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.”

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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

 

108 – Sandwiches

You hide in an empty row behind two Sidereals you have never met before.   Based on the untidiness of the attire, they are fresh from Creation.   The Sheildbearer wears a wrinkled mortal legionnaire’s uniform.   His freshly shaved head makes his almond shaped eyes loom large in his face.  The russet skinned Joybringer’s mud caked boots rest on the chair in front of her.  She is slouched in her chair brushing dried grass off her undyed linen shirt.

“You have some in your hair too, Anuli,” The man picks out a long frond of grass seeds and offers it to her as if a rose bud.  Anuli rolls her eyes and the man discards the grass on to the floor.  He runs his hand though her dark curly hair.  “I don’t see any more.”

You ignore the two Sidereals in front of you and peer between the seats at the large conference table in the middle of the room.   Flowered-filled vases vanish among the clutter of papers and maps on the table.  Sasha sits by herself at one end of the table, her fair skin paler than usual.  Her violet eyes dart towards the door each time someone enters.

“Look, Felix.  Someone brought an Uncle Jack manga to the meeting.”  Anuli snickers.   Yeva, your Sifu, giggles over the latest Pretty Dragon Princess Meru.   Yeva’s iron black hair falls straight to her chin.  Dressed in uniform of a Dragonblooded Officer, one would never know Yeva was Sidereal not Dragonblooded.  Elder Kejak glances over at the front row and the manga vanishes.  When Elder Sidereal returns to sorting through his papers, the magna appears in Yeva’s hands again.

When Akachi arrives, you duck behind the chair.  His booming laugh echoes around the room as he jokes with Wanahton and Jaived.  You peer over the chair again and watch Akachi hand Haythem a thermos.   He then joins Sasha at the conference table and coaxes a small smile out of your sister.

“I guess Elder Akachi going to babysit Sasha since the Oracle boy.”  Anuli comments.  What? You don’t need a babysitter! You hold back from defending yourself to the muddy boot Joybringer.

Felix does not answer, instead watching another group of brightly dressed Sidereals enter the room.   “The Western Convention finally arrived.”  A tanned woman leads her group down the aisle.  Half of her hair shaved off, revealing the silver piercings edging the outside of her ear.  The other half of her dark hair trails down to her chin.  Uilani.  You remember the name of the Elder who heads the Western Convention.   She sits at the conference table as the rest of her group takes a seat in the audience.

The room falls silent as another Elder Sidereal arrives.  The newly arrived Elder’s silver grey hair curls in a braid around her head like a serpent.  You freeze in fear when her cold violet eyes sweep across the room.   This is Winona, the Elder of the Northern Convention.  Disapproving lines etch Winona’s taupe face.  Her gaze is colder than the Northern Steeps of her Convention’s domain.

Another Chosen of Endings distracts you from the elder as he sits down next to the two Sidereals in front of you.   The slender, almost skeletal man is dressed in a white long sleeve shirt and grey pants. Deep scars score his golden brown cheeks.  In spite of his fearsome appearance, this man, Idir is his name, smiles as he sets his bag in the chair in front of you.

“Your late.”  Felix says.

“The meeting hasn’t started yet.  “

“Winona has already arrived.  Anyone who shows up afterwards is late.”

Idir shrugs.  “Sifu is busy giving advice to our newest Reckoner.”  You glance though the chairs again and find Winona has usurped Akachi’s chair and is now talking to Sasha.    Your sister pays close attention to the icy elder’s every word.

The doors in the back slam shut and you feel a tingle down your spine as the anti-eavesdropping spell activates.   The Uncle Jack manga disappears again and everyone begins to head to their seats.   Naoko and Meraud, the Eastern Elder, stride down the aisle.  Naoko takes a seat next to Jaived and Meraud sits at the Conference table.   Yeva takes the last chair at the table.   The lights dim and the meeting begins.

Elder Kejak rises.  “Within the next two weeks, Shogun Lung Zheng will be dead.”  The Elder Oracle says without preamble.  He pauses to let the news sink in.

“Shit.”  Anuli curses.  “No wonder they called us all back in.”

“Hush, Anuli,” Felix leans forward to catch every word.   Anuli sits back and crosses her arms.

“We have recalled all of you in the hopes that together we can avoid a succession war.” Elder Kejak continues.  “With the Fair Folk harassing our borders, we cannot afford for Creation to be in conflict.”

As Elder Kejak drones on and on about how the survival of Creation is at stake, Idir digs through his bag and pulls out an oblong foil wrapped object.   Without a single crinkle, he unwraps the foil and reveals a sandwich piled with pale turkey and bacon.  You can taste the bacon it smells so delicious.  Your stomach growls and you curl up behind the chair.

“You brought food in here?” Felix hisses.

“Yay, gods!  We haven’t eaten all day.”  Anuli whispers.  “What do you got?”

“Just sandwiches,” Idir passes Anuli a foiled wrapped package.   He holds one up at Felix in silent question.

“No…”  Felix answers.  He turns away from Idir and his sandwich and focuses on the meeting.  Your mouth waters at the thought of the sandwich.   Maybe if Idir puts it back in his bad, you can steal it without anyone noticing.  Then you remember the Owls reaction the last time you stole something.  You decide to wait until the meeting ends to find food.

“Felix wants a sandwich,” Anuli says between bites.   “He hasn’t eaten all day either.”

“I can’t believe you brought sandwiches to a meeting where we are deciding the Fate of Creation!”  Felix’s voice raises at the end of his sentence.  Elder Kejak stops talking and everyone in the room stares at Felix.  You stay curled up on the floor, willing the shadows to keep you hidden.

Mortified, Felix sinks down in the chair.  Elder Kejak resumes talking.

“Don’t you know how to be quiet?” Idir drops the sandwich back in his bag in disgust.

“Might as well eat the sandwich now,” Anuli says.

Felix covers his face with his hand.  “I don’t want the fucking sandwich!”

Elder Kejak cedes the floor to Yeva.  Your Sifu stands tall and tugs her uniform straight.   “The Shogun has decline to name an heir.  She currently,” And Yeva emphasizes the word currently.  “has six living children.  Only two are consider worthy of the Chrysanthemum Manse:  Akane and Hayate.   Akane is our preference.  She has the support of the majority of the military, though the Western Fleet and the Fourth and Seventh Legions have not yet declared a preference.    Hayate is in Meru and he will not cede the Chrysanthemum Manse readily.  He has relocated his legion to Meru.  He will force Akane to siege the manse.   During the Usurpation, Vivid of the Night Caste was able to hold the Manse for two years and Hayate hopes to do the same.”

“Have all the secret entrances to the manse been blocked?”  Someone asks.

Yeva turns to Sasha.  “Yes,” Sasha replies.  “All but one.  The Northeast corridor is still open. Hayate has this entrance guarded.”

Yeva explains.  “He is creating a weak point in his defenses to funnel any opposition though that corridor.”

“And to keep an escape route open.”  Idir whispers to Anuli.

“No,” Felix disagrees.  “If I were him, I’d hold another way out. “

“The Fourth Legion is still stationed in An-Tang.  How is  Akane returning to the Blessed Isle?”  Wanahton asks Yeva.

“She is negotiating with Admiral Mayim for ships.”  Yeva explains.

“I thought the Admiral hasn’t declared for anyone?”  Haythem yells.

“It seems like a long shot for Akane.” Another Sidereal from the Western Convention asks.  “Have we considered anyone else for Shogun?”

Yeva lists off the rest of the Shogun’s living children, “Yin’s chances for Shogun were destroyed after that failed diplomatic mission to the Hui Rebels.  “

“I don’t know,”  Anuli snickers.  “Yin negotiated his way into the rebel leader’s bed often enough.”

“Guanyu has been in disfavor with Gen Raijin since he eloped.”  You recognize the name of Chiyoko’s father.   “Besides his own daughter, he is younger than the Shogun’s grandchildren and has no military experience.  The Twins, Ming and Ning, are sorcerers.  The Shogunate will never accept a sorcerer in the Chrysanthemum Manse.  “

“And that is what stops Raijin Indrani from being Shogun.” Idir whispers.

“Raijin Indrani enjoys being the power behind the throne too much to stick her neck out.”  Anuli remarks.

You grow bored with the discussion about people who you don’t know.  Besides Chiyoko’s father, you don’t recognize any of the names.   You lay on the floor and doze for a bit.  When Elder Kejak starts talking again, you shake yourself awake.

“Each of you has been assigned to a key point in Creation.   Your mission briefing contains your orders and your Dragonblooded contacts.   I ask you not to share the details of your mission with…”

“Come now, Chejop.”   Akachi interrupts.  “Why gather us all together if we can’t share information?”

“We aren’t all secret keepers like you,” Meraud agrees.  “Someone is bound to talk.”

“If we are to succeed, the right hand must know what the left is doing,” Winona narrows her eyes at Elder Kejak.

Elder Kejak grimaces and pulls the first red envelope from the box.   “Reckoner Sasha Marquadt will continue in her assignment at the Chrysanthemum Manse.  She will also be conducting the Shogun’s last rites when her end comes.”   Sasha steps up to take her envelope and retreats back to her seat.

“Reckoner Jaived Fiala, Oracle Haytham Ajam, Shieldbearer Gens Yeva,  Joybringer Naoko Maki will be assigned to the Fourth Legion.  They are to assist Lung Akane as needed.”   Haythem rubs his face and slowly rises to get his mission.  Jaived and Naoko follow.

“Haringer Wanahton will assist Admiral Mayim in the Western Fleet and attempt to convince him to support Akane.”  Wanahton opens his mission envelope and seems confused by the tiny piece of paper.  He tucks the mission back into the envelope and goes back to his seat.  The three Sidereals in front of you collect their missions.   Anuli and Felix are assigned to the Seventh Legion and Idir is assigned to Deheleshen.

You grow more and more bored with the meeting and force yourself to stay awake as Elder Kejak continues to hand out missions.  Yes, you found out some very interesting information, but when will it end!

Finally, Elder Kejak stops calling out names.  You see a flash of red as he recovers the box and sets it aside.   “Any questions?”   Everyone in the room shifts restlessly, waiting for the meeting to end.   “I expect everyone to be at their posts by Creation’s dawn in five hours.  Meeting adjourned. “

You continue to hide in your empty row as you wait for the room to clear out.   Haytham is among the first to leave.   Sasha follows Winona, the Endings Elder.   Uilani approaches Wanahton and gathers him into her crew before she leaves.

Still at the conference table, Elder Kejak passes Akachi a red envelope.  Akachi frowns as he accepts the envelope.   You consider trailing the two Elders but you never had much luck hiding from them before.   Together the two elders leave the room.

Soon, the only two people remain in the room- Meaud, who is setting the room to rights and Idir, who is finishing his sandwich.

Meaud heads over to where Idir sits.   “You leaving soon, Idir?  You don’t have much time to get to your post.” she asks.

“In a bit.  I just need a moment to collect my thoughts.  It’s quiet in here with everyone gone.”   He offers the foil wrapped sandwich to the Elder Sidereal.   “Are you hungry?”

“No, I’m fine.  Thank you.”

Idir shrugs and stares into the distance, lost in his thoughts.

Meaud frowns at Idir. “Be sure to lock up when you leave.”   The elder leaves the room.

Once she is gone, Idir holds up his sandwich.   “Would you like the sandwich?”  he asks you.  “I’d hate for it to go to waste.”

What do you do?

  • Reveal yourself and take the Sandwich. You are hungry
  • Wait for Idir to leave and go home
  • Try to leave while Idir is still in the room
  • Other

 

 

107 – Schemes

You despair as you consider your options.   Lying to your tutor never worked out well when you neglected to do your homework.  You doubt lying about an important secret meeting you had to attend would work any better.   Also the Owl would tell Akachi what you were up to anyways.

“Is there something wrong, Svante?” the Owl asks.   He sits down at the table besides you, giving you a piercing stare.

You sigh, put the tile back in its place, and close the case.  “I know about the meeting tonight.  The one about the Shogun,” you say in Skytongue.   Few gods in Yu-Shan speak any Creation language besides Earthtongue.

The Owl puffs his feathers out and replies in the same tongue.  “I see.”   His feathery brow contract as he thinks.   He reaches over and picks up the case.   “Follow me.”

You hesitate unsure what to do.  Was the Owl leading you away from the meeting or was he, you dare hope, going to help you?    “Come along, Svante.” The Owl orders.  “There is no much time before the meeting.”    You remember your tutor did not stop you when you first found out about your birth family and decide to trust the old bird.

You follow the Owl though the crowded streets of Yu-Shan and back to your old classroom.  With a touch, the Owl unlocks the door and ushers you into the abandoned classroom.   The desks have been neatly stacked against the wall and textbooks lay discarded on a floor.   The Owl leans against his teacher’s desk and asks, “How do you plan on getting past the wards?  The wards will sense anyone passing through outside of fate.  ”

You pull Ayesha’s talisman out of your pocket.   “This will let me through the wards.”

The Owl cocks his head and picks the talisman out of your hand.  He studies it for a moment and hands it back to you.   “The Talisman will let you though the wards, but the alarm wards will still go off.”

“I have a plan for that too.”   You scratch the back of your head.  “You aren’t going to tell Akachi?”

“No, why would I tell Akachi anything?”

“You work for him.”

“No, I occasionally do favors for Akachi and consider him a friend, but I do not work for him.  I am a god of the Division of Secrets.  I am currently unassigned to any Sidereal, though that may change when you are older.”

You consider the implications of the Owl’s statement.  “You mean you can work for me?  Like Shapau works for Akachi?”   Sidereals ran offices and had godly staff, even Sasha and Wanahton had that fat toad for a secretary.   You never considered who would be on your staff.

“Perhaps, if that is what you wish.  You still have quite a few years before you are ready for the responsibility of management.”  The Owl changes the subject.  “Tell me about your plan to get into the Shogun Meeting and we can see if it is sound.   I rather not lie to Akachi and the other elders if they catch you.  ”

 

You stand still as a stone by the meeting door, waiting for someone to come unlock it.   You squeeze Ayesha’s wooden talisman tightly in your hand, leaving an indention on your palm.   Footsteps approach from down the hallway.   Naoko, Akachi’s Chosen of Serenity crafting apprentice, walks beside another taller woman.   Naoko is a short, Eastern woman with straight dark hair braided down the left side of her chest.   The second woman has dark blond hair laced with grey.   She has laugh lines around her deep blue eyes.

“We must be the first ones here.”  The Elder Sidereal places a hand against the door and closes her eyes.  The mark of Venus flares against her forehead and arcane symbols flare on the outside walls of the room.   As her caste mark fades, she opens her eyes and smiles.   “There.  The room is empty.”  The elder unlocks the door and orders Naoko to stand guard.

Five Elders – one for each direction of Creation.    Elder Kejak was the Elder for the Blessed Isle – he will be the one running the meeting.  Akachi’s domain was the South.   This elder must be Meraud, the Elder for the East, where the second largest population of people lived.

You watch other Sidereals trickle into the meeting room.  You are searching for one Sidereal in particular.  It would just be your luck if he were late to the meeting.   Finally, Haytham arrives, escorted by Wanahton and Jaived.

“Is he drunk?” Naoko asks.   The stench of cheap booze gags you as you sneak up closer to Haytham.

“Maybe a little,” Haytham answers.  “Too drunk for work.   Got to send me home!” he slurs.  The Drunken Oracle turns to leave, but Wanahton catches him by the arm.

Naoko rolls her eyes.  “Get him inside and hid him in a corner somewhere.”

Jaived snorts.  “I told you it wouldn’t work, Haytham.   Not enough Sidereals for all the work we have.   Everyone has to do their part, drunks and all.  I’m surprised they haven’t put little Svante on a committee yet.”

“Wait!” Haytham pleads.  “The Usurpation!  It was wrong!   I love Solars and plan to devote my entire life to returning them to their rightful place as rulers of Creation!”  Haytham spreads his arm wide, barely avoiding Jaived’s nose.

“Sifu, then it is very important for you to attend this meeting about deciding who will rule Creation next.”  Wanahton grabs Haytham by the shoulder and leads him to the door.  You keep pace with the drunken Oracle and cross the wards at the same time.    The talisman burns in your hand and you feel a tingling as you pass though the wards.

Haytham is not so lucky.  The alarm wards chime as they go off.  He slams face first into the wards and flung to the ground.  “Maiden’s Titties!  Even the fucking wards don’t want me to attend this meeting.”  Haytham picks himself up and brushes his robes off.   “See you around!”  He gives a little wave.  “Let me know how this whole fiasco works out.”  Jaived and Wanahton grab the Oracle and drag him back to the door.

“Search him,” Naoko orders.

“Hey now!”  Haytham complains as Jaived pats him down and goes through his pockets.   “At least buy me drinks before you start man handling me!”  Jaived pulls out a small tin of white powder.

Wanahton groans and rubs his face.   “Why, Sifu?”

“That isn’t mine!”  Haytham protests.

“It was in your pocket.” Jaived points out.

“If I was going to smuggle Celestial Cocaine into a meeting, I wouldn’t hide it in my back pocket!”

You sneak away as the argument as the door attracts more attention.   You almost feel sorry for what you and Ayesha did to Haytham, but then he did use you as bait for the Bureau Mole.

The quarter-filled amphitheater holds about 150 people.   A large conference table sits in the center of the room.   Elder Kejak, who you did not notice enter the room earlier, pauses in sorting his meeting notes to frown at the commotion at the door.   Haytham, Wanahton, and Jaived enter the room and sit near the back.   You keep to the shadows of back wall and search for a place to hide.

Where do you hide?

  • Under the large table in the center. There is a lot of room under there.
  • Near Haytham, Wanahton, and Jaived. The Drunken Sidereal will be blamed for any commotion you make.
  • In an empty row in the back. Staying away from everyone is the safest option.
  • Other

((Updates this month will be sporadic.  Stupid Work and Social Life. ))

55 – Silly Hats

“How does it feel to be officially a teenager?”  Akachi asks you as he putts around the kitchen, making breakfast.

“Okay, I guess.”   You didn’t feel that much different this morning when you woke up.   Just a little tired since you were up late reading the White Treatise.   You haven’t had much success casting any spells out of it.

“Hmmm….”  Akachi checks the steaming dumplings.   “That doesn’t sound like a happy birthday boy.  Is something the matter?”

You sit at the bar, nibbling on a piece of melon as you considering telling Akachi everything.  Sorcery has been nothing but frustration so far.   If Aiko, a dragonblood, could become a sorcerer at twelve, you being a Sidereal should have also been able to do it.   Now you are thirteen and still not initiated into Sorcery.  Aiko beat you.  You sigh and tell yourself that it is more important to become a sorcerer no matter how long it takes.  Anyways, if you told Akachi, he would just forbid you from learning.

But, as you think of your Dragon blooded friends, you realize there was something on your mind.   “It’s Chiyoko.”

“What about Chiyoko?”  Akachi comes to sit down next to you at the bar.

You remember back to the Martial Arts Tournament a few months ago.  You managed to finally separate her from the others.   You hid under the stands with her and pull her in for a kiss.   Chiyoko hesitates for a moment, but then puts her arms around you.   When you are finished, she looks around the underside of the stands and says “Not the most romantic place for a first kiss.”

You were shocked by this and after questioning her, you realize that she didn’t remember any of the other kisses and only had vague memories of you outside of Cnead Svante.    Her most clear memory was with the fight with the Anathema.   Over the past few months, you spent every rest day you could with your Dragon blooded friends.  Aiko remembers you the best, often bringing up things you said in previous visits when the two of you argue.  Masaru can recognize you without being reminded of Cnead Svante.   Chiyoko still has to be told who you are each time.

After you explain all this to him, Akachi shifts uncomfortable in his chair.   “It is unfortunate that Chiyoko is the one that is having the most difficult time piercing though Arcane Fate. “

“Yeah.”  You look down at your plate and begin stacking melon pieces in a tower.

“I wouldn’t worry.   Chiyoko is Dragon blooded.  She will remember in time.  You just have to be persistent.”

“But what if she starts to like someone else?”  Chiyoko was well-liked by everyone at the school.  Surely some other boy will attracted her attention.

“Chiyoko is not someone who gives her heart easily.  As the granddaughter of the Shogun, she is in an awkward position.   It is very difficult for her to know the difference between a true friend and someone who wants to be her friend because of who she is related to.  ”

“But what about Masaru?  He’s betrothed to her!”   Masaru didn’t seem to care about you and Chiyoko and frankly seemed relieved that you were around.

“Chiyoko isn’t Masaru’s type.”  Akachi gets up and starts to cut more melon.

“What?”  You are confused.  How could Akachi know this?

“It’s something Masaru will explain when he is ready.”   You can hear Sasha’s voice in the front room.   “Go invite Sasha in while I check on the food.”   Akachi gingerly opens the steamer basket to check on the dumplings.

When you enter the front room, Sasha’s eyes light up.  “Happy Birthday!”  She hands a large present over to one of the servants and gives you a big hug.   Sasha pulls away and looks you over. “Maidens!  You grow a foot each time I see you!”   You haven’t seen too much of Sasha over the past few months, since she has been working on a mission in Meru.   You realize that you are as tall as your sister now.

“All the food he eats has to go somewhere.”  Akachi calls from the kitchen.

Sasha grabs the present from the butler and hands it to you.   You open the present to find a silly hat in shape of a chicken.   You look at Sasha in surprise.  As long as you remember you have always gotten a silly hat for your birthday.

“Are you the one that always gave me the silly hat?” You never really thought about where the silly hats came from before.

There are tears in Sahsa’s eyes, as she nods.

You hug your sister and try not to cry.  Thirteen years old is definitely too old for crying now.   You put your chicken hat on and sit at the table with Akachi and your sister to eat breakfast.

More voices can be heard in the front room and Yeva enters the kitchen.   She raises an eyebrow at your silly hat.   “Good Morning, Svante.”

“Good Morning, Sifu. “  You rise from your chair and bow formally.

Yeva returns the bow and then sits down.    Yeva sniffles one of the dumplings suspiciously.   “It’s a good thing Svante will eat anything or else he will starve.”   She starts piling fruit on her plate.

“Hey! I might be a bit out of practice, but I’m a good cook.”

Yeva picks up her discarded dumpling.  “Observe closely, my student, as I show you the proper technique for bouncing a rubber dumpling off the delusional cooks.”   Your Sifu flings the dumpling in Akachi’s direction.

“No throwing food in the kitchen!”   Akachi reaches out and plucks the dumpling out of the air. He drops it on his own plate and joins everyone at the table.

“Have you heard what the Fellowship will be giving Svante for his birthday?”  Your ears perk up when you hear Yeva say this.

“No, I’ve….”  Akachi rubs the bridge of his nose.  “I told them to give him reasonable presents.”

“And we decided that it was entirely reasonable to pool our resources for one large present.”

“Really?  What is it?”   you ask.

“Patience, Svante.  That is for you to find out at your party.”  You sit back and cross your arms at Yeva’s response.

“I said reasonable.”  Akachi points a chopstick at Sasha.   “Why didn’t you warn me?”

“I don’t know what you are taking about.  I’ve barely been in Yu-Shan these days taking care of the Shogun. “  Sasha smiles at you.

“This is us warning you.”  Yeva retorts.

“It’s not that bad,” Sasha assures Akachi.

“It could be worse.   They were trying to talk Ayesha into giving Svante that Chillikin she has locked up.   Naoko thinks she can reprogram it to accept Svante.  I put a stop to that.   Don’t need that thing rampaging around Yu-Shan again.”   Yeva refills her plate with fruit.

Later on, you are helping Wanahton blow up balloons for your birthday party.   You grab the balloons and walk over to one of the tables to tie them.   You look up at the clock and wonder how time could move so slowly.

“Psst!”   You turn and see Haythem hiding behind a bush.

You are surprised to see Haythem here.   “I’m not supposed to talk to you.”   You are still wary of Haythem after what happened the night before the Tournament and the elders were not pleased with the Oracle either. Haythem was not invited to your birthday party.

“Then don’t talk to me.  I have something for you.”   He looks around to make sure no one is watching and holds up a paper bag.   “Something every thirteen year old boy needs.”

Intrigued in spite of yourself, you walk over and take the bag from the Oracle.  You begin to open the bag, but Haythem stops you.  “No!  Not here!  Wait until you are alone in your room.”

“What is it?” you ask suspiciously.

“You’ll see.”  Haythem winks at you.  “Don’t let Akachi catch you with them.   Happy birthday.”  He retreats from behind the bush to sneak out.

What do you do?

  • Open Haythem’s Present here.
  • Tell someone about Haythem’s Present (Akachi, Sasha, Wanahton. You pick)
  • Go up to your room and open Haythem’s Present
  • Throw the present out without looking at it.
  • Other

((This… maybe another long chapter… ))

54 – Hearthstone

This god was pissing you off. He is too smug and arrogant for someone who is about to be arrested. If only you could use your charms, then you could figure out what is going on. How was the god blocking you and Haythem? The Bureau Mole does not give off the discordant sounds of something outside of fate. His actions do not casually leave the threads of the loom in disarray. It was more like he didn’t touch the threads of the loom at all. Like when you walked out of fate. But how did this god do it? No deity should have this power.

Unless something is giving him this power. You remember the purple glow of the God’s hearthstone as he ended the mercenary’s life. Could the hearthstone allow him to walk outside of fate? To affect fate and not leave a trace of his actions on the loom?

The god continues to taunt you. “There is nothing you can do, boy. It would be easier for you and your friends to let me go.”

“Be careful, Svante.” Chiyoko warns, as you walk up to the god. Before the god could react, you quickly reach out and with a yank, pull the chain off of the god. The hearthstone amulet goes tumbling from under the god’s robes and to the ground. The Bureau Mole struggles against the Fire Aspect to retrieve the amulet, but you kick it away from him. The amulet skates across the courtyard stone and into the bushes.

You look upon the struggling god. “By the power bestowed upon me by the Maidens of Fate, I command you to stop struggling.” You feel the tendrils of Fate react to your command and the god calms down.

“Who are you?” you ask.

“I am called Manasseh. I am the god of lost and forgotten paperwork.”

You hear Aiko giggle behind you. The god bristles and adds, “My position in the Division of Endings may be minor, but very important. ”

“What do you want with the scroll?”

The god closes his eyes and says nothing.

“What do you want with the scroll?” you repeat.

“Answer him.” The tip of Chiyoko’s sword comes into view as she approaches the god.

“To retrieve the Solar Shards.”

You take a sharp intake of breath when he says this. “Are you gold faction?”

The god looks down at you. “Of course not. I’m…”

“I think this line of questioning has gone far enough.” Haythem, dressed in clean robes and no longer smelling of bum, appears out of the shadows.

The Bureau Mole’s eye widen when he sees Haythem. “It was you in the bar. But… it was a trap.”

Haythem smiles. “Okay, children.” He says to the gathered Dragonbloods. “Time to go back to bed.” He claps his hands. “Nothing more to see here. Not you, Svante.” You weren’t planning on leaving anyways.

“Svante?” Chiyoko is waiting with the rest of your dragon blooded circle.

“Go on to bed, Chiyoko. He will be with you in a moment.” Chiyoko and the others reluctantly head back into the door. Soon only you, Haythem and the god are in the courtyard.

“Yes, it was a trap. I couldn’t flush you out. I couldn’t find you with charms. So I baited the trap with something you desperately wanted. “ Haythem starts to tie up the god.

“The boy. Ika was working for you.” The god says.

Haythem says nothing as he finishes tying up the god and checks the rope for tightness.

“Wait? You were using me as bait?! What if something happened?” You are shocked that an adult would do that.

“Look in your pocket.” Haythem orders.

You dig through your pockets and find a black coin similar to the one Aiko casted. Haythem takes it from your hand and blows on it. It vanishes into dust. “You were perfectly fine. If anything had happened, I’d come get you.”

You weren’t so certain. “You said you weren’t a sorcerer. You said you failed your Trail of Fire.”

“The first time. One thing you should remember, kid, is that Saturn always gets hers in the end.” Haythem looks off in the distance and then shakes his head and continues to escort the Bureau Mole out of the courtyard.

“But what if something went wrong?” You follow Haythem, not satisfied with his answers.

“No risk, no reward.” Haythem continues walking.

“My friends and I could have gotten killed. People DID get killed.”

“Those mercenaries?” Haythem stops and turns to you. “I wouldn’t lose any sleep over them. They are bad people, Svante.”

“But…”

“Maidens, Svante. You are worse than the elders. I got the job done and in the end that is all that matters. ” Haythem continues walking.

You realize that you aren’t going to get any more out of the man. You are pretty sure that this case wasn’t as neatly accomplished as Haythem says. “Fuck you, Haythem.”

“Even the twelve year old tells me to fuck off. “ Haythem stares up at the now fading stars. “Why are all the other Sidereals bastards?” He shakes his head and continues to walk out of the school.

You head back to the dorm, slamming the door behind you. You enter your dorm room and find Chiyoko and Aiko waiting with Masaru.

“So…” Aiko starts. “What happened?”

“He’s a fucking asshole!” You throw yourself on the bed and pull your knees up to your chest. You have never been so pissed in your life.

“Who?” Chiyoko asks, confused.

You groan and bang your head against the wall in frustration. “Never mind.” Fucking Arcane Fate.

“So…” Masaru starts. “Did you stop the drug deal?”

“Um…yeah.” You look around the dorm. “Where is Ika?”

“The bird lady? She’s in the infirmary. She’ll be fine. The poison wasn’t deadly, just knocked her out.”

“Good.” You felt a little better knowing Ika was okay.

Chiyoko gives Aiko a pointed look and Aiko ignores her. “Aiko!”

Aiko rolls her eyes and pulls the hearthstone amulet out of her bag. “I picked this up.”

You stare at the hearthstone in Aiko’s hand and burst out laughing. “He forgot it! What an idiot!”

“Does that mean we can keep it?” Aiko asks hopefully.

“I should bring it back for evidence.” You take the amulet from the girl and put it in your pocket.

Masaru looks out the window at the brightening sky. “Are we still going to the Tournament?”

“You can’t actually want to go to the Tournament after all this. We have barely slept!” Aiko complains.

“You can stay here and sleep if you want, but I’m going. “ Chiyoko says. She takes your hand and drags you off of bed.

“Do I not get a choice?” you ask.

“Nope!”

((OOC: Finally done with Chapter four! This chapter went on far too long. I tried something new with this chapter. I came up with a situation and didn’t really have a definite ending. It made it easier to come up with choices, but more difficult to tie everything together at the end. And having work go crazy and getting sick didn’t help. I didn’t take into account all the ideas you players suggested like I should. I hope I didn’t scare everyone off. ))

((Any who, new chapter on Monday! I need to add Chapter four NPCs to the character list and read up on the thing I am going to introduce in Chapter Five. ))

(( It’s Svante’s Thirteenth birthday and Jupiter herself is going to give Svante a present, much to Akachi’s frustration. ))

42 – Spit

“Yeah…. Nothing can go wrong with that plan.” You comment sarcastically. Why are all adults so stupid? It’s up to you to think of a plan. You remember a spell you read in the White Treatise. “How about you cast Coin of Distant Vision, and hide it inside the package. Then you can track where the mercenaries go after that.”

“That would work if I was a sorcerer… Wait a minute, how do you know about that spell?” Haythem looks at you suspiciously.

“You aren’t a sorcerer?” You were surprised. Most of the older Sidereals were initiated Sorcerers.

“My Trail of Fire didn’t go so hot. Don’t change the subject, Svante. How do you know about the spell?” Haythem asks sternly.

“Aiko can cast it. She was the one that told me about the spell.” You lie. You really hoped she could cast it. You leave Haythem next to his crate and walk on over to where the girl was impatiently waiting.

“Well?” Aiko asks annoyed. “Is he going to deliver it?”

“Yeah… There is a complication. He’s a Sidereal like me.”

“Maidens, Svante. It’s hard to be undercover when you tell everyone.” You jump when you hear Haythem voice behind you. You didn’t hear the Oracle follow you.

“Really?” Aiko examines Haythem with interest and then wrinkles her nose. “If he is a Sidereal, why does he smell so bad?’

“If you are going to be a bum, you might as well go all the way.” Haythem explains.

You wince in embarrassment. Haythem wasn’t making the best impression. “I need you to cast the Coin of Distant Vision. We will sneak it into the package to track where the mercenaries take it.”

“Wait. Are we on a secret mission now?” Aiko’s eyes widen in excitement.

“You betcha, girl!” Haythem answers brightly.

“That is so cool.” Aiko spits in her palm and closes her eyes to focus. A small black coin with arcane runes appears in her hand. “Here you go.” Aiko presents spit covered coin out to you.

You really don’t want to touch a coin made of Aiko’s spit. You hold out the package to Aiko. “How about you put in the package? That way you can place it in the best place.”

Aiko smirks and opens the package to place the coin inside. She hands the package over to Haythem. “Please be careful with the package. The coin can be used as an arcane link to me.”

“I’ll be careful.” Haythem assures Aiko as he tosses the package in to the air and catches it again. “So, who am I delivering this to?”

“There is a feathered hair woman sitting at the bar. Give the package to her.” You say.

“Wait… You are telling me you are delivering drugs to Ika?!? “ Haythem rolls his eyes up to the night sky. “Why do you bitches hate me so much?” The oracle sighs dejectedly and heads towards the bar.

You and Aiko wait in awkward silence, as Haythem argues with the bouncer to let him in. Aiko wipes her spit covered hand on your shirt.

“What the fuck! That’s disgusting!” You back away from the girl and examine your shirt sleeve to see how wet it is.

Aiko snickers. “What? I needed to clean my hand off.”

“Use your own shirt.”

“It’s just a little spit.”

Sometimes you think Aiko is difficult on purpose. “Let’s focus on the mission. Haythem is inside. What is going on with the package?”

“Oh yeah.” Aiko closes her eyes. You keep an eye on the comings and goings around the bar.

“Shit. Ika and your Sidereal friend are arguing.”

“What?” Was Haythem going to throw off the plan? “What are they arguing about?”

“Someone named Rikali?” Aiko closes her eyes again. “They are attracting attention. The bouncer is going to throw the bum out. “

“Where is the package?”

“It’s on the floor next to Ika’s bag.” Aiko answers.

You sigh. “Are we going to be this stupid when we grow up?”

“Dragons, I hope not.” Aiko replies vehemently.

The bar door opens. Instead of Haythem, the mercenary leader and her partner emerge.

You grab Aiko by her sleeve and hide deeper into the shadows. “Do they have the coin with them?” you whisper to Aiko

“No.”

“Shit.” You watch the two mercenaries walk away from the bar.

What do you do?

  • Walk outside of fate and follow the mercenaries.
  • Go into the bar and see what the fuck is going on with the adults.
  • Other