Éfhelìnye clasped her Mother’s necklace. All of the clouds about her were grown even thicker than before, crashing and crystalline and souplike in texture. Lightning was beginning to blossom throughout the layers of the Northwind, some of the trees of lightning drifting outwards in plumes miles long and swirling outwards in long and angular branches feeding right into the quarters and angles of the heavens. The lightning was indeed a towering forest, one that was always reaching downwards, for the winds had no proper vault and below them was just hissing energies where the pandimensional seas came surging upwards, and some of the lightning, white and green flashing, was spreading out unto one cloud and melting within it, so that the cloud itself was crackling and baking as if it were a pastry in Fhermáta’s oven, and cream and cherries were oozing out of the crevices, but the oozing was the very purity of light, and webs of lightning were flowing outwards and intersecting the next cloud and the next and the next, so that all of the swirling northwind was become a living web of light so bright that it was blinding unto all save the Dragons whose eyen were demimortal and unto Princess Éfhelìnye who was never bothered by light at all. She could see, as the whales were cowering a little but still flying arisen unto all sides of her, that the hobbling warships below her were filled with the Qhíng and the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu all shaking in fear and lifting up tendril against the incandescence, but they were all fain to obey the mew of the Son of Heaven who was fighting for them as they could not. The Dragons continued to spin about Puîyus and try to cut him in many places, but Puîyus was managing to cut through bone and arm and flesh, and whenever the soldiers fired again, he used the explosion as mallet and hammer, and he used the Emperor’s sword against him, and the Dragons unafraid of the lightning could not bare to look Puîyus in the air and feel the compassion he felt for them. Puîyus was slashing through the wings of one Dragon, huge solar flairs slowly erupting, he punched against the face of another, he grabbed one Dragon by the tail and hurled it around and around and sent it crashing against the web of light, and the Dragons were squealling. Puîyus spun the Emperor’s sword around, the soldiers were firing another volley against him, and Puîyus wanted the light to be especially spectacular, so he hacked through the bombs and quickened the explosion, and several Dragons began falling down backwards against the web of light and were crying out in terror. The Qhíng were sounding out their conch shells again, Princess Éfhelìnye could hear. The Aûm were cheering, and the pipe organs of their vessels were arising in joy. Éfhelìnye sniffed the air. She could smell it that special khnèjheti feeling. New waves of snow were about to fall. And when the new storm was come, as the snow was falling all the thicker and brighter, the snow itself was blossoming as it touched the pollen waves, and the Dragons were wheezing as they were breathing in jets of blues and greens and reds, their wings were beating against the snowfall, the clouds themselves were yclogged with the pollen dripping in long icicle fangs. And as Puîyus cut through one Dragon and the next, as the Dragons were spinning around and trying to keep their faces away from him, for the first time in all their generations, since the time when the Empress had been taken away from them, the Dragons felt fear. And they had no idea what to do. They no longer felt like Dragons, and the music which Kàrijoi whispered unto them fell silent and dead in their ears.
Princess Éfhelìnye and the pod of whales came floating upwards unto the Dragon battle now. The Princess reached unto her Mother’s necklace and slowly removed it from her, the pollen drifting about the jewels snηf and and gems quri and slowly turning about in fractal tartans, and the pollen was dipping into the precious stones as if they were living amber and time could be entrapped within. Éfhelìnye tried to calm her heart. All she knew about her Mother was her beauty and dance, she had no idea about personality or voice or character at all, she was just a symbol, and whenever she thought about Motherhood she tended to think of Auntie Qtìmine who was like unto a Mother for Puîyus and his Sisters, or of the brief alteracation which Éfhelìnye had experienced with the Wraith of Khwofheîlya, Puîyus’ birth Mother. But now, as the pollen was raging about her, and the snow falling all the thicker, the whales chattering, the Traîkhiim shivering, the bombs exploding, and Puîyus breaking through the Dragons, Éfhelìnye wanted to be like her Mother, the one who could inspire loyalty in men and demimortal alike years after her death. She gazed unto the rainbow. She looked out. The whales had now come into the midst of the Dragon battle, and the Dragons were swirling unto all sides of her and not even noticing.
Puîyus spared Éfhelìnye a glance, he was not about to remind her that he had told her to remain in the safe whisp clouds, he knew that sometimes she went where she had to in order to protect him, she was become quite feirce in her defense of him. He was spinning the Emperor’s sword around and jabbing it through the neck of a Dragon, when Prince Kherènxhuqhe came roaring upwards, rivers of fire flowing out from him, and Puîyus divided all of the fires with his sword and felt sorry for the Dragons who had once been the most blessed of all creatures but were now but thralls to the Frozen Emperor.
– Flee, Virgin! – Prince Kherènxhuqhe bellowed. – I shall slay and devour your sweetheart now! – quoda the Prince, as he kept turning his face from side to side in an effort not to look in Puîyus’ eyen.
– I have words for you, oh Dragon, and all of the phatries of the children of Qhalúxha! – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – Listen to me, who am the only child of the one whom men and dragons alike called Qwasiêla the Moon Empress, Twúmal the Sky Virgin, Khnesqekaîxhren, the Virgin Empress. –
– We treat not with Princesses, we murdher and eat them! – cried the Dragon Prince.
– At the beginning of this hour, as the Emperor’s War fell upon Jaràqtu, when Puey was sent on a martyrdom mission against the Qhíng and became ritually dead to his family and friends and became an Ancestor to his people, he returned alive and knew that he now had an opportunity to leave his homeworld and do what no living child could do. For Puey and I decided that we were going to end the Emperor’s War in our own way, we travelled outwards to the leaders of the war and asked them to surrender with honor unto us so that we may have peace, we offered peace unto the Locust Khan whose essence dwells somewhere within his myriad machines, we came unto the lords and masters of the Kèlor Qhíng and their Suzerain Speaker surrounded their governance unto us, we travelled out even unto the webs of Xhlaîra and asked the wind up toys who were ruling it to surrender unto us, and they consented, and finally were we come unto the Crystalline Throne and there Puey asked my Father for my hand in betrothal and marriage as a sign of the ending of his dynasty. –
– Great plan – chanted Prince Kherènxhuqhe. – Peace has been strangled in its sleep, and war reigns surpreme. –
– Be that as it may, Puey and I offer you Dragons now the same peace. Surrender now unto me and Puey, and we shall find a way to heal you, you shall be as beautiful and majestic as you once were, and Dragons shall no more be a curse unto children and virgins and priests, but they shall be the mighty Rainbow Serpents of Creation. –
– DIE PUÎYOS! DIE ÉFHELÌNYE! WE CURSE YOUR PEACE AND ALL THE LAND! – shouted Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and all of the Dragons were spinning about him enraged, and strength was renewed within their strong wings and limbs, and Puîyus was now finding him beset in many directions at once as all of the Dragons screamed their wrath against him and were breathing out their flames. And the soldiers far below grew afraid, for it seemed that even at the moment of his triumph that the Son of Heaven was faltering, and the Dragons would rend him apart at any moment.
– Not working not working not working not my idea! – cried Fhólus as he swayed from side to side about one of Princess Éfhelìnye’s shoulders. – Do something! Do something! You the Empress, punch the Dragons or something! –
– I’m going to do something better than punching – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– We surrender! – cried Aîya as she toppled upon Éfhelìnye’s shoudlers. – Surrender! Surrender! –
– Surrender to the Dragons? – asked Fhólus.
– I we surrender to everyone – chanted Aîya. – Surely someone will win. –
– We slay you now, Puîyos, Slave and Son of a Slave! – Prince Kherènxhuqhe roared as he punched away all of the Dragons that were flying between him and his prize, and his wings were struggling against the cascade of the pollen and the lightning branching and swelling in the windswept deep.
Princess Éfhelìnye held up her Mother’s necklace. She looked down to her left hand and saw the moon band which Grandfather Pátifhar had secreted upon her finger long ago, to keep safe from her Father, and upon the ring voluted the many names of her Mother. – You shall not harm me or Puey – Éfhelìnye chanted. – We are under my Mother’s protection. –
– Jhá xhmir Ámetalamfhínefhaxùxhwi! Death unto all of the Children of the Land! – all of the Dragons were intoning.
– My Mother was the Empress – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted and as she clasped the rainbow necklace about her neck chanted she – And her name was Khnoqwísi Euláriya Tsetseîlwa Xhefhiênil Teîl Khmàkhura Xhráqa Khlála Fhufhìnye Fhlóra Khnukeîya Khraîyeil Pìpra Khaliláma Kàlafhen. And she still protects her children now. – And at the saying of the name, the necklace began to beam with the first few flushes of purples and jacinths and greens and golds and saffron and red blushes.
– Say not her names! – cried Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and the Dragons were spinning around in confusion, their wings beating against the storm of pollen and snow and levinflashes, and behind them Puîyus was looming, for as the Dragons were staying their wings he remained, and the Emperor’s sword he held in his right hand, and it was a living found of lava so hot and burning that from afar the Dragons themselves were beginning to shake in fear. – We alone remain faithful unto Khnoqwísi! We shall kill you now! –
– All ye thousand Dragons, you who are left and thought you could fight my Puey, do you refuse my love and his? – Éfhelìnye asked. And the light from the necklace was suffusing outwards, a few beams were shooting about Fhólus and tickling his six nostrils, some of the light was playing about Aîya’s wings, and all of the whales were lighting up.
– We hate love, we slay you now! We burt all tree and priest and flower and child … prepare to die! – Prince Kherènxhuqhe was shaking now, his horns becoming part of the lightning storm, and all about him the Dragons were heaving, their scales breaking apart and revealing ice flowing within.
– If that is your wish, than so be it – chanted Éfhelìnye. – Harm those whom Khnoqwísi loved. –
– Don’t say her name! – the Dragons moaned, and the necklace was branching outwards.
– Then turn around. Look Puey in the eye. Fight him, Dragon to Mortal – Éfhelìnye whispered. – I love Puey with all my heart My love is the only weapon that I have, the only shield and spear and sword. And yet now I know that with just that love, you cannot harm me! –
The Dragons were moaning, some of them coughing out the pollen, some of them rolling their eyen back. Prince Kherènxhuqhe cried out – I shall wear the skin of Puîyos, the Slave’s son! –
– Turn around and fight him! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I command you in Khnoqwísi’s name. –
– I can’t turn around – Kherènxhuqhe chanted.
– Turn around! Dragons, all of you! Look at Puey! –
– We cannot! – the Dragons were moaning.
– Look Puey in the eye! – Éfhelìnye cried. – Khnoqwísi’s only child commands you! –
– We cannot look into his eye! – the thousand Dragons were screaming, and flowing out from their jaws came brillant steam and clouds of phosphorous, their own eyen were panicked mirrors turned within, lava and ice and fire were rioting through their scales, their wings were beating in terror.
– Why! – Éfhelìnye cried.
– We are afraid. –
– Then your story ends now. For the ten thousand generations grandparents shall tell the little ones gathered at their knees that once long ago beautiful rainbow serpents danced in the Tree of Creation, but they betrayed the Empress Khnoqwísi, and in the end a single child, not even fully grown, battled them in the heavens and cut them down one by one through the back and eat their hearts, for they were become cowards in the end. –
– We cannot look … –
– Puey will kill you all then. There will be too many hearts to eat, he’ll just taste the choicest ones. Your blood shall pour downwards and become the howling ululation of the septentrional Winds. He will peel off the nicest of yours to make into a betrothal garment. When Puey is Emperor his armor shall be of your hides. And for all time children will laugh at you, as miserable little frightened skinks! –
– We’re no skinks! – Prince Kherènxhuqhe shuddered.
Rubesence and coquelicot and aurelienescence and green and cærulea and purpuresence were flowing out from Éfhelìnye and all about her the clouds and whales and heavens were changed and were become the living edge of the rainbow. – Look on Puey now, or he assassinate and execute you like common pariah heretics hunted down in the streets. –
Prince Kherènxhuqhe’s lips were shuddering. – Please don’t make us look. –
– Look at him who will be Son of Khnoqwísi. –
– No. –
– Look. –
– Please. –
– Behold. Now. –
Prince Kherènxhuqhe was shaking, and all about him the Dragons were beating their wings so fast that flowing down from them were come teardrops of magma and cloud and steam, and the Dragons were lifting up their voices and wailing in terror and shame and lamentation to think that they had been brought to slow. By now the necklace rainbow was filling up a quarter of the heavens, and it continued to grow, and when the Dragons breathed out their fires, they were breathing out pollen which was burning without being consumed. Prince Kherènxhuqhe, as the leader whom divine Kàrijoi himself had commanded, and who himself has coiled up at the steps of the Crystalline Throne before the Emperor’s feet knew that it was his duty to set the example. He took a deep breath, and shuddering turned around and looked Puîyus in the eye, but even the ancient Prince, powerful and cunning beyond the generations, recoiled as if struck when he saw the deep blue pools of sadness in Puîyus’ eyen.
– Why can’t you look at my beautiful Puey? – Éfhelìnye asked. – Speak! –
Prince Kherènxhuqhe was beginning to realize the lucky was Lord Qàrqhin whom Puîyus had simply bested in a fair fight in the frozen waterfalls of Eréjet, for Qàrqhin had died with dignity. – The lad feels sorry for us. He sees right through us. –
– Mew – Puîyus whispered.
– Puey says that he is sorry for what Emperor Kàrijoi has done to you – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Be quiet! – Prince Kherènxhuqhe screamed.
– Mew – Puîyus whispered.
– Puey says that he wishes to show you mercy. We will find a healer for you and all your kind, even if we have to take you to an Oracle and beg the Immortals … – Éfhelìnye began.
– Silence, mortal! It is unseemly for a … horrible flesh creature to pity … a Son of Creation … once beautiful and pristine … one made out of pure music … – Prince Kherènxhuqhe was hiding his face in his claws.
– Mew – Puîyus whispered.
– Puey wishes to have compassion on you and all your kin – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Don’t be such a fool! – Prince Kherènxhuqhe shook and his lava tears fell from his wings. – We have slain priest and child and maiden, we are torment, we are bale, we are winter! One does not have compassion on the likes of us. –
– It’s not altogether your fault. The Emperor has poisoned the song in your mind, and filled your bellies with an abyss that cannot be filled. Look at Puey. If you surrender, he will not harm you. –
– He is too good. You are too innocent. We can hear your heartbeat, the music of your love is poisoning us. We cannot look at the lad, his spirit is broken, he does not even hunger. No one can understand the Dragon. We must fight. –
– The war will end one way or another – Éfhelìnye chanted. – But you can still be on the side of the last priests and children left, the side which my Mother, whom men called Khnesqekaîxhren the Bride Empress, Twúmal, the Daughter of the Air, Qwasiêla, the Moon Empress would have blessed with her moonwhite hand. –
– You know nothing of your Mother … she abandoned you … she left you in the Hidden Gardens to die alone and forgotten! –
A single tear came trickling out of the corner of Éfhelìnye’s eye, the tear beading down her cheek. – Perhaps I always need to forgive my Mother, Khnoqwísi, beloved and beautiful. –
– We Dragons believe that she never even wanted a child – Kherènxhuqhe was saying, and all about him the Dragons were nodding. – She knew bearing a child would kill her. You killed her. And a poor substitute for her you have been. –
– I apologuise – Éfhelìnye said. – I have much to learn. End the fighting. Let us dwell in peace. –
– You were Khnoqwísi’s mistake. She would still be alive, if it were not for her. You started the war, the moment you were conceived, and the moment you were born we Dragons were driven insane, our music shattered, our bellies unfillable. –
– I forgive my Mother for thinking me a mistake. And I forgive you too. – For a moment Éfhelìnye felt like tottering o'er, she did not realize that taking upon herself the burdhen of her Mother’s heritage would remind her of that which she wished not to know and which she never wanted to hear. But she felt warm hands upon her, and saw that silent Puîyus had come unto the head of the whale, and his eyen were wet with tears also, and Éfhelìnye felt sorrow evaporating from her, for Puîyus patted her hand and turned to look upon the Dragons, and they could do nothing but quail in misery.
– Mew – Puîyus chanted.
– Don’t you dare forgive us! – cried Prince Kherènxhuqhe. – Don’t you know what I have done! –
– Mew. –
– The fields … the trees you love so much … the flowers … virgin princesses … learned priests … brave knights … the children of the Real People … –
– Mew. –
– I caught your Sister, the pretty little one, her golden hair flowing. I was on the verge of devouring her alive, she writhed in horror, coward that she is … –
– Mew. –
– She betrayed you! She lead us right towards you … she should have taken her own life to protect you … she knew that we intended to slay you to drag your steaming body and dump it before the Emperor’s feet … –
Puîyus blinked. Somehow he knew that Akhlísa was safe in Jaràqtu. Although a Dragon may never lie, its mind may be scrambled, its prophecies and metaphors jumbled, it may be mad and cannot know the future, and it may not understand the truth of its own words. He held up his hands in traditional mudras of peace.
– Mew – Puîyus whispered.
– Puey says he loves you – Éfhelìnye chanted.
The Dragons were screaming out their flames in panic, they were trying to arise in ripples of pollen and lightning, their minds were suddenly grown silent as the song which the Emperor had placed within grew silent, and their bellies grew cold and hungered not.
– Mew. –
– Puey says that he loves your beauty, your strength, the way you leap and play in the heavens, your wisdom, your song … –
– No! – cried the Dragons.
– Mew. –
– Puey says he loves your grace, he loves the way that dewbeads flow in your eyen, he loves the way that seashells move like Dragons, he loves the way that your wings are like the branches of trees, he loves the way that you are like living jewels … –
– Don’t love us! – hissed the Dragons.
– Mew. –
– Puey says he loves your voice, your song, he could listen to your singing all the hours of his life, he loves the way you move and the way that you dance. – Éfhelìnye hopped forwards a few steps, one hand reached up unto her Mother’s necklace, and spinning around in a graceful piouette she winked to Fhólus and Aîya and chanted – Oh, I’m going to fight in the only way I know. I shall dance for the Dragons. –
– Hurray! – cried Fhólus.
– Now that’s fighting I understand – sighed Aîya.
And as Princess Éfhelìnye turned around and smiled at the Dragons, they could feel that their hearts were breaking within them already, for Éfhelìnye was she was skipping in her ballet looked not just like a young Princess Khnoqwísi from the elder generation but like the young crown Prince Kàrijoi whom they had so adored. And she spin around in the positions of ballet, and by now the necklace rainbow was filling up half of the winds, and Éfhelìnye was swaying unto one side, her arms lifted up and swaying, and in her dance she was portraying the rustling of the forest and the rushing of the winds and a winter long ago, and as she came jumping to another side, her dance became a very specific winter ages ago, when Crown Prince Kàrijoi had ventured out into the snows and met Princess Khnoqwísi for the first time, and Éfhelìnye danced just as Khnoqwísi used to dance, and she danced like the snow and the rustling fields, and she danced like young Crown Prince Kàrijoi when his eyen alit upon hers, and she danced now as the birds and fishes and dinosaurs and kine used to gambol in euphoria to experience some of the joy of the new Emperor and Empress. And as the Starflower Princess danced, the Dragons could feel that their wings were no longer storm, their wings were bleeding out with rainbow colors once again, and their bodies were curving and changing, and were no longer harsh fangs and crystalline angles, their bodies were sinuous and lithe and made to dance in the heavens, and the Dragons were lifting up their necks and moaning in terror to remember such beauty, and when they tried to sing, they sang out as if to say, Please do not love us, oh Éfhelìnye and Puîyos. But Éfhelìnye continued to spin around and she danced in memory of the Mother whom she had never known in life, the divine one yclepte Khnoqwísi Euláriya Tsetseîlwa Xhefhiênil Teîl Khmàkhura Xhráqa Khlála Fhufhìnye Fhlóra Khnukeîya Khraîyeil Pìpra Khaliláma Kàlafhen.
The Rainbow Serpents screamed out. Their bodies were become crystal and bright, and their fires were just dancing phosphorous and were become streams of pollen so that no longer were they drowning in the rainbow light descending about them, they were breathing out part of it. And their hearts were troubled almost unto the death. Prince Kherènxhuqhe turned unto his brethren and cried out – Close your eyen! Slaughter the children at once! Then everything shall be as it was before, and we can honor Kàrijoi in his holy quest to end time! We despise the lad’s holiness and the lass’ innocence! –
– Good dance – smiled Fhólus with his three sets of lips, and his antennæ ears were darting back and forth to the time of Éfhelìnye’s spinning.
– Fun dance – sighed Aîya and she was bobbling from side to side in her own participation.
Princess Éfhelìnye spun around in her piourette and was hopping up in a graceful arabesque. She did not realize that something had gone wrong. Puîyus just disappeared. And then he threw her down, and splashing walls of fire reached out before them. All of the Dragons were squeezing their eyen shut and were rushing up with a single mind against the whales. Several whales screamed out in terror as one Dragon bit off an head and spat it out, and another dragon sliced open the skin and blubber and oil came dripping down, and blind all the while the Dragons began attacking whale and each other in a mad frenzy to snatch up and gobble up the children. The living ships and skiffs and glass hot air balloons of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu before panicked when they saw that the Dragons were becoming crystal and light but were still attacking the Son of Heaven, and this time, as they signaled to each other with yfeathered flag and smoke, they decided not to wait for Puîyus’ signal but just to fire at the Dragons at random. And so it was that in a moment, almost in the twinkling of an eye the Dragons, their eyen shut, were falling upon Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and firecrackers were whirling unto all sides of them.
Puîyus held Éfhelìnye down, Fhólus and Aîya were spilling downwards, the whales were afraid, the Dragons were panicking, and for a moment Éfhelìnye doubted. Puîyus was the only one who was not afraid. He bound upwards. Lava streams and irrational numbers and plasma clasps were flowing about the Eilwiyusàrtyai sword which the Emperor had granted unto him. And as Puîyus arose through the air, even as the Dragons were doing their best to destroy the scent of the innocence and holiness, to Puîyus’ mind it was as if the Dragons were caught in quag and molasses, and only Puîyus were free to fly. He cut through one wing, and a Dragon began to tumble down blind. He cut through a limb, an entire arm falling off. He lopped through a glass ear, and a Dragon began falling away blind and partially deaf. And then Puîyus arose. Prince Kherènxhuqhe was arising, vast and majestic, and even though he was partially remade into rainbow and glass, still shimmering within him was a spirit of black and silver and malice. Puîyus soared upwards. Prince Kherènxhuqhe was slashing left and right with his impaling wings and harming the other Dragons more so than Íngìkhmar’s Son. Puîyus turned his sword around. And slowly Prince Kherènxhuqhe was opening his eyen.
And the Prince’s eyelid was heavy and wellscaled, rugose xylem and phloem ridging it in deep grooves. And as the eye was revealed, beaming out of it came black smoke and glistening darkness visible. The pupil was arising, webs of glass blood were flowing about it, and the eye was swiveling from side to side, darting and struggling. And then all at once the eye looked up. Puîyus soared up right before it. The eye became liquid and mirror and ocean. The eye reflected back unto Puîyus many things which he would rather not see, for in the eye he saw again and again the burning of his homeland, he could see the Qháma elite chuckling unto themselves marching all the while as they tossed down the statues of his ancestors and threw the crannog down into flame and loch, he saw within the eye that Fhermáta was lying sick abed upon a white bed, white sheets, white pillow, and that he was seated beside her and patting her hand and telling her that he would never leave her, and yet the war and he did leave her. In the eyen of the Dragon he could see the Emperor upon his throne of crystals and growing behind him was tree and lightning and time, and Puîyus was bowing down before the Emperor and asking for Éfhelìnye’s hand, and the blizzards were beginning. In the eyen he saw the heavens filling up with the warships of the Qhíng as he came hopping from vessel to vessel and unleashed the fell weapon which the Duchesses had set in his hand. He saw the tumbling of the bridges of Qthantònthe when the Emperor had come to claim the children of the Qhíng. He felt himself a lad of three winters running empanicked as a Dragon arose behind him. He felt himself twisting through the frozen waterfalls of Eréjet and fighting for to save Éfhelìnye. He looked around. He held the Emperor’s sword, and it was solar light. The Dragon stared right at him. One eye revealed unto him the form of Empress Khnoqwísi staring right back at him, and the other eye was his Mother, yrobed in her deathshrowds, and a crustaceon crown crawling about her head, and she was as beautiful as he remembered and had seen in the drawings.
– Puey … –
Puîyus held up the sword, blazing golden bright. He stayed his hand. Beside him some of the wind was coiling around and become gown and a maiden’s form and flowing golden hair, but only partially formed, a virgin formed out of pollen and wind and memory. It was Fhermáta drifting beside him, and she was lifting out her hand unto him. And glancing down, Puîyus could not help but notice that she was no longer wearing her betrothal ring.
– Do not hesitate, Puey – Fhermáta whispered. – Strike. –
Puîyus glanced into the Dragon’s eyen. In one eye Fhermáta was dying again and again and again. In the other eye Puîyus could see that Puîyus was lying in the reeds and she was come unto him and was returning the ring which she had worn most of the days of her life. Puîyus held the sword above his head. He paused.
– Do it – Fhermáta whispered. – Please. I am not angry with you. Do what only Puey, the Son of Raven can do. – She lifted up an hand of pollen and touched his face, her fingers were the rolling of seeds and light, insubstantial and orbiting all the while, and her hair which had once been so lustrious and beautiful was the dance of the winds.
– Mew? –
Fhermáta nodded. – Yes, I still love you. –
The Dragon blinked. Puîyus arose and struck. The sword almost exploded, as Puîyus thrust it all the way through Prince Kherènxhuqhe’s right eye. The sword jutted right out of the back of the Prince’s skull and shooting outwards came a long comet tail several miles long, and the sword was erupting now, thousands of long and unqueueing sparkles of light dribbling downwards, and volcanic blast after blast erupting right out from it. Puîyus still held the hilt, nothing was left of the eye save for burning blood and light. He dug the sword back and forth. Prince Kherènxhuqhe cried out in horrible pain, and at once half of his skull exploded outwards in a brilliant and growing swelling that dissolved in waves upon waves upon waves of blood light rippling outwards. Puîyus was holding onto the handle so hard that his hand was being burnt, and perhaps that is what saved him, for he was anchored against the bone and was not vaporized at once, but held on for the first few horrific explosions.
– I shall always love you – Fhermáta’s pollen wraith reached outwards and touched Puîyus’ shoulder. Prince Kherènxhuqhe shuddered, just because he had just lost half his faced didn’t mean that he was dead yet, but he was beginning to wish that he were. Several more swelling bubbles of light burst out from his gaping wound, and Puîyus was hurled several miles into the air, his hand still grasping his sword, and for a moment he fell unconscious, and the last he felt were the pollen arms wrapping around him and trying to keep him safe.
After Puîyus hurled Princess Éfhelìnye aside, she rolled around a couple of times, the flames just barely missing her. She crawled outwards and gathered up Fhólus and Aîya into her arms to keep their safe, they were both dazed. Several more loops of fire were falling upon her, and she just barely avoided them. She looked up and saw that Puîyus was leaping through the air, he was holding up his sword, it looked like he was going to attack Prince Kherènxhuqhe, and as he did so all of the Dragons, blind and enraged were turning at once and about to incinerate him.
– Please, Mother, if you can hear me wherever you are please save Puey please save my Puey! – Éfhelìnye gasped. – I’m sorry I haven’t quite lived up to your memory I really am but please if you can do something or send someone or just help him just please please please! Please! – She looked upwards. She could see that that the Prince was opening up his baleful eye, and for a moment Puîyus was frozen in thought. Éfhelìnye clasped her hands together and chanted – Oh Father, I’m so sorry about running away from home and disappointing you, but please don’t let Puey die he doesn’t deserve to please don’t let Puey die please please don’t please let me die please please! – She gasped. For a moment time was stopped.
And then Puîyus arose and cut out Prince Kherènxhuqhe’s eye. Éfhelìnye scrambled to her feet. The Prince was screaming. And yet even more incredible was that all of the Dragons who had remained for to fight Puîyus all reacted at the same time as if blinded, all of them held up wing or claw o'er their right eye, and many were falling backwards, and all were writhing in pain as if they too just had an eye gouged out. Half of Prince Kherènxhuqhe’s skull exploded. And Puîyus was thrown high up into the air.
– Puey! – Éfhelìnye gasped. – Puey! PUEY! Can you hear me! –
– He’s done it! The Son of Heaven fights for us! – came the cheers of the Qhíng and Aûm far below. – All fire! Fire everything at the Dragons! –
– Puey! – Éfhelìnye screamed. – Someone, help him! He’s falling! Doesn’t anyone else see that! –
The whales began spinning upwards. Dragons were all leaping up, wings and claws o'er a single eye. The fireworks of the mortals were burning in random directions, sometimes a Dragon was knicked, sometimes a whale just moaned and exploded. The Dragons were stronger and faster indeed in their retreated, and so the Qhíng and Aûm were slaughtering far more whales than they were of Dragon. The pollen was filled all things. The winds were almost completely stilled. The Dragons were arising in blind retreat. The whales cried out in their last song as they rushed upwards to catch Puîyus.
– Fire on the Dragons! – laughed the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu.
And the rainbows were at their greatest, no longer were the remains confined unto the necklace upon her throat, no longer were the rainbows only in the beating wings of the Dragons partially transformed by compassion and forgiveness. The rainbows were everywhere and nigh and bright. The rainbows were stretching upwards in high and torquated queues were and were vaulting upwards and become part of the slowy hights, the rainbows were spread outwards into leagues of violets and cyanotics and verdigrisy and aurulence and orange and ruby, the rainbows were the wind, and the pollen was blooming. As the Dragons retreated upwards, their scales were growing with bits of grass and leaves tumbling down, some of the Dragons as they were beating their tremendous wings were finding vines and branches and trees growing through them, and as they cried out in their retreat streams of pollen were flowing out of their jaws and were become part of the long and streaming waves of light which were glowing throughout all of the rainbows. Éfhelìnye was holding the Traîkhiim tight unto herself and patting the whale’s head and saying – Higher! Faster! We must save Puey, for no one else can. He’s broken the might of the Dragons, he’s sending them all retreating, he’s conquered the Dragons, my Puey is not just a Dragon Slayer, he turns the battle against them and vanquishes them! – One finger reached out and played with the iridescent jewels upon the necklace, and for a few moments she wondered whether her Mother would be proud indeed, or whether in fact she were betraying her Mother’s memory. But she had not time now for philosophy and ethics, her task was to save the one she loved.
– We all going to die! – cried Fhólus.
– Are we going to die? – asked Aîya.
– No one’s going to die – Éfhelìnye chanted. A whale screamed beside her, as a Dragon bursting upwards mawled its head off and threw it down towards the Qhíng. – We’re not going to die. –
– That whale just die! – screamed Fhólus.
– Are we going to die? – sried Aîya.
– Just stay close to me – Éfhelìnye shivered. Blossoms of Aûm bombs were opening around them and struck their high-finned mount, and it screamed, and several whales crashed against the growing firebombs.
– Stay close to you what type of plan is that! – cried Fhólus.
– Are we going to die? – screamed Aîya.
– I’m trying to concentrate … – Éfhelìnye chanted. She rubbed her brow.
– We need a plan! Think of something! –
– Are we going to die? –
– Please, just let me think for a moment. –
– I bet Puîyos’ other prettier and younger wife would have thought up of a plan by now. –
– I’ve heard rumor that Puîyos’ other prettier and younger wife is quite good at plans. –
Éfhelìnye opened her eyen. – I think I have an idea. –
– Does it involve another dance? – asked Fhólus.
– I like dances – Aîya nodded with her three heads. All around them arose the screams as the Dragons were retreating faster and faster, and yet the Qhíng and Aûm continued to fire upon everything that moved, and the pollen itself was burning.
Éfhelìnye fished into her pocket and drew out the spherical device which the illustrious pirate Fhèrkifher had entrusted unto her, the the Khnìnthan sphere which Grandfather Pátifhar had given unto the Pirates as aid in finding the children. – Our Peiratical Uncles gave this to me and told me that Grandfather Pátifhar would be able to find us with it. Perhaps if I can figure out how to awaken it … –
– Do you eat it? It looks tasty – Fhólus chanted.
– Delicious! We must eat it at once! See, must be eaten, that’s the law – Aîya chanted.
– Yes, that’s Traîkhiim law – Fhólus chanted.
– All our laws about food. And dance. Want to dance? –
– After we eat. –
– While we eat! –
– I love you! –
– I love you too! –
The sphere was almost dancing as it whirled in Princess Éfhelìnye’s grasp, it smaller disques were spinning outwards and bursting out from it were come lesser rays of shadow and beams of light and smaller rainbows which were twining upwards and merging into the rainbow that beamed from her neck, and she spun the wheels around and within the orbs came tides and moons waxing and waning, and all at once the device was opening upwards and almost gasping as it felt out the way for the children to go. And flowing out from it came a slight wind, almost imperceptible to the feel, but when Éfhelìnye looked around and watched the sky retreat of the Dragons and the explosions of the firecrackers all about her, she could see that some of the pollen was being drawn back as if they were wellarrassed curtains, and as the pollen fled aside it formed a pathway that opened up all of the winds, and the winds too were swept aside, and the winds arose and parted before the device and the Starflower Princess Éfhelìnye, Khnoqwísi’s only child, and so it was that she was finding herself out of the flowing pollen ululations of septentrional Qterfhóreso Khrùmfhurs, the Northwind which always surrounds the sacred gardens of Jaràqtu.
– Hold tight unto me! – Éfhelìnye cried, and as she gathered up Puîyus into her arms she could see that below them ocean was forming and waves of water were flowing from side to side, and brilliant clouds were flowing outwards, and high above her she could see the balletic and immortal Stars which shine high in the North, and the long winding coastline of Jaràqtu, green within green within green was scintillant before her eyen. – So beautiful – she whispered. – How I love this land. Of all the worlds I love this one the best and would dwell here all the days of my life with Puey, if I may. I understand exile has been for Puey, how his heart has been broken for so long to be parted from this. But this is home, Fhólus and Aîya. We’re going home. –
– Not enough fungus – chanted Fhólus.
– Where the black sky double sun giant pink tree things? – asked Aîya. – Smell all wrong. –
– Not enough fungus. –
– Then what do they eat? –
– I don’t know. Dirt. –
– That has got to be the grossest thing I’ve e'er heard. Why you eat dirt? –
The whales dashed upwards and were doing their best to avoid both Dragon and bomb, but the whales themselves were failing and were vaporizing one by one. Éfhelìnye clung onto the Traîkhiim and hope, and hugging them tight chanted – I would make an home with Puey and bake him a nice pie, apple and cinnamon, and he will never have to fast again. –
– The way you cook, maybe better to starve – Fhólus chanted.
– Better he eat dirt – chanted Aîya.
– Better when we around, we get to mock everyone. –
– Especially the people we’re supposed to be protecting. –
– There he is! – Éfhelìnye cried. – I’ll try to catch him. – The whales were crying out, the pollen winds grown rarified as they were soaring above the coastline of Jaràqtu.
– Don’t feed him dirt! – Aîya sung and giggled to herself, until Éfhelìnye snatched her by an antenna whisp and chanted – I hear everything you say, I just choose not to respond! I’ll feed Puey a nice dessert! Now quit it, or I poke you like I did in the labyrinth. –
– Puîyos’ other wife has a better temperment – Fhólus turned one head to Aîya to say. – Also, good cook, she fed her some of the Thùlwu pastries she … uh-oh… Empress looking at me and not too happy in her face. –
– You two have to behave around Puey – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I won’t have you saying anything to hurt his feelings. –
– Even though he has a girly name? – asked Fhólus.
– And his Sisters always boss him around and he can’t dominate them? – asked Aîya.
– I’m thinking of giving you two to Siêthiyal as my present – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I know she’ll find a good use for a couple of docile housecarls. –
– Which one that? – Aîya shrugged.
– Mean middle Sister – Fhólus shook his heads. – We no want. –
– Uh-oh. –
– We’ll be nice. –
– Extra nice. –
– With sugar and cream nice. –
– Super nice. Puîyos nice. –
– That’s good – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– And quiet too. –
– So quiet you won’t even know we’re here. –
– Extra quiet! –
– With sugar and cream quiet! –
– SUPER QUIET! –
– I understand – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– You’re not really going to give us to mean Sister, are you? –
– Mentioned that you the favoritest of all Empresses? –
– And you taste good too! –
– We could eat you all day long. –
– Here he is! – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– We really like you. –
– May I eat your ear now? –
– PUEY! – Éfhelìnye cried.
The Whales arose and sang their last song, hopeful and melancholy at the same time. All of the Dragons were leaving, they were returning unto the Moons, and high above the Sqasqáli Sea the Moons were beaming and slowly turning around in their dusty orbs. Prince Kherènxhuqhe, half his skull now gone and nothing but oozing rainbows was leading the way, and the Dragons vast and silent and humbled were flying upwards and contemplating their fear. As the Dragons were returning to the craters and dust seas of the Moons, a few of them were turning around and gazing with longing eyen unto the cloudscapes and the mortal fields beyond them, and not a few of them were shuddering and looking unto the outer East where Emperor Kàrijoi remained inthronised. Princess Éfhelìnye could only recognize a few of the Dragons by form and face and feature, for some of them were too transformed for her to know, and they were an ancient and demimortal people of whom it would take years of observation to know even the studies of sqánga, of dractontozoölocryptolacustribestiology, but she could see that lingering among the phatries of the Dragons, the Fhlíng and Òqtexha and Xhyepìnte and Fhlìngta, of the offspring of Qhalúxha, that a single Dragonlette was remaining, he was looking back with longing, it was Àrqotha, his wings shimmering back and forth in gusts and rainbow lights, and his eyen were searching the welkin of Jaràqtu. Éfhelìnye watched him, his eyen were the glint of jewels, she thought she caught his gaze but was not entirely sure, but then a few moments later Àrqotha was turning around and spinning back to rejoin his kin upon the Moons.
The fireworks filled all the air. Éfhelìnye almost jumped up as the whales arose in the crest of their flight unto where Puîyus tumbled downwards, and her arms, already laden with the Traîkhiim reached out about Puîyus. He rolled out upon the Dragon’s head, he was still a little dazed, one hand was grasping the Emperor’s sword so hard that his fingers were like bones, but the sword was dying down, it was become the blushing Suns in their setting. And the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were cheering in their vessels below. Éfhelìnye reached upwards and rubbed her face against his. He was stirring only a little. The whales were intoning their last song. Slowly Puîyus was opening his eyen, and saw the Princess staring at him and the Dragons retreating behind him. She brushed her hand upon his cheek, softer than the down of petals in the morn.
– Xá janaPuîye xá sqoqokiyaôngi traluyejikhòntet lwòxhnu! – she whispered. – Oh my Puey, conquerer of Dragons and of my heart. –
– … – Puîyus whispered and touched her face.
– He looks delicious – chanted Aîya. – Tastier than you – she kicked and bit at Fhólus.
– Meh. A little stringer I think. Not enough heads – chanted Fhólus.
The whales were sighing. They knew this was their last song. The Dragons had done an excellent job in ripping up the pollen and flames and air of the heavens, but the greatest danger lay in the waves of blossoming bombs which the Qhíng and Aûm continued to fire. One by one all of the whales exploded. Puîyus was still a little too dazed to understand exactly what was happening, but years of training prepared him to face danger, and without thought he held Éfhelìnye close unto himself, and the two little Traîkhiim, and as the bombs continued to open all about them, and the twaijóle valütakanit came to an end, for the soldiers in their crippled living ships and skiffs and glass hot air balloons shot down all of the whales and were burning the heavens. The last whale cried out and became dust and pollen, and Puîyus and Éfhelìnye together were falling through the heavens, fires unraveling unto all sides of them. And they fell as unto janyapìpra like unto shooting Stars d̀igubina as beneath them the soldiers exalted loud.
For the Pfhòrjhaxing jhpiêluqei Qterfhóresòyaloi, the Pollen Battle of the Northwind was the very first victory which the Triple Alliance had in the Tlhexetsopwekùthuwo, in the Flower War of Heaven, and for the moment the soldiers were forgetting the skirmishes and the downwfall of their homelands and the horrors of the blizzards and the stalemate of the Battle of Quays of Ílini and the fiasco of when the Dragon came to take the Imperial Concubine, for now, at this very moment, a clear and honorable victory was won. And all the laud and glory was to be given unto the Son of Heaven who urged the Qhíng and the Aûm to join tentacle together with a singleness of purpose. From their broken vessels the Qhíng fired their last bombs and incinerated the whales in their haste to strike the Dragons and blew upon their conch shells, and the Aûm were dancing upon their decks and lighting bone fires and letting their pipe organs sound vast and bright and deep. And the soldiers of the Qhíng and the Warriors of the Aûm were close enough in their crippled glass and hot air balloons to shout one to another, even as the fireworks arose about them, and they shot down the last of the whales.
– Who was that child who won us the victory! – the Aûm were saying.
– Could it be he? The one of rumor, of legend? – asked the Qhíng.
– Not Íngìkhmar’s Son, surely! –
– None other! Who else? –
– The one who will be the new Emperor? –
– The one who will sit upon a new throne of crystal and command us all! –
– He will honor us. The Qlùfhem and Thùlwu will have seedlings once again. –
– He will reward us. The Qhíng will have larvæ once again. –
– What is his name? –
– It is … what is it? –
– We heard it once? His name was on the wind? –
– Puîyos. –
– Puîyos? –
– Yes. –
The Qhíng and the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu who had survived the Battle realized that their vessels were in such terrible shape, even as they were struggling upwards unto the marges of Jaràqtu, that best it would be for them all to gather in the strongest of the glass and hot air balloons, and so the Qhíng and Aûm were swarming together upon the same dais, they were clasping each other tentacle in tentacle, a Qlùfhem slapped his tentacle upon a Qhíng’s feathercrest, a Qhíng was lifting up a jug to a Thùlwus and pouring a libation together, and they were all gathered together and forgetting phatry and lineage and caste and history, and were all singing at the same time – Puîyos! Puîyos! Puîyoss Saiqírening! Puîyos! Puîyos! Puîyos the Cælestial Crown Prince! Tsenakhwikotèkhmes! Tsenaqejhetlhefhíxeiyèkhmes! Sairaqhuyèkhmes! Victory is yours! Conquest is your! The glory is yours! Puîyos! Puîyos! Puîyos! –
Behind the celebrating soldiers the shooting star fell right into the sea, but the only soldiers noticing were those on the mast tower, and they were bowing unto each other, a Qlùfhem was leaping upon his sphere-legs and tempting a Qhíngan jig, and the Qhíng were laughing and spinning upon their antennæ and trying to move in the manner of the Qlùfhem. And so it was that Puîyus and Éfhelìnye fell through flame and cloud and crashed down right into the seas, and none there was to help them.
– Puîyos! Puîyos! Puîyos! – cried the soldiers. – Where did he go? He must tread through the heavens. Unseen he is, but he will return. He must be going unto Jaràqtu to prepare the way for us. Ah yes, that must be it. Come now, let us sail off and tell everyone the great song of the victory! Dragons were cast down! Puîyos gouged out an eye! And the Dragons afraid for the first time in their lives retreat unto the Moons! –
When at long last Puîyus and Éfhelìnye struck the sea, they were both awakened, if only a little. Fhólus and Aîya were ululous because of their fear of water. Puîyus was holding onto them all and was swimming for them, but he was losing strength, it had been a long and arduous battle against the Dragons, and his hand was burnt, and the Emperor’s brand, now sheathed upon his back was hissing and sparkling still a little. Éfhelìnye was fading in and out of consciousness. Puîyus continued to swim, he was wading a little when he slept, he kicked and pulled through the waters, even as all of the living ships and skiffs and glass hot air balloons faded away, the soldiers already entering Jaràqtu in victory. And the children were left all alone in the waters. Fhólus and Aîya tried to help in paddling with hand-feet and wings, but their terror of the water was deep and great, and Traîkhiim have been known to die from fright just at behold the ocean sea, and so they ducked their heads into Puîyus’ jerkin, ripped by so many wind up claws, and they shivered and just hoped for Puîyus to save them all. And so he swam and drifted and swam and swam and muscles and thought and memory all faded away, and everything became the utter blackness of the ocean deep.
Waves. Dark. Kelp writhing from side to side.
Éfhelìnye blinking. Seaweed forests. Helmets and bones entangled. Mother Khwofheîlya, descending. Ocean. The ritual suicides turning towards the Princess.
Holy seas of Jaràqtu. Strangers, aliens, forbidden. But once the seas had parted. Fleets of Qhíng had come. Invasion occapation. Xhnófho Kàrnaka betrayed the clanfathers. Puîyus blinked. War was come to his land. He had to tell Fhermáta.
Water. Darkness. Deep.
Some time later many hours later, even as the dying Suns were struggling to arise and shine upon the sands, a couple of ragged and exhausted children were washed up upon the shores of Jaràqtu. Puîyus came rolling out upon his back, and Éfhelìnye long since fainted clung unto him. Slime and seaweed covered them both. Éfhelìnye was barely even breathing. Puîyus was wounded. Somewhere in his jerkin a couple of strouthian heads snaked upwards and looking out from side to side beheld dry land for the first time in many an hour, and looking out unto the north and the hills they saw that in the camps fireworks were arising as the soldiers celebrated.
– Why weren’t we invited to the party? – Fhólus asked.
– Want to get some food? – asked Aîya.
– If we leave them for a few hours, think still be okay? No Raven come to eat off nose or face? –
– Let’s take the chance. –
Fhólus and Aîya slipped out of Puîyus’ jacket and ran off unto the camps. A few hours later they returned, their bellies filled and their limbs and wings tired from celebratory dancing, and saw that Puîyus and Éfhelìnye still lay unconscious upon the shore, the sand and kelp upon them, but now the tide was arising and about draw the children back into the waves for to drown them. And the Traîkhiim gasped and fluttered upwards, although not as graceful as they should have been, considering that they had just gorged themselves, and they tumbled back upon Puîyus’ chest and hid themselves in his jerkin, and debating how best to move the children, but finding themselves tired from all the dancing and celebration and eating, they fell asleep upon his chest again.
Night came. The tide came in and drew the children back into the sea, but somehow they did not drown but ended up floating several hundred cubits down the shore, their clothing torn by coral and stone, and the children were spat out again upon the sands. And when the dying Suns again arose and struggled to shine and heat these mortal worlds, it chanced that a few Qhíng were running upon the shore and gathering driftwood and fishing with their long weirs, for the oceans were dying now that the Emperor was withdrawing all fertility from it, and they had to take what food was left. And these Qhíng were among the Qháma elite and had themselves been part of the colonization and occupation force which had attacked Jaràqtu. And the huge Qháma warriors saw the children from afar, and their antennæ quavered in wonder, and they dashed upwards and picked them up, and found them cold and unconscious, and their clothing in bad need of mending, and their personal Traîkhiim slaves snuggling and warm and belching with satisfied heart-gizzards. And the Qháma carried the children into a tàlkhi skiff where the fire was blazing in the oven, and the Qhíng arose to take them unto the camp, for they had no idea who these strange children may be, perhaps some orphans who had fallen from a warship and been washed here upon alien shores.
And this is why history tells us that when Puîyus Íngìkhmar’s Son and the Starflower Princess Éfhelìnye left Jaràqtu at the beginning of midnight that they were fleeing the Qhíng who had ruined the land, but when they returned, ragged, exhausted, wounded, and unrecognized, that it was the Qhíng who unknowingly rescued them and carried them unto fire and wrapped them in warm blankets. It was xhlìkha xhranxhiyùtya xhnir Tlhexetsopwekùthuwo, one of the ironies of the War of Heaven. It was not only, neither first nor last, nor was it an irony which either Puîyus or Éfhelìnye noticed for many a day.
– Urp! – belched Fhólus.
– Cough! – hiccupped Aîya.
And the Traîkhiim snuggled down deeper into their blankets and snuggled up between Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and felt the warmth of the dreams which they shared for each other.