“Fuck this.” You close your eyes. You are cold and tired and you are short sleep for the second night in the row. When you reopen your eyes, a green beacon of light shines out of your forehead. You search the tree hollow. A small pair of eyes peers out of the hollow. The dematerialized god squeaks when the light spots him. He begins to slip away into his hollow.
“No.” You empower your words with essence. “You will come out and speak with us.”
The eyes peer out of the hollow again. “Dragon ladies and lords, you look wet and miserable…I mean you look beautiful, not miserable…just that you look like you feel miserable…. I mean, I would never presume to say how you feel…”
“Can you please get to the point?” Aiko yells over the cold gusty wind.
The god squeaks. “My sanctum is dry. Perhaps we can talk in here?”
“Field god, your offer is generous, but your hollow is too small for us to fit.” As you explain, the tree hollow expands to human size. A brown spotted skinned hand motions you into the hollow’s darkness.
A shivering Chiyoko glances at you. “Is it safe?”
“If you wanted safe, you should have stayed back at school,” Masaru counters. He stands up and scrapes mud off the bottom of his boots.
“It’s safe.” You assure her. “We will be guests in his sanctum. Just don’t take advantage of his hospitality. And remember –gods are not humans. They have different customs and most of them have quirks. Be respectful and follow my lead. And please don’t embarrass me.” You take a deep breath and enter the sanctum of the potato god.
The sanctum is toasty warm – a fire burns in the center of the main room. The floors are dirt but well compacted. Pillowy piles of soft green moss circle the fire. The tree trunk walls rise up high above your head.
“May I take your cloak?” the potato god asks. Within his sanctum, he comes to just above your waist. Dried earth dusts his brown spotted potato cheeks. Warty potato eyes cover his wide nose. Rooty hairs stick out of his ears and a root beard falls to his round belly.
Just as you begin to peel off your drenched cloak, Masaru and Chiyoko enter the sanctum. Chiyoko turns bright red when she notices the potato god. She hides her face behind Mei Mei. “Dragons!” Masaru exclaims. “The potato man’s naked!”
Aiko steps into the sanctum and bursts into laughter.
The potato god motions around his crotch. “It’s healthier for air to circulate around my little potatoes.” Masaru rubs his hand over his face and turns away. Aiko doubles over with laughter, leaning against the wood wall of the sanctum. The potato god scowls. “I only wear clothes around planting and harvest!”
“I apologize for my companions’ lack of composure. They don’t have much experience with the divine.” You try to salvage the situation. “According to the Immaculate Calendar, tonight begins your harvest festival. Could we see your ritual costume early?” You hand over your cloak and you motion the others to do the same.
The potato god sighs. “I suppose I could get into my ritual robes early.” He takes the cloaks and head off to a different room in the sanctum.
“Remember what I said about not embarrassing me.”
“He came to the door naked!” Chiyoko argues.
“I warned you gods have quirks.” You remind everyone. You walk over to the fire and hold out your hands. “Be prepared for anything.”
Chiyoko nods and sits down on one of the moss cushions. Aiko wipes tears of laughter from her eyes and takes the opposite cushion. Masaru grows somber and fingers the jade plates on his gloves. He patrols around the room.
“What now?” Chiyoko asks. Before you can answer, the god returns dressed in black and blue robe. He tugs at his root beard as he considers what to do with you. “Sit, sit, sit! Would you like something to drink? I have water… tea… vodka…”
“Vodka?’ Aiko translates to Earthspeak. She and Chiyoko share a look. Chiyoko shakes her head no.
“Tea is fine.” You sit by the fire and observe the god brew tea. He pulls down an old tin from his cupboard and blows dust off the lid. His hands shake as he dips the tea strainer into the cups. What was the god nervous about?
The god brings over earthen cups of hot tea. You take a sip and your eyebrows raise. You recognize this tea from Yu-Shan. A bit stale but a type of Southern red tea you have had before.
Chiyoko takes a polite sip and sets the cup aside. Mei Mei takes advantage of this and laps up Chiyoko’s tea. Aiko holds the warm cup in her hands and breaths in the steam. Masaru ignore the cup and stands by the sanctum’s exit.
The god sits by the fire and fidgets with his root beard.
How do you approach the god?
- Tell the god about your mission
- Inquire about where the god acquired the tea.
- Interrogate the god about the illegal offerings
- Ask the god about his plans for the harvest festival.