121 – The Singers

“Give us a moment. I… ah…” you hesitate.  What would Akachi say in this situation?  He would figure out what is wrong with his friends.  “… need to confer with my companions.”  You motion Chiyoko and Aiko over to sanctum entrance, where Masaru is standing.

Mei Mei pops over to potato god, rolls over and exposes her belly.  Root Beard gapes at the puppy until she yelps and bats at his hand.  Tentatively, he scratches her belly.

“Maidens, Aiko, was it your tact you sacrificed during your Trial of Fire!?”  you fume, attempting to keep your voice to a whisper.  “Stop antagonizing the field god!”

“This is so stupid.”  Aiko hisses at you.  “Why does a divine being care so much about potatoes!?”

“He’s a field god of a potato field.  Of course, he’s obsessed about potatoes!”

Your Dragonblooded friends are silent as they digest this new information.  Chiyoko breaks the silence.  “I didn’t think about it that way.  I assumed he was a field god until he worked his way up to a higher position.”

“Gods are immortal.  Promotions to higher positions are rare.  ”

“Svante, to be honest, I’ve never met a god before.”  Masaru admits.  “I’ve heard stories about the Storm Mothers from my brothers.  I’m not completely clueless.”

You wince when Masaru mentions Storm Mothers.   No wonder Masaru waited by the door for trouble.   “Field gods are nothing like Storm Mothers.  They are more amicable to deal with.”

“We’ve seen the God of Meru once.”  Chiyoko mentions.  “One of my Grandmother’s secretaries shooed us out before the meeting could begin.”

“I wouldn’t call it much of a meeting.”  Aiko adds.  “The god appeared in the middle of court ranting and raving.”

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?  You knew we were going to visit this god.”

Masaru fiddles with the jade plates on his gloves.  Chiyoko shuffles her feet and stares at her boots.  “We didn’t want to look stupid in front of you.”

“You aren’t stupid.  I needed to brief you better about the mission.”  Chiyoko and the other aren’t familiar with god as you were.  You lived and worked beside gods every day.  It was why you were raised in Yu-Shan instead of Creation, you suddenly realize.  What better way to know the divine than to live among them?

“What do we do now?’ Aiko glances over to where Root Beard inches closer to the sanctum entrance.

Few gods speak anything other than Spiritspeech.  You doubt Root Beard would know a language not spoken in the village.  “We know Root Beard is hiding something,” you say in Seatongue.  “We shouldn’t talk to the River Goddess without knowing the entire story.  I think I can get it out of him, but I need you not to antagonize him.”

“Maybe we should antagonize him.”  Masaru offers.  “When dealing with smugglers, my father always has at least two people in the interrogation room.  One person to sympathize,” Masaru points at you.  “and the other to apply pressure if the smuggler isn’t cooperating.”  Masaru points back at himself.

“What are you talking about?” Aiko blurts out.  She crosses her arms and frowns at the three of you.

You smirk.  Aiko doesn’t speak Seatongue.  “Let her know what is going on.”

Root Beard paces near the fire.  He glances up when you return.  You sit down on your moss pillow.  Aiko sits across from you.  Chiyoko and Masaru stand at your back.

“I apologize for my friends’ behavior, Root Beard.” You begin in Earthtongue, so Chiyoko and Masaru could understand.  “They haven’t had too many good experiences with gods.   I explained to them you aren’t like those other gods.  You are one of the good ones.”

Root Beard stops pacing and his eyes dart from you to the others.  He takes a deep breath and sits back down by the fire.  “Apology accepted.”  He replies in Earthtongue.   His fingers run though his beard as he watches to see what you will say next.

“We want to help you attend your harvest festival, Root Beard.  But we can’t help you if we don’t know the situation with the River Goddess.”  You remember riding past the angry river.  “There’s more at stake than your potato fields.  She could flood the whole village.”

“No!”  Root Beard lets go of his beard and covers his ears.  “Let her tell you!”

“Why won’t you speak up for yourself, Root Beard?  I want to hear your side of the story.”

The little potato god refuses to meet your eyes.

Chiyoko speaks up.  “Root Beard, the River Goddess is Angry about something.  We can’t go into a dangerous situation without all the information.”

Root Beard shakes his head no.

“Root Beard,”  Aiko gains Root Beard’s attention.  She leans forward, her red eyes never leaving the little god’s.  “You weren’t planning on us getting killed trying to treat with the River Goddess, were you?”

“No. No. No,” Root Beard’s voice trails away as he denies Aiko’s accusation.

“Let the scary River Goddess take care of the Scary Dragonblooded.  Is that how it goes, Root Beard?”  The plates of Masaru’s gloves clink behind you.

“I can get the story out of him,” Chiyoko looms over the little potato god.   You hold up a hand for Chiyoko to wait.

“I wouldn’t do that.” Root Beard whispers.

You get up and kneel beside the little god.  “Root Beard, if you want me to help you, I need the whole story.”  The Potato god grips his beard tightly and meets your eyes.   “Tell me.”

The little god shivers at your words.  “She wants one of my children.”

“Your god-blooded children?”

“No, one of the village children.”  Root Beard clarifies.  “The ones who leave presents in my hollow.”

“You have a cult!” Aiko exclaims.

“It’s not a cult exactly….”  Root Beard rationalizes.  “They just sing songs about me and leave me presents.  Not offerings… completely different things.”

It sounds like a cult to you.  “How many children sing your songs?”

“A few?”

“How many is a few?”  Chiyoko probes.

Root Beard winces.  “Thirty-Four?”

“Thirty-four!” you explode.  All pretense of being the good guy forgotten.  “That has to be every child in the fucking village!”

“Why hasn’t the Immaculate Temple found out about this cult?” Chiyoko asks you.

Root Beard answers.  “The monk at the Immaculate Temple is blind and infirm.  The girl he is training is one of my singers.”  The little potato god flusters.  “Which is beside the point!  Can we go back to the River Godddess?  She wants to drown one of my singers!  Human sacrifice is a higher crime than singing a few hymns!”

What do you do?

  • Go to the Immaculate Temple and talk to the monk and his student
  • Treat with the River Goddess and why she wants to drown one of the potato god’s singers
  • Contact the Owl in Yu-Shan and request backup
  • Other