55 – Silly Hats

“How does it feel to be officially a teenager?”  Akachi asks you as he putts around the kitchen, making breakfast.

“Okay, I guess.”   You didn’t feel that much different this morning when you woke up.   Just a little tired since you were up late reading the White Treatise.   You haven’t had much success casting any spells out of it.

“Hmmm….”  Akachi checks the steaming dumplings.   “That doesn’t sound like a happy birthday boy.  Is something the matter?”

You sit at the bar, nibbling on a piece of melon as you considering telling Akachi everything.  Sorcery has been nothing but frustration so far.   If Aiko, a dragonblood, could become a sorcerer at twelve, you being a Sidereal should have also been able to do it.   Now you are thirteen and still not initiated into Sorcery.  Aiko beat you.  You sigh and tell yourself that it is more important to become a sorcerer no matter how long it takes.  Anyways, if you told Akachi, he would just forbid you from learning.

But, as you think of your Dragon blooded friends, you realize there was something on your mind.   “It’s Chiyoko.”

“What about Chiyoko?”  Akachi comes to sit down next to you at the bar.

You remember back to the Martial Arts Tournament a few months ago.  You managed to finally separate her from the others.   You hid under the stands with her and pull her in for a kiss.   Chiyoko hesitates for a moment, but then puts her arms around you.   When you are finished, she looks around the underside of the stands and says “Not the most romantic place for a first kiss.”

You were shocked by this and after questioning her, you realize that she didn’t remember any of the other kisses and only had vague memories of you outside of Cnead Svante.    Her most clear memory was with the fight with the Anathema.   Over the past few months, you spent every rest day you could with your Dragon blooded friends.  Aiko remembers you the best, often bringing up things you said in previous visits when the two of you argue.  Masaru can recognize you without being reminded of Cnead Svante.   Chiyoko still has to be told who you are each time.

After you explain all this to him, Akachi shifts uncomfortable in his chair.   “It is unfortunate that Chiyoko is the one that is having the most difficult time piercing though Arcane Fate. “

“Yeah.”  You look down at your plate and begin stacking melon pieces in a tower.

“I wouldn’t worry.   Chiyoko is Dragon blooded.  She will remember in time.  You just have to be persistent.”

“But what if she starts to like someone else?”  Chiyoko was well-liked by everyone at the school.  Surely some other boy will attracted her attention.

“Chiyoko is not someone who gives her heart easily.  As the granddaughter of the Shogun, she is in an awkward position.   It is very difficult for her to know the difference between a true friend and someone who wants to be her friend because of who she is related to.  ”

“But what about Masaru?  He’s betrothed to her!”   Masaru didn’t seem to care about you and Chiyoko and frankly seemed relieved that you were around.

“Chiyoko isn’t Masaru’s type.”  Akachi gets up and starts to cut more melon.

“What?”  You are confused.  How could Akachi know this?

“It’s something Masaru will explain when he is ready.”   You can hear Sasha’s voice in the front room.   “Go invite Sasha in while I check on the food.”   Akachi gingerly opens the steamer basket to check on the dumplings.

When you enter the front room, Sasha’s eyes light up.  “Happy Birthday!”  She hands a large present over to one of the servants and gives you a big hug.   Sasha pulls away and looks you over. “Maidens!  You grow a foot each time I see you!”   You haven’t seen too much of Sasha over the past few months, since she has been working on a mission in Meru.   You realize that you are as tall as your sister now.

“All the food he eats has to go somewhere.”  Akachi calls from the kitchen.

Sasha grabs the present from the butler and hands it to you.   You open the present to find a silly hat in shape of a chicken.   You look at Sasha in surprise.  As long as you remember you have always gotten a silly hat for your birthday.

“Are you the one that always gave me the silly hat?” You never really thought about where the silly hats came from before.

There are tears in Sahsa’s eyes, as she nods.

You hug your sister and try not to cry.  Thirteen years old is definitely too old for crying now.   You put your chicken hat on and sit at the table with Akachi and your sister to eat breakfast.

More voices can be heard in the front room and Yeva enters the kitchen.   She raises an eyebrow at your silly hat.   “Good Morning, Svante.”

“Good Morning, Sifu. “  You rise from your chair and bow formally.

Yeva returns the bow and then sits down.    Yeva sniffles one of the dumplings suspiciously.   “It’s a good thing Svante will eat anything or else he will starve.”   She starts piling fruit on her plate.

“Hey! I might be a bit out of practice, but I’m a good cook.”

Yeva picks up her discarded dumpling.  “Observe closely, my student, as I show you the proper technique for bouncing a rubber dumpling off the delusional cooks.”   Your Sifu flings the dumpling in Akachi’s direction.

“No throwing food in the kitchen!”   Akachi reaches out and plucks the dumpling out of the air. He drops it on his own plate and joins everyone at the table.

“Have you heard what the Fellowship will be giving Svante for his birthday?”  Your ears perk up when you hear Yeva say this.

“No, I’ve….”  Akachi rubs the bridge of his nose.  “I told them to give him reasonable presents.”

“And we decided that it was entirely reasonable to pool our resources for one large present.”

“Really?  What is it?”   you ask.

“Patience, Svante.  That is for you to find out at your party.”  You sit back and cross your arms at Yeva’s response.

“I said reasonable.”  Akachi points a chopstick at Sasha.   “Why didn’t you warn me?”

“I don’t know what you are taking about.  I’ve barely been in Yu-Shan these days taking care of the Shogun. “  Sasha smiles at you.

“This is us warning you.”  Yeva retorts.

“It’s not that bad,” Sasha assures Akachi.

“It could be worse.   They were trying to talk Ayesha into giving Svante that Chillikin she has locked up.   Naoko thinks she can reprogram it to accept Svante.  I put a stop to that.   Don’t need that thing rampaging around Yu-Shan again.”   Yeva refills her plate with fruit.

Later on, you are helping Wanahton blow up balloons for your birthday party.   You grab the balloons and walk over to one of the tables to tie them.   You look up at the clock and wonder how time could move so slowly.

“Psst!”   You turn and see Haythem hiding behind a bush.

You are surprised to see Haythem here.   “I’m not supposed to talk to you.”   You are still wary of Haythem after what happened the night before the Tournament and the elders were not pleased with the Oracle either. Haythem was not invited to your birthday party.

“Then don’t talk to me.  I have something for you.”   He looks around to make sure no one is watching and holds up a paper bag.   “Something every thirteen year old boy needs.”

Intrigued in spite of yourself, you walk over and take the bag from the Oracle.  You begin to open the bag, but Haythem stops you.  “No!  Not here!  Wait until you are alone in your room.”

“What is it?” you ask suspiciously.

“You’ll see.”  Haythem winks at you.  “Don’t let Akachi catch you with them.   Happy birthday.”  He retreats from behind the bush to sneak out.

What do you do?

  • Open Haythem’s Present here.
  • Tell someone about Haythem’s Present (Akachi, Sasha, Wanahton. You pick)
  • Go up to your room and open Haythem’s Present
  • Throw the present out without looking at it.
  • Other

((This… maybe another long chapter… ))

54 – Hearthstone

This god was pissing you off. He is too smug and arrogant for someone who is about to be arrested. If only you could use your charms, then you could figure out what is going on. How was the god blocking you and Haythem? The Bureau Mole does not give off the discordant sounds of something outside of fate. His actions do not casually leave the threads of the loom in disarray. It was more like he didn’t touch the threads of the loom at all. Like when you walked out of fate. But how did this god do it? No deity should have this power.

Unless something is giving him this power. You remember the purple glow of the God’s hearthstone as he ended the mercenary’s life. Could the hearthstone allow him to walk outside of fate? To affect fate and not leave a trace of his actions on the loom?

The god continues to taunt you. “There is nothing you can do, boy. It would be easier for you and your friends to let me go.”

“Be careful, Svante.” Chiyoko warns, as you walk up to the god. Before the god could react, you quickly reach out and with a yank, pull the chain off of the god. The hearthstone amulet goes tumbling from under the god’s robes and to the ground. The Bureau Mole struggles against the Fire Aspect to retrieve the amulet, but you kick it away from him. The amulet skates across the courtyard stone and into the bushes.

You look upon the struggling god. “By the power bestowed upon me by the Maidens of Fate, I command you to stop struggling.” You feel the tendrils of Fate react to your command and the god calms down.

“Who are you?” you ask.

“I am called Manasseh. I am the god of lost and forgotten paperwork.”

You hear Aiko giggle behind you. The god bristles and adds, “My position in the Division of Endings may be minor, but very important. ”

“What do you want with the scroll?”

The god closes his eyes and says nothing.

“What do you want with the scroll?” you repeat.

“Answer him.” The tip of Chiyoko’s sword comes into view as she approaches the god.

“To retrieve the Solar Shards.”

You take a sharp intake of breath when he says this. “Are you gold faction?”

The god looks down at you. “Of course not. I’m…”

“I think this line of questioning has gone far enough.” Haythem, dressed in clean robes and no longer smelling of bum, appears out of the shadows.

The Bureau Mole’s eye widen when he sees Haythem. “It was you in the bar. But… it was a trap.”

Haythem smiles. “Okay, children.” He says to the gathered Dragonbloods. “Time to go back to bed.” He claps his hands. “Nothing more to see here. Not you, Svante.” You weren’t planning on leaving anyways.

“Svante?” Chiyoko is waiting with the rest of your dragon blooded circle.

“Go on to bed, Chiyoko. He will be with you in a moment.” Chiyoko and the others reluctantly head back into the door. Soon only you, Haythem and the god are in the courtyard.

“Yes, it was a trap. I couldn’t flush you out. I couldn’t find you with charms. So I baited the trap with something you desperately wanted. “ Haythem starts to tie up the god.

“The boy. Ika was working for you.” The god says.

Haythem says nothing as he finishes tying up the god and checks the rope for tightness.

“Wait? You were using me as bait?! What if something happened?” You are shocked that an adult would do that.

“Look in your pocket.” Haythem orders.

You dig through your pockets and find a black coin similar to the one Aiko casted. Haythem takes it from your hand and blows on it. It vanishes into dust. “You were perfectly fine. If anything had happened, I’d come get you.”

You weren’t so certain. “You said you weren’t a sorcerer. You said you failed your Trail of Fire.”

“The first time. One thing you should remember, kid, is that Saturn always gets hers in the end.” Haythem looks off in the distance and then shakes his head and continues to escort the Bureau Mole out of the courtyard.

“But what if something went wrong?” You follow Haythem, not satisfied with his answers.

“No risk, no reward.” Haythem continues walking.

“My friends and I could have gotten killed. People DID get killed.”

“Those mercenaries?” Haythem stops and turns to you. “I wouldn’t lose any sleep over them. They are bad people, Svante.”

“But…”

“Maidens, Svante. You are worse than the elders. I got the job done and in the end that is all that matters. ” Haythem continues walking.

You realize that you aren’t going to get any more out of the man. You are pretty sure that this case wasn’t as neatly accomplished as Haythem says. “Fuck you, Haythem.”

“Even the twelve year old tells me to fuck off. “ Haythem stares up at the now fading stars. “Why are all the other Sidereals bastards?” He shakes his head and continues to walk out of the school.

You head back to the dorm, slamming the door behind you. You enter your dorm room and find Chiyoko and Aiko waiting with Masaru.

“So…” Aiko starts. “What happened?”

“He’s a fucking asshole!” You throw yourself on the bed and pull your knees up to your chest. You have never been so pissed in your life.

“Who?” Chiyoko asks, confused.

You groan and bang your head against the wall in frustration. “Never mind.” Fucking Arcane Fate.

“So…” Masaru starts. “Did you stop the drug deal?”

“Um…yeah.” You look around the dorm. “Where is Ika?”

“The bird lady? She’s in the infirmary. She’ll be fine. The poison wasn’t deadly, just knocked her out.”

“Good.” You felt a little better knowing Ika was okay.

Chiyoko gives Aiko a pointed look and Aiko ignores her. “Aiko!”

Aiko rolls her eyes and pulls the hearthstone amulet out of her bag. “I picked this up.”

You stare at the hearthstone in Aiko’s hand and burst out laughing. “He forgot it! What an idiot!”

“Does that mean we can keep it?” Aiko asks hopefully.

“I should bring it back for evidence.” You take the amulet from the girl and put it in your pocket.

Masaru looks out the window at the brightening sky. “Are we still going to the Tournament?”

“You can’t actually want to go to the Tournament after all this. We have barely slept!” Aiko complains.

“You can stay here and sleep if you want, but I’m going. “ Chiyoko says. She takes your hand and drags you off of bed.

“Do I not get a choice?” you ask.

“Nope!”

((OOC: Finally done with Chapter four! This chapter went on far too long. I tried something new with this chapter. I came up with a situation and didn’t really have a definite ending. It made it easier to come up with choices, but more difficult to tie everything together at the end. And having work go crazy and getting sick didn’t help. I didn’t take into account all the ideas you players suggested like I should. I hope I didn’t scare everyone off. ))

((Any who, new chapter on Monday! I need to add Chapter four NPCs to the character list and read up on the thing I am going to introduce in Chapter Five. ))

(( It’s Svante’s Thirteenth birthday and Jupiter herself is going to give Svante a present, much to Akachi’s frustration. ))

53 – Backup

“What do I remember?”  You take a deep breath and begin:

“I remember walking along the beach.   I got a rock in my sandal, so I sat on a rock and took a stick to pluck it out.   The scroll was in a bag I was carrying.   While I was prying the rock out of my sandal with a stick, a monkey came up and took the scroll from my bag.  I chased it through the jungle… “

The Bureau Mole interrupts you in the middle of your rambling story.   “This is a waste of time,” he mutters under his breath.    The god turns to walk out of the courtyard when a Fire Aspect you don’t recognize appears from behind a pillar to block him.   The Bureau Mole takes a step back and runs into another Dragon blooded Student.

The Fire Aspect puts his sword to the god’s throat.  “Where do you think you are going?” the student asks.  You recognize the student as one of the ones standing by the door earlier.   In the courtyard, other students appear from the surrounding bushes and from behind pillars.   Twelve Dragon blooded students surround the god.   The fire aspect pushes the god to his knees, sword still at throat.   Chiyoko walks up, Aiko by her side.   Out of the corner of your eye, you see the door open and a Wood Aspect enter the room and kneel at Ika’s side.

Masaru climbs out of the window.   You follow him and join Chiyoko and Aiko.

“I suggest you do not try to dematerialize or else we will cut your head off.  You got it?”  The god says nothing to Chiyoko.

“You should answer her.”  Aiko threatens.   You smell blood as Aiko’s Blood Ape materializes in the courtyard.

“I understand.”  The god finally answers.

“Search him for the Antidote,”  Chiyoko orders.

One of other dragon bloods started to search the god and pulls out the bottle.  She opens it up and takes a whiff.  “Ugh.  It’s horse piss.”

“You were lying!” Chiyoko accuses.   She ignites her sword and points it at the god.

“Child, you are out of league here.  I am not a member of the Terrestrial Bureaucracy.  You have no authority over me.   Kill me, there will be unexpected repercussions.  ”

Chiyoko bits her lip when the god says this.   “You committed murder.”

“In the scheme of things, murder of a mortal is a minor charge.”

“Unlike treason.” You interject.

“What treason?  You have no proof, boy.”

“You tried to poison me.”

“Did I now?” The god seems too relaxed for someone with a sword at his throat.

“What do you mean?  You hit me with a poison dart.”

“Correction.  I hit you with a dart.  You assumed it was poisoned.”

You feel stupid right now.   “But…what about Ika?”

“What about her?   The Bureau gossip has been saying for years that her actions will lead her to a bad end.  She is just proving everyone right.”   The Bureau Mole stares you down.  “You were wrong about being poisoned.  What other things were you wrong about?   Are you certain you and your dragon blooded friends have enough authority to arrest me?   You know how things are in Yu-Shan, boy.  Flub one procedure and the whole process is invalidated.   “

Worry about that later, you think.   Change the subject.  Why go through all this trouble for the scroll?

“Why do you want the scroll?  Why go through all of this trouble for it?”

“I need to know what poison the god used on this woman.”  You hear the wood aspect say from inside the dorm.

“What poison did you use on Ika?” you ask the god.

“I don’t know.”

“What!?”

The god shrugs.  “I asked the shop owner for something fast acting.  I didn’t inquire into too many details.“   The dragon blood searches the god and finds the vial of poison and brings it to the dorm window.

“The scroll.  Why do you want it?”

“The same reason why everyone else wants it. “

“Why can’t you give us a straight answer!” you yell, frustrated with the whole situation.

The god smiles in reply.   This god was infuriating.    He lies, doesn’t give straight answers, and half your charms don’t work on him.

What do you do?

  • Arrest him and be done with the situation.
  • Continue questioning. Maybe you’ll wear him down.
  • There has to be something that is protecting him from your charms. Figure out what that is.

52 – The Scroll of the Gleaming Cage

You didn’t want to get Masaru and the other involved in this mess, but fate seems to keep dragging them into it.   With the god standing outside the window, you can’t ask what Masaru and the others are planning.  You are going to have to trust them.  You crawl over and sit down just underneath the window sill.

“You wanted to talk?  So talk.”  You deepen your voice to sound tough.

“A very old scroll was given into the care of your previous incarnation.  I would like to know what you remember of it.”  The god switches to Spirit Speech.

Fucking Scroll.   “Trailing Sorrows asked me the same question.  Why should I help you?”  You reply back in the same language.  Masaru looks at you in confusion.

“Trailing Sorrows was… impatient…   I was going to see if I could sit down and talk to you.“  The god sighs.  “Your guardian, however, is rather overprotective of you.   If you weren’t with him or Keeper, you were with another Sidereal or in Creation.”  There is a pause as you hear the god adjust his robes.   “Boy, you do not realize how controlled your life is.”

You think back and realize that what the god has said was true.   When you weren’t in class with the Owl, you were shadowing Akachi in the Bureau of Destiny.  If he had business in Creation, Sasha was there to watch over you.   Until recently, you never realized how little free time you had.  You were forced to read the White Treatise after you went to bed.

Masaru mouths, “Whatever he is saying, don’t listen.  Just keep him talking.”

Now was not the time to think about this.  You nod at Masaru and ask.  “What did you poison us with?”   Ika was still unconscious, but the room had stopped spinning for you.

“Ah… but if I tell you, you’ll go find the antidote yourself.   What do you remember about the Scroll?  Tell me where to find it and I will give you the antidote and we will go our separate ways.”
You knew exactly who Rikali gave the scroll to.   A lot could happen in fifty years, so you didn’t know if Ayesha Ura still had it.  What was in the scroll?   Maybe if you gave the god a little information, you can find out more.

“I remember the Owl giving me… Rikali the scroll.   I haven’t remember much after that yet.   If you tell me more about the scroll maybe it would trigger more memories.”

“The scroll is an old one.  It dates back to the War for Creation.   It was drafted by a Twilight whose name is now lost to history.  Does any of this job your memory, boy?”

You bang your head against the wall in frustration.  All the facts that the Bureau Mole gave you about the scroll were completely useless.   Elder Kejak was right.  Why does no one answer questions?  A Twilight who no one remembered their name?   Except that you do remember her name….

“Gale of Ten Thousand Winds?“  the Owl repeated.   You were back in the library, the locked glass cases surrounding the long table that you and the god sat.   “How did you hear that name?”

You smiled.  “I am a Chosen of Secrets.  It’s my job to hear things.”  Months of lunches and just dropping by to say hello have led to this first step.  When you mentioned the name, you worried that the Owl will figure out your ulterior motive for befriending him.   “Do you know of her?”

“I remember her back from the Primordial War.   She…  Gale did not adjust to the aftermath well.  “

“A Primordial War Veteran?”  Ayesha told you nothing of the Solar except her name.

“Yes.”  Owl descended into his school teacher voice.  “She was quite the hero and was given domain over one of the River Providences.   Eventually, she went into seclusion, focused on her work.  Gale was obsessed with building weapons.   It was her greatest fear that the Primoridals that escaped Creation would return.   So she built terrible weapons to counter that threat, but she never got to use them.”

Weapons?  “What happened to her?”

“She was killed at the Calibration Banquet along with the rest of the Solars.”

“But she was in seclusion….”

“Ah…  Gale’s Lunar Mate made sure that Gale attended the Banquet.  I don’t know how Graupel got Gale to agree to go.  The Twilight hadn’t been publicly seen in decades.   Now Gale’s shard and the dangerous knowledge it contains are safely locked away.”

You couldn’t resist such an opening.  “Out of all the gods you would know best.”  You needed to lead the conversation back to the Primordial War, when Gale designed the Gleaming Cages for God of Exaltation.

The Owl’s eyes narrowed and his feathers ruffled.   “Unlike what certain other deities may think, the Solar Shards are not in my domain.   I did not steal anything from Lytek.   “

“You are not a thief. “ you quickly concurred.  While most of the Gold Faction gods quickly figured out that the Keeper of Locks’ domain did not hold the Solar Shards, Lytek still badgered the Owl about it.   “Have you eaten yet?”

“Have I been elevated from Lunch to Dinner now?”  the Owl asked.

You laughed.  “I didn’t realize the evening meal had higher status than the midday one.  The Ramen shop has a new flavor I wanted to try.   While I was there, I could pick you up some dinner too.”

“Ah.  I see.”  Was that disappointment in the old Owl’s eyes?

“Svante?”

“What?”   You pull yourself back into the present.   The Scroll of the Gleaming Cage.   What was in that scroll that Trailing Sorrows and the Bureau Mole wanted?

“What do you remember, boy?”  The Bureau Mole asks.

What do you do?

  • Tell the God that Ayesha Ura had the scroll last and call off Masaru’s plan.   Then he can go back to the rest of Trailing Sorrows’ associates and harass Ayesha instead of you.
  • Tell him nothing.   He is no better than Trailing Sorrows.   He’s a murder and a bully.
  • Lie.  Tell him that Rikali threw the scroll into the sea or that Haythem has the scroll.   Send the Bureau Mole on a wild goose chase, should he escape Masaru’s plan.
  • Other.

((OOC:  I was truly divided on whether Svante should get poisoned too.   It made sense from the Bureau Mole’s point of view, since Svante was just standing there at the window.   It seems to limit your options and I hate doing that.  😉  ))

51 – Time

Before you leave from the window, you attempt to steal the god’s name. As you reach out and grab it, the name slips through your grasp. How does the god do that? You back away from the window and slide down the chest of drawers. As you do, you feel something fly past and out the window. What was that? You feel dizzy, but otherwise unimpaired. What did the Bureau Mole drug you and Ika with?

Masaru kneels at your side. “Are you okay?”

“Yes.” You crawl over to Ika and check her pulse. She is still alive.

“What do you want with us?” Masaru asks to the god.

The god is silent for a moment and then replies, “I have no business with you, Dragon Child. Let me talk to the boy.”

Masaru whispers. “We need to by some time.”

“We?” You listen carefully and hear the sound of footsteps walking outside of the door. “Wait? What are you doing?”

“Don’t worry. We got this, Svante.” Masaru yells out of the window. “How can we be certain that your antidote is real?”

The god ignore Masaru’s question. “This is a limited time offer. If you don’t wish to talk to me, boy. I’ll leave. ”

“What a dick. Svante, you need to talk to him. He won’t listen to me.”

What do you do?

  • Talk to the god to buy time for Masaru’s plan
  • Talk Masaru out of his plan, so your dragon blooded friends won’t get more involved
  • Could the something that flew out of the window be… Haythem? Wait and see what happens.
  • Other

((OOC: Short and sweet because I’m not feeling well. I missed a post last week and didn’t want to miss one this week.))

((And no, we aren’t doing the “Celestial Gods think Dragonbloods are the scum of the earth. This god is just a dick. ))

50 – Window

“Masaru!”  you hiss, trying to catch his attention without warning the figure at the window.

“I heard.”  He whispers back.    Now you are certain he is awake, you slide out of bed and drop out of fate.   The dark figure opens the window and climbs in.   The figure heads towards your side of the room.  You watch it pause when it sees that one of the beds is empty.   When the figure hesitates, Masaru springs from the bed and tackles the figure.   There is a brief struggle as Masaru wrestles the figure to the floor.  You turn on the light.

“It’s the drug dealer.”  Masaru announces.   You see that it is indeed Ika pinned to the floor.

“Ika?”  You are surprised to see the god blood.  “How did you get out jail?”

“My father is the god of locks.  No cell can hold me long.”

“What are you doing in our dorm?” Masaru asks.

“I was dropping off the money I owed Svante.”   She wiggles her left leg.  “The pouch is in my left pocket”

“Did you have to break through the window to drop off some jade?” You wonder why she had to pay her back right now.  Couldn’t it have waited until you got back to Yu-Shan?

“Considering I just escaped from Jail?  Yes.”   Ika retorts.  “It’s not like I can walk in through the front door of the school dorms.”  She tests Masaru’s hold on her.  “Can you let me up?  I promise I’ll be good.”

Masaru looks to you.   You rub the bridge of your nose and sigh.  “Let her go.”   Masaru releases Ika and sits back down on his bed.

Ika pulls out a pouch of money from her pocket and throws it at you.  You catch it from the air and open it.  The pouch is filled with Jade coins in large denominations.  It would have to be to cover a debt of Yu-Shan Currency.

“Where did you get this much money?  I thought you were broke.”

“Do you really want to know, kid?”

Probably not.   You put the money into your bag, next to the wrapped knife and hair.  When you see the package, you cringe.   Instead of dropping it off with Haytham, you fell asleep.  You close the flap of the bag.

Ika, after watching you take the money, wasn’t making to leave.  “So…” you begin.  “Thanks for paying me back.   I guess you can go now.  Bye?”

Ika nervously scratches the back of her head.  “I was hoping that I could crash here for a bit.”

“There is this place where people pay money and they give you a room with a bed.  It’s called an Inn.” You explain in a mocking tone.

“And people who have broken out of jail can’t just walk into an inn and rent a room.”   Ika retorts in the same tone.

“Umm…”  Masaru interrupts.  “We can’t have girls sleep in our room.”

“It’s a good thing I’m a woman, not a little girl.”   Ika steals a pillow and the blanket off of your bed and makes herself a nest in the corner.   “You won’t even know I’m here.  I’ll be gone in a few hours.”  She curls up around the pillow and closes her eyes.

“She isn’t going to leave, is she?”  Masaru asks.

“Doesn’t look like it.”

“Can we throw her out?”

“I can hear you.”  Ika says.  “The room isn’t that big.”

Masaru sighs and head back to bed.   “Do you want my blanket?”

“I’m good.”  It’s your fault that Ika is in his room.  You don’t want to take his blanket on top of that.

“Okay…”   he lays back down.   You lie on the bed and wonder how you are going to get back to sleep now.  You probably could sneak out, but that would leave Masaru alone with Ika.  And there is no telling where Haythem is now.

Just as you are about to drift off to sleep again, Ika says loudly.  “Mother fucker.”  She throws off the blanket and begins to walk around the room, waving her arms around.

“What the fuck is it now?!”  you yell at her.

“He’s here.  I know when someone is walking outside of fate.   I can always tell.”   Ika picks up the pillow to defend herself from invisible intruders.

“Are you fucking high?”  Masaru yells.  “Get the fuck out of our room!”

“He’s here.”  She throws the pillow at one corner and knocks over Masaru’s armor.   You look around the room.   Maybe Haythem is here.   How would you know?

“No. One. Is. Here.”   Masaru states.  “Get out of our dorm!”   Ika ignores him and retrieves the pillow.  Masaru gets off of his bed to tackle Ika again.

“Wait.”  You hold out a hand to stop Masaru.  “Maybe Haythem is here.”

“Who?”  Masaru sits back down, looking confused.

“The bum.”  You explain.  “He can walk outside of fate like I can.”

“What bum?”

“Never mind.  I’ll explain later.”   You stand up.  “Haythem?   I got a package here with the knife that murdered the Mercenary woman.   Why don’t you take back to Yu-Shan with you?  “  You look at Ika, still batting the pillow around.  “Maybe take Ika with you.”

“Hey!”  She throws the pillow at you.   You catch it and put it back on your bed.

There is an awkward moment where everyone waits for Haythem to appear in the room.   You are not surprised when he doesn’t appear.  Aiko said he had the Dust.   Why would Haythem hang out in some kid’s dorm room, when he could be getting high?

“Yeah.” You say.  “He’s not here.”    You open the window.   “Find somewhere else to sleep.”  You tell Ika.

“But…”

“Haythem had a nice crate near the bar.   Sleep there.”   Ika looks crushed when you say this, as if she couldn’t believe you were doing this to her.  You recognize the look from Rikali’s memories of Ika’s childhood.

“I’m not your mother.”  You remind the god blood.  “Leave.”   Suddenly you are filled with the sense of dread that precedes danger.  You are about to be attacked.    Was Ika about to attack you?

You take a step back away from Ika and towards the window.

“What is it?” Masaru asks.   You are about to open your mouth when feel something hit your neck.  You put your hand to your neck and pull out a small dart covered in blood.  You start to feel woozy.  “Get away from the window!”   Masaru yells.  “We are being attacked! There is someone shooting darts at us outside!”

Another dart flies by and hits Ika.   She manages to get out a “Fuck” before falling unconscious to the floor.

“Boy!”   You turn towards the open window and the movement makes you dizzy.  You cling to the window sill and look up to see a figure outside.   It takes you a moment to recognize the Bureau Mole.  He is crouched by one of the bushes in the courtyard, a bamboo tube at his side.  “The god blood does not have long before she is beyond what the antidote can cure. “  He holds up a small flask of a clear pale yellow liquid.  “Perhaps you should come out of the window and we can talk.”

“Get away from the window, Svante.”  Masaru repeats.

What do you do?

  • Go out and talk to the Bureau Mole. Ika might annoy the shit out of you, but not enough to let her die
  • Go out and attack the Bureau Mole. Unlike Trailing Sorrows, this god is just a clerk.   You can take him.
  • Shut the window. You will not give into a terrorist’s demands.  You got the knife and hair.  It’s only a matter of time before this god is caught.
  • Get back from the window. Perhaps Masaru has a plan.
  • Other

49 – Evidence

After Masaru finishes asking his question, you realize that you should have thought your plan through more thoroughly.   You and your Dragon blooded friends would attract a lot of attention dragging a corpse though the streets of Vanchow.  Knowing the way your luck was going tonight, you’d run into the magistrates who questioned your friends.   You probably won’t be able to whisper your way out of jail if that happened.

You kneel down next to the canvas covered corpse and carefully unwrap the woman.   Her eye stare sightlessly though her sodden hair.   Unable to bear her gaze of the dead woman, you gently close her eyes.   Unfolding your headband, you pick up the knife and wrap the blade in the cloth without touching it.

“Anyone have a knife?” you whisper.  Wordlessly Masaru hands you his blade.   With it, you slice off a sopping wet strand of her hair and tie it into a knot.  You wrap the knife and the lock in the cloth and hand Masaru back his blade.

Chiyoko kneels by you.  “You saw her die?”

You nod and with Chiyoko’s help, begin to roll up the woman’s body back in the canvas tarp.  Once you are done, you are unsure what to do with the body.  You can’t just leave her there and you did not want to dump her back into the harbor.

Chiyoko motions to Aiko and Masaru and each of them take a corner of the canvas tarp.   You quickly stand up and also grab a corner.  Together, you carry the body to the harbor master’s office.   “Someone will find her tomorrow and give her a proper burial,” Chiyoko assures you.

Relieved that you are finished with the woman’s body, you ask Aiko, “Where is the coin now?”

“It’s still in the same building.”  Aiko tells you.  “We going to go there now?”

“No.”  You didn’t know anything about the intentions of the spirit watching you.   You will go drop off the package to Haythem after your friends were safely behind the school wards and asleep.   “I’m going to bed.”  You announce and start to head in the direction of the school.

 

The Dragonblooded school was lot more active than you would have thought it would be past curfew.   The older students were sitting outside on the steps of the dorm, quietly speaking to each other.  They shuffled over to give you room to enter the dorms.  The stench of tobacco and marijuana float out the upper floors of the dorm.   “What’s going on?” you ask.

“Oh, it’s always like this the night before a rest day.  At least it has been since the headmaster was outed as Anathema.”   Aiko explains.   The four of you stop in front of Masaru’s dorm.   Before she and Aiko head off towards their dorm, Chiyoko kisses you goodnight.

“Hey!  Lung!  That isn’t your fiancé you are kissing!” one of the older students by the door razzes her.

Aiko comes to her cousin’s defense. “Shut the fuck up!  You are just jealous nobody wants to kiss you.”   The older students snicker and go back to their conversation.

Chiyoko blushes at the other student’s comments.  She reluctantly takes a step towards Masaru.   Masaru quickly retreats and says, “I’m not up to keeping up appearances tonight.”  Chiyoko nods and seems relieved by Masaru’s rejection.  She follows Aiko back to their dorm.

Masaru unlocks his dorm and throws himself on the bed, not bothering to turn on the lights or change his clothes.   He hides his head under the pillow.

“Masaru?”  you ask, worried.  “Are you going to be okay?”

There is a delay before the Water Aspect’s response.  “Yes.”   It sounded like one of those yeses that actually meant no.   Whenever you give Akachi one of those yeses, he makes you talk it out.   You always feel better afterwards.

“Sometimes it helps…” you begin.

“I don’t want to talk about it.   Just go to sleep, Svante.”   You shut up and crawl under the covers, also not getting undressed.   There seemed to be little point since you were going to be up as soon as Masaru falls asleep.

As you lay there waiting for Masaru to fall asleep, you worry that Masaru will hate you now.   He is the closest thing you have to a best friend and you entangled him in a drug deal, almost got him arrested, and put him in a situation where he had to kill someone.  That doesn’t even include the fact you were making out with his fiancé.  You weren’t a very good friend.  It was definitely a dick move, as Masaru would put it.

You roll over and adjust your pillow.   The bed was rather nice and soft, maybe you’ll give Haythem the package tomorrow.   Was there really a rush? you think as you begin to doze off.     You are jolted awake when you hear the window lock click open.  A dark figure can be seen outside of the window in the predawn light.  You are uncertain how long you have been asleep. The threads of fate did not warn you of any danger, but you can never be too sure.

What do you do?

  • Pretend to be asleep.
  • Wake up Masaru and warn him
  • Move outside of fate and observe what the figure is doing
  • Grab your sword
  • Other

 

48 – Indecision

You shiver in the cold water.   Most Celestial gods hate being in Creation and try to limit their time here, if they have to go at all.  Thus you assumed that the Bureau Mole headed back to Yu-Shan right after dumping the body.   What if he didn’t and he is standing right there watching you and your friends?  Though, if it was the Bureau Mole, wouldn’t he have attacked by now?   Why waste all that effort hiding the body, just to stand by and watch someone recover it?

Perhaps Aiko is right and it is just a curious Terrestrial God.   You wish you could talk on the wind like your Dragon blooded friends.  You could ask Aiko what the god looked like.  Of course instead of playing what if, you could talk to the god yourself.  As a Sidereal, you have many ways to deal with uncooperative gods.

Then you remember watching the mercenary kill herself.   But this time, instead of the mercenary, it is Chiyoko gutting herself.  As the bloody knife falls from her hand, she looks at you and asks “Why?”   You sink deeper, until the water covers your nose.  Startled, you force yourself to relax and push the painful image out of your mind.  If you are wrong, something can happen to Chiyoko.  You cannot allow anything to happen to Chiyoko.

Yet, if you didn’t confront the god and it was Bureau Mole, what would happen?   Will he run and escape justice?  Will he race back to Yu-Shan with some lie about you?   Your mind races with one terrible possibility after another, but one thing was clear.  This is your problem.  You will not drag your friends any further into this situation.  It was you the Bureau Mole wanted.   If this god was the Bureau Mole, then there was a good chance that it would follow you.  After your friends are safely back in their dorms, behind the school wards, you can confront the god on your own.

You watch Masaru’s anima underwater, willing him to hurry.   Suddenly, the body floats up to the surface.   You swim over to the body and drag it to the dock.  Aiko leans over to help haul the body out of the water.  Chiyoko is standing watch, hand on her sword.   If the god was going to attack now would be the ideal time.  You concentrate on the thread of fate and find none of the vibrations that proceed impending battle.

Masaru surfaces.  He sticks his tongue out, trying to get the bad taste out of his mouth.

“That bad?” you ask.

“Yes.”

“I owe you one, Masaru.”  You are grateful for Masaru’s help.  It would have taken you a long time to work the crate open having to come up for air.

“Don’t worry about it.”   He replies listlessly.  Without another word, Masaru swims over to the dock.  You hope that you haven’t pushed Masaru too far.   You follow the water aspect and climb back onto the dock.   You walk over to your piles of clothes and start to get dressed  .

“Where is the coin?” you ask Aiko, as you pull your shirt over your head.
“It’s a couple of blocks away.   Your friend is no longer in the same room with it.”

“Hey,” Masaru interrupts.  “What are we going to do with this thing?”  He points at the body.  “We can’t bring it back to the dorm.”

What are you going to do with the body?

  • Convince Masaru to bring the body back to the dorm
  • Bring body back to Yu-Shan
  • Bring body to where the coin (and hopefully Haythem) is
  • Hide body at the dock and just take the knife with you.
  • Other

((  I asked the virtue question because in my mind Svante has both a high Compassion and Valor.  This is probably the first time this has come into conflict.   Of course after I asked it, I found a solution that would be a happy medium between Svante’s Compassion and Valor.  ))

47 – Bilge

You decide that you can’t leave Ika here to take the fall for the situation at the bar.  With the mercenary’s body rotting in the harbor, you do not have time to waste.  The medic walks away from Ika, leaving her alone for a moment.   As you approach the god blood, she stiffens, sensing your presence.   You whisper in her ear “I can’t get them to let you go, but I can take your name so you won’t get a record for this.  I’ll come….”

“No!” Ika hisses.  She looks around to see if anyone heard her.   In a lower tone of voice, she says “I don’t need any more Sidereal ‘help’.   Leave me alone.”

You observe the feathered-haired woman in her ill-fitting Yu-Shan clothes.   Though she looks like she is in her late teens, you realize that she is older than Wanahton.   God bloods live longer and age slower than mortals.   You have been letting Rikali’s emotions color your perceptions of Ika.

“Are you sure?” you ask.

“Just go.” Ika says wearily.  “I can take care of myself, kid.”

You start to walk away to follow your friends.   When you look back, you see Ika hold her face in her hands.   You reluctantly turn away to follow your Dragon blooded friends as they are led away from the crowds by a young man.

After walking a few blocks away from the crime scene, Chiyoko exclaims “Oh!  I know where I am at now.  Thank you, Officer!”  Chiyoko beams at the young officer.   The man returns the smile, slightly besotted by the young Dragon blooded girl.  He turns and walks back to the bar.

You pull your headband from your pocket and tie it around your forehead.   After adjusting the headband to cover your glittering caste mark, you walk back into fate.

Chiyoko smiles with relief when she sees you walk up.   “Where have you been?  You’ve been gone for a long time.” she asks.

“The harbor.  Masaru, I going to need your help.”   You say to Masaru.   He doesn’t respond.   “Masaru?  What happened?”

Aiko says, “A lot of things happened while you were gone.  The bar burned down.  We almost got arrested.  Your bum friend took the cocaine and the other mercenary and ran.   ”

“He’s not really my friend.”

“Oh?  Just like the drug dealer wasn’t really your friend either?“  Aiko raises her voice.

“Instead of yelling at me, why don’t you tell me what happened?” you yell back.

“I killed that man.”  Masaru answers, as his anima fades.   “I didn’t mean to.   When I saw him stab that woman, I just reacted.   I punched him in the face. “  Masaru rubs his fist.  “ I felt his…”  He closes his eyes.  “I never killed anyone before.”

You don’t know how to respond when Masaru says this.  “I’m sorry.”   You say.  You don’t know what else to say.

“It’s not your fault.”  Masaru says quietly.

“No, it is his fault.”   Aiko crosses her arms.  “We wouldn’t be involved if it wasn’t for him.  What are we going to do when the magistrate’s office files their report tomorrow?”

“Aiko, stop!  Svante didn’t even know the drugs were in his bag.”  Chiyoko says.

Aiko turns away and starts to pace.   “But Chiyoko, this is about more than drugs.  The bum was another Sidereal.   The drug dealer…  I think her mother was one, too.  “

“Aiko, stop trying to blame this whole mess on Svante.   If your blood ape wasn’t there, then maybe the patrons wouldn’t have freaked out and burned the bar down.   “

“What? You are trying to blame this on me now, Chiyoko?”

“No.   I want you to understand that no one was making good choices in the bar tonight.   All this finger pointing is pointless.  ”  Chiyoko clasps your hand and intertwines her fingers with yours and holds out her other hand to Aiko.  Aiko glares at you, but takes her cousin’s hand.   Masaru walks over and joins the three of you.    “We are a circle.   We don’t argue whose fault it was.   When something goes wrong, we are all at fault.   We stand together or we will fall.   “

You feel guilty, holding hands in the circle with your dragon blooded friends.   Chuzei Enki was right to name you “Cuckoo.”  Even outside of a Resplendent Destiny, you were still a Sidereal hiding in this nest of Dragons.   You look up to find Aiko staring at you from the other side of the circle.   She knows that this is your fault.  She knows that this night isn’t over.   You look at Masaru and remember him telling you about trust back when you were still Cnead Svante.

“Aiko is right.  It’s my fault you have been dragged into this situation. “  Aiko eyes widen in shock when you say this.   “The bum back in the bar was a Sidereal.“   You feel less guilty admitting that, so you continue.  “I don’t know what exactly is going on.   I know some things.”    You explain that Haythem is investigating your kidnapping a few months ago.

You study your friend’s reaction to your words.   Aiko is pacified by the fact you said she was right.   Masaru looks like he just barely keeping it together.   When your eyes met Chiyoko’s, she gives you a tired smile.  She squeezes your hand and asks “What can we do to help?”

If you were a real friend, you would tell them to go back to the dorm, but you have to find the Bureau Mole.   “I was hoping Masaru can help me with something….”

 

Masaru looks down at the water dubiously.   “The water in Vanchow is disgusting.  My father says that the Harbormaster fine ships when empty their bilge into the harbor.”

“You can still breathe it, right?” you ask.

“You can still breathe the air at the dump, right?” Masaru retorts.

“If you don’t want to…”  You begin.

“No,”  Masaru interrupts.  “I said I’d do it.”   He grabs the crowbar from you.   “Someone is going to need to catch the body.  I can’t touch it with my Anima up.”

You sigh and unbuckle your sword and hand it to Chiyoko.  You strip off your clothes and kick the pile away from the edge of the dock, so they won’t get wet when you come out of the water.  After a moment of indecision, you pull your headband off and throw it to the pile.  Your caste sign should fade soon and you could always hide in the water if someone comes by before then.

You dive into the murky water.  The water is shockingly cold compared to the warm humid air.   You surface and slick your hair back.   The three dragon bloods are staring down at you in shock.   Must be the caste sign.  Did they not remember that you had one?  Stupid Arcane fate. You hoped that you wouldn’t have to have a conversation about Sidereals not being Anathema.

“Are you coming?” you ask Masaru.  Masaru bashfully starts to strip off his own clothes and jumps in after you.  He ignites his anima and dives down into the harbor.   You wait at the surface and watch the glow of Masaru’s anima as he makes his way towards the crate.  You hear giggling.  Looking up, you see Chiyoko and Aiko whispering.  When they notice you watching, the two girls fall silent.

“Is there something wrong?” you ask.

“No.”  Chiyoko looks down and blushes.

Aiko smirks and starts to walk along the long edge of the dock.   When she looks down at the water, Aiko takes a sharp intake of breath.   She recovers quickly and continues to walk along the dock.

“There is an immaterial spirit on the dock with us, watching.”  Aiko’s voice whisper in your ear.   “He doesn’t know I have seen him yet.”

Chiyoko, upon hearing Aiko’s message, casually sets your sword on the edge of the dock, where you can reach it.   She starts to sort through you and Masaru’s clothes as an excuse for setting it down.   “Where is he standing?”  she asks Aiko soundlessly.

“He’s standing on the dock, not far from Svante.  He doesn’t seem to be threatening, just watching.  Maybe he is a curious water god?”

What do you do?

  • Attack the Spirit. It has to be the Bureau Mole.
  • Try to talk to the Spirit. Maybe it will Materialize if you ask
  • Ignore the spirit. Recover the body and head back to the dorm.
  • Other

Short – The Violet Eyes of the Goddess

((Got inspired and wrote this short scene. I was inspired by the myth of Demeter nursing a mortal child. ))

((This is unrelated to Hero. ))

The Violet Eyes of the Goddess

As the young mother fought her way back to her traveling tent through the waist high snows, ten thousand imaginings of death and dismemberment passed through her mind. She desperately hoped that her newborn daughter will still be there when she returned. Though the young mother should have still been in confinement after childbirth, the lack of food drove her out. It would have been impossible to bring a wailing infant out into this cold, much less on a successful hunt. Thus the young mother had no choice but to leave her daughter behind.

Yet when the young mother arrived at the tent, instead of torn canvas and a bloody cot, she found a freshly fed fire and a strange pale haired woman with violet eyes nursing her child. The strange woman looked up and welcomed young mother with a chilly smile. The young mother shivered as if someone walked over the grave. Deep within her heart, the young mother knew that this woman, this goddess, could end the lives of her and her daughter with a single thought.

The young mother dropped her doe and went for her belt knife. Even though it was futile, the young mother will not meet death without a fight. She had given up too much to see this child live, just to lose it all to a violet eyed goddess without a care for a mortal’s fleeting existence. As long as the young mother had breath in her body, this goddess will not take her daughter.

“Never fear, child. I am not here to claim you daughter’s life.” The goddess assured the young mother. The violet eyed goddess broke the child’s latch  her nipple and tucked her breast back into her robes. “Not yet.” The goddess added cryptically, as she rose to her feet and laid the child back in her cot. The young mother slowly approached, hand still on knife, to check on her daughter. Looking down into the cot, the young mother saw that her daughter was unharmed. A trail of milk dribbled down the child’s cheek as she yawned.

The goddess smiled and with her thumb gently wiped the cheek clean. The child stirred in her cot and opened her eyes to stare at the goddess. “Such lovely dark eyes. When the time comes, I shall keep them replace them with my own.” Without another word, the goddess gathered up her shirts and walked out of the traveling tent into the deep snows. Her footsteps, as ethereal as starlight, barely broke the hoarfrost. The young mother watched the goddess climb the snow bank and step into the night sky.

Years later, the mother told her daughter the story of when the Maiden of Endings nursed her. The daughter laughed at the time and thought her mother mad. Until the day when the daughter looked into the mirror and saw not her own familiar brown eyes, but the violet eyes of the goddess.