162 – New Beginnings

“No, I’m not okay.” You aren’t sure if you are going to rage or cry. You take Chiyoko’s hand in yours. “But I am better now I am here with you.” You know this sounds overly sentimental, but it was the truth. After everything that happened today, you couldn’t lose Chiyoko too. You needed her just as much as she needed you.

Tears trail down your cheeks and fall to the ground. Chiyoko takes you in her arms. The events from today pour out of you. You tell Chiyoko about the Elder’s vote. The star charts. Kejak and his sword. Tears the Grass. After you are finished you feel empty, yet cleansed. As if what happened today was poison that needed to be extracted.

“They used us.” Anger creeps into your words. “They are training me to become like them. A liar. A puppetmaster. Someone who uses people like tools.” You clench your fist. “No more. I am through being a puppet. And I will not become a puppetmaster.”

Chiyoko is silent all though your rant. “I don’t want to be Shogun.” She whispers. She grips the shelves of her robe and turns away from you.

“I know. I’m going to help you, too.” You consider the problem. “You have lots of relatives. We will find someone else to succeed the throne.”

Chiyoko paces the small courtyard. “You need me to be Shogun. You need me on the throne just like your elders.”

You hesitate before answering. A part of you knows your and Akachi’s plans will be easier if Chiyoko could help you. Yet you did not want to force Chiyoko to take the throne. If she didn’t want to be Shogun, you will help Chiyoko free herself from her destiny. Though at this point you aren’t sure how. “I’ll figure something out.” You promise her.

“You can’t rule, Svante. No Sidereal can.” Chiyoko reminds you. “That’s why they work though others like my father.”

“I don’t want to rule!” you yell. Chiyoko was misunderstanding you. You wonder if Kejak has been talking to her. You take a deep breath. “I just want to bring peace to Creation. Stop this pointless war between the different types of Exalt.” You stop her pacing and hold her shoulders. “Give me some time. Your father is young for a Dragonblooded. We got years to find a solution.”

Chiyoko looks down and bites her lip. “Okay,” she agrees. “I trust you, Svante.” You brush a stray strand of hair out of her eyes and kiss her. She rests her head on your shoulder.

You are confident you will figure out a solution to both the war with the Lunars and Chiyoko’s problems. Perhaps you will bring peace to Creation before Chiyoko is forced to take the throne. Then someone else, someone not Chiyoko, could become Shogun.

The sun sets and the stars twinkle into the velvet night sky. You glance up as the Broken Mask fades into the sky. Venus in the mask. What better relationship for a Chosen of Secrets than a secret one? It was comforting the stars themselves smiled on you and Chiyoko.

Yet the mask was broken, a small doubt whispers in the back of your mind.

Later, you make your way through the secret passages to where Ban is being held. With a single word, you bring down the wards and enter his cell. From a hanging chain, Ban dangles from the ceiling. He looks up, his dirty blonde hair falls away from his face. “Who are you?”

“You don’t remember me, but I remember you.” You touch the wards on the floor and bring them down.

Ban shifts out of his chains and drops to the floor. With little prior warning, he crosses the room. Ban pins you against the wall. His hand tightens around your throat. “Sidereal,” he curses.

Your heart pounds in your chest. If you misjudged Ban, you will be dead. “You told me you believed in peace. Your trial is tomorrow and it will be a sham. You will executed.” You glance up at the moon silver wards you have yet to bring down. “If you kill me now, you will never leave this cell.”

“Why are you helping me?”

“I believe in peace too.”

Ban studies you and releases you. You rub your throat. “Our peoples need to stop fighting. Something is coming. Something the maidens cannot see.” You don’t know where this knowledge comes from, but you know it to be true. “If we are to survived, everyone – Lunar, Sidereal, Dragonblooded, Mortal- must band together.”

The Lunar considers your words. “Tears the Grass?”

“Dead, but you already know that.” Nor did Ban seem displeased by this news. “You will be dead soon if you don’t go. Head South. The Yu-Shan gates are more spread out on the Southern coast of the Blessed Isle. Keep to the sea…”

“I know how to escape your people, boy.” Ban snaps. He frowns. “Do you have a name?” he asks in a softer tone.

“Svante.” You take down the final wards. “You told me to look for Ivory Ban in the Wylds where the waters meet the ice. How will you know when I arrive?”

“Do not worry about that. The Wylds will make sure you find what you seek… if you pass their trials.” Ban shifts to the Dragonfly. You follow the Lunar to the entrance of the passages. Ban flutters off into the night. You hope he makes it to the Wylds.

You are about to step out of fate when you see the guards you passed earlier are lying in the dirt. You kneel down next to them and find both asleep.

“That was brave of you,” a voice behind you says. “to face the Lunar alone.” You turn to find Haythem behind you. “Fucking stupid but brave.”

“I…” you really don’t what to say. Your whole plan was not to get caught in the first place. All you do know is you are fucked. Your mind races for a way out. Perhaps you can reason with Haythem. “Why are you here?”

Haythem bursts out laughing. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to turn you in.”

At first you are relieved. Then paranoia sets in. “So why are you here?”

Haythem ignores your questions. “Come with me.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you until you give me some answers.” You grow frustrated with the older Oracle. “You used me as bait for the Bureau of Destiny traitor.”

“Maidens, you still remember that? I’d expected you forget by now.” Haytham sighs. “I’m not giving you a choice here, Svante.” He threatens quietly.

Haythem’s tone chills you. You meet his eyes. Instead of the drug addled idiot you know, you find a stranger. Cold and sober.

“It’s an act. The drugs. The stupidity.”

Haythem smiles. “Not as much as I’d like. Come along, Svante. We are going to be late.”

“Late for what?”

“If you hurry up, all your questions will be answered.” Haythem grabs you by the shoulder and drags you along with him. His grip is firm. The Oracle leads you down Mount Meru. Your footsteps are soundless as you walk through the ruined city.

What did Haythem want with you? Was he going to kill you? You detect no impending violence from the other oracle. You keep your mouth shut and keep walking.

Finally, you come to a grove of blackened dead trees. Their dark branches reach up to stars in the velvet sky. Dead grass crunches under your feet.

“Reveal,” a firm feminine voice commands. Golden leaves sprout from the dead trees, illuminating the orchard. Ayesha Ura rises from a stone bench. Long fur in gradual shades of gold and yellow protect her from the night breeze. Her yellow starlit eyes fall upon you. She looks at Haythem with a silent question.

“Svante freed the Lunar.”

“Did he now?” Ayesha’s eyes return to you. “Why did you free the Lunar, Svante?”

“You choose your words carefully. “He didn’t do anything that deserves execution.”

“Some may think spying for the enemy is a crime worthy of death.” Haythem points out.

Shit, that was a good point. “This whole war is stupid and pointless.” You blurt out.

“Out of the mouth of babes.” Wanahton guffs. The tall Chosen of Journeys steps out from behind a tree and ambles over.

“I’m not a child,” you snap back. You grow more pissed off when Wanahton chuckles. “I want to know what is going on.” You demand.

“Svante, it’s okay.” a soft voice answers. Idir, the Chosen of Endings who offered you the sandwich, steps back into Fate. “You are among friends here.”

Friends? “Why are you here?” You ask of the Sidereals surrounding you.

All three men look to Ayesha. “We were hoping to reopen negotiations with the Lunars.” Ayesha tells you.

You frown. You were hoping to open negotiations with the Lunars with Akachi. “Why did you want to talk to the Lunars?”

Ayesha smiles. “Svante, I’d like to introduce to the Sidereals of the Gold Faction.”

161 – Another Way

Ignoring Kejak’s sword, you step up to Tears the Grass.  You know this man’s crimes.  If anyone deserved to die, it was Tears the Grass.  As Kejak said, Tears actions made your job easier.  You make the mistake of meeting the Lunar’s eyes.  The Lunar’s pupils were wide with fear.  Those dark pits pleaded with you.  Begged you for mercy.  You look away.

Judging a man to die is easier than carrying out the sentence.  You were responsible for Duri’s death, yet you could console yourself her was an accident.  With Tears the Grass, there will be no excuses.  Your hand will end his life.

Tears struggles again.  Haytham tightens his grip.  The dim emerald light of the Oracle’s arms break the moonlight of Tears’ anima.  Your eyes meet Haytham’s.  Now you are the one begging and pleading.  One swift motion and the older Sidereal could break Tears’ neck.  Haytham could save you from this task.  Instead Haytham breaks eye contact.  He stares straight ahead, as if you had stepped outside of fate.

You want this to be over.  You want to be back home in Yu-Shan where the most difficult thing you had to do was lie to the Owl about your homework.

Those days were over.  You place the tip of your sword on Tears’ chest.  You shift your weight and lean in.  There is a moment of resistance as the blade slides off a rib and into the Lunar’s heart.  You feel Tears the Grass’ thread of fate snap.  The Lunar slumps.  His anima fades.

You release the sword and leave it in the body.  Haytham drops the corpse to the floor.

“Pick up your sword, Svante.”  Kejak orders, as if you left dirty laundry on the floor.

You place your foot on the still warm body and withdraw the blade.  Blood drips onto the floor.

You drop the sword and bolt.

“Svante!” Sasha calls out.

You run.  You turn corner after corner.  Time loses all meaning.  Out of breath and lost, you stop.  You double over and puke.  You empty your stomach and continue dry heaving long after you run out of breakfast.

When you catch your breath and calm your stomach, you notice Sasha by your side.  She rubs your back, mummuring soothing sounds.  Because what could she say?  ‘It’s going to be okay?’ That would be a lie.  It won’t be.  It will never be okay.  You wipe your mouth with your sleeve and slide down the wall.

Sasha kneels beside you.  “I was nineteen.” She starts.  “It was my first mission.  I was assigned to assist a Wyld Hunt.  There was a Lunar hiding on one of the Western Islands.  I was to watch the islanders for any odd behavior and report to the Wyld Hunt Commander.  At first, I was lonely, but I made a friend at the restaurant I worked at.  Her name was Lina.  I never had a female friend my own age before.  Her life seemed so foreign to mine.  She talked about her mother.  Her fiancé.  Her hopes and dreams.  I told her about you.”  Sasha smiles.  “You were the only part of my life that was normal.  That I could talk about.”

“One day, Lina seemed distracted.  I asked what was wrong, but she said nothing.  We went about our day and I grew suspicious.  I…I sent a message to the Wyld Hunt Commander.  I hoped it would be nothing.  That she would say her mother was sick or something. “

“The Lunar, cornered, took me hostage.  Her plan was to escape on the next boat off the island.  Sasha’s voice escapes.  “I played the part of the frightened island girl well.”

“You killed her.”

“Yes, she didn’t realize I was the true threat until it was too late.  I stared as she bleed out, believing I had avenged my friend.”  Sasha shivers.  “But Lina was my quarry the whole time.  She played me and when the time came, she was willing to kill me.  I thought she was my friend, but instead she was a monster. “  Sasha hugged herself.  “If I wasn’t a Sidereal, I’d be dead.”

Footsteps approach.  Kejak appears, carrying your sword.   “We need to leave.  The Secretary will be needed for the Coronation and Chiyoko will be looking for Svante.”  Kejak hands back your sword, clean of blood.  You stare at it for a moment.  Then you take it and replace it in its scabbard.

“Sasha, I need you to help manage Admiral Mayim’s men.  Meru was not ready to handle not one, but two legions.  Hayate’s legions surrendered when he was revealed to be a Lunar imposter.”  Sasha hesitates, not wanting to leave you along.  “Go on, Sasha.  I need to talk to Svante before we go.”

After Sasha leaves, you and Kejak study each other in awkward silence.  The stench of your vomited breakfast saturates the passage.

“Svante, I know you are unhappy with me right now, but know you did the right thing.  If we are to preserve Creation, the Lunar had to die.”

You say nothing.  You know Tears the Grass had to die, but not for the reasons Kejak believes.  If it wasn’t for Akachi, Sasha, and the Owl, you would be long gone.

Kejak is unflustered by your silence.  He reveals a black memory stone in his hand.  “When we meet next Jupiterday, I have this to give you.  It’s the memory you requested.  I believe you are mature enough to understand what is going on now.  “

The Memory stone of the Elder vote on ending your life.  Apparently, killing Tears the Grass was a test.  A test you passed.  Finally, you have something to say.  “Aiko will be there.”

“You can stay late.  We still need to answer the question of your young Exaltation.  I doubt Aiko can assist us in this matter.”

“Or you can give it to me now.”  You hold out your hand.  You want to spend as little time as possible with this man.  Kejak hesitates.

“I did what you asked,” you remind him. “I know the Lunar needed to die.”  Kejak didn’t need to know your personal feelings on the matter. Not yet.  “I’m fucking pissed you made me kill him, but you are right.  It had to be done.”

Kejak weighs the stone in his hand, deciding.  You try a different approach.  “Look, if there is anyting in that memory that would make me angry, you might as well give it to me now.  Get everything over with all at once.”

Kejak considers this and drops the stone in your hand.  You can feel the edges of the memory.  The taste of green tea.  Akachi arguing.  “Do not show this to anyone.”  Kejak orders.

“I won’t.” You promise.  “I can watch it here and give it back to you now, if you’d like.”

“No, I trust you to keep your word.”  Kejak puts his hand on your shoulder.  “I’m proud of you, Svante.  Today, you proved to me you are a true hero of Creation.”

Despite yourself, you stand taller at the elder Sidereal’s complement.  “Thank you, sir.”

“Do not take too long.  There is much to be done.”  Kejak takes a deep breath of relief.  “It will be a long while before the Dragonblooded will trust a Lunar again.  We will have to alter the Immaculate Texts…”   Kejak muses.  “That will come later.  Clean up and find Chiyoko.”

You watch Kejak leave.  You squeeze the memory stone in your hand.   Part of you wants to throw it against the wall, but no.  This is your payment.  You bought this stone with Tears the Grass’ blood.  You focus your attention on the stone.

You stand by the window looking over downtown Yu-Shan.  A familiar merchant emerges though the Yatosin Gate.  You have not bought a bottle of wine since Ayesha left, yet you still make note of the merchant’s passing.  You take a sip of tea.

“I cannot believe this is even a discussion.”  Akachi raises his voice.  Akachi, ever the actor, could project loud enough to fill an auditorium.  Here in this small council room, the Joybringer’s talents are wasted. 

“I cannot believe you are willing to take such a risk.” Winona counters.  The Elder Chosen of Endings will not be swayed by any emotional appeal.  “This child has the power of Fate at his fingertips.  Who knows what chaos he could cause?”

“Svante is a good kid.”  Akachi reassures her.  “He only wants what is best for Creation.”

“I distrust a child’s judgement of what is best for Creation,” Meraud sits at the table, hands folded.  “No, Akachi, hear me out…”

“No, Meraud.  I can’t believe you of all people are considering this.  He’s a boy.”

“A boy.” Winona repeats.  “A little over a decade has been lost on this boy.  We can recycle his exaltation with little time lost.”

You consider bringing up the four decades before the boy’s birth.  And the decades you could spend waiting for the next incarnation.  Instead you wait.  Let the other argue it out first.

“I don’t like this any more than you do, Akachi, but we have all done things we regret for the good of Creation.”

“No,” Uilani finally speaks.  “This is different.  This is one of our own.  Our hands may be stained with the blood of countless children, but I draw the line here.  If we kill our own children, we are no different than the Solars we slayed.   I vote no.”

“Uilani,” Meraud tries to be reasonable.  “We haven’t finished our discussion….”

“I vote no.” Uilani repeats. 

“I also vote no.” Akachi says.  Wishing to keep up the momentum, Akachi turns to you.  “Chejop?”

You swirl the dregs of your now cold tea.  You walk over to the tea pot and refill your cup.

“Chejop…”  Akachi repeats.  You know you cannot delay the Joybringer any longer.

“I believe we should not make any decision in haste.”  You reply.

You feel the air of Akachi’s passing as he storms out of the room.   He slams the door behind him.

“He’s gone to hide the boy.”  Meraud observes.

“He will not go far.”  You assure her.  You know Akachi still has a few paintings he made for Tammiz at his lake house.  With the painting, Akachi could travel with the boy to the landscape depicted, leaving behind a blank canvas.  You are certain you could track Akachi and the boy if needed.  You have Tammiz’s notes on the spell.

“Has Jupiter said anything to you, Chejop?”  Uilani asks. 

“No, she has been silent on this matter thus far.”

“She has left the decision to us,” Winona declares.

You are certain Jupiter will let her wishes be known when it suits her.  “I wish to draw up the boy’s charts.”

“I’ve already done so.” Meraud says, hoping to bring the matter to a swift end.  “I didn’t see…”

“I trust you, Meraud, but another set of eyes never hurts.  I wish to explore all avenues before making my decision.”

“Why are you drawing this out, Chejop?”  Winona questions.  “The longer we wait, the more time Akachi has to hide the boy. 

“I have not voted yet.” You remind the Eldest Sidereal.  This discussion has gone far enough.  You leave the room.

Later in your office, you study the boy’s chart.  You run your long fingers along the onion skin thin paper, following the lines of the stars.

The Unconquered Sun ascends though the Mask at the boy’s birth.  Not the most auspicious placement, but unsurprising for a Chosen of Secrets.  The boy will shine light into the dark secrets of Creation. 

Surprisingly, Venus was also ascending though the Mask. 

Luna descends in the Guardians.  The boy shall have a knack for seeming more knowledgeable than he actually is. 

Jupiter ascends though the Gull.  The boy will learn, not from the wisdom of his elders, but from his own experience.   At least the boy’s Jupiter wasn’t descending though the Gull like Haytham’s. 

Saturn ascends though the Messenger.  The boy is persistent.  Not even death would drive him from his goal. 

Mars ascending though the Ewer.  Those with Mars in a house of Serenity tend to avoid conflict.  The boy must have a cause to rouse to fight.  This must be why Akachi encouraged the boy to think of himself as a hero. 

 Mercury was descending though the Corpse.  The boy was destined to travel though grief.  Perhaps an early death would be a kindness.

You can understand why Meraud voted the way she did.  This boy was driven by emotion.  Stubborn.   Not willing to accept the wisdom of his elders.   He will be difficult.  You will have to track Akachi down.  Make him see reason.  You throw the chart down on the pile of others you collected.   You are about to turn away to find your notes on Tammiz’s spell when the chart below Svante’s catches your eye.  

Though the translucent thin paper, you see the Venus of Svante’s chart is in conjunction with the Venus of the chart below it.  You slide the boy’s chart over to find Lung Chiyoko’s chart. 

Venus in the Mask.

A secret romance.

You are tempted to go ahead with your earlier decision.  Romance is volatile.  Love rarely steadfast. 

Yet the conjunction was strong.  You picture the boy.  You have seen him often in the marketplace, dragging Gatherer of Windborne Children by hand.  You remember his Fire Aspect Markings.   The markings will not deepen with age.  And if Svante had exalted Dragonblooded, this conversation would not be occurring.  Twelve was not an unusual age of Exaltation for a Dragonblooded. 

You retrieve the charts for the rest of the circle you are building for the Future Shogun.  Hui Aiko’s Jupiter is square with Svante’s Jupiter.  Not surprising.  That girl seems to be at odds with everyone.  Mayim Masaru’s Mars was also in the Ewer.  You added him to the circle to be a calming influence.

The Air Aspect you had chosen for Chiyoko’s fiancé will not do.  Politically the marriage makes sense, but half of Svante’s chart is in opposition to him.  You discard the chart.  Mayim Masaru may make a better Fiancé for Chiyoko.  Yes, the boy’s grandmother is difficult to deal with, but you know the woman has been striving to join her bloodline to the Shogun’s for decades. 

You stroke your beard, considering the options.  Blah.  You’ll let Akachi deal with that aspect.  You’ll have to let him in on your plans, if you are going to place the boy with Chiyoko’s circle.  Perhaps he can nudge the relationship from a romance…

A movement of Emerald cloth distracts you.  You look up to find Jupiter staring at you.

“The boy must live,” she declares with a smile.

You find Akachi in the empty Banquet room.  The spread of food for the Funeral Feast sits untouched.  Your guardian sits upon a window sill, looking out over Meru.  Legions of Dragonblooded march in the streets.  You sit across from him.

“How did the troops get to Meru so fast?”  You saw Admiral Mayim in the hallways on your way to the Banquet room.

“Haytham brought them though Yu-Shan.”

You digest this information.  “I didn’t know you could do that.”

“You couldn’t until I negotiated with the lions.  I wanted to bring Chiyoko and the others to Yu-Shan for your next birthday.  Haytham used the same procedure I created to bring in two legions worth of his ‘friends’. “  Akachi sighs.  “You’ll probably be a few centuries old before we can convince the lions to allow Dragonblooded to Yu-Shan.”

You smile weakly.  Akachi cocks his head, studying you.  “What happened?”

“Kejak…”  you pause.  He made me kill Tears the Grass you want to say. But saying it would make it too real.  Instead, you say, “He gave me the memory of the Elder Vote on my life.”

Akachi frowns. “How did you hear about that?”

You point at your forehead.  “I find things out.”

“I wouldn’t hold that vote against Winona and Meraud.  They don’t know you like I do.  Like Chejop does.”

“I know…”  You realize you don’t want to talk about the vote right now.  You need to watch the memory again.  Study it.  You changed the subject.  “What happened to you?”

Akachi stares out at Meru again.  “I killed the rabbit Lunar.”

“What?”  You are confused.  Then you realize he is talking about Tears the Grass.  But you killed Tears the Grass.  “You weren’t on the Wyld Hunt.”

“Might as well have been.”  Akachi explains.  “I convinced him it was a good idea to take Hayate’s place.  “

“You talked to him?”

“No.  I didn’t need to.  I just left pieces of the idea lying around.  A comment from one of the Twins.  A song from Nimi.  I’m good at implanting ideas for others to pick up and claim as their own.  It’s harder for an individual.  Much easier for an entire society.  Write a book.  Draw a manga.  In a few generations you got a cultural change.  “

“You didn’t kill Tears the Grass.  I did.”  You want to absolve your guardian.  You say it quickly, before you could think about the words coming out of your mouth.  You tell Akachi about what happened with Kejak.

Akachi continues to stare out the window.  “I’m sorry he did that to you.  He and the other elders do it to all my kids at some point.  Gives you a part in our stupid little war.”

“I know.  Sasha told me.”  You find Akachi… hopeless.  You expect anger from your guardian.  You expected an Elder Sidereal to be beyond doubt.  To have everything figured out.  Instead, Akachi was more lost than you were.

It frightened you.

Aiko’s words come back to you.  Are you a puppet or the puppetmaster?  You study your guardian and make a choice.

“I may have another way…” you start.


You find Chiyoko in her father’s office.  She watches him give orders, her face expressionless.   You watch her from outside of Fate.

“You did this,” you accused Akachi earlier. “You put us together.”

“We didn’t put you together.  Love doesn’t work like that.”  Akachi makes a forward motion with his hands.  “We just encouraged things.”

“So it’s fake.”

“No,” Akachi corrected.  “If someone sparks a fire, is the flame any less real?”  You consider this as Akachi continues.  “Chejop wanted to adjust your destinies to a less volatile relationship than romance.  Chejop is wary of love.  I told him to let events progress as fate intended.  I just smoothed things over.  You had less bumps at you both figured out love.”  Akachi leans closer.  “Do you want me to stop?”

Chiyoko’s eyes dart to the door each time someone walks in.  You approach her, slipping between the Dragonblooded in the crowded office.  “Come outside” you whisper in her ear.  She stands up and walks to the bookcase by the door.  When no one notices her movement, she sneaks out of the office.

You rush ahead and slip out of the door as she opens it.  You lean against the wall beside the door and step back into fate.  “Chiyoko,” you call her name.

She turns around.  “Svante.”  She breathes.  She takes a step forward and hugs you.  Chiyoko doesn’t cry.  She simply stands there.  She buries her face into your shoulder, breathing you in.

Chiyoko breaks away and grabs your hand.  “My Father is Shogun.”

“I know.”

She frowns.  “Where have you been?”  She scolds.  “I sent Masaru to look for you, but he couldn’t find you anywhere.  Aiko has been sitting with Shamira.   I’ve been stuck here all alone.  Some Eastern Air Aspect is trying to marry her son off to me.  My mother says I have to marry Masaru or one of his other brothers.  His father gathered as many men as he could pull from the Western Front to form a legion to bring here.  My mother’s legion had taken heavy losses….”  She stops.  “Are you okay?”

What do you say?

  • “No, but it is better now that you are here.” Tell her everything and you have a way to help her.
  • “Yes, everything is fine.” Tell her nothing.  You will need her for your plans and the less she knows the better.
  • “No, I think we need to break up.” Now that you know the truth about your relationship, you can’t be with Chiyoko anymore.
  • Other


159 – Justice

“No,” you answer.  “I need to find Aiko.  Do you know where she went?”

Sasha closes her eyes in disappointment.  When she reopens them, you see the same bone weary tiredness echoed you feel in her eyes.  “Aiko said she was headed towards east entrance of the temple.”

“Thanks.”  You take a step away, but halt.  You need to spend more time with your sister.  Time outside of missions and work.  You turn back and grab Sasha in an embrace.

Sasha rests her head on your shoulder.  “Be safe, little brother.”  She whispers.

Yi and the other Dragonblooded watch, uncomfortable with the unexpected display of emotion.  You break away and leave without another word.

You find Aiko and Shamira arguing just out of sight of the temple.

“We can’t just barge in there.  We will be arrested before we get through the door.”  Aiko argues.  Shamira scrowls and crosses her arms.

“Here’s what we do,” you interrupt.  “I’ll go inside and hide.  When the opportune moment comes, I’ll send a messager for you and Shamira to enter.”

“How the fuck are you going to get past the guards, little boy?”  Shamira questions.

“Don’t worry about that.  I have my ways.”  You assure the Earth Aspect.  Shamira narrows her eyes and glances back at the guards.

“A dramatic entrance.  I like  it.” Aiko approves.  “Wait!”  Aiko reaches out to grab Shamira, but she is too fast for the younger Earth Aspect.

“What the fuck is she doing?”  you curse as Shamira knocks out two of the guards.  The other guards at the door hesitate as Shamira whirls her chain.

“I guess the opportune time is now.”  Aiko brushes her braid back and follows Shamira into the temple.

“Shit.”  You step out of Fate and slip into the temple behind the two Earth Aspects before the door closes.

The Immaculate Temple of Mount Meru is a marvel of Shogunate Architecture.  Built on the remains of a destroyed manse, the pentagon shaped building is made of fine-grained jade.  Stained glass windows are enchanted to shine the light of the five elements, giving the appearance of walking in anima.

Elder Kejak sits with a group of glum mortals waiting for an audience with the future Shogun.  The secretary sits slouched like a man whose whole life has been upturned.  You dare not approach the Elder Sidereal.  Their Dragonblooded guards keep their hands close to their swords as they watch them.  You find Akachi among the mortal notables in the rafters.   He leans forward and whispers to one of the other mortals, who stifles a laugh.

You step though the swirling sands of the Earth and trace Aiko and Shamira’s progress down the aisle of the temple.  All eyes are drawn to the two Earth Aspects.  Aiko is smug.  Shamira radiates with rage.  Her dishevel appearance contrasts with Dragonblooded nobles on the main floor.  You walk past Masaru, who is standing with his mother and brother.  Chiyoko and her father, with identical expressions of worry, sit with the rest of the Lung family.  Guanyu whispers a question to Chiyoko who shrugs in response.

Masaru’s grandmother stands by the cloth covered corpse, with Ling Ling in her arms.  Hayate kneels before his mother’s corpse, head bent in prayer.  The monk conducting the funeral frowns and attracts Hayate’s attention.  The monk nods at the approaching Shamira.

You do not see Tears the Grass in any of his forms, nor remaining members of Lung Duri’s circle.

Shamira stands before Hayate.  The guards approach, but with a raised hand, Hayate stops them.  Bam!  Shamira throws a punch at Hayate.  The Future Shogun’s head snaps to the right.  He rubs his jaw.  “What that really necessary, Shamira?”

Shamira ignores his question.  “I declare Lung Hayate a traitor to the Shogunate.  He is concluding with our Anathema enemies.  He had one conduct unspeakable acts to steal my form.  He ordered my circle to kidnap…”

Hayate is calm as Shamira lists off his crimes.  “Shamira, my daughter’s death has made you distraught.”  He motions the guards forward.  “Take her back to her room, so we can continue my mother’s funeral.”

“I rather die than go back to that pit you locked me up in.”  Shamira drags her chain along the jade floor.

Chiyoko’s father steps forward.  “These are dire accusations, brother.  My people will take this Earth Aspect into custody…”

“That will not be necessary, little brother.  She is a member of my daughter’s circle and I feel responsible for her.”  Hayate frowns “Unless of course, you don’t trust me, Guanyu.  You do trust me to do what is right.”

A rainbow of eyes watch Lung Guanyu for his response.  You watch Chiyoko, her lips whispering a prayer.

“No,”  Lung Guanyu declares.  “I do not trust you with the fate of any Dragonblooded, brother.”  Chiyoko’s father draws his sword.  “I challenge you for the right to rule the Shogunate.  For I do not believe you will rule it justly.”

Hayate smiles, revealing bucked teeth.  “It is for justice that I plan on ruling the Shogunate.”

What do you do?

  • Sneak around at stab Tears the Grass in the back.
  • Cry out that Lung Hayate is a Lunar imposter
  • Stay close to Chiyoko
  • Other

152 – The Procedure

Adults are so dumb.  You lay back against the pillow, energy snapped by the chimerical parasite.  “Both of you stay.” You close your eyes in exhaustion. “Just get this thing out of me.”

You feel cool fingers on your forehead.  You open your eyes to find Elder Kejak scrutinizing you.  He nods as if he has come to a decision.  “Just a moment longer, Svante.”  He disappears into the washroom.

Chiyoko sits back into the chair and frowns at the bathroom door.  She takes your hand.  “Why don’t you trust him?” She whispers at the demon.

The Neomah settles on the bed beside you.  “He believes I am too dangerous to live.”

Chiyoko cocks her head at the Neomah.  Nimishema’s multi-jointed fingers end in blunt fingernails.  Her long thin lavender arms do not compare to the powerful might of a Blood Ape’s.  “You don’t seem dangerous to me.”

“Ah, Dragon Child.  Claws and Muscles are only one type of danger.” Nimishema taps the temple of her forehead.

“You know something.” You mumble.  “Something dangerous.”

“What do you know?” Chiyoko asks.

The Neomah’s spine goes rigid.  “I am bound to silence.”

The sound of clinking glass emanate from the washroom.  What was taking so long?

“Child,” Nimishema attracts your attention with a brush of her fingers along your cheek.  “You must not drift off.”

“Don’t call me child.” You hated being called child.  It reminded you of the age difference between you and the other Sidereals.  “I have a name.”

The Neomah inclines her head.  “I did not wish to be rude.  What shall I call you?”

You close your eyes.  Names had a different meaning among demons than humans.  A demon could be summoned by their true name.  Nimishema was a nickname.  Only Akachi as the Neomah’s summoner knew her true name.  You pull your mind back to the demon’s question.  You saw no harm in allowing the demon to call you by name.  “Svante.”

“Svante,” The demon repeats, tasting your name.  She folds her hands in her lap.  “You may call me Nimishema or Nimi, if you prefer.”

“You can call me Chiyoko,” She glances back at the washroom.  “How much longer will this take?”

“Not much longer,”  Elder Kejak emerges with an armful of supplies.  He unrolls a towel and lays out various medical implements.  “This will be easier if he was unconscious.”  He sets the glass jar on the nightstand.

Nimi rests two fingers to your temple.  “Sleep, Svante.” You feel a pressure and fall into darkness.


A turn of a page wakes you.  You open your eyes and blink in the morning sun.  Your arm feels stiff but whole.  The tingling sensation is gone.  A flexible paper bandage, reminiscent of a wasp’s nest, covers your arm from shoulder to elbow. You test your arm and find the bandage does not inhibit your range of motion.

“There is nothing in this book about Chimera. “  Aiko announces.  She turns another page in disgust.  “much less anything about the parasite.”

“The book dates to before the Usurpation.  Chimera didn’t exist then.”  Movement on the nightstand catches your eye. Inside the glass jar, a long pink smooth skinned worm crawls up the side.  Its lower half is curled in the bottom of the jar.   The worm is not pink, as you first thought, but scarlet blood pumps beneath its translucent white skin.  As you observe its undulating motion, your arm tingles with phantom pain.  This thing was crawling around inside your shoulder, heading Jupiter knows where.  You avoid studying the worm and focus on Aiko.

She sits at the table, her long red braid hanging over her shoulder.  “The Shogun died early this morning.” No emotion occupies this statement.  As if Aiko’s grief was an unwelcome guest she did not wish to entertain.

“Shit.”  You swing your legs out of bed.  You pause for a moment until the room stops spinning.  You stand up and find clothes laid out on your cot.  Your bag was still where you left it from the night before.  Did Elder Kejak ever sleep?

“Your uncle,” Aiko colors the word uncle with sarcasm. “said he will return after his meeting.”

“Where is everyone else?” You strip off your nightshirt and sort through the clothes left for you.

Aiko arches an eyebrow at your nakedness, but answers your question in a steady voice.  “The Neomah went back to your guardian.  Chiyoko and Masaru are with their families, preparing for this afternoon’s funeral.  “

It does not take you long to get dressed.  Your stomach growls in protest.

“There’s not going to be any food until the funeral feast tonight.”

“I know.”  You brush dust off your boots and pause when you hear footsteps approach the door.  Aiko slams the book shut.  She hurries to chair next to the bed.  You set your boots on the floor and begin lacing them.

Elder Kejak enters the room, Sasha close behind.  You rise, one booted to meet your sister.  You envelop her in a hug.  She pulls away and examines you, testing the material of your bandage.  Sasha seems lighter, more relaxed since you last saw her.  “How do you feel?” she asks.

“I’m fine.”  You rotate your shoulder to prove it.   You frown in dismay when your stomach growls again.

Sasha laughs and digs though her bag.  She reveals a wrapped hand sized package.  “I bribed the kitchens for food.”  You snatch the food out of her hand and unwrap it.  Sandwich.

Elder Kejak offers Sasha the jar with the worm.   Sasha’s face grows grim and nods.  “This will lead you to the Chimera.”  Sasha accepts the jar, holding it with two fingers.  “We do not have much time,” Elder Kejak reminds her.  ‘The funeral will be in two hours.”

“Where are you going?” you ask around mouthfuls of sandwich.

“Wyld Hunt.”  Your sister explains.  Elder Kejak answers a knock at the door.  Sujay and other Dragonblooded wait outside.  The Mercenaries – they were wearing the same uniforms as Chiyoko’s guards.

Aiko fidgets with the end of her braid as Sahsa leaves with the Wyld Hunt.  Elder Kejak closes the door and sits in the chair Aiko vacated.  “With luck, they will find the groundskeeper along with the Chimera.”

“The groundskeeper?” You remember a rough voice warn you to flare your anima against the light sensitive Chimera.

“Chiyoko saw him in the passages before the Chimera showed up.  He hasn’t been seen since.”  Elder Kejak crosses his arms.  “Let’s hope he is dead instead of running around the manse in all fours.”

Elder Kejak rests his eyes on the Five Moons of Denial.  Catching Aiko’s gaze, he adjusts the book two inches to the right.  Aiko sucks in a breath.  The Elder Sidereal crosses his arms and stares at you.

Your heart pounds in your chest.  Elder Kejak did not forbid you from showing anyone the book. Though he did mention Dragonblooded read an abridged version of it.  There must be a reason why.  A reason you did not know because you never finished the book.

What do you do?

  • Elder Kejak has no proof of your involvement.  Let Aiko take the fall for this.
  • Own up to letting Aiko read the Five Moons of Denial
  • Change the subject. The Shogun is dead.  Now is not the time to discuss homework.
  • Other


151 – Trust Issues

Akachi is undercover.  You remember his whispering caution when you warned him about the Lunar infiltrator.  You wipe your sweaty hands on your robes.  You want to go with him, but you presence would compromise his cover.  You do not want to make your guardian choose between your safety and the mission.  Akachi would choose you.  This feverish insight does not bring you calm.  You do not want to be the reason the Shogunate purges into civil war.

“Don’t touch me.”  You cringe from the strange mortal sorcerer that is Akachi’s resplendent destiny.  “I want my uncle.”

Akachi’s face is blank.  “Is that what you want, boy?”

Nimishema is less of an actor.  “Don’t let him do this.  He will be much safer with us than with him.”

“Nimi…”  Akachi warns.  He rises and instead of returning to the twins, he faces the two figures approaching the crowd.   “The boy is ill.”  The three words convey an accusation rather than information.  Akachi withdrawals to the twins.  Nimishema stays by your side, her pupil-less sapphire eyes on Elder Kejak.

Elder Kejak knees and with cold fingers, probes the skins around your wound.  His eyes grow distant as he reviews the possibilities.

Lung Guanyu takes in the state of his daughter.  He removes his outer cloak and throws it around her shoulders.  “Can the boy walk?”

“Little brother, I was on my way to see you.”  Hayate smiles.  “Have you heard the news? Akane is dead.”

Chiyoko eyes widen and she pulls her father’s cloak closer.   The secretary pauses in his examination and looks up at Hayate, mouth agape.   He knew, you realize.  You lean back against the wall.

“I heard.”  Guanyu replies.  He is more interested in your situation than with Hayate’s news.

Elder Kejak frowns when Chiyoko’s father reveals this.  The Elder Sidereal digs in his pocket for a metal flask.  He uncorks it.  The sweet fragrance of Celestial Wine makes you sigh.  It reminds you of happier times in the Celestial City.  You want to go home.

“Just a sip.”  You cough as the heavenly nectar evaporates on your tongue.   You lick your lips and feel weak but a bit livelier.  Elder Kejak tucks the flask back into his pocket.

“This is good news!” Hayate proclaims.  “We are averting war.”

Guanyu turns on his heel and confronts Hayate.  “I do not find the death of our sister to be good news.”

“Guanyu, don’t be so naïve.”  The fire aspect with the ash streaked hair cautions.  “We are Lung.  You will not live long if you let familial loyalty stand in the way of ambition.”

“Now, Yin,” Hayate puts an arm around Yin’s shoulder.  “let’s not shatter our little brother’s innocence.”

With a finger, Aiko’s father pushes Hayate’s arm off him.  “Do not touch me.”  To Guanyu, he says, “Something dangerous lurking in the passages.  What else can you tell me about it?”

“It’s a chimera.” You say.   There is no point in keeping this secret.   If Yin is going to hunt the monster down, he will need to be prepared.  “It moves like quicksilver and can break off into pieces.   We were hiding further down the hallway from its main body when it attacked us.”

“A chimera,” Yin smirks.  “I always wanted to face a chimera.”

“You should bring Sujay with you.  He has experience with hunting Lunars.” Guanyu advises.

Yin snorts at his little brother’s suggestion.  The sound of running feet echoes down the hall.  Aiko sprints down the hallway with Masaru and Yi not far behind.  All are dressed in full armor.  “No time like the present to start the hunt.”  Yin pushes his way through the crowd around Hayate.

Aiko stops halfway and watches her father retreat though the crowd, her expression unreadable.  Masaru and Yi approach.  “Chiyoko, we have been looking everywhere for you!  These secret passages are confusing!”

“My lord, I do not mean to interrupt, but the boy needs a doctor “  The secretary wrings his hands

“Go along, little brother.”  Hayate shoos him off.  “We can talk about coronation plans later.”

“Mother is still alive.”  Guanyu points out.

“Yes, but we must do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition.”

Guanyu clenches his fist.  You are afraid Chiyoko’s father wishes to discuss the coronation plans now.

“Lord Guanyu,”  Elder Kejak interrupts,  “I will appreciate your help getting him back to his room.”

Guanyu makes an effort to relax his fist.  He bends down to pick you up.  Your head spins and your stomach turns as Chiyoko’s father rotates on heel away from his older brother.  Even Elder Kejak, with his long legged strides, has trouble keeping up.

Finally, Guanyu slows down.  “Chiyoko, I find it interesting that your fiancé and the rest of your circle are in full armor, while you and your friend are not.”   Guanyu glances down at you when you tense at his words.

Chiyoko trails behind her father, keeping out of his sight.  “Armor is too noisy for the passages.”  She explains.

“You should be in the passages in the first place.”  Guanyu counters.   “Chiyoko, are you admitting to a lesser crime to cover up for a greater one?”

Chiyoko sighs.  “I was showing Svante the passages and we were attacked by a chimera.  We barely escaped with our lives.”

“A partial lie is still a lie, Chiyoko.”

“Are you using charms on me, father?” She rolls her eyes.  “I almost died tonight and you are using charms on me!”

“I can carry Svante from here.”  Elder Kejak offers.  He is ignored.

“I wouldn’t have to use charms if you would stop taking dangerous risks. “  Guanyu yells.  You really wish someone else besides Chiyoko’s father had carried you.

“Are they really going to argue in the middle of the hallway?”  Masaru asks.

“I’ve been in the passages thousands of times and nothing ever happened!”  Chiyoko shakes her fist to make her point.

“Looks like it,” Aiko replies to Masaru.

Elder Kejak speeds up his steps.  He unlocks his door and holds it open.  “We are here.”  His sentence puts an end to the conversation.  Mei Mei runs out of the room and shadows Guanyu’s steps as he puts you on the bed.   Mei Mei licks your face clean of sweat.  Elder Kejak heads to the bathroom to clean up.

“Chiyoko, we should go.”  Guanyu says in a calm voice.

“No,” Chiyoko disagrees.  “I’m staying here.”

“Lady Chiyoko, you should go.”  Elder Kejak emerges out of the bathroom, drying his hands.

“I am not leaving him alone.”  Chiyoko stares down the Elder Sidereal, the chimera’s blood splattered across her face.  You never loved her more than in this moment.

“We are all staying,”  Masaru says.  “Svante is a member of our circle.”

“The secretary can not do his work with all of you in the room.”  Guanyu thinks for a moment.  “One of you may stay at a time.  You can trade off in shifts.”

Elder Kejak does not look pleased at this compromise, but inclines his head in agreement.

Chiyoko pulls up a chair to the bed.  She holds your hand.  Her father glances at Masaru, who has no reaction to this.  Lung Guanyu shakes his head.  “Come along, children.”  They leave the room.

Elder Kejak moves a second chair closer to the bed.  He spins towards the closed shutters, expression wary.  The shutters separate to admit a fleshy appendage with a sapphire eye at the tip.  Chiyoko rises and draws her sword.   She stands by the Elder Sidereal.   He pushes her sword aside.  “You will not need that.”  He addresses the protruding flesh.  “Go back to your master, demon. You are not wanted here.”

Many tendrails of flesh emerge from the shuttered window.   It drops to the floor.  Bone crack and skin ripples as the Neomah reforms herself.  Nimishema rises naked and tucks a stray eyeball back into its socket.  She reshapes her skull as a woman styles her hair.  “I do not care what you want, Sidereal.  I am not bound to you.   You do not give me orders.”

“That can change, demon.”  Elder Kejak threatens.

Unperturbed by Elder Kejak’s threats, Nimishema smiles.  “Akachi believes you may need assistance with the boy.  I believe you cannot be trusted with the boy’s safety.”  Her fingers extend and form into various medical implements.  “I will extract the Wyld parasite from his body.  You will leave and repair the tattered remains of your schemes.”

Instead of offended, Elder Kejak studies the Neomah.  “Why, Nimishema?  You barely know the boy, yet you threaten me?”

The demon walks over to the bed.  Your caste mark burns on your forehead and you can barely keep your eyes open.   She plays with a wavy lock of your hair.  “They may not share blood, but this is a true child to Akachi.  He blames himself for what has happened.”  Nimi gives Chiyoko a small smile and removes her hand.  “Now leave, Sidereal.  Let me care for my master’s son.”

“No,”  Elder Kejak turns away from the demon and takes a glass jar out of his bag.  “You may stay and observe to reassure Akachi that Svante is safe.”

“Go.”  The demon orders.

What do you do?

  • Tell Kejak to leave
  • Tell Nimishema to leave
  • Have them both stay
  • Other





150 – Uncle

You run.

You follow the blaze of Chiyoko’s anima.   Your footsteps echo off the stonewalls of the passage.   You run until the moonlight glow behind you fades.

“Here!”  Chiyoko, anima fading, pushes the secret door open.   You emerge in an empty hallway.  You recognize where you are.  The roaring party you encountered earlier has settled into a somber murmur.

Adrenaline drains from your body and you waver.   You sword bounces to the carpet.  You reach for Chiyoko before you fall over.   She hisses when you grab her arm.  With her other arm, Chiyoko eases down to the floor.

“Your arm.”  You forgot she broke it earlier, her cast hidden by the long sleeves of her nightshirt.

“My arm is fine.”  She rips at your shirt, examines your wound, and frowns.  “Is there anything you can do about your shoulder?”

“My shoulder is fine.”  You rest your head against the wall.  “Actually, it doesn’t hurt at all.”  Your arm is still numb except for a strange tingling feeling.

“Svante, that isn’t a good thing.”

She’s right.  You concentrate on your numbness and push it away.  You cry out when the full pain of your wound hits you.

“Shhh…”  Chiyoko hushes you and glances over her shoulder in the direction of the ballroom.  “We need to get out of here.”

You focus on the pain and feel it drain away.  It took much more effort to duck away from your injuries than usual.  All that is left is the strange tingling feeling and a sense of unease.   You are still in danger, but from what?

“We need to go,” Chiyoko lifts you with her good arm.  “Aiko and Masaru are waiting by the staircase.”

“Elder Kejak.” You mumble.


“My uncle.”  You correct yourself and continue in a stronger voice.  “He needs to be told about the Chimera, the Lunar, everything.”

“We will get into trouble.”  She whispers.

You grab the front of her nightshirt.  “We already are in trouble.”

Chiyoko nods.   She whispers a message to the Shogun’s Secretary, as she leads you down the hallway.  How long was it to the staircase?  It did not seem this long when you walked it earlier this evening.

“Chiyoko?” Chiyoko tenses at deep male voice calling behind you.   “What are you doing out so late?  Are you well?” The mocking tone wars with the words of concern.

“Let me handle this.”  Chiyoko turns around.   You lean against the wall.  A fire aspect in gleaming jade armor stands before you.  His orange hair shorn short and his skin glows red as an ember. Other Dragonblooded and their mortal entourage surround him.  Two silk clad fire aspect women, identical to the expressions of concern on their face, confer off to the side.  Another fire aspect, in battle worn armor, steps forward.  His expressionless face carries a scar from the top of his cheek continuing as a streak of ash though his garnet hair.   He loosens his sword and scans the hallway for threats.

“Uncle Hayate,” Chiyoko smiles in relief, though the tension does not leave her body.  “Svante and I got separated from our circle and we were attacked by something in the passages.”

Lung Hayate crosses his arms and stares down at Chiyoko.  “Chiyoko, what did I tell you about playing in the passages?  It’s dangerous down there.”

Chiyoko’s eyes do not leave her uncle’s.  “I’m sure my father will lecture me when he gets here.”

“My little brother has been too soft on you.  If you were my daughter…”  Hayate’s voice fades out as you focus on the other Dragonblooded.   One of the twins makes to go to you, but the red headed Dragonblooded shakes his head.   The twin frowns, but stays where she is.

Danger, danger, danger.   Too many people.  Too many things.  The Chimera did something to you.  Poison?   Perhaps, but that does not seem right.

You slide down the wall to the floor, but a hand stops you.  “My lord, this boy needs medical attention.”

“Akachi.”   You feel his cool hand on your forehead and look up at your guardian as you have never seen him.   Peacock feathers trail down his hair and his face painted with swirls.   Akachi wears little but a cloak over one shoulder, a silk cloth around his waist, and jewelry.

“Hush, child,“  says a voice as clear as a bell.  “Don’t waste your energy to speak.”  A Neomah kneels by your side and strokes your shoulder.  She extends her finger and shoves it into your wound.  You bite your lip from crying out again.   She removes her finger and watches your blood drip to the floor with a pensive look.  The Neomah licks it off the tip of her finger.   Everyone in the hallway is silent as she does this.

Chiyoko reacts first.  “What are you doing to him?”

“Mortal, get your demon away from the boy.”  Hayate orders.

“Mayura, come here.”  One of the twins holds out her hand as if Akachi was an errant child.

The Neomah ignores them all.  “There is something inside him that tastes of the Wyld.  It feeds off of his essence as a child feeds from its mother’s womb.”

Akachi brushes your hair over your forehead.  “How much time does he have, Nimi?”

“Sorcerer, I would not worry about the boy.  My doctors could see to him.”  Hayate nods to one of his entourage to pick you up.

“No!”  Chiyoko pushes the demon away and stands in front of you.  “My father will be here soon.  Thank you for your concern, uncle.   We will be fine. “

“Now, niece.  Don’t be obstinate.”  Hayate motions his fingers for Chiyoko to follow.  “Come along.  “

What do you do?

  • Go with Hayate and Akachi
  • Stay and wait for Guanyu and Elder Kejak
  • Other

((You found the hidden Akachi rabbit hole. ))


149 – Finding Trouble

You hold the crystal tight in your fist.  Not a flash of light escapes as you hand it to Chiyoko.  You glance back at the shadow.   It cannot be a shadow, you realize.  No shadow can interact with a physical object.  What is this creature?  you ask yourself as the liquid darkness engulfs the cage.  You close your eyes and concentration on the symphony of essence singing around you.  A roaring bonfire of elemental energy empowers Chiyoko.  You tune out her flowing essence and focus on the creature in the corridor.

The shadow’s essence reverberates out of tune with the rest of the essence in the corridor.   This creature is no god, ghost, or spirit.   Whatever it was, the Wyld beyond the edge of Creation has irreversibly tainted it.  Your heart skips a beat when you realize what it is was.

Elder Kejak wanted you to search for hidden Lunars in the Manse.  You doubt he was expecting you find a Chimera.

And the sound was creeping closer.You open your eyes confused.   The threads of fate thrum with violence.  Yet the chimera was still in the corridor with the cage.

A thin fluid tentacle whips out from the wall.  You dodge but the creature is blinding fast.   The tentacle encircles your throat.  Its throbbing end stabs you in the shoulder.  Your throat burns.  You grip at the tentacle to pull it away.   Its skin burns your hands.  You move away but the tentacle in your shoulder pins you to the wall.

Chiyoko draws her sword and slices the tentacle away.  The cut tentacle flaps, spewing both with burning dark blood.   You heave a deep breath and toss the melting tentacle aside.

With a clang, the chimera discards the empty cage.  It flows along the stone walls towards you and Chiyoko.     Chiyoko stands in front of you.   You reach for your sword, but your hand feels like a stranger to you.  You hear the sword slip out of its sheath.  You switch your sword to your right hand.

“Ignite your anima, you stupid kids!” a voice growls.   Chiyoko’s anima floods the corridor with blinding orange fire light.   Before even reaching her, the Chimera shrieks in pain and retreats.    A rhino slams into the chimera, driving it into the wall.   You see movement out of the corner of your eye.  The tentacle is reforming itself into an oversized scorpion.  It raises its tail and clicks its claws at you.

Chiyoko stabs the scorpion with her sword.  It melts into slug, but the slug bubbles with life.  She ignites her sword to burn off the residual goo.  “We need to leave now.”

What do you do?

  • Join battle. You aren’t leaving until you get some answers
  • Run and warn the Groundskeeper to get out of the passages.
  • Run for the nearest exit out of the tunnels
  • Run and stay in the tunnels
  • Run for Chiyoko’s room
  • Run for Elder Kejak’s room
  • Other

148 – Traps

“Let’s look around and see what we can find,”  As tempting as rushing over to the kitchen storage was, you rather explore the secret passages.  You are a Chosen of Secrets.  How could you not explore them?  You hold out your hand to Chiyoko.  She takes it and together you wander the secret passages.  For each new passage, Chiyoko tells you where it leads.

“This one leads to the kitchen gardens,” she whispers.  The scent of dirt saturates the air coming from that passage.

“Wait,”  You hear the clanging of metal.   The end of the passage glows with firelight.  Chiyoko drags you into a small alcove.  She closes her fist around the crystal and purges the passage into darkness.   The alcove is so small, you feel the rise and fall of Chiyoko’s breast as she breathes.

The light approaches and younger of the two groundskeepers appears.  His dirty blond hair is loose around his sun-tanned face.  He juggles metal rat traps in one hand and adjusts a stained leather pouch on his shoulder.   Torch held high, he walks past your hiding place without noticing you.  The stench of sour beer lingers after he passes.  The torchlight pauses and you hear him fiddle with the rat trap.   He leaves it in the intersection between two hallways.  After a few minutes, the torchlight fades as he walks away.

“I think he is gone,” Chiyoko whispers.   You don’t reply, more focused on the spicy scent of her hair.   You reach out and take the crystal from her hand and put it deep into your pocket.   You run your fingers through her shoulder length hair.

“Here?” she breathes on your neck.  “What if the groundskeeper comes back?”

“The groundskeeper is drunk.  He won’t notice us.”  You kiss her.   Chiyoko pulls your closer and you press her against the wall of the alcove.

“Wait,” Chiyoko breaks off and pushes you against the opposite wall of the alcove.  “What are we trying to do here?”

“What?”  You grow frustrated.  You thought it was obvious what you were trying to do here.

“Neither you nor I have any Maiden Tea.”  Chiyoko points out.

The words Maiden Tea clears your head.  You didn’t think things would get that far.  Actually, you did not think that far beyond Chiyoko and the scent of her hair and the feel of her….   You take a deep breath and attempt to think things though.

Danger!  The threads of fate vibrate in anticipation of violence.  You tense and listen to the empty hallway.  You hear nothing.

“What is it?” Chiyoko asks.  You cover her mouth with your hand and stick your head out of the alcove.

“Rowr.”  A black cat with glowing yellow eyes stares you down.   The air around Chiyoko’s body grows warmer as she observes the cat.

“Shoo!” you hiss.  Maidens, please let this be a normal cat. 

The cat’s tail poofs.   It turns away from you and confronts the hallway, growling.   The groundskeeper’s trap lies in wait.   A dark shapeless form creeps along the ceiling of the passage.  It flows down the wall and encircles the rat trap.

BANG BANG BANG!  The dark shadow beats the rat trap against the stone floor.  You look down to find the cat gone.

What do you do?

  • Attack the shadow
  • Creep away and look for the cat
  • Stay hidden until the shadow passes
  • Creep closer and get a better look at the shadow.
  • Other



((This whole situation is hysterical from the cat’s point of view.))


((Also, yet again, the fates have aligned to make this a seasonally appropriate post.))

147 – Teenage Problems

You hold Chiyoko as she cries in your arms.  At first, you did not know what to do.  Fighting against destiny was against your very nature.  Your own destiny was to ensure everyone in Creation followed the plans of Heaven.

Yet seeing Chiyoko in pain was unbearable to you.  You wanted to help her, but telling her what little you knew would only make her feel worse.  You hold Chiyoko closer and rest your chin on her hair.  There had to be something you could say or do.

“I can investigate and figure out what is going on.”  You offer.  What you both needed was more information.  Why was Chiyoko chosen for Shogun out of all her cousins?

“You promised you wouldn’t tell anyone!”  Chiyoko scowls up at you.

“I won’t tell anyone about your dream, but we need more information.”  You reassure her.  “I need to ask some questions.”  You stroke her cheek and use your thumb to wipe away her tears.  “I’m good at asking questions.”  You point at your brow.  “It’s kind of what I am.”

Chiyoko frowns, but then sighs and nods her head in agreement.  “Just be careful.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll figure out what is going on.”  You kiss her in the hopes of distracting her from her pain.  And to distract yourself from the fear you couldn’t help Chiyoko.

Chiyoko leans into your kiss, but then breaks off.   She puts a finger to your lips.  “There is something I want to show you.”

“Okay.”  You say in a small voice.  You would look at anything Chiyoko wanted to show you.  Your heart pounds in your chest as you consider the possibilities.  She takes your hand and leads you to the front playroom.   Along one wall, books and toys sit on a dusty bookshelf.   Green terrain and miniature Shogunate soldiers cover one table.  Chiyoko leads you pass all this to a brick wall.   She moves an armor covered manikin and pushes a brick in.   Part of the wall swings inward, revealing a lightless passage.

“The whole manse is filled with secret passages.  I found this one when I was a kid. ”  Chiyoko rummages around in a side table drawer and reveals a crystal the size of her palm.  She rubs it in her hands and it glows dull red – a good color not to affect your night vision.  “There is a secret door leading to your uncle’s room.  I was going to sneak over and visit you, but I didn’t know if your Uncle is a sound sleeper.”

“I doubt my uncle actually sleeps at all.”  You kneel down and examine the dust on the floor.  Bootprints.  Some Chiyoko’s size.  Some larger.  “How many people know about these passages?”

“I don’t know.  Aiko and I have never seen anyone else in them.”   She steps into the passage.

You are sure Elder Kejak knows about these passages.   You wish he would have told you, but then when did Elder Kejak tell anyone what they needed to know.  You did not see any footprints, but then Elder Kejak would not leave any thanks to Arcane Fate.

“I’m going to be myself for a while.”  Chiyoko takes a sharp intake of breath when you shuck your Resplendent Destiny.  Arcane Fate will take care of your footprints and may hide Chiyoko’s as well.  You can never tell what the Broken Mask would do to hide traces of your presence.  “Other people have been using the passages.”  You point at the boot prints.  “Recently.”

“Oh.:  Chiyoko looks disappointed.  “I was hoping we could find some place we could be alone and not have guards outside the door.”

Your cheeks burn at the implications of Chiyoko’s statement.  “We will find something.”  You study the passage in the dim red light.  The large grey stone blocks rise up to an arched ceiling.  “What over rooms do these passages lead to?”

“Aiko’s room is that way.”  Chiyoko points with the crystal.  “The opposite direction leads to a stair case.  Up will take us to your uncle’s room.  Down will take us to the kitchen on the first floor.”  Chiyoko thinks.  “There are storage rooms there.”

“Is there a way out of the manse?”  Maybe you can find a way to the Manse of Burning Enigmas.

“Yes, but it is a long walk.  We may not make it back here by morning.”

What do you do?

  • Head back to Elder Kejak’s room.
  • Head to the kitchen storage.
  • Leave the manse.
  • Explore the passages and see what else you can find.
  • Other

146 – Dreams and Prophecies

You retreat from the guards and head outside to the moonlit garden.  You pluck a Tiger Lily from a planter and spread the wing of your cloak.  Whisper soft owl wings lift you up to the balcony of Chiyoko’s room.   You touch down and your cloak drops around your shoulders.  The open double doors reveal sheer curtains fluttering in the night breeze. You peek in and find Chiyoko lying on her bed, facing away from the door.  You watch as she sighs and curls up in a tighter ball under her covers.  You step back into fate and tap on the glass pane.

Chiyoko rolls over, her face redden and blotchy with tears.   She reaches under her pillow and retrieves a jade dagger.

“It’s me.” you whisper.  You hold up your hands and step into the moonlight.

“Svante.”  Chiyoko says with relief.  She sets the dagger aside on her nightstand.  She sits up and looks away from you, furtively wiping at her wet cheeks.

You walk into the room and sit on her bed beside her.  “Is something wrong?”  You regret the words as soon as you said them.  Of course, something is wrong.  Her grandmother is dying.   You offer Chiyoko the tiger lily in penance.  “I got this for you.”

Chiyoko gives you a small smile and takes the lily.  She puts it to her nose and says nothing.

Maybe something else is wrong.  You remember the River Goddess’ words.   Akachi is good at drawing out what was bothering you.   What would he say right now?  “Chiyoko, you can always talk to me about anything.   I won’t tell anyone.”

Chiyoko sets the flower down and fingers a petal.   “It’s nothing important.  Don’t worry about me.”

“Chiyoko, if it bothers you, it bothers me, too.”  You place your hand on top of hers.  “Tell me.”

“I…”  She looks away.  “I failed all my classes at school…..except Athletics.”  She amends.

“Oh.”  You try to think of something to help her.  “Maybe I can help you study?  You were taking Old Realm, right?  I speak Old Realm.  It’s my native language.”  Plans form in your mind.  You could talk to Akachi to giving you an afternoon or two off to help Chiyoko study.   It will give you a legitimate excuse to spend more time with her.

Chiyoko shakes her head.  “It’s too late.  School is already over for the year.  My father doesn’t know, since the grades haven’t been sent yet.  Dragons, they may be delaying it because of my grandmother’s illness.”  She says this bitterly.

“Well, that’s a good thing, right?”

“No!”  She gets up and looks out the window.   “I’m sick of getting special attention because of my grandmother.  It’s not fair to everyone else.  “

You are not sure what to say, so you get up and take her into your arms.   Chiyoko rests her head on your shoulder.   Your heart skips and you tighten your arms around her.

“Did you ever think you weren’t worthy of Exaltation?”  She whispers so softly you could not be sure you heard her correctly.


“Aiko is at the top of every class.  The teachers say Masaru could be up there too if he studied his books as much as his manga.”  She shivers.  “No one says anything like that to me.  Even if I do pass, they just give me this look.  Like they are disappointed.  They say ‘I expect more out of the Blood of the Shogun.’  Whatever I do is never enough, so why bother?”  Her voice grows thick with tears.

You stand there and hold her as she cries.  “And they are right.”  Chiyoko continues.   “I should be better.  But I am not.  I’m not worthy of being a Lung.  Sometimes I think I’m not worthy of being Dragonblooded.   And… I have so much power, but no choice about what to do with my own life. “

“You have choices.”   You try to think of some, but the warmth of Chiyoko’s body is distracting.  “You can choose what classes to take.”

“My father chooses those, not me.”

“Well, we are kids.  You can choose what you do after you get out of school.”

She pulls away from you and paces on the balcony.   You watch her, confused by her actions.   Before she was a sobbing mess.  Suddenly, Chiyoko seems to be weighing an important decision.   She grabs your hand, leads you back inside her room, and shuts the doors.   She leans against the shut doors and confronts you.  “You can tell no one I told you this.  Not your uncle.  Not Masaru.  Not Aiko.  No one.”   Chiyoko grips your arms so hard it hurts.   “Promise me.”

You study her tear stained face and wonder what she is going to reveal. “I promise.”

She closes her eyes and in a singsong voice, she starts.  “I had a dream once…  I dreamed of battle.   The Fair Folk were all around us.   We were trying to push them back from the shores of the Blessed Isle.   I think we were in Vanchow.  I could see the Manse of the Anathema from where I stood.  Dragonblooded, Mortal – everyone around me was dying.   Everyone, even my own mother, referred to me as Shogun.”  She pauses to let you digest this revelation.  “They all looked to me for leadership.  I raise my sword and….”  Chiyoko opens her eyes.    “And the dream ended.  I woke up and a woman was in my room watching me.  It was dark, so I couldn’t see her aspect markings, but she was Dragonblooded.  She told me ‘Lung Chiyoko.  Soon you will take your second breath.   And one day you will be Shogun.’”

You look down at your feet.  You keep your face blank, because you already knew.  Elder Kejak said it at dinner tonight.   “It was only a dream.” You reassure her.  “You probably dreamed the woman.”   Or she was your Sifu.  Yeva was the only other Sidereal with Dragonblooded Aspect Markings.

“It wasn’t a dream.  Aiko and Masaru were there by my side.   I didn’t know them at the time, but as soon as I met them at school I recognized them.  Dragons, Yi was there and I hadn’t met him until tonight!”  She takes a deep breath.  “I don’t want to be Shogun.   I feel like I’m just a puppet going through the motions of life.   I have no control over my destiny.“

What do you do?

  • Tell her everything you know. You do not want any secrets between you and Chiyoko.
  • Tell her you will investigate. You need more information before you reveal what you know.
  • Play dumb and tell her nothing. You will need to guide Chiyoko to accept her destiny.
  • Other

(I almost made this decision for Svante and moved on to the next part. Then I realized this is a big character defining moment.  I can’t take this decision away from you.)

(Also, I’m a cruel Storyteller.)