You hide in an empty row behind two Sidereals you have never met before. Based on the untidiness of the attire, they are fresh from Creation. The Sheildbearer wears a wrinkled mortal legionnaire’s uniform. His freshly shaved head makes his almond shaped eyes loom large in his face. The russet skinned Joybringer’s mud caked boots rest on the chair in front of her. She is slouched in her chair brushing dried grass off her undyed linen shirt.
“You have some in your hair too, Anuli,” The man picks out a long frond of grass seeds and offers it to her as if a rose bud. Anuli rolls her eyes and the man discards the grass on to the floor. He runs his hand though her dark curly hair. “I don’t see any more.”
You ignore the two Sidereals in front of you and peer between the seats at the large conference table in the middle of the room. Flowered-filled vases vanish among the clutter of papers and maps on the table. Sasha sits by herself at one end of the table, her fair skin paler than usual. Her violet eyes dart towards the door each time someone enters.
“Look, Felix. Someone brought an Uncle Jack manga to the meeting.” Anuli snickers. Yeva, your Sifu, giggles over the latest Pretty Dragon Princess Meru. Yeva’s iron black hair falls straight to her chin. Dressed in uniform of a Dragonblooded Officer, one would never know Yeva was Sidereal not Dragonblooded. Elder Kejak glances over at the front row and the manga vanishes. When Elder Sidereal returns to sorting through his papers, the magna appears in Yeva’s hands again.
When Akachi arrives, you duck behind the chair. His booming laugh echoes around the room as he jokes with Wanahton and Jaived. You peer over the chair again and watch Akachi hand Haythem a thermos. He then joins Sasha at the conference table and coaxes a small smile out of your sister.
“I guess Elder Akachi going to babysit Sasha since the Oracle boy.” Anuli comments. What? You don’t need a babysitter! You hold back from defending yourself to the muddy boot Joybringer.
Felix does not answer, instead watching another group of brightly dressed Sidereals enter the room. “The Western Convention finally arrived.” A tanned woman leads her group down the aisle. Half of her hair shaved off, revealing the silver piercings edging the outside of her ear. The other half of her dark hair trails down to her chin. Uilani. You remember the name of the Elder who heads the Western Convention. She sits at the conference table as the rest of her group takes a seat in the audience.
The room falls silent as another Elder Sidereal arrives. The newly arrived Elder’s silver grey hair curls in a braid around her head like a serpent. You freeze in fear when her cold violet eyes sweep across the room. This is Winona, the Elder of the Northern Convention. Disapproving lines etch Winona’s taupe face. Her gaze is colder than the Northern Steeps of her Convention’s domain.
Another Chosen of Endings distracts you from the elder as he sits down next to the two Sidereals in front of you. The slender, almost skeletal man is dressed in a white long sleeve shirt and grey pants. Deep scars score his golden brown cheeks. In spite of his fearsome appearance, this man, Idir is his name, smiles as he sets his bag in the chair in front of you.
“Your late.” Felix says.
“The meeting hasn’t started yet. “
“Winona has already arrived. Anyone who shows up afterwards is late.”
Idir shrugs. “Sifu is busy giving advice to our newest Reckoner.” You glance though the chairs again and find Winona has usurped Akachi’s chair and is now talking to Sasha. Your sister pays close attention to the icy elder’s every word.
The doors in the back slam shut and you feel a tingle down your spine as the anti-eavesdropping spell activates. The Uncle Jack manga disappears again and everyone begins to head to their seats. Naoko and Meraud, the Eastern Elder, stride down the aisle. Naoko takes a seat next to Jaived and Meraud sits at the Conference table. Yeva takes the last chair at the table. The lights dim and the meeting begins.
Elder Kejak rises. “Within the next two weeks, Shogun Lung Zheng will be dead.” The Elder Oracle says without preamble. He pauses to let the news sink in.
“Shit.” Anuli curses. “No wonder they called us all back in.”
“Hush, Anuli,” Felix leans forward to catch every word. Anuli sits back and crosses her arms.
“We have recalled all of you in the hopes that together we can avoid a succession war.” Elder Kejak continues. “With the Fair Folk harassing our borders, we cannot afford for Creation to be in conflict.”
As Elder Kejak drones on and on about how the survival of Creation is at stake, Idir digs through his bag and pulls out an oblong foil wrapped object. Without a single crinkle, he unwraps the foil and reveals a sandwich piled with pale turkey and bacon. You can taste the bacon it smells so delicious. Your stomach growls and you curl up behind the chair.
“You brought food in here?” Felix hisses.
“Yay, gods! We haven’t eaten all day.” Anuli whispers. “What do you got?”
“Just sandwiches,” Idir passes Anuli a foiled wrapped package. He holds one up at Felix in silent question.
“No…” Felix answers. He turns away from Idir and his sandwich and focuses on the meeting. Your mouth waters at the thought of the sandwich. Maybe if Idir puts it back in his bad, you can steal it without anyone noticing. Then you remember the Owls reaction the last time you stole something. You decide to wait until the meeting ends to find food.
“Felix wants a sandwich,” Anuli says between bites. “He hasn’t eaten all day either.”
“I can’t believe you brought sandwiches to a meeting where we are deciding the Fate of Creation!” Felix’s voice raises at the end of his sentence. Elder Kejak stops talking and everyone in the room stares at Felix. You stay curled up on the floor, willing the shadows to keep you hidden.
Mortified, Felix sinks down in the chair. Elder Kejak resumes talking.
“Don’t you know how to be quiet?” Idir drops the sandwich back in his bag in disgust.
“Might as well eat the sandwich now,” Anuli says.
Felix covers his face with his hand. “I don’t want the fucking sandwich!”
Elder Kejak cedes the floor to Yeva. Your Sifu stands tall and tugs her uniform straight. “The Shogun has decline to name an heir. She currently,” And Yeva emphasizes the word currently. “has six living children. Only two are consider worthy of the Chrysanthemum Manse: Akane and Hayate. Akane is our preference. She has the support of the majority of the military, though the Western Fleet and the Fourth and Seventh Legions have not yet declared a preference. Hayate is in Meru and he will not cede the Chrysanthemum Manse readily. He has relocated his legion to Meru. He will force Akane to siege the manse. During the Usurpation, Vivid of the Night Caste was able to hold the Manse for two years and Hayate hopes to do the same.”
“Have all the secret entrances to the manse been blocked?” Someone asks.
Yeva turns to Sasha. “Yes,” Sasha replies. “All but one. The Northeast corridor is still open. Hayate has this entrance guarded.”
Yeva explains. “He is creating a weak point in his defenses to funnel any opposition though that corridor.”
“And to keep an escape route open.” Idir whispers to Anuli.
“No,” Felix disagrees. “If I were him, I’d hold another way out. “
“The Fourth Legion is still stationed in An-Tang. How is Akane returning to the Blessed Isle?” Wanahton asks Yeva.
“She is negotiating with Admiral Mayim for ships.” Yeva explains.
“I thought the Admiral hasn’t declared for anyone?” Haythem yells.
“It seems like a long shot for Akane.” Another Sidereal from the Western Convention asks. “Have we considered anyone else for Shogun?”
Yeva lists off the rest of the Shogun’s living children, “Yin’s chances for Shogun were destroyed after that failed diplomatic mission to the Hui Rebels. “
“I don’t know,” Anuli snickers. “Yin negotiated his way into the rebel leader’s bed often enough.”
“Guanyu has been in disfavor with Gen Raijin since he eloped.” You recognize the name of Chiyoko’s father. “Besides his own daughter, he is younger than the Shogun’s grandchildren and has no military experience. The Twins, Ming and Ning, are sorcerers. The Shogunate will never accept a sorcerer in the Chrysanthemum Manse. “
“And that is what stops Raijin Indrani from being Shogun.” Idir whispers.
“Raijin Indrani enjoys being the power behind the throne too much to stick her neck out.” Anuli remarks.
You grow bored with the discussion about people who you don’t know. Besides Chiyoko’s father, you don’t recognize any of the names. You lay on the floor and doze for a bit. When Elder Kejak starts talking again, you shake yourself awake.
“Each of you has been assigned to a key point in Creation. Your mission briefing contains your orders and your Dragonblooded contacts. I ask you not to share the details of your mission with…”
“Come now, Chejop.” Akachi interrupts. “Why gather us all together if we can’t share information?”
“We aren’t all secret keepers like you,” Meraud agrees. “Someone is bound to talk.”
“If we are to succeed, the right hand must know what the left is doing,” Winona narrows her eyes at Elder Kejak.
Elder Kejak grimaces and pulls the first red envelope from the box. “Reckoner Sasha Marquadt will continue in her assignment at the Chrysanthemum Manse. She will also be conducting the Shogun’s last rites when her end comes.” Sasha steps up to take her envelope and retreats back to her seat.
“Reckoner Jaived Fiala, Oracle Haytham Ajam, Shieldbearer Gens Yeva, Joybringer Naoko Maki will be assigned to the Fourth Legion. They are to assist Lung Akane as needed.” Haythem rubs his face and slowly rises to get his mission. Jaived and Naoko follow.
“Haringer Wanahton will assist Admiral Mayim in the Western Fleet and attempt to convince him to support Akane.” Wanahton opens his mission envelope and seems confused by the tiny piece of paper. He tucks the mission back into the envelope and goes back to his seat. The three Sidereals in front of you collect their missions. Anuli and Felix are assigned to the Seventh Legion and Idir is assigned to Deheleshen.
You grow more and more bored with the meeting and force yourself to stay awake as Elder Kejak continues to hand out missions. Yes, you found out some very interesting information, but when will it end!
Finally, Elder Kejak stops calling out names. You see a flash of red as he recovers the box and sets it aside. “Any questions?” Everyone in the room shifts restlessly, waiting for the meeting to end. “I expect everyone to be at their posts by Creation’s dawn in five hours. Meeting adjourned. “
You continue to hide in your empty row as you wait for the room to clear out. Haytham is among the first to leave. Sasha follows Winona, the Endings Elder. Uilani approaches Wanahton and gathers him into her crew before she leaves.
Still at the conference table, Elder Kejak passes Akachi a red envelope. Akachi frowns as he accepts the envelope. You consider trailing the two Elders but you never had much luck hiding from them before. Together the two elders leave the room.
Soon, the only two people remain in the room- Meaud, who is setting the room to rights and Idir, who is finishing his sandwich.
Meaud heads over to where Idir sits. “You leaving soon, Idir? You don’t have much time to get to your post.” she asks.
“In a bit. I just need a moment to collect my thoughts. It’s quiet in here with everyone gone.” He offers the foil wrapped sandwich to the Elder Sidereal. “Are you hungry?”
“No, I’m fine. Thank you.”
Idir shrugs and stares into the distance, lost in his thoughts.
Meaud frowns at Idir. “Be sure to lock up when you leave.” The elder leaves the room.
Once she is gone, Idir holds up his sandwich. “Would you like the sandwich?” he asks you. “I’d hate for it to go to waste.”
What do you do?
- Reveal yourself and take the Sandwich. You are hungry
- Wait for Idir to leave and go home
- Try to leave while Idir is still in the room