantomachy of these titanic vessels, and soon Ixhúja was following his lead and leaping upwards right next to him, and they came bouncing upwards about some of the long and winding towers that were the outerstruts of some of the ancient Khnìnthan clockwork. At once the burning haze began to clear from this vantage point, and the children were able to see some of the splendor of the battle being waged up above them.
Massive and sharp and ætherial were the sky ships that were crashing against each other, their claws and tendrils reaching outwards to rend the others apart, vast and ancient living ships whose like the children had never seen before save for the nightmares brought about by a fever. Some of the living ships looked like massive collections of bark and horn and antler growing upwards from a base all of tentacle forests, and while others were in a more stylized and geometric glow, although what precious shape they were the children could not quite see, although sometimes they saw patterns that were triangular and hexagonal. They were great warships and crownds of lava were bursting upwards from all of their towers, and all of the warships were covered in wings which were opening up their eyen as they fought each other, and bursting from the eyen were come plasma torpedoes looping about and eating away at the flesh of the enemy ship. Fire clouds were bursting upwards, and as the vessels flapped their tremendous wings, they were lifting up strange biomechanical heads cyclopean and blinking their eyen and generating great storms of light and darkness. Puîyus and Ixhúja came crawling about the other edge of the tower, and Éfhelìnye kept ducking upwards to see the battle a little better. Puîyus did not think from this distance that the living ships could see them, but he did not think it mattered, for these strange forces were so busy fighting each other and firing storms of lava and vaporizing the ruins that just lay in their way, that he did not think that the children were their main targets. Puîyus was looking around and hoping that these monstrious alien creatures had not found Captain Euqliîna and Qìtien the acolyte and the rainbrella vessel, surely the pirates had been warned in time and taken a different round through the great and wondering honeycombs of these ruins. He looked around and saw that arising up from towers about them lay long platforms set at the edge of machinery and upon one of them, glistening with a soft pink and green light like the jhuináxhyong shuttle that he had taken with the Princesses. He pointed unto it and making the figure of a tip-toeing man told them that they would try to sneak back unto the jhuináxhyong and so make their escape. Éfhelìnye gasped. Fireflames of torpedoes were crashing down about them, and the heavens looked like comets were trying to weave their web all about them. In an instant several of the towers evaporated at once, and those that were only struck on the side were shuffling o'er and collapsing in glories of grey dust burbling outwards. Puîyus spun around and saw that the jhuináxhyong long boat was still hovering beside one of the smaller towers, and it was turning around and training its helm and eye outwards and trying to find the children who had ridden upon it. Puîyus made some hissing sounds and urged the boat to flutter back unto them. The boat hesitated but then turned its triple masts about and began creeping into the winds. Streaks of white light were spilling down in all directions. Éfhelìnye gasped out in surprise, at once a third of the ruins disappeared and left in their void nothing must white smoke flowing upwards. She pointed and could see the shuttle boat struggling to sail through the blinding and growing light. Sparkles of plasma were raining downwards. The long boat screamed, lances of light fell upon it, and within half an eyeblink it was incinerated also, and growing waves of light and flame were echoing outwards from where it had been. And the warships vast implacable cold and alien were looming downwards and hovering closer to where-de Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja stood. At once Puîyus sprang into action, he picked up Ixhúja also and sprang out into the burning light and running down the side of one of the towers gathered up some great bits of wheel and clockwork and several sheets of wood with one arm while yanking out some rope with another hand. He threw these items down and at once a plan of escape was formulated in his mind. It would have been nice to have the provisions within the emergency boat, but it would not be too difficult to feed the Princesses off of the land, and all they had to do was make their way unto the North where Grandfather Pátifhar and his beloved Father and his Sisters Siêthiyal and Akhlísa the cherished ones were waiting for them all. Several sprigs of rope were flowing from his sleeves. Within just a few moments he was lashing some of the wheels together and setting them upon bits of wood and plank. He grabbed the side of a wall and tore off the outer casing of it to use as a crude solar sail, and gathering up several more ropes began tying them all together until he he had a simple rafter that looked a little like a combination of web and weir and string all somehow tied together. He gave the package of books to Éfhelìnye, and the she crawled into the raft, jhyùtsin ward̀an and found it small and cozy and the best option that they had when gigantic warships were destroying all land and all tower and everything in all direction. Ixhúja pulled upon the rafter and drew it out into the air, and Puîyus hopped into it and caught Ixhúja when she jumped within, and at once Puîyus yanked upon the ropes and set it sailing in the opposite direction of the cælestial war being waged all about them.
The massive and alien living ships were wrestling each other and slugging it out with plasma and light, strange and monstrious vessels that were roaring as they crashed together, and their wings were growing jaws and biting against each other, rending and slashing all the while. The largest of these vessels were like lions circling each other and roaring as they wrestled, and the smaller vessels were screaming as tigers and were darting in and out of each other, the great angular antler living ships and the geometric shadows spinning around and crashing against each other and shockwaves were rippling outwards from them in all directions. Sometimes, so the children could see, the living ships were spinning around so swift and terrible that their tentacles just came crashing through the ruins of the worlds about them, and they thirled through the towers and broken vessels as if they were but paper and thread, and the living ships were spinning around each other and firing torpedoes in such numbers that entire cities were lighting up around the giant living ships, sparkles of white light visible even to the children in their flight. Puîyus natheless was in no humor to stay and observe this battle, for after all it was his prime duty to protect the innocent and especially Éfhelìnye who was of the holy dragon blood of the Pwéru, and he could see through the crashing towers and the mist catching on flames unto all sides of them that some clearer less obstructed space lay just without, and he aimed the raft thereunto, and the last thing that the children saw in the battle of the monstrious vessels was that some of the smaller living ships were being reduced unto liquid, and streaks of lava were bursting down their sides even as they broke apart, and some of the larger vessels were crashing into each other with such tremendous force that the ruins of civilizations were being reduced unto twisting dust. And all at once this coralline pocket of space drifted away from the children, and Puîyus turned the raft and had it burst upwards o'er the side of some dustclouds and so they came drifting o'er the Scorched Dreamlands, and Puîyus drew up the makeship solar sail and did his best to capture the solar winds reaching out unto the horizons of the Northwind.
Night came and with it the chill of the Emperor’s midnight. Puîyus spent some time adjusting the simple solar sail, such a crude vessel like this one would not be capable of the speed and subtly of a rainbrella ship or even of a jhaûrquil corwgl, but it should be sufficient to draw upwards unto the outer North. The rafter was so small that it really had no prow or stern and barely even a mast, just some ropes and solar sails, a pile of books and toys and a couple of Princesses. The dusty heavens were clearent little, but one by one the Stars were beginning to poke their faces out through the Darkness, and even a few Suns were still shining at the very edge of their sight. Puîyus pointed unto the Princess’ left unto a mysterious and violet orb, it was a setting Sun yclepte Wtsòntixhe, the lucky Sun of the Traîkhiim, and gazing unto its porporate shadows reminded him of his friend Fhólus, and he hoped that that he or she were still safe in the company of his Sisters somewhere within the fleet of glass and hot air balloons. He looked up and saw a familiar Star appearing low before them, and pointing unto it, the Princesses saw that it was Khnúl the Polaris Star, a friend to all sailors, and Puîyus did not even have to adjust the solar sails to keep them facing northweards, for he had already been able to discern where he had to go. Frost was arising from the breath of the Princesses, and Puîyus reached for the clasps about his aureate torq and removed the violet dreamcloak and draped it about both of the Princesses to keep their cold in the long night, and he stood to lean against mast and watch the movement of the Stars balletic and graceful and Immortal.
Princess Éfhelìnye cleared her throat and chanted – Puey, it would be surely the best course of action if you wrapped yourself up in the blankets also and snuggled next to me, for it is very cold and one would embrace your cuddling body heat. I say this only for my cousin Ixhúja’s sake, she just looks so cold, and I’m sure that if you hugged me in the blankets that we would all be the warmer. –
Ixhúja tapped her teeth with her fingers and spake in a clicking mechanical language to say, Nobody is hugging anyone. However, considering that we are caught up in the middle of gloamtide, and our rafter is about the size of a chair, and we only have a single cloak, Puîyos, all of us should huddle next to each other.
– Yes, snuggle up with me. –
Huddle together.
– Yes, snuggle. –
Huddle huddle huddle huddle! Ixhúja was not completely familiar with the signs of Taûsqo but she spelt out the letters of the word tsèqen, those who huddle, wilt, shrink during cooking, recoil, are shrunken.
– Yes, yes, jhkhàthwu, those who comfort, hug, cuddle, snuggle, I’m quite familiar with the word. –
– Jhkhàthwu. Why, didn’t Puey just use that in a poem? Jhkhàthwot stélaring újeyant póxhnisa, if I remember right. I like cuddling the princess. –
Puîyus was about to tell Éfhelìnye that she was misremembering his magnum opus whereon he had labored for so long, but he thought that it may be considered a little rude. Ixhúja reached upwards in the blanket and began chit-chatting in the voice of a xhaûrlro mouse squirrel and told them, The best idea is Puîyos to lie next to me here at the end, and you, my cousin, stay where you are. In fact, I have an even better idea. Puîyos, I am more than capable of staying up all through the night and making sure that the solar sails face Khnúl. When you sit down beside me, why don’t you sleep, and I shall keep watch.
– I have an even better idea! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Ixhúja, dearest Sister, why don’t you go to sleep, and I’ll stay awake and keep Puey company. He can sit next to me and we can talk about tnúpa jórqha chess or something. –
Ixhúja blinked a couple of times. One does not trust that look in your eye, my most dearest Sister, Ixhúja was telling her in glances and blinks. Mayhap Puîyos can sit next to me, and if you try to hug him, I’ll just tie you up to the mast.
– Puey and I can stay up and look at all the ancient books of your people that we managed to rescue! – Éfhelìnye grabbed a leather-bound codex at random and flipping through the pages with perfect instinct found some pages covered in drawings of Princesses and Knights. – Ah, isn’t this interesting! Why here is a story of a Princess who runs away from home to meet an errant Knight, Ixhúja these may be your own ancestors, and they met up in a great fungal forest beside the cannals and confess their love for each other! – She flipped through the pages and cried out – Here, they share their kisses beside the cannals. Why, Puey and I can read the story aloud to each other, it’s very important that we preserve your people’s culture, Ixhúja, and we can even make it into a play and act it out. I’m sure it would be a burdhen for me to play the part of the Princess and kiss Puey all the time, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for literature and … are you going to give me the book back when you’re done? –
Ixhúja sighed and was flipping through the pages, she hoped the end of this story had some rather graphic illumination to accompany it, and sure enough it did, for the parents of Khnìntha were just as strict about arranging marriages for their children as the parents of the Winter Empire were. Ixhúja jabbed her thumb a few times at the final drawing and threw it right into Éfhelìnye’s face.
– Oh dear, this is most certainly not an happy ending at all – Éfhelìnye chanted, and grimicing a little she had to turn her face away from the picture. – So I take it that the parents were quite opposed to the match? And it looks like the removed the hearts of their children … oh my goodness … with some mecehanical device and inserted clockwork within. Ixhúja, I’m not sure I can read this tale, let alone look at the pictures. – Éfhelìnye turned the page and saw that the Knight’s eyen had been replaced with glass wheels, and the Princess was being drawn upwards and placed into some sort of mechanical tree. Éfhelìnye shuttered and closed the book. Ixhúja snatched it from her and poked her cousin a few times with the tome as if to say, No, the tale does not have an happy ending.
– But at least the Princess and the Knight had some happy times together, even if for just a few days – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Love is worth any price that we have to pay, don’t you think? – Ixhúja was not answering but placing the book back into the bundle and making sure that everything was tied tight. – Well, I find it worthwild and I don’t care who knows about it. Puey! Don’t you want to cuddle up with me and kiss me throughout the night? – Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja looked around and saw that Puîyus had already sate down next to where the Martian Princess had lain, and Puîyus had already coiled up on his side and was fast asleep. For a few moments Éfhelìnye just watched his sleeping, she found it charming and hypnotic, and then she realized that now was her change to snuggle up beside him. Ixhúja however, seeing her cousin’s rolling o'er dove down and interposed herself between the two of them and just glared at Éfhelìnye for a few moments.
You do know you have absolutely no control whatsoever, don’t you? You are just completely obsessed with love for my twin Puîyos, aren’t you? the flash of her eyen was telling him.
– Love may be allconsuming but it is not obsessive, it is only right, and it leads us unto harmonious actions – Éfhelìnye chanted. – And I’ll have you know I have other interests aside from my Puey, such as my writing, the grand story about Puey. –
Isn’t that rather the same thing?
– No, it’s completely different, it’s a literary telling of Puey as opposed to the real Puey beside us. –
The Puey Puey? Ixhúja blinked.
– Precisely. –
That made no sense at all.
– I’m going to give you a midnight hug before I go to sleep. –
I don’t want an hug.
– Just one squeeze. –
Don’t touch me!
– Just hold me for a moment. –
Stop it! Stop it! Stop!
– Ixhúja! Hold me! –
Éfhelìnye rolled right on top of Ixhúja and hugged her, and Ixhúja wriggled and cringed and tried to think of anything else and was wishing that Puîyus’ cape were large enough for all three of them to lie beneath it and comfortably far apart. After what seemed to Ixhúja to be an interminable and overexcessive hug laced with affection, Éfhelìnye rolled off of her cousin and deposited herself between Ixhúja and Puîyus. She grinned for a couple of moments and then inching towards Puîyus threw her arms about his neck and squeezed him tight.
Ixhúja bound out and cried out in some officious barks and cries as if to say, Oh how clever you are! Now stop touching him!
– Never! He’s mine for ever! –
Don’t make me pull you off him.
– He’s mine mine mine mine and nobody can separate us! –
Éfha! Let him go! Ixhúja kicked the cape aside, and at once, exposed all three of the children to the bitter midnight cold. At once Éfhelìnye began shivering even as she tried to clutch Puîyus with all her strength. Ixhúja reached down and began extracting her cousin, yanking at her hands and limbs, it was a little like pulling an octopus from its favorite perch in high tide, as soon as Ixhúja pulled aside one limb Éfhelìnye was able to find another foothold or grasp about Puîyus, and Ixhúja had to begin her struggles all o'er again. At last, though Ixhúja began dragging her cousin away, although Éfhelìnye poked and kicked her a few times, and Ixhúja threw her down at the other edge of the rafter and very gently set the blanket about all three of them.
One would just wish that you would learn to behave, Ixhúja told her in blinks and glances as she wrapped Éfhelìnye in her side of the blanket. The martian Princess looked around and saw that Puîyus was fast asleep, but she also kept her hands down upon shivering Éfhelìnye lest she attempt to spring up once again.
– Cousin, I hope it is not churlish of me to mention it, but thou thyself also must have needs to learn to behave, considering how thoughtless and impulsive thou art! – Éfhelìnye chanted as she sate up and gazed upon Puîyus’ sleeping form.
That is irrelevant to our current concern, Ixhúja purred and clicked as she watched the cold and distal Stars and Polaris low upon the horizon.
– Are you tired, my dearest and golden cousin kùlta? – Éfhelìnye asked, as she leaned upon her elbows to watch Puîyus in his slumber.
Not in the least.
– If you like, I can keep watch this night while you sleep. –
I’m staying awake, sleep or not it makes no difference to me what you do.
– I can watch o'er both you and adorable Puey o'er there. –
In your current state of mind, I trust you not, the moment my back is turned you’ll be hugging him and squeezing him, really you just lose your mind when you think about him.
Éfhelìnye yawned and stretched her arms. – I suppose you’re right. I’m just so tired right now! I feel another yawn coming! Ah! – Éfhelìnye sighed and yawned even louder. – Don’t you find your eyen growing evey with sleep? –
Not at all, Ixhúja blinked to her.
– Not even a little? Doesn’t it feel better if you slip down into the blankets like this, and rest your head back like this? Here, see the way mine eyen are closing, it’s just so relaxing. –
Ixhúja slid down also and closed her eyen for a moment like her cousin had down and found it to be quite relaxing. Éfhelìnye slid closer to her and yawned three more times, each time louder and longer than the one before. Ixhúja found that she was nodding her head and following the movements of Éfhelìnye’s mouth. – Oh, I’m just so tired that I think I’m going to fall asleep at any moment. Mine arms, my neck, my entire body is just grow still. – Éfhelìnye curled up and clasped her legs and closed her eyen. – So sleepy … sleepy … sleepy … asleep … – she whispered. Éfhelìnye fell silent and was breathing deeply. Ixhúja’s eyelids were grown heavy of their own accord, she kept closing them only to jerk back awake. She was smacking her lips. Vaguely she was aware that she kept closing her eyen for longer periods of time. The heat of the three children was building up within the cape, and despite the lack of pillows, it was comfortable just to lie down next to some friends and watch the cold and distant dance of the Stars. Ixhúja could hear the sound of Éfhelìnye’s and Puîyus’ breathing. Slowly Ixhúja’s eyen slid shut and she rolled o'er to turn her back on her princessly cousin.
About half a minute later Ixhúja sprang awake. She was in an instant aware of two facts, that Éfhelìnye was no longer lying beside her, and that to her left where Puîyus lay came the subtle smell of cinnamon . Ixhúja jumped to her feet and saw that Éfhelìnye was lying right on top of Puîyus and hugging his neck and snuggling next to him and kissing his face. Several of Ixhúja’s clockwork insects flaired out of her golden hair and spun about in quick and almost violent dances. Ixhúja reached upwards, and grabbed Éfhelìnye by her collar even as she was trying to kiss Puîyus’ lips, Éfhelìnye’s lips were come perilously close, she was struggling to keep her embrace about his neck, but this time Ixhúja just flung her aside and dangled her from side to side like a recalcitrant kitten.
Éfhelìnye’s face lit up. – I wonder how I ended up there! I must have been sleep walking! That happens to me sometimes, I’ll just magically disappear and find myself close to Puey. –
Ixhúja shook Éfhelìnye a few times and purred to her in a feline tounge to ask, And were you sleep kissing also?
Éfhelìnye shrugged. – It’s a medical condition, I have a rare case of Pueyphilia, I just can’t help myself. Are you going to let me go? –
Ixhúja pulled Éfhelìnye down and wrapped the three of them up again within the dreamcloak, but this time Ixhúja drew Éfhelìnye close to herself and let her rest her head against hers. Crawling out from Ixhúja’s aurelian tresses came several mechanical dragonflies, they were spilling out from the blankets and crawling about both Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja. Éfhelìnye snuggled up next to Ixhúja and sighed. Ixhúja purred a few times and clasped her cousin’s hands and told her, That was quite a trick you tried to pull off.
– It wasn’t a trick – Éfhelìnye muttered.
Of course. This time I shall not fall asleep, now that I am weary to you, and my pwànkhafha thralls shall ensure that you both remain here and that I remain alert. Still, I must congratulate you on your wileness.
– I’m not clever, I just need to be with Puey. – Éfhelìnye lookd up to watch the heavens, so cold and cheerless they appeared within the sky vault. – I just hope that Captain Euqliîna and Qìtien the Acolyte and the rest of the pirates are doing fine. –
They may be doing better than we are, they might have seen the movement of the alien fleet in time and escaped with real living ships, not left to float upon a raft. There’s a good chance they’ll sail up and find us within a day or so. Just as long as we get to the estuaries we should be fine, Qìtien kept telling us that the rest of your party would be waiting for us there.
Éfhelìnye sighed. – The pirates were very kind to look after us. Maybe the lwúnìqte was able to warn them, he’s quite marvelous indeed. Oh, everyone is going to such trouble because of me. – Ixhúja found herself rubbing her cousin’s arms to embrace and reassure her but also repulsed at the thought of touhing a living being. In the end she decided just to embrace her cousin, especially if that would lull her unto sleep. The clockwork insects buzzed a little, when they saw that Ixhúja was playing with Éfhelìnye’s hair a little. – I know Puey misses his friends in Jaràqtu. He had two very good friends who were war orphans being reared up to be acolytes. Khrùkhtii is still waiting for Puey, but his other friend is no more and wellmissed. His name was Paloîta Fhloêt, he was about Puey’s age, but he has fallen in the outer west where all the Suns sink. Puey doesn’t mention his friends too often, but I think whenever he prays and smells incense and sees the priesthood he is reminded of them. I want Qìtien to return to Grandfather Pátifhar, and for Grandpa to be proud of him, and I want Euqliîna to return to his home where his sweetheart waits for him. In fact, I wish to find sweethearts for all of the pirates, so all of them could live happily e'er after. –
Perhaps they do not wish to be married, but would he happiest to live alone to persue their own interests. Ixhúja watched the shimmer of the heavens. Éfhelìnye yawned a few times and looking up to the Stars chanted – And yet even the Stars are not solitary, they are Immortals and gather together, the dance in the heavens is just an instance of time for them. I suppose I’ve told you the good news about a thousand times, about how Puey and I are going to be betrothed if we can just win this war. I’ll this day I’ve been trying to trick Puey all the while, to force him into marriage, and you can imagine my surprise when we finally made our way to the Crystalline Throne and before my Father’s august moai presence he volunteered to marry me! – Éfhelìnye giggled a little but her voice was hushed as sleep was falling upon her.
I cannot tell you how happy that makes me, Ixhúja purred unto her. But I do not think that all stories will end that way.
– I’m going to get a sweetheart for you also. You should be betrothed too. –
Not likely, Ixhúja told her in a language of barely audible sighs and murmurations. Marriage would probably make me less of a fighter. Anyway, I would rather dwell in the forest and wilds and jungle and be with the wild creatures of the world, I do not think I am a creature meant for kitchens and manners and ritual.
– Everyone should get married – Éfhelìnye yawned. – Save for thos called to be vestal virgins and priests, of course, but, yes, definitely all Princesses should get married. –
You’ve given this far too much thought.
– You and I are all that’s left of our family, we must carry on the heritage of the heofonliċ Pwéru. –
Ixhúja rolled o'er to face her cousin and blinking told her, And yet I may also be the least of the birthright of Khnìntha. It may be best if I do have an husband to rear up children with me, to continue the traditions of the Red Moons of the Heresy. He would have to be very strong and swift to keep up with me, and I would have to love him with an abiding love. Éfhelìnye reached out to tap Ixhúja’s hand a little, and Ixhúja just shook her head and added in blinks and mews to tell her, No, it is a foolish thought, I am not intended for matrimony, I am too wild and free.
– If there is a man intended for you, I know that I shall be able to find him for you – Éfhelìnye whispered. She leaned up and rested her head upon Ixhúja’s chest and whispered – Please do not tell him, my sweetest and most darling Puey, but I might have made a grave error in executing my plan to save us. – Ixhúja made some cooing sounds and stroked Éfhelìnye’s hair, but her clockweyth dragonflies were looking one to another and shrugging their wings and wondering what the Khniîkhan Princess meant. Éfhelìnye chanted – When we reach Jaràqtu we may have to find a means of summong Puey’s Ancestors again. –
Ixhúja coughed in surprise. Éfhelìnye closed her eyen and whispered – When Puey and I had our audience with the Emperor my most revered Father, dread Kàrijoi told us that only by finding the Starblossom would we be able heal the land and save Puey’s family from shameful death, and he told us we must return unto the Ancestors to do so, that’s all he chanted. When Puey brought me down to meet the shade of his Mother I was so nervous and perplexed and discombobulated at the same time, that I forgot that the Emperor had told me that they were a clew. Either the Ancestors know where we must go, or they know how to get us there, or perhaps someone or some faction among the Ancestors know what we must do to achieve the Flower of Heaven. It’s only now, after I realize what a mess I made of things with beloved Khwofheîlya that I can see the mistake that I made. Maybe she knew all the while, or maybe she knows something, I’m not sure. But someone Puey and I must venture back unto the graces of the Ancestors, perhaps we can beg their forgiveness, perhaps this time they’ll be friendlier. –
Ixhúja snorted, for she was not so sure about that.
Éfhelìnye fell silent, her head upon Ixhúja’s breast. Ixhúja squeazed her cousin’s hand a few times. Éfhelìnye slept through the rest of the night, and Ixhúja and her clockwork creatures watched as they were sailing high within the dust of pandimensional space, and forming before them came the farthest shore where Syapàkhya and Jaràqtu were sparkling, and sweeping at their boundaries came great and bloated and dying Suns, the sunscapes khòxa khofhólontóxui floating o'er the midnight darkness.

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