Chiyoko sets her bag on her bed and stands before you, arms crossed. “You are going to leave me behind again.”
You look away from your angry fire aspected girlfriend. “I have to travel alone. The way I am heading north, you can’t follow me.” You have no idea how you would bring Chiyoko and the others into Yu-Shan. Or how you yourself were going to get back into Yu-Shan? For all you know Akachi could be waiting for you with the Celestial Lions. You are starting to regret this side trip.
“I’m not going to let you go through your trial of fire alone.” Chiyoko closes her bag and adjust the straps.
“Dragons!” You want to smack Aiko for complicating the situation. “This isn’t my trial of fire, Chiyoko! I’m just going to visit my family and come back.” Come back to confront Akachi about why he hid your family’s fate from you. You have enough knowledge now to demand answers.
“What way are you going where I can’t follow?” Chiyoko demands.
You don’t need this right now, but you didn’t want to leave with Chiyoko angry at you. “I’m taking the Yu-Shan gates to travel up north. I’ll go through the Vanchow gate and take a canal boat to the Gate of Shadows. I can be on my mother’s doorstep within two hours.”
“What?” Aiko is astonished. “You can get from here to Whitewalls in two hours?”
“It would be a bit longer to get to Whitewalls. Ramshorn, the village where my mother lives, is closer to the Gate.”
“Dragons.” Chiyoko plops down on the bed next to you. “We can’t go to Yu-Shan, can we?”
“Maybe one day, after I figure out how to sneak you in. I don’t have time today.” You take Chiyoko’s hand in yours. “This may be my only chance to see my family. I can’t take any risks.”
Chiyoko blushes and looks away. “I’m just sick of being left at this stupid school.” She admits.
“Next time I go somewhere, I’ll try to bring you with me.”
Chiyoko squeezes your hand, giving you a weak smile. Mei Mei comes up between the two of you, tail wagging. Chiyoko rubs the puppy behind her ears.
Aiko holds out her empty Standard Issue Shogunate backpack. The sand colored canvas bag is covered with pockets, each with a specific purpose. “Here. Take my bag. You can’t show up on your parent’s doorstep with a pillowcase.”
Maybe Aiko did feel bad for all the trouble she caused. “Umm… Thanks.” You shove the pillowcase into the bag.
You can hear Masaru arguing with someone outside of the door. “I got to go.” Being caught here in school won’t get you to your family any more than being caught by Akachi. You pick up Mei Mei and climb out of the window.
“You are going to come back?” Chiyoko asks, uncertain.
“Of course.” You assure her. You adjust the straps of Aiko’s bag to make it fit better.
“And next time you go on an adventure you are going to bring me with you?”
“Us! Bring us with you!” Aiko amends.
You ignore Aiko. “I promise.”
Chiyoko leans out of the window and kisses you. Your fears about being caught momentarily desert you until pounding on the door brings them all back. “Go! We will take care of things here!” Chiyoko whispers, she closes the window and turns towards the opening door. You slip out of fate and head back to the Yu-Shan Gate.
For the whole trip through the Gate and Yu-Shan, you fear being caught. You fretfully look around, searching for your guardian, but Akachi is nowhere to be found. Where could he be? Was Elder Kejak covering for you? You have a growing suspicion that Elder Kejak, someone from your limited observation is not easily distracted, meant for you to wander the Loom alone. But why? Your suspicion turns into fear. What if Aiko is right and this is your Trial of Fire. Fate wouldn’t be so cruel to take your family away so soon after finding them, would it?
When you finally arrived in the North, you are stopped not by your guardian by the weather. The cold night air burns your nose and your breath puffs out in clouds of steam. You pull your hood closer around your face, wishing you remembered to bring your scarf. At least a foot of snow covers the ground and icy hoarfrost gleams in the moonlight. You were planning on walking, but in this weather it would be dangerous even for an Exalt.
You and Mei Mei spend a sleepless night in one of the Travel Shrines that can be found all over creation. All Yu-Shan Gates have a shrine nearby, though the inhabitants of Creation never make the connection between the shrine’s location and the heavenly gate. At the first hints of dawn, you tuck Mei Mei into your coat and head towards Ramshorn.
Ramshorn is a small serene village, surrounded by tall evergreens, with a single cobblestone road running through the middle. The tall steeping roofs of the brightly painted houses are covered with snow and smoke bellow out of each chimney. Three picturesque snowcapped mountains rise behind the village and the tiny speck of a Shogunate Fort can be seen, guarding the mountain pass.
After about an hour of trampling through the wet slush, you ask a man with sled dogs where the healer’s house is. You have only seen your mother’s house from the inside and none of the cabins had signs. Mei Mei sticks her nose out of your coat to investigate the yipping dogs. Following the directions you were given, you find your mother’s green and brown cabin. The remains of an herb garden hibernate next to the cabin and empty flowerboxes line the windows.
You climb the clean swept front steps and stand before your mother’s door. Before you can lose your nerve, you knock and wait. Your mouth is dry and you are sweating under your coat despite the cold. Mei Mei wiggles around in your coat, picking up on your apprehension. An eternity passes before someone comes to answer the door.
Your mother, wrapped in a thick wool shawl, opens the door. She has flour on one cheek and her blonde hair is just starting to streak with grey. You didn’t notice this before when you watched her from the Loom. Her eyebrows knit in worry when she sees you on the doorstep alone. “Hello? Is someone hurt?”
You pull down your hood and uncover your face. Her eyes widen with surprise. “I’m sorry, I didn’t noticed your hair… I mean, aspect markings. Did you bring a message from the Garrison?”
You mother. You realize that you expected her to recognize you when she saw you. But that was foolish. Even without the blurring of Arcane Fate, she would not know that you were her son. You open your mouth to say something, but no words emerge. Everything you planned to say flees from your head. Tears form at the corner of your eyes. Mei Mei sticks her head out and whines softly.
Your mother’s expression softens and she gives you a warm smile. “Why don’t you come in? We are having breakfast soon. “ You shiver as her hand lightly touches your back as she leads you into the dark and warm cabin. The aroma of fresh bread makes your mouth water. Dried herbs hand from the rafters and candles illuminate the kitchen table.
“My name is Kaja. What is your name?” Your mother sits you down at the table and pulls out a large cast iron pan and places it on the stove to heat. She searches though her cupboards, pulling out a jar of dark purple jam.
Your mother pauses for a moment as she sets the jam on the table. She recovered quickly and smiles at you. “Svante is a good name. If I had another son, I would have named him Svante.” You watch your mother as she reveals a loaf of bread cooling under a towel and sets it before you. She sits down at the table across from you and asks, “What brings you to my doorstep, Svante?”
What do you tell your mother?
- The whole truth. All of it. About being her son and Sidereal.
- Partial Lie. You are looking for relatives.
- Partial Truth. You are her son, but leave the Sidereal part out.
- A Lie. You are from the garrison. You are traveling and someone told you that you could find a place to stay here. Wait on the truth until you find out more about your family.