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? ))