Dragons are xenásun, they are demimortal, and along with the blue Unicorns and the Tèntra of flowers, they are actually composed of the some of the music and time of creation. They are not pure Spirit, pure Spirit is the thought of the Immortals. The Immortals create the music and time of creation, they sing and dance it into being. Mortals are made out of flesh, they inhabit the music and time of creation. But not so the xenásun, they neither inhabit nor create the music, they are not thought into being, they are part of the very creation itself. Time is their blood, fire and music is their heartbeat, and they swim through the billion, billion worlds, such as the cloud-gathering Dragon lords.
This is what he sees.
You will learn to live without love. You will learn to still your heart, to let it grow into ice and stillness. You will find yourself quiet and purified. You will be at peace with all things. You will be no threat unto your Father. We shall return him unto you, and everything will be just as it was before.
– So there you are – Qhalúxha was saying. The Dragon was arising, not quite to his full height of course, he did not wish to alarum the virgin who was walking before him. The Dragon was utterly magnificient, gold and red he was, his scales were flowing up and down the sides of his body and creating tartan pattenrs of triangles and hexagons all the while, and his wings were long and rustling capes of white and movement and ice forming and breaking apart and reforming all the while. Ancient Qhalúxha lay upon the ground and let the fires play about the whisps of his snout, his eyen were glistening mirrors ay-shining, the Dragon was calm and still.
The virgin coming untowards him was very beautiful, in fact she was the most beautiful of all women whom Father Qhalúxha had e'er seen, and he was the most ancient of all of his kind. Her approach caused his ancient reptilian heart to beat once again, her felt humbled to be in the presence of such purity. The maiden took a few steps forward, her hair was all unbanded, long and silvery white and flowing all the way down to her waist, her eyen were silver also, and her face was utterly serene. Although her dress was simple in his color and spinning, upon her it was beaming light. Her girdle was of gold and from it hung prayer wheels and rosaries, and she walked upon glass slippers towards the Dragon and bowed unto her.
– Thou art the foster Daughter of the Sorcerer, neh? – asked Father Qhalúxha, and slowly he began to arise upon his limbs and gaze in wonder at this beautiful maiden child.
– I am – chanted Khnoqwísi. – I have come to learn wisdom of the Dragon folk. –
– Ancient we may be, but wise we are not – Father Qhalúxha chanted, and he turned his large head towards her and bowed down, and all of his body leaned downwards to obeise themselves before her. – It is I who should learn wisdom from the likes of you, so beautiful, so joyous, so wonderful thou art. –
Khnoqwísi took a few more steps froward. About her neck, Qhalúxha could see, she wore a necklace such as none he had seen before, it was a necklace of many colors, it was the arch of the ayauhcozamalotl and from it came bursting all of the hews of iridescence, and in her approach the necklace was revealing within it more blues and golds and rubies than Qhalúxha had e'er beheld before, it was as if all of his life had been spent within the dust of the moon caves, and only now was this maiden drawing him upwards to see color for the first time.
– I would learn color from a Rainbow Serpent – Khnoqwísi chanted.
– Thine heart can I see – Father Qhalúxha chanted. – It burns within you, a shining white beacon. All of my children shall follow it. –
– Will you reveal unto me the caldera and vales and craters of the Moons, oh beautiful Qhalúxha? –
– Yes, my Child – chanted Qhalúxha, nodding his head. He permitted Khnoqwísi to approach him, she reached out and brushed his snout and from his gills rainbow were drifting outwards. – You honor the phatries of the Dragons. –
– Then head thou my words – Princess Khnoqwísi chanted. She walked up unto Qhalúxha and pressed her hand against his brow, and walked into the smoke and ash and crystal flame arising from the Dragon breath, and she blessed the Father of the Rainbow Serpents and chanted – I shall reveal your beauty unto all of the Children of the Land. I shall make you Dragons fruitful and multiply, the clouds shall be where you desport, the moons shall be where you play, you shall be the summer storm and the spring breeze and the winter gambit and the autumn exaultation. You shall be joy of weather and rainbow. You shall protect children and virgins and priests. And all shall honor and love the Rainbow Serpents, the heralds of creation, the children of the Song. –
Father Qhalúxha nodded his great head unto her and chanted – Be it unto us according to your word. I and my Children and all those of the Brood of Qhalúxha shall honor the thee and the House of the Sun until the chiliastic end of time. –
It is always a mistake to promise anything, my little Éfhelìnye. All oaths, all plights, all promises, all words contain within themselves a promise of danger, can you not understand that? My forefather was entering into a covanent, he was being blessed, it was real, it changed reality. Let me see whether I can explain this unto you. I know you’ve never witnessed a marriage ceremony before, although you have some little knowledge of the betrothal rite. Consider this. The bride and bridegroom stand before the priest. The sylvan priest speaks some words from an old book, perhaps an acolyte is scattering holy water and incence towards the people. He may bind the hands of the couple together. Just a few words, just a couple of motions, and yet like that a promise is made for all of time, and it cannot be undone. The very air changes, my Princess, when such words of power are spoken. Even we cannot change it. The bride and groom are now one flesh, the troth plighted. The Dragons become part of the doom of Khnoqwísi, her words change us all.
Dragons dragons dragons in their visions.
Closing one’s eyen.
Storm storm the winter storm the bubbling clouds the crashing waves the clouds a sea the precipitation freezing before her gaze the momvement it is all a swarm it is ĥaoso driven out in motion, yet it is not disorderly it is an higher movement of how the clouds actually move and function, endless theorems of how one cloud should arise and shift and slide down against the other one. It is clear, long seas all of pellucid waves and springing up unto all sides are the walls and might of the storm. Winter storm. Ice storm. The Dragons generating it all the while. Bursts upon bursts upon bursts, all flashing, all raging. Each ice crystal bubbles before us, we breathe unto it, we mold and shape it and breath it outwards. Making making making poetic all the while. The squall flowing around the high towers. The weather of the pàfhajoir penyitàkhta comes spinning outwards and drifts out unto the skies that envelope the worlds made suitable for those fated to die. Towers of sunlight and glass, floating minarets, migratory guards, a great mountainous castle all of crystal arising, the Ice Palace which three thousand generations ago Eilasaîyan planted and let grow. The storm rolling outwards becomes the stained glass of the walls, the storm is become part of the throne and the long and winding rainbow stairs leading unto it, the storm is wall and column and portal, and the Palace becomes real and spreads outwards in myriad winglike directions.
As for Emperor Kàrijoi, he is walking from side to side within the throneroom, flashes of ice and light drifting down from him. The dragons blink. Kàrijoi is the young crown Prince running about and chasing after his Sisters Xerxhaláta and Alixhlìnye, while Grandfather Thiêfhilos their tutor chases after all of them and tries to bring order unto the House of the Sun. The dragons blink. Kàrijoi is a young man, his hair bright and ruddy and coiling about his shoulders, he and Khwìnton and Khwòjhwe are running out to ride upon their giraffes and hunt in the preserves of the city. The dragons blink. Crown Prince Kàrijoi and Princess Khnoqwísi are walking in the gardens together, and all things are blooming around them, all of the City at peace, all of the peoples home and content. The dragons blink. An hundred million years of peace come and go and vanish. The world buckles and changes. Whispering mountains rise and sink, dreamlands flow throughout the great dust causalities of pandimensional space, the Empire grows, the worlds expand, the Empire is te same. The dragons look back. Emperor Kàrijoi and Grandfather Thiêfhilos are fighting each other upon the strands of the Moon, dust waves crashing about them, and the Dragons are arising in flame and might. Àrqotha is turning, he takes the bundle that is little born Princess Éfhelìnye and he wraps her up within his arms and flutters away. The Emperor and his tutor fight, sword clashing against sword. Pátifhar falls. Kàrijoi levels his sword against him. Princess Éfhelìnye weeps for the first time in her life. The dragons blink. The worlds are dying. Eternal winter qhixiêje is gripping all of the land, creeping midnight claiming all things. The Holy City is become an endless pyre, as the Monsters pour out from the Twiêkes Ice Palace and gather up tree and shrub and fern and priest to throw upon the fire. The Monsters can no longer even find any more children, so the resort to digging up the earth and searching for worm and blade of grass and seed and microbe to throw upon the flames. Kàrijoi is floating somewhere in the midst of the throneroom, he is become the utter incarnation of the war storm, ice and flame and rage bursting out from him in all directions. Where the Emperor looks, lightning is arising and scorching the worlds. Where the Emperor turns, the Dragons now where to search and hunt and slaughter. Kàrijoi floats upwards, all of the Ice Palace transforms around him, it is becoming ash and flame and obsidian and pyre, and the Emperor lies in the very midst of it all.
Lord and Master Kàrijoi at many ages, at many times. The Rising Sun, the Prince. The Setting Sun, the old Emperor. The Father of all the Land, the Keeper of Heroes, the one who brings life and prosperity and health, the one who keeps the sacred rivers flowing and flooding and freezing, Khìtlhekel and Purátu and Píson and Qhíkhon, the Lord of fair-haired and wonderous Khnoqwísi, the young Prince who kept trying to sneak away from Grandfather Pátifhar the old Sorcerer, the young man who fell in love with the Princess of the silver tresses, the Bridegroom of the viceroy kingdoms, the Son of the nations, brother unto Khwìnton and Khwòjhwe, the Great One, the Majestic Master of Earth and Sea and Sky.
Emperor Kàrijoi was floating in the very midst of the Winter Storm. Frost and hoar-rime were his beard and garments, long and bursting ambrosial light were all of his fluent tresses, his crown was a perfect composition of crustaceon and insectoid jointedness, the endless crystals of the crown branching downwards and intersecting his head and ears and hair, the crown arising into glistening glass towers that resembled a little all the City of enhallowed Eilasaîyanor. The Emperor was the hub and all of the storm was flowing all around him, spokes of the wheel were lightning bolts orbiting about him, the growing ripples of the squall thunderous and mighty were haloes forming about his brow. His arms were like unto long swords all of glass and frost, and he was swinging them around and around and cutting through the storm and tide that came up unto him. He held up his hand, he was tugging upon the edge of the realities and drawing them closer unto him, as if the realms were like unto a curtainsheet which he could tug and berustle from side to side. He was reaching outwards with his sword arms. Tumbling down before him were falling many of the Elders and Masters and Soldiers of the Fhértlha the Great Races, spilling about the Emperor’s feet fell the Qlùfhem and the Qája and the Ptètqiikh and Khlitsaîyart and Kháfha and Qhíng, and the Emperor lifted up his sword arms and began eviscerating the nations of them one by one by one The Qlùfhem were falling upon their sphere-legs and trying to roll aside from dread Kàrijoi, but he was capturing them by thorax and neck and shredding them, their bodies were breaking apart like vegetables and sliding downwards into long composite pieces, he grabbed several of the Qája and drew them upwards, their long legs twining from side to side, their mandibles quavering in despiration as they plead for their lives, and Kàrijoi thrust his sword through their faces again and again and popped their compound eyen out and hurled down the carapaces of their bodies. The Ptètqiikh were screaming in terror as they were falling down before the Emperor, and Kàrijoi just glanced upon them and turned them ino ice and breathig upon them shattered them and made them unto dust. The Khlitsaîyart were trying to flee, many of them still felt shame from all of the dishonor caused by their kinsmen upon the crimson sands of Tsànyun, they were clammering one against the other, but Kàrijoi’s knives and swords were appearing in many places at once, for time itself was one of his weapons, was part of his frozen heart fhàfhtoi jaûnoi, gelid grīš, frore ŝag, and the Khlitsaîyart were just falling into steaming pieces, squamous hame and sinews and flesh all falling down into steaming pieces, the Kháfha as they fell before the Emperor were kneeling down upon their webbed feet and bowing their heads, it was proper, it was pious for them to meet whatever fate Kàrijoi had for them with dignity, and the Emperor took them up and vaporized them, billions of particles of song and story drifting out from where their bodies had been and becoming part of the ice storm, and the Qhíng were spilling out before, they took up their impaling spears and whip-swords, they were eager to fight the Emperor even in service of the Emperor, so that the contest may be excellent and worthy of song, but Kàrijoi slew them all and drew unto himself billions upon billions of folk of the outer worlds, the Traîkhiim were raining downwards like so many autumnal leaves, they were the whirlwind all about Kàrijoi, they were breakign apart around him, it was as if the Emperor were become the greatest of all Suns so deep and dark and swelling, and all about him the planets were colliding and grinding themselves into smaller pieces, dust and stone and metal smashing and become asteroids and darkness and disques flowing all around him, and in the expansion of the Extinction which Kàrijoi was unleashing he was reaching outwards and poisoning all of the soil and all of the waters, the trees and ferns and grasses were wilting, the plantimals, the kine and dinosaurs and beasts were falling down, all microbes all that creep and crawl and swim were dying, all life, and clouds of extinction were rolling away from him in waves in waves in waves.
Prince Wthonùkite of long ago, Grandson of Qhalúxha was swirling around and around the branches of the Tree of Light. Sacred Sànum did not exist during most of the tide of his own lifetime, but some of the ripples of the past were part of his memories of the present, and he enjoyed dancing through the bejeweled and amberlit eddies of time. The dance around the branches of the tree was an especially flexible and sinuous one, he was swirling around the branches where planets and worlds and realities were blossoming, back in the time when all of the Dreamtime was connected to a single tree. Flowing up and down the bark were the runes which in later ages became the markings upon the Emperor’s staff. Swelling outwards before him came the great Ocean of Music, and all of the Tree was a bloom with its endless fields of wild Starflowers. It was eternal Summer as it always was in the earliest of days, the Tree smelt sweet, and all of the flowers were bursting outwards with their own perfume and music.
Prince Wthonùkite turned around and saw that Jhwàrxhnort was drifting down the branches, Jhwàrxhnort was basking in the sunlight howlsplann of the billion Suns dangling as fruit upon the Tree, his brilliant feathercrest was opening upwards, his rolling wings were soaking up the light, and he turned with lazy eyen to regard the Prince of his people.
– The Emperor indeed must feel betrayed – Prince Wthonùkite was saying.
– Which Emperor, the dynasty of mortals is eternal – Jhwàrxhnort chanted.
Flowing up from Wthonùkite’s gills came heat which cooled and became the bubbles of many worlds and times and thoughts, and drifting up from them were images of Fhìtsarakh and his son Kàrijoi and the wintering of all of the land. – For us Rainbow Serpents there are but two Emperors, Eilasaîyan who freed our Father and Kàrijoi the mightiest of all men, strong enough to bend our phatries to our will. But Eilasaîyan’s shadow is not wide enough to cast itself even unto this time, before the creation of the first Ancestor Khriîno. It is of Kàrijoi that I speak. –
– He is like the Tree himself, from Kàrijoi hang all of the branches of the worlds, he is root and trunk and scion. –
– Once upon a time there lived an Emperor hight Kàrijoi, and he was the mightiest of all men – so spake Prince Wthonùkite. – Unto the Emperor all monks and sages and wise men made their palmerage to seek wisdom of him, and because of him there bloomed the longest era of peace in all the Land. But Kàrijoi had a daughter, a fair Princess and she fell in love with the Warrior’s Son. The Emperor sent his Vassel’s Son upon an holy Quest, but as the young man ran out into the growing winter, the Princess ran away for to help him. And the Emperor was left all alone, he was the lone patriarch of the forest, and there was nothing left for him to do but rage against storm and ice and nature itself. –
So spoke Prince Wthonùkite. In later days Wthonùkite settled in the Silver Age and was slain by King Xaîle Qhiikhèrkhmair, the Prophet’s brother. And in later days Jhwàrxhnort, mighty and feather glistening stormed into the Seven Viceroy kingdoms of Old where he was slain by the hand of Khiêro of Old, the Father of the Warrior Caste.
Opening one’s eyen.
– Is this my part? Am I supposed to be here now? – Akhlísa was asking.
The Dragons in the caves turned to each other and gave each a quizzical look.
– I know I’m supposed to be doing something, I just can’t remember what – Akhlísa chanted. – Wait. I know you, don’t I? You’re Dragons, and this is … – Akhlísa looked around, saw that the cavern was stretching upwards all around her, the stalagmites were sparkling with moon dust and moon quartz, the stalagtites were all petrescent fangs reaching downwards, all of the cave was scintillant with phosphorescence, the walls were wavering before her face, and the Dragons were rising and falling about each other like so many waves crashing about the shore. The Dragons were turning unto her one by one by one, their large mirror eyen blinking all the while, and Akhlísa took a few steps backwards and chanted – Yes, yes, the Dragons and the Moon. All dusty and dry and all, it’s really only in the Mortal Realms were we find water and life and mortal stuff. The Dragons and the Moon. Grandfather Pátifhar tried to escape here. Dragons. They were trying to smuggle the Princess … – Akhlísa looked upwards and chanted – Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just the Emperor’s fool! Little silly little Akhlísa! – She hopped from side to side, she was dressed in a bright white bridal dress, a golden veil on top of her head, and she smiled and clapped her hands in a dance she had learned from some of the Qlufhem Aûm. – Don’t worry about me, I’m just a silly little Concubine, I don’t know anything that’s happening at all, don’t ask me, don’t ask Karuláta fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa! –
The Dragons were arising about Akhlísa, she tumbled downwards and clasped her knees and hoped that if she became as small and adorable as possible that the Dragons would not harm her, but rather they just began to dance all about her, smoke and dust were billowing from their jaws, their eyen were become playful flambeaus, their scales were joyous rainbows, Àrqotha was arising as the coryphæus of this particle hula quire, and the Dragons were almost tip tip tip toeing one about the other as they lifted up their voices and wings and sang together saying:
The Poet Warrior loved a flower,
The blossom of the Emperor’s garden.
The lad stole the flower.
Oh disgrace! Oh dishonor!
Dying, little Akhlísa!
Dying, the great Emperor!
Dying, all the Dragons!
Dying, all the Land!
If Kàrijoi not slay Puîyos,
Nothing shall be left.
– Maybe I slipped into the wrong Dream again – Akhlísa chanted as she scrambled upwards almost to slip o'er moonrocks dripping with fungus. One of her bridal shoon became wedged between some pyramids of rock. She cried out and began to cry, and Àrqotha swooped down upon her and lifted up his powerful talons unto her. Akhlísa screamed, she thought it would be quite embarrassing to be caught by a Dragon in its dream, especially after evading one in waking life, but Àrqotha just reached outwards and drew her away from the rock and set her upon her path.
– I would not exactly call it a Dream, my little kromvirino, dearest φarikā – Àrqotha was saying. – These are not sacred khmèntokh, taghairm dragon dreams. This is just the way that we Dragons see. –
– Ah, yes … – Akhlísa looked from side to side, and when Àrqotha took a few more steps before her she flinched and cried out – Just don’t kill me yet! It’s not my fault, the Prince made me tell him where to find my lord and husband, I didn’t mean to say anything, I can’t die yet I have to live long enough to apologuise to him that’s all I want to do! –
– Visions, dreams, prophecies, revelries, thoughts, metaphors, music, dance, story, unto us Dragons it is all the same – Àrqotha was musing unto himself. – Ah, were you saying anything? –
– Nothing at all – Akhlísa squeaked, her voice breaking. She gulped a couple of times and chanted – I’ll just be going yonder. I wouldn’t want to offend your majestic dragonishness. –
– Quite – chanted Àrqotha. – Do as you will, oh Dream Enchantress Akhlísa, oh Fosterling of the deathless Ása. You do not bother me. We Dragons have vast minds, a few mortals wandering within don’t bother us, or at least not me. –
Akhlísa leaned against the side of the cave, it swayed a little about her in an almost amœbic fashion, and looking around she saw that all of the moonrocks and lunar caves were swaying. Àrqotha was turning around and rejoining the rest of the Dragons deeper within the caverns, and his movement and the beating of his wings was the main light within. Akhlísa trotted after him, she did not quite like the idea of being left alone within the caverns of thought, but then again she did not like being near Dragons at all, even since she was very ltitle she had been terrified of them, and whenever she had nightmares about Dragons she’d come running into Puîyus’ bed and make him hold her. Now that she was older and had seen with her own eyen the power and wrath and ruthlessness of the cloud-gathering Rainbow Lords, now her very thoughts quivered just to think of them, and she just wished to find Puîyus and have him wrap his arms around her and tell her that she was safe. But that could not happen now, Prince Kherènxhuqhe had squeezed her thoughts out from her mind with his jade talons, and she had betrayed him. She looked around in the moon cave and saw that Emperor Kàrijoi was seated upon his throne and gazing down upon her in utmost sadness.
– I have to find my Puey! – Akhlísa cried. – I have to tell him how sorry I am. –
– Go after Àrqotha – bade Emperor Kàrijoi. – Remember, you are within his eyen. But Dragons do not see as Mortals do. –
Akhlísa bowed down before the throne and whispered – I thank you, thrice-honored Kàrijoi. –
– Thank me by finding Puîyus and saving my Daughter – spake Emperor Kàrijoi, and he arose from the throne and it was all becoming dust and frost and cascades of light, and as the Emperor walked away he too was breaking apart and become the living storm of autumnal leaves. Akhlísa came dashing off through the crashing leaves, and she had to hurry because Àrqotha, being larger than her, was able to stride through the long and winding corridors of the cavern with great haste even through he was not hurrying. She ran up unto his side and panting all the while told him – I suppose it must be wonderful being a Dragon isn’t it? You get to fly through the heavens and engage in all sorts of Dragon sports, I bet you pick up clouds and throw them against each other, you probably stomp the ground and let dragocontineism lightning flowing from and about each other. Yes, being a Dragon must be fun. –
– Harrumph – Àrqotha snorted.
– So, while we’re wandering through your eyen, and let me add you have some very pretty caverns here forming somewhere within your sight, all long and winding, I just love how the funguses sprawl all around and turn in arboreal patterns, it’s all very moody, quite moon atmosphereic, yes, quite lovely … –
– Was there something you wished to ask me, Mortal? –
– Where’s Puey? –
Àrqotha turned his enigma eyen unto the maiden and bellowed – By that quite effeminate name I take it you refer to the Dragonslayer? –
– Ur … ah … hmmm …. –
– Do you? –
– Yes! – Akhlísa coughed a couple of times, but already Àrqotha was swinging away from her. She trotted after him and yelled – To be completely fair, though, the first time Puey killed a Dragon he was only three winters of age and didn’t quite know what he was doing! I wonder whether any other three-year old has e'er weided a mean and sharp sword. He used it like a toy, swinging it like this, fhwa fhwa fhwa, and then turning it around thusly, fhwa fhwa fhwa! He was quite brave. Do you know where he is? –
Àrqotha arose upon vast and sprawling wings, the cave was all dissolving about him and flowing down into the darkness of memory. Akhlísa, still burning with zeal to find Puîyus and apologuise unto him, thought that it would probably be best to follow the Emperor’s hest, and she so jumped up and grabbed the edge of Àrqotha’s claw and pulled herself upwards and clammered up around his feet and up his lims. It did not take her long to slide up into his arms and looking up unto him all the while ask – I seem to have lost my lord husband, I don’t suppose you know where to find him? –
– I have no desire to aid Puîyos the Knight’s Son. –
– And well you shouldn’t! I’m going to find him … and I’m going to wag my finger at him and smack him in the face and tell him what a terrible husband he’s been to me! Why, he’s out there chasing after Princesses and eating foreign foods, and everyone knows that Éfhelìnye cannot cook to save her life, she can barely even bake, and that’s the easy part of cooking, why I’ll tell honored Puîyos, Eh you! Don’t you remember me! I was intended to you in marriage within hours of my birth! I’ve been waiting all this time, and now you’re all, Oh look at me I’m such a hero I have to fight monsters and dragons in a most dramatic fashion just to impress the Princesses. Why, when I find Puey, I’m going to pop him in the nose like this beep beep beep beep beep! –
– Marriage is an inherently unstable sacrament – Àrqotha was saying, as worlds all of reeds were forming beneath them, and reeds were unraveling themselves unweaving from his wings. – Marriage is about the union of different mortals, different collections of souls and bodies, it’s a metaphysical alchemy wherein Mortals participate. Husbands and wives are the most comical of mortals, at least unto us Dragons. They’re in a constant state of equilibrium, and yet of individualness. –
– Why, I bet at this very moment my husband is lounging about with his Pirate goofball friends, those wastrels! I always knew that honored Fhèrkifher and revered Xhnófho would teach my husband some bad manners. Brawling in a tea tavern, you know Puey never used to brawl before. Didn’t used to bring home strange princesses either. Why, I’ve always been a good little Sister unto him, I hope he … do you know where he is? –
– We were there, at the first marriage – Àrqotha was saying, and by now all of the worlds of reeds were flowing upwards, ferns springing up among them, the reeds swaying from side to side, and behind them all arose the first few tendrillar branches of a tree arising, a tree of such fantastic proportions that Akhlísa had to crane her head upwards, the Tree was consisting of endless thousands upon thousands of towers of bark reaching outwards in long and angular almost crystalline branches all of them opening upwards and revealing fruit which were the nascent realities and worlds and stories. One by one by one the Starblossoms were opening upwards, and upon the world all of reeds plantimals were appearing and lifting up their heads. Dinosaurs and deer, kine and birds and fishes were standing upwards, and walking among them came the forefathers of the Qhíng and Kháfha and the Aûm Triplets and all of the Ancestors of the people.
– It was called Xhámiwiil, the place of reeds – Àrqotha was saying. – I do not remember it very well, it is hazy and blurred here, for I am of the last generation of Dragons born, and the inheritance of this memory has become thin in our music. –
Àrqotha was landing in the very midst of the sward, and he set Akhlísa down with gentle arms, and the Dragon’s wings were opening about her as a vast canopy. Akhlísa sniffled a little, she did not care about how docile and beautiful all of the wild plantimals were, how they were treating her as if she were Puîyus the Feral Lad, the lions and typhoonasaurs and coyotes and squid bears all rolling about her and gambolling and laughing and coming up unto her and licking her fingers, and the first Ancestors of the Mortals she did not care to see either, the Fathers of the Seven Castes of the Qhíng and the Aûm siblings Khesáfha and Qlùfhim and Thùlwus who came up unto her and bowed unto her in obeisance, and she was not even sure who the first parents of all the rest of these people were supposed to be. Groups of Kháfha were rolling out before her, and not a few of the Fhlóla and Traîkhiim. She began crying again, she looked to one side and saw one species whom she did not recognize at first, they were a folk of fins and eye-crests and great wings and were racing each other about, their wings folding about in rondured twists, and it took her a few moments to realize that they were the Syìplet folk before they had lost their wings to Our Heart Raven and received wheels in return, and the insouciant Syìplet were never happier than when they became enwheeled and raced each other until the end of their days. Akhlísa leaned against Àrqotha’s wings and began to weep saying – I just want to tell Puey that I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. If I had been a good bride unto him and slain myself rather than let the ugly stinky Prince drink in my thoughts, than the Dragons would never have set their ambush and trapped my Puey above the ruins of Syapàkhya. The path before him would still have been frought with peril, Automata and Ravens flowing unto all sides of him, but at least he would have had a better chance of returning unto me. I just wish that I had died so that he could live. –
Àrqotha shuddered, flame was drooling from his jaw. – The taste of your guilt is an exquisite delicacy. It burns, it soothes, it grows, it is nurtured by sorrow, it is watered by tears, it burgeons in memory, it is delicious. I need to taste more of your sadness. – He turned his jaws unto her, smoke was arising from his nostrils as he regarded the weeping virgin.
Akhlísa struggled in her tears, even as the first Ancestors of the People were coming up unto her and strewing garlands of flowers in her hair and were beginning thd dance of the First Marriage. – E'er since as long as I can remember, and it wasn’t so long ago because I’m very young, I don’t even remember when Puey killed that first Dragon, I was still an infant and Auntie Qtìmine was holding me in her arms, I just remember her feel and warmth and safety, I don’t remember when Puey was running through the fields and the Dragon was at attacking him. But when I did start remembering, again and again I was told how thankful I should be because my parents were dead but Abbá Íngìkhmar and Khwofheîlya took me in and fostered me as their own, and that was such an high honor, Íngìkhmar served the Emperor himself and Khwofheîlya was the beauty of our land, and I always was told that I had to be good and quiet and obedient to be worthy of this honor, I had to be a loving sister and pious daughter and attentive granddaughter, I had to learn all of the ways of our Clan, when I came of age I was to be given unto Puey and he would take care of me that was such an honor and I do wish to be a good wife unto him and I didn’t mean for the Dragon to read my thoughts I was just so frightened I didn’t know what to do, the Dragon was incinerating entire armies around me, he was smashing through glass hot air balloons and living ships, he was just breaky breaky smashing burny and what was I to do! Oh Àrqotha, you don’t understand what it means to betray someone whom you love with all your heart. –
Àrqotha bound froward and reaching out a claw caressed Akhlísa’s cheek and whispered – Perhaψ I understand the feeling better than you think. Reveal the bouquette of your guilt unto me. Oh, the taste, the sparkling taste of it. – The Dragon licked his lips a few times, his eyen grown large as he peered down unto Akhlísa.
– It’s just, I’ve always known I could never compete with Fhermáta, she was just perfect at everything, and I ain’t nohow as smartified as Siêthiyal is, she sings rings of arguments around me, she’s so very good with designs and painting things, and I’m just a clutzy klutze nedetälik jhùxhre, but I always knew that Puey loved me with that great big pure heart of his, he never gets angry with me whenever I knock his food off the table, or when I knocked off his weapons from the chair, or the time I broke all the windows in his bedroom, or all the times he’s sweeping and I walked a few times through the piles, or all the times when I have chores and go and take a nap beneath a tree and he does the chores for me without complaining or having to be asked, or all the times when we’re gathering with the Khatelèstan side of family and we have jars of ice collected from the mountain and sugar and cream and we’re making ice cream and Fhermáta and Xataríyona are churning and when I get some iced cream I spill it on the ground and begin to cry, and Puey runs up to me and always always always gives me his iced cream even though it’s the most delicious thing e'er in all the worlds he never eats any unless I get some, I just can’t betray him to death. But the Dragon Prince made me. –
Àrqotha’s tounge was reaching outwards and licking Akhlísa’s golden veil and the side of her face, he was tasting her salt tears and grief, his reptilian heart was beating within him, he was grinding his teeth and wondering how it would feel to grab the virgin and devour her at once, surely this maiden would be the tastiest treat of them all. – Tell me more, oh Fosterlng of the deathless Ása, oh Akhlísa the Dream Enchantress. –
Akhlísa sniffled a few more times, and reaching out to the Dragon’s talon wiped her nose on it and chanted – And the most worstest part is that as unthinkable as it is that Puey should be captured and harmed in any way by a Dragon … – Akhlísa could not even bring herself to contemplate the idea of Puîyus’ death, her heart was freezing just at the thought that she had turned her back unto him. – The most xhlaxílail, unspeakable, neësprimebla part is what happens should Puey return to me. Will he look at me and bid me a bride unworthy of his affection, will he take mine aurelian veil and cover my face so that he never look at me again? Will he never love me, will he not permit me to eat with him at the same table, to listen to his music, just to sit next to him? He will turn unto other maidens to be brides, foreign wives shall be his love, and he shall not permit me to bare him any children. Far away he may send me, or perhaps he shall just forget about me in his harem. I shall be all alone. Alone alone alone alone. –
– Akhlísa, alone – Àrqotha whispered.
– Yes – Akhlísa looked around. The First Ancestors were lifting up their voices and limbs in the bridal song. Before them came walking the first of the Queen Mothers of the Qája and the Ptètqiikh Elders and the Eleven Fathers of the Khlitsaîyart, dancing before all of the Ancestors was come Akhàkhma the very first of the Traîkhiim, the Onomatothete, he or she was graceful upon his or her limbs, wings were bursting out from his or her body, like a blossom of butterflies the Namer appeared, like a florescent Dragon, like a great cascade of moths, and flowing out from her came bits of petal and ice, from Akhàkhma from whom all of the androgynous Pèqlor dancers were descended. Akhlísa sniffled a few more times and then saw that the trees themselves were parting, branches wavering from side to side, and all of the Forefahers of the Real People were turning around and gasping in wonder as they beheld the first Woman of the Xhámi Færie coming forwards, Pfhentókha herself who had been formed from the heart of Khriîno, and bursting out from her came bouquets and flowers and birds and flying fishes, she who became the First Empress, she who was Mother unto all of the worlds. Akhlísa wiped her nose a few more times upon Àrqotha’s claw and chanted – Our first Mother really was beautiful, wasn’t she? I know her blood is the same blood that flows in Éfhelìnye, the rest of us poor Xhámi are descended of her from the lesser lineages, from the concubines and slaves taken into the House Pwéru, not so exaulted are the houses of the rest of us. And yet, seeing Pfhentókha, I don’t quite see the resemblence unto Éfhelìnye. They may both be fair, they are both glistening like dew. But they are different. Plus Pfhentókha is melanocomous, fhtòsar, brunhara! –
– Empress Qwasàkhta had golden tresses, the bride of Emperor Eilasaîyan – so the Dragon chanted. – Éfhelìnye’s hair she gets from her Father, and from Emperor Eilasaîyan himself. But I think Éfhelìnye resembles far more her Mother, silver-tressed and balletic Khnoqwísi. –
Pfhentókha was coming forward, and flowers were adorning her head, beauty was dripping down from her, and Akhlísa just sniffled all the more and could think of no praise to give unto her. As Pfhentókha arose, the seasons were dancing about her, and morning and evening were swaying form side to side and becoming a crown about her brow. Fishes and birds were chirming about her, and all of Xhámiwiil the land of reeds was awakening unto her, the Suns of Sànum the Dragon Tree were all beaming, flowers and herbs bursting up about her, glistens of frost and drew drifting around her, a perfumed shower of leaves were falling about her head, and now all of the Tree was awakening up the hours and sennights and moonphases to pay homage unto Pfhentókha the first of all brides. Emeralds and gems and rubies were the branches that were lacing above her, the Moons were all turning and waxing waning all the while, the land was opening upwards and sward upon sward and carpet after carpet all of light and blue-green life was appearing. The Forefathers were all bowing down before her, and slipping down through the continents and worlds of the Tree in procession were come the parades of the Xhrèmlin Tlhìpwa Elementals to bless the bride, and dancing in the forfront came the Qhiêfhu sand sprites, they were spinning upon their ankles and clapping their hands together, and flowing up from their hair came frosting sand and ripples of freezing sand, and behind them came the Khùfhe heavenly sylphs of the air, they were soon overtaken by the leaping Khùngum the Salamanders of fire, they were swaying from side to side like the lwóni dancers of Khníxher, their many limbs were swaying from side to side, their hair was bursting out in long and snapping comets, and plodding heavy and thick behind them came the Khnaîniwu gorgons of metal, their legs were massive struts smashing from side to side, their limbs were swaying from side to side and breaking and reforming, and their heads were twining serpentile gasps that were smelting metal all the while, and the Qunóma earthmen were wading through the mud, soil and grime flowing down their faces and down the lengths of their body, and yet as the Qunóma proceeded they grew slightly less grimy, they became clean and jaunty as of rarified soil, and last among them all came the Khlàxa the heavenly nymphs of water, and they were in the form of transparent and lithe maidens and they came ululating and dancing around Pfhentókha. And the Elementals were coming froward to adorn the Bride with the presents whichby they could bless her, and the Khlàxa Nymphs cast holy water upon her and made her supple and lithe, and the Qunóma Aardmen made her loyal and part of flowers and all living things, and the Khnaîniwu Gorgons made her strong and willing to defend her family, and the Khùngum Salamanders gave her fire for her spirit, and the Khùfhe sylphs made her wise and good in councel, and the Qhiêfhu Sand Sprites made her skilled at broidery and weaving with her hands, and the Elementals shone in love as they bowed down before her, Pfhentókha who was to become the first Bride, the first Cælestial Empress.
Akhlísa sighed and leaned against Àrqotha’s claws and whimpering a little wiped her tears upon his scales and whispered – I hope I look just a seventh as beautiful as our first Mother does when the priests conduct the formal Betrothal Rite between me and my Puey. I don’t think though that the Tlhìpwa Xhrèmlin Elementals will come unto me and bless me and make me so lovelified. But alas, we are at opposite ends of the prism, Pfhentókha the first woman, and Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa, the very last. Perhaps if Puey and the Princess really do survive this war and win it and topple our Master Kàrijoi from the heavens, then in days to come when I have little childrenlettes of mine own, the Elementals can come and bless them. Yes, that would be far better, the air sylphs and metal gorgons and sand sprites can come to our house or castle or boat of wherever I’ll be living, I’m not entirely sure, I don’t quite think we have all of that worked out yet, and they can come to the cradle and cast dust and sand and water and metal to the wee little baby and bless him. Well, they don’t have to throw metal at the baby. Maybe little dust dreams of metal. But still, metal all strong and stubborn, want to have babies nice and hardy! Warrior babies! Grrr! Puey was a warrior baby, did you know that? He wasn’t running around and knocking o'er the rest of us, that’s what Siêthiyal was doing while I gnawed upon her ankle in my crawling. Puey was usually a very docile baby, I liked nothing else than to be held by Mamà, he was just giggle and wriggle in her arms. No, he didn’t run around and punch things like I’m told Abbá did. But then when Puey was very little and he was resting in his crèche, it was carven in the shape of a pirate vessel, Grandpa Jàkopar did that for him, back when Grandpa Khangisqrírles was filling Puey’s head with stories of pirates and dragons and princesses, Puey was asleep in the crib and serpents came for him. Thwákh thwákh thwákh! Puey beat them up, he struck and kicked and strangled them with his little chubby baby fingers, and then lay down to sleep again when finished, and the rest of the family came running within and saw that Puey was a warrior baby! Hah! Serpents can be so dumb. No offense. I hope I have warrior babies for Puey, if he can just forgive me, if he will just look into my face, I can be truly happy once more. – Akhlísa sniffled a few more times and wiped her nose upon Àrqotha’s palm, and the Dragon looked around and wondered what he was supposed to do with little maiden germs, and so he wiped them upon the holy bark of the Tree of Light and hoped that none of the rest of the Dragons noticed this affront.
It was then that the drums began. Akhlísa was yawning and poking and proding Àrqotha, sometimes punching against his jade talons and sometimes leaning against him and did not notice the beating of the drums. Percussion was such a ubiquitous part of the rites of betrothal and marriage and sacrifice that they were almost unheard by those who were dearly gathered for the ceremony and beloved of the peoples, and indeed Akhlísa was just shaking her head, her golden tresses spilling down the sides of her head when the Traîkhiim came bounding out of the forests and plains all of flowing reeds, for the Traîkhiim were unveiling something which they had first invented. Here in Àrqotha’s mirror eyen time did not strickly flow forwards, so that while Akhlísa was blinking and of occasion wiping her nose upon the Rainbow Serpent Àrqotha ghIchDajDaq SIq’egh, sometimes it was Akhàkhma the Nomothete who was coming froward and bringing with him barrels all of wicker across which he was stretching the shed hame that qhoraîfhe saurians gave him, and the mains of emlasqráfha, and the scales of so many Dragons, and he came rolling the drums downwards and they beat for the first time, and sometimes Akhlísa blinked and it was not the Namer who was bringing down the drum but rather his four Children the Siblings who stablished the original Clans of the Pèqlor Dancers, and Àqhu and Úla and Álu and Fhúxha were drawing down the drums and stretching out the hide, and so massive were these drums that they were leaping right into them and rolling their torsos about, their triple limbs beating from side to side and striking the edge of the instruments, Àqhu was bouncing all the while and listening to the percussion of his gizzard-heart, and Úla was taking up reeds and ferns and flowers and casting them all about as he jumped in the center of a drum and let the plantimals blossom about him, Álu was fashioning qìqwol drumsticks for himself out of branch and bone and striking them down and creating a rhythm all his own, and Fhúxha was dancing in the midst of the drums, his dance was utterly wild, his heads bobbling from side to side, his wings shimmering, his legs were bewriggling about as if he had no bones whatsoever, jointless he was spinning around, sometimes leaping upon his heads and kicking his limbs about and opening his hand-feet and pointing at the first bride with his finger toes, and sometimes when Akhlísa blinked it was no longer Fhúxha dancing but his child Úkhta, and the numbers of the Traîkhiim in the pursuant generations was growing greater and greater still. Àrqotha was breathing outwards, his wings were bursting in bright light, and all around him long and tentacled vines were growing outwards and twining about his limbs and claws, and before Akhlísa’s very eyen she could see that the peoples of the Traîkhiim were growing into a greater and greater host, the generations unraveling about her, it was like watching a tapestry being picked apart and spooling rivers of yän and vine were flowing upwards about her, the hundreds of thousands of Traîkhiim all spinning around the drums, and arisen behind the drums were come the Qhaôtriim Elders, their eyen were large and black, tusks arose from their lower lips, their feathers were cragged and hirsute, and they were taking up stone and ice and bone and beating upon the drums with such vehemence that all of Xhámiwiil the Zone of Reeds was quivering with the growing dance.
Three Qunóma, the Earth Elements came spinning right up unto Akhlísa, and nodding unto her they wrapped their capes tight around themselves and laughed – Here comes the Prince! Oh here comes the Bridegroom! Is he not lovely! What a wonderous day of Creation to have a wedding! –
The Qunóma looked one to another and laughed. The first one was clad all in violet, his cape flowing out from him, his cap was almost a third as high as he was tall, and shamrocks and cherry lotos blossoms were spilling down the rim of it. He took the hands of his brother who was clad all in green, and whose beard was all green moss, and his hair was the flowing of vines and ferns, and the two of them to the hand of their third brother who was all orange, his tresses flowing aurantiaceous, his hair a brilliant mess of blossoms and flowing almost arachnid patterns, and the three were running around in tighter and growing circles and cryig out – What a day for a wedding! What a day for a wedding! Hah hah hah hah wedding! What’s a wedding? –
Akhlísa drew up her golden veil and wriggled her nose and chanted – I know what a wedding is! I know what a wedding is! – She raised her hand and hopped from side and chanted – I know! I know! I know! I know! I know! –
– Hah hah hah hah hah wedding! – cried the three Qunóma Spirits.
– I just love weddings! – squealed Akhlísa as she clapped her hands and giggled. – Even though I’ve never actually attended a wedding in mine own timeline in my own real life, but still, aren’t they just wonderful and romantic! Plus there’s lots of food, pies and cakes all about so I can just bury my face in a plate of sweeties and just gobble them up! Now Fhérma she’s always saying that I shouldn’t eat so fast but I have to because Siêthiyal’s always steeling the food off my plate and if I don’t eat fast there won’t be anything left for me! Anyway, everyone always knows that Fhermáta has always been jealous of me, in my short and cute lifetime I’ve already managed to out-Fhermáta in temrs of pie-baking abilities if I do say so myself. – Akhlísa admired her hands as if holding a slice of pie and sighed and chanted – I don’t mean to brag but I do make a superior pie. The warriors and elders have traveled near and far throughout all of the known land and they’re like, We have to find the bestest pie in all the world because she who makes the bestest pie in all the world is the most superiorest of the Sweqhàngqu Sisters and we all know it’s not going to be Siêthiyal because she’s crabby and mean. Yeah, that’s what the Elders keep saying. I should know, I was there. –
– Did the Elders really say that? – asked Àrqotha.
– Yes, and Puey chanted that he was going to marry me if I baked him the best pies. So I say to everyone, Okay you, get out of my kitchen unless you’re going to help me bake the best pie. Now you cute little fishes and birdchen and dinosaurlings are allowed to help in cleaning the dishes and licking the plates but only if you help me, all the rest of you have to get out! I don’t mind if the lambs are licking the batter, that’ s all the better batter! Now, so I’m making these superior pies, and Fhermáta comes to the kitchen and she saith, Oh woe is me, I don’t know what I’m doing, even though I’m the oldest Sister I’m still stupid and don’t know what to do. And I have to teach her everything like how to mix and measure things, because Fhermáta is a little simple that way. Did I mention that once Fhermáta’s tàwit tiger slippers once set the crannog on fire? Oh I had to run around and save everyone that night. That’s because I’m a real hero. –
– And modest too – spake the violet Qunóma. – Greetings, I’m yclepte Khmùliqan Stú! –
– I’m yclepte Fhìniqan Stú – spake the green Qunóma.
– I’m yclepte Pèniqan Stú – spake the thrumb Qunóma.
– Yes, I saved everyone that night – chanted Akhlísa as she swayed from side to side. – And Puey rewarded me with a big kiss on my lips and told me that he always loved me the best and when I grew up he’s going to be my husband. Oh yes, favorite wife. Right here. Head of the harem. You’re speaking to her. –
– Why do I get the feeling that you’re largely fabricating these claims? – asked Àrqotha the Dragon, puffs of light arising from his nostrils.
– Oh you Dragons just need to embrace the whimsy of Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa. Now listen, so after I save did everyone in the family, and Fhermáta and Siêthiyal fell down at my feet and begged me to forgive them for all the times they yanked my hair and whenever I never eat my vegetables and all of Siêthiyal’s toys that I’ve broken and the time I got really sick and licked Fhermáta’s face and got her sick and she was really angry with me, and I deigned to give them my forgiveness just so long as they never offend me again, I am be quite a fickle and akhaléna imperious Dream Enchantress when I chose to, and so in triumph I was returned to the kitchens, I was riding on Fhermáta and Siêthiyal’s back while my Puey was dancing before us and casting petals and incense and kisses before me, he can be quite sentimental and sweet that’s why I love him so much, and then I baked a thousand pies and the Elders picked me up and declaired me to be Queen of Jaràqtu, but I had to be polite and decline, but everyone there knows in his heart that I’m really the best of them all. –
– She’s a queen? – asked Khmùliqan Stú.
– You’re a queen? – gasped Fhìniqan Stú.
– Hurray, a queen! – plaudited Pèniqan Stú.
And the triple Stúwufhe brothers grasped hands and surrounded Akhlísa and danced around her and sang out – All hail the Queen! Long live the Queen! She bakes some mean pies, the Queen! Of course she’s really not a Queen! –
Àrqotha grabbed a branch that was reaching outwards from the Tree of Light and scratched his back upon it, lightning and flames bursting out from him, and mumbling unto himself chanted – Why is it at weddings that I always have to sit with the Silly Side of the Family and the babies? Weddings are inherently odd. –
Akhlísa shoved the Stúwufhe Earth Elementals aside and marching up to the Dragon shook her fist towards him and shouted – I am not a baby! Everyone keeps treating me like I’m still a little child, but I’m not anymore! Even though I’m the very lastborn of Creation and nobody is younger, and I can’t shout and boss anyone else around, still I’m growing up! Look at me, I’m old enough to be betrothed! I’m Puey’s wife now! So stop calling me a baby! You … you … you stupid baby Dragonlette, you! –
– What a lovely day for a wedding – Khmùliqan Stú grinned. – So what’s a wedding? –
– Don’t know, the Immortals are just now inventing it – Fhìniqan Stú laughed.
– I hope it’s fun! – sighed Pèniqan Stú.
– Let’s do it again! Let’s do it again! – laughed Khmùliqan Stú. – Let’s make weddings … an institution, let’s celebrate them year long, we’ll have parties and whatever those Traîkhiim are doing, with the rhythm and the movement, we’ll do that all the time! –
– And lots of food! – chanted Akhlísa. – Good pies, straight from me. –
– Do Dragons get invited? – asked Àrqotha.
– May I be the Queen of the Wedding? – asked Akhlísa. – Àrqotha! Àrqotha! – She tugged upon the barbs of his wing. – I want to be the Queen fo the Wedding! –
– Dragons only get invited until they start going mad – chanted Khmùliqan Stú. – Then all things start going dark and wrong. –
– Ah … – sighed Àrqotha. – The present, at last. –
– All things converging – chanted Khmùliqan Stú.
– I want to be queen! – Akhlísa shouted. She yanked upon the Dragon’s wings a few more times and chanted – Did I tell you that Puey told me that he loves me the most of all of his wives and concubines and sweethearts! And Puey chanted I was the best kisser he’s every known and he should know he’s kissed thousands of maidens, but he says that I’m the best, plus, oh, look at me, don’t turn away, plus Puey was telling me that he’s going to name all of his Sons and Daughters after me because he loves me the best, did I tell you that, he’s going to name all of his Sons Akhlísa and all of his Daughters Akhlísa, and probably give them numbers or letters so we can turn them about and all the other wives are going to be jealous of me because I’ll be the mother of his Sons, Dragon! Look at me! I’m talking here! –
– Remind me again how you invaded my eyen – Àrqotha wondered.
– Ah, the weddings about to start! – chanted Khmùliqan Stú.
– I want to be the queen of the pies – Akhlísa chanted.
– I liked you better when you were sad and guilty and consumed of grief – Àrqotha chanted as he turned himself around and began to walk away from the dance and drum of the Traîkhiim. – Let me know again when you remember how you have betrayed your lord and husband. –
– Have we actually discovered what a wedding is yet? – asked Khmùliqan Stú. – The deathless Ása are gathering together, they descend throughout all of the Dragon Tree, all of the reeds are blossoming before them, all of the Starflowers are opening upwards, crystal drew raining down from them, all of the peoples were marching forwards, the bride has been adorned, and yet still we do not understand why exactly it is the Immortals bring us together in thiswise and begin this new Song upon the Land. –
– Puey likes my lips – Akhlísa chanted. The ground all of reeds and dew shifted beneath her, and she tumbled o'er. When she rolled o'er she found that the Dragon was gone, and that all of the Tree of Light was glistening golden. All upon its branches the Dragons were perched like so many birds, but they were leaving their places, their wings were fluttering outwards, they were arising and singing their deep and fierce songs, and all of the world kept bluring and changing all around Akhlísa. – Are you fiddling with time? Where have you left me. I hope Àrqotha hasn’t abandoned me, I’d hate to be lost within his sight. Everything gets all pointed and sharp and dragony within. Quite squamous. Not at all soft and cute like me. – Akhlísa brushed her golden tresses and a few spiders came tumbling upon her shoulders and she batted them away and tried to ignore them.
– Come, the Immortals sing their song – chanted Khmùliqan Stú, and he took Akhlísa by the hand and flew upwards. All around him arose Fhìniqan and Pèniqan and many others of the Earth Elementals, fluttering about them came the Sand Sprites and the Metal Gorgons and the Sylphs of the Air, and surging upwards all around them came great cones and splashes of ash arising, volcano after volcano thirling upwards, and in the midst of the percussive thrusts arose the greatest of all of the whispering mountains of the worlds, Tnùtse the Mountain of the Immortals, and beaming down from its summit were oceans all of lightningflash and thunderdim. Khmùliqan came leaping downwards through the growing sound, and here at the summit of the mountain where all things became tessellation and musical flow and endless oceans of pure mathmatics there arose the crest completely filled with the Traîkhiim beating upon their drums and dancing in a wild frenzy. And in the midst of the percussive ritual arose the Qhíng and Khlitsaîyart and Kháfha and Ptètqiikh and Qája and Qlùfhem and they were dancing within the fires and coming unto the forge and taking up jasper and jade and root and tree and gold and aurichalcum and glass and bone they were beating upon the forge until all of the metal became shooting towers of volcanic eruption.
A growing sea of lava arose in the midst of the first Ancestors, and the island in the center was fashioned all of towers of numbers leaning against each other in strange possibilities. Khmùliqan Stú alighted in the midst and set little Akhlísa the Dream Enchantress down before him, and they walked upon a floor shimmering all of prime numbers, the walls were sparkling of dreaming spirals and fibonacci swirls burning in the mounting lava tides. Akhlísa looked around, for here from the empyreal summit of Tnùtse she could see the expanse of the Tree of Light and that now they were come very high within it, the bulbs of worlds and dimensions flowing from side to side in tremendous wings. Shw sniffled a little and wondered exactly what type of wedding this must be, builded out of flame and numbers and volcanic splendor, but she had not time to think too much abou the vision of Dragons, already before her was arising the altar, and descending all about it were come the Immortals themselves, tall and glistening, flowing waves of light and energy, beams of tentacles drifting out from them, and great masques were covering their visages. The Elementals were drifting outwards and the music of the Traîkhiim in their frenzy and the Great Races at their building arose and joined with the rest of the Ancestors of the Real People, the Kajúju were fluttering, the Xaxhestàriqhe were chasing each other, the Xhmàsqor were crawling into the heavens, the Kurkuîlo were snapping their claws, the Xhmaûmumum were buzzing, the Xhyaîqtekh were skating, and the Syìplet were racing, all of this was added to the same nuptial music. And from them came the Elementals, they were leading Khriîno the first of the Færie unto the altar, and the sound of his heartbeat was jointed with the music.
Doom doom doom doom doom.
The Immortals signaled unto Khriîno. He bowed unto them all, the Lords of Song and the Lords of Noise and the Balletic Stars. They nodded, their masques shaking a little, and even the Stars had haloes partially covering their faces. They pointed unto the Altar. And Khriîno of is own free will walked upwards upon the long and winding rainbow steps. He paused for a moment when he came up unto Khmùliqan and Akhlísa, he nodded unto her, and then turned back to the table. Akhlísa had seen pictures of Emperor Khriîno before, but he had never been terribly memorable in her sight, it was almost as if he were completely and perfectly average in everyway, the prototypical Father of the Xhámi, brown of hair and fair of skin and quiet of demeanor. As he approached the altar the Elementals arose and grasped him by his limbs and held him upon the altar, a Qhiêfhu sand sprite held an arm and an Khùfhe air sylph held him by the shoulder, an Khùngum fire salamender held his other arm, an Khnaîniwu metal gorgan cradled his head, an Khlàxa water nymph held his legs, and Khmùliqan Stú came upwards, an earth gnome and he held the First Man by the hand. Akhlísa was standing beside the Alter, she did not remember walking up there, she just found herself in the presence of the Immortals.
The Immortals nodded. Behind them came walking out two figures, one of them an old and cloaked man whose beard was long and golden, and he was leaning upon a staff, and the other was a shining orb of light which consisted of wheels flowing within wheels and flashes of light like sundials and gears grinding together. The old man drew aside his cloak and revealed himself to be Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet whose eyen had been melted out from him leaving but ripping and plasmatic clouds upon his face. He took a few steps towards the Immortals. They all lifted up their masques, but no faces had they, just light, and no voice. They drew out from themselves a sparkle of fire and set it upon Khniikhèrkhmair’s tounge, and the Prophet turned to Khriîno upon the altar and chanted – Thou shalt never be alone again. – And then the Prophet looked up unto Akhlísa and added – And neither shalt thou. –
Akhlísa sniffled in response.
Khniikhèrkhmair pressed his old, rugose hand upon Khriîno’s chest and chanted – Of all of the species of the Real Folk, the Xhámi were the last, and now the Immortals finish the Song of Creation. For the Father and Husband of the Xhámi was created without a piece unto him, and the last act of the Song of Creation shall be the creation of that piece, the Heart, the Wife and Mother of the Xhámi. With her, the song ends and history begins. –
The spheres of light were resolving themselves and became a figure of strange and twining majestic. Akhlísa was not entirely sure of what she was seeing, it was all a blur of the movement and ticking of the wheels, a great sphere arose from the center and from the sphere came bubbling outwards several large orbs which were turning and blinking a little like eyen, and sometimes they seemed unto her to be the very purity of energy, but othertimes they were wheels and gears grinding against each other, and from the sphere in growing ripples of light appeared myriads of arms walking and twisting about each other, or at least what she thought were arms, they could have been swords or impaling spears or flashes of lightning or just indefinable lines or just strange crackling blurs, or maybe all of these at the same time. The figure drew nigher unto the Prophet and Khriîno and as it resolved itself into a more solidic form it took upon itself the semblence all of wheels and clockwork, it was a living threshold of white and gold, and it turned its face or faces or blurs of eyen towards Akhlísa and smiled. Akhlísa blinked, for the creature was become all Automaton drawing froward and opening up a great and manifold cape all of swords, and drawing one of them, the sword became an obsidian knife resting upon a pillow. The Automaton was Qhaliwáqhel Thingamapápel, the conciege of all thresholds, a figure whom she had seen flittering in and out of the Otherworld, a creature whose devices and concerns she never quite understood.
The Tree of Light all became towers of lava arising. Ashes were the cloud, and storms of frost and plasma were trickling all about. Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet drew chrism and fillets upon the Father’s head and grasping the sacrificial knife and coming unto Khriîno told him – And now life begins. – Akhlísa turned aside as the Prophet lifted up the knife, she had an idea of what was coming and had no intention of witnessing it, even in a fluidic memory sense, in the warped thoughts and visions of Dragons. She could hear the sound of the Prophet thrusting the knife into the victim Khriîno, and the gasp as the Father cried out. The Prophet stabbed several more incisions into the body, and the six Elementals were grasping unto Khriîno to keep him still. Akhlísa heard a gurgling sound which she knew must be blood arising from Khriîno’s lips, and the the sickening thud of the Prophet cutting out the cords that bound the heart into the flesh. As the heart was released, the sound of its beating grew all the louder, it was the same music unto which all of the Real People were dancing, it was the tempo of the beating Traîkhiim, it was the murmur of the music of all of the Immortals.
Khmùliqan Stú leaned o'er unto Akhlísa and whispered – You’ll want to see this. –
– Is it gross? – Akhlísa whispered.
– Of course, but you regret not seeing it. –
– Okay. – Akhlísa removed her hands and blinked a few times. The Prophet Khniikhèrkhmair was holding the still beating heart, and cascades of blood were staining his arms and dribbling down unto the gaping chest of Khriîno the Father of all Færie. Khriîno appeared still and dead, and the Six Elementals held him down. The heart continued to beat, independent of its host, in fact it was louder than it could e'er possibly have been in flesh. The heart was becoming a jewel. Khriîno’s body became incense and sacred oils. The altar was well perfumed, and flowers were drifting downwards from the lava of the Tree of Light.
One Immortal came forwards, as he moved the shafts of energy that made him up were becoming steam and light and flame, as he approached the prophet the light began laugh, it was almost tickling itself, and by the time the Immortal removed his masque he was completely consumed by his own laughter. No face had he, no words either, but by his bearing and endless insouciance Akhlísa knew that this had to be Our Heart Raven, the Trickster among the Immortals, the younger brother who tricks the youth into falling in love. Raven took the jewel that was the heart and breathed upon it and set the jewel within Sànum, the Tree of Light.
And the Heart became the Tree.
And all of the drumbeat, the khluîs trommelslag of betrothal and wedding and blood sacrifice faded away, and was nothing but the pulsing of an heart.
And the Tree opened upwards.
Within the Tree were born Khriîno and Pfhentókha together as if Siblings of a single Mother. The Immortals drew them out of the Tree and robed them in white. Khnòngpa cut off some branches of the tree and wove them into crowns to set upon their heads. Tópa cut off some branches of the tree and twisted them into staves and set them in their hands. And Raven fluttered between the two of them and kissed them upon their cheeks, for now they were one flesh.
– Hail Emperor Khriîno and Empress Pfhentókha – chanted Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet. – The Father and Mother of all of the Land. –
And the Tree arose and began to die. And Khriîno and Pfhentókha took up their staves and all of the Real People arose to follow them, Qhíng and Kháfha and the Aûm triplets alike, the Syìplet still racing about each other, the Traîkhiim rolling their great drums down the side of the hills, and coming unto the edge of the Zone of Reeds, within the rohr arose the great xhoxhoxhàkhpe the photonick arks which the Xakhpàlqe had been weaving together of grass and fern and reed, and the Emperor and Empress embarked and with them came the Forefathers of all of the Ancestors and all of the Plantimals of the world, fish and bird and kine and dinosaur, and the earcs arose into the air, and behind them the reeds faded away into chalk dust rustling from side to side, and the Tree of Light began to break apart and became the billion, billion worlds shimmering throughout the great garsecg of Music. And the Immortals were lifting up their tendrils and ascending unto their places of glory, a third unto the seas, a third unto the earth, a third dancing within the heavens, and the xhreyána the ritual of apotheosis, the coronation of the Emperor and Empress was the very last time when all of the Clan of Áme were gathered together in the same time and thought.
Dragons dragons dragons in their visions.
Closing one’s eyen.
This is how a Dragon sees.
– Oh yes, quite a lovely wedding quite a good wedding I had a nice enough time there – Akhlísa was saying. – A bit stuffy and old fashioned if you asked me. – She leaned unto her side, the throne was far too large for her, it had been been created for a mortal let alone a child. – The food wasn’t so good. Come to think of it, I don’t think there was any food at all. Lots of lava and drumming, I don’t think that I quite want all that lava at my wedding. And let’s not even speak about the cutty parts and the Immortals all so somber seriousque, the only one who was even pretending to have fun was Raven, but he can have fun anywhere. Elders always say the betrothal rite is far more fun than the wedding anyway. I just hope that my betrothal has lots of fun and dancing and all. –
Akhlísa was looking around. She was deep in the Otherworld inside one of the floating obsidian castles and sitting upon a throne of thorns whereupon Our Heart Raven had ruled o'er nightmares since the Dawn of Time. The throne, which dwarved her, would have been extremely uncomfortable, not to mention parlous unto her, but she had bade the dreams to cover it with straw and then cushions and pillows and to do the same with the thorn steps leading up to it, and blankets and dolls were strewn all about her. She was making the throne, indeed, about as messy as he room had been within the Crannog of the Sweqhàngqu, in the days when she had dwelt there before the Qhíng had scorched all the plantation and hurled the crannog into the loch.
– Now, at my wedding I want there to be lots of cakes and sweets, and my Sister has to wear a really ugly gown and be jealous of me all the while and pout and say, Oh I hate you so much and I’m jealous of you because I’m stupid Siêthiyal and no matter how many toys I get no boy is e'er going to like me because you’re cuter by far, and Puey has to be all tall and handsome and mysterious and he’s going to kiss me right on my lips. Oh, I want a chocolate cake too. And if Puey has to invite all of his plantimal pals to the wedding, they have to be quiet and wellbehaved. –
Akhlísa was looking around, the Dream Enchantress upon a massive throne, and no longer were visions of Tnùtse the Holy Mountain and the Elementals and the first Coronation appearing unto her, now she was ruling o'er all the Otherworld, and flowing before her were come all of the Nightmares skipping about and clapping their great wings, rolling knives and scythes they were, and the strange oneiric species of the Otherworld were flowing all before her in ripples of shadow and quavers of sinews, the gentle and tintinabulous Sèrapel and the crawling and gnashing Sàqajakh, and among them were come the Nightslaves and the Duskdolvers. Behind Akhlísa and upon the twining thorn forest of the throne were descending the Hula Quire of Ravens, they were landing in many layers, and in the lead came the Kúngapakh the Chief Steward of Dreams and Coryphæus of the Otherworld, and he was straightening out his cravette and smoothing down his feathers and grinning with far more teeth, all pearlescent white, than any Raven should have.
– If I may have a moment of your time, Enchantress? – asked the Kúngapakh.
– Now, I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot – chanted Akhlísa as she rolled from side to side upon the cushions, and straightening herself upwards she adjusted the golden veil on top of her head and the nuptial dress wherein the twin Duchesses had dressed her. Patterns of swirls and labyrinths were flowing out from her garments and almost tickling her. – I can’t wait to have my first kiss from Puey, and I’m not talking about those little filial pecks on the cheek like he gives me every night at bedtime, I mean when he kisses me right on my lips. I wonder what it will feel like. –
– Enchantress, I feel it encumbent upon me … – the Coryphæus began.
– I am his wife, at least I will be, so I have every right to kiss him – Akhlísa chanted. – Anyway, Mamà chanted it was fine with her, and I have a duty to serve the heir of the Sweqhàngqu. Isn’t it fabulous that my Puey will be the new Emperor? –
– Oh Fosterling of the deathless Ása, may I remind you that you are still … –
– Kúnga? –
– Yes, Enchantress? –
– How does one get a young man to love one? –
– Ur … are you sure you should be asking me? –
– Is my Puey going to be terribly angry with me, with this whole sqáning xhnir sqánga, this dracontological scandal? Oh he’s going to be angry, right? I could not live with myself if he were angry. –
– Enchantress, you’re inside a Dragon’s eyen right now. –
– I’ve been putting kumquats on my lips to make them sweet. The Duchesses told me that the Aûm don’t kiss, but that they thought if I wanted Puey to touch his lips to mine, that I should make them sweet. I tried sleeping with kumquats on my mouth, but Siêthiyal made fun of me until I started crying. –
– Enchantress. Dragon eyen. –
– Then she held me down and beat me up. –
– Dragon eye? –
– It’s a good thing I heal quickly. –
– Dragon! – The Coryphæus looked around and shrugged his fanning wings. It was difficult enough for the Spirits of the world to survive now that Emperor Kàrijoi was bashing down all the walls of the realities and drawing them down unto himself, but the Otherworld of Nightmares was in its own particular state of chaotic flux, now that Akhlísa was ruling it, or at least sitting upon the throne after the death of Raven the Darklord. The Spirits and Nightmares had never thought that Raven could die, but now there was nothing left unto them but gap and sorrow and a maiden to lead them. – If I may interrupt you for a moment – the Coryphæus coughed, as he drew out his script and stabbed it with a fingerfeather a few times. – But not only are we completely off of the plan of the story, but you are inside a Dragon’s vision! Did you have any intention of leaving? –
Sparkling pollen were tumbling about Akhlísa. She drew up her legs and wrapping her arms about her knees swayed from side to side and chanted – I just want Puey to love me. Without him I don’t have any future at all, I’m just another war orphan picked up from the battlefield, my children won’t be heirs to the greatest of the aristocrats of the Warrior Caste. –
The Coryphæus dukal came flowing down from the thorns of the throne and hopping down before Akhlísa bowed unto her several times and chanted – Take it from me, a pure Spirit, the very eminance of thought and energy, Master Puîyos’ heart is pure, he cannot help but love you. The real question is what are you going to do now? You’d better get out of the Dragon’s eyen. Look, there he is, walking away! Go and follow Àrqotha! –
Akhlísa barely deigned to look upwards, she saw that Àrqotha was walking among the Thyàkhaul the Black Suns that glistened in the Otherworld, his iridescent wings were folded about him in an insectoid fashion, slow and steady and majestic he was just ambulating away.
– Go and follow him! – cried the Kúngapakh. – The opera must continue! I have a stage to set, actors who have to rehearse, and you refuse to go and rejoin the realities. –
– Why should I? I don’t know what to do or where Puey is, I made a mess of everything, I can’t even get away from the Duchesses … –
– The only one who knows where Master Puîyos lies is the Dragon flowing away from you. And may I remind you, oh Akhlísa, Raven’s Daughter, that the longer you remain here trapped with the jewels of the Dragon’s ken, that the actual shadows of the Otherworld lie vulnerable to whomever may try to sneak within and unleash us nightmares upon all the rest of the worlds. – The Coryphæus marched from side to side before Akhlísa and jabbing his wing towards her chanted – And may I remind you that Our Heart Raven also managed to have another Daughter, someone else heir to the Otherworld? –
– Hmmm … –
– Your Sister? Your other other Sister. –
– She wouldn’t dare. –
– I wouldn’t put anything past the Mechanical Maiden. She has just as much a right to the Otherworld as you do, in fact more so since she is older. Do you really want for Princess Ixhúja to come storming out from wherever she’s found herself, and stumbling into the Otherworld start remaking it all into the glories and horrors of clockwork? Can you imagine legions upon legions of Dreams formed out of clockwork flittering among the minds of the Immortals! She would take the very formulæ and spells and cascades whichby we shift realities, she would recreate them into some strange precision of crystal and metal. I can see her now, Ixhúja as Queen of the Otherworld, and all of us Nightmares would quaver in despair! –
– Stupid older Sister! Why did Raven have to inspire the mad Khan to make her? And she’s not even a real real Princess, not like Éfhelìnye. She is a princess but not like a princess princess. Is she? It’s a bit of a complicated family tree. –
– She is a Princess. Raven is her Father. And unless you go and follow that Dragon, who knows when Ixhúja will make her way to the Cloud Cuckoo Yon of Taûn Tòxun Tòfhlu Xheîfhle Xhreîqyo? And woe will fall upon us all then. –
Akhlísa sighed and slid down from cushion and blanket and looking around patted down the lengths of her white concubine dress, and the labyrinth and spiral were flowing out from her, and she closed her eyen for a moment, and turning began to run after Àrqotha, and all around her the Ravens were arising and filling up all of the nightmare corridors.