Great Uncle Táto was walking in the gardens. Flowers were arising and pointing up unto his wings and beak. Princess Éfhelìnye came trotting up behind him, and a few of the more adventurous flowers were leaping right out of the soil and spinning up untowards the Tutor of Khrumaîna, the old dodo bird whose only purpose was the upbringing of the Virgin Empress’ only child. The flowers were opening up their petals as they danced before Great Uncle Táto, but when the flowers sensed that Princess Éfhelìnye was come unto their presence and was dancing in their midst, all at once the flowers exploded in glories of petals, all of the flowers turning and bowing in her direction, and all of the flowers flushing bright and white.
– It is quite an interesting color, iiriyàjhwen, albescence, snowwhiteness – Great Uncle Táto chanted as the white flowers came streaming upwards and were become rondures and wreathes about the Princess. – The color white can be many things, the augustness of winter, the strength of bone and teeth, the holiness of milk, the purity of an Khniîkhan Bride, and of course koalàjhwen, the quality of being civilized, of being Khniîkhan, of being enlightened. Yes, a very fascinating color, it is your color, divine and holy one, the color of our people. –
– Is that why I am always yrobed in white? – Éfhelìnye asked as she hopped among the rising and spinning of the flowers, the h4elbhós neĝblanka bursting upwards around her and spreading outwards in waves-phin splendiferous.
– White is the color of knowledge, of light, of the Immortals themselves. –
Everything was becoming white.
Sea foam, dancing upon the edge of the wave. Flickering trees whose icicles and frost were glistening in the night. Ancient bleached temples crawling up the side of the Xhyèrxhmu mendi. Bones strewn about the sides of the pyramid and reaching up unto the webs of the altar.
White. White. White.
Slowly vision was returning unto Princess Éfhelìnye, it was the first sense, it was a great sea prismatic glistening before her, and from the prisms which were visions lowly the other colors were seeping through, blurs of black and gold, shimmers which were the movement of men in robes of sable and blue. She was vaguely aware of obsidian gleaming about her, and then slowly was come the memory of drum and the shouting of the trumpet and the panick of the bagpipes. She slowly felt the pulsation of feeling, a cold stone table beneath her, the movement of chill air. Taste and memory and smell were all the same, she tasted blood in her mouth and remembered the burning of the opera house and the movement of the arrassed curtains, she could smell the candles and the painted lanthorns of the stage even though it remained now but aught in her mind. Sound continued to struggle as her vision was clearing, and she saw long black wings beating the drums, and yet the sound of the drums remained muffled, here in a world diluated with an excess of white. White. White.
A splatter of liquid fell across Éfhelìnye’s face. She could smell copper and precious iron. For some reason part of her was telling her that she should be terrified right now, that something horrible was happening, but as her thoughts floated upon the white foam of memory, she was unable to remember what place and time this was. Part of her was thinking that Great-Uncle Táto would return unto her at any moment, he would bring tea upon a silver tray and they could talk of science and history and art, she wanted to tell him about this new friend of hers she had met, the most beautiful boy she had e'er met, indeed the very first person she had e'er met aside from the good Tutor and Grandfather Pátifhar himself and the Emperor her Father who was the shadow on her heart. She was thinking how nice it would be to tell Great Uncle all about this Puîyus, how kind and strong he was. For some reason Éfhelìnye felt very cold even though flickering torches were arising about her. She could feel cold tubes and wires flowing about her, perhaps she had fallen into some strange forest. Several more splashes of red liquid tumbled upon her, and the liquid was hissing and becoming red petals at her touch and floating away, for some reason this seemed terribly important although she could not quite imagine why.
Emperor Kàrijoi: We are the House of Pain. The Immortals crafted pain for a reason.
Princess Éfhelìnye: I don’t understand.
Emperor Kàrijoi: The Immortals begot the Clan of the Pwéru to be pain, to suffer pain, to inflict pain upon all men.
Princess Éfhelìnye: I don’t believe that. That is how a Dragon thinks.
Prince Kherènxhuqhe: No, I don’t think there is too much of a difference between a Dragon Heart and an Empress’ Heart. After all, it is all the same blood, the Tnún ichor of the Pwéru.
Àrqotha: You will learn to live without love, it is the only way you will be permitted to survive.
Emperor Kàrijoi: Puîyus is the greatest source of pain, he ruins my viceroy kingdoms and nations and timelines, he topples down the caste system, he brings war, he tortures men without any remorse, he steals my virgin daughter away from me.
Princess Éfhelìnye: Life is meant for love, not pain.
Some faces were leaning untowards her, familiar faces, they were speaking but no words were coming, it looked to Éfhelìnye almost as if they were saying their words backwards or inside out, if such a feat were possible indeed. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa they were. Why were they crying? Something has upset them. I feel so terrible, I just want to sit up and hug them both, but for some reason I can’t move mine arms. Siêthiyal is the most upset I’ve e'er seen her, I hope no one has hurt her, I would die if something sad happened unto her. Kàrula, for some reason I’m supposed to be angry with her. Perhaps one of our schemes backfired. Oh, I know, how ineluctable, Karuláta and I were trying to prepare a pie for Puey, we wanted to make it the very best, but Fhermáta refused to share her recipe with us. Karuláta came up with some crazy scheme to ruin Fhermáta’s pie, that way Puey will be forced to love our pie the most, and he’ll have to reward me with a kiss as a matter of honor. I wonder where Fhermáta is now, she can’t be far, she’s always looking after her younger Sisters, those two are quite a mischievous pair, I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of them. They’re trying to say something. Why can’t anyone talk? It’s all cold and blurred and white, everything is white save for the red splashing upon me.
Blood. Blood. Blood.
Princess Éfhelìnye awoke, and waking reality reassembled itself with painful precision. The senses came flooding down upon her so swift and furious that all she could experience was cold and shock and flashes of white light. Several more splashes of blood hissed upon her. She blinked her eyen, the blood almost dripping upon her eyelids and fingers before selfsubstantiating itself into red mist and rose petals. The smell of blood was sharp and thick in the air, it was in everything, it was on everything, the smell of blood was everything to her. She blinked a few times and found that she was lying upon a large stone table, and all about her drums were beating and the torch fires blaring, and trumpets screaming, and dim light was flowing thorugh the Xhyèrxhmu whispering mountains of iron, here beneath the dark, dark Suns. She could hear the sound of knives cutting into something, the breaking of bones, more blood was hurled right upon her. In the glare of the torchlight she saw the movement of monks about her and red-robed Jhafharmoqhùrqa Raven Priests who specialized in blood sacrifice and in reading the auguries of blood and flesh and still steaming quiverous entrails. She could hear the scream of bird about her, and the fluttering of pterodactyl wing, and the movement of knife. She tried to move her eyen. More blood fell upon her. She lay upon an altar, and the white drums continued to shake with their thunderous beat.
– Just stay alive, Éfhelìnye! – shouted Akhlísa.
– Don’t you dare die on us! – cried Siêthiyal.
– I don’t know what I’d do without you! You were the only one who would help me in spying on Siêthiyal and undermining her authority! –
– Plus without you, my plans of universal domination are finished! –
– Oh Éfhelìnye, it’s all my fault! –
– Just wake up, please! I’ll do anything, I promise!. –
– I … I shouldn’t have … I’m just not a good friend, that’s all. –
– I promise, if you wake up and sit up, to stop being so selfish and mean and conniving and manipulative and … well, I can try at least! Please, Éfha, I love you. –
– I love you too, but I don’t want to change! –
– You can hug me all you like, just don’t die, I beg you! –
– I should die, it’s mine own grievous fault. I should give myself to the Immorals, I can’ t be a perfect bride for Puey, I should rather die for him and you, I just want you to live. –
– No, I should die, I’ll find a way to torment Fhermáta in the Undergloom, none of you need me here, we only need you, Éfha. –
– I need you. –
– Why won’t the priests listen to us? –
– Even if Kháfha were inclined to listen to the children of other races, and they’re not, Siêthiyal, they will not sacrifice the new Emperor’s Sister! –
– How can I be so valuable on the one hand, unable to be insured with quantum khmàrke, and yet so useless that I can’t save those I love? –
– I should die, Puey is my Lord and I must serve him and … –
– I know, even more valuable than my life. Princess, if you don’t die, I’ll give you all my toys! –
– All? –
– Éfha, please, I’m begging you. –
– All her toys, Princess, that’s a great deal! This is the pirate treasure, this is the dragon horde, wake up now before she changes her mind! You will be wealthy in toys … –
– WHY WON’T PUEY WAKE UP! –
– Stop screaming! I don’t know … –
– SHE STOPPED THE SUNS FROM SHINING! I HAVE A RIGHT TO SCREAM! By the Ancestors, I’m calming down now, she’s extinguishing the Suns! –
– Honored Kàrijoi’s probably doing it. They’re all linked … –
– Wake up if you want the toys! –
– Look! –
– Oh! –
– She’s blinking! –
– She’s moving! –
– She must really want those toys! –
– What toys? –
– You just chanted … –
– Hmm? –
– You’re going to give her all your toys if … wait a minute. –
– I’m doing no such thing. Give away all my toys, does that sound like something I would do? –
– You’re going back on the deal, aren’t you? –
– I made no deal. –
– But you promised … –
– It doesn’t matter what I screamed in panic, I’m just an innocent young maiden, and she couldn’t hear me anyway who knows what I’m saying. The toys are mine, all of them. –
– I think she heard. –
– You hush about what you think you heard, Concubine! –
– Ow! I’m telling the priests you poked me! –
– You, quiet! –
– Princess, my mean Sister is defrauding you of toys! –
– Be quiet, love slave! –
– Princess, my mean Sister is calling me names! –
– She’s waking up! –
– You be quiet. –
– Shush! –
– Stupid head! Meanie! –
– Be quiet! Look! Her eyen are opening! –
– You’re mean. –
– You’re ugly. –
Princess Éfhelìnye blinked a few more times. She was positive now that she was lying upon an altar, although for the life of her she could not fathom why nor how she had gotten here. The drums comtinued to roar all about her. She was lying on her back, before her several of the blood-soaked Jhafharmoqhùrqa priests, their robes all of feathers black and red, were holding up shadows of what she thought must have once been a dinosaur, but it was completely dismembered, the limbs shuddering down upon the altar, the blood splashing downwards. She saw the outline of a web of ropes spreading downwards, blood dribbling down the side, and severed wings and arms of men left in them, where slaves had been ripped apart alive. She shuddered, and several more splashes of blood fell upon her, whether the blood of Real Person or beast she could not guess.
– She’s waking up! – came Akhlísa’s voice beside her.
– Oh my beautiful Éfhelìnye! – sighed Siêthiyal. – I’ll never refuse your hugs again. –
– Give her your toys. –
– Khlís? –
– Pardon … ouch! Quit it! –
– Enough about the toys! –
– Stop hurting me, Siêthi! –
– Don’t call me … look! She’s moving her fingers! –
– Like a baby. A pretty baby. –
– Her heart’s beating! Sister, her heart’s beating! –
– Are you giving her your toys? –
– Mention that again, and I will teach you pain, humilation, embarrassment, and horror like you’ve never experienced it before. –
– Ouch ouch ouch … I surrender! I surrender! –
– She’s looking at us! –
– We have to be nice. –
– Oh, she’s our beautiful Princess! –
– My best friend! –
– She sees us! Smile! –
– I am. You mutant kisser. –
– What did you call me? –
– Nothing! Couldn’t find an husband if the entire dynasty depended on it. –
– I hear you. –
– I’m not saying anything. Stupid head. –
– That’s it … –
– She’s trying to say something! –
– Princess! –
– Princess! –
Éfhelìnye blinked a few more times. She could see Siêthiyal and Akhlísa before her, they were like little moon flower faces floating about her, so the Princess thought as she continued to blink and feel the painful flood of senses within her. The drums continued to sound, but with them came the sound of more robes rustling, and the trumpets were beginning to sing a different tune. She thought that the priests were turning and shouting new orders, but she could not quite be certain, everything was far too sharp and loud for her. But somewhere in this mælstrom of sight and drumming and white, Siêthiyal and Akhlísa hovered about her. Siêthiyal wiped a few more tears from her eyen and leaned her head against Éfhelìnye’s chest and began to weep all the harder. Akhlísa was coming forwards and taking Éfhelìnye’s hand and kissing it. Éfhelìnye found that she could not hear their words for a few moments. She felt heat in her throat and coughed up some blood right upon both of the Sisters, but neither one of them cared. Éfhelìnye was panting. Her heart was having to learn how to pump and to feel and to endure fathomless pain.
– It’s okay, it’s good, it’s okay – Akhlísa chanted, as she squeazed Éfhelìnye hand again and again. – You’re with us. That’s all that matters. Don’t try to speak. Just be with us. The three of us, here, together. –
– Oh, Éfha … – Siêthiyal sniffled.
Éfhelìnye’s eyen rolled back. She stared at the Suns high above her, too large and too lightless. She coughed up some more blood, and the trumpets cried out again, and she could hear somewhere about her the priests calling out one to another that the honored and perfumed sacrifices were working.
– The new Empress returns from communion with Emperor Kàrijoi! – cried the priests. – She leaves the domain of her Ancestors! –
The Suns glared back at her, vast and dim and dark. She coughed up some more blood upon Akhlísa and then Siêthiyal. She was aware that around her a bone fire was blazing, and into it was was placed the carpets and books which her blood had touched, and all had to be burnt and returned in vapor back unto the Suns.
– I promise to be a better person, just for you – Siêthiyal chanted.
– Off her the toys – chanted Akhlísa.
– You’re not getting my toys though! You get Puey, isn’t that enough! The toys are mine. Plus, ultimate power. But primarly toys. –
Akhlísa touched Éfhelìnye’s face. The Princess stared at the Suns. – Can you hear me? – Akhlísa asked. – Where are you? Were you really talking to old Kàrijoi? That sounds really really really really really really frightening terrifying scarifying scary! –
– If you start talking, I’ll give you one toy – chanted Siêthiyal. – Of my choosing … not too nice … in bad need of repair, but you’re so good with your hands, you can breathe new life into it, I’m sure. –
– You’re so generous – chanted Akhlísa.
– I’m not the one who stole her sweetheart – Siêthiyal cooed.
– Back away, pink head! –
– Do you think I’m scared of you! Just a few minutes ago you were afraid that Puey would throw you out of the tower or something, and now you’re pretending that everything is working out fine. –
– I’m not scared of you. –
– I can take you down with one finger, with my pinky finger! –
– Stop being mean … I’m going to cry! –
– You’re such a baby. –
– I’m not a baby. –
– Look, she’s blinking! –
– I’m not a baby, Siêthiyal. – Siêthiyal drew up beside Éfhelìnye and brushed her face, while Akhlísa tried to shove her Sister and chanted – Listen to me! I’m not a little baby! Look at me! Lookatme lookatme lookatme! All attention, to me, focused, all eyen! –
– Princess? – Siêthiyal brushed a few of Éfhelìnye’s tresses aside. – If you can hear me, blink twice. –
– You’re a big baby, repairing toys and trying to change the entire economic foundation of the realities … that’s fairly childish, I think. –
Éfhelìnye blinked once.
– What does that mean? – Siêthiyal wondered.
Suddenly the huge extinguished Suns all blinked once. Slowly Siêthiyal and Akhlísa looked upwards, and one by one all of the priests began craning their heads upwards, and the monks glanced up from their meditations, and the acolytes one by one stopped beating their drums and sounding their horns and breathing into their bagpipes.
– Khmátoin, an interesting coincidence is it? – Siêthiyal asked.
– I don’t believe in khmáton, in coincidences – Akhlísa chanted. – Usually not. –
– I believe in tlhiî, in crisis and opportunities. –
Éfhelìnye blinked twice. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa looked to each other and up to the Suns. All of the vast dark Suns also blinked twice, majestic black rays arising through their coronæ. The monks began to sound a new ritual incantation, and the priests began their spells.
– That’s weird – chanted Siêthiyal.
– My Sister Wife is the Empress, I’d better get accustomed to weird – Akhlísa chanted.
Éfhelìnye blinked thrice. Everyone held his breath and looking upwards saw that also the Suns were blinking vast and dark and ominous and three times. Siêthiyal reached outwards and stared right into Éfhelìnye’s eyen and watched how the pupils dilated, and then looking up saw that the Suns were dilating in time.
– Hmmm … I wonder … – Siêthiyal chanted. She touched her finger to the Princess’ nose, and Éfhelìnye’s eyen watched her, and slowly all of the Suns were turning and focusing their black rays right down upon Éfhelìnye, so that she became the focus of midnight visible. Siêthiyal tracked her finger in one direction, Éfhelìnye’s eyen of their own accord followed, and all of the dead Suns turned and beamed their darkness likewise. Siêthiyal moved her finger back, Éfhelìnye’s eyen turned, and all of the Suns swayed. Siêthiyal drew circles in the air, the Princess’ eyen followed, and all of the Suns wobbled coiling.
– This is rather fun – chanted Siêthiyal as she drew little triangles, and the eyen and Sun made triangles. – I’m going to spell out my name with my finger, and the dark Suns will spell it out. This is going to be my new favorite game, I knew the Princess would be of use for us. Let’s see, Sóng Iên lwoêrng Thàkal Ít Éyo Át Él! That’s my name, with a long Él at the end. What a flower pretty name have I! –
– Stop it, Siêthi! –
– Get my name right, the Suns have it. What do you want me to spell out next. –
– You’re going to hurt her … –
– Fine, I’ll spell out, Fhèsya’ ól ker fhéfhayùsqrun, Fhèsya is a big baby! –
– Look, she’s ablinking! –
– What, baby? –
– Don’t call me Baby, oh Siêthi. – Akhlísa bared her teeth, but Siêthiyal only giggled in response, and that infuriated her younger Sibling all the more, far more than in diminutizing her.
Éfhelìnye was now blinking in rapid sucession, and all of the Suns were blinking at the same time, almost like gig lamps dancing upon the fields. Her pupils were now focusing right before her, her eyen grew wider, and she almost felt as if she were looking at everything for the first time and seeing shapes for what they were. Shadows and illusions were crawling about her, long lapses of memory drawing upwards and flickerent away, light and darkness twisting about each other in the coil wraps of Dragon, time and Ancestor and memory all orbiting around. And then she looked upwards, and saw the Suns, and looked through the Suns, and they were like vast and cold snowflakes bobbling up above her, spreading outwards in huge and crystalline array, beautiful and wonderful and surpreme. Éfhelìnye found that she could barely move her limbs, she was not entirely sure whether it was pain she was experiencing, but it held her down. She could only move a few fingers, but she felt as if she could move her entire hand and pierce through the heart of the Suns.
– Her lips are moving – chanted Siêthiyal.
– She’s trying to say something – Akhlísa chanted.
Siêthiyal leaned towards Éfhelìnye’s lips. – I can’t understand, she may just be breathing. –
– Let me listen – Akhlísa chanted as she leaned down. – Ah, I understand. –
– What’s she saying? –
Akhlísa looked up. – She wants all the toys your promised her. –
– Baby. –
– Toy thief! –
Éfhelìnye tried to touch the Suns. The Suns were changing, she could feel. The vast and dark and ominous Suns were seeping into her blood, or she into their plasma flames, she was not entirely sure. Her eyen rolled back. Her heart was surging. She felt the movement of the inner fires. Her eyen focused upon the Suns. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa looked upwards unto the dark Suns above them. It was beginning to glow with a slight jaundiced hew, the color drifting outwards through the corona, and as the Princess stared at it, all of the Sun began to alight with a soft and shadowy light. Éfhelìnye sighed, and looking around, wherever she gazed, one by one the Suns began to shiver and glow once again. And Siêthiyal and Akhlísa could only turn and stop their bickering and gaze in wonder at the miracle arisen aglowing before their gaze.
There were no words for it, at least no words which Siêthiyal and Akhlísa knew, language for them was not meant for something as vast and strange and grand and eldritch as the renaissance of the Suns themselves, for Siêthiyal language was exclusively a tool for her communication with her family, even though she did not like to think about it her first thoughts even when waking up were all for Puîyus and Akhlísa, and her words were directed unto them, even when Fhermáta of happy memory had been alive, Siêthiyal always found herself between her younger Sister and her Brother, and she had to speak for one and negotiate with the other, even when she was trying to persuade and coax and swindle and blackmail others, it was almost always Xataríyona or her male cousins Ìkhnos and Pàlron, for Eirènwa was a little too smart for her, and the rest of her cousins were too old to be trapped by her words, even when she used language to procure more hats most floppy for herself and for to find toys and repaint them and repair them and play with that which had been left unloved for many an age, still it was all in the context of her family the Sweqhàngqu and later on Princess Éfhelìnye who had become a part of her family despite all of her efforts to rid herself and her Brother and younger Sister of this pesky foreign maiden who was both beloved and perfect and divine and annoying beyond words itself, and she could not quite remember her very first words, she thought that it probably had something to do with toys and with her Brother; and for Akhlísa language was all a dream and a blur and qwùfhto naptide, it was a means of sliding through one dream to the next, and sometimes she was the lastborn Daughter of Our Heart Raven and came trapsing through the worlds and mirrors and the thyàkhaul Black Suns ashining in the Otherworld, and sometimes she was running across the fields of Khnìntha and behind her hunting was her older netherly Sister Ixhúja tracking her or sometimes hunting her or something scaring her and throwing her into the cannals and to drift down towards the vast ice whispering mountains at the edge of the Crimson Moons, and sometimes Akhlísa found herself inside a Dragon’s eyen, sometimes she was wandering within the ice and crystal shafts of Twiêkes the Palace Mountain which long ago Emperor Eilasaîyan had begun, when he planted a seed in the Heart of Winter and the Palace in crystal whirls and rondures and floating gardens first began to grow, but more often than not Akhlísa also found herself using language as part of her dreams of the Sweqhàngqu, and sometimes she was helping her older Sister Fhermáta in her weaving and in holding up the yarn, and othertimes she was cleaning the kitchens with Siêthiyal and carrying laundry and flowers for Xataríyona, and othertimes sleeping during temple services àfhatlhun, and othertimes gobbling up far more chocolate than she should have and running around in circles until endizzied she collapsed, and sometimes to crawl up and seat herself in Puîyus’ lap, and he would whisper and sigh unto her in a language only she could understand, alanguage for them to share only for her. And so it was that neither of the maidens had a word for it, they could not even fathom it in a rational way, as the vast and primal drums were beating about them, and the blood-drenched Raven Priests continued dismembering a slave, and splatters of gore tumbled upon the altar and all about the steps of the pyramid, and Princess Éfhelìnye just glared upwards at the vast Suns, they had no language by which to express the miracle that was coming to pass.
It was as if the heavens were a pool of water, and the dark Suns were bubbles that were drifting upon the waves, and white drops of white were blossoming in the first and greatest of the bubble Suns right above Princess Éfhelìnye’s head, and as the Sun began to shine again, not as bright as the Suns used to shine before this day of days, before vast and dread Kàrijoi had begun his War of Heaven and begun poisoning all time and light, but the first Sun began to glow bright and white and with as much luminosity as it had when Puîyus and Éfhelìnye had exhausted and unconscious been washed up unrecognized untrumpetted unhonored upon the shores windswept stormtorn warbattered of sacred Jaràqtu where no aliens uninvited had been permitted before. But not, the Suns were not quite like bubbles of suffusing white, even as they all began to blink and become light once again. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa were thinking, rather, that the large and dark and unlit Suns were almost like flowers, flowers that were swaying from side to side in the strong winds, grasses and reeds dancing from side to side as the solar winds played among them, and the flowers that were the Suns were slowly opening up their massive solar petals, and bursting up from each of the loops were solar flairs and hushes of light, the movement of sheer white lava, and one by one all of the Suns were become so many trìpaka leucoanthoids, white flowers high above them. And yet even that xhneixingaîxei analogy was incomplete, the Suns were not quite bubbles lighting up nor were they white flowers opening up in blossom all above Princess Éfhelìnye, the Suns were a storm of eclipses, and the darkness gripped all the land, and fear was strangling the hearts of Siêthiyal and Akhlísa in a cold white frost nailed grip, and as the Suns were turning in their vast eclipse, the bursts of light fountaining one by one were endless streams of khwaràrqa of autumnal leaves, the light was streaking outwards, it was breaking apart and become as triangles and leaves and pyramids breathing outwards, the Suns were a living forest of darkness, leaves were drifting outwards and were become bits of papyrus burning one by one, the sheets and pages tumbling downwards in curves and crimps and cringes, the first and greatest Sun above Princess Éfhelìnye shivered etoliated and sickly for a few moments until the white came shooting out from it and intersected the next curve of Suns and then the horizons orbits of the rest of the Suns, and as Princess Éfhelìnye’s heart began to beat in a normal and mortal way, the crystal fire hearts of the Suns began to beat again and again and again, the Suns were cymbols and gongs ringing out again and became a part of the music of the sacrifice, ancient and dread and part of the very alchemy of creation, the Suns all were shining out in accordance with their own colors and hews and humors, golden Suns and green Suns and vast and ancient and bloated crimson Suns, and the midnight began to embrighten, if just a little, in sad and white enlightenment.
– A miracle – whispered Siêthiyal, and the last of the eclipses ended, and all of the Suns were shining again, although still dying and faint, but with light enough for now, in the ultimate hour of the day. She sniffled a little and rested her head upon the Princess’ chest and began weeping a little, far too many emotions and sensations for her to perceive at once.
– Xá janayéfha xá janakhlìnyat! – Akhlísa sighed, and she brushed Éfhelìnye’s hand, and she anointed the Princess’ face with her own tears and wiped her clean with her own long and golden hair, draped in jewels and ribbons and her aurelian veil, the selfsame hair which the Ptètqiikh khmùrtlhuqhol insurance guarenters had priced as being worth far more than several dimensions. – Oh my life, oh my beloved! I will never hurt you again. –
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.
The blood draped Raven Priests came flowing upwards, their headdresses and robes and feathers completely streaming with the gore of the sacrificial plantimals which had been disemboweled and the slaves which had been dismembered in order to appease the unquiet Immortals who breathe life into the Suns. The maidens had no idea how many rites of fhliráqha, of perfumed sacrifice, the priests had performed, and the damsels did not wish to learn. Now that Siêthiyal was to become the holy Sister to a new Emperor, now that Akhlísa was to be the concubine to the Emperor and the mother of offspring of the highest of all castes, the priests no longer considered them quite as children and did not bother hiding the death and blood which was needed to replenish the Land, for the maidens were now the Pwéru of the Blood of the Land. Siêthiyal could not help but notice that before a stone statue of Emperor Kàrijoi that a couple of Kháfha monks lay dead, pools of blood rilling out from them, their lives offered up unto the Suns. And the Monks were gasping one by one as they arose from their prayers, they were opening up their triple wings before the Suns bursting out with columns and fountains of white and wonder. The acolytes were setting down their trays and wiping clean the sacred knives of sacrifice. The Priests were signaling one to another, both to the Tèrefha doctors who were hovering around Princess Éfhelìnye and those who were pumping air into the pipes they stuck into Puîyus’ nostrils and throat, and they nodded unto the priests, and the flamens took up their mallets struck the cymbols several more times.
– The blood sacrifice may end now! – an old Kháfha priest chanted. – She who shall be the new Moon Empress breathes of her own power and her heart beats again. The Suns shine, the Immortals are well pleased with the blood we have offered unto them. –
– What word from the doctors? What of the Crown Prince? – asked an old Kháfha monk, his robes quivering, his thrice three pupils trying to focus in the growing twilight aneath the rekindled Suns.
One of the Tèrefha doctors looked upwards, his horn crest dangling with wires and tubes of resurgitation and the various runes and coils and wheels and magics that they employed for their patients. – We have been able to stabalize Crown Prince Puîyos. He suffered a slight cardiac episode, we believed, triggered by the completely collapse of the Starflower Princess’ system. It is quite possible that in the dracomachy he waged in the furious boreal winds, that the Dragons managed to infect him with their attorous poisons, his blood already seems different, almost tainted. –
– Do we need to continue the blood sacrifices then? – asked a red-robed jhanífharmoqhùrqa priest of extispicy. – We can begin again, if it will heal the new Emperor. –
– According to the records which Grandfather Thiêfhilos left us, Kàrijoi’s Son has always suffered from a slight cardiac arrhythmia – another Tèrefha doctor chanted. – We noticed it when he and the Princess were first transported unto us, and now, as his heart beats anew, it still quivers a little, as if broken a little. –
Akhlísa kissed Princess Éfhelìnye’s face a few more times, by now Éfhelìnye’s eyen were closed as if in sleep, and gentle white light was beaming down upon all the altar where she had been placed. – What are they saying about my big Brother? – Akhlísa asked.
Siêthiyal was still resting her head upon Éfhelìnye. – You’re not allowed to call him Brother, he is your Lord and Husband. –
– Sorry. I forget sometimes. –
– That’s okay. –
– I’m not very smart. –
– You’re plenty smart. –
– You keep telling me how stupid I am. –
– You’re not stupid. The leeches are saying that Puey’s heartbeat is a little off. It’s always been like that. –
– Oh. – Akhlísa kissed Éfhelìnye a few more times and found her face cold. – Does it hurt him? His heartbeat I mean. –
– I doubt it. I suppose he can hear it with those sharp ears of his, if he cared to focus upon such minute and domestic affairs. Does it bother you that one of your eyen is green and the other jacinth? –
– No. Say, I’m wondering, when Puey and I start having children does that mean that some of our children will have green eyen and some blue and some with one blue and one green? Oh! Oh! Question! I have a question! Question! Question! –
– Hmmm? –
– Wouldn’t it be interesting if some children had eyen that were both blue and green, say a third blue and third green and the other third changed blue and green depending on the mood and the other third was maybe a combination of blue and green flecks and the other third was maybe half blue and half green with alittle line between them and the other third was all bluey greeny blue and the other third greeny blue blue green? –
– What was the question? – Siêthiyal could feel that Éfhelìnye was breathing in a regular fashion now. – Oh Éfhelìnye, I know I’m mean and a little overprotective of Puey … –
– And jealous – chanted Akhlísa.
– Sometimes. –
– And vindictive. –
– Once or twice … –
– And a schemer, a plotter, a toy thief and … –
– Hush! –
– And if Puey e'er decides to give you away in marriage he’ll have to order a young man even to look at you, and the young man would probably commit ritual suicide rather than have to put up with your bossy plans involving … ouch! Quit it. –
– But I promise I’ll start being nicer to you, Éfhelìnye. I’ll care for you and protect you, for we are now of the same Clan, the Pwéru of the Sun. – Siêthiyal punched Akhlísa a couple more times, and grabbing her about her neck began pounding her even as she chanted – And I’ll never hurt you. Never. –
– Ouch! –
– Never. –
– Ouch! –
– Never. –
– Help! Sibling abuse! Sister atrocity! I surrender! –
– One more punch, just to remind you who’s dominant! –
– Why won’t any of the priests stop you from beating me up? –
– They’re praying. –
– Don’t the Ptètqiikh assurers care about how valuable I am! You’re thumping me! –
– They’ll only interfere if I actually threaten real bodily harm, especially to your skin, teeth, airs, and golden hair, you know, the things that actually give you value. But no, they won’t stop me from grabbing you like this! –
– My neck! –
– Or this! –
– An ear! –
– How about this! –
– Stop it! You’re rubbing mine arms! –
Siêthiyal was crawling all upon Éfhelìnye while she thumped and punched and wrestled her Sister Akhlísa down, and if the altar were not so large, designed as it was even for the sacrice of a bull diplodocus, the three of them might have been in danger of falling. As it was though Siêthiyal had plenty of room to tire herself out, and to hold Akhlísa close unto herself until she started crying again. All about them the drums continued their beating, but on a different tone, for the monks were signaling all of the iron whispering mountains of Xhyèrxhmu that the Empress was breathing and alive, and that the Emperor was stabilized from his cardiac arrest.
– We shall have to monitor them both, especially if they were poisoned of the Dragon – a Tèrefha doctor chanted. – Divine Kàrijoi might have breathed out his fugu breath through the Dragons and unto the Royal Twins. –
– Who now has guardianship of the Two Children, and their Sister and Concubine? – a sacrificial Raven Priest asked, as she shimmered forwards, flicks of skin and blood tumbling about his robes.
– Both the Qhíng and the Aûm, in so far as they still have governments, insist that the Kháfha care for the young ones – a senior Kháfha monk was saying. – We desire to guide them, but not to interfere with the War or their natural and innocent upbringing. –
– Are they talking about us? – Akhlísa asked.
Siêthiyal was no longer fighting but just holding Akhlísa tight. – Of course they are, are there any other miracle children running around and fiddling with dragons and war plans and honored Kàrijoi. –
– There’s Ixhúja, she rescued us from the Aûm. –
– She’s insane. You stay away from her! –
– I’d be glad to, she frightens me. –
– She’s a menace. –
– She’s a freak. –
– I’ll protect you from her. –
– I love you, Siêthi. –
– And I … have complicated feelings of affection for you. –
– Siêthi! –
– How many times … okay, I’ll say it. I … love … you. Just don’t go telling everyone, I don’t want the Traîkhiim bouncing about on their hand-feet and proclaiming it in their dancing. –
– Siêthi loves me! Siêthi loves me! Ouch! –
– You never learn, do you? –
– They’re talking about us again! Shush! –
– You shush! –
– You keep talking! –
– You’re talking! –
– At least I have an husband. –
– At least I have a fist! –
– Ow! –
The senior monk of the Kháfha was gathering up the extispicial haruspices and the priests and acolytes and other monachs and was saying – It is not the custom of the most august Kháfha Xákhefha Járqnis volk to break apart the familial unity, ekhùtlhutlha wthirpalqalrafhiêtuqei, but rather to keep the environs of the children as normal as possible. To that end we must attempt to find any kin that they have, the war clans allied unto Crown Prince Puîyos, perhaps guest-friends and distant relations, but above other Grandfather Thiêfhilos and Sieur Íngìkhmar.
– Forgive me, but nobody has been in contant with Grandfather Thiêfhilos for some time – a junior monk was reporting. – He’s disappered. –
– The last we heard from Sieur Íngìkhmar, he was directing the battle in the west of Jaràqtu – another monk chanted.
– Khiêro of Old should be among the Khlitsaîyart folk – the senior Monk chanted. – The children have an Aunt, we must find her. They need a parent, and the purity of a Mother to guide them. –
– We shall find them – the acolytes were saying.
The senior monk turned back and saw that Siêthiyal and Akhlísa were hugging each other, embracing each other tight and sometimes kissing and sometimes fighting each other, but always looking down to Éfhelìnye with respect and love. – It is a terrible thing for the young ones to be alone. We will watch them unseen, we shall guide them, but we cannot be their parents. I are not like the Qhíng who must impose order, we are not the Aûm despirate to be mothers, we hope and pray. –
– I think they’re still talking about us – Akhlísa chanted.
– I know they’re still talking about us – Siêthiyal chanted. – I don’t care, just as long as Éfhelìnye is doing better, and Puey is being healed … –
– Are the Kháfha going to try to teach me again and make me a good bride? –
– Anything is better than those crazy Contessas. –
– They weren’t all bad. I feel sorry for them, they couldn’t have children of their own, their husband was dead. –
– They hurt you. To feel compassion on the wicked is to invite harm on an innocent. –
– The Emperor twisted them in his Winter. –
– It’s no excuse. You don’t seem me blowing up an entire fleet and hurting you … more than I usually do. –
– Yes, you only abuse one person. Anyway, I couldn’t live if Puey died, when my husband is gone I’m throwing myself into the burning pyre. And if I don’t and start weeping from cowardice, shove me. –
– I’d never do that. And Puey’s going to live for along time. He may even forbid you from taking your own honored life, especially if you have many children and grandchildren, and if Éfhelìnye needs help in running the household. –
– I couldn’t live without Puey and Éfhelìnye. –
– I couldn’t live without you. –
All of the welkin was blossoming, it was become its own riot of deep and bright and wonderous white light, and within crept still the black shadows swirling upwards in deep rustles away from the orbs of the Suns. The sacrificial Raven Priests were arising and bowing unto their acolytes, for now that the Kháfha who were qùnya zamptâ regentfol o'er the children had spoken their word, the sacrifices were complete and it was time for the Kháfha lords to take the children away. Monks were scattering in all directions, they were like ice pterodactyls arising from their nests and high æries, they were fluttering downwards, their ropes in long sweeps, the smoke billowing upwards from altar, the drums slowly falling silent, all things falling hushed beneath the puritas of the light of the Suns. Several of the Tèrefha doctors were coming forwards, they were gathering up the edge of the wicker altar whereon Puîyus had been gedraped as if in a bed, the Khlaêr doctors knew that they were permitted to touch the future Emperor in this case, and yet still they felt dread to handle too much one who was a Dragonslayer and had just turned away the ēoreds of the cloud-gatherent Drakes, nor were they completely fain to anger blessed Kàrijoi who was still the Soverain of Earth and Sea and Sky, so they were gentle with him out of deference, and yet they did not bow as much as they should if Puîyus were in fact Emperor in authoritas. The Tèrefha were thus carrying out the wicker bed, their assistants kept their pipes and wires and runes still upon the gossoon for to monitor him, and as the wicker came closer unto the maidens they thought that it looked a little like a bed that was a tree that was a ship that was an heart.
– We shall bring the young Lordling into the sky iron tower – chanted the Tèrefha doctors. – Your Kháfha viceroy shall take you there. –
And as the doctors were carrying Puîyus outwards, Siêthiyal and Akhlísa could feel a stirring next to them, an hand moving, and gasps of air. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa at last dashed about, for it could only be one thing, they knew what was formost in the mind of the Starflower Princess, and what would awaken her a little from the nightmares that plagued her heart
– I’m so sorry, Éfhelìnye – Akhlísa chanted, and she brushed the Princess’ hair, as Éfhelìnye opened her eyen again in the shafts of white light, the Suns pulsating to her own heartbeat, and before them the kurandero were carrying Puîyus away.
– I promise I’ll be a better Sister to you – Siêthiyal chanted, and she reached o'er and hugged Éfhelìnye as tight as she could.
– Puey? – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– I’m sorry – Akhlísa chanted.
– He’ll be better, I promise – Siêthiyal chanted.
Éfhelìnye reached out to him, but the doctors were carrying him out of her sight. – Puey! – she whispered.
– It’s all my fault – Akhlísa chanted.
– You’ll be with him, always – Siêthiyal chanted as she hugged Éfhelìnye again and again.
– Puey – Éfhelìnye sighed.
And the monks came forwards and took up great fronds and blankets and set the three children upon them, and carrying the children up high they began to carry them down the steps of the great hexagonal ziggarat and Éfhelìnye was lulled back into sleep from the grace and movement of the morizinzry. And as Éfhelìnye slept beneath the Suns she had rekindled, and bursts of white light flowed out from the dying Suns and struggled in the growing midnight despair, Akhlísa looked outwards and in the iron tower could see a little the shape of things to come.
– Now the real war begins – Akhlísa chanted. – Love and marriage can be very messy indeed. –