Thursday, June 12, 2008



The Palace of Un-pic Ja’ab floated before Flavius and Parric, the honey-soaked rays of the late afternoon sun glittering across the many-faceted towers in a prismatic spray. Pale yellow lights flickered from a thousand windows as well as the promenades that ran weblike among the towers. Great loops and whorls of no discernable purpose decorated the skyline and reached far beyond the balconies and retaining walls, casting surreal shadows over the valley a thousand feet below.

Beneath the palace, running the length of the perimeter was a colossal Ketza’qua. The yellow-bronze specimen was old and reeked of power. The trusses and cables holding it in place groaned and cackled every time the serpentine body flexed, but showed no signs of breaking.

Fleet-winged, kidney-shaped wej flitted around the tail of the Ketza’qua. As huge, translucent bubbles squeezed forth from a puckered orifice of the tail, crewmen from certain wejii bathed it in billowing clouds from directed hoses. Once the vapors of the setting agent cleared, another wej darted in to gaff the rising bubble, which had taken on an iridescent sheen. The wej guided the bubble beneath the palace and released it into a concave basin. The millions of bubbles holding the Palace of Un-pic Ja’ab aloft appeared as nothing more than froth from a distance.

“I’d surely remember this place if I’d been here before,” said Flavius.

“Our previous visitings are coming through the nexial gap inside the palace,” Parric said. “You’re never seeing the outside before.”

“I’m nae sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Flavius said, tilting his head to the side. “Are they using that beastie’s farts to keep that castle up in the sky?”

“Nothing so cruding,” Parric answered. “The Ketza’qua is a six-dimensional being. Restrainings here without feeding is making it feeding in other dimensions. The digestings of higher dimension matters is breaking it down into the simplest elements. Those sprayings are stabilizing traces of lithiums in the Ketza’qua excretions. The remainings in the bubbles are mostly hydrogens and heliums.”

Flavius shuddered. “That... that is the mingingest thing I ever laid eyes on in any lifetime.”

“Really?” Parric cocked his head at Flavius. “Most are finding the Palace of Un-pic Ja’ab a very beautifulling sight.”

“It dinnae matter how much ya shiny up the shite, lad, it’s still shite. Or farts.” Flavius snorted in disgust. “So how’re we supposed to sneak up there, anyway? I dinnae see nae ladders or skyhooks or whatever ya call them. D’ya plan on spelling us up there with your magic?”

“I don’t do magickings.”

“Then how’re we to get up there without any of them knowing we’re here?”

“We don’t. They’re already spotting us.”

Flavius looked up at the palace. Three of the wejii had broken away from the Ketza’qua and were headed directly at them. “Hoo, this is a bonny bag of shite.”

Two of the wejii veered to either side, flanking Flavius and Parric. The three-man crews rode standing in the open vehicles with a lank readiness. Silver traceries decorated their glossy turquoise armor, contrasting with their reddish-copper skin. The ivory plume of their feathered helms whipped smartly in the wind. The two crewmen on either side of the pilot each held a braided cuayab nearly an arm span in length. The braiding formed a sort of interlocked cage at the topmost end, which contained a emerald glow.

“Get yer magic ready, Parric,” Flavius said, drawing Memory. “Not the friendliest looking bunch of dobbers, are they? Ya dinnae ken they were expecting us, do ya?”

Parric twisted in his coils, keeping the three wejii in sight at all times. “Don’t be doing anything stupid.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, lad,” Flavius answered. “Let them make the first move. That’s the winning strategy, eh?”

The lead pilot made a subtle gesture. Immediately two men on the flanking wejii pointed their cuayab at the pair. Ribbons of undulating green flame spewed out. The flames arced and twisted, twining and weaving about Flavius and Parric until they were completely encaged.

Flavius slowly tilted his head toward Parric. “Right, then. What’s plan ‘B’?”

“Lesser sentients,” the commander shouted to them from the lead wej in a startlingly loud voice. “You have violated the writ of solitude in approaching Un-pic Ja’ab. Who are you and what is your business here?”

“Well, we’re old acquaintances of the Tricentennial Emperor, see,” answered Flavius. “I ken he wasn’t expecting us to drop in unannounced and all, but we was in the neighborhood--”

“They’re just uncivilized otherwhere rabble, sir,” the crewman on the right said to the pilot. “Their language is barbaric gibberish.”

Flavius shot Parric a questioning look.

“Remember when I’m Crafting a Hearing for you?” Parric said, examining the agitated cage with curiosity. “They have no Hearings. We can understanding their words, but they can’t understanding us.”

“Lesser sentients,” the commander said, this time in a voice even more bombastic than before, “since you refuse to speak in your defense, and offer no documentation to justify your presence--”

“Parric? This dinnae sound good.”

“No,” agreed Parric, “it doesn’ting.”

“--in violation of the writ of solitude, and as the thread your persons pose to Un-pic Ja’ab cannot be ascertained with any reliability in the absence the afore-mentioned testimonials and evidence, I formally sentence you to immediate execution under my authority as Commander of the Second Rank in the Eternal Militia of Un-pic Ja’ab,” the commander said. “Do the witnesses concur this is a legal order of the proper form?”

“Yes,” the other wejii crews answered in turn, pointing their cuayabs. “The sentence is legal and proper in accordance with the writ of solitude.”

“The sentence is issued and confirmed,” said the commander. “Kill them.”


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