Puîyus left his room, and the priests were swirling around him and taking up their thuribles and breathing out long streams of incense unto all sides of him, and other acolytes were dashing upwards and ringing bells so that it almost seemed as if chimes were within his wooden shoon. He almost felt as if he had walked upon the stage of an khlòpe or xèsqina or tàtro or tèyat or sìnya space opera, and leaping all about him were the priests as if they were actors, and the acolytes were the chorus, and he thought that some of them were slipping on their cothurni boots and were placing sacrificial masques upon their faces, and the drums were already beginning to find their place on this stage, and were beating unto their own peculiar tune. Puîyus came into the very center of the meadhall and the warriors were gathering and were lifting up their swords unto him and bowing down low and swearing down their eternal fealty. Puîyus wasn’t entirely sure what he was supposed to do or where to go, and being a child he was used to sitting on the floor, so he sate down in a corner, and all at once the warriors began to fall down and tried to lower themselves to show their gratitude. Puîyus just nodded to them and held up his hands in a mudra of peace, and the warriors were gasping and saying, He blesses us! He forgives us! Perhaps a fourth of these were warriors natal to Jaràqtu and remembered that his gossoon had once been Íngìkhmar’s lad, another fourth were Qhíng and Aûm whom Puîyus had rescued from the dragons, and the rest were among the wandering war exiles who had washed ashore and Puîyus had saved them from each other and slew those who would have prevented their safe harbor.
The priests were turning to each other and whispering, The Holy Lad Emperor is continuing his fast, we must not offer him food, he still mourns for his first bride. She was very beautiful, wasn’t she? Oh yes, she loved him dearly and would have been very happy with him. We still cannot find his Auntie or his birth Father anywhere. I shall tell him. No, allow me, it would be better for him to hear it from an Elder. He obeys his Elders. He is a good boy. The oldest of the priests came froward and hobbling upon his staff came unto the floor where Puîyus was still seated and leaning o'er whispered unto Puîyus’ ear what he had already been able to hear. – We hope to be able to locate Grandfather Thiêfhilos at least, we cannot guess what keeps him away – the old priest was saying.
Puîyus just nodded. He would just have to force himself not to worry about this for now.
An elder was arising, the priests were trying to shoo him away as they stomped their staves upon the ground, but Puîyus could see that this Elder was of the Poriêrii who had given this fortress unto him, and as a matter of honor Puîyus looked up and directed the Elder to come unto him, Puîyus was not at all sure what type of debt he would owe the Poriêrii now or whether they were in fact allies. He wished his Father could tell him. The Elder bowed down low and whispered – We beg your indulgence, oh Rising Sun. Please, is this fortress that we have given you, poor and paltry though it may be, adequate to your current needs? –
– Mew – Puîyus whispered.
The Elder and the Priest exchanged looks, neither of them could understand the lad, and they were not about to ask the future Empress to leave the harem to translate, the future Emperor would have to summon her. The Elder nodded and chanted – Forgive us for our meager presents. Let us please make it up unto you, I have many virgin granddaughters beautiful in form and eye and golden of hair just as you like. Allow me to give you one as a concubine. We can begin the negotiations at once, if you wish. –
Puîyus stood up and mewed a few times, but the Elder and the Priest were unsure of what he meant. The Elder backed away and turning to his brothers whispered – The Imperial Concubine is the head of his harem, she will be in charge of procuring additional brides. We must not bother the Emperor of tomorrow. – Puîyus turned around and was walking out of the goldenhalls, and all of the warriors were arising at the same time and were taking up shining sword and jade māccuahuitl and spears most impalent, and the Qhíng were clapping their tentacles together, and the Kháfha were swaying their heads from side to side, and the Aûm were stomping their sphere-legs down, and the warriors walked outwards and were preparing to leave. Puîyus walked out unto the stables and saw that some slaves were running around and feeding some of the larger diplodoci. In smaller clans such as wherein Puîyus had been reared it was usually the duty of children to take care of the ostridges and giraffes and dinosaurs in the stables, it was only the larger and wealthier clans who had equerry thralls. As he walked upon the straws and the dead grasses, the slaves were scattering and bowing down their heads. Puîyus turned to the first dinosaur and rubbed its bill, and felt its strength and breathed in its scent. The plantimals made him feel a little happy again, not quite as happy as seeing Princess Éfhelìnye, but he had to leave her alone and protect her from the horrors of the war for as long as he could. He walked among the creatures, he took up berries and leaves and fed the dinosaurs one by one, and then finding a very tall and strong and lithe lwìkham dinosaur, its bill waving from side to side, and he lead it outwards, the wiht was walking upon its elbows and knees as was the custom of its kind, a jujùrkhte creature, and he jumped upon its back and rode outwards, to see whether a new battle had to be fought within the estuaries of mts’vane Jaràqtu.
Battle was not too difficult this day, or at least Puîyus did not think so. He did not quite notice that when he came unto the jhyarmfhènthe firth and saw a few living ships struggling to reach the shore, and the living ships were of different nations, and began firing upon each other and began battle, Puîyus did not notice that although battle for him was quite easy, it was just a matter of riding outwards upon his duckbilled dinosaur and launching himself in the air and wrestling down some folk and punching down others and simply subdueing an entire fleet, that this battle was actually quite difficult for everyone else involved, the sailors were only able to fight against a single person at a same time, the soldiers were unable to avoid explosions and leap and kick aside several others at the same time, the warriors did not seem to be able to pluck up entire living ships and bring them unto the waters in safety. Puîyus did not even break a sweat, he who was now Kàrijoi’s Son and not even Sweqhàngqu any longer, and he pulled up the last of the living ships, and the warriors who came pouring out like insects from the fortress were finally come and were subdueing those who would would surrender, and they were saving those who had been wounded. Puîyus brought in perhaps an hundred living ships. It was barely worth a thought. He slunk back to his duckbilled dinosaur. Evening was come. He wished that Éfhelìnye were here. He leaned against the head of the dinosaur and wished that he did not feel so tired and heavy and sad and melancholy blue.
Puîyus heard giggling behind him, and at first thought that it must be some acolytes following him around and ringing more bells, but then he smelt the slight scent of chocolate and behind him the cries of – Ahem! Ahem! Puey! Pick me up now! – He looked behind and saw that Akhlísa was standing upon a bank of ice and sand. She was dressed in her long and flowing bridal gown, long and flowing almost blue dream spirals appearing and disappearing within the material of her gown. Akhlísa was smiling and her eyen were sparkling, one bright blue and one green. Puîyus nodded to her. Akhlísa started laughing again, she reached into a pocket and drew out some candies and chocolates.
– Hello how was your day was it good I’m fine how are you! – Akhlísa laughed. Puîyus leaned against the neck of the lwìkhaming and just rested. Akhlísa looked up and took some candies and slowly rubbed them all upon her lips and about her ears, she took some chocolates and rubbed them upon her neck and scented herself with the flavors which she knew Puîyus loved the best. – I’m your candy sweetheart, Puey, your candy nymph! – When she was thoroughly smelling of all of Puîyus’ favorite sweets, she gobbled up all of the pieces that were left, and ran up unto the legs and arms of the dinosaur and jumping up several more times chanted – Now pick me up, Puey, I have to be with you now! – She turned from side to side and ran her hands about her sides and hips and legs as if she wanted Puîyus to notice something. She ran a finger about her ear, her golden tresses were bound upwards in a brilliant swirl, a completely new xhlùtsile coiffure that she and the Traîkhiim had created just for her. She let a finger flick upon the clockwork earrings rising and falling about her ears, and she persed her lips together and blew several kisses right towards her young lord and husband. Puîyus reached downwards and picked up Akhlísa and set her down right next to him, and she at once crawled up into his lap and put her arms about his neck.
– Well? – asked Akhlísa.
Puîyus was beginning to sniffle.
– Puey! Look at me. –
Puîyus looked upwards.
– Well? –
Akhlísa ran a finger about her ear. The little clockwork ravens opened their wings. – Ahem! – she coughed.
– ?? – Puîyus wondered.
– Puey, I want you to look at me very closely – Akhlísa chanted. – Look at me, your bride and lady wife, your beloved sweetheart who has loved you her entire life. Don’t you want to look at me very closely and see what’s … so … different about me … – She drew another finger towards the earring crawling all about her ear.
Puîyus blinked. He had no idea what was so different. He looked back to the shores, the warriors were returning to the fortress and the priests were gathering up the wounded, he wondered whether the battle were somehow different. It was always pious and dutiful to pay attention to battle.
Akhlísa reached o'er. Puîyus was watching the sands and the crash of the shore. A few bodies were drifting outwards and the priests were gathering them up and beginning their dirges for the dead, many of these who had fallen were Honored Dead, and were receiving all rites appropriate unto them. Akhlísa was leaning froward all the more, Puîyus could feel her breath upon her, and her scent like all of his favorite chocolates and candies. He was not sure whether she wanted to be comforted. He placed an arm about her, and she started to squeal. It was probably good. She flung her arms about his neck and began kissing his neck. Puîyus had not been expecting that from his dearest little Sister. He looked around in growing alarum. She was attacking the nape of his neck with far more ferocity that even Éfhelìnye was wont to do, Akhlísa was rubbing his neck and kissing it and rubbing it and kissing it and squeezing him all the tighter. He wondered why she was doing this. Perhaps he just smelt good this day. Her lips were very wet, he could not help but think of candy blossoming all about her.
As the warriors came tredding back out upon the sands and ice, as they were holding each other up and gathering their weapons, they were marching out before the young Crown Prince and bowing before him, but not a few of the warriors were nudging each other and whispering, That’s the Emperor’s Senior Concubine. You can see how much they love each other, they can barely keep their hands off of each other. Oh she’s the Empress’ best friend, that’s what all the stories tell us. What an happy dynasty they all shall found.
Akhlísa looked upwards and licked her lips a few times. – Do you like my candy kisses? –
Puîyus just sighed.
Akhlísa looked to the marching warriors and then to Puîyus and chanted – Don’t just sit there, wave to them! Like this! Hello! Yoo-hoo! Yoo-hoo! The young Emperor loves you all! –
– Khasyakh! Khasyakh! Khasyakh! – cheered the warriors as they lifted up impaling spear and obsidian maquáhuitl and sword of glass and steel before Crown Prince Puîyos.
– Let’s win this war for Puey, okay! – shouted Akhlísa. – Let’s all cheer for him! –
– Hurray! –
– Kisses! I love you all! Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiss! – Akhlísa jumped up and down and blew the warriors kisses, and then laughing all the louder jumped back down next to Puîyus and hugged one of his arms. – I’m extremely aiyentíjeiyaxúngèmpai, very extroverted, I always want to be the very apple of everyone’s eye! Love you all! Kiss kiss kiss kiss! – she shouted, and then kissing Puîyus’ neck a few more times chanted – See we’re very different, you’re quiet and don’t like to talk but I love to talk I don’t mind if everyone looks at me I want everyone to see me, that’s why we balance each other very much. – She grasped one of Puîyus’ hands and chanted – And I also balanced the Princess too, she likes quiet things like ballet and listening to your playing the harp, and that’s fine, the people really don’t need to see you twain but they can see me I’m the Concubine that’s why you have me, I can survive the Duchesses and the Qhíng and everyone else, I can be the one whose face all men see when you remain upon the plantation. Puey? –
– Mew? –
– I love you. You know that, right? –
Akhlísa grasped his hand all the tighter. – The Traîkhiim keep telling me that I’m supposed to bite and gnaw on you, that’s what a Traîkhiim does to show its affecton. – She began licking his fingers one by one and kissed them. – I love your little finger and your pointy finger and your center finger and your ring finger and your thumb finger. – She started to gnaw upon Puîyus’ hand, it was a motion which Puîyus knew very well from his dealings with the Traîkhiim and with Fhólus him or her or ærself, but at least when Fhólus gnawed upon his hand, usually the Triîm did so in private, but Akhlísa was biting at his hand even as the warriors walked back. At last when she had finished the ritual which the Traîkhiim had taught her, she played with his praîsoi hringfinger and slipped the pinkring aside and looked upon the runes that were enscribed upon it, and she saw Puîyus’ name upon it along with the name of his parents, and she saw that entwined with PUÎYOS lay the names FHERMÁTA and KARULÁTA, just as they had rested upon his hand for most of his life. Akhlísa leaned forwards and kisses his neck a few more times, and slid up upon his lap and set the ring back on his finger.
– I will serve you and sing for you and help you and obey you and do everything for you, oh my Puey. Do you want to start kissing me yet? – Akhlísa looked up to Puîyus, his eyen were far away, he looked to a little blood left upon the sand, and the frost already creeping outwards to cover the memory of gore.
– Are you sure you don’t want to guess what’s so different about me? – Akhlísa asked, and she took Puîyus’ fingers and placed them right onto the earrings, and the jewels and wheels were opening upwards and crawling all about her lobes jhèthwuyoi. – Puey, there’s something very different about me. Can you see it? –
Puîyus considered for a moment and then placed his finger unto her lips. Akhlísa closed her eyen and prepared for kisses most passionate and squishy, but Puîyus just opened her jaws as if she were a drasill being inspected, and he looked to her teeth. – Mew? – he whispered, but he soon learned the answer.
Akhlísa blushed a little at yet another reminder of her youth, she who was the Lastborn of all Creation. – Yes, Puey … I still have a few of my baby teeth. I’m sure they’ll fall out soon. I’m growing up fast, you know. – Puîyus examined her teeth just to make sure she was fine, it was one of the many tasks he had taken up at a young age to take care of her, his beloved youngest Sibling.
As soon as Puîyus removed his fingers, Akhlísa snapped her mouth shut and pluckered up her lips and leaned forwards, but Puîyus was still not responding in tne way that she desired. She took his hands and set them upon the hairdo which had taken her and Fhólus and Aîya most of the day to make, they had drawn up her golden hair into spirals and pyramids, but Puîyus was barely even looking into her face. She placed one of his fingers upon her earring and her earlobe oorlel korvanipukka lobe de l’oreille Ohrläppchen jida mimitabu gwitbul öronlob kurnagar and let the clockwork walk about her fingers for a time. The Suns were setting just at the edge of the Seas of Sqasqáli, and the warriors and priests were all disappearing. Akhlísa tried several more clumsy attempts at kissing him, but in the end Puîyus could think of nothing else, but he placed his head upon her shoulder and wrapped his arms about her and began to shake. And the sobbing began. He did not notice the earrings or the coiffure at all.
– I love you, my Puey – Akhlísa sighed.
In his weeping Puîyus whispered into her ear in a language only she could understand and he told her, I have changed my mind; I do not wish to be Emperor.
– None of us are given a choice for our estate. We must obey the dictates of the Elders. You shall be Emperor, I shall be your second wife. –
Puîyus continued to weep for a time until finally he no longer felt the weight upon his chest and upon his chest, the terrible darkness within him was hurting him far more than any mere battle of sand and sword and ice. When the tears were finally spending themselves and he could finally sea despite the sadness, he just held Akhlísa for a time and finally whispered to her in melancholia and told her, I love you so much, my darling Karuláta, my beloved little baby Sister, wthuyefhayiîlii lwánga fhwii.
– Baby Sister – Akhlísa whispered. – Lwoingayiîlii wthuyoîfha fhwii, his little baby Sister. –
Akhlísa just clasped Puîyus’ hands tighter unto herself and decided not to try to persue him any more this day, in fact now that Puîyus was docile and even quieter than usual, she reached o'er and pulled the gills of the lithe tsenàlwikham ducked billed dinosaur, and it bounced upwards and began walking upwards back towards the fortress. Puîyus lay down next to her. Akhlísa rode the dinosaurs back up unto the bridges of the rath, and when she came unto the fortress she signaled unto the housecarls to help her, and they pulled Puîyus down. Akhlísa ran out and caught a few little xhaûrlro mouse squirrels and set them in his arms and she chanted in a voice a little too loud – I’m afraid that Puey has completely worn himself out from fighting such a valiant battle and slaying an hundred thousand of his foes, and then he had to sweep me up in his arms and kiss me all the time, I kept telling him, Oh Puey this is all so sudden you shouldn’t be kissing me all the times and on my lips, but I can’t stop him so he’s all tired now and my lips taste like candy to him. Hi Éfhelìnye! –
Siêthiyal and Éfhelìnye had come up to see Puîyus, but the slaves and priests were already taking him away. Siêthiyal and Éfhelìnye were holding hands, Akhlísa saw, and she hopped down from the dinosaur, stuck out her tounge at both of them, and flickered her earrings in their direction, and spun around and ran into the harem and slammed the door behind herself.
– I’m very worried about Karuláta – Éfhelìnye was saying as she walked upon the sands. She had to take small and ginger steps, sometimes she just felt sore and tired.
– I’m not – chanted Siêthiyal. – She’s stupid and lazy and I hope she gets into trouble. –
– You don’t mean that, my beloved Siêthiyal. –
– I do too! You don’t know what it was like to grow up with her. She was always the center of attention, all of the activities and festivals always revolved about her, nobody e'er forgot her Starday, while I’m still waiting for my last present from her, she never did her chores, or she never did them right, she spends all of her time playing and running around and eating my candy and getting said candy on her fingers and getting said sticky fingers on my toys and then I had to clean the toys! –
– She loves you very much. – Éfhelìnye walked up upon the side of the hill of sand and ferns, and collected some pretty shells, but she had trouble bending o'er, her stomache was still wounded.
– I’m sure she does. I just need a rest from her – chanted Siêthiyal. – I’ve had to be Mother and Older Sister and only Friend to her for too long. I just want everything to be normal again. Princess, please be careful there. You’ll still healing. – Siêthiyal ran up and wrapped her arms about Éfhelìnye’s belly and held her upwards. – Please, I don’t want you to keep bending o'er. –
– I heal quickly. But enough about me, I just want to be friends with Kàrula again. – Siêthiyal helped Éfhelìnye down a few more hills and before them came the roaring of the ancient and frigid northron seas that were the white tides of Jaràqtu. – I hope Puey doesn’t know that … that you and I haven’t been talking to Kàrula too much. –
– He doesn’t know anything I don’t want him to know – Siêthiyal coughed. – I have carefully positioned slaves to do my bidding. –
– Pardon? –
– Nothing. He’s occupied with the battle. More refugees come everyday. Sometimes they sail in, sometimes they fight each other for the right land, and sometimes they try to kill the Jaràqtuns on the shore to take our land. Puey is saving many lives. He is really a miracle. –
– He is. I love him. –
– So does Kàrula. –
– And I love her too. She and you and Ixhúja, all of you are part of my family. – Éfhelìnye ran forwards a few sandy paces and collected cochleate shells of pink and orange and purple. – I just know Karuláta will love these shells. –
– Princess, may I ask you something? –
– Yes, dearest. –
– Why? –
– Oh? –
Siêthiyal jumped down the sandy gnoll and her pink wooden shoon came unto the edge of the waters, a few waves of froth flowing about her. – Why are you doing all this? Why do you care? Why does it matter to you that all of us have to be a single happy family? Would it really bother you too much to lose a couple of us? I’m just asking the question, I don’t really want to drive Ixhúja or Karuláta away, but for some reason which baffles me you love them with a love that is frightening in its intensity. –
Éfhelìnye saw that upon the sands a few strands of seawrack were left, kelp ripped and mangled from the darkness of the deep, and she reached down to draw some of it up and was reminded of a seaweed forest she had once seen in darkness in the seas of the dead where bones and helmets and ritual suicides were all entwined and whispering out their supplication unto the Moon Empress. – I wish to create a new family for myself. I will never be alone again. –
– Sometimes I wish I could be alone – Siêthiyal chanted. – Karuláta and I slept in the same crib when we were little, that was no fun let me tell you, and when we were little girls Abbá made us live in the same room, I’m so glad that he finally let me have mine own room, we had all the extra space, but he just didn’t want to leave her alone, he always thought she’d fall out of bed or out the window or something. When I finally had mine own room I began to cram it full with as many broken clocks and shattered toys and bits and pieces of everything that I could find and repair, it was a living museum of toys, at least when I could keep her out of her and her sticky fingers of my toys, in the days before the Qhíng came. Did you know that Auntie used to have to live with us for months on a time just to sleep in the same bed with Karuláta because sometimes she was scared at night, and someone had to stay with the baby. Oh, I wish I could have been alone. –
Éfhelìnye drew up some of the seaweed and wrapped it about her fingers. – I’ve been alone most my life. But I shall never be alone again. In the Forbidden Gardens I dwelt since mine infancy, after my Mother died. Great-Uncle Táto and Grandfather Pátifhar were mine entire world. And Dragons guarded me in eternal seas of flame. Only books I had, books and dreams about my Puey, the boy of my dreams. I did not understand what crime had been commited against me until Puey rescued me from the drakes and sprung me out unto the outer worlds, and I saw real Sunlight and felt real Wind and ate bread fashioned not by ensorcelled spirits, but by bakers mortal and breathing and with families of their own. I saw the castes for the first time, I saw parades, I saw laughter and death. I heard music. I learned that my Father not only forbade all people from seeing me, the old and the young ,the wise and foolish, all of the estates and even the Noble Caste, not only everyone mine age, not only especially young men, but on pain of death he forbade music. I don’t even know how to hum very well. Puey is my music. I listen to him and I am transported to a bliss I cannot even describe. I shall never be alone again. –
Siêthiyal sate upon the sands and played with the lapping waters. – I’m sorry to hear about your prisonment, but do you really think you’ll be able to keep Ixhúja with you and tamed? –
– She grew up alone also. I think I can understand her. At the very least I can keep her near enough and let her feel the warmth of mine heart. – Éfhelìnye spun around in a little piourette, but not too quickly, she still felt sore where the stiches lay on her belly.
Siêthiyal was writing her name in the sand and letting the waters wash it away. – I’m glad you’re in Puey’s life. He needs someone as pure as you. And I’m sorry, I really am, that your Father locked you away in his closet or basement or whatever the Forbidden Gardens were, I never saw them. –
– I won’t let any other family be broken up as I was, and I shall be a far better Mother than my Mother could e'er have been. – Éfhelìnye sate down next to Siêthiyal and played with some of the seaweed that was coming in, long and dark sparkles that were undulating from the crashing shores.
– I thought your Father locked you away, it wasn’t your Mother’s fault at all – Siêthiyal chanted. – Everyone knows that the divine Khnesqekaîxhren was beyond all fault, she was the perfect gleaming white bride, she was the Moon, she was our Lady Mother. –
Éfhelìnye ripped up the seaweed and threw it into the waters. – My Mother was just as much to blame. I won’t excuse her, just because she did not live long enough to see what she did to me. –
– But divine Princess, your Mother the Moon Empress Qwasiêla … –
– I’m telling you, she is just as much to blame as my Father. We’ve all heard the same stories, she married my Father the Crown Prince Kàrijoi of her own free will, no, she begged Grandfather Pátifhar to be given in marriage to him, she wanted nothing else in the worlds than to be with him all the days of her life. She knew exactly what sort of man he was. She should never have loved him. –
– Holy Princess, is it a crime to love someone so much … –
– Yes! – Éfhelìnye chanted. She looked to Siêthiayal. – My Mother should never have gotten married to him. She should never have borne me, don’t you remember the story, my Father was despirate for an heir, and my Mother only wanted to give him one, obviously I ended up being a female, this is all her mess, she should never have married him, and she knew what he would do to me, there is no way she could not have known, she was the very epitome of femininity, she was the Mother of all the Sylvan Caste, she whom all men loved. In some ways she was worse than my Father. She made me and gave me to a Monster who trapped me with Dragons. And even today, as the peoples are slowly turning against the Emperor, they can still not sure what to think of him, but even when their Fathers and Husbands and Sons died in my Mother’s name, they dare not breathe word against her. They love her enough to murdher their own children. So yes, it was her Sin, perhaps even more than his. –
– I’m sorry, Princess. –
Siêthiyal leaned her head upon Éfhelìnye’s shoulders and rubbed her back, and for a moment thought that she was comforting Akhlísa, she had so much practice patching up her feelings and keeping her happy, and now she was doing the same to someone else. Éfhelìnye was staring out at the sea and the seaweed breaking apart, and she could not stop thinking about the ritual suicides whom she had seen among the honored Dead. – Beloved, you do know that my Mother destroyed your Father. Honored Íngìkhmar’s life was devoted to her service, and he wanted more than his wife and children to slay himself to follow her and death. –
– Yes. I know. But I still love the Moon Empress, or at least the legends I’ve heard of her. –
– From the moment I was born, my Mother must have hated me. She handed me o'er to the Emperor and his Dragons. Why did she do that? Is there something wrong with me? Was I a curse unto her holy name, the name none of us is supposed to say? –
– I don’t know, Princess. But I will help you keep our family together. I will see to it that you are never alone again. Here, I think one of your stitches is getting lose, I can see some blood on your side. – Siêthiyal rubbed the Princess’ side and saw a slight stain, but Éfhelìnye pointed to the sea and chanted – Lo! There they lie, the books and goods we salvaged from the wreckage of Khnìntha, Siêthiyal, look! Those are the presents that Puey and I promised you. –
– Really? – Siêthiyal looked up.
– We saved some books for Ixhúja and some toys for you and Karuláta. –
– Toys! Let’s get them! I’ll not have them wash out to sea. You just stay here, Éfha, it’s too dangerous for you to try and hazard the waters. – Siêthiyal jumped upwards and saw that upon the crestende waves that a small bundle was rising and falling, it consisted of several leatherbound codices and boxes all wrapped together in twine. Siêthiyal was already dashing away in glee and rubbing her hands and saying – Oh this is going to be marvelous! I can already feel the wheels and parts and furr of the dolls now! Princess, I’ll be right right right back, tee hee hee hee hee! –
Siêthiyal waded out right into the waves and did not hesitate at all to dive right within. Éfhelìnye watched and could see that Siêthiyal was a very strong swimmer, as she bobbled up and down in the waters she was reminded of the horrible time that the Princess had experienced in the grey boundaries of the land of the Dead, when Khwofheîlya arose from the waters, spines and scales were her black gown, and she too dove into the waters and took the Princess with her to show her the forest of all those who had died in service to the holy Moon Empress. Siêthiyal was reappearing many cubits away from shore, and when she arose from the waters, her hair was now deep red, almost violet, and she looked indeed like a younger version of Khwofheîlya, and Siêthiyal drew her arms about the boxes and the old cordwain bound codices and pushed them back unto the shore and within a few moments was running right back upon the ice and sands and tugging the treasures after her. Éfhelìnye struggled to arise, but she felt pain in her stomache, and Siêthiyal just ran up to her and setting down the præda ran up to the Princess and almost picked her up in her embrace and chanted – No please be still I don’t want you to hurt yourself you brought all of this from Khnìntha oh I’m so happy! –
– Puey and I tried to bring back something for all of you – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Ixhúja will most appreciate the books, they’re from her homemoon, and you and Karuláta can split up the toys. –
– You’re so thoughtful! Toys! You brought me toys! I love you! –
– It’s getting dark, let’s go back to the fortress. –
Siêthiyal stomped into the sands and squeeled and then jumped up and hugged Éfhelìnye far to tight and did not at all seem concerned that her wet clothing was crushing against the clean and dry Princess, but Siêthiyal’s thoughts were already steaming and turning unto how she would be able to rebuild her toy collection and catagorize what was found and begin to repaint and set back in motion all these items. – Let’s go back at once, my Sister – Siêthiyal chanted and she kissed Éfhelìnye on the cheek. – Why, let’s go and find Karuláta and Ixhúja right now, we’ll split up the booty amongthem, and we’ll not have to worry about anything any longer. – Siêthiyal grabbed the books and toys and hefted them o'er her shoulders and taking Éfhelìnye by the hand chanted – Now I feel bad because I didn’t get you anything, but I guess you’re getting my Brother as a present, plus Kàrula too you practically own her now since she’s your Concubine and Sister Wife, oh this is just marvelous here in this long war we’ve had famine and horror and despair and death and darkness and yet now we have a little glimmer of hope oh come along let’s go ahead and get the rest of the family together. –
– I’m so glad that you’re happy, Siêthiyal. –
– Oh call me Siêthi. –
– Alright, I’m glad you’re happy, Siêthi. –
– I don’t like the sound of that. Call me Siêthiyal. –
– Whatever you like. Do let’s find Puey and the rest of our family. –
Siêthiyal made it to the pebbled pathways among the reeds first and helped Éfhelìnye upwards, and her hair was still long and violet dark from the waves, but her face was glowing with bliss, and Éfhelìnye almost felt as if she were being a chance to see Khwofheîlya young and happy in her girlhood and not as a very vengeful and just ghost. – Yes, Puey …. I think he’s in the stables right now. He’s probably already gone to bed. – Éfhelìnye looked around and saw the large and bloated white Suns beginning to dip upon the horizon.
– I haven’t been in the selamlik of the fortress, just the public quarters and the harem – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Does Puey have a nice bedroom? –
Siêthiyal wanted to run back to the fortress, but she knew that Éfhelìnye with her wound not be able to keep pace with her. She looked from side to side to see whether they could get the attention of any passer-by, but it looked like everyone was already retreating back into the fortress before the huge darkness came. – I’m sure he has a nice bedroom, but he’s been sleeping in the stables for the last few nights. –
Éfhelìnye paused. – My future husband and the Lord of Earth and Sea and Sky is sleeping in the stables? –
– He loves plantimals. He wants to take care of them. Honestly, I think sometimes he more comfortable with beasts tame or wild than with the rest of us. At first he was just sleeping on the hay, but when I found out from my sources I had a little pùxhneneu cot set up, and warm blankets strewn about it. I’ll make him comfortable as best I can. –
– I’ll ask Puey to sleep in the harem near me then. –
– Oh … you know how moody Puey is. Not like me. I’m never moody. Toys! I love toys! Hurray! – Siêthiyal came bounding upwards and was almost stomping her feet in glee, and this time Éfhelìnye had needs to run up a little to keep up. And the bridges were rising upwards, and all of the spans were reaching upwards and spreading upwards unto the barbs and spirals of the outer walls, and the spy glasses were lifting up one by one and shining down upon all of the inner courtyards, and the great living ships manned by the Kháfha and the Khlitsaîyart were landing upon the platforms, and one by one as the Suns were setting huge beams of light were arising from each and every tower, the naphtha flames arising and illuminating the great and growing void from beneath the gape where the Suns had been. Siêthiyal kept turning back and signaling unto Éfhelìnye to keep up with her, and soon they came running up into the outer doorways and slaves were slamming the doors and warriors were lifting up their arms and forming vanguards ēoreds thick for to protect the divine children, and the metallic walls were all glistening with equations and the shadows of mathmatics. And Siêthiyal was running now too fast for Éfhelìnye, so gleeful was she, but Éfhelìnye did not mind, she just kept holding her side and was glad that she and Puîyus were able to bring some little joy to their family. Huge doors were shutting all behind her, she could hear the rustle of stone and wheel and lock, huge stàko barbicans were spinning about the gates and sliding down into place, and pipes were turning and opening upwards and a clear smoke arising about them all, as if the walls of growing vapor could keep at bay the darkness that was threatening to consume all of the worlds of the living. Éfhelìnye looked upwards and within the circles of the courtyard and all about the long and winding pillars that lead unto the central domes she could see that the fortress and the ziggarats about it were themselves part of a much larger pyramid complex arising high within the ergrand whispering mountains, and up within the thousand towers rustled the flags of the holy Pwéru family. She came to a bench and rested for a few moments, and turned to where she knew the stables in the men’s quarters lay, and she told herself that never again would she think about her dread parents nor of any sadness in hre own little tribe with Akhlísa and Ixhúja, but rather she would create her own family which would remain united until the chiliastic end of time. And no one would e'er have to be alone, unless she wished to be, for a tide.
Puîyus was finding, mèn, for his part that he was getting for more sleep in the syoxhànthe nimöp than, dè, in a bed in a guestroom in the fortress which was part of the hereditary dreamlands of the Poriêrii volk. He had no desire for soft cushions or fleece or down, he barely even thought about blankets since he was so used to sleeping on the ground and just wrapping his dreamcloak about himself. For the first few nights he just slept on the hay or sometimes upon the back of a diplodocus and once or twice in the arms of a large duckbilled dinosaur, but then Siêthiyal had come storming into the men’s quarters and was ordering everyone about, and before Puîyus knew it the acolytes carried in a cot and set sheets upon it and many pillows, and Siêthiyal hopped right up to Puîyus and chanted – You’re the Crown Prince, if you need anything at all just command it. Go get me or Éfhelìnye or anyone else if the dumbclucks can’t understand your mewling. –
– Mew mew? –
Siêthiyal pulled back a few strands of her pink hair. – Éfhelìnye’s fine. She’s been resting a little, tomorrow we’ll probably go and walk on the beach. Everyone else is fine too. Karuláta won’t stop talking about you. She and Traîkhiim spend all their time dancing … Puey you know you can sleep in the harem if you want to. Éfhelìnye is always asking about you … –
Puîyus shook his head and negation, and turned and thought about the bodies upon the shore, and blood seeping into sand and ice. He took Siêthiyal’s hand and kissed it.
– I know you want to shield her from what you’ve seen, and that’s very generous and chivalrous of you, but still, I think you two should just ignore the adults, you can get someone else to monitor the battle and you stay with the Princess. – Siêthiyal was partially desirious though for Puîyus to remain close to the shore at least for the next couple of days, just to give her some time to patch up her difficulties with Akhlísa, she dared not let Puîyus know of sadness in the family. – Whatever you think is best I and all the rest shall obey. Maybe though I’ll have Éfhelìnye visit you here more often. She thinks the world of you, she casts you as her own personal hero and dragonslayer, not just her eyen but her entire body lights up whenever she mentions you. –
Siêthiyal hopped down from the hay and bowed to her Brother, and he bowed back, and she swirled around, and all about her Traîkhiim arose and came flapping through the lofts and layers of the stariz, and were blinking and whispering and giggling one to another and trying to be good spies for Siêthiyal just as she commanded and bribed and blackmailed them to be.
This even Puîyus had gone to bed quite early and stretched out upon the cot and fallen asleep within moments of his head’s touching the pillow. He rolled out in his dreams and thought about white fields and golden sunlight beaming upon his face, he could feel summer winds upon him. He was walking for a time, the ground steaming of petrichor, hiss arising for a hot storm came and passed very quickly, and where pathways had been before now temporary streams were running, and the thunder was deep and joyous for a moment, just the type of storm that he loved, but the fleeting clouds now revealed a sky bluer than the depths of the seas, and long were the waves of grassland, and all of the trees were abloom, and everything dancing beneath deep and bright noontide suns. Puîyus sniffled a little and breathed in the scents of soaps and perfumes, and felt himself rolling upon fields of grass and sheets at the same time, and his body became aware again of the shape of pillow and sheet and cot, and that he was upon his back and slowly arising from dream, and not sleeping upon his side as was his want. He blinked himself awake a few times. Usually he did not awaken so soon after falling asleep, and yet his spleen told him that no danger lay near by, save for the ambient darkness caused by the death of time and the Suns, and the tremulous feeling of nighttime absorbing all things. His backbone was prickling with melancholy. He sniffed the air, soap and perfume were thick in the air, they were not just a part of his oneiric perceptions but of waking reality also. Puîyus looked around and saw that the dinosaurs about him were lulling and yawning and lying down upon hay and grass, and they had not been washed this evening at all, the smell of the sweet perfumes was arising right beside him. He saw a bulge in sheets beside him, and an eruption of golden hair covering the pillows that used to lie beneath his head, and he could guess what had happened, the same used to come to pass in earlier days, when Akhlísa used to crawl into his bed and yank the pillows away from beneath his head and make herself comfortable right beside him. And yet, Puîyus knew, she usually only did so when the skies were rumblent of thunder and lightning or she had eaten too much chocolate or were scared from a story that Fhermáta and Siêthiyal were telling her, while this evening was cool and dark but hardly scarifying at all. He did not wish to awaken her, but the mere act of his sitting up and upsetting the covers especially and on small a cot at this was enough to alert her that he was no longer dormant.
Akhlísa was stretching her arms and yawning to herself, she rolled o'er upon her back and smacked her lips and gazed up unto Puîyus. She and the Traîkhiim had worked very long upon her hair, they had experimented with braiding it and setting the queues about her brow, they had toiled to set the hair up in different patterns and plait it with jasper and jade and jewels, they had piled up her hair just to see how it would look and other times let it roll down and natural and free, and in the end they had decided that it looked best mostly free with just a few braids upon either side of her hair to frame her face, especially whenever she wore her aurelian veil. She wore no veil at all, but she did flick her fingers towards her ear, and little clockwork whorls were flowing up and down the side of her ear and scattering about a little like so many insects at play. Slowly she licked her lips and was gazing right at Puîyus. And he was just about to roll o'er and go back to sleep, but she tugged upon his hair just to keep his attention and chanted – Hello Lord and Husband. –
Puîyus nodded and was about to turn aside. Akhlísa scooped up some of his hair and asked – Aren’t you wondering how I got here? – Puîyus could smell the scented lye soap that arose from her, as well as the perfumes that were soaked into her body, but they did not quite have the aroma of the perfumes which the maidens of their homeland made and for which he himself had been cleped, but rather they were the strange and pungent fungal smells which the Traîkhiim so loved. He could not help but notice that her lips were covered in a layer of chocolate. He thought that Akhlísa, little Sister that she was, was still a clumsy eater. He was about to wipe the chocolate away from her lips, but she grabbed his hand and licked it after the Traîkhiim fashion and chanted – You can always kiss the chocolate off my lips, now that we’re all alone, alone, alone. –
A couple of dinosaurs whickered in their stalls. Outside a few sheep and giant silkworms were murmuring khmàryor khmàryor khmàryor, but as far as Akhlísa was concerned they did not count and she and Puîyus were still alone. She played with one of her earrings. – Oh yes, I snuck in, aren’t you going to guess how? –
Puîyus knew that he was not too good at guessing games, so he would have to have her help. Akhlísa smiled and chanted – So I snuck into the men’s quarters and all the priests and acolytes were very deferential to me and were bowing all the while and I asked to be taken to your room and I was quite surprised when they took me there and it looks like you haven’t been in there for some time and I jumped on your bed and played with the shoon you left in there but still you did not come and it was growing late and I missed you and so I asked the Traîkhiim fluttering about to find you and they chanted that they were in the stables so I came here because I miss you so much. –
– Mew? –
– Ah, I just took a bath. After I jumped upon your bed and clomb up upon the cabinet I got rather tired and sweaty and I wanted to be clean for you, and so some servants brought out the tub which was intended for you and I wish did my body without your help or Siêthiyal’s at all! I missed a few spots on my back, but I’m sure that’s okay, and I used lots of soap and I covered myself in perfumes and so here I am. Do you want to start kissing me now? –
Puîyus shook his head. He thought it was best to go to sleep. Akhlísa kept trying to get his attention before he turned aside, but then he thought and asked her in blinks and glances, Don’t you wish to return to the harem and sleep with Éfhelìnye and Siêthiyal and Ixhúja? You’re probably very lonely without them. –
– Oh I’m not lonely at all, not when I’m with you! – gasped Akhlísa. – You and I are supposed to be together, the Elders know it, that’s why they set us up together that’s right Khmaryáta’s golden haired daughter they wanted her with Íngìkhmar’s Son we have to keep the dynasty going you and I yes yes yes. Do you love me? –
Puîyus nodded. He looked around though and looked in the direction of the harīm and told her in a language of mews and filial piety, Would you not be more comfortable in the zenana with the rest of the maidens, there must be proper beds in there with down and fluffy pillows.
– I don’t need any of that stuff, just you – Akhlísa grinned, and sudden inspiration struck her. – In fact … Princess Éfhelìnye, my Older Sister ordered me to stay with you. Yes. That’s right. I’m not making this up. She was saying that since you and I were going to have children together and haven’t seen each other for so long that we should become, how did she put it, reacquainted again, that’s it. It’s just been so long since we’ve been together, oh my Puey, and I miss you so. And the eighteen children I’m going to bare you will be Éfhelìnye’s children also, she’s the Mother of our new clan, so she wants to make sure that you like me. You do like me, right? –
Puîyus nodded. How could he not help liking his beloved little Sister. Akhlísa could see what thoughts were flickering across his face, and her face was darkening with frown that Puîyus did not understand. Akhlísa made a pouty face which Puîyus had seen many times. – Don’t call me that e'er again. I’m not your little waif of a Sister. –
– Mew mew … –
– I don’t care what we once were! I’m your wife, or at least I will be seven seconds after Abbá kills the old Emperor. You will call me wife. In fact … – Siêthiyal turned upon her side. – I’m not leaving you this night until you call me wife. –
– … –
– Call me your wife! Puey! –
Puîyus bit his lips. Akhlísa leaned forwards, the blankets swirling about her, and she hissed – Éfhelìnye told me that you have to start calling me wife from now on, she’s very pious and family oriented so she wants to keep the family together. Call me wife. Please. If you love me. –
– !! –
– I don’t know if you love me. –
– !! –
– If you loved me, you’d call me your lady wife. –
– !! –
– Just say it, please, my Puey. I love so much, and there’s the betrothal and marriage contract, so we’re to be yoked together. Please say it, Puey. Please. I don’t ask for much. Well, I ask for things all the time, candy and food and presents, but this is important, you can consider it my Starday present or at least one of the hundreds of presents you’ll be giving me pleeeeeeese call me your wife pleeeeeeeeeese! Puey please! Please just call me wife! – Akhlísa was shivering a little, partially from her anger and excitement but also from the cold, but the sheets were not too thick upon the cot, Siêthiyal knew that Puîyus’ thoughts were very simple and she respected his laconic and monklike preferences.
Puîyus reached o'er and brushed a few of her tresses from her face. – Mew mew mew? – he asked her.
– Maybe I’m a little cold. I guess it has something to do with my not wearing any cloths at the moment. Abbá’s dreamcloak lies on the peg behind you can wrap me up in that. Now, to the salient matter on hand, when are you going to start calling me wife, Puey? I love you so much, my heart is just about to come bursting right out of me. –
Puîyus was turning around and reaching for the peg, but then he paused before he took the cloak. – ?? – he asked.
– What did I just say? I don’t know – chanted Akhlísa as she shivered in the blankets. – Um … I love you so much my heart is about to burst out of my chest? I chanted something like that. –
– ?? –
– Before that … um … you have to start calling me wife. Yes, that’s what I was saying. Puey, I think it’s about time … –
– ?? –
– Before that! I should be taking notes, I do talk a lot you know that, but you don’t talk at all so it all just evens out, okay let’s see, um, I think I just asked you to wrap me up in the dreamcloak because of the cold. Is that it? –
Puîyus nodded. For a moment there he had thought that Akhlísa had chanted something quite embarrassing, and Puîyus did not quite have a very strong threshold for being embarrassed. He took a few deep breaths and calmed his heart down and thought that dream must still be resting too heavy upon him, and he turned around and again to reach for the peg.
– Yes, go ahead and wrap me up in that, that will warm me up – Akhlísa chanted. – Do you have a fire? I suppose not in the stables. I’m a bit cold, being all nekkid right next to you. –
Puîyus fell right out of the cot and came rolling down the hay. Akhlísa sate up. Puîyus crashed against a dinosaur and a pole. Akhlísa swung out of bed, she was wearing only the white slip which the twin Duchesses had woven for her, and as the night grew colder she was shivering all the more, but she ran out to Puîyus and knelt down beside him and shook him a little. – Puey, are you alright? Did you see a scary mushroom? Or a scary spider? Or maybe a mushroom spider. Is there such a thing as a mushroom spider? What’s the matter? –
Puîyus blinked himself away and found Akhlísa was shaking his shoulder, she was kneeling beside him, and was extremely scandilly yclad and was not at all embarrassed by it. She shook him all the harder and chanted – You gave me a fright there. Come on, let’s back to bed. It’s too cold out here for both of us, why you want to sleep in a stable is beyond me. –
Puîyus swallowed and was about to say something to Akhlísa, but in her underslip he could see the movement of her elbows and the outline of her legs, and it was all just too much to witness. He placed an hand o'er his eyen and whimpered – Mew! –
– Fhwa! Of course I’m scantily clad! I just took a bath, I told you, in your own tub. I didn’t want to put mine old cloths on, so I slipped on my tnenálwa shift and slipped into the cot beside you. We Jaràqtuns do have a reputation for being sensible, what could be more sensible than that? –
– !! – Puîyus covered both of his eyen.
– I’m not embarrassed at all! I’m not like Fhermáta always trying to be good and perfect. I’m in my underdress and I don’t care! Anyway, it wasn’t too long ago that you and I used to take baths together, I don’t know why you’re so modest around me of all people. –
– Mew! – Puîyus protested.
– It was not a long time ago, you used to wash me this very day, before you and the Princess had to flitter off to fight this silly war of ours. Come on, let’s go back to bed. –
– Mew! –
– No I don’t have any other cloths. I left my dress on your bed in your bedroom, you know, the place where normal people sleep. And don’t tell me you’re going to enter the harem now in the middle of the night to find my pyjamas. I don’t even know where they are. – Akhlísa jumped up and spun around. – Okay Puey, time to get up. Here, do you want to see my dancing? I’ve been practicing a little. –
Puîyus shook his head. He knew he could crawl back to bed without opening his eyen, but he somehow knew that he was not going to be able to endure the rest of this night without any more embarrassment. Akhlísa he could hear was prancing around in front of him without a care at all in the world. He heard her running towards a post where he had set the dreamcloak their Father had given them. – Okay Puey I’ll put on the cloak but you have to watch my dancing. Are you going to look up now? – He heard the sound of the rustling mantle. – Okay cloak on. Eyen open. –
Puîyus looked up. Akhlísa was all wrapped up in the violet folds of the dreammantle pharomachros. She glided right towards Puîyus and chanted – Here’s just a taste of my dancing. I’ve been watching the Traîkhiim and studying with them. Watch what I’m doing with mine arms. Side to side and back and forth, isn’t this fun! Now I’m shaking mine entire body. Look at my hips! See the way my hips move! Have you e'er seen hips do this before? –
Puîyus gaped. He had never seen a female’s hips move quite like that. He was thinking that perhaps Prince Kherènxhuqhe had actually slain him high within the courses of the Northwind and that Puîyus were caught up in some dragonborn version of the Otherworld, a place where Jaràqtu lay in ruins and his Father was gone, and he had been married without his knowledge, and Akhlísa was shaking her hips at him and dancing in a very strange way. Akhlísa laughed and coming up to Puîyus pressed her face against his and wrapped the dreamcloak about them both. – It will take me many years to get good at the dancing, but I know I’ll please you, in conversation and service and dance. Now, carry me to bed, it’s sleepy time. –
Puîyus quite agreed with this, so he swept up Akhlísa, dreamcloak and all, and plunked her back to bed and tried to wrap her up in the sheets and the mantle, but she kept squirming outwards and wrapping her arms about him and kissing his neck and face. Puîyus pulled her down several times, but Akhlísa was like a little kitten just mewling and stretching and playing all the while even though the older cat was not in the humor for playing. At last Puîyus just lay down upon the bed and closed his eyen and waited for Akhlísa to begin settling down for sleep.
Akhlísa crawled up on top of him and rested her head upon his chest reminded him almost of a mermaid washed upon the shore, the great mass of golden hair covering his neck and arms. She mumbled – When are you going to start calling me wife? If you love me, you should at least give me my title. I know you can’t talk in words, but even in blinks and cheremes and portents, you could call me your wife. –
Puîyus closed his eyen all the tighter. Akhlísa continued – You hate me. –
– Mew! – Puîyus gasped. He looked up. Akhlísa shivered, she kicked away the dreamcloak and lay scantily clad upon him. – Yes you do. You only care about her. Always her. You have to think of her first. You never think about the good of our clan. –
– Mew! –
– Yes you do! Don’t you care about me, what I think and feel, what I’ve had to endure because of you! You don’t know what it was like, those awful aliens everywhere and everyday Abbá was just growing more and more distant until he was just a shadow. Father had to give me away, like I was a favorite pet dinosaur. The Kháfha dunked me in ice and sand and called me a slave. The Duchesses painted my body. The Qhíng were nice, but then later on they were in a battle. Puey, I endured a Dragon for you. Oh Puey. Why can’t you love me the way I love you? –
Puîyus looked up and gazed into Akhlísa’s eyen, one of blue and one of green, he had seen them so many times before and yet now they were different, she was getting older even though she had so much further to go on the journey of life, and all her days lay before her. Puîyus and Akhlísa looked at each other for a long time, and at least Puîyus was able to express what lay in his heart, and he told her, in signs and blinks and with the light of his eyen aglow in the dark, If we survive the War, that in the coming days mine heart shall be mended. Until then, I cannot rest.
– So after we defeat the Emperor, then you will love me and call me wife? –
I don’t know.
– You will finally be able to love. I can wait. I’ve already waited this many years! – She held up her hands. – I can wait until the end of midnight and he coronation of the new Sun Emperor. –
I think we should sleep now.
– You don’t want to dance? There’s so much more I can show you! – She rolled off from him and slipping upon the hey continued to prance around in her slip. – The Traîkhiim have all of these techniques for head rolling and wing movements, but I’ll just have to imitate it as best I can. Here, have you seen what I can do with my hips! Puey, look at this! Puey! –
Puîyus covered his eyen. Akhlísa giggled and crawled right back on top of him and chanted – I’ll leave you alone tonight. But how about a kiss. Just one big sloppy sticky slipper kiss. Pucker up, Puey boy! –
The doors of this environment of the syòxha stables came swinging upwards. A few of the dinosaurs were arising from the hey, not a few of the braying qiqhalinàkhitu aardvarks khmàryor khmàryor bleating were arising and turning their snoutry towards the door, a few small birds were arising from their perches, and the fheqhìkhno giant silkworms were rolling upwards and wagging their tounges and felt a soft moonlight falling upon them all. Puîyus tried to pull Akhlísa off of himself, but he just knew that he did not have enough good luck to avoid what was about to happen.
– I just know Akhlísa is going to love the toys you have for her – came Siêthiyal’s voice. – Let’s give her the dolls, we don’t want to give her anything with sharp edges, she still cuts herself. –
– Puey shouldn’t have to sleep in the stables, I want him to sleep in my quarters – came Éfhelìnye’s voice. – It’s very cold in here. –
Puîyus tried to pull Akhlísa away, but she squirmed back into his arms and chanted – Now or never, just give me a big kiss and I’ll run away! – Puîyus tried to hold her down, but Akhlísa wrapped her arms about his neck, and just as Siêthiyal and Princess Éfhelìnye walked in upon them, Akhlísa was kissing Puîyus upon his cheek.
– Hmmm – chanted Siêthiyal as she crossed her arms.
– Oh! – gasped Éfhelìnye and she dropped the toys she had brought for Akhlísa.
– A little privacy for me and my husband here, please! – Akhlísa laughed and she kissed Puîyus’ cheek again. – I have delicious candy kisses, at least that’s what Puey tells me. –
– Is that so? – Siêthiyal asked.
– I believe … I have to sit down – chanted Éfhelìnye as she collapsed in the hay.
Puîyus pulled Akhlísa aside. Siêthiyal marched right up towards her and yanked her up by her arms and chanted – Of all the young women I would have thought would try to sneak in and kiss my Brother while he’s asleep, you were the last one on my list! How dare you! –
– No, it’s alright …– Éfhelìnye chanted.
– He’s my husband, I can do whatever I want, and that includes kissing him! – Akhlísa chanted.
– You snuck out of the harem in the middle of the night, didn’t you! –
– So what, Tsàlti doesn’t care! –
– Who’s Tsàlti? –
– A famous Traîkhiim! –
– I think you’ve been spending too much time with these aliens, they’re ruining what little mind you have! –
– They’ve taught me to live free and in the moment, beyond all your rules and older siblings … and I can kiss my Puey he’s my husband so just leave me alone. –
Puîyus tried to separate Siêthiyal and Akhlísa from each other, he knew that sometimes they could get a little angry in their arguments, but Siêthiyal just shoved her hand into Puîyus face in warning to back away. Siêthiyal shoved Akhlísa right off the bed and for a moment the two Sisters grappled with each other. Puîyus slipped off of the cot and helped Éfhelìnye up. Siêthiyal managed to pull Akhlísa upwards and kick the cot aside.
– Don’t you e'er sneak out of the harem again! Don’t you understand, you could have gotten lost or been hurt by a wild plantimal … don’t sneak out in the middle of the night! – Siêthiyal shouted.
– I don’t have to obey you! You’re just mean! –
– I am not mean! Stop saying that! –
– Nobody likes you! –
– You snuck out in the middle of the night and we find you kissing Puey! Of course I’m angry, that’s not the way that a young lady is supposed to act. Is it, Princess? – Siêthiyal looked to Éfhelìnye and saw that she was wrapping her arms about Puîyus and kissing his face.
– Pardon? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– Princess! –
– Ah … we’re talking about my beautiful Puey, right? –
– I’m just reminding your Sister Wife that it is not appropriate to sneak out of the harem in the middle of the night and start kissing him and … you’re not even paying attention, are you? –
– Yes I am. – Éfhelìnye pulled herself away from Puîyus.
– You hate me most of all! – Akhlísa pointed to Princess Éfhelìnye.
– No, I don’t hate you, in fact I think I can sympathize with you in a way that Siêthiyal cannot. As someone who once or twice has been known to sneak out and steel kisses from a certain young man … –
– Every night! Sometimes three or five times a night! You’re the real kissie thief, I do it once and everyone yells at me, you do it hundreds of times and nobody even blinks! –
Puîyus could see that tempers were arising and that Akhlísa was on the verge of tears and he was going to have none of this. He took a few steps froward and tried to take Akhlísa and Siêthiyal’s hands, but they backed away from him. Éfhelìnye came up to Puîyus and tugging on his sleeve chanted – Pew, perhaps you should go. I’ll talk to your Sisters … –
– Your wife! I’m your wife! – Akhlísa sniffled.
Puîyus nodded. He was about to turn, but Akhlísa shouted – I don’t believe that you’re really friends with the Princess, you still feel guilty about stabbing her that’s all. I wouldn’t be friends with you if you stabbed me in the stomache. –
Siêthiyal’s lower lip was trembling. She was trying to figure out a way to put all of the blame on that particular incident on Princess Ixhúja, but there had been far too many witnesses. It should be a simple manner of bribing Fhólus and Aîya, or brute intimidation would work, and Éfhelìnye would keep a secret if she thought it in the best interest of her new family, but Akhlísa was far too dangerous when she was angry.
– Oh Khlís, you’re so silly – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Here, I have presents for you. – The Princess turned around and began gathering up the items she had dropped in the hay. –
– Presents? – Akhlísa asked. – It’s not my Starday, it’s Puey’s, I’m supposed to be his present. –
– When Puey and Ixhúja and I were traveling through the øde we came across some of the ruins blasted off of the coastland of Khnìntha and we collected some items for you and Siêthiyal, lots of toys. Here, I know they need some work, I suppose my Father made them long ago, but I think that you and I could repair them together. If you’ll let me help you, that is. – Éfhelìnye took the dolls, beautiful and delicate and set them into Akhlísa’s arms, and Akhlísa gaped in wonder to see just how marvelous they were, and she hugged them and began to kiss them one by one. Puîyus was on the verge of leaving the stables but seeing that his family was getting along better he stayed to watch their joy. Akhlísa was picking up the dolls one by one and examining them, they were in the forms of shepherdesses and ballerinas and princesses. Akhlísa squeeled with glee and stomped her legs and shouted – I love you, Éfhelìnye! These are marvelous, they just to be repainted and this dress is torn but I don’t care they’re just miracles! I love you love you love you love you love you so much! – Akhlísa threw herself into Éfhelìnye’s arms and embraced her, just a little too hard though for the wound on the Princess’ stomache, and then Akhlísa turned and hugged Siêthiyal. Puîyus was glad that he had stayed, he liked it better when the members of his family were in harmony again and not dissevered.
– Puey have you seen these dolls! They’re just wonderful! – Akhlísa shouted and tossed the dolls about, and then placing them upon a stack of hay ran up and hugged Siêthiyal and kissed Éfhelìnye several times, and then she ran right up to Puîyus and began prouncing about in her slip and shook her legs about and chanted – Look at all these new dances I’m learning. I think Puey really likes it when I roll my hips about like this. –
– You do know that you’re only wearing an underslip, right? – Siêthiyal asked.
– Are you supposed to be this … unclad? – asked Éfhelìnye. – And you don’t think that’s … embarrassing? –
– Nope! – laughed Akhlísa. She ran around Puîyus and hugged him and chanted – I love the present that you gave me, I’ll have to reward you with lots of kisses! No, first I have to dance around more, I can make my belly roll around a little, just watch look at me Puey look at me see what I can do! –
Siêthiyal and Éfhelìnye gaped when they saw the spinning and leaping around that Akhlísa was accomplishing. Éfhelìnye began to hiccough in fear and growing panick. Siêthiyal found the dance both shocking, and yet part of her was thinking that she could probably dance just as well, although she did not think that an underdress was quite the right clothing for such a venue. Éfhelìnye licked her lips and tried to quell the panick within her, she took a few steps froward but almost fell o'er, a sharp pain in her belly. Siêthiyal ran up to help her. Akhlísa draped herself about Puîyus and began kissing his face and saying – Your first Wife is so very thoughtful. I don’t mind having to share you with her, she’s fun and she gives me toys. –
– Are you alright? – Siêthiyal asked Éfhelìnye, but the Princess had to sit down upon a stack of hay, and she was just hoping that a stitch had not broken, this would be the absolute worst time for that to happen. She looked up and saw that Akhlísa was just continuing in her dance, and was not stopping in her persuit of Puîyus the Boy of her Dreams.
– Kàrula … I’m fine Siêthiyal it’s just a little pain. Karuláta, I think it’s time for you to come back to bed with us in the harem. Sunrise will be soon, at least I hope it will be … I’m fine really … but Puey should get some rest – the Princess chanted.
– I’m staying with him and dancing around all scanty! – laughed Akhlísa.
– I don’t think you should be doing that. I’ve been giving this some thought, and I don’t mind having you as Puey’s other wife, but you’ll have to be a Vestal Virgin and serve him that way. –
– No way! I’m having his babies! –
– What are you saying, Éfha? – Siêthiyal asked.
– I just think it will be easiest for the family if we just have one wife – chanted Éfhelìnye. – Karuláta can be the senior Vestal Virgin, she’ll still be my Puey’s Concubine, but not his wife. –
– She’s going to be his wife. We’re not negotiating on that. –
– Yep! I’m his wife! – cried Akhlísa. – Everyone says it, and it’s true! –
– I’m just thinking … – Éfhelìnye had to hold her stomache, she was not feeling well.
– We won’t fight when we’re actually married – chanted Akhlísa. – You’ll live in your palace and I’ll live in a castle and we’ll have separate households … –
Éfhelìnye grit her teeth. – Please put on some more clothing. –
– I’m quite comfortable this way, thank you. –
– You’re not bearing his children. –
– And I’m not going to be a nun, we already discussed this! For someone as smart as you you can be rather torpid sometimes! – Akhlísa kissed Puîyus a few more times on his face. – Like it or not, I’m his wife. –
– Yes, Éfhelìnye, this is no longer a fecund topic of discussion – Siêthiyal chanted. – We must accept the reality … –
– Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye gasped. – I do not! I can change it! Hic! Hic! Hic! –
– Watch my hips here, I can really shake them – Akhlísa chanted. – It’s really the essence of Traîkhiim dance. –
– Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye coughed. – Please stop … whatever it is … you’re doing. –
– Come on, Princess, you’re not feeling well – Siêthiyal chanted.
– I’m fine! – Éfhelìnye whispered. – She will not be his wife! Puey cannot love more than one wife … –
– Why not? – asked Siêthiyal. – He loved three Sisters and lots of cousins … –
– It’s different! –
– I’m not going to be a nun! – Akhlísa laughed. – You’d make a better nun than I. –
– I can’t be the Vestal Virgin of mine own priesthood! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – That doesn’t make sense, how can one be one’s own mother? –
– I don’t know … all I know is that Puey is mine! –
– Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye was shaking in her panick.
– Princess, I understand you had a rotten childhood – Siêthiyal chanted as she placed her hand on Éfhelìnye’s shoulder – But you’re going to have to learn to compromise and share. –
– I shall be the Empress, it is my birthright! – Éfhelìnye shivered.
– And I shall bare Puey children, it is my birthright too – chanted Akhlísa. – We have so much in common. –
– Princess, you’re not well, you sound childish – chanted Siêthiyal.
– I am not childish, not qhayótlhi! – Éfhelìnye sighed.
Akhlísa made sure to kiss Puîyus’ face right in front of the Princess. – I’ll share my dolls with you if you want, Éfha. We don’t need to fight. Why, you can go ahead and play with the toys you just brought me. –
– All I need is Puey, don’t you understand, he’s my Sun and … please stop kissing him! –
– He’s mine too! –
– You will be a nun! –
– Ah … no way. –
– The Empress is the holy Mother of the Sylvanhood! –
– We all know I won’t be no nun. Oh Puey, you’re so delicious. –
– Please stop that. –
– Oh go play with your toys! –
– Hic! Hic! Hic! –
Siêthiyal came forwards and rested her hands upon Éfhelìnye’s shoulders again and told Puîyus – Stop looking all concerned. Nobody’s argueing, we’re just having a little discussion. Éfhelìnye will concede, she will see the wisdom of … yes she will. Stop shaking your head, Princess, you know that that this marriage was arranged before you even met my Puey. Anyway, you won’ t be able to run an household without help, this just works out fine … –
– No, it’s not! – Éfhelìnye wail. She was almost folded o'er in the pain growing within her. She figured that if she could just keep herself from fainting, then she would at least survive this night.
– Princess, I say this as your Sister and friend, Karuláta will be Puey’s second wife, and this is the best for all of us. Would you rather have his second wife be a stranger or your dearest friend? I think when we all get some rest … –
– Don’t you understand! I believe in true love and romance and epic kisses, and there can only be two in such a marriage! –
Siêthiyal looked up. – Kàrula, just stop it, you’re upsetting her. Puey, we are not fighting, so stop being so pale. You two, just sit down and … oh what’s she going to do? –
– Purr? – asked Ixhúja as she trod in. She looked from side to side, she had been looking for the rest of her family and so followed their scent. She poked the earrings in Akhlísa’s ears and chuckled as she saw the clockwork arising and fluttering and swaying from side to side to side. However, neither Éfhelìnye nor Siêthiyal nor Akhlísa were particularly mindful of Ixhúja’s prediliction for clockwork at the moment, they only noticed that she had cut her dress short, rather short at least by the standards of the Winter Imperium, her skirt was almost exposing her knees, her elbows were almost visible, and she looked like an image of an huntress of old, and about the pleats of her skirt she had set her knives, and at her back lay the twin swords that she had. Siêthiyal and Éfhelìnye both stared a little. Ixhúja grinned and spun around and her hem flounced about a little.
– Ooh, I like it, short short short! – laughed Akhlísa.
Siêthiyal rubbed her brow and muttered – There’s no way this will end well. At least there are no tyàla pitchforks hanging on the walls. – She looked around just to make sure that that was true, and was glad at least there there was nothing at all sharp and hideous and deadly which could be used in a new harem fight, save for course for Ixhúja’s arsenal strapped to her person and the sword that Puîyus had set beside his cot. Siêthiyal, for, was not at all sure they would survive another such fight.
– That’s … very short … – chanted Siêthiyal.
Ixhúja grinned and spun around.
– I’d almost rather have you in a slip, at least then her knees would be covered. Hic! Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye gasped.
Ixhúja grinned with a smile far too mischievous for anyone’s good, and then, shoving Akhlísa aside unto the hay, she wrapped an arm about Puîyus and turning his head just to make sure that Éfhelìnye could see it, kissed im right on the cheek. It was at this point that one of Éfhelìnye’s stitches broke, and as she clutched her side she could feel a bit of blood forming on her belly.
– I am not amused by any of this – Éfhelìnye chanted. She tried to take a few steps forwards but just collapsed upon her knees. At once everyone rushed o'er to help her up, but she just batted everyone away. – Everyone, it’s far too late, let’s just go to bed. –
– I’m staying here – chanted Akhlísa.
– No you’re not! Ixhúja, let go of him now. Puey, we’re all leaving. It’s far too late and we’re all far too tired. –
Ixhúja ran an hand through Puîyus’ hair and winking at him told him, I’m not tired at all.
– Princess, let’s get you back to the harem – chanted Siêthiyal. – I think we need to patch you up. –
– You don’t need me for that – chanted Akhlísa as she shoved Ixhúja away from Puîyus. Éfhelìnye looked up and saw that Akhlísa was still trying to hang upon Puîyus and was hardly in any mood for that. Siêthiyal was trying to help Éfhelìnye to walk, but the Princess was more concerned with grabbing a pillow and thumping Akhlísa with it and doing her best to keep her at bay from Puîyus.
– That tickle tee hee hee! – laughed Akhlísa as the feathers drifted about her.
Ixhúja grinned and told Akhlísa with her smile, One has heard rumors that Puîyos can be quite ticklish also.
– Oh yes, if you can get your hands upon a phœnix feather, we can make him wriggle about! – Akhlísa turned back and going to try to kiss Puîyus a few more times, but with her feeble strength Éfhelìnye was trying to pull her aside.
– I’m married to Puey! I’m married to Puey! – laughed Akhlísa. – And I’m not going to be a vestal virgin! Nyah nyah nyah! –
– Just hold onto me, Princess – Siêthiyal chanted as she held the Princess up by her arms. – Here, let me do all the lifting. –
She’s going to start crying again, isn’t she? Ixhúja was wondering and purring to herself. She can be so tiresome when she starts weeping.
– Hic! Why can’t … hic! Why can’t I make others understand that it’s just Puey and I for ever? – Éfhelìnye moaned.
– Ixhúja, do you want to pick up her legs? –
We can hold her steady to stave the bleeding.
– I … I want my Puey – Éfhelìnye chanted. – He’s the only one for me. –
– Where did he go? – Siêthiyal asked.
– He’s probably seeing all of his other sweethearts – chanted Akhlísa. – I hope he has a thousand concubines, then I’ll have lots of little Sisters to do my bidding. And I hope all the concubines bare him children, that way the Pwéru will be a mighty mighty mighty clan wealthy in children. –
– Honored Íngìkhmar and beloved Khwofheîlya would be wellpleased if our next generation gave them lots of children pious and respectful to the ways of our people. –
– No … no other wives! – gasped Éfhelìnye. – As Empress I shall command it that a man may only have a single wife … –
– That’s fine, I’ll just be his Concubine – chanted Akhlísa.
Puîyos is gone, Ixhúja told her kinswomen. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja were carrying the Princess right out of the doors of the stable and Akhlísa was dancing right before them and spinning about in her slip and not at all concerned with what Éfhelìnye’s fears may be. A faint and sickly glimmer of light was arising upon the horizon, the slaves were arising and tending to the ostridges and giraffes and aardvarks and giant silkworms and dinosaurs of the stables, and when the maidens saw the light and a slight movement upon it, they knew that Puîyus must be riding some dinosaur and leaving for battle. And the slaves were taking up their buckets and feed and opening up the doors and looked on in amazement and saw the four Women of the Sun walking out through the syoxhànthe equerry, and they bowed down low and thought that they would never understand the ways of Princesses and a Concubine and a Lady Sister of the divine House of the Pwéru.