It happened that in olden times, in a land far, far away, an ancient people looked up lazily toward the approaching evening.
These were such ancient times that the stars were not yet born and the full-bellied moon was the sole celestial body in the nighttime sky. But on this evening, as twilight crept slowly toward the west, the startled people watched in awe as the sun began to rise again. Along the far horizon of the sea, it sprang up boldly and hid behind the full-bellied moon and all the land fell into sudden night.
The Earth was remarkably still, then, for this was a sacred darkness.
On the far side of the moon, under cover of night, the mighty sun caressed the moon’s fat belly with his eager fire, emptying his rays into her hidden crevices and filling her with his power until, it is said, she began to glow.
The glowing moon, unable to withstand her fullness, surrendered to the penetrating flames of the mighty sun so completely that his flames burst through her swollen craters, and together, as the frightened people fled in all directions, the sun and moon exploded in a multitude of stars across the vast, unending sky.
The force of this explosion caused the land to shake and rock; it tugged at the swirling waves of the ocean waters, sending them leaping and curling upward, eddying in great swells until, from the depths of the far-off South China Sea, there emerged from the water a land of splendor, covered in a cloud of sea mist, whose center burned so gloriously that its proud inhabitants took no notice of the sunless sky. They knew that the sun now walked among them as a sacred man of fire.
This man of walking fire, this falling sun from heaven, came to be called affectionately, the Emperor of Night.
The great emperor was loved by all his people. They basked in his bright fire and were nurtured by his light. Though the emperor taught his people the secret of making fire, none among the mere mortal subjects could ever build a fire whose flames outshone the great falling sun from heaven. For in the emperor’s heart there burned an eternal flame; a flame of longing; the seed of heaven itself.
In an effort to ease the daily burdens of his people, to give them a time of rest, when the sands ran through the hourglass twelve times, the emperor draped his regal body in a robe of black silk, Covering the essence of heaven, he shielded his land from the eternal burning flame of his heart while his people gently slept. And it was in this way that the emperor created night.
The emperor’s grand palace was hidden on three sides by a shimmering, impenetrable cinnamon forest. Its courtyards were still more hidden behind the shade of mountain plum and wild pear trees, whose clustering blossoms the ladies of the palace had adorned with tiny silver chimes that tinkled in the delicate evening breezes and filled the nights with sounds of trembling music.
The palace itself had been intricately carved from mighty teaks and cedars. The sacred room where the emperor slept extended along the length of the grand palace’s fourth side, where it was buttressed against the power of the tossing sea by a huge wall of carved granite. A granite so smooth it glistened, it formed a majestic lagoon of fresh seawater for the emperor alone. Here the cranes and herons, the crested kingfishers and loons, nested in the protruding rocks amid the rarest night-blooming orchids and magnolia blossoms.
When the emperor adorned himself in his black silk robe and thus brought on the night, he retreated in a sacred solitude, surrounded by the graceful calm of the nesting birds, visited only occasionally by the harmless sea creatures who might swim under the great stone wall where the lagoon emptied into the waterway of the South China Sea.
The ladies of the palace were numerous and each was as fair and sturdy as the emperor himself. Like him, their supple forms were lean, their delicate faces appointed with fine high cheekbones and dark almond-shaped eyes. In the daylight, they wore their straight black hair in elaborate braids – sometimes adorned with tender peach blossoms, or lilies-of-the-valley. At night, they let their hair hang free, and exchanged their bright red robes for robes of black silk, so that each palace lady resembled the emperor in every respect save for what remained hidden beneath the folds of the austere black robes.
It was his custom that the emperor rarely slept, even though he’d created night, for great was the longing inside the eternal burning of his royal heart. He seldom passed the unending hours alone, though, sending for the various ladies of the palace for companionship in the darkness.
None was to enter the emperor’s sacred room, however. Each lady met him instead on the teakwood verandah, opening onto the majestic lagoon. The verandah was gently illuminated by the tiny flickering flames of a hundred burning candles, each candle ensconced in an elaborately carved shade of ivory. The flickering flames produced tiny dancing shadows all along the granite wall: shadows in the shapes of flying dragons, miniature salamanders, or scattering wild geese. It was on this peaceful verandah, opening onto the majestic lagoon, that the emperor shared his pillow and mat with whichever lady he fancied, being mindful, as he lifted her robe and led her through the many royal positions of tenderness and sharing, not to be wanton about the condition of his own robe, lest it loosen to reveal his heart and cause morning to arrive too quickly.
It is said that the emperor’s eternal flame could be depleted only through the expulsion of his seed into a woman who was not his bride, and though the burden of his eternally burning heart was great, the emperor was careful to preserve the power of his fire. The ladies of the palace were entrusted with a temper of restraint when arousing the emperor’s pleasure. They were well schooled in the art of pleasing him without bringing his royal seed to the point of expulsion.
The rare few among the palace ladies who took him past the brink of danger, who, knowing they could never be the emperor’s bride, for the emperor’s bride would not be mortal and would come in the form of a treasure offered up from the depths of the sea, who still longed greedily to fill their barren wombs with the emperor’s eternal fire; these few were punished swiftly and with severity. Taken by the palace guards to the hillside in the early morning, the offender was stripped bare of her protective robe and staked openly to an elevated cedar plank, her trembling legs forcibly raised and spread.
While the rest of the palace ladies were commanded to bear witness without lowering their eyes, the rare offender was subjected to the terrible Sixth Punishment, the punishment by horse cock, her wrenching screams ignored until the mounting stallion’s bulging shaft had rended the offender’s canal completely, making her no longer suitable for pleasuring the emperor.
Only then was the offender released and cast out from the palace walls. Only then were the palace ladies permitted to hide their faces in their sleeves.
It is said that on these bitter days, the emperor fasted alone and did penance in the royal chamber of his inner sanctum.
A great thing happened every twenty-eight nights.
The emperor was permitted to expel his longing in the manner of an ancient ceremonial sacrifice.
Two ladies of the palace would be summoned to the teakwood verandah, where they assumed the Royal Position of the Gobbling Fishes, one lying atop the other in the posture of intercourse, their robes raised for the eyes of the emperor, their naked genitals rubbing together until their aroused labia swelled to resemble the mouths of gobbling fishes.
When they were close to orgasm, the emperor parted his robe and, kneeling between the spread thighs of the palace ladies, separated their swollen vulvas by easing his stiffening member between the engorged nether lips. The head of his royal shaft would pleasure their erect clitorises as it slipped in and out, until he himself was ready to discharge a burst of his eternal fire.
Then the emperor withdrew his member carefully, and discharged himself into a golden chalice, held ready by a third lady of the palace.