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!”
“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.
((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. ))