Behind them the Maidens come and shoved aside the bathtub and the chair; these props are not used for the rest of the play. The tree which is a ship which is a bed alone remains upon the stage, that an Emperor Kàrijoi still standing in the darkness and holding Princess Éfhelìnye’s heart. Maidens come froward and hoist solar sails about the bed, and others were picking up piles of leaves and scattering them into the air. Puîyus walks unto the center of the stage, and bows unto Éfhelìnye and Siêthiyal. Ixhúja is bound about like a tigress and stretching her arms and climbing up the branches of the bed and laying herself down. Akhlísa comes up and is about to take Puîyus’ hand, but Éfhelìnye runs up and gets to him first.
Puîyus bows to her.
Éfhelìnye: I missed you. My heart has not beat once since you were taken from me.
Éfhelìnye: Does your heart only beat for me?
Éfhelìnye looks around and in the shadows on the stage sees other Maidens slinking about. A few of them are crawling up behind Puîyus, others are hiding in the boughs of the tree or under the bed or in the solar sails of it. Éfhelìnye turns around just when she is certain that one of the other Maidens is behind her, but she always scurries away at the last moment.
Puîyus make a sleeping motion and points to the bed ship tree.
Éfhelìnye: Yes, it is the middle of the night. All should rest. Let me help you. Let me carry some of your burdhens.
Siêthiyal follows close behind Éfhelìnye. Akhlísa is climbing up the branches of the tre ship bed. Puîyus sits down at the edge of the cushion and promptly falls asleep.
Siêthiyal is taking up her Father’s sword.
Siêthiyal: Now the pirates will be returning at any moment, no doubt, so let’s at least act with a minimum of manners, shall we?
Ixhúja and Akhlísa are bouncing on the bed and Siêthiyal arises to shoo them away. While Siêthiyal’s back is turned, Éfhelìnye slips up next to Puîyus, fast asleep now, and she takes his hand and begins kissing it. By the time Siêthiyal turns back, Éfhelìnye is wellbusy kissing Puîyus’ neck and face.
Siêthiyal: What did I tell you? Off off off!
Éfhelìnye (biting Puîyus’ ears): Mine! Mine! All mine!
Éfhelìnye holds onto Puîyus and struggles against Siêthiyal’s attempt to pry her away from him. Éfhelìnye holds on so tight that Siêthiyal gives up and storms away.
Siêthiyal: Fine. I hope you like what you find.
Éfhelìnye giggles in triumphant laughter. She clings onto Puîyus a little longer and then rolls onto her side and sees that Princess Ixhúja is lying beside her.
Éfhelìnye: What are you doing here?
Ixhúja purrs and points to Puîyus and smiles.
Éfhelìnye: He’s mine! Back off!
Ixhúja just laughs and makes a kissing moment.
Éfhelìnye: I don’t care if you have kissed him before. He didn’t like it and he didn’t kiss you back.
Éfhelìnye: I don’t care that it’s the only bed in my dream. Go away!
Ixhúja makes an inquisitive sound.
Éfhelìnye: What am I doing in the men’s garama? I just bare to be away from Puey! Now get out! How dare you sneak in here! Don’t you have any propriety!
Ixhúja just laughs all the more. Éfhelìnye makes a growling sound. She rolls o'er onto her right side and sees Asiréma a maiden from the warrior clan of the Poriêrii. She rolls o'er unto her left side and sees Princess Qlenólakh lying beside her, one of the last Princesses of Khnìntha.
Éfhelìnye: What’s happening! Asiréma, what are you doing here?
Asiréma: Puîyos rescued me from time to time, and I’ve come to repay him with kisses.
Éfhelìnye: Oh, Puey’s already been fully repaid with the honor of your rescue.
Asiréma: Aren’t you the cute young damsel who glued your hand to his?
Éfhelìnye: I simply changed the harmonics between our two hands, I didn’t use any glue at all …
Asiréma: Your little innocent crush on Puîyos is adorable.
Éfhelìnye: I love him with my completely heart, with true affection and …
Qlenólakh: Where’s your heart then?
Éfhelìnye: It’s being guarded.
Qlenólakh sits up in bed and shakes her long golden green tresses. Her eyen sparkle deep blue, she is very foreign and exotic.
Qlenólakh: We all think that Puîyos is quite cute.
Éfhelìnye: And by ‘we’ you mean …
Qlenólakh: Maidenry, princesshood … it’s not every day that such a brave and fearless warrior comes traveling through the heavens to fight the monsters and fell automata of our land.
Éfhelìnye: I don’t think Puey much cared for Khnìntha, he’s a bit technophobic.
Qlenólakh (playing with Éfhelìnye’s hair): But we can offer him far more than just clockwork, we are a race of people brave and strong, just like the Jaràqtuns, only where the Jaràqtuns serve only the Emperor, we have our own Viceroy queens and Princesses to rule us.
Éfhelìnye (squealing): Puey’s quite happy with his own people.
Qlenólakh: Ah, but there are no Jaràqtun Princesses, are there? But among my people, one can hardly throw a spring without hitting a few Princesses. Ah, Khnìntha would be paradise for brave master Puîyos, Princsses needing to be rescued all the hours of the day.
Éfhelìnye: Aren’t you among the honored dead?
Qlenólakh: It’s your play, your dream.
Qlenólakh stretches herself and yawns a little. Éfhelìnye looks around in alarum and sees that Akhlísa is wandering away. All about her she can see the various Maidens whom Puîyus just rescued from the Dragon, and they are crawling into the branches and solar sails and hiding under the bed.
Éfhelìnye: No, this is my nightmare.
Qlenólakh: Have I mentioned that Khnìntha is currently suffering from a severe shortage of men, young men, strong men, marriageable men.
Éfhelìnye: Out now! Out out out out out!
Qlenólakh just laughs.
Éfhelìnye: I mean it, get out! I don’t like you anymore!
Qlenólakh: Since when have you e'er liked another woman?
Éfhelìnye: I … I love lots of women! Get out, I just don’t like you.
Qlenólakh: Really? Shall we examine this proposition?
Éfhelìnye rolls onto her other side and sees that Ixhúja is lying beside her. She rolls back to Qlenólakh who is fiddling with her hair.
Qlenólakh: Let’s see, you grew up in complete isolation and fell in love with the first creature you e'er met, madly and crazily in love I may add, some real attachment unto him. But whenever you meet another woman you are instantly threatened by her, you either have to make her part of your family so that she is safe or your heart has to burn with hatred for her.
Éfhelìnye (pouting, crossing her arms): That’s not true.
Qlenólakh: Case in point, Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa. Ah, there you are, see, she’s the first maiden you e'er met, so of course she had to be your best friend. She was safe you thought, she was Puîyos’ little baby Sister, so you were friends for so long. And yet the moment you think she can steal master Puîyos away from you, you seethe with rage.
Éfhelìnye: You lie!
Qlenólakh: Then why are we here? Here, look around. Consider Ixhúja, either you get along great with her, or you’re trying to make her wear Khniîkhan clothing and act in a more modest fashion, there is nothing in between for you, love or destroy.
Éfhelìnye: I’m consistent and pure.
Qlenólakh: Jealous and possessive. Oh don’t listen to me, I’m dead, what do I know. Look, Asiréma. Instant hatred, for no good reason.
Éfhelìnye: She kissed my Puey on his forehead.
Qlenólakh: Puîyus’ cousins Xataríyona and Eirènwa.
Éfhelìnye: I love them.
Qlenólakh: Because they’re no threat to you, they’re safely family for you.
Éfhelìnye: Are you saying that I commit dishonor?
Qlenólakh: I’m saying you may have to stop choking your own heart. What about Siêthiyal?
Éfhelìnye: I’ve always loved Siêthiyal.
Qlenólakh: Yes, very safe, she’s Puey’s Sister. You love her enough to break down the walls of her room and break her toys …
Éfhelìnye: All accidents, I was trying to help Puey.
Qlenólakh: So in other words, and let me know whether I get this wrong, you love Puey enough hate every woman who poses a threat, you love him enough to cause all sorts of problems for his family, and you love him enough not to trust him to love you in return.
Éfhelìnye: Yes. I mean no.
Qlenólakh: You love him enough to hate Akhlísa.
Éfhelìnye: This is all her fault! She betrayed me!
Qlenólakh: Shewas born, the moment your Mother died.
Éfhelìnye: She didn’t have to steel my Puey away! She knew better. She knew I loved him, we talked about it all the time.
Qlenólakh: Did you know she loved him too?
Éfhelìnye: He’s mine! Why can’t others understand that?
Princess Qlenólakh sits upwards.
Qlenólakh: I’m afraid there’s only one person in creation who can understand such possessive desire.
Qlenólakh: He stands in the corner of the stage and holds your heart captive. He refuses to let you go. You refuse to let master Puîyos go.
Éfhelìnye: That’s not the same thing. My Father is a monster, he devours worlds, he sends Dragons down, he killed all the men of your world and then he killed you!
Qlenólakh: And does his possession aid you in loving him in return?
Éfhelìnye: Well, no …
Qlenólakh: Does your possession of Puîyos foster him in loving you in return?
Éfhelìnye: It’s not the same.
Qlenólakh hops out of bed and begins climbing up the branches and solar sails of the bed.
Qlenólakh: I’m afraid this is your nightmare, Starflower Princess. Whether or not you awaken from it, I shall return to mine Ancestors.
Qlenólakh clammers up into the tree, and during the ensuring scene she hops down the branches and rejoins the audience.
Éfhelìnye (to herself): I don’t care what that pariah heretic thinks. Puey is mine mine mine. And this is all Akhlísa’s fault, she stole his love away from me. I must make her suffer for what she’s done. If I can’t have Puey’s love only for me, than why should I live another heartbeat? Life will have no sweetness, no meaning, no hope unto me.
Akhlísa wanders before Éfhelìnye. The Princess seethes with rage. Éfhelìnye reaches outwards as if to grab her and strangle her, but then shakes her head in sadness. She looks around. The hundred Maidens are on the stage and on or beneath or near the bed in some capacity. She turns and hurls aside a quilt blanket and elevens of Princess start rolling away from her and topple upon the stage floor. Éfhelìnye shakes the blanket again.
Éfhelìnye: Okay, all ye damsels, get out of this bed right now! The Empress is speaking!
Éfhelìnye: The Empress commands you to go!
Maidens: Oh. You!
Éfhelìnye: Yes me. Do as I say or I destroy you all. I’ll find a way to make you suffer, I’ll ruin you … as only Kàrijoi’s Daughter can, strong and cold and merciless!
Éfhelìnye shakes the quilt again and out come stumbling Ixhúja and Asiréma and many other maidens. Ixhúja rolls out upon the ground and shakes with laughter, and slips back into the blankets.
The orchestra clashes with the sound of thunder and storm. Akhlísa is clammering in the branches, she reacts to the cymbol crash.
Akhlísa: I’m not leaving! I’m scared of death and thunder. Anyways, I have no where else to go.
Éfhelìnye grabs the branch whereon Akhlísa hangs and begins shaking it.
Éfhelìnye: Go home!
Akhlísa: I am home!
Éfhelìnye: Go away from me!
Akhlísa: Fine, I’ll take Puey and go!
Éfhelìnye (shouting): Mine!
Akhlísa: Mine too! I was intended for him when I was a baby!
Éfhelìnye: You should have thought of that before hand! You didn’t think this through, did you?
Akhlísa: Neither did you! You knew Puey and I were going to get married one day! And even if you forgot about me, you knew about Fhermáta! Stop it! I’m going to fall.
Akhlísa clings to the tree. Éfhelìnye shakes it all the harder. Akhlísa cries out.
Akhlísa (growing louder): Fhermáta! Fhermáta! Fhermáta!
Éfhelìnye: I’m tired of being love and hugs! My people are dæmons who either get their way or slaughter their enemies. Now leave me. Puey is mine! I own him!
Akhlísa: You cannot possess a person or love! Fhermáta!
Éfhelìnye: Quite, warrior caste! An Empress commands you!
Éfhelìnye: I don’t want to see her!
Somewhere in the audience Fhermáta arises. A light follows her as she makes her slow way up the stage.
Éfhelìnye (shouting to Emperor Kàrijoi): I chanted I don’t want to see her! Send her back!
Akhlísa (mocking): You send her back, if you are truly the Daughter of Khnoqwísi, the Empress.
Éfhelìnye grows all the more angry. Akhlísa is crying in fear. Fhermáta is making her slow journey to the stage. Éfhelìnye swings away from Akhlísa and looks out to the bed boat tree and the thousand maidens crawling inside it. She begins hurling aside the blankets and Princesses by the eleven come pouring out and rolling onto the stage. She shakes a pillow and a Princess falls right out of it. She shakes the pillow again and by the alchemy of the stage another Princess falls out. She rolls o'er and several maidens lie beside her, they are examining their fingernails and giggling. She shoves them out. She rolls in the other direction and more maidens appear, and she gets rid of them. She picks up the pllow again and another maiden comes out. She grows more frantic, she kicking aside the blankets and maidens, she shakes the branches and themaidens are raining down about her like leaves and rain.
Éfhelìnye: Unfair! Unfair! Unfair, oh! They all must suffer!
Fhermáta is still approaching the bed. Éfhelìnye is panicking. She kicks several more maidens away. The stage is flooding with maidens, they are literally pouring out of the tree and off the stage and into the audience, and they’re all jumping back onto the stage so that Éfhelìnye can get rid of them again. Éfhelìnye is growing tired. She turns around and sees that Ixhúja is kissing a dormant Puîyus.
Éfhelìnye: Not you too!
Ixhúja looks up and grins.
Éfhelìnye wrestles her down and drags her off the cushions. They grapple for a time until Ixhúja falls off the stage. Éfhelìnye sits upwards, and then, slightly disoriented, makes her back back to the bed, and lifting up the blanket and checking under the bed, out come rolling maidens, flowing outwards, all of the damsels whom Puîyus had rescued before and who had kissed him.
Fhermáta comes onto the stage. Éfhelìnye looks on her with horror. Éfhelìnye turns around and keeps pushing and shoving and yanking the maidens by their braids. The orchestra makes the music of the thunderstorm. The Dragon appears several times in the rafters to make noise. Fhermáta continues to advance right towards Éfhelìnye. The Princess looks around in panick and sees that in a bower of solar sails Siêthiyal is interviewing some damsels, and the sword of her Father lies beside her unbloodied.
Siêthiyal (to the maidens): Now, my most important and powerful and imperial Brother is in the market for an harem of concubines, he’s looking for golden haired maidens who are absolutely beautiful and better than the new Empress, he’s not looking for philologist who even smart, he wants concubines as pretty as candy.
Éfhelìnye sneaks up to the sword.
Siêthiyal: Have I mentioned that my Brother is desirous to beget many children?
Éfhelìnye grabs the sword and jumps down onto the bed.
Éfhelìnye: Now the slaughter can begin.
Fhermáta halts at the edge of the bed.
Éfhelìnye: Go back to the Undergloom! Can’t you see that I’m protecting your Brother’s honor.
Fhermáta: My lord and husband.
Éfhelìnye: Don’t call him that! I forbid it.
Fhermáta: You created language; you may use whatever word seems best to you.
Éfhelìnye: Do you want a word! How about this one! JanakhneuPuiyeyantongèkhmit! Mine own true Puey is mine! Mine mine mine mine mine!
Fhermáta: The suffix –ekhmit also means ours, oh linguist.
Éfhelìnye: That’s why I added those two prefixes that mean mine, jana- and khneu-, and –antong also means he’s mine! He’s three times mine! How many times do I have to say it!
Fhermáta: Put the sword down. You’re better with books than with the sword.
Éfhelìnye: Don’t come any closer, Fhermáta.
Fhermáta: Stop waving that around. Oh, the sword’s not even real, it’s just cardboard, it’s all stage and magic and illusion. You’re the only one real here. Well, I’m real, I’m a ghost.
Éfhelìnye: Leave me alone! Go and haunt someone else!
Fhermáta: You won’t let me!
Siêthiyal (to the maidens): So if any of you want to be my personal slaves and become my Brother’s concubines just let me know. Oh? Everyone!
Éfhelìnye (looking to the branches): It’s her fault too. Everyone breathes against me.
Fhermáta: Put the sword down.
Éfhelìnye: Never! I must protect him!
Éfhelìnye runs around and begins kicking out more maidens, they’re piling out from the bed now and beginning to flood the audience. She shakes her sword and the maidens flow throughout the tree and flood the room and begin overcrowding each other, and all the while she leaps up onto the bed right next to sleeping Puius and triest to protect him from them all.
Éfhelìnye: Don’t you understand, they’re all mine enemies! I must conquer them.
Fhermáta: You talk like a Jaràqtun, no, not like one of our people, the women are not as harsh. Perhaps more like an Heretic of the Moons.
Éfhelìnye: I care not! They’re all here, all mine enemies, every since princess and maiden and damsel and virgin who has e'er kissed my Puey without my consent, every single maiden he’s rescued this hour, the thousands … the untold thousands … all of them I must destroy.
Fhermáta: Was I one of your enemies, little Sister?
Éfhelìnye: That was different. The worlds were different.
Fhermáta: Oh? And what has changed in the last hour? It seems like we all have become what we already were!
Éfhelìnye: Why should I listen to a ghost! Go back to your cold grave, Puey’s warm kisses are for me.
Fhermáta: You’re more of the same, perhaps a little bit more grown up, but also sad. Ixhúja is a bit more compassionate, although very dangerous. Siêthiyal has become more Siêthiyal-like, and Kàrula, well she always was this way.
Éfhelìnye: She wants my Puey.
Fhermáta: She has always been Karuláta. Only your perception changes.
Éfhelìnye: I hate her. I must hate her.
Fhermáta: Did you hate me before my betrothal rite?
Éfhelìnye: I …it was very different, you remember.
Fhermáta: Perhaps my living memories fade. Remind me.
Éfhelìnye: My Father was sending me back to Khniîkha to be slain and executed! Do you know how that feels, this was the only day of life and freedom I e'er experienced, the only day of joy and family, and he was having me returned.
Fhermáta: How is that different to today?
Éfhelìnye: I just wanted my Puey to be happy, I knew I was going to die … so I would let him have you and remember me …
Fhermáta: And now it is different? Now that I am dead?
Éfhelìnye: We … I know it’s different. You are dead …
Fhermáta: So once I was out of the way, you, seeing that you were next in age, thought yourself to be the next logical bride.
Éfhelìnye: I … um … someone has to take care of Puey!
Fhermáta: And how does this necessitate hating my Sister?
Éfhelìnye: She’s broken my heart. I wish to die.
Fhermáta: But you hesitate.
Fhermáta: You can’t decide whether your heart should beat again.
Éfhelìnye: What choice do I have? He-sa has my heart.
A beam of light illuminates Emperor Kàrijoi in the corner, and then fades away.
Fhermáta: Could you take your heart away from him if you wished to?
Éfhelìnye: I don’t know.
Fhermáta: Do you need help?
Éfhelìnye: I don’t know.
Fhermáta: Are you still convinced this is your dream?
Fhermáta: How do you not know that this isn’t our Puey’s dream? Strange it is, that the four of us call him my Puey or our Puey, quite an interesting mannerism, worthy of documentation.
Éfhelìnye: This isn’t a dream, if it were it would be strange and surreal.
Éfhelìnye shakes the prop sword about, and maidens continue pouring out of the bed tree boat. Somewhere in the audience Xhnófho comes stumbling outwards. He crashed back into the orchestra pit and scatters musicians and musical instruments all about.
Xhnófho (loud): Who put a Qlùfhem orchestra in the middle of my pirate vessel? Khei! Any of you want any candy?
Xhnófho reaches into his pockets and starts tossing out candies and muffins and peaches and all manner of fruit.
Éfhelìnye: As I chanted, were this a dream something weird and surreal would be happening.
The Dragon dreamlands upon the stage and dons a clumsy masque and waddles to the bed.
Fhermáta: I think this may be my Puey’s dream.
Éfhelìnye: I rather doubt it. It’s all about me.
Fhermáta: That’s why I think this may be Puey’s dream. But you’ve stumbled into it. I think your fear may be paralyzing him.
Éfhelìnye: Why am I even listening to you, older Sister? I should be slaughtering these maidens.
Dragon: Excuse me, I’m a strange, lost in these regions.
Fhermáta: Éfha, don’t.
Dragon: I’m quite harmless, in fact I just rescued some damsels from a burning concubinage house.
Fhermáta: Éfhelìnye, don’t do what you’re thinking.
Dragon: I never had a chance to escort the maidens to the priests for safe keeping.
Fhermáta: What a terrible disguise. Éfha! Send the Dragon away.
Éfhelìnye: So, you’re looking for the maidens?
Dragon: Oh yes, about an hundred or so …
Éfhelìnye: The ones my Puey rescued, the ones who offended me by kissing him?
Dragon: Ur … sure, I guess.
Fhermáta: Little Sister, don’t.
Éfhelìnye, sword still in one hand, draws her other arm about the Dragon in the terrible disguise and leads it towards the ship that is a tree that is a bed.
Éfhelìnye: If you’re searching for young maidens …
Éfhelìnye: We have libraries of them here!
The Dragon tosses away his terrible disguise.
Dragon: Khasyakh! Yummy! Eat eat eat eat eat!
Éfhelìnye (smiling): Eat until you explode! Bye!
The Dragon begins chasing the maidens all about. Éfhelìnye looks pleased. She looks to Fhermáta, but can’t stand the look of her disapproval, and backs away. The Dragon bounces through the tree and upon the pillows and the maidens come flooding out before him and into the audience.
Éfhelìnye: Heh heh heh heh. And yet one Dragon is too slow, there are so many of these verminous damsels. I’ll have to ward them away myself. For Puey’s sake of course, everything I do, I do for him.
Fhermáta crosses her arms. Éfhelìnye tiptoes away from him. The Dragon wreaks havoc upon the stage.
From the rafters Fhèrkifhr and a Chorus girl descend.
Fhèrkifher: Oh yes the view is quite lovely up here, better than in the balcony with those rude merchant families. One would think that I were doing something wrong introducing myself that way.
Fhermáta (looking upwards): Is that you, Uncle Fhèrkifher?
Fhèrkifher (waving): Why greetings little one. Should I be enquiring about this … battle down here? The Princess … chasing all these maidens around with a sword.
Fhermáta: Should I be enquiring about why you have a chorus girl in the garama and not in the women’s quarters?
Fhèrkifher: Ah … you always were a clever Sweqhàngqu Sister. She’s with me, part of the Sonátus family. She’s my Cousin’s Sister’s Cousins … guest friend … by marriage … allied cousin. She can stay with me?
Éfhelìnye swings her sword around and chasing several maidens away from Puîyus. She signals unto the Dragon and crawling onto its back she lifts up her sword and cries her battle song.
Chorus Girl: I don’t suppose there should be an adult down there to make sure this doesn’t get out of hand?
Fhèrkifher: Ah … my friend Xhnófho’s in charge. Nothing bad will happen.
Éfhelìnye: Death to all of the maidens! Hear my words oh damsels and tremble in despair! Stay away from my Puey, or I slaughter you now, you and your families and your friends … and your friends’ friends!
Xhnófho stumbled out of the orchestrial pit and starts a fight with a few Qlùfhem, chairs and instruments swinging around.
Xhnófho: You call this an hyper brawl! I’ll show you a fight!
Qlùfhem Musicians: Them’s fighting words!
Fhèrkifher: Perhaps I should intervene a little.
Chorus Girl: Yes, you should.
Fhèrkifher wraps an arm about the quire girl’s shoulder.
Fhèrkifher: Although I’ve found that sometimes guidance from afar works the best. Why my Uncles barely even noticed me when I was growing up, and I turned out fine. Grandfather Thiêfhilos tried far too hard to instill discipline in me …
The chorus girl peals Fhèrkifher’s arm away from her. Fhèrkifher sighs and takes a cigar from his pocket to light it.
Fhèrkifher: I suppose I can descend and just make sure they’re not playing too rough.
Éfhelìnye: Death to mine enemies! I shall build a pyramid of their skulls! DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE!
Fhermáta: The Royal House has never been one for subtly, has it?
Xhnófho brawls in the orchestral grounds until he gets thumpt quite a bit, and he staggers up onto the stage just as Fhèrkifher descends through the state machinery. Xhnófho lights up a cigar and shakes his head in dismay. Fhèrkifher ducks as branches of the tree that is a ship that is a bed break apart, and the damsels are running in all directions.
Xhnófho: For some reason the Qlùfhem just wouldn’t admit that I am naturally superior.
Fhèrkifher: For some reason the merchants’ daughters and the quire girls just don’t like me today.
Xhnófho: I told them that I was Uncle to the new Emperor.
Fhèrkifher: I mentioned that I was Uncle to the new Empress.
Xhnófho: And yet still.
Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho advance and mimick flinging open a door, and dashing about them come hundreds of Princesses in the bed and under it and all around. Puîyus alone is fast asleep in the center. Akhlísa is bouncing behind him. Éfhelìnye is riding the Dragon and trying to fend the maidens away, and she waves the sword the direction of the maidens. Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho look to each other and blink, and then unto the chaos and blnk again.
Fhèrkifher: Let’s take a walk.
Xhnófho: I didn’t see nothing.
Fhèrkifher (putting his arm about Xhnófho): Would you care for a drink?
Xhnófho: I thought you’d never ask. Surely someone in this audience will pay, right?
Éfhelìnye: Mine enemies fall before my face, and yet there are still so many of them, so, so many! I cannot slay them, I can only scatter them … and they return … in greater numbers they return and infest my Puey …
Éfhelìnye: Are you still here? I didn’t summon you, don’t say something meaningless like I won’t let you go or that you’re a part of me or that all the dream is a stage. You’re just a pest … like all the other maidens …. I have to cleanse them from my Puey.
Fhermáta: Are you sure it’s your heart that’s stopped?
Éfhelìnye: What is that supposed to mean?
Fhermáta: If this is his dream, perhaps his heart stopped.
Éfhelìnye: I don’t know …
Fhermáta: Didn’t you once claim to give your heart to Puey?
Éfhelìnye: Of course.
Fhermáta: If your and his heart should stop beating, what would become of him? How can Puey live without his heart?
Éfhelìnye: He … you see ….
Fhermáta: You’ve been endangering him the entire time.
Éfhelìnye: I have not! Lo, he’s right here, fast asleep.
Fhermáta: How do you know he’s asleep? Is he breathing?
Éfhelìnye: He … of course he’s asleep …
Fhermáta: Are you sure?
Éfhelìnye: Ur …
Fhermáta: Are you breathing?
Éfhelìnye: What trick is this?
Fhermáta: Maybe Puey is not asleep on that bed ship tree. Maybe he too has been struck down by your broken heart and will never awaken again.
Éfhelìnye: But that’s … that’s absurd.
Fhermáta: What happens if you don’t awaken?
Éfhelìnye: I’ll die. Puey dies.
Fhermáta: Who’s keeping the Suns lit?
Éfhelìnye: My Father, that’s his job …
The stage begins to darken. The Maidens are climbing up the stage machinery and covering the light bubbles with drapes and silks. In the audience the men are arising and snuffling out the candles one by one. In the shadows one can see the glow of Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho’s cigars, but they too are walking to the posts and dousing the lights.
Fhermáta: Your Father is bringing midnight eternal. Are you helping him?
Éfhelìnye: I … this doesn’t make any sense! I just want to love Puey, to hold him for ever.
Éfhelìnye slips off of the Dragon. She is panting from exhaustion. She runs up to Puîyus dormant and kisses him a few times.
Éfhelìnye: He’s cold.
Fhermáta: He’s dying. He will be like me, trapped in the space opera house for all time.
Éfhelìnye: What must I do?
Fhermáta: Only you know.
Éfhelìnye: I can’t let him go.
Fhermáta: Perhaps you can begin to trust him. When he fights automaton and soldier and dragon, do you not trust him to save you, to carry you, to swim you to safety.
Éfhelìnye: That’s different! All of these analogies are different. Everything is different.
Several more lights faded in the opera house.
Éfhelìnye: It’s all different! Puey … he belongs to me … –
Fhèrkifher sniffed out a few candles while Xhnófho pulled down some lanthorns and extinguished them.
Éfhelìnye: Why can’t I have one thing for mine own for ever?
The maidens were pulling down a backdrop of shere darkness.
Fhermáta just shakes her head.
Éfhelìnye (to herself): I just can’t let him die. I refuse.
Éfhelìnye approaches Puîyus and playes with a strand of hair and kisses his face. She looks up to the Dragon.
Dragon: Let’s not be hasty. I am a very important part of you, of all of the Divine House.
Éfhelìnye: No more.
A cymbal rings. The Dragon explodes in chunks of paper-mache and confetti and wee fireworks. The pieces tumble about the stage and reveal that he was hollow all the while. Éfhelìnye looks at the pieces with sadness.
Fhermáta brings out a broom.
Fhermáta: This may help you clean up the mess a little, hardly glamorous but more pragmatic than that silly thing.
Éfhelìnye goes back to Siêthiyal who’s still interviewing potential concubines and did not notice her stolen weapon or any of the ensuent chaos. Éfhelìnye sets the sword back down where she found it. She takes the broom and sweeps away the bits of dragon confetti and paper-mache, and then, grinning unto herself, she chases after a few stray Princesses and whack them about broomwise. The princesses scream and leap off the stage, but they do not return. Éfhelìnye looks around and does some more sweeping and then seeing some maidens sneaking out from under the bed she chases them away also, and when they leave they also stay way. The number of maidens on the stage thus begins to minish.
Éfhelìnye: I suppose I’m good at once household task, that of scaring away maidens I find threatening.
Éfhelìnye sweeps across the stage, and the maidens come running right off the edge. Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho appear at different sides of the stage and begin escorting the hundreds of princesses and maidens out into the audience. Sometimes the pirates look at each other askance, sometimes they disappear, but their mood now is somber here in the growing darkness.
Siêthiyal jumps down from the bower along with some golden tressed triplets.
Siêthiyal: Oh Éfha, look what I found here!
Éfhelìnye sweeps and then runs up to Siêthiyal.
Siêthiyal: What a found, look at these three, they’re identical, can’t you see? I think Puey would be most interested in meeting these three, very golden hair. I can’t tell them apart, can you?
Siêthiyal: I bet Puey could, he would sniff them apart.
Éfhelìnye escorts the triplets to the edge of the stage, and they jump down into the audience and disappear. Éfhelìnye then returns to her sweeping. She looks to the bed. Puîyus still remains fast asleep. Siêthiyal is fiddling with a toy. Akhlísa is no longer bouncing around, she’s fallen asleep upon her side.
Éfhelìnye: I suppose everything is back to normal, mostly, as far as normal as it gets for us. It’s quiet and dark. Perhaps I can work upon my manuscript.
Éfhelìnye sits down on the bed and feeling a bump within, reaches into the blankets. Ixhúja pops up and grins.
Éfhelìnye: Get out of here. Shoo! Shoo!
Ixhúja bounds away laughing and joins the audience.
Éfhelìnye: At least I have Puey all to myself. Time for kisses!
Siêthiyal looks around and scrambles for her sword. She jumps up to threaten Éfhelìnye with it.
Siêthiyal: No touching, no touching, that’s the rule! My Brother’s honor is sacrosanct!
Akhlísa rolls about, awakened by the nose.
Akhlísa: Pipe down, omnes! It’s like war whenever Éfhelìnye starts going crazy. Yes, I chanted keqoas keqoas, whenever, she’s as predicably crazy as the rising and setting of the Suns.
The opera lights dim.
Akhlísa: Or at least the way the Suns used to shine, before the Emperor began shredding time.
Light begins to arise about Emperor Kàrijoi in his corner of the stage.
Akhlísa: Princess, why are you so sad?
Éfhelìnye: I have to make an important decision, but I don’t think you’d understand.
Akhlísa: Is it about me? About me? Me?
Akhlísa: It’s about me, isn’t it?
Éfhelìnye: Sometimes it’s best not to verbalize one’s thoughts.
Akhlísa: I’m suppose to sleep here. Whenever I get scared, keqoas keqoas, I sleep next to Puey. I would like to protect him from the monsters, but he really does the protecting.
Éfhelìnye: What can I do, when I am the Dragon?
The light continues to arise about Emperor Kàrijoi even as the rest of the opera house slowly dims. From the orchestra comes a slight song that sounds like the beating of an heart.
Akhlísa: Do you still hate me?
Éfhelìnye: Only a little. I’m not as loving as Puey is.
Akhlísa: Will you kill me?
Éfhelìnye: I could never.
Akhlísa: You could. Even the Ptètqiikh chanted as much. Flayed alive and dumped into the swamp.
Fhermáta sits down beside the Princess.
Fhermáta: How does the play, the xèsqina, the sardoodledom end?
Éfhelìnye: I had thought that it would end very simply. In the noise of the battle, or in our sororal argument, we awaken Puey. He shuffles out of bed, he dones some tiger slippers and comes to the edge of the stage where he bows to the illustrious pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho, and they help him down. He ends up wrapping himself up upon the threshold of the floor of the opera house and falls into a deep sleep. And so you, Kàrula, and I, and Siêthial all sleep together in the bed, and I cry myself to sleep to think that I ruined Puey’s sleep, and middle sister and younger sister point to each other and accuse each other saying, This was all your fault. And then the lights of the opera stage begin to arise. The orchestra plays a slight tympani sound, the song of dawntide and awakening. And a new backgroup is unfurled. And when Puey awakens he finds himself upon a pirate ship bursting upwards in the great cloud seas of the worlds, and he is ready for exploration and adventure and pillaging and muffins.
Siêthiyal sits down next to them.
Siêthiyal: For some reason Puey likes his muffins.
Éfhelìnye: And then Puey reaches out for me and wraps me up in his arm and kisses me many times and laughs for the joy of our love.
Akhlísa: That sounds like the type of ending you’d write. Mine would end in a pie fight. Or a mud pie fight.
Fhermáta: Do you have to abuse pies so?
Siêthiyal: Just don’t touch my cakes.
Éfhelìnye: The Sweqhàngqu sure like their pastries. One day I’ll find the genetic source for such baked goodie fainness.
Fhermáta: Don’t be afraid that you’ll lose him.
Éfhelìnye: I’m very scared.
Fhermáta: Death is not the end of troubles, it’s the beginning of an entirely new set of them.
Akhlísa gives Éfhelìnye a candle, and Siêthiyal lights it.
Siêthiyal: You fit into this family just fine. Why, you fit in a little better than I do.
Akhlísa: I’m sorry I’ve made such a mess of our lives. I didn’t mean to.
Fhermata: Are you going to permit us to have a future, Princess?
Éfhelìnye: I’m not brave enough to do it by myself.
Akhlísa: You’re never alone.
The four maidens turn around and see that Puîyus is no longer on the bed and probably has not been there in some time. The light about Emperor Kàrijoi is arising in shafts of gold and white, he is become the sunrise, and he still holds Éfhelìnye’s heart in his hands.
Éfhelìnye: I don’t know how this will end. Fighting the Dragon Prince seemed simpler.
Fhermáta: You will find a way, little Sister.
Fhermáta gets up and kisses Éfhelìnye on her cheek and then rejoins the audience.
Siêthiyal: I don’t think your worst nightmare was so bad at all. Mine would have involved fire. And burning toys.
Siêthiyal kisses Éfhelìnye and joins her Sister in the audience.
Akhlísa: I’m sorry. I would hate me too if I were you. I lead the Dragon right to you.
Éfhelìnye: I’m just afraid that I’ll lose him.
Akhlísa: Is is possible that you can lose him?
Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa embrace. Akhlísa hops down and joins her Sisters in the audience. Éfhelìnye is left alone on the stage with her Father, and he is slowly walking up behind her. With her candle light Éfhelìnye gazes out into the audience and finds it filled not just with the Sweqhàngqu Sisters and Puîyus and her cousin Ixhúja and the illustrious pirate pair and the thousand maidens, but many others whom she has met on her journey. She sees other members of Puîyus’ family, Xataríyona and Ìkhnos and Pàlron and Eirènwa and many elders whose faces she recognizes, she sees Great-Uncle Táto and Grandfather Pátifhar seated next to each other. Qìtien the Acolyte and Captain Euqliîna sit in a large group of pirates and rooster raptors and the most fantastic lwúnìqte and the bagpipe creatures. The twin Duchesses are whispering something to Tetratríxe and Qwatríxe upon their laps. The Imperial Mad Scientist Jhwèsta is seated in a group of his Automata creations, his little green slaves dashing about him, Princess Qlenólakh and Asiréma sitting to either side of him. And in the very middle of the audience sit Grandfather Jàkopar, working upon his ladder invention, and Grandmother Tàltiin weaving a dreamcloak, and Grandfather Khangisqrírles tending a flower, and Grandmother Xhàtrajhil playing chess with a Raven. And Auntie Qtìmine and Khwofheîlya and Íngìkhmar are seated behind them, and the velociraptor steed Stitlhàrkhlo is kneeling down before Auntie Qtìmine and munching treats from her hand. And the Emperor comes behind the Princess and holds the heart in his hands.
Emperor Kàrijoi: It looks like we had a full house tonight, didn’t we?
Princess Éfhelìnye: Everyone was here, it seems.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Yes, everyone, from vendors you saw passing on the street, to soldiers in the fields, haberdashers and monks and even Dragons, Qàrqhin and Kherènxhuqhe.
Princess Éfhelìnye: Everyone?
Emperor Kàrijoi: Almost.
Princess Éfhelìnye: Where is Mother?
Emperor Kàrijoi: She is the almost, she is the pfhójo, the lacuna of our play.
Princess Éfhelìnye: The Dragon chanted that I would have to learn to live without love.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Àrqotha could foresee that you would have a broken heart.
Princess Éfhelìnye: I won’t survive this.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Did your birth auguries predict that you would?
Princess Éfhelìnye: I’m not sure that I can e'er forgive Karuláta.
Emperor Kàrijoi: You are my little Dragon after all.
Princess Éfhelìnye: What would you do?
Emperor Kàrijoi: I’ve lived with a broken heart for eleven years now. It is possible.
Princess Éfhelìnye: Maybe I can recover.
Emperor Kàrijoi: The marriage is not finalized yet. Betrothal rites cannot begin until there is a new Emperor who will bless them. Until then both you and Karuláta are only hight as future spouses. The priests cannot yet join your dreams together.
Princess Éfhelìnye: Anything can happen in the war.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Only if you make such a choice.
Princess Éfhelìnye: I feel like I hang cursed upon a tree. Will this pain e'er go away? Will food e'er have taste again? Will life again dance for me?
Emperor Kàrijoi: If you choose to cut away the hurt parts of your heart, you will become more like me. Or you can just endure the pain.
Princess Éfhelìnye: What about Puey? What happens to him?
Emperor Kàrijoi: Fhermáta’s death stilled his heart. He has already begun what you begin now.
Princess Éfhelìnye: He still dreams about her, I know it. I can never be as perfect as she was.
Emperor Kàrijoi: But he has found you.
The Emperor places the heart into Éfhelìnye hand.
Emperor Kàrijoi: You can heal him, if you choose.
Éfhelìnye held her heart. She gazed out into the opera hall. All was silent and dark. It was the end of an age. She squeezed her heart and felt blood flowing within it. She stood up. She knew what she had to do. She took the candle and let the flame flicker upon the bed that was a ship that was a tree that was an heart, and she ignited it. She ran to the curtains and ropes and siege machinery and set them on fire also. Emperor Kàrijoi began to beat the blaze. Éfhelìnye ran down unto the audience and he handed the candle to someone, and the light bubbles and the candles were lit one by one so that all of the house began to glow as sunrise and fire. The fires burst up higher in the stage, long and twisting tendrils flooding the balconeys. The maidens in the audience carried out the fire, as did the Tèntra and the Dragons. And slowly the audience began to disperse as all of the walls became flame and the stage began to collapse upon itself, Puîyus and the Sweqhàngqu traveling in one direction, the pirates and automata and soldiers and priests in another, and column after column began tumbling downwards in the growing roar.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Do you wish to live?
Princess Éfhelìnye nodded. Flying up from her came petals and butterflies flowing upwards and filling up all of the fires, so that as the stage collapsed and became ash, butterflies flooded it all in glories of rainbow melancholy sadness.