Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Melancholy Approaching

The egg vessel was crackling a little as it began its descent untowards the slades, none of its dome remained anymore, and the sides of it were breaking apart, bits of shell and jade and stone breaking apart in white and golden flashes and spinning aside. The sound that the egg was making in its fall did not sound quite like the sound of an egg cracking, and perhaps it was because it was larger than the nög laid by the living beasts of the worlds, perhaps because it was partially based upon living fibers and the strange patchwork everorganic artistry wherein the Aûm flourished when they set their tentacles unto the task of crafting a wonder. From the bottom of the vessel long drooping tentacles were drawing themselves outwards, smaller wings were falling about the sides and flapping from side to side and slowing the ship down in its descent, even as the egg was revealing long splinters and bits of chrysalis and skin breaking apart from it and soaring away. The egg was rushing down through the parting whisps of the dell, and opening up before it came the vision of the vast mekavamens marching outwards in utter waves rising and falling, they were almost, unto the eyen of the children, a living sand painting of ninjitsu Tánin swaying outwards, almost an abstraction of knife and wheel and marching crustaceon limbs and bodies of bent crimson steel and shreds of banners swaying from side to side, the Tánin were like a great horde of some strange living lobster army all crusted in mud and sand and ice flowing outwards, some of the Tánin had limbs that were completely shattered and within the gapes wheels were still spinning about each other and ticking all the while, some of the war machines had chasms where their chests should be, and spinning bolts and bits of wire were sticking out from their necks, some of them were dragging dead limbs after them, or had legs that were ending in spinning rollers, evidence of hasty surgery upon the battlefield when some warrior had hacked off a machine’s foot or limb. Most of the marching Tánin vobians were displaying bits of burnt metal, slabs of wood and bark and shell grafted upon the side of their heads or torsos, very few of them indeed were glistening in prestine condition as they had been when they arose from the vast and swirling imagination of Prince Jhwèsta, the last of the dynasties of the ice and sand deserts of Tsànyun, the last of the heirs of the Tsèqwal dynasty of long ago, for these Tánin, the invention of his claw and hand, his work from the toys that Emperor Kàrijoi used to craft for all of the good children of the dreamlands, these Tánin were twisting and fell and bellicose war machines and had slipped through many battles, and their gears and pulleys were sore wounded, and yet still they continued to march, even as the freezing mud crept into the joints of their limbs, even as the icicles were weighing down the edge of their claws and arms, even as the Tánin soldiers kept looking one to another and beating off the ice from the impaling spears and swords which they had taken from the mortals whom they had left crushed and dead, still the machines were marching onwards and continuing their crusade as they came deeper and deeper into the Winter Empire and crushed life and ice beneath their stomping legs, marching marching marching marching.
– Mew mew – Puîyus told the maiden Princesses, for the egg ship was now completely breaking apart around them and it would be only a few moments before they would have to land somewhere within the valley. Puîyus looked around for anything to gather upwards, but he only had his weapons and the clothing upon his back. Princess Éfhelìnye made sure that she was carrying Aîya, even though the little Traîkhiim could fly upon her triple and ay-flexible wings, Éfhelìnye did not wish for Aîya to grow nervous and forget how to fly, epecially since the Traîkhiim are not winged in all of their states of metamorphosis. Ixhúja was cuddling some of her clockwork insects and throwing them into the air and letting them land upon her ear and face and neck, she had nothing else to take with her save her weapons and her little pwànkhafha thralls. Several more flashes of eggshell were spinning around and growing lost in the breaking apart of the vessel, and all at once great webs of filaments were arising about the children and spinning around in flowing cometlike patterns.
– I think we should stay clear of the Automata if we can – Princess Éfhelìnye was saying. – Even if they are still loyal to the Hegemons the Khniqhátui Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe, I’m not entirely sure that I understand the clockwork civilization that they were trying to create away from my Father’s ken. –
One agrees, Ixhúja was telling Puîyus and her cousin. Investigating this army is certainly interesting, but it is not our highest priority. The Pirates told us that Grandfather Pátifhar was nearby, at least let’s get Éfhelìnye back to the honored geron, and then later Puîyos and I can seek glory in ambushing this entire army.
Puîyus sniffed the air. Several more curtains of filaments were beshredding themselves from the deconstructing skin of the vessel, and the egg was now spinning downwards a little as a teetotum flows when a child spins it and lets it migrate down the length of the table, only this particular khmapyènthe was also shedding its layers as it spun down and down. He sniffed the air again. The smell of the valley, the dead trees and dying soil and the marching machines, their wheel and oil and coiling splanchnic insides ewre quite familiar unto his sence, but something else was appearing in the air, something quite subtle, a scent with motion but no physical movement whatsoever, a smell that contained within it some of the memories of piety and incense and whispers, and yet also was drifting upon the edge of the winds.
Of myself I have no concern with leaping down and challenging the Tánin at this very moment, so Ixhúja was telling her cousin Éfhelìnye in blinks and gestures. Perhaps the Tánin will recognize me and follow and obey mine hest, for after all my Father used to send me out to lead his Automaton Armies when we all came pouring outwards through the scarlet fields of the south. Or, and this is just as likely, the Automata will reject my authority and turn against me, and then what a glorious battle it will be, to pit my strength and my swords against the might, the claws, the minds of the fell tomäts. They will arise against me in many directions at once, they will be as a storm of knives and swords against me, but I shall prevail. Or perhaps these Tánin represent a different faction, and who knows how they may respond to me.
Puîyus took a few steps forwards and placed his hands upon what was left of the side of the egg, but it was crumbling at his touch, and the outer wings and tendrils of the egg were folding out and shimmering and disappearing, the egg was burning a bit in its empyreal descent and veering off unto the outer quarters of the valley just beyond the march march marching of the Tánin rising and falling all the while in numbers untold. He could not shake though from him a smell, the scent drifting upon the winds, and the more it came to him the more it reminded him not just of incense but also of one’s family hearth and the qhomóqe pinda rice balls which he used to offer unto the spirit of his Mother and the rest of the Ancestors, back in the days when he was still considered the heir of the Sweqhàngqu. The clouds were parting a little, they were becoming spinning whisps which were merging with the flags and banners of the army below, the clouds were bursting upwards and themselves become nations of cliff and banner and side and whisp, cloud valleys drifting out before his gaze and revealing themselves unto the disintergration of the egg, incense becoming part of the descent of the clouds. Puîyus sniffed a few more times and now was quite sure of it, indeed the air was become piety itself. He looked around, the mist was become the outline of shield and sword, the clouds were become like helm and flowing locks of hair, the clouds themselves were marching outwards and glistening upon were the runes and regalia of the Ancestors of the Sweqhàngqu. Puîyus bowed his head in ritual supplication unto them, he knew now why the wolcen blasts were sparkling just at the edge of his vision, why it was that when he looked directly at the clouds he saw naught but crystals and frost and the living wind, but the edge of his eyen beheld the thrawn scintillation, his ears heard the slight tintinnabulation that heralded the edge between life and death, his nose could smell the holy incense flowing upwards in gnarled and arborescent patterns. And all of the heavens unto his præternatural sences were become like the movement and darkness of the waters, and he was straining to look upwards, unto the sheen of light that flowed out from the Suns and the worlds above, and all about him massive shadows were looming upwards swimming and reaching out untowards him and ready for to pounce.
Come to us, oh Puîyos, our Son. Come to us, oh Puîyos, our Heir. Our ten thousand generations of warriors thee summon, our blood is the same, we are your shadows and fathers, we are the font whence you spring, oh Íngìkhmar’s Son, oh greatest of warriors.
Come to us, oh dearest Lad.
Puîyus looked around. Some of the air was flowing upwards and to his sight were become like seaweed twisting in the winds and freezing just a little, he saw that the clouds were breaking apart and freezing, and that among them all the great oceanic surge was appearing and becoming part of the incense waves, and throughout the summoning, another voice was arising out unto him. All of the skies were become a little like hair, hair that was flowing like unto the waves of the seas, hair dark and red and twining throughout all of the growing midnight.
Do not forget me, my Son. Do not forget the Mother who bore you in love and reared you to be a proper Tralujàrqta, a Dragon Warrior among the people. All things must be to the glory of the Sweqhàngqu, my lovely child, you must save our people and protect your living family.
Puîyus looked around, the hills of the valley were parting, the trees swaying, the whispering mountains arising and become part of the gathering seas, and he could feel arising about him the sweet water smell of Khwofheîlya the Mother whom he had barely known in his life. Her incense was arising about him, he could almost feel an hand reaching out to touch his face, and a voice was crawling into his souls and telling him, Do not worry, oh my Son. Let these Princesses go. Their dynasty is fallen, the Pwéru are no more. Your Father’s sword shall end that line. Your Sisters are very close, return unto them and kiss them for me. The Pwéru fall, the Sweqhàngqu shall rise, such is the fate of the worlds. The Ancestors are coming, oh my beloved Puîyos, the Ancestors are coming for the children.
– Puey? –
Puîyus looked around. Éfhelìnye was placing her hand on his shoulder and calling his name, or at least the diminutive thereof. – Puey? We have to leave now. – She looked around, her face glistening with concern. – I think the egg is hatching its last. Are you well? You have a distant look upon your face, a look that sometimes I get when I am in deep thought, sometimes in creative revelry, sometimes just pondering the nature of the cosmos. –
Puîyus shook his head, and all about him the smell of incense and piety faded away, and the heavens were no longer filled with kelp and long and flowing tresses, the skies were no longer mirrors of ocean and cloud and darkness, no longer did he feel the slight susurration and tug of the Ancestors from their side of the wall from the shore which one may enter but whence none may return. He wiped the dream dust from his eyen, and several more splashes of filaments were arising. He reached for his belt and made sure that his double swords and knives remained there, as well as the sheath on his back where the Emperor’s holy Dragon brand lay. He was armed and ready, he would think no more of the past and phantoms, he would not dare to let emotion slip within him. So many times his Abbá Íngìkhmar and Grandfather Pátifhar had taught him that feelings were only proper for women and children, that a Warrior of Jaràqtu must cleanse himself of all such distractions, his only concern was to the strength of impaling spear and the sharp obsidian of the māccuahuitl and the gleam of the sword, battle was his only emotion, the rage and stillness and perfection of it. He breathed out, and several more layers of the egg came rippling off away from them all.
– !! – Ixhúja shouted as she pointed to the edge of the cliffs, even as the ship was falling apart.
– You have that look, far away, far away – Aîya was saying as one of her necks slipped up around Princess Éfhelìnye’s shoulders and poked right towards Puîyus. – You look like a Traîkhiim, your look, the far away, far away. –
– ?? – Puîyus asked, as he took Éfhelìnye by her shoulders to make sure that she was ready for the jump.
– Yes indeed the yes like the Traîkhiim see – Aîya was saying. – The Traîkhiim the we they I we do not see as the rest of the star folk do, and none of the Original People see like we do, except for you, oh Puîyos oh Emperor of Tomorrow. For us, you see, we see, we all see, there is no division like it is with the rest of you. No king, no lord, all is dance. We have no nation, no army, no class, no caste. Just old and young. And even that, the same. Just elders and the rest. And even we the same. Just ancestors and living. And yet all the same. We are all a music, we beat the drums, we dance, we have no rules, no commandments, no government, we dance dance dance. Our clans feast apart, but we dance together. The living dance. The dead dance. All together. We are one, the Traîkhiim. You gaze with the sight of one who sees the one. You have the eyen of one who can be Emperor of the Pèqlor Dancers. –
Ixhúja looked around and grinning gave Puîyus and Éfhelìnye a look that meant, Ready to jump? I’m jumping first, I’m reaching the end of this race before you do, my slow twin, my even slower cousin!
– But there is no endpoint, there is no race – Éfhelìnye was saying as Puîyus picked her up.
– Ancestor, child, we all the same – Aîya was saying. – We are born knowing that we are Ancestor and child. Know the Traîkhiim, know thyself. And dance the dance the dance the dance! –
– Whhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeee! – laughed Ixhúja as she bound out of the shattering egg vessel and spun through the air in a series of perfect and flowing backflips and was heading right untowards the cliffs all of glass and ice, and she was spinning around the towering tips of the icicles even as Puîyus, making sure that Éfhelìnye and Aîya were quite comfortable in his grasp took a running leaping off the edge of the ship, and already the filaments were breaking apart, the rest of the shells burst apart and the ship was no more. For a few moments it appeared a little as a spool of qèlpo yän, and all of the threads were spinning away, the spindle was minishing, the vazimanz brushburst aside, the guchiz flying away and disintergrating, and the egg was no more, the emergency vessel that the expermimental Qlùfhem vessel had laid and hatched for them, the escape which the infamous pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho had given unto the Children even in the crumbling battle among the jacinth unicorns and moon Dragons within the fractal labyrinth. Ixhúja was already bounding around some of the higher icicles, she was finding some subtle footholds and spinning upwards and now swinging down in long series of sommersaults and backflips. Puîyus was just soaring through the heavens, his dreamcloak rippling about him like wings, and he stole a few locks backwards just to ensure that indeed they were leaving the march march march of the Tánin armies, and he came drifting upwards higher and higher into the air and caught the edge of dead tree twisting about the cliff and threw himself up and around the ledges, and far off could see the faint outline of some of the most fantastic cities that had once thrived within the folds of Syapàkhya.
Puîyus landed upon the tip of an ancient pyerkèkhqu perkwu, an orschibuz tree sacred unto Emperor Kàrijoi in his capacity as Pyerkèkhqukhaun, his wooden shoon were clamping upon the edge of frozen leaves, and the momentum of his grasping and holding unto the tree was enough to send a thousand dead leaves crashing downwards, layers of branchand ice cascading in hideous splashes, and Puîyus felt as if his heart were freezing and dying itself, for the merest thought of harm coming to trees was enough to give him pause, but the certain knowledge that trees were dying was enough to bring tears to the quarters of his eyen. He knew his heart that they were not just the Trees in the winterscapes Qhixiêjoir that were dying or even within the lyonáfhi continent of Syapàkhya that were being choked by the ice and made barren by the Emperor’s own coldness of heart, but that all of the floating taladils were dying also, the dust left of Tsànyun and all of Wthèmlipu and Jhkhém and Khatlhàntikh and Iswifhésii and Kajhwána, all of them were breaking apart in horrors of shadow and ice and despair. The tree began to shudder, the branches were almost exploding off of its sides, so violent was the force of the ice and bark descending down its side, and Puîyus launched himself into another tree, and felt anew pangs of horror, for this tree was swaying from side, it had once been so tall and majestic and beautiful, this had been a grand Patriarch who had guarded all of the forest and who had exaulted in the growth of grass and ferns and flowers and in all things blue and green and good, a tree which had afforded shade for deer and dinosaur, a tree whose branches had been home for bird and fish, a tree whose leaves reached upwards to gaze upon the ballet of the Stars, a tree shivering and breaking apart now, branch after branch spilling downwards, the ice crashing down in waves. Puîyus let out a gasp and sob, and at once knew that he should not have done so, already memories of Abbá Íngìkhmar and Grandfather Pátifhar were arising about him and shaking their heads in anger. Puîyus looked away from Éfhelìnye and pretended that he had not just displayed such emotion, but she reached up and wiped his tear aside and whispered – I don’t mind if you’re sad, my Puey. Perhaps with you and me together the day will come when we can make the worlds bloom again. –
Puîyus sniffled, and gave her a look that meant, One was merely meditating, one just chanced to bite one’s tounge, and one flinched for a moment. It shall not happen again.
– I love the trees also. –
– Joe’ ei, trees are utlhei I suppose but not favoriting – Aîya was yawning. – Trees are trees are the trees. Don’t have to get all weepified about them. –
Puîyus glared at Aîya and gave her a look that meant, One does not weep. One has no emotions concerning trees.
– But you just leaking water out of your eye! – Aîya gasped. She poked her head closest to him closer and closer to his nose and ears and jabbed at him a few times. – Tear water! Tear water! Tear water! –
Princess Éfhelìnye reached unto Aîya’s most pokent head and darwing it close to herself brushed it a little, and Puîyus clasping unto both of them threw himself high into the air and landed upon the top of the next dying tree, where all of the valley was revealing circles of cities and rondures of towers, huge cities that looked like they had been builded right o'er the edge of fjord, some towers which looked like series of spikes thrusting upwards. Éfhelìnye brushed Aîya’s whisp-ears a few times and leaning close unto her whispered unto her – It does not matter what you thought you saw, my Puey was not weeping for the death of trees. –
– But saw but saw … –
– I want to tell you a little story, something I learned when I dwelt with Puey’s people in the last hours of peace before the War claimed us all. – Éfhelìnye took a deep breath and chanted – When my Puey was a little lad, a beautiful jhkhàlike scoiaz was growing in the yard just a little outside the window of his bedroom. Now Puey quite loved that tree, he is fain of the jhkhàlike willow, that is how he received the name Jhkhalìkekhaun. When he was seven winters of age he was armed as a warrior and given his Father’s weaponry and began the training that would make him a suitable vassel to the Emperor and the heir to an aristocratic family. It happened though sometime that year that honored Íngìkhmar and the Elders needed to clear out part of a field, and so Íngìkhmar gave his son the sqór hatchet. Now Puey was quite happy to hold the sciria, at first he took it for a toy and was running around and chopping at piles of crystalline timber and bits of driftwood and all sorts of jigs and pieces that he could find. His Father though had no time for such play, and indeed if Puey were strong enougth to be armed even at such a tender age, then he was old enough to set aside all toys, just as Íngìkhmar had done when Grandfather Pátifhar took him from his Mother’s arms to serve my Father. So Íngìkhmar made Puey stop chopping at flotsam and attacking stray sticks, and took the lad unto the jhkhàlike scoiaz, the twok which was Puey’s favorite, and commanded him to chop it down. At at once my Puey was horrified to dare to harm his favorite tree, to harm any tree at all, but Íngìkhmar’s command was stern. Thrice Puey lifted up the hatchet, thrice he held it up and tried to strike, but each time he stopped, until finally he began to cry at the thought of the tree dying. Íngìkhmar was not pleased. He took the hatchet and while Puey watched he cut the tree down, and then he took his Son and tied him to the branches and whipped him and bade him never to weep for a tree again, such is not the proper behavior of a man of Jaràqtu. For the death of the tree had been unto my Puey as if the tree’s bark had been jade and obsidian, if its branches silver, its leaves all of gold, its light like the moon. And after Puey was punished, he arose and embraced his Father and ran into Grandmother Tàltiin’s arms, and they dried his tears. And so never again must we even think of Puey has someone who could weep for a jhkhàlike willow. –
– Feeling very sad unto me – Aîya’s three heads were saying. – Mayhap Master Puîyos more a Traîkhiim than the Traîkhiim are. All are one, the Pèqlor dancers, and yet even we do not try to think like vine and moonlight and tree. But Puîyos is tree. –
– Sometimes I can only dream about the days to come, but I think that Puey will make all of the trees bloom also. He is brave, he is honest and tree, he is humble and quiet and shy, sincere, violently just and vengeful, pious and still, and a lover of all things that grow. His virtue will cause the leaves to open up again, his purity will make root branch and weave again, and when it is time for Puey and I, full of life and age, to return unto the protection of our Ancestors, I think that at our joint funeral, all of the birds and fishes and kine and dinosaurs, all of the ferns and grasses and flowers and trees themselves shall mourn for Emperor Puîyos. – So it was that Princess Éfhelìnye was saying.
Puîyus came leaping up unto another dying tree, he was surveying the death of the dell before him. Unto his left hand he could feel the shimmerations and marching of the Automata hordes, and unto his right the valley was opening up in the direction of cities arising through the haze. He listened. He could feel the flames more than he could see them, and at first he was not entirely sure whether these were fires which the Tánin had started or some other force. He came bounding upwards unto the tip of another tree, and saw that just a few miles before him Ixhúja was crawling up the side of a tree and gazing from side to side, she was wrinkling her nose and searching. After a moment she caught Puîyus’ eye, and winking at him pointed off unto the miles of dying forest and made a motion on her hand as of running and chasing in a race through the crashing ice and branch. Puîyus shook his head at her, now was most certainly not the time for a steeple chase, and he bounced up unto the next tree and looking around watched as smoke was arising, and the crashing trees were revealing a finger of ocean swamping upwards unto a sinking city. Ixhúja bounced out upon the next tree and raced about it and ran up the next shattering tree, and again looked to Puîyus and tried to get him to race, but he was looking from side to side and barely paying her any attention. Ixhúja tried a few more times to get his attention, she began racing down the side of one tree, and then looking back pausing saw that he was not following, she tried a few more times and then came bounding away and shrugged unto herself and thought, Puîyos never lets me have any fun at all. Éfha can have him, they can be no fun together for the rest of their unfun lives all unfunwise!
It was when Puîyus was finally able to leap unto the highest of the trees in the dead forest that he was able to see the true extent of the devastation that lay before them, and by now it was all opening up before him, like the curtains parting upon the stage, and he could see that clawwork of the passing Automaton army. It was a city slipping back into the harbor and waves, the ocean reaching upwards to reclaim it, wall by wall and tower by tower. The smoke and flames were come from two very distinct sources and both were quite dreadful although for very different reasons. The greatest amount of smoke was arising from the water and the harbors, for thousands of boats lay within the burning quays, and the boats were falling upon their sides and were all burning one by one, long and twisting acrid darkness arising about the dying walls. Many of the larger living ships were yfilled with nets cagesque which were rattling from side to side in the mounting flames. The cities themselves like the boats were crumbling and falling upon their sides, the cities that were destroyed in the war by the claws of the Automata, cities which were all iformed of concentric circles and disques and rondures and great circular structure of wall and tessellation, league by league were breaking apart and crashing into the waves themselves. Puîyus came leaping down through the tree and unto another dying patriarchy, and he shuddered with horror to see that within the freezing foam and the bubbling waters that so many dead squids and clams and fishes were bobbling about, even as wall and tower came crashing among them. And yet the burning of the boats and the smoke of the quays was only the lower reaches horror, for the rest of the smoke was streaking high above them all. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye looked upwards and could see that several Dragons were soaring in the heavens, they were not gambolling against each other in play, they were not swimming through the nations of the clouds, they were darting in the skies and breathing out flame. The children were not entire sure whether these were some of the same Dragons that had fought them within the fractal labyrinth, they were not sure whether the Dragons were looking for them, but surely if the Dragons could catch their scent, the Lords of Cloud would not hesitate to come swirling downwards and capture or slay the children who were paramount in Kàrijoi’s thoughts.
Puîyus came sliding down a tree and landed upon one of the outer walls of the city, and even the slight weight of him with the Princess and little Aîya was enough for all of the wall to shake, for dust and ice to break apart from it, and several cubits thereof to begin shattering downwards. Before them they could see that all of the walls and streets of the burg were rustling atramental, some of it was the black of the smoke arising from the living ships, some was the black of the smoke drifting down from the dragons, must most of the black came from the wings and bodies of Ravens who were crowding up and around each other in such numbers untold that they were barely admitting any sight of the corses on whom they held their feast. Thousands of shattered Tánin warriors lay strewn about, their carapaces wedged open, their claws glenting a little in the loergann, shattered swords and spears impalent lying about them, but the Ravens are barely paying the ninjitsu machines any heed at all save to scrap off bits of skin and blood from them, for the banquet lay in the opened helmets and shredded armor of the men who had fought and died in the city crumbling in the waves. The boats continued to burn as they bobbled form side to side, some of the cages were rattling, a steady scream was arising about them all, and a few of the Ravens were spinning around the cages and poking their beaks towards them and when they left the cages they carried in their talons bleeding fingers or blinking eyen or bit of a face, and some of the larger and more adventurous ravens were attacking the cages and whatever lay within. Puîyus came slipping down from the walls, he turned to one side and could hear the march of the Automata, he looked around and saw the Ravens strewn unto all sides, and looking upwards could see the Dragons approaching. Ixhúja came slipping down through a tree and bounding up a few pages leapt o'er a few walls and slipping up unto the top of one looked down and smiled at Puîyus her Twin and Éfhelìnye her cousin from the imperious side of the family.
I win. I won, Ixhúja told them in purrs and giggles. I win, as I always win.
– It wasn’t a race, Ixhúja – Éfhelìnye chanted. – And how was one supposed to guess the ending? –
You just tell me the endpoint and I’ll reach there first.
Puîyus held up an hand for silence, and then let his hands flow and twist about each other and form graceful signs to mean, When honored Fhèrkifher and revered Xhnófho commanded the eggship to take us to Grandfather Pátifhar, the hieratic, weorÞfull Sorcerer might have been in this city or sailing nearby. The Automata have been here, and nothing is left for us here. The Dragons are approaching. We must return to Grandfather Pátifhar. We must leave this place, where soil and grass and trees die. Puîyus looked around, he could hear shreaking arising from the cages, many voices were arising, the sound of feathers and limbs were come, as well as the living ships burning one by one and dragging the cages down into the freezing waters, and the Ravens feasting upon the captives within.
It is a dreadful sound, Ixhúja’s face revealed, she looked from side to side and grew very pale, so pale that a slight violet flush appeared on her cheek. One does not think any of those living ships are salvagible, does one?
Everything in this land is dying, Puîyus turned to Ixhúja to tell her. The Dragons are coming. The Automata trap the way behind us. If we linger too longer.
– What lie within those cages? – Éfhelìnye asked. – Battle must have come swift and terrible, the masters of the ship slain. Are there any wild plantimals in the cages, all I hear is a frightful din. –
One would love to save the wild plantimals, but for once I must concede, for the Dragons are returning for us, Ixhúja looked around and blinked. And those are not plantimals in the cages, they are those who in your Empire are considered fatherless and without caste.
Puîyus held up an hand and spelt out the sign for xhlàwa, for sag̃, lo’tar, mtumwa, for thralls.
– A few of the slaves must be alive, though, is that not so? – Princess Éfhelìnye asked.
Puîyus counted upon his fingers in a sign that a few must be alive.
If you try to open the cages, we shall surely be caught by the Dragons, Ixhúja told her cousin.
– Maybe we can save just a few of them – Éfhelìnye chanted, and she slipped down from Puîyus’ arms and standing up petted Aîya a few times and chanted – There may be some here of her own people. Aîya, would you not have us save some of the Traîkhiim dancers, so meek and gentle? –
– One cannot request anything from the Moon Empress, nor her husband the living Sun – Aîya was saying as she bowed her three heads in deference.
Ixhúja came forwards and although she did not really wish to pressed her hands on Éfhelìnye’s arms to get her attention and told her in gruff purrs and growls, My dearest Éfha, I know that you have certain feelings about the institution of thralldom, but let me tell you this. No matter how much you wish to free the slaves, if we linger here too long and the Dragons capture us, no slave will e'er again be freed. Let us return to Grandfather Pátifhar, let us fight the War he has in mind, there will be glory enough for us all.
– When Puey freed me from the Forbidden Gardens, for the first time I saw the plight of the slave races and their voices I can still hear – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I cannot love tree and flower and love a Traîkhiim slave any less. –
There will always be slaves, my Cousin, one may just call them something else. And let me remind you that among my people all children are classified as jhìrmen machine workers, all children are classified as jhìrmen slaves. There will always be slavery as long as children are born. Even the gentle Traîkhiim are enslaved unto their own tushed Elders, no matter how often they may claim to be acephalous and governless and without institutions. In fact even the Traîkhiim, my lovely Cousin, have been known to enslave wild beasts and even each other, when their Dance just somehow failed to please them.
– Is this true, Aîya? – asked Éfhelìnye.
Aîya shrugged and whimpered – Oops. –
– Then slavery among the Traîkhiim must end also. It is the only way to make the Land pure once again. – Éfhelìnye looked to Puîyus, he was gazing unto the dead trees and the shattering leaves, and then turning back unto the burning cages within the crashing wharves and waves. – What do you think, oh my Puey? – the Starflower Princess asked him.
Puîyus thought for a moment and then turning to the Princesses told them in a language of melancholy blue, All people are slaves, we are slaves to our ancient tradition, we are slaves to our elders, we are slaves to the Emperor, and we are slaves unto death. Every caste is beaten and whipped into submission, thus we disciplined and can learn to serve the Immortals. I have no love for what the Great Races have done unto the slaves, but the issue is irrelevant here. The trees here are dead. But a few of the slaves in the ship may yet live. If we hasten, we may be able to save a few of them, er that we must flee from the Dragons.
It is a futile gesture, my Twin, Ixhúja took Puîyus’ hand and squeezed it. The slaves will never thank you, never even know your name, they will run. The Dragons are turning even now.
– Maybe we can save just two or three – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Puîyus looked around and sniffed the air, and could feel the incence presence of his Ancestors. There was so little time. He nodded to Éfhelìnye. The air was shimmering, a few towers spinning around and collapsing in glories of flame and ice, and within the shadows came the slight outline of a Dragon turning his head from one side to the next.
I shall help you, Ixhúja told them. But I shall not permit you to throw your lives away for slaves. Automata lie beside us. Ravens are to our left and the dead to our right. Dragons swoop down before us, and the old Sorcerer lies somewhere in the death of the land.

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