Felicity arrived at Sapphire Tryst's mansion, his mind still swirling with newfound enlightenment lost for millenia. Realizing that the boat had stopped, he departed and firmly focused his attention back to the matter at hand. He approached the Bastion of Vivid Sensation, where the older Serenity Caste lived. As it lay directly in front of a fountain, Felicity was forced to skirt around various lesser divinities who were procuring their portion of quintessence.
Before he arrived at the door, a great Celestial Lion landed before Felciity, cracking the roughly hewn stone pavement. Rising to his full height, the golden god glowered at the gods who were rudely spectating his business.
"Moumkai!" shouted Felicity, and embraced the Celestial Lion who had looked after the young Sidereal and helped raise him into manhood. The Heavenly protector had initially been assigned for the yount Sidereal's defense against his angry superiors, but had grown fond of the boy.
"Felicity," said the Celestial Lion affectionately, purring softly.
"Wish me good fortune, for I am leaving Heaven today," Felicity said excitedly.
"I just heard from the wardens of Gate 54 that you were expected to depart. Were you going to tell me at some point?"
"I'm sorry, but I just heard yesterday, and everything's been a blur since then."
"Understandable," said Moumkai briefly, the matter settled. "So, good fortune to you, not that you can't create it on your own. Just remember to watch your back and keep your chin up. It deters criminals."
The massive lion lifted his mighty, muscled jowls to demonstrate. Nearby gods shifted nervously away.
"I'll try, Moumkai, but I think you do it better than me," Felicity tried to explain.
"Then keep practicing!" the lion said imperiously.
"Of course, Sifu," said the young man.
"Oh no, no. That won't do. I can't be your Sifu anymore, now that you've come into your own. You really need to find a Sidereal to complete your training in the Cerulean Lute of Harmony Style. My knowledge is theoretical, only."
"Nonetheless, you've been a fine teacher. I'm not sure who would take up that burden, however..." Felicity glanced up at the mansion of a fellow Serenity Caste. He realized that he had thus far been inclined not to ask for favors from his fellows, and did not truly know what kind of reception a request for training would receive.
"If someone says no, tell them to talk to me," said Moumkai, growling and darting his penetrating gaze about for anyone who would dare hinder his young charge.
"I'll do that, Moumkai. Thank you for coming to see me, but I'm already very late in meeting Sapphire Tryst."
"Then I'll delay you no longer!" boomed the lion. "You are an important Sidereal, now, with concerns greater than a Guardian of Heaven. Be off with you, and walk in the light of the Unconquered Sun!"
"And may Venus give you comfort in your duties, big brother," Felicity said fondly to his overzealous guardian.
With a heroic nod and a mighty leap, the Celestial Lion soared high in the air and quickly out of view behind a building three blocks away. Shaking his head with amusement and happiness, Felicity walked up to Sapphire Tryst's mansion and knocked on the door.
Instantly, it opened to reveal a waxy-faced servant who bade the young man enter. He indicated that the master was not yet presentable but that Felicity might wait to be attended upon. Over the next hour and a half, Felicity drank half a glass of wine that was refilled by a servant every time he took a sip. He flipped through a book of anecdotes concerning drug-induced visions that the writer deemed prophetic (possibly Sapphire Tryst, himself). Another servant was constantly attentive should Felicity require a different book, or desire a game or some other distraction. A concubine offered a "quickie" while Felicity waited, which he politely declined. He was forced to decline a second time when she turned into a he. Yet another servant persistently replaced a pillow in the stack that Felicity reclined upon each time he shifted position.
At last, the pale-skinned, red-haired Serenity Caste entered the parlor where Felicity had been waiting. The older Sidereal staggered only slightly with intoxication.
"You're early!" said the man, giving the impression of being offended.
"Hardly, I arrived an hour late. Traffic, you know," said Felicity, suppressing a smile.
"We agreed on three hours past noon!" Sapphire Tryst insisted.
"You told me to show up at noon," argued Felicity.
"Now, why would I ask you to show up while I was still busy entertaining other guests? That makes no sense!" replied Sapphire Tryst reasonably. At that moment, six goddesses, presumably the 'guests', walked past the parlor and out of the mansion, waving coyly at Sapphire Tryst. He turned and blew them each a kiss, in turn.
"I believe you are mistaken," said Felicity, patiently.
"Well, no matter. I see you are resolved to feel correct in the matter. Have it your way," he said with an air of great self-sacrifice.
"Now, then! Are you ready to leave Heaven for a few weeks? Please don't tell me I have to wait on you while you pack everything you forgot to take!"
Felicity glanced down at his own layered clothing, filled wine bag, pack of Heavenly rations, and satchel of various outdoor necessities. He then glanced at Sapphire Tryst's bed-rumpled clothing, absence of gear, and a most noticeable lack of footwear.
"You don't have to wait for me," Felicity dutifully replied.
"Excellent!" said Sapphire Tryst theatrically. He snapped a finger and in under 10 seconds, a bevy of hurried servants undressed, washed, redressed, and packed the older Serenity Caste ready for the trip.
"Let's head off, then," and the two Serenity Castes exited the mansion and boarded an Aerial Rickshaw.
They reached Gate 54 less than an hour and were ushered past the Celestial Lions without comment. One of them winked at Felicity and gave him an encouraging gesture. Presumably, she was a friend of Moumkai's. Felicity smiled his thanks. Noticing the exchange, Sapphire Tryst waggled an eyebrow at Felicity conspiratorially, suggesting he would remain quiet about Felicity's 'secret love affair'. Felicity just sighed and bore the intimation.
Halfway down the long walk along the hallway that led to the other side of the Gate, Sapphire Tryst stopped suddenly. "I just realized that you're completely naked!" he cried in despair.
Felicity once again glanced down at his adequately covered body.
"No, no, no. Like this," and Sapphire Tryst assumed the destiny of a weary traveler who was on the last leg of the long journey home. It was a Resplendent Destiny.
Felicity mentally chided himself for forgetting that detail, but gave no outward sign.
"Well?" said Sapphire Tryst.
"I apologize, Sifu--"
"I'm not your teacher, call my Tryst."
"I apologize, Tryst, but I wanted to be certain that our destinies were alike enough to explain our association with one another on the boat."
"Oh, good thinking!" said the older Sidereal enthusiastically. "I recommend that you take the destiny of my lover so that we can encourage other passengers to join us in several rousing escapades," he grinned.
Felicity sighed long-sufferingly, and thought a brief moment. He decided to place his destiny in the Constellation of the Ship's Wheel and become a foolish child witlessly following his father (Sapphire Tryst's destiny). With a deft hand, he withdrew a blank prayer strip, a pen, and a jar of yellow stardust. Handing the jar to Sapphire Tryst, he dipped it, wrote the prayer, and then bundled back up his supplies. He glanced the paper over, then silently prayed to the pattern spiders, who instantly granted his prayer but with little enthusiasm for the role. They would provide very few Resplendent Effects, but Felicity had little use for the powers of that constellation.
"Well done, son," said the travel-worn man. Father and son proceeded through Gate 54.
The journey was blissfully uneventful. Felicity spent much of it carefully monitoring his health. He had lived for ten years in the pure environment of Heaven. Even with his Exalted resilience, he was exposed to disease, foul air, and environmental dangers for the first time in a long time. Drinking wine and eating food assembled from the divine stuff of prayers helped him adjust to Creation. By comparison, mortal food just tasted bland when he started integrating it into his diet. Felicity doubted he would ever completely adapt to the banality of living in Creation after living in Heaven and working at the Cerulean Lute of Harmony.
The week's voyage provided him ample opportunity to construct an elaborate destiny for use in interacting with the people of Yane. Drawing upon an old legend his real father used to tell him, Felicity created the Jade Bard, a famous musician and storyteller who could travel in every level of society. The destiny included the goal of spending time in Yane to learn the local flavors of music, dance, and women. He planned the fate, read the stars for the fictional personae, and prayed for most of a day so that when the pattern spiders granted his Resplendent Destiny, they could provide him with some clout. He could use the auspices of the constellation of The Musician to assist in throwing parties, if such was a need Felicity would have. The design took time, but Felicity was ultimately quite happy with the destiny.
Sapphire Tryst, for his part, spent the entire voyage drinking to sickness, followed by emptying his guts overboard and into the sea.
When they arrived in Yane at the week's end, Felicity and Sapphire Tryst had barely spoken, but it was appropriate for their assumed destinies. They abandoned the roles before disembarking the ship, so as to escape docking fees and inspection by Varangian customs. After all, Felicity carried his Keeper of Splendid Hopes swaddled in cloth, which would certainly raise eyebrows as to why a kid owned a priceless daiklave.
Sapphire Tryst forestalled conversation until they were sitting in the back room of an inn, The Lithe Willow, contentedly eating mortal foods of substance and nutrition. The older Sidereal seemed unhindered by his excesses aboard the boat that had brought them to Yane.
"Do I ever get to know your plan for dealing with this slave revolt?" Felicity asked politely.
"Plan? I have no plan," the man replied with some confusion.
Felicity opened his mouth to recommend that they begin to be more diligent in their task, but was cut off.
"Okay, kid, here's what's going to happen. First, I need you to understand that I've been working my ass off for the Division without rest for three solid years. Three. Years."
Felicity nodded concilatorily, but privately thought that the older Serenity Caste had a somewhat skewed view of what 'work' constituted.
"I am long overdue for a break. Seriously. That's where you come in. I want you to run this mission."
"Run it? You mean... I'm in charge?"
"Exactly. You already know everything I do. I assume you briefed yourself on the region before we left?"
"I did, but many of our records are slightly outdated."
"That's okay, sometimes we have to think on our feet in the field. Look, I know you've had all the requisite training. I checked up on you months ago. I like you, kid. You've got your own style. That'll probably change when you start becoming interested in women."
Felicity blinked his surprise.
"Oh, I'm sorry, interested in men. I don't judge."
Felicity opened his mouth to protest and correct the misunderstanding, but Sapphire Tryst continued.
"So, you have the knowledge. You have the skills. Take care of it."
"Really?" Felicity asked, beginning to feel excited. He was really, actually going to be all on his own.
"Really. The less you interrupt me, the happier I'll be. If you absolutely need me, I will be found in this inn most of the time. Especially during the daytime. I'm not completely negligent here, kid. I'll check up on you here and there, and if you need backup I'm totally here for you. I doubt that'll happen, though. I'm confident that you'll find a way to take care of things."
Felicity began to wrestle with the big questions of the mission.
"We're here to handle the slave revolt."
"Close, we're here to get the Serenity Numbers up. Do whatever it takes to get that done."
Felicity considered a moment, then asked, "Any suggestions from the expert?"
"Me? I'd recommend drugs."
"What!?" Felicity exclaimed.
"Drugs. Find something to take the fight out of the slaves. Hell, find something that'll take the meanness out of the owners. I don't care. But drugs are always a sure-fire way to get people a bit happier," and Sapphire Tryst smiled to himself at that, expectantly.
"You'll forgive me if I start with trying to find an alternative to that."
"Sure, have it your way. I'm just saying that drugs are so much easier. Especially the right kind of drugs," Sapphire Tryst was grinning. He seemed to be getting more and more eager. "Plus, it's a boost to the local economy and for manufacturers. A boon all around."
Felicity was getting more and more creeped out by the person who was supposed to be in charge of this mission. "So, let me get this straight."
"You want me to take over."
"I have complete and utter freedom and lattitude in how I try to do things."
"You're going to check up on me, but you're not going to interfere unless I ask you to."
"By the maidens, I hope you won't come to me."
"So, I'm going to be basically unsupervised in my first time in Creation pretty much since I Exalted."
"And you don't have a problem with any of this."
At last, Sapphire Tryst seemed to genuinely pause for longer than two seconds. He carefully replied, "I guess I don't know you, kid. But I have it on very good authority that you're the right man for this job. And more importantly, I'm the right man for a different job than the one we've been assigned."
"Who suggested me?" asked Felicity, curious and remembering something Instillness Asmile said.
"I'm just not going to say," Sapphire Tryst said with an easy charm, and good humor. It was an affable refusal.
"Well, I guess I better get to it, then," said Felicity, feeling more and more excited to test himself and to try to do good in the world.
"That's the spirit! There's a good man! Remember, I'm here if you need me. If anything goes seriously wrong, I'll take the blame. So, you're working with a net this time, kid. If there's any credit to be had, though, we'll have to share it, I'm afraid."
Felicity didn't care about that, however. "Just out of curiosity, what will you be doing during all this?"
"Having the most debauched sex and enjoying the most illegal and addictive chemicals known to Creation," said Sapphire Tryst.
Felicity knew that Sapphire Tryst was lying, at least for the most part. He did not press the older Serenity Caste further. Felicity knew that if there was one group that could hide their true intentions from him, it was his fellows. He shrugged and smiled, "Then, I hope you enjoy yourself."
"You too, kid! May Venus bless you with joy. Oh, and feel free to take your time and enjoy all the carnal delights of this city. The slave revolt doesn't happen for six months, so you've got plenty of wriggle room. Actually, the longer you take, the more fun I get to have. If that helps you at all," and Sapphire Tryst smiled and rose from his seat. He tossed a bag on the table and left the back room of the inn. Opening the bag, Felicity found it filled with saleable gems and jewels sufficient to purchase almost any mansion in the city. It was more than adequate for most any purpose for quite some time.
Felicity, completely on his own in Creation for the first time, was distracted momentarily by unlimited possibilities. He thought of visiting the family that he loved and missed and had not seen in ten years, of escaping the Bureau of Fate forever, or of trying to accomplish any number of other tasks...
... but he remembered that the Djalan people were suffering. He cared deeply about their pain, and knew that he had the power to do something. People with that kind of power ought to do something with it.
Having quickly decided to pursue the mission as planned, Felicity rose and donned the destiny of the Jade Bard. He left the inn, knowing exactly what his purpose was. He was here to promote Serenity. To do that, he would free the Djalan people. He knew that he was beginning a story that could possibly shape the destiny of a nation, and was untroubled by its ambitiousness. After all, he recalled from his vision in the Loom of Fate that, once written, a story takes a life of its own from the characters involved, who can't help but follow its plot. And he now knew what story this was:
This Is A Story About Freedom