Friday, April 23, 2010

"Seven Jade Doors" -- Act IV


"Seven Jade Doors" is copyright 2010 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.



THE TEMPLE OF THE FROSTED MOON: Wherein the Temple of the Frosted Moon is Founded; Xiao-tep Visits the Heavenly Court of the Seven Jade Doors; Lei-zi Offers Up Her Life for That of Her Son's; Zom Loa is Haunted by Demons


Part 1

Xiao-tep descended slowly from the realm of Taleisin, the clouds caressing his form, the glow of his ankh brightening their whiteness to a golden sheen. Floated he through the clouds and mists of the world. A small cloud came to him playfully, swiping at his tail and giggling at his. Xiao-tep smiled and put out a fin, cupping up the cloud before it wriggled away and escaped. Xiao-tep smiled as his form pierced the bottom of the clouds and caw below him the purple-gray mountains, his eyes searching, seeking for the temple built in his honor. When he had found it, he bent over and flew to it.

Xiao-tep came to the temple as a light snow fell and the winds puffed softly. He saw no one in the courtyard, nor did he see any activity. He decided to come to the wide, large doors and there knock. White Lotus answered his call and opened the doors for him. Entered Xiao-tep into his first temple.

"Welcome, Xiao-tep," said White Lotus as the fish-god floated gracefully in. "It is an honor to have your presence here. I am White Lotus, founder of this, the First Temple of Xiao-tep."

Xiao-tep bowed low and at the waist in a diligent sign of respect.

White Lotus mimicked this gesture, making note in his mind to forever adapt the habit.

"The honor is mine," spoke Xiao-tep as flakes of snow grabbed at his scales and tumbled away with glee.

Stood Xiao-tep and White Lotus within the courtyard as snow fell, the mortal studying the god as the god studied the mortal. Together they smiled.

"Would you have some tea?" asked White Lotus.

"I would love some," answered Xiao-tep.

White Lotus lead Xiao-tep into the commissary where he introduced Butik to Xiao-tep and asked him to retrieve for them some hot tea to warm themselves. As Butik did so, White Lotus stoked the flames of a fire in a kiln. The mortal and god then sat upon great crimson pillows lined with gold filagree and piping. Butik returned with the tea, then left to return to his quarters to allow the fish-god and the temple's founder to speak in privacy.

Xiao-tep sipped at his tea and said, "It is a green tea, a fine one at that. But do I taste a subtle hint of mint and something else?"

"You are correct about the mint," answered White Lotus. "The other ingredient is the smallest pinch of cinnamon. I hope you find it to your liking?"

"I well enjoy it," said Xiao-tep.

"Would you like a tour of the temple?" asked White Lotus.

"I would love one, but I must admit I've a few questions for you about its founding. In addition, I assume you are perhaps in need of my help?"

"In a way," said White Lotus. "I should like you to give our meager temple your blessings. It would not do to have a temple dedicated to a god only to lack the god's sponsorship - or worse, to have the god ignore its existence entirely."

"I suppose there is sense in that," said Xiao-tep. He quaffed another swallow of tea and enjoyed it. "But may I first ask something of you, White Lotus?"

"You may ask anything of me, Xiao-tep."

"The gods are multitudinous and many and each serves a particular purpose for particular people, often at particular times. Why have you come to found a temple in my honor?"

White Lotus thought on this. He said, "Because your purpose has come nigh."

"But what might that purpose be exactly? To you? To anyone? Why have you put forth so much effort in my regard?" Xiao-tep questioned.

White Lotus contemplated Xiao-tep's questions, then said, "You bring hope to others. Wish that I could expound upon it moreso, but that is the best I can offer. Please forgive me, Xiao-tep. I fear while my deeds are great for one young as myself, my intellect at times is yet that of a child. My limitations appear to bind any further answers to your questions."

Xiao-tep sat back on his pillow and thought this over. At last he soothed White Lotus with these words, "It is perhaps not a limitation of your mind, White Lotus, nor of your age. Rather, it may be a limitation upon us all to not have answers to every question. I, for instance, cannot tell you the dealings or meanings, the destinations or the ideas driving the Misty Hands of the Cosmos. I, a god as I sit here before you, knows not everything."

White Lotus saw the wisdom in Xiao-tep's words and nodded.

"Tell me, then, White Lotus, why it is you have taken a particular interest in me. Give me your own tale."

White Lotus told his short life's story to Xiao-tep as the fish-god enjoyed his tea and poured more for the both of them.

"That is amazing," White Lotus said of this.

"What is so amazing?" asked Xiao-tep.

"You poured the tea for me. I should've done this for you. Yet you did so without complaint."

"The pouring and drinking of tea should be for enjoyment, not for status nor servitude. It is my happiness to pour more tea for you, almost as much as it is my happiness to drink this delicious tea."

At this, White Lotus could not help himself but to laugh. Xiao-tep joined him in the laughter and the two felt, for the first time, a small bond growing there between them.

At last, their laughter subsided, White Lotus said, "I've yet much to learn."

"As long as you keep learning," answered Xiao-tep. "Growth and learning is the key to all things."

This struck White Lotus and he said, "Then I truly serve a purpose here as the teacher of the temple?"

Xiao-tep sipped his tea and nodded. "That you do. To teach and learn, to learn and teach. It is the very cycle plants find themselves in every year. Old plants wither and die but fertilize the soil. New life sprouts the next Spring, stronger and better armed."

"Hmmm," said White Lotus. "It would seem I've brought you hear for a blessing and you've already blessed me by finding my purpose for me."

"Could you return the favor? Tell me why you wish to dedicate this temple to me?" asked Xiao-tep.

White Lotus adjusted himself upon his pillow and spoke in a most serious tone. "My family shared in some misery, Xiao-tep. When that misery was most volatile, most present, your tales attracted me so very much. It would seem at times you were born for sorrow, as you are the Ankh-fish of 100,000 Sorrows. Your father hated you before knowing you; Loki's treachery; the Spear of Sorrow's thirst for death's despair; the willow branch; Ketsueki's desire to misuse you and, when refuse, his attempt to kill you; your bravery in the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration where my family holds annual vigils to this day; and now the death of Fei Li Mi and your casting of the Spear of Sorrows and the Willow. We mortals have heard this all and some of us can only come to the conclusion you've cast aside these things, cast aside sorrow and despair, because you've found another way. We cannot say this be true, but it gives us hope where hope otherwise does not lie. Hope against pain and grief and anger. Hope against the 100,000 Sorrows. Hope for Beauty."

Xiao-tep felt the weight of White Lotus' words. He felt the weight of those that looked to him and became afraid. He wanted to reject the temple at this moment. Said Xiao-tep, "But, I haven't any answers to these things. I do not know that I have another way. I haven't any magical wisdom against the realities of pain. I'm trying to find something, anything, but the whole world or whoever turns to me to find answers will find I have none. Not yet, anyways. Not yet. And perhaps never."

White Lotus gazed upon his god and said, "That rests well with many. We do not expect you to know everything or answer every prayer. We simply want our prayers heard, not always to be answered. Most of all, you learn as we all must learn and relearn. And as you learn we all grow stronger and better armed."

So the teacher taught his teacher.

Xiao-tep's fear subsided some. He drank down the last of his tea and asked, "May I have that tour now?"

White Lotus took Xiao-tep around the temple and pointed out its various aspects. When Xiao-tep passed by the two statues of koi that were meant to represent him, he patted one on the head and, smiling, said, "These are cute."

The tour complete, Butik joined them in the courtyard. Snow continued to fall slowly, silently, as though going about its own task without regard to anyone or anything else as snow often does. The air had grown colder. The three stood watching the beauty of the nature in its course.

"Will you, too, reject the life of fighting?" asked Xiao-tep.

"Of that I am uncertain," stated White Lotus. "I have fought only once and it ended in an enemy's life." He avoided Butik's eye, though Butik did not gaze upon him upon hearing this.

"It is difficult now for me to brand anyone my enemy," said Xiao-tep. "And the path of peace is beleaguered by another kind of conflict. Know you my friend Comet Fox now needs the help of others to save a life? But should I aid him, I may have to fight. And should I fight, I may have to take a life. No, it is not an easy path, White Lotus. It is one of severe internal conflict. It is as though the demons of the Many Hells have taken residence within me."

White Lotus listened and feared a life without fighting. He asked, "And if, through inaction, evil reigns? And if, through inaction, this life Comet Fox is attempting to save dies? And if, through inaction, sorrow is caused?"

Xiao-tep sighed. "That is a thought that remains with me throughout meditations, throughout both night and day. I cannot halt the ill will of all, I can only cease my own. And to kill again is one action I cannot do."

White Lotus looked upon the fish-god and saw in him both a sage and a small creature, a lord and a slave - this caused feelings of further kinship within White Lotus for Xiao-tep.

Xiao-tep moved the conversation elsewhere. "Tell me," he said, "What would you call this temple?"

"The First Temple of Xiao-tep, of course," answered White Lotus.

Xiao-tep thought on this, then shook his head. "I do not care for that. The 'first' is too hopeful, perhaps even a little pretentious. And though I appreciate the temple's dedication to me, I'm uncertain I care to have my name used."

"Are you saying you do not wish us to use your name? Do you not give us your blessings?" asked White Lotus, fearful that all his work on teh temple was for naught.

"I plan to bless this temple," explained Xiao-tep, "but I think a different name would better suit the place. Why not, if you're to name it after anyone, name it after its founder?"

"The Temple of White Lotus," Butik tried the name. "It's a pretty name."

White Lotus shook his head. "Whatever wisdom is planted and grows here shall remain long after I'm gone. And what should happen when I pass on? If someone were to take over the temple they would have the troubles of renaming it for I will no longer be here. No, my name will never do. This temple should not be about me, but rather the teachings within these walls."

The three remained in silent contemplation for a while. Xiao-tep watched the snow, eyed the mountains outside the wall, watched the moon oncoming. he said, "Why not name it for its place? The moon, the mountain, the stones used to build the temple were all here before the temple. Why not honor them in the naming?"

White Lotus liked this thought. He rolled over many names in his mind. At last he said, "The Temple of the Frosted Moon. How does that sound?"

"It certainly is frosty here," Butik agreed.

"I'm certain the moon and the winds would be happy," said Xiao-tep.

"The Temple of the Frosted Moon it is, then," said White Lotus.

At this Xiao-tep said, "I do hereby bless this ground, this mountain, the Four Winds, the falling snows and the Temple of the Frosted Moon. May wisdom and well-being be cultivated here."

White Lotus bowed low and at the waist. Butik mimicked him. Said White Lotus, "Thank you, Xiao-tep."

"Thank you for the honor, White Lotus. Teach well."

Xiao-tep lifted into the air.

White Lotus called, "You'll forever be welcomed here!"

Xiao-tep smiled and waved before his form entered the clouds overhead.

Within the days to follow, upon hearing of Xiao-tep's blessing the temple, more students came counting five in all, including one woman.

"It is a beginning," White Lotus said to Butik. "I shall name you Butik the Stoker. It shall be your job, seeing as you are affected most by the cold, to remain inside and tend to the fires in the different buildings - within the sleeping quarters at night, the commissary and classes at day. These duties are necessary as you'll be watching over the well-being of your fellow students. Take to it with seriousness. These duties will also be in addition to your own studies."

Butik bowed low and said, "Thank you, Master White Lotus."


Part 2

"What say you? How is it that Xiao-tep's not coming?" Freyr raged at Lie-zi.

"There's no reason to yell at the goddess," said Odr.

"Quiet!" demanded Freyr.

The three gods stood outside the Courtyard of Seven Jade Doors. Clouds roiled about them and flowers eternally bloomed.

Said Lei-zi, "He was called by a follower to his side. He went to aid the mortal and said he would be here as quickly as possible, should he yet be allowed within the courtyard for your council."

"Damn that Xiao-tep!" Freyr cursed.

"Do not damn another god," warned Odr. "Do not foul the Many Heavens with arbitrary bannings and hatred."

"Silence yourself," said Freyr to Odr, "or you'll next be damned."

Odr fell silent.

Hapi, who had been eavesdropping nearby, drew nearer. He said, "The fish-god, my bastard son, refused you, Freyr. He must be punished for this. Not in all the course of time, not since all thing were first created by the Misty Hands of the Cosmos, never has the council of the Many Gods within the Heavenly Court of the Seven Jade Doors been refused - nor must it be tolerated. Seek out Xiao-tep, send forth servants and vassals, assassins and swords of Heavenly Doom to punish my son. My permission, not that it would be needed, is granted for this venture."

Freyr looked upon Hapi's wicked smile. He then asked Odr, "What shall we do? Never has this happened, as Hapi has said. No mortal sage nor fellow god has refused the Heavenly Court of the Seven Jade Doors."

Odr, ever the meter of Heavenly Dealings, considered all he had heard. He said, "We must first discover Xiao-tep's purpose. We must ask of ourselves, 'Why has this god chosen to be the first to have refused the council of the Heavenly Courtyard?' And his reasoning, so says his mother, whom we may assume is an authority - authoritative enough the rest of us had sent her on the mission to retrieve Xiao-tep - states Xiao-tep has gone to the side of a mortal. We do not yet know the condition of this mortal, but it tells us the story of Xiao-tep's state. He is one dedicated to mortals and to followers. It shows a kindness that must be considered. We should not be too harsh toward him in light of this. Kindness is a respectable virtue, after all."

"My son did not say he would not come," added Lei-zi, "merely that he would first attend to the mortal's needs before coming to the Heavenly Court of Seven Jade Doors."

Freyr listened and, though contempt for Xiao-tep still lingered, understood the wisdom of Odr. He said, "We will remain waiting. Our invitation to Xiao-tep stands open. When he comes nigh, we will meet with him."

This angered Hapi. He said, "Xiao-tep must be punished!"

Freyr nodded agreement. "And he will be. His impudence will be weighed when he stands before us all in full measure."

Freyr departed the Many Heavens to tend to the needs of his people, leaving Odr, Lei-zi and Hapi together.

Said Lei-zi to Hapi, "Once was a time you would lie with me in expressions of love. Why must you only show hatred now? Why can you not also love your son?"

Hapi grimaced. He huffed, jiggling his great rotund belly with disgust. He said, "Because my wishes have been disobeyed and the laws of the Many Heavens rolled through so much muck."

At this, Hapi also took his leave for the lands of his people, leaving Lei-zi and Odr.

"Xiao-tep sounds a virtuous god," soothed Odr.

Lei-zi smiled sweetly, "Pride swells within for him."

"I will do what I can to assure his weight is measured fairly," said Odr.

Lei-zi at first gave no response, then said, "I wish him only to be what he must be and be judged as such. But I know the council of the Many Gods is not always fair. If my son is to die without true measure first being applied, I am prepared to take my own life as an act of rebellion against the entirety of the Many Heavens."

"That would not do," gasped Odr.

"Nor would the unfair demise of Xiao-tep," answered Lei-zi.

Xiao-tep returned briefly to Taleisin. There he found the millions of butterflies taking refuge and spoke with them assuring their safety. He then visited with Aglina, asking of her well-being. He stayed long enough on Taleisin only to wave and say his hellos to Etain, Kalavata and Zing-tai. As Etain crested the far horizon to bring forth a new dawn, Xiao-tep took his leave.

He ascended slowly from the realm of Taleisin, the clouds spiraling away below him, the glow of his ankh growing dim against the brightness of the Many Heavens. As he broke the mists to come to rest within the realm of the Many Gods, he was greeted by gasps, a few cries and many whispers. He nodded and bowed respectfully to everyone.

Lei-zi was near enough to witness her son's ascension into the Many HEavens and she came to him, Odr following closely.

"Hello, mother," smiled Xiao-tep.

"Hello, son. How was your meeting with the mortal?"

"He has established a temple in my honor. I gave him my full blessings."

Lei-zi was happy to hear this and said so. She then introduced Xiao-tep and Odr to one another.

"It is fine to meet you," Xiao-tep bowed.

Odr looked upon the fish god with gaped mouth. Said he in honest confession, "Never have I seen a more beautiful god."

"That is most kind of you to say," said Xiao-tep, embarrassed.

Word was quickly sent that Xiao-tep was within the Many Heavens and ready to meet with the Many Gods. Freyr came quickly, greeting Xiao-tep outside the Heavenly Court of Seven Jade Doors.

"We've heard much of you," said Freyr rather noncommittally.

"It is an honor to be here," answered Xiao-tep.

The Many Gods first entered the Heavenly Court, leaving Xiao-tep, Lei-zi and Odr outside as Freyr made a speech to prepare the gods for their business of judging Xiao-tep. Then Freyr returned and said, "Follow me inside, if you can pass through the mist, Xiao-tep."

"Is my father here?" Xiao-tep wondered.

Freyr frowned. "I've not yet seen him. He has a tendency to be late at such gatherings. Now, no more questions. You are to be questioned, not to ask questions. Follow me."

Xiao-tep entered the clouds surrounding the mystic Heavenly Courtyard, following Freyr, with his mother at his side and Odr directly behind him. Xiao-tep could see nothing but the clouds. It was as if the Many Heavens fell away beneath him and he was once more descending through the clouds to meet with White Lotus at the Temple of the Frosted Moon. But Xiao-tep carried on his untoward journey through the clouds and soon came to a large door made of green jade. Freyr stood by the door, waiting. He frowned a little as he saw Xiao-tep break through the clouds, then opened the door and lead them in to the courtyard.

Xiao-tep was taking aback by the number of gods and goddesses present in the courtyard. Gods both old and new, beautiful and ugly; gods with few followers and gods with a network of temples - it seemed to Xiao-tep every god and goddess in to have ever or would ever exist had filled the outside rim of the courtyard, surrounding its center in a circled crowd.

"Xiao-tep," said Freyr, "stand in the center of the courtyard."

Xiao-tep did so.

Lei-zi and Odr found a place to stand near the door they had come through.

Freyr came before Xiao-tep. He looked upon the gathered gods and said, "We've come together to meet with this god, to find his full weight and measure." He looked at Stork the Keeper of Records and said, "Make record of this hour for we determine the fate of the god called Xiao-tep."

Stork nodded and produced a new slab of slate to record the memory of Xiao-tep's tale.

"At this hour, we will put to Xiao-tep our questions. He will answer them each in turn and, should he refuse, his corpse shall be dragged from this courtyard. If he complies and, should we deem him unworthy of the Many Heavens, we will reserve the right to drag his corpse from this courtyard."

While this came as a surprise to Xiao-tep, he gave no reaction. Said he to himself, "It is their way."

"Should we judge Xiao-tep and find him fit to live, yet unworthy to maintain visitations to the Many Heavens," continued Freyr, "he shall be banished from here for all time much in the same fashion we have banished Loki and the few others."

The Many Gods viciously whispered as Freyr spoke.

"And what if we judge him worthy in all ways?" asked Odr.

Freyr scowled at Odr and said, "Then we will decide his fate at that time." He then turned to Xiao-tep and asked, "Do you understand these things?"

Xiao-tep nodded.

"And you would answer our questions openly and without refute? Lest you be mercilessly put down here within the courtyard?"

Xiao-tep nodded once more.

"Then let us begin."

The Many Gods rumbled in agreement.

"How came you to be?" asked Freyr.

"I was born of the love between Lei-zi, Goddess of Thunder and Lightning, and of Hapi, God of the River Nile."

"You say love. Do these two truly love one another?" asked Freyr.

Xiao-tep looked to his mother. He said, "I believe my mother once loved my father, and perhaps he in turn loved her. Now, however, due to my father's hatred of his son, he appears to have cast her aside."

"Hapi has many children, as have we all. This son you speak of, the son that Hapi so hates, would that son be you?"

Xiao-tep nodded, saying, "Of course."

Then Hapi entered the Heavenly Court of Seven Jade Doors. he did so with effort to conceal his arrival, but failed. Whispers breeze over the lips of the gods gathered. Seeing he was found out, Hapi moved towards the center's edge and sat next to sit beside Sedna upon a marble bench.

Freyr allowed this moment, then returned to his questioning of Xiao-tep. He asked next, "Why would a god, capable of any small thing, hate his son?"

"It is because he feared reciprocity against him for having fathered a new god," explained Xiao-tep.

"Is that true?" Freyr asked Hapi.

Hapi shifted his weight uncomfortably and said, "It is, to a degree. But if you would allow me to explain-"

"I'll not allow it," said Freyr. "Not out of any contempt for you, Hapi, but because this hour is not for your judgment. Rather, it is for the judgment of your son."

Hapi nodded, relieved to hear this.

"Xiao-tep," said Freyr. "Did your father take any actions against your birth?"

Xiao-tep nodded. "he demanded of my mother to bring me to him upon my birth. He intended to eat me alive."

"Hapi, then, is absolved of all accusations of wrongdoings. Yet, here we are, Xiao-tep, you and I. Now we stand together within the Heavenly Courtyard. How is this when Hapi had meant to eat you?"

"We've gone over this!" decried Qailertetang.

"We have," said Freyr, "but in the interest of fairness, Xiao-tep should be allowed to tell the story himself. Please answer the question, Xiao-tep."

"My mother asked of a fisherman to bring to her a large fish. She placed this fish in my stead. Hapi thought he had eaten his son. He had not and I was allowed to grow and live in secrecy until Hapi discovered the truth. he hunted me at first. Since our initial meeting, my father and I have had no further contact."

"Should what you tell us be true," Freyr circled Xiao-tep, then came to stand before Lei-si standing with Odr, "then your mother is the true villain here. Perhaps we should quarter her for her treachery and lies!"

"She was protecting her son!" cried Xiao-tep in defense.

Freyr turned on Xiao-tep. "You deign to yell at another god within the Heavenly Courtyard?"

"Forgive me my trespass," said Xiao-tep, "but a mother can never be judged immoral in her quest to provide life to her children."

Freyr laughed at this. "How very noble and generous of you. But should a mother sell herself to feed her child she is no less of a whore."

Xiao-tep gave no reply. He was merely content he had turned Freyr's anger away from his mother.

Freyr looked to the crowded gods and asked, "Has anyone any questions for this fish-god?"

Mictlantecuhtli raised a hand and Freyr recognized him. Asked Mictlantecuhtli, "Tell me, what damages have you caused in the world, Xiao-tep?"

Xiao-tep answered without delay, "I have taken quite a few lives, starting with troll Been Eter and ending with the Blessed One Fei Li Mi."

"And what have you done to heal the world?" asked Makemake.

"I can only hope my fighting has lead to the saving of some lives while admittedly ending others. I have also recently cast of the trappings of the fighting life, destroyed my Spear of Sorrows and refuse any path by a peaceful one," said Xiao-tep.

"You have killed, yet you preach not to kill? Are you a treacherous god?" asked Ulanji. "How are we to know he's not a Trickster god?"

"We would catch him committing his treachery," said Freyr, "as we did with Loki."

"We did not discover the truth of Loki's motives until long after much damage had been done!" cried out Laran.

"We will deal with Xiao-tep's treachery as it comes," Freyr calmed the gods, the realized his words and looked to Xiao-tep to say, "should he prove treacherous."

Endovelicus stood from where he was seated and asked, "Xiao-tep, what followers do you have? Who can you claim as your people?"

"I do not know that I can claim many," admitted Xiao-tep, "though I have just come from the side of White Lotus and his friend Butik who have recently built a temple in my honor."

This caused the gods to rumble with emotion.

"He religion has rooted! He is a threat!" one goddess cried out.

"His people will be devastated if you kill him in the courtyard upon this day! We cannot touch him!" cried out another.

Freyr raised his hand to call for general calm. When the gathered gods had grown quiet, he asked of them, "I believe we have heard more than enough from this fish-god. Any further questions would only enlighten us to his details that would not persuade our opinions one way or another. What say you, fellows and ladies? What action shall we take against Xiao-tep?"

Not one of the Many Gods wished to speak one way or another, for or against Xiao-tep. They both feared and were in awe of him. It was Chi You who at last stood from his three-legged seat and proclaimed, "I find this new god, this Xiao-tep, in no way a threat. I say we allow him to live."

It was then that Garuda ventured forth, coming as a inquisitively, to Xiao-tep's side. He lifted Xiao-tep's fins, sniffed at him, poked at his scales. Garuda then straightened his back and looked Xiao-tep in the eye. He wings ruffled a little. He then proclaimed, "I like this one! Let him live." Then Garuda returned to the crowded gods.

Tenjin stood to say, "With change comes conflict and though we may assume much of the conflict will be at the feet - or rather fins - of Xiao-tep and never affect the rest of us, the conflict yet may still affect us. If we allow Xiao-tep his life, which I concur with, we must at least banish him and his coming troubles from the Many Heavens."

Hapi spoke as he rose, "Freyr, I beg of you, allow me my initial desire. Kill the fish-god and I will do away with all traces of him by consuming his flesh to the last."

Freyr rubbed his chin with thought. He asked Odr, the wisest of even the wise gods, "How might you cast your voice, Odr?"

Odr stood reluctantly but respectfully. He said, "I see no harm coming onto the Many Heavens from Xiao-tep. His life has proven him noble. I say he lives and allow him full access to the Many Heavens."

Freyr turned to Xiao-tep. He said, "Fortune smiles upon you this day, Xiao-tep. While your fate remains uncertain, your life is to be spared. Leave us now and do not return until you hear from the Many Heavens again. And do not run from our call, nor hide form our hounds. We would send out riders of war to come for you should the need arise."

"I have postponed our meeting," Xiao-tep admitted, "but neither have I run nor hidden. I plan on remaining on Taleisin. I'll await your call."

Xiao-tep was given leave of the Heavenly Court of Seven Jade Doors and the Many Gods convened over his fate. They escorted Lei-zi from the Heavenly Courtyard, fearing her defensive over her son from interfering with their thoughts.

Many days later, Freyr came to Lei-zi and said, "Lei-zi, many of the gods are angry with Xiao-tep. They fear what he represents; they fear he may take away followers. Many would be appeased if there were not so many of us gods and goddesses. Talk of his demise remains, including talk of rogue assassination attempts. Xiao-tep's life may be in danger. While I cannot argue I've not been harsh against your son, I do not wish rogue agents of rebellious gods to be allowed, so I suggested Xiao-tep be brought here to join us in the Many Heavens - in part for his own protection. Yet there are some gods whose fear remains. They're even asking, should Xiao-tep live, another god be slain in his stead. Loki's name has come up more than once, but that would require great effort for Loki is a formid-"

Lei-zi interrupted Freyr, "They would have no need to put forth any effort if they merely accepted my son."

"Agreed," Freyr said.

"Would any god suffice?" asked Lei-zi.

"I suppose, though there is a special quality in Loki the others desire gone from the world."

"Would a goddess suffice?" asked Lei-zi.

Freyr squinted at her. "What do you suggest, Lei-zi?"

"You know well."

Freyr breathed deep. "I suppose if you offered your life for Xiao-tep's, that would satisfy many's thirst for a death."

"Then it is so offered," said Lei-zi. "Shall I take news of your offer to Xiao-tep to join the Many Heavens?"

"Yes," said Freyr and he outlined the plan proposed for Xiao-tep.

Lei-zi then returned to Taleisin to deliver the message.

"The gods have fully invited you to join them in the Many Heavens," Lei-zi told her son. "They wish to build for you your own chamber there. They will call it The Chamber of Beauty."

"This wonderful news!" exclaimed Xiao-tep. "I have been accepted into the Many Heavens and with the endorsement I can perhaps aid more people in their hours of weakness and with their sorrows."

"Perhaps," lamented Lei-zi.

Noting his mother's tone, Xiao-tep asked, "You would not be pleased by my presence within the Many Heavens?"

"Of course I would, but I fear the motives of the Many Gods are not ideal. They desire you nearby so they may watch over you," she explained her worries.

"Oh," said Xiao-tep. "They do not accept me, rather they wish to spy on me?"


Xiao-tep thought on this, then said, "It is not a matter. I'll go and I'll do good if I am allowed. Will I be allowed to return to Taleisin to keep up its state?"

Lei-zi shook her head, "Of that, I am uncertain. They would not allow me to overhear their discussions for fear I may taint objectivity with my maternal bias."

"Oh," said Xiao-tep. "They would surely allow me to return to Taleisin, though. And to White Lotus' side should he call upon me once more."

Again Lei-zi shook her head. "This I cannot say. There are times when I find it difficult to discover the motives of my own desires, Xiao-tep. I certainly cannot assume to know the desires of all the gods at once."

"Of course," said Xiao-tep. "How did father take this news?"

"Not very well. He stormed from the Many Heavens a day ago, before the Many Gods came to me to have me deliver this message to you."

"He most likely finds this decision as another afront," said Xiao-tep.

Lei-zi gave no answer.

"What is the matter, mother?" asked Xiao-tep.

"These are trying times, Xiao-tep. They wear on me so," was all she gave.

"Matters will improve, mother," consoled Xiao-tep.

"One can only hope," said lei-zi. "You should prepare your ascension into the Many Heavens. I'll let you be for now."

"Thank you, mother." Xiao-tep watched his mother rise high overhead, disappearing into the Many Heavens, wondering why she appeared so troubled by the message she had just delivered.


Part 3

Zom Loa the Black Tentacle had been on the run since the day he had resurrected Ketsueki Sato in his new form. Each night came to him with some measure of ugliness and fear; each night came to him with a new horrid dream; dreams wherein demons whipped and maimed him; dreams wherein he was made a slave to evil; dreams wherein his actions caused the deaths and pain of others. And more than once did the same demon's voice speak to him in his dream. Never did he see a face. Never did he see a form. Always was he returned to the land of the lighted night sky, its dancing colors and, beyond, sparkling jeweled stars. He would stand amidst a field of stars and dancing colors as the demon spoke to him, floating as though flying upon the wing of Zingtai.

"Come to me," spoke the demon.

"Who are you?" Zom Loa asked in fear, the sky slipping from beneath him. He reached out to grasp at a star to cease his fall, but his fear of tearing Zingtai's wing stopped him short and sent his hand running. He stood amidst a field of stars once again.

"I would not give you that power over me," said the demonic voice.

Zom Loa then knew, as one knows things within a dream that otherwise cannot be known. Zom Loa knew the demon knew his name. "I'll not let you have me!" cried Zom Loa and his cry echoed through all time.

Zom Loa, knowing this a dream, searched for knowledge as he struggled against unseen forces. Knowledge did come to him and, once obtained, he wished he had not sought it; he wished he could un-known that which was known. His eyes turned to blood and streamed down his face. His brain caught fire. His tongue was as lead and immovable. His breath became choked. Zom Loa, with his new knowledge, was dying under its weight. As the stars became darkness and Zom Loa felt death's creep, the demon released him from his end, but kept him whole with his knowledge.

Said Zom Loa of what he now knew, "You are not but one demon, but all of them. You are not any chamber servant, but the Yama Kings and Rulers of All the Hells."

Zom Loa clapped his hands to his ears and armies of demons laughed riotously at him.

"If only it were that simple, though it is not far from the truth," said the voice.

Zom Loa let his hands fall to his sides. He said, "You once trained one called Motharus."

"That, also, is true. We are both here," said the voice.

"Now you want something of me," Zom Loa realized with grave horror. Again, without the true knowledge of having seen or experienced the matter, Zom Loa felt the demon smile at him.

"Of course I do, Demon Father."

"I do not father demons!" screamed Zom Loa. Again the sky slipped from under him and he tumbled through darkness.

The demon returned him upright and said, "Do not yell at your betters. You took away the night's beauty. You resurrected Ketsueki Sato. You spoke with the demon to the north. So much pain, so much agony, so much fear has been introduced into the world because of your desires."

The demon cackled.

Zom Loa wept.

"Remember Tarn?" asked the demon. "Your first friend? The first one to show you kindness on your quest for immortality? Well do you remember the walrus that delivered you onto the Devourer despite the danger of the journey? He remained for you, waiting, until he died. Now you wear his skull in some mock ceremonial honor. He died for you, Zom Loa! Do you feel the pain he felt when he realized he was going to die, never to see you again? Never to see you fulfill your desires?"

Zom Loa fell once more, crying blood, sobbing as a child.

Zom Loa was made to stand. Said the demon, "Feel that pain. Find it in your heart. Find the fire of burning anger. Flesh it out and manifest it!"

Zom Loa felt the fire, touched the raging anger within himself for himself. He reached out and from his hands came forth a bursting ball of flame that flew across the night sky of his dream.

The world around him went black and, just before waking, the demon's voice gave him these last words to remember: "Use it well, Demon Father, to destroy your son."

Zom Loa awoke, freezing. Snows had come to his small cave where he had taken residency as a hermit. He knew of a village on the far side of the mountain and wished to be there, to find warm food and hot fires. Hot fires especially called to him.

Black tentacles whipped out, pulling him across the frozen mountain as he climbed higher and higher. As he crested the peak, he looked to the east and there found a wondrous sight. Below him was the walls of the Temple of the Frosted Moon and the black smoke of a warm fire.

Zom Loa descended the mountain. He eyed the temple as he drew nearer. He came to the doors as the storm picked up. He knocked upon them but no answer came. He cried out and finally one of White Lotus' student answered him. She opened the doors and let him in.

Said she, "Welcome to the Temple of the Frosted Moon. Do you come to join us in our studies?"

"I come seeking refuge from the coming storm," explained Zom Loa.

"Are you a Blessed One?" she asked.

"I am," said Zom Loa speaking of his immortality.

"We would be happy to have you as our guest," the young student bowed low and at the waist. As they walked through the courtyard, Zom Loa eyed the statues of a koi fish. He asked, "This is a temple?"

"It is," answered teh student.

"Which god do you worship?"

"Xiao-tep the Fish-god of 100,000 Sorrows and Beauty."

Zom Loa smiled a little at this. "Good for him," he said.

"Come this way into the commisarry, we are all having our meal now and you will be able to meet with Master White Lotus."

"I should like that," Zom Loa said as he followed the young student.


Thus ends ACT IV of Seven Jade Doors! I hope you're enjoying it so far!!!

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