Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sometimes it's Best to Sneak out of the Harem

Which of course is not to say that Éfhelìnye had a bad time, the Princess enjoyed spending some time with Ixhúja, and even the visit to the holy Qhányit Virgins was very short, Ixhúja practically picked up her cousin and burst into the central meditative halls and grabbed the nearest Concubines of the Sun and made them examine her cousin the future Empress, and the Courtesans of the Emperor were far too afraid of Ixhúja to protest, this semi-unclassifiable member of the Imperial Family, nor were they going to question the child who was their ritual daughter the child of Kàrijoi, or were they about to ask how the future Empress had been wounded in her stomache and sewn up by the Khnìnthan arts, in fact the Geishas of the Sun were quite content to remain completely silent on this particular topic an High Priest should ask them or Grandfather Pátifhar who was the Peróqhi Regent and among the highest of the circles of the priesthood. The holy Virgins concluded that Éfhelìnye was actually healing very well, but she kept exurting herself and breaking one or two of the stitches at a time. They dressed Éfhelìnye in a new gown and wrapped some cloth about her middle, and then they took the maidens into one of the inner kitchens and gave them sweetbreads and fruit and cheese and pie, or at least they set the food before them and Ixhúja gobbled up as much as she could stuff in her mouth and emptied most of Éfhelìnye’s plate, but Éfhelìnye just took a bite of a qiqhaqúti pear and nibbled on some sweetbread. Ixhúja was thinking that as the day progressed Éfhelìnye was eating less and less, she was not quite fasting as Puîyus was, but she was drawing closer to eating almost nothing at all. Ixhúja shrugged and grabbed Éfhelìnye plate and licked the sugar off of it, and quaffed a glass of pink lemonade. Éfhelìnye sipped on her glass. Her thoughts kept turning back to the not very well hidden secret of the party and Akhlísa’s ultimate plans to kiss Puîyus as her Starday present, and how Siêthiyal and Ixhúja had come to this understanding so as not to harm Éfhelìnye’s feelings, and of course the tnoaqteûpa slaves had spilled the secret, but Éfhelìnye did not wish to mention that she knew the obvious, she would just pretend otherwise. Sometimes it was fun to pretend. And if Siêthiyal and Akhlísa could pretend that they were sparing Éfhelìnye from chores, than Éfhelìnye could pretend that she knew not what they were truly doing. She wondered whether all families were as twisty and devious as hers was. When she and Puîyus finally settled down in a small cabin perhaps by the sea and had their large brood of children, she was hoping that they would all be as brave and chivalrous as Puîyus and as loyal and true as herself, and yet thinking of Siêthiyal and what she had observed of Mother Khwofheîlya and honored Grandmother Xhàtrajhil was giving her pause, a certain wily factor ran in the blood of the Sweqhàngqu, but when she thought of her Father who was void and darkness, and her Mother who was nothing but memory, and her traitorous cousin Blorp and her insane great-Grandfather Khyìlyikh she was not entirely sure she came from less crazy stock. Even the Immortals themselves, she knew, no longer dwelt in a single family, but the Áme had divided into the family of earth and the family of sea and the family of sky and barely even had concourse one with another.
Ixhúja slammed down her mug and giggled in pleasure, and seeing that Éfhelìnye was a little slow in drinking hers, Ixhúja grabbed the other cup of pink lemonade and began chugging it down, and wiping her mouth clean of the sugary scent, she gestured to servant to refill their mugs. Éfhelìnye was fiddling with the rainbow necklace about her neck and shoulders. Ixhúja was sipping the pink lemonade and found it good, and at least this was a benefit to the new dynasty they were forming, all this delicious lemonade, the khwína and lwànen lemons of Jaràqtu were just altogether fantastic. Ixhúja jumped up upon the table and seeing that Éfhelìnye was looking sad began poking her a little and told her, Have you tried the lemonade? Take some gulps of it! One has always liked the lwànen and khwína lemons of this land.
Éfhelìnye just sighed. She played with the moonring on her finger, she was thinking it unfair that Akhlísa had been wearing a betrothal ring for almost all her life, and even Ixhúja was wearing a similar albeit clockwork ring, but Éfhelìnye only had a torq of moons and disques and crescents about her.
One does wonder how flavous lemons become pink lemonade, Ixhúja murmured to herself as she took her cousin’s cup and began sipping it. It really is magical how they do it. Perhaps they have pink sugar. The sugar in our plantations always ended up white or whitish yellow, and then we’d export it all throughout the worlds, and the pirates would smuggle it out … perhaps it just gets pink on the long journey.
– Do you think Puey’s alright on the ziggarat? – asked Éfhelìnye. – He could be cold up there. –
Ixhúja took a few more sips. He’s fine up there. Cold. Fasting. Deprivation. He’s having the time of his life. Are you going to eat all that fruit.
Éfhelìnye shoved the plate towards her cousin. – You can have it. I’m not hungry. Perhaps we should go and visit Puey. –
Nope. We’re exploring, you and I. Who knows what we’ll find in this old lofty grottoey towers? Perhaps they’re haunted. One can only hope.
– Do you think that Puey really loves me? –
Ixhúja nodded.
– But does he love me the way I love him? –
Ixhúja nodded.
– Does he have that squirmy anxious nauseated wormy horrible I can’t sleep but sometimes I sleep to much horrible hopeful overconfident my spirit is broken but he has to love me I know he does I feel daggers in my heart but it’s alright because I saw the way tha the looks at me bifocused dichotomy of love that I have pulsating for him?
– ?? – Ixhúja asked.
– Oh. –
Ixhúja licked the plate clean and tossed it to a slave across the room, and she barely even caught it. They were Thùlwu slaves who were part of the kitchen staff, and they were trying to stay away from the holy Princesses, one of whom just jabbered and snarled and killed people, and the other who was delicate and beautiful and reminded them of the perfect Moon Empress who had been taken away from them, but who looked so sad these last few days, and yet her sadness did not minish her beauty at all, it only made her look more like a rare flower. Princess Ixhúja swiveled upon the table and gave her cousin a look that meant, You’re not going to duckprate about Puîyos all night, are you? You two are made for each other, I think the Immortals really did chop your souls in half and pour some into you and some into him, or if the Immortals did not than at least one very tricky Immortal did, the one who is most interested in falling in love, Our Heart Raven. But we’re not going to worry about Puîyos tonight. He’s fine. You’re fine. I’m fine. This manna bread was quite fine.
– If Puey kisses another girl does that mean he loves me less? – Éfhelìnye blurted. – I don’t even look at other men, I haven’t noticed them, how could I when Puey is just so magnificient, but if he should, let’s say hypothetically kiss some other maiden does that mean he doesn’t love me any more? –
Ixhúja drew up a chair but remained sitting on the table, she rested her feet in the chair, but the slaves were not about to correct the Huntress Princess on her manners, they were not about to look her in the eye either. Ixhúja lifted up her palms and in a language of clicks and mechanical grunts was saying, Does one need to explain to you why men can have more than one wife? Let’s see, at the Dawn of Time Khriîno dwelt alone, so the Immortals cut out his heart and put it in the Tree …
– I’m familiar with the Holy Writ – chanted Princess Éfhelìnye. – But perhaps Puey doesn’t need lots of pure hearts to guide him, perhaps he just needs one very strong and loving heart … –
Puîyus should have more than one wife, it’s not natural for a man only to have a single wife, at least a man of high caste. The low castes can do whatever they want, Ixhúja was saying. If one must have a caste system, it’s different in Khnìntha or at least used to when we still had males, but even there in the matriarchy wives, especially sisters shared their husband, and when sisters are wives it reduces the fighting, all the mothers are aunts to the children, it really strengthens the clan. Men in high position need lots of heirs and they need wives to take care of them. So, let’s stop fretting about Puîyos.
– I think he should have only one wife. And not every Lord and Emperor in the Patriarchy has had more than one wife. My Father only had one wife his entire lifetime, and I was reading that early in his reign he was working to make the practice of multiple wifehood as rare as possible, it would never fade away completely of course, but in the Golden Age not too many Dukes and Viceroy kings and Lords had more than one wife, and that was an age of plenty and many children, so multiple wives don’t actually increase the population that much, in fact a single wife is almost always more fertile than a wife in an harem of wives. –
You’ve read too much about this.
– And the Prophet Khniikhèrkhmair barely even mentions the practice, his entire catechism on marriage is about the one Sun and the one Moon, some commentators think that the practice of concubinage was invented through the ages, it’s developed rather than being a commandment from above. Would it not be best for us to return to what the Prophet actually intended. –
Is this about Akhlísa?
– Yes. –
Wouldn’t you rather have as Second Wife someone you love and trust rather than a stranger imported from a foreign land? Granted you and I are the foreigners here, along with those trembling Thùlwu slaves afraid of me, but you understang my purring.
– I’m not sure. –
If one put a knife to your head and told you, If the survival of yourself and your family you have to have a Sister Wife so pick someone or die, would you not pick Akhlísa?
Éfhelìnye thought for a moment. – No I wouldn’t. –
Would you not?
– I choose death for me and Puey. Karuláta can live on. –
You’d rather die.
– Yes. –
Your Father only had a single wife, and look what happened to him, with all due respect, Uncle Kàrijoi is insane, and having lots of Vestal Virgins is not the same thing as actually have a woman in one’s household. Remember Sieur Íngìkhmar, the best figher in all the worlds, a knight, a reaver, a warrior, a slayer of men, completely aweinspiring upon the battlefield, how I wish he were back with us, and yet when he’s not in battle, he’s just a shadow, without his one wife, he is glimmering echo. Do you want Puîyos to end up like that? If you should die, I want Puîyos to have the comfort and love of at least one other woman.
– I disagree – chanted Éfhelìnye. – When I die, Puey should plunge his knife into his chest or throat or some other vital area, unless we’re both already old at which point he’ll just die of honored old age probably seconds after me. –
Ixhúja clasped her hands upon Éfhelìnye’s ears and gave her a gentle push. Do you know of whom you remind me? You remind me of someone quite a bit.
– A beautiful ballerina? –
You remind me of your revered Father, you are just as stubborn as he is. Ixhúja laughed. Éfhelìnye’s face grew even paler than usual. I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, you pouter, but it’s true, you’re a stubborn little princess and you’d rather destroy the entire family than compromise at all.
– I don’t see any similarity. –
Your hieratick Father would rather destroy all the worlds or whatever it is he’s doing rather than let you live, chastising a run away daughter and bringing eternal winter and war is not too different to planning death for Puîyos if he even looks at another maiden.
– They’re not the same. –
They’re very similar, they may not be twins but they’re siblings of jealousy. And why can’t you allow Puîyos a sweetheart or two? You haven’t given anyone a single reason, only a conviction that he belongs to you. Can’t he admire the beauty of other women? I thought the reason we had shining eyen and hair and hips and white ankles and whiter necks was so that we could be admired. Puîyos is not going to be a sylvan priest after all, he’s going to be the new Emperor.
– He can admire me, my grace and beauty and virtue are far more than enough to fill his cup to overflowing. –
Stubborn stubborn stubborn! Do you even know what the word … I don’t quite know how to spell with my fingers, Ixhúja spelt out the word xhènthu upon the sugar in a bowl. Do you know what that word means?
– Yes, those who compromise with someone – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Only a conquered people or person would use such a word. I do not compromise. I do not surrender. I shall be the Empress. –
There’s only one solution for you then, Ixhúja shoved plates aside and wrap an arm about her cousin and told her, But I’m not sure you’re going to like it.
– Oh? –
Ixhúja tickled Éfhelìnye behind her ear, and the Khniîkhan Princess burst out into joyous laughter. – Stop it, cousin! People will see. –
– ?? – Ixhúja wondered, and she started tickling Éfhelìnye at the base of her neck, and this elicited squealing laughter that sounded like the merriment of bells. Éfhelìnye almost fell out of her chair, and this only encouraged Ixhúja all the more, and she launched herself right off of the table, bowls and mugs and fruit and dishes and tablecloth spilling out in all directions, much to the dismay of the Thùlwu servants who were standing at still and and frightened attention, Ixhúja hurled the table away with a flick of her foot and pounced upon Éfhelìnye and was tickling her arms and neck so that Éfhelìnye was laughing harder than she had in quite some time. Ixhúja for all of her wrecklessness was careful not to tickle about her cousin’s belly, she did not want to break any of the stitches which the holy Virgins had just mended, nor did she want to exert her cousin too much, but still the laughter was a music which Ixhúja did not know she had missed so much, and whose sound Éfhelìnye had forgotten of late.
– Okay okay okay okay enough! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I’ve run out of breath. –
Ixhúja raised a single eyebrow, she was standing o'er her cousin, her fingers were open and ready to tickle one again.
– I never surrender, you know that! – Éfhelìnye laughed even before her cousin reached down and began tickling her all the harder. Éfhelìnye rolled from side to side and tried to defend herself by drawing her legs up, but this was poor strategy indeed, this afforded Ixhúja the chance to tickle her about her white ankles and feet, quite a vulnerable spot in tickle warfare. Finally Éfhelìnye was gasping and coughing for air, and Ixhúja let her be, they were both on the kitchen floor by now and particularly unmindful of where they were. At last Ixhúja drew herself upwards and blew on her fingers.
My tickle fingers are overheated. You have a minute’s rest.
– How generous you are – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Were I you, I’d use that minute to start running away. We’ll be camping in the north towers, so run in that direction. If I find you, I’ll tickle you.
– What do you think Puey’s doing now? –
Probably eating dirt. Everytime you mention him, it adds a minute to your tickling.
– Do you think that Kàrula … –
Everytime you mention her, I add two minutes to your tickling. You should start running now, my little flower, because you’re getting at least three minutes of quite extravagant tickling.
– I just hope that Kàrula … –
Yes, she’s probably kissing Puîyos right on his lips right now. She’s down in the halls! Puîyos is on the pyramid! Now start running. Five minutes of tickling await you when I catch you, and I’ll cheat to catch you, you know that. Ixhúja poked Éfhelìnye a few times with the tip of her wooden shoe, and slowly Éfhelìnye arose, and she looked around and tried to formulate a plan.
– I’m just that at this very minute on the pyramid … –
He’s frozen to death and probably dead. Run!
– Should we at least check on him … oh! – Ixhúja lunged forwards and grabbed Éfhelìnye by her arms and tickled her side, and the Eastron Princess was discovering just how ticklish she was there. Ixhúja was tracing several different patterns and weaves of tickles, she did not want her beloved younger cousin to start getting too accustomed to a single genre of qwáxhaxha gargalesis, but she rather hoped that every flavor and hint of tickling should be its own marvelous cosmos of sensations. She tickled her cousin just long enough to tire her out and then shoved her forwards upon the halls in warning to start running. Éfhelìnye picked up the bundle where their extra supplies, books and blankets and snacks were kept, and slinging it o'er her back added – I’m just thinking that if you don’t think that Puey will need us … –
– !! – Ixhúja roared and chuckled, and Éfhelìnye spun around and came dashing through the halls, and all the Thùlwu slaves were parting before her, and the slaves had kept their eyestalks down and were far away from the maidens and would not have been able to understand Qtheûnte at all, and to them these alien maidens were the strangest of things that they could possibly imagine, they who were the Women of the Sun.
And the halls were brighter when Princess Éfhelìnye came running down them. And the tapestries upon the face of the walls swayed and rippled as uproarious waves just a little more when Princess Éfhelìnye came running beside them. And the shells and the portraits of flowers and the paintings of landscapes and clouds and grasses and soft things all became a little nesher when Princess Éfhelìnye came running aneath them. The thick fluff rugs were becoming thicker and were sprouting of their own threads and tartans a slight growth of woof that looked like triskelia and knotwork and dragon coils were arising all about her red ballet slippers. The doors were opening upwards just a little wider and long flicks of paint were dribbling downwards, but at her passage the paint was glowing and changing, no longer were they dull pastels and memories of shadows, but vibrant colors were fountaining upwards and spilling all around the doors and become part of the walls, the vibrancy could no longer be contained in the merest outline of wall and floor but was drifting upwards in bubbles and becoming part of the rafters and the archway of the ceiling. And the windows themselves could not help but in joy transform themselves as the Princess dashed about them, for some of the windows were becoming living prisms just like the Xhlú spirits that dwell somewhere within Xhrajúta Khmútlhitàkhta the Spirit Realms, and the windows were bouncing upwards and glowing, beams of light were suffusing through the layers of their glass skin, some of the windows of veins of icicles snaking up through them, others were crackling with branches of hoarrime breaking right out of their sinews, others of the windows were become great fountains of light, and here beneath the vast Moons all white and gold, the light of the velna scaochnuid Moons was come sliding downwards and was breathing into the fountain, the fountain was sprawling outwards in branches higher and higher, the light was sprawling upwards from one window unto the next, so that as Éfhelìnye came running down through the halls, everything was brightening about her, the windows were brilliant fountain eyen gazing back untowards her, the floors were trembling and growing forests of tartans beaming upwards unto all sides of her, and the rafters of this section of the harīm tower were surging higher and higher now, new prism storeys added to themselves in the burgeoning fountainous light. As Princess Éfhelìnye came running all of these high towers felt a little some of her laughter, and behind her came Princess Ixhúja, her fingers ready for another round of tickling, and she was laughing also, although if one had asked her she would not have been able to explain why. The eunuch slaves in the halls could feel it also, as they backed away and hid their faces before the running virgins, the eunuchs had not heard laughter in quite some time, and when they had with the mighty Poriêrii and served them, as the generations were grown smaller and smaller with few children being born, the eunuch thralls were beginning to forget the sound of such joy. The servants who had been imported into this ancient rath, slaves brought by the Qhíng and the Kháfha and the Aûm, thralls of various peoples were all backing away and bowing before the running princesses, and although the slaves were forbidden from interacting with the maidens in any way save to serve them, they could not help it, but the Thùlwu slaves were coiling their celia in smiles, and tried to hide it with their tendrils, and the Kháfha Outcasts were bowing their heads and hiding their beaks so that none could see their mirth, and the jabbering Qriî and the tall and lumbering Khmàfhlort who served their mighty Kèlor Masters hissed a little and shook their heads to see the maidens running around and around each other, and all things were enbrightening. The slaves were all reminded again of their happiest of days, some of them were mindful of their childhood, others remembered some warm and summer day when their masters had no work for them and just let them play, and others thought of the festivals that the holy Sylvanhood conduct for all the peoples, and even slaves were permitted to see the plays and dine with all the castes and enjoy the same music, for all were part of the same flock which Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet had stablished. The memories were different for the various species and ages and individuals, but all of them could feel that a new fountain was arising and glowing and that the future Empress was the very wellspring of it all.
– Rrargh! – cried Princess Ixhúja. Éfhelìnye was hardly as swift as her huntress cousin, Ixhúja who was the only one who could best Puîyus in steeple chase and chariot race and all such manner of games, but Ixhúja was hardly running at her fullest of speed, she wanted Éfhelìnye to slide and duck and come running higher into the towers and not be caught, otherwise the game would have no sweetness unto it, at least for now. Éfhelìnye came dashing upwards unto a long and winding series of ramps that were leading up unto the central towers in this region of the harem, and Ixhúja let her gallop just a few feet apace, even as Éfhelìnye’s feet came unto the ramp, the xhìwajo was beginning to transform itself, the newels were drawing upwards, the stones that held up the ramp were rolling away and floating upwards one by one and drifting as so many leaves caught up in the winds, the windows all about the ramps were glissading upwards, the ramps were become like a great spindle and it was slowly winding itself upwards, so that as Éfhelìnye came running up the higher portions of it, she was thrown up into the air and was almost flying, and Ixhúja had to hold onto some of the outer railings as she was swept up and about and higher and faster, until at last Ixhúja herself was letting go and flying upwards. The ramps were no more, the rug and stone and curve of them was gone, and in their place there arose only a brilliant white shafts of light bursting upwards, and unto all sides of the white fountain the bubbles were drifting upwards in great and dancing orbits, some of the bubbles were fluent outwards and were like Planets caught up in the updraft of their mighty Suns, and others were bubbles of air and froth and water and were just colliding against each other and sometimes merging and sometimes the bubbles were just spilling outwards and were sighing thúpa thúpa thúpa one to another and becoming scribbles and were singing out tyethúpa tyethúpa tyethúpa and the colors were arising higher and higher and Éfhelìnye was in the very center of it all. Ixhúja was flying upwards, and all around her were surging up the leaves and anemones and vines and manta rays and flicks of paint and color, and the white fountain was growing even larger, huge were the vines of light bursting out from it, the light was filling up all the prisms, and Éfhelìnye laughing arose upon the crest of it.
Princess Éfhelìnye back smiling and laugh. Ixhúja was soon behind her. All the floor was white, the walls were driftende upwards and were remnding her a little of some of the outer regions of the Ice Palace Twiêkes deep withinwhere she had spent her entire life, for the Forbidden Gardens were pocketrealms buried deep within the Ice Palace and above the volcanic seas that swelled far and deep within all of the caverns of the continents of Khatlhàntikh, but when Puîyus had rescued her and took her far away from her first abode and into the outer halls and she saw buttresses all of glass miles tall and stained glass towers and the great triangular white mountain which was her Father’s dwelling, she could see with her own eyen rather than the imagination of her heart why mortal men called it the Ice Palace, for it was all white within white within white, and a little like unto that were all of the halls spinning around her in tremendous cochleate patterns, but she did not feel cold, she was not breathing out in desparate gasps of air, she was not sliding upon newly grown frost and no snowflother were following about her and tempting for to fall upon her tounge and crunch and taste of wintry goodness, but rather these upper teracces of the harem were simply changing because of her laughter, and perhaps all of the fortress was returning to its childhood, or maybe the very air itself was grown sweeter and more rarified, but be it as it may Éfhelìnye came bursting right through some of the upper doors and almost came rolling upwards into rooms which had once been khmàsat lofts and xhèntru garrets and thoâ attics high high high within the towers, but long these rooms had grown dark and minished, for as in the turning of the last few generations of the Great Peace of Kàrijoi the allies of the Poriêrii had grown less and less and borne fewer and fewer children, so that more chests and more boxes of clothing and memories were stashed far upstairs, and in each successive generation the smaller numbers were inhabiting smaller space in the fortress along with their slaves and kine and plantimals, and yet even fewer were become the plantimals and kine and slaves as fewer offspring were born unto them, and in the last generations just a few huddled rooms were left used in this fortress, a mostly empty kitchen, just a few beasts left in the stables, and the last of the sons who were born into this family kept their households and wives close together in this spacious rath until the Great War came Tsanyuxòpwe la der des der upon the crimson blood sands of Tsànyun had come to pass and all these families had been wiped out. And so the Poriêrii ferocious and ancient and perched in their high fortresses on the side of the iron whispering mountains were left without many of their allies and with large empty and moldering fortresses crawling upon the spines of the mounts, but now a generation later as Princess Éfhelìnye came slipping upwards unto the highest of the towers, the walls and ceiling and ramps were transformed in a great wellspring of light, and rippling out from it came waves upon waves of white and gold and shimmering blues. The attics themselves were changing as she dashed within, for this is where Ixhúja wanted Éfhelìnye to stay, in a large and wonderous place good for exploring, where they could clamber about the old boxes and search in the urns for dresses and hats, and they could take the old wardrobes and blankets and make fortresses of them and dress up and run around until they were too tired to play anymore, and so Éfhelìnye could exhaust herself and fall asleep far, far away from the inner halls of this ancient fortress and far from the carouselambra that Akhlísa had been planning, the Faithful Concubine. As soon as Princess Éfhelìnye made her way into the upper storeys of the attic and came running through the long pathways of dust and boxes stacked up higher than she was tall, at once Ixhúja stopped pretending to chase her cousin and dashing upwards in a fit of strength actually began running after her with all earnestness, and the thick dust of the attic was hardly immune to the coming of Princess Éfhelìnye, and all of the dust was shifting and was become the stuff of sky and dream and star and floated upwards luminous and pure, and all things were sparkling.
Éfhelìnye turned back and laughing chanted – You’ll never catch me! I’m the fastest princess in this family! –
Ixhúja, never one to back away from a direct challenge, decided to test this particular supposition and crying out in deep rumbling purrs she launched herself high into the air. Éfhelìnye came skidding from side to side, the dust bursting upwards around her in crystalline clouds, the boxes and schranks opening themselves up of their own accord, and as Éfhelìnye slid from side to side and ducked her Cousin right behind her crying and snarling and slashing all the while, the Khniîkhan Princess Skyborn was thinking that if she had been able to manage to avoid the great petrescent statues of the Ancestors for so long and the growing avalenche of them behind her and the coming of the great sea spiders and the ocean scorpions and the exploding in stone and precious iron and ice all the side of the mountain and even the Xhyiênxhi mud drakes whose hame was become frost in the cold and whose sight was the everpresent clicking of their tounges, surely she should be able to avoid her older Cousin dashing behind her and hopping upon long disused tables and sliding upon furniture which had long since forgotten the feel of mortals and leaping upwards and swiping in all directions, surely Éfhelìnye should be able to avoid her, and avoid Ixhúja Éfhelìnye did for about eleven minutes or so, when the Starflower Princess found herself in the very center of the attic and all fell silent and she realized she had no idea where Ixhúja was. Éfhelìnye spun around in a graceful pirouette. Ixhúja was gone. Éfhelìnye played with a few strands of her hair. The attic was creaking a little from age and from its yearning to hear laughter again. Éfhelìnye was thinking that her cousin was hiding and probably about to pounce upon her, Ixhúja could be quite the qìsyonil sabortoothed tigress. Éfhelìnye wondered in the silence and sucked on her lip. She was thinking that at any moment Ixhúja would come flying outwards right unto her and hurl her down. Behind the Princess white shafts of light were lifting themselves up anew, the growing fountain was spreading outwards and spreading out from it were become branches of golden light and nebulæ newlen stēr and endless spandles of light. Éfhelìnye was thinking that surely now would be the opportune moment for Ixhúja to come sailing outwards. Éfhelìnye looked around, her gown fluttering about her. Silence. Silence. Silence.
– Does this mean I won? – Éfhelìnye laughed. – I wasn’t sure what game we were playing, tig tag or hide or seek but either way I’m the last maid standing, so I suppose I have no choice but to declare myself the victress. I suppose I am after all the very best maiden who was born of the holy iril ichor of the Pwéru. It’s very sad and lonely to be the best, I’m discovering, but when I next see Siêthiyal and Kàrula I shall have no choice but to confess this truth unto them. –
Éfhelìnye blinked. About halfway through her second blink the very texture of the air was changing, and an hand appeared out of nowhere and grabbed one of her ankles. Éfhelìnye felt another hand wrapping around her, and she was flung around, and for a few moments she was spinning up and around and around and around and crashing right down upon a rug whereon no child had played in many a year. Ixhúja was perched right upon Éfhelìnye and was holding her down and tickling her cousin in several different places at once, but she was not tickling Éfhelìnye too hard and certainly not as hard as she had tickled Puîyus, in fact it was the only time in her life when she had tickled a maid child, and she was treating her cousin with not a little care, even though she was merciless in the way she sought out Éfhelìnye’s neck and and her arms and ankles and very gently tickled her down into submission, until both of them were rolling upon the floor and pulling at each other and playing.
– ?? – purred Ixhúja. – ?? ?? –
– You know I won’t surrender, I can’t! – Éfhelìnye giggled. – An Empress cannot surrender, who e'er heard of a Moon Empress surrendering? –
Ixhúja was tickling the back of Éfhelìnye’s hand and her wrists now, but Éfhelìnye threw herself upwards and applied the same techniques against her assailant. – But then again, one should not apply too rigid a definition to surrender – Éfhelìnye chanted. – All love is a form of surrendering, one must learn to trust someone else, one must learn to offer oneself to pain. Love is a form of free will after all, and so its ends cannot be predicted even by the wise. –
– !! – cried Ixhúja, and she managed to pick Éfhelìnye up and toss her into the air and catch her in another part of the attic. Behind them the great fountain of white light continued to grow, it was a vast and changing forest of light which was made up of many layers, lower foliage of crystals spanning outwards, and panes of light dancing upwards and become so many of the archtrees within. Ixhúja tossed her cousin down, and Éfhelìnye came rolling up unto a large and winding table, and when Ixhúja grabbed her again she did not tickle her beloved cousin with hand and finger, but rather kissed her neck and hands, juîxhai she kissed her to the point of giggles, and Éfhelìnye kissed her back until both were gasping from laughter and were running out of strength to capture the other. They lay down upon the forgotten furniture and looked upwards. The fountain was continueing to grow about them, and the attic itself was not immune to the transformational light bursting upwards. Neither of the maidens paused to question the origin and existence of a growing column of cool white light just before them, to Éfhelìnye everything good and beautiful was marvelous indeed, and she was not entirely sure when to call one sunrise an event and another sunrise a miracle, it was all the same heavenl gift unto her, and Ixhúja, although she was not quite growing accustomed to thaumaturgy spontaneously springing into existence about her younger cousin, at least could accept it as part of her beloved Éfhelìnye. They rested in the light, and within the fountain trees within trees within trees were growing, and slowly disused boxes were floating upwards and become glassen leaves of the tree, and old tables and forgotten wardrobes were flying upwards, and the attic was being swallowed from the inside and become of light.
– Ixhújaji? – asked Éfhelìnye, and she rolled upon her side.
Ixhúja was watching the white fountain, she thought she could see planets within, and around the planets crescent moons. – Purr? – she asked.
– I was thinking, when Puey and I are all grown up and can have our own household, away from regents and tutors and parents, I would like for there to be a garden behind our house. I think I could tend it and make it bloom, just as Fhermáta used to tend the gardens of the Sweqhàngqu and the Khatelèstan. Puey used to be so happy there as he walked in the shadow of the trees and smelt the scent of each flower. I would like there to be a tree just like the white one forming before us. I find trees very important. –
Ixhúja made a growling sound which indicated that she agreed, for trees were very important. Ixhúja watched the growing white branches and whorls of the tree for a few moments, she was not entirely sure whether she could identify it, and rolling upon her side and looking to her cousin she gave her a look that meant, What type of future do you envision? Will you live in a cottage about a patchwork of gardens.
– Puey was growing up on a plantation, he knows how to run a stead so … –
So you want Puîyos the new Emperor to become an aristocrat on his plantation? He’ll be minding his servants and harvesting barley and preparing the sheep and giant silkworm to be plucked and wellfleeced? That seems like quite an odd like for an Emperor to lead.
– I think it would be rather pleasant. He can tend the plantation in the morningtide and then return to me by noon and I’ll have lunch ready for him, and perhaps I’ll even have said lunch prepared by one of my latest inventions but we can discuss that later. He’ll play for the harp for me in the light of the high Suns. He then can return to the fields, the grains and dinosaurs and the rolling grasslands, the fainting goats and the lambkins and dovechens. And then in the evening we can walk together in the shade of the trees, trees just like these white prism ones coming into being. Perhaps I’ll dance in the light of the beautiful and balletic Stars as they begin to shine constellate one by one, and I’ll read to him pages from the book that I’m writing. I think it would all be very pleasant, a life among the trees and the beasts in a cottage beside the sounding seas. –
Ixhúja was tempted to ask her beloved Cousin how did Akhlísa fit into this vision of garden and wedding bliss, but she did not want to spoil the moment or irk Éfhelìnye, and the issue of the second wife would have to be something resolved at another day. Instead Ixhúja just murmured in a language like unto the winds dancing among the leaves and the slow and strong growth of the forest itself saying, Puîyos always has been quite fond of trees, he has. If it is possible for you to find a tree like unto this fountain, it would be a nice place to dwell. I’d just live in the tree, not in one of those fancy tyeréfhokháma treehouses like I’ve seen among some of the Jaràqtun families. Ixhúja almost mentioned that the greatest of the tyeréfhokháma she had seen had been the treehouses of the Tásel Clan who were the people of Akhlísa’s Mother, but Ixhúja did not even want to make an overt reference at this time, but added, Yes, one would just live upon the branches and in the shade of the leaves in a bower of twigs, but I think you’d rather live in an actual house with walls and furniture and an actual bed. I think trees can be just as comfortable, but unto each her own.
– Maybe I can find a nice large forest for you wherein to dwell – chanted Éfhelìnye. – And I would not mind at all if you lived in one of the trees on our plantation. I want all my family to live together in the same house or at least within neighboring houses upon the same courtyard. This tree before us is very interesting indeed. I would like for me and Puey to be betrothed and married beneath a great tree, when our hands are clasped together, it should be in the shade of the trees. – Éfhelìnye turned around and looking to her cousin chanted – Puey once told me that he wanted to craft a bed for him and me out of a great and living tree. I think that would be wonderful, part of the tree would be in our room and part would grow outside, and some of the gentle rocking of earth and wind would flow through the tree and lull me and Puey to sleep everynight, so I guess we’d be dwelling in a tree also. Yes, it could be a large and white and wonderous tree, a miracle tree indeed like unto this fountain. I was climbing trees even when I was very little, more times than I can count I remember getting stuck in a ledge and Great-Uncle Táto would reach out with his large and strong wings and draw me down, and when I was tiny he would have to climb up into the tree himself, he’d be swaying and huffpuffing all the while and barely able to do it, but I was not able to get too far from him, and when I was older though and able to climb up on high, he’d just run around the base of the tree and shake his wing at me and order me to come down, and I usually did, though in due time. Puey of course was leaping and crawling and flying probably almost since birth. I suppose when Puey and I start having children it will be inevitable that they’ll be crawling away from me and wriggling up into the branches and probably flying around long before I’m ready for them to do that, it is almost certainly inevitable. But it would still be pleasant to dwell near the great trees or on the edge of a tree labyrinth growing upwards. –
Yes, you’ll doubtless have a wild time with any offspring of Puîyos. Whether male or female, they’ll be inheriting your wildness and his natural abilities. They’ll be crawling upon the ceiling and throwing themselves out of the branches and swimming in the creek probably before learning how to walk, I can see a few of them running outwards among the dinosaurs and keeping pace with them, others swinging upwards to ride upon the back of fell velociraptors, others tackling and wrestling wild beasts and dragging them as pets unto the dinner table. Oh, what a wild and uncontrollable time you’ll have then.
– I don’t think it will be so totally difficult. I have invented mine own language, and I think that was a far more ambitious and complicated task than merely having a large family and forming a new dynasty and marrying off everyone. –
Ixhúja chuckled to herself and sighed out long and fluent series of purrs which in the compact and rather complicated gestalts of plantimals formed the following observations and musings which Éfhelìnye interpreted as the following. My dearest cousin Éfha, I am not entirely sure whether you understand the rather formidable challenges of running an household and a family, you who have never even had a pet, who grew up in gardens where all of the plantimals were female, who only today has met people your own age, who has had to invent the idea of familihood and consanguinity and paternity all in a single day. Difficult it is to take care of a nestling of flying fishes and swarms of birds, difficult it is to mend the wheels and geers of hives of insects, how much more complex must it be to run a family? Oh Éfhelìnye, my most beloved cousin, I can already see how all of the years shall unwind before you. You will have your children. You will drive Puîyos crazy. And many, many years from now, Empress Éfhelìnye is going to make a very formidable Mother-in-law, although perhaps not in the sense of the formidable matriarchs in the war clans here in Jaràqtu. I know you shall already be an unusual Mother, for although I know little of Motherhood and had none myself, I can guess that few others will be waking up their daughters in the darkness before the dawn so that tey can all dance beneath the moonlight, and this ritual will be very usual for you. Plus with Puîyos as your husband and the father of your brood, all in the family will be conversant in both Language and in mews and growls and quacks. But eventually the time will come when the children will grow up just as you are now, and as the indomitable Empress Éfhelìnye you will set off marrying all of your twice eleven children and sitting back and waiting for the little grandbabies to roll in. Grandchildren for you will be candy in the sense that one cannot have a single piece of candy, a gob of sugar, and smear of chocolate, one needs an entire bag just to gobble them up. After one child is married off and the first grandprince comes in, you’ll perk pu and say, Oh, this is the best! Let’s marry off all the rest! Puîyos will look up from playhign his harp, he’ll mew and tell you he’ll get Siêthiyal and Akhlísa to help. And you start making plans for hypothetical grandchildren from your as of yet unmarried children. So Ixhúja’s chuckles and mews were interpreted into Babel, the language of men.
– Oh I’ll be arranging the marriages myself – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I plan on being a good Mother. Anyway, I think I have the knack for arranging people, I think about love all the time, all sorts of friendship and affection and loyalty and sighs and glances, I just know if I can dream of Puey all the days of my life, surely I’ll be able to dream up suitable consorts for my children and others in my family. –
Ixhúja tapped her fingers together and mewling a few times told Éfhelìnye, Now let’s following the canal of this thought to its final destination. Now suppose, say, that daughter number three is given in marriage to some king. All is fine and copacetic and good. You will be busy with grandchildren from daughters one and two and now from four. But why isn’t daughter three bearing me grandchildren! Puey, Puey, Puey, you wail like alittle birdling, there can be only one reason in all the worlds why daughter number three isn’t showering us with grandchildren, she and her husband must be quarelling. Come on, let’s pack up and pay them a surprise visit. I know everyone just loves a surprise visit from an Emperor and Empress, especially if it comes in the middle of the night. So Puîyos contacts Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho, who are now old geezers, all coughing and wheezing and getting into trouble. Puîyos and the Priates commandeer a ship.
– I’m glad at least that Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho are still alive, in your little fantasy. I miss them terribly – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I wonder whether I’ll be able to see Eirènwa, Karuláta’s Cousin. Someone has to tell her about … about the battle with the Dragon. –
Oh there’re still alive, Ixhúja told her cousin with a single flick of her hand. Trust me, when those two die, we’ll all know about it. Until I see the bodies, they still live. Somewhere they’re sailing off and pillaging and guzzling and doing all the things that we’re not supposed to. One would not be surprised if they’re dancing and drinking at this very moment. Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho are just as immortal as you and Puîyos are. Their mainsprings shall never fail. But one disgresses. Yes, the Qhíng marries his two sweethearts, yes Fhèrkifher marries Karuláta’s Cousin, I already forgot her name. And you and Puîyos sail off with them in the stolen ship. Actually Fhèrkifher’s daughter is the real pirate captain, her Mother makes her look after her Father and Uncle Xhnófho and of course who cousins who are the Sun and the Moon. Yes, Emperor Puîyos and Empress Éfhelìnye sail away in the pirate ship without informing, say, the government or priesthood or anyone else that they’ll be gone for a few months, but something tells me that the priesthood and government gets along just fine or even better without you two.
– One would hope that the governance will be resilient enough not to need Puîyos’ constant guidance and commanding – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Actually I was thinking that by now Siêthiyal was probably running everything from the shadows, but who can guess? Just as long as nobody touches the forests, I won’t interfere, but if anyone does, I’ll come into the Synod of Lords and remove the skin of all the Lords and nail them alive upon the walls. And then after a few days of agony I’ll start getting nasty with them. Now where were we?
– When do I get my grandbabies? – asked Éfhelìnye.
You are impatient, aren’t you!
– I think it may be easier to be a grandparent than a parent, this way I can just play with the children and not have to worry about disciplining them. I know Puey won’t be as harsh with his children as his Father was with him. Okay, now hurry up and tell me about grandchildren! –
Okay, so pretend you’re the kingling, you’ve just had a hard day of doing king things, and you come to the courtyard and all of a sudden the Empress your Mother in law is dancing! With no warning! And she tells you that she’s going to be staying to make sure that everything is alright with you and the princess! And just when things couldn’t be worse, you come into the castle and notice that a pirate ship had crashed through a wall, servants are trying to douse the flames. Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho are passed out on a cough. Fhèrkifher junioress is probably nabbing everything that isn’t nailed down. Another wall breaks down, it’s Emperor Puîyos wrestling down a few lions. Since when have I had lions in the palace? Then your wife the princess runs up into Abbá’s arms, you just know Puey will spoil his daughters rotten, he already spoils his Sisters as you might have guessed. Anyway, eventually someone has to explain what’s going on. The Princess and the Empress have a discussion in something that sounds like language and purrs. The Princess is trying to convince her Mother that no she is not arguing with her Lord Husband. Éfhelìnye’s already preparing for a long stay, she may be repainting a wall at this point, she’s going on about, When I was your age I’d already given birth to you, and then the conversation will probably verge unto the, Your husband’s not as great as your Father of course, now Puey he’s a great hero, he defeated the old scary Emperor when he was eleven years old, but your Husband is fine in his own way although not really as magnificient as your Father. Have I told you the story of … Yes, Mama, I’ve heard it a thousand times. How long did you say you were staying?
– Well, Puey really is wonderful in almost everyway – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I’m sure my children will appreciate that. –
You attempts at interfering of course don’t work, especially since your Daughter hasn’t been quarrelling with her lord husband until her parents showed up on her doorstep or rather crshed through the walls. And eventually someone is going to grow tired of having pirates crash into the castle. The Daughter is at her mainspring’s wit’s end, she talks to Puîyos, Puîyos tell syou that maybe you can stay in the nearby village and just visit the children every few days or so, that way you can work on your book and we can still visit our children. At this point you’re concocting scehems and brewing up some sort of love philter for your daughter. One just knows this is going to be a disaster. Well, even if Puîyos and you do stay in the village, you’re going to be spying on your children, you’ll be dressing up as something or talking to cats and dinosaurs and in general making sure that your children are not arguing. I think that your Daughter may be able to see through some of these tricks. I mean, a few crows and ravens are descending and watching her walking in the garden with her husband, and the birds are whispering one to another, it just looks like they’re reporting to someone, and who could it possibly be? And why was my Mother dressed as a tea server in the tavern and trying to listen in on us? Am I the only one who saw Abbá wearing a very fake mustache and amost outrageous hat and poking his head up behind the table every few moments and giving signs to someone?
– Oh dear – chanted Éfhelìnye.
So, at her wits end, the Princess goes to the only one who can help, the one person whose help she really does not need. Dearest Auntie Siêthiyal, could you please get rid of my parents? Distract them, make them go home? Oh, this is a very interesting situation, have I mentioned that you’re my favorite neice, perhaps you could run some errands for me, especially since Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho have disappeared again. What? They’re with your parents? Figures. They can never stay apart from them. Here, just let your dear Auntie fix everything. And Siêthiyal does. I don’t know what she does, but somehow she keeps everything together.
– And do I get my grandbabies? –
Cousin, I’m thinking the only way your Daughter will be able to avoid grief from you is to start giving you some children. It will happen. Actually in some ways this may be an easier time for your Daughter, when she starts having children of her own, an easier time than finding her an husband. Puîyos will be extremely protective of his daughters, just look at the way he watches you and his Sisters, he’ll be like that but more so, but once they become old enough to be given away in marriage … oh you’ll be looking very early for matches from them. You can see into the hearts of others, I would not be surprised if you arranged some seemingly accidental meetings of some very unlikely young people just because you knew that they were meant for each other. You’ll break into a bakery, and just as the baker’s son is running around and searching for some lost bread, he’ll bump into one of your daughters who’s trying to return a library book, and true love commences. You’ll sabotague the chariot one of your daughter’s is driving just so that it’ll break down before the castle of a young but very shy king who happens to be quite handy with clockwork. You’ll get your pirate friends to kidnap and possibly break the foot of someone who’s just perfect for one daughter who you just know will not be willing to come otherwise. And then of course there will be all the difficulties of selling this match to your very protective husband. Puîyos will be sitting upon his throne and perhaps cleaning weapons recently splattered with gore when you bring in a young man to meet him. Puîyos may or may not deign to look up, perhaps he’ll just toss a severed head at this suitor, or perhaps Puîyus will grab a shovel and just start digging some holes in the backyard in preparation for just having to kill this irksome young man. Ah, but then again, Puîyos will just grab him by the throat and take him into the ice bayou, that seems to be the custom of his people. But perhaps equally as concerning as making Puîyos like the young man and agree to arrange this marriage, may be if you convince him that this young man is very nice and pious and honorable, and so Puîyos, being a little naïve, decides in reality to treat him as a Son as if born of his own body. And so this young baker or prince or whoever he is may be minding his own business when all the glass windows and some crazed and hyper pirates come swinging down to princenap him away. On the ship are several princes whose hair are blue and red like their parents. Emperor Puîyos is singing to a bird. The suitor prince looks around worried when the pirates dump him down before the Emperor. The suitor prince, knowing that Puîyos defeated Uncle Kàrijoi, the Holy Tyrant, is whispering some swift but heartfelt prayers to the Ancestors, he knows that if Puîyos wants him dead, he will die. Puîyos whoever is just as innocent as can be, and he decides to show the suitor some fun. And fun … fun … do you have a word for that in language?
– Stú – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Play, diversion, fun. –
Yes, what you just purred, by that I mean, what Puîyos finds fun. So the suitor prince will find himself taming some wild dinosaurs and going off on a wild goose chase after some lost treasure, and maybe being persued by wild creatures on some deserted island, and then at least in a terrible battle where strange clockwork creatures and monsters are arising and fighting in all directions at once, and the Emperor’s Sons are doing fine, the Pirates are at least able to hold their own, even though they are old by now, why even that old Priest Pátifhar is still around, he’s decrepit and older than dirt, but he can still hold a sword. And the princeling is smacked around by monster and automaton and in general almost killed a thousand times. All in the name of fun, or at least when Puîyos finds fun.
– I should hope that my Daughters should marry a man at least worthy enough for Puey to call him a Son, if he can’t survive a few hopeless battles he may not be worthy of my precious Daughter. –
One is quite confident that the suitor prince survives, probably broken and bleeding and scared quite a bit, and he’s returned home none the worse or at least not too much, why perhaps this will make your Daughter love him all the more, when she sees what he endures to be with her. Yes, this is quite an interesting dynasty that you’ll be founding, quite wonderous indeed. So all in all, this all being purred, I should think that you my most beloved cousin Éfha shall be quite a scary atinantúwa, mother of the bride. May Heaven help any young man who seeks to be wed to one of your daughters, and may all the Ancestors have mercy on any of your children who don’t give you a grandchild within a reasonable amount of time, whatever it is you consider reasonable. Oh, what a wild and uncontrollable time you’ll have then. Ixhúja chuckled unto herself a few times.
– It will be quite fortunate then that they’ll have Auntie Ixhúja to take care of them from time to time – Éfhelìnye chanted, and she rolled upon her back and watched as forest after forest was coming into existence in the waves of white light, circles were pouring outwards, and each new iteration of fountainhead was bringing unto itself new versions of this pure white tree.
Be not mistaken, my beloved Éfhelìnye, but I’ll only be teaching your children bad habits. I’ll be giving them lots of half broken clockwork and encouraging them to play with such machines always in the presence of their technophobic Father. I’ll be teaching the children to run around with lots of sharp and deadly items, and I’ll wake them up in the middle of the night and whisk them out of the window and bring them deep into the forest where wild beasts and monsters dwell, and I won’t let them come home until they’ve thrashed the monsters and fell beasts around a few times just to show them who is dominant.
– Perhaps you don’t have to teach them all your habits. –
And I’ll teach your young girls to prance about in short skirts and run off into the whispering mountains for a few days and chase terrible monsters and come back with broken bones and not be able quite to remember what charging plantimal caused such an accident but it hardly matters at this point. Do you want me to kidnap brides for your Sons? The way I figure it, any maid would no doubt rejoice to marry a Royal Prince, so I’ll start breaking into castles and kidnapping anyone I deam suitable for one of your children. And then after I tie up the girl, I’ll set fire to her castle or house or village just to keep her father and brothers from persueing us. Pesky persuers, they can be so annoying when they’re shaking their pitchforks and swords, one just wants to thrash them about a few times just to show them who is dominant.
– I don’t think I’ll need you to be destroying any castles or burning any villages, my beloved cousin. –
You will teach your daughters how to dance at least, I know that.
– Of course, I’ll teach them the essentials, dance and Puey can teach them music. I can teach embroidery and philology and writing, and Puey an handle fighting and farming. Also I want all of my children to have a thorough education on piracy, I’ll not have any random villages burnt down, but I’m convinced that some new advanture always lies just o'er the horizon, there are always new worlds to explore and treasure to be taken and candies to be tasted, so I’ll make sure that Puey teaches our children how to tie sailors’ knots and rig the solar sails and pillage a town and collect lots of nice things. Eventually the time will come when Puey and I will be resting at home and he’ll be feeding one of our new babies and I’ll be reading aloud my writing and some of our older children can come and visit and bring us all manner of treasure from throughout the worlds. I wouldn’t mind a nice diamond tiara plundered for my sake from time to time, plus they can rescue books for me. –
And why do you persist in thinking that piracy is a better habit than simply burning down villages that annoy me?
– The object of the game is to be completely free and to have adventures and dwell always at the edge of story. Wanton destruction is counterproductive to that end, one is supposed to be searching for something, not just scorching a town. –
But burning is fun.
– Well … fire is pretty. –
Very pretty.
– I’ve always been fond of watching the flickering of fire – chanted Éfhelìnye, and she was watching the turning and twisting and burbling of the fountain was it arose, white and lithe before her gaze in a similar fiery pattern. – Great-Uncle Táto always kept pulling me away from the fire when I’d crawl towards it or stick my hands in it, I’ve never understood why. –
Since you and I are of the same dragonish Tnún blood, it is entirely likely that some of your children will inherit some of the battle streak that I have. I would not be surprised if in years to come some of your children sailed off and burnt down villages and wrecked towns and gathered up clockwork just for the fun of it, and tried to convince you that they were engaged in just some innocent piracy.
– Eventually I’ll have to begin the awesome undertaking of finding spouses for my children. I think I’ll be able to get Puey to help me in that task, I can always have him climb the trees and walk upside down beneath towers and courtyards and watch the young people. Plus I can always disguise him. Even if Puey’s face ends up stamped upon the bead coins, I wonder, if I put a false mustache on him and a large pétasos hat and a cane in his hand whether he would in fact be recognized. –
It is difficult to imagine Puîyos with a mustache.
– We can always hide about the hedgerows and in the shadows of the statues of the Ancestors. Ducklings and white raven doves can flutter out before us, as harbingers and eyen. We’ll have to be discreet of course. Perhaps I can create a costume so that it looks like I’m part of a garden moving, I can be all green and flowers tumbling down my head and shoulders. And if we need to follow our children, I’m very good at picking locks and breaking into fortresses and castles and homes, it’s just a talent that I have. –
Okay, now I’m thinking that if you put on silly costumes and follow people around in an attempt to find spouses for your children that you’ll end up being doubly recognized. The general consensus will be that there can be no others as eccentric as the Emperor and Empress, or rather just the Empress, she’s the mastermind who drags the Emperor along with her.
– I’m most certainly not the mastermind, Puey was the one who was all fain of sailing and piracy when I met him. –
But to him it was just an idea, a game, some play, while you were the one actually to go out and meet true pirates and recruite them to teach Puîyos all that they knew. Puîyos would never have met the doofus twain Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho save for you, those ridiculous rascals, they used to harry the shores of Khnìntha and carry away a shipload of sugar to smuggle back to your Father’s domains. But then again, those pirates were also covertly working for my Father. They were just all o'er the place causing so much trouble and ruination.
– And not to mention lots of fun. I hope that Uncles Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho survived the suicide attack upon Prince Kherènxhuqhe. Kàrula was telling me about how she saw the Pirates fighting down the Duchesses and falling into the fiery abyss. How dread that must be. A swirling and growing fountain of darkness, the very opposite of this grand tree forming before me. It all returns to trees, at least in the end, trees are the very dance of the land. –
Many of the Trees of Khnìntha have living spines of clockwork, and their ridges are ay-turning and opening up windows all of wheels. The trees tick, they sing to me, they churn with tremendous bark and arboreal motors.
– I shall have to find a way to plant such a tree as sprouts pure and white before us now – Princess Éfhelìnye was saying. – Puey and I shall plant a tree for every child that we have, it is a custom I learnt from his Father Íngìkhmar who planted a tree for me and for you when we dwelt with him. We shall set up a garden for ourselves and a forest beside the sounding seas. And the trees shall be vast and wise and eternal, they shall be of crystal glass, the trees shall arise and beam out dust and gold and light. Everyday I shall pick fruit of the trees for my family. And Puey and I shall dwell in the light of the trees all the days of our lives. –
Fun trees. I like stripping off the bark and licking it.
Éfhelìnye rested her head upon her hands. – Yes, I have decided it. Puey and I shall live for ever. –
Now you’re just being silly.
– I am not. We will live for ever, I will find some way to do it, either we just will refuse to get older, or I’ll work hard to finish my book and make it mythology that will live for all time and be transmuted into dance and tune and opera, the myth of Puey and the Princess, or I’ll just make sure that when our bodies die, that Puey and I discover each other upon the grey shores and we shall walk together hand in hand for all eternity. –
I hope your hands don’t get too tired.
– I can always change the magnetism of his hands if I need to, that’s a trifle. And while Puey and I are busy being eternal, sometime in the afterlife I want to learn how to fly. There just has to be a way for me to gain wings, nice and beautiful butterfly wings, and I can just flutter about and swoop from side to side, perhaps Puey and I can dwell in the dustclouds of the Nethergloom, or if the War is completely successful and we become in fact the new Emperor and Empress, then Puey and I shall dwell in the company of the Solar Ancestors, and perhaps there in the light of the Suns we can learn to fly together. –
That sounds dangerous, even for an Ancestor.
– Puey and I will have to learn to flutter first before we can soar, we’ll just have to take it one little buzz and spin and hop at a time, we’ll learn to fly in the same away that fishes and porcines and birds do, although without a nest as home and parents for to guide us. It really would be marvelous to have flame winds about us, and turning sun glares and new skies opening up and embrightening. –
And so it came to pass in the ancient and inevitable attic wherein none had tred for some time and which the furniture in the subsequent generations had forgotten the sound and pitterpatter and laughter of children, that the fountain all of bursting white light formed, and all of the boxes and jars and walls of the attic were arising and floating together and retransforming themselves into something else, and for a time the two Cousins the offspring of the foster brothers Kàrijoi and Khwìnton rested and just basked in the growing albescent light. And after a time and a time and a time and an half, the maidens got up and decided to explore in the white light, and they searched in the boxes and drew out old dresses and large floppy hats, and they crawled into jars and one Éfhelìnye got stuck, and Ixhúja arose and she berolled the jar onto its side and sent her cousin spinning outwards, and they clomb up through the wardrobes and searched about, and they ran about the walls which were changing and distending, and they hid from each other in the chests and about the tables and sometimes chased each other and othertimes got lost and had to cry out to each other to be found, and all the while the tree grew upwards and became a great pyeû wellspring and a qùngqoqo fountain and khèxhur prismatic spray jEtyg greater and brighter and more wondrous than before, faster and higher and filling up all things.
And so the time came when in the nuschanz within the tròyo the dark and ancestrial hour of midtide gloam, in the very middle of the dark night which the Emperor was taking and as a shroud was draping across all the worlds, the tide came when the two Princess were growing tired from running around and hiding and chasing after another, and so they took out their blankets and supplies and made camp before the growing luminous white tree which was coming into being where all the attic should be, and they wrapped themselves up in a blanket and took out the snacks which the Vestal Virgins had prepared for them, some sugared and dried slices of fruit and some chocolate and a few mochi, and they looked at the pictures in their books and began nodding off a little. Éfhelìnye took out the pillows and made her cousin very comfortable. Ixhúja was yawning in a rather feline manner, she was stretching her limbs and jaw and arching her back and hissing just as cats are wont to do, and rolling o'er a few times seeking to make herself comfortable. Éfhelìnye rubbed Ixhúja upon her belly, and this caused Ixhúja to relax and her eyen began closing a little and she chuckled and purred a little, and Ixhúja’s pajamas were shuffling a little and were opening up eyen upon her shoulders and sleeves, and the blanket that was flowing about her was changing also and it was becoming many eyen opening upwards, eyen all grey like unto Ixhúja’s own, Ixhúja panóptēs, and she yawned a few more times and let Éfhelìnye scratch her and rub her and make her feet very comfortable indeed. Éfhelìnye looked on, her eyen were only drooping a little. Ixhúja yawned a few more times, and the all-seeing blanket all about her was twitching from side to side, an hundred eyen watching Éfhelìnye, and the layers of the blanket were like unto the rolling feathers and quetzal crests of so many páwa pavonines, those most proud and beautiful birds, serpentbane naagaashana, whose oiled feathers are like unto the beautiful main of so many dinosaurs and the proud crests of the gamma Qhíng. Éfhelìnye cooed and whispered and kissed Ixhúja a few times, Ixhúja strong and great, and her eyen kept looking from side to side, Ixhúja was trying to stay awake just a little longer, but the white fountain was just so bright and it was growing, and all the attic was becoming part of it, and Ixhúja knew she just had to keep watch on her cousin, she knew she had to make sure that Éfhelìnye fell asleep first, that is what she had told Siêthiyal and Akhlísa had to happen, Éfhelìnye would fall asleep and she would not have to worry about anything at all, so Ixhúja had been thinking, but Éfhelìnye was wrapping the both of them up in the same blanket and holding her cousin and soothing her, Ixhúja was closing one eye now, she would just leave the other eye awake she thought, and half of the eyen in her pyjamas and blanket were blinking and opening and closing and slowly closing shut shut shut shut. Éfhelìnye lay her cousin down and lay down right beside her, Ixhúja was struggling with her other eye, the blanket was all about Éfhelìnye and watching her in all directions, and then Éfhelìnye rolled out upon her back and whimpered and closed her eyen and became completely still, and Ixhúja could feel all strength fading away from her eyelids, and Éfhelìnye was just so still and adorable in her sleep, and Ixhúja knew that her task was accomplished and she let her other eye close, and at once she was vanquished of sleep, and Ixhúja was still save for her breathing, and all of the eyen of the páwa peacocks in the blanket were shut, and the blanket was just a rustle about both of the maidens rippling and flowing for some time, paf, riOkEos, zamzit, pavi, viste páwa.
Princess Éfhelìnye remained perfectly still. She counted to one thousand three hundred and thirty one. Ixhúja’s breathing was deep and heavy and completely untroubled by breathing. Éfhelìnye’s eyen shot open. Her plan had worked perfectly she thought. If she could just slip out of the blankets without alerting Ixhúja, than all things would be going as she wished them to be, or at least all things relavant to sneaking down into the lower halls and discovering exactly what mischief Akhlísa was causing, and Ixhúja her faithful phulax would not be able to stop her. Éfhelìnye wriggled a little in the blanket and began disentangling herself from Ixhúja, a quest made all the more difficult when Ixhúja rustled in her sleep and threw her arm about her cousin and snuggled up closer unto her. For a moment Éfhelìnye froze. She reconsidered, thinking that perhaps it would be best just to leave Akhlísa alone, after all Éfhelìnye was thinking that perhaps she had already caused far too much trouble by sneaking out of the harīm and fortress and getting attacked by the ancestrial statues and the spiders and the sea scorpions and ending up in the midst of battle, and this had distressed Puîyus’ Sisters far more than she had thought it would, she did not even think she would be missed or noticed at all, but Éfhelìnye was thinking that this was all a very small commotion to make in regards to the great battle which was Akhlísa’s deciding to marry Puîyus whom all maidens knew was Éfhelìnye’s and hers alone for all time, and then trying to keep the Princess away … Éfhelìnye slid and inched a little more form Ixhúja, Ixhúja smacked her lips and was purring a little, and the sound of the purrs the laryngeal and pharyngeal and epiglottal trill pfhóror reminded her too much of the sounds of joy which Puîyus was wont to make from time to time but which she had not of late heard from him, and the reason had to be completely obvious, for Puîyus was not purring because of the difficulty in the family and said difficulty would only be resolved when everyone realized that he was only taking one maid to wife and it was just as simple as that. Éfhelìnye slid out a little more and grabbing a pillow thrust it behind her, so that Ixhúja’s arm rested upon the pillow and not upon her, and slow but steady Éfhelìnye slipped out of the blanket and jumped up, and she spread out the sheet and made sure that Ixhúja was altogether comfortable, and then kissed she her beloved cousin with kisses three, and Éfhelìnye arose and bowed unto her and looked up unto the growing fountain all of white light within white, and she clasped her hands together and thought of the next part of her most devious plan.

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