Éfhelìnye opened her eyen. The ground was solid and wet beneath her, she was lying on her side and flakes of cake batter and foam and soap lay upon the floor and upon the walls and tables and cabinets of the kitchen. She sniffed and felt the warmth of baking, of sugars and breads and honey and cinnamon and all of the good cheer which she had come to expect in the kitchens in the ancient ancestrial crannog of the Sweqhàngqu. She also felt fire though, and turning around saw that many of the curtains on ablaze, and that Fhermáta and Siêthiyal were handing buckets of water to each other and tossing the water unto the fires to set them out. Akhlísa was standing beside the pump and refilling the buckets and sometimes she handed one to Fhermáta and other times to Siêthiyal and sometimes she just picked up the bucket and hurled the contents at one of her Sisters at random and then pointed to the other Sister and chanted – She did it! Get her! – But just as often she would pick up the bucket and dump the water all upon herself just because sometimes it was fun to make a mess, and just as fun to mess up the work of cleaning that one’s Sisters were doing. As the fires were dying the smell of the acrid smoke remained, and Fhermáta was tipping open the windows to ventilate the kitchen, and slipping down upon the soapy floor she came to the pseudothyra and opened them up one by one, the trapdoors that lead unto the loch beneath them and the ladders and decks beneath the kitchen, and the smell of fresh water and gambolling fishes arose to cleanse the smoke, and a few flying fishes came leaping outwards and swam about. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw that in one edge of the kitchen Puîyus was punching a large metallic creature and smashing it into a pulp of wheels and oil. The limbs of the multijointed contraption were all spinning around, the joints were all afire, and the very top of the thing consisted of several different flambeaus which were bursting out with fountains of fire, and even as Puîyus was dismantling the device by smashing it into oblivion, fires were still dancing out from it, and streaks of oil which landed upon curtain and table and glistened for a moment before sparkling into crimson flame. Puîyus smashed the torches off of the device and began strangling its limbs of one by one, but the machine reached out and grabbed a few pans and rolling pins and began smacking them against Puîyus and battled him right and left all the while.
– Not my best pans! – cried Fhermáta.
– Not our only Brother! – cried Siêthiyal.
– Look at me! – cried Akhlísa. – Everyone, look at me! At me! Eyen towards me! Faces look at me! Why aren’t you looking at me? – Akhlísa filled up another bucket of water and splashed it o'er her head. – Look, I’m another kitchen which the Princess has set on fire with her infernal inventions that never look! Look! Look at me now! –
Puîyus punched off several of the arms of the creature, and crawling hands fell about him, the hands were still reaching outwards and trying to grab a few pots to use as shields, but Puîyus dashed upwards and stomped right upon the knife fingers, even as the rest of the machine, blind and wroth came rolling out towards him and continued to beat him with rolling pins.
– Éfhelìnye sure is stupid – Siêthiyal chanted. – Sorry, honored Éfhelìnye, the divine Starflower, virgin born. She is sure stupid. –
– Hush – chanted Fhermáta. – She’ll awaken at any moment, you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Puey! Save the rolling pins! –
– Does anyone still care about her feelings? She made a walking fire-breathing oven which went beserk! I don’t care about her feelings! I want her to cry in shame, I want her to drown in her own tears because she’s a stupid little selfish dumbcluck! –
– Is anyone look at me now? – asked Akhlísa as she clammered around the pump and set her feet in the sink and began kicking water all about. – Eiya! I live having Éfhelìnye around. She makes my little household accidents look like nothing. Nobody’s even mentioning that I took a bite out of Siêthiyal’s pillow. –
– Was that your doing? – asked Siêthiyal.
– Ur … Éfha did it. –
Puîyus punched off several more limbs of the device and before him was rolling the mechanical oven, its lid was flapping and revealing streaking bars of fire rising and crushing and turning. Puîyus kicked the cockles open and dove right into the burning oven. For a moment the three Sweqhàngqu Sisters gasped, they heard a sound of struggling and of flames being strangled, and then the burning shards of the oven exploded, splashes of molten lead dripping down, for Puîyus splintered the device from the inside, and the oven collapsed into composite burning pieces. For a few moments he panted. Akhlísa filled up a bucket of water and threw it o'er Puîyus since his sleeves were sparkling a little, and then just for good measure, and not a little mischief, began refilling the bucket and kept splashing a throughly non-burning Puîyus every few moments or so. He looked down and saw that the device was completely unmade, steam arising from the broken wheels, the mechanical oven no more.
Siêthiyal slipped down from a table and chanted – I say we wrap her up in rice paper, but a nice ribbon upon her, and mail her back to the Emperor via Raven Courier Express. I’m quite tired of her shenanigans. –
– That’s enough, younger Sister – Fhermáta chanted.
– She causes nothing but trouble! – Siêthiyal hissed.
Fhermáta held up her hands for silence. – You dishonor the generous and hospitable Clan of the Sweqhàngqu. –
Siêthiyal blinked a couple of times. She looked to Puîyus, but he was gathering up the large slabs of the machine and preparing to dump them into a swamp. Siêthiyal leaned o'er to her older Sister and whispered – Puey won’t send her away! The Elders barely even notice her! Abbá has been moody and quiet. Am I the only one who can see that she always causes danger! Here I was, minding mine own business, ruffling through her luggage and grabbing everything of value I can find, and smoke arises from the kitchen, again and the curtains are on fire again and there she is, offering no help at all in the clean up, again and … –
– It is not our place to dictate Clan policy – Fhermáta chanted. – She is our guest-friend. –
– She is our idiot! –
Akhlísa was wading her feet in the sink and chanted – She was only trying to impress Puey, who can blame her for that? How many times have I tried to impress Puey by my pies which are infinitely superior to Fhérma’s, no often, but your crust is too thick and crusty while mine is as cute and sweet as I am. The Princess likes to dance and make things, so she makes a dancing oven, and who could have guessed it would have tried to murdher us all? –
– She’s an idiot – chanted Siêthiyal.
– I mean, perhaps I should have some of the guilt, I was the one who gave the Princess the idea of a walking oven with tall and walking legs ambulatory … – Akhlísa saw that her Sisters were finally giving her some attention. She held up a bucket to shield herself.
– Did you give the idiot Princess one of your idiot ideas? – Siêthiyal asked.
– Ur … no! She came up with it all her own. In fact I tried to stop her. Many times. –
– She’s an idiot – chanted Siêthiyal pointed to Akhlísa – But I can’t get rid of her. And she’s an idiot – Siêthiyal pointed to the Princess. – But we can definitely dump her on the steps of some abby, or in the swamp, we could tie her to the machine that Puey will toss there … –
– We’ve heard enough from you – Fhermáta chanted. – Do not try my patience. –
– Don’t get all imperious with me just because you’re the firstborn daughter! – Siêthiyal’s hands were becoming fists. – Oh, Puey will take my side, he has too, we both were born of the same Mother, he is honorbound to … –
– Have I mentioned this was all Éfhelìnye’s idea? – Akhlísa asked as several scorched curtains tumbled about her. – And Éfhelìnye was the one who chanted that Fhermáta’s pies were all crumbly crust and too thick, it was all her doing! I didn’t do anything at all, certainly not encourage her to create and certainly not run errands to bring her items and I most certainly did not take any of Siêthiyal’s toys and break them apart for wheels and gears to use for the oven … Éfhelìnye did it all. Yep. Fault, all hers. I’m completely innocent on the matter. I’m glad I got out of this trouble, this could have been devastating. –
– Your rude impiety harms us all – Fhermáta hissed at Siêthiyal. – I’ll keep the Princess in Grandfather’s workshop. Now you learn to be silent. She is holy. We will not discuss this any more. –
– She’s in love with Puey – Siêthiyal grinned.
Fhermáta swung at Siêthiyal who grabbed some of Fhermáta’s golden tresses. For a few moments the Sisters grappled with each other, pushing and shoving all the while. Akhlísa rolled in the sink and convulsed with laughter, and then slipping out of the large bason drain she ran up to her Sisters and poked one and kicked the other, at random, just to keep them angry with each other. Siêthiyal grabbed a smoldering curtain pole and smacked it against Fhermáta, but she grabbed a rolling pin and poked her Sister, and they continued in such a fashion, neither doing any actual damage to the other, until they heard a slight murmuring on the sudsy kitchen floor, and saw that Éfhelìnye was moving a little in her swoon.
– The sleeping Princess is awakening – Akhlísa cried. – And don’t forget, everything is her fault, nothing is my fault. I was just a bystander … no, I’m the heroine, I tried to stop her many times. –
– Quick, stop fighting – Fhermáta chanted, and she and Siêthiyal held hands and smoothed down their hair.
– She has disgusting sticky kissy love for Puey, you’d better eliminate this rival – Siêthiyal chanted with clenched teeth.
– I have no rivals, not I, Khmalàqlil’s Daughter – Fhermáta chanted with equally clenched teeth.
– It’s not too late to knock her unconscious again, mail her back to the Emperor. I’m sure thrice-honored Kàrijoi has many plans for her. At the least he can deliver her to the arborescent priests, they can never have too many virgin sacrifices. The death of a Princess will surely restore fertility to the land. –
– Hush! She’s wake! –
– The idiot … –
Princess Éfhelìnye was stirring, flickering flecks of soap flowing right off of her locks, some of the smoke of the kitchen flowing upwards about her and coiling up into haloes spilling upwards. A few of the flying fishes which had been let in from the loch and waves below were spinning around her and tugging upon her sleeves and ribbons and retieing the ribbongs which had become loosened in her fall. The Princess sate up and stretched her arms, and the soap all about her arose into bubbles, all of the foam upon the floor, the foam which had come about because of the labor of Fhermáta and Siêthiyal when they had cleaned up the burning curtains and the rest of the mess, and the suds from Akhlísa when she had thrown buckets of ater all about, they were drifting upwards about her and becoming white shafts of light spinning upwards into the rafters of the kitchen. She looked around and blinked and seeing the triple Sisters asked – Puey? Where’s Puey? I want to see Puey. –
– Why does she always have to ask about him first? – Siêthiyal muttered. – Should we tell her he’s gone to the swamp to clean up her mess? –
– Please stop mumbling – Fhermáta muttered between clenched teeth.
– Is she even going to acknowledge that you and I did all of the work here? –
– I think smashing a walking burning dangerous oven machine is a great deal of work also. And our Puey did throw himself into the flames of the oven to destroy it inside out. –
– She could at least give us a little credit. –
Éfhelìnye wrapped her arms around her knees and chanted – Where’s Puey? –
– He’s destroying the infernal machine that you made! – Siêthiyal cried. – He’s probably hurt and burnt, although I know that would not bother you at all … if you like you can go back to sleep on the kitchen floor, that seems to be a nice place for you, out of harm’s way, where you can do no harm to the rest of us. –
– That’s enough, younger Sister – Fhermáta chanted.
– Oh, and while Puey was fighting your machine, he told me that he doesn’t like you any more, that he thinks you’re ugly and stupid and he just doesn’t like Princesses any more – Siêthiyal chanted.
– Puey chanted that … – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Well, he chanted that after telling me that he finds you insipid, foolish, and quite annoying. Have I mentioned that you’re short too? –
– Puey was saying that? – Éfhelìnye began to shake.
– And he hates all of your inventions, he is bored with ballet, oh and he’s look at the book that you’ve been scribbling into being. –
– He’s read my book? –
– He hates it. –
– Oh … – Éfhelìnye cast her head down.
– Absolutely can’t stand it. The writing is trite, the verbage unending, the plot non-existance, the scenes confusing, the characters shallow. And all of those vöds that you keep inventing, my little Kunstsprachenerfinder, he finds them confusing and funny sounding. –
Éfhelìnye buried her face in her hands and began to sob.
– Plus you’re funny looking. –
– Siêthiyal, go away – Fhermáta chanted.
– And you blew up the kitchen again! – Siêthiyal ran up to Éfhelìnye and kicked her a few times.
– And it wasn’t my fault! – cried Akhlísa.
– Siêthiyal! – Fhermáta cried.
– I bet Puey’s in the forest right now rescuing Princesses and kissing them and thinking to himself, Oh these Princesses are far better than the wan waif who won’t leave me alone and who causes all sorts of problems! And she’s a terrible kisser too, that’s why Puey prefers to stay in the trees with Ixhúja or Qlenólakh or all the rest of the kumārī he keeps finding … –
– I didn’t do anything! – Akhlísa chanted as she ran about the tables and searched in the jars for cookies unscorched.
– I hope Puey comes right back and tells you himself what we’ve all been thinking about you but were too courteous to say aloud! – Siêthiyal chanted.
Éfhelìnye shook in her sobbing, and yet to Siêthiyal’s frustration, Éfhelìnye was one of those maidens who were able to remain beautiful and pathetic in their tears, for the tears that were slipping between her fingers were become little crystalline blossoms which when breaking apart and landing upon the wet floor of the kitchen were become a growing lattice of floreal tessellations reaching out in all directions. The water flowers were blossoming up about her, and the flying fishes were reaching out and resting their faces against the Princess and snuggling up beside her, and buzzing upwards behind her came flowing clouds of butterflies arising and opening up their multicolored wings and creating a growing halo of unfolding colorment.
Fhermáta was trying to hold Siêthiyal, but Siêthiyal shoved Fhermáta away and marched up to Éfhelìnye and yanked up her from the floor and shook her by the collar and chanted – Princess! Look at me! Look in my eyen! Listen. Puey hates you. He never loved you! He felt sorry for you in the Emperor’s Forbidden Gardens where you were left as food for Dragons, he took pity on you as he does a wounded fawn, but you were no more to him than the other monsters he slays on the field, than any of the devices of your hands which he must smash and destroy. Now, with all due honor and respect, go away and never show your face to me again! –
Siêthiyal threw Éfhelìnye down. The Princess began crawling away. Siêthiyal started kicking her again, but Fhermáta and Akhlísa grabbed Siêthiyal by the arms and restrained her. Siêthiyal cried out – Gather your luggage and leave before Puey gets back! Trust me, it will be better for you if he never see you again also. Let go of you, you fools! Fhermáta, for someone who claims to be responsible you’re not thinking this through, we’re better off without her, and you’re better keeping her away from your intended husband! Kàrula, you don’t need another accomplish for your crimes. Princess! Get out of here! –
Éfhelìnye struggled to her feet. – Where will I go? –
– Go to the Abby! The priests will take care of you, when they’re not worshipping you. Do you need help packing? I can pack for you. Let go of me! –
– Be quiet, Siêthiyal – Fhermáta chanted. – You go too far. –
Siêthiyal stomped on Akhlísa’s foot and shoved her right towards Fhermáta, and in the confusion was loosened and dashed right up to Éfhelìnye. The Princess was so scared that she stumbled backwards and almost fell o'er, but Siêthiyal managed to grab her by the ear and began tugging her out of the kitchen. Éfhelìnye was still whimpering, she did not understand what she had done wrong, the only reason she had created the walking oven was because she wanted to be friends with Fhermáta and Siêthiyal, Fhermáta had always been nice to her and she wanted to acknowledge that favor, and Éfhelìnye just wanted to make Siêthiyal happy and to make something she could use, and Akhlísa had chanted it was a good idea and helped her find the parts, indeed there were a few serious design flaws in the mechanism but sometimes one’s first idea ends up not being the full story. But now that the flames were gone and the kitchen deflooded, Siêthiyal was angrier than the Princess had e'er seen her. It did not take too long for Siêthiyal to march and drag her guest-friend up the ramps unto the bedrooms, she kicked the door of her own room open, for Siêthiyal had smuggled all of Éfhelìnye’s luggage and possessions into her room and had taken out anything which she thought could be valuable or of use or even vaguely interesting, and so had left Éfhelìnye with her ballet slippers and some clothing and her books and papers, for nobody in one’s right mind would want to wade through thousands of pages of strange mythopoetic prose. Siêthiyal slammed the bags shut, and they weighed perhaps a third of what they had when the Princess had stowed away to stay with them, and dashing up unto the windows, she thrust them open and hurled the bags outside upon the yard. Siêthiyal dusted her hands off and only wished that it were raining, just to make the Princess all the more miserable. – Those are your belongs. Now go and never return to the bellicose clan of Sweqhàngqu! – Siêthiyal yelled.
– I … I don’t want Puey to hate me … – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– Too bad. Shall I walk you to the door, or shall I shove you out the window? – Siêthiyal opened the window a little more and looked down unto the fall. – It’s a good ways down. Your choice. –
Éfhelìnye burst out into another round of tears. Siêthiyal looked from side to side and felt alittle awkward, she tugged upon her pink tresses and looked around at all of the jewels and bead coins and broken toys she had stolen from Éfhelìnye and thought that still this loot was not just guerdon for having to put up with a love-lorn crazy artist of a Princess for so long. Siêthiyal sighed. She wondered when Puîyus would be returning. She wondered what any compassionate host would do to an Imperial guest who was overstaying her welcome. Siêthiyal considered for a moment. She slipped the window open a little further upon its shutters, and leading the Princess by the hand lead her unto the ledge and with gentle hand began shoving her outside. At last she gave Éfhelìnye a few hard shoves, and leaning o'er watched with some satisfaction as Éfhelìnye fell down a couple of storeys and landed into the xhthètern briars below, zizanz, izziroz, and dusting off her hands she chuckled unto herself and closed the window and thought that after all perhaps this day would end up being a good day, the day of days which was the joint Starday for Puîyus and Fhermáta.
Siêthiyal turned around and saw that Fhermáta and Akhlísa were staring and gaping at her. Siêthiyal smiled. – Oh don’t look at me like that, I’m the most honest of us three, at least I do what needs to be done to save our Clan from her meddlesome little plans. Both of you will thank me one day, when you’re both safely married to Puey, and that Princess is locked up again in her Father’s cellar or wherever the Emperor in his glorious wisdom was prisoning her. – Outside came a dull call of thunder, and the first few pitter pats of rain, and Siêthiyal grinned a little wider and chanted – Ah, yes, the day is growing even better. –
– You’ll answer to Abbá and Grandfather Pátifhar – Fhermáta chanted. – I’ll tell them myself what you’ve … stop imitating me! –
Siêthiyal was shaking her hips and one of her hands was pantomiming chit chit chat chatting and saying – I’m such a good little Sweqhàngqu I always follow the rules I’m going to go tell Abbá that’s what I’m going to do I’m telling him everything because I’m a little ninnyhead! –
– That’s a good imitation – Akhlísa chanted. – Okay, now I’m going to mimick Puey. Now, watch me. Eiya! Look at me! Everyone look at me! Lookatme lookatme lookatme lookatme! –
The thunderclashes were come closer. Fhermáta spun around and chanted – Come along, we’d better rescue the Princess. We shall not jeopardize the honor of our Clan … Siêthiyal, if you’re mocking me again, be forwarned, I’ll do something nasty to you in return. –
– Like what? – asked Siêthiyal. – Name one bad thing you’ve e'er done! –
– I’ll think of something! – Fhermáta squealed.
– Put spiders down her dress – chanted Akhlísa.
– I’m thinking … –
– Bucket of sticky molasses o'er the doorjamp. –
– I’ll come up with … –
Akhlísa sighed. – You’re such an amateur, what you’ll need will be three paints, one barrel of mud, three unexploded firecrackers, a pillow filled with sand, and I’ll need one of Siêthiyal’s socks, don’t ask me why yet, you’ll find out in due time. –
– I’ll pop you on the nose, I will! – Fhermáta made a motion towards her Sister which she thought was vaguely menacing, but Siêthiyal just burst out into derisive laughter.
– And if I could have access to a chariot and three chickens, oh this will humiliate her good! – Akhlísa was gurgling to herself as thought thought of schemes and bejugglements. –
Fhermáta grabbed Siêthiyal by the ear and pinched it, and although Siêthiyal was wriggling and squealing, Fhermáta forced her down the ramp, and together with Akhlísa who was skipping behind them, they all came marching and being marched through the crannog, and the birds and fishes in the rafters spun aside, and various skinks were crawling about the kachina statues of the Ancestors and the portraits of the illustrious Sweqhàngqu of old, and Fhermáta thrust everyone right out the front door and in the general direction where Éfhelìnye had been exiled just a few moments before. The storm clouds were rolling right off of the horizon, and lightening sheen were lighting them all up, a gentle raindrizzle was falling, and within a few moments Fhermáta’s braids were sticking to the side of her head, and Siêthiyal was stomping through the growing puddles and wondering why everyone was making such a big fuss o'er the fatuous and selfish rubātum, and Akhlísa was dancing in the rain and kicking up puddles at both of her Sisters and sometimes running up unto trees and giving them big hugs and kisses just from her. Upon one of the pebble pathways leading from the crannog the Triple Sisters found the Princess wadding in the gathering waters and struggling to carry her wet bags and weeping all the while in a matter most beautiful and pathetic at the same time. Siêthiyal looked up and pointed to Éfhelìnye and laughed all the harder schadenfroh and uncontrollable. Fhermáta pinched her Sister’s ears in warning, and started running right up unto the Princess, but out of the darkness several large forms were arising, long and twisting and twining, shadows that looked a little like the coiling of serpents and the opening of jaws and teeth in sharp and horrid proportions. For a moment the three Sisters were transfixed by fear, out of the storm darkness several great jhkhaûqha ifeathered serpents were drifting outwards, and their baleful eyen were turning unto the maidens one by one, and when the wyrm beheld Fhermáta its eyen began nuptial flowers all of gold and red, and she beheld herself in a betrothal dress of shining red, and when it beheld Siêthiyal she saw flames arising in columns and heard the cries of warriors all about her, and when it beheld Akhlísa all she could see was herself alone for all time. The valleytrout jhkhaûqha turned and glared at Princess Éfhelìnye, but in her weeping she was barely even paying it any attention at all, and when she saw the serpent’s eyen all she could see was nothingness reflected back at her.
The Serpents were turning as the rains fell upon them all the harder, and in the glinting darkness, in their flashing eyen, in the movement of their coils they appeared tripled head and terrible, clouds of steam arising from their jaws. Éfhelìnye made no attempt to walk away from the jhkhaûqha, she just shrugged and continued on her path of lonely exile in the rain. Fhermáta and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa remained frozen in their steps. – Why I certainly hope those serpents know just who we are – Akhlísa gasped. – Imagining, bursting into our land ancestrial here. At the very least they could have announced themselves. –
– Iipa’ ei! – cried Fhermáta.
– Not so lucky … – Siêthiyal chanted.
One of the serpentile heads turned and roared at the three maidens, and then the neck lurched from side to side. The eyen rolled back. A trickle of black blood began to flow from one nostril. The head exploded, chunks of brain and bone and gore dripping downwards, and where the jaw had been Puîyus was standing and thrusting his sword up and down through the rest of the skin. The decollated neck came flopping downwards, but Puîyus bound up high into the air in a perfect summersault and landed upon the neck of the next head. The rain was falling a little harder now, and he thrust his sword right through the deck and ripped off the head and hurled it aside. The third head was turning and skirling all the louder seluvökol, and Puîyus swung up and around its neck and jabbed his sword into its gills in many places. Éfhelìnye looked up, her eyen glistening with tears and despair, and still she made no attempt to leave, even though the coils were sweeping about her and the serpent falling downwards before her, and eruptions of gore cascading down. The jaws of the creature reached out several more times and snapped just a few inches away from her, but she no longer cared, life had lost its sweet bliss for her. Puîyus thrust was strangling the serpent backwards and snapping its neck while one hand reached for hydraknife dirk and smashed it right through the eye of the creature. The serpent gave lose to an eruptive cry, and Puîyus dug the knife deeper and deeper into the air and through its brain until finally the third head grew weary, and in vomits of blood came crashing downwards right at the Princess’ feet, and the sturm serpent was spent and dead. Puîyus looked up in the rainfall and seeing that the maidens were safe, cleaned off his knife and swords and waited for someone to tell him why all four of them were walking in the rain at even without any protection, and the Princess was carrying her traveling bags. Puîyus set his stilettos and estocs and fansword aside. Siêthiyal’s gaze did not meet his. Akhlísa was dancing in the rains and splashing in the puddles. Éfhelìnye was crying again even as the rains fell all the harder.
– We decided to go for a walk – chanted Fhermáta. – But the walk is o'er, so we’re all going home now. Here, Siêthi, why don’t you help me carry the Princess’ bags? –
– Don’t call me Siêthi – Siêthiyal muttered.
– Take the bags. Go! –
– Say, these are very light. Whenever I visit relatives I always bring a few empty bags or very light bags so that I can stuff them with whatever I can find, that’s how I got most of Grandma Tàltiin’s kitchenware, through many years of … –
– Just go! – Fhermáta cried. Siêthiyal was grumbling but she took the bags and began wading aside. Akhlísa began splashing Fhermáta and was gurgling and cooing all the while, but Fhermáta splashed her back and chanted – Go and help your Sister! Come along, Princess, we’re going back inside. –
Éfhelìnye was covering her face in her hands and crying all the harder. Puîyus looked to Fhermáta for an answer, but Fhermáta was at a loss on what to say, it would be wrong to be rude to one’s guest-friend and she wanted Éfhelìnye back to dwell with them, but part of her recognized that a great deal of what Siêthiyal had chanted was true, for the etelletum Éfhelìnye did cause a great deal of trouble and was seeking favor with the one who would be Fhermáta’s husband. Fhermáta simply chanted – The Princess is a little upset because of the incident in the kitchen. Let’s all go back inside to the warmth and dryness of the crannog. –
Siêthiyal and Akhlísa were already several paces away, and Siêthiyal was already forcing her younger Sibling to carry a majority of the almost emptied bags, and stumblent Akhlísa kept falling back into the waters. Siêthiyal kept turning back and pointed and laughed at Éfhelìnye. Fhermáta was wrapping her arms about the Princess who in her sobbing was saying – I can’t go back. Everybody hates you. –
– Nobody hates you, divine and holy one – Fhermáta chanted.
– Éfhelìnye’s ugly! – Siêthiyal shouted.
– You hate me – Éfhelìnye whimpered.
– And she’s a dope! – cried Siêthiyal.
– Excuse me, I need to beat someone – chanted Fhermáta, and she squeazed the Princess and then taking up a fallen branch hitched up the edge of her skirt and began running through the waters. Siêthiyal was still laughing and pointing at Éfhelìnye, but then seeing her Older Sister rushing towards her, she spun around and shoved Akhlísa behind her and began dashing away. Akhlísa stumbled and blocked Fhermáta’s path for a couple of moments, as Siêthiyal knew she would, and Siêthiyal laughing all the way was already making her way back the door of the crannog and slamming it behind her, and then coming to the windows was pressing her face against the glass and making gurns at her Sister.
– We need to marry her off to a prankster as mischievious as she – Fhermáta muttered to herself as she waded window to window and searched for one that would give her ingress. Behind her came splashing and struggling Akhlísa, who threw the bags aside and began climbing up the branches of the trees and pulled herself up into an upper window and looking down shouted at Fhermáta and chanted – You’ll never get in now! Now I shall design a walking oven of unimaginable destruction, and the Princess will build it for me, and then I will be the dominant Sister, tee hee hee hee hee! – Akhlísa continued to laugh until Siêthiyal found her and dragged her away from the window and locked it to prevent others from entering and set upon chasing her Sister around the crannog, much to the dismay of the kittens and birds and flying fishes and dinosaurs that dwelt within.
The rains were letting up a little, but Éfhelìnye was still weeping. Puîyus was not entirely sure what to do, usually when his Sisters were upset there was something he could do for them, perhaps he could do their chores or bring them a toy or go and smite some enemies down for them. He kicked aside the body of the thrice-headed serpent and whistled unto some of the dinosaurs of the plantation to tell them that he had brought them dinner, and a few of the dinosaŭroj came wading outwards and began ripping off flesh and muscle and thrust their heads into the delicious sinews. Puîyus wondered whether there were some other enemy he could slay for her, perhaps some bandits lose in the hills or some of the raidors of the mountain, he could track them down and return their severed heads to her, usually that cheered up his Sisters to know that they were so wellprotected. Éfhelìnye however just continued to cry and refused to tell him what was wrong. He looked around and brushed water away from his braids which were now a dark violet and sticking to his brow. The rain was just a slight tsòthna frost drizzle now, scintillous č”ilči, but Éfhelìnye just wept. He wondered whether he should just pick her up and carry her to the crannog, for letting her remain in the cold night sleet was most certainly not a good idea.
– Mew? – Puîyus asked.
– You hate me! You hate me! You hate me! – Éfhelìnye sobbed.
Puîyus tugged upon Éfhelìnye’s sleeve, for although he had heard the word many times he did not quite understand its meaning, perhaps it was something he had not encountered in the languages of flowers and birds and wind and mountain and sky, or perhaps he had heard it many times in natural Qtheûnte but did not understand it there. Éfhelìnye peaked between her fingers and saw that Puîyus was writing out cheremes that meant, What does ‘tsòti qlaêkh’ mean? I know that ‘tsòti’ is to prefer something, like a muffin, but what is ‘twisted tsòti?’ –
– Tsòti qlaêkh is simply a qlèqi for ojuxhrújor qlaêkh – Éfhelìnye whispered.
Puîyus wrote out, Another question come to me. What does ‘qlèqi’ mean?
– Paronomasias, rhymes, synonyms, qlèqi are words that sound or mean something similar to something else. Tsòti qlaêkh is a synonym for ojuxhrújor qlaêkh.
One more question, what does ‘ojuxhrújor qlaêkh’ mean?
– Tsòti qlaêkh, wtsòtha qlaêkh, xèmpi qlaêkh, thèthwo qlaêkh, khétu qlaêkh, khmifhòrnor qlaêkh, ojuxhrújor qlaêkh, they all mean something very similar. –
One is nescient of all of those words.
Éfhelìnye stopped crying. Puîyus reached o'er and began wiping the tears away from her eyen. She shook and chanted – All of those words mean one who has intense non-love or dislike or jòxhye qlaêkh, envy for someone. It means that you never want to see me again. You! Hate! Me! –
I don’t know those words. Puîyus considered for a few moments and then signed, I do not know the word ‘jòxhye qlaêkh,’ twisted affection also.
– It means envy, hatred, malice, jealousy. –
Language must be very complicated. Everything means something else, and one can only learn words by the eleven and not in ones or twos. Perhaps it is better that I don’t talk.
– Perhaps it makes you happier. Perhaps you’ll hate me all the more for trying to teach you to talk. –
Puîyus looked around and saw that the raindrops were sparkling about, they were diamond teardrops glistening down from the heavens. Floating in the rains were ferns and grasses and many flowers that were leaping upwards and spinning their petals about and breathing out their pure perfumes before the Princess. Puîyus gathered up a few of the brightest and more enchanting blossoms and tapping Éfhelìnye on her shoulder placed the wet flowers in her hands, and in a language of flowers told her, I believe that I lack non-love and dislike and twisted affection for you. In fact, I believe that no creature could possibly have non-love and dislike and twisted affection for you or any other wiht.
Éfhelìnye sniffed the flowers. The rainclouds were parting a little, and in the dissipating streaks of grey and black, she could see some of the shine of the Stars appearing before her. – I don’t think the trice-headed serpent had a great deal of fondness for me. –
It was a creature of the storm, it had no thoughts, no consciousness. It was incapable of either judgement or non-judgement, it simply was the energy of the winds. Puîyus was finding it difficult to express himself, even the signs of gestlingva Taûsqo were heavy, plodding, crude to the music that he felt flowing into his mind from the life all about him, all communication seemed paultry in comparison to the halos that he felt evereminating from the leaves and skin and hair and petals and feathers of all living things. He shrugged, despairing of even being able to describe it. Éfhelìnye was busy sniffling her flowers and trying not to cry again. Puîyus took her by the arms and lead her back unto the crannog and there upon the porch before the arising statues of the ancestrial images and posts whereon were dolven the names of the illustrious Sweqhàngqu and forebares of old, he set the Princess up unto a place where she could watch the clouds and the heavens for a time, now that the rain no longer fell in tears, and darkness was bannering outwards about them. Fhermáta was crawling up a tree beside them and found a window which Siêthiyal had overlooked, and soon came crashing within, and Puîyus could hear the slight sound of Fhermáta and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa chasing each other around, and he knew that all was right with the world.
Puîyus was pointing to the Stars one by one, and in gestures and blinks told Éfhelìnye, I wonder how much the divine Stars, Immortal Áme see of us, my Princess? Grandfather Pátifhar once told me that the Stars, the youngest Siblings of the Immortals, watch us poor mortals as oft as we gaze upon them.
– I don’t know, Puey – Éfhelìnye whispered, and she hugged her legs close to herself and struggled to keep herself from crying again.
When the ambulatory oven turned against you and began setting fire to the drapes, so Puîyus was telling Éfhelìnye in blinks and sidereal points, you should have called my name at once. I would have been able to destroy the clockwork thing before the flames caused mine adorable Sisters to panick.
– I did not wish to bother you. –
It is no bother at all to serve the House of the Pwéru. It is my greatest honor.
– I just think … you’re probably getting tired of having to swoop in and rescue me whenever my plans all go hideously wrong. I really do tempt to figure out my plans before … before they turn against me. But … I don’t know, it’s like I live in a different world, of ideas and color and words, and others don’t understand me, and I can’t view them properly. –
Whenever you are in trouble, call my name. Whenever you feel hope slipping away from you, call my name. Whenever the roar of darkness or tide or monster approaches you, call my name. My name will be your shield, my name will be your battle cry, we shall never have to say goodbye one to another, becausae I shall never be farther away from you than the sound of my name.
– Puey, you know that can’t be true. If trees are falling on me in a storm … –
I shall hear you. I have very good hearing.
– I could be visiting your cousin Xataríyona in the neighboring plantation. –
I shall hear you and come swooping down in a matter of seconds.
– You could be training with Grandfather Pátifhar upon the Eyot of Apples, you could be at the Abby, you could be in the Orbeloi, the Xhyèrxhmu whispering mountains of precious iron when I call your name. –
Then it may take longer than a few seconds for me to find you, but I shall come to you whenever youc all my name.
– One day I’ll have to go back home, whatever home means for me, unto darkness and the prison my Father has appointed for me. –
I don’t care, I shall find you when you call my name.
– I could be in different dimensions, worlds, timelines. –
I shall find you.
– Puey, the Elders were saying that the land is changing. They saw that the war between the Qhíng and Qlùfhem is spilling out from one realm to the next, they say that the Qlùfhem have commanded their Thùlwu brethren to aid them in the war, who knows but battle may come here, or I may be shipped away, we may be torn away from each other. –
Say my name, I shall be there.
– You could be on a burning ship, you could be in a battle line, you could be anywhere and I could be far away. –
War is honor, as is my service to you. Think of me, my memory shall be alive. Look unto the Stars, I shall be gazing back down unto you, say my name, and I shall be there for you, unforgetful and unwavering in service, this I promise you.
– You should not promise something you cannot keep. –
I don’t. A Jaràqtun Warrior’s word binds him, and the Son of the Holy Rose Knight Íngìkhmar cannot promise a maiden something without it’s being true.
– One impediment could stop you from finding me. –
– If you died, and I lived. –
My wraith would return to protect you, even if I were but smoke and ash and incense unto your sense.
– No, Puey, that would not happen. For if you died and I still lived, I would storm down to the gates of the Underworld and break them open with my bare hands and free you. I shall not permit you to die before your time. –
You should not promise something you cannot keep.
– My Father was the Sun, my Mother was the Moon, and I am their little Star. –
Say my name, and I shall be there.
The door to the verandā swung open and out came running Siêthiyal and Akhlísa, each one carrying a bucket of sudsy ŋuki. Siêthiyal swung her bucket around and throwing it thoroughly soaked a rather unsuspecting Éfhelìnye, who coughed and sputtered and spat out soap. Siêthiyal, laughing all the while, grabbed the other bucket from Akhlísa and hurled the contents right at Puîyus and thusly drenched him. Siêthiyal fell unto the floor and rolled about in laughed, and Akhlísa giggled and chewed upon the tips of her golden braids. Puîyus shook his arms as water poured from him. Éfhelìnye sniffled and hiccoughed bubbles arising up from her lips.
Fhermáta stormed out of the door and looking to her Sisters and placing her hands to her hips asked – I don’t suppose there was any particular reason for that? –
– I was blackmailed! – Akhlísa squeaked. – I had no choice, although I suspect if I had a choice I would have helped anyway … soaking someone is always fun. –
Siêthiyal rolled about and cried – I’m Siêthiyal, Khwofheîlya’s Daughter, I don’t need an excuse, it’s what I do! I am Siêthiyal and I act in quite a Siêthiyal-some manner! –
Puîyus got up and picked up Siêthiyal to prevent her from slipping in her own soapy puddles, and kissing her set her down, and helped her and Akhlísa back into the crannog, and Éfhelìnye for a time was left alone to gaze starwatching stèlwe unto the open heavens, and she tasted Puîyus’ name in the bubbles arising about her, and thought about his name again and again and again.
And then for a time and a time and a timeless time Éfhelìnye was just vaguely aware of the sensation of falling, the moving of the great athaleb wings opening and closing about her, and the slight sensation of squamous fingers holding her, and the coldness of jade talons clasping her, and the sway of coil and sinew and serpentile movement again and again and the rush of the heavens. She was blinking a little now, flame clouds coming to existence just at the edge of her sight, and the Dragonlette Àrqotha was grasping unto her, his wings a spreading tapestry of darkness blossoming within him, all of the gloam of midnight bursting cracklent out from the tips of his wings, the final hour of the Land burgeoning anew. Princess Éfhelìnye, skyborn, the only offspring of revered Kàrijoi whom men and dragons alike hight Sómpanaswaqíren the Dragon Emperor, was remembering where she was before she had fainted because of the rush and rising and storm of the Dragon’s volitation, for she was behing clasped in the claws and arms of the Dragonlette who was seeking to save her both from the rest of the Children of Qhalúxha and also from Puîyus the Dragonslayer who was become legend among the Moon Drakes themselves. Àrqotha’s body was long and writhe, and flowing down from him fell a consistent rain of scales and icicles and rushing wings, and his wings were beating back and forth with such speed that they were just a blurred memory of wing, golden and white and lightning growing. Àrqotha’s avian head was swinging from side to side at the tip of his neck, his jaws clattering all the while in his flight, his quetzal feathercrest of light and fire swaying from side to side. Éfhelìnye looked around, her own tresses were flowing in wild arrays, sometimes smacking against her head and other times a glorious blossom of rhododactylity, so that from a distance she knew that it if someone were gazing up from the deck of a paradox ship and saw the Dragonlette arising from the froth seas, one might think that it was carrying a bundle of roses whose petals were streaming from side to side in cometflairs everfluent. The Starflower Princess was straining against the chalchiuitl talons that held her, beneath her the seas were roaring, the thousands of living ships left unto the shattered city was sinking into the main along with all that was left of wall and tower, cages and dead slaves and dead fishes were cramming the storm ocean, even as Dragons were swooping about each other and roaring in their feircesome cries. Éfhelìnye tried to shove against the reptilian and cold grasp about her, but the Dragon’s claws were a metallic cage without lock or wheel at all. In the crumbling seascape about her upon the marge she could see the marching of the Automata armies as they drifted away to sack another town ptoliporthios. Àrqotha was spinning around and around in his rapid ascent, sferics popping and tweeking about him, reeling high above his head were come a flock of Ravens all tempting for to escape from him, their sable feathers streaked with gore, bits of flayed skin and dangling fingers and severed eyen flowing from the golden beaks of the holy birds, but Àrqotha just chuckled to see the Ravens and taking a deep breath, his gills glistening phosphorous and orange, he breathed out long and mounting fountains of fire right untowards them, and scattered the flocks from right to left, and the oef were screaming and burning before his gaze. Several more times Àrqotha breathed out his growing fires right towards them, and so swift was his arising that he caught up a few Ravens in his jaws and crushed them and left them but as smoking ash and embers, his the hooking barbs of his wings impaled several of the Ravens as they were fluttering from side to side and trying to escape the Dragonlette, but unto Àrqotha this was all just sport, a lagniappe on his quest to save the Princess.
– It’s such fun being a Dragon! – Àrqotha grinned as he swallowed several elevens of Ravens and incinerated them in his throat and breathed out the remnants of the Ravens in widening ripples of energy and light, corvid feathers transformed into waves of darkness visible that reached outwards superheated and vaporized all that it touched, and Àrqotha’s laughter of joy was a fair music unto Princess’ Éfhelìnye’s ear, so merry and pure it sounded, although vast and cool and terrible for to hear.
– Dragon! – Princess Éfhelìnye called. – Listen to me! –
– My name is Àrqotha – the Dragon chanted.
– Your name is unimportant to me. –
– Qhalúxha himself hight me, my great-great-granddragon. Call me Àrqotha. You don’t have to give me an honorific, honored or respected or revered or anything like that, since I am still but a Dragonlette among the people. –
– I don’t care what your name is! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
– Truly thou art Kàrijoi’s Daughter. You’ll probably be commanding me soon. Is there anything I can do for you, Éfhelìnye? –
– To begin, please do not address me in so intimate a fashion. –
– Beloved Princess? Virgin Born Princess of the Pwéru? Something of that ilk, I suppose. –
– That will do. –
– How may I serve you, Éfhelìnye? I mean honored beloved Princess born of the Virgin Empress … et cet et cet, it would take an hour to rattle off all of your titles. –
– You can serve me by surrendering unto me. This is your last chance. –
– Ah … although I’m quite glad you’ve recovered from your faint, you are quite elegant and balletic even when you swoon, I’m afraid that I cannot surrender unto you. –
– You shall surrender unto me or die. –
– Perhaps you do not understand, I am the Dragon breathing out flames and soaring through the heavens and slaughtering flocks of merciless ravens that draw too close to me, and you are the helpless Princess in my grasp, and may I remind you that not only am I the one saving you from Prince Kherènxhuqhe and the rest of my Dragon kin, but I’m saving you from Master Puîyos the Dragonslayer on whose account the Emperor will slay you! Although I don’t expect to be thanked for saving your miserable little life, you could at least acknowledge the rationality behind it. –
– If you do not grant your unconditional surrender, Puey will slay you. –
– It’s slightly disconcerting to hear your referring to the Dragonslayer with such a feminine little nickname. I’m afraid I shall have to decline surrending unto you for the moment, seven-fold honored divine Princess. – Àrqotha was spinning around in a graceful arch and came bursting upwards through whisps of flame clouds, and fleeing before him were seamews and ice pterodons screaming all the while and struggling not to be touched by the archs of fire erupting from his jaws. Àrqotha shook in his deep belly laugh and began scorching the seagulls and pterodons flock by flick by flock, burning feathers flowing about him, his jaws snapping off the head of one creature after the next and his flames grew all the hotter.
– When my Puey slays you, try not to act shocked – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – In fact, you may want to practice what dramatic poise you will want to keep for the rest of eternity, for my Puey will certainly keep your head and hands and flay off your scales to use for armor and a wedding garment. –
– Must you be so operatic? –
– I shall hold your heart, oh Dragon! –
– Call me Àrqotha. Oh Princess, do you have any idea how many heroes I’ve slain this day? Can you even guess? I’ve lost count. –
– I don’t care. –
– Go ahead, guess. –
– An hundred. Am I close? –
– I don’t know, I lost count. But I slew quite a many, and I’m not even an honored adult among the People, how fiercer I shall be when I am full grown in fang and claw like our Prince Kherènxhuqhe is. Oh many an hero has ridden upon his trusty dinosaur stead and sought to dislodge me from cave and cavern, many a knight I’ve incinerated or I’ve ripped his head off or I’m trampled him underfoot. Of some of them I devoured the memories at once, others I brought screaming in mortal agony back to their wives and children and made them watch as I devoured the hero and then I shredded the wives and scorched the sons and kidnapped the daughters and used them as bait to lure more heroes unto me. Oh, how glorious it is to hear the screaming of the virgin in my clutches as some hapless fool rides out to save her, and I burn them both down into cinders. –
– I don’t like you. –
– I think princesses taste better than priests. Eating a priest, or at least the memories of one, that is like for you children of mortals, when the parent makes you eat your vegetables, eating a priest is surely nutritious but not satisfying. A princess, ah, she is a rare treat, she is an ocean of sugar delight. –
– I shall enjoy seeing your suffering at Puey’s hands, although I do wonder at the family metaphor, for although Dragons, being hemimortal reproduce, I wonder what type of families they have, do they even know their parents? –
– The only Dragons that know their parents are those cunning and strong enough to have lived long enough to avoid being eaten by their parents. All children are tasty to Dragons, especially their own hatchlings. –
– Should I become Moon Empress I’ll have Puey drive your kind into extinction. –
– But we Dragons serve the Crystalline Throne so well, how can there be an Emperor without hordes of wild Dragons fierce and crazy enough to do his bidding? Ah, look, flocks of flying jàntethol coelacanths are trying to escape. Let’s sneak up upon them. How many do you think I can incinerate before the flock learns I’m right upon them. Go ahead, guess guess guess? –
– Do you decline mine offer of total surrender? –
– I’m afraid I do, Éfhelìnye. Honored. Revered. Et cet. –
– Then your time is finished. Prepare to die. –
– Do you have a secret weapon hidden in your bridal dress there? Maybe a poisoned slipper, or a brooch of razor-sharp fangs kean enough to rend Dragon scales? –
– I do have a weapon, I shall call upon Puey’s name. –
– Oh? –
– He will swoop down and slay you, or at least free me and hurt you quite a bit. –
– So, your secret weapon is a name? – Àrqotha asked, as he chomped through several flying fishes and spat their heads out. He chuckled, flames darting among his fangs, and his wings were impaling many fishes er that the flock was growing aware of the Moon Dragon swooping upon them. – So, you are going to defeat me with a name? –
– With Puey’s name, yes. –
– Wait wait wait wait, you’re grand plan to save yourself from the clutches of a merciless Dragon and punish said Dragon is to cry out someone’s name? –
– I shall say the name, and he shall be with me. –
– His name? –
– Yes. –
– That’s it? –
– What else do I need? –
– A name. –
– His name. –
– And if you get the name wrong … –
– I shan’t, I know it quite well. To be fair, Puey himself has actually never spoken his name aloud, although he can write it. –
– I don’t believe this. –
– The only name Puey’s e'er chanted has been mine own. –
– I think I should drop you into the rage seas just for being so ridiculous. –
– He has quite a nice name. –
– Or maybe I should just eat you now. –
– When Puey and I grow up and get married and have lots of children, I think I’ll be able to teach him to say the name of each and every single prince or princess that I shall bare for him. Teaching him language may be quite a difficult understanding. –
– I’ve decided I’m going to bash your brains out. –
– Puey doesn’t think the way that the rest of us mortals, or even you Dragons think, so konstspråk may be quite a slippery and delicate thing unto his senses. –
– Yes, I shall slay you. –
– I have often thought, I have given this quite a bit of thought as you might be able to guess, that with Puey it might be best if I concentrate on teaching him a very small number of basic words so that he can at least begin gesturing and communicating in a verbal way without having to worry about grammar. Now you may be able to help me on this, for I don’t wish to overburdhen him too many words, the problem would be deciding which are the archetypal ones he needs to know. Oh, I could rattle off a list extemporaneously, let’s see, we can begin with: want, dance, away, hug, energy, archæopteryx, flower, dinosaur, white, battle, tounge, home, word, space, water, candy, light, big, plantimal, know, draw, triangle, heat, circle, fire, hexagon, good, shatter, honor, poesy, give, heart, dream, darkness, urn, smile, eye, foot, name, nose, funny, many, art, moon, eat, ancestor, see, hand, ocean, read, small, blue, head, yellow, sleep, red, air, fruit, tree, go, fish, sound, sticky, tool, thing, stay, everything, mortal, sword, rainbow, blood, love, kiss, warrior, princess, raven … –
– I shall assure you, your death shall be neither painless nor swift. –
– Do you just want me to call out Puey’s name now? How eager you are to be captured not just by someone who is a verified Dragonslayer, but the only one who has slain more than one Dragon, and he’s not even fully grown yet. –
Àrqotha was roaring now, as he arose through the explosions of the fire clouds, so swift he was that fishes and birds were being blasted apart, their charred remains raining down upon him, and become a constant stream of ash which kept swirling about Éfhelìnye and breaking apart around her, for no impurities could remain upon her body or clothing for too long. Àrqotha being of the last generation of the Dragons and small for that kind was about to spin around and avoid the main lines and the flowing flames of the Dragon battle which was consuming many of the regions about the heavens. He came skidding up unto one side, the clouds drifting about him in a growing vortex, light and plasma dribbling outwards, the Dragons were spinning about the whispering mountains and spires in the growing splashes of flames, but Àrqotha came swirling about the tale of an Elder Dragon and came darting down the gnarled back ridges of several old Generals of Dragonkind and then came darting downwards and was swirling upwards, he used the updrafts of the flames and rushes of the other Dragons to grant him speed, and one he came swirling away from this cælestial region of the battle, he came spinning upwards upon the heat of his own laughter, and hurling aside the majesty of the clouds, he rent the very fabric of the skies and chanted – Would you like me to reveal unto you the doom fallen upon your sweetheart? Do you wish to see truly how futile it would be to call upon his name? –
– Please – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Then look on in despair – Àrqotha grinned, and his wings were blinding flames, the iridules flaming upwards from them in long finger tendrils, his wings a blur as she began to shred the face of the skies, bits of bleeding plasma and burning sky breaking apart, as the Dragon ducked right into the wounds it was tearing, and he drew nigher unto himself burning prisms of realities bleeding all about him, he smashed through the very tympanis of time and slashing against the kaleidoscopes that keep all of the hours in balance dancing about each other, he revealed unto the Princess the crashing of the waves and the mounting of the froth and the explosions of the once great and proud cities at the marge of Syapàkhya and among the Dragons swooping upwards arose black and silver and mighty the ancient gnarled Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and in silver sparkling undulations of time, Puîyus materialized right upon the Dragon Prince’s snout, and bursting halos of light were drifting out from the great lord.
– Behold, Puîyos the Dragonslayer and his death at the jaws of mighty Kherènxhuqhe – Àrqotha chuckled to the Princess in a deep tonitruant laugh such as only Dragons can laugh.
– Ah, excellent, so my Puey is already very close … –
– The Prince, the mighty and horrible Prince has Puîyos on his neb! The lad shall die before your gaze, I demand that you see it. –
– Why, that’s only a few leagues away from me, isn’t that? –
– Just three or four leagues beneath us. Behold, our Prince discovers our enemy right in his grasp. –
– Puey sure is close. Shall I call his name now? –
– What’s that? Oh look, a maiden has materialized beside him. She looks delicious – Àrqotha licked his jaws as he gazed upon the fainted form of Princess Ixhúja as she appeared right beside Puîyus on right upon the beak of Prince Kherènxhuqhe.
– She? That’s my cousin, Ixhúja. She’s perfectly safe now – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted.
– You shall watch her death also, and feel the might of the cloud-gathering Children of Qhalúxha. –
– I’m going to go call Puey’s name now. –
– Do you have holes in your brain? Are your souls dissevered? Do you not understand, Puîyos and your Cousin, behold, Prince Kherènxhuqhe grasps them, his jaws are opening, he is about to breathe fire upon them and destroy them utterly. No matter how loud you cry, no lad can hear you from leagues away and miles of sky and flame and battle and skriking flocks of raven and feadar and ice pterodon and the weyr chaos of Dragons, and even if he could hear you, how could he come to you, in this distance, without wings, and avoiding the rest of the Dragons? –
Éfhelìnye laughed. – I’m afraid you have forgotten a rather important fact in your cunning calculations – the Starflower chanted riant.
– Oh? – asked the Dragon.
– He’s Puey, Íngìkhmar’s Son, and I shall call his name now. In three seconds, in three eyeblinks, in three heartbeats, he shall be here for me. –
– Impossible. Thou art insane, Khnoqwísi’s Daughter. After you witness his death, I shall enjoy beating your brains out against the cliff, and I shall throw your body down before the Emperor’s feet er that I devour your memories whole! –
– Are you ready? –
– For what? –
– Everything is about to get very complicated and very impossible just about now. –
– Go ahead. –
Éfhelìnye coughed a little. – Please don’t act so shocked. I for my part am ready. Ahem. Ahem. – Éfhelìnye looked down and in a rather quiet sing-song voice sang – Puey! Oh my Puey! Would you mind coming to me and saving me from the Dragon? – She looked up. – Count to three now, Dragon. –
Àrqotha sighed. – One. Two. Three. –
The Princess in the Dragon’s grip just laughed.