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Prize of the House Khron
Holiday Blue Chapter 4: Temporary Jack, Part 2
© 2022 James LaFond
The skiff was an amazing thing and Jack always loved boarding it, pacing about it, in a hurry to get on as soon as his master mounted the automatonous conveyance. Pan, however, rated dignity highly, even in a hound. So Jack pretended he did not yearn for flight.
When Jack had emerged groggy and weak-legged from a day in the Broodhouse, the sleepers were all gone, his world, previously peopled if not crowded, gone suddenly empty. Joe was being exercised by Gourd who gave Jack a pained look and patted the knife of trust that had been returned to him. Then his trainer turned his back on his student as no automaton would turn its back on a woman it had instructed in sweet song.
The three Titans stood drinking wine, having been throwing runaway heads like men threw knucklebones. The skiffs of Atlas and Phoenix were there, their hounds standing by. The hound of Atlas was Bill, a tall, pale, whip-legged suck-up who could jog forever but was no good in the sprint and could not fight worth shit. Bill looked down at his master’s feet and waited patiently for Atlas to board his skiff before getting on.
The Titanic Sons of Khron had hounds that complimented one another.
Phoenix had the reprobated hound, Blackie, a dark-skinned woolly-headed sprinter, who was no good over a distance but could fight—somewhat. When Jack and Blackie were set at each other Jack had one hand strapped to his side to make it fair. As soon as Blackie saw Atlas board his skiff and saw Phoenix move towards his own silvery machine, he sprinted and leaped onto his master’s skiff and stood at the wheel as if he were going to guide it. The Titans laughed at Blackie and Phoenix yelled like thunder, “Temporal reprobate, step to the side!”
Blackie leaped to the side and shouted, “Sorry, Boss, sorry! I can smell them bitches!” and the Titans laughed again, Blackie being their favorite hound, often set to dance about the campfire a night in long hunts.
Jack waited for Pan to board, before leaping on to the skiff, which ever hovered five feet off the ground. He glanced acidly at Blackie who turned his head and stuck out his tongue at Jack while Phoenix petted his purple-dyed wool.
Jack touched his own shaven head and felt a pang of jealousy.
The Titanic Brothers glanced at each other and Jack knew that they were casting thoughts back and fourth and agreeing on a course.
The skiffs whined into motion and lifted gently, wings spreading to the sides as the brothers raced for the distant snow-clad mountains, their purple cloaks trailing behind them, the warm summer air turning cool with the speed.
Jack maintained his dignity, standing besides his Master who expertly handled the skiff’s wheel, too proud of his footing to hold the railing with his right hand, which held his staff, his left hand free to steady his Master if ice formed going over the mountains and Pan should slip.
Atlas was behind and to the right, letting his skiff pilot itself and keep in sight if his brothers. Bill, the oldest and weakest hound was terrified of skiffs and clung shamelessly to the railing with both hands.
Phoenix Khron always outpaced Pan, a noted racer among the skiff-obsessed Titans, speeding out ahead and circling back to heckle his slower brothers, Blackie capering along the rails and dancing, howling like a monkey as his master’s jester upon the too slow world of Titans and their fawning temporaries.
The House Deathless had never been visited by temporaries, not even in the time of Phoebus Khron. This was the sacred place where the Ageless Titans gathered to commune with the Deathless Titans in service to Eternity. The place was achieved after a day and starry night upon the skiffs. On the morning of the second day 51 other flights of skiffs, some numbering one, some two and some three, converged at dawn upon the great Ankh, a towering structure, taller than any mountain of Sirius Three, with an arch at its base.
The skiffs of Titanry converged and hovered about the base of the great Ankh. Jack knew the hierarchy, knew that he was the hound, of the third brother of the second of 52 houses of Titanry.
The titans of the 50 lesser houses formed a circle, fifty ells, or one mark [1] from the base of the Ankh of Eternal Judgment.
The Brothers Khron were arrayed to the left of the arch.
The Three Brothers Brawn, Apis, Pteor and Koth took pride of place to the right of the arch.
Within the arch reclined the most beautiful, seductive, delicious and alluring Titaness Jack had ever seen.
‘I want her so!’
‘Whoa, Boy—quash that adore—She is Madam Hate—Queen of The Deathless Ones. I, even My Ageless Father, even my outrageous brother Phoenix, would not dare touch her. She drinks the souls of her lovers.’
“I still want her, Master.”
Pan smiled, and spoke in low tones, “My Hound, if you lose today’s contest for Prime Course in the Deathless Hunt you shall have your savage desire fulfilled.”
Jack looked up into Pan’s face, searching, and Pan said, “Not even My Father’s father, fielded a hound who could bring Prime Course to the House of Khron. The House Brawn, as stockbreeders, are permitted to sire their own hounds—he who you fight is half Titan in lineage. If we—if you, My Boy—win today, I will be permitted to breed you with a titaness of the House Brawn. If you lose—”
Most temporaries, even a beloved hound, would have died in that instant for interrupting and correcting his Master— “Lose, I do not lose! Who even thinks like that?”
Pan placed an understanding hand across Jack’s back, “Dear Jack, we, who are ever so closer to Eternity, think like that. This is why you mean so much to me, your lack of perspective permits me for an instant, through you, to live like our forefathers.”
“Jack, if you lose, My Dear Sister will be mated with an animal—with one of you, a worse one than you. She will then be shunned by decent Titans, like a temporary who mated with a hog.”
Jack looked at him squarely and listened, “You will also be mated with Madam Hate, who will drink your soul. If, Jack, you overturn the precept of Ages, and win, I ask you to respect the Titaness you are given and I—unlike these brutes of Brawn, will respect her as My Sister.”
Jack clenched his teeth in determination and handed his Master his staff and stick. Pan Khron then held his shoulders and kissed him upon his bald head as the sons of Brawn hooted and joked about “pets not being fitting food for hounds.”
With a pat on the back from this kindest of cruel Titans, Jack leaped over the railing of the hovering skiff, landed on his sure feet and swaggered, taking off his kilt to fall in the hard clay dust, and smiling at Madam Hate, reclining in sinister majesty on her couch, attended by snake shaped automatons, with the faces of beautiful maidens.
Blackie could be heard in the background chanting, “Jack, Prize Hound of The House Khron!”
Jack could not help but shrink inside and glow on the outside when Madam Hate blew a kiss his way and her Deathless desire floated on sultry inner winds of thought, ‘Oh My, How you sparkle so bright in my Night, Jewel of doomed kind—Bring me your striving mind!’
To be Concluded in:
For the Kiss of Deathless Hate
Holiday Blue Chapter 4: Temporary Jack, Part 3
-1. An ell is a titan pace, being twice the stride of a human pace, and a mark is fifty of these, making the standard unit of planting, foraging, pasturing and planning. A march was the standard unit of the hunt, being the distance a Titan, who moves no faster than a human across country, due to their more stately rate, may cover from dawn to dusk.
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