You despair as you consider your options. Lying to your tutor never worked out well when you neglected to do your homework. You doubt lying about an important secret meeting you had to attend would work any better. Also the Owl would tell Akachi what you were up to anyways.
“Is there something wrong, Svante?” the Owl asks. He sits down at the table besides you, giving you a piercing stare.
You sigh, put the tile back in its place, and close the case. “I know about the meeting tonight. The one about the Shogun,” you say in Skytongue. Few gods in Yu-Shan speak any Creation language besides Earthtongue.
The Owl puffs his feathers out and replies in the same tongue. “I see.” His feathery brow contract as he thinks. He reaches over and picks up the case. “Follow me.”
You hesitate unsure what to do. Was the Owl leading you away from the meeting or was he, you dare hope, going to help you? “Come along, Svante.” The Owl orders. “There is no much time before the meeting.” You remember your tutor did not stop you when you first found out about your birth family and decide to trust the old bird.
You follow the Owl though the crowded streets of Yu-Shan and back to your old classroom. With a touch, the Owl unlocks the door and ushers you into the abandoned classroom. The desks have been neatly stacked against the wall and textbooks lay discarded on a floor. The Owl leans against his teacher’s desk and asks, “How do you plan on getting past the wards? The wards will sense anyone passing through outside of fate. ”
You pull Ayesha’s talisman out of your pocket. “This will let me through the wards.”
The Owl cocks his head and picks the talisman out of your hand. He studies it for a moment and hands it back to you. “The Talisman will let you though the wards, but the alarm wards will still go off.”
“I have a plan for that too.” You scratch the back of your head. “You aren’t going to tell Akachi?”
“No, why would I tell Akachi anything?”
“You work for him.”
“No, I occasionally do favors for Akachi and consider him a friend, but I do not work for him. I am a god of the Division of Secrets. I am currently unassigned to any Sidereal, though that may change when you are older.”
You consider the implications of the Owl’s statement. “You mean you can work for me? Like Shapau works for Akachi?” Sidereals ran offices and had godly staff, even Sasha and Wanahton had that fat toad for a secretary. You never considered who would be on your staff.
“Perhaps, if that is what you wish. You still have quite a few years before you are ready for the responsibility of management.” The Owl changes the subject. “Tell me about your plan to get into the Shogun Meeting and we can see if it is sound. I rather not lie to Akachi and the other elders if they catch you. ”
You stand still as a stone by the meeting door, waiting for someone to come unlock it. You squeeze Ayesha’s wooden talisman tightly in your hand, leaving an indention on your palm. Footsteps approach from down the hallway. Naoko, Akachi’s Chosen of Serenity crafting apprentice, walks beside another taller woman. Naoko is a short, Eastern woman with straight dark hair braided down the left side of her chest. The second woman has dark blond hair laced with grey. She has laugh lines around her deep blue eyes.
“We must be the first ones here.” The Elder Sidereal places a hand against the door and closes her eyes. The mark of Venus flares against her forehead and arcane symbols flare on the outside walls of the room. As her caste mark fades, she opens her eyes and smiles. “There. The room is empty.” The elder unlocks the door and orders Naoko to stand guard.
Five Elders – one for each direction of Creation. Elder Kejak was the Elder for the Blessed Isle – he will be the one running the meeting. Akachi’s domain was the South. This elder must be Meraud, the Elder for the East, where the second largest population of people lived.
You watch other Sidereals trickle into the meeting room. You are searching for one Sidereal in particular. It would just be your luck if he were late to the meeting. Finally, Haytham arrives, escorted by Wanahton and Jaived.
“Is he drunk?” Naoko asks. The stench of cheap booze gags you as you sneak up closer to Haytham.
“Maybe a little,” Haytham answers. “Too drunk for work. Got to send me home!” he slurs. The Drunken Oracle turns to leave, but Wanahton catches him by the arm.
Naoko rolls her eyes. “Get him inside and hid him in a corner somewhere.”
Jaived snorts. “I told you it wouldn’t work, Haytham. Not enough Sidereals for all the work we have. Everyone has to do their part, drunks and all. I’m surprised they haven’t put little Svante on a committee yet.”
“Wait!” Haytham pleads. “The Usurpation! It was wrong! I love Solars and plan to devote my entire life to returning them to their rightful place as rulers of Creation!” Haytham spreads his arm wide, barely avoiding Jaived’s nose.
“Sifu, then it is very important for you to attend this meeting about deciding who will rule Creation next.” Wanahton grabs Haytham by the shoulder and leads him to the door. You keep pace with the drunken Oracle and cross the wards at the same time. The talisman burns in your hand and you feel a tingling as you pass though the wards.
Haytham is not so lucky. The alarm wards chime as they go off. He slams face first into the wards and flung to the ground. “Maiden’s Titties! Even the fucking wards don’t want me to attend this meeting.” Haytham picks himself up and brushes his robes off. “See you around!” He gives a little wave. “Let me know how this whole fiasco works out.” Jaived and Wanahton grab the Oracle and drag him back to the door.
“Search him,” Naoko orders.
“Hey now!” Haytham complains as Jaived pats him down and goes through his pockets. “At least buy me drinks before you start man handling me!” Jaived pulls out a small tin of white powder.
Wanahton groans and rubs his face. “Why, Sifu?”
“That isn’t mine!” Haytham protests.
“It was in your pocket.” Jaived points out.
“If I was going to smuggle Celestial Cocaine into a meeting, I wouldn’t hide it in my back pocket!”
You sneak away as the argument as the door attracts more attention. You almost feel sorry for what you and Ayesha did to Haytham, but then he did use you as bait for the Bureau Mole.
The quarter-filled amphitheater holds about 150 people. A large conference table sits in the center of the room. Elder Kejak, who you did not notice enter the room earlier, pauses in sorting his meeting notes to frown at the commotion at the door. Haytham, Wanahton, and Jaived enter the room and sit near the back. You keep to the shadows of back wall and search for a place to hide.
Where do you hide?
- Under the large table in the center. There is a lot of room under there.
- Near Haytham, Wanahton, and Jaived. The Drunken Sidereal will be blamed for any commotion you make.
- In an empty row in the back. Staying away from everyone is the safest option.
((Updates this month will be sporadic. Stupid Work and Social Life. ))