Princess Éfhelìnye found it easy to run out of the griannan and did not have too far to go, and since there were few Eunuchs and Vestal Virgins from whom to hide, and the only other inhabitants of the harīm had been the Traîkhiim refugees who in their thousands were at Akhlísa’s celebration at this very moment, and the Princess was thinking the Traîkhiim were probably all laughing and hailing Akhlísa as the younger and prettier and cleverer wife, and lauding her golden hair too boot, so Éfhelìnye did not have to hide from too many others. She did not wish to exit from the main gates for she knew that Kháfha swordsmen would be guarding there, and the moment she stepped out the priests would know and start bowing unto her, she would have to slip out a window or perhaps one of the side doors, yes, an unguarded but locked door which lay closer to the inner halls. It only too a few moments of searching to find a suitable window, she could not find a single door whereby to leave this labryinthe xhùjhwexing parthenṓn, but a window would do, and she came up unto a large ledge and pressed her hands against the window and found it all sealed in a variety of locks all twisting together and grinding their fangs. She smiled unto herself and looking through the window saw that it was gazing right up unto the pyramid where her beloved had come lest that the fhàxhos slaves die alone, and she knew that no lock had been invented by mortal smith or automaton or imperial mad scientist which could separate her too long from Puîyus Íngìkhmar’s Son. She let a few tools slip out of her sleeves and at once touched the edge of the glass. The window was reacting a little to her, the windows of the harem could detect that a female was touching them and that moreover she was the First Wife of the Harem, so the glass did not turn and invert itself and try to cut her as it would have most others who had no business disturbing them. The locks did not give away at first, Éfhelìnye had to play with them. She wondered how the window would react to Akhlísa, for the windows would surely smell of her that she was the Mistress of the Harem, the Emperor’s own Senior Concubine, at least in title, and Éfhelìnye did not know the answer to her question and what exactly the walls of the harem knew of the women within it, she was too busy opening up the clockwork one by one, and thinking about how although she was not happy for any other woman to have Puîyus’ name, if she had to chose someone it would be Akhlísa, she could keep the name and nothing else, and Puîyus is just beyond, upon the flashing steps of the teocalli just up and beyond. And the locks slid open one by one and the window came sliding open, and Éfhelìnye slipped right out of the ledge, and looking down saw the long strands of grasses and rohr of a long-dead garden, and she closed the window behind her and locked it back up, lest anyone discover which window she had used to seek to barricade it, and she jumped down into what had once been qràsa greenery bluery. And she turned and ran unto the ziggarat.
The blood sacrifices she could not see from this distance, just the long winding bridge that came from this iron summit of the mountain and wound upwards unto the next fang mountain, for spans and bridges reached upwards at this height and held together the various nations of the ancient rath together, all she could see was that coming down the steps of the pyramid were blushes of light that were the torches that the priests were holding and the painted lanthorns of the acolytes, and that the lights were moving downwards and the deep intonation was come unto her. Fires were mounting upon the summit of the pyramid. She saw not the dead bodies, but even from this distance she could see slight trickles of red running down the grooves of the pyramid, and the entire ziggarat was gleaming with with a slight rubby color. Red was after all the color of holiness, it was the color of blood and life, and it was her own color also, Emperor Eilasaîyan had been flame of hair and the color in his descent sometimes appeared in their hair and sometimes as their lips, but it was always there, and when Kàrijoi had been the Crown Prince long and fiery had been his tresses, and when a man a long red beard he had sported, and now his Daughter had tresses as red as her Ancestors. Éfhelìnye looked down to her gown, it was golden and white and sparkling a little in the darkness, but when sad clouds obscured the light of the moons, even her garment was darkening. She thought it interesting that red was considered one of the three colors of her family, that there were even words to describe this, pwerxéjiko and pwerxhróra, the royal colors of red and gold and white, and she had worn white everyday of her life, with trimmings of red and gold. At least her necklace permitted her a little blue and green and violet and orange. But red had to have its place, bright and prominent upon her head, the red of the sacrificial blood, the red that was the heart of her family. Perhaps rubescence was just part of the creation of the Dreamtime, she was wondering, for the same reason that there must be an Emperor and Empress for the Dreamtime to exist, just as blood was necessary for the Suns to shine and the earth to give life, just so red had to be part of the Clan whose task it was to oversee the health of all the Dreamtime, the Land of Story. But such thoughts could not occupy her all this long midnight, she knew, she had to reach the pyramid and maybe prevent Puîyus from going to the party, or at least meet him there and prevent whatever it was that Akhlísa was intending. Anyway, if I cannot have Puey, I shall never permit anyone else to have him, he is mine for ever, and I’ll remind everyone else of that if I must. Thèplie. Thèplie. Tsenathèplie. Thepliêxing. Kiss of peace, betrothal kiss, one’s true love, I’ve always liked the euphony of that word, that’s the reason I created it, proclame I that I am the forger of the word thèplie, it just rolls right off the tounge thèp-li-e, yet I am not sure all of the words have such morphological beauties unto them, I am completely innocent of any dishonor against the music of language, even thepliepèrakhu is quite a beautiful word, lovers’ suicide, I don’t quite remember the creative moment of joy for the logogenesis, someties several different words come unto me, less worthy, less beautiful not as satisfactory I must taste them all I must feel out the word and know it and make it mind the various morphological and etymological poetries until at last come unto words that are suitable unto Puey and all of the beauties of our worlds.
It did not take Princess Éfhelìnye, Khnoqwísi’s only child, the bride of the viceroy kingdoms to come running down unto the bridges that were spanning upwards unto the great blooddripping jhonánti tlhùkhmos jhkhòtas ptiê, the ziqquratu teocalli drawing upwards in triangles and hexagons bright. She just ran untowards the red light and at last came unto where the bridges were meeting the steps, and a thousand voices were arising about her, and the drums were already dying away. Near the top of the pyramid she could see that some of the sacrificial priests were ygarbed in long robes of feather and masques were completely covering their faces, and their headdresses were wavering from side to side, in spangles of feathers and ribbons and beads, but the scozsctick rites were complete, and the bodies of the honored slaves were being wrapped up in white sheets and given unto the arms of the acolytes so that some of their bones and skulls would be preserved and set up as monuments for their honor, and their flesh would be burnt and made into the blood and smoke of the Suns. From the distant bridges Éfhelìnye could not see too well what the priests were doing, she just saw their outline, the flash of their headdress and feathers and the movement of the robes and the acolytes dashing from side to side, she was hoping that at some point she would see Puîyus somewhere in the higher echelons of the pyramid, and then she would just come running up the winding steps unto him, but she saw him not, all she could see was that a long line of acolytes and priests were forming, and they were taking up their cymbols and drums and were beginning to march down the pyramid and take up the bundles of the bodies of the khmaitlhòrfhaxhos, the honored fhàxhos slaves of the Qája Jhpokhefhóri, she could see the wavering of the painted lanthorns and the torches casting long and splashing and weird specters of light all about, the faces of the monks and acolytes and priests were all sad and even the red-robed raven priests were wearing masques of downcast countinence, so that all the growing shadowrs in the flicker of the flames also somehow seemed sad unto Princess Éfhelìnye’s eyen, and she saw that most of the monks were of the Kháfha folk, their ninefold pupils looking downwards, their wings wavering from side to side, the robes shuffling, she knew she did not quite know how to read their facial expression from just a single day of dwelling outside of her Father’s imagination, she knew it would be folly to guess too much, but she could just feel the sadness rippling out from them, and the acolytes some of them were of the natal Jaràqtun people, fourth or fifth Sons born to a clan back in the days when the clans had been wealthy in children, and so such acolytes tended to be of an older generation, at least of Íngìkhmar’s tide, Éfhelìnye could see, but others of the acolytes were of the Khlitsaîyart and even a few of the Qája drones, and the priests were among the Qhíng and the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu, for at least in the caste apart ángajo in tofhenókeqor the First Estate of oratores the Qhíng and the Aûm had historically been able to work together tentacle in tentacle. As they were coming downwards Éfhelìnye turned around and hid in the forest of horns and columns that arose at the side of the pyramid, and planned she to wait for Puîyus to come walking by, and thought she in the imagination of her heart that this would surely be a plan which could not fail. And all of the holy men were lifting up their voices and singing the Death Songs which the faithful slaves had been singing when they clomb up the pyramid to become part of the Household of the Sun, and so the slaves would never be forgotten, nor would their song be permitted to die, and the music was deep and sad and triumphant, and hearing it Éfhelìnye wished she had an ear for music.
Thusly, so Éfhelìnye was thinking unto herself, surely it would come to pass. Puîyus would be walking perhaps at the end of this most solumn of processions, and she would just slip in behind him. Perhaps she would surprise him, she would run right up to him and tap upon upon the shoulder, and when he spun around in surprise she’d throw herself into his arms and let her hold her and cuddle her and sweep her off her feet with great imperial kisses. Or perhaps, she was thinking unto herself, she would tap Puîyus on the shoulder and when he turned around she would hide, mayhap behind these very columns or she would make sure that he saw but but she would run down the steps of the pyramid and he would have to give chase, and just as Éfhelìnye had let Ixhúja chase her about through the halls and the old and sad garrets of the forgotten towers, so too she’d let Puîyus run after her and hunt her down, but she would not run too fast because she wanted him to catch him, a silly thought she knew, for Puîyus could outrun wild deer and giraffes and dinosaurs, he could catch her whenever he pleased, he who had bested the Qrór racer runners and the Qrúr interceptors and the most insouciant and wheeled Syìplet poploe as they dashed throughout all of the Holy City of Eilasaîyanor, and so at last, ineluctable indeed, Puîyus would be forced to sweep her up into his arms and kiss her right on the lips, and she did not care whether any of the priests and scribes and elders saw her, she thought that all the world should know about her love, or, mayhap, she was thinking to herself, she would sneak up behind Puîyus but he would not be humming the death dirge, but listening he would hear the beating of her heart and her breath and so she would be unable to surprise him, then she would have no choice at all but to run right towards the priests and monks, and in the confusion of drums and masques and sounding bells, Puîyus would give chase and be slowed down, she was wondering just how far down the side of the pyramid she would be able to reach before he managed to catch her, she was thinking she could make it about a third of the way down, but if she cheated and kept ducking about the priests that would afford her a few more seconds, perhaps she would be able to slide down another third of the way before his strong hand clasped upon his, and then she could pretend to faint, usually that worked, or she could just pretend to fall and throw herself into his arms, she noticed that Puîyus did not know the difference to falling by accident and falling on purpose so as to land in his arms, he reacted the same way, and then she would draw her lips closer to his and really he would have no choice at all but to kiss her with the sweetness of his mouth.
Puîyus was nowhere in sight. The line of sages just continued, ourobouros and kairotic and everlabyrinthine before her, a shuffling of sandles and robes and feathers, a living wall composed of various men of various races of the last few generations, the music soft and deep and somber upon their lips and beaks and celia, and not any Puîyus at all within them. Éfhelìnye in the shadows of her hiding kept looking up in fearful anticipating, she saw some shadows shuffling up towards her, some Qhíng Swòngturakh swaying from side to side, and behind their feathercrests she thought she saw the movement of damasked sleeves, and a golden torq, but it was just an acolyte among the Kháfha coming upwards and carrying a table and upon lay the bodies of the fhàxhos slaves draped in white shrouds, and dead claws and pincers were reaching out unto the Princess, and she saw the movement of some tall Qája drones creeping down some long and winding steps, saw she the outline what had had to be some braids twisting in the winds, and in the midnight halflight she was almost certain that the hair was melancholy blue, íngìkhmu the color which men called kòwaya Sweqhangquyejìkhufhein, the arbar silver of the children of the Sweqhàngqu, but as the monks came nigh sleeve unto her, she saw that Kháfha were passing, and their feathers were long violet queues bobbling down the sides of their heads, and no young Puîyus did she see. She searched for his face many times, several times thought she that she saw the spilling of a dreamcloak rippling with images of flowers and grasses and cherry lotos blossoms, but they were just the robes of the priests, several times thought she that she saw the glistening green swords which Fhèlkhur the faithful servant of Mother Khwofheîlya had commissioned for her only Son, and one the swords were finished Fhèlkhur had taken his own honored life so that he may be buried with his Mistress and her parents Khangisqrírles and Xhàtrajhil, and these twin glass swords Puîyus wore to this day at his belt, and sometimes she could see sparkles of green and vinery about these brands, and such a light she was seeing now, but they were the catafalques that the priests were carrying and not swords, and within the glistening skeletal metal lay the bodies of slaves of this generation who had died out of lealty to their masters, and when the priests were carrying the sacrificial knives upon their pillows, sometimes for a moment Éfhelìnye fancied that she could see Puîyus arising somewhere and cleaning and polishing, but alas saw she him nowhere at all, no matter how many times her heart fluttered and she lost her breath and just had to hope and wonder for him, and never did he come. And in her disappointment the Princess was wondering whether others had e'er felt the same way, had e'er sought for one’s beloved in a crowd and looked at a thousand faces and tried to find just one, who had heard the movement of shuffling sandles and tentacles and webbed feet and turned in expectation each time, but he never came. And as the line of holy men was drawing to an end and Éfhelìnye was seeing Puîyus nowhere at all, a new idea came unto her, she was thinking that she would just have to slip into the line and follow them and find out where it lead. The last of the groups who were walking down the steps were the junior acolytes, and as they were nearing her she could see that they were young and saurian Khlitsaîyart of the Khlìkhal Khlìkham negotiator genetic sub-caste, known for being timid and obedient, known for being able to bring peace among the other genetic sub-castes of the Khlitsaîyart Khlaêr as well as among the other peoples, and so Éfhelìnye slipped out of the shadows and followed them and was finding that they were a small people for the Khlitsaîyart who are usually so tall and tower o'er the children of the Færie, but they were only a few heads taller than she, and thin, and their tails were undulating from side to side as if they swam through the air, and she was reminded of Puîyus’ dear friend Khrùkhtii Khráfhi of Khróm an acolyte who had been brought up in the Abby of Kàtriqan. She searched the group even as she slipped among them and hoped that one was Khrùkhtii, if he were present that indeed her prayers would be answered, for Khrùkhtii and Puîyus had known each other most of their lives, and if anyone could make Puîyus happy again it would be such an old and dear friend. Khrùkhtii was one of the war orphans of Tsànyun whom Grandfather Pátifhar had rescued from death and given unto the priests, for just as Pátifhar when he was a young child had been rescued from slavery and death, so too he tried to rescue as many innocents as he could, and Khrùkhtii and Paloîta and many others who were fatherless were brought up in abbies and temples and educated and made part of the holy and apostolic Sylvanhood, and moreover Khrùkhtii had always been courteous and polite to Éfhelìnye and treated her as a future Empress even when she was running in the temple and playing and accosting Puîyus behind a column and kissing him on the lips when he was supposed to be helping the acolytes, and Éfhelìnye knew that Khrùkhtii being quite a pious young man would demand of course that Puîyus take upon him the honors of a Cælestial Crown Prince and praise his future Empress all the time and perhaps write love songs to her, Éfhelìnye wasn’t sure, but she just knew that Khrùkhtii would have to take her side. The negotiator Khlitsaîyart came walking about her at the end of the procession, the music of drums and intonation dying down, and Éfhelìnye was not sure whether she saw Khrùkhtii among them at all, and could only but hope, but mostly just think of Puîyus all the while.
The Khlitsaîyart were wearing some small hats, and the wind arose and blew one hat away, and an acolyte reached out and tried to grab it, but it fluttered aside. Éfhelìnye ran within the forest of columns and snatched it up, and flowing dowm from the hat, a rather dapper hat she was thinking, was a slight cascade of leaves and reeds once gewoven together, but now beginning to break apart because of the coming of Winter, and it was almost sad to hold such an hat. The leaves were shaking in her small grasp, and some of the leaves were beginning to grow again, new vines and tendrils flowing outwards, and some small xhmajaxáneu sprouts ranziaz and xhmèstel burgeons and kèxhmoka leaves off of trees and qhalowéti redbuds and xhmèlkhat flowerbuds were forming and growing up the length of the hat and twisting about her fingers, the leaves again were become like so many khmiqátso, buds and petals and beads such as one finds upon the rosary. She donned the hat and ran among the acolytes and walked at the end of the line and followed them she hoped unto where Puîyus was staying. The Princess tried to march in exactly the same rhythm as the acolytes were coming, a feat not too difficult for her with her balletic gifts, and yet she was still a few heads shorter than the rest, and the wrong species and wearing white nymph gown rather than acolyte robes, and had hair bright and red rather than whisps of feathers, and no tail at all to swish from side to side as the Khlitsaîyart did when they walked upon the tips of their taloned sandels. And of course Éfhelìnye remained only unnoticed for just a few moments.
– It is too bad that you lost your dapper hat – one Khlitsaîyart acolyte whispered to another. – One cannot fault wind. Perhaps you will find it in time. –
The hatless acolyte sighed, and looking down the lines and seeing that no priests were watching but rather were singing their pæons and carrying down the bodies of the honored dead, and he whispered back – Alas, the Kháfha monks who have taken charge of this fortress are excessive strict. When it is discovered that I lost my hat, our collective punishment shall be severe. –
– So few acolytes and priests are left, since the Emperor has burnt so many of them in his war – a third acolyte was whispering – that surely we can find another hat for you. May the Immortals rest the souls of all those who had passed in this Tlhexetsopwekùthuwo, and may those holy victims this night arise in the glories of the Suns. –
– Lo, there’s your dapper hat, walking right behind you – a fourth acolyte whispered. – It looks better now, lo, the plantimals are growing and spreading down their vines, it is a forest garden hat, quite the hat of hats indeed. –
Éfhelìnye continued walking onwards but did not realize that the acolytes were talking about the hat she was wearing until the first acolyte turned around and plucked if off her head, and at once several piles of golden red hair spilled down and revealed the maiden who had been walking beneath it. The acolytes just gasped in wonder, one of clattering his fangs so hard that he looked like he was about to dwalm, and the acolytes forgot to continue marching. Éfhelìnye was not sure what to do, so she just bowed, she figured that bowing to an elder can never be a bad idea.
– Holy Empress Éfhelìnye! – gasped the acolytes.
Éfhelìnye waved. – Greetings. –
– The Holy Empress talked to us – gasped the acolytes. – What are we supposed to do? –
Éfhelìnye played with her lip in uncertainty, and then realizing what she was doing put her hands behind her back so as to stop any annoying little habits. – Forgive me for asking, but do any of you know where my Puey is? –
The acolytes looked to each other confusion and wondered – Are we allowed to talk to the Empress? –
– Ah … yes – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– We’d better ask someone … – the acolyte chanted. One turned around and began back towards the procession, but Éfhelìnye dashed after him and touched the hem of his sleeve and chanted – Please please please please don’t tell anyone please? –
The acolytes all spun around and fell upon their double jointed knees and began kowtowing before Éfhelìnye and saying – Unworthy are we to stand in the presence of her who shall be the new Moon the beloved of the Emperor and the Mother of all the holy Sylvanhod, blessed and quisquiliary and brimborion are we even to hear the words of blessed Éfhelìnye the daughter of the holy and frozen tyrant Kàrijoi. –
– Quite – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I was wondering whether any of you knew where Puey was? –
– We did not get a good view of your future Lord and Husband, but we saw him with the extispicial Korax Priests, right where the fountain of blood was flowing – one acolyte chanted.
– Forgive my shame, but one does not think that the Crown Prince has e'er witnessed blood sacrifice so close. He was quite sad, as unto tears all the time – the second acolyte chanted.
– He held the claws of the slaves when they were honored to die. He held them as they breathed their last, he held them as the knife was thrust into their carapace and their organs removed. He held them when the victims became part of the household of the Sun – the third acolyte chanted.
– None of the slaves died friendless that night – the fourth acolyte chanted.
– That’s my Puey – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I’m glad he could do it. I’m far too scared to remain up there … with the blood. It is the worst thing I can imagine, aside from other maidens running after my Puey which is such a trivial thing in comparison to the rites of blood. Sometimes I wish I were as brave as Puey to be able to withstand battle and blood as he can, but I know he does not want me to. –
– The victims did not die as slaves – the acolytes were saying. – The Emperor blessed them with his presence. They are Freemen now, within the flames of the dying Suns. May the lives of these holy victims sustain the Suns in these our last days. –
– I’m very proud of Puey. You all can stand up now if you want, I’d rather see your faces when I speak to you, if it is permissible of course, for I do not wish for you to be punished or made malcomfortable – the Princess was saying.
– What are we supposed to do? – one acolyte asked.
– If we obey the word of the Empress, none can fault us, even though she is not the Empress yet – another acolyte chanted.
Slowly the acolytes were looking upwards although they kept their eyen averted from her gaze and down unto the floor of the red steps of the pyramid, and they waited to be commanded. Éfhelìnye asked – Did any of you see his leaving, Puey that is? –
– We did not see his exit, but perhaps he left with the company of the crimson robed jhafharmoqhùrqa Corvus Priests. He might already have left the pyramid. Please forgive us for telling you this, oh future Moon, oh our beloved Mother. – So the priests were saying.
– I must have already missed him. He may already be in the fortress and in the celebration that the Traîkhiim and Karuláta are having. I don’t suppose there’s any chance he’s at the top of the pyramid or perhaps helping the priests to burn the bodies? – Éfhelìnye was wondering.
– We were the last to descend the pyramid – the acolytes were saying. – It may be possible that he is helping the holy saffron robed jhafharqhùrqa priests carry the bodies, but more likely we would think he is heading to the golden halls where the Traîkhiim slaves are holding their … were we supposed to mention the celebration? But obviously she already knows about it, she mentioned it. Yes, but the Traîkhiim told us that the future Empress was the only one not invited and we weren’t supposed to tell her that part. Which part were we not supposed to tell her, the part about the party or the part about being uninvited. I don’t think she’s supposed to know either part … – the acolytes were whispering one to another.
Éfhelìnye adjusted the growing leaves and vines of the hat and chanted – I figured out about the party. I know. –
The acolytes looked to each other and sighed in relief. – We thank the Ispariz of the Land and the Immortals that you already know, otherwise it could have been quite embarassng and awkward for us to mention that the Imperial Concubine, the one who will be Puîyos’ younger and prettier wife, the most adored one in all the harīm was having a secret starday party for her future husband. We just thought it may be disconcerting for the future Empress to hear that. –
All of the leaves and vines and buds and petals upon the hat Éfhelìnye was wearing wilted at once. The petals began breaking off one by one, and the vines were sickening and becoming smears of oil. – Yes, I’m sure it’s a charming party. I figured it out. And it’s not embarrassing at all. –
– Forgive us, we just know that sometimes it can be difficult, especially in the early years of a marriage, when the wives are fostling for position – the acolytes were saying. – Even though the Empress is the White Empress of all the Land of Story, her husband is not of her family and may prefer a wife of his own people. –
– Well … I don’t think there’s anything more to discuss. That topic has certainly run its course, hasn’t it? – Éfhelìnye asked, and all the rest of the petals were dribbling off from her.
– If you wish to find your future lord and husband, he’s probably with the imperial concubine at this very moment. We saw the Traîkhiim carrying their barbarious drums and playing zither and nose fife, it will be quite an uproarious celebration unto which you are not invited. –
Suddenly the hat that Éfhelìnye had rescued burst into flame. The acolytes looked upwards and began shuffling backwards upon their knees. The fire danced lambent about Éfhelìnye’s head and did not harm her at all, in fact her tresses were beginning to unravel and were flowing behind her in bits of comet streak. – I’m sure that after such a serious ceremony as was just held that Puey will not be in the mood for … for … I don’t even know what the Traîkhiim are doing, but I’m sure Puey won’t go! –
– To our shame we do not understand the kind Pèqlor dancers, but even at the end of such a rite, surely he will wish to rest his head upon the shoulders of his beautiful and golden haired concubine. –
One acolyte held up his taloned hand and making a mudraic sign for peace cried out – And please, Empress, keep my hat. I don’t think I want it anymore. –
Éfhelìnye took a few steps forwards and the acolytes were quailing before her. The hat was a growing volcanic sparkle, and as she came forwards frost was growing out from where her toes touched the ground, ripples of ice spreading outwards and freezing the knees of the acolytes. The hat broke apart into whispering dust, but the fires remained, but Éfhelìnye did not notice them. – I am quite certain that Puey would rather just rest. Why does he even want to see Karuláta? Perhaps he just wishes to kiss her goodnight, a nice filial kiss on her forehead, and then he’ll go to the stables … or perhaps he’s in search of me. That’s it, right, Puey’s looking for me right now! Isn’t that the truth? It has to be, what else could my Puey be doing? – Éfhelìnye took a few more steps, and the flooring was completely covered in ice by now, and a winged winter’s breeze eminating from her.
And the acolytes, some of whom had grown up in large families with siblings and cousins, but all of whom had learned some prudence in the generations, and feeling the waves of ice and snow flowing out from Kàrijoi’s daughter, were nodding their heads and saying – Yes yes yes yes yes! Surely that is the answer. Please, holy Empress, permit us the honor of escorting you back to the gates of the harem where you can rest … and honored Puîyos will find you. – Éfhelìnye considered for a moment, and as she remained in uffische thought, snow began to fall upon her and the acolytes all the harder, and the acolytes could see that the tips of pyramid were changing and were become heavy laden with ice snaking outwards and parting around the Princess and choking the stairs. And the acolytes turned one to another and whispered – Are we supposed to be wondering how she snuck out of the harīm quarters again? This is the second time in this day, and the first time she threw the entire rath in disarray. Do locks just refuse to bind her? She is surely an unfettered spirit, a force of nature that none can contain. Should we tell our superiors? Why would a future Empress even want to be sneaking out into battle and about a pyramid of sacrifice. But then again this is the holy Starflower, she has grown up without her parents, very young indeed. What should we do? Our training in meditation and temple has not prepared us for a maiden about whom fire haloes are forming. Silence, everyone. She looks to us. – And the acolytes pressed their faces against the snow and frost of the floor, and they could feel the utter chill of it in their doubleedged knees and against their brows, and when Éfhelìnye took a few steps untowards them, the snows were falling all the thicker.
– Do you think that Puey is truly waiting for me, perhaps at the gates of the fortress? – Éfhelìnye asked.
– We do not know, but he may be. Please, let us descend from the pyramid, it is growing darker and colder. And if we stay longer, our superiors will notice our absense. –
Éfhelìnye blinked. – I would not wish to be noticed. I don’t want others to worry about me. –
– Then let us descend at once. –
– Perhaps I should just take a look at the celebration of the Traîkhiim, I’m quite curious about them and their customs, I just have to see what they are doing. –
– Aren’t you tired, oh my Empress? We are tired. Yawn yawn yawn yawn. What a night this has been … –
– I just have to see what Karuláta is doing … –
– Why be curious about the Concubine, your Husband’s younger and prettier wife, she may be reading a book at this moment, or sleeping, yes, she’s probably fast asleep, it’s the middle of the night … –
– But then again, if Puey is going down to the celebration. – Éfhelìnye clapped her hands together a few times, and sparkles of lightning were arising about her. A slight storm wind arose behind her. – Honestly, I don’t understand why Karuláta even wants to be my Puey’s concubine, the entire idea is absurd. Let’s go down and see her. Do you wish to arise now? –
The acolytes struggled to stand upwards, but the icicles and frost were sticking to their knees, and flows of ice were breaking apart at their taloned hands and about their faces. They looked up and could see that small ripplings of storms were flowing out from Éfhelìnye, and even though she did not look angry, her countinance was reminding them too much of holy and dread Kàrijoi who was Master of Earth and Sea and Sky and the Lord of all Winter. Éfhelìnye was pacing from side to side and saying – Doesn’t Karuláta understand that Puey is mine and all mine and completely mine? Such obvious truth should be self-evident to all folk, shouldn’t it? – She pounded her hands together, and icicles were shattering down the sides of the pyramid.
– Quite – chanted the acolytes. – Shall we accompany you down? –
– I shall indeed be the Empress, and Puey will be mine. –
The acolytes bowing to her all the while were coming unto either side of her for to accompany her and were saying – Forgive us for angering you so. –
– I’m not angry with you at all … – Éfhelìnye muttered to herself.
– We should not have mentioned the pretty Concubine. We were just listening to the words of the Traîkhiim … –
– The Traîkhiim can prate a bit. Karuláta is not too younger than I am, just a year or so, and I think I’m pretty too. –
– Exceptionally. We did not mean to anger you by mentioning her. –
Éfhelìnye stomped her foot and grit her teeth and shouted – I am not angry with her! I don’t understand why everyone keeps saying that! – She stomped her foot a couple more times, and long tracks of ice were trailing downwards in forking branches, and several of the steps began to twist upon their sides a moan a little. Éfhelìnye blinked. A few more cascades of ice were coating the steps. It was all quite an amazing coincidence. – I love Karuláta, she’s quite a good friend I have no reason in all the worlds to be angry with her at all she’s so dear unto me I don’t understand why everyone keeps telling me that I have to remain calm and not to panick, I don’t know what others are expecting of me, I am most certainly not Emperor Kàrijoi dread and vast and upon the ruins of a throne of ice no no no I’m just a Princess I’m not even the Empress yet I could never harm anyone at all so why does everyone keep saying that? –
– We have no idea – the acolytes were whimpering and they began navigating their ways down the stairs, and they kept turning and were about to offer their longtaloned claws to the future Empress to help her down, but they kept cowering before her, especially when they noticed a new orb of fire slowly arising up from her neck and bursting outwards in waves of light, crowns of fire generating themselves about her brow.
– I’m not a jealous person xhoêmaxorn qlaêkh – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Am I? –
The acolytes looked one to another, and the one who had lost his hat most dapper chanted – If I may say some humble words, oh worshiped Empress, to be jealous of someone, xhó qlaêkh is just the wrong way of being affectionate and fond of someone, xhó. Mortals born of woman and hight of man are incapable of true ós, of divine love, and when unstriving for divine love can only love one another in ways that are selfish and hurtful and which in the end will destroy the one they claim to love. The ós, the love of the Father of the Immortals is the only true love, and without it we poor mortals are doomed to failure. –
– I do love Puey though, I don’t think that anyone could doubt that – Éfhelìnye chanted, but as she walked down the ice steps, the snow was falling about her all the harder, and her soft toe touch was creating new ripples of ice.
– It is chanted that one can believe that one is loving a sibling or a friend enough to exile him from one’s heart. Is it possible that you could exile Puîyos from you? –
– Hardly … Puey has to love me … – Éfhelìnye looked down and kicked against the growing ice about her.
– And you claim to love the Concubine also. –
– Well … yes. I haven’t even done anything against her, and yet everyone keeps thinking that I’m going to do something. –
– And if you died tomorrow, would you wish for Puîyos to be happy with his Concubine. –
– No. He has to die with me. –
– But if he choose to live … –
– He could not. That’s impossible! – Éfhelìnye kicked against the growing stalagmites of ice, she found herself talking just a little louder than she wished to, but without the drums and the clangor of trumpet and the flames of sacrifice, the pyramids were very lonely and cold here in the growing blizzard.
– But he may choose to live – the acolyte chanted.
– No, he must die with me. –
– And if he does not? What should become of the concubine? –
– I’m … I’m sure … at first I thought that Kàrula would just have a happy and long life without me, but if she insists upon this foolish course of action and wants to be the Senior Concubine, I’d expect her to be thrown upon my funereal pyre. That would be best for her, wouldn’t it? –
– You shall be Empress, you must decide. –
– It’s what she wants … she’s not expecting to be Puey’s wife now, is she? She’s just joking when she talks about having children … –
– And if she’s not … –
– I mean … I don’t … this is silly. –
– Do you want her to bare the new Emperor children? –
– No, hardly! I wish she’d never bring up this subject. I’d rather … I don’t know … can’t she just end talking about it? I’d rather just strangle her with her golden braids than have to listen to her prating about what a good and loyal wife she’ll be. And if I hear anyone else mention e'er again that she promised to marry my Puey when she was a child, I’ll … oh she’d better not mention that in my presence e'er, if she knows what’s best for her. –
– If you were trapped at the bottom of the sea, would you want Puîyos to be with you? –
– Yes, always and for ever. –
– Would you rather he were with you in the sea than with a second wife? –
– Yes, only with me. –
– And if you were trapped in fire? –
– I’d rather he were with me than in the arms of another maiden. –
– If you were caught up in the highest heavens and incapable of returning to the mortal worlds, would you rather he were with you or with the Concubine. –
– With me. I love him. That is the totality of the story. –
– Is it love that you feel? –
– Only I can make him happy. –
– Perhaps you love him not enough. Too much love is never a problem. –
– Than I have no problem. Whether in life or death, in ocean or land or sky, Puey is mine and mine for ever for all time! If I were trapped in the utter Void, I’d rather have Puey with me than here in these life giving worlds, I’d rather he be with me and no other maiden, I’d let all the worlds fade and die for him, I’d let the gates of the dead crash down, I’d let all life be extinguished, I’d drag him from the arms of any other wife, I’d force him to stay with me in eternities of misery, because only I can make him happy, only I can be his beloved. This is all very simple. Puey rescued me from the dragons. I love him. He is mine for ever. – Éfhelìnye turned around and when she clapped her hands together several jets of fire arose behind her. – And I’m not angry with Karuláta at all I only wish her well. –
The acolytes looked one to another and bowing chanted – Then perhaps it is best for you, oh Kàrijoi’s daughter, to go to the celebration after all. – The acolytes were already coming down unto the lower levers of the steps of the great hex pyramid, and the snows and winds were blasting all the harder. The Starflower Princess was walking in the very midst of the acolytes and they could feel a storm growing all about the Princess who was their small xhlísa charge, the air about her was become static and light and snow crackling about, and as she was walking sometimes little sparkles of fire were arising from her ballet slippers, and sometimes she was kicking against the growing tendrils of snow, and sometimes looking up and gazing down upon the long and winding pyramid complex that arose upon the bridge webs of the orbeloid Xhyèrxhmu Whispering mountains ergrand rēglum sagala zelezo. And sometimes the ice of spontaneous generation was growing upwards so tall and thick that the acolytes had to stop and breaking it away so that Éfhelìnye could walk about it, and sometimes the ice came flowing downwards swift and clear and the Princess was on the verge of slipping upon it, and the acolytes had to reach outwards and grab her by the sleeve lest she dash her foot, but the acolytes were shuddering with holy dread to do so, for they knew that it was forbidden to touch any of the Women of the Sun especially the beloved future Moon Empress, but there was nothing else for them to do. A few strands of ice were growing upwards, especially tall and difficult before her gaze, and when she tried to kick them aside the ice just wavered and grew all the tall. Éfhelìnye paused. She placed her hands on her hips. Her eyen were glowing red. The acolytes paused. – I just wish that everyone would stop telling me to stop being angry with Karuláta because I’m not angry with her at all. This snow is very annoying. – She took a step back and hopping upwards in a graceful twirl arabesque kicked right through the snow columns and sent them toppling downwards, and the splashes of snow tumbling downwards became wounds of fire and were slowly dribbling downwards the long triangular steps, and the hissing fire was blooming downwards and become a little like the movement of lava. – I’m not angry. I’m not angry at all. Why must the snow and steps and pyramid be so annoying? Where is that party? –
– Holy Empress of tomorrow? – the hatless Acolyte chanted.
Éfhelìnye looked up. She had actually forgotten about the acolytes for a moment. Several more waves of ice were tumbling down about the steps, and the acolytes afraid that Éfhelìnye would be so incredibly distracted by her thoughts that she would slip and truly hurt herself, they decided to take preventitive action, and one acolyte took her by an elbow and another lifted her by another elbow, and the rest of the acolytes came running upwards and began brushing away the growing ice and wind forming before her and they carried her down the ziqquratu.
– Forgive me, were you saying something? – asked Éfhelìnye. – I’m sorry, I was not paying attention. I was thinking about how incredibly not angry I am with Karuláta I mean why would I possibly be angry with her I can’t think of a single reason why just because she accidently yet completely on purpose of her own free will her own premeditated volition married my one and only one true love no I can’t think of a single reason why I would be vexed by her, of course her why her of all people why did she have to do this anyone else I could just despise for ever and I’d get Siêthiyal and Ixhúja and Kàrula to come up with very inventive ways to dispose of her by not her no not her not at all, when I remember when we were first getting to know each other and Karuláta and I promised that we would always be xhthonùrlu one to another, blood-sisteren comh-bhuadh as if we were born of the same Mother yes we made that promise I can’t understand why she has done this to me and the worst part is that she doesn’t even care at all it’s all just fun and natural to her she has not a single concern completely blithe she is! She was my Sister, she was my best friend doesn’t she understand that she belonged to me, she was just as much my property as Puey is, and yet it doesn’t bother her to take my Puey away from me. Why must she be so greedy? –
– Holy Empress of tomorrow – chanted the hatless acolyte, as the rest of his brethren were carrying her and trying to keep the blizzard away from her. – Fear not that you will lose the Acolyte and your Lord Husband, you shall only lose them if you drive them away. In the same way that one can cosset a pet dinosaur too much and embrace it and feed it far too much when it should be a wild creature, so too can one smother those in one’s own household. The Concubine was right, you are her xhthonùrlut leflen gleflen ladaflen, now you are yoked together in a single family. Only you can destroy her and the love she has for you. –
– Forgive me, were you saying something? – asked Éfhelìnye, and while the acolytes were holding her by her elbows, she kicked aside at the ice sheets forming before her, for she still a ballerina and had quire choral grace unto her, and although she was not a fighter and never would be one like her cousin Ixhúja, she could kick when she wanted to, and the pieces of ice falling down about her looked far too much like the limbs and hands and heads of pretty little maids at least to the eyen of the Acolytes.
– Let me tell you a truth, holy Empress of tomorrow – so the hatless acolyte saying. – The holy Empeor your Father is winning the war, we all know it, general and troop and warrior alike. Your future husband has one an important victory, but one victory is not enough to turn the tide of this Winter. Your Father is ending time. We are within the final hour, the Midnight Gloam upon all the land. We have only the present. The Dreamtime consists of ten thousand timelines rippling at the same moment, and before this hour there was war and trade and concourse and passage among the various times. But even time is coming to an end, and even when the timelines were at their healthiest one could no more guess the past than one could guess the future. Both the past eternal and the future myth are shadows yet to be born, they change, they ripple as waves, they are fluidic things. We can no more guess the things to come than the things which once were. So let us not dwell too much upon perceived slights or any despair of the future. Think of the present, of the now, of the moment, and do not just act as a future Empress must act, but be the Moon Empress. –
– One can try – Éfhelìnye murmured more to herself than to anyone else.
– Let us tell you another truth – so the acolytes were saying. – The Dreamtime is old, older than any mortals can guess, we like to speak of our ten thousand generations and our billion, billion worlds and our quadrillion, quadrillion souls, but they are just illusions, they are dreams for the utter spans and height and age of all things, the Dreamtime has lasted through the wars of light which the Immortals waged one with another, when the First Family broke apart into three kindreds, the Earth and the Sea and the Sky, the Dreamtime throve when the Tree of Light bound all things together and Rainbow Serpents nestled in the branches. The Dreamtime was utterly ancient even in the summer of ages when Khriîno and Pfhentókha were jointed together beneath the Tree. Arcane and complex, filled with ritual and caste and nations and species, customs rolled up into rites, our buildings are complicated, look at all of the designs upon this pyramid, every inch is filled with pattern of triangle and knife and thorn, all of these fortresses are filled with statue and painting, our governance and priesthoods are piled high with memory, and most complicated of all are our families and they they intersect all things. Please do not think, beloved one, that you, as young as you are, can negotiate through all of the problems of war and love and family even in a single day. Why you of all know just how complicated language is. We have a finite number of affixes, and yet those affixes easily number a thousand, and many affixes can be used in different constructions. Case and valance and mood and mode are very elaborate, and Babel is a language where one does not desire a single word for something but many words with different shades of mean, different words for pyramid and knife and snow, hundreds of words for snow. How many words do you think we have for something as simple as a tòmpe, a table? –
Princess Éfhelìnye considered for a moment. – We have tlhúyiqhòpaka and qhàsqilo and tàpa and swuî and sqèjhum and lrèri and jhùmpe and xhejhùlpa, and some just mean the triangular and circular piece of furniture set up in a room and whereon one can place books and papers, but xhejhùlpa can also mean a chair and qhàsqilo can mean any type of furniture, usually a dais or trestle, and tlhúyiqhòpako is a compound from tlhúyi, those who draw or sketch or doodleleedoo and qhòpako, meblaro, furniture, so it almost has the connation of the lrèri, the priedieu, escritoire, writing desk. –
– And when our words for a simple piece of furniture are so complicated, think of how more complex are the words Xhluntakhlaûselar, Poet Warrior, Warrior Lad, and Altèrtraikh, the senior concubine, the junior wife, and Qwasiêla, the Moon Empress, the title of your umquhuile Mother whom no mortal may name. So do not worry for this hour, for this day. You have only the night. And in our ancient and complicated worlds, even the old and the wise do not know how this shall end. –
They were come down to the last steps of the pyramid and before them were arising unto the last of the bridges and towards a great tsètrumet pool set within the courtyard, an ancient q”uča fashioned of marble and colored stones, and statuery of nymphs and meremaids were set at the corners of it. The acolytes continued to carry the Princess until they came unto the lower levels,and by now ice was ending its spontaneous generation about her, and the Princess was seeming at least a bit more calm and rational than she had been before. The jalaashaya before them had only a few chunks of ice within, for the waters were fed from deep superheated aquifers which ran throughout the ancient iron whispering mountains, so that the water came sparkling upwards in deep blues, and a slight hiss arose, a shine arising in the growing bubbles. The acolytes set her down, and from the distance was come the music of the Traîkhiim as they were pounding their great drums with hand-feet and necks and wings and their own faces. The acolytes saw that they were alone, but they suspected that at any moment some Kháfha monks would notice their absence and come for them and notice that the Empress had once again left the zenana.
– Empress of tomorrow, beautiful and holy – the acolytes were saying. – Let us tell you one more truth. Your parents were the youngest Sun and Moon to reign o'er the Land and give it life, your Father was but eight and eleven winters and your Mother two and eleven winters of age, and it was thought by the Wise that they were far too young to become the new Emperor and Empress. And here we are come to a later age, and the Wise are even more concerned about the youth of you and Puîyos, and they fear the silence and the power of Puîyos the Dragonslayer, and they fear you because none can even guess what you shall do. The older you act, the more serene, the less emotional, the calmer the Wise shall be. Your Father is destroying all things, but at least the Wise think they can understand him. –
– I shall endeaver to be as adult as I can be – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I thank you all. I shall at least take a look at this little celebration, I am curious to see what this so-called Sister Wife of mine is intending. – She bowed to the acolytes and they fell upon their double-jointed knees and began to fall upon their faces, but when they looked up they saw that the Princess was dashing right towards the ancient pool of water in the center of the courtyard. They were about to warn her lest she fall into the waters, but instead she just came up unto the edge and very gently set her feet upon the face of the waters. Superheated bubbles were arising about her, the waters wavered a little but were exceeding calm. She took a few steps upon the waters, and when she had run out a few cubits forwards she turned around and bowing unto the acolytes told them – Thank you for helping me down the pyramid while I was not very angry at all with Karuláta and thank you for your kind words while I talked about how not very wroth at all I am with my little Karuláta. – She turned around and began running across the waters.
Slowly the acolytes arose and looked one to another, the winds were dying down and playing with the three hats upon three of them and the rolling scales upon the head of the fourth, and they arose, their robes rustling a little about them, and dashing upwards and looking one to another they chanted – What is the future Empress doing? Is she walking upon the ice? – They dashed to the edge of the pool and saw that very little ice was left, and that Éfhelìnye was just taking a shortcut by running acoss the water. – How is that even possible? She’s running upon the waters. She was very light, but even a doll will sink into the waves. Could the Virgin Empress walk across the waters? No she never did, at least not that I remember, and there were no tales told of it. Éfhelìnye is running on the water, my my my, are we dreaming this? – One of the acolytes dipped his sandle into the waves and found them of the normal wet consistency of a jalaashaya. A couple of acolytes were dashing their long saurian tails within and splashing about. The hatless acolyte took a couple of steps forwards and fell into the blue waters and had to be pulled out by his brethren, and when they drew him out xáma his robes were freezing with patterns of web frost upon it.
– Should we tell the authorities? – the hatless acolyte asked, and the other acolytes helped him up, but they just shook their heads in wonder and confusion and looked upwards and watched the future Empress run across the pools of living water, and gathering within the courtyard came some of the Kháfha monks and they were bringing towels and a new hat for the unhatted one, but the acolytes and monks did not speak of the miracle before them, they came shuffling out of the growing midnight darkness that was pressing upon all things.
Long before Princess Éfhelìnye, the only offspring of Kàrijoi and Khnoqwísi, came unto the gates of the central goldhalls she could feel the pulsation of the drums and the clangor of a very loud and very strange alien music, the rhythm of the music was punctuated by a percussion far deeper and louder than she had heard from the tall pyramids of sacrifice, but that was because the pyramids were vast and high above her and she had never come too close to the actual blood rites, while the halls before her were far smaller and deep in the heart of the fortress and not too far away. The beating of the drums was causing all of the waters to dance swayent beneath her feet, but it did not stop her from running across the face of the waters, but rather they encouraged her to hasten all the more, the water was become a thousand little pinpricks of triangles dashing upwards and beading up and down, the waters were breaking apart and cresting at the marble and stone edge of the pools. And as she ran upon the waters and saw the ancient qekheirexhòxhra rococo decorations made of stone and the ancient sea fossils were filled all of Jaràqtu, and she saw the image of nymph and mermaid, she was reminded of the various maidens and princesses who had tried to steel her Puîyus away from herself, and no matter how she tried to calm herself and still her spirit, she could feel a persistant white flame burning within her heart and urging her onwards. She kept telling herself that she would just sneak into the halls and take a look about, perhaps she could hide in the shadows or climb up into the rafters and see just what mischief the Traîkhiim and Akhlísa were engendering, enough it would be just to witness and forget it, yes, that would be the wisest course of action, and Akhlísa would never have to know. The waters were breaking apart, they were dancing almost as she came to the edge, the drums beating harder and harder, and so she just flew across the pool of water and came skipping upon the mosaics and before her were golden doors and a steady stream of Traîkhiim marching within. The drumming was continuing from within the halls, it was in a threefold and ninefold pattern she could count, but the actual music was based upon some undulous and changing scale which suited the Traîkhiim but which she could not quite understand, so that sometimes it seemed that their music was based upon five notes and then twelve notes, and sometimes the call of the strings was a winding song, and the stomping of so many feet belonged to another sort of music, even though all was being played at the same time. The Traîkhiim at the door were rolling drums far larger than themselves, it was taken seven or eight of them to roll a drum like a great wagon wheel, and for a moment she was about to run upwards and help them, but she snuck down and hid in the shadows to watch them. Chaotic and unorganized, the Traîkhiim were somehow able to accomplish their tasks, and leaderless sometimes a few were barking orders and one or two would obey, and othertimes one Traîkhiim was taking a nap upon a drum while others were carrying it aloft, and sometimes three or four times the number of Triîm who were necessary for a task were pulling open the doors and shoving the drums and helping others. Éfhelìnye followed after the group, she felt a little strange to follow them for among all of the Real People, the children of the Xhámi only tower above just a few species, such as the Traîkhiim and the Qriî and the Jongèrya and the Fhlóla, and the last two folk were all dead now, the happy Jongèrya driven extinct in her Father’s War, and the Fhlóla long since burnt for disobedience against the Crystalline Throne and Starburst Crown. But she managed to find shadows enough about the hinges and within the halls and to follow, and as the doors were slamming behind her, about eleven Traîkhiim shoving them with their heads and necks and fiddling with the ropes and locks, Éfhelìnye gazed upon a celebration the likes of which she could never have imagined.
The golden halls were dark, darker than the Princess would have thought they should be for a celebration this large, even though midnight was pressing against the outside world she would have thought that the Traîkhiim would have placed painted lanthorns within the sconces to light up the chamber, but they perfered the half light and the flickering of a thousand torches, the twining of shadow and fire rather than ambient light to suffuse throughout the golden walls and the rafters. Éfhelìnye was not entirely sure what to expect from any khnujóxe, any merry-making of any species, for before this day she had never been in the presence of any revelrous comissatio, she had spent all of her days in quiet contemplation and reading with Great-Uncle Táto and Grandfather Pátifhar, but when Puîyus had rescued her from the Dragon flames she had seen the peoples dancing in the street and a great parade forming, and bulldancers and minstrels all dancing before the Rising Sun for folk were thinking that the Emperor was about to permit new marriage and newbirth once again. When she had come unto Jaràqtu she had attended one betrothal dance, it had been a great feast and the Tásel and Khatelèstan and Sweqhàngqu had all been misbehaving about the great tree houses deep within the Tásel forest, but even such a celebration like that with Elders and Matrons and children dashing about was nothing like the Traîkhiim here in the torchlight. All about her the music was come, she was inside the music, for all of the tables were covered in the Traîkhiim and they were pounding their drums and sitting in the drums and kicking them with their wings and hand-feet and others were piling drums on top of other drums and striking several at the same time with their mallets, and other Traîkhiim were drawing out long poles of wood and metal as if they were setting up fabrick tènta wigwâm such as the Traîkhiim were want to use as their nomadic dwellings upon their natal Ice Asteroids, and they drew out the poles and were stretching down upon it, but rather than unfolding an house it was more like a series of hammocks spread out, and the Traîkhiim were running up and fluttering upwards and climbing about each other and bouncing upon the qìkhti, and the reverberation of the cloth and ropes was a percussive sound, and the Traîkhiim were thus dancing upon drums stretched out upon table and wall and rafter. Éfhelìnye walked in the shadows but thought that she could probably just walk opening about them and not be noticed, as another gaggle of Traîkhiim was come and rolled out some items which she thought had to be drums but just seemed the wrong shape, they were more like urns and jars and they were stringing up reeds and cloth from them, and when the Traîkhiim began to beat the urns, they set bells and beads upon the cloth and made everything shake and jingle, and they were stretching forth more ropes and setting little wind harps upon them and cracking open the stained glass windows, and the winter breezes were playing with the bells and adding that to the music. Éfhelìnye continued walking inwards and when she came unto the central halls she could barely even walk, for the ground was thundering beneath her both from the drums and the endless movement of the Traîkhiim, some of the Traîkhiim were setting up wild torches in the walls and others were carrying torches in one jaw and ululating with the other jaw, and they were come gathering in all of their thousands, the survivors among the war refugees and the runagate slaves and all those whom Princess Éfhelìnye had managed to resurrected this long day of days, and the central halls glistened flavous before walls all of glass and layers of uplifted tables.
And the Traîkhiim were dancing. Éfhelìnye pulled herself upon a golden windowsill and observed as best she could. All of the Traîkhiim were pounding and leaping and screaming and turning unto their own rhythms, and yet the great and chaotic fhòrset whizbangery was all meshing together into a single music and movement, but to Éfhelìnye’s ears it seemed more akin to noise danba grolan than to song, and she was thinking how strange it was that the Traîkhiim should so fear the sea when their dance seemed to contain the random noise of the deep. Some of the Traîkhiim were completely concerned with their drums and were beating them into a frenzy, and others were spinning around and kicking and dancing and yet taking up mallet and striking the gong from time to time, while others were only dancing, they were fluttering up upon the very tip of their wings, their jaws opening and closing, a few of them were by themselves and just thrusting their heads and wings and necks from side to side, others were dancing in couples, they were licking each other’s antennæ and faces and their finger-toes were coiling about each other, and some were in groups, their torso rubbing against each other, their heads darting one to another, and they were hissing and laughing and screaming at the same time. Others of the Traîkhiim were just pouring out upon the floor and were become a living sea of necks and wings and bodies all scraping against each other, and others were growing claws and were crawling upon the walls and were beating their wings against the walls and causing everything to reverberate in their dance, twirl kick duck bow spin bow spin twirl double kick fly fall spin spin spin scream. Éfhelìnye came running down the length of the tapestries and tried to stay away from the center of the room, and she almost ran into another group of Traîkhiim who were bringing in more torches and rolling up more drums and just tossing their musical instruments down at random, and some Traîkhiim caught them up to play, and others just danced and made everything shake to their dance. The Princess was not entirely sure that she wished to stay for such wildness, she could feel her brow throbbing a little, and she still did not see Akhlísa anywhere. She was about to turn back, but several stained glass windows were sliding open, and Traîkhiim were pouring downwards in an evergyring cascade, and she decided to stay clear of there, so she kept walking deeper and inner into the golden halls.
Now in the center of these halls the thunder of the dance was greater than before, so great that the large oaken tables were jutting up and down and side to and side fro because of the echoquake of the Triîm, and she could see that moving tent cities were migrating up and down the tables, and although the thunder was beginning to hurt her ears, and she was thinking that it would be pleasanter to return to Ixhúja and rest before the white fountain, still she wanted to see what lay within the tents, for she could see that the tents were all affixed unto ropes and layers of skis such as the Traîkhiim used upon their glacial homes, and some Traîkhiim were grabbing ropes with their jaws and pulling the tents forwards and others were pushing at the skeletal frame and others were entering and leaving the tent. A flap opened and she saw that some Traîkhiim were struggling to carry a large pot within, and Éfhelìnye guessed what was happening. She snuck upwards and peered out from the tapestries, and just as she suspected the Traîkhiim were no more noticing her than they would scarabs walking upon the snows, and leaning forwards she saw that inside the tents were the Traîkhiim feasting, they were thrusting their heads into pots and gobbling up a stew of fungus broth, and others were bringing out large pans and revealing some new confectionary upon it. The Princess leaned forwards and listened to the gnashing of their threefold jaws and their licking tounges and their spilling of food all o'er the place, their giggling and slurping and in general childish manners, and she knew that the Traîkhiim had quite a severe jhexhluntùxhwo, an eating taboo, and they most preferred to eat in the company of their family and close friends, and so in the communal feast halls they had concocted their own ingenious solution, they had made the tables like unto the ice, and their cities of tents were migrating and keeping little family groups together as the Traîkhiim pulled and pushed and took turns gobbling up whatever was brought unto them. Éfhelìnye could not help herself though and be curious as to what the Traîkhiim were eating, the kitchen slaves must have been instructed to create the fungal dishes that the Traîkhiim liked best, or rather, she thought, the Traîkhiim themselves must have been the kitchen slaves and been permitted to collected and brew and stew whatever they liked, for they were considered the future Empress’ own qtómi, her paraphernalia of property and servants. One Traîkhiim was arising and bringing out a dish and removing the cloth revealed several paîjha pizza pies hissing hot and wellsteamed, a variety of cheeses and fruit and fungus as toppings. Éfhelìnye could not help but smile a little to herself as she saw the elastic pizzas, for this was the hand of Akhlísa, only the children of Jaràqtu make pizza pies, and she must have been showing the Traîkhiim how to make such a dish in their own special and idiosyncratic way. Éfhelìnye leaned froward and watched the feasting, the Traîkhiim used no utensils and barely bothered to keep their heads above the communal plates and pots, and when food dribbled out of their mouths they just licked it off of each other.
– Great thanks have we for the Empress for bringing us back to the life and feasting us with her foods – some of the Traîkhiim were saying as several of them attacked a paîjhu pizza pie and began tearing it apart into gobbles and bits.
– Greater thanks indeed for Concubine. You we remember her, question? Puîyos’ younger and prettier wife? She the one who organize this party. She send out Fhólus-Aîya-Fhólus to gather up all of the clans, so that we all dance at same time. Aîya-Fhólus-Aîya find us all. From battle. From thralldom. From death. Come to the halls. The Emperor with his Starday – other Traîkhiim were saying.
– Yes, we all thank Concubine the more – the Traîkhiim nodded one to another.
The tent was beginning to shake all the more, a new dance rhythm come, and Éfhelìnye hung unto one of the columns just to steady her small feet, and she wondered how the Traîkhiim were even able to stand upright in the presence of such resoundent tonitruance, but at least they had wings and three legs for to steady them, and they were coming in such numbers that the Traîkhiim were really losing places where they could fall, they would soon just be sinking back into the growing sea of themselves. She saw that several more migrating tents were opening as soom Traîkhiim were leaving and others entering, but from many of them she heard the cry – It is the third dance! – – The third dance beginning soon, oh? – – About time, been waiting for the third dance e'er since end of the second dance. – – First dance was okay but not so great. Third dance will be the best. – – All agreed, see in the first dance the Concubine a little unprepared, and Fhólus and Aîya began a very simple rhythm, she still learning how to do our dances how to flex her toes. Second dance, well the young Emperor still so thunderstrook by Akhlísa’s beauty that he just stared and fainted, now that has to be dancing, to make a young Emperor for to faint. Great great great indeed. – – When is he coming? The third dance, the Pèqlor begin it. – – We heard the young Emperor had to return from battle. – – Not battle, you dumbcluck, from the sacrifice. The Qája thralls were being bled alive and cardioectomized. He upon the pyramid, he the return from the rite. – – Do they we send for him? – – The Huntress had it worked out, she keep the Empress away, play with her until tired and all fall asleep in a big heap. Better for to keep the Empress far away. – – Scared of Huntress, she obsidian and ice. – – We stay away from her. – – When the Emperor coming down from the pyramid, Fhólus and Aîya slip up unto him, they give the message, they the tell, say that have to see his Sister. In the halls, in the halls of gold. – – What a cunning plan in all of its dancitude! – – You going to finish eating that? – – Good think Empress far far away. – – Who cares? Let’s dance. – – Dance dance dance dance we all. –
The gongs were beginning to resound, it was a loud and interrupting call that broke through the ubiquitous percussion and signaled the beginning of a new dance. At once the tents of feasting were spilling open, they were unfolding as hundreds of Traîkhiim arose upon reptilian and insectoid and avian wings, and Éfhelìnye could see that as the Traîkhiim were arising that they were in the midst of jéne transformations, some of them were in saurian Trakàtriim forms, a few of them were growing extra heads and necks in the Qwàtriim forms, but just a few were covered in horns and scales in the Tòxhram version, but the very many of them were Értriim and were cover in feathers and were dashing from side to side and flying deeper into the halls. The columns were like trees in a great forest, and the Traîkhiim were endless waves of birds and fishes migrating through the lengths of it, and yet as they came they were drawing up their instruments and beating them all the while. Éfhelìnye slid behind a column and remained very still, she was not sure that in their numbers and balletic excitement that if the Traîkhiim saw her and even wanted to stop for her, that they even could, so great were the waves of their numbers as they were pouring outwards in a living ocean into the very center of the halls. For an heartbeat Éfhelìnye paused and was about to turn back, for now would be the best time to leave and just forget it all, the noise the feasting the smell of the fungal creations. And yet although she paused and tried to turn back, she kept turning around, and watching as the Traîkhiim continued to pour outwards in even greater numbers. She could see that the very center of the gold halls was almost an amberlit cave, and here the Traîkhiim were settling down in their greatest numbers, and torches were set all about a pyramidal platform, and the music was all the louder, but some Traîkhiim were crawling up and down the columns and adjusting the light bubbles up there so that shafts of light were beaming right unto the tip of the pyramid, and all of the stained glass windows were glowing in aurelian sheens.
And now the Traîkhiim in their thousands were dancing in an khràqa frenzy which made their previous drumming and leaping appear as soporific lassitude, for the Traîkhiim were filled with food and the rhythm of midnight and fire, they were pouring down the walls and columns like so many insects, they were ducking and biting and spinning and poking each other as they flew in the air, and spinning down wild upon the floor and all of the tables they were dashing against each other screaming and licking and leaping and flying. Princess Éfhelìnye looked upwards and saw that through the luffers even more Traîkhiim were sliding downwards, the numbers just continued to grow. Somehow all of the drums and wind harps and beating hybridized musical instruments had been brought within, and the Traîkhiim were dashing upwards and in their ecstacy screaming and leaping and scraping and duck and twirling and dodging and wriggling and tumbling all together in a vast and growing and wild dance such as the Traîkhiim call the lyuî khafhrùrlupa the Dance of Life, and although Éfhelìnye had seen the Traîkhiim in their dance many times before, what was coming to pass before her was loud and strange beyond all of her conception.
Éfhelìnye turned around in the shadows of a nearby column, she could sense his presence without being told, for Puîyus was coming and being dragged into the halls. He was dressed in the simple white qaôs pāy jāma which the Kháfha monks had been able to provide for him, and his hair was bound back with a single length of ribbon, and the Princess could see that he had been preparing for bed after the sacrifices when he had been found and taken within. Fhólus was fluttering and biting his right hand and drawing him within, and Aîya was gnawing upon Puîyus’ other hand and pointing forwards and guiding him all the while, and the unbiting unoccupied heads of the Traîkhiim were turning upwards and all talking at the same time.
– What a great party this is, isn’t it? –
– Sure a whole lot of fun we all set it up for you. –
– We have stew and cake and pizza pie for you. –
– You still not eating? That alright, we eat it all for you. If any left. –
– Probably none left. Within within within! We have chair for you! Sit sit sit sit sit. –
– Big surprise! Super surprise! Best surprise in all the known worlds. –
– And the unknown worlds, terra inepta. –