Friday, May 22, 2009

"Broken Sorrows" -- Act III

Here continues the latest The Children of Gods tale, "Broken Sorrows". Act II is presented here. Acts I and II are here:

Act I

Act II

Enjoy Act III.


© 2009 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.


THE DUEL: Wherein Fei Li Mi, Obsessed with Memories and Filled with Desire for Answers, Seeks Out Xiao-tep on Taleisin; Fei Li Mi and Xiao-tep Shake the Heavens Once More; Xiao-tep Removes from His Waist the Willow Branch and Breaks the Spear of Sorrows


After the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration, Fei Li Mi flew swiftly through the sky to a country unknown to him, found the largest lake to be found in the coutryside, and delved into its depths until he found a large muddy cavern in which he could reside. There he remained for many days, his guan-dao rusting until its blade was of no use. He let the weapon fall to the floor of the lake. He hid and remained in hiding until, consumed by curiosity, he could hide no more.

He picked up his guan-dao as he lifted from the lake, spraying water in every which direction, frightening a boat full of fishermen nearby. He eyed the fishermen. He scowled.

"Have you come hunting for me?" Fei Li Mi demanded.

The men, terrorized, shook their heads though many had heard the tales of a giant catfish lurking the deepest parts of the lake.

Fei Li Mi paid their pleadings no heed. He did not trust them as they cried out in mortal terror, promising they had not come for him. The catfish heard no reason. He instead heard, and reveled in, their cries of agony as he descended upon the boat. He wrapped his arm-fins about necks, cracked skulls with an anchor, netted and stabbed men with their own fillet knives. He tried to stab and gouge with the guan-dao, but it did not cleave as well as it once had. The rusty blade instead tore at flesh, leaving jagged ugliness in its wake. Fei Li Mi did not cease until, at last, the fishermen were dead one and all.

He used the guan-dao to punch a hole in the boat's hull.

As he flew from the lake, he left behind a bloody mess upon the deck as the boat slowly sank into the lake.

It had been years since the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration and Fei Li Mi's legacy of cruelty began once more.

He flew aimlessly, wondering if he was yet being chased by Balori and Xiao-tep. He doubted this.

The catfish came to a lonely old miller at the edge of a wide river. He entered the miller's wheel house and killed the old man. He then raised the mill stone out of its works, tore wood from the building and built for himself a turning wheel. Upon this wheel, as Fei Li Mi worked it and it spun, he placed the blade of the guan-dao. Sparks and rust flew from the steel. He worked the blade over and over again, tempering it with focused hatred, until it was at last as good as new. The blade shone brightly in the dimmest candlelight.

Fei Li Mi smiled at his blade, his old friend.

Yet his hatred subsided as he thought of the Eternal Empress' children. He had once the task of their care and he did so with great pride. He had loved the children once and as yet still did. He left the miller's home by the side of the wide river to look up at the nighttime sky, to take in the splendor of the stars above.

Had he not allowed jealousy to pull at the reigns of his heart, he knew, he would not have left the land of Bizo. He would not have competed with and failed against Balori Shongoyo in returning the stars and pleasing the Empress. Hatred left him momentarily and in its place welled great fatigue. He knew then hatred and jealousy wore on one's mind and body and only fostering further growth of hatred and jealousy could one maintain energy enough to carry on. Or, he wondered, if one could abandon ill emotions all together and find a new source of passion, of purpose.

Fei Li Mi sighed at the stars. He missed the children he once cared for. He thought they might be fully grown by now, or at least Alecto would be.

He determined to return to Bizo and pay the children a visit.


In the brightest hour on the brightest day in summer, Fei Li Mi returned to Bizo. He flew high overhead at first, spying the people and lands far below. He then descended into the heart of the city and floated gracefully down streets, around corners, heading for the palace of the Eternal Empress.

A few citizens recognized him and welcomed him home, offering foods and wine to the great catfish. Though he wished to partake in their generosity, he decided not to. Instead, he asked for forgiveness and explained he had business at the palace.

He came to the palace. He requested entrance and was allowed in.

After being escorted to the Empress' side in her massive garden where she lounged across velvet covered furniture, he was allowed to be alone with her.

Said Fei Li Mi, "I thank you for permitting me an audience, Empress."

The Empress did not eye Fei Li Mi. She instead ate from a vine of grapes as she spoke, "It has been some time since we last saw you, Fei Li Mi."

"Indeed, Empress," Fei Li Mi nodded. He then ventured a question. "How are the children?"

This time the Empress looked to him. "Have you not heard? They are dead."

"Dead!" exclaiemd Fei Li Mi. "Both? How?"

The Empress sighed. "Not both. My son was slain as a traitor to my throne and Alecto is currently on the run from my soldiers. She threatens my livelihood and my throne."

Fei Li Mi shook his head in disbelief. "This cannot be! I know the children and they are not in the way to be so treacherous or threatening."

"You say this yet you've not seen them in an age. You've not seen little Alecto grow into a wretched power-hungry woman that wishes to wrest my throne from me." Then, with great venom, the Empress added, "If you had remained here, if you had not been traipsing off to whatever land you fled to, if you had not failed in your task to me the fate of my children would have not been so bitter. Yet, here we are. You have failed. You abandoned them. And now their fates are as bitter as these grapes."

The Empress spit out a chewed grape onto the ground before Fei Li Mi.

He watched the grape fall. His mind worked. He could not understand what the Empress was telling him.

"Of course," said the Empress, "you could aid my throne once more and redeem yourself."

Fei Li Mi scowled at her. He asked, "What would you propose?"

"Find my daughter and return her to me."

"And what would you do with her once she is again in this palace? Would you murder her for treason, as well?"

"What I do in my palace is my own concern," said the Empress.

Fei Li Mi was not so unwise that he did not feel himself being played by the Eternal Empress. He trusted Alecto was alive. He trusted the Empress feared that. He could not aid in harming the child.

"I'll not serve you any longer," he explained at last. "Your throne corrupts you and has been doing so for many long years. I would follow your orders should they lead me into the Many Hells, but I would not bring harm to that child. She is as my own."

The Empress was quiet a long while as she considered her former servant.

"Then you've no purpose here," she said at last.

"I suppose not."

Fei Li Mi was allowed to leave the palace unhindered.

The Empress then called to her guards. She instructed, "I fear our old servant Fei Li Mi has also turned traitor. It would be safe to assume he would move against us in our pursuit of my daughter. Follow him the best you can and then tonight, as the owl hunts, sneak to his side and kill him."

The guards dedicated their hearts to this task. They watched Fei Li Mi leave the palace, followed him from a safe distance, and spied on him making arrangements at a local inn in town for the night.

That night, the guards slipped into the inn, demanded a key from the innkeeper in the name of the Empress, and slid as shadows into Fei Li Mi's room where he lay slumbering upon a bed stuffed with hay, his guan-dao lying beside him.

The first guard struck. His sword bit and slipped into the catfish, parting flesh and scales.

Fei Li Mi awoke. He cried out in pain as his hands went to his weapon. He raised himself to the ceiling of the bedchamber and lashed out at every moving shadow. So long had he lived in the murky depths of a lake that seeing in darkness had become a skill to him, giving him great advantage over his assailants. He stabbed and sliced, lopping off limbs and heads and piercing hearts until six guards lay dead and bleeding on the wood floor of the inn.

Fei Li Mi opened the wooden shutters of a window in the room, wriggled through and flew from the city. He flew a long time, a hand to his belly where the guard's sword had slipped through. He wondered where next to go. he had hoped answers and consolation would be found in Bizo. They were not. He then realized it was not Bizo or even the beloved children that he sought, that had grown curiosity inside of him until he left the depths of the lake. It was curiosity for his lighter half, a creature similar to himself. What he was looking for was Xiao-tep.

Fei Li Mi found a small farmer's house and entered. The family inside shook with fear as they were awakened by his entrance.

The catfish asked for help covering the wound. A salve was quickly mixed and applied that instantly soothed the burning pain in Fei Li Mi's belly.

He then asked for information about Xiao-tep.

"The Ankh-fish?" asked the farmer and patriarch of the family.

"You know of him then?" asked Fei Li Mi.

"Indeed, his tales are widely known in this region. I would suspect he is known the world over."

"Where can I find him?" asked Fei Li Mi.

"Why," said the farmer, "on the Mountain That Lives in the Sky."

Fei Li Mi thanked the family for their aid. He then flew from their lands, flying straight up into the night sky, rolling sideways and flying north towards Taleisin.


It was in the darkest hour of night when Fei Li Mi arrived at Taleisin. A cold breeze followed with him. All the mountain instantly knew of his presence.

Fei Li Mi found first Otti the Firefly.

"Little firefly," called Fei Li Mi. "Come to me."

Otti did as he was told, flying closer to the strange catfish.

"Is this Taleisin?"

"Of course," answered Otti.

"Does a fish-god called Xiao-tep live here?"

Otti nodded. "He is the caretaker here."

"Then go to him. Go tell him an old acquaintance has come to pay him a visit."

Otti said, "I am certain he knows you've come. We all do."

"Go!" demanded Fei Li Mi. "Do not waste my time with your exhaled breath! Do as I say and nothing more!"

Shaking with fear, little Otti flew up the side of the mountain to where Xiao-tep was picnicking with Aglina and chatting with a few geese that had stopped for a rest overnight.

"Xiao-tep! Xiao-tep!" Otti called as he approached.

"What is it, friend Otti?" Xiao-tep asked.

"A creature has come to Taleisin. He sends me to retrieve you. He appears quite the brutal kind and I do not like him here on our Mountain That Lives in the Sky."

"Did he give a name?"

Otti shook his head. "No, but he is a rather large catfish, oddly reminiscent of you."

Xiao-tep knew instantly the identity of the stranger. "He is Fei Li Mi. I met with him once before."

"He is a friend then?" asked Otti.

"Not as much," said Xiao-tep. "I would have met with him if I had not been entertaining our geese friends here. Otti, will you take my place? If our friends will excuse me, I will go meet with Fei Li Mi."

Otti nodded.

The geese excused Xiao-tep and took no offense to his leavetaking.

Xiao-tep flew down the side of the mountaina nd came to Fei Li Mi's side.

He bowed deeply at the waist, respectfully, and introduced himself. "I am Xiao-tep the Ankh-fish. Welcome to Taleisin. I am gardener and caretaker here."

Fei Li Mi did not bow, but he introduced himself just the same. "I am Fei Li Mi the Catfish, once the Guardian of the Eternal Empress' children. We last met on the Plain of Adoration."

"I remember," spoke Xiao-tep as he eyed Fei Li Mi's guan-dao. Xiao-tep no longer carried his Spear of Sorrows. It rested instead, embedded in the ground with vines growing about its shaft, in the side of the mountain.

"Come," said Xiao-tep. "Won't you follow me to the base of the mountain? I'll build a fire and we can have tea. I've picked the leaves myself just this morning."

Fei Li Mi followed Xiao-tep. He watched as the ankh-fish deftly made a warm fire and placed above it a kettle of water to boil for tea.

"It will take some time for the water to boil," explained Xiao-tep. "Why not tell me your reason for visiting Taleisin while we wait?"

Fei Li Mi looked at Xiao-tep across the fire, shadows and light dancing across their faces, locked in battle to control the night.

Fei Li Mi thought a moment. He was not entirely certain why he had come to Taleisin, why he had come to see Xiao-tep. At last he decided to be honest as he admitted, "Since we first met, I've been intrigued by your existence. You once told me I was the first Blessed One that was a fish you knew of besides yourself. I've wanted to know since that time what your life was like. Do you suffer the same shortcomings as I? Do you feel the same pangs and pull of jealousy? If we are so alike, could this make us somehow family? Thinking I may not be alone in this world rekindles a brightness within me, sparks a new fire for life. I've long looked for my place. Mayhaps spending time with you, I can find it."

Fei Li Mi's words hung heavily between them. There were a lot of thoughts for Xiao-tep to take in. At last he said, "Whether we are family I cannot say. Family is a matter of birth and parentage and to my knowledge we do not share in those matters."

Xiao-tep saw Fei Li Mi frown at this, then quickly added, "But we are brothers in our immortality and likeness. And, perhaps more importantly, we are kin in our quest for our place in the world."

Fei Li Mi smiled at this.

The water boiled. Xiao-tep removed the kettle with a long stick so as not to burn himself. Fei Li Mi, seeing how cumbersome the kettle could be, set down his guan-dao, picked up two tea cups Xiao-tep had brought forth for them and held them steady as Xiao-tep poured water over tea.

"Thank you," said Xiao-tep.

"Thank you," responded Fei Li Mi.

They sat, sipping tea and telling tales of their early years under a star-filled sky.


Fei Li Mi slept the night on the side of the mountain. His sleep was deep, restfull and he felt he could claim the Taleisin the reason for his rest. When he awoke, the many shades of green that lived on the mountain struck him first. How colorful and beautiful was Taleisin! He was in awe with the mountain and instantly loved all that grew here.

He went searching for Xiao-tep and found him below the Spear of Sorrows, practicing slow forms of fighting motions, his eyes closed, his breathing slow and controlled, his mind opening to the world. Though Xiao-tep was lost deep within himself, he knew Fei Li Mi was nearby and he said, "Good morning, brother."

The catfish smiled. "Good morning. What is that you do?"

Xiao-tep straightened himself, opening his eyes to look at Fei Li Mi. "I simply practice my forms. It keeps my body limber. Most other work I do here on Taleisin keeps up my strength but can cause pains in my back and other areas. This helps."

Fei Li Mi nodded as this sounded logical.

Xiao-tep came to his side. Together they looked down the mountain at all of Taleisin. Dozens upon dozens of colors filled their vision. A light breeze that was not too cool blew across their faces. The two fish were instantly relaxed.

"Could I interest you in some food?" asked Xiao-tep. "I'll pick something fresh from the gardens."

"I'll help you," offered Fei Li Mi.

Together they harvested a small early morning meal for themselves. They ate together, chatting about Taleisin. Xiao-tep told Fei Li Mi of Momoki the Marmoset -- Taleisin's first caretaker.

"Was he not at the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration as well?" asked the catfish.

Xiao-tep nodded. "Indeed, but in a new form. He no longer lives as you and I."

Life beyond life perturbed Fei Li Mi. He was immortal, but he would most likely never be giving a chance at a new life should he die in this one. He frowned as jealousy entered his heart.

Seeing this, Xiao-tep asked, "What is it?"

Fei Li Mi shook his head. "It's nothing," then distracted by saying, "this is a good meal. You are a good gardener."

"Thank you," said Xiao-tep.

That day, as Xiao-tep tended his duties upon Taleisin, Fei Li Mi wandered the mountain to meet its different inhabitants. With every new greeting, he grew more jealous. Such beauty had never been reserved for him and this bred within him a fury greater than he had ever known.

That night he was quiet as he and Xiao-tep enjoyed tea under the stars.

Long after Xiao-tep had descended the mountain to sleep in a field of soft grass, Fei Li Mi picked up his guan-dao once more and moved towards the sleeping ankh-fish.


Fei Li Mi remained near the sleeping Xiao-tep a long time, considering his actions, plotting out his course, determining how best to kill Xiao-tep and take Taleisin as his own. Anger welled within him until, at last, Fei Li Mi struck Xiao-tep with the blunt end of the guan-dao, waking him.

"Wake yourself, you damned fool!" Fei Li Mi cried.

Xiao-tep awoke, wondering what had caused the sharp pain at his side. He raised himself from the soft grassy plain to look at the catfish.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"You're quite the ignorant creature, aren't you, Xiao-tep?" spat Fei Li Mi. "Think you that I came here to nurture a friendship between us? Bah!"

Xiao-tep leveled his eyes on Fei Li Mi. "I had suspected your intentions from teh first, but was willing to give you a chance for reprieve."

Fei Li Mi laughed at this. "Think you that I should be allowed reprieve? The Cosmos would never have it! They'll not grant me any good thing. They're bent on my sorrow."

Xiao-tep shook his head. "The Cosmos care not should you suffer or triumph. They merely create the world and all that's in it and continue to create. They neither care nor dislike."

"Speak not to me of The Cosmos! Your views of them would be most askew as you are their pet. They pleasure you in every way."

"The Cosmos have given me nothing," defended Xiao-tep. "And I am a pet to no entity."

"Not a pet, eh?" taunted Fei Li Mi. "Then tell me: why do you sleep in the softest of loam while I've muddled in murky depths of a muddy lake? How are you surrounded by friends when I have traveled this life alone?

"No," Fei Li Mi scowled, "you are quite the favorite pet. You are blessed in every way. And here I am, your equal in every way, yet suffer in every way."

"Whatever sorrows you may have lived or imagined are not my doing."

Fei Li Mi smiled. "Upon that we must agree. You have been nothing but kind to me, perhaps because your life has taught you kindness unlike mine. Whatever the reason, you are not truly my enemy. The true enemy are the Cosmos themselves. yet, how to strike at an enemy that cannot be destroyed such as The Cosmos? Eh? How would you strike at them?"

Xiao-tep gave no reply.

Fei Li Mi gave him the answer, "You stab at their heart by striking down their pet, their favorite. You may have not done any act upon me to worsen my woes, Xiao-tep, but you must die just the same. You must die in the name of vengeance and justice."

"What you seek is not vengeance nor justice," said Xiao-tep. "What you seek is violence born of jealousy. What you seek is most wicked."

Fei Li Mi lowered his guan-dao.

"I'll not fight with you," said Xiao-tep. "I've no reason to fight with you."

"Then don't fight," replied Fei Li Mi. "Lie your worthless form down on the grass once more and receive my blade. I'll promise to make it quick, though perhaps not painless."

Xiao-tep shook his head. "I'll not lie down for you either."

"You cannot have it both ways, Xiao-tep. You either fight or you die at my blade."

Xiao-tep spoke no more.

Fei Li Mi lurched forward, twisting and slicing with his guan-dao.

Xiao-tep flew sideways out of the path of the oncoming blade. He was not quite swift enough as the sharp blade sliced free a half dozen scales from his side.

Fei Li Mi pressed the attack.

Xiao-tep backed up the mountain until he came to the side of the Spear of Sorrows. He looked to it.

"Take it," said Fei Li Mi. "I'll wait and not strike you down as you free it from its resting place. Take it and fight me!"

Xiao-tep, uncertain Fei Li Mi would be true to his word, reached out to the spear and to free it from the mountain.

Fei Li Mi struck as Xiao-tep was distracted with his spear. The guan-dao blade sank into his left side, nearly slicing free a hunk of his form.

Xiao-tep cried out in pain. He broke free the spear and backed away, taking a defensive stance against and moving with speed to remove from the shaft the willow branch that he tied to his waist.

To the east, Etain's head rose up over the horizon. her massive wings soon followed. The light of dawn fell upon Taleisin as the two fish continued to fight.

Fei Li Mi pressed the attack. Xiao-tep ascended the mountain backwards until they were both at its highest peak. There they remained a moment, considering one another, considering their next move.

At last, Fei Li Mi lunged, stretching out at full length to fly at Xiao-tep. So swiftly did he fly that the ankh-fish barely had time to parry the oncoming spear-like attack. Fei Li Mi straightened and swung his guan-dao wide. Xiao-tep Raised the Spear of Sorrows to his side and blocked the assault.

Aglina, who makes her home so high in the mountain, took to the air and flew the length of the mountain down to the grassy plains below. The visiting geese also flew away, leaving the mountain and the fighting fish far behind.

The fish danced in parody, always with Fei Li Mi on the attack and Xiao-tep on the defense and backing away until they came to the plains of Taleisin.

Fei Li Mi swung his guan-dao.

Xiao-tep backed away. He demanded, "Stop this foolishness now!"

"Lay down your spear and end your life!" responded the catfish.

Fei Li Mi swung again.

Xiao-tep ducked and flew sideways, dodging the offending blade. Having missed Xiao-tep, the blade instead bit into the trunk of a fully blooming pomegranate tree. bark was flung from the tree and moisture seeped from the wound.

This so angered Xiao-tep, who was charged with the care of all things on Taleisin, he scowled at Fei Li Mi and warned, "End your foray now or suffer the consequences!"

Fei Li Mi laughed at this. He swung the guan-dao again, hacking at the pomegranate tree. This time, he struck so hard several ripened fruits fell from the branches to the ground, bruising and becoming inedible.

"Stop it!" cried out Xiao-tep. "That tree has done nothing to you!"

"I attack you to stab at The Cosmos! And now I stab at this tree to attack you because you will not fight!"

Fei Li Mi reeled back and plunged the blade of his guan-dao deep into the side of the tree. The tree shook with force and fear, creaking in pain.

"Stop it!" cried Xiao-tep once more as he flew at Fei Li Mi. He tackled the catfish away from his weapon, forcing him to the ground. The guan-dao remained stuck in the side of the tree.

Fei Li Mi laughed at the pain in Xiao-tep's face. So hysterical did he find harming the ankh-fish that it was some time before his laughter ceased and he rose from the ground.

As he did, Xiao-tep looked upon him disapprovingly and said, "Leave Taleisin. You are no longer welcome here."

Fei Li Mi smiled at this. He moved slowly towards the pomegranate tree and deftly removed the guan-dao that was stuck there.

Said he to Xiao-tep, "I was never welcome here. Not by The Cosmos. You may have offered me tea, but this can never be my home. I can never know such beauty."

"Of course you can."

Fei Li Mi shook his head. He lowered the blade of the guan-dao so the blade pointed at Xiao-tep.

Xiao-tep said nothing further, for he knew there could be no reasoning with the jealous catfish.

Fei Li Mi struck.

Xiao-tep parried and, for the first time, struck back. The tip of his spear bit off two scales from the catfish.

Angered by the wound, Fei Li Mi raged at Xiao-tep, screaming as he swung his weapon once and again, striking at the ankh-fish at every possible angle.

On the two fish fought. So mighty was their war that it rumbled in the heavens, sticking to the clouds, shaking the ground of the world below. Once, the two blades of their weapons met and sparks flew from them as lightning to the ground below, setting fire to a small countryside.

Fei Li Mi lunged.

Xiao-tep Backed away. He swung his spear upwards, then down. The blades swept through the grass, picking up a small stone in route.

Fei Li Mi blocked the upward swinging Spear of Sorrows with his guan-dao, but did not see the stone until the last possible moment -- much too late to defend against it.

The stone was flung at Fei Li Mi, hitting him in the head. It did no true damage, but so surprising was its sudden presence that Fei Li Mi reeled backwards.

Xiao-tep pressed the attack, swinging out with the Spear of Sorrows. Fei Li Mi was able to compose himself in time to block the attack, but could no longer take advantage of the situation so as to attack. He could only defend against Xiao-tep's swiftly coming assaults.

The spear bit the air about Fei Li Mi's body and head. He twirled his guan-dao in his hands first one way, then the next so as to block all attacks.

The Spear of Sorrows broke through his defenses twice, once to bite a small wound in his side at the ribs and another to cut at the top of his head.

Xiao-tep could find no attack strong enough or swift enough to cause much damage to Fei Li Mi. At last, he had a thought to trick Fei Li Mi once more.

Once again Xiao-tep swept his spear down through the grassy plain.

Afraid another stone was coming, Fei Li Mi winced and backed away.

But no stone came. Instead, Fei Li Mi was concentrating so on a stone that did not exist, he left all other areas of his defense weak. He had backed away enough so there was a small distance between him and Xiao-tep.

Xiao-tep brought up the Spear of Sorrows. Arching his arm, swiveling his shoulders, he launched the spear into the air as a projectile.

Fei Li Mi, wondering where the stone had gone, removed his arms from in front of his face to see the Spear of Sorrows flying at him. He looked up, ready to fly high and out of the weapon's path, but too swift was the spear. Fei Li Mi could not defend.

The Spear of Sorrows struck the catfish below the mouth, piercing through flesh and bone, biting at skin, eating a path through the brain to come out the other side.

Fei Li Mi fell instantly dead to the grassy plains of Taleisin, the Spear of Sorrows sticking out from under his mouth, the four blades protruding from the top of his skull. The catfish's muscles contracted once in a convulsion of death and when his fingers opened, the guan-dao rolled from his hand and into the grass.

Xiao-tep flew slowly towards the unmoving body of Fei Li Mi. He considered the gore. he reached to free the Spear of Sorrows and instantly felt the pangs of death as they were transferred into him through the spear, yet instantly lost those feelings as they were instantly transferred into the willow branch tied at his waist. The willow branch began to weep, tears rolling from its leaves slapping against the blades of grass below.

The ankh-fish felt this was not proper. This was Fei Li Mi, a creature turned wicked by his own jealousy and choosing to be certain, yet this was a life that had had some small connection with his own. Here his brother of form, his dark mirror, lay dead and no one felt the loss.

Thinking it only right he feel the loss of Fei Li Mi, Xiao-tep removed the willow branch and let it fall.

Sorrow and pain struck him instantly. So intense was the feeling of loss that Xiao-tep could do nothing but cripple over and collapse into the grass beside his dark brother. Tears flowed from his eyes as he cried out in agony.

On Xiao-tep wept for 3 days and nights. So horrible was his weeping and cries of pain that not a single creature on Taleisin dared approach him, not even Otti and Aglina who counted themselves his closest friends.

So Xiao-tep lay in the grass on Taleisin beside the dead Fei Li Mi. On the third night his sorrow turned to anger. He grabbed up the Spear of Sorrows, plucking it from Fei Li Mi's head, lifted himself from the ground and flew to strike the side of a tree, the very cherry blossom that Szu Ri had fallen from to meet little Gogi the Grasshopper, with the shaft of the spear. With such fury did Xiao-tep strike the tree the Spear of Sorrows, a spear made from unbreakable dwarven craftmanship, shattered into thirteen pieces and the four blades split in two.

As this was done, Aelis, the bean nighe that had been bound to the weapon, was freed. She hovered in ghastly form a moment.

She spoke to Xiao-tep, "I was bound to this world by sorrow, by the loss of a son. Once more I was bound to the spear. Now the spear is broken and not only am I allowed to rest, though you meant it not as an act of kindness, this one gesture frees me from all sorrows, from all bondage. I may now rest in no small part due to you. Thank you."

With a glimmer, fading from sight, Aelis was at finally at rest.

Xiao-tep wept a while more before returning to Fei Li Mi's side. He picked up his dark brother and carried him to the same cherry blossom. There he dug for him a grave and buried the catfish.

As morning came on the fourth day, Xiao-tep was leaning against the cherry blossom and meditating. It's blossoms gently fell around him. Silk worms sang down to him. Where he had buried Fei Li Mi grew new grass and fresh dandelions.

At last Otti the Firefly and Aglina came to Xiao-tep's side.

"Xiao-tep?" ventured little Otti. "Are you well?"

Xiao-tep did not look at his friend. He continued looking out onto the world below as he shook his head.

"Well, will you be well once more?" asked Otti.

Xiao-tep sighed. He finally looked at the firefly and said, "I believe so."

Aglina came to Xiao-tep's side. He gently caressed her soft feathers.

Otti flew closer still. He spied the shattered bits of the Spear of Sorrows.

"Your spear is broken," said Otti. "I've not ever known you to not have your spear. What will you do now?"

Xiao-tep looked back onto the world. He said, "Let it remain broken. I've grown tired of fighting. There is no longer anything in it for me. Let the Spear of Sorrows be broken for I am tired of taking lives."

"Your fight was quite an atrocious thing to witness," admittedly little Otti.

"I fear all fighting is that way, Otti."

"And yet you've done so much of it."

"Which is why I grow tired of it," Xiao-tep again sighed. He added, "I promise you, my friends, I will never fight again. Let the Spear of Sorrows remain broken. Let the willow branch fall to the world below. Let it be known no temptation could ever persuade me to fight again. I simply cannot fight any more. The price is much too heavy."

Otti nodded. He sat on a dandelion near Xiao-tep.

News spread of what was soon called Xiao-tep's Promise. Migrating birds carried the news from Taleisin to all parts of the world.

And in a far corner of the world where news of Xiao-tep's Promise had not yet reached, Zom Loa entered his childhood homelands. Soon he would bring into the world the greatest temptation Xiao-tep would ever know.


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