Siêthiyal wrapped her free arm around her Sister and began tugging her away from the approach of the last Prince of Tsànyun, and her free arm was holding up the ancient sword of the Sweqhàngqu. Prince Jhwèsta continued to grin at them, all of his skull breaking apart to make room for more teeth and jutting wheels and gears which were themselves grinning in their own way, and his hissing spider legs smashed through the wicker tables and furniture in their approach. – We’re terribly sorry to have bothered you – chanted Siêthiyal, nodding her head in the barest amount of courtesy she could muster before someone who as the Emperor’s vassel deserved some respect, but who as a memory of machine and parts and grins did not belong into any hierarchy she understood. – We’ll be leaving right now, oh Princess. Fairwell! Come along, Fhèsya! –
– Bye! Bye! Love you! Love you, kisses, lots of kisses! – Akhlísa cried.
– Why go? We’re just beginning to have our fun – Prince Jhwèsta chanted, as his great spider legs smashed through the furniture about the children. – Don’t you wish to play some fun reindeer games with me-cum? –
– He’s right – Akhlísa chanted.
– He’s insane – chanted Siêthiyal. – We’re going. –
– She’s right – Akhlísa chanted.
Several crackling legs smashed down right before the maidens, and the legs were of hissing steam and light, bits of twining motor churning about his joints and the complex axles of his ankles, and the children were finding themselves surrounded by twining legs and arms of the Mad Scientist, limbs which were not quite mechanical, limbs which were also of the steam and heat and movement of these tlhèlqo catacombs lufanübik, webs of serpentile wheels drawing outwards, shadow fingers drawing out closer and closer unto the Sisters. – And may I ask, my little pretties, what you twain are doing trespassing in the laboratories of the completely insane Duchesses? Oh I wonder what they shall do when they discover that you’ve been down here, heh heh heh heh heh … – the last Prince of Tsànyun hissed.
– We were merely leaving – Siêthiyal.
– It’s all her fault! – Akhlísa shouted as she pointed to her older Sister. – I wanted to leave but she chanted nooooo we have to save the Traîkhiim and I’m like, it’s dark and scaly and steamy down here and I just want to leave to go home or anywhere even remotely comfy but she’s dragging me down here … –
– Yes, just like my older Siblings, bossing me around – Prince Jhwèsta chanted.
– Will you stop talking to the Mad Scientist! – Siêthiyal cried. She turned back to the twining machine steam and chanted – We’re leaving. Go upon the path of the Ancestors. Sister! –
– So soon … and we could have so much fun together … I know so many games … word games … puzzles … true games … the game of the Warrior, Princess, and Raven. I wonder where the Princess is right now? –
– Do you know? – Akhlísa asked.
– Be quiet! – Siêthiyal chanted.
– You miss her, don’t you – Prince Jhwèsta chanted.
– Nobody misses anyone, we’re leaving – Siêthiyal yanked her Sister’s arms so hard that she was almost dragging Akhlísa away, but the Mad Scientist was disappearing in the growing clouds of steam and darkness and was arising before the entrance, he was a shadow statue drawing himself upwards higher and higher, all in geometries of flashing heat and steam, his horned limbs drawing themselves out of the shreds of his body, his skull turning to regard the maidens.
– I’m sure you’d like to learn more about her … where she is now … the toys that I fashioned for her long ago upon the Emperor’s orders … – Prince Jhwèsta whispered.
Akhlísa blinked a few times. – Yes … yes … I would like to know where she is at the moment. –
– And you mentioned some toys? – Siêthiyal asked.
Prince Jhwèsta looked around, mechanical maggots dripping out of his rewel and metallic teeth and crawling all about his face, and he chanted – I can feel myself being pulled away. There must be Qhoîyekh around her, the Mind Slavers that I began making for the Qhíng so long ago. Their thoughts … how can I say it … they amplify her presence within me. You have to understand, the Emperor, he is … how can I explain it to such young ones, what analogia shall work … ah, yes, toys … always toys … –
– I like toys – Siêthiyal chanted.
– So do I, tee hee hee – Prince Jhwèsta giggled. – As my nest siblings were growing older and taking up loom or stylus or sword, I remained playing with the wheels of toys … making … fashioning … molding … playing … one can think of toys both as a source of joy but also as something poetic and made … by a maker. Consider a pyupeîno, a clockweyth yo-yo, you’ve all played with one, ludbobeno goeth up it falleth down up down up down, the Kajúju of torquated Tlhìnger use the yo-yo as a weapon, but that is a tale for another time, now divine Kàrijoi the Sun of the Dreamtime he is the master and I am his pyupeîno, he strings me out, I fall down down down down … into different worlds, different times … realities and timelines and wonders … but always I return to him to toil in the Labyrinth. Sometimes I am away for many an age … I create Automaton armies of Tlhantòrtlho the Mage … I dwell in Khnìntha and make mechanical insects and help to purify their worlds of living insects, I draw up the designs to create a child out of pieces of fate … I aid the Duchesses with their Mutants … I aid the Qhíng with their Mind Slavers … everywhere … nowhere … sometimes I dwell in sacred Eilasaîyanor and repair watches for the Nobles and build clocks for the Priests … I lived in Jaràqtu for a time an a couple of very pesky young maidens used to pester me there … it seems like so long ago … one of them kept touching my toys and playing with them … –
– That would be Siêthi – chanted Akhlísa.
– Don’t call me … – Siêthiyal began.
– And another maiden used to get gum and candy on my machines – Prince Jhwèsta chanted.
– Also Siêthi’s fault – Akhlísa chanted.
– I never! You’re the one touching your dirty little hands on everything you see! – Siêthiyal shouted. – And how many times do I have to command you never to call me … –
– Up down up down around around around – grinned Prince Jhwèsta. – But in the end I always return to Emperor Kàrijoi. I feel him. Part of me. I am his yo-yo. And I can sense his Daughter is near. The Mind Slavers are like tyìmpau imperial telegraphs relaying thoughts and amber light one to another in their dead antennæ, or like great mirrors, and in the shimmeration of the light I can feel … little Éfhelìnye … what affection she has for the Poet Warrior. How interesting. Yes. –
– Is she thinking about me? – asked Akhlísa.
– You mentioned toys – Siêthiyal chanted.
– Closer … closer … closer drawing … I didn’t invent the tyìmpau telegraph apparatus … but I did use some of the principles in the tsítsufhon juke joog dzog box … of course all the great inventions were already taken, agriculture and the city state and governance and literature, all I did was bend the will of spring and gear unto clockwork and harness some of the latent energies within. –
– We need to be leaving soon – chanted Siêthiyal. – But we with cordial heart thank thee for such guestkindliness, and now, if you object not, we’ll be leaving just about now … –
Prince Jhwèsta’s legs were reaching outwards and baring the exit. – And yet I sense so much doubt within you both. Whatever could it be, surely you both realize what an exaulted estate is being left unto you, that an entirely new Solar House is forming, and you shall be closest unto the Rising Sun. Why this hesitancy … – The Mad Scientist came lurching upwards, one of his limbs was reaching outwards, and growing out from the edge of it were come long sharp claw fingers, and knives slipping about knives upon knives, and the tips of the fingers were reaching upwards and just about to touch Siêthiyal’s pink tresses. For her part Siêthiyal, the only Daughter Khwofheîlya e'er bore, was feeling a deep and sickening drop within her stomache, it reminded her of the strangling burbling wet feeling that she associated with tèrepe illnesses especially when she was younger. She remembered a winter just a few years ago when she had had trouble sleeping, she tossed and turned throughout the night and everytime she awoke it was to the sensation of sweat upon her face and upon her hands. She kept falling into a fitful sleep and an hour later or a part of an hour later she would find herself sideways upon her bed or leaning against the pillows in what had to be a most uncomfortable position. Sometime in the very middle of the night, when the Stars were shining at their brightest and revealing their ancient patterns constellate unto the eyen of monks and astrologers and the sylvans who delighted in such starglenting, Siêthiyal awoke and felt as if pins and needles were dancing in her gut, and bubbles of mud were swirling inside her belly. She staggered out of bed and made her way down the hall before falling in a collapse. However, even when he was fast asleep Puîyus’ kean ears were atune to the breathing and heartbeat of his family and especially unto his three Sisters, and so without even being fully awake he came stumbling into the hall and caught Siêthiyal up before she completely fell. It chanced that during these winter weeks that Auntie Qtìmine was staying in the crannog, and Puîyus carried Siêthiyal up unto their Aunt’s bedroom, and Qtìmine arose and wrapped her neice up in new sheets and set her down. Siêthiyal was not very ill at all, it was just a bit of nano-disease flickering through the air, and within a day’s sleeping she was back to her former self and was bossing Akhlísa around and running around Fhermáta and trying to undermine her authority with the rest of the siblings, but Siêthiyal remembered just a few images from that time. One was Auntie Qtìmine’s holding her and soothing her and telling her that in the old days there had been just a minimum of sickness, for Kàrijoi kept winter tight beneath his rein and was master of all microbes and ice viruses and that in those days healers mostly spent their arts in helping those hurt in accidents and in the battles which must be fought upon the horizon frontier, and Siêthiyal also remembered the sick and winding wet feeling within her stomache, the sensation of something cold and hot at the same time, the way the sweat and sheets and a slow aching pain in one’s belly can all become the same, but also she remembered some of the very heaviness of the dreams, they were dread and repetitious, they were like bricks breaking off of the side of a wall and winding downwards, they were like the roaring of so many clockweyth trains dashing at the same time, they were their own deep and vast and deep churning. And now it was, as the Mad Scientist reached out unto her with snapping claws, his fingers just about to touch her roseate tresses, that Siêthiyal was reminded of this all once again.
– The problem with aiding the Emperor in his grand scheme of devising toys for all the good girls and boys of the worlds … tee hee hee … so many good children – so Prince Jhwèsta was saying – Is that after a time one comes to think of everything as craft and artifice and toy. All of us are playthings for the Emperor, all of us are toys for the Dragons, the good girls are dolls and the good boys are soldiers, we are all part of a set, a design, a great cosmic game. What role does the Warrior play? When is it the Princess’ turn? Is Raven the one writing the rules? And what shall become of you, little forgotten one? What place is there for you in the new Solar Family, rhododactylous tresses, middle sibling, caught up within the solar flairs. I rather doubt in the confusion of the war that your Elders have truly considered what shall become of you. Your warrior brother may be too busy trying to keep himself alive, and the Princess also to boot … oh why flinch away from me? Do I turn away from you? How many times have you snuck into my workshops and snatched away paint brush and gear and broken toy and tried to recreate the glories that were lost? I do not mind at all. Flattery, quite sincere flattery. Ah, hah hah hah hah hah! I know what shall come to pass! Tee hee hee hee hee! Oh yes, it is good, it is rich, it is perfect. –
– I want to know – Akhlísa chanted.
– Stop talking to the creature! – Siêthiyal chanted. She waved her sword around and hacked against the edge of the claws reaching out untowards her, and the metal ground together. She swung her brand a couple more times and part of an hand was breaking apart and crawling about her feet, but Prince Jhwèsta did not mind at all, crawling fingers and hands were twistent about his biomechanical limbs and drawing themselves higher and higher about the bone ridges of his head.
– I think I know what your Brother shall do with you – Prince Jhwèsta chanted, or at least part of his jaw was saying, but his voice was elsewhere and was vibrating unto its own fell and strange rhythmry. – Your Brother shall be Emperor, he already has an Empress and Concubine. And then Puîyos will slay me. That is fine, my day is passed, I am Kàrijoi’s creature after all, and the Sun must set. Puîyos will probably have his holy crusade against dæmons and dragons and clockwork, he’ll be smashing the hordes … burning … burning … burning it all. But then even the holy war must end. What next? What next? His Sister shall inherit all that I have left, my notes, my laboratories … my toys. You can make toys for the new Emperor. –
– Charming – chanted Siêthiyal. – Shut up! –
– But Puîyos will not be content just to give toys to his offspring, to children, to the new brood of children. Eventually Puîyos will want to reform the worlds into his own image. Temples shall arise. Glass statues of the Child Emperor shall glisten. Spring shall wane. Puîyos will need his own armies … his own monsters … all in accordance with his view of how the Dreamtime should blossom … and your toys shall arise and march outwards in hordes in gathering hordes in endless hordes … –
– I could see this happen – Akhlísa chanted. She took a step forward towards the winding tentacles and chanted – I mean, we all know that Siêthiyal could never find a sweetheart no matter how much she may try, and so Puey will probably take pity on her, because she’s so annoying and bossy and all, and just give her castles and laboratories, anything to keep her happy. And in the dark she’ll brood and make her own foul creation, since she can’t have any children of her own, and not even Emperor Puîyos will be able to command a man to love and marry her … –
– Will you be quiet? – asked Siêthiyal, and she swung her sword through several knive claws reaching out untowards her, and with her free hand grabbed Akhlísa by an hunk of her golden tresses and gave it a few sharp and painful jerks.
– Maybe you can build yourself your own sweetheart! – Akhlísa laughed. – I’m sure Puey won’t permit clockwork, but out of the goo you could make some metamorphic mutant husband! –
– As soon we as find the … oh, I shall pound you from now until the final Ùkheta, the dissolution of dreams at the end of time … oh oh oh! –
– Ouch! Ow! Quit it! –
– My Siblings used to yank on my horns also, heh heh heh heh heh, I’m quite sure I remember that, yes I remember that quite well … – Prince Jhwèsta gurgled unto himself. – What delightful little tykes we were, rolling about in the sand nurseries that once were. Sand and ice and sand and frost. Horns and claws striking against each other. Quite rambunctious play, we Khlitsaîyart Khlaêr engage in playing. –
Akhlísa, to her Sister’s horror, was slipping up upon the wicker table before the flowing of the biomechanical limbs and tendrils and asking – Question! Question! May I ask some advice from the Imperial Mad Scientist? –
– Don’t! Talk! To! It! – Siêthiyal hissed, as she swung around at the claws and knives that kept reaching out and snapping untowards her.
– Ask away, little one, tee hee hee! – Jhwèsta grinned.
– Who asks advice of a Mad Scientist! – Siêthiyal cried.
– Okay, so let’s say you know someone, this is all hypotheticalsome of course … I’m just making this up as I go along – Akhlísa was saying.
– Of course, of course … – Prince Jhwèsta smiled.
– Now let’s say that she, and she’s very pretty, long golden tresses and she’s very fair and extremely beautiful, I mean so beautiful that the mirrors all spin around and bow down before her, so beautiful that her older Sister is completely jealous of her and is always yanking at her hair and telling her how stoooopid she is but I’m not stoooooopid at all maybe I’m a slow learner but I’m not dumb how dumb can I be I’m going to be married to the Emperor that’s mucho smart! –
– Are you even getting to a question? – asked Siêthiyal.
– Just ignore my grumpy Sister – chanted Akhlísa and leaning froward and winking in a conspiratorial manner chanted – And just between you and me and the archæopteryces she can’t find a sweetheart anywhere at all, no matter how powerful our family is becoming no young swain can stand her, she has to kiss mutants, but don’t tell anyone. –
– I will torment you for the rest of your life – Siêthiyal chanted. – I shall extract slow and painful punishment from you and your children and your children’s children. I shall be the nightmare incarnate of the lost Sweqhàngqu. –
– Yes … mutants … very strange … – chanted Prince Jhwèsta. – You were saying, oh last born of creation? –
– I’m in a bit of a bind. You see I really haven’t seen my future husband in some time, nor my future sister wife, and I’m a little afraid because the co-wife doesn’t really know about me, she knows about me but she doesn’t know about me if you understand me …–
– Not really … –
– And there was a most regretible dragon episode with my lord and husband and I don’t really want to talk about it because I was quite guilty and I don’t want him to be angry with me, and then there’s all the guilt with running away from the Duchesses, mostly because grouchy mutant loving Sister is making me go even though nobody is watching us at all we’re alone most of the time, I don’t even think the Aûm are going to miss us, least of all the Duchesses and, okay so they put me in this clockwork and spinning corset, I don’t really know how it works I usually just let my Sister who repells all men and even aliens who are only vaguely masculine, she’s like a Shield Maiden but without the charm and Shield Maidens were actually very good and loyal wives but I suppose that’s all a subject for another time, and while I was being all dutiful and praying to the Ancestors and lighting incense to them and begging them to take care of my husband and lord in the wilderness wherever he may be my Sister comes storming in, she’s with all of these unsavory mutant types but we need not mention that right now, we can talk about it later, wink wink, and she says we have to escape she’s going to elope with a mutant and needs me and she drags me out the window and throws away the skeleton key to the corset and I’m trying to be a good little Sister to her I’m the one who’s all pious and hard working, I washed all the clothing of the hundred thousand sailors in this temple balloon did I mention that I scrubbed the deck and painted the solar sails and I wrote a thousand letters to Puey and sealed them in mine own tears that’s how warm and generous I am, while my Sister was just playing with her toys and making googly winedark eyen at the mutants, quite discustigating if you ask me, and you really should I have excellent taste and know all the glad and new tidings, and so to make a short story short here we are in the laboratories and I’m a bit stuck in the bind so my corset I’m wondering whether somewhere in your marvels you may have some device a key an apparatus a somewhat thing thing thing somewhere about you please please please please please? –
Prince Jhwèsta leaned froward and several waves of rouage larvæ were dripping down from his nostrils and out of the gapes of his skull, some of the worms were knitting together bits of skull and sealing them with wheel and gear and weaving the Mad Scientist back together again. – What an interesting little Concubine you shall make for the new Emperor, my pretty pretty. Alas, I have no apparatus, no key, no device for your corset. I suppose I could study the artistry that went the beauty of the clothing, but let me remind you … heh heh heh … it is the very oldest lesson which is learnt … clothing is made for the wearer, it contains the thoughts, memories, dreams of the wearer, and the goodwill of the person who crafted cut folded wove poetic made it … the Duchesses made it for you … for you, oh last born of all things. –
– Uh-huh … – Akhlísa looked to Siêthiyal and asked – Are you following all this? –
– Don’t ask me, I’m just trying to keep the machines from grabbing us. –
– Did we bother to pack any food with us? –
– Sorry, I’m too busy dreaming about my mutant sweetheart – Siêthiyal slashed thorugh a few snapping claws gaping before her, and looking around saw that Prince Jhwèsta was knocking aside table and wicker and lattice in his approach.
– I’m afraid that I cannot help you – chanted Prince Jhwèsta. – Either the new Emperor or the new Empress can. The clothing is yours, the dreams are yours … and I see your dreams are of the labyrinth. Ah ah ah ah ah! If I had my brain with me, perhaps I could tell you more of the Maze of Mazes which I designed for the great Emperor. –
– Couldn’t you just … make a new skeleton key? – asked Akhlísa. – Fiddle about? –
– I’m so sorry, only the Emperor may touch his Concubine, it is not permitted – chanted Prince Jhwèsta. – I am neither a stéteqhe, an haberdasher galanterio nor a lwenínga, a sartor, preampach, lākr. The new Emperor may touch you, his dreams and yours are entwined, it will unravel the labyrinth, or the new Empress herself, she is your older Sister and you must obey her commands. I am merely a Mad Scientist, clothing is not quite my domain. Now, if you want me to graft a new head onto you … –
– Will this head have any brains to it? – asked Siêthiyal.
– Pipe down, mutant-smoocher – Akhlísa chanted.
– Does she really like mutants? – Prince Jhwèsta asked.
– Yes – chanted Akhlísa.
– Of course not – chanted Siêthiyal.
– All the time! – piped Akhlísa. – What do you say, Tét? – Akhlísa drew out her doll and waved him from side to side and chanted – Doesn’t middle Sister like mutants? Yes? Are you saying yes? I’m afraid that Tét the Acceptible concurs. –
– I remember when Kàrijoi made that doll … for young Íngìkhmar … long ago, in the time of peace … heh heh heh heh … – the Imperial Mad Scientist chuckled. His claws were reaching right out unto the golden tresses of Akhlísa, but the very tips of his knife fingers were not touching her, just drawing as close as he could to her aurelian halo. – So pretty, so pretty. Last born. The Empress died. You were alive in our worlds, in our arms for just a couple of minutes. The Empress, passing. Such lovely hair. Such interesting qualities. Fitting it should that the new Emperor should be wed both to the umquhile Empress’ only issue, but also unto the damsel born even as the Empress was breathing her last. Pretty, pretty, pretty … –
Siêthiyal swung her sword through the snapping claws closest unto her and cried – Stop calling my Sister pretty! If she’s pretty, it’s only for my Brother and his family to enjoy. Kàrula! Get behind me now! There are several reasons why it’s inappropriate for you to be talking to this thing here! Go! Through the door! –
Akhlísa bowed her head and slipped of the table and chanted – Yes, older Sister. –
– MOVE IT! NOW! – Siêthiyal shouted.
– So rude … – Akhlísa grumbled. – We’ll probably never find the Traîkhiim now. I’ll be stuck in this corset, it will probably get tighter and tighter through the days until I explode, like the time I threw up on the Duchesses, but that was extremely funny, hope I have a chance to do that again, but probably will never see the Triîm again … –
Prince Jhwèsta was crawling outwards upon the very tips of his knife limbs and his crackling skull was whispering – Traîkhiim? The tnoaqteûpa thralls? Did you come down here just to find them? –
– There’s more than one? – asked Akhlísa. – Oh. Right! Fhólus. I keep forgetting about her. I have quite a lot on my mind, what with worrying about my Sister hanging out with the wrong crowd, probably forming some sort of wthílo pirate gang with the mutants kanajlara how very embarrassing we’ll have to come up with a good story to explain that … –
Siêthiyal slashed through several of the Mad Scientist’s snapping claws and yanking her Sister away chanted – We’d love to chat, no time, have to go, sorry about it, gotta run gotta go gotta run gotta go … –
– Wait wait wait – Prince Jhwèsta was knocking down the wicker walls and water wheels and splashing upwards, several claws grabbing the side of a door and hurling it down. – If it’s the slaves you want, I can take you to them … I had them hooked up to some special devices … keys … apparatus … –
– Oh that would be so kindly of you we’ll do anything for you a favor or honor won’t we Sister we’ll be indebted and … – Akhlísa was beginning, until Siêthiyal snapped her hands across her Sister’s mouth and chanted – We’ll do nothing of the sort; owe we the Imperial Mad Scientist no debt of honor at all. Isn’t that right, Sister? Just nod. – Akhlísa tried to nod. Siêthiyal tried to keep just one hand on her Sister’s mouth so that her other hand could reach for the sacred Sepùrke brand if she had to, and her Sister rewarded her by licking her hand and biting her a few times until Siêthiyal was forced to release her.
– That’s what I meant – Akhlísa chanted. – I just didn’t say it right. –
– There slaves are within – Prince Jhwèsta knocked o'er a few of the walls and thunderous began walking right above the maidens and came deeper and deeper into the spinning orreries of wood and wicker all about. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa remained where they were for a few moments and saw to their astonishment that the mad scientist was disappearing in the steam. Siêthiyal slapped an hand o'er her Sister’s mouth for she just thought that Akhlísa would probably say something annoying once again, but after Akhlísa only licked her Sister’s fingers a few times, Siêthiyal released her again and chanted – Fine, we’ll try the direct approach. We get the Traîkhiim, we run, and we don’t talk to the Mad Scientist. Agreed? –
– Okay – chanted Akhlísa.
– Don’t talk to him! –
– I won’t. –
– Not a word. –
– Sure. –
– Are you listening to me? –
– Huh? –
– Nevermind. This is how all my conversations end with you. Huh? What? Pardon? Were you saying anything at all? Does anything at all happen in this skull of yours or is it as empty as the creature’s is? – Siêthiyal pounded her hand on her Sister’s brow and was expecting a tinny empty metallic sound at any moment.
– Maybe all those years of beating me up have damaged my brain – Akhlísa chanted.
– No, you were damaged at birth. I just help you build character – Siêthiyal chanted. – Come along, let’s run. –
– Isn’t it fun how the crazy Fhèlya has invented all of these things in different worlds at different times … it’s like he’s a piece of cheese, the Emperor’s cheese, and the Emperor is grinding him out and spreading his cheesy goodness throughout the timelines and letting him melt in little cheesy patterns in the various cheese cultures … Sister? –
– Yes? – asked Siêthiyal as she came dashing through the steam, and she was holding onto her Sister’s hands and tugging her along.
– I’m hungry. Let’s have cheese. Lots of cheese. –
– You just ate; I made you eat all that soup, remember? –
– Was it cheese soup? Cheese is the perfect food, the very perfectest of foods. –
– Keep up with me! Run faster! –
– Sorry! Little bridal slippers! Labyrinthine dress. Say, we’d have happier worlds and at peace too if people spent more time thinking about cheese and eating cheese and remembering the deliciousness of cheese than whatever we have now. I want cheese now! –
Several long and stomping claws landed about the maidens, and suddenly claws arose about them and entwined about their necks and arms and shoulders. Siêthiyal cried out and was about to swing the ancient Khaxhapúrxhriqe sword from side to side, for she and her Sister were finding themselves enmeshed in the flowing limbs of Prince Jhwèsta as he glided tall and swift above them, but the Jhpepòrnain made no effort to swing at them or harm or torment them in anyway, in fact he was just carrying them through the long and winding steam eaves that were billowing about the wicker islands, and all about the children arose brilliant domes of wood and churning arboreal machinery, waterwheels dripping downwards and powering pumps and leading unto the thousand crystal eggs floating within the room.
– Your pet was in very bad shape – Prince Jhwèsta chanted. – She was on the very verge of death. Something was tethering her unto life, a killick of sorts, it is as if … as if she were a wight whom the Emperor had blessed … as he used to bless in the old days … when he and the Empress made all things green and blue and blossoming together brighter brighter brighter … –
Prince Jhwèsta set the children down upon the table, his mechanical limbs sweeping about from side to side, and all about him the crystalline eggs were fluttering in the air and turning about him, as if he were the great wave and everything else rippled in response. The children took a few steps outwards and the eggs were parting. Prince Jhwèsta’s claws became harpoons and impaling spears and jabbed through one crystalline egg after the next until it found the one he wanted, and he drew it down, and the egg was brushed aside as if it were a blanket enrapping something, and glistening in the center and remaing cool and still lay little Aîya floating upon a bed of pure crystals, and she was within the crystal itself. No tubes or pipes or machinery of any kind could the children see within the crystals and yet they knew that somehow the Mad Scientist was able to manipulate the Traîkhiim’s flesh. The crystalline egg drifted closer unto the maidens, and the children were unsure as to whether Aîya were dead or alive.
– She’s not even breathing – Siêthiyal chanted. – Can’t you make her breathe? –
– The egg causes necessary respiration to enthuse her xhepánga – Prince Jhwèsta chanted.
Akhlísa began to whimper. Siêthiyal pressed her hands upon the glassen dome and chanted – Is this all you can do? She’s preserved in a coffin. –
– I have been able to arrest any decay to her body. I was able to preserve her exactly as she was – the Mad Scientist chanted. – I set my devices unto reweaving her scorched skin, look, no burning at all, the feathers are just as they were before, her beak, her bones no longer jut through broken flesh. However, her spirit does not lie within her, or perhaps just a little. –
Siêthiyal lookd up. – You will do better. My Brother will be Emperor, and he is not as merciful as I am to those who fail our family. –
– I have one idea, but it may be dangerous, to the sám, to the specimen. –
– She wasn’t a specimen, she was a Real Person – Siêthiyal chanted.
– We are all just toys to the Immortals, to be used to be amusing to be tossed out in our day, Suns and Moons and Planets rising and falling in the energy, the rainbow light, the song, tee hee hee hee hee … – the Mad Scientist laughed.
– Khlís, please stop crying – Siêthiyal chanted as she put an arm about her Sister. – Listen, you necrotic remnant of a once brilliant Fhèlya jokma, where are the rest of the Traîkhiim. My Sister and I had another … –
– Ah … another slave? – Prince Jhwèsta asked. His crawling limbs began to lift up one by one by one. – So many wandered down into my laboratories … never to arise again … so many Traîkhiim … quires of them screaming as I removed their organs one by one … the priests eviscerate someone to read the will of the Immortals … for we need blood … blood is land and life … but I need the knowledge … the blood becomes toys … the blood of slaves …. Such a fun game to play … – And dripping down about the mad scientist were floating spheres of water, the waves spinning about in salty teardrop patterns, and within the spheres of water the children could see many Traîkhiim bobbling about and drifting in orbits throughout the lattice work. The eyen of Siêthiyal lit up when she saw Fhólus floating in the water and utterly still as if in a deep sleep, and she tugged upon her Sister’s sleeves and chanted – Lo, there she is. Soon Fhólus will be teaching you eachtardhomhandach dance once again, won’t that be grand? –
– I want my Traîkhiim! – Akhlísa cried. – And cheese. May I have cheese also? –
Prince Jhwèsta opened up his claws and out came floating the sphere of water with Fhólus within, and Fhólus bobbled about the mending crystal egg where Aîya lay. Siêthiyal took a few more glances at the Triîm and knew that even if they were not actually dead, that in their present state they would sleep for the rest of eternity. She saw the earrings in Fhólus’ antennæ whisps, and upon the runes of it lay the bejeweled regalia of the House Pwéru. – These are very valuable slaves – Siêthiyal chanted. – Fhólus is the personal property of the new Empress herself. Make them live again, or I shall ensure that Éfhelìnye look on you with displeasure, and whom she loves not, my Brother comes in the night. –
– Make them live again? – asked Prince Jhwèsta. – Even an Imperial Mad Scientist cannot kindle life where there is none. But a slight glimmering dream lies in both. There may be one thing I can do, but the risk … ah … the risk heh heh heh heh heh. –
– We’re rescuing the Traîkhiim – chanted Siêthiyal. – What risk do you mean? –
– In order to recreate them … you’ll have to let me kill them – Prince Jhwèsta chanted.
– No – chanted Akhlísa. – Sister, don’t let him … –
– Be quiet – Siêthiyal chanted. – What are the other choices? –
– I can preserve them like this, undefiled, immaculate, until the end of time – chanted Prince Jhwèsta. – But they will be as if asleep, and their souls shall not rejoin their Ancestors. –
– And what happened to Fhólus! – asked Siêthiyal. – She was fine the last time we saw her! –
– Sister! – cried Akhlísa as she tugged on Siêthiyal’s sleeves. – Don’t let the Mad Scientist hurt them! –
– The other slave wandered down here … I removed several vital organs … actually I removed all of her vital organs … I can’t remember what I did with them, and couldn’t return them now even if I wanted to … she is in living sleep also – Prince Jhwèsta chanted.
– I’ll remember to keep our slaves safe and far away from the likes of you – Siêthiyal chanted.
– Sister, don’t let him … – Akhlísa began.
– I told you to be quiet! – Siêthiyal chanted. – Are you sure that killing them will be the only way to save them? – She asked Jhwèsta.
– Yes, oh Emperor’s Sister – the Tsànyunan Prince chanted.
– Then do it. Reäwaken them with your alchemies – Siêthiyal said. – But I warn you, if they die, Puey will be unhappy with you. –
– I served the twin Duchesses, I am quite inured to threats upon my life – the Imperial Mad Scientist chanted, and chuckling unto himself he directed the crystal egg and the sphere of water to land upon the table, and his claws began to reach out untowards them.
– We must rescue the innocent – Siêthiyal said. – It’s what Puey would do. –
– Please do no harm – Akhlísa chanted.
The Imperial Mad Scientist just grinned, and all of his biomechanical limbs were spreading outwards forming a web about the sleeping Traîkhiim thralls.