103 – Secret Mission

You sit stupefied on the floor as you watch Elder Kejak survey the whitewashed office hallway.  Your nails painfully bit into the thick plush carpet.  For a moment, all you can hear is your heart pounding and the heavy gasps of your breath.  Run away, your body says.  Run and hide.

“Svante?” Elder Kejak asks again, brows knitted with concern.

You take a deep breath and will your beating heart still.   You are a Sidereal.  You may have exalted earlier than planned but Jupiter chose you herself.   Now is not the time for panic nor games.   If you want to survive, you will have to be more mature than you have ever been before.   Still trembling, you pick yourself off the ground and straighten your silken green robes.   “I am here.” You announce pleased with how steady your voice sounds in spite of your inner turmoil.

“Come inside,” Elder Kejak motions.  “Quickly.”  You slip past the lanky elder and into the bookshelf-lined study.  The goat stands tied in the corner obliviously munching on unused prayer scrolls.

Sitting behind desk in Elder Kejak’s chair is Jupiter herself.  By her mere presence, the Maiden of Secrets casually claims her eldest Oracle’s entire study.  The forest green hood of her woolen cloak is thrown back with her silken green hair trailing over her shoulder.  Her piercing emerald eyes observe you as you sit down in front of her.   Elder Kejak pulls up another chair and sits next to you.   Jupiter reaches into the sleeve of her cloak and reveals a red envelop.  She offers it to the Elder Oracle.

Elder Kejak accepts the envelop and slides a finger under the flap to open it.   He quickly reads the contents and passes it over to you.   “You knew Svante was at the door eavesdropping on our conversation,” Elder Kejak accuses.  “You could have warned me he was going to be an active participant in this mission.”

Jupiter gives the Elder Oracle nothing but her usual enigmatic smile in response.

A few minutes ago, you would have been ecstatic Jupiter manipulated Elder Kejak as he does to others.  Instead you are focused on this new mission you and Elder Kejak have been given.

 

To: Chejop Kejak, Chosen of Secrets and Svante Visscher, Chosen of Secrets

From: Jupiter, Maiden of Secrets

You are directed to discover the cause of the Chosen of Secrets’ Svante Visscher’s Premature Exaltation.

Mission Profile: On the sixteenth day of Resplendent Wood, Svante Visscher exalted seventeen years ahead of schedule.   Investigate the circumstances around his premature exaltation and discover its cause.  Tell no one of your mission and dispose of this mission report as soon as you have read it.

Estimated Probability of Solar Presence: Unknown

Estimated Probability of Hidden Yozi Presence: Unknown

Estimated Probability of Lunar Presence: Unknown

Estimated Probability of Fair Folk Presence: Unknown

 

Tell no one.  Those three words need no emphasis.  You have prayed to Jupiter, asking for when you will finally be trusted with a secret.  A true secret, not just the hidden location of Masaru’s Green Blaze manga.  You meet Jupiter’s solemn eyes and realize the Maiden has answered your prayers.  Next time you will need to be more careful what you wish for.

You read the mission profile repeatedly until you memorize it.  Then you shred both envelope and its contents into bite-sized pieces and offer it to the goat.  The paper shreds quickly disappear down the goat’s gullet.

“This will be a long term mission.  It may take centuries to for the cause to reveal itself.”  Jupiter cautions.   The Maiden of Secrets rises from Elder Kejak’s chair and leaves the study without another word.  After a moment of awkward silence, Elder Kejak rises from his chair and begins to heat water in his teakettle.

Centuries!   You can barely stand the few minutes since Jupiter revealed you exalted early, much less not knowing why for centuries!   “How long have you known?”  You ask Elder Kejak.

“Only a few minutes before you found out.” Elder Kejak fusses with his collection of teas and you wonder how he could be so calm.  Perhaps it is because his life is not in danger.  Or the Elder Oracle gets secret missions like this one every day.

No, you realize after observing the older Sidereal, Elder Kejak just has centuries of experience hiding his anxiety.    As the elder goes through the motions of seeping tea, his movements become more confident and flowing.      You wait until Elder Kejak offers you a cup of green tea before your next question.  “What is our next step?”

“We investigate the circumstances surrounding your Exaltation.”  Elder Kejak takes a sip of tea and sets his cup aside.  He digs though his desk drawer, pulls out a small wooden box, and haphazardly dumps smooth black and grey stones onto his clean desk.  “Do you know what these are?”  He asks as he sorts though the stones.

You nod.  “Those are memory stones.  They are used to record a person’s memory, so it can be relived or shared by another person.”

Elder Kejak holds up a light grey stone between his index finger and thumb and focuses on it until it turns completely white.  “Have you ever used one?”

“No.” you answer.  “Akachi told me to be careful of them.  Some gods use them record their memories of the Games of Divinity.  “   Memories of the Games of Divinity can be overwhelming, even addictive, for humans.

Elder Kejak grunts.   “Sidereals have another use for memory stones.  Since we cannot access each other fate threads, except in dire circumstances, we use memory stones to share events we have observed.   It helps to have a second opinion sometimes.”   Elder Kejak slides the white stone across his desk.  “Will you share with me the memory of your Exaltation?”

You stare at the smooth white stone.  Unlike the Loom of Fate, which only shows visual and auditory information, memory stones store everything you experience at the time of the memory.   Sharing that memory with Elder Kejak means he would know every thought, feeling, and sensation you had during your Exaltation.

 

What do you do?

  • Yes, you and Elder Kejak need to share every scrap of information for this mission.
  • Yes, only if Elder Kejak shares his memory of when the Elders decided whether you live or die
  • No, that memory is yours. Elder Kejak can’t have it.
  • Sharing memories is a big decision. You will have to think about it
  • Other

 

(Svante’s first Secret!)

Advertisements

102 – Respect

“What do I think about the Sacred Hunt?”  You pause to collect your thoughts.   While you didn’t read do more than skim the first page of the chapter, you observed the Desert Fox during the of her Sacred Hunt.  Maybe you can bullshit your way through this session.  “Before a Lunar can take another form, she has to observe the animal to learn its habits and behaviors.   After they learn enough about the animal to mimic it, the Lunar kills it and takes its heart’s blood.”

“That is all true,”  Elder Kejak taps his fingers on the conference table. “but what do you think about the chapter in the Five Moons of Denial?”

You remember the Desert Fox tricked the islanders of the Cobalt Atoll to help her kill the whale.   “The Lunar can have help for the kill and…”  you were running out of facts about the Sacred Hunt.   An idea comes to you.  “You should know what I think if you read my report.”

Crossing his arms, Elder Kejak gives you a skeptical stare.  “What Report?”

“The report I had Amilie your Receptionist put on your desk.”

The Elder Sidereal glares at you skeptically.  “I don’t remember seeing this report on the desk.”

“Did you check under the goat shit?”   You couldn’t help but smirk.

Elder Kejak’s chair squeaks as he leans forward.  “Tell me, Svante.  When you attend your Martial Art lessons, do you leave your sword and armor home?”

“No,” you cautiously answer.   You weren’t sure where Elder Kejak was going with this.

“If you come prepared for your Sifu’s lessons, then why do you come unprepared for mine?!”  Elder Kejak slaps the table, startling you upright.   “Do you think this is a game?  Do you think I enjoy having my time wasted?”

“Then don’t teach me!” you argue.  “You don’t like these sessions anymore than I do.  We would both be much happier if we canceled them.”

“Do you think I care about your happiness?   I am not a Joybringer.  I am not here to entertain you, Svante.  Jupiter has assigned me to teach you what Akachi and Yeva cannot about being one of her chosen.   I am a patient man.  I am willing to meet with you every week for the next thousand years until you learn to respect me as your mentor.  It is up to you whether this time will be productive or not.”

You scowl.  “How can I respect you as a teacher when you don’t respect me as a student?”

Elder Kejak’s eyebrows raise in surprise.  “In what ways do I not respect you as a student?”

“You manipulated my Trial of Endings.  You could have been open with me what you planned at the Loom of Fate, but instead you tricked me and you tricked Akachi.”

“Do you regret becoming a Sorcerer?”

“No.”  You quickly deny.  “At our first session, I thought I proved that we could come to an understanding and work together.“

Elder Kejak raises his hand to stop you.  “I have kept my end of the agreement.  I have read every single issue of Pretty Dragon Princess Meru that has come out since we started.”

“You say you treat me as an adult, yet your actions say otherwise. “   You shove the book away.   “To you, I’m just a pawn in whatever game you are playing with Akachi.”

The Elder Sidereal studies you for a moment and then nods.  “From your point of view, I can see how you can come to that realization.   I have my reasons why I have not been open with you.  I am not just accountable to you, but to the Convention of Essence Users, the other Elders, and Jupiter herself. “

“I can I talk to them?  I mean, speak before the Convention?”

Elder Kejak winces.  “That may not be a good idea, Svante.  “

“Why?  Are you afraid they might tell me something you don’t want me to hear?”

“No,”  Elder Kejak corrects.  “I’m afraid they will find out how much you already know.”

“What do you mean?”

“How to raise future Sidereals is a delicate issue.  Everyone feels like their opinion should be heard since the child will eventually become one of our coworkers.”

“But I’m already a Sidereal,” you remind Elder Kejak.

“Yes.  You have dug through every deception and incessantly asked questions until you got an answer.  Annoyingly so, but then what would you except from one of Jupiter’s chosen?”  Elder Kejak muses.  In a much better temper, he continues,  “But, no need to waste this session.  You can catch up on your chapter reading,”  You groan.   “and I can use this time to get some paperwork done.”

Elder Kejak leaves to go back to his office and you crack open the Five Moons of Denial.   You absently mindedly scratch at a mark on the page as you attempt to read though the first page of the chapter.    After a few minutes, you bang your head against the book.   This book was so dry, you were afraid it was going to spontaneously combust in front of you.

Where was Elder Kejak?   It shouldn’t take that long to pick up a pile of paperwork.  Unless of course the goat ate it.   You imagine Elder Kejak tugging one end of a scroll with the goat pulling the other.   Leaving the book behind, you get up from the conference table and stick your head out into the hallway.  You quickly duck back in when an office god passes by.  Just to be safe, you step outside of fate and head towards Elder Kejak’s office.

“Are you beginning to regret your decision to support Akachi and side against the other elders?” Your hair stands up on end and feel a tingling along your spine when you hear Jupiter’s voice.  You put your ear to the closed door to better hear the conversation.

“No, of course not.”  Elder Kejak replies.   “But sometimes I despair of Svante ever gaining the wisdom needed to be a Sidereal.”

You hear the whispering of cloth as Jupiter crosses the study.  “He is still a boy, but as you often remind Akachi, he will not be one for long. “

“Akachi still believes you lied to him about Svante’s Exaltation.”

“And Akachi and the others must continue to do so.  If Svante’s premature Exaltation becomes common knowledge those who wish his Exaltation to pass to its next incarnation will gain support.  The only thing staying their hand is the belief that his Exaltation is part of my plan.”

You lean against the door for support when you hear Jupiter’s response.   You were a mistake.   You weren’t supposed to Exalted at twelve!   Your heart pounds as the rest of Jupiter’s words begin to sink in.  The other elders wanted to kill you!   You search your memory and realized you have never had a single conversation with any other elder except Akachi and Elder Kejak.

The door opens suddenly and you fall among on top of Elder Kejak.   You barely avoid touching the Elder and scoot away.  “Svante?”   Elder Kejak asks, searching the empty hallway for you.   “Come back into fate and we can talk.”

What do you do?

  • Go into the office and talk with Elder Kejak and Jupiter
  • Go find Akachi and tell him what is going on
  • Run and hide.
  • Other

(I’ll admit I enjoy writing a PC who is unafraid to talk back to Chejop Kejak.   Most players start quacking in their boots if Kejak shows up in their game.)

(I think I have written Svante finding out about the details of his exaltation into two different scenes, but it always gets cut.)

 

57 – Experience

“I’m going to name her….” You pause dramatically. “Pretty Dragon Princess Meru!” Akachi turns his laugh into a cough when you say this.

“You are going to name the dog….Princess?” Wanahton frowns.

Sasha comes to your defense. “What is wrong with Princess?”

Elder Kejak shoots Akachi a questioning look. “It’s a Manga Character.” Akachi explains, trying not to grin.

Your joke was falling flat. “Haha! Just kidding. I’m going to name the puppy Mei Mei.”

“Mei Mei is a good name.” Wanahton offers a piece of meat from his plate to Mei Mei, who takes it from his hand and licks his fingers clean.

A group of musicians takes the stage, instruments in hand. A gong is sound and the crowd turns their attention to the stage. The lead singer waits until the reverberation of the gong fades and starts a lilting chant. You listen enraptured as the musician’s voice fills the room. The chant reaches its climax and suddenly cuts off. You and the rest of the audience take a collective breath in anticipation. With a stomp, the dancing blue light of the lead singer’s anima spreads across the audience and the music starts again. The crowd breaks out into enthusiastic dance.

“Yes!” Sasha bounces in her chair. “I was wondering when the dancing starts. Svante, dance with me.”

“Um… I should keep an eye on the puppy.” You hug the puppy close to chest glad for an excuse not to enter the dance floor. You did not have fond memories of trying to learn the various chants and dances required for a Sidereal’s priestly duties. Not even Akachi’s anima could help you stay on key.

Sasha smiles at Wanahton, who shakes his head. Sighing, she heads over to another table to drag a Chosen of Battles out onto the dance floor.

“Should I be offended that she didn’t ask us?” Akachi says to Elder Kejak.

Elder Kejak crosses his arms. “Young people these days don’t respect the value of experience.”

“Why?” Sifu Yeva asks. “Did you want to dance, Akachi?”

“I…uh…I should keep an eye on Svante.” You frown at Akachi when he says this. You are thirteen years old now. You don’t need him to babysit you.

“The boy will be fine. The entirety of the Five Score Fellowship is at the party.” Elder Kejak assures Akachi.

Yeva grabs Akachi’s hand and drags him out to the dance floor. “You’ll keep an eye on him, Chejop!”

“Yes, Akachi.” Elder Kejak says wearily.

“How long have they been like that?” Wanahton asks.

“Decades.” Before Wanahton could ask another question, Elder Kejak gets up and strikes up a conversation with a goddess you don’t recognize.

Wanahton shrugs and turns to you. “What do you know about dogs?”

“Um… Not much.” You admit. Mei Mei struggles in your grip and jumps on the table.

“First thing to learn about dogs is that the way into their heart is though their stomach.” Wanahton hands you a piece of dumpling. “Call her name and offer her the dumpling.”

“Mei Mei!” You hold out the dumpling. Mei Mei runs over and take the dumpling from your hand.

“Good girl!” Wanahton praises, scratching the puppy behind the ears. “Always tell her that she is a good girl when she does something right.”

You quickly discover that Wanahton is a wealth of information about training animals. It isn’t long before Mei Mei learns to come at her name.

“Keep her with you at all times, so that she will remember you. Animals just like people can overcome the effects…” The sounds of Wanahton’s voice fades as some sound attracts your attention despite the loud music in the room. You stand up from your chair and start walking towards the entrance of the ball room.

“Svante?” Wanahton asks. “What is it?” You ignore him. You can just make out the sound of bells. Their ringing sends chills down your spine. The crowd parts. The music stops. There is no sound in the room except the whispering chime of the bells.

You see her from across the room. A tall woman wearing a long dark green hooded cloak and a simple green dress. Her long green hair flows behind her as she advances towards you. Her bare feet seem to glide across the ballroom floor. At least that is how you remember the Maidens of Secrets. You are never sure if your mind filled in these details or you just remember them later.

But there are two things you are certain about Jupiter. One would expect the Maiden of Secrets to smell like the dusty leather tomes of a library. Instead her perfume is an intoxicating blend of sandalwood, lavender, and lilac.

And her green eyes. They are the eyes you’ve seen in the mirror every day since your exaltation. Looking into her sad eyes, you know that this woman loves you more than you could possible know. That you could possibly understand. Jupiter embraces you and whispers into your ear. “Happy Birthday, Svante.” She places something into your hand. With a sad smile, she straightens your chicken hat and leaves.

You stand there for a moment, stunned by your encounter with Jupiter. Slowly, you pull yourself back together. Tears fall from your eyes and you raise your arm to wipe them away with your sleeve. That is when you notice what Jupiter gave you.

A red envelope.

You stare at the envelope, dumbfounded. Jupiter gave you a mission.

You run out of the ballroom. “Svante!” Akachi calls out and begins to follow you. “Let him go. He’ll be fine in a little while.” You hear Elder Kejak say. You climb the stairs to your room and shut the door behind you. You curl up on the bed and stare at the red envelope.

You hear a sound at the door. “Go away!” Mei Mei whines at you through the door and begins to scratch at it. You groan and open the door to let the dog in. “What?” The puppy races into your room and starts to run frantically around it. Eventually, she finds your pile of dirty laundry and starts to root though it. “No no no! Get out of there.” You pick up the puppy and place her on your bed. Mei Mei sniffs around your bed and then jumps off to head for the laundry pile again. You groan and pick up the puppy again and place her on the bed. “Stay!” Mei Mei tries to jump off the bed again, but you pick her up and hold her.

Dealing with the antics of the puppy helped settle you from your encounter with Jupiter. You pet the struggling puppy and realize that you acted like a child down stairs. Not the best impression to make in front of the other Sidereals and gods of the Bureau. Thankfully, the other gods should forget about this incident.

You put the puppy back down on the bed and pick up the Red Envelope. You turn it over and touch the seal on it. The envelope pops open. You take a deep breath and remove the creamy white paper and read your mission.

To: Svante Visscher, Chosen of Secrets
From: Jupiter, Maiden of Secrets
You are directed to form a circle of your choosing and discover the fate of children who have fallen off of the Loom near the Pole of Water.

Mission Profile: The threads of 57 Children from various Western Islands (see map for details) have fallen off of the Loom of Fate over the course of a few weeks. Discover who or what is responsible for these disappearances. Report to the Naval Shipyard at Eagle’s Launch to arrange transportation to the strand of islands in question.

Estimated Probability of Solar Presence: 0.01%
Estimated Probability of Hidden Yozi Presence: 26.29%
Estimated Probability of Lunar Presence: 64.8%
Estimated Probability of Fair Folk Presence: 87.43%

You look over the map of the Western Islands. There are dots marking the islands near the pole of water. You tuck everything back into the envelope and think for a moment. A circle of your choosing….

Choose your Circle!

  • Akachi and Yeva. They are older Sidereals with experience. You don’t want to screw up your first mission.
  • Wanahton and Sasha. They are the Sidereals closest to your age and the least likely to baby you.
  • Chiyoko, Masaru, and Aiko. You’ve been though a lot of scrapes with them already, so you know you can trust them.
  • Other? I suppose you could ask Haythem. Elder Kejak might be too busy.

((Not as clean as I’d like this post to be. I might edit it a bit this weekend, but I wanted to get something up tonight. None of the important parts will change. I just want to get the scene with Jupiter just right. ))

((Panda was starting to grow on me, but I decided Mei Mei fit the setting better. I know Exalted has Panda people, but do they have Panda animals? ))