Friday, May 8, 2009

"Broken Sorrows" -- Act I

Herein we revisit the world of The Children of Gods. These are wuxia tales of fantasy and martial arts, of gods and mortals. It is the 3rd installment of stories to be written for this universe, is the 2nd novel in the universe and is the last tale to feature Xiao-tep the Ankh-fish of 100,000 Sorrows and Beauty as a major character.

"Broken Sorrows" picks up years after we last visited this world. Enough time has passed for characters to grow older and for some to grow up.

I do hope you'll enjoy.

~ Charles


© 2009 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.


IN THE LAND OF BIZO: Wherein Alecto and Adad Grow into Maturity; Jealousy and Suspicion Infects a Dark Heart; Familial Blood is Spilled


Far to the east, to the farthest stretches where stone kisses sea, in the Land of the Bizo did live none other than Sulia Laree, the Eternal Empress. Time had come and gone since the Towering Elephant Balori Shangoyo had last paid this region a visit. Summers had come and gone, winters had frozen and melted, generations of flowers had bloomed and died and now Alecto stood at the precipice of womanhood.

‘Twas mere weeks before the anniversary of her sixteenth year. Her maiden season had come to her. Her body had grown and was filling. She was swiftly becoming the most beautiful woman in Bizo and, some poised, perhaps the most beautiful woman in all the world. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find another to argue against such a statement.

Her brother came to her side that night and together they sat watching the stars.

“It’s been many years since we first saw them,” said Adad.

“And each night I come to this window, look out and up at the stars and thank Balori for his good deed. It seems so impossible now,” she said, “an elephant placing fire in the night sky.”

“Yet he did,” smiled her brother.

“Yet he did,” she confirmed. With some trepidation she said, “If you look, there, in the southern night sky each Spring you can see him.”


“Find the line of three stars. Can you see? Now imagine them connected, making a solid line. It’s as though they shaped Balori’s trunk.”

“And the ears to either side!” exclaimed Adad.

“Yes! Yes, how happy I am you can imagine it, too. I’ve felt so foolish for so long for imagining it there. Especially now, especially on the eve of my full womanhood.”

Her brother shook his head. “It’s not foolish. He gave us such a gift, we should honor him and what better way than to find a home for him amongst the very stars he returned to the world.”

Adad looked from the stars to his sister and found her hanging her head low in thought.

“What is it, dear sister?” he asked.

Alecto sighed. “I’ll miss my childhood. I’ll miss our times together by the water.”

“We’ll still have time together,” Adad assured.

“I’m certain we will,” said Alecto, “but not as we used to. On the morrow I will become a woman in full and will have greater duties in this land and to our people. It is the way of our family.”

“Perhaps,” Adad lamented. He then assured, “But we’ll always make time to come here and remember our elephant hero.”

Alecto smiled. She said, “Perhaps.”



The sky moved and the children aged. Preparations were made for a large celebration in honor of Alecto’s coming-of-age. Word was sent forth the celebration would be made a national affair. And so the people of Bizo gathered foods, costuming and incense to burn in honor of their little daughter.

Long had it been since the children had last seen Fei Li Mi, once their protector. Now presiding over their advancement towards maturity was Eloqua – a middle-aged woman, barren and unable to show her love for children except as a guardian – and Bratis, the Eternal Empress’ new Chief Guard. Eloqua’s and Bratis’ love for the children was great and matched only by the adoration of the people hoping one day to be rule by them, by the people of Bizo.

One night, as the children watched the stars from Alecto’s room, Eloqua and Bratis came to them.

“Our little girl will be made a woman on the morrow,” said Eloqua.

“Tomorrow, our little girl will be made the new Empress,” Bratis smiled with pride.

“Me? The new Empress?” Alecto asked. “But how? How could I take the seat of power from my mother? I had assumed, considering her immortal state and eternal beauty, I would never take from her the position of ruler of Bizo.”

“The righteous act,” proclaimed Bratis, “would be for your mother to step down from the position, relinquishing it to you.”

This startled Alecto. She had assumed she would take on minor roles within Bizo, perhaps traveling to foreign lands as an ambassador for her mother. Not once had she ever considered taking the reigns of all of Bizo from her mother.

“I hadn’t thought it was possible,” she said.

“Your mother is kind,” spoke Eloqua. “At least to you.”

The hint of lamentation in Eloqua’s voice did not escape Adad. Unsure of her tone, he chose to say nothing, to ask no questions.

That very evening, the Eternal Empress paced in her bedchambers. She called forth for Bratis and Eloqua and other servants to come to her side.

“On the morrow we will celebrate my daughter’s birth. Tomorrow marks her sixteenth year. And this flusters me greatly.”

Bratis stepped forward. He asked, “My Empress, why would such a grand and glorious day fluster you? A child’s birth is a thing to celebrate, especially for a mother and especially if that child is the young and beautiful Alecto.”

The Eternal Empress, in all her unnatural youth and fully natural beauty, glowered at Bratis.

“Young and beautiful?” she demanded. “Young and beautiful? You dare fawn over my daughter before me? How dare you! You vile pervert!”

“That is not what I meant, Empress,” Bratis quickly kow-towed to the Eternal Empress. “I meant no offense.”

Sulia Laree approached her personal guard. “Rise you. Rise and be the commander of my guard. Rise and display yourself a man, not a coward, not even before me.”

Bratis stood.

“You’ve been in my service a long time,” said the Empress. “I remember spying you amongst new recruits long ago. I also remember I called you to my bed that very night.”

Sweat began to roll down Bratis’ face. “Empress, no one knows this.”

“No one knew,” replied the Empress. “Until now. Today I stand on the threshold of losing my throne to my daughter. I would keep the throne, however. I’ll not abdicate any minute detail to anyone. Not even to my own blood.”

Bratis stood, shaking nervously. He looked about at the gathered servants who peered back at him and the Empress with wonder.

“Tell them now what you and I know. Tell them the truth,” commanded the Empress.

Uncertain of the repercussions, uncertain of the Empress’ true wishes, Bratis did as he was commanded.

“Alecto is my daughter and not the dead emperor’s, may he rest in peace. You called me to your bed and I was with you while your husband was elsewhere with his political duties. Soon after you were with child.”

The servants listened I horror of the Empress’ betrayal.

Sulia smiled. “And I was not with my husband nor with any other man thereafter.”

Bratis looked around at the gathered servants.

Sulia sat at her vanity, brushing her long, beautiful hair. “Alecto is not my dead husband’s daughter. She is not of pure stock. She is not full royalty. Therefore, I find her unfit to take the throne over the land of Bizo from me. We will celebrate her birth tomorrow, but she will not take hold of any power. Nor will she ever. This I command.”

The servants nodded with understanding, though shocked.

Eloqua stepped forward, “Then what place has she in this land?”

Sulia looked at her. “She has no place, except as my daughter. She will live here until her dying days and I will continue to rule long after.”

Eloqua, finding the Empress’ manner grotesque, worked her mouth but no words came forth.

“Chew your cud elsewhere, cow. Remove yourself from my sight.”

“But to live here for all her days without purpose,” Eloqua protested, “would mean only her imprisonment.”

The Empress nodded. “As it will mean for my son when he comes of age, too.”

“The people love her,” said Eloqua, hoping to reason with the Empress. “As long as she lives she will undermine your authority. The people will call for her ruling.”

The Empress paused her brushing, thinking over this matter. At last she said, “What you say holds truth within it. As long as Alecto lives, she will undermine my authority. Therefore, I must not allow her to continue her life.”

The Empress turned deftly towards Bratis. “Kill her. And do so tonight, before the hour of her birth. Remove her form from my palace so I may continue to reign for all eternity.”

Bratis gasped. He stammered as he spoke, “B-but I can’t! It is my sworn duty to protect her!”

The Empress stood and approached Bratis once more.

“It is your sworn duty to do as I command.”

Again Bratis stammered, “B-but to do so is to… you ask me to kill my own daughter!”

Sulia Laree smiled wickedly. “Do so. Provide me with the evidence I require concerning your loyalty. Express to me your love as you once did behind closed doors. Sacrifice your daughter to me.”

Bratis shook his head. “I simply cannot.”

The Empress frowned. “Then you will die at her side.”

She called for her guards and commended them attack and kill Bratis.

The servants scattered, running from the Empress’ bedchambers, seeking refuge.

Eloqua also escaped, running not for her own quarters, but for the bedchambers of Alecto.

Guards filled the Empress’ bedchambers.

Bratis looked to Aiden, his second in command. He spoke, “Hear me now and know what I speak is truth: Our Empress has gone mad!”

The guards looked to their Empress.

“It’s true,” spoke the Empress. “I’m mad with an illness and that illness is our former Chief Guard Bratis.”

“She wants Alecto killed!” he informed. “And I’ll not do it!”

The guards looked to their Empress for orders.

She leveled her eyes. She commanded, “Kill him.”

The guards approached Bratis.

Bratis, frustrated, pleaded, “At least allow me a weapon. At least allow me to leave this world fighting.”

Empress Sulia nodded.

A spear was lowered to the ground and kicked to Bratis.

The former Chief Guard picked up the weapon. He felt its weight in his hands. He eyed those formerly under his command. He positioned himself into an offensive stance.

“This is nonsense,” spoken Aiden. He walked to Bratis’ side. “I’ll not follow a mad woman.”

The Empress frowned. “Will there be more traitors?”

No more guards turned traitor.

“Remember what I’ve taught you,” he told the guards. “Remember what I’ve said: To fight is to live. Whether you fight for justice or for your life, whether you fight to release anger or as a way to discipline yourself, fighting is living. To sit idly is to be a demon of lethargy.”

The guards looked at him, uncertain.

Bratis eyed them. He commanded, “Now fight me!”

The guards rushed on.

Aiden unsheathed his sword.

Bratis raised his spear.

Three guards challenged Bratis. He knocked down the first with a sweep of the spear and stabbed another. The third lunged forward, sinking his short sword into Bratis’ gut.

Bratis grabbed the guard’s wrist and pulled the sword free from his form. He kneed the guard in the stomach, twisted his wrist until the sword came free. Bratis used the sword against the guard, plunging it into his chest.

Aiden fought valiantly, swimming through the ocean of weapons and guards until he found himself near the bedchamber’s entrance. When he had the chance, he slipped free from the room, guards chasing after him.



Eloqua burst into Alecto’s bedchamber. Alecto was alone, scared by her handmaiden’s sudden intrusion.

“Eloqua! What is it?”

Eloqua grabbed from under the bed a satchel. She opened a chest and pulled from it clothing and began shoving the clothing into the satchel.

“Eloqua? Eloqua, tell me what’s wrong!”

“It’s your mother,” Eloqua turned to look at her, tears welling in her eyes. “She sends guards for you this moment. We must leave.”

“What? For what purpose?” Alecto became frantic. “Why would my mother send guards for me?”

“She fears you. She fears the threat you represent to her rule. She won’t give up the throne.”

Alecto shook her head. “Then I’ll not take it. Why the guards?”

Eloqua paused in her packing. “They come to kill you.”

Alecto shook her head once more. She could not comprehend what Eloqua told her. She said, “No.”

Aiden ran into the room. Blood dripped from a wound at his head and another in his good arm. He held his sword loosely in his off-hand.

“Young miss,” Aiden panted. “We must flee.”

His eyes lolled about in their sockets until they righted themselves and he looked at Alecto once more.

Panic filled Alecto as tears spilled from her eyes. The visage of Aiden in his horrible bloodied form was evidence enough for her.

Eloqua grabbed Alecto by the arm and pulled at her. Alecto followed and Aiden followed them both as they ran towards Adad’s room. They came to the hall in time to bear witness to two guards striking down the young man.

“Adad!” Alecto cried out.

The guards, hearing the unbridled, bloodcurdling scream, turned to see Alecto and her escorts. Aiden stepped forward, his sword leveled.

The two guards rushed at him and with two terrible, swift blows Aiden struck them both down, blood pouring from the wounds at their necks as flesh peeled from muscle to show viscous gore.

“Keep running,” Aiden commanded. He steered them through and then out of the palace, bringing them to the Empress’ stables.

Kalavata flew high overhead and Zingtai followed below. The night sky glittered with brilliant stars, yet none of them saw this.

Aiden roused a stable hand. Together, they prepared Gullnir, the Empress’ prized horse and often touted the fastest horse in all of Bizo, for Eloqua and Alecto. Once mounted, Alecto in the saddle before Eloqua, Aiden looked at the two women and said, “Ride. Ride until you can ride no more. Ride until the horse is dead. Never come back. Ride and live well.”

Alecto cried.

Eloqua looked at Aiden. “What of you?”

Aiden shook a little, his wounds draining him of strength. He closed his eyes, then opened them and looked to Eloqua.

“When first I joined the guard, I took an oath to protect the Empress and her family. I swore to defend them with my life. Now the Empress is not in harm’s way, but her family is. And I intend to live by my oath.”

Tears welled and ran down Eloqua’s face. She said, “May the gods bless you.”

He nodded and escorted the horse out of the stables. He watched them go. And when the mass of guards descended upon him, he fought well once more. Alas, a far swifter blade then his fell him.

The guards found the stable missing a single horse, the Empress’ prize steed missing, killed the stable hand.

When the Eternal Empress heard of the theft of Gullnir, she commanded riders be readied and chase after her daughter.

“Ride,” she told her guards. “Ride and strike down that foul creature from my womb!”

Eloqua took the reigns and rode the horse hard out of the lands of Bizo. They rode through the night, the moonlit sky shimmering on heather-filled plains under the starry sky. Dew collected on their cheeks and on Gullnir's body. They rode until long after midnight, a silhouette of desperation on the far horizon.

At last, Alecto asked, “What do we do now?”

Eloqua replied, “I’ve been thinking of what to do. We must find help. We must find friends that will help us, friends that will keep us safe.”

“Balori!” Alecto said.

“His lands are too far off. We must find friends closer.”

“Oh,” Alecto lowered her head. “Then what shall we do? For whom do we search? Where should we find help?”

Eloqua shook her head. “Pray, dear one. Pray to the gods. Ask that they oversee us in our trials. Pray. Perhaps one of them will hear.”

Alecto lowered her head, her tears falling into the thick mane of Slepnir. She prayed.

And the gods of the world heard.



On the Mountain that Lived in the Sky, in the beautiful land of Taliesin, Xiao-tep was relaxing at the side of Aglina when he thought he heard a small, distant voice come to him. He excused himself and flew down the mountain, flying by the Spear of Sorrows planted firmly in the ground with ivy growing all about it. He flew until he came to the edge of the mountain so that he could look down onto the world below.

Otti the Firefly, having seen Xiao-tep fly by, came to his side.

“What is it?” asked little Otti.

Without looking at his friend, Xiao-tep said, “Someone is in need of help.”

“How do you know?”

Xiao-tep looked for an answer within himself. “I am uncertain. It is as though I have wisdom without the knowledge of its origins. And I fear this is the beginning of a course of events. I fear a great wickedness will soon come to the world, a wickedness old and familiar.”

Otti shuddered at Xiao-tep’s grave prophecy.


I hope you enjoyed Act I of "Broken Sorrows". Check back next week for Act II.

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