Friday, October 3, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act IV

Here's Act IV of "Warriors of the Midnight Sun". This story is a planned eight acts, which means we're not halfway through!



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



THE MISFIT: Wherein Comet Fox Frees and Trains Roku; Wu Chan Chu Arrives Within the Kingdom of Aniabas; Old Friends are Reunited



Roku was ordered suspended within a cage outside the Peony Tea House so that all who came near knew not to commits acts against the teahouse. Every day people would pass by him, taunting him. Never was he fed. Often he had food thrown at him, most times rotten vegetables or fruits or, on occasion, cream pies. He had stripped himself of his clothes until he was barely covered at all. He found the weight of his clothes even too heavy for his thinning frame. Roku grew thin and weak with hunger and weary of the taunts until he never spoke back. He simply allowed the people to do what they would and, after they had left, if some small morsel was left within his reach he would grab for it and eat it.

A great, brilliantly glimmering tail streaked across the sky and ended before the Peony as Comet Fox landed outside the teahouse’s doors. He, like all others, first noticed Roku.

“Hey!” called up Comet Fox. “Hey, you!”

Roku did not answer, certain it was yet another cruel visitor wishing to taunt him. His eyes remained closed and he tried to sleep, wishing death would come to him in sleep.

“Hey! Why are you in that cage?” asked Comet Fox.

This was a new question. Most people simply had known of his crime or had assumed he was placed there as additional entertainment for customers or they simply never cared to wonder at his presence.

Roku looked down at Comet Fox. He saw the fox-god had no foods with him, no rotten tomatoes nor any cream pies.

“What did you do?” Comet Fox asked as he surmised he was being punished.

Roku looked to Comet Fox, peering at his closely. His mind worked, “I am but a victim. I was tricked by the Immortal known as Black Tentacle. I was framed for his theft of the coffers of the Peony. Please! Free me!”

Comet Fox was shocked by this. “Then Sal Igo knows the real thief?”

Roku eyed Comet Fox. “Who are you?”

Then, bursting forth from the doors of the Peony, came Sal Igo and eight men armed with short spears and swords.

“Comet Fox!” cried Sal Igo. “You dastardly fiend! You stole my coffers!”

Confused, Comet Fox said, “What? No!” Then pointing at Roku in his cage, “You’ve the real thief right here!”

“Indeed, and the mastermind before me.”

“No!” said Comet Fox. “I had nothing to do with it! You damned fool! Even when you’ve the evidence you need, the confessions of the criminals, you’re still blinded by the truth. Why is that?”

“I know the truth,” said Sal Igo. “And the son of a Trickster god is a Trickster himself. Get him!”

The eight men converged on Comet Fox.

Comet Fox bent backwards, his chest below thrusting spears. He knocked them aside and straightened.

“Sal Igo! Listen to reason!” he said.

The eight men attacked as Sal Igo laughed.

Comet Fox ducked Spear after sword. He kicked out with his right foot and pushed away one attacker. He grabbed the spear of another , twisting the length of the weapon and delivering a backhand to the neck of the man, pulling the spear free from his hands.

“Trickster god!” cried Roku. “Free me and I’ll help you!”

Feeling the pressure of the eight attackers, thinking another fighter would help – even one that has been starved to near death – could be a great benefit. Comet Fox thrust the short spear into the ground and used the force of the thrust to catapult himself into small flight. He came level with Roku’s cage and with a twirl of his body, as though doing a somersault mid-air, and the swipe of an ulu he produced from the sash at his waist, the lock on the cage was sliced in two parts. The cage door swung open and Roku jumped out.

Comet Fox landed at his side.

“It’s good to have a fellow fighter at my side, even if his crime has been blamed on me.”

“Uh,” stammered Roku. “fighter? I’m no fighter.”

Comet Fox gasped, looking to Roku. “Then how were you going to help me?”

Roku shrugged. “With my good looks and charm? My brains? However I can help I can’t do so by fighting.”

Comet Fox rolled his eyes.

The eight men charged at them.

Comet Fox placed himself behind Roku, reaching out and grabbing his hand to place it round the spear firmly.

Roku, holding the spear with Comet Fox behind him – also holding the spear – asked, “What are you doing?”

“Giving you a quick lesson.”

The eight men came at them. Comet Fox jerked his wrist, causing Roku’s hand to twirl the tip of the spear and knock away one man’s sword. Comet Fox then moved his hand slightly sideways and to the right, sending the tip of the spear left and knocking down yet another menacing sword. Comet Fox then pushed the spear with a palm on its base. Roku’s arm stretched out as the spear stabbed into the chest of a third man who then collapsed dead on the ground.

“I’m doing it!” exclaimed Roku excitedly. “I’m fighting!”

“No you’re not,” said Comet Fox in his ear. “I am.”

“Then why am I holding the spear?” asked Roku.

“In case one of them passes through my defense and stabs with their weapon.”

“If they do that,” Roku thought it out, “then he’ll not stab at you! They’ll strike me!”

Comet Fox smiled. “Exactly.”

Filled with fear, Roku faux-fought on. Every time he tried to let go the spear, Comet Fox would roll around his torso, under his arms, grab his hand and place it back on the spear.

The seven remaining men came at them, surrounding them.

Comet Fox stepped wide, grabbing Roku by the shoulder and bent back with him. The spears and swords stabbed the air above their bent forms. Comet Fox took the spear form Roku and swiped with it sideways, knocking three men in the knees and causing them to fall. He then slipped the spear over Roku’s chest between the thief and the other weapons and pushed them up as the two stood straight once more.

Roku tried to run away but Comet Fox grabbed him and pulled him back. A spear came at Roku and he naturally grabbed at its shaft. As he did this, Comet Fox stabbed sideways and sent another of the men to the ground with a serious wound.

Seeing Roku had a hold of a spear, Comet Fox pushed him into the man holding the very spear. Roku’s light weight and the force of Comet Fox’s shove sent the man to the ground and Roku was suddenly standing on his own with the spear.

Comet Fox stumbled about as if drunk. He fell into the arms of one man, fooled by the deception, and mumbled incoherently as a drunk would while quietly slipping the blade of his ulu into the man. The man fell away, dead.

Roku stood stupidly. He allowed four men to come around him and point their weapons at his neck.

Comet Fox executed a cartwheel and landed in a splits, finishing by sending his spear into the knee of one of the men surrounding Roku. The man collapses, dropping his weapon and grabbing his knee and screaming in pain.

Comet Fox pulled his spear free and knocked Roku in the back of the leg, causing him to fall backwards. Roku’s spear streaked high and came down atop the head of the man standing behind him, knocking him unconscious, as he fell.

The remaining men broke and ran in fear.

Sal Igo screamed, “No! No! Come back! I’ll pay you all well to kill the Trickster and the thief!”

Comet Fox stood, dropping his spear. He placed his ulu at his waist. He grabbed Roku by the elbow and said, “We had better go. Neither of us are welcome here.”

Comet Fox and Roku ran, hiding in forests and surviving off the land. Comet Fox learned of the story of Black Tentacle and the theft of the coffers. Roku learned of Xiao-tep and Wu Chan Chu and how Comet Fox was created.

“I know Wu Chan Chu,” said Roku as they sat around a campfire eating fresh cooked rabbit.


Roku nodded. “She’s the one who discovered the theft. I was stupidly spending the money a little too liberally right at the teahouse.”

Comet Fox laughed at this.

“She left the teahouse, though.”

“Where did she go?” asked Comet Fox.

“After Black Tentacle.”

After some time Roku began to think about how well Comet Fox could fight. Thought he, “If I could talk this one into training me, I could return to the Peony and not be afraid of Sal Igo’s men. In fact, perhaps I could even become champion! I have seen him lose to Wu Chan Chu, the former champion, but she is gone now. And imagine the drinks I could get for free by telling the tale of how I tricked a son of a Trickster!”

His plan formulated, Roku said, “Please, Comet Fox, won’t you train me?”

Comet Fox shook his head. “No, I must go forth and find my friend Wu Chan Chu.”

“But she is bounded by the land, unlike you who can fly the breadth of a country in a day. Surely you could catch up with her easily. I, however, know not how to fight and I will be hunted by Sal Igo and perhaps this time by trained men. Please, fox-god, I beg your mercy and train me!”

Comet Fox thought of this. He thought if he refused and the thief die, his hands may be stained by his blood as much as Sal Igo. He wondered if he should even care about such matters. At last he wondered what Xiao-tep and Wu Chan Chu might say. Wu Chan Chu, he was certain, would leave the thief to fend for himself without concern. Xiao-tep, however, might give the thief a chance by training him. Comet Fox forgot such ponderings and sought an answer within his own heart. After a night’s rest, he awoke and told Roku he would train him.

Comet Fox combined his Drunken Style and Capoeira into a style filled with stumbling and acrobatics. With it he trained the thief Roku.

At last, when Comet Fox felt he could not spend more time allowing Wu Chan Chu to grow the distance between them, he said to Roku, “I have trained you all I can.”

Roku, who had seen his skills improve considerably, said, “Very well, Master. Go and find your friend. I’ll do what I can to fend off my enemies.”

Comet Fox sighed. He looked to his student and said, “Just stay out of trouble.”

Roku and Comet Fox laughed, knowing the possibility of that was minimal.

Master and student parted.

Roku, long after Comet Fox had left heading east for Wu Chan Chu, smiled a wide smile before returning to the Peony Tea House.



Renorio entered the kingdom of Aniabas unnoticed. He blended amongst the small number of citizens. He made friends and found a place to bed down. He mingled with the soldiers and counted their numbers. He drank ale with many of them. He stayed up long nights and listened to their stories and their fears of the oncoming battle with the demon-dog Yaska Selith. Renorio even made friends with Negkendra and met Balori. He witnessed Xiao-tep and was in awe of him.

After some time he picked out a young lady, a mercenary from the area that had decided to work for Aniabas free of charge. She hated the demon-dog, though she knew nothing of him. Renorio made friends with her. They talked about intimate things and spent many hours together. While talking after dinner in a hut she had taken as her own he told her she should not fear the demon-dog, that he was a creature of great power and enjoyed the company of those who were loyal to him.

“How do you know this?” asked the woman.

Renorio realized he had said too much. He reached to his side where his knife was hidden beneath his shirt. He said, “Because I know him. He has sent me here as a spy.”

The woman gasped in shock.

Renorio pulled forth his knife. And though she was a trained mercenary, though she had skills superior to Renorio, she was frightened by his wild, hungry look and the thought of him as the demon-dog’s agent. She backed away, stumbling against a chair and falling to the floor. Renorio placed a hand over her mouth and his knife into her heart.

Her screams muffled, the woman succumbed to Renorio.

The next day, after he had taken all the skin from the young woman’s body and eaten some of it, he grabber her by the leg and dragger her out of the hut.

People stood in the streets watching. So ghastly was the scene of Renorio, wearing his cloak and cowl made of skins, dragging the mutilated body through the kingdom. He dragged her quietly. No one approached him, everyone was afraid to go near him. They simply allowed him to pass.

On and on he went until he came to the doors of Aniabas’ castle. By then someone had run to the king’s side and told him of Renorio. He came forth and met the murderer outside the castle.

Renorio let go the corpse. He stared blankly, silently at King Aniabas.

Aniabas wretched at the sight of the skinned corpse.

Renorio said, “I’ve been sent by the demon-dog Yaska Selith. He claims the plain as his own and will not tolerate an attack upon his country. This,” at this Renorio gestured to the corpse as he had been instructed, “is your only warning.

“My master has graciously given you three days to flee this kingdom. If you do not, he will come and destroy everything here.”

Renorio left the kingdom. The people let him pass. Even Xiao-tep the fish-god, one Immortal and therefore immune to the effects of an attack by a mortal such as Renorio, could not comprehend the sight of the murderer in his skins. He, too, let him by.

Off went Renorio. He returned to Yaska Selith, to the people of the Plain of Adoration, and he was claimed a hero.

Yaska Selith said to Sinverguenza, “The king’s men are surely bickering, if not fleeing, after Renorio’s display.”

The demon-dog was correct. To the south nearly a full third of Aniabas’ men, soldiers the king could have sworn would remain loyal to him to the bitter end, found the end of the young mercenary women far too bitter. They fled.



The young man came running frantically to Wu Chan Chu’s side. He had been sent forth, a day’s ride ahead of the rest, to scout matters ahead.

Panting, he told Wu Chan Chu, “There grows an army to the south of the plain where the demon-dog resides. Once it was a kingdom, now it is more an outpost of mercenaries and fighters. There are other Gifted Ones there. Their leader is King Aniabas. They had plans to assault the plain, but before I left one of the demon’s agents viciously murdered one of the mercenaries, a woman, and skinned her and ate part of the skins. As I left, so, too, did many of the soldiers. They did not want to face a demon with such an agent of death.”

Wu Chan Chu handed the young man a gourd of water. She thought on matters.

Stavros drew near, as did Shabar and the others that now numbered nearly two hundred.

“What say you?” asked Stavros.

Wu Chan Chu eyed her men and women gathered round her. “Never have I feared an agent of death. Scout, how far out is this outpost kingdom?”

“A little more than a day’s ride,” said the scout.

“Then we’ve not long to wait.”

The others nodded, excited they were finally drawing near their purpose.

Stavros clenched his fists in anticipation and thought of the Brothers Jackal.

They all looked skyward as a comet streaked overhead.

“Is it an omen?” asked one of Wu Chan Chu’s mercenaries.

“No,” replied Wu Chan Chu. “It is an old friend.”

Comet Fox landed near Wu Chan Chu. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Wu Chan Chu put up her hand to stop Comet Fox from speaking. He fell silent as she said, “I apologize, Comet Fox. I know now you were not the one that stole the Peony’s coffers.”

Comet Fox smiled. He pushed her shoulder and the mercenaries were in awe of this as Wu Chan Chu allowed it. They understood at once their friendship must be quite close.

“Stop it,” teased Comet Fox. “You’ll make me blush.”

Some of the mercenaries laughed at this.

Wu Chan Chu glowered at Comet Fox.

Said Comet Fox, “I met Roku. I know the tale and I know you go after Black Tentacle to clear my name. Thank you.”

Again Wu Chan Chu grew angry. She did not want to show concern or softness in front of the others. She croaked angrily, “I do it for myself. As champion of the Peony, I drew a cut of the winnings from all bets. The theft of the coffers was a theft against me as much as against the teahouse.”

Comet Fox said, “I don’t believe you.”

Again some of the other chuckled, knowing Comet Fox’s jest.

Wu Chan Chu grabbed Comet Fox’s shoulder as though being friendly, but she squeezed it mightily. Comet Fox winced in pain as she said, “What brings you here, fox-god?”

She allowed Comet Fox to peel her hand away. He said, “There’s a demon upon the Plain of Adoration. Xiao-tep goes to the kingdom to the south as we speak. We thought you might want to join in the fight.”

This made Wu Chan Chu smile. “I go to the demon-dog now. That is where Black Tentacle went. And these men all wish to fight the demon-dog, for various reasons.”

Comet Fox eyed the others. He nodded approvingly, saying, “Good. We will need the help. He is quite large.”

“Larger than Ketsueki Sato?” asked Wu Chan Chu.

Comet Fox nodded. “Indeed. Far larger.”

“Come,” commanded Wu Chan Chu. “We must press on if we are to make it to the kingdom in a day. I believe that is where our efforts should begin.”

The small group walked on. As Comet Fox fell into the marching order, Stavros drew near him. He said, “Hello, friend. I heard the frog call you a god. Are you?”

Many of the others listened carefully.

“That I am, the son of Coyote.”

A few of the mercenaries mumbled amongst themselves. A few said, as a Trickster, Comet Fox would be foul luck for them. Many more, however, felt honored to be marching toward a demon in the presence of a god and considered themselves blessed.

Stavros offered Comet Fox his clay jar of rice wine.

Comet Fox put up a hand, “No, thanks. I better not.”

“Why not?” asked Stavros and drank from the clay jar. “Good wine soothes the nerves.”

“That it does,” Comet Fox nodded. “But once I start drinking, I never can get enough.”

At this Stavros and a few others laughed. Stavros slapped Comet Fox on the back. “That is life! And you, I see, understand how to live it.

“I think,” said Stavros, “you and I will be good friends.”

Comet Fox smiled.

On went Wu Chan Chu and her band of fighters that grew to far more than two hundred before they finally reached the kingdom of Aniabas.

They marched towards the castle, filling the streets with their numbers.

As Aniabas had met Renorio, so now the king met Wu Chan Chu at the gates of the castle. At his side were his general Vitor and as well as Xiao-tep and Balori.

Wu Chan Chu and Xiao-tep smiled at one another as they drew near. They hugged. The he and Comet Fox exchanged greetings, happy to see one another once more.

“I understand by this, then, you know the fox and frog?” asked King Aniabas of Xiao-tep.

“That I do,” said Xiao-tep. “This is my half-sister, Wu Chan Chu, and my friend Comet Fox.”

“We’ve come to fight the demon,” said Wu Chan Chu.

“I see you’ve brought many with you,” Aniabas eyed the mercenaries.

“That I have,” answered Wu Chan Chu.

Aniabas nodded. “You are just in time. Many of our men fled, afraid of the coming fight. you are all welcome and you will all be treated as my own soldiers with bunks in the barracks and food from our stores.”

The men and women cheered in gratitude.

Xiao-tep introduced Wu Chan Chu and Comet Fox to Balori. Comet Fox introduced them to Stavros. Together with King Aniabas and Vitor, they entered the castle for a drink and to discuss the demon-dog upon the plain.



After choosing a bunk within the barracks and eating his first hot meal in days, Shabar wandered the streets of the kingdom. They were largely bare but he could see the beauty the buildings had once had. He wished matters were different wondered if, after the battle with the demon-dog Yaska Selith, he could return here with his family on a holiday after the town had grown once more. This made him miss his wife and son.

As he stepped into the one pub that remained open and operating, he spied a familiar face. He stepped to the table where he sat and spoke.

“Negkendra?” asked Shabar.

Negkendra looked up, stopping in his conversation. “Shabar!”

Negkendra stood and they hugged as if they had once been old friends. Shabar was invited to join the men sitting at the table. He was introduced to Macia and Akadia and the other two men.

“Shabar was the counsel of the Eternal Empress and helped begin the Elephant Crusade,” explained Negkendra.

Akadia nodded with understanding. “I ran the Elephant Crusade from the Grand Bazaar of Tenhar.”

Shabar asked, “I suppose, then, we are all here for the same reason?”

The men were quiet a moment. They then nodded as Negkendra said, “To correct matters.”

Akadia asked, “Did you come in with that massive army?”

“Just now? Yes,” confirmed Shabar. “It is commanded by a frog demi-goddess named Wu Chan Chu.”

“We came with Balori. Did you see him?” asked Negkendra.

“I did, though I had not the chance to speak with him. He has changed as I had heard.”

“Albert did it with his elixirs.”

“I would like to speak with Balori. I would apologize to him for my part in the Elephant Crusade,” said Shabar.

“Come tonight to the barracks. He sleep just outside, saying he wants to remain near his men that were loyal to him as we made our way across country to get here,” said Negkendra.

“I’ve a bunk in the barracks,” explained Shabar.

“Then you will certainly see him.”

They drank and toasted to their luck in the fight, to the health of the elephants and made many toasts to Balori Shongoyo.

That night Shabar spied Balori outside the barracks. He was hesitant to approach, but finally did so. He came near Balori and said, “My, how you have changed.”

Balori found Shabar’s face familiar. Said he, “Were you not once the head of the Elephant Crusade?”

Shabar explained he was and that he was the trusted advisor to the Eternal Empress and that he quit when he saw the way the elephants, including Balori, were treated.

“You were quite nice to me once,” Balori recalled.

Shabar was silent a moment. His head hung low. He feared looking Balori in the eye. Pain and sorrow filled him with images of the Elephant Crusade, of the wife and child he had left behind, of the beatings of the many elephants, of his wife screaming for him not to go.

At last, tears streaming down his face, Shabar looked up at the large Balori, looked him in the eye and said, “I-I’m sorry. I’m sorry for my part in matters. I’m sorry for all this.”

Balori nodded. He reached out with his trunk and placed it upon Shabar’s shoulder, caressing the man some small way. He said, “You are here now. That is what matters.”

Shabar was overwhelmed by Balori’s gesture and words. He could not help himself from stepping forward and hugging the giant elephant.

Said Shabar, "I'm here for you. I'm here for my past part in matters. I'm here because my wife is about to bring our second child into the world. I cannot let them grow up in a world a demon inhabits."

Balori, not knowing what to do, merely closed his eyes and hugged Shabar in return. They stood in one anothers' embrace for some time, bound by purpose, bound by the past.



Comet Fox and Stavros found the same tavern Shabar and Negkendra had reunited in. within its walls they sat discussing matters of the coming fight and sharing stories. Long after the crowd had died to a minimum of patrons, long after many of the soldiers had gone to sleep, Comet Fox and Stavros were asked to leave. They settled onto a fallen log outside of town where Comet Fox made a fire that warmed them in the night and over which they shared more tales.

Stavros had nearly drained his clay jar of rice wine. He offered Comet Fox to help him finish the last of it.

Comet Fox shook his head and said, “No.”

The fox-god had spent the night watching Stavros fill himself with drink at the tavern. He admitted to himself the smells and desires for a drink were strong in him, but he felt proud of himself for not having taken even a swallow of alcohol. He stared over the fire at the rat that stared back with weary eyes. They talked of other matters for some time.

At last Comet Fox asked, “What brings you here? All others here have some motive to be here, whether it be fame and glory or some personal ideal. What brings you here, Stavros? What brings you to fight the demon-dog Yaska Selith?”

Stavros stared at Comet Fox a long while, so much so Comet Fox started wondering if Stavros had heard the question through his drunkenness.

Stavros belched and said, “There are two with the demon-dog. Two jackals. They killed every last one of my people, the only people that ever treated me well after my transformation. That is until I found Yuki. They raped and murdered all of my people. I hate them. I am here because my gut aches with the deaths, with hate for those bastards.”

Stavros’ eyes blinked alternately, free from one another. He paused a moment in thought. He then said, “I cannot believe in a world where such crimes are committed, where good people can be viciously murdered and those that killed them go on to lead good lives, or any life.”

Comet Fox thought matters over a moment. He then cocked his head curiously, saying, “You don’t come seeking vengeance. You come seeking justice.”

Stavros hiccupped and belched at once, causing him to struggle with a series of coughs. He looked to Comet Fox, “Vengeance is part of it, friend. Don’t fool yourself otherwise.”

Comet Fox nodded. He then asked Stavros for his jug.

With a swallow of the rice wine, Comet Fox toasted Stavros and his people.

Stavros retrieved the clay jar. He said, “To a good fight,” and drank down the last bit of the wine.

The two remained by their fire a long time, sharing old drinking songs, Stavros playing his accordion. When at last sleep was winning its fight with them, the two friends staggered, leaning on one another, back to the barracks where they slept until late the next day.



Aniabas asked Xiao-tep to fly over the plain to spy on the demon-dog.

Balori had offered to join him, but Xiao-tep pointed out he may be recognized and attacked.

Xiao-tep left the kingdom and flew over the plain.

Many of Yaska Selith’s followers witnessed Xiao-tep. Motharus was about to fly after him when Fei Li Mi said he would. The catfish flew after the butterfly koi.

Whites and oranges and golds were chased by browns.

Xiao-tep noticed Fei Li Mi and was startled. He pulled up and hovered high above the plain.

Fei Li Mi came before him. They stared at one another a long time, each in awe of the other.

At last Fei Li Mi said, “Never would I have guessed there was another fish Gifted One.”

“Never would I have thought I would have found another,” said Xao-tep, then corrected, “though I am not a Gifted One. I am a god.”

Fei Li Mi stared.

Xiao-tep stared.

Xiao-tep said, “It’s as if I’ve found my dark mirror.”



Sal Igo did not appreciate his new champion. He was a braggart and a drunk and a bully. He was large and smelled and no one liked him so rarely did anyone bet on him. But Sal Igo could not argue he was a strong fighter.

When Sal Igo called for a new challenger, never would he have thought Roku would answer. Yet Roku stepped forward from the crowd and placed a bet on himself.

Sal Igo accepted the challenge for his new champion, then said in his ear, “Kill the thief.”

The fight was begun.

Roku rolled sideways and punched the Peony’s champion in the gut. It did little to the large man. He cartwheeled to the left, his feet slapping across the champion’s face. This only angered the large man.

At last Roku dove forward, head down and wrapping his arms about his foe’s waist, pushing him back into and crashing against a table. The table broke.

The two men struggled on the floor. The champion then reached out and grabbed a dinner knife that had been rest on the table and with it stabbed Roku in the side of his neck. He pulled the knife free as Roku pushed away and stabbed him once more in the side of his gut, the blade breaking off and piercing the kidney.

Roku stumbled about in pain. He huffed repeatedly.

The Peony’s champion stood. He charged Roku and with the broken blade stabbed him again and again until he had some half dozen wounds in his chest and a dozen more elsewhere about his body. Many of the gathered crowd left the teahouse. All were silent. No one chanted. No one cheered. They all wondered at Sal Igo who refused to stop the fight.

The large champion stole a mug of ale from a patron’s hands and drank deeply from it. He wiped his mouth and smiled as Roku fell face-first to the floor.

Sal Igo called for servants to come clean up the floor and throw the body in the trash. Both tasks were done.

Deep in the Land of the Midnight Sun, Momoki was sitting atop the Black Rock Of Meditation. Roku appeared before him, his eyes and many holes where once had been knife wounds all glowing red.

Momoki lowered himself from the rock. He approached the thief.

Roku looked down at him, wondering.

Momoki said, “You have been chosen to ride with me and others against a false demon. You will be trained like the rest. You will follow me into battle like the rest. Yet, unlike the rest, you have been granted a certain gift.

“This gift granted to you is the power to give but one living creature life again after they have fallen and died. To do so you merely have to give them your breath.

“You have been given this gift because, in your life, you have taken from many. You have stolen and lied to others, robbing them of their trust as well as their possessions. Now you will know what it is to give. Not only will your afterlife end after sharing your breath, high within the many chambers of Heaven Stork will erase your record from all Memory. You will know what it means to sacrifice and to truly give.”

Roku eyed Momoki, unsure and afraid of this new land and his new form.

Momoki continued, “Now, think of an object in your life, something you used often and are familiar with and can be used as a weapon.”

But Roku had never used a weapon in his life. He thought over many objects. At last, he thought of the time that he and Comet Fox had fought off eight men together. In his hands appeared a brilliantly white short spear.


Be sure to look for Act V next week!

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