– Yes, honored Mother – Fhermáta chanted.
They came beyond the bursting naphtha flames, and at the doors the Stàran Shield maidens bowed unto the Matriarch and her Daughters, and the ports were sliding outwards to reveal the courtyard of the Dead. Among the honored Dead were many Priests dashing outwards and holding burning bowls wherein the smoke was arising, and flickering among the Priests were brilliant flashes of incandescent light, which the children were beginning to learn were the Martyrs who were flickering out of the coronæ of the Suns. At once side of the yard were set some long tables, mandala and charts were spilling about them, and pouring o'er the charts were Grandfather Jàkopar and Grandfather Khangisqrírles and huddled about them generals and war masters, some of them taking notes, others stroking their beards and nodding their heads.
– This sure must be a complicated war, look at all those furrowed brows and serious expressions – Akhlísa whispered to Fhermáta. – Everyone is so hard at work. –
Grandfather Khangisqrírles leaned to the generals and chanted – Now the greatest fishing I’ve found to be in the dust just north of midnight here beyond the wasteland, although Jàkopar tells me that he’s found a good school of flying fish among the metallic trees unto the east where this dimension scrapes against the surration of pandimensional space. –
– We’ll have to investigate these possibilities of fishing – the Generals were saying as they nodded, and their attendants were taking notes.
– Now tomorrow Jàkopar and I are going to sneak away from our wives and investigate the Khmàngpo, the pits of despair that burn in the center of the Undergloom – Grandfather Khangisqrírles continued. – We’ve heard rumor that within it dwell some of the whitest pòli manta rays any of the Ancestors have e'er seen since Khweisalápa came here and began to carve out the Undergloom herself with her ten children. When Jàkopar and I first arrived here we despaired, for how could we still fish in a world without fishes, but we’ve learned that sending out hook and line and net for pòli manta ray spirits and qoqatqataîpe hydra beetle ispariz and thárau jellyfish spirits is just as enjoyable. –
– Perhaps with the honored Grandfathers death shall not be as gloomy as we thought it would be – the Generals were saying to each other.
– Your Daughter’s nigh – whispered Grandfather Jàkopar.
– She’s your Daughter now – hissed Grandfather Khangisqrírles.
– We have to start acting busy! – coughed Grandfather Jàkopar, and in a loud voice he added – And so I say we fortify the pass here and here and here … we shall have fortresses so great that not even the Emperor will stop us! –
– My Princess! – chanted Grandfather Khangisqrírles.
– Abbá! – chanted Mother Khwofheîlya. – I have to run, I’m sending this little one home. –
– Good, good, don’t want to spend too much time among the dead. We’re all busy with the war. We work very hard for you – Khangisqrírles chanted with a smile.
– Thank you, Abbá – chanted Khwofheîlya as she disappeared into the bowing crowds.
– Does she suspect anything? – asked Jàkopar.
– I have no idea. The little ones were playing in the forbidden forest and I kept having to chase monsters away from them, but I don’t think they saw me at all. Now, onto our fishtale. –
– We caught many qoqatqataîpe hydra beetles, an hundred of them! –
– A thousand at least. –
– Huge! –
– Dragon sized! –
– But we threw them all back. –
– We thought it would be unfair to the rest of you Elders – Grandfather Khangisqrírles told the rest. – Now, if you can met us in the Khmàngpo tomorrow, Jàkopar and I shall show you some real fishing, fishing that will impress our descendents for a thousand generations to come. –
Khwofheîlya was leading her daughters by the hand into the very midst of the courtyard where the ten thousand generatiosn were spinning about upon their business, and here the elders and viceroy kings and shield maidens and sylvan priests and parents were dressed in the fashion of thousand of timelines all plucked down together, and great was the sound of the bombination as the Ancestors were bumping into each other and pulling wagons filled with weapons and calling out unto the generals and leading great xhyiênxhi by bit and bridle and going about the business of creating the greatest army of the Dead. In one direction marching right towards Khwofheîlya and her Daughters was come Khweisalápa the First Ancestress, and she was pinching her Daughters Jhyaiqliînii and Àxhatlham by their ears and leading them onwards, while Xejétlhie ran around her and was crying out all the while.
– Don’t blaim me that your husbands are always at war – Khweisalápa chanted. – Emperor Kàrijoi was the one who began this mess, level your anger against him. –
– He’s not here though, how can we do anything against him? – Xejétlhie chanted.
– My husband never visits me any more – Àxhatlham chanted – Even when he and his men finish patrolling the edge of the marges of the dead, he barely even comes to see me. –
– Perhaps if you spent less time trying to spy on young Master Puîyos your husband would visit you – Khweisalápa chanted.
– But we can’t help it, young Puîyos is very cute – Jhyaiqliînii chanted. – It’s such a waste to leave all of that beauty among the living. Oh, why can’t we return to him, I’m sure he could use the help of a few beautiful ghosts about now. –
– I’ve told you before, you are forbidden to see him, haunt him, visit him, you may not follow him in the shadows, you may not dance in the moonbeams about him, you may not spy at him from behind the mirror – Khweisalápa chanted with teeth wellclenched, and she clamored out in a voice so loud that a third of the courtyard could hear her saying – As Ancestors you must uphold the honor of this Clan! If I e'er hear of your trying to haunt Master Puîyos again, I’m going to march you right up to the Queen and see that she whip some sense into you! I don’t care how long you’ve been dead, you’re not dead enough that you can’t be punished to within an hair’s breadth of your life! –
– Oh Mother, you don’t understand because you never even had a Mother of your own – Jhyaiqliînii chanted. – You would be far less strict if you were not the first Ancestress of the Warrior Caste. –
– Honored Pfhentókha of the Solar Ancestors is Mother of us all – Khweisalápa chanted. – Now, stop spying on Master Puîyos, or I’ll have the Queen send you out to tend to the xhyiênxhi herds! –
Khwofheîlya was just a couple of cubits behind Khweisalápa the First Ancestress and decided once again to ignore everything that she heard from her and her brood, but rather just concentrated on trying not think too hard about how eccentric their vast extencted derbfine could be throughout the ten thousand generations. Before her at the edge of the courtyard were fluttering the forefathers of the Qhíng and the triple Siblings of the Aûm, the first Kháfha and the patriarchs of some of the other species, and the Ancestors of these other real folk were bowing untowards the Queen. Khwofheîlya drew her hands away from her daughters and came some basons and dipped her palms within and drew out sand and dust and sighed saying – I do not mind no longer eating and sleeping, but I cannot abide no longer swimming in water. Perhaps when this War against wretched Kàrijoi is concluded we can move court to the edge of the Undergloom and closer to Xhluîmu the River of Sleep and Dreams, and there I can swim for ages at a time, or perhaps we can just move all of the Ancestors far away, we can come to a different realm, not one suitable for life, but at least a medium wet one, closer to tho folds of the living. Dust, dust, dust, so much left unto us is naught but dust. – She drew out several more gowpens of dust and blew upon them, the dust came driftent outwards in little moon coils and clouds spinning up around her fingers, the dust opening and close and curtaining before her, silent whispering, dust of a completely different world.
– Honored Matriarch? – the Qhíng Forefathers were saying.
– You may address me as Queen – Khwofheîlya chanted, as she drew up some more dust and blew upon it, it was glistening blue and red before her, the dust was all ground up glass and sand and the bones of thousands of ground up foes made into the palpitation of this world.
– Oh Queen – the Aûm Triplets were saying.
Khwofheîlya turned around. – Why are you here bothering me? Can’t you see that I’m spending time with my Daughters? –
– With all due respect your Mother honored Xhàtrajhil has been summoning us hither – the first of the Kháfha were saying, their robes all rustling about their wings, whispering and shimmering and bursting all the while.
– I’m busy – Khwofheîlya chanted throwing her arms up. – Go away, I don’t have time for you. Speak to me Mother,if you want. Come along, lasses. – Khwofheîlya took Fhermáta and Akhlísa by the hands and began dragging them away, but Fhermáta bowed to the Elders of the otherkin of Ancestors as she was yanked away, and with her free hand Akhlísa was waving and crying out – Fairwell! Bye bye! Good bye! Love you! Love you! Love you all! Kisses! I’m blowing kisses to you! Love! –
The forefathers of the Qhíng and the triplets of the Aûm and the first of the Kháfha looked to each other and began shrugging to each other in confusion, but then a shadow fell upon them all, and they found themselves before a table of bones arising out of the floor of the chairs were growing upwards in accordance with the shape and size of the wraiths. Grandmother Xhàtrajhil was drawing nigh, in her hands was a staff and many scrolls, and a great masque of tartans and horns was covering her face, and behind her came walking some of the Elders of the Sweqhàngqu, and they surrounded the table with cushions and knelt down while Grandmother Xhàtrajhil set some scrolls upon the the board and revealed patterns of orrery and moon and planet, and looking up unto the alien wraiths chanted – I think it is about time that we start discussing the new Order of the Ages. – She unraveled a scroll fashioned all of the vellum of a slain Traîkhiim, and the glyphs and runes were all of rubescent blood, stamps of masters and priests and generals lay upon it and the seals of the mighty, and opening it up she revealed it to be the syuîkho betrothal and marriage such as had been ratified in blood by the Triple Alliance beneath Grandfather Pátifhar’s tutelage.
– We have much to discuss – Grandmother Xhàtrajhil chanted.
Khwofheîlya took her Daughters into the very center towers of the pyramid, and all around them the stained glass windows were blinking and gazing outwards unto the eternal blackness falling upon all of the worlds of the Dead, and only the lanterns and the pyramids of the necropolis remained to give off light, along with a few of the watchtowers that lay scattered throughout the edge of the wilderness and a few of the snaking skyways that connected them all together. Vast and cold and lonely the Undergloom was grown, and both of the maidens found themselves bumping into their foster Mother and squeezing her hand tighter than was strickly necessary. In the center of the room lay a pool of blue and green light surrounded by mosaics of pebble jade and flashing jaspar, the floor appeared wet even though it was completely dry, just a few loose bones were strewn about it, and just a few urns were breathing out curtains of sweet and thick incense arising and filling up all of the halls. Khwofheîlya haulted before the pool and kneeling down embraced Akhlísa for a good long time and told her – Now you need to stay in the Mortal Realms for a time. Fhérma and I shall be fine without you, but you must remain with your Sister. –
– But, Mamà! – Akhlísa began.
Khwofheîlya pressed her finger to Akhlísa’s lip and chanted – Now listen to me. You and Siêthiyal must remain together and protect each other, I do not trust the allies who are waging war against Kàrijoi in the folds above. And Puîyos is just a few leagues away from you. You must find him, or he must be drawn to you, I need this family to be intact again. You will take him by the hand and remind him that he is Jaràqtun, he is not errant knight meant to serve the eastron Princess, he is meant to be a leader of race of heroes and conquerors. You will guide him and make him Sweqhàngqu again. Can you do that? – Khwofheîlya brushed some of Akhlísa’s tresses from her face.
– I can try, Mamà. –
– You will succeed. You will remind him of the heritage that he has forgotten. – Khwofheîlya looked down to the pink ring which Fhermáta had once worn, the ring she had returned to Puîyus on the orders of her mother by marriage, and which she now kept in trust for the day when her Son should return unto her. – That is all I can ask. Come now, Fhermáta. We should return to our ritual places among the Ancestors, Queen and Bride. Akhlísa, you shall awaken in the ruins left unto us from Kàrijoi’s ritual devastation. –
– Yes, Mamà. I love you – Akhlísa chanted, and Khwofheîlya picked her up and set her in the pool of blue and green light rilling in the swirling pool.
– I love you too – Khwofheîlya chanted.
– I love you! – cried Fhermáta. – Kiss Puey for me! –
– I will and with lots of kisses too! – cried Akhlísa, as the light arose for to envelop her, and she swirled about and sang out – Love you! Love you! Love you all! Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss! – And Akhlísa began to disintergrate as she spun around and faded from the view of the Houses of Dust.
Khwofheîlya sighed and took Fhermáta’s hand and together they walked away from the inner chambers, but before they left, the Matriarch of the Sweqhàngqu noticed a small crooked cane leaning against the wall, and in one corner a few of the xhyiênxhi muddrakes were gathering, unfettered and unreined and clicking against each other. Khwofheîlya dashed froward and snatched up the staff, for she could recognize it from a thousand paces away, the cane which Grandmother Tàltiin used and whichby she had poked her Daughter by marriage many a many a many a time.