– We haven’t been fighting, Puey, honest! – chanted Akhlísa. – Siêthiyal and Ixhúja have the tendency to exaggerate all the time, they exaggerate a billion times a day and never stop, they write entire mountainlouds of encyclopædia detailing their false stories, unlike me who am always telling the truth. –
– Kàrula is my very best friend – Éfhelìnye chanted. – We haven’t truly been fighting, we’re all just a little sad. Everything is just not what we expected it would be. – Éfhelìnye dabbed some more tears aside, and several piles of fruit fell down from Puîyus’ head.
Puîyus took Éfhelìnye’s hand and squeezed it, and then Akhlísa’s and he asked them in blinks and sighs as if to say, Did the Traîkhiim harm you in any way, for if so, after they clean the halls, I shall crucify them all tonight by myself. None is permitted to harm the women in my family.
Éfhelìnye looked down. Part of her mind was filled with the screams and stomping of the battle, of Aîya challenging and rending apart another, and feasting upon still beating organs, she remembered the death screams and Aîya’s threat to kill anyone who dared to look upon her Fhólus. – I was just scared, but I wasn’t hurt. –
– I think Fhólus was the one who got hurted – chanted Akhlísa.
Puîyus placed his finger to Akhlísa’s chin and turned her head around and examined her hands and arms, and then he did the same to Éfhelìnye. For a moment both Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa held their breathes in dread, for they were afeared that Puîyus would discover the stitches upon Éfhelìnye’s stomache and recognize who had sewn them and perhaps guess at some of the circumstances. As it was he just sniffed the maidens and then asked again in glances saying, Are you sure you are unhurt? If the Traîkhiim must die, it would be honorable for them to die by mine own hand.
– We have to forgive all who frighten us – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– They didn’t hurt me, they were only trying to eat you two – Akhlísa chanted.
– I believe they were saving you for dessert, Kàrula. –
– Dessert, me, they were saving me for last! I don’t know how to feel about that, it’s rather special but I’m almost an afterthought, I’d rather be the main meal, that just seems more specialer. –
Puîyus took their hands again and tapping them asked them in mewls and sighs, Please forgive me, for I have been quite negligent upon family matters as of late, for I have been grieving for Jaràqtu, cold and lost, and for him who was once my Father. Tell me then what is bothering you both, for I do not understand what has befallen our family in the last hour.
– Nothing’s bothering us – chanted Akhlísa. – We’re just as we were before. I’m thinking of cutting my skirt a little shorter, I don’t think you can quite see the shape of my thigh. –
– Kàrula, you’re turning blue because of the cold – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– Then I’ll be like Puey’s hair, won’t that be wonderful? –
One has the feeling there is something you both wish to share with me, Puîyus was nodding and telling them in a language of fingers and grasp and warmth.
– I don’t have anything to say – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I just want everyone else to be happy. –
Akhlísa leaned her head upon Puîyus’ shoulder and chanted – And I promise to be a good Concubine. –
– And shall be the best Empress who has e'er reigned in the Land of Story, this I know – Éfhelìnye chanted. – But you don’t have to be a Concubine, Kàrula. –
– Yes I do. –
– No you don’t. –
– I’m going to have Puey’s babies! –
– Never! –
– I thought you just wanted everyone else to be happy. –
– At least wear modest clothing. –
– Ah, let me think about it. Thinking finished. Nope. –
– Kàrula! –
– Éfha! –
– You’re being selfish! –
– You’re being selfish! –
Puîyus put his hand to Éfhelìnye’s shoulders, for he could see that her pajamas had been torn in many places, and she was completely missing one sleeve and most of another, and usually she would be upset and blushing to be so unclad, but she was barely noticing it now. He tried to pull at her sleeve and clothing as if to mend it a little and cover her all the more. He turned to Akhlísa to see whether she had any spare needles on her.
– Puey, does it look like I have any needles or pockets in this getup? – Akhlísa laughed. – Have you noticed my unclad shoulders, Puey? I bet I’m the prettiest maiden that you’ve e'er seen, right? You are completely in love with me, right? –
Éfhelìnye started crying again. Puîyus looked down and was thinking that he had discovered the heart of the problem and was wishing that he could just go back into battle once again or forget himself in incense and ritual and comfort the dying, for at least in those cases there were tasks for him to perform and strategies for conquering, but here in the family there was nothing that was coming to mind. He put an arm about Éfhelìnye’s and Akhlísa’s shoulders and told them in mews and purrs, I think that we three should remember that by our customs we are not yet betrothed yet, for no new betrothal rites may be held until honored Kàrijoi is dead. Then Éfhelìnye and I shall become the new Emperor and Empress, and then the contract for betrothal and marriage shall come into force, and Karuláta shall become the Concubine. For the moment our regents are still trying to prepare us for our future, but we must not think that it is already enscribed upon monolith and obelisque. However, if it should be my doom to become the Emperor, then as Emperor I can change all things. But until then we shall face this dilemma later, for now the three of us shall be good friends and family.
Akhlísa shook Puîyus away and chanted – If you’re thinking of changing the contract, you’d better think again, Puey! I’ve been waiting my whole life for you, don’t you dare think that I’ll settle for a title or anything that’s not quite your wife! If you try and make me a Vestal Virgin or your Sister or something, I’ll kill myself first! –
Éfhelìnye started crying all the harder. Puîyus knew that this problem could not be solved, when everyone was tired and cold and smelt like food. He rested his head upon Akhlísa’s head and purring told her, In the end I shall do what you desire me to do, I shall be your heart’s desire. But we are still very young and may not know what we wish yet.
– Then what shall become of me – chanted Éfhelìnye.
Puîyus drew up Éfhelìnye’s chin and mewing told her, I shall also grant your wish, whatever that will be. If one can learn how to unite the peoples and defeat the monsters and dæmons and dragons of the Setting Sun Kàrijoi, then one shall be able to forge anew our family.
– I don’t know, I just don’t know … –
I shall have faith in both of you, and I trust you two will have faith in each other, Puîyus told them. Otherwise, none of us will withstand the blizzard that is coming. The war exiles tell me that we have only won a short respite. Midnight still hangs o'er all time.
– I’m going to get puey to put his hands on my hips – chanted Akhlísa. – I’ve a very sweet very girly girl, I just want to remind him that I’m his Concubine. –
– I saw the revelry of the Traîkhiim all about us all – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I don’t think you should partake in such alien dances, Kàrula, it was very dangerous. –
– I’ll think about it. –
– We could practice ballet together, if you want. –
– Only if I can wear something tiny and toss veils about. –
– I don’t think you understand ballet very well, but we can learn together. –
– Or, and this is a far better idea, I can teach you to dance as I did – Akhlísa grinned. – I think you would look fabulous in a short little skirt and feathers and swinging your hips all about, and Puey will never look at you the same way again. –
Éfhelìnye’s face began to redden. – Ur … I’m not really like that. I’m not as crazy and extroverted as you are. –
– Then I’ll help you! Haven’t you e'er just wanted to be the center attention always and forever, and to catch his eye no matter how! –
– No, not at all. Don’t you like quiet and thinking and creating things? –
– No way! I want it Loud and Public and Everyone To Know. Now come one, tomorrow I’m dressing you up in veils and silks, trust me, Puey won’t know what to expect when he sees you all scantily clad like that, he’ll go crazy! –
Éfhelìnye could not help it but laugh a little, the first laughter that had come of her throat in some time. – I’m sorry, I’m just not like that. –
Puîyus stood up and bowing before the maidens told them, From now on I shall be very attentive to both of you, I shall permit no fighting in the harem at all. If either of you have a problem you are to report to me at once, I do not wish to hear it from Siêthiyal or Ixhúja, for although I love those two with all mine heart, I know that they also delight in trouble and fun of all varieties.
As Puîyus walked away, Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa embraced each other and hugged and kissed many times and wished that they had never been cross with each other and would never have to reach rapprochement again. Puîyus was turning for to investigate one of the shattered windows and behind him Éfhelìnye was leaning her head against Akhlísa and saying – Of all the maidens who have tried to kiss and marry my Puey, you shall always be my favorite. –
– You too, my Princess, although, let me remind you – Akhlísa laughed – I have kissed and married Puey, so I’ve won. I have a wonderful idea, tomorrow let’s make some belly jewelry for you, I just know Puey will love it, he could barely keep his eyen off of me. Puey, what do you think of my navel jewels? See he won’t respond, that means he loves them. You’ll look fantabulous! –
Puîyus came unto the shattered windows and the long and arching skeletons of metal and stone that held together the pieces of the stained glass and tooka peak at least at the Traîkhiim within and was mostly pleased with what he was seeing, for already the pyramid had been dismantled completely and the Traîkhiim were dragging away their tents and ropes and musical strings and pots. Before him Aîya was rolling out some large pots and behind her was come Fhólus returned unto her feminine stage, and she was carrying some thwàmi puri-brosa in her remaining jaws and cleaning up the stained and soups and xhepánga upon the floor. Ixhúja was running around and chasing after one group of Traîkhiim after another and shaking her sword and in general threatening them and frightening them quite a bit, while Siêthiyal was sitting in a tall chair and forcing several Traîkhiim to carry her upon her back while she prodded and kicked and ordered them around, and a few moments later some Traîkhiim were returning with a tray whereon was set a platter of cookies and a pitcher of pink lemonade and they were pouring a freshly squeezed glass thereof for the maiden. Puîyus looked unto the corners and saw that some of the Traîkhiim were cleaning and others were making pretenses at cleaning, and that some of them were giggling unto themselves and spinning about and were trying to begin their frenzy anew, with drums and dance and with dance and drum. Puîyus, Íngìkhmar’s Son, was willing to let them decide to clean up and obey, for after all both Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa were staying his hand and preventing him from killing them, but then a few drums came rolling outwards, and some Traîkhiim were arisen behind them and were flapping their wings and shouting, and sliding down some of the columns came some others and they were not even pretending to clean, they were just skipping about. Puîyus slipped within. A troop of Traîkhiim came rolling outwards, they were slipping from side to side and were laughing all the louder and beginning to dance. Puîyus came into the center and waited to be discovered, and the Traîkhiim came running outwards and were beating their drums and almost crashed right into him before realizing that they were being watched. Puîyus remained utterly still. He clicked and growled at them in warning, and he stomped the ground a few times, and the Traîkhiim scattered before him and ran back to work.
Siêthiyal sipped her pink lemonade and chanted – Slaves, did you see that? If you disobey me, that is what happens. Now, who wants the honor of getting me a pillow? All of you, excellent! Here, let me just rest my feet on your heads, ah, yes that feels better, it’s such hard work looking after a Princess and a little Sister, it just exhausts one.
Puîyus turned and found a wave of Traîkhiim dashing outwards and behind them was come Ixhúja, screaming and shouting all the while, her sword spinning around above her head. Puîyus was not entirely sure whether Siêthiyal and Ixhúja’s strategies for making the Traîkhiim scrub the halls golden bright again was working, the one looked more interested in luxuriating herself and the other in playing and running, but Puîyus figured that they had enough responsibility for the time, and if it took the Traîkhiim into the day to clean up their party than so be it, Puîyus was thinking it was his responsibility enough to care for Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa and mend relations with them.
Puîyus returned outside, the snow was falling all the harder, but it was making everything calmer and brighter even beneath the vast midnight heavens. And he could see that Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa were embracing each other, and that at least Éfhelìnye was not trying to run away, nor was Akhlísa frightening her off, and he found it good. His breath was arising in frost about him, it was time to bring the maidens back into the warmth, and coming up to them and bowing he took the damsels by the hands and kissed both of them and pointed to the inside.
– Puey, don’t you think we should set jewels into Éfhelìnye’s ears? – asked Akhlísa.
– I’m telling you, there is so much we can do with her, I already know how to do this, we’re going to get the Princess into something all out of veils and teach her to swing her hips about and I just know we’ll find a way to set jewels about her stomache I just know you love that so much my Puey don’t you you’re just utterly fascinated that’s what we’re going to do. –
Éfhelìnye was saying – I think I would be able to do that. However, I am interested on matters of causality and narrativity. What happens to story when it leaves the mindand is told to others, to groups of people from different dreamlands, different species, when it shifts from worlds and time, when does story become history, when does history become mythopoeia? –
– And belly buttons! – squealed Akhlísa. – Puey! Tell your future First Wife that we can put jewels about her stomache and she can dance like a Traîkhiim if she wants to. –
Puîyus considered for a moment and then told both of the maidens in blinks and mews and purrs and in quite a nesh feline language told them, When we three are in public we are subject to all the laws and conditions which the Elders impose upon us, and we must act and dress as they see fit, and this applies even to me. However, in the privacy of the xhùjhwe, in the harem, both of you are free to dance and to dress in any way you see fit. As head our household, that is how I decree it.
– Wait wait wait wait – chanted Akhlísa. – So you’re saying that if Éfhelìnye let me I can make her a hat out of shells and it can be ten cubits tall and have dangly little bells from it? –
– Okay okay okay okay – chanted Akhlísa. – So, and just let me see whether I understand this decree, let’s say that Siêthiyal wants to wear a really goofy floppy hat and it’s just hideous we’re talking uuugly and she’s set some old pelts of kangaroo rats or something on it, and the hat just stinks, are you saying she can wear that? –
Puîyus was not sure whether he was setting a dangerous precident but he nodded anyway in affirmation.
– Oh oh oh oh – chanted Akhlísa – So, in the privacry of our seraglio let’s pretend that Ixhúja has no sense at all and she’s just wearing purple within purple within purple, even her shift is purple and she has purple hair tæniæ and it just looks terrible and she decides to make a mud machine and wear it on her head and it’s just spewing mud all o'er the place and it’s dripping and stinky and completely gross, are you saying she’s allowed to wear that? –
Puîyus was wondering where this line of thought was going but he could noly just nod in agreement.
– Maybe I’ll wear my crown again – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I’ll have to think about it. –
– Okay, let’s say I only want to wear veils – chanted Akhlísa.
Puîyus clasped his hands together and then spelt out the signs that meant, In our zenana, my dear ones, you may both dress in any way you like, and I won’t have you both fighting.
– May I show my belly button? All the time? –
Anything you desire, Puîyus nodded. One elegant hand arose and traced out some runes and decided to take a different tactic, and he told them, What do you wish to wear? If you could chose any article to clothing, what would you desire, for I will not have you fighting.
– I like my clothing as it is – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I especially like the rainbow that I wear about my neck, it reminds me of the Empress I would like to become. –
Kàrula, what would you wish to wear, for if we do not have it, I’m sure that Éfhelìnye and Siêthiyal can help you weave it, along with the Vestal Virgins.
Akhlísa swayed from side to side and bit the inside of her cheek and considered for a moment and chanted – I do a want, I kinda wish that I had tha told summer blue dress, taîqwong lazura cælestine siyulibik that I used to wear. I spent most of my life wearing blue and wearing columbia sky and so many graura colors, that I miss it all. But the Qhíng made me burn my dress when they made me burn my childhood away, and so it’s all gone, and the Duchesses made a new dress for me a wedding dress. –
Puîyus pressed his forehead to Akhlísa and told her in mews and purrs, One thought that you were beautiful as a bride.
– Okay. –
When mine eyen beheld you again for the first time after so long, I barely recognized what I saw. In public I think you should dress that way, it is what the Elders will expect of you, but I think that you and Éfhelìnye can modify the dress to make it more comfortable for you.
– I think it was comfortable enough – chanted Akhlísa. – But we could add a little blue to the sleeves. –
And in our private halls you may wear anything of your own creation. Both of you can work on it together, something comfortable and blue and beautiful.
– I have an idea – chanted Éfhelìnye. – We may be able to conjoin Traîkhiim iconography and summer designs into a new dress, something completely new, to celebrate your coming of age, Karuláta. –
– It will be a short dress though – chanted Akhlísa. – As short as the little prancy short thing that Ixhúja is wearing in there. I’m not letting Puey forget just how grown up and feminine I am. –
Puîyus bowed unto the maidens twain, and the snow was falling all the harder. One just knows that both of you shall come up with the best decision, and I look froward to seeing the dress. Let us go within, the night grows colder, and we have unfinished business. Anyway, we shall not resolve any more problems this night. Only in winning the war will I be able to decide the form of our family to come. Puîyus came to the broken windows and found a suitable place for the entrance of the maidens, but turning back he gave them a look that meant, From what I learn from the exiles, we shall almost certainly lose the War. The Emperor has no known weakness. And he comes. He comes.
– I am my Father’s weakness – chanted Éfhelìnye. – And we shall conquer him. –
I may not survive this war.
– Yes you will, Puey, you’re a genius at fighting, we all just know you fight the Dragons and they’re like Oh no there’s Puey what are we going to do and you’re like, Look at me I’m a big strong hero and I’m so beautiful I have to women fighting o'er me and I’ll pound the dragons into the ground so then you’ll win you just have to win! – gasped Akhlísa.
Puîyus looked down. Perhaps it would be best for all of you if I win the war for you but die in the final battle. Then there will be no more fighting in the family. You will be happier without me.
– Puey! – cried Éfhelìnye.
– No! – gasped Akhlísa, and then ran upwards and embraced him. But Puîyus just shook his head and tried to tell them, That will surely be to all of our adventages. I have betrayed the Emperor and sent my Father to his doom, I have been cursed by the Ancestors and lost favor with my Mother, and even Fhermáta’s Wraith has turned her face away from me. I have no right to win. Let me win the war and die. And you will never fight because of me again.
– Oh Puey, I’ll just follow you in death – Éfhelìnye chanted.
– It won’t solve anything, we three will just be stuck fighting o'er you in the Undergloom – chanted Akhlísa. – No, actually Éfhelìnye will end up with her Solar Ancestors and Puey will be with me in the Netherworld, and so I’ll win by default, but that’s not the way I’d like to win. Plus think of the ontological problem of your dying unmarried, because then every unmarried ghost out there will be able to chase after you and claim you, it’s not like dying married where the souls get all yoked together. Problem problem big big problem. –
The three embraced for a few moments, and then Puîyus told the demoisellen in purrs and sighs, Perhaps I am unworthy to marry either of you, as I am surely unworthy to be the Cælestial Emperor. But we shall see, we shall know in the day to come.
And so they embraced and then came through the wounded window and coming within came unto rooms which were slowly be transformed by the Traîkhiim, perhaps not in the sudden and miraculous ways as the Dance engendered, but transformation natheless, for unto the Traîkhiim the sweeping and brushing and mopping and soaking was all a dance, for the Traîkhiim could not help but dance. Some of them in large groups were setting the pillers back in place, and others who had some skill with glass were gathering up the shattered pieces of the stained glass windows and preparing the broken windows to be made vitrious anew, and te Traîkhiim were leaping and jabbing and swaying and almost rolling about each other, the Traîkhiim dance become more subdued, it was the Dance of Forgiveness, and some of the Traîkhiim who were skidding upon bars of scented lye soap were missing a foot-hand or a limb or a wing or an head, and others who were flying and scrubbing the walls were hobbling a little, but the halls were slowly becoming golden once again. Puîyus lead the way and behind him came the maidens, for Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa were coming to peace of sorts and embracing and kissing and wordless promising each other to be best friends for life. And all of the halls were changing from columns and windows and ports that were autumnal and grey and dead but began to howl with sparkles of white and gold, and Puîyus came right into the midst.
Ixhúja kicked aside a few Traîkhiim and looked up and smiled and ran up towards Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa, and Siêthiyal shoved aside the Traîkhiim who were doing their best to serve her and she hopped out of her comfy chair and landed upon the cushions and pillows and the Triîm were holding up unto her, but then she returned and took a last swig of her pink xhamàrnafhin soma just for fun and then came running forwards and found Ixhúja hugging Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa, and Siêthiyal joined in, and it was all good.
– Yeah, Puey, I just knew there had to be a way to bring us all together, it was all part of my plan – chanted Siêthiyal. – I just knew that there was nothing like a ferocious cannibal party and feast to forge us into a new family. That was the plan, right? –
– Not really, no – chanted Akhlísa.
– I’m the one who snuck uninvited to the party – chanted Éfhelìnye.
Just as long as I get to beat up folk, I’m happy, Ixhúja nodded.
– Well, now that you two have stopped fighting – Siêthiyal chanted and she hung upon Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa – I just want to remind everyone in the harem that I am still officially in charge. –
I thought I was the one relegated to that estate, Ixhúja shrugged.
– When we’re in trouble, you’re in charge and I tried to stop you, but when everything is going fine I’m in charge and I meant it to be this way all the while. Come on, Ixhúja, it’s not so difficult! –
Puîyus wrinkled his nose and a few more globs of butter and fruit were falling off of his head and dribbling down his arms, and sniffing the air he found himself smelling too much like a Traîkhiim feast. He looked around and saw that the Traîkhiim were working, or at least mostly working and looking back up to him and licking his lips, and he was thinking that it would probably be wise to leave soon and remove all temptation from them, plus it was so far past bedtime that they were liable to sleep through the sunrise.
Siêthiyal and Ixhúja leaned towards each other, and the former whispered – We probably need to report. –
Puîyos may want to threaten the little cannibals a little more, it’s important that they still fear him while they remember their own guilt, Ixhúja growled and nodded.
Akhlísa was rubbing Éfhelìnye’s back and saying – You know of course that I had nothing to do with this Starday party, right? It was all Fhólus and Aîya’s scheme, they planned from the beginning, why they tricked me, yes, that’s what they did I had nothing to do with it, you know that’s true, right? –
– Of course – chanted Éfhelìnye. – And did they also trick you into doing that little veil dance? –
– Ah … yes! They invented it completely, but let’s not be too harsh on them, they’re just a silly little child race, what do they know. Oh, and it was also their idea not to invite you to the party, I just hope you’re not angry with them. –
Éfhelìnye kissed Akhlísa on the cheek and chanted – I think I can find it in mine heart to forgive all manner of scheming and childish entities, no matter what shape and species and size and age and hair color. –
– Thank goodness none of us have mentioned stabbing Éfhelìnye in the stomache then – sighed Akhlísa. – Otherwise we’d get into real trouble! –
– ?? – asked Puîyus.
Siêthiyal grabbed Puîyus by the sleeve and chanted – Don’t listen to Khlís, she’s just being herself, a chowderhead! Now, Ixhúja and I need to report on the Traîkhiim situation. They have a lot of wounded, and they’re very afraid of me, and to a lesser extent Ixhúja, and maybe even you, I’m not sure, but they seem to be doing what I tell them to do. –
But they seemed to be doing what we told them to do before they became crazy cannibals, Ixhúja was saying as she tapped her brow and made some motions with her hand. We must not be fooled be appearances with them, they are not children, they are different and hungry. But of us five, Puîyos must know that the best, right?
Puîyus nodded, the minds of the Qhíng and the Qlùfhem and the Thùlwu were difficult to understand, but the Traîkhiim were stranger still. Puîyus blinked a few times to Siêthiyal and Ixhúja, and the maidens ran out and signaled to the Traîkhiim to bring out their wounded, and soon came the Pèqlor dancers in their long tribes and lines, and they were arranging themselves before the coming of their Rising Sun Puîyus, and the Traîkhiim were rolling outwards and setting aside brooms and mops and buckets and scented lye soap, and some were being carried in the wings of their siblings, and others just crashed downwards in heaps of agonizing feathers, and others rolled crimpcrampcrunching outwards. Puîyus walked down the lines and the four maidens walked beside him and looked and saw the many Traîkhiim missing heads and finger-toes and wings, but others were far more devoured and had only a single head unto them, and some of them were shaking and bleeding a little. Aîya fluttered upwards and was carrying Fhólus with her and they came crashing downwards near the end of the line, and at once Éfhelìnye started running in that direction, but first she paused to examine those who were sore wounded, and she touched those that only had a single head and those whose wings were all shattered, and struggling from missing internal organs, and then she ran outwards unto the end where Aîya was cradling Fhólus. Fhólus was twitching a little, wounded, one head missing and that head was ground off at the base, and Éfhelìnye set her hand to the wound, and Fhólus cried out all the louder, but she could feel that the Traîkhiim saliva was at least partially self-cauterizing and keeping the xhepánga in, the body at least was no longer squirting fountains of blood from the cannibalistic feast.
Puîyus came unto the center of the halls, and Siêthiyal and Ixhúja could see that he had needs for to address the Traîkhiim. Siêthiyal grabbed the comfy chair she had purloined and dragged it upwards, and set it down and arranged the cushions about it, but he took the cushions down and set them beside the chair so that Siêthiyal could sit beside him. Ixhúja drew her sword and stood in the back of the crowd as a silent warning, for every few moments the Traîkhiim were liable to start losing attention, their minds wonderent, but to see the shieldmaiden behind them, sword in hand, should snap them back unto fearful attention. Puîyus waited for the Traîkhiim to settle down, and about a third of their were licking their lips and drooling as they looked upon him, he still smelt like a feast and a male unto them, but it would not take him long to tell them what had to be mewed. Puîyus was still pacing before them, all heads were turning unto him, and he signaled unto Éfhelìnye and gave her a signal that meant, please honor me by translating for me. She nodded in understanding. Puîyus walked right up unto them all, he returned unto the chair that Siêthiyal had set up for him, and then all at once, as if a signal were given, the Traîkhiim crunched down all the lower and began kowtowing unto him and were shaking in abject fear. Puîyus sate down. Éfhelìney stood beside him to speak his words. Akhlísa sate down beside the chair and rested her head upon Puîyus’ lap and rested, for this had been a long day for her also, and sometimes it was hard work being the pretty and cute one in the family. From long custom one of Puîyus’ hand was scratching Akhlísa’s head, and he lifted up his other hand, and the waves of the Traîkhiim were parting, and they were all shaking in fear before him.
Puîyus began mewling and was holding up his hands in ritual mudraic gestures, and Princess Éfhelìnye looked upwards and told the crowds in a quiet but beautiful voice which unto the Traîkhiim sounded like the very elegance of dance, and she chanted – Hear ye all the words of my most beautiful and wonderful Puey, the one who shall become the new Emperor of the Dreamtime. Know ye that he is displeased with you, he says that your tushed Qhaôtriim Elders had bade you to reframe from the love feast until the proper time, but you chose to disobey them,and moreover that commandment was in accord with Honored Kàrijoi whom all men must still revere and obey even though he Setting, for Kàrijoi shall soon become jaiQwóje, the honored and former Emperor, and none may gainsay him. Even though the Qhaôtriim Elders are not with you now, their commandment that you not feast until the End of the War still holds, for only then shall betrothal begin again, you must act as if the Elders are looking o'er your shoulders, for just as birds report to Our Heart Raven, and the ravens of the air can see for the Emperor, think as if the Elders of the people still view you in the imagination of their gizzard-hearts. Do you obey? –
The Traîkhiim shivered and bowed down several more times and cried out – I We They Obey! –
Puîyus nodded and began mewling and murmuring again and Princess Éfhelìnye sang out – My beautiful and wellperfumed Puey, the future Emperor of all the Land, bids me to tell you that although it is chanted that the Emperor is food of the people, that the Emperor’s flesh is maize and wheat and rice for the people, that he himself will not be food for the Traîkhiim. If any of you are thinking of eating him, Puey says, it is fruitless to do so for he has already been claimed as marriage food, and the females who shall eat of him are quite willing to fight. He says this as a warning, and wants me to tell you that the females of his kind have weapons deadlier than claws and fangs, weapons which the Traîkhiim cannot possibly imagine. My Puey says that if you like think of him as an Ancestor, as someone who has Already Been Eaten, and then the temptation should fade, and think of the females in his family as Ancestresses who have Already Been Eaten. But there will be no more feasting, you shall dance the quotidian dances of the people. Do you obey? –
And the Pèqlor dancers were shaking and bowed down several more times and cried out – I We They Obey! –
Puîyus nodded and began purring and sighing once more, and Princess Éfhelìnye sang out to the folk and chanted – My quite scrumptious and tasty Puey, whose cheeks are like apples and whose lips are the most delicious things I’ve e'er tasted, and the rest of you had better stay away from him because he’s mine mine mine and all mine for all time, wants me to tell you that all of you Traîkhiim are free because the future Empress, that am I, has freed you from the bondage of the Qhíng and Qlùfhem and Thùlwu, but he wishes to remind you of two facts, that a majority of your people still remain in thralldom, and that Puey and I have not yet become the new Emperor and Empress and so cannot change the world. Therefore it is mete that you work with him in the War so that we can free the rest of the Traîkhiim, for when always delicious and perfumed Puey whose lips are perfect candies becomes the Emperor it will only be his good humor that keeps you free. If you disobey him during the war, if you cause trouble, if you try to eat him or his women again, you will prove to him that you are unworthy to be free, and he will either give you back to your old masters or he will deliver you to the priests to be burnt alive. He wishes to remind you that it was the custom of the old regime under honored Kàrijoi that everydawn qràtu units of slaves would be burnt alive to become the smoke and flame of the Suns, and a qràtu was equal to juqhóju, to 823,543 slaves, and sometimes that many slaves were burnt every hour on the hour. If you incure the wrath of Crown Prince Puey my delicious and wholesome one, he may reinstate that policy. Do you obey? –
And the Pèqlor dancers were wailing in fear and quivering and bowed down several more times and cried out – I We They Obey! –
Puîyus nodded and Éfhelìnye chanted – My beautiful Puey who is really the greatest treat one could e'er have, I can assure he was more delicious than hordes of you put together, bids me to tell you that the penalty for harming one of the Women of the Sun will be crucifixion, even crucifixion upon the claw, and the more severe the harm the greater will be the numbers crucificied, for he reserves the right to put all of you to death for harming one of his own. Do you obey? –
– I We They Obey! –
Puîyus nodded and Éfhelìnye chanted – My tasty and sugary and delicious Puey who tastes like candy and sugar and cinnamon I believe, I mean none of you in your wildest of dances or in any of your dreams can imagine just how wonderful his taste was, it was like drinking up paradise and light … – Éfhelìnye could see now that all of the Traîkhiim were lifting up their heads and drooling in long and dripping cascades and could not help but gaze unto Puîyus in abject longing, and so the Princess decided to stop boasting about her sweetheart’s taste at least before a large crowd of blithe and crazed cannibals. – Ah that is to say, my beloved, whom only I shall eat, for he belongs to me and me alone, bids me to tell you that you must learn discipline, so for the next three days you are not permitted to change unto the male unless he commands you to. I wishes you to have some time to rest and recover from the dance and so your bodies may return unto balance. Do you obey? –
And the Traîkhiim were nodding and drooling and gazing unto Puîyus and smacking their lips and sighing and saying – Anything for delicious crunchy munchy candy beloved Puîyos yum yum yum most yum! Let’s eat! –
Puîyus lifted up his fingers in graceful mudras and bade the crowds to become silent again, and he whispered a few more purrs and mews and Princess Éfhelìnye sang out – And finally my always delicious and sparkling Puey wants me to tell you that he wishes for you to remain where you are so that the future Empress, who am I, may look upon the broken Traîkhiim who were brought forwards. After the future Empress, who am I, examines them, you may return unto the task of cleaning the golden halls and scrubbing them as best you can, and then you may sleep in the harem. Tomorrow you are commanded to help clean up the kitchens. But in the meantime the Royal Family of Pwéru shall arise. And those of you who are not broken must return to you task. Thus the Crown Prince commands of you. Do his will or you all shall die. Do you obey? –
And the uninjured Traîkhiim arose and began fluttering in the air and were crying out saying – Anything for lickable bitable munchible gobbleible deliciousible Puîyos the most delicious Emperor of them all tee hee hee hee hee! – And the Traîkhiim were arising and laughing all the while. Puîyus turned to Éfhelìnye and mewed unto her to tell her that such was the best responsible they could have wished to receive. For after all the Traîkhiim were a bit of feral folk, and Puîyus more than others understood the thoughts of wild creatures and birds and deer and beasts and flowers, and knew that the Traîkhiim did not quite fit into rigid hierarchies and estates and classes, but that they had to be flexible within their own clans. Akhlísa was already asleep upon his lap, so Siêthiyal got up to help her Sister upwards. The Traîkhiim were buzzing upwards and Ixhúja was walking in their midst and making sure that they were heading towards bucket and mop and broom and soap, and whenever any of them started heading towards the door Ixhúja made sure that she was leaning against it and tapping her sword and making rather threatening motions towards her weapons and growling at them. Siêthiyal was brushing Akhlísa’s hair a little and directing the Traîkhiim to put the chair away. Puîyus took Éfhelìnye by the hand and together they began to inspect the long lines of the broken and wounded, but the Princess wavered a little as she saw the long line of the partially eaten, but Puîyus squeezed her hand and tapped it a few times and held her by the shoulder, and the Princess was thinking that perhaps should at least try to lay hands upon them. And so Éfhelìnye knelt down before one Traîkhiim and touched the stomp of her leg-arm, and the wound closed up a little and healed as if it had been amputated, so that the Traîkhiim to the Children’s eyen almost looked like a pirate ready for his khwàpyo pegleg, and Éfhelìnye touched one broken wing and the bones began to bend, and the wing was able to move again. She touched another wing and all at once several eyen opened up and began blinking right at her and rolled from side to side. One Traîkhiim had her eyen eaten off, but at Éfhelìnye’s touch the skin parted and a new eye came rolling outwards. Many of the Traîkhiim upon the ground just lay thereon and lifted up their wings and moaning waited for her, and when the shadow of her passing came to them, it was enough, and they found strength again in their limbs, and their necks slipped back into place. She embraced one Traîkhiim after another, she could not regrow what had been eaten, but at least the wounds stopped and were beginning to heal. At last the Princess came to the end of the line and Fhólus was lying there with naught but two heads, and the Traîkhiim seeing the Princess coming let her eyen roll back and her triple-forked tounges bob out and she pretended to be dead.
– I we dead! – gasped Fhólus. – No help for dead me! –
Éfhelìnye smiled an half smile. – Then there may be nothing for me to do. Although in the past some mages have been able to resurrect the dying or recreate the memories of a person, no one has been able to raise someone fully dead. –
– You raised us up! – cried Fhólus. – Still dead, the me. –
Éfhelìnye set her hands upon the wound where his third neck should be. – My Father set you in the sleep of death, but your souls were fluttering like butterflies within you, it was a simple manner for me to dance body and mind and soul and fit them anew. Even with Aîya’s clan, they were trapped as unclad souls within the machines of the Xeriîqe, and so all I had to do was reconstitute them. –
– But no one been able to do that before! – gasped Fhólus. – So what if no one can resurrect someone completely dead, we were at least lwólwo tnút, 99.17% dead, that close enough. –
– I can’t change your bodies, I cannot regrow you neck – chanted Éfhelìnye.
– It regrow in time. We Tlhiîmen always growing and changing, that what make us strong – chanted Fhólus. – I’m still dead by the way. –
Éfhelìnye hugged Fhólus and chanted – I was very afraid for you when I found you in the wilds of the dance, I thought that you were dead and that I must have fallen into a fey nightmare. I am very happy that you are hale and at least partially whole. – The Princess sighed a few times and felt very tired, she felt energy flowing out from her. She touched her belly and could feel that her own wound was healing, and was thinking that tomorrow she could probably have her cousin Ixhúja remove the marvelous Khnìnthan stitches, and so Puîyus would never have to know. As it was it was time for rest.
Puîyus was yawning a little, and he roared a few times in a leonine growl. Siêthiyal was coming up to him and the Princess and Akhlísa was leaning against her, and Siêthiyal chanted – It’s far past someone’s bedtime. I say this party is finished, don’t you? And I for one will do my best to forget this little Starday celebration, there are only so many dancing Tnoaqteûpa slaves and their spagetti entrails that I need to see in one lifetime. But then again, as a good note, at least we’ve had a Starday party finally wherein Karuláta hasn’t thrown up on someone. –
– I heard that, you mean head! – Akhlisa wailed.
Ixhúja came running upwards to see what the fuss was. Siêthiyal was stroking Akhlísa’s back and saying – I was just saying how lucky we are that Kàrula here has thrown up on anyone on this party, that usually happens. –
Ixhúja blinked and pointed to Akhlísa in accusation and hissed, This one vomited on me just an hour ago.
– I did not! – cried Akhlísa. – No, wait a moment. Was that today? –
This one was gobbling up chocolates and becoming very hyper and the Traîkhiim were sewing her up into a dress far too small and tight for her and I was trying to squeeze her into it, and so the inevitable happened, Ixhúja was telling the rest of the family in mews and growls and chirms.
Puîyus sniffed the air. A few more globs of butter and crumbled fruit and wax and oil were dribbling down his long melancholy blue tresses, and he did not like smelling like a Traîkhiim banquet. He sniffed his hands and just shook his head. He sniffed Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa in turn and just shook his head.
– We need to get her to bed – Siêthiyal chanted, pointing to Akhlísa.
– I’m sleeping in Puey’s bed tonight! – Akhlísa shouted and stomped the floor.
– No you’re not, you’ll sleeping with the rest of us in the harem – Siêthiyal chanted. – Behave! Obey! Be good! –
– I want to sleep in Puey’s bed! – cried Akhlísa.
Puîyus was sniffling his wrists and sleeves and a few of his sticky tresses, and he held up his hands and spelt out signs which meant, Karuláta may sleep with me this night, for what’s left of us. We shall no more fight in our family. Puîyus sniffed the air a few more times. He sighed. He murmured in his own rather olfactory and balneohydrophilic language and told them, However this self is covered in butter and Traîkhiim saliva and olive oil and spices, and despite my perfumed name, I stink. I must needs take a bath before bed. In fact everyone here needs to take a bath, with the exception of divine Princess Éfhelìnye for everything becomes perfume when in contect with her flesh, even the effluvia of the Traîkhiim.
– I’m not taking a bath! – Akhlísa shouted. – I took one this morning. –
– After you take a bath you can sleep in Puey’s bed – chanted Siêthiyal. – Come along, it will be a short bath. We can use the tub which the acolytes have provided for Puey. –
– Do I have to? –
– Yes, come along. If you bathe first you’ll get all the hot water. –
Ixhúja scoffed. Hot water? Bath tub? How decadent. I say let’s find the first frigid stream and dunk the little waif into the cold waters, it will wake her up and freeze the stench off of her.
– I’m too tired to insult you! – cried Akhlísa. – Just pretend I did, stinkhead! –
– Puey, I’ll take her and wash her up – chanted Siêthiyal. – Is that fine? –
Are you sure you don’t want to wash in a cold mountain stream? Ixhúja murmured. We do dwell in this high iron whispering mountains, it seems like quite the waste. Someone, anyone. Éfha, surely you want to bathe in the middle of the night in an half frozen stream.
– Cousin, I can’t! – gasped Éfhelìnye. – I can’t take a bath outside! –
Nomortal will see you, we’ll be in the woods.
– I … I just can’t do that. I’ll go back to the harem where we have actual tubs and soft towels and soaps. I know I smell as I did before, my these pajamas are in dreadful tatters, and I wouldn’t mind scrubbing away the memory of the Traîkhiim spewing out butter all o'er me – the Princess chanted. – In fact, I think I can do without many of the memories of this feast altogether. –
Ixhúja wrapped an arm about Puîyus and grinning asked him, Then I suppose you want to come out into the woods with me all alone and we can wash each other in a mountain stream. Perhaps you’ll let me wash your back and hair. I suppose you and I are the only ones strong enough to withstand the frigid waters, and then later we can swim together.
Éfhelìnye’s eyen bulged for a moment. She wrapped her arms about Puîyus and tugged him in the other direction and chanted – Actually I was hoping that he would return with me to the harem and dry me off when I got out of the tub, and perhaps he’ll comb my hair for me. –
– There sure does seem to be a lot of hair combing in the harīm – chanted Siêthiyal.
Let’s go and bathe in the mountain stream, Ixhúja giggled.
– I don’t think so – chanted Éfhelìnye. – Puey’s mine, he’s my food, my feast, and he’s coming with me. –
– Did I e'er get my Starday kiss? – asked Akhlísa.
Puîyus very gently pulled himself away from both Ixhúja and Éfhelìnye, and bowing to Ixhúja told her, I must stay here and help the Traîkhiim for a time, for they are my wards and my responsibility, but please go to the mountain stream and wash and then tell me all about it. He bowed to Éfhelìnye and told her, Please go back to the harem and make yourself comfortable. He turned to Siêthiyal and murmured to her bowing and told her, Please take Karuláta away and help her bathe. And little Kàrula, I shall return shortly to the room that the acolytes have set aside for me. When I am finished with the Traîkhiim I shall bathe myself far away in the priestly quarters, but I shall return. Perhaps we can all read together from a book of fairytales. And Puîyus turned and nodded to the four maidens and they broke apart into three parties and walked away. Ixhúja made it a few steps away before turning and hesitating, but then shrugged and headed towards the door. Siêthiyal and Akhlísa were almost gone, when Éfhelìnye ran back up to Puîyus and wrapped her arms about him and kissed him right on his lips and cried out for all the Traîkhiim to hear saying – Mine mine mine! He’s my food, my candy, my feast, and none of you had even dare to look upon him with my permission! Don’t you dare forget who the matriarch of this new dynasty is! – And all the Traîkhiim shuddered and shook and fell down before Éfhelìnye.
Akhlísa fiddled with her navel jewel and muttered – The Princess can be so brazen sometimes the way she just throws herself at Puey, it’s like she has no shame whatsoever, she’s not as sophistimocated as I am. Tomorrow I’m wearing an even shorter skirt. –
– Anything you say, dear – chanted Siêthiyal, and she and Akhlísa left through one door, and Ixhúja came bounding out from another, and Éfhelìnye hesitated and hung unto Puîyus for a few more precious moments, before turning and squeezing his hand and then running away. And Puîyus sate down in the middle of the halls to ensure that the Traîkhiim continued with their work. And the Traîkhiim were giggling and dipping their hand-feet and heads into buckets ifilled of soapy water and scrubbing the walls and pillers and floors of these golden halls, but the Traîkhiim were still giggling one to another and poking each other and laughing, and whenever Puîyus turned his head one Traîkhiim would toss a bar of soap against the other, and Puîyus could not help but smile also. He walked among them though and poured out some of the buckets of water, for he did not wish for the mansuete people to be afraid of too much open water, he knew that they could be aquaphobic from time to time, but then again they were able to draw this much water without being afraid and were eager to prove to the future Emperor that they were almost trustworthy again.
Aîya came sliding upon a streak of soap and leaning her three heads towards Fhólus two was saying – The rituals and rites and and and of the aliens just so perplexing, we so simple, we admire wholeness without parts, we dance and have our part in it, but they are all just broken interrupted dance. Who can understand them? Should be simple, eating and being eaten, but them all munch and nibble and think and reconsider and stop eating and never get anything done. How inscrutable. Uh-oh, Eîl looking at us again with, Better not be thinking of harming females in my harem look. Doesn’t he understand it the other way around, they’re the ones supposed to protect him? Aliens, they’re nutsy. –
– The Kèlor masters, they were just as crazy, moreso because they beat and kill us – chanted Fhólus. – Never try to heal us. Burn burn burn in the fields. Scorch for the Suns. –
– How long Emperor of tomorrow going to stay and watch us. We plenty trustworthy. –
– Yeah way he acting not like you gave away their position the fractal labyrinth and I brought a deady ofersharp knife to the Princess and we planned a love feast against his knowing. We his most loyal of vassels. –
Puîyus arose. He yawned and fell upon the ground and stretched himself the way a tiger did, and the Traîkhiim continued scrubbing but also giggling to themselves a little. Puîyus arose and nodded and went to a door and left the golden halls. And the halls remained silent for three seconds. By the fourth second several drums were rolling back out and huge clouds of confetti exploded high within the vigas and the Traîkhiim came rolling outwards, and Aîya and Fhólus cried out at the top of their voices screaming – PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY PARTY! –
The door swung open and Puîyus peered within. Confetti dust bright and shimmerent was still falling tùstu. A few whorls of it fell to his brow and stuck to the butter already pasted upon him. He sighed and looked to his hands and saw confetti landing there. The Traîkhiim before him began shoving the drums back behind the pillers and grinned to him and pretended that they were not just about to start celebration anew. Aîya was grinning with three very white wide grins. Fhólus picked up a broom and began sweeping in random turns and cried out – Nothing for to see here just a lot of pollen having to clean it up just cleaning up not a party at all who mention a party someone stop mentioning party. –
Puîyus tapped his belt where he kept his sword and he blinked to the Traîkhiim in warning. At once several of the Triîm were arising and splashing out some water and sponges and saying – Oh yeah almost forgetting the crown Prince very strong with sharp things very bellicose and cut cut cutty we probably should be obeying him now why we even listening to Fhólus and Aîya those two are just knuckleheads don’t have a thought in their spleen can’t wait for them to devour each other in marriage and get rid of them only that will leave a new brood of them just to plague us can’t we get rid of them oh great the Crown Prince still watching us. –
Aîya was kicking aside the confetti and looking to Puîyus laughed saying – I wonder how this happened. –
Puîyus nodded and closed the door behind him. He was thinking that his had been quite a day, with the momentous battle upon the shore, the Qája pyramids and the fhàxhos slaves, and Princess Éfhelìnye spilling downwards in a great avalenche of snow and ancient petrescent statues, and then the cold blood sacrifices upon the pyramid and finally the strange celebration which Akhlísa and the Traîkhiim had thrown for him. He began walking away, but his overkean ears could not help but hear what was being chanted behind the doors and within the golden halls many cubits behind him.
Aîya was gathering all about her the thousand Traîkhiim and whispering saying – Okay folk this the plan, we have to be utterly quiet, on drum no shouting no hoophaha ululation we can party but stamp very quiet okay just as long as the future Emperor not know anything we can have the wildest and best and most outrageous riproarious partyhardy that e'er has celebrated quietescent carouselambra tee hee hee hee tee hee hee hee tee hah hah hah Puîyos will never know! –
And Fhólus began cachinnating and was turning to the rest of the Traîkhiim and lining them up in circles and lines and all were preparing for the quietest dance possible, without kicking but with spinning and fluttering in the sky, all of turning and whirling and diving and without any cleaning chores at all, and so when Puîyus swung the door open he looked upwards and saw the thousand Traîkhiim spinning around in the air and poking and jabbing and licking each other and diving and doing not any work at all.
– Tee hee hee hee best party e'er! – laughed Aîya and spun downwards and saw that Puîyus was standing and waiting for her, a few fizzle of butter fell off his head. – Uh-oh! Warning! Warning! Warning! –
Fhólus spun around and whispered – We I us never do any more work at all we all qwìtlhim khaqrènyo wthèjhu ergaphobes all lackadaisical and shiftless and silly and trof lap’a q”iλa and uh oh uh oh uh oh! Warning! Warning! Ixney nixney Emperorney! Thereney! –
Aîya fluttered upwards before Puîyus and yanked down Fhólus but was having trouble finding her heads since she was missing one, and the two Triîm tumbled before Puîyus’ legs, and cried out at the same time saying – We all were rehearsing to do more work. Even rehearsal is a dance for us. Work life all a dance. Are we in trouble? –
The Traîkhiim landed before Puîyus and began bowing back down before him, and they were loking one to another and saying – Oh yes he has the superduperlupal impropible ludicrous hearing that permit him to hear the growing of feather and the movement of ice growth and flies on the back of a brontosaur several civilizations away. –
Aîya pointed a wing to Puîyus and cried out – Yeah, that unfair! We can’t play because of you, you hear too good! We want a regular Emperor! –
Fhólus leaned to Aîya and whispered – Regular Emperor burn us by the million everyday. We like this Emperor great. –
– We changed our minds, we like you – chanted Aîya. – Have we mentioned we love both your wives, the wise and older one who heal us and the young pretty one who lets us party? –
Puîyus did not resort to threats at all, he did not have to point to the sword which all the Traîkhiim could already see, it was too dark within the midnight for such language at all, but rather in his large and blue winedark eyen simply told them in images that they could all understand that he was quite happy that the gentle Pèqlor people loved both of the maidens bound unto him, and that he would be leaving for the night, but when he returned in the dawnlight all the halls had better be cleaned, or the maidens would have their feelings hurt. And then Puîyus bowed to them and turned to leave the halls, and the Traîkhiim were left all alone with the task of cleaning up their own mess.
And Puîyus, Íngìkhmar’s Son, traveled deep into the central halls of the rath and came down the ramps that lead into the priestly quarters, and the fortress was cold and silent several for the soldiers who were guarding all the towers and courtyards, and the soldiers even were far away in this vast fortress such that the storm celebration which the Traîkhiim had held was certainly loud but not as loud as the roaring of the living ships from earlier in this hour. Puîyus traveled downwards and came unto the rooms where the acolytes were staying and found some of the pajamas which were being being prepared for them and found the smallest set he could find, for the Kháfha were still dressing him up in priestly robes rather than attempting to wear princely garments for him, and Puîyus did not wish to bother any of the women of his family with such a trifle of making clothing for himself, when there were many acolyte robes available, if he could just find some Færie sized and small enough, for he was not a very tall gossoon at all. And he traveled down unto the channeled streams and came unto a sòfhwes tub and washed himself in waters and perfumes, and all of the oils and spices and butter and sugars of the Traîkhiim were washed away, along with their saliva and sweat and xhepánga blood and confetti pollen, and when he was clean again he wrapped himself up in white acolyte robes and wrapped a towel around his head and walked outwards and came unto an outer room, and before him were a few Kháfha monks waiting for him. Puîyus was holding his soiled pajamas in a bundle under one arm. For a moment he thought that the monks were all waiting to take their baths, but then with a single mind they knelt down before him and bowed their heads, and Puîyus realized that they were requesting an audience. He wished that one of his Sisters or Éfhelìnye were with him to translate, but he would just have to make do.
– Please, most beloved Cælestial Crown Prince, allow us the honor of speaking unto thee – spake a senior monk. And Puîyus nodded in agreement and the monk continued and chanted – The Masters of the Triple Alliance, as well as Grandfather Thiêfhilos and Sieur Íngìkhmar, the future Empress’ guardian agreed upon a marriage contract wherein the leaders of the Alliance would take turns in caring for the future Emperor and family and molding them into a new Pwéru dynasty. This is the time when the Kháfha have guardianship of the children. We wish to talk about your tutelage, if you have a moment. –
Puîyus nodded and sate down before them, and could feel his hair drying in the towel, and the fresh and cleaning feeling of being newly washed and wearing bright pajamas. And the Kháfha monk continued saying – We Kháfha are taking a very different approach to guarding you children, for we do not wish to contrict you as the Aûm Duchesses did your Sister and Consort, but rather we wished for you to be reunited, to be left alone, to form your own family, and to solve your own problems. We must ask you, do you approve of this policy? –
Puîyus nodded in agreement. The monks nodded back. – It is good then. We know that your Sister and Consort were sometimes inconvenienced by the Duchesses, so we have left them alone. We know that your Wife need healing, so we have guarded her from afar, or at least we did until she started sneaking out of the harem and we lost her. We know your Twin most delights in battle, so we let her be. And thee we watch. If you want us to interfere please let us know. We have been concerned with some of the power struggles in the harem and the machination of the slave race. We understand that you are young and did not understand that the slaves have been kept in strong discipline, but you have learned that lessen for yourself. We understand that among the Kháfha it is natural for an husband to have two consorts, for we are an ángaxa people with three sexes, and all of our society is based upon trinities and three sides of the family, but for you Xhámi with your dualities there can be tension in having a first wife and a second wife. But you seem to be adapting. This is also to the good, then. For you will be Patriarch of this family, you must learn to hold it together, to negotiate the streams within as well as the battles without. –
Puîyus nodded. He could sense that the monks had something else to tell him. The head monk paused and then began and chanted – Four problems face you, and none of us can guess the solution to them. The first one is of your people, and we do not understand your nation very well and can only guide a little. The war clan that has given you this fortress is beginning to ask us for audience with you, so you may have to answer the Poriêrii in time. The second problem is that our resources and sky fleets tell us that more refugees will be pouring into the fjords of Jaràqtu soon, and the refugees will be of many peoples and nations and it may not be possible to stop all of the battles among them before you find them and bring them all into this new alliance. The third problem is that nobody has been able to learn what has become of Sieur Íngìkhmar in his Qhíng fleet and Grandfather Thiêfhilos with his Kháfha fleet, for they disappeared in the north. And the final problem is that none of us know what hieratick Kàrijoi is planning, but he may strike swift and terrible and deep and without warning, and he cannot be underestimated. We are glad you have had a chance to rest and to rebuild your family, but something may be coming soon. –
And the Monks arose and bowed low unto Puîyus, and as Puîyus bowed back he felt a rustle of wind and the movement or ropes, and when he looked upwards he saw that they were shuffling and disappearing into the darkness, their ropes become part of the shadow, and he was left alone in the deep darkness. He had much to consider, but there could be no more considerations this night. He yawned and made his way unto the upper stories out of the rock of the mountain and passed the golden halls where he listened and found the Traîkhiim and Fhólus and Aîya among them hard at work, and so he did not bother opening the door and peering at them through window but let them be, and he came unto the rooms which the priests had set aside for him, and light was shining in but a single window, and he came inside and found that Akhlísa was in bright blue pajamas and was curved up upon the sheets, and she was still wearing earrings but they were smaller and completely folded up now, but she was no longer wearing a jewel in her navel, and her pajamas were completely unaltered from the way she had worn them all the days of her life, and he saw that Ixhúja was sitting on the floor and fiddling with a clockwork toy late of Khnìntha, one she and Siêthiyal had been trying to repair. Akhlísa rolled o'er and yawned and chanted – Siêthiyal’s fetching Éfhelìnye. They’ll be here soon I suppose. What took so long with you? –
– Mew mew. –
– Deep catacombs. Monk talk. Tell me later. – Akhlísa yawned a few more times. Puîyus sate upon the bed and Akhlísa curved up beside him, she was newly washed, her hair sparkling, and she kept fading in and out of very light sleep.
The door slid open and Siêthiyal came inside, she was wearing a single band to keep her pink hair up, nearly washed, she was wearing pink pajamas, and she was escorting Éfhelìnye within, she was in a new set of pajamas also, without any teethmarks and tears at all, and she was carrying one of her notebooks.
– I found her asleep in the tub, and so had to help dry her off and dress her – chanted Siêthiyal. – Puey, it seems I’ve spent most of my life washing and drying and dressing your various wives, and it’s quite a thankless job. –
Éfhelìnye yawned and chanted – I want to stay with everyone else also. If Karuláta’s allowed to stay with you than I want to come, but I’m bringing a book. –
– I figured we might as well as just stay together tonight – chanted Siêthiyal, and she slid the dilating wheels of the door aside to lock it. – We’ve all had quite a momentous day. Some of us have snuck out of the harem twice, two of us have been in battle, one has helped serve at the blood sacrifices, and let’s just never mention again what we saw with the Traîkhiim. –
– Agreed – chanted Éfhelìnye and she threw herself upon the bed and opened up the book and looked for some notes, and tried to keep herself from yawning.
Siêthiyal slid down next to Ixhúja and asked – How was it like bathing in the cold stream? –
Ixhúja held up the toy centipede and told her, Quite refreshing, and it woke me right up. Night’s a good time for fiddling with clockwork. I think I know why this isn’t working.
– I have some tools stashed beneath Puey’s bed – chanted Siêthiyal. – He thinks it’s a chest filled with prayerbooks jèjelas, but it also has some basic toy repairing supplies. Maybe you can work with the mechanism and I can try to repaint it. –
One can see the original color on the side, but it’s faded.
– Let me take some samples, if we examine it under bright light we can see what the color should be. –
Puîyus gave some pillows to Éfhelìnye to make her more comfortable and some to Akhlísa who rolled o'er a few times and almost tumbled off the bed, but Puîyus caught her in time and set her down in the middle, and he found that there were no pillows left for himself, but everyone was too tired to go back out of the room and find other pillows and the only sure way to find some would be in the harem, so Puîyus just slumped down and decided to make do.
Princess Éfhelìnye turned a few pages and was reviewing her notes. – Puey when we were lost in the wilds and in the war, I just had to imagine what it would be like for all of us to be reunited again. I almost lost hope, but writing about it helped make the reality true, I believe. I have the first version of our reunion here, but when I sketched it out I had no conception of the alliance your Father and my Grandpa would form, I had no idea whom we would meet again, and certainly not of our particular marriage situation. But at least I sketched out that somehow we would escape the battlezones and the fell automata and the quantum dæmons and return home once again. Would you like to hear what I wrote? –
Puîyus nodded. He looked unto the food of the bed and found that Siêthiyal and Ixhúja were giggling and becoming enthralled with their own clockwork and toy hobbies. Akhlísa was snuggling up beside Puîyus. Éfhelìnye was glancing through the lines and chanted – It was a very incomplete sketch, just an idea really, but this is what I thought would happen when we returned to Jaràqtu. –
And Princess Éfhelìnye read the following:
And Puîyus and Éfhelìnye sailed in the canoa upon the white foamfays of the Sqasqáli. And the waves were breaking upon the pales of Jaràqtu, and they held each others’ hands and kissed one another a few times, and Jaràqtu was shining as an emerald arisen through the seas, and crystalline towers were set in the edge of the ancient mounts and beaming upon them. And even before the canoa came ashore already the skiffs and the glass and hot air balloons were abuzz with activity to see the single canoe making its way through the waves, and so little skifflings were sailing outwards to see who the children were and waved unto them and shouted in joy. And when the canoe was upon the shore Puîyus jumped out of it and swept the Princess up into his arms and came running upon the ice sands and there a boat was waiting for them and within the boat were his Sisters, and they rejoiced, Siêthiyal and Akhlísa running up to him, and so happy were they that they could not stop hugging him, and were hanging upon him and dragging him down with heaps of kisses. And the boat arose and took them unto a great glass and hot air balloon, and when it came unto the deck Puîyus came, his Sisters hanging upon him, and Princess Éfhelìnye walked out, and Grandfather Pátifhar was standing there and waiting, and he picked up the Princess and swing her around many times and embraced her. Puîyus set his Sisters down and saw before him his Father waiting silent and tall upon the deck, and Puîyus arose as if to embrace his Father, but pious Íngìkhmar was formal before his Ancestors Son. And fluttering down through the ropes came Fhólus, and Puîyus picked him up and held him and kissed him for he had missed his dear little friend so much. And the little toys Qwatríxe and Tetratríxe came rolling upon the deck to see what all the commotion was, but they screamed and fled from Puîyus and were shaking their limbs and dashed away from him as quickly as their wee sphere-legs could take them. And the pirates illustrious Fhèrkifher and Xhnófho were overjoyed to see the children and they did a little peiratical song and dance and spun around leaping and bowing and clapping their hands. And Khiêro of Old the First Ancestor of the Warrior Caste and Khniikhèrkhmair the Prophet of Compassion were falling upon their knes and kowtowing before the Princess. And the ingeminate Duchesses Pereluyàsqa and Khosyaràsqa cold and dispassionate were nodding. For at long last all of the family was reunited here upon the shores of Jaràqtu, and all of the thousand skiffs and living ships and great balloons were arising, and the fortresses were resounding with blossoming fireworks before the sounding white foamfays and waves of the Sqasqáli.
– At least that’s what I thought in the despair of the warzones – Éfhelìnye chanted. – I had no idea we’d be reunited with my cousin Ixhúja or Aîya, and I just thought that all those we had meet in the vitrious and hot air balloons about Eilasaîyanor would be waiting for us, nor had I any idea about what would come to pass with Karuláta, let alone all of the machinations of the Dragons. But at least we came together again, in my imagination. And now we have the chance to forge our own hope here. – Puîyus nodded. He lay down and soon was falling asleep. Éfhelìnye worked on her writing for a time and reread some of her old scenes but after a time had to set her book aside and curl up next to Akhlísa and drift off unto slumber. And Ixhúja and Siêthiyal stayed up and fiddled with toys and drew out some blankets from beneath the bed and worked until their fingers grew numb before tumbling exhausted, and so at long last all of the fortress was completely tired and asleep aside from some sparkling golden halls which were being vacated by a thousand or so odd Traîkhiim, and the Pèqlor dancers came out upon the snowladen courtyards and stomped upon the snow and spun and kicked and danced all throughout the night until they too stumbled down in exhaustion and fell asleep in an heap about one another in their various family groups, so that they could all share the same dreams together, for in the end five last children of the Sweqhàngqu and the Pfhaqhaîtsir and the Divine House were become together one not so big and almost happy family of the Pwéru, the Dynasty of the Sun and Moon and all the billion, billion Stars.