Saturday, March 7, 2009

Princess Éfhelìnye’s Worst Nightmare


A play in one act

Qhaôkalet khnùtamet:
Dramatis Personæ




The sword of Íngìkhmar
One broom to whack away at the kissing maidens (see above)
A tree or a ship or a bed or an heart


On the simple stage a bathtub lies in center, beside is it a chair whereon towels and robes lie draped. The backdrop is changeable, the room could be inside a great warship or in the glass and hot air balloon or in the Duchess’ Temple Balloon or in Khmàrsitel the City on the Waves or in the fortress on the iron mountain or even in the Crannog of the Sweqhàngqu. In the corner lies something which can be a tree or a ship or a bed or even an heart. The staging is simple because it changes as the dream proceeds.

Emperor Kàrijoi enters. He stands on one side of the stage and leans upon his staff. He is dressed all in white, a long wide-brimmed pétasos upon his head. He looks like one who has been traveling for long, a few streaks of dust lie on his garment, he wears no crown, in fact the audience should not overtly be aware that he is the Emperor, no beams of light on him, no shimmering song. From the other side of the stage Princess Éfhelìnye comes. She is clutching something to her chest, she is pale and sad.

Emperor Kàrijoi: Do you wish to live?

Princess Éfhelìnye: I do not know.

Emperor Kàrijoi: How will you know?

Princess Éfhelìnye: May I think for a moment?

Emperor Kàrijoi: Only for a moment. The heart can only remain unbeating for so long. Give it to me.

Princess Éfhelìnye looks to her chest.

Princess Éfhelìnye: I promised my heart to Puey. I cannot give it away.

Emperor Kàrijoi: I will give it back to you if you want it. Otherwise it is mine.

Princess Éfhelìnye: I do not wish for it stop. And yet I fear to let it beat again. Puey is all my hope and my world, he’s my hero and best friend, he’s the first thing in my mind when I awaken, he is my last thought as I lie down to sleep. My heart is his.

Emperor Kàrijoi: Is that what you believe? If that is so, why did you summon me?

Princess Éfhelìnye (with vehemence): I most certainly did not.

Emperor Kàrijoi: Do you hate me?

Princess Éfhelìnye: Yes, I hate you.

Emperor Kàrijoi: Give me the heart, and if you want it back, I shall grant it to you.

Princess Éfhelìnye is holding a small cloth heart-shaped pillow to her chest, and on it her name and Puîyus’ lie broidured.

Princess Éfhelìnye (angry): Take it. I don’t care.

Emperor Kàrijoi: He does not hate me.

Princess Éfhelìnye: He’s nicer than I am. He doesn’t hate anyone. Not even those he kills he hates. Not the Qhíng, not Prince Blorp, not the Dragons.

Emperor Kàrijoi: I shall be here. I am always here.

Princess Éfhelìnye: I still hate you.

Emperor Kàrijoi: That is why I cannot leave, that is why I cannot lie.

Light fades away from Emperor Kàrijoi, he remains in this position until the end of the play.

Siêthiyal approaches the tub, she carries towels of squid bear fur and cakes of scented lye soap and little bath toys, and she is whistling to herself. She comes into the barely seen background and makes a motion as of filling the bathtub with milk.

Siêthiyal (in a sing-song voice): Fresh and nice milk, just as you like it, Princess. One of these days we’ll teach you to bathe in water. Oh, look what I brought you! Petals! It’s bath time, bath time, time to be pretty and clean.

Éfhelìnye comes to the middle of the stage.

Éfhelìnye: I no longer have an heart. I’m not even a Mortal.

Siêthiyal (singing): Bath time! Bath time! Lwa lwa lwa!

Éfhelìnye: Siêthi?

Siêthiyal: Call me that again and I pound your face.

Éfhelìnye: Siêthi, are you on my side?

Siêthiyal: I’m on Puey’s side. I tolerate you. One day, if we survive this war, we shall be the very best of friends. Now, it’s time to bathe in milk and petals.

Éfhelìnye: My heart is a flower, it blossoms for Puey. I can only write when I think about him.

Siêthiyal helps undress Éfhelìnye and help her into the tub.

Siêthiyal: Let’s not worry now. We’ll just soak a little, and I’ll scrub. (Taking up a brush and making motions as she begins to scrub). This is really Karuláta’s duty, she’s going to be your Sister Wife and has to obey you, but she’s not quite reliable enough.

Éfhelìnye: Karuláta. Hhhhhmph!

Siêthiyal: Hmfh? What is Hmfh?

Éfhelìnye: Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa. She’s been planning this all along, hasn’t she?

Siêthiyal (scrubbing): And if she has?

Éfhelìnye (sulking): Scheming and planning behind my back.

Siêthiyal: She should be scrubbing your back, not I. How did I get this job?

Éfhelìnye: Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa. I hate her. I hate her so much.

Siêthiyal reaches from behind the tub and draws our her Father’s sword. She holds the point towards Éfhelìnye’s back but reconsiders. She begins scrubbing Éfhelìnye’s back so hard that it hurts her.

Éfhelìnye: Ouch! Ow! Ouch!

Siêthiyal: Lwa lwa lwa!

Éfhelìnye: This really smarts!

Siêthiyal: Really? I haven’t noticed.

Siêthiyal reached behind the tub and draws out a metallic gauntlet tipped in spikes.

Siêthiyal (donning the gauntlet): What a white and perfect little body you have, no flaws whatsoever. (She begins beating the Princess’ back. Sound affects, loud and brutal and raw).

Éfhelìnye: I’m having trouble breathing.

Siêthiyal: Pity. (Siêthiyal continues to beat the Princess. The light shining on the tub began to glow with a pink tint).

Éfhelìnye: I think I’ve been purified now.

Siêthiyal: No flaws at all.

Siêthiyal continues beating the Princess until she grows tired, and then she helps her out of the tub and drapes her in towels of fine squid bear fur.

Siêthiyal: What nesh and princessly towels.

The light shining on the towels begins to glow pink also.

Éfhelìnye: Please go summon Puey?

Siêthiyal (smacks Éfhelìnye on the back of the head but pretends it was an accident): Why?

Éfhelìnye: So that Puey may dry me off.

Siêthiyal: Puey cannot do that and you know it. Maybe after you’re safely married, or perhaps never as far as I’m concerned. He’s in battle anyway. Someone has to win this war.

Éfhelìnye: I would dry him off when he takes his bath. Anyway, he’s far gentler than you. Ouch!

Siêthiyal: Sorry.

Siêthiyal rubs Éfhelìnye as hard as she can, partially drying her and partially punishing her.

Siêthiyal: I hope you get blisters. Don’t you dare hate my beloved Sister.

Siêthiyal helps the Princess into her pajamas and into floppy slippers.

Siêthiyal: Now tonight I don’t wantany fights. I for my part shall be protecting my Brother’s virtue. We have a cot prepared for you on the ash heap. It shouldn’t stink too much tonight.

The maidens drag and kick the cot and dump it into the center of the stage. One of them throws some rags on it. The maidens look to each other and giggle, a few of them point to Éfhelìnye and clearly mock her.

Meanwhile on the other side of the stage Puîyus and Akhlísa enter. She’s dressed in her concubine white gown. The maidens bring a chair for them, and Puîyus sits down, and she sits on his lap.

Siêthiyal (holding her forehead): I always get such a terrible headache when I’m around her, especially when I bathe her. She does not understand how powerful and thick her pheromones are, it affects everything! I think her pheromones affect virgins far more than married women, I think her chemicals are trying to surpress the rest of us. Sometimes I just feel sick about her. I know she can’t help herself, she’s the Emperor’s daughter, but still, she is the dominant female.

Akhlísa (to Puîyus): Undress me. My corset is too tight.

Puîyus begins untying the bands of the clockwork corset and starts to help her out.

Siêthiyal: The Princess has had no stable Father or Mother in her life, I don’t think she understands how families function. I know she can’t control her pheremones, the chemicals drift down from the Suns I think.

Akhlísa (whimpers a little): The corset was too tight. I have bruises on my side.

Puîyus makes sympathetic noises.

Akhlísa: The wicked Dragon struck me. I have bruises on my back. Please take a look at it.

Siêthiyal (to Éfhelìnye): You’re mostly dry now. I wish your pheromones were a little less heady. Sure, they make the flowers bloom … but your chemicals wreck havoc with my brain.

Akhlísa (to Puîyus): The Dragon captured me. I was so afraid. I tried to fight him.

Puîyus helps Akhlísa out of her only clothes until she is only left in her skiff.

Éfhelìnye: All dry. Where’s Puey.

Siêthiyal: Undressing Karuláta.

Éfhelìnye runs away. She runs to all the wrong corners of the stage, she looks beneath the tub and beneath the item which could be a tree or a ship or a bed until finally she finds Puîyus who has just begun unbuttoning the back of Akhlísa’s shift.

Akhlísa (pouting): The Dragon struck me.

Éfhelìnye dashes up and grabs Puîyus hands and begins buttoning the back of the slip.

Éfhelìnye: She’s fine! She’s great! Button it back up!

Akhlísa: Do I have a scar there?

Éfhelìnye: No. Not at all. I think your Sister is calling for you.

Akhlísa (hops up from Puîyus’ lap, cheerful, like a bunny): Okay!

Akhlísa begins wandering away.

Éfhelìnye walks to the center of the stage.

Éfhelìnye (as a soliloquy): My Puey’s the only one who doesn’t notice that Kàrula is growing up, she’s blossoming into a young lady. I can’t let him look at other maidens, he’s mine and only mine for all time.

Akhlísa yawns and turns back unto Puîyus and coiling up beside him falls asleep right upon him.

Siêthiyal comes to Akhlísa and helps her upwards and helps her out.

Siêthiyal: Time for bed. Time for bed. (Turning back to the Princess) You’re going to bed next.

Éfhelìnye draws a chessboard from the stage floor.

Éfhelìnye: May I at least paly one game of tnúpa with my Puey?

Siêthiyal (emphatic): One game.

Éfhelìnye sets up the board, and she and Puîyus lie on opposing sides of the board.

Éfhelìnye: Pew, everytime I take a piece you have to kiss me once. If you win you have to give me seven kisses, and when I win you have to kiss me eleven times!

Puîyus makes inquirous noises.

Éfhelìnye: Whenever you take a piece you have to hug me and tell me how much you love me! Then kisses right on my lips.

They play. Éfhelìnye takes her first piece. Just as she tries to claim her first ksis, Siêthiyal comes bursting within and breaks up the kissing, and pieces are tumbling all o'er the place.

Siêthiyal: Game over. Go to bed. Princess, you can’t be trusted not to kiss him. Go away.

Above the tree or ship or bed a Dragon pokes his head down, he is rigged up in ropes, dracō ex machinā. He may or may not be Prince Kherènxhuqhe.

Dragon: I smell maidens most yum!

Siêthiyal (holding up an hand): We’re busy with family problems.

Dragon (disappointed): I can wait.

The Dragon sighing ascends back into the rafters.

The background is rustling a little, images of fleets of living ships and glass hot air ballons descending. Barely seen figures are walking from side to side and give the impression of large crowds and that space is crampt.

Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho the Guest Stars walk upon the stage. The audience applauds. The pirates wave a little and wait for the plaudits to die away. Fhèrkifher winks to someone or someones in the audience. Xhnófho turns around and starts chugging something and tosses a jug behind his tentacles. Fhèrkifher sasays, and Xhnófho staggers.

Fhèrkifher: Lwa!

Xhnófho: You always say that.

Fhèrkifher: All I’m saying is that with the Emperor destroying all life and all time, we need to make our own humor, otherwise who else will?

Xhnófho (belching a little): I like this better than fighting those Duchesses in the abyss. Subplots and digressions are always the best.

Fhèrkifher (winking to someone in the audience): Speaking of digressions, do you see balcony, stage right, lorgnette of silver?

Xhnófho: Him?

Fhèrkifher: Her!

Xhnófho: You call those antennæ?

Fhèrkifher: Nevermind, you just don’t understand that we Xhámi are not the most perfect Qhóng.

Xhnófho: What a pity. Where were we?

Fhèrkifher: The fleet enters Jaràqtu. Space is crampt. We have not too many rooms in the living ships and glass and hot air balloons, we don’t have too many beds at all.

Xhnófho: Only one that I’ve seen, but it looks like a tree.

Fhèrkifher: We have to set aside one bed for Emperor Puîyos.

Xhnófho: Now, still being a larva, he sleeps in wthaîthwu, in a bath of water, doesn’t he? (Approaching the bathtub). Ah, this is where he sleeps.

Fhèrkifher: No, in the Tree, the new Emperor sleeps in the Tree of Light.

Dragon (descending from the ceiling): The Dragon Tree?

Fhèrkifher: The Tree of Light whereon Emperor Kàrijoi hung crucified.

A beam of light falls upon Emperor Kàrijoi in the corner, and all of the characters turn to see him, but the light fades away, and everyone goes back to what they were doing. Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa arise and meet the pirates in the middle of the stage.

Siêthiyal: It’s bed time, and as the older Sister I’m enforcing bed time. Will you take Puey with you?

Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho bow towards Puîyus and Éfhelìnye. Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho wrap arms and tentacles respectively about Puîyus.

Xhnófho: We’ll look after him, as if he were our own. You like smoking, right?

Fhèrkifher (to Xhnófho): Not in front of the maidens, we’ll teach him to smoke later. (To the maidens) We’ll take him to the qtètlhi, to the men’s quarters.

Xhnófho: Yeah, it’s better to smoke away from the women folk.

Akhlísa wanders away from the group and gathers up some pillows and blankets, and as Puîyus walks away with the pirates, Akhlísa follows. Siêthiyal thrusts her hands in her pockets and whistling walks away and takes Éfhelìnye with her.

Éfhelìnye: Wait wait wait! Kàrula’s going with them!

Siêthiyal: Yes. Come along, Princess, back to the harem.

Éfhelìnye: But … but Kàrula’s staying with Puey!

Akhlísa draws out a mallet and swings it around.

Siêthiyal: Obviously. Now, off to bed.

Éfhelìnye runs to Akhlísa and tugs on her sleeve.

Éfhelìnye: What are you doing!

Akhlísa (swinging her mallet): I’m preparing to sleep at the foot of Puey’s bed like a good imperial concubine. Look, I have a pamlùnthe! I will protect Puey from monsters throughout the long night, I’d die to save him.

Éfhelìnye (pleading): So would I, but …

Fhèrkifher (lighting a cigar): We’ll be back soon. It’s bedtime.

Éfhelìnye: But she’s going with him! My Puey!

Siêthiyal darws her Father’s sword again from behind the bathtub. She taps it in her palm.

Éfhelìnye: But why can she be trusted and I can’t? What are you doing?

Siêthiyal: I wish to protect my Brother’s honor. That means, you have to stay away from him while he sleeps. Stay in the harem.

Éfhelìnye (stubborn): I’m not sleepy!

Siêthiyal (stubborn): I’m not caring, Princess!

The pirates come to the ship or tree or bed. Puîyus is yawning. Akhlísa sits down at the foot of the bed and sets her mallet before her and prepares to guard him from monsters. Fhèrkifher puffs upon his cigar. Xhnófho drinks something else and tosses the jug to the audience to much laughter.

Fhèrkifher (to the audience): We’re good role models.

Xhnófho (to the audience): Any of you managed to sneak any pink lemonade into the Princess’ dream?

Xhnófho: Oh? I’m staying with them! That’s where the party is.

Fhèrkifher (scanning the balconies and adjusting his cravette): I think I may pay a visit to the upper class seats up there. Wealthy merchants and their nubile daughters.

Xhnófho: Are we allowed to leave the stage?

Fhèrkifher: Don’t see why not. (To the audience): What do you think?

Fhèrkifher: Oh, they want us off the stage.

Xhnófho staggers to the edge of the stage and collapses into the orchestra pit, tentacles falling into a tuba. The conductor pretents to loose his temper. Fhèrkifher smooths back his hair and pulls a bouquette from a pocket. He looks to Puîyus and Akhlísa.

Fhèrkifher: Can you to manage not to get into trouble for the rest of the night?

Akhlísa: Sure. I’m so reliable.

Fhèrkifher (patting Akhlísa on the head): That’s what I want to hear, Lucky.

Fhèrkifher saunters to the edge of the stage and finding a few chorus girls whispers something into their ears.

Xhnófho (from the tuba): A little help would be welcome.

Fhèrkifher (pointing his thumb to his friend): I don’t know that guy, sugar. I’ll be back for you girls later, winks all around.

Xhnófho (half stuck and waddling in the tuba): Wait for me!

Fhèrkifher: I don’t know him! Stop following me!

Xhnófho falls into the audience. The light turns back to the stage.

Akhlísa marches back and forth before the bed, she keeps looking around and jumping at the sound of thunder from the orchestra pit. The Dragon from the rafters descends and ascends a few times.

Akhlísa: It’s harder guarding Puey than I thought.

Puîyus sleepy and staggering, war plans tumbling from his hands falls right upon the bed, sideways, and falls asleep. Papers come falling away from him. On the bed lie many dolls in the shape of kittens and ducklings and lambkins and dinosaurlings, and the orchestra makes little plantimal noises for them like khnènya khnènya and qwèqweka qwèqweka and khmàryor khmàryor and fhìrem fhìrem.

Dragon (descending to the sound of thunder): The middle of the night.

Puîyus is still asleep. Akhlísa has fallen asleep at the foot of the bed. Éfhelìnye sneaks within.

Éfhelìnye: I can’t bare to spend all the long night without you, oh my Puey my one true love. Dawn is too far away.

Éfhelìnye jumps at the sound of thunder. Behind the bed the Dragon arises and he mimicks knocking on the door.

Dragon: Any princesses in there? I’m hungry.

Éfhelìnye (hesitating): Ah … no princesses here!

Dragon: Pity. I’m very hungry.

Éfhelìnye: Perhaps you can try back later. We’re all not princesses here.

Dragon: Would you let me know as soon as you find a Princess?

Éfhelìnye: I’ll contact you.

The Dragon wanders away. Éfhelìnye stretches her limbs and giggles in glee. She crawls up unto the bed to the fhìrem fhìrem of the dinosaurlings and the khmàryor khmàryor of the lambkins and the qwèqweka qwèqweka of the lambkins and the khnènya khnènya of the kittens. She wraps her arms about Puîyus and begins kissing him.

Siêthiyal storms across the stage, bumps into the dragon, waves her sword at it, and the Dragon runs around her and laughs.

Dragon: Not a princess! Not a princess! Not as yum yum crunchy as a princess!

Siêthiyal (waving her Father’s sword): Dragons are weird.

The Dragon wanders away.

Siêthiyal: Where is that Princess?

Dragon: Did you say Princess?

Siêthiyal: No. Um … I chanted poisonous mushroom which tastes like horrible acid goo. Do you eat that?

Dragon: Yes.

Siêthiyal: What don’t you eat?

Dragon: The Princess’ heart. The Emperor holds it.

Siêthiyal: I’m not in the mood for riddles. (Siêthiyal turns around and storms towards the tree or ship or bed and finds Éfhelìnye kissing Puîyus). You! You can’t stay here! You snuck out of the harem! No touching, always trying to touch Puey!

Éfhelìnye: I just love him. Let me be.

Siêthiyal: Out!

Éfhelìnye: You snuck out of the harem too!

Siêthiyal: To follow you!

Siêthiyal starts crawling on the bed and knocking the kittens and ducks and sheep and dinosaurlings off of it. Éfhelìnye squeals.

Siêthiyal: Hush! You’ll wake up Puey!

Éfhelìnye: I don’t care!

Akhlísa yawns and arises from the foot of the bed.

Akhlísa: I’m tired of guarding Puey, that’s hard work. Can’t someone else do it for a time?

Akhlísa sets the mallet down and crawls up unto the tree or ship or bed.

Akhlísa: Beddie bye! Beddie bye!

Siêthiyal: Everyone, be quiet!

Siêthiyal tries to pry Éfhelìnye away Puîyus while Akhlísa bounces on the bed.

Éfhelìnye: I love you! You don’t understand how I feel!

Akhlísa: Bouncy bouncy!

Siêthiyal: Get up!

Akhlísa: Bouncy bouncy!

Éfhelìnye: My feelings are important!

Siêthiyal: Nobody cares about your feelings.

Akhlísa: Bouncy bouncy!

Éfhelìnye: Let go of me! Do you know what your problem is, Siêthi!

Siêthiyal: No, tell me, I’m so interested in what the ballerina has to say. And don’t call me Siêthi!

Éfhelìnye: You’ve never been in love, so you don’t know how I feel!

Akhlísa: Bouncy bouncy!

Siêthiyal (shouting): Be quiet! You’ll wake up Puey!

Puîyus wakes up and looks to Siêthiyal and then to bouncing Akhlísa and then to Éfhelìnye hanging on him.

Akhlísa: Good job, Siêthi.

Siêthiyal: Don’t call me Siêthi!

Akhlísa bounces and slips down next to Puîyus and wraps her arm about him.

Akhlísa: I’m not wearing my pyjamas yet. Puey you have to undress me.

Éfhelìnye: No!

Akhlísa: You don’t want me to wear this to bed.

Siêthiyal: Let them be, Princess. He took her out of the clockwork corset.

The Dragon is wearing a masque too small for his face, with large and fluffy mustachios. He thinks he’s in disguise, as if his wings were a cape. He mimicks knocking on the door.

Dragon (in a squeaking high pitched voice): Good midnight, maidens. Have any of you seen a Princess? I hear there’s a big reward for her.

Akhlísa: I hate dragons.

Siêthiyal: How big of a reward?

Akhlísa: What type of disguise is that? (To Puîyus): You can start undressing me now.

Siêthiyal: So what can I get for her?

Dragon: Is she genuine Princess?

Siêthiyal: Pure.

Dragon: Your heart’s desire.

Siêthiyal: I don’t know what I desire.

Dragon: As soon as she regains her heart, she is mine, for ever.

Siêthiyal: Perhaps we could offer a trade …

Dragon: I have some golditressed triplets …

Siêthiyal: Now we’re talking.

Éfhelìnye (upset): Make him stop!

Siêthiyal: I’m just talking to the Dragon.

Éfhelìnye: I mean Puey! He’s helping her into her pajamas.

Siêthiyal (to the Dragon): Excuse me for a moment, I have a very crazy Sister by marriage. (To Éfhelìnye): What’s bothering you now! Oh calm down! They’ve been undressing each other from before e'er they met you. How do you think her clothes end up not backwards all the time? She never did learn how to tie her own wooden shoon, and why should she, for Puey always does it.

Akhlísa is now in her bunny kitten pajamas. She bounces next to Puîyus and crawls down upon the bed next to him. Puîyus falls asleep soon but no one seems to notice.

Akhlísa: Time to sleep!

Éfhelìnye: Not her!

Siêthiyal: Back to the harem, Princess.

Dragon: Did someone mention a Princess?

Siêthiyal: I chanted jùswe, stink blossom.

Éfhelìnye: What a mellifluous sounding word.

Akhlísa (to Éfhelìnye): You’re just jealous because you don’t have a pretty bellybutton like I have. Mine is the best. Look! The Duchesses painted a labyrinth on my belly. (Fiddling with her shirt) You don’t even a belly button. I’ll figure out my clothing eventually. Does this open up? My belly button is awesome!

Akhlísa coilcrawls into a ball and plops down unto Puîyus’ right side. Éfhelìnye, while kittens and ducklins and lambkins and dinosaurling dolls fall about her, with appropriate music to imimitate their sound, starts crawling unto his left side. Siêthiyal takes up her Father’s sword and plucks herself down between the Princess and Puîyus.

Siêthiyal: You stay on your side. No touching!

Éfhelìnye: I just want to sleep beside him.

Siêthiyal: We’re already in big trouble enough wandering away from the harem. But while we’re here, I shall guard my Brother’s virtue. Stay where you are, Princess.

Dragon: Princess?

Siêthiyal: When the pirates get back I’m sure they’ll be disappointed in our sneaking away.

Siêthiyal: Maybe ‘disappointed’ is a strong word.

Siêthiyal sets the sword between her and Éfhelìnye.

Éfhelìnye: May I at least work on my manuscript?

Siêthiyal you like.

Éfhelìnye takes out a tome of papyrus and sheets bound in yarn and scribbles. She keeps looking back to Puîyus, sometimes longing, sometimes going back to work, sometimes looking up and blowing him kisses.

Siêthiyal: Don’t think you’re going to steel kisses from him. I’m guarding my Brother.

Éfhelìnye (scribbling): Do you want to play chess?

Siêthiyal: Maybe later.

Akhlísa makes sleepy sounds. Éfhelìnye works on her manuscript. Siêthiyal remains still. Sometimes Éfhelìnye reaches outwards above Siêthiyal in order to touch Puîyus, and Siêthiyal slaps her hand away. Sometimes Éfhelìnye tries to reach behind her. Sometimes she tries to steel a poke at Puîyus. Siêthiyal keeps batting her away until finally the maidens are jabbing and poking at each other until they grow tired and giggle a little.

Éfhelìnye: Siêthi?

Siêthiyal: I’m going to break your nose.

Éfhelìnye: Does Puey like me?

Siêthiyal: Why is everyone so insecure about Puey’s love? He loves you.

Éfhelìnye: He doesn’t say it.

Siêthiyal: He doesn’t talk at all.

Éfhelìnye: But he has to fight monsters and rescue other maidens …

Siêthiyal (exasperated): Do you really want Puey to love you?

Éfhelìnye: Yes, more than anything else!

Siêthiyal: What price would you pay?

Éfhelìnye: Anything, I’m despirate!

Siêthiyal (chuckling, to the audience): She’s not very good at negotiation, is she? (To Éfhelìnye): There is one way … a very special and secret potion I’ve shared with no one else.

Éfhelìnye: I’d do anything if you’d let me have the potion! I love you, Siêthiyal!

Siêthiyal: And I love to take advantage of you!

The maidens make a motion to arise from bed, but all at once Puîyus hops up. Light falls on him. Heroic music begins to play. He draws his sword. He makes some heroic sounds.

Éfhelìnye: You have to rescue other maidens?

Puîyus nods.

Siêthiyal: From extremely danger involving fire and monster and storm and dæmon and explosion and dragon and war!

Puîyus nods.

Éfhelìnye: Any princesses?

Dragon: Yes, any princesses?

Puîyus nods.

Dragon (running away): Yippee! Khàsyakhh khàsyakh ei!

Puîyus takes Éfhelìnye’s hand and kisses it, and then jumps off the bed.

Éfhelìnye: Fairtheewell! Save the innocents!

Siêthiyal: Especially if they’re cute and unmarried!

Éfhelìnye (to Siêthiyal): Don’t say that!

Puîyus runs away.

Éfhelìnye (sad): I wish he had taken me into his arms and kissed me on my lips.

Siêthiyal: My brother is very shy about such things. Now, if you would like him to be unshy … I have a special potion for you, but you have to promise to tell no one about it. Can you do that?

Éfhelìnye (laughing): I promise! I love you so much.

Siêthiyal: Right back at you. Now, as for the matter of payment.

Éfhelìnye: I can give you all my love, at least not all that I give freely to Puey!

Siêthiyal (playing with her hair): Now, Princess, I’m going to need something a bit more tangible than love. Something … physical, usable … or a favor?

Éfhelìnye: I would give you my heart, but I don’t have it with me any longer.

Siêthiyal: What is this, your dreams are metaphor theater, aren’t they? Do you have any toys?

Éfhelìnye (searching her pockets): I have bead money. Do you want any wanpanpiak?

Siêthiyal (annoyed): It will suffice.

Siêthiyal plays with the bead money and taps them, tyéjhing tyéjhing the bead coins ring. They walk.

Siêthiyal: I will make the potion.

Éfhelìnye: I think I have a plan. I must take the potion, then I can regain my heart.

Above Éfhelìnye’s head Puîyus comes swinging on a rope, he is carrying one of the maidens. Éfhelìnye turns around sensing something. The Dragon flies after Puîyus and the virgin.

Siêthiyal comes to the bathtub and mimicks making a potion out of dirt.

Puîyus comes swinging in the opposite direction, this time rescuing a completely different maiden. The Dragon trails after them in the machinery of the rafters and pants a little.

Dragon: Puîyus sure does rescue a lot of maidens, I can barely keep up with them.

Siêthiyal takes up her Father’s sword and uses it to mix the tub of mud.

Siêthiyal: Then again in this last hour he’s been busiest rescuing Éfhelìnye, he barely even has time for anyone else. Well, except for Khlís. And crazy Ixhúja. Don’t let’s forget about her.

Éfhelìnye (clutching her chest): Puey will have to love me because of the potion, and then I shall earn mine own heart, and then we can be one, my heart will be his!

Sneaking out of the audience comes a figure in a long and violet cloak. The figure jumps up onto the stage and throws the cloak aside to someone in the orchestra. It is Ixhúja. She draws a sword and advances towards Siêthiyal.

Éfhelìnye (hugging herself): Puey will sweep me up in his arms and kiss me many times, and I will finely feel warm.

Siêthiyal (stirring the mud): Sure.

Éfhelìnye: We’re such good friends, aren’t we, honest Siêthiyal?

Siêthiyal (struggling with the sword in the mud): Whatever you say.

Éfhelìnye: When are we going to get you an husband.

Siêthiyal: Oh, I don’t want you to bother about that …

Éfhelìnye: It’s no botheration at all, I’m sure there are plenty of strong young swains who …

Éfhelìnye looks up, distracted as Puîyus swings on a rope through the rafters, this time carrying two maidens. The Dragon follows after them in time.

Siêthiyal: Twins. Noble caste.

Ixhúja sneaks up behind Siêthiyal and grabs her by the throat and yanking her down points her sword at her.

Siêthiyal (gasping): Hi, Ixhúja.

Ixhúja makes a displeased sound.

Siêthiyal: I promise I haven’t been taking advantage of your cousin! Look, I’m preparing a special potion for her! It proves that I love her so much.

Ixhúja smacks Siêthiyal around a few more times, and then both look upwards as Puîyus comes swinging in one direction and carries another maiden. Then he returns in the opposite direction. Then he returns in another direction. At last the Dragon comes.

Dragon: I can’t keep up with him.

Ixhúja starts laughing and releases Siêthiyal. Siêthiyal straightens up the bows in her hair and acts as if nothing has just happened.

Siêthiyal (in a loud voice): Puey sure has rescued lots of maidens and Princess. And he sure does now. Lots of beautiful princesses, older and talented girls, all from good and wholesome families.

Éfhelìnye (sad): I’m glad Puey has such a kind heart.

Siêthiyal: Such a pity, all those beautiful maidens, if only there were a way that they could express their affection to such a brave savior. Perhaps an hug or a kiss …

Éfhelìnye sniffles.

Siêthiyal: Yes, I’d say a kiss would be quite appropriate, a nice long sloppy kiss right on his lips. Are you ready for your khòxeqa, your love philter?

Éfhelìnye: I suppose.

Siêthiyal claps her hands. Ixhúja gives her a look.

Siêthiyal: I just need to tenderize you a little first, Princess. Let me just rub your back.

Ixhúja watches as Éfhelìnye sits in her chair, and Siêthiyal starts rubbing her back. The three maidens look up and watch as Puîyus comes swinging above them again, another maiden in tow.

Maiden: Don’t forget my Sister!

Puîyus swings back.

Maiden: And my Cousin!

Puîyus swings back.

Maiden: And my other Cousin!

Siêthiyal leans o'er upon Éfhelìnye’s shoulder and whispers, although loud enough for the audience for to hear.

Siêthiyal: If I were you I wouldn’t be too self-conscious, even though these other maidens are so talented and older … and better than you. (To the audience): I haven’t forgotten that she burnt down our kitchens all those times, and she gets my Brother into trouble, and she knocked down the walls of my bedroom and ruined so many of my toys!

Éfhelìnye (concerned): Siêthiyal, may I ask you something?

Siêthiyal: Anything, my precious muffin!

Éfhelìnye: Am I … am I the first maiden Puey’s rescued.

Siêthiyal (hissing in Éfhelìnye’s ear): No, oh no, not by fair. He’s rescued hundreds of maidens …

Éfhelìnye: Hundreds of damsels?

Siêthiyal: Thousands of maidens. All the time, oh yes, all the time. Sometimes, even while he was in the middle of rescuing you, he’d wander away and save some maiden from a burning house or a stampeding dinosaur or the sky crashing down.

Éfhelìnye: Thousands of maidens?

Siêthiyal: You were not the first, nor the last. Hmm. What’s going on now?

Puîyus comes swinging through the rafters the Dragon right behind him. He returns with a maiden.

Maiden: Help, help! The Concubinage house is attacked by dragons! Save the hundred virgins from the dragon, help!

Siêthiyal: It’s just a normal day for him.

Maiden: We’re all in our pajamas too!

Siêthiyal: I’m sure they’re all give him long and lingering kisses.

Éfhelìnye covers her face in her hands and begins to weep.

Puîyus comes swinging back and ferries the maidens a few at time away from the Dragon.

Maiden: Oh brave Sieur, let us reward you with a kiss!

Siêthiyal: I wouldn’t want to compete with all the older damsels. They’re clearly young women, but you and I are still children. Don’t worry, little Princess! I’m sure Puey likes you just the way you are. Why, he’s told me many times, after he’s rescued all these other maidens, that he thinks of you as a little Sister, yes, a little Sister with her little toys. Are you ready for your love potion?

Éfhelìnye sobs but nods.

Siêthiyal pokes her head up above the Princess’ other shoulder and whispers loud enough for the audience to hear.

Siêthiyal: Now the way the potion works is thaty ou have to reveal to me your worst nightmare. And then I cover you with my super special potion that’s only for you.

Éfhelìnye wipes away her tears.

Éfhelìnye: My worst fear?

Siêthiyal: Your worst fear, your secret shame, your worst nightmare.

Éfhelìnye (sniffling): I suppose I could see all the maidens Puey has e'er rescued.

Siêthiyal: E'er? This day is not long enough. Perhaps we could see all whom he’s saved this hour … but still … there must be something else bothering you, my Princess.

Éfhelìnye (sniffling): I can’t lose my Puey.

Siêthiyal: Alas!

Éfhelìnye: If I saw all the maidens who have e'er kissed Puîyus on his hand or brow or nose or face … all of the maidens who’ve gazed on him in affection and rewarded him with a kiss … no wonder his brow is so smooth, all the maidens who have kissed him on the forehead!

Siêthiyal (caressing and kissing her): Is that your worst nightmare e'er?

Éfhelìnye: Yes, if I saw all the other maidens who have kissed my Puey.

Siêthiyal: Your worst nightmare.

Éfhelìnye: It would break my heart.

Siêthiyal: One moment please.

Giggling unto herself Siêthiyal starts scrambling outwards. She almost slips on her own feet in her excitement. She pokes her head back to Éfhelìnye and laughs:

Siêthiyal Hah hah hah hah hah! Hah!

Siêthiyal starts running away, but unable to help herself returns to Éfhelìnye and guffaws:

Siêthiyal: Hæ hæ hæ hæ hæ! Hæ!

Siêthiyal comes bounding out again, but then runs back and leaning towards the Princess chuckles:

Siêthiyal: Tee hee hee hee hee! Hee! Okay, I’ll be right back. Stay here and think about how inadequate you are and how Puey is obviously kissing another girl right now and not even thinking of you. Does he even know your name? I’ll be back, my friend.

Siêthiyal runs to the corner of the stage where Emperor Kàrijoi has been waiting. A beam of light brightens him.

Siêthiyal: It would break her heart.

Emperor Kàrijoi: She must either grow stronger or die. It is the only way she can become the new Moon Empress.

Siêthiyal: Why must she be tested?

Emperor Kàrijoi: She keeps me here.

Emperor Kàrijoi holds up Princess Éfhelìnye’s heart. The orchestra plays magical music. Siêthiyal turns around, a conflicted look on her face. At least she returns to Éfhelìnye who’s shaking and whimpering in her chair. Siêthiyal stirs the tub with her Father’s sword and brings out a large jar labeled MUD.

Siêthiyal: Now, let’s force Puey to love you. That’s the fun thing about love, it can be forced and shoved into one’s heart. Now, I know this may look like mud and smell like mud and have the texture of mud, but it’s no ordinary mud, it’s magic mud. I’m just going to pour this all o'er you.

Éfhelìnye: Oh? Mud? I don’t want mud on me.

Siêthiyal (whispering above the Princess’ shoulder): At this very moment some older girl is wrapping her arms about Puey, her lips are approaching his.

Éfhelìnye: Slather me with the magic mud!

Siêthiyal: As you command, my Princess. We’ll start with just a few tàyojo quarts. Here, let me just grind this on yoru back to make you as smooth as possible.

Siêthiyal picks up a rake and makes a motion of brushing it against Éfhelìnye’s back. The Princess reacts, but she remains silent. Then Siêthiyal holds up the jar labeled MUD and upends it above the Princess and out falls confetti, and the orchestra makes a sound like plórpe plórpe plórpe fizz tofön plop plop plop.

Éfhelìnye: It’s cold and stinky.

Siêthiyal: It’s liquid love. Sometimes love is stinky and cold. Also sticky. Ooh.

Éfhelìnye: How much more love mud do I need?

Siêthiyal: All of it! Tqakh ei! This has got to be the grossest thing I’ve e'er seen.

Éfhelìnye: I would do anything for my Puey.

Siêthiyal: And by extension me.

Siêthiyal upends the jars of confetti until it all pours down. Light falls upon the Princess, and a slight music like bird chirm singing.

Siêthiyal: No matter how much mud I pour on her, the slime becomes flowers and perfumes. It seems vaguely unfair to me. But then again, I’d rather be a normal damsel, or at least as normal as a Sweqhàngqu gets.

Éfhelìnye: Am I wellloved yet?

Siêthiyal: Sure. And I’m almost reasonably certain that it will work after a fashion.

Puîyus comes swinging in the rafters above them and returns with another maiden.

Maiden: He’s very tired after saving the hundred concubines, but there’s always a last damsel to be saved.

Dragon (chasing them): I can barely keep up with him.

Siêthiyal: Ah good, he’ll be returning soon. Let’s see what happens.

Siêthiyal dances with anticipation and Akhlísa comes wandering in.

Akhlísa: Is this fun? Ooh! Mud! I love mud! Where’s Fhermáta?

Siêthiyal whispers into Éfhelìnye’s ear but the audience can hear her.

Siêthiyal: Don’t forget I’m the only one who can help you, you’re only true friend.

Akhlísa: Where’s Puey? I miss Puey.

Siêthiyal (to Éfhelìnye): She’s a threat to you. Watch her close. She will betray you.

Ixhúja makes a motion with her weapon, she’s standing guard behind the bathtub.

Siêthiyal (to Éfhelìnye): Even Ixhúja has tried to steel Puey from you many many times. But you know she won’t succeed. There’s only one here who is a true threat to you, only one who can actually turn his heart away from him, one who has loved him all her life, one he can learn to love.

Éfhelìnye (to Siêthiyal): Kàrula can’t betray me, she’s my best friend after Puey.

Siêthiyal: I’m your best friend now. I’m the only one who doesn’t want to marry him, I only wish what’s best for him and possibly you by extension.

Akhlísa (her hands on her hips): I want Puey! Isn’t he done rescuing those other maidens! He has to sing me to sleep!

Siêthiyal draws out her tape rule measure. She starts measuring Akhlísa’s hips.

Siêthiyal: The Kháfha were interested in Khlís’ hip to waist ration. Oh Karuláta will bare many Sons, that’s what they told us all. How very valuable. Do you mind if I measure you, Éfha.

Éfhelìnye: Please don’t let’s.

Siêthiyal (measuring): Alas, too bad. Did you even want children? I suppose you could just adopt. Or you can let Kàrula here bare them all for you. I’m sure Puey will still love you, even if you can’t be the birth mother of his children, he’s generous that way.

Dragon (swinging in the rafters): I give up for now!

Puîyus walks upon the stage, he is visibly tired, his clothing torn a little, stains upon his face. Before he makes it to the Princess, some of the Maidens in the audience arise and shaking their kerchiefs at him and call out. He bows to them and looks embarrassed.

Siêthiyal: I wonder who they were. But a young man should be allowed his secrets, don’t you think so, Princess?
Éfhelìnye: No. I despise secrets.

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