Here is this week's offering of a short story or essay. This short story is number 9 of 13 weekly essay or short story posts.
Entitled "The Children of Gods", this tale appears here on my blog for the first time anywhere as a 4-Act fairy tale. Act 1 has already been posted and Act 2 will be posted today. Each successive Act will be posted each successive Friday. Be sure to check back and follow the adventures of Xiao-tep the Ankh-fish of 100,000 Sorrows and Beauty.
The Children of Gods
(C) 2007 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written prior permission of the author(s) and/or artist(s).
Act II of IV: Xiao-tep Tastes the Bitter Vinegar Fermenting in His Belly; The Birth of Comet Fox
THE TRICKSTERS: Wherein Xiao-tep Falls from the Heavens to Be Rescued by Loki Disguised as the Dwarf Brok ; Coyote, Falling in Love with a Shooting Star, Chases After It; Comet Fox is Given Life
Xiao-tep fell from the Heavens trailing sorrowful stars. The world he came into was cold and white, soft with snow, hard with ice. Xiao-tep squinted at the blinding fields of hoarfrost as he soared through the alien sky alive with dancing blue-green streaks of light. His eyes were red with the weariness of travel and a desire to cry, but the enchanted willow branch he held in his fin cried for him.
Seeing a long, flowing river, Xiao-tep dived head-first into the welcoming waters only to find that it bit at his scaly skin with icy teeth. He thought of his mother's last words to him: "Xiao-tep, no! He can reach you in the waters!"
Xiao-tep lept from the waters, floating magically above the fresh snow edging the river's bank. He couldn't believe how white the world looked, whiter than his own whites, whiter than his mother's painted face.
Unsure where to go, he turned to follow the river north, dripping wet with water.
Great blasts of Jotun breath scraped at his scales. The world faded from his sight. Xiao-tep fell unconscious, the willow branch slipping from his grip.
Hapi's voice rang out across the Cosmos, screaming for his child's life. Every mortal and god that would listen he would tell a tale of how he was tricked and demanded the head of his fierce foe: Xiao-tep. He told no one of Xiao-tep's lineage, only a falsehood of deceit and treachery committed by Xiao-tep onto Hapi. It was not long before Hapi had gathered a small army about him.
But, with all there is to a god's might, even a collection of gods find their efforts challenged when spread thin over the Cosmos.
By word of mouth and not by direct contact with Hapi did Loki hear of his quest. Unsure what to make of the matter and knowing gods always tell one tale while there is another deeper still, he kept himself from Hapi, yet joined in the search for little Xiao-tep.
It was Loki, astrally projected in the guise of the dwarf Brok, that found Xiao-tep lying half-frozen by the river deep within the hoary hinterlands. Loki's visage was squat, but far from small, and thick. His face was surrounded by the cowl of a fur cape and bristling with a two-tone gray braided beard, each section of the braid separated by color to make an odd serpentine swirl. The ends of his mustache were long, resting on his chest and braided in the same fashion. His belt's buckle was a small representation of Mjollnir. Upon his head, under the cowl, rested a leather skull cap with intricately woven patterns of runes. Over his shoulder was a small leather satchel.
He peered down at the large koi. He had never seen a fish such as this! His size and his strange markings told Loki this was the very Xiao-tep the universe was looking for.
Removing his cowled cape, Loki wrapped the half-frozen Xiao-tep in it and flung him over his shoulder, carrying him westward towards a range of mountains.
Loki-as-Brok brought Xiao-tep into a cavern of crystalline ice, sparkling with the smallest illumination. He laid Xiao-tep down and built a fire. The fire pushed back the darkness, exposing the cavern's vaulting ceiling stretching as high as the mountain itself into a haze created by moisture and the strain of seeking eyes. The cavern glowed gloriously, brightly, yet not blindingly.
Loki-as-Brok produced from the satchel a small kettle which he filled with loose ice from the walls and placed it over the fire.
When Xiao-tep awoke, spying the dazzling walls of the cave, he thought he was floating once more amongst the stars. He soon discovered the icy realm that surrounded him. Seeing his captor and rescuer, Xiao-tep stood and bowed as was his mother's tradition, low and at the waist.
"My name is Xiao-tep," he spoke. "And I recognize you as my rescuer. I have no kinship to these lands. I thank you."
Loki-as-Brok eyed him, wondering what was so special about a simple fish, though large and capable of speech. Surely, no god that commands even the smallest aspect of the majesty of all the Cosmos would find this creature unusual or harmful. Yet, Hapi had spoken of treachery. Perhaps, Loki thought, he could find a brother in this fish that speaks.
"I am Brok of the Dwarves, Son of Ivaldi, Smith to the Gods and Maker of Fine Things. These mountains are my home." Loki-as-Brok eyed the fish keenly. He retrieved two finely crafted silver mugs from his satchel and filled them with the warm water from the kettle. He offered a mug and ground tea leaves to Xiao-tep with a friendly smile.
Xiao-tep accepted them graciously.
"What an odd rune you have gracing your brow."
"It is an ankh," explained Xiao-tep, touching it. "It is the symbol of fertility and life after death."
Loki-as-Brok said, "Tell me, Xiao-tep, what brings you to my lands?"
The light of the fire flickered between them, their faces darting in and out, closer and away from one another.
Receiving such wonderful hospitality from the dwarf, Xiao-tep told him the intimate truth. "I run from my father."
"What's this? One should never disobey his father. Why have you run?" Loki-as-Brok quietly marveled at his own deceptions.
Xiao-tep was uncertain what to say, but his host had been so kind he simply blurted out, "He wanted eat me!"
Loki-as-Brok's dwarf eyes grew wide. "And who might this father of yours be?"
"I am the son of Hapi the River God."
Loki knew then that Hapi hunted his own child, which did not offend him, but rather intrigued him.
"I don't know why my father hates me so. I had never met him until recently, knew nothing of him. I wish... He may already have murdered my mother." Xiao-tep thought of this, then asked in wonderment, "Can a goddess be killed?"
"No, not by the hands of mortals. But one god can kill another." Loki knew this all too well. Curious, Loki-as-Brok asked, "Who is your mother?"
"Lei-zi the Goddess of Thunder."
A war quietly erupted inside Loki. A goddess of thunder would surely be allied with Thor, and so too would be her offspring. His mind raced with plots.
"I can see how your father must have felt. The half-breed demi-god is common, though often not accepted into the fold of gods nor quite of men. But a god born of two gods from separate parts of the universe is unique... some may say unnatural."
Loki's thoughts softly wafted towards his own children abducted by the Aesir, their breeding deemed a crime. His dwarf visage shimmered, but did not disappear.
Xiao-tep was quiet. Loki's brain worked overtime: "Your mother and father were selfish in their acts of lust. They did not think of your possible conception. They did not think of you. They brought you into two worlds where you would have a place in neither one. Listen, dear Xiao-tep, I as your friend and savior am enraged by this ugly act! This ugly act of faithless misconception! This ugly act of selfishness! This lowly act of defiance against the order of the very Cosmos for the sake of defiance! Madness is born in my soul for you!"
Loki-as-Brok's voice grew with anger, intensity, pace. Tears struggled then fell liberally from a sobbing Xiao-tep's eyes. His tears fell and froze in the ice. He momentarily wondered where his willow branch was, but thoughts of it were washed away in a flood of sorrows. Xiao-tep buckled, falling to the frozen floor of the cave, screaming, listening to the anguish enacted by Loki-as-Brok's booming, echoing voice.
"I am enraged by the filth that they are! Your mother's a whore! Your father's a gutless coward that deserves none of his status! I grow sick in the belly consuming their ideas! I grow sick with the knowledge they even exist! They had no thoughts! They had no care! They did not ever want you and you should never have been born!"
Xiao-tep arched his back, flinging out his fins, throwing the tea to melt the ice and screamed, "Mother! Father! Why? Why was I born? Why didn't you kill me upon my birth?"
Tears streamed from his eyes growing red around the edges. They darkened, grew cold, changed color from their once brilliant, vibrant blue to a shadowy seaweed green.
Xiao-tep fell on his side. The ice bit at his scaly skin. His fins flopped weakly. He sobbed.
Loki-as-Brok drew close, crouching by the wounded fish. He knelt, lowering his face to Xiao-tep's. When he spoke, his words were soft, friendly, challenging.
"What are you going to do?" Loki-as-Brok asked.
Xiao-tep wept, his tears staining the clear ice below him darkly. "I-I'll kill them," he said to his friend Brok. "I'll hold my mother's head under water and strangle my father as he tried to strangle me."
He raised his fins up before his eyes, "Though I do not know I could."
Brok hurried to his leather satchel and from it produced a small vial of swirling colors. The tiny trinket was first purple, then gold, then sea foam green. It shimmered and sang softly, almost inaudibly, with a song that tugged, pulling at Xiao-tep's heart.
"Here," said Loki-as-Brok. "Quaff this. It is an elixir given to me by the Morrigan hags."
Without thought, his mouth dry and inexperienced with elixirs, Xiao-tep drank down the small vial's contents. The liquid within contained no flavor, no scent and left his tongue flapping on the air.
Xiao-tep felt a small tingle briefly, but nothing more. He watched as his long, flowing pectoral fins shifted into bold, strong, scaled arms. His form shrank in size to height of a man, closer to the dwarf size of Loki-as-Brok, though still taller. Xiao-tep looked at the witchery then to Loki-as-Brok. "What is this?"
"A gift, from me to you. Just think of your fins and they shall shift back into their former shape. Think of your arms and where your fins are your arms shall be. You can also change size from that of a man to your natural height, perhaps it will help you feel better when speaking with mortals."
Xiao-tep thought and his fins returned, then shifted back to arms with yet another thought. He grew to his normal size, then shrank back to the size of a man. He smiled with amazement. "Thank you!" He used his new arms to hug the disguised Loki. Loki laughed in Brok's hearty manner.
Loki-as-Brok returned the vial to his satchel, then clasped Xiao-tep by his new shoulders. "Listen, friend, I wish to help you."
"Will you help me hunt my mother and father?"
"No, but I wish to make especially for you a weapon for the task."
"But you've given me my weapons," Xiao-tep flexed and smiled.
"No, no. A proper job requires proper tools. Will you wait for me here in my Crystalline Cavern until I return? It is important that you do not wander off. Do not leave this cavern." Loki feared Xiao-tep may be discovered by the searching gods and men sent out by Hapi.
"I will stay," said Xiao-tep.
With that, Loki-as-Brok gathered his satchel and exited the cavern. When he was sure he was out of sight, Loki dropped the visage and it disappeared altogether, leaving only a hint of a trail in the snow.
Loki returned to his mind. His eyes snapped open wide. He was surrounded and partially ensnared by the mighty roots of Yggdrasil suspended, dangling near the lower most roots in the frosty pits of Niflheim. One giant boulder rested upon his shoulders, another was chained to his waist and swung below his groin and a third chained at the knees and hanging between his feet. Below him, feeding on the lowest root, was the serpent Nidhogg, the Tearer of Souls.
"I'll have some flesh for you soon enough," Loki called to Nidhogg.
Resting above him another serpent dripped its venom at Loki, but between them with a bowl to catch the dripping venom stood faithful Sigyn, Loki's wife.
A wind so cold it gave even Loki chicken skin blew by his naked body. Using his strength of will, he sent out another false avatar, another astral projection, this time in his own form, to the giantess Angrboda.
"Angrboda," he commanded. "Go to the dwarfs Brok and Sindri and tell them to make a weapon of any kind, strong and able. Construct it with all the might, magic and skill they have. Tell them it is urgent and a boon from the gods will be paid in full for any request they may have. Have them deliver the weapon to you and only you. Then take the weapon and place it out of sight from the Crystalline Cavern. Tell the dwarfs nothing of me for I fear they will not do this task if they know I am the one making the request."
Angrboda did as she was commanded. She found Brok and Sindri at work in their shop in Niðavellir, hammering out delicate intricacies.
"I have come to ask you to forge a weapon," said the giantess. "A weapon as strong as any you have ever made. Please use all your skill and might and you will be granted a god's boon."
"A god, eh?" grumbled Brok. "What god? Loki?"
Angrboda looked shocked, then mad.
"We know of your relations with him," charged Sindri.
"And you should know of our relations with him," added Brok. "He is a coward and a deceitful fool. And you're a fool for bedding down with him to make three inglorious monsters!"
Angered, Angrboda screamed, "A gods boon is a god's boon! Take it or no, it's your own loss!"
Sindri replied, "When dealing with that mess of a god, we're all fools. We'll take the loss."
"Wait," Brok stopped his brother. "What does Loki want this weapon for?"
"He didn't say. I'm sure it's none of your business."
Brok nodded. "Any weapon we choose?"
"Any at all, as long as the quality it grand."
Sindri pulled at his brother's arm. "Don't consider this offer. It's a trick."
"If it were a trick he wouldn't be so forthright. The trick is behind this and I think not even our visitor here knows Loki's true intention." Brok looked to Angrboda again. "If Loki desires a weapon, he must be plotting someone's demise. Who's murder does he wish us to aid?"
"He never mentioned murder or use of the weapon. Just it's quality."
"Go," Sindri waved at the giantess.
Angrboda looked to Brok.
"We'll do it," Brok said.
"No!" Sindri cried.
"Yes!" Angrboda cried. "You must deliver it to me and only me."
And Angrboda was gone from their shop.
"What are you doing?" Sindri was exasperated by his brother.
"Turning the tables on our dear old friend, Loki."
For nine days the dwarf brothers worked, first delving into the hallowed halls of the great northern mountains to find the finest ore, then to refine and pound thin the steel they made, folding it over and over onto itself until at last it had been folded 999 times. Each thin layer was weak and would fracture under the weight of any mortal, but together they made a fine weapon that was strong, flexible, unbreakable by even gods. Brok fashioned the steel into a four-bladed spearhead, long and bold and flanged nine times at its base. When completed the spearhead would reach almost a full quarter of the length of the overall spear. In the nine holes at the base, Brok added nine large golden rings made by his brother Sindri and upon each of the nine rings added the inscription "þur uiki þisi kuml", translating as "May Thor hallow this object".
Brok and Sindri smiled at this enchantment and at Loki's foolishness. They then fashioned the shaft of the spear from the trunk of an ash. When is was finished, they stood back admiring their work. The great spear shined silver and gold with intensity.
Then Brok frowned and said, "We need more than a simple inscription."
Together they went to a nearby ford where they caught a Bean Nighe washing bloody rags in the waters. She was tall, thin, gray-haired and pale. Her mouth had no teeth and eye sockets sunken and eyeless. Her dress was in rags and matched the color of her hair. She told the dwarfs her name was Aileas. They bound her to the spear, her undying soul trapped within its form. With her added attributes, the spear would scream, Banshee-like, when swung or thrown in combat. The wielder, if successful in killing a foe, would feel the sorrows of the dead.
Once more the dwarf brothers looked at the mighty spear and smiled.
"It is a fine Spear of Sorrows," Brok nodded approvingly, thinking that Loki would be the wielder of the weapon. "Let's deliver it to Angrboda."
They did and Angrboda placed the weapon as she had been instructed, out of sight of the Crystalline Cavern.
While Brok and Sindri busily forged the weapon Loki sent another avatar of himself, this time in the form of a talking stag, to Muspelheim, the home of the Fire Giants. Near Ginnungagap he found the troll Been Eter. The massive troll was green, dripping with bog weeds and slime. He smelled of wet bark and decaying algae. His eyes glowed like emeralds; his teeth yellow-brown and black at the roots, ragged and pointing every direction. Loki-as-Stag approached him. The troll, thinking he might have found a simple meal, reeled in horror as the stag spoke.
"Been Eter, I have come for you. There is a large mystical fish to the north in the hinterlands trespassing in the Crystalline Cavern. He claims to be a slayer of trolls and giants and has marked your head for his next wrathful act. He carries with him treasure and hatred for your kind. Run! Run to him and slay him, he murders my family as we speak to keep himself alive until he has killed you and moves on. Destroy him before he has the chance to find you."
Loki-as-Stag ran off, leaving Been Eter with this grand tale of treasure and hatred. Been Eter thought on the matter for a while, not sure what to make of the stag or its tale of a fish. He suspected foul play and perhaps the hand of a god or two. But, he finally decided he had better go have a look no matter the situation.
Despite some of Jotunheim's regions, Been Eter was unfamiliar with the lands of frost and knew he would not survive without proper warmth. He immediately hunted down five bears, killing them with his big, clubbing hands. He punched them each and gutted them with a single blow. He quickly ate their meat before he draped their hides over his body for warmth.
He then pulled from the ground a large cypress tree, heavy with death, and used one hand to strip off all it's branches. He flung the trunk over his shoulders and carried it off with him to be used as a club should he need it.
After the third day, Xiao-tep grew weary of his own tears and thoughts of the willow branch gifted to him by his mother returned. He stood at the mouth of the cavern, searching with his eyes, trying to find which direction he had been brought. He could find no trace in the quiet, fresh snow.
"Surely, my friend Brok would not mind if I went off simply to find my willow branch," Xiao-tep said to himself. He stepped out of the mouth of the cave and into the wintry landscape. It was not long before Xiao-tep found himself lost and panicking. He wandered for days and feared he was insulting his benevolent host. He could find no tracks and only the mountains remained as a marker. He turned round, trying to make his way back, but the mountains seemed forever at a fair distance from him. He turned round again and again. Finally, hearing the lapping of water and following it's cold smell, Xiao-tep came to the river's edge.
Loki returned to the wintry world of the Crystalline Cavern as Brok. He found the spear near the river, well hidden and out of sight from the cave, but when he touched it his form tingled and jumped.
"Bastards!" Loki-as-Brok cursed. "They enchanted it! I'll have to find a way to carry this weapon." Loki-as-Brok broke off branches from a nearby sugar pine and wrapped the spear with them. He then pulled a small bit of rope from his satchel and tied the pine branches together. Hefting the package over his shoulders, Loki-as-Brok set out north towards the cavern.
"Luck is mine!" Xiao-tep exclaimed as he found the willow branch half-buried under soft, powdery snow. He bent to pick it up. As he touched the branch his eyes dried of tears and healed. When Xiao-tep straightened himself, his friend Brok was there, a large bundle of pine branches resting across his shoulders.
"What are you doing?" Loki-as-Brok demanded. "Did I not ask you to stay in the Cavern?"
"Y-yes, Brok," Xiao-tep's words stumbled clumsily from his mouth. "But this willow, it was a gi-"
"I don't care the reason! You did not abide by your oath! What a horrid fish you are!"
Xiao-tep, knowing he had dishonored himself and his friend, lowered his head. The willow branch almost fell from his grip once more.
"I've a mind not to give you this gift," Loki-as-Brok hefted the bundle from his shoulders and held it out to display it to Xiao-tep.
Xiao-tep folded back the branches and looked at the magnificent weapon, it's fine crafting and beauty.
"But I am a friend and will uphold my word. Perhaps I am too good a friend." Loki-as-Brok handed the bundle over and Xiao-tep removed the spear.
Xiao-tep's fins shifted to arms as he clasped the weapon. He beheld it and thanked his friend repeatedly. It was light and felt good in his hands. He posed with it a few times before he said, "But, I know not how to use it."
Loki-as-Brok smiled at his friend. "But you will."
They then heard the crunching of snow as if a massive beast made its way towards them.
"What is that?" Xiao-tep asked, but when he looked to his friend he found the dwarf gone.
Xiao-tep turned back towards the coming sounds. Through the mists and haze of snow and cold came the large frame of the troll Been Eter draped in his bear skins.
Been Eter, seeing the odd floating fish wielding a spear, challenged, "Are you the one that seeks me?"
"I seek no one!" Xiao-tep answered, unsure where to run.
"'No one'? Am I not even worthy of recognition?" Taking the words as insult, Been Eter raged. "What if I were to eat you?"
At this, the fury Xiao-tep held for his father bubbled forth. "Try it and die, bog imp!"
"Imp! I'm no imp!" Been Eter drew closer to Xiao-tep, towering over the fish-god. "Look at my size. I am practically a god! Who are you to call me a little imp? If I eat you whole I won't even choke on your puny bones!"
Xiao-tep, unthinking, naturally circled around his foe. "You'll not eat me!" he cried out. Wind touched the rings of his spear and they tinkled.
"No more talk! Time to smash you!" Been Eter rolled the cypress from his shoulder and swung it out, far and swooping at Xiao-tep.
Xiao-tep flew from the ground, over the arcing tree-club. He flew in closer to the giant troll and lunged with the spear. Aelis, held within the spear, screamed through the air. Not able to react quickly enough, Been Eter felt the spear bite into his skin, sinking deep with so much precision he barely felt any pain until Xiao-tep withdrew the head and frosty winds blew across the wound.
"GRAAAHHH!" cried Been Eter.
"AHH!" Xiao-tep screamed.
They battled for two days, neither one giving in, both filled with fear and hate.
Wounded and bloody both, they took stances across from each other for a final charge. Xiao-tep had learned a lot in the last two days of battle. He thought as if in a game, plotting his next few moves and possible counterattacks. Been Eter shifted his shoulders, the muscles in his arms rippling with power and speed, swinging the tree-club wildly at his foe.
Xiao-tep flew into the air once more, waiting. On the downswing of Been Eter's attack, his mouth opened in a battlecry as he had always done with every previous attack he had made. Taking his chance, Xiao-tep flew quickly, extending the spear the full length of his reach, and landed upon Bene Eter's tongue, driving the glorious Spear of Sorrows up through the roof of Been Eter's mouth, past his nose and into his brain. The spear stopped on when the rings rubbed against the roof of the troll's mouth. Aelis screamed at the blood washing over her.
Been Eter gurgled from the death blow. Xiao-tep pulled at the spear, freeing it and screamed at the sorrows flooding into him from the dying troll. He lept from its mouth and landed, rolling in the snow, the rings of his spear clanking before the snow quieted them. The rolling Xiao-tep's willow branch flung streams of tears as he rolled. The tears flew skyward, then fell to the snow where they sank and froze.
Xiao-tep sighed from exhaustion.
The snow around him melted with the warm blood of Been Eter.
Xiao-tep did not move. He remained lying as he had fallen, feeling every bit of the agony of his foe's death.
In the lower levels of the universe, dangling from the roots of Yggdrasil, Loki awoke and grinned. "Now mete vengeance upon your kin, friend Xiao-tep."
Coyote, full of summer strawberries, was laying in the grass of the high plains watching the night sky when a soft, distant glimmer of light caught his eye. As he watched the glimmer grow and streak across the sky, Coyote became enraptured in its beauty. The light grew and fell towards the horizon. Coyote decided he had to know the name of this falling beauty.
As the brilliant light fell, Coyote chased after. He ran and ran towards the horizon. He ran until he thought he could run no more, but he did not give up. He ran some more.
At last, Coyote met the beautiful light at the apex of the far horizon. There he discovered the source of this wonder: three maidens of light. His enchantment turned to soft lust. Spying their stalker, the three maidens giggled and said, "Dear Coyote of strong and handsome build, why have you followed us? Are you kin to the Doomsday Hound? If so, leave us and never return."
Coyote shook his head. "O, beautiful ones. I am but a meager god in love with your astonishing beauty, a beauty born of the Cosmos. I would give anything to simply sit and stare at the three of you."
The three maidens giggled at this.
"I am Coyote of the Plains People. O, fair maidens, please let me know the name of beauty."
Again the maidens giggled. "We are the Zorya," said one. "We protect the universe from its destruction."
"Zorya," Coyote repeated, aroused.
Spying his growing erection, the maidens giggled once more.
"It would seem you have interest with us," said one.
"Perhaps we can be persuaded to soften you," said another.
"Sisters! Sisters! Please! We cannot consort with others by compulsion," said the third. "We've a task to tend to. If the Doomsday Hound escapes he will eat Little Bear and the universe will be destroyed."
"We do not," replied the first, "all have to pleasure him at once."
"We'll take turns!" cried the second.
And so each Zorya maiden did lay with Coyote one at a time while the other two watched over the Doomsday Hound.
Satisfied, Coyote breathed deep and exhaled a gentle wind onto the plains. He smiled.
The Zorya each immediately grew pregnant in a shared womb and gave birth, then and there, to one creature simultaneously. He was a bold and beautiful fox, fully grown and capable of speech. His tail was bushy and red ending in a streak of black at the tip. His eyes were as red as his fur with wide, wondering pupils. Upon his muzzle grew a Fu Manchu-style mustache colored similarly to his tail so that it appeared as though two tiny fox tails grew out from either side of his nose. They named him Comet Fox.
The maidens were doting with attention and turned to present their son to his father, but Coyote was gone.
"We cannot possibly attend to our child and our duties at once. Whatever shall we do?" said one.
"Our child is grown fully at birth. He can care for himself. We will find a nice shade tree and place him there, one that bears fruit. He will do well enough on his own, I feel," suggested another.
Together they searched until, at last, they found a plum tree full and bearing sweet fruits. They placed him there, told him to be good and each patted him on the head and kissed his nose before they left to maintain their vigil over the Doomsday Hound.
It was not long before Comet Fox grew hungry. He reached up, but could not quite grasp the lowest plum. He jumped and found he could fly and that when he did, his tail elongated and streaked white behind him like that of a falling star.
Having inherited his father's love of fresh fruits, he picked an armload of plums and ate and ate and found himself loving the sweet nectar of the plums to a gluttonous fault. Before too long, the once full tree was empty of its fruit.
Disgusted, Comet Fox went on a quest, searching for more plums.
Spying all this from afar, unbeknownst to Comet Fox, was the demon Ketsueki Sato, also known as The Great Horned One. He stood tall as a giant with flaming red skin, stygian eyes and a mane to match that flowed from his head down the middle of his back, mohawk-like. He had cloven feet and massive, clawed hands. Covering every aspect of his body were 1,101 horns the color of dark gray and black granite. Every tooth was pointed and yellow. He drooled acid and carried a trident made of ground bones covered in thorns.
Bent on ruling the Chamber of Dismemberment by Sawing, Ketsueki Sato had been searching for strong beings to raise an army to usurp the current ruler of that layer of Hell. Ketsueki Sato found Comet Fox's flaming red fur appealing and recognized his godly status.
Ketsueki Sato secretly followed Comet Fox for a long while, wondering at his impassioned search. Finally, Comet Fox found another tree full of delicious plums. He grabbed an armful and sat and ate them all. He did this again and again until, once more, the tree was bare of fruit.
"So, he loves plums," Ketsueki Sato whispered to himself. He disappeared and returned from the bowels of his hellish home with a small clay jar. With a thought, he shifted into the form of a small girl and approached the fattened Comet Fox, full yet wanting more plums.
"Hello, Mr. Fox," Ketsueki-as-Girl said to Comet Fox in a soft, sweet, innocent voice. "Why do you look so sad?"
Comet Fox, sitting on the ground and propped against the now empty tree, looked up at the girl. "I am sad because, though I am full, I still hunger for plums. I hope my whole life will not be like this."
"Well, I happen to have some extra plums here. Would you like one?" Ketsueki-as-Girl offered the small jar to Comet Fox.
"Would you really share with me?"
"Of course," she giggled sweetly. "You're a pretty fox and seem so nice."
Ketsueki-as-Girl opened the jar. Comet Fox looked in.
"What's all this liquid the plums float around in?"
"It is spiced rum."
"Rum-soaked plums?" Comet Fox said in wonder. He reached into the jar and pulled out a single plum. He sniffed at it with his long snout. It smelled sweet, earthy and spiced. He bit into the fruit and went wild at the taste. He jumped up and danced and shook his body with joy.
"Plums are so grand! Never could I have thought they could taste better! These are delicious! I love them! I love you!"
Comet Fox picked up the little girl and kissed her. The little girl giggled and offered Comet Fox more. He ate until the jar was empty and he was drunk.
"Thhffat wass great! Ssspectacle!"
Again, Ketsueki-as-Girl giggled. "I think you mean 'spectacular'."
Comet Fox laughed though he was unsure what he laughed at.
"I have more if you'd like," said the girl.
Comet Fox wobbled, fell to the ground before the girl, looked up at her and said, "I would lofffe more!"
Ketsueki-as-Girl looked down at Comet Fox. "Would you do anything that I ask for more?"
"Apffsssolutely. Fer an eternity!"
Ketsueki-as-Girl smiled. "Good. Take my hand... just like that. Good. Now, come with me."
With that they disappeared, Ketsueki Sato taking Comet Fox into the depths of Hell with him to serve in his army of demons.
Be sure to check back next Friday for Act III of "The Children of Gods"!
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