Friday, February 27, 2009

Never Trust Wind Up Folk. Just Don't.

It was to Puîyus’ mind a little like trying to wrestle down swarms of insects crawling about one’s shoulders and arms and all about one’s face, it was not just like walking through a rain of falling gossamer and finding spiders cascading upon one, it was more akin to falling into a neverendent sea of coppeweb spreading outwards, the spiders dancing about his face and ear and crawling into his torq and within his sleeves, but these were not spiders at all but the crawling and snapping knife claws of the Khniqhátui twins Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe, the last of the clockweyth creations of Prince Jhwèsta er that he fled from the Emperor’s Labyrinth, the little wind up toys he had been designing to be playmates plèjhi euxujóxir pledasogels unto the Starflower Princess, the wind up playfellows whom the Imperial Mad šílený vědec had not quite been able to perfect and finish, and if they had been spiders Puîyus’ spleen would have remained at ease, for xotlatlacotick gangewifre spinners he understood and loved quite a bit, and delighted in playing his harp and watching as the spiders woven unto the melodia born of his fingers, but the ways of clockwork understood he not, nor had he even the hope of understanding them at all save that sometimes the Starflower Princess took great delight and putting together web and wheel and pulley and coil and working upon the various creations of her own hands, sometimes she set her mind into making new and dazzling clockwork chariots and dancent kitchen apparatus leaping upon their spindle knife edges and helping to cut and scrub and bake and clean, and she had attempted to make trébuchets and walking ladders and foldent towers and all other types of contraptions, and although only a few of them actually worked in the way that she planned, all of the machines were quite marvelous to behold and beautiful in design, cunning and strong and iridescent bright, and quite a shame it was that so many of her designs ended up arising and going mad and leaping upwards tried to bring down crannog and silo and barn and crush her thoroughly. In fact, as Puîyus jumped about and snatched at one claw and kicked at one eyestalk and leaping around poked and wriggled, he realized that in fact he would rather be fighting one of Éfhelìnye’s own inventions rather than these spiderly little wind up toys who kept growing knives and little sword limbs right out of their arms, who were rolling up the sides of his arms and leaping into his jerkin and trying to stab inside his pockets and crawl about his head and jab him all the while. At the very least, if he were fighting some strange mechanical washing device or a winged chariot-bed contraption or a tower rolling upon its side and whose insides were filled with ticktocking billows and was breathing out sighs like in an opera, then at least he knew that Éfhelìnye had been trying her best and that this was a work of art and bliss and love for her, while of these clockwork toys he was less than certain of their gentility of intention. Qwatríxe came crawling right up the back of Puîyus head and was whirling about in an effect to poke Puîyus right through his head, an action which vexed him quite a bit, to consider that something was trying to touch his nice and beautiful hair, and Tetratríxe, heaving all the while, came bounding right up upon Puîyus’ chest, one of his half-shattered eyen blinking a few times, a steady rain of gears and wheels bleeding out from it where Ixhúja had stabbed it before. The Battle in the Northwind was still being waged unto all sides of him, for the Qhíng and Aûm were now firing upon each other and the Dragons also, and the hordes of the Dragons were spreading outwards in huge and rumbling clouds and descending through the various grey regions of the welkin and breathing out their flames, and the violence of missle and rushing skiff and exploding tower was such that the small long boat was struggling to remain upright, and Ixhúja was trying to reach the bone oar and safeguard Princess Éfhelìnye, and Puîyus was being jabbed and smacked and poked by fell Automata crawling crustaceonlike about him all the while.
Tetratríxe came leaping upwards and was giggling all the while, his four claws spreading outwards and become the roaring blur of knives jabbing against knife against knife, and as he swung from side to side before Puîyus’ face he called out – Cut cut cutty cut cut cut I cut you! –
Qwatríxe body, bent and thrawn in many places from the long journey in the dark, was a blur of gold and knife violence, and he was crying out – Stab stab stab the lad! Stab stab stab him dead! –
– Husk you! –
– Bend you! –
– Break you! –
– End you! –
– Where’d he go? –
– I don’t know. You just had him! –
– I know, where is he! You let him go! –
– I did not! –
– Yes you did! –
– You were jabbing him! –
– I was stabbing him! –
– Gone? –
– Gone? –
Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe were each grabbing the edge of a violet and green xhthenáro chasuble, the selfsame zimza which Puîyus had been wearing just a few moments before. The jerkin used to gleam with some of the jewels and regalia of the most bellicose warrior clan of the Sweqhàngqu, but now it was bare, and as the twin wind up toys continued to jab at it a few times and rummage into the pockets all they were able to find were a few golden red petals whiched they guessed had to have been grown from a flower, although the toys neither could identify it nor cared to, flowers were hardly worthy of their time or though or meditations, they liked to think about plasmatic bowls of energy blossoming before their gaze and all that they intended to do with the lava heat and the ancient dead roots of Sànum the Tree of Light and whatever remained of the intertubular fields of Xhlaîra the Hegemony of Clorkwork and how exactly they were going to get back into the services of the most divine Princess and dance and play for her and whatever they could do with that irksome sweatheart of hers and how it would surely be unto the best just to husk his skin out and create a new version of him pure of the imperfections of flesh. Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe just looked to each other and shrugged and then stabbed the jacket a few more times. They looked around but saw Puîyus nowhere at all, he had just faded away in the darkness, and not even the Princess was paying them any attention, the ship was too busy swaying from side to side and struggling not to be vaporized in the violence of the battle, a few stray rays of light were flowing upwards from a Qhíngan skiff which was almost come close enough to scrape against them, a Dragon was leaping upwards and smashing one of his well-barbed wings right through the skin and outer wings of the vessel, and thousands of pieces of broken glass and metal and burning wood were brushing upwards and scraping against the long boat, and Ixhúja was crawling upwards and yanking up a bit of smoldering gunwail and holding it up as a targe for to shield herself and Éfhelìnye from the crashing debris.
– Where did the horrible flesh and blood lad go? – Tetratríxe asked.
Qwatríxe stabbed the jerkin a few more times. – Do you think he’s in there? –
– No he’s not in there, you fool! But he has to be somewhere. Look. Battle. Pretty. –
– Maybe he fell into the battle. –
– Maybe he fell right into those Dragon flames and broke apart in the vulcanic wrath of it all! Oh, how wonderous that would be! – Tetratríxe cooed unto himself and rubbed his four knife claws together. The Battle in the Northwind was growing all the more chaotic, although the Khniqhátui hardly cared what happened unto the Qhíng or the Dragons, they could destroy each other as far as the Twins were concerned, they had some inklings for forming an alliance with the Duchesses since els Tùrkhaka were almost certainly Tánin or at least Tánìnuqei and should have some small sympathies for what the Hegemons had in mind, but then again the Duchesses were the leaders of hordes of flesh and blood creatures, the rest of the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu may not quite be as amenable to the goals of the machines. The Aûm have experimented in many different types of forbidden machinery before, though, and their ancient Zodiographer Àsqa Khlàmfhors the Water Jug Lad had been a master at Federwerk, so perhaps some of his heritage could be useful unto them. Qwatríxe rolled up and stabbed the jacket a few more times and rolled o'er it and hopped about and chanted – Maybe we crushed the lad. He could be bleeding out his life’s oil, dead dead dead dead dead. –
– He’s a wily and dædal one, that nasty little creature – Tetratríxe spun his eyestalks around up and down and around and wondered all the while. Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye to his mind looked rather busy in not being struck by the flames and in dodging the bits of crashing vessel, but surely not busy enough to fail to assuage the wind up toys questions. He stabbed the jerkin and began rolling upwards, his eyestalks turning upwards, and failed to notice behind him the shadow of a Dragon arising to smash the long boat in twain, and if it were not for the gossoon dancing upon the draconiform snout and punching the sky drake, than all of the boat would have been incinerated at once, and not even Tetratríxe would have survived. Qwatríxe continued stabbing the jerkin just in case Puîyus should return, and he was muttering unto himself – Die die die die dead! Die die die die dead! Die die die die … oh look, a splinter! Die die die die die! –
– !! – Ixhúja growled, as a large chunk of spinning and burning debris was arising and spuming off of it were long streams of golden light burning in long anemone patterns, and the miqtum was just about to come crashing right through the prow of the vessel right where Éfhelìnye was standing, but Ixhúja arose and roared at the spinning debris, the force of her cry was enough to arrest it for a moment, and then she dashed about and punched right at it, and the debris broke apart into several smaller composite pieces crumbling downwards and just narrowly miss the vessel. A steady rain of ashes and embers were tumbling about Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye, the ashes were burning little stains upon Ixhúja’s garment, but when the ashes came to Éfhelìnye they dissipated at once and burnt her not at all, and a slight halo was glistening about her head.
– Excuse me! – piped the voice of Tetratríxe, as he rolled right up unto Princess Éfhelìnye’s feet. He tapped his claws together, and when Éfhelìnye still failed to notice him, he rolled up and ran o'er the Princess’ feet a few times and screamed out – Khyapunta, listen to me now! Eia, Princess! Princess! Excuse me! –
– Oh! – Éfhelìnye gasped, as she bent down and plucked Tetratríxe up. Some of his outer hame was crackling and breaking apart a little, both from the burns he had sustained in the balloon billows when he and Qwatríxe had begun their journey to find the Children, but also in the long burning night wherethrough he and Qwatríxe had come.
– I need to talk to you! – Tetratríxe cried.
Ixhúja looked down and thought that it would probably be best just to smash the machine unconscious and rebuild him, so wthartrùntu it appeared, defective and hebetudinous, surχa, d’aχag, but she could see that Éfhelìnye’s eyen were lighting up as she watched the movement of wheel and pendula inside the device, the wheels in Éfhelìnye’s mind turning as she tried to divine how the toy indeed worked.
– I’ve got a gear to grind with you! – Tetratríxe shouted.
– You’re adorable! – Éfhelìnye laughed.
– Shut up! – screamed Tetratríxe. – It’s about your sweetheart. Where is he, and how can I kill him? –
– I love your design – Éfhelìnye chanted. – It’s almost as if someone quod, Let us build for ourselves the very jhàsqin, the examplar, the prototype, ülmag of such a device, and such you are, wheels and claws and gears are set together in perfect harmony. – She drew out a pencil from her pocket and tapping it upon the carapace, the skin opened upwards and revealed more fully the movement of his wheels and where the flames had done their damage.
– Stop it hah hah hah hah stop it hee hee hee hee that tickles that tickles quit it stop! – screamed Tetratríxe. – Princess! You can’t touch my inner wheels! –
– Oh? – Éfhelìnye stuck her pencil within and began to tighten a few springs. – I don’t think you’ve been serviced in quite some time, perhaps even before I was born! –
– Princess, if you don’t mind! – Tetratríxe snatched the pencil outwards and threw it away. – I don’t like being touched! Now, we have something important to discuss. – Tetratríxe began slamming his skin shut and tried to compose himself, but Éfhelìnye just drew an hairpin and thrust it into his neck, and all at once layers of skin began to bubble away and reveal the twining devices within, all enmeshed and wickerwind wind winding enwheeled.
– Help! – screamed Tetratríxe. – She’s engaged in pyapeyàjhwen, she’s performing surgery on me help help help! –
– Maybe I can adjust these vocal folds for you, so you won’t be so loud – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Ixhúja punched away some falling sheets of flame and huffing a little gave her cousin a look that meant, Oh just smash it and begin again.
– Oh great Prophet, the Princess is disemboweling my twin! – screamed Qwatríxe as he stabbed at the jerkin a few more times. – Gears and oil all o'er the place! This is got to be the grossest thing I’ve e'er seen! –
– Princess! – Tetratríxe cried as with panicked claw knives he threw hairbrooch and pins out of himself and scrambled to shut his casement closed. – Don’t e'er do that! You’re like a Dragon eating me whole! Stop that at once! –
– I lack the proper tools to rebuild you, but at least I can make a start – Éfhelìnye began.
Tetratríxe slammed his carapace and claws closed so hard and swift that he nibbed Éfhelìnye’s fingers and stung her quite a bit, and he growled saying – We have something very important to guess. Location of your sweetheart and how one may kill him quite dead? –
– Oh, Puey? –
– Yes, your Pew Pew! Who else could it be! Now, I need a place, both for finding and for stabbing. Does he have any vulnerabilities one can exploit? Is he afraid of the color green or red? Is he suspectible to a certain poison I can pour down his throat and ears and nose while he sleeps? How long can he live after I saw off his head? These are questions that just need answering! –
– Oh, Puey is just wonderful, isn’t he? So many days I was alone in the Forbidden Gardens and I just had my books of fairy tails and Great-Uncle Táto to keep my company, for so often was my Grandfather Pátifhar summoned away and had to venture outwards for some task of the holy and apostolic Sylvanhood or to venture out unto Jaràqtu and train him, the Boy of my Dreams, although I did not understand for some time when he was doing. So long was I left just with mine imagination to occupy me, to comfort and befriend me, and in my loneliness I created my Puey … –
– Does this story have an end? – Tetratríxe growled. – I had hoped the stabbing would be o'er by now, so the fun of husking can begin khwèxhna’ ur qoe. –
– … and so he began, my Puey, as a doodle in the pages of my notebook, as a face, a character, and as a name to occupy me while I walked upon the riverbank and danced upon tree trunk, as Great-Uncle read lectures from his books and tried to inspire to knowledge, I was creating the best friend I would e'er have, strong and patient and courageous and brimming with goodness, my Puey would will … –
– I am so nauseated right now – Tetratríxe chanted, and even as Éfhelìnye was holding him, he began slapping at her hands with four sets of claws and wriggled to escape. – I’m leaving, I have lad to catch and flay. His skin shall be my hat hat hat hat hat! –
– … he will sweep me off my feet in a loving embrace and shower me in pure kisses, he will set me upon his candescent saurian steed, and together we shall ride up into the clouds, unto a new kingdom where bells shall ring and petals and pollen shall fly, and the priests shall gather up their lustral waters to dip our hands within, and Puey and I shall be wed and … –
–Tqakh ei! Yukh! – Tetratríxe shook all four of eyestalks as if they were disgusted tounges. – I hate weddings. –
– Pardon? – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– I hate weddings! Hate them hate them hate them hate them! –
– What are you saying? –
– I hate betrothal rites! I hate the rings and the water and the drums beating! I hate brides in their shining dresses, flowers flowing, parents beaming, nervous bridegroom befidgeting. I hate the marriage ceremony also, the burning flames, the flickering darkness, the contract in blood! I hate the entire idea of marriage! –
Éfhelìnye remained perfectly still. She did not even noticed that a large burning prow was arising right behind her, and that Puîyus was descending somewhere in the darkness and hurling the burning edge of the ship away, growing waves of fire disappating and failing to strike the Starflower Princess and the ship that carried her because of his fleet and strong palm.
– You … dislike … weddings? –
– I HATE WEDDINGS! – Tetratríxe screamed. – Brides! Bridegrooms! Flowers! Horrible, all of it! Quite a bit of sentimental claptrap if you ask me. The priests are already crazy, but not as crazy as the young bride and nervous groom promising to be of a single heart, what is that supposed to mean? One heart? An heart is an organ, two bodies can no more have a single organ, what is the bride claiming that she will remove her heart and give it to the groom because he is heartless? That makes no sense at all. And they have to be happy and live with each other all the time, it will drive them crazier than they already are. And then they manufacture new mortals and just continue the line of insanity! It all begins with weddings. I hate weddings! HATE THEM! –
Éfhelìnye sniffled. – You … dislike weddings? –
– No, I don’t dislike them, I hate hate hate them! How many marriages have you actually witnessed? None? –
– I saw the betrothal rite of … –
– Hah hah! Not the same thing. How many married couples do you actually know? –
– Ah, Abbá Íngìkhmar … he’s a widower of course, but … –
– Go ahead, name three married couples you actually know. –
– I’ve read all the stories of Emperor Eilasaîyan and Empress Qwasàkhta, and … and they loved each other very much! –
– Did Emperor Eilasaîyan also have other queenly wives and concubines? – asked Tetratríxe. – So he didn’t completely love his Empress wife, now, did he? –
– Ah … –
– If memory serves me – Tetratríxe examined his knife claws and sharpened them against each other – Did not the glorious Emperor who founded the City of Solúma Jheirqtàlpa Khelèlkhonor Ausélinor beget but a single Son by his wife, and his other six Sons were by his concubines et al? –
Éfhelìnye’s face reddened a little. – I believe that is the story. –
– The history, that is. Ah, what a quaint thing marriage is. But I’m sure it will be completely different for you. Yep. Completely positive absolutely different, that is. –
– What are you saying, little wiht? –
– Fraud! Sham! Haux! At least undeceived see I. You cannot view the future realms perfectly, and yet you bound yourself by oath and sacrament to love someone else for all of eternity. How quaint. At least I know how ridiculous it all is. I hate weddings. Boring anyway. Not like you’d know, you’ve only read of the ceremony of course. –
– I happen to like weddings very much myself – Éfhelìnye whispered. – I can’t wait until I’m married to Puey. –
– I hate weddings, don’t you dare invite me to the betrothal rite or the marriage feast I hate hate hate hate hate it all – Tetratríxe chanted.
– But I love Puey so much, it will be so much fun! –
– Are you even listening to me? Stop that! Don’t keep opening me up! –
– I think some of your emotion gears are just wound a little too tight. –
– You’d better not have your heart set on marrying that lad! Cutty cutty snip snip snip, I’m after him! Stop that! Do I remove your body parts? –
– Puey and I will be so happy together. –
– I also hate kittens, kisses, and love. Probably some of your favorite things, no? –
– Absolutely! Oh, the only reason you can be so grumpy is because no one’s repaired you in so long, let me just remove some of this … –
– Help! Help! –
Ixhúja was shoving several walls of heat that were arising against her and her cousin and was growing a concerned with the way these geminate toys were acting kóm aqyáxa so peevish, petulant, mischivious. Qwatríxe was still rolling around and stabbing at the jerkin which Puîyus had left and was dancing around and dreaming about stabbing Puîyus in the flesh, and so Ixhúja yanked up garment and toy and dragged them again, with one arm she made sure that the jerkin was fine, and with the other she began slapping and thumping Qwatríxe hard enough to force some submission out of him, and bounding up to Éfhelìnye she saw that Tetratríxe was barely able to contain himself, and within a moment he was rolling away and crawling about the Princess’ face and shoulders and bounding away from her and crying out – I hate weddings! I hate kisses! I hate love! Where’s Puîyos! Let me at him! Stabby stabby cut cut husk kill! –
Ixhúja yanked up Tetratríxe and smashed him against the side of boat so hard that one of his claws shattered. She threw down Qwatríxe and began crushing him with her wooden shoon, and looking up to Éfhelìnye gave her a look that meant, Are these twerps bothering you?
– No, not at all – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Why would they bother me? –
They were threatening you … this doesn’t bother you at all?
– I think I can make them right again. I think there are many things in the worlds, forces, machines, spirits even, who have been corrupted and just need to be cleansed and … – Éfhelìnye stopped, for she saw a fey look in Ixhúja’s face as she drew a knife, and let it spin about her palm and dance about her fingers in a most parlous fashion.
I believe in knives, strength, and will, Ixhúja winked at her cousin. If they can escape me, these toys deserve to exist.
– I hate weddings – Tetratríxe mumbled, as he crawled about and began gathering up the pieces of his claws. – Have I mentioned that I detest the idea of true love? –
– They’ve gotten very quiet – Qwatríxe chanted. – Is this good? –
Ixhúja jumped upwards. Qwatríxe’s green glassen eyen tried to focus, but suddenly Ixhúja was upon him and she thrust her knife right through one eye and into the wheels of his mind. Qwatríxe screamed out an unearthly ululation, as Ixhúja dug the knife in back and forth, and out came spasming bits of glass and wheel. Ixhúja yanked the knife out, and Qwatríxe rolled about in a most piteous fashion. Ixhúja blew upon her knife, and then yanked it into the gap and continued digging until oil bleed outwards, and bubbles of broken glass poured out.
– You stabbed my brother’s eye out! – screamed Tetratríxe. – How could you do such a thing! Sure, we were planning on killing you in your sleep, but how dare you do that to us! You ripped out his glass eye! –
Ixhúja juggled with his knife and let it land hilt first upon her palm and dance about. She looked to Éfhelìnye and grinned as if to say, But I left it an eye, one enough so that it can fight me back. Ixhúja smiled even brighter at her cousin, and Éfhelìnye looked on horrified and covered her mouth and thought that she would surely faint. Ixhúja set her knife in its place and advanced on Tetratríxe. Tetratríxe squealed and rolled out from side to side, Ixhúja was not even walking at a particularly swift pace, but it was fast enough stomp upon another of his claws, so that Tetratríxe came slumping downwards and to his horror saw that he only had two hands left unto him. He fell o'er, and rolled about a bit, and then felt numb crushing coldness flowing through his body, salt running through his pipes, as Ixhúja stomped through another one of his claws and ground it from side to side and left it but glass and goo.
I don’t think those two are strong enough to fight me at all, Ixhúja told her cousin in sighs and purrs. What use are they? At the very least toys should provide some good entertainment. If you like we can disembowel them together, we can leave them conscious as you take them apart and watching their ticking.
Tetratrixe’s one hand was grabbing the pieces of his broken hands and struggling to set them back into their place. – I still hate weddings, you crazy Princess! Brother, can you see? –
Qwatríxe spun around and crashed against the side of the long boat, and he too was gathering up the spheres that made up the gape of his head and began throwing them back within. – Not as I could before – Qwatríxe squealed. – Blurs of time, of color, of pain! –
Tetratríxe’s billows were panting, his claws writhing back together, and little stilettos dirking out of his carapace and around his eyestalks, knives slipping out of all of the joints of his already burnt body. – This is all that Puîyos’ fault! We were made to love Éfhelìnye with the perfect love which only toys can give, but he has stolen all of her affection! He must pay. –
– Puîyos must pay – Qwatríxe chanted.
– Pay in oil! –
– Pay in oil! –
– Bleed him! –
– Cut him! –
– Stab him! –
– Husk him! –
Ixhúja looked down to the jerkin which Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe had been attacking and found that despite their cutting it was actually in rather good shape. Ixhúja knew that she could provide some simple stitches for it, but Éfhelìnye was far more skilled at broidery and besides would better enjoy the opportunitas for to mend something for her beloved. Ixhúja sighed and purring told her Cousin, I’m going to go and destroy those toys now, they’re far crazier than anything I can permit about your person.
– No, please – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I just want to fiddle with them. –
– Tinker – chanted Tetratríxe.
– Meddle – chanted Qwatríxe.
– Whiddle. –
– Fiddle. –
Dangerous, Ixhúja tapped her fingers together and drew a large and heavier knife.
– I just want to fix them … – Éfhelìnye began.
– Yesss – chanted Tetratríxe as all of his claws came back into place. – Fix fix fix us. We’re your happy childhood friends. We’re harmless. We like you. – Several knives drew out from the edge of his claws.
– Playtime play play play – chanted Qwatríxe. – We can be dolls and clowns and puzzle for you – several snapping knives were opening up and down the length of his arms, and his broken eye was mending itself and burning with a black and red light.
– Please play. –
– Want to play? –
– We play nice. –
– We play well. –
They’re quite insane, Ixhúja blinked. She turned around and eyed the toys, and although Éfhelìnye was grabbing her sleeve and trying to keep her cousin close unto her, Ixhúja was not about to let Éfhelìnye’s everpresent curiosity endanger her more than it had to. Ixhúja took a few steps forwards, and the Khniqhátui began clitter clattering together, their knife fingers bescraping.
Puîyus was riding upon the head of a dragon and came crashing down right behind the Khniqhátui Hegemons, and as it chanced, as Puîyus was slipping down from the snapping jaws and doing battle with the Dragon, that the wind up toys came spinning away from Ixhúja and saw that their prime target was dancing right behind him.
– Kill Puîyos dead! – screamed Tetratríxe.
– Sacrifice him alive! – cried Qwatríxe.
– He’s stolen the divine and holy Princess’ love from us! –
– It’s his fault we kept falling into loads of stinky socks! –
Puîyus was not at all fain to be fighting a Dragon and having to deal with some rather demanted little wind uψ, in fact he had slipped away from the Khniqhátui and given them his jerkin as a plaything in order that he could concentrate upon deflecting the emergency boat from the dragons all the better, but now that Tetratríxe was leaping upon his right shoulder and stabbing him again and again with claws razor sharp, and Qwatríxe was slithering up about Puîyus kilt and sash and almost gnawing against him, Puîyus decided that it was time to end this little altercation. The Dragon was turning and belching out huge streams of golden and red flame, its jaws were opening all the wider and levin flashes and lightning flickers and gnawing clouds of light were roaring out from the Dragon, and as Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe, zealous all the while, were completely consumed in their fight against Puîyus, he for his part, Íngìkhmar’s only Son, punched the Dragon’s jaws a few times, and as the great Drake turned its head and took a deep breath, phosphorous and shadow trickling up the tips of his gills, Puîyus in a tremendous and elegant swirl jumped upwards and grabbed Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe by eyestalk and neck and held them far above his head and in the direction of the coming flames. Too late the Khniqhátui realized what was happening, their claws were jabbing from side to side, both of them were trying to saw through Puîyus’ wrists, but the first few flickers of molten light were dripping right down upon them. Puîyus shook the toys from side to side, already the tips of their claws were beginning to burn, and the slight salt and scale skin left unto them was breaking apart from the intensity of the Dragon heat. Puîyus spun around and imagined that he was pitching a ball in Xhwongeîthe diamond ball, but rather than playing his Cousins or the young swains of another Clan or even the youth of the cunning Poriêrii volk, Puîyus instead threw a could of toys into the air, and drawing his sword slashed right through them, blurs of limbs and eyen and wheels exploding right off of them. Flames were bursting about their spherical bodies, and the toys screamed as they began tumbling down into the lava of the Dragon’s cry.
– I still hate weddings! – Tetratríxe shouted.
– We also hate true love! – Qwatríxe shouted.
Puîyus took a deep breath and blew towards the machinery and they spun around and around in the air and landed into the glowing fountains of dragon light. At once all of the skin of the Khniqhátui evaporated, and they were completely wheels and pistons scraping against each other, flicks of jasper and leather drifting about them. The eyen of Tetratríxe were popping in the lava, his claws igniting one by one, and Qwatríxe’s golden body was being reduced unto wheels and gyres spinning one and about each other. The wind up xhràxam were screaming all the while as they descending through the geysers of light which the Dragon still breathe dout, and they made their slow winding way back downwards as the Dragon took his next breath. Puîyus breathed upon the toys again, and just as the Dragon gasped and opened up his jaws, Puîyus exhaled all the more and blew the toys into the Dragon’s jaws with such force, that the Khniqhátui were consumed in mist and lava and were swallowed by the Dragon with a loud audible gulp. The Dragon coughed a couple of times. Puîyus allowed himself a grim half smile and dusted off his hands.
Ixhúja completely ignored the Dragon who was holding the side of the long boat, she gathered up a few loose wheels and claws and blinking eyen of the toys and set them in her pocket, and looking up to Puîyus grinned and purred telling him, That was fun.
Éfhelìnye sniffled. – I rather wished to rebuild them. –
Too dangerous, Ixhúja told her. Let the Dragon vaporize them.
– Maybe I could build clockwork toys for myself. Siêthiyal and I could learn together. –
I thought only the Emperor could make toys, Ixhúja told her cousin in nods and purrs. Alas, Emperorless, we may have to learn to make toys ourselves, or appoint a new toymaker.
– The design for those two devices were quite … quite singular in my appearance. I wish I had at least been given a chance to draw them. –
For the second time Puîyus knew that almost certainly he was going to regret this, but then again the Midnight Gloam seemed a time for folly and not fully sane plans. He turned to Éfhelìnye and tugging upon her sleeve began asking her in signs and gestures as if to say, Is it true that Dragons have no true bellies, that they do not ingest and digest as mortals do, no qàxhloi, no borborygmós.
– Yes, my beloved – Éfhelìnye sniffled a few more times.
Puîyus wondered whether he would e'er dare doing anything this foolish for his Sisters, but then again he had been known to be excessive in his generosity untowards them. Puîyus marched up right towards the Dragon and grabbed the edge of its jaw and punched it downwards.
– Are we going to fight nor not? – the Dragon rumbled. – Blech! Let me tell you, those were two disgusting khnuwòtixeng oppodeltochry you fed me, y-khoa pharmoconment! They tasted worst than priest! Uabhasach! – Puîyus began punching the Dragon’s face and jaw and thrusting it downwards, he began thumping against the scales of the Dragon so hard that his knuckles were beginning to burst and bleed, and still the Dragon was murmuring all the while and saying – Now, as soon as I smite you I’m going to go and find some virgin maidens to eat, now that’s quite a tasty treat, the desert of deserts! I can smell a few around me, they’ll taste far better than these tin cans you threw in my gob! – Puîyus continued punching the Dragon harder and faster now, and noticing a twinging about the gills and a slight movement in the throat, Puîyus jumped upwards and grabbed the Dragon from the back of its neck and began strangling it with his legs, bones breaking apart and light and steam easing about the scales, while his arms pounded against the throat again and again and again until finally a slight clockwork rhythm began to breathe out from it, and knowing that the toys or whatever remained of them had to be nigh, he redoubled his efforts and continued striking until the Dragon gagged and throwing his neck back gave breathe to an huge fountain of light and steam and water, and in splashes of goo and plasma coughed up a pile of wheels and gears and a couple of metallic and jade spheres which were the skeletons still burning of Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe. At once Puîyus came bounding away, and the Dragon, not wishing to be fed any more untoothsome delights, turned its head aside and flapping its wings arose to do battle in the winds. Puîyus bound down into the steaming goo and saw that Tetratríxe’s skeleton was whirling about and gathering up pieces unto itself and slowly rebuilding itself, and that Qwatríxe’s outline was bouncing and become vortex, and burning sheets of gold were arising and slowly setting themselves together in wheels and parts and fissures. And Puîyus slipped through the flamescent ooze and gathered up the hissing pieces into his arms and came trotting unto the prow where Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye were standing, and he poured out the pieces of the twin Hegemons Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe at the Starflower Princess’ feet.
– What splendiferous fun! – Éfhelìnye grinned.
Puîyus just crossed his arms and despite his own misgivings knew that he would do almost anything for Princess Éfhelìnye, even choke a burning dragon to force it to spew out some dangerous pests. It was quite a strange feeling to have, a sensation of the knowledge of one’s own voluntary weakness. Éfhelìnye came glissading downwards, the heat was arising about her, the steam crackling upwards in long and coiling waves about her, almost a forest of heat breaking apart from the great noxious plasma which the Dragon had just spat upwards, and in the mist of the boiling light flamesque out came writhing disparrent and errant bits of wheel and gear flowing downwards and making their trek up unto the main coils of the skeletons of the beings who had once been the Khniqhátui Hegemons Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe. Éfhelìnye spun around and she set the skeletons down and at once scattered the wheels and pieces about her, she let the gears tumble of their own accord and hook one into another, the pulleys grinding against each other, bits of billow grinding against the steam and setting themselves together. The heat of the dragon was breaking apart, for a moment Ixhúja was about to dart upwards and pull her cousin away from it, but the heat was shimmering and become great waves of gaygamali and lūrp and vuimeil, the heat was become pollen glistening orange and pink and twining upwards. Quill pens fell from Éfhelìnye’s sleeves, a few brooched danced right into her hands and she was humming to herself as she began to open up the still hissing skeletons and adjust the springs within, and she loosened several of the emotional coils and began to set the wheels back into their places one by one by one. The skeletons twain were oozing with clouds of salt arising, and the Khniqhátui had an almost brime smell to them, as if they had been partially made out of the ocean. Ixhúja looked from side to side, Dragons were still rushing upwards in the burning skies, but for the moment the long boat was being left alone, and Éfhelìnye could work in peace. Puîyus slid down next to Éfhelìnye and watched, and saw that growing bowls of plasmatic energies were swelling up inside both of the toys, that she was plucking in their eyen one by one and spinning them into place, she was gathering up the twines of the metallic limbs and hooking them into plae, spindly and arachnid and slowly making the twice four limbs twin about each other. Éfhelìnye was thinking that so designed were these wind up toys aufziehen, so constructed with perfect craft and symmetry, that these twain wind ups were perfect tools for learning just how clockweyth functioned, and how to take very simple Tánin apart and back together again, to see the function and curve of every piece and learn how all worked together in whole. She was humming unto herself about the very alchemy of Creation itself and within a few moments had undone all of the pulleys and wove them back unto their places, and setting her brooch deep into the mainsprings began coil them about one by one, and so the clockpunkpulse of the Khniqhátui began again. Puîyus sate down next to Éfhelìnye and felt the delight of her excitement, the way her fingers were dancing about the tools and inkling with the wheels, and she was creating something anew.
Éfhelìnye plucked up Qwatríxe’s hissing pollen dome and spinning it about chanted – Puey? –
– ?? – he asked.
– I was thinking, when we grow up and have a home of our own and a nursery for our children, I would like to design toys for them. I don’t think that I would quite like the toys to be like this design, from mutable and rainbow camelionlike, and for little children I would not have any toys whose hands end in knives and scissors and claws, but I would like to have toy soldiers who could march of their own accord and little trains that can roll about the beds and shelves, plush creatures such as dinosaurs and squids bears and platypodes to set upon the blankets, and lots of dolls with flowing yarn hair. Perhaps I could get Siêthiyal to help me in the actual making of the toys, she’s quite clever with her hands. Oh, look at this! – The eyen of Qwatríxe were blinking one by one, even as steam continued to hiss out from the gapes of hismetallic skeleton. Tetratríxe was in far worse shape, and without any skin at all he appeared far more spidery and sharp than before, but as Éfhelìnye set the pieces within, the edges of knife and claw were becoming the turning coils and the bits of steam engine and branch within the devices rather than spines to erupt about their limbs. And Éfhelìnye was humming to herself, as she adjusted the disques inside Tetratríxe’s eyestalks one by one, and Puîyus remained completely silent, for Éfhelìnye almost never hummed unto herself, her dread Father Kàrijoi the Master of Earth and Sea and Sky had forbade all music from her and commanded Great-Uncle Táto and Grandfather Pátifhar on pain of torment and bale and death never to expose her to music, and so this day as she came into acquaintence with Puîyus and heard the song of his voice and the minstrelsy of his harp, she was beginning to learn of the tunes which accompanied the dance of her hands and limbs and words, and so listening to her attempts at humming and feeling her joy at creation, Puîyus allowed himself not to worry about the Dragons swooping about, and the growing shadows of the Qhíng fleet as their great turrets were arising and firing right at the flotilla of the most honored Aûm.
Éfhelìnye took a skeleton key from her sleeve and began winding up first Tetratríxe and then Qwatríxe and setting them down tried to get their sphere-wheels to move in concert. – Thank you for returning the pieces of these wind up toys for me, my Puey – the Starflower Princess chanted. Puîyus could think of nothing else to say while she fiddled and fidgeted, and even though the devices were now half melted and missing carapace, they were become the same shape as they were before, and Puîyus just rested his head next to Éfhelìnye and marvelled at her.
Tetratríxe’s cracked glass eyen lit up, and turning unto Éfhelìnye, his eyen began a slight smaragd green, and twining his hands together, his gears ground together in a sigh, his billows gasping, and he chanted – Ah, love! Love love love love love love! I love love! –
Qwatríxe spun around, his domed head almost falling off of the joints of his neck, and rolling about he cooed and leaning towards Éfhelìnye squeaked – We love you, divine Princess! –
– Yes, we love you! – cried Tetratríxe.
– With all our mainsprings! – sighed Qwatríxe.
Éfhelìnye’s smile was beaming. – Lo, Puey, I knew I could put them back together again, and even if their bodies are still bent, at least I have most of their internal organs working, perhaps as well as they have in years! – She leaned o'er and embraced Puîyus, and they held each other and thought about the joy of making.
– Ahhhh, how dulcet, how sweet, how sacred it is – sighed Tetratríxe.
– We love the love that you love for each other – Qwatríxe gurgled.
– Love love love love love is all we can contemplate – sighed Tetratríxe.
– You two should be betrothed and married. Go ahead and hug and kiss. Go on, don’t be sigh! – Qwatríxe gurgled.
– I love weddings – Tetratríxe chanted. – I could dance at weddings all day long. I think life should be nothing but weddings and marriage feast and celebration and joy. –
– I love weddings also, and hugs and kisses and love – chanted Qwatríxe.
Ixhúja jerked her thumb at the wind up toys as they were struggling to arise, and she murmured unto herself in a gruff language of sighs as if to say, There are far more vexatious now than they were before. I’m going to go ahead and smash them, if you twain don’t object.
– I like them better this way – Éfhelìnye chanted, and she kissed Puîyus’ ears and face a few times. Puîyus gave Ixhúja a look which meant, I shall do what makes Éfhelìnye happy. Éfhelìnye gave Puîyus another kiss, and then turning around chanted – I bet I could teach you two how to dance. Would you like that? –
– We’d love it! – Tetratríxe squealed.
– Nothing like a good dance dance dance – Qwatríxe’s wheels were squeaking one against the other. And at once the twin Khniqhátui came leaping upwards, their sphere-legs rolling from side to side, their eight arms now wavering from side to side and sometimes twining labyrinthine about each other, and although their bodies were still melt from being consumed and burnt by the Dragon, and some of their joints were not quite turning right, they still exhibited enthused grace which more than adequated their crackling bodies.
– Loving loving loving loving loving, I love you! – Tetratríxe bounced as he danced before Princess Éfhelìnye.
– Ah, but loving loving loving loving loving, I love you! – Qwatríxe spin in pirouettes and swayed before Princess Éfhelìnye.
– We can sing and dance for you! –
– Fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa! –
– We! –
– Love! –
– You! –
– Hurray! – Qwatríxe came rolling outwards and tried to dance befor Ixhúja, but she just crossed her arms and gave Puîyus a look, as she was making fists and thinking about how to hit these irksome little toys. Puîyus for his part was smiling and watching the joy on Éfhelìnye’s face as she clapped her hands and began dancing before the toys, but he could not help himself but feel a slight shadow fallen upon his heart, especially as he listened to the music of the clockwork spinning anew. He turned back and saw that long boat was struggling to remain within the upper free airs of the Northwind, and that any moment now they would come drifting right back untowards the Qhíng in their battle against both Dragons and Aûm, and his hand hovered towards the twin sétlha glass swords set at his belt, and thoughts of combat were drawing back unto him.
– Behold, behold the Immortals are nigh, the divine and blessed clan of the Áme watch us all always! – Tetratríxe was singing and sometimes spinning about his twin and sometimes grasping his claws and hopping about. – Let our dance be like incense arising before them, my their words be oil and incense twining inour gears, let our mainsprings shimmer before them, may our analytic engines whirl to calculate their grace! May we dance before the hula quires of the Stars, may we bow before the Spirits of ocean and field and cloud, may be exault outselves before the Elementals, may we be worthy of the Ancestors of mortal creatures, may we arise and walk up the iridescent steps of the Emperor’s throne! –
– May our dance be to the trump of triumph, my nose fifes of zeal sound, may our harps strumg with joy! Let us remember the genius Maker of Tsànyun who designed us all long ago of the sacred xhrùsqai metal, let us remember the Prophet who set his words upon our gears, but most of all let us honor Puîyos the Son of Heaven who comes with candy cane tresses radiant spilling about him, whose arms are strong to vanquish the monsters of midnight, the quantum dæmons of darkness, the Dragons of the night – so Qwatríxe was sounding in his dance. – But most of all let us honor the divine and holy Starflower Princess Éfhelìnye, the only child of the Lord of Life, the one whose holy blood enlivens us all! –
– We shall sing and dance for you! –
– Lwa lwa lwa lwa lwa! –
Éfhelìnye’s smile was glowing albescent radiant unto Puîyus’ sight, it was a smile which just continued to grow, it was in her lips and at the edges of her mouth, the smile he could see shining in her cheeks, he could even see smile laughing a little in the corner of her eyen, it was a smile completely free and guileless and pure, amusement and happiness and pleasure and euphoria glowing within her, in her pearlescent teeth, in the sparkle of her eyen, in the way that she moved and clapped her hands to the dancing of the little Automata toys before her, a smile that was never fading. Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe continued bouncing upwards, their hands sometimes clapping sometimes holding each other as the dashed about in simple acrobatics, for they were still missing all of their sampo motors and were not quite as functional as they had been before, and if someone else had come upon them one may think of them just as smoldering and shattered toys in bad need of repair, rather than as little creatures who were being rebuilt anew and whose insouciant were sources of joy. Puîyus cleared his throat and turned back unto the rising and falling of the Dragons and knew that this moment could not last too much longer, several Qhíng warships were arising and struggling in the heavens, Dragons were swooping downwards and soon he and the Princesses would find themselves back in the battle and also in dire needs to escape, and he could hear tickling at the very back of his mind the cries of the Qhíng soldiery as they took up impaling spear and māccuahuilt and sword and did battle against the Children of Qhalúxha. He turned back and saw that Tetratríxe was crawling about his steaming Brother’s body, they were carrying each other about even as they continued in their dancing, and Puîyus did his best to grumble and cross his arms and wonder about how much he distrustred clockwork and just knew that nothing excellent could come of this, even though the little toys continued to bounce about in a most playful gambolment, and Éfhelìnye was smiling, it was perhaps one of the most wonderous things that he had e'er witnessed before, her teeth were darting in and out of her rubescent lips, her eyen were dancing as they were following the movement of the Tánin from side to side, her entire body was glowing in the dance, and less and less Puîyus was watching the movement of the fey Khniqhátui and more and more the smile of Éfhelìnye’s visage. With a slight pang of guilt remembered what he had been taught all of the days, the sacred law handed down from the Emperor that it was death to see the Starflower Princess’ face and death for to speak unto her, even crucifixion upon the claw, and yet all this day he had spent much time with Éfhelìnye in their various tnèmen and jhwàmu and jhyoêm misadventures, he had learnt of her laughter and dancing eyen and the way that her sunset tresses coiled about her ears, he had seen her smile many times, especially when he remained silent, grim, and melancholy, when he could only think of the disaster to come, the horrors of battle, the doom upon his people and clan, she was the one to comfort him. Éfhelìnye turned to Puîyus as Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe toppled about each other, and shared her laughter with him, and Puîyus felt a slight wave of red heat arising in his cheeks, a soft and slow suffusing of light which heralded the coming of a blush. For a moment, as Puîyus drank in the joy of Éfhelìnye’s smile, he was reminded a little of the khlìfhayeu dimple upon Fhermáta’s cheek cügasebilik, and with some sadness recalled that he had not been thinking of her as much as she should, and that as a point of an honor he must return unto her and apologuise unto her and give her back the betrothal ring she had returned unto him, and perhaps, if indeed there were any hope of actually surviving this war and being betrothed unto Éfhelìnye, it would be best to ask Fhermáta for permission to marry the Starflower Princess.
– We dance like this and we dance like that and we dance like yon hah hah hah! – laughed Tetratríxe as he spun around upon his eyestalks and kicked his sphere-legs upwards.
– We dance until we grow dizzy and collapse oh oh oh oh oh! – laughed Qwatríxe as he fell upon his steaming spherical belly.
Ixhúja raised a single violet eyebrow and growling told Éfhelìnye in the language of wild beasts, Those two are completely crazy, are you sure you don’t want me to start smashing them into bits!
– Oh what delights they are! – Éfhelìnye sighed.
Puîyus could no longer cross his arms and grumble and think about the horrors of clockwork, he just remained next to Éfhelìnye, and suddenly, overcome with emotion, without even realizing what he was doing, he wrapped his arms about her and kissed her cheek. His face was glowing with the sunset blush suffusing all through him. And Puîyus smiled. He did not riant for the joy of battle as he had all this day, nor did he grimace a little in some grim anticipation. Smiled he, Puîyus. Éfhelìnye turned to Puîyus and held him tight and whispered – Puey, I believe this is the first time you’ve smiled … all this hour. – She rubbed her nose against his and breathed his perfumed smell and added – I don’t know what I did to deserve this, but whatever it is I promise to keep doing it all of the days of our lives. – She drew her face up to his, and her lips found his. And they smiled together.
Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe stopped their dance and drew closer unto each other, their eight limbs rapping one about the other, and silvern Tetratríxe cooed – Ah, isn’t that sweet? Love, true love, how loving it is! –
– I just hope that they remain happy with each other for ever and ever and ever! – Qwatríxe gasped, and his claws flexed as little knives began to extend from his joints. He nodded unto his twin, and Tetratríxe’s claws were also shifting with dirks snapping about each other.
Suddenly strong arms yanked about Qwatríxe’s throat and Tetratríxe’s eyestalk, and Princess Ixhúja threw the Khniqhátui upwards and shook them hard and growling snarlent spoke unto them in the language of wild beasts saying, I trust that you two broken Automata are not planning or thinking anything sneaky at all. My cousin can be a bit too warm-hearted for her own good, and my twin is ending up following her rather than his own good sense, but I am not so easily swayed. She shook them harder, so that a few gears fell out from them, and although Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe could not quite understand what she was saying, the general import of the meaning was quite evident. If you two even think of doing anything to harm them, or even anything to annoy me the further, I shall smash you and scatter your wheels in the derk flames of battle, and I’ll wrestle down Puîyos and Éfha to keep them from putting you to together again. Understood?
– Loving loving we love to love you, Princess – Tetratríxe cooed.
– Loving loving we would never think of harming you, Princess – Qwatríxe sighed.
– We love Puîyos with pure loving love. –
– We love Éfhelìnye too, with slightly purer and even more loving love. –
– I hope they are betrothed and married. –
– And have lots of children. –
– And we’ll love the children. –
– With pure love. –
Ixhúja threw the little wind up toys downwards and stomped upon both of them, allowing enough pressure upon their joints and gears just to force them to heed her in their pain, for she knew where it hurt the grinding of the wheels the most, and hissing unto them in a clicking language mechanical and harsh, an Automaton language she knew they would understand, breathed she unto them saying, Just to ensure that the messure is pellucid unto your minds, do anything quaad at all, and I’m vaporizing both of you.
– We would never do anything bad! – Tetratríxe sighed.
– We love loving things and don’t love non-loving things! – Qwatríxe giggled.
Ixhúja looked up and saw that Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were still too concerned in their osculation to notice what she was doing, and so she kicked the wind up toys a few times in warning and then swung away from them, and the long boat continued its descent, no longer could it remain within the high echalons of the Northwind, but it came spinning downwards towards several of the huge Qhíng cruisers and the Dragons spinning around and breathing fire unto all of the towers and the soldiers within their many skiffs. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye continued to kiss even though they were both realizing it could only last for another second, the heat of battle was returning unto them, the roar of living ships crashing together, the horrible storms generated by the beating of dragon wings, and the clarion call of the Qhíng of the Qèlreqakh Caste as they signaled one to another where they had to arise to slow the Dragons. Puîyus drew his lips away from Éfhelìnye’s, and she placed her hands at the side of his head and drew him back to herself. All around them, as the emergency boat and tumbling downwards, and burning bits of missile and wreckage were streaming outwards in a vast ocean of blaze, the children were vaguely aware of the cruisers struggling, and the spheres of flame arising from ship to ship. They drew their lips apart and gazed into each others’ eyen for as long as they could er turning at the same time, and before them were the huge cadlong of the Qhíng and bursting up from them thousands upon thousands of jitneys hurling flame and torpedoes at the coming Dragons, some of the larger vessels of the Qhíng were arising in synchronous dance, some of them were aiming right towards the huge flotilla of the Aûm where the fires were blazing all the hotter and harsh were the winds arising. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye hugged each other for just a few more moments, their lips were still close one to another, and Puîyus’ quivering lips formed the snarls and growls of the language of wild creatures as he told her, Although hot mine heart is against the Qhíng for the crimes unspeakable against my people and clan, still I would aave them from the Dragons, if I can. And Éfhelìnye knowing that loving that about Puîyus kissed him gently upon the lips one again, and then he arose, and, raiding Qhíng living ships sparkling up unto all sides of the children and aiming unto all of the regions of the Northwind. The Qhíng living ships were still struggling to retain their formation, the huge warships on the outskirts, the faster cruisers swaying from side to side, the slower dreadnaughts in the midst, and darting junques bursting upwards and attacking the Dragons and Aûm in the Battle of the Northwind.
The Qhíng warships were pouring out flames towards Dragons and Aûm alike, and as a couple of fighting vessels came slipping out of their high towers, it was evident to Puîyus’ gaze that the Qhíng did not particurarly care about a sing stray shuttle pod drifting in the heavens and attempting to escape. The fighting vessels were pouring out a steady stream of fire and steam, and waves of fire were already trickling upwards and tickling the nearest of the fluttering Dragons who were churning up storms in the phlogistons, and Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja were rocking from side to side, the storm come unto them. Puîyus hopped upwards and drew the Emperor’s dragon sword and blazing right out from it came streaks of plasma and fountain light. Ixhúja came slipping downwards and grabbed the rudder and made the long boat swerve left and right, the Qhíng fighting vessels darted right up unto the Dragon and the force of the crash was so great that all three of the children even from this distance were thrown off of their feet. The Dragons ripped through some living ships, and the heavens were opening up with collision after collision, and growing spheres of flame rippling outwards and spreading outwards towards the children. First Puîyus found himself just fighting against the debris, flame and bits of metal and burning banners ifeathered he hacked and jabbed and sliced through them in their falling, and Ixhúja was doing her best to set the ship around and flee from the growing lightning and thunder of the dragons. It was a music that the Dragons were breathing outward, horror and flesh and force were the rhythm of it, the beating of the wings and the snarling of the jaws was the pulse. Ixhúja gave out a cry. Puîyus was thirling through some burnent shreds of solar sails and trying to keep them from falling upon Éfhelìnye, and without even looking around he could hear what Ixhúja was trying to tell him. The long boat was dashing upwards towards two warships which were both struggling against some Dragons and were being drawn closer and closer unto each other, and the Dragons were winning this particular fight. Ixhúja yanked down the ropes of the solar sails of this vessel and drew the ship upwards upon what meager rockets it had, the shuttle jhuináxhyong had not been designed for such long journeys through battle, but Ixhúja was determined to use every sparkle of light she could connive from the engines, and the long boat came spinning around up towards the higher supertowers of the nearest warship. The Dragons were plucking off Qhíng one by one and shredding their memories off of them and hurling the bodies down, their huge tails were spreading from side to side and batting against the crackling and tumbling living ships, and Ixhúja was struggling to keep the ship verging away from both tail and wig and falling body. Puîyus spun his sword through several falling living ships about him, and all at once saw that the fighting Qhíng vessels were bursting upwards and were breathing out intense torpedo storms against the Dragons attacking the supertowers, and that Puîyus and the Princesses just happened to be caught between them. Puîyus began cutting through the air and a thousand plasma torpedoes rushed right up towards him. He had to be swift, accurate, and sure, it was not just enough to hack right through the khmuilàrakekh sacars, he had to cut the cannon balls in such a way that they neither exploded and vaporized him and the Princesses at once, and that the burning pieces did not come tumbling right down upon them. It was a little like fighting the air and fire itself, the torpedoes wre spinning about him faster and faster, he cut through others and leaping up shoved some down and threw them drakeweards, some of the torpedoes he had to jab with long and disembowelling cuts and send them hurling downwards, while others he was able to hook and punch aside, and so he was diving and striking as the mælstom of metal and light came against him. Rushing burning came the air, the fighting Qhíng vessels came swooping up right before his gaze and were firing right upon the Dragons attacking the edge of the supertowers, fireworks were bouncing right off of the storming reptilian wings, huge and roaring and smashing all the while. Puîyus spun around as he hurled several of the torpedoes away, he could see that Ixhúja was finally managing to bring the long boat away from the snapping jaws and the whirlings wings, but he could see to his horror that the Dragons were suceeding and ripping the towers apart, and floating away from them and burning all the while were the struggling soldiers of the Qhíng, each one of them sparkling as dust in the stormwinds, each one writhing as he was being burnt by the superheated flames, and Puîyus’ wroth was grown hot. Puîyus looked to Éfhelìnye for permission to leave, now that Ixhúja was able to bring the long boat to a level of relative safety between crashing ship and tower and dragon, and bowing unto her Puîyus came leaping into the air right towards the jaws of the Dragons.
The banners of the seven Pwòlyakh kladäts of the Qhíng were falling all about Puîyus, their solar sails shattering and falling down the towers of their masts, tumbling down one by one, and as the Qhíng threw themselves into the skiffs and jumped upwards to grapple against the Dragons, he could hear that they were all sounding their own deathsongs so certain were they in their defeat. The Dragons were punching their way through torquated floor and cochleate tower after tower, their wings were freezing light and flame, they were even more batlike and reptilian than they normally appeared as some of the larger Dragons were stalking upon the decks and scooping up the Qhíng, and others were crawling up and down the hull and shredding it, and all the while a steady storm of brimstone was breathed out from their jaws. Puîyus hurled himself into the air and spinning around one tower punched against the jaw of a Dragon so hard that it began to tumble backwards away from its prey. Puîyus did not paused for a moment, he jumped up attacked the neck of one passing Dragon and struck it harder and harder until it gasped out and began paying attention to the mutil rather than unto the feast of Qhíng flesh. One by one rays of ice and light came from the Dragons as they darted towards the lad, and as Puîyus punched against one Dragon and then the next, as he smacked on in the eyen and yanked another by the gills, his heart was wondering however it was that Dragons used to be beautiful and noble and wights of the iridules and how could they have fallen and been changed like this. Black and billowing heat was come against him, at one point six different Dragons were screaming at Puîyus and coiling their limbs and wings about him and breathing out their flames, but he was always too swift to allow the fires to touch him directly, he just skipped and slid out among them, and came bounding up higher into the towers where all about him the Qhíng fleet was struggling against the huge and winged Drakes.
And then it was that an idea occurred unto Puîyus, an idea so simple and marvelous that he knew that it had to be certain inspiration from the most beneficient Ancestors and perhaps even from the Emperor himself whom he had been taught all the days of his life cared for all of the Real Peoples of the Dreamtime like unto his own little children. For Puîyus came dancing upwards in the streams and horrors of the winds and saw that all about him the Qhíng were crashing against each other and the Dragons, and that as the Northwind twined closer unto Jaràqtu shimmerent silver just a few jaût lightyears away, as he contemplated the actual movement of the Northwind and the various eaves and currents within, the boreal winds septentrional of his homerealm which he knew so well, he knew that if he could separate the living ships from the Dragons and hurl them upwards unto the Tlhekhómakh Tyíyùlkha the Streams of Time, and the fleet would be able to make its way higher and higher into the dimension of Jaràqtu, the wind itself aiding them in flight from the Dragons. Puîyus permitted himself another smile, not quite as ebullient as the one he had shared with Éfhelìnye, a smile more appropriate for battle, uabhasach battle against Dragons, and his dimples gleamed a little.
A few small Qhíng vessels were being impaled through the barbs of wing, but before they could be drawn into the Dragon’s jaws and undone, Puîyus came leaping upwards and yanked the living ships out and hurled them outwards right before the Dragon’s sight, and the Drake just blinked a few times in realization that it was being deprived of its feast. Puîyus stuck out his tounge at the Dragon and punched it across its eyen and came leaping upwards. Four fighting vessels were swirling about a Dragon’s face, already most of their party had been destroyed and were doing their best to wound the Dragon so that the warriors could at least retire unto their Ancestors with honor, but the Dragon was just chuckling and smashing the vessels one by one. Puîyus came tiptoeing untowards it as he jumped up from tower to tower, he picked up one ship which was about the size of the crannog wherein he had grown up and he threw it Jaratqùtutakh thereunto-de, he plucked up one vessel by its solar sails and spinning it above his head hurled it upwards right towards the streaming whorls of causality, and as the feast was drawn away from the mawl of the Dragon it screamed out with trumpet sounds of anguish and forehunger which could never famished be satiated in the broken worlds of the Land of Story. Puîyus punched against another Dragon and came rolling outwards unto another trembling tower, huge blazes of fire were slowly sapping upwards, spheres of light drawing outwards and crackling with levin sledge-blows, and the Dragons were trying to catch up one skiff by its tendrils, they were yanking at another vimāna vessel by its rudder and striking it aside, and they were arising and ripping through one cadlong after the next, but all the while Puîyus came leaping upwards, he punched sometimes again slapping tail, other times he came rolling up the limbs of the Dragon, and sometimes he was just dancing between the huge coiling antlers sprawlent up upon their heads, and he was plucking the food from them and hurling them out tlhekhómàkhutakh tyíyùlkha yonunto-de and the silvern lightyears were glowing outwards and revealing the shadows of Jaràqtu just beyond, the land of romantic warriors doomed by the will of the Emperor.
And as Puîyus was fighting, as the Qhíng fleet was breaking apart in the mælstrom and firing in almost indiscriminate chaos against Aûm and Dragon and even the tumbling miqtum, against any debris and anything moving at all, as Puîyus was spinning upwards and catching a couple of tàlkhi jitneys in his hands and kick them aside, as he came surging upwards and grabbed the edge of a prow of a ship, several miles long, and shoving with all of his might, the huge continental plates of the daises of the ship began to shift, and punching at it, the living ships began to veer away from the Dragons, and sent them arising up towards the storms the surrounded his homeworld, and as he came rolling about and disappearing and pluckt up the Qhíng one by one by one, the pedati holding onto their knives and impaling spears, the maquáhuitlmen grasping their jiêrntao of obsidian and flint, their antennæ were twitching and gaping in wonder, the lad grabbing ship and agnihotravimāna and scattered them, sometimes it was like Puîyus was in the very center of an ocean of spinning light, he was the living whirlwind and vortexing out from him in many directions were flying the Qhíng, for he did not throw them all in the exact same direction, he did not wish for the living ships to crash against each other in their exodus, and there were many spinning silvern tendrils reaching outwards untowards the fjords of Jaràqtu, Puîyus was arising in the fountains of light, several of the huge war agnihotravimāna were slowly turning together, they were increasing in speed, their rudders were all incandescent flames, the Dragons were crawling upon the living ships and in unison were hacking them into pieces and cared not that the living ships were about to collide and explode, for the rainbow children of Qhalúxha knew that at least that they themselves would be the survivers. The pillars of the ship were bursting into flame forests, the towers were tumbling downwards, the living ships were just about to touch, struts and structures ripped apart at once, and at a sudden, as the two vessels were just about to buckle and touch and become nothing but evanescence fanā itsára, Puîyus came spinning around in the very midst of the vapor, the heat was beating all around him like the ebon wings of a Raven, tumbling haloes drifting out from his brow, and he caught the two sword spirals a moment before collision, he stopped their crash, he held the living ships apart, with a mighty growl he shoved them away, and the twin warships growled and moaned, and for a few heartbeats Puîyus held the living ships and stopped their explosion. And the Qhíng soldiers came pouring upon the decks and were crawling upon the hull, those in their skiffs gazed down, even those in active battle with the Dragons turned around and saw that a small figure almost invisible unto them was stopping two living ships and saving them in the midst of the storm.
It is something out of our legends, as if from storybooks days, the Qhíng were saying one to another and nodding. It is like something which Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet used to fortell, when in the most ancient of days he walked among our forefathers and organized our seven castes and made us part of the Winter Empire, and his sandled limbs wend did in a world all of wonder. Is this a miracle? Is this a new age? The xètsena the grandaĝaj caste elders were right, somewhere in the worlds dwelleth Karijoîjem, the Son of Kàrijoi. We are a folk who love running water, fresh water, living water, we build our cities upon the waves and if not there about the rivers and within the raining sky, and those of us who are honored Tnòngqolakh the Anziur of our triple viceroy kingdoms, as we sow our seeds and dig our fields and set ditches of irrigation fhwíqa larq’a throughout the zavannah, water burbles upwards in pools and bubbles, even our land is swarms with marsh and water, and bubbles and fish and fungus are always among us. And this battle is like fishing, or rather, the unseen lad is the fisherman, he is plucking fishes right out of the jaws of the Dragons and throwing them outwards, he was the very storm of the ocean, and rolling out from him in tidal bores come our people, Kàrijoi’s Son the Fisher of Qhíng.
Ixhúja came jumping upwards, she kicked Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe aside as she was struggling to defend the long boat and Éfhelìnye alike, for as the silvery winds were growing all the more violent, she knew that she wanted to keep this boat preserved as long as she could. Puîyus was hurling one ship after another, but even he could not be within the hundreds of boreal miles of Qterfhóreso Khrùmfhurs, for every Qhíng ship that he was rescuing from the wroth Dragons, several more phalanxes of the Qhíng were wheeling upwards and finding themselves snatched and rent by the piasa children of Qhalúxha, and the Aûm flotilla was spreading outwards and screaming all the while, the massive temple balloons were breaking apart and finding themselves infested with Dragons crawling up and down the billows, and so a continuous rain of flame and light streamed out untowards the martian princess, and her sword remained busy in defense of her cousin. Ixhúja came hopping right up unto the prow of the ship, Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe came rolling up and crawling about her and she just kicked them aside, several large burning waves of meteors were unraveling before them, and she had to jab against some and shove against others, and send the ship diving downwards before the burning walls. She looked upwards and saw that the middle echelons of the Qhíng fleet were fairing the best in the battle with the Dragons, for Puîyus kept leaping upwards in the forefront and sometimes moved the living ships and sometimes shouted at the Dragons with such force that the Dragons came spinning around, and tumbled before the Khnaûxi the Ghostly Lad. And the Dragons before the vanguard of the coming Qhíng glosinz were now squirming about and felt as if many spiders were crawling about their scales and wings and horns, they were writhing and felt tickled about the flexing of their muscles, and yet it was not an horde of spiders or even a single spider, Puîyus was slipping about them and jabbing and slapping and cutting and stabbing a little akin unto the way that Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe had been striking him before, and he swung before one Dragon and leapt up before another and punched a third, and the Qhíng were able to burst upwards and came through the waves of fire right through where the Dragons were gathered in their thickest.
Ixhúja spun around and hacked against some of the falling solar sails and shattered armor and bits of stone as several living ships exploded high above her, and suddenly Puîyus came spinning up through the air and landed right upon the prow of the long boat, and the Qhíng were parted unto either side of him and were revealing the burning phalanxes of the Aûm armada, and all of the temple balloons were lighting up one by one. Greater crowds of Dragons were attacking the larger glass and hot air balloons, and turning back Puîyus could see that spinning around what had once been stained glass towers came Prince Kherènxhuqhe darting and breathing his flames and then leaping away and become the very storm eye in the fleet of the Aûm. Puîyus nodded to Ixhúja and trotted down to Éfhelìnye, and at once the Starflower Princess ran up to him and took his hand.
– What’s the matter? – Éfhelìnye.
Puîyus blinked a couple of times, he looked behind his shoulder, and looming up behind them were come massive temple balloons, wroth flames dribbling out from them. Puîyus sniffled a few times, and Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe came rolling out to him, they were holding each other in their eight claw limbs, their large eyen blinking and shining with a slight red and black light.
– Puîyos looks upset – Tetratríxe whispered.
– Quite upset indeed – Qwatríxe hissed.
– Hurt? Physically? –
– Some. Scratched. Bruised. –
– Something else? More? –
– Who can understand the mind of mortal children not of the set of the divine Princess? –
– Would that there were a way we could remove pain from him. –
– Yes, if he could feel nothing at all but endless sleep, ah, how blessed that would be for him. –
Princess Éfhelìnye lifted up and hand and traced a finger through Puîyus’ tresses, they were no longer neat and silvery blue queue streaks, they were a wild wave of jacinth sadness, she knew that he was too upset àlii λaki even to care about the storm of his tresses. Puîyus looked behind him, the huge temple balloons were arising behind them like so many plenilunes rénjmarla, and waves of light were flying out from them. Puîyus blinked a few times, he had a grasping feeling in his heart, dread and sorrow weighing heavy upon him.
– Do you think they are close by? – Éfhelìnye whispered.
Puîyus shook his head in confusion, he bit his lips, the air was all burning and dragon and a confusing gallimaufry of scents, and yet somewhere within it he thought he could hear sparkling crackling sound of Siêthiyal’s personality, he thought he could feel the insouciance and joy of Akhlísa, the music of their laughter was somewhere about, he could not be certain in the rationality of his mind, and yet his heart was telling him that they were in extreme danger and he knew not where to go.
– We have to keep faith – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Perhaps the Ancestors will guide you to them. –
Tetratríxe flexed his claws and whispered – Yes, perhaps we can help also. –
– We can be e'er so helpful – Qwatríxe sighed.
Suddenly white light was drawing upwards from where the high towers and billows of a Temple Balloon had just been, bursting upwards were various and growing pixhíqhas hendecagons slowly spread outwards, the flames eating away tower after tower, thousands of contracting undecagons crashing downwards radiant and devouring rigging and rope and crennelation, and the Temple Balloon at once lurched sideways, half of its daises fell off at once, bits of machinery and wheel slipping right off, the crimp crippled glass and hot air balloon slowly sliding downwards. The white light was so bright and terrible that the wind up toys had to spin aside and cover their glassen eyen, and Ixhúja buried her face in Puîyus’ feral blue hair. Only Princess Éfhelìnye could withstand how bright and white the explosion was, and all of the Aûm fleet was slowly beginning to turn around and surround the exploding glass and hot air balloons, the fleet arising and preparing itself after the firebombs which the Twin Duchesses had ignited on purpose flame kindlent squeeeeebangs. The incandescent light took some time to fade, but when Puîyus and Ixhúja could finally blink again, and Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe were no longer winking their vitrious eyen in fear, Puîyus turned around and saw that all of the Aûm fleet was spreading outwards and slowly turning itself around and become huge rondures around the fell Dragons in the center of the typhoon winds.
– Do you think your Sisters may be there? – Éfhelìnye asked.
Puîyus could not be sure, he bit his lower lip and could only search and try. At once Ixhúja came running outwards, Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe came rolling up unto her legs and she just shook them away, she grabbed the levers of the long boat and spin the ship around and sent it whirling upwards unto the glass and hot air balloons, and the living ships of the armāta were dashing upwards right untowards them, and the lamentation of the Aûm arose in a long and steady moan.
The Qhíng vessels and living ships were spreading upwards in slightly better array than the Aûm their traditional enemies, for at least Puîyus had been able to shove away the Dragons away from the prows of some of the huge warships, but the Aûm junques and caiques were drifting around as if riderless and rudderless, and waves upon waves of white light continued to spread outwards from the center of the sky fleet. Many of the glass and hot air balloons as they were breaking apart and become the very umbraged edge of fire were revealing within them structures of coral and crystal, the bäluns were not a little unlike painted lanthorns sparkling one by one before being doused, the fires twining upwards and hissing and grabbing the smaller skiffs and wherries and destroying them at once. Puîyus turned around and drew the eilwiyusàrtai dragon sword which Kàrijoi had set in his palm, flames were pulsating through it, almost theoretical clouds of light and shadow, blazes of smintheus light, strange numbers drifting upwards. Ixhúja was throwing several more levers downwards, waves upon waves of fleeing Aûm living ships were spinning upwards before them and she was having to keep the ship darting from side to side, spinning and ducking, wandering and whirling, dodging and surging, in the growing mouth of the storm. Puîyus already had to keep running upwards and strike at the outer wings and around the coughing solar sails, the explosions crowding about them, the tens of thousands of skiffs and wherries and burning living ships of the Aûm were like so much driftwood bobbling back and forth through the clouds of the storm. And the huge temple balloon continued to gleam in the very center of the fleet as it broke apart into several long sword slags and were each tumbling downwards and slowly aiming themselves towards the Dragon weyr in the midst of the winds.

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