Empress Khnoqwísi: There are some who say that I have no heart at all, and being not of the Blood of the Pwéru I cannot claim direct descent from that most dragonish of Clans. In fact, if I remember right, in the earliest days of my reign, when I was just arisen in the ritual of apotheosis, some of the Viceroy queens and Ladies and Matrons of the land thought that I were indeed heartless, that I had fallen from the heavens just to lure men into battle, to become my Knights and serve me with honor, and the men, ensorcelled by my beauty, would never return the same unto their wives and children.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: That only makes you all the more like unto a Dragon.
Empress Khnoqwísi: Oh?
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: You take that which should be free, the heart of your knights, and you keep it hidden from those who love him the best. We do the same when we snare virgins and keep them away from their fathers and families, and we tempt young knights of virtue true to ride off and best us in battle. The Dragons and you, we task all of the Land of Story.
The Tushed Qhaôtriim Elders: I we all of us must accept the judgment of the Immortals. I we all of us must be brought unto their dance. At first the Immortals were all in perfect harmony, there were like unto necks and limbs of a single body, they were like the pebbles in a nest, they were like fungus grown in a single grove. But now they are scattered.
The Tushed Qhaôtriim Elders: Prophesy you must follow. There is one to come. You will know her, the blood of the Divine Nest in her. She, of the feminine gender, of the gender of the soft sky and the white Moon. She, you will know her, life springen up about her palm. Like a flower, like newly fallen snow. She stop the piourette of decay, she end the dance of the Death.
Fhólus: Slaves, we.
Aîya, Dead, we.
The Tushed Qhaôtriim Elders: Time the tide of slavery coming to an end. The Kèlor masters, stern they were, strong the tentacles that held us. Others took us from loving nesthomes. The Qlùfhem came, tall and proud, their tendrils were whips, of sport they lashed us. No more, no more. The new Empress save us all. Not even Death will take us back into bondage.
Grandfather Pátifhar: I can barely even remember the words of it. The crystals, the altar cloth, the books of the birth auguries, all of it is a blur unto me now.
Àrqotha: Our First Father Qhalúxha gathered us all together. He was old, scales were bursting off of him in a blizzard, he was ready to fly off with Emperor Eilasaîyan and help him reclaim the Sun and the Moon. And yet even in those last moments the First Dragon could still see.
Grandfather Pátifhar: Did he see this day’s coming?
Àrqotha: Father Qhalúxha told us, as he gathered up the dragonlettes into his wings, he told me and Alqeimípiel that the purpose of the cloud-gathering phatries of the Dragons was to enlighten all of the worlds, to bring snow and light and rainbows all about.
Grandfather Pátifhar: My Daughter is the one who gives us rainbows.
Àrqotha: We serve the Moon Empress Khnoqwísi. But the day is coming. We were told to look for a child.
Grandfather Pátifhar: What were you told about this child?
Queen Khwofheîlya: How proud the Clan of Pwéru is. The Virgin Empress was ice, and her Daughter is no better. But the Pwéru are tottering, they grasp unto power, even as they scorch the land and rend the sky. Every hour of their war only harvests more souls to be mine.
Fhermáta: Princess Éfhelìnye was always kind and loving to me in my life, she was a good friend to Karuláta.
Queen Khwofheîlya: Her line is going extinct.
Fhermáta: She loves our Puey.
Qheen Khwofheîlya: If this Éfhelìnye were merely of the Noble Caste, if she were of a Noble Family whom I hated, I would permit Puîyos to keep her as a slave girl and let the rest of the Noble House die. But I cannot possibly permit Éfhelìnye to live or bare a child. Her blood must die, and I shall not have my Son mingle our illustrious warrior heritage with her family.
Fhermáta: Is there any way to stop here?
Queen Khwofheîlya: Even Kàrijoi is vulnerable. He overreaches himself when he tries to take the Undergloom. The Princess shall walk into shadow, and she shall be mind to rend kai tear for all the rest of eternity. I, the Queen of the Nethergloom demand it.
Siêthiyal: We have to escape. I don’t trust the Aûm, and I think the geminate Duchesses are quite mad.
Akhlísa: Of course they’re insane, I didn’t think we had a question about that.
Siêthiyal: I mean more insane than we can possibly ignore. Gather your possessions, Khlís. We must get away.
Akhlísa: Whither-de can we go, but? Grandfather Pátifhar is with the Kháfha fleet, Abbá is with the Qhíng, Khiêro with the Khlitsaîyart, and Puey and the Princess … they’re somewhere in the shoreline of Syapàkhya, I don’t know where.
Siêthiyal: Everyday that we stay with revered Pereluyàsqa and weorÞfull Khosyaràsqa just traps us in more danger. I hate to admit this to anyone at all, but we need not only Puey, we need Éfhelìnye, no matter how annoying she is.
Akhlísa: Vexatious to you, not to me. I just hope they’re safe out there, with all of those Dragons swirling around and watching them …
Siêthiyal: Keep close to me.
Khan Jhkhaîxhor: My Child, I cannot explain to you all of my plans, they are as high above you as the heavens, as twisting as the clouds, as ancient as the days. But I shall tell you this: The Crystalline Throne of the Dreamtime has become corrupt. My Brother came to it, and let his Dragons swirl all around the throne, my Brother let Dragons arise behind him as a fell Tree. Kàrijoi’s time must end.
Ixhúja (purring): (What would you have of me?)
Khan Jhkhaîxhor: Be my wrath. Be my destruction. Be my horror, my storm, my sword. Be my holy vengeance against the worlds, and herald the time when all flesh shall be mine to be converted unto steel and wheel and clockwork. Imagine a world of perfect order, of might, of discipline, of the endless turning wheel. You shall bring that age to pass.
Ixhúja (purring): (What shall become of the trees, my Father?)
Khan Jhkhaîxhor: They will be farmed and harvested. All beings, all flesh shall serve me. We shall rid the world of all impure emotion, all desire, all disorder. In the machine we shall never die.
Ixhúja (purring): (What shall become of Puîyos?)
Khan Jhkhaîxhor: I shall breed him unto you. You twain shall raise up a new Race to inherit the world we shall create. Your children shall be swift and strong, clever and mighty, they shall be suitable subjects for an age without fear.
Ixhúja (purring): (And what of Princess Éfhelìnye?)
Khan Jhkhaîxhor: The offspring of Kàrijoi is a threat to us all. She must die. But you shall live, you must fulfill the prophecy for me.
Fhermáta: I am not afraid to die, my love, my Puey. Just hold my hand. I feel so very cold. Oh Puey, we were so beautiful together this day. When I donned the crimson betrothal dress that your Mother wore, I almost felt as if I were she, the beauty of Jaràqtu. When I saw you dressed in the blues and silvers that your Father wore once, I thought indeed that you were as comely as Abbá must have been in his youth. But you smiled, oh my Puey, and I’ve never seen Father smile at all. It made all the difference.
Puîyus strokes her cheek, he can think of nothing to say.
Fhermáta: Have I e'er told you that I love it when you smile? When you smile, it is as if all of the clouds are parting and the heavens are opening. When you smile, I can feel glances of sunlight falling upon my cheek. When you smile I feel as if I am being born, awakening from a dark slumber, I become alive. Your teeth are like little pearls, your lips rubescent red, but your smile lights it all up. Oh Puey, my love. Please don’t leave me.
Puîyus grasps Fhermáta’s hand. She coughs a little.
Fhermáta: Puey, I know that I can be a good wife unto you. I don’t mind if you need to leave for battle and rescue other maidens, it doesn’t even bother me that you have a special friendship with that Khniîkhan Princess. Your heart lies in me and cannot be taken away. Just hold me a little while, the cold creeps unto my bones.
Akhlísa runs in saying: War! Invasion! We have been betrayed!
Siêthiyal runs in saying: The Qhíng are invading Jaràqtu! Some of the Warrior Clans have betrayed us. The Emperor promised peace, but …
Akhlísa: Puey, you don’t have to fight. No one will blame you if you stay by Fhérma’s side.
Siêthiyal, Pew, I don’t think you should go.
Fhermáta: If you must fight, I will not stop you. Go, Puey, with my blessings. I shall wait for you to come back. I shall wait for you even for ever.
Puîyus leans froward and kisses Fhermáta on her brow, and then turns to take up his Father’s weapons. For a moment he pauses, he takes up the Eilwiyusàrtyai Dragon Sword which Emperor Kàrijoi had given unto him, and wonders at how fierce a weapon this must be. He leaves. Fhermáta closes her eyen.
Within the hour Fhermáta was dead.
Emperors of the Past: You cannot do this, Kàrijoi.
Emperor Kàrijoi: I do. I must. I take the past.
Emperors of the Past: The past is yours.
Quantum Dæmons: Bid us, oh Master of Life.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Destroy time. Shred it. Kill it.
Quantum Dæmons: You will shall be done. We grant you the present.
Grandfather Pátifhar: I cannot obey you. You know I stand with Íngìkhmar.
Emperor Kàrijoi: The time of the final dissolution of Dreams lies upon us all. My beloved Íngìkhmar has shattered my throne.
Grandfather Pátifhar: End this. Step down. Smite not the Dreamtime, the Land of Story.
Emperor Kàrijoi: I take my sacred khátatlhùmpa staff for to shatter it.
Grandfather Pátifharr: Only one who renounces love can do that.
Emperor Kàrijoi: I do. I must. I am incapable of love.
Grandfather Pátifhar: You cannot take the future.
Emperor Kàrijoi: I command the burning of all plantimals, all priests, and all children.
Grandfather Pátifhar: I form an alliance against you.
Emperor Kàrijoi: It fails.
Grandfather Pátifhar: There are two who can stop you.
Emperor Kàrijoi: They will fail. So it is written.
Grandfather Pátifhar: Not even the Prophet saw to end of his Book.
Emperor Kàrijoi: I summon my Dragons.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: Commanded we obey thy hest, oh Lord of Life.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Bring winter, breathe extinction, rain down eternal midnight.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: So shall it be done.
Grandfather Pátifhar: End this now, my Son.
Emperor Kàrijoi: This already began, with her birth eleven years ago, upon the first day of spring. I held her up, and knew that in her beat the heart of a Dragon.
Princess Éfhelìnye was yawning and shaking sleep away from her. Sparkles of dreamdust jitlhèrqho were flowing out from her eyen, and were scintillant all the while as they broke apart and became part of the sheen of the light bouncing within the small egg ship. There was nowhere to go within its confines and not too much to do and no food at all. Both Ixhúja and Aîya were leaning right on her, Aîya’s three tounges were licking the Starflower Princess’ fingers. Ixhúja appeared completely content, her hair a great mass of gold spilling about her shoulders. Puîyus was lying on his side just about a cubit away from her. Éfhelìnye had considered working on her book, taking out some paper and pen and scribbling out a few pages, it was calm and quiet now, both Ixhúja and Aîya had spent up most of their excess energies from story time, and had chased each other around and around in circles until they came staggering right into the middle of the vessel and just collapsed upon each other in a glorious dwalm. Puîyus still lay still, his fainting from embarrassment had become a nap, and Éfhelìnye was careful all the while to try and keep Ixhúja and Aîya from running about and tripping o'er him and waking him up. Éfhelìnye was glad, at least, that Puîyus actually was sleeping now, rather than trying both to fast and stay awake all the time to protect her, and now that he was still she almost wished that he would sleep for a few days and nurse his strength, for the escape from the skerries and flight from the Dragons and the battle in the crumbling fractal labyrinth had all been wearying indeed, and Puîyus had arisen and fought with might at all of those occasions. But Puîyus, she knew, was not the type to sleep all the day away, even when it would be the best for him, and so she savored the time when he did slide into slumber. When Ixhúja and Aîya had finally settled down to take their nap, Éfhelìnye took up the violet and rolling splanchnic dreammantle which Puîyus had received from his Father, at first she thought about draping it around her cousin and Aîya, but then came to Puîyus and wrapped it around him and kissing his cheek several times whispered unto him, I shall love you for ever. And then she returned to the xhriê conglomeration of Huntress and Triîm and lay down to sleep among them.
And now at awakening she was wondering at the dreams that were come unto her, or at least the bits and fractal pieces of Dreams that she remembered. She took out some sheets of parchment and decided indeed to work upon her book, for she found that in dreaming sometimes her best writing was composed. She could plan out a scene in her head, visualize it piece by piece, and send the characters about like actors upon the opera stage, snippets of dialogue and song would come unto her, and yet it would still not be complete, but when she lay down and let the scene play before her, and as crystalline Dreams arose for to take her, the Dreams would take it and mold it and shape it into something completely else. Sometimes it was just to add color to what had been very simple in her mind, sometimes it was like the potter setting his hand to the clay, and it arises into the shape apropos, but more often than not she felt as if she were walking in a garden and all about her the vines and grasses were arising and swaying from side to side, and brilliant waves of flowers were coming into being. And when she awoke the flowers were flowing all about her, and when she put quill to parchment the scenes were everblossoming, and out came sky fleets all of glass and hot air balloons and endless Dragons and a Poet Warrior sailing out upon an Umbrella, and strange labyrinths formed of coral and of time, and a Princess lost somewhere within the outer North. Ixhúja was fast asleep beside Éfhelìnye, the Khnìnthan Princess was wriggling her hands and limbs a little as if running in her dreams, she was leaping in the midst of the birds and mechanical insects of her homeland and migrating with the dinosaurs of the inner worlds, and Aîya bit and licked Éfhelìnye’s hands and wings were twitching all the while, and sometimes one head would gasp, Fhólus! Fhólus, or another head would say, Hurray for Tét! Tét the Acceptible! Éfhelìnye rolled out some more parchment and rubbing one of her golden red tresses considered for a moment, and then began to write a scene involving the egg ship arising and spinning high above the fjords of Syapàkhya, and looming up untowards them were come the shadows of someone who may be friend or foe, and although the Princess tried very hard to write down the details of the Dreams she had been having, and upon another page she sketched out a few elements of Dragon and fate and prophesy, she was not entirely sure of what exactly she had been dreaming when she had awoken from aftering the telling of her Tell.
Sometimes, Éfhelìnye thought, as she considered the next line, and brushed her hand down the length of the new paper, shining and white and brimming with possibilities, sometimes she was a little embarrassed to think of how long it took her compose a scene to her satisfaction, for the truth was that so many possibilities came to her, that she was always twisting them around in the wheels of her mind, and sometimes she could even have several different conflicting stories flowing all at once, and the differences among them all did not bother her in the least. Sometimes, Éfhelìnye thought, the only thing that was completely true, or at least which could be true in the confines of the limitations of consciousness, was story itself, for its pattern was so ritualistic, so soothing, it was such a deeply embedded part of the way that one thought, that story and thought could not be dissevered, they were almost identical. To her mind it would be like having language without thought, or thought without tounge, such would be the futilitas, and yet she knew that could not clearly be factual for there were some who were able to converse and yet their thought processes were very different, the Aûm and Traîkhiim were perhaps the most alien of the Real Folk she had met, and she expected the Xakhpàlqe to be just as strange unto her, and yet there were also eldritch Naturgeists flittering amongst the worlds, and the Spirit Realm she knew had its own eddies and tides and ecosystems and mnemes, they were their own layer of existence, and creatures like Dragons and jacinth Unicorns were partially of that world, how strange their thoughts must be to her, if she could think like them, wondered she, would she find it serene or disjointed, would it be noise or song unto her? She had no idea of how to conceptualize the thoughts of the Immortals, Spirits were the very Thoughts of the Immortals made manifest, Prùxi Thwùfha Khèlqe, she knew, she could only licken the dreaming Æons and the balletic Stars unto great nobles with masques upon their faces and instruments in their hands. She wondered how it was that wild beasts could think, Puîyus had tried to explain it to her several times, he had told her that it was like swimming through streams of flamescent thought, and that one unused to it could droukit in it. She wondered how it was that Puîyus and Ixhúja truly did manage to think without or perhaps beyond language itself, for they were both perfectly content just to converse in languages of purrs and growls and snarls and mews, and in framing that into words it was always a dream approximation of what truly lay within the imagination of their hearts. She drew out a few more lines and began to write her words, the ink was drifting downwards and become curves and characters and glyphs, the words became sentence and scene, and she wrote down the story she had just told, and she sketched out the scenes of the Fractal Maze, and although tears were brimming in her eyen for when Uncle Fhèrkifher had picked her up and set her within the egg ship, and then plucked down Puîyus and Ixhúja after her, she knew that the story had to be recorded and made elegant and remembered for all time.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: Of course she doesn’t know.
Empress Khnoqwísi: She suspects something.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: But she does not know what she expects. It’s just a vague feeling, an hunger, a curiosity within her.
Empress Khnoqwísi: She knows the ending, it was beautiful and loving.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: The ending is easy, it writes itself. All the middle stuff is difficult, in medias res! As far as the Princess knows, these are just the normal sighs and longing of being a youth. The beating of her heart she does not know is prophecy.
Empress Khnoqwísi: She is in love.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: Being in love is a prophecy, the oldest prophecy in fact.
Emperor Kàrijoi: What have we here, my beloved, my treasure?
Empress Khnoqwísi: This is my lyeîjho, is the sand mandala which I have been painting. It is not yet complete, it is just a swirl of triangle and circle locking about each other in dragon triskelia.
Emperor Kàrijoi: I see tessellations of hexagons, how very elegant.
Empress Khnoqwísi: I have an excellent eye.
Emperor Kàrijoi: What do you see?
Empress Khnoqwísi: Eternity.
When Princess Éfhelìnye awoke it was to the rather vexing sensation that she had fallen asleep in the middle of her task, her nose pressed against the parchment, her face caught up even in the midst of the growglow glowergroaning growthgleam of words at labyrinthing all about her, and sitting up she wiped her face as if the words could actually stick unto her and chatter in their own tounges and come spinning all about her of their own accord, but the only sound was the gentle surruration of those asleep about her, and the whistling coming from Aîya’s three sets of nostrils. She looked down unto the paper and saw that not only was not a single glyph or rune or jot or tiddle smeared, but that nothing at all was out of place, it was all perfect, serene, the words themselves were asleep, and all of the story was dreaming.
The egg vessel’s dome, she could see, as she sate up and drew the papers unto their place, was all glistening bright and new, and so transparent was it that it no longer even looked like a sheen of glass of any sort which was still solid, it was almost more akin to just waves of perfectly clear water flowing about as an ovoid, light and shadow growing a little distorted in the aquatic movement, and she could see by the changing of the hills and the larger rivers flowing outwards, and the great landscapes cracked with snow and ice flowing upon it all, that they were come many leagues away from the skerry shoreline where the labyrinth and Dragons and enemies had been. She watched for a time, she almost felt as if she were expecting something, but then noticed that the ripple wave of water was parting a little, and that the cracks appearing in the water were like unto the same chrysalis cocoons that moths and pinpilinpauxa and the Traîkhiim volk themselves weave and wherein they rest to lie and be reborn. Several rolling chrysalis branches were wavering in the waters, the water cracked in several places, and at first she covered her face, expecting all the while for water to drip downwards in great plasmatic arms of goo, but the energy of the ship just rippled and congealed and slowly began to open upwards, patches of some energy and then the next breaking apart, a slight lightning shine flowing amongst it all, and the egg began to hatch. Several more ripples of water splashed upwards, and Éfhelìnye thrust her papers back into her pocket and rolled o'er unto Puîyus and took his arm, for she was afraid to to be swamped in water and have to thrash about within that element, and yet the water did not come, but the egg itself, as it came spinning through the leagues and rushing out upon the course set before it, began to hatch.
Shimmering crackling glowing all of the landscape was opening up unto Princess Éfhelìnye and gazing outwards she saw the tips of ice trees and growing hills barbed in cliff and sharp nest, she almost felt as if she were gazing out unto the triangular and ifeathered edge of a great xhlúroro Pápileiyùlkha, a pennocel of the Great Tower of the Heavens, the wonderous turm Pápilei which long ago Prince Jhwèsta of Tsànyun had begun constructing for her Father, one of the last of the Princes of Tsànyun, the realm of crimson ice sands, the realm that had sought to break away from the Winter Empire and been utterly destroyed. But they were not quite flags, they were trees, or the memories of trees and hills flowing about her. Her thoughts drifted out from her, she knew that her Mother Empress Khnoqwísi had died within scarlet Tsànyun, and did not like any association with that land or memory at all, even it were just a blur of feathers that reminded her of tower, and from what she had seen of Prince Jhwèsta and his construction in wheel and tower and labyrinth, she was not entirely sure that the Jhpepòrnain, the Imperial Mad Scientist, even had a living heart, perhaps he had removed his own zoëtic and beating heart, cutting it out with his own talon and knife, and replaced it with an agglomeration of wheels and pumps, she would not have been surprised at all to learn that it were true, for when last she had seen Prince Jhwèsta of the wheelmaking genetic sub-caste, much of his body was machine and patches of skin, and disques and gurgling pipes, for Jhwèsta was so eager to experiment upon all things, that he even chopped up himself. Éfhelìnye shivered to think of that, she loved to tinker and experiment and create, she herself, but when she fiddled with the harmonics of the magnetism of Puîyus’ hand or tried to build a kitchen appliance to help Fhermáta or painted and tried to figure out new springs and trébuchets for the Sweqhàngqu, it was from art and love that she created, and not just to grasp for all that lay just beyond her reach. And yet she knew she could not be too careful, if indeed the last Prince of Tsànyun had escaped and sought to learn all things, he could be anywhere, or whatever was left of him, the Mad Scientist who had turned the Emperor’s toys into the Tánin Automata, the Mad Scientist who had designed the Labyrinth that the Emperor had coiled around time. Éfhelìnye walked in the midst of the egg that was hatching unto all sides of her and did her best no longer to think of the horrors of Jhwèsta and his Automata, or even for his sometime ally Prince Khwìnton Jhkhaîxhor her own Uncle, who had been all too eager to empty out the red moons of resources, to awaken the great war machines, to begin battle unending. She looked down to her cousin Ixhúja, sleeping so calm, so placid upon her side, and in her serenity Éfhelìnye could truly see the resemblence between Puîyus and Ixhúja, they were like twins born by the same Mother, like a Prince and Princess born of the Noble or Divine Pwéru Caste, their facial structure, their closed eyen, their lips, even their ears were the same. Éfhelìnye reached up to her and brushed an hand through her cousin’s golden tresses and wondered just how it was that Uncle Khwìnton had used his machines to create such a child. Éfhelìnye’s mind was swimming with imaginary and illusiary constructions of wheel and tripod and coiling wire, she could envision a thousand clockweyth Tánin marching about papers and chalkboard and working upon their equations, she saw pools of water and light flowing together, and long metallic arms branching outwards and knitting together bone and flesh and blood. She did not know how it was done, and the only clue that Princess Ixhúja would give her was that she was born in a place all of white, in bubbles and rooms altogether pure, albescent, and that only Automata had tended unto her, and no living creature did she see until she was six winters of age. In her mind’s eye Éfhelìnye could just imagine the little baby Ixhúja in a floating sphere of white light, while circling all about her, their limbs rolling and ticking to the music of their pendula, the Automata were coming, some of them with pillow, others with saucer of milk, and they came unto the babe and held her in cold metallic hands and fed her as if she were a newly born kitten. Éfhelìnye loved not at all the utter destruction that had been wrought from Uncle Jhkhaîxhor’s hand, she had seen for herself the wasteland he had made of the Heresy of Khnìntha, where before ancient cities had rested upon the plain, vast and blooming fungal forests roamed, cannals brimmed with wherries and barges, towering trees brushed against pink and saffron skies, floating cities adrift by box kite, glassen cities rolling about the edge of glacial, and thousand of volcanos blossoming throughout the land and feeding the stoves and lanthorns and fires of all within the volcano cities, the lava flowing downwards in cascades, clouds bursting upwards around the towers of the ancient Houses of Qháyatsir and Pfhàkhan and Pfhaqhaîtsir and Pfhàqlen, the pensels drifting in the winds, now all of the land was waste blasted and barren, the trees and fungoids dead, the cannals asphyxiated with dust, the floating cities crashed against the ice, the mineral and stone and metal ground up into machinery, the plantimals dead and even the clockwork itself bleeding out oil was tumbling downwards and unwinding itself. All of men of Khnìntha were dead, she knew, although that was by her own Father’s doing, not by Uncle Jhkhaîxhor, and yet Jhkhaîxhor had been the one to bring war to his people and order his troops to march outwards. And now even Uncle Jhkhaîxhor was no more, for when she and Puîyus had traveled down unto the very edge of Khnìntha and come unto the smouldering caldera of Khàqra and come unto the towers of the pyramids and asked for Jhkhaîxhor to step froward and surrender unto them, nothing at all remained of him but hundreds of thousands of mechanical locusts buzzing upwards and sometimes forming his face, and othertimes his hand, and sometimes simulacra of his body, and his words came dripping out in the zum zum buzzing of the wings. Éfhelìnye wondered whether any of her Uncle’s spirit still remained within his machine, whether he was truly dead. His body was gone, but had his Souls flutter’d upwards like so many athaleb and come unto the luminous destination of those of the Solar House of the Pwéru, or were his souls trapped inside the machines of his own making, perhaps each of the thousand locusts contained within it a tiny glistening jewel that was part of his souls, they each contained one one thousandths of his essence. But what did that mean, did they contain a bit of memory, some sort of record of personality traits, were the machines really acting for him as he would have, or were they interpreting his actions for him? If Jhkhaîxhor somehow survived within his machines, he would be like the master conductor in charge of the orchestra, but if his spirit was gone and just an imprint, a footpring of his memory and personality stayed, than it would be like he were become the parchment whereon he had written his musical score, and the machines were the players bringing his music alive, but not bringing the man himself back from the empyreal shores. Princess Éfhelìnye had no way of guessing, and perhaps not even Puîyus’ Ancestors would have had the answer to that, it was more a concern of his own enlightened Clan. Her Uncle was a mystery unto her, as well as his erstwhile partner Prince Jhwèsta, she could understand a little their intriege at machines, but machines were just a part of her love. She knelt down and kissed her cousin Ixhúja a few times, and although the processes which had created this child, that had taken the butterflies of her souls and knit them together, and somehow continued to hold her together as a single person despite her many deaths, although such an alchemy was quite forbidden, still, Éfhelìnye thought as she brushed another golden coil away and kissed her cousin’s face, brimming of pomegranate, Éfhelìnye was quite happy that her cousin had been created after all. Éfhelìnye licked her lips, all of her mouth was tasting of sugar and cinnamon as it was wont to do. Several more bits of the shell were breaking apart. Flashes of light were falling upon Ixhúja’s face in her sleep, enlightening her, so that all of her garments appeared as purest white. The egg pieces were spinning around Aîya also, the little Traîkhiim had her wings rustling about her, she looked like she were once again becoming part of band and chrysalis cocoon, she looked like she was just on the verge of breaking outwards, glistening and bright, almost insectoid she appeared. Puîyus rested, still and serene, and as the light came falling down about him, the light was breaking apart into whorls and orbs, the light became halo, crackles of hero lux tumblent everglistening about him.
And now the top of the egg completely dashed apart, all of the pieces became shadows and memory, and the fresh air of the outside came sweeping within. Éfhelìnye breathed deeply of it and could taste the cold expectancy of Midnight, it was like wandering into someone else’s thoughts and finding oneself in someone else’s skin, to be sailing out in the midnight of an alien world. The air was frore and salty, for the ocean was not too far from them at all. She arose, and with her, awakening of their own accord, the gloam wind touching their faces and nostrils, up arose Ixhúja and Aîya also, the Traîkhiim opening up her wings and befluttering herself from side to side in wonder. Ixhúja looked out, the walls and dome hatching and now gone, and all about them the salt clouds were parting, the children were come through the ruins of the old forest, and bursting up around them came shadow groves, the tall patriarchs swaying a little, firs and cypresses crumbling beneath the weight of frost and icicle, and ancient pfhóla trees were struggling to remain upright, as blasts of wind and crystal dust rolled about them. And for a time Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja just looked out upon the choking snow and the dying forest, and they both tried to remember a time before extinction lay upon the land, a time when snow had been a sign of rest and revitalization, a time before children feared the midnight falling on all things.