109 – Shoes

You freeze when Idir offers you the sandwich.   You’ve been caught!  You imagine standing before Idir’s Sifu, the stern Winona.   There was no sympathy nor warmth in her cold gaze.  You are sure she voted for you to die.   You stay silent and pray to the Maidens that Idir goes away.

Idir holds up the sandwich only for a few moments.  He frowns.   “No wonder everyone thinks I’m crazy.  Talking to empty air.”   He tosses the sandwich into his bag.   Idir gathers up his belongings and leaves the room, locking the door behind him.

You wait for as long as you dare before you leave the room.   You poke your head out and search the hallway.  No one is there.  You lock the door behind you. You step out of fate and hurry home.

Through the window, you see Akachi and the Owl talking at the kitchen table.  You head around to the back of the manse.   With practiced efficiently, you climb the jasmine trellis to your room.   A few blossoms fall to the ground as you leap to the window ledge.   You open the window and find Mei Mei waiting for you.   Your shaggy black and white puppy prances around your feet as you step into your room.   You pick up your wild haired dog and set her on the bed.   Mei Mei enthusiastically licks your face as you hush her.   You empty your pockets of the blacken talisman, red envelope, pattern spider, and stray quintessence pieces.

Fully clothed you lay on the bed.  Mei Mei climbs onto your chest and makes herself comfortable.  You doze until you hear footsteps on the stairs.   You shake Mei Mei off, hurry under the covers, and close your eyes.  Mei Mei curls up next to your feet.

The door creaks open as Akachi checks on you.   Mei Mei lifts her head and wags her tail as Akachi enters the room.   Akachi scratches the puppy behind her ears and mutters. “Better let him get as much sleep as he can.”   Akachi turns to leave.   Then he stops just before the door to look back.  “Unless he isn’t asleep at all.”   The overhead light turns on, blinding you.  You groan and sit up in bed.

“I’m going to kill Keeper.”  Akachi mumbles.  “Where have you been?  Creation to see Chiyoko?  No, your shoes are too clean.”  You follow your guardian’s gaze to your shoe uncovered by the blanket.  Belatedly, you cover the offending shoe.   “Where were you?”  Akachi asks again.

“I went to the meeting about the Shogun.  The one I should have been invited to in the first place.”  You narrow your eyes, daring Akachi to be angry with you.   Your stomach grumbles.

Akachi bursts out laughing, pissing you off more.  “This isn’t funny!” You cross your arms.

“Come downstairs and I’ll make you something to eat.”   Akachi says as a peace offering.

You settle at the kitchen table as Akachi makes you a sandwich.  “Did anyone notice you?”  he asks.

“Idir thought there was someone behind him, but I stayed quiet and he went away.  Was there a reason why I wasn’t included in the meeting?”   You ask.

Akachi sets the sandwich down in front of you and sits down.  “A few.  This business with the Shogun has the potential to be very messy, but you have made it quite clear you rather know what is going on than not.”   Akachi smiles ruefully.  “I wanted you to be included, but I was overruled.   If I had known you were going to sneak in anyways, I would have brought you along in spite of what the other elders decided.”

“Oh.”   You swallow the bite of your sandwich.  “You aren’t mad at me?”

“I’m annoyed you tried something risky.  If you got caught, you would not be the only one with a lot of explaining to do.”   Akachi grimaces and sits back in his chair.  You get the impression Akachi does not want to tangle with Winona any more than you do.  “And I’m a little curious how you managed to get past the wards.  Wards aren’t part of Keeper’s domain, but for a god, he does have rather diverse interests.”

You fidget with your sandwich.  “I promised not to tell.”

“Hmm…”  Akachi is displeased by this response.  “You don’t owe anyone any favors, do you?”

“No, she offered me her assistance freely.”

Akachi rubs the bridge of his nose.  “Svante, even free help usually has a cost. ”

“I know I know!”   You push your plate away.   “Elder Kejak gave you a mission.  Are you going to be leaving like everyone else?”

“Yes, but the mission Chejop gave me wasn’t for me.”   Akachi pulls the red envelop and slides it over to you.   “It was for you.”

You stare at the envelope before you pick it up.  This was your third mission today.   You slide open the envelope and read the mission statement.

 

To: Svante Visscher, Chosen of Secrets

From: Chejop Kejak, Chosen of Secrets

You are to attend school with Lung Chiyoko’s Circle and protect them from harm.

Mission Profile: Lung Chiyoko, Mayim Masaru, and Hui Aiko are potentially valuable hostages against their parents and are at risk of kidnapping.  Attend school with them and make sure they do not come to harm.  Earth Aspect Enki Osamu will be your contact during this mission.  

Note:  This mission does not excuse you from your Denial of the Five Moons reading assignment. Please take this time to catch up on your reading. 

 

“What does it stay?” Akachi asks.

“I’m going back to school with Chiyoko.”  You hand over the mission.   “What are we going to do with Mei Mei?”   Mei Mei’s tail wags when you mention her name.

“Bring her with you.”  Akachi hands back your mission.  “Yeva can talk to Chuzei Enki to make an exception for you.”

“I don’t think that is going to work.”  Chuzei Enki was never the type to make an exception.

Akachi smiles.  “It will be fine.  Go pack.”

 

You march up the stairs to your Sifu’s apartment with Mei Mei in your arms and your gear packed on your back.   Akachi knocks on the door and when Yeva answers, her eyes brighten with pleasure.  She waves both you and Akachi in.

Clothing, weapons, and armor are scattered around Yeva’s Spartan apartment.   Sleek lines and soothing earth tones dominate the apartment except for a brightly colored abstract wall hanging above her couch.   Yeva leads you to her freshly cleaned kitchen – the tang of cleaning chemicals hangs in the air- and offers you and Akachi some juice.

“Will you have time to bring Svante to school?  I still have some things to do before I head to Meru.”

“Of course, but I’m pretty sure Svante already knows the way.”  Yeva winks at you.  “He doesn’t need me to escort him.”

Akachi takes a breath.  “I need you to talk to Osamu about Mei Mei.  Svante will be attending the school as a student for a while and need to bring the dog with him.”

Yeva grimaces.  “I doubt he remembers me.”

“He remembers you.”  Akachi assures her.   “He even asks about you.”

Yeva smirks behind her cup.  “This is a chance of tune, Akachi.  You used to suggest I not bother him.”

Akachi crosses his arms.  “Yeva, you wished to pursue a relationship with your father.   You can’t back out when things grow difficult.”

You choke on your juice when you hear that Chuzei Enki was Yeva’s father.

“Why?  People do it all the time.” Yeva counters.

Akachi crosses his arms.  “If Elder Kejak’s plan falls though, there will be war.   Your father is not young anymore, Yeva.   This may be the last chance you have to make peace with him.  If you don’t you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.  And Sidereals live a very long time.”  Yeva collects everyone’s cups and washes them in the sink.   “Osamu may be more receptive to you than you think.”  Akachi adds.

Yeva says nothing as she dries the cups and puts them in the cupboard.   “I’ll escort Svante to school.”

“And talk to your father?”

“Only because you’ll never let me hear the end of it if I don’t.”   Yeva smirks as she leads Akachi to the door.  “Now go.  Summon Nimi or whatever you have to do.”

That catches your attention.  “Who’s Nimi?  Is Nimi a demon?”

Akachi groans.  “I was hoping for Svante not to find out about Nimi.”

“Nimishema is Akachi’s Neomah.”  Yeva explains.

“You have a Neomah!”  You are shocked.  Akachi threatened to ground you for the next thousand years if you were caught summoning a demon, especially a Neomah.

“I inherited a Neomah.”  Akachi corrects.   “Nimi has been bound to too many Sidereals to let her go free.  And I have strictly professional relationship with Nimi.”

“And as Akachi is one of Heaven’s Courtesans, strictly professional can mean a great many things.”   Yeva snickers.

“You are giving Svante the wrong idea!” Akachi protests as he leaves the apartment.

 

“What happened between you and your father?” You ask Yeva as you walk through the streets of Vanchow in predawn light.  Mei Mei trots beside you, darting to and fro, sniffing around.

“I don’t know.  What happened between you and your birth family?”  Yeva retorts.

You bite your tongue to keep from saying something disrespectful to your Sifu.

“Sometimes I think I am a bad Sifu.  That was out of line.”  Yeva apologizes.  “I rather not talk about Enki Osamu.”

You nod and change the subject.  “What can you tell me about Akachi’s demon?”

“Nimi?  Akachi inherited her after the Usurpation.   Don’t get any ideas about summoning your own.”

“Ew.”  You have enough trouble with Aiko’s smelly Blood Ape.

Yeva pauses just outside of the gates of the school.  “Despite the teasing I gave Akachi about Nimi, he really does keep her on a short leash.   I remember one time….”

“Is there a reason why we are standing out here in the cold?” you ask.   In less than an hour, the Chuzei will be waking up the students.   You have passed a sleepless night and want to take a nap before morning.

“No, I suppose not.”   Yeva leads you to Chuzei Enki’s room.  You pick up Mei Mei and hold her in your arms.  She takes a deep breath and knocks on the door.

The Chuzei opens the door.   Enki Osamu, wide-awake and already dressed for the day, is built like a boulder.  He is a squat and wide mass of muscle.   His granite grey skin is a shade lighter than his iron black hair, which is pulled back in the traditional Shogunate knot.   His granite grey face is clean-shaven and is etched with lines of lighter skin instead of wrinkles.

“The Maidens have need of your, Chuzei Enki.”  Yeva announces, flaring the mark of Mars on her forehead.

The Chuzei stands a bit straighter and steps aside to let you and Yeva in.

“Svante will be attending school as a student again.   His dog needs to stay with him.”

Chuzei inspect you and the puppy.  Mei Mei wags her tail and gives a hopeful bark.

“The other students already know about the dog, so I see no harm in allowing her to stay with the boy.”

“Thank you, Chuzei.” You say.

“Don’t thank me yet, Cnead.   I expect you to keep your dog in top shape.   She looks more like a mop than a puppy.   You can take care of her grooming needs in the laundry room.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now take that mop of yours and head to Mayim’s room. “

“Yes, sir.”  You gather your bag.  Yeva also gets up to leave.

“If I may beg a moment of your time, ma’am,” Chuzei Enki says to Yeva.  “I was about to make some tea.”

Your Sifu begins to decline, so you say,  “She would love to stay for tea.”

“Was I talking to you, Cuckcoo?”  The Chuzei barks.

Why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut.  “Sir, No, sir!”

“Now run along.  You know your way to Mayim’s room.  After you sleep yourself out, come see me.”

You suppress a smile when you realize that Chuzei Enki just excused you from classes today.  “Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”

You leave Yeva with her father and hesitate after closing the door.

What do you do?

  • Head to bed and sleep
  • Step out of fate and listen in on the conversation
  • Go to the laundry room and give Mei Mei a bath.
  • Other

((Hero is a year old!   How time flies!))

((This was a long one, but we finally made it back to the school))

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108 – Sandwiches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your late.”  Felix says.

“The meeting hasn’t started yet.  “

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You brought food in here?” Felix hisses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I’m fine.  Thank you.”

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

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

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

What do you do?

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

 

 

107 – Schemes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, why would I tell Akachi anything?”

“You work for him.”

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Search him,” Naoko orders.

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

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

“That isn’t mine!”  Haytham protests.

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

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

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

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

Where do you hide?

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

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

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.  ))

103 – Secret Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

From: Jupiter, Maiden of Secrets

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

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

Estimated Probability of Solar Presence: Unknown

Estimated Probability of Hidden Yozi Presence: Unknown

Estimated Probability of Lunar Presence: Unknown

Estimated Probability of Fair Folk Presence: Unknown

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What do you do?

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

 

(Svante’s first Secret!)

101 – Uncle Jack

You clench your bag so tightly, your knuckles turn white and the bag’s handles bit into your skin.   The multi colored glass Essence Lights which line the walls of the Bureau of Destiny pass by much faster than you are used to.   Was Akachi walking faster than usual or was time moving faster due to your nerves?  You take a deep breath to calm yourself.   If everything goes according to plan, this may be your last weekly session with Elder Kejak.  After your Sorcerous Initiation, you tried to get out of the sessions, but Elder Kejak insisted you continue to attend.

“Ready for your lesson today?”  Akachi asks.

“Yeah.” you lie as you fiddle with the straps of your bag.  You didn’t get to finish your assigned reading this week.  Even with the help with Wanahton and Elder Kejak’s receptionists, it took some time to arrange your surprise for Elder Kejak.

Akachi pauses before the deep violet stained wood of Elder Kejak’s office.  “Svante, you can’t even get away with not doing your homework with Keeper.  What makes you think Chejop will be any more lenient?”

“I get away with not doing my homework with the Owl fine.” You boast.  “I mean….”  You fall silent before you incriminate yourself any more.  

Akachi crosses his arms and stares down at you.  “We will talk about this later.”    You enter Elder Kejak’s office to try to escape your guardian, but Akachi walks in right behind you.   You walk cross the wood floors of Elder Kejak’s cooly light reception area.   Elder Kejak’s receptionist warmly greet you and Akachi.   “Elder Kejak’s last meeting is running late, but he should be back momentarily.”   The Receptionist offers you a plate of Apricot Shortbread cookies and gives you a sly wink when Akachi wasn’t looking.   You smile at her in return.  Apparently everything is going according to plan.  

Akachi sits on the edge of the receptionist’s desk and chats with her about a new restaurant opening up in Yu Shan.  You munch on your cookies and wonder why Akachi was still here.  Since your trip North, Akachi has been less smothering of you and allowing you to go to places on your own.  Why did he escort you to this session in the first place?  

Before you could finish your first cookie, Elder Kejak sweeps into the reception area with purposeful steps.   He stops short when he notices Akachi chatting with Elder Kejak’s receptionist.  The Elder Oracle digs through his messenger bag and pulls out the newest issue of Pretty Dragon Princess Meru.   

“Akachi, have you seen the latest Princess Meru?”  Elder Kejak taps the manga in his hand.

“No, I don’t think Svante received his copy yet.”   Elder Kejak grunts at Akachi’s offhand reply.  “Is something wrong, Chejop?”

Elder Kejak points with the manga at your guardian.  “Really, Akachi.  Must we devolve to such juvenile tactics?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”   Akachi shoots you an inquiring look.  You shrug and try to seem innocent.  Did Elder Kejak know about your prank?  You glance over at the receptionist who slightly shakes her head no.

“This Uncle Jack character…  You obviously wrote him to mock me.”  Elder Kejak accuses.

“What?”  Akachi takes the offered manga and pages through it.  

“He’s introduced on page 6,”  the Receptionist helpfully points out.   The goddess ignores Elder Kejak’s probing regard and focuses intently on her filing.  

You stare at your shoes, trying not to draw Elder Kejak’s attention.  Akachi, his face intent, reads though the manga.  After a few minutes, Akachi begins to giggle.

“Akachi?” Elder Kejak calls out.   Akachi turns a page and ignores his name.  “Akachi!”

“Oh, sorry.”  The Joybringer smiles sheepishly.  “I got caught up in the story.  Was this character?”  Akachi holds open the manga and points out lanky bald man fleeing from Princess Meru, her fist raised in indignation.   “Uncle Jack looks nothing like you!  Yes, he’s tall.  Painfully thin. More Attractive.”   Elder Kejak rolls his eyes.  “And bald.  You aren’t going bald right?”

You snicker.  Ayesha Ura and a few other Sidereals saw an Elderly Chejop Kejak in the Loom of Fate a few months ago.  Ayesha quickly spread her description of the Elder’s soon to be receding hairline.   You have to get a copy of this manga.

Elder Kejak unconsciously raises his hand to run it through his long dark hair, but stops short.   He narrows his eyes and snatches the offending manga back from Akachi.  “Come along, Svante.  We wasted enough time here.”   The Elder Oracle leads you through the door to the back offices.  Akachi follows, continuing to harass Elder Kejak about the manga.

“I don’t know what your problem is, Chejop.  Uncle Jack seems like a great character.  He’s clever, funny…”

“Uncle Jake steals underwear from adolescent girls!”  Elder Kejak yells at Akachi.   The office bustle goes silent at this outburst.   Akachi grins as Elder Kejak orders everyone back to what they were doing.  The office staff returns to work with renewed industry.

“Ah… Uncle Jake is a panty thief.” Akachi shrugs.  “Pretty Dragon Princess Meru has never been one of my manga.  I have no control over the writers.”

Elder Kejak tosses the manga at you and takes a step closer to the Elder Joybringer.   “Akachi, you may not have written a single page in years, but I know you still have contacts in the Industry.   What sort of example are you setting for Svante…”   Elder Kejak trails off.

“What is it?” Akachi asks concerned.   

“Did you hear that noise?”  Both elders listen intently.  

“Meeeeh….” A muffled cry echoes ominously down the hallway.

“This way.”  Akachi strides down the hallway of identical doors.  You have been in Elder Kejak’s office many times over the past few months and you still couldn’t find your way around.

“Meeeeh….”  You trail behind the elders.  You press your fingernails into your palms to keep the smile off of your face.  

Elder Kejak pauses in front of one door.  “It’s coming from my study.”   Elder Kejak puts his hand on the door and counts down with his fingers.  When Elder Kejak gets to three, he opens the door and Akachi bursts into the study.

“Meeh!!!”  The goat bleats in shock and jumps off of Elder Kejak’s desk.   A piece of half chewed parchment flutters down in its wake.  The once well-organized desk is littered with torn books and shredded scrolls.   Akachi pauses just before he was going to punch the goat.  Your guardian cocks his head at the goat and bursts out laughing.

“Why is there a goat in my study?” Elder Kejak demands of the crowd gathering by the door.   You lean against the wall outside of the study and cover your mouth to keep from laughing.  The office was a mess!  This prank was so much better than you imagined!

“Akachi, do you know anything about this?”  Elder Kejak narrows his eyes.

It takes a moment for Akachi to catch his breath.  “No…. I didn’t do this….”

The goat jumps on the desk and retrieves its half finished meal.  Elder Kejak snatches the parchment away and attempts to smooth it out.   “Svante, do you know anything about this?”

You take a deep breath and poke your head into the study.  “No.”  Fortunately, the goat chooses this moment to drop a load of shit on Elder Kejak’s desk.  

Elder Kejak rubs the bridge of his nose.  “Nevermind.  Let’s met in the conference room today, Svante.”  You reluctantly follow Elder Kejak, leaving behind your giggling guardian and the rest of the crowd.   You are lead to a large conference room with twenty leather high-backed padded chairs.  You roll out a chair and gratefully sit down.  Why couldn’t Elder Kejak have these comfortable chairs in the rest of his office?  As Elder Kejak get settled at the head of the table, you pull out your copy of the Five Moons of Denial.

“I believe we last left off with the chapter on the Sacred Hunt.   In my opinion it was by far the most interesting chapter in the book.   What did you think, Svante?”  The Elder Sidereal glares at you and you avoid eye contact, instead fidgeting with a puppy gnawed corner of your book.  The past week has been packed with keeping with the Owl’s homework, going through manga with Akachi and Masaru,  and working with Wanahton and the Receptionist to get the goat into Elder Kejak’s office.  To be honest, the last thing you wanted to do was to read this boat anchor of a book.  The Five Moons of Denial was exactly what you feared it would be:  dry, dull, and dumb.

Between Akachi needling Elder Kejak about the magna and your goat prank, you are unsure you want to aggravate Elder Kejak anymore than he already was.

What do you do?

  • Tell the truth.  You didn’t do your reading because you busy arranging for the goat in the study.
  • Make up an Excuse.  The Owl gave you more homework than usual this week.
  • Give Elder Kejak a sob story.  You didn’t do the reading because you were in the Loom with Sasha reclaiming your memories of the childhood you and your sister shared.  
  • Bullshit your way through the lesson.  You skimmed a few pages of the chapter before you came here.  You believe you know enough about the Sacred Hunt to fumble through the session
  • Other

(Trying something different – writing on paper and then typing the post up for editing.   What do you guys think?)

(I really need to give Kejak’s receptionist a name. )