Friday, May 15, 2009

"Broken Sorrows" -- Act II

Last week saw the return of The Children of Gods in Act I of "Broken Sorrows". Here now is Act II.



© 2009 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.


FROM WINTRY LANDS COMES A FOX: Wherein Coyote Falls in Love for the Daughter of a Frost-Giant; Snow Fox is Born; Comet Fox Comes to Usk; Alecto Comes to Usk


Long had Coyote traveled the world, chasing first one desire then another. He tasted the bitter smooth fermented wines of Lycaernum, danced with the girls of Zilwaliae, ate with the warriors of The Dark Vast and at last came to the northern lands to witness the Everlasting Snows of the Rowhad Mountains. As he slept lazily under the shelter of a large and ancient ash that had gone gray with age and wintry climes he heard the crunch of packing snow. He awoke to the beauty of a nude woman with skin so white were it not for her gold tinged hair he may not have seen her at all against the snowy landscape.

But he did see her and the gates to his heart opened, flooding out with love for the beautiful woman.

Seeing the strange animal god resting beneath the tree, the woman blush, turned and ran.

Coyote, gripped with the thought of having her, chased after.

On they ran through pristine snow, over the course of mountains older than perhaps Taliesin itself, until, at last, Coyote caught the woman and flung her to the snow.

"Please!" she begged. "Do not harm me!"

Coyote cocked his head first one way, then the other. He said, "I'll not harm you, sweet maiden, if only you'd gift me your name."

Hesitant, the woman said, "I am Nyavatalii, daughter to the Rowhad Mountains, and my death would surely bring upon you great pains."

"My intentions were never born from an ill mind. Though you are beautiful beyond compare, perhaps far more pretty than the Eternal Empress herself, I could not spoil such art of the Cosmos, for that is what you truly are: an incredibly beautiful work of art."

Nyavatalii blushed at this.

Coyote reached out his hand. She grabbed for it and he lifted her from the snows.

"My father is a giant here," said Nyavatalii, "as was his father before he. And my grandfather was none other than Hophilo -- one of these great mountains."

"I am Coyote," he introduced himself. "And I am madly in love with you."

"Come," she said. "Meet my father."

He followed her through the mountains to a large cave that opened into a small hamlet carved inside one of the mountains and housing a race of white-skinned giants. There he met Stothorn, Nyavatalii's father.

Stothorn, clad in heavy furs and carrying a small ash fitted with a boulder of obsidian fashioned into a pick-axe, scowled at Coyote. Said he, "What do you intend with my daughter?"

Coyote explained himself. "Mighty Stothorn, I intend nothing but what my heart wells with. I intend nothing more than to love your daughter and make her a happy giantess."

Again Stothron scowled. "You be a god?"

Coyote nodded. "Indead I am."

Stothron shook his head. "Even a god is not good enough for my fair daughter. Be off with ye."

Coyote, disheartened and confused for he had never needed pleading to make a woman his own, did what first came to mind. He flung himself to Stothorn's feet and begged, "Please, allow me to love your daughter and care for her. I would dedicate my life to her!"

"I said be gone!" Stothorn raged. And so thunderous and echoing was his voice that Coyote was afraid and he fled from the hamlet inside the mountain, though he did not run far.

He perched atop a nearby mountain, waiting in the Everlasting Snows, until Nyavatalii appeared. So heartbroken was she from her father's command she remain a virgin that she fled from the cave late the next night to dream of her lover alone in the snow. She did not know Coyote watched her from nearby.

But when She came to the ash where she first met Coyote and sat beneath it dreaming of him, he leaped from the mountain, coming to her side.

Seeing tears in her eyes, Coyote said, "Cry not, my love. Old Coyote does not give in so easily. I am an old and wise god, after all."

Seeing Coyote once more made her so happy she flung her at him.

Slowly they kissed. Slowly the lay together in the snow beneath the ash. And when she asked for him to do so, he obliged by taking her virginity.

The snows thinned, yet did not stop as they made love. Through the Everlasting Snows the moon struggled to peer down on them. When they were finished, they lay together, side-by-side, smiling until they both fell asleep.

They were awakened the next day by Stothorn who had gone forth from teh mountain to find his daughter.

"How dare you lie and commit treachery against me!" he raged. He grabbed up his daughter by her golden hair and flung her aside.

Coyote awoke, his heart beating furiously with fear.

Stothorn swung his large pick-axe.

Coyote jumped over it. So afraid was he of the loud and terrible giant that he fled. This time when he fled, Coyote fled for good. He did not perch atop another mountain. He did not wait to see Nyavatalii once more. He did not, in fact, intend to return to the Rowhad Mountains again. Yet no matter how far he traveled and how many lives he lived, he never forgot the frost-giantess he so dearly loved.

Nor would Nyavatalii forget her lover Coyote for, without Coyote's knowledge, she soon gave birth to his son.



Snow Fox was born on one of the harshest wintry days of the Rowhad Mountains. And though his grandfather did not approve of his father, when Stothorn gazed upon the small brown fox he could not help but love the creature. And when Snow Fox began adventuring outside into the snow and his fur began to grow stark white until he could sit and not be seen on the mountain, Stothorn loved him all the more. He helped Nyavatalii raise him, teaching him how to use the axe. And though Snow Fox could swing an axe well, his small size -- especially in comparison to his giant family -- made the wielding of an axe cumbersome. Oft would he swing an axe and have to step once or twice to remain balanced. He instead learned a great passion for smaller blades, knives and daggers in particular.

Once, while showing some of his dagger skills to the giants by balancing the tips of the blades on his fingered paws without slicing free a single tuft of fur, a friendly challenge was made to him to try throwing the blades. The stump of a tree was brought forth and turned on its edge for use as a target.

Snow Fox threw his blades and failed the challenge miserably. And though he was not mocked as the blades slapped harshly against the stump and fell to the floor of the cave, he did not take losing the challenge well. He soon found himself training daily until he could deftly throw all kinds of blades and strike a target with great precision. As the giants watched his skill grow, they cheered him on and he reveled in their attention.

On a night when Snow Fox awoke to find his mother missing, he went searching for her and found her once more sitting under the ancient ash.

"Why do you sit here alone, mother?" he asked.

She wiped a tear from her eye and smiled at her son. "I was merely thinking of the past."

"Was the past so horrible it makes you cry? If so, then I would never remember my past."

She held his hand and had him sit in the snow beside him.

"The past was not so horrible," she said. "In fact, I was thinking of a most wonderful night; the very night you were conceived. I was remembering your father."

Snow Fox knew little of his father. He asked, "Is he a good man?"

"He is a god named Coyote."

"A god? Then am I a god, too?"

Nyavatalii thought it over. "You are part god and part Immortal. I am unsure what that would make you. But you are Immortal nonetheless."

Snow Fox nodded.

"I should like to meet my father," he said.

"I doubt he'll ever return here," Nyavatalii lamented.

Snow Fox resigned himself to the task as he said, "Then I shall seek him out."

"What? But you cannot! You cannot leave me. Please, I love you too much to let you leave these mountains as your father once did."

Snow Fox sighed. He did not wish to hurt his mother. He considered his dilemma.

They returned to the hamlet and the next day, as Stothorn sat across from Snow Fox for breakfast, he noticed his grandson was far quieter than usual. He asked, "What plagues my grandson?"

Snow Fox shrugged, unable to form the words to explain himself to his grandfather.

Nyavatalii explained for him, "He wishes to seek out his fatehr. He wishes to meet him."

Stothron frowned. He nodded, then said, "I believe he should."

Snow Fox pricked up his ears. His tail movement in a small way with happiness.

"What? Father!" excalimed Nyavatalii. "How could you say such a thing? Especially how matters played out before?"

"Before there was not a child to be concerned with. He deserves to know his father," explained Stothorn.

Nyavatalii, unable to understand her father, ran from their side.

Stothorn leaned over the table towards his grandson. "You are not such a child any more. You have grown quite a bit, though not in size, but in heart and intelligence. You deserve to know your father. Your mother cannot understand this currently, but she will. She fears losing you. She fears you may never return."

"Why would she fear that?" asked Snow Fox. He then added, "Of course I would return!"

"Answer me this: Have you ever seen your father?"

Snow Fox shook his head.

"There is your answer. She has held out hope to see Coyore once more, yet he has never returned. Now she fears the same from you."

"But I would return," Snow Fox said emphatically.

"I do not doubt you." Stothorn eyed his grandson. "If you would like, after we have eaten, I'll help you gather a few supplies and escort you down the mountain."

Snow Fox moved his tail and smiled. "I should like that."

He then thought of his mother. "But what of mother?"

"I will care for her and explain matters to her. Worry not about us. You've a great task set before you."

Snow Fox nodded. he finished his breakfast hurriedly. He and his grandfather packed a small leather satchel with provisions. When Stothorn saw Snow Fox trying to stuff the satchel full with various daggers, a dozen in all, he stopped him.

"Wait," he said. "Let me help you."

Stothorn grabbed up a long strap of leather and cut it down to size and in several pieces. He then braided them together, festooned the two ends together with a small bit of obsidian he chipped from his pick-axe. he had fashioned a belt for his grandson complete with loops through which he could place and carry a dozen daggers.

But the belt will still large, too large to fit about Snow Fox's waist.

"Give it here," said Stothorn. "I'll cut it down again."

"No," said Snow Fox. He adjusted the belt to rest across his chest and over his left shoulder. "Now it fits perfectly."

Stothorn smiled.

Together they descended the Rowhad Mountains. At the base Stothorn said, "Good luck, my son. Take good care of yourself. And please return when you can."

Snow Fox nodded and promised that he would come home as soon as he had met his father.

Stothorn watched his grandson descend the foothills where the Everlasting Snows ended. He watched until he could see Snow Fox no more. He then ascended the mountains, returning to his daughter's side to love and care for her.

As Snow Fox wandered into the rest of the world he met many people, made a few friends, listened to rumors and gossip of his father. It seemed to him everyone knew of his father. And moreso they knew of his son -- his other son -- one called Comet Fox.

Snow Fox determined he must find and meet this brother, this Comet Fox, as well.



Comet Fox long traveled the world, flitting about from one region to the next, from one town to the next, from one mischievous adventure to the next. He gambled with the regulars at Peony Tea House until he could call them friends. He set sail on a fishing vessel with old men to aide them in their task. He fought with generals, besting them each through treachery and teaching teaching their soldiers how better to fight.

Yet none of this is such great concern as the time Comet Fox met the fair Kumiko and had his heart stolen by her.

He came to farming hamlet of Yeoh, wandering half drunk with wine, to pass out at the doorstep of a family with four living generations.

"What is he?" asked Father Ko.

"It is a demon!" cried Mother Mika.

"No!" corrected Great Grandmother. She could not peer through her ancient eyes upon Comet Fox, instead having her great grandchild, Kumiko, describe the creature. "He is one of the Blessed Immortals. There are many tales of a fox traveling the world and none of them indicate an evil spirit, though perhaps a trickster. His presence here is an omen, a sign. We must take him in and care for him until he is healthy. It is the will of the Cosmos."

"I would not bring a strange creature into our home," argued Father Ko.

"He is only a stranger," said Great Grandmother, "because we've yet to be properly introduced to him. Take him in, nurse him back to health and then we will discover his friendliness."

Despite Father Ko's objections, the family took Comet Fox in. Kumiko and one of her three brothers carried him into their meager home to lay him in a bed. As they carried him, Kumiko wondered at the soft fur of Comet Fox, how beautiful the color was, how soothing to the touch.

They fed Comet Fox, sobered him and when he was well enough to do so, Comet Fox repaid their kindness by helping them with their farming. He grew to love the large family, but he loved most of all to sit under the family's Acacia tree with Kumiko as they watched the Jewels of Zingtai glimmer at night. He would often tell Kumiko of his grand adventures, occasionally embellishing to make himself appear more heroic to her. He told how he helped Xiao-tep destroy the demon of the Cottonwood Chamber. He enthralled her with tales of his wanderings. He told how he had helped Gogi the Grasshopper end the demon-dog Yaska Selith.

Though Kumiko may have learned the truth to some of his embellishments, she would not care. She loved their times together. She loved Comet Fox's voice. She caressed his soothing fur. And when prompted, she would tell her secret thoughts to him concerning the world, her place in her family, and once even confessed her love to the fox-god.

Comet Fox, had he not had a face covered with fur, would have been seen blushing by her for he too was fostering the seed of love within him.

Night after night they enjoyed each others' company until, one night, they lay together expressing their love.

Yet soon the time came when Comet Fox found himself restless and wanting to wander once more.

"Come with me," he said to Kumiko.

Kumiko shook her head. "I cannot. I've barely started my womanhood and though my family is large they need every hand they can get on this farm."

Comet Fox sighed. He had fought many great battles and on the rare occasion lost one here and there, but never before had he felt so defeated as when Kumiko refused to travel the world with him.

He felt himself selfish for having to leave the family behind. He sighed, saying, "I am but a wandering spirit. It has been set before me by the Misty Hands of the Cosmos to wander the world, perhaps to help good people like you. I am truly sorry Kumiko, for I must follow my heart."

Kumiko nodded with understanding. With wisdom beyond her years she said, "We each must be whatever we feel we must be. Go, Comet Fox. And though I may shed a tear at your leave-taking, I wish you farewell. Promise me, however, that you'll return one day to see my family again. Return to see me again, won't you?"

Comet Fox smiled and nodded.

"I should like to," he said.

Kumiko fell asleep late that night. When she and her family awoke the next morning, Comet Fox was gone.

"Our guest has left us," said Great Grandmother, "but not without helping us here. He was a good creature. He will be missed."

Father Ko nodded. "I was mistaken to suspect him. Please understand I did so so as to protect my family. But without his help we would not have planted this year's crop so quickly."

They were all saddened, for Comet Fox had been such a good friend to them. He had left them with a fully planted farm, with glorious memories they would not soon forget and, as yet without anyone's knowledge, he had also left them with a child growing in Kumiko's belly.

On wandered Comet Fox. He did not rest or pause in his travels until, at last, he came to a raucous fishing town along the ocean called Usk. There were many merchants and travelers in Usk. There was much gambling and drinking to be had. And on occasion there was also a fight.

Comet Fox liked Usk. He determined to stay there a while.



On ran Gullnir. He did not fail nor did he falter in his flight. He carried Alecto and her hand-maiden Eloqua long after other horses would have collapsed in exhaustion. Eloqua feared pushing Gullnir too hard, but she feared the blades of the Eternal Empress' loyal guards far more. So she urged Gullnir on. And on he ran.

In the distance, some ways behind them, following rumor and tracks came a band of loyal guards. Some fifty men rode together as swift agents of doom, their weapons sharp, their armor strong and inlaid with gold, capes black as night before Balori had restored the stars, their mouths slavering with hunger to please their Empress and their pursuit hot. On they raced after Alecto, daughter to Empress Sulia, the daughter they had been ordered to kill.

Gullnir ran tirelessly, charged with his duty to protect Alecto. He knew not why Alecto was to be killed should she be caught, but he understood the task set before him was one born of righteousness, so on he ran tirelessly. He ran until he could run no more.

And when, at last, the rhythm of his legs slowed, Eloqua's heart jumped with fear but the fear was immediately replaced with sorrow and gratitude for Gullnir.

"We'll need to stop soon," she told Alecto. "Gullnir grows tired."

Hearing this, Gullnir ran harder, but found his legs would not quite work they way they had. He knew then he must rest lest he die from exhaustion.

On the far horizon, as night bloomed, Eloqua spied the soft glow of a town. She allowed Gullnir to slow some, steering him towards the lights and soon they came into the town of Usk.

ELoqua slowed Gullnir.

Alecto pet his mane and whispered soft thanks to him.

"We should be safe here for a short time," said Eloqua. She was uncertain of any truth to her words, but she hoped they would be safe.

They found a public stable and paid a hand to groom, water, feed and let Gullnir rest with money Eloqua had taken when they fled the palace. The two women then found a tavern and inn, entered and paid for a room for the night. They went straight to their room without speaking to anyone besides the innkeeper. She requested a meal be brought to their room first thing in the morning and paid for it in advance. The innkeeper agreed, happy to oblige the two women.

That night, Alecto slept in a bed stuffed with old straw. She slept deeply, though not soundly. In her dreams she was still atop the fleeing Gullnir.

Eloqua hardly slept that night. She kept waking to listen to strange sounds.

The next morning, the innkeeper brought them a meal. They ate quietly. Their meal finished, Alecto said, "My birthday was yesterday."

"Oh dear," said Eloqua. "I had forgotten. I'm so sorry, dear child. Or should I say, dear woman?"

Alecto's smile was brief.

"I do not understand the things happening to us," confessed Alecto.

Eloqua remained silent. She did not wish to share with Alecto her understanding of things. She did not want the young empress-to-be to learn of the ugliness of some, of the darkness that grows within jealous hearts.

She instead told Alecto, "I will go to see Gullnir later today. I fear we must give him another day's rest. I do not wish to stay here longer than we must, but he will need his rest."

Alecto nodded.

Eloqua went to Gullnir's side. The horse looked in better health than he had the night before, but showed signs of needing more rest. Eloqua nodded at him, patted his long face and said, "One more night, dear one. We will give you one more night. Then we must move on."

Gullnir snorted a thanks.

Eloqua returned to the rented room to find Alecto napping. As Alecto slept, Eloqua got on her knees and prayed.

"Dear gods, I know not what comes to us except death. Death rides atop fury after dear Alecto and our horse Gullnir cannot outlast this chase. Please, help us. Please."

Tears fell from her closed eyes onto her cheeks. She felt every bit of her age and moreso.

Day passed into night. And with the night came the Empress' Guards.



A riot awoke Eloqua. She ran to the tavern of the inn and asked the innkeeper what was the matter.

"Soldiers," he said. "They ransack the town looking for two women."

He eyed her suspiciously.

Eloqua swallowed hard.

As the tavern emptied, as the patrons fled in fear, the innkeeper asked, "Who do they seek?"

Eloqua said, "I do not know, but you would be most incorrect to insinuate us."

Without waiting for an answer, Eloqua ran to the room. She grabbed Alecto by the hand and lead her through the tavern, into the town's streets, heading for the stables in hopes of retrieving Gullnir to continue their flight.

They ran through a mad crowd. The Guards grabbed people up behind them, questioning the whereabouts of an Empress' daughter, striking men and women alike with the backs of their hands when no satisfactory answer was given.

As the Guards neared, Eloqua feared being caught. She pushed Alecto towards a small staircase on the outside of a home. They hid beneath and behind the stairs along with a few townspeople.

People ran, crazed. Men stood against the Guards only to be struck down if not by one, then by many. Fifty Guards clad in royal armor terrorized Usk.

"We must get to Gullnir before they do," whispered Eloqua to Alecto. "Surely they'll recognize the Empress' prized horse and know we are here."

"How?" asked Alecto. "How do we get through the crowd without notice?"

Eloqua did not answer, for she had no answer to give. She wished only her prayers to be answered.

And they were.

Comet Fox ran through the fleeing crowd. He ran behind buildings, spying the Guards from afar. He ran until he came to a building with a small staircase set outside. He ran beneath it and came up against the steps, peering out at the riot in the town, kneeling near Eloqua and Alecto.

He squinted, counting the number of the Guards.

The people hiding with them mumbled, asking questions about Comet Fox, about the Guards.

Comet Fox looked to Eloqua. "Know you who they are?"

Eloqua's heart beat harshly. She did not know of this creature, but she felt she could trust no other.

Comet Fox eyed her and young Alecto.

Eloqua's mouth worked. She decided to trust this fox-god. She looked to Alecto, then to Comet Fox and said simply, "If they find her, they will kill her."

Comet Fox considered them. He looked out at the bullying Guards. He could not understand how such a young woman could warrant such a response from armed soldiers, but decided one of so few years, one who had just reached her womanhood, could not have lived long enough to conduct great evil. No, thought Comet Fox, it was not the girl that was evil. As he watched a Guard slip a blade into an old man's chest, he decided theses Guards were evil. He wanted to fight them, but fifty men was far too many for even a skilled veteran of combat like himself. Their numbers too great, his tricks too few, Comet Fox decided flight was the answer.

He looked to Eloqua and nodded. "Follow me. No matter what happens, keep running."

Eloqua grabbed his arm. "We've a horse at the stables."

"Then we go there first."

Comet Fox lead the two women through the town, sneaking behind buildings, slipping through shadows, until they came to the stable. They had no time to ready Gullnir. Comet Fox helped the women onto the horse's bare back. He then looked into Gullnir's face and instructed him the way he had instructed the two women.

"No matter what happens," he said, "keep running."

Gullnir snorted with understanding.

Together the four fled the town of Usk. So fast was Gullnir that Comet Fox could not keep up while running, but he feared giving himself away should he fly as he would created a long comet-like tail behind him that the Guards would most likely see. He compromised then, flying but doing so low to the ground, too low to be seen from the town of Usk fading slowly behind them.

"Thank you, Blessed One," Eloqua called down to Comet Fox.

Looking back, feeling it safe to fly a little higher so as to be face-to-face with the women, Comet Fox raised himself up and came along side them.

He said, "Where do you go?"

"We're looking for help," said Eloqua.

Alecto, who had been eying Comet Fox a long time, said, "We were hoping to find Balori."

"Balori Shongoyo?" asked Comet Fox. "The Towering Elephant?"

"Yes!" cried Alecto. "You know of him?"

"I fought at his side in the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration," explained Comet Fox. He then introduced himself, "I am Comet Fox."

"I am Eloqua and this is my charge Alecto. She is daughter to the Eternal Empress. Those men that hunt her are the Empress' Guards."

"Why would a mother want her daughter dead?"

"As long as Alecto lives, she'll undermine the Empress' rule. She's just come of age and is ready to take the throne, but the Empress refuses to give up power."

Comet Fox considered this. He also considered helping the women reach Balori's side. He shook his head, "Seeking out Balori is out of the question. I had heard he returned to his homeland of Ife. He is much too far. We must find help that is closer."

"We do not know anyone else," explained Eloqua.

"I do," said Comet Fox. "As soon as I get you someplace safe, I'll fly to Taleisin. I'll return to your side with my friend Xiao-tep the Ankh-fish. He'll know how best to help. His wisdom is great and he is quite trustworthy."

"No!" cried Alecto. She reached out and grasped Comet Fox's pawed hand. She held it firmly as she said, "Since we fled the palace, the only home I've ever known, despair has filled me. I doubted our flight, our purpose. But now, laying eyes upon you, with you at our side, I feel safe. Finally, I feel safe. I do not wish you to leave us so soon."

Comet Fox worked his hand so he held Alecto's fingers gently. He eyed her, cocking his head first to one side then the next. He said, "As you wish, Little Empress. I'll not leave your side."

"Do you promise?" she asked.

He nodded, nuzzling her knuckles with his nose. He said, "I promise. I will serve you as my own Empress until my services are no longer needed or until I can no longer serve you."

Alecto smiled. "Oh, Comet Fox. Thank you."

Comet Fox smiled.

"Then where do we find help?" asked Eloqua.

Comet Fox sighed. He looked to the far horizon. Thoughts filled his head.

Gullnir ran.

Comet Fox kept up in flight.

The women grew tired.

At last Comet Fox said, "I know of another that will help us, one that lives not too far from here."

"Another Blessed One?" asked Alecto.

Comet Fox nodded. "And a friend."

"Who is this friend?" asked Eloqua.

"I've not seen him in a few years. I wandered with him for some time after the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration. He is known by many names, but you may know him best as Stavros the Red."

"And he will help us?"

Comet Fox nodded once more. He said, "Like no other."

On they went, four desperate figures racing through the night, chasing after hope, chasing after rumors of an old friend.


I hope you enjoyed Act II of "Broken Sorrows". Be sure to cehck back next Friday for Act III!

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