Monday, March 23, 2009

Umbilicus Mundi

Akhlísa was rubbing her hands in glee. – Tee hee hee hee hee – she laughed.
– Hah hah hah hah hah! – chimed Ixhúja.
– Hee hee hee hee hee! –
– Hæ hæ hæ hæ hæ! –
– Tee hee hee hee … I already laughed that way. Huh huh huh huh huh huh! –
– Snort! –
– Oh it’s good to laugh. –
Ixhúja nodded.
– It’s very good indeed! – Akhlísa looked to side to side and just to emphasize her words rubbed her hands a little harder. Before them the Traîkhiim were gathering and babbling and gaggling and burbling unto themselves in a large social sea comprised entirely of themselves, and Akhlísa began clapping her hands both to punctuate her words but also to warn the little mansuete dancers to start getting out of her way lest she start kicking them. – Ver-y good! Fhwa fhwa fhwa! – she clapped, and the Traîkhiim were like so many birds about her, some of them were nesting upon the tables and the chairs and about the rafters of the room, they were licking each other and skipping about in miniature danclings, some of them were arising and beating their wings together, but most of them had enough sense to start rolling and ducking aside as Akhlísa tried to walk into their waves, many of them were remembering that this one was indeed the Baby Sister and so was prone to childish ways and pranks, and so they began to crawl away from her and bounce about the walls, while others remembered that this one was Emperor Puîyos’ younger and prettier wife and due all such polite courtesy, and so they were bowing their heads down before her and holding their wings before their double faces and doing their best not to giggle too much in their presence, although the Traîkhiim were having difficulty in remaining still and serious for too long, some Traîkhiim had difficulty in being too deferential to their own neuter Qhaôtriim Elders, but ten thousand generations of servitude had taught them to fear the harsh tentacle of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and to try to be silent about those great Masters, but the Triîm still laughed at them when the Masters left or lay down for to sleep. The Traîkhiim were a living ait, and Akhlísa was walking through them, and the waves of Traîkhiim were mostly parting before her, bobbling and whirling about, and only a few stray stragglers did Akhlísa kick and not very hard at all, and the Traîkhiim at her haptic tap just arose and shook their wings at her and stuck out their tripleforked tounges and laughed all the more. Princess Ixhúja was far less gentle with this folk, she picked up many by their wings and hurled them against the walls, and even those who were escaping from her, if they were just a little too slow she caught up and kicked about, and usually against each other so that one Traîkhiim knocked down two or three who in turn knocked down more until the waves became walls of avalenche stampeding away from her. Ixhúja was finding this game to be quite fun, and so as Akhlísa made her way through the eyot of Traîkhiim, Ixhúja began to invent her own function and rules to this disportment, she would grab one blue Traîkhiim and hurl him against a red, and a green Traîkhiim had to knock o'er gold, she awarded herself a greater tally for knocking down more, and especially if she struck them so hard that they did not immediately start flying papilionaceous within a few moments. She divided up the room into nations and poploe and keyetúyer quadrents, she wanted to spread as much of her unique joy unto all of the portions of the room as she could, and so she saw it as her own empyreal right, stablished by the good Immortals themselves, to knock down as many Traîkhiim as possible in long and flowing arrays, and yet being an Khnìnthan maiden and quite selenite at heart, she delighted in matter which was qhàtsang, asymmetrical, she liked it better when the Traîkhiim were falling about her in crescents and in long unraveling dreamspirals, and she was the focus of all the fall.
Akhlísa made her way to the center of the room where the tables were set and some of the tools which Ixhúja had set aside, and signaling unto Fhólus and Aîya she had them start up the flames and stoke the furnace and prepare the basons once again. Akhlísa jumped up upon the table and rolled about from side to side and clutched her stomache and chanted – Oh this will be the most absolute fun e'er, it’s my most brilliant idea in my entire life! Ixhúja! Ixhúja! Are you finished tormenting the poor Pèqlor dancers? –
Ixhúja looked up from the sea of wings and strouthian necks and serpentile faces, she was holding up several Traîkhiim and using them as cudgels to beat the others low. – ?? – she asked.
– Will you stop whatever inane insane game you are playing and come o'er here and help me! Don’t you want my wonderful plan to suceeed! It will be like nothing that Puey’s e'er seen! –
Ixhúja just wanted to continue beating up the Traîkhiim, at least at this moment, she thought the people quite interesting, a people sàlot xhàlim pacified, even when they were snarling at her and baring their beaks, they were small enough that she could hold onto very many of them at once and just kick them about just like when she and Puîyus used to kick solar balls one to another and play games back when Jaràqtu was green and good, er that the Suns began to fade. But at least, as the Traîkhiim were rolling away from her and crowding up the corners, Ixhúja grew bored of the game, and she came to the tables and saw that Fhólus and Aîya were busy preparing the tools of creation, and little Fhólus and docile Aîya looked up and their antennæ-whisps were quiverous in fear as they looked to Ixhúja. Akhlísa continued rolling from side to side and laughed and held her belly.
Ixhúja raised a single violet eyebrow. – ?¿ – she asked.
– Um … I forgot – Akhlísa collapsed upon her back. – Whatever it was, it must have been funny indeed. –
Ixhúja crossed her legs and rested her head upon her chin, the very figure of melancholy contemplation, and she lookd to Akhlísa and wondered how her younger netherly Sister could forget so much in so short a period of time. This did not of course stop Akhlísa from rolling about in merry laughter, and sometimes clutching her knees and other times just coughing with convulsive laughter. Without even looking behind her Ixhúja grabbed Fhólus by one of his necks, smacked his three faces, and threw him all the way across the room, and he crashed against the wall, his wings flapping a couple of times like a broken insects, and then he slipped down and fell into the sea of his swarming brethren.
Aîya screamed with her three mouths. Ixhúja yanked up Aîya, held one of her faces right up to her, and gave her a look which bespoke, Unless you stop screaming, I throw you also.
– I we quiet! – shouted Aîya. – Very quite! Super quiet! –
Ixhúja growled and made sounds which Aîya could only associate with the wild beasts that prowl within the Ice Asteroids natal unto the Traîkhiim folk. – You saying something … – Aîya chanted. – Don’t quite understand, please don’t throw me, let me think think think … you wondering what I ate for breakfast? What I ate for lunch? What I ate for tea and supper and midnight snack? Certainly hope this a food related question, otherwise may be stuck. – Ixhúja shook the Traîkhiim again but did not bother to regrowl her request. – Ah … I know, you asking me … about Puîyos’ younger and prettier wife, right? I always like the younger and prettier wife, she … she good to the Traîkhiim. You like her too, right? Good. All good. All in agreement. Please don’t throw me. Uh-oh, getting that annoyed look in her eyen. Better say something. Aha! She forgot something didn’t she … the jewel! Yes! –
– Oh that’s it! – laughed Akhlísa as she rolled to her other side. – That’s what I was trying to remember but forgot. Do you remember what I earwhispered unto you? Oh, this is going to be delicious, we’ll prepare the jewel, we’ll surprise Puey with it, and he’ll fall madly in love with me and kiss me with his lips and we’ll live happily e'er after! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Tee hee hee hee hee! –
Ixhúja grinned a little. Yes, my twin will certainly be embarrassed. He’s never quite seen anything like this. I’ve never quite seen anything like this. Ixhúja shook Aîya a little and growled unto her.
– Now what I do! – screamed Aîya. – Sorry, I don’t speak growl mew purr! Say words! Gibber jabber burble anything at all but words words words wild and wonderous whorlent words! –
– !! – Ixhúja rumbled.
– Where’s the jewel? – asked Akhlísa as she sate up.
– The jewel … – Aîya wondered.
– My jewel, all blue, in your safekeeping? – Akhlísa asked. – We were going to make it into a carcanet for me. Special bijoux. Super jewel! – She hopped up and began creating her own special jewel dance just for this purpose, and it mostly consisted of her running in place and kicking and sometimes swirling her arms around and around.
– Jewel … – Aîya wondered. – That sound really familiar. –
Ixhúja slammed Aîya down upon the table and drew a sword and was about to start removing wings, but Akhlísa ran up and snatched Aîya away and chanted – Don’t hurt her she’s just a stupid little pet she doesn’t even know any better I lose things all the time how’d I like it if I lost an arm or something for everytime I’ve broken one of Fhermáta’s brooches or smashed one of Siêthiyal’s toys or accidently married Éfhelìnye’s sweetheart! –
– Hic! – hiccoughed Fhólus from across the room.
Ixhúja disliked inelegance and sloth, she yanked Aîya away from Akhlísa and stomped upon a wing just to ensure that the Traîkhiim understood that now was not the time for games. Aîya screamed out and chanted – Don’t know where the jewel is! –
– Hic! – hiccoughed Fhólus as she slowly made her way through the flying sea of Traîkhiim and back to the maidens.
– I don’t have it, I don’t think so – Akhlísa chanted as she searched her pockets. – Now, we set it with the rest of the leftover clockwork because we were going to build something of it. –
– I don’t remember anything at all! – cried Aîya.
Ixhúja removed a long and curved knife from her girdle, the type of knife she used to removed fingers or ears or eyen from her prey, and she held it right next one of Aîya’s faces and let the tip trace a little movement. It was amazing what a little bit of persuasion can do. Ixhúja thought that perhaps if she started removing some rather favored items than Akhlísa may get her answer. And it never hurt to remove some intestines. People like to have functioning insides.
– Stop it, Ixhúja, you’re scaring her! – Akhlísa shouted. – Just put the knife away. I’m sure the jewel is somewhere in this pile of clockwork. –
Ixhúja set the knife aside. Fhólus hopped upon the table and ran up to Aîya and licked her face. – Am I missing anything funly? – Fhólus asked. – Hic! Hic! Hic! That sure one disgusticating jewel that I swallowed, not a very satisfying dinner at all. Can still taste it, wriggling down my throat. –
– I can’t find the jewel anywhere – chanted Akhlísa as she began throwing wheels and gears around.
– Good thing we have strong heart-gizzards, help us digest – Fhólus chanted.
– I guess the jewel could be anywhere … or anything! – gasped Akhlísa. – Ixhúja! Ixhúja! Ixhúja, I have an idea! –
– Yep, I swallowed a jewel – Fhólus mused.
– Ixhúja! – gasped Akhlísa as she slid past her Traîkhiim friends and yanked Ixhúja by her sleeve and chanted – What if the jewel can change shape, what if it’s like a rainbow camelion and can change color and crawl about … Ixhúja! I bet the jewel has wings and it’s hiding in the rafters or … or in the ceiling even! –
Fhólus sighed. – I swallowed the jewel. Hic! –
– So we need to get our coats and search the ceiling and the towers – Akhlísa chanted and she ran about the table and looked for hat and gloves to ward off the dark winter midnight. – It may take us hours or days or even years but we’ll find the jewel or die trying and then we can show it to Puey and my plan will be complete. Oh jewel! I wish you had not flown off of your own accord and now we have to look for you but it’s okay it will work out in the end. –
– Hic! – hiccoughed Fhólus. – The jewel I swallowed. I swallowed the jewel. The jewel is in my heart-gizzard. I ate the jewel. Aîya, why is the Khnìnthan virgin looking at me like that? –
– You very stupid – Aîya chanted. – Stupider than I me us. Stupid even by Traîkhiim spectrum. –
– I thought that why you love me! –
– Mayhap I myself the me stupider then. –
Ixhúja drew out her third favorite disemboweling knife, she didn’t wish to sully her first and second favorite disemboweling knives with something as trivial as a Tnoaqteûpa slave. Alas, it was nice knowing the creature, she had truly enjoyed its company, but she would just have to get cousin Éfha a new thrall. So much xhepánga, these creatures just bled and bled and bled. Nothing to do now. Ixhúja shrugged and held Fhólus down by all three of her necks and held her leg-arms down and measured where she would have to make the incision, she might have to rip out the entire beating heart-gizzard to draw out the jewel, but if it had to be done it had to be done. She just wished that Aîya wouldn’t wail that way. Ixhúja remembered when Great-Uncle Táto had slipped a knife into her heart. Death had been horrible, but not nearly as bad as most think. It is like removing a wet article of clothing, and walking out into the dawn for the first time.
– Help us help us help us help us! – cried Aîya. – Oh Puîyos’ prettier and younger wife help us help us help us help us! –
Akhlísa rolled o'er and saw that Fhólus was wriggling in Ixhúja’s grasp and that Aîya was batting her wings and bubblebobbing her three heads from side to side. Akhlísa was wondering why it was just impossible for her to leave Ixhúja unwatched for just a minute or two without her getting involved in some horrible battle or horrific act of violence. – What are you doing now? – Akhlísa asked. – We’re supposed to be fashioning this jewel for … I don’t even want to know what you’re doing! –
– I swallowed the jewel I swallowed the jewel I swallowed the jewel! – cried Fhólus. – What are you doing! –
– Puff! – cried Ixhúja. She shoved aside Fhólus’ limbs just where she had to strike.
– I don’t suppose there those the any connection between … between … – Akhlísa began.
– We sure do have a room of slow thinkers in here – Aîya chanted.
– Wait a moment, I think I understand … – Akhlísa chanted.
I’m going to go ahead and rip her open now, Ixhúja told Akhlísa in nods. You can think later.
– Wait wait wait … – Akhlísa chanted. – The Traîkhiim found a jewel … and then … and then … wait … wait … –
– Somebody stop the Princess! – cried Aîya.
– Do you think … there could be … is it possible … that the same jewel that the Traîkhiim found … could that jewel … –
– Of course it’s the same jewel! – shouted Aîya. – There’s only one jewel under discussion! And of course Fhólus had to swallow it. –
– Is that the same jewel that … –
– Yes! –
– The one that … –
– Yes! –
Akhlísa considered for a moment. Ixhúja was just about to strike. Akhlísa paced back and forth. She counted on her fingers. She tugged upon her golden tresses. She scratched her ears. – Okay … so I had a jewel and lost it, the one that ye Traîkhiim found … and by some amazing coincidence Fhólus accidently swallowed a jewel … –
– Actually did it on purpose – chanted Fhólus.
– So there can only be one conclusion – Akhlísa chanted.
– Someone need to stop the Moon Princess! – cried Aîya.
Akhlísa held up her hands and spun around and chanted – There are two jewels! –
– There’s only one jewel! – cried Aîya. – Fhólus swallowed your one jewel! And Ixhúja is going to rip her open for it. –
– Which jewel? – asked Akhlísa.
Ixhúja set down her disemboweling knife and grabbed Akhlísa by her throat and leaning close to her, so that Akhlísa could smell Ixhúja’s sweet pomegranate breath upon her. This is all very simple. Fhólus! Swallowed! Your! Jewel!
Akhlísa blinked a couple of times. Then we have to get it back.
Yes. Good! I’m glad to hear that the excellent education which Grandfather Pátifhar instilled in you has not been wasted. I’ll go ahead and start opening the gizzard now. This shouldn’t take too long.
– You can’t open her up! –
Obviously one can. Just a few incisions.
– Don’t cut her open … –
Ixhúja threw Akhlísa down, plucked up Fhólus and dropped her right into Akhlísa’s lap. Then get it out yourself. Hurry up too. Or I’ll start ripping out important parts.
Akhlísa pulled up one of Fhólus’ heads and chanted – Would you mind disgorging the jewel for me, I’m afraid that my Clan Sister has less than painless methods of jewel gizzard extraction. –
– Disgorge the jewel? – asked Fhólus. – That has got to be the grossest thing I’ve e'er heard. Better just to cut me us open. –
– Wondering whether we us they really as brainless as we sound sometimes – one of Aîya’s heads muttered to itself, and her other two heads nodded.
– Wait! – cried Akhlísa, and she held up her hands o'er Fhólus’ torso and tried to stay Ixhúja’s hand. By now Ixhúja was growing, her eyen were narrowing, she was wriggling from side to side with impatience, either stab the Traîkhiim or not, but let’s just get this done, if you want me to work on the jewel one needs it now. Akhlísa gathered up Fhólus in her arms and shook her around a little so that her three serpentine heads bubbled next to each other and she chanted in a cooing voice – Now Fhólus is very very very very important, I need you to spew out the jewel right now. –
– Not in front of all these other Triîm! – gasped Fhólus.
– They’re not looking! –
– Yes they are! –
– Not looking! –
– Are too! –
– Fhólus! –
Ixhúja reached into her pockets and very slowly and with methodical care, right before one of Fhólus’ faces began taking out some weapons, some garotting cord and some long and hooked knives, and a staff she began unfolding and assembling and whose tip was ending in several long and reaching and gouging ends, and as she set the pieces down, they were all quite heavy and solid and rang a little. She reached into another pocket and found some gloves and began slapping them on, sometimes when removing someone’s still steaming living organs one’s hands to become terribly messy.
– Fhólus, just throw it up now – Akhlísa chanted, and she held the Traîkhiim by her leg arms and upside down and banged her three heads against the table. – Throw it up! Throw it up! Throw it up! –
– Which head? – cried Fhólus.
– It doesn’t matter! –
– It matters to me! –
– Fhólus! –
– Blech! –
– Fhólus! –
– Blech bleh bleh bleh oomfh! –
Ixhúja turned her head. It was quite disgusting indeed, it was as if the Traîkhiim ate nothing but chocolate all day long, chocolate and one jacinth jewel. Ixhúja was rather glad she was wearing gloves now, she reached into the steam and drew out jewel and holding it dipped it into a bason of pellucid water to clean it up. She looked up to Akhlísa and gave her a look that meant, Please, dearest Sister, remind me again whose idea it was to take in these crazy refugees?
– That would be the future Empress’ idea, and may I remind you that she resurrected half of these and she loves me and doesn’t mind if I kiss Puey all the time and he’s the Father of my children and I’m the Mother but Éfhelìnye is the first Mother – Akhlísa chanted.
– No fun being dead – Aîya chanted. – Lots of Ancestors. Crazy relatives all o'er the place. – Aîya fluttered up to Fhólus and poked his heads with her wings and chanted – Stupid stupid stupid jobbernowl lap’a noddy tonma kšǔ mugatån tonto mong suf nigaude daurrusus vavalang amadáinín! –
Ixhúja walked up to the baons and began washing her instruments but in snarls and growls and clockwork clicks told Akhlísa, Be under no illusions that I’ll be cleaning up slave mess. That’s the job of the youngest born, the little Sister.
Akhlísa rubbed her ear and chanted – Ah … yes … would that we had a younger Sister with us. Too quaad only the Concubine and the Emperor’s Sister, nobody at the bottom of this hierarchy, nobody at all. –
Aîya flew up to the pellucid bason and looking within saw a jewel shining like a piece of fruit. – Ooh! Pretty! It’s that pretty! Anyone else see this? –
You’re the bottom of the hierarchy, Ixhúja picked up some metallic tongs and began sharpening the edges. You clean this up.
– I? Bottom of pyramid! I’m the Emperor’s Concubine, I’m far too important for servitude. Why just the other day Puey told me that I’m his favorite wife and didn’t have to work at all never again so nyaaaah to you! –
One of Aîya’s heads plucked the jewel out while her other two heads examined it. – Looks yummy! Decided! Must eat it. –
You have to be good for something, Ixhúja purred as she began preparing her instruments for forging. You don’t do any work at all, if you were’nt young and cute you would have been killed by your Siblings, or at least slain at birth.
Fhólus fluttered up to Aîya. – What you find there? –
– Mine! – cried Aîya. – Delicious! –
– I we want a bite! –
– Nope! –
– My Siblings love me, and … Puey usually does the chores for me, he luvs me so much! – Akhlísa chanted.
Ixhúja held up the tongs and opened and closed them. Do you know what would have happened if you had been born in Khnìntha?
– Would I have been made a Queen? A Forest Queen! That would be marvelous! –
You probably would have been strangled at birth. Ixhúja slid down the table and poked her finger right to Akhlísa’s neck and told her, Only the strong have a right to live and to ate the resources of the motherland and to breed. The weak are cast off. A useless little female is dashed against a cliff. A mewling little male is thrown into the ice desert. Go and clean up the mess. Have you even earned the right to breed with Puîyos?
– Ah … I did chores yesterday. Lots of them. Hundreds of them! I cleaned all the harem, but you didn’t notice, it was right before you waked up, I clean really fast. –
– May I we have just a wee bite? – Fhólus asked, but Aîya’s heads were clasping tight to the jewel and licking it.
– No way, get your own tajhwònthe quetzalxoquiyae! – giggled Aîya.
– Awwww … –
– Tee hee hee hee! –
Akhlísa spun around and chanted – Slaves would you mind cleaning up the mess you just made? –
– Sure thing, just after this – chanted Aîya. Ixhúja and Akhlísa looked on and saw Aîya’s tossing up the jewel and swallowing it with one head, and the jewel flowed down her neck, bulging it, and popped right into her belly. – What are we cleaning up now! –
– I wish I had a jewel for to eat – sighed Fhólus.
– You get the next one. –
Ixhúja kissed her knuckles one by one, she thought it would be best to start tenderizing Aîya before breaking open her flesh. Aîya looked up and her eyen turned blue and pink as she saw Ixhúja’s approach, and she muttered – Wha wha what everyone looking at me like that! Didn’t do nothing! –
– I think they just like blaming the slaves – Fhólus muttered.
– Wait a moment! – Akhlísa cried. – Where’s my jewel? –
– Jewel, what jewel, I didn’t swallow a jewel! Stop blaming me for foolish swallowing the jewel! – Aîya shouted.
– I understand, it all makes sense now – Akhlísa chanted as she rubbed her brow. – There must be three jewels, and Fhólus swallowed one and Aîya swallowed the other … so where’s my jewel? –
Ixhúja finished kicking her knuckles and without even looking to her punched Akhlísa across her face and sent her sprawling down. The Traîkhiim screamed as Ixhúja flew right up to them and landed right upon Aîya and kicked her wings, and yanked her by the throat and began punching her. Akhlísa jumped upwards and hung onto both Ixhúja and Aîya, and Fhólus was screaming all the while and biting and gnarling and kicking on everyone else. And the sea of Traîkhiim were arising, free and leaping and screaming and were swirling upwards and shouting all the louder. Ixhúja grabbed Aîya by a neck and held up her knife and was about to start sawing right through, but then the door of the room opened and a couple of Vestal Virgins looked within, and three thousand Triîm heads swivelled at once to look at the two Concubines, and Ixhúja held and strangled Aîya and smiled, and Akhlísa and Fhólus were hanging upon Ixhúja all in a confusion of wings and limbs and knives and bubbling cauldrons.
– Is … everything alright in here? – asked a Vestal Virgin.
– Yes, honored Mother – smiled Akhlísa. – We’re just playing. –
– Yes, we’re playing – chanted Fhólus.
– Blech! – cried Aîya and she threw up on Ixhúja, and the jewel came spilling outwards and landed upon the table. Ixhúja would have snapped a few heads right off, but the children of Khnìntha are famous for their respect for the elders, so she just remained still in the presence of the holy Virgins.
– Just playing! – chanted Akhlísa and she kicked the jewel into a bason of lustral water.
– We heard shouting – another Vestal Virgin chanted. – Your Kháfha regent guardians have commanded that you children be given time and privacy to rediscover each other and form a new unity of your family, but we do not wish to hear fighting. –
– We’re not fighting – chanted Akhlísa. – Honest! –
Ixhúja grinned and tried to hide a few swords and knives behind her back, and down came clattering her Father’s violet sword, and a couple of maces, and long loops of garotting cord and and not a few macana sticks. Ixhúja shoved them aside with her toe.
– Your lord and husband shall be returning from battle soon – chanted a Vestal Virgin. – If it is not too late, not quite your bedtime, you may want to meet him the courtyard before the selamlik. –
– Oh we have quite a surprise for him – chuckled Akhlísa. – Quite a surprise indeed. Tee hee hee hee hee … –
– Heh heh heh heh heh – laughed Fhólus.
– Hah hah hah hah hah – giggled Aîya.
– Hæ hæ hæ hæ hæ – cackled Ixhúja.
– Tee hee hee hee hee … I already forgot my plan – chanted Akhlísa.
– Goodnight, children – chanted the Vestal Virgins and they closed the door behind them. The sea of Traîkhiim turned around giggling and flying and breathing gasps of relief. Ixhúja punched away Aîya and kicked Fhólus a few times and tried to wipe the Traîkhiim mess from her tunic, really this was just incorrigible. She walked up unto a tripod and began splashing water upon herself and was wondering really just how much the Traîkhiim could manage to eat, they were like little khmùtur little clockwork motors churning always about each other and probably munching on candy all the time that’s why they’re always so hyper and make terrible warriors no wonder their civilization has never accomplished anything at all they’re slaves and only fit to be slaves weak and pliant like so many children. She splashed water in little handfuls upon herself, it was not a bathday yet, and one should not hasten bathing times with all that water and suds and soapy froth.
Akhlísa reached into a bason and found a jewel within glowing and bright and cried out – Ooooh look what I found it’s an uxhàxhma it’s a blue fruit! – She plucked it out and licked it and chanted – It smells tastes remembers of candy! –
Fhólus and Aîya fluttered unto either sides of her and landing upon her shoulder whispered – Look tasty look delicious fruit to see to eat. Want to eat it? –
– Should I eat it? – asked Akhlísa.
– If you no want it, I eat it! – Fhólus and Aîya both chanted at the same time, and then looking to each other they gasped in accusation and chanted – You eat it! I we you only eat it. I you they eat it not you they I! Oh pronoun soup, we Triîm never quite figured it out yet. –
– I think I’m going to eat it – Akhlísa chanted.
Princess Ixhúja finished washing off her thyùxixi crosar as best she could, and looked up just in time to see Akhlísa’s swalling the jewel. Ixhúja sighed and thought that sometimes it was best not even to get up in the dawntide. She hoped that Puîyus at least were having fun in his battle. She waited a moment and tried to calm her killing instinct, it was one hardly a matter at all to kill slaves, but she could not harm her new Sister, or at least not harm her too much or in a permanent fashion, after her all flesh now belonged unto Puîyus. But still, younger Siblings did deserve a sound beating perhaps everyday. Ixhúja took up her weapons and set them back in their place, macana and rhópalon and garrotte chord and sword, and marching froward and punching Fhólus and Aîya aside, she picked up Akhlísa and began pounding her right in the stomache.
– Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! – cried Akhlísa. – Why are you doing this? Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! –
– !! – Ixhúja growled.
– I didn’t do anything bad! –
– !! –
– I warn you I’ve eaten nothing but chocolate and candy these last three days! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! –
– Purr purr purr! –
– The jewel? Do you think they’re four of them? Ow! –
– Purr purr purr … –
– Oh, the plan! The jewel! When Puey sees the bright blue summer jewel … he’s going to go completely happy crazy! It will be like nothing he’s e'er seen. Ow! Stop hurting me, Ixhúja! –
– !! –
– I feel sick! Blech! –
Ixhúja threw Akhlísa down and plucked up the summer snηf and just to ensure that nobody e'er swallowed it, at least until she was finished with it, she set it into her tongs and walked up unto a flaming hearth and set it into the fire, and the jewel grew luminous and hyacinth hot, and waves of hot white heat rippled out from it. Ixhúja began wiping away little Sister mess from herself, this was completely getting tiresome, and she was coming to the conclusion that little Sister was actually messier than many Traîkhiim giggling and hyper all at the same time. Akhlísa rolled up and ran up to Ixhúja beside the flames and asked – Watcha doing! Watcha doing huh huh huh huh huh! Can I help? Is that the jewel? It looks tasty! –
Fhólus and Aîya landed upon Ixhúja’s shoulders and looked upon the jewel with longing and chanted – So delicious yum yum yum don’t you want to eat it? We sure do. –
Ixhúja wanted to start beating up the Traîkhiim, but as she pulled the jewel out of the growing flames she could not help but notice that it was shining with a slight winedark light that reminded her too much of Puîyus’ own eyen, fair and beautiful in her sight. She wondered whether Puîyus were taking off his helmet right now, and his hair were flowing wild and blue and free. She wondered what his lips were doing, perhaps they were licking themselves and mewling the war mews of victory. She wondered how Puîyus would react when he saw this jewel in all its glory.
– She dreaming about Puîyos right now – Fhólus whispered.
– She want to be second concubine – Aîya nodded.
– Don’t think she want to be subordinate to first concubine though. –
– But only way she can get married, who else do you think want to marry crazy shield maiden here? –
– This is going to be fun! – Akhlísa laughed. Her clockwork earrings were crawling up and down her ears and at the side of her face, and the smaller jewels within were turning and grinning and flapping their wee corvid wings.
Ixhúja held up the summer jewel from the long tendrils of fire and looking to the Traîkhiim gave the signal to light up the forge flames, and the Traîkhiim all in a brilliant gaggle began running outside, they came pouring out the windows and into the snowladen courtyard in the back of the harīm, and several Traîkhiim were bouncing upwards and tossing crystalline timber unto the furnaces and others were gathering up snow, and the smelting pots were lit up and were blinking as gigantic eyen, and the Traîkhiim were running unto side to side and were taking prongs and pokers and dipping them into the snow. Ixhúja and Akhlísa walked unto the tables, and Ixhúja dipped the jewel into layer after layer of ice and fire and she held it up unto the glimmer of the moonlight, and when she was finished she set it upon the table and revealed that it was now shining as bright and lustrious as the blue in the summerdress which Akhlísa used to wear before the Qhíng made her burn her dress and called her an adult, the sky blue which men call taîqwo the summer blue cælestine. And Ixhúja took out her clockwork tools and clasped it tight upon the table and she took out her fine xhmaôr her engraving tool, and she baptdipped it also into the white hot flames, and the clockwork of the xhmaôr awoke and out came long tentacles of cutting pincers. Ixhúja wiped some sweat from her brow, and leaning close to the jewel set her xhmaôr upon it and began tracing out the tartan which Akhlísa had told her.
– My name and Puey’s name have to be engraved on it together and for ever and for ever because we’ll always be together he and I – Akhlísa chanted. – We’ve always been the very best and dearest of friends. I just want to be one with him. Sometimes I think that even if Puey and I were not fostered into the same Clan, if I had grown up among my Father’s Khatelèstan or my Mother’s Tásel that Puey and I would still be best friends and would still grow up and get married, we just have too, we’re far too similar not to be together all the time and I love him. Did you spell my name right? –
Ixhúja nodded.
– Oh I see. You have nice handwriting. Not as good as mine of course, I taught Éfhelìnye how to carve and paint her letters, but your hand it okay I suppose for an amateur. –
Ixhúja blew upon the tools and the blue hot heat of the jewel and let it all turn and sparkle before her, and then set back to work upon the curve and rumble and twist of the glyphs, so that Puîyos and Akhlísa were completely entwined, and all about their manimultifold names she began to paint labyrinth patterns flowing out from them, a living blue maze drifting outwards, towers and turns and twists that bled out trice dimensional within the flesh of the quri shine. And at last the jewel was complete, a teardrop maze, sparkling winedark and almost sleeping, bright saphhire rolling sea bijoux, the mounting glaciers that float upon the oceans juveloj, the rolling waves of the storm seas snηf, the glistening cærulea gem labyrinth. Ixhúja wiped her face again and set her tools aside. She looked to Akhlísa and blinking and purring asked her, Are you sure you want to do this? Such a thing has never been attempted in the history of either the Heresy or the Winter Empire.
– I do – chanted Akhlísa. She started fiddling with her blouse.
Ixhúja took down a few of her clockwork creatures and set them about the jewel, and she took some of the spare wheels and cogs and began creating the clockwork spar and hook for the jewel. Intricate and growing the clockwork clasped the jewel and made it their eye and belly, and wriggling out came chains and new gems unfolding of the wondrous apparatus such as the children of Khnìntha can forge, and the labyrinth became part of this jewelry and the dance of the wheels.
Are you so sure you want to do this? Ixhúja asked, as she picked up the jewel and felt it crawling about her finger upon its new clockwork chains. It’s funny, but Puîyos may not like it.
– He’ll love it, he’ll see how brave and grown up I am. – Akhlísa finally found the edge of her blouse and began pulling it upwards and chanted – When Puey sees that I wear this summer jewel in my belly button and our names are all entwined in the labyrinth, he’ll just fall in love with me. Now, figure out how to put the jewel in there. I have such a beautiful navel, don’t you think so? –
Ixhúja adjusted some of the wheels of the jewel. Has Puîyos even seen a maiden’s àmfhuku, stranguliz, d̀ud̀uǹ? We’ll all laugh, but he may grow embarrassed.
Akhlísa lay upon the table and pulled up her shirt. – He’s going to see my belly button. Now put it in there. –
One may have to pierce the top of the knavel. Ixhúja took out the same tools she had used to pierce Akhlísa’s ears, and she placed her hands upon Akhlísa’s omphalos.
– Ooh! You’re hands are cold! Weren’t you just forging in the fire? –
Stay still. Ixhúja took up some cutting tools. I think just a cut on top.
– Ouch ouch ouch ouch! – screamed Akhlísa. – That hurts! –
I haven’t started yet.
– Sorry. –
You’re such a baby.
– A bejeweled baby. Puey’s going to love this and just go happy lovey kissie when he sees this! There is no possible way this can be a complete miscalculation on my part. We’ll have to paint my belly also, with golds and silvers and blues too. –
Are you ready?
– I’m ready. This is going to hurt, I just know it. –
– I’m ready. –
Ixhúja sate up. I already did it.
– Huh? – Akhlísa looked down and saw the blue jewel in her belly and she squealed out – This is the best idea I’ve e'er had! I’m like a sylph or a nymph now! Look at that little contraption, it’s crawling all about my belly now and weaving little nets! There’s no way Puey can ignore me now! I’m not like Fhermáta who could never do anything wrong, or ætherial Éfhelìnye who’s all milk and honey, or even Qlenólakh or Asiréma or Ixhúja or any of his other sweethearts, I’m his summertime love! Oh look at this! – Akhlísa jumped up upon the table and swung her belly around and watched the spindly jewel turning around. – Puey’s never seen anything like this, nothing at all never never never never! –
Fhólus and Aîya came fluttering upwards and gaped in amazement at Akhlísa as she held up her blouse, and the Traîkhiim gasped to see the jewel there. – That the most amazing thing we’ve e'er seen – the Traîkhiim whispered. – You be remembered throughout all Pèqlor history the next hundred thousand generations. –
– I’m so beautiful – Akhlísa giggled. – If I were Puey I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from kissing me, I’m just completely perfect really. –
Ixhúja covered her hand with her mouth and wondered what doom she had wrought upon them all, but then started laughing as if to say, I need to be there when Puîyos sees this. I need to see his face.
– Let’s see him now then – chanted Akhlísa. – He’s coming back from battle … but this clothing just won’t do, why do I have to wear all of these complicated clothes all the time, it’s like I’m mummified or something, tèmal, corp·spìosraichte! Ixhúja, I want to wear something lighter like what you wear. It’s okay for Éfhelìnye to be all swirling and long and elegant, and Siêthiyal dressed like a flower, but I want to dress up as … as someone who can expose her belly button! Okay, I’ve decided I no longer want to wear a slip, it’s all too layery. Let’s alter this skirt and blouse, we can cutt off the bottom of the fhlùsa blouse and let the belly button jewel glow free! –
Ixhúja held up her hand and mewed for scissors.
– Scissors! – cried Fhólus and one head turned to another and chanted – Scissors! – and the last head chanted – Scissors! – And Aîya looked to her heads and chanted – You heard her, get some scissors! – – That’s not my job that her job! – – Let’s just ask the rest of the Triîm. –
The gaggling sea of Traîkhiim arose and went scissorhunting, wings and necks arosing kerflufflent, their limbs swinging from side to side, and within a few moments they return’d with qilestòkhti sewing scissors. Ixhúja grabbed the edge of Akhlísa’s blouse and set to work and told her, What we’ll do is cut it right above your navel so that when the elders walk by it will look like you’re wearing a normal blouse, but when you stretch up your arms, Puey can see your belly button and jewel. Isn’t that clever.
– You’re very smart and clever. And the Elders will never find out! – Akhlísa wriggled from side to side, and Ixhúja finished cutting off the ledge of the blouse, and with a few simple stitches the blouse was hemmed once again. Ixhúja took a step away from her handiwork and looked to Fhólus and Aîya to get their approval, but they were mesmerized by the jewel in the navel.
– It’s a labyrinth … – whispered Fhólus.
– It’s like Puîyos’ younger and prettier wife were some jeweled fruit. Do we get to eat her? – asked Aîya.
Only if you two are good and obey me, Ixhúja growled and clicked and set her hands upon the Traîkhiim wings. Now, let’s go and find my feral Twin. I can’t wait to see how he will react to this.
– I’m practically naked – Akhlísa chanted as she shook her belly and watched the jewel crawl about in an insectoid pattern. – I’ve always thought I had the most beautiful belly button of all the maidens in Jaràqtu, it’s just perfect, and now it’s perfecter, and Éfhelìnye can’t compete, she doesn’t even have a belly button. Do you have one, Ixhúja? – Ixhúja did not answer, but Akhlísa did not wait for a response. – Come along, I’m sure that silly battle is finished by now. Fhólus, Aîya, you’ve got to see this! Tee hee hee hee hee! –
– Heh heh heh heh heh – laughed Fhólus.
– Hah hah hah hah hah – giggled Aîya.
– Hæ hæ hæ hæ hæ – cackled Ixhúja.
– Tee hee hee hee hee … I already forgot what I’m doing – Akhlísa chanted.
– Purr? –
– Ah! Operation, belly button cuzco icihuaxic texicnacayo xicnacatl xictli naabhiM ambiljon omfalo umbilicus umbiliko numbril! Hurray! – Akhlísa ran around in little circles upon the surface of the table and clapped her hands and watched the movement of the jewel on her navel as it flowed from side to side. – Let’s go and give Puey the surprise of his life! –
Fhólus drew out some drums and arose upon the tips of her wings, and Aîya took up some small palm cymbols, and Akhlísa hopped down from the tables and lead the way. Ixhúja looked to the rest of the Traîkhiim and bade them all to start cleaning up the basons and tools and make everything nice and pretty, for otherwise Ixhúja would have no choice but to hurt all of them in very inventive ways, and the Traîkhiim grumbling unto themselves set to work upon their task and began drawing away the tools and tripods and did their work as quickly as possible so that they could see what madness would be wrought by Emperor Puîyos’ younger and prettier little bride. And Akhlísa came running down the halls and was laughing all the way, and she opened up the door to Princess Éfhelìnye’s room and stuck out her tounge and cried out – Hah hah hah to you! – Siêthiyal was fast asleep, and Éfhelìnye was drawing her pictures. Akhlísa made few goofy faces and spun away chuckling unto herself and slammed the door behind her. Éfhelìnye picked up a crayon and drew shades of green and wondered where the next page of her manuscript would take her.

– All praise be unto the Crown Prince – the warriors were intoning as Puîyus rode his ostridge in their midst. The acolytes were taking up their thuribles and casting their incense before him and chanting –Behold the bridegroom of earth and land. Behold the husband of sea and deep. Behold the lord of welkin and sky. Puîyos the Son of Kàrijoi, the rising Sun, the master of all things! –
Puîyus was just about to hop off of Khwixhexthateîqa the wind striding ostridges of his, but several soldiers were dashing upwards and laying themselves facedown upon the ground so that he could walk upon their backs. He had no intention of doing so, he thought he’d just jump high above their heads and land upon the ground, but for some reason he just felt tired in his bones, and curious a little, so he walked upon the first soldier’s back and hopped down and hoped that he did not weigh too much. When Puîyus came unto the ground the soldiers just continued to grovel before him, but the man on whose back he had walked turned to his brother and whispered – He is still such a young man, really a child, he almost weighs nothing at all. I once had a Son just a couple of years older than the new Emperor, he was the very apple of mine eye and I loved him, the perfect fruit of my family. But after the Qhíng began their long retreat, the Emperor breathed out his winter’s wind upon my Son, and now he resides among all our Ancestors until the last day. –
– The New Emperor is Son and Nephew and Grandson unto us all – the soldiers whispered one to another. – He is the heir denied unto us. He is our treasure. We love him. –
– Kàrijoi has given us a great gift in giving us his only Son – the soldiers sighed. – What greater present can the Emperor of all things give than the Son of his blood? –
– We shall mourn Kàrijoi when he falls from heaven, but we shall rejoice to see his Son inthronised in his place, with Kàrijoi’s daughter as his bride, and a thousand concubines to be wife unto him. –
Puîyus did not wish to hear anymore, the talk of consanguininety and fatherhood reminded him of his dearest Abbá who had been taken away from him, the only birth parent whom he had e'er known since Khwofheîlya had passed into the shadow of the Ancestors when Winter came for her. Sometimes Puîyus thought that he did not know Íngìkhmar very well at all, that Jàkopar’s Son was just a shadow unto him, a glimmer of obedience and severity, of discipline and order and honor, and yet he was the Father of all the Sweqhàngqu who were left, or at least those who had once been Sweqhàngqu. Puîyus reached out and took Khwixhethateîqa by a wing and lead the phororhacos back up unto the stables, and the ostridge reached out and brushed against Puîyus’ hand and cheek and ear and tried to comfort his master as best he could. Puîyus looked down to his feet. He could hear all about him that the priests and acolytes were scenting the rooms of the fortress and preparing the way. He thought that it might be best just to stay in the stables again this night. The doors were swinging open before him, and within the halflight of the stariz he saw that the giraffes and ostridges were lulling and bowing before him. Puîyus brought Khwixhethateîqa unto his stall and took brush and began grooming the feathers one by one, he took longer than was strictly necessary, but he enjoyed tending to plantimals and caring for them, in fact protecting creatures was something that gave him an immense amount of satisfaction. He washed the blue and white feathers of Khwixhethateîqa and took some oils and waxed down some of the wings about the strouthian head and kissed the ostridge many times and hugged it tight, and Khwixhethateîqa cooed and whimpered a little to feel its master’s warmth upon it, and it hugged Puîyus back and quacked a little and rubbed its bill against Puîyus’ face and told it in warmth and feathers how much it loved its master Puîyus Játanikh the Feral Lad.
After a time though the ostridge knew that Puîyus would probably just hold it and remain still within the stallry all that night, and the ostridge looked to the other beasts and told them in the qwèqweka of Qtheûnte the language of wild beasts, Better it is for our new Master to get some rest and not be so consumed by his own sad thoughts. We should give him a task. Perhaps we can summon his mates unto him, they will know how to comfort him better, those who are of his own kind. Khwixhethateîqa looked to his brother Xheresafhènitha, and they together took up Puîyus in their wings and brought him into the center of the hayfolds where the cot lay, the one that Siêthiyal had set up for her Brother. Running down the columns of the stables came a few xhaûrlro mouse squirrels, and they drew out Puîyus’ knives and set them upon a barrel and they danced around them and wriggled their wee noses and whiskers unto Puîyus, and after a few moments his lifetime of training awoke within him, and Puîyus set to work on cleaning and sharpening his weapons, and he began with his knives and then worked unto his arsenal of darts and macana and javelins and impaling spears and māccuahuitl and various brands and finally the solar sword which Emperor Kàrijoi, his legal Father, had given unto him.
– Tee hee hee hee hee! – came the laughter behind Puîyus. He looked up. He was cutting some of the obsidian and jade chips of his jairientaôlu maquáhuitl. The hay was tumbling through the lofts. He heard the movement of limbs and wings, and the slight quiver of heart-gizzards and other torquatious organs within plumed torsos.
– Think master Puîyos hearing us we them yet? –
– Don’t know, he all alone with his weapons. –
– How dangerous. Clean and sharpen. –
– Think he e'er eat his weapons? –
– Puîyos not stupid like we are. –
– We be profoundly stupid. –
– Need somebody to take care of us. –
– Pretty much useless. Uh-oh! Looking up. Might have heard us. –
– No … probably just wiping his ear-antennæ or something. –
Puîyus picked up the next teiràlwaru and set to work upon cleaning and cutting its teeth. He could hear the movement of a couple of mischievous Traîkhiim as they attempted to sneak from one barrel to the next, and kept bumping into each other and tumbling in the straw, they were moving some objects with them and kept falling about. Puîyus was glad that such pure creatures were spared battle in sand and ice and froth, although he was not smiling, he rejoiced that he could take upon himself all that burdhen and spare them from the battle that always waged upon the threshold.
– Okay I we play the drum! –
– No, you played the drum last time. Cymbols! –
– I we no want to play cymbols! –
– You play now! –
– You play! –
– You play! –
– Let go! Let go! –
– Be quiet you twain! – Akhlísa hissed. – You’re going to ruin my completely awesome and perfect plan! Now just start playing your instruments I don’t care who plays what! Ixhúja, come here! –
– Purr? –
– This is going to be great! –
Puîyus picked up a xetlhajairaûqhu māccuahuitl and flicked away a few broken pieces of flint, he he could already guess nηfgab nηfnηm that he would not be afforded the opportunity to finish this task. Tending the weapons could wait, and he always kept them in perfect ready condition anyway. Whatever it was his baby Sister was intending, it was more important than whatever Puîyus had in mind.
– Tee hee hee hee hee! – laughed Fhólus as he or she burst out of the hay and was dragging some small palm-drums in her wings, and she hopped up upon a barrel and set the drum down and began to stamp out a long and growing beat.
– Hah hah hah hah hah! – giggled Aîya as she descended down from the rafters and landed unto Puîyus’ other side and the cymbols were in her limbs and she began striking them, so that they sounded like wind and dance and tùtya chimes, and the air of the stables began to sparkle a little. And all of the xhaûrlro mice-squirrels came crowding about the upper rafters and looked down and sniffed and wriggled their noses all the while and wondered what was to come, and the dinosaurs and giant silkworms and giraffes sate down and turned their heads in expectation, and Xheresafhènitha and Khwixhethateîqa turned their necks and began clapping their wings to the beat.
Princess Ixhúja came froward, she was all mischevious grins, and she was ushering Akhlísa upon the hay and right before Puîyus, and Akhlísa was dressed in a long robe right unto her ankles. Ixhúja picked her up and set her upon Puîyus’ cot just so that he would have a good view of her. Ixhúja bowed and set her hands upon Akhlísa’s ears and with a flourish removed her fingers, and the earrings were dancing around in a brilliant array, the earings were an endless series of jewels crawling up and down the side of her head, some of the earrings were breathing out soft webs of gemlight, while others were slowly opening and closing their raven wings and blinking at Puîyus all the while. Akhlísa winked at Puîyus. Puîyus was not at all sure how to respond. He waved. Akhlísa licked her lips and blew him a kiss. She flicked her golden hair back just so that he could see the earrings in all their glowing glistening glories, like unto federwerk insects everreptent, and Puîyus blinked a few times and noticed for the first time, earrings in the ears of his beloved baby Sister.
It took Puîyus a few moments to recover. Earrings. Earrings. Qyoâ orelornamoj. Khlìneru orelringoj. Oiralbruin earrings. Earrings. Earrings. In the ears of his beloved baby Sister.
Akhlísa smiled a smile which he was finding far to enigmatic. – Oh but I’m not your beloved baby Sister any longer, Pew, I’m much, much more. –
Puîyus held up a shaking finger and pointed to her ear. – ?? – he whispered.
– Oh these little things? – Akhlísa flicked the earrings from side to side. – You haven’t seen anything yet! –
Puîyus gulped and pointed to the earrings again. – ¿¿ – he wondered.
Fhólus began beating his drums all the faster. Aîya chimed upon the cymbols in a dancing rhythm. Akhlísa was swaying from side to side. All of the xhaûrlro tokpodzevos were swaying their whiskers and tails most bushy from side to side. The dinosaurs were stamping their claws, the giraffes bobbed with their long heads, the silk worms shook their long tounges, the ostridges clapped their wings, and Xheresafhènitha and Khwixhethateîqa were humming unto the tune that the Traîkhiim were creating of themselves.
Akhlísa was shaking her body from side to side. – No, my lord and husband, you haven’t seen anything at all. – She looked to Ixhúja. Ixhúja clomb up unto the cot and behind Akhlísa unclasped the robe and let it tumble down. Akhlísa was dressed in her skirt and shortened blouse, she kept her head and neck still, but the rest of her body was in movement, she was swaying her hips from side to side, and when she lifted up her arms, her blouse crawled upwards to reveal the jewel set in her knavel and crawling about upon its own clockwork pincers. And the jewel in the bellybutton all summer glowed before Puîyus’ eyen, and with his vision accurate sharp he saw his name and Akhlísa’s twisting together in the growing orbits of the labyrinth. Akhlísa giggled to herself and she swung her stomache around just to give Puîyus a better view of the jewel, and Traîkhiim continued to play the beat of this dance, Fhólus pounding upon the drum, and Aîya upon the cymbols. Akhlísa laughed and held up her arms and shook her hips all the harder.
It was at this point that Puîyus’ heart stopped and his eyen no longer blinked.
Ixhúja nodded and told Akhlísa, One thinks that he likes the dance, for he objects not at all.
– Oh he’s never seen anything like this at all! – Akhlísa giggled and cried out – See, I’m nothing at all like those Princesses you like, I’ll never be your little clan Sister, I’m your younger and prettier little wife! –
Fhólus continued playing out his beat but leaning one head to Aîya whispered – Is Master Puîyos still breathing question? –
– Having no idea – Aîya whispered back. – He may be dead. –
– Um … that terrible. –
– In theory. Meh. –
– Without him we lose the war. We be dead for ever. Really dead. Spiritually dead. –
– Oh. Worst case scenario. Outside context catastrophe. –
– Should somebody, you know, make him not dead! –
– We better not interfere, we get easily blamed because we’re very stupid. –
– Very stupid. –
Akhlísa spun around and hopped down from the cot just to give Puîyus a better view of her navel jewelry, the little intricate webs and jewels crawling about her stomache and sometimes resting upon her and othertimes in migration, and the gems were painting little golden dream spiral patterns upon her belly all the while. Puîyus’ face was turning a slighter whiter shade than Akhlísa had seen in some time, and she could only assume it was because of all the affection he had for her, and that at any moment he would stand up and embrace her and kiss her.
The door to these quarters of the stables came swinging open and Princess Éfhelìnye was taking afew steps within and peering into the half light, for now that Siêthiyal was fast asleep, Éfhelìnye thought that now would be an excellent time to go unto the men’s quarters and find the dictionary jìfhyei iezadur tụ·điê’n which she knew the priests were keeping for her near Puîyus’ room, and she did not wish to bother Siêthiyal in the middle of the night, especially with such a trivial item, plus the Princess was hoping that after she took up the dictionary in her small white hands she could sneak out and find Puîyus and hold him and kiss him a few times without anyone else finding out. As it was, Éfhelìnye peaked within and heard the drums and cymbol and the giggling dance music of Fhólus and Aîya, and taking a few steps within saw a golden haired maiden shaking her bare stomache. Éfhelìnye blinked a few times. – I’m terribly sorrow, I must be in the wrong stables – she chanted to herself. – This can’t be where my Puey is staying. – She saw Ixhúja and nodded to her, and Ixhúja winked back and pointed. Éfhelìnye began walking out of the stables, all of the mice and dinosaurs and beasts bowing down before her and she muttered – I have no idea what’s happening there. That poor maid seems to have lost some of her clothing. If Puey were around he’d drape her in a more appropriate fashion. Well, no reason to worry about that now. I’ll find the lexicon purafhaîrotu Wörterbuch and bring it back to the purdah and work on my manuscript, I’m sure that Karuláta is asleep she enjoys slumber sleepfain, but she was with Ixhúja last, and I just … saw … – Éfhelìnye walked right out of the stables. – What a fey thought that is. I know that was not Karuláta in there. Impossible, inane, a mad thought! Never in a thousand generations would Karuláta do anything that … that … I could not possibly conceive of her … of … I’d better go and investigate this. There is nothing else to do. – Éfhelìnye spun around and glissaded back into the stables, and Xheresafhènitha and Khwixhethateîqa the ostridges bowed to the future Empress and tried to warn her, but Éfhelìnye was already marching into the center of the hayfold, and the Traîkhiim were playing their instruments, and Puîyus sate in the center of the hay, unblinking and unbeating, his eyen wide, his face white, and Akhlísa was shaking her belly at him and playing with her earrings.
Éfhelìnye had to gasp a few times and take deep breathes to gather up her strength, and at least piped out – Kàrula? Is that … is that you? –
Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa spun around and shook her hips and belly at Éfhelìnye and cried out – Ciao! How you! –
– Ur … –
– Hello Puey’s wife older and less pretty than I am. Do you like my dancing? –
– Um … –
Akhlísa held up her arms to reveal her stomache all the more, and then she placed an elegant finger to an ear and little the clockwork constraptions flow about her fingers and palms, her earrings glowing all the brighter. – You like these, don’t you? –
Éfhelìnye choked. – Yes, I’ve been meaning to mention your earrings … –
– They’re fabulous, aren’t they! Here, watch what I can do with my hips and tummy. Rolling rolling rolling ooh ooh ooh ooh … –
Éfhelìnye closed her eyen and tried to keep herself from panicking. – I think that as the head of this harem it is my duty to object to your clothing or rather lack thereof. –
Akhlísa held a finger to her belly and the jewel crawled about. – Isn’t this the most wonderous thing you’ve e'er seen! –
– It’s … something. –
– Too bad you don’t have a belly button. Okay watch this, everytime I swing my tummy to Puey, it looks like his eyen are going to explode. –
– Ah, in terms of Puey … –
– But you’re right, the clothing is a little awkward, when I draw mine arms down it rubs against my belly jewel. Ixhúja, do you have the sewing scissors? –
Ixhúja drew from her girdle the pair of qilestòkhti šarker, and Akhlísa went to work at the hem of her blouse, and with some quick thrusts cut off another inch and tossed the cloth aside. – This is much better, this way Puey can always see my bellybutton all the time! What a superior idea you’ve given me, Éfhelìnye, I’m so glad you’re my Sister Wife. –
Éfhelìnye felt blood draining from her face. – I rejoice that I can be so useful. –
Akhlísa spun around and continued dancing before Puîyus. Puîyus fainted and collapsed upon the hay. Fhólus and Aîya continued playing the drum and cymbol to the dance but in louder and wilder array. Éfhelìnye took a gulp and chanted – I must still be dreaming, there can be no other explanation, unless I am engaging in jòfhto, in sleep walking. I’m just going go back away from the stables and find the dictionary and return to bed with the manuscript and sleep and sleep and sleep and … –
Akhlísa thrust her hips at Éfhelìnye and chanted – Goodnight Sister wife! I’ll stay with our husband. –
Éfhelìnye managed a weak wave and spinning around ran out of the stables and the mice squirrels and giant silk worms and dinosaurs were bowing unto her, as well as Xheresafhènitha and Khwixhethateîqa the ostridges, and she came sliding out into the courtyard and slipped down the long lengths of ice and frost and dashed right up unto the wide and curtained doors of the qtèlthi garama, and within the air was thick and perfumed and reminded her far too much of Puey and his beloved scent, and she came sliding among the company of the acolytes and dashed right into his bedroom and looked around and saw the books upon the shelf, and her fingers ran upon the spines but she saw not the khlejaxúqei lexicon she sought, and even when she found it she knew she would find it incomplete to her needs, and not for the first time reminded herself that one day, when this horrible war was finished, that she would have to set her mind to the awesome task of writing a complete Grammar and Lexicon to the Khlìjha Language. She looked up and saw that the acolytes were kowtowing before her and whimpering all the while and she asked them – Forgive me, but have any of you seen the dictionary which Puey my future lord and husband who will never take another wife e'er e'er e'er had in this room? –
– Forgive us, but to our shame the divine Crown Prince took the iezadur to the stables where he’s staying with his Concubine – whispered several Kháfha acolytes, their robes dark and glistening, their heads shaking, their eyen hidden from the Princess’.
– Yes, his future Vestal Virgin – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Have mercy on us, but his future Concubine Wife – the Kháfha acolytes were whispering.
Éfhelìnye was far too tired to say anything else, and she felt the familiar sensation of panick swelling up again within her, and so she came dashing right out of the bedroom and soon was sliding back down the ice of the courtyard beneath the vast and silvern moons and the glimmer of midnightide, and dashing right back into the stable she saw that Puîyus still lay in his dwalm faint upon the hay and that Akhlísa was continuing both with her dance and also with her dance lessons, as Fhólus and Aîya were flying about her and showing her where and when to move her legs and to point with her bare feet and wriggle her fingers and always to keep her stomache rolling. Éfhelìnye took a few steps back and told herself, Of course this is all a weird, eldritch, wily dream, one cannot possibly imagine my darling little Kàrula dancing around scantily clad before my Puey, she’s not actually going to dance in some alien fashion I’ll teach her ballet that’s it she just wants to spend more time with me why is she always trying to get Puey’s attention surely she knows that she will always be his baby Sister she not really taking this uxorial role seriously is she she knows I’ll be the wife she just has to know anything else would be just silly she knows that right she just must. Éfhelìnye backed away and came between the ostridges Xheresafhènitha and Khwixhethateîqa and chanted – This is all a dream, right? –
The ostridges just snorted and stomped their legs and knew not how to respond.
– Kàrula … she’s not … I mean … she’s not really in love with my Puey. Is she? That’s impossible. That’s always been my job, that’s what I do, I’ve always been his sweetheart. Lo, he’s fainted on the hay, and nobody’s trying to help him! – The ostridges shrugged their wings. – Just a dream. Just a dream. Only a dream. Could only be a dream … – Éfhelìnye whimpered. – Right? Right? – She wrapped her arms about the necks of the ostridges. – All just a dream, why I bet the Traîkhiim were trying to tell me something and they confused their words and stories and everything became just a jumble, and when I awaken everything will be just as it was before, yes, the coils of time shall unwind, and we shall dwell again in the happy noontide of the Immortals. – But the ostridges just shook their heads, Khwixhethateîqa and Xheresafhènitha, and even though they were but plantimals and did not have souls and did not quite experience discreeet and measurable time like mortal wihts do who are Real People, even they knew that such was not a dream and that all of the timelines must spin together at the end of the spiral, and both past and future become memories eternal.
– I’ll be right back – Éfhelìnye chanted as she spun around and ran into the snow. The ostridges waited for her. Akhlísa hopped around in her lessons, the Traîkhiim licking her and tugging her and trying to teach her to dance just perfectly, but at last she grew tired and set herself upon the cot. When Éfhelìnye came back she saw that Akhlísa was rolling around in the sheets and pulling out the dictionary and saying – Who would be careless and silly enough to bring an old dumb book into bed? We can get rid of this. I’ll just sleep here! – She collapsed. Éfhelìnye tiptoed into the stables and swept up the dictionary into her arm, everything was feeling a bit more heavy and solidic in this dream than she was used to experiencing. She shoved aside the sheets and found Akhlísa stretching out her limbs upon the cot and grinning. – Hello, Sister Wife! – Éfhelìnye pulled the sheets down again. This just had to be a dream. She turned around and saw that Fhólus and Aîya packing up their drums and cymbols and collapsing upon the hay, for midnight was just lying too deep and heavy upon all things. She looed up and saw that Ixhúja was escaping through an upper window in the equerry. She pulled the sheet away and saw that Akhlísa still lay there, her earrings and navel jewel crawling about. – Goodnight, Sister Wife! – Akhlísa chimed. Éfhelìnye threw the sheet down and dragging the dictionary behind her collapsed right next to Puiyus and could only conclude that life and madness and dreams were all become the very same philosophy from now on, and the Princess hugged Puîyus and fell fast asleep and did not wish to think about anything at all. And Xheresafhènitha and Khwixhethateîqa were left to guard the children throughout the long and dark midnight gloom.

And sometime in the middle of the night when Siêthiyal rolled o'er in Éfhelìnye’s bed and felt a sword beside her, and pricking up a little saw that Ixhúja was lying beside her and polishing her weapons, Siêthiyal was about to wonder where Éfhelìnye had gone and what mischief her younger Sister was doing now, but Ixhúja just grinned and went back to her work, and Siêthiyal figured it could all wait for the fragile and dim dawnlight that was to come, after all she had enough spies watching for her to inform her if anything truly weird were coming to pass.

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