132 – Crash

“Masaru.”  You lean over and grab his shoulder.   “Fly around and try the landing approach again.”

Masaru closes his eyes and swallows.   He nods and fidgets with a knob on the control panel.  His hands leave a sweaty stain on the leather wheel of the skyship.

You sit back in your seat and encircle your arms around Mei Mei.  You close your eyes and pray to Mercury you and your friends will land safely.

Masaru pulls the wheel back.   The skyship rises above the ruins of Meru.

“Masaru…”  Aiko warns.  You open your eyes to see two tall towers looming in the windshield.

“I see it.”  Masaru’s hair glows with a harsh turquoise glow.   The cabin air grows heavy and moist.

“Masaru!”  Aiko screams.   You are jarred as the skyship’s left wing clips one of the towers.   The ship tumbles down from the air.   Blood rushes to your head as the ship flips.  You curl in a ball around Mei Mei.   Metal groans.  Glass shatters.  The skyship comes to a full stop.

Mei Mei whines and struggles in your arms.   You keep a tight grip so she does not fall to the ceiling.

“Is everyone okay?”  Masaru winces and glances back at you.

“What the fuck, Masaru!”  Aiko’s long braid hangs down and shakes with fury.  “You crashed the ship into an Anathema Ruin!”

“Akachi is going to kill me.”  You groan and throw your head back into the seat.  This ship was a pre-Usurpation relic.  Your guardian has ranted about Dragonblooded destroying irreplaceable artifacts.

“At least we landed safe,”  Masaru points out.

“Safe? You call this safe?”  Aiko waves her hand at the broken windshield.   The head of a broken statue lies among the glass shards.

“It could always be worse!”  Masaru begins.  “We…”

Something jumps onto skyship and rushes across its exposed belly.

“What was that?” Chiyoko whispers.

“Never tempt fate by saying ‘it could always be worst,’” you warn.

“The Lunar followed us.”  Aiko declares.

Masaru shakes his head.  “No bird could fly as fast as a Manta-Class Skyship.”

“It must be the ruins defenses.”  Chiyoko unbuckles herself and drops down to the ceiling.  You follow, awkwardly carrying Mei Mei in your arms.

The skyship starts to shift.  “It’s not me!”  Masaru hisses.   He pokes at the control panel.  “No power, no defenses.”

Mei Mei barks.  A ruby paw claws at the broken windshield.

“I can hear you in there!”  A throaty alto voice calls out in Spirit Speech.  “Is anyone hurt in there?”

Everyone is silent, not sure how to answer the voice.   Chiyoko points at you and hides her eyes.  You nod and step outside of fate.  The Dragonblooded gather weapons and crawl out of the broken window.

Despite being a neglected ruin, the courtyard garden looks well-tended.  Trees hang heavy with exotic fruits you have never seen even in Yu-Shan’s markets.   The skyship scraped a long grove in the brick floor and scattered tables and chairs in its wake.   You look up and see the stained glass window you flew though.   Copper bugs the size of your hand climb up the wall in a straight line.   A few have already begun welding window back together.

A ruby lioness sits by a shattered fountain, her flame tipped tail curled around her front paw.   The remains of the fountain’s statue – a large burly man surrounded by lions- lie submerged in the clear fountain water.  Her fiery eyes glow with curiosity as she observers you friends emerge from the crashed skyship.

“Greetings.  Welcome to the Manse of Burning Enigmas.”  The lioness purrs.  “I’d ask the purpose of your visit, but it is obvious you didn’t plan this visit.”  She nods at the crashed skyship.

“We did not mean to intrude on your manse,”  Aiko replies in Spirit Speech.  “If you could lead us to the exit, we can be on our way.”

The fiery end of the lioness’ tail flicks.  “We have a dilemma here.   I would like to help you, but the manse is on lockdown.   Do you have a keystone that allows access to the rest of the manse?”

You walk around the perimeter of the courtyard and try a door handle.   It is locked.  Each door you find is locked.  You return to your friends and examine the lioness.   A flicker flame pulses deep in her chest.   This lioness is a constructed entity designed to serve the manse.

Aiko considers the lioness’ question.  “No,” she finally answers.  “How does one acquire a key stone?”

“The master of the manse can create keystones.”   The lioness looks down at the headless statue lying in the fountain.  “The last master hasn’t been seen since the lockdown was enacted centuries ago.  The hearthstone has reformed in the heart of the manse.”  She studies all three Dragonblooded.  “Would you like to enact the emergency access protocol?  Each room may be accessed by answering a riddle.”

“Riddles?  That’s it?”  Aiko wrinkles her nose.  “How many riddles do we need to answer to reach the exit?”

“Three.”

Aiko glances at Chiyoko and grins.  “How many riddles to the hearthstone room?”

“Five.”  The lioness flicks an ear.  “The hearthstone room is in the opposite direction of the exit.”

“What’s going on?”  Chiyoko asks in Earthspeak.

“It’s a puzzle manse.  This sphinx will ask us questions and for each one we answer correctly we gain access to another room.  We need three riddles to get out of here, but five riddles to access the hearthstone.”

“What happens if we answer incorrectly?” Masaru asks.  Aiko repeats the question.

The lioness flexes her claws.  “I rend the flesh from your bones.  I do not wish to harm Dragonblooded children, but the security protocols are clear in this matter.”

Chiyoko takes a deep breath.  “We should head to the hearthstone room.  If we claim an old Anathema Ruin we may get in less trouble for busting up the skyship.”

Masaru frowns.  “It’s too risky.   If we get a question wrong, the lion will attack.”

“If we get them right, we get a whole manse with a hearthstone!”  Aiko exclaims.

“In the abandoned part of Meru,” Masaru counters.

Aiko rolls her eyes.  “Masaru, you can head to the exit and get help while Chiyoko and I can head to the hearthstone room.”

What do you do?

  • Go with Masaru to the exit.
  • Go with Aiko and Chiyoko to the Hearthstone room
  • Use Force Decision to get everyone to go to the exit
  • Use Force Decision to get everyone to go to the hearthstone room
  • Other

((How confident are you in your riddle answers?  😀 ))

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