158 – Closed Doors

The mortal guards pass without noticing you.  You follow behind them.   You stop outside the warded door and wait for all the guards to enter the cell.  Your plan is to lock all the guards in the cell.  You did not want to harm the guards.  You have enough blood on your hands.

Three guards enter the cell and two stand outside to guard.   Shit.  Why couldn’t anything be easy?  The funeral will be starting soon.  You do not have much time.  As the three guards search the cell, you walk up to one of the guards.  “Help them search the cell.  The more eyes the better.” You whisper into his mind.

The guard glances back at the cell.  “Let’s help them.  The more eyes the better.”

“Go with him.” You whisper in the other guard’s ear.

The two guards enter the cell.  “What the fuck are you doing…”  You slam the cell door closed before the guard could finish his sentence.  The guards bang at the door.

You snicker.  Your plan worked.  In a much better mood, you race to catch up with Aiko and Shamira.  Aiko was an idiot.  You could be a hero.  Yet being a hero is more complicated than you thought.  There is more to being a hero than swing your sword against evil.  Akachi and the rest of the elders have done horrible things in the hopes that the end result would be better.  Could you keep true to yourself and what you know is right and still save the day?   Or will be forced to choose between your own morality and the safety of others?

You come to a point where the corridor branches into two different directions.  You choose one at random, hoping the fates will guide you true.   You walk for a long while and realize the fates lead you wrong.  Or did they?  Footsteps and the clang of weapons echo down the passage.   You hide in an alcove outside of fate.

Sasha leads the remains of the Wyld Hunt.   Her expressionless face is pale and smeared with blood.  About half the Dragonblooded who accompanied her did not return.   Sasha is putting forward a brave face in spite of the Hunt’s losses.  You close your eyes at your sister’s pain.   The Elders are using her just like they use you.  How many Sidereals are sacrificed for their unknown goals?

“Sasha?”  You step out of the shadows.     Sujay draws his crossbow and aims at you.  The rest of the Dragonblooded draw their swords.

“Hold!”  Sasha orders.  She steps though the crowd of Dragonblooded.   “Svante?”  She embraces you.  Your sister stinks of blood, sweat, and acid.  Sasha examines you.  “Are you okay?  What are you doing in the passages?”

“I’m fine.”  You look at the blood on her face.  “Are you injured?  Did you get the Chimera?”

“The Anathema is dead.”   One of the Dragonblooded holds up a dripping bag.

“It’s only a scratch.”  Sasha touches a knot on her head and then waves it off.   “What are you doing down here?”  she repeats.

“I’m looking for Aiko.”   You scan the faces of the Dragonblooded to see if Aiko and Shamira are with them.  “Have you seen her?”

“She and the other Earth Aspect were headed to the Funeral.   We are headed that way as well.  Did you want to come with us?”

What do you do?

  • Openly accompany Sasha and the Wyld Hunt to the Funeral
  • Trail Sasha and the Wyld Hunt outside of Fate
  • Catch up to Aiko and Shimara
  • Find out where Elder Kejak is being held.
  • Other

157 -Fed Up

“Shamira,” you draw her gaze. The sound of boot thumping on stone echo in the passage. “If you want to do the worst damage to those who hurt you, testifying is the best way. Let the whole Shogunate know what Hayate did.”

Shamira scowls and faces you. She was going to argue or even turn on you. “What are you going to do?” You stand tall and take a step closer. “Waste your life here or be smart and testify?” You give her a choice, but really she has no choice at all. You lace your words with essence and force her decision. She will testify. You are done with dealing with the idiotic decisions of others. You are done being a puppet.

Shamira curses and looks away from you. “Which way out of this stupid tunnel?”

“Follow me.” Aiko heads off in the opposite direction of the stomping. She pauses when she sees you turn in the opposite direction. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to stall them. You will need time to get out of the passages.” You can’t leave though whatever way Aiko is using. You are sure it is warded. “I’ll see you at the funeral.”

Aiko knits her brows, but nods and leads Shamira away.

Once they are out of sight, you step out of fate. You approach the oncoming guards. Five mortals dressed in leather and chain mail, but no Dragonblooded. Where were the Dragonblooded?

The mortals draw their swords and advance towards the empty cell.

What do you do?

  • Flare your anima and caste sign and distract them. If they are looking for Sidereals, you are going to give them one.
  • Throw the guards off the scent with Avoiding the Truth Technique
  • Use Thought-Swiping Technique to cause confusing among the guards.
  • Lock the guards in the cell.
  • Other

156 – Rage

In a panic, you push a chest of drawers in front of the door.  You back away.  The chest shake as the guards beat down the door.

“That won’t hold them long,” Aiko comments.

“Out the window.”  You lean against the shuddering chest.

“What?”  Aiko looks up at the tiny window.  “I’m not going to be caught with my ass hanging out the window.”

“Just go out the window.”

“What about him?” Aiko points at the Lunar.

“Don’t worry about him.”  You say.  “I’ll take care of it.”

Aiko slides a crate under the window.  She heaves herself up and out the window.   The chest vibrates as the guards break down the door with an ax.  You ignore the sound of wood splintering on the other side of the door and study the Lunar.  You pull the stake out of the wall.  Glowing with silver moonlight, Ban repairs his wing and flutters in the corner of the room.  “I will remember.” You promise the Lunar.   You step into a dark corner and out of fate.

The chest slams to the floor and the guards barge into the room.  Tears the Grass follows them, still wearing Shimaria’s stolen form.    The guards search the room and check out the window.  “Nothing.”

Tears purses her lips and considers the situation.  “Go find that girl of Yi’s and make sure she hasn’t slipped away from her escort.”  The guards nod and leave the room.

“Ban?”  Tears asks after the guards leave the room.  “What happened?”

Ban lands on the crate and becomes human.  “An Earth Aspect girl came into the room and knocked over a crate leaving though the window.  “

“Why didn’t you stop her?”

“I didn’t want to reveal myself.  No one knows I’m here, remember?”   Ban reminds Tears.  “You told me to stop people from coming in, not out.”

“Ban…”  Tears sniffs.  “The girl may warn them.”

“Warn them of what?  The whole manse knows something is going to happen at the funeral.”  Ban runs his fingers though his hair.  “Look, whatever drama going on between Yi and his daughter is not our concern.  Don’t you have a funeral to attend?”

Tears frowns.  “Be at the funeral, Ban.”   The Lunar orders, as he leaves the room.

You follow Tears out the door.   The Lunar goes one way.  You go another.  You walk the halls of the apartment, looking for the entrance Ban described.  You are careful to avoid knocking into anyone, but it is more difficult than usual.  Soldiers march the halls, dressed in gleaming jade armor.  Servants carry crates of weapons.

Lung Hayate wasn’t preparing for a funeral.  He was preparing for war.

Finally, you find the statue of the Immaculate Monk.  You wait for the hall to clear and press in the monk’s left big toe nail.   The nail depresses.  A staircase appears in the floor next to the statue.  You dart down into the dark passage before the entrance closes.

“Svante?”  Aiko’s voice calls out in the darkness.

“I’m here.”  You reply.  “How did you get back in?”

“The windows aren’t warded against Dragonblooded.”  Aiko rubs a red crystal to light.   “This way.”  She points with the crystal.

“Have you seen any guards?”

“No,”  Aiko looks behind her.  “Do you think the Lunars left the Chimera to guard her?”

You consider this prospect.  “No, Ban didn’t know Quo was here.  I doubt Tears the Grass told Hayate or his people either.”

“Almost like Lunars don’t negotiate in good faith.”  Aiko’s voice drips with sarcasm.

“You should talk,” you snap back.  “We promised to let Ban go free and you attacked him.”

“The situation changed.”  Aiko defends herself.  “The Lunar knew too much.   If he let him go, he would go back to his elders.”  Aiko pauses in the passage.  “You did take care of the Lunar, right?”

“I let him go like we promised.  “

“You fucking idiot!”  Aiko rages.  “You believed him?  What if he goes and kills Chiyoko?”

You didn’t want to think about Chiyoko right now.  You swallow a lump in your thoat.  “He won’t hurt Chiyoko.  Ban is serious about peace.”

“Are you seriously thinking about running off to the Wylds to find this Anathema?  What are you going to do?  Run away from civilization and get yourself moonsilver tattoos?”

“Maybe.”  After the events of this past week, you are no longer sure Sidereals have the best interests of Creation in mind.  It seems like they are doing what they could to save their own asses.

“What about Chiyoko?”

Your chest tightens when Aiko asks this.   “I don’t know.”  Chiyoko would want to run away as much as you do.  “Take her with me?”

Aiko sighs and rubs her forehead.  “You think the Lunars are going to welcome you with open arms?  Ban himself said he wouldn’t remember you.  What are you going to say?  ‘I feel really bad about the centuries of genocide my people put you through.’   They are going to rip your throat out before you get a chance to speak.”

You slide down the wall and sit.  What the fuck are you going to do?  “Someone has to start somewhere.”  You finally say.

“Maybe you should find a less suicidal way?”  Aiko sits next to you.  “Svante, you are a Sidereal.  If you don’t like the way things are, you have the power to change them.  Remember the Usurpation?  That was Sidereals.  Your people.  I’ve read my history.  I know my people have their heads too far up their asses to pull something like that off by themselves.”  Aiko sighs.  “Running off to the edge of Creation is not the answer.  You need to play the game and play it well if you want to make a difference.”

You snort.  “You just want to use my just like my elders do.”

Aiko does not deny this.  “I want my people to be free to choice their own destiny.   And trading Lunars for Sidereals isn’t the answer.”  Aiko declares.  “You need to stop being the puppet and become the puppet master.”

“Chiyoko’s puppet master.”

“Better you than the old man.”  Aiko argues.  “Despite what that Lunar said, you care for my cousin.  If you do hurt her, it will be because of stupidity, not malice.”

“Thanks.”  You hold her head in your hands and say nothing for a long time.  “I just want what’s best for Creation.  I just want to be a hero.”

“Svante, look at me.”  You look up at Aiko.  The light of the crystal illuminates the highlights in her scarlet hair.  “There are no heroes, Svante.  Everyone is out for themselves. Anyone who thinks otherwise is lying to you or lying to themselves.  If you are going to be any use to me or Chiyoko, you need to understand this.”

You and Aiko walk in silence until you reach Samira’s cell.  Jade and Starmetal wards carvings flicker around the doorway.

“Dragons,” Aiko exclaims.  “Where did they get so much starmetal?”

You take a deep breath and blow away some dust.  Hidden wards reveal themselves.  “If I walk through this door, it will kill me.”

“So it’s a trap.”  Aiko declares.

“If Ban wanted to kill me, he would have done so in the storage room.”

“Or maybe he’s too squeamish to kill a kid with his bare hands.”  Aiko counters.   She holds her crystal up higher.  “I don’t see any Dragonblooded wards for death.  I bet the Tiger Lunar infiltrator from the beginning of the school year was the sorcerer of the group.”  Aiko opens the door and steps in.

“Wait!”  You call out belatedly.  The Jade alarm wards glow.     You curse and look into the room.   Samira hangs from the ceiling by Jade Chains.   Dirt covers her skin and homespun shift.  She looks up when Aiko enters.  Hope blossoms in her eyes and dies when she recognizes Aiko.  Samira did attempt to kidnap her.

Aiko climbs up the stone wall and ceiling and digs the chain out with her bare hands.  Samira falls to the floor.   She sways as she stands.   Chains drag on the floor as she removes her gag.  “Where is my armor and hammer?”

“I don’t know.” You call out.  Boots thump down the hallway.  “We need to get you out of here.”

“We also need you to testify against Hayate and the Lunars.” Aiko adds.

“Testify?”  Simara twists the chain part way around her hands and gives it an experimental whirl.  “I’m going to tear them apart.”  She stares down the passage, rage kindling in her stone grey eyes.

What do you do?

  • Let her work out her rage against the coming guards
  • Convince her to go.  She cannot testify if she is dead.
  • Convince her by any means necessary.  Force her decision.  You don’t’ have time to argue.
  • Other

155 – Remember

“No.  If you are serious about peace, you would not be defending the other Lunars.”  You declare.

Ban stares you in the eyes.  “I am not defending their actions.  What Tears did…”  The Lunar trails off.  “But Quo is innocent.  “

“You are her friend and she attacked you.”  You point out.  Ban has to understand his companions are not worth his life.

“She doesn’t know what she is doing.”

“How does this change the fact she is a monster and needs to be put down?” Aiko crosses her arms.  “The Wyld Hunt is searching the tunnels for her.  This Quo is already dead. ”

You frown at Aiko’s assessment, but she is right.   There is nothing human left in monster you met in the secret passage.  “Do you want to die in whatever foolhardy plan Tears has?”

Ban clenches his fist.  “I cannot betray my own people to the Wyld Hunt.  No one deserves to be hunted like an animal.  ”

“Don’t think of it that way.”  You say.  “Think of it as bring a rapist and murderer to justice.”

“If you assist Tears, you are no better than he is.”  Aiko adds.

“You took a risk revealing yourself to us.”  You say.  “No matter what you decide, you will be allowed to leave the room.” Aiko glares at you, but you ignore her.   There has been enough death.  You rather not turn Ban in to the Wyld Hunt if he was serious about peace.  “But we cannot let Tears go free to rape and murder someone else.”

“So your people will bring Tears the Grass to justice and he will be held as yet another example of how my people are monsters.”  Ban grimaces and opens the window.  “This was a waste of time.  I don’t need your permission to leave this room or this manse.”

“No, but you will not leave the Blessed Isle alive.”  Here in the center of Creation, Ban is furthest from the Wyld that conceals him from the Loom of Fate.   The other Sidereals will find him and hunt him down.  “Some of your people are monsters…. But some of my people are too.”  Elder Kejak is willing to use anything and anyone, including you, to achieve his goals.  “If you truly want peace, then you must live, Ban.  Sacrificing your life to save Tears will do no one good.”

Ban is silent as he considers your words.  “You said my people,” He points out quietly.  “Not our people.  One of you isn’t Dragonblooded.”

Your heart pounds at your unintentional slip.  Now would be a bad time for you to be revealed as a Sidereal.  You attempt to look confused.

“The question I have is”  Ban whispers.  “are you the puppet or the puppet master?”   He searches each of your faces trying to discern the hidden Sidereal.  He sighs.  “It doesn’t matter.   I wouldn’t remember who I was talking to anyway.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”  You shrug at Aiko.

Ban smiles.  “Of course you don’t, boy.  We’ve had young exalts before, why not the Sidereals too?  Perfect age to hide you among the Dragon children.  The illegitimate granddaughter of the Shogun who suddenly appears?  The foreign exchange student in the Shogun’s granddaughter’s circle?  Is your hair really scarlet?”  Ban runs his hands though his own hair.  “Shit.  It must be you, boy.  You were with the Shogun’s granddaughter.   Here we are playing at Shogun making and your elders are already looking to the Shogun after.  Hell, I was outside the window trimming the hedge when they were discussing the Mayim boys.  I thought the old bag choose the wrong one, cause Luna knows that kid isn’t interested in girls.  “

“What are you talking about?”  Now you are truly confused….and suspicious.  “Chiyoko doesn’t even want to become Shogun.”

“And why would her desires matter?”  Ban’s eyes dart around as ideas come to him.  “They said the youngest was closest in age to the girl, but they cleared the way for you.  “

You grip the handle of your sword.  “You don’t know what you are talking about.  You know nothing about Chiyoko and I.”  The threads of fate vibrate with impending of violence.

“Svante!”  Aiko glances back at the door of the storage room.   “Calm the fuck down or else we will all die here.”

The Lunar ignores you.  Words keep flowing as he makes the connections.  “Venus is the maiden of love.  Who better to bring lovers together?  Who better to be a puppet master of a Shogun than a Shogun’s lover?”

“Shut the fuck up!”  You draw your sword with the Speed of Mercury.  The Lunar dumps a stack of crates to block you.   He grabs your wrist and shoves you into a shelf.  Your sword clangs to the ground.

“Of course, we fight a lunar the week my blood ape is killed.”  Aiko curses as she retrieves your sword.

“I’m not going to hurt him.”  Ban reassures her.  “Unless you force me to.”

“Fuck what the old man said.”  Aiko mumbles under her breath.  “I knew I should have summoned another blood ape last night.”  She holds your sword and waits.

“Boy,”  The Lunar whispers in your ear.  “You are right.  I am sincere in my desire for peace.  I want no more Quos.  Remember I could have killed you in this moment.  Remember I decided not to tell my elders of your plans.  “

“Let me the fuck go.”  You spit.  You struggle against the Lunar’s grasp.

“But most of all, remember me when your lover comes to the throne.  Look for Ivory Ban in the Wylds where the waters meet the ice.   Hope I am in a good mood when we meet, for I will not remember you.”  Ban glances back at Aiko.  “The Earth Aspect is being held in a cell off the secrets tunnels behind the apartment’s kitchens. ”

A jade-clad fist pounds on the door.

“It’s the only cell in this area, so the guards should take you there.”   The Lunar releases you and turns into a dragonfly.  You reach out to snatch the insect out of the air, but the Lunar rises above your hand.  A stone bolt rips though the dragonfly’s wing and impales the Lunar to the wall.

“That has to be the stupid thing you have ever done.”  Aiko hands back your sword.  “’Let’s let the Lunar get away with all our secrets.’”  She mocks in a sing-song voice.

“Shut the fuck up.”  You hiss.  “I didn’t let the Lunar go anywhere.”

“You mean I didn’t let the Lunar go anywhere.”   The Dragonfly kicks in legs and struggles against the stone bolt.

“You just stood there like an idiot while the Lunar attacked me.”  You retort.

“What did you expect me to do?  He disarmed you and you are a much better swordsman than I.”

The heavy boots kick the door.  Bolts in the hinges shake but hold fast.   The guards will be in the room in moments.

What do you do?

  • Blame the Lunar. Point at the dragonfly on the wall and say it is the hidden Lunar.
  • Let them arrest you. Maybe the Lunar is right and will take you to the cell Shamira is held.
  • Step out of fate and have Aiko deal with the guards
  • Step out of fate and have Aiko hide on the window ledge
  • Other

(Back in Chapter three, I had Kejak run two different schemes on Svante and Akachi.  The first was Kejak working with Svante about sorcery.   The other was Kejak working with Akachi for setting Svante up as the new liaison for the Shogun.  )

(There may or may not be vampires kicking down the door.)