Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Word Count for March: 317,045

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.

Happy Starday, Mister Emperor

Puîyus was looking from side to side, but neither in the stables nor in the walk through the courtyard through the outerhalls had he been able to figure out away to escape from whatever the Traîkhiim and his Sister Akhlísa wanted of him, he knew there could not possibly be an emergency, his senses told him that no war, no monster, no physical danger at all was about to threaten one of his loved ones, and yet he was not entirely happy to be drawn into the xhyèparl sárl banquet halls, but Fhólus kept biting his fingers and gnawing at his knuckles and Aîya was now crawling up his arms and nibbling at his neck and licking and poking and kicking him at the same time, and so Puîyus just came forwards, and before him was a writhe sea of a thousand Traîkhiim dancing swift and wild. And Puîyus’ spleen felt like ice, he knew that the Traîkhiim were given to odd moods, and that they did not understand how to master their own dancing. The sea was parting just a little, but as the Traîkhiim sniffed the air and turned around and saw their future Emperor, the consort of the one mentioned in Pèqloran prophecy, the dance began anew and all the faster, and the Traîkhiim were adding laughter as a step of their dancing. Sometimes it was difficult for Puîyus to guess where Traîkhiim ended and drum and dance began, and some of the Traîkhiim were completely entwined one with another, wing and neck and leg-arm, and everything was shaking, the tables were almost about to tumble downwards, the panes of glass were all reverberous, the Traîkhiim were unconcerned with whether they could stand or not, tumbling and sprawling was all a part of the dance, they were turning their heads to him one by one as he came unto them, and their portion of the orchestrial sea was opening up, and the drums struck harder louder boom boom boom doom doom doom tee hee hee hah hah hah! And behind him Princess Éfhelìnye was following as best she could in what little space was left unoccupied in the outer columns, but she had to stop and just peer outwards, as Puîyus came into the center of the dancing sea before the small step pyramid.
Bursting out of the dancent Traîkhiim arose a chair, and the Traîkhiim were carrying it upon their backs and wings and in their jaws, and Puîyus could see that it was not much of a chair, in fact it was the last stage of chairment before it was fated to be chopped up into timber and thrown upon the fire. Perhaps a few minutes ago it had been a bright and shining new chair fashioned of good and wellcarven wood, but so many Traîkhiim had gnawed at its legs and its arms, and so many had jumped upon it and thrown it down and used it for drumming and ran about it and picked it up and tossed it about and danced upon it in every place where hand-foot could stomp and Triîm could twirl, so now it was quite an ailing chair and on the verge of collapsing. The Traîkhiim did not notice just how sickly this chair was, they dragged it up and set it down before the pyramid, and Fhólus and Aîya guided Puîyus downwards and plunked him down upon it, and the two little Traîkhiim that had guided him looked one to another and began laughing, and they jumped upon Puîyus’ lap and began turning around, their wings smacking him in the face, and as the twain laughed, the laughter began to ripple outwards unto the nearest Traîkhiim about the almost chair, and the laughter was taken up by the Traîkhiim just a little outwards and beyond and beyond in growing concentric ripples, but the Traîkhiim did not stop their frenetic dance for their giggleations, this only encouraged them to drum the louder and dance all the more. Puîyus tried to arise from the tottering throne, it was creaking beneath him, he was thinking it was liable to collapse at any moment, but Fhólus and Aîya just growled at him and bit him and held him down, and the dance arose.
– Tee hee hee hee hah hah hah hæ hæ hæ hæ now she comes here she comes there she is happy Starday! – the Traîkhiim chuckled and spun and kicked and bit one another.
– ?? – Puîyus was murmuring unto himself.
Fhólus arose and her wings wre almost slapping against Puîyus’ visage as she cried out – Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah this is going to be good! –
Aîya crawled about Puîyus’ golden torq and bit the nape of his neck a few times, and Puîyus tried to draw her away with gentle hand, but she just arose and started attacking his ears and nibbling on them chanted – Hæ hæ hæ hæ hæ hæ you’re never going to forget this! –
Puîyus snatched up Aîya and placed her on his lap, he knew that he was probably not going to be able to escape from whatever predicament Akhlísa had been planning for him, along with the pouring hordes of the Traîkhiim, and he was thinking that he would not at all be surprised if Siêthiyal and Ixhúja had not been emptying the halls and searching for as many Traîkhiim as they could find. Fhólus tried to land on Puîyus’ lap next to Aîya, but she growled and bit the outer feathers of Fhólus’ wing, and Fhólus tried to fend her off, but Aîya kept attacking her and was snarling all the while, until both of the Traîkhiim were hissing at each other and punching and slapping and poking and become such a nusance that Puîyus had to separate them one from another. And the Traîkhiim came arising about Puîyus in a growing and tumbling dance, he could feel that the rickety chair whereon he sate was creaking from side to side as Traîkhiim arose enmase aneath him and swelling were shoving him from side to side, but despite the wildness of the dance, a slight hush was falling upon them all. The chair surged forwards as several Traîkhiim shoved Puîyus upwards. From her hiding place Princess Éfhelìnye leaned out. The dancing was arising and lapping o'er the pales of the pyramid, and within the golden halls all of the light bubbles were shifting and turning and focusing right upon the top head of the pyramid, and the goldenhalls grew darker, and the flambeaus flamed all the brighter.
– Tee hee hee hee hee – a thousand Traîkhiim were laughing at the same time. – Good good good good good! Fun that the Empress not see this. This will be great. Younger prettier wife. Concubine always better than first wife, as old saying goes! Hah hah hah hah hah. –
Éfhelìnye’s fingernails scratched against the back of the column and left marks visible marks which she was not even noticing, so intent was she on what was bound to come to pass before her. For whatever it was that Akhlísa was intending, it was surely a terrible and quite unfortunate quaad idea.. She bit her lips and watched as the light beams upwards and it up all of the small pyramid which the Traîkhiim had builded up in the center, and so hard was she biting her lips that a steady trickle of blood was rolling down the side of her face and dribbling down her neck, but she neither noticed, nor if she had would she have cared. This midnight was mad, was fey to many who experienced it, and all that seemed to matter was the great Dance of Life.
– Who cares! Let’s dance! Kòmla xhyutlhoas? Tanxheyáxeus khnanuxhwi! Who cares! Let’s dance! Kòmla xhyutlhoas? Tanxheyáxeus khnanuxhwi! – intoned the Traîkhiim sang all the Traîkhiim danced all the Traîkhiim pounding pounding surging beating screaming skirking the Traîkhiim crying crying – Kòmla’ ulta xhyutlhoas? Twí khrúje tepuyuxhwi! Who cares! Let’s all dance! Qhérù tanxhè twí fhenithà fhuptà lwenethà lweuqà khortèl khnekhtàng euxaixì euxì akùt! Dance dance dance! Who cares! Let’s dance! – Thus sang all of the Traîkhiim thus was their xhmoâkhri their liturgy their mantra.
– Here she comes! – screamed Fhólus.
– She’s coming she’s coming the Concubine! – cried Aîya.
– Younger and prettier wife. –
– We like her the best. –
Of a sudden the pyramid lit up with a thousand candles, and the pyramid was slowly opening upwards, it was most definitely something of Traîkhiim design and creation by with gigglent finger-toes, this Éfhelìnye could perfectly know for certain, for the pyramid was unfolding in a series of paper and leather and fabric drifting downwards, the outer sheets of the pyramid were sloughing downwards and up arose the sparkling candles and they were lighting themselves up one by one by one of their own accord. The summit of the pyramid blasted open and up arose doves, hundreds of white raven doves, doves whose wings were opening upwards and revealing the very sheen of crystal and white, the doves came fluttering outwards, the doves all had eyen of shining light, the doves each had a blue eye and a green eye, and the white ravens were fluttering away and revealing a beam of light in their midst. And even the beam of light was like a great length of fabric and papyrus folding down upon itself, and within lay a shadow all of white and gold. The shadow walked outwards. Éfhelìnye could see a glimmer of long and golden hair, and bursts of white feathers spilling upwards, and the outline of a maiden standing at the head of the pyramid. And even er that the Princess could clearly discern that this was Akhlísa, she knew it had to be she, and the Traîkhiim were leaping and foaming in their dance.
Akhlísa spun around, jewels walking up and down the side her head, and she winked at Puîyus and blew him a kiss. – Tsóriêna teirxhmi’ aîPuîye! Good auguries to you, oh Puey! – she laughed. And slowly as she descended down the steps of the pyramid away from her arose the thousand white raven doves, and Akhlísa was revealed in a brilliant flutter of feathers as white as the nuptual dress which the geminate Duchesses had woven for her of their own tentacles, oranĝa Pereluyàsqa and jacinth Khosyaràsqa of the Aûm folk. But as she came downwards and the white birds arose about her, both Puîyus and Éfhelìnye could see Akhlísa as they had never imagined her before.
Puîyus for his part was not entirely sure what it would feel like to have one’s heart explode while beating in one’s chest, it would feel very different to dying of a broken heart, she thought, for that was a form of burning, and indeed sometimes when one khmexhréthakh, dies of heart’s fire, even the organs and skin sometimes caught aflame and were consumed. He knew what it felt like to stop his own heart and he wellremembered his recent cardiac episode, but what he was felling now was more akin to knives being jabbed right into his heart, and everytime his pulse beat, everytime he breathed, everytime he blinked, he could just sense that panic doorslamming shipcrashing fieldburning battlescreaming panic was creeping right up to him, worse than anything he e'er felt in sailing and storm and rage and war. For Akhlísa was dressed or rather hardly dressed in a way which certainly was getting his attention. He was entirely sure what she was wearing, it was obviously clothing created by her own hands and which her Traîkhiim friends had helped her sew and spangle jewels upon it, and the clothing itself, all of veils and silks and feathers and jewels, was actually very lovely indeed and paid great honor to our ability at broidure. The reason, though, that Puîyus was finding himself short of breath and his heart was no longer functioning right was that she was just not quite wearing as much clothing as one would need. She was wearing a skirt, or at least a series of veils that were in the shape of a skirt, but it was quite short and not only revealed her knees but also a great deal of her white legs about it, a microskirt shuffling from side to side and revealing little seas of jewels and veils. Her blouse was of a similar fashion, a miniblouse, glistening and bright, and it not only revealed her elbows, but all of her arms right up unto her shoulders. She wore a series of veils about her shoulders, but they were completely diaphanous and he could see the movement of a few tlhàlqoi hitatimasten upon her shoulders, little frecklent angel kisses. Puîyus, gulping a few times, was not entirely sure how her blouse even managed to stay on her shoulders. In fact he was not entirely sure whether he had e'er seen bare shoulders before, even if through the gauze of the veils. He had seen Fhermáta’s bare shoulder before, but she was his foster Sister or at least had been until the Elders had decreed that it was time to begin the betrothal ceremonies, and he used to help wash and dry Akhlísa but she was his foster Sister and it should not be embarrassing at all but now it was the very essence of blushing, and now it seemed as if it were a lifetime ago when he and Akhlísa had been able to wash each other’s hair and play and everything was just nice amd sàpla simple and swàmpu partless and khòlte wholesome and ingèxhmes hālsum. Akhlísa took a few more steps down the pyramid. Puîyus could taste from afar that he entire body was anointed in the scent of candycanes, perhaps his favorite of candies, and her lips were dyed bright and thick red from generations of candy canes melted upon her lips. As she walked downwards and the white ravens arose, he could see that about her head lay a slight tiara of gems and jewels were walking up and down her ears and within her hair, and that tall ostridge feathers were stuck in her crown, and veils were rippling about her head. As she came closer Puîyus could see what was holding up her blouse, it was a thin strap of diamonds, and if it were not the veils on her shoulders, she would be completely bare at her shoulders.
For her part Éfhelìnye could only stare. She stopped breathing. She was not entirely sure whether the creature before her was Akhlísa indeed, her blood sister, her best pal, she seemed more like a figure come out of stained glass and legend. For a moment Éfhelìnye was reminded of the Wraith of Khwofheîlya, the way that she moved and seemed to command all attention about her. And Éfhelìnye her hands right into the column, and behind her some of the panes of the stained glass windows began to waver and crack.
But for her, Akhlísa was walking down about a third of the pyramid, and she paused to blow Puîyus several more kisses, and she could feel that all of the torches and light bubbles were alit only upon her, and that the thousand Traîkhiim even as they were spinning and hissing and laughing only had eyen for her, and that Puîyus was completely ensorcelled by her that he could look neither left nor right. She smiled. She turned a little in her descent, and made sure that Puîyus could see that the veils of her microskirt were cut in such a way that at her hips almos the entirety of her leg was exposed, and she stretched up her arms and her little blouse arose to reveal the crawling clockweyth jewel glistening in her navel, for she knew that in all of travels within the many worlds, and that among all of the princesses and maidens who had tried to kiss him from gratitude at being rescued, or who had even longed to be given in marriage unto him, that Puîyus had never seen this much leg before, and certainly never seen a jewel in one’s belly button. And she smiled at Puîyus. She blew him another kiss and in a flutter of white feathers she sang out unto him saying – Tsórienayèntal xhór jhkhaiqnayàntong! Blessed and happy bird omens, mine own lord and husband. –
Puîyus was about to arise from the rickety chair but found that Traîkhiim were holding his ankles, some of them were biting his legs and tickling him and licking him and in general trying to hold him down. He looked down and kicked a few of them away, if they had been rope or chain he would have just smashed them into bits with his bare hands, but one always had to be gentle with living creatures, especially with such dear innocents as the blithe Traîkhiim. Yet he knew he had to work quickly, and when he tossed aside one Traîkhiim to return her to her brethren, two or three launched themselves at him and grabbed his ankles and bits his fingers and began piling about his arms and shoulders and pyjamas, and he knew he was not going to be able to escape without hurting them before Akhlísa reached him. Fhólus fluttered up to Puîyus ear and whispered – Terribly so sorry oh Emperor of tomorrow but you are not permitted to leave. It would shame your Concubine, and one cannot do harm to a Woman of the Sun, no? –
Aîya arose and she was grasping a kitchen knife in one of her jaws and she muttered with a few mouth saying – Great apologies but we they all have been instructed that if you try to leave we they all supposed to thrust this into your belly. All for your own good of course. – She crawled up into Puîyus lap and held up the knife. Fhólus was dancing upon Puîyus’ shoulders and biting his ears. Puîyus kicked aside a few more Traîkhiim but decided not to fight them anymore. Tonight was no longer a time for fighting. The Traîkhiim bit his ankles and thrust him down, and when he stopped moving, Aîya giggled and cooed and slid the ulu away, and Fhólus sighed and began kissing Puîyus neck and face and ear in an attempt to sooth him.
And when Akhlísa was perhaps a third down the pyramid of wood and felt and fabric she began singing:

Tsóriêna xhnir khmòtatau
Jai xhmir saiqíren!
Starday good auguries
to the honored Cælestial Crown Prince!

And slowly Akhlísa began to remove the veils from her head. She let white feathers tumble down about her, and then as she came closer to Puîyus she began tossing the veils towards him. Puîyus’ eyen froze still, he no longer knew how to blink. Akhlísa winked at Puîyus. Somewhere behind a column she could hear a glass window cracking in a thousand different places, but she did not particularly care. The Traîkhiim were only able to contain their excitement for another few moments. By the time Akhlísa came down the last steps of the model ziggarat, the Traîkhiim howled out all the louder, and they fell one upon another in an even more arduous frenzy. Puîyus was only vaguely aware that Fhólus and Aîya were biting each other on his lap and snap with their jaws and slapping each other with their Értriim wings, and only a little did he notice that they were sliding off of his legs and were falling into the dance and a thousand Traîkhiim were spinning around and shouting and turning and jumping and dance dance dance dancing in the thunder of the drums.
Akhlísa, Khmaryáta’s Daughter, the bride chosen of Khwofheîlya the Temple Dancer, was now just a couple of cubits away from Puîyus. She ran her fingers through her golden tresses, her clockwork insects rising and falling about her ears. She tossed away a few more veils from her head and a finger wandered to her shoulders and began to loosen the veils set upon her alabaster skin. And she sang out:

Tsóriêna xhnir tlhaîthni
Tqar xhmir saiqíren!
Starday good omens
to the loved Cælestial Crown Prince!

Puîyus was not entirely sure whether or not Akhlísa was dancing, she was certainly moving in a very rhythmic way, her hips and belly were in constant undulation, the veils she was tossing down at him were all woven in the patterns of labyrinths, and when she pulled away a few more veils he could see that thousands of little spilling dream spirals were breaking apart and turning and blossoming of their own accord. She was taking off the very last of her veils, and Puîyus could see that her shoulders were completely white and beautiful, and as she came unto Puîyus she tossed the veils upon his head and about his neck and in his lap. She reached unto the jewel lace that held up her blouse. Behind a column a glass window was shattering into composite billions of pieces, but neither Akhlísa nor the mansuete dancing Pèqlor were at all interested at what was coming to pass in the aurelian shadows. The hips continued to sway. Her fingers unclasped the lace of her blouse, and as the fhlùsa blouse fell away from her, it revealed that underneath she was wearing a very small and very tight blouse all of jewels and which Fhólus and Aîya and Siêthiyal had had to sew upon her skin. And Akhlísa was all jewel and light and the scent of candy. And she sang out saying:

Tsóriêna teiqha xhnir xóla
Puîye xhmir Puîye!
Puey Day good omens
to Puey!

Several more stained glass windows were shattering of their own accord, and a few Traîkhiim were turning and noticing by now, but the dance was still far more interesting and especially the pretty little dancing Concubine. Neither the Traîkhiim horde nor Puîyus were entirely sure how it was that Akhlísa somehow made it upon Puîyus’ lap, she was grabbing his insensate hands and making sure that she held him about her unclad waist as she sang out:

Tsóriêna tsóriêna
xauteirxhmi ter janaPuîye!
Lots of good auguries
to beloved you, my Puey!

And there was nothing that Puîyus to do to back away from this all too familiar stranger, this person who both was his beloved little Akhlísa and yet had to be someone else. The dance was continuing in a frenzy about him. The white raven doves exploded out of the pyramid, and it collapsed, and the Traîkhiim came rolling outwards and all of the space was consumed by the Traîkhiim and the drums and their spinning and their leaping and their dance dance dance dance dance in the flickering torches. And Akhlísa twined her fingers through Puîyus’ melancholy blue tresses and played with his ears and leaned very close unto him so that he could smell that her entire body was anointed of many sweet candies. Her lips sweet and candies came very close to his, her eyen were half closed, and she sang out:

Khmòtatau xhmaîntiim
Xhmùfhowe xhroe!
Happy starday,
oh mine honored Emperor
of tomorrow!

Kick turn leap scream kick turn leap scream
Duck lunge plunge twirl duck plunge lunge lunge
Swinging the heads swinging the limbs turning turning piourette
Drop kick turn kick leap kick fly fly
Kick turn leap scream kick turn leap scream
Everyone dance for the Imperial Concubine!

The Traîkhiim were a living xhrùyisin, a riot of color, the Traîkhiim were everywhere, they were pouring out of the walls and gnawing them open, they were splashing down all of the columns, the rafters of the goldhalls were heavy laden with Traîkhiim flying upwards and swirling downwards, the tables were leaping because of the thunder of the dance, the only reality was the beating of the drums, for in the Dance all of the Traîkhiim participate, they must participate otherwise they will wither and go mad and die these kind and social and governmentless creatures, the Traîkhiim were rolling outwards in their wildest of frenzies, and as the glass windows were breaking the Traîkhiim were having to leap aside to keep themselves from being struck and lacerated, the Traîkhiim were jumping about the drums, they did not recognize that all of the glass windows were changing and struggling, they did not understand that a slight but princessly storm was about to burst outwards. Only the dance mattered, and the one who permitted them to dance such as Akhlísa, their Master’s other and prettier consort. Puîyus was wondering just what he could do. Akhlísa was gazing upon him with one blue eye and one green eye, and the look on her face was most definitely not something that he could recognize on her. She continued brushing his face and hair. She drew her face about three inches away from him, but behind her, in the haze of her golden hair, Puîyus was seeing heads arising and wings tumbling, he saw a smear of black light, he felt the Traîkhiim screaming about him, and suddenly upon a wall he saw a splatter of oil and grease, upon another wall he saw feathers tumbling downwards, and the screams of the dance were filling him with a dread and alien void he could not name.
– Happy Starday, my Puey – Akhlísa whispered.
Puîyus learned how to blink again. He blinked with one slow blink. He learned that he could control his eyen again.
– This is an important day of days for you, my Puey – Akhlísa whispered. – The heavens have aligned eleven times just as they did at the moment of your birth. Stardays are supposed to be dear and wonderous and special. I wonder whether there is any other way we can make this Starday any specialer? –
Puîyus blinked.
Akhlísa breathed her candy breath upon him, her lips just two inches away from him. – Have you been having a good Starday so far? –
Puîyus blinked.
– I mean, aside from the war and horror and all that stinky stuff, but hasn’t this been quite an interesting day? When we began the day you were just the heir to a dying clan, I was just your baby little Sister, but look at us now, you will be the Emperor, and I shall be the Mother of your children. We have all changed. We’re growing up, aren’t we? –
Puîyus gulped. He thought about the end of the last day, when he and his Siblings had been translated through the aoqhàxhlakh Rings of Fire and had come unto holy Eilasaîyanor and eaten at the formal Restaurant, and ridden in covered wagon and triceratops unto the Ice Palace where they were ambushed by the ninja spies of the Noble Caste, and they were come into the Palace where Puîyus wandered away from the group and discovered a Princess getrapped in fires and Dragons. And he thought of all those who had not survived this day, Great-Uncle Táto and the maiden Jeûr and most of all Fhermáta, beautiful and kind and leal and true. And all this Akhlísa could read upon his face, but she breathed her scented breath upon him.
– I can never love you as Fhermáta did, but I can love you enough – Akhlísa whispered. – I can love you with the love of many maidens. Hold me, my lord and husband. We know how this chorus must end. Happy Starday. Now, grant me the honor of my first kiss. –
Akhlísa leaned forwards. Puîyus tried to duck. A few Traîkhiim screamed out. Four or five stained glass windows shattered, and as the pieces came falling downwards they became liquid glass and flame and plasma. A few of the columns were slowly turning, but no longer were they of marble and jade and precious stones, but they burst into fire. Some of the tapestries were thundering off the wall. One or two statues of the Ancestors fell down. Princess Éfhelìnye was peering out from behind a column, and behind her all of the walls were cracking open. High above her were three circular windows, and they exploded above her one by one, glass pieces were falling towards her and were instantly transformed into snowflakes about her. She was grinding her knuckle into a column so hard that her hands were bleeding. Her eyen sparkled red wroth.
Akhlísa grabbed the back of Puîyus’ neck, she was prepared and ready to force a kiss out of Puîyus her intended lord and husband no matter how much he may struggle against her, she knew it would be a risible story to relate unto her children and grandchildren. Her lips were almost upon his, even though he was turning his head from side to side and trying to pull her away. The chair rickety and weakened and already creaking and wellgnawed by many Traîkhiim everdancent was leaning backwards. Akhlísa lunged. The chair fell back. Puîyus fell right upon his back for the chair shattered beneath him. Puîyus turned upon his side. Akhlísa grabbed his hand in an effort wrestle him down. Traîkhiim were spilling all above them and around them, some Traîkhiim were dancing in Akhlísa’s golden hair and spilling about her back, some of the Traîkhiim were bouncing upon Puîyus’ chest and playing with his pyjamas. Akhlísa shoved a few Traîihiim away. Puîyus tried to pull himself upwards, but Akhlísa pushed herself upon his chest to sit upon him. Puîyus was trying to pull her away, but no matter whether he touched her about her arms or legs or shoulders it was always against bare flesh, and he kept turning and blushing to think of such a thing. Akhlísa licked her lips, they were sweet enough for a pluperfect plethora of kisses, delectable and perfect just like the Pèlqui candy cane forests which Puîyus so loved. She wrapped hear arms about his neck and pulled herself down and was thinking that surely candy canes and their ancient winter imperial forests were a memory of Puîyus himself, for he was the very essence of such sweetness, and all of the past were echoes of that. The Traîkhiim were bouncing upon both Puîyus and Akhlísa. The Traîkhiim were kissing the fingers of the toe and crawling about them. Akhlísa made sure that Puîyus could smell her, she made a look as if about to turn left, and when he ducked right, right she turned. It was just a glancing kiss, she kissed his nose and his cheek a couple of times, but it was certainly enough for her to name it a victory, although when Puîyus tried to pull away from her he ended up smacking the back of his head against a couple of Traîkhiim and the shattered timber of the chair, and he fell unconscious for a moment.
– Close enough! – cried Akhlísa. – First kiss! Thèplie! Love’s first kiss! Granted, on his nose, but that’s good enough for me! Hurray! Hurray! Yippee! – Akhlísa rubbed her hands together and laughed a little, and finding that now Puîyus could not possibly resist her, she launched herself upon his lips and bit and sucked on them until the explosions of the glass behind her became just a little too loud. She pulled herself apart a little and drank in Puîyus’ candy scent and noticed that her breath was become crystal and frost arising from her lips, and that the Traîkhiim writhing about her had feathers which were also freezing, and that a steady snowfall was come unto them all. Behind came the storm and all of the windows were erupting. Akhlísa turned around. She just knew this couldn’t be good, and if any of the Traîkhiim were daring to ruin her party she’d have Siêthiyal do something suitably nasty to her. She placed her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyen, and saw that all of the rondured glass windows became nothing but wind and cloud and storm. The outer walls were cracking upwards like gigantic eggs. The columns were all become frozen pillars in the forest. The floor was breaking apart, the tables were become exploding ice, but still the Traîkhiim were leaping upwards and shouting and dancing dancing dancing dancing dancing all the while.
– Kisses sure are messy and wet – Akhlísa chanted to herself. – But I suppose that Puey and I will have a great deal of practice in the years, the millennia, even the centuries to come. I rather like his lips. They’re my favoritest of candies … –
The screaming and leaping Traîkhiim parted, the snowfall was flickering through the broken walls and wounded glass, but snow was also forming itself within the very moisture of the goldenhalls, a ministorm itself coming into being, a slowly churning mælstrom consuming the aurelian rafters and the layers of the ceiling all shaking in the dance. Through the parted Traîkhiim came a wind and the blizzard and in the midst arose Princess Éfhelìnye and she hovered for a moment right behind Akhlísa. Akhlísa was turning and gazing upon Puîyus her beloved and hoping that he would just awaken so she could continue the business of kissing him with the sweetness of her lips. Éfhelìnye’s hair was twisting and crackling upwards, her tresses were all a flowing twist of comet and flame, heat convections were arising from her hair, and slow and cresting solar flairs were arising from her brow and drifting up unto the rafters, for her hair was the only heat at all left within the halls, but her breath was cold, and all the air was frigid, and a steady trickle of frost was floating upwards. Éfhelìnye blinked her red eyen. She was telling herself that she was going to do anything at all but not cry, and above all that she was not angry with Akhlísa, she hardly even noticed Akhlísa she had not a single bad feeling towards Akhlísa at all. Éfhelìnye reached o'er and was about to tug upon Akhlísa’s sleeve, the standard way for someone to get the attention of someone else, especially one’s own age and or a sibling, but Akhlísa had no sleeve at all, so the Princess just tapped her a few times on her bare and white shouders.
– I hope you wake up soon, my Puey, I plan on kissing you all night – Akhlísa chanted.
Éfhelìnye tapped Akhlísa harder on her shoulder.
– I think you’re getting even beautifuller as you get older – Akhlísa giggled.
Fhólus poked one of her heads up from the dance. – Ah … younger prettier wife … something you should see. –
Aîya poked one of her heads up from the whirlpool of feathers and muttered – Perhaps one should not get involved in this particular affair … –
Éfhelìnye tapped Akhlísa even harder on her shoulder.
– One moment please, my beloved and wellkissed and everkissible Puey – Akhlísa laughed. She turned and saw Éfhelìnye. – Ciao! How you? Great party, oh? I’m going to go and start kissing Puey now. –
Fhólus and Aîya looked to each other and remembered that almost certainly they had been the ones to inform the future Empress and that they would without a doubt be the ones punished, and so they arose upon the tips of their wings and tried to sneak out through the spinning and growing dance.
Éfhelìnye poked Akhlísa harder upon her shoulders. Éfhelìnye could not help it, several long and pellucid trickles of tears were come, and she was too upset even to wipe them away.
Akhlísa turned back. – Do you like my outfit? I made it myself, well the Traîkhiim helped me, don’t you think it makes me look so grown up now? I think Puey loved it. I don’t think it’s really for you though, you’re more classical and classy, I’m a feral one, aren’t I! –
Fhólus and Aîya in the growing and riotous dance were finding that there was really no direction for them to take to avoid Akhlísa as well as their brethren Traîkhiim, they were crawling against Puîyus’ chest and trying to arise in the air, but hundreds of other Triîm were still rising and falling in the percussion of the dance.
– Kàrula! Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa! – gasped Éfhelìnye as she struggled with her tears and tapped on Akhlísa bare shoulder.
Akhlísa looked around. She looked to Éfhelìnye and noticed her for the first time. – Hi! Say, I thought you were with Ixhúja, isn’t she supposed to be distracting you during this party? Because you weren’t invited to the party and we thought your feelings … would be hurt … if you … learned about the party. We’re at the party now, aren’t we? –
Éfhelìnye nodded. She wiped tears from her eyen.
– You’re not with Ixhúja right now, are you? –
Éfhelìnye shook her head in negation.
– Ixhúja not around anywhere? – Akhlísa looked left and right. – Because she was supposed to … guard you and … did you know about this party? Uh-oh. –
Éfhelìnye covered her face and began sobbing. The Traîkhiim continued to scream and dance around her. Akhlísa looked around and began panicking. Several more walls were cracking open, the pillars and columns of this great house were twisting around and weakening themselves, so that all the house was threatening for to collapse.
– Well! – gasped Akhlísa. – I suppose someone forgot to invite you to the party didn’t someone! – She put one hand on her hip and wagged her fingers at the dancing Traîkhiim in general. – And when I find out who was so careless as not to invite the Mistress of our House … I … I will … I didn’t do it, Éfha I didn’t do anything at all please don’t be angry with me I’m innocent I’m just a little girl please don’t be angry with me please please please! –
Éfhelìnye fell upon the ground and wept, and storms were generating above her head and crawling throughout all of the growing rafters, and Fhólus and Aîya were creeping out before her and trying not to notice the future Empress of tomorrow, for all the rest of the dancing Traîkhiim certainly were unobservant of her, but Éfhelìnye’s tears were beautiful little flashes of crystal, and so pitiful was she that Fhólus and Aîya had to pause for a moment. The Princess reached out and picked up the Traîkhiim and began hugging them and crying upon them and was wishing that she were just dead.
Akhlísa gathered up a few of her veils and set them upon her crown. – I’m sure that someone is feeling very guilty, someone not I because I didn’t do anything wrong at all, don’t worry Princess I’ll find out who’s been hurting you. Siêthiyal! Siêthiyal! SIÊTHIYAL! COME HERE I NEED YOUR HELP RIGHT NOW! SOMEONE’S MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE AND IT’S NOT MY FAULT! –
Even though the Traîkhiim were still screaming and leaping in their dance, and steady and growing blizzard was forming above Éfhelìnye’s head, and the drums were loud and whirling, in the vortex Akhlísa could hear the slight pitterpatter of feet, and Siêthiyal came running down from the upper halls and made her way right through the dancing Traîkhiim and was looking from side to side in alarum. Siêthiyal was dressed in pink pajamas of her own making, her hair was banded back with a single white ribbon, and bunny slippers were on her feet. As she made her way right up to Akhlísa she looked down and saw Puîyus completely unconscious and she chanted – Great job, I’m sure you got your kiss. Khlís, this had better be good, I was counting my wealth in toys, if this is not a life and death situation … where are your clothes? –
Akhlísa lifted up her arms and struck a balletic pose. – I am wearing my clothing. –
Siêthiyal grabbed the outer blouse and threw it into Akhlísa’s arms and chanted – Did you remove your blouse? Where are your veils? Those veils were supposed to cover your shoulders! Don’t tell me that … Sister this is all far too short …. –
– I made some minor modifications, or at least the Traîkhiim and I did when we were sewing – Akhlísa grinned. – I want Puey to remember me, I want this night to be rememberable! –
– And I’m sure he’ll remember all this to the end of his days … Kàrula! I thought you were just going to charm him with your stàpi dwimmerlaik, your xhràthe glamoury! You’re liable to kill him with those shoulders of yours! Use your brains! –
– I have gorgeous shoulders. –
Siêthiyal fell upon her knees and tapped Puîyus’ face a few times and chanted – He has a pulse. He’s breathing. He’s not dead. Kàrula, this is the last time I leave you alone for longer than seven minutes, and I don’t trust the Traîkhiim to look after you any more, they’re just as childish as you. – Siêthiyal looked up and chanted – I am very tired and want to get back to my toys. Please, younger Sister, tell me why you summoned me? –
Akhlísa grimaced and pointed down to her feet, and there Princess Éfhelìnye lay crumpled and weeping and cuddling Fhólus and Aîya all the while and weeping right upon them. Siêthiyal knelt down before the Princess and at once her thoughts turned unto a way to salvage this worst case emergency. – Princess? – asked Siêthiyal. She cleared her throat. Siêthiyal slowly lay herself down, she pressed her face against the floor in ritual kowtowing and chanted – Oh holy future Empress, how very sorry I am that this happened. Please believe me that none of us meant to hurt you. Mine only conclusion is that someone surely made a mistake. I’ll find that person and punish her, in your most beneficient name of course. –
Princess Éfhelìnye only sniffled in response. Siêthiyal drew herself up to her knees and looking around yanked Akhlísa by her wrist and dragging her down hissed – Who told! Tell me now. I’ll wring her little neck! –
– I didn’t do it, I’m not sabotaguing mine own party! – Akhlísa hissed. – It was all my idea, I just wanted to kiss Puey! And mission almost accomplished, I got his nose and cheek. Does that count as love’s first kiss? –
– Who cares! The Princess is very smart, perhaps she figured this all out herself, despite all my cunning and strategies … – Siêthiyal tugged upon her pink and unbraided hair.
Fhólus popped her heads up and chanted – Yeah that probably true Empress figure it all out with Traîkhiim help we had nothing at all to do with it. One completely other topic, we’ll be sneaking away now, bye bye bye! –
As Fhólus slowly began pulling herself out of Éfhelìnye’s arms, Aîya was fluttering upwards in a kerfluffle of her katzenjammer wings and saying – Yes surely and obvious we the Triîm had nothing to do with telling the Empress of not being invited to the party really the opposite of something that Fhólus and I and Fhólus would do. And so, for to avoid all punishment, we’ll be sneaking away now, ta ta ta! – Aiya dripped right out of the Princess wings, and together wing and wing they began fluttering away from the maidens.
Siêthiyal looked up and chanted – Truly, who would be stupid enough, brainless enough, without foresight enough to tell the Empress the one thing they were told not to tell her, in fact one could say that there was but a single rule, but one commandment which had to be obeyed, just one dictate, that none of us was to say a single word unto Éfhelìnye, a very simple rhetra to follow, is it not, and yet as is the way with a single rule it seems that someone was stuuupid enough to breathe a word to her … –
– Maybe Puîyos do it – Fhólus chanted as she arose.
– He no talk – Aîya muttered and she smacked Fhólus’ heads, and Fhólus growled and smacked her back, and the two Traîkhiim started clawing and biting against each other even as they tried to escape.
Siêthiyal looked upwards and sighed. – It is quite obvious who disobeyed. –
Fhólus and Aîya pointed to each other and in six voices cried – She did it! Not I! I’m the innocent one! I we they tried to stop her but she they no listen to us! Blame the her! She did it! –
– Sometimes it just doesn’t seem worthwild to plunder toys when one has to put up with this – Siêthiyal chanted, as Fhólus and Aîya fought in the air.
Akhlísa reached down and touched Éfhelìnye’s shoulders and chanted – Are you alright, my Princess? –
Éfhelìnye turned her back to Akhlísa. – Please just leave me alone. I don’t want to see your face. – And Akhlísa shuddered, she felt as if moonlight and joy had been taken away from her.
Siêthiyal’s hands moved faster than then the Traîkhiim thought possible, she grabbed them by a few of their necks and threw them down upon the cold frost floor. Above them the ceiling of the house was opening upwards, and snowfall tumbling untowards them, even as ripples of dance and drum roared in waves all about them. Siêthiyal made sure that her knee lay upon the torso of each of these Pèqlor and she was squeezing the air from them, and leaning forwards she hissed – You give me one good reason why I shouldn’t give you to Ixhúja to carve into little pieces. Trust me, Éfhelìnye’s upset will be all your fault. And I’m not allowing you the honor of being sacrificed alive, that’s for worthy slaves. –
– Quick, think of something! – Aîya gasped.
– Why us we them? – cried Fhólus.
– You supposed to be the smart one! I the pretty one! –
– Otherway around! –
– It doesn’t matter, crazy Sister choking air out of us! Say something! –
– I’m waiting! – Siêthiyal growled. She grabbed their throats and squeezed.
– We the Empress’ favorite toys her personal property hurting us will hurt her and that hurt her for long time look even have jewels in ear to prove I we her property! – gasped Fhólus.
– And Puîyos like us, he always kind to stupid and innocent and stupid things! – cried Aîya.
– You not for the hurting of us now please? –
– Pretty please? –
Siêthiyal turned around, she could see just how upset Éfhelìnye was, and unlike her Sister who was content to keep poking Éfhelìnye on the sleeve and just hope everything would turn out fine in the end, Siêthiyal could see that all the bursting ice and the tumbling columns and the cracking walls and all the rift in this house were eminating right from Princess Éfhelìnye and something had to be done. Siêthiyal tried on her various smiles, the ones she used on her Abbá and Auntie and the Elders to get what she wanted, she tried pleading and pouty and spoiled and hopeful and on the verge of tears and cute, and finally settled upon thoughtful and kind sister and she chanted – I’m so sorry my beloved Princess, but it seems that these Traîkhiim have made a terrible error, and I shall see to it that they are suitably punished, for I bade them many times to invite you to the party, in fact I told them many times that you were to be the very balletic Star, but none of us could find you … you just disappeared and so Fhèsya here created her own dance and the Traîkhiim were participating, and you can see the result for yourself. But let’s not blame our little ones here, shall we? –
– That just the opposite of what you chanted! – cried Fhólus.
– Yeah, you told us not to tell Empress of tomorrow and she not to come and not to be the attention – Aîya chanted.
– I really am this close to having Ixhúja bite your heads off! – Siêthiyal hissed at them as she drew them up and shook them. – Talk when I tell you to talk, is that understood! – The Traîkhiim were nodding. Siêthiyal shoved them behind her back and looking to the Princess chanted – I just hope you can find it in your heart for to forgive them, they’re such dear and silly little creatures. Ouch! One of you wreches bit me! – Siêthiyal threw the Traîkhiim down and stomped on their legs, and Fhólus and Aîya pointed to the other and chanted – She did it! I did not! You did it! What, you think she going to believe you when you clearly the one who did it! –
Siêthiyal fell upon her knees and began beating up the Traîkhiim with her bare hands, a little like the way she was wont to give Akhlísa a good thrashing from time to time, although they were smaller so they did not require as many punches to be bruised, and when they were flopping about and finally become a bit more docile in her grasp she kicked them around a few times, and grabbing them by their necks again she hissed – Okay listen you bruipill kompatindaj kaez you aîjanyàqyó wretches! What’s the worst punishment in the harīm, aside from killing you or crucifying you or removing your skin! –
Fhólus and Aîya looked to each other and after a moment’s thought both chanted – Worst punishment in the harem is to take care of us two. We twain a lot of trouble, very disobedient, can’t be trusted for a moment. –
Siêthiyal punched them a few more times. – Fine, now what’s the second worst punishment? Answer quickly, if I start getting tired, you’re sport for the crazy martian huntress. –
Fhólus and Aîya were coughing but spat out – Second worst punishment is the having to help Empress with editing her manuscript. Boring and difficult and lots of dancing words. Makes our heads hurt. –
– You’re not helping her with her book, you’ll probably eat it or spill hot chocolate on it or rewrite the parts that feature you to make yourselves the heroes, but sorry, that idea is already taken by me if anyone is changing her book I’ll do it! –
– Ooh, good plan – chanted Fhólus.
– Probably how she ended up becoming the Patroness of all toys – Aîya chanted. – She had to have changed some written words somewhere. –
– Hurry up or beating commences – Siêthiyal growled. – Although, just to assuade my curiosity, can you two even write? –
– Can we write! Can we write! – gasped Aîya.
– Can we write? – asked Fhólus.
– We can write in Khìxhing, very beautiful and angular painted letters. –
– Sure, very pretty, although spend most of our time just writing about snails and ice. –
– What’s the third worst punishment in our harem? – asked Siêthiyal.
– Cleaning – Fhólus and Aîya chanted at the same time.
– Then you shall be cleaning – chanted Siêthiyal. – Tomorrow I’ll be inspecting tapestries and rugs and walls, and in consideration of this very messy party you’ve celebrated here, I want the kitchens cleaned, I can only shudder to think what you’ve down there, I want the spoons and sporks clean, I want you to lick the pots clean, and no this is not an invitation for you to eat more, this is the first circle of your coming misery. –
– Anything better than having crazy huntress on us – chanted Fhólus. – We used to be scared of you, mean middle Sister, but crazy cousin is worst. –
– We have an hierarchy of pain – sighed Aîya. – It is our netheragonia. –
Siêthiyal slapped the Traîkhiim about and kicked them away and turning back to Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa told them – I’ve taken care of the problem. I’m terribly sorry that the Traîkhiim were too stupid to invite you to the party we were hosting in your own honor. Alas, the hour is late, and the Traîkhiim are wild in their dance. Come, Éfhelìnye, please allow me the honor of escorting you back to your quarters. –
Éfhelìnye was still weeping on the floor. Akhlísa was sitting next to her and poking her and saying – She’s not listening to you. –
Siêthiyal lifted up an hand and spelt out, No thanks to your idiot slaves. Go away. She doesn’t want to see you.
Why should I leave, it’s my party, the one I made for Puey!
You knocked him unconscious, you dolt! Get out of the way! You and the Triîm have messed up everything. Leave me with the Princess.
Akhlísa shouted – I don’t have to go! Go back to your toys and dolls and such, but I’m staying at the party and why are you worried it’s not like anything else can go wrong and if it does who cares because I know Puey just has to love me! And look, the Traîkhiim are all enjoying themselves, all drumming and leaping and screaming all the while. –
– The noise is probably making the Princess sick – chanted Siêthiyal. She knelt down next to Éfhelìnye and took her hand and patted it and chanted – Come along, Sister, let’s go to bed, we’re all tired and confused. –
Several Traîkhiim came rolling about Akhlísa’s bare feet but she barely even noticed them, she was licking her too delicious candy lips and saying – Just take her away. It’s not like anything else will go wrong. – Akhlísa looked around. A column was wavering behind her, it was twisting around in its plinth and slowly toppling downwards, and the Traîkhiim only parted long enough to allow it tumble, and soon were arising and spilling o'er it and leaping about in their wild fight.
– Please don’t say that again – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Say what? – asked Akhlísa.
– Next time you test fate like that, the column will land on you and squish you like the candy you usually have in your pockets. –
Akhlísa shook her hips and chanted – There are no pockets here, the Traîkhiim had to sew me into this! So, what do you not want me to say? –
– Nevermind, I’m not saying it. – Siêthiyal patted Éfhelìnye’s hand and chanted – Let’s get up and go to sleep. –
– Not saying what? –
– I’m not … –
– What are we not saying? –
– What else can go wrong? It’s not like anything else will go wrong! Surely that’s the last wrong thing that will happen. It’s all good luck from now on. I’m Karuláta, and I’m jinxing myself by declairing that nothing else wrong can e'er happen. There, are you happy? – chanted Siêthiyal. – Nothing else will go wrong at all! –
Fhólus and Aîya were swaying in the air and making their way through the Dance, the bobbing and twisting heads and the jutting of the wings but just as they were coming through the midst of the feathers and the leaping and the screaming the drumming and coming up unto the outerdoors, the doors came swinging upwards, and before them stood, in her violet pajamas, Princess Ixhúja, and a violet white sword gleamed in her hands. Within a moment she understood the entire situation, the dancing Traîkhiim, Puîyus knocked unconscious, Akhlísa wearing the least amount of clothing, Siêthiyal shifting the blame and yet trying to hold the family together, Éfhelìnye weeping in despair and heartbroken, and a couple of Traîkhiim flying towards her and trying to escape. Ixhúja grinned. She figured she’d gone an entire hour without killing anyone. These two deaths she would savor.
– She did it! – Fhólus and Aîya pointed to each other. – Not I! Innocent! Not our fault! The other one tempt tempting us far far the too much! –
Ixhúja growled. She lunged. She slammed the two Traîkhiim against a door and held a knife right against Fhólus’ belly, she was thinking that it would be best to stab them through their heart-gizzards first, but while she kept them alive in agony she wanted to remove their triple-forked tounges because of all the mischief they had done.
Siêthiyal jerked her thumb Ixhúja yutakhàpwa, quite Ixhúja-weards and chanted – That’s what can go wrong. Get up! We have to save them! –
Akhlísa stumbled upwards and chanted – I thought you didn’t like the Traîkhiim! You were guiltifying them … –
– Don’t you understand I was just idly threatening them! I’m not hurting anything beloved of Puey’s or the Princess! Come along! – Siêthiyal tried running through the crowd of the Traîkhiim, and the drumbeats were arisen again so loud and tumbling that her feet could hardly find their place and she kept tripping o'er entire tribes of Traîkhiim about her, but she made it to the door and grabbed Ixhúja by the sleeve and shouted – Don’t harm the idiot innocents! –
Ixhúja snapped at Siêthiyal and tried to smack her, but Siêthiyal slid out of way at the last moment. And Ixhúja gave her a look that meant, Anything that dares to harm my beloved cousin jikösel jiköst jikös kuzino deserves bale and torment and death, and if you are too weak to do it, mainspringless that you are, than I shall protect the family. I shall make a pile of their organs. They die now! –
Akhlísa slid up and grabbed Ixhúja’s other wrist and tried to prevent the stabbing, for Ixhúja was having to hold the Traîkhiim with one hand and the knife with the other, and Akhlísa and Siêthiyal were hanging on her and trying to drag her down. Ixhúja gave a great cry and picked up Akhlísa and Siêthiyal above her head and started pounding both maidens against the wall even as she strangled the Traîkhiim, their necks twisting, their tounges lashing from side to side, and all were screaming at the same time, but none there was to hear them, for Puîyus had been knocked out cold, and the roar of the dance was grown even louder, the Traîkhiim in the halls were dancing on top of each other and filling up the air and the crumbling walls and spilling about the shattered windows, even as snow tumbled about them all. Ixhúja screamed and smacked both Siêthiyal and Akhlísa against the wall several more times and all things were become a mælstrom of screaming.
– That’s enough – came the small and still voice of the virgin. Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa and Fhólus and Aîya all looked up and around at once and saw that Éfhelìnye was standing right before them, her face was wet with recent tears, her eyen were red with sadness and she clasped her hands. – The fighting ends now. –
Everyone nodded her head or heads in agreement. But just for good measure and not a bit of sport, Ixhúja punched Siêthiyal and Akhlísa across their faces, and Siêthiyal poked the Traîkhiim and Akhlísa hung on Ixhúja’s back and tried to wrestle her down, and everyone came rolling out right before the Princess.
– What did I just say? Everyone, stand up! – Éfhelìnye chanted. Slowly Ixhúja and Siêthiyal arose, but they kept punching each other, and Akhlísa was soon grabbing their hair and pulling at it, and the Traîkhiim arose and tried to land upon her shoulders and were crying out – Fight fight fight fight harem fight harem fight tee hee hee – but the Princess grabbed them and pressed her fingers on their lips.
– Listen to me! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Ixhúja, sheath your weapon. I command it. Do it. The rest of you, are any of you armed? –
– No – smiled Siêthiyal.
– Do you think I have a weapon in this get up? – Akhlísa pointed to her veils.
Éfhelìnye looked up to the Traîkhiim and staring at them asked – I don’t suppose either of you managed to dredge up another kitchen implement, did you? –
Aîya and Fhólus looked to each other and chanted – She made me do it – and they drew out a very sharp kitchen knife from behind their wings. Éfhelìnye snatched the knife from them and set it upon a table and set a bit of broken pillar upon it.
Ixhúja poked Siêthiyal on the shoulders and gave Éfhelìnye a look that meant, I don’t trust her. She has to have a weapon on her.
– What have I done? – Siêthiyal grinned.
She’s smiling.
– Smiles are good. –
That means she’s lying!
– All these accusations, may I remind everyone that I was not the one flying into a murdherous rage o'er some mindless slaves? –
I’m just protecting the family.
– I think you two like to fight – Akhlísa looked to Siêthiyal and Ixhúja. – It’s like you’ve finally met your match and you’re frustrated because both of you are fighting for the affection of my lord husband and sister wife. Go ahead and fight but not around me. I have better things to do. – She blew upon her fingers and chanted – So, how’s Puey doing. –
You started this by prancing around like that, Ixhúja snarled at Akhlísa.
– Eiya! Leave my Sister out of this! – Siêthiyal chanted.
– We’re not having any more arguments! – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Princess, leave this to us – chanted Akhlísa. – Can’t you go and collect butterflies or bees or something? –
– Yeah, buzz off – chanted Siêthiyal. – We can handle this. –
– Whatever it is you do all the day when you’re not chasing after my lord and husband. –
Don’t you talk to my cousin that way, Ixhúja growled. One should remove your skin on general principle.
Akhlísa shook her arms and shoulders and chanted – And look at just how beautiful all my skin is, thank you for what a wonderful idea. –
– Just go away, Ixhúja – chanted Siêthiyal. – You had one job, keep her out of the party, and you couldn’t do it. Not only are you an heretic who has hopeless longing for my brother, but you’re an incompetent heretic who couldn’t even stop a single Princess from running away from you. –
– And you’ll never have an husband unlike me and my husband loves me all the time and can’t keep his hands off of me so there nyaaaaah! – Akhlísa stuck out her tounge.
If memory serves me, you barbarian wenches, neither of you could keep track of my cousin when you lived in the same house together, at least I lose her in a fortress! And she did run away from the Emperor, the most powerful man in all of existence! Ixhúja snarled at them.
– Stop fighting! – Éfhelìnye cried and she stomped her feet on the floor. She let the Traîkhiim flutter away from her and let them rejoin the dance, it was best for them not to have to worry about family problems.
– What did you just call us? – Siêthiyal asked as she poked her finger at Ixhúja, and Ixhúja almost bit it off.
Sorry, one does not know the word for it in Babel, a lowly serving girl in a tea house, a wench, Ixhúja growled. That’s all you two are, wenches pretending to be princesses like me and my cousin.
– The word is khìthwakh, khìthwaikh – chanted Éfhelìnye. – It has the connotation of … –
– Please, Sister, you’re not helping – Akhlísa chanted.
– How dare you call us tea wenches, don’t you care about our high estate you filthy little heretic mud puddle, you putrescent violet-haired soulless freak of nature, you monstrocity whose only redeeming characteristic is that she’s not a complete villain yet, whose eyen water whenever she sees my Brother, who when she’s not all nice and kitten is going completely insane on us all, oh go away Kàrula, I’m insulting the clockwork worshiping heathen here, I really want to break her spirit, and no, I regret nothing that I’m saying! – Siêthiyal shouted.
Ixhúja’s lower lip was trembling. Akhlísa backed off, she was afraid that Ixhúja’s feelings would finally shatter. Ixhúja reached for her sword, but Éfhelìnye dashed upwards and flung herself between her cousin and Siêthiyal and chanted – I forbid any fighting. Don’t you remember the last time we all fought with the kitchen knife! Did anyone win? I don’t suppose any of you regret what happened then! In case you’ve forgotten, I’m still sewn up on my stomache because we four can’t resolve our differences. Ixhúja, back down. Siêthiyal, apologuise at once. –
I will not.
– I will not. –
– Ixhúja! Siêthiyal! You will obey me, as the future Empress and the Mother of our Clan. Both of you bow to me. Hurry! –
Ixhúja and Siêhtiyal hesitated and bowed to Éfhelìnye. She pressed her hands on their heads and kept them down for a moment, and looking to Akhlísa gave her a look that told her to bow also. Akhlísa did so, and some veils came tumbling down from her crown. Éfhelìnye released her hand and slowly the three maidens arose.
– Ixhúja, take a step back and lift up your hands and show that you are not reaching for a weapon – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Ixhúja bowed again and obeyed. Éfhelìnye looked to Siêthiyal and chanted – Apologuise at once. –
– I will not – Siêthiyal smiled.
– Siêthiyal! –
– I didn’t say anything untrue. –
– Apologuise for calling her a freak. Do it! –
Siêthiyal bowed and cried out – I’m sorry I called you a freak. – She took a step back and began muttering – You accursed abomination of nature, two faced and soulless little spider of a … –
– Siêthiyal! –
– I’m sorry! – Siêthiyal arose and smiled. Akhlísa stood behind her and leaned her head upon Siêthiyal’s shoulders, and she clasped her hands about her Sister’s waist.
The Traîkhiim were still drumming out in their wild dance, leaping and turning and screaming all the while, so that when Éfhelìnye took Ixhúja’s hand and placed it in Siêthiyal and Akhlísa’s she had to draw all four of them together and shout just to be hurt. – I want all four of you to listen unto me. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja it is wrong for you to be angry with the Traîkhiim and blame them for telling me the secret, which I probably would have figured out anyway. The Traîkhiim are what they are, freethinkers and freespirits with hardly a thought in their mind, perhaps illogical and childish, but their thoughts are their own and fit an alien people. Siêthiyal, perhaps you should not have let those particular two know since they are the most flibbertigibbetsome of the group, but that is up to debate. The Traîkhiim cannot help who they are, they were created by the Immortals, they were enslaved for most of their history, they are tired and scared and think that honored Kàrijoi will smite them at any moment. And do you know what I think? – The three maidens shook their heads, and Éfhelìnye patted their hands and chanted – We three are a great deal like the Traîkhiim also, we ourselves can’t help how we were created and who are are, and all of us, including me, have a tendancy to do what seems best at the moment without a great deal of forethought. We should repent at hurting each other, but we should not be blaming one another. Ixhúja cannot help how she was born, the circumstances of her creation, her heritage and demeaner, and whatever few faults she may have, we can work on them as a family in time. I’m sure she was not really going to hurt the Traîkhiim, and we cannot fault her for my escape, that is just silly. Siêthiyal also cannot help being who she is, I think she’s been placed in position of authority and responsibility for which she was not prepared, nor could she be, she’s lost someone close to her, and when Puey and I left Jaràqtu we really abandoned her, but there’s no reason to harbor suspicion against her. And Kàrula is completely trapped, the Elders and her foster Father have mapped out her entire life for her, she’s become a pawn in the game of this alliance, and she’s trying to act in a far more indepentent way than she can, but she’s still a very little girl, no matter what Duchesses and Monks and Viceroy Elders may say. So please, there’s no reason at all for us to fight, and we shall not fight, we are all one family together, the new Pwéru. –
Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa considered for a few moments and all looking to Éfhelìnye concluded the same thing, and all nodded, and they let Siêthiyal speak for the group. – So, what’s your excuse? –
– Pardon? –
– None of us are blameworthy, but you keep causing trouble – chanted Siêthiyal.
You sneak out of the harem, Ixhúja nodded.
– You resurrect dangerous alien allies – chanted Siêthiyal.
– You’re super jealous of me and won’t share your husband with me even though he’s mine mine mine! – chanted Akhlísa.
– I don’t have any faults – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I am the Starflower Princess, born of the Virgin Empress. I’m just saying that together … –
So all the family problems stem from you-then, that’s what you’re saying, Ixhúja nodded.
– Your stiffnecked inflexibility really cause all our pain – chanted Siêthiyal.
– She acknowledge that Puey will be the father of my children and we won’t fight – chanted Akhlísa.
– Ur … this reconciliation is not proceeding as I had intended – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Is there anyway we can just all hug? –
One is not hugging pink barbarian there?
– I’m not touching purple heathen there. –
– I’ll hug – chanted Akhlísa.
– Everyone can just hug me – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– I’m not hugging at the same time as crazy clockwork there! – Siêthiyal shouted o'er the roar of the dance.
She’d better keep to her own side of you, Ixhúja snarled. If her sleeve dares to touch me, I’ll crush her skull.
– I’m hugging! – chanted Akhlísa, and she came up and wrapped her arms about Éfhelìnye’s neck and cried out – You two had better stake a claim, because there’s not very much of her left now. Princess, are you e'er going to start growing taller? –
– I rather doubt it – chanted Éfhelìnye. – But I’m Puey-sized, I’m the appropriate size for him that is. –
Ixhúja leaned her head next to Éfhelìnye and Siêthiyal did her best to keep her arms about the Starflower Princess and Akhlísa, but there was really not enough Éfhelìnye to go around, and everyone was just hugging everyone else. Éfhelìnye then proceeded unto the second part of her most devious and cunning plan, by ducking out of Akhlísa’s arms and crawling away from the group and leaving the three maidens to hug each other. And Éfhelìnye smiled.
You’d better not be touching me, Ixhúja growled.
– Trust me, I find you qhepfhofhòyuqei, repellent – chanted Siêthiyal.
– What’s that mean? – asked Akhlísa.
– Um … ask your Sister Wife there, she’s quite the vocabularian. –
– Xhnir khmòmofhor, pertaining to one who drives someone away – chanted Éfhelìnye. – But I don’t think we should be thinking about such words right now. We’re all being driven together, we’re all a single flock and I’m the shepherdess. –
– I met some cute shepherdesses the other day, I think I’ll buy a few for Puey – chanted Siêthiyal.
– I like it better when we’re all hugging – chanted Akhlísa.
– Pardon? –
– Sorry, it’s loud. I like it better when we’re hugging. Don’t you, Ixhúja? –
Ixhúja nodded, for although she was not Siêthiyal’s greatest friend, she was finding the embrace a bit soothing, and it was nice to be with others who were usually kind to her cousin. Ixhúja clicked and purred in quite a feline language and told them all, I just knew that Éfha was going to duck out and make us hug.
– Yes, it was fairly obvious, and yet we all fell for the ruze anyway – chanted Siêthiyal. – What a clever maid she can be, well played, oh Princess, very well played. –
– What, I don’t understand – chanted Akhlísa. – What’s the trick. –
– Nevermind – chanted Siêthiyal.
Éfhelìnye applauded in little bitty claps and chanted – Now isn’t this the best, we’re all one family again, I could not be more pleased. We really do have a great deal in common, so we should not fuss at all. –
We all want what’s best for our family, Ixhúja growled.
– Yes, we all want what’s best for this dynasty of ours – Akhlísa chanted.
– Then we’re all in agreement, we want what’s best for me – chanted Siêthiyal.
For clockwork.
– And candy. –
– And me. –
Ixhúja and Akhlísa and Siêthiyal looked up from their embraced and eyed each other. – It’s close enough – chanted Éfhelìnye. – We all don’t have to be the same, our differeing skills and inclinations assets for our family. Now, let’s all continue to hug. Do the Traîkhiim have to be so loud, I can barely hear anything. Nevermind, we’ll just let them be themselves. –
– Yeah, what’s the worst that can happen? – Akhlísa asked.
– I really ought to beat you for saying that – chanted Siêthiyal.
Agreed, the little one is a magnet for all sorts of weird luck, Ixhúja was murmuring. Usually she ends up with the good luck, and all the ill ricochays unto the rest of us.
– So we’re all one big happy family, I just love it! – laughed Éfhelìnye. – I’m so glad I invaded this party after all. –
Yeah, sorry about trying to keep you away, Ixhúja purred.
– Sorry for not inviting you – Akhlísa chanted.
– Sorry for letting the Traîkhiim hurt your feelings – chanted Siêthiyal.
– I don’t mind at all, it is a short hour of grief to spend in comparison to the lifetime of joy that will follow in our family, all together – Éfhelìnye smiled. She looked back unto the golden halls and found that the snowflakes were falling all the less in the gaps of the house and the broken glass windows, and still the Traîkhiim were continuing in their strange and wild dance, all leaping and beating their drums and punching and embracing and spinning and kicking all the while. The Princess turned around to look at her Sisters and so did not notice that some of the Traîkhiim were screaming not in the joy of dance but in agony. A few Traîkhiim were tumbling down from the rafters, and they crashed down and their bodies broke apart, and ripping out of their torsos arose tendrils and serpentile heads. One Traîkhiim was crying out as she fell into a whirlwind of her sisters, and suddenly a splash of citrus black xhepánga fell upon the wall, and bones were crushing against bone.
Of course there is still that one problem, Ixhúja purred.
– Yes, we have a single but serious problem – Siêthiyal chanted.
– So are we going to address this problem or not because it’s really important – Akhlísa chanted.
– And what’s our problem? – Princess Éfhelìnye asked, and light was fading from her face.
Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa all turned and looked to the Starflower Princess. – You, of course, silly! – they purred and chanted and cried.
– Pardon? – asked Éfhelìnye.
All her fault, purred Ixhúja.
– Such a greedy troublemaker – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Won’t let me kiss mine own husband! – shouted Akhlísa.
– What are you saying? – asked Éfhelìnye.
Siêthiyal rubbed Ixhúja’s head and chanted – I’ll speak for the group. Princess every single one of our faults and problems are completely pipíxhi tnút 100% your fault and your most grevious fault alone and the rest of us are completely blameless. If you could be just a little bit more reasonable, all would be well. The three of us can put aside our differences, so why can’t you? And you know what we mean. –
– I … – began Éfhelìnye.
Ixhúja brushed aside some violet tresses and let the clockwork crawl about her fingers. It is unnatural for a man of high estate, a King or Lord or Emperor only to have a single wife. In fact, it is unhealthy. Just let Puîyos and the little one be. –
– But … – began Éfhelìnye.
– Face it, Princess, you’re jealous, mean, possessive, and greedy to an extent which threatens the very future of our family – chanted Siêthiyal. – How am I to know that you’ll be friends with my little Sister today and not, I don’t know, stab her in the stomache tomorrow? It sounds like something you would do, right? –
– He’s my husband! – cried Akhlísa. – Just let me be happy. I thought we were best friends. –
– We are … – chanted Éfhelìnye. – At least I thought … –
I don’t know Uncle Kàrijoi very well, but you remind me quite a bit of my locust Father the Khan Jhkhaîxhor, Ixhúja was growling. He wished to control all things and create a new family in his own image. One cannot control those one loves, one can only release them.
– But … but … I’m not the bad one! – Éfhelìnye whimpered. She looked around as if hoping for the Traîkhiim to help her, but they were busy in their own engrossing dance and the madness of the midnight hours.
– Please, Princess, you ran away with the first boy you e'er met, and we’re all happy for that and love having you as part of our family – chanted Siêthiyal. – But he was already bound to marry our Kàrula, and she was promised to him at birth. In fact it’s the custom for her every year at his Starday to promise to be a good wife and … –
– I know what the custom is! – Éfhelìnye barked. – Whatever deficiencies I may have, poor memory is not one of them. –
– Princess, my Sister Wife, please don’t be cross with me – chanted Akhlísa. – But you must know that you are not the only one who loves Puey, but I am the only one who has wanted to marry him for as long as I have had breath. You must respect me. –
Éfhelìnye was backing away. – I’m not your Sister Wife! Please don’t call me that! –
Cousin …
– Come on, Princess … –
– Sister Wife, we don’t mean to frighten you … –
Éfhelìnye was backing away. She kept turning back and found Traîkhiim rolling about her and pouring off the tables, she was looking for exeunt, she could see that the three maidens were looking right at her. – All of you, listen to me, it’s very simple, the story is called Puey and the Princess, not Puey and the Princess and the Concubine or Puey and the Princess and all the rest of his wives, it’s a very simple duality, and I don’t need to explain it or justify it to anyone else! –
Ixhúja looked to Siêthiyal and Akhlísa and hissed as if to tell them, She’s panicking, that means she’s going to run for it.
– I hate it when she runs away from home – chanted Siêthiyal. – That never solves her problems. –
– Doesn’t she know that we love her so much? – asked Akhlísa. – We’re not going to hurt her. We can’t hurt her. Well, you two did that one time … –
– You disinvited her to the party, that hurt her – chanted Siêthiyal.
Didn’t one of you once marry her one true love without telling her.
– Okay, so we’re all guilty to some degree of harming our Starflower – chanted Siêthiyal. – Everyone, break apart. She’s about to run. –
Princess Éfhelìnye was panting when she backed up against a large table rolling and rocking from the Traîkhiim leaping upon it and being thrown right off, and she held up her hands as if to shield herself from her Sisters. She could feel hiccoughs coming unto her and was hoping that no one else knew that she only hiccoughed when she was afraid, but Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa had already long ago figured out that particular idiosyncracy of the Starflower Princess.
Éfhelìnye looked upwards and saw that Ixhúja was walking to her left and Siêthiyal right before her and Akhlísa to her right. The flickering torchlight and the screaming drumbeat about her made her think that the maidens were like apparitions come unto her in the night.
– Hic! Hic! Hic! Hic! – hiccoughed Éfhelìnye.
Ixhúja reached out her hand to tell her, Just come with me. It’s time for bed.
– I’m not tired! – Éfhelìnye shouted o'er the din.
– We’re all sleeping together tonight – Siêthiyal chanted. – I’ll let you play with my dolls, just come to bed. –
– I’m not sleepy at all, I’m fine here hic hic hic! –
– Even I’m getting sleepy and I never am sleepy I barely e'er sleep at all so when I say it’s sleepy time it really must be time for the going to bed! So, Princess, time for our last little song and dance, right? – asked Akhlísa.
Éfhelìnye was having trouble breathing. Ixhúja and Siêthiyal looked to each other, they knew this was not a good sign. – Please just leave me alone! – Éfhelìnye gasped. – I don’t want to go back with you. –
– We’ll all feel better after a good night’s sleep – chanted Siêthiyal. – We’ll curl up together … –
– I’m dreaming about Puey! – chanted Akhlísa. – Perhaps we shouldn’t have left him in the midst of the scary dance, but what’s the worst thing that can happen to him? I’m going to sleep in Puey’s bed! –
– Hush! You’re always saying the worst things! – Siêthiyal hissed to her Sister. – The Princess is terrified … –
Éfhelìnye walked to the side of the table and looking around and calculating she took a few running steps and landed upon the table in a perfect balletic backflip. She held up her hands as if shields before her Sisters who were approach her from all sides. Ixhúja was giving Siêthiyal and Akhlísa handsignals on how to head off their runaway Princess, and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa understood just how this hunt would be played.
If cousin Éfha runs it may take hours to find her again, Ixhúja was signaling unto the two other Sisters. Do we have rope or net? We’ll use our hands. She’s swift and wily. We’ll knock her unconscious if we must.
– I just wish to be left alone – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Just as long as you three are happy, I shall be happy. –
– Don’t you want Puey to be happy too? – asked Akhlísa. – I think he’d be happy with an extra wife or seven and especially with me … –
Ixhúja jumped up upon the table and signaled for silence, and slowly she began to drew out a clockwork insect which was weaving a long web for her. Siêthiyal clammered up unto the table and chanted – Princess, we won’t discuss the marriage issue tonight. We’ll all just go to sleep … –
– He’s mine! – gasped Éfhelìnye. – There’s nothing more to discuss. All three of you don’t understand how I feel, it’s … you’ve been planning this, haven’t you! Why won’t any of you take my side! I love Puey, I always have, but everyone is always trying to pull us apart, and it makes me so angry! –
– I agree – chanted Siêthiyal. – Someone should take your side. Would you like me to? –
Ixhúja drew out the cobwebs and was slowly creeping towards Éfhelìnye, and she spun around for a moment and saw that Akhlísa was standing right behind her and saying – I’m not trying to take Puey away I know I could never do that I love both you and Puey too much I want to be more like you except with golden hair and mine own fashion sense … –
– Hic Hic Hic Hic! – gasped Éfhelìnye.
– Princess, I completely agree with you always do and always have – chanted Siêthiyal. She reached out her palm and chanted – Won’t you take mine hand? –
– You know I love you so much it hurts – Akhlísa chanted. – I like you way more than I like Ixhúja. Hi Ixhúja, didn’t see you there. No, seriously, you’re pretty much the only friend I have, at least not related to me. We weren’t really allowed to meet people outside the family except for Puey’s acolyte friends, and Khrùkhtii is okay but Paloîta was a dingbat let me tell you, he was one owlhoot. –
Ixhúja strung out the cobweb and was almost upon Éfhelìnye, who turned around and saw that Siêthiyal was opening up her arms and saying – I love you, Éfhelìnye. Please hug me! Please? Please? – Éfhelìnye backed up but Akhlísa caught her, and the Princess was thinking that she liked it better when the three had been squabbling with each other rather than all allied against her, this was the worst position possible for her.
– Hic Hic Hic Hic! – cried Éfhelìnye.
– She’s not running away now – chanted Akhlísa and she wrapped her arms about Éfhelìnye’s waist. Siêthiyal grabbed the Princess’ shoulders, and Ixhúja began wrapping cobweb about the Princess and was thinking about just knocking her unconscious and carrying her back to bed.
– STOP IT! NO! – screamed Éfhelìnye.
– You’re safe with us – chanted Siêthiyal. – We love you. –
– He’s mine! I shall not change mine opinion … Ixhúja halt at once, I command it. Kàrula, you’re my friend right? Everyone let go of me. I hate being touched! Stop touching me! Leave me alone! Puey is mine mine mine mine, he is only allowed to look into mine eyen, he may only dream of my face, he may only kiss my lips, only my name may be on his tounge! Go away! Hic hic hic hic hic! –
Siêthiyal clasped Éfhelìnye’s arms behind her back and chanted – We have our little hunted quarry now. Bind her, Ixhúja, lest she escape. –
– Hic! Hic! Hic! –
Ixhúja drew several more lengths of federwerk drawn cobweb about her cousin’s legs. Akhlísa was holding Éfhelìnye and saying – This sure is exhausting all this work, I just hope that Puey rewards me with lots of kisses on my candy lips. –
– No! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
– Idiot – Siêthiyal hissed at her younger Sister, but it was already too late. Éfhelìnye panicked. She was not sure what she did, but she managed to yank herself away from Ixhúja and kick high into the air. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja both came sprawling backwards upon the table. Akhlísa cried out for help, and Éfhelìnye tripped on her and the ropes and scrambled away from them.
– You stupid little girl! – Siêthiyal crawled upon the table and tripped her Sister on purpose just so Akhlísa would tumble also. – Can’t you keep your stupid mouth shut? – Éfhelìnye ran down the table and looked down upon the growing sea of Traîkhiim dance about her. She looked behind her, and saw that Ixhúja was arising.
Blame not the little one, Ixhúja growled, and she drew a knife. The older Sister is responsible for the activity of the younger Sisters, and I am the oldest of us all, for today also is my Starday.
– Happy Starday to you – chanted Akhlísa – But don’t expect me to do a wriggly dance for you, that’s only for Puey. –
– Stop saying stuff like that when Éfhelìnye can hear you! – Siêthiyal punched her Sister.
Don’t talk, act, Ixhúja growled. If you spent less time fighting each other, you’d have less trouble with Éfha. Ixhúja advanced. Éfhelìnye was unable to control her hiccupping, and her eyen were large and bright with fright. She kept looking unto the screaming Traîkhiim all about her, and then unto her Clan Sisters come untowards her. Ixhúja’s knife glimmered in the dark. Éfhelìnye gasped for air. Akhlísa and Siêthiyal arose. Suddenly as if a signal were given Akhlísa and Ixhúja both started chasing the Princess. Éfhelìnye turned back. The Traîkhiim were grown even more savage, their wings were crackling, their voices were wailing. Éfhelìnye gulped. She took another step backwards and just as Ixhúja swiped at her, Éfhelìnye allowed herself to fall backwards in a graceful dive, and disappeared in the sea of wings and feathers and head. Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa came to the edge of the table, they saw the Princess’ alban hand sink into the Traîkhiim and soon was lost unto view. And the wild drumbeat continued.
When she runs away, she runs away, Ixhúja purred unto herself.
– Does it e'er occur to you that we three may be a little foolish in regards to Princess Éfhelìnye? – asked Siêthiyal. – We don’t seem to understand just how sensitive she is, artistic I suppose. Not like me, I can take anything. –
– Mutant kisser – chanted Akhlísa. – Ow! Stop punching me! My Sister Wife just shoved me o'er if you didn’t notice. –
– She kicked me in the face and I’m not complaining, you big baby – chanted Siêthiyal.
This is not good, Ixhúja clicked and murmured. This may be bad.
– Well chanted, Moon Princess – Siêthiyal sighed. – But I think we three may be the bad ones. – She looked down to the rolling kicking and thrashing Traîkhiim. Akhlísa was shuddering and hid behind Siêthiyal. Ixhúja reached down an hand and was rewarded with many licks and not a few bites. – I don’t suppose that any of us actually know anything about the Traîkhiim, do we? – asked Siêthiyal. – Of the three of us, I don’t think any of us have even seen them until this day. –
Akhlísa made a vague pointing gesture and chanted – Puey was the resident expert, he dwelt with the pàrtel missionaries on the Ice Asteroids and all that stuff. –
– He’s a little not here at the moment – chanted Siêthiyal.
– My awesome shoulders and hips knocked him unconscious! I’m super! –
– Quite. I don’t know a thing about them. They do take orders. Sometimes. –
They’re not terribly good with machines, Ixhúja was nodding. And the Khlitsaîyart who’ve eaten them claim that they are not very tasty.
– Carnivores are disgusticating – chanted Siêthiyal. – At least Real People who eat meat, that’s just horrible. – She watched the movement and sway of the dance, the ballet of wing and face, and the Traîkhiim were howling. – Something about this just makes me want to say that this is surely the grossest thing I’ve e'er seen. –

Akhlísa blinked a few times and chanted – Perhaps we should save that line for about ten minutes from now. –