Aîya reached o'er and slapped Puîyus again. – Sorry. Sorry. Force of habit. –
Princess Éfhelìnye reached o'er and picked up Aîya and held her down in her arms, and smoothed her wings and chanted – I do believe we’re putting an end to this particular game, don’t you think? –
Ixhúja was sitting on her hands, and saying in blinks and glances, Oh, just how irresponsible can one be? What an impulsive creature she is.
– Not to keep bringing up an malworthy and disinteresting subject – Aîya began – and not being impulsive at all I we they can assure you, but must be reminding that we have no food at all in this vessel, at least none that I could find when I ruffled through all of your pockets while you were sleeping, and let me add the Emperorling here has lots of knives and sharp knives and sharp things in his pockets, very dangerous, one may wish to express caution in reaching into his pockets, I think he has snares and traps in there, one could lose a finger-toe, natheless, being foodless yet foodfain, I propose with modest foresight that we go ahead and eat Ixhúja. Now if we cut her up into many pieces there should be enough for us all. Here I’ve made a chart of her. –
Ixhúja scratched her ear and gave her cousin a look that meant, Remind me again why you resurrected her species? What exactly do the Traîkhiim contribute in our holy crusade?
– Now I know you Færie do not eat meat and neither do we Traîkhiim but we may have to become desparite and become parthenóphagoi just like Dragons – chanted Aîya as she drew out a small picture she had drawn with some paper and crayons she had stolen from Éfhelìnye. – Now as can see, we can make sandwiches out of her arms, and I think that her limbs would make a very nice stew. What is that delightful food that you warrior children make out of … what’s the word, tubor fruit … ghoughphtheightteeaus … –
– ?? – Puîyus wondered.
– I slap you! – cried Aîya. – Ah, yes, little potatoes. –
– Do you mean jhikhlèrko, potacos? – asked Princess Éfhelìnye.
– Yes! We make Princess potacos out of Ixhúja. We start a little fire, we can use her clockwork as seasoning, and soon we be cooking her right up. Of course, we can’t eat Puîyos and Éfhelìnye, they the new Emperor and Empress can’t eat them yet, they have to be the Sun and Moon and have their own nest and heal the land. We eat Ixhúja. Why everyone looking at me? – Aîya’s three heads were blinking.
Puîyus lifted up his hands in ritualized mudras of peace, as if to say, Nobody is eating anyone else.
– But what use Ixhúja? Is this because she’s wearing a concubine’s ring on her finger-toe? Aha! Right about you, little Emperor, you been planning on marrying both of them right? Tricky tricky tricky. Fhólus been warning me about you and the Princesses you collect. Probably been kissing Ixhúja behind your bride’s back. Didn’t think I’d notice the ring, did you? –
Ixhúja clasped her hands together and gave Éfhelìnye a look that meant, Is it alright if I slap the little Triîm around alittle?
Éfhelìnye reached into her pocket and drawing out the blackjack tossed it to her Cousin and chanted – Use this. –
– Not the sùlrui! – gasped Aîya.
– Grrrr! – threatened Ixhúja as she waved the bludgeon around.
– Will be good! Promise! Good Traîkhiim! –
– Grrrr! –
– I bet you’d taste delicious, though. A great honor. –
– Little Aîya does have a point though, despite her inanities – Princess Éfhelìnye began. – We are trapped in a small transport vessel veering off into the North, we don’t know how far it can take us and we have no provisions at all. We have a device which is supposed to help us find Grandfather Pátifhar, and we are surrounded by enemies who either want to slay us in my Father’s name or deliver us to our Father to be slain by his hand. We must take stock of the situation. – The Starflower Princess picked up Aîya and set her in Ixhúja’s lap, and that just caused Aîya to wriggled and gasp and squirm a little, especially since Ixhúja was yanking at her necks and tossing the blackjack from hand-then to hand-de with some mock menace unto it. Éfhelìnye was pacing back and forth as best she could inside this confined and ovoid shape, and looking around was at least glad that the dome of the egg was become somewhat transparent and theyc ould see the quays and towers arising untowards them, and the shadows of what had once been cities upon the plains.
Puîyus murmured a little in the language of beasts and told them, Perhaps it would be best if we remained in the egg for the time being, it’s rushing off at quite a clipping speed and will bring us unto Grandfather Pátifhar faster than I can carry you.
You don’t have to carry me, Ixhúja cooed as she brushed one of Aîya’s wellplumed heads, for I can outrace you all the moonphases of the month.
– We don’t know how long this ship will last, though, it may break apart halfway before reaching its goal – Éfhelìnye chanted. – None of us really knows how the Qlùfhem vessels function, let alone this very experimental one which laid an egg it seems just when it was breaking apart. At some point we may have to leave it, the egg may stumble into battle, it may crash, none of us is steering it, and then we’ll be in the ruins below. –
If we adjust the floreal mechanism in the center, Puîyus was saying in barks and whimpers, we may be able to lower the vessel, so that if anything quaad should happen, we won’t have too far to fall.
– Anyone talking about us me them? – asked Aîya.
– … – Ixhúja chanted.
– Just making sure. Can’t be too cautious. Never know, never never knowing. –
Ixhúja drew out a small xhmaôr engraving tool from her girdle and reached o'er towards the florescent column and began to open up the petals one by one to find what she could adjust. The dome of the egg was growing even more transparent, it was no longer like ystained glass but now a clear bubble of flowing light.
– Are there any men still dwelling in the ruins below? – Princess Éfhelìnye asked. – Are we likely to meet bandits and skywaymen, or perhaps soldiers entering ship, and warriors traveling to war. –
Syapàkhya is a very large and ancient continent, Puîyus was telling her in squeaks and purrs, and it reached outwards throughout many dimensions. The south of it lies firmly within the triple viceroy kingdoms of the Qhíng and has been part of that people for time immemorial. The northron reaches of the continent, however, has been home of many different series of civilizations, in a way they have acted as a buffer between the Midlands of the Empire and cold and stern Jaràqtu whose warriors like to remain in their own dreamlands and fight their own battles. In the generations many people have tried to take Northron Syapàkhya, the Qhíng have tried to reclaim it, even mine own people have tried to set up colonies, but the land always rejects them.
– If the Qhíng are down there, the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu will not be far behind – Éfhelìnye was saying. – Now that all of the west has fallen, old boundaries collapse with them. We may end up with one or the other force. We shall need a story, something utterly cunning. – Éfhelìnye thought for a moment and then understanding brightened her face. – I know what will assuage the suspicions of the soldiers! Puey, we’ll just tell them that you and I are newlyweds traveling through barbaric warzones. – She crawled into Puîyus’ arms and began planting big kisses of his cheek. – Ixhúja, we can just tell them that you’re his Sister. Aîya, you can be a guest-friend. –
Puîyus was hesitating and trying to pull Éfhelìnye off of himself, and he was certainly uneager to see that the egg vessel like a wee qlóxoîpa egg cup in its spinning in the air was venturing up unto the ruins and was come unto a quay all ishattered and burnt, and spreading out before them lay the ashes of the walls ofa city.
Éfha, are you even crazier than usual? Ixhúja was asking in some gruff purrs and barks.
– Trust me, my story will work! – Éfhelìnye piped.
First of all, it’s a variant of the same story you tell every time, while you try to pair yourself off with Puîyos and somehow shuffle the rest of us off into the family, and second of all, as everyone keeps reminding you, there are no newlyweds, Uncle Kàrijoi has banned the sacrament, and third of all, Aîya here cannot possibly be a guest-friend, she’ll have to be a slave. And fourth of all, thou’rt a dumbcluck.
– Sometimes Puîyos hesitates – Aîya was saying – cautious, indecision, but he does not hesitate for the quest and death. –
– Pardon? – asked Princess Éfhelìnye.
– Are we going to get to hear about the story most embarrassing or no? –
The egg was spinning upon its side and rushing upwards through the whisps of wind and revealent all around it the shatter’d cities of Syapàkhya, the shadows of the once mighty civilizations that were gespread out throughout this land. The walls and forests together began to wither. Mighty Jaràqtu remained within the North, but still, before it, some of these cities and wharves remained until now the War was come, and blanketing all of the worlds in winter unending.
Yes, we might as well hear the story, Ixhúja was saying in clicks and squawks. There’s nothing else for us to do, the egg travels of its own accord, and we rush faster and further away. So let’s hear it, Íngìkhmar’ Son.
– What story is this? – Éfhelìnye asked.
Puîyos doesn’t want to talk about it, Ixhúja grinned.
It’s nothing, but a trifle, Puîyus was mewling, as he lifted up his hands, and then thinking better of it pressed his hands behind his back. One really should not worry about such things.
Ixhúja turned to Éfhelìnye and barring her teeth muttered in a slithering tounge saying, Puîyus has a little mark on his left hand and refuses to tell any of us how he got it, and his evasion and blushing tells me that it had something to do with you.
– Puîyus’ left thumb jhpartesàxali başparmak does have a few white marks upon it and an extra joint, that’s true – Éfhelìnye chanted. – That comes from a childhood injury ... –
– !! – Puîyus gasped, and hiding his hands behind his back cried out in the language of plantimals, I accidently smashed my thumb in the door when I was very little. Auntie Qtìmine rescued me though and bandaged me up and everything was fine. There’s not much of a story, not at all.
That was not the version which Éfhelìnye had heard, but she remained silent. Ixhúja regarded Puîyus for a moment,and setting Aîya down, she drew her face close to Puîyus’ and gazed into his eyen, and for a moment Puîyus had the uncanny feeling that he was looking back into the gaze of a Dragon, like even Prince Kherènxhuqhe.
You are not quite telling the truth, now are you? Ixhúja wondered. Yes, that wound came about when you were tiny, but this has nothing to do with Princess Éfhelìnye. You are protecting someone, aren’t you? Now who could it be, I wonder … I wonder … you’re protecting Akhlísa, aren’t you? Yes, yes! You blinked! I know it!
I’m right! Ixhúja was the bone to break your thumb.
She was just a baby at the time. She didn’t mean to smash the door on me!
You’re always trying to protect someone else, aren’t you, either a Princess or some golden tressed maiden, oh I think I understand you all too well. Gimme your hand.
– Mew! –
Gimme your hand. Now!
– !! –
– So that’s the embarrassing story? – Aîya asked. – I thought there would be more to it. That’s more a scene, an idea really. –
Ixhúja yanked out Puîyus’ hand and turning it open pried up his thumb and examined it, and saw indeed that when she turned it she could see some almost imperceptible white marks upon it, now especially that she knew where to look, the memories of a childhood accident. Ixhúja grinned and clasped Puîyus’ hand and blinking told him, This is all very interesting of course, and only confirms my suspicion of your tendancies to want to martyr yourself to save a pretty young elbenmädchen. Natheless, this is not the mark that I meant before, the one which you are so embarrassed to mention, and Ixhúja reached out and kept yanking at Puîyus’ left hand khólern palkais, and he struggled against her and tried to draw his damascened sleeve up to cover his hand, but at last Ixhúja reached out and held up the hand and traced a slight line on the side and looking unto Éfhelìnye purred to tell her, this does not appear to be a khmatlhòkima, a ritual scar of blood ablution. I wonder what time of qeqèsqu, what battle cicatrice this could be, oh?
It’s nothing! Puîyus hissed, and he drew his hand back, but Ixhúja just slapped his hand back and drew it out again.
Go on and tell us! I’m family, I can know.
So this did not come from a battle, did it?
Not exactly, Puîyus was murmuring in a language of purrs and flushes, and by now all of his snowwhite face was begin to erupt into little fountains of red, just a few drops of orange spreading outwards, it was as is his face were the surface of a great forest trapped in the snows, and the rustling winds were blowing away the flother and revealing autumnal leaves which were burning crimson red one by one by one.
Oh, now I know the truth, I know that blush, I know you all too well, this is all because of her, isn’t it? Ixhúja looked around and yanking Puîyus’ hand from side to side asked – Are you responsible for this? –
Puîyus yanked his hand aside, thrust it into his sleeve and told Ixhúja, I did it. I fell. I tripped.
Really? What an odd shape for such a mark. Where did you trip?
In the forest.
Um … on a pinecone.
A pinecone tripped you.
Yes, a pinecone tripped me. I was gathering berries for the Princess and I tripped. And that’s the entire story.
Is that so? Did the pinecone just roll out before you?
Yes, the xhnàmethur was in quite an hurry, and clumsy that I am, I just fell o'er it.
Did you land on the pinecone?
No, I could not harm such a creature. I fell on my hand, and left a mark. It’s not much of a story.
I see right through your blushing. Ixhúja glared at Éfhelìnye and blinking asked her, What embarrassing thing did you do to him?
– Nothing! – Éfhelìnye’s voice squealed an octave higher than normal. Ixhúja just laughed. – Nothing at all happed! I don’t know why you assume that I’m guilty of some sort of eccentric scheme gone horribly wrong. – Ixhúja bound upwards and grabbed Éfhelìnye’s palms to examine them but should have known better than to find any scars upon her, her flesh was far too perfect, although she still wore bandages upon her wrists from the stigmata she had received within the labyrinth.
Ixhúja turned to Puîyus and hissing told him, I think you’re taking the blame for something she did, and I wonder what it is. One certainly hopes that one is not drive to some drastic behavior.
Puîyus spread out his hands and told her, It was a giant berry that tripped me when I was gathering the pipecones, berries as big as your head.
You told me you were gathering berries.
Oh. I was gathering berries when the pumpkin tricked and tripped me, the pumpkin as big as your head.
You’re not very good at weaving tales together, now are you? Ixhúja bounced upwards and was grasping Éfhelìnye by her neck and arms drew out a bit of cloth from her girdle, and rustling the cloth aside took out a single feather of the Tùqnu phœnix, which she had been saving all this time. Now tell me what she did, or I start tickling her. Ixhúja brushed the feather against Éfhelìnye’s face.
Puîyus took a step back and blinking told Ixhúja, I have nothing to say.
– I’m not ticklish, you can’t make me talk! Hah hah hah! – Éfhelìnye squealed. – Death before dishonor! I shall never surrender, if I back down in the line of battle, slay me then, do not let me live in shame! Tee hee hee! Stop it, Cousin! –
I shall start tickling your sweetheart in a few seconds, Ixhúja hissed.
No you won’t, Puîyus mewed, and turned his back unto the Princesses. I refuse to believe it.
– This phœnix feather sure is soft! Oh! Hah hah! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
Will you tell?
– I’ll tell I’ll tell I’ll tell I’ll … – Éfhelìnye began, but suddenly Puîyus was bounding through the air, he caught up both Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye in his arms and they rolled about, and so small was the space within the the egg that they were bouncing about the floor and the walls and all the while all three of them were grasping for the feather.
– I have the feather! – cried Éfhelìnye, and she found herself running in a little circle right behind Ixhúja. Ixhúja spun around in the opposite direction and tackled her cousin, but not before Puîyus yanked her aside and clasping the feather in his jaws began crawling up the side of the wall unto the ceiling.
I want that feather! Ixhúja barked.
Puîyus crawled up right above her and shook his head in negation.
Ixhúja smiled. Suddenly she was grabbing Éfhelìnye by her arms, began reaching into her sleeves. One does not actually need a feather whichby to tickle one. Prepare to laugh, Cousin Éfha.
– No! Wait! I’ll talk! I’ll tell you about the mark! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
Aîya came fluttering upwards and grabbed the feather from Puîyus’ jaw and fluttering about shouted – I have the feather! I have the feather! –
Puîyus jumped downwards and picked up Ixhúja who was grasping Éfhelìnye who was tickled and laughing all the while, and they all came collapsing down in an heap. Aîya slowly fluttered down on top of them all and swung the feather about from side to side, but Ixhúja reached up and yanked the feather from the Traîkhaman jaws, and slipped it into cloth and into her girdle.
– I’ll tell you – Éfhelìnye chanted. – It’s easily enough told. I was the one to leave a mark on Puîyus’ hand. It was from an experiment that I was carrying out on him. –
Ixhúja shoved Puîyus aside and looking to her cousin asked her, Yes, you could have just told me, otherwise I would have probably been forced to persue you to the ends of the world for sèkhtete gnismesis.
– Yes, I performed a little experiment on my Puey, and it did not quite work out as I had hoped. –
– Yes, an experiment. –
You experiment on Puîyos?
– Only because I love him. Back when I was dwelling as a guest-friend of his family in Jaràqtu, after a battle I took some samples of Puîyus’ dead skin, I was trying to analyse the composition thereof. –
And that’s how the mark was left?
– Not exactly. –
– I suppose I should tell the story properly. –
Just as long as you get to the embarrassing parts. And get to them quickly before I lose interest. I take it there was probably some kissing and someone surprising you both in the middle of a kiss, and probably Puîyos was trying to struggle out of your arms, et cet et cet.
– Is there going to be a tell? – asked Aîya. – I love the telling. The tushed Qhaôtriim gather themselves together at the edge of the menhirs, and all of the clans gather themselves together, the various children of the Nomothete. The Stars are shining high in the skies, glances of light flowing about the prayer stones tnàrmo and the thùnya cromlechs. Fires are dancing in the torchlights, it is the wilds of the night and we Triîm are unseen by our Kèlor Masters, we can be Pèqlor we can be Traîkhiim as our Ancestors meant for us to be. In the flashing of the torches, in the flickering of shadow and starlight together, we are all one, the four Clans of the Traîkhiim, and the living and the dead are one, our Ancestors come and flutter down with us, the Qhaôtriim sway upwards, firelight upon their rewel tushes, and their eyen are black jewels shining in the darkness. It is time for the telling. –
– I would love to hear the stories that the Elders of your people tell – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted.
– It is telling, but it is living and dancing too. We do not sit in circles about our elders, we bring out drums and beat upon them. Boom ting ting ting BOOM! Boom ting ting ting BOOM! Boom ting ting ting BOOM! The drumbeat khluîs trommelslag begins, it becomes a part of the beating of our heart-gizzards. Boom ting ting ting BOOM! Boom ting ting ting BOOM! We turn, we arise, we dance to the beat. The Elders begin the tell. Some of the Elders are dressed all in flowing beads, and in the torchlight fantastic images are flowing upon them, streams of light, the Elders become like unto water and fire and sand and ice unto us. Some of the Elders arise, they are wearing qyaînga pogo stilt shoon, they walk high among us all, they are like the giraffe and dinosaur and blue unicorn, and we dance small around them. Some of the Elders are draped in the skins of wild beasts, they wear horn and feather and hame, they become like unto squid bison, they are like unto the èntoroi beasts of burdhen walking upon their six legs, and beshaking their long bushy tails, some of the Elders are flowing up and down they look like the tuîxus serpents, their long bills snapping, their eyestalks wriggling from side to side. Some of the Elders don triple masques for their faces, and the masques come alive, headdresses are flowing down their necks, the masques are in the image of Tragedy and Comedy and Romance, the masques are Happy and Whimsical and Melancholy bright, the Elders come outwards in their costumes and we are all dancing around them unto the same drumbeat. Moons arise, all of the moons are turning, they are crescent and horn, they are full and waxing, the moons embrighten all things, the moons become percussion and dance. The tell begins now. –
– I’m not entirely sure that our little episode could possibly be told in such an epic a fashion – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – But I can try. –
– Here, beginning. – Aîya rolled around upon her spherical back, and her three limbs began to pat her belly, and her triple wings were clapping together and forming a slight music all of tang ting ting ting TONG! Tang ting ting ting TONG! – Drumming, that always help the story. –
Ixhúja crossed her arms and raised a single violet eyebrow in skeptacism. Aîya’s heads arose and poked in her generation direction tùntan. Ixhúja sighed. Aîya stuck out her tounges, and one head chanted – Listen here, you silly foreign Princessly type! Drums, they’re the greatest invention that the Traîkhiim e'er made, although I think we borrowed them from someone else, but don’t tell anyone because we never did return them our Ancestors didn’t. Drums bind the people together, our entire society revolves around the dance, and the drums part of that. –
Ixhúja snorted. Are you telling me, little tnoaqteûpa slave, that in all of the thousands of generations from the dawn of time, the greatest accomplishment of your people, from the rising of the moons to the setting of the same, from the death of the Tree of Light unto this present day, the greatest excellence of your volk is the drum?
– Yes. We love drums! Greatest invention e'er! –
That’s disgraceful! Couldn’t you at least add to your credit some form of literature, or a nice pointy weapon, or an invention that no other people imagined but yours did, and now it has spread to all other people, like how the Khnìnthans invented sqìtlho ice skates gladajux and now all other people use them jEwEdryvev? Or how my people perfected the growing of coffee and sugar … drums! Drums!
– The Traîkhiim once dug this really long river, but that’s another story. Oh, I know. My people also invented gloves. Now that’s completely Traîkhiim. We needed something for our foot-hands. Yep. Drums and gloves. Gloves and drums. Of course the Masters make us take them away. Kèlor Masters. All antennæ’d and tendrillar. – Aîya stuck out all three of her tounges and started pounding upon her belly the beat of tang tang ting tong tang tang ting tong.
Ixhúja bound upwards and tossed Aîya aside. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye came leaping upwards to catch her, Aîya was fluttering her wings and bouncing against the walls a few times, but Ixhúja shoved her elbows against Puîyus and tripped up Éfhelìnye, and so slid upwards and caught up Aîya and shaking her by a neck purred and clicked unto her and told her, Do you know what my people have invented? Do you know what our excellence is! We are masters of clockwork and wheel, we understand metal, lava, springs, construction, energy! Our accomplishments have been great, our war machines have marched out and threatened to topple the entire Winter Empire! What has your people accomplished! What! Tell me what! Make that your telling, you little drum-gain slave!
Éfhelìnye slipped up to Ixhúja and wrapped her arms around her and kissed her face a few times and chanted – And we are very happy to have you here with us, you honor me greatly, my Cousin. I think Puey’s feeling a little lonely, do you want him to hold Aîya a little while. –
– Iipa! – cried Aîya.
Puîyus reached outwards and very gently took Ixhúja’s hands and let Aîya fall into his arms. Aîya coughed a few times, Ixhúja had not exactly been harming her, but she was far from gentle. Puîyus kissed Aîya’s faces and wings a few times, and Éfhelìnye took Ixhúja’s hands and gestured her to sit beside her. Ixhúja in Éfhelìnye’s arms was become calm and pliant again, and so all four sate down again.
I still think that clockweyth is a far greater accomplishment than your stupid drums! Ixhúja growled. Just think of how clockwork enlivens toys, it’s part of living ships and motors, I’ve seen it in the trains and trolleys of the Holy City, clockwork is just the best.
Puîyus rubbed his face in Aîya’s wings and blew kisses unto her, and she began to giggle and smile at the kindness of his feel, but rubbing his nose against a few of hers, he just thought that he had to comment on Ixhúja’s technofain predilections. He looked up and mewed in a language of petals and flower and growth, and told her, I don’t like clockwork. Clockwork’s not so great.
Ixhúja just growled in response.
I think we would all be happier without it.
Than how will your trolleys and trains work without it, oh? The precious clockweyth vehicles in holy Eilasaîyanor?
We can all ride dinosaurs, that’s far more fun. I love the feel of the dinosaur as its shoulders move, I love how it’s a living creature and I can care for it and love it.
And your living ships, your great peiratical vessels which you love to sail, to seek adventure and treasure and booty?
One can sail without clockwork, all one needs is wind and the beautiful Stars.
And your toys?
I’ll let Siêthiyal have the toys. She surely does love them. Puîyus looked up, even as he was caressing Aîya and calming her down, and he saw that the clockwork creatures that dwelt in Ixhúja’s hair were all shaking in fear, and kept pointing at Puîyus, and some of them were baring little fangs at him, and a few were fluttering about and opening up their knife wings. Anyway, Puîyus continued to mew, one always has to be careful of it, the Prophet forbade the creation of any Automaton seeking to have a soul, and thus one must smash such abominations on sight. Such is the will of the Immortals.
You stupid little barbarian! You pathetic technophobic little princess-fain nitwit! Ixhúja was growling now, a few of her mechanical insects were spinning all around her in coils and slashing their knives from side to side. Ixhúja was crawling on her hands and knees towards Puîyus and snarling now, her eyen flashing with a dangerous light. You have no idea how ridiculous you sound, here within this alien vessel whose mechanics none of us can even possibly guess, and there you are, trying to be all pious and paternal and protective, and you know the least about these machines! I should thrash you about just on the principal of it.
Princess Éfhelìnye clapped her hands together and chanted – Let’s here the tell now. Ixhúja, I know you’ll love it, Puey gets incredibly embarrassed … – Éfhelìnye tried to tug on Ixhúja’s collar, but Ixhúja just flung her aside and launched herself into the air and grabbed Puîyus by the throat. Aîya was crushed between the two feral children as they wrestled against each other and rolled up and down the sides of the egg. Puîyus shoved Ixhúja aside so that she was no longer attempting to strangle him, but she just ended up kicking him a couple of times, and when he grabbed her legs she slapped him, and when he held her up away from him, she twisted out of his grasp and grabbed his left hand and bit it a few times. By now Éfhelìnye was rushing out and gathering up Aîya in her arms and was not entirely sure what to do, for Puîyus and Ixhúja were throwing themselves about like tigers at play, but when Éfhelìnye saw that the edge of the blackjack lay in Ixhúja’s girdle, she reached out and took it for herself and poked Ixhúja with it on her shoulders a few times and chanted – Down! Down! Enough fighting! Everyone, we’re sitting in a circle now, and we’re having story time. Ixhúja! Sit with me. Sit down. Now! –
Ixhúja slapped Puîyus across the face, and when Puîyus pulled her aside, and Éfhelìnye grabbed her by the waist to hold her, Ixhúja just had to content herself with gnawing upon Puîyus’ hand until she grew tired of it. One certainly hopes that you have lots of children together, Ixhúja spat and hissed at them, one hopes that your children all love clockwork, they love taking it apart and putting it back together again, Puîyos I hope there are machines strewn all throughout your palace, so that night and day you are reminded of the machines that you adore so!
– Puey and I are going to have many children, and I’m sure the odds are that several will inherit some of the mechanical disposition of our family, Ixhúja – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Don’t you want to sit with me? Here, we can wrap ourselves up together in the dreammantle. –
No, I have an even better idea, Ixhúja snarled. She pointed to Puîyus with the finger encircled by the golden ring, and in the language of wild creatures told him, I demand that you become Emperor, and you have to take me as Concubine, and I shall provide you with Daughters and all of them shall be as technophilic as I am, they will marvel you with springs and coils and clocks galore!
– We are not discussing concubinage – Éfhelìnye chanted.
You do want to have children with me, don’t you, Puîyos?
– We’re not discussing this – Éfhelìnye. – This final. –
My children will be very pretty, don’t you think that Puîyos and I will have very strong and beautiful children, all of jacinth and porporate hair?
– Ixhúja. You are done. The last Daughter of the Pwéru has spoken. –
You can be just as patriarchal as he is, you know. In fact, I think you’re far more so.
– Do we get to hear the tell or not? – screamed Aîya. – And nobody poke crush smash choke me us we them please! –
I’ll do what I want to! Ixhúja growled, and several clockwork creatures sprang right out of her hair and swung their claws about in menace. She turned to Puîyus and barred her teeth and told him, So what do you think of clockwork, now? I’m so interested in your fatuous opinion!
Your people invented clockwork. My people perfected the sword. We did not invent, I believe though that the Jaràqtuns invented the macana and māccuahuitl at least, but my Ancestors perfected all of the stratagems and patience and ways of the sword.
– Ooh, good answer – chanted Aîya. – I saw sword cuts clockwork, clockwork punctures drum. My people lose. –
Ixhúja spun around and growled at Éfhelìnye as if to ask, And do you have any opinions you’d like to offer at the moment? At least you don’t want to smash machines on sight.
– I believe that a discussion on the role of technology is far too complex to be summarized so succinctly. Just let it be chanted that the Traîkhiim perfected the drum, the Khnìnthans enlivened clockwork, the Jaràqtuns honed the sword, and my Ancestors, the enlightened Khniîkhans invented theology, music, history, jurisprudence, rhetoric, astronomy, constitution, governance, logic, craft, mathmatics, art, philology, written language, and many other aspects. Oh, and civilization and marriage itself. The Immortals themselves began marriage and civilization with Khriîno and Pfhentókha, the first Emperor and Empress. And so if one wishes to award laurels to the most productive people, it should be to the Children of Khniîkha. But we must not quarrel amongst ourselves. Thou, my beautiful Sister Ixhúja, thou too art of the blood of Pwéru, a Princess descended from Pfhentókha herself, and entitled to all of her lineage. And thou, Puey, as a Færie, art in some wise descended from the first Man and Wife Khriîno and Pfhentókha. And thou, Aîya, as a Traîkhiim, as a Mortal, as a Real Person, art a child of Pfhentókha by fosterage, for all Mortals are considered her children, all of us are part of the same family, the Divine Family of Áme, the family that encompasses all Mortals, all of the House of Pwéru, all of the Suns and Moons and Light itself. And so let us embrace each other. – Éfhelìnye opened up her arms. – Don’t you want an hug? Let’s hug. Come on, Ixhúja. Just one hug. Please? Pretty please? –
Ixhúja smiled. Éfhelìnye smiled. Ixhúja spread out her arms. When Éfhelìnye hugged her she was a little surprised at how warm and loving the hug was, that is until she felt a certain phœnix feather tickling her all about. Éfhelìnye shreaked in laughter, and Puîyus had to yank Éfhelìnye apart, and he pulled the feather away from Ixhúja, despite protestations howlent, and he put the feather in his sark and buttoned up his jerkin.
– That was a false hug! A pseudoembrace! You hugged me under false pretences! – Éfhelìnye cried.
– Tee hee hee hee hee! – Ixhúja laughed.
– That’s not funny! It was a trick hug! –
– Hah hah hah hah hah! –
– You’ve hurt my feelings! –
– Hæ hæ hæ hæ hæ! –
– I’m not going to cry. Not going to cry … not going … to … to cry! – Éfhelìnye began to whimper.
– Heh heh heh heh heh! –
Éfhelìnye shook and cried a little, and Puîyus wrapped his arms about her to comfort her, and Aîya spread out her wings around both of them, and Ixhúja just howled in laughter, until tears of joy fell from her eyen, and at last her sides were hurting, and she rolled from side to side about the walls of the egg and fell upon them all.
– Not very nice at all – chanted Aîya. – I only threaten to throw them out of the ship to save my own life, but you fake hugger. False hugs worse than throwing someone out of ship or losing in labyrinth or throwing towards a blue unicorn. –
Ixhúja wiped some tears aside, she was not about to apologuise because she was not sorry in the least, in fact she found both Puîyus and Éfhelìnye to be comical in their own way, her cousin especially so, but she did not like the idea of deliberately hurting someone, even one as insipid as Éfhelìnye could be. Ixhúja sniffled a few times and sate down and blinking told them, I’ll be good. Let’s hear the story.
– Yeah, hear the story – chanted Aîya.
– It’s a silly story – chanted Éfhelìnye.
Tell it anyway, Ixhúja murmured.
– Do I get an hug? –
– Not even a little one? –
If you don’t tell your story, I’ll punch you.
– Oh. –
Ixhúja sighed, she was already regretting this. She got up and gave Éfhelìnye the least possible amount of hugging, but so overjoyed was Éfhelìnye at this prosper that she flung her arms about Ixhúja and crushed her and cried out – I love you so much! I love you this much! Oh my favorite cousin, Ixhúja, far nicer than our cousin Blorp, he was nasty, but you I love so much, oh my golden, dearest Ixhúja! –
Ixhúja gagged at this display of affection and haptic nearness, and somehow managed to slip aside, and so Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja sate down together, and Aîya spun around, her triple wings clapping together, her limbs patting her belly, a soft drumbeat beginning, and here in a world of snow and ruined cities and ice quays, Éfhelìnye pressed her hands together and tried to think of how to begin her story.
– And so the tell begins now – Aîya chanted, the drumbeat burgeoning about them boom ting ting ting BOOM! Boom ting ting ting BOOM!