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.)