We need to stablish hierarchy and form a plan, Ixhúja murmured unto them. Does anyone have a better idea than killing all the Traîkhiim?
– Killing is probably the worst idea possible – chanted Siêthiyal. – Stupid Traîkhiim, I can’t believe we thought they’d throw a great party. Why did we e'er listen to Fhólus and Aîya? Ah … in terms of hierarchy, Princess Ixhúja, you’re in charge. –
– !! –
– She’s in charge! – Akhlísa shouted as she pointed to Ixhúja. Siêthiyal gathered up Akhlísa into her arms and kissed her several times.
– ?? – Ixhúja protested.
– It’s quite simple – chanted Siêthiyal. – You’re a princess of royal blood, you’re kin to the future Empress, you’re the oldest of us three, and you can take care of yourself with sword and knife and other gruesome cutting implements. That makes you in charge, you outrank us all, we’re but your vassels. –
– She’s in charge! – cried Akhlísa. – I’m innocent. –
Ixhúja raised a single perfect violet eyebrow and gave the other two a look that meant, If I am in charge, that means that I receive all the blame for anything bad that happens!
Siêthiyal set an hand to her roseate cheek and said – Why I completely forgot! Alas that the oldest always has to be punished for everyone else. Alas, we’ll all be punished, but you’ll be punished the more, I’m sorry that’s the way it works out but that’s just the way the world works. –
– She’s in charge! – cried Akhlísa. – I didn’t do nothing! –
Ixhúja pointed right to Akhlísa and murmured as if to say, We all know who masterminded this, the Traîkhiim don’t deserve complete collective punishment, however one express that in the language of men, and she blinked some gestalten that meant syoiqàkhwen and syoîqhawen and eiyingojuxòxhnei and tsuîqawen and pórna. This entire celebration came about because of the Concubine Akhlísa and her attempt to force a kiss out of my Feral Twin the future Emperor. All I did was try to keep my cousin safe from having her feelings hurt.
– And you did the best job you could, really, none of us blame you at all – chanted Siêthiyal and she kissed her Sister’s neck a few times.
Akhlísa looked around and pointed to Ixhúja and chanted – Yeah, it’s all your fault, I’m telling the monks it’s all your doing. –
Ixhúja growled. She drew a knife. She was thinking about how much fun it would be to grab Akhlísa by her neck and rip it open in a series of little jabs, she enjoyed it when the blood fountained upwards and squirted all about the walls and one’s clothing and face. Siêthiyal, natheless, seeing the dangerous look upon her Clan Sister’s face, held Akhlísa all the tighter and chanted – Of course one could not lay the blame at the feet of little Kàrula here, why just look at her, she’s such an innocent little child, really still a baby. How was she to know just how crazy the Traîkhiim are. Come, Ixhúja, let me take the punishment, when the monks wonder how we destroyed the goldenhalls and lost the Empress we’ll say it was all my doing, even though all I did was distract the future Empress with books and collect silk and jewels for my Sister’s dress, what little is left of the dress by now. Are you just wearing hankerchiefs? –
– It’s her fault! – Akhlísa pointed to Ixhúja. – It’s always her fault, she’s the oldest and she’s the heretic and she beats up people for fun and I can’t be blamed I’m the lastborn of all creation I’m still too little to be punished Sister don’t let them punish me we have to find Puey he always takes my side except when he always took Fhermáta’s side why did he have to take her side I was just as good as she was and my pies are better but now he’s always taking Éfhelìnye’s side and that’s so unfair! Her fault! I know, we’ll blame Éfhelìnye. –
Ixhúja two hands were spinning knives upon the palms in warning that no one was going to start blaming Éfhelìnye. Ixhúja took a step froward and gesturing unto the dance party told the Sisters, We should split up into three groups and find Éfha. The Traîkhiim are a wild people. Mine ìyalan ancestresses upon the red moons were seldom able to smuggle the Pèqlor folk unto our ancestrial domains, and they never lasted long, they were quisquilian with machines, a wild and stupid folk and given unto strange dances. One cannot guess what they will do, those foolish qaîkhor Cyclopes. –
– We can’t split up into three groups, I can’t be alone! – cried Akhlísa. – And I’m going to be in your group, Ixhúja, you’ll just beat me up and you can’t because I’m the baby of the family and have to be protected. –
Siêthiyal rubbed her Sister’s back and chanted – I’ll stay with her. Two groups will be enough. And we won’t blame Éfhelìnye at all, even though she was the one who resurrected half this group and decided to free them from bondage. Both the Qhíng, who were the main slavers of this people, as well as the Aûm who had smaller holdings, warned us how difficult it was control this people, they’re all just stupid pùxhno, cannibals, I suppose they can’t help themselves, but since they are omophagous canibalen it was permissible to enslave them to keep them from themselves. –
– What’s a cannibal? – asked Akhlísa.
Ixhúja set her knives aside, she drew her finger through the air to devide the golden halls in a sign that she would search right and Siêthiyal could search the left. She pointed unto where the felt pyramid had once been, and indicating it was thinking that Éfhelìnye would probably make her way there.
– Excellent, we’ll meet there – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Um … I have a question – chanted Akhlísa.
– We’re not going to blame you, if that’s what you’re wondering. –
– That’s good, and I have no intention of being blamed, I’m just wandering, what’s a puníxhno, what’s a cannibal? –
– It describes the Traîkhiim – chanted Siêthiyal. – It describes an aspect of their shame. Karuláta Khniêma Akhlísa, do you mean to tell me you don’t know what the word cannibal means? –
Akhlísa pulled herself away and scoffed. – I? Me? Moi? How dare you think I don’t know what the word cannibal means? Of course I know, I’ve written three books on the subject, I dreamt up the word, and I’ve met many different types of cannibals including children and toys and books and streams so I know everything about them, I’m an expert myself, I’m a genius at being a cannibal, how dare you imply that I don’t know what a cannibal is I’m the greatest cannibal that’s e'er cannibaled a cannibal! I’m not stuuupid! You’re stuuupid! You don’t know what a cannibal is! – Akhlísa looked from side to side and examined her fingernails, and the golden bands about her unclad arms, and adjusted the clockwork jewel in her navel. – And so, on a completely different subject, and we can forget everything I chanted before, hypothetically speaking, and we’re talking about something else now, how would you describe a puníxhno cannibal? Let’s say that you know a girl who has absolutely no idea what that word means but she can’t let herself admit that, and there’s a big stupid ugly heretic standing beside me and losing patience and … –
Ixhúja clenched her fist and pointed to Akhlísa murmured as if to say, One has changed one’s mind, I want her to take all the blame for this fiasco.
– Khlís? – began Siêthiyal.
– Yes? – grinned Akhlísa.
– Do you have any idea how lucky you are that Puey prefers golden tressed maidens no matter how completey dense, completey torpid, completely idiotic they are? It’s really you’re only saving grace, I can’t think of any other reason how you could possibly survive aside from staying in Puey’s favor. Now, a puníxhno is a create who eats meat and … –
– Aw gross! That’s disgusting! –
– That’s not the gross part yet. –
– Ooh! Horrible! Yuck! Evil! I hate them all! –
– Sister! Don’t you remember Éfhelìnye’s little injunction to love one another … –
– She didn’t say we had to love carnivores! Horrible! Gross gross gross! I stick out my tounge at them all! Nyaaah nyaaaaah nyaaaaaaah! –
Ixhúja bound upwards and if Akhlísa had been wearing a collar would have grabbed it by it, but decided just to hold her by the neck and shaking her about a little as she snarled and told her, There is nothing unholy with qìjeir, with carnivores, they are a natural part of predations, just as much as all the other plantimals. They weed out the herds, they migrate and hunt and have their own families just as you do, and let me remind you, little stupid baby, that although we Xhámi eat no meat, our minds are closer to the ferocious hunters of the forest than to the docile grass-munching herds of …
Siêthiyal shoved Ixhúja away, for the huntress princess was not holding onto Akhlísa too hard, and she chanted – Just let her go! Fhèsya, stay behind me. –
– She’s so rude – chanted Akhlísa as she rubbed her neck. – She’s just jealous because she can’t get an husband for herself. No wonder nobody likes her. I bet she’s secretly a cannibal! –
Ixhúja drew her sword and was about to charge.
– Stop it! – cried Siêthiyal. – Has everyone forgotten all the hard work which Éfhelìnye has already done to keep this family together? –
–Yeah, whatever happened to Éfhelìnye, I miss her. I bet whatever happened to her is all Ixhúja’s fault, she’s just so distrustworthy and … –
Ixhúja held up her sword and snarled as if to say, Apologuise for calling me a puníxhno or I slay both of you, and don’t think that my affection for Éfhelìnye will stay my sword. Apologuise for this shame or you all die!
– If you think I’m apologuising to this stinky purple haired chowderhead who probably eats meat when I’m not looking … – Akhlísa began.
Ixhúja sniffled. The situation was spiraling out of control, Siêthiyal could see. Ixhúja was just about to leap. Siêthiyal shoved Akhlísa behind her and chanted – Our little Sister doesn’t even know what a cannibal is, she truly is that stupid. I apologuise for her, she’s an idiot. Say, if she weren’t Puey’s personal property, I’d sell her to you, but now her body belongs to the Emperor, so we’re all stuck with her. – Siêthiyal bowed low before Ixhúja a few times and chanted – Please accept my most humble apologuises, I … –
Ixhúja bound froward grabbed Siêthiyal by her collar and set the sword right at her neck. Siêthiyal was too afraid to blink. A single tear was swelling from Ixhúja’s eye. Siêthiyal forgot how to grin one of her false grins. Ixhúja hissed in a very low almost subharmonic tone as if to say, Make the idiot Concubine apologuise. I am not a cannibal.
– Kàrula, apologuise now! – chimed Siêthiyal.
– I won’t, she’s a stupidhead ugly husbandless freak of a cannibal! – cried Akhlísa.
– Lwa lwa lwa lwa lwa! – shouted Siêthiyal. – Sorry, couldn’t hear a word she was saying. Kàrula! Apologuise now, or I tell Puey everything you don’t want me to tell him. –
– Such as? –
– You regularly steal Éfhelìnye’s undershift, you’ve kissed Puey in his sleep, you’ve tried to slip love philters in his food in the past, I’ll tell him everything about how Éfhelìnye got stabbed in the stomache, I’ll tell him that it was all your doing when you and I locked him and Fhermáta in the same room when they were getting dressed … I’ll tell him that all those pies you used to make for him, I’ll tell him that Fhermáta actually baked them. Yep. We’ll see how he likes that. Apologuise now. –
– I baked those pies for my Puey! –
– Oh he’ll believe me, I never lie. I never never never lie. I’m probably the most trustworthy of us three, at least my mendacity is quite predictable. –
– Those were my pies! –
– Just apologuise! –
Akhlísa bowed to Ixhúja and chanted – I’m sorry I called you a cannibal. You are still a dopey huntress that nobody likes and you’ll never have an husband and the Ancestors will never accept you and don’t for a moment think that Puey will take you as consort because he won’t he loves me too much. But at least you’re not a meat-eating cannibal. Freak. –
Ixhúja was not finding that too much of an apologia. She growled a little harder and pressed the tip of the sword closer to Siêthiyal’s neck as if to say, Now apologuise for making fun of carnivorous plantimals.
– What? Who cares? – asked Akhlísa. – Are we talking about spiders? –
– Just do as she growls! – Siêthiyal hissed. – I know you haven’t noticed the sword at my neck, but I have! –
– I’m sorry I made fun of omophagous plantimals et cet – chanted Akhlísa. – You’re so sensitive about the wild world. Hurray for osdos meateaters. –
Ixhúja was not sure she was going to get a better pfhóqa, apologia than that, so she hurled Siêthiyal to the ground and kicked her in the stomache a couple of times, and yanking her up breathed into her face to tell her, You told us you’d take her punishment, so this is what Akhlísa deserves for calling me a puníxhno. Ixhúja pounded Siêthiyal a few more times, and when Akhlísa threw herself at Ixhúja, Ixhúja just struck Siêthiyal all the harder and held Akhlísa at by with a single hand, and sate down upon Siêthiyal and tripped Akhlísa down and growling explained, One should always have respect for ecologies, and carnivores are a part of that. I have followed birds and fishes and dinosaurs that feed upon others, they are noble and special creatures.
– Great. Lesson learned – Siêthiyal coughed. – Kàrula, from now on, do talk unless I give you permission. –
Akhlísa tried to rise but Ixhúja shoved her down again. Ixhúja tapped her fingers together and told the twain, It is quite natural for there to be creatures which feed upon others, the eagle and hawk feed upon lesser birds, the alasaur and typhoonasaur upon the duckbilled dinosaur, and in your worlds of sea and shore sharks and orcs devour smaller fishes. What is not natural is for a creature to devour its own kind, that is a great shame, and accuse me of doing so really necessitates your death, however, since we are kin now, I shall just hurt you quite a bit. Ixhúja smiled and shoved Akhlísa down again.
– Well I still think you’re a stupid canni … – Akhlísa began.
– Shut up! – cried Siêthiyal.
– I’m sure she’s eaten meat, she’s not like Puey who snuggles up with wild plantimals and giggles with them, I bet she’s ripped off legs and eaten blood and all sorts of grossitude! –
One has never eaten of flesh. Why would you say such an horrible thing? I eat the same foods that you do!
– Sure – chanted Akhlísa. – You eat meat! You cannibal! –
– Sister! – cried Siêthiyal, as Ixhúja began punching her again. – Stupid Sister! A cannibal means one who is so depraved that he eats of his own kind, it’s worse than a creature eating meat, he eats of his own family! Ixhúja! Quit it! Stop hurting me, Ixhúja! –
Ixhúja pointed to Akhlísa as if to say, It’s all her fault! Hers is the blame! So I thrash you.
– I still think Ixhúja eats chunks of steaming meat and entrails when nobody is looking, and she washes it down with fresh blood! – cried Akhlísa.
– Would you mind thinking that in your head and away from the huntress? – asked Siêthiyal. – You know, you really are dumb, you use words without knowing what they mean, you let wild aliens throw party for you, and you don’t know when to stop repeating yourself and just be quiet! –
Ixhúja picked up Siêthiyal and tossed her down and dusted off her hands as if to say, So let’s go find my cousin now.
– What does it matter if they’re depraved cannibals anyway? – asked Akhlísa. – Okay, so they’re wild. And I understand it now. They eat each other. It’s horrible, but I still think that Ixhúja does it when nobody’s looking and … –
Siêthiyal crawled forwards and launched herself into the air and clasped her hands o'er Akhlísa’s mouth just to keep her quiet. – She’s not saying anything at all. Sometimes she just makes random noises which to the untrained ear could sound like words, but trust me, she has absolutely nothing to say. –
At least they only eat other Traîkhiim, Ixhúja was murmuring. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
Akhlísa bit Siêthiyal’s hand and shouted – Puey’s a Traîkhiim! The Traîkhiim call him smoke sibling, jiêlkhi nicotian or something like that. He’s as Traîkhiim as a Traîkhiim is a Traîkhiim. –
– It doesn’t matter –chanted Siêthiyal. – And if you bite my fingers again, I’ll beat you up harder than Ixhúja hit me … –
Those were just love punches, Ixhúja grinned. I bruise, but don’t break anything important. I love you too much to would you.
– This whole family is scared – chanted Siêthiyal.
I’ve heard the tale that the Traîkhiim only devour the male, Ixhúja shrugged. I doubt that’s true all the time, but it make some sense in terms of parental investment in one’s offspring, in an extreme fashion of course.
Akhlísa giggled and put her hands on her hips and swiveled them around and chanted – Then we have nothing to concern us, we’re not in any danger, everyone in the halls is an harem women or a Traîkhiim, there’s not a single male anywhere near us. Nope. Not a single man at all. Just the Traîkhiim and we women here. No males, not one single male, not a father or husband or brother or bridegroom, we’re all female here, yes, all of us are feminine female girls and so who cares what some fatuous cannibalry are doing it doesn’t concern us at all everysingle one of us is female and the cannibals only eat the males therefore the cannibals will not eat us because we are female and not a single male at all not a single one is even remotely near us. Do you like my belly ring? Okay what what I can do with my tummy, I can make it swing in and out like that and now side to side, I just know that Puey will love that, I’m going to dance just like this before him as soon as we find him in the halls. –
Ixhúja and Siêthiyal looked to each other and the same thought ran through their minds. Ixhúja scanned the pulsating crowds and was murmuring as if to say, We don’t know for a fact that the Traîkhiim only eat the male, they are androgynous after all, and Siêthiyal was muttering to herself and saying – Stupid Sister why I am cursed with such a stupid little Sister she doesn’t have a single brain at all she’s gets dumber the longer I know her, she’s the only one in creation who from the beginning of a sentence to the time when she finishes it actually grows dumber before one’s eyen! –
– Eiya, why aren’t you watching the way I can dance with my belly and hips? – Akhlísa asked.
Siêthiyal jumped upwards and grabbed her Sister by the throat and chanted – Of course there’s one man in the halls, a single male, yes, just think for one second! You told the cannibal Traîkhiim that you wanted a special feast for him and then you left our Puey in the midst of a pfheûntu xhnir pùxhno, a cannibalistic feast! You let the Traîkhhiim throw a banquet for the new Emperor! You left Puey in their midst! And you kept asking what’s the worst think that could happen, this-sa is the worst thing that can happen! You just had to have a stupid little party, didn’t you? –
Akhlísa gasped as her Sister slapped her about and cried out – I was going to have a party for Éfhelìnye, I was planning on giving her a Festschrift, you know, a florilegia of stories and essays in her honor! Stop hurting me, Siêthi! –
– You left our Brother in a cannibal feast! –
– So? –
– You unwittingly planned a cannibal feast and invited a thousand cannibals here and let them have their way and drums and dance and lured a single male into their presence …you left our Brother in a cannabal feast! –
– And your point is! –
– Puey! Cannibals! And if you’ve already forgotten, Cannibals! Eat! People! –
– But … they won’t eat Puey? –
– Why not? –
– Because he’s cute. –
Siêthiyal smacked Akhlísa across her face. All of a sudden the dance about them was grown more wild, and all three of the maidens looked upwards and saw what they could never have imagined. Just a few cubits away from them one Traîkhiim was ripping off the head of another, upon the columns splatters of black xhepánga were falling, and Traîkhiim in their frenzy were falling down from the rafters and being torn apart.
– Worst case scenario – muttered Siêthiyal.
Ixhúja hopped down from the table and pointed to the half of the halls she would search. She only ran out a few cubits before all of the halls were thirled with the sound of screaming, and the maidens could recognize it as Éfhelìnye’s voice arisen in horror in the midst of the nightmare.
– Happy Starday, Puey? – offered Akhlísa.
– You’re in more trouble than you’ve e'er been, let’s go! – Siêthiyal kicked her Sister down into the roaring dance and hopped after her and wished she had brought their Father’s sword with them, but as it was Siêthiyal just started pushing and shoving and threatening the Traîkhiim enough to make them part just a little, and behind her Akhlísa was tagging along and still not quite understanding what cannibals were, until several minutes later when she herself could see closer the Traîkhiim fighting one another and devouring the organs of each other.
– Okay, it’s ten minutes later – chanted Akhlísa. – Now that has got to be the grossest thing I’ve e'er seen. At least we’re lucky, none of us are male, so the Traîkhiim won’t … wait a minute! Puey’s male! Do you think he’s in danger? –
– I just know your children will be smarter than you because it’s malpossible to be dumber than you – Siêthiyal muttered as she shoved herself and her Sister to the left and Ixhúja began plowing through the right and were heading unto the central of the halls. And just a few minutes later Ixhúja and Siêthiyal and Akhlísa were looking upwards and finding that the dance was crystallizing in the center and arose the intonation of Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!
And there upon the arising litters was Princess Éfhelìnye and fluttering hordes of Traîkhiim were above her and vomiting out a steady stream of butter just to keep her tender and delicious, and beside her upon a pile of lettuce and fruit lay Puîyus fast asleep, and candies and candycanes were woven in his tresses. She loked aside and saw that Fhólus lay upon Puîyus lap and Aîya was eyeing her best-friend Fhólus and licking all three sets of her mouths in a way which was disturbing Éfhelìnye in very many different ways, the slight butter slobber upon Aîya’s lips, the steady stream of spices upon them all, and the bright red light in Aîya’s eyen, all this was making Éfhelìnye just a little too dizzy, plus of course the unending dreamdrumbeat and the intonation of Eat Eat Eat Eat come from the crowds. Éfhelìnye pressed her brow and was finding the air just a little too tinged with cinnamon, as if she were exhaling more than in, her own scent somehow infecting all the dance and wildness of it all. She gazed down upon Puîyus’ still and slumbering body, he was so still and beautiful, innocent and kind in his slumber, that Éfhelìnye just could not help herself, but leaned o'er again and began biting his ear and licking his face and kissing his lips many times and with a ferocity which frightened herself, but after all he was her Puîyus now and for ever and he belonged unto her for all time, and so she had everyright to eat him now, that is, kiss him now, yes, that’s surely what she was thinking. And his skin was scented of flowers and butter, and his lips were heady perfume and apple and desert unto her.
Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat!
Éfhelìnye was feasting upon Puîyus’ thick lips, ycovered in the dreams of apple, when she heard the sound of bone crunching beside her, and the ripping of flesh. At once she remembered her danger and the horror of the dance, and she looked up from Puîyus’ face and looked unto Fhólus lying on his lap. Aîya was also perched o'er her prey but she was proceeding far more in the devouring of her beloved than just mere and innocent osculations. Aîya’s fangs ripped through one of Fhólus’ throats and with sure and steady bites was ripping off one of his heads. Sinews fell apart. The head splattered downwards, but the antennæ whisps were shaking spasmatic from side to side, the jaw opening and clenching. The broken neck was swaying from side to side, xhepánga was exploding out from it. Éfhelìnye in her panic was only dimly aware that the steady sound of screaming was arising from her own throat. Fhólus’ gnawed off head opened its eye and swivelled it from side to side. Aîya reached down and ripped off the antennæ, one head slurped up one and another with ginger jaw chewed upon the other, and then she began ripping open the jaws and skin. The rest of Fhólus’ body was shaking, the other two heads twitching, the wings beating from side to side. Aîya’s three heads were intent upon the head she had removed, she ripped off the jaw and was devouring it teeth and bones and all. Her three beaks spun around and popped right through the air, a splash of egg goo arose and fell right upon Puîyus’ face. Aîya lifted one of her heads up and Éfhelìnye could see that the bulk of Fhólus’ bleeding eye lay upon the tounge of that jaw. The other two heads looked to Éfhelìnye and hissed. Aîya bit through the air and gobbled it up, and other two heads cried out – Mine! Mine! Mine! Eat your own man! –
Eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! sang out all the crowds.
– This has proceeded beyond nightmarish strange – chanted Éfhelìnye in the moment of gasping before she screamed all the louder and began sobbing as she had not sobbed for quite some time.
– There she is! – came Akhlísa’s voice. – And remember, this was not my fault! –
– Look, there’s Aîya, she can help us – chanted Siêthiyal. – And Fhólus is beside her and … uh-oh. –
Ixhúja was running through the crowds and shoving o'er Traîkhiim and snarling and punching them aside, she was coming up to the pyramids and waving her sword around and even in their dracontine dance frenzy the Traîkhiim were mostly cognizant of the danger that Ixhúja posed unto them and all other living things. Siêthiyal was scrambling up unto the litter and helping Akhlísa up, but when Siêthiyal saw Aîya’s scrouching o'er Fhólus and gobbling up the rest of his head and attacking his decapitated neck and ripping it apart, Siêthiyal’s eyen rolled back and she fainted right upon the dais. Akhlísa looked around and saw that Ixhúja was too busy fending off the crowds, so Akhlísa had to crawl upwards upon the fabric and the tent and catch up with Éfhelìnye. And Éfhelìnye refused to stop screaming, she sate down next to Puîyus and could only think of dancing and bodies and xhepánga and flesh and jaws and lips and stomaches and appetite and horror and she screamed and screamed and screamed even though Akhlísa shook her shoulders and shoved Puîyus and was trying her best to communicate with them in some way.
– Please just pipe down! – Akhlísa cried. – If you think you’re getting your Festschrift now, well, you’re not, so be quiet! Please? Please? Please? Oh it’s not so bad how bad could it be it’s not like this is the worstest case scenerio e'er I am what’s the worst worst thing that can possibly be happening? – Akhlísa shook Éfhelìnye by her shoulders and tried to gain her attention, even as the drumming throbbed behind them, and Aîya ripped up a bit of skin and gnawed at it. – Aîya, could you please stop that now! –
Aîya’s heads were fighting o'er a bit of xipe flayed skin. – Mine! Mine! – Aîya screamed.
– Fine. Nobody else wants her – Akhlísa chanted.
– Fhólus is male now, eaten and most yum! – Aîya cried out and turned back to munching upon her prise, and as she slicked up some bleeding feathers, Éfhelìnye just looked up and screamed all the longer.
– Okay the only skill I have is learning how to negotiate among lots of siblings and cousins and try and mollify everyone else especially other Sisters and with my cuteness and perspicacity – Akhlísa chanted and she wrapped her arms about Éfhelìnye and kissed her face and neck and tried to calm her down.
– Yo! What all this noise! – came Fhólus’ voice. And for one second Éfhelìnye stopped screaming.
– I hope this doesn’t have to do with meat eaters – chanted Akhlísa. – The whole idea is just abhorrent unto me. –
Aîya was growling and ripping up a bit of neck skin from Fhólus’ unheaded baicead, but Fhólus was lifting up one head and looking up first to Akhlísa and then to Éfhelìnye and saying in a still and calm voice – What all this noice? Can’t you two pipe down a little? – Fhólus blinked a few more times and did not try to stop Aîya from eating his broken neck.
Akhlísa’s jaw dropped. Éfhelìnye sniffled. Slowly the Princess lifted up her finger to Fhólus and mutterent thwìwuwu stammered balbutanta – B-b-b-but you’re b-b-being eaten Fhólus! –
Fhólus blinked a couple of times. – Of course. It okay. Of course it okay. –
Akhlísa found herself panicking. Éfhelìnye began screaming again. Fhólus lifted up his other uneaten head, although this head was missing an antenna whisp and tooth marks were left at the edge of it, and Fhólus looked from side to side to side and muttered – For the life of me, don’t understand what frightening them so. Must be seeing a big and hairy spider. –
Aîya slurped up some xhepánga and gurgling chanted – They little babies, have much for to learn. –
– Strange aliens, little aliens, aliens just don’t understand anything at all – sighed Fhólus and he shook his two remaining heads in pity at the maidens. – One day they’ll understand the Dance of Life. – One of Fhólus’ head was turning, his scattered nostrils dilating a little, and seeing Puîyus’ lying beside him, he reached down and nudged him several times and bit Puîyus’ hands and face a little and chanted – How you feeling o'er there, oh delicious bridegroom? Feeling okay? The air is thick and heady, quite perfumed just like you. Lots lots lots of pheromones in the air. Someone’s pheromones are all out of control here. – Fhólus turned to Aîya and chanted – Don’t you taste a lot of paîkhaqe, lots of pheromones in the air? –
– Thick and classic pheromones in the air – Aîya nodded in agreement.
– Yes quite natural she is – chanted Fhólus. – How about all the rest of you? Think someone’s pheromones all out of control? –
Fhólus’ two remaining heads were looking down from the litter, the storming and screaming and drumming dancers, and all of the Traîkhiim turned to look at Éfhelìnye and then nodded one to another and then pointed to her and licking their lips were saying – Lots of princessly pheromones, she thinking about Puîyos all the time, syrupy and dripping, her pheromones have knocked the young Prince out cold yum yum yum! –
Akhlísa stopped screaming long enough to ask – What are pheromones? Not like I don’t know, but let’s say hypothetically there is a maiden who has no idea what everyone is talking about and … – Akhlísa could feel that the Princess was trying to slip away from them. Éfhelìnye was beginning to be able to see again, and as soon as she realized that Akhlísa had been holding her, Éfhelìnye began scrambling away, she stopped screaming and kissed Puîyus and started running to the edge of the litter.
– What are you doing now? – asked Akhlísa. – And you do know you taste like sqepyáran scones, don’t you? Not like I’ve been licking your face or anything. –
– Stay away from me! – Éfhelìnye shouted. – You hate me! You want to destroy me! You hate my love for Puey! Leave me alone! –
– We’re not talking about the time, it’s all very funny now looking in retrospect, when I accidently married your one true love? – Akhlísa asked. – I thought we were o'er that. –
– I never want to see you again! – Éfhelìnye dashed outwards and started scrambling down the edge of the khlìtsi sedan, and as she ran the Traîkhiim were arising in waves all wild all about them all. – Never never never never never never never never! – screamed Éfhelìnye.
– I’m not stealing your love, I’m just loving in a slightly different way! – cried Akhlísa, as she ran up to chase after her. – At least I’m not trying to eat anyone! At least I know how to share, I’m not like Siêthiyal who used to have all those toys and would never share them with anyone except when she made me promise not to break them and she’d only let me borrow the toys if I gave her toys of equal value but now I’m a far better sharer than you I grew up sharing with Sisteren will you stop running away from me! – Éfhelìnye hopped down from the dais, but the Traîkhiim were so thick about her that she crashed against them and rolled o'er and landed on her side. Akhlísa was screaming and tried to slip o'er the side, and managed to crash against both Aîya and Fhólus so that all of them came crashing downwards in a single messy roll and landed right upon Éfhelìnye and knocked the air right out of her. Akhlísa was the first one to recover. Ixhúja managed to punch and kick and fight her way up to them, and swinging her sword around warned the surging Traîkhiim to give them some space. Akhlísa drew Éfhelìnye upwards and shook her back into wakefulness.
– Okay everything good nobody really hurt I won’t get blamed for this Puey was uneaten see everything is ending up alright, right? – asked Akhlísa and shook the Princess all the harder. – If you’ll just wake up we’ll know you’re copacetic too and it will work and we can be together and everything will be fun fine! –
Ixhúja made a motion as if to slap Éfhelìnye awake, and Akhlísa gulped and did so, and after hitting her a few times, she was rewarded by seeing Éfhelìnye’s eyen open a little, and the Princess gasped out and breathed out clouds of incense pheromones upon them all. Ixhúja scrambled away and drew up Siêthiyal and set her beside her Brother, and she thrust a sword right into the litter in warning that all of the Traîkhiim were supposed to stay away, but the dance roaring continued, for it was quite a party.
Éfhelìnye remembered where she was. Akhlísa was holding her. Traîkhiim were arising as flames all about them. Éfhelìnye licked her apple lips and asked – Why do you hate me, Kàrula? –
– I don’t hate you, Princess – chanted Akhlísa.
– Yes you do. You know you will destroy me. –
– No … –
– Yes you will. I can only survive … if Puey and I have our happy ending. –
– I’ve never hated you. –
– Yes you do, you came into the Forbidden Gardens too, you saw me there, I was always open and honest, I told you that I was going to marry Puey, and you chanted nothing, you never told me that you were going to marry him too. You hated me from the beginning. –
– No, I didn’t hate you, I’m just weak. I can be a little silly sometimes, all the time, I can’t help it. But I don’t hate you. I’ve always been jealous of the way that Puey’s eyen light up when he sees you or even hears about you, you will always be his first wife, and I shall be but a lesser consort. –
Éfhelìnye sniffled. – I want Puey to be happy. I don’t want to be a Traîkhiim and devour my beloved. But I will die if this does not end up right. We just have to stop fighting among the Traîkhiim. We used to be best friends, please, let us be friends again. –
– I never stopped being your friend – Akhlísa chanted. – I could never stop if I wanted to. –
– I do acknowledge the sacrifice which you and Abbá Íngìkhmar have made, I know you have sacrificed your entire family. Both of us must protect Puey with all our might, especially from older girls. –
– I know, older girls can be treacherous, they’re all sophisticated and pretty, like the maidens of the Poriêrii, older maidens. –
– We must decide to resolve the concubinage issue later, but there can be no other concubines. You will be the only one. –
– Fine – chanted Akhlísa.
– And stop kissing him. –
– I’ll kiss all I want. –
– At least wear decent and elegant and modest clothing. –
Akhlísa laughed and chanted – I’ll dress anyway that I wish, I want Puey to see this beautiful little belly button of mine. Did you see the dance I did up there? I bet you didn’t know that I could do that with my hips, but I’ve been practicing dancing with the Traîkhiim and now I can wriggle and squirm in quite an alien fashion. Oh we’re not going to be able to fight only more o'er Puey, are we, no? – Akhlísa kept poking Éfhelìnye, holding her and kissing her face and hugging her, and at least Éfhelìnye was responding although but a little.
Aîya looked up from her feast upon one of Fhólus’ necks. – Uh-oh. Now we’re all in trouble. If anyone ask, we didn’t eat anyone at all. Will be our little secret, right? –
Fhólus lifted up his two remaining heads and added – Yes, let’s not mention any of the love feast. Perhaps he won’t notice. –
– I have no idea what the Traîkhiim mean – chanted Éfhelìnye. – I’ll have to ask Puey, he’s the one who loved among them. –
Akhlísa smiled and chanted – Oh I know everything about the Traîkhiim did you know that they’re pùxhno, that means that they’re cannibals and that means that they eat meat. See how smart I am? –
– They were eating each other – sniffled Éfhelìnye.
– That’s what I meant. –
– It was uabhasach, infandous! –
Akhlísa and Éfhelìnye looked around and heard all about them a growing sea of voices whispering – Uh oh! Oh no! Uh oh oh oh oh oh! Judgment come! Dance of judgment nigh oh oh oh! –
Thunder thunder boom boom boom thunder thunder doom doom doom thunder thunder we’re in trouble must blame someone he’ll know he’ll know he’ll know of course he’ll know!
The Traîkhiim were all turning and crying out as if someone had struck them in their earwhisps, even those who were being actively eating were turning and cringing and trying for to cover their ears, they were shaking and screaming outwards and trying to turn themselves away from the felt and fabric pyramid of litters in the center. Aîya scooped up Fhólus in her limbs and began fluttering away, but she did not escape far, for brilliant beams of red and orange sunlight were arising from the pyramids and filling up all of the golden halls. Aîya arose up a few cubits but the light struck her, and she spun around and began tumbling in the lancing dawn. The pyramid itself was shaking. Butter was running down. Princess Ixhúja grasped her sword and spun around. The Traîkhiim were screaming out all the louder. Puîyus was stirring a little in his sleep. His eyen were fluttering. He licked his lips and could taste Éfhelìnye’s thick and beautiful scent upon him, as well as a coating of butter and candy upon it. Puîyus sate up and stretched his arms and yawned, and his dehiscing sounding a little akin to a lion roaring all the louder, although the roar was not filled with anger or battle fury or hunting joy, it was just the roaring of a mighty creature arising from a deep and strange and ensorcelled sleep. And all about him the Traîkhiim were gasping and shaking all the while, they were shaking their heads at each other, their heads were bubble bobbing up and down, their wings were crackling from side to side, some of the Traîkhiim were sitting upon their half-eaten beloveds, and those who were partially eaten were trying to close up their winds and position themselves to hide missing heads and wings, and other Traîkhiim came spinning outwards and tried to hide the broken and severed limbs in the soups that poured out from the great pots, and the thousand Traîkhiim were all shaking in fear and saying – Uh oh! Emperor Puîyos won’t be happy! Uh oh! The plan didn’t work, we were supposed to eat the Divien Twins! Uh oh! Emperor won’t like the Starday party that we held for him! –
Puîyus stretched his shoulders, he sate up and licked off some of the butter from his face, and then looked to his wrists and hands and saw that he was completely fetted out as a banquet. He ran an hand through his long and melancholy blue tresses, and candies and sugars were pouring down from him. He blinked a couple of times. Siêthiyal lay sleeping beside him and Ixhúja was holding her sword and looking around and eyeing the crowds with a very dangerous glance. At once Puîyus with his experience among the wild Pèqlor dancers was figuring out what the Traîkhiim had been intending and doing all the while. Slowly he arose. He mewed a little, as if asking himself, Now what have the dear Traîkhiim being doing, and as he walked upon the platform all of lettuce and fruit, sparkling sunlight and fires arose in haloes about him. The Traîkhiim in the halls were all turning their remaining heads towards Puîyus and feeling growing horror in their gizzard hearts. Puîyus made sure that the Traîkhiim could see that he was reaching downwards and drawing his sword, for he was armed even in his pyjamas. And the Traîkhiim stopped their dance in midbeat. The music died. The Traîkhiim were completely still. Aîya gulped with all three of his throats. Puîyus looked from side to side. Suddenly the thousand Traîkhiim felt their elbows buckling, and they fell down upon the floor and began kowtowing before him. Puîyus took a few steps around the litter. He touched Siêthiyal’s face and at once she awoke. He looked to Ixhúja and she nodded to tell him that the rest of the maidens were unhurt. Puîyus walked to the other side of the litter and saw that Aîya was kòutóuwing even as she was trying to hide Fhólus beneath her. She looked up and smiled three sickly grins. Puîyus walked up to her and picked her up and set her down and saw that Fhólus was lifting up two necks, and a bleeding stump for his third.
– Mew – Puîyus chanted.
– It was an accident! – Aîya shouted.
– Mew! – Puîyus pointed.
– I we coundn’t help ourselves! I we were so in love, could not help it, just had to devour had to eat just had to not my fault Fhólus so beautiful just so delicious so scrumpty not my fault don’t please punish me if Fhólus didn’t want to be eaten he shouldn’t have been so quetzal bright beautiful shining have you looked at the curve of his eyen the way his elbows move just delicious enough to eat! –
Puîyus looked down to Aîya, and his face was sad. He sighed. He touched Fhólus’ two faces and hoped that he was not feeling too much pain. Puîyus arose and walked to the age of the dias, and the last growing beams of sunlight burst up from his shoulders and face and head. He gazed unto the humicubating hordes of Triîm for a time, and all of them were shaking in fear.
– Mew! – Puîyus cried out to them.
– Love feast? What love feast? Nobody chanted anything about a love feast! – the Traîkhiim cried.
Puîyus decided not to waste time on them. He stomped the floor of the pyramid so hard that all of the complex collapsed, and he struck the ground several more times such that lightening arose and danced throughout the halls. He crossed his arms. He roared a few more times. Ixhúja came forwards and helped Siêthiyal upwards. Fhólus and Aîya were shaking in fear and holding each other. Puîyus paced back and forth. He roared one more time, and the Traîkhiim quailed all the more.
– Oh! That love feast! We completely forgot! – gasped the hordes of Traîkhiim, a thousand strong. – We almost forgot for a moment. Quite a wild dance, this, sometimes we just forget, everyone know just how brainless we stupid little Traîkhiim are really a dangerous little child race please don’t punish us please! –
Puîyus signaled for Ixhúja and Siêthiyal to come to him, and without question the maidens fell into the formal protocal that they had been taught since earliest childhood, both in the Heresy and in the Patriarchy, and they bowed low before their Brother and remained silent. Puîyus spelt out a few swift glyphs for them and ignored a large glob of butter dripping down his face. A few bits of tasty lettuce were falling o'er one of his eyen, but he brushed it away. At his signal Ixhúja kept her sword drawn and walked about the remnants of the litter to remind the Traîkhiim by her bearing that Puîyus was displeased, and Siêthiyal remained by his side to change his growls into the words of men.
– My Brother the future Emperor commands all of you Traîkhiim who are currently Triîmoxha, in the male part of your cycle, to become Triîmexhe, female at once. To hear the word of the Crown Prince is to obey! – Siêthiyal’s voice piped a little, she added that last sentence just to remind the Traîkhiim who were dominant in this new governance.
The Traîkhhiim were shaking and gasping in fear. Puîyus walked from side to side and stomped the ground, and about a third of the Traîkhiim just rolled o'er and hoped that their heart-gizzards would not fail them. Some of the Traîkhiim were screaming and moaning. Fhólus was writhing and crying out – Have any idea how painful it can be to do the changing when the dance still throbbing inside! Not pretty! Not good! Bones have to shift, oh! –
Puîyus just glared at the crowds, and some of the Traîkhiim fell before him, their wings and limbs were buckling, their eyen were rolling back into their sockets, their bodies shifting and changing. Aîya fluttered upwards and came to Siêthiyal, she figured it would be better to talk to the Emperor’s nest sibling rather than Emperor’s self and she whispered – Can’t we be permitted to keep a few males with us? Party cannot be fun without any males at all. It just dull otherwise. Not much of a party. –
– Right now is not a good time to make my Brother angry – chanted Siêthiyal.
– Ouch! – cried Fhólus. – Inner organs shifting! Ooh! –
– Maybe you should have thought of that before you disobeyed my Brother! – cried Siêthiyal. – Changing genders and eating each other, what an odd people. – She tugged upon the pajama sleeves of Puîyus and chanted – They did disobey you, right? I don’t really understand what’s happening. Why can’t they have any males? –
Puîyus tapped a few of his hands together and spelt out, They have not earned that right, at least not in mine eyen. Please, beloved, tell them this, and as he drew out several more cheremes Siêthiyal looked to the crowds and chanted – Pèqlor children of Akhàkhma the Onomatothete, you did not have my permission do begin the marriage dance, nor did you have the permission of your neuter Qhaôtriim Elders. They told me that the Emperor’s ban on all marriage applied even unto their own people. You shall not be permitted to disobey your own elders nor me again. Stay still. These are the words of the Crown Prince, Puîyos the Son of Kàrijoi. –
And the Traîkhiim were shaking all the more exceeding afraid. Puîyus gave them a few more moments to change. He looked around and saw that Akhlísa was coming up beside him and was wrapping her arms about him, and he could not help but notice that her shoulders were unclad and her belly exposed, but she was not bothered at all, her earrings were ringing, the golden bands upon her arms jangle jingling. Puîyus spelt out some signs which meant, Have all the Traîkhiim become female?
– I have no idea, Puey – chanted Siêthiyal. – They all look the same to me. –
– They’re weird androgynes, Pew – chanted Akhlísa. – Say, Puey, I’m an expert on the Traîkhiim. Did you know that they’re cannibals because I sure did and I know all about them and always have. –
Puîyus made some signs which meant, One can smell the difference. He sniffed a few times and looking around pointed in the crowds and mewing told his Sisters, a single male is left. He looked to Ixhúja and told her she could grab the lone male, but don’t hurt him too much.
The crowds of the Traîkhiim screamed and parted and revealed their last male. Ixhúja jumped down right before him, and the Traîkhiim cried out all the harder and remembered that he was supposed to be changing, and he began changing his bones and organs and cried out – Please! I’m changing! I’m femaling! Look look look look look! – And Ixhúja grabbed him and threw him down and began pounding him all the while until Puîyus whistled, and she slid aside and stood up and bowed to Puîyus, but before turning to him she ran up and kicked the Traîkhiim around a few times until he or she crashed against a piller. And by the time she returned to the pyramid all of the Traîkhiim were sore afraid.
– It would be better for you to obey my Brother swiftly and without question – chanted Siêthiyal. – He is not in a very good mood right now. – She turned towards Puîyus and listened to his mewing and saw the blinking of his eyen and turning back chanted – My most exaulted Brother commands you to clean up this mess. When daybreak comes back unto the iron whispering mountains of Jaràqtu, these golden halls must look as they did before. Now, obey the word of Crown Prince Puîyos! – Siêthiyal chanted and shook her head, and when she saw that Puîyus was turning she cried out – And don’t forget to obey his Sister Siêthiyal who’s really just as important as the future Emperor is, probably even more important if you need some favors done or something smuggled or some errands run, in fact it would be best for you to propiate me with lots of toys whatever you have, because otherwise Puîyos will just be so wroth with you and feed you to some wild plantimals or something or other. That was all just a bit of advice, if know what’s good for you. –
Puîyus looked to Ixhúja and Akhlísa and took their hands and asked them in blinks and glances, Where is Princess Éfhelìnye.
She’s safe, we saw to that, Ixhúja nodded.
– Yeah, she’s somewhere out there – chanted Akhlísa. She reached o'er and started kissing Puîyus’ neck. – Let’s forget about her though. Did you like my veil dance? –
– Mew? –
– I don’t know where she is! – cried Akhlísa.
You were the one looking after her, Ixhúja sighed in growls and purrs.
– Do I have to do everything? –
It was your only job. You can’t do a single job. You only have one task at a time, not even one task a day and you just can’t do it. Why do we e'er give her any responsibility, or rather the semblence of any responsibility.
– I’m plenty responsible! I’m the most important one in this harem! – Akhlísa shouted.
Puîyus looked around and held Akhlísa’s hands tightly and looked around and saw that the Traîkhiim were fluttering upwards and using their own hand-feet and wings to start sweeping up the mess, and they were rolling aside drums and pots and urns and keep their heads down and hoping not to awaken any anger in the dawning Crown prince. Puîyus gazed around. Akhlísa leaned upon him and locked her fingers about his arm and chanted – Oh what’s the worst thing that could happen, it’s not like she’s running away to the swamp to hide … wait, that’s a brilliant idea! I bet Éfhelìnye slipped away from me when I wasn’t looking, I bet she’s running and hiding in the quags right now! –
Puîyus hopped down from the ruins, a few sparkling orbs of gold and red light spinning up from his brow, and all of the Traîkhiim who were nigh unto him were arising and screaming and dashing outwards allthe faster. He looked from side to side, he was wondering whether Éfhelìnye knew that he was awake right now, perhaps she had heard the gasping and shaking and marvel of the end of the dance and the arising of the Sun. Puîyus took a few steps forwards and Akhlísa ran out and threw her arms about Puîyus neck so that she was almost riding upon him, and hopping down running right after him came Siêthiyal and Ixhúja, Siêthiyal looking around and warning the Traîkhiim to remain at work, and Ixhúja shaking a sword around and giving all the Traîkhiim dark and scary looks.
Puîyus looked around and saw the shattered stained glass windows and was able to read movement and slot and shadow within it all, and suspected that the Starflower Princess had come running out in that direction. He wiped away several globs of butter from his face. His heart was burning. He felt tears swelling up within him. As he walked Siêthiyal and Ixhúja were almost forming an honor guard unto either sides of him just as the soldiers and warriors did when he was returning from battle, or the priests and acolytes did at ritual around. Akhlísa hung on his neck and was licking him, for after all his pajamas were completely soaked in spices and sugars, and he was far too tasty to be ignored. Puîyus turned back to Siêthiyal and Ixhúja and his fingers dancing about asked them, Has there been fighting in the family.
– Of course not! – gasped Siêthiyal.
Ixhúja shook her head in negation.
– I’ve been good and it’s not my fault! – cried Akhlísa.
– We haven’t been argueing at all. –
Ixhúja shook her head in negation.
– Do you want to play with my belly button jewelry? – asked Akhlísa.
– And I never lie – chanted Siêthiyal.
Just some small fighting, Ixhúja chanted, her hand measuring out some space before her. Wee fighting. But I always take Éfha’s side. Except when she annoys me.
– So, do you want to get rid of everyone else yet? – asked Akhlísa. – We’ll just let them fight with each other as they have been all this time. –
– Just a couple of little insignificant fights, they didn’t mean anything at all! – Siêthiyal cried. – Puey I don’t know whether you realize this, but sometimes life can be very different for the women left at home while the men go out to fight, and occasionally Ixhúja goes with them. We have our own hierarchies and power struggles which can be very important, and we have not been fighting at all except whenever it’s someone else’s fault. –
Sometimes these two starts fights, Ixhúja pointed to Siêthiyal and Akhlísa.
– I do not! – cried Akhlísa. – I’m just asserting my rights as Imperial Concubine! You’re just jealous because you didn’t know what a cannibal was, so nyaaaah! –
– I’m always on my best behavior – chanted Siêthiyal.
I’m the one who keeps taking Éfha’s side, they’re the ones who cause all the trouble, at least I’m open and honest about who I am, I don’t masque myself in words, Ixhúja growled.
– Everyone don’t tell Puey about the incident with the kitchen knife – chanted Akhlísa. – Of course, I had nothing at all to do with it. In fact Fhólus brought it in … we should set the blame on her now. She deserved top be eaten, now that I think about it. –
– See, Puey, we haven’t been fighting at all – Siêthiyal chanted.
Puîyus walked through the halls and unto the broken windows, even as Tarîkhiim were fluttering in all directions and sweeping and washing and scrubbing all at once, and with no organization at all, such that some were scrubbing the same floor that others were sweeping, and some were repairing dusty columns above floors which had just been mopped bright. Puîyus was crying as he walked but he no longer cared who saw him, he hated it above all things to see maidens fighting one another, especially the maids of his own family. He came unto a gap in the window, Akhlísa was still hanging onto him, and the Traîkhiim nigh hand were bowing down and humbling themselves at his coming, and he walked through the shattering and came out unto a courtyard completely blanketed in snow. Stray snowflakes were falling beneath a cloudless sky where a thousand moons were arisen. Siêthiyal and Ixhúja ran out unto either sides of him. Akhlísa was gnawing upon Puîyus’ ears.
– It’s cold out here! – chanted Akhlísa. – And someone’s not wearing a lot of clothing. –
– Puey, with all due respect, if you go inside and rest, and take little Sister with you, Ixhúja and I can go and fetch the Princess – chanted Siêthiyal. Ixhúja nodded and started pounding her hands together. – And don’t worry, we haven’t been fighting that much at all. –
Puîyus shook his head, he just knew that Éfhelìnye was trying to run away, she had to be overcome with emotion right now, and Puîyus wished to end this fighting at once. He peered out through the snow, the fresh snowflakes were not very thick, but Éfhelìnye’s treck was seldom too visible, for she was so light that she tended to dance upon the snow and barely make an imprint upon it. Since Akhlísa was not about to let go of him, he just held her up and made her more comfortable in his arms, and he ran out into the snow, Ixhúja and Siêthiyal running unto both side of him, and he came dashing out into the shadow of the statues of the Ancestors and the long and twisting gargoyles in this section of the courtyards here in the center of the ancient rath of the peoples of the Poriêrii. And at last he found her, she looked a little like a rose which had broken and floundered and lay fallen upon the snow, and he ran outwards so fast that Ixhúja and Siêthiyal were outpaced behind him, and he found that Éfhelìnye was trying to arise and kept falling on the snow, for freezing tears were blurring her vision. He set Akhlísa down and scooped up Éfhelìnye and wished that he were wearing his dreamcloak so that he could wrap her up in something, but at it was he just had to hold her tight and use the strength of his arms. Éfhelìnye reached out and hugged Puîyus tight and her teardrops became less violent and urgent in their falling.
– We should all go back inside – chanted Siêthiyal.
One can have the Traîkhiim build up a fire, Ixhúja was saying. Or we could all retire to the harem, or if you like back to Puîyos’ own quarters.
– Is anybody going to pick me up? – asked Akhlísa as she shivered in the snowfall.
– No! – – !! – Siêthiyal and Ixhúja both barked at once.
– I’m the little adorable one, someone should be carrying me! – Akhlísa shouted.
Puîyus was rubbing Éfhelìnye’s arms and back in order to restore some warmth in her, and then he brushed some of her golden red tresses aside, and he could smell that she had also been thoroughly doused with butter and spices and sugars and the smell of Traîkhiim saliva, and he could only guess what she had been withstanding in the dance, for he knew that although they were a silly and fun poploe, the Traîkhiim volk, they were also parlous and fey in their dancing.
Puîyus picked up Éfhelìnye and began walking back towards the golden halls, but with his shining winedark eyen he was telling the maidens, Now that we are all assembled together, I have decided that we must conduct a, I do not know whether there is a word for it, pàngquring tsekhqìyejikh bringigulum tribli, qep hin-aggi, conventicle ndugo, a conference of our malfunctional family.
– Forgive me, but we don’t have anything to discuss – chanted Siêthiyal. – We’re all one big happy family. So we have a few quarrels from time to time. –
– A few! – cried Akhlísa as she ran behind them. – Shouldn’t someone be picking me up! I’m the cold one, I’m not wearing any underslip or stockings or wooden shoon! – She struggled to keep up with them all, and found that behind Puîyus was falling a steady trail of little crystalline tears which were freezing on his face and falling downwards. Puîyus carried Éfhelìnye unto the outer walls of the golden halls were some benches lay, and he chose some that were close to the shattered windows and the heat inside but which still lay in the frozen yards where they could be alone. Puîyus set her down and took Akhlísa by the hand and bade her to sit down, and then turning unto Siêthiyal and Ixhúja told them in whispers almost too quiet for them to hear as if to tell them, Please permit me to be alone with these two for just a couple of moments, but we shall rejoin you soon. Would you favor me by watching the Traîkhiim, and if they do not clean or disobey you in any way, please punish them in my name.
Siêthiyal grinned and playing with her pink tresses chanted – So you’re saying that the Traîkhiim have to obey me … in anything I say … and I can punish them in the Emperor of Tomorrow’s name … –
Ixhúja pointed to Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa and murmured and in the language of plantimals asked, Are you going to be kissing those two? Please do not tell me that this was all a ruse for to reward yourself with kisses galore!
Siêthiyal grabbed Ixhúja’s sleeve and chanted – Come on, before he changes your mind! We have unlimited power for as long as those two keep misbehaving! Let’s start ordering the slaves about. –
You already order them about.
– Let’s get them to find toys for us. –
You already order them to find toys for you.
– Yes but, now I can be really mean about it! –
Ixhúja relented, and after all Siêthiyal was probably right on principle, it would be more fun to boss about the Pèqlor cannibals than to try and form some sort of pàlat synthesis among all four of the maidens in the family, any attempt at reaching xòtyothe, of détente, of rapprochement was doomed to familiar. Ixhúja sighed and swung her arms from side to side. Siêthiyal was chuckling to herself and dashed into the wounds of the wall, and so it was that Puîyus was left alone with Éfhelìnye and Akhlísa as the snow began to fall about them all the harder, and the time for speaking alone was come.