Friday, September 26, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act III

Here's Act III of "Warriors of the Midnight Sun". I hope you're enjoying.


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



THE MOTHER: Wherein the Mother Joins Momoki in Hell; A Gathering at the Throne of Aniabas; Stavros Joins Wu Chan Chu



Neighbors found and retrieved Joto Ba’s body. A funeral was hastily held for him. Many came from all around, not merely because he was well-liked, which he was, but because many desired the truth of his death, to confirm his murder.

Dian wailed at her husband’s funeral. She had left home as a young woman and married Joto Ba because of her love for him. She had struggled so hard to be a fine wife and mother. Her pride and joy, her daughter, had been stolen from her home. She felt empty, without worth or purpose.

On went her wailing, long after the funeral. She left her home and came to kneel by the side of the small lake in the land. Each night her neighbors would hear her screaming in pain, in agony for her lost family. So horrid was her weeping that no one could muster the courage to attend to her, to go to her side.

Night after night the people near the lake would hear her wail and ignore her, though largely unsuccessfully.

One night, on a night when her cries were so excruciating many gathered and debated going to her, her wails finally ceased. Not one of her neighbors spoke a thing more of her. It would be days later when someone would finally find the courage to retrieve and bury her body. And when they did, she had already begin her new life, her afterlife.

When Dian came into the Land of the Midnight Sun, she was of dark features like the previously selected had been. Her eyes glowed, matching the Midnight Sun. In her stomach was a streak of red where she had plunged a knife.

Joto Ba was there at her side. He reached out a hand and touched her shoulder. She looked at him.

Joto Ba gestured to the marmoset seated upon a nearby black stone. He said, “This is Momoki. He will help us.”



Quite the awe was Balori and his men as they rode into the kingdom of Aniabas. Many of Aniabas’ subjects had gone and only those that desired to defend their kingdom and liege remained. Many were battle-hardened soldiers, yet still they gasped at the presence of a Gifted One.

Balori was given passage to the castle where he alone was taken before Aniabas.

Aniabas, Balori mused, appeared a grand figure on seated upon his giant throne of gold and royal reds. His crown was immense and appeared heavy. He wore heavy armor and a cape of bright red trimmed with gold frills. Balori wondered at the man’s scarred and ugly face. To the sides of the throne room, in dark recesses, Balori spied a few men armed with bows loaded with arrows pointed directly at him.

Said the king somewhat suspiciously, “Why have you come here?”

“I am Balori Shongoyo of the Elephants of Ife. I have been charged by the Eternal Empress to retrieve from the demon to the north of your kingdom the Jewel of Zingtai and with it restore the stars to the nighttime sky. I have gone to the demon and he refuses to give up the jewel without a fight. I and my men alone cannot possibly overthrow the demon alone. We must seek help, hence I have come to you under the assumption you wish to rid your northern border of the demon.”

King Aniabas considered the elephant. He was a large creature and wondered at his powers. He said, “Your assumptions are true. How many men do you bring?”

Balori said, “A few dozen.”

“Feh! That is no army!”

“Hence I am here.”

King Aniabas asked, “What can you do as a Gifted One?”

“I have been trained by Masters Nahum and Dark Ram in the ways of fighting. I can fight with three weapons at once. I can crush a man’s skull under my foot,” bragged Balori as he eyed the hidden archers.

“Then you are as strong as you appear. What of your men?” asked Aniabas.

“Many are trained fighters. A few have personal matters to deal with against the demon. They are all loyal and strong and healthy.”

“And what personal matter have you with the demon?”

Balori huffed impatiently. He said, “The Eternal Empress uses my people as her slaves. If I can restore the stars to the night, she has promised to let them go.”

“Are you certain she will make good on her promise?”

This angered Balori. He yelled, “She better!” as he clenched his fists.

Aniabas considered Balori’s reaction, seeing they betrayed the truth of his words with passion for success in his quest. After considering many more things, Aniabas said, “Welcome Balori Shongoyo. Welcome to my kingdom and my side.”

“No!” Vitor cried and stepped from a dark recess. He drew his sword against Balori but did not attack. He said, “My liege, we do not know this creature. He could be lying. Can we put all our trust in a stranger at such a precarious time?”

Said Balori, “Come to me, whelp. Attack me. I’ll show your king what Masters Nahum and Dark Ram have taught me. I’ll show you my forehead.”

Aniabas said, “I doubt he will betray us. He is too impassioned about freeing his people. And a Gifted One at our side would definitely tip the scales of chance toward our favor. Put down your sword, Vitor. I know you are my general and my personal guard and in that you succeed, but now I tell you this elephant is not our enemy. Put down your sword.”

Vitor reluctantly followed his liege’s command.

Balori stared down at Vitor.

Aniabas stood. “Take me to your men, Balori. I would inspect them.”

Balori nodded, “Of course, your highness.”



Long had Sinverguenza and his companions traveled. When they felt it was safe, when they knew the girl Inno would not recognize the countryside and make attempts at escape, they unbound her. Sinverguenza took her as his own and had he not been so hastily returning to his master, the demon-dog Yaska Selith, that he would have taken her as his bride and consummated their relationship. She did not love him and he could see that in the way she looked at him. He did not care. He was determined to make her love him as he desperately loved her.

After many days of hard rain they finally came to Owl Bridge and crossed it to enter the Plain of Adoration. Sinverguenza went immediately to Yaska Selith’s side and presented to him Motharus.

“He is a mighty fighter,” he told Yaska Selith. “He left the championship of the Peony Tea House to come serve you.”

“A Gifted One, eh?” Yaska Selith eyed Motharus.

Motharus flew up to the demon-dog’s eye level. “I have been told to come to you,” he said.


Motharus nodded, “By the demon Adonai Ku-jal.” Motharus hoped the demon-dog would know the name.

“And he speaks to you?” asked Yaska Selith.

“Yes. Within my mind.”

Yaska Selith nodded with understanding. “He rides you as a vessel in this world. He plays with your mind. Does he know me? I do not know this demon.”

Motharus searched his mind, but Adonai Ku-jal was not making his presence known. “I do not know that he knows you, but he told me to come to your side and serve you.”

“Welcome, then, Motharus. Welcome to the Plain of Adoration and welcome to my side.” Yaska Selith looked down at Sinverguenza, “The others you sent have come to me. my numbers swell because of you and my riches grow. I am grateful to you, Sinverguenza. Know you have the favor of Yaska Selith.”

Sinverguenza smiled.

Some time passed. Sinverguenza settled once more onto the plain and kept Inno at his side. He reacquainted himself with those that had followed him while he was away from the demon-dog including Laskmana, the woman who had been his second. She filled that role once more as an informal hierarchy of command seemed to form wherein Sinverguenza, Motharus, Raiju Yu the Weasel King and Neboshazzar the Ruiner were made Yaska Selith’s lieutenants. From there each of them had made their own seconds and personal attendants.

This was how Zom Loa found Yaska Selith and his followers as he came onto the Plain of Adoration.

He came across Owl Bridge, his tentacles whipping out one after another, pulling him closer to the wicked knot of men and women. As he drew near so few of them appeared to notice him, as though he were somehow a natural creature, as though he were once again at the Peony Tea House where Gifted Ones frequented often. Those few that did pay his attention brought to him foods and wines and welcomed him to their numbers.

“You’ve come to see our great master?” asked one.

“I come to find the demon,” said Zom Loa.

“That is he,” said the man who spoke to him as he pointed high to the demon-dog some distance from them.

Zom Loa eyed the demon-dog. He said, “I’ve seen him before.”

“Have you?” the man asked excitedly. “You must have seen him then when first he came into the world and traveled the many countrysides.”

Zom Loa thought back to Ebi and Pup, to the Ruby Bug, remembering the change the dog that changed into the massive creature he now saw. He wondered if the people gathered around him understood his origins, understood he was perhaps not truly a demon. Zom Loa knew, for he had studied so many years, since childhood, the many legions of demons and their tales. But he doubted these people much cared about Yaska Selith’s true nature. Yaska Selith was a Gifted One, a rather large and powerful looking one at that. And such power was attractive. He knew then any argument towards the truth would be disarmed.

He knew, also, not only would many flock to Yaska Selith’s side to love him, many would come to usurp him.

Zom Loa asked, “Could I meet with him? I’ve something to say to him. We may be in dire straits momentarily.”

“Oh? What could you know?” asked the man.

“I am a Gifted One and while I am no demon, I am hunted by men. If my small presence in the world can be hunted, surely Yaska Selith’s name passes over the lips of assassins. We must warn him to fortify this plain.”

Zom Loa was taken to Yaska Selith. He suggested to the demon-dog he send men to the far side of Owl Bridge to guard the passage there. It was done. And so were many other plans.

Sinverguenza and Zom Loa were introduced. Together with Yaska Selith, they prepared for any oncoming assaults.

When the world grew dark under Kalavata’s outstretched wings, Yaska Selith turned his head to look at Neboshazzar perched upon his furry shoulder and spoke softly, “I fear this Zom Loa speaks the truth. There may very well be many plotting against us.”

Neboshazzar’s head bobbed nervously, he shifted his weight from one talon-filled foot to the other. His dark head lifted and he breathed deep. Murder indeed appear to be on the air. It made Neboshazzar quite hungry. His jagged mercury teeth clacked together as the night grew darker still.



It had been many years since the traveling merchant Hano last visited the people of Yuki village. As he entered the hilly countryside he was pleased to find all was as he had remembered. The windmill still lifted on the air, churning the rice within into mochi. The people remained working in the paddies, though now each was years older. The land was bright and green and alive and it made him happy. He smiled at the day and at the farmlands and at the farmers as he came to rest in front of the hut of Dubai.

He waited some time in the hut as Dubai worked the fields with the others. Elsa tended to him and fed him and gave him a cup of rice wine. Hano was quite pleased and they chatted happily.

As dusk came on the land Dubai returned to his hut with Stavros in tow. They, too, were happily chatting as they entered the hut.

“Hano!” called Dubai as he entered his hut. The two men clasped one another as family. Stavros smiled at the man and bowed in respect as they were introduced.

“Who is this?” asked Hano, his face not contorted with suspicion.

“This is Stavros. He lives with us now,” explained Dubai.

The three sat at a small table as Elsa stoked a fire and made supper for them. Their meal was awash with light talk and happy reminiscences. Stavros learned Hano was, indeed, a distant relative of Dubai and had been born in Yuki. When he came of age he had moved to the nearby town, then taken up the occupation of traveling merchant. Stavros explained he had once made friends with a traveling merchant, a man who had taken great care of him.

At last Hano turned to Stavros and said, “Tell me, friend, what business does a Gifted One such as yourself have in our little Yuki?”

Stavros explained his battle with the Brothers Jackal, the death of his people, and spoke of the giant demon-dog Yaska Selith.

Hano listened carefully. When Stavros paused in his tale, Hano said, “I passed a small collection of mercenaries traveling east a day ago. I did not approach them. Their leader appeared to be a Gifted One, as well. I asked about them however, and I learned the Gifted One is a demi-goddess, a frog, seeking a giant demon-dog.”

This sparked new life in Stavros, new passions he had not felt strongly in some time. He said, “Where were they?”

“They were a day’s ride behind me. I could travel faster than them only because I was alone and had no merchandise with me. I suspect they’ll be in town by tomorrow morning.”

Stavros thought matters over. He looked to Dubai who eyed him suspiciously. “They seek the very demon-dog,” he said.

Dubai shook his head. “It cannot be.”

“What other demon-dog resides within the world instead of the Many Hells?” asked Stavros. “It can only be the very one.”

Dubai considered this and, at last, nodded in agreement.

“I must go find them.”

Elsa came to Stavros. “Please, no. Your home is here now.”

“But my people,” was all Stavros said. He looked to Hano, “By next morning, you say?”

Hano nodded.

“Then I’ll go to meet with them.”

“To what end?” asked Dubai.

“To discover their purpose, to discover if their demon-dog is mine.” Stavros stood. “If I’m to be in town first thing in the morning, I’ll have to sleep now. I wish we could spend more time together, hano, but I hope you understand the importance of these matters.”

Hano said he understood.

As Stavros fell asleep on his small cot with a mattress filled with straw, he could hear Dubai and Hano speaking softly.

“I do not trust him.”

“Many were suspicious, Hano. But he has proven trustworthy.”

“Until now. Perhaps he is a demon’s imp. Perhaps he is this demon-dog’s servant and you’ve been allowing him to stay here. How could you do this? Did you not consider the safety of the people of Yuki?”

“I considered many things,” defended Dubai. “And I’ll consider anything you’ve to offer about him, but I will not consider his betrayal. He is a Gifted One and he is a good creature. I am convinced he was sent here by the gods to care for. In the time he has been here, not only has he added his hands to our paddies, but our harvest has nearly doubled. He is most certainly a creature of good fortune.”

“And I love him,” Elsa interrupted.

There was a long silence. Stavros, who had been listening in a state between sleep and wakefulness, opened his eyes upon hearing this.

Dubai whispered, “Quiet, granddaughter. Go to bed.”

Stavros heard the rustling sounds of Elsa preparing for and getting into her own cot. He then heard the two men stepping outside for a long, private walk. He thought a while about what his presence must mean to the people of Yuki. Surely many had been frightened of him, thought he as he remembered the first village he had come into when he had been carrying the giant green jewel, of how he had been chases away.

The people of Yuki were good people, he decided, and if they wanted him to leave he would do so. He hoped only they would know to trust him enough to tell him so.

Stavros stopped his wandering thoughts. He told himself, “I have another people to tend to.” He thought of the Ruska Rome. He reached under his cot and pulled from it his accordion. He felt it with his clawed fingers in the dark. His heart ached with missing the Ruska Roma as he quietly returned it to the darkness beneath his cot.

He rolled on his back and stared into darkness. “A frog demi-goddess,” he whispered to himself.

Sleep finally came to him.

Long before Etain poked her head over the horizon the next morning, Stavros was awake and gone from Yuki. He traveled alone, quietly, down the hilly country toward the town. His mind roiled with thoughts. He hoped he had not missed the frog demi-goddess, he hoped Hano had not be wrong in their direction or speed.

As the town came into view, so too did the encampment of a small group of mercenaries just on the edge of town. It was a small collection of men and women, about forty in all, Stavros surmised. He steered himself towards them and as he approached them he saw they were already awake and eating and preparing for their day’s travels. It did not take much effort for Stavros to spot the frog demi-goddess. Hope pounded within his chest as he entered the encampment. He asked a few of the mercenaries if he could speak with their leader. He was pointed toward the frog and told she was quite approachable, though at times impatient as she was determined to march onward.

Stavros drew near her.

“Are you the frog demi-goddess that seeks a demon-dog?” Stavros asked.

Wu Chan Chu, busily packing her supplies and placing them on her back, looked at Stavros. She considered him a long time. “That I am.”

“This demon-dog, does he travel with a pair of jackals?”

“He once traveled, though now I’m told he’s settled upon the Plain of Adoration. I know nothing of those that are with him, except that one called Black Tentacle seeks his company and I seek Black Tentacle. Everyone else here seeks the demon and a few seek glory at my side.”

“I seek the two jackals that are with him.”

One of Wu Chan Chu’s men confirmed he had heard Yaska Selith traveled with two jackals. “I saw them myself,” said the man.

“Then it is the very demon-dog!” said Stavros. “I would join with you!”

Wu Chan Chu eyed Stavros’ small hunch. “Though I recognize you as a Gifted One, I doubt we could use a broken rat.” She then commanded her men to hastily pack and break camp so they may start out for the day.

Stavros was enraged. He attacked Wu Chan Chu, grabbing her by the arm and pushing at her.

Wu Chan Chu struck back. She punched Stavros, slamming two fists into his chest and sending him backwards onto the ground. Her face contorted with anger. “How dare you touch me? Lesser creatures have died at my hands for that very offense! Off with you, rat! You have no purpose here!”

Wu Chan Chu and her men, their camp broken and supplies packed, walked away.

Stavros picked himself off the ground and ran after her. He considered her words and knew this frog would not answer to violence except with violence. He instead decided to plead. He ran around her and bent himself painfully low to the ground. His crooked back popped and he groaned as he prostrated, his hands clasped together and pleading, his arms outstretched, his head low.

“Please!” cried Stavros. He looked up at Wu Chan Chu. “These creatures, those jackals, they killed my people. Every last one of them died. I alone survived and they left me broken as you see me now. But I have grown strong since then with work in the rice paddies. I can still fight. Please, demi-goddess, the memory of my people demand it.”

Shabar, the farmer and once counsel to the Eternal Empress, stepped forward and said, “Wu Chan Chu, if he has fought the creatures before, perhaps he could lend aid with what he has previously seen and knows.”

Wu Chan Chu paid Shabar no heed. She ordered her mercenaries around Stavros.

As she passed, Stavros stood and they stared at one another.

“Whether I join with you here is no matter,” Stavros said determinedly. “I will follow you to this plain and find the jackals and kill them.”

Wu Chan Chu breathed deep. She gave a small croak. “You’ve no supplies. The plain, I’m told, is a long distance from here.”

“I’ve supplies in a village nearby. And a good, strong sword.”

“I’ll not wait for you. We press onward at a difficult pace.”

“I’ll keep up,” said Stavros.

Wu Chan Chu watched as her mercenaries obediently marched ahead of them. At last she nodded, saying, “I’ll not wait. Gather your things and catch up with us when you can.”

Stavro smiled, baring his long rat teeth. “Thank you.”

Wu Chan Chu walked away from him and joined her men, taking the lead and pressing east.

Stavros ran back to Yuki. There his running caused quite a commotion. Many of the people, already working in the paddies and in the mill with Etain breaking over the horizon, stopped to watch him pass by.

He ran into the hut of Dubai. The elder was there, as was Elsa. Hano was not.

“They seek the very demon-dog,” explained Stavros. He was a flurry of fur and activity as he scooped up first his accordion and finally his sword. He stopped long enough to look at Dubai. “Where’s Hano?”

“He’s gone on about his business,” said Dubai.

Stavros was hesitant. He said, “I have to go.”

Dubai smiled and nodded.

Elsa approached. She handed Stavros a bundle filled with rice and mochi and with it a clay jar filled with rice wine.

“You knew,” said Stavros as he took the food and wine.

They nodded.

Stavros slung his sword on his back. He tied the accordion at his waist along with the wine. He looked again at the ones who had most recently been his family.

“I have to,” he said again.

“We know,” Dubai said as he hugged Stavros. “Fare well.”

Elsa looked at him longingly, tears in her eyes but as yet not spilling. “Will you return to us?”

Stavros wanted to say that he would, but knew he had once before been defeated by the Brothers Jackal. He knew the times ahead of him would be bloody and messy and he did not want to lie to her, to commit an affront to those who had so lovingly accepted him.

Said Stavros, “I do not know that I’ll be able to.”

Elsa nodded, straightening his clothes about the neck and fighting back tears. She knew he spoke the truth.

Stavros grabbed her by the shoulders. “If I can, I will.”

She smiled.

They hugged.

With a flurry of activity, with many goodbyes, Stavros was gone from the small village of Yuki.



Renorio settled onto the Plain of Adoration with little notice. He made acquaintances and lived peaceably amongst the people there all the while secretly desiring the girl Inno. But rarely did Sinverguenza allowed her out of his sight. Even as he commanded the Bone Warriors she was nearby. Always did she appear nervous and afraid. He desperately desired to steal away with her, to treat her kindly so she would love him and when they left the plain he would…

Renoiro rarely allowed himself to think further. He instead became friends with Laskmana. She grew to trust him. At last, one day, he lead her away and when they were alone he produced a small knife and stabbed her in the chest and began the slow process of peeling her skin away from her body.

Two men found Renorio bent over the body of Laskmana. They were outraged and disgusted by what they saw. They grabbed Renorio and dragged him away the body, raising an alarm until more people came and witnessed the deed Renorio had been caught doing.

At that moment Yaska Selith had called Sinvergenza to his side. He placed a hand down to the plain and picked Sinverguenza gently up to bring him to his own eye level. Said the demon-dog, “There may be plots forming against us. We must not only fortify our borders, we must do away with our greatest threat.”

“You mean the king to the south?”

Yaska Selith nodded. “Indeed, I do.”

“I doubt he’s had enough time to completely revitalize and reform an army. A few of our people have gone there and mingle with the citizenry. They say the common man is all but gone, only soldiers remain and then not many. We may match this king in number, but if he truly has an army justly due to a kingdom they will be well-trained. We have many experienced fighters here, but we are more likely less organized and informal than a king’s men.

“If we are to abolish this king, we would most likely do best by subversive action.”

“And how would you suggest this? Setting them afire? Assassination?”

Sinvergiunza confessed, “I cannot truly say. My experience with subversion does not exist.”

It was then the two men dragged Renorio before Yaska Selith. They told the demon-dog of what they had found as he lowered Sinverguenza to the ground, of how Renorio had murdered Laskmana and was skinning her corpse. They then produced the cloak of skins they had found amongst his possessions.

“He is a foul creature!” cried one man.

Yaska Selith sighed. He stared a long time at Renorio who crouched, frightened and silent, before him. He then looked to Sinverguenza and thought of the matters they had been discussing. He wished he could concentrate on matters with Sinverguenza without interruption from the others about their frivolous tribulations. Again he sighed, then thought of something. He said to Sinverguenza, “Perhaps we have found our subversive operative.”

Sinverguenza looked to Renorio, disgusted by the thought of this man he had traveled with skinning the woman that had once been his second in command. He knew then Yaska Selith’s idea of using Renorio was perhaps well placed.

Sinverguenza looked up at Yaska Selith. “He succeeded in striking fear here. He most assuredly would do the same in the kingdom.”



The Spear of Sorrows broke free from the roots and vines that had held it in place at the base of the mountain called Taliesin. Aelis awoke within it as Xiao-tep formed his fins into strong arms and held his weapon forged by dwarven smiths once more. She squirmed within, crying softly, questioning.

Xiao-tep turned to Comet Fox. “Perhaps we should part ways.”

Comet Fox nodded. “I would go the Peony Tea House. Wu Chan Chu is most likely yet upset with me, but with word of a demon and her love of a good fight will perhaps persuade her to hear me out on matters.”

Xiao-tep agreed. “You should mend matters with her. If you cannot persuade her any other way, tell her I seek her, that I ask for her aid.”

Comet Fox smiled. “We’re at it again.”

Xiao-tep did not smile. He eyed his spear. “I wish it were not so.” He then looked to Comet Fox, “There was a kingdom to the south of the plain. I will go there and determine our allies. Fare well, friend.”

Xiao-tep bowed deeply at the waist with great respect for his friend.

Comet Fox smiled and winked. “Until we see each other again.”

Comet Fox flew from Taliesin, a great comet-like tail following behind him.

Xiao-tep breathed deep. He told a Otti, Aglina and Zingtai of his plans. They all wished him well and he left the Mountain That Lived in the Sky.

Taliesin was once more without a caretaker.



Xiao-tep was well-received by the soldiers. King Aniabas welcomed him and his alliance in the fight against the demon-dog Yaska Selith.

“He plagues me with his presence,” said Aniabas.

Xiao-tep stared at the deeply scarred face of the king. “I will do what I can. I have fought one other demon.”

“Have you? Then you will be a great benefit to our cause.”

“I can only hope,” said Xiao-tep.


Be sure to check back next Friday, October 3rd, for Act IV!

No comments: