And for some time she fell, Princess Éfhelìnye, the skyborn child of Kàrijoi and Khnoqwísi, the last bloom of the old dynasty of the Pwéru as instituated by the Immortals themselves in the shadow of the Marriage Tree of Sànum, and as she was twisting about Traîkhiim wings were gnawing about her, and Traîkhiim were surging up about her and horns and antlers were growing from their heads and next, and the drumbeat and the screaming as all the same dischord. She landed upon her side but not upon the ground but rather the combined mass of spinning and kicking limbs and wings, and the Traîkhiim were holding her up a little even as other Traîkhiim rolled right on top of her and bit her fingers and licked her face and started danging upon her hands and tugging upon her arms. She tried to fend them off but only succeeded in sinking down a little lower in the throng, so that when she looked upwards she could see that wings were closing in upon her, and more Traîkhiim were fluttering upwards and covering up her view of table and shattered column and the broken walls of these goldhalls. She was thrown down upon her side and this time hit the floor, and she coughed for a time, for she landed upon her stomache, and although the Vestal Virgins had resewn her wound, it was still sore and liable to tear. She came up unto her knees and found that the Traîkhiim were all dervishing about her in such numbers and formations that it was almost as if she were in a living cavern completely made up of this people, many Triîm were holding onto each other and were turning columns, others were beating each other and were rolling wheels which were like unto walls and dilating doors and flowing ceiling. And most remarkable of all was that these great numbers were all about to beat their drums and leap about and dance and skrike without any direction at all, this noise which was chaos which was song, spontaneous and frightening at the same time. As she crawled forwards she kept looking behind her just in case one of the Sisters was following her, but for the moment she felt safe. She just wished though that the Traîkhiim would stop screaming for it was quite a terrible sound to hear.
The floor was sticky, and when the Princess lifted up her hand, she saw that although the liquid did not stick to her, that there was still a great deal of it, and at her touch it was dissolving and turning into rose petals and slowly evanescing upwards. She wondered at this and was about to take a sample, but in her pajamas she had no phials or flasks with her, so she decided to investigate later, surely this dark dew would remain unto the dawn. The screams were grown louder. Several Traîkhiim were crashing down beside her, their heads slamming against the floor. She heard the sound of bone breaking. A few Traîkhiim were spinning around and biting another. One Traîkhiim was biting another at her neck. A few more Traîkhiim fell from their ærial dance, and their bodies were breaking apart. Éfhelìnye could feel the hiccoughs growing anew, she just felt her courage melting away, everything was savagery and growing horror. And then in the sticky glow of the torchlight Éfhelìnye saw some familiar figures before her, and she crawled upwards and saw Fhólus lying still upon the floor, and Aîya was perched right upon Fhólus’ torso, and at once Éfhelìnye could see that Fhólus was transformed at least partially, the feathers were thicker, and the wings become sharper and more angular. Éfhelìnye crawled a little faster, Traîkhiim were colliding unto all sides of her and her heart forebode ill. As she came up closer and had to crawl around more fainting Traîkhiim, she was realizing that Fhólus must have been changed into triîmoxha, into the male form. Éfhelìnye drew herself up unto Aîya and sighed in relief, and Aîya turned her three heads at the Princess and gazed at her with weary red eyen.
– I’m so glad I found you two – Éfhelìnye chanted. – This dance of your kind can be terribly frightening, plus I think I’m getting lost down here. –
One of Aîya’s heads hissed at Éfhelìnye, and her wings reached out as if to slap the Princess. – Back away! Go home, maiden! He’s mine! All mine! –
– Pardon! – gasped Éfhelìnye and she crawled backwards.
Aîya’s other head snaked upwards and screamed right at the Princess and revealed fangs which had not been there before. – Finally able to convince Fhólus. Inevitable. Had to come. He’s mine, always has been, always will be. –
– Yes, so Fhólus is in his male cycle – chanted Éfhelìnye. – He’ll have to change back if he or she wishes to enter the harem. –
– I don’t share! – screamed Aîya. – Mine! Go away! –
Éfhelìnye fell onto her side and wrapped her arms about herself. – I’m sorry! Please don’t yell at me. Hic! Hic! Hic! I don’t like yelling. –
– Then stay away from my beloved mine mine own for all time! – Aîya cried out. – Don’t you the understand? This is triumph, the end game, the last dance. Don’t look at him! I’ll kill you if you look at him! –
Éfhelìnye covered her eyen. She heard a growling sound, and the grinding of jaws, and then a slow moaning sound which she thought was one of Fhólus’ male voices. Aîya was tearing something and crying out. Éfhelìnye removed an hand from her eye, curious as e'er, and she could see that Aîya was dancing even as she was perched upon her beloved’s body, and Aîya turned twin heads towards the Princess, and feathers were tumbling down from her and she chanted – Always the male harder to catch, the rule, the problem. Always running. Must be hunted. Like you hunt Puîyos, oh? –
– I suppose – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– Must be cajoled. Trapped. Whisper honey words in ear. And then ready. The strike. The dance – chanted Aîya, and her third head slowly drew upwards, and the Princess could see that from the jaws a long and flowing stream of citrus black was flowing downwards. The third head was licking its lips and chewing upon something which was still wriggling and pulsating, and as the head chewed more of the black liquid oozed downwards. The eye rolled back, and Aîya swallowed, and more black liquid gushed from this head, and looking to Éfhelìnye she chanted – Fhólus is mine, my best friend, mine own, my love, my feast. I feast on our love. I feast upon my Fhólus for ever. –
Boom boom boom boom sang the drums wild and free of the Pèqlor dancers.
Doom doom doom doom cried the Traîkhiim as they were rising and falling about the rafters, and the walls were crumbling both from the rifts of the winterstorm and from the violence of the dance, the floor was shaking so hard with the stomping of the hand-feet that Éfhelìnye was even having trouble crawling upon her hands and knees. She looked around and saw that somehow she and Aîya and the still quiet body of Fhólus lay in the very midst of the skriking sea of the dancing Traîkhiim, and about a third of the Traîkhiim were dancing in perfect unison, they were spinning around in dervishes, and every third beat they stomped upon the ground, their wings clapped, their kicked in the air, they rolled and landed a few feet away and began the dance again, so that all of the sea was migrating around in tremendous orbiting tides about the center. The drums were breathing out the rhythm of the kicking and hopping and thumping and screaming, but the Princess could see that not all of the Traîkhiim were dancing exactly like that, for some of them were leaping up unto the drums and becoming part of the music, and others continued to fall like swatted insects and tumble down upon the floor, and the Princess could hear the sounds of bones shattered and skulls splitting open. And other Traîkhiim were chasing after one another and growling, some of the dancers were swirling about the columns and fluttering their wings while others were biting at their hand feet and trying to drag them down, and other Traîkhiim were rolling about and entwining their heads, and as Éfhelìnye struggled not to be crushed by so many limbs and wings, she thought that she saw some Traîkhiim couples kissing one another upon their lips, and this gave her a moment’s hope, until she remembered that only the Færie Xhámi kiss upon the lips of each other, so whatever the Traîkhiim were doing was certainly not philemata, the Traîkhiim were rending and biting one against each other. In the flickering of the torchlight the heads of the Triîm were as large skulls, and all their teeth were visible, long and sharp fangs. Not a few of the Traîkhiim were lifting up mawls dribbling in the black xhepánga liquid which is blood unto them, a liquid which smelt a little like khureûmle oranges boans aⁿeⁿikot. The Princess pressed her hands upon her ears and dried to drown away the growing screams that embued all the floor and walls and columns, but the din was so great that it rattled witin her bones. And all around her Éfhelìnye could see in the flashing dæmonic light of red and black alien shadows appearing, for some Traîkhiim were rolling upon their sides, and their torsos were exploding in bits of flayed skin and feathers and bleeding limbs spilling out of their bodies, and some of the Traîkhiim were shedding their wings and new and oily bescaled wings were appearing, others were snapping one at another, others she thought surely had to be fighting, for they were leaping about and slapping against each other, everything was grown darker and louder, thrice thousand gleaming eyen appeared in the darkness and gazing from side to side and sometimes looking unto Éfhelìnye and sometimes unto each other and all the while screaming in the wild dance.
Éfhelìnye squealed when she felt a bite on her hand, and looking down saw that it was Aîya staring right back at her with bright red eyen. Aîya’s feathers were bristling from side to side, her three throats were almost covered in knives shuffling from side to side, and her finger-toes khmistítlheu were growing claws at their edge and were digging so deep into Fhólus’ torso that trickles of black xhepánga were dribbling down his feathres of dull blue and green. Aîya was holding Fhólus down, she was protecting her prize from all others, but she kept biting Éfhelìnye’s fingers, and none to gently to get her attention. The Princess just wanted to pick up Aîya and Fhólus and squeeze them tight just like the kittens that Puîyus used to have on the homestead of his Ancestors, but she was beginning to realize that the Traîkhiim were not pets at all, but a very parlous and complicated people.
– Eiya! Empress you! I we talking to you! – Aîya cried. She bit the Princess’ knuckle.
– We have to leave – Éfhelìnye chanted. – This dance frightens me, and I can’t return to my Sisters e'er again. Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Karuláta have all turned against me. –
– Siblings are tough that way – Aîya chanted. – Family is war. Qhíng don’t understand us. Qhíng don’t fight other Qhíng. Their own lives are dull, without spirit, without passion! We Traîkhiim are passion, we are not warriors, our family is all bloodshed and battle. –
– I have to run away. Will you help me? – Éfhelìnye tried to brush Aîya’s wings, but was rewarded only with three jaws snapping at her. She wanted to see Fhólus, she was beginning to worry because he was unmoving, surely the extreme noise should be awakening him soon, he appeared so sweet and innocent as he lay there, almost like Puîyus she thought. – Would you like to run away with me? –
– Stop touching my intended husband! – Aîya cried.
– Sorry. I just wanted to pet his wings … – Éfhelìnye hid her hands behind her back.
– Only I allowed to touch and lick him! – Aîya cried, and she licked some xhepánga from her lips. – He is mine, and only mine for ever. This is our dance, this dance is our life, we call it the Love Feast. –
– Oh … is he alright? –
– No concern of yours, he’s mine. –
– Would you like to escape with me? We can find Puey and run away and never return. I suppose we could head out to the ice quags, they are large marshes with bubbles and ooze and oily little islands floating about, one could enter there and never be bothered for the span of your life. –
– Why wanting to run away? Stop looking at Fhólus. –
– I can’t return to my Family. –
Aîya looked down with two heads and began licking Fhólus’ heads and nibbling at his antennæ whisps. Éfhelìnye thought that one of his antennæ ears looked like it was broken, but surely she must be mistaken, for the last time she had seen him he had had all six of his ears, surely he had. Aîya’s third head looked up and chanted – Can’t the go home again to the old Emperor? –
– I’m never returning to my Father and the Forbidden Gardens, but I can’t stay with Ixhúja or Siêthiyal or Karuláta any longer. None of them understand me. They all hate me! Hic! Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye was hanging her head low. She heard the breaking of sinews and bone about her. When she looked up she saw that one of Aîya’s heads was arising and chewing upon something, and more citrus black xhepánga was dribbling down her jaws. Fhólus twitched a little beneath her, and one of Fhólus’ palms opened upwards and revealed that it was missing a digit. – They’re just horrible, all of them. Why did they have to be horrid and form some unholy cabal against me, I’ve always been nice to them, don’t they understand that all that I’ve e'er done I’ve done for Puey I don’t e'er do anything at all for myself I always think of him first, I go to sleep he’s the last thought I have, I awaken and he’s the first imagine in my mind, he is my Sun and I am lost without him. –
Aîya was licking her lips, and tears of sweet delight were falling from her burning red eyen. – Delicious. Absolutely delicious. The banquet of banquets. – Her jaws chomped together as she savored the taste, and looking up to the Princess she chanted – Sure, helping you for to escape from your horrible Siblings. Perhaps you and I and you having the much in common. We must come to understanding. I we help you and your feast Puîyos escape, but you not touch Fhólus, don’t look at Fhólus, don’t even think of Fhólus. –
– I agree – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I have to get out of this dance. I feel sick to the depths of my stomache. –
Aîya turned all three of her heads to Éfhelìnye, and the Triîm’s eyen softened and became pink with flicking irises of orange unto them. Aîya was warbling deep in her throat and deep chuckles caused all her torso to undulate, and she spoke in a voice are deeper than her quotidian as she chanted – Oh my little baby, oh my little Triîmeling Princess, oh my precious Child Empress, you still don’t understand, do you? You freed the slaves and resurrected the dead and begin overthrowing the Emperor of death. Our love feast is just beginning. We banquet. –
– Why did my Sisters have to turn against me? – Éfhelìnye wondered, and she looked out into the mælstrom of the dance but only saw the stomping and turning and high kicking of the Pèqlor volk. – I though that at least one of them would have loved me and known that Puey is only for me. I … I don’t even have words for how I feel. –
Aîya fluttered upwards, two of her heads were always turned towards the still and quiet Fhólus bleeding upon the marble floor, but the third head looked to Éfhelìnye and was brushing her cheek and caressing her with a wing and saying – Tell me what you see in the Dance? –
– I see a thousand Traîkhiim turning and rising and falling. Am I missing something of import? –
– Must learn to see with my three eyen. Look at all the rest of the Traîkhiim, they don’t say it, words not in it, but all the other Traîkhiim look at Fhólus and want him. They need him, they have to grab him, they want to steel him away from me. Don’t you just hate all the rest of the Traîkhiim? –
– No. –
– They deserve to be destroyed. All of them, snapping at Fhólus and wriggling their elbows at him and batting their eyeslashes, just make me want to scream and rip their throats out. But you on my side. You always on my side. You help me escape with Fhólus, I help you escape with your feast Puîyos. –
– How do you know the other Traîkhiim are even looking at Fhólus, for it looks more like everyone is more concerned with the music and her own place in it? –
Aîya was scrouching o'er Fhólus’ lifeless body, her triple limbs were wrapping about him, almost cradling him, as she arose for to carry him, and one of her heads was down to steady him while his three heads bobbled beneath them, but Aîya kept one of her heads aimed to the Princess behind her and chanted – Follow me. But if you touch Fhólus, I rip you apart and eat you. Follow my rhythm. –
– Anything, anywhere, if I can escape my hateful Sisters – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Fhólus mine. For ever. –
– You can have him, just so long as all the world understands that Puey is my personal property for all time. –
– You can have him. We run away from home together. –
– Will my Sisters follow me? –
– Oh my little baby Triîmeling, where we go, no Xhámi dare to go. –
Aîya was arising a little higher, but she was not flying in a straight direction, the surging and spinning crowds prevented that, so that she and the Princess were entering a long and spiraling wave of the Traîkhiim, for the dance was taking them throughout the outer portions and about the walls and then unto the columns and in slow and smaller dream spirals unto the center where once Puîyus had sate before the collapsing pyramid of Traîkhiim design, but Aîya was not rising and falling in simple volitation, her very flight was a form of dancing, she dipped and turned, she spun around upon the edge of her wings, she was drifting upwards like quqlimùqli balloon blossoms, and then she was sinking down again, her wings jutting from side to side, and all the while in her dance she was grasping unto Fhólus and looking from side to side and making sure that no one else was daring to look upon her prize.
As the thousand Traîkhiim were turning in a spiral through the long and winding golden halls, Princess Éfhelìnye could see that long rivers of fire were being lit, that all of the flambeaus that were set in araînya sconces were being plucked down by the multidactylous wings of the Triîm and set upon the floor, and that long streams of wax and oil and xhepánga blood were dribbling outwards, and the fires were set upon them and were lighting everything up. Éfhelìnye spun and dodged and ducked and wove behind Aîya and tried to follow her rhythm completely even though she was unwinged and lacking a couple of heads, and so the Princess found herself in the long and winding surge of the dance. In the glimmeration of the fires she could see that many of the Traîkhiim sported bright colors upon their faces, spangling woads and splashes of wax and paint as if they were decorating themselves for warfare, but as they were arising and flying above her and rubbing against her legs and stomping all about her, she could smell that many of them were of the slight sent of soups and fungus and sweetbreads such as she had seen their devouring in the mobile tent cities upon the tables before, and not a few of the Traîkhiim were smelling like the pizza pies that Akhlísa had had prepared for them, and many of the Traîkhiim were turning and opening their jaws and licking their lips and revealing teeth that were completely ycovered in candies and sugars and candycanes, so that even from a distance Éfhelìnye could taste them, even if a little. She thought a little about how she loved to rub her hands through Puîyus’ hear and sniff the sweet aroma of his tresses and lean her face against his chest and breathe in his scent, she always thought that he smelt very nice, and yet seeing and tasting all of these candied and honeyed Traîkhiim about her was making her feel not a little uncomfortable, and her stomache was twisting within her, she felt like she had eaten candles and wax was slowly crawling up her throat and filling her with deep horror.
Aîya was hissing. A few Traîkhiim were fluttering about her and juttering their heads at her and jabbing with their horned heads and clawed wings. Aîya screamed out all the while. She spun around, but the Traîkhiim were were arising about her and nabbing and slapping her in several directions at once. Éfhelìnye wanted to help but she was not entirely sure whether the Traîkhiim were dancing or fighting for they seemed to be doing both at the same time, and biting and licking also, but since no weapons were drawn the Princess thought this had to be part of the ritual of the dance. She ran up to them and spun about in a perfect arabesque, and her kicking legs caused most of the assailing Traîkhiim to flee away from her, but some remained and cried out all the louder.
– They want Fhólus – Aîya was muttering. – They challenge! The challenge must be met! Haakskeekah! –
Éfhelìnye looked around. Aîya was flowing downwards and despoting Fhólus down in their midst and licking him a few times, but three Traîkhiim were flying upwards and were swirling around Aîya and screaming at her all the while crying out – Pih Tabrokh! Haakskeekah, Khrokon! Haakskeekah! Haakskeekah! –
Aîya was spreading out her three wings to their longest, her triple necks were warbling in deep yodels, her jaws were snapping. One head turned back and yelled at Éfhelìnye saying – Guard Fhólus. None is permitted to touch him. I dance. –
– Yes, Aîya – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Aîya’s wings opened up and revealed long and cutting claws at the edge. She was spinning around, her clawed wings and clawed hand-feet spinning around and weaving a net of pricks and jabs all about her, and she launched herself at her first assailant. The first Traîkhiim screamed out a few times, she was small, her feathers a slight sheen of blue in the dancing torchlight, and Aîya just had to scream at her and wave her wings about. Éfhelìnye looked upwards and was surprised to see so many cutting claws at the edge of the wings, but she was happy to see the first assailant wink and bowing her heads and turn orange and flee, for the Princess was finding all this dance to be far too violent for her take. The second assailant was not so timid. Aîya and the stranger tumbled upon the ground and they stomped with their legs and kept uponing up their wings and displaying their feathers again and again. The stranger was opening up and revealing a grown of wings that looked as long and beautiful as the quetzal crests of a gamma Qhíng, and for a few moments the stranger was barking and advancing upon Aîya, and all Aîya could do was retreat. Éfhelìnye was not sure what to do, she durst not leave Fhólus, but she could not understand the ritual of this dance at all. Aîya arose, and this time when she opened her wings some of the feathers were parting, and eyen were revealed within, large eyen as red as the ones in Aîya’s three visages, eyelashes turning, the eyen blinking and looking from side to side. Éfhelìnye stared, for she did not know that the Traîkhiim could see with their wings, or at least, she thought, in some versions of their transformations. Aîya flew up to the stranger and pounder her heads again and again with the side of her wings. The strange quailed. Aîya arose. She grabbed one neck and bit hard, and black xhepánga dribbled downwards. For a few fateful moments Aîya and the strange twisted about each other, the stranger managed to dig her finger-toes into joints and wings, but Aîya held on until the stranger relented. Aîya spat her out, and the strange hobbled away, her feathercrests low and defeated, and when she finally made it a few feet away she managed to arise and hobble up into the air and fly far away.
Aîya was panting. Just a single challenger was left. Éfhelìnye still stood guard o'er Fhólus and was asking – I had no idea that your kind had eyen in their wings, are they fully functional eyen or are they just for display, can they see color and movement or just flickering shadows? –
Aîya was turning their heads towards her last challenger and hissing, but she lifted up one wing unto the Princess, and several eyen opened up untowards her, and one head chanted – I see always and in many directions, Aîya panóptēs I, how else do you think I can see that all the other thousand Traîkhiim want my Fhólus have to have my Fhólus and hate me for loving my Fhólus? You! Stop looking at him! –
Éfhelìnye backed away. – I’m not even looking at him, sorry. –
– Don’t think thou of touching and rubbing and petting him, oh Empress friend. Lo. Another. She comes. She comes! – Aîya screamed and the challenger screamed and their voices entwined, as the two circled each other and displayed their wings and squawked all the louder. They kept reaching for each other, they tried to strike, but each was too quick for the other and only managed to land a few glancing wounds. They crashed upon the floor and stomped the ground. Aîya lifted up her wings and opened up an hundred eyen to look upon her foe, but the stranger was turning her heads from side to side and growing horns and antlers that were tipped in daggers, and the two circled each other and were crying out all the louder.
– I don’t suppose either of you know where Puey is right now – Éfhelìnye asked. She was afraid to look down to the unconscious form of Fhólus beside her, and the rest of the Traîkhiim were arising in the torchlight of the dance.
Aîya charged. She and the stranger fell upon each other. They were not even growling snarling at each other, they went just for the kicking and biting. The stranger’s antlers dug right into Aîya’s wings and limbs, but Aîya was lithe and flexible and was biting at two jugulars at the same time. The stranger was larger and heavier, so that when they rolled about each other she was trying to use her bulk to pin Aîya down, but Aîya kept finding a weak spot at the jaw and holding there, and her clawed wings were scratching against all of the stranger’s surface. Éfhelìnye was crying out. Aîya arose, one of her jaws was clamping right against the stranger’s face and crushing it, and xhepánga and white goo were dripping down. The strange gouged out several wing eyen, but Aîya barely even felt it, the pain just made her all the angrier. One set of jaws crushed through the face of her assailant, and another of her jaws was biting the lips off of a different head. Éfhelìnye screamed when she saw that Aîya had bitting the eye and face off of one head, and that head was screaming with an unearthly tremor, even as Aîya continued to bite the lips of another head, until she grabbed the side of the jaw, her wings reached out, the claws dug right into the side of the wing, and with a sickening lurch she ripped the jaw right off. The stranger tumbled down backwards. Aîya fluttered away and grabbed the bouncing jaw, it still had a bit of triple forked tounge unto it, and she snatched it up in her mouth and gobbled it whole.
– Always better fresh – Aîya chanted. She turned back to her assailant. Aîya’s wings were all gushing with blood, several wounds were opened at her stomache, but she was still hissing, she could see that her assailiant was arising, even though one head was missing half of its face, and another head its jaw, but all three heads were tipped in long and impaling antlers and could still kill. And Éfhelìnye looked on and was far too afraid to look away. She had seen Puîyus fight in very brutal battles before, she had even seen him bite away the faces of his enemies, but he never tasted of blood and flesh, meat was never food unto him, let alone the flesh of his own kind.
Aîya licked all three of her lips. – You still want him, don’t you! You can’t! He’s mine! – Aîya arose and screamed. The antlered enemy spun upwards to greet her, and they battled one another jabbing and snarling until they crashed down and rolled out right before Éfhelìnye. The Princess was feeling so ill that she had to fall upon her knees, and she prayed that she became not sick from all this gore and horror. Aîya managed to pin down her assailant, but one of her wings was impaled. – Empress! You on my side, right? –
– Yes! – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– I help you run away from your Sisters. You help me. –
– Of course. –
– Hold this creature down. –
– Oh? –
– One wing aching. Hold it down. I finish her off. –
Éfhelìnye was too afraid to protest that she knew not what she was to do, being untrained in the martian arts, but rather she slid o'er upon her knees and tried to grab an edge of one of the stranger’s barbed wings. The stranger was loosing blood and spending all of her energies trying to impale Aîya. A sharp antler arose and cut the Princess’ hand. Éfhelìnye bit her lips to keep herself from crying out in pain, she grabbed two of the wings and held down the third with her knee, and at once Aîya had mastery of the situation.
– If I can’t have Fhólus, no one can! – cried Aîya. – I kill him rather than let Qhíng thrall like you touch him! –
– Perhaps … you should love Fhólus enough just to want him or her to be happy – Éfhelìnye chanted, although she was thinking that there had to be a flaw in her reasoning somewhere.
– I am the only happiness Fhólus will have! – Aîya chanted and she pounced upon the stranger. The stranger struggled against the Princess’ arms, but Éfhelìnye held her all the tighter. Aîya wrapped about the stranger and two of her heads attacked the stranger’s uninjured head. Éfhelìnye looked down in growing horror. Several splashes of oily xhepánga arose and splattered both Aîya and the Princess. Aîya bit through the jaw of the third head, and all three of Aîya’s heads fought each other o'er the honor of devouring it, and then they turned to the head and began ripping it into pieces, they snapped off the antlers and bit off of her antennæ whisps and slurped them up like noodles, and they they began to rip off her skin and eye and eat her alive.
– Dear Saints in Paradise – Éfhelìnye chanted. Several more splashes of blood fell upon the Princess’ face, but the xhepánga did not long remain upon her, but evanescened and became rose petals and slowly drifted away from her. Aîya devoured most of the third head until it was just skull and sinews snapping from side to side. The wings of the stranger were trying to flap although Éfhelìnye held them down. Aîya bit at the shoulders of the wings and ripped out a few strings of muscles and gobbled them whole, and reaching up with her clawed wings she ripped open the torso of the Traîkhiim right before the Princess’ eyen, and for a sickening moment Éfhelìnye was treated to a view of pulsating lungs and wax and oil dripping three stomaches and livers entwined and the gizzards pulsating. One of Aîya’s heads ducked right into the liver and began feasting upon it. Éfhelìnye was already feeling light headed. The thunderous drumbeat of the dance was fading away from her. She no longer felt the dying Traîkhiim in her lap even as it was being devoured alive. She felt herself falling and feeling no more.
Princess Éfhelìnye only remained in her faint for a moment, for somewhere in the back of her mind she kept remembering that she had to find Puîyus and run away from him and never see her Sisters again because they were horrible and hateful to her and did not understand the perfect love that she felt for him. She was lying on her back. Above her an hundred Traîkhiim were spinning in the air and kicking and turning and screaming in their dance. It was beautiful and savage to behold. She rolled onto her side and saw that Fhólus still lay unconscious and was missing two finger-toes and at least one ear, and bite marks covered his faces. Slowly Éfhelìnye drew herself upwards. Just a couple of feet from her Aîya was sitting upon her foe, all three of her heads were ducking into the torso and ripping out bleeding organs. Éfhelìnye blinked for a few moments until realization struck her. Suddenly she just knew she was going to be sick. She turned around and looked for a place where no one would notice her, for she could think of nothing as embarrassing as vomiting when others could see her. But the Traîkhiim were everywhere, they were spinning and stomping and thundering in their dance, and sometimes looking to her and then to each other and then unto their stomping táloi palm-solen funiz. Éfhelìnye covered her mouth, but she could not control herself. She scrambled up about a foot or so and vomited right upon the floor. Behind her Aîya was breaking through some bones. A slow moaning arose. Éfhelìnye looked back. Aîya was ripping out a pulsating organ, the veins and arteries popping right out of it, and the victim was writhing from side to side, still alive as it was being eaten. Éfhelìnye turned and vomited again and felt quite unprincessly about it all. She was glad at least that when she and Ixhúja had eaten in the kitchens, that she had not eaten very much and Ixhúja had eaten all that was left on her plate, so there was little left in the Princess’ stomache to bother her. She thought about Ixhúja and began shuddering with tears to think that Ixhúja was probably plotting behind her back to take Puîyus away from her, had Ixhúja e'er been her friend at all, she had always had eyen lighting up for Puîyus whenever he was near. She whimpered and began crying anew.
Aîya ripped out some quivering muscles and slurped them up, and then all three of her heads reached into the shaking and living and opened torso and began biting away the chords that held the last gigeria, and as it began to arise, she turned one of her heads to Éfhelìnye and chanted – Oh holy Empress, you the best cater-cousin friendling that Aîya e'er have. –
Éfhelìnye could not even see through her tears, and she struggled to answer saying – Why … is that? –
– You save our people, you bring us back to life, and now you feed us – Aîya sighed and ripped out the giser maĉostomako, and xhepánga bright and squirting was fountaining up from it. – Please, oh Nǚshén Megami, oh Cælestial one, honor me and feast with me. Three lyiikhàxhloxheu gizzard hearts does a Traîkhiim have. I ate the two. You helped me to defeat this rival, this foe, this enemy who tried to take Fhólus from me. Eat the gizzard heart, please? – Aîya lifted up the xhlòxheu in her wings, the organ was pumping out blood and grinding and growling with a slight music of qàxhloi of borborygmós, and she was looking up with beloved adoration in all three of her faces. – Please, oh Empress, take and eat of it with me. I serve and worship thee, holy Empress Éfhelìnye. –
The Starflower Éfhelìnye shuddered and could feel nothing but horror tightening about her heart and stomache, and she whispered a prayer to any spirit that may be listening that she not be sick again. – Please … we Færie Xhámi cannot eat flesh for meat, it would poison us even as it drove us mad. The very smell of meat nauseates us … –
Aîya held up the twisting xhlòxheu and chanted – Please, my beloved, honor us with our customs. You are baby unto us, don’t you know that, you our baby Empress and we would teach you. We fought together, you and I, that make us Siblings now. We eat the heart together. It make us strong. Then one day Fhólus and I make lots of offspring, and one day you and Puîyos make large brood of babies. Important that female be strong. Eat the heart with me. –
Éfhelìnye clasped her hands o'er her mouth, she tried to say that she just could not even look at it, but she could no longer talk. She turned aside and started throwing up again until she had nothing left within her but acid, and she spat it out. Behind her Aîya feasted upon the gizzard heart, her three heads ripping it apart and savoring the taste of it, and then she turned and began ripping out other organs and ate until her victim was dead, and at that point Aîya had no more interest in her. Éfhelìnye was crying again. She just wished that she and Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa had not been quarrelling, for she wanted someone to put her arms about her and rub her back and tell her that everything would be better, why she was thinking of all the times she had slept and Fhólus and Aîya had curled up beside her and comforted her, she just wanted such nights to return.
Aîya flew up unto Éfhelìnye, oils and wax and xhepánga dribbling down her three faces, her wings opening up their red eyen to her, and Aîya leaned her head against her and chanted – We still Siblings at least in deed, even though not eat the heart together. Different people, different ways. Come along. We enter the mælstrom of the dance. Perhaps we find Puîyos there, or at least what left of him. – Aîya did not understand why the Princess was crying, this only made Aîya reach out to her all the more and lick the Princess’ face clean and hug her with sanguine wings and take the Princess by the hand and urge her to stand up again, for Aîya was thinking that only the Triîmeling, the infants of her people were wont to weep tears like this and so often, and the new Empress was such an infant in Aîya’s eyen, the Empress knew nothing and was only capable of reacting as a Triîmeling did, being held and being fed and groping for to understand the worlds. But with Aîya’s gentle nudges and pushes and bites, slowly the Princess arose, and Aîya pushed her forwards, and as Éfhelìnye began walking in the general direction of the dance, Aîya arose and came to Fhólus’ unconscious form and picked him up and so they all entered into the mælstrom of the androgynous dancers of the Dreamtime, the Traîkhiim Triîm Tlhiîmen Lwíkhlim Lyíkham Xhlúnakh Khìxhis Qíperis Pèqlor; Tnoaqteûpa thralls, the Qaîkhor lusci, Tripedal Fhársyun, Jhakhlèrko aquaphobes, Khrèkhnes ond xhrémes rodents, Khmikherfhértlha slave races, Xhmón pygmies, a jhás of westwegas, the pùxhno cannibals.
And all that Princess Éfhelìnye could see as she looked from side to side blinking and shuddering and wiping away her tears was that everything was horrible and alien about her, the rhythm was no longer music it was just noise and scream, the stomping of the legs, the display of feathers and limbs and horns, everything was a storm of fangs and teeth. She looked around and saw that many Traîkhiim were fighting their brethren and ripping apart the bodies of the fallen and exaulting in the beating jaws and ear whisps and gizzard heartsof the fallen. She looked around and saw that some of the dancing Traîkhiim were tumbling downwards and their own bodies were changing, new horns and wings bursting right out of their torsos in terrible agonies, some of the Traîkhiim fell back, their eyen rolling into their skulls, and their heads were opening upwards and folding backwards as if paper, their bones breaking apart, and in the spill of goo and shattered eyen new heads were surging upwards through the neck, a new set of jaws snapping and howling in the rhythm of the dance. Now a few of the Traîkhiim were spinning around and sporting faces which appeared completely backwards unto her, many of them were losing their eyen completely, vines and tentacles splashing right out of them, other Traîkhiim were growing tall giraffe legs and their wings become whipping tendrils, but all of them, whether transforming or their bodies opening or fighting or feasting upon another were all surging unto the center of the goldhalls where the dance was at its wildest.
– You’re going to like this – Aîya chanted.
– I just want to go home – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– Home, home in winter, home on pirate ship, home here in Jaràqtu. –
– Puey’s my home, and always shall be. –
– That sometimes how I feel about Fhólus, at least when he or she not acting silly and talking with his or her stupid head. You and I thinking alike. You and I very the same. –
Aîya was leading the Princess unto the very center of the halls and almost unto where the tent pyramid had been, and here the Traîkhiim had deconstructed the fabric and poles of the tent and made them into great khlìtsi litters that were behind held aloft upon the shoulders of some of the Pèqlor who were kicking and stomping against the floor and within wings of some other Traîkhiim as they were flying upwards. Aîya came soaring upwards into the fabric sedan chair and deposited Fhólus into a fold of it and perched right upon his body, and before Princess Éfhelìnye could react, several strong limbs were wrapping about her, and bloody wings crackling about her neck and shoulders, and many Traîkhiim were arising and carrying her high aloft and right towards the litter. The Princess looked from side to side and could see that all of the goldhalls were yfilled and shaking to the Love Feast, Traîkhiim crawling and dancing and feasting unto all sides of her in the horrid halfglow of the torches.
Even though she was panicking, she was having trouble breathing, and when she gasped for air all that Princess Éfhelìnye could do was to begin hiccupping again, and all about her the storm of the Traîkhiim was growing even louder, their music arising as the mansuete Pèqlor dancers crawled up and down the pillars and unto the litter which was arising and being prepared of the ruins of the fabric pyramid, and even as she was being drawn down, and the Traîkhiim were tossing ropes upwards and wrapping them about her white ankles, and Traîkhiim were tumbling down in all directions and almost falling upon her, Éfhelìnye could still think about the music and try and analyze the melodies in terms of instrumentation and mathmatics, for here about the crawling of the felt pyramid everything was chiming, and the Traîkhiim were drawing up long lengths of rope down which shells and bells and rings were shaking from side to side, and they were bringing out curves bits of rib and finger-toes and bones and they were striking and the bells were ringing, and some of the strings were set up in webs so long and complicated that they sounded a little like vast harmonic harpsichords tuned unto an utterly alien scale, and some of the bells which the Traîkhiim were dragging out and which took seven or eight of them to rung were resounding so deep and loud that they were sounding more like the movement of the storm through the vast and iron whispering mountains than like objects which which could be crafted by mortal palms, the columns were shaking a little to the melodies, and the arrangement of the columns and the vast and branching qhàlya ceilings, the tall and complex forests of wood and board and belfries that made up the ceilings such as was typical in many of the halls of Xhámi architecture, were all spaced in such a way that the tonality of the Traîkhiim music was doubled and trebled, the music was bursting upwards from the litter in great fountains of song and echo, and even through many wings were grabbing unto Éfhelìnye and several jaws were biting into her she could not help but think about the movement of the music, how it worked in waves, how the halls were like a cave and the rising and falling Traîkhiim were spelunckers and miners shouting and reverberating, and the music oceanic was arising in tides, sometimes it was harsh and jarring and cutting, othertimes swelling and lovely and vast, and sometimes the tropes were rivaling against each other, sometimes the melodies came spinning outwards on complex triangulating tartans that twisted labyrinthine throughout all the ancient and iron whispering mountains. And here upon the litter the Traîkhiim were stomping and kicking and leaping so hard that all of them were revealing some sign of injury, some of them crimpt were limping, others were shaking their wings, and xhepánga dark was oozing out from cuts and gashes, some of them were gasping with unhooked jaws, some of them were having trouble focusing, but they could not dance and the less in the jangle and roar and surging of the dance. Princess Éfhelìnye, the only offspring of beloved and balletic Khnoqwísi was being carried upwards by several different Traîkhim and even as they were jabbing and touching and licking her and clamping against her with their nebs and hand-feet, their wings bringing her upwards and also slapping against her, and the music swallowing them all in growing tides, as she saw once familiar faces of the Traîkhiim transformed in the zeal of their ballet, she was beginning to doubt that she had e'er been able to understand the Traîkhiim at anytime, from the moment when she had discovered vast and slumbering hordes of this folk dead within chrysalis seas within the whispering mountains in the Qhíng mandate, to the wild Triîm whom Puîyus had discovered deep within the wastes of the Ice Asteroids of Qtènga Khixhatàkhta and whom he had tried to make tní, hellenised like unto Khniîkhan ancient customs, as well as all of the tnoaqteûpa thralls who for ten thousand generations served the Kèlor Qhíng masters, and even Aîya’s people whom the Princess had discovered in whisps of frost and whisp and light and made solidic again, now in the fury of the dance she was thinking that she had never truly understood this people. She was too tired and scared even to struggle against them, even as she felt ropes being drawn about her arms, even as the Traîkhiim came crashing right upon the litter with such force that her breathe was thrust out of her, and as she sate up she saw nothing but thousands of spinning Traîkhiim and some of them had stained dripping down their jaws, and others were tumbling upon the ground and wailing in agonia. She had always thought the Traîkhiim were so cute, they still looked cute even though they were screaming and doing unspeakable things, and when she looked up and saw that the musical instruments were made up of ribs about the sides of Triîm ribs, and she turned and saw that one Traîkhiim was fending off several who were attacking her, and she was managing to jab her claws into a jaw and rip the throat open, as Éfhelìnye saw one Traîkhiim thrust her head into the stomache of another and rip out cubits of slithering intestines, she was beginning to think that this people were both cute and dangerous at the same time. Yet they seemed so silly sometimes, they tended to duckprate in Gibberish, they hopped about and tried to get out of work and talked about nothing but dance and food all the time, how could this be the very same people? Surely there must be some terrible mistake, perhaps the Traîkhiim had all been poisoned, perhaps the funguses which they were inhaling in such great quantities were changing their perceptions, surely that must be it, the Traîkhiim were all trapped in a fey living dream and knew not what they were doing, that just had to be the explanation, right?
Several more Traîkhiim came pouring o'er right about Éfhelìnye’s hands and shoulders, and she had to shove them away, and when she felt that the ropes that were holding her down to the litter were growing too tight, and were twisting about like cobwebs, she was beginning to feel quite uncomfortable and began shoving them away. She saw that some Traîkhiim were carrying large and boiling pots upon the tips of their wings, and all of the pots were hissing shimmering with bubbles swelling up from the depths and the deep and heady aroma of fungus was the sqàre broth, and in the first few pots several Traîkhiim were swimming about and splashing each other with the tips of their wings and giggling like so many children taking a bath together, and Éfhelìnye felt her heart lightening a little, for surely this must be the Traîkhiim she knew, a blithe child race who could do no harm at all, and the porters were bringing in other pots, and swimming around in these pots were Traîkhiim who were chopping upon vegetables and sprinkling them upon themselves, they were cutting up apples and oranges and pears and letting them tumble all about their feather’d shoulders, some of the Traîkhiim swimming in the broth were taking up some khnìqri cheese, now quite precious because of the death of all of the eqharqtaqéla and axhlaxajáxa and syarqtexèlya miligaflols and they were cutting and grating and breaking the cheese and melting the cheese upon their own feathers and face and wings and were laughing all the while, and in some of the boiling pots the Traîkhiim were anointing themselves with emlaîya olive oil, and some were setting seeds and lettuce and nuts upon their bodies and were dipping themselves again and again into a soup all of seasoning, and at last the porters were bringing up the last of the great soup bowls, but within the Princess could see no movement at all, just several Traîkhiim floating dead within the soup, their eyen closed, their jaws open, their wings spread out, and bubbling about them lay severed heads and foot-palms that looked to have been gnawed off rather than cut, and the soup was thick with the citrus smell of xhepánga, the blood of the Traîkhiim.
– I know, this is all a dream – Éfhelìnye chanted aloud in order to convince herself. – This is all far too absurd to be real, ergo, this must all be a lying dream leaning o'er me. It can be nothing else. Any moment now I shall awaken and find myself in a large white bed, and little docile and cute Fhólus and Aîya will be curled up next to be and giggling and holding onto me, and as the Suns arise the doors shall sweep aside and my Puey will be standing there before me, sunshine bursting from his tresses, and he will come to my bed and take me by the hand and kiss me and then sweep me up into his arms and embrace me with an heroic hug. Yes, that must be true, for all that I see before me surely must be nightmare. And so, knowing that this is all dwimmer and enchantment, I shall kick aside the coppeweb that bind me and when I arise from the litter I shall arise from deeper sleep and find myself back in bed. This is a good plan. – Éfhelìnye shoved aside the webs, but several more Traîkhiim came rolling up beside her and threw new ropes about her legs and arms and began pulling her down and were giggling all the while, and she felt many wings slapping about her neck and drawing her back unto the fabric dais which had been prepared for her. She struggled for a few more moments and managed to shove aside most of the Traîkhiim, but they were crawling about her legs and some were biting her wrists. She felt a sharp pain on one ear and slapping there dislodged Aîya who came slipping right down and landed upon the Princess’ lap. Aîya was spinning her three heads around in anxious anticipation, but when Éfhelìnye looked behind her and saw that Fhólus still lay completely still upon the fabric, Aîya screamed and arose and bit the Princess’ again.
– What I tell you! Not allowed to look at my Fhólus! – Aîya screamed.
– Sorry, I keep forgetting how this nightmare works – Éfhelìnye chanted. – This is all a nightmare I’m having, right? –
– Life and dream, all the same – chanted Aîya. – All things the dreams of the Immortals, the Sky Dance, the Earth Sing, the Sea Sing, and the Emperor dream. Thus the Prophet treat us. You know that? –
– Yes, but … I’m dreaming all this. I just have to be … ouch! Please, Aîya, please stop that! – Aîya lunged and bit the Princess’ ear again and then slapped her in the nose with the tip of her wing.
– That answering your question? No dream! Now stop dreaming about Fhólus. I we know you want him or her, always have, but Fhólus mine, I shall make him male, I shall make him Father of my brood of Triîmeling. –
– I’m not looking at Fhólus – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Why isn’t he waking up despite all this noise? Is he sick? –
– He lovesick for me. –
– Is he unwell? I think this noise reaches down into the Nethergloom, I would not be surprised of the Ancestors themselves could hear this. –
– It music, not noise – chanted Aîya. – You silly alien baby! – She turned one head around and yodeled a few long and winding cries, and several Traîkhiim came spilling downwards from the rafters and were drawing up new lengths of web with them. Éfhelìnye could see that behind her new guardians that the large bowls of boiling and living soup were being poured downwards into large mangers and Traîkhiim were dashing upwards and feasting upon broken heads and palm-feet and wings and upon the living, and when the Traîkhiim started binding Éfhelìnye all the harder and yanking her down, and Aîya shoved her a few more times, the Princess was beginning to doubt her earlier hypothesis that this was all in fact but a dream.
– I’m terribly sorry, but you don’t really have to bind me like this – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I’m a very docile creature. –
Aîya disappeared from Éfhelìnye’s ken for a few moments, for the Traîkhiim were throwing her upon her side and tossing new webs about her, but when Aîya returned she was chewing upon something that was wriggling about and trying to point and grasp. Aîya’s jaws broke the bones through and prevailed and began swallowing the item. – You were saying something, oh Cælestial Empress? –
– Please, you don’t have to bind me – Éfhelìnye gasped.
– I’m afraid we do. The dance comes to its marriage feast. We need to anoint you, and we do not wish for you to escape, oh our little child bride. This will be a banquet to be remembered for all day. This will be … – Aîya’s three heads spun around at once. Éfhelìnye could hear the sound of several more large pots of soup slumping downwards, and the Traîkhiim arising and gobbling upon everything before them. Aîya whipped her head back and hissed – Did you just see the way she looked at Fhólus? –
Éfhelìnye shoved aside several Traîkhiim upon her, she could feel a couple of them crawling in her hair and shoved them out one by one. The ropes about her waist and legs were at the thickest and she was having a difficult time extricating herself, and so she missed whatever it was that Aîya had seen. – Oh? –
– I we do not like the way she looked at my Fhólus! – Aîya screamed. – You agree with me, my Sister, right? –
– I suppose. – Éfhelìnye kept brushing Traîkhiim from her arms, but for everyone she removed at least one more jumped up right unto her.
– No one allowed to look at my Fhólus that way! – Aîya swallowed her wriggling food and one head muttered – Let’s go after her. – And another head agreed saying – Yes, do let’s teach her a lesson, one she will be unable to forget. – And the third head looked to the other Traîkhiim who were binding the Princess and chanted – Begin anointing her, in oils and butter and sugar. We want the Empress to be absolutely unforgetible, quite a delicious prize. –
Éfhelìnye pushed aside the Traîkhiim crawling about her legs and chanted – Aîya, do you remember when I had some confusion understanding you and Fhólus when you were talking about Akhlísa as both Sister and Concubine to my Puey? I fear that, in this terrible nightmare that I’m suffering, that you may be using inappropriate culinary metaphors to describe affection and … –
Several Traîkhiim arose about Aîya and were holding jars of relish and mustard and butters, and all of the Traîkhiim were licking their lips and looking unto Éfhelìnye in hunger. Aîya chanted – Begin slathering the Empress up. Good it is that the Dragons never bothered to eat her, just more of her for the rest of us to love. –
– Once again, I don’t quite think you’re saying what you mean to say … – Éfhelìnye began, and one Traîkhiim was already grabbing her by the neck and licking her nape.
– We may have to rip the Empress’ cloths off to anoint her – chanted Aîya.
– What! – cried Éfhelìnye. She was trying to push aside the Traîkhiim but by now they were coming in too great numbers, they were thrusting their heads into her sleeves, and some of them were dipping their heads and the tips of their wings into the spices and wiping the spices right upon the Princess’ face and pajamas.
– Oh the little Concubine didn’t protest when we removed her clothing and anointed her in candy and sweet spices – smiled Aîya. – She liked it, she wants the new Emperor her husband to devour her. You must not fight it. Anyway, we all know the truth. –
Traîkhiim were sucking upon Éfhelìnye’s fingers and shoving her down upon the litter while others were running upon her back and ripping the back of her pajamas. – This had better be a dream! – she cried through clenched teeth. – And what truth have you discovered, my gentle Pèqlor dancers? –
Aîya turned and eleven other Traîkhiim and all of them looked unto her and spake in the same voice saying – A Concubine only a midnight snack, but the Empress will be our Wedding feast. –
– I wish you’d stop comparing us to all to food, I’m becoming very uncomfortable in this nightmare – the Princess chanted.
– What comparison is this? The is is the is. Is is is! Younger prettier wife is candy. Empress is better wife, she honey’d feast – Aîya’s three heads urticated at once and watched a few more Traîkhiim zum zum buzzing above her, and she began growling, even as behind her the pots were shattering and the Traîkhiim licking up the living soup. – Did you the seeing her again question? I know she looking at my Fhólus. I’ll return! – Aîya spun away and was fluttering upwards.
And for a few fateful moments Princess Éfhelìnye was finding herself upon the litter as several more rolls of web were spun about her, and one Traîkhiim succeeded in ripping off one of her sleeves and exposing part of her arm, and other Traîkhiim were removing her slippers and pouring khmùtar honey mustard all o'er her socks, and some Traîkhiim were rolling upwards and were grinding up candy canes and chewing them up and coming up unto the Princess and licking layers of candy cane right upon her lips. – We anoint you good, oh favored Empress better than we anointing the Concubine aren’t you happy and proud and delicious for us? – Éfhelìnye kept turning her head from side to side in an effort to avoid so many Traîkhiim touching her face and lips, for in truth she did not really like being touched at all save by Puîyus and her Sisters, and the breath of the Traîkhiim upon her was chill and alien and had a thick meaty smell to it which frightened her, as if she were in the presence of a feared khminítotsòrpa butcher who dealt in flesh such as the Khlitsaîyart do, and as she ducked and dodged the anointing of her face, the Traîkhiim just giggled and laughed at her all the more.
– The Empress truly is a little baby, isn’t she? Look, just like a triîmeling, when they very little and being cared of their aunties and unclies the babies squeel and wriggle and avoid eating the food offered them, they turn their heads just as she does, they try to spit it back out, all angry and fussy and tired. The Empress, she very tired and fussy too. Isn’t she adorable? We could just eat her all up. –
Éfhelìnye heard a terrible scream above her, but could not turn her head, for the Traîkhiim were crawling up and down the sides of her heads and pulling her down, they were living and heavy earrings dragging her, and other Traîkhiim were grabbing her at the wrists and linking more webs about her. From the corner of her sight she could see one Traîkhiim fall down from the air, and Aîya was pouncing upon her. She heard more screaming. Aîya’s wings were spinning around, several eyen opening in the wings, and long sabor claws opening upwards. The wings struck. Plashes of xhepánga splattered the faces of all of the Traîkhiim who were smearing butter upon the Princess’ neck and shoulders, some of the black blood was dripping down into the bowls of sugar that the Triîm were carrying and being mixed into the candy layers. Aîya was pouncing. Éfhelìnye heard the crush of flesh and the ripping open of a ribcage and was shuddering and glad that she could not quite see what was coming to pass behind her, it was worse than some of the battles she had witnessed, where death had been of sword and shield and flame and crash, but the Traîkhiim were not utilizing any weaponry at all, their mouths and finger-toes and wings were their dâcâ, and bones and flesh broke of them. After a few moments Aîya was returning unto the Princess’ sight, and smears of greese and wriggling intestines were flowing down all three of Aîya’s heads, and one head was slurping up the intestines just as the Princess had seen Akhlísa slurp up her rice noodles jhyèpet pasketii, and one head was just gnawing against the intestines, and another head was struggling, the intestines were fighting back as if they were serpents, and as the jaws clasped upon them, the intestines were exploding with bits of partially digested Traîkhhiim meat dripping down.
– Anoint the Empress more! – cried Aîya. – Our sacrifice must be worthy to be food of the Immortals – and she spun around and attacked the intestines writhe about her as she slowly gained mastery o'er them all.
The Traîkhiim licked butter all upon the Princess’ pajamas and were taking sugar to drip upon her. Several strong wings were grabbing the Princess and rolling her upon her side, and the Princess could see the broken wings and part of a torso whence once three heads had arisen. Aîya was laughing to herself and saying – Oh she’ll never look at Fhólus again I saw to that. Eyen taste like candied fruit. She learnt her lesson good. Rip off more the Empress’ clothing, she must sparkle with sugar. –
– I’m not dreaming, am I? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– All a matter or perspective – Aîya chanted, as two of her heads finished gobbling up a strand of intestines. – But no, not dreaming at all. –
– Very well – the Princess chanted, and the Traîkhiim came rolling all about her and and were pouring buckets of butter and scented soup and sugars all upon her and licking her face and ears and fingers and biting her and ripping her sleeves and making her sweet. – Not a dream at all. Oh. Pity that – chanted Éfhelìnye, and taking a deep breath she cried out – PUEY PUEY PUEY PUEY WHEREVER YOU ARE COME AND SAVE ME! The Traîkhiim have all gone mad! Puey! –
The Traîkhiim gasped and started ripping her clothing all the more, but others were biting her ankles and wrists and feet with far more force then necessary. Aîya spat out some quiverous meat and landed right upon the Princess’ chest and smacked her a few times with her wings, and wrapping a wing about her mouth hissed and chanted – My stupid little baby! Don’t you know anything! You don’t warn the male! Don’t you understand how the dance work? Just nod or shake your head, but do not speak. We can knock you unconscious if we must, but we prefer to eat living and conscious food. Eat and eating and eaten all the same. – One of Aîya’s heads arose and signaled unto the rest of the Traîkhiim upont he litter and they redoubled their efforts to prepare their food sacrifice, they were taking up small bowls and pouring stew about her fingers, Éfhelìnye to her horror found that one of her arms was almost completely bare, and the Traîkhiim were tracing lines of honey upon it, and others were coating her pajamas with sugars, and some were pouring scented mineral water and pink lemonade into her hair, but omst of the Traîkhiim were content not just to anoint her but to lick and bite her. – Now, let me tell you, little baby – chanted Aîya. – You the you creatures éngaxa having two sexes the male and female, do not understanding just how easy it is for you. One already born the male, you don’t go through dance and cycle and transformation. Already one is prepared. He is the trapped one, sweet and delicious. Think on Puîyos. His lips, his cheek, you always say like apples, no? His hair, candy canes. You tell me many times he love muffins, he eat lots of muffins. What you think he taste like then? Remember, what the funny word, it hav emany different meanings, qàqlo, right? Some say it mean pungent and savory, some say bitter and sour, some say it mean tasting like meat, but for Puîyos qàqlo, it mean he taste like muffins. Understand? We make you ready for marriage. Puîyos dripping with flavors. Time the coming. Don’t ask. Take. Eat. Make him yours! Don’t cry out in warning. That just silly. Now, I the removing the wings now. You keep screaming out, you sleep and dream for real. Understand, oh my Sister? –
Éfhelìnye nodded. The Traîkhiim were arising and cackling about her and rubbing butter into her skin and taking up candycanes and licking them up upon their faces. Aîya rubbed her wings about the Princess and gave her a big hug and chanted – Do not be worrying at all. Trust us. We all family here. You just know that this will be a xhyúla fhírn, a tasty dance. –
– I just wish you wouldn’t use such an ambiguous word like fhérn, it can be good and excellent and harmonious and tasty, you’re just playing with the meaning of taste now, aren’t you? –
– You don’t think this a xhyúlayàntuning? – asked Aîya.
– That can mean either an attractive dance or an edible, tasty one! – Éfhelìnye chanted as the Traîkhiim were kneading khmàyonar garnish into her hair, and she barely had strength to fend them away. –
– Xhyúla tlhomfhinapònya Tlhiimènejikh? – laughed Aîya.
– That’s another khrènatlhe, a mararonick pun! – chanted Éfhelìnye. – You could either be saying a dance tasty unto the Traîkhiim or a dance which is treated cruely by the Traîkhiim. –
– How about then tsenaxhyúla khniê? Tasty dance? No ambiguities there, xhwapyirlqayàjhwen? Plus you like khniê tasty words, no? Khnièfhri diadems and khniêlti snowflother and khniên golden hair on Khniêma your Concubine, and khniêr khniêr khniêr, kissing, you kiss the Puîyos Emperor so many times you been practicing eating him all the time I know you and Fhólus know you, you always eating him khniê tasty khniêr kisses that what you are that what the dance is. –
Several Traîkhiim were spinning upwards and grabbing the Princess by her shoulders and jostling her upwards, for they were trying to finish preparing their living feast, but they were having some difficulty in keeping the sugars and candies and butter upon the Princess and her garments, for the butter just kept evaporating and slipping up from her skin, and the sugars and candies were breaking away and become like clouds turning and crackling about her, so the Traîkhiim were coming up with an inventive solution, they would continuously have to anoint and lick the Empress just to keep her ready rather than just set her up upon a tray, and so Éfhelìnye was finding herself bound up with new layers of cobwebs, and Aîya arose before her face and reached down and tore the pajamas in several more places and directed them to keep pouring butter upon her, and Traîkhiim were landing in Éfhelìnye’s hair and gobbling up slices of sweet manna and cookies and letting the crumbs fall downwards in a consistent cascade, and as the drums were beating all the louder, the Traîkhiim were falling upon her and licking her, and she barely had any strength whichby to fend them away, and the Traîkhiim were dipping their heads into buckets of butter and soup and oils and sucking it up and drooling it upon the Cælestial Empress whom they adored so much.
– Right now I almost miss being chased by those horrible stone statues – Éfhelìnye chanted aloud to no one in particular. – They only wanted to crush or cut me. Hiddeous and sharp warrior statues are somehow less scary to so many cute aliens drooling butter upon me. –
– She ready now – chanted Aîya, and she sate down upon one of Éfhelìnye’s shoulders and rubbed her back and face and chanted – My dearest little baby Sister. How you feeling? Feeling good? Crunchy? Sweet? Delicious? –
Éfhelìnye began sniffling. – I want to go home. –
– You’ll be with Puîyos soon. You sleepy? –
– Yes. I just want to go to bed. –
– You will go to sleep soon. Beddie bye. Beddie beddie. Sleep. Rest. Close your eyen. We sing your lullaby now. You sleep in all our stomaches. You live inside us for ever. –
Éfhelìnye could feel that several Traîkhiim were landing in her hair and were vomiting long and dripping pools of butter right upon her, but the Princess at this point was well beyond caring. She barely sniffled. All about her the drums were beating harder. Swarms of Traîkhiim were descending about her. Beams of light fell upon her and caused some of the butter to crackle and warm upon her. Aîya disappeared for a moment but soon returned, for she was carrying Fhólus in the crook of her leg-arms, her wings flapping back and forth with consummate grace, the eyen of her wings looking unto Éfhelìnye with maternal pity, and Aîya arose, she was carrying a small tlhòkhlo fillet in her jaws such as one placed upon the brow of a sacrificial plantimal, and she crowned the Princess with it, and the Traîkhiim vomited spices and candies all about the Princess all the more. And Éfhelìnye was arising, about eleven Traîkhiim were holding her up now and carrying her, although she was light enough for just a couple to do so, but she was considered far too important and honored for that. And Aîya was flying right next to the Princess and licking her face and rubbing her and soothing her just as she had so many times before.
– Don’t be so afraid, Empress – chanted Aîya. – This your wedding. You always want wedding and wedding feast, now you have the time. And everyone here. After we devour you, we eat all your Sisters. Siêthiyal will be fruit. Ixhúja a little stringy. Akhlísa all baby fat. You our feast. –
– I want to return to my Sisters – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I should never have run away from them. –
– You’ll rejoin them soon in the afterlife. Look, isn’t this a wonderous celebration! – Aîya’s three heads lit up and her wings were pointing unto all the movement about them. – All for you, all song and ballet for you just as you like it. Anyway, you don’t want to return to your Sisters, they don’t understand you at all, I understand you. You wake up, and all your thoughts are to eating Puîyos, just want to hold him and squeeze him and taste his candy flesh but no can’t do that the old stinky Emperor he poisoned the Dance he made it all wrong he made it wild and alien but now new Emperor new Puîyos he going to make the dance better right eat of his flesh and drink his goodness then we be whole again. Don’t want to return to your Sisters. I your Sister! We fought together. We think alike. Protective. Strong. Not Sister Concubine and Sister Cousin and Mean Middle Sister. You and I. You look tired. Here, let me hold your finger-toes. Look like pastries. Snapoffible. Yum. You be with Puîyos soon. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Here he be. –
The felt fabric pyramid was arising in the very center of the golden halls where all of the light was gazing, and the Princess could see that so huge were the swarms of the Traîkhiim that no longer was there any wall or column at all, but just movement and wailing and stomping and kicking and the gnashing of teeth. And upon the pyramid top lay a large pile of shredded fruit and Puîyus lay at the summit, and orbiting about him was come the swarm, thousands upon thousands upon thousands turning all around him spiraling and they were reaching out with their lips and triple-forked tounges and licking him all the while and giggling and preparing to lunge. And Puîyus was bright and sticky from so much butter drooled out upon him. And all of the drums were singing out a single song now.
Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!
The vanguard who were surrounding and uplifting Éfhelìnye landed just a cubit away from Puîyus, and Éfhelìnye enwebbed rolled out among them. The Traîkhiim pounced upon her and vomited another coating of butter upon her. Éfhelìnye shook of some webs and began crawling up unto Puîyus and tried to reach out unto him. The hordes of the Traîkhiim were squealing in barely surpressed anticipation, they were snapping at each other as well as licking Puîyus’ fingers and face whenever one group swirled about him. Aîya landed upon Puîyus’ chest and set Fhólus down, and she looked unto Éfhelìnye with three sets of fanged jaws.
Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!
Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!
The feast drums were beating out all the louder.
– Time for you to be married – Aîya chanted. – Far past your bedtime, little one. Go to him, your bridegroom, you love, your other self. Hold him. Embrace him. Love him. –
– Puîyos! Puîyos! Puîyos! Puîyos! – cried the thousand Traîkhiim as they stomped and burbled and growled and snapped their jaws at the same rhythm.
Éfhelìnye, sticky and wet and altogether more miserable than she had felt for quite some time, slipped up unto Puîyus and sate down next to him and began tapping his face and shaking him in a desparite attempt for to awaken him.
– Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! – cried the Traîkhiim.
– Hold him! – ululated Aîya. – He’s yours for ever! Kiss him! –
– Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! – cried the Traîkhiim.
Éfhelìnye embraced Puîyus, it just seemed the best and most natural thing to do. – Will you please just leave us alone now? Surely the Traîkhiim are loyal vassels to their new Emperor and will respect that he wants to return to his room and sleep … –
– Sleep! Sleep! Sleep! Puîyos! Puîyos! Puîyos! Eat! Eat! Eat! – laughed the Traîkhiim.
– Xhepánga is our only authority – chanted Aîya. – It makes us alive and tasty and real. Now go and marry him now and make him yours for ever. –
Éfhelìnye was tempted to start kissing Puîyus’ lips coated in candies and fruit, but the Traîkhiim wild and horrible arose about her and were gazing at her with dæmonic eyen. She turned back and looked to Aîya and cried out – I believe you’re crazy, all of you, I think that my Father has warped your sense and twisted your souls. –
– Marry him now! – screamed Aîya.
– Eat! Eat! Eat! – screamed the Traîkhiim.
– I don’t think I’m ready for marriage yet … – began Éfhelìnye. – Besides, I was hoping that at my betrothal ceremony … –
– Start eating him now! – screamed Aîya. – You must! Eat him so that all of us can eat you! He the male, the eaten. You the female, the eater. If you eat your man than both of you will live together for ever in the next life. Eat eat eat eat! And shall all eat of you and also live for ever! –
– Eat the Emperor! Eat the Emperor! Eat the Emperor! – shreaked the masses.
– Eat him now! – screamed Aîya.
– But … – began Éfhelìnye.
Aîya was arising, her three eyen were flames of red, her wings extended and an hundred eyen glared at Éfhelìnye. – Eat him now or we all start going mad! Only you can eat the Emperor, only you the Empress. Eat! Only you can touch him, he yours for ever. Eat! If you can’t have him, no body can. Eat! Eat! Eat! –
– Together! For ever! Together! One! Together! Eaten! Together! Sleeping! Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! – screamed the Traîkhiim. And so loud and terrifying were their voices become, that Éfhelìnye just wrapped her arms about Puîyus and held him tight and wondered just how she was going to get out of this mess, and in her embrace some of the butter and spices that were coated in her hair dribbled downwards and splashes on his clear face, and the crowds became all the wilder at that and thought that the love feast was about to begin, and they were cheering and plauditing and hollering and gazing upon Éfhelìnye in perfect adoration. And Éfhelìnye for her part, gazed down, and in her tears and sadness saw that Puîyus was very beautiful and just as comely as e'er, and she could not help herself but rub her hands through his hair all anointed of spices, and gaze unto his shining face, and his lips coated in oils, and although she tried to restrain herself, she was seldom shy in matters of kissing her Puîyus, and so she lunged at him and began sucking upon his lips because they were just utterly tasty, and the Traîkhiim arose and became a thunderous ocean joyous to inundate her, the Empress who would finally make them whole.