Water creeps up the bank. Mei Mei barks at the potatoes that float under the bridge.
“Attack?” Chiyoko lays a hand on her sword.
“No,” you shake your head. “I’m going to talk to them again.”
“Because that worked so well last time,” Aiko remarks.
You ignore her and walk off the bridge unto the muddy bank. Your boots sink into the mud as you walk towards Root Beard’s field. Facing the quarreling gods, you ignite your caste mark. “You will cease this conflict at once!”
Your anima flares and extends out to wash the fields in emerald light. You hear Mei Mei whine back on the bridge. The River Goddess, eyes wide with fear, steps on to the shore. The river waters calm yet do not recede. Root Beard paddles his log over to you.
Maybe you went a bit overboard with your display of power. You splash out into the ankle deep floodwaters. You stand before the two gods, when you hear a squeaky voice. “Shit, Root Beard. You pissed off the Maidens!”
Three more potato gods, sitting in a row, materialize on Root Beard’s log. One with roots growing out of his ear and another with roots growing out of his nose. The third – the one who spoke – scratches her short spiky root hair on the top of her head. “What did you do now, Root Beard?”
“Root Hair!” Root Beard stomps, unsettling the log. “You are making things worse!”
“Mama?” A young girl emerges, her long algae green hair floating in the floodwaters. “What’s going on, Mama?”
“Hush, Meander,” the River Goddess orders. “Go back to your Oxbow.”
Yet other gods begin to appear. Gods of oats and beets walk in from the far fields. Sheep goddesses titter as they materialize on top of hill. The Audience grows as gentle pond gods meet up with wild forest gods. Thousands of small gods appear and settle in around you and the others. They watch you with an expectant air.
A hush falls over the audience as the crowd parts for a tall barefoot figure clad in homespun. A bamboo hat obscures the goddess’ face and a shepherd’s staff lies in the crook of her arm. The goddess stops before you and raises her face. She has no eyes. Her face covered in fresh homespun bandages. “Child of the Maidens, what brings you my village?”
“I am Oracle Svante Visscher… Chosen of Jupiter,” you add when you see confusion on the village goddess’ face. “I was sent to discover the secret about why Root Beard would not be attending his harvest festival.” The crowd mutters when you reveal this, but you ignore them and focus on the blind goddess. “May I have your name, goddess?”
“I have answered to many names over the ages, but here in this place and time I am known as Blind Grace.” The goddess leans against her staff. “I was unaware the Maidens had chosen champions. I apologize for any disrespect I or the gods of my village may have given you. If I had been informed of your arrival, we could have been better prepared.”
Opps. Your cheeks burn. Maybe you should have gone to the temple first. Or maybe the goddess wanted time to hid the illegal activities of Root Beard and the other gods. “I hoped not to attract attention to my mission, but the situation warranted action.” The floodwaters lap at your ankles.
Blind Grace frowns and pokes the water with her staff. “What have you discovered, Chosen of Jupiter?”
You take a deep breath and hope you read the crowd right. “I have discovered an illegal cult ….and attempted human sacrifice.”
The crowd shuffles and whispers. “Sacrifice!” “They broke the Immaculate Code!” “Why do they get a cult and all I get is a stupid song?” “The Dragons will banish us like they did the Solars!”
Blind Grace raises her hands and the crowd falls silent. Slowly, she approaches you. Chiyoko draws her sword and moves to block her. Blind Grace pauses. “I mean the chosen of Jupiter now harm,” Blind Grace assures her. “May I speak with Despair’s Last Gasp and Root Beard alone?”
You consider the village goddess’ request. “You may speak with them, but I will be present to hear what you say.”
The Village goddess nods and takes the three of your aside. The Dragonblooded encircle you and keep an eye on the crowd.
You wonder what Blind Grace has to say when she whoops Root Beard upside the head.
“Ow!” Root Beard rubs his head. His broken skin reveals white potato flesh.
“What are you doing bringing the wrath of the Exalted down on our village!”
“But, I didn’t….”
“No buts, God of the Southeast Potato Field of Wong Farm.” The village goddess fumes. “Whatever cult you have, end it.”
“It’s only children singing songs.”
“Children!” Blind Grace whoops him again. For an eyeless goddess, she has good aim. “That makes it worse!” She turns to the River Goddess. “And you should have known better! Root Beard may be too young, but you and I remember the Great War. We know what the Exalted are capable of. Just because the Solars are gone doesn’t mean we can drown humans without consequence!”
“I wasn’t going to drown anyone,” the River Goddess clarifies.
“Children! Root Beard may be a fool, but you know the potential of a cult of children. You know that they will not stay children forever.” Blind Grace spits in anger. “Ruining the good name of my village. The monks have ignored us because we don’t cause problems.” Blind Grace swepts her staff, taking in the flood, the dragonblooded, and you. “This looks like problems to me!” Blind Grace shakes her staff free of water and joins the crowd. “Do what you will with them, Chosen of Jupiter.”
Thousands of divine eyes turn towards you.
What do you do?
- Let the Village Goddess handle the cult
- Assign a more competent monk to the temple to handle the cult
- Give Root Beard a warning
- Give the River Goddess a warning
- Dissipate Root Beard
- Dissipate the River Goddess
- Strip Root Beard of his domain
- Strip the River Goddess of her domain
- Have the Dragonblooded end Root Beard
- Have the Dragonblooded end the River Goddess
- End Root Beard yourself
- End the River Goddess yourself
((So many options! Don’t worry too much about the how. Just decide what you will do.))