80 – Choices

“You are right, Sasha.  We can’t leave any loose ends.  We have to make sure the Blue Lady dies.”  You step out of fate and start running.

“Svante! Come back here!”  Sasha cries.

“What is he planning on doing?”  you hear Shen ask.   The adults’ conversation fades away as you sprint though the Mossy Court.   As you approach the battle, you slow down and observe.   You have to wait for the right moment to act.

Though the Blue Lady does not seem to tire, her skin is marred with bloody scratches.   The Desert Fox’s fur is matted with blood.   The Fair Folk are scattered around the Mossy Court like broken dolls.  Rory is trapped in a cocoon of vines hanging from a tree.   As you draw closer, the blistering dry heat of the Lunar’s anima dries the sweat on your brow.   The Desert Fox blocks the Blue Lady’s vine strike wearily and bares her teeth.   Each strike is slower than the next.  The Desert Fox will not last much longer.

The next time the Desert Fox slashes at the Blue Lady’s throat, you reach out and brush against the Blue Lady’s thread.  It much stronger than Rory’s, much more present in Creation.  Stealing her dexterity, making her clumsy is easy.  The Blue Lady misjudges and the Desert Fox’s next strike connects.   The Lunar rips out the Blue Lady’s throat.  Eyes wide, the Blue Lady tries to speak, but all that comes out of her mouth is bright blue blood.

The rest of the nobles in the Mossy Court are silent.  The only sound that can be heard were footsteps bouncing off the ground as Sasha runs towards you.   The tree encasing the Blue Lady falls to pieces and the Blue Lady’s body tumbles down to the ground.  Shen breaks through the crowd of Fair Folk to check out the Blue Lady’s corpse.

An exhausted Desert Fox transforms back to human and attempts to crawl away.   Sasha rushes past you, sword draw.    The Desert Fox staggers back but is too weak to get away.   Wanahton steps between the Desert Fox and Sasha’s sword.

Sasha hesitates before striking.  “Move aside, Wanahton.”

Wanahton stands before Sasha, blocking the Desert Fox from her view.  “No.   This is wrong and you know it.   This woman has done nothing to deserve death.   “

“This monster would see everything we work to preserve fall to ash.  You have firsthand experience what a Lunar is capable of.  One almost killed you and Svante!”

“I was almost killed by a Dragonblood, too.   I do not blame Shen for this.”

Sasha’s face is filled with anguish and she tightens her grip on her sword.  “Get out of the way!”

“No.”   Behind Wanahton, you see the Desert Fox start to creep away.

What do you do?

  • Say nothing. Let the Desert Fox escape.
  • Call Sasha’s attention to the Desert Fox’s flight.
  • Kill the Desert Fox yourself
  • Other

((That moment when you realize you forgot all about Svante’s Flying Cloak!  And I have no clue what I said color Shen’s Hair was.  Light Blue?  Violet?    Goal of next chapter is to take better character notes. Also, I’m going to start counting essence/wp usage, starting next chapter.   *grumble grumble*))

((Next post will be the last post of this chapter.  ))

79 – Unleash the Beast

Shen looks up at the towering form of the Blue Lady.  “She didn’t do that last time.”

Rory’s ears droop as he trembles in the shadow of his Oath Mother’s towering form.  After a few false starts, he replies.  “You can’t do the same thing over and over again.”

Sasha draws her sword.  “So much for peaceful negotiations.  I need a distraction.”

Shen nods and surveys the ground around him.  Eyes intent on a section of ground in front of the Blue Lady, he raises his hands and summons forth a grey and white icy giant.   Shen takes a deep breath and blows out a poof of air.  The Giant mimics the sorcerer’s movements but instead bellows a jet of freezing ice.

The Blue Lady wipes a vine at the giant and redirects its spray away from her.    The Giant shatters into icy pieces.  Her mocking grin turns into grimace of pain, as Sasha, wreathed in a scarlet glow, and slices a chunk out of the Blue Lady’s legs.   The Blue Lady takes a shaky step and trips on the ice left by the giant.

Unseen you head towards the tree holding Wanahton’s cage, passing Mei Mei as you go.  You climb the tree and walk across the branch and drop down onto the top of the cage.   With your iron hunting knife, you begin to saw though the vines holding the cage together.    Now visible, Wanahton notices you and says, “Give me your knife.  I’ll cut my way out.  Free the Desert Fox.”   You hesitate for a moment and then pass the knife down to Wanahton’s outreached hand.

“You like wind, Son of Our Admiral. “  The Blue Lady sways unsteadily as she drops to all fours.   “Let us how you do with the Flood!”   A vile deluge of mud, dead leaves, and green water spews out of her mouth.   The ground and the trees mutate in the flood’s wake.   Sasha places her hand on the soft ground of the Mossy Court.   The area around her and Shen solidifies and the island of stability bobs on top of the Blue Lady’s vile flood.

You step outside of fate again and climb down the tree.  With a cheer, the mutinous Fair Folk drop down to the ground around you and race past you towards the battle.  Rory, mounted on top of Watcher, calls the Fair Folk to him.   With Rory leading the charge, the Fair Folk shriek and swinging up the Blue Lady’s vines.   Their swords prick her skin though the tree bark and she screams in frustration, grabbing her traitorous subjects and throwing them aside.

As the Resplendent Destiny of the Traveler’s Son, you approach the Desert Fox,.   As she struggling against her bonds, you pull out your starmetal bootknife.   “If I free you, do you swear only to attack the Blue Lady?”

“Dragonboy?”   She stops struggling and stares at you in surprise.

“Do you swear?!”   you repeat.

“Yes,” the Lunar breaths.  “Quickly!  The Flood is almost upon us!”

“No, shit.”  As your knife slices though the vines, the Desert Fox glows brighter and brighter with silver anima.   Suddenly, you are thrown back against one of the trees lining the court, when a Giant Sloth explodes out of the weakened bonds.   You scramble up the tree and draw your sword, expecting an attack.

Instead the Desert Fox dashes towards the oncoming flood and leaps on top of it.   She races on top of the Vile Wind, untouched by its mutating effects.    Her wounds close with a moonlit glow leaving only silver tattoos behind.  With a clawed paw, the Desert Fox knocks the Blue Lady in the face, interrupting the flow of Wyld spew.   The Blue Lady snarls at the Lunar and the two begin to battle.

You run long the moss covered tree branches until you are just above the Blue Lady.  In your hands, you begin to weave a delicate net of your essence.   You drop it upon the Blue Lady and watch as it sears her blue flesh.   You retreat before she could figure out that the attack came from you not the Desert Fox.

With the flood dissipating, Sasha and Shen disengage and follows your progress in the trees.   “What have you done, Svante?”  Sasha yells at you.   Shen watching the Lunar and Blue Lady spar, his grey-white anima swirling around him.   Wanahton limps over with Mei Mei in his arms.  “We need to leave before the Fair Folk decide that we are more interesting opponents.  “   Rory and the Fair Folk have also fallen back and were watching the battle eagerly.

“No,”  Sasha disagrees.  “We can’t have any loose ends.”   The Lunar scratches the Blue Lady with her claws and navy blue blood fills the Blue Lady’s wounds.

What do you do?

  • You got the children.  You found Sasha and Wanahton.   Shen is still alive.  Time to go back to the ship and get out of here
  • No matter the outcome of the fight, an enemy of creation will win.  Finish off the winner while they are weaken by battle.

 

(( I’ll admit to home brewing the Blue Lady’s attack and Desert Fox running on top of it.  ))

78 – Climax

Rory’s Flask weighs heavily in your hand as you pull it out of your bag.  For a moment, you consider not giving Rory his flask.  Why is it important to Rory?  Was it an artifact of power?    If the flask was so important to the Fair Folk, what else could you get for it?   Rory’s hungry eyes have not left the Flask as you consider what to do.  You are uncertain how Rory would react if you try to change the agreement.  While you did not trust the Fair Folk, he was the closest thing you had to an ally until you found Sasha and Wanahton.

You toss the Flask to the Fair Folk Noble.      Your throw is a bit short and Rory’s eyes widen fearfully as his eyes follow the flask.  He leans forward to snatch it out of the air before it hits the ground.   Why risk angering Rory when you could play on the Fair Folk’s desire for drama?  You have no need to keep the flask to get Rory to help.   “Rory, this is Mayim Shen.   He has come to avenge his brothers’ death at the hands of your Oath Mother.”

Watcher rumbles and Rory answers.  “You are observant as always, Watcher of Many Eyes.  Tell me, Mayim Shen.   Four of your brothers have faced my Oath Mother and fallen.  What makes you so certain that you will succeed where they have failed? “

Shen takes a step forward and stands before Rory.   “When I stood next to my brother, Sora, I was not much older than our Envoy here.  I watched your mother kill him and lick his blood off of her blade.   My life was only spared so that I could bring my brother’s corpse home to my father.   I have brooded long about Our Lady of Wonder-Devouring Delight.   I forsake the Sky for the Sea to my mother’s grief so that one day I could have this opportunity for revenge.   What makes me so certain of my success?”  Shen smirks.  “You will just have to wait and see like everyone else.”

Rory laughs and claps in excitement.  “Bravo!   You are right not to spoil your stratagem, Mayim Shen.   It ruins the suspense.   Come this way.  My Oath Mother sits in judgement of the Mistress of the Moon and those she convinced to rise up in munity against Our Lady.  “

Rory and Watcher lead you and Shen though the remains of the battlefield.  One starfish warrior sadistically toy with his victim before finally stabbing them in the heart.  Two warriors duel among the dead, when suddenly one throws his sword aside and kneels before the other.   Tears stream down the warrior’s cheeks, as he takes her sword and places it at his throat.   The second warrior drops her own sword and together they begin to rip off their armor in berserk lust.    The female warrior, having exposed skin, bites…

“Svante!”  Shen calls.  “Let’s not get distracted.”

“I wasn’t distracted.” You pick up your pace to catch up with Shen and the others.

Watch grumbles and Rory asks, “Watcher wants to know if the Envoy wants a ride to better enjoy the battlefield.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Shen answer for you.  “We should look for Sasha and Wanahton.”

As Mei Mei sniffs around, you search for Sasha or Wanahton but do not see them among the dead, wounded, or otherwise occupied Fair Folk.  You walk closer to Shen and ask “Did you really forsake the Sky for the Sea for vengeance?”

“Of course not.”  Shen scoffs.  “It sounded good, didn’t it?  ”

You look to make sure Rory was not listening.  “What is your plan?”

“All of my brothers tried to best the Blue Lady relying on their skill in Martial Arts.  To be honest, I am only a fair Martial Artist.  Yet, I have other skill sets that they didn’t.”

Sorcery, you realize.  Shen continues, “Also, they didn’t have a Sidereal at their side.   If you have any tricks yourself, now it the time to use them.  I can use all the help I can get.”

You nod.   Rory stops just before the entrance of the Mossy Court.  “Envoy, my mother still does not believe me about you.  We should save her revelation of your existence for the most opportune moment.”

“Um…  right.”   You step outside of Fate.  Mei Mei looks utterly baffled at your disappearance and frantically sniffs around, looking for you.   You entangle your thread with Mei Mei’s.   Go with Shen, you tell her.  Shen calls to Mei Mei, she reluctantly follows Rory and Shen though the Mossy Court.

You find the Blue Lady, clade in sea urchin battle armor, standing on the top of her watery staircase.   In the middle of the court, you find the captured Desert Fox.  Tree roots and vines impale her flesh, trapping her to the ground of the Mossy Court.   Cages of sturdy branches hang high in the trees that line the court filled with fair folk of various states of injury.   Below the cages, stand other Fair Folk who jeer and throw fruit at the cages.

You find Sasha, uninjured and unrestrained, kneeling not far from the Lunar.   Mei Mei runs up to your sister, tail wagging.   Sasha picks up the puppy and whispers into her ear.   She sets the puppy down and notices Shen and Rory approach.  “Shen?  What are you doing here?   Why is Mei Mei with you?“  Sasha searches though the crowd, looking for you.

“What is the meaning of this interruption, Rory?  Can you not see we are busy with matters of state?”  The Blue Lady begins to descend down the stairs, her malice flooding each step.

Mei Mei barks and runs to one of the trees.   Wanahton works his way through the crowd of fair folk in the cage and signals the puppy to be quiet.  Mei Mei wags her tail and begins to play keep away with the now cheering Fair Folk.

Rory, unruffled by the Blue Lady’s anger, says, “Our Lady, may I present to you, Mayim Shen, son of Admiral Mayim Takeshi.”

The Blue Lady’s eye widen and she puts a hand to her chest.  “My Admiral!  Did he send you with a threat?“

“No.  My father did not send me. I came on my own.”   Shen approaches the Blue Lady and stand before her, hand on his sword hilt.   “I am here to avenge my brothers, retrieve the corpse of my great grandfather, and free the seas from your menace, Our Lady of Wonder-Devouring Delight.””

“Shen, what are you doing?”  Sasha repeats.  “Go back to the ship.”

“Do not interrupt, Swordswoman.   We shall complete our negotiations for your companion later.  We have an important matter to attend to.”  The Blue Lady finish descending her stair case and stands before Shen.  She barely reaches his shoulder.   “Tell us, Son of our Enemy.  Why does the Admiral not come himself?  Have we not raided enough islands to raise his ire?  He has not become…. Ill and infirm, has he?“

“My Father has never been healthier.  He has been too busy managing the Western to deal with you.”

“He has chosen to do paperwork rather than face us, his dearest and greatest enemy?”  The Mossy Court trembles beneath your feet at the Blue Lady’s indignation.

Shen’s hand tightens on his sword hilt, but he continues.  “Oh yes, my father finds paperwork much more important than you.”

The court stops trembling and the Blue Lady closes her eyes, a single tear rolls down her cheek.  “He has forgotten.  He has forgotten me and all we had together.   But no matter.”   The trees around the Mossy Court lift their roots from the ground and descend upon the Blue Lady.     Tree branches encircle her arms, legs, and torso and merge with her body.  Now towering above Shen, the twin gossamer blades of iridescent blue appear in Blue Lady’s hands.  “We will send the Admiral a gift of your corpse to remind him of what he has thrown away.  “

 

What do you do?

  • Free the Desert Fox from her bonds
  • Free Wanahton and the Mutinous Fair Folk from their cage
  • Help Shen defeat the Blue Lady
  • Other

75 – Time

“Take care of this!” you yell at Rory and begin to run after the rest of the children.  “Wait!”  The children keep running, heedless of your cry.  “Don’t run!”  You focus on the child in the front, the girl who was answering your questions earlier.  “Come back to me!”   You lace you words with Essence, forcing the girl to go along with your decision.  The girl pauses for a moment and looks back at you, and you focus on another child and try the same thing.  “This way!”   You wave your hand towards the hiding place behind the bushes.   The two children begin to run towards you, leading the rest of the children with them.  You count the children hiding behind the bushes and see all seven of the children are here, five whole children and two broken.

“Wait here.  I’ll be right back.”  You pull out your bandana and tie it around your forehead.  Once out of sight of the bushes, you drop out of fate.   You creep towards the cavern entrance and hear Rory talking to the Watcher.

“She of Whispering Bells gave him the power to turn his dreams into reality.  That is why you can’t eat the Envoy.   “

The Watcher grumbles, dissatisfied with Rory’s answer.   You approach the entrance of the cavern and see Rory, sword drawn, defensively standing before the Watcher.   Watcher has the broken child under one of his cat-like paws.   A random assortment of eyes are trained on Rory, while the others scan the forest.

“Reality limits our options, Watcher.  You can kill me, freeing Our Lady from her Oath to Baelor.   Then she will be free to attack the Water Dragons at her leisure, instead of at my Oath Father’s pleasure.   Yes, that would relieve your boredom, but you would just be one more foot solider among Our Lady’s army“

“Or…you, the Watcher of Many Eyes,”  Rory’s words become heavy and smooth as honey.  The Watcher’s roaming eyes focus solely on Rory.   “can join the Envoy of the Stars on his quest to rescue the children.   And after our quest, when I leave to join my Oath Father, you could be by my side.”  Rory lets his sword drop to his side and holds out his hand for the child.   “Let this child go and follow me, Watcher.   This quest is just a taste of the glories I can offer you.”

The Watcher flexes his claws as he considers Rory’s offer.   “The Envoy will finish gathering the children soon.”  Rory reminds the Watcher.   “If you delay any longer, time will make your decision for you.”

The Watcher drags the child close to his mouth and begins to lick the dirt and grim off of the child with his tongue.   You wait, hand on sword, to see what happens next.  After cleaning the child, the Watcher pushes him towards Rory with his paw.   Rory smiles and wiggles his fingers of his outstretched hand and the broken child takes it.

You return to the children and consider the conversation.  Rory said he was an Oath Child and somehow his life was connected to an Oath made by the Blue Lady to not attack the Shogunate Navy.   Why…

“Svante!”  You jump when you hear Captain Shen’s voice in your ear.  “Why did it take you so long to answer?   What have you been doing for the past few days?  Everyone is worried about you.  Please answer back as soon as you get this!  Also, if you can try to take out a few of the trebuchets. “  There is a pause in Captain Shen’s message.  “Sasha says to ignore that and just keep your head down, but I think you can handle it.”  The message ends there.

A few days!   It hasn’t been a few days, unless…. Time is moving faster in Creation than on the Barge.  That means the Valiant Hummingbird will be here soon!

“Captain Shen.   Time is moving faster for you than it is for me.   I’ve only been here for a few hours.  I have the children with me and I will try to take out the barge’s defenses.”   You end the message there and head back to the children.   You do not have much time.   All eight children are there, now with Rory and the Watcher.

What do you do?

  • Tell Rory that you don’t want the Watcher around. The Fair Folk now outnumber you.
  • Leave the children with Rory and the Watcher and go disable the Trebuchets.
  • Send Rory and the Watcher to disable the Trebuchets while you watch the children
  • Hide the children and all three of you go disable the Trebuchets.
  • Other

((Damn.  Gift of the Broken Mask has a willpower cost.  We don’t really keep track of stats, but eight willpower is a bit much.  At Essence 4, we can target Social Groups.  ))

((Fair Folk charms…  are confusing….  ))

74 – Shame

Back at Rory’s hiding spot behind the bushes, you tell him what you found.   “The Watcher is asleep.   I think we can sneak the children past him.   If he wakes up, distract him while I get the children safely away.”   When more likely.  You are starting to sense of this strange Wyld place and its people.   If Rory wishes to indulge in stupid overly dramatic actions, let him.   You have more important things to worry about.

“Asleep?”  Rory ponders this news.  “The Watcher must be horribly bored if he is sleeping his time away.”

A horrible thought occurs to you.  “You aren’t going to wake him up, are you?”

“No!  The Watcher is a fierce creature.”  Rory grips the handle of his sword.  “Not that I fear facing the Watcher, but he would quickly put an end to our quest if we have to face him in battle.   “

“Let’s not face him in battle then.”  You lead Rory towards the entrance of the cavern, pausing before the Watcher.   His tail rhythmically sweeps across the ground before the broken down cavern door.   You leap over the tail and land just inside the cavern.   Rory, unimpressed by your leap, summersaults over the tail.   He bows at you after his performance.   You shake your head, unamused and continue down the cavern.

The children are still there, all huddled together in the darkness corner of the cavern.   Even the broken children are included in the group.

“What happened?” you ask.   The children cringe away from you, a few breaking out in sobs.  “It’s okay.  I’m here to save you.  I need to know what happened.”

“They took one of us again.”  Your heart skips a beat when one of the girls tells you this.   “After the Anathema was here.”  She shrinks back, suspicious.  “You aren’t the Anathema, are you?”

“No,”  You don your Cnead Svante Resplendent Destiny, relying on the darkness to cover the change.   “I’m Dragonblooded.”   The girl relaxes when you say this.

“Were is the rest of your circle?” A boy asks.

“They are coming,”  You hope.  You still haven’t heard from the Valiant Hummingbird.  “How long has the other child been gone?”

“They brought him back.”  The girl points at the other end of the cavern.   Alongside the first corpse, there was now a second.   You walk over and kneel beside the dead girl.   Suddenly all those boring and unimportant rites and rituals Akachi and Sasha tried to teach you seemed not so unimportant anymore.   You couldn’t risk taking the corpses with you when you have live children to save, yet you did not remember enough of Saturn’s Rituals to give their spirits rest.  You brush back the girl’s hair.  Her skin is cold and her face frozen in a chilling smile.

Rory kneels besides you, his long ears drooped in sadness.  “She was a very lucky girl.  My Oath Mother took her in Joy.  Our Lady is often not very gentle when she feeds.”

You look up at Rory and his sadness and rage fills you.   “What do you have to be so sad about?  You probably ate the other child.”

Rory’s sadness turns to confusion.  “How should I react in this situation, Envoy?”

You hold back from punching the Fair Folk.  You still need him to get the children out.  “Shame.” You declare.  “You should be ashamed of what you did to cause this.”

“Shame…”  The Fair Folk tastes the unfamiliar word.  “And what is shame?”

You are taken back by this question.   How could anyone not know what shame was?  “Shame… Shame hurts.  It hurts because it’s your fault.  You caused someone harm because of your actions.”   Anger drains out of you because you are ashamed of what happened here.  If you were faster or cleverer, you could have saved all the children.   You feel a tear trail down your cheek and wipe it away before turning back to Rory.   “We need to hurry. I don’t want to anyone else to get hurt.  “

Rory nods, his ears still drooped.   “Come along, children.”  The broken children look up at Rory’s voice.  “We must sneak past a fierce beast, so you must be very quiet.”   The broken children get up and start to walk towards the entrance of the cavern.

“Why do they follow your directions?” you ask.  The other children whisper about the fierce beast guarding the door.

Rory hesitates.  “It…shames… me to explain.”

He fed upon them.  “Don’t.  I don’t want to know.”  You didn’t really want any more details.  You hold out your hand to one of the whole children and say “Let’s go.”  The sooner you get the children off the barge, the better.

Rory carries the children one by one over the swaying tail as you wait with the rescued children.    You didn’t like leaving Rory alone with the children in the cavern, but you really didn’t have a choice.   There was more danger outside of the cavern than inside it.

As Rory leaps over with the second to last child, danger prickles your senses.  You see the last child stand by the entrance wiggling impatiently.  You hold your hand out to tell the child to wait, but the boy ignores you and attempts to leap across the tail.  He misses and lands right on the Watcher’s tail.

All of the Watcher’s eyes open at once and he rears up with a deafening roar.  The other children begin to scream and run away in terror.   The Watcher turns around and snatches the errant child with his mouth.

What do you do?

  • Attack the Watcher and try to free the child.
  • Let Rory handle it as previously discussed and collect the other children
  • Engage Watcher in Conversation.
  • Other

73 – Watcher

“Come on.  We do not have much time.”  You lead the fair folk out of the prison tree and back towards the woods.  You worry that someone has already discovered the servant missing or the Blue Lady sent someone else for her “breakfast”.

“Do not worry, Envoy.  We shall arrive at the appropriate time.  Though, I cannot start our quest without appropriate attire.”   Rory motions at his lack of clothes as he walks through the woods.
“Appropriate Attire? Oh!  You need armor.   Can we steal some?”

“And wear armor made for someone else?”   The Fair Folk Noble wrinkles his nose at this.   “We shall make a short detour to pick up my personal armor.”  Rory heads off in a different direction than the cavern.

“But we don’t have time!”  You race to catch up with the Fair Folk.

“Time Time!  For one born of reality, you certainly complain about time as much as the Ageless ones.  “   He ignores you and continues walking.

You walk faster to step ahead of the tall Fair Folk.  Standing in front of Rory, to stop him, you state, “I’m in charge of this quest.  You should do what I say.”

“And I will do what you say.  Just as soon as I am properly attired.   Though, fighting ferocious beasts in nothing but my Loincloth would make a good story….”  Rory waves his hand, discarding the idea and kneels down to dig though the decaying leaves at the base of one of the trees.

“Ferocious beasts?”  You remember the Multi-eyed Creature in the woods.  “You talking about that multi-eyed creature?”

“Ah…  You have met the Watcher.  Yes, the Watcher protects the larder from those who wish to raid it for a snack. “

He also makes sure the children don’t escape, you think.   “Have you heard of shelves?” you ask sarcastically.  “Maybe a trunk to keep your gear in so you can find it easier?”

Rory pulls out an over-sized fuzzy sand dollar from the leaf litter.   “What’s a trunk?”

How could someone not know what a trunk was?  “Never mind.  I’ll explain later.”   You begrudgingly help Rory don his armor.  In addition to the Sand Dollar shield, Rory wears a hardened clear glass breastplate with a flowing seaweed cloak.

On his head, Rory has an absurdly orange colored sea shell half helm, holes cut for his eyes and long ears.  “Not as malleable than my old armor, but it will have to do.   Shall we continue on?”   You nod, keeping quiet about the silly sea shell helm.   No need to antagonize the Fair Folk when he is helping you.

Your heart pounds and you grip your sword tightly as you and the Fair Folk walk through the dark whispering forest.  The forest itself was unnerving enough when you were walking outside of fate.  Visible, you feel completely exposed as you follow Rory in his orange shell helmet.

Just before you reach the cavern, Rory stops and ducks down behind the bushes and puts a finger to his lips.   You hear swishing sound ahead.   Motioning for Rory to stay put, you walk outside of Fate and check it out.  You walk towards the cave and are stop short by what you see there.

A large fox like creature sleeps in front of the broken cavern door.   The Watcher was much larger than you imagine, comparable to a yeddim calf.  Its closed eyes are scattered all over its iridescent furred body. A large fluffy tail restlessly sweeps the ground in reaction to some dream.    Twin sets of ears twitch as the Watcher slumbers.

What do you do?

  • You and Rory attack it while it is vulnerable
  • Rory distracts it while you go get the children
  • Try to sneak the children past it
  • Other

72 – The Bargain

Flask in hand, you step out to the Mossy Court and see that it is still deserted.  How will you go about finding Rory?

You search the Float, observing Fair Folk participating in a variety of tasks.   You watch in horror as one Fair Folk violent beats another and then collects their victim’s tears.   She then drips the tears on an anvil and began to beat the tears with a blacksmith hammer.  Her victim cleans herself up and though broken teeth calmly inquires how long her knife will take.

After a few hours of searching, you find, not Rory, but the Loathing Commander.   He prowls the line of starfish troops as they lean forward, stand on one foot, arms spread wide while balancing a half full tea cup on their heads.   He stops before one solider and adjusts his stance slightly.  What in Creation are they doing?

When he bends over to relocate a foot, you whisper in his ear “You are Rory’s commanding officer.  You are responsible for him.   Check on him to see if he is okay.”  You back away and wait to see what happens.   The Loathing Commander barely pauses and continues what he is doing.

You pull your hair in frustration.   How are you going to find Rory now?  You are about to leave to keep searching when the Loathing Commander dismisses his men and then starts to walk in a direction you haven’t been yet.   You follow close behind.  The Loathing Commander walks towards a large foreboding tree.    He knocks five times and the tree shudders and its roots split, revealing a passage way.   You quickly duck inside after the Loathing Commander before the roots close.

Inside the tree you find a large chamber with hanging cages, swaying in a nonexistent breeze.   The Loathing Commander approaches one of the cages and it lowers to him.

“Sir?”  Rory asks.

“It has come to my attention that as your commanding officer, I am responsible for your wellbeing.”

“Sir!”  Rory’s ears perk up.  “Are you going to let me out, Sir?”

“What? No!”   The Loathing Commander raises his hand.  Rory’s Armor skitters off of him and drops to the ground as a single starfish.  “I am discharging you from service.  How am I to invite the troops to munity against me when Our Lady has made her displeasure at your existence well known?”  The starfish crawls up the Loathing Commander’s body and into his waiting hand.  “You were going to lead my troops against Our Lady instead of me.  “

The Loathing Commander crushes Rory’s Starfish into dust.  “Since I was responsible for your wellbeing, I would have had no choice but to follow you.  I have not drilled, thrashed, and abused the troops just so you can steal all the attention from me. “  The Loathing Commander flicks the dust of Rory’s Armor in his face and walks out.

Rory looks forlorn.   “Now all hope is lost.   I will never regain my cup and earn my place at my Oath Father’s side.   I shall sit in this cage and calcify into stone.”   A single tear rolls down Rory’s cheek.

This is perfect!  You hesitate.  Almost too perfect.   Is this a trap?   Some fiendish scheme of the Fair Folk to reveal yourself?

Rory wipes his cheek and resettles himself.   “All hope is lost.   I shall never regain my cup and earn my place at my Oath Father’s side.   I shall no choice to fade away.”   A second tear glistens on Rory’s cheek

What the fuck was he doing?  Completely confused by the Fair Folk’s actions, you watch as Rory repeats the same sentiment again and again.  Sometimes changing the wording or inflection.  Other times his pose.   Suddenly, his ears droop.  “My Oath Mother was right.  Reality is a cruel mistress, not allowing me the means to escape.  I suppose I must start chewing my way through the bars of my cage.  ”

“Hello?”  You cautiously approach Rory’s cage, flask hidden behind your back.

“Oh!  The Envoy of the Stars!”  Rory’s cage swings as he turns to where you are standing.  “What brings you to my humble adobe?”

“I need your help.”  You reveal the flask.   The hungry look you saw on the dock returns to Fair Folk’s face.  “Your mother wanted me to kill you, but instead I stole this.  This is your cup right?”

Rory’s eyes never leave the flask. “What quest would you have of my Envoy to see the safe return of my Cup?  Shall I slay a dangerous beast?  Journey across Reality for a bloom of the rarest scent?   Seduce…”

“Actually, I just need your help to save the Children in the Larder.”  You interrupt.

“That’s all?”  Rory’s ears droop.  “Perhaps we could finish our duel instead?”

“What?  No!  This is not negotiable!”  Apparently the flask doesn’t hold much power over Rory.  Maybe you have to be Fair Folk properly use it.   You put the flask back into your bag.   “I let you out of the cage.  You help me save the children and I will give you back your flask.   Is that a deal?”

“The Envoy is an uncreative hack, but he does have our cup.   Hmmm….  It is a deal.”

“Say it three times to bind the deal.”  You remember that much from your boring lectures on the Valiant Hummingbird.

“What?  There’s no need to do that.  Don’t you trust me?”

“Say it!   I will release you out of the cage and gift you the flask, if you help me recuse the harvest children from the larder and…  “ You realized a loophole in your deal   “help me get myself and the other children off of the barge.”

“You added to the deal!” Rory complains.

“Do you want your flask or not?”

Rory repeats the deal three times.   “Does that satisfy you, Envoy?”

“Yes.”  You pull out your boot knife and start cutting away at the bonds tying the cage together.   You slice though the vines and the cage opens far enough for Rory’s slim body to slip though.

The Fair Folk drops to the ground and kneels before you, wearing nothing more than a loincloth, a ring, and a sword sheaved on his back.    “Fear not, Envoy.  I, the Regretful Roar of Hapless Hearts who’s Sword Sings of the Everlasting Evening, shall….”

“Wait,”  you interrupt.  “If you had a sword, why didn’t you cut your way out of the cage?”

Rory stares at you in shock as if the very concept of escaping on his own offended him.  He sighs.  “This is going to be a long quest.”

What do you do now?

  • Hide the children until the Valiant Hummingbird arrives
  • Find a way to get the children off of the float
  • Trust that the Blue Lady will not harm the children due to her agreement and leave them where they are.
  • Other

 

69 – The Blue Lady

Slipping outside of fate, you observe the Float from the air.   The group of kidnappers make their way through the forest of bed trees towards a large flowing sculpture of water in the center of the Float.  Curtains of water obscure the figure rousing from sleep inside the sculpture.   The kidnappers kneel as the curtains parts to reveal a blue skinned Fair Folk woman dressed only in droplets of water.   Stairs of water form as she descends towards the group of kidnappers.   Servants approach with a shimmering cloak of countless colored butterfly wings and drape it fashionably around her body.   The wings of her cloak flutter as she approaches the group.

You land just outside of the court where the group of Fair Folk.   The deck of the float is spongey under your feet.   Experimentally you take a few steps and the mossy ground spring under your feet similar to the practice mats back in Yu-Shan.  You hid behind one of the bed trees and observe.  Other Fair Folk gather in the Mossy Court to see what will happen.

“Our Lady,” the short eared Fair Folk stares down at the mossy ground as he addressed the Fair Folk Noble.

“Loathing Commander of Splendor and Platinum, how goes last night’s harvest?  Our larder grows stale and we wished for something fresh to break our fast this dawn.”  The Blue Lady caresses the Commander’s short pointy ears.

“There were complications, Our Lady.”  The Loathing Commander glances at Rory, before staring back at the ground.

“Complications….”  The Blue Lady repeats.  She drops her hands from the Command and stalks towards Rory.

Rory raises his head and look directly at the Blue Lady.  “An Envoy of the Stars freed the children, Our Lady.”  You catch your breath and look around for the Desert Fox.  The last thing you need is for the Lunar to figure out what you were.  Maidens only know how she would react to a Sidereal.

“An Envoy of the Stars?” The Blue Lady says doubtfully.   “We have not heard of such thing.   Could it not be the Moon Maiden in a different guise?”

“No, Our Lady.  She of Whispering Bells left her mark on the envoy’s brow.”

The Blue Lady looks towards the Loathing Commander.  “I do not remember anyone else on the dock besides Rory, Our Lady.   I do remember Rory was dancing and letting the harvest run off… “

“No.  The Envoy was there.”  Rory interrupts.  “Our Lady, I remembered the stories you told of the Envoys of the Sun and…”

“There have been no Envoys of the Sun since the Dragons and their nameless masters threw the Sun’s Chosen down from their place in the sky. “  The Blue Lady grips Rory’s chin.  Rory’s eyes water in pain, but he does not make a sound.  “And there has never been any Envoys of the Stars.  You lie.”

For the first time in your life, you thank the Maidens for Arcane Fate.    You shed your Resplendent Destiny as soon as the Barge appeared at the dock.  Perhaps the Desert Fox will not connect the boy she met earlier with Rory’s “Envoy of the Stars.”

In a strained voice, Rory explains.  “I am not lying, Our Lady.  Why would I risk my honor by lying to my Oath Mother, Keeper of my Cup?  The honor of my Oath Father, Baelor….”

“Do not speak that name here.  Baelor’s Oath Children are more countless than the Stars.   He left you to us to do what we will.  Stand up, Rory.”  The Lady circles Rory, her fingers running along his armor.  The Starfish flee from her touch, leaving the Blue Lady to touch Rory’s bare skin.   “Where is the Flute we gave you?”

Rory looks down at the ground and mumbles, “I lost it when I was fighting the Envoy.”

“This Envoy again…”  She lifts up Rory by the neck.  His feet dangle in the air.  “We will not tolerate lying in our vassals.  You are a malformed child tainted by the Reality in which you first drew breath.”

“If I am tainted it is because I came from an oath you have no intention of keeping, Our Lady.” Rory spat at the Blue Lady.

The Blue Lady causally tosses Rory across the Mossy Court like a rag doll.   Rory slams into a tree and slides down to its base.  He lays dazed, staring at the Blue Lady.  “Do not forget, child. We still have possession of your cup.   Commander, take Rory away.  Perhaps some time in the dungeons will remind him of his place.”

“Yes, Our Lady.”  The Loathing Commander and a few other of the guards grab Rory by the arms and start to drag him away.   Hatred burns in Rory’s eyes as he is dragged away.

“Oath Children are such an inconvenience at times.”  The Blue Lady sighs and puts Rory from her mind.  “Bring us subsidence from the Larder.”   The Blue Lady orders.   A servant bows and heads in the opposite direction of Rory.

The Blue Lady is his mother!?  You realize as the argument finishes.   Fair Folk are not kind to their children.

What do you do?

  • Follow Rory to the Dungeon
  • Follow the servant to the larder
  • Stay in the Mossy Court and see what else you can overhear
  • Figure out where the Desert Fox went
  • Other

68 – The Flute Player

“We need the Valiant Hummingbird.” You whisper.   Digging through your pack, you find your emerald pattern spider.  “How far away is the Valiant Hummingbird from the Cobalt Atoll?”

When the spider returns with its answer, Wanahton swears.  “It will not be here until after dawn.”

“Can you water elemental send a message to the ship?  I can follow the barge by air and Sasha can track me down.”

“Follow the ship by yourself?”  Wanahton watches the Fair Folk guide the dancing children down the dock.  “No, I’ll send out a message and then we will follow by boat.   You keep an eye on things here.  I’ll be right back. “   He pauses before leaving.  “Don’t do anything stupid.”  Wanahton backtracks though the mangroves.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” you repeat.  Why does everyone keep treating you like a child?  Jupiter trusted you enough to put you in charge of this mission.   Why wasn’t that good enough for everyone else?

“Come on.  What’s taking so long?”  While the Fair Folk didn’t seem to be in a big hurry, the group was almost to the end of the dock.   If Wanahton didn’t come back soon, then the children would be kidnapped for nothing.

Though, did these children actually have to be kidnapped for you to figure out where the Fair Folk are going?  What if a brave hero managed to save the children from the flute playing fair folk?   You are pretty sure you can take one single Fair Folk.   Or at least distract the Fair Folk from its flute playing, breaking the spell controlling the children.   The Fair Folk would retreat and then you and Wanahton could still follow the barge as it was escaping.   This plan had the added bonus of giving Wanahton more time to talk to the Water Elemental.

You empty your pack of its artifacts and weapons and place a sleeping Mei Mei on the empty pack.  “I’ll be right back,” you say, patting the puppy on her head.   You tie your headband across your forehead and walk outside the strands of fate.   Jade sword drawn, you hurry up the dock towards the Fair Folk.  It was paused at the end of the dock, watching the children dance and play.   What was the Fair Folk waiting for?

Weaving your way around the dancing children, you reach the Fair Folk.   The starfish skittered and crawled all over the Fair Folk’s body, sometimes even crawling up its long moonlit hair.   Its armor was much more disturbing and hypnotizing up close.   You wait for a gap in the armor and stab the Fair Folk in the lower back.

The starfish armor instantly reacts to the attack.  The starfish flowed over your sword, trapping it before it could enter the fair folk’s body.   You pull back your hand before the starfish overtake it.   Still playing the flute, the Fair Folk, takes a step back and studies you.   Cocking his head, your sword drops from its armor and clatters to the deck.   A few starfish detach from the armor and drag your sword across the wooden planks and back to you.    Suspicious, you examine the sword carefully before picking it up.    Besides the off color blood, nothing about the sword has changed.

Eyes shining with a fierce joy, the Fair Folk’s music takes on a militant beat.   The children circle around and begin to clap in rhythm to the music.  Focusing on your opponent, you discover that the Fair Folk has a very thin strand of fate, as if it was a newborn.   You loop the delicate strand around your wrist before attacking.    Your attack slices though the star fish armor and leaves a bloody gash along the Fair Folk’s side.    Yet the Fair Folk still continues to play the flute and with a spinning kick tries to knock you off of your feet.   You jump out of the way and aim your sword for the flute but the Fair Folk leans back away from your sword.  Off balance, the Fair Folk tumbles to the ground.   You quickly approach to take advantage but the Fair Folk raises up spinning on its head and kicks you in the face.

You stunned, you step back and are flabbergasted to find that the Fair Folk is still playing the Flute.   It must take some skill to keep play during combat.  You brush the Fair Folks delicate thread and steal its ability to play.   Feinting an attack on the Fair Folk’s side, you instead cut a gash in its forehead.   The Flute flies out of the fair folk’s hands and slide across the deck into the water.  The children stop clapping and fall to the deck, dazed.

A gaping hole appears in the hull of the barge and seven more Fair Folk covered in Starfish armor step onto the dock.   An eighth, short eared Fair Folk exits the barge, his body covered with spiny sea urchins of deep purple.  “Rory!   Stop playing with the flame haired child and load up the children.  “

“A thousand pardons, my lord.   The flame haired child is an envoy sent by She of Whispering Bells.  I felt it was my duty to entertain the child until you arrived.  ”

She of Whispering Bells?   Who was that?  You look around and see that the children were rousing.   In the distance you can hear shouting.  The Fair Folk’s spell was broken!  All that stands between you and saving the children is nine Fair Folk warriors.

The Fair Folk Lord’s pearlescent eyes glance at your brow.  “How exciting!  I didn’t realize the Sovereign of Secrets had champions.   Load her up with the rest of the children. ”   Jupiter.  They are talking about Jupiter!   You feel your forehead and realize that your headband was knocked askew when the Fair Folk kicked you.  You quickly adjust it to cover your glittering caste mark.   Come on.  Wake up!

“I believe the child is male, my lord.”  Rory corrects.  You see Tri rousing and motion her to start helping the children get away.   Tri rubs her eyes and after taking in the situation, starts waking the other children.

“Does it matter?  Stop making excuses, Rory, and…  Now look at what you done.  They children are running away!”

“Go, go, go!”  You yell as you block the Fair Folk’s way.  The village children clumsy run down the dock back towards the approaching crowd of adults.

“Maiden’s titties, Svante!  What have you done?”  Wanahton yells over the commotion.

“Leave me alone!  I’m busy!”  You parry a high kick from one of the Fair Folk and dodge a punch from another.   You just needed to buy time to let the children escape.

“We should retreat, my lord.  We would have to kill the adults to recover the children and there will be no one to tell Our Lady’s Admiral what happened here.“

“Shh!  I’m thinking about how to get out of this mess you got us in, Rory.”

“Of course, my lord.  Take all the time you need.  It’s not like we have a mob of angry villagers coming our way.”

“Retreat!” the Fair Folk Lord shouts.   “We cannot recover the children without killing everyone.   Rory, Our Lady will hear about your failure here.”

Rory pales.  “Yes, my lord.”   The Fair Folk retreat into their barge, hole closing behind them.    The barge pulls quickly away from the Shogunate dock at shocking speed.  No wonder the Desert Fox was unable to keep up.  You are unsure if you can keep up even with your cloak.

“Svante.”  Wanahton reaches you.   “What happened?”  Mei Mei runs up to you, tail wagging.

“I couldn’t let the Fair Folk take the children.  I’ll tell you more later!”  You concentrate on your cloak and it transforms into a set of owl’s wings.   Your caste mark burns on your brow.  “Keep an eye on Mei Mei for me!”  You yell at Wanahton as you leap into the air.

Hours later, you wonder if the barge will ever stop moving.  Your shoulder and back are sore and your eyes burn from the speed you have to keep up to follow the barge.   As the sun rises, the barge can be seen in better detail.  It looks nothing like what a ship should be, but rather like a wrinkled raisin that absorbs all light that hits it.   The barge comes to a complete stop and you circle the barge to see what happens.

The barge lifts itself vertically and bobs in the water.  Then it starts to slowly spin in the water.   Suddenly, the barge splits itself open like a grotesque flower.  A trebuchet sits along the edge of each petal of the Float, though you do not know what it uses for projectiles.  Fully grown trees emerge from the mossy ground with gossamer cocoons attached.    As the sunlight hits the cocoons, they crack open, revealing a shocking number of fair folk.  There must be over a hundred of them!

In the distance you can see the spray of a whale.    As the whale surfaces, you notice that its front right flipper is scared white.   The whale dives again and a few hundred feet from the Fair Folk Float, you see a large eared desert fox paddling though the sea.   It leaps from the water to one of the petals of the float.   After shaking herself dry, the Desert Fox sneaks though the float.

What do you do?

  • Observe the Desert Fox and see what she does
  • Step outside of Fate and land on the Float
  • Introduce yourself to this “Lady”.  Being an Envoy of Jupiter must mean something.
  • Go look for the Valiant Hummingbird
  • Other

((I flipped a coin to break the tie. ))