Not too many different activities can occur in a single second, and yet sometimes in the midst of battle, when flames are arising, and quays and towers are crashing down into the dying seas, and Dragons are swooping in many different directions at once, it can take far longer to describe all that is coming to pass than it is for that tide of a single second to pass. Unto the participants in this battle above the crashing cities in Syapàkhya, unto the various Dragon generals, their beards long tendrillar fires, unto the Dragon Elders whose gills and wings were growing storms, and unto Prince Kherènxhuqhe himself, who was caught up in the very midst of the storm, much of the growing flamescent activity was a blur arising all about him, and furthermore, so the story telleth us, Dragons perceive time in a very different way than the rest of the Spirits and even Mortals do, for them time is part of a cycle, of a turning, of a dream, of flight itself. And yet in these beads of time which are arrayed as necklaces before their glance, some of the waves of causality to slip from side to side and function a little in a way analogous to fate and history as Mortals experience them.
In the very first eyeblink, just as Princess Éfhelìnye was calling Puîyus’ name, in that moment of time, an amber glow of Dragons caught for a moment in their flight and battle spreading, Prince Kherènxhuqhe found himself, in the very center of the derkstorm with Puîyus the Dragonslayer and Princess Ixhúja but silent and fainted and by some strange alchemy appearing right upon his snout. And the Dragon’s heart exalted in this, his prey already delivered unto him, and one of them the greatest enemy of all Dragonkind. And in this second, this single second, even as Prince Kherènxhuqhe was reaching upwards for to snatch the children and in this second, this single second, as the first few volcanic blasts of fire began to erupt from his nostrils, Puîyus, lying still upon the prince’s beak, could hear the slight and small tremulous voice of Éfhelìnye several leagues high above him, and at once his brain fired alive, his spleen filled itself with courage and prepared to fight, and his heart beat swift and sure, and all of his muscles began to ripple, lightning waves flowing all about his nerves. In the course of this second, this single second, Puîyus, not quite awake yet, was rolling right off the snout of the Dragon Prince, and his arm, not yet awake either, wrapped itself about Princess Ixhúja and began pulling her down with him. And as that second began to drawn unto its close, and Prince Kherènxhuqhe was chuckling and breathing out greater and greater walls of heat convection, and his massive talons were reaching outwards to capture and crush the children, as that second was about to turn unto the next one, Puîyus’ other arm was reaching outwards, his limbs not quite awake, and his hand began to pull out the ancient Eilwiyusàrtyai, the Emperor’s own Dragon sword all of solar flares and plasma and fire and numbers quite irrational. And so it came to pass that the very first eyeblink, the first second past, and Puîyus and Ixhúja were falling downwards before the fell Dragon and their doom. The first second passed.
Tick tock tick tock tick.
This is the Story of the Heartbeat the Second.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe, being ancient and powerful among Dragonkind sometimes found himself under the impression that he was in several different places at once. This was quite a common occurance unto some of the older Dragons, those who were finding themselves pulled away from mortal worlds and mortal affairs and even the concerns of Kàrjoi upon the Crystalline Throne which he once held before Sieur Íngìkhmar his most faithful vassel smashed it into burning slabs of ice. In fact, if Dragons were to examine their thoughts and see into their spirit, they would find they they were a people constantly oscillating between the sensations of qú, that restless feeling of disquietude, of consternation, and jhàqris, an eternal state of experiencing déjà vu, always nIbpoHsome feeling themselves torn apart, not quite of fire and sky, not quite of ice and storm, always a composite of wing and butterfly, never quite themselves and whole. At this moment, somewhere within the second second, the next heartbeat after Princess Éfhelìnye had called out Puîyus’ atiQ, Prince Kherènxhuqhe found that part of him was fluttering around the monstrousfol and growing branches of Sànum the Tree of Light which had once blossomed and filled the billion, billion worlds in the earlist of days, and he thought that he could taste upon his jaws the sweetness of the worlds growing as fruit all about him, and othertimes, even within this next second, he felt that part of himself was flying outwards towards the Crystalline Throne, and that Emperor Kàrijoi was arising upon fires in the tallest of the towers of Twiêkes the Ice Palace, and Kherènxhuqhe and the rest of the Dragons were rising and falling in the winds and ducking before the Emperor, and he was commanding them all to fly upwards and overturn every leaf and shell and stone and find the newborn Princess Éfhelìnye whom Grandfather Pátifhar had spirited away, and the Prince was arising with Lord Qàrqhin and Òstatar and Qyàthakh and the thousands of other Dragons, and all of the heavens were spiraling high above them, and in the spinning the great kaleidoscope of time was dawning. And yet in this heartbeat, the very second eyeblink after Princess Éfhelìnye had summoned Puîyus unto her, Kherènxhuqhe also imagined himself as a small Dragonlette escaping from Father Qhalúxha who was rolling outwards and devouring all of the young Dragons too slow to escape from his fiery jaws, and Kherènxhuqhe had to wriggle out of the moon caverns and hide himself in craters and within the shine of the rainbow until he grew stronger and was able to defend himself better against the fountain flames of the Sire. And yet also in this heartbeat, the second heartbeat, as Puîyus and Ixhúja were falling down before his gaping jaws, and neither child was fully awake yet, the Dragon’s mouth was watering with phosphorous and light as he anticipated just how delicious it would be to rend these children apart and devour their memories one by one. Dragons being spirit creatures do not ingest and have no stomaches such as zoetic and mortal wihts have, and yet they did have a rather perculiar ability, something which terrified mortals, something a little akin to devouring even though it was substantially different to ingestion, and that was the soul shredding of a Mortal, as the Dragon swooped down and removed image and thought and memory of a soul, and let the souls wither and shatter, and the Dragon drank the sensations, and after the souls were shaken and scattered disparate and wild for a time, only then were they able to reassemble again and humiliated, shamed, they could stumble out unto the shores of the Undergloom and faint into the arms of their Ancestors to nurture them in the spectral darkness to come. Kherènxhuqhe, as the children fell before them, as long strands of phosphorous began to drool out from between his sword fangs, could already taste the children a little, the Prince could feel flowing out from Puîyus some of the autumnal memories of Jaràqtu, the movement of wheat and maize upon the fields, the rushing winds, the summer storms that came rumbling down from the whispering mountains, the Prince could smell summer’s warmth, the texture of the rainfall, the movement of the windows, the sound of rain and sleet upon the tin roofs of the barns and the thatch of the cottages, and from Ixhúja the Dragon could smell many different snatches of textures, the great fungal forests, the winding of the cannals, the opening of the leaves with clockwork locusts and dragonflies within it, and the shimmer of skies pink and orange, and the taste of the moons all turning in their crescent and eclipse high within the plain, and the everpresent movement of machinery beneath the surface of the dying worlds. And in that moment, in the second heartbeat as Puîyus and Ixhúja, not quite awake yet, fell down before the gathering flames of the Dragon’s mouth, Puîyus was becoming a bit of a blur even before the revered rājaputto gaze. The peranz was not entirely sure of the scintillation of movement before him, but he could feel a slight change about him. The sword lay blazing in Puîyus’ palm. Ixhúja was tumbling beside him, but her eyen were slowly awakening. Kherènxhuqhe was aware of a great force applied against him, although he could not quite bring himself to believe that Puîyus somehow in his fall was kicking against the Dragon’s jaw so hard that the Prince could feel it even within his bones. Puîyus’ descent was arresting. Long and growing tendrils of flames and unending numbers were erupting from the Emperor’s sword, the Eilwiyusàrtyai which Kàrijoi had set within the lad’s palm, and the sword was reaching outwards. Slowly Puîyus’ eyen were opening. Kherènxhuqhe was aware of a second force applied against him, and in the blur of the moment he could see that Ixhúja was turning and kicking the Dragon right across his eyen. In the blinding light that Kherènxhuqhe was experiencing, he was only dimly aware that Puîyus’ hand was against his throat, and that the sword was puncturing right through the Dragon’s jaws and bursting out through the other end of his snout, the fires of the sword drawing in upon themselves the flames that came from his mouth. Ixhúja was awakening and only vaguely noticing that she was kicking against the Dragon’s huge mirror eyen again, and as Puîyus yawned himself awake, he cut through the Dragon’s snout again, and explosions of fire and blood were arising all about him. And so it came to pass that the very second eyeblink, the second moment passed, and Puîyus and Ixhúja was just now awakening and noticing, as they were wiping sleepies from their eyen, that they were in the midst of a dragon battle. The second second passed.
Tick tock tick tock tick.
This is the Story of the Heartbeat the Third.
Once upon the time, when Puîyus was very small and still a little fussy, sometimes his Mother Khwofheîlya just had to set him down and let him run around in the nursery and spend his energy in whatever way he wished to. Usually he was content to play with Fhermáta, but sometimes he would start crawling up the side of the walls like a spider or an otter-monkey, and more than once he came slipping right up into the rafters and sate among the birdlings and flying fishes that were nestled up there, and Auntie Qtìmine had to get a broom and force the child down, or she would have to stand on a chair and grab him and pull him down, and by then usually Puîyus was pliant and obedient again and ready to sleep and to dream.
And after the War, after his Mother’s passing, as Puîyus was growing older sometimes he felt himself withdrawing from the company of his own species, especially when he was remembering a little the Mother who had spent every day of his life with him and who had had been set upon a white bed and who had grown cold and silent and none of the adults could explain what had was happening. And so, turning his back unto the Færie he spent more time crawling up the walls and sitting in the nests and playing with the birds and fishes and some of the ice pterodactyls that were nestled in the trees about the thatch of the crannog, he noticed that these creatures, all twittering and chirming and laughing all the while were able to swim through the air with their arms. And young Puîyus was quite fascinated by that, for although he knew about water and how to float in the water, he did not know how to float in the air. It was quite an easy task to wade unto the freshlettes or the luich and just leap within, and already both Fhermáta and Siêthiyal were able to splash around in the water, as long as an adult was with them to watch them all the while, and indeed Siêthiyal had known how to swim before she learned to walk. Grandmother Tàltiin used to say that Íngìkhmar knew how to ride dinosaur before he could walk properly, even at a young age he was leaping up unto the steads and trying to gallop, and as soon as Íngìkhmar did learn to walk he forwent it and just dashed about running and outrunning his parents who had only born Íngìkhmar in their old age after many years of thinking that they would never have a child. Puîyus had no difficulty in swimming at all, while Qtìmine was seated at the narrow end of the lake and was dangling Fhermáta and Siêthiyal in her arms, Puîyus just came waddling up unto the ferns and jumped into the waters, and in a few moments was leaping up among the ichthyosaurs and slipping around the squids and the growing schools of fishes. And so in Puîyus’ very young mind, when he remembered how easy it was to fly in the water, he wondered how he could achieve the same affect in the air, so that he would rise and fall and dance with his ailecococ guppie friends, so that he could arise at the edge of their tails paprax, so that he could be a part of their troop high above just as he was down below. Now it chanced that at this day Puîyus was crawling high into a tree and sitting in a nest of ice pterodactyls, and all around him fishes and porcines and birds were arising into the air and singing their songs which only Puîyus the Feral Lad Játanikh among mortals. was able to understand. Now this day, as the winged creatures pteryx were arising and falling and crying out their songs of bliss in the joy of being alive, that the Mother and Father Ice Pterodactyl were helping their brood of young unto the edge of the nest and were helping them to flap their wings and were giving them little nudges so that the youth would fall out of the nest and soar upwards upon the wings which their ancestors had granted unto them, and so the Father Pterodactyl picked up a child by the scruff of his neck and tapped him upwards, the youth took a few hesitant jumps, but then when it took its last jump off of the branch, its wings flapped open of its own accord and it arose in an arch above its parents. The rest of the nestlings, seeing what older brother could do, were all too eager to learn to fly, and so they bobbed from side to side and one by one slipped off of the branches and were blossoming upwards and swirling upon the very edge of the wings. By this time, witnessing this miracle, Puîyus knew exactly what he had to do, and so he waddled in line with the ice pterodactyls and as the youngest batched of the nest he also jumped off and opened up his arms and flapped and wondered just how it would feel to swim in the air. Mother and Father Ice Pterodactyl noticed only too late that the Játanikh, the princely Child of Nature was leaping right out of the tree, and they swirled around and tried to catch the child, they were ducking downwards as swift as they could, but the growing flocks of birds and fishes and porcines was inundating the wreathing trees, and so by the time the Pterodactyls were able to catch up to Puîyus he already fell upon the ground. Puîyus sniffled, the attempt at air swimming had been less than successful. He felt something wriggling in his mouth and could taste something sharp, and he spat out a keqèrthiin milch tooth. The Pterodactyls swirled about the lad and were panicking, they thought that indeed the Tèntra, the Spirits of Nature would punish them for permitting harm to this child, they thought at any moment Puîyus would burst out into tears, and his stern Father would arise and see the wild creatures swirling about a weeping wounded child, they were afraid that the innocent peace which Puîyus represented between Mortal and Beast would be shattered in a moment, even in the blinking of an eye. And yet Puîyus staggering up to his feet, and spitting out some more fresh red hrū, did not cry at all, but rather, considering in his infans mind that he had discovered in terms of his own misshapen wings, came to a new conclusion. He began to run, he came spinning outwards as the birds and fishes were fluttering to his left and right, as the porcines and ice pterodactyls were above him, and clouds of bees and wasps were ducking in the midst of the winged wihts and were zumar zumar zumar buzzing all the while, all of the wings and spirits and song were arising all about him, and Puîyus did what any other feral child would do who was discovering that he could not in fact fly like a wild beast, he ran so fast that his feet were no longer touching the ground, he was beginning to bounce, his leaps growing taller and longer and surer so that as he arose he was indeed dancing in the company of the fishes and birds, as he jumped o'er the bushes he was able to swirl about the porcines and the insects of all size and kindred, as he leapt upwards he became part of the Ice Pterodactyl family and was in a sense flying with the rest of the hatchlings, he was experiencing wind and air and the joy of volitation for the first time with them, and Puîyus came leaping o'er the hedges and jumping up above the very trees, he was swirling around the branches, he was jumping high above the walls, higher and higher and in the air longer and longer, he was learning that he could swing about some branches and bounce off of a different tree and around a roof and off the head of a statue and so that the ground was far beneath him, and so although he was still earthbound and gravity still tugged down upon his limbs, he was also become partly a creature of the air and thought of himself more as ice pterodactyl and bird and fish and all of them at the same time, more than he thought of himself as a Færie. And so it was that after his Mother’s death, Puîyus was able to comfort himself by learning to reach unto the heavens and skip among bird and cloud and beneath the cold and distant stars.
And the next year, when Puîyus was three winters of age, the first Dragon came, and by cunning and luck he accidentally slew it, and the folk knew that Íngìkhmar’s Son was indeed a xiêker dlakafunel, a xòrmakh sauroktónos drakontolétēs, a khnèxufha h1egwhént h1ógwhim.
And once upon a Time, when Princess Ixhúja was about six winters of age, her Father’s automata thralls came into the laboratory where she had dwelt all of her life away from the company of all living things, and they picked her up and dragged her out through the long white halls, and the doors opened up before her, and the cave opened and revealed a garden and sunlight, and beheld she flowers for the first time, and felt wind upon her face and had no idea what it was, and the sunshine was too bright for her, and she held up her hands and had to cover up the sun from her sensitive eyen. The air was sparkling with too many tastes for her to understand at once. The Automata behind her were slamming the doors against her, but she could taste in the new smells appearing before her, that one of the thralls was holding a small jar whence scented smoke was arising, and it was only later that she would learn that it was incense which was purifying the path around her, and the other thrall was holding a trencher whereon some fresh bread lay, for this day was the first time when she had tasted of bread. She looked down to her hands and opening them upwards some dragonflies were appearing and opening up their glassen wings unto her, and she wondered at that.
And in the days to come, when she learned to eat bread and was growing accustomed to the idea of soil and tree and night and day and the endless sounds of the gardens, that the first of the Monsters arose from the laboratories, and they came crawling out right untowards her, and Ixhúja had to learn to hide and fight them, she had to gather up scurrying rocks to pelt at them and cut and sharpen twigs, and feircesome Automata came rolling out untowards her upon spindly legs and were opening themselves about her to cut her with spinning scythes, and she had to learn to smash the machines and use their own weapons against her, and in these days passing she learned to leap about the trees and skip around the bushes, and so learned how efficacious it could be to be able to soar above one’s enemies, to be able to use higher vantage points, to have control of the air, and so she skipped about the trees and the flying fishes and birds of the dying forest, and learned to descend as the night and surprise her prey.
And five years later, when Ixhúja was eleven winters of age, her Father summoned her unto the swirling darkness of the caverns beneath the laboratory, and she met her Father Prince Khwìnton Jhkhaîxhor for the first time, and he commanded her to travel unto the Outerworlds unto the Empire which his brother Kàrijoi held, the land of idolators and no Tánin automata, and she was to follow Puîyus and report on his doings and to assassinate and slay all those who displeased the Khan of the crimson red moons.
And thus in the very third heartbeat, it was not even a matter of conscious thought, it was not even a matter of action, that as Puîyus and Ixhúja were finding finally awakening before the wroth Dragon, that they were leaping upwards and flying about the Dragon, their feet already knew the rhythm which other mortals could not know, how to spin up upon the smallest fragment of reality, how to come swirling about gill and scale, how to fly upwards without wings and flutter as tiny dragonflies before the horrific might of Prince Kherènxhuqhe. Before the old Prince could understand what was happening, Ixhúja kicked him several more times across his eyen and blinded him, and she was arising before his face, and Puîyus was drawing out the Emperor’s sunflair sword and thrust it through the Dragon’s jaw again and then right through his snout, explosions of blood sparkling upwards in flickers of black and red, and then Puîyus blinking was finding himself arising again. He looked around, even in the very midst of the third heartbeat and was wondering just exactly how he had gotten here, for the last memory he held was the grey mist twining about him, and the sensation of the Ancestors appearing, the whisps of the flags of the Sweqhàngqu, he thought he had seen the glancing mirrors and smoke of the soldiers of his Clan, glaived hands reaching out unto him, he thought he could smell incense drifting up around him, but surely he must have been mistaken, he must have been struck on the head a few times and been snatched up unconscious in the Dragon’s claws, and was just now awakening. He licked his lips and could taste Akhlísa’s scent all upon him and wondered at that, and figured that he must have been having a rather odd dream. The only phase of memory which he was certain of remembering was that two seconds ago Éfhelìnye had called his name, and so, slashing through the Dragon’s face, he reached out and held Ixhúja unto himself, and was now arising through the air. Ixhúja had not even a moment to blink when she realized where she was as she kicked against the Dragon’s eyen, she was surprised to find herself fighting against a Rainbow Serpent, a creature she found the most beautiful and noble of all things, and yet even she would fight against a creature threatening unto her. Puîyus’ sword ripped out of the Dragon’s jaw, Ixhúja spun around in the arch of her kick, Kherènxhuqhe’s head was snapping backwards, and together the two children were arising. Ixhúja thought a little of the sound of clockwork, of orreries spinning about her, and dolls staring down, and of cobweb and cabin and wheel, and was dimly aware that her mechanical insects were no longer flowing in her tresses, and she felt different, as if some gentle shadows and spectors had been taken away from her, and she were left in the dark and blind in a way she had not been since the moment the pwànkhafha thralls had taken her from her Father’s laboratory for the first time and exposed her unto the sunlight. And yet she had not a moment to think, here in the third heartbeat, as she and Puîyus were holding onto each other, and Prince Kherènxhuqhe was roaring at them, and an hundred Dragons were arisen twisting about the children skirling pš-k, rjuŋ matērja linár lung’a’ dlak and reaching outwards and breathing out their columns of flame. Kherènxhuqhe was turning his face in his scream, his eyen bleeding, and as the second was about to pass, he blinked his large and terrible eyen and was able to see again. Puîyus kicked against the Dragon’s head and used the recoil to launch himself-phin and the Martian Princess, and just as he was leaving he swung the Emperor’s sword a few times towards the eyen of the Dragon and tried to cut the creature. And so as Puîyus and Ixhúja arose in flight and were twinkling away from Kherènxhuqhe’s grasp, the Prince was left with the pained sensation of witnessing Puîyus’ rolling away and grabbing a Princess and thrusting a sword right through a Dragon’s jaw in three seconds before disappearing, and the Dragon, seeing Ixhúja fading away from him, and the swirl of her golden hair rippling from side to side, wondered at her, for she looked quite passing familiar unto her, like unto the maiden who used to travel through the steam caverns of Khnìntha and who used to watch the Dragons in their dance, a maiden whom the Dragons considered interesting enough not to slaughter on sight. Kherènxhuqhe blinked. The third heartbeat passed.
Tick tock tick tock tick. Thus the story of the three heartbeats.
Princess Éfhelìnye looked up. – Count to three now, Dragon. –
Àrqotha sighed. – One. Two. Three. –
The Princess in the Dragon’s grip just laughed. Àrqotha blinked.
– Now what? – Àrqotha grinned.
A sword burst right up through Àrqotha’s neck, the sword was all an explosion of lava light, and plasma bursting outwards in growing great arrays. The sword was bleeding out numbers and a few magma fractals, and a small hand yanked the sword back and smashed it against dragon scales. Àrqotha spun his head around and found that Puîyus was clinging unto his nape and was swinging the Emperor’s sword from side to side, and with one hand he was holding Ixhúja. Ixhúja slipped down and rolled up unto the Dragon’s claws and closer unto Éfhelìnye.
– Now that – Éfhelìnye smiled. – Now you die. – Éfhelìnye saw that Ixhúja was wriggling about the Dragon’s claws and slipping down beside her, and the Khniîkhan maiden nodded unto her cousin and chanted – Wasn’t Puey just magnificient? –
Ixhúja gave her a look that meant, Do you e'er think about me, or anyone who is not of the set of Puîyos?
– I agree, he was extremely magnificient – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Ixhúja drew her sword and thrust it among the dragon fingers and growling unto her cousin told her in a rather bellicose language of grinding teeth and sighing exasperations, One believes that you are almost certainly mistranslating my language.
– I concer, he is the most magnificient of them all – Éfhelìnye smiled.
Ixhúja smacked her sword about the Dragon’s talons, and one finger was pried open, and Ixhúja muttered unto herself in the language of wild beasts saying, I believe that one day I may just have to stop talking to you sometimes, or at least talking to you upon any subject somehow tangentially related to him, although I think in your imagination you’ll be able to find almost everything positive related to him, and anything negatively opposing unto him. Are you even paying attention to me?
Puîyus was scrambling about the Dragon’s face and kicked him across his jaw and now against his eye and came swirling about his gills and were yanking them backwards. Ixhúja pulled out her cousin, and Éfhelìnye came rolling out, the scales and coils undulous about them all, and Éfhelìnye added – All I had to do was say his name, and he came for me, and you were nice enough to tag along. –
I’m a very nice cousin.
– He came within three seconds. –
Really? I wasn’t counting.
– Àrqotha did. Three seconds. Three two one. –
– Three seconds! Puey is just wonderful. –
Ixhúja had to hold onto Éfhelìnye, for Àrqotha and Puîyus were grappling against each other so swift and with such great violence that the wings were flapping and the coils were strangling, and Éfhelìnye kept slipping away from the claws and about the beating of the wings and was almost always on the verge of tumbling way, were it not for Ixhúja’s reaching outwards to hold onto her cousin. Puîyus came leaping about them and jabbed the flamescent sword against the Dragon several more times, and in the roars and growing flames, plasma and lava light erupting, the Dragon was rapidly becoming the most treacherous of vessels for the children’s flight. Éfhelìnye pulled herself up around some of the Dragon’s barbs and saw that nearing unto them were come about an hundred other Dragons, all of them turning their heads and breathing out brilliant splashes of light, and Éfhelìnye pulled herself up as high as she could about the flapping wings and cried out – Did you see that? Did you just see how my Puey came flying through the air, how he escaped from right before the eyen of your Prince, do you see how he defies you again and again! He’s the best of us all, and if I were you I’d start surrending to him at once, because when he becomes Emperor anyone who stands against him he’s going to slaughter, he will rip your bones right out from your nostrils, he will feast uon your skin, he will puncture lung and entrail and heart, and only the Dragons that bow down unto him will survive! –
Ixhúja slipped unto her cousin and tried to clasp her mouth shut, for even though Ixhúja tended towards impulsive activities, she was the only child who had spent sennights with Dragons and watched their ways and knew just how terrible and puissant they could truly be. Éfhelìnye pushed her cousin aside and cried out all the louder saying – You’d better start trembling before the might of my Puey, Íngìkhmar’s Son, the strongest and best of us all, right here in the midst of the firestorm, right next to me as he wrestles the Dragon down, he’s right here, beautiful and brave, his eyen the glow of glacial oceans, his skin as white as snow, his lips like rubies, his hair of the scent of candy canes, his strength enough to shatter the wings even of the once dreaded Pàfhathiin Pènyis cloudlords! –
– Shhhh! – Ixhúja cried, as she saw the Dragons swirling all about them, their jaws opening, the fires reaching out untowards them, and Ixhúja was unsure who was being the more foolhearty, a frightened Aîya panicking in the fractal labyrinth and bringing doom upon them all, or a boasting Éfhelìnye daring the Dragons to find Puîyus.
– He can defeat you all with a single hand! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – He shall smash open your skulls, he shall rend and rip and end you all, he shall feast upon you, he shall be a terror unto you greater than you have e'er visited unto the Children of Pfhentókha, my Puey is legend, he is myth, he is power and truth, he humbles the proud before slaughtering them, he burns their places of power and sets up images of himself in its place, and nothing will survive this new age, not wind nor earth not water nor fire, not raging war nor crimson steel nor cloud nor storm, not depth nor height nro cold nor heat, nothing of enlightened east or honored wast, no principalities no powers, nothing present or in legend or in days to come, none of the Spirits of the land, no Serpents in the Deep, no Ancestors in the Grey, no Stars in the Heavens, no Beasts on Earth, no Dæmon aneath the Seas, no life no doom no curse no fate no death and no piasa Dragon Rinbow Spirit shall be able to survive the onslaught that is Puîyus, the last Son of Jaràqtu, the new Emperor of all the Dreamtime, the Land of Story! Just you try to fight him, I challenge all of you! –
Ixhúja smacked Éfhelìnye across her head.
– Ouch! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – Why did you do that? –
– Challenge accepted! – Prince Kherènxhuqhe shouted. – Slaughter the three children. Kàrijoi will end time with their corpses. – The Prince’s words were flaked with froth and blood, for Puîyus’ wounds against the Dragon’s jaws had been deep and severe, and blood was become part of the fires drawn out from the Sky Drake.
Ixhúja smacked Éfhelìnye again and gave her a look that meant, And you wonder how Puîyos gets into so much trouble?
– Because he’s such a noble hero busy rescuing … –
Because. Of. You. Only you. Always you. For someone who had such a well-educated genius tutor, for someone who’s read as much as you have, you are profoundly and in an almost criminal way, stupid. What should come to pass if while fighting this fell dragonlette Puîyos received a terrible blow to the head which rendered him incapable of fighting, even as the hundred Dragons whom you just challenged in his name came swooping down upon us? What use would your words be, then?
– I haven’t thought of that. Ouch! –
Ixhúja smacked her cousin again, because it was quite obvious that Éfhelìnye had neglected to think of that. And then, because it was fun to smack folk, especially foolish Princesses about, Ixhúja did so again. And so, because it was even more fun to smack family members about, and Éfhelìnye was the only one around and her own age, Ixhúja poked her again. And all the while the Dragons were coming closer and closer untowards them, while Puîyus grappled about Àrqotha’s neck and tried to strangle a worm whose neck was as thick as the lad was tall, and the worm was breathing out wreathes of fire to boot.
– I still found it quite a magnificent rescue – Éfhelìnye chanted, and Ixhúja had to tug her down to avoid being crushed by Àrqotha’s wild and unfetter’d wings that were struggling and reaching and crushing in all directions at once. And so began an epic but quite unusual battle, for Puîyus was tempting to wrestle down the Dragonlette even while he was perched upon its back, and swirling all around Àrqotha and breathing and jabbing all the while were come the hundred other Dragons that had been close enough to hear Princess Éfhelìnye jeers, and the Princess was breathing out long black tounges of fire and the smoke that was erupting out from him was so dark and thick and deep that it was almost not quite like smoke at all, it was some other burning element which contained some of the billowing and growing properties of smoke, which twined and blinked of its own weather, which was both hot and cold and dark sparkling, and the smoke was reaching outwards and Éfhelìnye began to cough of it and was having trouble breathing, and Ixhúja, her eyen water, took out a kerchief and tied it about her cousin’s nose and mouth and hoped that in addition to helping her breathe it would also encourage her to remain silent. And Puîyus was holding his breath, the smoke towering all about him, strangling with its many winged cords, even Àrqotha as he was spinning around and around and trying to stab with the edge of his knife wings at the gossoon crawling upon the back of his head was finding it difficult to function because of the black ructation from Prince Kherènxhuqhe and also the lad’s strong hands grasping from Dragon throat and throttling as best he could.
Àrqotha came veering downwards at a low angle and was crashing so low in the gathering smoke and in his growing panick that he was inadvertently drawing himself away from the rest of his kin who were trying to slay the children also, and the Dragons would not have been too concerned with accidently burning to death one of their own dragonlettes in the process if it meant destruction of their enemy and service unto the Divine House of the Pwéru, for after all a Dragon is only a Dragon when he can survive the rest of the Rainbow Lords and be a terror unto others. Àrqotha was descending and spinning, and Ixhúja had to cling to the flairing arm and hold Éfhelìnye close unto herself, so dizzy and swift were all things become, and Puîyus continued to rise and fall about the layers of the sinuous neck, he was spinning his sword from side to side and jabbing it against gill and scale and against the wound he had made through the drake’s neck, and down down down they came crashing, in whirls of confusion, the children now finding themselves upon a Dragon crashing right back unto the long leagues of the towns, and spinning through the deserted cities, the children like insects before great cælestial battle, as the Dragons began ducking down one by one from the gathering black smoke and were breathing out their slashing spears of fire right untowards the children.
Puîyus wrapped his legs around a gill and was hacking with his sword in an almost saw-like fashion, and so tight was he gripping upon his prey that he almost felt as if he were back upon his Father’s plantation and Ìkhnos had just been leading a wild dinosaur into a pen, and Puîyus was come approaching it, and was whispering into the saurian in a soothing gentle tounge, and the dinosaur was strong and skittish even at such a feral one, and Puîyus would hop upon the neck of the creature and sooth down its feathers and hold its gills and taught it that he was indeed its friend and rode it in peace. Puîyus was gripping the back of the Dragon though as if his mount were grown suddenly enraged and was forgetting all of the bonds of friendship, muscles flexing, scales and claws reaching from side to side, the wings trying to reach backwards and jab all the while at the tlhaupóxa, the hippodamos. The Dragon was roaring and was come parlous close to the towers below, its claws and limbs dipping right into the ruined walls and ceilings and roofs were exploding in tiles and stone, and the walls were tumbling downwards at the shaking of the long serpentile tail, but Àrqotha was hardly still and was rolling upon hills belly in his descent and now flopping onto a side as he spun port and now arising again his head shooting upwards as an arror launched at a Sun, and now so swift was he come that the air was growing rarified with ice crystals drifting about, and Ixhúja shook the gathering frost from herself and her cousin, and for good measure jabbed her sword against Àrqotha’s knuckles, for loathe though she may be to fight the Noble Rainobw Lords she was unwilling for her princessly cousin to be drawn into the affairs of Dragons. Àrqota came bursting upwards right through some crashing cloudbanks and all of a sudden the children found themselves in a region of heavens devoid of Dragons but which was rapidly filling up with other æronautical dangers. For as the Dragon continued to shake and buckle and attempt to dislodge and fight Puîyus all the while, unto its right several large warships were gathering and glistening upon them lay the banners of the Seven Pwòlyakh d’jarra of the Qhíng, and unto the drake’s left several huge glass and hot air balloons were forming and darting among them were smaller flying saucers and the banners of the children of Qlùfhim and Thùlwus were present, as well as the regalia of Khlàmfhors of old. Puîyus was far too busy in punching and striking and spinning and holding and strangling and in not getting killed to pay too much attention, and Àrqotha was not particularly inclin’d to be concerned o'er the affairs of mortals, but both Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja had a perfect view, as they clung unto Àrqotha’s claws and concurrently struggled not to be clung by said claws, and before them the armadas of the Qlùfhem and Qhíng were materializing and wondering what it was that they were to do. The Qhíng vessels were come quite by accident unto these regions of the skies, but all at once they were lighting up and preparing both to flee again and regroup with Sieur Íngìkhmar the Empress’ Protecctor, and also to keep their weapons hot and ready against the Dragon flickering before them. The Qhíng in the thousand living ships and their darting skiffs and their various vitrious bäluns, in their layers upon layers of plasma cannon stacked one upon the other, many of these the same pòjhyi catapults which the illustrious pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho had themselves mended with dextrious hand and tendril, the Qhíng were keeping weary eye open and antennæ cocked and listening, as they saw the Qlùfhem materializing before them, and they wondered whatever it was that the crafty and inscrutable Aûm should want here. The Aûm for their part, in their glass and hot air balloons, in their long boats and living ships and gyroscopes arising were come crashing into this area, for they were receiving word from the priests of the Duchesses that Dragons were nigh and that all of the holdings of the Aûm had to flee at once. The decks and towers were busy with Qlùfhem and Thùlwu rushing all about, many of them pouring themselves into the towers of pòjhyi siege-machiens and making their weaponry ready, the same cannons which Xhnófho and Fhèrkifher had fixed with them with dædal tendril and cunning hand, and the Aûm were frantic in attempting for to communicate with the priests, for they were at such a distance that they could not send up smoke signals or communicate in flags or even send raven couriers and had to rely on the widening eyen of mirrors glancing through the steam of Aûm craft and glance through dark enigmæ, and yet all the while, even the Aûm were trying to flee, they kept their eyestalks turned untowards the Qhíng and wondered whatever it was that the malicious and weird Kèlor should want here. Qhíng and Aûm and Aûm and Qhíng stared one towards the other across the gulf of the æther, even as Àrqotha buckled and screamed between the two mighty fleets, and three children were holding on for dearest lives, and in both fleets tentacles were reaching outwards towards the weapons and were turning the cannons right across from each other, and so eager were they to forget their alliance that they no longer even noticed the Dragonlette between them. All at once, before the alliance had a chance to buckle and waver and shatter, the clouds were opening upwards, and fires were melting the regions of them all, and several Dragons came arising, and the Dragons, nonrespectors of all persons, smashed right through an equal number of the living ships of the Qhíng and the glass and hot air balloons of the Aûm, and left them burning clouds of widening gyres, the Dragons opening up their wings in might and scattering fire in many directions at once. And so the twin fleets were made to forget each other, as the Dragon battle was come raging among them all.
As Àrqotha was tumbling around and around, as the Qhíng and Qlùfhem fleets both found themselves under assault from Prince Kherènxhuqhe and the coming Dragon hordes, and the Qhíng and Qlùfhem alike were firing their weapons into the heavens and breaking them apart into strangulations of light and web, Ixhúja was grasping unto Éfhelìnye and growing a little tired of always having to hold onto her cousin, even as the clouds were exploding, the fireworks dancing all about the living ships and hot air balloons of glass, and the Dragons sweeping aside skiff and long boat alike with terrible tail. The Dragons were weaving from side and gnashing against the ifeathered banners and flags, and to thirl through the towers and solar sails of the fleet. Ixhúja was clammering up the side of Àrqotha’s limb and trying to drag Éfhelìnye up after her, but as the Dragon began to spin around, Ixhúja began sliding down the length of it again and all the while was struggling to find a place suitable and safe enough for her foolhardy kinsmen. Ixhúja yanked up at Éfhelìnye’s collar and tried to keep her still in the khàquyei, the wobbling motion like unto a ship. Ixhúja hissed to Éfhelìnye to ask her in the mews of plantimals saying, I don’t suppose you have a really good plan about now?
– Ur … ? –
You’re thinking that Puîyos is about to think of something brilliant.
– Yes, that’s precisely what I have in mind. That and prime numbers, long and flowing firework columns of tnór, of cælestial prime numbers … –
As Àrqotha came banking right into a new series of clouds, splashes of water and frost were arising all about the children, it was just as if the Dragon were a dinosaur whom one was riding into the edge of a river or upon the shore of the sea and the waves were arising higher and higher and exploding about, huge waves of almost kicking water branching upwards and freezing in long web patterns and sticking to the scales of the Dragon and about the children for a few moments before breaking apart into īsġiċel that were becoming the wings of the Dragon and his own muscle and might.
Ixhúja looked up and saw that the clouds were melting right down above them, or at least in the higher regions of the skies which were sometimes above her and sometimes unto all other sides, and breaking out from them were come several Dragons stomping downwards, their fire wings lacerating from side to side and grasping unto whatever they could find. And the loud and swirling fire clouds were tunnels that were forming all about crashing Àrqotha, and the other Dragons were brusting right into the funnel and trying to suck the children right up into their jaws. Prince Kherènxhuqhe came ripping right through the top of the towering tunnel and all about him the rest of the Dragons were branching outwards and darting out untowards the children all the while. And the Dragons by now, as they were swirling out from Kherènxhuqhe’s thoughts, as they were arising about the waves and ducking about the elders dragons, the rest of the kindred were reacting to their Prince and feeding off of his wonder, his inquiry concerning the golden-tressed Princess who reminded him of someone else long ago. And so the firecaves were constricting, the clouds were almost drinking in Àrqotha and forcing him down the corridors, the Dragons were crashing right up through the decks and towers of the fleets of the Qlùfhem and Qhíng, and all the while they were swooping down and searching for the Princess just beyond their grasp.
– Ixhúja! – Éfhelìnye cried.
Ixhúja came clammering about the edge of the beating wings, she tugged up Éfhelìnye beside her, even as the jade claws of the other Dragons were slashing right against them and reaching all the while. Ixhúja was not at all interested in what her cousin was having to say now, no doubt it had something ridiculous to do with Puîyus. Éfhelìnye tugged upon her martian cousin’s sleeve, the wings were slapping from side to side, Puîyus was thrusting his sword through a flexing shoulder and something hot and poisonous was arising about him and taking up all of his attention.
– Ixhúja! – Éfhelìnye called out again.
Fire shadows were falling upon them all, several large and opening mirror eyen gazing unto them, all of the air hising with dragon breath. Ixhúja shook her cousin away and murmuring unto herself in purrs and clicks was saying, Now what are you trying to tell me? Are you about to tell me that whenever you Puîyus’ name he’ll just swoop on down to save you, are you about to say that not even the war and the dragons and …
– All of the Dragons are watching you, all of their eyen reflect your face! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
Ixhúja spun around and asked – ?¿ –
Several wings came swooping right down against them. Éfhelìnye jumped up and grabbed Ixhúja’s ankle as one Dragon pulled Ixhúja up right into the air. Éfhelìnye was only able to hold on for a moment, she came slipping right down the length of the wooden shoe and landed hard upon the back of the dragon passing beneath her, her breath was knocked off, and she was too weak to hold onto the ridges, and slid right off and fell in the heavens. A few moments later Éfhelìnye felt Puîyus’ arms wrapping around her, and found that Puîyus was landing upon the head of a passing Dragon, and all of the wings beating around them looked a little like the curve and majesty of whalebones. They looked around, Ixhúja was missing, everything was the screaming of the Dragons and the huge fleets of the Qlùfhem and Qhíng arising against each other and doing their best to fight against the common demimortal foe.
The Dragons were tossing Ixhúja one to another and wondering all the while at her golden tresses, but the Dragons were not throwing her in malice or trying to smash her against wing and scale, in fact they were tossing her about in a matter that bespoke of curiosity. The Dragons continued to throw the maiden about as if she were a wthinájha doll such as Emperor Kàrijoi used to fashion for the good children of the worlds, it was a tossing game among them all until the shadows grew too dark and Prince Kherènxhuqhe came sweeping down into the midst of them all and yanked Ixhúja from the rest of the horde and chanted – Mine! Begone! I shall gaze into her. –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye came rolling down the wings of one dragon and jumped right unto the back of a passing Dragon and looking around were tyring to figure out away to bring Ixhúja away from the Princess’ taloned grasp. Puîyus jabbed his sword against some phosphorous gills, and as the recoiling Dragon was struggling to against the blow, Puîyus pulled up Éfhelìnye and jumped up high into the air and grabbed the legs of one Dragon and begin pulling himself and the Princess upwards, and so they came soaring upwards higher and higher unto the Prince in the very center, and the Prince’s wings were all an aurelian blur as the light was melting away from him, and the Prince’s eyen were reflecting Ixhúja’s goldilocks back a thousand fold, and all of his horns looked like flotsom and seawood, and smoke continued to flow out from the wounds of his jaw, where Puîyus had impaled him through bone and tooth.
– My doll, my little lovely doll … – Prince Kherènxhuqhe was saying as he held Ixhúja up and gazed right into her eyen. Black clouds buckled out from his wounds, and he kept having to wipe oil staining his face. His claws were reaching outwards and touched Ixhúja’s face, the jade talon rolling out and brushing right through her tresses and breathing right upon her.
– I know you, Ixhúja … – the Prince chanted, fountains of ash dribbling out from his jaw. – You used to watch us in Khnìntha … in the steam … in the caverns … light and water … in our dance … – Kherènxhuqhe shook storms of black oil from his mouth, his eyen were rolling back and forth and bursting out into golden flames. Ixhúja was struggling in his claws, but less and less, the Dragon’s eyen boring right into her, the memories of the craters and the cities and cliffs carven with the images of the Viceroy queens of old come into her mind, and the great deserts where all of the ice sand were formed into wheels churning away the hours one by one by one.
– You used … to come into the valley … at the edge of the gardens of Jhkhaîxhor … – Kherènxhuqhe spat out clouds of oil, bubbles were breaking out of his ears, blood and fire and shattered bits of bone all mixt together. – Noman’s land … forbidden land … at the end lay the cottage of the Grandmother … masques upon the walls … where the cannals were jointed together … you came unto us and watched our dance … you are changed … oh Princess Ixhúja … –
Puîyus was holding unto Éfhelìnye and came bouncing upon the head of one Dragon and then the next, he came slipping up about some wings and was launching himself up higher and higher, but then all at once had to stop, for the Dragons in their great flight were veering towards where the Qhíng fleet was trying to flee, and tidal waves of fire were come before the living ships and were sweeping away some of the smaller Dragons.
– Different … and yet the same … different and older … growing up … – Kherènxhuqhe brushed his jade talon through Ixhúja’s golden tresses and chanted – Kàrijoi would destroy time And yet I see that an Empresss’ dreams have touched you and altered reality. Be thou as thou wilt, oh Princess Ixhúja – the Dragon chanted as he brushed through her locks again. – Be as thou wilt – he chanted, as a few loose braids fell between his talons and the gold became transmuted in the Dragon’s grasp, flooding gold was dripping down her hair as a crimson blood began to spread through the lengths of one lock after another, and her queues were unbraiding themselves and becoming a varying wave that was fluctuationg among gold and green and blue, all a drift of colors nevr remaining the same, fading now and flushing bright and then glistening out in darker colors. The Dragon’s touch was a drop of purple set upon her, and all of the gold was slowly growing damask’d, a few stubborn tresses glistened yellow, they were like the tips of flambeaus flickering in strange amœbic tessellations, they were wavering as if beneath the waves, but then all of the gold faded away, the gold became billions upon billions of petals that were flowing upwards all about Ixhúja’s head, they were crown they were halo they were glory, and all at once all of her hair was just as it had been before, luxurious and violet just as it had been the day when the Khan Jhkhaîxhor first had his clockweyth machines lift her up o'er the vats, violet upon her starday.
– So thou willest it – Prince Kherènxhuqhe chanted, and his eyen were great mirrors gazing back at her. Ixhúja blinked a few times, she felt the enchantment lifted up away from her, and she was awakening as if for the first time. And the mirrors reflected her hair, porporate all about her shoulders. She ran her hands through it, she was not entirely sure whether it was her own hair after all, the changing of reality and story was something perhaps beyond her ken. Prince Kherènxhuqhe smiled at her, but his eyen and thoughts were somewhere else. He gathered up Ixhúja into his arms, his wings rustling outwards and beating against the air, and whispering he was saying – Kàrijoi is Emperor, Kàrijoi is Lord, he is the one who is supposed to be changing the dreams of time. Khnoqwísi is dead, she can do nothing more for her Daughter. But if Éfhelìnye is already reaching into dreams, if she can set her hand right into the tlhekhómakh tyíyùlkha the streams of time and change … and change .. and change … – Kherènxhuqhe grasped the Khnìnthan Princess tight unto himself and came soaring upwards in greater gyres, his wings branching outwards as several triangular capes flairing into light. – Kàrijoi is running out of time. Kàrijoi will have to gain control of the Labyrinth. Kàrijoi will have to plan his next move carefully, it will not do for him if already a new dynasty is arising. And yet with our Dragon Master nothing is e'er simple, he sets his wheels within plans within wings, he sends out fleets and armies and timelines as distraction, he sacrifices entire worlds upon the flaming altar in order to set his men in the right position … he burns everything so that in the end the board is set … a new dynasty forming. And time itself crashing and bleeding … –
Princess Ixhúja was not terribly interested in what the Dragon was having to say, and what she could understand was mostly just gobbledygook unto her, the affairs of an Emperor were far beyond her, and the thoughts of Dragons sharper and more lunar than those of mortal children, and while the Dragon was distracted and just continued to arise higher and higher, she used this opportunity of calm to look right into the great mirror eyen and admire her reflection, she reached for a clockwork insect to use to comb her hair, and to her vexation remembered that they were all gone, and so just did her best to comb with her fingers and adorn herself thusly, and she was reminded of why it was that violet was her favorite color, and she played with her eyebrows and laushes and smiled at her reflection and puckered her lips and pinched her cheeks and watched the slight roseate glow appear upon them, and in the variated thoughts that were come unto her, she remembered that when she had last seen the two Pirate Uncles to Puîyus and her Cousin, in those brief moments upon their origami ship and within the twining fractals of the labyinth, that neither of them had recognized her even though they had met again, and Ixhúja was thinking that if the Pirates had indeed recognized her as the purple-tressed mechanical maiden who had harried them before in the coves and caverns of Khnìntha, that perhaps they would have been scared of her.
Several Qhíng vessels were spinning all about Prince Kherènxhuqhe and trying to escape from him, and yet even though the Dragon could easily have reached out and smashed right through them, his wings could have dug right into the deck and solar sails and scattered them into flamescent pieces, he made no attempt to do so, but just arose higher and higher among the fleeing living ships and drifting out unto the crumbling whispering mountains came into fleets of thousands of living ships zumar zumar buzzing in all directions, and unto the towers of the whispering mountains the dragon came swirling, the Qhíng like so many gnats before his wings, and there upon the summit he set Princess Ixhúja down, the wind blazing around them all, her hair dark and violet and free, and the Dragon just stared at her hair for a time, and his deep dragonish thoughts were consumed with thoughts of violet flames.
And then all at once without a word of warning Prince Kherènxhuqhe came spinning around, growing cloudsof smoke and oil dripping down from the gapes in his jaws, and his storm wings were turned away from the maiden as he came slipping away from her, himself ensorcelled by her hair. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were still hopping from the head of one dragon to another. Somewhere about them new columns of fire were arising, Àrqotha came spinning upwards before Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and the Dragonlette was bleeding from many different wounds and struggling to remain skyworthy airborne, and yet the Prince paid him no attention at all, in fact all of the Dragons were slightly dazed, as they were arising in a great rondured dance. Puîyus grasped Éfhelìnye’s hand and they jumped from the head of one passing Dragon to the next, just as they used to jump from treetop to treetop in the wild forests of Jaràqtu, and turning back they saw great arising cloud of activity about the whispering mountains, and that the swarms of the Dragons were arising, all of them with jittery and nervous wings.
– A new player is entering the game – Prince Kherènxhuqhe told the crowd. – We were sent to slaughter all of the children, to burn the priests, to despoil the land. Wild and terrible we are grown, ice is our blood, hunger and thirst scream in our minds. The Emperor tries to leash us, to hold us, to task us, we must destroy all the fabric of the realities in order to be free. Break the ice. Break the land. The Emperor is beating on the inside of our hearts. –
Puîyus tugged upon Éfhelìnye’s sleeve and pointed unto the horizon where the mountain known as the Sword of Syapàkhya arose, and there he could see that in the swirl of the living ships and the confusion of crag and dead trees that many folk were gathering and that at the edge of the cliff was standing Princess Ixhúja. It looked to be a refugee camp, perhaps the only settlement left within continent of Syapàkhya, and seeing now that the Dragons were withdrawn unto their own thoughts, that the fires were cooling in their throats, that smoke was billowing from them more than fire, he thought it would be an opportune time to find Ixhúja and escape now that they knew where the three were. Éfhelìnye turned back, now that the Dragons were drifting about ike living ships bobbling in the main and just eyeing each other, she thought that perhaps it would be a better time to fight the Dragons and make them concede Puîyus’ dominance. She came crawling up about the antlers of the dragon whereon she and Puîyus had come, and she was just about to leap upwards and start shouting her challenge, in Puîyus’ name, but he slipped up beside her and took her hand in his and motioned her for silence, and the Dragons as they looked one to another, all had eyen which became black within black within black and were altogether identical.
– Kàrijoi breathes through us all, but I hear his gnawing inside my heart – so Prince Kherènxhuqhe was saying. – When I lifted up my claw to slay the Concubine, I heard the Emperor within me, and I stayed mine hand because of him. But now the Emperor becomes silent inside me, and my fires grow cold. –
Puîyus and Éfhelìnye looked to each other, Puîyus was just shrugging in confusion, but Éfhelìnye shook a little, she did not like to speak of her Father and did not like to hear others speaking of him. Sometimes she thought her favorite days were the days she spent with with Puîyus and his Sisters and she was able to forget that the was Kàrijoi’s Starflower and could pretend that she were but a Princess of the Noble Caste come to visit the warrior vassels.
– Kàrijoi shall not permit an Empress of the holy Blood to be changing the dreams – Kherènxhuqhe chanted. – And yet we already evidence that blind and groping she is reaching outwards for something she does not quite understand. One is reminded of the time when we were all dragonlettes and were escaping the nests that our mothers made for us, for our fathers were strong, and our elders were hungry, and any who were too slow were trampled underfoot and vaporized in jaws merciless. The only ones who survived were those who learnt to be dragons, who learned to spread their wings, to create fire in the belly, to breath our poison and smok eand phosphorous, who learned to be the strength and cloud and ice and weather and storm such as flow out of the Moons in the long darkness of the night. An Emperor is a little akin to that, Crown Prince Kàrijoi survived despite his Father Emperor Fhìtsarakh, and Fhìtsarakh’s Father burnt the worlds in an effort to prevent his Son from living. The worlds change now. Princess Éfhelìnye is a dragonlette learning to become a Dragon. We arise now to meditate within Pàfhajoir the Cloudscapes of Weather and Dragons. Perhaps there we shall hear the Emperor’s voice withinly us. –
Puîyus was not normally suited for philosophy, and Éfhelìnye wished no longer to hear about her Father, and her desire to boast upon Puîyus’ behalf was cooling within her. All of the Dragons were arising, they were spinning about each other like so many xhnòja lillypads rising and falling about each other, their wings like unto petals, the wind and cloud were wave and water, the Dragons without any conscious thought at all were arranging themselves into circles around circles about circles, they were coils and wheel and rondure and flight all intersecting each other in patterns of the movement of time itself, and they were arising, the mortal realms becoming shimmerent and thin about them, the fleets of Qlùfhem and Qhíng burning together, fireworks branching from side to side. Puîyus helped Éfhelìnye slide down the back of the Dragon and together they came leaping up unto the very edge of the tail and so they hopped unto the outer regions of the dance, and then they were come unto the very final dragon, Puîyus picked up Princess Éfhelìnye and ran down the last tail and shot himself up with all of his might, and so swift and high into the air he came flying, and he slipped about up unto a Qhíng vessel and dashed among all of the Warriors who loading up their cannons and firing at the Dragons unto every side of them, and Puîyus nodded and ducked and faded away from them, and he flew upwards higher still and landed at the fins of a passing Qlùfhem ship, and pulling himself upwards he came leaping about the Qlùfhem as they were pulling upon ropes and directing their ship, but he did not stay long at all, he was leaping out once again, arches of fire arisen all about, the air cold and bursting with bombs and the wake of Dragons leaving this realm, it was not as free and exhilarating as the upper free air of Jaràqtu, these were skies wounded by the horror of Dragons, and yet it was good to arise above the world from time to time, even a wounded land, and to taste the wind and to feel the skies, and to see the shape of things. The worlds were moving, they were all become like water whose waves were rustling, the crest of the waves were worlds and land and mountain, they were echoes made manifest, they were so many fountains dashing outwards, the waters crashing one against the other and freezing and become the long and winding edges of the Sword Mountain.
And then the air grew warmer, and the winds died down, and the children thought they heard the dulcet sounds of so many lwaût bagpipes, and Puîyus came landing at the edge of a tower, one of the ruins left unto this sad land. Puîyus looked around and sniffed the air. The tower was shaking a little, it was itself almost like a serpent. He turned around and set Éfhelìnye down and saw that all of the Dragons were surging upwards and were disappearing even from his kean gaze as they darted into the clouds one by one by one. Éfhelìnye hopped back into his arms again, and he carried her down the crumbling steps, and before them was opening up the courtyards were many living ships had crashed and were refugees of many peoples were come and were rushing out and trying to find the rest of their people.
– Puey? – Éfhelìnye asked.
– ?? – Puîyus wondered, as he was hopping down the steps two or three at a time and wondering where Princess Ixhúja was come.
– Did you know where I was? Could you really hear my voice in your sleep? –
– Even though you were in a deep sleep, perhaps wounded, even though you were trapped right before the very jaws of death, were you truly able to hear me? –
Puîyus nodded. He was not entirely sure how to explain it. He lookd to her, blinking and glancing a few times, and told her in gestalts and mnemes, It is not quite like hearing with one’s ears, it is not quite like when one is asleep and can dimly hear the sound of wind and the rustling of leaves and the movement of trees, it is like being able to smell something, but without taste or air, it is like being able to feel an emotion, just as one can feel an emotion in one’s heart.
– The warriors of Jaràqtu are not permitted to know emotions, it may tempt them to fear and the death of reason, so the Elders of your people were saying – Éfhelìnye told him.
Puîyus considered for a moment. You are quite correct. One used quite an inappropriate metaphor. One does not wish to imply the end of reason.
– But you still came for me. –
– I knew you would. You always swoop down to save me. –
Such is mine honor.
– But we were fortunate that you were already close at hand, for if you had been an hundred leagues away, if you had been within another realm, another timeline … –
We shall never say goodbye. I shall be with you always, Princess, even until the end of the age.
– The Dragons fear that this age is ending. Without my Father, time itself may shatter. But then because of my Father, time itself is being shredded. –
Puîyus came hopping down the last of the steps, rilling about them were dashing some Qhíng in one direction and some Qlùfhem in another, puffs of smoke arising from many fires, the sound of the bagpipes growing all the louder. And there into as the peoples were parting, in the very center Princess Ixhúja was standing, shafts of light were falling upon her. Ixhúja was just blinking and awakening from a very deep sleep. Stars were arising upon the horizon, all of the clouds and dragons disappearing, and nothing but mortal men were left upon the face of the earth. Many things changed, many things were the same, and the circle was complete, the moons were turning in their course, and the beginning and the end were touching again.
Éfhelìnye slipped out of Puîyus grasp and ran up unto her Cousin and called out her name – Ixhúja! Ixhúja! – And Princess Ixhúja looked from side to side, violet tresses rustling in the winds, she felt confused and vulnerable without the clockwork creatures that dwelt within her tresses and within her girdle. Éfhelìnye made a motion to embrace her cousin, but Ixhúja just took a few awkward steps away, quite unsure of herself, the situation, the dragon dreams in her mind still rustling within her. Éfhelìnye however was not about to let a little hesitation keep her from one she loved, she threw her arms around Ixhúja, Ixhúja just patted her on the back a few times, but then relaxed and embraced her cousin back, and they remained and held each other for a time for sometimes words are completely unnecessary, it is just enough to know the name and to be present for someone else. Éfhelìnye could smell fungus and sand and ice and wonders upon her cousin, and thought that she was very beautiful indeed.