A few more drops of red fell upon the incense flames, a slight sound of hissing and popping arose unto Éfhelìnye’s ears, and she prayed that the Ancestors were satiated in blood. Puîyus held up his wrists and drew out a piece of cloth from his pocket and began to bandage himself back up, even with both wrists cut it was not too difficult at all for him to twist the cloth about in little serpentile knots, and the blood was already stopped, and if Puîyus felt any pain at all from cutting himself, his face betrayed it not. Éfhelìnye for her part was paler than usual, but she had nothing to say, but just watched as Puîyus arose and prepared himself, and the bandages were stained bright red but held, and no new blood was seeping out. The whales were all still singing, but it a deeper and more somber voice, some of the smaller whales were leaping upwards through the crackles of the clouds, their fins spinning around them, and the waves of cloud that were eminating from them were now all changing and were stained red and orange and black, and the titanic elders of the whales were slowly drawing themselves upwards and falling back down into the cloud waves, and splashing right out from them-then came tide after tide of moisture and light and ripple spreading outwards and become part of the winds septentrional.
Puîyus arose. A few windswept tendrils of pollen were falling about her tresses and face, and when Éfhelìnye looked unto him she could see that the blinks of pollen were dancing about him, swards and fields of pinks and greens and blues drifting about his face and around his shoulders and spinning up and down the lengths of his sleeves. He reached unto his bauldric and the sheathe upon his back and was ensuring his readiness for battle. The great and high-finned whales were quieting down a little as they saw the determination in Játanikh the Feral Lad, but they continued to sound their music, rolling and unraveling in great tidal bores. Puîyus took a few steps outwards unto the edge of the cloudwhisps and gazing outwards looked down as far below as the Northwinds extended, until they became nothing but the energies and raging dust of xhthopùryo xènxha, the pandimensional space ocean that ooze and crept and fountained among the billion, billion worlds. He could still hear, just a little, where the Sqasqáli sea about Syapàkhya came pouring into the dust and energy of this space, the sound of shell and read and skerry and fish, and he could hear the long twining subdimensional carverns that were snaking upwards unto the fjords of Jaràqtu. The music of all this time was drawing out unto him, and he could not but help but weave these songs together, the sea and the whales and the dragons also for the battle that was forming in his mind.
Three tasks there are for us to do if we are ot have victory o'er the Dragons, Puîyus told Éfhelìnye in nods and blinks, as he crossed his arms and listened to the raging waves of light drawing upwards through the silvern shadows. First I must distract the Dragons, and I think I already know what I must to in order to ensure that. When the Dragons grow nervous, it is easier to strike them, their thoughts are seldom altogether focused upon a goal until they grow mad with hunger and desire to strike a maiden or fair youth down. Second I must alert the rest of the fleets of the Qhíng and Aûm and tempt for to unite them as they have been been allied since the days of Tsanyuxòpwe the Great War la der des der. Their fireworks and bombs of normal should just annoy the Dragon, but if I can wound one with sincerity of heart, the forces of the soldiers may aid me in drawing a Dragon down. And third of all, you must remind the Dragons of your Mother, for unto her alone did the Dragons give both loyalty and love, she inspired them in a way that not even honored Kàrijoi your Father e'er could.
– Puey, I’m not sure that I can do that – Éfhelìnye chanted. – My beloved Mother was the most illustrious and perfect of all women, and I am but a child and not nearly as lovely as she was. –
You wear her necklace, you find a way to change the minds of the Dragons.
– Both my Mother and Dragons did like rainbows … but still … Puey, even if you do distract the Dragons and the Qhíng and Aûm fire where you direct them and the Dragons somehow acknowledge me as the Daughter of the Empress, what happens then? –
Then I can offer myself unto the Dragons as a sacrifice.
Éfhelìnye blinked a couple of times. – Puey! No! –
Their hunger will drive them unto desire to devour me alive. They will not be able to resist me, one who has slain two of their kind, one whom once beloved Kàrijoi loved, one who has been able to withstand them for so long.
– Puey, I refuse to permit you to be harmed by the Moon Dragons. –
I refuse to permit the Moon Dragons to harm more of the Real People or to enter into the gardens of Jaràqtu.
– I shudder to think of a single jade claw raking against you, the Dragon who strikes you, who hurts you, I will rip the dragon apart with my bare hands if I have to! They are become worst then pestilence, those who seek to do you harm, and I’m beginning not to care about how they were part of the beauty of creation, Dragons that would do battle against you, we may need to prepare ourselves for the eventuality of having to drive the Dragons extinct, if you and I are going to have a future. –
The battle is beginning. The Dragons lift up their heads from the pollen. All of the clouds are arching upwards. A few of the elder Dragons are already beginning to chase after the warships. I must go after them. Puîyus looked back and could see that in the gathering loops and whirls of dust that the silvern outline of Jaràqtu was become far more distinct, the dimension of his birth and fathers was slowly banking upwards, the ancient whispering mountains and the blasted wrack of what had once been watchtowers upon the mountainous shore.
– If the Dragons try to harm you, I won’t remind them of my serene Mother who loved all things … I’ll remind them that I am Kàrijoi’s Daughter, and I will destroy anything that harms you! – Éfhelìnye was panting now, she was making fists of her hands péta maguξ, and dances of red light were appearing in her eyen.
Please find a way to remind the Dragons of your Mother, if they still have any loyalty unto her, they may listen to you and leave the rest of our peoples alone, Puîyus told Éfhelìnye in squeaks and mews. It is difficult enough for us to fight against monsters and time dæmons and the Winter Midnight your Father draws down upon all men, but if we can …
– My Mother abandoned me. My Father trapped me in flames and set these very Dragons for to guard me! Slaying them is only mete and just. I’ll do what I can. I have an idea, but I don’t know whether it will work. –
Please stay here where I’ll know you’re safe, Puîyus told her as he bowed unto her and began trotting away. The edge of the cloudbanks were opening up unto him, and he launched himself into the clouds, and a few of the sleeker and faster whales came spinning outwards far beneath him, and sometimes Puîyus came spinning out and was dancing upon the heads of the Dragons and throwing himself outwards deeper and farther into the pollen skies, and othertimes he was riding upon the head of the whale and spinning outwards riding as if upon xeqhósi palfrey dinosaur out to do battle with the Dragon Beast.
Princess Éfhelìnye for her part remained upon the edge of the whisp clouds, but the hiss and nebulous streaks were no longer drawing themselves upwards and seeking for to draw her down and entrap her in the glowing cloud vapory, rather indeed the clouds were breaking apart into flat plans about her, and the whale pods left unto her were somber and still and just whispering their music, and she watched as Puîyus disappeared far away from her within the clouds of silver and the endless cascade of pollen now become all of the colors which she could imagine. She turned around and clapped her hands, and the whales all looked up unto her blinking and startled back into attention.
– I’m riding out after Puey – she announced unto the whales. – Who wishes the honor of carrying me? –
The whales looked one to another and whistled in confusion.
– I know what Puey chanted, but I’m getting a new idea. We’ll stay far away from him that he won’t notice that I’m gone. I have the feeling that he may need me sooner than he thinks, the Dragons don’t wish to be reminded of my Mother, and I am all which she has left within the worlds. –
The whales for their part dag gadol had nothing at all to say in protest, and were bowing their massive heads up and down and waving their hue and soft and wet wings, and the greatest among them were already floating upwards, halos and whisps of clouds drawing themselves up before their faces, and bowing down they helped Princess Éfhelìnye slip right upon their heads, and all at once, in a burst of whalesong, the clouds began to arise before them and parted in branches of boreal wind drifting untowards them, and Princess Éfhelìnye and the whales were beginning to rise and fall and make their way unto the rondures of flame in the very center of the winds, and the pollen was falling down all the thicker, twisting about and sparkling bright, and about Éfhelìnye’s neck the rainbow was beginning to shine in double cuycha in triple ayauhcozamalotl sparkling bright flaming bright.
In the leagues of wind Puîyus came flying, the pollen was breaking apart before the banking whales, the pollen was now falling down all the thicker and faster now branching up throughout all of the wind gaps among the worlds that were orbiting here high within the outer North. In the distance the Dragons were already beginning their attack as he knew they had to, and as the multicolored snow continued for to fall about the skiffs and living ships and glass and hot air balloons of the Qhíng and the Aûm, the snow was remaining only for a very few moments, the Dragons were bursting out of it and the ice was breaking apart, and in the crackling and fall of the ice the colors of the snow remained, beams and twists and pillars of blushing reds and swirling golds and the winedark deep merging into wind and darkness. A few of the Dragons were still noticing the beauty of the falling pollen, and indeed the pollen was taking root in their scales, some of the pollen was twisting about their horns and their lashing legs and slowly drawing themselves into the hame of the Dragons, and the scales were looking a little as if they were shifting hill and bone of the forest flexing upon a reptilian frame, when the Dragons turned and began to breathe out their fires, it was all a mixture of brimstone and light and ice and pollen, the Dragons were breathing out a strange esemplastic garden of light and shine, and yet when the Dragons were mindful again of where they were and the hunger burning within them, they stopped not their attack, and but turned to vent their pollen flames upon what mortals were left unto them. The Qhíng were looking upwards and were screaming in terror, they were throwing up their impaling spears and swinging their great miec māccuahuitl from side to side as the Dragons landed upon their decks and did fell battle against them, and the Qhíng that survived the first waves of battle most flamescent were surprised to see that the Dragons were slithering upwards and clouds of snow and pollen were breathing out from their gills, and the blasts of light from the dragons were yfilled with confetti and dustsparkles bright. The Dragons were snatching up Qhíng after Qhíng and crushing them alive in their jaws, the Dragons were pouring outwards and oozes of lava and smoke were breaking out from their muscles, and yet the battle was very different, colorful and softer, as if drawn out with kölastibs sticks of khnàlwen oil pastels. But the flames still bit and the jaws still rent and the claws still struck, and the Dragons were ripping through tower and deck and Qhíng alike. Those Dragons which were falling upon the Aûm transports found themselves in the midst of both fight and lamentation at the same time, for the Qlùfhem warriors and Thùlwu soldiery were aware that their beloved Duchesses were gone from them, that no more scrying messages were being translated unto them from the beautiful celia of orange Pereluyàsqa and blue Khosyaràsqa, their voices lost unto them, and the Aûm were shivering to think that perhaps once again they were left alone again without legendary figures for to lead them. By nature the twin peoples of the Aûm had been almost acephalous, their various phatries and artistic alliances held together by their customs and elders, no true governance did they have, at least in comparison to the ordered Qhíng and the hierarchical Kháfha and the rest of the Fhértlha Great Races. Long ago the Qlùfhem had been guided by Viceroy queens who aided the elders in arranging marriages for their children, the viceroy queens did not quite rule the people as the monarchs of the other nations did, but to the Qlùfhem it was enough to have matrons concerned with marriage and seedling-birth. Only once in their history had the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu been united under a single ruler, the King who was considered the Son of Raven and who brought all of the folk unto the artificial world of Aûm Aûm which the artists and mages constructed with dædal tentacles, but that was long ago, and long since the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu had fallen into wandering and falling their own creative impulses. And so when the Duchesses were returned unto them from the tide of myth, it was quite natural for the peoples of the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu to join their tentacles together in celebration and song and to follow the twain flower brides of Khlàmfhors without question or fear. But now as the Dragons were ripping apart solar sail and scattering open the deck and toppling down tower after tower, the Aûm were realizing that once again they were left as they were before, a wandering and unorganized people. And as the Qlùfhem took up staves and tried to beat and fend off the Dragons, they felt worry in their spleen as they realized that without strong rulers surely all of their people would fall, for the Qhíng seeing that the Aûm were Turkhakayeîlwileng lacking the Duchesses twain, would know that the time for revenge and justice was theirs and fall upon all of the people of Khesáfha and Qlùfhim and Thùlwus, and the Thùlwu were shaking in fear as they took up their swords and spun them around and found that the wigns of the Dragons were descending about them and jabbing through filament walls and towers all of fibre, and without the Duchesses and the elder sibling species of the Qlùfhem to command them, they could taste despair in their mouth hands qlùmloit, and knew that in truth the end must be nigh, and that all flesh would be gathered back up unto the Ancestors, and perhaps once again Raven would permit the volk of the Aûm to return unto the dreamgardens whence-then long ago they had in their pride escaped. But the Priests told them that Our Lord Raven was dead, and so what hope was there left unto mortal men?
Puîyus’ entrance into the Pollen Battle of the Northwind was quiet at first, for he was drawing the whales deeper down and down unto the edge of the seas of pandimensional space and seeking to find the distraction toirxhenàjhwen the stú the fun diversion he would need for to confuse the Dragons. The crashing waves of dust were spilling upwards about the lower fins of the whales, and Puîyus could see here that within the causalities and springing fountains that the shadows of the skerries and the domes of the sea and the fractal waves of the labyrinth and the tumbling ruins of what had once been Syapàkhya were still partially visible unto his kean eyen and were wavering before him. The pollen was tumbling downwards in delicate splashes, some of the pollen was touching the edge of the face of energy and out came little ripples and sways of light, the pollen fell a little as if it were falling unto a pool and all of the water was reäcting unto it, the pollen in his sight was almost changing color as it arose and tumbled out, some of it was growing darker as if in fact touching something liquidic, some of the pollen was breaking outwards and become circles within circles, patterns of deep violets and oranges folding outwards from the center, the drifts of pollen were become the outline of circles and flowers and dream spirals entopic blinking, and yet some of the pollenment were flowing downwards and were like seeds and in tumbles and shatters and waves falling down deeper and deeper into the swells of the energy and were slowly being lost unto Puîyus’ sight, and utterly beautiful it all was, a shame indeed that battle had to be waged above the dustladen waves. Puîyus tapped the head of the whale and together they came diving right through the ripples of light, and the seas were parting just a little, and murmurations of pattern and tartan were spreading up unto him. He was not entirely sure whether this was going to work but at the very least he could give it a try, and as the energies were branching outwards, and splashes of dust were arising, and all of the untold vaults and caverns and darkness of the pandimensional winds were drawing outwards in fractalescent delight, Puîyus turned and gave voice to a deep and thunderous call, and he cried out in a voice which was a little like the grinding of bone against bone, a voice of skulls and snarling fangs, a voice of huge murmuring and thunderous legs and a single monstroussome horn ungainly and malformed growing out of an eyeless and faceless complex of bones, he cried out unto the Fhàjhati Xhròpfhe blue unicorns of the skerry labyrinth and told them that their enemies the Dragons were nigh high within the Northwind, and he knew that the jacinth unicorns and the fell flame dragons would hardly be fain at all to meet each other once again, high within the rolling welkindeep.
And the seas were growling, and dust and pollen were surging back upwards, and the waves were crashing one again, and the whales were buckling in horror as they felt the energy and rage within. Some of the pollen waves were already branching outwards and become the very edge and angle of fractals, and the whales were beginning to panick. Puîyus however, the Feral Lad, the Child of Nature, began to sooth the whales and brush his hands upon their heads and hum unto them in their own cetoid songs, and he bade the whales to arise and shoot upwards throughout the massive pollen streams, and so they left behind and far beneath them the boiling of the dust and the first few arms of pollen rage drawing themselves upwards.
And as the whales came spinning upwards and the Qhíng and the Aûm were once again reminded of the arts of warfare, Puîyus was drawn right back into the pollen battle within the Northwind. Several large warcruisers were struggling to remain afloat in the winds, their wings were beating from side to side and huge clouds of pollen were beating upwards through the joints and curves of the wheels, but it was not the pollen which was clogging and slowing the living ships down but rather the Dragons ducking up and about and lancing against the living ships. Puîyus sent the whales leaping upwards, he was careful to try and keep the whales away from the Dragons as best he could, just the lead and fleet whales the fastest of the pod were trying close, and Puîyus was crawling up the edge of the whale’s head, he was drawing the dragon sword Eilwiyusàrtyai which the Emperor had set in his hand, and as Puîyus flew nigh and nigher unto the spinning and weaving of the Dragons, the sword was busting out into brilliant coils of flame, it was in some ways he thought more similar to a living thing, the sunflairs and growing lava pools that were bursting up the side of the brand, and the waves of light were like coppewebs that were weaving themselves outwards, outer branches of the webs spilling upwards, hisses of gossamer steaming upwards and cooling alittle as they flickered upwards, and pollen was falling upon these eilajároi solraxhwìngitlhu solar flares, and light and heat were flickering upwards about him. And Puîyus gave voice to a deep and rumbling roar, and flew upwards to do battle in the winds. He launched himself away from the head of the first whale so that the other valüts would not be harmed, he came spinning upwards through the crashes of wave and light, and the Dragons were swirling around. At once three different Dragons were diving downwards and snarling and biting one at the other were all fighting eager to be the one to capture the child, huge claws and impaling wings and barbed tail lashing right out after him. Puîyus somersaulted in the air, he grabbed the edge of one Dragon tail and swinging upwards hacked at the talons of one Dragon and against the limb of another, and everytime he cut and jabbed and parried against the Dragons bursting upwards all about him came greater clouds of pollen and dust, and the Dragons were beginning to cough upon their own flames and struggle as they breathed within the rainbow pollen. Puîyus threw himself high into the air and batted against the head of one Dragon and punched it downwards, and his fist broke apart several splashes of scales, and the scales and feathers and pollen came flowing outwards about him, and the Dragon’s entire head was ringing. Puîyus had not a moment to spare, so terrible and swift were the Dragons coming, they were beginning to surge upwards, a few of them were still content to chase after the Qhíng and Aûm and rend them apart, brilliant riots of soldiers and warriors falling right out of their own burning vessels, and the Dragons were leaping through the phosphorous and flames and yanking up as many of the falling as they could, but more of the Dragons were beating their wings upwards to slay the lad. Puîyus was finding himself in a storm all of snapping jaws and of wings reaching outwards and raking against him, sometimes he was cutting against the wings but rather than blood arising up came the winds, and sometimes he was punching against the jaws and thrusting his sword right through the shoulders and muscles of a great sky drake, and up arose archways of pollen, and so higher and higher Puîyus and the Dragons were spinning about in a writhe wind, and the Dragons were finding themselves drawn away from the mortal soldiers and the affairs of their unsatisfiable hunger. A few of the Dragons, those who were not in the center of the storm and were not directly snapping their jaws against Puîyus and driven mad by the perfume of his scent, were noticing that the pollen itself was changing, that the new waves of light that were arising up throughout the pandimensional waves were of a different texture. The Dragons were spinning their massive heads, their eyen were glancing and pearing throughout tide and possibility and memory, and they could feel that the winds themselves were opening up about them.
And as Puîyus fought against the Dragons, he too could feel that the battle was very different. Sometimes he able to drive a Dragon away with just a few punches against its jaws, sometimes he was able to spin around and kick against a Dragon’s eye and send it howling away, sometimes he was struggling against many beating wings at the same time, and he was just having to jab and knick and slice through them just a little when clouds of pollen and blood would begin to erupt about him, and the Dragons were losing their strength against him faster than they had before. At first Puîyus could not understand why it was, for the Dragons wre the mightiest of all embodied creatures, save for the Emperor himself unknown and lost to him somewhere within the blizzardwrath of winter, and Puîyus knew that although his strength was greater, although he did not realize that he was stronger than even Khiêro of Old, and that he was silverfooted indeed, tlhokhpòjhetlhis arguropeza, although not quite as wind and storm swift as Ixhúja herself the last of the Martian Princesses, he did not understand why it was that the Dragons were all fluttering about him like bats and that he just a few blows and a few punches through bone and flesh, the swinging of brand through the sinews of shoulder and wing should be slowing them all the more. He was now come against the Dragons with humble heart and had asked the Ancestors for their blessing, but surely there must be more unto it. A few of the Dragons were snapping their jaws against him and trying to draw him inside, in fact Puîyus was finding it to his advantage to be the snack khmanáxhru blasad bìdh overwhich the Dragons were fighting, their thunderous jaws and their sulphour jaws snapping again and again around him, their tounges of flesh and fire reaching out, growing clouds of smoke reaching from their mawl, the Dragons lurching lunĉojn seaking, all the while desirous to fill themselves up. Puîyus was flying and striking his sword down. He could feel the emptiness in his belly, he could feel that his very muscles were moving alittle different because of the fasting jún wherein he had been engaging for all of this hour, the very end of this day of days which had been Fhermáta’s Starday as well as his own, sometimes when his arms were swaying from side to side he could feel that the blood that was running within him felt faster and thinner, it was as if all salt and sugar were being ydrained out from them, and his blood were become the pure cascade of water, and sometimes as he was spinning around and jabbing all the harder and swifter, as he was kicking from side to side, when the Dragons struck him and waves of pain flowed within him, he was under the distinct impression that he should have been feeling far more pain than he was in fact suffering, the pain was not being deflected it was just being absorbed and affecting him all the less. The more that the Dragons desired to devour him, the less Puîyus could even think about food and life and feasting. Huge talons were spinning about him, one Dragon grabbed him by one leg, another by his arms, and a third tried to bite right through his body, and within the moment Puîyus would limb fro and limb to be torn asunder and devoured alive. Puîyus barely had to kick against the Dragon that held him, and the Dragon recoiled backwards screaming, for across its eyelids remained the print of Puîyus’ wooden shoe. He spun around and slapped away the limbs that were holding him. The Dragon flames were coiling about him, and yet somehow he was still able to come spinning outwards and avoid most of the tendrils of light and heat and phlogistons bright. The jaws were reaching out unto him, and as Puîyus drew the sunsword upwards and impaled the brand through a bit of jaw and cheek, his thoughts were turned unto pity to think of how sad he felt to be fighting the Dragons as he looked upon them with contrite eyen broken with fasting, qyó the dragons were he thought, bruipil kompatindaj kaez pitiful indeed to think that once they had been part of the beautiful rainbows creation and now they were bit scintillant tqá pòrtit esurience, now they were but jaw and snapping flames. He punched against several more wings and was scattering the Dragons about him faster and faster, and yet he almost did not feel as if he were properly even part of this battle any longer, he barely even felt as if he were part of the worlds of the boreal winds. He grabbed one Dragon by the arm and yanked it backwards and kicked it across the face even as his swordarm thrust the brand right through the wings of a Dragon and ripping it open was rewarded with growing explosions of dust and blackened blood and pollen bursting outwards. Why was it, he thought, that these beautiful creatures had been brought so low, why were those who had once played within the galactic fruit of Sànum the Dragon Tree now laid down unto low vassaledge and where before their delight had been in light and song, now they preyed upon the innocent and tempted to burn all things? Had Qhalúxha the Father of the four phatries commited some grievous sin, and all of his progeny become accursed? Had the Dragons become susceptible to the original dishonor which the Priests and Scribes mentioned as something which was sickening all of the Land? Perhaps the Dragons had done something to violate the trust which the Virgin Empress had placed in them, and now all of the line of Rainbow Serpents lay in disgrace. Whatever it was, even as Puîyus was beating the Dragons down and fighting with all of his might to keep them away from the fleeing vessels of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu, he could not help but feel a profound sadness because of them.
And then the trumpet called. It was a Qhíng vessel which began the cry of the fhteîrkh, the war hymn, the sloggorne, the young warriors were setting trumpet unto their beaks and blowing out so hard that their ear-globes were glistening black, and the cry was taken up throughout the layers of the talqànxha cruisers. Some of the Elder Qhíng were taking up long voluted clarions and setting jhwàmle conch shells to their nebs, and the music that arose was startling and loud and deep, and the Qhíng in their burning skiffs, and those leaping about the jitneys and throughout the layers of the mast jungles, and those within the vitrious and hot air balloons left unto them were turning around, their antennæ quaverous in fear, and could see that surging up out of the seas of dust and pollen blue Unicorns were arising, strange and gaunt and ungainly creatures who appeared far more skeletal and spindly than the Qhíng had remembered in stories, and they looked upwards, their antennæ at once turning into the direction where Puîyus was fighting, and seeing him high up in the midst of the storm, they heard that Puîyus was calling out again and again unto the blue nekiυmva, and the Unicorns were arising horrible and furious and spinning about the Dragons.
And then the pipe organs were crying. From the Aûm glassen and hot air balloons the tubes and pipes were breathing out their songs, for the Qlùfhem were jabbing with pointed tentacles unto where the blue Unicorns were arising, and the Thùlwu were dancing from side to side and were beating their impaling spears against their targes and continuing the beat and music of their cry. And the billows of the balloons were lighting upwards, shocking columns of fire arising, all of the fleets that were left unto the Aûm within the northron wind, all of the flying jaîngpu saucers and great continental towers were lighting upwards as kàrul songs of joy were arising from many crepitatious celia. And the Aûm were not hesitating in the least, they were lifting up their flags and their remaining chimneys were puffing out the smoke signals, they were turning all of their living ships around and trying to flee into the crevices and storms of the winds, but in their passing they were aiming their remaining cannons right at the Dragons and firing upon them in great and scattering volleys just to prick them and remind them of the indomitability of the geminate Aûm peoples.
Puîyus from far away could hear the trumpet song and the pipe organ call of the soldiers and warriors far beneath him, and he felt the hot winds arising as the blue unicorns were surging upwards and aiming their horns right towards the Dragons who had been their spirit foes for many an age. Puîyus was reminded a little of the music of the dancing lwaût folk whom Princess Éfhelìnye had somehow befriended in their long journey through the north as they fled the Emperor and his growing blizzards, and he thought about the warcries of the bagpipes and songs of his own people, and how he associated that particular sound with marching and strategy and denial and warfare. Some of the alien peoples he knew did not much care for the music of the lwaûta zackpijp, some of them found the dulcimer to be a squeaking skriking whirling sound pìob better suited they thought for battle than for music proper, but he rather liked the call of the pipes, they were mournful and yet filled with energy and hope, they were strong and harmonious, they were many sounds droning at the same time, with upper registers swayent from side to side and contributing all unto the whole, and it was perhaps one of the most ancient of the instruments which his people played, along with the harp of course. All around him the blue unicorns were arising and falling upon the Dragons and striking at them again and again, the unicorns were smaller than the Dragons and yet they had less individual personality and were able to cut and leap and dart about without any particular one trying to satisfy its hunger, the scraping of the bone horns and snapping of the jaws was its own skeletal music. Puîyus heard the thunder of the Aûm fireworks blossoming about him, he had thought that the Aûm would still try to fire upon the Dragons even as they were retreating, and the fireworks were their own peculiar sort of music, the burning and crackling of the cases as they opened upwards, and energy cane shooting outwards sounded almost like old papyrus burning, and smelt a little of the distinctive and sad smell which he sometimes he associated with the huge errand vessels of the Qlùfhem. Puîyus came rolling away, new strands of trumpet call arisen from the fleeing Qhíng, and the Dragons and the blue Unicorns continued to swirl about each other and began to dart and slash. The air was growing hotter in the combine fires of the Dragons and in the exploding bombs, and Puîyus was having to surge upwards and skate about the growing blossoms of the light, he was sliding upon the jets of fire even as the Dragons came crashing through it and were wresting against the Unicorns all brimming with pollen and shadow, and the ardour of the air was causing the strings upon the harp strapped to Puîyus’ back to twinkle and sigh just a little. Puîyus always kept his clàrsach with him along with his swords so that he was ay-prepared for battle, it was appropriate only only to be armed with weaponry but with song, and yet he did not have as much time to devote to his music as he desired, more often his hand was placed to hilt of sword rather than to the neck and knobs of the harp. Sometimes he thought that the harp which his Father had given him must feel very lonely and only know melancholic tunes, if one can imagine a kantele as having sensation and emotion at all, for it was the neglected portion of his battlegear, and in his leaping and sliding and darting around the strings became loosened and quite often were in dire need of being tuned again and again, an effort which was quite easy to one with hands as deft and ears as sharp as Puîyus, but still his hands were placed upon the harp far less often than was his desire. But now as the unicorns were crashing into the Dragons, as the Drakes were beating their wings and claws through the bones and frills and antlers of the blue Unicorns, as all of the air was heating upwards with flame and light, the harp itself was singing some of its own song, the strings themselves warmed and brushed as if with fingers invisible. And pollen was drifting outwards upon all of the Dragons and Unicorns and Puîyus all alike.
Puîyus for his part was not about to let the Unicorns and the Dragons rip each other apart in such a fury that they struck the fleeing Qhíng and Aûm, so he came leaping upwards about slashing wings and jabbed his sword into the muscles, and he came spinning around the bone horns of an üncorn and kicked his way through some shutterent jaws, and he jumped upwards and jabbed his sword through the lower jaw of Dragon, and the brilliant fountains of plasma continued to twist about him and tried for to capture him. The mindless Unicorns were almost beating against the very winds of the æther, and Puîyus was bouncing up and sliding about the bone and crest and the Dragons also. Bursting upwards before him came Prince Kherènxhuqhe, three different Unicorns were attacking themselves unto the Prince and were impaling him all at the same time, one Unicorn was attacking a leg and digging it in from side to side, and two of the Unicorns were jabbing at the Prince’s chest, and although his chest had been wounded from the impaling glass and hot air balloon which the geminate Duchesses had aimed right untowards him, still the Dragon’s torso was partially mended, clouds of silver and black scales weaving about each other, and growing ripples of pollen drifting outwards and chocking the skulls of the Unicorns. Prince Kherènxhuqhe was wriggling from side to side. Puîyus came bounding upwards, he slashed his sword through the wings and ears of the Dragons in his arising, he was barely even looking from side to side as he drawing the Dragons down low, the sword was spinning around in huge venting rondures, the gills of the Dragons he was shredding as if he were harvesting barley and wheat upon his Father’s farm, he was punching aside several different Unicorns at once and was only mildly surprised when he was able to pluck the Unicorns upwards and hurl them against the Dragon as a new form of weapon, he yanked up the side antlers of a Dragon and swaying it from side to side, almost juggling the xhroîpfhe serou from hand to hand, and then yanking the great skull backwards, he threw the Dragon around and aimed its horn right through the neck of one Dragon, and all of the air shimmered in rage. Puîyus did not bother to remain to see his handiwork, he was hopping and jumping up the head of one Dragon and around the next, in a sommersault he came up unto another Dragon’s face and drew his sword right through its throat, he came slipping around and began hacking through the horns. It was swift and shocking and yet the horror of it was lessoning unto him, as he yanked ears down, as he punched the Dragon right across its eyen, and as some of the lesser Dragons were screaming already and fleeing away from the whirlwind which was Íngìkhmar’s Son, he felt almost as if his heart was breaking as he wounded the Dragons one by one to know of how honorable and glorious they once had been, and yet to realize that it was right for him to defeat the Dragons if he could in order to save his homeland. As he punched one Dragon across its neck he thought about how that neck must once have sung out the music of creation and perhaps even danced before Kàrijoi and the Empress whom no mortal man may name on the occasion of their marriage, for it is chanted that all of nature had high exalted at the last coronation and marriage of the Emperor and Empress xhreyána girlandoj apotheosis, as he ripped open some of the muscles in a Dragon’s he felt very sad to know that these Dragons were supposed to be flying through the air and were meant to bring music and light unto the peoples and not to swoop downwards and prey upon thepeoples, and as he came bounding across the torsos of the Dragons and punched against their ballies he thought about how sad it was that a mortal could be purified through penitence fasting ca and that all the Dragon could do was hunger, and as Puîyus came leaping upwards and smacked against jaw and face and came before the brilliant enigma eyen of the Dragons and looked upon their mirror eyen, for a moment Puîyus could feel the sadness in their ken, he could almost imagine how a Dragon must gaze, how they were shattered and disjointed and it might not have completely been their own fault, how they were pulled through world to world as if the Emperor were dragging his weir through the waves of time, and he came close to feeling deep and sad and harmonic compassion for such terrible creatures.
And so as Puîyus wounded many of the Dragons, as the Dragons and the Unicorns were busy spinning about each other in the ballet battle, and splashes of blood and pollen were drifting upwards about them, and Prince Kherènxhuqhe screaming was caught up in the middle and was wounded many times by Íngìkhmar’s Son, Puîyus came leaping downwards and was swirling down unto the swirling vessels of the Qhíng and the Aûm who were struggling for to retreat, and Puîyus began what he thought might be an even more difficult part of his plan. Spinnent he landed upon the deck of one of the larger of the warvimāna of the Qhíng and came rolling outwards towards the tall Qháma warriors, the same ones who lead the attack against his own people earlier this day, who had been yrobed all in black and held their shields high, their sword-whips dangling across their shoulders and quetzal feathercrests, the Qháma whom he had once considered as soulless as any Monster and hardly deserving of pity, but now Puîyus came bouncing up right before them and bowed to them in respect. All of the deck was shuttering, all of the wherries and skiffs and warships which were left within the Northwind were those which had been too wounded in the dracomachy to flee when they had the chance, but were hobbling and burning. Puîyus looked around and breathed in the scent of the smoke as thousands of Qhíng from many phatries were trying to douse the flames. The Qháma elite, once commanded by the stern tendril of Great-Uncle Xhnófho Kàrnaka himself, the mastermind qhèniel of the Emperor’s War were drawing themselves upwards, and although they did not recognize Puîyus by face, they had seen that this gossoon, not even as large as an adult male of his species, was managing to punch the Dragons aside and was giving the living ships the opportunitas for to leave, and the Qháma were bowing down one by one before him, their antennæ humbling themselves, and not a few of them were noticing that although tattered his clothing was, stains of blood were upon his face, his hair disheveled, that indeed he was dressed like unto a warrior of the people whom the Qhíng had tried to conquer and occupy before. And when the Qháma arose, and looking upwards saw the Dragons and Unicorns struggling together, and the streams of pollen were continueing to drift downwards in long and winding coils, and below the pyrochaos Puîyus was standing and pointing. If this had been a tide of peace Puîyus would have considered bringing Princess Éfhelìnye with him to act as a translator, but it was better for her to remain within the clouds and with the whales in a place away from the battle. The Qhíng would just have to use their imagination and understand. He came bouncing around one of the broken cannons and turning it around pointed it unto the Dragons. And the Qháma warriors, the greatest of the Qèlreqakh Caste were looking one to another, splashes of moon pollen falling upon their feathers, and they wondered all the while. Puîyus pointed unto the Dragons again, and his fingers were dancing together, and he jumped about and looked as if he were catching the wings of a Dragon and holding it down, he drew his sword and jabbed it through the air as if striking through neck and limb, with one arm he was grabbing the head of a Dragon and impaling it, and the Qhíng began to nod in understand.
– You will fight the Dragon, and we will fire where you indicate – one of the Generals of the Qháma was saying. – But why? Surely that will destroy you also? –
Puîyus sheathed his sword and pointed unto his chest and unto his heart a few times. The Qhíng did not understand, or at least not in words, and the Generals were shaking their heads and wishing that they had not become separated from Sieur Íngìkhmar who had been directing the war for them after the death of revered Xhnófho Kàrnaka, and yet dimly they were understanding, on the level of myth and dream, that they themselves, the people of the Qhíng, were almost helpless in the face of the Dragons and could only hope to flee, but a lad pure of heart could seriously wound and harm and even slay a Dragon, and perhaps, if he could wrestle them down, he could use the explosion of the bombs to his advantage. Some of the Qhíng were wondering as they realized that this strange who had come down from them from heaven was offering himself as a living sacrifice against the Dragon, and yet such was all the hope which the Qhíng had left unto them, and so they bowed one to another at the gravity of what was coming to pass.
– Where you indicate we shall fire – the General of the Qháma elite chanted. – Where you point, we shall fire. We obey the word of the Son of Heaven. –
Puîyus looked to his left unto the fleeing vessels of the Aûm, waves of fire and bombs still eminating from them as the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu, wild and uncontrolled were firing at the Dragons and barely even bothering to aim. Puîyus held up his two hands and clasped them tight together, his fingers tight and grasping, and then he pointed to the Qhíng and then to the Aûm, and he held his hands again. The Qhíng understood at once, and the General chanted – Then we shall join forces with the Aûm. All of our peoples are falling, and we are losing reasons even to keep fighting. –
This was all that Puîyus had to hear, he bowed unto the generals and elders and the warriors and in a swift sweeping turn he came leaping high away, he came bounding away faster and faster, the turms of the warship were just blurring eyots, he came sliding about the already burning solar sails, and was skipping about the Qhíng who were struggling for to douse the dragon fires still left unto them, he could only spare a few moments for the Qhíng anymore, despite the animosity that the Dragons and the blue Unicorns had for each other he could not rely on them only to struggle against each other all the while. As the Qhíng were carrying buckets of water and hurling it upon the fire, as they were drawing out their pipes and draining their basons and trying to save their masts and solar sails, Puîyus came jumping out unto the edge of the waters and blew upon them, and the winds of his breath and the waves came tumbling outwards, and the dragonfires that were rolling up and down throughout the ship were shimmering and fading, and as Puîyus spun around and left the Qhíng, the fires smouldered behind him in silver ribbon mist, and the Qhíng could just nod and bow in his direction and thank the stranger whose name they did not know, and already the Generals were calling one to another and bidding the soldiers to loud up all of the cannons that still remained unto them and to obey the Son of Heaven.
When Puîyus came jumping downwards unto one of the huge agnihotravimāna of the Aûm he found the situation far more chaotic than with the Qhíng, in fact many of the Aûm vessels were not even being steered at all were slowly were tumbling one against the other, some of the smaller skifflings were just leaping around in rondures and crashing against each other, and the Aûm were unable to rein in their own fleet. Puîyus came bouncing around one smaller ship and he yanked at the levers of one ship and yanked it upwards and beckoned unto a Thùlwus to grab it, he came spinning around a glass and hot air balloon and opened up the billows and jaws of the cockles and he pointed to some Qlùfhem to take control, Puîyus was thankful that indeed most of the khèxhlo vessels of the Dreamtime were in a way able to fly of their own accord, they could arise and steer just a little, and sometimes endure their own trek migrating the length of the travel with only minimal interference from the sailors themselves, if weather be fair and the Suns are shining upon the solar sails, and in this particular case, as the Aûm were spinning around empanicked it was best that the did not have to think too much when Puîyus set rope and wheel back into their tentacles, all he had to do was point unto the distal Stars shining above where Jaràqtu, and he made his way out unto the warships where the blazing cannons were firing at random and even striking down fleeing and horrified Aûm.
– MEW! – Puîyus cried as he landed in the midst of the zodiographers and held up his hands in a sign of attention. The Qlùfhem were screaming and began fleeing away from him, although a few of them were tumbling right down upon their thoraces and covering their eyestalks in their tentacles. Some of the Thùlwu were just jumping upwards and spinning around upon their sphere-legs and either crashing into each other or just fainting from fright. Puîyus pointed unto the cannons and tried to get attention, but the Aûm were just screaming all the louder. He came bounding upwards, he came spinning around the nearest siege-engine, and ducking the growing halos of explosions all the while, yanked open the machinery of the ponájhyi catapult and settled it down, and then looking around was greated by even more of the Aûm jumping upwards and screaming all the while.
– Mew! –
– Oh! – screamed the Aûm.
– Mew! –
– Ah! – cried the Aûm.
– Mew mew mew mew mew! –
– Help! – cried the Qlùfhem.
– Please don’t hurt us! – screamd the Thùlwu.
Puîyus blinked a couple of times. – Mew? – he whispered.
The Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were all falling down at his feet and groveling, they did not even attempt to bow and whisper and supplicate him, they were just wriggling from side to side, their tentacles reaching outwards unto him and drawing his feet down. Puîyus knew he had no time for this, and he was growing uncomfortable with the idea that adults should humble themselves before him, for after all he was still the younger and had to afford all honor unto the older. He drew up a Qlùfhim and Thùlwus at random and shook them by the shoulders and asked – Mew? – and then looked upwards unto where the Dragons and Unicorns were spinning about each other in brilliant sky battle.
– Our beloved Duchesses, the most beautiful and wise of us all are gone from us! – screamed the Qlùfhim. – We cannot function without us! –
– Who will command us! Who will lead us? Who shall love us as they did! – the Thùlwus was moaning, his celia almost tying itself up into knots, all of his body shaking in horror.
– Mew – Puîyus sighed.
– Pereluyàsqa and Khosyaràsqa, missing missing missing gone! –
– Have you seen them? Tell us you’ve seen them! You have a message from them, don’t you? –
– They’re still watching us, they’re loving us from afar! They must be sending us their love … –
– Yes, you are a messenger from them … you are their servant … yes … their slave … –
– Mew – Puîyus growled.
– They can’t die! Without the qhèlurt legacy of Khlàmfhors the first and greatest of the arpijhàrlta … we are nothing. We are shadows of what we must have been. –
– Without the Duchesses, we are naught but lambkins without our shepherdess. –
– Wait wait! –
– Yes yes! –
– You … you can be our Duchesses! –
– You, stranger … you will be our Duchesses! –
Puîyus had absolutely nothing to say.
– Why, you’re already wearing such a pretty little gown – chanted the Qlùfhim as he ran his tentacles about Puîyus’ kilt. – You are quite a pretty little girl aren’t you? – Puîyus slapped the Qlùfhim’s tentacles away from the hem of his kilt, but already several more tentacles were crawling about the jewels and tartan of the qetlhekhlajhangétsu filleadh beag, and the Qlùfhim would not not stop patting Puîyus’ clothing and watching the flounce of cape and sleeve.
– You are such a beautiful young Xhámi girl, aren’t you? – asked the Thùlwus, as his tentacles came slipping up through Puîyus’ long blue tresses and began snaking about his ears and jewels. – We have seldom seen hair as lustrious and levinbright as yours. What a pretty little bride you are, our lass. – Puîyus slapped at the tentacles around his hair, he was just as uncomfortable with someone touching his hair as with someone touching his clothing.
– Lovely lovely girl – chanted the Qlùfhim.
– Beautiful little maiden – chanted the Thùlwus.
– Yes, you shall be our new Duchesses. –
– You can be our Daughter. –
– Our little toy. –
– Our beautiful doll. –
Puîyus did not have time to protest the treatment he was receiving from these Aûm, he was beginning to feel sorry for whatever toys the Aûm used to have when they were children, for he was getting the feeling that the qhokòkhti seedlings of the Aûm could be rather rambunctious with what the Emperor crafted and gave unto them. He shoved the Qlùfhim and the Thùlwus aside. He was beginning to feel sorry for them also, even though he did not like being touched by them, and his heart was still burning him to remember that in some way the Aûm were quite responsible for the current state of affairs, when they had turned against the Qhíng and began firing upon them and invited the battle against the Dragons. But now was not the time to judge how much culpability the Aûm may have, or a faction among then, no more so than he could start blaiming the Qháma warriors in the cadlong beyond for the occupation of Jaràqtu. For the moment he just pitied them and pointed unto the writhing of the dragons and the unicorns against each other, and made a motion as if to fire an arrow at them.
– Pardon? – asked the Qlùfhim.
– Sorry? – wondered the Thùlwus.
Puîyus bounded about and his arms were swinging from side to side as if like serpent swimming in the air, and then he made a motion as if strangling the Dragon, and bombs reaching outwards towards it.
– Oh? – asked the Qlùfhim.
– Ah? – wondered the Thùlwus.
– Do you have a sweetheart yet, pretty little girl? –
– We can find you a sweetheart, we can, pretty little maiden. –
Puîyus blinked a couple of times. Many times he had heard Uncle Xhnófho talk about how irrational the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were and that no Qhóngaxúng could hope to understand them, and yet when the Aûm had come as saviors to help the elders of his people they had chanted the same about the Qhíng, that they were mad completely inscrutable and weird. At the moment he was loosing patience with the Aûm, already brilliant fountains of flame and pollen were breaking downwards from where the Dragons and the Unicorns were doing battle, a few stray Unicorns were already being disemboweled alive as smaller groups of dragons were ganging up together and ripping open the skulls and limbs of the nekiυmva, and some of the mightier of the Dragons were yanking up the Unicorns by their impaling horns and smashing their skulls together and hurling down the shattered and oozing bodies down, and glancing upwards he could see that in the midst of the growing battle, the wind and flames clammering together in crackling waves that Prince Kherènxhuqhe was surging upwards and biting right through the limbs of several more nekiυmva, and spinning his hooked tail around he was ripping open their limbs and hooves and skulls and pouring downwards were the inner plasmatic effluvia tqùna that dwelt within. Puîyus came trodding upwards and tried to find a cannon that was still working, but all around him the Aûm were continuing to fire at random and even at each other, their vessels lighting up and hobbling crashing one against the other.
– !! – Puîyus shouted in command so loud that that waves of Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were scattered away from his voice and were like autumnal leaves crumbling about before the storm. He tapped his foot upon the deck a few times, and as the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu began snaking upwards, he stomped a few more times just to keep their attention.
– So, are you married? – asked a Qlùfhim.
– If not, little girl, we can sift through what the Duchesses left unto you. We’ve heard the story that the Duchesses had hordes of metamorphic mutants, and we’re sure that among the mutated brethren we can find one wiht who may be suitable unto you – a Thùlwus offered.
– It’s hard to believe that a maiden as pretty as you is unmarried though – another Qlùfhim nodded.
– Oh, I know, we can dress you up in robes of purest white and ship you off unto the cloud realms of Jaràqtu, and there we may find the new Emperor, we hear he is a young and strong young swain, we can make you his Concubine, we want to gather up wives and concubines for him … – a Thùlwus was beginning, but Puîyus just came marching right up untowards the quivering Aûm and crossed his arms and gave them quite a universal look which told them that it would be best for them just not to talk anymore.
– We just want to help! – squealed the hordes of the Qlùfhem.
– You’re so pretty! – giggled the swarms of the Thùlwu.
Puîyus looked around and hoped to find some general or master or elder at all in charge of these groups, even a governmentless group like the Aûm had the tofhenókeqor the first estate of priests oratores hieropoioi to guide the peoples, the arpijhàrlta zodiographers of the Qlùfhem and the lrathùlwoxaum priest captains of the Thùlwu, but he could not see any of them gathered in these groups of quivering sailors and spinning soldiers, perhaps there were a few priests and scribes in the groups their their robes were no so tattered that he could not quite identify them. Already the living ships and glass and hot air balloons were beginning to shake all the harder. He grabbed a few of the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu at random and threw them right untowards the machinery of the cannon, and yanking the wheels began spinning them upwards and aimed right untowards the Dragons, perhaps he should have brought Éfhelìnye as the translator after all, or at least as a reminder to the Aûm unto the difference between the male and female duality of the Xhámi fey, but as a few comet streaks of light began to descent, as splashes of fire were breaking downwards, growing waves of light dribbling downwards, he was glad that Éfhelìnye remained with the cloud whisps and the whales. He aimed the cannon towards the Dragons and made a little burble gurgling sound as if firing upon the Dragons.
– So … you want us to fire upon the Dragons – chanted the Aûm.
– While you fight the Dragons. –
– And then we fire on the Qhíng and kill them all hah hah hah hah hah. –
Puîyus shook his head in negation. He was going to try this again.
– !! –
– So we aim the cannons and fire on the Dragons. –
– … –
– And then the Qhíng. –
– Mew! –
– We fire on the Qhíng first? –
– !! –
– We fire on some Qhíng and then some Dragons. –
– !! –
– We fire on a few Qhíng and then all Dragons. –
– !! –
– We fire on one Qhíng and then the Dragons and then the rest of the Qhíng. –
– MEW! –
– Oh, we get it. We fire on our own people also. –
– MEW! –
– We fire only on the Qhíng. –
– MEW! –
– We fire only on the Qhíng and the Dragons at the same time. –
– Mew mew mew! – Puîyus yanked the edge of the cannon and wriggled it from side to side, he thought that this was relatively simple to explain. He looked upwards unto where he had left Éfhelìnye, maybe he should just grab her, but now, the probably had nothing to do with problems of language and translation, it had to do with the minds and memories of a people who only remembered warfare. He turned the cannon up and down and pretended to fire, and then he looked to the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu and nodded one by one and then danced around as if on fire.
– So … you want us to fire on you? You want to die, right? –
– … –
– You will be our sacrifice! We shall burn you alive, and then as you drive the Dragons down for us, we shall slaughter all of the Qhíng left unto us, it’s what Duchesses would have wanted. But why must you die, oh virgin maiden, we want to find a sweetheart for you, we hear that the new Empress loves marriage and wants to encourage childbirth … –
– MEW! –
– What a grouchy young maiden, good luck in getting betrothed. –
Puîyus blinked a couple of times. He pointed to the Dragon.
– So we fire on the Dragon and then the Qhíng. –
Puîyus grabbed the nearest Qlùfhim and wrapped his hands about his shoulders and celia and then mewed a few times, and then the Qlùfhim chanted – So we fire on the Dragon and … – And then Puîyus clasped his hands upon the Qlùfhim’s celia to keep him silent. He lookd to the other Aûm to see whether they understood. He removed his hands again and the Qlùfhim chanted – And we fire on the Dragon and … – And then Puîyus stifled its words. The rest of the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu looked to each other and nodded, understanding blossoming in their eyen.
– Ah, how simple! We fire on the Dragons and then strangle the Qhíng! What a wise young bride thou art! –
Puîyus plucked up a Thùlwus who was smelling a little of old books and parchment, and drawing out a bit of papyrus from its sleeves, Puîyus took a bit of crayon from his pocket and considering for a moment thought about all of the letters and glyphs which he had been taught by Grandfather Pátifhar in the days when he had been learning about swords and calligraphy and defense and ink and survival and paint, and he began to write out a few characters in lwúnike the writing system of the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu and Ptètqiikh and he wrote out, Only Fire Upon The Dragons.
A thousand Aûm turned their eyestalks to Puîyus and asked with a single voice – But when do we fire upon the Qhíng? – The Aûm were shruggling their shoulders, the complicated antlers of the Thùlwu flowing from side to side in crackling bone array. – This one must be quite a cunning and wise strategizing bride, she must have some trick to use against the Kèlor Masters. –
Puîyus drew out upon the paper aig spelling out the characters, Ye shall not harm the Qhíng, for the Aûm and the Qhíng shall be a single family in the eyen of Empress Éfhelìnye.
– Is she here? – the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were all asking at the same time.
Puîyus smiled and nodded in the affirmative.
– The new Moon Empress … she can be our Duchess … she can be Pereluyàsqa and Khosyaràsqa unto us all – the Aûm were whispering. – She will be mind, she will guide us through our long migration, our sojourn, our exile far away from the gardens of thought where once dwelt we. –
Puîyus sighed, he was hoping at the very least that if the Aûm were not about to listen to the stranger come unto them, they would respond to Éfhelìnye’s name. A few of the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were turning to each other and his kean ears could hear that they were saying – Maybe in the generation to come the new Empress will permit us to fall upon the Qhíng and give them a good thrashing! But for now we can remain silent about the wretched Kèlor from their fallen bridges. –
Puîyus spun the cannon around and kept it aimed upwards unto where the Dragons were struggling and then he came bounding away, he was leaping about the turms of the warships of the Aûm and turning their cannons around up untowards the Drakeweards, and the word was already whisperent outwards among the soldiers and warriors in the last of the hobbling vessels, the flags were waving and the Aûm were all preparing to fire where Puîyus directed. And so at the last it was time for Puîyus to return and mount upwards back into the swirling welkin and to offer himself as a s sacrifice unto the great and dread piasa dragons, and he whispered to the Ancestors and hoped that the Qhíng and the Aûm could at least remain united for the length of this battle, no matter how short it may end up being, and he asked the holy Sweqhàngqu and the wraith of his Mother to protect Princess Éfhelìnye if he should not survive. And as Puîyus came leaping upwards and bounced off of the masts and towers of the living ships, as he came swirling upwards among the now silent Aûm cannons and bouncing up the rostra of the Kèlor Qhíng he heard once again the flourish of the trumpet call and the conch song and the booming voice of so many pipe organs as the folk were preparing to fire upon the lad at his signal.
The Dragons were managing to rip apart most of the jacinth Unicorns, although some of the Dragons were badly wounded with impaled limbs or wings ripped apart, and bursting out from the Dragons were growing clouds of ice and fire growing out from the jaws of the creatures, and as the Unicorns were being shredded and were tumbling downwards one by one, the Dragons were finally beginning to turn their baleful mirror eyen back unto the fleeing Qhíng treats and Aûm snacks before them and the rolling winds that surrounded Jaràqtu. Puîyus came bouncing up about one Unicorn and swirling about the tail of another as he surged upwards and saw the many wounds upon the Dragons he was glad at least that they were being slowed down by the wrath of the other demimortal creatures also drawn mad by Emperor Kàrijoi.
– He returns – Prince Kherènxhuqhe chanted. – The one who espouses loyalty and love unto Kàrijoi comes to corrupt his Daughter and destroy the Emperor’s vassels. Faithless and cowardly we Dragons clepe you, hardly worthy at all of being called the Son of Íngìkhmar, the Knight who truly loved the Crystalline Throne, who served the Starburst Crown, who loved the Royal Couple Tusùrthir. –
Puîyus came bounding upwards and came spinning around the gills and antlers of a Dragon and punched it right across its face, and as the Dragon turned he came tumbling downwards and wrapping his legs about its neck began punching it harder and harder and slowly choking it, and when the Dragon was screaming out in asphyxiating, Puîyus looked down and signaled unto the crippled fleets of the Qhíng and Aûm and waved his arm in acceptence.
– How many Qhíng have you already slaughtered when they came against your people? – Prince Kherènxhuqhe asked. – You were their torment, their bale, do you think in the end that you can save them? You cannot save all of the people. Even Kàrijoi has become humbled as he has learned the truth of our age, that we can only survive, but we can never conquer. –
The Qhíng and Aûm did not hesitate, the plasma torpedoes and bombs and squeeeeebangs rushing right up untowards Puîyus’ face. Puîyus released his hands. He willed himself to fall. The bombs would have just a small affect the Dragons of themselves, but if he himself could throw them against the Dragons and use their burning momentum, then he would be armed of the fleet itself.
– They will never remain united – Prince Kherènxhuqhe chanted. – The animosity between the children of the Qhíng and the children of the Aûm is ancient, it is almost as old as the Winter Patriarchy itself. Choose to save just one, but not both. Will you save the Qhíng who betrayed your people in the dawntide of the day, or will you save the Aûm who betrayed your people in the midnight of the day? Any attempt to save both will only cause the two to fall upon each other and slaughter each other anew. –
Puîyus landed upon the first of the torpedoes, he grabbed the spinning bombs about him and began throwing them right unto the Dragon’s neck where he had been asphyxiating it, and crying out he himself threw the bombs against the neck. Some of the fireworks were exploding before they could reach the Dragon and before he could fully take control of them, and he had to draw out his rope and draw them down closer unto him, he was able to yank up a few of them and hurl them against the choking Dragon, and as the last of the bombs were beginning to blossom and coil about the Dragon’s neck, Puîyus drew out the Dragon’s sword and threw himself right into the explosion and impaled the sword right through the neck. And the Dragon screamed out, and its scales were ripped away from the center of its neck, and no longer could it breathe out fire but growing waves of fire and glass and pollen. And the Dragon’s eyen began to roll backwards as it was sorely wounded. Puîyus was rolling outwards, the force of the explosion threw him against a Dragon’s snout, and the choked Dragon at once spun around and began retreating up into the air and bleeding out from it came long and rolling ribbons of red light. Puîyus was heaving. The Dragon was returning back to the Moons. Huge wings were beating about his face, and looking around he saw that several of the Drake horde were realizing that Puîyus was figuring out something and that it was time for them to retreat.
– It will not work for ever – Prince Kherènxhuqhe whispered.
Puîyus staggered off of the snout of a Dragon and tumbling through the air kicked one Dragon across the jaw and grabbed the claws of a wing, and below him he heard a sound which at first he did not recognize for it was something which had become so rare within the gloamtide hour. But from the hobbling skiffs and living ships and glass hot air balloons came the jubilation kháyàjhwen of the Qhíng and the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu cheering as if with a single voice.
– How many more will have to die because your rebellion against revered Kàrijoi? – Prince Kherènxhuqhe asked.
Puîyus smiled. He leapt upwards and several Dragons were swarming at him at once, but he was already learning what he had to do. He did his best to set aside anger and fear, he tried to see the world in the way that the Qhíng and Aûm do as well as the pitiable Dragons, many times Puîyus thought that he spent his days thinking more likea wild beast than like a mortal child anyway, so it was just a matter of will to try to envision nobility and wing and song. He beat the Dragons away, and his sword ripped out several different wings at once, and as the Dragons screamed he almost felt as if he were the one being thusly wounded. He came bounding about some of the high barbed and jabbed his sword through tender muscles, he was almost clipping the wings, and the wounded Dragons flapping their arms and bleeding in many places were crashing against each other. It was time. He waved his arms. The Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were singing unto themselves as they were loading up their cannons and firing at his signal and right towards the stranger. The bombs came blossoming outwards. The fires came. Puîyus knew that if the fires ate through his face, if he were devoured all at once, at least he had done his best and would not be shamed if he were washed up upon the nether silvern shores where his Ancestors would be waiting for him. He let himself fall into the flames. Firecrackers were swirling all about the wings. Puîyus caught as many of the bombs as he could and smashed them into the muscles of the wings, some of the bombs, just on the verge of exploding, he threw them against barb and wing, the bombs he was using as swords and fans, and he yanked one Dragon by the wing and drew him down towards the light, and another he grabbed by its fangs and spun it around, and greater and greater came the explosions, and he was directing it all.
– Kàrijoi was once like you – Prince Kherènxhuqhe chanted. – We all remember it, we who are ancient beyond days, we whose memory stretch back through the hundreds of millions of years. Once Kàrijoi was the bright and strong Prince beloved of the Princess, once he rode off into battle to defend the innocent, once we Dragons bowed before him and knew him for what he was. But you shall be no different in the end. Drive us away. Force the Qhíng and the Aûm into unnatural peace, and as you take your new throne, and the Qhíng and Aûm plot behind your back and attack each other with spies and hidden weapons and all manner of treachery just less than outright war, then rest content in your new Empire. And the day shall come when you too shall grow old and weary of ruling the billion, billion worlds, and you shall be winter and storm and midnight extinction, and you shall reach out with strong hand and try to devour your own children just as Kàrijoi doeth. –
Puîyus came spinning upwards. He was flying before the jaws of the Dragons, they were rising and bobbling about him, but those whom he had wounded grievous about the wings were now scattering away from him and squawking like so many flittermice, and the squadrons of the Dragons were breaking apart and many more heading back unto the Moons, and the sound of the cheering Qhíng and Aûm grown all the louder. Puîyus came slipping outwards before the jaws of the Dragons. He was readying himself. He signaled unto the soldiers again and again, no longer did he think that he even had to wound the Dragons at the first, their will was breaking before him. The fires were coming. The pollen was falling all the harder. He felt very sorry for what Emperor Kàrijoi was doing unto them, and as he arose before the jaws of the Dragons, when they beheld his own glacial and winedark eyen, the Dragons saw his sadness, and this time it was the Dragons who tried to hide themselves from his gaze, for of all things in the world what they least desired was pity, especially from some wretched mortal creature.
– You may drive us away, but we shall always be here – Prince Kherènxhuqhe chanted. – We are in your heart. We are your heart, yours is a Dragon heart beating. Many maidens, many princesses love you. But you trap them just as much as any Dragon in his isuîra lair e'er could hope to do. –
The fires came all the brighter. Puîyus grabbed one bomb after another and threw them into the jaws of the hungry Dragons, and some of them were choking and trying to swallow æther and phlogistons, some of the Dragons were tumbling backwards when they accidently swallowed the bombs, and their insides were torn outside, some of the Dragons were lighting up one by one, and others were just deciding that they had other tasks to perform in their service for dread Kàrijoi and this insolent lad’s death could wait for another hour, and even as Puîyus smashed against the jaws and pushed the bombs untowards them, another hundred Dragons came spinning upwards and were roaring in their retreat. And as more firebombs were arising Puîyus’ ears rejoiced to hear a new sound, in the song of conch and pipe organ he could hear that the Qhíng and the Aûm were shouting at each other, that their skiffs were rushing untowards each other, but no in anger but to coordinate the next strike of their bombs, and so now as Puîyus punched against one face and held one Dragon helpless for a moment, the bombs were now come in a straight line towards the lad, and he was able to make better use of them and scatter the Dragons away. And the Qhíng and the Aûm began to feel hope for the first time in the long midnight.
– Enough! End this! – boomed Prince Kherènxhuqhe. – This but a game for you, some puerile form of chess! It can never last! Whatever imperium who seek to carve out of Kàrijoi’s ruins will fail also … all political alliances, all formations are ephemeral in nature, don’t you know that we Dragons have been witness to many a war! –
Puîyus punched Prince Kherènxhuqhe’s jaws aside, and without looking backwards he cut through the wings and claws of the Dragons staying with their Prince unto the end. Puîyus felt the waves of energy rolling upwards as the Qhíng and Aûm released their next volley, he just breathed upon the Dragons and directed it, even as he remained and offered up himself as a sacrifice whom the Dragons could just pluck down if they could but avoid the bombs of his hand.
– Stop looking at us thusly! – roared Prince Kherènxhuqhe. – A pathetic mortal has no right to think of mercy before the Children of Qhalúxha! Who are you to feel sorry for our estate? You are nothing but a slave and a child of slaves, your Father is disgraced dishonored and lost! Your mother’s name is lost in the winds. Kàrijoi lifts up his hand of power against you! I could smite you where you stand … don’t look at us! Close your eyen! We hate you, oh our Son! Look not upon the Dragon! – Puîyus struck through the wing of one Dragon, and all of the remaining Dragons were crying out as if all were hurt, he jumped upon the head of another and began snapping the bones out of its neck, and all of the Dragons were screaming and bleeding at the same time, and arising to do battle against Prince Kherènxhuqhe, all of the Dragons were backing away and breathing out storms from their wings and struggling aginast the downfall of the pollen, and Puîyus hopped closer and closer against them and cut them in many places. And yet even as Puîyus Íngìkhmar’s Son was driving the Dragons backwards, even as in twos and threes the Dragons were breaking apart and leaving some of the elders that were clustering about Prince Kherènxhuqhe, enough of the Dragons were still remaining to shred the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu if they could just descend and do so, and the Dragons, although wounded and confused, were not about to let Puîyus survive this, especially now that they could see that in a way his spirit was broken also.