And Princess Éfhelìnye, the only offspring of Kàrijoi the Lord of Earth and Sea and Sky and of the Virgin Empress whom no man may name was dreaming of the return of the sky pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho. Sometimes in her dream she thought that she was just a pinprick of light ducking from side to side, without substance and body and voice, and othertimes she thought that she was flying through the air upon wings of mirrors and light, and great living ships were arising about her, and sometimes she thought she was watching things as they had happened, and othertimes she was with her cousin Ixhúja and witnessing things definitely as they had not happened, as great waxen spirals of light were flowing outwards and from the growing fractals were appearing living ships and moons and worlds and ruins and pirates sailing outwards from the clouds of a great sky fleet.
And the first thing that Princess Éfhelìnye saw in her dream was the blur of the arising fleet composed of glass and hot air balloons, the curves and living ships and billows of the Xìngqo’ Oantheyùlkha the Triple Alliance, and flowing all about Éfhelìnye came the vessels of the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm and the darting fleet living ships of the Khlitsaîyart and the floating pyramids of the Qája and the brilliant dripping honey gastropods of the Ptètqiikh volk, and within the motion of the living ships and vimāna swirls and glassen hot air balloons came the flickering of ifeathered flag and the rise and fall of sailors upon the ropes, and the movements of thousands of gyroscopes orbiting from one ship to the next. And for a time Éfhelìnye just swirled about the motion and heat and gravity of these vitrious bäluns, she was like a feather flittering about, but then she was made aware of the cold sensation of the wind and the movement of great walls pening upwards, and she could see springing out from one of the great Temple Balloons a small Qlùfhem vessel darting outwards, and triangular sails springing upwards, and Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho spinning around the deck and awakening the ropes and coils while behind them upon the opening window stood Khiêro of Old, he waved back and forth and chuckled to the pirates for a few moments, and Éfhelìnye almost thought that he was waving unto them. And already the pirates were turning aside and sailing away, and although Éfhelìnye in her semiconscious dreamstate wished to stay and see Siêthiyal and Akhlísa once again, she was like a fish caught with hook and line and being drawn far aside, and she took came sailing away high into the Northand into the great blizzard that her Father was generating within Qhixiêje Winter Eternal, but Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho, being among the best sailors by far of their generation, even when plunked down into quite a finicky and experimental vessel, were dahing upwards and all of the fleet was fading away and folding up far behind them, and the Pirates were drawing up solar sails and steering right towards the face of Qterfhóreso Khrùmfhurs the Northwind that completely surrounds the barbarian land of Jaràqtu. And for a time and a timeless time, within the Dream, Éfhelìnye found herself rising and falling through the clouds and sprawling out about her came the wreckage of whispering mountains and planets and jags and the ruins of civilizations and the volcanic pieces of what had once been the rubescent moons of Khnìntha drifting out into the welkin.
Vast pandimensional living ships were appearing and drifting out of the edge of the dream, and Éfhelìnye felt herself slipping down through the smoke and chimneys drifting from side to side. In her imagination the pandimensional cruisers were not quite the behemoths of the skies such as appeared in waking life, some of the living ships were fashioned all out of cardboard and paper mache machine bĕhēmâ, some of the living ships were just barrels with paintings of wing and window upon them, and others of the living ships were just Qlùfhem and Qhíng running around and holding up flags to represent that they were supposed to be vessels. Éfhelìnye found herself slipping downwards through long tunnels of air, and when she tumbled down again she saw that Khrùkhtii and Paloîta, Puîyus’ acolyte friends were skipping around from side to side and were holding up placards which read, I am a Ship, and another which read, Ditto, Ship, and now rolling outwards into the midst of the plain came a wagon which was drawn by several xhyát triceratops, the ropes and reins rattling a little, and the wagon was spreading outwards and becoming a stone and wood representation of a ship. Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho came slipping downwards and were swinging from one wagon unto the next until they came swinging into one of the largest of the dream living ships, and the pirates were running about the sailors who were hanging unto the side of the wagon and about the Qhíng and Qlùfhem walking upon the plain, and the pirates were soon looting bead money and gobbling cookies and taking up totems of their quest.
Now Princess Éfhelìnye could see that all of this plain was reading out into the circle before the Abby of Saint Kàtriqan deep within Jaràqtu, and the traffic of the wagons was growing all the thicker, and all of the wagons were dreaming that they were living ships, and Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho were leaping from one unto the next. Éfhelìnye was running outwards and finding that all of the heavens were changing, they were becoming cærulea treasures, the Suns sparkling and set within the afternoon hour, the last hour of peace before war had come unto Jaràqtu, the very last hour when Éfhelìnye had been completely happy, for it was last in the Fifth Hour when Puîyus had been completely happy, and Fhermáta was still alive, and the Emperor was not bringing winter extinction unto all things. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw that both Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho as they were hopping from one wagon ship to the next kept delaying, for Xhnófho was gathering up peaches and lemons and gobbling them up with greedy tentacles and Fhèrkifher was gatherig up some cookies and thrust them into his pockets and was stopping to chat with some young women. And so slowly the concourse of the ship wagons traveled, and in her dream Éfhelìnye could see that quite literally the line of wagons extended for all eternity without beginning and end, the migration of the wagon vessels flowing through the cirque before the Abby and reaching out from this realm and around all of the worlds in a great möbius strip khwòqteqhe and lacing back through pandimensional space and reaching back through the Northwind Khrùmfhurs Qterfhóreso and back o'er again.
Ixhúja was giving Éfhelìnye a look that meant, Remind me again why you accompany these ridiculous pirates and see them as mentors? Their only discernible skills are in surviving their own crazy schemes, and neither of them are growing wealthy in cookies or vassel or honor. Princess Éfhelìnye was neither surprised nor expectant to find herself in a barrel floating down through the heavens and finding herself next to Ixhúja and Puîyus, for after all, although she was forgetting that she was in a dream, she was just part of the somnular logic of it, and the barrel was swinging downwards upon ropes and hooks spreading outwards downwards from the illuminable heavens. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja were sailing downwards and sailing by the wagons which were both wagons and living ships at the same time, and the great triceratops were arising thunderous about them, and the barrel came spinning about and grew insectoid legs of its own accord and planted itself down. Éfhelìnye rolled herself out of the barrel and saw that spreading upon the ground was a slight trail of cookie crumbs and cigar ash and lemon rinds, and looking around she clapped her hands and cheered and chanted – Why I do believe that I’ve found some clews! –
Puîyus bounced upwards upon the tip of the wagon and reaching downwards drew himself and Ixhúja into it, and then swung around and plucked Éfhelìnye upwards, and they found themselves in an environment of moving planks and wood and spreading outwards upon the wagons arose parts of ship and house and stage and curtain, the vague outline of living ships which were not quite living ships, and vehicles that were partially dreaming themselves into other shapes.
– Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho, the most famous Pirates in all the Land must be on board! – Éfhelìnye smiled.
Remind me again why that’s such a great jubilation for you? Ixhúja’s look seemed to say to her cousin.
Éfhelìnye spun around and took out a few small lenses from her pocket and began to follow the breadcrumbs reaching up into the layers and prow of the ship. – Puey, are you taking notes? – she asked – for thou art the amanuensis to the magnum opus I am scribbling – she drew aside some of the curtains and came deeper into the stage and Puîyus and Ixhúja snuck within beside the Starflower Princess and saw bits of one ship lying upon the prow and bow of others, and sparkles of one land leaning against the next, as if someone had taking some shreds of memories and merged and blended into into many different patterns. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw parts of Tlhikókha the Winter Imperial Express of the noontide hour leaning against the habitant of the Kuqùlkhe phatry from the second hour, and sprawling among them all came flickers of rainbow dashing and glistening and melting all about. Éfhelìnye adjusted the lenses in her palm and chanted – Most beloved Ixhúja, you must understand that our cater-Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho are a bit of childhood fancy sprung to life, they are joy and adventure, they are the very edge of what is responsible and irresponsible, they are on the one hand able to do some very adult activities such as sailing and traveling on quests, but they also fulfil our fantasies of treasure and making our own rules and living our lives just the way we want to. –
Ixhúja snorted and crossed her arms and murmured to herself as if to say, One does not need some fatuous pirates to know that, I do whatever I want all the time. If I want it, it’s mine. Ixhúja looked around and blinked a few times and saw some Qhíng and Qlùfhem slithering about, and at once she arose and began slapping them about, and after thrashing them a little yanked out what she could find from their pockets, and found some marble spheres and tossed them about upon the ground to skip about them.
Prinecess Éfhelìnye grabbed the edge of the wall, and it became like unto papyrus in her grasp and drawing it aside revealed that they were walking into a long and flowing underground world. – Let’s draw aside this geometry and see what lies within – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted as she yanked at the flowing paper. Winding before the gaze of the children were streets that were as undulous as waves, and walls and shops and towers were all leaning against each other in a chaotic frenzy. The children walked outwards unto the crest of the frozen waters and found that the buildings were all spreading upwards into the vaguest outline of a great ship, the doors and windows and towers just a little like the prow and stern and solar sails. The children were walking within, and unto all sides of them came swiveling the Qhíng and Qlùfhem who were holding up banners which read, I’m a sailor, and Ditto, sailor, and the adult units were barely even paying the children any heed. Éfhelìnye kept reaching outwards unto the paper walls and tore them downwards, and sometimes the walls revealed worlds of stone castles and others were dreamlands of night and some of the walls were glaring outwards unto undersea domains where everything was bubble and wavering shadow and the saturation of darkness arising. At last though Éfhelìnye found the trail of cookie crumbs and tobacco ash and lemon and peach peals and yanking aside the last of the walls found herself walking through the layers of a Qlùfhem vessel, and the Qlùfhem were holding up sounds that read, We’re still sailors, and others held up placards reading, You’ll find the pirates in the cabin, and at least Éfhelìnye found the door and flung it open.
Within the cabin lay a small table and upon it a narrow dish whence smoke was arising, smoke in the form of Grandfather Pátifhar’s head and shoulders, and the priest was screaming – Get back to work! Fhèrkifher, get back to work! Get back to work! Get back to work! –
Fhèrkifher was seated on the divan and Eirènwa Fhenelopeîya among the Tásel, Akhlísa’s older cousin, was seated in his lap. Fhèrkifher was saying – Have I mentioned that I’m a King among my people? –
– Get back to work! Get back to work! –
Fhèrkifher reached for his foot and drew off his sandle and chanted – I just do this pillaging thing for fun, for amusement, for just a bit of sugar wealth. –
– Get back to work! Get back to work! – cried Grandfather Pátifhar.
Fhèrkifher hurled his sandle through the flowing shadows and the narrow dish exploded. – Now, where was I? Ah yes, I’m quite an important king, perhaps the most important of the arlwàrkhqu of Qamélo! – Fhèrkifher grinned.
Arising out of the table came sparkles of moonlight and milch and Grandfather Pátifhar reformed himself of a senelegram and cried out – Get back to work! Get back to work! Get back to work! –
– Doesn’t that old cricket of a priest, older than air and dirt and time, e'er hush up? – asked Fhèrkifher as he reached o'er and threw his other sandle through the glistening jhìntram, and it rushed and wavered just a little.
– Uncle Fhèrkifher! – cried Éfhelìnye as she ran into the room. Fhèrkifher coughed and saw Puîyus and Ixhúja coming within, and then out of the milch light Grandfather Pátifhar was appearing once again.
– Get back to work! Get back to work! The new Emperor and Empress need you! – cried Grandfather Pátifhar.
– Children!? Children?! – Fhèrkifher gasped. – How’d you get here? –
Éfhelìnye was bowing to Fhèrkifher and saying – Uncle, we’ve missed you so much. Go on, cousin, bow to your elder. –
Ixhúja just stuck out her tounge and crossed her arms.
Eirènwa when she saw Puîyus slipped off of Fhèrkifher’s lap and ran out and embraced her baby cousin and swung him from side to side. – Oh little Puey you’re so grown up now, I remember when you were just a little baby and Auntie Khwofheîlya used to let me carry you and hold you! –
– Children this is Eirènwa my sugarheart – chanted Fhèrkifher. – She’s a khmeinílwi bull dancer or something in this reality. –
– Oh Puey, I carried you so long, but now you can carry us all – chanted Eirènwa as she hopped up, and Puîyus picked her up and swung her about.
– Get back to work! Get back to work! – cried the lunascription of Grandfather Pátifhar.
The walls were all papyrus breaking apart, and staggering out of one of them came Xhnófho and in his tentacles he was holding several barrels, and slipping up unto the children he smashed the barrels open and up ending one poured fruit into his beak. – Look what I found, little ones! – Xhnófho roared. – As many khureûmle kumquats as I can guzzle and much and eat! – Xhnófho laughed a deep and hearty laugh and spinning around one of his tentacles accidently smashed through the moon light of Grandfather Pátifhar. – Sorry about that geezertimer. Say, larvæ, who wants to stuff khureûmle kumquats into Uncle Xhnófho’s beak? –
– Pick me up! Get back to work! Pick me up! Get back to work! – cried the spinning light and milch which had once been the reflection of Grandfather Pátifhar.
Ixhúja considered for a moment and tugging upon her golden tresses decided that throwing fruit at someone actually sounded fun. She plucked down a barrel and grabbed as many khureûmle as she could find and began throwing them right towards Xhnófho’s visage, and although she had not thought that feeding a pirate would be her favorite reindeer game, there was actually something quite joyous in just making a complete and total mess of things. Juice and rinds and fruit were dripping all about Xhnófho’s featherbeard and about his spangling antennæ and getting hooked about his beak, and everything was dripping splattering juicey wet.
Fhèrkifher bounced upwards and put his arm around Xhnófho’s shoulders and chanted – And this is my confederate in crime, perchance … you can stop throwing fruit at us now … perhaps the most brilliant pirate e'er to … just give us a moment, Princessling, then pelt Xhnófho with fruit, this is the most excellent pirate e'er to sail the Tlhàngpakí, the Eleven Seas. –
Xhnófho belched loud and long and echoing, and Ixhúja began throwing choruses of fruit right towards his face and began laughing all the while. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw that Puîyus was still carrying his cousin Eirènwa about, his golden tressed cousin from the Tásel sound of the family, and she was saying – Oh, you don’t have to put me down anytime soon, my Puey. In fact I was just leaving. Fhèrke, I shall never see you again. We’re done here and for ever. I’ve finally found a real pirate, someone worthy of my time. –
– Puîyos! – gasked Fhèrkifher.
– I’d say that pillaging Kàrijoi’s Daughter right from the his imperial eyen, that sneaking Éfhelìnye away from the Dragons of the Harem is the surpreme of pillaging, far more dangerous than anything that you’ve e'er done. –
– But he didn’t even know what he was doing! –
– He’s running off the Emperor’s virgin Daughter, he’s in a war to topple Kàrijoi out of the heavens, he’s trying to replace the Master of Earth and Sea and Sky, I’d say that makes my cousin Puey the greatest pirate who’s e'er sailed the Eleven Seas Tlhèngpakí! –
– Oh that’s not fair! – gasped Fhèrkifher. – I taught him, don’t I get any credit at all? Xhnófho will you stop stuffing your face for a f ew moments and help me … Eirènwa’s getting away from me! Why is it that in every reality she just slips away? –
Xhnófho plucked some more fruit from the air as Ixhúja threw it and gobbling it up chanted – You just aspire to the wrong estate, Fhèrke, you know you’re not supposed to associate with the Warrior Caste, let alone a daughter of the War Clans of Jaràqtu. Someone trained by the most learned Sylvanhood should know that there are rhymes and patterns to the Dreamtime, various themes of harmony and marriage, and trying to contravene them just gets one into trouble. –
Eirènwa kissed Puîyus’ brow a few times and ran her hands through his hair and chanted – Let’s go and pillage a few living ships while we’re at it. The trinkets Fhèrkifher always got me were tawdry, I’m sure you can plunder me a few planets. –
– Wait! Wait! – gasked Fhèrkifher, but already Puîyus was carrying Eirènwa out and away and into the darkness. And splashing upwards from the ground, even as Ixhúja tossed the last of the fruit came the milk and moon patterns of Grandfather Pátifhar spilling upwards and saying – Get back to work! Get back to work! – Ixhúja turned around and regarded her cousin a little, and placing her hands on her hips gave Éfhelìnye a look that meant, Fun though they may be, I’m still not entirely convinced that these Pirates are so terrible important.
– How about this? – Éfhelìnye asked, and she grabbed the paper edge of the reality and spun it around, and everything began to spin and change about her. No longer were they within the chambers and cabins of a small Qlùfhem vessel, but now Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja found themselves upon the very exploding daises and tips of the dying sqòqhi umbrella ship. All about them the Xakhpàlqe living ships were arising and scorching all things, the vast and terrible alien vessels were implacable and terrible even in the dream, but they were also a little silly, they were made out of shell and paper and hooded and wellrobed figures were walking around and carrying them about, and some were wearing placards that read, We are the dreaded Xakhpàlqe, but now matter how Éfhelìnye looked and searched within the Dream or tried to run up and gaze into the robes, the Xakhpàlqe were just shadow and mirror unto her. She ran back to her cousin and found themselves upon the umbrella ship, and the flames were sparkling upwards, and the Traîkhiim were dashing upwards and devouring the frost and salt and fungus of the ship, their wings were beating back and forth and were fire knives slashing through the winds, and one by one the billows and towers of the umbrella ship came crashing downwards and were lancing through the matter of deck and tower.
– One of the great aspects of Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho is what I call the Cheer factor – Éfhelìnye was explaining as she and her cousin came to the edge of the prow and all of the ship began to crumble and burn about them. – So we’re trapped in the midst of a trice-dimensional battle with vast and horrid aliens above us, and skerry and sea and jacinth nekiυmva aneath us, the ship is breaking apart, the Traîkhiim are completely out of control, and not even my most beloved and beautiful and always kissable Puey can do anything about it, and who should come at the last moment to save us? –
Ixhúja raised her hand to volunteer. Éfhelìnye shook her head and chanted – No, you were fast asleep and leaning upon Puîyus’ chest, and what would you have been able to do, fight through the flame and fall into the sea? We needed someone who could swoop in and save us, we need to clap our hands together pfhàwe pfhàwe pfhàwe and cheer to our hearts’ content! Lo! –
And so it came to pass within the twisting living ships and the explosions of light and the movement of stage machinery somewhere above them, in the rising and falling of wheels and pulleys and the great melaravanik piratans de cin came sweepswooping downwards, rope and chains flickering about them. And the pirates came skipping right up to the edge of the cloud, they were getting upwards and collecting long trails of treasure which were becoming a chain and an orbit through the worlds, and the treasures were torquations behind them and flowing upwards were rings of treasure and following after the pirates came hundreds of warships. Sometimes Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho were slipping outwards and skipping right off of the cylindrical side of living ships and other times they were leaping upwards and skipping about great hot and glass air balloons, but once the pirates had gathered up unto themselves as much treasure of sugar and bead coin and sugar that they could carry and strap to their backs and cram into their sleeves they took up unto themselves rainbrellas and set them upon their shoulders. And for at ime the pirates were swinging upwards and landing from stage to wagon to ship and swooping right up through the air they came unto the doomed vessel where Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja stood, crashing flames and billows exploding about them and tens of thousands of Traîkhiim skipping outwards in all directions, and Xhnófho snatched up Éfhelìnye into his tentacles and Fhèrkifher took Ixhúja into his arms even as all of the ship exploded. Éfhelìnye cheered. Xhnófho spun around in a brilliant flourish. Fhèrkifher bowed unto the audience and prepared for quite a dramatic exit, and spinning around a few times he revealed a glowing smile just in case any maids chanced to be watching him, and taking up the princesses all of the audience of Xakhpàlqe and Traîkhiim were cheering themselves.
– Now we’re ready for an exit – chanted Éfhelìnye. – We leave in the midst of cheering! –
And at that the Pirates lifted up their rainbrellas and flung them about and taking a leap jumped right out of the rainbrella vessel even as it was spinning around in its last orbits at light speed. Soon the umbrella ship exploded in out widening gyres of light, and the Pirates were holding on tight to the Princesses and keeping the little toy paper-mache umbrellas above their heads and soon came tumbling downwards and were falling about the huge lwèlwokh magnetavores and came splashing downwards through light and flame and ionic storm and chaos and monsters springing upwards throughout all of the stage and ship and wagoncraft.
– Hurray hurray hurray! – cried the Xakhpàlqe.
– X! X! X! X! – clicked the Traîkhiim.
– Wheeeee! – sang Princess Éfhelìnye and for a few moments they all came sailing through the wagon and ship and stage and fluttering all about them arose Ravens and in their flight they were also applauding and saluting and cheering on as the illustrious pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho came at the last moment to save them all.
Éfhelìnye turned around. The barrel was not too large, but it was big enough for her and Puîyus and Ixhúja to be sailing together across the sea. She looked around, the curtains of the heavens were rustling a little, and behind them, she thought, perhaps the pirates continued to swing away and become part of the flowing curtains of the world. But for the time being the three children were sailing across the sea and slowly before them the whispering mountains were nearing as well as the ash ruins of Syapàkhya and the massive dimensions of the continents. Realms were piling up upon other realms. The air grew even more frigid, and tall white cliffs were jutting up from the waters and seamews and ice pterodons were fluttening unto all sides and reaching unto their vertical nests. Qterfhóreso Khrùmfhurs the Northwind was howling. Puîyus was leaning forwards and squinting and through the distal haze could just barely see the outline of Jaràqtu far away, and wondering whether Ixhúja could see it also with her eyen as sharp as his, he tapped her a few times on her shoulders and pointed unto the distance darkness. Éfhelìnye was watching the flowing of the waters, and drifting up about her the waters were become like unto wings and spectacles and feathers, they were like robes and umbrellas to her thought, and several times out of the waters she saw Great-Uncle Táto arising and gazing back at her, his flesh translated into wave and froth, and he was opening up his wings and reaching unto her, but as the barrel approached him the water dwimmerlaik broke away, and Éfhelìnye was left with her memories and with grieving for her great-Uncle Táto who had been taken away from her because of the battles of the Khnìnthan folk when they had come with their living ships and machines and spears for to flood through the Empire. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw that the waves that were spreading upwards all about Puîyus were becoming blossoms of gold and red and arising out from them were come Fhermáta and she was reaching outwards with longing hand, for Puîyus was no sooner left grieving for his Grandmother who had passed and entered the shadowy protection of the Ancestors in the midst of Summer, than now he was left to grieve for his beloved Sister Bride who passed from him when the Qhíng came millions strong to raze Jaràqtu unto the ground.
And the waves were splashing upwards and were lapping about the raft. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw dead leaves and feathers and shells splashing about the waves, and then the antlers and scales of beasts, and now thousands upon thousands of shoes drifting about, the evidence of massive extinction spreading throughout the dreamlands. Waves of petals were sprinkling upwards in fountains, the petals from extinct flowers, and all of the trees were dying, branches and roots falling into the waters, all the worlds dead within oceanic winter. Bones rattled against the barrel which was become the raft, the selfsame raft that Puîyus had builded out of bits of wheel and clockwork and flotsam of the Khnìnthan ruins, and ribs and skulls were spreading out before the children.
And as the waves were opening upwards and become the tateway unto Jaràqtu. And Princess Éfhelìnye was leaning to her cousin Ixhúja and saying – Being a pirate and copying the antics of our illustrious Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho has proven to be quite a good method for Puey and me to sneak about in our adventures epecially in our travels within Jaràqtu. In our time Puey and I have posed as many different things, he’s been a pilot and I was his assistant, I’ve dressed him up as a sacrificial lawyer and revered cleric, we’ve been sailors and merchants, a doctor and nersor, Puîyus has been all manner of professor cleric and professional calligrapher and many others. – Éfhelìnye looked around and tried to avoid the dying plantimals and the dead flowers within the crashing waves of the raft. – Puey’s been taking notes of all of our antics together, I’m trying to compile it all in a great book. I believe that in our adventures together that usually I’m the brains of the operation, I come up with the ideas and Puey ends up breaking into places and saving me from my schemes. Why there was the time when I figured out quantum insurance fraud, or at least Puey was able to get some of the sheets of tlhát money-draughts from some Ptètqiikh, the graphs were all a bit complicated but I think I understood some of the principles of moving favor and honor about, oh and then there was the time when I figured out a plan to defraud my Father’s imperial bank, it doesn’t matter, it’s all his bead money and deeds and documents anyway. –
The raft came drawing upwards unto the edge of bone and sand, sparkling sand texture and sensation flooding up all of the boat and crawling upwards and becoming part of the new land. – When I was first recruiting Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho they were just small time pirates, just conmen and kittenwhiskers, why they told us they were not really criminals at all or even competent ones. But at last I got them to forge items and break into offices and change documents and avoid all of the imperial servants dashing after us. Why I remember when first I wrapped mine arms about Puey and told him that from now on I’d be dressing him up as a lawyer cleric and pilot and healer and cook and warlord and king and many other things in my plans to plunder all the Land. –
And so the raft and barrel came drifting upwards throughout the bone seas and entered unto the promised land of Jaràqtu and sparkling all about Éfhelìnye were memories of Xakhpàlqe vessels and Ravens fluttering about in the stagecraft and the great cælestial fleet of glass and hot air balloons drifting from side to side, so it was that she dreamt and her drawings became part of the dream thereof.
Now in the darkness of gloamtide the final Hour of the Day, in the endless Midnight Extinction which Emperor Kàrijoi was spreading outwards from his heart and using for to envelope all of the worlds, no dawntide came unto the Qlùfhem vessel which was sneaking just above the fjördhr and firths within the northron ruins of Syapàkhya and crumbling walls and domes left from layers of civilization, no morning came spreading upwards tall and strawn throughout the cloudreaches, but only a slight sheen of light misting upon the edge of the horizon. When Princess Éfhelìnye arose just a few timorous beams of light came twisting through the windows of the inner chamber, and she lay upon the fhukhùnthe and gazed outwards and pressed the sheets tight unto herself, and gazed upon the filaments and vegetable growth of the walls, for a few moments she thought that she remained still within the marvelous rainbrella vessel which had been captained by Euqliîna of Eilasaîyanor when the good Fhlùltekh had come and rescued them from the battle with Chieftain Khnèfhrim and his crazed minions. She rolled o'er a bit and looking unto a large table couch saw that someone had made neat the pile of dishes and lenses and the phial of unicorn saliva, she knew that it had been Puîyus, he was always cleaning up after her experiments, and in fact lying beside the dishes upon a different couch chair lay folded up the doodles she had been making of the battle the even before, and she drew herself up, the blankets rustling about her as a living cape, the sheets sparkling a little with the dream memories of bones and Jaràqtu and wagons and tumbling through the skies with umbrella canopy, and she gazed at the drawings a little and remembered when she had chanted that they would never again set foot upon the rainbrella vessel, and that they could never return to the way things were. She tossed the sheets aside, and the blankets began to lick themselves up and roll back into the fhukhùnthe, and she tried to make the bed as best she could, for Fhermáta had taken it unto herself, when Éfhelìnye had come to stay with the Sweqhàngqu Clan as a guest-friend, to teach Éfhelìnye domestic chores as a little Sister is taught by the older and by the Materfamilias, but as Éfhelìnye took the side of the blankets and tried to set them in their place, the fhukhùnthe began to fold upwards and long vines and vegetable grow rustled out of it, and Éfhelìnye took a few steps back and thought that she would try to master the complexities of Qlùfhem furniture at another time. She did not even know it, but this was not even a proper bed, at least not as the arpijhàrlta biomages would see it, for they liked to sleep within air and light, and let seedlings and children sleep upon something soft and horizontal.
When Princess Éfhelìnye left the room she intended to return to the deck, but finding herself in the winding throat of the ship she ended up taking a few turns and came into rooms filled with quaverous organs and upside down gardens where the grass and ferns grew down from the ceiling and intersected through lung-sacks that were connected to a motor, and she knew better than to try experimenting with all the facets of the ship just yet, especially when they were trying to escape. She took a few more wrong turns and kept finding herself about the winding and conical wthàsi xiphisternum of the vessel burbefeleiz and ocular windows were opening up before her and gazing outwards unto the cloudmain and the shadow of battle high above. At long last she came up unto the deck, it was quite a small and curved ship after all, and like so much Aûm design was more grown than crafted, and pulsated with its own fluent tubes, and coming up to the first layers of the deck she saw that Ixhúja and Aîya were wide awake and were sitting at either sides of the deck and tossing a ball to each other, or at least Éfhelìnye thought at first it was a ball bouncing and rolling upon the scales of the ship, until she saw that with every few rotations it spun about and unfolded itself a little, and revealed itself to be Qìfhte the dragonfly, his mechanical wings folding about his body in a spherical shape. He pushed himself about upon the edge of his feelers and gazing around a little blinked with his glassen and compound eyen, and then rolling himself back up into a sphere bounced around a little. When he approached Aîya she poked him aside with the edge of her hand-sole, and the dragonfly came spilling o'er towards Ixhúja who batted him and kicked him and sometimes caught him up and threw him against the edge of the deck with far more force than was necessary.
What a sleepy head, sleepy abed, sleepy sleep, Ixhúja turned to Éfhelìnye and gave her a playful glance that meant something like that. Why, not only were you the last to awaken, but we all thought you were going to sleep all this glorious midnight away, sleepy sleepy sleepy, far more sssssomnifacient than Puîyos’ Sister Akhlísa, sopōrifer, uiñġaq. Ixhúja kicked Qìfhte aside a few times and stretched out her arms and yawned a few times just to make her point.
Aîya came scrambling upwards and struggled to keep up with Qìfhte as he rolled from wall and deck and mast, and at last the dragonfly just opened up his glassen wings and collapsed in an exhausted heap. – I surrender! – cried the burrmuru as Aîya caught it into one of her mouths and shook it from side to side and spat him out again, and out came rolling the wiriŋ̃d̀ila, yiriŋ̃d̀iy. Aîya spat out the dragonfly and bouncing upwards rolled up to Ixhúja and chanted – Say, were not you the she the sleeping all the while on new Emperor’s chest? –
Ixhúja giggled and yawned again and made a purring sound that meant, I’m the greatest warrior of them all, an epic fighter with epic sleepy tiredness, I fight when I want and sleep whenever I want.
– It’s actually extremely comfortable to sleep next to Puey’s chest, for the sound of his heartbeat is extremely soothing, plus he is very warm and strong. One has the feeling not only of complete serenity but also of total protection, and, may I add, Puey also smells very good. –
Ixhúja yawned a few more times and made a purring sound as if to say, Do did I miss anything important, fun, or fun importantwise, or important funly?
– Or yummy? – asked Aîya. – Not quite sure what strawhead here saying, but question missing anything yummy? Scrumptious? Tasty in a crunchy way? –
Éfhelìnye swayed from side to side, her legs turning in the positions of ballet, as she chanted – There was a rather epic battle and Puey did his epic part in it. I don’t suppose you noticed the burning glories above us, no? – Ixhúja looked upwards and saw the massive battle very high in the heavens above them, for in the nighttide Xhnófho had drawn their ship several leagues down far closer to the blur of sea and land in the coastways. Above them and far away lay the shadows of living ships like unto whispering mountains exploding against each other, rings and tendrils flexing and spilling about each other all the while.
– Oh, that-sa! – sighed Aîya. – Was already there. –
Ixhúja laughed to say, I’m sure it wasn’t much of a battle, I see no spoils about us, no bodies of the Dead, why at the very least Puîyos could have collected some little bits of the bodies and made a mountain of them, say an ear from each fallen dead, or a finger, or a sucker from the tentacle, he could have piled up the pyramids in the corners of the vessel, and from the best of the severed and bleeding body parts I could have fashioned for myself a necklace of glorious memories. Ixhúja looked around and laughed to add, Why from the looks of it it seems that you just fled for your very lives rather than engaging in battle proper.
– Is she one talking about me question? – asked Aîya. – All this laughing happing, can’t make words of it at all. –
– My dearest Cousin is reminding me that the Pirates, in accordance with their orders from Grandfather Pátifhar and Sieur Íngìkhmar, who are my paternal protectors, smuggled me from the battle rather than engaging the enemy. –
Ixhúja snorted a few more times as if to say, I would have fought them.
– I believe those vessels belong to the Xakhpàlqe, it would be best if we return to Puey’s family rather than fighting … the lost culture from legend, the dread Xakhpàlqe, whatever they may end up being. –
Ixhúja just turned and pointed to Éfhelìnye and laughed all the while. Éfhelìnye however, for her part, was not about to be distracted by her cousin’s rather boisterous war glories, for although Ixhúja was a little older than she, Éfhelìnye outranked her, for her blood was purer, being the complete apotheosis of the Sun Emperor and Moon Empress. She was however not a little curious as to where Puîyus was, but before she even had to frame the question, Ixhúja chuckled and pointed to the other side of the vessel and made some lying down motions and little sleepy sound as if to say, Your princeling lies without. Epic hero. Epic flight from danger. Epic sleep.
Éfhelìnye nodded and dashed off in that direction. Aîya came fluttering up beside Ixhúja and blinked her large white strouthian eyen a few times and chanted – Ancient prophecy, the Pèqlor dancers, a child Empress girl of female kind leading us to freedom. Strange, a little eccentric that Empressling is, is she not question? –
Ixhúja purred and chanted in a rather scratchy feline language, Not a little eccentric, my little feathery Triîm.
– Just very happy enthusiastic energetic dancy dancy dancy fun – one of Aîya’s heads chanted, and the other two heads nodded in agreement. – She become the new Empress. Puîyos become her Emperor nestling? They make lots of nests of Triîmeling together. Big mess, lots of offspring spilling all o'er the place. Children, have ears of mother, but hand-feet of father. –
Ixhúja nodded and made a purring sound and chanted in a rather feline scratchy language, Only the Immortals can guess what future lies in store for them.
– Feathers and books all o'er the place. They are goblet of honey that never fails. –
Ixhúja purred as if to say, Perhaps.
– Know you question have no idea what you’re saying? –
I know, and I don’t care at all.
– Like Tsàlti of old? Kòmla tlhir Tsàlti! –
I have no idea what you’re saying.
– Don’t care either. –
Princess Éfhelìnye came running unto the other side of the deck, she looked upwards and saw that in the ropes of the mast Fhèrkifher was sitting and watching the horizon, and that in the watchtower Xhnófho was slumped and gazing unto the stir of the Stars, and they bowed in Éfhelìnye’s direction and both pointed unto where he lay, and she came skipping unto the twining triangular filaments and found Puîyus wrapped him in his dreamcloak and a couple of blankets about him, and in the sway of the blankets and the rustle of the cloak she could see just the hint of the sparkle of dreams, and in her approach she could see the shadows of Fhermáta and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa within the fabric. Éfhelìnye sate down and rested her head against Puîyus’ chest and closed her eyen and listened to the song of his heart and the swaying of his chest, and felt how strong and good and warm he was, and was completely protected and felt total serenity, plus she loved the way he smelt, his perfumed skin and his candy-cane sparkling tresses. She only experienced a few moments of bliss, though, for soon her cousin Ixhúja was coming untowards her and yanked up Éfhelìnye by her arms and laughing all the while dragged her away from Puîyus-then.
– No! Wait! I was happy! Let me listen to Puey’s heartbeat! – cried Éfhelìnye.
Ixhúja looked down to her cousin struggling against her and gave her a look that meant, You are very weird.
– Just a few more moments, Puey won’t let me snuggle up next to him when he’s awake, it embarrasses him for some reason. Just let me go back, please please please please please! – Ixhúja glanced down at her cousin but remained firm and stern. Éfhelìnye struggled and tried tripping up Ixhúja but to no avail and added – Wait! I’ll convince the pirates to return us to the warzone and there you can fight the cruel and implacable Xakhpàlqe to your spleen’s content, just let me go back to Puey and lie next to him and perhaps kiss him a little in his sleep when he can’t struggle against me! –
Ixhúja picked up Éfhelìnye and held her, struggling, above her head, and Éfhelìnye kicked against the air and attempted a few twirls arabesque, and Ixhúja just snorted again as if to say, You have problems, do you know that, you are completely a Pueyholic, senípásiyìxhna Puiyèjejikh!
– It’s only because I love him so! –
Well, I love breakfast. Here we go!
And Princses Ixhúja carried her cousin unto the mast whencedown Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho were descending, and the Qhíng was bouncing upwards and bringing out a small box and opening it up and drawing aside some cloth revealed it to be completely filled with krepfelins, with táto scraphinz such as the doughnuts with Éfhelìnye’s Tutor had so loved to eat, hence her aukanafn for him ekename. Fhèrkifher drew out some small disques whose function in the alien vessel no one had been able to discern, so they were being used as plates and drawing out the doughnuts he chanted – Behold, most perfect of all breakfast foods! I firmly believe that every child should be feasted with táto doughnuts every dawnlight, don’t you think so, of if the beloved and ĉielglora Emperor is fiddling with time, numinous, iluminiĝinto, than at least doughnuts at the earliest valiable opportunity. –
Éfhelìnye smiled and took a few tiny bite from her krepfelin, and looking around saw that Ixhúja was sniffling the plate and the tátoxing a few times and eyeing it with a suspicious look, and her dragonfly machines were crawling about it and poking it with their mechanical feelers khmàset, but after a few moments, tasting the smell of the sugary goodness from afar, Ixhúja just leaned forwards and began gobbling up the scraphinz, and in her eagerness almost bit through a few of the wings and limbs of her machine thralls. Éfhelìnye was taking up another doughnut when she noticed that neither Fhèrkifher nor Xhnófho were partaking of it, and that indeed both of them were backing up a little and slowly bowing down before Éfhelìnye and pressing their faces and whiskers and feathers and antennæ upon the deck before her, and Éfhelìnye felt not a little embarrassed to see her beloved peiratical Uncles acting in such a fashion. Ixhúja looked up and shrugged and grabbed seven doughnuts and began stuffing them whole into her mouth until sugar and frosting lay smeared all upon her face, and she made some happy yummy sounds as she licked her lips.
– Are you going to say anything? – Xhnófho whispered.
– I thought I’d let you do the speaking – Fhèrkifher whispered back.
– You’re a far more elegant speaker, all I know how to do is fight and punch and fight in a different style. You’re educated. –
– You were educated by the famous Kàrnaka! –
– But I’m not good at this whole royal thing! You talk. –
– No … no … –
– Please? –
– Fine! Ahem! Lwa! I forgot what I was going going to say? –
Ixhúja licked her lips and grabbed the doughnut from off of Éfhelìnye’s plate and gobbled it whole, and then made a plaintive sound as if to ask, Are you going to eat any more? And without waiting for a response she grabbed the box and started stuffing her face.
– We need to save some for Puey and Aîya. –
Ixhúja laughed as if that were the funniest thing she had e'er heard, and looking back saw that Puîyus was still asleep and that Aîya were running around in little circles and chasing and barking and biting at Qìfhte the Dragonfly, and then being barked at and chased because of and circled by Qìfhte in turn, and she just laughed all the more and stuffed a few more scraphinz into her mouth, even though all this sugar was making her feel a little sick.
Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho were still shivering a little in their humble kowtowing, and Fhèrkifher began to speak saying – Heofonliċ Princess, child of Lord Kàrijoi the Master of Health and Prosperity and Life, now that you and the future Emperor are safely out of danger for the moment, or at least we’re rapidly fleeing from danger, Xhnófho and I know tha we have been remiss in giving you the proper honor. You are the future Mother of the Sylvan priesthood, the Bride of the Sun, the very paragon of all things feminine, and we must tremble and worship you thusly. –
– You both really don’t have to humble yourselves thisly in ritual humicubacioun before me – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – I’m still just the lass who found you sneaking and pillaging in the Castle of the Atlhamáxha, I’m just the maiden who approached you and asked you to teach my beloved Puey how to be a great pirate, I’m still just Éfhelìnye and you’re my pirate Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho. –
Xhnófho’s antennæ slammed against the deck a few times and he chanted – Although nothing has changed in our heart-stomaches towards you, still Fhèrkifher and I realize that you are growing up and will be Empress and we must obey you in all things. When you grow up you will probably not call us ‘Uncle’ any longer, but slave, and we will rejoice to do your bidding, if you would still receive our service. –
– You shall always be mine Uncles of the heart. Please, sit upright so that I can see you better, I’m embarrassed to see you like this – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Slowly and not quite certain that they were doing the proper thing, both of the Pirates arose and looked around and blinked a little, and Fhèrkifher cleared his throat and chanted – When we’re with Grandfather Thiêfhilos or Sieur Íngìkhmar or the Elders, Xhnófho and I should probably remain silent and in humiliation, but since we’re alone, and you bid us, we shall sit up with you. –
– But know that our situation cannot be like it was before – Xhnófho chanted. – Thou wilt be Empress, and we as dust and sand flowing before your gaze. –
– Did the Princesses save any doughnuts for us? – asked Fhèrkifher.
– No, they gobbled them all up – chanted Xhnófho.
– See, we are dust. –
– And sand. –
– Without even a doughnut. –
– Not even one. –
Princess Ixhúja was licking the cloth in the box just to make sure that she ate up all of the sugary goodness, and then she looked up and saw that Éfhelìnye and the pirates were looking at her with sad looks on their faces. Ixhúja dropped the box and grinned and wiped the sugar from her nose, and then getting up chased after Aîya and Qìfhte and several others of her clockwork creatures.
– My Sister Princess failed to remember to save a doughnut for Puey – Éfhelìnye sighed.
– That’s fine, we’re not hungry – Fhèrkifher chanted as he stomache began to growl. – Don’t listen to that, it’s just one of my engastrimyths tricks. Hear, I’m projecting my voice. Lwa! Lwa! Lwa! Hear that? –
– She just had to eat the only non-Aûm food we have left on board? – Xhnófho muttered. – We’ll have to make a stop soon, unless you want to be eating a few barrels of this slime soup we found on board. Actually it also works as machine oil, but from the smell of it, I think it’s predigested Aûm food. Would you like a sniff of it? –
Éfhelìnye put a finger o'er her nose and shaking her head chanted – No thank you, please! –
– I thought not – Xhnófho hunched down upon his coiling antennæ and puckered and squeaked a little with his suckers and chanted – To be honest with you, I was thinking of lighting the barrels of that burgoo goo up and hurling them against any enemies, since we have no proper cannon, given the genius of this Aûm design. –
– Do have any news? – Éfhelìnye asked. – Puey and I have been away from his family for so long, it’s been like we were in another world, and Grandpa was able only to say so little. Is there a way that we may contact Grandfather Pátifhar again? –
Fhèrkifher reached into his pocket and drew out the orb and chanted – Honorable Puîyos our Master the Rising Sun gave the device back to me. I’m not entirely sure how it works, but perhaps you’d like to fiddle with it. –
Éfhelìnye up ended the box that had so formerly contained doughnuts and setting the device down tapped it a few times and listened to the wheels and gears within it. She drew out some of her tools and found the springs and began to take apart some of the rime and outer casing drew them aside and found that coiled up within the apparatus lay layers of wires that looked a little like cochleate nerves flowing together. She took out some small sewing pins and set them within and peering closely chanted – I believe I’ve taken this apart before, or at least something very similar to it, it looks like it’s been taken apart and reassembled a few times. There are flowing lenses within and some crystals that I can see. Perhaps if I turn some of the gyres … – Éfhelìnye looked upwards and saw that Ixhúja was coming right up to her and glaring at her.
You’re going to break that, you know, Ixhúja told her in blinks and stares.
– I’m being very careful! – Éfhelìnye gasped.
Isn’t that what you usually say before the conflagration begins? Do you not smell the smoke?
– Pardon? Oh! – Éfhelìnye saw that a slight tricker of smoke was arising from some of the inner coils and she took the device and shook it until the smoke stopped. – Something was just overheating, that’s all. Machines do that all the time, one shouldn’t worry about such trifles. –
Next you’ll be burning down the entire ship. Gimme that!
– No, wait, I want to dissect it and contact Grandpa! – But Ixhúja grabbed the device and the bits of casing and gave them to her clockwork thralls who spun upwards into the gyrating solar sails and began to reassemble the device, and the insects kept looking downwards and blinking in Éfhelìnye’s direction as they began fixing everything.
– I knew what I was doing! – Éfhelìnye gasped.
Ixhúja reached into her pocket and drew out a part of a doughnut she had saved and she gobbled it up right in Éfhelìnye’s face, then licked her lips and then ran aside and grabbed the device from her pwànkhafha thralls and dropped it into a pocket and ran away.
Éfhelìnye gathered up her tools and whispered – She’s my cousin, but sometimes I don’t understand her at all. I was able to figure out the fractal motor of this ship and the three dimensional puzzle of the maze, I’m sure I could have figured out an apparatus which I’m sure I’ve taken apart before. Didn’t I put the mirror coils in there? I wish Ixhúja would just let me create, I’m happiest when I’m making something. –
Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho cleared their throats but knew better than to interfere in the family affairs of one who would become the new Empress, and neither of them were sure how to understand Éfhelìnye’s comment of this Princess being a cousin of hers, perhaps golden haired Princess came from a distant Noble House, or perhaps she was the daughter of a Lord and his concubine, and the Lord had once been close to the divine family of Pwéru. Xhnófho lifted up his tentacle and chanted – In lieu of clockweyth apparatus and breakfast, Fhèrkifher and I your humble servants can just tell you all of the tidings that we know. Would that please the Empress of tomorrow? –
Éfhelìnye drew up her knees and rested her face against it and hugged her legs and chanted – Yes, yes that would please me a great deal. –
Fhèrkifher jumped up and rolled into a ball and standing upon his head lifted up his arms to say – So the last you saw us was when we were all fleeing from the Crystalline Throne, which Sieur Íngìkhmar smashed with the strength of his arm. Xhnófho and I were in the air navy of glass and hot air balloons, we all came sailing o'er the very edge of Winter, and Sieur Íngìkhmar took the carcanets from the twin Duchesses and placed one about your neck and one about divine Puîyos, and singing the Empress’ forbidden Song, the necklaces translated you far away from Kàrijoi’s grasp before he could take you. –
Éfhelìnye tapped her throat and the rainbow necklace she that lay thereon and chanted – My necklace has blossomed into all of the colors of the rainbow. –
– How marvelous! – laughed Fhèrkifher as he bounced back upon his feet.
Xhnófho spun upwards and chanted – And so you were parted from us, and Fhèrkifher and I were left in a grand fleet assembled by Grandfather Pátifhar and Sieur Íngìkhmar, and let me tell you, there were many different alien factions assembled in it. – From his sleeves came spilling out some juggling pins, and letting them dance upon his suckers he chanted – There were many Aûm bäluns, and they looked a little like unto these – and Xhnófho tossed them high into the air and juggled them about, and flowing out of his sleeves came some sphere and he chanted – And many of the living ships of my people the Qhíng! – And tossing them up into the air he drew out some disques and spun them upon his tentacles and chanted – And then there were the Khlitsaîyart, let’s toss them up also! Oh! Look at how they all spin about each other! Juggling is such an important task, either for a pirate or a suxerain speaker, although sometimes I don’t think there’s much of a difference between those two professions! Oh look at all of these other living ships flowing out of my sleeves, not to mention extra playing cards, I wonder how those got in there! Let’s see, pyramids, cones, cubes, these were the living ships of the Qája and Ptètqiikh and Kháfha! Look at how they all dance in the air! Now I’m going to cry and catch a few on my beak, oh just look at how they spin and go! – By now Xhnófho was dancing and all the air about him was filled with elevens of objects for all seven of his tentacles were spinning around in perfect harmony and tossing objects in the air, and Éfhelìnye was laughing with glee to see such a sight. She signaled unto Ixhúja and Aîya to come forwards and trotting forwards gazed they with eyen large with disbelief, to see such a marvel of juggling, so many objects in the air, and Xhnófho was catching them upon beak and antennæ and flickering them away.
– And yet, I’m sad to say, this alliance of peoples was inherently unstable – Xhnófho chanted, and spilling from his sleeves came a ponatlhuyeseqtotsànthe unicycle, and he bounced upon it, his tentacles writhing about the jitsensha wheels, and as he swayed side fro and side to, the juggling itself became a little more erratic even though he was able to keep all of the pieces in the air. – And yet somehow despite all this instability we were all flowing together! –
Ixhúja clapped her hands together and pointed to the unicycle and wondered whether she could learn to ride one, and perhaps her clockwork thralls may be able to form one of themselves for her, but she was so enthralled by the juggling that she durst not interrupt it. Xhnófho cycled about the maidens a few times and caught some pins on his beak before flicking them away and chanted – Now it came to pass that Grandfather Thiêfhilos came to us and asked us to fix all the cannons in the fleet. And guess that Fhèrkifher and I did? –
– I don’t know! – gasped Éfhelìnye. – Did you fix the cannons? –
Fhèrkifher lifted up both hands and brilliant sparkles were arising, firecrackers were bursting out from his sleeves, and he spun around a few times and taking off his hat with a flourish, brilliant fountains of light were arising out from him, fireworks breaking out of nothingness and dancing about his body. When the flames had ceased he brushed his fulvous mustachios a few times, and several whizzes and sferics and pops arose about him. – One could say that we fixed the cannons, and they were spectacular! –
– And then tragedy strook! – gasped Xhnófho, and he caught up several pins and they vanished into dust within his grasp. – Perhaps the saddest event in all of mortal history! – Xhnófho jumped down from the unicycle, and of its own accord it folded itself up and bounced back into his sleeves, and dancing back a few more times he continued to juggle and gather the pins and baubles and spheres and cones and plunk them back into their place, and at least Xhnófho was just dancing completely without any bejuggled objects, but rather from nowhere was drawing up a small fire brand that sputtered into light of is own doing and slithering up unto Fhèrkifher and chanted – Through some strange quirk of wyrd, Fhèrkifher found himself trapped in a cannon and fired into the upper stratosphere – and Xhnófho tapped his cater-cousin with the fire wand, and the maidens cried out to see Fhèrkifher completely consumed in flames and running around in little circles and crying out – I’m shot out of a cannon! I’m shot out of a cannon! Alas alack o me miserum! –
Xhnófho’s tentacles tapped together and out from them grew a pain of stained glass. – Fhèrkifher spun through the air and crashed through the stained glass window of some rather touchy and beligerant Aûm Duchesses – and Xhnófho rolled upwards, smashed the glass about his friend, and Fhèrkifher added – And let me tell you, that was a most gracious and jauntry entrance to make, in the leaping and flying and crashing and sparkling light. The introit could only have been better if there had been some comely maids to witness it, have I mentioned there were now Færie women aboard the fleet at all? –
– I know, it’s been so long since you’ve been punched or slapped for winking at a maiden – Xhnófho chanted as he took some more bits of glass and smashed them against Fhèrkifher’s head, and at once all of the flames turned into water dripping about him. – Alas, the Duchesses ordered Fhèrkifher’s immediate death, they hurled him into the sky to fall into the sea, and he fell and fell and fell and fell, until at last by some strange luck he tumbled unto some outer wires and dangled there. –
Fhèrkifher drew out some small wheels and spun them around in his fingers and chanted – And some little toys, even more belligerant than the Duchesses, tried to toss me into the sea. –
– But who should come to save the pirate, but the little innocent maidens Siêthiyal and Karuláta, the Sister of the new Emperor! – Xhnófho cried, and he tossed some pink cloth upon his head and some yellow cloth upon Fhèrkifhers and they spun about each other and sang – And the little toys fell and they fell and fell and the little creepy toys fell into the sea! –
– Maybe we should wake Puey up for this – Éfhelìnye chanted. – No, he can sleep, and you can tell him the story of his Sisters later. –
– I hope those little horrid wind up things got crushed and eaten by something terrible! – laughed Fhèrkifher.
– And so the sky fleet was fully armed and strong, the banners waving, the cannons ready – Xhnófho cried out in a dance and tumbling about he chanted – And then the horizon began to darken, for we passed through Qàsa the Swan Viceroy kingdoms and then up unto the Quays of Ílini, long and ancient and tumbling wharves, and when we reached thereunto, so too had the War, Tlhexetsopwekùthuwo the Flower Wars of Heaven. – And Xhnófho’s tentacles all burst up into lambent illusions of flame, and Fhèrkifher drew out some flags from his hat and ran around and tumbled in acrobatics crafty swift.
– It was a terrible battle – sang Fhèrkifher as he hopped about and drew some paper swords from his pockets and tossing a sword to Xhnófho they fenced with each other until they jabbed each other with the paper so many times that it cracked and bent. Fhèrkifher slid the papyrus sword beneath his arm and pretended that he was impaled. – Many fell. The wharves burned. The hero of the battle of Sieur Íngìkhmar, he was riding upon his ferocious velociraptor mount, he was leaping about from side to side, the enemy were scattering before him, ice and blood lay ysplattered all about. The walls fell. The towers were tumbling. Khiêro of Old, the first Ancestor unto the Jaràqtun people was leaping about the quays, his sword and bambus staff spinning around. –
– Khei khei khei khei khei! – danced Xhnófho as he spun the paper swords about in an imitative ballet.
– Your most humble servants Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho … –
– Or is it Xhnófho and Fhèrkifher? – asked Xhnófho as he tossed the paper sword into the air, rolled upon his head, and stood upon the edge of his brow and beak, his tentacles wriggling upwards like the branches of a tree, and he caught up the sword and spun it around.
– Most definitely Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho fought well and valiant! – Fhèrkifher jumped upwards and sparkling fireworks flowed up from his hands. – Alack! Alas! I was sore wounded in the battle! – He drew out a fan and beat it before his face. – But I survived, thanks to Xhnófho and my other comrades in arms. –
Xhnófho drew out several masques from his sleeves and spun them around upon the tips of his tendrils and bouncing them upwards revealed them to be masques with various expressions glistening upon them. Xhnófho tossed one masque upon his face and chanted – This is my happy face, I was happy that the battle was finished. – He tapped that masque aside and behind it sprung out one masque whose beak was open and worry feathers lay about it. – This is my sad face, I was sad that Fhèrke was hurt. – He kicked that masque aside and springing out from nothing came another masque, and the eyen were bulging and blasts of feathers framed the visage. – Here is wonderment. And here is relief. And here is surprise. Surprise! –
– And the battle was finished! – Fhèrkifher spun around.
– And not the real work began – chanted Xhnófho, and all of the masques disappeared in puffs of smoke.
– This is the fun part – Fhèrkifher grinned.
– Are we going to do it? – asked Xhnófho.
– It’s about time. We need to rehearse a bit. –
– You’re going to like this, Holy Empress and Princess. –
Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja looked to each other and grinned. – I already like this! – Éfhelìnye cried. – I can’t wait to see what happens next! –
– This is fun – smiled Fhèrkifher.
– That’s the truth – Xhnófho’s antennæ coiled in a grin.
Fhèrkifher drew his sleeves together, and then slowly lifted one hand upwards. He looked like he was tapping against the air, as if a jar had been placed about his palms. He beat against the invisible barrier a few times and then slowly drew out a few strands of cobweb. Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja were leaning closer together and closer to the Qamélon Pirate, they were not entirely sure what he was doing, all they could see was that more and more strands of web were flowing up about his fingers, he was almost just plucking them out. Then he drew his hands aside, and with a flourish opened them and revealed a complicated network of wood and strands and pulleys spreading about. Fhèrkifher wriggled his brown mustachios a few times, and then Xhnófho slipped upwards and drawing a black kerchief lay it upon the grown beneath the strings, and with a flourish Xhnófho tapped the handkerchief, drew it aside and chanted – Divine Empress and dearest Princess, permit me to introduce you to the Peróqhi Regent Sylvan the lwantofholexhlaníjhanga Sylvan Sorcerer of the Forest, old, old, old, old, and do I mean old, Pápo Pátifhar Thiêfhilos Xàswel Pàswel Tseîrqhus Fhófho Khyenejaróxha Khlámus Pwerpóxiru! Although as children I know that you larvæ call him Grandfather Pátifhar! – And at that Xhnófho spun away and tossed away the black cloth and revealed something dancing beneath Fhèrkifher’s fingers.
At once Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja laughed in wonder and innocence and glee, for spinning beneath Fhèrkifher’s fingers was a small xhàxhmat quocker-wodger, a marionette who looked nothing else but like a miniature Grandfather Pátifhar. The püp was formed out of wood, but the joints where wheels and metal, so that when Fhèrkifher moved his fingers a little mechanical mouth open and chewed the air, and little clockwork brows furrowed and peered behind thick little spectacles. The puppet was wearing long and black cloth robes and dangling at his side lay a little glassen sword, and the little marionette was hopping about and swaying his head from side to side, and Fhèrkifher was throwing his voice and crying out – I’m Grandfather Pátifhar! I’m older than air and dirt and words! Do what I say! I’m cranky! Get back to work! Get back to work! I want those cannons fixed now! Get back to work you lazy roustabouts you pirates! I’m the old man of the sky ocean, and everyone has to do what I say! –
At this Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja burst out into even wilder laughter, for no matter how much Éfhelìnye might have loved her Grandfather she knew he could be a little feircesome and silly, and Ixhúja respected the old man who had found her and took care of her when she was lost and alone in the Winter Empire and wandering about the rail stations, although she often found him silly as well. Fhèrkifher made the little marionette walk up the Princesses and he cried out in a most ridiculous gerousious voice caduceus patriarchial – Is there something that you find risible about me, maidens! Xhwókh! How dare you show disrespect to your elders! I’m going to beat you with my cane! Why look here, I have a crooked little cane – and the marionette’s arm moved and drew out a bit of crooked wood which Fhèrkifher had with loving hand cut and treated and painted, and he made the puppet walk right up to Éfhelìnye and poke her a few times with it. – Now, you going to stop laughing at me? Well, are you? –
– Hah hah hah hah! – laughed Éfhelìnye.
– Hee hee hee hee hee! – laughed Ixhúja.
– I asked you question, are you going to start laughing at me! – cried the puppet, and the clockwork of its face made its mouth open and close, and little glassen eyen blinked a couple of times.
Xhnófho drew out a little drum and began tapping upon it with his suckers. The puppet walked up to Ixhúja and poked her a couple of times with its little puppet sword and cried out – Now, are you lasses going to stop laughing at me! I’m speaking to you! –
Éfhelìnye struggled to regain control, and she bowed and quod with mock seriousness – I’m terribly sorry, Grandfather, I don’t know what came o'er me. I’ll be good. –
– Now, see that you do! – piped Grandfather Pátifhar. He poked Ixhúja a few more times, and Ixhúja didn’t even pretend to stop laughing. Éfhelìnye turned to her cousin and whispered – Isn’t that puppet just completely precious! This is the most marvelous design that I’ve e'er seen. –
Xhnófho continued to beat his drum, and the puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar hobbled around a little and then tripping cried out – I’m falling xhwókh! Xhwókh! Xhwókh! – And when Xhnófho drummed out a flourish, down the puppet collapsed and spun about and rolled about in a most ridiculous way. The puppet kicked up his little puppet legs and cried out – Everyone else, get back to work! I’m so old I keep falling down! –
– Should we help the honored Archsylvan up? – Fhèrkifher asked from above his dancing fingers. – Perhaps we should let him fall down a few more times. – Fhèrkifher threw his voice and cried out – This is all the Pirates’ fault, they’re always goofing up and playing around when they’re supposed to be working! –
Éfhelìnye ran up to the puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar and drew him up by his tiny wooden hand and chanted – Here, honored Grandfather, let me help you walk again. –
– Oh thank you, little Princess! – cried the puppet. – Now, let me just take a few more steps upon my old and dottering decrepid legs … –
Xhnófho shook his tentacles and out came rolling some peaches. – Uh-oh! Uh-oh! – cried the Qhíng with mock seriousness. – Rolly rolly rolly about! –
The puppet skipped and danced about the rolling fruit and fell upon his face and legs a few times, and each time Xhnófho danced behind Fhèrkifher and beat upon his drum and produced a few rolling calls upon it, and each time the puppet lept and danced and swayed and fell in the most ridiculous of pratsplatfalls. Fhèrkifher grinned as he drew up his hands and manipulated the strings, and spun the puppet about a little, and after püp puppet Pátifhar had fallen about a little, the quocker-wodger sprang back up again and shaking his hands about cried out – And now we come to perhaps the most important part of our tale, it is when I, old old old old Thiêfhilos, whom all children call Grandfather Pátifhar, summoned together the Elders of the Land, and we negotiated the syuîkho, the contract for betrothal and marriage. And now I wonder, who else was in attendance for that War Rede? –
Xhnófho’s tentacles spun outwards and several scrolls danced about his sleeves and came rolling outwards like very elongated tounges and he chanted – And the marriage and betrothal contract was very long and complicated indeed, wasn’t it? Miles upon miles of clauses and therefores and wherefores and whatfores and byfores – And as Xhnófho drew the contracts aside as a curtain several tiny dolls were arising about his tentacles, his tips and suckers inside of the puppets and swaying within them to give them life.
– I summon the Elders of the Land! – the puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar danced and gestured unto the flowing images of the tendril puppets, and the first one that arose was a small puppet of a Qhíng, it was turning around to regard the children and opening up its wee beakling, and Xhnófho pulled upon a string and flowing down the back of the puppet sprang open a large quetzal feathercrest just like the gamma men of his folk have. – We are the most perfect Qhóng – Xhnófho spake through his puppet. – We shall enter this alliance and fight for the new Emperor and Empress! –
– Good, come aboard! – danced the marionette of Grandfather Pátifhar. – Just get to work. I hope you don’t have any pirates among your people? –
– Just one or two – spake the Qhíng puppet. – But we don’t let them out too often. –
– We need more people in this alliance – cried Grandfather Pátifhar. – I need to order more people around. –
Xhnófho’s manifold tendrils drew up his next puppet, it was of a dour faced Kháfha who spun his head around and looking to the Princess frowned a few times. – Oh I’m just so sad and depressed because I’m an Kháfha, and we Kháfha never have no fun at all! – The puppet shrugged with his three felt wings, and the wheels in his face opened a little, so that the triple pupils spun around in crazy patterns. – Oh woe woe woe is me! I am a sad, sad Kháfha! –
– Are you going to join this alliance or not? – cried Grandfather Pátifhar’s puppet. – I need someone to stroke my whispy beard and pat me on the head. –
– Ooh, let the Kháfha do that – chanted the Qhíng puppet. – They’re good at producing monks and priests – And the puppet leaned towards the Princesses and whispered in a loud voice – Let me just say in secret, the Kháfha are no fun at all! –
– We are fun! – cried the Kháfha puppet. – Why today I washed my webbed feet, that’s plenty fun! –
– Is not! –
– That’s fun! –
– Is not! –
– Very fun! –
– How not! –
– Plenty fun! –
And Xhnófho was crying out in two voices at the same so that the Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja squeeled in glee. Aîya looked around a few times and cried out in her three voices – How he she they speaking many voices! They must be mathmagicians! Wizards of the people! – Aîya came trotting upwards right towards the marionette of Grandfather Pátifhar and poked it a few times with one of her beaks and chanted – How did the alchemist become so smallified? He she small yet big voice so little! –
– Help! Help! – cried the puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar. – I’m being attacked by a giant Traîkhiim! –
– We’re scared of the giant Traîkhiim! – cried the Qhíng and Kháfha puppets at once in two different voices, although how Xhnófho was able to perform such a feat, he was not saying, his antennæ just a riant curl.
– Little man little priest you make all the alliance the marriage? – asked Aîya.
The puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar drew the tiny glass sword and poked Aîya a few times and cried out – Begone you great dragon of a Traîkhiim! I, old Pátifhar shall fight you! –
– Help! – cried Aîya as she ran away from the puppet.
The marionette was running almost faster than Fhèrkifher and his fingers could keep up with it. – Avast, you Dragon, back back back back back! –
Aîya squeaked and ran around in little circles, and Fhèrkifher and his marionette came running after her and leaping and poking all the while, until Éfhelìnye ran upwards and gathered up Aîya into her arms and stroking the little Traîkhiim whispered – Don’t worry, those aren’t real, they’re just toys that my Father made long ago and the Pirates have been caring for them and repainting and sewing them since my Father set his hand away from toycraft. I must say that I’m surprised that my august Father e'er made a toy in the likeness of his beloved tutor and father-in-law. –
Fhèrkifher winked as he drew the puppet aside and chanted – I’ve altered the xhàxhmat o'er the years to make him look like honored Thiêfhilos, and I added the little sword and cane myself. Isn’t that right, honored Grandfather? –
– Get back to work! – snarled the little puppet, and Pátifhar drew out his hand and pointed to the puppets with Xhnófho’s tentacles and cried out – Who else must sign this contract in blood? I need to order around more people! –
– Why, it seems you already have the best! – sang the Qhíng puppet.
– Oh just so depressed to be a boring Kháfha – muttered the Kháfha puppet.
– Will you stop saying that? –
– If there’s a way to lose the war, we’ll figure it out? –
– Wait, wait someone else is coming. –
– I hope it’s not the Ptètqiikh. –
– Yes, what have they e'er accomplished? We need someone else in the alliance to finalize this contract for betrothal – the Qhíng puppet swung his face about and his little antennæ twitched a little. – We need someone brave and honest and true. Do you see anyone like that, little Princesses? – The Qhíng puppet peered right, it peered left, its little quetzal of featherpaper and cloth arose and wriggled a little. – I just hope that whoever else in this alliance isn’t completely altogether crazy. –
– No, surely I wouldn’t invite anyone crazy to the alliance – Grandfather Pátifhar’s puppet chanted. – There sane folk like the Prophet and Sieur Íngìkhmar and Khiêro of Old, not to mention a couple of pirates who snuck in and weren’t invited and when they were caught I let them stay anyway, it just wouldn’t be polite to keep tossing them out of windows, especially not ones they themselves personally broke. –
– Tick tock tick tock tick tock tick! – sang the puppets in Xhnófho’s fingers, and springig up in the middle of them came some spinning wheels and what at first the Princesses thought had to be a bouquet, for it was sprawling outwards and opening up some structures like leaves, but all the while from it arose the music of tikitön tikitön tikitön xhiqtákem xhiqtákem xhiqtákem and some little cloth tendrils drew themselves outwards, and the maidens saw that had to be the most intricate of the puppets for which the Pirates had care and which they had restored, janyaxhàxhma püψ that were in the shape of two Qlùfhem formed completely out of spinning clockwork, and one was painted blue and the other orange, and the pirates had taken great care in the craft of these puppets, for Khosyaràsqa was not just blue, but the wheels of her thorax, and the gears of her body and her twisting tentacles were all various shades of cærulea and sky and sea, and Xhnófho was reaching o'er and winding a few skeleton keys in her and made the puppet dance around a little, and the figurine of Pereluyàsqa was in similar fashion dight in various expressions of thrumb, she was swinging her eyestalk about, her entire body was a gleam of aurantiaceousness, and the xhàxhmaxeng twain were spinning about Xhnófho’s tendrils like a couple of ballerinas sprung to life, and he whispered in a rather flutey voice that sounded quite funny coming from a Qhíng so large and strong and he sang out – We’re the crazy Duchesses! We’re the crazy Duchesses! Everyone dance to our mad song, for we are the crazy Duchesses! –
– Won’t you join mine alliance? – cried the puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar.
– As long as we can eat paper-mache and abuse the Kèlor Qhóng all the day long! – cried Xhnófho in two high pitched voices flowing from a single throat.
– We need help in this alliance! – sang the puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar.
– We must marry off the children! – sang the Qhíng puppet.
– Let’s shackle them in betrothal rites! – sang the Kháfha puppet.
– Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! – sang the twin puppets of the Tùrkhaka contessas. – Smother the children! Find the children! Marry them off off off off off! –
Pátifhar lifted up his wooden hands and a tiny scroll unrolled before him. – And now the marriage contract must be signed! –
– We accept! – cried the Qhíng.
– We obey! – sang the Kháfha.
– We’re insane! – sang the Duchesses.
– Now let us dance in the War Rede! – sang Grandfather Pátifhar, and the puppet wriggled his hands and legs about, and his head was ducking up and down in a vaguely avian fashion, and seeing the movement of the xhàxhmat the maidens began to laugh anew. – Are you making fun of the way that I dance? Old gerontes can dance also, you little sprig of a lass! This really happened, I danced just like this in the War Rede! – And the puppet swivelled his head from side to side and flapped his arms as if flying.
– No, this never really happened! – sang the Qhíng puppet as it veered and swayed within Xhnófho’s tentacles, and the cloth tentacles dashed about a little and clapped.
– But it should have happened – sighed the Kháfha puppet, its triple wings flapping back and forth, and it and the Qhíng puppet came swaying together, and were dancing tentacle on wing.
Xhiqtákem! Xhiqtákem! Tick tock ticked the Duchesses puppets, and their wheels were spinning about in swift gyrations, so that soon all of Xhnófho’s tentacles were spinning about all alive and almost of their own accord rising and falling all about him, so that he gasped out a few times and blinking to the maidens cried out – I can almost not control mine own sock puppets! Let me get them! Let me at them! Oh oh oh oh oh! –
– We dance in the War Rede! – cried Grandfather Pátifhar’s puppet and it began a stately walk, and Xhnófho slipped down upon the deck and held the puppets in his tentacles and made them follow, the Qhíng and the Kháfha and the most intricate and spinning clockwork Duchesses.
– And thus the Rede came to pass – Fhèrkifher was saying – And the Elders discussed their contract for to betrothe and marry you off, oh divine Éfhelìnye unto Puîyos the Rising Sun, and we walked out into strange dreams, but we do not speak of it! –
– I can! – laughed the puppet of Grandfather Pátifhar.
– No you can’t! – cried Fhèrkifher, and suddenly he rolled aside, and Xhnófho came spilling about, and clouds of smoke arose to envelope both of them, and as the smoke cleared the Princesses Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja found that Xhnófho was alone standing upon the deck and Fhèrkifher stood upon his shoulders, and the xhàxhma puppets were completely disappeared. And the Pirates nodded a few times, and Fhèrkifher lifted up his arms and cried it – So Grandfather Pátifhar held his council and dream, and in the dawntide he smuggled us out to rescue you, before the coming blizzard. –
– And when we left, everyone was well, Sieur Íngìkhmar and Siêthiyal and Karuláta and even little Fhólus the pesky little runagate slave – Xhnófho chuckled.
– Khne khne khoyótokho fhwii fhwii fhwii’ ei! – cried Aîya and she laughed and spun around a little in Éfhelìnye’s arms and blinking her large ichthyian eyen looked to the Starflower Princess and chanted – Are the little people gone? Little people scares me a little. So little. Runtlings! –
– They’re gone for now – Éfhelìnye chanted as she petpatted Aîya a few times.
Fhèrkifher somersaulted right off of Xhnófho’s head and rolled outwards, and Xhnófho spun around in a few cartwheels, and both of them skimmed up to the maidens and sparkles of flames danced about them and the Pirates harmonious cried out – And so we sailed out and came to you! And that’s all the story! –
– Pui pui pui pui’ ei! – cried Éfhelìnye as she clapped her hands a few times in exaultation.
– Tee hee hee hee hee! – laughed Ixhúja and she played with a few of her golden tresses and tapping her cousin on her shoulder gave her a glance that meant, I want to see the puppets again, they were rather cute.
– Maybe the pirates will let us play with their toys later. –
– !! –
Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho skipped upwards, and while Xhnófho was flexing his tentacles and making sure that he had all of his juggling pins and spheres and playing cards and fireworks and the unicycle and sock puppets tucked away somewhere safe within his multifluent multipurpose and evercomplex sleeve. Fhèrkifher rubbed his neck and chanted – I received that marionette when I was still a young lad, I remember the day when divine Kàrijoi placed the toy in mine hand. When I grew older and altered its likeness to look like my Master Thiêfhilos. I had forgotten about the toy for many years, but when I was recalled back to the waterfall city of Eréjet and made into a Merchant King, and I was going through my possessions and needments xhwùfha, I came across it, dusted it off, made a few minor modifications, and voilá fhwa, I had a sparkling Grandfather Thiêfhilos puppet. –
– I had many such dolls as those in my larvahood – Xhnófho chanted as he let the Qhíng and Kháfha peak out from his pockets. – The Qlùfhem puppets were a modification that my cousin Khmaiqràfhta had made when he was very young and saw Emperor Kàrijoi, I suppose it was just luck that they made them into these little clockwork ballerinas. I miss my cousin sometimes, he had a very quirky sense of humor with these clockwork Qlùfhem Aûm. – Xhnófho did not like to think about how his Cousin had been responsible for the invasion and occupation of all of the North, how Khmaiqràfhta had sent up so much of the fleet and armies for to conquer Ìthikus and Northron Syapàkhya and Jaràqtu, nor how Khmaiqràfhta had died in battle, slain even by Puîyus’ hand. At least it had been a good way to die, and Khmaiqfàfhta had died in service to the Emperor, Kàrijoi of Health and Prosperity and Life.
– That was a fun little show – chanted Fhèrkifher as he brushed his bruneous mustache a few times.
– Yes, a fun little show – sighed Xhnófho, as he began brushing and grooming some of his brilliant quetzal feathers.
– We’ve only rehearsed just a little with the puppets. –
– Just a little. –
– We’ve had quite a lot of experience with acrobatics though. –
– Not to mention juggling. –
– I can’t tell you how many times juggling has come in handy for pirate work. –
– Not to mention acrobatics. –
– Leaping and swirling about. –
– Piracy can be quite a showy profession. –
– Are we forgetting anything, oh holy Empress, oh little Princess? – Xhnófho asked.
– Purr purr purr! – Ixhúja cried out.
– My cousin wants to play with the puppets – chanted Éfhelìnye – but I told her there’re too rare and fragile for her. –
– Maybe she can play with them later – smiled Fhèrkifher. – After all, what’s the point of having puppets if one can’t share them with children? –
– And … ah … considering that my Puey’s still asleep, is there anyway you could … perform that show again? – Éfhelìnye wondered.
Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho looked to each other and laughed. – We may have to rest up a little – chanted Xhnófho. – Perhaps tonight, when we reach the inner archepelagoes of this region, we can set the ship down very low against the horizon, and when it is dark, and we can see that the monstrious welkin battle floats far, far away from us, than we can do all this tumbling and singing and puppetry again. –
– I think Puey would enjoy the show quite a bit – chanted Éfhelìnye as she set Aîya down, and Aîya trotted away and her whisp-ears flickered a little and she ran around in circles and wondered where the Wee Folk had hidden themselves from her. Éfhelìnye took a few steps forwards and hugged herself a little and chanted – I think he would enjoy that quite a bit. –
A long shaft of darkness fell across Éfhelìnye’s face. She noticed that among some of the whispering mountains growing upwards in fang spikes across the horizon, that she could see trails of smoke arising, and the smoke was shimmering and breathing a bit, and for some reason her heart skipped a beat from dread. She brushed the feeling aside and walked o'er towards the edge of the stern where Puîyus still lay wrapped up in his dreamcloak and dreaming his deep and calm sleep, and as she approached him, she became the daybreak, and light was spilling up out of her and about the crags and hills of Syapàkhya. There was no true dawn any more, now that the Emperor was reaching out his hands and beshredding all time, but as Puîyus’ eyen flittered a little at first he could see the hills and the jagged hills, he beheld several different Moons arising, and in their slow lunar ballet the Moons were eclipsing each other and casting their shadow upon whispering mountains reaching up beyond the cloudlayer. Puîyus arose and bowed unto the Princess, and gathering up the blankets about himself and folding them and placing them aside, he saw that the ship was arising and passing through a flock of ptíxi of ice quetzallo’ pterodons, their wings a bright and white rustle, and somehow the light that was eminating from Princess Éfhelìnye was flowing outwards and becoming part of the white wings and the spinning of the pterodons and the glowing horizon which was for ever trapped somewhere at the edge of the tides of time.
Éfhelìnye reached out her hand to Puîyus and drew him upwards towards the circular filament layers of the Qlùfhem vessel and unto the mast, and the deck where Ixhúja and Aîya were chasing after each other and barking all the while, and the pirates were jumpinp upwards and rolling about each other, and Xhnófho kept plucking Fhèrkifher upwards and tossing him higher into the air in greater acrobatic stunts, but when the Pirates saw that Puîyus was arisen, and that Éfhelìnye was glistening as bright as the Dawn, and the Pirates came slipping upwards, and Fhèrkifher fell upon his knees and bowed his head and fell upon his face, and Xhnófho slithered upon his tendrils and hid his eyen and fell upon his beak, and they shivered a little and cried out – Unworthy are we to stand in the presence of the Cælestial Crown Prince, the future Father of all the Land. –
Puîyus looked around and for a moment, as dreamdust sparkled and fell out of his eyen, he was not entirely sure what they meant, but Éfhelìnye squeezed his hand and drew him upwards unto the quiverous freebooters. Puîyus was about to bid the pirates to arise, but then he saw that a few baubles fell out of Éfhelìnye’s pocket, and drawing them upwards and holding them in his hand, for some reason they reminded him a little of the Sorcerer and Sky Pirate pieces in Tnúpa Jórqha, the most ancient schachmatt game in all of the billion, billion worlds. He twined the pieces around and then looked out and noted the geography of the mountain ranges and the crashing of the suff and the cælestial battle the labirum Xakhpàlqe, high, high above them.
– Something is wrong – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – I am not entirely sure that I can describe it. –
At once Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho arose from their ritual kòutóuwing, and looking to each other blinked and chanted – Whatever it is, oh future Empress, we shall do as you bid, even if it be to the ending of our lives. –
– ?? – Puîyus asked.
Éfhelìnye looked around and chanted – I’ve spent almost mine entire life within the Forbidden Gardens of my Father’s harīm, I loved it therein, but a single region within frightened me, even if just a little, for the shores of these Islands were all sparkling of sands of many colors and jewels sprawling outwards and flowing out into an ocean sea all of living Dragon flame. Not too often did I play upon the marges, and dig among the golden sands or play at the edge of the frothing plasma wave, for many times when I came too close to the liminal wave, I would see brilliant wings arising, and the necks of the Dragons arising in serpentile array, and all of their bodies drifting upwards and storm and flame bursting out from them, and always the Dragons would mount their huge heads upwards and grin with jaws all of rewel swords, their eyen were mirror light, ay-vigilant were the Rainbow Drakes to ensure that their treasure the Starflower Princess did not leave the Gardens. And of course I remained within prisoned until you came and rescued me, my Puey. – Éfhelìnye lookd upwards and watched the growing eclipse of the Moons as three Moons aligned in conjunction, and whatever light lay left unto the horizon became sparkles of reds and golds, and towers of smoke were twining serpentile from side to side. – I feel a little like unto that, when the Dragons were eyeing me and making sure that I never escape my Father the Emperor. –
Puîyus looked down to the chess pieces in his hands, and looking outwards unto the battle they were escaping and the curve of the whispering mountains and the tumble of the hills and shore, and the billowing smoke drawing nigh hand unto them, he almost had the feeling that he was being funneled downwards and constrained against mounting cliffwalls and forced to fight upon enemy land.
One always thought that thou couldst do better in reading the cunning of thine opponent’s mind. Puîyus spun around and saw the chess board lying upon the small stone table, the glistening hexagons of the board sparkling with the movement of the pieces back and forth through the realms of earth and sea and sky. Seated at his edge of the board sate Emperor Kàrijoi, his robes were a billows of white ice and storm, mist was burning off of his ambrosial tresses, and growing up about his head were the brilliant crystalline spirals of his crown growing upwards into tartans of the Starburst. The Emperor was picking up his Clockwork Automaton piece and drawing it forwards against Puîyus’ pieces, and quoda he, One thing that thou hast needs to learn about the Game, oh Íngìkhmar’s Son, is that sometimes the enemy will resort unto destractions. Lo, here upon the board thou has been so diligent in sending thy Knights out and battlelines of your maquáhuitlmen in a very classical ēored pattern, and yet thou has failed to notice my pieces arising in a triangular pattern. I am forcing thy pirate pieces down a single course. They cannot view left or right lest they consumed by mine armies, they can only draw forwards into the trap that I have prepared for them.
Puîyus took a few more steps towards the Tnúpa board, and all of the pieces were spinning around alive before his gaze, and as he brushed his hand above them, he could see now as if with eyen anew, scales and icicles falling from his sight, that indeed the game had become just as Cælestial Kàrijoi had described it, and Puîyus’ pieces were rushing off right into a trap.
It is just like the ambush that was waiting for thy Father when he returned to me in the Holy City after eleven years of wait, Kàrijoi was telling the lad. And as the Emperor reached out his hand towards Puîyus’ Princess piece, Puîyus felt rising panic growing upwards within him, and all of the board was becoming a blur, and the pieces were arising and gazing back at him with the faces of his Father and Sister and the Pirates, and the Emperor was holding up a small ballerina piece like unto Princess Éfhelìnye, and arising behind the Emperor sprawling were his Dragons opening up their wings and licking the air with triple-forked storm tounges.
– Mew! – Puîyus gasped. He spun around and thought that he was falling right through the board, but instead found himself spinning and wobbling a little facing Éfhelìnye and the Pirates again. For a few moments the chess board and hexes and pieces danced in his vision, but then slowly materialized the ship and filaments therein and the solar sails gyrating about, and Éfhelìnye rubbing her brow in concern.
– Something is definitely wrong – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Mine head hurts a little. –
Puîyus blinked a few times. – Mew mew mew! –
Ixhúja and Aîya continued to chase each other around a little, but as the Moons were crossing each others’ path, in the gathering darkness they felt the very texture of the air changing. Ixhúja ran up and pluckd Aîya upwards. Puîyus’ elegant hands were spelling out the cheremes of Taûsqo and signing Qtefhoyàjhwen, ambush, and trèsesa, snare, and tlhàrpa trap. Puîyus looked around and could see it all clearly, as pieces moving across the board, and he so enthused was he that he made some jibbering sounds and waved his hands about in a pattern far too wild for even Ixhúja to comprehend.
– ?? – asked Ixhúja, and Aîya just shrugged her triple shoulders.
– !! – Puîyus barked.
Éfhelìnye grit her teeth and rubbed her brow a few times. – So you’re saying that the dæmonic confragration lured us on a single path, the ruins of the coastland of Khnìntha trapped us in the battle with the Xakhpàlqe, even the skerries and coastline and all of the northron edge of Syapàkhya … –
– !! –
– They’re all leading us here, trapped against our will, fleeing before a battle we cannot fight … –
– !! –
– At a particular time, just as the Moons are turning around in an eclipse, in the darkness gathering … –
– Mew! –
Princess Éfhelìnye opened her eyen as several crescent moons above her began to turn and completely darken the heavens, and she could detect the slight trace of brimstone drifting in the air. – This does all sound a little like a trap, very cunning and welllaid out, planned … oh my head! –
Puîyus almost felt as if he were fluttering somewhere beyond his body, that not only was all this ship a piece upon a board, but that he himself had become a puppet ensnared with cobwebs and dancing around to someone’s dread music, and for the first time he was looking upwards and seeing whose fingers were pulling all of the strings. He gulped a little, the growing cloud turrets of the Xakhpàlqe were mounting up behind him as a flood, and the whispering mountains and shores were pushing them upwards right towards the growing darkness of the Moons, and all of the land and sea and moons were contracting in this darkness like some strange esophagous maze drawing them all within. Puîyus clenched his fists a little, and remembered the chessboard patterns he had seen about the Crystalline Throne when he had asked Kàrijoi for the hand of his Daughter in betrothal and marriage.
Thou were the one to begin this game, my Son, whispered the voice of the Emperor. And once the game is begun it cannot end save by conquering one’s foe.
Princess Éfhelìnye’s eyen were fluttering a little, and she swayed from side to side as if on the verge of fainting. Puîyus ran up to her and clutched her arms, and in her swaying Éfhelìnye chanted – Puey, I think there may be Dragons somewhere around us. – Puîyus felt a trickle about his hands, and drawing the Starflower Princess’ hands upwards saw that both of them had begun to bleed even though they had not pricked against anything at all.
Puîyus’ eyen sparkled in determination and he made growl that meant, We’re leaving now. We must awaken again the experimental motor.
– It has to rest, Puey, we can’t do that – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I don’t even know how it works. We could end up crashing into the craters of those moons – chanted the Princess as she swayed from side to side. – I was just able to make a few good guess … about the fractalization of the dreams … the origamic folding of story. –
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