Siêthiyal was bobbling up in her own arasqiêkhu sloep, and to Puîyus’ surprise she was dressed in long and violet robes. A large grimore held she in her hands, and her entire head was covered in a large masque wheredown dangled a beard all of gold, and the masque was eyeless and whisps of golden hair were trailing about it, and she looked a little like a child dressed up like Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet, for such she was tempting for to do. She held up her hand and pointed unto the band of handmaidens rising and falling about her and intoned saying – I predict that Puey shall receive many a thousand kiss this day, and that Siêthiyal shall reap her just reward of toys toys toys toys toys! Thus have I spoken and written in the Book! – And soon Siêthiyal was fading away from Puîyus’ sight, as she rose and fell in the company of the daughters of the Poriêrii and the Qwoâng and the Tlhaxoîyer, and she was chuckling unto herself in the joy of her own mischief. And Puîyus was wondering why it is that although he and his Sister were born of the same beloved Mother Khwofheîlya that he could be so quiet and shy but his Sister Siêthiyal should be so loud and love attention, and whether this was just the natural order of things, and he hoped that he could find a way to smuggle Princess Éfhelìnye from this chaos before everything became truly strange.
The Qhíng came rowing up beside Puîyus in one direction, and the Caste Elders were finding that handmaidens were crawling all about their tendrils and sleeves and trying to launch themselves at Puîyus, and the Elders were saying – With all due respect, beloved Prince, don’t you think you have enough wives already? How can one possibly keep track of all of these? But then again, one can gainsay the Emperor of tomorrow nothing, if you want a thousand wives, we can deny you not a thing. –
Puîyus was trying to respond but beside him came rowing some of the Aûm and they were banging their drums and were struggling to remain upright as the handmaidens were taking o'er their shallop and almost spilling it o'er, so eager were the soubrettes to approach the Crown Prince, and as the Aûm were falling down they were saying – We’ve always found it quite strange to contemplate wihts who are éngaxa, who have but two sexes, for it always seems as if they are missing something and their familes are incomplete. How can one truly serve Elders and arrange marriages with only two sides of a family? But now it seems we are able to understand your ways a little better, for among the fey Xhámi it seems that the male is the docile half and the female the aggressive, and that the Emperor and Empress and Concubine form their own trinity in the household. – A few Thùlwu were tackled by the handmaidens and screaming tumbled down into the sea of golden hair, and the remaining Qlùfhem were struggling to stand and were saying – Do you want to do something about this, oh Crown Prince? –
Puîyus turned and was about to pick up Princess Éfhelìnye and just start flying out of this room to bring her unto quiet, but then among the bobbling handmaidens there arose a small jhuináxhyongiîlii and within were standing four acolytes from among the Khlitsaîyart folk and they were leaping upwards exilient in their long and rustling robes and they were tossing their broad-brimmed khyexhloâxei hats and almost dancing, and the acolytes were crying out and saying – Lo, Empress of tomorrow, look, we’ve found the hat! The long and lost hat, swept away by the winds of the pyramid, we have found it found it found it and brought it home huzzah and hurray! –
– They found the hat! – cried the Aûm Elders as the handmaidens swampt them.
– They found the hat! – laughed the Qhíng Elders as they were tumbling out of their shallops.
– Hurray for the found hat! – sang the Hundred Handmaidens.
Fhólus and Aîya were fluttering upwards before Puîyus and in their xhyòketlheun leg-arms were holding Akhlísa in their midst and dangling her before Puîyus, and she cried out – Who keeps mentioning their hat? Someone here is trying to prepare dinner for you all, and someone else keeps singing about a stupid hat! –
The acolytes were leaping in their wee long boat and crying out – It was lost and now is found, the hat our hat our most precious hat! –
– It’s found, the hat! – sang the Aûm.
– What a glorious hat! – sang the Qhíng.
– Happy day, for an happy hat! – laughed the Hundred Handmaidens.
– Now everything is officially getting weird – chanted Akhlísa, and she kept kicking about, because Fhólus and Aîya were struggling to keep her in the air, for Fhólus was not quite recovered from almost being eaten by his lwénenoîngpe lesnan Aîya, and the handmaidens were surging golden waves throughout the halls and were eaving resorting to grabbing at Akhlísa’s ankles in their effort to reach the island table where Puîyus and Éfhelìnye stood.
Of a sudden the waves of the maidens were parting, and Siêthiyal was sliding down the side of them, and she was dressed in simple beads and knives were girt at her waist, and a large pétasos hat she wore upon her head, and patterns of the ancient Khlitsaîyartan tribe of the Oikhàlupes were flowing about her gown, and she was wearing a false mustache so that she looked a little like Khiêro of Old, her first Ancestor and the Father of the aristocratic Jarjhíxhoxe Caste, and behind her were marching some of the ancient and gnarled stone statues of the Sweqhàngqu, swords in their hands, their faces living lime and jade masques, and Siêthiyal was shouting out – I, Khiêro of Olde, declaire this all to be good! My Son, Puîyos, go thou forth and pick many wives for yourself and rear up offspring in my name and be sure to give you Sister lots of toys, this is my commandment, this is the bidding of the Ancestors themselves, and one durst not disobey the word of the Ancestors! –
The statues of the Ancestors were turning and twisting and bowing to Puîyus. Éfhelìnye looked up from Puîyus’ neck and saw the Ancestors and shivered and hugged Puîyus all the tighter. Siêthiyal just laughed and was calling out unto the ancillæ and urging them to throw themselves at Puîyus and kiss him, while Akhlísa continued to bubble bobble from side to side in the limbs of the Traîkhiim. And after several moments, and after kicking at the handmaidens several times, Akhlísa, gasping and gaping all the while, pointed and cried out – Is that really you, honored Khiêro? You look shorter. –
– That not Khiêro thine Ancestor – Fhólus muttered.
– She your Sister wearing a false mustachio face – Aîya chanted.
– Are you sure? – asked Akhlísa. – She sure looks like Khiêro. –
– She about two cubits too short. Mayhap three – Fhólus muttered.
– She look like your Sister. Sound like your Sister. Probably taste like your Sister – chanted Aîya as her three sets of lips began to lick themselves. – Giving me an idea, want to nibble on her a little? –
– Are you sure that’s not honored Khiêro? – Akhlísa asked.
– That probably the worst khemfhuyàjhwen disguising in the history of costuming khemfhuyàjhwen – muttered Fhólus.
– Really terrible, and really Siêthiyal – chanted Aîya.
– Are you sure that’s Siêthiyal? – asked Akhlísa. – It could be Khiêro. Nobody’s seen him in some time. –
– We the taking the you to her – chanted Fhólus, and Aîya nodded in agreement and they fluttered up unto Siêthiyal as she spun down the side of the golden sine wave.
– Why greetings and salutations little one! – shouted Siêthiyal. – Have you been a good little child and gotten your Sister Siêthiyal lots of presents? –
– Ah … no to both questions, hah hah hah hah! – laughed Akhlísa.
Siêthiyal danced upwards and chanted – You really should be getting some presents for your beloved Sister Siêthiyal, she really is the most important person in this family. –
– Well … if Khiêro says so, than it must be true – Akhlísa considered as she rubbed the side of her face and bit her lips.
– That not Khiêro – muttered Fhólus.
– Don’t even look, sound, smell like unto him. May we eat her? – asked Aîya.
Siêthiyal turned unto the handmaidens and was signaling at them as if they were clouds swirling about her, and she were the conductor of some strange thalassal and welkin and golden tressed storm. – Go forth all ye and start kissing my Puey! He’s going to be the new Emperor, you know. Fay es fructose et multecen, tee hee hee hee hee! –
Akhlísa looked up to Fhólus and Aîya and chanted – If Khiêro says it than it must be true. I’d better start getting presents for Siêthiyal. –
– Lots of toys, please – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Yes, I’ll start bringing lots of toys … – Akhlísa looked back and saw that Puîyus was picking up Éfhelìnye and about to start slipping down unto the waves to bring the Princess to quiet, but Akhlísa shouted out – Eiya, Lord and Husband! Shouldn’t we be asking Khiêro for permission to leave? –
– That not Khiêro – sighed Fhólus.
– Should we just eat Siêthiyal now or later? – asked Aîya.
– I didn’t say that Puey could leave – chanted Siêthiyal. – Dinner hasn’t even been set yet. And where are all my toys? –
Akhlísa continued to hover before Siêthiyal and her large and bobbling pétasos, and grinning to herself she reached out and grabbed the feather mustache and yanked it away and screamed in terror. – Help! Help! Help! I yanked of Khiêro’s mustache! I didn’t mean to! –
– It was false! That not Khiêro! – sighed Fhólus.
– Let’s just eat them all – chanted Aîya.
Siêthiyal just laughed and slipped into the waves of handmaidens and disappeared. Akhlísa shouted several more times until Fhólus and Aîya looked unto each other and just shrugged their complex shoulders and wings, and soon they were drawing her upwards in a symphony of motion, waves and light and movement and were drawing her back unto the xhwoê athans.
Puîyus was holding Princess Éfhelìnye in his arms and was testing the seas of handmaidens as if he were a timid duckling setting webbed foot into the some unknown waters, it was altogether a motion unusual for him, for he was used just to leaping into a strange pond and pool and had no trouble at all in being acclimated into any loch or river at all. But he did not wish to disturb Princess Éfhelìnye at all, and sparkling up about him were shadows and colors that were like dust galaxies bleeding upwards. Several more sòlwi wherries came drifting about him, and unto one side came some xhmiêkha fulūka boats, little bone oars and paper solar sails spanning upwards and unfolding about him. He heard a whistling behind him as a xhmiekhènthe felucca drew up beside him.
Siêthiyal was wearing the ragged robes of a professor deacon and an hexagonal khwimíro mortarboard hat was danging upon her brow. She was adjusting some half-rimmed spectacles upon her nose and holding a cigar in one hand and whistling unto the hand maidens and saying – Lwa, my Puey, lwa! Why lookee at all these lovely flavicomous demoisellen! – She tapped the cigar a few times just as Uncle Fhèrkifher used to do and chanted – Why it looks like young Master Puîyos is going to get more kisses than a pirate gets in his entire life! –
Puîyus turned to his other side and saw that Siêthiyal was wearing a most elaborate masque, this one with long ad twining antennæ and a full beard of feathers, and she was struggling to strap the beak upon her nose. – Why if it isn’t little Puey here, you little maggotling. Why are you being so bashful here, it’s okay for a Prince to have an harem unto himself. Where’s my flask of pink lemonade? It’s time to start getting hyper. –
– Mew? – asked Puîyus.
– I think it’s time to go – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Did you hear me, my little Færie lad? – laughed Siêthiyal. – You can have as many wives as you like. Hi Princess, I forgot about you there. Oh it’s so difficult to love just one maiden. And now to introduce you to Uncle Fhèrkifher. – She tossed the Xhnófho masque aside and drew back Fhèrkifher’s face and picked up the cigar and chanted – Here I am. What’s been happening? What, you’re not getting Siêthiyal her proper share of toys? –
– Mew mew? –
– I’m been so busy smoking I’ve barely had a chance to experience this reality. –
– Mew? –
Siêthiyal tossed away the Fhèrkifher masque and drew back the Xhnófho antennæ back unto herself. – And I’m a feircesome wildsome pirate who’s been imbibing lots of pink lemonade! By all the Ancestors one cannot drink enough lemonade and smoke enough of the holy weed. I’m going to start spitting soon. –
– Mew? –
Siêthiyal kicked away the Xhnófho antennæ and donned Fhèrkifher’s face and chanted – Sorry I’m just so incredibly hyper, it’s hard for me to concentrate too long. Now all you need to do is start picking some extra wives for yourselves and giving Siêthiyal lots of toys. Am I wearing the right masque? – She was drawing down unto herself some orange eyestalks and some blue eyestalks that resembled the Duchesses and was saying – Our little ones, is this how the divine Princess writes her scenes, as dreams to be felt, as living energy and time? I’m not entirely sure whether that last statement even made. Words and images, thoughts and time, like so much khármoyènta psand ymixed with ice upon the desert, like so much khmoyènta wet sand left upon the beach washing before the shore, the rushing waves, the rumbling of the fhamluxàmesi, the fractal seas. Such is life. Alas, alas, ochon ochon ochon. One must wax eloquent about such things. –
Puîyus was not at all eager to repeat repeat the khmìseka fiasco of the Triîm dance with the Handmaidens who had been itaken from the Poriêrii and the Qwoâng and the Tlhaxoîyer, and he was about to arise and start roaring unto the ancillæ and bid them to stop leaping upwards in an attempt to get his attention, to stop rolling like waves and dashing against the meblaro, but he was unwilling to be rude unto Handmaidens who were only tempting to show him honor, nor did he wish to interfere with whatever frolicking that both Siêthiyal was doing with her masques and the Elders and Acolytes with their boats or with Akhlísa as she came fluttering among the Traîkhiim and was trying her best to run the kitchens and prepare dinner and serve her future lord and husband, but above all he was not fain at all for Princess Éfhelìnye to remain konxhùyaxúng istòtaxúng uncomfortable in any way, and so he made sure that the Starflower Princess was quite ìstot kònxhu and he jumped down from the table island in the growing auricomous sea, and he jumped up upon a tlhér bouy and floated upwards while the handmaidens were trying to grab at his legs and feet and were swarming up about him like so many thyòkha merrowmaids rising within the tides, the cometed haired nixes of the deep, whise hands are webbed, and whose jaws are fanged, and who draw down sailor and wanderer and pirate unto their doom, and Puîyus took the side of a chair and used it as a paddle and began rowing outwards and so he made his slow progress through a long procession of boats bobbling all about him, as the Elders and the Acolytes were sailing through the halls.
And so the goldhalls were blossoming open into one of the strangest lyaîka procession which Puîyus had e'er seen, and he was almost desirous for Princess Éfhelìnye to be watching what was coming to pass, and yet a little thankful that she was more concerned with hugging him and keeping her eyen closed lest she grow too concerned with what the handmaidens were doing. For as the golden halls were opening upwards the floors were expanding and pouring down the columns was come a steady stream of paper and confetti and pollen and dust and all of the tables and chairs and pews were swelling upwards and floating upon this main, and the handmaidens were leaping upwards and jumping upon the furniture and quickly converting them into all manner of wherry, and they were drawing up unto themselves brooms to use as masts, and they were fashioning solar sails out of paper and delicate jhyeratáji colored rice paper, and they were making flags of sendals and feathers and sailing outwards, and bubbling upwards in the main surged upwards the Qhíng Elders and the various Acolytes and the bāt which had contained the Aûm floundered about a little as the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were strugglende in the rice and paper and pollen, but soon they were drawaing themselves upwards and were floating upwards in the midst of the Hundred Virgins. Puîyus was finding that the chair he was using as buoy was perhaps the least seaworthy of chairs to have chosen khnìjhi trim and tidy and trig, and so he bounced upwards and landed upon another table and held Éfhelìnye close unto himself and came floating downwards, the Elders unto all sides, and elevens of boats of the Handmaidens about him and they came downwards about a mile and were flowing with rapidity as new streams of pollen and dust came surging down the columns and was surging upwards, with rising streams washing away at sand and dust. Every few moments Puîyus saw drifting about him some cups and plates and a Traîkhiim rolling upon her back and wings and delighting in swimming in the pollen in a way she could not in water, so terrified were the gentle Pèqlor dancers of the open waters, and Fhólus and Aîya soon came arising about Puîyus and were splashing each other with the pollen and then spitting out dust right untowards Puey and the Princess and then unto the handmaidens, and broken branches and bits of paper and not a few masques of elder and warrior and hero of old were crashing upon the winds and washing downwards among the furrows of the halls. Puîyus looked behind him and saw that the Virgins were gaining upon him, for they were learning to steer and navigate through the pollen with expect hands, and while Puîyus kept finding himself in strange and placid freshlettes of dust, the handmaidens were not afraid to push and row and jump outwards in an attempt to advance upon him. Puîyus was drawing himself from side to side in order to steer with the table, and he was using all of his mariner skills such as the illustrious pirates Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho had taught him, and he managed to take the lead before the Virgins, but the ward̀an of the Elders were getting in the way, and moreover the Qhíng were setting up nose flutes unto their beaks, for, being noseless they played the flute in a manner which the naseled nations found quite uncouth and barbarious indeed, and the Elders were singing outwards, and the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were slowly managing to struggle straggle upwards and clammer back into their boats, and they were drawing up trumps unto their mouthtrunks and blowing, and they were taking up paper garlands and buckets of pollen and tossing them in all directions, and bubbling all about them came some of the smaller skiffs of the Kháfha monks, and the monks alone were with supreme unconcern ignoring the handmaidens but rather upon swaying and jostling boat working upon their wonderous sand paintings, all of circles and cycles and mandala within mandala, and someof the wherries of the handmaidens were coming closer unto Puîyus for they were discovering that if they just sent their boats spinning down the ramps and the cascades of the dust, that they could almost fly upwards upon the tips of their bone oars and race unto Puîyus, and he was turning his head from side to side, his melancholy blue treses rumbling outwards, and all of the maidens were sighing and could smell the scent of his candy cane tresses, an almost palpable florescence that e'er eminated Puiyeyùjhwa then.
– Qwèqweka! Qwèqweka! Qwèqweka! – cried a few of the ducks as they were drifting upon the crest of the pollen, and even though Puîyus was holding Éfhelìnye and caressing her back and trying to keep her from distress, he was still able to reach o'er and pick up the ducklings and draw them unto his boat and let them roll and cuddle about the Princess and laugh a little.
– There he is! Unto the east, get him get him get him get him! – came Siêthiyal voice. Puîyus looked around and saw that Siêthiyal was seated in a small basket and all around her were piles of shells and beads and jewels so high that they kept crashing against her shoulders and head, and that the basket was supported by about eleven Traîkhiim holding her upwards and beating their complicated wings from side to side. And Siêthiyal was pointing unto where Puîyus was wending and was crying out unto the handmaidens and saying – Don’t let him escape, he is your prize, your treasure, your booty! Capture him and kiss him and then you win! And remember, only one maiden can win, all the rest of you lose! Now kiss him, and whoever wins has the honor of giving me more toys! Hurry hurry hurry hurry! – Siêthiyal was clapping her hands and laughing all the while, and bursting upwards out of the pollen seas came several more boats ifilled with handmaidens, and they were combing their long golden tresses and admiring themselves in the mirror and steering their boats right untowards Puîyus.
Princess Éfhelìnye stirred a little in Puîyus’ arms and looking from side to side at the gathering boats about her and Siêthiyal floating somewhere above the waves, she sighed and whispered – Puey? –
– ?? –
– I hope I do not misspeak, but sometimes I can find your Family a little strange. –
– CAPTURE PUEY NOW! – screamed Siêthiyal. – Later, toys! –
Puîyus shrugged, for he could not possibly imagine the Sweqhàngqu any other way, or the Pwéru as he now had to start teaching himself to call his nearest kith. But he knew that Éfhelìnye could be quite a delicate flower sometimes and that she did not always play games as rough as Siêthiyal and Akhlísa did. Even Fhermáta had grown frustrated with her younger Siblings from time to time, but somehow always found a way to withstand them.
– HE’S GETTING AWAY! SOMEONE HAS TO KISS HIM! – Siêthiyal shouted. – Don’t make me sell the rest of you into slavery! I mean, don’t make me convince an unpleased and unkissed Puey to sell you into slavery, he’s going to sell you all off to stinky old men with stinky old feet! Now get him, you galoots, taê khlàmpen! –
Princess Éfhelìnye reached up and played with some of Puîyus’ blue tresses about his ear and chanted – I’ve always found the word khlàmpen, khlàmpema to be quite an interesting word, those who stand by while something quad betides, what a fascinating word, goober, galoot, khlàmpen. – She looked upwards and saw that Siêthiyal was signaling unto Fhólus and Aîya to come flying up unto her, and the Traîkhiim were swirling about her hair and undoing the bands and ribbons that held it all into place, and they were taking up bars and feathers and jewels and bead coins and weaving them into her roseate queues, so that Siêthiyal’s hair was piling upwards at least an extra foot higher than it had been before, and she was grinning all the while and shouted – Now one of you had better go and kiss him! Hurry up! –
– Puey? – Éfhelìnye asked.
– Mew? –
– I think that we should consider marrying Siêthiyal off. –
Puîyus shook his head in negation and his eyen flashed.
– Perhaps it would be best for her to have … her own concerns and husband and his family to concern her. –
Puîyus shook his head with more vehemence than Éfhelìnye had expected, and a few of his chalchihuatl ornalz sibod lasinz, his xhthàrlroi tnónùyuqei came shaking from side to side and – !! – he cried.
– I just thought … –
Puîyus shook his head again, and blinking was telling her that Siêthiyal was far too young and innocent for such a consideration.
– It’s just … –
– Mew! – Puîyus cried, and he stomped the boat and lightning strokes came sparkling up about him in a sign that he absolutely and completely and without reservation forbade such a thought.
Princess Éfhelìnye remained silent for a few moments. Siêthiyal in her basket held aloft by the flying Traîkhiim slaves was come right above them and she was pouring unto them a continous rainfall of pollen and shouting – Capture Puey! Capture Puey! Kiss him kiss him give me toys! –
Éfhelìnye drew herself out of Puîyus’ arms, and leaned against him so that one arm was about his neck and the other playing with his hair. – When Siêthiyal is older, though, we can think about giving her away in marriage. –
Puîyus remained silent for at least a full minute, and all about them came the sound of the surging pollen seas and the boats of the virgins gaining upon them and Siêthiyal high above was jhujhùkhlo heckling Puîyus and Éfhelìnye and singing – Kiss the Prince kiss the Prince kiss the Prince hah hah hah hah hah! Where are my toys? –
Puîyus considered and lifting up an hand and spelt out some graceful cheremes meaning, Perhaps when Siêthiyal is older, far older, than the merest thought may come into one’s mind.
– Yes, when she’s older – chanted Éfhelìnye. – Perhaps we can start considering as soon as we win this irksome War? –
One can wait until Siêthiyal is at least a thousand winters of age.
– A thousand winters of age! Puey, Siêthiyal’s only a year or so younger than I am. I was thinking that we could start consulting with the Elders in a year or so. –
Out of the question.
– But surely by then we will have peace on the land and we can think about securing our family and … –
Puîyus gave Éfhelìnye a look that meant, One will not discuss this any more.
Éfhelìnye fell silent. She offered an half smile and chanted – Whatever you mew, my beloved sweetheart. We shall discuss this no more unless you bring up the subject. – She continued to play with his hair a little and looked back and saw that Akhlísa was jumping from boat to boat and trying to urge the Traîkhiim to return unto the kitchens and help her with the work, and Éfhelìnye watched her and was thinking unto herself that this would probably end up even better, for she could get Akhlísa’s covert help and conspire together in finding Siêthiyal a sweetheart and so spread her mischief unto a larger area of influence. But then again even such a plan like that was fraught with problems, for it would involve having to expand the Pwéru by at least one person, for a man who married into the House of Pwéru was part of the Pwéru the dominant and divine Clan, plus in the years to come there was no telling what sort of trickery a child of Siêthiyal’s might be able to devise, especially a daughter who took after her mother. Princess Éfhelìnye was thinking that any children that Siêthiyal bore would surely be giving the rank of Noble Caste at least, and that would make her offspring Princes and Princesses of the Pwéru but of a lesser lineage, and they would be extremely important for the formation of alliances in the next generation, right after the children that Éfhelìnye herself would bare Puîyus and who would be of the holy Royal Caste. But the Princess decided to keep all of these thoughts unto herself, she would not anger Puîyus by bringing up the thought that at some time his Sister by birth would have to grow up and probably be given in marriage, she would let her thoughts and swevens flow of their own accord within the imagination of her heart.
– Can’t you row any faster! – cried Siêthiyal. – When you want something you have to follow and trap and take it! Hurry up and grab him, oh, you handmaidens are so slow! Hi, Éfha, I didn’t see you down there. –
– Hello, Siêthiyal – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– What a marvelous day we’re having – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Quite – chanted the Princess. Éfhelìnye was looking around at the pollen tides which were gaining unto them all, and so she could see that the handmaidens were still gaining upon them and were making paper festoons unto themselves and cutting out paper blossoms and tossing them in all directions, even as the boats of the elders continued ploughing forwards, and waves of crabs were bursting upwards before the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm. Puîyus was rowing with a chair, and his boat came dashing down a series of ramps and deeper into the golden halls, and ducks were arising before him. Éfhelìnye thought to make herself useful by collecting as many fallen paper blossoms and plashes of pollen and the falling garlands and she adorned Puîyus’ hair with them and she caught up a floating chair and set it down as a throne and began constructing all about it a canopy of pollen and rice paper, she was taking up the delicate paper and tossing them all about the boat and crumbling up some and folding others upon their sides, so that they did not quite appear to be of random falling, but rather were almost a rhythm of textures, a song of colors, peals of blossoms, sighs of flowers, and dances of paper petals and growing stems and opening burgenettes sprawling outwards, and as she was setting them down, in chords and harmonies and blossoms she was dancing all the while, and the paper began to grow all about her. The canopy sprawled upwards and trees of paper and finery were taking form, and even as Puîyus was rowing he could see that the Princess was engaged in some alchemy of craft, and when he drew the wherry downwards and was coming again unto the lead of the Hundred Virgins, Éfhelìnye gestured unto him to sit upon the throne, for he could row even there, so ingenous had been the marvels of her hand, and the paddle was able to hook downwards into the wheels and angles of the gunwale. Puîyus began shoving the paddle from side to side, and the boat dashed outwards all the faster. And when the work of her hand was finished and she found it good she continued to dance upon the deck of this boat, and her snowwhite dress neĝblanka was billowing out about her, and she was kicking up her legs and clapping her hands as the pollen and paper flowers were falling. The Hundred Virgins were sending their boats down the ramps and were beginning to gain upon Puîyus, but now the boats of the Handmaidens were come in greater numbers and were ascraping against each other, and the Elders were not so swift in their emigrations. Éfhelìnye’s hair was a rustle of coral and gold, her face was pale, her cheeks were like roses, and as she was skipping from side to side, all of her skin was glowing with a soft and resplendent light, the movement of her limbs were poems of grace, the clapping of her hands a gentle music, the tapping of her feet the first harmony upon the waves.
Paddle paddle paddle paddle!
– You paddle harder! – Aîya shouted.
– You paddle harder! – Fhólus shouted in return.
– Why thou they the me! –
– You have three strong wings! My wings partially gnawed! –
– Wondering who did that … –
– Sorry, having trouble hearing you. Only have three antennæ-whisps, when should have six! –
– Wondering who did that … –
– Noticing that I missing an head? –
– Hope it was the stupid head I ate. That had always getting us into trouble. –
– Listen, you slaves – came Siêthiyal’s voice. – All this bickering is just energy which could better be spent in serving me and me alone for all eternity. You do know that I plan on owning you in the afterlife, don’t you? –
– Lucky us – muttered Aîya.
– As for me, I volunteer for the fhliráqha, the perfumed sacrifice – sighed Fhólus. – I ending up in the heavens after death. –
– Your request I deny – chanted Siêthiyal. – You serve me and only me for all time. Now row harder! Now, I’m going to place my feet on one of your heads just to encourage you, or discourage you, it doesn’t matter, but I’ll be doing it anyway. –
Princess Éfhelìnye spun around in her dancing and saw that Siêthiyal was in a small canoa and that Fhólus and Aîya were rowing her forwards as she was aimed with arrowlike precision right untowards them. The Princess just shrugged and continued with her dance. Siêthiyal turned around to urge the Handmaidens to continue following Puey, but whenever she wasn’t looking Fhólus and Aîya stopped rowing and just giggled and tickled each other, and only resumed work half an eyeblink before Siêthiyal turned back to looking at them.
– Having a slight question – Fhólus chanted. – Did the Empress not question question free the slaves? So why we working for you? –
– Having another slight question – chanted Aîya. – Did the Empress not question question resurrect half of us? So why we working for you? –
– This is quite simple – Siêthiyal chanted as she kicked Fhólus right where his third neck should be and set her feet upon a couple of Aîya’s heads since she had her full triple compliment. – You work for me now and for ever because you fear me. My Brother and Éfhelìnye are symbols, they are the Crystalline Throne and Starburst Crown, they are the authority, and I am the power. And let’s not forget, you tried to eat my Brother and Éfhelìnye, you and your entire race are being castigated, so you’d better be thankful that I’m the one putting you to work, for Puey can be quite dreadful in his anger, and even I don’t want to cross a Princess of the Blood, the Daughter of the Moon Empress. So work work work work work. –
– We still like the Concubine better – chanted Fhólus.
– She would have been tasty – muttered Aîya.
– Ah, yes, you were planning on eating her too – chanted Siêthiyal. – Don’t think that I’ve forgotten. You’d better hope I don’t start reminding Puey that you tried to eat both his beloved and innocent Princess as well as his darling Concubine. I’ve seen his drawing that sword of fire faster than I can blink, I’ve seen men tumble downwards in guts and flame and screams where they stood a moment before, and Puey was sheathing the sword before I realized what he was doing. Now hand me these masques, you miserable little slaves. –
– I hate being a slave! – cried Fhólus.
– Me also! I quit! No more servage, no more dureße! – sighed Aîya.
– Let’s trick someone else into being a slave. –
– Good plan! –
Princess Éfhelìnye turned to one side and saw that arising about her was come Siêthiyal, and Fhólus and Aîya were rolling out before her as her boat came side to side, and she was igarbed in a most marvelous outfit of spinning wheels and disques, and a large skeleton key was jutting from her back, and all silver was her gown and she was snapping pincer upon her fingers and dancing from side to side and wearing the semblance of silvern Tetratríxe Khniqhátui the wind up toy and singing – I will sing and dance for you, Princess, lwa lwa lwa lwa lwa! –
Éfhelìnye jumped back and cried out saying – That’s incredibly creative, Siêthi. Did you make this dress yourself? –
– Who is this beautiful and cunning Siêthi of whom you speak? – laughed Siêthiyal as she spun from side to side and was performing a little dance which was quite a good likeness unto how the Khniqhátui twins performed their ballet. – Don’t call me Siêthi. I am Tetratríxe and I love you, Princess, and will sing and dance for you, fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa fhwa! –
Éfhelìnye spun about Siêthiyal and chanted – I’ve always thought that you had such natural talent for dancing, Siêthi, and I can see that even as you imitated wheels and claws and metallic limbs. –
– I don’t know who this brilliant and perfect and peiratical Siêthi is but I sure hope someone is heaping lots of toys up at her feet? – Siêthiyal chanted as she spun about the boat and hopped about in quite an automative fashion. – Don’t call me Siêthi. And now I shall sing and dance for you. Handmaidens! Here they are! Capture Puey and kiss him now! –
– I’m not sure that’s something that my darling Tetratríxe would say – Éfhelìnye chanted. She spun around and to her surprised almost bumped right into Siêthiyal who at this point was somehow in the blink of an eye dressed all in gold, and she was wearing a slight and half dome upon her head, and she was leaping about in a slightly different fashion although still in the matter of xhràxapim pledadin fashioned by Prince Jhwèsta, the last Prince of Tsànyun. – Oh Siêthi, I love that gown you’ve made for yourself! Although you have but two arms and two sleeves, you managed to create some sort of mechanical rigging for two smaller arms so that you can look indeed like one of the quadrubrachiated Khniqhátui indeed. –
– Why I’m Qwatríxe, and I love dancing for you Princess! – cried out Siêthiyal as she spun around again and again and again. – And holy and wonderous and divine Princess, if you call me Siêthi again, I’ll throw you out the boat! –
Puîyus was paddling as fleet as he could, but the ramps within the goldhalls were become a bit narrower, and the tapestries were grown constricted against the walls. Puîyus looked around and found that a small canoe was bumping against them, and that Asiréma among the Poriêrii was at the helm, and she was reaching outwards and was about to board the vessel, like a sky pirate about to launch himself unto the next ship and take whatever candies lay within.
– Hereon he is! Herewithin he is! – cried Siêthiyal and she pointed with both of her arms and the two false arms of her gown. – Capture him! Take him! Kiss him! You paid good shells for the priviledge! –
– I don’t wish to be boarded by kissie pirates at this time – Princess Éfhelìnye chanted. – Where’s Karuláta? Is there a way for her to help us? –
– Speaking whichly – chanted Fhólus as he rolled out before the Princess. – Most adored concubine the only one here doing any real work. That a change, usually she napping by now. –
– We they getting rewarded for this question? – asked Aîya.
Asiréma was almost within hand’s reach of the boat, but Éfhelìnye ran outwards and grabbed some paper festoons of flowers and stuck them together in a rolling web and running up unto the handmaiden flung them at her and distracted her from grasping the gunwale, and Puîyus steady rowing drew the wherry aside.
– Now how unfair is that, xhwókh! – cried Siêthiyal and she was tapping the deck of the boat with a cane. Éfhelìnye looked back and saw that Siêthiyal was now dressed in very long and black robes, a fanstaff lay in one hand, and a very complicated masque enveloped all of her face, large fullmoon spectacles glistened upon a large nose, and whisps of white hair were streaking from side to side, mistletoe was flowing about her ears, and a large pétasos lay upon her head, for she was dressed as Grandfather Pátifhar, and she tapped her staff a few more times and chanted – Now is that how I reared you in the Forbidden Gardens my little granddaughter? You should play absolutely fair with the other maidens, even those who are older and more beautiful and better than you in every single way, xhwókh! –
– What an impressive masque that is – Éfhelìnye sighed. – May I touch it? –
– Masque you say? This be no masque, this is the visage of Grandfather Pátifhar the fhúyetlhalepìxhopa sylvan sorcerer of the forest! Recite unto me the three psalms of ascendence! –
– So, we not getting rewarded for this nonsense? – Aîya waddled up to Éfhelìnye and tugged at the hem of her alban gown to get her attention. – Because we endure quite a bit of nonsense from all ye Pwéru. –
– Have we mentioned we weren’t really going to eat you? – asked Fhólus. – We were just planning on ingesting you and digesting you because we love you so much. Eat too strong a word. Is consume better? –
– It’s the same thing. –
– Sorry, just trying to say … –
– We going to be punished for a long time. –
– Sorry, didn’t hear you. Missing an head, in case you forgot. –
– Should have eaten your throats. That way no talking. –
– I heard that! Or at least heard most of it. Missing half mine ears, in case you forgot. –
– May I touch this masque? – asked Princess Éfhelìnye asked as she advanced unto Siêthiyal.
– Touch not my face! – gasped Siêthiyal. – I’m an old geron! Handmaidens, now’s your chance to tackle Puey and kiss him! And don’t forget the concomitant tribute of toys? –
– Mew mew mew? – asked Puey.
– No, Puey, that’s not really Grandfather Pátifhar – chanted the Princess as she looked up unto the throne she had made for him, and the flowing bands of colored paper and petals and pollen. – I’d be able to recognize my beloved Grandfather anywhere. –
Puîyus sniffed the air, for although the sorcerous image before him looked like his Sister in form and certainly smelt of Siêthiyal’s roseate scent, he knew that he had to be careful and reverent of masques, for they are faces of power and the eyen of Ancestors, plus they were false faces.
– Now begin reciting unto me the psalm about how you should give all your toys to your future Sister by marriage – chanted Siêthiyal.
– I don’t remember that particular psalm in the Holy Writ – chanted Princess Éfhelìnye as she grabbed the side of the masque, and found it of wood and jasper and jade and feathers.
– It’s one of the last ones, in the back … stop removing my face! Stop it! Puey! Make the Princess stop it! – Siêthiyal shouted a few more times, and the Traîkhiim came fluttering high above her. Princess Éfhelìnye was cooing and squealing as she began drawing aside the masque to gaze upon the wonders of it. Several smaller skiffs were now crashing against the lead boat, and the sounds of shouting Elders were come behind them. The Princess was only vaguely aware of some Khlitsaîyart acolytes drifting beside her and shouting as a gust removed all of their hats from their heads and sent them whirling upwards, and the rafters were filling upwards with Traîkhiim rising and falling and shouting all the while. Éfhelìnye laughed and spun around and held up the masque of Grandfather Pátifhar, and all of a sudden the boat shuddered several more times as the handmaidens were using the paper garlands as ropes and were trying to grapple unto the sides. Puîyus was rowing harder upon his throne, and the winds were battling against the papyrus flowers and his hair was whipping from side to side.
– Make way! Make way! Make way! – cried the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu voices enjoined.
The deck of the ship shuddered as Asiréma jumped upon it, and turning unto the other handmaidens she kicked at the paper grapples and shoved the nearest boat aside. – I got here first! I got here first! Honor to the Poriêrii and shame to the rest of you! –
– Sorry! Bad angle! Crashing! – cried the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu all at once.
– We found our hats! – cried the Khlitsaîyart acolytes. – Just in case anyone was wondering. Found again. Lost before. –
Aîya was fluttering upwards and trying to escape the coming crash. – Should we be paying any attention to this question? –
– Don’t know, can’t hear or see too well – muttered Fhólus. – Missing! An! Head! –
– Definitely eating your talky mouths chit chat chat chit next time first. –
– I heard that! I’m eaten, not fhleníkha sút xoxhetesaxhmèswo, deaf and silent and stilly. –
Princess Éfhelìnye spun around, the masque of Grandfather Pátifhar upon her face, and looking up unto Puîyus had only amoment to see the crashing of the dust freshettes and the pouring of the pollen cascades and the warning of a few of the boats of the Qhíng and Aûm as they crashed together in the procession and were tumbling down right untowards the boat where she and Siêthiyal we standing and Puîyus rowing was inthronised in paper flowers. Several tumbling masts crashed about them, and all at once a bursting stream of garlands came pouring downwards, and some of the glancing tapestries of the walls. Puîyus was arising. Several more handmaidens were leaping upwards and making it unto the boat, and while Asiréma was trying to fend them off, Siêthiyal just danced from side to side and laughed. Golden solar sails and delicate paddles were spilling downwards and swamping the boat, so that it began to tumble upon its side. Éfhelìnye and Siêthiyal both were knocked unto their backs and began sliding down the deck. Masts were falling about them, and more paper flowers, and long tapestries of sails were covering Asiréma and the handmaidens. Puîyus was trying to hold onto the bone oar, but right behind him was mounting upwards the boat filled with Kháfha monks and they were still enthralled of their lyèjho sand paintings and were not noticing the growing swell of flowers and pollen and silk and bubbles, they did not see that they crashed right through the throne and exploded it. Éfhelìnye drew herself upwards, but to her consternation found that the masque of Grandfather Pátifhar slipped from her fingers, but at least Siêthiyal was catching it. As the boat was upending, she could see that thrashing in the pools of pollen were the handmaidens and many Traîkhiim, and as the Kháfha were crashing against the stern of the Qhíng and the Aûm, several of the Kèlor Masters and the Qlùfhem and Thùlwu were tumbling down also. Éfhelìnye drew herself up unto what had once been the side of the furniture which had been used as umiaq, and looking around, and saw the solar sails tumblig and become as nets, and the Elders struggling in the pollen but no matter where she looked she saw not Puîyus at all.
– Puey. Puey? Puey! PUEY! – Princess Éfhelìnye.
Siêthiyal drew herself next to Éfhelìnye and looked from side to side. – I hope supper is finished soon, for all this dressing up and enmasquing and scheming sure can build up an appetite. –
– Where’s Puey? – asked Éfhelìnye as she wiped some pollen from her eyen.
– He’s probably kissing some of the handmaidens. I don’t know – chanted Siêthiyal. – He comes and goes as he pleases, he’s like the wind. Does the wind come and go empleasingly? Puey’s more like the night. No, I would not assign him a time as if he were clockwork. He’s just more a Puey. Puey’s Puey. What was the question again? –
– Where’s Puey? – gasped Éfhelìnye.
Siêthiyal looked from side to side and grinning chanted – If he’s out of your sight for longer than eleven seconds, that means that he no longer loves you. –
Éfhelìnye scanned the golden horizon of the halls and the bubbles of fog and pollen and the endless waves of paper which had come spilling down through the garlands. She sniffled a few times and had to wipe stains of blood from her eyen. – I can’t see him anywhere at all. –
– He must be dead in a ditch then – sighed Siêthiyal. – Alas. You’re already a widow. Don’t forget to throw yourself on the funereal pyre. Oh I bet in the afterlife Puey already has all sorts of sweethearts, where there are more unmarried maids among the honored Dead than the Ancestors know what to do. –
– Lo! – Éfhelìnye pointed unto a spray of pollen and before her came arising splashes and moonlight and ripples in the sea. The windows of the golden halls were opening upwards and breathing out the sadness of evening, and in the crashing of the vessels of the Elders she saw the blur of Puîyus’ melancholy blue tresses, and then his sleeve, and then his wooden shoe. – He may be in danger! I have to go after him! –
– Puey’s the greatest swimmer in all the worlds save for the Immortal Tsaên Tòxeu himself – sighed Siêthiyal as she examined her fingernails.
– Not for then, I must go after him – chanted the Princess and she scrambled down the side of the boat and saw that the Kháfha vessel was crashing against column and wall and growing ripples of iridescent sand was come from their paintings.
Siêthiyal was finding her fingernails eminently fascinating. – No. Please. Don’t go after him. Too dangerous. Et cet. Et cet. Warning. –
– I must! – Éfhelìnye came down unto the edge where the pollen waves were arising and she dipped tentative toe within and found the waves dry and all of dust.
Siêthiyal giggled and came scrambling after the Princess and grabbing her by the column thrust her right into the pollen and shouted – If you insist don’t let me stop here. Now, go swim after him! – She shoved the Princess down for a few moments, and froth and coral and pollen burst up about them all, and then Siêthiyal drew back and fell upon her sides and laughed all the harder, and Éfhelìnye heaved and smacked her head against the side of the boat and spat out pollen in a way she thought completely unprincessly.
– Please! I need help! – gasped Éfhelìnye.
Siêthiyal stretched her young muscles and chanted – I’m busy! I have problems of mine own. –
– I don’t know how to swim! –
– I’ve got kisses to sell and toys to collect. You should have thought about not know how to swim before leaping into the pollen. Princess, it’s completely dry and about a single xètsaxi span in height! It is impossible for you to drown in it! –
Éfhelìnye burst out into tears. – But I have to swim after Puey! –
Siêthiyal laughed for several more moments, and then grabbing the Princess by her collar thrust her into the pollen for a few minutes, and Éfhelìnye thrashed and coughed and struggled, and Siêthiyal just laughed all the harder until on a whim she pulled the Princess upwards, and Éfhelìnye just coughed, and in her blurred sight she thought that she was in the grasp of Mother Khwofheîlya again, as Siêthiyal looked upon her and grinned, her pink tresses flowing, and utterly unafraid of the waves. – Then go and swim after him! – Siêthiyal cried as she shoved the Princess back down again. – As for me, I have Handmaidens to tyrannize, plus Kàrula is making dinner and I just know it will be yum yum yum good! – She shoved the Princess away, and rolled unto her back and laughed and laughed and laughed.
Éfhelìnye could have just walked through the pollen, which was closer to a cubit or so in height, not a span, especially since the pollen was still flowing down through the columns, but she was panicking a little and not entirely sure of how to move her legs and arms together in a single dance which men called swimming. All of her thoughts were unto the movement of the boats and their choking and crashing and coughing and tangling, and how somewhere before her Puîyus must be beneath the crashing of furniture and timber and paper. She descended into the flury of color, sprays of feathers and paper petals arising about her, prows and furniture and bone oars about her, and the slight echo of the voices of the elders and the trumps of the Aûm and the nose flutes of the Qhíng and the endless sheans of gold yspread out before her.
Khmàqhifhikh, splendiferous and khmuîngo bright were all things drifting within the waves of pollen all about the Starflower Princess, the only offspring of holy Khnoqwísi who had been the bride of all the worlds, and as she struggled to arise throughout the growing waves and avoid the movement of tremendous boats and the thundering of the turning bone oars, large and spinning dust storms were bursting upwards through the carpetry and the tapestries that rippled about the walls, long and growing waves of greens and pinks were arising unto the sides of her and then tumbling downwards, the colors mixent together and becoming long and fluidic plains of blue pollen and drifting paper petals gyrating about her and unfolding into greater ripples and sways. Everywhere she turned bits of oar and paper crowns, sprays of cloth and paper and curtain were entangling the seas, and the deep thud of furniture crashing together were all colliding in a most disconcerting way. She was trying to paddle in the pollen, íqhomet, since she was ignorant of the arts of swimming, and although she was trying to move her limbs in a balletic and rhythmic fashion, she was succeeding more in empanicked thrashing than in any descreet and efficacious froward movement, but natheless she was able to make some forwards movement unto where she had last beheld Puîyus by sleeve and wooden shoe and strands of melancholy blue hair, aêng ur qoe Puîyus kopweirepakhòntet tsujhiyòntet plàju’ íngikhmuyòlkha kexhing, although sometimes she found herself being buffeted by the movement of tables and huge couches that were arising and tumbling about her, and the opening and closing of doors all leading unto the kitchens, and the growing musky smell arisen from said kitchenry, and and the fluttering of Traîkhiim wing unto all sides of it.
Suddenly a large bone oar began smacking the Princess on her back and sides and about her limbs, and without even meaning too she grabbed unto the kùxhyuin bone paddle and found herself drawn up out of the glistening light of the pollen waves, and rolls of jhpiêl were descending of her arms and shoulders and her cometlike tresses, and she clung unto the bone oar as if she were about to be tossed back into the growing waves, and wiping some of the blood from her eyen she looked up and saw that before her was a small boat and that four Khlitsaîyart acolytes were rowing and were thrusting long kùtwo harpoon spears into the waters and searching for side to side. At last they looked up and seeing that the divine Starflower Princess was clinging unto one of their oars, at once they fell upon their knees and kowtowed untowards her.
– Our greatest apologia, oh holy and empyreal Empress of Tomorrow – whispered the Khlitsaîyart Khlaêr acolytes. – We did not mean to scoop you out of the pollen waves. –
– It’s a perfectly natural and understandable thing to do – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– We are fishing for our lost hats, those jaunty and floppy items have just flown away from us, alas alas alas! – sighed the acolytes. Slowly they arose and took up their harpoons and began throwing them back into the paper waves and added – Since you’re not our hat, we’ll just be tossing you back now. –
– I understand. I don’t suppose any of you have seen Puey, have you? –
– We thought we saw his sitting among the handmaidens and tasting their food and complimenting it and kissing them – chanted the acolytes as they drew up the bone oar which had been princessed and they spun it around and heaved it unto one side, and Éfhelìnye came tumbling backwards and came crashing back down through the pollen and was rising and falling in the growing waves of color for a time. She sank downwards, and by now the pollen was grown several wtsoîse spans in depth, twin armlengths, and bursting all about her were the long fins of boats and the spinning of wherries and the movement of the vessels of the Elders, and the strange and arising monuments of the Qhíng and Kháfha and Aûm somewhere within the goldhalls, and Éfhelìnye as she thrashed about and tried to figure out how to breath within the tùstu pollen, and large and strange orc shadows were arising unto all sides of her, and the sound as of so many whales beginning their song, and the undulations of strange draconiform tartans, and prismatic explosions as of shredded rice paper bursting upwards higher and higher still.
Éfhelìnye was not even noticing that she had been coughing for a time until she found herself drawn high up into the air, pollen and origami flowing off of her gown and hair, and hand-feet grasping her side, and large quetzal wings drifting from side to side. She was being carried high in the air by a couple of Traîkhiim and she could see spread out all about her the jewels and mantles of the river of dust which had formed within the halls, and a thousands wherries bobbling about and crashing into each other, and the Elders and the Handmaidens all making their way untowards the kitchens, and the capsizing of their vehicles, but nowhere at all could she see Puîyus not at all, by sleeve or habach of strand of hair melancholy silver.
– Sure doesn’t weigh very much at all, no? – Fhólus was saying as she held onto Éfhelìnye by one side.
– No, really quite a waif, weigh no more than a few drops of milk – nodded Aîya as she held the Princess by her other side. – Quite an odd expression, drops of milk, Xhámi sure do talk about milch a lot. –
– That and flowers and spring and blood and war – Fhólus sighed. – Everything with them sacrifice and battle, struggle and contest, love and war. Have to make a big opera out of everything. –
– Not nearly as civilized as we be, we just take what we want and gobble it up – chanted Aîya.
– Sorry, didn’t hear you. Missing an head. Most so so so sorry. –
– Hush you. You tried to eat me first! –
– Would do no such thing! –
– Have bite marks to prove it. Ouch! –
– Pfhóqa apología, qoâka self-defence, just knowing you would do something crazy! –
– Aîya that I am am never crazy. –
– I we met your family. They the very definition of crazy, and they getting crazier now they all dead. –
Princess Éfhelìnye was stirring a little and coughing and flowing down from her was come an endless iridescence which began as dust and pollen but as it drifted down from her was all become a living rainbow of light and color and shine, and she shivered a little and chanted – Thank you for plucking me out of the pollen, my dearest friends Fhólus and Aîya. –
– Anything you say, Imperial Concubine – chanted Fhólus.
– Yeah, we adore you the best of all maidens of the harem – chanted Aîya.
– Thanks for letting us trick the Empress. –
– We knew she’d have something against some sort of mass cannibalistic death feast sacrifice thing. She such a goody goody. Honored Siêthiyal told us that she used to take a glistleglob of fhàtra butter and put it in the Empress’ mouth and it not melt at all in fact it start choking her she can’t breathe because the Empress too nice and docile and not tricky at all. –
– That why she always getting in trouble with honored Puîyos’ other sweethearts. –
– Yeah, Empress kinda dumb. –
– She doesn’t realize that Elders are crazy and Puîyos have lots of sweethearts. –
– She very dumb. –
– That why we like you, honored Akhlísa, you’re pretty and you let us do our schemes. –
– Éfhelìnye very dumb. –
– That why … ack! – Fhólus turned one of her two remaining heads and realized for the first time that they were not in fact transporting Akhlísa out of the rolling pollen waves. – Ixnay ixnay ixnay on the Umbday! –
– Éfhelìnye so dumb, she don’t realize just how much the Ancestors resent her, foreign devil that she is, usurper, not at all respectful of your rights as Imperial Concubine … –
– Aîya! Shut your pie mouths! –
– Éfhelìnye smart with books but not with too much else. Also very sickly. –
– Aîya! Warning! Holy cælestial warning. Nigh wing! Nigh hand-foot. Here! –
– Éfhelìnye so dumb she fall out of the dumb mountain and land against the dumb trees and we be skimming dumb off the ice floes for … well hi there Éfhelìnye! Some idiot just talking about you, surely a not Traîkhiim fool Triîmaxúng, this all having nothing to do with us at all. – Aîya was spinning all three of her heads about and smiling at Éfhelìnye, but the Princess was far more concerned with actually finding Puîyus in the prismatic spray of the pollen than in insults and feelings.
– You the one with the stupid heads! – hissed Fhólus.
– Sorry, I thought she the Concubine! – chanted Aîya.
– We both did. But I see more with two heads than you with three! –
– Maybe I’m too happy and content digesting to think straight! –
– Forgive me for asking, but have either of you with your remaining five heads fhaitlhakhátei xhmérepakh seen my Puey anywhere at all? – Éfhelìnye asked with a few sniffles. – I did not see his tumbling from our kara, but I saw the bursts of garlands and paper flowers, I saw the throne empty, and then I saw his sleeve and wooden freimsmυr and flows of the melancholy hair characteristic of the Sweqhàngqu whilom that were. Surely he must be somewhere within these pollen waves. –
– Puîyos? He can take care of himself – chanted Fhólus. – Strong and mighty hero. –
– We I were talking about some other Empress not you – chanted Aîya. – And Fhólus doing most of the talking. Not I. I wuv the Empress. You. You. Cute cute you. –
– Thinking Puîyos with the meremaids? –
– You do believe us, no? We think you cute as a cute rosebud cute. And we never plan on eating you. Soft alabaster flesh. Delicious peach cheeks. Lips like apples. Ears like so much fungus. Mind if we just nibble on you a little? –
– Puey could be in great trouble – sighed Éfhelìnye as she clapped her hands together. – Perhaps when the Kháfha vessel crashed into ours, Puey was knocked unconscious by some timber or a moving bit of furniture or a couch, or perhaps his sleeve is entangled by the roping of curtain or tapestry. We have to find him quickly, even though he is a strong swimmer and can survive airless indefinitely, I fear that anything could happen should he sink down into the dust and be fast asleep. –
– You worry a lot about him – chanted Fhólus. – I we thought he spend all his time rescuing you. –
Aîya was mumbling and sucking on one of Éfhelìnye’s fingers with one head, while another head was turning to Fhólus and saying – You have any sauce? Any mustard at all? Any asùsti gravy? Any type of crunchy munchies? The Empress already sweet, far too sweet, afraid I’ll bite and have sugar bursting about my lips. –
– I think I saw Puey’s being swept down the length of the halls and untowards the kitchens! – Éfhelìnye cried. – Please, may you hie in that direction? –
– You still talking about him Puîyos question? You need other hobbies, non-Puîyos hobbies – Fhólus sighed.
– Like eating – chanted Aîya. – Best hobby in worlds. Yum yum yum! –
– Ouch! – chanted Éfhelìnye. – You bit me! –
– You don’t need all ten fingers! In fact the entire left side of your body completely superfluous. –
– Don’t seeing Puîyos at all – chanted Fhólus. – You sure you not thinking about a flower or a tree or something? –
– Say, why we even carrying you? We supposed to be finding the adored Concubine that we all adore and love so much and who lets us get into trouble! – cried Aîya.
– Yeah, why we the carrying you? –
– Drop her? –
– Drop her. –
– No, wait! – gasped Éfhelìnye. – Don’t toss me into the waves, could you just gently set me upon a passing boat …! –
– Down! –
– Now! –
– Bye! –
– Ta! –
– Oh! – gasped Éfhelìnye as at once six leg-arms released their grip upon her and she came tumbling about backwards for a few moments, gusts of hair twining about her snowwhite dress, and ripples of pollen and dust were winding about her, a few passing solar sails smacked against her and shoved her from side to side, and she crashed backwards and hard against the movement of a large paddle, but did not have strength enough to grab ahold of it, and found herself thrust back again into the waves, and the pollen shadows were growing unto all sides of her, great ripples of pastels swirling upwards, and fountains of confetti bursting upwards and spinning outwards faster and brighter and enveloping all of the halls.
And so the Princess was thrashing downwards for a time, the movement of wheels and bone oars and the plying of the prows become huge shadows unto all sides of her, and slow and burgenoning came the motion of objects which might have once been furniture but which were now become the monsters of the deep. Twining about her she saw links of gossamer dancing from side to side, and within the delicate webs she could see long trails of colored paper and papyrus flowery drifting from side to side, ripples of blues and reds and greens within the swollen gold of the waves, and all at once she felt crawling about her hands and wrists the movement of matrices and the constricting of strings, and all at once ropes were tying about her ankles and yanking her upwards, and a silvern net was wrapping itself about her, and the pollen waves were rushing right off of her as she was hurled up and upside down of the waves, and before her was drifting a large jhaûrquil corwgl, and many bone oars were crawling about it in gangly arachnid patterns, and standing in the very center of the boat was a maiden dressed all in pink and grinning all the while. Princess Éfhelìnye caught in the silvern web was still being drawn upwards, and the asúti pyscadar who were hauling up the ropes and weirs were the large petrescent stones of the Ancestors who were yet lithe enough to stand upon a bullboat of leather and skin and wicker and not tumble through, and all enmasqued and armed were they as they hurled the Princess upwards. Siêthiyal’s hands were upon her hips, and Éfhelìnye could see, upside down all the while, that Siêthiyal was wearing a new siġle about her neck, and her roseate tresses were piled upwards at least another foot taller, and a slight crown of jewels she wore in the pyramids of her hair. She reached into her pocket and drew out a pair of elegant gloves and slipped them on and was telling the statues – I told you to go and fish for something worthy of my Brother, but this fish is thin and scrawny and barely even worthy of a snack. I had hoped you’d find a meremaid for him at least, but this one doesn’t even know how to swim. –
Upsodown Éfhelìnye struggled in the silvern weir and chanted – I’m not a mermaid at all, I’m Éfhelìnye! I wish I had a tail and could be as lissome as a mermaid, I wish that I could bask and sun myself upon a rock and sing such beautiful songs unto passing mariners, but alas I cannot. Actually I would rather have wings so that I could flicker about like a butterfly. –
Siêthiyal blinked. – You’re not wellversed with non-literal humor, are you. I know you’re not a meremaid, Princess. –
– Oh. –
– Throw her back. – Siêthiyal turned about and made a dismissive gesture, and the statues were arising about her and grabbing the edge of the line, their armor rustling a little, their sinews of stone breathing in pavement and exhaling incense.
– No wait! – cried Éfhelìnye. – Don’t throw me back into the waves! I don’t know how to swim. –
– That’s precisely why I’m throwing you back. –
– Puey’s out there somewhere! I think he might have been struck on his head, or maybe he’s gotten tangled in curtains and tapestries and he could be drowning at this very moment! I have to find him. –
– I’m sure he’s fine. Throw the rubbish fish back in! – Siêthiyal was beginning to walk away and the large tsàtsesan kachina statues of the Ancestors were arising, their cephas hands clasping, and they were wading upwards in the midst of the fountains of pollen and grabbing the edge of the net and yanking the Princess upwards and spinning her around in the air.
– Please, just throw me in Puey’s general direction! – gasped Éfhelìnye.
– Do you have to talk so much? – asked Siêthiyal. – Fine. Statues, give the scrawny fish unto me. – She tapped her feet in annoyance and the statues held up the Princess, still upside down and dangling and caught in the web, and Siêthiyal regarded her for a moment and chanted – I’m prepared to make a deal with you, and surely you will find it as honorable as any of the surrendering which you have demanded of the Khan of the Red Moons and the Pirate Suzerain and the Khniqhátui Twins and the Dragons and even your own most illustrious Father. No, I shall not ask you to surrender unto me, you are the Mistress of this Household and I realize that my place is behind you and to safeguard our family. All that I ask is that when you see my beloved baby little Sister Karuláta is that you take her by her hand and kiss her and start calling her Sister Wife and act as if you acknowledge her honorable right to be married unto my Brother by birth. It is all that I ask. Statues, shake her around a little until she grows dizzy. –
– Ouch! This hurts! – cried Éfhelìnye as the statues grabbed her by her arms and shook her about a little. – I know you can’t be doing this on purpose, because otherwise you’d realize how much it hurts. Oh! –
– Will you start treating Karuláta as Sister Wife? – asked Siêthiyal. – It is such a small thing that I ask. –
– No! – gasped Éfhelìnye.
– Dunk into her into the pollen waves – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Help! – cried Éfhelìnye. – Puey! Puey! Oh! – The statues held her by her arms and began thrusting her into the pollen first for a moment and then for longer periods of time, until finally, at a signal given by Siêthiyal, the statues dragged the Princess outwards, tangles of paper and pollen gnarled into the weir, and they dropped her before Siêthiyal and let her kick the Princess a couple of times.
– Now, will you start behaving? Karuláta is going to be your sàrngqa, your Sister-Wife! Say it! Say it! –
– Never! – gasped Éfhelìnye.
Siêthiyal took a step backwards and clasped her hands together. – I’ve watched the way you play chess with my Brother, and I’ve noticed that you’re quite skilled at setting up the board ahead of time to set up traps, and although I am unskilled in the arts of Tnúpa Jórqha, I too can think ahead. Now I ask you again, will you start acting like a responsible Mistress of our Clan and end this chaos, will you not take Karuláta by the hand and embrace her and love her as a Sister? Or will this nonsense continue until Kàrula’s borne Puey three or four children and the reality of the situation begins to sink into your fey little mind? – Siêthiyal walked out untowards the center of the coracle and the lithic statues of the Ancestors were arising and lifting up a chair as a throne unto her, and they picked up the damsel and set her down upon it. – Will you not, in fact, start acting like an Empress rather than a talkhíthuyiîlii tyalíleng fhwii, a wee little lovelorn lass? –
Princess Éfhelìnye struggled against the ropes and silver and webs of the weir and managed to extricate herself from much of it, and rainbows of dust were flowing all about her as she sniffled and her eyen narrowed and quoda she – Puey is mine. –
– Be it unto you according to you word – Siêthiyal grinned. She pointed unto the statues and they flowed upwards and grabbed the Princess by her shoulders and dragged her unto the leathern ribs of the coracle and shoved her into the waves, and Siêthiyal cried out – You’ll find Puey about an hundred and twenty one yards east of us. Have fun swimming! Bye! – She made herself confortable upon her throne and took up a large wooden masque in the form of Khwofheîlya her Mother, and she set it upon her face and thought that it would be quite fun to be Queen even if for a single day, and the masque fitted her face with consummate comfort.
And so the Princess was sinking once again. Falling falling falling into the pollen waves. Kvagöl kvagöl kvagöl qwèqweka qwèqweka qwèqweka. Feathers of blue and black and green, cognisance khiyíyi bars upon the feathery. Ducks duck ducks walking upon the rugs of the floor and arising within the golden swells of the halls, and all of the windows dilating open and become like unto the bills and backs and forms of so many tlhiîla and kawóni smews, and the gentle sound of the moving ducks and the rippling waves of the pollen, all of this was part of the darkness and descent and growing ripples of what had once been the golden halls deep within the ancient and once abandoned fortress of the mighty Poriêrii mountain volk. And as she was falling she could see that the kawóni and tlhiîla waddlers were cackling in a single and long and winding direction, they were making their way through the waves, and some of them were buoying upwards and were arisen upon the crest of the waves, others were sliding from side to side and partially flying and partially wading through the growing pools of paper and festoons, but all the while the ducks were migrating in a single direction and heading down the halls, and as she thrashed and struggled to remain upright and tried not to get struck by passing prow and beating bone oar and the movement of coracle and wherry she made her slow and steady descent closer and closer unto the kitchens whence arose the khmùrsqru which was the smell of baking and muffins and kitchens muŝkh, qwèqweka qwèqweka qwèqweka.
And the ducks came surging upwards, and although they were soft and gentle and pollen was streaming right off of their bodies, they were come in such great numbers that they were able to swarm upwards and wrap themselves about the Princess’ legs and pull up her arms and to hold her upwards and to swim and fly for her and take her down deeper and deeper through the halls, and all about her were arising huge and spiraling archs of pollen, as the Qhíng furniture boats came floating in one direction and the Aûm table wherries were come in another way and in their midst came the Kháfha monks as they continued to paint their psand mandalas and they breathed colored psands throughout all the golden halls.
And then all at once, as if descending through a dream, Éfhelìnye found herself carried upwards through a long series of flotsom and tables and bursting fountains of pollen and in the crumble of the tapestries she saw at first a damascened sleeve and then a dark wooden gỉày and then a few long and flicking jata of melancholy blue hair, and in the tangles or the ropes of the curtains she found that Puîyus was floating face downwards, and all of the ducks arose and began plashing and were screaming outwards, and Éfhelìnye cried out and flung herself from the ducks and hurled herself into the waxing pollen waves, and she was so afeared that she was not even paying attention to the movement of the thyòngo barges bursting within, and the swells of the Qhíng and the Aûm in their vessels, and the movement of the paddles which came close to striking her at several times, and the waves of spray that kept dashing into her face and blinded her for a moment, but at last, after what beseemed unto her long and agonizing hours, she waded unto Puîyus and grabbed him by the collar and shook him, and one hand reached unto the back of his neck and could feel some blood and she knew he had been struck by a stray kùxhyuin bone oar, but she touched the wound and the blood stopped flowing, and she touched his face, and at once he awoke as if from Qontawána the dreamlands of deeper sleep, and when his eyen fluttered open, the Princess squealed for joy and she embraced him in the bursting pollen waves, and Puîyus hugged her back and gathered up all of the near ducklings and sang out – !! – for he was surrounded by some of his very favorite things in all the worlds, ducklings and the Starflower Princess Éfhelìnye.
– Oh Puey, I was so frightened for you! – the Princess gasped. – I beheld you upon your throne and the pollen and papyrus petals falling unto all sides of you, and the you were gone, snatched from me in a moment, even in the twinkling of an eye. –