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December Scion Update (Early)
15 days ago
– Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 11:47:03 PM
Hello Scion Backers!
We're going early for December because we have the PAX Unplugged convention happening right at the beginning of the month when we'd normally get these Updates together and out to you. Remember, you can get weekly updates on our Scion projects every week in the Monday Meeting Notes blog on our Onyx Path website if you need more info. And now a couple of notes from our developers!
Greetings, true believers!
As we speak the last of the errata is going into Scions Origin and Hero and all of the various Page XX's are getting pushed, pulled, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed, and numbered. Last push!
I'll be running Scion Second Edition at PAX Unplugged this year! You can find me at the booth or demo tables at these times:
Friday, 11/30, 2:30pm-6pm
Saturday, 12/1, 4pm-8pm
Sunday, 12/2, 12pm-3pm
But I'll be around the show, so if you catch me, say hello! I've got a policy at cons: you can ask me anything and I'll probably tell you. I'll be running the preview text of the Scion Jumpstart! Come play and enjoy or just talk about the past and future of the line!
Greetings, true believers! Meghan here, with an excerpted preview from the Scion Companion: Mysteries of the World. This preview is just a snippet of the Atlantean pantheon, and an example of the kind of pantheon design advice this chapter will contain. Please keep in mind that this is a first draft; anything and everything is subject to change. Enjoy!
The Teros of Atlantis
In the World of Scion, Atlantis is fallen, a ruined and lost Terra Incognita. Its Gods, if they ever existed at all, are long dead. The Atlantean pantheon depicted here is optional canon, which Storyguides can choose to integrate into their campaigns if they like.
Atlantis was the first city. The birth of Ytar and Aeva, the Twin Gods of Time and Space, from the Void’s womb also marked the birth of the World, and Atlantis was there at its center. As centuries passed, humanity and its Gods came to Atlantis, refugees from some ancient crisis led through their flight by Badarus of the Oceans and Amnis of the Rivers. Ytar and Aeva, who’d grown lonely watching the World from distant stars, watched the rise of Atlantean civilization and descended to greet its Gods. The twins granted wondrous gifts to both the Gods and mortals of Atlantis — miracle-machines, god-technology, knowledge of transcendent sciences.
Atlantis became a utopia unimaginable to even the most technologically sophisticated modern societies. Towers of crystalline song gleam in the sun, their interiors twisted through hyperspatial architecture to accommodate vast foundry-temples and palatial estates. Gene-forged clone lines and memory transplant gems afford Atlantis’ nobility nigh-immortality. The mighty arsenal of the Gods, from many-minded supersoldiers to word-weapons made of living stories, held at bay the aggression of the Titans, whom Atlantis calls the Deros.
Long has Atlantis sequestered itself from the World, enjoying a splendid isolation from the tumult of what it sees as its primitive neighbors. While the myth of Atlantis is well-known throughout the World, and many seek it out, the island’s space-folding engines and singularity cloaking keeps it concealed from even the most intrepid explorers. Ruled by an immortal aristocracy and cut off from the rest of humanity, Atlantean culture has grown stagnant over the millennia. Now, some Atlantean Scions advocate for ending its isolation, for reaching out and taking a place on the World stage. They upload extensive primers on Atlantis’ history and culture to the mortal internet, and establish secret lines of communications with government leaders. Atlantis can no longer remain hidden away, but what will happen when it returns?
Aeva, God of Time and Death
Aeva is one of the genderless Gods of Reality, alongside their twin Ytar. When Aeva was born from the Void, their first act was to sing. Their music was the first thing in the World that had an order and a pattern to it, and the first thing that changed, marking the beginning of linear time. Though this was necessary for the World to begin, it also gives Aeva an ominous reputation, for the beginning of time was also the beginning of entropy, which guarantees death and destruction must come to all things. Aeva takes on a three-faced form, gazing into past, present, and future simultaneously.
As God of Time, Aeva is worshipped by those who seek to forestall its ravages and postpone death, illness, or decrepitude for one day more. When the end comes, Aeva solemnly oversees the dissolution of the soul into the Void. Not all of Aeva’s roles must be so grim; they’re also the protector of procrastinators, musicians, horologists, and broken-hearted lovers. Aeva’s favorite Incarnations are singers and musicians, though they sometimes take on more somber roles as hospice nurses, gravediggers, crisis hotline volunteers, and executioners. Most of Aeva’s Incarnations travel outside Atlantis, where they can escape the baleful reputation associated with them.
Aeva’s Scions are almost all Chosen; the guilt they feel over the suffering linear time causes humanity makes them reticent to create new life of any kind. They expect these Scions to do what is necessary, even if it is not pleasant, whether leading bloody revolutions to overthrow oppressive governments, providing counseling and therapy in the aftermath of tragedies and disaster, amputating a limb to save a patient, or investigating a criminal conspiracy at great danger to themselves.
A carefree fool and merrymaking trickster, Ytar is the other twin God of Reality. When Ytar was born from the Void, they stretched out their limbs wide, unfolding all of space so the World could take form. Their most common manifestation is a human-shaped silhouette cut out from a great darkness, filled with spinning galaxies and gleaming stars. Ytar holds no formal position among the Teros, abhorring responsibilities, but is venerated by God and mortal alike for sharing the wondrous technology of Atlantis.
As the God of Space, Ytar answers the prayers of cartographers, navigators, architects, physicists, and those seeking lost things. Much of their time is spent devising sophisticated tricks to play on both their fellow Teros and Atlantis’ mortal rulers, teaching them the lessons Ytar believes they’d benefit from learning. They can take this jovial, lackadaisical manner to excess, shunning Godly duties even in times of crisis, but their twin Aeva forces them to live up to their obligations. Ytar takes on Incarnations as a way to enjoy the variety of mortal life, often taking roles that leave him well-placed to work mischief on the powerful and haughty: a multibillionaire C.E.O.’s secretary, a president’s chief of staff, a news anchor’s makeup artist, and so on. Ytar doesn’t limit their Incarnations to staying in Atlantis, enjoying the World’s diversity, though they’re careful to keep their true identity secret.
Ytar’s Scions are usually Chosen from mortals whose mischief impresses the God of Space, or Created in their divine workshop from dark matter, crystalline nanomachines, or even stranger substances. They have some Scions through liaisons with mortals (almost always Atlanteans). Regardless of a Scion’s Genesis, Ytar’s expectations for them are the same: enjoy yourself, don’t take things too seriously, and make the World a better place. As carefree a parent as they are a God, they make no effort to control or direct their Scions, leaving some wishing they had more parental guidance.
Aeva and Ytar fill two archetypal roles: they’re the Atlantean mythologies’ creator gods, and also divine twins. Their different roles in creating the World contrast the differences in their nature by associating them with different kinds of creation myths: Aeva’s role follows the model of the God who brings order out of the Void’s formless chaos; Ytar belongs to the ranks of the trickster Gods that play a role in creating the World.
Both Aeva and Ytar have the Creator Calling for that reason, along with their invention of Atlantis’ miracle-technology. Aeva’s role in staving off death and misfortune gives them the Guardian Calling, while their status as the God who oversees the progression of the dead into the Void gives them the Liminal Calling. Ytar’s fondness for making mischief and playing tricks that impart some vital wisdom to their recipients qualifies them for the Trickster and Sage Callings.
Aeva and Ytar share the Forge Purview to reflect their joint invention of Atlantis’ god-technology, and the Stars Purview, which encompasses both time and space. They also share the Passion Purview, but with opposite emotions. Aeva’s Artistry and Order Purviews reflect the way they created time; their Death, Fertility, and Health Purviews reflect their role as both the cause of death and a guardian against it. Ytar has Darkness and Journeys as the God of Space, Epic Strength to reflect their part in creating the World, and Chaos and Deception because of their trickster god status.
Here's a high-level view of the next wave of products!
Creatures of the World/Bestiary: Outline (we're refocusing it a bit after some internal discussion)
Scion Jumpstart: First Drafts
Scion Ready-Made Characters: Redlines
Scion Companion: Redlines
AND NOW OUR LATEST KICKSTARTER!
Chicago By Night, an updated edition of White Wolf’s classic city book, will be Onyx Path Publishing’s first supplement for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition.
Right now, backers have been provided with most of the approved text of the book, and we're getting some amazing and positive feedback on the writing!
Later in December, we'll start the They Came From Beneath the Sea! Kickstarter. Come and check out a very new and different way to play the Storypath System!
November Scion Update!
about 1 month ago
– Thu, Nov 01, 2018 at 05:41:39 PM
Hello Scion Backers!
Greetings, true believers!
This is not Neall, who has ascended to demigod status and has lost his connection with The World. (Plus, he's feeling under the weather, and can't write our Update this month.)
I'm Eddy Webb, the in-house developer for Onyx Path Publishing, and the guy that has been trying to help Neall over the past several months get Scion out the door and help the next set of Scion projects move forward!
Here's a high-level view of the next wave of products!
Creatures of the World/Bestiary: Outline (we're refocusing it a bit after some internal discussion)
Ready-Made Characters: First Drafts
Jumpstart: First Drafts
WHAT'S NEXT FOR SCION?
Rich, Neall, and I had an in-depth talk last week about what we're doing next with Scion. Obviously Scion Demigod was front-and-center in that discussion, but we have a few more surprises coming. It's still very early days yet -- we're at the point of kicking around book ideas and seeing if we can make them work -- but just know that The World is a massive place, so there's a lot more Scion to come!
AND NOW OUR LATEST KICKSTARTER!
Chicago lies at the center of the web that is the American heartland. Tendrils of power, wealth, and reward stretch outward, ensnaring the selfish, greedy, and unwary.
Yet, Chicago attracts its predators, too.
There are creatures that would have the city for their own, spinning their own webs of malice and intrigue. But among the city’s towering skyscrapers and wind-swept streets, who is the spider and who is the fly?
Chicago By Night, an updated edition of White Wolf’s bestselling city book, will be Onyx Path Publishing’s first supplement for Vampire: The Masquerade 5th Edition.
In this hardcover supplement, you will find descriptions of most of the Kindred inhabitants of Chicago, complete with 5th Edition write ups; the secret history of Chicago with detailed maps and geographical details; relationship details and factions; and dozens of encounters organized by theme, which provide Storytellers a means to make the setting come alive for the players.
Scion Hero 2e Backer PDF Links Sent!
about 2 months ago
– Thu, Oct 18, 2018 at 11:34:10 PM
Hello Scion Backers!
I just finished sending out the BackerKit messages containing links for the Scion: Hero 2e backer PDF to all backers whose reward tier included them!
If you think you should have received a link message, but didn't, please first check to be sure the Reward Tier you pledged to contains a Scion: Hero 2e PDF. Then, please check your message threads from BackerKit, and your spam folders before messaging me, but if you do have problems, we'll figure it out. Note: other than this informational Update, the links for this are not coming from Kickstarter, but via BackerKit.
You should also check the Digital Downloads section of your BackerKit page for the links.
Likewise, if you get your link(s) but for some reason the download isn't working, please contact DTRPG customer service before contacting me as I have no ability to engage on that aspect of getting you your reward(s). Either way, we will figure out any problems so you get your files. No worries!
As we noted with the Scion Origin backer PDF, this is as final a version as it makes sense to have right now, knowing that there WILL be errata. It is unavoidable, even though we have worked on and honed the book over and over again. The Scion books have been a very complicated project to coordinate, and we appreciate anything you might find and want to let us know about in the errata thread.
We'll be gathering up comments for Neall for at least two weeks, and then after that he'll need to go through the lists and make any changes. Any tweaks we make to the PDF will be automatically updated and show up in your DTRPG library. All you'll need to do is re-download the PDF. This includes things like pg XXs, bookmarks, interactivity for the character sheet, etc. that we can't do until we're sure that things like the page locations won't change with the errata.
Once we get all the Scion Hero errata into the book, we'll get the files together so that we can send both books to press.
Thanks again for your patience as we worked really hard to make this an amazing Scion: Hero 2e PDF!
September Scion Update!
2 months ago
– Sat, Sep 29, 2018 at 04:46:25 PM
Hello Scion backers!
Greetings, true believers. I know everyone wants to hear about the Scion: Hero proof: and it’s about wrapped up, which is about all I can say. I know it’s frustrating, but we’re very nearly there, as you can see:
Other Scion projects are on their way to you, so I’m going to talk a little bit about them.
Scion Companion: Mysteries of the World
The Scion Companion’s first drafts are in, and developer Meghan Fitzgerald is busy redlining them. There was an unfortunate hiccup with authors having to drop from the book and new ones being hired, which actually is fairly normal for pretty much every RPG book you’ve ever read. It’s rare that doesn’t happen on a book, to be honest – sometimes writers need to step up to cover some gaps, sometimes developers need to write large sections themselves. We also often leave deliberate unassigned wordcount to grant to authors whose sections run over (and the Yazata and Atlanteans did, a little – and that’s okay, if we’ve got room). Right now I’m going to preview two Boons from one of the new Purviews and an antagonist of the Yazata meant to challenge an entire band of Heroes.
This is the Purview of tutelary Gods: deities that act as guardians or patrons of a sacred city or a chosen people. When you take this Purview, you must always choose a group or city that its benefits are focused on; in exchange, you receive a motif (Scion: Hero, p. XX) based on the chosen people or group.
Gods with the Covenant Purview include: Athena
Innate Power: Treat the attitude (Scion: Origins, p. XX) of members of your chosen people or inhabitants of your sacred city towards you as one step higher.
Your bond with your sacred city or chosen people lets you sense threats toward them. The Storyguide should inform you before such a threat manifests, ensuring you will have enough time to potentially intervene and prevent the threat. If you imbue one Legend in this boon, the Storyguide should give you a lead (Scion: Origins, p. XX) as to the nature of the threat — rampaging Titanspawn, police corruption, impending natural disasters, or the like. You have Enhancement 3 on rolls to track down or seek out the source of the threat. The lead goes cold if you reclaim your Legend.
Alternatively, the Storyguide may choose to provide you with plot hooks in the form of urban legends from your city or gossip among your people, granting Enhancement 3 to pursue these rumors.
You are always at home within your dominion. Residents of your sacred city or members of your chosen people treat their Attitude towards you as one degree higher than the innate power granted by this Purview (two degrees total). You can always find food and shelter in your city or among your people, and there is a 2-point Complication in the way of any efforts to find you if you wish to remain hidden or disturb your peace so long as you remain among them.
And here’s an antagonist from the Yazata:
Ažis: These dragons are universally evil, and the most dangerous minions of Angra Mainyu. Normally ažis opposes Scions, but they are willing to trade favors with those desperate enough to damn the consequences by asking for their aid.
There is no one standard form for ažis, they are as diverse as they are vicious. This aži is similar in form to the infamous three-headed dragon, Aži Dahāka.
Qualities: Apocalyptic Presence, Unstoppable
Flairs: Curse, Knockdown, Suck It Up
Primary Pool: 13 (Bite Attacks, Hunting Horses, Titanic Exhalation)
Secondary Pool: 11 (Curses, Devastating the Countryside, Ruling as a Tyrant) Desperation Pool: 7
Special Systems: This aži is composed of three Segments, each of three Health, plus an additional Health box, the rightmost. Each Segment represents a head, which has independent Initiative. If a Segment is destroyed by filling its three Health boxes, that Segment cannot act until it is fully healed.
Scion Ready-Made Characters
The stretch goal is being developed by Danielle Lauzon, the Trinity Continuum mechanical developer. It’s meant to have a section of ready-made characters to complement the ones in the Scion: Hero core book, new and old from Scion 1e:
Manitou: Rose Aishquaykezhick-White
Kami: Yukiko Kuromizu
Theoi: Donnie Rhodes
Orisha: Omolara Muhammad
Netjer: Horace Farrow
Shen: Colwyn “Little” Mao
Poor Sigrún didn’t quite make the cut (although she’s in the Scion: Hero core as an example of how to build a character). As an apology to her, here’s how her writeup would go, to give an example of how everyone else’s progresses:
Background: Carved from a living ash by Loki’s own hand, Sigrún spat her first breath back in his face, cursing Loki for giving her a masculine shape and fleeing from his sight. Taking her other parent’s name—the ash tree she once was—she ventured across Vanaheim, walking amongst the spirits of the land, the streams, the hills, and the lakes—these were, after all, her kin. From them, she learned how to hunt, how to survive, and how, slowly but surely, to remake herself in her own true image. When they counseled her to find fellowship with humanity, whom she so resembled, humanity saw a wild woman, and knew well not to trifle with her. They took her in, fed her, clothed her as humans are clothed. It was here that Sigrún learned that deep secrets may be wielded like knives, that the thin line between truth and lies is easily crossed—in other words, she learned what it means to be Loki’s daughter.
But nothing passes out of Loki’s sight for long, and in time he found her. He wore a false face to approach her, to entangle her in a game of rhyme and meter that lasted well until the mortals had drifted off to sleep. Only then did he reveal himself to his daughter, a calculated ploy that seemed to blow up in his face as Sigrún fled once more, this time to Midgard, descending the World Ash until one of its roots became an ash grove in Bethesda, Maryland. Here, she hoped, she could avoid his unwanted interference, here that she grudgingly supplanted alchemical elixirs mixed into her wine for the products of mortal pharmacology. By now an accomplished mystic despite her young age, she practices seidr divination to guide her journey, ever hoping to uncover some secret that she can wield against her father. She hopes for nothing less than to find a means to undo Loki’s mistake, and to server the bond between them forevermore.
Description: Though she was carved to be a Viking Adonis, Sigrún looks quite feminine now, if the sort of feminine that is usually accompanied by freeweights, bruised knuckles, and harsh diets. She is tall and rangy, with long fingers that are much stronger than they look. Sigrún lets her ash-blonde hair run free, and it falls halfway down her back. She favors hoods, which shadow her piercing blue eyes that, more often than not, stare without reservation. She wears clothing that is durable and easy to move around in, though she favors the lambskin and fur she wore before she came to Earth, when she can wear it without attracting undue attention — or when the hot summers of the East Coast make it more trouble than it’s worth.
The Jumpstart, developed by Monica Speca, is in first drafts right now. As I stated in previous monthly updates, the goals of a Jumpstart are threefold:
- Provide an overview of Storypath and Scion’s rule system.
- Guide players through using that system to support the setting and play style of Scion, with special attention paid to Storypath’s Three Areas of Action.
- Show the format of a basic Scion session arc.
It’s a mystery, so I won’t speak too much about it for fear of spoiling players! But, I can share the theme and the mood.
Theme: A mystery with many players
Who would want Bai Amari dead? Turns out, a lot of people, including a number of the PC pantheons. The main thing carrying through this adventure should be how fractitious and
cutthroat the divine community really is - dozens of pantheons and mythologies crashing into one another on a secret level, occasionally with some violence. The players shouldn’t be sure if any of their character’s myth-narrative threads are influencing the murder, or if none of them are.
Mood: Shadows cast by
Play up the secrecy and the paranoia a bit. Make it clear to the players that the divine don’t tell them everything, or even tell them the right things or the truthful things. Scions are ultimately pawns - valued ones, treasured children, but agents to be sacrificed rather than rivals to be feared. Bai was approaching the cusp of being a rival as a Demigod - was this why she was killed, and are the Scions being tasked with a due diligence investigation in order to cover the tracks of their own pantheon?
Finally, we come to the Scion Bestiary, where I’ll share a bit of my thought process behind it. Originally, I wanted Paths to be a lot more expansive than they are: huge selections full of Birthrights, individual powers purchaseable by Scions, and mythological threads that you could potentially buy into. This was a little too complex and unmanageable for the Scion: Hero book, and definitely for Scion: Origin, so we ended up paring down Paths into the sleek forms you see in those texts.
But I never really gave up on the idea. In order to expand Origin-level play and make Denizens (read: people descended from Creatures of Legend) more robust and competitive going into Hero- and Demigod-level play. Scion Bestiary is going to be where we preview an expanded Paths system that deals with how we’re addressing Fate in Scion: Demigod – the greater your power and the more treasure you accumulate from your adventures, the more narrative threads from myth are attached to your Legend – and the more bound by them you become. As Denizens become more bestial and embrace their Legendary sides, they find their destinies channeling along inhuman lines, as Fate forces them into the role they’ve embraced. This is never about forcing your character to be played a certain way, however – if you’re a kitsune, you don’t have to bedevil the proud and lead travelers astray for mischief, but you do if you’ve chosen to grow your power by accepting that Fatebinding. This is similar to the way we’re going to have large pantheon links for Fatebinding in Scion: Demigod, and why the Gods themselves fear being forced into certain roles. Sometimes mortals have it easy.
That’s it! Until next time,
Scion September Update - Fiction and Origin Errata
3 months ago
– Fri, Sep 07, 2018 at 11:06:54 PM
Hello, true believers! As I speak, the last of the errata'd Origin is winging over to Mike Chaney, our art director, for final integration into the PDF, which means the next step is open sales and print proofs and all of that good business. I'm pretty sure I got all of the errata, so thanks to all who participated in our errata threads.
Hero has arrived for a second PDF proof in the place of Origin, however, and work continues, but there are some really gorgeous pictures in here.
I wish this update were something more substantial than "things are progressing and Hero is coming along rapidly", but that's about the size of it - the balls are in the air and I'm waiting for them to land. So, here's a piece of Scion fiction to tide you over. Next time I'll talk about the drafts of the Scion Companion coming in and share news about the other Scion Kickstarter stretch goal projects (and there will be some big news about that).
A cloud-darkened sky is only featureless to those who don’t really look. The careful and discerning eye perceives a thousand folds within the gathering storm. One can take any number of lessons from the sky beyond simple observation and appreciation, comparing the overlapping clouds to a well-made sword. Lessons of a storm’s strength born from careful refinement of air and water, or of a land’s parched patience rewarded with rain. But those were lessons Yukiko Kuromizu had long since learned, so she put the thought out of her mind in the split second before she slammed back-first into the cold waters of San Pedro Bay.
“Kuso,” she whispered beneath the waves, the bubbles from her muttered curse floating upwards. Yukiko imagined she could hear the fire giant’s roar beyond the waves. He was probably brandishing that lead pipe still, leaving a trail of burnt wood and dripping molten metal on the docks as he stalked and bellowed about the sons of Muspel. She had assumed it was too heavy to strike with any sort of speed. Her crushed ribs and the aching warmth spreading in her chest were the fruits of that assumption.
Yukiko rolled — or perhaps drifted — to face the blackness below. The blood was flowing freely from her mouth. She heard the sharp rapport of gunfire above and behind her, muffled through the water. Donnie Rhodes battling against her assailant, but that was another thought she needed to put out of her mind.
Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, the Grass-Cutting Sword, slipped out of her grasp and plunged toward the ocean floor. She did not have the strength to catch it; instead, she watched it slicing easily through the ocean water. It had been lost at sea before, but they were a very long way from Japan. She imagined it turning along the ocean floor over the course of long months and years, far from Amaterasu-ōmikami’s light. She imagined it washing ashore, not in Yokosuka where the waters were cold and the coarse beach crunched beneath your feet, but in Okinawa, where the sand was white and soft. She imagined the Shintō priests wrapping it in silks and lifting it gingerly from the surf. She imagined it being presented to the emperor upon his ascension. Yukiko imagined the sword being privately mentioned to her mother.
“Sansei,” the children outside the base called her. Three generations from Japan, though her mother was native to Okinawa. Her father was born in America, nisei, and had worn the naval uniform of his homeland. She didn’t know how her parents met, and had never truly asked. Yukiko’s father had been a man who didn’t care that an unmarried woman had been driven out of her village by her traditionalist family, or even that she carried the child of another man who’d loved her for a week and left forever. He only knew that the too-proud hostess he met at Navy Restaurant Yokosuka was the most wonderful woman he’d ever met, and he wanted to be the light in her life. Yukiko’s earliest memories of her father were of a handsome man smiling and kissing her mother, of him bouncing her happily on his knee and promising brothers and sisters.
Her father was in their family home still, sitting on the mantle, lacquered chopsticks within an empty funeral urn to commemorate a man lost at sea. The pension was little comfort. Yukiko’s childhood was a series of silent weekend afternoons and Japanese language lessons on weekday nights, of sorrowful silences at the dinner table. Her mother carried the grief of two lost loves like a sack of rice on her shoulders, and she stooped under the weight.
The children off-base were the worst. They were free to indulge in the customs of America, eating hamburgers and curry while she ate pickled vegetables and slivers of grilled fish. They were free to laugh and giggle with one another, but she was met with chilly silences and laughter that was cruel, not kind. Yukiko’s mother never noticed when she came home with bruises or muddied clothes or torn schoolbooks. The older woman went to work, came home, cooked dinner, and ensured her daughter was attending Japanese lessons. Then she would retire to bed, and Yukiko would be left with household chores. When Yukiko’s mother smiled, it was for American sailors, and it never reached her eyes.
One day, Yukiko noticed she’d grown taller than her mother. That day, she summoned her courage, and spoke long-hidden feelings aloud.
“Mother, I am sorry.” Once she started, she could not stop. “I am sorry I remind you of what you lost. I am sorry I am a failure at school. I am sorry I am too much like my father with too little Japanese in me.” That was a phrase from the girls at school, and it must have hurt her mother as much as it hurt Yukiko, for she had never seen the older woman’s jaw drop quite so. Even so, she had to finish. “I am sorry,” she choked, “That I cannot be a daughter you are proud of.”
Silence. After an eternity, her mother spoke. “Yuki-chan,” she said, cupping her daughter’s face with a gentle hand, but only for a moment. She reached over, flicked on the stove, and moved the kettle on to boil. “Never apologize for what the world does to you. Only apologize for what you fail to give back.”
“Mother?” Yukiko had never her speak about anything other than base practicalities. “What do you mean?” she asked.
Her mother took a deep breath as the steam began to spout, and poured warm water on a cloth. Yukiko felt the heat of the cloth as her mother gingerly wiped her daughter’s face, felt the gentle strength in her hand as she stilled Yukiko’s attempt to shy away from cloth and cleanliness. The older woman rubbed water over her hands, then returned the kettle to the stove.
“I mean that our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, disturb the world around us.” Something had changed in her mother’s voice as the woman gestured around the room. “You know this, right? Shintō? Kids talk about it, you learn it in school, right?”
She did not. Most kids didn’t talk to her, and if they did, they didn’t talk about Shintō. “Is this about the Buddha?” she asked. She knew about the Buddha, definitely.
“The Budd—” her mother started, and Yukiko shrank back from the sudden note of strength in her mother’s voice. Her mother opened her hands and sank to her knees, lowering her voice and steeling her tone. Not with anger, Yukiko realized, but with pride. “No, this isn’t about the Buddha, though he is important. This is about the world, and everything in it, and you and you in it.”
The kettle began to whistle. Her mother took it from the stove and poured two cups, whisking in some powder. The scent of matcha filled the air.
“This is the true way, Yuki-chan,” her mother began, seating herself next to her but staring at something out the window Yukiko couldn’t see. “Everything we do affects everything around us. To live only for one’s self is to twist that. You must live for others, and for the world. You must keep your eyes open, observe all around you.”
She paused for a moment. “My mother told me this story, once: When the son of the Emperor took up the blade Kusanagi, taken by the God Susano-O from the tail of a great serpent, he found himself fighting a great warlord. The warlord’s men set an entire field of grass aflame to entrap him, but the prince did not charge in heedlessly. He stood back and watched the fire crawl along the field, then sliced every blade of grass off before it could catch fire. He swept the blade—” and here her mother stood and made great sweeping gestures so unlike her, much to her daughter’s delight, “—to throw the flaming grass back at the warlord. He watched the world and saw it, rather than forcing himself upon it. You understand, right? He saw the kami.”
“What is a kami?”
“The kami are in everything and within everything. They are in the air, in the sword, in the fire, in the grass,” her mother said. There was strength in her voice. “They float between everything and they are in harmony, unless we disturb them. We cannot rule them, daughter, we can only see them and move between them.”
Her mother looked at her, truly looked at her, and stood. Yukiko realized she wasn’t taller than her mother after all. “You cannot force the girls at school to be kind to you, just as I cannot force your father to come home, and we cannot force the world into what we want it to be. We can only see it and move within it, until we are where we need to be, not where we should be.”
Yukiko thought back to this moment often over the years. She thought back to it when she learned to watch the other children, to learn their cliques and their fears and their anger, and how to avoid it or redirect it. And again when a professor at Kyodai took the same umbrage at her heritage that ignorant schoolchildren had. She thought back to it when she was grown, when she rode across Japan on a domestic motorcycle until she came to an Okinawan beach, and a smiling surfer with a giant board across his shoulders walked along the surface of the water to tell her a story of how he seduced her mother. She thought back to it when that great kami shrank back in surprise from the fury her mother had given her, and asked her what gift he could give his daughter and a princess of Heaven as her birthright in recompense for a life of neglect. She thought back to it now, dying in some foreign ocean.
“See the world as it is, not as you want it to be. Look upon the kami with your own eyes. Now! Taste your tea and savor it for what it is.”
Yukiko sipped her tea and pursed her lips at the taste. It wasn’t very good at all. Her mother tapped her hand with something — a small packet of honey from the Naval commissary. Then the older woman smiled with her eyes for the first time in her daughter’s memory. “Sometimes the world really needs a bit of adjusting,” she admitted. “Sometimes we all do. I love you, Yukiko. And I am proud of you.”
Yukiko opened her eyes to the kami within the depths and saw only her own face.
The blood in the water, her blood, shimmered bright gold in the span of her heart’s beat. With a gesture she was one with the sea, and it raised her as easily as lifting her own hand. The surface of the water shattered as she rose, a pillar of might, higher than the giant and higher than the docks and higher than everything. Deeper, too, as she felt her sea touch the garbage-scattered ocean floor to find an imperial treasure. Kusanagi leaped upwards, breaking through the waterspout to rest in her hand. She saw the towers of the city of angels in the distance, shining white and brilliant as dragons made of lightning crawled across the sky, rising from the sprawl across the valley extending out to the mountains of The World.
Donnie whirled through the air, the great golden wings on his back beating furiously, the invention of someone named Daedalus. His twin pistols did nothing more than irritate the giant, and Yukiko thought she heard Eric Donner’s name in the Greek Scion’s shouted curses. Lambasting the other man for not dealing with his own monsters, she imagined.
No matter. Donnie knew, even if he pretended not to: The World was their duty.
The giant had set an entire section of the pier ablaze, a great black cloud crawling up through the sky. In truth, he wasn’t all that tall, maybe eight or nine feet, but he carved a swath of fire and destruction. He waved and gestured at Donnie, not seeing the column of water until it slammed into his head.
The fire incited the water to a riot of steam. It rolled, thick and heavy and white, across the cold ocean and the docks. Yukiko whirled Kusanagi above her head and felt the ancient magic respond, snuffing out the smoking embers all around and fanning the steam, flames, and sand from the sea’s floor into a column around the giant, thick and heavy. She flicked the sword up, touching a single pure white finger to the sky. The giant hovered a few feet off the docks, a massive shadow within.
Donnie landed beside her. “That’s not going to hold him!” he shouted over the boom of distant thunder and the twin roar of giant and whirlwind.
“It doesn’t have to!” Yukiko shouted back. “It’s just got to exist.”
“What?” Donnie asked. “What does that—”
Everything went white, the static setting Yukiko’s hair on end, the noise deafening her. The reek of ozone filled the air, and Yukiko let the magic lapse, lest another lightning bolt come screaming down from the sky. The giant was still smoking, but he was lying face down in scattered specks of lightning-forged glass.
Donnie said something, then smacked his ear. Yukiko shook her head. He smiled instead, and the sun, her aunt, broke through the storm clouds.
She was her mother’s daughter, and it would be a good day.