In the tower Siêthiyal was turning around. – He’s here! They’re here! Hurry up! Trust me, he’ll love you, there’s nothing you can do wrong, just make yourself pretty! Oh, I can’t wait, I’m leaving right now! – She came dashing down the halls, Kháfha were walking in a slow and steady pace unto all sides of her, as tall triangular shadows neither slowing nor hastening at all. Siêthiyal had to admit to being a little annoyed with the Kháfha Xákhefha Járqnis poploe, for after all did they not understand who she was and how important she was, if anyone wanted to see the new Emperor and Princess whatsherface he would have to beseech her first, and Siêthiyal was already making a list of all the floppy hats she wanted and piles of toys which could be gathered together and repaired for her, sometimes she found herself just rubbing her hands together and comtemplating a large comfy litter wherein her slaves could carry her all about, slaves donated from humble vassels happy that she would whisper a few words from time to time in her Brother’s ear, she was looking forward to motioning to slipping out of the litter, and slaves would fight o'er who would be honored to fall down at her feet so that she could walk on their back. In fact, as she was running through the halls at the moment, she did not understand why the Kháfha weren’t tumbling down and groveling to her right now, she was legally Kàrijoi’s Daughter after all, they had to grovel at least a little, plus she was the one who was protecting Akhlísa the Concubine all the while. It’s almost as if the Kháfha were looking down unto her with cold and sylvan eyen and telling her, Maybe when you grow up we’ll grovel, but for now you have to start earning our respect. We’re Kháfha after all, like stone and mountain, we bathe our children in ice and sand, and we do not tolerate vice. That’s just fine, let them be moody and sullen, I don’t care. I actually like the Kháfha, they’re the only ones who haven’t betrayed my Family in the War so far, the Qhíng and Aûm are equally alike in their insanity as I have learned, at least the Kháfha did a good job in training Grandfather Pátifhar and my Brother alike, they must do something right, even if they’re not kissing my boots yet. Yes, but they will one day. Puey can’t handle running an Empire, his heart is too soft, and Éfhelìnye doesn’t know her right hand from her left, she’ll just spin around and flickerflitter in her dancing. Someone has to set down the harmonies and chords of the worlds. I’ll point my Puey in the direction he has to go, what battles he must wage, what toys he needs to bring back to me, someone has to have a vision for this next generation. And yes, the peoples will all bow to Puey and whatsherface and burn their incense and chant their songs, but me it is they shall serve, I want the lords and viceroy kings and dukes to grovel before my gaze, I take off my wooden shoon and make them kiss my striped socks in supplication, and if any of them pleases me, I’ll have Puey kill them in ways athletic and imaginative as only he can device. Oh, I’ll make the worlds safe, I’ll make them safe for the transport of sugar and candy and toys, none of this extinction and winter nonsense, that’s just terrible, who can have fun in all of that? And if Puey starts getting vexing me, I’ll just get him a few more golden tressed concubines to distract him, I don’t believe for a moment that he’ll be content with someone as crazy as Éfhelìnye, only a saint could put up with her and not even Puîyus is that patient. It shouldn’t be too difficult to distract both of them with something, him with young wives and her with books and poetry and silly things, and so no one will notice at all that the lords will beg me, just beg me for whatever they desire. I wish I had power. No one pays any attention to me at all. Look, not even the Kháfha, not even looking at me with their nine pupils, how can they even see with that, three eyen I understand but nine pupils, that has to be confusing, tré confusing!
The long and arrassed tapestries were parting before Siêthiyal, the doors were swinging open of their own accord, and stretching out before her was the long landing platform here at the roof of this tower at the edge of xhyairèxhmu iron and murmurent mountain of Jaràqtu. Dashing outwards at the embrasures were many Kháfha monks holding up their swords, and scurrying all about like so many rocks dashing afore riverbed and upon the plain were the Khlitsaîyart sailors tossing their ropes and shouting one to another as they brought a vessel within, and Siêthiyal could see many of the different genetic sub-castes of this people, the tall and musculature Tyèntha reavers who were clad all in leather and spikes and thorns, and they were grabbing the edge of the ropes and pulling with their titanic strength while dashing around them came the smaller Qrór runner racers leaping upon their lithe legs, and the Qrúr interceptors whose foot claws were tapping against each other in a manner that reminded her of the imperial telegraph apparatus she had seen in the Holy City Eilasaîyanor. Siêthiyal put her hands on her hips and could not make herself believe that just a day ago she had dwelt upon her Father’s plantation and only seen Khlitsaîyart who were warrior allies of her Father or who were serving the priests and vestal virgins of the Abby, but now she saw entire nations of these aliens here in numbers and kinds she had never possibly imagined, and they were come here unto the land beyond the Northwind where no aliens were permitted to venture without the leave of the clanfathers. Some of them she thought would be useful in the war, others were just infestations brimming in the dreamlands which the Qhíng have left accursed. Let them come, let them all come. In time they would learn the nature of a Jaràqtun Emperor, especially one who had a rather clever Sister standing behind the throne.
– The alien hordes will either aid my Brother in battle and form a new circles of knighthood around him and the new Empress, or they shall all be conquered – Siêthiyal chanted to herself. – For the children of Jaràqtu there can only be two fates for the nations, as honorable allies or as our slaves; and there are quite a many people whom I will grind beneath my feet for all the crimes they have commited. Then we’ll see who gets ignored all the time. Then we’ll see who begs me to allow them the honor of giving me toys. Long live Emperor Puîyos, the Son of Kàrijoi. –
But the tall Kháfha hieromonachs walking about Siêthiyal, their robes all swishes and beads did not hear a word she was saying unto herself, and the Khlitsaîyart were far too busy guiding down the vessel wherein the very important visitors were come, the Qrúr interceptors and Qrór racer runners and Tyèntha reavers leaping unto all directions.
– Oh Puey! – Siêthiyal clasped her hands together. – I really hope you’re there. I’ve waited for you so long, I think if I have to pass another hour without you, surely my heart shall break. – A single tear trickled from the corners of her eye, but she wiped it away, it would not be proper to burdhen her Brother with such weakness, especially after all that he’s suffered, in exile, in banishment, in death. She waited at the edge of the tower, she was uncertain as to whether to run up to the ship, it could be the wrong one, perhaps the Kháfha were just transporting more food and weapons, but if anyone could find her Brother it would be the Kháfha, the Aûm have lost all of their organization without the Duchesses to command them, and the Qhíng have grown sad and melancholy, no longer the conquerors, but humbled and beaten. The Kháfha though, calm, emotionless, they will find him, they must, oh they will find my Puey and return him to me. Plus, as soon as he returns I can just dump Kàrula off at his feet and not have to worry about her any longer, taking care of her is a difficult task, she complains and weeps and won’t do any work at all and she’s panicking to think that Puey will reject her I don’t know why she’s acting like this the only reason she’s alive at all is because Íngìkhmar and Khwofheîlya adopted her in the last battle, otherwise she might have died in the sands along with her parents, some Khlitsaîyart cut them all down without even seeing the babe in their arms, she’s alive because the Sweqhàngqu on a matter of honor need to ally themselves in marriage to both the Khatelèstan and the Tásel, since babyhood she’s been taught this, why is she fretting so, Puey had better be on this ship, if not I shall start tormenting my new captors why can’t the adults just leave me and my Sister alone they’re only happy when they make us suffer.
Siêthiyal wiped away a few more tears from her eyen. She was no longer dressed in the finery which honored Pereluyàsqa and beloved Khosyaràsqa had granted unto her, for that dress had been too badly torn and scorched in the battle when the Duchesses had impaled the Dragon Prince, and the Prince had not even been scathed. She was dressed in a new gown which the Vestal Virgins had made for her, long and pink she had insisted, and the buttons were of many different textures and precious jewels, and woven all about her collar and sleeves were no longer the regalia of the Clan of Sweqhàngqu which was no more, but rather the Sun and the Dragon and the Moon of the Holy House of the Pwéru of which she now belonged, though she did not like to think about it. The dress was a bit more adult looking than the clothing she was used to wearing, but it was not completely adult, ribbons were tied about her girdle, and the Vestal Virgins made sure to tie several bows in her hair and to crimp her tresses just a little. They told her that she was far too young to wear jewelry and that was fine with her, she wanted still to look like a Sèqhexhe Saqaôngta, a Daughter of Jaràqtu as much as ritual would allow, anyway Akhlísa was grabbing as much jewelry and beads and gold as she could find, she actually wanted to look more adult, at least she thought it would make Puîyus like her all the more. She has nothing to worry her though. At least we got those clockwork creatures out of her hair, they just arose, spinning and buzzing all the while when we came to the shore and Ixhúja was rowing us there. I can’t believe that freak rescued us. I don’t even want to think about her, she’s the most dangerous thing I’ve e'er seen, I don’t care if she looks like a maiden, I think she’s made out of metal and has no soul, or at least none that I can recognize. I’m glad she’s out wandering in the forests, I don’t want to see her anymore at all. I just want everything to be as it was before, even though Abbá is gone, and Fhermáta can only look at us from afar. I hope Kàrula doesn’t get too nervous. She loves him. She will keep his feet on Jaràqtu. She will remind him that he is a conquerer, he destroys the proud, he makes the world safe from monsters and dæmons and dragons. Waves of steam were billowing upwards from the lower legs of the warship, and the sailors were drawing out the gangplank. Siêthiyal adjusted her braids a little, and made sure that all of her bows were in place, she bit her lips and pinched her cheeks so that they would be as bright and pink as her tresses, and she prayed to the Ancestors that her Puîyus would actually be on this vessel, and in the beating of her heart she even hoped that Éfhelìnye was there and not dead or at least not to seriously damaged or at least damaged but only in a way that would make her less annoying, or at least just bringing her toys and lots of them, bright and exotic and fun.
Siêthiyal looked up to the pfhopápape gangplank delicating and winding dņghu meduk and saw that the monks were flowing downwards, their spears and swords agleam, and behind them, almost leaning upon each other, were a couple of figures whom she had only of recent seen in dream and memory. They were both dressed in simple white, some robes the Vestal Virgins must have found for them, they almost look like bathtowels. The maiden had long flowing red hair, she looks thin. Oh Éfhelìnye! And that he? He looks like Father, no, not quite. It’s just the way the shadow falls on him. He’s thin also. Oh it is Puey, it is it is it is! Puîyus looked down and his eyen caught Siêthiyal’s and for a moment he thought that he saw the wraith of his Mother standing before the tower door, lithe and graceful and streaks of roseate hair flowing. No, not quite Mother. Siêthiyal. Ixhúja brought her home. Safe. Beloved. Home. After all this time. At last. At last. At last.
– Puey! – Siêthiyal shouted. She started running. The Kháfha monks were flapping their triple wings and fluttering away from her and bowing at her passage, and the Khlitsaîyart sailors were nodding unto her even as they began unloading the boxes and jars of the vessel. Siêthiyal was smiling. Puîyus thought it was one of the most beautiful sights he had e'er beheld. Puîyus squeezed Éfhelìnye’s hand and together they came running down the fhèlqa footbridge, they were no longer noticing the movement of monk and sailor nor the flashing of light from the towers or the movement of the living ships around the whispering mountains like so many insects buzzing upon their business. All that mattered was family and each other. Puîyus felt like picking up Éfhelìnye and just flying through the air to rejoin his Sister, but he thought that the Princess was probably still too weak and tired for such ærial acrobatics.
Puîyus, with Éfhelìnye in hand, and Siêthiyal ran up to each other in the center of the platform. For a moment all they could do was look at each other in disbelief. Puîyus saw that Siêthiyal was little taller and thinner, in her new fine dress she looked like a Queen, no, like their Mother indeed. Siêthiyal could see that Puîyus had grown also, but his eyen were shining with the memories of battle and pain which he could never share with the women in his family, it was all a part of becoming a chieftain of their people, to learn to protect the innocent and shield them from the battles. Oh yes, he does look more like Father, but his cheeks still have that merry little blush to them, I can see a dimple trying to poke out. He first down glancing upon his lip and cheek, that’s good, I’m not sure whether I would like a beard on him, even a bad first attempt at one. Even Éfhelìnye had grown. Even in that bathtowel, she looks gorgeous. She does look like Empress we dare not name. No, not quite, I’ve seen many stained glass images of the Moon Empress, and idols fashioned of her, but Éfhelìnye I think is prettier and cuter, not a cold and classic beauty, she’s a blushing bride.
Siêthiyal suddenly remembered that she was a Daughter of Jaràqtu and had been brought up in one of the most important of the aristocratic families, and it was her honor as the older Daughter to remind everyone of proper manners. She took a step back from Puîyus and bowing low unto him chanted – I greet thee, Puîyos born of Íngìkhmar and Khwofheîlya, and I crave permission to speak in thy presence. May all honor be granted unto thee also, oh Éfhelìnye, Kàrijoi’s Daughter. –
Puîyus lunged forwards. In the long war he had not always been mindful of thèqno, of the etiquette of bowing and nodding and kneeling and kowtowing, sometimes he was a little too familiar when polite courtesy and respect should have been his guide. But now, at this very moment qìr pé pé poa qìr poâ poâ poa strict manners could wait. Puîyus drew his hand away from Éfhelìnye and lunged forwards. He embraced Siêthiyal and picking her up swung her around and around off of her feet, and Brother and Sister squealed with joy and began to weep and kiss at the same time.
– Oh Puey! –
– Mew! –
– My Puey! –
– !! –
– Still haven’t learnt to talk yet? –
– ?? –
– Éfhelìnye, you need to begin that task, don’t you? You’re going to be the linguist in the family! –
– I’ll try – Éfhelìnye nodded.
Puîyus continued to spin Siêthiyal around, and then he set her down and they just hugged each other and touched each others’ face and hair and laughed in delight.
– It’s been far too long! I have so many stories to tell you! –
– !! –
– Oh, we’ll have to take turns. We’ll have a contest, which one has the best stories will … I don’t know, we’ll figure out a prize! –
– !! –
– Oh, let me take a look at you! –
Puîyus took a step back and bowed, and Siêthiyal danced around him. – You’re growing up, you remind me of Abbá! Oh Puey! Oh Puey! –
Puîyus picked her back up and kissed both of her cheeks and held her up in the air until she laughed. – Mew mew mew! – he laughed.
– I don’t look like Mother! –
– Mew! –
– Maybe just a little. I think your face was more like hers. –
– Mew! –
– I’m not all grown up! I’m still your younger Sister. Look at you! Have you noticed how long your hair is getting? And you’re so strong! You’ve probably been throwing entire towers down! Oh Puey, here, let he must … oh! – Siêthiyal almost threw herself into her Brother’s arms, and he picked her up again and twirled her about, all they could do was gaze upon each other in joy.
– He’s getting more beautiful, Princess! – Siêthiyal laughed. – I hope he hasn’t been rescueing any other Princesses on the way – she winked to Éfhelìnye.
– Never! – chanted Éfhelìnye. – You look well, Siêthiyal. –
– Obviously I’ve been eating better than you two, that’s for true, but we’re going to stuff you both. Oh Puey! I missed you so! –
– You’re beautiful, Siêthiyal, like a Queen of old – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I suppose in the time Puey and I have been gone that you have plenty of suitors … –
– Bark! – Puîyus gasped.
– No, no! I’ve been with the aliens and Aûm … we’ll talk about that later! – Siêthiyal clasped her hand about Puîyus’ lips and chanted – Now don’t talk anymore! Everyone’s safe, everyone’s fine. Okay, I don’t know where Abbá is, he’s supposed to be fighting with the Qhíng … we have great deal to discuss, but later, later! Don’t worry about your Sisters or Cousins or anyone else! Just rest. Don’t even speak. –
– ?? – Puîyus wondered, and he picked Siêthiyal up again and kissed her several more times and could not believe how beautiful and grown up she appeared, and she for her part thought that he was become beautiful and saintly and formed of dreams.
– Here, set me down, Puey, I want to take a look at the Princess! – Puîyus plucked Siêthiyal right down before Éfhelìnye, and Siêthiyal did not even bother with courtesy at this point. – Oh Éfhelìnye, you have got to be the cleverest, bravest, craziest maiden who’s e'er been born of woman! Did you bring me anything? We’ll talk later. You’re growing up too, did you know that? It seems like only a few hours ago you were playing in the mud with me and the Sisters, and we were scrambling in the trees, and I was taking bead money from your pockets … Puey, even in a towel this one is stunning in her beauty! You’re going to have perfect little royal children. –
Éfhelìnye blushed a little to hear such praise, and Siêthiyal poked Puîyus in the ribs and chanted – I suppose you should keep this one after all, I had my doubts of course, but anyone who survives the blizzards and monsters and dragons … she’ll protect our family. Plus I’ve heard rumors she’s knows her letters, so we’ll keep her around a little. –
– I’ve missed you a great deal, Siêthi! –
– Don’t call me … oh never mind, let’s just hug. – Siêthiyal and Éfhelìnye flung themselves into each others’ arms, and Éfhelìnye began to weep a little in happiness, and Siêthiyal learnt again just how beautiful and sweet was Éfhelìnye’s scent, of perfumes and sugars and cinnamons, the nature smell of her body, she was a living flower, precious and exquisite. Éfhelìnye kissed her a few times, and even her kisses were delicious candy treats. Siêthiyal reached out unto Éfhelìnye’s waist and searched for pockets in the simple white dress, but found nothing within and was mildly disappointed that Éfhelìnye had no treats for her or nothing worthwild for steeling.
– I love you, Siêthiyal – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – It is my fondest wish that we can be Sisters in truth and not just by marriage. –
– We are Sisters now – Siêthiyal chanted. – In public, in private, by blood and adoption. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but yes, we are Sisters now. –
– Oh Siêthiyal! – Éfhelìnye embraced her Clan Sister all the tighter.
– Okay, that’s enough hugging for one season. This is getting awkward. –
– I could hug you all day! –
– Sure … let go! –
– I love you! –
– Éfhelìnye! – Siêthiyal tried to wriggle out of the Princess’ grasp, but Éfhelìnye just kept grabbing her and kissing her and did not wish to release her, and Siêthiyal felt that she could endure this just a little longer, for Éfhelìnye had grown up without Mother or Siblings and was expected to crave the embrace of others. It is chanted that a child who loses its mother and siblings will die unless it is held and constantly reassured of its love.
– Princess! – Siêthiyal shouted. – This is enough. Go hug Puey, he likes this sort of thing. You get one hug from me a year. –
– You chanted season. –
– I changed my mind. –
– I shall hug you once an hour for ever! –
– No. You. Won’t. Full stop. –
– Oh Siêthiyal! –
– There’s no polite way to say it, I’m just throughly hugged by you right now. – Siêthiyal very gently grabbed ahold of Éfhelìnye’s wrists as if she were a recalcitrant kitten who had spilt the milk just one too many times, and she slipped out of her grasp. Éfhelìnye gave her a look full of pouting sadness, but Siêthiyal was certainly unswayed by such glances, especially from growing up with Akhlísa. Oh yes, we need to bring out the last member of our family.
– Éfhelìnye, just hug him – chanted Siêthiyal. – He’ll be your husband, you have the right to hug him anytime you want! – She brushed off her arms just in case some princessly áyaûngpa cooties had been left on her.
– May I kiss him anytime also! – Éfhelìnye squealed, and she wrapped her arms about Puîyus and planted a kiss right on his cheek.
– No! Heavens no! Horrible! – Siêthiyal cried. – That has got to be the grossest thing I’ve e'er seen! No kisses! No kisses! Hugs only. –
– I don’t care, Puey’s mine! His soft petal cheeks are mine! His lips are mine, mine to kiss always! –
– I’m going to be sick … don’t you to have another battle to fight? –
– Sister? –
– This is already getting annoying. –
– When are we going to find an husband for you? –
– Bark! – Puîyus cried.
Siêthiyal shook her finger. – I’ve changed my mind, don’t call me Sister! –
– But I love you so much. –
– Love’s no excuse for annoying me, especially when you forgot to bring me something. Oh! – Siêthiyal spun around, her roseate tresses flowing from side to side, along with the ribbons set within them, and all of her dress was turning about her, in rondures like haiscis and carillons bechiming all the while. – Now that you’re both here, I have something very important to say. Princess? Princess! Pay attention, eyen towards me, not my Brother, you can do the kissie thing later. Now, I have to tell you … Princess! Listen to me! –
Éfhelìnye was jumping upwards and hugging Puîyus and kissing his cheek and only occasionally glancing in a Siethiyàlutakh weards direction. – I’m listening to you. –
– Now, I have a rather important announcement … Puey! Make her stop that, I can’t proclaim while she’s kissing you. Now, as you both know … Puey! – Siêthiyal cried out as Puîyus picked her back up and spun her around a few more times and hugged and kissed her, and Siêthiyal was finding herself once again in a very warm embrace. – I’ve missed you too, but hugging time is o'er. Now, Puey, if you’ll just let me go … Princess! If you hug me again … –
Éfhelìnye leaned o'er, for while Puîyus was embracing Siêthiyal about her neck, Éfhelìnye coiled up around her arms and waist and squeezed her and chanted – We can’t help it, Siêthi, you’re just the … how can I say it … xhnípeyefhtoyèmpai jhkhathwòtejikh, you’re just the huggablest! –
– That’s not even a real word! –
– It’s two words, the everproductive xhnípe and … –
– I know it’s two words! It’s … it’s not a real phrase, that’s all I’m saying … and don’t call me Siêthi! Why does my name have to be diminutivized? Puîye and Fhérma and Kàrula are allowed to have short cute names but not I, if you are going to address me I demand that you call me by my full and proper … stop hugging me! –
– We just love you so much! – chanted Éfhelìnye as she kissed Siêthiyal’s face.
– Puey! Make her stop or I start breaking important parts of her! –
– Mew mew mew! –
– I missed you too, but can’t you just love me from afar! This getting to be embarrassing. Let go! –
– Mew? –
– Yes. Now. Not later. Did you think I meant, Let go of me … eventually, when spring comes again and the forests start go bloom? Usually when I say, Let go, I mean, Let go right now! –
– ?? –
– Puey! –
– … –
Puîyus set Siêthiyal down, and Éfhelìnye continued to embrace and cuddle her, until Siêthiyal started to make a growling voice. Puîyus took a step back and bowed, and after a moment Éfhelìnye noticed that Siêthiyal was disentangling herself from the Princess’ fair and white limbs.
– I appreciate your affection, but we need to return to some clan business – Siêthiyal sighed.
– I just missed you so much – Éfhelìnye gasped. She looked down to her feet. A few strands of loose hair began to tumble about her ears. She sighed a few times. She looked almost on the verge of tears. – I just think of you in Puey’s family as Siblings, those that I never had. But I won’t hug you anymore. I would never want to offend you. –
– You say this after burning down our kitchen all those times? But those were not your fault, I suppose. Éfhelìnye, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you are permitted to hug me … –
– Siêthi! – chimed Éfhelìnye.
Siêthiyal held up her hands to stop the Princess. – Tomorrow you may hug me. For one minute, that’s all. We need to discipline your hugging time. You’re just so cuddly and princessly sometimes, it sickens me so. –
Éfhelìnye rolled her ballet slip upon the frost of the floor. – I suppose I can wait until tomorrow. –
– Yes you can. –
– Tomorrow is quite a long ways away. –
– One must endure. –
– Especially now that my Father is shredding time. –
– Patience is a virtue, isn’t that right. –
Éfhelìnye hugged herself and chanted – I shall count down the moments then. –
– She’s going to make me feel guilty, isn’t she? – Siêthiyal tapped her forehead a few times.
– How sad I shall be to think of myself as unhugged from Siêthiyal. –
– I don’t feel guilty at all, do I? –
– I just think of all those years of quiet loneliness in the Forbidden Gardens, without parents or siblings at all. –
– There’s no way this conversation can end in anything else but an hug, is there? –
– And then today on this Day of Days Puey and I were trapped in the Cenotaph in burning cities and in ruins and a labyrinth … –
– Puey, she will be your wife, your responsibility for ever, not mine. –
– In the cold. In despair. Alone. –
– You will have to put up with her for all eternity in the Undergloom, not I! –
– How many times I wished to hold a sibling close to my heart … alas … alas … alas … –
– If you start crying, I’ll break your nose. –
Éfhelìnye skipped into a bow and nodding chanted – Now I shall do a dance about how alone I was. I call this dance, Unloved and unhugged. – Éfhelìnye began spinning around and as she began her ballet she began to convey sadness in her movement.
Siêthiyal turned to Puîyus and chanted – So this is your dream girl, eh? Good luck with her. All I can say is I’m glad you were stuck with her in the blizzard war, for I might have thrown her to the first Dragon who came along. –
Éfhelìnye piouretted and chanted – I would gladly face a Dragon again if I were to be rewarded with a hug from Siêthiyal, Íngìkhmar’s Daughter, nay, I would gladly face a weyr ēored of Dragons just to embrace and be embraced by Khwofheîlyajer once again. –
– I already regret this … –
– No, pity me not in my tears … –
– Puey, I can’t wait until you have children, she’ll be hugging them and dressing them up until they’re squirming and ready to escape, she’ll still be trying to embrace them when they’re grown up and have children of their own. –
– Alone … –
– Éfhelìnye, you can be as manipulative as I am sometimes. Fine. I acquiese, even though I shall almost certainly regret it … –
– Hurray! – Éfhelìnye began clapping her hands.
– You get one hug, one single hug, lasting about half a minute or until you start annoying me or calling me by some ridiculous nickname, whichever is sooner! –
– I love you! – Éfhelìnye chimed and she threw herself on Siêthiyal and kissed her many times and hugged her with all her might. Siêthiyal for her part threw up her arms as if she were being attacked by some very hungry dinosaurlettes and she was carrying some eggs, and she grit her teeth and wished that the Princess had brought her some toys. – I love you love you love you love you! – Éfhelìnye cried.
– And I … I don’t hate you completely …anymore … is your half moment finished yet? –
– No. It’s just beginning. –
– Puey, do you want to count out the seconds for me? –
Puîyus shook his head.
– Better not to get involved? –
– … –
– Oh, you dreamt that her family were all huggers. How nice. How quaint. Oh Princess! –
Éfhelìnye rubbed her face against Siêthiyal’s. – Oh? –
– Um … nothing. I’m not fighting you anymore. –
– Good. –
– Puey, you’re no help at all, you know that? Now, as soon as you let me go … –
– I may not. –
– If you e'er desire to let me go … we have a very important matter to discuss. –
– Nothing is more important than my feelings for you and Puey and the rest of our family. –
– Yes, it’s about our family. Now, Puey, Éfhelìnye, I see that you neglected to bring me anything back … –
– We had something very nice for you, but we were rather inconvenienced in the Dragon battle. Perhaps Puey and I can return to the beach and see whether it washed up. I won’t tell you what it was … –
– Toys? –
– Many. –
– Good condition? –
– Reasonable. –
– With a high possibility factor for repair? –
– Yes, I’d say so. –
– This hug is getting better all the time. Feel free to bring me more presents in the future. –
– We shall. –
– Now, if we may continue to some family business … –
– May we talk and hug at the same time? –
– No. –
– We could try. –
– Don’t let’s. Everything mortal must end. Puey, get your sweatheart off of me. –
– ?? –
– I don’t want to let go! – Éfhelìnye.
– Your half a minute is finished. Puey, use a bone oar or paddle or cippus or something but wedge us apart – Siêthiyal chanted.
– No! – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Stop it! Princess, stop being so cuddly! Go and hug Puey! Get off me! –
– Siêthi! –
– Grrrr! –
Puîyus reached o'er and began pulling Éfhelìnye limb by limb from his Sister, and the Princess just transferred her hug from Siêthiyal back onto him, but he did not mind, he was getting quite inured to her affection and warmth. Siêthiyal was thinking that about now Akhlísa should be finished adorning her hair and making herself as glistening and fancy as possible, at least Éfhelìnye’s fond delays could serve one useful purpose, and although Siêthiyal did not like to admit it even to herself, she was glad that at least Puîyus had someone in his life who was very free with emotion and in the giving of love, for he was so silent and as a warrior was not given unto expressing emotions at all save for the joy and horror of battle. Anyway, someone like Éfhelìnye, who seemed to love all those in the family which had been Sweqhàngqu but were not become Pwéru, would be excellent at keep the other family members from continous and fractious strife, especially as Siêthiyal and Akhlísa were wont to undergo. It only boded well for the future, and for the children and grandchildren of this new household. But for the present, it would be best to redirect these hugs away from her Siethiyalòkhno.
– Now … and this is very important – Siêthiyal chanted as she took a few steps away from Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and clasped her hands together. – We have a very important announcement. Now, I see you two haven’t gotten me a present, or it’s been left on the beach, so clumsy of you, but we, that is Father and I, have managed to procure a very special, a very nice, Starday present for you, Puey. I hope everyone hasn’t forgotten that today is still Puey’s Starday, no? –
– I love you, Siêthiyal – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Great. Now, this Starday present … –
– I give Puey all my love, that’s his present. –
– Super. Now, this Starday present … –
– But I still love you. –
– Fine, enough with the love now, Princess. Ahem. Where was I? –
– Do you love me? –
– Yes! Now be quiet. –
– I love you. –
– Princess! You make it hard for me to concentrate. –
– Sorry. –
– Puey, today is your Starday, your eleventh Starday, eleven times have the heavens constellate rearranged themselves into the tartan pattern they revealed at the time of your birth. – Siêthiyal smiled, for today was also Fhermáta’s Starday, it was one of the reasons why the Elders had seen fit to intend Fhermáta and Puîyus for each other. Éfhelìnye smiled for a different reason, for today was also Ixhúja’s Starday, for the Stars shine all the same, bright and immortal and balletic throughout all of the billion, billion worlds whether in the Winter Patriarchy or in the Spirit Realms or the Cloudscapes or upon the Suns themselves. – When you were born on this day, oh Puey, in that natural and green temple, the sylvan priests took note of your birth and drew up their birth auguries and knew that you would be a great warrior. And when your Starday arrived for the eleventh time, all of us traveled outwards unto the Holy City of Eilasaîyanor Solúma Jheirqtàlpa Khelèlkhonor Ausélinor to see the Emperor upon a matter of honor, for thus had been divine Kàrijoi’s last instructions unto his vassel Sieur Íngìkhmar before departing from the eyen of mortal men eleven winters ago. –
– And you all met me! In the palace! On this day, on Puey Day! – gasped Princess Éfhelìnye.
– Please, Princess, if you keep interrupting I shall have no choice but to reduce the time of your hugs, and I’m sure you would not like that. –
– I’m sorry. –
– Oh, don’t be sorry. –
– Sorry. –
– But yes, we all did meet you today, on Puey’s Starday. –
– And Puey snuck into the Dragon seas of the Forbidden Forests and found me, and I had never seen a boy before, let alone anyone mine own age, and he picked me up and threw me into his strong arms, and chanted, Come away with me my love and let us elope, and I chanted, Oh but I a sweet and innocent Princess, I know not what elope and kisses mean, and he threw his arms about me and kissed me right on the mouth … –
Puîyus began to murmur to say that it was actually nothing like that at all.
– Well, mostly like that – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I’m condensing and simplifying a bit for the sake of the story. –
Puîyus was trying to remind her that actually she was one who persued him through the Forbidden Gardens and forced kisses of him, but she put her fingers to his lips and chanted – I don’t know, I may have the story right in my mind. You were descending, your locks all in disarray, and you swept me into your arms, and I chanted, Elope with you my beloved, why this is all so sudden and exciting, I could not dare run away from my Father whom I’ve only seen twice in my life … –
Puîyus lifted up an hand and spelt out, You were already packing your bags and planning our marriage when I stumbled within.
– I had a great deal of my life planned out. But you did kiss me in the gardens again and again, and I blushed and … –
Puîyus spelt out the cheremes meaning, Were you not the one running after me for to kiss me?
– The point is one of us was. And here we are, upon your Starday. You were saying, Siêthi? –
Siêthiyal cradled her brow and chanted – May the merciful Ancestors of the Sweqhàngqu have grant me patience. I don’t even remember what I was saying. Starday? Ah! Starday! Puey, we all have a nice Starday present for you, one can say that we’ve been planning this present for you for the last eleven winters. –
– Oh love it when Puey gets presents – Éfhelìnye smiled and clapped her hands.
– You’ll find this present quite useful – Siêthiyal chanted. – Now, we’ve all tarried quite long enough. Come along, you two. This present will change your lives for ever. –
– I hope it’s a book – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– It’s not a book – Siêthiyal called back. Come on. – She beckoned unto them and began to make her way unto the door of the tower. The air was growing a little colder, and frost was growing up in curves and twists upon the platform, the patterns a reminder unto the children that the Emperor had already cursed all flowers and stopped them from blooming, and so the only flowers were left were those dead ones preserved in garlands and jewelry and woven into the tresses of women. The monks and sailors were keeping their distance away from the children, for the Kháfha elders had commanded it that the children be given some time to be reunited and not to have to worry about warfare any longer, and for this all three of them were quite grateful. A few servants came running upwards to swing the doors open, and Siêthiyal lead the way into the tower and the warmer air within, and Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were following.
– Is it two books? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– The gift is nothing at all like a book! – Siêthiyal laughed. – You and your books. Did I tell you, after you both left, when the Suzerain’s fleet was shattered, and the Aûm weapon began to devour the heavens, that I searched through the ruins and ashes of our crannog and found some old chests and urns in the wreckage, and a few books did survive. Éfhelìnye, I think they should all be yours, you can be the historian of our family, all our past shall be yours. Some of them are very nice books, illuminated and with thick vellum pages. –
– That would be splendiferous – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– But your Starday present, my Puey, is not a book – Siêthiyal chanted, as they were coming down the halls, and the tapestries were rustling unto all sides of them.
– Mew mew/ – Puîyus asked.
– Is the gift cute? Why yes, she’s very cute. –
Puîyus clasped his hands together and began to spell out the signs, Is it a kitten? To hold and hug and cuddle and love?
– You and your pets. We rescued a few of them from our plantation, I don’t think I’ve told you that, they’re all running around free in the Ancestors’ Whispering mountains in the north of our land. Ah, your present, well she has been called kitten before, fhenísya, a wee smakat bínbín xiǎotùzi kousagi xiǎomāo koneko. –
– Adorable! She’s in the lower rooms, she wanted to be prepared to meet her master. –
Does she purr?
– I don’t know, I’m not around her all the time. Ah, we’re coming into the halls. Puey, Éfhelìnye, you may want to brace yourselves. Here, let me take you by the hand. – She clasped Puîyus’ hand and Éfhelìnye’s hand as she came to the end of the hall and chanted – Before we can get to the present, I must mention that we have a bit of a surprise for you, my Brother, oh Princess. You two have become quite important, especially while you are gone. In fact, the longer you’re gone the more popular you become. Next time, stay away for an entire season, and we’ll build a shrine for you. Get out of my way for a year, and you two shall become Saints. Stay away from me and never return, why, you two shall be Emperor and Empress for the next ten thousand generations. –
A few Eunuchs came running up to the end of the hall and were drawing the curtains aside, and outside Puîyus and Éfhelìnye beheld rays of gold shining downwards, and the sounds of feet and tentacles and sphere-legs stomping upon the floor. The Eunuchs came running outside, and all at once arose the blair of the trumpets, a sound which began in one corner of the halls and was taken up throughout the long corridors of it. The roofslits were opening upwards, and the halls were growing all the brighter, as Siêthiyal came through the entrance and lead Puîyus and Éfhelìnye up unto the edge of the dais.
– Now, wait just a moment – she winked to them. – Let the crowd work itself up for you. –
– I don’t think I’m going to like this – Éfhelìnye chanted.
The trumpets were crying out all the louder, and several loud voices were crying out – Behold, the the new Sun and the new Moon arrive! Behold not their holy faces! They are the ones who topple down Kàrijoi from the constellate welkin! –
– Give them a few more moments – Siêthiyal chanted.
– Is there any other way we can get to Puey’s new pet? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– I’m afraid not, it’s the central corridor. Anyway, you two deserve congratulations, Puey slew one Dragon and blinded a whole squadron of them, and you’ve survived the worst that thrice-honored Kàrijoi can throw at you! I say we should praise you all the long midnight long. –
– A simple hug would surfice. I grow shy in crowds. –
– It will just be for a moment, and I’ll hold your hands. Ah! Hear that? Puey, you can hear it … –
– What is it? – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– The bagpipes are calling. Ah, now we are home, we truly all are home. It’s not enough for them to praise you with trumpets and horns, now they bring out the lwaût, now that’s the warmusic of home! Come on out, you two. You’re going to see quite a bit of this from now on. –
– I … I’d rather just … may I just … it would probably be best … – Éfhelìnye stammered. – I’ll stay here and just … –
– Nope! Come along! Puey, drag her, carry her, throw her, I don’t care, but we have to run across this dais, and I’m walking in style! – Already Siêthiyal was pulling Éfhelìnye and Puîyus after her. Éfhelìnye was just shaking her head in negation, and Puîyus was torn from a desire not to embarrass her, but also the necessity of having to walk across the stage. He decided that if he just held onto Éfhelìnye that she would feel comforted enough. Siêthiyal was yanking them across and the huge and widening halls were revealing that they were upon a tall dais and that all of the qhàwel were opening qiŋaq and long shafts of golden light fell upon the stage, and in all of the quarters the trumpets were skriking and the bagpipes were shrilling, and upon the lower daises the huge crowds were stomping and bowing and arising again and again and again.
– Behold, Crown Prince Puîyos! – came a booming voice.
And the crowds of Qlùfhem and Thùlwu and Kháfha and Qhíng, the monks and warriors and sailors and wanderers alike were swinging from side to side and ducking and waving and bowing before the stage. Siêthiyal was practically pulling Puîyus and Éfhelìnye after her as she came to the very center of the stage, and she spared the crowd a few haughty waves.
– Behold, Princess Éfhelìnye! – came a booming cry.
And the crowds were rocking from side to side, eyestalks spinning around in a wild frenzy, the Kháfha jumping up and down, the Qhíng pressing their beaks and antennæ unto the floor again and again, everything a whirl of robe and feather and headdress.
– Now my part – chanted Siêthiyal as she reached into her pocket.
– Behold, the Emperor’s Sister! – came the booming voice.
– Hurray for Siêthiyal! – Siêthiyal cried, and she drew some confetti and threw it into the air and danced in it. – Everyone, remember to grovel before me. That’s right, keep your heads and eyestalks down. Lower. Lower! You! Kháfha! Don’t you dare stop groveling, keep your heads down. Better. All the rest of you, just keep practicing, we’ll get this right eventually. –
– The Household of the Pwéru! – came the deep voice.
- Sun and Moon! Sun and Moon! Divine Twins and Sun and Moon! – intoned the crowds in their bowing and stomping and spinning.
– And their Sister! Don’t forget the Sister! I’m the Sister! – cried Siêthiyal.
– Sun and Moon! –
– And the Sister! –
– Moon and Sun! –
– With the Sister! –
– Just the Sun and Moon! –
– Plus the important Sister! –
– And the rest! –
– That’s close enough. – Siêthiyal turned back to Puîyus and Éfhelìnye, and saw that the Princess was wrapping and hiding herself in the dreamcloak that Puîyus wore, and with a pang of memory Siêthiyal remembered that their Father Íngìkhmar had given Puîyus his violet dreammantle when Puîyus had become ritually dead unto his family, and the cloak rippled and hissed with bubbling dreams. Siêthiyal drew out another handful of confetti from her pocket and threw it about her, and the dreamdust sparkled as it fell and she chanted – Don’t forget the very important Sister Siêthiyal, the true power behind the throne. – As she was turning around and walking into the golden light beaming down from the luffren the trumpets began to cry out all the louder, and the lwaût pipes began to sing out their deeper and droning songs, and Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were reminded of the fantastic bagpipe creatures whom they had met and befriended before. Siêthiyal looked back and saw that Éfhelìnye was becoming even more comfortable as the crowds were stomping before her, and Siêthiyal was about to turn and make her away across the dais, but she just wanted to soak in some of the adoration for a few more moments, even if most of it was being echoed off of her Brother and clan Sister. Siêthiyal took a few steps to the edge of the stage and posed, she played with her hair a little, and then she turned and smiled, and then she turned again and lifted up her hands as if about to catch dreamdust falling from the heavens.
– Do you want to see more of the new Emperor and Empress? – Siêthiyal smiled.
– Yes, though we dare not look at their faces! – boomed the crowds as they fell back down upon their knees and wings and tentacles and began kowtowing one by one.
– Then repeat after me. Siêthiyal! Siêthiyal! Siêthiyal! –
– Siêthiyal! Siêthiyal! Siêthiyal! –
– Keep on saying it! –
– Siêthiyal! Siêthiyal! Siêthiyal! –
– Louder! More powerful! Beg me! –
– Sun and Moon! Sun and Moon! –
– Not them, me! –
– Siêthi! Siêthi! Siêthi! –
– You have the wrong name! Don’t call me that! –
– Mew mew mew? – Puîyus was asking behind her.
– Can’t you hear that I’m busy? Oh, what do you want now? Éfhelìnye can stay right here. –
– Mew mew … –
– Eiya! – Siêthiyal cried. She ran her hands down her arms, and then spun her head and let her tresses roseate bright flow about her neck. – One day the crowds will love me. One day … – Her thoughts trailed away as she remembered all the hugs she had to endure from Éfhelìnye, and now was a perfect opportunity to make her pay at least in part. – Oh beloved Sister! Oh my princessly Sister! Come to me! –
Éfhelìnye poked up from Puîyus’ dreamcloak. – I’m quite comfortable here, thank you. –
Siêthiyal spread out her arms. – Don’t you want to hug me? –
– But … but look at the hundreds of thousands of people! –
– I don’t mind. I wuv you. Hug me. –
– Siêthiyal! –
Siêthiyal sniffled a little. – Does my older Sister by marriage wuv me too? – Siêthiyal took a few more steps towards the edge of the dais, and by now the peoples were completely driven wild with expectation of serving the new House of the Sun and the story that Puîyus and Éfhelìnye had survived the Emperor’s wilderness and brought low the Dragon hosts.
– I’m scared! – piped Éfhelìnye. – Puey! –
Puîyus made a motion to help Éfhelìnye across the dais as quickly as possible, but he could not help but notice that Siêthiyal was sniffling all the louder and making a choking sound. – I … guess … you two … don’t love me any more … sniff! Alas! Alas! –
– Mew mew! – Puîyus protested.
– But the … hic hic! The people hic hic! Look at … hic! – Éfhelìnye was hiccoughing.
– Mew? – Puîyus wondered.
– Can’t we hug at the other side of the stage? –
Siêthiyal began wiping her operatic tears aside. – I’m … so … alone! Nobody understands … how lonely I am. I’ve … had to look after this family … with no one to help me at all … – She hid her face in her hands and made weeping sounds.
– Mew mew! – Puîyus hissed.
– Hic! Hic! – Éfhelìnye hiccoughed.
Siêthiyal wiped her dry tears. – I guess I’ll just die now … –
– !! – Puîyus gasped.
– Hic! – Éfhelìnye coughed.
Siêthiyal poked between a couple of fingers and saw that Puîyus was drawing Éfhelìnye to the edge of the platform. Siêthiyal pretended to wipe a few more tears aside. Éfhelìnye was shaking in terror to be seen by so many peoples, even if most of them were shaking and kowtowing, just being in their presence was enough to make her shake and wobble and grow even paler than usual. Siêthiyal grinned to herself and found this mete punishment, at least a little. She ran upwards and hugged Éfhelìnye with far more vehemence than strictly necessary, and although Éfhelìnye wanted to hug her Sister by marriage, she could see that the massive crowds were arising, at least an hundred thousand strong, and they were stomping the ground again and cheering and lifting up their tentacles and wings and arms and shouting all the while:
– É-fhe-lìn-ye! É-fhe-lìn-ye! É-fhe-lìn-ye! É-fhe-lìn-ye! –
Siêthiyal maneuvered herself so that she was almost lifting Éfhelìnye off the ground and shoving her to the edge of the stage. – Look what I found! The future Empress, and she’s all mine! –
– É-fhe-lìn-ye! É-fhe-lìn-ye! É-fhe-lìn-ye! É-fhe-lìn-ye! –
– Don’t you like the crowds? –
– No! Hic! – Éfhelìnye whimpered and hiccoughed.
– They like you. –
– Hic! No! –
– Shall we bask in your glory just a little longer? –
– Do we have to? –
– How about a minute longer? –
– Siêthiyal … –
– Half a minute? –
– Please? –
– Fine. We’re done. – Siêthiyal released her, and Éfhelìnye tried to run back to Puîyus, but already Siêthiyal was darting up about his dreamcloak and grabbing him by the arms and lifting them out and shouting – Behold, the Dragonslayer, Puîyos the son of Khiêro, the heir of Kàrijoi! Tremble and despair all ye tyrants of the world! And don’t forget his Sister Siêthiyal! –
– Puî-yos! Puî-yos! Puî-yos! Puî-yos! –
– Any Jaràqtun chieftains in the crowd? –
A few of the kowtowing masses held up their hands.
Siêthiyal dropped Puîyus hand and running up and down the stage was asking – Do you have any unmarried Daughters? Someone here needs to begin a new harem. We’re talking later, I’m conducting interviews in a few days. Bring me your golden haired daughters, skilled in needlecraft and conversation and cooking. –
– I have a few brunettes in the Clan … – one clanfather chanted as he raised his hand from his kowtowing.
– Did I say I want melanocomous maidens? Did I? You will learn to obey the word of Siêthiyal, the Emperor’s Sister. Although, the new Empress may need a few handmaidens … if they’re sufficiently pretty and docile, bring them to me. Are you two still here? – Siêthiyal turned around and saw that Puîyus was still present and Éfhelìnye was shivering behind her. – Your business is done here, we only need you for public adoration. Go on! Go! I’ll join you in a moment. I have some negotiations. –
– Siêthiyal, if I may say something … – Éfhelìnye began. – Perhaps I don’t quite understand your sense of humor, but I forbid Puey to … –
– No you may not say something – Siêthiyal chanted, and running upwards she began pushing and shoving and shooing Puîyus and Éfhelìnye across the dais unto the next door. – I’ll be with you in a moment! Do I have to remind you that I’m the one who’s been running this family without you two? Puey, just win your battles. Éfhelìnye, whatever it is you do, just do it. I’ll run the Pwéru. –
– May I ask why you keep referring to yourself as … –
– Later! Now go! – Siêthiyal was almost kicking Puîyus and Éfhelìnye unto the next door, and Eunuchs were scattering and hiding their faces from the children and scrambling to pull upon the ropes that held down the door, and as Puîyus and Éfhelìnye stumbled outwards, Siêthiyal returned to the center of the stage and chanted – Bring me your pretty daughters, granddaughters, nieces, those who are willing to serve the new House of Pwéru. Puîyos trusts me in all things. I shall chose brides for him, I shall chose who will be the mothers of all of the princes and princesses of the next generation. Does everyone understand? –
– Yes! – intoned the crowds.
– My name? –
– Siêthiyal! Sí-è-thi-yal! Sí-è-thi-yal! Sí-è-thi-yal! –
– Better. Remember, khleqhímu, bribes, they will be accepted. Gowns, wooden shoon, slippers, floppy hats, and most especially toys! If you want me to inspect your daughters, have them bring me a present. Capisce? –
– Understood, Sí-è-thi-yal! Sí-è-thi-yal! Sí-è-thi-yal! –
Siêthiyal hugged herself and sighed saying – I love having power. – And laughing she came dashing back down the dais, the crowds arose in a brilliant frenzy and were skriking out – Sun and Moon! Divine Twins, the Sun and Moon! All hail Puîyos and Éfhelìnye and Whatsherface! All hail the Sun and Moon and the other one! And the rest! –
Siêthiyal came skipping towards the door and the Eunuchs were shivering and opening up the doors before her, and she laughed to think that before she had thought Eunuchs to be the most useless of female slaves, but now that she was contemplating how to build a new dynasty she was thinking that there would be so many special uses for Eunuchs as protectors and watchers and general lackies to do her everybid. She was humming to herself as she ran down the rooms, and she saw that some slaves were carrying long trays whereon large bowls were set, steaming soups and burgoos and stews, and Puîyus and Éfhelìnye were standing in the midst and lost in their own little worlds. Siêthiyal giggled and ran up and linked her arms about Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and chanted – Oh, it’s good for you two to be back, I’ve missed you so! Everything is going to change for us now, we shall be like the adult units and wield power, power, absolute power o'er all the minions who’ve crushed us before! –
– Siêthiyal, if I may say something – Éfhelìnye began. – You mentioned back there the procurement of secondary brides, and I have to tell her … –
– Wait! Don’t talk! – Siêthiyal placed her finger on Éfhelìnye’s lips and chanted – You have all of the bookborn smarts of this family, you will be the teacher for the new children of this Clan, and my Puey is intelligent in the ways of strategy and warfare, he can train the young princes, but I am the only one here who can actually protect us from the insane adults who hitherto have run the worlds. Duchesses, Imperial Mad Scientists, traitorous Caste Elders, the Emperor himself, all of them are broken. I will protect us all in any way I see fit. Don’t talk. Don’t think. I will protect us. –
– Siêthiyal, but Puey is mine and … –
– Hugs? –
– Hug? –
– Don’t think. Just hug me. –
– Okay. –
Siêthiyal wrapped her arms about Éfhelìnye, and let the Princess embrace her, and Siêthiyal leaned forwards and whispered into the Princess’ ear – I will protect you and Puey. Father’s sword is not mine only weapon. Remember, when Puey left, he put me in charge of the family and that includes you. What’s going on here! –
– Oh? – asked Éfhelìnye.
– ?? – wondered Puîyus.
One slave was coming forwards and carrying a long tray with him, and behind him slaves were carrying trays long enough that many slave had to carry them like canoa held upon their backs when carried from river to river, and upon the trays were a couple of stirring soup jars, and popping out of one jar arose three heads smacking his lips, and from another jug came three other heads licking her teeth, and long wings dripping with soup were branching outwards.
– How’d you get here? – Éfhelìnye asked.
– Burp! – – Burp! – – Oh, excuse me. Burp! – Fhólus’ three heads chanted.
– We smelt. We came. We ate – chanted Aîya. – Burp! –
– We flutter fly arose flew! – chanted Fhólus. – No more food left in bedroom. So fly away! –
– And you three were hugging for hours, we couldn’t take it any longer – chanted Aîya. – Anyone else notice all the food in the food place with the food? –
– I believe the word you want is xhwoê, kitchens or patries – Éfhelìnye chanted. – IggavIk, kegyn, collue, slosk, roduga, kuk, athans! –
– Éfhelìnye is quite an expert on the combustability of said rooms – Siêthiyal chanted. – Ah, little slaves, I believe each of those jars of food were meant to feed about eleven grown Xhámi men, how the two of you ate twenty two servings of soup is beyond me. –
– Burp! – gasped Aîya.
– We fly, we use lots of energy – chanted Fhólus.
– Éfhelìnye, these two are your personal slaves, I’d keep them close to you – Siêthiyal chanted. – I’m trying to build up power for our family, but I must tell you that it’s a very tenuous alliance, we don’t have the authority that a Crown Prince and his future wife should be afforded. If these slaves wander away … as happened before, Fhólus! Do you even remember what happened? –
– Don’t know, too busy being chopped up by Mad Guy! – chanted Fhólus.
– If you miserable little pygmæ thrice-spanned value your wings, just stay close to Éfhelìnye, will you? When we win the war and these two are inthronised, you can run free and make as much mess as you will. But in the meantime, flutter away … bam! I promise you there are insane Qhíng or Khlitsaîyart or someone out there who will just tear you to pieces. –
– Not me! – piped Aîya. – Burp! –
Puîyus looked to Fhólus and Aîya and knew that no matter how much he may love his insouciant little friends, that their silliness would not help them if someone like the Imperial Mad Scientist of legend returned for to snatch them away. With reluctant heart he nodded his head, a few melancholy blue strands tumbling about his face, and intoned he – Mew. –
– Pardon? – asked Fhólus.
– Wha? – asked Aîya.
– I we don’t talk kitten. –
– Did you hear the rumor that Puîyos getting new pet bunny? Very cute adorableque? –
– Puey chanted that you twain should do what Siêthiyal told you – Éfhelìnye translated.
– Thank you, my beloved Sister – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Just a little bit more nibble nibble? – asked Fhólus.
– See, Fhólus and I had a revolation, when we were drowning in the waters, and Puîyus aswimming and saving us all. We almost die many many many times. Not so fun. And we realize, water is great fear unto us who are Traîkhiim. Another fear is the jhexhluntùxhwo, the eating taboo. We may only eat among our own clan. But we almost die. So, why still fear? Why fear anything at all? Why fear food? So, we decide that I and Fhólus and I, we are our own Clan. And we eat and eat and eat and eat until full. Never empty again. That our gymnosphaon,our sàntru, our philosophy. –
Siêthiyal tapped the ground in impatience. – That has got to be the stupidest sapav, volasap, nolöf, the stupidest philosophizing that I’ve e'er heard in my life. –
– Aîya and I and Aîya we the thinking many other Traîkhiim escape the flamebattle of Dragon and Xeriîqe and labyrinth and Dragon – Fhólus nodded.
– Just what we need, crazy muddled slaves … – Siêthiyal stroked a few of her pink tresses.
– I want safe harbor for all the slaves, all those who have been tasked and hurt in my Father’s war – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Of course, future Empress, and they’re all your property, technically I’d slay that the Traîkhiim constitute your qtómi, the brides paraphernalia of personal property and servants and slaves. –
– I share everything with Puey – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Everything I have is his for ever and ever! –
– Whatever you say … –
– Fhólus and Aîya, do you think you can gather up all the rest of your people? –
– Burp! – belched Fhólus.
– I we aren’t sharing food with them – chanted Aîya. – Barely enough for us two. I try to take Fhólus’ food, but he we they too quick for me. –
– Siêthiyal, where will Puey and I be staying? –
– We have some personal quarters in the upper towers … the hieromonachs are trying are prepare rooms suitable for our new and illustrious Clan. Lots of room for concubines and secondary wives … northern towers. –
– Fhólus and Aîya, can you bring your people to the northron towers, as many as you can find? And when I get there I shall dance for all of you. –
– Belch! – burped Fhólus.
– Still but I we aren’t sharing the food. Get their own – chanted Aîya.
– We don’t share. –
– Sharing is silly. –
– Mine mine mine. –
– All mine. –
– Ours? –
– Mine. –
– Mine. –
– Mine! –
Siêthiyal put her hands on her hips and chanted – How delightful. Those two do need to learn to share. It can be quite unproductive to be so jènyoyo qlaêkh, so nauglafel, so aiskhrokérdos, so greedy, don’t you think, my beloved Sister? –
The slaves who were carrying the trenchers and jugs and bowls were not at all entirely sure what they were supposed to be doing with the children and the Traîkhiim leaping about and playing in the stews, so the slaves just set their bowls down and began to back away and keep a respectful distance from the children who one day would be the new Household of the Pwéru, and yet were not yet invested with the powers of the Clan of the Sun. The slaves were scurrying away even as the Traîkhiim came fluttering upwards and were dancing before Éfhelìnye and leaping about upon their finger-toes dripping with soup, and their wings like spounges dripping out some burgoo.
– There they go again. The slaves ignoring me. Even the monks and the sailors are ignoring me now. The adults can be so inscrutable, sometimes they bow before us because they know that one day we shall be the guardians of the Land of Story, and then other times they ignore us because we are still children in their eyen. It’s going to be more difficult to enslave the adults than I thought – Siêthiyal was saying to herself. – And then the real fun of conquering begins. –
– Are we supposed to be worried about her not so veiled threats for overthrowing everything? – Fhólus asked.
Puîyus made a vague motion with his hand, and the Traîkhiim took it to mean, My beloved middle Sister is always like unto this.
– We shall make a whole new world, free of the troubles of alliances and fickle powers – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – A place where all of the wild beasts shall be at peace with each other and with all of the children of Pfhentókha. Dragon and bird alike shall dangle from the same tree. Our farms shall all be gardens. Puey is the hero who comes forth, the one alone who can do what my Father cannot, the one who can stand where the Immortals cannot go. Fear and sorrow, mourning and death shall be a memory of my Father’s reign. –
Fhólus leaned to Aîya and whispered – Which of the two Sisters is the nuttier? Power hungry dragon Sister or dreamy ballerina Sister? –
– I shall open up the worlds, and they were blossom beneath the new flower Suns which I shall kindle. And I shall open up the Dragon hoards from the moon lairs, and reveal unto the people what has remained hidden for so long, there will be no more battle, no more sorrow, no more scheming lords and crumbling castes, there shall only be splendor and light and joy and love. We shall fly through the heavens upon rainbow wings, eternal dreamlands shall come into being, joyscapes of spring everbrightening. –
– I think they both the crazy ones – Aîya whispered. – Equally balance each other. Epic dualities. Gold and purple. Both very alike. Crazy xanthous haired visionaries, unmarred by the streams of realities. –
– But we not crazy. –
– No. Not to same degree. –
– Only little. –
– Some? –
– Question? –
– Oh? –
– Puîyos lad jiêlkhi nicotian khórlkhi water sibling sharp ear antennæ, sharp hearing, can her the fungus growing on ice. –
– Even though only have two ear whisps. How inconvenient. One need six at least to be sure. –
– So, Puîyos hearing everything, question, he hearing what we saying about his Sisters? –
– Ah … probably. –
– Does he care? –
– Who can truly understand the way of Puîyos, the bane of the Dragons the one who half exploded a Dragon head pop pop pop lightning and blood and scale drifting outwards? Puîyos, he like the wind and storm and brimming storm cloud, he lightning and might and have I mentioned storm, question? Unreasoning, unquestioning, unthinking, one does not stand up against the Puîyos storm. And yet storm bringing the flowers, the tree buds, the seedlings, the storm sweep away it bring life as much as it ends, the old forest burns, fire break away, new trees arise. That Puîyos. He the nature, the tidetime, the storm. –
– Ah. –
– Plus, very cute too. Adorable, really. –
– Stop saying that! You mine! Mine mine mine! –
– Mine? –
– Mine! –
– Yes, power – Siêthiyal chanted as she clenched her fist.
– Yes, flowers – Éfhelìnye chanted as she clapped her hands together.
Puîyus sighed and spelt out the cheremes that meant, Yes, muffins.
– Muffins? – asked Siêthiyal.
– Flowers and muffins – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– The Qhíng and Aûm were right about these the these – Fhólus chanted.
– What say they? – asked Aîya.
– That this new dynasty shall be far far far far funner than the old dynasty. –
– This new dynasty still half the old dynasty though … that’s how it work with them, two parents … plus they keep the old name? –
– It’s complicated. Want to eat? –
– Let’s eat! –
– Yum! –
– Yum! –
Siêthiyal came forwards and yanked up Fhólus by a couple of his antennæ whisps and Aîya by her wings and dragging them none to gently chanted – Alright, it’s time to say goodbye to these daurrusili, these khàqwuyo scaramouches! Go along and obey the new Empress. Goodbye, my little friends. –
– Goodbye, Siêthiyal! – giggled Fhólus.
– Good luck in that whole downfall of the old powers thing – Aîya laughed. – Out out out out out! – Siêthiyal chanted, and she dragged and bunted and shoved and kicked the Traîkhiim unto the other side of the room, and the Eunuchs came scurrying upwards and opened the doors and she kicked the Traîkhiim out, and she shouted after them saying – And don’t let me find out that you’ve been eating instead of obeying the new Empress! Find your people, and bring them to the Imperial Concubine’s quarters! Go! –
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