72 – The Bargain

Flask in hand, you step out to the Mossy Court and see that it is still deserted.  How will you go about finding Rory?

You search the Float, observing Fair Folk participating in a variety of tasks.   You watch in horror as one Fair Folk violent beats another and then collects their victim’s tears.   She then drips the tears on an anvil and began to beat the tears with a blacksmith hammer.  Her victim cleans herself up and though broken teeth calmly inquires how long her knife will take.

After a few hours of searching, you find, not Rory, but the Loathing Commander.   He prowls the line of starfish troops as they lean forward, stand on one foot, arms spread wide while balancing a half full tea cup on their heads.   He stops before one solider and adjusts his stance slightly.  What in Creation are they doing?

When he bends over to relocate a foot, you whisper in his ear “You are Rory’s commanding officer.  You are responsible for him.   Check on him to see if he is okay.”  You back away and wait to see what happens.   The Loathing Commander barely pauses and continues what he is doing.

You pull your hair in frustration.   How are you going to find Rory now?  You are about to leave to keep searching when the Loathing Commander dismisses his men and then starts to walk in a direction you haven’t been yet.   You follow close behind.  The Loathing Commander walks towards a large foreboding tree.    He knocks five times and the tree shudders and its roots split, revealing a passage way.   You quickly duck inside after the Loathing Commander before the roots close.

Inside the tree you find a large chamber with hanging cages, swaying in a nonexistent breeze.   The Loathing Commander approaches one of the cages and it lowers to him.

“Sir?”  Rory asks.

“It has come to my attention that as your commanding officer, I am responsible for your wellbeing.”

“Sir!”  Rory’s ears perk up.  “Are you going to let me out, Sir?”

“What? No!”   The Loathing Commander raises his hand.  Rory’s Armor skitters off of him and drops to the ground as a single starfish.  “I am discharging you from service.  How am I to invite the troops to munity against me when Our Lady has made her displeasure at your existence well known?”  The starfish crawls up the Loathing Commander’s body and into his waiting hand.  “You were going to lead my troops against Our Lady instead of me.  “

The Loathing Commander crushes Rory’s Starfish into dust.  “Since I was responsible for your wellbeing, I would have had no choice but to follow you.  I have not drilled, thrashed, and abused the troops just so you can steal all the attention from me. “  The Loathing Commander flicks the dust of Rory’s Armor in his face and walks out.

Rory looks forlorn.   “Now all hope is lost.   I will never regain my cup and earn my place at my Oath Father’s side.   I shall sit in this cage and calcify into stone.”   A single tear rolls down Rory’s cheek.

This is perfect!  You hesitate.  Almost too perfect.   Is this a trap?   Some fiendish scheme of the Fair Folk to reveal yourself?

Rory wipes his cheek and resettles himself.   “All hope is lost.   I shall never regain my cup and earn my place at my Oath Father’s side.   I shall no choice to fade away.”   A second tear glistens on Rory’s cheek

What the fuck was he doing?  Completely confused by the Fair Folk’s actions, you watch as Rory repeats the same sentiment again and again.  Sometimes changing the wording or inflection.  Other times his pose.   Suddenly, his ears droop.  “My Oath Mother was right.  Reality is a cruel mistress, not allowing me the means to escape.  I suppose I must start chewing my way through the bars of my cage.  ”

“Hello?”  You cautiously approach Rory’s cage, flask hidden behind your back.

“Oh!  The Envoy of the Stars!”  Rory’s cage swings as he turns to where you are standing.  “What brings you to my humble adobe?”

“I need your help.”  You reveal the flask.   The hungry look you saw on the dock returns to Fair Folk’s face.  “Your mother wanted me to kill you, but instead I stole this.  This is your cup right?”

Rory’s eyes never leave the flask. “What quest would you have of my Envoy to see the safe return of my Cup?  Shall I slay a dangerous beast?  Journey across Reality for a bloom of the rarest scent?   Seduce…”

“Actually, I just need your help to save the Children in the Larder.”  You interrupt.

“That’s all?”  Rory’s ears droop.  “Perhaps we could finish our duel instead?”

“What?  No!  This is not negotiable!”  Apparently the flask doesn’t hold much power over Rory.  Maybe you have to be Fair Folk properly use it.   You put the flask back into your bag.   “I let you out of the cage.  You help me save the children and I will give you back your flask.   Is that a deal?”

“The Envoy is an uncreative hack, but he does have our cup.   Hmmm….  It is a deal.”

“Say it three times to bind the deal.”  You remember that much from your boring lectures on the Valiant Hummingbird.

“What?  There’s no need to do that.  Don’t you trust me?”

“Say it!   I will release you out of the cage and gift you the flask, if you help me recuse the harvest children from the larder and…  “ You realized a loophole in your deal   “help me get myself and the other children off of the barge.”

“You added to the deal!” Rory complains.

“Do you want your flask or not?”

Rory repeats the deal three times.   “Does that satisfy you, Envoy?”

“Yes.”  You pull out your boot knife and start cutting away at the bonds tying the cage together.   You slice though the vines and the cage opens far enough for Rory’s slim body to slip though.

The Fair Folk drops to the ground and kneels before you, wearing nothing more than a loincloth, a ring, and a sword sheaved on his back.    “Fear not, Envoy.  I, the Regretful Roar of Hapless Hearts who’s Sword Sings of the Everlasting Evening, shall….”

“Wait,”  you interrupt.  “If you had a sword, why didn’t you cut your way out of the cage?”

Rory stares at you in shock as if the very concept of escaping on his own offended him.  He sighs.  “This is going to be a long quest.”

What do you do now?

  • Hide the children until the Valiant Hummingbird arrives
  • Find a way to get the children off of the float
  • Trust that the Blue Lady will not harm the children due to her agreement and leave them where they are.
  • Other

 

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71 – Bed Mates

You wait for the Desert Fox to leave the Cavern and then leave the Cavern yourself. As you walk the trail back to the Mossy Court you figure out what is bugging you. There is no way the float is big enough to contain this whole trail. When you arrive at the Mossy Court, it is empty. Where are all the fair folk? You find a dark corner to hide and report back to Captain Shen.

“Captain Shen, tell Sasha I’m fine. There are about fifty fair folk here on the Float, but they haven’t seen me yet. They have trebuchets ranging along edge of the float. Five of the children seem to be okay, but there are others who… aren’t quite right. Some of the children have already died.“ You pause as you think about what you saw in the Larder… Cavern. Cavern was easier to think about. If you gotten there sooner you could have saved them. Even now, you have no idea where to keep them until the Valiant Hummingbird arrives. “Please come soon. I don’t know how I am going to keep the children safe from the Fair Folk until you arrive.” You send the Air Elemental on its way.

You invisibly pace the Mossy Court, waiting for a reply. After about an hour, you grow impatient. How long does it take for the Air Elemental to deliver your message and come back? You can’t wait too long. Someone is going to notice when the servant has gone missing. You need to find a way to get the children out of the cavern, and safely though the forest and find a place to hide. While you easily avoided the Wyld monsters in the woods, mortal children could not and you are unsure if you could take the multi eyed monster in a fight.

You look up the water stair case of the Blue Lady. Rory said that the Blue Lady had his cup. Maybe if you had Rory’s cup, he’d be willing to help you. You tentatively place a foot on the bottom step. The water streams around your foot, but the step supports your weight. You draw your jade sword and climb up the stairs. The water curtain moves like fabric when you poke it with your sword. Drawing your sword back, you see the blade is covered with water droplets. Weird. You push the curtain aside and enter the Blue Lady’s Lair.

You were uncertain what to expect to find past the water curtain. Perhaps a richly furnished bedroom. Or a garden of otherworldly plants. Even a torture chamber. But the piles of junk that laid beyond the curtain were anticlimactic. You carefully navigate the maze of twisted swords, shattered cups, and cracked staffs, you wonder why the Blue Lady has all this broken gear. Fine shards of glowing glass crushed under your feet as you walked deeper into the Blue Lady’s Lair.

After navigating the maze of broken junk, you find a poster bed perched in the center of the room. Vines twist along the posts, shedding leaves on the ground. Lying on the bed is a mummified corpse dressed in blue Shogunate Naval Armor.

“His name is Admiral Mayim Takuma. “ Your heart starts pounding when you hear the Blue Lady’s voice. She appears from behind one of the piles of junk and lays on her side next to the corpse. “One of the Shogun’s greatest warriors. Such glorious battles we had when he was younger. The fire of his hatred for us was unquenchable.” She closes her eyes and shivers in remembrance. “Alas, as all Creatures of Creation, he grew old and soon became a poor opponent.” She caresses the corpse’s cheek. “We gave him a warrior’s death and a place in our bed to honor our rivalry.”

The Blue Lady leaves the corpse and begins to pace around the bed. You realize that she does not know where you are and is looking for you. “His son was a disappointment. He would not come to us to avenge his father’s death. Preferred to chase the Moon Chosen like you instead of us,” the Blue Lady spat. “But his grandson…. now, there was an adversary of much potential. Takeshi has a temper much like his grandfather, though for some reason he tries to hide it. Takeshi is such a tease,” she adds playfully. “We have to kill one of his children to rouse his rage.”

Once you stop freaking about the Blue Lady, you realize who she is talking about now. Takeshi must be Admiral Mayim. And that means…. The corpse in the bed must be Masaru’s great grandfather. You try not to think about what the Blue Lady does with the corpse.

The Blue Lady pauses before one of the piles and picks up a flask. “We have not seen Takeshi in quite a while. We hope he has not grown old and infirm. We want to give him a place in our bed too. Then we would have a matched set of Admirals. “

“Are you here for the children, Moon Maiden? Our schemes did not mean to attract your attention, but we can make the best of it. We are bound by an oath that makes it so we cannot directly have our heart’s desire.” The Blue Lady snarls at the flask and throws it back in the pile. “We have been trying to attract the Admiral’s attention, but he is stubborn. If only we were free of our Oath, then we could pursue him before he dies. But alas, we must care for our Oath Child or we are foresworn. Baelor is such an inconsiderate Oath Father, gaining all the benefits of our Oath and leaving Rory with us. ”

“If only we were free of our Oath. We would not need the children in the Larder. We could go back to feeding on strong and powerful Dragonmen. Eating all these children is making us soft. If we continue for much longer we would be no match for Takeshi, if he ever does show up.” The Blue Lady turns to walk back the way she came. “We’d hate to disappoint him.”

You wait for a few minutes to make sure the Blue Lady does not return. Then you quickly walk over to the pile and pick up the flask. It is the closest unbroken item that could be considered a “cup” you saw among the piles. You step outside of fate again and quickly leave the Blue Lady’s Lair.

What do you do?

  • Take the Blue Lady up on her offer. Rory might have a beef against the Blue Lady, but he is still one of them. Kill him and let the Admiral take care of the Blue Lady.
  • Ask Rory for help with the children. Keep the flask in reserve. Depend on Rory’s hatred of the Blue Lady to assist you.
  • Bargain with Rory for help with the children in exchange for the Flask.
  • Give Rory the flask and ask for help with the children depending on his gratitude to assist you.
  • Other

((Damn! We ended up on Page 2! Stupid Ex3 posts. ))

((If Svante recognized the significance of the piles, then he would probably freak out. I managed to find an encounter with the Blue Lady that wouldn’t mentally scare Svante for life. ))

70 – Larder

The Larder!   That is where they must be keeping the children.  You race across the Mossy Court, the spongey ground adding spring to your steps.   You quickly catch up to the servant as she navigates though the bed tree forest.   The forest grows darker, the tree branches blocking out the sun’s light.   From the shadows you see a group of creatures with glowing eyes track the servant as she walks purposefully though the forest.   The eyes blink in unison and the lone creature stalks away.   You shiver, glad that you cannot be seen by the multi-eyed creature.

“Svante!”  You almost yelp when you hear Captain Shen call your name.  The air elemental continues its message, heedless of your circumstances.  “Sasha is worried about you.   Wanahton said that you went after the barge alone.   Saving the children was brave – I would have done the same thing in your place – but confronting the Fair Folk alone was very stupid.   But since you are already there, what can you tell us about the Fair Folk?  Are any of the children still whole?  How many Fair Folk are there?  What defenses does the barge have?  “  There is a pause in the message.  “It may take us a few days to track you down, so Sahsa says do not do anything rash.  Don’t worry, Svante.  We are coming to get you.”

A few days!  The Air Elemental waits by your ear for a return message.   You were hoping to break the children out of the Larder and lead them to the Valiant Hummingbird for a quick get-a-away.  Now you need to find a place to hide everyone until help arrives.  And to be honest, the whole float creeps you out.   You have no clue how you are going to stand being stuck here for a few days.

You look around and see that you lost track of the servant.   Shit.  You didn’t want to wander around a dark Wyld forest looking for a Fair Folk larder, but what choice did you have?   You couldn’t let the Blue Lady eat one of the children.   You follow the trail and hope that it will lead you to the larder.   The trail starts to descend and grow even darker.   Animals with too many limbs scurry though the bushes.  You try not to look at them and focus on the goal.  Find the Larder.  Save the children.

You come to a stream.   The water flows crystal clear, but you instead take a drink from your canteen.   You silently thank Wanahton for telling you to pack food and water in your bag.  You do not trust the water here.

After crossing the stream, you come to an ajar door set into the ground.  Peaking inside, the servant lies on the ground twitching.  Dark crimson blood flows from the servant’s torn throat.    Bloody fox prints lead away from the dying servant and deeper into the cavern.   The Desert Fox is here.   You step over the body and hug the wall and cautiously move forward.  You briefly wonder if going into a dark cavern after an anathema is considered doing something rash.  Might be a good idea not to mention this to Sasha… or Akachi.   Maidens, he’d be pissed that you are risking yourself.  You hear sobbing ahead and pick up your pace.

The cavern opens to a dimly lit cave.   A small group of four children, no more than seven or eight years old, are huddled in one corner, whispering to each other.  They stare at the children at the other end of the cave.

These children are different.   One is slumped against the cavern wall, not breathing at all.  Most are seated on the ground of the cave, eyes closed, covered in their own excrement.   A few are standing upright, staring blankly forward, a vacant look on their faces.   Walking deeper into the cave, you stand before one of them.   You meet one of their eyes and quickly look a way, shivering.   There is nothing left in the girl to stare back at you.   Whoever this girl was is gone.  The Fair Folk have already gotten to her.

The Desert Fox sniffs around the vacant children and stops in front a boy with dark hair and skin.  You move closer to observe the interaction.  “Koray!” She changes forms and gathers the boy to her chest.

“Koray?”  the Desert Fox brushes the matted hair away from the boy’s face and looks him in the eyes.  “Baby, it’s Mama. “

“Mama.”   Koray parrots the Desert Fox’s last word, not with recognition, but without meaning.  The concept of “Mama” was now foreign to him.

The Desert Fox embraces the child again and closes her eyes, tears falling down her cheeks.   “They got to you.  All the power of the moon and I was too late to save my son.”   She opens her eyes and calmly wipes the tears from her cheeks.   “They will pay for what they have done.”   The Lunar bares her teeth and hard look comes into her eyes.   It is the same look you saw on Sasha when Trailing Sorrows was beating you.  The same look on Akachi when he punched the Lunar that injured you.   To see it on a Lunar’s face….

Even monsters must love their children.

Ignoring the cries of the other untouched children, the Desert Fox picks Koray up as if he weighed nothing more than a toddler and begins to leave the cavern.

What do you do? 

  • Let the Desert Fox go. Do not let her suspect you are onboard.  Return the Messenger to Captain Shen and tell him about why the Lunar was interested in the children
  • Confront the Desert Fox and gain her assistance. Sometimes to fight a monster you need a monster
  • Find Rory’s cup and gain his assistance. He seems to have a bone to pick with the Blue Lady
  • Other

(( Lots of options for this one.  Feel free to mix and match what you guys want to do.     ))

(( Ex3 is rather distracting, but I managed to tear myself away from the forums.  Don’t worry, I’m not changing/ending the quest.  We are stuck with 2nd Edition until the Sidereal book comes out.    I just hope our little quest doesn’t get lost in all the Ex3 topics or get moved to Play by Post.  ))

69 – The Blue Lady

Slipping outside of fate, you observe the Float from the air.   The group of kidnappers make their way through the forest of bed trees towards a large flowing sculpture of water in the center of the Float.  Curtains of water obscure the figure rousing from sleep inside the sculpture.   The kidnappers kneel as the curtains parts to reveal a blue skinned Fair Folk woman dressed only in droplets of water.   Stairs of water form as she descends towards the group of kidnappers.   Servants approach with a shimmering cloak of countless colored butterfly wings and drape it fashionably around her body.   The wings of her cloak flutter as she approaches the group.

You land just outside of the court where the group of Fair Folk.   The deck of the float is spongey under your feet.   Experimentally you take a few steps and the mossy ground spring under your feet similar to the practice mats back in Yu-Shan.  You hid behind one of the bed trees and observe.  Other Fair Folk gather in the Mossy Court to see what will happen.

“Our Lady,” the short eared Fair Folk stares down at the mossy ground as he addressed the Fair Folk Noble.

“Loathing Commander of Splendor and Platinum, how goes last night’s harvest?  Our larder grows stale and we wished for something fresh to break our fast this dawn.”  The Blue Lady caresses the Commander’s short pointy ears.

“There were complications, Our Lady.”  The Loathing Commander glances at Rory, before staring back at the ground.

“Complications….”  The Blue Lady repeats.  She drops her hands from the Command and stalks towards Rory.

Rory raises his head and look directly at the Blue Lady.  “An Envoy of the Stars freed the children, Our Lady.”  You catch your breath and look around for the Desert Fox.  The last thing you need is for the Lunar to figure out what you were.  Maidens only know how she would react to a Sidereal.

“An Envoy of the Stars?” The Blue Lady says doubtfully.   “We have not heard of such thing.   Could it not be the Moon Maiden in a different guise?”

“No, Our Lady.  She of Whispering Bells left her mark on the envoy’s brow.”

The Blue Lady looks towards the Loathing Commander.  “I do not remember anyone else on the dock besides Rory, Our Lady.   I do remember Rory was dancing and letting the harvest run off… “

“No.  The Envoy was there.”  Rory interrupts.  “Our Lady, I remembered the stories you told of the Envoys of the Sun and…”

“There have been no Envoys of the Sun since the Dragons and their nameless masters threw the Sun’s Chosen down from their place in the sky. “  The Blue Lady grips Rory’s chin.  Rory’s eyes water in pain, but he does not make a sound.  “And there has never been any Envoys of the Stars.  You lie.”

For the first time in your life, you thank the Maidens for Arcane Fate.    You shed your Resplendent Destiny as soon as the Barge appeared at the dock.  Perhaps the Desert Fox will not connect the boy she met earlier with Rory’s “Envoy of the Stars.”

In a strained voice, Rory explains.  “I am not lying, Our Lady.  Why would I risk my honor by lying to my Oath Mother, Keeper of my Cup?  The honor of my Oath Father, Baelor….”

“Do not speak that name here.  Baelor’s Oath Children are more countless than the Stars.   He left you to us to do what we will.  Stand up, Rory.”  The Lady circles Rory, her fingers running along his armor.  The Starfish flee from her touch, leaving the Blue Lady to touch Rory’s bare skin.   “Where is the Flute we gave you?”

Rory looks down at the ground and mumbles, “I lost it when I was fighting the Envoy.”

“This Envoy again…”  She lifts up Rory by the neck.  His feet dangle in the air.  “We will not tolerate lying in our vassals.  You are a malformed child tainted by the Reality in which you first drew breath.”

“If I am tainted it is because I came from an oath you have no intention of keeping, Our Lady.” Rory spat at the Blue Lady.

The Blue Lady causally tosses Rory across the Mossy Court like a rag doll.   Rory slams into a tree and slides down to its base.  He lays dazed, staring at the Blue Lady.  “Do not forget, child. We still have possession of your cup.   Commander, take Rory away.  Perhaps some time in the dungeons will remind him of his place.”

“Yes, Our Lady.”  The Loathing Commander and a few other of the guards grab Rory by the arms and start to drag him away.   Hatred burns in Rory’s eyes as he is dragged away.

“Oath Children are such an inconvenience at times.”  The Blue Lady sighs and puts Rory from her mind.  “Bring us subsidence from the Larder.”   The Blue Lady orders.   A servant bows and heads in the opposite direction of Rory.

The Blue Lady is his mother!?  You realize as the argument finishes.   Fair Folk are not kind to their children.

What do you do?

  • Follow Rory to the Dungeon
  • Follow the servant to the larder
  • Stay in the Mossy Court and see what else you can overhear
  • Figure out where the Desert Fox went
  • Other

68 – The Flute Player

“We need the Valiant Hummingbird.” You whisper.   Digging through your pack, you find your emerald pattern spider.  “How far away is the Valiant Hummingbird from the Cobalt Atoll?”

When the spider returns with its answer, Wanahton swears.  “It will not be here until after dawn.”

“Can you water elemental send a message to the ship?  I can follow the barge by air and Sasha can track me down.”

“Follow the ship by yourself?”  Wanahton watches the Fair Folk guide the dancing children down the dock.  “No, I’ll send out a message and then we will follow by boat.   You keep an eye on things here.  I’ll be right back. “   He pauses before leaving.  “Don’t do anything stupid.”  Wanahton backtracks though the mangroves.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” you repeat.  Why does everyone keep treating you like a child?  Jupiter trusted you enough to put you in charge of this mission.   Why wasn’t that good enough for everyone else?

“Come on.  What’s taking so long?”  While the Fair Folk didn’t seem to be in a big hurry, the group was almost to the end of the dock.   If Wanahton didn’t come back soon, then the children would be kidnapped for nothing.

Though, did these children actually have to be kidnapped for you to figure out where the Fair Folk are going?  What if a brave hero managed to save the children from the flute playing fair folk?   You are pretty sure you can take one single Fair Folk.   Or at least distract the Fair Folk from its flute playing, breaking the spell controlling the children.   The Fair Folk would retreat and then you and Wanahton could still follow the barge as it was escaping.   This plan had the added bonus of giving Wanahton more time to talk to the Water Elemental.

You empty your pack of its artifacts and weapons and place a sleeping Mei Mei on the empty pack.  “I’ll be right back,” you say, patting the puppy on her head.   You tie your headband across your forehead and walk outside the strands of fate.   Jade sword drawn, you hurry up the dock towards the Fair Folk.  It was paused at the end of the dock, watching the children dance and play.   What was the Fair Folk waiting for?

Weaving your way around the dancing children, you reach the Fair Folk.   The starfish skittered and crawled all over the Fair Folk’s body, sometimes even crawling up its long moonlit hair.   Its armor was much more disturbing and hypnotizing up close.   You wait for a gap in the armor and stab the Fair Folk in the lower back.

The starfish armor instantly reacts to the attack.  The starfish flowed over your sword, trapping it before it could enter the fair folk’s body.   You pull back your hand before the starfish overtake it.   Still playing the flute, the Fair Folk, takes a step back and studies you.   Cocking his head, your sword drops from its armor and clatters to the deck.   A few starfish detach from the armor and drag your sword across the wooden planks and back to you.    Suspicious, you examine the sword carefully before picking it up.    Besides the off color blood, nothing about the sword has changed.

Eyes shining with a fierce joy, the Fair Folk’s music takes on a militant beat.   The children circle around and begin to clap in rhythm to the music.  Focusing on your opponent, you discover that the Fair Folk has a very thin strand of fate, as if it was a newborn.   You loop the delicate strand around your wrist before attacking.    Your attack slices though the star fish armor and leaves a bloody gash along the Fair Folk’s side.    Yet the Fair Folk still continues to play the flute and with a spinning kick tries to knock you off of your feet.   You jump out of the way and aim your sword for the flute but the Fair Folk leans back away from your sword.  Off balance, the Fair Folk tumbles to the ground.   You quickly approach to take advantage but the Fair Folk raises up spinning on its head and kicks you in the face.

You stunned, you step back and are flabbergasted to find that the Fair Folk is still playing the Flute.   It must take some skill to keep play during combat.  You brush the Fair Folks delicate thread and steal its ability to play.   Feinting an attack on the Fair Folk’s side, you instead cut a gash in its forehead.   The Flute flies out of the fair folk’s hands and slide across the deck into the water.  The children stop clapping and fall to the deck, dazed.

A gaping hole appears in the hull of the barge and seven more Fair Folk covered in Starfish armor step onto the dock.   An eighth, short eared Fair Folk exits the barge, his body covered with spiny sea urchins of deep purple.  “Rory!   Stop playing with the flame haired child and load up the children.  “

“A thousand pardons, my lord.   The flame haired child is an envoy sent by She of Whispering Bells.  I felt it was my duty to entertain the child until you arrived.  ”

She of Whispering Bells?   Who was that?  You look around and see that the children were rousing.   In the distance you can hear shouting.  The Fair Folk’s spell was broken!  All that stands between you and saving the children is nine Fair Folk warriors.

The Fair Folk Lord’s pearlescent eyes glance at your brow.  “How exciting!  I didn’t realize the Sovereign of Secrets had champions.   Load her up with the rest of the children. ”   Jupiter.  They are talking about Jupiter!   You feel your forehead and realize that your headband was knocked askew when the Fair Folk kicked you.  You quickly adjust it to cover your glittering caste mark.   Come on.  Wake up!

“I believe the child is male, my lord.”  Rory corrects.  You see Tri rousing and motion her to start helping the children get away.   Tri rubs her eyes and after taking in the situation, starts waking the other children.

“Does it matter?  Stop making excuses, Rory, and…  Now look at what you done.  They children are running away!”

“Go, go, go!”  You yell as you block the Fair Folk’s way.  The village children clumsy run down the dock back towards the approaching crowd of adults.

“Maiden’s titties, Svante!  What have you done?”  Wanahton yells over the commotion.

“Leave me alone!  I’m busy!”  You parry a high kick from one of the Fair Folk and dodge a punch from another.   You just needed to buy time to let the children escape.

“We should retreat, my lord.  We would have to kill the adults to recover the children and there will be no one to tell Our Lady’s Admiral what happened here.“

“Shh!  I’m thinking about how to get out of this mess you got us in, Rory.”

“Of course, my lord.  Take all the time you need.  It’s not like we have a mob of angry villagers coming our way.”

“Retreat!” the Fair Folk Lord shouts.   “We cannot recover the children without killing everyone.   Rory, Our Lady will hear about your failure here.”

Rory pales.  “Yes, my lord.”   The Fair Folk retreat into their barge, hole closing behind them.    The barge pulls quickly away from the Shogunate dock at shocking speed.  No wonder the Desert Fox was unable to keep up.  You are unsure if you can keep up even with your cloak.

“Svante.”  Wanahton reaches you.   “What happened?”  Mei Mei runs up to you, tail wagging.

“I couldn’t let the Fair Folk take the children.  I’ll tell you more later!”  You concentrate on your cloak and it transforms into a set of owl’s wings.   Your caste mark burns on your brow.  “Keep an eye on Mei Mei for me!”  You yell at Wanahton as you leap into the air.

Hours later, you wonder if the barge will ever stop moving.  Your shoulder and back are sore and your eyes burn from the speed you have to keep up to follow the barge.   As the sun rises, the barge can be seen in better detail.  It looks nothing like what a ship should be, but rather like a wrinkled raisin that absorbs all light that hits it.   The barge comes to a complete stop and you circle the barge to see what happens.

The barge lifts itself vertically and bobs in the water.  Then it starts to slowly spin in the water.   Suddenly, the barge splits itself open like a grotesque flower.  A trebuchet sits along the edge of each petal of the Float, though you do not know what it uses for projectiles.  Fully grown trees emerge from the mossy ground with gossamer cocoons attached.    As the sunlight hits the cocoons, they crack open, revealing a shocking number of fair folk.  There must be over a hundred of them!

In the distance you can see the spray of a whale.    As the whale surfaces, you notice that its front right flipper is scared white.   The whale dives again and a few hundred feet from the Fair Folk Float, you see a large eared desert fox paddling though the sea.   It leaps from the water to one of the petals of the float.   After shaking herself dry, the Desert Fox sneaks though the float.

What do you do?

  • Observe the Desert Fox and see what she does
  • Step outside of Fate and land on the Float
  • Introduce yourself to this “Lady”.  Being an Envoy of Jupiter must mean something.
  • Go look for the Valiant Hummingbird
  • Other

((I flipped a coin to break the tie. ))

67 – Music

“In the boat! In the boat!” One of the village elders reaches out and drags you back into the boat. Frantically, the villagers start rowing back to shore. Once your boat lands, you leap out and race towards Wanahton’s boat. Wanahton is already there, pushing it out to sea.

“What are you doing, boy?” Wanahton scowls at you, when you jump into the boat.

“I’m getting my whale back.” You will not let the Desert Fox take your whale. You worked too hard for it.

“That is not a very bright idea. No way can the two of us take that monster in water.”

“And one person will be better?!” Wahanton was crazy if he thinks you are going to let him go alone.

“I’m not a very bright man.” Wanahton switches to Spiritspeech. “Stay here in case the Lunar circles back around and attacks the villagers. I’ll find the whale.”

Shit. He’s right. You groan and jump out of the boat and head towards the group of villagers huddled together on the shore. Wanahton paddles back towards the blood tingled waters.

“Is your father mad? Going after that monster all by himself?” Raharjo stares at Wanahton in astonishment as tall bronze man paddles aimlessly around the water.

“Yeah. He does stupid shit like that all the time.” You shrug and keep an eye out for any strange animals in the area.

“It’s back!” Raharjo cries happily. You look out over the ocean and see the whale bobbing next to Wanahton’s boat. He ties a rope around the whale and begins to tow it back to shore. The villagers rush out into the water and help drag the whale’s corpse onto the shore.

“Dragons! It mangled our whale!” Tri exclaims. The belly of the whale has been torn open and the majority of its innards are missing. “Meat looks okay!” The villagers cheer and begin to set out smoking racks for the meat.

As the villagers prepare, you take a closer look at whale. The heart, lungs, stomach, and all of the intestines are missing. The Heart…

“The Desert Fox has a way to follow the barge now.” You tell Wanahton as he walks up to you.

“It looks like it.” He lights his pipe.

“What were you doing out there?” Wanahton didn’t seem to be doing much of anything out on the boat.

“I asked my water elemental friend to search for the whale.”

“You have a water elemental friend?”

“You have a talking spider, I make friends with elementals.” Wanahton takes you by the shoulder. “Come on. Let’s help carry wood for the fires.”

The villagers efficiently butchered the whale. One team sawed meat off of the carcass and another group cut the meat into smaller pieces. It was gory work, but the villagers sang with happiness as they passed each other bloodly cuts of meat. Mei Mei made a nuisance of herself, going person to person begging for scraps.  Fires were built to smoke the meat and keep the flies away.

At sunset, one of the village elders smeared ritual markings made of whale fat and blood on your forehead and chest. Carrying offerings of whale meat and fresh fruit, you and Raharjo were presented to the goddess of the shrine. Batari should be thanking me, you think as you recite the prayers thanking the goddess for sending the whale. You were the one that talked the Lunar into bring the whale to the island.

After the ceremony, the villagers built large bonfires on the beach. They gorged on whale meat and jugs of rum were passed around. Raharjo passed you the jug and you took a swig. You almost spit the liquor out onto the sand. It was like fire pouring down your throat. This island rum was nothing like the wines you had back in Yu-Shan.

“Too strong for you?” Raharjo stares at you with glassy eyes.

“Nah.” You take another swig to prove that you could and try not to cough after you did. Raharjo laughs and you passed the jug to the next person.

The village spent most of the night celebrating. Eventually, the fires died down and everyone broke off into smaller groups to talk and drink. Perhaps it was the rum because in spite of your best intentions, you lulled asleep by Wanahton talking about fishing.

You are awakened when someone kicks sand in your face. You groggily brush the sand away and try to go back to sleep. That is when you realize it too quiet. Something is wrong. You focus on the thread of fate. Danger! You abruptly sit up.

All the adults are deeply asleep around you. The dazed children are slowly making their way to the docks.

“Tri!” you grab the girl’s arm as she walks past. “Where are you going?”

“Can’t you hear it?” She asks, staring off in the distance.

“Hear what?” You didn’t hear anything except for the surf.

“The music…. It’s beautiful.” She tries to pull away from you but you hold her fast.

“What music?! Tri, you can’t go!” Raharjo is still on the ground sleeping. “Wake up! “ You kick him with your foot, but Raharjo doesn’t rouse.

“Let me go!” Tri yells, fighting to pull away. Despite the commotion she is making, none of the adult villagers wake up.

Wanahton lifts his head and rubs the sleep out of his eyes. “Wha?”

“The kidnappers are here! None of the adults are waking up!” You struggle with Tri. “Stop fighting me! “

“The barge.” Wanahton heads back to the hut.

Tri bites your arm, drawing blood. “Ow!” You let her go and she races to catch up with the rest of the children. Wanahton returns with the packs you prepared for the barge.  You pick up a sleeping Mei Mei and head towards the Shogunate Dock. The large hulking shape of the barge darkens the end of the Shogunate Dock. Wanahton sucks in air at the sight of it and motions you to hide in the mangroves.

Creeping though the mangroves, you see a tall, long eared figure standing on the edge of the dock. Washed out in the bright moonlight, the androgynous figure wears pale armor of skittering starfish. Its barnacle encrusted fingers play a small flute made of translucent green glass. Hungry eyes watch the island children as they skip and laugh along the dock towards the hulking barge.

The Fair Folk have come to harvest the children.

What do you do?

  • Step out of Fate and follow the children onto the barge
  • Take your cloak and follow the barge by air
  • Go with Wanahton on his boat and follow the barge by sea
  • Other

What should Wanahton do?

  • Take his boat and head back to the Valiant Hummingbird
  • Take his boat and follow the barge
  • Stay on the island and consult the soon to be grieving parents
  • Other

((The Maidens conspired to delay this post, but I got it done! And then I realized I forgot to include Mei Mei. Doh! ))

66 – Whale

“We will give the Desert Fox time to return with a whale and see if she leads us to the kidnappers.  If she doesn’t return in five days, we should confront the Storm Mother ourselves.”   You don’t really want to deal with the hag, but you can’t sit by and let the village starve.

Wanahton grunts in agreement and walks outside to sit on the porch and smoke.  You get undressed and lay down in your hammock.   Mei Mei jumps up and snuggles down next to you.   As you scratch the puppy behind the ears, you hope you made the right decision.

The next day at school, you watch the trees outside the windows for any signs of birds or other strange animals.   The Desert Fox said that she would be back in a few days, but she could have been lying to keep you off guard.

“Svante!” You jump when you hear the teacher yell your name.  “Were you paying attention?”

“Yeah.  Of course.”   You learned from watching the other students that answering truthfully to that question got you extra chores at the end of the day.

“Then answer the question.”   The teacher walks over and stares down at you.

Shit.  What question?  You try to think back and remember what the class was talking about.   This teacher didn’t keep to a consistent schedule like Owl did, so the question could be anything from when did storm season start to Algebra.   You notice Tri adjusting her faded textbook, so you could read the page.

The White Sea.  The class is talking about the White Sea.  You start reciting everything you know about the White Sea, hoping that one of the random facts you are spouting would answer the teacher’s question.     After a few minutes, you notice that the teacher is staring at you slack jawed in shock.   You shut your mouth and slouch down in your chair.

When the teacher regains her wits, she hollers, “Svante!  Outside!”  You slowly follow the teacher outside, wondering just how much trouble you are in.

“Svante, where did you get all that information about the White Sea?”   Your stomach turns at the teacher’s question.   While you were considered a poor student by the Owl, compared to a mortal, you knew a great deal about well… everything.   In trying to avoid detention, did you blow your cover?

“I’ve been to the White Sea with my father.” You lie, reminding yourself to tell Wanahton about this later.

“I see…”  The teacher crosses her arms and taps her fingers.   “Svante, this just proves to me that if you put some effort in your school work, you could be at the top of the class.   I hate to see such potential wasted….”  The teacher echoes a familiar lecture; one you have heard from the Owl many times.   Relieved that you have kept your cover, you nod at appropriate points in the lecture.  “Now, I am going to assign you to help Kekipi with his Geography.  Perhaps stories of your travels in the North will ignite his curiosity…”

Three days later, you and Raharjo are throwing Whale Spears on the Shogunate Dock   Tri tries to get him interested in other non-whale hunting activities, but in every free moment he had, Raharjo practiced.  Seeing Raharjo and Tri together reminds you of Chiyoko.   You missed the fire haired girl and you were worried that she would forget what little she remember about you.   The sooner you got this mission done, the sooner you could go home.   But the kidnappers had not made an appearance yet and you were stuck on this little island until they did.

So you joined Raharjo everyday for practice.   Wanahton, upon seeing your interest in Whale Hunting, made you your own spear.   Working with the Whale Spear was difficult and physically intensive work that kept your mind off of your mission, the Lunar Anathema, and Chiyoko.

You swim to retrieve your spear from the water and headed towards Raharjo on the dock.   You hold your spear out for Raharjo to grab when you notice that he is not paying attention to you, but instead looking out towards the ocean.   “Raharjo?”  you swim away from the dock and look out towards open ocean.   At first you couldn’t see anything interesting out there, but then you see a spray rise.

“Whale?” you ask.

Raharjo smiles.  “Whale.”  He runs down the dock towards the village, screaming.  “Whale!   Whale!”

She did it.  The Lunar brought back a whale.  Shivering despite the warm tropical water, you slowly climb the dock.  You turn around and watch the ocean, looking for the Lunar.  You don’t see the Desert Fox, but she could be anywhere.

The whole village scrambles towards the shore, where the boats are waiting.   You and Wanahton help push out one of the village boats and once the water is deep enough, you jump in.

Looking back at the shore, you see Mei Mei struggling in Tri’s arms.   You give the puppy the hand signal for “Stay” and Mei Mei stops trying to get away.

Together with the villagers you paddle out towards the whale.   When you were much younger, Akachi took you whale watching.   You sat on the beach with the Elder and watched the majestic animals jump out of the water.  You were amazed at how such a large creature could jump so high.  Now that you were coming alongside the whale, it seems impossibly large.  How could anyone hunt down such a creature?

As one of the villagers prepared to make the first jump, Wanahton whispered into your ear.   “Try not to glow, but I don’t want you to die trying to hide what you are.”

You nod and looked towards the boat where Rahajro sits.  The boy is watching the first spearman with an eager look on his face.   Confidently, the spearman walks to the edge of the bamboo plank and jumps.   He releases the spear at the whale and it hits the water.   He missed!   The spear glances off of the whale and floats loose in the water.    The spearman swims back to his boat.

One of the rows motions to Rahajro and the boy takes his spear and slowly walks to the plank.   Rahajro watches the whale for a moment before jumping.

“Quick, Rahajro.  Before the whale dives.”  One of the villagers tells him.

Rahajro holds out a hand and continues to watch the whale.   With a determined look on his face, Rahajro leaps into the air and throws his spear at the whale.   The water clouds red with blood as the spear impales itself into the whale’s flesh.

You cheer at your friend’s success.  “Quickly, Svante.”  Wanahton hands you your spear.   “The whale will bring the other boat down, if he dives.”    You gingerly walk the bamboo plank and grip the spear tightly.

You watch the whale thrash in pain, trying to discern a pattern in its movements.   The enormity of what you are about to do hits you.  This magnificent creature will die.  Your eyes water as see the entire life history of this whale.   The battles it has fought.  The calves it has father.  The predators it has escaped.

For every ending there is a new beginning.   You jump off of the plank and aim your spear at the whale.   This whale’s death will breathe life into this village.   You release the spear and watch it sail through the air.  Your spear pierces the whale.  You are not powerful enough yet to bring this whale closer to its end and that saddens you.  Such a creature should have a clean death.

Instead you watch as the whale drags the boats around, unable to dive deep to escape the hunters.  One of the boats gets swamped by the whale, but no one is hurt.  The waters tinge red as the whale bleeds out.  Eventually, the whale tires and floats to the surface.   One of the village elders leaps on to the whale’s back and cuts its spinal cord.   It is over.  The whale is dead.

The bloody waves splash over your face and you can taste the coppery saltiness of the whale’s blood.  The villagers cheer at you and Raharjo.  You brought down a whale!   The village will not starve!

An overwhelming sense of danger overcomes you for a moment.   Suddenly something brushes just under your feet in the water.    “What was that?”  You hear Rajarjo ask.  You swim over to the whale and as you try to pull a spear out of the corpse, the shaft slips out of your hand.   The whale is moving!  Your heart pounds as large tentacles encircles the corpse of the whale and begins to drag it under.

“Gods….  What is that?”   “It’s one of the Storm Mother’s Creatures!” The villagers shout as watch their hard earned whale disappears under the red waves.

You search beneath the surface of the water but the whale’s blood obstructs your view.   The Lunar has stolen the whale!

What do you do?

  • Get everyone the fuck out of the water!
  • Get the villagers back to shore and look for the whale with Wanahton.  You are going to get the whale back, no matter what!
  • Get everyone back into the boats and look for the Whale, while you and Wanahton look for the Lunar.
  • Other