Saturday, March 7, 2009

Akhlísa, beloved

Puîyus sniffed the air as the doors were closing behind the Traîkhiim, he could detect the movement of the Eunuchs and the thralls all about him as well as the scents of the jugs and jars, the stews brimming in the pots, the slight murmur of where the Traîkhiim had tiptoed from pot to pot and sampled the wares which were intended for the Caste Elders of the Qhíng and the zodiographers of the Qlùfhem. He was not about to warn the slaves not to serve such soup, for he himself many a time had eaten food partially ecmunched by ducklings and dinosaurlings and found nothing unusual with making a sandwich and sharing some of it with a monkey-otter or a crocodile, and so the servants were taking up the stews and bringing them into the outer rooms for the delication of the masters of the Qhíng and the Aûm. The Traîkhiim were still fluttering behind him, at least in his hearing, though the doors were shut and they were dashing so far away. And he thought to himself, as he brushed aside a few strands of melancholy blue hair, as he listened to the giggling of the Traîkhiim as they spoke about Siêthiyal and Éfhelìnye all the while, that sometimes it was best just to accept the various quirks that one found in one’s family, if one minded unto some of these smaller eccentricities sometimes one could overlook some of the greater ones.
– Now, where were we? – Siêthiyal wondered and she clapped her hands together. – Ah, yes! Present time! –
– Do we get to hug again? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– Maybe after Puey gets his present we can hug again. –
– Maybe a little hug before? –
– Later! – Siêthiyal laughed. She came skipping forwards, the halls were winding upwards unto some of the taller towers, it was ancient and classic Jaràqtun architecture where the fortresses consisted of gnarled walls flowing upwards unto gigantic mosaics displaying images of the Ancestors and battles of old and farms and fields and the ripening of grain, where pictures of Khiêro fighting the Dragon were juxtaposesd with youth dancing at a betrothal rite, and the priests blessing them with holy water, confluence of pictures of boats floating upon the freshlettes and knights standing at the prow sword and shield in hand, and walls covered in maidens dancing about the poles and adorning their hair and scattering petals upon the ground, images of farm and marriage and warfare and legend all mixed together. Puîyus looked up unto the mosaics, and as they came unto the next room the walls covered in flowing tapestries, and it was like entering a pool after being landlocked for a long time, it was soothing and warm and familiar and moreover made sense, part of him could never be at ease in the vast Qhíng cities builded upon the ocean, the walls themselves of flowing water, or in the company of the Aûm who delighted in filaments and bone and furniture that never quite did what it was supposed to do, even the architecture of Éfhelìnye’s people was too vast and too cold and all open, windows blinking before the rising and setting of the Suns, but Jaràqtu buildings and iconography were just right, they were picture that he understood, the war and the maiden and the family again and again, plus it was great practical to have statues in all the corners and gargoyles holding up the walls for they granted many places to hide weapons and to crawl around and lurk after one’s enemies, in fact this was all just the perfect place for fighting, not too open like the Khniîkhan towers, not strange and alien, just perfect for running outwards and crashing against armed men and throwing them down. Éfhelìnye for her part looked from side to side and liked the paintings of the flowers and fields and the pretty maidens, and although she appreciated the glories of war, she was not entirely fond of the images of warriors thrusting bloodied lance into the chest of a man, or the youth carrying the bleeding severed heads of their foes, or the burning of the villages in the background. Before the children a large párn sàse phaliz was arisen above the door was a large represenation of the burning of a village, and warriors were dragging maidens away by neck and collar and bringing them unto the feet of the sylvan priests and the vestal virgins.
– Oh my! – gasped Éfhelìnye.
– What is it? – asked Siêthiyal. – A spider? –
– No, those pretty maidens! –
– Where? Oh! The qhòsqoan, the spear brides. Yes, very lovely. –
– It’s … it’s just horrible? –
– I suppose. Éfha? –
– Yes? –
– Weren’t you the one who for all this day was telling the Elders that you wanted to be Puey’s qhòsqoan, his warbride? –
– That’s different. –
– How so? –
– It just is. I don’t want to dwell in the snowlands of Khniîkha, I’d rather be Puey’s bride taken in battle. I don’t think he’d have to drag me by the hair and collar though. –
– The painting is just a bit operatic to my taste. Most qhòsqoan I know end up becoming the Matriarchs of their husband’s clan and running everything in time. I suppose if the maiden were unwilling to take her own life when her village was destroyed and did not wish to becomea holy Virgin of the Sun than becoming a bride and then the matriarch is fairly good thing. Plus she doesn’t have to worry about her birth family interfering, because they’re all dead. –
– It just seems … ghastly, unspeakable. –
– Xataríyona’s grandmother was a bounty bride and she was the most popular of all the Khatelèstan. That’s why Xeîtei is so exotic, she has foreign blood in her. And now we have you, our own foreign bride. –
– But still … the painting is horrid. –
Siêthiyal smirked. – And you wanted to be a qhosqoâning, oh? You were telling the elders that Puey ripped you out of your burning village and claimed you. –
– With a kiss – Éfhelìnye crossed her arms. – It’s different the way I tell it, it’s not horrible. –
Siêthiyal took Éfhelìnye’s hand and chanted – Nobody is going to mistake you for a pallakis now, for you shall be the Moon Empress, the most important woman in all the Land. Now, let’s go inside. We have a present for you Puey, and Éfhelìnye, you’re going to find her very useful, she’ll simplify your life quite a bit. –
Before the doors were standing a few Eunuchs and some of the guardsman of the Kháfha whose armor was all crimson steal and sword and stave and curving about the door were the symbols of the xhùjhwe, the purdah, zenana, the harem where the women in a great clan would dwell. Outside the door stood a couple of benches. The Eunuchs were bowing and hiding their faces from Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were rustling away and drawing themselves into the curtains and the doors were opening, and the Kháfha guards were stepping aside. Puîyus turned away from the maidens and sate upon the bench, and Siêthiyal and Éfhelìnye entered into the women’s quarters. There had been no harem in the crannog of the Sweqhàngqu where he had grown up, for even when the Sweqhàngqu had been numerous they had not been as plentiful as the other warrior clans, and there was very little need for one, and even in the fortresses of the Khatelèstan where there had been a few parthena they were mostly disused, for the Khatelèstan tended to be a rather disorganized people, and more given unto revelry and song than for remembering exactly all of the details of rooms and living spaces, although they were still careful to observe all of the rhetrai of warfare. But Puîyus was a well brought up child, and knew the laws consisting of the xhùjhwe seraglio, so when he visted the Saûqyufha or the Tásel he knew to sit upon the bench outside and wait for the women folk to rejoin him, or elsewise he would wander away and play with the dinosaurlings and mouse squirrels outside, and when he had visited clans which were not allies such as the Khwatèstan he did not even go near the harīm, or when he came to the Poriêrii who were not quite enemies but not quite friends, and from afar Puîyus saw that they had priests stationed outside their harems, and warriors always on patrol, and he just stayed far away as was mete and pious to do. Still, the harems he had seen in the Khatelèstan were not too different from the rest of the quarters in the fortress, perhaps a little neater and scented, but hardly mysterious. His acolyte friend Paloîta used to tell Puîyus that in the harem of a great warrior clan that the walls were covered in silk and mirrors and that in the center of the rooms were fountains that blew out perfumes. Puîyus always wondered about that, he wished he could see a fountain of perfume. Why can’t there be perfume fountains in the qtètlhi, the selamlik, the men’s section of a house? Puey, you’re missing the point, Paloîta used to tell him. Puîyus blinked a few times in confusion. Paloîta used to tell him, Don’t you know what the women in the harem when the men aren’t around? Puîyus shook his head for he had no idea whatsoever. Paloîta leaned forwards, his acolyte robes shuffling a little, and he whispered into Puîyus’ ear lest any of the senior acolytes hear him. When there are no men folk about, and this is fact, an ally of a friend of a relative by marriage told me, the women undo the ribbons in their hair and let them flow down their backs. And then they comb their hair and adorn it in spices! Puîyus leaned o'er and whispered, My Sisters already comb their hair. No no no no, Puey, but think of it, brilliant golden hair all o'er the place! Perfumes! Hair! Combs! It’s glorious! Puey, we’ve got to break into an harem! Needless to say, Puîyus quickly dissuaded his friend from doing such a rash act, it would surely have ended in Paloîta’s being sacrificed alive to the Immortals, and Puîyus receiving a beating and a whipping from his Father, for Paloîta was a war orphan but from his training by the priests would be granted an honorable death, but Puîyus as the heir would probably not be put to death, but humiliated in public, and his Father shamed.
Still though, Puîyus wished he could see the perfume fountain. He got up from the bench and thought that Éfhelìnye would tell him all about it when she was finished. He turned away and began to walk away, and thought about going outside and playing with some dinosaurs. Maybe Éfhelìnye would let him comb her hair later. She had such pretty hair. As he left the Eunuchs bowed down before him, and the Kháfha guardians were turning and about to guard the door to the harem again.
Siêthiyal came marching out of the harem and looking to the guards and Eunuch slaves chanted – Please tell me my Brother hasn’t wandered off again. Ah. Puey! Come here! –
Puîyus paused. Siêthiyal looked at him, and a slight blush appeared on her face. This of itself was unusual enough. Puîyus was thinking that he had done something wrong. Siêthiyal shook her head and shook aside a stray strand of roseate hair, and coming forwards she wrapped her arms about Puîyus’ shoulder and chanted – You silly little Puey, you do realize that you’re allowed to go into the purdah, don’t you? –
Puîyus shook his head in negation.
– Yes you are, my Puey. –
Puîyus shook his head again.
– Yes! –
– !! –
– Puey … how can I say this … this is your harem. You will be the Sun Emperor. All of the women in those quarters are either relatives of yours or your personal property. You’re the only one who can visit. –
Puîyus considered for a moment and then shook his head.
– Yes! –
– Mew! –
– Puey, it’s alright, this is your harem, these are all your women. Here, just take my hand, this will be fun. My goodness, you’ve never been inside one of these, have you? It’s so different for me, I’ve been in the harems of half the war clans of our land, and we maidens can also enter garama of the men, the taboo only works the one way. I guess you’ve seen rooms of the wacky Khateláqi, but that doesn’t count. –
Puîyus was spelling out the glyphs, One is not so sure this is a good idea.
– It’s wonderful idea, Dragonslayer, dominant male! – Siêthiyal dragged him up unto the threshold of the door, and the Eunuchs and guards were bowing before Puîyus all the while. Siêthiyal drew her hands away and chanted – Here, this is a fun little trick. Watch this. – She walked right up to the threshold, her toes just at the edge and then she jumped into the harem. – See, I’m in. – She jumped back. – I’m out. – She started jumping from side to side. – In and out and entering and leaving and coming and go and nothing happens to me. See, free passage for me. – She pointed to the gargoyles on the walls, their red eyen gleaming, their long hooked wings of stone armed at the door. – Now, if I may borrow a Eunuch here … –
– We live to serve the holy House of the Pwéru – whispered the senípáto paraiziz.
– I know – chanted Siêthiyal as she kicked him inside. – And you do it so well. Now jump in and out. –
– Like this, oh mistress? – The Eunuch danced upon the threshold and then within and then without, and the red eyen of the stone gargoyles blinked a little but did not respond.
– Women enter and women leave. Eunuch, you may go back to eunuching or whatever it is you do all day. You may kiss my feet on the way out. –
– Thank you mistress – whispered the slave as he bent down to kiss her wooden shoon.
– I’m just too kind to the slaves I think – Siêthiyal chanted without another glance. The Eunuch came running away to rejoin her Sisters while Siêthiyal spread out her hands and chanted – Now I won’t ask one of these Kháfha guards to enter, the harem would not permit an Khàfhoxha of the gamma sex to enter, and to attempt it would bring disasterous results upon our friends here. But here, just follow me, Puey, and watch what happens. –
– Mew? –
Siêthiyal crossed the threshold and took a few steps within. – Go on, enter your harem. –
Puîyus hesitated for a moment.
– Do you remember when you trying to teach Éfhelìnye to swim, and you were wading in the waters and coaxing her to jump into your arms? Well, here I am. – She spread out her arms. – Just jump within. –
– ?? –
– You won’t get in trouble! You’re going to be the Emperor. Sak! Jump! –
Puîyus found that sometimes his Sisters and the Princess had the habit of talking into doing what he did not always intend to do, but he thought that if something went horribly wrong he could fight his way out and taking Éfhelìnye and Siêthiyal with him make their way into the wilds. He wondered where Akhlísa was. He took a breath. He jumped across the threshold and into the harem. At once the stone statues came alive, their eyen changed from red unto blue, and swaying upwards the statues opened up their huge petrescent wings and curved them o'er the eaves of the doors, and the statues were both bowing down in Puîyus’ direction and holding up stone spears in the direction away from the harem.
– Welcome to your harem – Siêthiyal chanted. – You will be the only male inside, not the priests, not our Father, not those crazy pirates, only you! – She lead Puîyus into the rooms, and the walls were indeed covered in fine sendalines rustling from side to side, air and soft and dreamy. – I just admit there’s some complication with the Traîkhiim folk since they are androgenous, and I told Fhólus and Aîya to return here, but I think they’ll all be automatically transformed into female when they cross the threshold. Now, this is it? Is it what you expected? –
Siêthiyal took Puîyus into the next room and saw that statues of maidens were holding up the walls, and that the windows were all adorned with vines and reeds, at once time they had been covered in flowers but with the death of flowers this was the best that Siêthiyal could do. The roof was rustling a little with layers of silks. Puîyus breathed in a little and could taste the perfume.
– … – he concluded.
– I know, it’s very similar to the andron. For some reason, so Auntie Qtìmine used to tell me, young men think that the harem is going to look completely different to the men’s quarters. I wonder why youth think that. –
– Mew mew? – Puîyus wondered.
– A fountain of perfumes? –
Puîyus grinned, but the smile faded away.
Siêthiyal was glad at least that Puîyus could still smile considering the ordeal he and Éfhelìnye had undergone. – I suppose we can have a fountain of perfumes builded for you. When we get into the middle rooms everything is far more spatious, we can even build a rolling pool for your perfumes. – Siêthiyal hopped up onto a couch and striking a pose chanted – Do you want your concubines to lounge around in baths of perfumes all day? They could be all smelling of incense. –
– Mew! – Puîyus protested.
Siêthiyal hopped down. – Just wondering. You’re only the Crown Prince, you’ll be Emperor for a very long time, you may change your mind. Where did Éfhelìnye go. Perhaps she made her way to the library, she can sniff out books from a thousand paces away. –
Puîyus touched Siêthiyal’s sleeve and asked – Mew? –
– Combing their hair? Where are the maidens combing their hair? –
Puîyus suddenly felt very silly. His face began to glow with a slight rubescent shine.
– Puey, if you want it, I’ll make your women comb their hair about you all the while, comb and wash and adorn and … is that what you think women do in an harem? –
Puîyus wasn’t sure how to respond so he just tapped his fingers together.
Siêthiyal laughed. – That sounds like something Paloîta used to say. I wonder where he gets his ideas. I suppose the acolytes, being forbidden to enter such places, must weave all sorts of tales. Here, come along. –
Siêthiyal took Puîyus into the next room, a couple of bookshelves sàpwe xhèmla were lining the walls, and upon one of the divans Éfhelìnye was seated and with one hand she was thumbing through the pages, and with her other hand she was combing her long golden and red tresses and humming to herself. Siêthiyal looked to the book and then to the comb and chanted – This is a very strange place I think. Perhaps we should stop making predictions here. Do you like what you’re reading? –
– I’m skimming through some philological tables – Éfhelìnye chanted. – The grammarian is writing about self-aggratating morphemic analysis. –
– I’m sure this will be the only harem in history to stock up on linguistic texts – Siêthiyal chanted. – But then again, I imagine the Empress will be educating quite a number of children in here, so there will be all manner of books. –
– We shall make the worlds bloom anew, and we shall build libraries in all the dreamlands – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I would like to expand the jhotòpwan, the galactic libraries which used to be builded up in the major worlds but which have been discontinued in the War. –
– Princess, if you’ll just come this way – Siêthiyal chanted, and she beckoned to Puîyus also – We’ll come to the towers where the bedrooms are kept and there we have your Starday present. She should be ready by now. –
Éfhelìnye decided to keep the book with her and was beginning to look froward to meeting this new kitten, she knew how fond Puîyus could be of his pets, be they dinosaur or fish or skunk or the fantabulous lwúnìqte or even the bagpipe wihts which had come down unto them from a dream. Siêthiyal lead the way unto larger halls, and the windows were all open and bright and revealed the long lengths of the iron whispering mountains that stretched up as the spine of Jaràqtu, and here the fortresses and lamaseries arose as islands in the mist. The heavens were unclouded and revealed the bloated and dying Suns trying to shine upon the worlds this last day and final hour. Streams of smoke and light were arising from many of the fortresses, a vain attempt to keep the light shining even as the Suns were failing. And not a few of the whispering mountains were still smouldering from the crater ruins which the Qhíng had left when they had scorched Jaràqtu in their attempt at invasion and colonialization in the most beneficient name of the Emperor. It would have been very melancholic sight were it not for Siêthiyal’s smile and the way she kept leading Puîyus and Éfhelìnye within. They came into the high towers. Puîyus was brushing his hand upon the balusters and finding this place not at all suitable for a suitfight, too soft and flouncy, but then again the harem is not the place for a fight. Before them arose the doors to the bedrooms. Siêthiyal backed up to a door, her hands upon the knob and singing and cooing she turned to her Brother and chanted – Puey, the Elders of the Land and I have a very special maiden we would like you to meet! Let me go and fetch her. –
Puîyus looked down to his hands and hoped that the maiden would not take too long in her introduction so that he could meet the kitten he was promised. Kittens were among the very best and cuddliest of pets he thought, along with lambkins and ducklings and dinosaurlings and spiders and dovekins and skunklettes. Actually, the youth of any plantimal he loved. He turned around and saw the dying Suns and tried not to think of the struggling light and the bonefires in the towers and the burning of the last forests. Éfhelìnye jumped up upon the window ledge and curled up with her book and was thinking about the sound of words and their relationship to morphosyntax.
Siêthiyal slipped into Akhlísa room and shut the door behind her. Akhlísa was standing before a mirror and fretting. She was completely adorned in the bridal gowns that the Duchesses had made for her, flowing golds and white, and as she moved patterns of labyrinth and wheel revealed themselves and began to turn. Her corset was still laced up and tight, her hair was shining and reached down unto her waist, and a thousand ribbons and jewels were set within it. She kept turning around and around, and ran her hands down her hips and about her side and pouted and frowned.
– Are you ready? He’s just outside the door! – asked Siêthiyal.
– Who? – asked Akhlísa. – Just kidding! I know, he’s the only male in the harem. –
– Come along, pull down your aurelian veil and be pretty! You managed to collect all the dead karuláta flowers up there, I’m impressed! –
Akhlísa turned around and frowned saying – What if Pew Pew doesn’t like me anymore? –
Siêthiyal reached out and leaned her head next to her foster Sister and chanted – I promise by all the Ancestors that he loves you. He spoils you. Now, I haven’t mentioned your name yet, so it’s still a surprise. Let’s set the veil down. –
– I’m not ready. He won’t like me. Siêthiyal! He still thinks of me as a little baby, he doesn’t know I’m old enough for betrothal. –
– Not dressed like that! You’re ready! –
– Is Éfha there? –
– Yes, she’s reading. She seems more grown up too. We’ll all be friends. –
– I wish Fhermáta were here. She was the real bride. –
– Here! Khlís! Look at me – Siêthiyal put her hands about Akhlísa’s face and chanted – Do you remember that from the time you could talk and understand, which for you came very early so the Elders tell us, that every year on Puey’s Starday you used to crawl into his lap or bow before him and promise him that you would be a good concubine to him when you grew up? That’s all you have to do now, it’s just the same thing you do last year, only now you’re dressed for the part, and Puey’s killed another Dragon, and everyone else is finally recognizing how great he and you are. Now, just take my hand. When you see him you won’t be nervous anymore. How can you be nervous about Puey? You’re the one who steels candy from his pocket, burps in his presence, has thrown up on him numerous times, locked him into and out of many rooms, tripped him in the mud … –
– I get the idea. –
– Punched him, pinched him, smacked him, poked him … –
– Okay! –
– Threatened to crush mash sell and marry sometimes in the same sentence. –
– Let’s go see Puey. –
Siêthiyal kissed her Sister a few times and drew the golden veil down, and took her hands in hers and drew the door aside. Akhlísa turned back for a moment to the mirror, and saw not herself but the image of the perfect Imperial Concubine altèrtraikh sòrtim, and she hoped that Fhermáta would approve. She could almost feel Mother Khwofheîlya grasping her hand and pulling her forwards and remind her to protect Puîyus and remind him that he was a Sèqhoxha Saqaîngta, a Son of Jaràqtu. Siêthiyal ushered the Conubine out, and they saw that Puîyus had wandered away a little, he was looking out upon some windows at the other end of the hall, and gazing upon the fading light of the Suns, and profound sadness was swelling within his heart. He heard the rustling of silk and robes, he could smell the scent of khraîtwe honeysuckles and karuláta blossoms, the scent he most associated with his youngest Sister Akhlísa. Siêthiyal was drawing a maiden out of the room, someone he did not quite recognize although he thought that he should, and she was quivering in fear. Puîyus’ heart turned to her, for he could sence that no monsters or quantum dæmons or Dragons were nigh, she had nothing to fear. Siêthiyal was supporting her and squeezing her hand and whispering – You’ll do fine. Just walk with me. Hold me. – Éfhelìnye finished reading the paragraph on the page, and looked up to the stranger and set the book aside. The Princess never did finish reading this book. It had to be burnt also.
The bride, shaking all the while, was all dressed in the finest of nuptiual whitery, such as the royal women in the courts of Khniîkha wear, but her dress was far more tlhìntroro, far more exotic than Puîyus had e'er seen before, it was white, and it was flowing like water, so that the bride was moving a little like a nymph, the dress e'er turning and washing about her, and the gown was almost breathing out shadows of maze and labyrinth flowing about each other in rondured array, so that he was reminded of the great skerry and fractal labyrinth which Princess Éfhelìnye had created almost by accident in the battle against the sky dragons. The maiden wore a golden veil which covered her face, and some of the edges of the veil arose like plumage upon her head, and her could see that her tresses were the brightest of gold, not the white sugar gold which Fhermáta’s hair had been, but a far more solar color, and jewels were sparkling within. White were her slippers, and yet they were open at the toes in the Traîkhiim fashion, and the way that the bride carried herself reminded him a little of the dancing of the Traîkhiim, the only time when they were almost serious, she had a grace to her as if she knew a little of their movements. Rings he could see upon her fingers, and she was wearing a clockwork corset such as Auntie Qtìmine wore, and the corset was so tight that he could see her figure a little too clearly he thought, in fact as she walked towards him, the way the dress billowed revealed the sway of her hips and legs, and he was most certainly not used to see the khlaîxoi, a woman’s figure. He turned away and hoped he was not blushing.
– Go to him – whispered Siêthiyal, and she gave the bride a gentle push.
Éfhelìnye dropped her book. She was forgetting how to breathe.
Akhlísa could no longer withstand her own fear. Looking up to Puîyus, seeing him from afar through her golden lamper·kin, she decided just to take the plunge into the cold waters and hope that he would catch her as he always had before. She ran up to him so quickly that Puîyus almost stumbled backwards, and sliding down at his knees she began kissing his fingers one by one and burst out into tears.
– Siêthiyal … – Éfhelìnye began.
– Shush! – Siêthiyal winked to her. – Let them be. They deserve this. –
Éfhelìnye’s heart was stumbling within her.
Puîyus blinked and looked down to the bride.
Akhlísa took his hands, her teardrops falling upon it, and she began to find her voice and whispered – I … I promise to obey you in all things … I will be your servant and the Empress’ also …and all the Pwéru. I promise to give you pleasure and happiness if I can … I’m learning about music and conversation …I can cook and weave … – Akhlísa was gasping as the tears came.
– Siêthiyal? – Éfhelìnye whispered. – Who is she? –
– Isn’t it beautiful? – asked Siêthiyal. – Isn’t this the best present we could give him? –
– Present? –
– She’s his property now. –
– I … I will be a good and faithful concubine to you … – wept Akhlísa. – And I’m really sorry about the entire Dragon episode I was just so afraid I’m sorry sorry sorry. Please, my face and blue eyen and white neck and lips and white ankles are all yours, and my golden hair also. And I will bare you children if you will permit me, and rear them and they shall be of the Royal Caste! –
Éfhelìnye pressed an hand to her brow. She felt as if she had been struck a terrible blow. She tasted copper in her mouth. She tried to arise from the window sill, but she was losing feeling in her arms and legs, and the world was grown cold.
– Mew? – asked Puîyus, still dazed and confused.
Akhlísa kissed his hand a few more times and whispered – I already recited my vows, my trothplight before the priests … it’s all legal now. Just as I promised all those times on your Starday. –
Éfhelìnye clutched her chest. Something was wrong. Her vision was blurring.
– You do love me, don’t you? – Akhlísa whispered. – I’m sorry about the Dragons … I love you though! Please! –
Puîyus shook his head in confusion. He reached for the maiden’s shoulders and pulled her upwards. Siêthiyal was walking up behind them and smiling, the happiest that he had e'er seen her. The bride leaned forwards and wrapped Puîyus’ arms about herself, and leaping up and shoving her golden veil aside a little attacked his face. She wanted to kiss him but was not entirely sure what to do, so she bit Puîyus’ nose, and when he turned about she began likcing and sucking and kissing his ear, for she had not quite gotten the whole osculatorial complex down.
– I love you! – gasped Akhlísa.
Puîyus pushed her aside a little and blinking gave her a look that meant, Do I know you? He was not entirely sure whether this was permitted unto him, but he was willing to chance it, and he pushed her golden veil upwards and saw Akhlísa’s face looking right back at her, beautiful and white and shining.
– I’m your wife! – Akhlísa chimed. – Do let’s kiss! – And leaning forwards she began licking his face and hugging Puîyus as hard as she could. Puîyus was completely thunderstruck to think that he was married without his knowledge, and too dazed was he even to resist her kisses. Akhlísa grabbed his hand and kissing his cheek again chanted – Thus were my vows, my trothplight, I, Karuláta Khniêma Kàlyakh Wthekhasarauníya Trìwie Fhèsya Jhaûqru Khèkate Khraîtwe Khlís Khlísa Khniêm Khnitsíweyánii Xhàsyi Xhèyol Elísa’ Elìxhya’ Atrùtone Kàrula Akhlísa, the Daughter of Kàrijoi, I, who am not the Senior Concubine unto Puîyos my future Lord and Husband, my Sun. Oh Puey, isn’t this wonderful! All those years I promised you that I would be a good wife, I told you on every one of your Stardays, not the first couple of course, but I’m sure I was thinking it really hard when I drooled on you. –
Puîyus just blinked. Akhlísa leaned her head aginst his neck and chanted – When you and the Princess were gone for so long, and nobody knew where you were, I knew of course but that’s not relevant, I asked Abbá whether I could be given to you in marriage, Puey, I just couldn’t wait for you any longer, and the Elders of the Aliens all agreed, it was because of me that the Alliance stayed together, I did it all to save you because you would save us, and I love you so much, and now am yours, and I will bare you children when we grow up. –
Éfhelìnye was making a coughing sound behind them on the windowsill, but no one was paying her any attention at this point. Éfhelìnye was blinking, sometimes was terribly wrong. Air itself tasted like blood, and breathing was difficult unto her.
– Puey, the Kháfha pùngei the sentinels tested me and they told me that if you and Éfhelìnye save the Land and make it fertile again, than when I grow up I’ll be able to bare many children for you! They chanted three Sons, three Sons! And lots of Daughters, up to nine! Our clan will thrive once again. –
– … – Puîyus blinked.
Akhlísa poked Puîyus’ nose a few times and chanted – Now the Elders told me that you’re not supposed to call me Sister or Foster Sister any more, and I’m certainly not your baby Sister any longer. Do I look like a baby to you? You’re supposed to call me Concubine or Wife, and I can’t call you Brother any longer, but Lord or Lord Husband. Or our names, they work fine also. –
Puîyus licked his lips. He was beginning to think he actually wasn’t going to get a kitten for his Starday like he wanted. Akhlísa grinned. She shook her head her head and made a mewling sound and chanted – Well, one of my names is Fhèsya, kitten. I’ll be your little bunny! –
Éfhelìnye tried to touch her face. She could no longer see clearly. A trickle of blood was flowing like tears from one corner of her eye. She blinked, and blood was flowing from her other eye also. She blinked again. Outside in the fortresses and the ancient orbeloid hills, the heavens themselves were blinking in response. This was probably not a good sign.
– Mew? – Puîyus whispered.
Akhlísa put a finger to Puîyus’ lip and chanted – I told you, don’t call me Foster Sister, I’m your wife, just like honored Khwofheîlya wanted it. It’s the whole reason she adopted me in the first place. It was Mamà’s dying wish. Oh Puey, maybe it seems a little awkward now while we’re young, but we have all the rest of our lives to grow accustomed to each other in harmony. – She clasped one of his hands and kissed it.
Akhlísa turned around to look at Siêthiyal. Siêthiyal smiled, Puîyus was taking it rather well. Behind them Éfhelìnye was gasping and trying to wipe the blood flowing from her eyen. Éfhelìnye was realizing that not only could she no longer breathe, but that her heart hads stopped beating, and panick was swelling up cold and growing within her.
Akhlísa turned back to Puîyus and clasping his hands pressed them upon her hips and chanted – Pew, I don’t know whether this is a good time to mention it, but I’m a little trapped in this corset. – She rubbed his hands up and down her side so that he could feel the wheels and bands that constricted her, and clasping his hands chanted – Is there any way that you could help me out of my clothing? – Puîyus blinked a few more times. Akhlísa set his hands about her waist and leaned forwards to kiss his nose. Puîyus’ eyen rolled back and he fainted before his new Bride and collapsed upon the plush carpets of the harem floor.
– This is actually going better than I expected – Siêthiyal chanted. – I hope he didn’t hit his head too hard. – She slid upon the ground and tried to help him up, but he was unconscious. – I’m not sure he was fully awake from his ordeal anyway. –
– Where’s Éfhelìnye? – asked Akhlísa. She turned around and saw that Éfhelìnye was lying on the windowsill, and smiling Akhlísa lifted up her bridal slippers and wriggled her toes and chanted – Hi, Éfha! Like my toe rings? It’s after the Traîkhiim fashion, I’m trying to be cosmopolitan and sophisticosmolated. Toes! Hah! –
Éfhelìnye blinked. Her best friend. Best friend. Friend. The Princess’ heart was definitely no longer beating. She whispered – Kàrula – and rolled out of the windowsill and upon the carpet.
– Hi! – waved Akhlísa.
– She’s fainted too – chanted Siêthiyal. – What an excitable Clan we are. – Siêthiyal shook her head. The light was dimming in the halls, and Siêthiyal looked upwards to the sconces but found that the xhmùma light bubbles were still flickering. The halls were definitely darkening though, and she wondered. – Fhèsya! –
Akhlísa was examining her toes. – Ah? –
– Go tend to Éfhelìnye, she’s your Sister-Wife now, your Older Sister, and your Khnernèpwoi, your Senior Wife. Help her up! –
– Do I have to? –
– As Concubine you don’t have a lot of jobs, not as many as Puey has with running an Empire. Help Éfhelìnye up! –
Akhlísa stomped away grumbling – I have to do everything, why can’t I have servants to I’m everyone’s servant because I’m the last born the baby why can’t Éfhelìnye get up … – Akhlísa took a couple of steps froward and saw that Éfhelìnye was completely still save for a growing pool of red blooming around her. Akhlísa slid onto the ground. Éfhelìnye’s mouth was open and blood was pouring out from it in steady trickles. Akhlísa tried to scream, but it took her a moment to find her breath.
– What! –
– Éfhelìnye’s dying! –
– What! –
Siêthiyal bound up from Puîyus, he could wait.
– Help help help help help! – screamed Akhlísa.
– Help her up! Shake her! I’ll get some water! – Siêthiyal screamed.
Akhlísa shook Éfhelìnye upwards. – What do I do? –
– Wake her up now! – screamed Siêthiyal. The halls continued to grow darker, it was as if the lamps were being extinguished one by one, but that could not be, she could see the candles and lights flickering before her.
Akhlísa shook the Princess but received no response, and tears of blood continued to flow from Éfhelìnye’s eyen. – Oh Ancestors! Oh Ancestors! Oh Ancestors! Oh Ancestors! – she screamed.
Siêthiyal came running back with a glass of water. – What! –
– She bleeding from her eyen! –
– Give her the water! –
– She’s not responding! – Akhlísa was panicking, she could barely even hold the glass up.
– Pour it in her! –
– She can’t swallow! –
– Just do it! I’m getting help! –
– Sister! I’m scared! –
– Don’t think! Do! Puey? He’s out too. I’m calling the Eunuchs. When we have the harem filled up with concubines and love slaves I’ll just have to ring a bell and servants will bound at my beck and call … we’re the only ones in all the harem! I’ll be right back! –
– Don’t leave me alone! –
– I’ll be right back! – Siêthiyal ran down the hall and started screaming for the Eunuchs, and heard outside the rustle of silk and knew that they were coming. She ran back to her Sister, and Akhlísa was shaking.
– What? – asked Siêthiyal.
– She’s not breathing. –
– What do you mean she’s not breathing? –
– What else can I mean? She’s not breathing! –
– Be calm! Eunuchs are coming. –
– She’s gonna die! She’s gonna die! She’s gonna die! –
– Kiss her! Force breath in her! –
– I can’t! –
– Move! Out! Now! – Siêthiyal shoved Akhlísa aside and wrapping her arms about Éfhelìnye started kissing her. Éfhelìnye’s lips tasted of a sad mixture of sugar and blood, it was almost too rich for Siêthiyal to withstand, and she had to pull away, she thought that if one could kiss the Suns it would taste like this. Blood continued to flow out of the Princess’ mouth, even as it grew darker and darker. Outside the sounds of shouting grew all the louder. They heard the roaring of living ships descending, and the crackle of fireworks arising.
– She won’t stop breathing! – screamed Akhlísa. – It’s not my fault! I didn’t do anything. –
– Quiet. Oh by the Immortals. Blood … – said Siêthiyal.
– I know … –
– Signal the Eunuchs! Do something useful! Blood … –
– I know about the blood. –
– No it’s … the blood’s not gushing, not like when cutting xylem and phloem … Khlís … her blood is not flowing! –
– Yes it is … –
– I mean … her heart’s not beating! – Siêthiyal pressed her ear next to Éfhelìnye’s chest and never felt as horrible as she felt right now.
– What do you mean her heart’s not beathing … –
– What do you think I can mean! –
– That’s impossible! – screamed Akhlísa. – Someone’s heart doesn’t stop! –
– Hers did. –
– It’s not like she’s khmexhráthakh, dying of a broken heart … that’s just stupid! You’re stupid! –
Siêthiyal pressed her hand to Éfhelìnye’s brow. – She has a fever. She may be dying of heart’s fire. –
– She can’t! Only widows die of … –
– Do you understand the House Pwéru, because I don’t! So shut up! There! The Eunuchs are coming … what’s the matter with the lights here! –
– I don’t know! –
– It’s too dark to … – Siêthiyal turned around, but the candles were still burning.
Akhlísa looked out the window and screamed.
– What! –
– Siêthi! Siêthi! SIÊTHI! –
– WHAT! – Siêthiyal looked out the window and beheld something such as comes only in febrile nightmares. The sky itself was darkening, she saw, it was not the halls or the harem which were fading, it was night, heavy and cold and profound, and it was the Suns, the vast and swirling and swelling dying Suns which were being extinguished one by one as if they were huge painted lanthorns and they were being doused by titanic hands. The Suns right above the harem were the first to stop shining, but the darkness was rippling away from them, the Suns just a little higher in the heavens were changing, no longer were they sickly oranges and reds, but the Suns appeared as if a few drops of mollusk ink were set in them and were spreading outwards, and the Suns became black and shone no more, they were not even radiant like the atramental thyàkhaul Suns of the Otherworld, the Suns were darkness, and beyond them the Suns above the iron fortresses were fading, and then farther and farther away in growing circles above where Éfhelìnye had fainted.
– It’s not my fault – chanted Akhlísa. – I didn’t cause the end of dreams. –
– Just be quiet! Wake up Puey if you can! –
– Is this because of Éfhelìnye? –
– Obviously! The Suns are dying above her! I don’t know what’s wrong with her! She looked dizzy but fine before! Maybe the Dragon poisoned her, I don’t know! –
– No, you listen, it’s my fault! –
– No it’s not! Don’t you dare blame yourself, I’m the only one allowed to blame you for anything, and possibly Puey but he won’t. It was my idea to surprise them, perhaps they were just a little too excited, it happens sometimes … oh Ancestors! The Suns are all dying! –
– You don’t understand, she’s upset because I’m married to Puey! –
– That’s the stupidest thing I’ve e'er heard. No. Wait. That makes perfect sense. She’ll get o'er it. What did she expect? You were intended as a baby … I just thought she’s carve you up and dump you in the swamp … I didn’t know she’d die on us and take the Suns along with her! –
Akhlísa slid down towards Puîyus and slapped his head a few times, but saw that when he had fallen he’d hit the ground rather heard. – Maybe a surprise party wasn’t such a good idea. –
– What’s Éfhelìnye’s problem, she’s going to be the Empress, she’ll have an harem of younger Sisters to boss about … she’s the head female! Wake up, Éfha! Don’t you dare die on me! Without you, Puey won’t be Emperor, we’ll lose the war, we’re probably all die! –
– Most of us at least – chanted Akhlísa. – I’m planning on hiding somewhere in the darkness … the eternal winter extinction thing … Puey! Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have put his hands on my hips. –
– Do you e'er think? – Siêthiyal looked around, the darkness was growing, and Éfhelìnye was completely limp and bleeding out far more than she should. – Éfhelìnye, please! –
The Eunuchs were running into the halls and screaming when they saw the pool of blood. – I’ve managed to do what honored Kàrijoi and all his winter and monsters and dæmons and dragons could not do, I’ve killed Puey and the Princess! – Akhlísa squeeled.
– Here! – gasped Siêthiyal. – Oh Éfha! I’m so sorry I’ve bossed you around all this day, but this time it’s for your own good, DO NOT DIE! –
The Eunuchs swallowed their panic, it was an emergency and someone had to touch the new Emperor and Empress. A couple of Eunuchs swept up Puîyus into their arms and were almost flying down the halls, while several other Eunuchs drew out blankets from their voluminous robes cháng páo and wrapped them about Éfhelìnye and carried her up, and it only took a few moments for the sheets to begin to sag with freshly spilt blood.
Akhlísa stumped down onto her knees. – I can’t go on. I deserve to die. It’s as simple as that. Kàlewa and Khmaryáta should have left me to die on the sands of Qroât. Khwofheîlya should not have adopted me. I’ve killed the two that I love. –
– Get up! – Siêthiyal yanked up Akhlísa and boxed her in her ears. – Follow! –
– Yes, Sister. –
Siêthiyal and Akhlísa began running after the Eunuchs and could barely even keep up with them, the Eunuchs were almost winged as they slid down the carpets and jumped through the halls and came through the inner rooms of the harīm, and all about them the massive windows revealed that one by one, blinking outwards, the Suns were wounds of darkness visible, and all of the heavens were failing. Akhlísa looked outwards and athough she could not see the individual folk within the fortresses and the living ships, she knew that everyone had to be panicking, as huge columns of bonfires arose from one rath to the next in a vain attempt to keep light burning here in the Emperor’s long midnight. A few of the living ships were shooting out firecrackers into the welkin and lighting them up just a little, and the land was become like a series of candles drifting upon the fluent waters, even as the curtains of darkness fell.
The Eunuchs came sliding out the entrance of the harem and a group of monks was gathering as well as the Tèrefha doctors among the Khltisaîyart people, their long clattering talons touching each other, their assistants running out with sheets and books and phials. The Eunuchs came sliding outwards, they set Puîyus into the wings of the jhwaxàntu monks and the Princess into the claws of the Tèrefha. The windows were still shuddering, and the peoples were quailing as several more Suns were extinguished before them.
– They fainted – chanted Siêthiyal.
– It’s not my fault – chanted Akhlísa. – I didn’t do anything. –
– They’re not paying any more attention to us. We’re children again in their sight. –
– Oh Éfha! Oh my Princess! I love you! –
The Tèrefha doctors were signaling to their slaves, and they were drawing a small bed for the Princess and set her upon it, and out from the claws of the Doctors out came some small tubes and phials about her head. – No breathing. Lung collapse. Heart stopped. –
– Can’t you do anything! – shouted Akhlísa.
– Shush! – chanted Siêthiyal. – Those are Tèrefha, their entire jhipeîraju, their d’jarra is to care for the sick, they can’t do harm … oh Kàrula! She was hugging me before, all she wanted to do was wrap her arms around me and tell me how much she loved me, she wasn’t even asking for anything in return, she just wanted to be close to me. –
Among the Kháfha the senior monk looked up, his triple wings coming together, and shafts of black light were descending through the windows and upon his headdress. – It’s a solar cascade – he whispered.
The tèrefha doctors were opening up some metallic billows and inflating them and pumping air into Éfhelìnye’s lungs. – Solar cascade. –
Akhlísa tugged upon Sithiyal’s sleeve. – It’s a solar cascade, did you hear that? –
– She just wanted to love me. Yes, yes, I heard you. –
– What’s a solar cascade? –
– I have no idea. –
– How could I know? Usually during temple service I was busy putting caterpillars down Fhermáta’s dress, I don’t know what’s going on! Her blood is all fire and flames … what’s a solar cascade! –
Some of the monks came forwards, they were taking some of the blood-stained items which the Eunuchs had gathered, and among them was the book which Éfhelìnye had been reading. – We’ll have to burn all of these items, the holy dragon blood must be returned to the Suns, the smoke arising back up. –
– There’s going to be a fire – chanted Akhlísa.
– Yes, I know! – chanted Siêthiyal.
– What are we going to do? –
– I don’t know why she even likes me. She has no reason to like me, we didn’t grow up together, she can’t get anything from me, she doesn’t even want any of the toys I’ve been collecting. She doesn’t even care when I steal from her luggage. It just doesn’t matter to her. She’s going to die. –
The walls were shaking a little, for from all of the fortresses was come anew the clarion call of the trump and the skirling of the bagpipes, but within it came the clangor of the gongs as they were struck again and again. The temples of glass and crystal perched at the edge of the iron whispering mountains were lighting up with a slight blue light as the priests within were building up their fires, and although the fanes luminous became, they offered only a blur of light beneath the vast and dimming Suns and the shadow curtain of midnight falling upon all things. And the darkness was heaviest of all within the halls outside of the zenana, as the eunuch slaves and monks were scattering in all directions. A few of the monks were running down the halls and were taking up their drums and beginning to beat them in the tempo khluîs which the children knew was the beat appropriate for betrothal and wedding and blood sacrifice, trommelslag. Within the halls several priests were running, and with them came running the acolytes with their bagpipes, and chaos was reigning with all the halls. The monks were carrying Puîyus, and the tèrefha doctors were wrapping up Éfhelìnye and affixing the pipes and bellows to her, and the doctors were taking out some disques and burning holy oils within and beginning their death prayers. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa came trotting after the group as it arose as a caravan and moved away from the harem.
– Why isn’t Puey waking up? – asked Akhlísa.
– I don’t know! Maybe he’s been infected by the Suns also! – Siêthiyal kept looking upwards to the large darkness where Suns should be shining or at least attempting to shine. – As Crown Prince is body is changing, like a chrysalis or something, he has to become the Eîl, the Sun and Emperor. Stop asking me, I don’t know anything! The only talent I have is for finding old toys. –
– Is Puey going to wake up? –
– Please … –
– We must bring them to the pyramids! – cried the Kháfha monks. – We must force the new Empress’ heart to start beating or all shall be lost. We carry her there. The sacrifices begin. –
Junior monks were bowing before the senior monks and saying – We shall sacrifice a victim for every minute the Empress remains unconscious. –
– No! Many victims – chanted the Tèrefha doctors. – We need the Immortals to head our prayers now. Build up the fires. Only blood will awaken the Immortals. –
– Éfha! Stop dying! – cried Akhlísa, and she came running right to the Tèrefha doctors and saw that Éfhelìnye lay upon the bed of glass, and the doctors were taking out pallets covered in chalk dust and drawing runes upon the Princess’ hands and face. – Just wake up! I’m sorry for everything! –
Siêthiyal ran up to her Sister and grabbing her chanted – Stop apologuising! How many times do I have to tell you, you have not erred. We don’t understand what’s happening. Don’t you dare start crying! –
– If Éfhelìnye dies and Puey lives, he will never forgive me! – Akhlísa shreaked.
– Don’t say that! Nobody dies! Nobody is unforgiven! –
Akhlísa shook her Sister and chanted – Don’t you understand! Her heart stopped! I’m reasonably sure that one needs a working heart! That’s why the priests rip out the victim’s heart, because it’s really important for life! –
– It’s not your fault! –
– I! Broke! Her! Heart! –
– No you didn’t! Now stop acting all crazy! –
– Why? Nobody pays attention to us! Maybe for a few minutes but then they forget about us, we’re lesser players in this drama! –
– You scared a Dragon away! You survived insane Aûm Duchesses! And you’re married to the new Emperor, you are most certainly not a minor character! I’m of less importance than you … I can’t even know for certain whether the slaves even remember my names! I’m the Sister, I don’t even get a name! –
– I’m so scared! I ruin everything! It’s like the time the hippopotamus and I were bouncing on Puey’s bed. We broke it. And the time you made a cake for Puey. I caused it to fall. I even burnt the pillow I was sewing. I’m stupid and clumsy and I just killed the Empress! –
– I’m the only one who may insult you, and this time you didn’t try to kill the Empress! – Siêthiyal looked around, but it was as if all of the walls were tumbling downwards, monks and soldiers and doctors and warriors dashing outwards and all making their way through the long halls of the fortress and unto the pyramid that arose in the back. The monks were dashing out in front, acolytes were hopping about htem and lifting up their flambeaus, the light flickering in eldritch memories of gold and shadow, and the gates were springing aside and revealing the long and winding pathway leading upwards unto the hexagonal ziggarat already brimming with sacrificial fires and the ringing of bells
– We can begin the sacrifices even before the Emperor and Empress arrive – chanted the Kháfha monks. – We’ll start tearing apart the victims if we must. –
– Wait … I understand now – Siêthiyal chanted. – Blood … Sun … heart … broken heart … maybe the spilt blood will awaken her. Awaken both of them. I’m sure the Dragon poisoned them … how were we to know … the people chanted that they were asleep for days … phosphorous and light probably came flickering into their xylem and phloem. –
– Siêthiyal … I don’t like this look on your face! – Akhlísa chanted, as she and her Sister were running beside the Tèrefha doctors, and the running slaves, and the burning of the sacred chrisms.
– No … Sister … please … – Siêthiyal chanted. – I know what I have to do. I’m the useless member of the family. Let my sacrifice have some meaning. I’ll give my life to save Éfhelìnye’s. It makes perfect sence … –
– Siêthi! –
– All Éfhelìnye wanted as my love. I’ll give it to her, the only way that I can. We both know that this new dynasty doesn’t need me, I’m the mean greedy selfish middle Sister and not even the slaves show me respect. But you … you will be the Mother of new Princes and Princesses. And Éfhelìnye will be the new Empress. Let me go. I’m talking to the priests. –
Akhlísa wrapped her arms about Siêthiyal’s waist and tackled her. – Stop it! You’re not saying a thing! –
– Let me go! –
– It’s my fault, I broke her heart, I was the one who told Abbá that I wanted to be married, this is all my big stupid idea! I should have let the Elders do whatever it is that Elders do, and we’d all be happier that way, we’d be blowing bubblegum bubbles and playing hide and seek in the tapestries and not hurting anyone. –
– You were blowing bubbles and playing hide and seek in the tapestries yesterday! Nothing’s changed except you have a veil! –
– That, and I killed the Empress! I must die. It will save her life, and then Puey will love me again. –
– He still loves you! –
– Not if he dies! Or Éfha dies! –
– We need you, we don’t need me! –
– If I die as Puey’s bride I will be greatly honored by the Ancestors, like Fhermáta! –
– If you become the bride of the Sun on the pyramid you will become one of the Martyrs in the coronæ of the Suns! You won’t even be with our Ancestors, you fool! –
– I’ll have honor! –
– You’re not going to die, let go of me! –
– I was supposed to take mine own life when the Dragon grabbed me! –
– No you weren’t! And I won’t let you! –
Siêthiyal and Akhlísa rolled about each other until they noticed that the monks and the tèrefha doctors were already very far away from them, the slaves and eunuchs and the peoples making their way up the steps of the pyramid, the torches bursting upwards in streaks of golden and black. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa drew themselves upwards and hugged each other tight, they could see that bursting above the pyramid were a thousand lightless Suns glaring downwards in the spill of midnight, and the only Suns which were still ashining were those many leagues away at the edge of the mountainrange khlairìntu husag̃, but even those Suns were not remaining lit for too much longer, as the darkness continued to spread outwards even those Suns were blinking and flickering and fading.
– What are we going to do? – asked Akhlísa.
– It’s in the hands of the Immortals now – Siêthiyal chanted. – We can start praying. –
– There is … someone who could help. –
– Who? –
– Divine Kàrijoi. –
– Does he want Éfhelìnye to die? –
– Does he want her to die now in this way, or later by his hand? –
– Oh. –
– It’s worth a try. –
– I suppose. –
Siêthiyal and Akhlísa helped each other up and began running up the stairs of the ziggarat even as crowds of priests and warriors were dashing upwards, and living ships were landing upon the platforms, and trees were falling as the soldiers were lighting up anything that could burn and keep the darknes out, and as the maidens came running upwards and whispered prayers unto Master Kàrijoi, the Lord of Earth and Sea and Sky, they wondered whether he would even hear them or care at all. And as they slid up unto the higher steps and came unto the flames and saw that the doctors were playing Éfhelìnye upon the altar, Akhlísa fell upon her knees and began sobbing, and all Siêthiyal could do was repeat – Please don’t die, Éfhelìnye. Please don’t die, Éfhelìnye. Please don’t die, if you wake up again I promise you can hug me as much as you want. –
Splatters of blood fell upon Siêthiyal and Akhlísa’s face and was sprinkled unto Éfhelìnye. The Suns refused to shine. Her lungs did not breathe, nor would her heart beat again.

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