Friday, October 10, 2008

"Warriors of the Midnight Sun" - Act V

Here's Act V of "Warriors of the Midnight Sun". We're more than halfway through! And in this act, the final member of the Warriors joins Momoki in the Many Hells. The big fight can't be far behind!



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



THE SOLDIER: Wherein the Warriors of the Midnight Sun Join the Forces Gathered at the Kingdom of Aniabas; Momoki Asks His Friends to Stay Behind; Battle Plans are Made; The Battle Begins



“We should not wait for his attack,” said Wu Chan Chu. “We should take the fight to him upon the plain.”

King Aniabas and General Vitor both nodded in agreement.

“But,” said one of the king’s captains, “defense is historically best. We would stand a greater chance defending our castle if we fortify it than traipsing into the open plain.”

“But if we remain,” said Angolas, one of the king’s most trusted guards, “and he comes he will destroy everything here. All our buildings, our farms, everythings. Then what purpose would we have in remaining here? No, our only choices are to attack him on the plain or flee entirely as he desires us to do.”

“And that is what we will do,” said Aniabas. “It is the best course of action, wouldn’t you say, Vitor?”

“I agree, my liege,” said Vitor.

“He has given us three days’ time. We will attack a day earlier. that leaves us a single day to prepare,” King Aniabas thought out loud.

“We should attack now!” cried Angolas.

“Who do you speak to?” demanded Aniabas.

Angolas cowered some. “Forgive me, my liege. I am impatient with plotting.”

“We all are, Angolas,” said Vitor. “But without a plan we would fare better chances at survival if we were to throw ourselves upon our own swords.”

They stood in the throne room of Aniabas. Surrounding him were Balori, Wu Chan Chu, Angolas, Vitor and his captains.

“I wish we Xiao-tep would return,” said Wu Chan Chu.

“He’ll be here soon,” soothed Aniabas.

“I stay say we attack in full force now!” said Angolas.

“Angolas!” yelled Aniabas. He drew so near his guard their noses nearly touched. “If you cannot speak calmly here, perhaps you need to remove yourself from our presences and cool your temper.”

Angolas, hurt that his king would send him away, gasped. He leveled his eyes. “As you wish, m’lord.”

Angolas left the throne room.

The others remained, waiting to hear from Xiao-tep.

Angolas left the castle and entered the barracks. There he met secretly with a group of twenty or more men who shared his desire to attack Yaska Selith right away.

“Two days?” asked one. “The demon could have lied and plans to attack tomorrow. Two days is unreasonable.”

“That it is,” said another.

The rest agreed.

“If we were to attack right away,” said a third man, “our king would not allow us to go headlong into death. Surely he would come right behind us with all the forces. In that way we could force his hand and attack immediately.”

Again the men all agreed.

A plan was made. Horses were taken and saddled up. With Angolas as their commander, the men rode out of the kingdom and onto the plain against the demon-dog and his followers.

An alarm was raised and King Aniabas learned of the attack. He ran to the highest tower of his castle, the others who had been meeting with him following, and through a spyglass watched his men riding to their deaths.

“What do they do?” asked Balori, who was cramped in the tower.

“They commit foolish acts,” said Aniabas.

“Should we go after them?” asked Vitor.

After some consideration, Aniabas shook his head “no”.

The men were met with severe force by Yaska Selith’s Bone Warriors. All of them, every last one, was slaughtered except the one known to be their leader. He was kept alive.

Angolas was stripped bare. Two large stones were brought forth. Each was so heavy that many men had to roll each one near. Chains were attacked to the stones and then shackled about Angolas’ wrists. He was taunted and tortured the rest of the day and at last Yaska Selith called for Renorio. He came to the demon-dog obediently.

“My loyal friend,” said Yaska Selith to the skinner who now no longer feared wearing his cloak and cowl of skins in front of the others. “Can you do what you usually do to this one shackled and bound here? But keep him alive?”

Renorio had never done so, but thought he could and said so.

“Then do it,” commanded Yaska Selith.

And Renorio skinned Angolas alive. He began at the soldier’s legs, peeling the skin until Angolas passed out from the horror of the pain and sight of his own torture. He was awakened with smelling salts and made to watch as Renorio worked around his waist. He passed out again when Renorio worked on his genitals. Renorio kept skinning Angolas and Angolas was kept awake.

The skinner stopped only when Angolas could not be awakened. The soldier’s pulse was checked and Yaska Selith, who had been watching nearby with great joy, was told he had died.

Renorio was told to stop. The body of the soldier was not released from the chains. Instead he was left shackled and carried as others laboriously pushed the stones to a cliff and dropped into the sea.

Angolas’ body sank with the stones.

When he awoke again he was standing before Momoki in the Land of the Midnight Sun. his form, unlike the other warriors that had come to Momoki, was largely glowing red. Only his left shoulder and head remained dark. His eyes mimicked the Midnight Sun.

Momoki eyed this new warrior. He said, “Welcome to the Many Hells. I am Momoki the Marmoset, Master of the Chamber of Despair. You have been chosen to ride with me against the false demon Yaska Selith.”

Angolas said, “I know him.”

Momoki nodded. “Know you also how to fight?”

“I do, though I am a fool.”

“Whatever happened in your former life is of little concern to me. I must know only you will follow me.”

Angolas nodded, “I have learned what I did wrong. I will do as you say.”

Momoki considered him. He nodded, saying, “Since you know how to fight I doubt I’ll need to train. Have you a weapon you are familiar with? Think of something now, something you knew in your former life well, something you can use effectively.”

Angolas thought a moment. Then from his hands extended large stones attached to him by chains. As the stones crashed into the black ground they sent up shards of broken landscape.

Momoki again nodded.

Together they returned to the Chamber of Despair. Waiting there were Ebi the Fisherman, Joto Ba the Farmer, Dian the Mother and Roku the Misfit. They were each introduced to Angolas the Soldier.

Gogi was harvesting his garden and proudly showing it off to Szu Ri. She smiled at him as he worked. She ate one of the fresh vegetables he had handed her and found it to be sweet and full of juice and delicious.

Momoki came to them. He said, “Gogi, Szu ri, the warriors are gathered. It is time to leave.”

They looked at him with some sorrow, but they each understood. Gogi asked if he could finish harvesting and storing his foods so they would be fresh when they returned. Momoki allowed this.

Szu Ri quickly spun together a silk satchel in which Gogi placed a few preserved vegetables. He slung the satchel upon his back, put on his weathered, beaten hat and picked up the pick he used to dig tobacco out of his teeth.

Szu Ri eyed him, in awe of his will to go forth so easily. She smiled.

Twila joined the group. Momoki sat atop Twila and Szu Ri and Gogi sat on either of Momoki’s shoulders.

As the doors to the Chamber of Despair opened, they ewre met by Radiant Gui. At his feet were six stallions, dark as midnight and looking as billowing, smoky shadows.

Each of the warriors took a horse.

Angolas helped Momoki, Twila, Gogi and Szu Ri onto the sixth horse.

Together they rode.

Momoki told Gogi and Szu Ri to once more close their eyes and not open them again until he had touched their shoulders.

The small lovers looked at one another, clasped hands and did as Momoki told them. They kept their eyes shut. They did not see the many-faced demons, the ghastly horrors, the murders and ugly sins around them. They barely heard the cries, the demons calling out their names, as Momoki and the others rode swiftly through the entrance of the Many Hells.

When at last Momoki touched their shoulders they were once more in the land of the living. They smiled at one another and hugged. They held the stallion’s man tight, as did Twila, as Momoki urged the dark beast onward.

On rode the Warriors of the Midnight Sun, across one country after another. Everywhere they rode the land was momentarily blanketed in darkness. The people nearby would look to the skies and wonder if storms approached. In every land they entered the people would whisper of things unknown, of sounds in the night, of voices heard when one was alone, of articles moved by unseen hands, of death and of dying and of the dead that haunted the lands. The warriors left behind no sign of their presence, the stallions left no footprints save frost atop blades of grass on chilly morns.

They stopped few times, and then only so Momoki could urge Gogi into asking a few people for directions and news. They never stopped to rest. They were relentless in their ride.

Gogi and Szu Ri slept atop the black horse, clutching its mane as they went.



Xiao-tep eyed Fei Li Mi. They had flown into the clouds far above the land and here remained, talking.

“I wish to return the jewel, too,” said Fei Li Mi.

“Then join Balori and help us.”

Fei Li Mi thought of this, thinking of how the glory would be shared with Balori, of how perhaps the Eternal Empress would ask Balori to watch over the children with Fei Li Mi. he could not allow that.

He shook his head, “No. and I will impede him in success. If either of us return to the Empress with the jewel, I will and I will do so alone.”

“Then we are moot here,” said Xiao-tep.

Fei Li Mi nodded.

Xiao-tep sighed. He turned and descended, flying towards the kingdom of Aniabas.

Fei Li Mi watched him go and said, “I’ll see you on the battlefield, then.”

And they would.

Xiao-tep returned to Aniabas and told him of what he saw, told him of Fei Li Mi. Comet Fox saw Xiao-tep return and joined the others in the throne room. Stavros followed him. Aniabas thanked Xiao-tep for the information. Balori took great interest in Fei Li Mi and asked many questions of Xiao-tep, and the fish-god told him of Fei Li Mi’s plans to stop him in his quest.

“He’ll not stand in my way,” cursed Balori.

Xiao-tep was told of Angolas and the men who had ridden to their deaths.

“We think we should attack instead at first light,” said Wu Chan Chu.

“And we put it off until then only because the world begins to grow dark as we speak,” added Aniabas.

“It would seem Kalavata comes early this day,” agreed Xiao-tep. “As I returned I noticed it was unusually dark.”

One of Aniabas’ men then ran into the throne room. In hurried tones he said, “My liege, more soldiers for our fight have come.”

“Good,” said Aniabas. “Show them the barracks and feed them. I will meet with them shortly.”

“I doubt they’ll need such amenities, m’lord.”


The servant told the king of the forms the newcomers had. “I don’t think there are amongst the living.”

Aniabas eyed his fellows nervously. He then looked to the servant and said, “Send them in. We will meet them now.”

The servant did as he was told.

King Aniabas, General Vitor, Balori, Wu Chan Chu, Comet Fox, Stavros, the king’s captains and Xiao-tep were all in awe of the newcomers as they entered the throne room.

Came first Momoki atop Twila and with Gogi and Szu Ri on either shoulder. Behind him followed his five warriors.

“Th-they are ghosts,” stammered Vitor.

Wu Chan Chu nodded, thinking the same.

They drew near. Momoki bowed gracefully and introduced himself. “I am Momoki the Marmoset, Master of the Chamber of Despair. And these are my warriors.”

Gogi looked at all the Gifted Ones gathered here amongst men. He then noticed an old, familiar face. “Xiao-tep!” he called as he jumped from Momoki’s shoulder. He ran towards the fish-god.

Xiao-tep inspected the small grasshopper that approached. He bent low and asked, “Gogi. Is that you?”

“Yes! It’s me, Xiao-tep! Do you remember me from Taliesin?”

Xiao-tep chuckled. “How could I forget my little friend? It is fine to see you again. How are you?”

“Oh!” gasped Gogi. He reached up and asked for Xiao-tep’s fin. Xiao-tep offered his fin and allowed himself to be lead towards the marmoset.

Gogi turned and said, “Xiao-tep, this is Momoki.”

He then turned to Momoki and said, “Momoki, this si Xiao-tep, the one I told you about. The one that… oh my, erm, Xiao-tep, that is…” Gogi grew nervous, uncertain how Momoki would feel having bee replaced on Taliesin.

Momoki nodded. His red eyes looked up at Xiao-tep and completed Gogi’s thoughts, “The one that replaced me as caretaker of Taliesin.”

Gogi nodded vigorously. “Yes, yes.”

“It is an honor,” said Momoki.

Xiao-tep smiled and bowed deeply. “The honor is mine. You are still often spoken of in Taliesin, and it is always the highest of praise. You were very well loved.”

Momoki’s smile went unnoticed against his dark form. “Thank you, Xiao-tep.”

Comet Fox inspected the other warriors. He then thought he recognized one of them. He stepped forward and asked, “Roku?”

Roku nodded. “It is I, Master.”

Comet Fox looked over Roku’s dark form, trying to understand the red splotches that appeared to bleed all over his body. His mouth worked, but no words came for a long time. At last he said, “Are you dead?”

Roku nodded.

“Oh, Roku. I’m so very sorry. My training was not enough.”

Roku shook his head. “No, my path was molded by my own hands. You merely tried to help. Do not be sorry. It is I who tried to trick you. I left your side to fight at the teahouse.”

Comet Fox sighed. “It is good to see you again, even if you’re in this form.”

Vitor drew near Angolas’ bright red form. He asked, “Angolas?”

Angolas nodded.

“By the gods, have you come to haunt our king?”

Angolas shook his head.

“This one was brash in his life,” said Aniabas of Angolas. “His death was his own doing. Why is he here? To betray my trust once more?”

“He is under my command now,”Momoki said, “He will not betray you. He is here to redeem himself and his actions in his former life.

“We’ve come to help you in your fight against the false demon Yaska Selith.”

“False demon?” asked Aniabas, letting go his mistrust of Angolas.

“Indeed,” confirmed Momoki. “He is a dog that had eaten an enchanted bug. He is no true demon at all.”

“He may not be a true demon,” said Balori, “but he is quite powerful.”

Momoki agreed. “Which is why we have been sent to you.”

Aniabas looked at Comet Fox and Xiao-tep. “Can you vouch for these warriors?”

Xiao-tep nodded. “Gogi is a friend, as is Momoki. I trust their purpose here.”

Aniabas said, “Welcome, then. Welcome Momoki. Your warriors are our warriors.”

And so plans were made. Xiao-tep described what he had seen.

Wu Chan Chu said, “Our best chance would be to attack from all possible sides.”

Aniabas agreed. “We could send some to the Black Mountains, perhaps archers, to descend from there and attack their flank. Then we could send a smaller group north to cross Owl Bridge and come at them from behind while our main forces attack them from here.”

“What about the sea?” asked Wu Chan Chu.

“We’ve already lost our ships to the demon when we attacked once before,” explained Vitor.

“Then that leaves us only with attacks from the kingdom in the south, from the Black Mountains in the west and across Owl Bridge to the north,” surmised Wu Chan Chu.

“We’ve a few that can fly,” said Balori. “Myself included.”

Aniabas said, “True, but they count only three: Xiao-tep, Comet Fox and yourself. With due respect, that’s hardly a proper force.”

“What of the silk moth that came in with Momoki? She can fly,” suggested one of the king’s captains.

Momoki shook his head, “No. Szu Ri the Silk Moth and Gogi the Grasshopper are not to be considered. They are not fighters. They are here for my counsel only.”

“Again,” King Aniabas carried on the conversation, “we’ve no forces to attack from the east from or over the sea. That idea is out of the question. It is as Wu Chan Chu said: here from the south, from the west and from the north.

“Now we must decide the forces of each.”

“Your idea of archers to the west, attacking from the mountains, is good,” said Xiao-tep. “The elevation there could only aid their attacks.”

General Vitor explained, “And archers attacking a flank is always good strategy.”

Said Balori, “Most of the people I came with know how to use a bow.”

“I’m certain some of those that came with me were archers, as well,” said Wu Chan Chu.

King Aniabas nodded. “Then we will sort the soldiers into archers and send them to the Black Mountains under the command of Balori.”

“We would have to leave immediately if we are to prepare before dawn,” suggested Balori.

“As will those that move to the Owl Bridge. We will dispatch those men and women to the Owl Bridge and the Black Mountains as soon as we settle our strategy here,” said Aniabas. “Now as for the forces that would cross Owl Bridge, what do you know of that area, Xiao-tep?”

Xiao-tep answered, “There is a good number of the demon’s warriors some distance to the north. I am uncertain if a large force could make it there by morning, neutralize them and cross the bridge in time to attack with the main forces.”

General Vitor suggested, “Perhaps a smaller force would be best. They could slip past the demon’s men in the dark of the early morning and cross the bridge. Our main forces will attack from the kingdom here and Balori’s men would launch arrows at their flank. All we would require from the force to the north is a presence strong enough to add further confusion and frustration to the demon and his army. A half dozen men, perhaps a dozen, would suffice.”

Aniabas nodded. “Xiao-tep, you have seen the area most recently. It would be best if you lead the Owl Bridge dispatch.”

“This I will do,” said the Ankh-fish.

“Who would you take with you?” asked Aniabas.

Xiao-tep eyed his sister. “I’ve fought at the side of Wu Chan Chu before. Our experience together could be useful.”

“That may be true,” replied Aniabas. “But she brought with her nearly two hundred fifty mercenaries. I could only assume they would trust her as a commander and therefore I need her here to help command her branch of the main force.”

Xiao-tep nodded with understanding. Thinking his words still held some truth about fighting alongside one he had fought with before, Xiao-tep then suggested Comet Fox.

“Comet Fox would be good,” agreed Aniabas.

“If I go with you, Xiao-tep,” said Comet Fox, “I can suggest Stavros to join us. He has a good sword.”

Xiao-tep nodded, agreeing that Stavros should join them.

“Then our strategy is settled: Xiao-tep and his men will cross Owl Bridge, Balori will command archers from the Black Mountains and Wu Chan Chu, Momoki and I will attack from the south. Balori and Xiao-tep must depart immediately. I say they should make their respective destinations some time just shy of dawn. Wouldn’t you agree, Vitor?”

“I think they could,” agreed Vitor.

Balori and Xiao-tep both nodded in agreement to this.

“Then we will set our attack to an hour after dawn,” said Aniabas.



Momoki’s warriors did not mingle with the other soldiers, nor did the Aniabas’ men or the others approach the warriors. They remained instead with their dark stallions outside the castle. Only Gogi and Szu Ri broke with their company and found the company of others.

Szu Ri and Gogi quickly made friends with a young woman archer that had come with Balori. They chatted lightly and the woman liked Szu RI immediately for she had always had an affinity for moths and butterflies.

“I used to watch them,” said the woman, “every spring as they would break from their cocoons outside my family’s home in a tall tree and fill the skies with their flutterings. How I loved those springs.”

The woman asked then what part Gogi and Szu Ri planned in the coming battle.

Szu Ri answered, “We came only to support our friend Momoki, leader of the Warriors of the Midnight Sun.”

This name caused a chill to run down the spine of the woman. She shivered and said, “How brave you two are for making such a journey with such creatures.”

Gogi this time answered, “Momoki is our friend. We go where he goes.”

Szu Ri nodded.

The woman decided then to teach the two little creatures to find and identify turmeric and use it quickly to heal open wounds. Said the woman, “Perhaps you can help by healing those that are hurt. Even if you cannot, your knowledge could guide them to heal themselves.”

Gogi and Szu Ri happily learned to heal whereas all around them were so concerned with harming one another.

As the two learned from the woman, Momoki and the rest broke from the castle and began preparations for the battle planned for the next morning. Momoki came to them to check on them a last time.

“Momoki!” cried Gogi excitedly. “Look! We learn to heal o we may be of help on the battlefield!”

Momoki’s face grew sour, though his dark form did not betray this. Said Momoki, “You cannot come onto the battlefield with us tomorrow, friend.”

“W-what?” asked Gogi. “Why?”

“It is dangerous,” explained Momoki. “You came this far to escape the danger of Radiant Gui. You must now stay at the castle. King Aniabas will leave a small number of his soldier here to guard the town and castle. You’ve no need to go into battle with the rest of us.”

Szu Ri said, “But Momoki, we meant to stay with you through it all.”

Momoki shook his head, “No. That cannot be.”

Momoki left them to prepare his warriors.

Twila met him near their shadowy horse and he told her Gogi and Szu Ri were meant to stay.

“No,” said Twila. “They are your friends. They have delved the depths of the Many Hells to be with us and now you turn them aside when we may need them the most.”

“But it’s dangerous,” said Momoki. “They may die. There is no use in them riding into a battle meant for me.”

“They are your friends. Our destinies are intertwined. What you are meant to do, they are meant to do.”

“Surely you can see my logic, Twila. Surely you can see they’ve no need to get in harm’s way.”

Twila spoke slowly, considering all things, “I do not wish them harm. I wish them a long and happy life, if possible, with us. But I fear too much concern on your part my harm their wills, their desires. If they wish to go, let them come with us.”



Gogi left both Szu Ri and the woman archer behind. He wandered the streets of the town alone, unaware Szu Ri followed him. He eyed the many soldiers bustling about, readying themselves for battle. He saw Xiao-tep fly by with Comet Fox streaking close behind him. He came to and passed by Balori as he gathered together his band of archers. The elephant truly towered over everyone, most especially Gogi.

As Etain disappeared far behind the horizon, Gogi came to sit upon a stone just large enough for him to look out over the wild grass that grew outside of town. He watche Kalavata’s massive wings flap once, twice as night came over the lands.

He looked at the wild grass and knew, had he been standing amongst it, he would be lost for it was far taller than he.

Szu Ri quietly, carefully crawled onto the stone next to Gogi.

The two sat together in silence a long time.

At last, Szu Ri said, “Perhaps what Momoki suggests is for the best. I’m certain he wishes us to part now for our own safety. He cares for us deeply and does not wish to see us harmed.”

Gogi nodded in agreement, unwilling as yet to talk.

As the world roared about them with activity, the two small creatures reached out their hands and clasped them together.

Gogi finally spoke, though nervously for he did not wish to appear timid in front of Szu Ri, “S-sometimes this world seems so very big and I-I so very small. There are many great people gathered here. Balori is so large and powerful-looking. I-I bet he could squash dozens of men at once if he wished. The nights and days go on without concern of the stars.”

He thought a moment before saying, “My garden back home is probably failing with me there to tend to it. That is a great thing about a garden. You can feel in control of yourself. I-I feel I-I am capable of taking care of us when harvest comes.”

The two small creatures looked up at the night sky together, the many hundreds of men and women preparing in the town behind them. Gogi finished his thoughts, “B-but here, now… I feel so very small.”

In time Momoki and Twila came to them. Together they asked Szu Ri and Gogi to join them on the battlefield the next day.

Szu Ri and Gogi happily accepted.



Balori gather together his men and many from Wu Chan Chu’s to make his force of archers. Negkendra stepped forward and said, “I know nothing of how to use a bow.”

“We could teach you,” said Akadia Dorn and Macia Thrace.

“There is no time,” argued Balori. “Perhaps you should go with Xiao-tep and his men.”

Negkendra was given a short sword and scabbard and he joined Xiao-tep, Comet Fox, Stavros and six others to make the Owl Bridge force.

Balori and Xiao-tep left with their men.

Balori arrived at a perch within the foothills of the Black Mountains on the side of the plain, unseen under the cover of night. They rested for some time, awaiting dawn when they would come into formation with their bows.

Xiao-tep and Comet Fox wished they could fly to the Owl Bridge, but knew the rest of their small band could not. They traveled closely with them. They came at last to the northern border of the plain as Etain’s head crested the far horizon. They were tired, yet ready to fight.

The large collectiong of Bone Warriors were camped some ways north of the bridge. Few were awake and moving about when Xiao-tep and his men came there. They snuck by easily enough. As they crossed the bridge, Xiao-tep leading them, Stavros said softly, “Mayhaps we should leave one or two of our own to spy the encampment lest they find us and charge at us while we are caught crossing the bridge.”

This was deemed a good idea and Negkendra volunteered to stay behind to watch the camp until all the rest had crossed the bridge, he then planning to quickly follow after.

The bridge’s expanse was immense. The going was slow for the bridge swayed with every bit of wind. At last Xiao-tep and the others came near the other side of the deep, deep gorge and found another small group of Bone Warriors resting there. One was already awake and he raised an alarm.

Xiao-tep and the others swiftly emptied the bridge out onto the small hill and attacked the small number of Bone Warriors.

Negkendra heard the sounds of battle come to him from across the massive expanse. He turned and could barely make out the fighting through the early morning mist.

The sound carried on the wind to the larger encampment of Bone Warriors. They awoke, also raising an alarm.

Afraid, Negkendra darted across Owl Bridge as swiftly as he could. As he ran, the bridge made of rope and wood bounced beneath him. He chanced to look back and found the Bone Warriors chasing after him gaining. He knew he wasn’t a fast runner and was unsure if he could make it to the safety of his fellows before those chasing him caught him. He chanced a second look and knew he wouldn’t make it to Xiao-tep and the others.

His breathing labored. His mind raced. His feet and legs slowed their pace.

Negkendra stopped.

He turned to look at the oncoming Bone Warriors. They had reached the bridge and were filling it now. He looked to Xiao-tep and the others. He calculated matters.

He turned to face the enemy. He reached to the scabbard at his waist and pulled free the short sword there. He was not much of a fighter, he knew. He wondered if he could fend off the on-rushing mass. He thought he could not. He thought he would be easily overrun and the Bone Warriors would make it to his fellows, delaying their progress onto the plain.

He peered and could see Etain easily now. The hour past dawn approached and Xiao-tep and the rest would need to be making their way onto the plain as Balori would come down the mountains and Aniabas lead his men from the south.

There wasn’t much time left now.

Negkendra had to give his fellows the time they needed.

Xiao-tep, fending off three Bone Warriors at once, spied from the small of his eye Negkendra upon Owl Bridge lifting his sword into the air.

Comet Fox, fighting five men at once, was able to look long enough to witness Negkendra bring the sword down.

Negkendra swiped the sword downward and to his right. The blade bit through the two ropes sustaining the bridge there. The bridge buckled so that Negkendra had to reach left and grab the rope still holding the bridge.

The Bone Warriors coming at him stopped. They stared in horror. Many turned to run back the way they had come.

Negkendra once more lifted his sword. Once more he brought it down and through the ropes of the bridge.

Owl Bridge was split in twain, each half crashing into the cliffs bordering either side of the deep gorge.

Xiao-tep cried out for his falling soldier. He lifted into the air but was held fast by the hands of the three men that were after him, their hands clenching the fish-god’s long, flowing tail fins.

Comet Fox fought hard to gain ground and escape to rescue the falling Negkendra, but the five men who were on him proved too much.

As Negkendra fell, he gulped air as it rushed past him. He fumbled about to return his sword to its scabbard. He said a quick prayer to the gods, asking that his death be swift and painless. His prayers were granted as his body smashed to pieces against the jagged rocks along the bottom of the bottomless gorge.

Negkendra the First Mahout became the first to die at the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration.

In a flurry of haste, Xiao-tep fought the three men. He stabbed at two of them and they fell dead. Tears exploded from the willow branch tied at his waist.

Stavros brought his sword down onto his foe and then leapt to Comet Fox’s aid. The five men were dispatched by them together.

The remaining Bone Warriors broke and ran in fear, hoping to raise an alarm, hoping to warn their master, Yaska Selith.

Xiao-tep came to the edge of the gorge and peered into it. He considered flying to its depths but knew Negkendra was dead.

“The bloodletting begins,” said Xiao-tep forlornly.

Stavros drew near and peered into the gorge with him. “Thou I am sorry it was one of our own,” said the rat, “I, for one, am glad of it. I thirst for the blood of my enemies.”

Xiao-tep did not share Stavros’ sentiment.

Comet Fox said, “We must go. We cannot let them gain more ground ahead of us and send up an alarm.”

Xiao-tep nodded.

He and Stavros turned from where the Owl Bridge had once been. They walked with Comet Fox and the other six men. As their minds filled with the death of the fallen friend, their pace quickened. Soon they were running.

Stavros placed the blade of his sword between his teeth and bent low until he came to run on all fours as he would when he was still a mere rat.

Xiao-tep and Comet Fox flew closely overhead.

They descended the hill and entered the Plain of Adoration.

Those that had run from Xiao-tep and his men made it to their master’s side, crying out and waking their fellow Bone Warriors. All of them rose, donning their leather armors sewed complete with bits of bones and teeth and death.

To the west, Balori’s men sent volley after volley of arrows, four in all, onto the plain until the flank of the Bone Warriors broke and ran in fear of the dropping arrows. Balori then stood upon his mystic cloud, raised his trunk high into the air and trumpeted a great, bellowing sound. With his broken tusk in hand, pointed at the plain, he descended the hillside, his men charging after him and sending up cries of war.

To the south, the soldiers of King Aniabas charged from the kingdom onto the plain. At their lead and upon horses were King Aniabas himself and his general Vitor.

To their side rode the Warriors of the Midnight Sun atop their black horses. Leading their charge, riding ahead of them, was Momoki the Marmoset, Master of the Chamber of Despair. With him rode his friends Twila the Turtle, Gogi the Grasshopper and Szu Ri the Silk Moth, all clenching the thick mane of his billowing, black, shadowy stallion. With them came chilly darkness into the newly dawning day.

Thus the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration was begun.


I hope you enjoyed. Look for Act VI next Friday!

No comments: