And where have you been? Ixhúja told Puîyus in a few glances and blinks, as she ran her hands through some of the wheels of the gnoma and kept the machine twinkling and flashing with activity.
– Yes yes where you be your female parents so very concerned for you – Aîya chanted. – We I they were thinking, Oh Master Puîyos probably in a ditch somewhere. All dead. Broken and dead. Your heads devoured by some ferocious beasts. We they I always knew would die in a ditch. You’re quite a ditchsome person. I belong in a ditch. –
I’ve been keeping the machine functional, Ixhúja blinked and glanced towards Puîyus. Whatever you were doing, I hope it was quite fun.
I’ve been fighting the Dragons that seek to destroy Princess Éfhelìnye.
Are there any Monsters not seeking to slay her?
Ah … Monsters, Dæmons, Dragons … yes, the gamut of fell and soulless creatures do seem intent on capturing and slaying the Emperor’s only child.
One should hope that she will outgrow this predeliction for trouble when you get married.
The lwúnìqte was kind to her, Puîyus blinked a few times, and then he considered and thought that several of the Automata had actually been very friendly to her, not the vast war machines like Admiral Tsoînei but many of the smaller housecarls and toys. He bristled to think of the wind up Khniqhátui twins Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe, and told himself that if he found them before Éfhelìnye did that he would just without telling her spare her the trouble and smash the toys and smelt them unto plasma. And yet since beasts communicate so often with thoughts and glances and gestalten, some of these sentiments betrayed themselves on his face, and so Ixhúja murmured unto herself as if to say, Ah, so you do know a few good Automata as well as some crazed ones, how very interesting.
I have a plan, Puîyus told Ixhúja and began tapping his hands together.
Were you really fighting Dragons? Ixhúja raised a single violet eyebrow.
Yes, I was.
You really should not do that, they are so beautiful and noble.
They sought to harm the Princess. Drakontolétēs, sauroktónos, dlakafunel, h1egwhént h1ógwhim, I am a Dragonslayer xòrmakh khnèxufha xiêker.
One must protect the innocent and slaughter the guilty.
I do not understand this machine. Tell me my part of the plan.
You have to understand the machine.
Only Éfhelìnye could understand it. I’ll trade places with her.
She’ll fiddle and change it. I don’t want it altered. The machine needs to be insane. Puîyus grinned.
Ixhúja picked up Aîya and placed her upon some spinning wheels and then tapped her head a little in perplexity. – Purr? – she wondered.
– What a strange accent she has, her purrpurrations so very abominaburble qlekhúwa tounge twisters abomenindaj, not at all like we sensible Triîm have such simple sounds and clicks even our names so elegant Àqhu and Úla and Álu and Fhúxha and Úkhta such as – Aîya was muttering unto herself.
Puîyus hopped upwards and punched aside the last of the walls and coils that surrounded the nerves and motors and engines of the Aumàfhruse, and now that the ship had been blasted into bits, and entire sections of flesh and metal and filament melded together, the machinery was just a few cubits away from the help. Puîyus plucked Ixhúja down and bouncing up unto the cauldrons and spheres of the emergent Aumàfhruse set Ixhúja down next to hit and rolling his hands together told her in squeaks and mews, Make the translation engine work when I need it to. I need the insane Aûm creativity.
But, my Twin, in the state of the ship, and, if you haven’t noticed, the fact that we’re crashing downwards, we’re liable … Ixhúja began to murmur and purr, but Puîyus put his finger upon her lip and then leaning into her ear whispered something unto her. Ixhúja’s eyen grew large and bright in disbelief.
That will destroy us all, Ixhúja gasped in the language of beasts.
It’s a manouver that I learnt from you, Puîyus replied in the same ferocious giramay dņghu.
But I was just joking, we were playing and racing together, I didn’t mean that I’d always destroy the ship to win!
Puîyus took her hand and kissed it and then bounding upwards slipped up above the cauldrons of the mad Aûm mechanics and clammering upon the burning surface of the ship where the Pirates and Éfhelìnye remained, Puîyus bowed unto Ixhúja and mewling told her, One just needs the engine to work once with as much strength as it can muster, and exactly when I need it to.
Oh, I may be able to get it to function once, Ixhúja purred, and then we all are incinerated and die.
Puîyus nodded to her and slipped back up unto the helm, and saw that Xhnófho had tied some ropes about his tentacles and was lashing himself unto it to keep himself affixed to the disintergrating wheels and levers of it. Fhèrkifher was holding onto Princess Éfhelìnye and she was scribbling out some notes upon a sheet of papyrus, and her crayon was melting away even as she was drawing the diagram and calculating their trajectory, and the paper was breaking apart into threads even as she grabbed it.
– I think this is the direction we need to take – Éfhelìnye chanted. – It’s mostly down, but I think if we sail with our rockets as we near the descent, it will give us the extra speed we need. – She gave the sheet to Puîyus and he nodded as he looked of it.
– What do you need for your pirate Uncles to do? – Fhèrkifher asked.
– Mew mew mew – Puîyus chanted.
– Puey wants you to hold onto me since I need to touch the dream inside the Aûm cauldron – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Mew mew. –
– Xhnófho will be the pilot tqúkh. –
– That I can do – Xhnófho chanted. One tentacle reached out unto the remaining of the nerves and tapping a tube chanted – So when you say you want me to awaken the rockets, you mean the single jet remaining unto us, right? –
– Yes – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Mew mew. –
– Fhèrkifher, Puey wants you to ensure that we all die with honor. –
– It will be a blaze of glory – Fhèrkifher smiled. – All my life been leading unto this moment, to die in empyrean splendor, to give my last to defend the new Emperor and Empress. In the end this may make us all pèrakhu, martyrs linschiolsome. –
– Mew mew mew – Puîyus added.
– He also says that since you were trained by the sylvan priests, that if you want to pray very quickly and very hard, now would be a mete time. –
– Mew mew mew. –
– And conversely, since the Dragons are almost upon us, if you can annoy them, that may trick them into making a mistake – Éfhelìnye looked around, the wreckage of their ship was a gleaming block of burning metereor light, and greater and greater heat convections were arising out from it as it accelerated in its descent through the heavens, and yet nearing it unto all sides were the Dragons and their flames and forefront among them all came Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and beside one of his eyen he was sported a long and red wound from where Puîyus had poked him.
– Forgive me, Divine Sun and Moon, but crashing at sub-light speeds into the ocean below may also be considered by some to be a mistake of sorts – Xhnófho chanted. – I won’t be able to land this on the surface of the water. –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye looked to each other, mamihlapinatapei tova'Daq, and they shared a moment of common understanding xhtheiru such as closefriends and kithmen and spouses do. – You won’t have to land upon the waters – Éfhelìnye said. – That’s not the plan at all. –
– Command me – Xhnófho chanted, and he drew up some of the levers and found that aside from a few gusts of fire from the jets, that be could barely even shake the vessel starboard or port at all. – I shall obey without question. –
– You must tell us – Éfhelìnye told Puîyus and he nodded and leaning o'er whispered into Éfhelìnye’s ear for a few moments. She considered, and Fhèrkifher held her up unto Xhnófho’s sòrlusoi hearing sphere and she whispered and framed the response in the Khlìjha that mortal men understand.
Xhnófho’s heart-stomache froze within him and his antennæ dropped down and licked his beak for a few moments and when his voice came it was small and crackling. – Is that even possible? Can one sail a ship that way? –
– The diagram shows where the jets must be lit – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Xhnófho nodded, his face felt like salt and rubber, he thought that water was flowing within his brain and out of his ear-globes. – I … I will do as you command, mine Empress, and Emperor Puîyos of course. And you say that your Cousin can keep the engine together that long? –
– She’s gifted with machines. Aîya can aid her. – Éfhelìnye chanted. – And I can awaken the Aumàfhruse. The nightmares within are familiar to me. – Puîyus was slipping up around her and drawing out the Emperor’s Sword, for the moment the Eilwiyusàrtyai was dark and calm and from it were bursting out numbers and arcs and elipses and trajectories and it was of its own accord drawing the long and winding spiral that the ruined ship was making as it headed downwards towads the ocean far below. Puîyus took out rag and polished the surface of he sword, now that it was solidic, and glistening out from it came the layers of the dragon scales, and he was already thinking of the course of their battle. – And Puîyus of course will be fighting the Dragons and will give the signal. And so we each have a task to do. –
Xhnófho was trembling, Heghlu’meH QaQ DaHjaj indeed, but the waves of heat and the bursting of the ship and their rushing right towards the seas in the eclipse beneath the Dragons and the plan which Puîyus had revealed unto him was making him shake and rattle and quaver and roll. He was not a Qhíng prone to fear, he was part of the Qèlreqakh caste and taught to master such weak emotions, and even at a young age Great-Uncle Kàrnaka had taken his nephew out into the wilderness and unto the presence of wild beasts to teach him not to fear the Monster. And yet what Puîyus was describing was just beyond the reach of his imagination. He cleared his throat a little and chanted – I can do this, my beautiful larvæ, but I may not be able to do this un-hyper. Does anyone have any sugar, and I mean a lot of it? –
Fhèrkifher searched in his pockets but only had a few cookies which he tossed in the air, and Xhnófho caught them and swallowed them whole. Neither Puîyus nor Éfhelìnye had any sugar on them, and Xhnófho was emptying out his sleeves and pouring raw streams of sugar into his beak, guzzling and coughing and slurping srkati and crying out – More! More! More! I need more sugar! –
Puîyus nodded and rolled away from the burning skin of the wreckage, he looked upwards and saw that the coming battleline and the Dragons were just a few elevens of cubits away and would be upon them all very soon, so he slipped away into the twisting nerves of what had once been the interior of the ship and saw that Ixhúja was running within the waterwheel and using her arms to spin some of the sundials about to keep the entire contraption running, and that Aîya was crawling about the cauldrons that held the bursting and emergent Aumàfhruse, and in one mouth dangled a spoon, and she was ladling with the cauldron and playing with the pipes and the sigh of the wheels and muttering – Ah, these nightmares need more falling, maybe some trauma concerning a monster or some other fabulous creature. What question think you? –
– !! – Puîyus cried to Ixhúja, and she pointed to some barrels that were lodged into some of the grinding walls and wheels of this room, and Puîyus dashed out as swift as his wooden shoon could take him, and he yanked out three large and rumbling barrels xhnòrifhu and heaving them upon his shoulders found that they were rolling and swiveling because of their liquidic content. He bound up high into the air and came slidding down the side of the overheating helm and tossed the casks to Fhèrkifher who punched his hand right through the top and poking his head within sniffed and cried out – This is it chebeshí, pure pink xhamàrnafhin lemonade! Drink it up, quaff it up, slurp it up with gusto bliss te! – Fhèrkifher tossed the barrel to Xhnófho up upended it and began quaffing it up in big bubbling splashes, he was guzzling it and not even stopping for a breath, pink lemonade was spilling out of the sides of his beak and dripping about his tentacles until he held up all of the cask and draining the last drop threw the barrel into the direction of the pesuing Dragons high above them, and Prince Kherènxhuqhe reduced the cask unto flame and dust and dove right through it. – That’s more like it! – cried Xhnófho. – The party begins now! I need more sugar! Let me down this down! –
Fhèrkifher punched open another barrel and tossed it to Xhnófho who began chugging it in similar fashion, but Fhèrkifher turned to the Children and rubbing his mustache chanted – Now of course I want you to understand that normally one should not drink all the pink lemonade one can drink, just all that one should drink, sophrosyne in all things, right? Of course Xhnófhe is a grown Qhíng and larger than us all, so his system can take more soma than ours can. –
Xhnófho hurled the barrel towards the pirates and let lose a loud and popping wet belch. – Gimme the rest of the sugar! You’ve got more, right? –
– The last barrel – Fhèrkifher chanted as he tapped it open.
– As long as they keep making it, I’m guzzling it down. The Dragons don’t know what’s about to hit them, they don’t know they’re messing with the future Emperor and Empres and their pirate servants. I’m Khwèntel of the Xhnófho phatry, and you Dragons are crashing down with us! – Xhnófho caught the barrel and thrust his beak into it and began quaffing it down in loud and noisy gulps. For half a moment he got his beak suck inside the barrel, but he just ripped it apart with his tentacles and hurled away the sticky pieces and wiping pink lemonade from his beard cried out – Okay now! What was I doing again? –
– You’re the pilot, remember? – asked Fhèrkifher.
– Puey has a plan – chanted Éfhelìnye.
Xhnófho staggered unto the helm, stuck out his tounge and wriggled his antennæ at the Dragons almost upon them, and then belching several more times in a rising octave chanted – Oh yeah, that’s some good pink xhamàrnafhin. Did the Qlùfhem brew it? Stupid Qlùfhem, but good pink soma. Maybe someone else. We’re always steeling things. What’re you looking at you ugly Dragons! Puîyus is going to beat you flamescent heads in you stinking ugly lizards! –
– Xhnófho! – gasped Fhèrkifher.
– BURP! –
– Pilot! –
– Oh yeah. I’m the pilot. Makes me rather important – Xhnófho swayed from side to side. – Puîyus has crazy plan. So it’s a crash. A controlled crash. Is that even possible? We’re going to find out. Everyone prepare to die hah hah hah hah hah! –
– Maybe but two barrels of pink lemonade would have been enough to enhyper Uncle Xhnófho – Fhèrkifher muttered. – Next time, let’s just give him two barrels. –
The flames of the Dragons were already twisting about the edge of the wreckage, and Xhnófho was yanking upon the levers and drawing the ship into a tighter spiral in its descent, and he turned back to the children and winking chanted – Have I, have I told you that I can belch the alphabet? It’s not so hard to do, just a little talent that I have. I can swallow the air even as I speak. Here, let me try. Ahem! Fhwa fhwa fhwa! That’s hows I prepare, it’s my singing voice. Fhwa fhwa fhwa! Okay. Here come the burps. Tlhànta burp! Kór burp! Tsál burp! Wtsíl burp! Xhthíl burp! Wait, wait, wait. I’m forgetting. What comes next?–
– Qthít, wthíl, jhpòrtha … – Éfhelìnye continued.
– I’m forgetting some of the glyphs right now. BURP! –
– That wasn’t a letter of the alphabet – Fhèrkifher chanted.
– It’s not? It seems like it should be. Burp! –
Puîyus was skipping upwards and holding up the Eilwiyusàrtyai sword, and now that the Dragons were almost upon them, the sword was blossoming out into brilliant fires, the battle come upon them all.
– Wait a moment, remind me what we’re doing – Xhnófho asked.
– The children even drew a little diagram for you! – Fhèrkifher grabbed the sheet of papyus and jabbed it a few times. – Look at the little spiral she drew for you. Can you manage to go down and around? –
– It’s harder than it seems … a rondurey thing … oh my, my head is really aching right now. May I lie down a little and … oh right. We’re in a battle now, aren’t we? –
– Mew! – Puîyus gasped out as the Dragons were finally spinning around them all. And the Sword was flowing outwards and bursting out into volcanic patterns, as he swung the brand about little loops of flame were drifting out form it and were matching the damasked markings upon his sleeve, and yet the eruptions of the fires were also mirroring the fires that were being breathed out from the Dragons, so that lances and walls of fire were drifting from side to side. At first just a few Dragons were flowing close enough to the burning vessel for Puîyus to strike and parry, and as he did so, and the Dragons were breathing out their smokes and poisons untowards him, as the danger was blossoming and the air was shimmering with heat, although the jaws were arising before him, and the flames were twining about and licking up at his fingers and face, Puîyus thought that in some way he was very lucky to be able to sail outwards unto strange and unknown dreamlands, to fly o'er the ruins and visit worlds unpeopled, for in his time with Princess Éfhelìnye he had been able to travel throughout all of the cwms and vales of holy Eilasaîyanor and had taken the Winter Imperial Express throughout the Seven Central Realms, and come even unto the cannals of Khnìntha and the bridges of Qthantònthe unto the West where the Qhíng builded their marvels even upon water, he had come even unto the clockwork worlds of Xhlaîra where the Tánin and were building their vast machines and Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe were gazing outwards in meditation, and then he was come even through the Cenotaph of the Empress and the vast øde of all of the North. Puîyus wondered in all of his travels, in the quest that Emperor Kàrijoi had set unto them whether indeed he would travel outwards throughout all of the north and throughout the heavens and even higher unto the coronæ of the Suns, he wondered how much wisdom, how much adventure, how much virtue he would discover before finally he came unto the end of the path that Kàrijoi had set down for himself. Puîyus thrust against the wings snapping about him and cut right through the flames that were opening upwards and trying to touch Éfhelìnye and the Pirates, and as he jabbed right into the nearest snapping jaw he wondered to think that, although he had no desire to become Emperor or even a Lord or even a Clan Chieftain of his people, no matter what should come unto him in life, he hoped that when the worlds became safe again, and the Emperor’s monsters were made undone or metamorphósed into something else, that he could travel out with Princess Éfhelìnye and they could experience adventure and quest and marvel after wonder. Yes, that would be a good life, and she would enjoy finding all of the beauty of the worlds engreening once again.
Puîyus slashed right through the wings that were cutting about him, and splashes of flame and blood were trickling against his face. The first Dragon fell away, but in its place several more were coming, and even as Puîyus was fighting against the Dragons in their pursuit he knew that it was only a matter of time before the rest of them managed to outrace the steaming burning smoldering bit of wreckage and snatch them all up, or at first the ship would simply strike the seas and skerries and disintergrate upon impact. The Dragons that were drying nigh were all crying out their clarion music, they were trump calls of challenge, the music came at first from the throat of one Dragon, and then from another, until it was echoed again by all of the spinning and squawking ēoreds drawing nigher and nigher unto them all. The eclipse was covering them all so that the only light were the solar flairs of the sword and the burning edges of the ship and the eyen and flames of the Dragons, the night was deep and still, and the sound of the clockwork of the ship and the beating of the wings was mingled together. Steam and mist were the breath of the dragons, dull shimmerations of fire were in the mirror eyen. All at once several large bits of burning flotsam came spinning and faling downwards, they were bluring sherds roaring which had once been part of the vessel, and bursting up among them came swooping several Dragons rushing downwards and singing out their songs to Puîyus. Lordly, majestic they appeared unto him, their flight a dance, their wings splintering against the darkness, and they were snapping right at Puîyus, the claws of their wings like thrusting swords striking against his. Poisonous were their impaling tails snapping from side to side, and whenever the tips drew too close unto the pirates or Princess Éfhelìnye Puîyus hacked at the tale and clouds all of black arose dropping out from them. Puîyus was swiftly mastering the art of being able to leap and swirl upon the tiny space left upon the burning ship, even as it was crashing downwards in an evernarowing spiral closer and closer to the bone waters below. Several Dragons thrust with their sword wings, Puîyus parried two of them and punched against the chest of the next dragon, its body was all of scales of jasper and brass and flowing quicksilver, its claws were orichalcum and adamant, its razor claws reminding him for a moment of the khwèrqwe razor swords fashioned in Khnìntha, blades that opened upwards and revealed long and unwinding razors within, a sword always changing and sharpening itself, and also was he reminded of the feircesome neximalitztli, the xhakòrwa obsidian knives such as sylvan priests use in the honored rights of blood sacrifice, and as the Dragons were raking back and forth, and their hideous jaws opening to reveal fangs all like unto razor, Puîyus thought of altar cloths and the various chalices that the priests carry, and white silk splattered in blood. Several Dragons were spinning around him and opening up their eyen that were become emerald fire, their nostrils were breathing out steam white and flames of red, three sets of jaws were snapping about him and when he struck at them and prevented them from harming himself or the pirates, the Dragons in their savagery contented themselves with ripping open some of the last of the scales and bone of the ship and spitting it out. Puîyus hacked from side to side, even as the Dragons tried to surpass him and flow around the vessel, but so great was the heat arising from the disintergration of the ship and the belching jaws of the Dragons, that cascading walls of light were flowing about them all and in the dachomachy crash everything became like unto a burning comet heading right unto the seas. Puîyus thrust his sword through the jaw an attacking Dragon and barely even spared it a glance as he yanked the sword out and thrust it against the neck of the next Dragon. Wind and lightning was cracking against the winds that were striking his arms and legs, and when his sword touch their scales levinbolts came spilling outwards, it was a bright clamor, a shimmering music, a nitid noise. Puîyus was finding though that already the Dragons were caught up to them and that at any moment they would be swamped with them. His face remained still and dispassionate even as he ducked some raking jaws and thrust his sword against the armor of one dragon and the next, and not even the tremendous hot breath of the Dragons wearied him, nor the sparkles of flame arising in all directions. Puîyus looked downwards, the ship was grown completely pellucid as if it were chrysalis about to open and blossom clear and bright at any moment, and he could see that Ixhúja was struggling to keep the waterwheel moving even as most of the clockwork was already beginning to boil away.
– Mew! – Puîyus cried out the signal.
– Fire the jets! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – We’re speeding up the crash! Tlhéxhi wtsáng, 38.6777°! –
– Aye aye! – shouted Xhnófho. – Hic! Hic! Hic! Oh I’m going to be sick! – Xhnófho was struggling against the helm even as it was breaking apart in his tentacles, but he was able to tighen up the spiral of the crash and nudge the ship at the correct angle. – Oh, I’m going to need several stiff drinks of lemonade if we survive this! –
Éfhelìnye could feel that the ship was speeding upwards, and although they were now outpacing the Dragons it was only just by a little, it was the change of fhàrne of trajectory which was necessary at this time. She looked to Puîyus, his face was become like ice, he could feel that the Dragons were just goint go be upon them at any moment now. The wings were already beating, great jaws snapping and ready to envelop them. He looked down and saw that Ixhúja, understanding of machines even in this extreme emergency, was tapping a few of the fials with gentle hand, and as the liquid filled them preparing the ship for the next stage of its journey. The Dragons were almost upon them again, and Puîyus gave Éfhelìnye the next signal.
– Fire the jets! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – Théxhi wtsáng, 50.5781°! We’re taking the Dragons down with us! –
– I think we’re all going to need a drink after this! – Fhèrkifher cried as he held onto his hat and the Princess. For a few moments Puîyus began floating in the air, as Xhnófho spun the steering column about and changed the speed and gravity of the ship, and now as it was falling the ship was not just a crackling comet breaking apart in its crash, it was more akin to tonnes of burning bricks hurling downwards through the sheen of the air. – My treat, everyone! Bairnlings, you get little glasses of lemonade! –
– If we survive this, Grandfather Thiêfhilos should rewards us all with as much candy as we can stuff in our gobs! – cried Xhnófho.
– I would like some candy too – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Mew mew! – cried Puîyus, as once again the Dragons were lost behind them, and the ship was no longer even falling in a spiral, it was a bursting meteorite dashing towards the sea.
– Yes, Puey would like some candy also – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Scrambling out of the hissing steamhold of the machinery one of Aîya’s heads poked up and chanted – Anyone talking about candy? –
– We’re hoping we get something sweet out of this crazy debacle of a chase! – cried Xhnófho.
– People say doughnuts, no doughnuts. People say candy, no candy. Want candy! –
– Everyone can have candy! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – We should all celebrate. –
Ixhúja poked her head up from the steaming clockwork and looking around asked – ?? –
– Yes, you can have candy too! – Éfhelìnye.
– It’s terribly rude of us, but in all of the confusion we’ve never really had a chance to meet – Fhèrkifher chanted as he bowed to Ixhúja. – In accordance with the current emergency, although to be fair this entire hour has been an emergency, one should be brief, I am Fhèrkifher, and this is by blood-brother Xhnófho, and we are pirates at your service. –
– Khautlhi’ ei! – chanted Xhnófho as he pushed upon a few levers.
– Purr – Ixhúja nodded, for she knew the Pirates even though they did not recognize her with her golden hair. – ?? – she asked again.
– We’ll all save you some candy – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Ixhúja thought that would be good, there was nothing worse than not having enough candy, or even not getting enough krepfelins for breakfast. She reached into a pocket and drew out a doughnut and began licking it and savoring the sugar smell of it.
– Although of course there are far greater guerdons that Grandfather Pátifhar could reward us than merely candy – chanted Éfhelìnye as she leaned next to Puîyus and twined her arms about his. – Perhaps Grandpa will let me and Puey get betrothed right now so we don’t have to wait until we’re older, and that way he’ll be mine for ever and mine and all mine and no one else’s, and then I can kiss him in public all the times that I want. –
– Your Father still bans all new marriage, it is an ontological fact – Fhèrkifher chanted. – Even if Grandfather Thiêfhilos wanted to change that, he could no more change tides and sunlight and gravity than he can the will of an Emperor. Isn’t that right? – Poking out from Fhèrkifher’s pocket drew the marionette of Grandfather Pátifhar and it blinked and scowled and chanted – First we must overthrow honored Kàrijoi, than marriages all about! –
– And kisses! – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Look little micromorph the runtlette again! – cried Aîya and her throats began to warble in a series of clicks.
– And lots of kisses! – chimed Éfhelìnye.
– You know you have a midget in your pocket, Pirate man? –
– I’ve got a whole managery of Qhíng and Duchesses in my pockets! – laughed Xhnófho. – Not to mention juggling pins. Say, shall I juggle and pilot at the same time? –
– Please don’t – chanted Fhèrkifher. – Dragons! Look! –
– Just a few juggles! – cried Xhnófho, and a couple of tendrils stayed on the helm while springing out from his sleeves danced out pìnta juggling pins, and his tendrils became a rollig sea, and in the waves the pins were dancing all about even as he jabbed against the levers and turning around shouted – Look, I can juggle and sail and still outpace the Dragons! Yeah, that’s me, Khwèntel of the Xhnófho phatry, the Greatest Pirate Suzerain in all of history! Take that you stupid ugly uuugly uuuuuugly Dragons! –
– I heard that! – came the voice of Prince Kherènxhuqhe from a few miles away. – Let’s eat the Qhíng first. –
– You may not want to eat his memories! – laughed Fhèrkifher. –All the pink lemonade in him, if you even breathe fire in his generation direction, I think all of you will light up like painted lanthorns! –
– Dragons almost upon us! What a good way to die! – laughed Xhnófho.
– We’re almost ready for the next stage of our plan – Éfhelìnye chanted. She rubbed her face against Puîyus neck and chanted – If this doesn’t work this could be our last moment together alive. I have an idea! –
– !! – Puîyus shook his head in negation.
Éfhelìnye wrapped her hands behind Puîyus neck and chanted – Kiss me now! –
– Mew! –
– Nobody’s looking! –
– I am! – chanted Aîya. – What’s going on? –
– Ixhúja is family, and so are the Pirates – chanted Éfhelìnye. – Now pucker up! –
– Mew! – Puîyus looked up towards the pirates.
– Eiya, we can see that! – cried Prince Kherènxhuqhe. – Don’t make us report anything to your Father! –
– I’m terribly sorry, but you’re intending for to kill us anyway! – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Yes, but Lord Kàrijoi the Setting Sun will be sore cross if you’re kissing a boy! – chanted the Prince. – You’d better not! He shall see all that we can see. –
– I want to see – chanted Aîya.
– Hic! Hic! Hic! – gasped Xhnófho as several more juggling pins flowed up from him. – Wait, there’s a flaw in our plan here. –
– You mean the fact that we’re about to crash into the sea? – asked Fhèrkifher.
– It’s the fact that we’re about to crash into the sea – nodded Xhnófho. – Hic! Hic! Hic! –
– I don’t tell what you tell my Father! – Éfhelìnye laughed. – Why, Puey’s the greatest kisser in all of mortal history! Why don’t you tell him that! Why, do you want me to prove it? –
– !! – Puîyus shook his head.
– You can tell my Father that you saw his only Daughter kissing the cherry red lips of Puey, the Knight’s Son, and it was the most spectacular kiss that any Demimortal or Mortal had e'er witnessed! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – Here, why don’t you Dragons come a little closer, Puey and I are going to kiss up a storm! –
– Mew! – gasped Puîyus.
– You can fight them after we kiss! They’re not going to attack us while we osculate. –
– Yes we will! – cried Kherènxhuqhe. – Touch that lad, and I slay you all! –
– Then watch this! – Éfhelìnye cried, and she wrapped her arms around Puîyus and drew her face close unto his and began kissing his chin and nose and cheeks, even though his face glowed with embarrassment, and he was struggling to dislodge her from him, but by now the ship was breaking apart and there was no place for them but to stand just right where they were.
– We’re about to crash into the sea! – cried Xhnófho. –- We’re just a few elevens of leagues above it, and Éfhelìnye’s course correction only sped us up. We have no lift at all. –
– Yes, it’s an interesting plan – chanted Fhèrkifher.
– You don’t know all of it, what Éfhelìnye whispered into my ear-globes – chanted Xhnófho, as the juggling pins flew out from him.
– You kiss him, you die! – shouted Prince Kherènxhuqhe.
Éfhelìnye’s lips attacked Puîyus, and no matter how he tried to wriggle and squirm away from her, she managed to find him, and one of her hands was reaching outwards and pinching him about his ear, and when he winced in pain, he was distracted long enough for Éfhelìnye to snatch at his lips and kiss him all the more.
– That’s the most disgusting thing we’ve e'er seen! – cried the Dragons swooping down above them.
– I’m going to be sick! – cried Prince Kherènxhuqhe. – And mortals fear Dragons, we should fear mortal kind if you find that normal at all! –
– What is she doing? – Aîya’s three heads were asking Ixhúja, and one head reaching out to bite her sleeve and shaking her hand, and when Ixhúja finished her doughnut she dusted off her hands and just grinned. – Is she eating him up? Is Puey yummy feast? Is she going to make Puey Pie? Is that good or not? –
– We’re so telling your Father! – the Dragons cried out as they were swooping down and were now just a few cubits away.
– Does your other wife know these kisses? – Prince Kherènxhuqhe asked. – Oh, there is going to be trouble great in the harem, trouble indeed! –
– Does everyone know we’re about to crash? – hiccoughed Xhnófho.
– Purr purr purr? – asked Ixhúja.
– I don’t understand her the either – chanted Aîya.
– Aren’t we supposed to? – asked Fhèrkifher. – One should probably ask the Empress … of one can pry her away from the Emperor for a moment. – Fhèrkifher thought that it would probably be terribly rude to interrupt the Empress in her osculations, it was a guess after all since his training under Grandfather Pátifhar, although it had included a tiny bit of royal protocal had somehow failed to mention Princesses kissing their sweethearts, so he kept his back to the children and chanted – Honored Empress, may we ask you something? Empress Éfhelìnye? Empress! Please, Éfhelìnye, lwa, you can kiss him later, if there be a later. –
– Oh Puey, let’s kiss later too – Éfhelìnye chanted when she finally drew herself away from Puîyus face, and falling all about them came the shadow of the Dragons and Prince Kherènxhuqhe just a few cubits away from burning them all alive. – I certainly hope this is worthy enough of pulling me away from kissing my beautiful Puey! –
– Empress, we’re about to crash … – chanted Fhèrkifher.
– I don’t know whether I’m un-hyper enough to stop this crash! – cried Xhnófho as several more pìnta juggling pins crashed out from him.
– Oh, yes! The next part of the plan – Éfhelìnye chanted as she clapped her hands. Behind her Puîyus was drawing his sword, the Dragon claws were almost against him. – Ixhúja? Ixhúja, why are you on deck eating a doughnut? –
Ixhúja stuck out her tounge at her cousin and gobbled the doughnut down and then remembered she was supposed to be doing something very important. She slipped down into the machinery and spun all of the sundials about and Éfhelìnye muttered – Sometimes I think the women of my family can get just so distracted either with our hobbies and persuits. I thank the Ancestors I’m far more focused, I’m like the light coming out of the lighthouse, I’m like an arrow shot out, I’m like … oh Puey’s lips are just so soft and delicious and sweet, and his embrace is just so warm. Puey, I know you’re fighting two Dragons at the moment, but if you could spare me an hug that would be fantastic. –
– If you hug him we’re telling your Father! – cried Prince Kherènxhuqhe.
Éfhelìnye jumped up and down and shook his small towards the growing dragon shadow and shouted – I hope you live just long enough to see me and Puey get married, and then I’m hugging and kissing him in public all the time and especially in front of Dragons! I want everyone in the viceroy kingdoms and nations and timelines to know of our love! –
– Your sweetheart is blushing, oh Princess! I’m telling you Father that also. –
– I don’t care! And the blush only means that he feels the love swelling up from his heart! I’ll have anyone know of my love, I’ll set up a statue of Puey in every city-state and town, no, it will be a statue of me and Puey kissing each other, yes, that’s going to be the official statue, so everyone can see it, and there’s nothing you can do about it! –
– Except kill you of course. –
– Oh. Next part of the plan. Puey, is it time? –
– Mew! –
– Ixhúja? –
– Purr … –
– What’s the next part of the plan? – Fhèrkifher as Xhnófho as the juggling pins limizin durbuid spun up out of the Qhíng’s sleeves.
Xhnófho turned back to Fhèrkifher, and his antennæ were grinning in a fey smile. – This why I can’t be sugarless hyperless. Now that we’ve reached the maximum speed afforded by gravity, now, just as we are just a few leagues above the convection of the ocean … ah … how shall I say this … as our ship begins to incinerate … Emperor Puîyos wants us to … –
– To what? – asked Fhèrkifher.
Xhnófho drew out a lever and took out a red skeleton key and wound it into place. – We’re going to go jaût, at light speed, into the … into the disintergration of the ocean … –
– Oh … the suicide manouver. – Fhèrkifher blinked.
– I believe the technical term is the Puey Move – Éfhelìnye chanted, and now that the waters were almost about them, the air was grown thick with the smells of wave and salt. – Ixhúja, are you ready? –
– I’m going to pray very quickly – chanted Fhèrkifher.
– Purr! – came the voice from the machines.
– Puey, are we ready? – asked Éfhelìnye.
Puîyus punched the nearest Dragon away, and for a moment the ship was completely enveloped in the eclipse of the Moons.
– Ancestors, protect us. Ancestors, protect us. Oh Ancestors, I beg you, protect us! – gasped Fhèrkifher.
– MEW! – Puîyus shouted.
– Now! – cried Éfhelìnye.
Xhnófho spun the skeleton key around. – Ask the former Moon Empress for her blessing too. –
– Oh holy Khnesqekaîxhren, save us now! – cried Fhèrkifher.
Xhnófho tapped the button. The engines of the wreck burst out in clouds of steam miles long.
Light speed was begun.
Íreu! Íreu! Íreu!
Come on come on come on!
Let’s go let’s go let’s go!
Eamus Eamus Eamus ni iru ni iru!
Xhthíreu! Xhthíreu! Xhthíreu!
Everyone, behold the Moon Dragons! ‘Tis time for the Emergent Aumàfhruse!
Qìr pé pé pé!
– Oh! – gasped Princess Éfhelìnye.
As the smoldering remants of the vessel approached jaût, the speed of light, several different changes happened at once. The most obvious was that everyone felt dizzy and yanked inside out, this was especially noticeable since the riders were at this point essentially riding some bits of debris strapped to motors and engines and twining machinery, and there were no roof or windows to protect them. The heavens appeared wider with streaks of geometric light etched into it. At once everything was moving blured and faster, so that now everyone could feel the intense cold arising from the seas, and the columns of coral were almost within reach. Sound was hushed, and brilliant flashes of light were rolling in great rondured bubbles all through the ship, even as its speed was increasing and Ixhúja by her marvels was keeping the clockwork working. Many of the Dragons were blasted aside by the sudden ripples of energy flowing out from the engines, but not all of them, and Prince Kherènxhuqhe and soeme of his cohorts found themselves within the metamorphósis bubble of the light speed, and so Puîyus, in the blurs and crackles of light, was still having to do battle against them.
– Ixhúja? Will it work? – Princess Éfhelìnye called out.
– … –
– In a moment? I hope we have a moment. – Éfhelìnye looked up and saw Puîyus striking back and forth against the Dragons, and in the lightspeed the Dragon Brand was also changed, when it touched the Dragons it became ripples of triangles and starlight triangulating outwards and seeping into the heavens, and as Puîyus and the Dragons fought, they kept appearing and blinking and phasing in and out of existence. – This part coming up is the truly crazy part of the plan – Éfhelìnye chanted to herself.
– It gets weirder! – Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho gasped at the same time.
Aîya’s heads stuck up from the machinery. – Just heard loud and surprised gasping. Everything alright? –
– Yes, just hurry! – chanted Éfhelìnye.
Aîya sunk back down into the steam engines, but Qìfhte and a few Dragonflies arose, their vitrious compound eyen blinking and they asked – Was anyone gasping up here? We don’t need surprises. –
Éfhelìnye plucked up the dragonflies and kicked them back down to Ixhúja and chanted – We need my Father’s nightmares before me er that we hit skerry! –
– The ship is disintergrating! – gasped Xhnófho.
– Lwa, it’s falling apart! – gasped Fhèrkifher.
Aîya and Qìfhte looked up from the machines. – Sure are a lot of gaspings going on up here! – the dragonfly cried.
Fhèrkifher’s pockets wriggled a little and out poked the marionette of Grandfather Pátifhar, and it wriggled its cane towards the dragonfly and Traîkhiim and cried out – Get back to work! Get back to work? –
– Anyone else think it’s a little strange for pirates to go around pillaging and sailing with sock puppets? – asked phasing Qìfhte.
– Look, there’s the pygmos again! – gasped Aîya bulwal.
– Did you just gasp, wthòrmama wthormalroâma? – asked Qìfhte.
– And if I did? –
– Don’t. –
– The Prince is here! – gasped Princess Éfhelìnye.
– No more gasping – chanted Qìfhte. – We’re outta here – and the Dragonfly grabbed Aîya by one of her heads and they came descending into the bursting mist of the machinery and the ship accelerated unto lightspeed and Puîyus hurled away the Dragons about him save for Prince Kherènxhuqhe. He looked around and stole a look at the coral just about to impale through the ship, he could see that many Dragons were flowing about the isles and the shore, and from the burning of the wreckage he knew that at any moment now everything was about to incinerate and become growing flame. He had not a moment to think about that now, for Prince Kherènxhuqhe was veering right above him, the Princes’ wings were weaving from side to side, and his great snapping jaws were fainting left and right, so that Puîyus had to leap up and spin around all the faster, and if he were not so swift and agile he would have been thirled through many times. The dragon was roaring all the louder, noxious clouds arising from its jaws, all of its body swinging, its tail reaching outwards and jabbing right towards the lad, but Puîyus was able to hold his ground, and in the incinerating heat there was no place for him to go anyway save to strike against the flicker of tail and the flutter of wing. Again and again he struck his sword against the Dragon’s neck and chest and around its beak, and many times the claws were reaching out towards him and striking him with terror force. But even Prince Kherènxhuqhe could see that they were running out of time, for if the Prince remained with them he too, although a mighty Dragon would be incinerated on impact, and yet he could not bare to bring himself away and not fight the lad, back and forth as they raged in battle, and Kherènxhuqhe knew that all about him in the descent of the wings and the spumes of flame entering even unto the crash of lightspeed, that all of the rest of the Dragon host were rushing downwards from the blackness of the eclipse and all converging on the spot, where the incinerating ship was just about to enter the seas at light speed. And by now in the horror of the battle Puîyus was gasping and struggling as he struck from side to side, and Kherènxhuqhe was screaming and striking with his wings, and the power of the light speed was growing so great that it was touching the ocean even before the ship did, and several leagues of ocean were suddenly boiling away and becoming naught but heat and steam arising, waves upon waves of lightspeed convections were flowing upwards from the steam engines and drawing out of the seas great tsunamis to crash against the shore, the ship was a burning ember a blinding furnace, and the coral of the skerries was breaking apart and casting aside bits of ancient and sunken Xakhpàlqe vessel and labyrinth and the foam of experiments of ages past. Puîyus and Kherènxhuqhe charged each other, and as they struck waves of heat eminated from them both and threw aside many of the Dragons surrounding them, and their mirror eyen were blinking a little, and the heavens were crackling with lightning as the ship’s velocity began to pass light speed. And still Puîyus and Kherènxhuqhe crashed against each other, and the thousands of Dragons of the air were spinning about the twain and brathing out streams of fire and steam, and all of the heavens were crackling. Puîyus’ face was streaked with blood from where the jade talons and the barb winds had struck him, and Kherènxhuqhe was staggering, brilliant phosphorous bursting out form his body, his wings becoming reforming ice and magma again and again, and both the lad and the Dragon were screaming in rage as they just starting ripping and punching against each other. Puîyus swung his sword around and tried to sink it into the Dragon’s wounds, and although the flames licked up against Kherènxhuqhe, although he was able to inflict many little cutlings against him, Kherènxhuqhe was still arising vast and majestic and terrible and striking back all the while.
Princess Éfhelìnye spun around, the last jet burst away from the ship and in the tremors of light speed became dust all at once. Xhnófho and Fhèrkifher gasped out aloud and jumped into each others’ tentacles and arms, a few loose playing cards and juggling pins leaping out around them, for all of the helm broke apart, and the surface of the ship was rapidly becoming dust. The ripples of lightspeed were growing even brighter, and the pirates scrambled up to the surface of the ship, and the only place they could grasp were some of the twisting metals of the steam engines and the Aumàfhruse itself, and even that was boiling away.
– I suppose we don’t need a pilot any longer! – Xhnófho cried out.
– So, have we prepared our own secret plan? – Fhèrkifher asked.
Xhnófho reached out from behind the engines and smashing through a barrel drew out something that looked like an egg. – I’ll get it ready. The little ones will have a chance. – He tapped upon the ovoid a few times and it began to grow in his tentacles, and Fhèrkifer reached into his pocket and made sure that he still had that apparatus which Grandfather Pátifhar had entrusted unto him.
– Purr purr purr! – cried Ixhúja, and she bounced upwards and gathered up into her arms Aîya and her clockwork thralls, and clammering upwards unto the exploding engines drew out the cauldron wherein the Aûm had distilled and brewed their most terrible of inventions. Ixhúja did not even bother looking behind her, everything behind her was being reduced to dust and ash, the ship was no more, she pulled herself up through the burning struts caught in the time of lightspeed and drawing up the cauldron up unto Éfhelìnye presented it unto her.
– The Aûm thought that they could control my Father’s nightmares and so bring death unto their enemies – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Few of those, however, who could with truth claim to know my Father, and fewer still to understand him. – She pressed upon the buttons of the cauldron and it sprang open before her and pouring out from it came glistening beams of crystal light. – Perhaps I can guess of his nightmares, even if just a little. –
Prince Kherènxhuqhe face was bleeding, the wound right beside his eye was bleeding with quicksilver and incense dribbling outwards, and the Dragon threw Puîyus down and struck him down across the face. – Do you not understand how maddening this is for us! – screamed the Dragon Prince. – At the dawn of things Monsters dwelt in the outer darkness, and Nightmares were for the night, Dæmons were used to regulate the hours and the sunset, and we, the Dragons, we were the majestic singers of creation, we were beautiful and powerful, we were myth and legend, were the ideal of song, and we were the singers for Empress Khnoqwísi! –
Puîyus jumped upwards and struck the Dragon against the face and did his best to aim for the wound above the eye, or even to strike Kherènxhuqhe in his baleful eye, but the Prince spun around at the last moment, his coils rippling outwards, blue and green heat bursting upwards from from his thews.
– We protected children, virgins, maidens, priests, were the patron of brides and princesses, we were the servants of divine Khnoqwísi, and all who saw us loved us with a perfect and glowing love. No body feared us, all adored us, we were the Moon Dragons of the Moon Empress, and despair was not part of the worlds! – Kherènxhuqhe came spinning around, the heat of ship growing so great, that even the Dragon was roaring in wrath, and the Prince could barely even see that they were just a few seconds away from exploding against the skerries at light speed velocities, and already all of the oceans were parting, waves arising in walls miles tall, the bubbles of light years drawing aside the sky and sea and leaving nothing but burning heat.
Éfhelìnye reached into the light and drew out a small portion of it, and all at once the siġle about her neck unfolded with all of the flowing petal shines of the rainbow, and dripping down about her head a crystalline diadem began to form just as her Mother used to wear khniefhrìnthe crystalline, and in the long and unwavering ripples she could smell the slight memory of flowers, and of gardens which had not bloomed in eleven years.
– Children used to dance before us! – screamed Prince Kherènxhuqhe as he smacked Puîyus from side to side, and the Dragons were now all falling right into the skerries and the rising ocean tides evaporating before the heat and light year convections. – Knights and princesses admired us – cried the Prince. – And when trouble came, when strife would come to a village of city, all of the peoples were lift up their hands in supplication and know in their hearts that the Dragons would save them all. And now behold what have become, we are the living horror of the worlds, we are the most feared of all creatures, we are the Emperor’s wrath and might and the bane of all things! – The Prince grasped Puîyus by the throat and shook him about a little like a sock pocket, and whispered – Khnoqwísi destroyed the Dragons, just as your Princess and Concubine shall destroy you! –
Éfhelìnye reached into the glistening shadows of light arising out of the Aumàfhruse. The ship completely disintergrated, and all of its mass and energy was striking the ocean deep at light speed, and flowing unto all sides of them were thousands of dragons rising and falling about the shores. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw that Puîyus was striking Prince Kherènxhuqhe across his snout, and everything was becoming blinding light. He spun around in the growing explosion, and drifting about them came Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho holding onto the egg, and Ixhúja and Aîya drifting unto another side.
– Khnoqwísi – Éfhelìnye chanted, and all of the Aumàfhruse was lighting up. – Khnoqwísi – she chanted again, and all of the Dragons arose and quailed. – Khnoqwísi – she chanted, and the Aumàfhruse awoke and burst outwards, and the most crazy part of Puîyus’ plan came to pass.