64 – The Fox

At first, you try to pretend that this fox was a normal fox.   “Shhh… Mei Mei, be quiet.” You tell the barking puppy.  “It’s just a fox.”  Just a fox. Not an insane man eating Anathema at all.
You pick up your struggling puppy and briskly hike towards the village.   As you walk, the feeling of impending violence does not recede.   Mei Mei struggles against you and growls at the fox over your shoulder.   Why would the Lunar risk exposing themselves by attacking a native boy?   Unless the Lunar overheard you speaking to the goddess in Spiritspeech.   It knows that you are a threat to it!

You put the puppy down and entangle your fingers into her fur, so she will not run after the Lunar.  Pulling your knife from your boot, you look over and see the fox stalking you from the Mangrove bushes. The fox is now so close, you can see that her left paw is stark white compared to her right one.    The Lunar snares at you when it realizes that it has been spotted.  Knife in hand, you confront the fox and say in a low threatening tone “I’m not scared of you.”   Your voice cracks on “scared.”

Your cheeks burn and you silently curse your voice for choosing the moment you need to intimidate a dangerous Anathema to start to crack.   Heart pounding, you grip your knife in your sweating hand and await the Lunar’s attack.

The attack never comes.  The threads of fate calm.   The fox’s expression softens and it looks away from you and the puppy.   To your utter confusion, the fox retreats back into the Mangroves.   The Lunar had you.   Why didn’t it attack?  While the fox was not much bigger than Mei Mei, the Lunar must have more terrifying animal forms at its disposal.   Perhaps the Storm Mother lied and this Lunar was not connected to the kidnappings.

“Wait!” you ask, annoyed that your voice cracked yet again.   You try to put the fact that this is a Moon-Mad Anathema out of your mind.  You have to exploit any source of information, even from a suspect source such as a Lunar.   “What do you know about the kidnappings?”   you ask, voice thankfully steady.

The Lunar pauses in its retreat and then slowly walks back to sit down before you.  You and the Lunar stare at each other for what feels like an entirety.   This has to be the stupidest thing I have ever done, you think.  Suddenly, instead of a small desert fox, a large naked woman appears before you.   The Lunar is crouched before you, her elbows resting on her thighs.  One of her dangling hands is crisscrossed with white scars in contrast to her dark skin.   When she opens her eyes to stare at you, you are surprised to find they are dark brown.  You would have assumed that they would be silver like moonlight.   You could not remember what color the Tiger’s eyes were.

“What is your interest in the kidnappings, little egg?”   The Lunar’s voice is raspy from disuse.

“I need to find out where the children from the other islands went.”  You tighten your grip on Mei Mei, who is shaking with fear.   You hold your knife steady in your other hand, careful not to show any fear.

The Lunar cocks her head, studying you.   “The Fair Folk come to collect the children in a barge.  I smuggle away on the barge last time but the Fair Folk knocked me off.   Afterwards I tried to follow it, but the barge moved faster than I could swim.“

This surprises you.  “Can’t you turn into a dolphin or something to follow them?”

The Lunar growls at your comment.  “What do you know about the kidnappings, little egg?   What information can you give me in exchange for what I gave you?”

What do you do?

  • Explain your theory that those who have been though coming of age rituals might not be taken
  • Confront her about her dispute with the Storm Mother.  People are starving and it is her fault.
  • So… What’s it like being a heart eating monster?
  • Say nothing.   This conversation has gone on long enough.
  • What other questions would you like to ask?

(( Hey, how have the decision options been this chapter?  ))

63 – Spiders

Spider hunting consisted of searching the palms down by storms for spider burrows.   Then with a long palm leaf and you tease the spider out of borrow.  At least that is how it is supposed to work.  Even though Raharjo showed you the technique, you couldn’t lure any of the spiders out of their burrows.

“You got to be gentle.  Make it seem like it is the leaf is a tasty insect.  Watch.”   Raharjo pokes his leaf into the spider den.   He twitches his leaf, occasionally pauses.  Suddenly a hairy tarantula the size of your hand darts out of the den.   Splat!   Raharjo stuns the spider with a large flat rock.   Before he could pick it up, Mei Mei steals the spider and runs away with it.

“Hey!”   You yell at Mei Mei.  “Drop it!”  Miraculously, the puppy listens and drops the spider on the sand.  Raharjo retrieves the  mangled spider and brushes the sand off of it and put it in his bag.

“Raharjo!  Come on!  I’m hungry!”  Tri beckons you and Raharjo over to the fire.

“I haven’t caught any spiders yet.”  You say, as you head towards the fire.

“Don’t worry, Tri and I will share with you.”   Raharjo impales a spider on a stick and hands it to you.  “Be sure to burn all the hairs off.  They’ll sting your lips. “

“They will start whistling when they get close to done.”   Tri helpfully adds.   You hold the spider over the fire and wait for it to cook.  Listening to Rajarjo, Tri, and the other kids talk, you realize you had nothing to add to the conversation.   You sit there awkwardly as they talked about fishing, some relative, and whale hunting.  No mention of the kidnappings.

You stare at the fire and consider your next steps.  You’ll need to talk to the goddess to see where the whales were.   Perhaps the lack of food had something to do with the kidnappings.   Wear the kids down so they put up less of a fight when they were taken.

“Svante!”   you look up when Tri calls your name.  “You are going to let your spider burn!”

“Oh!”  Lost in your thoughts, you didn’t not notice the spider had starting sizzling.  You lift your dinner away from the fire and pull the hot spider off of the stick.   After inspecting it for any hairs, you pull off a leg and pop it into your mouth.   The tarantula is crispy on the outside giving it a nice crunch.  Not bad.  Tastes like crab, though it could use some pepper.  You eat the rest of the spider and tell yourself to remember to give Rajarjo and Tri some food in exchange.

“What do you sacrifice to the goddess?” you ask after eating a few more spiders.  You gave Mei Mei the spider she mangled after you cooked it for her.

“Fresh Fruit.  Sugar Cane, if we don’t have rum.”   Tri licks her fingers after finishing off her last spider.  “What are you going to ask Batari for?’

“Not to be kidnapped.”

There is an awkward silence around the fire.   “What have you heard on the other islands, Svante? Who do you think is doing the kidnapping?”  Tri asks.

“I don’t know.”  The others around the fire look downtrodden, so you say “I saw a naval ship while we were sailing in, so maybe the Shogun is investigating.”

“If the Dragons are here, then it means it’s an Anathema.” One kids speculates.

“Nah.  I heard that it was the Lintha.  Taking slaves.  The younger the better.”  Tri interjects.

“Well, I’m not going to let any demon steal my out of my bed.  “   Rajarjo tightens his grip on his spear.  “Next time there is a whale, I’m going with the hunters.   If we kill it, then I’ll be a man. “

“They don’t take you if you’ve been though a coming of age ritual?’  you ask.

Raharjo shrugs.   “It’s better than waiting around to be stolen.”

Later that night, you and Mei Mei head towards the shrine with fresh fruit and rum.   Wanahton was not there when you got back to the hut.  As you walk through the village, you could hear his voice a few huts over talking to a group of adults.    You enter the shrine and set the fruit and rum down in the offering bowl.    Kneeling down in front of the bowl, you say “Batari, goddess of the Cobalt Atoll.  Hear my plea.   I wish to request an audience with you.”   You wait for the goddess to appear.   Nothing.  Mei Mei sniffs the offering bowl and goes and lays down in the corner.

You sigh and scratch your head.   The goddess most likely does not appear to her followers except for festivals.   She only talked to you and Wanahton to make sure that you did not mean the island harm.  The kidnapping must make her more cautious of visitors.  As a Sidereal, you had ways to make the goddess listen to you, but you didn’t want to break your cover to a goddess you didn’t know.   You consider singing and dancing but that might scare the goddess away.

Perhaps you didn’t need to reveal yourself as an Exalt, but instead show her that you were something more than mortal.   You look around the shrine and find some charcoal.  You draw ritual marking on the floor of the shrine, beseeching the goddess for an audience.  Then you sit cross legged in the middle of the markings.   You repeat your prayer, this time in Spirit Speech.  “Batari, goddess of the Cobalt Atoll.  Hear my plea.   I wish to request an audience with you.”

“Ah.  I was right about you.  There is more to you than what meets the eye.”  The cobalt scaled goddess appears sitting cross legged in front of you, her webbed fingers spread wide on her knees.  She is no longer wearing her long brightly colored dress, dressed only in moonlight.   “What are you child?   Did your mother steal away the seed of the Dragons?  Or the heart of a lonely god?”

“I’m someone who can help.”  You say after a beat.   You give the goddess no more information than that.

After studying you with her flat black eyes, the goddess nods and says “Fine.  Keep your secrets, child.”   She raises her arms and stretches.  “What do you wish of the goddess of the Cobalt Atoll?” the goddess asks casually.

“Your worshipers are running low on food.  There nets are empty of fish and say that you have not sent them a whale.   What have they done to deserve your wrath?”

The goddess closes her eyes and says “It is not by my will that my people suffer.   I have unknowingly offered aid to one that has offended Mosikhun, the Storm Mother of this area.   Even though the southern woman has moved on, Mosikhun has seen fit to continue to let my people suffer.”   The goddess looks down.   “She wants a sacrifice.   There is a newborn child on the island and Mosikhun wants her.”

You shudder, not wanting to imagine what that hag would do to a baby.  “What can you tell me about this Southern Woman?”  Perhaps she is connected to the kidnappings.

“Uma washed up on short last week.   She was asking questions about the kidnappings, but we didn’t know much more than what other boats have brought.  She stayed with us and promised to protect us from the kidnappers.   Then Mosikhun showed up.  They had a… disagreement and Uma left the island.  You said that you can help.  What aid can you offer us?”

“Ummm….”  You weren’t really expecting the Storm Mother to be involved.   The last thing you wanted was to entangle with the hag.  “Let me talk to my father and we can see what we can do. “

The goddess quickly schools her disappointment and says, “I think you for your offerings child.”  She starts to fade away, you hear her say “Be sure to clean up the floor before you leave.”

You grab the broom and start to sweep the floor of your markings.  Fortunately, they easily come off, so you won’t have to scrub the floors of the shrine.   What could you do to help the village?  Maybe Captain Shen has some ideas.  He has experience with the Storm Mother.  Or Wanahton knows ways to attract whales to the island.  You replace the broom and call to Mei Mei.

“Come on, Mei Mei.  Let’s go.”  Mei Mei follows you out of the shrine.   As you walk towards the village, you feel a sense of danger.   You look around and see a large eared fox staring at you from a grove of palmettos.  Mei Mei starts to bark at the fox when she notices her.

The Southern Woman.  The Desert Fox.   You realize that you are standing face to face with an Anathema.

What do you do?

  • Walk back to the village and pretend it’s a normal fox.
  • Throw a rock at the fox to scare it off.  It may be just a normal fox.
  • Head back to the shrine and ask the goddess more questions.
  • Talk to the fox.  Ask it questions.
  • Attack the fox.
  • Other

62 – Cobalt Atoll

“Wanahton and I can don our Resplendent Destinies and take the boat to the Island to find out more information.    Sasha, you stay on the Valiant Hummingbird with Captain Shen and patrol the waters around the Cobalt Atoll.  If you see the barge, then intercept it.”

Sasha nods, “We don’t know how long it will take for the barge to show up.  We need to set up a daily contact.  Just in case someone happens to you on the island.  ”

You consider this.  “I can use my cloak to fly out to you every couple of days.”

Captain Shen closes his eyes and whistles.   The whistle echoes strangely in the cabin.  With a flutter of wings, a small cherub appears in the room.   “I can send a messenger each day at sunset to check in on you.”

That afternoon, you watch as the crew prepare to lower Wanahton’s boat into the water.

“Are you sure it won’t raise any questions?  ”  Wanahton asks Sasha.

“It will be fine.  “ Sasha repeats, rubbing the bridge of her nose.

“Svante looks nothing like me.  There is no way he is my son.  People will notice and ask questions.”

Sasha shrugs, “The Resplendent Destiny quiets most questions.  People will notice, but they will simply assume that he takes after his mother.  Or that he is adopted.  Or that you were cockled.   They won’t draw attention to any inconsistences as long as you don’t bring them up.  “

“Even the fact that we showed up in a boat looking like that?”   you point out.   Wanahton’s sailboat looks too small to survive a trip over open ocean.  You think back to the time when you were Cnead Svante and Aiko badgered you with questions.    You hope the island didn’t have any pesky redheaded Earth Aspects on it.

“People travel the ocean in boats like this all the time.  ”   Wanahton assures you.

“Most of them don’t make it to their destination.”  Captain Shen interjects.

“Mortals are capable of a lot more than you give them credit for, Captain.” Wanahton begins to toss supplies onto the boat.  “No one would go on these journeys unless they were sure of success.”

The captain grunts at this.  “This current will take you past the Cobolt Atoll.”   The dark blue water of the current stands out against the rest of the sea.  “With these winds, you should be there by first light tomorrow.”

Wanahton helps you and Mei Mei into the sail boat.  You wave at Sasha as the boat is lowered into the water.   Once you are far enough away, Wanahton raises the sail and you start to slowly drift away from the Valiant Hummingbird.  You sigh in frustration and sit down in the boat.

“What’s wrong?”

“Everything is taking a long time.”

“Patience.  It will take as long as it will take.”

You have some time to kill, so you ask, “Shen said that you were hunted by the Wyld Hunt.”


“Captured?”   You were surprised.   “Why didn’t they kill you?”

“Tanith Losa, the leader of the hunt, wanted to, but Shen talked his captain into bringing me back to the Blessed Isle instead.   When we arrived at the Isle, Elder Akachi was there waiting for me.   Losa didn’t want to give me up and made a bit of a fuss. “   You have a feeling that Wanahton was understating how much of a fuss this Tanith Losa caused.   “But Elder Akachi is a smooth talking bastard and talked him out of killing me.”

“Why did the Wyld Hunt take you?  You don’t have an Anathema Caste Mark.”

“Tanith Losa considers anyone with an caste mark Anathema. ”

“But that is crazy!  The Immaculate Texts say…”

“For some, it doesn’t matter what the Immaculate Texts say.   They believe that the texts don’t go far enough.  Fortunately, Dragon bloods like Tanith Losa are few. “  Wanahton motions you over.  “Come help me with the boat.  It will make time pass faster.”

The Cobalt Atoll is a ring shaped island with a shallow lagoon.  In the predawn light, you see a brightly dressed woman wave at you from the shore.  Mei Mei jumps out of the boat and starts to swim to where she is standing.   “Mei Mei!”  you yell.

“Someone is in a hurry to get on dry land.”   You and Wanahton jump out of the boat and drag it to shore.   A bit unsteady on your feet after a week on a ship, you slowly walk over to the woman.  Mei Mei, looking more like a drowned rat than a fluffy puppy, is enthusiastically licking the woman’s face.

“Are you the welcoming committee?”  Wanahton asks as he plods down on the sandy shore.

“Ha!  I’m just the most eager to see a new face.  We don’t get many visitors here.  My name is Batari.”   She sets the puppy down.  “Come.   You must be tired after your travels.  “   The woman heads towards a small settlement.   As you and Wanahton walk past the huts, you notice that there were not that many of them.   “Where is everyone?”

“The men already out fishing.  Most everyone else is still asleep.”   Batari leads you to one of the larger huts in the village.  “This is the shrine for the Island Goddess.”   She pushes aside a brightly colored curtain and gestures for you to take a seat on some cushions.   After settling you with some fresh fruit, Batari asks, “What brings you to Cobalt Atoll?”

“Never been here before.”   Wanahton says, taking a bite out of a Papaya before continuing.   “My son and I have travelled around most of Creation and decided to check out this chain of islands.”

“Interesting.  You have chosen a poor time to visit our atoll.   I don’t know if you have heard but children have gone missing from some of the neighboring islands over the past few weeks. ”
Wanahton sets his fruit aside and says, “I’ve heard about that.   Do you have any idea what is going on?”

“From what I heard, the children go to bed and when the parents wake up, they are gone. “

“Do you have any children?”  Wanahton quickly pick up his fruit before Mei Mei could steal it off of the table.

“In a sense everyone on this island are my children.”

We are in the shrine.  “You are the Goddess of Cobalt Atoll,” you realize.

The goddess’ skin turns from golden brown to scales of a deep iridescent blue and her brown hair turned bright orange.  Her flat black eyes turn to you.  “Your son is perceptive.  You are welcome to stay here, but it may be safer to move on. “

“We will take our chances.”  You offer the rest of your fruit to the puppy who happily takes it to a corner to eat it.

“Ask for Mawar.  She will find you a place to stay.”

“Thank you for your hospitality.”   You and Wanahton bows deeply.  When you look up the goddess is gone.

Mawar is a widow who is related to almost everyone on the island.  She is overjoyed to have company and lets you stay in her hut.  Over the next few days, you and Wanahton get settled in on the island.   Wanahton joins the other men on their fishing trips.   You are forced to go to school with the rest of the kids.

“Why should I go to school?  I know more than the teacher! “  You argue.  This mission had a lot more studying and book work than you ever imagined.

“We are supposed to blend in.  Do you think I enjoy getting up early for fruitless fishing trips? “

“How about you go to school and I go fishing?”  you suggest.

“No.   You go to school and get to know the other children.   Ask them questions.  They might know more than they realize.”

You leave the hut and walk around the village.   Mei Mei follows you and sniffs around.  It doesn’t take too long as the village is very small.  This was one of the most popular islands in the chain?   You glance down the dock on the outer edge of the island ring.   The dock is barely used except for visiting Shogunate Naval ships.  You walk down the dock and stare out at the sea, searching for the Valiant Hummingbird.

Mei Mei barks once and you look up to find one of the boys from school walking up the dock.  In his hand is a handmade spear.  “You looking for a whale?”  he asks.

“No, is there a reason why I should be looking for a whale?”

“A Whale would feed us for at least a month.”  The boy informs you.   He shifts his spear from one hand to the other.

“What, you are going to hunt the Whale?” you ask facetiously.

The boy smiles.  “Maybe.  If the elders decide that I am old enough.”   He hands you his spear.  “I’ve been working on my spear.”

You take the spear and examine it.   It is a long metal pole with a metal hook at the end.  You’ve seen better, but you say “It’s a nice spear.”  You hand the boy back his spear.

“Has your father taught you how to make a spear yet?”

“No,”  When you see the look of pity on the boy’s face,  you quickly amend “We travel around a lot, so there hasn’t been time.”

“I heard you arguing with him in Mawar’s hut.  It must be hard traveling around, not belonging anywhere.  What language were you speaking?”

“Earthtongue.”  You were actually speaking Spiritspeech but hope the boy wouldn’t know the difference.

The boy smiles.  “That is what they speak on the Isle.   How about this:  you teach me Earthtongue and I teach you how to make a spear and hunt whales?”

“Okay.” You agree.   You were curious as to how a mortal managed to hunt a whale.  “What’s your name?”

“Raharjo.  What’s yours?”

“Svante.”   You spend the rest of the afternoon learning about Whale Hunting.   The basic principle involved a fleet of ships and jumping off of the boat to stab the whale.  Raharjo throws a few bamboo hoops into the water and you take turns jumping into the water aiming his spear inside the hoops.  You teach Raharjo a few words in Earthtongue and he repeats them back in a thick unintelligible accent.  Later, you and Raharjo head back to the village to look for dinner.

Raharjo waves down some of the other kids.  “You eating at home tonight, Tri?”

“Nah.”  One of the girls answers.  “Ma has to feed the babies.   I was going to go spider hunting, did you want to come?”

“Spiders?” you ask.   “I thought they went fishing today?”

“No fish, so we are on our own for dinner. “  The girl looks over Raharjo’s spear.  “The goddess didn’t send a whale yet, did she?”

“Nah.  I’d be making a racket if I saw a whale.”

They don’t have enough food to feed everyone!  You realize.

What do you do?

  • Head back to the hut and let the kids fend for themselves.  You have bigger problems to worry about than hungry kids
  • Offer food from you and Wanahton’s store.  You can’t let these kids go hungry if you have food.
  • Eat Spiders with the other kids.  You have never had a spider before.
  • Talk to the Goddess about the Whale.  Why hasn’t see sent one yet?
  • Other

((I’m house ruling that Infallible Messenger can do two way communication.  I’ve seen it down in two different unconnected games.  ))

61 – Bald

You don’t want to break your cover, so you decide to let the Captain deal with the Storm Mother.   You stop beating your drum and concentration the strand of fate around the ship.  If things go badly, you want to be prepared.  Captain Shen asks “What do you want, Mosikhun?”

The Storm Mother twirls a lock of slimy hair around her finger.   “I heard your wife gave birth to a…”

“No.”  The winds around the Air Apsected Captain stills.  “I will not give my daughter to you.”  You feel the threads of fate vibrate in anticipation of potential violence.

Mosikhun backs down and the threads of fate settle.   She inhales deeply and asks, “There is still a dog left on this ship.  I want her.”

“The dog is not mine to give.”

“What do you have that is yours to offer?  Give me the bitch on the bow of your ship. ”  The Storm Mother demands, referring to the redheaded figurehead.

“You ask that every time, but my answer will be no different than Captain Yorid’s.  No.  I have something else I can offer you”  Captain Shen looks at his first mate and suggests, “A kiss.”

“With tongue?”  The storm mother’s long and warty black tar tongue lolls out of her month. You gag and the Storm Mother’s eyes darts towards you before coming back to the Captain.

The Captain pauses for a moment and then amends, “On the cheek.”

The Storm Mother considers the offer.  “I accept on one condition.   Shave the drummer boy’s hair.  Its color offends me.”

“What?!”  you say.

“Done.”  The captain quickly agrees.  Captain Shen watches as Mosikhun lands on the deck.   He reluctantly approaches the hag, who swings her slimy hair aside to expose her grimy cheek.   Captain Shen gives the hag a chaste kiss on the raised cheek and quickly backs away.   You are amazed that Captian Shen didn’t vomit being so close to the old hag.

As Wanahton cuts your hair off, you stand sullenly on the deck staring at the Storm Mother.  The hag stares back at you with a small smile on her face. Wavy chunks of red hair fall to the deck, where one of the officers collects to be burned later.   Wahanton takes a straight razor and shaves your head bald.  Once Wanahton is finished, you rub your bare scalp and return to where the rest of the musicians are standing.

“You have what you wanted, Mosikhun.  What do you know?”

The storm mother nods and says,  “At three bells, the children of the island gather at the docks.  A barge comes to collect children.”

“Where does the barge go?”  The captain asks.

“Out of my territory.  I cannot tell you were it goes after that.  Two of the islands have had children kidnapped so far.”   Mosikhun gets a crafty look in her eye.  “But I can tell you this.  The barge is escorted by one that you have named Anathema.”  The hag rises into the air   “This Desert Fox is a stranger to these waters, but still very dangerous.   Be careful, Shen.  I hate for your infant daughter to grow up an orphan.”   The Storm Mother disappears into the clouds and the clouds drift away leaving a clear night sky.

“Clean up the deck and get back into uniform before letting the men back up.”  The captain tells his first officer.

“Sir?”  One of the other officers offers the captain a flask.  The Captain pours out some rum into his hand and washes his face.  He takes a large gulp and swishes it around and spits off the side of the ship.  “Thank you.”

You gather your clothes and storm off to the cabin you share with Wanahton.  You pour some water into a basin and begin to clean off the occult symbols.   You look in the mirror at your bald head, which stands out stark white compared to the rest of your now tanned skin.

There is a sound at the door.  “Don’t scratch at the door.” You hear Sasha say from the other side.  “Svante?  How did it go with the Storm Mother?”

“One minute.”  You put some pants on and open the door to let Sasha and Mei Mei in.  When Sasha sees your bald head, she laughs.   “It’s not funny!” you protest.

“I’m sorry! “  she apologizes.   “I shouldn’t laugh, but…”

You sit on your bed and bang your head against the wall.   “Ow!”  Which hurts a lot more now that you don’t have hair to cushion your head.   You rub the back of your head.  Mei Mei jumps on your bed and climbs over your legs to sit in your lap.

“What happened?” Sasha finally asks after she calms herself down.

“Captain Shen made a deal with the Storm Mother for Information.   Shaving Svante’s hair was part of the deal. “  Wanahton enters the room and sits across from you.

“Did you find anything out?” Sasha asks.

“A barge comes to collect the children late at night. “

“Why couldn’t they just use the Essence Towers to transmit that they need help?” you ask.

“Most of the Essence Towers are damaged during Storm Season.  They are expensive to replace, so the islanders depend on courtiers to delivers messages and news.”

“There is an Anathema involved called the Desert Fox.   What could an Anathema want with children?”

“I don’t know,” Sasha admits.  “We need more information, but it is a start.”

Later, you lay in bed and listen to Wanahton snore and think about the Storm Mother, the Anathema, Jupiter, and Masaru’s letter.  Unable to sleep, you get up out of bed and quietly slip out of the room.

You can hear some sailors below deck drinking to celebrate having survived a brush with the Storm Mother.  You walk past them and head up the stairs.  The deck is dark and the night air heavy and cool.  As you stroll across the deck in your bare feet, you start to smell a strong pungent herbal odor.   You follow the trail of smoke to find Shen sitting on a crate with a small pipe in his hand.  Just as you decide to not to interrupt the Captain and head back to bed, he says “What’s your name?”


“Your name.   Tell it to me again and we’ll see if I remember it this time.”   Captain Shen sits up and stares at you.   With the dim moonlight washing out his coloring, he reminds you of an older version of Masaru.  The letter sits in the pocket of your pants.  You don’t dare leave it lying around for someone to find.

“My name is Svante.”

“Svante….”  Shen says, almost tasting the word.   He lights his pipe and blows out a large puff of smoke. “What are you doing up so late?”

“I can’t sleep.”  Quickly, before you can change your mind, you pull out Masaru’s letter and hand it to Shen.   The air aspect looks at the envelope as if he had never seen one before.  He grabs it from your hand and heads over to one of the crystal lights overhead.  You fidget as the Captain reads the letter.  Shen looks up from the letter and smiles.  “You know Masaru?”

“He’s my friend.”

Shen folds up the letter and puts it in his pocket.   “I don’t get to see my little brothers as often as I’d like now that they are in school.”

“Wanahton says you have a lot of them.”

“Yes.  Mother has never forgiven Father for not giving her a daughter.  She’s been a lot easier on him since Huan was born.  Now Mother drives my wife crazy back at Meru.”  Shen chuckles as he cleans out the bowl of his pipe and repacks it.   “Enough about that.  Tell me what Masaru has been up to.  You know Noboru, too?  He’s a few years older than Masaru, but goes to the same school.”

You update Shen on how Masaru has been doing at school.   And then you ask, “He told me to give the letter to the Admiral or you.  I was going to give it to the Admiral but…”
“My father can be rather intimidating.   He tries to make people feel at ease, but he is over 200 years old.   Not many dragon bloods live to be that old, especially ones that spend their life fighting Fair Folk in the Western Seas. “

“He doesn’t seem to like Sidereals all that much.”

“He likes Sidereals just fine.   My father has had good experiences and bad experiences with Sidereals.  The problem is that he can’t tell the difference between Sidereals.  So it is hard to know which ones to trust.“

“But you can.”

“I have a very good memory, Svante.”   Shen seems pleased with himself.  “There.  I have your name now.   Let’s see if I can keep it.  I also remember that you were asking about Sorcery Trials.”

You nod.

Shen relights his pipe.  “The Trial of fire…   That is the one that scares everyone, though it wasn’t as bad as I thought.   “

“It wasn’t?  But when I lost Nanny, it was awful.”  You quickly shut up after you realize what you said.

“Lost Nanny?”  Shen repeats, confused.

“I read that some people can go through their trials on their own. “ you explain.  “When I exalted…  Nanny didn’t remember me.”

Shen fiddles with his pipe and avoids looking you in the eye.   “You think that was your trial of fire?  Svante, there is a different between giving something up and having something taken from you.   Nanny was taken from you.  You will have to choose to give something up during your Trial of Fire.”

You are silent as you consider the implications of this.   “I wouldn’t worry.”  Masaru’s brother reassures you.  “The Trial of Fire is always last.  You won’t to have to deal with it for years.”

As the Valiant Hummingbird continues on its journey, you look over your maps and the various books on Fair Folk.  You help Sasha with Seatongue and train Mei Mei, who finally goes on the canvas instead of on the deck.   You practice your katas with your Jade Sword.  Anything to keep your mind off of the Trial of Fire.   This is my Trail of Water, you realize one day as you flow through your Katas.  If the Trial of Fire is the last trial, I won’t have to worry about it until this mission is over.

After you finish your last Kata, you get cleaned up and head to the Captain’s cabin.   For most of the morning, Sasha, Wanahton, and Captain Shen have been going over the maps to figure out where the Barge kidnapping children might be coming from and where it may hit next.

“Cobalt Atoll would be your best bet.   It has a large population, good dock, and is the closest island to the Pole of Water that hasn’t been hit yet.  “  Captain Shen suggests, pointing at the island on the map.

“What do you know about the Cobalt Atoll?”  Sasha asks in rough Seatongue.

“Fishing is the major industry.  Occasionally, they send boats out to take down a whale.  They always welcome a Shogunate Ship to their shores.  They don’t get much excitement this far from the Blessed Isle.  “

“We can land there and start questioning the residents.   Someone has to be collecting the children for the barge.”  Sasha suggests.

Wanahton disagrees, ”Islanders keep to themselves, so they might not tell us anything.   If we show up in a Shogunate Naval Vessel we could scare off the kidnappers.    I suggest we use the boat we brought with us and have the three of us visit the island.   We will get more information if we blend in.”

“Why involve the island residents at all?” Captain Shen strokes his mustache.   “We should just patrol the waters around the island and catch the kidnappers in the act.   Then we can board the barge and save the children.”

“What about the Anathema?”  Sasha argues.    “I doubt it is just going to let us board the barge.  What do you think, Svante?’

What do you want to do?

  • Dock the Valiant Hummingbird at the Cobalt Atoll
  • Infiltrated the Island using Wanahton’s boat
  • Patrol the waters and board the barge if it shows up
  • Other.

60 – Storm Mother

Your days quickly fall into a routine. After a light workout, You, Sasha, and Wanahton would study Captain Shen’s books on Fae in the morning and have language lessons with one of the officers in the afternoon. At dinner, you would be able to ask questions of Captain Shen and his other officers about what you read in the morning.

It was boring. At least the Owl tried to make his lessons interesting. The books on Fae were rather dry and had a habit of going on and on about details that no one cared about. The Language Lessons went better. You quickly picked up Seatongue and began helping Sasha  with her grammar.

The end of the day was the best part of the day. That was when you trained Mei Mei.

“Stay, Mei Mei!” you tell the puppy, holding your hand out flat. Mei Mei stays put, wiggling impatiently for her treat. “Stay.” Then Wood Aspected First Mate walks out of the hold and Mei Mei goes running to him, looking for a belly rub.

You sigh and go retrieve your puppy. Mei Mei begins licking your face after you pick her up.

“Is Mei Mei being bad again?” The First Mate roughs up the puppy’s fuzzy fur.

“She is still learning.” You say, as you put Mei Mei down on the ground again. “Stay!” you say, but Mei Mei isn’t paying attention. She is sniffing around the deck.

“Mei Mei!” Sasha yells as the puppy starts to circle.

You quickly pick her up and carry her to the tarp for Mei Mei to use. “Go there!” Mei Mei sits down on the tarp and looks up at you. “Pee there!” You and the puppy wait near the tarp for a long while, but she refuses to go.

Sasha sits next to you by the tarp. “She likes to go on that one spot on deck.”

“Do you know why?”

“I’ve never had a dog.” Sasha scratches the puppy behind her ears. “Have you used the Charm Wanahton taught you?”

“Oh!” You close your eyes and the threads of fate come into focus. You locate the one for Mei Mei and braid it to your own. “Mei Mei? Why do you always pee on the deck?”

Mei Mei looks at you confused. You carry Mei Mei up to the deck and set her down. “Why do you always pee here?”

Mei Mei is trying to make it smell less bad.

“What smell?”

Mei Mei doesn’t like the scared dogs.

“Oh! The Dogs in the hold!” You know that there were large black dogs caged in the cargo hold, but you didn’t know why they were there.

“One of them must have peed on deck and Mei Mei is trying to cover it up. Mei Mei!” Sasha yells at the puppy, when she starts peeing on the deck. The puppy scurries off, leaving behind a trail of urine. “As soon as you turn away.” Sasha groans “I’ll clean this up. You go find Mei Mei.”

You search for the puppy on the deck, checking all of her favorite hiding places. You were amazed at how fast the puppy could run and hide. “Mei Mei?” you call. “Where are you?” You check under a pile of rope. “Mei Mei!”

“She is over here.” You head towards the voice and find Captain Shen, kneeled over Mei Mei, scratching her belly. He picks up the puppy and hands her to you. “Is she still tinkling on my deck?”

“Yes, sir.” You answer. “We cleaned it up.” Captain Shen nods and leans against the rail, looking out over the ocean. “Sir?”

“Yes, boy?” Captain Shen never used your name. He probably forgot it, you realized.

“What were your Sorcery trials like?” you ask.

“My Trials?” He turns away from the sea and looks at you. “Are you trying to be a sorcerer?”

“I’m too young.” You say, evading the question. “But I’m going to have to go through the trials when I am older.”

“And the trials, especially the trial of fire scares you.”

You shrug. You are pretty sure you have already been though the trial of fire after losing Nanny.

“The station of Wood wasn’t too bad. Every Dragonblooded goes through that Trial during basic training.” You nod. You assumed that was one of the many reasons why you were sent to the Dragonblooded School.

“I thought The Station of Air would be easiest, but it is more than just learning books. You have to truly understand what you have been taught, but not be able to parrot it.” You consider the Captain’s words and realize that you have already been through this station also. Your understanding of the workings of Creation were second nature to you. Even Akachi was surprised at how fast you learned how to manipulate Essence after your Exaltation.

“The Trail of Water, is just traveling, right?” You and Akachi have traveled all over Creation.

“It’s more than that. It is being out of your comfort zone. I’ve traveled the Western Seas of my life, but my sorcery teacher still sent me south to the Desert for my Trial.” The Captain smiles. “It was rather…educational.”

He turns back to the ocean and says “Ah…. There she is.” You look out towards the sea and see a storm brewing in the distance. Captain Shen walks up to Sasha and says “My Lady, if you would take the puppy and stay below deck until morning. We will be having a guest this evening.”

Sasha glances towards the brewing clouds. “Storm Mother?”

Captain Shen nods. “She will be easier to deal with if you weren’t seen.”

“Are you going to stay on deck?” Sasha asks, as she takes the puppy from you.

“I’ve never seen a Storm Mother before.” You have heard a great many things about Storm Mothers, but wanted to know for yourself.

“Hopefully you still haven’t seen one after this, but be careful.” She gives you a hug and heads below deck with Mei Mei.

You watch as the crew lead the large black dogs out from below deck. The dogs were frightened and covered the deck with strong smelling urine. You walk over to Wanahton. “What are they going to do with the dogs?”

“Sacrifices for the Storm Mother.” Wanahton crosses his arms and observes the crew tying the dogs to the mast. “Are you sure you are going to stay on deck? Storm Mothers can be unpredictable.”

“It’s my mission. I got to do my part.” The crew begins to carry out instruments and strip off their uniforms. “What are they doing?”

“Preparing for the ceremony.” Wanahton smiles. “Don’t worry, we will find a drum for you to bang on. You can keep a rhythm, right? ”

“Yeah.” You hoped you sounded more certain than you felt. You suddenly wish you did invite Akachi along, though this wasn’t an appropriate place to expose a Sidereal Anima.

Wanahton gives you a look and then begins to get undressed. You and Wanahton being to assist the crew in preparing for the ceremony. You may not be able to sing on key, dance, or play an instrument well, but you were familiar with the other parts of ritual. You paint Spirit Tongue phrases on the Dragonblooded officers that should be pleasing to Storm Mothers along with symbols of protection.

After you are finished applying paint to yourself, you look around and realize that none of the mortal crew members are on deck right now. One of the officers hands you a drum and you told to sit down in a corner with the rest of the musicians. Wanahton stands with the Captain and First Mate and the ceremony starts.

The Dragonblooded officers begin to stomp their feet on the deck. The music starts and they begin to dance. Their movements are primal, not what you’d expect from well-disciplined officers of the Shogunate. No wonder the mortal crew was asked to stay off the deck. While on dry land, the Dragonblooded had cowered the Terrestrial Gods into submission, here in the seas, the Storm Mothers still ruled.

The First Mate blows a shell horn. Captain Shen takes a step forward and begins to chant.

“Hail, Unlamented Depths,
Guardian of Flashing Light,
Child of the Nightmare Tsunami,
You who dwell in Turquoise Tide,
You who rule the skies above us and the seas below,
With your immeasurable benevolence,
Allow our ship to pass through your waters.
Accept our offerings.”

At this point, Wanahton and the other pin down the dogs and slit their throats. You watch in horrified fascination as the blood pours out onto the ship’s deck. The chanting continues. The wind grows stronger and rain starts to pour down on the ship. You keep beating the drum with the other musicians, wondering if the ceremony would ever end. Dark storm clouds draw closer and envelope the ship. “Shit” mutters one of the musicians. The clouds part and the Storm Mother appears in all of her horrific glory.

You have heard many stories about how ugly the Storm Mothers were, but no one ever mentioned their stench. The Storm Mother reeks of shit and rotten fish. With all the grace of a landed fish, the hag flops from the sky onto the deck. She approaches the Captain, her sodden velvet robe trailing behind her, smearing slime and dead seaweed on the wooden planks. Standing before the captain, the Storm Mother lowers her hood. The hag’s face is lopsided and what little hair she has on her bald head waves in the wind.

“Welcome, Mosikhun. You are looking stunning this evening.” Captain Shen bows respectfully.

“Ah, Shen, you flatterer. You should leave your wife and come live with me. She is not woman enough for you to let you wander so far from home.” Mosikhun grins at him, exposing her serrated and grime encrusted teeth.

The first mate shudders, but the Captain smoothly replies. “I am not a brave enough man to risk finding out what would happen if my wife finds me in the arms of another woman. “

“Yet you are willing to risk my wrath by turning down my bed?” The storm mother asks icily. The winds begin to pick up speed.

Captain Shen pauses only for a moment before saying, “You obviously haven’t met my wife.”

The storm mother chuckles, a horrible sound that vibrates your very bones. “Ah, I love the look when they imagine fucking me. It never gets old. “ Mosikhun slaps the first mate on the ass and the first mate’s face turns as green as his hair. The Hag swings her oily mane around and inspects each of the men.

“Is there a problem, Mother?” Wanahton asks. He spares Captain Shen a glance who returns a small shrug. Apparently, this was not normal behavior from the Storm Mother.

“No problem.” When the Storm Mother approaches you, you almost gag on her stench. She stands before you and runs a greasy finger along your cheek. You force yourself not to flinch. “Tell me, young man. Have you ever been kissed before?”

You nod and add for good measure, “I have a girlfriend, too.” Maybe the Storm Mother would leave you alone since you were unavailable.

“Oh! Do you now?”

“Mosikhun, what do you want?” Captain Shen interrupts wearily.

Thankfully, the hag turns from you and stalks back to the captain. “I’m here to help you. I know why you are in my waters instead of at the blockade, Shen. There is trouble brewing on the islands and I have information about it.”

“And you’re here to give us this information out of the goodness of your heart.”

“Shen, Shen, Shen. You of all people should know that I do not offer charity.” She floats into the air and stares down the captain. “If you want this information, you are going to have to pay for it.”

What do you do?

  • Let the Captain continue to deal with the Storm Mother.
  • Bargain with the Storm Mother yourself. You want to be the one questioning the Storm Mother.
  • Use your charms on the Storm Mother and force her tell you what she knows
  • Other

((Don’t worry, I am splitting the Sorcery conversation into two parts. This post was growing long, so I had to cut part of it. I am also still trying to find a happy medium between talking dog and useful and unclunky communication.))

59 – The Vailant Hummingbird

You hesitate before answering the Admiral’s question and try not to fidget with Masaru’s envelope in your pocket. “I’m a Chosen of Jupiter.” You say finally. You leave the envelope in your pocket and scratch behind Mei Mei’s ears. “Jupiter herself gave me this mission. There are children going missing and we have been sent to investigate.”

Admiral Mayim looks you over intently and you freeze. Did you do something wrong? Suddenly the admiral’s expression softens and sits down in a chair across from you. “Do you have a name, boy?”


“Svante.” Admiral Mayim repeats, trying to commit your name to memory. “I apologize if I am making you nervous. It’s just when a Sidereal shows up on my doorstep, I know things are about to get Wyld, if you forgive my language. “

You didn’t expect such honesty from the Admiral. He reminded you of Masaru. You relax a little and continue to pet the puppy.

“Do you know which islands the children are missing from?” He asks.

You nod and pull out your map, careful not to expose Masaru’s letter. After handing over the map, the Admiral leads you to the map table. You watch as the blue paint on the table shifts with the tides. Small ships sway in the non-existent breeze and a few airships float just inches above the table. In one part of the map, the water is colored silver and a small orca figurine menacing swims around the moon lit water.

“Is that where the Leviathan is?” you ask, amazed by the map. You have stories about the ferocious First Age Anathema.

“Possibly. The Anathema is difficult to track. My father spent a lifetime hunting the old man of the western seas.”

“What happened?” You ask.

“My father was killed by Fair Folk.” The Admiral says bitterly. He studies your map and points to a second of the western seas. “There are the islands. It will take you about a week to reach them via Brilliance Class Warship. “

“A week!” You are dismayed. “Who knows how many children the Anathema or Fair Folk could take in that time!”

“A Brilliance Class.” Wanahton sounds impressed. “Is Valiant Hummingbird in dock?”

“Yes. How do you know that ship?”

“The first mate did me a favor a while back. Did he ever get his promotion?”

“He is the Captain of the Valiant Hummingbird now.”

You wander around the office, bored with Wanahton and the Admiral’s conversation about the various ship of the Western Navy. Eventually Sasha’s caste mark fades and the Admiral leads you to the docks. You lag behind and ask Wanahton “Is there a way to get there any faster?” You ask in Spiritspeech.

“An air ship from one of the Yu-Shan gates in the area would be fastest, but your orders said to take transportation from here. “ Wanahton’s Spiritspeech is heavy accented.

“There must be a reason why Jupiter wanted you to take this way.” Sasha muses. “What do you know about Fair Folk, Wanahton?”

“Enough to know to keep away from them.”

“The Fair Folk have been attacking Creation ever since we overthrew the Solars. They mostly concentrate on the Western Seas. The Owl says that the Pole of Water is most like the Wyld, so their push has been from that direction. “ You recite.

Sasha is surprised. “Have you actually been paying attention to class?”

“Yeah.” You didn’t have a choice now that you were receiving personal tutoring from the Owl. He was more likely to notice the manga you were hiding behind your school books without the god blooded students distracting him.

“I think Jupiter wanted us to take the long way because we have a lot to learn about the Fair Folk. The Western Navy are the most experienced with the Fair Folk. The traveling via boat will give us time to prepare.”

“I also need to learn Seatongue.” You add. Masaru taught you some curse words in the language, but if you are going to find out what happened to the children, you need to understand what people are saying.

“To be a part of the Western Navy, all recruits are required to know Earthtongue and Seatongue. All officers are required to know the Old Tongue in addition.” The Admiral says in Spirit Speech. “You will not lack for tutors. “

All the officers speak Spiritspeech? You didn’t like that. You know that not many people in Creation speak Spiritspeech, so you often used the language when you didn’t want to be overheard. You wonder why Admiral Mayim mentioned this fact. Knowing an unexpected language is great advantage.

The Admiral seems to notice your unease. “Svante, we are not enemies. We should not be keeping secrets from each other. We both have the same goal: the preservation of Creation.”
You nod your head and when you put your hands into your pockets, you brush against Masaru’s letter.

The Valiant Hummingbird is a long ship with a haul made of a turquoise marble organic material. Orange sails flutter on the ships lone mast. On its front is a redheaded woman of unsurpassed beauty. Her long red braid was so long it reached her toes. She looked as beautiful as the day she was carved, though her clothes looked salt eaten and sun faded. The woman must have been clothed in nothing but her long hair before the Usurpation.

“Admiral on deck!” a sailor cries out. The ship’s crew stops whatever they were doing and stands at attention.

“At ease. You may continue what you doing.” The Admiral strolls across the deck, checking the ship with a keen eye. “Where is Captain Shen?” he asks. Captain Mayim Shen? You remember Masaru mentioning his brother when he gave you the letter.

“He is checking the manifest with harbor master.” You follow the sailor into the Captain’s cabin. The harbor master salutes the admiral and excuses himself.

“Sir, is there a problem?” Captain Shen is a tall, lean Air Aspect. His pale blue-white hair is shaved off except for the top, which is tied in the traditional Shogunate bun. The Captain considers you all, with his glaze lingering on Wanahton for a moment before returning back to his father.

“No, no. Everything is fine. Shen, do you recognize this man?” Admiral Mayim motions Wanahton to come forward.

Captain Shen leans against his desk. “I’ve been trying to place him since he entered the cabin.” He strokes his small beard as he tries to remember. “Wait. Was that you that Tanith Losa was after?”

Wanahton seems pleased to be remembered. “You saved me from his Wyld Hunt. What happened to the Earth Aspect?”

“Losa has been reassigned to the White Sea. I hope the idiot is freezing his ass off.“ The Captain crosses his arms. “Did you family ever remember you?”

Wanahton sighs. “No.”

Admiral Mayim changes the subject. “Captain Mayim Shen, there has been a change in your orders. You are to transport these Sidereals to where they need to go. Your new orders will not state that for obvious reasons, but they will give you reason why you have not joined the blockade as planned.”

Captain Shen does not look pleased. “How long will the Valiant Hummingbird be assigned to this mission, sir?”

“As long as it takes, Captain.” Admiral Mayim reprimands his son sternly.

“Sir, yes, Sir!”

In a more gentle voice, the Admiral continues. “Teach them how to fight Fair Folk and they will also need language lessons. “

“I have plenty of books on both.” Captain Shen indicates the small bookshelf in the corner of his cabin. You groan at the mention of books. This is supposed to be a mission, not school!

“Books. What are you going to do about your books if you ship sinks? Build a raft?” The Admiral asks mildly.

Captain Shen gives a long suffering sigh. “I’ll buy more books, sir.”

“I’ll send over a paper copy of your new orders.”

“Thank you, sir.” The Admiral and Captain exchange salutes and the Admiral leaves the cabin.

After the Admiral departs, Wanahton says, “He doesn’t want you on the Blockade.”

“No, he doesn’t. But I have to go sometime.” Captain Shen leave the cabin to make arrangements for your stay.

“Is the Blockade dangerous?” you ask.

“It’s safer to come with us.” Wanahton says. The last mission you were on was not what you call safe. “Admiral Mayim had twelve sons. Only eight are left living. The end of the Western Seas are a very dangerous place.”

As you lead Mei Mei out of the cabin, you take a closer look at the bookshelf and noticed that among the naval and Wyld books, Captain Shen has a well-thumbed copy of the White Treatise. Was the Captain a Sorcerer?

What do you do?

  • Tell Captain Shen about your problems with Sorcery. Odds are he won’t even remember you asking him later.
  • Ask Captain Shen about Sorcery in general. You are known for asking questions about everything, so it won’t see too out of character.
  • Don’t ask Captain Shen about Sorcery at. No need to take a chance.
  • Other

((Sort of a cop-out decision, but I don’t want to rush the next scene. ))

58 – The Admiral

At first your thoughts take you to your Dragonblooded friends.   You have been though quite a few scrapes with them already and it would give you an excuse to spend more time with them.   But they had school and who knows how long this mission will take.  You check your map again.   Eagle’s Launch was on the edge of the Blessed Isle.  Why take a ship from there?  Wouldn’t it be easier to use one of the Gates near the nearer to the Pole of Water?   You sigh.  Jupiter works in mysterious ways.

Mei Mei dances around in a circle and then piddles in the corner of your room.  “No! No! No!”  You yell at the puppy.  Her ears and tail droop as she runs to hide under the bed.

There is a knock at your door.   “What?”  You groan in frustration and pick up a towel to clean up the puppy’s mess.

“It’s me.”  You hear Akachi say.  “Can I come in?”

“Okay.”  You wipe the floor clean, as Akachi opens the door.

“The puppy already making a mess?”  Akachi sets the intricately wrapped box he is holding aside and sits on the bed.

“Yes.”  You can hear the puppy shredding something under the bed.  Akachi reaches down under the bed to pull the puppy out.  That is when you realize what the puppy is shredding.  Haythem’s porn!

“Don’t worry!  I got her!”   But it is too late.   Akachi already has the puppy in his hands and he says, “What do we have here?”  He pulls a piece of the porn out of the puppy’s mouth.

“Haythem gave it to me! I was going to throw it out, I swear!”  you quickly say.

“Haythem?”  Worried, Akachi pull the remains of the paper bag out from under the bed and flips though the magazines the puppy had not gotten too.  “Not a bad as I thought.”  Relieved he sets them aside.  “Svante, you are a teenager now, if Haythem didn’t give you porn, you would have figured out how to get it some other way.”

“So I’m not in trouble?”

“No, you aren’t in trouble.”  He hands you the stack of magazines.   “Just realize that the woman in those magazine are an idealize vision of beauty.  And…”

“I get the point.”  You interrupt.   The last thing you need is yet another rendition of the Talk from Akachi.  Mei Mei begins the shred the remains of the paper bag.   “I need to get her some toys.”

“Yes and training too.  I have a present for you.”  Akachi presents the box to you.  “Happy Birthday.”

Folded inside the box is a rich emerald damask cloth.   You pull it out of the box and find it is a cloak.

“The cloak is called the “Wings of the Raptor.”  Your eyes widen in surprise when Akachi says this.   You have heard of this artifact.  It gives you the ability to fly.

“How is this a reasonable present?” you ask Akachi.

“Well… if you don’t want it…”

“I didn’t say that.”  You wrap the cloak around your shoulders.  It is the prefect length for you.  You pull your chicken hat off and admire yourself in the mirror.  Even if it didn’t give you the ability to fly, it was a magnificent cloak.  It made you look older.  More imposing.  “Where did you get it?”

“I made it.”  Akachi fiddles with the bottom edge of the cloak, checking its length. “The length will adjust as you grow.”

“It’s awesome!  Thank you!”  You give Akachi a hug.   The elder tousles your hair and then sits back down.  “I was talking with Yeva about your mission.   We decided to go with you.”
“You can’t.  The mission says that I need to bring Sasha and Wanahton.”  You are surprised how quickly the lie comes to you.   Awesome cloak aside, you did not want Akachi with you.  He would not let you do anything and have you stand to the side.  Jupiter gave you this mission for a reason, not him.

“Elder Kejak isn’t going to be happy about pulling Sasha from her current mission, but if Jupiter says she needs to come along, then what are we to do?”  Akachi scrunches his eyebrows, deep in thought.  “I’ll handle Chejop, don’t worry.”

You are relieved that Akachi didn’t catch you in your lie.   You quickly change the subject.  “Can I see Chiyoko before I go?”

“I don’t know.  Can you?  You are the one with the mission details, so only you can be the judge of that.”

You think for a moment.   “I’ll have time tonight, but we need to leave by tomorrow.”

“I’ll let Sasha and Wanahton know about the mission.  What should I tell them to prepare for?”

“Tell them that we are sailing the Western Seas and there may be Fair Folk and Lunars.”

Chiyoko was pissed she and the others couldn’t come with you.   “I’m sure I could talk my father into getting us out of school.  Or even my grandmother.”

“Chiyoko, Svante is a Secret Agent of Heaven.  It’s not a good idea to tell the Shogun about his mission.   Plausibly deniability.”  Aiko explains.

“He told us.”  Masaru corrects.

“Of course he told us.  We are his circle.  ”  Aiko retorts.

“Well, there should be something we can do.” Chiyoko fumes.

“Wait!  You are going to Eagle’s Launch!”   Masaru digs around for paper.   “I can write my father a letter.   He can help you!”

Aiko rolls her eyes.  “Do you two always run to Daddy when you need something?”

“Shut up.   You are just jealous that we have a father to run to and yours isn’t around.”

“Hey!  Leave her alone. “ Chiyoko comes to Aiko’s defense.   “Write your letter, Masaru.  Svante is going to need every advantage he can get.”

Masaru finishes his letter and hands it to you.  “Give the letter to Admiral Mayim Takeshi.  If he is not there, then ask for Captain Mayim Shen.  He’s one of my older brothers.”

You gratefully accept the letter.   “I should get going.”  It was getting dark and you needed to head back to the Yu-Shan gate.

Chiyoko gives Aiko a look.  “Masaru, let me walk you back to your dorm.”  Aiko orders.

Masaru looks confused.  “I can find my dorm fine.”

“Or, I can walk you back to your dorm.”

“Oh!”  Masaru and Aiko leave you and Chiyoko alone.

“Is this mission dangerous?”

“Yeah.”  Chiyoko frowns when you say this.   “I can handle it though.”  You quickly assure her.

“You better!”   You and Chiyoko sit awkwardly in her dorm.

“I need to go.”   You open the window and begin climb out.

“Wait!”  Chiyoko walks up to you and kisses you.  “For good luck.”

The next day you prepare to leave.   You dress in older clothes suitable for Creation, yet you cannot resist wearing your new cloak.  You slide on your personal essence armor and hide the artifact under your sleeve.  You set your new knife into the sheath Akachi fashioned for your right boot and sheath your jade sword at your side.   Your bag is packed with everything you think you need including your copy of the White Treatise.   You place your red envelop, map, and the letter from Masaru for into your pocket.

With Mei Mei running to keep up, you head downstairs where the others are waiting.  Both Sasha and Wanahton are dressed in a mix of Creation worthy wear and Artifacts.  Akachi is there in the kitchen.  “Are you hungry?”

“No.”  Your stomach is filled with worry.

“That’s a first.” Akachi comments.  He pushes a plate towards you.  “You should eat at least something before you go.”   You pick at the food for a bit, until Akachi sighs.  “Never mind the food, Svante.   You got everything?”

You list off everything you packed, knowing Akachi will question you if you didn’t. You leave the White Treatise off the list, but you mention the letter Masaru gave you.

Akachi offers your plate to Mei Mei.  The puppy makes short work of your breakfast.  “I wouldn’t give the letter to Admiral Mayim.”

“What?  Why?”

“He is unaware of Masaru’s involvement with you.  We are not sure how he would react when he does find out.”

“A father has a right to know what is going on with his son.”  Wanahton says in a carefully controlled tone.

“We are not purposely keeping him in the dark.   There simply hasn’t been an opportunity to make his aware of the situation.  Admiral Mayim is a busy man and Arcane Fate makes it difficult…”

“He still has a right to know.”   Wanahton replies stubbornly.

“We should get going.”  Sasha interrupts.   She herds you and Wanahton out the door.  “You shouldn’t argue with Elders, Wanahton.”

“Why should I not argue with Elders when they are wrong?”

“You might think they wrong, but they have thousands of years of experience.”

Wanahton crosses his arms and continues walking in silence.   It is a bright sunny morning in Creation.  You walk from the Eagle’s Launch Gate and head towards the docks.  Mei Mei sniffs around distracted by all the new smells of the shipyard.   Once you arrive, Sasha asks if Admiral Mayim is in.   When the sailor asks who she is, Sasha gives him a Cryptic Phrase.  The sailor leads you to his office and has you wait outside while he tells the Admiral of your arrival.

After a few minutes, you are shown in the Admiral’s office.   It is a spacious room with a large desk covered in scrolls and a papers.   You find the Admiral standing by a large map table depicting the Western Seas.  Admiral Mayim is not a tall man – Wanahton is taller – but he seems to take up more of the room than the Chosen of Journeys.   Elemental power of the sea circulates around Mayim Takeshi despite the fact that his anima is not flared.   The smell of salt and seaweed is overpowering as you approach the map table.   His long dark black blue hair is streaked with not grey, but the washed-out color of ocean whitecaps.  The Admiral steps away from the map table and flashes you a smile.   You are startled by his eyes – they are the same turquoise blue as Masaru’s.   The only difference is that the Admiral’s show the heavy weight of his responsibilities.

Admiral Mayim motions you to a set of chairs near a fireplace.   “Sit Sit!  It is not often I have visitors from Meru.   Would you like something to drink?   I just got in some Sake from the River Provinces.   I can have my man squeeze some fresh citrus juice for the boy if he is thirsty.”   You are taken back by how…friendly Admiral Mayim seems.  He was not what you’d expect from the Admiral of the Western Seas.

“I wouldn’t mind a glass of Sake.”  Wanahton takes a seat in one of the chairs.   You and Sasha sit on the couch with Mei Mei settling between the two of you.  You decline any drinks and pet Mei Mei fretfully.

The Admiral pours two cups of Sake and brings them over.  “What brings you to Eagle’s Launch?”

“The fates have need of you, Mayim Takeshi.”  Sasha’s caste sign burns on her forehead.

The Admiral pauses when he sees Sasha’s caste sign.  He quickly recovers and hands both Sasha and Wanahton their drinks.   “I see.  What would the Maidens have of me this time?”  The Admiral asks warily.

“Transportation.”    You say.   “We need to head a chain of islands close to the Pole of Water.”

“We?  Are you a Sidereal too, young man?”  The Admiral asks you, not unkindly.  He seems to be especially interested in you, now that you have spoken up.

What do you do?

  • Lie about being a Sidereal.  Don’t give Admiral Mayim Masaru’s letter
  • Tell the Truth about being a Sidereal.  Don’t give Admiral Mayim Masaru’s letter
  • Tell the Truth about being a Sidereal.  Give Admiral Mayim Masaru’s letter.
  • Other

((So much set up!  ))

((When I was listing out Artifacts in Chapter three for Akachi to offer Svante and Wanahton, the Wings of the Raptor caught my eye.   Sidereals have all the fun toys.   I need to figure out exactly what Artifacts Wanahton and Sasha have.))

((I’m going to be on a business trip for the rest of the week.  Stupid work.   Next post on Monday Sept 14th. ))

57 – Experience

“I’m going to name her….” You pause dramatically. “Pretty Dragon Princess Meru!” Akachi turns his laugh into a cough when you say this.

“You are going to name the dog….Princess?” Wanahton frowns.

Sasha comes to your defense. “What is wrong with Princess?”

Elder Kejak shoots Akachi a questioning look. “It’s a Manga Character.” Akachi explains, trying not to grin.

Your joke was falling flat. “Haha! Just kidding. I’m going to name the puppy Mei Mei.”

“Mei Mei is a good name.” Wanahton offers a piece of meat from his plate to Mei Mei, who takes it from his hand and licks his fingers clean.

A group of musicians takes the stage, instruments in hand. A gong is sound and the crowd turns their attention to the stage. The lead singer waits until the reverberation of the gong fades and starts a lilting chant. You listen enraptured as the musician’s voice fills the room. The chant reaches its climax and suddenly cuts off. You and the rest of the audience take a collective breath in anticipation. With a stomp, the dancing blue light of the lead singer’s anima spreads across the audience and the music starts again. The crowd breaks out into enthusiastic dance.

“Yes!” Sasha bounces in her chair. “I was wondering when the dancing starts. Svante, dance with me.”

“Um… I should keep an eye on the puppy.” You hug the puppy close to chest glad for an excuse not to enter the dance floor. You did not have fond memories of trying to learn the various chants and dances required for a Sidereal’s priestly duties. Not even Akachi’s anima could help you stay on key.

Sasha smiles at Wanahton, who shakes his head. Sighing, she heads over to another table to drag a Chosen of Battles out onto the dance floor.

“Should I be offended that she didn’t ask us?” Akachi says to Elder Kejak.

Elder Kejak crosses his arms. “Young people these days don’t respect the value of experience.”

“Why?” Sifu Yeva asks. “Did you want to dance, Akachi?”

“I…uh…I should keep an eye on Svante.” You frown at Akachi when he says this. You are thirteen years old now. You don’t need him to babysit you.

“The boy will be fine. The entirety of the Five Score Fellowship is at the party.” Elder Kejak assures Akachi.

Yeva grabs Akachi’s hand and drags him out to the dance floor. “You’ll keep an eye on him, Chejop!”

“Yes, Akachi.” Elder Kejak says wearily.

“How long have they been like that?” Wanahton asks.

“Decades.” Before Wanahton could ask another question, Elder Kejak gets up and strikes up a conversation with a goddess you don’t recognize.

Wanahton shrugs and turns to you. “What do you know about dogs?”

“Um… Not much.” You admit. Mei Mei struggles in your grip and jumps on the table.

“First thing to learn about dogs is that the way into their heart is though their stomach.” Wanahton hands you a piece of dumpling. “Call her name and offer her the dumpling.”

“Mei Mei!” You hold out the dumpling. Mei Mei runs over and take the dumpling from your hand.

“Good girl!” Wanahton praises, scratching the puppy behind the ears. “Always tell her that she is a good girl when she does something right.”

You quickly discover that Wanahton is a wealth of information about training animals. It isn’t long before Mei Mei learns to come at her name.

“Keep her with you at all times, so that she will remember you. Animals just like people can overcome the effects…” The sounds of Wanahton’s voice fades as some sound attracts your attention despite the loud music in the room. You stand up from your chair and start walking towards the entrance of the ball room.

“Svante?” Wanahton asks. “What is it?” You ignore him. You can just make out the sound of bells. Their ringing sends chills down your spine. The crowd parts. The music stops. There is no sound in the room except the whispering chime of the bells.

You see her from across the room. A tall woman wearing a long dark green hooded cloak and a simple green dress. Her long green hair flows behind her as she advances towards you. Her bare feet seem to glide across the ballroom floor. At least that is how you remember the Maidens of Secrets. You are never sure if your mind filled in these details or you just remember them later.

But there are two things you are certain about Jupiter. One would expect the Maiden of Secrets to smell like the dusty leather tomes of a library. Instead her perfume is an intoxicating blend of sandalwood, lavender, and lilac.

And her green eyes. They are the eyes you’ve seen in the mirror every day since your exaltation. Looking into her sad eyes, you know that this woman loves you more than you could possible know. That you could possibly understand. Jupiter embraces you and whispers into your ear. “Happy Birthday, Svante.” She places something into your hand. With a sad smile, she straightens your chicken hat and leaves.

You stand there for a moment, stunned by your encounter with Jupiter. Slowly, you pull yourself back together. Tears fall from your eyes and you raise your arm to wipe them away with your sleeve. That is when you notice what Jupiter gave you.

A red envelope.

You stare at the envelope, dumbfounded. Jupiter gave you a mission.

You run out of the ballroom. “Svante!” Akachi calls out and begins to follow you. “Let him go. He’ll be fine in a little while.” You hear Elder Kejak say. You climb the stairs to your room and shut the door behind you. You curl up on the bed and stare at the red envelope.

You hear a sound at the door. “Go away!” Mei Mei whines at you through the door and begins to scratch at it. You groan and open the door to let the dog in. “What?” The puppy races into your room and starts to run frantically around it. Eventually, she finds your pile of dirty laundry and starts to root though it. “No no no! Get out of there.” You pick up the puppy and place her on your bed. Mei Mei sniffs around your bed and then jumps off to head for the laundry pile again. You groan and pick up the puppy again and place her on the bed. “Stay!” Mei Mei tries to jump off the bed again, but you pick her up and hold her.

Dealing with the antics of the puppy helped settle you from your encounter with Jupiter. You pet the struggling puppy and realize that you acted like a child down stairs. Not the best impression to make in front of the other Sidereals and gods of the Bureau. Thankfully, the other gods should forget about this incident.

You put the puppy back down on the bed and pick up the Red Envelope. You turn it over and touch the seal on it. The envelope pops open. You take a deep breath and remove the creamy white paper and read your mission.

To: Svante Visscher, Chosen of Secrets
From: Jupiter, Maiden of Secrets
You are directed to form a circle of your choosing and discover the fate of children who have fallen off of the Loom near the Pole of Water.

Mission Profile: The threads of 57 Children from various Western Islands (see map for details) have fallen off of the Loom of Fate over the course of a few weeks. Discover who or what is responsible for these disappearances. Report to the Naval Shipyard at Eagle’s Launch to arrange transportation to the strand of islands in question.

Estimated Probability of Solar Presence: 0.01%
Estimated Probability of Hidden Yozi Presence: 26.29%
Estimated Probability of Lunar Presence: 64.8%
Estimated Probability of Fair Folk Presence: 87.43%

You look over the map of the Western Islands. There are dots marking the islands near the pole of water. You tuck everything back into the envelope and think for a moment. A circle of your choosing….

Choose your Circle!

  • Akachi and Yeva. They are older Sidereals with experience. You don’t want to screw up your first mission.
  • Wanahton and Sasha. They are the Sidereals closest to your age and the least likely to baby you.
  • Chiyoko, Masaru, and Aiko. You’ve been though a lot of scrapes with them already, so you know you can trust them.
  • Other? I suppose you could ask Haythem. Elder Kejak might be too busy.

((Not as clean as I’d like this post to be. I might edit it a bit this weekend, but I wanted to get something up tonight. None of the important parts will change. I just want to get the scene with Jupiter just right. ))

((Panda was starting to grow on me, but I decided Mei Mei fit the setting better. I know Exalted has Panda people, but do they have Panda animals? ))

56 – Presents

You head upstairs to your room to open Haythem’s present.   It takes you about a half an hour to put it through every test you can think of.   Nothing seems to be dangerous about it.  Afterwards, you stare at the package as it lays on your bed.   You pick it up and feel around inside.  It doesn’t feel like drugs.   Some sort of books.  Manga? You unfold the top of the bag and dump the contents on your bed.

“Whoa…”  Your bed is now covered glossy magazines with beautiful women on their covers.   You open one of the magazines and see that while the women on the cover are scantily clad, the ones inside are completely naked.   You flip through it, wondering why people would pay money for something that you can see on the streets of Yu-Shan.  A few Celestial deities eschew clothing while they go about their business, so nudity is nothing new to you.   You check the cover of the magazine again.  Ah, it was published in Creation.  You toss it aside and pick one another one.  Now this one shows the women inside doing some rather…interesting things.   Looking over the centerfold, you never realized…

“Svante!”  Akachi calls from down stairs.  “What are you doing up there?  You are going to miss your own party!”

“I’ll be right down.”  You quickly gather up all the porn and shove it back in the bag.   You slide it under your bed, knowing you’ll have to find a better place to hide it later.   Looking in the mirror, you adjust your chicken hat and smooth out your robes.    With your foot, you nudge the bag of porn further under the bed before leaving your room and heading down stairs.

“Happy Birthday, Svante!”   With Akachi by your side, you reluctantly enter the crowd of people as they give you hugs, pinched your cheeks, and rubbed your hair.  You might have grown a lot since your Exaltation, but people still treated you as a child.   Somewhere along the way, you lost your chicken hat.   Eventually, you made your way through the crowd towards the end of the room where the food is.

“Your hat?”   Akachi holds out your chicken hat.   Gratefully, you put it back on your head to hide your now messy hair.   You turn around and look back on the crowd.

The ballroom of Akachi’s Manse is brimming with people.  The majority of the Five Score Fellowship is there along with some other gods you know from the Bureau of Destiny.    Mingling among them are gods from other Bureaus who have no idea who you were, but showed up because it was a party.   Chiyoko complained about not knowing half the people at her Exaltation Party.   You didn’t mind, because it gave you plenty of opportunities to eavesdrop.

But first food.  You fill your plate from the buffet and sit down at a table with Akachi, Sasha, Wanahton, and Yeva.   Keeper of the Locks, your tutor, comes up to you.  “Happy Birthday, Svante.”  The Owl hands you a small slim box.

“Thank you.”  You are on better terms with the Owl since you returned the stolen copy of the White Treatise.  You open the box and inside you find a small Starmetal knife.   You recognize it.  “This belonged to Rikali.”

“Yes.  She left it behind before she left on Wyld Hunt.”

“I often wondered what happened to it after she died.”  Akachi remarks.  You carefully pull the knife out of the box and examine it.  It was not a large knife, barely larger than your hand.   The more you handled the knife, the more you grew accustomed to it.  The knife felt more familiar to you than your jade sword which you have been working with for months.  It seemed to be made just for you.

“A good boot knife.”  Wanahton comments.

“Rikali didn’t really wear boots or shoes at all if she could get away with it.  ”  The Owl shrugs.   “She usually had it strapped to her shin.”

You replace the knife in the box and run your fingers over the abstract etchings on the blade.  “Thank you, Owl.”   The Owl, pleased that you appreciated his gift, bows formally and heads off into the crowd.

A large crowd of Sidereals are gathered around one table arguing about something.   You finish your red bean sweet roll and wander over.

“I can’t believe you broke it just before we have to give it to him.”  Naoko, one of Akachi’s Crafting students, is scolding Jaived, a Chosen of Endings.

“We were just testing it out!”

“Testing it out!  You were playing… Oh, Hello, Svante!  Happy birthday!”   Naoko hides something behind your back.

“Sifu Yeva said that you have a really awesome birthday present for me.”   If it is something Akachi is unhappy about, it has to be cool.

Naoko’s blue eyes sparkle and with a flourish, she pulls the cloth off of a large and asymmetrical shape.   Underneath the cloth is a large sculpture of four of the five elemental dragons.   There is a gap where the water dragon should be.

“Um…  It’s nice.”   It was a pretty sculpture, but not really what you were expecting.

Naoko hands you a jade rod.   “Concentrate on one of the Dragons.”  She commands.

You focus on the Fire Dragon and the statue starts to slither around.  “Oh, wow!”  With your mind, the dragon raises up into the air and flies around the ballroom.

“Impressive.”  Akachi says.   “You managed to get it to levitate and respond to mental commands.  Nice work.“   Akachi picks up one of the rods and the Air dragon joins the Fire in the air.   “Not as bad as I feared.”  Akachi mumbles to himself.

“They are supposed to fight,” Jaived explains.  He picks up a third rod and the wood dragon ascends.   You, Akachi, and Jaived spar in the air above the ballroom.

“Press the button when another dragon is in front of yours,” Naoko whispers in your ear.   When Jaived’s dragon is within range, you press the button.   Fire comes out your dragon’s mouth, burning the Wood dragon out of the air.

Akachi looks at Naoko in horror.  “They breathe fire.”

“The air dragon breathes frost,” one Sidereal corrects.

“The wood dragon would have breathed poison, but Naoko couldn’t contain the poison cloud.”  Another Sidereal adds.

“They don’t seem to last very long.”  You see the broken water dragon in Naoko’s hand.

“Don’t worry.  The Dragons regenerate, so you can play with them the next day.”  Naoko says.  She replaced the broken Water dragon on the Sculpture.

“They breathe fire!”  Akachi rubs his hand over his face.

“This is awesome!”   You weave the dragon though the large chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

About an hour into the party, Elder Kejak enters the room carrying a wrapped box with a loose top.  He adjusts the top before he comes up to you.  “Happy Birthday, Svante.”   The box whines a bit before Elder Kejak could set it down.

“Chejop, what’s in the box?”  Elder Akachi asks suspiciously.

“Svante’s Birthday Present.  You said I just couldn’t give him money, so I picked something up in Meru.”  The box shakes a bit as Elder Kejak puts it on the table in front of you.  “Go on, Svante.  Open it.”

You never get a chance to open it, because as soon as the box touches the table, your present tips over the box.

“A Puppy!”  You reach out for the fuzzy black and white puppy.  The puppy licks you face with great enthusiasm and knocks your chicken hat off.  “Hey!  Stop it!  I need my face in one piece.”  You laugh.

“Oh no!” Sasha exclaims.  “That’s one of Ling Ling puppies!”

“Who’s Ling Ling?” Wanahton asks.

“Evil incarnate.” Sasha shutters.

“A puppy, Chejop?  Is this because of the vote in the council meeting yesterday?”  Akachi asks.

“Of course not.” Elder Kejak say unconvincingly.  “Every boy needs a dog.”

“There are more appropriate breeds for a boy than a Shih-Tzu.”

“So keep her hair short.”  Elder Kejak helpfully adds, “I choose a female so it wouldn’t urinate all over the walls of your manse.”

“Oh, yeah.  Just all over the floors.”

You start paying attention to the conversation around you.  “You mean, we can’t keep her, Akachi?”   Elder Kejak grins when you ask this question.

Akachi sighs and rubs the dog behind her ears.  “One day, you’ll be too old to get away with the puppy dog eyes.”

“You talking about the dog or the boy?”  Wanahton asks.

The puppy licks his hand and Akachi smiles.  “Both.”

“What are you going to name her, Svante?”  Sasha asks.

What’s the puppy’s name?

  • Fuzzy
  • Puppy
  • Other

((Ah…Fuck it, I’m too lazy to come up with dog names today.   So, an open ended question!  I’ll distract you with a picture of the puppy instead!  ))

[spoiler][img] http://i.ytimg.com/vi/kQlWBocNt-A/maxresdefault.jpg[/img][/spoiler]

(( Good job, WarDragon for figuring out that Haythem gave Svante porn! ))

((I get to cross off “Have Chejop Kejak give someone a puppy for revenge” off of my Exalted Bucket List now.  😀  ))