– Oh, there’s no need to fret, our Son, our Emperor to be! – the pirates were singing and spinning as they swirled about Puîyus. – There is no need to be sad about the Princesses in your harim! Come, we shall teach you all that you need to know about women, for who know women all the better than the pirates who float in their great quick ships which ply through the heavens, pirates who visit the ports of ten thousand cities, and who have seen maidens and mothers and ladies and matrons of a thousand different worlds? Here, dance our jig most peiratical, and tell us of your problems! –
Puîyus turned his back on the pirates, he was not in the mood to dance with them and certainly disinclined to speak about the eccentric personalities of the Princesses of the Pwéru at this particular time. But the pirates, hardly subtle as always, swung around and took the gossoon by the arms and held him up and swung him about. A tall Kurkuîlo held him up with a claw and a spinning Xhmaûmumum was holding up the lad with several glistening wings, and the Fhlùltekh were clapping their double hands together and the Khnenyènwa were giggling to themselves and licking their own leaves, and all the while the pirates were crying out – The we shall teach you all that you need to know about women. The lesson is actually rather simple, it’s a secret that the first man Khriîno learned and has passed down father to son and uncle to nephew and older to younger throughout all of the ten thousand generations. Would you like to know the secret? Would you like to know the password to eternal happiness with a woman? Do you want to know whatever it is that will please a maiden’s heart? –
Puîyus made a dismissive gesture. The only reason he had come out here was because he needed help learning how to talk, or at least to say a single name, and yet the pirates were not at all even paying attention to what he had to say, rather frustrating really, it almost made him feel invisible even though he was swept up into the very midst of the dance. Several different Khnenyènwa came falling down before him and were supplicating him with their twisting vines, and he could not help but notice that the bagpipe wihts were jumping up again and although they were not yet skirling in their marvelous music, still they were skip skip dancing upon the edges of their drones and all turning their eyen unto the lad. Puîyus sigh’d, he realized that there was probably know way he was going to be released from this situation, it reminded him of the innumerable times when he had been forced to endure some ordeal perpetuated upon him by the hands of his three Sisteren among the Sweqhàngqu. He lifted up an hand in a symbol of peace and the freebooters laughed out all the harder and came dashing about and were plucking up the lad and spinning him around and around in their gang most boisterous.
– If we’re going to tell you the secret for making women happy – so the pirates were saying – if we are going to reveal unto you the most ancient secret of husbandkind, than, in accordance with our most ancient custom, we must sware you unto secrecy. –
– Somepirate, get the Captain! – the boatswain called out. – He should be the one to reveal this most awesome secret, he is the Father of the Ship. Oh, and keep that Acolyte aware! As part of the priesthood, as one ineligible for marriage, he has no business knowing such a secret! –
The pirates were all giggling one to another, some of them were holding up their wings and trying to stifle their coughs, others were reaching into their pockets and drawing out pictures of their sweethearts and blowing kisses to them, and others were skipping around and tossing rings and cutlasses into the air and delighting in capturing them. At last a few Kurkuîlo came sweeping up unto Puîyus and were leaping down the long surface of the deck, they were spinning around and and searching for the captain, and their spiracles were sniffing the air and searching for the tell-tale scent of some tàpto root being smoked, and sure enough the spiracles were burbling just a little, and they snapped their claws and they came skipping downwards untowards some barrels wherebehind found they their illustrious Captain Euqliîna sitting and smoking several pipes at once.
– Am I missing anything fun? – the good captain asked. – Oh. The lad. Girl problems. I’m getting to that. –
But already the captain’s own men were yanking him up and dragging him back unto the midst of the deck where the bagpipe creatures were spinning around in their jig and several accordions were hopping around and besighing themselves all the while. The boatswain propped up the captain, the Kurkuîlo set the lad down, and the pirates danced about their captain and cried out – The new Emperor has already become a man under the stern dictates of his people, he has undergone aoqhàpro the Walk of Dreams and wears the totem of his sacred plantimal. Now he is old enough to know the secret that only fathers can give. –
– Secret? – asked Euqliîna. – Such as, how to pillage and burn while under a death sentence and escaping some angry villagers? –
– No! – cried the boatswain. – The secret, the special secret, the one that young swains are supposed to learn right before they are to be betrothed … that secret? –
– Which one? –
– The only secret! –
– Ah! Who’s getting betrothed? –
– The new Emperor! –
– The Emperor’s here! – gasped Captain Euqliîna. – How do I look? Am I presentable? – The good captian lucked off a few rooster raptor feathers from his cloak and stuck them in his cap. – How do I look, Puîyos, do you think the new Emperor would deam me viewworthy? –
A few of the accordions and bagpipes were groaning in dismay at this most scatterbrained Captan, but after a moment the boatswain yanked Euqliîna by a few of his hands and drew him down beside the Warrior Lad and muttered through clenched beak, all the while his claws besnapping, and he quoda – The superspecial extrasacred unspeakable secret which fathers do not reveal unto the priesthood? The secret to happy marriage? That type of secret? –
– Have I forgotten that? Ah, wait, I remember. That’s the pink lemonade of secrets, are you sure he’s old enough to handle it? –
– He’s going to be the new Emperor! He will be the Father of Nations, the Master of Earth and Sea and Sky! One is confident that he could learn a little about marital bliss! –
– But gentlepirates, surely this lad is not even old enough to grow the first fluffy down upon his cheek, why should we burdhen him with … okay okay okay I’ll tell him! If that’s what the crew wants, he shall learn. Just keep a lookout for that pesky acolyte, if he learns the secret to marriage, we’ll all have to commit ritual suicide to save our honor, the arborescent priesthood has no business hearing this. – Euqliîna looked from side to side, his middle eye was swaying in horizontal splendors, his upper and lower eyen were bejigglent all the while. At last he swept up Puîyus into his arms and whispered – Now, we shall have to sware you to silence, my lad, you cannot, I must impress upon you, cannot let any priest or woman know what I am about to say. Do not tell your Sisters, do not tell your Aunties, do not tell anyone prim and proper priest, in fact if you have any question at all, just don’t tell it, this secret is part of the alchemy that holds families together! In time, oh revered Emperor, when you have Sons of your own, and Nephews, and when Princes come to marry your Daughters, you will be the Father to impart this most important secret, it will be a grave responsibility, but the reward is nothing else but the continence of your clan and society. Do you understand the gravity of the situation? –
Puîyus nodded in affirmation, although he did not quite understand, he was beginning to think that this was a ritual, strange and alien, one of whose like he had never learned, it was surely not part of the rhetrai of his own people. He tugged upon Euqliîna’s sleeve for to querrry, and by pointing unto the cabin and with some signals, by some strange alchemy the Captain was able to understand him, the Captain’s mind throughly befuddled with smoke and a lifetime involving far too much sugar.
– No, you may most certainly not tell the Princess the Future Empress of what I am going to tell you! – gasped the Captain. – In fact, she’s the one person whom you must never tell. Now, before I begin, do you have any other questions? –
Puîyus considered for a few more moments and then tugged on the good Captain’s sleeve once again, and he made a few speaking motions with his hands and mewed a few times. Captain Euqliîna put his hands on his trifold hips and chanted – Yes, yes, yes, I know you consider thrice honored Éfhelìnye to be your best friend and you like to spend all your time with her and tell her everything and if you’re e’er parted you just have to tell her everything at all that happed unto you, and she tells you everything in return, yes that will serve you well in the years to come, but this is something which you must not tell her. Do! Not! Tell! Her! Any other questions? –
Puîyus considered for a few more moments and tugged upon the good captain’s sleeve for a few moments and began mewling, and the Captain gasped – No, we most certainly cannot make an exception for her! Don’t you know that spouses are supposed to keep secrets from each other! Alas, you’ll learn it in time. Now, onto the secret? –
– Mew? – Puîyus asked.
Captain Euqliîna blinked with his triple vertical eyen. – Oh, so you think you won’t keep any secrets from her at all? But you already do, do you think that most revered Éfhelìnye knows about all of the princesses who have kissed you? Can she even guess at the number, are there words for such? – Puîyus was tapping his fingers together and blushing once again. The Captain chanted – Oh, I thought not, and just as the Starflower Princess has no business knowing about all of your other princessly sweethearts, she also has no business knowing about this other secret! We’ll consider it our own private little cookie stashling. Now, are you ready for the secret? Men, will you help me impart it? –
– Aye, aye, Cap’n! – cried the crew.
Euqliîna picked up Puîyus and swung him around a little. – Are we sure that pesky acolyte is gone? –
– Gone and gone! – cried the pirates.
– Okay, let’s make a man out of our future Emperor! – Euqliîna dropped Puîyus down and cried out – Now, men, here’s what we shall do. Fhlùltekh, stand on two legs, your lower right hand clutching your upper left, your other hands extended like this. Two legs! Two legs, men! Now Khnenyènwa, we need all of you to be standing on your heads. That’s good, that’s good. – Euqliîna turned to Puîyus and chanted – It’s all part of an ancient sailing ritual. I’m just getting everyone ready. Kurkuîlo, can you stand on your claws? Let’s see whether we can all do this without falling flat on our faces. And Xhmaûmumum, I’m not terrible sure about your fellows, if you can strike a most ridiculous pose that would help. Now, let’s see whether I can do this. Two legs, two legs! And now lower left hand clutching upper right … or is it the other way around, I think it’s the othe way. Yes, like this – Euqliîna took a few more puffs from his double pipes and then noticing Puîyus as if for the first time chanted – What are you doing there, gossoon? Do you have any idea how ridiculous you look? Can’t you stand on your head or something? –
Puîyus kicked his legs into the air and rested his head upon the deck, his hair flowing about him in patterns of fluent melancholy blue. He blinked a few times. The Captain’s gaze was slightly blurred, he was forgetting what he was doing until it dawned on him again. – Ah! Now, the secret of keeping women happy, the oldest and most important secret of marriage. Ahem! Ahem! –
– Priest alert! Priest alert! – cried the boatswain! All at once the pirates fell quiet, and even the accordions and bagpipes were silent as Qìtien came running back up to the pirates and muttered – I dropped my prayer beads around here, surely somewhere upon the deck … ah! – He swept the beads upwards and seeing that around him that the pirates were all standing on their heads or claws or in some other odd predicament, he decided not to inquire. Puîyus nodded, as he too was standing upon his head, and Qìtien waved with one hand and slunk away and muttered unto himself – The Immortals are testing my faith, keeping me in the presence of suck roustabout wastrel pirates! Oh, it’s all part of some great symphony of the Immortals are singing, that’s what the Prophet tells us, but for the souls of me I cannot imagine what use these pirates are to anyone, even unto themselves! – In thuswise the acolyte was muttering unto himself as he left the center of the deckcirque.
– Good, he’s gone! – Euqliîna sighed. He waddled o’er closer unto Puîyus and said – Now, are you ready to learn the secret of Emperor Khriîno, the secret of eternal happiness with a woman? You’re old enough, and it’s time. Ahem! – Euqliîna waddled closer to Puîyus, so that the lad could taste the smell of the tàpto root burning within the double pipes, and the slight shadow of clouds arising from the captain’s twin mouths, it was a smell which had part of the sea in it, but also just a nice wholesome flavor. – The secret is quite simple. Whatever the wife wants, do it. – Euqliîna blinked a couple of times. – That’s some good advice, don’t you think? –
– ¿¿ – Puîyus asked.
– Um … that’s it. If you wife wants something, do it. If she wants to have something, get it for her. If she wants to go somewhere, wend there. It’s fairly straightforward advice. –
– … – Puîyus wondered.
– Now, I know what you’re thinking, you’re part of the aristocratic culture, you’re of the warrior people, you cannot abide the shame of defeat, you cannot be conquered. I must tell you, though, that a wife does not really defeat or conquer her enemy as one would a rival nation, it is more of … it’s like sailing through a great plasma storm, shadows and ice crystals crashing unto all sides. One must learn to navigate through the eddies and skerries dark. –
– … – Puîyus blinked a few times.
– Of course, you don’t let your wives know you’ll do anything. That’s just silly, that’s like telling the storm, oh I’m sailing towards the most dangerous eddies, don’t mind me! And since you’ll have many wives, you’ll just have to learn how to give all of them what they want, to please them all. Maybe you can set up a nice hierarchy among them, perhaps you can give them separate wings in the palace, et cet et cet you’ll figure it out. –
Puîyus blinked a few more times. For his enire life he had been giving his Sisters whatever they wanted and tried to please them in all things, at least when it was possible and made sense, and yet he was not entirely sure whether that would be the secret to a long and lasting marriage. He was not sure that anyone could always please Siêthiyal, save in manner of finding and mending toys. Akhlísa was quite happy most of the time, she may actually be amenable to being obeyed all the time. But Puîyus not sure about Éfhelìnye, she was smart and wily and tended to make plans within plans within other plans, and he had no hope of e’er possibly being able to keep up with her. He sighed, for all advice that elders gave was surely worthwild, and he told himself that he would meditate upon this most excellent and chivalrous matter, and dedicate himself more to serving maidens and princesses.
Captain Euqliîna waddled over towards Puîyus and blinked a few times and chanted – Now I come from a very large family, cousins and siblings and foster siblings pouring out of the domicile, that’s one of the reasons I took up the lucrative life of piracy so that I could supply the little ones with as much sugar as I could find, although no one is little any longer, since the Emperor no longer permits the birth of children. Anyway, I have it on good authority – and here he blinked his upside down eyen – that when mothers and grandmothers tell the girl children in their family about how to have a happy marriage, they say in turn, Whatever you husband wants, do it, but don’t let him know it. And so the symmetry of life and marriage is carried out for all eternity. Now you know the secret. Now you are a man! –
– Now Puîyos is a man! – cried the pirates, as they wriggled upon their claws and wings and heads, and some of them kicked their boots and wooden shoon into the air in exaultation.
– Well, that’s it! – said Euqliîna. – Now, go forth and … and be manly! – The peiratical captain punched the air a couple of times with his free hands, and with his nonwalking leg kicked the sky before falling down upon the deck and rolling around a little. Puîyus reached out to catch him even as he was walking upon his hands, and setting the captain down, and figuring that this ritual, such as it was, was finally complete, he nodded a little with his feet to the rest of the pirates and continued on his wife, the Kurkuîlo kicked up their legs after him since they were awalkent upon their claws, and the Xhmaûmumum zum zum zum buzzed, and the Fhlùltekh continued to tumble down, and the Khnenyènwa wriggled upon their leaves and vines and spun aside. Puîyus walked out upon his hands and made his way untowards the deck, he was actually quite skill’d in walking upon his hands and could do so just as easily upon his feet, but he did not do so too often because he could not grip too much with his toes. In fact, the only one he knew who was rather dexterous toewise was actually Princess Éfhelìnye herself. He was quite amazed when he would sit in his chair back in the crannog and play his harp, and the Princess would lie on a pillow before him and rest her head in her hands and sigh all the while, and then he’d notice that her feet were bhoso bear, as they tended to be, and she was writing with quill between her toes unto a long stretch of parchment behind her. She told him that sometimes her best writing was created in thiswise with her toes, even while listening to the lulling music of Puîyus playing at his harp, and so, walking upon his hands away from the pirates and forgetting that he was even doing so, he made his way back towards the cabin where Princess Éfhelìnye lay.
When Puîyus was coming towards the cabin the door rolled outwards and stepping beyond the insectoid legs of the most fantastic lwúnìqte came Princess Ixhúja. She took one look at Puîyus as he was walking upon his hands, and she looked down to her feet just to make sure that she chanced to be walking in the right direction. She raised a single violet eyebrow untowards her Twin. For a moment she considered telling him just how ridiculous he looked, for a moment she wanted to join him and walk about upon her hands also, and so she compromised and took a few swings at his legs on top and tried to kick his head on the bottom. Puîyus was able to deflect all of these blows, he spun around high in the air like a teetotum and landed upon his feet before her and bowed in a most elegant fashion. Ixhúja jumped up and tricked to kick him a few times in his face, but he caught her feet and spun her around in the air and then caught her in his arms. This just vexed her all the more, to be held like a maiden he had rescued from a burning building or from the jaws of a fell dragon, that was the way that Éfhelìnye liked to be caught up and carried away, but not Ixhúja, the last Princess of the rubescent moons of Khnìntha. She clawed at Puîyus’ face, and he set her down very gently upon the deck. Puîyus nodded to her. She slammed her forehead against his and knocked him unto the ground.
– Mew mew mew? – Puîyus asked, pointing unto the cabin wherein Princess Éfhelìnye lay.
Ixhúja kicked Puîyus a few times and then purring pointed to the cabin to tell him, My cousin is still fast asleep, and the magical wiht is looking after her. I came to find and help you, helpless and pathetic as you are.
– ?? – Puîyus jumped up upon his hands and took a few steps upon his hands and asked – ¿¿ – Ixhúja kicked him again and he jumped down upon his feet.
Yes, I was intending on helping you, considering how silly you’ve been acting. One thinks you just have an extreme cas of philemataphobia, if one may be so bold to use such a word. Ixhúja was looking around even in the midst of her plaintive mews and saw that several Kurkuîlo were swiveling upon the deck while walking upon their pincers, their crustacean legs wriggling in the air. A couple of Fhlùltekh were bouncing around upon two of their three legs, they were struggling to move and holdi up their arms, and they kept crashing into each other. Ixhúja pointed unto them and growling in a language all of her own design mutered, Now, my dearest twin, I can understand your fascination with the priesthood, it’s illuminating and elegant to be sure, but what I cannot possibly understand is what ou see in a life of piracy upon the wild winds. Just look at these goofballs! Bouncing around, spinning about, they’re like clockwork that’s been overwound and just bejiggleth and wandereth off on its own accord. And bandanas! Just look at those bands! Tqakh!
Puîyus jumped back unto his hands and started walking away, but Ixhúja tripped him and dragged him towards a confluence of barrels. The twain sate next to each other, and Ixhúja was kicking up her legs and growling and purring all the while and telling Puîyus, Despite your myriad faults, which we can discuss at another time, I’ve decided to take it upon myself the honorable task of helping you in your present predicament with my cousin Éfhelìnye. It seems that you have a fear of becoming too emotional with her or anyone else, and it’s only after very sad or traumatic events that you can express yourself. So, I’ve decided to do what any other maiden would decide. At this Puîyus was growing a little confused, he was no entirely sure she was going to help him to do, and when she began to wrap her arms around him he was growing even more weary. She drew her face towards him and purring told him, So all you need to do is close your eyen and we’ll practice kissing. You can just pretend that I’m Éfhelìnye, and this way you’ll be less nervous around her.
Suddenly Puîyus knew that now was a good time to start fleeing. The more he struggled agains Ixhúja though, the more she held onto him, and she began to nibble his face a little. Puîyus tried to wriggle out her grasp, while Ixhúja began to set tender kisses upon his already roseate cheek. A few pirates waddled by upon their hands and pincers and seeing Puîyus in his attempts at protestations just started giggling and pointing at him with their legs, and only embarrassed him all the more. Ixhúja was licking Puîyus’ face by now as if he were a candy cane, and she began attacking his ears by the time Puîyus was finally able to separate himself from her with both of his hands, and he almost thought that his hands were blushing now with embarrassment. Ixhúja was lunging for his lips now just as a large gaggle of hearty Xhmaûmumum were fluttering by, all flying upside down, and pointing at the lad.
Puîyus gasped out a few times and shoved Ixhúja aside to ask her in empanicked mews, Please, just what do you think you’re doing!
I’m kissing you, Ixhúja purred in her own language. One would think that were quite obvious.
Because you’re just so nervous around Princesses, if you can learn to kiss me, you should have no problems with my cousin, will you stop vermiculating yourself away from me! Now, take your kisses!
– Pssst! Look at the new Emperor! – giggled a few upside down pirates. – He’s glowing redder than a forest of appletrees! –
Ixhúja began nibbling upon Puîyus’ lips, and in sighs purrsque was telling him, Rumor among the Princesses of the Land is that you’re the greatest kisser who has e’er lived, greater than Emperor Eilasaîyan with his many queenly concubines, sweeter than Our Heart Raven who originated osculation itself, if one can dare to trust his word. Now, kiss me, oh Puîyos!
Puîyus squealed. He wriggled out of Ixhúja’s arms for only a few moments and came falling upon the deck, before she tackled him and choking him by the neck a little began to force a few more kisses out of him. Puîyus began running away, even as upside down pirates were fluttering and laughing at him all the while. He spun around, he was not entirely sure where he could flee where pirates would not be geering at him or where Ixhúja would not be trying some of her unpredictable mayhem against him, and so, almost out of desperation he dove right towards the cabin and flung himself through the door and above the sleeping lwúnìqte and rolled out before the bright white bed where Princess Éfhelìnye lay. It only took half an heartbeat, though, before Ixhúja slid into the room, and she was eyeing Puîyus all the while. She reached up, she was stretching her young muscles, she flung a band from her hair and let her tresses flow about her wild and golden and free, and blinking a few times told him, I’m not leaving without my kiss!
Puîyus ran around the white bed and Ixhúja chased after him. Every few moments Puîyus checked the bed to ensure that Éfhelìnye was still comfy and asleep, he kept looking back and saw that Ixhúja was right after him. Puîyus took a different tactic, he jumped right o’er the bed, but Ixhúja, in anticipation of this, spun around and tried to catch him in his descent. Pious Puîyus was bounding away from her, her landed upon the crown of the bed and looking around mew’d a few times to say, One just wishes that others would listen to one, the adults think that I need lessons in keeping a maiden happy, and princesses think I need practice kissing, but all I need is helping learning how to talk!
Ixhúja bound upon the coronal headboard and slipping beside Puiyus wrapped her arms about him and purred to say, I can teach you to talk.
You can’t talk either.
My lessons come with a price. Now, start puckering up, you need to pay me first in kisses er that …
Puîyus rolled down the board and fell onto the ground. Ixhúja pounced upon him and managed to kiss his face a few times before he wriggled under the bed. His legs were flaring from side to side a little beneath the bed, and just as she was reaching within to yank him out the door of the cabin rolled aside and Qìtien the Acolyte poked his head within and saw Ixhúja dragging Puîyus out and punching and kicking his legs a few times.
– Is everything alright in here? – wondered the acolyte. His three eyes were blinking one by one. Ixhúja drew Puîyus out a few more inches and punched him in the stomache a few times, and then looking back smiled. Puîyus looked up and smiled also, and deflected a few punches.
– As long as everything is alright then … you sure were making a lot of noise … but I’m sure it’s all in good fun. – Qìtien turned around and began wandering aside and ducked in the midst of the upside down pirates. Ixhúja, seeing that she was being unsupervised adultwise, turned and began both pounding Puîyus in his stomache and yet also caressing his face. When she finally got tired of punching him, she crawled up and lay right on top of him and began wrapping her arms around his head in preparation to kiss him. Just pretend that I’m Éfhelìnye, she told him, as soon as you can learn to kiss me without blushing, you’ll be fine.
Puîyus put an hand over his mouth to shield himself, in blinking all the while told her, The problem is that I don’t know how to talk! If I could just learn to say her name, hale again she would be.
Why didn’t you say so before? Ixhúja cooed as she started kissing his hand. Now, if you’ll just remove your hand, we can begin your language lessons. Language is something formed with the mouth, your tounge, your lips, if you can just, remove your hand please, if you can just cooperate, take your hand away, I’m not going to hurt you, remove your hand, Puîyos, do as I say, take your hand away, Puîyos do it right now, I order youto remove your hand or I’m going to thrash you day and night without mercy!
Puîyus decided this time to take Captain Euqliîna’s advice. He removed his hand. Ixhúja placed her fingers on his lips and played with them a little in an effort to loosen the words thereon. Puîyus made a few whimpering and cooing sounds, and then calmed down and made a sound which sounded quite a little like a nice and distinctive meow.
Princess Ixhúja figured that was a good day’s work so far. She pretended like she was about to roll off of him, but instead leaned forward just in the midst of his mewing and began showering his lips with kisses. It just so happened that the fantabulous lwúnìqte began to brey in alarum. The cabin door rolled aside and in came Euqliîna aig walking and looking around just as Ixhúja stole another kiss right upon Puîyus’ lips and was saying – That stupid acolyte wanted me to check on you, he thought your play may be a little too rough and … What’s going on here! Master Puîyos, what are you doing kissing Empress’ cousin on the floor! WHY MUST YOU KISS EVERY PRINCESS THAT YOU FIND! –
Ixhúja smiled and licked Puîyus’ applebright face a times. Puîyus shoved her aside and bound to his feet, he was getting tired of being embarassed all the time. Ixhúja hung around Puîyus’ neck and kissed him on the nape a few times. Euqliîna laughed and cried out – Ah! I see! I didn’t see nothing! I DIDN’T YOU SEE YOUR KISSING THE EMPRESS’ COUSIN! NOBODY ON THE SHIP WILL E’ER KNOW! IT WILL BE OUR LITTLE SECRET! I WON’T TELL ANYONE AT ALL THAT YOU WERE KISSING PRINCESS IXHÚJA! WINK! WINK! I WINK MY MIDDLE EYE AT YOU! – And the good captiain did just thought, winking with his middle eye and giggling all the while. And Ixhúja hung about Puîyus’ neck and began kissing his ears, and he decided that he had had far too much silliness for one day. He marched o’er to captain Euqliîna, picked him up and desposited him at the other side of the door, and yanking Ixhúja aside tossed her upon a barrel.
– YOUR SECRET’S SAFE WITH ME, EMPEROR LAD! – cried Captain Euqliîna. – NO ONE WILL E’ER KNOW THAT YOU WERE STEELING KISSES FROM PRINCESS IXHÚJA, EVEN WHILE THE EMPRESS LASS WAS ASLEEP AND … –
Puîyus slammed the door on both of them and then and turned to the lwúnìqte, marvelous as it was, he just wanted to make sure it was not about to start mocking him also. The lwúnìqe grinned and began slinking away, and tried to remain as innocuous as possible. Puîyus drew up a stool and took out his harp and began strumming a few notes.
While he was watching Princess Éfhelìnye in her sleep, his thoughts wee turning in many different directions, he was watching the curve of her lips and the shape of her nose, he looked at the way her hair tumbled all about her pillow, in great sheans of golds and reds, and even the coil of her eyelash. Puîyus did not know of too many women who had shining sunset hair save for Siêthiyal, aside from the pictures he had seen of his Mother Khwofheîlya and of his Grandmother Xhàtrajhil, and he wondered whether all of them also had red eyelashes and red eyebrows like Princess Éfhelìnye had. He considered Siêthiyal’s hair, her eyelashes and eyebrows wee shocks of pink with a few hints of white and red within them, it was all a mass of apple rose. Yet Éfhelìnye’s hair was reminding him more of flame and sunlight now, it was a mass of comet tresses and sun coils. He strummed the harp a little, and could see that it was soothing her in her sleep, she was falling into an even deeper sleep, he could see that happening behind her eyelids, it was as if she were descending down a long and helical spiral, unto that place where dreams are born.
And then then it occurred unto him that if he were too verecund and unable to speak, that he would just have to express himself in a different way. In watching the Princess’ sleep an idea was coming unto him, he thought about the way her thoughts were like dream spirals and the flight of a weyr of dragons, thought about the way she made games of words and numbers. And all at onec he remembered some of the warrior training that he had received from the stern hand of Grandfather Pátifhar and the holy sages of the mountains, how he had been trained not just in the use of knife and impaling spear and maquáhuitl and sword, not just in strategy and survival and fasting and mortification of the flesh, but also in playing that most ancient and venerable game of Tnúpa Jórqha, the oldest sport in all of the Land of Story.
Even as the thought was formulating in his mind, his hands were getting ready to accomplish it. He bound up from the stool and came unto the storage sheds and barrels and drew out some boards of wood and some paint and brushes. Already the calculatings were forming in his mind, a tnúpa board was itself an exercise in mathmatics, all of the spaces were hexes arranged in patterns of threes and seven and elevens, it was all symmetrical, it looked a little like a couple of triangles set down upon an undulous field, and one could imagine that the board represented earth and sea and sky, or perhaps they were two nations connected by a field, and in the very center the hexagonal pyramid arose. He began to sketch out the pieces upon the board, even as he found some smaller sheets of wood, and he tapped them a few times to make sure that the wood was strong and good, and he drew out symbols for the twice eleven pieces for each of the armies. He began to cut out the pieces and the board, his hands were strong and crafty, for he had inherited a little of the skill of his Grandfather Jàkopar. Within the hour he had the board cut down to size, he realized that it would be best to cut it in half and affiex the sides to a folding box so as to make a traveling edition of the game, and the pieces could all fit within the box, but he was realizing just a little too late that he was getting some of the geometries wrong, the hexagons he had not quite cut all into identical shapes, and some of the circles that represented the pieces were too large. He managed to cut the board unto its approximate shape before he realized he had gotten it all wrong, and he hung his head in shame to see the mistakes born of his hands. He gathered up the pieces of wood he had cut and painted, he put back the paint and brushes, and taking the mistakes into his arms he traveled outwards and travlled unto the hearth and dropped the pieces and board into the flame and watched their burning. The paints ran and sparkled for a few moments as the flames licked them up and devoured them altogether, and he did not turn away from the fire until it was naught but ash left. And then he turned back and sate down upon the stool and began playing upon the clàrsach and played some of the sadness that he felt.
And then Princess Éfhelìnye began to twitch a little, her eyen were fluttering, she stirred a little in her sleep. Puîyus continued to play his harp, he played a music of awakening, and her eyen were fluttering open. She rolled o’er unto her other side and watched Puîyus as he played the harp for her, and for a time they were just content to listen to the music.
– Good midnight – Éfhelìnye told him.
– … – Puîyus chanted as he nodded.
– I think the miracle is beginning. –
– ?? –
– Carry me to the deck. Something wonderful is beginning to happen. –
Puîyus reached down and plucked her up, and she flung her arms about his neck. The fantastic lwúnìqte was already bowing to let them pass, and all of the door was blossoming open before them. He came unto the deck. Many pirates were fluttering upside down all up and down the length of the ship, some of them were hanging upside down from the towers, others were spinning through breathing billows of the rainbrella that held up the vessel, and yet all of them could feel the tingling scintillation in the air, as something was coming to pass. Several accordions and bagpipe wihts were dancing up the deck, but they were also turning their heads one by one, they were looking unto the east, and all of the clouds thereupon were beginning to flash with hews of white and gold.
For the first time in a long tide a Sun was arising over the great øde wasteland that spread outwards before the estuaries of Syapàkhya. Puîyus at once understood what it was that Éfhelìnye had foretold, and he dashed upwards and carried her unto the very center of the deck where all the light was pouring. The sun was arising. The roseate blush of the heavens began high above the center of the ship. Beams light were brushing upwards from the clouds, miracles of flair and corona bursting upwards about the crystalline fractals that spanned throughout all the welkin. It was one of those epic sunrises, one of those grand and growing light that punctuated the epic heavens. Princess Éfhelìnye was the only one who could actually gaze completely upon the sunlight without being hurt, for all the rest of the pirates and accordions and bagpipe wihts had to turn their faces away, but she gazed unto the central flame of the light without blinking. Her eyen themselves were like little Stars aglowing. She had never learned that others were incapable of looking directly at the sunlight, for during her time in the Forbidden Gardens she had only met two other mortal men, and she had never noticed that they glared not right unto the sunlight with their prismatic spectacles, and when Puîyus had rescued her and taken her unto the outer worlds beyond, from the rising of the suns to the setting of the same, men just diverted their faces from the eyen of the suns. So it was that only she was the one to notice the colors bursting up and out of them, she only could see the xylem and phloem which flashed as levinflame within the corona of the Suns, she alone could see the fire mountains and the plasma flairs and the endless seas of light empyreal that blossomed within the solar light.
As the sunlight fell upon them, everything began to bloom bright. Éfhelìnye’s hair became like so fields of flowers glowing about her head and shoulders. All of the deck was lighting up, petals were still left upon the floor and the towers, and as the light fell upon it, winds were burshing through the petals, all of the ship was lighting up.
– Will you help me to dance, oh Puey? – Princess Éfhelìnye him. – The light is suffusing all things. I think we are come to the edge of the wasteland. Hold me up, please. –
Puîyus held up Éfhelìnye as if she were a kitten, his hands beneath her arms and he dangled her from side to side in a similar fashion, and it was not quite in the manner of ballet. – You may have to hold me by my hips, it will allow me to move my limbs a little better. – Puîyus shook his head. Aside from Princess Éfhelìnye and Princess Ixhúja and their shenanigans before, he had never touched a maiden’s hips before, save of course for when dressing Akhlísa who always needed help with her clothing, or for those brief moments when he may be rescuing a maiden and had to sweep her up into his arms in order to escape a dragon or monster or hordes or ninja scouts.
Princess Ixhúja was snickering a little when Puîyus at last picked up her cousin by the hips and held her up to help her to dance. Ixhúja was giggling in her hands, and then holding up a few fingers spelt out, Xhneweirèthya xhnir jhpàrfhot qoqtákhoi, to wit, Her hips are are rondured as a slave girl, and although she did not quite use the same glyphs of Taûsqo which the sylvan priests and Puîyus used, Éfhelìnye was able to divine most of the meaing. – What is a jhpàrfhot? – Éfhelìnye asked her cousin, as she set her feet down in the positions of ballet and raised up her arms.
Ixhúja made some vague motions with her hands and then wrote out some gestalts meaning, I have been spending some time talking about the Imperial Worlds with Qìtien. He told me a little of the family that an Emperor is expected to stablish, and so I learned that a jhpàrfhot is the lowest rank in the harem.
– Hold me tighter, Puey – Éfhelìnye told him. She was forming her first arabesques, beams of pellucid light beaming through her. – I don’ want you to be uncomfortable around me, Puey, I’d rather die. Don’t let go of me. Hold your hands tighter around my waist. Hold me high. –
As Puîyus lifted her up and set her down, as Éfhelìnye began to dance again in the beams of fresh light and be invigorated after so many sad dreams. When he held her on high he was able to see her bare feet, and he was able to notice again just how beautiful they were, her white ankle glistening, the shape of her toes were like little jewels set against each other, it was a marvel all of living rewel bone. And the more she felt the sun about her, the more the more awake and alive she felt. He kept his hands upon her arms to hold them up, he kept an arm about her shoulders to steady her, and slowly he was helping her in the movement of her dance. At first the dance was very simple, methodical she began with the basic positions of ballet, but then she grew bolder, and Puîyus helpd her with some simple piourettes, and then a dip and a swirl. A few times Puîyus stumbled a little, for he was conscious of the eyen of the various pirates as they were turning their faces away from the dawning suns. A couple of times she almost slipped right out of his arms, and he to grasp her again by the hips to old her up. But soon the Suns were bursting pellucid and bright. And Princess Éfhelìnye was able to dance anew.
And as Princess Éfhelìnye, the Bride of the viceroy kingdoms, the Starflower of the billion, billion worlds, the only blossom of dread Kàrijoi and lissome Khnoqwísi whom no man may name, all of the ship was also being reborn in light and petals and sunrise splendors. There were no adequate ways to describe it, at first the change was so imperceptible that the Pirates were not entirely sure that it was coming to pass at all. Only the fantastic mörkö was able to feel it and understand the true nature of it all, but the wonderous lwúnìqte was a Monster after all and not altogether within this world or of this world mortal and umbraged as it was. At first the bagpipe wihts were skirling unto a slightly different music, singing and honking and creating a new strange and alien melody dulcet unto its own harmonics, the accordion beings were bouncing around and running up and down and flexing their entire bodies and singing out just a little unto the strange musicks that the pipes were creating. The pirates were looking around in wonder even as they were aware that all of the ship was blossoming anew, the scales of the towers were become seashells, the deck was all vitrious glass, and the solar sails were flashing into golden light, for as the Sun arose in pearlescent glories, so too were the sails yel-salan-thalv springing into light, the small sails that sprinkled about the massive and breathing billows that made up the thews of the great rainbrella, and it also was pumping back and forth like one’s heart enamored. And as the Suns arose unto their throne of glory, and all of the welkin sprang to life, and as Princess Éfhelìnye was able to stand and dance by herself for the first time in a long tide and the Sun became a shock all of incandescence, so too did all of the rainbrella vessel twist and glow rhododactylous in one of those grand and glowing blushes characteristic of Puîyus, the only Son of Íngìkhmar and Khwofheîlya.
And as the Suns arose, and as Princess Éfhelìnye was cured of the illness that her Father’s Winter had placed upon her, as all of the ship was transformed in a glassen blush, so it was that the miracle occurred. Puîyus was playing his harp and Éfhelìnye danced, and Princess Ixhúja sate down to watch her sororal cousin, and the fantabulous lwúnìqte coiled up upon its insectoid limbs enthralled by the beauty, and the accordions and the bagpipe wihts all fell silent save for the music of their breathing, and Captain Euqliîna and the Acolyte Qìtien sate next to each other upon a barrel, the former was lighting up some pipes and enjoying the beauty while the latter was lighting some incense and letting the fragrance arise pure and innocent unto the heavens, and the boatswain and the rest of the eccentric sky pirates spun around rightside up and rested upon their claws and legs and wings and gaped in wonder, as Princess Éfhelìnye danced her ballet and Puîyus strummed his harp. Now some say that as she danced Éfhelìnye sang, and some say that Puîyus sang out in a dragon tounge of mews and purrs and sighs, and still others say that the motion of the dance and the sound of the harp produced its own song. But all tell the story that the dance and the music was a psalm of the dreams that Puey and the Princess have for each other, and when it was finally set down in words it was writ in thiswise:
Psalm of Dreams
And thus Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja left the wasteland, and when Éfhelìnye had her fill of dancing beneath the sunrise and Puîyus had finished strumming upon his harp, the children came unto the rostrum ptaê tlhàkhtin and sate down close to each other, föfastev pirog prōra, and Éfhelìnye rested her head in his lap, and they rested together very content. And Puîyus placed his fingers unto his lips and formed them unto the outline of the name, Éfha even though he could not quite give voice to the word, and he placed his fingers upon the Starflower Princess’ lips and made the outline of the name, Puîye, upon it, and although Puîyus had not quite been able to speak her name and kiss it upon her lips, still they were happy just lying next to each other and watching the Suns beam over the vast winterlands of the North.
Oh! What a glorious dream it will be,
The mountains of Syapàkhya were looming vast and angular in the distance, and spreading out before it was a massive sea all of dust and waves. The glassen rainbrella ship was making its way in that direction, it was like a tiny clockweyth snowflake in the midst of a tremendous downpour, for unto all sides arose billions of worlds and asteroids all skimming through and above the waves of the sea. The worlds were glistening with icicles and frozen landmasses, but they were brimming with trees and leaves and ferns swaying a little. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were stitting at the prow and were wrapped up together in the same blanket, for although the Suns were dipping through the concourses of afternoontide, the air was very cold, and some of the pirates were bundling their hats close to their heads, and some were wearing socks on their claws and hands and breathing upon them every once in a while. Beside Puîyus and Éfhelìnye lay a few apples which Puîyus had been cutting for the Princess, and several piles of sheets for she was scribbling down notes and sharing them with Puîyus. She was well again, although still a little weak from her ordeal, and so Puîyus insisted on carrying her about if she needed to go from one edge of the ship to the other. This day, though, she was feeling far stronger, and enjoyed watching the other worlds scintillating about her, and the shadows of other paradox ships, and she was jotting down notes about them. Today living ships were dashing outwards throughout the reams of clouds and the long streams of pandimensional space. Éfhelìnye was sketching some of the worlds and shadows that were appearing just throughout the edge of the waves, strange and almost skeletal vessels, and she wondered whether these were the handiwork of the Xèntri volk long lost unto history, strange Xèntri living ships lost within the shadows.
– We know so little about that folk and all of the archaic Xakhpàlqe, save for the massive ruins that they have left scattered throughout the dark places of my Father’s Imperium – Princess Éfhelìnye was saying. – The warrior Elders of your garden world were telling your Father that both of the Caste Elders of the Qhíng and the twin Duchesses of the Aûm were searching for ancient weapons left by the Xakhpàlqe, it seemeth that both of the Qhíng and the Aûm believe that they might find the means of eradicating the worlds of the other using some special and arcane cannon trumpet or flame ladder or whatever it is that the old nations left. Who can say? We don’t even know for certain the nature of these ruins, we don’t even know for true whether the Xakhpàlqe did leave them. –
Éfhelìnye turned back to her sketching. Puîyus just liked to watch her in her drawing, he found it so interesting how she could start with just a few unconnected lines and then with some seemingly random shading and suddenly a forest of images would begin to grow, and springing out from her pencil would appear lost cities and strange tribes and all manner of wonders whose import he could not evfen guess. As she was drawing she was leaning her head against his chest, he wrapped his arms around her to steady her for he was still not entirely convinced that she was well, and Éfhelìnye was eager for any excuse to be hugged and so did not protest in the least but rather encouraged it. She was speaking to herself as she drew images of sky and flame and flower somehow all entwined. – All that I can say is that it is a very ancient legend, perhaps the oldest legend in all the Dreamtime, it has something to do with a Flower that was taken away and hidden from the gaze of jealous mortals. Flower and Tree and Marriage and Emperor, somehow all of them are linked together. My Father told us before banished us, me on pain of blood sacrifice and you on pain of crucifixion, that we had to find the Empress’ Flower. Here, this is how I imagine it, it is all color and light and beauty, perhaps it is too grand to be outlined in pencil, and yet how can one not reach for someone so beautiful? Beyond the Mythscapes the Starpetals of the flower must reside, the very last petals that fell from the last flower of Sànum the Tree of Light. Yes, can you see it, do you not imagine it like unto this? At the edge of realities, where nothing can age, where time cannot touch, where the hierós gàmos of the Royal Caste began Xhùptas, there one must go to sacrifice oneself in Heaven to save the Land. At least that’s how the Tree appears to me, it looks just like the Tree that was growing behind my Father’s throne, and the tree that was his staff, it was an ancient and sacrificial tree. Perhaps we shall see the tree’s being born anew, perhaps at the end of time we shall be able to recover the Khmóring, the crystalline Starpetals, and thus heal all things. – Puîyus nodded and tapped his fingers together a few times in a motion that meant, Our first thoughts must always be to honor our parents and our caste. Éfhelìnye reached unto Puîyus’ ear where she kept a few sticks of oil pastels pressed against his head, and taking some pinks and light greens and oranges began to fill in her drawings. – Who knows what we shall find in the days to come? If we can just make it unto Jaràqtu, that shall be a small victory in and of itself. – So the Princess was saying as she added color unto the visions of her imagination.
Puîyus sniffed the air. Something was changing, in the sparkling crystalline æther that breathed upwards from the great world seas. He turned around and saw that leaning against some barrels sate Princess Ixhúja, she was sharpening and polishing her violet sword and white sword, and holding them up admiring her reflection in the glare. She scowled a little seeing the mass of golden hair that still flowed down her shoulders, but she was wondering whether she could turn this unexpected change of color unto her own advantage, after all, if the rumor was true and Puîyus did have a weakness for golditressed maidens, Ixhúja may be able to convince him to let her dwell in the forests and protect the wild beasts in his name, especially if she flicked her hair at him and let him touch the aurelian locks a few times. She looked up also, though and sniffed the air, for something in fact was changing all about them. She looked around and saw that the fantastic lwúnìqte was twisting its trunk about and tasting the winds and could also detect something strange coming to pass.
Captain Euqliîna was gazing out with his khlainára iriġruaq, he was adjusting the wheels and lenses of his spy glass, and then he looked up and gave a few signals to his lookout Xhmaûmumum who was gazing about the higher billows of the vessel. At once several Xhmaûmumum were arising higher into the air and were all drawing their khlaîra telescopic astrolabes from their belts and peering unto what the Captain and the watcher had seen in the distance. Flutters of quetzal feathers were spinning about the Captain, as the Xhmaûmumum were rising and falling and kept pointing and gazing in the same directions. The Captain turned and motioned unto Qìtien to come closer, and for a few moments both of the janyaFhlùltekh leaned their heads next to each other and whispered of the fhìlet the conflagration floating in the heavens many leagues away from them. The Captain and the Acolyte came to the same conclusion, and at once Euqliîna signaled unto several of his men, and they arose about the wheels of the fins and rudder, and several were adjusting the coils of the billows, and the rainbrella began to turn starboard just a little and towards clouds thicker and white. The Captain set his khlainára duuradarshakam.h back unto his belt, and he and Qìtien made their way towards the children and falling upon their knees hid their faces before their gaze.
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye felt very uncomfortable and were not entirely sure what they were supposed to be doing. Puîyus wrapped himself and the Princess a little tighter in the blanket, he found that when at a loss for ideas, warmth was also a good option. Puîyus knew that they were all waiting for him to say something, so he just nudged the Princess and knew she would find words for them both. And Éfhelìnye chanted – Please sit up or stand. I wish you all would not act like that. Sometimes you treat us like children who must be punished, and other times like royalty to be worshipped, it can be very disconcerting sometimes. –
– We humble ourselves before the august presence of the new Sun and new Moon, the Divine Couple – Qìtien was saying.
– So, you two are going to be the new Emperor and Empress, eh? – asked Euqliîna. – Sometimes I forget. Time for kowtowing! –
– I have come to beg your forgiveness. Haven’t we, Euqliîna? –
– Sure, sure. Huh? –
– Just agree with me. –
– The acolyte may be an annoying little ninnyhead, but you children need to listen to him, he almost knows what he’s saying. –
– Your confidence in me always inspires me to glory. Am I the only one to ruin your plans of constant pillaging and celebrating carouselambra or do all of the sylvan caste just disappoint you? –
– Oh, I love some members of the sylvan caste – Euqliîna was still saying in his ritual kowtowing. – Once I tried to pay court to a vestal virgin. Who knew that vestal virgins were concubines of the Emperor! I was just completely surprised! You mean you can’t socialized with the likes of me! Next you’ll be saying that I can’t serenade vestal courtesans also. It’s just unfair, why does the Emperor have to have all of these extra concubines throughout the worlds? –
– Is this Babeling going anywhere? – Qìtien asked in his bowing. – The time of the Emperor and Empress is rather valuable. –
– I forget what we had to say. –
– Just be quiet. I’ll do that talking, you big chowderhead! Hah! As if pirates knew anything. –
– As if priests knew anything! Tee hee! –
Éfhelìnye leaned to Puîyus’ ear and whispered – Sometimes I think that pirates and priests are far more alike than they realize, after all both pillage for something, be it souls or candy, and they both had a strict code of conduct. – Puîyus giggled a little to ear that, and he put his fingers to Éfhelìnye’s lips and spelt out, We’d better not tell that to Grandfather Pátifhar!
– All I’m saying is that having you around, you big dumb acolyte, is clearly a test of my faith! – Captain Euqliîna growled.
– That’s what I’ve been saying about you! – Qìtien hissed. – Oh, great, now the children are losing interest in us, and it’s all your fault! Here, let me tell them. –
– I discovered it! –
– Be quiet! –
– You’re so bossy. –
– I chanted, Be quiet! Oh children, oh illustrious Sun and Moon … what are you doing, you scurvious sea rat? –
Captain Euqliîna sate upwards. – The Emperor and Empress told us we can sit up. –
– Well, don’t! Kowtow! – Qìtien grabbed Euqliîna by the back of his head and slammed him back to the deck. – Children, the rainbrella ship is having to make a slight detour, for the honored sailors have discovered something lying before us, and we dare subject the august presence of the new Emperor and Empress unto it. There is a great confragration burning in the middle of the heavens, a thousand living ships all crumbling apart, and smoke arising from them for a thousand leagues. We suspect that this battle was not fought using natural means. –
– That’s quaad, tré quaad – chanted Captain Euqliîna.
– We do not know whether any Monsters were involved, but at least one of the forces was not quite mortal. Your safety being paramount, we shall not come close enough for us even to contemplate investigating it. –
– Perhaps there may be survivors who need our succor – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – My always adorable and super beautiful Puey and Ixhúja investigated some smoke from a battle, it was only the mete and right thing to do. –
Qìtien sate upwards and affixed his three eyen unto the children and chanted – The conflagration was not caused by mortal men. There may be Monsters. There may be Dæmons. I shudder to think that there may be something worse. – Puîyus tugged on Éfhelìnye’s sleeve and spelt out the glyphs for Dragons. Éfhelìnye nodded in understand. Qìtien’s unblinking eyes glared unto the children, and both of his mouths added – There are no survivors. We can detect that even from afar. Please, my children, do not make us forbid you from investigating the battle, do not make us act in the position of Pater Familias. We shall sail far away from these præternatural flames. Please, oh please do not venture thereunto, even though none of us have the means of stopping you. –
Neither Puîyus nor Éfhelìnye had seen Qìtien appear so frightened before. Captain Euqliîna staggered up unto his three legs and lighting a pipe coughed a few times and added – I know the acolyte is a nittwitwhit, but this time we should do what he saith. After all, he probably knows a little about those monstrious creatures that inhabit the night of the land. –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye nodded. The Princess leaned next to Puîyus and chanted – None of us shall wend there, neither I nor Puey nor my cousin Ixhúja. –
– Good good good – Qìtien nodded as he began to back away.
Euqliîna was bowing all the while as he slunked back and he chanted – Yes, we should listen to the oaph here, just, just do what he says. The fire is big. Terrible. It is … we shall not go there. Safe safe we shall deliver you to the archsylvan Khlepìxhopa wirinum! Safe, safe, safe is good! – He stumbled backwards and fell o’er a few barrels. – And then the pirate gangs shall gather together, and what a carouselambra shall we have! – And at that he spun around and ran away unto the deck, and Qìtien the acolyte disappeared in the gathering fog spilling upon the deck.
Cloud was gathering upon all of the eeves of the glass ship. Puîyus stood up and ensuring that Éfhelìnye was still wrapped up in the blanket, he turned untowards the barrels where his feral twin was sharpening her weapons. The clouds were growing all the thicker and were flameflashing even from afar, and the first few hints of great spirals of light were bursting up through the wolcnu cover. He slipped up unto Ixhúja even as beams of red were bleeding upon the horizon, even as some of the great and terrible backdrop of skeletal dead ships were arising far off. He sate next to Ixhúja and together they began to hiss and purr in very low tones, and told he her, We must stay upon the sqòqhi vessel this time, we have to protect the Emperor’s child, what lies without is not for us. Ixhúja looked down unto the swords, she was using a bandana ùtsilu that she had stolen from a pirate, she held up the sword and seeing her reflexion in it marveled at how similar it was unto Puîyus’. She looked up to him and purred as if to say, Anything you say, sweetheart. Then she turned to look back at the sword and hone it as best she could. Puîyus stood up and returned to Éfhelìnye, and he could feel that within the sparkle of the clouds that everything was become duskier and dustier and far less magical than it had been before.
As the first of the burning living ships came into view, perhaps an hundred leagues away, for first thing that came to the mind of the children was that surely they must have been Frost Giants to have constructed such vessels, for they were larger than anything they had seen, and the distance and the spirals of flame arising from them only made the vessels appear all the more monstrious. – In truth surely the Xakhpàlqe when they came from Xèntri must have crafted something that looked a little like those – so Éfhelìnye was whispering, for in the presence of something to awesome and old sussurations were all that seemed appropriate. The children were not entirely sure what they were seeing, just a blur of flame, just the tumble of tower and some of the massive insectoid coils that had once been part of the fins and skeletons of such strange vessels. Éfhelìnye flipped a few pages in the leatherbound sketchbook which Puîyus had made for her even in the earliest hour of the day, and finding a few blank leaves began to doodle out as best she could what they were seeing, her hands catching some of the outline, her pastels of reds and oranges catching the blush of the flame, and all the while she was muttering unto herself and saying – They are living ships so many wonderous and whirling living ships they are drifting off, the very last of the vessels of Xèntri which has fallen in the outer West, the living ships fleeing the days when the Pirate Chief Khnèfhrim was come. Lo, the living ships are drifting through long volcanic fields. What should these be? I see the living ships of Prince Qlíkh Swít Pfhárfha as he soars upwards from the ruins of the Kháfha volk, the vessels are dashinog outwards within the huge conflagration in space. The honored Acolyte was correct, nothing was natural about the downfall here, the living ships were trying to flee, they were yplucked as if with great claws. The quantum dæmon Twípe was crawling throughout the web. Entire fleets were evaporating in tremendous plumes of light, and lost in the volcano explosions. Xenien vessels were falling into the skies that were become volcanoes. –
Princess Éfhelìnye flipped through a couple more pages, and then she came to some sheets which were completely empty save for the sparkling decorations that she left all about the branching margins.
– Where are we going, Puey? – she asked, as she took pastels and drew the outline of the murmuring mountains of Syapàkhya and beyond them the tear seas that lead unto Jaràqtu. – Where none can follow, must we go, where only we can venture, unto a place only we can find. – She tapped a pastel against her face in thought before drawing out an outline of cloud spinning around in tremendous coils. – We shall sail outwards untowards Xìxe, the Great Unknown at the center of the universes, the core of all of the worlds. –
The rainbrella ship came drifting outwards it was flowing into endless fields of shattered asteroids that were leading upwards unto the longest stretching of fire that the children had ever seen. Both Puîyus and Éfhelìnye had beheld the crematoria fields that lie at the edge of enhallowed Eilasaîyanor, where everydawn millions of thralls were burnt alive and sent upwards unto the coronæ of the Suns, but the gigantic paradox ships and the extent of them and their length throughout the untold fields were far longer and the flames displayed no sign of burning themselves out yet. The children looked about and saw that far off in the distants bits of landmass were stretching up unto the North, but they were not quite close enough to see the outline of wharves or towers, just the shimmeration of the edges of Syapàkhya. After a time Éfhelìnye slowed in her sketching, and Puîyus, eager not to tire her too much, though she was feeling far better than she had in days, wrapped both him and her up within the blanket and set her head down to let her sleep while ruins were appearing all about them, and massive burning living ships filling all of the whorls of cloud. And all of the ship was hushed in awe seeing the expanse of the flames, the pirates were scurrying about on their duties with nary a jig, and the accordions and bagpipe creatures were hiding themselves and doing their best not to sing at all. The lwúnìqte brayed a few times and slunk aside, and poked its head out of the cabin just a couple of times and then hid his eyen with his large and flappent ears. Only Princess Ixhúja stood upright, and sheathing the ancient purpurescent sword upon the scabbard of her back, and taking a few steps forward, tapping her white sword in her hand, she walked unto the prow and beheld the giant vessels burning, and knew that whatever had happened here, the beings were so awesome and ancient that they would probably not even notice children wandering about. And yet even if Puîyus had not told her that it would be best to remain upon the sqòqhi takbekEged, even she would hesitate to walk among the shadows of such puissant and unknown beings.
When Éfhelìnye awoke again from her nap, the first thing she noticed was that although the sqòqhi hekicopter had traversed many leagues, the burning vessels still burnt and did not appear to have moved at all, and the second thing she noticed were the weapons lying all about her, a couple of knives and one of the glassen swords which leal Fhèlkhur had had commissioned for Khwofheîlya’s only Son before he commited ritual suicide at the death of the Mistress of the Sweqhàngqu. The distal flames of battle were playing upon the weaponry, and made them appear even sharper and more parlous then before. Princess Éfhelìnye looked around and saw that her paternal cross-cousin Ixhúja was seated on a different series of barrels and she had gotten the fantastic lwúnìqte to hold a couple of mirrors up unto her, and for some reason the Martian Princess was spending a great deal of time playing with her hair, in fact Éfhelìnye had never seen her cousin actually spend time working on different braids and plaits for her hair, Ixhúja kept grinning to herself as she experimented with one style and then the next, and she was even taking a few sticks of oil pastels, khnàlwen sticks that appeared quite familiar to the Princess kölastibs, and she was drawing little pictures of flowers and crescents upon her face. Éfhelìnye was a little curious to that, but she was even more curious about the growing armory that was ay-appearing about her everytime she awoke. She tugged upon Puîyus’ sleeves a few times, for all of his attention was turned enraptured of the strange and burning continents of vessels spread out before them as ruinous streaks of light, and pointing unto a few of the knives she chanted – Puey, I know you just want to show me and enemies in general just how protected I am, especially when I slumber, but do you really need to leave all of these knives just lying about me? –
Puîyus gave her a look as if she had just asked the most ridiculous question in all the worlds, and so thunderstrook was he that he hardly knew what to say. Éfhelìnye shrugged her shoulders a little, and swiveling a little in the great mass of blankets looked around and saw that a large bulge lay somewhere right behind her. She shoved the blanket aside and beheld large jutting spikes reaching out unto her, and a serpentile chain, and a great xìngajho rhópalon, a mace whose head was larger than her own. She blinked a few times at it and gasped – I’m rather sure that keeping a mace right behind me is unnecessary! –
Puîyus sprang from the blankets and yanked up the mace, and is it swung from side to side it revealed itself to be an ancient and creaking thing, and not only was its head larger than the Princess’ but the spikes were as long as her arms. Puîyus swung it around a few times, he thought that it weighed probably as much as a great gaggle of Princesses, but the weight was surely sufficient unto its use. He turned to her and gave her a look that meant, If an enemy had snuck up behind you, quite easily would I have been able to grab this morning star and smashed his skull in twain, and I could have done it all so swift and silent that you would not have arisen from your slumber.
– I’m afraid that I might have rolled onto it! –
Puîyus shook his head to tell her that he was watching her the entire time. He swung the mace around a few more times and wondered why the Princess was fretting o’er this weapon, it was only as strong as the arm that wielded it.
– I’m sure you can put it away now at the very least. – Éfhelìnye wriggled a little in the blanket and could feel several more bulging forms within and at once she froze in fear. She was partially afraid to touch a weapon for after all only the men of the warrior caste are permitted to touch most weapons save in emergencies and in cases of ritual suicide, but she was more afraid of slashing or impaling herself upon something. Her eyen bulged. – Puey! Puey! – she cried. – Take your weapons away from me! –
– Mew! –
– Please take your weapons away from me now! Please? –
Puîyus tossed the mace above his head and let it crash on the deck behind him. With a sigh he walked towards the blanket and with gentle hands pulled the Princess out from it, and with his other hand he yanked the blanket away with a flourish, just as when the illustrious pirate Xhnófho, quite oft enthused with too much pink lemonade and his own giddiness, would hurl aside a blanket and reveal a treasure lying there, or perhaps tap his cap and out several ravens would fly, or even hurl aside some boxes and out would come dancing girls, so too Puîyus took the edge of the blanket and swirled it away and suddenly where they had not appeared before lay a most impressive array of knives and a few impaling spears and not a few swords and and all manner of items sharp and coiling and yanking and pointy. Éfhelìnye shreaked to think that she had just been lying in peaceful slumber right next to so many weapons, in fact probably when she thought she was cuddling up next to Puîyus she was actually lying next to a couple of swords. She looked down at the pile of weapons, and saw how many of the knives folded open to reveal gnawing fangs and several more grinding knives, and the swords were sharp and had little razors stuck within them, and now a few maquáhuitl lay upon the deck glass and obsidian and jade glistening in the firelight. Puîyus made a few plaintive sounds as he counted on his fingers and then counted the weapons and then counted his fingers again. In one hand he held the blanket, it was draping about his arms, and he shook the blanket a few times until several smaller dirks came tumbling down. He growled and giving the blanket a few more good shoves, out came spilling down another xìngojho mace, this one twice as large as the one that had been beside the Princess, and as it crashed unto the deck the wood thudded and bulged a little. Puîyus squealed with glee to see one of his favorite weapons and pulling it up swung it from side to side in long archs. Éfhelìnye did not even ducking as the weapon came untowards her, she knew he was incapable of hurting her even by accident, or at least that is how she interpreted the prophecy, but she did frown a little to see her own face reflected alittle in the soft mirror face of the rhópalon. In fact, Puîyus as he was playing with the weapon seemed to her to be paying more attention to it than her. A couple more lives spilled out from her blanket, and they dashed downwards and sunk deep into the deck.
Éfhelìnye clapped her hands together and chanted – Why I believe this would be a good time for us to discuss something of import. Puey, why don’t you put that xìngojho away while we talk? You can give it to Ixhúja, she’s rather fain of sharp and parlous items. –
Puîyus swung the mace around a few more times, he was not at all fain of letting it go, but Éfhelìnye was looking up to him with eyes so large and sad. Puîyus relented, he tossed the mace behind his back, and Ixhúja dashed up to catch it, and she giggled with glee to have such a fun toy. Soon Ixhúja was running down one side of the deck and chasing after some Xhmaûmumum pirates while swinging the mace around, and then she came running down the other side of the deck and was chasing a bevy of skriking Fhlùltekh pirates and the mace was almost striking them all the while. Puîyus kept looking back and sighing, he wished to join in the fun.
– Puey, are there any more weapons inside my blanket? – Éfhelìnye asked.
Puîyus shook his head. He shook the blanket and out came thudding a couple more swords. He shook the sheet all the harder, and out came spilling a few xotlhèsyefhert macanas, crashing down one by one.
– Are those all the weapons now? – asked the Starflower Princess.
Puîyus nodded. Then he reconsidered, and shaking the blanket again out came another sword, and this one came impaling downwards right before the Princess’ bare feet. Puîyus smiled and held up the blanket to show that it was empty.
– Good, now that we have that finished … – Éfhelìnye began before they were interrupted by the sound of a couple more swords falling from the blanket. She tapped her bare toes upon the deck. Slowly another sword crashed down. Then came a gauntlet. Slowly, e’er so slowly down came spilling a war helmet, and all of the scales and lamellars of a complete set of armor altogether tipped in spikes and thorns and slashing knives. Puîyus shoved the armor aside with the tip of his toes and gave the Princess a weak smile.
– I just know something else is going to fall out of that blanket – Éfhelìnye sighed. Puîyus shook the blanket but nothing else fell. They both waited. And then, very slowly, a few pipes and wires began to spill tendrillar outwards. Then came the edge of some coiling machinery, and slowly an entire cannon slipped out of the blanket, and not only was a fully operational cannon, but Puîyus, just to ensure that the Princess had maximum protection about her, had loaded the cannon and awakened it, and so flames were spilling through it as the cannon waited to shoot and explode.
– I suppose I should be curious as to how you managed to get the cannon in there, but we have a more serious question on hand … – Éfhelìnye began as several torpedoes dripped from the cannon and landed like eggs before her feet, and rolling over a little they revealed themselves also to be sparkling with burning plasma. She took a couple of steps away from the weaponry. – Please tell me that’s all …? –
Puîyus nodded in affirmation, he even set the blanket upon his head and wriggled it all about to show that there were no other weapons left inside, and he drapped the blanket about his shoulders to prove how harmless it was. Éfhelìnye decided that she wanted to sit somewhere away from the arsenal, and so she took some steps unto the other side of the rostrum. Puîyus slipped up next to her and was about to drape the blanket around her again, but then he stopped to consider and tugging on her sleeves mewed a few times.
– Do I consider bombs weapons? I suppose I do, Pew – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Oh please don’t tell me you had a bomb in the blanket! –
Puîyus shook his head and holding up the arm that was not wrapped up in the blanket spelt out, No, I did not have a bomb in the blanket.
– That’s quite reassuring. –
One had six bombs in the blanket. And Puîyus reached into the blanket and drew out one of the bombs, sparkling with ministorms within the glass casing.
– Puey, do you mean to tell me that not only was I sleeping on swords and knives and a suit of armor and an entire cannon, but also … six … live bombs! –
Puîyus nodded and bowed unto her and in ritual gestures told her, the Starflower Princess must know that she is the most wellprotected person in all the worlds!
– Would you please remove all the bombs from the blanket for me? I may not be able to sleep if you leave them within. –
Puîyus complied and soon was rolling out several different glistening squeeeeebangs were spilling out from him and dashing upon the deck. The firebombs did not remain unattended for long, though, for soon Princess Ixhúja came dashing by and yanked them up and started juggling the bombs even as she chased the pirates with morning star.
– Puey, is there anything else within the blanket? Any other weapon? – Éfhelìnye asked. – Anything at all, especially anything sharp and cutting and liable to explode at any moment? No severed heads of enemies in here, no? –
Puîyus scoffed to think of the silliness of the idea of keeping the severed heads of one’s enemies in a blanket with a sleeping princess, that was just unthinkable, especially when that space could be used for a fully loaded cannon! Puîyus shrugged and was not entirely sure whether Éfhelìnye were being jocoserious or not. The Starflower Princess sate down at the edge of the rostrum and quod – Then you may drape the blanket about me, provided that there is nothing else inside of it save for yourself. Now, sit next to me, I think we need to discuss something. – Puîyus only had a moment to begin wrapping the blanket about her when she could feel that someone else was left within, and she reached within and began drawing out a length of line that reminded her a little of very fine cobweb. Puîyus, seeing the line, coughed a little and started drawing it away from the Princess and bundling it about his arm. At first Éfhelìnye thought this might be some fishing yaraline, but she noticed that beads of dewglass were set within it, and several of them were spinning around and gnawing a little like gnashing teeth. Puîyus started yanking out the line even faster, he started winding it into his arm, even as Éfhelìnye took ahold of one end and felt the twisting of the fangs. She was about to tell him that his fishing line appeared just a little too sharp, but instead she just accidently pricked her finger on the edge. Puîyus thrust the cord away from her and buried it into his pocket.
– What was that? – Éfhelìnye asked.
Puîyus took his finger and kissed it a few times until it stopped bleeding, and he did not at first answer the question. Éfhelìnye was about to pull her hand away, but Puîyus took it back into his grasp and kissed the finger several more times.
– Puey? – Princess Éfhelìnye asked.
– ?? –
– Let me first mention that I don’t e'er want you to stop kissing me, even if it’s just my fingers. I think I should repeat that assertion: Do not stop kissing me at any time. Now, that chanted, let me just ask you, was that a fishing line or something else? –
– … –
– Was that a weapon? You can still kiss my fingers while answering. –
With his spare hand Puîyus spelt out a few cheremes and told her, Anything can be a weapon, a spoon, a song, a word, it is all a matter of perspective. I have never been good at philosophy like you are.
– Now, keep kissing my finger while you respond, but may I ask you, was the primary purpose of that cord as a weapon? –
Puîyus drew out several more signs to say, An axe may hew wood and stone just as well as an enemy.
– Was that some fishing cord? –
What was that line which cut me?
Puîyus spelt out the word tlhèpwi, a garrote.
– Ah, quite an interesting word. Tlhèpwi. One uses that for strangulation, no? –
Puîyus pressed his other hand to his neck and made a vague motion of capturing and squeezing and choking and asphyxiating something.
– Yes, yes, that is what I surmised. So, another weapon lay in my blanket. Was that the last weapon? –
Puîyus shrugged. He had an quite a lot of weapons and tended to collect them in battle and although he could keep track of the ancient ones that belonged to his Clan or which had been given unto him by his Father or Grandfather Pátifhar, he realized that he just could not remember where he had secreted all that he had found. He looked out to the barrels and triangular boxes and various window ledges, and in the imagination of his heart he could just guess that he had probably secreted swords and snickersnees and all manner of daoknives all o'er the place. He offered a less than reassuring grin to Éfhelìnye and wished that he could talk just so that he could change the topic of conversation. Éfhelìnye for her part was still a little nervous as to all of the weapons so recently lying about her, but also glad that Puîyus was kissing her one wounded finger, and she did not to puncture the xhràthe the enchantment, the glamoury of the moment. Puîyus was about to stop kissing her finger when he noticed that rustling in the blanket somewhere behind the Princess’ head was a great double-headed twìngolil battle axe, and fearing that the sight of yet another weapon in the blanket would frighten her, and being unable to think of a cunning plan to distract her, with one hand he held onto her right hand and began kissing her other fingers while his other hand reached out behind her bed and drew out the battle axe whose head was probably thrice the size of hers, and far longer than she was tall, and he managed to draw out the entire axe and hide it behind his back without missing a single dactylous kiss.
– Puey? May I ask you something? – Éfhelìnye asked. – And, may I remind you, please don’t stop kissing my hand in answering. –
– ?? –
– What did you just take from behind my back? –
– … –
– I think you’re hiding it behind you. –
– … –
– I see something with sharp edges behind you. –
– … –
– May I see it? What do you have there? I want to take a look! – Éfhelìnye bound upwards and was partially sitting in Puîyus’ lap and partially toppling him o'er, and suddenly Puîyus found that her hands and arms were all o'er him until at last he had to hold the double headed twìngolil zichzimil above his head just to keep it safely out of her reach before realized what he was doing.
– Yet another weapon! Puey! Puey! Puey! – gasped Éfhelìnye. – I used to think that beloved Siêthiyal had a lot of toys, but I think you out-Siêthiyal her in the weaponly toys that you collect! That one looks particularly sharp and threatening! –
Puîyus nodded, and with his free hand began telling her, Oh yes, I have smashed this through many of the heads of my enemies, I find that a clean drive through the skull of the foe makes quite a dramatic splash of brain and blood and … Puîyus’ hands fiddled a little as he added, Of course one should not discuss such sanguinary details before a fair Princess of the Blood, the only child of the Sun Emperor and the Virgin Empress.
– Would you mind tossing the weapon aside for me? Keep kissing my hand while you do so. –
Puîyus looked up and around, he was still holding the double headed ĥaşşinnum in one hand, but looking around he could see no other weapon and he made some plaintive squeals as if to say, But the only other weapon I see is the balag!
– Please toss the axe aside, I don’t think the weapon will be hurt. Please, Puey? Just throw it aside. –
Puîyus held up the axe, it was so lithe and sharp, it would be such a shame to toss it aside, but he thought it would be just be plain rude to bother the Princess, and so with heavy heart he threw it a few cubits across the deck, and it thudded with the sound of a body landing upon the battle field. He sighed a little. Éfhelìnye could not help but notice that in all the questing and excitement and searching that Puîyus had stopped kissing her hand. She wrapped her arms about his neck and embracing him chanted – I don’t mind the weapons you have clasped on your person, I know that one of your estate cannot be completely unarmed, but it is far too dangerous to keep those weapons lying about me. Anyway, it seems not a little redundant, you yourself are the greatest weapon of all, you are fiercer than all of the knives and impaling spears and miec māccuahuitl and swords in all the worlds.
Puîyus was completely surrounded by Éfhelìnye’s hug, and since she could not see his hands he mewed a few times to say, It is an honor to show how well protected you are! He looked aside and saw all of the good and deadly weapons he tossed aside for her and thought that really they should be bundled back up in the blanket with her, that just seemed the most proper thing to do.
– I think for a moment we should talk about our future life together – Princess Éfhelìnye. – Assuming that we win the war and survive, have you given it much thought? You know of course that I have, but I would still like to her your opinion on the matter. For the moment, I’m thinking more along the lines of how we shall be able to dwell together in the same house has Emperor husband and Empress wife. –
Puîyus considered for a few moments, and leaning his head next to Éfhelìnye’s mewed out a few times to tell her, I’d like for there to be many plantimals to dwell with us, kittens and ducklings and lambkins and dinosaurlings and herds of spiders!
– Yes, we can have plenty of non-arachnid pets. For the moment though I’d like to discuss our room together, or at least our bedroom, and more specificially the topic of incredibly sharp and dangerous weapons in said bedroom xhwiî cubicula qholanukhakekéla Schlafzimmer. –
Puîyus mewed and clicked a few times to tell her, I’ll have a bedroom and keep many weapons under the pillows and in the sheets, and in your bedroom I’ll just stash a smaller number of swords and garottes in your bed, that would probably be sensible. I would be able to hear you no matter where you sleep, so sharply attuned is mine hearing. So he clicked and mewed unto her.
– Oh Puey, couldn’t you just hug me all the day long? – Éfhelìnye chanted as she continued to embrace him. – You may noticed that I used the fhìtsi, the marked and singular form for qholanukhàkela, for we shall have a single bedroom for both of us. Would that change your plans in anywise? –
Puîyus made a few clicking sounds and told her, If our beds should be a single room, than I suppose I can keep the bulk of the weapons in my bed and keep just the trapdoors and bombs underneath yours, that way everything should be prepared in the contingency that some a giggling gang of khyùqhatsa trolls come, their eyen blinking in their large feet.
– Puey, when I was about six winters of age I read the entire Holy Writ of Khniikhèrkhmair from cover to cover, or at least all of it in the version that Grandfather Pátifhar provided for me. When I was older he gave more a more comprehensive version. I’ve never been able understand all of the Teiqhatlhèxhra Khniikhèrkhmair, I suppose no one fully can, for after all the Prophet was enthused unto madness when the Immortals set their fires unto his tounge. I know you’ve read all the Scriptures, especially in the days when you dwelt with the sages and acolytes of the whispering mountains, and so you may be familiar with some of the passages concerning the Khriifhapinaraniitìkhta, the royal marriage of the cælestial Emperor and Empress. You may be familiar with the word eraûrxas. When I first read the passage I had to investigate the term, and I must admit I was a little confused because the cottage wherein I dwelt with Great-Uncle Táto only had the single bedroom and it was quite small. Thalamos, the eraûrxas is the bridal chamber, the parents’ bedroom, and the Prophet mentions, in passing, in his description of the eternal and perfect love that a married couple has for each other, that the husband and wife sleep in the same bed, a bed, I may add, wherein he makes no mention of weapons and pickaxes and lit cannons. – Éfhelìnye drew herself away and gazed into Puîyus’ glacial blue eyen, and could see that he was contemplating something, hazes of confusion fluttering o'er his pupils, and in his blinking and wondering asked he her, Did you just say that we would be sleeping in the same bed?
– That’s the commandment that the Prophet gives – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – It would probably be unsafe for both of us to be in the bed along with your fully ready arsenal of shields and spears and darts. –
Puîyus scratched one of his ears and spake in a language of blinks and sighs to say, The easiest solution is that you will sleep in the bed at night, and I’ll keep the swords about you in a triangular pattern about the quilt, and when you awaken I’ll sleep in the bed in the daytime and just light bombs around you.
– No, somehow I don’t think that’s the easiest solution. I know you plan on keeping some weapons around our bed, the bed wherein both of us will be sleeping at the same time, perhaps we can negotiate and find the minimum number of weapons you need to keep around me. –
Puîyus brushed his face against Éfhelìnye’s and mewed to tell her, Are you entirely certain that the Prophet chanted that both the husband and wife have to be in the bed and sleep at the same time? One would think that I would remember that dictate.
– I looked up the passage with Karuláta. She thought it funny because she kept saying that I’d accidently thrust my hand beneath a pillow and find a knife or some intricate clockwork trap or some other parlous weapon I have not even imagined yet. –
Are you sure in the same bed? Puîyus’ plaintive eyen asked her.
– Yes. Absolutely sure. –
We shall still have enough room for weapons, when Karuláta is scared of the thundersquall and runs to my bed I don’t have to remove any swords from the pillows or any swords from beneath the mattress.
– I think that Karuláta is a bit more used to the stern discipline of the caste of your people. How many weapons were you thinking of keeping around the bed once we get married, for I guess by then the War will be o'er, and one will be left to harm us. –
Warfare is never finished, Puîyus blinked unto her. The minimum numer of weapons we shall need will be some under the pillow, beneath the blankets, under the mattress, and under the bed, an array of knives in different sizes, several swords, at least two impaling spear, at least one mace, and one cannon loaded and ready to fire, just in case someone sails a ship up to us in the night and tries to kidnap us. Puîyus was ticking off the weapons with one hand, he was wondering whether he really shouldn’t add another mace to the list, after all the rhópala made such a satisfying crashing sound when they broke through the spine of an enemy, so he told her, actually we’ll need at least two xìngojho.
Éfhelìnye wrapped her arms about Puîyus’ anew and told him – Perhaps I should not be terribly afraid of rolling o'er upon a weapon, after all, you’ve always been there to look after me before, and I actually haven’t hurt myself yet except when I with foolish hand actually reached out to grab one. Anyway, the way I forsee it, the way I’m embracing you now, this is how you’ll have to hold me all the night long, so there can be no danger of my falling into a lit cannon. We may have to cut down on the number of weapons though when we start having children, after all, when the little ones come running to the bed and start bouncing on the mattresses, I don’t want them to trip and slide upon swords and māccuahuitl. –
Puîyus blinked and told her, When my Sisters and I bounced on my Father’s bed we never hurt ourselves, and he had about eleven swords in his mattress, plus knives crammed in almost every corner of the room.
Éfhelìnye reached up and kissed Puîyus’ cheek and chanted – But remember, the children I bare shall be princes and princesses of the Royal Caste, can you imagine all those little Princesses in their frilly flouncy dresses, their hair glistening golden or blue and or red, their cheeks glowing apple bright, can you not see their hopping on the bed and bouncing upon your belly while you’re trying to sleep, so delicate and princessly, do you really want all of those swords and impaling spears to be so close to the little ones? –
Puîyus thought for a moment, for even though he knew that his Sons would be the greatest warriors in all the Land, it did not quite seem right that his Daughters, Princesses of the Blood, should be bouncing on a bed full of swords. He lifted up a hand and spelt out a few ritual mudras to say, One must compromise. I shall keep just a single mace in the bed. Perhaps I can make due with just two swords, but that means that I shall have to keep an especially watchful eye on you and all the little ones.
– I want you to keep your eye on me, Puey – Éfhelìnye chanted. – There, the negotiation wasn’t so terrible, was it? –
Puîyus drew out his hands and started measuring the dimensions of a bed and told her, Then we should probably have a moat or a firepit around the bed, and if the swords cannot actually be in the mattress, than I want them all hanging on the walls so that they can flying into mine hands at a moment’s notice. We shall have to craft some thàrngqe, some trébuchets, and load them up beneath the bed, so that they can fire on whatever enemy is foolish enough to approach us.
– I would like to design the thàrngqe onagers myself – Princess Éfhelìnye told him. – I have some new designs on how the weight and clockwork would work. In fact, perhaps I can design all the firepits about the bed, that way I can utilizing some of my ideas concerning folding bridges and mechanical ladders. It is quite clear that devices well designed and wound by mine hand will be far safer than just swords lying all about. – Éfhelìnye smiled and rustling up in the blanket arose to kiss Puîyus on his cheek, but then noticed that something very cold still lay in the blanket, something rattling and tumbling about her. – Puey! I think you might have forgotten something, it lies right behind me! – Puîyus fished his hand within the rolling blanket and drew out a Fhlùltekh skull which still had some flakes of skin upon it, a single eye was lift within the middle socket along with some bits of crushed teeth in the upper jaw. Puîyus had been wondering whatever happened to that particular severed head inimical, he had not thought that he left it in the blanket, but perhaps it had just rolled itself up along with all the rest of the other weapons. He cleared his throat and tossed the skull from hand to hand, and all the while Éfhelìnye continued to lean her head against Puîyus’ chest and asked – Is this something that I even desire for to see? Is it another weapon? –
Puîyus made a vague sound which Éfhelìnye interpreted to mean, Not exactly. He tossed the severed head across the deck and it came rolling out before Princess Ixhúja’s feet, and she began to kick it about like a khmopòlkhi solar ball, just as when she and Puîyus used to play together within the enhallowed City of Eilasaîyanor. Princess Éfhelìnye for her part was coming to realize that she would never truly understand the most aristocratic Jarjhíxhoxes caste, the third caste, in their continous devotion to strife and struggling, and part of her thought that perhaps in time and once the war had come to an end she would just have to make him unwarrior, if one could possibly conceive of such a thing, and yet the other part of her heeded unto the words of the Prophet and considered that part of the reason why the high and blessed Kaô Fhyàqhu Inatéla Apúfha Khwén Ása had stablished the sacriment of marriage was because they desired the union of differences and opposites, and they afford mortals their entire life for the husband to learn of his wife and the wife of her husband. Éfhelìnye rustled deeper in the blankets. Puîyus was yawning a little, and both of them were gazing outwards unto the brilliant flames that were filling up all of the heavens now, great outlines in black and silver where once monumentous living ships had arisen glistening in the sky oceans, they could see the remnants of minarets and twining watchtowers that arose many wtsoîse twin armlengths into the air, and everything was tumbling downwards and falling into the oppressive flames. Neither of the children were quite in the humor to ask the Acolyte and the Pirate Captain why they had been so afraid to come too close to their ouranomachy nor whatever it could be that frightened them so, the præternatural flames and winds drifting outwards from what had once been great fleets. In fact Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were wishing that they were almost anywhere else than before the crumbling hulls and the crashing solar sails and the endless reams of unidentifiable shps fillent all of the horizon vast.
Puîyus was wondering whether he could think of a way to change the subject both from the burning mystery before them but also from Éfhelìnye’s thoughts of hugs and beds and kisses, and as his thoughts turned to flying fishes, their bodies sparkling with rainbow fins, and to the sound of water falling in the winds, and to the laughter that Siêthiyal and Akhlísa share when they’re planning something quite devious, he remembered a project whereon he had been working these last few days but which he had not had a change to share with the Starflower Princess Éfhelìnye. Both he and Éfhelìnye were wrapped up in the same blanket, and he rustled and reached into his pocket and drew out a small parchment scrap and coughing a little began jabbing at it with one hand.
– Ah, Puey! You’ve been working on a poem! – gasped Éfhelìnye. – Did you work on it all the time I was ill? –
Puîyus nodded, he had tried very hard on the poem. He glanced at it again, for seeing it written out was not reassuring him as to the quality of his craft. He was about to roll the paper up, and one hand fumbled and spelt out to her, One is not a little intimidated to share it, for one is not quite the literary expect that you are.
– I would hardly consider myself expect at anything, let alone on letters – Éfhelìnye chanted. – When I contemplate how little I’ve read and how little I know, I feel awash in an ocean of imagination and wonder. Would you like to read your poem to me. I can help you sound out the syllables one by one, if you want. – She reached out and pressed her fingers to Puîyus’ lips and began spelling out the name, É-fhe-lìn-ye with his mouth. Puîyus however just shook his head in negation, for he knew that he was not feeling particularly vocal at this time, and so he set the parchment in his hands to let her read aloud for both of them. Éfhelìnye looked at the handwriting and saw that it was very graceful and symmetrical, for indeed the glyphs had all been done by an able hand suitably trained by Grandfather Pátifhar, for a warrior was trained not just in arms, but also in dignity and poesy and song and in chess, and in the artistry of lwuîs, calligraphy. Éfhelìnye saw that the letters were done in blue ink, and Puîyus had decorated them with some gold and black patterns partially in the shape of a chess board, and she read aloud the poem and quod:
Cuddling wee baby
When Éfhelìnye had finished reading Puîyus’ magnum opus, he turned his face away from her in shame to think that such was the sum of all of his creative endeavors for an entire moonphases, and he blinked his long cyanotic eyelashes a few times. One hand reached up and struggling a little spelt out the signs for, That is all that I could manage to write, it is but a first draft and a poor one at that.
– I thought it was just love – Éfhelìnye told him. – The rhythm of it was just adorable, the poem almost had the sound of luipist siksrIk within it. –
I was trying to create a title for it, Puîyus was spelling out unto her, But the only idea I had was Jhkhàthwot fhéfhayiîlii xhaurlròyufheint pfho’, but that is already most of the poem. –
– Titles can be very difficult, my Puey, but we can work on ours together. Oftentides I find that I do not know the title of something until I approach at least the middle of a work. When I was very young and started writing my great epic about me and you I had no idea what to call it, and so I just titled my notebook Puey and the Princess, since that seemed the easiest title to come to mind, certainly one that gave a clew and description to the actual content of the work. I used to think it was quite a ridiculous name, but after some time I’ve come to accept it. – She smiled at him and hoped that Puîyus would continue to work on the poem, anything that brought his mind towards language would surely help him learn to express himself. Puîyus turned his face away from her again, his cheek was glowing with a slight blush to think of just how terrible his writing had been. Éfhelìnye wrapped her arms about Puîyus’ neck and kissed him a few more times and told him – I still find your poem absolutely lovely, a bit of a papànto xiomik, tāral put into parœmia form. – She reached up and kissed Puîyus very gently upon his lips, and they rested next to each other and watched as all of the skies were turning and sparkling before their gaze.