Monday, March 16, 2009

Worse to Worst

I’ve got it under control! – Siêthiyal chanted as she punched Ixhúja’s neck.
Don’t worry, cousin, I’ll take care of it, Ixhúja kicked Siêthiyal’s leg.
– I’m taking care of the family. –
I’m taking care of the family.
– No, you two don’t understand! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Both of you are in the same family! –
– Go back to bed, Princess. –
Yes, you’re very sick.
– She’s delusional. The heretic is most certainly not in our family. –
She doesn’t know what she’s saying. The idol worshipper here is not part of our family.
Siêthiyal punched Ixhúja and cried – Never strike my Sister! –
Your Sister may never threaten my cousin!
– This is most certainly not going to plan – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– Who’s winning now? – Fhólus whispered.
– Ixhúja stronger, but Siêthiyal keep distracting. I say tie – chanted Aîya.
– Depends who does the cheating, tlhòxhriri qlaêkh gazumph glader honeyfuggle bejuggle! –
– Cheating make every fight better. But what we know? We Traîkhiim, we never win battle. Our Tánor, all we can do is barely survive! –
– The Tánor never survive, they suicide warriors. –
– I chanted barely! –
– Sorry. Barely paying attention. Keep dreaming about Puîyos. –
– Yes, best to remain female around him, and sniff up his pheremones. Sweet and bubble. He smell like candy. –
Éfhelìnye could feel that she was still not quite well from her ordeal, but she knew she had to try something, she came jumping upwards and tried to interpose herself between her two kinswomen in the growing fight, but neither Siêthiyal nor Ixhúja were paying her much head at all, they were laughing too much in the joy of the fight. Siêthiyal kept drawing up bits of wood and spring from the broken sofa and chairs and using them to deflect Ixhúja’s blows or else to throw at her, and Ixhúja was stabbing back and forth with her knife and growing angry with Siêthiyal for Ixhúja thought that Siêthiyal had liked her, but now she was just growing tired of all the Sweqhàngqu family, save Puîyos of course, and wanted them crushed.
– I command you to stop! – squealed Éfhelìnye.
Siêthiyal punched Ixhúja across the face. – Didn’t I tell you to go back to bed? –
You’re too weak, Ixhúja purred as she jabbed Siêthiyal in the stomache. Don’t make me tie you to the bed!
– There’s no reason to fight … – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Everyone’s fighting o'er me and Puey and I don’t want there to be any strife at all … –
– Go to bed now! –
Cousin, sleep! This doesn’t concern you.
– Perhaps I’ll find Puey, has anyone even … – Éfhelìnye began.
– He’s asleep like you should be – Siêthiyal chanted.
Go to be now, Cousin! I’m taking care of this, Ixhúja growled.
– It’s just … I don’t think anyone’s even talked to Puey about arranging a marriage between him and Karuláta, that’s the source of the problem, we should ask him … – Éfhelìnye began.
Akhlísa jumped up from the blanket. – What did you say? –
– Uh-oh – chanted Fhólus.
– We not getting involved in this – Aîya chanted, and the Traîkhiim hid themselves in the rafters like flittermice.
– I’m Puey’s wife! – Akhlísa shouted. – There ain’t nothing nowhere never to change that not! –
– I’m afraid I did not understand the grammar of that last sentence – Éfhelìnye chanted.
Ixhúja punched Siêthiyal, but looking to Éfhelìnye blinked as if to ask, Are you questioning the wisdom of arranged marriages? Not even we Pariah Heretics tamper with the sanctity of marriage.
– I … I mean … – Éfhelìnye began.
– Princess, go to sleep please – chanted Siêthiyal as she kicked Ixhúja in the stomache. – I know you don’t mean to doubt the customs of Jaràqtu or your Father’s Empire or the Elders. One does not start asking a young man for his opinions. –
We are civilized creatures, we have custom and law, Ixhúja nodded.
– We’re not like wild beasts governed by chemicals and emotions, wild and mindless – Siêthiyal chanted.
The first marriage was stablished by Khriîno and Pfhentókha, and the Immortals presided at it, Ixhúja murmured, It is the very foundation of all our belief.
– What are you going to do, ask Puey if he even wants the bride promised to him when she was newly born and was an infant? – asked Siêthiyal.
– Ah … he may have an opinion about it … – Éfhelìnye suddenly was feeling very dizzy as all of the other maidens are staring at her, and even the Traîkhiim were shaking their heads in exasperation.
Akhlísa jumped off the bed and wagging her finger to the Princess chanted – Sometimes you can be to naïve for words, do you know that? It is immodest to discuss a betrothal and marriage contract with the bridegroom! Don’t you have any shame at all? –
– I … I … – Éfhelìnye looked around and saw shock on Ixhúja’s face and shame on Siêthiyal. – I didn’t know. I’ve grown up by myself! I didn’t know! –
– Next I suppose you’ll be showing off your legs to him, immodest that you are, syuîyaxúng – Akhlísa chanted. – Puey’s a man of the male gender and of the warrior caste. Don’t start complaining asking him about the marriage arranged in his childhood! Next I suppose you’ll be asking Puey to bare your children for you and nurse them and do the cooking for you too! Don’t you know anything! –
– I … I don’t know all the customs! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I just thought that my Puey should … –
Akhlísa could see that Éfhelìnye was tottering and on the verge of falling, so Akhlísa drew her into her arms and helped the Princess back into bed. – Here, just rest in mine arms. You have quite a lot to learn about the worlds of the living, in the Land of Story. –
– I suppose – Éfhelìnye sniffled.
– It’s a good thing you have a Sister like me to take care of you then – Siêthiyal chanted as she punched Ixhúja.
Even better a cousin to look after you and take care of business, Ixhúja growled as she smacked Siêthiyal.
Siêthiyal drew her Father’s sword and spun around. – Let’s get back to the fight. –
I long to feel your death in mine arms, your pain nourishes me, Ixhúja growled as she drew twin swords, one of violet and the other of gold.
– Once again, you’re just sick. It’s a pity you have to die, I’d urge my Brother to get you help from ujóqufha, from Khrumaînan oneiroψychology, you must have a brain attic cramed with fears and problems. Too quaad I’ll never learn what lies inside! –
Silence, pink head!
– No crazies on Puey’s side of the family – Siêthiyal chanted as she ducked and ran from Ixhúja. – At least not those crazy to a socially unacceptable degree! –
– Get her! Slap her! Crush her! – shouted Akhlísa. – Left! Right! Kill her! Serves her right for threatening me! Princess can you believe that someone threatened my life and put a sword to my throat! That’s just unspeakable, neësprimebla xhlaxílail! –
– I shall not permit any harm to my family – Princess Éfhelìnye whispered.
Now the fight began in earnest, Ixhúja was growing angry with Siêthiyal for bouncing around and refusing to fight in a straight-froward and honorable manner, and Siêthiyal was relying upon the same strategy she had used when fighting powerful and cunning and ancient Kherènxhuqhe whom she could not possibly hope to cut down, she hoped to ware out the enemy long enough for opportunity to come. Ixhúja however was flying about the broken furniture and was not concerned with fighting troops and living ships, she came leaping up and pounded Siêthiyal with a swift kick across her chest and dove down upon her. Siêthiyal rolled out beneath the bed and popped up the other side. Ixhúja jumped o'er the bed and shoved Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa unto either side. Siêthiyal was scramping up the curtains, and Ixhúja jumped up beneath her, threw several knives, and as Siêthiyal swung away she shoved the curtains down and threw them right unto the Moon Princess Àrlu. Siêthiyal pulled herself up unto the rafters. Fhólus and Aîya were screaming, they were hiding themselves wherever they could go, but Ixhúja was already leaping up into the rafters and throwing herself right at Siêthiyal, so that the two maidens found themselves locked together and struggling not to fall even as they punched at each other and ripped apart the panels and wood and boards that made up the ceiling.
– Ixhúja! Release her! – Éfhelìnye shouted.
For your sake, I won’t defile her body too much, Ixhúja growled as she held Siêthiyal by an ankle. I’ll just let the ravens eat half her skin off.
Fhólus was fluttering away and screaming – Now Moon Maiden wining. –
Siêthiyal drew one of the blades which Ixhúja kept in her shoe and stabbed right at Ixhúja’s belt, and Ixhúja roared and dropped her prize. Siêthiyal wavered for a few moments and then came crashind down also. Ixhúja was already bounding upwards. Akhlísa tried to catch her Sister on the bed, and both of them came tumbling right off. Ixhúja clammer up the bed, mechanical claws were opening up about her sleeves, and she drew out some pipes from her pockest and set them together and was forming a fanblade which was opening upwards into long and gouging wheels opening and gnawing against the air. Ixhúja allowed herself an half smile, she wondered what Siêthiyal would look like without any lips at all for smiling.
– Ixhúja I’m warning you! – Éfhelìnye cried. – I love you as much as I love … –
Ixhúja picked up Éfhelìnye with one hand and shoved her beneath the covers and growled as if to tell her, One has told you before, rest and sleep and regain your strength! Dream about Puîyos, dream of being happy and dancing with him. I told you, I will defend you.
– But I love all my Sisters equally, even when they hurt me! –
I think I’ll gouge out both of her eyen. Yes. Both, but one at a time, I like it when the eyen pop and foam and fizz. Ixhúja came leaping upwards about the bed and swung the long staff from side to side, and about her the mechanical dragonflies came spinning upwards, and were growing claws at the edge of their wings and were practicing all that they would do against Siêthiyal, Khwofheîlya’s only Daughter.
Siêthiyal and Akhlísa came crawling out from beneath the bed. Siêthiyal poked Akhlísa and chanted – You just had to draw a knife on the Princess, didn’t you! This is all your fault! –
– Eia, soon or later everyone tries to kill Éfhelìnye, it’s a law of the universes – Akhlísa muttered. – Well, everyone but Puey but he wuuuuvs her. –
– It was ineluctable that Ixhúja would turn on me. And I really needed her help, I’m going to need some muscle if I’m going to build a toy consortium without Éfhelìnye’s knowing it. –
– Pardon? –
– Nothing. Can’t you do anything right? As Concubine you have one job. Be pretty. Two jobs. Be pretty and be quiet. Can’t you even do that? You don’t need any brains, just to be pretty! Why are you so stupid, why? –
– At least I’m not trying to ask Puey his opinion on marrying me! –
– Éfhelìnye doesn’t know any better – Siêthiyal sighed.
– Yeah … that big baby. She’s such a baby. What a baby she is. –
– Wait … where is she? – Siêthiyal knew at once that she should not of wondered, she was just drawing illluck back down upon her. Two strong arms drew her and her Sister out from beneath the bed and threw them across the room. Siêthiyal bounced up and scrambled for her Father’s ancestrial khaxhapúrxhriqe blade, and Akhlísa backed up against the wall and screamed. Ixhúja descended before them and was swinging her staff from side to side, she was trying to pin Siêthiyal like an insect, but Siêthiyal was so afraid for Akhlísa’s safety that she kept avoiding the swinging staff just at the last moment. Ixhúja knocked the sword away. Siêthiyal ducked. Akhlísa picked up some broken pieces of chair and threw them at Ixhúja who kept aiming her staff at Siêthiyal with such force that she was breaking apart the wall, and bits of block and stone and mortor and ice came tumbling downwards. Several rafters came tumbling down in piles of dust, and the Traîkhiim were screaming in their retreat, and as the rafters fell about Ixhúja they did not even stop her, she was furious in her fight against Siêthiyal.
– Khlís! Run away! – Siêthiyal shouted.
– I’m not leaving you! – Akhlísa chanted. – For some reason this lunatic is after me even though I didn’t do anything! –
– Stop fighting! – Éfhelìnye cried.
You tried to kill my cousin! Ixhúja cried.
– Oh … that … I almost forgot … it was just a misunderstanding! – Akhlísa chanted.
– A sign of affection – Siêthiyal chanted. – We threaten each other all time. –
– Sister here threatened me seven times this morning. –
– It’s like an hug. It’s a family thing. –
Ixhúja punched through some tumbling masonry and grabbed Akhlísa by the collar and shaking her growled with a sound of breaking stone as if to say, Then I have a great affectionate embrace for you, dearest!
– Not that affectionate! – screamed Akhlísa.
– Again, you confuse violence with love – chanted Siêthiyal. – Do you have a few cogs lose in your brain? –
Ixhúja slammed Akhlísa against the wall and at the same time was struggling sword against sword against Siêthiyal. Akhlísa managed to slip away, but Ixhúja tripped her up and with a kick of her heal threw her against the wall. Éfhelìnye screamed and ran off the bed towards Akhlísa just to make sure she was already, and slowly was drawing her up to her feet. Ixhúja chuckled. She kicked Siêthiyal across her face and smacking her wrist caused her to drop her sword. Siêthiyal came tumbling down. Ixhúja held her staff up.
You must pay for what your Sister has done to my Cousin, Ixhúja growled in a deep mechanical and vengeful just language. Is it not written that the older Sibling pays the price for the younger!
– Ixhúja, put your weapon down! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – Obey ye the word of the Moon Empress, the only daughter of Khnoqwísi the Virgin! –
Blood requireth blood, Ixhúja hissed and she lifted up her weapon.
The clockwork door came rolling open, the layers of it dilating and in walked a couple of Vestal Virgins all clad in the purity of white, and at once they saw the destroyed chairs and shattered sofa, bits of wall were falling upon the ground and the bed, and several dangling rafters were falling. The door itself dangled a little, but then the clockwork simply gave way, and the door broke apart into a series of disques.
– We heard shouting – one of the Vestal Concubines chanted. – Are you Children alright? –
Ixhúja blinked. She tossed her lethal fanstaff across the room, for it would be the height of impiety to polute the eyen of one of the Emperor’s Concubines with the sight of blood. Siêthiyal noticed at once and smiled.
– We’re just playing a game – chanted Éfhelìnye. – My three Sisters and I can be a little rambunctious in our play. –
Akhlísa poked her head up from the broken sofa. – I’m getting tired of this game though. –
– And what game is this? – asked the other Vestal Virgin.
– We’re playing pirates and princess – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I’m the princess, quite naturally, and Siêthi and Ixhúja are pirates attacking my ship, that’s the bed here. Kàrula was supposed to be saving me, but I think she’s playing off the various sides. Fhólus and Aîya are my sidekicks. –
– Don’t call me Siêthi – Siêthiyal chanted with grit teeth. Several rafters broke apart behind her, and the Traîkhiim came fluttering away.
– I think playing time should be concluded – one Vestal Virgin chanted.
– I was … rather hoping that Puey would rescue me from these Pirates … – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– We’re afraid that our beloved foster Son Puîyos, the Son of our husband Kàrijoi is still asleep – chanted the other Vestal Virgin. – And so should you. – The nuns shook away the stone and plaster khìsqi from the sheets. – You need to rest after your ordeal, you may still be ill. –
– I’m not sick – chanted Éfhelìnye, as the nuns picked her up and set her into bed. – Everyone keeps saying that, but it was just a slight heart murmur. –
Akhlísa came diving into bed right next to the Princess and chanted – I’m sleeping with her. The rest of you pirates can go do your fight outside. –
One nun looked to Siêthiyal and Ixhúja, and several more rafters crashed down behind them, and the nun chanted – You to may read to the future Empress and senionr Concubine or sing them to sleep, but playtime needs to end. –
Ixhúja squeezed her fists and blinked as if to say, We can always play outside.
– I’ll stay in here with my Sisters – Siêthiyal chanted.
– Just be quiet, the beloved new Empress needs her rest – chanted a Vestal Virgin. – We will check up on you soon. – The Vestal Virgins bowed and approached the shattered door, and came into the long and sweeping halls of the harīm quarters.
Siêthiyal and Ixhúja listened to the crunching of the wheels and the sighing of the crashing door and the departure of the Vestal Concubines step by step by step as they faded away. Siêthiyal was wishing that someone could find their Auntie Qtìmine, she could bring order to this mess, and it was always good to have an ally among the nuns, she’d let them play a little longer.
– They’re leaving – Siêthiyal muttered. She looked around for a weapon and chanted – I’ll have to kill you quickly then. –
Have you never actually killed anyone with that clumsy swordhandling of yours? Ixhúja purred. What a pathetic warrioress you are.
– Battle is in my blood, you Fatherless heretic slave! –
You’ve never killed anyone and you think you can start with me?
– Didn’t that fat Dodo slit your throat? –
– Will you two be quiet! – Akhlísa cried. – Éfhelìnye is really sick! She doesn’t look so well. –
– All your fault, heretic. –
Your fault, idol worshipper.
– Clockworkloving soulless freak. –
Cultureless illiterate barbarian.
– Éfhelìnye’s really pale! – Akhlísa cried. – Can you fight outside! –
– I’m not leaving her here with you! –
I’m not leaving you here with my cousin!
Siêthiyal and Ixhúja glared at each other, and then both ran with all their might right up unto Éfhelìnye and almost shoved her off the bed, so swift were they, and sheets and pillows were tumbling about. Éfhelìnye was lying on her back, and Siêthiyal ducked up in one direction and Ixhúja the other.
– How are you feeling, precious? – asked Siêthiyal.
Oh my beloved cousin! Ixhúja blinked a few times.
Éfhelìnye took a few deep breaths. – I’m feeling a little woozified. I must rest, but I need to know you two won’t fight. I shall be the new Empress if we win this war, not only the most important woman in the Empire but the matriarch of our family, so please listen to me. You two are no longer permitted to fight. –
Siêthiyal and Ixhúja grinned with bright pearlescent teeth.
– We promise not to fight while you sleep. –
Fighting is the last thing on my mind.
– Ixhúja and I are the very best of friends. –
Don’t worry about anything, cousin. We have it all under control.
– Go to sleep. Rest. Close your eyen. –
Dream about Puîyos. Kiss him in your dreams. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.
Éfhelìnye cleared her throat. – Forgive me, but for some reason I don’t trust either of you right now. –
Siêthiyal’s smile died as if she were removing a masque. – I can’t believe you saw right through me. –
I will have to kill the pesky Sister, in slow and glorious torture.
– You have such a sick mind. –
That’s why I’ll beat you. –
– Enough from both of you – Éfhelìnye chanted. – You two are far too similar … –
– No we’re not. –
We have nothing in common!
– She’s stubborn and disobedient! –
She’s crazy and untrustworthy!
– No I’m not! –
No I’m not!
– I’m beginning to feel sick now – Éfhelìnye chanted.
That waif tried to kill you, Ixhúja growled. I will never forget.
– This freak tried to kill Khlís! –
– I told you, the fight is finished! – Éfhelìnye could see that she would have to get their attention. She sate up and placed one hand upon Siêthiyal and one on Ixhúja and chanted – Don’t understand, I love you both equally. –
– No you don’t. –
No you don’t.
– You love me more. –
You love me more.
– You can’t possibly love an amoral heretic! –
You can’t possibly love an amoral barbarian!
– I’m getting an headache from this – Akhlísa chanted as she clasped Éfhelìnye and just tried to weather the storm.
– Enough talk! – Siêthiyal chanted. – Éfhelìnye, you’re too nesh-hearted for your own good. You’re lucky to have me around. –
– I love you both! – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Not like I love Puey, I love him a thousand times more than I love either of you, but I love you as much as I could love a Sister. –
– She loves me more though – chanted Akhlísa.
– We’re taking care of this heretic problem, now, before Puey has to wake up and get involved – Siêthiyal chanted. – Éfha, I think you’ve been more than fair with this creature born of wheel and slime and plasma, and she’s not your real cousin, she’s just a mistake grown in a workshop, something soulless which should have been crushed at birth. We all know it, and I can guarentee that the Ancestors see it too, and no Ancestor will dare permit her to join their ranks. She will have no shadow or fruit or incense among them, she will wondered as a naked spirit for all time. –
– That’s enough, Siêthiyal – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I can’t help how I was born either. –
– That freak tried to harm Kàrula! We must destroy her now! And I don’t want her in Puey’s harem either, I’m not polluting the offspring of our family with whatever laboratory blood she has! –
Ixhúja was heaving. She could not help it that a single tear was escaping her eye. She pointed to Akhlísa and hissed, This one threatened the future Empress. By the law her blood is mine.
– The law doesn’t apply to Monsters like you! – Siêthiyal chanted. – You have no Father! –
– I barely have a Father myself – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– I have a Father – Akhlísa chanted.
– You’re not helping, dearest – Éfhelìnye chanted as she leaned her head against Akhlísa’s.
– Oh. –
Siêthiyal pointed to Ixhúja and growled – She has no Father, she has no caste! The law does not protect creatures made in a laboratory! But even more important than her paternity, she has no mortal mother, and that means she has no soul. That makes her a Monster, and we may slay her with impugnity. –
It’s not my fault I didn’t have a Mother! Ixhúja was so angry she did not stop the tears escaping from her eyen. Why are we even listening to this little Dragon, oh my Cousin! Her family just tried to murdher you while you were convalescing in bed!
– Siêthiyal, I can assure you that Ixhúja has just as many souls as the rest of us – Éfhelìnye began.
– I had a dream that the Ancestors rejected her also – Akhlísa chanted. – Sorry. I’m not helping again, am I? –
– Baby – Siêthiyal muttered.
Éfhelìnye looked up and wondered what to do. It was better she thought to fight with words than with knives, but still she wondered what her Mother would have done. She looked to the rafters and Fhólus and Aîya were laughing and chasing each other about.
Akhlísa tugged upon Éfhelìnye’s sleeve and chanted – This may not be the best time for this, but I’m going to marry Puey and have his babies. I just wanted to mention that in case anyone forgoted. Because I sure haven’t. –
One tires of this. Ixhúja lunged forwards. All you two Sweqhàngqu do is talk talk talk and prate and trick and confuse the issue! You don’t fight with honor, but with stealth and cowardice. She grabbed Akhlísa by the throat and threw her downwards and began choking her. Death to her who threatened the Empress! Your body is mine! Die!
– Help! – squealed Akhlísa.
– STOP IT! – screamed Éfhelìnye. She threw herself around Ixhúja’s arms and tried to pull herself away. – I command it! –
Siêthiyal spun around and looked for a weapon, her Father’s brand lay somewhere in the rubble of the furniture, along with several of Ixhúja’s discarded staves and her two swords. She looked around and saw that in an half shattered bedpost lay the kitchen knife which Akhlísa had been holding against Éfhelìnye’s throat and began this entire familiar crisis. Faster than she thought possible she jumped up and snatched the knife away. Ixhúja was laughing to herself as she engaged in the slow but exquisite art of strangling someone to death, feeling the air cut off in the lungs, and the victim buckling and writhing in glories of agonies. Siêthiyal arose, and if Ixhúja were only a bit slowly, she would have managed to thrust the knife right into her ribs, but as it was, Siêthiyal and Ixhúja both spun around and grasped onto the hilt of the only weapon available.
– Oh! – gasped Akhlísa, and she rolled onto her side and coughed.
Siêthiyal and Ixhúja both struggled, pushing and pulling for the knife. Éfhelìnye tended to Akhlísa and stroked her hair and made sure she was breathing, and then got up and approached her kinswomen.
– I get tired of commanding you. Put the weapon down! – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– Go to bed, Éfhelìnye – Siêthiyal chanted.
One should not disobey the vestal nuns, Ixhúja purred. And they both struggled and shoved and pushed for the kitchen knife which Fhólus, fey and brainless, had smuggled into the room.
– Don’t you understand, I cannot sleep from worry for I love both of you too much – Éfhelìnye plead as she opened up her hands.
– You love me but not her. –
You love me but not her.
– Gimme the knife, heretic. –
It’s mine, barbarian.
– Princess, don’t you understand that I’m only fighting to protect your honor? –
I’m the one fighting to protect her honor, you traitorous little skink!
– You reject the Emperor and his love! –
You’re in open rebellion from him!
– In his service! You love machines! –
Your Sister tried to kill her!
– Oh keep bringing that up! The honor of the Sweqhàngqu is unsullied! –
She’s not Sweqhàngqu, she’s Pwéru, her blood and mine are the same!
– Stop fighting o'er me! – Éfhelìnye cried. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja were holding the knife above their heads as they kicked against each other. And Éfhelìnye chanted – Don’t you see, fighting to protect mine honor is pointless. This whole tragic war was begun because the various nations were all so eager to protect my Father’s honor that they slaughtered their own people and each other to prove how devoted they were. The Aûm loved my Father so much they destroyed the Synod of Lords. The Qhíng loved my Father so much they invaded and occupied your land and left it a burning ruin. And now my Father’s most loyal men are turning against him and granting that honor to a new Sun. Don’t fight for mine honor, Puey will fight for my honor. I want you both just to love me as I love you! –
– You’re nice but silly, Sister – Siêthiyal chanted.
You’re kind but naïve, Cousin, so Ixhúja purred.
– Die, heretic! –
Die, barbarian!
Siêthiyal grasped the hilt all the tighter, and Ixhúja began drawing the knife downwards, neither of them could quite direct it yet, but they felt as if their muscles were crackling from the exurtion. The knife was coming downwards.
– Stop fighting, my Sisters, I beg you! – Éfhelìnye chanted, tears swelled up in her eyen, she placed one hand upon Siêthiyal and one upon Ixhúja. – I love you far too much to lose you now! –
– DIE! –
– Oh! – Éfhelìnye gasped.
Siêthiyal and Ixhúja managed to thrust the knife sidewise in the general direction of the other and were rewarded with the feel of the blade penetrating something. They felt blood covering their hands. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja smiled at each other and waited for the other to fall, to realize that the dull pain they felt was their own demise. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja continued to smile at each other. They could feel the blood swelling on their hands, but for some reason neither opponent seemed aware she had just been stabbed. The knife though had struck something. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja at once stopped smiling. Blinking they looked down to the knife conjointly held in their hands, it was completely red. They looked to their side. The long dull scream they had been hearing for the last few moments finally crystallized in their ears, it was Akhlísa crying out, and the Traîkhiim dashing about in panick. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja at once looked to the Princess. They dropped the knife, it spilt upon the bed, blood was pooling of it.
Éfhelìnye wavered backwards. Blood was dribbling out of her mouth. She looked downwards and saw that the stomache of her gown was all turning red. Akhlísa ran up and caught her in her arms and helped her down onto the bed. It took Éfhelìnye a few moments to realize that she had just been stabbed in the stomache. Akhlísa helped her down upon the bed. Éfhelìnye was choking on her own blood, she realized that it was far more painful than she had thought it could be, but it was less painful than witnessing strife in her family.
– Oh Ancestors it’s all my fault! – howled Siêthiyal.
No, it’s all my doing, Ixhúja shuddered. I am the experienced fighter. Emotion defeated my reason.
– I … I just wanted to defend my Sisters so much … I … –
I and I alone must take responsibility for this, Ixhúja sighed in horror.
Princess Éfhelìnye was trying to speak, but the blood was swelling up too fast in her mouth. Akhlísa was helping her down and ripping up some of the sheets began drawing away the blood just so that Éfhelìnye could breath.
– The Ancestors will never forgive me. I’ll be sent to the limitless Void for all time – Siêthiyal shuddered.
The honored Tlhùsqe dan diban will not consent to see my face. I shall wonder upon the shores of Death for all time, Ixhúja was murmuring to herself.
– Okay, she’s breathing! – Akhlísa shouted. – Come on, Éfha. Let’s just keep all those organs functioning. – Akhlísa moved Éfhelìnye’s head to one side to let some blood spill out.
– What’s important is that we don’t panic – Siêthiyal chanted.
Yes, calm, collected, logical, that is how one can save a life, Ixhúja was murmuring in her own language.
– What are we supposed to do! – Fhólus shouted.
– Do we need to get someone? – asked Aîya. – They telling us them that her body stopped before, do we need to get the Masters? –
Éfhelìnye was barely able to move her hand, but it was enough to get everyone’s attention. Akhlísa was holding the Princess’ head, and Siêthiyal and Ixhúja leaned down and heard – Now, I don’t want you to worry about me. –
– I just stabbed you in the stomache, of course I’m worrying! I’m getting help. –
The Tèrefha doctors among the Khlitsaîyart are thaumaturgists. I am fastest, I shall fetch them.
– Let me help. –
We go.
– No … wait – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– Do what she saith! – shreaked Akhlísa. – We have to obey the future Empress! This is her harem after all. –
Siêthiyal and Ixhúja both leaned froward and took the Princess by the hand.
– Yes, my precious one? – asked Siêthiyal.
My dearest Cousin?
– No doctors … too many questions, and I can’t concoct a story this convoluted to explain it … Puey must never know. – Siêthiyal and Ixhúja blinked a few times. Akhlísa wiped some more blood away from Éfhelìnye’s lips, and the Princess whispered – Siêthiyal, you’ve patched up Puey from battle many times. Ixhúja, you are an expert on stitches … you sewed up Puey’s face when he fell from the mast … little teardrop stitches … –
Ixhúja’s face darkened with shame and guilt, but she was not about to reveal that Puîyus had not actually tumbled down the mast from a common mariner’s accident, but in fact that Ixhúja had assaulted him and broken his cheeks, but Puîyus, chivalrous as he was, took the blaim and never once reminded Ixhúja of her guilt. Ixhúja gulped and nodded.
– If that is your wish … – Siêthiyal chanted, and she began rolling up her sleeves.
– I command it … – Éfhelìnye whispered. – I can’t let Puey know … his family was fighting. Patch me up. Our little secret. –
Siêthiyal pointed to Fhólus and Aîya and chanted – You, inconspicuous slaves, bring me clean towels and a bason of water. Hasten hurry hie! – Siêthiyal at once tore off some of the Princess’ white gown, and began ripping up the fabric around the wound. Now that she had something physical to do, her panic was fading away, there was order and discipline and certain steps to be taken, and in truth she had patched up Puîyus her Brother many times and even on this day, when he had gone out to do battle with the Qhíng horde and come back with woundes that needed attention. It was part of the household skills of the aristrocratic women of Jaràqtu that they should learn to tend for their wounded fathers and brothers and husbands and sons who were doomed to fight in the wars unending.
– Towel towel towel towel … – Fhólus muttered flutter.
– Water water water water … – Aîya fluttered muttered. The Traîkhiim crashed into each other. Ixhúja yanked they by their necks and threw them out the door, and at once set herself down at the foot of the bed, and was reaching for her sleeve and pulling out strings and fibers and weaving them in her deft fingers. Her clockwork insects came spilling outwards, a few of the dragonflies were dancing about and began to creature thread and gauze within their mandibles, and other dragonflies came crawling outwards right untowards Princess’ Éfhelìnye’s belly and were cleaning up the wound.
Akhlísa was panting a little but she too was growing calmer now that she had a task, for Akhlísa was cradling Éfhelìnye’s head and keeping her upright and as comfortable as possible and most of all still awake and alive. When Ìkhnos had been struck in battle and returned to the Khatelèstan fortress and Xataríyona was cleaning him up, Akhlísa had done the same thing, just holding him and making him feel not so alone, and by the next day Ìkhnos was up and a little bruised and stitched up but ready to fight again. Once when Akhlísa had spent a couple of days in the Abby of Saint Kàtriqan and Auntie Qtìmine had been caring for the wounded, Akhlísa had done much of the fetching of supplies and the carrying of water, and Auntie and the other Vestal Virgins had been quite proud of her.
– How are you feeling, beloved? – Akhlísa cooed.
– Quite … fine … – Éfhelìnye whispered.
– You don’t have to be brave, you can cry out if you want to. –
– No … no attention. Puey will never know. This must be our secret. It would break his heart to know that his Sisters were fighting. –
– I won’t say anything if you don’t. –
– It’s a clean cut – Siêthiyal chanted. – We can close it. Where are the Traîkhiim thralls? Can’t they do anything right? –
Fhólus poked one of hers head through the chiming clockweyth door and asked – What were I we they supposed to bring? –
– Nevermind! – Siêhtiyal cried. – Where’s Aîya? Stupid slaves. I’m trading them the first chance I get. –
They are Éfha’s property, Ixhúja blinked.
Fhólus poked in her other two heads and was carrying towels in them. – Sorry, it was the stupid head talking to you – one of the other heads chanted. – Never trust the stupid head, all manner of nonsense prated from it-de! –
Aîya came fluttering in and was holding the bason in the tips of her finger-toes. – How can one tell the difference to smart heads and stupid heads? All look alike? –
– Every hour different stupid head, variable, changeable, fickle fickle fickle – Fhólus chanted.
Ixhúja drew up some clockwork insects and held up several long and sterile needles. One can begin. Her internal organs appear mostly unharmed, just traumatized. She drew out a small astrolabe and spun the wheels around and peered through the prisms opening up before her and was able to see some of the heat arising from her cousin. She’s lost some blood, but her heart is still quite functional.
– Give me the towel, slave – Siêthiyal chanted.
Akhlísa, hold her down, Ixhúja looked up and whimpered.
– I’ve got her – Akhlísa chanted. – Divine Princess, tell me if you feel cold. –
– I’m … quite well … – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Please, please don’t tell Puey. –
– I … I’m not doing anything unless you tell me to. –
– I’m quite comfortable. How are you? –
– Very well. I think they’re going to begin. Would you like me to sing to you? –
– Please. Would you sing about Puey? –
– I’ll try. –
Akhlísa was not feeling very creative at the moment, so she just thought of a common lullaby among her people and just changed a couple of words and sang in thiswise:

JanaPuîye teir
Ter janaPuîye’ ùwasu.
Uxeûxujo’ ur qoe jin teir
eipejo pejor tlhoâ ker wthàsya.
Pàjeqúr qìfhis qìfhis teir ter qloîyu
kuxhroas kúlatser qlùwe khleit jin.
Jhafhuxhlitei khringìmemat xhroe
janaPuîye xhroa!

You are my Puey,
Mine only Puey.
You make me happy
When skies are dirty grey.
You shall e'er know, dear
How much I love you.
Respectfully refuse to take away
My Puey!

And Princess Éfhelìnye smiled a little to hear the same lullaby which Puîyus had sung to her so many times, although in his mews he used the phrase janayeilyoriênya, my sunshine, and the word for howlsplann, for sunshine was related to one of Éfhelìnye’s names, Eilyorieyána. And in her smile, in the joy of hearing that song, she barely even felt as Siêthiyal and Ixhúja went to work and sewed up her wound, their hands swift and sure from battlefield practice. Siêthiyal was not squeamish at all, Éfhelìnye knew she would have wept and perhaps fainted if their positions had been reversed, and Ixhúja was too busy working the marvels of the lwùle stitches. Éfhelìnye twitched a little. Hands and needled and even a few mechanical insects felt cold upon her. Akhlísa squeezed her tighter. Éfhelìnye could not help herself but cry out a couple of times. It did not take Siêthiyal and Ixhúja very long, for the knife had not gone too far. Éfhelìnye shuddered a little. Akhlísa held her all the tighter and started singing the lullaby again just to sooth her. Ixhúja drew up a bleeding needle. Siêthiyal grabbed a new towel and mopped up the blood. The two maidens could not help but notice that despite being stabbed in the stomache, Éfhelìnye was in far better condition than she had any right to be, her flesh was already mending itself at a right almost visible to the eye, but the maidens did not wish to comment upon it, and just thought that it had to be part of the alchemy of what it means to be the Starflower Princess.
Siêthiyal wiped sweat from her brow. – It is done. –
Ixhúja nodded. The maidens rested for a moment, neither of them wished to admit to themselves that they had worked quite well together in the moment of crisis.
– How are you feeling, Princess? – Akhlísa whispered. She brushed her face a few times.
– Like a mended doll … – Éfhelìnye whispered.
Ixhúja was wrapping some dressing about Éfhelìnye’s waist, and marvelled anew at how fast she was healing, but it would be best to think about such wonders later, when one was a little less upset from fighting, a bit more dispassionate.
– Slaves! Tnoaqteûpa thralls! – Siêthiyal chanted. Fhólus and Aîya came fluttering right up towards her. – We must obey all propriety and holiness. Everything whereon the future Empress’ blood has been spilt, we need to gather up into a bundle, and we’ll tie it up in these towels. And then all of us shall go out unto the bone fires still blazing upon the pyramids and burn it. I hope no one will notice us, I doubt the monks or priests will notice a couple of slaves and a maid child, but we can always say we discovered some carpet where Éfhelìnye had fallen before and bled. If one inspects these towels, one could probably quite easily learn that this is holy Tnún, the dragon ichor of the first House, but I think we may slip away unnoticed. –
Ixhúja nodded and tossed the bleeding needles into the pile that the slaves were forming, and all of the clockwork insects which had crawled upon Éfhelìnye were shedding the tips of their claws and wheels. Fhólus drew up the red towels, Aîya gathered up the bits of shredded white gown, and soon Siêthiyal was tying up the bundle.
– I’ll take the slaves. We’ll burn the holy blood, with your permission, my Sister by marriage, and mistress of our Family – Siêthiyal bowed to Éfhelìnye.
I shall get you a new gown, I’ll dress you in it, we should destroy this garment, the one the acolytes gave you, Ixhúja was murmuring and bowing unto her cousin, with your leave of course, Cousin.
Éfhelìnye motioned unto them, and Siêthiyal and Ixhúja drew up upon either side of the Starflower Princess’ head. Éfhelìnye closed her eyen and whispered – Our family must never fight itself e'er again. We are all part of the same body now, the same Clan. Puey will never know of this incident, all three of you must die without telling him what has happened. Mayhap I myself shall forget it soon, it will be part of my xungpayàjhwen, my delirium. The stitches will last just a few days, but our bind together will remain. –
– I understand – chanted Siêthiyal. – I’m quite good at keeping secrets. –
This strategy will ensure success for our family, Ixhúja nodded.
– Fhólus, Aîya, come up here. – The Traîkhiim crowded about the pillow that lay in Akhlísa’s lap, and Éfhelìnye opened up her eyen to gaze upon them. – I know that sometimes it can be difficult for you to understand the ways and thoughts of the aliens about you, so I shall try to speak plainly before you. –
– Oh? – asked Fhólus.
– Ah? – asked Aîya.
– Do not tell Puey about the fight in here – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Fight? – asked Fhólus.
– Harem fight – chanted Aîya.
– Oh that one, it was quite fun. –
– Will you do it again? –
– If you tell Puey what you saw – Éfhelìnye chanted. – It will break his heart. –
– We no want that – chanted Fhólus.
– Could we just tell him the good bits? – asked Aîya.
– None of us want to hurt him. But if you tell him, it will be as if he were stabbed a thousand times – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– We won’t tell – chanted Fhólus.
– Not even the good bits – Aîya chanted.
– Good. Now you and Siêthiyal should go and run your chore, especially before the Vestal Virgins check on us again. Ixhúja, perhaps if you could find a new gown it would be best. Akhlísa, I want you to stay with me – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– We want to see Puey – Fhólus chanted.
– When do we get to see him? – Aîya asked.
– Soon, come along, we’re throwing you out – chanted Siêthiyal as she yanked up the Traîkhiim and threw them out the door. Siêthiyal reached out and was about to take up the bundle of towels and blood-stained cloths which had to be burnt, but she paused for a moment. Ixhúja was about to get up to leave, but she fell down and taking one of Éfhelìnye’s hands embraced and kissed it a few times, for she did wish to move her cousin too much after such a tèploi, such a trauma giusalath. Siêthiyal wanted to do the same thing but she did not wish to be so close to Ixhúja, but there was nothing else to do, so she ran up and took Éfhelìnye’s other hand and kissed it several more times. When Siêthiyal and Ixhúja had finally had their fill of kissing, they both arose, and neither felt embarrassed at all, and began to leave the room.
– Kàrula can stay with me – Éfhelìnye chanted. – We’re going to discuss our future with Puey. –
– Iipa – Akhlísa gasped.
Siêthiyal picked up the bundle and left and made her way out the room where the Traîkhiim were arising in the air and bubble bobbling their heads from side to side. Once Siêthiyal was a few feet from the door she collapsed against the wall and let herself sob a little.
– Are we going to get in trouble? – Fhólus asked.
– You and your stupid head, had to bring a knife in there! – Aîya hissed. – At least knife get burnt with the blood. You and I should be burnt too. –
– The divine Empress didn’t say so! –
– Slaves are supposed to be burnt alive! If great Kèlor master die, think they hesitate to throw a few thousand of our people on the pyre! The Empress did not even command that we be scorched alive. Have any idea how lucky we are! –
– I fought the Qhíng, I saw their crematory fields. They dæmons, but Éfhelìnye is rainbow. –
– She should burn us. But doesn’t. She is wonderful, we Triîm honor her and her progeny for all time. –
Siêthiyal beat her brow and chanted – I can’t believe I did that, I mean I had thought about stabbing her or throwing her out a window so many times but I didn’t really mean to do it I don’t think that I did, she’s always been kind to me and I’ve just been nasty unto her, gephurizo as if I were mocking her from a bride khlekhòrtsu, and throwing pebbles and dust at her, but she always took it and was nice where I was mean, and she loves Puey so much one would think that for his sake I would tolerate her a little better I did miss her I know I did but I was still angry with her for being … just for being. I must have hurt her worse than any Dragon she has had to face. –
Ixhúja was walking out the room, and her face was dark from shame, and her eyen were glowing with a soft red. She tried to contain herself, but her body was shaking from unshed emotion. She clasped her hands together and took a few deep breaths, and tried not to think about what she had almost done, the one person who had always loved her, the only family she had left. Ixhúja looked up and saw that the slaves were fluttering away and were already forgetting what they were supposed to be doing, so she grabbed the Traîkhiim by the tips of their wings and threw them in Siêthiyal’s general direction. Ixhúja was not entirely sure whether she should trust Siêthiyal at this point, in fact Siêthiyal seemed to share more the traits of an enemy than a friend, and a very cunning enemy, but Éfhelìnye loved her. And sometimes that was enough. Ixhúja advanced to her, Siêthiyal was not moving, this was very bad defense on Siêthiyal’s part, one must always be aware of the movement of wind and shadow, it could herald one’s enemies. Ixhúja tapped Siêthiyal on the shoulders and purred and whispered unto her in a southing language and told her, Go on. Do it for the Princess. If she can forgive me, she can forgive you.
Siêthiyal rubbed her eyen. – Sometimes I don’t think Éfhelìnye realizes how I undermine her at every tune. Why it’s inevitable, no matter what I do today, tomorrow I’ll get Kàrula to help me in a new scheme to get toys, and it may or may not be to the Princess’ advantage. –
Worry about that tomorrow then. Perhaps Éfha will forgive you again. Or perhaps Éfha will do the scheming for the toys and you’ll end up in her ploy. Come along. I need to find a gown, and you need to burn some precious blood.
Siêthiyal nodded. – Okay. Okay. I’ll go. – She drew herself up and wiping her tears away felt as if the worlds had ben remodeled and renewed before her gaze. She breathed in with deep gasps. – No use worrying. The Princess will recover, she’ll be dancing in no doubt. And nobody will be left to see what I’ll be doing. – She rubbed her hands together and humming to herself chanted – I wonder whether there’s actually anything valuable in this harem? I’m going to need a pile of spare parts, if I am to rebuild my toy resources. Slaves? Slaves! Come along! Now, since Éfhelìnye doesn’t need you for the moment, I may have you run some errands for me. – Siêthiyal took up the bundle of towels, but finding it irksome to have to carry it, tossed it to Fhólus and Aîya to carry. – And when you fly around me would you mind groveling a little more? –
– Yes, Emperor’s Sister! –
– We obey, Emperor’s Sister! –
– That’s the spirit! Whom do you serve! –
– Yhom, the Emperor’s Sister! –
– That’s you, the Emperor’s Sister! –
– Resplendent! –
– I don’t suppose either of you e'er discovered what happened to the basket of apples and the pomegranates that Ixhúja was bringing? –
– Burp! I have no idea. –
– Belch! Never heard of them! –
Siêthiyal was almost skipping as she walked down the halls flowing with long arrassed tapestries, and Fhólus and Aîya were struggling behind her and carrying the burdhen. Ixhúja watched their passage and turned away and walked towards the quarters of the Vestal Virgins and searched for new clothing.
And within the quarters that had been prepared for her, Princess Éfhelìnye lay on her back, and Akhlísa was cradling her head and helping the Princess to breathe, and they were finally alone, without interfering family or cheering Traîkhiim about them. Éfhelìnye just rested for a little bit and enjoyed being able to breathe without having to taste her own blood, and Akhlísa did her best to comfort her and tried not to think about drawing a knife on her best friend and precipitating a family feud, not to mention betraying her to the Dragon and marrying her sweetheart in secret. The white Suns were arising now, they were already reaching up unto their zenith here in the swift moments and glances of tide as the Emperor reached out for to shred all time, beams of white and sorrow spreading out through the glass only partially ystained. Bits of dust were dancing in the windows, a few soft beams of light reaching outwards towards Éfhelìnye, and she reached up one hand to touch the glowing solar light.
– This is actually … quite a pleasant day – Éfhelìnye whispered. – Do you see those Suns? –
– Oh Princess! –
– What a scintillant day. I can see the light burgeoning within the swells of the Suns. It is quite remarkable to feel that light upon one’s face. –
– Éfhelìnye, I’m very sorry. I don’t know what came o'er me – Akhlísa was saying. – For some reason I was convinced that you would attack me for betraying you like I did. If our roles were reversed and found out that you had married my Puey without telling me, I’m not sure that I would be happy, actually I wouldn’t be bothered too much but I knew that you would be just terribly hurt, I know you are so perculiar and happy with him and I just had to go and ruin everything. –
– You don’t have to say anything at all – Éfhelìnye chanted. – Sometimes the sunlight does the best talking. –
– Are you feeling alright? –
– I’m fine. –
– You have to be in pain. –
– It was more painful for me to witness strife among my loved ones, it almost broke my life again. –
– Siêthiyal and Ixhúja are gone. If you want to barate me and call me stupid and ugly, now is the right time, kairós, ĝustatempe tsòsyiin cualcan! –
– I just want to tell you something important. –
– What is it? Do you want my life? I offer you my life, if you demand that I commit ritual suicide to attone for my sins against you and your most august person … –
– No … nothing like that. I just have to tell you … – Éfhelìnye licked her lips a few times. She could feel that her body was already sliding back into sleep, it was taking all of her resources to heal herself, to mend flesh and spirit back together. – I must tell you that no matter what the future holds, we will still be family and I love you. We may still lose this war. I can feel my Father’s cloud; it shadows my heart. The téma jalabandhaH may halt the coming tide for an hour, but the levees were crumble and the walls shall fall, and the blizzard must come. I may not survive to the end. –
– Please don’t say this. –
– If I do not live, I want you and Puey to be very happy together. If he dies, I shall take mine own honored life. If you die, I shall have a cenotaph builded up for you worthy of an Empress of old, chhatri lesepamal xhmaûrya. If all three of us should live, it will be a different story, though. –
– You still don’t want to share Puey, do you? – Akhlísa asked.
– I do not wish to think about that possibility right now – Éfhelìnye chanted. – For now it is enough that we must promise not to fight, this family must stay together. –
– Okay. I love you. –
– I love you too. –
Akhlísa reached down and hugged Éfhelìnye, not too tight lest she disturb the wound, but enough that theirs should be the embrace of reconsiliation and forgiveness. And so it came to pass that when Siêthiyal and Ixhúja both walked back into the room, and they saw the bed and the Empress and the Concubine upon it, they found them at hugging each other, and Siêthiyal and Ixhúja ran up and hugged them also, and a few moments later Fhólus and Aîya came fluttering upwards, and Fhólus was munching on a few stray apples and Aîya upon some scurrying pomegranates, and after they gobbled up their fruit they came flying upwards and wrapped their arms about Siêthiyal and Ixhúja and Akhlísa and Éfhelìnye and all were in the very same embrace. And Éfhelìnye was already yawning dehiscent qyikhárot qlikhéyu fhaîqamet thaîqeqhe thwùqo. Ixhúja and Siêthiyal undressed the Princess and set her in a new dress, and as Éfhelìnye was already falling asleep they carried her out and brought her to a new fresh room, the rafters and curtains tumbling behind in the room of fighting, the windows crashing down, the clockwork door swinging aside, and in the new room they set her in the bed and drew the sheets about her, and opened up the windows and let the white sunlight fall upon her face and enlightenment flood all the room.
And the three of them, Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa held their hands together, and Siêthiyal chanted – Then it is agreed, we will never fight each other again, for her sake at least. –
– Agreed – chanted Akhlísa.
Ixhúja nodded.
– Good. This is the beginning of a new era of … what are you doing? –
– Playing with mine ear – Akhlísa chanted. – Ow! Stop hitting me! –
I thought we weren’t going to fight, Ixhúja blinked and wondered.
– We’re not going to fight with physical weapons and for real – Siêthiyal chanted. – But we’ll still be Sisters, after a fashion, so there will still be the bickering. What are you doing with your teeth? –
– I’m making a licking sound – Akhlísa chanted. – Thwákh! Thwákh! Thwákh! –
– Don’t! –
So, we just won’t use swords and pikes and staves against each other, Ixhúja was wondering. But we’ll still fight.
– Thwákh! Thwákh! Thwákh! – Akhlísa giggled.
– Yes – chanted Siêthiyal. – We’re just forbidden from wounding each other, causing any real harm, and killing of course. Everything else is fair game. –
– Thwákh? – asked Akhlísa.
– Including tickling! Here we go! – Siêthiyal grabbed Akhlísa by the arm and twisted her o'er.
– Tee hee hee hee hee! Stop it! Hæ hæ hæ! –
Ixhúja stood up, she was not in the mood for tickling. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa rolled about each other and were tickling each other in fury. Fhólus and Aîya were finishing another khmanáxhru blasad bìdh, and were licking each other’s jaws and settling down to nap about sleeping Princess Éfhelìnye and to cover her in the soft down of their wings, and the Traîkhiim fell down into a sweet sleep beneath the flowing lances of light albescent. Ixhúja clomb up a shelf and sitting herself high in it, drew a sword and set it down, and began watching Éfhelìnye in her sleep.
Siêthiyal and Akhlísa looked up from their combinatory wrestling and tickling and glanced up to Ixhúja. – Say, what do you think you’re doing? –
Ixhúja looked down and gave them a look that portended, I’m guarding my cousin while she sleeps.
– Oh no you don’t – Siêthiyal pushed and kicked Akhlísa aside. – I’m the Emperor’s Sister, I shall stand guard. –
– Excuse me, I’m the Emperor’s Concubine, I’m actually in charge of this harem – Akhlísa chanted. – I shall guard my Sister Wife. –
Ixhúja looked down and blinked as if to say, I have actual military training, I am the logical choice.
– I am the dominant female of us three, what I say is law – Siêthiyal pointed to herself. – I stand guard. –
– We could take turns – Akhlísa chanted.
– Oh stay out of this! – Siêthiyal shouted.
– Sorry! Sorry! So sorry! – Akhlísa recoiled as if struck and ran and clomb into a chair.
You can stay if you want, but I shall guard, Ixhúja told Siêthial in glances and blinks. She is my cousin by blood, it will be my honor.
– My Brother shall be the most exilient Lord of Earth and Sea and Sky! – Siêthiyal chanted as she crossed her arms. – It is his blood, his honor which should concern you. –
Ixhúja grit her teeth. This one, my cousin here is from the oldest family in all the worlds, our first Ancestresses was the first Wife and Empress, it is our family which invented marriage and governance itself! I guard.
– My Brother topples the old order. I guard her, my beloved Sister by marriage. –
Royalty descends through the Mother’s line, everyone knows that. Éfhelìnye, my cousin by blood, shall be the Empress, therefore I shall guard my wellbeloved cousin.
– The Emperor outranks the Empress, his family is dominant, that means my family rules and your family serves! I guard Éfhelìnye. –
An Empress is the heart and soul of the Empire. I guard Éfhelìnye.
– An Empress is nothing more than the wife with the title. I’m guarding her, you stupid heretic! –
One would expect such illogic from the children of the Patriarchs of the plain. You fatuous barbarian, my cousin shall be the new matriarch, I shall guard her! Ixhúja rolled off the top of the shelf and snatched up the sword and threw her face right unto Siêthiyal’s.
Siêthiyal held her place and drew her sword and muttered – Don’t start a fight you can’t win, my friend. Just accept that my family is more important than yours, that I am better than you, and that Éfhelìnye is best guarded by me, and this can all end well. –
I should kill you where you stand …
– Ah … Sister … Huntress … – Akhlísa chanted as she pointed to Éfhelìnye and made little sleeping motions, as if lying on her side with a pillow and gently breathing. – Let’s try to be a bit quieter. Someone’s been having a difficult time in her reintroduction to Jaràqtu, in terms of the Dragon battle and being washed up ashore and trying to get better and a certain Concubine and … – Akhlísa saw that the two maidens were calming down a little and even recognizing some of the humor of the situation. Ixhúja sheathed her sword and drew up a chair so that she could remain close to her cousin. Siêthiyal started gathering up cushions for herself.
The rest of you may do as you please, Ixhúja told them all with a dismissive gesture. I’ll stay awake and guard her, but so may you.
– I’m not going anywhere – Siêthiyal chanted.
– If you don’t want to take turns – Akhlísa chanted – then I choose not to have to guard. I can’t stay awake then. Anyway, there’s still too much to do. I’ll see you both later! – Akhlísa came dashing out the room, and turning back she blew everyone kisses and chanted – Love you! Love you! Bye bye! – And Akhlísa came running away.
The Suns arose unto their syìxhei, their cenyth, and then the Suns began to dip down again, haloes of white rippling out from them all, whites slowly blossoming outwards in long and tendrillar loops. The Suns could no longer stay up in the welkin too long, even the Suns could feel the coming chill of Qhixiêje, Eternal Winter and ritual Mourning for Empress Khnoqwísi, and the flames in the Suns moreover could no longer burn as they once did, so the Suns began to slide in their long and fading bands. Akhlísa played in the halls of the harem during some of this time and chased the Eunuch slaves about and searched for snacks and ran among the Traîkhiim and made them scatter before her, and when she came unto the outer halls of the harīm and asked the Vestal Virgins about Puîyus, they told her that he was still sleeping and she would have to wait to see him, and so she ran around and chased the Traîkhiim about and ran among the bands of white light and then skipped among the Eunuch slaves and coming up to other Vestal Virgins asked them when they would find Auntie Qtìmine and the rest of their family, and they told her that the priests were still searching, but that much of Jaràqtu still lay in ruins and it would take some time. And by now Akhlísa was growing tired and the Suns were dipping down, and the fields of white were folding aside one by one by one, and she came rushing back unto the upper halls and the high towers and the windows that were gazing outwards unto the tall and conical whispering mountains, and she could see the curve of the pyramids arising in seas of mist and darkness, and the flicker of their fires, she could see the other raths glistening upon the sides of the Xhyèrxhmu, their fires reflected in their great and winding walls of glass and windows tumblent upwards, and when she came back into the room where Éfhelìnye lay, and Fhólus and Aîya were still fast asleep, their wings encircling her in downy haloes, and Ixhúja and Siêthiyal were both seated in chairs at opposing sides of the Princess and both pretending not to be staring at the other, and both remaining on guard and yet, whenever they caught the glance of the other yawning in an attempt to make the other drowsy. Akhlísa had no time for any more games and did not wish to stay awake any longer, she crawled right into bed and snuggled up next to Éfhelìnye and fell fast asleep.
And when Akhlísa awoke again, the white Suns had not yet begun to arise, and the windows were only sparkling with midnight dew and the promise of some faint solar light to come, and rolling o'er she could feel that Éfhelìnye was still fast asleep, but she was breathing in a normal and healthy fashion, and her heart was beating mended and happy. Fhólus and Aîya giggled as they slept. Akhlísa sate up, and saw that both Ixhúja and Siêthiyal were wide awake, and from their haggard expressions had doubtless stayed awake all the long night long, in fact they had drawn up their chairs close to each other, they were not even looking at the Princess as if to guard her, they were staring at each other, their faces only about a cubit apart, and neither of them were blinking with their eyen shining red. Their hands were twitching a little. They looked to be on the verge of drawing weapons.
– Hello! – chimed Akhlísa. – Happy darkness before the dawn. Do I want to know what horrible dangerous uabhasach lethal game you’re playing now? –
Neither of us has blinked the entire night, Ixhúja growled in a straining and mechanical language.
– She who blinks loses and must concede – Siêthiyal chanted.
The rule evolved during the long, long night.
– It’s a simple game, but someone must win. –
Especially since we can’t actually fight and kill the other.
– Not like she could. –
Hah! The waif here never frightened me.
– You two are weird – chanted Akhlísa. – I like it better how Éfhelìnye and I compete for Puey. We just throw everything into chaos. I hope Puey’s feeling better today. I miss him. Plus I want to kiss him. Especially before she gets better. –
Siêthiyal blinked.
– Purr! – laughed Ixhúja.
– No fair! She distracted me! Her scheming ruined my scheming! It’s a mirror ricochay echo affect! –
Ixhúja stuck out her tounge and jumping upwards began doing a little victory dance involving spinning about with her sword. Siêthiyal shoved her chair aside, she gave her Sister an accusatory look, but then seeing that it was still dark outside, and the rest of the world still slept, she chanted – Ixhúja, you can have your wish and guard us all. I’m going to sleep. – Siêthiyal slipped up into the branches and snuggled up next to Éfhelìnye and within a few moments was falling asleep lulled by the sound of the Princess’ heartbeat. Akhlísa stretched her arms and lay down at Éfhelìnye’s other side and drew the blankets down all about them. And in the long night only Ixhúja remained awake, she was perched upon the very edge of her chair, and she leaned upon her sword, and thought about how she would protect her loved ones from all harm.

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