Friday, September 19, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act II

Here is Act II of "Warriors of the Midnight Sun". Act 3 will be post next Friday.



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



THE FARMER: Wherein Sinverguenza Kidnaps Inno, Daughter of Joto Ba and Dian; Shabar Joins with Wu Chan Chu; Balori Shongoyo Confronts the Demon-dog Yaska Selith



In far off lands where men grow rich with agriculture and politics there was the family Sengyu. Father Sengyu was quite the farmer and his wealth provided for his wife, Mother Sengyu, in the ways of status. Often she would host evening or afternoon teas while her husband and his people worked their massive farm and nannies cared for her only daughter, Dian.

Dian grew to be a beautiful girl and all the town loved her dearly. “She’ll make a fine princess for some royal man to marry,” would often be heard of her. She was smart in math and language and wise in the ways of the land, a skill she had learned from her father.

And though Dian understood the importance of her station and all that her parents afforded her in way of education and wealth, she disagreed with her mother in the matters of love. She disagreed largely in that Mother Sengyu had designs to arrange her marriage with a successful camel rancher whom Dian had never met. Instead, she secretly loved Joto Ba, one of her father’s men who worked in the fields.

One evening, a mere week prior to her crowning into womanhood upon her sixteenth birthday, Dian went forth into the fields to find her father. When she did, she asked her father if he would join her in a cup of afternoon tea. At first he said he was much too busy, but at last he joined her within the confines of one of the family’s many barns for tea.

“What is the real purpose of this?” Father Sengyu asked pleasantly as he poured tea for the both of them.

“Real purpose? What do you mean?” asked Dian.

“Come, come. We’ve not drawn tea together for nearly four years now. I can only imagine you bring me hear to discuss some matter with me and as your birthday approaches I can guess it has to do with that.”

Dian smiled. “I cannot possibly hide a thing from you.”

Father Sengyu smiled. “Not even your love for Joto Ba.”

At this revelation that her father knew of her secrets concerning Joto Ba she gasped. “Father! How did you know?”

“This is my farm, dear. I know everything that goes on here.”

She smiled at her father and said, “I wish to marry Joto Ba, not the camel man.”

Father Sengyu nodded. “I understand. But you’re mother has gone to great lengths to arrange this marriage for you.”

Dian sighed, sipping at her tea. “I know. But I’ve not even met the man! How could I be hid bride?”

“You will earn to love him. And, if nothing else, he will provide you children you will love.”

The thought of children troubled Dian. Her eyes clenched together. She felt herself on the verge of tears.

“Dear daughter, what’s the matter?” asked Father Sengyu. He could sense she was upset over more than the wedding.

“Father,” said Dain. “I have to marry Joto Ba.”

“No you don’t. What you feel is simple childish infatuation.”

Dian shook her head. “No father, it’s not that. It’s not that at all. I have to marry him for I carry his child in me as we speak.”

Father Sengyu puffed quietly upon his pipe a long time before answering. “I understand.”

“You’re not angry, are you?”

Father Sengyu shook his head. “No. I was simply thinking about how odd life can turn out. I’ve traveled a long way to be where I’m at and now I see my daughter starting on her own.”

“You’re not sad, are you?”

“A little, but no more than any other father who has just noticed her child has grown at some point without him. But I am not angry or sad about you,” he assured.

“Oh, father!” Dian flung herself from her seat and into her father’s arms. For a moment she cursed herself for being such a child, running into her father’s arms. But when his embrace closed around her, she no longer cared. Their embrace sent Dian into reminiscing her childhood when her father would hold her on his lap and read her stories before bedtimes. Often, she amused, he appeared more enthralled by the tales that she ever was.

“What of mother?” asked Dian.

“You need to tell her.”

“She won’t like it.”

“No,” said Father Sengyu. “She won’t.”

That night over dinner Dian told her mother she was pregnant with the child of one of Father Sengyu’s workers.

“What?” raged the mother. She rose and struck her daughter across the face. “After all we’ve done for you, you go and accept the seed of a lousy field worker?”

Mother Sengyu beat her daughter again and again. She chased the girl all through their home, throwing every object she could grab. She slapped her daughter’s face, her arms and pulled her hair, raging so loudly the workers within the home stepped outside, afraid.

All Dian could think of was protecting her child. She finally fell in the kitchen and curled up, her back to her mother so she could not slap her in the belly and harm the unborn child there.

Mother Sengyu picked a rather large and menacing meat cleaver from a butcher block and screamed, “Get up, you whore! You ungrateful whore, stand up! I’ll cut that bastard’s ugly, worthless child from you myself; then I’ll go out and cut off his manhood so he can never do this again!”

One of the workers, fearing Mother Sengyu would truly kill the unborn child or Dian, ran to find Father Sengyu. He came to the kitchen immediately.

“Get up!” screamed Mother Sengyu. She grabbed Dian’s arm, but found her own arm held fast by Father Sengyu’s hand.

“Get your filthy hands off me!” screamed Mother Sengyu. She swiped the knife at her husband, opening a bloody red wound upon his cheek.

Father Sengyu ignored his wound and grabbed his wife with both hands, crushing her wrists until she was made to drop the knife, clanking to the kitchen floor.

Dian sobbed wildly. A nanny came to her side and pulled her away, out of the kitchen.

Father Sengyu, when he saw some of the rage weaken in his wife’s eyes, let go of her. He said, “Our daughter is pregnant with our grandchild. We should be celebrating.”

“This is not how things were supposed to be,” said Mother Sengyu, the screamed so all the countryside could hear, “She’s an ungrateful whore!”

Father Sengyu slapped his wife across the face. She reeled in exaggerated horror and pain. She looked at him with disgust.

He stared calmly back, saying, “That’s our daughter you speak of.”

“I want her out of here! If she’s not out by dawn tomorrow I’ll kill her! I’ll kill you all!” Mother Sengyu screamed. She left her husband standing alone and quiet in the kitchen.

The next day Father Sengyu had his workers gather supplies and two horses. He brought Dian and Joto Ba to his side and handed them a pouch of money. He said, “I’m afraid she’s still quite angry. Perhaps it is best you leave for a time, until I get the chance to smooth matters over with her. Take these horses and money and go. I know the owner of the store in the nearest town. I’ve sent word I’m sending you to him. You can stay with him a day or two, after that I’m afraid you’ll have to make it on your own, but stay in touch. Send word where you’re at, wherever you go. I’ll let you know when you can return.”

“I’m sorry things turned out this way,” said Joto Ba. “I’m so very sorry.”

“I know,” said Father Sengyu. “Take care of her.”

Joto Ba’s eyes leveled with determination. “I will. That I promise you.”

Joto Ba and Dian mounted their horses.

“What about you, father? Won’t she take her hate out on you?” asked Dian.

“That is for me to cope with,” said Father Sengyu. “You’re mother has always been full of anger.”

“Then why stay with her? Come with us, or send her away.”

Father Sengyu shook his head. “My dear daughter, one day you will learn we each have our demons to contend with. It does no good to run from them.”

Dian looked at her father, wondering. She thought about the many times she had witnessed her mother in a rage, screaming at her father or the workers. She asked, “Father, have you ever been happy with her?”

Father Sengyu smiled. “Of course I have. She gave life to my daughter.”

Joto Ba lead the way as they left. Dian wept as she looked over her shoulder, watching her father who stood near the road.

Father Sengyu stood watching until he could no longer see the blurred image of his daughter and future son-in-law on the horizon. He stood watching a while longer before he breathed deep, said a pray to the many gods asking them to watch over his child and her husband-to-be, then turned and entered his home.



Joto Ba and Dian traveled many long months before finally settling in a region where they were able to use some of the money Father Sengyu had given them to buy some land and farm it. They sent word with a few travelers to let Father Sengyu know where they were, but they never heard back from him. They always wondered about him and their old life.

Joto Ba married Dian and they had a baby girl. They named her Inno, after Father Sengyu’s mother. They grew old together as their daughter grew up. Joto Ba grew strong and thin with working his farm. He grew grain in the hot sun. Joto Ba could often be found swinging his sickle in his fields.

Inno grew into a beautiful, fine young woman. She became the jewel of the countryside and all who met her immediately fell in love with her.

As Joto Ba had promised to love and care for Dian, so too did Dian secretly promise to love and care for Inno in a way she would never know anger, promising to be the best mother should could be. Dian succeeded in this. Inno was the pride of her parents.

As Inno grew to age, a week prior to her sixteenth birthday, three warriors came traveling through their country. Many rumored the devilry they were capable of as one wore bones upon his leather armor and another was a kestrel-headed Gifted One.

As it was night, Sinverguenza, Motharus and Renorio stopped by Joto Ba and Dian’s home to ask if they could stay the night.

Uncertain, Joto Ba felt it only right to offer them a warm place to stay. He invited them into their home.

As Dian fed the three strangers, Sinverguenza commented, “Your daughter is quite beautiful.”

Joto Ba, nervously, gave his thanks.

Sinvergueza not so secretly desired Inno. He eyed her all through dinner.

That night the house quietly slept, but the next morning, when Joto Ba and Dian awoke, they found their guests had snuck out in the early hours of the morning and with them they had taken their daughter.

“I cannot believe you allowed them into our home!” raged Dian.

Joto Ba, his eyes wide with fear, picked up his sickle and told his wife, “Remain here. I’ll go after them.”

Joto Ba gathered and mounted his horse and rode hard in the direction he knew them to be going. He rode on and on until he found them walking by the side of the road, Inno tied and gagged and being forced to walk ahead of them.

Joto Ba rode up swiftly, the sickle extended, and swung it at Sinverguenza who easily ducked the oncoming blow.

Motharus, who had been holding a rope tied about Inno’s waist, handed it over to Renorio and said, “Watch after her.”

Joto Ba turned his horse and charged once more.

Motharus lifted onto the air, bringing his knees up into the chest of Joto Ba as he rode near and knocking him free from his horse. The horse, without a rider, ran on and on and disappeared on the horizon.

Joto Ba stood, the sickle still in his hand. He swung it at Motharus who grabbed the implement and pulled it from his hands, throwing it to the ground.

“I’ll kill you all!” yelled Joto Ba, bringing his fists up, nervous and unknowing of what to do.

Sinverguenza picked up the implement. He brandished it with a smile. “So the farmer wishes to be a warrior. Know you how to fight? Haha! I can see in your eyes and how you hold yourself now you know nothing of fighting. Not that I’m a great fighter, but I can appreciate a good fight from a distance. For instance, my friend here, did you know he was once the champion at the Peony Tea House? He knows how to fight. His Muay Thai is good. Motharus, give this farmer a lesson in fighting.”

Motharus attacked. His punch cracked Joto Ba’s jaw. He followed the punch with an elbow to the head. Darkness filled Joto Ba’s vision and, as he fell, he felt as though he were floating away from his body.

Motharus and Sinverguenza both laughed as Joto Ba rolled on the ground, his hands at his head and eyes winced, moaning incoherently as his broken jaw refused to work, to give shape to his cries.

Sinverguenza approached the fallen farmer. “Get up, farmer! Your lesson is far from over!”

At this Sinverguenza drove the sickle down and into the chest of Joto Ba. The blade lodged into Joto Ba’s ribs and he cried out in pain as blood welled in his throat and spilled from his mouth. Sinverguenza pulled on the sickle’s handle and the lodged blade lifted Joto Ba off the ground from the waist up.

Motharus approached the farmer. He brought an elbow down onto Joto Ba’s head.

Joto Ba’s vision swam through darkness and sparkling, twinkling lights. He stopped moaning. Now he only grunted with every heavy, laborer breath.

Sinverguenza let go the sickle and Joto Ba dropped to the ground. He said, “Finish it, Motharus.”

Motharus lifted his leg backwards and kicked Joto Ba’s temple. The skull cracked. The farmer’s head flung back and his neck snapped.

As Sinverguenza and Motharus poked at Joto Ba to assure themselves of his death, Renorio gently caressed Inno. He leaned close to her and smelled her skin. His mouth worked, his tongue wetting his lips. He wondered if he could steal the young prize away from Sinverguenza. He was about to stick out his tongue, to taste the young girl when Sinverguenza’s approach made him stop.

Motharus grabbed the rope from Renorio. Neither he nor Sinverguenza suspected a thing and Renorio was glad for it.

The three traveled on, pushing their prize ahead of themselves.

Joto Ba’s body day lay motionless by the side of the road. It was to remain there for a full day before anyone would find it. And though the farmer’s life had ended, his afterlife was just beginning for deep within the Land of the Midnight Sun, Joto Ba appeared in a form that was dark and billowing. His eyes glowed red, as did a hole where once he had been stabbed in the chest with his own sickle.

Joto Ba looked at the creature sitting nearby, the creature sitting atop the Black Rock of Meditation.

“Welcome,” said the marmoset. “I am Momoki, Master of the Chamber of Despair. You 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.”



Shabar rode on. Storms had come to the land. It made his trek long and lonesome. He was soaked by the time he came to a small town where rumors abounded about a frog demi-goddess who was traveling east, after a demon of some kind. One person added he had heard in another village an elephant was leading men towards the same route. Shabar asked many questions and could only guess this frog and elephant – both apparently Gifted Ones – were heading for the same place and that the elephant was Balori.

This news drive him onward harder than ever.

Finally, days later, as the rains lightened, then stopped, he came across a small collection of men and women claiming to be warriors. At their center was a frog demi-goddess. He presented himself to her.

“I am Shabar. Once I was counsel to the Eternal Empress and oversaw the Elephant Crusade. Now I seek to aide the one called Balori. I am told he has been changed into an immortal Gifted One and seeks to place the stars once more into the night sky.”

Wu Chan Chu considered this man. “I do not know any Balori, nor have I ever met an immortal elephant. I go to find the one called Black Tentacle. I am told he seeks a demon that lives upon the Plain of Adoration. If the demon has anything to do with the disappearance of the stars, your Balori may be there, but I know nothing of him. Join us if you will, but these men go to fight the demon for wrongs he has committed onto them and the world. I seek Black Tentacle and only Black Tentacle.”

Shabar listened carefully. He considered joining this band of warriors. He ate supper with them that night and slept with them. By the next morning, he had made up his mind.

Wu Chan Chu urged her fellow fighters to gather their equipment. “By the gods, if I didn’t think a demon was involved and I could go only for Black Tentacle, I would leave you all behind, but I may need you to serve as a distraction. Wrest yourselves from sleep and let’s go!”

She paused a moment, eyeing Shabar as he readied himself.

“You go with us, then?” she asked.

Shabar nodded.

“I cannot promise you’ll find your friend,” she warned.

“I understand, but this is the best possibility I’ve learned of yet. If nothing else, I’ve been traveling alone a long time and when a man is alone for so long his thoughts can turn wicked, especially if he’s left home with an ill wind to his back.”

Wu Chan Chu thought on this. She said, “Keep up. I will not slow my progress for an idiot or a lazy bastard. Keep at my pace and we may reach this Plain of Adoration in proper time. I will not wait.”

Shabar again nodded, saying, “I will keep up.”



Fei Li Mi had been living upon the Plain of Adoration for a small time, easing his way closer to the demon-dog, speaking with him and making a home for himself when rumors spread through the field and eyes were turned upward toward the Black Mountains. Fei Li Mi peered onto the mountains and there saw the elephant Balori floated slowly down into the plain. He came closer, closer, nodding to those who said hello to him and welcoming him to the plain. He felt they meant him to stay. He wondered why anyone would stay.

Fei Li Mi watched with Yaska Selith and Neboshazzar, who was perched upon the demon-dog’s shoulder, as the elephant flew nearer before lifting himself off the ground using his mystic cloud and drawing face-to-face with Yaska Selith.

Neboshazzar screeched angrily at the elephant. Balori winced at the sound before giving the ghastly beast a sour look.

Fei Li Mi took to the air and came level with Balori and Yaska Selith’s face.

Balori’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “Fei Li Mi, I am not surprised you are here.”

“Then you should not be surprised you are not welcome, at least for my part.”

“Know you this elephant?” asked Yaska Selith.

Fei Li Mi nodded. “Indeed. We once served the same mistress.”

“Once served?” asked Balori. “Am I to understand you no longer serve the Eternal Empress.”

“No longer,” confirmed Fei Li Mi. “When first I came onto the plain of adoration I was welcomed with open arms. The children here love and accept me and the people do not judge me based upon their whims. Here I am–”

“Shut you gods bedamned mouth, fish,” cursed Balori. “I care not why you are here.” Balori then turned to Yaska Selth and said, “Demon, I come seeking the Jewel of Zingtai. I would take it and peacefully go.”

“Jewel of Zingtai?” asked Yaska Selith. “What would that be?”

Balori’s heart suddenly sank. He feared the demon-dog knew nothing, therefore did not have the jewel. He explained, “It is a jewel from off the wing of Zingtai the Nighttime Butterfly. Without it she cannot fly, thus we have lost the stars. If I can retrieve it, the stars will return to the nighttime skies and all would benefit from their beauty.”

“Would they now?” asked Yaska Selith. He leaned back on his haunches and said, “Perhaps I have your jewel. Many great treasures are sent to me by adoring friends. And I must confess to you an obsession I have with shiny, pretty things. Looking at them makes me want to eat them!” At this Yaska Selith gurgled forth barking laughter.

“He does not have it,” said Fei Li Mi. “So leave at once.”

“How do you know I do not have this jewel?” asked Yaska Selith of Fei Li Mi.

The fish responded, “I have been here a short time and I have yet once to see or hear of it.”

“Do you know where I keep my treasures, fish?” asked the demon-dog.

Fei Li Mi had to confess he did not, “Though I hear you bury them.”

“I do! I do! In fact, this small mound of dirt I now sit upon is the very spot where I bury all my beautiful treasures.” Yaska Selith turned to Balori and asked, “What does your jewel look like?”

“It is as an oversized emerald,” said Balori.

Yaska Selith reached a clawed hand under himself and dug into the ground there. He then produced a giant emerald with two small chips in it where Zom Loa and Stavros had both taken a bit for themselves to eat.

“Could this be it?” asked the demon-dog.

“It has to be! There could be but one giant emerald!” Balori cried out. “Will you give it to me, demon?”

Yaska Selith considered giving it to the elephant, but the gleam and shine of the jewel enticed him. He brought the emerald near and sniffed it, placed it in his mouth and nibbled it playfully, then took it out of his mouth and swiftly plunged it into the ground beneath him.

“No!” cried Yaska Selith. “It is mine! All these treasures I sit upon are mine. You cannot have a single one!”

Balori trumpeted in anger. He said, “If you do not give it to me peacefully, I will return with many warriors and take it forcefully.”

Yaska Selith laughed so loudly at this the ground shook. He looked at Balori and said, “You may be quite large to these people that live at my feet, but to me you are tiny. What could you possibly do to me?”

Again the demon-dog laughed, this time howling in joy afterwards. He then said, “Dear elephant, consider joining my ranks so that you may tell me more jokes such as this and entertain me nightly.”

Balori filled with rage. He stood on his mystic cloud and yelled, “You dare mock me? I am Balori Shongoyo of the Elephants of Ife! And if you do not hand over that jewel I will be your destroyer!”

Yaska Selith stopped his laughing. He stared angrily at the elephant standing upon his cloud. He said, “Rid me of yourself.” At this he raised a clawed hand and swatted Balori from the sky, knocking him from his own cloud and sending him flying into the side of the Black Mountains.

This time Fei Li Mi joined Yaska Selith in laughter as Neboshazzar screeched victory and the followers of the demon-dog sent up a triumphant cheer.

Balori crashed hard against the stony surface of the mountains. He struggled to stand. Pain throbbed throughout his body. He snorted and the mystic cloud that hand been left suspended before Yaska Selith returned to him, flying into his trunk. He snorted again, pushing the cloud back out and he mounted it. Taking a long, last look at Yaska Selith and those upon the plain, he turned and flew as swiftly as he could up the mountains.

There, waiting in anticipation, were his fellows. They had seen Balori swatted from the sky and feared him harmed.

“Are you all right?” asked Negkendra as Balori returned to them.

Balori huffed angrily. “I suppose my pride is far more wounded than my body, Negkendra. Thank you for asking. In case you could not see, he denied me the Jewel of Zingtai.”

Akadia asked, “So he has it? Was that really it he held up?”

Balori nodded. “That was the jewel we seek.”

“What do we do now?” asked Macia. “We can’t possibly take them all on by ourselves.”

Balori finished stretching his muscles and brushing himself off and drinking deeply from one of his men’s flask. He said, “We may not have to. As I descended the mountains I saw to the south a kingdom with a castle. I can only imagine the demon has sent some of his men that way and may have control of it, but if not, I can only imagine those that live there do not appreciate their neighbor.”

Macia, Negkendra, Akadia and all of them nodded.

Akadia said, “We go there, then? To seek help?”

Balori nodded. “We go there to seek help.”

In the far distance, on the northern border of the plain, Zom Loa crossed Owl Bridge and entered the Plain of Adoration.



As the marmoset and the farmer approached the large doors to the Chamber of Despair, Momoki thought of something. He stopped and turned to the shadows. He did not know where exactly Radiant Gui was, but knew he would definitely be nearby, watching.

Joto Ba, now with a menacing sickle held firmly in his hand, turn and looked out into the beshadowed land with Momoki as the marmoset called out, “Radiant Gui, I’ve a question for you.”

Radiant Gui appeared, melting from shadows. His ghastly, demonic horse-form frightened Joto Ba and he raised his sickle and backed away first one step, then two.

Radiant Gui eyed the farmer, then looked to Momoki. “What s it?”

“Is there water within the Chamber of Despair?” asked Momoki.

The horse-demon gurgled laughter. “No! I think there’s not a drop of water in all the many layers of Hell. What does it matter?”

Said Momoki, “My friends, they will need water soon lest they die.”

Radiant Gui considered this. “Hmmm,” said he, “I’ve heard living things cannot live without this element. Bah! How weak they are!”

Momoki looked to the horse-demon, “Is there a way to bring water to them? If not, they will die.”


Momoki stiffened. “And should they die I will refuse this quest you send me on.”

Radiant Gui whinnied with fear and anger. He brought his face low to the ground to hover just over Momoki’s head. Sulphur and ash fell from his mouth and nose onto Momoki as he breathed.

Radiant Gui withdrew into the shadows, saying, “You try my patience, marmoset.”

Radiant Gui gone, Momoki knew not what to do. He turned toward the doors to his chamber and opened them. Joto Ba followed him in.

As they entered, a flurry of activity met them. Gogi ran across the courtyard towards his garden with a small tub Szu Ri had made by binding twigs together with her silk. Momoki followed after him and Joto Ba followed Momoki.

Gogi stopped at the side of his garden. Water bubbled forth from where he had been digging a well in hopes of finding water. He placed the tub in the water and filled it until he had great difficulty lifting it out again. He then saw Momoki and nearly screeched with excitement, “Momoki! Oh, Momoki, look! I’ve done it! I’ve found water! Look!”

The water started flooding all around the garden in chaotic ways.

“Oh!” said Gogi. “I have to irrigate or it’ll not stay so the plants can drink from it!”

Gogi adjusted his hat down on his head so it would not fall off as he worked. He began digging little channels around the garden to direct the flow of water around and through the garden.

“Would you like us to help?” asked Momoki.

Gogi nodded vigorously. “Would you? Thank you, Momoki!”

Momoki took the tip of his pipe and began making channels.

Joto Ba take the point of his sickle’s blade and did the same.

Momoki introduced them, “Gogi, this is Joto Ba. He was a farmer in his last life.”

“Oh,” Gogi twitched nervously. He feared his small garden would look patheric in the eyes of another, especially an authentic farmer. He said, “Pleased to meet you, Joto Ba. This garden, it’s, uh, w-well, it’s not much.”

Joto Ba smiled, though it did not show on his expressionless face. He said, “It is fine work.”

Gogi breathed a little easier. His chest swelled with pride. He nodded to Joto Ba and said, “Thank you.”

On they worked, Momoki and Joto Ba digging small channels and Gogi going along behind them, packing down the dirt and forming the paths for the water.

The sprouts drank deeply and filled out, happily growing.


Be sure to look for Act III next week!

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