100 – Failure

“The Lunars.   I want to know the truth about them.”  The Tiger, who wanted to kill both you and Wanahton because you were young Sidereals.  The Desert Fox, who just wanted to be left alone to raise her child.   You had to know why the Lunars are indiscriminately hunted down.

Akachi walked through Wallport in silent.   You matched his long strides, becoming more and more annoyed with each step.   Was he actually going to fallback on his promise? When you got past the edge of town, he said, “I will tell you the truth, but you will not be happy with me afterwards. Do you still want to know?”  Akachi had said something similar with he taught you to sense the vibrations which precede violence.   Yet having Prior Warning of danger has saved your life many times over the past year.   

You stop by a fallen moss covered log.  “I don’t want any more lies,”   you declare, meeting your guardian’s eyes.

“Technically, I never lied to you….”  When you narrow your eyes, Akachi amends “though, one doesn’t have to lie to deceive someone.”

“What happened at the meeting with the Lunars?”  You are not going to give the Elder Sidereal a chance to weasel out of answering your questions.

Akachi sits down on a fallen log.  You straddle the log beside him.   Akachi rubs his face and folds his hands at his mouth.  “It was a Fiasco.”  Akachi seems ashamed to admit that, but he continues.   “ A few lunars were harassing the Dragonblooded dominions in the South.   Mostly likely in revenge of the Usurpation.  The Dragonblooded were already fighting among themselves; the Lunars were low priority.  One Dragonblooded warlord didn’t want to fight a war on two fronts, so she sent an Envoy to the Wyld.  Ayesha and I accompanied them.’

Akachi stares out into the distance, remembering.  “At first things seemed to be going well; after a century out of the Solars control, the Lunars did not want them to return any more than we did.  Nevertheless after a century of conflict there was bad blood between the Lunars and the Dragonblooded.   The Lunars did not trust them.   They believe the Dragonblooded would betray them as they betrayed the Solars.   Tempers flared and negotiations were starting to break down.   The Dragonblooded were about to give up and leave.“

“So, Ayesha and I decided to negotiate on our own.  The Fair Folk were beginning to nibble the edges of Creation.  We needed the Dragonblooded to stop fighting themselves.  To form up under a strong leader.  Perhaps what was needed to reunite the Dragonblooded was a Celestial Exalt.   We could not do it because of Arcane Fate, but perhaps Lunars would be our agents.”

“We revealed ourselves as Exalts and approached the Elder Lunars with our offer.  We would work with the Lunars to repair relations with the Dragonblooded.   In time the Dragonblooded would rally around the Lunars and rule Creation.”

“Erlantz, my wife’s Lunar Mate, sat silently through the proceedings with the Dragonblooded.  I knew Erlantz from before the Usurpation.   He was young then; still within his mortal lifetime.  Erlantz was always a reasonable man.”  Akachi pauses, finding it difficult to continue.  “I was a fool.  I hadn’t realized how much the Wyld and time could change a man.  “

“Erlantz’s  response was…. drastic.  He declared the Chosen of the Moon would be no one’s puppet.   He said he never believed the Dragonblooded acted alone against the Solars.   That he knew they had help.   He rallied the Lunars against us.   They hunted down and killed the entire Dragonblooded party.  Ayesha and I barely escaped with our lives. ”

“The attacks on the Dragonblooded forces increased.  Instead of a small group of Lunars, the entire host had declared war on the Dragonblooded.   At first we hoped Arcane Fate would shield us from our mistake and the Lunar did not remember Ayesha and I.  But they remembered the Star Chosen.   Not long afterwards, the Lunars were added to the Immaculate Doctrine as Anathema.   ”

“Has anyone tried to talk to the Lunars since?”

“A few times.   Arcane Fate makes it difficult.   Lunars have figured out some of the specifics about our curse.   They have no way of knowing which of us they have talked to before so have a kill on sight policy when it comes to Sidereals.”

You digest this new information.   “Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?”  Akachi asks.

You think for a moment.   It was getting cold and you were starting to feel hungry, but this was your only chance to ask Akachi questions.  Or was it?  “I want you to promise me not to hold back information anymore.  When I ask a question, you tell me the full answer.”

Akachi smiles ruefully.   “I have learned my lesson about lying to a Chosen of Secrets.”

“Yeah.”   You and Akachi start the long walk back to the Yu-Shan gate.   “I have one more question.  In Metal Gods, who is the Raven Haired Woman?”  Both you and Masaru have been arguing about her for months.  

Your guardian laughs out loud.  “Svante, you of all people should have figured out who the Raven Haired Man is.  He is a Sidereal.  Or at least as close as you can get to having a Sidereal character in print.”

“Ha!  I was right!”  Masaru was so sure she was god blooded.  

“When I created Metal Gods, I wanted to see how far I could push Arcane Fate.  The few issues with characters based on an actual Sidereal were lost, but if I had a mysterious and knowledgeable character….”  Akachi sighs.  “I suppose the Raven Haired Man isn’t much of a Sidereal, but it was the best I could do.”  

“I like him.  He is Masaru’s favorite character.”

“But not your favorite character.”   Akachi tucks his hands into his coat sleeves.  “Who is your favorite character?”

“Firebrand Sharise.”  you respond instantly.  

Akachi chuckles.  “You and your Fire Aspects.”

You don’t rise to Akachi’s bait.   “What’s wrong with Firebrand Sharise?  The Everburning Passion is the coolest warstrider!”

“Nothing, except she wasn’t one of my characters.  Too bad none of the early copies of Metals God aren’t around anymore.  Nashwa’s Desert Wind puts the Everburning Passion to shame.   It took me hours to draw all the details.”   

You roll your eyes.  “A warstrider is more than looks.  How many Essence Cannons did the Desert Wind have?”   

“Child, function is meaningless without an elegant form.”

((End of Chapter 6!   I’ll admit I have been waiting for Svante’s Trial of Endings since it was decided he was to be a Chosen of Secrets.  Chosen of Journeys Svante would have also gone through the Sorcery Trials, though with Ayesha Ura as the Instigator, instead of Chejop Kejak.   Now I can start planning out Part 2))

((I was going to add more to this post, but ran out of time.  I’ll keep the other topics in mind and bring them up as the Quest goes on.))>

 

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97 – Pride

You original plan was to tell Akachi to fuck off when you got to Wallport.   You got the transportation you needed from your guardian, so you didn’t need him anymore.  Yet, the closer to Wallport and your father you got, the more nervous you became.   Your mother who seemed like a nice person, left your father for a reason.  What sort of man was your father?   Your wipe your sweaty hands on the bottom of the coat.     “You can come along to introduce me to my father,” you offer your guardian.  Let Akachi think you were doing him a favor by letting him accompany you.

With a slight smile, Akachi nods and your feet land on the ground as he ends the Stormwind Rider at the edge of the forest.   You seen the stumps of the trees used to build the Wallport stretching out into the distance.  The port town lies downhill – its timber walls framed by the blue of the White Sea.   Akachi reaches out to take you by the shoulder and guide you, but you avoid your guardian’s touch by darting away.  Akachi stands there awkwardly holding out his hand for a moment before tucking his hands into the pockets of his color clashing coat.   You and Akachi walk to Wallport in awkward silence.

After Ramshorn, you were expecting Wallport to be a quiet port town with everyone joyfully going about their business.  Instead the acidic stench of human waste burns your nose even before you reach the town gates.   The guards at the gate barely glance up from their dice game as you and Akachi enter.   Sooty snow piles up in front of drab grey wooden buildings.   You step around the street puddles after watching a boy tips a chamber pot onto the muddy streets.

“Wallport was founded by the refugees of the villages flooded when the Dam broke during the Usurpation.  This town occupies a convergence of many important destinies, so I do not have free reign to adjust the atmosphere of the town like I can with Ramshorn.”   A barkeep throws a drunken man out of a bar.   The drunk man verbally assaults the barkeep, giving the woman a colorful description of her sexual habits.

“Why would my father live here?” you ask as you and Akachi make your way through the crowd watching the spectacle.

Akachi grimaces.   “I tried to encourage him to move someone else, but he likes being the big fish in the small pond.  In hindsight, it’s for the best.   Dragonblooded avoid towns like this and your father does not get along with them well.   ”    Akachi pauses before a boarded up building.  “Svante, there is something I want you to know before we met your father.   Anders is a man who has lived in the shadow of a Dragonblooded father, a man who died before his son was born.  As a boy, Anders grew up hearing stories about the great deeds his father done from his mother.   Anders’ main regret in life is he could never live up to his father, since he never exalted.   Keep this in mind when we met him.”

As you approached the docks, you hoped the smell would improve, but the reek of raw sewerage was replace by the foul stench of rotting fish.  You watch your guardian to see how he was handing the smell.  Akachi looks pale.  His eyes darting from the skinny children picking though the garbage for food to the old beggar, flies buzzing around his oozing sores.  Akachi, unable to past by the man, sternly orders you to stay put.   You wait until after Akachi checks to make sure you are staying away to sneak forward.

“What can I do to bring you peace, old man?” Akachi whispers gently, taking the old man’s dirty sore-covered hand.

“Nothing but death will bring me peace, young man,” the old man croaks.

Akachi frowns like he has swallowed something bitter.  “Is this what you truly desire?”

Hope fills the old man eyes and he nods his head.   “Will there be pain?”

“No.”   Akachi embraces the man, disregarding of the man’s oozing sores and filthy clothes.   The man awkwardly puts his bony arms around the elder.  He contently rests his head on Akachi’s shoulder and breaths no more.  Akachi lays the old man back against the wall.  Man appears peaceful, even happy in death.

“You killed him.” You whisper.

Akachi turns around and barks “I told you to stay put!”

“Why?”  While you are angry with the Elder Sidereal about a great many things, saving this man from pain isn’t one of them.     “You can’t keep protecting me forever!”

“I’ll keep you from this misery as long as I can.”   Akachi closes the old beggar’s eyes.

“This is why you kidnap us!”  You understand your guardian a bit more now.   The kidnappings, all the lies, everything was to protect you from Creation.  “You think you are trying to protect us!”

“I can’t save all the children of Creation but I can at least save our own Chosen.”

“How is taking us from our families saving us!?”  you demand.  This was crazy!

Akachi shushes you.  “Keep your voice down.  We’ll talk about this later.”

“No,” you insist, despite lowering your voice.  “We will not talk about this later.  Why would you think kidnapping children is saving them?”

“Because you shouldn’t have to live with the consequences of our actions! “  Akachi hissed at you.   “We knew there was going to be a price for overthrowing the Solars.  We knew Creation would be diminished.  We had no choice.”  Akachi stresses, trying to convince himself as much as you.  “When my wife came back from Project Wyldhand, she talked about how much fun it was.   Millions of people dead for a Weapons Test and she wanted to do it again.  It was then I knew Chejop was right.  Something had to be done about the Solars.”

“But the cost….  Every time I step foot in Creation, I can’t help but see how things were… before.  The Paradise lost was a lie, but it was a sweet lie.  Creation survives, but is just surviving enough?“

One of Rikali’s memories surfaces.  “Ayesha said that.”

“Yes, and sometimes I wonder what she says isn’t true.  Some of the other Elders wanted to silence her, but Elder Kejak and I convinced them to leave her be.”

You feel like your head is about to explode with all Akachi has told you.   “How much longer to the Fire Dragon?”

Akachi, relieved with the change of subject, points out a large boat with Orange and Red sails.    The Fire Dragon is the largest and best maintained fishing vessel at the Wallport Docks.    Yet compared to the merchant ships in Vanchow, the Fire Dragon is far from impressive.   You follow Akachi to the Fire Dragon and up the gangway.   He stops just before boarding the ship.

Your father stands before a group of bloody and bruised sailors.  Despite the bloodstains, their clothes appear cleaner than the unemployed sailors you saw back on the dock.  “I don’t care what he said about your sister,”  your father lectures to his crew.  “you do not start fights in town.   I named this ship after my father and I won’t let you desecrate his name.  The Fire Dragon is the best ship on the White Sea.  Many men would kill to serve aboard my ship.  If you don’t straighten up, you’ll be back on the docks looking for work.  Have I made myself clear?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Good.”    He gestures at a pile of rope.  “Get to the nets.   I want them repaired before we ship out.”  The men jump to action, not wanting to disappoint their captain again.   Your father’s eyes light up when he sees you and Akachi at the entrance of the boat.

“Permission to come aboard?” Akachi requests.

“Granted!”   Your father comes up to Akachi and grabs his forearm in greeting.  Your father ignores you to your disappointment.   “You are always welcome aboard, Mayura.”

Akachi glances up at the sails.  “Orange Sails?”

Your father shrugs.  “I picked up some dye at the market.  Just because I don’t have an anima, doesn’t mean my ship can’t have one.”

“I hope you haven’t repeated that to Auer Pala.” Akachi knits his brow.

“I can handle Auer Pala.” Your father assures Akachi nonchalantly.

“Anders…”  Akachi says in a familiar tone.  You have heard your guardian say your own name just like that many times.

“Who’s Auer Pala?” You inquire.

“She is the Water Aspect who manages the Coast Guard on the White Sea.”  Your father explains.  His eyes met yours.   “Who is this?”

“This is my sister’s son, Svante.”  Your eyes flick upwards to Akachi in annoyance.  Akachi used this story many times even though no one seemed to question why a dark skinned Southern man would have a pale skinned Northern nephew with Fire Aspect markings.   “Svante, this is Anders, Captain of the Fire Dragon.”

“Welcome Aboard, Svante.”  Your father grasps your hand in a firm shake and says to Akachi.  “Let’s get out of this cold.  I got some Icewine in my cabin. “   You follow Akachi to your father’s cabin, fuming your guardian introduced you to your own father as his nephew.  The Cabin is small and cramped with a small desk and bed.   A small round window lets in just enough daylight to illuminate the maps and papers on the desk.   You slide on to the desk and Akachi takes a seat in the only chair in the cabin.  Your father uncorked a wine bottle and pulls out two cups and wiggles the third in an unspoken question.

“Svante can have a little wine.”  Akachi consents.   Anders pours three cups of the pale wine and hands them over.  You fidget with the clay cup in your hands, not drinking the wine.

Your father takes a sip of the wine, grimaces with the sweet taste, and sets his cup aside.  “What brings you to my ship, Mayura?   I left the last payment with your man a few months ago.”

Akachi waves off the money as unimportant.   “Svante wanted to meet you.  He has heard a lot about you.”

Your father sits up a little straighter.  “My father was blessed by the Dragon, so I am the closest most people will ever get to meet a Dragonblooded.”  He smiles sadly and asks, “Did you have any questions?”

You squirm in embarrassment at your father’s boasting of his Dragonblooded heritage.   You are thankful Chiyoko and the rest of your Dragonblooded friends aren’t here to hear your father.   You can’t imagine how they would react to him.

What do you do?

  • Tell your father Bendt has run away from home and your father should send Bendt back to his mother.
  • Don’t tell your father Bendt has run away from home.  Prompt your father to talk about the dangerous of fishing on the White Sea to keep them fresh in his mind when Bendt does arrive.
  • Tell your father Bendt wants to join the crew of the Fire Dragon. Remind your father about his own disappointment at not Exalting and how Bendt shouldn’t join the crew unless you can be certain he won’t do anything risky or dangerous.
  • Other

(Computer ate my first draft of this.  Nothing like having to rewrite what you already written from memory.)

96 – Intermediaries

“My father is keeping Bendt’s hopes of Exaltation alive, so let’s go the Wallport and talk to him.”   Only your father can convince Bendt to give up on his dream of becoming Dragonblooded and going to Wallport would give you a chance to finally meet your father.

Akachi smiles in approval.  “Bendt trusts his father and his word would carry more weight than yours.   With Arcane Fate, we have to work through intermediaries to help others.” You say nothing to this.   You neither need nor want a lecture from Akachi right now.

As Akachi directs the Stormwind Rider across the snowy plains towards port town, you try to think of what you’ll say to your father when you met him.  Yet your mind wouldn’t leave the topic of your own Exaltation.  “So, I wouldn’t have been told about being a Sidereal until I was 29?”

“Of course not, you would have been told much sooner. “  Your guardian crosses his arms.  “Jupiter misinforming us about your Exaltation would have caused enough problems, much less the young age you exalted at.”    Akachi grimaces.  “If you were older, you would have been well prepared for your Exaltation.”

“You mean prepared to fight your war against the Lunars.”  You remember what Aiko said about being forged into a weapon.

“Our War,”  The elder Sidereal corrected, his eyes heavy with sorrow.  “If I could lift this burden from you, Svante, I would in a heartbeat, but that Fate is not written in our stars.  The Lunars have not forgiven the Dragonblooded for their part in the Usurpation.  Their elders may not remember us from before, but enough of them have broken though Arcane Fate to know we exist.  Each new Lunar Exalt is warned about us.   Taught to kill first and ask questions later.   Many Sidereals have died on Lunar Claws, like your previous…“

You cut Akachi off.  “We die in your stupid war, while you Elders stay safe in Yu-Shan!”

Akachi sighs.  “Look at Rikali’s memories, Svante, and you know that isn’t true.   Sasha’s previous incarnation, Hotaka, was almost as old as I am.   He was killed on that ill-fated Wyld Hunt just like both Wanahton’s  and your previous incarnations.“

At the mention of Hotako’s name, a memory of a slight man with a gentle smile appears.  “It’s your show, Rikali.   You know better than I were a Lunar would hide in the Western Isles.”  You push the memory away.   “I don’t believe that.   The Desert Fox only wanted to save her son and be left alone.”

“If the Desert Fox realized what you truly were, she might not have let you leave the Fair Folk boat alive.  Perhaps if the Lunars had not run to the Wyld after their Solar Mates died, they would not have been warped into the monsters they are today.   Before the Userpation, my wife’s Lunar mate was a quick witted gecko and a talented sorcerer.  The last time I saw Erlantz, I didn’t recognize him.   He was more beast than man.   “

“Your wife’s Lunar mate…”  You repeat incredulously.  “You were married to a Solar?!”

“Yes, but that was a long time ago.”  Akachi changes the subject.  “We are almost to Wallport.”  He adjusts on his color clashing cloak.  “This Peacock Resplendent Destiny is known to Anders, so I can introduce you to your father.  I invested in his fishing boat business, so he has no choice but to grant me some of his time.”

What do you do?

  • Have Akachi vouch for you to your Father
  • Tell Akachi to keep out of this. You will talk to your father on your own
  • Walk outside of Fate after you land and leave Akachi behind
  • Other

95 – Akachi

Akachi….

You remember when Akachi taught you to swim in the Western Seas.   He kept a close eye as you fearlessly paddled deeper into the warm turquoise water.  At first you were frighten to keep your eyes open while you swam.  With Akachi’s gentle encouragement, you opened your eyes to the stinging salt water and frolicked among the bright tropical fish.

You remember when Akachi took you to the great towering forests of the East.  You were five years old and had to strain your neck back to glimpse the broad green leaves of the colossal trees.   Together you and Akachi turned over old logs and investigated the creepy crawlies beneath them.    Akachi held an iridescent green beetle in his hands and you sat enraptured as he told you the beetle’s entire life history.  You wanted to stay in this magical forest forever and cried when Akachi carried you home.

You remember waking up from nightmares the first month after your Exaltation.  Nightmares all the more frightening because they actually happened to Rikali and your other incarnations.   You knocked over your bedside lamp, fumbling to turn on a light in the unfamiliar room.   Footsteps approached from down the hall, but instead of Nanny, Akachi appeared in the doorway.  He held you until you calmed down and the memories passed.  The next morning you were ashamed to need such comfort.  You were twelve years old, too old to be scared to tears by nightmares.   Yet Akachi never brought up your night terrors and was there the next night when they happened again.

You remember when you first summoned your pattern spider.  The metallic taste of the spider surprised you as it solidified on your tongue.  You spat the spider on the desk and back away in terror.  The emerald pattern spider reared up its front legs.  You ran out of the room towards Akachi’s workshop.     After you explained what happened, you guardian got up from his pottery wheel and cleaned the clay off of his hand.  When he saw the spider on your desk, he laughed and picked up the spider, explained to you how to use it.

You remember the times when you asked Akachi about your family.   Akachi deflected your questions and changed the topic.   You quietly sat in school, listening to Masaru and Chiyoko tell stories about their families.  Even Aiko, who never talked about her family, knew where she came from.   So you grew more persistent.  Asked more questions.  Finally, Akachi snapped at you.  He will not tell you about your family until you were ready to know.  Until you were older.   Akachi never lost his temper with you before.

You remember your mother, a woman who helps every lost child, and yet no longer remembers why.  Your sister, Linnea, overly suspicious of strangers and overprotective of her younger siblings.   And Sasha, the sister you grew up with.  The one you no longer remembered.   Elder Kejak said Sasha was badgering Akachi to let you have access to the Loom of Fate.   Was she just wanting you to reclaim your memories of her or was she hoping you’d find the answers to your questions?  The same questions she must have asked Akachi thousands of times.

You clench your fists, nails biting into flesh.   You close your eyes, unable to even look at your guardian.  How could one person cause so many conflicting emotions?

You force your eyes open and meet Akachi’s guilty gaze.  No matter how you felt about the elder Sidereal, you need Akachi’s help.

“I’m sorry I took off”, you lied.  You weren’t really sorry.   “But I really need your help.”  Saving your brother was more important than confronting Akachi about your past.  “My brother is about to do something stupid and I need to stop him.”

Akachi hesitates and suddenly you worry your guardian wouldn’t help you save your brother.  Worry he would drag you back to Yu-Shan, leaving your family to fend for themselves.  “I’m going to help Bendt whether you want me to or not.“   You step forward and gather Essence to yourself.    Attacking an elder was stupid, but you weren’t going to let Akachi prevent you from helping your brother without a fight.  “Don’t try to stop me.”

Akachi doesn’t move to defend himself.   “I’ve been watching over your birth family for years.  Do you really think I want anything to happen to Bendt? “

You relax.  He was going to help you.

“Follow me.”   Akachi leads you away from the town towards the tree line of tall evergreens.

“You have been watching over my family since you took me away.”

“Naoko and I”

“Naoko?”  Naoko, Akachi’s Crafting Student.   You never really interacted with the Joybringer, but she was the one who built the Dragon Fighting Game for your birthday.   You stop just before the tree line.  “Naoko took me from my sister!”

“Svante…”

“Naoko was the one who kidnapped me!”   Naoko was barely a hundred years old.  She was the next youngest Sidereal after you, Sasha, and Wanahton.   Yet, besides your birthday party, you never had a single conversation with her.   Sasha always seemed uncomfortable around her.  “She kidnapped Sasha too!”

“Naoko took you away, but it was under my orders.”  Akachi closes his eyes, pained.  “If you are going to be angry at someone, be angry at me.  Not Naoko.”

“Why?  Why take us away from our families?”

“We took you to prepare you for your Exaltation.  So much work to be done and yet only one hundred Sidereal Exaltations.  We can’t wait to train you until after you Exalt.”

“Wanahton was raised in Creation and he seems to be doing fine.”

“Wanahton is not doing fine.  He could barely read when he Exalted.  Wanahton is a good man and well-travelled, but completely unready for Bureau life.    His wife was the one who took care of the business side of their shipping company.”

“Maybe Mercury had her reasons!” You retort.   “Maybe she wanted to show you it’s wrong to kidnap children from their families!”

“Mercury didn’t need to show me that.”  Akachi snaps.  “Do you think I like stealing children from their cradles?  Do you think I don’t see the how it rips families apart?”   He closes his eyes, getting his temper under control.  “I’ve watched your sister, Linnea, grow up, knowing she failed in protecting you.   Your parents were already drifting apart, but losing you was what finally drove your mother away.  Your brother was too young to remember you, but he has had to bear the brunt of his father’s Exaltation hopes alone.”

“And I have done much much worse.  I’m a Chosen of Serenity.  A Joybringer.  Yet I have ripped apart more families than I have helped since the Usurpation.”  Akachi turns away, unable to meet your accusing gaze.     “We all have done things we regret.  We thought we would be free after the Solars were gone yet Creation keeps asking more of us.  We have lied, stolen, cheated, and murdered – all for the good of Creation.   It doesn’t affect Chejop as much as it does me.  Perhaps it will be easier for you when you grow up.”

You remember the horrible feeling you got in your gut when you lied to Masaru before you revealed what you were.  He was your friend and he trusted you and you still lied to him.  Was that a taste of your future as a Sidereal?  No, it couldn’t be.  “I’ll never do any of those things.” You declare.   This can’t be what it means to be a Sidereal.  “I’ll never be like you!”  You scream at Akachi.   “I’ll never rip families apart!”  Creation didn’t need that sort of hero.

Akachi takes your verbal abuse without flinching.  “I’d be careful, Svante.”  He says softly.  “Never is a long time for a Sidereal.”  He continues walking and once he gets to the tree line, he turns back and asks “Are you coming, Svante?”

You still needed his help to get to your brother.  You follow the Elder Sidereal into the forest.   Akachi leads you to a clearing, surrounded by tall pine trees and hidden from the village.    Akachi closes his eyes in concentration.  The mark of Venus flares slightly on his forehead and vanishes almost too quickly to be seen.   Around the Joybringer, dirt and pine needles being to swirl causing his dreadlocks flip around his face.   Suddenly, the dust cloud raises Akachi off the ground.   You guardian offers you his hand.

You knew Akachi was hiding things from you but it was so much worse than you thought.   For a moment you wish you could go back to not knowing.  You stare at his hand, wanting to turn away, yet Akachi’s hand was shaking slightly.   You glance up at Akachi and see the impassive face of an elder Sidereal.  It’s only a mask, you realize.  A mask to hide how frightened he was.   What could the elder be frightened of?   You were no threat to him.   Yet Akachi was scared.  Scared he would lose you.

“I’ve not forgiven you for what you have done.”

“I haven’t quite forgiven myself.”  Akachi admits.   “We can deal with our issues later.  Let’s go save your brother.”

You take his hand and join Akachi on the Stormwind Rider.   Together you rise a few feet above the ground.    The hills, lakes, and rivers rush by as you fly though the landscape.   Inside the spell, the winds are silent.

“When we get to Wallport…”  Akachi begins.

“No,” you interrupt,  “you have done enough to my family.   I’ll take care of this.”

Akachi opens his mouth to disagree, but closes it without saying anything.  With a sigh, he nods and asks, “What do you plan to do?”

You haven’t decided what to do yet.  You are shocked Akachi actually agreed to let you take charge!   You stare at the rolling landscape to buy time to think.  What you need is more information.  “Will Bendt exalt?”

“Lytec, the God of Exaltation, says no.  We have been trying to get Bendt interested in other trades, yet he keeps hoping he’ll take the Second Breath.”  Akachi grimaces.  “Anders helps keep Bendt’s hope of Exaltation alive with stories of his own father.   Most of them aren’t true, but Anders doesn’t know that.  His own father died before he was born.  Hayashi Gudleifr managed to convince your brother not to run away to join the Legions at least.”

You are disappointed your brother won’t exalt as Dragonblooded.   There must be something else for him to do.  “Can Bendt perform Thaumaturgy?”   Thaumaturgy runs in bloodlines.  If your mother was capable of this, some of her children should be too.

“No.”  Akachi gives you a small smile.  “Jupiter claimed the only child of Kaja’s with that talent.”

“Me?” Your voice cracks in surprise.

Akachi continues. “Yes.  If you had exalted at twenty-nine, as we were told, you would have been trained to make use of your gift.  The Bureau of Destiny has many positions for a Mortal Thaumaturgist.”

Twenty-nine.  You exalted much earlier than expected.  You couldn’t imagine being mortal for another sixteen years.  You put this new information out of your head for now.   You need to decide what to do about Bendt.

What do you plan to do?

  • Track down the traders and try to talk sense into Bendt again.
  • Knock Bendt out and drag him back to Ramshorn.
  • Find your father and convince him not to take Bendt on as crew.
  • Other

 

((It is so nice for Akachi to actually be willing to answer all of Svante’s questions!   Svante’s (and the players’) frustration was killing me!  ))

((Originally, before I turned this story into a quest, chapter two was supposed to take place at the Lakehouse while you recovered from your Exaltation.  I cut that chapter because I couldn’t think of good decision points for being a traumatized grieving child.  ))

((I seem to remember not bring the cloak because Akachi may be able to track you with it.  Though sometimes I forget what Svante knows and what the NPCs know, and what happened in the past and what will happen in the future.   So much to keep track of. ))

 

94 – People

“Shit.  Bendt must have gone to Wallport with the traders.”  You release Linnea and take a step back, keeping out of her reach.

Linnea rubs her wrist.  “He’s going to talk my Father into letting him crew on the Fire Dragon.”  Her eyes narrow as she turns and faces you.  “This is your fault.”

“My fault!   I tried to talk him out of doing something dangerous to Exalt.”  You just met your brother and already you are being blamed for something he did.

“You just being here is the problem.”  Your sister crosses her arms.  “How could he not get worked up about Exalting when some Dragonblooded kid shows up on our doorstep?”

“I’m not Dragonblooded.”

She stares you down.  “You’re lying.  I heard you call mother Mortal at breakfast.   You said “Most mortals can’t use Thaumaturgy.”  Only Dragonblooded call people mortals.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.   What else are you supposed to call them? I mean, us.”   You wince at your flub.  You were so worried about slipping up and calling Kaja, Mother, you weren’t being careful to act like a mortal boy.   “I’m such an idiot.”  You slide down the wall and sit on the floor.  You should have worn a Resplendent Destiny instead of trying to pass yourself off as Mortal.

Seeing your distress, your sister’s eyes soften and she kneels on the floor beside you.   “People.”  Linnea offers gently.  “Mortals are just People.”

“Exalts are people, too!”  There wasn’t much difference between mortals and Exalts.  Exalts needed sleep, ate food, attended school, had friends, too.

“Maybe to you, but I can’t get away with treating Dragonblooded as people.   I’d get in trouble.“  Her eyes widen, as your sister realizes she has been acting less than respectful to you.   “I mean…”  She looks away.  “I’m sorry I tried to attack you.  That was stupid.”

You didn’t realize just how wide the gulf was between Exalts and Mortals was.   “Don’t worry.  I’m not offended or anything.”

Your sister relaxes.  “The thought of someone hurting my siblings makes me a little crazy.”   She admits.

You attacked one brother to save the other.  You sigh and bang your head against the wall.   It wasn’t your sister’s fault she didn’t realize who you were.   Yet it was possible she remembered something.  “Linnea, did anything happen twelve or thirteen years ago?”

Linnea plucks at the woolen fabric of her dress.   “You are talking about the raid.”

“What raid?”

“When we used to live near the coast would get raided by barbarians a few times a year.”  Linnea stared off into the distance.  “My parents hid me and my brother in the cupboard.  Told me to keep quiet.   Then they left us to join the town defenders. “   Linnea’s knuckles turn white as she grips her dress.  “I heard noises outside.  Someone had broken into our house!   I was so scared.  There was fighting.  The sound of furniture breaking.”  She closes her eyes.   “Then a strange woman opened the cupboard door.”

“A woman?”  You are surprised.  You figured Akachi had taken you himself.    “What did she look like?”

Linnea shakes her head.  “I don’t remember, but she knew my name.   There was a barbarian warrior laying on the floor behind her.  She said she was there to protect us.  She said that everything was going to be okay and I should go to sleep.  That it would be all over soon.”   Your sister opens her eyes.

“She lied.”  You sister accuses harshly.  “When I woke up, my parents were back frantically searching our house.  People were standing over the dead barbarian, arguing.  The woman took something…. Something important.  The woman wasn’t there to protect us at all.“   Linnea shakes her head, focusing back to the present.  “I don’t know why I’m telling you this.”

Wanahton once explained, while his children didn’t recognize him, they still remembered having a father.  Your kidnapping was such a formative event in Linnea’s life Arcane Fate couldn’t completely erase it from her memory.  You rub away your unshed tears with the base of your palm and change the subject.   “Just how dangerous is it out on the White Sea?”

“Very Dangerous.  The weather is unpredictable and many ships collide with submerged iceburgs.”  The corner of Linnea’s lips twitches slightly.   “My father’s been lucky.  He hasn’t lost a crew member in years, but Bendt is stupid enough to become the first.”

Your father’s luck may have had help from Akachi.   “Do you know anyone with a sick grandmother?”

“That would be Thea.   She lives on the other side of town. “  Your sister describes the house.

You hear footsteps upstairs.   Elise must have woken up due to the racket you and your sister made.  “I’ll go get your mother.   You watch Elise. “

Before you head to the sick grandmother’s cabin, you ask around Ramshorn and discover the traders left a few hours ago.   One Villager saw Bendt with the traders, but wasn’t sure if your brother left with them or not.

It does not take you long to find the grandmother’s house.   You knock on the door and ask for Kaja.   Inside you find a wilted old woman lying in bed.   The grandmother’s skin was pale and her granddaughter was wiping her face with a damp cloth.  Your mother pours a musky smelling tea and spoons it to the old woman.   When Kaja sees you, she excuses herself and follows you outside.

“Bendt left with the Traders for Wallport.” You announce abruptly.

Your mother puts a hand to her mouth.  “How long ago did they leave?”

“A couple of hours.”

Your mother glances back at the old woman’s cabin, twin responsibilities warring in her mind.  “Anders said he wouldn’t allow Bendt to crew until he was eighteen.”  Your mother didn’t seem too certain your father would keep his word.  Someone calls Kaja’s name from inside the old woman’s house.

“You stay here and take care of the old woman.  I’ll bring Bendt back.”   You aren’t sure how you’d make your way to Wallport, much less convince your brother to come with you.  Maybe you can knock him over the head and drag his unconscious body back to Ramshorn.

You walk through town, trying to figure out how you will get to the Northern Coast.   You will never get there in time if you walk.   You stop in front of the Ramshorn Inn and count your Jade to see if you have enough to buy a horse.

“You look like someone who is in need of transportation.”   A deep and familiar voice observes.  Akachi leans against the wall of the Inn, dressed in his color clashing Peacock cloak.

What do you do?

  • Tell Akachi to fuck off. You’ll find your own way to Wallport.
  • Accept Akachi’s help. It’s the only way you can be certain to catch up with Bendt.
  • Other

93 – Bark

“Feeble?!”  You say indignantly.  “Is it so hard to believe that an orphan would want to know where they came from?  All my life I have always wondered, but no one told me anything.”   Your fist clenches as you remember the thousands of unanswered questions you have asked Nanny and Akachi.   “I had to find out for myself.  Yu Shan keeps records of everything.”

“You don’t need to take me away.  Someone is going to be coming for me sooner or later and take me back to Yu-Shan.”   Mei Mei licks the tears you hadn’t noticed off of your face.  “This is my only chance to get to know my family.   Please.   I don’t mean them any harm.   Your charms tell you that I’m not lying.  “

Gudleifr looks away and says “I have to bring you back to the Garrison.  I’m just following orders.”

“Gudleifr,” you hear your mother’s footsteps behind you.  “I know you mean well, but why the boy can’t at least stay the night.”   You feel your mother’s warm hand on your shoulder.  “We got the room for him and it wouldn’t be any trouble at all.”  Mei Mei barks and wags her tail.

Gudleifr shakes her head.  “You don’t understand what you are offering.  I can’t let you do this.   It’s not safe.   Kaja, you don’t even know who the boy is!”

“He’s a lost child, Gudleifr.”  Your mother says as if it explains everything.  “You checked the boy out and he isn’t lying.”

“Fine.”  Gudleifr rubs the bridge of her nose.  “I’ll be back for the boy in the morning.”   Thanking your mother for the tea, the Dragonblooded Medic leaves the cabin.

“Mother,”  Linnea approaches.  “Are you sure you should be ignoring Gudleifr?”

“Gudleifr can be overprotective at times.”   Your mother seasons her stewpot and smiles.  “A city of Gods.  I never really thought about gods needing a city, but I guess they need a place to live just like us little folk.”

Linnea glares at her mother.  “Why aren’t you taking this seriously?!”

Kaja slams her spice jar down on the counter and faces her daughter.  “I am taking this seriously.  Svante says he was kidnapped and we may be the only relatives he has.   Have you ever known me to turn away a child?”

“This kid isn’t like the other kids.   We don’t know who is coming to get him!”

“Gudleifr says he means us no harm and I trust her judgement.”

Linnea makes a disgusted sound.  “First you ignore Gudleifr’s advice and now you trust her judgement?  Do you know how stupid that sounds?”

“Linnea,  don’t sass…”  Your mother begins.

“Whatever.”   Your sister grabs her coat and leaves the cabin, slamming the door.

You sit there awkwardly at the kitchen table.  You didn’t mean to cause your family problems.  “Should I leave?”

“No,”  Your mother begins to strip the bed that the man with the broken leg was lying on.   He must have gone home.    “Linnea doesn’t like strangers.   She hasn’t since she was about Elise’s age.”

Which was the age she would have been when you were taken away.   Sudden hope blossoms inside you.  “Did anything happen?”  Perhaps your sister remembered something about you!

“What do you mean did anything happen?”  Your mother pauses in her work, forehead creased in concentration.  “I don’t think so.  If anything happened, Linnea hasn’t told me.”

You’ll have to ask your sister later, if she would talk to you.  “The medic left when you said that I was a lost child.  Why do you help lost children?”

“I’m a healer.  I help everyone.”   There is a knock on the door.  Mei Mei wiggles out of your arms and races your mother to meet whoever it is at the door.   You hold your breath and grab the edge of your chair.   Has Akachi finally come to take you away?

Your mother answers it and one of the other villagers says her grandmother is sick.

“Let me go wake up Elise and we’ll head over.   She’s going to be so grouchy not having a full nap.  Unless….Would you watch her, Svante?”

“Mei Mei and I can watch her,”  You didn’t really want to visit a sick old woman.

“That would be wonderful.”  Your mother pauses in collecting her supplies, looking confused.

“What is it?”  you ask.

“I shouldn’t be ordering you around like one of my children.”

You shrug.  “I don’t mind.” Secretly, you are pleased by this.  Perhaps your mother unconsciously realizes who you are.

Your mother closes the flap of her bag.  “Linnea should be back soon.  She shouldn’t give you any trouble.  Her bark is worse than her bite.”

After your mother leaves, you don’t really know what to do with yourself.   You stir the stew, revealing browned chucks of venison, bright orange carrots, and red potatoes.   You recover the pot and realize that maybe you should check on your little sister.  You head upstairs and look around the attic.  The room was divided into three sections.   One area has a spinning wheel and loom.  Clothes are scattered around Bendt’s section.   The walls of Elise’s section are covered in shelves of dolls.   Elise herself is nested in a bed of rag dolls and is deeply asleep.  Mei Mei leaps onto the bed and curls up into a puppy sized hollow near Elise’s head.

You pull over a stool and sit by your sister’s bed.   How long did little sisters sleep?   You rub your face and tap your fingers on your knee.   You look at all the various dolls displayed around the room until two catch your eye.    You get up and pick one up for a closer look.

The porcelain doll wears an embroidered silk komodo and its blonde hair has been elaborated braided around its face.  The dolls share your sister’s coloring – one has grey blue eyes, the other amber.  These dolls were familiar to you. It takes you a moment to remember where you have seen them before.

Yu Shan.  You’ve seen dolls like this in the shops of Yu Shan.

How did your sisters get Yu Shan dolls?   You mother knew nothing about the City of Gods, yet someone from Yu Shan must have given the dolls to them.   Suddenly everything falls into place.   The serene picture perfect village.   The Dragoblooded Medic watching over your family.   Gudleifr said powerful people were protecting your family.

Akachi has been watching over them.

You wipe the tears from your eyes.   Akachi took you from your family and yet he also took care of them for you.   For what?  Out of a misplaced sense of guilt?   To pay them for the child he stole?

The door squeals open downstairs.   “Hello?” you hear your older sister call out tentatively.

Your emotions in a jumble, you put the doll back on itself and head downstairs.  “Someone came by needing a healer.  Elise is…”

Linnea reaches out to grab you.  Years of Martial Arts training kicks in and you take a step back, easily dodging her.  Using her own momentum against her, you push your sister against the wall.

“What the fuck?” you yell.   Why was your sister attacking you?

“What did you do with my brother?”  She struggles under you grip, but you have leverage against her.  “You left with Bendt after breakfast and he didn’t come back with you.  I looked all over town and didn’t find him.”

What do you do?

  • Tell your sister Bendt left with the traders to join his Father’s crew
  • Tell your sister nothing. Find your mother and tell her what happened.
  • Go after your brother yourself.
  • Other

 

((When I was nine, I was considered mature enough to watch my little sister.  When my little sister was nine, she still needed watching.  ))

((So, I confused which coast Wallport was on.   Thankfully, Neighborhood Relocation Scheme exists to fix my continuity error later.   Hey, didn’t Svante favor Dodge?))

92 – Caretaker

The last thing you wanted was to go anywhere with this Dragonblooded Medic.  “Ma’am, can we stay inside?  It’s wet out there.”  You snuggle closer to Mei Mei.

Gudleifr considers your request.  “Kaja, you don’t mind if I commandeer your kitchen for while?”

Your mother’s eyes bounces between you and the Dragonblooded.  She stands up from the table and smooths her dress with trembling hands.  “I should check on Elise.”

After your mother leaves, you sit in her chair.   Gudleifr calmly picks up her white tea cup and takes a sip.  You study the Dragonblooded, trying to figure out her purpose here.  Did Akachi send her?  You assumed your guardian would come get you himself, not send some unfamiliar Dragonblooded.   You scratch Mei Mei behind her ears and wait for Gudleifr to speak first.

Gudleifr frowns and asks,   “Is your name really Svante?”

“Yes.”

“What Gent are you from?”

“I don’t have a Gent.”  Gudleifr’s pine green eyebrow raises in surprise to your response.  “I’m descended from Gent Cinead.” You add to flesh out your story more.

“Of course you are.”  Gudleifr mutters under her breath.   In a normal tone, she continues, “You aren’t from the North.  Skytongue isn’t your native language.  Your accent is familiar to me, but I can’t place it.”

This Dragonblooded must have had contact with Sidereals, but not enough to break though Arcane Fate.    You decide to test the medic to be sure.  “I’m from Yu-Shan.”

“The City of Gods?”  Gudleifr bursts out laughing.   “Why don’t you start again and this time tell me something I’d actually believe.  Where are you from?”

“I’m from Yu-Shan.”  You repeat.   The Dragonblooded medic’s eyes widen in shock.   “You are using truth charms on me!”  Neither Akachi nor the teachers at school ever used charms on you.  Only the most dangerous of problem students get that treatment.

“This mortal family is under my protection.  If you have business with them, you have business with me.”  Gudleifr holds your gaze.   “Why are you here, little boy?”

Undaunted you reply, “You were already told why I am here.  I’m looking for relatives.”  Even if your family was under her protection, why would a Dragonblooded drop everything and check up on a mortal family based on a garbled note?  You need to find out more information about this Dragonblooded’s interest in your family.   “Why is this family under you protection?”

“Kaja’s children carries the blood of the Dragons.  We keep an eye out in case any of them exalt.”  Gudleifr’s answer sounds too rehearsed to be true.

“No,” you press.  “It’s more than that.   What are your orders pertaining this family?” Mei Mei growls at the medic.  Akachi must have prepared for this situation.  Make sure if you did find out about your family, there would be someone waiting here to drag you back to Yu-Shan!

 

Gudleifr sets down her tea cups and folds her hands in lap.  “This family has been placed under my protection by some powerful people.  I’ve been teaching Kaja about healing and Thamaturgy.  I’ve arranged Linnea to apprentice with a weaver.  When Bendt and Elise decide what they want to do with their lives, I’ll make arrangements for them too.  ”

“What?”  These weren’t the orders you were expecting.

“Now,” Gudleifr takes advantage of your confusion.  “Do you mean this family any harm?”

You hear a noise come from upstairs.   Having no idea how much could be heard from upstairs, you wish you had left the cabin with Gudleifr.   “No.”

Gudleifr relaxes.  “Why are you here?”

“I’m looking for relatives.”

“So you’ve said.  But what lead you to this particular family?”

Your mind races for an honest explanation which doesn’t involve the Loom of Fate.   Then you grow suspicious.   People visit healers unannounced all the time.   There has to be more to Gudleifr’s questions.  “You were given more orders.   About me.”

“About you?  My, someone thinks they are important. ”  The Dragonblooded Medic leans forward in her chair and refills her tea cup.  “You show up on Kaja’s doorstep with a feeble story about why you are here.  And you demand I answer your questions.   Svante, the only question you should be asking is what I plan to do with you?”

What do you do?

  • Let Gudleifr decide what to do with you herself
  • Force Gudleifr to leave you alone with Force Decision
  • Talk Gudleifr into leaving you alone without charms
  • Other

 

((Feeling much better.  Thank you for all the well wishes.  Of course, just after I finish writing, the vote turns the other way.    ))