I awoke some time in the darkness before the dawn as I am wont to do. Siêthiyal was still asleep, I don’t understand how someone can sleep all during the night, especially when there are Moons and comets and Stars dancing in the heavens. I slipped out from her bed and picked the lock that kept me within, and found that all of the crannog was silent. Before Puîyus’ room I could see that someone had set thte door back on its hindges, and that some dinosaurlings and kittens were standing guard to protect him, but when I approached the kittens just purred and the dinosaurlettes ran up and licked my fingers. I listened to the lock, I could hear the sweet sounds of sleep within, and then it occurred to me that the way the door had been latched remained me of some frequencies that one hears with the ringing of a khikhákha merrythought, a wishbone, a sound ringing, and I tapped the lock a few times, and all of the wheels chimed in sympathetic response, and the door swung open. I could see Puey lying in bed beneath his patchwork quilt, he was so beautiful lying there, his hair a sea of cærulea waving about him, and my heart filled with love and I knew I just had to tippy toe towards him to kiss him, but I made it only a few steps before the rug beneath me rushed aside, and a golden net fell about me, and ropes were lashing upwards, and I sung high in the air, and beneath me came walking Fhermáta and Akhlísa giggling all the while, pointing and poking each other. I did not like this at all. I called out to Puey, and he sprang open wide awake at once, both hands were grasping swords, fire and steel were in his eyen, and I began to cry as I thrashed around in the net suspended high in the air. Fhermáta and Akhlísa were shouting and blaming each other, until Akhlísa began to weep. Puîyus set his swords down and took a knife to cut me down, and by now Siêthiyal was running into the room and wondering what was happening, and all three of the Sisters were shouting and blaming each other, and Puîyus was walking upon the ceiling to let me go. The Suns were arising in the windows, the second hour of the day was begun, the window was aglow agold. Puîyus was cutting the first of the bands, the Sisters’ argument arose to a crescendo, and booming up through the door came Abbá Íngìkhmar, his beard and tresses swirling a little like storm clouds, and behind him smacking their lips and leaning on their canes were some of the Elders. The Sisters stopped poking each other long enough to smile and pretend that they weren’t arguing. Puîyus cut down the ropes and I fell into his arms. Abbá looked at us and the nodding to the Elders told us, I’m going to have you stay at the Abby today, your honored Aunt Qtìmine can teach you maidens how to be proper and quiet Sisters, and your Grandfather Pátifhar can teach you to be an obedient Son.
Just then came the sound of crashing within the kitchen. The Sisters looked to each other but none of them knew what was happening. Several more sounds of bursting plate came from the kitchens. The Elders and and Íngìkhmar looked down and noticed a growing pool of sudsy water arising about their bedroom slippers. For some reason the Elders looked to me, then Íngìkhmar, then the Sisters one two three, and then even Puey. The room rocked a little from the echo of the first explosion. I wondered whether I should have put so many extra springs in my invention. Don’t worry, I know how to fix it, I told them, and I ran to a window, flung it open, and slipped downstairs into the kitchen faster than the rest could hope to run down the halls and down the ramp, the Elders tripping o'er dinosaurlings and kittens, the Sisters screaming all the while, and Puîyus stayed and paused to comb his hair a little, he doesn’t like to be seen unkempt. I must say though the kitchen was extremely clean, what was left of it. My rather troubled apparatus had cleaned all of the dishes and cups and pots and knives and sporks and chorks and chopsticks, it then dried them and washed them twice, and when it grew bored with the pots it began smashing them into smaller pieces to be washed individually and then it glewed them back together, and it washed the cabinets and tables and walls so hard that the paint was splashing downwards, it was crubbing the pebbles right off of the floor, it was throwing the chairs around because they were in its way, it set the drapes on fire because they were too dirty, and it started punching wholes into the wall so the sunlight could admire the cleanliness. By the time I slipped into the kitchen the soapy water was about as high as I am tall, and I was afraid because I don’t know how to swim, but the apparatus was smashing everything about it, its many limbs were scrubbing pots and throwing them aside, its hands covered in sponges were ripping down the walls, its fountain turned and splashed me with waves, and every few moments it reached into its barrel and yanked out a part of itself and threw it as an explosion against the walls and floor. I had no choice but to wade in after it, the machine was bearsarked and spun untowards me with baleful and glass eyen. I fell into the water many times and kept swallowing soap, I felt sick, but at last I made it to the center, where the machine was arising in waves of soap, I grabbed it and started to unwind some of its coils, but that only made it angry, the machine yanked me upwards, it must have thought that I was a plate, it pressed its sponges and hands about me and poured baths of soap all o'er me, it was scrubbing my face and arms and drying me at the same time. I was drowning as it thrust me into the waters and yanked me out again and smacked me around with far too many limbs, and when its arms opened up and revealed tips all of knives, I was beginning to think that perhaps this invention was not my greatest idea.
Suddenly Puîyus was there, he stomped the floor, and all of the waters and soap parted at his command, and came splashing out of the holes in the kitchen. The machine veered around, it was clutching me, and the machine had instinctive knowledge that Puey did not like it on principal, I think many machines are able to sense that. Plus when my Puey bound upwards, swung the golden net around to catch it, and then thrust his sword right through the machine’s face, there could be no doubt unto his attitude. I must say when Puey came to rescue me, his hair was particularly blue and lustrious, it really is a beautiful jacinth wave, his tresses melancholy blue. Puey swung upwards, he thrust his sword into the machine several more times, but the apparatus was still grabbing me by the throat and holding me into the soap water, drowning and washing me at the same time. Puey pulled up the machine, even as it growled and began slashing at him from side to side, and with his bare hands he ripped it apart, gallons of soap and wheels pouring out around it, knife hands trying to gut him all the while. I was splashing downwards, at this point I was barely aware of what was happening, I had swallowed so much water. Somehow Puey managed to wrestle and tear apart the machine, but just when he thought that victory was already achieved, the outer carapace of the machine exploded and revealed within it a smaller device formed all of limbs and claws, and it sprang upwards like an atelesqiyìsqi otter-monkey swinging ambau kaureka waitoreke from side to side, it jumped upwards and grabbed me by the collar and began clammering up the sides of the walls. I must tell you, Ixhúja and Aîya, I don’t quite remember building that particular aspect to the apparatus, although I have found that sometimes my maŝinoj are able to take unto themselves properties which I had never envision’d. Perhaps that is the way with all machines, or maybe even Children, they do not become exactly what their Parents had thought. The angly washing machine was bouncing upwards and clasping me close unto it even as it was washing and struggling against my Puey, and by now Íngìkhmar and some of the warriors were wading in the waters and throwing spears and javelins, although they had to be careful to strike the apparatus and not me. Pew flung himself up through the foam. The machine caused wall to explode, and it flung itself into the loch, and clasping me in its jaws swam as quickly as possible. Then began quite an epic swim, perhaps the greatest of all swims conducted between man and machine. My Puey was swifter indeed, and at his paddling the waves were arising to lend speed unto him, and dashing about him arose orcs and dolphins twittering all the while and sporting and following and chasing after me. The machine though was cunning, its knives were cutting through the air, paddles of water arising. Thrice dear Puey arose against the machine and thrust his knife into its glassen eyen and joints, and the machine belched out spumes of soap against him, and reaching into its shell drew out some broken dishes and tried to slash open Puey’s beautiful face, but Puey wrestled and swam and ripped off more limbs of the device, but not enough to destroy it or release me, and the machine just laughed and poured out more suds untowards him. At last the machine came bouncing outwards, it swung upwards out of the waves, and squirting ink and oil at Puey, it came leaping outwards towards some trees, I was still held, almost strangled and drowned by now in its grasp, the machine came bounding up the tree like some strange arachnid shadow, and just as my Puey flew through the branches, the machine pulled out some spinning arms tipped in sqèyo helmbardes, the tips glistening like impalent spear and battle-axe, and the machine chopped against leaf and branch, and Puey winced in pain and anger to think of anyone daring to do harm to a tree. For Puey so loves trees, although not nearly as much as he loves me, his very favorite Princess. Íngìkhmar’s Son spun up through the air, he kicked aside at the knives and axe and ripped apart the limbs of the machine, and wrestling it about in a titanic struggle, he began biting through the gears, he ripped the machine apart with his teeth and smashed out all of the mainsprings, until it broke apart in his grasp, and he stomped the pieces and crushed them in his hands and gathered them up into a pile and set them on fire and buried them in dust, and all the while was holding me in his arms, for I was still sore afraid and not a little tired from being dragged and washed and almost drowned. And so we rested together in the shade of the trees, and I cried a little as he held me, and Puey told me that sometimes he was tempted to go to his Grandfather’s workshop and burn it down just to keep me from creating my wacky machines, although he would never do that, it would dishonor his Ancestors, plus he loved to draw and paint in there, and he would never do anything that would make me unhappy, like ask me not to make art with my small white hands. But still he was quite concerned and was carrying me when the warriors came riding out upon giraffe and ostridge, and the warriors were searching the shore and forest for any mad wheels and gears to be gathered and destroyed, an an acolyte who was staying with the Khatelèstan was taking incense and thurible and blessing the earth lest any taint of the Tánin be left upon it, the Automata that grasp for the souls denied unto them. Puey carried me back to Fhermáta and she dried me up and dressed me in a bright and new white dress she had made for me, for I’ve only worn white all of the days of my life, though in the crystalline shine prismatic of it sometimes my dresses can become pink and red and all of the colors of the iridule, and I was still shivering from fright and excitement by the time of the third hour, when the Sisters too me to the Khatelèstan fortress for breakfast, while Íngìkhmar and Sathnòrja set about repairing the kitchen which I had accidently damaged, although only to a minor degree. Puey was dredging out the waters, he got some of his fishes and serpents to help in drying the kitchen, and the Elders were gathering up the plates which the machine had not broken or only cracked to a minor degree. So I ate with the Sisters among the Khatelèstan, and Auntie Qtìmine came for us made us pancakes, and I cried a few times because I though that everyone was angry that I had once again ruined the kitchen.
Today I’m going to take you maidens with me to the Abby, and while we pick berries we’re going to discuss what it means to become a responsible young woman, Auntie Qtìmine was telling us. Puîyus is going to stay with Paloîta and Khrùkhtii, for Grandfather Pátifhar will be teaching them about being young men, and about the priesthood and of serving the people and ancestors. It was time to leave, for some reason though Siêthiyal and Kàrula kept giggling and looking at me, until Siêthiyal chanted, Now Princess Qlenólakh was not nearly as much trouble as you are. Oh, we all liked Qlenólakh, she was pretty and exotic, her eyen almost violet, her hair a long and lustrious green, her baring was just so graceful, so elegant. Oh she was definitely a young lady, Siêthiyal was saying, not a child princess at all. I always did think that Puey liked her the most of all of the Princesses that he rescued. So, where is Qlenólakh now? I’m going to send her a message by raven today. And Karuláta just giggled and chanted, Don’t be so mean, Éfhelìnye is sitting right next to you. But Qlènofhar never destroyed our kitchens, now did she, Siêthiyal asked. Say, how many times do you think Puey and Qlenólakh kissed? An hundred times? Two hundred times? Per diem? Qlenólakh, being older and more grown up, I’m sure she was an expert kisser, not like sudsy here with her hairwire machines. Please, don’t me mean, Karuláta hushed. I don’t care if she hears me, Siêthiyal chanted. All I’m saying is that by the time Puey was armed at seven winters of age, he was already rescuing Princesses and saving maidens from monsters, at seven he was getting more kisses, and better ones too then this eastron ninny here, that’s all I’m saying. And Qlenólakh never blew up a room! Fhermáta was getting up and saying, Abbá will have the kitchen repaired soon, we’re a warrior people, don’t you think we’ve had walls and towers knocked down before and set them back up again? I think that’s what Grandfather Jàkopar did all day, when he wasn’t fighting, he just set things back up. Fhermáta put her arms around me, even as I buried my face in my hands and cried again, but she tried to sooth me and tell me that it wasn’t my fault.
We traveled to the Abby, although Siêthiyal and Karuláta kept comparing me to Princess Qlenólakh, and I did not like hearing about that at all, appearently Qlenólakh had a more conventional upbringing, and was skilled at music, and a bit less eccentric than I am. I tried to remain calm as he rode in the wain behind a triceratops, although we had a bit of excitement when a few raving jár some skunk squid bears came leaping out of the woods and were chasing a maiden, and Puey came spinning out of the wagon to save her, the jár nanuq were screaming, their björn reeds rustling from side to side, their tendrils reaching out to a fair maiden, and since the wild skunk beowulves would not heeding Puey’s hest, he had to punch them and wrestle them down, and saved he the fair zave. Apparently he knew her, her name was Asiréma of the Poriêrii clan, and he had saved her before. Now Ixhúja and Aîya, the Poriêrii and the Sweqhàngqu have been not quite enemies but not quite allies for many hundreds of generations, and had only fought together in the Great War for it was tlhámòtining xauQírenàtejikh, war for the honor of the beloved Emperor, and all men were banded together as ēoreds of brothers, but that was eleven years ago, in the twilight of the Golden Age, in the last days of my Mother. Anyway, Puey had saved Asiréma before, and I didn’t know it, but there was some talk among the Elders that in order to heal the rift between the Sweqhàngqu and the Poriêrii, that this Asiréma should be given to him as a concubine in the years to come, but nobody consulted me on this idea, I don’t know why the Elders didn’t ask for my opinion. Who can understand adult units, they’re just inscrutable sometimes? Puey wrestled down the squid bears and save the maiden, and Asiréma, can you believe it, she flings her arms about him and kisses him on the forehead, she kissed my Puey on his brow, she didn’t even care what I thought, and Siêthiyal was making some comment about how Puey likes to save golden tressed maidens because he likes them best. I was very angry, I was grinding my teeth together, how dare the maiden touch my Puey! I should slap her on general principle! I should beat her to the ground! I’m going to tear her throat out and strangle her with her own intestines, that stupid girl! I was just about to leap out of the wagon and start teaching her a lesson she would not soon forget, but I don’t know, something about the way that I was grinding my teeth and shoving Fhermáta away, and grabbing a rope from the wagon must have alerted the Sweqhàngqu Sisters to the subtly of my most excellent plan, for all three Sisters arose and held me down and kept my still, until Asiréma finished daring to put her lips to my Puey’s brow, it was really the most disgusting thing I’ve e'er seen, and then Puey being the consummate virtuous warrior, the knight in training, told us that we should escort her home, and I chanted no, let her stay in the forest with the wild beasts, but Fhermáta and Siêthiyal and Karuláta chanted that we had to protect her. Asiréma told us she had some relatives staying at the Abby, so it was settled, and Puey picked her up and set her next to me, and he clammered out to ride the triceratops, its great legs shuffling from side to side, all of the leaves glistening autumnal about us. I did not like sitting next to Asiréma. She was pretty and tall, taller than I am, and her hair was spun gold, and she called me little Sister and chanted that I was young and cute and a good playmate for Puey. Thrice I almost jump off the bench to grab her by the neck, I was just curious to see what would happen if while I strangled her I thrust her head into the spinning spokes of the wheel, I’m just curious. But Fhermáta and Siêthiyal were holding my hand the entire time, and Karuláta was sitting in Asiréma’s lap and playing with her hair, and the Sisters kept looking at me and eyeing me as if I can’t be trusted for some reason.
I just hate it when other maidens kiss my Puey, I just want to rip their faces off. Nothing gets me angrier. Why don’t the rest of the billion, billion worlds understand that Puey is mine, all mine, only mine, mine for all eternity, and nobody else’s? It’s a fairly simple teaching.
We came to the abby, and out came running the elders of the Poriêrii family, they were so thankful that their granddaughter was safe, and Asiréma of course has to kiss my Puey on his brow, have I mentioned that my blood was boiling at this point, I just wanted to have her ribs crushed by some passing mastadon, or maybe some acid poured about her perfect hair and face. Puey was all bashful and told them that it was nothing, and Fhermáta had to translate. I looked around the entrance of the Abby and found some pretty scurrying rocks, at this point Siêthiyal had forgotten me, and I started sharpening the scurrying rocks with some tùtqu flint nηfgab nηfnηm that I keep with me, and I was calculating how difficult it would be to bash out Asiréma’s brains with the scurrying rocks, but Siêthiyal caught me up and began dragging me through the door and away from the stupid maiden, I mean if she had any brains at all she wouldn’t be touching my Puey at all, so I would be doing her a favor, and just look at her, she’s touching Puey’s hand, she’s touching Puey’s hand, that’s it, she’s dead, she’s completely dead, I will track her down in the night I will …
At this point Puîyus interrupted the story. Aîya had been keeping a steady drumbeat throughout all of the tell, her belly resounding in little twinkling tintinnabulations, her triple wings clapping together, but now that Éfhelìnye was growing a bit angry, and sparkles of fire were appearing in her eyen, Aîya’s wings fell silent, her limbs became still, and she looked from side to side in quietescent consternation. Ixhúja cleared her throat and coughed.
Puîyus clasped his hands together and made a sign as if to say, Perhaps you should rest at this point, beloved Éfhelìnye.
I think all four of us being trapped in so small an egg almost exasperates our craziness, our latent eccentric behavior, Ixhúja was saying, as she played with golden hair.
– I’m not tired at all – Éfhelìnye. – I want to finish my story. –
Perhaps you should rest and calm down a little, though, Ixhúja was saying. Do you want want to rest and lean on me and hold my hand, I know you’re a far cuddlier person than I am and like that sort of thing.
– I told you, I’m not tired! Let’s continue with the story. I don’t understand why Asiréma and all the other golden haired maidens are always cooing and swooning about my Puey, brave and knightly and perfectly beautiful, my herpetologist beloved, my sqánga cryptozoölogist cryptolacustribestiologist dracontologist Puey! These other maidens are so shameful, such blockheads, I just want to punch them down one by one by one! – Éfhelìnye was making little fists with her hands and punching the air.
My dearest Cousin, I’m sure the flavicomous maids meant no harm at all … Ixhúja was beginning in her purring, but Éfhelìnye just bound upwards and starting kicking the shadows of the egg ship and cried out – As far as I’m concerned, any maiden who dares to look at my Puey, to say his name, even to think about him has to answer to me! I’ll take a kitchen knife and cut her nose off, I’ll tie a rope about her jaw and have her skull cloven, I’ll have her ripped apart by mine own wild velociraptors, Puey is mine for all time, do I just have to put golden chains about his neck and enscribe my name upon it to make a lesson unto all of the other virgins of the Land, mine mine mine mine mine! Hic! Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye’s face was growing slightly pink, as she was having trouble breathing.
– Shhh shhh shhh shhh – Ixhúja chanted, and she wrapped her arms around Éfhelìnye and rubbed her back in an attempt to sooth her, and Puîyus tapped her back, because he knew that sometimes when she had trouble breathing it happed for someone to hold her that way. Éfhelìnye was gasping a little and shaking, but then after a while she grew a little bit more calm, and she tried to shove away the memory of the older and threatening menandroi who always seemed to be looking at her beloved Puîyus, the boy of her dreams.
My dearest cousin Éfha, Ixhúja began with some squeals and purrs, in a language that she was devising as she mewed, I don’t think you need to worry too much about my twin Brother Puîyos’ heart, it has never been in danger of being taken away from you. And second of all, let me add that I would be rather suspicious of any unmarried damsel who did not feel a little affection for Puîyos, so strong and brave and handsome.
– And why is that? – Éfhelìnye sniffled.
If anymaid not feel a little love for Puîyos, she is probably not a vrizoil, but a clockweyth Automaton. To love Puîyos is to be mortal. It also sheweth that one hath exquisite taste.
– Is that supposed to make me feel better? –
I think the time for you to start being crazy and overprotective is when you have a nest of your own, and your many Sons start bringing home strange Princesses whom you have not yet approved. But of Puîyos, I would not worry about him.
– These other maidens just make me so angry, I just want them all to go away. I know what I must do, if I should become Moon Empress I shall just have to start marrying off all of the other Princesses, I can’t have all of these other maidens bothering me all the time. –
What’s the rest of the story?
– I smacked Asiréma. –
– No I didn’t. I thought about it. Auntie Qtìmine took us into the jìlququ ensilage of the Abby, and in the vineyard I helped the Sisters pick berries, and Asiréma helped us, and I had to carry the basket while that owlhoot prated about her clan and their fortresses where gourds grow from the ceiling and how thankful she was that my Puey had saved her and that when I grow up I’ll probably still be little and cute, but she was all tall and grown up. –
– We return to the tell now – chanted Aîya as she slipped upon her back, her wings beginning to clap together, and she played out the drumbeat upon her belly boom ting ting ting BOOM! Boom ting ting ting BOOM!
Auntie Qtìmine, Khwofheîlya’s Sister, the daughter of Khangisqrírles, is very beautiful, a virgin dressed all in shining white, the corset she was wearing was all of gold, silver was shining through her sleeves and dress, white gloves she wore, and a golden veil lay upon the top of her hair. Her tresses reached all the way down to her waist, they were long and flowing coils of gold, and jewels were ywoven within them. She was holding a basket and picking the berries, and whenever Karuláta pricked her finger on a thorn, Auntie Qtìmine was there to heal the wound, and whenver the basket grew too heavy for me and I began to fall down because of the weight, she came froward to help me carry it. Asiréma could only help for a little time, because her grandparents were at the abby and she had to go and visit them for meditation services. I only saw Puey just a little bit, for Grandfather Pátifhar was taking him and Paloîta and Khrùkhtii away. Didn’t you spend that time in silence and meditation, Pew? You had to rub robes against your wrists? I’m glad I’m female and don’t have to hurt my flesh that way in order to please the Immortals who cannot die. In fact, Auntie Qtìmine was talking to us about how we would one day have to become responsible young women and help to run households when we came of age.
When the Immortals left Khmèlte Qthemlipuyùlkha the Halls of Thought, they came unto the Void which became the Dreamtime and they began to sing and dance it into existence, and everything became spheres of music, whence arose the Ocean Deep and the billion, billion worlds. And in the earliest of days the Immortals were not entirely sure of how to craft the worlds, how the plantimals should be formed, how hills and whispering mountains and flowers should bloom, and so it was that when they began to breathe Mortals into being that some of them they made agamites with a single gender, for the Immortals are all perfect and complete amongst themselves, and among others they made them tri-sexual for the Immortals are always trinities of three comflicted and yet perfectly balanced forces, but when they formed Khriîno and Pfhentókha, the Father and Mother of the Færie Folk, they made them male and female, to be like unto the Sun and the Moon. For although the Immortals are not male or female, they are not alpha or beta or gamma, they are not ærself, and yet indeed they are the very purity of masculine and feminine, of the three sexes, of the single sex, they are the idea made manifest. And therefore when folk such as the Traîkhiim of Xakhpàlqe speak of the Immortals, they use one set of conceptual metaphor, they speak of oneness, of unitas, when the Qhíng and Qlùfhem speak of the Immortals they constantly speak of triskelia and threes, but when we speak of Immortals, we talk of doubles, of twins, of male on one hand and female on the other.
All four of your are growing older, you are coming to the end of your childhood and in a few years will be honorable women. Fhermáta and Karuláta, you both are already promised unto marriage, so the Elders with the approval of the Ancestors have approved it, Fhermáta, your fate was approved by your birth parents when you were about two winters of age, and Kàrula, we knew how you would end up when you were only a few hours old. The Elders are still contemplating what shall become of you, Siêthiyal, but when we are able to secure your Brother’s position, you will be safe because of him, the Sister of a Clan Chieftain. Divine Princess, daughter of the Holy Emperor my lord and husband, I know that your Father empyreal and graceful has some great plan for you which I cannot even possibly hope to guess. All four of you may well be headed to marriage, Siêthiyal we may give you to the Son of a Chieftain, Karuláta you may be a concubine, a younger Sister to Fhermáta, and Éfhelìnye your Father may already have begun his symphony which will end when the priest places your hand in the palm of your husband, and the two become one. And since you are becoming older, and soon may be betrothed unto a young man, I think it time for me to tell all of you the secret about womanhood. Come and sit around me, my damsels, and listen.
Lord Khriîno the first man dwelt along in Xhámiwiil alone with the wild plantimals, and with the Fathers of the Qhíng and the Fishermen of the Kháfha, and the Three Brothers of the Aûm Qlùfhim and Thùlwus and Khesáfha the oldest brother, as well are the forebears of all the other folk, even Akhàkhma the Onomatothete who from his own body grew the generations of the Traîkhiim. And among all of the wild beasts and trees and fields, among all of the first Ancestors of the Real People, there was none who was suitable as friend and partner and beloved helpmeet unto Khriîno the first of the Færie. The Immortals wondered at this, and so they bade Qhalúxha the Father of Dragons to take Khriîno on a journey, and they traveled long beneath the light of Sànum the Holy Tree, and when Khriîno lay down to sleep, his dreams were open unto the Dragons and they saw that he was missing something. The Immortals wondered whether they should open up Khriîno and take our his spleen and so make a partner for him filled with passion, or take our his spine and make a friend filled with emotion, or perhaps his brain and make a helpmeet brimming with intelligence, but in the end the Immortals thought and danced and sang, and the wild creatures and the parents of the Real People thought that it would be best if Khriîno heart were removed and a bride formed from his heart. And so the Immortals made their decision. Divine Raven came forth, his wings were holding the obsidian knife of sacrifice, and Our Heart Raven removed the bleeding pulsating heart from Khriîno, and from the heart Pfhentókha was made. And when Khriîno awoke he was greeted by a bride dressed all in flowing shadows, and he knew that his heart was no longer his own but rested within his wife. So the Immortals married the couple in the iridescence of the Tree of Light, and they became the first Emperor and Empress, the Parents of the Land, and from their marriage all culture, all government, all civilization is sprung.
How thankful you should be, my virgins, that you have a woman’s heart, but what a grave responsibility you have, to hold someone else’ heart inside you. The love of a mother and wife, of a concubine and daughter, that is pure and perfect love. A mother cannot harm her children, a wife cannot betray her lord and husband. Her heart must remain true, her heart is the Northron Star of her husband and he will follow it. Women are therefore unsuitable for tasks of warfare and governance, for their manner is too rarified. Throughout the many worlds we see vestal virgins in the temples, we know that they can never betray the Emperor, their hearts belong to him. When enemies sit together to negotiate truce, the wives and daughters can serve food for their own clan and for the enemies, for we know that the women are incapable of preparing the food in a way that could harm a person. When a maiden falls in love she always falls in love with a single man and will never love anyone else for as long as she lives, and when an husband dies, sometimes the wife will die, like your Grandmother Xhàtrajhil, and sometimes she may stay and linger, like your Grandmother Tàltiin, but when the wife dies, and if the husband survive, he is never whole again. You have never known your Father Íngìkhmar when he was happy and had a living heart, and none of you are old enough to remember the age of peace which Emperor Kàrijoi beneficient and beautiful bestowed as he blessed all of the worlds. A woman’s heart is more precious than sugar and iron and jewels. Guard that heart. Because men have not an whole heart, they have not hearts of their own, of the upper classes they are permitted to take more than one wife and concubine, sometimes a man needs more than one woman to guide him. And these sister-wives must learn to love each other and be as siblings and run the household together. But what is most important to remember, my children, is to keep your heart locked and perfumed, for if a woman is uncareful, her heart can lead a man to his doom, for nothing is stronger than two hearts beating together unto the same music.
So Auntie Qtìmine was telling me and Fhermáta and Siêthiyal and Karuláta, so she was teaching us the secret of womanhood, and the heart of Pfhentókha the Mother of all of the Xhámi.
We finished listening to Auntie Qtìmine’s story and we brought the berries unto the kitchens of the abby, and we helped the eunuchs and vestal virgins there, although Auntie would not let me do too much work there, she let me carry the baskets, but she would not let me wash the berries or go near any knives at all, in fact they didn’t even want me near the aqitòkhti spúnóg nūspōg spurtles, although I grabbed some spoons and tapped them together to play with them. And night was falling, and Grandfather Pátifhar was returning with my Puey and Paloîta and Khrùkhtii, and I don’t know what he was teaching the lads, but they all looked rather tired. Are you allowed to tell me? Oh? He made you jog for a few miles? Serving the people involves tantivying and galumphing quite a bit. The suns were setting, it was getting late, and Auntie wanted us to stay with her rather than return in the darkness, especially since we didn’t know whether Abbá and his comrades-in-arms were finished with the kitchen, so we came into the temple for vesper services.
Grandfather Pátifhar was at the altar, and his acolytes Khrùkhtii and Paloîta were near him. Smoke and incense were arising. I was seated with the Sisters and Auntie, but Puey was not with us, where was he? Auntie whispered and told me that the arborescent priests told Puey that he had been very brave to fight the sudsing machine and told him that he could kneel with them, so Puey was on the other side of the temple. Why, that’s just intolerable, I want to sit with him. Auntie told me to be still and quiet and sit with her. But I wanted to be with Puey! I haven’t seen him since breakfast, and why may I not sit with the priests! Or maybe the priests can sit with us, just so that Puey is beside me. Auntie kept telling me to pipe down and be still. Qtìmine turned, I think she was telling Fhermáta to keep an eye on me, but when Qtìmine looked back I was gone. Already I was at the other side of the temple, I pushed aside a couple of acolytes and sate down next to Puey. For some reason Qtìmine rushe right towards me, she was a swirl of white and gold, she yanked me right out of the pew and practically dragged me back to my place, and telling me that I had to behave. I crossed mine arms and schemed. I waited for the lighting of the incense, it was beginning to billow and coil, and in the flash of silver, I slipped out again and made it about halfway across the temple before Qtìmine caught me up and pinched me by the ear and dragged me back. This was getting to be intolerable, and it didn’t help that Fhermáta was clasping my hand now. Finally Grandfather Pátifhar was taking up the book and walking through the smoke. The acolytes in the quire were singing. I knew it was my chance, with my free hand I pinched Siêthiyal and Karuláta as fast as I could, and the Sisters looked to each other and thinking the other had touched them, began poking and punching each other. Fhermáta and Qtìmine leaned o'er to stop the growing quarrel, and I slipped out amongst them all, and disappeared in the smoke. By the time Qtìmine found me I was sitting in Puey’s lap, and she dragged me out and carried me away and told me that it was not appropriate for me to be sitting in his lap, although I can’t imagine why, and I only kissed him a few times, the way she grew angry one would think that I had been doing something wrong. I’m just doing what my heart tells me to do, the heart that I inherited from Pfhentókha the Empress my first Ancestress. Adults can be so confusing sometimes.
For dinner Siêthiyal and Kàrula demanded that we have pancakes again. I wasn’t very hungry and just mushed up the batter and syrup. Auntie Qtìmine would not even let me sit next to Puey at the table, in fact the priess were reading aloud from their books and speaking about battles that were fought long ago, great Saints and Viceroy kings and martyrs. Some of the pàrtel reverand curates were playing drum and nose fife, and yes Aîya I’m sure they borrowed the idea of drumming from your folk, and I’m afraid to tell you that indeed they did stick the flutes into their noses, that’s the only way we Xhámi can play it with the purity of our breath. And after that we went unto Auntie Qtìmine’s quarters, and she let us play a little, but when it was time to sleep, I had to sleep in the same bed as the vestal virgin, and my Puey and his Sisters slept in the next room. I had trouble sleeping, I kept thinking about the apparatus I had created from the materials and tools left by Grandfather Jàkopar Khmàntro, I thought about how Puey had saved me, I remembered Asiréma as she was batting her eyen and cooing at Puey, and I thought about the story of how Empress Pfhentókha had her beloved’s heart within her. And then it all became clear. It’s not just obviously true that Puey is mine and mine alone for all time, but his heart is in me, I have to guide him, lead him, it is my task to lead him to Paradise. I have to take care of him in the same way the he would take care of and rescue me from the chaotic machine I had builded and which for some reason had become toψy-turvy. So I did what any loving Princess would do for her warrior hero beloved, I decided to conduct an experiment upon him. Yes, Ixhúja, just a very simple and honorable experiment, I had to do something, I love him far too much to let his heart be taken by other maidens who don’t love him with the same possessive love that I have. So I waited for Qtìmine to be completely still and asleep, and then I hugged and kissed her a few times, she’s very kind to me and quite loving, but I don’t think she understands how I feel about Puey, always trying to keep me apart from him. I slipped out of bed and rummaging into my day clothing pulling out some of my tools, and found some keys that I had modified and some long piping extentions and somw fhwàqhu surgical instruments, it was easy to slip into the guest room, and there I found Íngìkhmar’s Son fast asleep, his Sisters all about him, and Karuláta was drooling all upon her pillow and partially on Siêthiyal and partially on Puey himself, and I found Puey’s hand upon the sheet, it was his left hand, and taking my surgical tools I scraped a bit of the skin and blood from the wounds he had sustained that day from defending me, I had some sheets of glass with me, I took samples of his fingernail also, and some flicks of blood, I knew I would need a good variety for my experiment. It came to pass though that as I held a fhwaqhùnthe above Puey’s hand and scraped at his thumb, that Fhermáta awoke, and as with a single mind so did Siêthiyal, aig wiping drool away from herself, and the Sisters just blinked at me. I’m just conducting an experiment, don’t tell me you don’t conduct alchemical experiments upon each other sqàke ngongmey. Fhermáta clasped her hand o'er Siêthiyal’s mouth to keep her from shouting, they did not feel like awakening Qtìmine, and when they had calmed down a little, the Sisters grabbed me by the collar and my tools and threw me out of the room, and no matter how many times in the night I tried to sneak back in, the Sisters were awake on the other side of the door and kept the way shut. But I had enough xhìxhro, enough samples for now, so I went unto the other room and set up some phials and my alchemy sets, and began to study Puey’s skin and nails.
No, Ixhúja, the mark on his hand did not come from my scraping, I was very careful not to harm him in the least. No, I don’t that’s dangerous at all. No, Ixhúja, I haven’t been experimenting on your in your sleep, I’ve only experimented on Puey. I don’t know, Ixhúja, who can guess what the future holds, perhaps when I have children of mine own I’ll experiment on them. It all depends on what my heart tells me.
I fiddled through the night with the samples of blood and skin and nail until I fell asleep and almost knocked o'er the dishes, but sometime during the darkness before the dawn Auntie Qtìmine arose and found me and carried me back to bed, and when I awoke I found that Auntie was at dawnbreak prayers, and that the rest of the Sweqhàngqu were with her, I had slept in a little, so late had I spent in my experimentation. The next day we stayed in the Abby just in the morn, we returned to the crannog of the Sweqhàngqu and the elders were swarming around like emmets, and Fhermáta ran off unto the kitchens in the forefront and looked within and inspected it, she wanted the kitchen to meet her own exasperating demands, she walked about the tables and the drain and the windows and curtain, and finding it all good let the rest of us come within, or at least she let Siêthiyal and Akhlísa come within. Fhermáta stood upon the threshold before I could come within, she bade me get a piece of wood and some paint, and told me what my chore was, and so she first me to paint:
Xhekhrajafhuxhlixhei’ eixhrejor khnúyàlyir
khloròsusu teiqhaxhwoeyèpwo Sweqhàngqu
qir oâqe khornaxhnalwayáxe xhroe
With respect know ye that
Princess Éfhelìnye is outcast
From the Sweqhàngqu’s kitchens
For the rest of the extent of her life.
And so she took the sign and hung it on the door and told me to go away.
I ran away to the workshop of Grandfather Jàkopar, I didn’t care any more about the kitchen or helping out with household tasks, I was now on a sacred mission to save Puey’s heart from the wiles of all of the other maidens out there who don’t have his best interests at heart. I spent all the day putting together my machines, turning the springs, seting all of the clockweyth all together, soon I had the pumps rolling, I set samples of Puey’s skin and nail upon the bits of glass and examined them with lense and glass, my heart was shaking within me, I just knew that I had to discover a way to remind Puey that he was mine and mine own for ever and only mine. I looked at his cells, the shining, the movement, and it reminded me of a dance spinning around, almost at the edge of my consciousness.
I worked throughout the day and into the night. Sometimes Siêthiyal and Karuláta would come up to me and bring me food, but I refused all sustainence, all rest, so enthused was in in the act of creation. I was investigating the actual phenomena that makes life flow within the cells, I’ve wonderd for so long who it was that flowers and forests function, let alone beasts and people, what about clockwork and natural weather, how did energy turn and blossom. None have been able to quench my curiosity about these matters, even though I have asked sylvan priests and the wise and the sages, I’ve poured through books of linguistics and natural philosophy, when I was still a little maiden Great-Uncle Táto brought me my first alchemy set and I worked upon all of the experiments in the book that he gave me, and I annotated and wrote upon all of the pages, but it only made me more curious all the while. Darkness fell. The heavens were crackling about me. I did not care. Fhermáta finally came to the workshop and told me that I had to go to bed, but I just took up a piece of wood and wrote upon it, Khaûlrapor aîFhermáta, Go away, Fhermáta! I had no desire to think of her, to have her interrupting my perfect thought. I thought about skin and horrors and death, I was writing upon the walls my mathmatics of how the spirit works. I wondered around about the workshop, I let my thoughts flutter about me of their own accord, I thought about hair and eyen, I thought of how bones are knit together, I thought about Puey’s petal cheek and his flowing melancholy blue hair, I thought about the waves of causality that flow through the body. At some point I fainted, I’m not sure when, but when I awoke again I was within the crannog, and wrapped up in a blanket. Fhermáta was bringing me soup. Siêthiyal and Karuláta were looking at me. Fhermáta set the bowl down and the spoon and bade me to eat, I asked where Puey was, she told me he was busy, I told her I refused to eat until I saw him, she told me I’d have to wait. He’d better not be rescuing other maidens, I told her. She took a spoon and tried to force soup into my mouth, but I ran away from her, I shoved aside the table and soup and flung open the window and threw myself outside, and when I returned to the workshop I barred all the doors, and I’m a bit more clever in devising locks for keeping the Sisters out than they are in keeping me away from Puey.
I fasted and worked. I was no longer aware of my hands and limbs. My thoughts were turned to the way that flash works, as I examined the samples again and again, I knew that I would be unable to discover the secrets of life which had eluded the wisest and best of the worlds since the time of the shining of the Tree, but still my thoughts groped and reached and fell through an abyss of darkness until arising to the realization that indeed I do have Pfhentókha’s heart, and this heart beats with its own music, and music part of the tapestry of all of creation. We can hear our hearts with our waking ears, but in our dreams perhaps we can hear the music of the spheres also the Qyál. And so I opened up my machines and looked at the cells and examined them for harmonics, for melody and tune and I knew that I could transcribe the music in terms of chemistry. I set all my vats alive and began pouring potions within, and all of the clockwork was churning. It would be beautiful, like two magnets drawn together, like the balance of the Sun and the Moon, the utter gravitation of the worlds, and I was thankful that I had a woman’s heart and so could guide my Puey. At last I had my chemicals and my machines. It was night once again. I was very dizzy. I might have swooned a few more times, I’m not entirely sure, the next few hours were a blur. I remember having a jar filled with liquid and some gurgling machines. I walked by moonlight, dancing came I, all of the crannog was asleep, and easily I unlocked the door of Puey’s somnambular accommodacioun, I found him fast asleep. I might have been laughing at this point, I cannot say. His Sisters were sleeping about him in a futile attempt to hide him from me. I found his left hand. I think I was humming, I’m not sure, I was humming an equation of fractals colliding, I’m afraid I don’t quite remember all of the equations right now, the next time I go for a couple of days without food and sleep I may be able to envision it again. I applied the solution to Puey’s left hand, and I turned on the machine, and understood the music of his cells, and it all made perfect scents to me. Oh one day the priest shall clasp our hands together and we shall be one flesh, I was saying, as my machines were sputtering into light, fountains of lightning crackling about them. But for the moment, we shall have to be content just to hold hands.
I think it was at this point that the Sisters awoke. By all the Ancestors, what do you think you’re doing this time! Fhermáta cried. I always knew she was trouble, from the beginning, Siêthiyal chanted. I’ve been eating your desserts for you, Éfhelìnye, little Karuláta chanted. Would you mind disappearing for a few more days, we’re having cake this coming night and I want your share? I clasped my hand into Puey’s, he awoke, the machines were glistening, and in the excitement of it all, I know this time I chanted, Now I can guide you for ever, now you shall truly be mine all mine and no one else’s, and I collapsed in a faint.
When I awoke at first I was not entirely sure whether it had worked, but when I moved my right hand I found that it was still holding Puey’s. Success! I laughed in purest joy. Now, Puey, we shall be holding hands for the rest of your lives! Never again shall we be separated! You have to go where I lead, isn’t this wonderful? For some reason Fhermáta was shaking her head. Siêthiyal was bringing a saw. Akhlísa was laughing. Puey tried to scratch his head, and I ended up rubbing his brow. I can’t believe you glue’d your hands together, Fhermáta chanted, you have an hole in your head, do you know that? First of all, this is not glue, I tried to explain, it’s an überglue perhaps, it’s a bond formed by the harmonics of our flesh made into a single music, there is a physical conduit between our hands so that our skin can continue to grow and be nourished but we’re not glue’d together, it’s far more complex than that, so I was trying to explain unto her. You sure look glued together, Fhermáta chanted. It’s worked all to well, try and separate yourselves. But I don’t want to be separated, I want to be with Puey for ever and for ever, why can’t everyone understand that? You didn’t think this through, did you, she asked. Oh yes I did, I left one of Puey’s hands open so he can fight with his sword and be all heroic, and I have an hand free, look, this makes perfect sense. Anyway, whenever we go to the zócalo maĥīrum, and the chariots and wagons and dinosaurs are thundering in all directions, you or an adult are always saying that I have to hold someone’s hand because I can’t be trusted to cross the pathway by myself without stopping to sniff flowers or play with catterpillers and chase putterbutterflies, at least this way I have someone an helpmeet always attached to me. And now we can be together for ever. Siêthiyal brought the saw and drew it towards my wrist and chanted, Do you want to hold her down for me while I saw throught? Should we knock her out first, I’m not in the mood for all this screaming so early in the day. Puey forbade them from sawing through my wrist, but he did tell me that we would have to be separated. At least give this a chance, I told him. We concocted a compromise, I would start working on a xhrètsengu formula to dissolve the chemical balance between us and change the harmonics of the music, but I would lead him through the day with my heart.