Monday, March 23, 2009

End Up How We Want it, but Not the Way We Want It

The scene of battle which Puîyus loved the least was the ritual execution and assassination of the unrepentant. Puîyus knew that battle was honorable and glorious and he had no problem with slaying the soldiers who came running out of their living ships and were swinging their axes and swords right at him, it did not bother him to duck the impaling spear aimed right to his throat and to swing aside and kick right through the skull of a soldier, all of this was expected and fair, it was part of the pár Jaraqtuyùlkha the War of the Sword, struggling and grasping and fighting in the sand and ice and froth were nothing unto him, he did not mind when the living ships of the refugees came crashing downwards and the men were leaping upwards, sometimes of different nations and timelines and species, he did not mind trying to save the ship before it exploded and devoured all the soldiers within, he did not mind leaping right into the swirling waves and carrying eleven men upon his shoulders and with his arms and dragging them upon the sand, nor did he mind now that Ixhúja was fighting at his side, and that she was far wilder than he could e'er hope to be, she ululated in the joy of battle fhwùyo fhwùyo qthàrnya qthàrnya, one of her arms was spinning around and cutting through the wings or tentacles or limbs of the enemy, she was jumping upwards and grabbing a spinning scythe and ripping it out of the grasp of the enemy and hacking it right through the throat of predator, and the sands exploded with clumps of blood and flesh and sinews falling downwards. None of this bothered him, it was war music such as played in the back of his mind since he had been hearing since his Father had armed him when he was naught but seven winters of age, and dressed him up in Íngìkhmar’s armor, and set Íngìkhmar’s sword in his palm, and set him up in Íngìkhmar’s chariot and began to teach him what it meant to be a Jàrqta warrior of the people. None of this bothered Puîyus, the heat and blood and horror and thunder of the battle at all, what bothered him was that a shipload of Qlùfhem would come one day and claim Jaràqtu in their name and start firing upon the Qhíng who were Puîyus’ honorguard, and that one day glass and hot air balloons of the Thùlwu came and fired upon the Qhíng, and that one day Khlitsaîyart came in the crumbling warships and began war against everyone else and against all the other living ships that were trying to land, the Ptètqiikh in their honey gastropods and the Qája in their floating pyramids and a few straggling Kháfha in their long and walkng sea machines making their way through the sound estuaries. Puîyus tried to make sure that his own troops were made up of men of all of these species, that the strongest and most elite of the Jaràqtuns were their commanders, but that the generals were of all the Real People, so that when the war exiles came washing ashore their old animosities were not kindled against one nation or another. Such a strategy was not a terrible success though, Puîyus was learning, and almost everyday a new battle was fought upon the bleeding sands. And Puîyus could only struggle and wish that his beloved Father Íngìkhmar would return from his campaign and teach him how to do what had so seldom been done before, to unite all the peoples before the coming storm.
Ixhúja ripped off a few Khlitsaîyart heads and rolled them out in Puîyus’ general direction. She grinned, she gathered up several more Khlitsaîyart and with her bare hands ripped them off from their shoulders, she was juggling the heads together as if they were the balls that the Nobles use when they play the game of pyànyi the game of sacrifice pelota pusb’al cha’j tlachtli. Puîyus caught a couple of the heads, the blood fountained before him, the Khlaêr heads still lay in their helmets, some of the war crowns had sticks of burning incense within them so that should they fall their bodies would be presented as honorable corses unto the victors. Ixhúja kicked down a few more Khlitsaîyart and as they struggled to their knees she sliced off their heads and began throwing and kicking them, she hoped that the game of pyànyi could be recreated one day, and that teams would arise and be splattered in dyes of bright red and blue, and they would arise and throw the balls into disques and hoops before the flaming altars, and the players would be ripped apart in glories of blood. Now that was a good game. She bounced a severed head upon her hip and threw it right towards Puîyus, and found that one’s hips could be put to far better use in battle than in any of Akhlísa’s silly Triîman inspired dances, hips should be used to shove severed heads from side to side, that-sa was the way to keep Puîyus’ attention. She laughed and jumped back up upon Xheresafhènitha’s back and the dyal arose and whickered, and she turned around to gallop in battle.
Puîyus slipped down from Khwixhethateîqa’s back. The battle was mostly won now, the Clanfathers of Jaràqtu were surrounding the last of those who were trying to kill the soldiers of Jaràqtu. A priest was looking up his scroll and saying – Only those who accept the mercy of Crown Prince Puîyos may be permitted to enter holy Jaràqtu. Surrender ye your weapons unto Crown Prince Puîyos, and you may live. –
The last of the enemies were Tyèntha among the Khlitsaîyart saurians, the Reavers of that people, among the tallest and strongest of all of the Real People, the stood four or five times taller than Puîyus, their armor was scale and thorn and spike, their fluent tails were tipped in maces and sickles which were opening upwards, and their arms had swords strapped to them in addition to the spears most impalent that they grasped. They bared their fangs at the priests. – We accept neither Kàrijoi’s will nor Puîyos’ mercy! – snarled the Tyèntha Reavers. – Nothing remains unto us but force and violence and might. We shall take Jaràqtu and slay all that lie within, the ground shall be soaked in blood, the forests shall be strangled in bones, bodies shall be the only harvest left unto all the worlds. Death to Puîyos and all the rest of the Children of the Land Khnóqhàxhmo! – The Warriors of Jaràqtu were coming forwards, their phalanxes ay-ready, their spears leaning down, and all among them the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm held their swords māccuahuitl and swords and staves. But Puîyus came forwards. He knew it was his duty, or at least it should be his duty, for he was the one whom the last of the princes and nobles and warriors and elders most desired to set up in the heavens. Puîyus walked upwards and the priests were parting between him, and he looked up and gazed upon the Reavers with his winedark and sad eyen.
– What is this little thing? – the Reavers asked. – It is not a Færie man, is this your pet, your slave, some creature left of Jaràqtu. Is this a doll, it must be a little doll, with emerald eyen, with little felt shreds as clothing, it wears an acolyte’s tunic, it’s cloak is of shattered dreams. Fie, fie, send the child away. We fight the Warriors of Jaràqtu, we shall empty all this land. –
– This is Puîyos, Kàrijoi’s Son, he is the one who shall sit in judgement upon all the worlds – the priests were saying.
– It is as delicate as a maiden, its spirit is strew and mud, is blood flowing in its xylem and floem? This is hardly a prince, this is more of a princess – so the Reavers were saying.
– The Crown Prince of Heaven comes – the acolytes were saying.
– We beseech thee, oh Kàrijoi’s Son, trouble yourself not with such clanless filth as these – the Warriors of Jaràqtu were saying. – Let us slay them for you, let it be our service and gift unto you. –
– We do not fear this little child, this is the best you send against us – the Reavers were saying as they arose upon the sands and grasped their scythes and swords. – Let the child stand before us, so that we may cut it down. –
Puîyus looked around and saw that a few Traîkhiim had followed him upon the shore, but the gentle dancers were hiding themselves in the reeds and ferns and gasping in fear. Ixhúja kicked aside a few more severed heads, she was not at all concerned with the Reavers, they would die soon at someone’s hand, but the severed heads at her play were fascinating in the way they rolled and bounced.
Puîyus did not draw his sword but held up his hands and invited the Reavers to fire and water of Jaràqtu if only they would set down their weapons and not fight his people, but all the Reavers could hear were quiet plaintive mews, and they laughed at him. – Is the lad trying to talk to us? – asked the Reavers. – Does it not know how to speak? How are we to answer in the same qíperakh? Mew mew mew? Bark bark bark? How does on conjugate a language of quacks and purrs and belches? –
– Speak not to the new Emperor in such a fashion – the priests were saying. – It is not his fault that he has a speech impediment. He is simple and innocent. He belongs to an higher world. –
The Reavers just laughed all the harder and pointed at him, and Puîyus did his best not to have his feelings hurt. When Puîyus was an infant he burbled and mewed and babbled unto every wild creature and tree and flower he knew, and gurgled and purred unto his family when they held him, but when he grew older and Fhermáta and Siêthiyal were learning to talk and he could not, he began only to mew before Mortals in his own family or to Elders who addressed him, and later by the time Akhlísa learned to talk, he learned that many of the people of the land mocked him and thought him stupid for not being able to talk. The Reavers pointed to him and laughed in the same way and cried out – Wordless! Mute! Stupid! Take the child aside. We fight now. –
– Mew mew mew – Puîyus chanted with a bow, and he invited them to the fortress, to eat and dine with him, if only they would surrender. The warriors were about to come and slay the reavers, but Puîyus halted them with a look, he wished all to be invited to his table.
– We do not speak joculator, scaramouche! Bark bark bark! – laughed the Reavers. – We shall burn your fortresses and take what food remains. We shall slay all your families, your women shall be our servants, your land shall be ash, this shall all be a monument to Kàrijoi’s despair. –
Ixhúja kicked aside a severed head and drew a sword, for it was time to start the ritual executions. She hoped Puîyus would let her do it this time. Sometimes Puîyus did not let her have any fun at all.
Puîyus squeezed his fingers togther and mewed the louder and told them, Surrender at once and your lives shall be spared. All must have a chance to fight against the Winter falling upon all things.
– We fear nothing, certainly not a waif like you! – snarled the Reavers.
Ixhúja came froward and placed an hand on Puîyus’ shoulder to tell him, They are lost. Shall we pop out their eyen together? I want all the big brown ones, I love how they explode when stabbed.
Puîyus bit his lower lip, for his entire life he had been commanded to obey his Father and his Elders and the Emperor, why did others have such difficulty in obeying when it meant saving a life? He called out again and held up his hand, but the Reavers continued to jeer at him, and Puîyus stomped the beachsands again and again, and the waters were hissing, and the waves were parting. The Tyèntha reavers just laughed all the harder. Puîyus began stomping the ground harder and harder, until fires were arising of the sands, and the ground beginning to quake, and whenever his foot struck the ground, lightning was branching up within him.
– Our spleen is set, our wrath is kindled, our hearts are hot, our necks are stiff, our pride is ice – laughed the Reavers. – We cannot surrender to a child, we shall arise and slay you all. Your land is ours. Your death is nigh. –
Puîyus kept his face a cold and stern masque, he could feel tension in the air, he knew that the Warriors of Jaràqtu were ready to strike the Reavers at any moment and impale them and leave their bodies as rotting food for fishes and ravens and sharks, he knew that the priests were whispering their dirges of repentance and hoping by some miracle that the enemies would turn and surrender, he knew that Ixhúja was wellpassed the point of slaying them all, but he thought that perhaps they just did not understand him. He began writing out some signs with his hands, he spelt out, Xhnípeuyànya paêkhejikh pòrnit xhroe! Repent ye now! But the Reavers continued to guffaw, and Puîyus thought that perhaps it was because he was using the rather childish suffix –anya rather than –oipil, so he spelt out Xhnípeuyoîpil paêkhejikh pòrnit xhroe! Still the enemies laughed. Maybe they understood not lroîxhmo cheremes, so he fell upon the sands and spelt out in large calligraphic letters, Xhnípeuyoîpil paêkhejikh pòrnit xhroe!
– Never! – laughed the Reavers.
Puîyus came up from the sands and wiped some from his knees. He was about to draw his glass daisho, but then thought, that if indeed he had to be the Emperor, he might as well draw Kàrijoi’s solar sword, and bursting out from the fires of the sword were growing fingers and sparkling flairs and numbers bleeding outwards. He nodded to the Reavers to tell them just to bow or nod or do anything.
Ixhúja was was filing her purple nails. Do you just want me to start strangling them?
– Mew – Puîyus chanted.
– We fight! – laughed the Reavers.
Puîyus stomped the ground, the beach broke apart beneath him, shafts of fire were arising, ocean was rolling outwards and falling into the fires, but it only fed it all the more, the ocean itself was roaring, walls of steam slowly crackling outwards and snaking out unto the Tyèntha enemies.
– Mew! – Puîyus intoned.
– After we slay you, we shall find your Princesses, we shall make them our slaves, they shall polish the claws of our feet, they shall butcher meat for us, unholy blood touching their fingers – growled the carnivorous Reavers among the Khlitsaîyart.
– Mew! – Puîyus intoned, and he stomped open the earth and fire and waves, and so tremulous was the ground become, that some of the tyèntha reavers were falling upon their knees not in fear or surrender but because of the breaking of the land.
– Die! – hissed the Reavers.
– Mew! –
– Never! –
– Mew! –
– Never! –
Puîyus ran upwards, he was spinning through the air, the sword blazed outwards with long growling loops of orange and red, numbers and lava flairs sparkling outwards from the hilt, and he cried out unto the Reavers one more time – Mew! –
– Non serviēmus! We shall not serve! – screamed the Reavers.
Puîyus disappeared in the growing flames and the crash of the earth and sea and sky. Ixhúja walked forwards, she signaled unto the brave Warriors of Jaràqtu to back away, and the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm remained still but ready to aid if new Emperor, if only they they knew where he was.
Fires arose. Puîyus was inside the fire and he was plucking up the Reavers one by one, but the fires did not consume him, they just danced upon his brow and upon the very surface of his dreamcloak, licking and balletic but harming him not. To the Reavers his eyen were like unto the unblinking compound eyen of the Dæmons, they thought that Puîyus’ arm was bale and torment, it was midnight unending, he was fire and ice, and he was very swift as he cut them down, faster than any mortal could see. To the priests and warriors upon the shores all they could see was that a Reaver arose in agony and its head and limbs just fell apart, for Puîyus and his sword were barely visible in the fires, to their sight some of the Khlitsaîyart were crying out and grasping their chest as sword erupted right through it, and brilliant growing clouds of red erupted from their jaws. Some of the Khlitsaîyart were simply dying of fiery fright, the doom upon them all, others managed to live long enough to feel Puîyus’s sword inside their own hearts and stomaches, for many he was strangling with their own entrails before he threw them down into the fires, and in their own terror and unrepetance pornìtaxúng, as Puîyus tore them apart and in waves of blood threw them down into the flames, and he called down unto the waves and sand to swamp down upon them, and a few dying and twitching Khlitsaîyart were sinking down and drowning within, and Puîyus looked up and called down unto the Ravens circling high within the mist of the whispering mountains, and the Ravens began the low dance of their descent and they fell down upon what was left of the Khlitsaîyart and began devouring them all, and some of the reavers were washing out into the waves and others sank down into the fires that buttress up all the worlds, and they spun around and around unto the dark flames unto where the Time Dæmons dwell. And Puîyus walked out unto the waves and foam and washed the blood off of him, Khlitsaîyart blood he always found so dark and sticky, and for some reason quite unpleasant this day. The Emperor’s blood was bursting outwards with crowns of fire, and wondering what would happen, he dipped it into the waves, and all of the flames at once became waves upon wave of foam, and rippling muscles of numbers, and if Suns could be composed of liquidic water, than like unto this sword they would appear. He sheathed the sword and walked back unto the shore. Ixhúja was dancing among the ravens, from afar Puîyus could hear that they were laughing together, and she was playing with the ravens and taking a knife and heating it in the spilling blood of the tyèntha and using the knife she was popping out the large brown eyen one by one and stabbing them and holding them up to the ravens for their feast, and all the ravens and Ixhúja giggled together in glee. Puîyus trudged up to the shore. The warriors were bowing to him, warriors of all the species whom he had rescued thus far, and the priests were singing for the lost souls.
– The Crown Prince is exceeding merciful – the priests were saying.
Ixhúja smiled and pipped out a few more eyen and rolled them in her hands and let them bleed and jiggle about. She liked the large and vacuous eyen, they rolled about as bubbles, but then the smaller heavier eyen had their own charm, they were all like so many wet gems in her palm, perfect and natural jewelry that they were. Puîyus came up unto the shore and rested his brow against Khwixhethateîqa the ostridge’s neck, and the wings of the dyal reached out and held Puîyus for a few moments and just hoped that their master was not feeling too bad for hurting those who deserved to die. Ixhúja ripped out a few more eyen and tossed them before the three-legged ravens, she wanted to keep playing with them but she could see that she would have to take Puîyus back to the fortress, so she turned to the corvids tulugaq and winking at them told them that she would return to play with them later, perhaps in the depths of the midnight, and she ran up and came to Puîyus and helped him upon Khwixhethateîqa’s back, and she sate down beside him and held him up, and she whistled unto Xheresafhènitha to come with her, so that they could right out untowards the great walls and pyramids of the rath on the iron mountain.
That was fun, Ixhúja gurgled unto herself. Wasn’t that a pleasant day? She tapped Puîyus hand a few times, but he just nodded, he was barely even playing with the feathers of the ostridge. Ixhúja tried to think of a topic of conversation but could only think of the battle. The gigantic tyèntha reavers can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, we used to have them in Khnìntha, before all the Crimson Moons were ruined by the hand of the Emperor, those reavers are so large and muscled, just as they walk about they can crush us underclaw. One has to be quite nimble to avoid them. It’s splendid thought that we have so many Khlitsaîyart upon your side in your army, we will need their huge strength in whatever battle there is to come.
Puîyus nodded, he was hearing all that Ixhúja was purring, how could he not, with his ears so utterly sharp. Ixhúja played with his ear and was asking him, So does one want to go to one’s harīm quarters yet? The stables are nice with the plantimals, and duty is always paramount, but it is far more pleasant in the perfumed rooms of the harem, don’t you want to stay there? You won’t be reminded too much of the battle anymore. Puîyus just sighed in response. Ixhúja looked up and saw that the various ēoreds of warriors were accompanying them and were telling each other the story of how Puîyus offers mercy, he always does, and some accept and others do not and are plunged down into fire and sand and wave. Ixhúka poked upon Puîyus golden torq. Puîyos! Puîyos! Listen to me. We shall be entering the fortress soon and Akhlísa will be there and she’s driving me a little crazy right now, would you mind just calling her wife and kissing her on the lips a few times so I don’t have to hear her complaints any longer? I’m this close to just thrashing her about. Also, I don’t quite think that Éfha understands that she does not have the harem under her control, she keeps thinking that she can be nice enough to her Sisters, she just needs to start beating them into discipline, if I may offer my advice. The next time Karuláta disobeys your Princess, I hope that Éfha ties her up with a belt and gives her some serious purple wounds that will take wounds to heal. In fact, if you put me in charge of the harem, I promise to beat Karuláta at least once a month until she obeys. And I’ll beat Siêthiyal a few times too, just for fun.
The ostridges were entering the courtgarth, frost dipping upon all of the cobblestones and mosaics, and snowflakes were falling down again as darkness was lying heavy upon all of the welkin. Ixhúja reached o'er and played with Puîyus’ ears a few times and in the language of wild beasts sniffling and smintheus and snarling asked him, So what do you think of Kàrula’s earrings? They’re just wonderful, don’t you think? And I know you just love the jewel I set in her navel, you could barely keep your eye off of her when she was dancing before you, that must mean that you love it. Oh look who’s there waiting for you!
Puîyus looked down to his hands, and upon one finger there used to lie the pyetíwa signet ring unto the Sweqhàngqu Clan, back in the days when he had been Sweqhàngqu and that warrior people still had a future, and now he was wondering why it was that none of the warriors had heard from his Father or Grandfather Pátifhar for so long, let alone Khiêro of Old, the first of the Warrior Caste, the one who truly should be leading the army because of his age and honor. For a moment Puîyus was hoping that he would look up to the ramps and see his Father standing up there and waiting for him, Íngìkhmar in his fluent white and red armor, the sword chryselephantelectrum strapped unto his back, his tresses long and melancholy blue, his eyen winedark and sad, but Puîyus just knew that when he saw his Father, that when Íngìkhmar saw his Son, that at last everything would be right, and Jaràqtu would feel like home once again. Puîyus looked up, and saw that upon the crest of the ramp Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa were standing and waiting for him, Éfhelìnye was clasping her hands together and looking up in wonder, and Akhlísa shoved Éfhelìnye aside and squealing ran down the ramps, her earrings swinging from side to side, her blouse short enough to reveal the jewel in her navel, and before Puîyus knew it, Akhlísa came up unto wind striding Khwixhethateîqa and Ixhúja hoisted her up and set her upon Puîyus’ lap, and Akhlísa reached o'er and started kissing Puîyus’ neck and face many many times.
Akhlísa wrapped her arms about Puîyus’ torc and was almost dragging him down and saying – Oh how I missed you so! Let’s go back inside. Let’s dance. – Akhlísa rested her head against his chest and just held him tight. Ixhúja looked to Puîyus and puckered up her lips and pointed to Akhlísa and gave him a look that told him, Hurry up and kiss her so she’ll leave me alone! I have other tasks than in keeping our crazy family together.
Puîyus picked up Akhlísa and carried her down from the ostridge, and Akhlísa murmured – Did you have a good battle! Did you kill lots of horrible dishonored enemies! I hope you ripped them apart and sent them down to the void, anyone dumb enough to lift up sword against you deserves to die! You look tired, do you want me to draw a bath for you? I’m supposed to serve you, I can sing for you and dance for you and wash your hair and scratch your back. Do you want me to scratch your back? I think you want me to scratch your back. Let’s go inside, I’ll scratch your back. –
Puîyus carried Akhlísa up the ramps even as Éfhelìnye was running down to him, and the Princess tried to hug Puîyus but Akhlísa kept pushing and shoving her away. – Puey your first wife is bothering me, can’t you send her away or something? Let her do your laundry or something. –
– What’s laundry? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– She’s just useless – Akhlísa chanted.
Ixhúja was about to lead Xheresafhènitha and Khwixhethateîqa away, but she ran up and plucked Akhlísa out of Puîyus’ arms and growling unto her told her, Why don’t you go and teach Éfhelìnye about khwiyortòrpa, about laundry, especially since you, oh Concubine, are just so very efficious in the harem.
– Sounds like hard work – Akhlísa muttered.
– Do you want to rest in the library? – asked Éfhelìnye. – The Clan Poriêrii have left us a small library here in the middle of the fortress, the chairs are very large and comfortable. Let’s go inside, and I can read aloud to you. –
Puîyus thought that this was as good an idea as any other, at least in the silence and contemplation of the library he could think of something else save the unrepetent reavers upon the sands. Ixhúja was leading the phororhacoi away back untowards the stables. Princess Éfhelìnye lead the way to the library, the acolytes and warriors scattering unto either side, and the doors of the library drifted upwards and revealed a room of woodlined shelves and chairs comfortable enough for resting and reading and listening to good stories. Éfhelìnye came to the fireplace and placing her hands close to the wood was surprised to find fire just sparkling of its own accord. Akhlísa looked around and crossed her arms and chanted – Books are so boring! Puey, you’re not going to stay in here, are you? –
– I think Puey just wants some rest – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– If I were Emperor I’d fight my glorious battles during the day – Akhlísa chanted – and then I’d come back to my fortress and feast on all the cake and iced cream that I could stuff into my mouth, while a thousand beautiful concubines served me chocolates and candies and danced before me, now that’s what an Emperor should do, a good Jaràqtun Emperor. Oh, and then I’d parade mine enemies before me and have them strangled and executed in splendid away, I’d want mine enemies to tremble before my face. Does anyone have any candy? –
– I think Fhólus and Aîya were making some in my room – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Um … someone already ate all that candy – chanted Akhlísa. – And it wasn’t very good, let me tell you. Too bitter for me. –
– Maybe you could teach the Traîkhiim to cook some of the marvelous little candies that you and Fhermáta used to make. –
– That could be fun … and it’s boring in here. Okay, bye bye! Bye! Love you! – Akhlísa spun around and was laughing all the while and slammed the door of the library and came running down the halls. Puîyus leaned his head back in the chair and could hear the smaller sound of scampering Traîkhiim feet, and so many Traîkhiim arising and chasing each other around.
– Karuláta does have a lot of energy sometimes – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted.
Puîyus nodded, for it was quite true, Akhlísa was rambunctious and ay-hyper. He closed his eyen and just rested and began drowning away the slight sound of the shuffling acolytes and the insects walking upon the ceiling and the snowflakes flowing from the clouds and the migration of trees, and the movement of the gigantic whispering mountains and the shift of all the dimension of Jaràqtu as it danced through the aristocratic worlds of the Dreamtime. Éfhelìnye drew up a chair and rested her head against his chest and just tried to let him feel a little of her comfort, and later on she drew out a book of fairy tales and turning the pages found something which she knew would delight him, and she read to him the story of the young man who traveled out and found the Bejeweled Dragon and he rescued his village from it, and took out the jewels and made them into a necklace and won the hand of the Princess, and they were betrothed and married and had many children and grandchildren in the years to come. And Puîyus’ heart was lightened just a little, and he thought less of the blood sands of the shores of the seas of Sqasqáli, and less tired was he become.
Éfhelìnye arose and took his hand, and invitedhim toa rise of his chair, and they held hands together, and they began to dance together, one of the folk dances that she had seen in Jaràqtu in its happier days, such as in the betrothal of the Tásel cousin earlier in the day, she was spinning around in the steps of classical ballet, such as maidens of the Dreamtime, the Land of Story had been dancing since the wedding of Khriîno and Pfhentókha, the first Emperor and Empress of all the Land. And Éfhelìnye squeezed Puîyus’ hands and she rested her head next to his, and drew his arms around her, and listened to his breathing, and hoped that if she could keep him content for just an hour longer, he may purr again, a sound which she had not heard of him in quite some time. And the Princess closed her eyen, and wished that this moment could last for all time.
The door of the library came swinging open. Éfhelìnye kept her eyen clenched shut, but this time knew that it was not going to be ad ream at all. Akhlísa was storming within and along with her was come the gaggling Traîkhiim perhaps an hundred of them in number, and they were all carrying drums and beating upon them and singing out – Fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa! Fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa! Fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa! Fhwa fhwa Puîyos! –
Puîyus turned around and looked to the Traîkhiim and for some reason as he thought about the endless chaos that was come into his life, and the Reavers unable to understand him at least for a time, his thoughts were turned to communication and its pitfalls. He thought that it may easier to communicate with wasps and bees in their dancing, with ants in the long and flowing termitaries in their language of touch and gesture and embrace, and all of the fishes in their songs of gills and the beating of their fins, and the humor of dinosaurs swift and terrible and the lulling of the aurochsen with their mysteries and sagas, and the long genealogies which skunks sing one to another, and the chiming of ice pterodactyls, and the epics of flowers and their love stories and of the pæons of shamrocks and the adventures of cherry lotus blossoms, perhaps he could easier sing unto the bubbles and lichen and swamp, perhaps he could walk among the ancient luich and the dead seabottoms of this land, perhaps he could open up the earth and sing unto the magma that held up all of the dreamlands, and become part of the ancient geologic poesy of flame and heat and solar flair, and as he traveled as light and became light perhaps only then would he be able to make himself understood by the various peoples, and the Traîkhiim who were more determined for celebration than to listening to authority.
Akhlísa jumped up upon the table and shoved aside some books and chanted – Boring time is o'er! I’m here! And we’re all going to dance! – The Traîkhiim were laughing as they were setting up several more light bubbles and set them upon the shelves and about the curving ancestrial statues set in the corners, and Puîyus could see that Akhlísa’s face was covered in veils, and veils were about her shoulder, and earrings were crawling about her ears, and he just knew that the jewel still lay in her belly button. Akhlísa was laughing to herself and hugging herself as the gaggling Traîkhiim arose and began shoving furniture aside and they began beating their drums with a soft and slow deep primordial thud. And so the Traîkhiim arose and began spinning around in the beginning of their dance.
Princess Éfhelìnye turned around. – Perhaps I should go now. –
– Mew? – Puîyus asked. He took a couple of steps towards her.
– If you want to spend time with her … then .. then I want you to. I never want to make you unhappy. –
– Yeah, you can go now, Éfhelìnye – chanted Akhlísa as she slipped off the table and ran up to Puîyus and told him – Okay Puey, now it’s time to do the alien dance. Now, place your hands upon my hips. –
– !! – Puîyus chanted.
Akhlísa grabbed his hands and chanted – Don’t you know the law, and it’s not just any law, it’s syìwu, it’s the Emperor’s Law upon pain of death, and you’re the Emperor or will be. Only the Emperor may touch his concubine. – She took his hands and placed them on her hips and chanted – Hold me, you’re the only one who can touch me! –
– I … I have to go! – Éfhelìnye cried and she began to run. The Traîkhiim were pouring out towards her, they were crowding upon the shelves and knocking o'er the books and filling up the chairs and desk and crawling up and down the glass of the windows, but they were not still, they were leaping about each other and flapping their wings in unison and turning around and stomping their feet at the same time, faster and faster, and as the drumbeat arose, wilder and wilder, the Traîkhiim dancing and tumbling about Éfhelìnye’s shins and legs and tripping her as she tried to escape.
Akhlísa started tearing her veils aside and placed some of them on Puîyus’ head and laughed to find him so funny looking. She kissed his face a few times, but then jumping up upon a chair chanted – Do you notice anything different about me! Guess! Look! I’ll give you an hint, look at how short my skirt is! Here, look, Puey, look! Are you looking! – Akhlísa spun around a few times, she was wearing a completely different outfit now, for she had been mending and weaving all this day, and the hem of her skirt almost revealed her knees, and the sleeves of her skirt almost revealed her elbows, and the jewel of her navel was quite bare. – What do you think, it’s great and wonderful isn’t it! Look at how grown up I am, look look look look look! –
Éfhelìnye fell down, but the Traîkhiim were rolling into the library in such numbers that they were a living carpet of them pulling her upwards, and so she rolled out upon the movement of their wings, and they arose, they were turning and kicking and leaping in their dance, and sometimes the Traîkhiim just launched themselves unto her arms and legs and hugged and licked her, for they loved the Empress with an uncontrolleable affection which they could only express in dance. Éfhelìnye turned around and saw that Akhlísa was spinning around and dancing in quite a barbarious fashion like unto nothing that the Princess could have conceived, Akhlísa tossed aside the last of the veils upon her head and was shaking her hips and blowing kisses to Puîyus, and the only words which Éfhelìnye could say in response were – !! – and then as she fell out of the study – ?? –. And then she turned and ran and dashed into the harem and hid herself beneath many layers of blanket and tried to stop herself from weeping all the night away.
Battle was come close to the fortress. The walls were shaking, and the windows rattled, and explosions from miles away were great enough so that all of the rath was breathing as if struck by heavy mallets. Princess Éfhelìnye no longer cared. She was all alone and hiding under her bed. She preferred to be alone now. She did not care what Akhlísa was doing, or so she told herself at least thrice a minute. Ixhúja could go have her joy in battle, Siêthiyal would check up on me every hour or so, I don’t know what she’s doing and don’t care. I like it down here. I barely even have to listen to the battle. Alone, under my bed. No Sisters by marriage to hurt me e'er again. Maybe I should just live down here. I can set up a little hearth, I can bring down some books, maybe a light bubble, just wrap a blanket about myself, I’d be happy to spend the rest of my life beneath my bed, plus I’ve had Puey check down here several times for Monsters and nothing threatens me at all. I don’t want to know what Akhlísa is doing, she can go dance scantily clad all she wants for all I care I hope she enjoys herself wriggling around like that, showing off all the skin. Was Puey looking at her? He might have been. Should I ask him? I can’t ask anything like that, that would embarrass him, I would never want to do such a thing. What if he starts thinking of her not as a younger foster sibling but as a future wife? What am I going to do? All the other maidens who’ve tried to kiss him have gone away or accepted that I and I alone love my Puey, but Kàrula’s not doing anything at all, in fact she keeps hugging me and calling me her best friend and telling me how much she adores me. I must be the only one in the worlds who does not like this little arranged marriage. Is there anything wrong with me? No. Absolutely not. I don’t care what she’s doing, dancing around like that, how’d she even get the jewel in her belly button. Ixhúja did it, I just know it, that clockwork mind of hers. I wonder whether belly buttons hurt. I remember in the Forbidden Gardens Kàrula was showing off her belly button to me. Do they even serve a purpose? Appearently for jewelry, or at least she’s invented a purpose, I don’t know. She’s she dancing like that? I thought the Traîkhiim were my friend. I wish Puey were not so sad, am I the only one noticing that because she’s not all she can do is dance and cut off layers of her clothing. She was wearing less than Ixhúja used to wear! Puey is mine mine mine mine mine! If she thinks for one moment that I’m sharing him, I may just have to do something drastic. I can’t do anything drastic. I want Puey to be happy and I love her she’s my dearest friend. What am I going to do? Éfhelìnye rolled upon her back and stared up unto the darkness beneath the bed. I’m being punished, there can be no other explanation. My Father is doing this in punishment for defying him, for running away from home. This all makes perfect sense. Father knew that Akhlísa would sneak into the Khwònojhe, the Forbidden Gardens also. He had all this planned out from the beginning, it started with the three of us there, in the place of reeds and flowers neverdying, before the dragon seas, and Puey was there to rescue me, and Akhlísa hugged me and told me that we’d be friends for ever and I believed her she was the first maiden I’ve e'er met she promised to be my friend and she betrayed me she did it on purpose she told me she did she did she did I can’t believe she did that and yet she still hugs me everyday and tells me that she loves me that I’m her cater-cousin and she calls me Sister as if the same Mother had borne us.
The windows shook again from the ærial explosions, and Princess Éfhelìnye could feel the outlying tremors reaching unto the floor where she scrouched alone in the darkness. She hoped that Puîyus were doing well in the battle, usually he managed to keep the hostile warships far away enough from the fortress that she barely even knew of the battle, save for the sad imprint in his eyen, but this even battle was come, and every few moments she heard the tumbling of the plasma torpedoes and the distinctive whoosh of living ships and the screams of the already dying forest. She clasped her hands together and whispered a prayer unto the Ancestors and the Naturgeists of the Land and high and holy Immortals themselves, and just to boot her Father divine Kàrijoi if he chanced to be listening and in good humor this night. She heard the movement of pillows and sheets above her, and the padding of little hand-feet and someone giggling – Where question the she? Somewhere around here? – – You look under the sleep bed ship? That where I hide when upset? – – Yes yes yes somewhere down here. –
A couple of upside down heads distended before Éfhelìnye, the light green of Fhólus and the soft pink of Aîya and they both cried out – There the new Empress is hiding beneath her bed. You okay? You upset? Did anybody step on your hand-feet? –
– I’m fine – Éfhelìnye sighed. – I just want to be alone. –
– Sometimes I hide too when upsetted – Fhólus chanted.
– Lovely night we’re having – Aîya chanted. – Almost as lovelified as … – Her voice was drowned out the screaming of the warships somewhere above them, and the cries of soldiers tumbling down through the burning daises of the vessels.
– I’m afraid the battle does block our view of the plenilunes – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Battle? Here? – asked Fhólus.
– Didn’t even notice – chanted Aîya. – Funny the things one doesn’t notice when setting up the … –
– Don’t mention it! –
– Ah yes almost forget did. Won’t tell her about it at all. –
– She’s not invited. –
– Would really hurt her feelings to know. –
Fhólus turned her head to Éfhelìnye and chanted – One a completely different dance, we just thought we’d tell you that you are no longer the most adored female Færie in the harem. –
– We thought you had a right to know – Aîya chanted.
Éfhelìnye rolled upon her side. – Oh. – She curled up into a ball and clasped her knees. – There are only four of us though. –
– Ah … and you the least adored – chanted Fhólus.
– We thought you had a right to know – Aîya chanted.
– May I ask when did this happen? – Éfhelìnye wondered.
– Well … not to hurt your feelings or anything – Fhólus chanted – But you not popular at all. –
– If there were five women in the harem, you’d be five – Aîya chanted. – If eleven, you’d be eleven. If a thousand, you’d be a thousand. You always be the least popular one. –
– Not to hurt your feelings. –
– We thought you had a right to know. –
– I see – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I had no idea there was a adoration ranking. It sounds a lot like thòkhwa qlaêkh, anarchy-democracy-debauchery, a general disrespect for moderation. If you don’t know the word thòkhwa qlaêkh you may know the word lruîkh qlaêkh, anarchy-democracy-disrespect-to-elders. –
– Is that what we doing? – asked Fhólus.
– Without a doubt yes – chanted Aîya.
– Okay Princess, here the story. See, you the Empress, you the Divine Mother of all the Traîkhiim, you rescued us from slavery, you toppled the might of the Qhíng, you resurrected us from the dead. We very thankful. We love you, we respect you, we worship you. But, you not very popular. You just a little dull. –
– You so quiet and you write and read your book, so quiet quiet quiet we barely even hear you, we fall asleep at your passing. –
– But we still venerate you and worship you . –
– And we always obey you. –
Éfhelìnye rested her chin on her hands. – And yet you say I’m pfhaipìmaxúng. –
– Such an harsh word, unadored … we prefer to say … what’s the word … tenuipfhaîpim, you are adored of none – Fhólus chanted.
– Can’t we think of a more polite way to say it? – Aîya wondered. – Unopaingalei pfhaipìmejikh, we apologuise but you are the opposite of being adored. –
– I don’t like any of those terms either – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Khnólalei ter pfhaîpim – chanted Fhólus. – You are indeed not adored. –
– Khnólyalei ter pfhaîpim – chanted Aîya. – You are emphatically not adored. –
– Those last two terms were just rude – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– But very true – chanted Fhólus.
– We just thought you had a right to know – Aîya chanted.
– Have I done anything to warrant this civil uprising against me? – Éfhelìnye asked.
Fhólus and Aîya looked to each other and grinned. – It very simple – chanted Fhólus. – Puîyos’ other younger and prettier wife is just so fun, she gives us all the candy we can eat, she let’s us dance all the time, and she so very beautiful, long golden hair, she so lovely we all just love her. –
– We love her with perfect Traîkhiim love – chanted Aîya. – She try all our dances and let us just go wild. We happy you resurrected us and saved our lives and let us take refuge here in your fortress and haven’t burnt us alive as sacrifice as is your right, but little Akhlísa is just so lovely and fun and we love her and she’s pretty too. –
– If I were a Færie man I’d marry her and have her babies. –
– Me too if I were a Færie male I’d marry her and have all of her babies. –
– I want her babies! –
– We both can have her babies! She pretty, I want her little Triîmeling! –
Éfhelìnye clasped her hands together and chanted – I’m sorry but it does not quite work that way, the female carries the child, not the male. Karuláta will have to bare her own children. –
– Female carry the babies? – Aîya asked.
– That … that just weird! – Fhólus chanted. She reached o'er and began whispering into Aîya’s ears and for a moment the two of them whispered to each other just right out of Éfhelìnye’s hearing. The Princess listened to the screams of battle and the rattling of the window, and at last the Traîkhiim turned back to her and chanted – So let me get this understanding. When Puîyos and Karuláta have their fifty babies … –
– Karuláta and Puîyos are not having children together – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Now we really confused – chanted Aîya.
– But the female carry the baby? – asked Fhólus.
– Yes – chanted Éfhelìnye. – Just because we’ll have a new Emperor doesn’t mean that will change. –
Fhólus and Aîya looked to each other and then to Éfhelìnye, and Fhólus chanted – We just naturally assumed that Puîyos carry the child. He just seem very strong. Probably a good dancer. –
– Wait a minute – chanted Aîya. – If the female carry the baby, does that mean that Puey can have babies with his wives, and the wives carry them! We thought it always harder to catch the male because the male didn’t want to lay all the eggs. –
– Plus lots of little biting babies with their beaks and horns and wings – chanted Fhólus.
– So Karuláta will sit on a pile of eggs and Puîyos the Father? – asked Aîya.
– Now I’m getting confused – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Aliens, who can understand them? – chanted Fhólus.
– Inscrutible and weird – chanted Aîya. – Why don’t they just use dance to arrange their marriages, make far more sense than dreams and chanting. –
– So were you about to tell me why I’m so suddenly unadored in the harem? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– Not of sudden – chanted Fhólus. – You never were most adored. –
– We just thought you had a right to know – chanted Aîya.
– See, Akhlísa is just cute and pretty and we love her and she let us throw our torches about and trample on the floor and do whatever we like. So she the most adored, she number one. –
– And you the least adored of all, although we still love and worship you. –
– Now number two, she have to be Siêthiyal. She pay us to be her spies, and if we disobey her, she say she carve us up into little pieces. So we have to adore her. –
– Because if we don’t, she drown us all in the sea. –
– And she’ll do it too. She the mean mean mean middle Sister. –
– Plus she has spies watching the spies. And other spies watching the spies watching the spies. When we not staring at each other in the harīm we running her errands. Gets very confusing. But better than disobeying her and ending up at the bottom of the sea. –
– So that just leave Ixhúja as number three – chanted Fhólus. – We scared of her. She crush peoples’ heads without remorse. –
– So we scared not to adore her. –
– Therefore you the least popular female in all the harem. –
– Not too popular at all. –
– I’m glad you told me – chanted Éfhelìnye. – What a wonderful day I’m having. I wish I were dead. – The floor shook a little from the explosions of the battle drawing closer unto them, and the tapestries were rattling and a few of them began falling off the walls in tremendous collapses that startled the Traîkhiim.
– Oh you can’t die yet – chanted Fhólus. – Now that Puîyos not baring his own children, and that just seem lazy to us you them, you can’t die because Akhlísa has to lay all of Puîyos’ eggs, a big mountain of little bairnlings, and you have to live long enough to take care of them. –
– Plus whenever we get in trouble you always take care of us – chanted Aîya. – Remember when you resurrected us. That was awesome, we were just fluttering in the twilight, and your dance reached out to us and brought us back, and hurray! –
– You can die after Akhlísa have all of Puîyos’ babies. –
– She Puîyos’ younger and prettier wife. –
– She’s only a year younger than I – Éfhelìnye chanted. – And I’m pretty too. –
– You gorgeous like sun and moon and snow and cake – chanted Fhólus. – But Akhlísa is just cute. Little and cute. –
– And very adored. Did you know she the most adored in all the harem. You the least adored. Just thought we’d tell you – Aîya chanted.
Fhólus and Aîya started screaming when the windows were shaking all the louder, and outside the deep thud of battle, the living ships falling and the cries of the cannon arose crescendic, and when the Traîkhiim would not calm down or be silenced, Princess Éfhelìnye reached up from beneath the bed and pulled them down with her and held them tight in her arms and rubbed and kissed them until their breathing became a bit more easy and they stopped shaking in terror.
– I don’t want you two to be afraid – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Puey’s out there fighting for us, he told me that he would always protect me. –
– So you saying that if we stay close to you, we get saved also? – asked Fhólus.
– We like that – chanted Aîya. – You still the least adored female in the harem, but we like being protected. –
– Oh right now I’m sure my Puey is out there casting his enemies low before his face and saving his troops and winning the field, and my cousin Ixhúja is probably doing her small part to help him in the battle – Éfhelìnye chanted as she kissed the tnoaqteûpta slaves a few times. – Maybe Ixhúja is fetching him water and wiping his brow, I don’t know, she’s such a good little helper. –
– From what we see she a terrible fight warrior crush girl dæmon thing – chanted Fhólus.
– She break entire armed armies with a dirty look – chanted Aîya.
– Yes she provies some small aid to Puey as he fights majestic, strong, supernal for me – Éfhelìnye chanted. The floro began to shake all the harder and the Traîkhiim hid themselves in her arms for a few moments, and the thunderous roar rumbled through the layers of the harem towers. After a time, as the sonorous battle song began to fade away, Fhólus and Aîya popped up a few of their twisting necks and looked from side to side and blinked and their wings played with Éfhelìnye’s hair.
– We can’t stay hiding with you in the dark beneath your monsterless bed all the long night – Fhólus said. – We have to prepare for the dance party. –
– You see, Siêthiyal made us promise not tell you that you weren’t invited to the party – Aîya chanted. – So we came here not to tell you. A lot of negative in that those the last sentences. –
– Negatives confuse us – chanted Fhólus. – Sometimes the same and sometimes the other just so many more more more. –
– What else can you tell me about this carouselambra? – asked Éfhelìnye. – I’ll make sure I don’t know about it. –
– Okay here the whole story – chanted Aîya. – For last few days Akhlísa the younger and prettier wife been planning this huge Traîkhiim dance party and we gathering drums and torch fires and we setting up the hall it going to be big all of us Traîkhiim going we been gathering up more on the shore and master Puîyos finding more and so huge crowd huge! –
– It a big dance for Puîyos’ Starday you know – chanted Fhólus.
– But problem is that Akhlísa the concubine, you remember her, she the prettier and younger wife, she was a gift from the Elders she Puîyos’ Starday present, and she wanted to remind Puîyos of that that that that she the gift see she the gift that is given pandoûra given of all! –
– Siêthiyal told us not to tell you because she thought your feelings be broken, she think for some crazy reason you still angry jealous with your younger and prettier rival, you may go into some murdherous killing rage or something. Probably with knife. Big sharp kitchen knife. –
– Yes, I’ve heard tale that kitchen knives can be rather parlous sometimes – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Akhlísa hoping to get a big kiss out of all this effort she put into the party that what she told us a big sloppy kiss on the mouth so we not supposed to let you know because you probably go completely nuts and start killing everyone – chanted Fhólus.
– Big kiss – chanted Aîya.
– Lots of kisses. –
– Right here, on mouth. –
– That’s how you aliens kiss, neh? –
– Smooch smooch? –
– Kissie kissie? –
– Kiss me, my Puîyos! –
– Oh Puîyos this is so sudden! –
– I think I understand what you’re trying to tell me – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Thank the Nomothete you do, it took them three hours to explain to us not to tell you anything at all – chanted Fhólus.
– Any other questions the question? – asked Aîya.
The Princess tustled the head feathers of the Traîkhiim thralls and asked – And where may this celebration be held? –
– Um … in the middle halls. Big bone fires. Light. Traîkhiim probably gathering there now – chanted Aîya.
– But you not invited – chanted Fhólus.
The ground shook again from violet and approaching explosions, and the Traîkhiim squeeled in fright, but the Princess held them and brushed them and did her best to calm them down. When the Traîkhiim were less afraid she chanted – May I ask you something? It doesn’t matter to me whether you tell Siêthiyal or Kàrula or anything else what I say, but I do wonder something. –
– Ask anything, oh Empress – chanted Fhólus. – We still love and worship you. –
– We just like everyone else better – chanted Aîya. – They either threaten us into obedience or let us dance in wild and crazy ways and keep us eternally hyper on candies! –
– What would you do were you in my position? – asked the Princess.
– Hiding friendless and alone in the dark under your bed? – asked Fhólus.
– I’d get help – chanted Aîya. – Serious help. –
– I mean … let’s say that, Aîya, you were in love with Fhólus – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Fhólus have her good qualities, but let’s not go crazy with her – chanted Aîya.
– But let’s say that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with her and live with her and love her. –
– Her? Um … okay, but she better be the last Traîkhiim in the mortal realms – Aîya muttered.
– Does that mean I have to love her back? – asked Fhólus.
– Now let’s say that a third Traîkhiim came and she was trying to separate you two and become more loved and adored, what would you do? – Éfhelìnye asked.
– Someone try to keep me away from my beloved? – gasped Aîya. – I take a sharp stone and slit all three of her throats, and as she dying I make her eat her own ear whisps. That how I deal with some rivalrous other Traîkhiim. –
– Always kill the xhlùngakh suîqwe, the rival Traîkhiim – Fhólus nodded in agreement.
– Let’s say that this third Traîkhiim were a sibling of yours – chanted Éfhelìnye chanted. – And not just a sibling but an khórlkhi a water sibling in accordance with the laws of your people. What would you do then? –
Fhólus and Aîya looked to each other and then to the Princess and chanted – Then kill the water sibling khórlkhi without remorse. –
– Ur … – chanted Éfhelìnye. – But if the water sibling and I are great friends? –
– All the more to kill her – chanted Fhólus. – No warning. No words. Rip her open. Devour her brains. Pull out her heart gizzard and feast on it. –
– Eating her will make you stronger – chanted Aîya – then you strong enough to make all your eggs for Puîyos. You very little and puny, I think you need to start eating your rivals if you want to do the reproduction once you finally get old enough for that. –
– I’m not going to eat my rival – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Be sure to eat her children first – chanted Fhólus.
– Then eat her, alive if you can – chanted Aîya.
– That’s how Traîkhiim think. –
– That why we always have happy marriages. –
– Fhólus, I remember once you were telling me the story of the siblings Lyárs and Kòrmaka and their adventure with Pworsínei – chanted Princess Éfhelìnye. – That seems to be a story which may resonate with mine. –
– Lyárs of Khoyáqhu Xayáqhu and Kòrmaka of Khoyáqhu Xayáqhu were siblings and both loved Pworsínei of Khoyúkhta Xayúkhta – Fhólus chanted. – Great siblings. Great friends. Travel far and wide together. They great ancestors, man of us descended of them. –
– And how does the story end? – Éfhelìnye asked.
– Lyárs is eaten. Big feast, big dance. His or her body strength to Kòrmaka and Pworsínei, and from them many Triîmeling born, and many descendents – Fhólus chanted.
– Lyárs was a good sibling – chanted Aîya. – And example. Eat the rival. –
– I’m glad I’m not Traîkhiim – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I have no intention of eating or fighting anyone else, let alone family. –
– What we know, we just stupid Traîkhiim – Fhólus chanted.
– I don’t think you’re stupid – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I just think your minds and bodies are very different to mine. –
– Our Kèlor Masters call us stupid all the time. Lreufhayethyayòntet jhenúlu xhnir Pèqlor puníxhno, as dirty and stupid as a Traîkhiim necrogene. That what they say all the time – chanted Fhólus.
– The Xeriîqe called us stupid also – chanted Aîya. – They say we a stupid dangerous child race with infantile reptile brains. They say others have to take care of us, can’t do anything on our own, don’t even make cities or civilizations. –
– The Qlùfhem used to do tests on us before the blood sacrifice – chanted Fhólus. – They determine that among all the nations of the Real People, we Traîkhiim the dumbest. –
– Quite unnecessary – chanted Aîya.
– What do they know? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– The most brilliant bioscientist in all time and space that e'er served your Father? – asked Fhólus.
– I think they know quite a lot – chanted Aîya.
– I’m sure even the zodiographers can be wrong – chanted Éfhelìnye. – Why they picked the wrong side in the war, they declaired war against the Qhíng, and it’s taken them this long finally to decide to start following Puey. Think of how much smarter it would have been of them to follow Puey from the start when they still had their fleets and sky armadas and were not leaderless desparite refugees washed up here upon northron shores. –
– She right – chanted Fhólus.
– The zodiographers say we too stupid to rule ourselves, we need masters and parents – chanted Aîya. – Will you be our Mother? –
– Yes yes yes the Empress has to be our Mother! –
– Be our Mother! –
– I can try – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– It still won’t make you more adored than Puîyos’ better wife. –
– But we still like you. Just not as much. –
– I’m glad I can still be of some small service then. It sounds like the battle is migrating away from us. Perhaps you need to go and start setting up the celebration of which I know nothing at all – chanted Éfhelìnye as she wriggled out from beneath the dark bed, and she held up the Traîkhiiim and let them arise as pinpilinpauxa opening up their flower wings. – I’ll do my best to take care of you if you want me to – the Princess chanted. – Now, why don’t you go back to Siêthiyal and get back to work on all those errands she has for you. –
– Oh don’t want to anger her – chanted Aîya. – Mean middle Sister. Treat us slaves like slaves. –
– But still, she Number Two Female – chanted Fhólus.
– And we didn’t tell you nothing. –
– Nothing at all. –
Éfhelìnye smiled. – Nothing at all. – She opened up the door and watched them out. – Have fun! –
– We will it will be the best funnest superiorest party in all the land! – laughed both of the Traîkhiim. – Everyone going to be there, all the thousand Traîkhiim, only dopey Kèlor masters not attending. But they uuugly! – And Fhólus and Aîya wrapped a few of their necks together and began fluttering down the length of the hall and invented new sighs and mechanisms and screams for gaja giggling.
Éfhelìnye sate at the edge of the bed, and thought for a time. She listened to the explosions, the slow and crawling rumble of the battle, and the towers all shaking from side to side. She wondered what she could do, she had no intention of ruining Akhlísa’s little starday celebration, and yet she was not about to let Akhlísa start kissing her beloved Puîyus, especially not in front of three thousand Traîkhiim heads, impressionable and childlike in their sensations. She had no idea what to do with Akhlísa who had already put aside all of her adverse feelings for Éfhelìnye and was treating her almost as she did before, save she was growing careless in her feelings to the Princess with regards to Puîyus, Akhlísa certainly did not mean any harm at all, and not inviting the Princess was an act of mercy and not of malice. For a few moments Éfhelìnye just buried her head in her hands and thought. She could hear the sound of grinding motors outside, it must be a large fleet that was trying to reach Jaràqtu, and the Kháfha were sending up all their fleet throughout the sagala whispering mountains. She just hoped that Puîyus were doing fine. It was different for Siêthiyal and Akhlísa, they had grown up in the warrior caste and knew how to wait and hope and prayer, but Éfhelìnye was not very stoic, she knew, and anxiety was eating away at her spleen.
The door slid open. Siêthiyal stepped into the threshold, she was wearing the pink dress she had been mending these last few days. – Are you fine in here alone? – Siêthiyal asked. – I’m just helping some of the Traîkhiim clean an hall, but I want to check on you. –
– I’m just worrying about Puey, that’s all – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Oh don’t worry about him. Say, when the battle starts calming down, I’m sure Puey will be very tired and will want to go straight to bed, but Ixhúja was telling me that she wanted to spend all night with you, there were some books that she discovered in the southron wing of the fortress on the other side, she thought it would be fun to go camping up there. Wouldn’t you like to do that? –
– I suppose – chanted Éfhelìnye. She looked down to her hands.
– You can explain to her all your theories about the valency and dechticætiativeness of language, I’m afraid that your theories are a little beyond me, but she told me she’d like to hear them. – Siêthiyal smiled a perfect smile, and her eyen were sparkling. Éfhelìnye almost thought that she could see Puîyus’ face buried somewhere in hers, no, not quite, she could certainly see Mother Khwofheîlya’s face in a sea of darkness and seaweed.
– And what will you be doing this midnight, after the battle? – Éfhelìnye asked.
– I? The Vestal Virgins wanted me and Khlís to help the saurian Tèrefha doctors with the wounded, the Virgins were thinking that we could carry water and hold the washbowls and such. I don’t suppose you want to help us sew up the mangled bodies? There may be some blood, and the Doctors have started khmójhutha, amputating some of the worst cases … have you e'er assisted in a khmójhuthayàjhwen amputation? I’ll show you how we hold the screaming man down … –
– No, please. No thank you – Éfhelìnye was already feeling ill. She clutched her stomache and could still feel the outline of the stitches.
– I didn’t think so – Siêthiyal smiled. – If you do want to help with the amputations though, you could come downstairs. If I have any energy left after tonight, the holy Virgins were threatening to make me help me in weaving xùsti cratheneel, deathshrouds, oh how depressing. –
– I’ll be fine upstairs. –
– I’ll send Ixhúja up as soon as possible. –
Siêthiyal was turning as if about to leave, and Éfhelìnye looked up and chanted – Puey was telling me about one of his Doctors, a tsenatèrefha who may come from Khnìntha, by the cast of his speech. Puey was spelling out these signs for me – the Princess’ hands began dancing together – And when I translated them into language they ended up being Tèrefha tèrfha terepeyèlwil, the jocund Khlitsaîyart doctor who is illnessless. I believe Khràkhoi was his name. –
– Was it? Hmm. –
– He reminds me for some reason of the legend of Sònto a Kajúju doctor worker in the city-state of Treîtsinor on the torquated world of Fhàlqol Tlhìnger. –
– You’re far more educated than I am, oh mine Older Sister, so I must acquiesesce to your supior abilities. –
– I used to dream about the world of Fhàlqol Tlhìnger, of the great sea of Tilána and the floating landmasses and whispering mountains, and the brilliant rings of glass and crystal. I once dreamt that Fhermáta came there, to dwell, perhaps she was a wraith, perhaps she was journeying to the Ancestors, but she traveled through this marvelous land before the machines of the Khan came and destroyed all that world. – Éfhelìnye did not mention that in her dream the Khan had been helped by her cousin Prince Blorp Fhriîs Fhrís Inaiqwáta Ètqa Seplàrtha Qhús, but it did not seem to matter any longer, her cousin was Dead and she wished one day even to forget his name. – The doctor Sònto was quite skilled with his four arms and his dædal wings. –
Siêthiyal smiled. – I just know that you and Ixhúja shall have a marvelous time. – And after a few bows Siêthiyal turned and closed the door behind her. For a few moments Éfhelìnye sate alone upon the edge of her bed and just listened to the rumble of the battle, and saw the flash of huge living ships arising in the shadow of space. It took her a few moments to decide to act, but once her resolve began to dawn in her, she arose at once, and she slid the window upon and slipped right down upon the perch and slowly drew the glassen panels down. The ledge was not very thick, but she had tiny feet and a ballerina’s natural grace, and she tended to walk upon the tips of her toes without any conscious thought, so it was not too difficult at all to come running down the length of this window and leap up unto the next, her legs spreading out in a graceful jump. She clammered down the side of the wall until she came up unto a tall and gnarled skeletal tree, and her years of treeclimbing in the Forbidden Gardens Khwònojhe well prepared her for swinging around the branches and skipping from one bole and foothold and bower unto the next, until she was just a few storeys above the ground, and she landed right into the frost and dust of the courtyard with stealthy and feline grace.
– Hi Empress Co-Sister-Wife Hi! – came a voice in the shadows right behind Éfhelìnye. For a moment the Princess’ heart froze within her, and spinning around saw that sitting upon a bench in the shadows of the verandā was Akhlísa along with some of the Traîkhiim who were all busy gnawing inside a bucket brimming with fresh chocolate. Akhlísa had a few chocolate stained upon her mouth, and even a few flicks of chocolate on her fingers, and one hand was holding one of the marvelous clockwork earrings which Ixhúja had made for her, and Akhlísa was fiddling with the wheels and trying to get it to turn churn huff puff all the faster.
– Hi! – smiled Éfhelìnye. – I didn’t expect to see you out here. –
Akhlísa popped her earring back into place, and it crawled up and down the side of her head. She took a few steps out of the shadow and onto the crunch of the snow and looking up saw the tree’s height and the winding wall of the tower above them. – Did you just climb all the way down? –
– I danced some of the way – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– That’s amazing. So what are you doing? –
– Ah … I’m just going for a walk in the courtyard of the harem. I just wanted some fresh air. The tower is a little lonely up there – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Ixhúja will be with you to keep you company, that’s the deal we made with her – Akhlísa chanted. – Um … I’m supposed to be doing something also … – she turned back to the Traîkhiim and spread out her hands.
– Tonight you’ll be busy doing disgusting duties and chores with the holy Virgins – a Traîkhiim chanted, her three heads dripping with chocolate.
– Yeah, you get to help saw of the limbs tee hee hee hee hee! – laughed another Traîkhiim.
– Gross! – cried Akhlísa. – I’d rather stay with my Sister Wife! –
– No you don’t – chanted another Traîkhiim.
– Anything’s better than … – Akhlísa saw that all of the Traîkhiim were shaking their heads in negation. Khmaryáta’s Daughter was thinking that she would just have to ask them later what they were trying to tell her, anyway she just liked being with Éfhelìnye and the chocolate gorging Traîkhiim could just wait. Akhlísa danced up to the Princess, her earrings were all aglow, her skirt and blouse were most definitely short, and she wrapped an arm about Éfhelìnye and chanted – May I go for a walk with you then! I’m sure the Pèqlor dancers can take care of themselves without me for a time. –
Éfhelìnye wanted to escape but found herself unable to move away from Akhlísa, it reminded her far too much of when they had lived together as guest-friends in the ancestrial crannog and yet had somehow become best friends and partners in crime for all their scheming. Éfhelìnye reached out and leaned her head against Akhlísa’s and they walked out into the snow and the opening courtyard, and behind them came the deep beach rumble of the battle waged just a few leagues beyond.
– It’s just good to be with you, Éfhelìnye, sometimes Siêthiyal just drives me crazy, she sends the Traîkhiim away to serve for paint and glue and parts for her broken toys, she doesn’t listen to me, and sometimes she and your cousin just stare at each other and bare their teeth at each other. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a manergie and crazy people are all around me, and othertimes I feel like I’m back home in the crannog with all our wild plantimals and crazy people are all around me – Akhlísa chanted.
– Were you able to see your ancestrial land, after Puey and I left Jaràqtu at the beginning of the hour? – asked the Princess.
– We did, or at least we wanted to, but we had to dwell in the Mountain of the Ancestors … our plantation was burnt to ash. It breaks mine heart to remember it. It was horror, the end of our line … perhaps we’ll return some day. I don’t know. Who can guess at such things? – Akhlísa blinked with her eyen of blue and green, distal images shifting before her.
– I think you see far more than you know – Éfhelìnye chanted. They were coming to the edge of the snowfields, the statues of matriarchs and trees spreading out before them. – May I ask you something? –
– Of course. It’s about the earrings, isn’t it? –
– No. –
– And the belly button ring? –
– Hardly. –
– Is it about me? –
– Do you think that … how shall I phrase this … I was wondering about how arranged marriages work, and with most peoples the couple do not grow up together in the same household, they are of the same caste and village, they may be neighbors, but it seems that only the Íngajo the High Caste, the aristocratic Jarjhíxhoxe and the noble Posqéje actually foster children among each other to be married into the family. I wonder how that affects the child, or at least the daughter, growing up to know that she will marry the heir. –
– I guess it just makes her all the more thankful and loyal to family, plus it ensures a bond with her birth family, they all have an hand in rearing her. Arranged marriages strengthen entire families and sometimes entire clans. I guess it must be quite different for one of your high estate, of the Royal Pwejhoqèrti Caste. –
– Oh? –
– Yours is the only Caste wherein full blooded siblings actually marry each other. But your blood is divine, it is ichor and such. –
– The Elders negotiated to make your children full blooded Pwejhoqèrti, did they not? And when Puey defeats my Father, he may be able to change the very alchemy of your family. –
– I forget did. –
– Kàrula? –
– Yes? –
Éfhelìnye stopped walking and she gazed right into Akhlísa’s eyen, one of blue and one of green, and when she blinked again, the eye which had been green was blushing blue, and the blue shone green. Akhlísa blinked several more times, but the colors never remained the same. – You have the gift of tlhìfhro, of imbas forasnai, from time to time you have seen or heard or felt what is to come. Tell me, please, if you can, how will this all end? –
Akhlísa closed her eyen. – The War? None can say. Not even the Immortals know. –
– The War does not bother me right now. I mean you and I. What shall become of us? Will you and I survive? –
Akhlísa looked aside. – I cannot even say. –
– But if we do survive, you and I, and Puey also, in some world and realm and time, in some glimmering shadow after the downfall of my Father, will you and I still be the best of friends. –
– Ah … –
– Kàrula, please tell me. –
Akhlísa looked down and bit her lips, she was not entirely sure how to make sense of the confusion of winter and labyrinth and dragon and flower. She saw hands set in the lustral waters. She saw petals falling down in the winds. – Éfha … I cannot even guess – chanted Akhlísa.
– Tell me. –
Akhlísa looked up and chanted – As far as I can guess, you and I shall end up how we want it, but not the way we want it. I’m sorry, I just don’t know, I don’t mean to give you quite a Traîkhiim answer but that is the best I can envision at the moment. –
– It will have to be enough, then. –

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