Friday, April 25, 2008

"The Theft of Heaven" -- The Universe of Xiao-tep Returns!!!

The universe of Xiao-tep returns! I'm posting this later in the day than I had wanted. Serious electrical storms and a rather long Act I has kept me from posting this until now. I'll have to read over it again one last time later, so please forgive any mistakes. Thanks and enjoy "The Theft of Heaven"!


"The Theft of Heaven"

(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).






In the Time of Mist, when the gentle hand of The Cosmos was slowly caressing all things into being, there was a mountain that lived in the sky, the mountain named Taliesin. Upon Taliesin lived Momoki the Marmoset, the mountain’s sole guardian. His fur was gray, soft and flowed liked the wild fields of grass on Taliesin. His tail was ringed with black stripes. While his face was brown, out of each temple grew long splaying tufts of white fur.

Within the angled fields, atop the craggy stones and through the forever bearing apple and cherry blossom orchards did Momoki play. He ate the delicious golden and green apples as he would bask in the sun’s warm rays. He slept in the wide, open fields and tended to the gardens. Each day for Momoki was filled with work, duty, play and contentment.

On one occasion Momoki dug a root from the ground and, using a stone as a tool, carved for himself a long, bent pipe for which to smoke and enjoy the pleasant tobaccos that grew high on Taliesin’s sides. It became habit for Momoki to find himself, after a day’s work and play and his last meal, sitting on the side of the mountain enjoying a bowl full of freshly picked tobacco, warming himself in the sun and reflecting, ruminating upon all the beauty taking shape far below him.

Once, after a long day of gardening, full of supper fruits, Momoki ascended to Taliesin’s highest peak with his pipe and tobacco and had a long, fine, soothing smoke. As he watched the hands of the Cosmos work the world into form he thought, “How nice it would be to visit these new realms The Cosmos are making before me.” He puffed at his root pipe. He watched the misty hand of The Cosmos molding through his thick, rolling smoke.

Rarely did The Cosmos visit Taliesin for they trusted Momoki, but when next there came a small mist to the mountain to gently water the lush gardens and orchards there Momoki cried out, "O Cosmos! My life here is serene, but the lands you make far below are so beautiful. Will ever there be a time I could visit these other lands?"

No answer was given. The light rains merely passed over Momoki and disappeared. He was not surprised nor did Momoki truly expect an answer for, he knew, The Cosmos did not answer to any creature, but rather all creatures must answer to The Cosmos.

Momoki went about his way, tending the gardens and orchards and smoking his pipe and eating the delicious apples, but some of his delight in these activities had been lost. He was not sad, but he was not joyed, either.

Eventually The Cosmos reached an end to their work, though truly their work is never ended, but the world below Taliesin came close to being fully formed and it filled with creatures of every kind, coming alive with activity and movement. Momoki watched it all from his perch, smiling and quietly desiring.

As the world below filled so did Taliesin. Insects of every variety came to feast and play in the gardens and fields with Momoki. Birds filled the skies and perched with him and made their nests high atop the mountain. Momoki once again was overwhelmed with joy and excitement for his tasks and for meeting new friends. He made friends with burrowing bugs, cackling crows, buzzing bees and industrious ants he would stop only to give him a quick "Hello!" before scurrying off to find more things to do, which suited Momoki fine for that's all he wanted. He found the new cricks and cracks, cries and chatterings of a teeming Taliesin combine into a the Sweet Song of Nature. It pleased Momoki to find himself amidst glorious bustlings and, for a time, he forgot his troubles and the world far below.

Momoki's greatest, closest friend was Gogi the Grasshopper who did not enjoying smoking as Momoki did, however he did savor the taste of the fine tobaccos of Taliesin so instead chewed upon their leaves.

Day after day, after their meals were done and work fulfilled, Momoki and Gogi would sit atop Taliesin smoking and chewing, spitting and puffing and chatting the time away.

"How did you come to Taliesin?" asked Momoki.

Gogi was a timid creature for he was a small creature. In his nervous way, wringing his tiny hands as he spoke, he said, "I-in the world far below," he said, "a friend of a cousin of mine once spoke of a tale they'd heard from their friend's uncle or some such, who was a gander I think... yes, yes, I-I think he was a goose."

Momoki looked to the skies, "Which one? Many geese fly by here."

"Oh," said Gogi nervously, for he could not remember the cousin's friend's friend's uncle's species quite, but did not want to fully admit to that, "W-well, maybe it was a goose? Or a bluejay? Or maybe it was a cat. No, no... that would make no sense. They had to have been a bird."

"Go on with your story," Momoki urged with a smile.

"Y-yes, yes. The story. Well, this bird told a tale about the gorgeous gardens of Taliesin. He loved the sight of the gardens so much that he would fly over them all the time."

Momoki looked up as a gaggle of geese flew overhead. "I wonder of one of them his him," he said.

Gogi shrugged, feeling foolish for not having remembered the details. "I-I didn't know them myself," he explained. "I simply heard the tale. I-I guess I was too overwhelmed by the thoughts of Taliesin to care about some of the details. All I know is that he was the uncle of a friend of a friend of a cousin of mine... I-I think." Gogi was now thinking over the details and second-guessing himself.

Momoki saw his friend perplexed and coaxed him to continue his tale, "His tale is what brought you here?"

"It is. Many called the tale of a mountain that lived in the sky preposterous, silly even. But it all sounded so wonderfully pretty to me," Gogi's voice took a romantic tone, "I wanted so badly to see Taliesin with my own eyes. I chased every rumor for two years to discover this mountain's location. When at last I found it, I-I had the problem of trying to reach it. I-I didn't want to fly on the back of a bird for fear the bird would eat m-me."

"Then how did you get here?" asked Momoki.

"I jumped," Gogi answered simply.

Momoki's eyes grew wide with wonder. Smoke from his pipe swirled before his face. He spoke, "how can someone so small jump so high? Not even the mountains of the land far below reach this high. Many of the clouds, even, do not dare this height!"

"It is v-very high," Gogi said. "And I-I tried many, many times before I made it. In fact, on the last jump that brought me here I-I prayed to Parnopius for my safety for I knew if I m-missed Taliesin there would be no surviving such a great fall. I-I don't think any creature could survive such a fall. Even an immortal such as yourself, Momoki."

"I can only imagine," Momoki puffed at his pipe.

Gogi sighed in relief, "But somehow I made it and I was able to grab hold of the underside of Taliesin. I was so afraid I refused to jump the rest of the way to the gardens. I instead walked. It took me three days!"

"That's quite a tale," Momoki said.

"I've all the fear I've ever needed in that jump. I've had all the adventure I can handle in my lifetime."

Together they laughed. They sat together staring at the world far below for a moment. Then Momoki asked, "What is the world below Taliesin like?"

Gogi thought a moment, for once he made it to Taliesin he hadn't thought much about the world below. "Much like Taliesin, I suppose. Both are filled with life. Some of it as beautiful as what's to be found here on Taliesin, too. Thought the view here is greater by far."

Momoki leaned on his elbow and looked at Gogi. "There was a time when the world was not so full."


Momoki nodded. "In fact, I remember a time when the world barely was."

"Was what?"

"Was. I witnessed its creation by the hands of The Cosmos."

This astounded Gogi. "Have you been here since the beginning?"

Momoki again nodded. "Since the beginning."

Gogi thought on this. "How adventurous your life must have been thus far. W-was it frightening?"

Momoki smiled. "No," he said. "It was actually quite beautiful." Thinking on this, Momoki's heart filled with peace with his station in the universe, though still his mind wandered into wonderment.

The two friends sat in the soft wild grass on the side of the mountain, smoking and chewing, chewing and smoking and telling tales and laughing.



On went the lives of Momoki and friend Gogi for a long while. So much did Gogi appreciate Momoki's friendship and so much did he love Taliesin, he felt he should mark the day of his first full year living on the floating mountain with a gift to his friend. "But what shall I give him?" he asked himself.

For many days Gogi strained with thought. Then, one day while drinking from a small pond, a tiny worm fell from a cherry blossom nearby and landed squarely on Gogi's back. So scared was Gogi by the sudden impact that he scampered away without looking. Curiosity, however, took hold of him as he turned to look back. There where he was standing was a beautiful, sparkling white worm. Cautiously, slowly Gogi returned, nervously calling out, "A-are you hurt?"

The worm arched and spoke back at him in a heavenly feminine voice so soothing it sounded like distant chimes on the wind. The sound chased away all fear from Gogi, usually a timid creature due to his small stature. "I am well," said the silk worm. "Thank you for saving me." The silk worm crawled towards Gogi.

Gogi asked, "S-saved you? How did I save you?"

"By breaking my fall," chimed the silk worm.

"Oh," Gogi didn't want to admit to not intending to break her fall for fear he may appear foolish. "As long as you're safe," Gogi said.

The silk worm approached. "I am Szu Ri, the Silk Worm of Taliesin. Is there any way I can repay you for your kindness."

Ashamed at the undeserved attention and ashamed to admit the truth, Gogi shook his head, "No, no."

But Szu Ri took Gogi by his hand, leaving a small, glowing warmth there and a bit of silk. "If ever you need a favor, come see your friend Szu Ri in the Cherry Blossom by the Pond," she said.

Gogi merely nodded.

"I must head out. It will take me a long time to get back in that tree."

Again Gogi merely nodded.

He watched her go and as he did he felt a certain satisfaction in knowing he was not the only creature on Taliesin that was so small.

He looked at his hand and the silk there, the welcoming warmth Szu Ri had left. The silk was beautiful. it felt like a cloud encase his hand. He looked up, chasing after the silk worm.

"Szu Ri! Szu Ri!" he called.

She stopped and turned. "Yes, friend?"

"This silk," he looked at his hand then at her. "Can you make it in any color?"

She nodded. "Any color."

"Would you be able to make a gift for my friend of your silk? He is a marmoset and quite larger than you or I. Is it possible?"

"How wonderful," she said. "I offer a favor and you take it on behalf of a friend. Of course I will make you a gift to give o your friend. What kind of gift would you like me to make?"

Gogi stammered a bit. "I'm unsure."

"Tell me about him."

As Gogi spent time talking with Szu Ri, sharing with her his friendship with Momoki and his adventure jumping to Taliesin, their conversation leading eventually into smaller chatting, Gogi discovered he was making a new friend

"I like you, Szu Ri," Gogi said.

Szu Ri giggled, "I like you, too, though you've yet to tell me your name."

This horrified Gogi. "Oh, oh, oh! I am so v-very sorry! I am Gogi, the Grasshopper." Gogi blushed in his shamed.

Szu Ri laughed. "Do not blush, Gogi. It does not suit you. And you've nothing to be ashamed of. We've not needed our names until now."

Together they laughed and decided upon a proper gift for Momoki.

When the gift was completed by Szu Ri and given to Gogi, the little grasshopper scurried off hurriedly to his friend's side instantly. "Momoki! Momoki!" he cried, climbing the tallest peak of Taliesin with the gift in tow. there he found Momoki smoking his long, bent pipe after a day's work and enjoying the sun, laying in the wild, cool grass.

"Momoki! Momoki! Momoki!" Gogi cried over and over again as he ran to Momoki's side.

Momoki sat up. "What is it, Gogi?" he chuckled at his friend's enthusiasm.

"I've a gift for you!" Gogi presented it to Momoki.

Momoki lifted the gift from the grass. It was a headdress made of silk and looking much like a paper fan. It was lightweight and red except for the very center where it rested upon the head it was gold and the whole thing shone like the sun.

"Do you like it? Do you like it?" Gogi asked.

Momoki smiled and donned the headdress. It tilted some into the fur tufts at the sides of his head and blended there to give him the appearance of having a full lion's mane. At the center was a silk cherry blossom that hung from the main portion of the headdress down to rest upon Momoki's forehead. "It's beautiful," he told Gogi.

Gogi smiled and laughed and clapped. "I was so worried you may not like it! Do you see the colors? I asked her to make it look like the sun since we're always laying up here in the sun together."

Momoki kept smiling at his friend as he asked, "But why, Gogi? Why such a wonderful present?"

Gogi hesitated a bit. "I-I've been here a year now... and you're the best friend a grasshopper could ever hope for."

Momoki, moved almost to tears, leaned over towards Gogi and said, "Thank you, friend. And welcome to Taliesin."

Gogi smiled, "Thank you, Momoki. I feel at home here. And safe."

"And forever shall you be, as long as your old friend Momoki is charged with Taliesin's care. Now," Momoki leaned back on an elbow and puffed at his pipe, "tell me of this girl you've met... this woman that made this gift for me."

Gogi blushed.

"Come, come! We're friends. Share with me," Momoki said.

Gogi laughed in delight. "Oh! She's wonderful!"



Above the clouds, above Taliesin, is the Realm of Heaven reserved for Gods and Immortals and Gifted Ones and their friends should they wish to live there. There is always room in the Realm of Heaven, however they gods themselves are not always so welcoming.

As the misty hands of The Cosmos caressed the Realm of Heaven they manifested into Stork, a beautiful white bird, whose sole duty was to watch over the Realm of Heaven for all time. She flies constantly, rarely landing to rest or eat, but on occasion she flies low to the world to observe the mortal creatures there and smile at them.

One day while flying low she met Drae, a mortal man. She smiled and he waved and smiled back. How thrilled she was to make such contact with the world below the Realm of Heaven! She felt a warm smile and a wave was the greatest gift she could ever receive.

She made it habit to visit Drae, flying around him and chattering as he worked his wetlands for food. He would talked with her, sing to her, tell stories and jokes and laugh. Finally she worked the courage to land and talk with him without bothersome flight.

In time Drae and Stork fell in love. They commemorated their love with child, a son, whom they called Motharus, a demi-god. He was born with human body of golden brown skin and a kestrel head. Great white wings grew from his back. It was decided that Motharus would stay with his father as Stork patrolled the Realm of Heaven each day, though on occasion he would fly to visit his mother in the Realm of Heaven.

“This must be the highest point in all of creation,” he once said, awestruck at the beauty he witnessed while on one visit.

“No,” Stork corrected, “The sun is the highest point of all.”

“I must see the sun!” Motharus said. He flew higher and higher, his wings outstretched and flapping. As he grew closer to the sun, his feathers soaked in its rays and became colored, brilliant with red and tinged with blues from sky along the edge. His head, too, became sun-dyed in the same manner. Try as he might, however, Motharus simply could not reach the sun. Tired from his journey, he returned to his mother’s side.

“Oh!” she gasped. “You are so beautiful! What a wonderful gift the sun and sky have given you.”

Drae loved his son dearly. He would often sing to Motharus as Stork took care of her duties in the Realm of Heaven. He also taught him how to read the lands and find food so he could survive should he ever wish to travel to other lands.

Time passed. Stork continued tending to the Realm of Heaven. Drae grew old and Motharus grew strong and large.

The time came at last when Drae grew sick, feeble and unable to work his fields. Motharus and Stork naturally grew concerned. On his deathbed, Drae said to Stork, “Thank you. You gave me reason to live I lived for you and our son. I love you” and he died.

Drae’s death pained Motharus greatly. “Why,” he asked his mother, “did father die?”

“Because he was mortal, my son. His life is not permanent as ours are.”

“Why do we live and not father?”

Stork shook her head. “That is a question for The Cosmos.”

“The Cosmos be damned!” cursed Motharus.

“Son… no. Do not curse The Cosmos. It is the way of things. If you attempt alteration of things, harm will come to you.”

“Wisdoms have no weight in such moments. Loss is loss and today I lost my father.”

Stork allowed her son time to grieve. She watched over the Realm of Heaven, but her thoughts were always on Motharus.

Motharus raged. He flew higher and higher in another attempt to reach the sun, but he could not fly that high. “It must be The Cosmos that keep me from the sun! As they keep me from my father!”

He looked out across the world and in the far distance saw the hands of The Cosmos finalizing the world. “The Cosmos be damned!” he cursed again. He flew as fast as he could towards the end of the world. Once there he threw punch after punch, kick after feeble kick at the misty hands. His attacks flowed through the mist, causing no harm. The Cosmos continued their task undaunted for The Cosmos answer to no creature, but all creatures must answer to The Cosmos.

“Ignore me, will you?” Motharus attacked and attacked but could do nothing. He punched and kicked, kicked and punched until he was so exhausted he fell from the sky in the lands far below.



Motharus fell from the sky and landed upon the Hill of Srang Bo, The Wicked Wizard. Srang Bo, dressed in his long blue multi-layered robe, went to Motharus for he had seen his fall. “Had it not been for your wings,” Srang Bo explained, “you would have died.”

Motharus struggled to his feet. “Damn my wings and damn The Cosmos,” said he. “If only I could join my father in death. If only we all could die.”

“I suspected you an Immortal,” Srang Bo admitted, his curiosity piqued by Motharus’ curses. “I am Srang Bo. With whom do I speak?”

“I am Motharus, son of Stork and the mortal and now dead Drae.”

“A mortal and an Immortal’s child? You are then a demi-god, are you not?”

Motharus nodded.

“Tell me, Motharus, why do you curse The Cosmos? Is it your fathers death?”

Motharus nodded once more.

“I understand.”

“You do?”

“Indeed,” Srang Bo confirmed. “For I desire Immortality myself. It is the reason I am on the path that I am on.”

Motharus’ bird eyes grew wide. He tilted his head, leaning with listening.

Srang Bo judged his movements and Motharus what he wanted to hear, “It is unfair of The Cosmos to provide great destinies for some and horrid pain for other, to allow some eternal life and an end in death for others.”

Motharus nodded again ad again. “You speak true, Srang Bo. Who are you exactly?”

“I am Srang Bo. You now stand upon my hill. And you are Motharus, the demi-god that fell from the sky. Together,” Srang Bo plotted his words carefully, “perhaps we can challenge the order of things and remake them anew. We would make a good pairing.”

“We would indeed,” agreed Motharus.

And so began the training of Motharus by Srang Bo in the ways of mysticism. Motharus learned to make sacrifices of blood from chickens, goats and cats. He learned that blood is the source of all life, as is water, and that all creatures contain both within their bodies. He learned to control these elements through conjuration and pacts. In time, the skills of Motharus caught the attentions of the demon Adonai Ku-jal. The demon would often visit Motharus in his dreams.

Motharus stood in a cylindrical chamber blackened with darkness. Somewhere bonfires burned and lit only him, casting dancing shadows all about him. “Be warned,” said the demon’s disembodied voice, “you dabble in thing carrying grave consequences. The price is high: pain unlike any other pain, death without dying, rape and murder of the inner self.”

“There can be no greater pain than that which I have already felt,” Motharus explained in his dream.

“But there is. Trust me in that and know you the price of consorting with demons.”

“If, in the end, I can defy The Cosmos and make things right as I see them, no price is too great.”

Adonai Ku-jal’s laughter exploded, echoing through the Black Chamber. “It would seem your mind is already made up on the matter. If you wish to pursue your training, I will help you. I will grant you all my powers as you need them. You will be able to alter your body, to make it as the mist or to make it stone so you would be as a moving statue. You will also be able to summon fire into your hands incapable of harming you or anything that you don, but igniting all else that you touch. Oh, indeed there are many things I can offer you, but I warn you a final time: the price is high. The choice is yours.”

Motharus did not hesitate. “Train me, O Great Demon.”

“Then it is settled.”

When Motharus awoke the next morning he knew that the demon Adonai Kul-jal had not left him and two great, thick, curled rams horns had grown on the sides of his head. One eye had been made pure white, without pupil, while the other glowed blue. He pulled his hands together, one hovering over the other, and an orb of fire appeared. It did not harm him. He did not even feel it. He threw the fire and set a tree and some grass of Srang Bo’s Hill aflame. With another thought and yet another he changed his body first into mist and then to stone, though he kept his visage the same.

Srang Bo looked upon him and admitted his jealousy, “You have been chosen. Your powers now will forever be great. I would, if I could, slip a knife into you and spill your blood and powers, but I doubt anyone could defeat you, including me. Such betrayal would be worthless to me.”

Time passed and Srang Bo grew older. He admitted to Motharus his own shortcomings, “You need strength in ways that I cannot teach.”

“How is that?” Motharus asked. “My training is complete. A powerful demon grants me powers. What more do I need?”

“You are strong in dedication and conjuration, but you are weak in body.” Srang Bo coughed, set himself upon the soft grass of his hill. “I say this not to harm you, but to further aide you in the matters I could not fulfill. Defy The Cosmos,” Srang Bo instructed. He breathed his last breath.

Motharus was aghast. “Explain yourself!” He grabbed Srang Bo by the shoulders, but his mortal master was dead. He buried Srang Bo atop the hill. This enraged the demon Adonai Kul-jal. “We could use his blood,” the demon spoke inside Motharus’ head.

“He was good to me,” Motharus explained.

“And he could be good to you one last time. Dig up his body and drain it.”

Motharus shook his head. “No, not Srang Bo.”

“Your loyalties will kill you. Break yourself of this.”

Motharus ignored the words, though as he left the Hill of Srang Bo, he felt the desire to return and follow Adonai Kul-jal’s orders.



Motharus came to a large town filled with mortal men and women. Debauchery reigned supreme here as the law had left long ago. The town hall had been converted into an arena long ago and therein fights were held daily. Motharus sat and watched many fights in the packed town hall. He drew much attention to himself, though few spoke with him. One such person was Tanas. “We rarely see Gifted Ones in this region,” Tanas told Motharus.

“I do not see many attractive things here,” Motharus said. “Except, of course, for the fights.”

“Do you fight?” Tanas asked.

Motharus shook his head. “I have yet to learn.”

Tanas considered this. “I am a trainer. I have a stable of three fighters. One of them is fighting now, the one in the black pants.”

Motharus watched as the man that Tanas pointed out as he struck his opponent with a chop to the neck. His knuckles dug in, collapsing the wind passage and breaking the neck. The opponent fell to the floor, dead.

“How would you like to fight like him?”
Motharus considered this. “Will you train me?”

“I would,” Tanas nodded.

The following day Tanas lead Motharus out of town to a field where an abandoned farmhouse sat. It was old, decrepit and in ruins. It had once been made of large gray stones, but now was strewn about its base. “Pick up the stones and arrange them in rows of five,” instructed Tanas. He then left Motharus to move the stones alone.

It took Motharus three days to do as he had been instructed. With each stone his muscles grew larger, his shoulders growing broader, his stomach and back hardening with the work. When he was done the surrounding field was filled with the stones and Tanas returned with several lengths of thick, handmade hemp rope. He tied the rope about Motharus’ forearms and lower legs.

Tanas pointed to the stones. “Now break them,” he instructed.

One by one Motharus broke the stones. He used his elbows, knees, forearms, low kicks and horns. He flew high and dived down on the stones. Each one in turn exploded into many smaller pieces. When he was done, the field had become a vast array of rubble.

Tanas nodded. “Let’s go get you into a fight.”

They returned to the town and to the town hall. Tanas spoke with a man there. “I have a new fighter,” he said.

The man looked at Motharus. “Him? He’s an Immortal. He cannot fight here!”

“Why not?” Tanas asked.

“We fight to the death here. How is he supposed to fight to the death if he does not die? He cannot fight here!”

“He could fight until he submits,” Tanas said.

The man shook his head. “No, no. He cannot fight here! Take him someplace else! Take him to The Peony or someplace else! He cannot fight here!”

Tanas and Motharus stepped outside, Tanas in deep contemplation over matters.

“What shall we do now?” Motharus asked.

Tanas shook his head. “I suppose we do as he said. We’ll go find another place for you to fight. My other fighters will not enjoy moving. They like it here. And why not? They make good money here.”

“What of this Peony he spoke of?”

“He speaks of The Peony Teahouse. It is a place much like our town hall here, only it is open to all manner of creatures, including immortals,” Tanas explained.

“Why not take me there?” Motharus asked.

Tanas shook his head. “No. You’re not ready. The best fighters go there.”

“Who is to say I am not the best fighter? I can break stone!”

“Stones do not fight back. Breaking stones is training, not fighting. We must first get you fights elsewhere before we consider The Peony.”

“Bah!” Motharus turned and flew away.

“Where are you going?” Tanas cried after him.

“To find The Peony!” Motharus called back.

Days passed. Motharus fed off the land, hunting and gathering. He chased rumors of The Peony. One day, he found several eggs lying on the ground near a rock while he was flying. He swooped down, grabbed the eggs up in his hand and fly off, higher and higher, eating the eggs one by one as he went until he had a last egg left. “You,” he looked at the egg, “I will savor.”

He flew higher until he saw the glorious floating mountain Taliesin. He flew towards it and landed in a field there to enjoy his last egg.

Momoki the Marmoset and Gogi the Grasshopper watched from nearby. “W-what an odd looking creature,” said Gogi.

“Indeed,” concurred Momoki. “What is that he has in his hands?”

“I-it looks like a stone.”

Momoki squinted, straining to see. “That is no stone! It is an egg!” He hurried off towards the stranger. Gogi called after him, “Momoki! What are you doing? Come back!” Without thought, Gogi followed.

As Momoki drew near Motharus he cried out, “Stop! No creature shall harm another creature while upon Taliesin!”

Motharus looked at the charging Momoki. “Who commands this?”

Momoki slowed as he drew near. “I am Momoki the Marmoset, Guardian of Taliesin, the mountain you are now on. It is my charge and station.”

“Charge and station? By whose command?” Motharus demanded.

“By The Cosmos, of course,” answered Momoki.

Motharus’ differently colored eyes grew wide with rage. “The Cosmos? They seek to control even the morsels I eat? The Cosmos be damned!” He raised the small egg to his beak.

“No!” Momoki cried out as he jumped, grabbing for Motharus’ hand. He held fast and pushed at the bird-man’s head with his feet to keep him from eating the egg.

Motharus grabbed Momoki by the scruff of the neck and threw him to the ground. “Stop it! I will do as I please!” Again he raised the egg to his beak, but by then Gogi had caught up and jumped into Motharus’ face, landing on his beak and making a racket of such calamity that it distracted Motharus momentarily.

Motharus swatted at Gogi, who jumped and jumped and yelled, “Let the egg go!”

At last Motharus was able to target the small Gogi and slapped him from the air.

Momoki got back to his feet, grabbed up a nearby rock and jumped. His screeched as he flew through the air, his ringed tail twirling round and round. He brought the rock down upon Motharus’ beak and cracked it. The crack appeared as a bolt of lightning on the left side, split into two.

Though Motharus had been trained in mysticism and fighting, never had he been struck. The shock of the sudden pain frightened him. He dropped the egg and flew off. Before he was out of reach, he put one palm above another, conjuring fire and throwing it down onto the fields of Taliesin. He then disappeared from sight.

Momoki dropped the rock and ran off, screaming a warning to all that a fire was slowly growing in the fields.

Gogi, battered and badly bruised, stood up and crawled toward the egg Motharus has dropped into the soft grass. The egg shook. It cracked. Gogi’s eyes grew wide. “Momoki!” he cried. “Momoki!” But Momoki was busy tending to the fire with several of the other creatures that inhabited Taliesin.

Gogi backed away as first a nose then a head appeared through the broken egg’s shell. The head was small, green and had a spot of red at each temple. Soon the egg fell away from a whole and complete and newly born turtle.

The fire out, Momoki returned to Gogi’s side and saw the tiny turtle. “Hello, little one,” Momoki scooped her up. “Are you hurt?”

The turtle shook her tiny head.

Momoki smiled. He looked at Gogi. “We have a new resident.”

“B-be careful, Momoki,” Gogi warned. “She m-might be a demonic b-being.”

Momoki shook her head. “She’s not evil. She is simply a turtle.” He bent low and showed Gogi the turtle. “What should we call her?”

Gogi shrugged.

“I think she looks like a Twila. Does Twila sound good?”

Again Gogi shrugged, nervously shaking.

“How about you?” he asked the turtle. “Does Twila sound good?”

The turtle nodded and smiled and rubber her little head along the length of Momoki’s thumb.

“Then Twila it is. Twila, welcome to Taliesin.”

She smiled and playfully danced in Momoki’s hand.

Twila grew big and strong. She grew big enough for Momoki to ride on her back when they played together in the fields. Gogi, too, learned to trust Twila and they became friends. All three would play and bask in the sun and eat. Szu Ri, the Silk Worm, would occasionally join them on picnics under the cherry blossoms and ride on the back of Twila, crying out, “This is amazing! You move so quickly!”

Gogi would often tell Twila about the world below, the world from which she came but knew nothing of. Szu Ri and Momoki would also listen, enchanted by the tales of his family and the adventures of friends of friends of uncles or aunts or cousins.

“I would like to visit the world below,” Momoki would often say.

A year passed. To commemorate their year of friendship, Twila asked the termites of Taliesin to build Gogi a cane and a small wooden box for Momoki in which he could store and draw tobacco leaves for smoking. They held a picnic and she gave the presents to her friends.

“Wonderful!” exclaimed Gogi.

“I can carry my tobacco anywhere!” Momoki was pleased.

They each thanked her for the presents. “But,” Gogi was hesitant. “Why a cane? All my legs are in perfect order.”

“You are always telling us abut your travels and you run all over Taliesin constantly, Gogi. I felt a walking cane was appropriate.”

Gogi considered this. “Oh! It is! It is!” He first hugged the cane, then Twila.

While Gogi was visiting Szu Ri once, Twila and Momoki lay in the sun on the side of Taliesin. Twila said, “Gogi told me recently of how you bravely rescued me from the beak of a bird-man. I thank you.”

“No thanks are needed, Twila. It is my charge and station. My thanks is our friendship.”

Twila nuzzled his thumb with her nose.
Momoki smiled. He leaned towards her and whispered, “I love you, Twila.”

Twila blushed and receded a small way into her shell. When she came back out she once more nuzzled at Momoki’s thumb. “Oh, Momoki. I love you, too.”

Then one day Twila and Gogi found Momoki sitting at the edge of Taliesin, spying the world far below.

“What are you doing?” asked Twila.

“Watching and wondering,” explained Momoki.

He sat like that for several days, each day leaning farther out to get a better view. Each day Gogi and Twila would visit him.

“Still watching?” Twila would ask.

Momoki would not.

“B-be careful,” Gogi would warn. “That fall would be most dangerous.”

Momoki did not tend to his duties in the fields and orchards. Taliesin became overgrown. Twila and Gogi decided they needed to discuss matters with Momoki. They approached him. Momoki was now leaning far forward.

“Momoki, we are concerned for you,” Twila said softly.

Momoki leaned farther out, “I can almost see people down there.” His weight shifted. His balanced moved far forward. Momoki’s eyes bulged. He gasped. He scrambled to grab the grass and rocks of Taliesin, but he missed.

Momoki’s friends watched as he slipped away. He fell, his tail whipping in the air. He screamed out for help, but there was nothing anyone could do. His three friends watched in horror as he disappeared below the clouds. The fall was immense, too immense for even an Immortal to survive. Momoki was no more.

Twila burst into tears, Gogi whimpered and Szu Ri tried to comfort them both.

Twila cried and cried. She cried for two days until her tears formed a pond around her, spilling out over the edge of Taliesin as a waterfall and created the first rains in the world below. She floated in the pond of her own tears. Gogi remained nearby, but could not reach her as she began to be swept away by the waterfall’s current. She could not fight against the strong flow, but she did not want to.

Twila was washed over the side of Taliesin and joined Momoki in death.

Gogi, panicking, ran away. He ran as fast as he could and hide beneath a rock, weeping for his lost friends. He hurt so badly he felt as though he never wanted to move from his hiding spot under the rock.

In lands far away where The Cosmos were yet finishing the edge of the world, a small patch of mist turned and headed for Taliesin.


Watch for Act II next Friday!

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