Friday, January 9, 2009

Ho apò mēkhanēs peirātēs, Pīrāta ex māchinā

Perhaps the Immortals never intended for any of us to have very dull lives – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted – But to be part of their Story. – She looked around and tried to make sense of the battle being waged about her, and saw sparkles of monstrious living ships crashing within the cloudhills above, and endless nets and lances of light flowing downwards and catching the edge of the Traîkhiim as they were screaming and fleeing, and all about her living ships were asphyxiating themselves as they crumbled together, their fins and wheels and solar sails merging together, and she tried not to listen to the endless crumbling and the flexing of muscles and stone and bone oar, but tried to distract herself with matters of philologising and of agglutinating words together and the various musics of language.
Several rushes of flame were sparkling high above them, and the most excellent and clever pirate Fhèrkifher of the Family Sonátus continued to swing from side to side from a rope sometimes extending off of the shadowy sides of a vessel flickering high above them, and other times he just swung out into the openness of space, and Xhnófho and the Qlùfheman vessel which they had borrowed from the sky fleet just disappeared in sparkles and ripples, so it seemed that Fhèrkifher was just swinging upwards higher and higher and holding the three Children and one Traîkhiim offspring of the Dead in his arms as burning wings fell about them and huge twisting casements of ship and bits and pieces of coiling ropes and falling shreds of solar sails. Brilliant gusts of winds were arising from the waves and skerries beneath and from the burning crash of the living ships falling about them, so that as Fhèrkifher swung upwards he had to duck and pull the children down as exploding barrels were spilling about them, and entire castles and tendrils of living ships breaking apart from each other and rumbling into the deep, an utter sky of chaos burning. Fhèrkifher came swinging about several large and exploding loops which had once been the ribs and gunwale of some vast and alient vessel and he cried out to the Children saying – Everyone hold on tight! We’re almost there! Emperor, Empress, assorted new friends, we’re almost to the prow! –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye just looked to each other and gave the each a quizzical look, neither of them were quite comprehending that they were after long last being whisked away by their beloved Pirate Uncles, it was as if in the twinkling of an eye beams of hope came bursting luminous upon a vale of darkness. Fhèrkifher came swinging through several massive burning archways and fireworks and plasma torpedoes continued to spin in all directions and collide one with another, and crawling about the surface of so many of these twisting and burning living ships were thousands of Traîkhiim fluttering about and gnawing at plank and wheel and wing and solar sail. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye looked down and found that Ixhúja was still asleep and leaning among them, and Aîya was looking outwards, her three heads gazing in differing directions and shaking bechattering all the while, for the great cityships of the Xakhpàlqe were filling up all of the heavens and bursting through the clouds and hurling their weapons one against the other, and all the æther burning was left, and she felt as if she had come into the very dreams of the tushed and neuter Qhaôtriim Elders, and were living within prophesy itself. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were not sure what to think any more, they were just glad to be with each other, and just being near Fhèrkifher was reminding them of how much they missed Grandfather Pátifhar and Abbá Íngìkhmar and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa and Fhermáta who was accounted among the honored Dead.
– Now, bairnlings, if I may have your attention for a moment, honored Emperor, beloved Empress, some Princess I have not met, little Traîkhiim pygma – Fhèrkifher began as he swung about some of the looping turms of a massive Xakhpàlqe juggernaut bursting out of the galactic clouds. – As you both well know, oh Rising Sun, oh Plenilune, I, the most excellent and memorable sky pirate Fhèrkifher, nonpareil to none save perhaps Xhnófho of course, am well famed for my most elegant entrances, whether into tea tavern or tea tavern brawl, whether upon wherry or deck or flamescent warship, whether skidding down the side of a wing or bursting through a stained glass window roseate and rondured, I myself, arlweiràkhqu merchant king that I am, know how to make an entrance. And so, for my next feat, I shall enter as I have never entered before, through battle, through flame, with the new Emperor and Empress in mine arms! –
Puîyus grinned and wished that he were the one swinging upon the rope and twirly fleet and jaunty in the air and rescueing everyone else, but alas he had gotten trapped among the flutterent Traîkhiim and he was still not entirely sure how the rope was being suspended in the first place, and so he just leaned back and smiled and enjoyed the ride, as vast circles and tessellations and agrama of living ships crashed together and filled spangling all of the heavens. Éfhelìnye looked to Puîyus and smiled to see his smiling after being melancholy for so long, for she found that Puîyus’ smiles were become scarcer and scarcer during this long day of creation as Emperor Kàrijoi brought extinction onto all things, and just leaned her head against his and watched as Fhèrkifher arose into the heavens and swung right towards the burning remnant of the sqòqhi rainbrella vessel.
Very little of the sqòqhi takbekEged remained, for all of the vast umbrella canopy was gone and just spinning loops of flame were whirling upwards from the ruins, and the wings and most of the daises were shorn right off and the wheels were bursting apart, and the scalding skeletons of the ship was glowing through the crackling hame left unto it, for what skin was left unto the ship looked a little like rustling papyrus which was all bursting into flame. Fleeing away from the vessel were skiffs and screaming Traîkhiim and whatever pirates and had survived, and the atsáya rooster raptors were dashing outwards and clawing against the flames, and the accordions were singing out a dissonant and minor chord, and the bagpipe creatures were wheezing and skirling and skriking unto the heavens. And bursting upwards in tremendous archways came coils of plasma devouring the last of the metallic shreds of the sqòqhi takbekEged, and the flames were all reaching upwards into coiling rondures of pinks and oranges and golds and utter xanthorutilance, and yet somehow dodging among all of the spikes and gnashing fangs and explosions of the battle and the deathpeals of the sqòqhi of illustrious memory swinging upon his rope came Qlèfhus Tsàpel Fhèrke Fhèrkifher of Þe Family Sonátus, and somehow he navigated and flung himself and sailed up throughout all of the flames and landed right upon the very tip of the exploding prow of the Rainbrella ship, and he was holding up the children in his hands, the new Emperor in one arm and the new Empress in the other, and he bowed in a most jaunty fashion and his hexagonal mortar board hat came tumbling down the length of his nose and spun around a bit and then bounce back into place of his own accord, and the landing and the bow and the presentation of the Child Emperor and Child Empress could not have been more perfect, Fhèrkifher knew, and his only regret, as he smiled and blinked unto the burning flames and held the children upwards, was that there was not a lovely maiden there to have seen his most athletic and peiratical entrance, for then he could perchance kiss her hand and wink unto her and regale her with songs of his adventures high within the cloudseas.
– Behold, Emperor Puîyos and Empress Éfhelìnye! – Fhèrkifher shouted as the rainbrella ship exploded all about him. He was still holding the children upwards, as tower after tower came smashing downwards, but several pirates were still left among the burning decks and they marvelled to see that someone of their own brotherhood had managed to swing through the burning battling heavens and yet live, and Traîkhiim were arising afluttering unto all sides and gaping in wonder. – Say, this umbrella ship, or what’s left of it looks rather familiar. I could almost imagine that I used to lean against those ribs and smoke my pipe … Eiya! This is our sqòqhi, this is the very one that Xhnófho and I plundered from the Syìplet after that most regretible incident involving their gold! Euqliîna must have stolen it from us, Euqliîna! Oh Euqliîna, I love what you’ve done to our vessel, are you still here! Get out here, you knave gripped by istàrka nanoscurvy mneme rickets! What have you done to the ship Xhnófho and I stole right right under the wheels of the most insouciant Syìplet folk enwheeled! –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye looked upwards and saw that several massive vessels were crashing against each other, there hulls were buckling a little, and as the living ships began to merge and crackle, brilliant spasms of lava were arising from their eaves. Every few moments a shadowy and small ship would appear, one of those darting filament vessels such as the Qlùfhem Aûm were wont to make, and sometimes the children could see that leaning o'er the side appeared the shadowy outline of Xhnófho poking around and drawing a rope after him, but neither the Qhíng pirate nor the ship remained very long, but soon broke apart and became as insubstantial as wind and time.
– Captain Euqliîna, get out here at once! – Fhèrkifher cried. One of his sandled feet was tapping the edge of the already crumbling rostrum. – Euqliîna of Eilasaîyanor, I know you haven’t abandoned my and Xhnófho’s ship yet, get out at once, I’ve been commanded to speak to you! –
Several burning barrels came rolling down the sides of the deck, and the barrels crashed against the struts reaching upwards unto the prow, and rolling out came Captain Euqliîna, his tricornered hat sparkling a little with smoke and flame and skipping about him came several atsáya nazischo all leaping about and rolling and trying to bat away the flames from their master. – Am I missing anything important? – Euqliîna chanted as he staggered up unto his three legs. – Tell me, I don’t suppose you have any of the jacinth tàmar upon you, do you, I could sure use with a pinch of the lotus right now, for some reason my vision is all spillswimming about, my bifold knees are swaying, and up is down and right is flame and everything is just crashing together and … –
– Let me thank you again for destroying the ship that Xhnófho and I with our own hard work and pillaging stole from the Syìplet, I must say, all the troubles we had among the Ptètqiikh gastropods now seem completely worthwild knowing that you would just wreck our ship! Maybe if you can just remain unhyper long enough to … were you smoking the lotos even in the midst of the battle? Don’t answer, we don’t have time! –
– I … ur … wha? – asked Captain Euqliîna.
– This is a very important mission – Fhèrkifher rumbled into his pockets and then told Puîyus – Would you mind taking the scroll from my front left pocket? Just unroll it a little for me. – Fhèrkifher’s half-moon spectacles danced a little on his nose while his eyen searched about the glyphs in Grandfather Pátifhar’s exceptional and neat handwriting. Grandfather Pátifhar had spent many years learning calligraphy from the sylvan priests as a young lad, and in his generations of teaching acolytes and orphans and Íngìkhmar and Puîyus and even miscreants like Fhèrkifher himself, Pátifhar’s handwriting always seemed far too neat and ordered, a cosmos of glyphs made just the way a teacher wants them. – Aha! Is there a Qìtien in your party, of the current zintolfol rank of Acolyte? Grandfather Thiêfhilos has been greatly pleased with his work so far and wishes to reward both him and you. –
– Reward? – asked Captain Euqliîna.
– Yes, yes, yes, of course. Is the Acolyte dead or not? –
– A big reward? –
– The Acolyte will no doubt be moved up the circles of the priesthood. –
– Are we talking … treasure reward? –
– Will you hush about treasure! We can plunder beneath the noses of the priests if we’re smart about it, so just keep your double mouths shut! Don’t you realize we’re in the presence of the … think about it … new Sun, new Moon … all the authority in the … no you haven’t thought about it at all, I can tell by the vacant and ovine expression in your eyen. Listen, Xhnófho will be translating here soon, and we all have to leave this place, the sqòqhi will explode, the big ugly living ships were fall upon us, and I don’t know who’s been unleashing Traîkhiim but that’s never a good idea! No offense, little pet, but you slavelings can be quite a bit of trouble – Fhèrkifher added as he leaned towards Aîya in Princess Éfhelìnye’s arms.
– So, when you say reward … are we talking about … special … sweet … lotos? – asked Captain Euqliîna.
– All the sugar we can transport, all the cookies we can gobble, all the pink lemonade we can quaff, all the maids at whom we can wink, and all the leaves and dates and palms we can cram and crush and burn and smoke! Grandfather Thiêfhilos and Sieur Íngìkhmar, I’m sure you’ve heard about them, haven’t you … –
– Huh? –
– They’re the runs leading the Crusade against the Emperor? –
– Ah! Huh? –
– You have no idea what I’m saying, do you? –
Euqliîna pointed to Puîyus with three hands and twenty one fingers and chanted – He’s the Emperor, right? –
– Oh never mind, the point of the matter is that Grandfather Thiêfhilos and Sieur Íngìkhmar had commanded me and Xhnófho to take these children to the fjords of Syapàkhya. We leave now. Also, Grandfather Thiêfhilos wishes to retain you and Qìtien in his service, assuming that acolyte still lives. Here, cælestial Puîyos, would you mind taking out the sphere from my front right pocket? Wonderful, now please toss it to Euqliîna, but not too hard, the good Captain’s not as agile as he used to be, he’s been smoking a little too much of a certain leaf if you know what I mean. Euqliîna one day you need to watch how this bairnling plays Xhwongeîthe, it’s a children’s game involving balls and mallets and diamonds and running and a bit of wrestling, this childlet has a rather spectacular fastball, he can actually throw the ball so fast that it reaches the batter er that Puîyus actually pitches the ball, that is, he throws the ball through space and time itself, puncturing it, and … lwa! You’ll just have to see it. –
Puîyus tossed the sphere as gently as he could to Euqliîna whose four hands and four arms and twenty eight fingers completely got in each others’ ways and fumbled and spun and crashed together, and the sphere spun about his limbs and bounced about his double folding knees until the Captain kicked up the sphere and managed to catch it in his hat. – Ur? – asked Euqliîna.
– Get to the fjords, press the button, there’s only one button so even you can’t get it wrong, and don’t try to smoke it or trade it for lotos, if the Acolyte were here … ah! Look what we have here! Children, is that honored Qìtien? –
– Yes, Uncle Fhèrkifher! – Éfhelìnye chimed.
– I hope you’ve been playing nice with him, Euqliîna – Fhèrkifher chanted.
Euqliîna was taking a bite out of the sphere and found that it tasted nothing at all like indanthrene tànar, but rather was rattling and rolling about and the sound of ticking came from within. He slunk the sphere into his pocket and chanted – I’ve been very kind and respectful, just like the time I kidnapped those three monks and stole their sandles from them and made them walk down through the square and collect cookies for me, I was very polite and courteous all the time I was robbing them, and … –
– Are those bagpipes? – asked Fhèrkifher.
– And a few living accordions – Princess Éfhelìnye added.
– Long story? –
– A bit of a dream. –
– You and weorÞfull Master Puîyos can tell me later! – Fhèrkifher chuckled to himself, and bursting out from crowds of screaming Traîkhiim and rolling bagpipe wihts and dancing accordions came Qìtien leaping upwards and dragging some injured Pirates in his arms, his prayer beads rustling in the flamescent winds, his prayer book dangling at his belt, and when Qìtien saw upon the burning prow in mazes of smoke yet another Pirate standing and daring to touch and hold the new Emperor and Empress, Qìtien dropped the wounded sailors and ran upwards and screamed in righteous fury.
– Hah hah hah! – laughed Fhèrkifher. – He thinks I’m on the wrong side. Puîyos, please reach about my neck and bring out the clockwork sphere that your Grandfather Pátifhar gave me, and don’t ask me how it works or where he got it, all that I know is that this is going to be fun. Do you have it? –
– You! Another Pirate! – Qìtien shouted.
– He does know that you’re on his side, right? – Captain Euqliîna asked as Qìtien hurled him out of the way and ran right up to Fhèrkifher.
– I’m afraid that honored Qìtien has no idea whose faction is mine – Fhèrkifher chanted. – Not that I blaim him of course. Puîyos my lad, do you have the device? Good, oh look, it’s springing into life in our grasp. –
– Why are the Immortals punishing me by inflicting pirates on me wherever I go! – moaned Qìtien. – I don’t care who you are or what nation or what caste, but it is forbidden for you to hold the new Emperor and Empress and … don’t mock me like that! Captain, do you see how he’s making faces at me! Pirate, I command me … –
– Sorry, Xhnófho and I, we’re the ones in command here – Fhèrkifher chanted. – And let me add, before you continue to impugn the most ancient and honest order of piracy that we sky bucchaneers provide a very important service to the Dreamtime, we are the flowing xylem and phloem of the feudal economy for without us there would be no transport of sugar whatsoever. Imagine that, my little Acolyte, a life completely without sweetness. But I digress. For the fact of the matter is that I believe that new Emperor and Empress, no matter how pious and holy their intentions may be, are at heart for more peiratical than priestly. Hah, imagine this, Puîyos the first Pirate Emperor! I can see him already, khátatlhùmpa fanstaff in hand, the Starburst Crown upon his prow, and sailing offwards for to collect treasure unto himself. Seriously though, Xhnófho and I are the ones giving commands. –
– Why you ridiculous, grey haired … –
– Khei! I just have a couple of grey hairs! Two incanus tresses, I must add. Oh, wait! Here he comes. Euqliîna, Qìtien, hold onto something! Xhnófho and I made a few modifications to the fhrùse the specttech of the Qlùfhem vessel, and even we can’t control it too much. Children, watch this, this is very strange indeed. –
– Mew! – gasped Puîyus.
– I hope so! – smiled Éfhelìnye.
Everything was shaking. The rainbrella vessel, already in its final stages of disintergration was now shaking even harder, so that the wings were all flying away and tumbling into the heavens and dashing about the battling Xakhpàlqe vessels were eclipsing one after another, and blasts of light were appearing so bright that the remnants of the ship were like unto a living wound left within the dissipation of the cloud reaches. But it was not just the deck and metallic skeletons and coils of the sqòqhi that were shaking, but rippling heat convections and shockwaves arising all about the flying Traîkhiim and long splashes of migrating heat and shadow drifting out from were several of the raiding vessels had crashed together. And somewhere in the very midst of the endless cælestial quake a tiny point was forming, and it grew unto long filaments and spinning petals, and then it began to unfold outwards, it looked a little like a a sheet of colored fhletafhoràlta jheníratáji rice paper growing outwards and unfolding unfolding unfolding all the while and growing until splashing out from it grew ridges and deck and rooms and filaments spinning from side to side so swift and fleet that they were all a blur, and slipping down from the nerves and about the spinning forest of cannon, and slipping down from the growing jungle of triangular solar sails Xhnófho came spilling outwards and booming cried out – Xhnófho’s here! Hail Emperor, hail Empress! Now it’s time to party like only a Qhíng can! Qhíng it up, perqhínga! Perqhínga blustrificate! Pergīngārī pergræcārī gar aus trinken perqhínga! – And at once Xhnófho bounced up upon the burning prow of the rainbrella vessel and drew four swords at once and shouted – Laisez les bons temps rouler! Save the children, plunder all things, and we’re drinking and feasting and swooning during all this next dynasty! Long live Puîyos and Éfhelìnye! –
– Hic! Hic! – coughed Captain Euqliîna. – Sometimes Xhnófho can make me look non-hyper. –
– A pirate, another pirate, an even crazier pirate! – cried Qìtien. – I’m not trusting the Children with you two. Come along, Euqliîna, fight them, it’s better to rmain upon this burning and crashing vessel then to let those lunatics … –
– I’ve missed you all so much! – Xhnófho chanted as he slithered towards Fhèrkifher and the Children in his arms. – We have to flee! We’ll talk later! Here, just one little hug! – And Xhnófho picked up Fhèrkifher and wrapped his tentacles about Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja and Aîya and squeazed them a little, and then the great Qhíng pirate hoisted Fhèrkifher up to his shoulders came came waddling downwards even as the prow broke apart and exploded into sherds of plasma and bone and wood. – Okay, now everyone clear on orders? –
– Hic? Hic? – asked Captain Euqliîna. – Orders? –
– You told them about the orders right? – asked Xhnófho. – What am I say, this is Euqliîna, he barely remembers his own profession half the time! –
– He’ll figure it out – Fhèrkifher chanted. – Sorry, kìnxhi, kamaradoj zilix, but this glass and hot air balloon is flying! – He bowed a little from Xhnófho’s shoulders and reaching into a pocket drew out a cigar and lit it, and soon was puffing up smoke all about Puîyus and Éfhelìnye.
– Wait! Wait! – cried Qìtien. – I am not permitting a couple of lunatic pirates to take the young Emperor and Empress away! On whose authority do you dare to … –
– Hic! Hic! – coughed Captain Euqliîna. All about him the last of the towers and all of the aft cabin broke apart and exploded, and only a few spinning remnants of the sqòqhi were left unto him. Flutters of flying atsáya rooster raptors were spinning about him and skipping upon the edge of their wings, and he muttered – I wonder whether now is a good time to get to the emergency boat. –
– Now’s an excellent time – chanted Xhnófho, and he turned away to approach the Qlùfhem ship and chanted – We go North, you all go West. Hie hie hie! –
– Wait wait wait wait wait! – screamed Qìtien and he grabbed the edge of one of Xhnófho’s massive tentacles and tried to slow him down, and although Qìtien as a full grown Fhlùltekh was about Xhnófho’s height, although lacking the long and twining antennæ, he had not the mass nor strength even to slow the Qhíng down, he who was of the most bellicose Qèlreqakh caste born and trained under the stern tentacles of Great-Uncle Kàrnaka himself, and Xhnófho just dragged Qìtien away a little and reaching into his pocket drew out a small tsàntrail loisgestar and sniffing it a little and finding it cool and sugar and lemon sweet guzzled it down a little and then setting it back into his pocket drew his beak right towards Qìtien and belched a few loud and deep times.
– I think that just about says it – Captain Euqliîna chanted. – Now, what’s this about orders? –
– Khmàryor! Khmàryor! Khmàryor! – came a bleating sound.
– Puey, what was that noise that Uncle Xhnófho just made with his beak? – Princess Éfhelìnye asked Puîyus as she leaned against him, and Puîyus considered and thought that it may be a form of preluwérepayàjhwen ructation aálá such as in the contests that his Sisters Siêthiyal and Akhlísa were wont to play one with another especially after drinking too much fhloâsi grōda and swòtwa soda syrup from trees and running around in circles and then competing to learn who could burp the loudest, although to be far Xhnófho’s belchination was deep and thunderous and wet and not nearly as chirmy chipe chimey as his Sisters, but Puîyus decided just to shrug and not discuss this particular contest at this very time with the Princess, for sometimes the worlds were best left as mysteries to be explored later.
– What’s that bleating sound? – asked Xhnófho as he carried Fhèrkifher and hopped into the Qlùfhem vessel. – And are my sphere-ears berattled or is everyone singing with the voice of lwaût dulcimers! How vexatious is that … what are you doing, you scrawnly little priestling? –
Qìtien was dangling against Xhnófho’s tentacles and trying to hold him and drag him back to the burning bits of the rainbrella vessel and he cried out – I must save the Emperor and Empress from you pirates and the life of wastrelment that you will instill in them! –
– Is that a … a fantastic lwúnìqte? – Fhèrkifher asked as he jumped down from Xhnófho’s shoulders and set Puîyus and Éfhelìnye down beside him. Puîyus was still clutching sleeping Ixhúja tight unto himself, and Aîya was looking around in fear, as waves of fire wre reaching out untowards them.
– And will those Traîkhiim just pipe down! – screamed Xhnófho. – I’m trying to concentrate on this rescue, and these pesky little slave creatures … WILL YOU JUST STHĀL YOUR WHIDS! Why must the Traîkhiim be so loud, I tell you, when I have a chance … will you let go, you little priest! – Xhnófho picked up Qìtien and spinning him around tossed him back right towards Euqliîna upon the burning deck.
– You have a lwúnìqte! – gasped Fhèrkifher. –Don’t you realize what that means! Look, you have a fantastic lwúnìqte! How’d you get that? –
– STHĀL YOUR TORRYING! – Xhnófho shouted to the spinning waves of Traîkhiim dashing all about them. – By the bridges of Qthantònthe that were, I don’t think the Immmortals have e'er created a semi-loquent folk as plain annoying as the … yes, I’m talking about you, you brainless Traîkhiim wretches! You’d better flee from me now! I’m about to translate this vessel right through you, and if I have to scrape you off the solar sails, I’ll laugh all the while! –
– Khmàryor! Khmàryor! Khmàryor! – skipped the most fantabulous lwúnìqte as it was swaying from side to side upon its insectoid legs, and its wings were spreading outwards, and gathering up upon its back were bagpipe creatures and accordions and various atsáya rooster raptors flowing about and shivering in fear.
– How’d we get a lwúnìqte? – asked Captain Euqliîna. – Hic! Hic! Hic. Actually, how did we manage to get a lwúnìqte … ? –
– The Children – chanted Qìtien the Acolyte. – They be pure of heart. –
– Ah, yes! – cried Euqliîna. – The Children came back to us upon the back of this most wondrous monster, their dream and our dream and all the dreams, they were all just squish mash blending together together together together – Euqliîna set his four hands together and his fingers began to spin betwiddlent about each other until they began to get a little entangled. – Oh, no, I hate it when that happens. Finging can be dreadfully complicated, don’t you think? –
Puîyus bowed unto the infamous pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho and then turning towards the lwúnìqte made a few bleating sounds of his own. Éfhelìnye cried out – Yes, that’s a fantastic idea, the lwúnìqte can carry the good captain and acolyte away unto safety so that they can fulfull Grandfather Pátifhar’s mission. –
– We have a mission? – asked Euqliîna, but already the lwúnìqte’s trunk was wrapping about him and setting him upon his back and now plucking up the Acolyte and setting him down.
– And why do I always get stuck with him? And how do I know I can trust you two, you’re probably the least respectable of all of the Pirates who have by lot ended up accompanying me through the øde wastelands! – Qìtien chanted.
– We’re plenty respectable! – Xhnófho chanted. His cheeks puffed out and he belched a couple more times. – Oh, that’s some powerful pink lemonade. I’m going to have to sooth my heart-stomache with some raw cookie dough after this. And peaches, so many peaches. –
– One out of two of us is respectable, or at least presentable enough – chanted Fhèrkifher. – Especially after seasonal wash. –
Xhnófho’s antennæ poked about his featherbeard and he coughed and added – Make that annual wash. –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye looked to each other and sniffed each other’s sleeves and hands and necks a few times and although Puîyus was as perfumed as his name, and his hair still of candy canes smelt, and although Princess Éfhelìnye was incapable of smelling badly, they both knew that only occasional bathing was not a particular peiratical habit that they wished to keep. They both sniffed Aîya in Éfhelìnye’s arms, and Aîya giggled a little, her feathers be tickled by the childrens’ noses, and then they sniffed Ixhúja a couple of times, and nodding to each other, Puîyus and Éfhelìnye decided that these two needed a bath, although they would probably have to defer until they escaped from the battle being waged about them in all directions flamescent gleaming.
– Ah, wait! – cried Fhèrkifher. – I almost forgot to show you why you should trust us – He reached into his pocket and drew out his piratical license the tárl given unto him by the Noble Caste, and for the first time noticed that Grandfather Pátifhar’s signature and seal lay upon it, and then rummaging into his pocket he drew out a small scroll covered in Grandfather Pátifhar’s handwriting and detailing all manner of instruction for rescuing the young Emperor and Empress and bringing them to safety, and he was muttering to himself and saying – And now for the device, that strange thing, almost certainly contraband sphere where did I place it where did I put it had it within my pocket just a moment before … ahah! Master Puîyos, I set it innad thine hands for safekeeping! Would you mind spinning the golden skeletal key? This is all a little funny to watch. –
Puîyus grabbed onto the edge of the aurelian šorik and gave it a few spins, even as all of the rainbrella vessel began to dissolve about them, and he was glad that he and the Princess were safe upon this small Qlùfhem vessel and ready to dart away. Beside them the lwúnìqte was fluttering, its long wings spreading outwards and jutting into the air all the while, and Euqliîna and Qìtien were leaning forward to see what would happen. The device in Puîyus’ arms spun about a little, and one of its valves began to twist about and from ti arose a black smoke which came spilling out upon the floor of the ship and began to congeal into a tall and angular shape. The heavens were quaking now, though, so the smoke kept shaking and disappating, for the tremendous Xakhpàlqe vessels continued to slug it out sledgeblow by sledgewhack by sock sockdolager, and breaking apart from the screaming vessels came bits of wall and shaft and glistening green glowing light, as the living ships gnawed and rend into each other with monstrious jaws. The smoke continued to arise before Puîyus and became the vague outline of the head and neck of Grandfather Pátifhar, complete with some whisps flowing about where his rewel-bone spectacles lay, and some of the smoke was even drifting upwards and becoming the hook of a staff, and the smoke turned from side to side, and flowing shadow eyen blinked for a few moments, and then from the smoke arose the memory of a voice.
Greetings Qìtien the Acolyte and Captain Euqliîna and the rest of the Peiratical Crew. I am Grandfather Thiêfhilos yclepte, and greatly pleased am I by your service in escorting and protecting the new Emperor and Empress and the Princess, and you shall all be rewarded. The smoke turned to regard Qìtien and told him, I have read and studied all of your reports, and shall speak to you more about them later, oh Qìtien. When I see you, you shall be elevaded withink the ranks of the holy and apostolic sylvanhood. For the moment, though, I have a mission for you. Know that you can trust my servants who bring you this memory.
– Now he’s going to talk about us – Fhèrkifher grinned as he nudged Xhnófho a few times.
– I know, it’s good to be praised – Xhnófho sighed, his ear-spheres glowing with a slight roseate light.
Allow me to introduce my personal agents, my servants Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho, the smoke chanted with a slight gesture to its right, although Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho chanced to be standing at the smoke’s left. The Pirates, seeing this mistake slipped right through the smoke to the other side, and the smoke gestured again in the wrong directon, and although it was merely a memory glanced at Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho with a slight look of irritation. Wherever the two are, and they’re probably once again to the wrong side of me, let me introduce you to my servants, the smoke chanted.
– He mentions me first – Xhnófho giggled, and lifting up a tentacle chanted – This is Xherìngport Khwèntel … –
This is Xherìngport Khwèntel …
– Ál Xheîmas Qlóxha … –
Ál Xheîmas Qlóxha …
– Et cet et cet .. –
Qèlreqakh Xhèri Xhnófhe of the famous Xhnófho Phatry of his people, once the Khyixhefhífheqor Über-Suzerain unto all of the Qhíng, the speaker for …
–You were a Suzerain Speaker! – gasped Qìtien. – You were the Prince! –
– I know, rather makes you think, doesn’t it! – laughed Xhnófho. – Think about what, I cannot say. –
– Is anyone even listening to Grandfather Thiêfhilos now? – asked Fhèrkifher. – Aside from the children of course. –
– Wait, wait – chanted Euqliîna. – I can’t wait to meet this Xhnófho, I wonder whether he’s a relation to the Xhnófho I already know. –
– We’re both the same person … – Xhnófho muttered.
– You’re twins? – asked Euqliîna. – But I thought the Qhíng were always born in threes! –
– No, we’re the same the selfsame person! –
– You and I are twins! – gasped Euqliîna. – Brother! Long lost! So long! –
– Fine, now you’re really going to confuse the children! – Fhèrkifher chanted. – Now, everyone be silent, Grandfather is going to mention me now! –
And that is Qlèfhus Tsàpel Fhèrke … continued the smoke.
– Mention what a great student I was! –
– Great student? – asked Xhnófho.
– Adequate student? – asked Qìtien.
– Not completely miserable student? – asked Euqliîna.
A special and memorable student of mine who has served me … continued the smoke.
– Did you hear that? Did you hear what Grandfather Thiêfhilos chanted, he called me special and remembered, that means that I was probably his favorite student of all! – beamed Fhèrkifher. – At least for purposes of this discussion. –
– I don’t know, whenever I would lose a war game Uncle Kàrnaka would call me his special grand-nephew – Xhnófho chanted.
Qìtien crossed both sets of his arms and chanted – I think all three of you pirates are very special indeed. –
… an arlweiràkhqu merchant king of Qamélo… the smoke added.
– Yes, another Prince among the peoples! – Fhèrkifher grinned.
– I lament the fortunes of the Merchant Caste, then – Qìtien muttered.
The smoking memory of Grandfather Pátifhar crossed its arms and blinked its gaping eyen a few times and chanted By now only the Children are paying attention to me, so I shall make this brief. I have agents, I have watchers, I have ninja spies throughout the realms, wastrels and pirates are mine eyen and ears and hands. I command mine agents Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho to take and protect the new Emperor and Empress and bring them unto coordinates which only I know. Qìtien and Euqliîna, you path lies to the west. I suggest you flee now. Sieur Íngìkhmar will be bringing his war fleet through this area soon, and all things shall tremble in horror.

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