Akhlísa jumped up and spun around and clapping her hands chanted – It’s probably time for me to go back to whatever it was that I was doing. I’m sure that tiresome old battle can’t last much longer, and Ixhúja will come and take you away for playtide. Um, I was supposed to ask you something, but I can’t remember what it was. –
– I’m sure it will come to you – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Sometimes when I forget something, I just start counting prime numbers or the fibonacci sequence, or I just start inventing words in my head. –
Akhlísa shifted a few of the incense sticks and chanted – It’s just at the front of my mind. The Kháfha priests were telling me something and saying that it was important and I wasn’t supposed to forget and they wanted me to be descreet. What was it? Ah! Do you want me to ask them for anything, the priests that is? –
– Pardon? – asked the Princess.
– Oh dear, I’ve chanted this all wrong. Okay, let me start all o'er again. See, the priests were telling me that you are holy and special and precious and just very supernal, why you were born of the Virgin Empress herself, you’re the best of the best, and so, um, why did they say it, I and Siêthiyal are supposed to act as your tlhòsti, as our ablegates, as if we were messengers reading our xhyemálo beads. If you need anything from the priests just tell me or Siêthiyal and we’ll inform the priests, you’re not supposed to trouble yourself with anything at all, you’re holy and cut apart. They told me you could use Ixhúja as an envoy but you may want to write down the messages for her since the priests can’t quite understand her, Grandfather Pátifhar could but nobody at all can find him anywhere. There, that’s what I was supposed to say. So, do you need anything? –
– No, but thank you very much. I shall inquire of you should the need arise. –
– I think it’s better this way, if you just appear before the Kháfha sylvans and they’re not in a good mood they may just start fainting from fear, they like to respect the hierarchy of cases thwòtso xhiqhilayùlkha they told me, they chanted it was a grammatical joke and you’d understand but I’m not sure. –
Éfhelìnye turned aside, and a slight roseate blush appeared upon her fair cheek. – Grammatical cases in language themselves rise and fall in an hierarchy of sorts, and yes we use the word thwòtso to describe that just as we would monarchy. When one changes the voice of a clause, the cases of the subjects and objects rise and fall depending on the voice. I’ve always found language quite clever in that regard. –
– I wish I blushed when I talked about writing – Akhlísa chanted. – Grandfather Pátifhar was just happy that I could paint out my name and sound out my letters, I think he almost considered that his life’s work. Auntie Qtìmine has helped me a lot, sometimes I write my letters and numbers upside down and backwards. Puey helps me with mine handwriting, he has a nice pretty hand, which is funny because he doesn’t talk at all. –
– Maybe I can help you with your writing and reading – Éfhelìnye chanted. – When the war comes to an end, and Puey and I can finally settle down somewhere and live in peace, I shall begin teaching him language, and I might as well help you also. Perhaps your mind is having difficulty in conceptualizing the glyphs themselves, it is not a problem with your hands or eyen but rather in grasping the knowledge. In the same way that I do not quite understand music since I’ve almost never heard it until this very day and have to learn it in almost an cold and intellectual fashion, so too you may have to learn to understand the glyphs rather than just by picking up reading by rote as many children of the upper castes do. –
– You’re probably right. I wish I were smart like you. Everyone thinks I’m dumb. –
– I hear quite a many self-critical inditements in this harīm. –
– But it’s true, everyone always says that Fhermáta was good and Siêthiyal was cunning and I was pretty, but I’m never the smart one. But that’s alright, Puey never complains. Okay, I’m going to go now! – Akhlísa looked around and saw that several more Traîkhiim were at the other end of the courtyard, and they were bringing vines and ropes and decorations with them, and Akhlísa was fain not to let the Princess know about the Starday Celebration. – I’m sure Ixhúja will be coming back soon, so why don’t you go back to your rooms and wait for her? I think I have to sweep out the ramps or something or other, I don’t know it’s always busy being an Imperial Concubine work work work it’s all I e'er do. – Akhlísa was nodding her head, and her earrings were driftende downwards a little in the way that vines and lianæ droop throughout the forest, and some of the earrings were turning towards Éfhelìnye and opening themselves upwards and growing long lashing leaves, and little chain lengths that were snaking down the sides of Akhlísa’s neck, and Éfhelìnye was not at all sure what to think of seeing this strange Khnìnthan alchemy upon the ears of her friend, when she had first met her cousin Ixhúja the Martian Princess was ygarbed in a southron and barbaric fashion and Éfhelìnye just had to accept it, but Akhlísa looked not quite like another damsel of Jaràqtu, she had bits and pieces of Aûm fashion woven into her garments and clockweyth jewelry, and some of her gems looked almost more Khniîkhan than what Éfhelìnye was wearing.
– I should go too – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Okay bye bye bye! Kisses! Lots of kisses! – Akhlísa reached o'er and embraced the Princess and kissed her cheek several times and then came running back up unto the courtyards and the rest of the Pèqlor dancers gathering and preparing for the jàruyu comissatio, and Akhlísa concurrant was thinking that there was nothing that would go wrong with her plans to surprise Puîyus and that at least Éfhelìnye would not have to know and that was to the best one would not wish to upset her Ixhúja will just keep her away while I have fun fun fun fun fun.
Éfhelìnye ducked out of the halls. She did not wish to enter the harem again, she did not wish to see any of the Traîkhiim whom she had awakened from the death’s sleep which her Father had set upon them or which the fell fhìxhapa alchemists of the Xeriîqe had created when they took the Traîkhiim souls to use as power sources, she did not even wish to see the priests or the vestal virgins who would just hide from her and bow and call her holy, she did not mind the bowing and veneration too much, for after all Great Uncle Táto her most beloved tutor used to bow to her and call her the Divine Princess all the time, but he was part of her household and she had known him almost all the days of her life, strangers were quite another matter and anyway how many of them knew about this little party which the Imperial Concubine was throwing, parties indeed, this is just like Karuláta she always runs around and laughs and plays she did it in the crannog and she’s doing it now even when the War of Heaven is being waged, why must she be so happy all the time she doesn’t even mind that I’ll be the first wife she even likes it that way she wants to be part of a large extended family, she’s quite content with this arrangement it bothers her not at all and it certainly doesn’t bother Siêthiyal she knows that our new Dynasty will reign supreme as soon as Puey cuts down my Father and ends this horrible war already too many good and innocent have died Fhermáta and Jeûr and Great-Uncle Táto all of them falling down as petals upon the snow Ixhúja certainly doesn’t care about Puey having more than one wife Ixhúja is also a victim although she does not see it she’s died and lived many times, she’s almost no longer part of her own melody I hope she’s not still looking at my Puey but how can I know whenever I bring up the subject everyone else just pats my hand and tells me to calm down and says that it will all be fine that I shouldn’t worry. Are you okay? How are you feeling. That’s the mantra that I hear, everyone so happy to reassure me that there is nothing at all wrong at all with my Puey’s having more than one wife why can’t I make them all understand how would they like it if I started intruding upon everyone else’s happy endings and ruining it for them wouldn’t like it at all I would imagine like coming to a nice and wellwoven ifeathered tapestry and splashing paint all upon it, or coming into someone’s golden halls and snuffing out all of the candles, or if I should go into parlours and rip open the sofas and put mud in the drains of the kitchens and break the glassen windows of the bedroom that would all be rather rude wouldn’t it and yet nobody at all seems to worry that what is being done to me can be rude, has anyone objected in the least to the idea that Puey is mine and mine alone for ever and any other maiden who even dares to think about my Puey must answer to me and my most just wrath no hardly at all Siêthiyal and Karuláta and Ixhúja are fine with it they’ve practically planned the future for all the children as yet unborn whom Karuláta shall present to her husband, they find this all so tidy and cosy the warriors and soldiers don’t care at all they have a war and marriage is not really their business the Elders arrange things I can’t even talk to the priests now I have to be set apart from them I have no idea what I’m going to do this is just horrible just completely passing horrible this is all
I wish I were invited to the party. I hope it’s a nice Starday celebration. I hope at least that Puey has a nice time, he may just be exhausted after the battle, but Karuláta will have some nice sweeties for him that will be nice won’t it? Nobody inviting me at all. All the Traîkhiim know, Siêthiyal and Karuláta need to keep me away, of course Ixhúja knows, she has to guard me lest I spoil everything. I’ll stay away. Far away. I just want my Puey to be happy.
The outer layers of the harem were a series of stone walls rising in huge triangular sections, and Éfhelìnye spun around, her hair a series of comet tresses, and running out unto the outer ledges, and thinking that no one was seeing her, she swung up upon a wall and clammered up the length of it and looking downwards saw where the walls spilled downwards into thousands of grating layers of khoîto lattice work, and she swung downwards and began to climb down the wooden trellis, for she was just as good at sneaking into a place, especially when Puîyus lay somewhere within, as she was in sneaking away from gardens and courtyards and the Harem wherein her Father had set her somewhere deep within Twiêkes the Ice Palace. She looked upwards a few times, the winds were whipping from side to side, and her sleeves were billowing down about her like so many wings, she was not dressed for running away from home, she did not wear coat or cloak, but the cold affected her less than it did others, she whose Father was the Ice Lord Xeîthathiin, and although slight clouds of breath arose crystalling from her mouth, her hopes to see Puîyus, even if just for a few moments as he returned from battle, were enough to warm her heart. She looked downwards, and when she saw there were only a few more cubits wheredown for her to climb, she just jumped downwards and landed in the snow and began running down the long winding pathway of the freezing mountain and in the shadow of the tutelary and ancestrial statues, and her face was towards the shore and battle.
The sonority of the shore, the crashing of the living ships, the thunder of the foam, the clattering of sword and spear and targe, the sound of waves exploding in fire and against the crags, all of this was a strange music unto her, and Princess Éfhelìnye followed in the direction of this warsong, the cries of Jaràqtu and where she knew that Puîyus would be found. She ducked a couple of times when she heard roaring above her, and found that some smaller skiffs were zum zum zum buzzing through the air and launching themselves towards huge spheres of flame which were arising out of the seas. She came running up unto a qhàthwewe ledge and looking downwards finally was granted a view of the sea from a couple of miles in the air and a few miles from the shore, and she could see that gigantic biomechanical vessels were lifting themselves out of the fire and water, their huge towers were turning around and firing upon the phalanxes of Jaràqtu arising to defend the fragile coalition which Sieur Íngìkhmar and Grandfather Pátifhar had put together, she was not entirely sure what was happening, it was just the outline of fire and shadow and invasion. The forces that were arising through the clouds of the whispering mountains were mostly those of the Kháfha, Éfhelìnye could see, for the Xákhefha Járqnis folk had managed to limp unto the holy shores of Jaràqtu in a slightly better condition than the Qhíng and the Aûm who had lingered and spent time firing upon each other and inviting the Dragons to join in the battle rather than in following the path which honored Íngìkhmar and beloved Thiêfhilos had set for them. Éfhelìnye only watched the battle from this height for a few moments, she kept thinking that she would see Puîyus’ sweeping down and kicking aside some of these warships and vast walking machines that were arising out of the foamfeys, but she was still too far, they were but lances of light and inclinations of implied explosive violence, rather than the certain movement of living ships and forces and men. She herself lingered for a moment and then turned back and saw the terraces and walls of the fortress looming back up to her upon the turning spars of the sagala whispering mountains, and she was on the verge of turning back and sneaking back into the harīm and waiting for Ixhúja to come and take her away on this predestined distraction, and twice turned she in hesitation, but the third time she turned and resolute began to dance down in the direction untowards the shore, for her fondest desire, the imagination of her heart, was just to see Puîyus even if just for a few moments. The path ached from side to side as it starcrossed down untowards the crags and the fires imploding and the thrawn waves and the music of targe and spear and sword and the poesy of foam and ship and shore.
Ancestors lined the path, ancient stone and obsidian statues upon either side. Princess Éfhelìnye realized that she had never taken this particular path, she would have noticed such large and dark statues, ancient beyond days, these were not items which the Poriêrii had of recent brought down from their skymounts, now these statues were almost grown from the earth, and they were glaring right at her, the statues of cracked marble and broken jade, the statues of basalt weathered so long that one could barely even see faces upon them, statues of stone and metal strangled together, statues of men holding up jaspar swords and flicks that were meant to be miec māccuahuitl, statuery which were garbed in long and formal cephas robes, and broken masques lay upon their faces, wooden tounges distended, shattered bits of feathers in their headdresses, and large eyen glaring right at her. Éfhelìnye continued to dance before the statues, even running was dancing for her, but she was spinning around and kicking high into the air, and turning and saw that all of the statues were turned in her direction, and their ancient eyen glowed right untowards her. Éfhelìnye smiled, even though she was in a melancholy mood, dancing still made her feel better. The statues were staring. She noticed that a stone hand was grasping a rusted bit of metal which had once represented a sword. She turned around. Another statue was holding up a shield whose edges were as sharp as a sword. Éfhelìnye spun back towards the battle and saw that some statues were placed before her, even in the very middle of the pathway, and these statues were grasping bits of obsidian and jade in their unmoving hands. The Princess found it rather curious that such statues should be in the very middle of the pebble pathway, it surely must inconvienence others who walked on this way, but it must be a very little used road. She looked to one side. One statue held up a māccuahuitl which looked new enough that it could have been fashioned in the last few years. She turned and saw that another statue held up a newly sharpened māccuahuitl whose tips were fresh and kean and glowing. This is very strange indeed. Éfhelìnye began to take a few steps away from the statues. She was deciding that she did not like them. The began skipping down the pathway and saw that as far as she could see statues lined either way down towards the battle. But when she looked back again towards the harem, not a single statue remained. I suppose I could just go back. Puey can wait, I’m sure he’s tired from battle, and the statues are a bit too creepy, especially here in the midnight and eternal dusk of the fire clouds. Is it getting colder up here in this chill mountain air? But I just have to go and find my Puey, I miss him too much, I just want him to hold me. I’m afraid of the dark. I wish the statues here were just a bit less creepifying. I suppose it has something to do with the whole æsthetic of Jaràqtu, both as garden but also as warrior land, with fierce statues and weapons just littered everywhere. Those are some nice and new swords the statues are holding. One almost has the feeling that one is being followed by these statues, but how silly is that!
Princess Éfhelìnye was dancing, but not as swift and joyous as before. The pathway was glistening as unhurried snowflakes were falling upon it. She was turning about in her dance and saw that the pathway was narrowing, and so the statues at either side were drawing closer and closer towards her, so that she almost felt as if she were being drawn into the closing jaws of some vast and cold creature. Long and flowing steam clouds were pouring up from the earth as the snow fell, so that it seemed as if frost breath were arising from the statues, dark and glowing alamsy, their weapons growing wholer and more complete the more she walked among them. Some of the statues she could see were not just stone and obsidian representations of warriors, but they themselves were wearing the armor long ago forged and set upon their petrescent shoulders, the statues were draped in clasps of lamellar, some of them were entwined in ancient bauldrics and knives glistened within them, others were wearing war crowns, ancient and dripping down with long tarnished jewels. Éfhelìnye knew that it was the custom of the caste of warriors to set aside fields for their honored Dead, to leave armor and weapons untouched as offering unto ancient battles, and so it must be the same with these ancient statues, no mortal man would dare to touch them and adjust the jewels and the armor, or at least, she thought, not someone who did not belong to the Clan of the Poriêrii, surely these statues belonged to the people who dwelt up high within the mountain. Or were they? For Éfhelìnye did not see any glyphs or runes upon the partially rusted weapons or any other representation of the people. The pathway became far more narrow, just a few cubits separated one phalanx of warrior statue from the next, and she walked in the midst. She heard a clattering sound. An helmet came rolling out before her, it spun around just a few inches before her, it was dented and a bird’s nest lay in part of it, she turned around and saw a few qúqa quetzal tōtōtl rising from the stern shoulder of a statue, and she laughed and clasped her hands to think that some fey birds had just chanced to move and send the war crown spinning down right at her feet, for a moment the Princess had almost been afraid, as if the statues were watching her and trying to reach out to her. She was about to reach up and grasp the helmet and set it in its place, but then thought better of it, perhaps Puîyus should do it, regardless of whose Clan builded and venerated these statues, Puîyus is the greatest of all his warrior people. Ixhúja might take the helmet and even try it on, but Éfhelìnye just took a step away from it. She looked up. Several statues were reaching out to her with stone and grasping hands. She wondered why she had not noticed that before, it was as if they were trying to touch her. She took several more steps away from the helmet and continued down the path. She was no longer dancing, she just did not feel in the humor for it any longer. She heard the falling of icicles, and looking to one side saw another helmet falling downwards, and the sword that the statue held crashed down just a few cubits away from the Princess with a deep and solid thud. Éfhelìnye looked down to the sword and remembered a seaweed forest somewhere within the darkness of the Deep, she thought of the drifting of the helmets and the kelp growing through the sockets, and swords and knives wavering back and forth in the darkness as the rotting corpse men reached out their arms and called her Empress Empress Empress. Éfhelìnye was definitely not in the mood for dancing any longer.
Thud thud thunder several more helmets fell down before her. Éfhelìnye turned behind her. A statue was standing probably twenty cubits or so behind her and in the middle of the path, and she just knew it could not have been there before, she would have had to dance around it. She began running down the pathway. She looked behind her and saw that three statues were now standing behind her and their ancient and frozen swords were held up and still. This is all getting to be a little strange, she thought to herself. She ran towards the thunder of the battle. She looked behind her, now seven statues were standing, these were large and obsidian statues, and gleaming armor lay upon them, and large deathmasques, and for the first time she could see that emblazoned in jewels upon their sashes lay the insignia of the Warrior Clan of Sweqhàngqu. Éfhelìnye turned around and ran. The pathway swallowed itself. Statues were all holding their weapons, all of them were now garbed as the Sweqhàngqu. Éfhelìnye took a deep breath and ran all the faster. She looked behind her and wished that she had not, for now perhaps eleven statues stood, and all of them were aiming their impaling spears right untowards her. She heard the sound of cawing and all at once several birds arose out of the bushes, and weapons began falling down in the middle of the pathway. Éfhelìnye slid and ducked, and a mace swung where her head should have been. From the corner of her eye she could see movement, but when she turned the statues just stared at her, and some of them were wearing crowns all of seaweed and red grass, she did not know that grass could be red, but somehow the statues were all wearing these blood crowns. The statues were larger now and closer to her, and as the air grew colder she could see that upon their armor lay layers of frost sheathing right down from her. She turned around and just a few cubits behind her an entire squadron of statues stood, all of them with their weapons trained unto her and ready. She thought she could see a slight tremor in their stone fingers, a few of the statues had necks which were almost bulging, she turned and thought she saw a statue taking a stone step towards her, she knew the shields were clattering just outside of her ken, for somehow the statues were following her, and streaks of red grass were forming tendrils in their wake.
Éfhelìnye turned around and crashed right into a statue which had not been there a moment before; the statue must have fallen down in the middle of the pathway, and she walked right into its uplifted fist. She sprawled out upon the floor. She saw swords moving above her, she knew she heard the stomping of putrefactive legs and the shuffling of lapideous brogan. She rolled away from the fallen statue, and looking back saw that a few hundred statues were standing in the middle of the pathway and glaring right at her. Éfhelìnye gulped. Staring in the comfort and safety of the harem might have been a better idea. But one can brave the Statues of the Ancestors, especially if one is to see Puey and hold him and kiss him after a battle. Anyway, I don’t think they can run very fast. She spun around and darted down the pathway. She heard the crushing of stone and pebbles about her, and although she could not quite see the movement of the statues as the snowflakes began to fall all the thicker, and the steam of battle was arisen and obscuring some of the boundaries of the mountain, but she just knew that the statues had to be following her. The ground shook a little as an Kháfhan ship came roaring right above her. She ran down the pathway, she turned backwards and saw a movement of shadows, hundreds of statues were walking outwards in steady convulsive gasps, and Éfhelìnye realized that she had never heard of statues moving like this and wished to capture one, perhaps a smaller one for study at a later time. A few or living ships roared above head, and in the quaking of the ground a couple of statues toppled down out of their pedestals, one just a few inches before her, and swords smashed downwards and tried to impale her. A couple more statues were teetering from side to side, and Éfhelìnye just knew there was no chance they could fall upon her, but as the stone legs broke and the limbs shattered, somehow they managed to throw their razor shields right at her, and she had to slide and jump to avoid being beheaded, and their impaling spears thumped right where her feet were, and swords were falling downwards in all directions. She could see now other statues ripping themselves out of the pedestal, she did not see too clearly in the mist, they were awkward and uncertain creatures grasping with clumsy obsidian hands for their weapons. Éfhelìnye dodged a few more falling swords, the brands were tumbling about her with greater accuracy, and she tried to run all the faster. Stone was breaking against stone. She saw the movement of stone fists, behind her statues were leaning how to trot, their shields and armor rumbling against flesh of dolven rock. The pathway was lined with the awakening statues in the regalia of the Sweqhàngqu, and yet she could see that they were transformed from what she had seen before, their faces were different, they no longer had representations of eyen at all, all of the statues as they were turning their heads towards her were opening up eyen that were wounds gushing with blood, the fountains sparkling upwards and becoming a part of their crimson grass crowns, the blood dribbling down their rugose stone faces and unto their armory. And Éfhelìnye was running in their midst, blood faces staring at her.
All in all, the Princess was thinking, as she thought about the feel of Puîyus’ strong arms about her, and the scent of his perfumed hair, and the gentleness of his soul, this was just another typical day for her, with monsters or specters or some sort of ensorcelled statue wiht trying to keep her from her one true love. The snow was falling all the thicker now, the pathway was growing so slick that a few of the statues were just slipping out of their bases even as they were learning to walk for the first time, and shattering stone limbs and smashing shields fell about her, and the only difference that Éfhelìnye could discern from these particular menaces as opposed to tyìru qlaêkh brigands threatening her or the Tré Brothers lead by Khnèfhrim the Pirate Prince or some soulless Monster was that she was really not sure what these statues were, and although they were dangerous and frightened her with their bleeding wound eyen turning towards her, Éfhelìnye kept thinking that the real danger probably lay in the harīm far above her, and the problems she faced within her own family, why avoiding the swords falling about her, and keeping herself from screaming when a cold faced statue rose before her, and fountainous blood erupted, that was easier than trying to settle her uneasy heart. But she did not for a moment slow her racing, she had not survived the quantum dæmons which her Father was unloosening throughout all of the boundaries of time, nor the ice flames of the Moon Dragons by becoming less cautious, she skipped about the thunderous swords falling about her, and when the shields crashed downwards she decided not to examine them for any interesting words and runes, and the swords with glowing butterfly patterns, although they tempted her with their beauty and her love of all things pinpilinpauxa, she could not stop for them, the spears reaching out to rip through her limbs, and bleeding face after bleeding face before her, broken stone lips curving in accusation, exploding crimson crowns dripping down from her, and bleeding stone fingers reaching outwards and pointing unto her one by one by one, and voiceless and breathless stone lips whispering the word – Empress! Empress! Empress! –
Yes, this is very strange, Éfhelìnye thought to herself, and the statues launched themselves against her in ancestrial wrath. This is definitely not typical behavior for creations fashioned of stone and other substantial materials. I wish those swords would stop falling so close to me. The actual making of such suchs would preclude their ability to act in such a fashion, or a least I thought they did. Shining jade and jaspar. I always thought those materials were so interesting, so shining. More falling down. This is just incourigible. Why are they all just happening to collapse towards me at the same time, the probability of that happening must be tiny. I just must see Puey, I’ll die if he has to stay away from me too much longer it’s not fair that I should have to stay and wait while he’s at battle I’ve only known him a single day and every moment together I treasure with all my heart and souls, all the universes should be conspiring together to demand that Puey and I spend every single moment of our day together always always always. That statue knicked me! I wish they’d stop looking at me that way, their heads are almost exploding, the blood popping out of them. Now later on after Puey and I are safely married and I can rest knowing that no other maiden in the worlds will e'er look at him e'er e'er e'er because if she dares even think about him I’ll hunt her down and feed her to a dragon, I’ll shove her right into the blazing munching jaws of a Dragon, serves her right for looking at my Puey and blinking her eyen at him, I’m the one who inventing blinking at him and swooning and fainting in his presence who do these other maidens think they are they certainly deserve whatever fate comes to them they’ll lucky if I only throw them ot a dragon I ought to stomp on their toes and drive spikes right through their eyen than we’ll see whethery they blink at Puey okay I don’t like how the statues are chasing me now this is definitely trespassing beyond the realm of probability now, the spears swirling around me now the problem is that all I have to do is remind Puey that I’m his only sweetheart for all time I’ll throw myself at him in the battlefield, later on when we’re married and I have a few children I won’t mind if he has to go to battle to save the people because I’ll know that he’s mine actually it is more important for all the other women to know that he’s mine, but it will be different he’ll be older and the Sun Emperor and no one will dare cross the Moon Empress I’d do anything to protect him I’d hunt down those who dare to threaten Puey now all I need to do is get him to start swooning o'er me I want Puey to become pale and clutch his heart and rather swoon and fall on me, perhaps so eager to kiss me, I’ll have to start teaching Puey to be far more romantic to me I mean I wrote all those volumes of love poetry enscribed to me and signed his name to them but I don’t quite think they had the desired affect I love how Puey used to play the harp for me while I sang aloud the poems I wrote for him wherein he sang all my praises, and yet for some reason it doesn’t cause his heart to pitter pat and it certainly hasn’t prevented other maidens from thinking that they have a right to him honestly what is Karuláta thinking with those clockwork earrings why can’t I have earrings Grandfather Pátifhar always told me I was too young for them he told me I’d be married ten years before he’d permit me to have mine ears pierced and Karuláta is out there prancing about and showing off that jewel in her belly and wearing something that not even Ixhúja would wear I always thought that Ixhúja would be the one who would do something that ridiculous just wish those statues would stay away from me they’re getting far too close, their necks turning and bulging far too close now what I’ll have to do is I’ll have to be the first maiden Puey sees why I’ll be the only one on the battlefield so this will work but also I have to be the first one he sees when he returns triumphant from battle or should I be the last one he sees the last one at the dor I’m not sure which one is a better sight for him why is everyone saying that Puey prefers golden haired maidens that’s just silly there must be thousands of flavous damsels throughout Jaràqtu I realize that with regards to the rest of the worlds golden hair is rather rare but he’s spent most of his life in his homeland why should a knight possibly prefer goldilocks why his Mother and Grandmother had hair red just like mine well not quite like mine more is more a mix of rubescence and gold, mine is a sea of royal sunrises and sunsets quite exotic he’s not going to get a more exotic maiden than myself and our children will be quite interesting also probably with tresses of blues and golds and rufesence does Kàrula really think that’s dancing it doesn’t look like dancing to me the way she just wriggles around like that more like a worm or a serpent than acrobatic grace and geometric perfection that one experiences in ballet what did the Elders mean when they chanted that warriors always want to marry temple dancers I bet I could be a temple dancer I’m lithe and supple I can learn just about any type of dance honestly these statues are far too dangerous who designed that now they’re all just arising and trying to kill me can’t they discern that I have quite a many thought to occupy me I just have to keep thinking so much to keep in mind I’m just going to run right into Puey do I have to say anything have we finally moved beyond words perhaps we are already become music and prayer and dance, yes Puey and I are no longer even of language, we are meditation on mythology, I shall just crash into his arms and wrap mine arms about him and kiss him with all the sweetness of my lips, I shall hold him and tell him that he’s all that I’ve e'er wanted, those statues had better stop this because they are becom rather irksome do I run up to strangers and try to kill them how intolerably rude, I just want Puey to know how much I love him I know he’s shy and blushes all the time but I can’t help myself I just have to be around him he’s the only thing that completely makes me happy I love language so but without Puey I have no one to read my stories and to hear my words do I just have to start wearing a sign the tells everyone that he belongs to me, perhaps I’ll wear a hat that reads, I’m in Love with Puey! He’s mine! For ever! I know for a fact that that I’m the very first maiden he e'er kissed, and I intend to keep it that way. Just who does Karuláta think she is. I don’t care that the Elders arranged this marriage, I’m going to be the Empress, I’m supposed to be the most important female in all the Land, I don’t care that her entire life Karuláta has promised to marry him and be a good wife, I’m sure after her first words after she crawled away to hide from Siêthiyal, I’m sure her second words were, I’ll marry Puey, but I don’t care, I don’t care that for everyone of his stardays her entire life she’s promised to marry him I don’t care at all I’m sure it was very cute when she was five winters old and seven winters, I’m sure the elders made her say it, I’m sure her Grandmother gave her candy if she promised herself to Puey I don’t how many times she’s pledged her trothplight he’s mine mine mine mine mine why doesn’t Karuláta understand that why can’t I just shake her by her shoulders and scream at her why is it that whenevever I see her I just want to embrace her why can’t I get angry with her doesn’t she know how I feel can’t she know if those statues get any closer I’m going to be very cross with them, do I just have to show Karuláta how I feel I’m going to fall right into the battlefield, Puey will be all brave and beautiful, his hair will be sweeping from side to side, perhaps a daring line of blood will line on his cheek, his muscles will dance, I’ll run up to him and he’ll sweep me up into his arms, and he’ll kiss me with all the love of his heart why do I always have to remove all the rest of the competition haven’t I been a pious Daughter of the Pwéru, let’s just pass o'er the entire running away from home with the first boy I’ve e'er met, that’s not important, but I have been a very honest and pious young lady, I’ve prayed and read the Holy Writ and obeyed mine Elders don’t I deserve Puey, don’t all these other maidens deserve to be struck my lightning and have their skin boiled right off of them I’m sure they won’t look so pretty when their muscles are scorched right off from him okay as soon as I see Puey I’m making sure that he runs his hands through my hair I know he loves my hair he just has to and he has to know that I’m very intelligent, I can talk about history and art and the sciences it’s not something that Karuláta can do actually she’s smarter than she thinks she is, she’s so kind too she always looked after me sometimes I knew I was a burdhen on Fhermáta and Siêthiyal I could never understand but Karuláta was so nice to me and took my hand and she shared her toys with me I didn’t even have blankets when I came to stay with them and she let me sleep in her bed and I didn’t have any pajamas so I used her, she gave me so many of her things, did I e'er thank her I’m not entirely sure that I did she used to help me paint mine inventions and get me parts I’ll have to tel Puey all my new theories of alchemy that will impress him oh I know I’ll tell him that I’ll teach him to dance yes I know he knows how to dance but yes I’ll teach him how to dance and then that will give me an excuse to hold him all the time and rest mine head on his shoulders and tell him through the dance just how much I love him he’s so quiet and tormented and sensitive he really is a poet so slender and lithe I can’t possibly see what he sees in Karuláta there she is all wriggling around so scantily clad before him why is she doing that I can’t believe she’s doing such a thing I’ll just have to start throwing myself into greater and greater degrees of danger so that he’ll be forced to rescue me perhaps he’ll teach me how to play some of the games of his land he doesn’t quite seem though in the mood for games but this must change in time I’ll have to awaken him I must reassure him that life is not just the sands of battle and the dust of the grave and the will of cold and hard Ancestors somewhere what are these statues doing! If I didn’t know better, I’d think the statues were trying to kill me!
The great and ancestrial statues were running in their phalanxes right towards Princess Éfhelìnye, they were arranged in long and triangular battle formations, they were almost sliding down the constricting pathways, and they were throwing their impaling spears at her in great numbers, so that even though the Princess’ thoughts were a whirl unto themselves of doubt and anger and desire and melancholy and vengeful justice and blithe whimsy and joy and pure love, the statues themselves were almost a living petrescent whirlwind of statues leaping up unto her and trying to cut her down in all directions. If the Starflower Princess had been just a little less swift and less lithe in her turning and spinning, and if her running itself had been less of a dance, she would have been skewered and impaled a plethora of times, but she almost managed to duck away from the crashing spear’s head at the last moment, and slide away from the crashing targes, and avoid the crashing of the stomp stomp stomp stone feet, for now the statues were grown bolder and were a little bit more flexible in their dashing out untowards her, the stone and jaspar and jade were all breaking apart at the joints and the ripplende of the muscles, the arms themselves were not quite bending as mortal arms could move, in fact the statues were almost changing themselves, they were become a little like the ninjitsu Tánin themselves in their ability to turn at a moment’s notice and come spinning outwards as a living insectoid storm, or perhaps the statues were more like puppets and dolls running outwards, large and heavy and lethal, the statues crashing so hard upon the pebble frost, that all of the sides of the sky iron mountain was shaking, and Éfhelìnye was falling as she danced and ran, and the statues were shoving each other aside and clasping each other about their torsos and limbs, almost strangling each other down so eager were they to clasp and crush the Princess hated of them. Éfhelìnye came running out upon a patch of pebbles which were already sliding down the icefloe of the mountain, and as she sprawled upon her side, the statues were upon her and were throwing down a thousand spears, a few of the spears caught the hem of her dress, golden and red enthreaded and tore it, but the Princess rolled away and pulled herself out just at the last moment, although she thought she had scraped her knee in doing so. The statues were not content just to chase her, for the rest of statue kind, ancient and ancestrial and lining the sides of the pathway were also all come awake ensorcelled by some some fell will, they were trying to surround her and block off the path, man of the statues were just throwing themselves before her and were not so much trying to crush her, although doing so would certainly be to their end, but just to slow her for a moment was their goal, so that all the rest of the statues could tear her apart. And so as Éfhelìnye ran with all her might and looked backwards all she saw was the rushing of the thousand statues, and as she slipped from side to side and tried to avoid the spears, she also had to turn around to avoid the statues running up from the other direction and blocking her way.
Lurch. Lurch. Lurch. Crunch. Crunch. Reach. Grasp. Slash. Crush.
Blood crowned statues of the Ancestors.
Éfhelìnye, conceiving of a plan, tried to change direction, she dashed off the pathway and started sliding down the iron and ice sides of the mountain, and now she could see the long and winding crags that were leading unto the shore, but the statues were still all around her, some of them were following her, but more of them, she realized, did not have to, for the crags themselves were shaking and turning and revealing themselves to be the brows and noses and snout of ancient weatherworn statues, the spines of the whispering mountains were ancient spines of armor, what she had thought were but ridges tipped in the nests of ice pterodactyls were become the arms or tall and monstrious things, all of them drapped in the crimson red grass crowns and the flowing rusted runes of the Sweqhàngqu, and they turned their stone faces to her, and the eyen exploded in rivers of blood, and taking up their spears and swords and aiming them at the fleeing damsel whispered they – Empress! Empress! Empress! –
– Go away! – Éfhelìnye cried.
– Empress! – the statues were surging up out of the stone as if they were wave, and as the statues landed upon the rock they unfolded themselves in great lobster carapaces of stones and rust, and were girt with the very stuff of the earth. – Empress! –
– She’s not here! – cried Éfhelìnye. – I think she went back to the fortress. –
– Enemy of the Sweqhàngqu … – hissed the Statues, the ones closest to her, and most recent chthonic of the mountain were still learning how to arise and walk, they lurched while their more experienced brethren dashed about them and stomped the ground and tried to make the Princess tumble.
– I’m deep in thought, I can’t talk to you now! – Éfhelìnye cried.
– Death to Éfhelìnye … – thundered the statues as they came to her.
– I just want to see Puey … can’t you go bother someone else! –
The Princess felt the ground bursting apart beneath her, and huge stone hands surged up out of the eruptions of dirt and ice, and as she rolled around she realized she was upon a large stone helmet of an awakening statue, and all about her, as a great and growing garden, the statues of the Sweqhàngqu were arising, and some of them were slowly drawing upon themselves rusted gauntlets, and others were affixing the runes of their clan, but all of them were turning their blood faces to the Princess and sniffing her with a breath of dirt and incense and wrath, and Éfhelìnye was beginning to feel rather unlucky indeed.
– This is the one who dares to think she will take Puîyos from us … – the statues were rumbling as their gigantic stone hands crashed downwards in an attempt to crush the Princess as if she were an insect. Éfhelìnye came running right off of the nearest dome and ran down the sliding mountain, and the statues flowed upwards in persuit. – Does not this little gnatling know that Puîyos is already wed unto the one chosen of the Queen? – thundered the statues. – Come, brothers, let us smash this little Empressling, lsst she do harm to the heir’s beloved. –
Sometimes one can’t help but feel unwanted, Éfhelìnye thought, as all the ground beneath her shook, the bushes and dead trees exploded before her and left naught but a long sheen of ice, and although she tried to arrest her fall, she was sliding right off the mountain and the gaping cliff before her. My Father did not want me, he locked me away in the Gardens, the Noble Caste had no use for me, now the Sweqhàngqu do not want me, there really is no need for me in the new family that Karuláta is forming, she has Puey, she doesn’t need me at all, in fact I’m rather in the way I can’t help them win the war and even when Puey does win I’ll always be a rememberance of the horror of the Pwéru that were a disgraced a shamed clan it will be rememberance of how I am not the bride of his family’s chosing, a foreigner, a stranger princess. Perhaps easier it would be just to tumble down the side of the cliff. It’s almost before me. The cliff just opening upwards. Nothing above me not sky. No, not even sky, but midnight. I remember the sky of Jaràqtu as it used to be, as the land was green within green the sky was blue within blue, the entire land was íyaxhat modheros grue. No more. No more. Even in the Midnight gloam I can see it, if only just a little. Not even the darkness of the ultimate hour can completely hide it. Swirling growing reaching tendrillar ice darkness. High. Above. One can see it above the heart of Jaràqtu, perhaps above the shattered silvern towers of Syárjha, the Temple my Grandfather Khyìlyikh desecrated. Darkness growing. Despair growing. Nightmare growing. My Father’s weapon, the one that Puey awakened. The Aûmfhaikh.
Princess Éfhelìnye came sliding down the side of the cliff, she was barely even trying to arrest her fall at this time, in fact the sheen and softness of the glissading ice was almost a comfort to her, she had always been quite fain of ice and snow, she who was the daughter of Kàrijoi Qhixiêthiin the Lord of Winter, and her tolerance for the cold was greater than the rest of those in the new dynasty she was founding, but spikes were arising up out of the ice at the face of the cliff, spikes bursting upwards and become horns and back and thorns in the armor of ancient ancestrial statues buried beneath the snow, and Éfhelìnye’s thoughts were turned not towards saving herself, but unto the frenzy of battle far below, for it occurred to her that perhaps at this very moment, as the huge war machines arose out of the ice and froth and wrath of the waves, that perhaps at this very moment a javelin were thirling Puîyus’ side, or a dart pierced his foot, or a sword glanced against his shoulder, and her eyen misted with tears, and she thought to herself that she just had to go down and see him and hold him, that perhaps she would have to call out for the doctor, who was that amiable and quite delightful doctor whom Puîyus had mentioned before, Khràkhoi of Khnìntha perhaps she would find him, yes she would have to live long enough to hold Puîyus and to save him, no, she would have to have all of her strength to run for the mganga medic, she could not possibly die now, she just didn’t have the time, especially with someone as important as saving Puîyus’ life. So as the lying and slumberent statues rippled out of the ice about her, she grabbed the side of their thorns and held on, and the cliffside broke apart, half the mountain face sliding downwards, snow cascading downwards, and with it came streams of pebbles which had once been the pathway and thousands of stone markers that lead the way, and the monstrious stone statues were falling in the sisúqe snowslide, in the sisùrtuqe avalanche, waves upon waves nifatömik pouring about her, and she clung to the growing thorns of the statues that were struggling to stand upwards even as the sea of ice collided against them all, and a thousand statues came rolling downwards, spears and swords and staves clattering and shattering.
The force of the fall was so great, that Princess Éfhelìnye found herself rolling around and around perhaps half a mile lower down the side of the mountain as ripple after ripple of snow spread out about her, but she held onto the greatest of the statues long enough to protect her from the worst of the blasts, and when the brittle thorns and spines of the statues broke apart from the snowfall, and the armor began unloosening, and statues collapsed, Éfhelìnye was at least protected from the worst of the blasts. She fell out of the statue and staggered upon the sinking and quaking and uneven ground, the snowquakes continuing to spread outwards, here in a lower slade of the mountain before the chasm leading unto the Sqasqáli seas. She shook her head, a few gasps of pollen and petals tumbling down about her, she did not bother brushing the snow off from her gown, for the snow upon her was changing and becoming luminous crystals, and ripples of halos. She kicked against the sand though and wondered to herself, Just what is Karuláta thinking when she wriggles around like that and exposes her stomache, I just can’t understand her sometimes, I thought I knew her, I thought I understood the aliens, I can’t even say that I understand Siêthiyal and Ixhúja anymore, they’re so kind to me, and yet in their kindness they can ignore me and wound me far more than any crimson steel, their words, their glances far keener than any cut. I’ll just have to find a way to force Karuláta to give up Puey, that’s all, it’s as simple as that. Éfhelìnye spun around, the ground was a ruin of snow and pebble and bits of road and statues upside down and buried upon their sides, broken weaponry and shattered statue all lying about, and she walked as if upon khàqwuyei, the wobbling movement of a ship, so the ground was shifting beneath her, and since she did not look behind her, but only forwards and down untowards the battle, she did not notice that of their own accord the statues sua sponte were arising and picking up their broken weapons and grabbing shattered arms and trying to set them back into place, statues were handing each other a bit of helmet and shoulder, and they were arising one again and forming themselves into lines, and were turning their heads towards them, and their faces were nothing but the pouring of blood, and they arose for to creep after the one whom Queen Khwofheîlya had bade them to find and crush and ring out her blood utterly as an offering unto the Ancestors of the Sweqhàngqu.
– Click click! Click click! Click click! –
Princess Éfhelìnye took a few steps forwards. The snow crackled before her, the snow was become like unto cobwebs spreading out before her rubescent ballet slippers. The snow behind her was arising in slight incense arrays, she tasted it a little but thought nothing of it, for she was not thinking about Ancestors at the moment or any of their machinations from their side of the greylands deep beneath the land beneath the seas. She wrinkled her nose, a beautiful and princessly look on her face, she who was born of the pure blood of the Pwéru, and gazed downwards and could better see the shores and the movement of the living ships and the Kháfha pouring out like insects before the invaders who were trying to take the fjords, and all Éfhelìnye could do was whimpering and her lips tremble and hope that she could see Puîyus at least once, but no, she feared to see him, for then he may be in danger in battle, or perhaps she’d see him just at the moment of his wounding of being carried away aloft in the arms of the soldiers and delivered acolyteweards better it would be not to see him, no I have to see him just one more time. Oh Puey, my Puey where are you can you see that I love you and I can’t do anything else but think about you and even our own family are become alien they don’t understand how I feel they just don’t care I feel broken and hurt all the time and all they care about are alliances and customs and I don’t care about any of that at all I just want to be with you all the time. Puey, can’t you see my heart, it must glow, I’m sure you can see its red glimmer even from where you struggle upon the sands, my spleen only has courage for you, my backbone is filled with longing and sweetness for you, my eyelids are filled with dreams of you, mine ears are filled with hope for you oh Puey oh Puey my Puey where are you, this is not my fault Puey I didn’t ask for this I didn’t ask for my parents to bare me and loathe me at my birth and prison me far away because I was just so hateful in their sight and unworthy of any affection at all I was content to dwell for even in those Sacred Gardens I wasn’t happy I would never claim to be completely happy just content just pleasant just dancing by myself beneath the starlight and in the company of the harmless female plantimals and the two Old Men to care for me it was not a bad life, just completely uneventful, no, it was unevented for nothing e'er happened to me not even once but that was fine with me I could sleep and I could dream and all of my dreams were for you and your kindness and your music and your winedark eyen and your sweet kisses and you came into my life I did not ask you to I was all alone don’t you understand how hurt I was there was nothing that could hurt me, there was nothing sharp in the gardens I could not even cut my finger on paper, the streams were three inches deep, everything was soft and round there was nothing that could hurt me, but you came, you looked at me, and I just knew that I would be lost in yoru arms, it was just another day, it was the darkness before the dawn and you had to come sweeping downwards in comet flames, you had to sneak among the Dragons, you turned and smiled at me and all at once it wasn’t my fault at all I never asked for it but I just knew that I would love you for all time, you kept resisting me you did not want mine arms about you you tried to stop me from kissing you but I just had to hold you for ever my heart was gnawing within me, your Sisters don’t understand why sometimes I just lie down and cry, and sometimes I have to laugh and dance and otherstimes I have to be alone, it’s all because of you you changed me you created the story of Puey and the Princess there would be nothing without you my heart is shattering within me my souls are like water flowing out from my fingers, my eyen burn with tears I don’t care about the war any longer, I tire of the alliances and elders, I wouldn’t mind if Ixhúja or Siêthiyal or Karuláta were in charge of the family or all three of them all I love is you I think it would be simpler just to out into war and fight hardened warriors and horrible war machines and terrifying monsters I don’t think that prophecy and doom are too bad in comparison to how I’m feeling your Sisters don’t know how it aches to be in love it’s grief and horror beyond understanding there thoughts are to wild plantimals and war and toys and floppy hats and I don’t even know what Karuláta is thinking she’s probably the same Kàrula and running around and collecting candies and playing with the Traîkhiim my heart is just bleeding outwards Puey when you left for battle I never even had a chance to say goodbye to you what if you were hurt grievous what if you were no I cannot even contemplate such a doom why won’t they tell me when you leave for battle why am I kept prisoned high within the towers of the fortress it’s another form of the Forbidden Gardens just trapped up there I’m haunted now that you’re gone why couldn’t you just go riding out to wave unto me I don’t care at all about the isolation customs that the Elders of your people are instilling as they create their own mirror of the Pwéru I just want to be around you all the time I cannot bare to think of some monster abducting you and taking you away better for the monster to take me always better for the dragon to swoop down and chase me I know I can survive just long enough for you to rescue me but if you were taken away I don’t know what I’d do I cannot think of any mercy or pity at all if you were dragged away from me any creature that would dare to touch you just deserves to die no it should be rent apart and tormented how dare it lay tendril upon your person I cannot think of flames enough or void enough in Òrator for one that would harm you does Karuláta know how I feel would she cross the worlds just to save you would she travel upwards in light and quest and all those other maidens who have kissed you before they are just herds of duckbilled dinosaurs and birds they don’t know how I’ll rip down the doors of a fortress to find you, or at least pick the lock, they don’t understand how I’d cast all mine enemies down before me, I’ll teach them pain and horror I’ll teach them I don’t understand, I’ve heard this several times, it’s almost a legend, a mantra xhmoâkhri liturty that when you were younger so delighted were you by ritual and incense and the stories of the Holy Writ and helping others that you were fain of the holy sylvanhood as if you were to enter their circles I don’t quite understand how you would find appeal in there even if you were not the heir of your Clan your Father’s only Son why even think of tyàstema of becoming a priest and being celibate you are fated to be betrothed and married unto me and there can be no denying of that not not in heaven or mountain or vale and shore and wave and deep, no you must be mine for ever and ever and there will be no arguments, no compromise whatsoever, your winedark blue eyen your melancholy tresses, your blood lips, your snow skin they all belong to me in fact they’ve always belonged to me it’s just that no one else has managed to recognize that until now but I’ll make everyone else acknowledge it this will be the story we shall be the first and prime and true Love Story fhárs lraôn jhyákh xhàxhel xhwí áye pwùtlhei ours shall be the story where everything just ends up perfect ours shall be the myth that demonstrates love at its most powerful and sweetest and noblest and purest, our love shall not just be an expression, an emotion, it shall not just be action and life, our love shall be sacrament, and that sacrament qtiêfhexing shall be the element that changes and engenders all thing, it shall be the love that sustains all these iron mounts and the falling snow it shall revitalize these dead forests and crumbling skeleton trees, in this love all things shall bloom and stone shall be set again upon stone, new civilizations shall arise, clouds shall be the glories of petal and pollen and blossom, the dreamlands shall engreen again, all things shall be garden, all things one in the light of my love for you, rarest and most perfect of all
What is that terrible noise?
Princess Éfhelìnye spun around and found that the snow had been exploding behind her for some time even as the ancient blood statues of the Ancestors had been arranging themselves in battle for some time, she saw that the statues were reassembled as best they could, shattered limbs and limping legs and loose weapons tumbling about them, they were lurching upwards and preparing for to attack, but it was not the movement and the coming of the statues that was drawing her attention, nor the great growing clouds of snow that were arising from before their thunderous stone legs, but rather the movement inside the snow, and the crawling shadows within the faces that were naught but stains of wound and blood.
– Click click! Click click! Click click! –
How can one describe that noise, perhaps I can device some sort of mathematical representation of this clicking it sounds a little like unto xòxoam crepitation the bones scraping together and yet a slight echoing sound rolling out from it, one could liken it unto the twining of tangent waves and
– Click click! Click click! Click click! –
Princess Éfhelìnye was thrown down to her side, for the rolling thunder of the snow as just too great, and the marching of the statues behind her was all kicking aside the snow in ripples and ripples and ripples growing, and the coming of the echolation song was growing all the louder so that her ears rang, sometimes she could hear the clicking xaxayàjhwen clycksōn it was a shark sound cutting through her mind, and yet othertimes she could just feel it, as if glass tremors were set somewhere in her brain and were tickling her, or if some cold and sharp music were creeping right unto her heart and tormenting her with slight pangs. For as the statues arose before her and were unslinging their tremendous axes and their brand edges and their great blurs of rust and might, some of the largest of the statues were arising and slowly breaking apart, it was as if they were hatching and spilling out from them were deep black sinews, and the outline of jaw and wing. Some of the great statues were falling unto their sides and bursting out from their backs came long spared wings the flesh of which was all frost and mud, and other statues were turning around and their heads were shooting off from them, claws were grooving outwards from the edge and gouging out from the stone neck, and large and skulllike heads were arising, a slight sheen and slime dribbling off from them. Éfhelìnye was running down the collapse of the snow hill, the bulk of the ancestrial statues still continuing in their chase and hunt of her, but several large creatures were arising out of the shells of the statue, and one arose and drew up its serpentile neck and revealed an head which was all bone and horns and without a single eye, it staggered for a few moments with large and almost asymmetrical wings until it collapsed upon its side and learned to use the claws at the edge of the wings as toes and legs, and from several more statues more of these creatures were appearing, they were almost in the shape of small dragons of the right side to be ridden as palfreys xeqhósi, but unlike Dragons they were not shaped of flame and weather and rainbow, these were creatures whose skin was dreams of frost and mud, and they broke out of the statues and struggled to run upon the snow. Éfhelìnye turned back and saw several more serpentile heads arising, and the creatures were turning their heads from side to side and crying out their clicks on all directions, and at once she was reminded of when Puîyus had tempted to teach her how to swim in the oceans of Khàtsar whose beaches were lined of sands of many colors, and Puîyus held her all the while and kept her safe in his arms even as he dove deep into the waves, and she had observed the ichthyosaurs and the mollusks and the great orcs of Tèkhom the Deep, and listened unto their clicking song one to another, and hypothesized about the various types of clicks that they formed and how they must used sound and music to watch one another in the gathering darkness, so too at once the drakelike creatures were suggested themselves to her, and as they began scrambling outwards upon their wings and were turning their sightless heads from side to side, suddenly all at once they turned in the same direction right untowards her, and their clicking grew all the louder. They appeared rather familiar unto her, Éfhelìnye was thinking that she had seem pictures of these beings in the illuminated manuscripts she had seen in the Abby of Saint Kàtriqan, they were twilit creatures whose name she could not quite grasp, what was it, she thought of xhyiê throwing snowballs and xhyí giggles and of xhyiêrxhni communal rooms for the family, and at once the name Xhyiênxhi came unto her the Spirit Mud Dragon, and her heart skipped a beat for joy to think that she had remembered that word. And the Xhyiênxhi arose and roared right untowards her and smashed through several different statues and began running right towards her, and were swinging their wings and long impaling claws from side to side.
Éfhelìnye spun around and run and decided that she would save some of her linguistic joy with Puîyus when she found him and when she hoped she found him unscathed by the horrors of war, and the mud drakes were dashing downwards faster and faster, they were the very center of the snow collapse reaching out unto her, their heads wobbling from side to side, their wings sweeping at her, and unto other side were come the lines of the statues, shields and spears and swords at the ready march march march through the snowcrunch and the mountain collapse rumble rumble rumble rumble
Éfhelìnye could feel that the ancestrial statues and the huge Xhyiênxhi mud drakes were gaining on her, she tried running and skating down the side of the snow as quickly as she could, but the statues were trembling outwards in such force that they did not care whether they were starting another avalenche greater and more terrible than before, in fact they were pounding the ground with their huge stone legs, and they were hacking at the ice with their broken axes and shattered brands to ensure that the snow continued to roll and fall in growing waves of mountain, and the Xhyiênxhi were not even creatures of the mortal planes, they were just roaring and half running half flying, and so cold was the air that the slime and mud that made up their hame was changing into an endless series of frost and pels so that as the mud drakes came crashing downwards the frost continued to break apart at their wings and spars and grow back again, the very stuff of the mountain and frost becoming part of their flesh and then shattering out from them. All of the ground was trembling, shatterations of ice and sky iron and rock were rolling about Éfhelìnye and falling faster than she could run and glissade, every few moments some stray boulders came rolling unto one side of her and with it came a wake of ice tumbling downwards, and she skidded unto another side and ducked just as several smaller ripples of ice and broken weapons and pebbled pathways flowed to another side. She tried not to look back because the sight was alaruming her, but she had to see where the statues were collapsing in their desparation to grasp her, and each time she stole a glance closer and closer the ancestors were come. She lost her footing and came rolling out unto one side. Several tsunami of ice came waving right o'er her, she had to yank herself out before becoming too crushed and just forced herself not to fight to ice but to continue sliding down the side. The face of the mountain was bouncing around her. The snow was forcing itself unto the long and winding dale that lead unto the sea. Some of the smaller stone statues were too assaulted by the growing avalenche to be able to run and fight anymore, they just came crashing downwards and were doing their best to crush the Princess in their fall, and she kept having to duck in the growing dust cloud inundating her, as one statue after another came rolling about her and broke apart into thousands of pieces, broken helmets and shields were as rainfall and shattered at the crags of the mountain. She looked back. The herd of the Xhyiênxhi was filling up most of her sight, the mud spirits were almost in a wild panick as the snow blossomed behind them in huge and growing rondures. The statues were running unto all sides of them, and some of the greater statues, older and gnarled and cunning with age realized that if they took their impaling spears and jabbed the Xhyiênxhi, it would cause all the herd to scream all the louder and panick all the more and threaten the Princess and crush her. Éfhelìnye was running out of ideas on how to avoid this growing avalenche, she wished that she could just throw herself o'er the edge of the cliff and open up wings and flutter away, why even the Traîkhiim in their current state of Trakàtriim transformation were wellwinged and e'er since she was a little child she had dreamt for wings and hoped to fly, a fey hope indeed as all hope is. The Xhyiênxhi were screaming out their clicks and their wings were grating against the stone sides of the cañons, they were bringing down columns of stone and precious iron with them. One of the Ancestrial Statues leapt up onto the wings of a Xhyiênxhixing and jabbed it several more times with a spear, and the mud drake screamed out and launched itself high into the air and right towards Éfhelìnye. She fell down upon the growing upswiftdraft of the snowwave, and for a moment huge claws crashed down right before her, but she slid down through the gapes beneath the claws and rolled outwards even as the tsenaxhyiênxhi was shaking and faltering. Several of the mud drakes were sliding off of the avalenche cliffs and the growing waves of ice. The ancestrial statues were picking up snow and throwing it right into the bone crests of the Xhyiênxhi and ending their clicking and their marvelous sound, the ground was breaking apart as some of the Xhyiênxhi were falling right on top of each other, a growing pack of chaos and panic and agony. Éfhelìnye was sliding down a swell of ice and saw that she was heading right down towards the shore and hoped that this avalenche would soon ellicite someone’s attention, for behind her the avelenche of statues of spirits was stretching up and filling up all of the vale, and more and more of the cliffs were shaking from side to side and collapsing downwards. She found in the growing swell the flotsom of shattered armor and stone and bits of leg and arm of the statues, few of the statues were surviving the tumult of both mountain and the Xhyiênxhi, and for a moment Éfhelìnye felt very sad, as she saw the ribbons and jewels of the Clan Sweqhàngqu glistening free upon the snows, for she knew that Puîyus would consider it sacriledge even though he was no longer of the sacred Sweqhàngqu but now of the holy Pwéru a Son of the Sun. She heard the sound of clicking growing louder behind her, and in the growing chaotic reverberation of the snow a rhythmic sound, claws striking the snow with dread purpose. She turned back and was both glad and not that she did, o'er her shoulders she was warned of a danger she almost wished she did not know. The gigantic tonitruant Xhyiênxhi were stampeding in the avalenche, wild and reckless their huge wings were smacking into the snow, their claws were kicking up ripples of snow and debris, and yet between their thunderous wings smaller Xhyiênxhi were sliding and running and aiming themselves lithe and fleet right towards the Princess, and unlike their greater brethren they were able to duck and change direction quite quickly, so they were not crashing into each other or into the snowbanks, they were lunging outwards right towards the Princess. Éfhelìnye tried to run faster, but she felt a pang in her stomache and knew that all this extra exertion was causing her stitches to weaken a little. Several smaller mud drakes slipped among sea of wing, and the sound of the clicking and the movement of the dark sinews was a deep and percussive music which reminded her of the drumming that besaged sacrifice. The xhyiênxhi slid up unto either side of her and were snapping at her with their wings and snarling with their clicks. Éfhelìnye slipped unto one side, she was far smaller than they were, and a lifetime’s of ballet made her even nimbler than any Xhyiênxhi slime spirit, she could run upon her toes without tiring and spin around upon the smallest of crashing ice surfaces while the Xhyiênxhi were still limited by the cold upon their mud spirit bodies. She ducked among the spinning wings and then slide between their legs and ran out right before them, and found herself now withinthe very heart of the avalenche. The smaller Xhyiênxhi had to spin around a few times before turning and locating her, but already she was in the lead. Several smaller Xhyiênxhi were swallowed up at once by the subsequent crashes of ice, but Éfhelìnye did not stay long enough to watch the tumult, nor did she spare a peak, with cold resolve she was planning how she was going to survive the growing waves of ice and the seas of crashing wings about her. She heard the coming of clicks behind her, and suddenly impaling spears were landing right before her, she knew that her persuers were not too far behind her. She slid down to one side, several gigantic Xhyiênxhi crashed behind her as with despariate wings they tried to snatch her up, but only succeeded in crashing against each other and impaling each other with their bone crests. The Princess was sliding from side to side as she slid down the ice, ducking and dodging and changing directions and barely avoiding being hit again and again. Several long and freezing tendrils of ice arose to one side of it, she could see their tottering for a few moments before the ice came falling downwards and shattered against stone and ruins. Behind her she heard the gruff cry that could only come from the voices of things that breathed stone and the clicks of blind creatures that belonged in spirit realms.
– Empress! Empress! Empress! –
– Click click! Click click! Click click! –
Éfhelìnye looked o'er her shoulder and stuck out her tounge and cried – Go away! I’m not supposed to talk to strangers. –
– Die! Die! Die! –
– Click click! –
– I’m too busy for that, I have to go see Puey! – Éfhelìnye spun around and ignored the pain in her stomache. She was having to weave in between the collapsing forest of ice as well as the wings of the xhyiênxhi that were gaining upon her. Spears came whipwhizzing unto either side of her, swords collapsing just a few inches from her legs and side, and behind her she could hear the growling of huge bone crests. She swung unto one side and a xhyiênxhi barely missed catching her, and she almost tripped as a stone statue rolled outwards and tried to snap her in two at her ankles. The statue rolled aside and was trampled to bits by several xhyiênxhi and the waves of snow stoneque.
– Master Puîyos is not for you! – whispered the stone statues. – Despair and die … –
– Click click! –
– I think not! – cried Éfhelìnye. – You sure are loquatious for statues. –
– His bride has already been chosen for him, she is his … – hissed the statues.
– I’ll unchoose her! – Éfhelìnye cried back. A few more statues fell about her, their wound stained heads exploding against the fang creags. – I’ll be the Empress, I’ll be the patroness of love and marriage! –
– She is his. –
– I won’t share. Can’t you see that I’m busy slidng down the mountain, plus I’ve been thinking about the next scene that I’m going to write and it doesn’t involve petrescent wihts like you. Do you have just have images bubbling within you, and you have to hop from side to side with barely contained dance for all of your thoughts churn and create out of some simple lines tapestries of fields and poems of cities and scene after scene of battle or exploration or love, and when you finally have a moment, perhaps quiet or even in chaos and storm to jot it down it becomes far more wonderous than what perculated before, such are the scenes that are come to me now. Do you e'er feel that way? –
– No. –
– Not e'er? –
– Never. –
– Such a pity that is – Éfhelìnye chanted as she was running before the collapsing xhyiênxhi unto all sides of her. She dodged several more rolling and impaling spears. She could see that some of the smaller xhyiênxhi were being ridden like unto lrìxhe destriren eoh as a Knight doth, the stone statues were slapping the wings and jabbing with their spears and before the huge waves of ice and shaft and time were trying to outpace and crush the Princess. – I suppose none of you are writers. –
– We are statues – thundered the stone. – We have neither heart nor imagination. –
– Nor love? –
– Nor love. –
– Everything is capable of love. –
– Not we. Prepare to die. Puîyos scion shall be born through the wife of our choosing. –
– Nope. He’s mine. Why don’t you just leave me alone? Go bother someone else – Éfhelìnye slid to one side as broken swords and rusted knives came collapsing about her and almost knicked her. – How I would hate to be an ensorcelled statue, what type of existence must you have, waking and feeling your stone bodies and the movement of your joints and knowing that your purpose this hour is to hunt down a maiden and keep her from her true love, how bleak is that? Can’t you go and form some other stampede? –
– Death to the Empress! – shouted the statues.
– Fairwell! – cried Éfhelìnye and she jumped down and began sliding down the steeper banks of the growing avalenche.
– End the Pwéru for ever! – cried the statues, and the xhyiênxhi were launching themselves right at her. The ground was breaking apart like ice skin, and pouring out from the groove were come large and twitching legs which were reaching outwards and trying to trip her. Éfhelìnye slid down to her left, the legs were just barely missing her and were soon being covered in the growing layers of snow, the xhyiênxhi were rolling upon their sides, their spirit wings crackling and breaking, the smaller ones were leaping upwards and bringing down the stone statues upon them. Éfhelìnye looked around and saw that from the grooves great spidiers were arising and walking outwards upon tall and spindly and uncertain legs, and she was forcing herself not to think about how much she truly disliked spiders no matter of what size and shape and layer of hairy multieyed grotesqueness. Giantic xhyiênxhi collapsed right before her, their claws were lashing from side to side, the statues were almost about her thrashing. The spiders were arising in the waves of the ice and were swimming upon each other and almost grasping her. Everything was almost become an abstraction of avalenche and horror at this point, the coming waves of frost and ice were all revealing themselves before her to be the faces of the statues and the bleeding where eyen should be, the mude drakes were crashing against the walls and the snow and into each other, some of the spirits were shattered apart, their bones and dust inside pouring outwards, and they fell faster and faster. With a sickening lurch several of the xhyiênxhi rolled out unto the sides of the crags, and Éfhelìnye found that rolling down unto either side of her were their shattered skulls and bits and pieces of their wings and claws. The statues were screaming outwards, their limbs breaking apart, and rolling about them were herds of the spiders, the living and the dead all mashed together, wounded Xhyiênxhi and dying spiders falling downwards, and the stone statues continued to arise one by one and taking up their spears were jabbing at anything that moved, wither spirits or spider or stray leaf, so wrath were they and eager to obey the commandent of Khwofheîlya the Queen of the Dead. For a few stray and mad moments Éfhelìnye almost thought that the stone statues had to be blind, she was not sure how stone to see whether or not they sported eyen that were blood wounds, but they were turning towards her again and again no matter how quietly she tried to slide and run, and the spiders were pouring down through the peaks of the mountain and about the cliffsides and the xhyiênxhi were coming and hissing louder and louder and clicking all the while.
– The Pwéru have failed – hissed the Ancestrial statues. – The Sweqhàngqu must rule and dominate all things. Surrender and we shall award you a quick and painless death! –
– Sorry, but no! – shouted Éfehlìnye. She tried to sound confident as spiders gigantic and roaring were sliding down unto either side of her, and while the snows were opening upwards and revealing within them them long and blue claws. She hoped they were not what they turned out to be, the long claws of so many tlhàrtyo ocean spiders lifting themselves up out of the snows, and they came rolling downwards kamener-vor and threw themselves towards her. Éfhelìnye was sliding downwards and just barely being caught up by the spiders, and she saw that in the exploding crags before her some gigantic sea scorpions were arising and snarling at her with their stinging tails and were wriggling outwards right untowards her. – I’ll have you know that I intend to die of old age along with Puey, and we’ll be surrounded by children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and possibly a great-great grandchild, I haven’t quite decided yet. I don’t think I’d make a great heavenly martyr, another solar virgin flickering in the coronæ of the Suns, I think I’d be better suited to be the new Empress of the Land. –
– Be still, little child, and in our mercy we shall permit you to be a ghost to visit Puîyos in the years to come – hissed the stone statues. – Rejoice that you may be one to guard the children he shall have by Akhlísa, and you may guard their grandbairnen and great-great-greatbairnlings … –
– Oh I refuse to let the story end that way – Éfhelìnye cried, and the mountain was collapsing about her, and her enemies were come in far too great an horde for her to avoid them any longer. Smaller spiders were wrapping about her legs, sea scorpions were swinging their claws at her, and all the while the great Xhyiênxhi mud drakes were come right behind her, clicking all the louder, and the statues were reaching out to grab her with their rusted gauntlets. But in the end, if this were to be her end, Éfhelìnye did not wish to die in despair, she thought of her life as a work of art, and however it was she was fated to die, let it be at least for true love. – We all know that Puey and I must die in each others’ arms, it useless to think otherwise. I pity the rest of you, you vile hordes and thoughtless monsters, you creatures of sterility and darkness, you cannot feel the purity that I know. –
– However you feel, so shall Akhlísa, the bride of our choosing – hissed the statues, and all around them the ground swell avalenche was exploding in tops, and leaping out were gigantic spiders to terrible that they were dragging down some of the smaller xhyiênxhi and ripping them apart, and if the xhyiênxhi had not been spirit creatures, when they were torn asunder they would have been undone, but as it was they just twitched and screamed a little and had to resemble somewhere screaming beyond the lairs. Sea scorpions were sliding down the sides of the xhyiênxhi, Princess Éfhelìnye was doing her best not to trip through the growing realms of snow and ice, but all about her she saw the shadows of huge centipedes and slaying mantises, and all of them were dancing upwards to the everpresent clicking sounds of the frost Xhyiênxhi, spears were tumbling down right towards her, and she that in the waves of the sea scorpions and the fluttering of gigantic crabs that the greatest of the Xhyiênxhi were arising, and tall and majestic upon them were trails of stone statues, and at the head of the statues stood a creature which could only be a Shade glaring down upon her, tall and princely, smoke was his cloak and horns and claw were his crown, translucent his body was, for he was not of this world, and a steady breath of incense arose from his lips, and he was holding his spear and preparing for to strike at the Princess. Éfhelìnye tried to keep dodging from side to side, the firstfruits of spears were tumbling about her, spiders and sea scorpions were crawling down to her and snatching her up, and the Xhyiênxhi crashed down and smashed some of the spiders and swept her up in their claws. Éfhelìnye saw the ghost who was riding the Xhyiênxhi and knew that she had seen statues of him, surely this was an Ancestor of the Sweqhàngqu whom she had seen in images of statues before, a King in the days of old, someone famous, she knew, perhaps the illustrious king who had ruled during the age of the Shield Maidens. Èmfha, yes, that was his name. The Spiders threw their pincers about her. Éfhelìnye was tossed up high into the air, the Xhyiênxhi caught her up. Yes, King Èmfha Empúqher Khlùsyus Khmùsqus Khnàsyo, the great king of the Sweqhàngqu from so long ago. The xhyiênxhi fell upon her. The chasms all opened upwards. The avalenche reached the cliffside that spanned above the shores, and beneath them the Kháfha were struggling against invading hordes of Qája and Ìthikusan raiders. The Princess could feel that all of the avalenche was falling off the mountain and in the air, beneath her tonnes of ice were falling and supported by nothing at all. The stone statues were reaching out for her. She was struck in several directions. The King was arising. Everything was leaping on high, the spiders and sea scorpions in a frenzy, the stone statues reaching upwards among the Xhyiênxhi spirits, all clicking and ululating the while.
Inundation of white
All white. The gardens. Great-Uncle Táto walking. White. The color of enlightenment. All the world awhite. The imperial tutor, of the house of the divine Pwéru, reaches o'er to pluck a few qthoâkhtu snowdrops. Petals drifting outwards. White.
Éfhelìnye, the girl in my dreams, or Eilyorieyána or Qwasáta or whatever you wish to call her, walks in the glittering Palace Gardens with her Teachers.
Éfhelìnye, thou must have needs for to learn to live with your choices, spake Pátifhar the Old Priest. Thine Ancestors did, thy Mother did, and so must everyone else. The decisions thou makest now, though young, will mold thee for the rest of thy life.
Éfhelìney gazes upon the opening white flowers scattered around her Home.
Thus spake the Prophet