161 – Another Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You drop the sword and bolt.

“Svante!” Sasha calls out.

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

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

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

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

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

“You killed her.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I vote no.” Uilani repeats. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprisingly, Venus was also ascending though the Mask. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venus in the Mask.

A secret romance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Haytham brought them though Yu-Shan.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You talked to him?”

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

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

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

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

It frightened you.

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

“I may have another way…” you start.

 

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

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

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

“So it’s fake.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I know.”

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

What do you say?

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

 

158 – Closed Doors

The mortal guards pass without noticing you.  You follow behind them.   You stop outside the warded door and wait for all the guards to enter the cell.  Your plan is to lock all the guards in the cell.  You did not want to harm the guards.  You have enough blood on your hands.

Three guards enter the cell and two stand outside to guard.   Shit.  Why couldn’t anything be easy?  The funeral will be starting soon.  You do not have much time.  As the three guards search the cell, you walk up to one of the guards.  “Help them search the cell.  The more eyes the better.” You whisper into his mind.

The guard glances back at the cell.  “Let’s help them.  The more eyes the better.”

“Go with him.” You whisper in the other guard’s ear.

The two guards enter the cell.  “What the fuck are you doing…”  You slam the cell door closed before the guard could finish his sentence.  The guards bang at the door.

You snicker.  Your plan worked.  In a much better mood, you race to catch up with Aiko and Shamira.  Aiko was an idiot.  You could be a hero.  Yet being a hero is more complicated than you thought.  There is more to being a hero than swing your sword against evil.  Akachi and the rest of the elders have done horrible things in the hopes that the end result would be better.  Could you keep true to yourself and what you know is right and still save the day?   Or will be forced to choose between your own morality and the safety of others?

You come to a point where the corridor branches into two different directions.  You choose one at random, hoping the fates will guide you true.   You walk for a long while and realize the fates lead you wrong.  Or did they?  Footsteps and the clang of weapons echo down the passage.   You hide in an alcove outside of fate.

Sasha leads the remains of the Wyld Hunt.   Her expressionless face is pale and smeared with blood.  About half the Dragonblooded who accompanied her did not return.   Sasha is putting forward a brave face in spite of the Hunt’s losses.  You close your eyes at your sister’s pain.   The Elders are using her just like they use you.  How many Sidereals are sacrificed for their unknown goals?

“Sasha?”  You step out of the shadows.     Sujay draws his crossbow and aims at you.  The rest of the Dragonblooded draw their swords.

“Hold!”  Sasha orders.  She steps though the crowd of Dragonblooded.   “Svante?”  She embraces you.  Your sister stinks of blood, sweat, and acid.  Sasha examines you.  “Are you okay?  What are you doing in the passages?”

“I’m fine.”  You look at the blood on her face.  “Are you injured?  Did you get the Chimera?”

“The Anathema is dead.”   One of the Dragonblooded holds up a dripping bag.

“It’s only a scratch.”  Sasha touches a knot on her head and then waves it off.   “What are you doing down here?”  she repeats.

“I’m looking for Aiko.”   You scan the faces of the Dragonblooded to see if Aiko and Shamira are with them.  “Have you seen her?”

“She and the other Earth Aspect were headed to the Funeral.   We are headed that way as well.  Did you want to come with us?”

What do you do?

  • Openly accompany Sasha and the Wyld Hunt to the Funeral
  • Trail Sasha and the Wyld Hunt outside of Fate
  • Catch up to Aiko and Shimara
  • Find out where Elder Kejak is being held.
  • Other

152 – The Procedure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What do you know?” Chiyoko asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do?

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

 

108 – Sandwiches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your late.”  Felix says.

“The meeting hasn’t started yet.  “

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You brought food in here?” Felix hisses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I’m fine.  Thank you.”

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

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

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

What do you do?

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

 

 

106 – Amends

“Tell me why you want to help me,” you demand.

Ayesha scowls.  “I’m offering to help you.  No string attached.”

“No,” you disagree. “You have to be getting something out of this. “  You ignore Sasha’s aghast expression and continue. “You don’t get to help me until you tell me why.”

“My, they do grow up fast,” Ayesha mutters.   “Sasha, if you’d excuse us?”

“I’m not going anywhere.”   Your sister leans back in her chair and crosses her arms.

Ayasha frowns and glances at you.  You fidget with your napkin.  “It’s okay, Sasha.  We won’t be long.”

Sasha grumbles, but relocates over to the other end of the café.  Your sister throws herself into a chair and puts her feet on the table.  She crosses her arms and stares daggers at the gold-clad woman.

“What do you remember of Rikali’s life?  Her family?”

“I remember enough.” You met Ika, Rikali’s drug-dealing daughter.  Did this have something to do with her?

Ayesha twists her mug on the table.  “Rikali and I didn’t part on good terms the last time I saw her.  I’ve always regretted my last words to my sister were filled with anger.”

“Your sister?”  None of Rikali’s memories included Ayesha.

“You don’t remember?”  She taps her fingers on the table.  “Lytek prunes our past incarnation’s memories.  He must have thought he was doing me a favor by removing her memories of me.”   Ayesha picks up her mug and takes a sip.  “Rikali and I were the first Sidereals to exalt after the Usurpation.  Chaos ruled Creation for those first few centuries, thus the Elders decided to raise young Sidereals in Yu-Shan.   We were among Akachi’s first experiments with raising Sidereals together….”

Ayesha’s words fade as a vague memory floats to the surface.   Exalts did not age until the end of their lives, but you remember younger and more carefree Ayesha.   She smirks at you, “Just because you are a Chosen of Secrets doesn’t mean you get to learn all of my secrets, sister of mine.”

You shake your head of the memory and focus on the Ayesha of the present.   She gives you a knowing look and says, “I’m not expecting you to treat me like family, Svante.  We barely know each other and you got family of your own. “   Ayesha glances up at the bored Sasha, waiting for you on the other end of the café.   “It’s just…  you are the closest thing I have to making amends with my big sister.   Please,” Ayesha begs, “Let me help you.”

 

In contrast to Elder Kejak’s library silent office, Akachi’s boisterous staff yelled insults, jokes, and groan inducing puns down the hallways at each other.   You sit in the break room and wait for Akachi to come back from his “last” meeting of the day.   At this late hour, neat stacks of dishes fill the shelves and the counters have been swept clean of crumbs and spills.  Itziar, the short round elderly goddess in charge of the mail, shoves red mission envelops into the wall of cubbies.   Deep wrinkles etch her face and wild wispy white hair refuses to lay flat.  Her long earlobes dangle down her chest as she grabs a stepstool to reach the cubbies out of her reach.

You wonder whom the Elders will assign to keep you away from the meeting.   While Ayesha can help you past the wards, it was up to you to lose your tail.  As far as you can tell no one trailed you and Sasha back to the Bureau of Destiny.

“Svante!”  Akachi’s secretary, Shapau, walks into the office, interrupting your thoughts.   The tall bone thin god’s peacock feathered headdress was missing, revealing his shiny baldhead.  Shapau only wore his headdress when he was out running errands.  Despite the immaculate appearance of his turquoise robes, the secretary seemed tired.  “What is this I hear about you putting a goat in Elder Kejak’s office?”

“I didn’t do it!” you deny.  “No one can prove anything!”

A grin creeps across Shapau’s face.  “Oh, you naughty boy!” the god tisks.  “You better not bring any dirty animals in here!”

You put your feet on the break room table.  “You better stay on my good side, Shapau.”

“Ah…”  Itziar chuckles.  “The kitten has grown some claws.   I’d be careful, Shapau.”

“Elder Akachi doesn’t pay you for your smart comments,” Shapau snaps.  Itzair rolls her eyes and sorts more red envelops into cubbies.

“When do I get a cubby?” you ask.

“Why do you need a cubby?” Shapau sounds scandalized by the very suggestion.  “Young you may be, Svante, but you are still a member of the Five Score Fellowship.   If Akachi assigns you a mission, it will be from his own hand.”

“Only us lowly gods get cubbies,” Itziar explains.

“Where do all these missions come from? The Maidens?” you ask.

“Pattern spiders.  Ever tangle they can’t fix means a new mission for the Bureau of Destiny.  We sort them and the delicate missions go to you Sidereals and the rest go to our gods assigned to posts in Creation.”   Shapau groans in frustration.  “Those lazy pattern spiders send us a mission addressed to you every once in a while.”

“What?”

“Oh don’t worry.”  Shapau waves a hand.  “You aren’t officially a member of the Bureau until your eighteenth birthday.  We forward those to Elder Kejak’s office.”

“Look at this.”  Itziar holds up a red envelop.   “We got another mission with your name on it right here.  What a coincidence…”  the goddess says sardonically.  A god working in the Bureau of Destiny is weary of coincidences.

You snatch the envelope away before Shapau can even reach his hand out.  You rip open the envelope and read.

To: Svante Visscher, Chosen of Secrets

 

From: Pattern Spider #0A6915

Mission Profile: The god of the Southeast Potato field of Wong Farm is neglecting his duties for unknown reasons.  Discover why before the Potato Harvest Festival. 

Estimated Probability of Solar Presence: Insignificant

Estimated Probability of Hidden Yozi Presence: Insignificant

Estimated Probability of Lunar Presence: Insignificant

Estimated Probability of Fair Folk Presence: Insignificant

“That’s it?”  You toss the disappointing mission on the table.

“What do you expect from a pattern spider?” Itzair grunts, as she picks up another pile of mail.

“The mission wasn’t meant for you.  One of the pattern spiders is glitching out.   Elder Kejak’s office is investigating. “  Shapau says.

Your pattern spider curls up into a tighter ball in your pocket.   You fold the mission envelop in half and tuck it in with your pattern spider.   “Don’t route any more missions for me to Elder Kejak office.   I’ll take care of them.”

“What?” Shapau says.  “What do you mean by ‘you’ll take care of them?’”

“Now you’ve done it!” another staffer yells from across the hall.  “We are going to be doing twice the work!”

“We aren’t qualified for Secrets work!” another voice wails from further down.

“The boy’s gotten only three missions over the past few months.  We’ll be fine.”  Itzair yells.  She digs though the cabinets and pulls out a box of wooden nameplates.   “I’ll assign you a cubby.”

“A cubby!”  Shapau sputters.  “He’s a Sidereal! What will the other thinks when they find out he has a cubby!  None of the gods will respect him!”

“It will be good experience for him, having to get his own mail!”   Itzair counters as she carves your name into the soft wood.

“This is unprecedented!” Shapau complains.

“I’m not running all over Creation to track down a Thirteen year old boy.”  The long eared goddess blows the shavings into the trash bin.   She slides your nameplate into an empty slot on one of the smaller cubbies.

“At least give him one of the larger ones!”  Shapau insists.

Itzair frowns as if she is about to argue.   Instead, she sighs and assigns you one of the larger cubbies.  “The mail gets delivered twice a day.”  The goddess smirks as she pushes her empty mail cart away.

Shapau frets about your cubby.  “What if you are in Creation and get assigned a mission?   This whole situation needs to go to committee for discussion!”

You drop your head to the table.  A committee discussion about whether you should have a cubby or not was asinine!

“What needs to go to committee?”  You look up to find the Owl standing at the doorway of the breakroom.  Your tutor holds a fine-grained mahogany case under his arm.

“Svante insists on handling his own mail!  He has no experience, no office, and no staff.  Only a cubby!”  Shapau points at the offending cubby.

“I’m not going to get experience if I don’t get to do anything!” you yell.

“Savante, Shapau, calm down.”   The Owl orders.   “If Svante is unavailable, then I can check his mail.”

“Oh, would you?  My staff’s already overworked with all the… “  The secretary pauses.  “Well you know.”  Shapau must be talking about the secret meeting tonight.

“Yes Yes,”  The Owl waves him off.

“Wonderful!”  Shapau, satisfied your missions are not his problem anymore, leaves the breakroom.

“Svante?”  The Owl sides the mahogany case across the table towards you.  “Do you remember what is in this case?”

Despite never having seen this case before in your life, it seems familiar.  Memories of laughter, wine, and piles of Ambrosia flitter though your mind.  You finger the silver latches before opening it.   “These are your Ma Daio tiles.”  You click the case open and reveal the worn carved and painted tiles.

“Akachi mentioned he was working late tonight so I decided it was time to teach you how to play Ma Daio.  We have suffered far too long with that fat toad on our fourth corner. “  The Owl says, referring to Sasha and Wanahton’s lazy secretary.

You pick up a face tile and run your finger over the worn carvings.  You have many evenings hidden on the staircase and listened in on Akachi’s Ma Daio game.   Yeva, your sifu was often a player along with the Owl, Sasha, Jaived – another chosen of Endings- and few others.    The elder’s plan was as smooth as the game tile in your hand.   You expected them to assign someone to tail you, but instead they simply have your tutor offer to teach you a game you long desired to learn.

What do you do?

  • Tell the Owl the truth. You are going to sneak into the meeting.
  • Lie to the Owl. Tell him you had plans to visit you friend in Vanchow.
  • Play along with the Owl and then sneak away

105 – Favors

You watch a topaz pattern spider traverse the Loom above you and realize you need to attend this meeting.  You need to meet the other elders.   Or at least get a good look at them.  Akachi can only protect you for so long.   You open your mouth to ask to attend the meeting when your stomach grumbles with hunger.   The cookies you ate in Elder Kejak’s office seemed so long ago.   “Can we get some dinner?” you ask Sasha.

Sasha laughs and ruffles up your hair.  “I don’t know if I can afford to feed you.”

You scowl and bat her hand away.  “I can pay my own way!”   Afternoons working in Akachi’s office have given you a nice chunk of pocket change.  You and Sasha rise from the stairs.  Sasha puts her arm around your shoulder and tenses, her eyes darting back behind you.

“What is it?” you ask searching for danger.  The strands of Fate around you are calm.

“I thought I saw something.”   She scans behind you again and shrugs.  “Being the Shogun’s bodyguard has made me jumpy.   Not many people come down to this part of the Loom.   Where are we anyways?  ”

“My Exaltation.” You reply.

“Oh,” Sasha knits her brows and glances back.   You can think of at least one other Sidereal who would be interested in your Exaltation.   As you continue walking, you wonder if your conversation with Sasha was truly private.

 

The Unconquered Sun was still ahead in the Games of Divinity and shines bright on you and Sasha as you eat dinner at the little café near the Vanchow Gate.  You demolish a large plate of Grilled Pork Sandwiches while Sasha nervously picks at a dark leafy salad.

“You aren’t eating.” You observe.   You pop the last of your sandwich into your mouth.

“I’m worried about tonight.”  Sasha says, intentionally vague.  She rolls a cherry tomato across her plate.

“Can I go with you?” you munch on a stray piece of carrot.

Sasha frowns and stabs the cherry tomato with her fork.   “I don’t know. “  She lowers her voice.   “This is not a normal meeting.  Maybe we can ask Akachi?”

“No. “  If you asked Akachi, then he would know Sasha told you about her mission.  You lean your elbows against the table and rest your check in your hand.   “I can step out of Fate and eavesdrop.”

“Stepping outside of Fate won’t work,” a voice says from behind you.   Sasha sits up straight and you turn to find Ayesha Ura standing behind you.   The tall Southern woman was dressed in a wispy sleeveless silk dress; her dark curly hair piled up on top of her head.   Orichalcum bands encircle her wiry biceps.   She holds up a mug from the café as if she was giving a toast.   “May I join you?”

You watch Sasha, unsure what to say.   Sasha stares down at her salad, ignoring the Chosen of Journeys woman.   When neither you nor Sasha responds, Ayesha sets her mug down and pulls up a chair.   She carefully arranges her long skirts and sits down.  “I assume you are discussing the super-secret meeting ever Sidereal except Svante and I was invited to.”  Ayesha says in a conspiracy tone.

Everyone?  You muse on this news as Sasha replies, “We were talking about the subcommittee on Martial Arts Tournaments.  Svante wants to attend the special session tomorrow.”

“You need to become better at lying, Sasha.”  Ayesha titters as she stirs the whipped cream into her cappuccino.    “A better response would be ‘What secret meeting, Ayesha?’ and be dying for the details.”  She sets her spoon aside and picks up her mug.  “Now you have confirmed you know about the meeting.”  She takes a sip.  “Why do you want to go to the meeting, Svante?”

“It’s a secret meeting everyone but me was invited to.” You retort.  “Why wouldn’t I want to go?”

“Better.  Exactly the response you expect from someone known for his insatiable curiosity.  I wouldn’t worry too much about it, Sasha.”  She smiles at you.  “Chosen of Jupiter are all accomplished liars.”

“Svante is an honest boy,” Sasha defends you.  You pick at the seam of your napkin and avoid Sasha’s gaze.  While you were being honest, you weren’t telling the entire truth.

“Of course he is.”  Ayesha agrees absently as she sets her mug aside.  “I want to help you get into the meeting, Svante.”

“Why?”  Sasha asks, eyes narrowing.

“Calm down, Sasha.  Do you think I mean your little brother any harm?”

“You want me to spy on the meeting for you.” You accuse.

“No,”  Ayesha denies.  “Akachi would never forgive me if I involve you in any of that unpleasant business.  I already have others who promise to tell me what is going on.   ”

“And you trust them to tell you everything?”

“No, that is why I have a few different people to keep me informed.” Ayesha changes the subject.   “I helped Chejop design the security wards on the meeting room.  I know a couple of ways past them.”

“How do we know Elder Kejak hasn’t changed them?”  Sasha asks, with arms crossed.

“He hasn’t.  Once the wards are activated, only a Sidereal can enter the room.”  She shrugs.  “There is no reason change the wards to keep out just two people.  Assigning someone to keep an eye on us is a more efficient use of resources.”  She stirs her drink again.  “It would be up to you, Svante, to lose your tail.   I don’t expect you to have any problem with that.”

“And what would the price be for this little favor?” Sasha asks.

“Nothing.”  Ayesha takes another sip of her drink as she watches you.

“Nothing?” you ask incredulously.  “Why are you helping me?”  You hope Ayesha’s generosity has nothing to do with the stupid scroll.

“My reasons are my own.”  Ayesha leans over the table and asks, “Will you allow me to help you, Svante?”

What do you do?

  • Accept Ayesha’s Offer as is.
  • Accept Ayesha’s Offer only if she tells you why she is helping you.
  • Turn down Ayesha’s offer and find your own way into the meeting
  • Turn down Ayesha’s offer and badger Akachi and Sasha for information after the meeting. You can observer the other elders later
  • Other

((You guys finally chose the Ayesha Ura option!  I was despairing of you ever meeting her.  ))

104 – Denied

“Sure,” you readily agree.  There was nothing embarrassing in your memory of your Exaltation – except for your daydream about Gina, but you can start the memory after that- and Elder Kejak may discover something you missed.  “But I want to see your memory of the Elders discussing my Exaltation.”

“No.” Elder Kejak‘s tone tolerates no argument.

“No?” you repeat.   The Elders debated about whether you would have lived or died.  You had to see Elder Kejak’s memory.   “What do you mean ‘no’?”

Elder Kejak shifts in his chair.  “Those sessions are private.”

You consider your next words carefully.   You need Elder Kejak to agree to share his memory with you.   “I need to know what exactly worries the elder about my Exaltation so I can alleviate their concerns.  “ You explain reasonably.

“There is no need for you to see my memory to accomplish that.  Focusing on your studies,” Elder Kejak alludes to your unread assignment.  “and staying out of trouble with go a long way to alleviate their concerns.”

You scowl at the Elder Sidereal.  Of course, he had to bring that up.   “At least tell me who wanted me dead!”

“As I said,” Elder Kejak says calmly, his voice tinged with annoyance.  “these sessions are private and not open to public discussion.”

“I’m not the public and it involves my life!” you yell, losing your temper.

“Svante, you are acting like a child.”  Elder Kejak chides in his infuriating calm voice.

“I’m not acting like a child.”  You take a deep breath and try to control your anger.   “I just found out my exaltation was a mistake and the elders discussed whether or not they should kill me.  Jupiter gave us a mission.  You and I need to figure out what happened together.  We both need to share every single piece of information we can get.  Every. Single. Piece.”  You emphasize.

Elder Kejak folds his hand in front of him on the desk.   “The answer is still no.  I cannot breach the confidentiality of those sessions.”

“They won’t even know if you tell me!  Who is going to tell them?  The goat?”  The goat noses though the shredded papers and bleats.  Elder Kejak stares at you and you realize the reason.  “Oh.  You think I am going to tell them.”

“I don’t think you will tell them, rather you will do something rash.”

“You don’t trust me.” You accuse the elder Sidereal.

“I think we are done here for the day.” Elder Kejak says, not denying your accusation.   He picks the memory stone off his desk and puts it away.

“How can we work together if you don’t trust me?”

Elder Kejak ignores your question and begins sorting through a pile of crumpled papers on his desk.  “Be sure to do your reading this week.  We have two chapters to discuss next we meet.”

“Yeah, whatever.”  You leave Elder Kejak’s study, slamming the door behind you.

 

After your horrific meeting with Elder Kejak, you find yourself heading towards the Loom of Fate.  Heavy damp air whooshes out when you push open the great Starmetal doors.  You pause at the entrance to admire the sight.  Even after all these months, the Loom of Fate never ceases to be awe-inspiring.  Miles of hallways and staircases line the glowing threads of fate.  Patterns spiders dart to and fro across the threads.   You hurry away from the Bureau gods studying the active section of the Loom and lose yourself in the past.

You pull out your Pattern Spider and polish the fingerprints off it with sleeve of your silk green robes.   Compared to the spiders who live on the loom, your emerald spider seems dingy.   You scratch off a beige food crumb and hold the spider up to the threads.   “Spider, show me my Exaltation.”  You don’t need Elder Kejak’s help with Jupiter’s mission.  You can figure it out on your own.

Your pattern spider scurries forward, haphazardly bumping into the other spiders as it makes its way across the loom.   It gives a large amethyst spider with its oversized jaws a wide breadth.  Finally, your pattern spider leads you to the threads of your Exaltation.  You touch your thread, barely noticing your spider climbing down your arm and hiding back into your pocket.  You relive the events of your Exaltation, noticing nothing new about the event.   Afterwards you switch to the thread of the bored Earth Aspect sorcery student who summoned the Blood Apes, careful not to touch Akachi’s thread. You trace the student’s thread further into the past…

“Svante?”  You glance up from the Loom and find your sister staring down at you from the top of the staircase.  Sasha is dress in an understated pale purple and grey Cheongsam dress with short sleeves.  A matching grey sweater lays folded over her arms.

“Sasha!” your hands drop from the thread and you embrace your sister.   Sasha has not been in Yu-Shan in weeks, always busy with some mission for the Shogun.

She fondly gazes up at you.  “Every time I see you, I swear you grow another foot!”

You chuckle.  “Akachi complains half the Bureau’s budget goes to keeping me fed.”

“Ha!  I believe it!”  Sasha shakes her head.  “I feel like I am missing your childhood.”  She sighs.  “Thankfully Akachi says I should be back in Yu-Shan soon.”

“Sasha?  What is your mission with the Shogun?”  You have been dying to ask her since she received the red envelope all those months ago.

“I’m not supposed to say…” she starts.

You flare your caste mark.   “I won’t tell anyone.”  You point at the sign of Jupiter on your forehead with a smile.

Sasha grins. “Ha!  You of all people should understand why I can’t tell you!”

“I’m not going to tell anyone!” you plead.  “I never told Nanny you broke her favorite tea pot!”

Instead of reassuring her, Sasha’s face falls into a frown and sits down on the stairs.  “You have been experiencing our childhood memories without me.”

You sit next to her.  “Was I supposed to wait?”  As soon the Bureau officially gave you access to the Loom, you have been reclaiming your Arcane Fate eroded memories of Sasha.

“No,  it’s just I thought we would be able to look at them together.”   She smiles.  “What have you seen?”

“Only all the horrible stuff you did to me as a kid.”

“What?”   Your sister denies.  “I never did anything horrible to you…. Well, nothing you didn’t deserve.”

You make a raspberry at your sister’s lies.  “Remember when you stole all of my Calibration Candy?”

“I only did that in retaliation for you going through my room!”  Sasha counters.

“I only went through your room because you told me elementals hid my Calibration Candy!”

Sasha giggles.  “You were kind of a dumb kid.”

“I was seven!” you protest in mock anger.   You and Sasha sit in a comfortable silence, watching the Pattern Spiders toil among the threads of Fate.   Now you remember your childhood, it was astonishing how a difference memory has on your relationship with your sister.  Knowing Sasha was your sister was much different from experiencing Sasha as your sister.

As Sasha wipes unshed tears from her eyes, you ask again.  “Why are you gone all the time, Sasha?”

Sasha scratches the back of her head, running her hands though her short black hair.  “I guess it wouldn’t hurt to tell you.  In a few weeks, everyone will know.”  She lowers her voice.  “The Shogun is dying.”

“What?” The Shogun was Chiyoko and Aiko’s grandmother.   Surely, one of them would have mentioned their grandmother being sick.   Do Dragonblooded even get sick?  You have not been sick since your Exaltation.  “Does her family know?”

“No, but they will soon.   Dragonblooded don’t age like mortals.   They stay healthier longer, but deteriorate quickly near the end.  “  Sasha explains, picking at one of her fingernails.

“And your mission is to heal her?”  Sasha cared for you and Wanahton after the Tiger attack.

“Not exactly.”  Sasha shifts her legs under her and turns to face you.  “The Chrysanthemum Court believes I am her physician, but that is not my true purpose.   I’m there to make sure her life ends as Fate dictates.  I have already foiled several assassination attempts.  “  Sasha closes her eyes and starts to cry.

“What’s wrong?”  Timidly, you grab Sasha’s hand, unsure how to comfort her.

“The Shogun.” Sasha whispers.  “She’s an awful woman.  Elder Kejak and the high-ranking Dragonblooded are pushing her to name an heir, but she refuses.   She wants her descendants to fight over the throne.  Fire and Blood is how she won the Shogunate and she expects her heirs to do the same.   Two hundred years of peace and stability thrown away just for one woman’s ego. “

“We can’t go to war!  What about the Fair Folk?”  You remember Rory headed for the Bordermarshes to fight the Western Fleet.  A Civil War would mean the Shogunate would fight have to fight on two fronts.

“The Elders have a plan for a peaceful succession.  That’s why I’m here.  There is a meeting tonight about it.”

Akachi mentioned he was going to be working late tonight.   He must be at this meeting.  “Are all the Elders going to be there?” you ask.

Sasha shrugs.  “I guess so.  They haven’t told me many details.   I know Wanahton and Haythem will be there.”

What do you do?

  • Ask Sasha and Akachi if you can go to the meeting.
  • Find a way to eavesdrop on the meeting.
  • Show up like you were invited
  • Other

(I can probably count the number of times I described what someone was wearing on one hand.   Trying to change that.)

(I attempted to foreshadow the Shogun’s death.  )