Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Now Everything Gets Scary Again

Most of the living ships were far beyond repair and use and recognition, they were long and twisting slabs of metal and bone, and as they were burning in the harbors all of the walls and gunwail and railings of the living ships were breaking apart and falling into the dying waters. Most of the living ships were upon their sides, at least those which had not already been whelved, bits of burning solar sail were floating upon the waters, dead fishes and squids were choking the ropes and chains that held the solar sails together. One by one the towers of the living ships were breaking apart, in dust and flame they were crashing downwards and hitting the sides of the quays which themselves were shattering and breaking apart into the waters. Upon some of the higher qòxhoxhi kokhlías of the vessels the cages were swaying from side to side, barbs of precious iron and whicker holding within masses of wing and claw. Most of the tùtye the osyrga had already fallen into the dying waters and were sinking into the darkness, the slaves reaching outwards and gasping their last, some of the cages themselves were burning, a few stray wings and paws reaching outwards, fur and flesh catching aflame and the thralls screaming out. Many of the cages were partially opened, but this worked not unto the benefit of the miserable tyaqája within, rather this permitted the ravens to rip open the roof of the cages and flood themselves within, and the Ravens were attacking the already weakened thralls within. Every few moments a Raven would poke its head out, smears of eye and skin and face upon its beak, and sometimes a few stray wings and paws would punch out from the bars and try to strangle the Ravens that were feasting upon them alive, but the Ravens were come in too great a number, and the slaves were already weak from depravation. One by one the Ravens were darting into the cages and even into the cages that were partially burning, and as the Ravens swooped down into the flames their feathers became living sheens all of golds and reds and crackling lengths of halo light, the Ravens were all become like unto Tùqnu the phœniξ Firebird, long trails of lava and light burning off from the edge of their wings. By the time the children came running o'er several more crumbling walls, and wheeled about some statues of men which were completely covered in dead warriors and Ravens feasting upon them, they could see that they were already too late to save most of the slaves, all of the living ships were sinking, they were become like unto painted lanthorns sparkling one by one as they fell into the cold choking waters, and the Ravens were feasting even upon the living and gorging themselves upon the plenty which Lord Kàrijoi the Qhixieqúra Winter King was providing as a banquet for them, and the sounds of the burning cages and slaves was terrible to hear.
Puîyus spun around at once and threw Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja several paces away from him. Éfhelìnye landed upon her hands and knees, Ixhúja rolled about a little and came bouncing upwards, and was about to start punching her twin in anger for handling her in such a fashion, and she only paused for a moment when Aîya came fluttering somewhere right before her and her wings were fluttering in several directions and gasping. Puîyus came running towards the maidens while all before him several walls of stone and statuary and bricks were arising, the very walls themselves were cresting upwards as a great wave just about to crash upon the shore, and flowing upwards at the face of the wave bits of frost and dust were spilling outwards, all of the land of this area about to reach upwards in a tremendous crash. Princess Éfhelìnye at once understood that Puîyus was just trying to bring her and her cousin to safety and decided not to argue with him in the least but to run as swift as her balletic feet could take her. Ixhúja snarled and swung her sword about, but in the end snatched up Aîya by one of her necks and turned to run also, although all the while she kept turning her head back and giving Puîyus little angry glares at his attempt to protect her, but she kept bounding away faster and faster, all of the ground beneath her breaking apart, the wave of city materials bursting upwards behind her higher and deeper and faster all the while, she knew that Puîyus was only trying to protect her, his thoughts were turned unto jàkhtaxei, póxirowuráwau, pwepurltàlrafhiet, unto paternalism and filial piety, and even the harsh warriors of her homemoon would have done the same, but it irked her so the way he kept putting her life before his own as if he did not recognize just how unique he truly was. Ixhúja shook her head in anger, she did not think that even Éfhelìnye understood that whether in the Winter Patriarchy or in the Clockwork Heresy that there has never been a lad like unto Puîyus, Íngìkhmar’s Son and there may never be another one again. Éfha has no idea of who he is and what he can do, she understands him least of all, she knows some stories about him and thinks that she knows his feelings, she can barely understand herself let alone him whose mind is like mountain and lava and feather and music. All she can see is his pretty face and lips and eyen, she thinks that a few hugs are all she needs to know, she has no idea that he is a wild creature, not even a dinosaur captured and brought unto the pen, not even the fiercest of all dinosaurs the tnenèsoxha typhoonasauros rex, not he is more like me, a dæmon trapped in the body of a child, and no Princess can possibly hope to change him. She spun around and saw now that the waves of frost and city debris were arising many storeys tall and were now drawing into themselves entire walls and a few shattered living ships and thousands of bodies of the dead, and that Puîyus was having to slid up the side of the great wave and steady himself up with one arm, and he held up the Emperor’s sacred Eilwiyusàrtyai sword in his other palm, the debris was cresting upwards, towers upon towers upon towers, and huge fangs were appearing within it, and long and barbed wings that were sparkling with the tips of claws, and long and undulous patterns that kept turning and revealing heads tipped in glowing eyen that were like unto the flames of so many tlhùfhya lighthouses masu·ha’zehl·kel, the Dragons splashing labyrinthine within the growing waves cresting cresting cresting all the while. Puîyus natheless was just bounding upwards and somehow finding foothold even as all of the ground buckled and coiled, and splashes of tower and bone and corses and death arose, and when the wave of miqtum finally reached its hight he came spinning upwards high into the air with all of his might and soared upwards, the waves dashing downwards, entire palisades and garths of the city exploding and crashing behind him, and he flew outwards and took Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye by the shoulders and spun outwards, explosions of frost and ice and a Dragon arising somewhere behind them all.
Upon some of the crosswalks that were falling into the dying seas, Puîyus came rolling outwards, and the Princesses with him. Éfhelìnye sprang up and ran up to help Ixhúja to her feet, but Ixhúja just swung her fists at her cousin a couple of times rather than accept help. Puîyus looked around and sniffed the air. The crumbling pathways before them were completely ystrewn with Ravens feasting upon the dead, all of the ravens were caked with bits of gore flowing from them, blood flowing from their eyen and beaks, a few of the ravens were ripping up shreds of skin and threads of sinew and looking upwards and glancing at the children and then returning to the banquet set aside for them. Well indeed were virtuous warriors yclepte ravenfeeders, they harvest for the coming Ravens. Puîyus looked down to his tartan sash, in his anger at his Mother’s wraith he had hurled unto her most of the runes and regalia of the bellicose Clan of the Sweqhàngqu, but he had kept unto himself the fhùnyu, the symbol of his totemic plantimal, for when Puîyus had been taken and cast out into the wilderness and wandered in the desert and walked upon Aoqhàpro as was the custom of his people, he had prayed unto the Ancestors to reveal unto him which of the wild plantimals were to be his fhùnyu. Íngìkhmar’s was the lion, and Jàkopar had been the brock, and the warriors of his Clan had often beheld dinosaur or aurochs or squid bear or any of the terrible and fierce creature that dwell within the wilds. And yet when Puîyus had come unto the end of his journey and gazed upwards, he had seen the one beast which no mortal is permitted to take as his totem, the creature which is sacred, untouchable, whose feathers may only be worn by the sylvan priests and especially at sacrifice, the creature which off of death, the Raven itself. And yet Puîyus could not disobey the path that his Ancestors had set before his feet, and when he returned from the desert and came unto the Elders and revealed unto him what he had beheld, their nodded and stroked their long beards, and placed their hands on his shoulders and were far less concerned with beholding the Nightmare than he had been. Íngìkhmar carved the image of a Raven and set it upon Puîyus’ sash. Well has Íngìkhmar hight this lad Tsiîkh Tsiîkher Tsiîkheil Tsiîkhiqan Tsiîyeil Tsiikhèrkhmair, the Little Raven, and such he will be unto the doom of his enemies.
Ixhúja took a couple of swings at Éfhelìnye and then spilling up between the two Princseses arose Aîya, her wings flapping from side to side, her beak poking up and down and she cried out in a voice loud enough to attract the Ravens and disturb them a little from their feast of gushing blood and guts – Eiya! Eiya, friends! You forget someone question? You forget someTriîm question? You left someone behind! You left someTriîm behind! You left some-me behind! –
Ixhúja stuck out her tounge as if to say, I was holding you most of the time.
– Hold or strangle or? Typical! Typical! Nobody remember poor Aîya. She they just child of the Dead, just another Pèqlor dancer. Quite forgettable Aîya xhnípeyèfhto khlothareqhèyejikh, ‘ayya’’e’ lIjlaHbe’bogh vay’ quite quite quite! Ow! Why you keep punching me question! –
Ixhúja just shrugged.
– Little Emperor, he all concerned with his future wives. No one at all concerned about poor little defenseless Aîya. On the verging of tears. Just about to cry. Oh, feel not sorry for me. Just, the utter lacrimation of it all! –
– Nobody is forgetting about you, Aîya – Éfhelìnye chanted as she reached out to stroke a few stray feathers.
– Yes you are! Ouch! Punchment not funny! –
Ixhúja made a face in Aîya’s general direction.
– And Aîya, I want you to know that only I shall become Puey’s wife. Ixhúja will always be a part of our family, but Puey shall have only one bride for all of his life, one who to cherish and nurture and protect and … Ixhúja, are you going to keep making such silly gurns? –
Ixhúja nodded.
– Family structure of you aliens just so inscrutable, you ridiculous aliens – Aîya was muttering unto herself. – I still say he they the Emperor end up with whole nest of consorts. I think the tushed Elders of your own people already picking the pebbles and setting up the feathers and brushing out the snow before the nest they build up for you. –
Puîyus held up his hand and was walking now into the gathering of the Ravens. He kept turning back, within the crash and flex and susurration of stone and frost and bits of city crashing about, in the mixing bramble of leaf and dead tree and death soil, at least one Dragon was crawling behind them, even as several more Dragons were swooping downwards through the heavens. The pathway before them all was crowded with the feasting ravens and the bodies that lay open before the aurelian beaks. Slowly Puîyus bowed down to show the Ravens honor, for after all they were sacred birds and considered untouchable save by the priests and the holy Pwéru and the Dead of course. As he bent down a thousand Ravens turned their faces towards him to watch him, he gathered up an handful of dust and cast it in the directon of the fhuîn the ravenharvest pagrum, and at the falling of the dust the Ravens gnawed and squawked and flapped their wings in dark anger. Puîyus took a few steps towards them, the Ravens were gazing upwards, their eyen were bright blue flames, merciless and cold. Puîyus signaled unto Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja to follow after him, he and Éfhelìnye held hands as they came froward. The Ravens parted just a little before them, for after all the Ravens flutterent all the while could see in the eyen of Puîyus and of Ixhúja that these children were indeed the offspring of the thought of Our Heart Raven, and so they were akin in a fashion. But the Ravens were not parting any more than they had to, for as the chidren took a few steps, the Ravens just swirled up and fell down behind them and continued to rip out the skin and hair and eyen of the fallen dead. Several Ravens were fighting of a long string of bleeding intestines that they had ripped from the bravest of men, and when Éfhelìnye saw that she covered her mouth and turned away. Puîyus kept his sword drawn, some of the Ravens kept turning their sky eyen towards the Princesses, and he liked that look not in the least. Ixhúja was swinging from side to side, she was practically dragging Aîya by one of her necks, and the Traîkhiim was muttering and flapping her triple wings and bobbling from side to side in an attempt to remain upright. Puîyus came walking right up to the Ravens fighting o'er the strings of intestines, several long splashes of tinsel were they ripping out from a man’s gut, the Ravens were quite eager to disembowel their prey. Puîyus spun his sword around and slashed it right through the string of intestines, and the Ravens scattered for a moment and then came swooping downwards, each Raven taking up a smaller piece rather than fight each other for it. Puîyus was not eager to have any wild creature scramble and fight for food especially when the worlds were so brimming with plenty, and even qùkhon scavengers that were birds of mal-omen, even those which on khyèka carrion feasted, even they deserved to live with dignity, he thought. Several more Ravens were ripping open the belly of a man and ripping out liver and gut. Puîyus thought back unto the lessons he had been given on how to disembowel a man, it was quite an effective technique in gutting a man apart, if one could reach so close unto him without being struck by javelin and fansword. It was really just a matter of strength and in understanding how to leverage pieces of pulsating living anatomy, one just had to know where and how to thrust the dirk or sword right into the flesh, cut upwards and around, to let the intestines spill outwards in growing clouds of heat and steam and blood, and without flinching rip them all out. Puîyus could not remember exactly when he had first disemboweled a man, he thought it must have been in the same year when he was first armed as a warrior and used to ride in his Father’s chariot and chase down the bandits that were hiding in the forests among the great and ancient plantations, he remembered capturing men and lopping their heads off with ease, but then later learning that it terrified them far more to pounce upon them and let them feel and witness as he sliced their guts open. It was always a good feeling to capture and punish tyìru qlaêkh skywaymen, they operated just at the edge of the law, they preyed upon the weak, and in slaying one, one knew that one had become pure and helped those who could not help themselves. Puîyus cut through a few more steaming strands of guts so that the Ravens would stop fighting one against the other. Éfhelìnye was hiding her face against Puîyus’ chest rather than look upon the splagmata and blood and the Ravens themselves, and Puîyus just held her with one arm while he kept his sword out with his other arm. He knew that she could never quite understand the pár Jaraqtuyùlkha, the Way of the Sword, she did not understand what it took to track and find and slaughter the enemy and yet still be able to survive the journey home and not let any of that horror appear on one’s face. Perhaps this was better then, she did not need to know about all of the men whom he had seen slain in battle. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa understood, they had been brought up in a land whose only craft was the persuit of warfare, they knew what lurked behind the eyen of the sons and brothers and fathers of their homeland. But even this little amount of blood was enough to concern Princess Éfhelìnye. Puîyus by now was bringing her into the very center of the riotous feast of blood and feathers, some of the Ravens were arising and snarling one against the other, they were spinning upwards and sloughing down gore and blood was betipped upon their feathers. Puîyus looked around, the Poet Warrior, the Knight’s only Son, several of the Ravens were looking upwards, the blood shimmering down their wings was sparkling and changing, the blood was no longer thick and sticky and congealing, it was cascading off of their feathers like unto water, the Ravens were grinding their beaks together, their long talons were scraping against each other in rage, and the eyen of the Ravens were turning one by one unto the children and the Traîkhiim who were trespassing into their feast. Some of the Ravens were already springing upwards, their wings living phœnix flames, while other Ravens were become like unto mist and bubbles and gasses drifting upwards. The bulk of the Ravens remained within the ghastly feast, in gnawing and rending and tearing and bleeding, the bodies continued to bleed, the dead were pouring out from them more blood than they could have possibly contained in life, but still the Ravens arose and were swirling around the children, and terrible was the sound of the clicking of their tounges clycksōn clycksōn clycksōn. Puîyus held the Emperor’s sword before him, his own eyen were as bright and stern as the Ravens, he had always been told that the reason he had been given the corvid names of Tsiîkh Tsiîkher Tsiîkheil Tsiîkhiqan Tsiîyeil Tsiikhèrkhmair was because of the color of his eyen tsòrptu Raven blue. The ravens blinked a few times as they approached him, their wings were beating, a slight rainflother of blood was dripping down from teir feathers, and they came right untowards the Princess that Puîyus held in his arms.
Of a sudden the Ravens wroth arose. Puîyus spun around. Some of the Ravens were darting out of the mist of blood and darkness and aiming themselves right untowards Éfhelìnye the Starflower Princess, the only offspring which the Moon Empress had given the worlds as he final gift. Puîyus swung his sword around in an effort to dissuade the Ravens from their course, but they were alright nigh hand. He set the sword aside, it would be immoral to slay these sacred birds, but it was quite permissible to make them suffer. He punched the nearest of the birds across the face with enough force that woud have shattered the necks of the mightiest of men, he grabbed one Raven by the beak and yanked it back, and suddenly the Ravens were all darting untowards Éfhelìnye and screaming all the while, and Puyus was punching and grabbing and yanking at them so swift and terrible and falling down about him arose piles of the dazed and bleeding Ravens, he had to wade through them, still the Ravens were coming in such numbers, but he permitted not a single bloodcaked feather to touch the face of dearest Éfhelìnye. Ixhúja was gazing at the Ravens koaqing qháru in religious fear and dread, for even one from the antipodean dreamlands knew that these were holy birds which one could only touch in an extreme. Puîyus was arising and punching the birds and hurling them aside, Ixhúja graspt Aîya close unto herself and looked from side to side and was prepared to fight if the holy scavengers came against her, but Puîyus was so swift and terrible that he was striking and punting and beating down the Ravens, always careful not to slay them, always certain to shatter their senses. Puîyus kicked against one Raven and bit against the passing wing of another while catching several more with his free hand and hurling them against the tidal walls, but now the numbers of the korakes was so great that he could not possibly hope to fight them in such a manner as not to slay them all, at least not without endangering either of the Princesses. At once he spun upwards like a whirlwind fhìstair ehquetzalcōātl, he punched aside several eleven Raven and kicked others down at once, and in the same mounting and graceful movement he plucked up Ixhúja and concomitant Aîya, and soon Puîyus was dashing high within the air. The Ravens were spinning upwards in long and winding tendrillar flocks and were caw caw cawing all at the same time, Puîyus was having to fly among them all, when the Ravens came darting right untowards him he had to leap right on top of their wings and beaks and push himself right off of them, he used them like little diamond islands and lonely torquated planets high in the ætherclad skies, the Ravens were now coming in such great numbers that Puîyus was almost having to climb among them all in complicated trice-dimensional patterns. Some of the Ravens were just hurling themselves against his arms, some of the Ravens snarling and screaming all the while, blasts of wind and froth and blood dripping down from them, were able to slam themselves against Éfhelìnye’s dress, a few of them were landing right upon Ixhúja’s back and trying to dig their claws into her, but Qìfhte and the rest of the mechanical insects were spinning upwards and slapping the Ravens as best they could, for the wihts of clockweyth were under no qheîxha tapu not to slay the Ravens if they could, although the insects only managed to poke and slap them a few times. Thousands upon thousands of Ravens were now orbiting about the Children, and Puîyus had to fly upwards higher and higher still until he was leaping right upon the heads of the very patriarchs of the flock, he came unto the very summit, the Ravens were spreading outwards untowards him, several of the greatest of the Corvi were spinning around him snarling and spitting all the while the Ravens arising in greater and greater numbers, the Ravens swirling about them and landing about their hair and faces and plucking against Aîya’s wings, the sanguine gore splattering breath of the ravens heaven upon the Children, the Ravens landing upon Éfhelìnye’s shoulders before Puîyus could manage to punch them aside, the Ravens spinning around Ixhúja and biting her fingers, the Ravens snapping right towards Puîyus and admiring the hyacinth of his eyen the hræfn hrafn korb kóraks agŕav erroi gavran bran garvan corb wūyā krkavec ravn raaf korvo korako kaaren ronk korp akpaviã ravnur korppi corbeau corvat corvo carnazal Rabe Kolkrabe kórakas koráki holló krummi gagak besar fiach dubh corvo watari-garasu oo-garasu corf corvus krauklis kranklys Raav’ wron rapak għarab dome-kāvllā ravn còrb kruk corvo corb cov grond kakarchi kakarchika voron gáranas bulddogas garjá corbu crobu fitheach harvan krkavec krokar vran cuervo korp kuzgun kruk rapak cigfran ravens.
– What delicious eyen – one of the Ravens whispered to his brother as he jabbed it in the wing. – Don’t you think our Master’s Son has such pretty eyen? –
– Too quaad we were robbed of our last opportunity to rip out his eyen and feast upon them. –
– Delicious eyen, we just want a little taste. –
– Right or left? –
– I take right, you take left. –
– What heavenly eyen! When shall the feast begin! –
Puîyus grabbed a couple of the offending and chit chit chatterent Ravens by the throat and smashed them together, blurs of feathers arising and fading away in great clouding glories. But the Ravens still continued to descend, a few more Ravens landed upon Éfhelìnye’s shoulder and rubbing their wings against her ear turned to whisper unto her saying – Say, holy cælestial divine happy Princess! May we have a word with you? –
– PUEY! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
– Oh don’t fret him yet! – another Raven chanted as he hopped upon her other shoulder. – He’s busy strangling the rest of us. We just have a little proposition for you. –
– Perhaps you should listen a little, oh? – asked a third Raven. – We know you little ones have survived quite a lot. You survived the Empress’ Cenotaph, very creepy. And the warzone with those Xeriîqe reptent about, very parlous, very brave of you. –
– And we applaud what you did with those pesky Unicorns and Dragons – the first Raven chanted. – Believe me, even we Ravens find Dragons to be trouble. So big and unpredictable and dangerous, they’re more trouble than they’re worth! What the Emperor sees in them one cannot possibly guess. –
– So bravo for surviving that all! – the second Raven chanted as it hopped about Éfhelìnye’s shoulder. – Congrats all about. If we had some sort of Nightmare Tetlhíjheqáje, a Cross of Valor, we would award it unto you-de. But we don’t. But we do have a certain idea, and you may find it interesting. –
– We want Puey’s body – the third Raven chanted. – We wish to eat his eyen, they are the sweetest of candies that we can imagine. His hair, his face, we just want to dig our beaks into his body and start ripping him into delicious shreds. But we know you probably have some silly affection for him, so we’ll settle for something less and let you go. –
– PUEY! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – The Ravens want to eat you! –
– That’s quite obvious – chanted the first Raven. – But that may be more trouble than it’s worth. So, we’ll let you go if you let us eat your Sister here. She is the most scrumptious maiden we’ve e'er seen. Have you seen her eyen? –
– Rip out her eyen! – cried the second Raven.
– Suck out her eyen! – cried the third Raven.
– We shall feast upon her skin and lungs and entrails – the first Raven chanted. – And we’ll let you go. Honestly, this agreement benefits you greatly. –
– We all know she’s trouble. –
– We can see it in her eyen. –
– The troublesome side of the family! –
– She’s undermining you! Her thoughts are alien, cold, like wheels and gears. –
– She wants to be wed to your sweetheart. –
– Intollerable! – all of the Ravens chanted together.
– Just give us your Sister – the first Raven chanted. – And you and Puîyos can escape. –
– We’ll even throw in the slave, gratis! – the second Raven chanted. – And you can run away and have your own little adventure away from us. –
– Go and mourn and weep for your Sister, even though it will all be for show – the third Raven chanted. – More trouble than she was worth, happily discarded, let us eat her up, and you and what’shiseye can go and live your happy little ending. –
– And we won’t even try to eat you or your sweetheart in the future! We’ll even forgo trying to eat your children! Isn’t that generous of us! Your unborn children, we shall not devour them alone and forgotten upon the battlefield. –
– You do want to have children, don’t you? Lots of little ones? Children whose faces will remind you of your husband whom you shall love. –
– Have you e'er held a little baby in your arms? –
– No, never – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I have held kittens and dinosaurlings. –
– We they not so squirmy and adorable? Did you not just love them? Think of how a little child will feel in your arms, think of how warm and loving you will feel. –
– But you’ll have to get rid of Ixhúja, Raven’s Daughter. She stands in your way. Who knows what burns within her mind? She’ll try to have herself wed unto Puîyos, she wants to be his Concubine, she wants to be the oldest sister in his harīm. –
– But we shall not permit that, shall we? –
Puîyus was busy smacking and beating and poking against the swirls of Ravens all about him, and he was too busy to notice the Ravens hopping about Éfhelìnye’s shoulders and dancing before her face, their wings all glistens of khrèmina sable bäadik, great growing clouds of feathers flowing about them all, and Ixhúja and Aîya were quite occupied at the moment, Aîya was screaming and ducking her heads and trying to become as small and inconspicuous as possible, and Ixhúja was snarling and batting against the Ravens that came too close against her, and still the Ravens were come and drifted about Éfhelìnye, and their wings were become like shells and fossils and the seabeds of old, they were arising and flapping and descending about the Starflower Princess all the while.
– You know this to be true – the Ravens were whispering into Éfhelìnye’s ear. – Qìtien the Acolyte thought he was doing the right thing in enscribing her name upon the ring on her left hand. But you know you cannot permit her to be wed unto your one true love, your thepliêxing. But Ixhúja will ruin it all. You can already imagine it, we can see it inside your eyen, the terror of the future before you. Oh, you are quite afraid of your Father, the Winter and Extinction fill you up with the greatest of all Raven Nightmares, just look at the devastation about you, the death of tree and soil, entire cities crashing into the waves ychoked with ichthyosaur and fish, that causes your heart to shudder in terror, and yet even worse than the prospect of your Father winning the War is the idea that you and Puîyos shall survive. –
– I grow weary of your duckprating, lwátsi – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– For what will you do if you survive? What future can you have together? Puîyos only has a single skill, that of endless battle and the glory of warefare. You have no uxorial qualifications at all save for some vague and childlike affection for him. And the Elders of the Land, you know this to be true, will not permit anything to change if your Father is toppled down from the welkin. You will not have a say in your future. Someone dynamic, vibrant like Ixhúja may try to seize the days to come. Do you wish to fight a dishonorable civil war against her? Do you want to send Puîyos out again to fight against whatever clockwork allies she can find surviving the end of this age? –
– Or even worse – the Ravens were saying as they slipped right up unto Éfhelìnye’s ear – Ixhúja will want to be part of Puîyos’ harem. Imagine the strife between your children and hers. Imagine the fight for the throne that all of the princes whom Puîyos will sire on his concubines will wage one against the other, each of them contending to be the next Lord of Earth and Sea and Sky. –
– Unless of course you wish to grab the future for yourself – the Ravens were whispering. – Take it with open hand. Make the days to come what you wish them to be. Throw Ixhúja unto us. She shall not suffer as we rend her into pieces. And you will not have to worry about her trying to steal Puîyos’ affection from yourself. –
– Give her to us, give her to us, let us have her, oh Empress of tomorrow, and you will be left Ixhújayèlwil for all the rest of your days … – so the Ravens were arising and turning and hissing, their wings flapping from side to side, and their eyen were all turning unto the Princess and the Raven eyen were become identical unto the jacinth eyen sorm modheros of Princess Ixhúja of the mechanical worlds of Khnìntha.
Princess Éfhelìnye, the last of the dynasty of the ancient and hieratic and thrice-honored Pwéru, turned unto the Ravens, her eyen were bright and clear suŋauraaq indanthrene and unreadable unto the birds which were ecformed from the thoughts and nightmares of Our Heart Raven. She gazed unto the Ravens for a few moments, sparkles of green and wave and sea in her glent, and she told the Ravens – Puey and I only make a single alliance, whether we meet with the Qhíng Lords of the Bridges of Qthantònthe or the Hegemons of Xhlaîra or even the Dragons that were crawling through the fractalescent labyrinth that grew upwards about me. You may surrender unto us both, perfect and unconditional and hope that Puey will show you mercy, or you may contend against us, and we shall destroy you, tred you down beneath our wooden shoon and ballet slippers, and we smash the images of you and efface your names from all of the stellæ and tablets and obelisks, and you shall only be remembered as part of the story of Puey and the Princess but have no story of your own. –
– So, that’s a no? – asked the Ravens.
– You may not harm my Sister Ixhúja, she is of the holy blood of the Tnún. –
– Then, oh d̀igubina , aîPìprajer, Daughter of the Fallen Star, be it unto thee according to thy word – and at that the Ravens were arising, they were spinning upwards in greater and greater patterns, they were a vast and living storm all of feathers and blood and screaming avians luathan archæopteryces, and Puîyus was now having to battle against them in brilliant feathers and horrors greater than he had forseen, he was leaping upwards about the flying Ravens and having to use their backs and heads and wings in such numbers so as to keep them all afloat, all things were growing dark, the Ravens spinning around and attacking all three of the children now, beaks and blood and feathers all around them.
And then all at once the heavens were opening, a long and opening skyways of flames were licking outwards, greater and greater tendrils of fire and light were reaching outwards, tidal plasma dripping down, and the Ravens were darting away so that the Dragonfire did not touch them, but they did not stop in the least in their attack against the children. Several Dragons were swooping downwards within the welkin, their labyrinthine necks were undulous from side to side, their eyen were achromatic and sparkling, their jaws were opening and belching out fires in growing webs from side to side, the Dragons were become all of the rooftop as if they were dividing the heavens to claim them all for their own, and the Ravens were the next layer as they swirled about the children and were grabbing them by their feet and legs and shoulders, the Ravens tugging upon the children and dragging them down, the Ravens were a great and growing ocean of darkness branching upwards to suck the children down, their beaks snapping all the while in their attempt to rip off finger and nose and eye, all things growing darker and darker in the darkness visible susùxhwi.
All at once Éfhelìnye could feel that the strong and warm arm that held her was slipping away from her. Several Ravens were slapping themselves against Puîyus’ shoulders and prying his arm away from her. Several other Ravens were opening up their talons and beginning to crawl upon Puîyus’ face, they were licking their beaks in anticipation of feasting upon the lad, and Ravens were already pecking at his ears and crawling upon his arms. The Ravens were coming in such numbers that they were obscuring Éfhelìnye’s view of Ixhúja and Aîya, the wings of a rising and growing curtain. Éfhelìnye screamed out several times, she could feel the Ravens grasping her ankles, and this just reminded her of how much she disliked being touched, at least by those who were not her Puîyus, especially those who were otherworldly wihts, she was struggling from side to side, and feeling the Ravens’ completely covering her arms she realized that she had been pulled away from from the Boy of her Dreams. She was spinning around on her side and now upside down, the Ravens were throwing her from side to side and catching her by neck and wrist and ankle and now throwing her into the growing darkness, the flocks become all of the clouds, the crumbling city beneath her sinking into the sea. She cried out, but her voice was lost upon her lips as the Ravens smacked against her face again and again. She was falling and could no longer even determine up and down, and everything was just becoming darkness and death.
When Éfhelìnye was conscious again, she was lying on her side partially upon stone and partially in the water, and all of the ground about her was breaking apart and sinking into the sea. She had to struggle to crawl upwards, all around her towers were breaking apart and crashing into the waters one by one, and the air was thick with the acrid agonies of the boats burning, the living ships sinking, and the cages of the slaves falling into the waters one by one by one. She sniffed. She tasted blood, and wiping her face realized that her lip had burst open. For a moment she panicked, she had no idea how much blood she had lost nor in how many places she had been cut, but as she sate up she saw around her a pool of blood larger than her head. She reached for a kerchief and wiped her face, and to her horror was just rewarded with the khnút ŋaŋgid̀a completely dripping red and pink. She wiped her face several more times, she did not think she had cut her cheek, but her upper lip continued to bleed, every few moments she licked it and tasted the copper and precious iron of her holy blood. She sniffled a little, she did not wish to feel her own tears either. She looked around, the Ravens were doing war in the heavens, and bleeding feathers were raining downwards upon the rondured city as it fell downwards into the waters, one concentric circle after another, and high above her the Dragons screaming all the while in the partitions of the skies.
The slave living ships were burning and slinking into the waves. She clammered upwards, one cage after another was slipping into the waters, and within she could see Traîkhiim trapped within and drowning. Éfhelìnye was terrified of the water unless her Puîyus were holding onto her, but she knew that the Traîkhiim were even more frightened of the water, while she would just hide and weep, the Traîkhiim could die of fright, their xhlòxheu gizzard hearts could stop because of the terror, and they would die in the extremes of agony. Éfhelìnye looked around. She just hoped that Puîyus could come swooping down from the heavens, he could take her by her hand and together they could come to the living ships, even Ixhúja could help her do this. The waters were churning, the waves were arising and revealing the bloated corpses of sharks and dolphins and whales upon them, several more living ships were screaming, the cages smashing downwards one by one by one. In some cages wings were reaching out to her in supplication, already most of the cages had sunk into the waters, and most of the cages were burning and Ravens were feasting upon the wretches within. If she could just manage to open a single cage, if she could free just a few slaves, than all of the horror of blood and ravens would be worthwild.
– Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye was hiccoughing as she came to the edge of the waters. Her limbs were shaking. She was barely even noticing that she was hiccoughing in fear, for as long as she could remember she hiccoughed whenever she grew afraid or thought about her Father, and now the splashing of the waters and the dead fishes and the burning living ships reduced her to shaking. She took a few steps unto the edge of the waters. It was all froth and blood riotous arising. She was hoping that the free waters could grow calm just long enough for her to walk upon the face of them, at least then she would not have to worry about sinking into the waters. – Hic! Hic! Hic! – her hiccoughs were growing all the louder. Beside her an huge khyìtlhot junque was breaking apart and exploding, she could hear the bellows of the Traîkhiim slaves along with some Khmàfhlort slaves that were kept within, the Qhíng must have been traveling through these realms when they were attacked by the machine armies. Her ballet slips came to the edge of the waters, she took a couple of steps upon the surface of the water, she had to bat her arms from side to side to keep herself from besinking within, but then fountains of blood were bursting about her, brime and froth and dead fishes, the waters were so rough that she slipped into them and coughing swallowed blood and water and thrashed about even though the water was so shallow. She struggled out from the waters and falling upon the ground began shaking and coughed out blood for several moments, at first she spat out the salt and froth she had swallowed, but soon it was her own blood, she could not stop herself, her lungs were burning within her, she had to huge her sides, she coughed into her hands until her palms were grown warm and sticky and her own blood was rolling down the length of her arms and rilling down her sides, and only then, when she was grown weak from loss of blood and shaking from terror, then she just collapsed and feared that there was nothing she could do to save the slaves.
– Puey would not stop. He never ends, he never gives up, he is incapable of surrender. He would not permit anything like fear to stop him – Éfhelìnye rolled onto her back and whispered unto herself, sometimes she found that vocalizing helped her focus her thoughts, at least thinking about the sound of words and the shape of language konstspråk helped to focus her thoughts. – So many times Puey has saved my life when I was reduced to terror, and yet I know in the imagination of my heart that I could never do the same for him. So many times he has risked health and life for me, so many times he has thrown himself before beast and monster and terror, and all I could do was weep. I only wish I were a seventh as brave as he, I wish I had some practical talents, not just the ability to breed words together, but to help people. –
Éfhelìnye rolled onto her side. The outlines of the wharves were no longer visible, they had fallen into the waves, bits of wall and fang were jutting out of the waters, the platforms and stairs were breaking apart and crashing in brilliant ripples of ice and frost. Leaning at the edge of the walls were massive tyaôxhyang stone statues that depicted Kàrijoi’s head, the obsidian moai statues gazing outwards, the faces ancient and stern and merciless khmaqàtsitlhe YbYrOm, the statues were breaking apart one by one and crashing downwards. Slowly Éfhelìnye struggled to her feet. Several more walls fell about her, billows of frost and dust arisen. She wiped blood from her lips, it was just pouring out from her now. The domes of the city were popping and collaψing upon themselves. Several more slave living ships exploded. Éfhelìnye was hiccoughing all the while as she approached the dying froth. She grit her teeth in an effort to stop hiccoughing. The heads of her Father’s statues were rolling about and staring at her. A few Dragons were landing at the tips of buildings which lookd to have once been temples, but were now just strangled skeletons of stone and shatterations of stained glass, and the Dragons were screaming one to another in strange and diagamma’d calls. Éfhelìnye approached the dead fishes, the barrels flowing from the living ships and exploding in blossoms orange and red.
– We do not have to accept this – Éfhelìnye whispered to herself as she shook from side to side. – The curse against all life, the death of the billion, billion worlds, the ending of the Dreamtime, I refuse to permit this to happen. I care not what mistakes our Grandparents made, nor what shame our Parents commited, I will not allow everything to suffer because of our doom. I shall take fate and shatter it with mine own small hands, I will take quill and parchment and write fate out with mine own hand. It is only water. It is only fire. I will free at least a few of the slaves, just as Puey would. –
She set her foot upon the water and found herself wading within it, the dead fishes floating up to her and glaring at her. Floating around her were bits of skin and flesh, she realized that the Ravens in their exuberance in their feast had ripped off the hands and ears and noses of slaves and warriors and citizens of the city. She managed to slip about a cubit into the waters before the stench of the blood and the sight of the bodies was too much for her, and covering her face she had to run away, and falling again upon the shore she hid her eyen and coughed out blood and shivered for a time.
– I can do this I can do this I can do this how I can dream about having Puey destroy our enemies and I can’t even stay in the water how can I hope to become the new Moon Empress just like my Mother if the blood and waves frighten me so much? – She sate down and rested her head upon her knees, she forced her eyen open and saw now that elevens of living ships were exploding one by one, the cages smashing into the waters, and Ravens were diving right after them and ripping out snouts and wings and eyen of the falling thralls. Above her many Dragons were arising and streaking the skies with flames, some of the Dragons were darting downwards and smashing the living ships right down upon their sides and causing them to crack apart, the fires consuming all things.
– Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye coughed and she wiped tears from her eyen. – How can I expect Puey to protect me, when I cannot even protect the least in our worlds? How can I tell him again and again that I would be a suitable wife unto him and mother to his many, many children but I care not for the helpless lying before me? If I cannot be brave for him, how can I hope to be brave for my children and all of the rest of the family that we shall forge together? – She looked around and saw that either trying to walk on the water or trying to wade within would not be efficicacious, she knew not how to swim, but she could try to paddle and wade with some floating device. She waded into the water, the dead fishes slipping about her, their clammy bodies rubbing against her, the waters she could see were also choked with so many lobster spiders els tlhàrtyo kamener-vor, their claws open, their mandibles and gaze slipping about her, she had to force herself not to look at them and she grabbed the edge of a barrel and pulled herself upon it. The blood and water surrounded her, she was able to hold on just a little and kick in the waters. All around her she could hear the sound of the ravens rising and falling, the living ships were screaming as they were burning one by one and breaking apart, the sound of the Dragons swooping downwards was its own symphonia of horror and darkness, and yet all of that growing song was just part of the bróga of the atroxes that she could feel in the cages burning and falling o'er and the slaves dying one by one by one. Éfhelìnye was grasping the edge of the barrel so hard that her knuckles were glowing bright and alban, she was kicking against the water and gasping all the water, and before her the thrawn deck of a ship arose, it was all a mass of of strangled metal reaching upwards, the entire vessel was an abstraction of asphyxiation. The barrel bobbled untowards it, but this close to the vessel the waters were completely filled with dead fishes and serpents and sharks and strangling seaweed and she was not sure how to come nigher, the ship itself was upon its side and actually glistening in pinks and violets and greens, for the flames of the battle and the arising of the Dragons were casting long and eerie shadows upon all things. No more solar sails were even left unto the vessel, no true towers or gunwale could she see at all, just metal twistent around metal, bits of precious iron and steel and xhafhíretha, what had once been hull and deck and side and bone oar were now all writhe against each other, the violence of the destruction of the quays of the circular city, the flames of the Dragons, perhaps even the departure of the ninjitsu Tánin tomätik had taken all of this ship and twisted it up and around each other and left it just a smouldering cochleate shell. And from this distance Éfhelìnye could see that the cages were falling into the brime and within were shaking many who were the khmikhefhértlha the slave races, the tall and majestic Khmàfhlort skilled at building and carrying and in reconnescence, and the crafty Qriî who are proficient in calculating spectrum dimensional points and who process some of the information gathered by Qhíng and Ptètqiikh alike, and the myriads of Traîkhiim useful for field and plough and house service and as the quotidian burnt sacrifice which the Immortals demanded of those who were fated to die. Éfhelìnye paddled against the casque but could draw herself no closer, the shimmering slave ship was just a few yards away qyíyaûxi, just several wtsoîse spans, surely she should be able to wade that far without drowning and grasp the side of the ship and pull herself upwards. She turned back, but all of the circular city was smoke, and within the skrikent battle of the heavens all she could see was the growing nightmare mass of Ravens filling all her sight but admitting no sight or sound or hint of Puîyus. She took a few deep breaths and ignored the taste of blood in her mouth. She had come this far, it would be cowardly for her to turn back, and even though she were not one born of the Martial Classes, she still had her pàqtu, her pride, and at least did not wish to think herself unworthy of the birthright of her Mother’s honor. She closed her eyen to prepare herself. She let her hands slip away from the side of the barrel and let the waters touch her arms and shoulders.
The water was far more horrific than she had thought it would be. Already dead fishes were clinging to her legs, blood was seeping into her dress, she could feel all about her the descent of dead kelp and plantimals, she could feel wriggling about her the crash of ship after ship. She just had to paddle íqhomet just a little more. Her limbs were feeling heavy from the weight of the water. Floating about her were some snakes which had been ripped open, and worms and maggots were feasting upon the body. Dead ravens were drifting unto all sides of her. Her stomache was twisting within her. She started paddling all the harder, she knew that if she remained in the water too much longer she would simply faint and drift away to some unknown fate. But the waters were far too heavy for her, she kept trying to draw himself upwards, but the water swamped her again and again. A wave of gore washed o'er her, she struggled in the darkness for a few moments, she felt thorns and vines striking against her, and when she surfaced again she struggled gasping for air. Again the waves pushed her down, and this time she felt metallic claw swinging from side to side, and when finally she resurfaced she could see that wading in the waters were several Tánin Automata drifting from side to side and intent upon their own purposes. She looked around, most of the rondured city was slipping into the waters, but she could still see the outline of the Ravens turning and darting, the marching of the Tánin as they shoved aside the walls and cracked them open like eggshell, she could see that Dragons were hopping from ship to ship in the exaultation of their feast. She fell under the waters and struck her head against the keal of the ship, and for a moment she did lose consciousness, but when she arose unto the surface again the air revived her, and coughing up blood all the while she grasped the side of the fin of a ship and pulled herself upwards, at once all of the blood and dust and grime washed off of her, and the dead fishes could not longer embrace her ankles, all that was impure fled away, and she just closed her eyen and rested for a time, even as the slaves were screaming, the living ships bursting into flame again and again and again.
So it came to pass that at last she arose from the water and struggling she flopped upon the side of the ship and looking out saw all of the horrific asphyxiation before her, the cages rattling from side to side. She drew herself unto the side of the ship and collapsed. Several Dragons were rushing upwards above her, and she was too weak even to shield her face from them-then, but they were not turning to veer untowards her. At last she staggered upwards, and taking a few more steps forwards fell upon her knees and coughed up some blood. The cages were swinging from side to side, they were collapsing right off of the khoîti lattice work, swinging and crashing and terrible to behold. Even as she took several steps upwards three more cages crammed with slaves burst off from the metallic struts and fell into the waves, the thralls screaming as they sank. Éfhelìnye came running outwards, she knew that she had to free at least an handful of them, how could she stand herself if she let them die, how could she look Puîyus’ in his winedark eyen oinoptic if she were not worthy of him. Before her arose a long and swinging cage yfilled with screaming Traîkhiim, their heads and limbs smacking against each other, and several snarling Qriî struggling against floral chains, and their paws were reaching outwards and trying to tear against the air, and some large and thin Khmàfhlort leaning from side to side. Some of the cages held Eunuchs of her own species the fey Xhámi, and she was even a little surprised to see that in one cage several Automata were trapped within, their claws and pincers snapping all the while and waving to the Princess in most despirate supplication. Éfhelìnye ran towards the nearest cage, she suspected that despite the commandments of the Prophet of Compassion against the creation of machines that emulate a soul, that Prince Jhwèsta had been fashioning mechanical slaves even for the Noble Caste who served her Father, and she was not sure which was worse, disobeying the Prophet or her Father, they were all blights upon the world. The nearest cage was shaking, the Traîkhiim so eager to escape that they were crashing against each other. She ran unto the circular door and found the lock and at once tools sprung to her hands, and she was glad that the illustrious Pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho had taught her the arts of khwujheyàjhwen, of picking locks. She listened to the turning of the wheels within, it was a shaking harmony even as the ship was cracking apart and the Dragons were approaching.
– Oh Nǚshén Megami, oh Cælestial one! – cried the Traîkhiim. – We knew you would come for us! We knew that you would save us! –
Éfhelìnye listened to the movement of the clockwork of the locks. – You’re not saved yet. Hold on tightly, I will need your help to free the other thralls. –
– The Empress we serve, the Empress we love, all hail Empress Éfhelìnye. –
– How do you know who I am? –
– The legend is whispered in the winds. You are the one who frees the slaves. You are the one for whom we have waited these tens of thousands of generations, oh Virgin Born Éfhelìnye, oh Moon of the Traîkhiim. –
Éfhelìnye pulled out some more tools and stuck them together and twisted them into the locks and chanted – To be perfectly honest, Puey’s done most of the work of actually freeing the slaves. He was the one who free entire nations of your people from the Qhíng, I was just helping him. –
– Emperor Puîyos only free the slaves because he loves you. Anything he would do for you. But you are the Empress of the Traîkhiim. No dukes, no viceroy kings, no lords have the Traîkhiim, just one leader, the Empress of us all, for all generations, eternal, timeless, you. –
– I think you should be praising Puey, not me. I’m just clever. But Puey’s a genius at warfare and honor. – She shook the lock a little and wondered why it wasn’t working, it must have been so scorched and damaged in the battle that some of its inner wheels were shattered. She closed her eyen and listened carefully unto the pulse of the lock. It was usually not too difficult for her to pick the locks on Puîyus’ bedroom or to escape whatever bonds Fhermáta might have placed upon her, but she was having trouble with this particular lock. She tried to imagine what it would be like if Puîyus were the one inside the cage, perhaps he could not use his supernal strength to smash the bars and break open the cage because he had been knocked unconscious, she wondered what she would do to free him, she would break open the bars with her bare hands she knew, she would bite through the lock if it would save him, there is nothing she would not try, she yanked at the lock from side to side and of a sudden know how to turn the wheels, and the cage sprang open and so eager were the slaves to escape that they threw her aside in their panic. The Traîkhiim were in the midst of their jéne their metamorphósis, some of them were winged Trakàtriim and others were ætheiral Értriim, and all of them were opening up their wings and slipping away from her and screaming all the while, the ravens darting all about them and catching them by limb and neck, and Dragons plying high within the welkin.
– No, wait, stay! – cried Éfhelìnye. – I need your help to free the other slaves! Please, come back! I can’t do this by myself! I … – She fell downwards, the ship was breaking apart. Several more cages filled with slaves were falling into the waters. She ran upwards towards the nearest cage, but it was sliding away from her. Within the Traîkhiim were reaching out their foot-palms unto her, the cage crashed into he waters, foam was covering their faces, and before her very gaze the Traîkhiim were drowning, their eyen horrified in supplication. For a few moments she was thunderstrook with indecision, she durst not enter the water again, and even if she knew how to swim she would not be able to sink down into the darkness of the waters and use her tools to unlatch them. She took a few steps back. A few more cages were left in the ship, the next one was brimming with Khmàfhlort and Qriî, some of the Khmàfhlort were already dead for part of the cage had crushed some of their torsos and skulls, and the Ravens were feasting upon what they could reach. Éfhelìnye ran to the cage, the door and lock were upside down to her, but it was quite a simple for her to hang upside down and begin opening up the lock wheel by wheel by wheel, the music of it flowing into her mind.
Within the cage the Khmàfhlort slaves were drawing their elephantine heads against the glass windows of it, and several of the Qriî were leaning against the glass and opening up their large eyen and revealing them to be great orbs where within splashes of wax were arising and cooling and sinking back down again to bubble and congeal. Several of the Qriî were twitching their heads from side to side like so many xhthàrxa gærshoppa, or so they appeared unto her, and a few of them were lifting up their paws to brush them against the glass. More and more of the Qriî were brushing up towards the Princess, their heads were all a mass of thorn and strangling hairs. Some of the Qriî were exhaling breath jacinth and aurantiaceous. And they kept turning from side to side and then gazing unto the Starflower Princess and blinking at her with large wax orbs of many fluidic colors.
– I’ll get you out soon – Éfhelìnye told them. – Please remain calm, there’s been some damage to the sparinzia, but I know I can free you all. –
The Qriî slaves jhás of westwegas were turning one to another, their mouths of crooked fangs were twitching, their eyen were now all turning completely black. One of them slammed his head against the glass of the cage with such force that Éfhelìnye bound back with a scream, and the slaves were all turning unto her and baring their teeth.
– If you’ll just be patient, I’ll free you – Éfhelìnye chanted, although she could feel that her voice was breaking from the fright of it. A couple of Qriî slaves turned unto her and revealed that half of their faces were missing, that the Qhíng had replaced bits skull and flesh with hissing clockwork, and wheels were moving within and focusing upon little mirrors.
– We saw thee from afar – one of the Qriî slaves was saying, his voice high pitched, almost squeaking. – Space was rustling in your journey. –
– I’ll you’ll be patient, you’ll be out soon – Éfhelìnye told them, and she could feel a few of the wheels spinning into place.
– The Dragons bend time around them – another Qriî was saying. – Dragons are reality, and all of space ripples about them. They are like the Emperor in that way. –
– Yes … of course … –
– We know time – another Qriî was saying. – That is why the Qhíng kept us around, we calculated the points for spectral dimensions, we helped keep their triple viceroy kingdoms in order. But now with the Slave Rebellion, the only use the Qhíng have for us is to throw us upon the pyre as sacrifice unto the Emperor. –
– We have been bending time and space – another Qriî was saying.
Éfhelìnye was growing so nervous that she dropped her tools. She just wished that the Qriî would be silent, there was just something about them that frightened her although she could not quite define it, it was like they were watching her and trying to lick up her thoughts. She gathered up the tools and working upon the locks chanted – I’m sure then that picking a lot must be simple in comparison to navigating through fields of causalities, if you had the tools and could reach the locks, that is. –
All of the Qriî turned their utterly black eyen unto the Princess and asked in the same squeaking voice – Who are you? –
– I’m a friend. –
– The Qriî slaves have no friends. We calculate space. We can bend time. –
– I’ll have you out soon. –
– Are you afraid of the Father’s Dragons? – all of the slaves were asking.
– Yes – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– The Dragons have always been here, just as the Father has always been. The Dragon will be upon you soon. –
– We’ll be leaving – Éfhelìnye chanted, as the next wheel sprung open.
– Will you be friends with the Dragon? –
– I have to concentrate, please … –
– Why aren’t you afraid of the machines in the cages? – the Qriî were piping but this time in many discordant voices. – All children of the Empire fear the clockweyth machine. It has no feeling. It has no soul. It cannot love. It is wound up and does as the master commandeth. Yet you have the bearing of one from the Heresy where land is blasted and pollution stains the heavens. Who are you, friend? –
– I’m just a maiden. I’ll have you out … – Éfhelìnye’s hands were shaking.
One of the Qriî with half a face turned its machine side towards the Princess, and large glassen eyen turned unto her and examined her. – You are a child. The Emperor has commanded the death of all children. You should flee before the Dragon comes. –
– Just a moment, please! –
– Who can control the Suns? Who can build up the pyramids and become master of the cosmos? Who can bring down all of nature in a sidereal dance? There is a problem, you are both thorn and solution unto it. You are the lilt, the sing-song, you are the puzzle piece both missing and wherearound all the rest of the puzzle must be formed. –
– Please … –
– Is the legend of the pùqnene qlaêkh true, the nabalkattum, the draψomania, the slave rebellion? –
– I don’t know what you mean, I’m just … –
– A virgin comes. She desires to impress a young man. She frees a maltreated slave, and then another and another to show her young man her worth. Before she knows it the slaves are following her example, they rally around her name, they carve images of her in the dens, they break out of cord and shackle, they arise and cripple both the Qhíng and the Aûm. And so Qhíng and Aûm fall into war with each other, both sides blaiming the other for their slave problem. –
– I’ve heard something like that … – Éfhelìnye piped, her face glowing with a slight roseate hew.
– Not even Khiêro of Old, the first Warrior was able to free the slaves, and a little maiden comes along and does what the mightiest could not, quite an interesting story, don’t you think? We bend time. We see through space. –
– Of course … –
A few Qriî slammed their heads against the glass and whispered – The Traîkhiim worship this virgin as their new Empress. They seek a new order of the generations. The Traîkhiim rally up the rest of the slaves for worship and adoration and holy war. –
Suddenly some of Qriî were swept aside by mighty arms, and all of the glass flexed a little as an Khmàfhlort pressed her mighty face right up to the Princess, compound eyen blinking all the while, mandibles and trunk twitching, and in a deep rumble she whispered – Thou art a virgin of the high castes, art thou not? Thou art just like the maiden of the story, the one the Traîkhiim worship. –
The lock sprang open, and the Khmàfhlort threw the door aside. – I wouldn’t know – Éfhelìnye chanted. She took a few steps back as Qriî and Khmàfhlort rushed about her, and the cage broke apart in their passage. – I’m just trying to help. I really don’t understand the governance and economics of … – Her voice was choked off, several arms and trunks wrapped themselves around her and yanked her up and shook her from side to side like a rag doll.
– This is the one who was sent from heaven – the Khmàfhlort of jhás westwegas were announcing. – She is one who is sinípwo, who is skyborn. –
– Please … let me go! – Éfhelìnye gasped.
– She has been in many places – the Qriî were saying as they hopped from side to side upon their furry insectoid legs. – Space folds around her. She is origami, she is ripple. –
– The Father searches for us – chanted the Khmàfhlort. – The Father has abandoned us, that is why we are his thralls. –
– … please … can’t breathe! – Éfhelìnye cried.
– She may not be able to survive the Dragon storm – the Qriî were giggling unto each other.
– Perhaps she would happiest just to hide, not be interfere with the affairs of the Empire – the Khmàfhlort were saying.
– We see the moon flowing in her xylem and phloem – the Qriî turned to one another and patted each other’s jaws and fur, and their eyen were changing, no longer were they obsidian orbs, but they were becoming floating bubbles of wax again, nta splashing väk, their faces were become like blurs of color sikthaM oirunguizol dripping. – The little maiden should flee. Dragons dragons dragons are coming. And who can possibly understand the way that Dragons do think? –
The Khmàfhlort flung Éfhelìnye down, and she rolled around a bit as several more cages fell into the waters about her. The Khmàfhlort grabbed the doors of some of the cages and smashed against the glass and wheels and locks of those which they could open by force, and all around the Princess the khmikhefhértlha slave races were arising, they were almost trampling her down as they came in their great numbers, long and spindly paws and legs sweeping all around her, and all about her came the sound came the sound of the cages shattering, the glass and metal and disques breaking apart, and more and more living ships exploding and falling into the froth waters. Éfhelìnye pulled herself up unto her elbows and looked up and saw that thousands of the Qriî and Khmàfhlort were just throwing themselves into the waters even as the living ships were descending all about them, but a few of the Khmàfhlort were arising upon their tall and mighty legs like unto qyaînga pogo stilt shoon, and they were wrapping up Qriî in their long and twisting stàqha shuNDaa and swaying from side to side in the growing waters, the Khmàfhlort were wading within k’uλu like so many mastadons, and a rainfall of the other slaves were falling all about them faster and faster still. By the time Éfhelìnye was able to come back to her feet and looking around, only a few cages were left, cages yfilled with the Automaton slaves whom the Khmàfhlort had no intention of freeing, and although Éfhelìnye called back saying – Wait! Please! We still have some trapped within! – But the slaves were already leaving, and just as Ixhúja had told her, not a single one thanked her.

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