In the glowing orbs of light, in the crackling spheres of ice and shadow that separated the children from the demise of the Temple Balloons crumbling living ships of ice were opening upwards and up came surging tentacle and eyestalk, the warriors of the Aûm who had been left entrapped in the snow-si, one by one they were arising, they were a marching armor of filaments and celia, from a distance as they shook the snow off from them, they looked more like teardrops covered in tendrils and tall eyestalks, the classic description which the children of Xhámi oft had for the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu as a folk like unto logatofs iOzjE vguwiz waqay of qaôt fhàkhyu fhònil khwònil khwùnil xhthètowo, the dlendrop folk were leaping upwards, their tentacles crawling from side to side, frost and snow breaking off of them, and the Aûm were looking upwards with wroth eyestalk and were not about to permit a strange stray Qhíng vessel to come drifting towards the heart of their flotilla. Puîyus remained upon the prow the ship that carried him came spinning downwards, and sometimes he was hacking against the waves of light and the growing spheres of energy, but othertimes the Aûm themselves were jumping upwards and were hacking with snow swords and icicle spears and frost staves, sometimes Puîyus was striking against a Qlùfhim warrior, othertimes he struck against a Thùlwus, he tried not to hurt them too much, just to toss them from side to side to permit the coming of the ship, for after all the Aûm were allies of his poploe, they had come unto the Chieftains of Jaràqtu, the clanfasters and elders and extended their tentacle in friendship to expel the Qhíng from their colonialization of the garden dreamlands, and Puîyus did not wish to harm any who not warrant it in his eyen, and yet still the Aûm in the scattering living ships were like storms of ice flowing upwards about him, their swords and staves were breathing out waves of ice as they strook his limbs and shoulders, lungless and breathless the Aûm were sighing out growing waves of frost as they arose and came and came and came, and now it was in the spinning frost that both Puîyus and the snow warriors were like the spiders crawling through the explosions of the ice, they were almost clinging and crawling one upon each other, they were striking and falling, sometimes Puîyus came punching right through the snows, othertimes he was kicking at walls of frost, tentacles were urticating about him and trying to drag him and the long boat now, huge clouds of snow were burgeoning upwards and growing larger and wider, the Aûm exploding right out of them and were trying to wreck the invading Qhíng down.
Suddenly the storms of ash and ice were parting, and in the midst, as Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye looked upwards, they could see to their horror that in the very center of the silvern wings Prince Kherènxhuqhe was turning around and batting his huge sword storm wings while thousands of Aûm vessels were arising and suiciding themselves against him, the Aûm were so eager to obey the words of Pereluyàsqa and Khosyaràsqa the perfect flower brides of Khlàmfhors of long ago that they were crashing themselves against each other so that some of their debris could strike the Dragon, and the haloes of fire were spreading outwards larger and stronger and brighter. Puîyus struck down several more snow warriors of the Aûm and gazing upwards saw that the glass and hot air balloons were breaking apart one by one, and in their descent were lifting up their lower sword diases and aiming them right towards the heart of the Dragon and preparing for to ram him, and Puîyus’ heart was thundering within him as he contemplated that somewhere in the growing firestorm his Sisters Siêthiyal and Akhlísa may be. And Puîyus growled and threw down the Aûm down faster and faster, their swords and staves breaking apart in flashes of frost, he came dancing out farther and farther upon the tip of the ptaê rostrum, and the Aûm were raining down about him and trying to draw the long boat down. Ixhúja was crying outwards, a few loose strands of fire spreading outwards and snatching up the tips of the solar sails, the long boat was shuddering and trying to remain upright, as waves upon waves of frost grasped the tip of the emergency boat and coated it in īsġiċelen snarlent and bright. And the explosions came and came and came, the Aûm fleet were acting like unto the Tánor Suicide Warriors of the Traîkhiim, and the fires were eating away at the shuttle jhuináxhyong. And none there was to watch the Khniqhátui twins, neither of the Princesses in the horrors of the flames chanced to notice the creeping of Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe drawing themselves closer and closer unto Puîyus fighting at the very edge of the emergency boat.
– Unseen – whispered Tetratríxe.
– Unwatched – nodded Qwatríxe.
– Unnoticed. –
– Unobserved. –
– Unwavering. –
– Undeceived. –
– Undo? –
– Understood! –
– Tee hee hee hee! –
– Hah hah hah hah! –
Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe were crawling upon the very tips of their knife claws, the ship was spinning about, a few stray Aûm snow warriors leaping down about them, their huge sphere-legs dancing from side to side as Puîyus jumped about and threw the warriors back down unto their own ice vessels, and Tetratríxe ducked beneath some spinning tentacles, and Qwatríxe rolled about in the shadows, and they slipped beneaththe spinning icicle staves and came unto the prow and watched for a moment as Puîyus continued to fight and dance, and snow was breathed down from the warriors. Tetratríxe’s eyen spun down upon themselves and unfolding became wounds of red flame, and Qwatríxe’s golden dome slipped down and when it opened up again his eyen were smoke black. And up came rolling the wind up toys right about Puîyus’ legs, Puîyus spun around, his violet dreamcloak almost unravellent in its nebulous billows, he was no longer fighting with the Dragon sword for he did not wish to slay the Aûm, he was employing the twin green swords which leal Fhèlkhur had commissioned for him when he was but a babe, his Mother’s faithful servant come from the Clan Otòrfhexes, as he struck down the Aûm one by one by one by one, as he grabbed some by eyestalk and others by shoulder, as he kicked some in the thorax and punched others in their icicle mouth-trunks, Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe drew themselves upwards, their claws snapping all the while, and nodding unto each other, of the same thought, they launched themselves right at Puîyus’ legs even as a few Aûm warriors came leaping upwards and tried to stop the lad from interfering in the Duchesses’ holy fleet.
– PUEY! – Éfhelìnye screamed. Ixhúja was having trouble keeping the ship upright, the suicide waves of fire from Prince Kherènxhuqhe were eating away at the rudders, and she was having to hold onto her cousin just to keep her in the ship while her other hand tried to navigate the vessel.
Puîyus punched several Aûm away, snow banks burbling up around him, but when he tried to find his footing, as he was swinging his sword around, he staggered backwards for a few moments. The Aûm drapped in snow and frost did not hesitate but struck Puîyus in several directions at once. Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe snapped and slashed at his legs and ankles, and finding themselves completely surrounded by the Aûm, they gave Íngìkhmar’s Son a tremendous shove, and Puîyus slipped backwards and flapped his arms, and along with the last snow warriors began falling right out of the ship. At the last moment Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe slipped away from the lad’s legs and slipped down from the prow and bowed to each other and spun around in jubilation to congratulate themselves on their victory.
– PUEY! – Éfhelìnye cried as she pushed her cousin aside and crawled up to the prow. – Oh my Puey! –
– He’s gone! – laughed Tetratríxe.
– Finished! Done! – giggled Qwatríxe.
– Alas, the ending of such a great warrior. –
– But a warrior does have to die in glorious battle. –
– Otherwise, why should a warrior exist? –
– Martyrdom in battle. We can remember him in song. –
– Yes, song. –
– I love song. –
– Loving loving I love song. –
– Oh the Ballet of Puîyos, he fell out of boat! Plunk plunk! Fall fall! –
– Shattered. –
– Altogether broken. –
Éfhelìnye made her way right up to the rostrum and looking downwards saw the growing clouds of frost and snow, and a slight violet and purple glow where Puîyus’ dreamcloak was descending. – Puey, I’ll find you! – Éfhelìnye cried, and looking upwards she saw that several Temple Balloons were now exploding as they rammed against silvern and black Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and several hissing sword shards of the balloons were just about to impale the Dragon right through his heart. Éfhelìnye clammered up unto the rostrum to gaze down and see the snow battle and the shadow of where Puîyus had descended.
Tetratríxe was whistling unto himself as he hopped up right next to Éfhelìnye and chanted – Oh, we’re terribly sorry that your sweetheart decided to abandon you and die in glorious battle. Pity that, about what’shisface. Always concerned with honor. –
Qwatríxe hopped up next to Éfhelìnye and wrapped his limbs about the Princess’ shoulders and chanted – Oh, but he’s dead now, quite dead dead dead. Don’t even do looking down there. He’s gone for e'er, dead and malfunctioning. Here, why not think of nicer things. Like flowers. And honey. And wind up toys. –
– We’ll never leave you. We love you. –
– We will sing and dance for you lwa lwa lwa. –
– But Puîyos is dead. –
– Quite dead. –
– Let’s never mention him e'er again, agreed? –
– Agreed. Dead for ever. –
– Would you like us to dance for you? – Tetratríxe hopped up and swung about Éfhelìnye arms and began performing a few sommersaults. – Now onto your new life, of playing with us, your favoritest of toys for all time. –
– And no more boys. Gossoons are yucky, the most disgusticating things we’ve e'er considered. –
– Oh he fell. –
– Tumble! –
– SPLAT! –
– I’m sure his brains just blossomed on the side of a rocket. Shall we demonstrate for you? –
– I’ll be Puîyos. –
– Yes, please – Qwatríxe chanted, and he helped his twin up and tossed him upwards, and Tetratríxe began to scream in a most horrible manner, his gears almost locking together and he screamed out – I never loved the Princess as much as her wind up toys did! I die! –
Tetratríxe tumbled upon the deck. Qwatríxe bounced upon him and punched him a few times and chanted – Quite dead. Blood and gears and bones all spilt. Yep. Puîyos is as dead as completely dead as perfectly dead … –
Tetratríxe’s eyestalks slipped upwards and blinking a few times chanted – Have I mentioned that we found Puîyos kissing lots of other maidens all the time? And that he never liked you and thought you were weird? –
– And there’s the distinctive possibility that Puîyos might have been a couple of dæmons one riding upon the shoulders of another, like so? – Qwatríxe chanted as he slipped upon Tetratríxe’s silvern shoulders and carried him around and around in little circles.
– But we’re here! – laughed Tetratríxe.
– Let’s sing and dance! – giggled Qwatríxe.
– Why isn’t she dancing with us? –
– And not a song. –
– Princess? –
– Divine one? –
– She hasn’t heard a word we’ve chanted! –
– She’s still thinking about that horrible young man. –
– I told you we should have pealed his face away before killing him. –
– Or at least broken all of his joints. –
– Yes, we should have jabbed out his eyen … –
– Broken his ankles, wrists, elbows, anything else that turns and swivels … oh she’s not paying attention at all! How very vexatious. –
– Should we just go ahead and kill the other Princess also? –
– She’s not love-sick gullible though, we’ll just have to attack her outright. –
– It will best serve our Divine One. –
– Then she can play with us always always always. –
– What’s she doing! –
– Stop that! You’re crazy! –
The long boat came bursting through several waves of fog and the growing effluvia of ship after ship colliding against Prince Kherènxhuqhe, all of the Aûm flotilla dilating a little and crunching downwards, and as Ixhúja was doing her best to keep the vessel upright and ocassionaly bat against a falling bit of stone and debris, she looked up and saw that Éfhelìnye was hoisting herself right up to the edge of the gunwale and slowly drawing herself upright as she looked down unto where Puîyus had tumbled. Éfhelìnye was taking a few deep breathes just to build up some courage in her, in the flames and emergency and battle she was only too well aware of how timid she was, but she could not possibly permit Puîyus to fall away from her in the growing fire blossoms and the crash of dragon after dragon. Ixhúja looked up too late to see what her Cousin intended and began barking out in protest bidding her not to do something foolish.
– Get back down here! – cried Tetratríxe.
– We’ve waited eleven years for you to come and play with us! – Qwatríxe hissed. – You will play with us and love us as we were meant to be enjoyed! –
– You don’t want to follow after him, boys are all filled with ice germs anyway! Nasty, disgusting! He can never fill you with the pure love that a toy can engender in you! –
– Now get back here or … or … of what can we do? –
– I don’t know! I’m out of ideas! I’m not the brains of the operation! –
– Yes you are, you’re the dominant twin! –
– I don’t know don’t know don’t know don’t know! –
– Please don’t jump! –
– We beg you! Please! –
– On bended sphere-leg, our claws in supplication, our analytic engines humbled … –
– PURR! – Ixhúja screamed out, and at the end at least she tried to keep the long boat upright and intact even as it was being drawn into the swirling vortex of Aûm vessels crashing against Prince Kherènxhuqhe, but looking upwards she saw that Éfhelìnye was closing her eyen and wiping a tear away, and lifting up her arms let herself fall backwards off the side of the vessel. For a moment, a long and drawn out second, Ixhúja thought that perhaps she could somehow managed both to navigate the boat and keep it upright and run down the length of it and catch her ccusin and arrest her fall. For a moment she thought that the Aûm would stop spinning in their growing suicide attack, fire waves growing outwards and consuming lesser skiffs even as the greater warships slammed against wing and spiral and scale. For a moment Ixhúja was reminded of the pure and white moonflowers that grew in the gardens of Khnìntha, and how when she was younger she used to go in search of them under the vault of midnight and watch as the alban petals blossomed in the gealach, she remembered delighting in our beautiful and delicate they were and watching as teardrops of honey formed within, but she also remembered that so often in the moonlight her Father’s monsters would come and trample right through the forests, and the ninjitsu Tánin could come leaping outwards upon rolling limbs and spinning scythe legs and cut through stamen and petal and stem, and sometimes after the battle when all of her enemies lay as steaming wreckage about her, she would gather up the broken flowers and petals in her arms and wonder why they were wilting, and sometimes she would bury them and watch the dirt for days and mourn when nothing grew, or she would toss the broken flowers into the water and wait for them to be reborn unto her. But now that she was older Ixhúja knew that the flowers the monsters and automata slay would not return, that only unnatural creatures like herself had their souls kept flickering in the darkness of the worlds only to be born from above. And now her cousin Éfhelìnye was the flower unto her, tumbling backwards off of the ship even into the spheres of dragonflame.
– Why’d she do that! – screamed Tetratríxe.
– Oh great plan wonderous plan I love your plan! – cried Qwatríxe.
– May plan, we did it together! –
– It’s always your plan, always your idea, let’s go and find the children, let’s find the lad and husk him out before she can love him before he can steel her away from us oh yes that is what you wanted and did it work, why look at how great that ended up! –
– You just hush! –
– Oh hush yourself! –
– Oh! –
– No! –
– Gears grinding down! –
– She didn’t have a chance to finish putting us back together! –
– We’re winding down! –
– We’re slowing! –
– Help! –
– Help! –
– Please? –
– Anyone? –
Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe were slipping their limbs upwards almost like unto crooked smiles, and if they had mouths or lips perhaps they were would have attempted to grin in such a way. The winds about them were hot and creeping into the gapes of their wheels and cogs, as their mainsprings were uncoiling they were become all too aware that Princess Éfhelìnye had been forced to put them together with just the parts, burnt and twisted with Puîyus had been able to salvage, and that there were still billows and pumps and inner organs to be set together, as the wind upwards struggled forwards and tried to reach their own keys they felt some of their joints unloosening, and random sparkles of light rolling through their wires. The long boat was dashing downwards and heading right towards the suicide explosions of Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and now that the snow warriors were gone, either thumped unconscious and saved by Puîyus’ hand or perhaps they had turned their eyestalks around and fled from the crushing of their own flotilla, or mayhap some were remained and were turning and flying right up unto the Prince, and in the moment of calm left unto her Ixhúja came running up from the helm and to the prow and saw that Princess Éfhelìnye was landing right upon the snout of a Dragon, a rather small golden and green Dragon, a young Dragonlette rather familiar unto her gaze, the selfsame one who had snatched up Éfhelìnye before and fluttered upwards unto the lunar twists of the heavens, Àrqotha himself. Ixhúja sighed, and Éfhelìnye rolled out right before Àrqotha’s eyen, the Dragonlette coughed out clouds of blood and smoke and gasped in confusion and amazement.
This has either been an extremely unlucky day or an extremely lucky day, Ixhúja thought to herself as she set her hands on her hips. It may all just be a manner of perspective. Ah, yes, the toys. Ixhúja spun around. Although her hearing was præternatural sharp, in the flames and chaos of battle she had not been paying too much attantion unto the wind up waifs which Éfhelìnye had adopted, and now that her grand-hearted cousin khwaliqèswut megathumos was gone, Ixhúja had no intentions of permitting anything that even reminded her of danger around her. Wild plantimals, maybe a few leopards and alasaurs she would probably keep about Éfhelìnye and even a few of her Father’s sharper warmachines, but something about these wind up toys displeased her. She took a few steps froward and began clicking unto herself, and Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe looked up in horror, their wheels freezing as she was speaking unto them in an unknown language which was changing the very configuration of their machinery. Tetratríxe tried to grow knife hands, and Qwatríxe wanted to spin around in horror, but at once they just came rolling about and fell upon their side and their gears began to slow, sparkles of oil bleeding out from them. Ixhúja snorted, and yanking up the wind up toys smashed them together just for good measure and threw them high into the air and off into the sky and turning around grinned unto herself to think that she had seen the last of the toys that had slipped within the Dragon’s breath.
And as is elsewhere told, as the battle was beign waged throughout the layers of the boreal winds, in the very midst of it where the living ships were exploding in suicide zeal against Prince Kherènxhuqhe that a few long comet streaks were descending, and the tips of those comets were a couple of janyaTùrkhaka duchesses formed of wheel and petal and filaments and slashing edges, and holding them down and wrestling them through the heavens and keeping them away from the children were the illustrious pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho here in the superheating orbs of light branching outwards faster and wider and brighter, and in the chaos and panick and flame, it chanced that a couple of metallic thumps landed in the fight, one upon Fhèrkifher’s head and the other upon Xhnófho’s quetzal feathercrest, and looking downwards in the battle Fhèrkifher saw that a silvern wind up toy was bouncing about him and blinking with dizzied eyen, and rolling down Xhnófho’s tentacles a small golden toy spun about and tried to steady itself.
– Lwa? – cried Fhèrkifher.
– This is weird – chanted Xhnófho.
– What’s going on? – cried Tetratríxe.
– This is very odd – chanted Qwatríxe.
– Toys? Interesting – chanted Fhèrkifher.
– I’m going to need a drink – chanted Xhnófho.
– Hi, Pereluyàsqa – chanted Tetratríxe.
– How are you? – Pereluyàsqa asked.
– Is anyone going to explain what’s happening? – Qwatríxe wondered.
– It’s a very, very long story – Khosyaràsqa chanted. – Short version: Everyone fights for the Children. –
– Lwa – sighed Fhèrkifher.
– Two drinks, please – chanted Xhnófho.
And the waves of flame arose about Qlùfhim and Pirate and wind up Automaton alike, and they were all twisting and slapping and writhing and wrestling and falling downwards in brilliant explosions far away from where Prince Kherènxhuqhe was spinning around and seeing the children Siêthiyal and Akhlísa just about to slam against him. And within the growing waves of fire Princess Ixhúja was leaping back to the rudder and sending the long boat downwards, she had no idea where Puîyus had fallen and could only hope that he could take care of himself for a few moments while she searched for her cousin who was probably reciting lists of prime numbers and semantic primes to a throughly uninterested Dragon. Ixhúja yanked upon the controls and the long boat was diving downwards in an almost vertical rostrum-dive, and before her Àrqotha the Dragonlette was beating his wings back and forth and breathing out wreathes of smoke and phosphorous and reaching out with claw unto Éfhelìnye who was still dazed, confused by her fall. Éfhelìnye rolled unto her side, her arms stretched out before the Dragon’s gaze, and all that Àrqotha could do was blink a few times in utter confounding disbelief. The Dragonlette for his part was sore wounded from the treatment he had received from Puîyus who had struck jaw and limb and wing, nor was he completely happy with the two Princesses who had been in his grasp and were ruining his plan for find redemption for the rainbow Children of Qhalúxha, and so now as Éfhelìnye lay only semi-conscious before him, petals and pollen drifting through her tresses, the very image of the Virgin Empress Khnoqwísi whom the Dragons had with such lealty served for many an age, Àrqotha was not at all certain whether this was to his fortune or not, but as his nostrils were filled up with the smell of Princess of the Royal Pwéru Clan, as his heart began to thunder deep within himself just to drink in the cinnamon and sugar of her scent, his mouth was watering, and no matter how much he desired to change the fortunes of his people, Àrqotha, though young and small, was still a Dragon. He licked his lips. He was thinking that perhaps if he just ate one of Éfhelìnye’s legs than his appetite would be satiated and there would still be enough Princess left to be saved. No, one leg would not be enough even for such a small Dragon as Àrqotha, he wished that Éfhelìnye just were no so puny, of course Khnoqwísi would bare a ballerina for a daughter but still Éfhelìnye was quite thin and slight. Perhaps one leg and one arm, that would be enough to feed the horroring fire furnaces of his hunger, at least for this day. He shuddered in anticipation and his claws reached upwards to grab her. But so soft, so comely was this virgin he was not sure which limbs he should save and which to gobble upwards, perhaps her left arm and right leg, that way she could still dance about in her graceful pirouettes and entertain him, or should it be right arm and left leg, did it matter, he was wondering, but he knew that it mattered a great deal, the limbs, the skin, the bones, the memories of virgin princesses were such a wonderous treat, a living savory sensation yfilled with all manner of honey and flower smells. Perhaps he could toast her, yes, he would just impale her upon one jade claw, yes, impale her on a limb he was going to eat anyway, just lightly roast her with the whisper of his breath, warm her up a little, she would have to be conscious as he devoured her parts, she needed to be screaming in horror, that is part of the joy of the sensation, yes, she had to be pleading and skriking and beating against him, oh his heart was so loud that he was not noticing the growing spheres of suicide explosions crashing against Prince Kherènxhuqhe, he would have to wake her up, her begging gave her flavor, he hoped she would weep, that she would cry as she had never cried in any of the days of her life, her sweet salty tears would seep into her flesh, tender and pure and nesh, and he would just inhale her whole, feel her despair, her hopes of love and marriage dissolve inside her, and she would become the wrath of flame and lightning and the growing storm which Kàrijoi needed for to destroy all things.
Àrqotha dangled Éfhelìnye in his grasp like a rag doll, and Éfhelìnye was slowly blinking herself awake and seeing that grinning before her fang after drooling fang was the snout of Prince Kherènxhuqhe gazing upon her in complete rapt adoration such as only a Dragon can experience before devouring a princessly feast.
– You! – Éfhelìnye blinked.
– You! – Àrqotha smiled.
– Release me! I command it. –
– I’ve changed my mind. –
– I don’t care. –
– My original plan is changing. –
– I still don’t care. –
– I’m flexible, circumstances waver and change, one must learn to adapt. –
– I told you I don’t care! –
– I was planning on just eating one of your limbs, then a leg and an arm … –
– Why are you talking? –
– But my mind is reformed. –
– Be quiet! –
– I shall just eat your whole. –
– I rather suspected that being a Dragon your thoughts would turn to this conclusion. –
– You are honey manna, you are mochi, you are dessert sent down from heaven! –
– Lucky me. –
Àrqotha licked his fangs, his eyen were become brilliant fire flames, and snapping his jaws he prepared himself to taste the sweetest and best of meats. – Should I wonder why it is that you just fell onto my snout in the midst of this windswept battle? –
– I jumped into the midst of fire and battle and death to save my Puey. –
– Oh? –
– I think I’ve done a good job so far. –
– I’m not counting to three. I’m eating you now. –
– Ah! There he is! –
– I’m not looking behind me either. –
Éfhelìnye smiled. Àrqotha felt a strike right across his face so hard that the sinews in his jaw were grinding and aching against each other. He could not quite see what was happening, but when Àrqotha found himself being punched and struck by swift and strong hands, a blur of silver blue appeared, and violet cape danced before him, he realized that Puîyus had come sweeping down from somewhere. Éfhelìnye spread out her arms and tried to wriggle out of Àrqotha’s talons. The Dragon lunged forwards and tried to swallow the virgin whole. Puîyus appeared and swept up Éfhelìnye right into his arms and came bouncing right off of the Dragon’s wrist and into the air.
– I’ll be content to eat both of you! – Àrqotha cried.
The long boat came streaking right before the Dragon’s gaze, and Ixhúja was standing at the helm for to guide it as Puîyus came rolling upwards and deposited Éfhelìnye right before her martian cousin. Ixhúja marched forwards and grabbed Éfhelìnye by the collar and shook her in a threatening manner and growling told her in a machine tounge, Let’s don’t do that again!
– It worked! – Éfhelìnye squealed.
Let’s! Don’t! Do! That! Again!
– I knew that if I jumped into battle Puey would … –
– Ixhúja! –
Don’t you have any common sense! Dragons are around us, the Qhíng and Aûm firing upon us, waves of balloons are martyring themselves against a Dragon for no good reason … what do you want, Puîyos!
Ixhúja was shaking Éfhelìnye by her collar so hard that Puîyus was growing converned for the Starflower Princess’ wellbeing, and so with gentle hands he was disentangling Éfhelìnye from Ixhúja, but this only served to infuriate Ixhúja all the more who was not about to let this argument die upon her.
You have absolutely no business at all in battle, if you really cared about me or Puîyos you would stay here beside one of us where it’s safe or we’ll just leave you somewhere safe, but when you jump out like that in the storm all we have to do is worry about you and try and fetch you and … what! Puîyos, get away from me! I’m not going to hurt her too much! You’re such a … we have these creatures in Khnìntha, I think I saw them on your dirt farm, a tsitáqhai, a one legged hen, she has gills? Yes, a tsitáqhai, Puîyos you are such a mother tsitáqhai always returning to the nest and coddling the little chicks, that’s all you do with Éfha, if you were just a little sterner her with she wouldn’t throw herself into the fire for you!
– I just wanted to save Puey! – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Puîyus wrapped his arms about Éfhelìnye and rested his head upon her shoulder and blinking told Ixhúja, The divine Starflower was just doing what she thought she had to in order to …
– GRRRR! – Ixhúja shouted. That doesn’t make any sense at all! Éfha’s logic never makes sense! Where’s Puey? Oh, I’d better go throw myself at a Dragon!
– I just want to help – Éfhelìnye.
She just wants to help, Puîyus nodded.
SHUT UP! Both of you, I’m not finished ranting at you! If you two just used your heads a little bit more than your insensate hearts, don’t you dare start crying, if either one of you cries I’m breaking a leg, don’t you dare tempt me!
– I … won’t … cry … – Éfhelìnye was shuddering. Puîyus patted her back.
If you spent more time thinking and less time contemplating your glorious suicide in battle, why even if you quite by accident end up surviving you just want to slit your throats upon the graves of your Ancestors, don’t you dare turn away from me! I’m mewing at you! Éfha, stop being stupid. Puîyos, stop letting her be stupid. Is that idiot Dragon still here?
Éfhelìnye could not help herself, she was crying, and Puîyus was stroking her back and rubbing her hair and trying to calm her down just as he had to calm at different times each of his three Sisters and even Xataríyona a few times when his Sisters had ganged up against her. Éfhelìnye was too busy sobbing to look behind him, and Puîyus just stole a look back and saw that the long boat was drifting just a few miles away from the growing suicide orbs about Prince Kherènxhuqhe. Àrqotha was fluttering upwards and wiping blood from his jaw, but finding the children nearby he drew himself upwards and slammed his claws into the deck and began licking his jaws to see that three ripe children were standing before him ready to be gobbled, and his hunger raged hot within him. Puîyus saw Àrqotha and just wished that the Dragon was zum zum buzz away for the moment. He looked to Ixhúja to tell her that the Dragon was present again, but of far more importance to his mind, she had made Éfhelìnye cry.
Oh just let her cry! Ixhúja made fists and shook them in Éfhelìnye’s general direction. Some crying may toughen her up a little. But if she doesn’t stop soon I’ll give some real lamentation to occupy her mind.
– Shhhhhh – Puîyus cooed.
Don’t encourage her! Don’t you understand, she’s just going to leap into battle to save you the next time, you need to start being firm with her, command her to stay here, don’t you dare give me that look Puîyos! You’re going to be Emperor, and from what I can gather being the Emperor is like being the Admiral for all the days of your life, you don’t just need to command your troops you’re going to have to start commanding your wives to behave. Otherwise you’ll have to put up with this for ever.
Éfhelìnye looked up from her lamentation just long enough to say – Puey’s not having any other wives! He’s mine mine mine for ever! –
You are so immature.
– What happened to my wind up toys? –
I don’t know. They fell out of the long boat. Ixhúja did not like lying to her Cousin but in this particular case it was for her own good, plus she was not a little angry at Princess Éfhelìnye. She marched from side to side, and Àrqotha’s head followed her, the Dragon’s eyen watering o'er as he imagined how she would taste, of pomegranates and exotic ices and fungal delights. Ixhúja turned to Éfhelìnye and growling told her, I have come not to mind having to take care of you, after all Puîyos isn’t particularly doing a good job of it, and there are some tasks which … although I still assert I am superior to him in all things … it is more convenient for him to do while I safeguard you. But the way you keep throwing your life away when I do my best to keep you from dying … stop crying! Puîyos! Éfha! Are either of you even paying attention to me?
Éfhelìnye sniffled. – Please don’t yell at me. – A few drops of dragon drool fell upon her head and became instant steam.
Puîyus sniffled and thought, I just want to go home. Where is my family? He barely even noticed the steady rain of dragon drool fallng upon his melancholy blue tresses.
I’ll yell at you as much as I want to, you haven’t seen me angry yet, when I get angry, cities crash, dynasties end, and those who survive end up without their skin. WHAT! Why is that Dragon still here! He’s drooling on me! That is the grossest thing I’ve e'er … oh! Ixhúja jumped up and spun around and snarled at Àrqotha, as the Dragon continued to drool upon the three children. May we help you!
– I’ve changed my mind once again – Àrqotha chanted. – I’m eating all three of you! –
If one must die, it should be at the jaws of such a noble people, Ixhúja growled. But we don’t have time right now.
– I’m not surprised he changed his mind, are you? – Éfhelìnye told Puîyus. Puîyus shook his head. – Too bad we never caught the Dragon’s name. –
– It’s Àrqotha! – the Dragon screamed. – Are you three going to keep arguing? I’m very forehungered right now, so if you don’t mind I’m eating all three of you at once. Oh, the scent of moon princess, the taste of priestly lad, and the scrumptious feast of the virgin born starflower! Oh, I’m in paradise! –
Come back later! Ixhúja made a dismissive gesture to the Dragon. We’re having a little family discussion.
– I’m afraid I’m very hungry right now. –
What a tragedy. Leave us!
– Shall I eat all three of you at once, and just let your taste and memories blur all together! Oh, what an exquisite delight, you cannot guess how wonderous it is to … –
– Are you still angry with me, Ixhúja? – asked Éfhelìnye.
Ixhúja crossed her arms. I am not angry with you.
– I’m sorry I don’t appreciate you more. You are the only cousin I shall e'er have, unless the Pwéru can be returned unto life again. You’re than a cousin, for your Father reared you in gardens and in the purity of isolation like me, we’re Sisters really. –
– I like eating Sisters – Àrqotha chanted.
I’m sorry I can be harsh with you, Ixhúja sighed. One is unaccustomed to some of the finer, the softer sentiments. One has learned only to focus on strategy and survival and the glories of battle.
– I think that only you and I could understand each other, both of us are well acquainted with loneliness – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– You won’t be lonely in my belly! I’m eating Princess tonight! – Àrqotha chuckled.
– I just wish you hadn’t have yelled at Puey – Éfhelìnye chanted.
He can withstand it, Ixhúja murmured.
– I shall not permit anyone to be harsh to my Puey. I don’t mind criticism directed towards me or even mine Ancestors, but anyone who dares to speak in a dishonorable fashion to my Puey will feel the full wrath … –
Okay okay okay, Ixhúja lifted up her hands in a sign of peace, but she chuckled a little. I am so sorry I was a meanie to little Puîyos. I’m sure I just bruised his feelings.
– I just don’t like anyone being disrespectful to Puey! – Éfhelìnye cried.
– I’ll find him delicious – Àrqotha chanted.
Despite what you may think, Ixhúja’s eyen were narrowing a little, Puîyos is not perfect.
Éfhelìnye’s face grew slightly ashen. – Perhaps Puîyos is not unto the divine Ása, no mortal is, but he is the perfect reflection of my heart! –
I’m just saying …
– And what are you saying? –
– You were saying something! –
I think you’re overprotective of him, that’s all that …
– What do you mean! –
Calm down, Éfha! Others are allowed to speak about you and Puîyos …
– I’m most certainly not overprotective! I’m only protective enough! I’d throw myself into a thousand raging flame battles if it meant protecting him from … –
Calm down! Just look around you before throwing yourself off of a boat and …
– I’ll throw myself off of ten thousand boats if it would help my Puey in battle or lengthen his life by one second or …why are you shaking your head at me? –
– I’m going to start eating you now – Àrqotha chanted.
Your power of hyperbole never ceases to surprise me, Ixhúja murmured as she shook her head. Other maidens are permitted to have opinions about Puîyos also.
Éfhelìnye wiped the least of her tears from her eyen and pulled herself away from Puîyus and began to approach her cousin. Puîyus was wishing that he were almost anyone else save here at the moment, and looking at the glint in Ixhúja’s eyen he could see that she was not backing down. He clasped his hands together and began signing unto her saying, Please don’t say anything!
I’m not about to let Éfh always have her own way, Ixhúja hissed in the language of machines and serpents.
– What are other maidens saying about my Puey? – Éfhelìnye asked, leaning froward, her hands upon her hips.
Perhaps that you attach yourself to him just a little too much. Can’t he live his own life without dragging you along?
Please don’t say anything else, Puîyus signed to Ixhúja.
– I think I’ll eat the lad first – chanted Àrqotha.
– And are these other maidens … looking at my Puey? – Éfhelìnye was panting.
Don’t. Talk, Puîyus tried to tell Ixhúja.
Ixhúja smiled. One cannot help but notice. He is quite a beautiful and comely lad. A maiden can’t help but notice his eyen.
– I’m sure a maiden could help herself if she wanted to … – Éfhelìnye chanted as she advanced upon her cousin.
Puîyus tapped his knuckles together to say, This conversation needs to end right now.
Ixhúja licked her lips. If one were wise one would use Puîyos’ natural beauty in order to procure alliances with whatever families are left here in the Emperor’s great extinction. It is written, after all, by the Prophet you claim to adore, that for us Xhámi, the endless alien houses in alliance provide resources, weaponry, transporation, et cet, but the Færie houses provide lesser wives and concubines to …
– NO – Éfhelìnye hissed. – I forbid it! –
Àrqotha was chuckling. – Can you hear my belly growling? I’ll be breathing fire for weeks after gobbling you up! I bet even your toes are delicious! I think I’ll bite off your toes one by one, they’ll be the sweetest of candies! –
Puîyus tried to separate Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja, a little like when he had tried to separate Fhermáta and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa from each other, but was finding it more difficult to wedge himself between these two. Ixhúja kept batting away at Puîyus who was murmuring, It is not permitted for there to be squabbling in the family. Come, let us return to battle and …
Oh hush, Puîyos of the tasty candy lips, Ixhúja dismissed him and setting an hand on Éfhelìnye’s shoulder told her, If you could just be a bit more grown up about the situation you would realize that it would be in your best interest to form some alliances, let Puîyos take a few concubines, perhaps ally himself with whatever princesses are left …
– I love Puey far to much to share him with anyone else ever and for ever! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – How many times do I have to tell you that is mine, mine own, my own personal property, and any other maiden who e'er thinks of … –
I do love his eyen, they are quite attractive.
– Ixhúja! –
Ixhúja hugged herself and sighed, and told Éfhelìnye, Have you noticed how strong and warm his arms are, how I would love to be held by him.
Éfhelìnye’s eyen were flashing red. Her heart was forgetting how to beat.
Ixhúja laughed to herself and purring told her, And his lips are just so scrumptious, how I would delight and feasting upon them. Why, I’m quite certain that I’m a far better kisser than you are, Éfha, my kiss would be light and fluttery and alluring and quite princessly.
– Time to eat! – Àrqotha bellowed.
We’re going home now, Puîyus touched Ixhúja on the shoulder and tried to move her away from Éfhelìnye. Ixhúja, without even looking at him, without even thinking, punched Puîyus right across the face, and a slight trickle of blood splattered up his face and landed upon Éfhelìnye. Puîyus gave Ixhúja a quizzical look and didn’t think that he would e'er understand her. Éfhelìnye gaped in shock. Ixhúja sucked the blood from her knuckles and taking out a violet handkerchief with consummate grace drew the blood away from her hands, and then looking up, and seeing Puîyus and Éfhelìnye purred to ask them, Why are you looking at me like that?
– You just hit Puey! –
Ixhúja nodded, she thought it was quite obvious. Why did Éfhelìnye have to say the obvious?
– You struck my Puey! –
Ixhúja set her kerchief back in her pocket. Once again with the obvious.
– Why did you do that? –
Ixhúja sighed. I don’t need a reason! I’m not like you, scheming and planning and dancing about. I do what I want, when I want. Next time I’m going to kiss him right on the lips and force you to watch. Or maybe I’ll break his leg. I haven’t decided yet.
– Oh Puey! –
If you start crying or becoming overprotective or silly or stupid I’m thrashing you!
– Let’s eat! – cried Àrqotha and his wings spun around and yanked up all three children in his grasp. – I’m swallowing you all at once! –
– I’m afraid we’re not quite done with our argument – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Would you mind waiting? –
– I’m eating you now! Sorry! Three children is a feast I cannot forgo! –
If we die now it will be with the knowledge that I won the argument, Ixhúja murmured. Plus than you’ll get your wish of dying with him. Also, once we get to the Undergloom, think about all of the beautiful young lady wraiths flickering about, young maidens who in life never got an husband, I’m sure they’ll all be swarming about this newest ghost.
– I’ll rip the other ghosts right off from him! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
Please stop argueing! Puîyus growled. One may not fight in the family.
Fine, sighed Ixhúja.
– I’ll be good – Éfhelìnye chanted.
I shall not permit conflict. Puîyus tapped his hands together. Family is sacred, it is ordained by the Holy and Creative Ones themselves.
It was just a tiny little argument, Ixhúja mewed.
– We’re not angry with each other – Éfhelìnye chanted. She reached out to tap Ixhúja on her shoulder. – I love you so much, Ixhúja, you are light and joy unto me. – Ixhúja nodded in agreement, and they reached o'er to embrace each other and forget the anger they felt.
– Yum yum yum much yum! – gurgled Àrqotha, his jaws snapping, and he reached up to grab the maidens, but Puîyus bound up and punched the Dragon across the face and growlent told it, Please do not interrupt while the maidens are talking.
– We’re finished – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Yes, may you go fight the Dragon now, Ixhúja told him.
Are you sure? Puîyus asked them. The Dragon, casteless in mine eyen can wait for the Princesses.
– We’re at peace – Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja kissed each other.
Really? Puîyus blinked.
Close as we’ll e'er get, Ixhúja blinked. Now, go fight the Dragon.
– Don’t you want to help? – Éfhelìnye asked her princessly cousin.
I’m still quite fond of the creatures myself. Anyway, only a male of pure heart can actually kill one of those wihts, so I might as well let Puîyos go and play. Perhaps Puîyos does have a single talent which I may not have, although I should mention I have broken and warmed up the Dragon a bit for him, Ixhúja smiled.
Puîyus landed upon the edge of Àrqotha’s wrist, and bent his head from side to side and let his muscles twist and flex, and was about to go leaping upwards for to do battle, but already Éfhelìnye and Ixhúja were swirling out Àrqotha’s grasp and crawling up his limbs like long-gowned spiders.
– Wait, wait, Puey! – Éfhelìnye cried as she slipped about Àrqotha’s shoulders.
– Can this wait? – asked the Dragon. – I’m famished here! I haven’t eaten a proper Princess in days. How long do you go without eating someone? –
– Puey, before you kill this Dragon you need to sweep me up in your arms and cover my face with kisses! – Éfhelìnye clasped her hands together and spun around in a pattern arabesque. – And then – she added – You should sing a song about my beauty and goodness, and then go off to fight the Dragon. –
That’s a stupid idea, Ixhúja growled. Éfha, please grow up. Just let him fight the Dragon!
– Not without my kiss first! And a song, I want a song! –
Puîyos, don’t encourage her!
– Puey! –
The billion, billion universes really don’t function to your romantic notions, apiata, fin amour!
– They should! –
– I’ll make them! –
How is that even possible?
– I’ll … I’ll figure out a way! –
Puey, do you really want to live in a world of silly Princesses all swooning and getting themselves into trouble … wait that is the world we have, only it not a whole passel of silly Princesses, it’s just one Princess who doesn’t realize just how much trouble she causes for everyone else.
– Kisses now! –
– Children. Children! Listen to me – Àrqotha chanted. – You can argue after I eat you, you’ll have eternity in the Undergloom. Puîyos, just kiss the girl so I can kill you all! –
Yes, kiss her, if it’ll shut her up, Ixhúja kicked Àrqotha’s shoulder a few times. I don’t know why she’s so stubborn, I’m not stubborn at all, it can’t be a family tree.
– Is there any reason why you’re delaying? – Àrqotha sighed. – I declare, if I weren’t so desparite for children and princesses I’m be grinding your brains out about now. Let’s hurry up before another Dragon rips yoru delectable heads right off. –
Puîyus’ face was glowing with a slight pink hew unto it. He kept looking from side to side, he looked around and saw the other Dragons swooping upwards and the glance of their eyen, and then Àrqotha’s face and Ixhúja’s, and Puîyus could not help himself but start blushing at the merest thought that someone would see him if he went to kiss Éfhelìnye.
Ixhúja slapped her brow and growled, Do we have to worry about modesty right now. Just kiss her!
– I promise I won’t watch – Àrqotha chanted.
– Do I get a song? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– NO! – both Àrqotha and Ixhúja snarled at her.
– Oh … – Éfhelìnye hung her head down. – I wanted a song. –
– Hurry up and kiss her! – Àrqotha cried. – Let her have a single sweet memory for me to devour, for her to hold close unto herself, for her to … what are you doing now? –
Puîyus came dashing upwards, he came running up the length of Àrqotha’s arm and kicked him in his side a few times until a rib shattered before his strike, and leaping upwards he grabbed the Dragon’s shoulders and yanked so hard that he dislocated the bones in a single terrible strike. Àrqotha screamed in agony, and Puîyus came leaping upwards and swept Éfhelìnye up into his arms. She puckered her lips. Puîyus looked upwards and saw that about a thousand Dragons were watching him. A couple of the Dragons were turning one to another and tickling each other in the wings and pointing to Puîyus and laughing at a him, and some of the Elders Dragons were shaking their heads in disapproval, for Emperor Kàrijoi would surely not approve of his Daughter kissing the lips of a lad.
– Kisses! – Éfhelìnye whispered and puckered all the more.
Puîyus reached o'er and kissed Éfhelìnye on her brow. She waited for a few moments. The Dragons were beginning to laugh at Puîyus all the louder now and point their claws at him. Puîyus could feel his entire head burning in embarrassment. Éfhelìnye whispered – Now’s the time when the hero is supposed to kiss the Princess’ lips! Go ahead. –
– Mew! –
– Let them look! –
– !! –
– They’re just jealous! Kiss me! –
– Mew! –
– I won’t let them make fun of you! –
– … –
Éfhelìnye opened one eye and saw the Dragons arising and guffawing in Puîyus general direction. – Dragon’s are so weird. I see I have no choice – she chanted, and she threw herself into Puîyus arms and attacked his lips. It was a little awkward at first because Puîyus was all too aware of the burning eyen glancing upon her, and he could hear with his ears of præternatural sharpness that the barbed wings were still snickering at her, and a few dragons were turning their flamescent heads and chuckling and saying – Isn’t that the grossest thing you’ve e'er seen? And mortals think that eating someone is disgusting? The Tánin are right about these children, they’re plain nuts! – Puîyus only struggled for a few moments, for he knew that Éfhelìnye would find a method to have her way in the end, and it was impious to argue with her. However, Éfhelìnye was not willing to let him too after what Puîyus thought was quite a reasonable time in embracing him, she kept her hands twisting through his fluent and melancholy blue tresses, she rubbed her face against his and kissed his lips, and behind them arose twining tendrils of steam, and large black eyen, and Àrqotha reached out with long thrawn quetzalitztli and tapped Puîyus on the shoulder a few times.
– Aren’t you done yet? – Àrqotha grumbled. He was grabbing the arm which Puîyus had dislocated, and with every breathe the Drake took, the more he could feel that his shoulder bone were set atwisted.
Éfhelìnye poked her head up and chanted – Go away, Dragon! –
– I have a name, you know. –
– I still don’t care! –
– I’m eating you now. –
– You don’t have a romantic chord in your song at all, do you? –
– I’m a Dragon, the Emperor has commanded us to end time – Àrqotha roared. – We burn the plantimals, the fields and forest the birds and fishes and dinosaurs and trees, we slay the priests and cut down the children, we prevent the youth from marrying and being given in marriage, ours is the dominion of time, and Winter will fall upon all things. The Emperor made us hungry, always famished, we must devour all that is innocent, only then when nothing exists can we be full. Your kiss ends now, children. Time to die. –
– Puey, I don’t think we should invite what’shisface to our betrothal rite – Éfhelìnye whispered, and Puîyus nodded in agreement.
– My name is Àrqotha! – the Dragon yelled.
Without even looking behind him, one of Puîyus’ hands swung upwards and caught the Dragon by the jaw and yanked it downwards with such force that Àrqotha knew that at least one jaw was broken. The Dragon screamed out in disbelieve, and Puîyus, still not looking up from Éfhelìnye’s embrace, drew the Dragon sword behind him with an almost contemptuous thrust backwards impaled Àrqotha right through his neck. Brilliant fountains of black blood came reaching outwards. One of Puîyus’ hands still was brushing a line upon Éfhelìnye’s face, the other hand grabbed the hilt of the sword and began twisting it back and forth so as to elicit the maximum amount of pain. Àrqotha screamed all the more. Puîyus yanked the sword out and thrust it through the Dragon’s neck just a few inches away, and Éfhelìnye played with a few blue and silver strands of hair drifting about his ear.
– I’m sorry the little toys are gone – Éfhelìnye chanted. – But perhaps we can make new ones together. We still have the devices we saved from the ruins of Khnìntha. –
Puîyus nodded. He thrust his word into Àrqotha again, and the Dragon began reaching outwards and began vomiting up blood and fire, and his eyen were become black mirrors enraged and was turning them unto the children and preparing to destroy them in horrors that only Dragons can contemplate.
– I love you so much, Puey – Éfhelìnye. – I think that sometimes though I get a little crazy thinking about you. –
– Purr! Purr! – Ixhúja shouted. Éfhelìnye and Puîyus looked at the same time and saw that the long boat the Qhoîyekhim Mind Slaver had procured for them was floating beside them and Ixhúja was at the helm. She bowed unto them and purring a little told them in ancient gestalts, Although loathe am I interrupt this happiness, I must tell you the Dragon has stopped playing around. Hop inside.
Puîyus yanked up his sword, and geysers of steam and hiss arose about him. He plucked up Éfhelìnye in one arm, and she kissed the side of his face a few times, and Puîyus came running down Àrqotha’s back, even as the yclawed wings were crashing downwards and trying to stab at the children, and Àrqotha was twisting around and breathing out his fires at them and ready to burn them all memories and all, his hunger enmaddening him. Puîyus came hopping about the stabbing flames and wings, and Àrqotha was ripping at the children so hard that he did not even care when he slash did his own flesh open and the blood and darkness came spilling outwards. Puîyus came leaping right upon the shuttle boat and Ixhúja yanked at the levers, the solar sails opening to their widest, and all around them the thousand Dragons who had guffawed at Puîyus’ embarrassment before were all turning one by one and arising and swooping right up after the children, claws and flames and wings snapping all at once. And the Dragons arose in huge spoiling roaring storms of rage, and were drawing the children closer and closer unto Prince Kherènxhuqhe and the growing fire storm where the thousand Aûm living ships and glass and hot air balloons crashed against his body, and the last of the Duchesses’ own Temple Balloon came rushing downwards, and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa looked up and saw the Dragon right before them.
Puîyus looked up at once. He turned. Éfhelìnye drew her face away from his, flashes of meteorite and brimstone tumbling about them. He knew that his Sisters had to be somewhere nearby, but in the confusion and horror he could not guess where. At once a daring idea sparkled unto him. Ixhúja was causing the boat to spin around sideways and upside down, she was trying to keep it from entering the suicide vortex of the Aûm but everything was turning around and falling into that orbit. Puîyus came hopping right unto her and pointed right unto Prince Kherènxhuqhe in the center, where all the fleet would fall. It took Ixhúja a moment to realize what Puîyus meant.
That’s incompletely insane, she told him in blinks and glances.
If they are among the Aûm they will fall that way, and then one can find and save them, Puîyus nodded.
Ixhúja sniffed the air. She was not quite as attuned to Siêthiyal and Akhlísa’s scent since she had not grown up with them nor thought about them all the time, but she did smell a little some of the sadness and euphoria which she associated with the romantic land of Jaràqtu. She was unable to think of a better plan. Puîyus drew Éfhelìnye closer unto himself and pointed unto Prince Kherènxhuqhe and the waves of fire crashing about him, and the huge burning spirals of the glass and hot air balloon just about to slam against him.
Remain here with Ixhúja, Puîyus nodded unto her. We’ll need the boat to return everyone home.
Obey, Ixhúja turned to Éfhelìnye and blinked.
– I’ll stay here – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Puîyus nodded, he took Éfhelìnye’s hand and kissed it, and he spun around and came running right off of the prow, his violet dreamcloak rippling off of him in pteryx patterns, and he came hopping off the head of one dragon and the wing of another and into the growing mælstrom of the burning balloons. And before Puîyus arose Prince Kherènxhuqhe and a thousand living ships tumbling downwards unto him, and Puîyus could see that the ancient prince silvern and black was bleeding from his jaws, that his face was covered in its own black blood, and the Prince kept spinning around and around and sniffing the air, as if searching and wondering and trying to remember something. Puîyus came ducking about the claws of several Dragons as a Qhíng vessel crashed against an Aûm frigate. Overhead some webs were rolling upwards, rockets breathing right out of them, sulphur and soot and rage off the last of the towers and storeys. Blinding shredthreads of light were falling, the remains of some of the billows of some once beautiful balloon. Some Dragons were fighting o'er the Aûm frigate, the Qlùfhem and Thúlwu spinning about, and as Puîyus fell among them he batted them away with hand and foot, kicking and striking them as if they were solar balls and he was playing xhwongeîthe with his sisters and cousins back hme. All around him Prince Kherènxhuqhe was chuckling deep and long and clear, and Puîyus could feel that his beloved Sistesr were nigh.
– I have to go after him! – Éfhelìnye cried, her hands tightly clasped. – He risks his life for others, at least let me go out and … – Ixhúja was not even bothering to verbalize in any of the languages of flower and clockwork. She began breaking her knuckles one by one, and then she brought up her fist right against Éfhelìnye’s chin and made a swinging motion just to warn her younger cousin that no one was going to try any heroics at this particular time. Éfhelìnye gulped; she did not like fighting in the family at all, and Ixhúja had a look to her which seemed to sparkle as if to say, Obey obey obey!
– I just worry about Puey quite a lot. –
Ixhúja shook her fist.
– Maybe I can just stand closer to the gunwail? –
Ixhúja shook her fist.
– Or perhaps you’d let me steer for a moment? –
Ixhúja shook her fist.
– I’m just going to be quiet and do nothing. –
Ixhúja smiled. But she still held up her fist.
– I just want to go home, at least to Puey’s home, it’s the only home left unto me. – She closed her eyen and thought about the rolling fields of blue green grass, the smaragd glass of the lochs, the immaculate forests, the whispering mountains brimming with mist and mystery, and her eyen watered a little as she contemplated that despite the utter beauty of her memories, the reality of what Jaràqtu should be when she and Puîyus entered thereunto would probably be quite different in truth. So caught up was she that she did not notice as lances of plasma and fire fell upon the shuttle pod, and Ixhúja cried out in warning, and Éfhelìnye found herself throw upwards and backwards, and when Éfhelìnye looked up again she was tumbling out and crashed right upon the surface of a cloud. The Starflower Princess stuck her head upwards, and cones of whisps were billowing up abou ther head, and she was seated in the midst of the cloudback. She sniffled a little and coughed out a bit of mist, and bubbles arose about her in slight hiccoughs.
– Tee hee hee hee! – Ixhúja pointed and laughed at Éfhelìnye.
Éfhelìnye coughed up a bit more cloud into her hands, and realized that she had never inhaled so much nebulous fluff in her life before, and felt a little sick. – Hic! Hic! Hic! – she coughed, and wreathes of bubbles arose about her.
– Hah hah hah hah hah! – Ixhúja fell about the helm and continued to laugh, she could not help herself, she thought that Éfhelìnye looked both comical and cute, and when Éfhelìnye tried to free herself from the cloudbank and the tendrils of mist held her down, Ixhúja could not help but laugh all the harder, for who else could be so lithe and balletic as to be trapped by a cloud. Granted the great storm clouds of Pàfhajoir Penyitàkhta were monstrous and continental realms of cloud beyond the Mortal Realms, and if Mortals were able to ascend thereupunto then entire viceroy kingdoms could be trap within, but one of these little whisp clouds xhráthan mewobol wothosh, why only Éfhelìnye could struggle against one.
– Would you mind helping me out? – Éfhelìnye cried.
And you think you can help Puey in the battle?
Éfhelìnye rolled around, she struggled to her feet, but she was still partially sinking into the mist. – Please, just a little help! I didn’t know I’d get stuck in a cloud! –
How are you even able to walk in it? Ixhúja wondered, playing with a violet whisp of her own hair. You don’t weigh very much at all, do you? We’ll have to fatten you up a little, especially if you want to bare Puîyos Sons.
Éfhelìnye crashed on her face, puffs of pollen twinkling about her. – I think I may be trapped. –
Ixhúja continued to chuckle, but then she heard all about her the growing disintergration of ship and skiff and glass hot air balloon, and spinning around saw that the flames were growing all the hotter and more terrible. At once she saw that Puîyus was leaping around and yanking out living ships just about to crash and throwing them upwards and away towards Jaràqtu and all the while trying to save Qhíng and Aûm and his Sisters indeed. Ixhúja saw that Puîyus was disappearing from her, but that he may need the ship at any moment. She held up an hand to Éfhelìnye to tell her, Just don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back.
– I can’t go anywhere, I’m ytrapped in cloud! – Éfhelìnye cried, but when she looked up the shuttle boat was already fadinga way from her, and she could see the storm of brilliant light and waves upon waves of Aûm vessels martyring themselves against the Dragon, and with every crash against Kherènxhuqhe out came rippling waves of energy that were blasting out the clouds farther and farther away, so that in a few moments Éfhelìnye was already a few leagues away and could not quite see what was coming to pass.
Puîyus was grown frantic in his seach for his Sisters, his ears were ringing, he thought that somewhere in the raging wings, in the explosions and whirls and utter swiftness that he could hear Akhlísa’s voice arising to pitched fear, that she was calling out his name thrice. He came spinning upwards. Dragons were snapping their jaws. He came soaring upwards right untowards where several massive warships were just about to collide against the Prince’s face, he launched himself off of meteror and flame debris and the barb of a wing, he caught up one vessel up by the stern and bunted it away and grabbed the other by the prow and hurled it aside, neither ship striking dragon or each other. A few skiffs were just about to veer into beating wings and be ripped apart, Puîyus came leaping through the flames, in his speed his violet dreamcloak became part of the fire and he was tiptoeing through the fires, and he yanked up the side of the skiff, and was swinging about the beating wings and threw one ship north and one ship south and the other in a great spiral away from the battle. The roaring song of Dragons came arising about him, as several contingencies of Drakes broke apart from the mælstrom and gave chase after some Qhíng vessels, and Puîyus came swimming through the air and punched against the living ships one by one and as he traveled he gave the Dragons departing gifts of wounds and punctures and stabs through neck and gill and jaw.
And so all the while, faster and fiercer and more terrible than before, Puîyus came leaping through the living ships and glass air balloons and skiffs and began shoving them aside, and sometimes he came hopping upon a Dragon’s head and other times he landed back upon the long boat and used it to spring himself away, and the contracting sphere of exploding living ships was breaking apart, the vortex of suiciding vessels no more. Puîyus nodded to Ixhúja and came bounding away, he came skipping about some of the elders of the Dragons and as eleven living ships were about to collide, he plucked them away and sent them up into the boreal wings. He was yanking up the glass hot air balloons speeding away at sublight speed and kicking them aside, he was hopping about the solar sails and turning them in the opposite direction, and the Aûm flotilla was as if turned inside out and was expanding away from Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and the Dragons were looking one to another and felt cold fear in their heart, as all of the living ships were turning aside and the glory and terror and death of the fleet was ending. Some of the younger Dragons dashed upwards and began to flee back up into the clouds. Other Dragons launched themselves into the septentrional winds. Puîyus’ dreamcloak was like autumnal leaves and rain and wind as he jumped from one vessel to the next. Prince Kherènxhuqhe paused, he tried to reach outwards and snatch at the air even as Puîyus arose and came leaping up right before his face. Kherènxhuqhe spun around. Puîyus landed upon the prince’s gill and spinning the Emperor’s sword around thrust it through the neck of the Dragon and impaled him all the way through, and when Kherènxhuqhe attempted to roar, clouds of spume and soot and shadow erupted from it, so loud and terrible that Puîyus thought the Dragon’s head was about to explode, although it failed to do so. Puîyus came hopping away, the Dragon was swatting at him as if a fly, but already Puîyus was shoving aside several more suiciding Aûm hot air balloons and he threw most of them deeper into the Northwind and towards Jaràqtu where they could rest from their burdhens.
Puîyus came rolling right back upon the long boat which Princess Ixhúja was piloting, and noticed that Éfhelìnye was gone. His eyen glistened as darkness visible. Ixhúja looked up from the steering xermoâthe wheel and purring and snarling told her, She’s gone, but she’s safe. She’s in a cloud. Don’t worry about her. She’s probably the only one of us altogether safe at the moment. But then, who wishes to live a truly safe life? Danger is far more interesting, I believe.
We may have to change plans then, Puîyus nodded. Ixhúja was hopping down from the wheel and approaching him, but he barely paid her any attention. If my Sisters are injured, I want you to take them straight into Jaràqtu. I’ll find Éfhelìnye and return her, but it may be best for me to stay with the fleet. Never before has armies of Man fought weyrs Dragon in battle and won, and yet I cannot abandon the Qhíng and Aûm to their fate. I will fight the Dragons. My Sisters I give unto you.
Oh yes, life should be dangerous, daring, Ixhúja murmured, and slipping up unto Puîyus she took his arms and wrapped them around her and kissed him on the face. Don’t you agree?
The twain are here! Puîyus gasped. Or at least Siêthiyal is here. There is another maiden.
Do you want to kiss before you go? Ixhúja smiled.
Puîyus sniffed the air again and came spinning out in a backwards flip. Ixhúja just shook her head and thought to herself perhaps one day Puîyus will miss all my fine kisses, alack, alas for him, far too noble and chivalrous for his own good.
Puîyus came leaping right into the vortex where pods of whales were being incinerated one by one as they crashed against the Dragon, and Kherènxhuqhe was roaring in the spheres of fire, fountains of fire and blood bursting up from his snout. Into the glowing and blinding heat Puîyus was flowing. Needles of fire were reaching outwards, at once columns of light were forming and the spiral sword of the great Temple Balloom where the Duchesses had command their fleet impaled Prince Kherènxhuqhe right through his chest, and there blossomed right up from the prince the ruination of metal and heat and skrike motor and comets rolling upwards. Puîyus came swinging downwards, and in the growing crash he coudld see that a couple of maidens were grasping unto a bit of of the skeletal structure of the ship, one maiden glistening pink, her hair a brilliant wave of pink, his Sister Siêthiyal, Khwofheîlya’s only Daughter, and beside her was another maiden, one of the prettiest he had e'er seen, she was clad all in white and gold, and her hair was streaming outwards like the karuláta flowers for which his youngest Sister had been hight. He saw that both of the maidens were tossed several hundred cubits away as the first half of the balloon vaporized on impact, and blood clouds were rippling outwards. Puîyus was straining through the air, he was throwing himself against cloud and claw and burning debris so fast that his skin was burning and his hair was become the storm. The Dragon was reaching outwards and pulling out the web shard of the hot air ballon out of it its chest, and the ship was completely exploding. Puîyus launched himself with all the strength that he had, he willed unto himself the grace and lithesomeness and speed of fish and ice pterodactyl and insect and archæopteryx, he came spinning up and around and around, his hands were grasping, huge clouds of stained glass were rippling outwards, Puîyus dove right into the dust, and the billowing explosions were reaching outwards in growing waves greater and greater still, and his hands stretched out, his entire body was aching from the flames and horror, and he clasped Siêthiyal by the waist and drew her upwards, she was already falling unconscious in the terror, and with his other hand he plucked her up friend and came spinning outwards through the growing waves of light and wing and dust and pollen whorls.
Puîyus was not entirely concerned with where he landed just so long as he brought the maidens from the growing waves of heat and flame where Prince Kherènxhuqhe was and where the glass and hot air balloons were changing the very phlogistons of the north wind. He came soaring upwards in a long and graceful arch above the plain of battle had been, and now the Dragons were beginning to flee, they were concerned about the ghost who had turned the fleet away, and all about them the Dragons could see that thousands of skiffs and living ships and glass hot air balloons of the Qhíng and Aûm were flickering away and making their safe exodus through the Northwind. Puîyus came landing upon a few stray meteorites drifting in the upper winds, and stumbling down upon them he set the maiden clad all in white down with hardly a look to her, but he ran off and held Siêthiyal close unto himself, and tears were forming his ears and he shook her a little and hoped that she were alright. She was breathing, she was just dazed he could see, but he could see that splashes of blood and oil lay on her face, the blood of Aûm and whales and others he thought, and her clothes were torn from exhurtion, and he prayed that she had not seen too much battle. Their Father’s sword still lay clasped at her back, it was pulsating with a slight blue and violet light, for the Sepùrke Khaxhapúrxhriqe recognized the blood of Puîyus the Heir of the Sweqhàngqu, who was no longer hair but Ancestor, who was no longer Ancestor but Pwéru, who was no longer Pwéru but the Son returning ragged and penniless from battle back home, and the sword sighed in sadness and felt as if this were a very old story perhaps told several times. Puîyus wept a little as he held Siêthiyal’s unconscious body next to him, and reaching out he began licking her face clean of blood and oil and stained, and his tears fell upon her. A few moments later he heard the roar of rockets and knew that behind him Princess Ixhúja was returning in her long boat. Ixhúja hopped down and picked up Akhlísa and set her safe within, and Puîyus just remained upon the stone, brilliant flames twining upwards all about him, and he rocked back and forth and held Siêthiyal and missed her so much. But he knew he could not remain thusly too long. He got up and carried her away. She stirred a little in his grasp. Puîyus felt as if indeed he were become Khnaûxi just as his Father Íngìkhmar had cleped him, the Ghostly Child, that it was his task to save people, children and maiden and priest, to flicker as a ghost in the shadow and perform his tasks unseen, unrecognized, unhonored, and perhaps it was best this way. Puîyus looked unto Ixhúja and mewled and whispered a few words unto her and she understood, for he had to return and find Éfhelìnye and aid as many Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu as he could, and perhaps even the whales who had stumbled into the wrath of the Northwind.
Do not stay too long, Ixhúja was nodding, her voice itself like wind and soothing summer storm. Puîyus was still holding Siêthiyal close to himself, as Ixhúja continued and told him in such a language, the Dragons may return in greater numbers, just get Éfhelìnye and go. I’ll take your Sister back and the other maiden. You may like the other one, she’s very exotic, labyrinth patterns are her dress. Perhaps you’ll make another sweetheart.
Ixhúja, one should not say such a thing.
Puîyos, you’re going to be Emperor, you should have a Concubine or three, it helps to seal alliances. Here, let me take Siêthiyal. I’ll take her and your new sweetheart into the Northwind. But don’t tarry too long. You can’t save everyone.
One can try. Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho sacrificed themselves to save us from the labyrinth, the least I do can is save others. And I can tempt to slay Prince Kherènxhuqhe, or at least make him suffer for his crimes.
Puîyus held up Siêthiyal and set her into Ixhúja’s grasp. Siêthiyal tried to stir a little, but her souls were still trapped within Khlaureleîxha the dreamlands of lighter sleep, and darkness and soft shadow were pressed down upon her. Puîyus nodded and watched as Ixhúja turned around and began trotting down the crumbling burn fields of the asteroid, and within a few moments Ixhúja was hopping back up into the open jhuináxhyong shuttle, and she made sure that Siêthiyal and the maiden she did not recognize as Akhlísa were very comfortable, and the boat arose and turned away from Puîyus, and the solar sails came drawing outwards in layers upon layers of unfolding triangles, and a few moments later it began to twinkle away, golden rushes of sparkles flowing about it, and Puîyus watched for a time the departure of the maidens and felt glad that they would have the joy of entering Jaràqtu before he did. Ixhúja and Akhlísa and the bride disappeared from his sight, and he turned around and watched the fleeing of the other living ships and wondered whatever he could do to turn this into victory.
The first task would be to retrieve Princess Éfhelìnye, at least if he knew that were she safe he would not have to worry about her, and sometimes her mind worked with associations and words and strategies he would not otherwise contemplate, various games and chess matches she could employ to use in differing situations, and her presence moreover was a supreme comfort. The battle was breaking apart throughout the endless layers of the boreal winds, but it was not quite o'er yet, for although he had managed to break apart the mine lines of the living ships and skiffs and glass and hot air balloons from crashing against Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and hundreds of thousands of Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Aûm were fleeing in their various wherries and boats and caiques, still the Dragons remained and were picking off the mortals one by one and breathing out their flames. Puîyus looked around and saw that in the distances flocks of seamews were arising and heading towards a blur of silver where he knew the shores of Jaràqtu were forming, and as he squinted he could just barely discern the outline of shore and ancient mountain arising, he breathed in deeply and could taste salt and the wind southweards facing that comes down from the leeward slope of the hills, the xhóthei chinook föhn warm and dry as it drifted upwards and came unto the ocean vast. Puîyus turned around and saw that several more flocks of ice pterodactyls were dancing upwards, he watched their movement, as the flock was breaking apart, free and beautiful and strong they were soaring, and the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were flying with the pterodactyls and were of a single perfect harmony with them he knew, all of them refugees together, and only the shadows of the Dragons behind them interrupeted what was a perfect scene.
The flowing music of the whales arose about Puîyus, it was a sad dirge, the high-finned valüts drifting upwards about the meteors and shaking their large gleaming heads towards him, for he knew that they were mourning, the Dragons had taken a terrible tribute in the lives of the tóxheke aġviQ, and the song of the departed was arising and become part of the memories of all those left within the pod, and several large cetus heads arose about him, dag gadol and rubbed against him, and he hummed their own songs back unto him, and as the music was arising and become part of their movement and swaying, the whales all bowing one by one and drifting about the twining wreathes of monopolar asteroids, a whale ducked down and Puîyus slipped upon its head ha’daga, and the whales were all arising one by one, and Puîyus came floating upwards, and streams of mist were disappating unto all sides of him, the high fins of the whales driftent from side to side in the breazes, a few tendrils of mist and heat dancing in the swirling rays of silver, the whales a graceful ballet in turning, and the sprays of cloud prismatic and tumbling forming. Puîyus did not permit himself to dwell too much upon sorrow and regret, on how many vessels he should have saved, perhaps if he could have run and dashed and arisen and flown just a little faster he would have been able to catch another cruiser, one more fighting raider one more burning dreadnaught, perhaps if he had spent more time thinking about battle and less with worrying about Princess Éfhelìnye he would have been of better service to the Aûm who had been his Father’s allies and been able to show more mercy unto the Qhíng, he thought about carrying Siêthiyal, cool and quiet in his arms and knew that she had undergone an entire story without him, that e'er since he and Éfhelìnye had fled from the Ice Palace he had never had a chance to speak with her or even receive a single letter, and even before then he had been forced to bid farewell unto her after he had left on his suicide mission to slay the Suzerain Xhnófho Khmaiqràfhta, after Fhermáta had passed and entered into the protection of the Ancestors. There was so much that he wished to hear from her, where she had been, what she had experienced. His heart was smoldering as he realized that he had no idea where Akhlísa could be, he had thought that she would be with her older Sister all the while, but anything could have happened in the meantime, he had no idea. And now as the whales were rising and falling and making their way through the cloudbanks he was wondering who was the other maiden in the doomed Aûman vitrious hot air balloon, the one whom Ixhúja had taken first, all dressed in white like unto a bride of the fair Khniîkhan countries, or perhaps more, he thought, dressed like his Auntie Qtìmine who was one of honored Kàrijoi’s own vestal virgins, yclad in white and gold finery, veils and flowers strewn upon her head, golden tresses flowing, very beautiful he thought, one of the most beautiful of women whom he had e'er seen, save for Éfhelìnye of course. But indeed, this new maiden was lovely, a damsel like unto his own people, and he wondered at the new friend whom Siêthiyal must he found. He just hoped that Akhlísa was safe wherever she was, he hoped that she were in Jaràqtu at least, and though the ancestrial fields of the Sweqhàngqu were no more, at least what steads and fortresses were left unto Jaràqtu were home close enough.
The whales were flowing upwards through the caps and suff and crash of foam cloud, and as they were arising, splashing upwards and part of the whale song came pollen drifting up from the clouds. Puîyus looked upwards and beaming just above the liminal line where Jaràqtu was forming he could just see the shine of several Moons appearing, rushes of white and silver dancing outwards and spreading outwards in beams, and pollen was drifting down from the moons, and the rolling boreal winds were no longer just silver and white, they were sparkling with blues and greens and golds, and the spinning flame vortex which the suiciding Aûm had formed was fading, the pollen was extinguishing the fires, and the wreckage itself was no longer smolderent wrack, it was shivering and growing with silver and leaf and root branching off of it. The whales banked up out of the clouds, puffs and smoke and dust splashed upwards in nebulous whisps, and Puîyus came sliding down the length of the whale bodies for he could see off in the distance that sitting upon a cloud and in very deep thought Éfhelìnye was wondering, even as twines of cloud were branching about her and dragging her down, and whenever she tried to move the cloud slurpsucked her down, and so it was just best to sit and think and wonder about other times. Puîyus came dancing away from the pod of whales so that he could reach Éfhelìnye the first, so eager was he to return unto her, and she saw him from afar and smiled, and at her smile all of the cloud was changing, it was no longer part of the white and silver of the boreal winds, it began to gleam with all of the colors of the rainbow, oceans of reds and blues and golds suffusing out of it in pools of blush. Rilling upwards all about Éfhelìnye came rays of light that intersected the waves of pollen drifting from other fleece clouds and from the Moons themselves, and the heavens were made like unto a rain of color flowing down. Puîyus ran up right unto Éfhelìnye and the tendrillar bonds of cloud evaporated at once, and he picked her up and spun her around and they rested their heads upon each other’s shoulders, the dreamcloak flowing about both of them at once as if it too were become part of cloud and winter and night. And the pod of whales arose right up about the children, and their voices were deep and serene and were singing their own wordless song of click and memory and whistle.
– I’m so glad you found your Sisters, Puey – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– … –
– I know in my heart that Karuláta is safe also. Both of your Sisters are in Jaràqtu right now, I just know it, Puey. You don’t need to worry about them anymore. Ixhúja can take care of them for now; she is part of our family also. –
Éfhelìnye ran her hands up and down the side of Puîyus’ face, and at her touch some of his concern began to flow away, and together they looked around and slipped their hands together, and watched as the pollen drifted downwards and scintillated among the rainbow clouds, and the whales continued to sing their sad songs. And Puîyus took Éfhelìnye by the hand, and they slipped up unto the head of a whale ha’daga, and together they could see the Northwind drawing out around them, and that although most of the Dragons were gone now, enough remained to rage and roar and burn the fleeing Qhíng and Aûm, here in the tumbling iridescent pollenry.
They stood in silence together for a few moments, their eyeblinks batting at the same time, their heartbeats murmuring in perfect unison, they listened to the hissing of the clouds, the great whisps of frost and darkness and winter spreading upwards and breathing out gusts of snowflother, they listened to the whales as they were arising unto all sides of the children and continued to sound their most perculiar intonation, for the twaijóle of the whales was a combination of whistling and thundering and the squeaking of great pipe organs and the rushing song of bagpipe great and deep and ancient, and they watched as the vessels of the Qhíng and the Aûm were scattering, their heartbeats pat pat pat pat at the same time, they saw that many of the wounded skiffs and limping long boats, a few of the burning cruisers and dreadnaughts and warships and glassen hot air balloons were making their way unto the shadows of Jaràqtu, and yet the Dragons that were left were still spinning around in their rage and ripping through mastheads and solar sails and the great effluvia of the vessels. Both of the children were dimly aware that it would be possible for them just to flee and leave the Qhíng and the Aûm unto their fates, and part of Puîyus was still wroth with the Qhíng for all which they had done against his land and people and clan and family, and Princess Éfhelìnye had been witness to the horrible weapon which the Duchesses and their priests and artists had fashioned out of her Father’s nightmares, and she did not like to be reminded of the horrors that her Father could engender, yet neither of them truly thought of leaving the Qhíng and the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu unto their fates, none of the nations of the Real People deserved to be tormented and burnt by the Dragons no matter what crimes their leaders might have done against the Crystalline Throne and the Starburst Crown and perhaps even against the holy Clan of the Áme themselves, it was not just for the Dragons to be slaughtering the soldiers and sailors who believed that they were serving holy Kàrijoi and the leaders whom he had given them, and even in service to Grandfather Pátifhar and Sieur Íngìkhmar in their grand Triple Alliance Xìngqo’ Oantheyùlkha that sought to replace the Emperor with two children, even in this rebellion men believed that they were doing Kàrijoi’s beneficient will, for the ways of the Emperor are as high above men as the Etsèrjoir the Starscapes are above the vault of heaven itself. And yet, even as their hearts were beating as one, neither Puîyus nor Éfhelìnye knew exactly what they could do. Jhpiêl pollen and tùstu fanflarouches almost sunlight glistening were falling down through all of the clouds, the vast whirling mist was blossoming now in oranges and violets and greens, the pollen now golden and red and shining jacinth, all of the heavens drifting outwards and mixing with crackles of light. Puîyus sniffed the air. Éfhelìnye wrinkled her nose. The first few multicolored snowflakes began to fall. Some of the higher clouds of the septentrional wind were opening upwards, and snowflakes were falling like fresh petals, and some of the snow was mixing with the cascade of pollen which was falling throughout all of the windswept heavens and the flother was become blue and rubescent and glistening golds, and some of the snowflakes through were just shimmering in rays prismatic, and fountains of flakes were falling downwards and become all of the colors of the iridules. The Dragons in the very midst of the winds as they were spinning about and impaling soldiers and sailors of the Qhíng and Aûm and hardly caring which species or caste or class or phatry they were slaughtering, they were all just mortals unto them, and the Emperor was declairing all flesh to be meat unto the Dragons whom he was strangling and starving in spirit, the Dragons were casting their long necks from side to side and incinerating skiff and deck and tower one by one by one, but as the pollen began to fall, and the rainbows of snowflakes began to fall upon the horns and barbed scales and reptilian wings of the Dragons who at creation had been Rainbow Serpents Kinthejhekhaûqha kinthemàrpi xaneuneujhàmfhe, the Dragons began to stop their fell slaughter, they turned up their enigmatic mirror eyen, they paused and turned around one by one by one, and their scales of flame and ice and might and ruin were transforming a little and were become crystal light as they had been long, long ago. And in the glistening rainbow of pollen dust and snowflother fall, for the first time since the Virgin Empress Khnoqwísi had been taken from them, the Dragons felt satiated, content, and almost happy. From their high clouds Puîyus and Éfhelìnye watched the scene, the vessels of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were bobbling throughout the reaches of the clouds, and the Dragons were gazing outwards in the iridescence blossoming, and it was calm and gentle and beautiful, and for a moment all folk save one forgot the arts of war and could just breathe in the bliss of the rainbow, but the only one who could never forget the honoraria of war was Puîyus Íngìkhmar’s Son, the greatest Warrior in the Dreamtime, the Land of Story, for such was the doom which the Immortals had placed upon him.
The pollen was dancing about Éfhelìnye’s tresses and sparkling as it became part of the golden red swirl of her hair, some of the pollen was almost dripping down the sides of her ears like unto icicles earrings, although she wore no orelornamojn orelringojn oiralbriun, and some of the rainbow snowflakes were tumblent all about Puîyus face, the snowflakes crawling up and down the jewels which had once been woven into his tresses with careful hands, first by Fhermáta and later even by the Empress Khnoqwísi in a vision he had once upon a time, the snowflakes of many colors kethoneth paßim tangling upon his shoulders and up and down the aurelian layers of her torq and all about the stains and tears and splashes upon his garments and the jerkin which Tretratríxe and Qwatríxe had stabbed many times with malicious claw, and the ruins of his pockets and sleeves well damascened the snowflakes were falling, and the tears where once the regalia and runes of the Sweqhàngqu had disported themselves, but which in fell haste he had torn aside and hurled towards his Mother’s shade, and his spirit still burnt with shame to remember such disgrace. Éfhelìnye reached up and brushed some of the rainbow snowflakes from his face and shoulders and writhing dreamcloak, and she could see in his cape that images of Jaràqtu were appearing, anxious and troubled dreams of the smoke and war and ruin upon the land, his memories of how beautiful it once was, his thoughts about the ritual scorching which the Qhíng had commenced upon it, and fear of what he would find in the wake of the War of Winter. Puîyus brushed his hand through Éfhelìnye’s tumbling rondures, and the pollen was drifting all about her face, sparkling tweeking spinning twirling sfericing tumbling, and it made her look completely inaureoled and sidereal and innocent all at once. And the music of the whales was arising all about them, in sighs and rumbles and chatters of the murmuring of the deep winedark sea.
– Puey? – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– ?? – Puîyus responded.
– What can we do? The Dragons may not be able to capture and slay all of the Qhíng and Aûm, but they will kill many of them … and the Dragons, if they desire it, will be able to slip through the storms of boreal Qterfhóreso Khrùmfhurs and enter into the garthwolds of Jaràqtu. –
Puîyus nodded, for he remembered in shatters and snatches of memory the day when he was but three winters of age and playing with his Siblings upon the swards of blue and green upon a summer’s day and the clouds had parted and a Dragon appeared high in the welkin, impaling wings beating pinpilinpauxa from side to side, and the Dragon came spinning around and aimed itself wrath and fire and might against the small child. Éfhelìnye could see upon his face that he was remembering that also, and where one Dragon could have snuck into Jaràqtu, where many Dragons had slipped within in the many ages, here in this gloamtide hour, the thousand Dragons could burst into Jaràqtu and lay waste to whatever remained. Puîyus nodded, and Éfhelìnye understood, for it was not just a matter of saving the soldiers and sailors of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu, they had to prevent the Dragons from following them into Jaràqtu or at least slow them, if at all possible.
Puîyus brushed a few pollen whirls from Éfhelìnye’s face, their eyen were gazing into each others’, and if they were not posed upon tsùmfhi’ urpayùtya upon whisps of clouds screthes wolcen talus bata scree lil ĉifonoj nmárnabba cud parlkana scran tre, then perhaps Puey and the Princess would have embraced and just thought about each other and the sparkling of the dust and the beauty of the rainbowbrights, but their hearts were turned unto the lament of the land. Puîyus brushed some of the pollen away from Éfhelìnye’s face, he knew that nothing dirty or impure to remain stuck upon her, mud and dirt just drifted right off of her of their own accord sua sponte, but the pollen just sparkled and orbited her hair and sometimes came to settle about her in crowns dangling outwards, and sometimes the pollen was sparkling about her cheeks and nose and swirling about her neck and the scintillant layers of the rainbow necklace she wore, the necklace which had begun as the carcanet of the Duchesses and became the necklace which her Mother had worn so long ago. And in a wordless language of color and glance and pollen Puîyus told her, Thou art the smartest person whom I know, more intuitive than many scholars, your mind a whirl of possibilities and invention and hope, your thoughts creative beyond what I can e'er conceive, a synthesis of mathmatics and alchemy and astrology and dance far beyond what an humble warrior can hope to understand, so tell me, Starflower Princess, have I overlooked some strategy in defeating these dragons?
– Rare indeed are those who have survived a Dragon attack, rarer still the one who has slain a Dragon. If we can at least drive the Dragons away, we shall be afforded a great victory – Éfhelìnye chanted.
In all of the histories that I remember it is the lone hero in single combat who wounds or slays a Dragon, is it not?
– When the Dragons amass, they cannot fail to conquer – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Fortunate it is that only rarely does my Father gather together all of his legions of Dragons … in fact I cannot remember of a single time when my Father has done so, although I thought that once long ago the Dragons arose to aid mine Ancestor Eilasaîyan in the war against the fell mage Tlhantòrtlho. The Dragon tends to be a solitary creature, or to dwell in pairs or small tribes, it is difficult to keep the phatries of the Children of Qhalúxha working together, so mighty and fierce are they. –
How have men slain Dragons before, my Princess?
– Puey, I think the number of Dragon slayers can probably be summed up on one of my hands, in all of the whilom history of the Land of Story. Khiêro your First Ancestors, King Xaîle Qhiikhèrkhmair, the King of the Aûm I believe slew one, one of the Qhíng forefathers … and you. Not even Eilasaîyan my greatest of Ancestors, not even my Father who was crucified alive upon the Tree of Light e'er slew a Dragon. Always it is the brave son who ventures out pure of heart and saves a princess … from a Dragon … except for that one time when you were three winters of age. –
I saved my Sisters from the Dragon, Puîyus told her in blinks and nods.
– Yes, that’s true. So the pattern holds. I was with you when you slew Lord Qàrqhin. And I am with you now. So we haven’t forgotten it. –
There must be something else to consider. Puîyus looked upwards, the rainbow pollen and snowflakes were continuing to fall, beautiful and serene still were all of the waves of the heavens, and the Dragons were no longer scorching the soldiers and warriors of the Qhíng and Aûm, rather pure and prismatic were the fountains of light which the Dragons were breathing outwards as they rose and fell through the heavens bright. Dragons were present at Creation, Puîyus told Éfhelìnye, as he was counting dactylonomous upon his digits as if he were reciting his catechism before Grandfather Pátifhar and the rest of the elder priests, and Dragons are demimortal spirits like Unicorns and Tèntra, and Dragons create weather and cloud and ice and flame, and Dragons helped Emperor Eilasaîyan long ago, the Father of Dragons was Qhalúxha and he served the Empress your Mother, and Dragons are the most powerful of all creatures, more powerful than time dæmon and monster, and Dragons are commanded by Emperor Kàrijoi upon his Crystalline Throne and wearing his Starburst Crown, and Dragons see with vast mirror eyen, and their thoughts are deep and cunning and like unto Emperor Kàrijoi’s. Puîyus stopped counting, he had reached eleven, the perfect number and the beginning of the next cycle of counting, píxhi, zero and one, and his mewls and purrs fell silent, and he was rather hoping that Princess Éfhelìnye would be able to add some fact, some idea, some legend which he had not considered before. Instead she just continued to brush his hair and play with the rainbow snowflakes tumbling about him, and after a time she spun away from him and began dancing around in balletic twirls and kicks, and was humming unto herself in a tune he did not quite remember, although it seemed to be something just at the very edge of his memory, a song which he could taste in his mouth, in his blood, a music which existed ringing in his earlobes and glowing behind his eyelids, a music which he had been aware of hearing all the days of his life but which he had not been aware was actually hearing.
– And yet, isn’t it wonderous how many different words that Language has for resembling a Dragon, khléja konstspråk giramay pük iaith? We have the word sómpan, sómpama, those who are shaped like dragons, are serpentine, vermiculous, snekik, vumön, it is the part of the compound of the word Sómpanaswaqíren the Dragon Emperor, one of my Father’s titles. I think that sómpan is a very interesting word because it seems mostly to refer to shape, the movement and sway of the dragon, writhe draconform, wroth dracontine. I wonder whether sómpan is related to the word sòmpu, sonímpu, the millers and potters of the artisan caste, those who are shape clay and grain together, it may even be related to the word Somúke,Virgin Born, that is, One shaped by a Virgin, at least the words sound similar, and I have not yet been able to derive what processes if any the Immortals were first able to dream up the vocabulary of language. Another word which we have for something resembling a dragon is khnàtlha, khnàtlhu, and it can also mean mistakes, and freaks and monstrocities of nature, it seems to refer not so much to the shape and movement of a dragon but the horrors that it can engender, how a Dragon seems to pop in and out of time and memory and wreak havoc in many places at once. And the third word which we have for being like a dragon is the very interested and complicated word Tánin, our normal word for the clockwork automata which Prince Jhwèsta and my Father created, the selfsame word that we use for abomination, for something made in the image of a soul, and yet we also use it to mean those who are dracontine and draconiform. If one speaks of a Tánin machine or a clockweyth Tánin one imagines a creature of salt and metal, perhaps also with dragon scales, but rumbling outwards with a mechanical heart and ready to do all sorts of chaos, and yet if one speaks of a Tánin flame one usually speaks of a dragon fire, Tánin flight is the movement of dragons, a Tánin sword is the Eilawiyusàrtyai which my Father gave you. It seems that with the words sómpan and khnàtlhu and tánin that Dragons and their shape and activities and complexities are as old as language itself, it is embedded in our very myths, when we say that Dragons were present at Creation when the worlds were arising from the Sea of Music before the Tree of Light, perhaps we should say that Dragons were the Creation, for they were within language itself. –
Puîyus reached out unto the sheathe of his back and could feel the schaniz of metal and leather strips of qhoraîfhe hide, and the sheathe itself, he knew was coated with the scales of Dragons which long ago the long lost Èpeur tribe of the Xhiyóqii had collected upon the plain when Dragons used to gambol before mortal folk many generations ago, and he could feel the heft and weight of the Sword there which Emperor Kàrijoi had crafted out of living lava and numbers and plasma and might and set into Puîyus’ hand, a sword which the Emperor had made by plucking out a ray of sunshine and bending it into a shape amenable to a child’s hand, and Puîyus wondered and asked the Princess in mews and miracles, Why did your Father give me this particular sword?
– Puey, you are the one who told me that oen cannot give a sword, the sword gives itself. –
Yes, that is true, the sages of the whispering mountains toil to create the perfect warrior for the humble and worthy warrior, they toil for days, they fast and meditate, sometimes it may take them months or a year to make a weapon worthy of a warrior, and then they bring it down and grant it to the man. My Mother’s personal slave Fhèlkhur traveled up unto the whispering mountains for a year and day and had these twin glass swords commissioned for me when I was still an infant, and the swords were presented to me only yesterday when it was deamed I was worthy of them.
– In a way the weapon must wait until the man is worthy. But my Father knows that, he must have know you were worthy of his sword. –
Your Mother knighted my Father long ago with a brand chryselephantelectrum, and she set the sword in his hand, and in all of the days that he served her, in the Holy City and with the rest of the Holy Rose Knights, and in his patrol upon the edge of Sunset, in his assassinations and executions, and in his service in the Great War, he held onto that sword, and still has it this day. My Abbá has told me that he wishes to live by that sword, and when it is his time to descend unto the Undergloom, he hopes to die by that same sword.
– My Mother must have known that your Father was worthy of the xhróra blade of electrum and ivory and gold khrūselephantḗlektros. This makes me wonder … Puey, what is it that we call the sword saints of your people, the great paragons and chivalrous warriors? –
Puîyus blinked, and then understanding dawned upon his face, and his fingers ebgan to spell out the words Tralujàrqte and Khyeqhairjàrqte and Xhwatlhotsujàrqte, the aristocratic Dragon Warriors of Jaràqtu.
– The very words for Chivalrous Warrior are made up in part of the name of your people, the jàrqte warriors, and a word for Dragons, and one of the words, Khyeqhairjàrqte, isn’t that one particularly interesting, for its not *khyeqhiirjàrqte, it’s the explicitly male khyèqhairjàrqte. Why do your people call your greatest warriors that? –
Puîyus did not even have to think to respond, he was mewling at once saying, One is honored to call the the kensei sword saints of our people Dragon Warriors because the Dragon is the symbol of strength and creation and of the Emperor himself … beautiful and noble and … part of the song of the worlds. Puîyus’ mews began to trail away from him, he had the feeling that Éfhelìnye was able to discern something about the words which he himself could not quite fathom, it was as if she were traveling through the long and winding midnight and she alone were holding up the painted lanthorn and saw where the winding cavern must wend, and she first could behold the light of the Stars.
– I had a dream, my Puey, and in it a Dragon was speaking about Creation and he reminded me that Sànum the Tree of Light is also called the Dragon Tree … and when we saw my Father the Lord of Earth and Sea and Sky, the Master of Life and Prosperity and Health upon his throne of rainbows, did we not see, in miniature, in shadow, images of gnarled branch and scale and breathing leaves twining about my Father? –
What conclusion if any can be drawn then from these words and snippets of tail, Puîyus was wondering and sighs and mews and sad consternation, what can I do to fight the Dragons armed with memories of the Tree and of the Swordsaints of my people and dragonish weaponry choosing their masters?
– We must understand that Dragons and Creation and my Father are all entwined together, they are all themes in the same music. But perhaps what is most important to consider is that the Dragons are in a way the eyen and thoughts and will of my Father, and if you are to do battle with them, consider how you would fight my Father? –
One may not lift up sword against the Crystalline Throne, Puîyus nodded. Rather would I slay myself than bring shame unto my Clan and Father and betray the trust that the Ancestors have granted unto me.
– You have already slain two Dragons in order to defend your Sisters and then later me, and to slay a fell Dragon is a great honor. The pollen and the rainbow snowflakes shall not halt the Dragons for ever, they turn against the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu and then barge right into Jaràqtu. You must stop them as you would my Father. We have already been able to sneak away from the blizzards that were eminating from the Ice Palace Twiêkes where my Father dwells when you asked him for permission for my hand in betrothal and marriage, with your Father’s help and Grandfather Pátifhar’s friendship with the Qhíng and Kháfha we were smuggled away from my Father’s monsters unto the edge of Winter where the Aûm Duchesses managed to sneak both of us away from my Father even farther away, and then you were able to outfight the dæmons whom he was releasing and which were swarming about my Mother’s cenotaph, so indeed although one may not hope to defeat my Father in arms, we have been able to stay a step or two ahead of him, and the Dragons must be the same way. –
Puîyus considered for a moment and murmuring and purring a little unto himself was saying in a deep and deepening whale song language which only Princess Éfhelìnye among mortals was fully able to understand, and told he her, All love and glory and service and honor and reverance and power one must grant unto the Emperor the Father of all Men, and so it is that when I go against the Dragons I shall go with an humble heart and seek only to defend those who are innocent and cannot lift up sword for to defend themselves.
– Puey? –
– Mew? –
– The Dragons are very hungry, my Father is driving them mad with hunger, if they were not already mad at the death of my Mother. –
Yet I can no longer feel hunger. My belly is empty, my will is drained of me. E'er since, Puîyus hesitated for a moment, even in the language of plantimals and trees and flowers he was having trouble saying her name or a calque of it, but he took a breath and mewed, E'er since Fhermáta was taken away from me, in fire and battle and in the downfall of my people, and the Qhíng rejoiced and slaughtered mine allies, and the Emperor failed to save her for me, no food at all has crossed my lips. I no longer hunger nor thirst nor want. Completely dependent am I upon the will of mine Ancestors and the obedience of the divine Ása who cannot die. And yet, fasting as I am, become as a ghost and spirit, I feel a little how holy Kàrijoi must feel, for it is not written that he has not eaten of manna bread or maize or rice nor any food nor drunk of pellucid water since your Mother passed into the protection of your Ancestors?
– That is the story, yes. –
I will come against the Dragons empty. I will listen to their song.
– What can you do, my Puey? – The clouds were drawing themselves all about Puîyus and Éfhelìnye, and the whales were bobbling up and down in the tumbles of the whisps, and all about them the children could see that all of the boreal winds were continuing to whip outwards through the vast pandimensional nothingness where dust and pollen and snowflakes continued to flow in rainbow beauties, and the Dragons were still in the moment of revelry and were bobbling up and down about the warvessels. The whales were basks in the clouds, a few of them were leaping upwards and slowly spinning around, long vaporous necklaces breaking apart from their necks, wreathes and spines of light flowing about their fins and tails, and the Dragons were singing out their music all the louder, and when Éfhelìnye was talking she found herself almost intoning unto the same rhthyms. – Puey, you have fought Dragons before, with speed and luck, with an Ancestor’s blade and in a frozen waterfall, in flames and sky and above the ruins of Syapàkhya, and now in an horde a thousand strong they flutter towards your homerealm, you must do something different, but I cannot see our way out of it. –
The sighing of the whales arose, and Puîyus was asinging in mews and purrs and squeaks and sighs unto the same song, and he was telling the Princess, I must be like unto a Dragon, I must be worthy of their company and the honor which Emperor Kàrijoi has given me in granting me his solar flair sword, I must be humble of service, a Dragonslayer is call’d the Son of Raven, I must be night and darkness just as Raven is, Kàrijoi gave me his sword and called me his only Son, if I should go against the Dragons I must be worthy to be the Son of an Emperor, of one of Warrior Caste may be forgiven for mewing so.
Éfhelìnye rested her head against Puîyus’ chest for a moment and then reached up to kiss his face a few times, the whales were rising and falling in the clouds, their whistles were moaning, their music sounded almost like the echoes that drifted off of mendi mountains, their tumbling and falling were the whispers of the mountains, the beams of shadow and memory and might that came of the whales was the earth and ground itself. Éfhelìnye kissed Puîyus a few more times and chanted – When you become the new Emperor, my Puey, the endless nations and viceroy kingdoms and timelines of the Real People will call you Puîyos Kàrijoi’s Son, for such you must be to succeed my Father. Although sad am I think that your own Father may not receive his proper honor, I think that Kàrijoi could not have had a child of his own flesh worthier of the name Pwéru, the Solar House. –
And as the whales came bursting right out of the clouds, as they were tumbling downwards one by one and then arising in the nebulous spume, as the whales themselves were dancing in an almost dragonlike hula quire, the music of the whales was arising, and the deep and thunderous call of it was come unto both of the children, and they thought that if if the whalesong could be set into the frames of mortal language, it may have been render’d a little like unto this:
Oh Knight’s Son, oh lowly child
Untertaking bitter sky battle
Oh Kàrijoi’s Son, oh humble child
Feeling claw and wing and flame
Oh Ravens Son, oh fasting child
Fight the battle we cannot
Bear the dishonor of all our forefathers
Leave us not in wanhope
And forgive the Rainbow Serpents.
Swim, oh ye fishes, hear our song
Behold the warrior off unto battle
Arise, oh ye birds, sing our hymn
Behold the raven off to war
Fly, oh ye whales, intone our psalm
Behold the bridegroom facing our dragons
His innocence is shield
His humility is buckler
His tears are knife
His fasting is sword
His sorrow is might.
Feel compassion for the Sky Drakes
Pity those who can do nothing but hunger
Love the Dragons whom Khnoqwísi abandoned
And become part of the Dragon psalm.
A little like unto that the children thought that the whistles and moans and song of the whales could be expressed in Khlìjha, the Language of Mortals and Immortals alike, the words of creation, although the children were not entirely sure and had not the time for a deeper inquiry. Be it as it may the whales came splashing down through the clouds one by one, and the whisps and mist hills and nebulous nations were breaking apart as the whales came diving within. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were leaning their heads close one to another and holding hands to watch this, and as the whales were settling down and the splashes of cloud and rainbow mist bleeding outwards, the children could see that although the rain of pollendust and iridescent snow continued to fall, and the living ships of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu alike were still attempting to flee through the glowgrowing beauty, that the Dragons were slowly awakening from their bliss, and that the fires of their hunger were returning unto them, and their huge mirror eyen were swaying from side to side and glancing through bits of time, déjà vu and disquietude once again burning within their xylem and phloem, and it would not be too much longer before the Dragons were ready to begin hunting and burning and scalding once again. Puîyus knew at once in the melancholy of his spirit that the Dragons would soon be returning unto fire and battle and horrors such as only they could create, he knew that the beauty would shatter, like a beautiful and ancient stained glass window smashed by some stray stone. It was time to arm himself, not in weapons, for he was girt in three swords and many knives, and ropes and garottes and his own two strong arms and mighty war mew, it was time for him to be blessed and to enter into the pollution of battle. His heart was troubled though, for in entering such a mighty and holy presence of the Dragons he wished above all not only to have Kàrijoi’s benediction, the Emperor whom he could nto quite understand, but also the blessings of his Ancestors who were forsaking him, and whom he had threatened to abandoned. Shame reminded him of his storming against the sea and of throwing the symbols of his heirhood back unto his Mother’s wraith across the sounding sea of the honored Dead. He knew he was not worthy to be called Kàrijoi’s Son, but he was not at all certain whether he was still even a Son of the Sweqhàngqu. But he could not divine the answer now, if e'er he had hope of learning it in this life, all he could do is try to beg the Ancestors for guidance. He did not wish for Éfhelìnye to see what he intended, but as the Dragons were already arising, their scales breaking apart to reveal fluent lava and breaking glaciers, he had not the time. Puîyus took a few steps away from the dancing whales rising and falling in their psalm, and sitting down he drew out a small silvern disk and filled it with incense powder and lit it, and the smell that arose was as sweet and perfumed as his own skin and incense, the same smell for which his Father Íngìkhmar had given him the name Puîyus, tio estas, Enchanting and Perfumed Divine Love, and the incense was drifting upwards in little whisp tendrils and become part of the beauty of the pollen and the clouds. Éfhelìnye drew herself down next to him, as curious as e'er, and she tried to lean her head against him just to be close to him, but now was most certainly not the time. He surprised her when he drew a long and jagged knife from his sleeve, to her mind it seemed that he had a neverending supply of sharp, deadly, and somewhat gruesome objects, he grasped the knife and was preparing himself, he did not mind the pain, but he was concerned for Éfhelìnye.
Puîyus struggled for an excuse to send her away. Perhaps you wish to tend to the music of the whales, he told her in glances and blinks, but she just twined an arm about his. Perhaps it would be best if you watch out for the Dragons he told her in sighs and mewls, but she just kissed his face a few times. Perhaps it would be best if I prayed alone he told her in sorrow and sadness, but she just took his free hand and squeezed it and was not about to leave him.
The incense was dancing in the narrow trencher. Puîyus drew up one of his damasked sleeves esqunápa damassin, and he began drawing up the edge of the layers of his sarks. Éfhelìnye just remained right beside him, unmoving and steady and loyal. Puîyus drew up the knife against the edge of his skin, he wanted to warn her but could not think of glance or thought or motion adequate to the burdhen of his heart. He had let blood many times in his life qhùtwoim not just when he was ill but more oftentides in sacrifice, it was an art which he had learned after a few years of training among the other acolytes, most of whom were heading towards the priesthood but a few of whom were being trained to serve as warriors of the aristocratic caste. It was usually not difficult for him to stab himself at all, after all he had been stabbed and ripped and bleed in battle so many times that sometimes he did not even notice it, but with Éfhelìnye watching him, he felt as if in amber, and he was staying his hand. But he had to beg the Ancestors for guidance, and blood was what the living have to give unto those who are now dead or can never die.
– Puey? – Éfhelìnye asked.
Please close your eyen, Puîyus whispered in humble mews unto her.
– Puey? –
Close your eyen. All will be better.
Princess Éfhelìnye closed her eyen and set her hands across her face. At once Puîyus’ hesitation was broken. He did it. He began stabbing his wrist and arm, and the skin broke, and the blood began trickling outwards. Pain itself was an offering which one is honored to give unto one’s Ancestors, for pain is a reminder of flesh and zoëtic bodies mortals which the honored Dead no longer have. He stabbed his arm several more times, the blood fell into the incense and fire, and the flames were sweet and holy. Puîyus jabbed his knife into an old scar, he remembered the first time he had let blood to the Ancestors, he was younger and he had whimpered a little. And the Elders had not approved. Grandfather Pátifhar arose from his dais and was about to slap Puîyus for his weakness, but Abbá Íngìkhmar had been present, and as his Father, and the Master of all the Clan Sweqhàngqu, Íngìkhmar arose from his prayer mat and slapped Puîyus across the face in reminder that one is not permitted to be a coward and show fear. It was better to learn such mistakes when one is young, when the only pain one fears is that of displeasing the Elders, for when one grows up and learns of real pain in battle, of seeing friends and companions fall in flame and sword, of burying love one’s and parents and grandparents, one realizes just how little pain there is in cutting open one’s flesh. Puîyus continued to bleed himself upon the fires, and so eager was he to find approval in the eyen of the Sweqhàngqu and his Mother Khwofheîlya that he cut himself far more than was necessary, and the incense fires blazed hot.
And after a time Princess Éfhelìnye removed the hands from her face and opened her eyen and seeing that Puîyus’ wrists were bleeding, she felt her heart breaking within her and wished that she had been the one who had been wounded, far better it would have been she thought if she had bled and that Puîyus remained whole, for no matter how bad a wound may feel upon her own person, elevenfold worse it felt in her heart to see Puîyus wounded in anyway, and she began to shake a little as tears came into her eyen, and she wished that he would never have to feel pain e'er again.