Starting back up with the next episode of the anthropomorphic wuxia novel Broken Sorrows, I offer today Act I of "Seven Jade Doors". The story was originally going to be titled "The Frog Queen" but has since been changed.
"Seven Jade Doors" is copyright 2010 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.
THE HEAVENLY COURT OF THE SEVEN JADE DOORS: Wherein Ketsueki Sato Calls for a Challenge Against Xiao-tep; The Gods Gather in Counsel to Discuss the Fates of Xiao-tep and Wu Chan Chu; Chiava and Wu Chan Chu Meet, Striking a Deal to Travel Together
Came the mad spearhead of the Eternal Empress' army to Caerraul, a small town atop a hill near the river Ursk that flows into the bogs of the Imps. Here, the Thousand and One Horned Demon Ketsueki Sato came with Elkhorn and his men. Ketsueki razed many of the homes in Ursk, finally settling into the home of the largest family, the Galseas. Ketsueki held them there, captive in their own home. He tortured Father Galsea for hours, bleeding him to unconsciousness, healing him then waking him to bleed him some more.
"Where is the fox-god?" asked Ketsueki Sato.
"I've said it before," gasped Father Galsea, hanging by his feet from the rafters of the home he had built, "we've had no dealings with gods."
"Do you mean to tell me your beautiful young family makes no prayers? No offerings? Do you worship no god?"
"Yes, yes. We pray to the goddess Lei-Zi for we make many silks in this town."
"Lei-zi?" raged the demon, his voice grumbling with fury. He brought himself closer to Father Galsea, their cheeks touching, splinters from the demon's face scraping at Father Galsea's flesh. Ketsueki yelled at the mortal, staring deeply into his eyes, "Mother to Xiao-tep?"
Father Gansea nodded. "The very one."
Ketsueki spoke lowly, "What do you know of Xiao-tep?"
"He is a kind god," answered Father Galsea. "And a mighty one. And though his spear is mighty, his heart is mightier. Recently he has sworn off fighting, destroying the Spear of Sorrows, and taken on the life of a monk."
Ketsueki considered this. "Do you speak true?" he asked.
"This is as I've heard," said Father Galsea.
Ketsueki smiled at the thought of Xiao-tep gone cold to the fight. He smiled and brought his tentacles up to touch at the mortal as his woody claws scratched along his head. He spoke lowly, menacingly, "How dare you speak that name before me? You may not know my present form, but dost thou know my name, mortal? Do you recognize the name Ketsueki Sato?"
Father Galsea's eyes grew wide. "No, it is impossible! You cannot be the demon!"
Ketsueki smiled to his wooden fangs shaped like splinters.
"But Ketsueki was killed within the Cottonwood Chamber! Xiao-tep delivered the final blow himself!"
"Your knowledge of Heavenly affairs is well versed, though incomplete. I should have known a follower of Lei-Zi would not know of the rise of Ketsueki Sato."
"But how?" Father Galsea gasped.
Ketsueki glowered at the man. "I am Ketsueki Sato, the demon that defied all the Hells. I cannot be stopped. And soon, I shall be known by one and all as Ketsueki the God-Killer, the Destroyer of Xiao-tep."
Ketsueki drove a tentacle into Father Galsea's neck, seeping in the blood there and killing the mortal. His family screamed in horror, hiding their eyes.
"Why did you kill him?" protested Elkhorn. "We still do not know the whereabouts Comet Fox and the princess Alecto."
"His impudence offended me," Ketsueki offered. "Besides, his house is full of mouths ready to speak. Shall we take next the mother? No, she would likely die for her children. Let's instead take one of her children, shall we say the eldest girl? Surely there's a bond between the two. Besides, I am convinced Comet Fox avoids the towns we meet in hopes we follow him and leave the townsfolk unharmed. I will not allow this. I will instead head into every town he brings us close to and I will continue to slaughter them all until I draw him out. This... this is the way to kill a god."
Elkhorn grabbed the wrist of the eldest girl child. She was not yet thirteen in age, not quite a woman.
Ketsueki started for the door. Elkhorn's men barred the house and set it afire. As it burned, he called to the people of Caerraul, demanding they come forth. Few obeyed this, in fear for their lives. But many, almost all, peered through windows and from behind doors, around corners and from the cellars beneath homes. When Ketsueki was satisfied he had their attention, he addressed them loudly, the fire raging behind him, the screams of the Galsea's lifting into the air and the eldest daughter crying and firmly grasped in his wooden grip. He told them, "I am Ketsueki Sato, your destroyer. I seek two things and if I obtain them, I shall leave this world and return to the Many Hells. First, I seek the princess named Alecto, daughter to Sulia Laree the Eternal Empress. For as long as she runs, I shall raze the world. For as long as she hides, I shall drink your blood! If you find her; if you should see her; if you hear as much as a whisper of a rumor, you will come to me with it. You will point in the direction she runs. You will point to the tree she hides behind. You will whisper the rumors you have heard into my ear.
"Secondly, I seek the fish-god Xiao-tep. I call on him to come to me. I challenge him to one more fight. If I lose, I will return to the Many Hells. Should I win... well, should I win I shall feast upon his blood and then return to the Many Hells. But for every day he remains unfaithful to his people; for every day he remains disloyal to those loyal to him; for every day he remains unwilling to fight is another day I remain in your world. Every day he remains hiding from me is another day I kill. Every hour he stays away from me is another hour for me in invade your homes, to burn your crops and bring illness to your land. Every day my demands are not satisfied is another day I have to kill the lot of you, to kill your children, to end your finite lives.
"Let it be known this is a test placed upon the fish-god. What value does he place upon your lives? He will live forever. You may die at any time. But will you die in your old age as The Cosmos commands, or will you die at my hands because that fish-god be unwilling to face me? What value have you to he? Now is the hour to find the answer. Now is the hour of temptation and faith. Is he worthy of your prayers? Or will he turn his back to you in your final, horrifying hour?
Ketsueki looked to the night sky as he spoke the following words, "Let the fish-god choose! I call upon him! I demand his presence! Come, Xiao-tep! Come to town of Caerraul and face your enemy!"
Ketsueki remained gazing upon the Kalavata's wings a moment. When Xiao-tep did not show, as Ketsueki expected he would not, Ketsueki lowered his head. His eyes leveled upon the town. He looked for every hiding eye. He smiled a wicked smile. His tentacles then grabbed the eldest daughter by the waist and shoulders, twisting them in opposite directions until the girl was torn in half.
Ketsueki threw the corpse's two halves into the center of town as the citizenry fled into the night.
The gods were called together within the realm of the Many Heavens to lock themselves away, leaving servants out of their conversations and turning demi-gods and Immortals aside for only gods and goddesses may enter the Heavenly Court of Seven Jade Doors; only gods and goddesses may enter any one of its seven doors of green jade and remain within its walls of white jade with ribbons of varying purples throughout; with its silver bells and spreading laurels, Cinnamons, chestnuts and yews reciting soft poems as they are touched by the fingers ofAeolus; with the ever flowering Narcissus and all of this guarded by a thick layer of clouds that befuddle and turn around all but the gods and goddesses that may enter this court. Here did they hold council for three weeks; For three weeks did the skies over all the world remain clear; For three weeks did the nights pass without disturbance as the gods attended to matters entirely disturbing only to themselves for the many and multitudinous gods held counsel to discuss the matter of Hapi's children.
"Hapi!" called Freyr.
Hapi reluctantly came forth, his feet slapping at the white jade floors, the girth of his rotund belly quaking with effort, his hands clenching and un-clenching with profound nervousness. He stood amidst the collected gods and goddesses, their many eyes upon him.
Freyr said, "It has come to my attention that our fellow Hapi has procreated. This god that now stands at our center has made not only a demi-goddess, but another god and he has put forth effort to hide this fact from us."
Hapi shook his head defiantly and fearfully.
"What evidence have you to this claim?" asked Kurupi of Freyr.
"This tale has been told to me, first by the dwarf Brok," answered Freyr.
"Brok!" Hapi exclaimed. "But if you know the tale of..." Hapi's voice trailed off in horror at his mistake.
"The tale of?" asked Freyr. "Who's tale should we have heard of? Do you mean the tale of your son, Xiao-tep?"
The gathered gods and goddesses rumbled with rumor.
"Nonsense!" cried Hapi. "What you speak of is nonsense. It is a convenient thing, indeed, for you to slander my name with a false tale of someone that cannot be here to tell it himself! A convenience indeed that Brok himself cannot be allowed into the Hall of the Seven Jade Doors to tell his tale, yet here you stand with the tale upon your tongue and using its ferocity to dismiss my status. If there be new gods in our midst, it is more likely to be the lascivious acts of Kurupi's prehensile penis than of my own acts."
Kurupi lowered his head to hide his face as the accusation was true, he had fathered many children the world over.
"Perhaps I should not have spoken of Brok, then," said Freyr. "Perhaps I should have gone immediately to the second storyteller to tell me the same tale."
"Bah! I defy anyone to tell the tale in my presence!" said Hapi.
"Then you shall be defied," said Freyr. "Lei-zi, please come forward."
As Lei-Zi stepped from the amassed crowd, walking slowly and delicately across the jade floor, her head down in proper respect for her fellow gods and goddesses, the court echoed with fury and wonder.
"What's this?" Hapi demanded. "How have you persuaded Lei Zi to tell your lies, Freyr?"
Lei-Zi raised a hand to all and was given quiet. She bowed respectfully and spoke. "I am Lei-Zi, Goddess of Thunder. I have, indeed, come to you this day to tell you a tale; a tale of a new god."
The gods and goddesses again spoke with great voice. Again Lei-Zi held up a hand to call for quiet and this was granted.
Except fr Kurupi who called out, "How do you know of this new god? How can you prove your claim?"
Lei-Zi nodded to Kurupi and said, "I know of this new god for I am his mother."
"And Hapi is the father," sneered Freyr.
"How dare you insult me!" cried Hapi.
"Why was this not brought to our attentions before?" asked Atai.
"But it has," said Freyr. "It came to me as I noticed the mortals of the world growing religion about this new god, the one called Xiao-tep. It is then I discussed the matter with a mortal sage and, upon hearing of my curiosity, the dwarf Brok came to me to confirm Xiao-tep's existence. Many of you may know of him but did not recognize him as a god for he is none other than the current caretaker of Taleisin."
Several gods cried out in anger at this while a few nodded that they had known of Xiao-tep, though admitted they did not know his origins or lineage.
"Why was this kept from us, Hapi?" demanded Smertrios.
Hapi stammered, seeking an answer that would end the conflict. He could find no true answer.
"I made no mention of this," spoke Lei-Zi, "for I did not know it was meant to be brought forth to the many gods. I felt it right for Xiao-tep, my son, to find his own way through the world. When Freyr came to me seeking truth in the tale, I confirmed Xiao-tep's life and am now here presenting the very same to all of you. I apologize for any transgression I may have committed."
"Even should we believe you did not know this matter should be brought to us," said the Ašvieniai in unison, "we cannot believe the both of you did not know. Why did Hapi not bring this to our attentions upon Xiao-tep's birth?"
At this, Lei-Zi looked to Hapi. Hers was not a gaze of honor or respect, but of hurt and hatred. She answered, "He wanted me to deliver Xiao-tep unto him upon birth. He planned to eat Xiao-tep. I could not allow this. This is my child we speak of. I cannot simply deliver him unto death. I would rather risk my own life. I fooled Hapi into thinking a fish taken from the seas was his son and he ate that, thinking the matter over with until he discovered the truth."
"Then it is the mother's blame," spoke Volos. "Her punishment should be swift and severe."
"One cannot blame a mother for wanting to save the life of a son," said Rhea.
"Had she been a loyal consort," retorted Volos, "she would have followed Hapi's instructions and Xiao-tep would not be a matter to be discussed currently."
"Indeed!" cried Hapi. "It is the fault of Lei-Zi a new religion grows! It is the fault of Lei-Zi we gather her now."
Lei-Zi opened her arms, invitingly, saying, "I will take upon any punishment required of me, even death. I ask only Xiao-tep be spared. He had no choice in his birth."
"Hapi is not so guiltless," said Freyr. "Hapi may have been fooled into thinking Xiao-tep dead at one point, but he learned this was not true far sooner than we learned of Xiao-tep. And, may I remind you, I also said Hapi has father a demi-goddess. His transgressions are twice that of Lei-Zi."
"We can hardly punish Hapi for the birth of a demi-goddess," said Anjana. "There are far too few of us that have not birthed a half-mortal child.
"This is true," agreed Freyr, "but why is it we've not heard of either until now? His demi-goddess daughter serves only to further purport his concealment of matters; it serves to undermine his word."
"What about Coyote? Know you that Xiao-tep makes friends with a son, another new god, named Comet Fox?"
"We all know of Comet Fox," said Freyr. "His expolits amongst mortals are well known. He does not threaten us nor the Many Heavens, rather he aides mortals in their trials."
"We cannot surely deny Coyote his nature," giggled Uzume.
Hapi growled at Uzume.
"Nip at her like a dog, Hapi," said Freyr, "and I'll slap you down like one."
Hapi raged incoherently at this, then gethered himself enough to say, "That is unfair!"
"We are not interested in fairness here," said Freyr.
Hapi fell silent at this prejudice.
"What suggestion do you make, Freyr? How shall we handle this new god, if not his demi-goddess sister?" asked the ibis-headed Thoth.
"What should be done," said Freyr, "is a matter of accordance. We should invite this new god, this son of Lei-zi and Hapi, the one called Xiao-tep, here into the Many Heavens."
At this the many gods stirred with suspicion.
"Cease your fears, friends," soothed Freyr, "what can but one god do onto our kingdom we cannot refute in force? Let Xiao-tep come here and, should he truly be a god, enter here the Heavenly Court of Seven Jade Doors. If he truly be worthy, he shall be allowed passage in. And once here, we shall stand him in our midst to answer any query we would put to him, to sum up his worth and value, to surmise his wisdom and effect upon the mortals."
"That is an outrageous suggestion!" yelled Hapi. "How dare you? How dare you defy my wishes for his death? He is a new god and as such does not deserve life!"
"And who would judge this so?" asked Freyr.
Hapi, emboldened by anger, stepped forward. "I would make such a claim, the damned god's father!"
Several of the gods whispered fear at Hapi's damning another god.
Freyr considered this, considered Hapi. "Perhaps your opinion would hold more weight," he answered, "if at first you had not failed to kill Xiao-tep."
"I was tricked by Lei-zi!"
"Then you should be honored to have fallen prey to another god and not a mere mortal," suggested Freyr.
Hapi could give no retort.
"What shall happen to my son should you judge him worthy?" asked Lei-zi.
"That is a matter we must contend with should the need arise," answered Freyr.
"What shall we do should Xiao-tep stand before us and, having judged him, we decide him unworthy?" asked the sun-faced Tohil.
"We shall strike him down without prejudice," said Freyr.
Hapi smiled and Lei-zi frowned at hearing this.
"And what of the demi-goddess?" asked Haumia Tiketike.
Again Freyr took a moment to think. He then said, "I will send forth our loyal servant and elder Immortal Chiava. We all know him and have come to trust him well enough to allow his living within the Many Heavens. He thrives on adventure and is quite personable. He would love to go forth to find this demi-goddess, this... what was her name?"
Hapi frowned, at first refused, then gave up his daughter's name, "Wu Chan Chu."
"Wu Chan Chu," Freyr repeated. "He will present himself as a mortal in some capacity of his own choosing, perhaps in need of help carrying out a task, and will effectively spy on her for us. With his spying done, he will report back to us."
"What task shall be ascribed to Chiava?" asked Kumugwe.
it was Hanuman that gestured with a wave of his hand. From his waist he produced a length of emerald green silk with gold piping and tassels along the edge. He Stepped forward, handed to Freyr, and said, "Have Chiava take this to some destination. Should Wu Chan Chu be trustworthy, she shall not steal it and thereby prove her dharma. She may be tempted, however, for she is, after all, a great fighter that seeks the next great fight."
Freyr unraveled the silk to discover held within was a vajra of pure gold. Many gods drew nearer to behold the beautiful weapon before Freyr wrapped it in the green silk once more.
The gods were nearly all in agreement on this, but those who opposed did so silently for their objections in their hearts were minor and their curiosity for the new demi-goddess too persuasive.
Freyr then stepped to Lei-zi, saying, "And we will send you to retrieve for us your son."
Lei-zi bowed respectfully.
The seven jade doors of the Heavenly Court were thrown wide and the gods and winds were released.
Lei-zi descended from the Many Heavens towards Taleisin.
After the Battle Upon the Plain of Adoration, the mighty demi-goddess Wu Chan Chu wandered the world a while until she came once more to The Peony Teahouse. She found, upon her return, she was well received by many fans and regular, but not by Sal Igo - proprietor of the teahouse.
"Go back from whence you came, frog demi-goddess!" Sal Igo spat. "We're no longer in need of your services here at the Peony Teahouse!"
Sal Igo made this proclamation in the presence of many of his patrons so as to make a point of humiliating Wu Chan Chu, to send her off with the knowledge he did not want her.
But Wu Chan Chu was not ashamed nor humiliated. She demanded, "What is this attitude and position you take against me? I have always been welcomed here, if not as Wu Chan Chu the Peony Teahouse Champion then in the very least as a competitor. Is the house championship no longer open to all challengers? Have you changed the rules?"
"The rules have not changed," said Sal Igo, "for anyone but you, Wu Chan Chu. You are of special notoriety within our house rules. Namely and precisely, your presence is no longer welcomed here at the Peony Teahouse."
Several of the patrons grumbled with frustration and contempt at this rule.
"Why is this?" asked Wu Chan Chu.
"Because I have found you to be unfaithful to the House Championship. You are a wanderer, Wu Chan Chu. You come and go as you please and have left here with the championship title upon your shoulders more than once. I cannot tolerate this sort of behavior. I cannot allow a champion to leave as she would like, leaving me to establish yet another lengthy and costly tournament to find another champion. Do you know? This last time that you left your obligations here, the last time you vacated the championship, I did not even put forth the money to promote and establish a new champion. I simply allowed whomever desired to take to fighting upon the floor. After three days, one fighter alone remained standing against all challengers. And so I had to proclaim him champion." Sal Igo stroked his silk robes, straightening himself so as to be dignified. He looked to Wu Chan Chu and said, "His name is Iron Shirt."
"I will fight him for the Peony Teahouse championship."
"You will do no such thing," said Sal Igo. "As I have already made mention, you are no longer welcome here. That is to say you are no longer welcome here under any capacity: as champion, as challenger, as drinker of teas or of wines or as gambler. Wu Chan Chu is not a welcome guest of the Peony Teahouse."
"How dare you treat a demi-goddess this way? How dare you treat a former champion - and a champion that filled your coffers to overflowing - this way! How dare you treat me this way after I've found your coffers and returned them to you!" Wu Chan Chu stepped heavily towards Sal Igo.
The teahouse proprietor stepped back, nervous and afraid of Wu Chan Chu's strength and fury. Though he feared her, he felt he must remain stolid against her for the betterment of his business. "Go away, Wu Chan Chu. Go back to whichever pond you came from."
The gathered clientele of the teahouse began to argue with Sal Igo. They demanded he let Wu Chan Chu fight.
"Surely!" cried one patron. "Surely you see the brilliance in allowing Wu Chan Chu to fight Iron Shirt. Both are perhaps the best fighters you've ever had! Let them fight!"
A subtle chant of "Ku-mi-te!" was begun.
"No!" cried out Sal Igo. "This will never be! Wu Chan Chu, go now from my teahouse and never again return!"
Wu Chan Chu glowered at Sal Igo. She flicked out her tongue to catch a fly bussing near Sal Igo's head. The teahouse proprietor flinched at this. Wu Chan Chu swallowed down the fly, belched, turned and left the Peony Teahouse.
Once outside, Wu Chan Chu stood under the gossamer moon. Paper lanterns cast a warm, red glow upon her form. She was looking to each direction wondering where next to roam when an elderly man in a dark blue robe and a hemp sack slung over one shoulder approached her.
"Excuse me," said he.
"Hmmph?" Wu Chan Chu grunted in question.
"You look to be quite the strong and trustworthy Blessed One. Would you, by chance, be interested in making a few coins?"
"You have piqued my interests, old man."
"I am Chiava and I'm afraid I've found myself with an inheritance from my recently departed sister. I fear continued travel upon the road home alone. For a few coins, would you be so kind as to escort me home?" asked the old man.
"Where is your home?" asked Wu Chan Chu.
"In the city of Azipoor south of Tenhar."
"I thought Ife was south of Tenhar?" asked Wu Chan Chu.
"It is, further south than Azipoor."
"Have you means to travel?" asked the demi-goddess.
"Only my feet," answered the old man.
"Why don't you take some of your inheritance and buy yourself a horse or wagon?"
Chiava hung his head low, his head turning sideways and his eyes darting about, looking for eavesdroppers. He spoke lowly now, "The inheritance, you see, is not in coins. Rather, it is an item I carry now in this sack. There are very many thieves that would like to steal it from me and, as you might imagine, I cannot allow this."
Wu Chan Chu considered Chiava a moment. She then asked, "How many coin might I expect to be paid?"
"All that I have. I am old and need not eat on the journey. What I will need I can gather from the land as we travel."
"How much would you be carrying then?" Wu Chan Chu grew impatient, having not been given a straight answer.
"Thirty," said Chiava.
"Thirty!" cried Wu Chan Chu so loudly that Chiava startled, looking around to see if she had drawn attention to them. "Dear old man, I would not do this for thirty coins. I'll need far more than that."
Chiava frowned. He said, "All I can offer you is more payment once we reach my home. Once there, I can offer you more. But I can offer you nothing beyond the thirty presently."
Wu Chan Chu croaked. She looked into the four directions again, wondering where to wander. She looked to Chiava and said, "I suppose traveling with you is as good a choice as any. I will take your coins from you, old man. But should I find the trek harder than expected, should I decide my troubles outweight my rewards, I reserve the right to leave your side at any moment."
Chiava nodded. He reached into a pocket of his robe and pulled forth the coins, handing them to Wu Chan Chu. Together the two set out to the east, walking for Azipoor. Wu Chan Chu soon found herself frustrated with Chiava, saying, "Keep up, old man. I do not intend to make this journey with you last. Walk faster!"
"I'm walking as fast as my old body allows," said Chiava.
Wu Chan Chu sighed. She stopped on the road and let Chiava pass her some ways. She watched him walking slowly, shambling. She shook her head.
"First to be thrown out of the Peony Teahouse and now I've thrown in with an old man," Wu Chan Chu shook her head. "The gods must hate me."
I hope it was worth the wait! Check back next week for Act II!!!
Friday, March 26, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
It would seem I'm suffering from a rather severe flu. As such, I was unable to complete this week's "The Children of Gods" post - though I assure you I've written a very large portion of it. I'll have to skip posting this week as a result.
Apologies for any disappointments or inconveniences.
Apologies for any disappointments or inconveniences.
Posted by Atomic Swan Serials and If - E - Zine at 8:56 AM
Friday, March 12, 2010
I had wanted to start posting "The Frog Queen" this week. Alas, other matters kept me from finishing Act I on time. I'll begin posting it next week.
Until then, enjoy this fan-made history of the Fallout series.
Until then, enjoy this fan-made history of the Fallout series.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Anyone that's been paying attention for the last year or so should remember that I'm a huge fan of the Fallout series of roleplaying games. Last month, this teaser trailer for the latest game in the franchise was released.