The Throne room had changed again, since the water had stopped falling from the moon. Now there was more water stars falling from the sky, but hammering on spot on the continent, making a sea where the Nadumon had been.
The great windows were veiled with mist and the canyon and desert outside were barely visible through the white haze. The two windows that showed images were the ones showing what both the Emperor and his husband were doing in code.
Kyrus the Elder sat in what had been the throne, apparently made of carved topaz, but the Great Hive above had poured honey over it and him. Hara knew it wasn't truly honey, but the clear, golden construction of the bees. The only part of him that was uncovered was his face, as the bees armoured him with gems. He looked as though he was part of the throne itself. His eyes were closed and in the golden gauntlets, his fingers moved.
Ilax lay on a couch like a 'Sleeping Martyr King', the waterfall of gems and bees and sparks flowing and moving over him as though he were wrapped in a blanket of light. In the screens, showing what they were doing in code, was so achingly slow it was almost imperceptible. They were building fine, hair-lik threads that slowly, carefully grew into and around and through Glass Mountain's security
At that rate they'd all be in their white mounds before this war was over, she thought, but didn't say. “Pa? Stepapa?” She called quietly so as not to startle them. “You need to come out. You've been in there too long today already.”
Kyrus's eyes twitched open and he winked at her before his face went still once more. Ilax's she eld hand rose in a half wave, barely visible as if partly underwater. Hara sat down cross-legged, to wait.
As she settled to the floor in front of the throne, something she hadn't done before, there was a click, a hum between her ears and an image rose up in front of her, also cross-legged. He was a bald old man with bees on his head, bees on his wrists... all around. A necklace of bees. No, a collar, a breastplate of bees.
His eyes opened and he stared at Hara, even as she was aware that her fathers were easing out of code. “We have not been introduced,” he said. “I am the recorded memory of Diryish Pollus. Are you related to me, that your DNA should call me up to instruct you?”
“I'm Haraklez Vania aht Ruikart, daughter of the surdeniliarch of Milar, married to your grandson.”
“Ah. So what is the news?”
She found herself explaining. “The Hippifrei have sent a bone-herd, and some kind of princess to ally with us.”
“The Hippifrei?” The recording seemed to hesitate as it searched the possible responses. “That's unusual. I only dealt with their ambassador as a young man, they withdrew when I went to Trovi as a conquering young idiot.”
“Grandfather by marriage... How... how is it that we are all splintered like this? How could Lainz have fallen so far into Empire and conquest?”
“As far as I know... which could very well be incorrect, Haraklez... the survivors of Gregor and Petra Lainz had a significant falling out in the time before where my code records begin... Five hundred eighty-seven years ago. Milari went north over the river. Trov and his people went to the eyebleed.. plains.
The Pollus line... we apparently were somewhat still following Prime's ideas of a rigid, feudal society where knowledge is strictly controlled. The Nadumon were never part of the desperate diaspora and the Hippifrei were actually. I have fragments of code, should you wish to examine them. My father and his father before him were very proud of being Emperors of a small part of this world.”
“It was a mess! It still is... people are only gradually becoming literate across Lainz... Trovi... it was part of Lainz once?”
“The Hippifrei,” she came back to that.
“They are descended from another owner and her family. I suspect that the code my great grandson's mother is fishing out of history... the first Empress... mentioned the name Nadine.”
“Why are they here, then? Why are they allying with us instead of staying with an owner who Prime isn't trying to smash out of existance?”
“I have no recordings that address this. I never found out in my lifetime. The person who got closest to understanding them was Dukir. Ask his daughter, Shashi Basserus. She may know.”
With an odd hum, the clear jewelled armour and coverings over the two men was pulling back. “Da... the Hippifrei are coming,” Hara said, as the recording of Diryish froze, in pause mode. “They've sent a whole bone herd along.”
“Oh, Light and Dark,” her step father replied after throwing a glance over at his husband, just sitting up. “You remember that Necromander we fought on the road to get here?”
“Ew... the one who threw all the dead things at us?”
“Even the dust. The Hippifrei have that kind of mandery. They control earthan codes, but only things dead or decomposing.”
“Don't let them hear you say that. It's quite honourable to them. They get more benefit out in the razor grass by having the use of something they don't have to feed or water.”
She took a deep breath. “Great Grandfather by marriage. Please shut off your recording. I'll be back to talk.” The image of the old emperor vanished into a swarm of bees. “Da, Stepapa... I'll be good but I still have nightmares of the newly dead road crew getting back up and coming after us.”
“He was surely an aberration.”