Friday, September 12, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act I

Now begins the final tale of Momoki the Marmoset, Gogi the Grasshopper, Xiao-tep the Ankh-fish, Comet Fox, Bolri Shongoyo the Towering Elephant and all the characters of The Children of Gods universe.



“Warriors of the Midnight Sun”
© 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



THE FISHERMAN: Wherein Ebi the Fisherman Joins Momoki in Hell; Fei Li Mi Enters the Plain of Adoration; Balori Shongoyo and His Friends Reach the Black Mountains



Under the undying, unblinking eye of the Midnight Sun stood the enchanted Silver Forest. At its edge, moving through it crimson glow and charcoal shadows, walked Momoki the Marmoset. He came at last to rest upon a black rock protruding from the black ground where he often sat in meditation. Fumbled he with his pipe, staring at it, considering it. He had fought only once in his life before afterlife and the result was saving the life of his beloved Twila the Turtle. Yet that fight against Motharus the Kestrel-Headed ended in no deaths. Never before had he taken the life of another creature. Now he stared at his bloodstained pipe.

He had murdered the Gold Baboon of the Midnight Sun, a truly despicable creature indeed. He wondered if even the many Hells would be better off without such a creature. Yet Momoki’s belly welled with the murder and though Momoki was dead and therefore immune to illness, he felt quite ill. He felt now he truly deserved the role as Master of the Chamber of Despair.

It was at this moment, with Momoki contemplating life and death and murder upon the Black Rock of Meditation at the edge of the Silver Forest, Ebi the Fisherman came before him.

Where once Ebi had been a bright, vibrant living man now he was a misty black ghost, as was Momoki. His form wavered in shadow as he peered at the dark Land of the Midnight Sun. His eyes glowed red as Momoki’s, as the Midnight Sun itself, and encircling his waist, where once the demon-dog Yaska Selith had bitten him in half, was a bright red jagged streak. It, too, glowed as the Midnight Sun and on occasion let loose with a small droplet of crimson that rose on the air briefly before disappearing as though he were still bleeding and the blood defied gravity to fly up.

Ebi looked to Momoki.

Momoki stood, bowed and said, “Welcome, warrior, to the Land of the Midnight Sun. I am Momoki the Marmoset, Master of the Chamber of Despair and I will be your counsel and teacher. You are now dead and have been chosen to ride with me in your afterlife against a demon-dog, a false demon called Yaska Seltih, and end his reign of blight upon the world.”

Ebi nodded, saying, “I know him.” His voice was hollow and echoed briefly as he spoke.

“Do you?” asked Momoki.

Again Ebi nodded. “He was my Pup.”

Momoki thought on this before asking, “Know you how to fight?”

Ebi shook his head. “I was but a fisherman.”

Momoki considered this. He said, “I will train you in the ways of fighting.”

And so began the gathering of the Warriors of the Midnight Sun, so began the training of Ebi by Momoki.

Momoki chased Ebi through the Silver Forest wielding his pipe in a menacing fashion. He taught Ebi to block, guard, parry and evade as he had been taught by both the Amethyst and Silver Baboons. Ebi grew strong in mind, wise in the ways of fighting, but he had questions. He wondered, if he were already dead, why he would need to learn evasiveness unless he could die once again.

He asked, “Can I die once more?”

Momoki, sitting upon the Black Rock of Meditation as they rested from their training, said, “Yes, but only at the hands of a Gifted One or a god.”

Ebi nodded with understanding.

On and on went their training until, at last, Momoki felt he could teach Ebi nothing more. He said, “Now we must teach you to attack. Think, Ebi. Think of some thing that you used in your day-to-day life, something you know well and are familiar with, something you can use as a weapon.”

Ebi searched throughout his memory for a proper weapon. His first and strongest thoughts were of his nets he used for fishing, but doubted their value as a weapon. He was not sure what a proper weapon should be like, but he knew it had to be dangerous. He thought of the things that may have hurt him over the years of his life. again he thought of the nets and how his shoulders hurt after hauling them in all day. yet finally his mind wandered to one thing, the thing he constantly pricked his fingers with though he did not use it as often as his nets. He thought of his many fishing hooks.

In Ebi’s hand appeared a large hook with a barbed spike.

Momoki inspected the hook. It was far larger than he and appeared quite capable of menacing assaults.

Momoki nodded. “This will do nicely.”

Momoki, fearing he may kill Ebi as he had killed the Gold Baboon or Ebi killing him, thought to train Ebi instead against a many-armed silver tree. Ebi soon learned to use the spike to thrust, to arc the hook out widely in a deceptive missed attack only to pull it toward him at the last moment, spearing an enemy from behind. He became quite efficient with his new weapon.

Watching from the deep shadows of the land was Radiant Gui. As he witnessed Ebi’s progress and Momoki’s acceptance in his role, he smiled a toothy, drooling smile.



In a hilly countryside where grass rolled over the horizons there was a small farming village called Yuki. The people there had terra-formed the land into stepped farmland where they planted and grew fields of rice. They brought water from the nearby mountains into their fields with deeply dug trenches. They had a large windmill with which they used to spin a miller’s stone and grind rice into paste or powder. Everything here was green and blue and bright. Even the people wore blue and green work clothes with the occasional bit of purple. They dyed their own clothes with the inks of roots they grounded themselves. In every way the people of Yuki were self-sufficient. They even had a nearby town at the base of the hills that had grown along a trade route where they could go to sell any of their surplus rice and grains and dyes.

Each year the village grew a little with children. But once they added a new member to their numbers. He came crawling to them, wounded and broken and dying from thirst, hunger and exposure.

The village elder, a man called Dubai, recognized this newcomer immediately as a Gifted One. He told his people, “He has come to us from the gods, wounded and needing help. They have sent him to us to care for.”

The people agreed and they took in the Gifted One, though a few were frightened by his rat form. Rats, they knew, could eat away foodstuffs and therefore profits and supplies. These people would whisper that this newcomer was, perhaps, a curse, but they remained fairly silent and obeyed Dubai’s words of wisdom and felt they should wait until the rat had actually committed some affront upon them before demanding he be ousted.

The affront never came. In fact, he soon won over the hearts of everyone within the village.

The rat was given a bed within the home of Dubai and his granddaughter Elsa. His name was learned as Stavros and as soon as his back had healed enough where he could walk he asked to join them in their work in the rice paddies.

“It is our work,” said Dubai. “Do not concern yourself with it.”

Stavros, whose back had healed improperly so as to give him the slightest hunch as his chest thrusted forward, said, “But Dubai, you have all been so kind. I am in awe of your kindness. I have felt such kindness only once before in my life and I wish to show my gratitude. Helping you in the fields is the best way I can think of. If there is another way, then tell me. I will do it.”

Dubai felt the words of the rat. He said, “If it is what you wish, we will teach you to work in the paddies.”

Stavros’ back, arms and shoulders soon grew with the work. He enjoyed his days in warming sun. he even enjoyed the rainy nights when the Heavens opened their gates and flooded the hills. He felt so small and at the command of all the elements when it rained, yet he somehow felt a part of the land, as well. He was working the land, growing as the rice grew. He learned to love the people of Yuki village as he had once loved the Ruska Roma.

Stavros’ story became well known to the villagers. The children often asked him to retell his tales of traveling the world and fighting the Brothers Jackal, of the immensity of the demon-dog. They would clap and cheer as he began and ended each tale.

Elsa bought new cloth in the town and dyed them bright blue with streaks of purple and sewed them into a new outfit for Stavros. He gave up all his possessions, selling them and giving the money to the village to be spent on whatever supplies they needed. He kept only his earrings and his sword.

At times, usually late at night when the land was quiet and the people of the village were falling asleep, Stavros would walk into the fields and meditate upon his fallen Ruska Roma family. Inevitably he would begin practicing his fighting in katas of his own. Occasionally he would do so with his sword.

On one windy night, as the air seemed to howl with the agony of the dead, Stavros thought he could hear the voices of the fallen Ruska Roma calling out to him.

He took to the field with his sword. He decided then – as the winds howled about him, bending the grass and his fur – should he ever be given the chance, he would avenge his people. He took up his sword this night and practiced. He watched for a moment in the distance how the windmill whipped, spinning crazily in the wind. He thought how dangerous it would be to go near it. As he practiced with his sword, he thought to mimic the spinning windmill. He jumped, his body parallel to the ground as he twisted with his sword extended out, spinning as the blades of the windmill and brought the blade down upon a stone in the grassy field as he fell, splitting it in half.

He rose from the ground. As the world breathed heavily upon him, so too he breathed heavily back at the world. “I will find my way to you, demon,” he cursed. “And I will cut your jackals to pieces.”



Fei Li Mi chased every rumor that came to his ears. Many were those that knew the reason the stars had fallen from the nightly Heavens, enough for the catfish to know the tale was too well known to be a mere rumor. But the things he heard of the demon-dog Yaska Selith seemed wild and exaggerated. One thing, however, piqued his interest. He had heard from more than one person that treasures from all over the world were being sent to the Plain of Adoration, to Yaska Selith. Some of the treasure was being sent by the demon-dog’s own loyal followers. Others were being sent by those wishing the demon-dog to bless and protect them or do for them some favor. Amongst the treasures had been many jewels and gems. Thought Fei Li Mi considered the possibility of Yaska Selith having the Jewel of Zingtai – the very jewel he sought – he felt himself remiss should he not follow the rumors.

So came Fei Li Mi to the Plain of Adoration. There he witnessed what many others had. He saw the orgies, the use of opium, the rapes and fights and gambling. He feared not so much the people or their activities, but the zeal with which they took to them.

He was seen flying overhead and rather than fly off or hide, he felt it best to lower himself to the plain and present himself. And though he could easily see the large demon-dog, he was uncertain how to approach him. He instead presented himself to the group of people nearest to where he landed.

“I am Fei Li Mi,” said he. “I would like to speak with your demon.”

The people laughed. One man said, “Who doesn’t? Come, join us, we are about to play some games and roast some rabbits we hunted earlier. A Gifted One such as yourself would make our conversations livelier and it would be a great honor for us.”

Fei Li Mi accepted their offer and ate with them and played games. He learned much about Yaska Selith in this way. Moreso, he learned a lot of the people who gathered at the demon-dog’s feet were simple peasants seeking refuge from some thing or another or seeking nearness to Yaska Selith. Many appeared in awe of the demon, despite having lived upon the plain for some time.

After a time, Fei Li Mi had to admit, with the cordial approach the people took to him, he felt welcomed here. A few of the women even had children and they all sat and listened as he told them tales of the Elephant Crusade. The people enjoyed having Fei Li Mi to watch their children and he thought, “I came here to please my Empress and win the favor of her children, but if there be children here I can oversee and protect, what need have I to hassle myself with asking the demon-dog for the jewel, should he even have it? No, I will make this plain my new home.”

And so he did.



Balori’s company of men had grown as they traveled across the world. He knew a few were there only to be near him, which disgusted him. But he remained focused on reaching the Plain of Adoration. Should a fight truly be coming, he knew its nearness would chase off the cowards that followed him.

As they went, they came into town after town that knew of the Plain of Adoration. Person after person told them they drew nearer and nearer still. Great excitement filled Baloir, Macia, Negkendra and Akadia. A few of the others, the cowards that Balori despised, the men who were following merely to follow, asked, “What are we to do when we reach the plain?”

Balori said one word, “Fight.”

“Fight? A demon?”

Balori nodded.

The next day, as they rose from their night’s slumber and prepared to press on towards the plain, the men who were following to follow had already gone, slipping away in the night. This pleased Balori.

They pressed themselves hard that day. they did not stop much to eat. When one man had to relieve himself by the side of the road, the mass of them did not stop to wait for him. He would have to catch up later.

Those men and women that remained at his side sought to right things in the world. Many had been witness to Yaska Selith’s devilry as he moved across the world before settling upon the plain and they came for vengeance, for retribution, for justice. Many had no connection to Yaska Selith at all, they simply wanted to aide Balori in returning the nighttime Heavens to their former beauty. A few came with Balori seeking glory. With the parting of the few who followed merely to follow, all were bound together in their dedication.

They were all thin with the hard traveling. But with each meal that grew smaller so their dedication grew larger.

At last they came to western side of the Black Mountains. Their black and purple looming visage had driven them for many days. Balori raised his massive trunk and smelled the air. He said, “The demon is near. Should the directions we’ve been given be true, he lives upon the plain just the other side of these mountains.”

Negkendra craned his neck, as did all the men, and gazed upon the imposing mountains. “We’ll not make the top of the mountains before night,” said he. “It would be best if we stay here for the night and start up the first thing in the morning.”

“If only we could all fly as Balori,” said Akadia. “These mountains would not stand in our way.”

“If we could fly as Balori, none of our travels would have taken so long,” answered Macia.

Akadia nodded. He considered Balori a moment. He said, “Master Balori, we have held you back a long time, much more than you ever desired. We are here now, at the base of the Black Mountains. Go, go on without us. We will tackle the mountains at first light and we will join you when we can.”

Balori considered this. He looked up at the mountains. He wanted so desperately to fly over the mountains and confront the demon-dog, to find out if he truly possessed the Jewel of Zingtai. He looked at Akadia and said, “Perhaps I could, but I won’t.”

Many of the men rumbled. They urged Balori to go on without them, that they would catch up.

Balori shook his massive head, his ears swaying from side to side as he did so. “We have traveled this far together. I can wait one more day. And, you are here because never have I confronted a demon before. I know not what to expect. I can only assume a fight might follow. If there’s a chance of that, I’ll need you at my side. I may be a Gifted One, but I am but one pair of hands. I do not know if that is enough to conquer a demon. I will wait.”

Balori looked at them each in turn and added, “And many of you have good reason to be here. I cannot rob you of your chance to make things right. You have been with me throughout the journey, even when we were not the best of friends,” at this he looked at Negkendra. “But now we are as family. I cannot abandon you now.”

Though some of the men and women did not agree, saying that had they been in Balori’s place they would go on without the rest, they all saw the elephant’s wisdom and thanked him for the kind gesture.

Balori said, “Get some rest, lest these mountains conquer us tomorrow.”

They made camp, ate a large supper taking up most of the last of their provisions, toasted to themselves and drank deeply from flasks of wine and watched as Kalavata flew high overhead to blanket the world with a starless night. They each could feel the nearness of the end. They each could sense the demon-dog on the other side of the mountains. Not one of them slept very well.

The following day they made a small breakfast and let loose their horses before scaling the large Black Mountains. It took them all day and they paused only to eat once. In the end many of the men and women had scrapes and bruises, but none were severely hurt. As Kalavata crested the far horizon so Balori and the other crested the peak of the mountains.

As they rested upon a large ledge frosted with bit of snow, they eyed the plain far below and saw the amassed people there surrounding Yaska Selith.

“Their numbers are far greater than ours,” said Macia Thrace.

The others nodded.

Akadia spoke, “Balori, I’ve been thinking on matters. If we all descend the mountains at once and challenge this demon, I doubt any of us would survive. We number perhaps a few dozen, they number a few thousand.”

“I think you are correct,” said Balori.

“I think perhaps you should go on alone to discover the truth of the Jewel of Zingtai. I’m certain you could ask to see the demon and when you do you could ask him directly to give up the jewel. If he says he will, then our purpose is at an end. If he says he won’t give it up, at least then we will know he truly possesses it. If he says he knows nothing of it, then we know we’re not where we need to be. If we descend together we may be seen as an invasion force and attacked immediately. What good then will our trek have been? But if you go on alone, then our lives would not be in danger and we all could be spared.”

“You send Balori to his death!” Negkendra challenged.

Akadia shook his head, “That is not my intention. They are more likely to allow one of us to pass by without harm.”

“Why Balori then? Why not you?” asked Negkendra.

“Because he can fly and be there swiftly and easily.”

“You send him to his death!” Negkendra said forcefully, approaching Akadia as thought to attack him.

“No,” said Balori. “What Akadia suggests had merit. What good is there in all of us marching to our deaths? If I go forth alone, I can be as a scout. I do not wish to leave the company of men and women who have so ardently come this way not to obey me or follow my quest, but to follow each their own. This means much to all of us individually and as a whole, yet, as I said, Akadia’s words have merit.”

There were a few protests, but in the end most of the others agreed to Akadia’s wisdom.

Balori gathered up his three weapons and made sure they were placed well within his belt. He paused only a moment to look at the others. “I wish there was another way.”

One of the men, perhaps inappropriately, said, “Should anything happen, we will avenge your death.”

This drew a few sour looks to him, but all quietly agreed to his sentiment.

Balori breathed deep. He snorted out his mystic cloud and mounted it. He slowly descended the Black Mountains towards the Plain of Adoration.



Momoki and Ebi entered the Chamber of Despair together. They walked across the courtyard to the hut where he introduced the fisherman to Twila and Szu Ri who were quietly chatting. Ebi bowed to them and rested upon the floor near them. Momoki looked at the hut in whole. He noticed how Ebi seemed to take up so much room. He knew then why the hut had been made so large, he knew then the hut would house not only himself and Twila, but his warriors. He looked at all the remaining emptiness and wondered how many more would fill the hut completely.

He looked at Szu Ri and asked, “Where is friend Gogi?”

“He is in his garden,” replied Szu Ri.

Momoki nodded and turned toward the area of the courtyard where Gogi had made his garden.

As he approached, he heard Gogi mumbling nervously as he dug at a deep hole in the ground next to the garden. He then saw a few stems of plants had sprouted, but they were weak and thin.

“What’s the matter, Gogi?”

Gogi nearly jumped at the sound of Momoki’s voice. He had been so busily studying the garden he had not noticed Momoki’s return. He said, “Oh, Momoki… I-it’s my garden. It’s not growing very well. It’s not strong at all. There’s no water here and if I do not find some soon these plants will die. I-I cannot allow that to happen! Szu Ri and I need to eat. If we don’t have these plants, if I can’t dig a well and find some water, we may die!”

He looked pleadingly at Momoki. “I-I simply can’t fail! I can’t fail Szu Ri!”

Momoki nodded, wondering if he had done the right thing by bringing his friends to the Chamber of Despair.


Act II will be posted next week. Be sure to check back!

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