99 – Trial of Endings

Akachi closes his eyes and gets up off of the ground, giving you space.  Elder Kejak stands by your guardian, waiting patiently for your decision.   You feel faint staring at the elder Sidereals and lean against the wood railing for support.  A cool sea breeze sends everyone’s clothing into disarray.  You shiver and turn your back on the elders to face the White Sea.  Your finger nails bit into the rough grey wood as you watch the sea birds frolic in the dirty harbor water.

You were treated like a child by everyone.   Akachi.  Sasha.  Wanahton.   Sorcery would prove to them your Exaltation wasn’t a mistake.   You were meant to be a Sidereal now, not in sixteen years.  Seeing Shen raise an ice giant just inflamed your desire for sorcerous power.  Aiko learning sorcery before you still grates at your pride.   If she could initiate into Sorcery, so could you!

Your mind drifts to your guardian, Akachi.   You weren’t quite sure where you stand with Akachi.   He kidnapped you from your family and lied to you about it. Yet he seems ready to make amends and finally tell you the truth.  Abruptly, you knew you weren’t ready to abandon your guardian.  Life on your own without Akachi was daunting.  Misguided as Akachi is at times, you never doubted he only did what he thought was the best for you.

Elder Kejak set you on this path for reasons you don’t really understand.   He seemed to engineer this whole situation to separate you from Akachi.   He manipulated you at the Loom so you would find out your family was still alive.   You wouldn’t be surprised if he arranged for Aiko to be in Chiyoko’s circle so you would be exposed to Sorcery.   While you feel comfortable with badgering Akachi for answers, you know you will get none from Elder Kejak.  Not about this.   In his own way, the Elder Oracle did care about you.  You remember Elder Kejak’s anger when he discovered Trailing Sorrow injured you.  Yet you did not want the Elder Oracle in control of your fate.   You do not trust your fellow Chosen of Secrets as you did Akachi.

Akachi, Elder Kejak, Sasha, Wanahton, the Owl.  They care about you.  They remember you.   Even Haythem looks out for you in his own twisted way.   You’ve spent your whole life wondering about your real family, when they were hiding in plain sight in front of you.   While you loved the idea of having a normal family, you were a stranger to your birth family.   You could spend a lot of effort breaking past Arcane Fate, but you didn’t want to expose yourself to the heartbreak of learning to love your birth family just to lose them over and over again.  Tears stream down your cheeks and you close your eyes.   It was time to let go of your birth family and accept your true family.  The Five Score Fellowship may be a conniving, quirky, dangerous mob, but you were one of them.

A great gust of wind roars in from the White Sea and startles the sea birds into flight.    Thousands of squawking birds dart to and fro, blocking out the sun and obscuring the sky.   Your anima flares, casting a dim emerald light in the darkness.  Your caste mark burns on your forehead.  In the mist of this extraordinary phenomena, you are at peace with yourself and the world around you.   For the first time since your Exaltation, a heavy weight has lifted off of your chest and you release a deep cleansing breath.   As your anima fades, you turn around and face your elders.

“Welcome to the Terrestrial Circle of Sorcery, Oracle.”  Elder Kejak says gravely as both he and Akachi bow their heads and kneel before you.   You stand there stunned at both elders’ reaction, unsure what to say or do next.  You have finally achieved your goal of becoming a Sorcerer.  Now what?

“We should be going before the birds’ strange behavior attracts a crowd,” Elder Kejak advises, having noticed your confusion.  Curiosity burns in Elder Kejak’s eyes. He wants to know what you sacrificed during your trial.

“No.” Sudden anger blossoms at Elder Kejaks’ words.  “I’m not going anywhere with you.”  He didn’t respect you enough to deal openly with you.  He manipulated you to get his way.   You control your temper before you say something you’d regret.  “Go.” The Elder Kejak can discover the answers on his own.  “I need to finish talking to Akachi.”  Elder Kejak, not betraying any disappointment, graciously inclines his head and walks back the way he came.

You wait until the Elder Oracle leaves you alone with Akachi.

“You took my family from me.” You state simply.  Now was not a time to mince words.

“Yes.”  Akachi agrees, tightly griping his wrist.

“You hurt me.  You hurt them.”

“I know.“  Your guardian’s eyes closes in anguish.

“We can’t change what happened,” you realize “but we can move forward.”

“What?”  Not daring to hope, Akachi waits for you to continue.

“There has to be a better way to prepare future Sidereals for their Exaltations.   We shouldn’t take them from their families.”  You pause, thinking.   “Maybe relocate the whole family closer to the Yu-Shan gates.  Watch over them and tell them what they need to know when they are ready.”  You words rush as you come up with ideas.

“We can explore other options.”  Akachi quickly agrees.

You give your guardian a small smile.  “We better.”  You go to Akachi and embrace him.  Your guardian tenses for a moment and then relaxes and returns your embrace.

“When I was talking to Anders, it wasn’t him I was thinking of as a father but you.”  You whisper.    “I spent all my life wondering who my family was, but I can never have a normal family.  I can try and try, but it wouldn’t be the same.  They wouldn’t be you or Sasha or the Owl. ”

Akachi says nothing at first and hugs you tighter.  “I was afraid of losing you.”  He admits.

You bury your face into his color clashing cloak.  “I want my curfew to be two hours later.”

“What?” Akachi asks, as if he didn’t hear you correctly.

“I want my curfew to be two hours later.”  Seizing the opportunity, you continue listing off demands.  “I want full access to all of the restricted areas of the Bureau of Destiny.   The ones I should have access as a Sidereal.  The Loom of Fate.  The Library of Secrets.  The Cerulean Lute of Harmony…”

“You are still too young for the Cerulean Lute of Harmony!”

“I checked!  There is no age limit for that part of the Bureau.”

“That’s because in the entire history of Creation everyone who works for the Bureau of Destiny has been an adult!”

“Maidens!  I’m not going to buy a prostitute.  I just want to see what’s there! “

Akachi gives you a stern look.  “We will discuss this later.”

“I still get the later curfew.” You insist as you and Akachi walk away from the dock.

“Yes.” Akachi agrees.  “I don’t see a problem since you have apparently been up late reading Jupiter knows what in your room.”   He indicates the squawking birds flying above you.

“You should be happy.  The Owl has been trying to get me to read for years!”

Akachi shakes his head.  “No demon summoning in your room.  Actually, no demon summoning at all. “

“Fine.”  You cross your arms.  You weren’t planning on summoning demons anyways.  “One more thing.   I want to know the truth.  I don’t want lies anymore.”

Akachi exhales, dreading what is coming next.  “What do you want to know?”

“Everything.”

Your guardian smiles wanly.  “Perhaps you can be a little more specific.”

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

What do you want to ask Akachi?

  • Tell me about your wife and her Lunar Mate
  • Tell me about the failed meeting with the Lunars
  • Tell me about Yeva. What is going on between you two?
  • Other

 

((That was a tough choice!  I’m glad you guys had to make it instead of me! ))

((The image in today’s post was brought to you by the marvelously talented Jen!  I had a few different images in mind for this part of the story, so your choice decided what Jen drew! ))

((This last choice is to see what questions are left to deal with.  I’m not going to promise to answer all of them right away, so try to prioritize what Svante wants to hear.))

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98 – Sacrifice

“It’s about Bendt, not Dragonblooded,”   you start.   “Well, it’s about Dragonblooded or rather not being Dragonblooded.  I mean….”   Maidens, you are screwing this up.

Your father glances over at Akachi with a questioning look.  “Svante met your son at Ramshorn.”  Akachi helpful adds.

“Yes!”  You desperately cling to any support, even from Akachi. “He’s coming here to join your crew!”

“Really?”  Your father’s face breaks into a wide smile.   “Kaja finally gave him permission.”

“Actually, she didn’t.”   You quickly amend.  “Bendt ran away.”

“Shit.” Your father mutters.  “Excuse my language.”

“Don’t worry.” Akachi assures your father.  “Svante is a bit of a foul mouth himself.”

You ignore Akachi’s quip and focus on your father.   He doesn’t seem to happy Bendt ran away from home.  This may be easier than you thought.  “Are you going to send him home when he gets here?”

Your father considers your request, swirling Ice Wine around his cup.  “No.  I’m not.”

“What?!  But it is dangerous out on the White Sea!”

“It is very dangerous,” your father agrees, “but I can’t keep protecting Bendt from Creation forever.   That’s what Kaja doesn’t understand.  We are mortal.  In a couple of decades, we aren’t going to be around.   The boy has to grow up and make his own choices, his own mistakes.”  Your father smiles ruefully.   “The Gods know I’ve made enough of them.   Still make them every once in a while.  But I’ve learned from my mistakes and it would cruel to deprive Bendt from those same lessons.  It’s not like he is going to appreciate me doing it.  “

“Yes, but would it be just as cruel to not share the lessons you have learned!”  You have to convince your father not to stand by let Bendt make a fatal mistake.  “He’s going to do something stupid and risky to try to trigger his Exaltation, but you know doesn’t work like that.”  Your father frowns at his cup.  “You understand what he is going though.   You can stop him from getting himself killed.  ”   How can you convince your father, a man who has always dreamed of Exalting, his son will never exalt?

“Some topics may be difficult for Anders to talk about, Svante,” Akachi interjects.

“The difficult topics are the most important ones!” you insist.   “Even when Bendt doesn’t seem like it, he will hear what you say.  He doesn’t want lies, he wants the truth, no matter how bad it is.   He wants to make his own choices, but he needs to know everything he can to be able to make them.”  You wipe your eyes on your sleeve.   Were you still talking about Bendt and Anders or you and Akachi?

Sighing, your father rubs his face with his hand.   “Svante, you may be a strange duck like your Uncle, but you got good head on your shoulders.”

“Well, he’s not really my uncle.”

Your father chuckles.  “I used to say the same thing to my step-father.  Mostly when he told me things I didn’t want to hear, but needed to.”

I bet your stepfather didn’t kidnap you, you think.  “Will you talk to Bendt?”

“I’ll talk to Bendt.”  Your father agrees.   “Tell him what he needs to know.  He won’t get on my ship unless he agrees not to take any foolhardy risks. ”

“You may want to talk to Kaja, too.”  Akachi suggests.  “She won’t take kindly to you whisking Bendt away.”

Your father nods.  “I’ve been meaning to get down to Ramshorn, but the fish runs have been so good, it’s hard to get away.”  A sailor knocks on the door and calls your father away.

Akachi chuckles.  “I may have been a bit overenthusiastic with the blessings on Anders lately.”   You pointedly ignore Akachi and the Elder Sidereal falls silent.   After a few minutes, your father comes back.  “Bendt is here and I want to make use of the rest of daylight to head to Ramshorn.   Was there anything else you wanted to talk about, Mayura?”

Bendt is standing behind your father, staring at you as if he is trying to recall where he saw you before.  Arcane Fate.  You sigh. You will have to start over again with your brother.

“I think we are good.”

Your father shakes Akachi’s hand and holds out his hand to you.  “It was nice to meet you, Svante.  I wish you a safe trip home.”

You stare at your father’s hand.  You assumed you would be going back to Ramshorn with your father and brother.   But then why would they invite you along?  Even if Akachi didn’t introduce you as his nephew, you would still be a stranger to them.   “I left Mei Mei back in Ramshorn.”

“We can go get her tomorrow, Svante.”  Akachi says.   “We should let Anders and Bendt go, they have a long journey on horseback ahead of them.”

One of the sailors sees you off of the ship.   “Are we going back to Yu-Shan tonight?”  You ask miserably.

“That would be my preference, unless you want to say here?”  Akachi jerks his head at a drunken man pissing against a wall.

You weren’t really sure if you wanted to go anywhere tonight.   Not with Akachi.   When you don’t answer, Akachi says “Come on.  Let’s walk along the dock for a bit.”

With heavy steps, you follow Akachi along the dock.   He leads you to a point where the breeze blows away the stench of fish and shit.   You lean against the wooden railing and watch the sea birds float in the water.  Akachi joins you at the rail.

“You introduced me to my father as your nephew.” You note.  Two of the seabirds are fighting over a piece of fish.  You wish you had some bread to give them so they wouldn’t fight.

“I needed something to tell your father to explain your presence and give your words weight.  We have used this story many times.   I didn’t think it would bother you.”

“It does bother me.”

Akachi takes a deep breath and fidgets with a dreadlock.  “I’m sorry.   If it’s any consolation, your father won’t recognize you the next time you see him.  We can create a better cover story to tell him.  ”

“I don’t like lying to my father’s face.”

Akachi stares out at the White Sea.   “Sometimes lies are all we have when no one remembers the truth, Svante.   You’ll come to understand this one day.”

“I remember the truth.”  You remind Akachi.  “Why do you lie to me?”

Instead of answering, Akachi stands up straight and protectively stands in front of you.    “What is it?” you ask.  You glance around your guardian and see Elder Kejak striding down the dock towards you.    You have never seen Elder Kejak outside of Yu-Shan and are surprised to see in dressed as a traveling merchant, all browns and greys.   Next to Elder Kejak, Akachi seems clownish in his color clashing coat.

Elder Kejak greets your guardian warmly.  “Good evening, Akachi.”

“Chejop.”  Akachi replies tersely.  “I thought you’d still be cleaning up your office.”   Elder Kejak’s office, when you last saw it, was gratingly neat.  Would it be possible for it to be any cleaner?

“I thought I’d see how Svante was doing.  It is my fault he is in this predicament as you so emphatically reminded me this afternoon.”  Did something happen between the two elders after you left with the Owl?

“He’s doing fine.  You aren’t needed here.”  Akachi’s fists are clenched at his side.

“I can’t really see him when he’s hiding behind you. “  Elder Kejak mimes standing on his tiptoes to see over Akachi’s shoulder.

“I’m not hiding,” You step out from behind Akachi.

“See, Akachi.  No harm done.“  Elder Kejak smiles warmly.  “Did you enjoy your visit with your birth family, Svante?”

“It was okay.”  You wish Elder Kejak would go away.  You were just about to get answers from Akachi.

“Just okay.   Visiting your family wasn’t the happy reunion you were expecting, was it, Svante?”

“No, but I’m glad I still visited them.”   Why was Elder Kejak here?

“What are you doing here, Chejop?”   Akachi demands, echoing your own thoughts.

“Svante needs to understand why we had to take him from his birth family.  Why certain sacrifices had to be made for the good of Creation.”  Elder Kejak slightly emphasizes the word Sacrifice.

This is your Trial of Fire.  You remember Aiko saying.   If you want to be a Sorcerer, you have to pay the price.

This really was your Trial of Fire and Elder Kejak wants you to give up your family!  You had a choice though.   Masaru’s brother said you had a choice!   You stare at your shoes and the grey warped boards of the dock.

“Chejop!” Akachi figures out what is going on.  “It was agreed!   Svante is too young to be initiated into Sorcery! How dare you defy…”

“I didn’t dare anything.    Svante set upon this path himself.”  Elder Kejak meets your eyes.  “Didn’t you, Svante?”

Plausible Deniability.   Elder Kejak used that term when you asked about Sorcery long ago.   “Yes, I took a copy of the White Treatise from Chiyoko’s school.”

“Don’t give me that horse shit, Chejop!”  Your eyes widen.  You have rarely heard Akachi curse.  “You manipulated Svante to this point.”

“You can make your complaint to the Convention of Essence Users.”  Elder Kejak counters.  “Since Svante has already set on this path, we should do our best to help him though his Trial of Endings.  “

“Don’t do this, Svante.”  Akachi pleads.  “You have no idea what you will be giving up.”

“Or you can hinder him, Akachi.”  Elder Kejak sighs.   “You’ll one day realize Svante is capable of much more than you realize.   Look at what he has accomplished in spite of you!”

“You think I’m hindering Svante?   I’m trying to protect him from….”  Akachi pauses, figuring out what is going on.   “You are trying to get Svante to end his relationship with me.”  He whispers.

“You have been holding him back from reaching his potential.” Elder Kejak points out.   “After what he has learned today, he has ample reason to never want to see you again. “

Akachi ignores Elder Kejak and kneels in front of you.  “Svante,” You stare blankly at Akachi when he calls your name.   “Don’t listen to Elder Kejak.   There is no need to rush your childhood.   You’ll have plenty of time to make a choice.  You weren’t even supposed to Exalt for another sixteen years!”

“Why?  Why should I wait?”  In spite of the tears in your guardian’s eyes, you continue.   “No.  It’s my life.  I’m going to make a choice now.  Even if it is a mistake.”

What do you sacrifice?

  • Your guardian has been holding you back from learning what a Sidereal needs to know and you will never be able to forgive your guardian for taking you from your family
  • Your Family. Elder Kejak is right.  A Sidereal needs to think of all of Creation, not just one family.   They don’t remember you anymore anyways, thanks to Arcane Fate.  If you weren’t around, those old forgotten wounds may finally heal.
  • Mei Mei. You will never have a normal childhood and you have to come to terms with this fact.   Giving Mei Mei to your little sister would represent you are ready to leave childhood behind.
  • Run Away. Fuck Sacrifices.  Fuck Sorcery.  Fuck everything.  You have been manipulated since you were an infant.   The only way to get free is to run away.   Even if you have to spend the rest of your life walking outside of Fate.   (Note: this option is not considered a Sacrifice. I’m not going to let you Sacrifice your Home just yet.)
  • Other

 

((The big decision!   This choice will have a major impact on the rest of Svante’s life, beyond initiating into Sorcery.   I would prefer you guys not tie on this one, so if there is one I may give you an out of character choice to break the tie.))

((I wasn’t planning on adding Mei Mei to the list, but having a physical representation of the sacrifice of your childhood makes sense.  ))

97 – Pride

You original plan was to tell Akachi to fuck off when you got to Wallport.   You got the transportation you needed from your guardian, so you didn’t need him anymore.  Yet, the closer to Wallport and your father you got, the more nervous you became.   Your mother who seemed like a nice person, left your father for a reason.  What sort of man was your father?   Your wipe your sweaty hands on the bottom of the coat.     “You can come along to introduce me to my father,” you offer your guardian.  Let Akachi think you were doing him a favor by letting him accompany you.

With a slight smile, Akachi nods and your feet land on the ground as he ends the Stormwind Rider at the edge of the forest.   You seen the stumps of the trees used to build the Wallport stretching out into the distance.  The port town lies downhill – its timber walls framed by the blue of the White Sea.   Akachi reaches out to take you by the shoulder and guide you, but you avoid your guardian’s touch by darting away.  Akachi stands there awkwardly holding out his hand for a moment before tucking his hands into the pockets of his color clashing coat.   You and Akachi walk to Wallport in awkward silence.

After Ramshorn, you were expecting Wallport to be a quiet port town with everyone joyfully going about their business.  Instead the acidic stench of human waste burns your nose even before you reach the town gates.   The guards at the gate barely glance up from their dice game as you and Akachi enter.   Sooty snow piles up in front of drab grey wooden buildings.   You step around the street puddles after watching a boy tips a chamber pot onto the muddy streets.

“Wallport was founded by the refugees of the villages flooded when the Dam broke during the Usurpation.  This town occupies a convergence of many important destinies, so I do not have free reign to adjust the atmosphere of the town like I can with Ramshorn.”   A barkeep throws a drunken man out of a bar.   The drunk man verbally assaults the barkeep, giving the woman a colorful description of her sexual habits.

“Why would my father live here?” you ask as you and Akachi make your way through the crowd watching the spectacle.

Akachi grimaces.   “I tried to encourage him to move someone else, but he likes being the big fish in the small pond.  In hindsight, it’s for the best.   Dragonblooded avoid towns like this and your father does not get along with them well.   ”    Akachi pauses before a boarded up building.  “Svante, there is something I want you to know before we met your father.   Anders is a man who has lived in the shadow of a Dragonblooded father, a man who died before his son was born.  As a boy, Anders grew up hearing stories about the great deeds his father done from his mother.   Anders’ main regret in life is he could never live up to his father, since he never exalted.   Keep this in mind when we met him.”

As you approached the docks, you hoped the smell would improve, but the reek of raw sewerage was replace by the foul stench of rotting fish.  You watch your guardian to see how he was handing the smell.  Akachi looks pale.  His eyes darting from the skinny children picking though the garbage for food to the old beggar, flies buzzing around his oozing sores.  Akachi, unable to past by the man, sternly orders you to stay put.   You wait until after Akachi checks to make sure you are staying away to sneak forward.

“What can I do to bring you peace, old man?” Akachi whispers gently, taking the old man’s dirty sore-covered hand.

“Nothing but death will bring me peace, young man,” the old man croaks.

Akachi frowns like he has swallowed something bitter.  “Is this what you truly desire?”

Hope fills the old man eyes and he nods his head.   “Will there be pain?”

“No.”   Akachi embraces the man, disregarding of the man’s oozing sores and filthy clothes.   The man awkwardly puts his bony arms around the elder.  He contently rests his head on Akachi’s shoulder and breaths no more.  Akachi lays the old man back against the wall.  Man appears peaceful, even happy in death.

“You killed him.” You whisper.

Akachi turns around and barks “I told you to stay put!”

“Why?”  While you are angry with the Elder Sidereal about a great many things, saving this man from pain isn’t one of them.     “You can’t keep protecting me forever!”

“I’ll keep you from this misery as long as I can.”   Akachi closes the old beggar’s eyes.

“This is why you kidnap us!”  You understand your guardian a bit more now.   The kidnappings, all the lies, everything was to protect you from Creation.  “You think you are trying to protect us!”

“I can’t save all the children of Creation but I can at least save our own Chosen.”

“How is taking us from our families saving us!?”  you demand.  This was crazy!

Akachi shushes you.  “Keep your voice down.  We’ll talk about this later.”

“No,” you insist, despite lowering your voice.  “We will not talk about this later.  Why would you think kidnapping children is saving them?”

“Because you shouldn’t have to live with the consequences of our actions! “  Akachi hissed at you.   “We knew there was going to be a price for overthrowing the Solars.  We knew Creation would be diminished.  We had no choice.”  Akachi stresses, trying to convince himself as much as you.  “When my wife came back from Project Wyldhand, she talked about how much fun it was.   Millions of people dead for a Weapons Test and she wanted to do it again.  It was then I knew Chejop was right.  Something had to be done about the Solars.”

“But the cost….  Every time I step foot in Creation, I can’t help but see how things were… before.  The Paradise lost was a lie, but it was a sweet lie.  Creation survives, but is just surviving enough?“

One of Rikali’s memories surfaces.  “Ayesha said that.”

“Yes, and sometimes I wonder what she says isn’t true.  Some of the other Elders wanted to silence her, but Elder Kejak and I convinced them to leave her be.”

You feel like your head is about to explode with all Akachi has told you.   “How much longer to the Fire Dragon?”

Akachi, relieved with the change of subject, points out a large boat with Orange and Red sails.    The Fire Dragon is the largest and best maintained fishing vessel at the Wallport Docks.    Yet compared to the merchant ships in Vanchow, the Fire Dragon is far from impressive.   You follow Akachi to the Fire Dragon and up the gangway.   He stops just before boarding the ship.

Your father stands before a group of bloody and bruised sailors.  Despite the bloodstains, their clothes appear cleaner than the unemployed sailors you saw back on the dock.  “I don’t care what he said about your sister,”  your father lectures to his crew.  “you do not start fights in town.   I named this ship after my father and I won’t let you desecrate his name.  The Fire Dragon is the best ship on the White Sea.  Many men would kill to serve aboard my ship.  If you don’t straighten up, you’ll be back on the docks looking for work.  Have I made myself clear?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Good.”    He gestures at a pile of rope.  “Get to the nets.   I want them repaired before we ship out.”  The men jump to action, not wanting to disappoint their captain again.   Your father’s eyes light up when he sees you and Akachi at the entrance of the boat.

“Permission to come aboard?” Akachi requests.

“Granted!”   Your father comes up to Akachi and grabs his forearm in greeting.  Your father ignores you to your disappointment.   “You are always welcome aboard, Mayura.”

Akachi glances up at the sails.  “Orange Sails?”

Your father shrugs.  “I picked up some dye at the market.  Just because I don’t have an anima, doesn’t mean my ship can’t have one.”

“I hope you haven’t repeated that to Auer Pala.” Akachi knits his brow.

“I can handle Auer Pala.” Your father assures Akachi nonchalantly.

“Anders…”  Akachi says in a familiar tone.  You have heard your guardian say your own name just like that many times.

“Who’s Auer Pala?” You inquire.

“She is the Water Aspect who manages the Coast Guard on the White Sea.”  Your father explains.  His eyes met yours.   “Who is this?”

“This is my sister’s son, Svante.”  Your eyes flick upwards to Akachi in annoyance.  Akachi used this story many times even though no one seemed to question why a dark skinned Southern man would have a pale skinned Northern nephew with Fire Aspect markings.   “Svante, this is Anders, Captain of the Fire Dragon.”

“Welcome Aboard, Svante.”  Your father grasps your hand in a firm shake and says to Akachi.  “Let’s get out of this cold.  I got some Icewine in my cabin. “   You follow Akachi to your father’s cabin, fuming your guardian introduced you to your own father as his nephew.  The Cabin is small and cramped with a small desk and bed.   A small round window lets in just enough daylight to illuminate the maps and papers on the desk.   You slide on to the desk and Akachi takes a seat in the only chair in the cabin.  Your father uncorked a wine bottle and pulls out two cups and wiggles the third in an unspoken question.

“Svante can have a little wine.”  Akachi consents.   Anders pours three cups of the pale wine and hands them over.  You fidget with the clay cup in your hands, not drinking the wine.

Your father takes a sip of the wine, grimaces with the sweet taste, and sets his cup aside.  “What brings you to my ship, Mayura?   I left the last payment with your man a few months ago.”

Akachi waves off the money as unimportant.   “Svante wanted to meet you.  He has heard a lot about you.”

Your father sits up a little straighter.  “My father was blessed by the Dragon, so I am the closest most people will ever get to meet a Dragonblooded.”  He smiles sadly and asks, “Did you have any questions?”

You squirm in embarrassment at your father’s boasting of his Dragonblooded heritage.   You are thankful Chiyoko and the rest of your Dragonblooded friends aren’t here to hear your father.   You can’t imagine how they would react to him.

What do you do?

  • Tell your father Bendt has run away from home and your father should send Bendt back to his mother.
  • Don’t tell your father Bendt has run away from home.  Prompt your father to talk about the dangerous of fishing on the White Sea to keep them fresh in his mind when Bendt does arrive.
  • Tell your father Bendt wants to join the crew of the Fire Dragon. Remind your father about his own disappointment at not Exalting and how Bendt shouldn’t join the crew unless you can be certain he won’t do anything risky or dangerous.
  • Other

(Computer ate my first draft of this.  Nothing like having to rewrite what you already written from memory.)

96 – Intermediaries

“My father is keeping Bendt’s hopes of Exaltation alive, so let’s go the Wallport and talk to him.”   Only your father can convince Bendt to give up on his dream of becoming Dragonblooded and going to Wallport would give you a chance to finally meet your father.

Akachi smiles in approval.  “Bendt trusts his father and his word would carry more weight than yours.   With Arcane Fate, we have to work through intermediaries to help others.” You say nothing to this.   You neither need nor want a lecture from Akachi right now.

As Akachi directs the Stormwind Rider across the snowy plains towards port town, you try to think of what you’ll say to your father when you met him.  Yet your mind wouldn’t leave the topic of your own Exaltation.  “So, I wouldn’t have been told about being a Sidereal until I was 29?”

“Of course not, you would have been told much sooner. “  Your guardian crosses his arms.  “Jupiter misinforming us about your Exaltation would have caused enough problems, much less the young age you exalted at.”    Akachi grimaces.  “If you were older, you would have been well prepared for your Exaltation.”

“You mean prepared to fight your war against the Lunars.”  You remember what Aiko said about being forged into a weapon.

“Our War,”  The elder Sidereal corrected, his eyes heavy with sorrow.  “If I could lift this burden from you, Svante, I would in a heartbeat, but that Fate is not written in our stars.  The Lunars have not forgiven the Dragonblooded for their part in the Usurpation.  Their elders may not remember us from before, but enough of them have broken though Arcane Fate to know we exist.  Each new Lunar Exalt is warned about us.   Taught to kill first and ask questions later.   Many Sidereals have died on Lunar Claws, like your previous…“

You cut Akachi off.  “We die in your stupid war, while you Elders stay safe in Yu-Shan!”

Akachi sighs.  “Look at Rikali’s memories, Svante, and you know that isn’t true.   Sasha’s previous incarnation, Hotaka, was almost as old as I am.   He was killed on that ill-fated Wyld Hunt just like both Wanahton’s  and your previous incarnations.“

At the mention of Hotako’s name, a memory of a slight man with a gentle smile appears.  “It’s your show, Rikali.   You know better than I were a Lunar would hide in the Western Isles.”  You push the memory away.   “I don’t believe that.   The Desert Fox only wanted to save her son and be left alone.”

“If the Desert Fox realized what you truly were, she might not have let you leave the Fair Folk boat alive.  Perhaps if the Lunars had not run to the Wyld after their Solar Mates died, they would not have been warped into the monsters they are today.   Before the Userpation, my wife’s Lunar mate was a quick witted gecko and a talented sorcerer.  The last time I saw Erlantz, I didn’t recognize him.   He was more beast than man.   “

“Your wife’s Lunar mate…”  You repeat incredulously.  “You were married to a Solar?!”

“Yes, but that was a long time ago.”  Akachi changes the subject.  “We are almost to Wallport.”  He adjusts on his color clashing cloak.  “This Peacock Resplendent Destiny is known to Anders, so I can introduce you to your father.  I invested in his fishing boat business, so he has no choice but to grant me some of his time.”

What do you do?

  • Have Akachi vouch for you to your Father
  • Tell Akachi to keep out of this. You will talk to your father on your own
  • Walk outside of Fate after you land and leave Akachi behind
  • Other

95 – Akachi

Akachi….

You remember when Akachi taught you to swim in the Western Seas.   He kept a close eye as you fearlessly paddled deeper into the warm turquoise water.  At first you were frighten to keep your eyes open while you swam.  With Akachi’s gentle encouragement, you opened your eyes to the stinging salt water and frolicked among the bright tropical fish.

You remember when Akachi took you to the great towering forests of the East.  You were five years old and had to strain your neck back to glimpse the broad green leaves of the colossal trees.   Together you and Akachi turned over old logs and investigated the creepy crawlies beneath them.    Akachi held an iridescent green beetle in his hands and you sat enraptured as he told you the beetle’s entire life history.  You wanted to stay in this magical forest forever and cried when Akachi carried you home.

You remember waking up from nightmares the first month after your Exaltation.  Nightmares all the more frightening because they actually happened to Rikali and your other incarnations.   You knocked over your bedside lamp, fumbling to turn on a light in the unfamiliar room.   Footsteps approached from down the hall, but instead of Nanny, Akachi appeared in the doorway.  He held you until you calmed down and the memories passed.  The next morning you were ashamed to need such comfort.  You were twelve years old, too old to be scared to tears by nightmares.   Yet Akachi never brought up your night terrors and was there the next night when they happened again.

You remember when you first summoned your pattern spider.  The metallic taste of the spider surprised you as it solidified on your tongue.  You spat the spider on the desk and back away in terror.  The emerald pattern spider reared up its front legs.  You ran out of the room towards Akachi’s workshop.     After you explained what happened, you guardian got up from his pottery wheel and cleaned the clay off of his hand.  When he saw the spider on your desk, he laughed and picked up the spider, explained to you how to use it.

You remember the times when you asked Akachi about your family.   Akachi deflected your questions and changed the topic.   You quietly sat in school, listening to Masaru and Chiyoko tell stories about their families.  Even Aiko, who never talked about her family, knew where she came from.   So you grew more persistent.  Asked more questions.  Finally, Akachi snapped at you.  He will not tell you about your family until you were ready to know.  Until you were older.   Akachi never lost his temper with you before.

You remember your mother, a woman who helps every lost child, and yet no longer remembers why.  Your sister, Linnea, overly suspicious of strangers and overprotective of her younger siblings.   And Sasha, the sister you grew up with.  The one you no longer remembered.   Elder Kejak said Sasha was badgering Akachi to let you have access to the Loom of Fate.   Was she just wanting you to reclaim your memories of her or was she hoping you’d find the answers to your questions?  The same questions she must have asked Akachi thousands of times.

You clench your fists, nails biting into flesh.   You close your eyes, unable to even look at your guardian.  How could one person cause so many conflicting emotions?

You force your eyes open and meet Akachi’s guilty gaze.  No matter how you felt about the elder Sidereal, you need Akachi’s help.

“I’m sorry I took off”, you lied.  You weren’t really sorry.   “But I really need your help.”  Saving your brother was more important than confronting Akachi about your past.  “My brother is about to do something stupid and I need to stop him.”

Akachi hesitates and suddenly you worry your guardian wouldn’t help you save your brother.  Worry he would drag you back to Yu-Shan, leaving your family to fend for themselves.  “I’m going to help Bendt whether you want me to or not.“   You step forward and gather Essence to yourself.    Attacking an elder was stupid, but you weren’t going to let Akachi prevent you from helping your brother without a fight.  “Don’t try to stop me.”

Akachi doesn’t move to defend himself.   “I’ve been watching over your birth family for years.  Do you really think I want anything to happen to Bendt? “

You relax.  He was going to help you.

“Follow me.”   Akachi leads you away from the town towards the tree line of tall evergreens.

“You have been watching over my family since you took me away.”

“Naoko and I”

“Naoko?”  Naoko, Akachi’s Crafting Student.   You never really interacted with the Joybringer, but she was the one who built the Dragon Fighting Game for your birthday.   You stop just before the tree line.  “Naoko took me from my sister!”

“Svante…”

“Naoko was the one who kidnapped me!”   Naoko was barely a hundred years old.  She was the next youngest Sidereal after you, Sasha, and Wanahton.   Yet, besides your birthday party, you never had a single conversation with her.   Sasha always seemed uncomfortable around her.  “She kidnapped Sasha too!”

“Naoko took you away, but it was under my orders.”  Akachi closes his eyes, pained.  “If you are going to be angry at someone, be angry at me.  Not Naoko.”

“Why?  Why take us away from our families?”

“We took you to prepare you for your Exaltation.  So much work to be done and yet only one hundred Sidereal Exaltations.  We can’t wait to train you until after you Exalt.”

“Wanahton was raised in Creation and he seems to be doing fine.”

“Wanahton is not doing fine.  He could barely read when he Exalted.  Wanahton is a good man and well-travelled, but completely unready for Bureau life.    His wife was the one who took care of the business side of their shipping company.”

“Maybe Mercury had her reasons!” You retort.   “Maybe she wanted to show you it’s wrong to kidnap children from their families!”

“Mercury didn’t need to show me that.”  Akachi snaps.  “Do you think I like stealing children from their cradles?  Do you think I don’t see the how it rips families apart?”   He closes his eyes, getting his temper under control.  “I’ve watched your sister, Linnea, grow up, knowing she failed in protecting you.   Your parents were already drifting apart, but losing you was what finally drove your mother away.  Your brother was too young to remember you, but he has had to bear the brunt of his father’s Exaltation hopes alone.”

“And I have done much much worse.  I’m a Chosen of Serenity.  A Joybringer.  Yet I have ripped apart more families than I have helped since the Usurpation.”  Akachi turns away, unable to meet your accusing gaze.     “We all have done things we regret.  We thought we would be free after the Solars were gone yet Creation keeps asking more of us.  We have lied, stolen, cheated, and murdered – all for the good of Creation.   It doesn’t affect Chejop as much as it does me.  Perhaps it will be easier for you when you grow up.”

You remember the horrible feeling you got in your gut when you lied to Masaru before you revealed what you were.  He was your friend and he trusted you and you still lied to him.  Was that a taste of your future as a Sidereal?  No, it couldn’t be.  “I’ll never do any of those things.” You declare.   This can’t be what it means to be a Sidereal.  “I’ll never be like you!”  You scream at Akachi.   “I’ll never rip families apart!”  Creation didn’t need that sort of hero.

Akachi takes your verbal abuse without flinching.  “I’d be careful, Svante.”  He says softly.  “Never is a long time for a Sidereal.”  He continues walking and once he gets to the tree line, he turns back and asks “Are you coming, Svante?”

You still needed his help to get to your brother.  You follow the Elder Sidereal into the forest.   Akachi leads you to a clearing, surrounded by tall pine trees and hidden from the village.    Akachi closes his eyes in concentration.  The mark of Venus flares slightly on his forehead and vanishes almost too quickly to be seen.   Around the Joybringer, dirt and pine needles being to swirl causing his dreadlocks flip around his face.   Suddenly, the dust cloud raises Akachi off the ground.   You guardian offers you his hand.

You knew Akachi was hiding things from you but it was so much worse than you thought.   For a moment you wish you could go back to not knowing.  You stare at his hand, wanting to turn away, yet Akachi’s hand was shaking slightly.   You glance up at Akachi and see the impassive face of an elder Sidereal.  It’s only a mask, you realize.  A mask to hide how frightened he was.   What could the elder be frightened of?   You were no threat to him.   Yet Akachi was scared.  Scared he would lose you.

“I’ve not forgiven you for what you have done.”

“I haven’t quite forgiven myself.”  Akachi admits.   “We can deal with our issues later.  Let’s go save your brother.”

You take his hand and join Akachi on the Stormwind Rider.   Together you rise a few feet above the ground.    The hills, lakes, and rivers rush by as you fly though the landscape.   Inside the spell, the winds are silent.

“When we get to Wallport…”  Akachi begins.

“No,” you interrupt,  “you have done enough to my family.   I’ll take care of this.”

Akachi opens his mouth to disagree, but closes it without saying anything.  With a sigh, he nods and asks, “What do you plan to do?”

You haven’t decided what to do yet.  You are shocked Akachi actually agreed to let you take charge!   You stare at the rolling landscape to buy time to think.  What you need is more information.  “Will Bendt exalt?”

“Lytec, the God of Exaltation, says no.  We have been trying to get Bendt interested in other trades, yet he keeps hoping he’ll take the Second Breath.”  Akachi grimaces.  “Anders helps keep Bendt’s hope of Exaltation alive with stories of his own father.   Most of them aren’t true, but Anders doesn’t know that.  His own father died before he was born.  Hayashi Gudleifr managed to convince your brother not to run away to join the Legions at least.”

You are disappointed your brother won’t exalt as Dragonblooded.   There must be something else for him to do.  “Can Bendt perform Thaumaturgy?”   Thaumaturgy runs in bloodlines.  If your mother was capable of this, some of her children should be too.

“No.”  Akachi gives you a small smile.  “Jupiter claimed the only child of Kaja’s with that talent.”

“Me?” Your voice cracks in surprise.

Akachi continues. “Yes.  If you had exalted at twenty-nine, as we were told, you would have been trained to make use of your gift.  The Bureau of Destiny has many positions for a Mortal Thaumaturgist.”

Twenty-nine.  You exalted much earlier than expected.  You couldn’t imagine being mortal for another sixteen years.  You put this new information out of your head for now.   You need to decide what to do about Bendt.

What do you plan to do?

  • Track down the traders and try to talk sense into Bendt again.
  • Knock Bendt out and drag him back to Ramshorn.
  • Find your father and convince him not to take Bendt on as crew.
  • Other

 

((It is so nice for Akachi to actually be willing to answer all of Svante’s questions!   Svante’s (and the players’) frustration was killing me!  ))

((Originally, before I turned this story into a quest, chapter two was supposed to take place at the Lakehouse while you recovered from your Exaltation.  I cut that chapter because I couldn’t think of good decision points for being a traumatized grieving child.  ))

((I seem to remember not bring the cloak because Akachi may be able to track you with it.  Though sometimes I forget what Svante knows and what the NPCs know, and what happened in the past and what will happen in the future.   So much to keep track of. ))

 

94 – People

“Shit.  Bendt must have gone to Wallport with the traders.”  You release Linnea and take a step back, keeping out of her reach.

Linnea rubs her wrist.  “He’s going to talk my Father into letting him crew on the Fire Dragon.”  Her eyes narrow as she turns and faces you.  “This is your fault.”

“My fault!   I tried to talk him out of doing something dangerous to Exalt.”  You just met your brother and already you are being blamed for something he did.

“You just being here is the problem.”  Your sister crosses her arms.  “How could he not get worked up about Exalting when some Dragonblooded kid shows up on our doorstep?”

“I’m not Dragonblooded.”

She stares you down.  “You’re lying.  I heard you call mother Mortal at breakfast.   You said “Most mortals can’t use Thaumaturgy.”  Only Dragonblooded call people mortals.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.   What else are you supposed to call them? I mean, us.”   You wince at your flub.  You were so worried about slipping up and calling Kaja, Mother, you weren’t being careful to act like a mortal boy.   “I’m such an idiot.”  You slide down the wall and sit on the floor.  You should have worn a Resplendent Destiny instead of trying to pass yourself off as Mortal.

Seeing your distress, your sister’s eyes soften and she kneels on the floor beside you.   “People.”  Linnea offers gently.  “Mortals are just People.”

“Exalts are people, too!”  There wasn’t much difference between mortals and Exalts.  Exalts needed sleep, ate food, attended school, had friends, too.

“Maybe to you, but I can’t get away with treating Dragonblooded as people.   I’d get in trouble.“  Her eyes widen, as your sister realizes she has been acting less than respectful to you.   “I mean…”  She looks away.  “I’m sorry I tried to attack you.  That was stupid.”

You didn’t realize just how wide the gulf was between Exalts and Mortals was.   “Don’t worry.  I’m not offended or anything.”

Your sister relaxes.  “The thought of someone hurting my siblings makes me a little crazy.”   She admits.

You attacked one brother to save the other.  You sigh and bang your head against the wall.   It wasn’t your sister’s fault she didn’t realize who you were.   Yet it was possible she remembered something.  “Linnea, did anything happen twelve or thirteen years ago?”

Linnea plucks at the woolen fabric of her dress.   “You are talking about the raid.”

“What raid?”

“When we used to live near the coast would get raided by barbarians a few times a year.”  Linnea stared off into the distance.  “My parents hid me and my brother in the cupboard.  Told me to keep quiet.   Then they left us to join the town defenders. “   Linnea’s knuckles turn white as she grips her dress.  “I heard noises outside.  Someone had broken into our house!   I was so scared.  There was fighting.  The sound of furniture breaking.”  She closes her eyes.   “Then a strange woman opened the cupboard door.”

“A woman?”  You are surprised.  You figured Akachi had taken you himself.    “What did she look like?”

Linnea shakes her head.  “I don’t remember, but she knew my name.   There was a barbarian warrior laying on the floor behind her.  She said she was there to protect us.  She said that everything was going to be okay and I should go to sleep.  That it would be all over soon.”   Your sister opens her eyes.

“She lied.”  You sister accuses harshly.  “When I woke up, my parents were back frantically searching our house.  People were standing over the dead barbarian, arguing.  The woman took something…. Something important.  The woman wasn’t there to protect us at all.“   Linnea shakes her head, focusing back to the present.  “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

Wanahton once explained, while his children didn’t recognize him, they still remembered having a father.  Your kidnapping was such a formative event in Linnea’s life Arcane Fate couldn’t completely erase it from her memory.  You rub away your unshed tears with the base of your palm and change the subject.   “Just how dangerous is it out on the White Sea?”

“Very Dangerous.  The weather is unpredictable and many ships collide with submerged iceburgs.”  The corner of Linnea’s lips twitches slightly.   “My father’s been lucky.  He hasn’t lost a crew member in years, but Bendt is stupid enough to become the first.”

Your father’s luck may have had help from Akachi.   “Do you know anyone with a sick grandmother?”

“That would be Thea.   She lives on the other side of town. “  Your sister describes the house.

You hear footsteps upstairs.   Elise must have woken up due to the racket you and your sister made.  “I’ll go get your mother.   You watch Elise. “

Before you head to the sick grandmother’s cabin, you ask around Ramshorn and discover the traders left a few hours ago.   One Villager saw Bendt with the traders, but wasn’t sure if your brother left with them or not.

It does not take you long to find the grandmother’s house.   You knock on the door and ask for Kaja.   Inside you find a wilted old woman lying in bed.   The grandmother’s skin was pale and her granddaughter was wiping her face with a damp cloth.  Your mother pours a musky smelling tea and spoons it to the old woman.   When Kaja sees you, she excuses herself and follows you outside.

“Bendt left with the Traders for Wallport.” You announce abruptly.

Your mother puts a hand to her mouth.  “How long ago did they leave?”

“A couple of hours.”

Your mother glances back at the old woman’s cabin, twin responsibilities warring in her mind.  “Anders said he wouldn’t allow Bendt to crew until he was eighteen.”  Your mother didn’t seem too certain your father would keep his word.  Someone calls Kaja’s name from inside the old woman’s house.

“You stay here and take care of the old woman.  I’ll bring Bendt back.”   You aren’t sure how you’d make your way to Wallport, much less convince your brother to come with you.  Maybe you can knock him over the head and drag his unconscious body back to Ramshorn.

You walk through town, trying to figure out how you will get to the Northern Coast.   You will never get there in time if you walk.   You stop in front of the Ramshorn Inn and count your Jade to see if you have enough to buy a horse.

“You look like someone who is in need of transportation.”   A deep and familiar voice observes.  Akachi leans against the wall of the Inn, dressed in his color clashing Peacock cloak.

What do you do?

  • Tell Akachi to fuck off. You’ll find your own way to Wallport.
  • Accept Akachi’s help. It’s the only way you can be certain to catch up with Bendt.
  • Other