The Mists of Paoru
An Elder's Advice
25th Day of the Dragon, Year of Heavenly Metal, 3450
The Office of the Chancellory of Chenmo can be found on the 80th Floor of the Silent Keep. The entire level is devoted to the chancellor and their three secretaries. Above this level is the living quarters, personal observatory and laboratory of the chancellor.
The office is large and beautifully decorated, with personal touches of each chancellor taking over from the last. The floors are polished green stone, smooth and mirror like covered in richly woven carpets from all over Eoda. The wooden beams supporting the ceiling and encasing the windows show great age and care with a deep, rich black polish.
The level can only be reached by secured stairwell accessed from the hallway leading away from the master stairs that spiral up the centre of the great structure. the stairs to the chancellor’s office are always guarded. After that, they open into a smaller chamber where the three secretaries sit at their desks finishing their daily work. Each devoted to different function of the chancellor’s office: one for the political function of a provincial chancellor, one for the governance of the magical student body and one to be the steward of the keep and village. Their desks are simple dark wood matched to the chancellor’s desk only smaller.
On this day, the windows of the office were open allowing in the slightly warm wind coming in from the north and the wylds. A stack of paper that had been on the corner of the desk has been blown all over with the few remaining pieces held down by a quartz frog. Chancellor Tao Duan was sitting comfortably in his large chair enjoying the breeze and not really caring about the reports that were on the floor and a few in the fireplace. He had finally made himself comfortable with 4 cushions from the sofa and he wasn’t going to move until he absolutely had to. He wasn’t a young man any more and it showed in the amount of time it took for him to get from his quarters to his office in the mornings. Today it was his right hip, the one he broke 30 or so years ago riding a horse during a parade. He couldn’t remember why he had to ride a horse anymore and it was a damned foolish thing to do. He was laid up for almost 3 months waiting for it to heal. Can you imagine leading the Silver Council laying on your side in a litter?
A knock at the door interrupted his reverie and slight dozing and with a great amount of effort, he unclenched his will from the teleport spell he was about to let go. He sighed and waved his hand and the door opened, revealing a nervous looking secretary standing there with an apologetic look on his face. Which one was he again, Fu or Win, no Win left two years before, or was it three?
The secretary remained standing in the door accustomed to seeing the faraway look in the chancellor’s eyes that told him he was lost in thought. After a few minutes, he gently coughed into the sleeve of his embroidered coat gaining the attention of the old man once again.
“What do you want, Fu?” he said irritably, waving the young man in.
“I am so very sorry to interrupt you during your afternoon na…contemplation but you have a visitor who wishes to see you.” the young man was visibly nervous and overly distraught as he spoke with a tremble in his voice.
“Does this visitor have an appointment to see me, or are you allowing anyone with a face in these days?” his tone was disapproving but he wasn’t really irritated; he rarely received visitors any more not since it became general knowledge that he was becoming forgetful. The other councillors had a tendency to write him off any more, not that he really minded, gave him a chance to sleep more.
“I’m sorry your eminence but it is the Archive.” the last word almost coming out as a squeak.
“The Archive has sent a messenger from the Deeps? Well send them in, already.”
“No, I mean, I’m sorry your eminence but it is the Archive..in person”, a gust of wind could have blown the man down.
“What?!”, the words coming out as he jumped to his feet sending a shooting pain down his right leg and knocking over the remaining papers on the desk. The frog hit his foot and he yelped a little, “In person…send him in”.
The young man looked relieved as he turned and addressed someone outside the door. He stood aside as what can only be described as a walking pile of old clothing waddled into the room. It stood about 5’ tall and as it entered the light, hands firmly gripping the staff it was using to assist it’s gait became visible. the skin almost translucent in it’s age and gnarled as it gripped the staff tightly. It’s robes were multi-layered and mutely coloured, though whether it was from design or age as well is anyone’s guess. Behind it came a mountain of a man, an Eo dressed in a simple white kirtle and monk’s foot wrappings. While the pile of laundry teetered forward to the chair at the desk, the Eo looked concerned and ready to catch it if it fell but visibly straining to look nonchalant.
the chancellor came around the desk, limping and was about assist the Archive when a voice that was more ringing tenor than bass came from it.
“Leave me be, Tao, and sit down before you break another hip”
A faintly hurt expression came over the chancellor’s face as he stopped but obediently returned to his chair and sat down. The Archive stood at the edge of the chair, seemingly dwarfed by it’s height and looked left and right as it unceremoniously jumped backwards into it and promptly slid down before righting itself. As it sat, adjusting it’s clothes and pulling some of it’s collar back, her face became visible. the skin just as translucent as her hand and nary a hair to be seen. Her cheeks were sunken per normal for anyone without teeth and her left eye was completely white while her right was rheumy and tearing up. She drily smacked her lips together as she settled and grinned humorously at Duan as he settled himself back against the cushions, letting out a sigh of relief the pain subsided.
“you didn’t really have to ride that horse, you know. A customary litter would have been more than sufficient.”, she said with great glee as her one good eye winked at him.
He just looked at her in consternation but let the remark pass without comment.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? I was told it wasn’t customary for you to leave the Deeps, let alone trek all the way up here to see me. I could have easily come to you.”
“I was out anyway, with Hun here doing my afternoon stroll as I do every afternoon. The stairs aren’t really that much of an effort but my robes kept tripping me up.” the Eo behind her visibly strained to keep a straight face as she spoke.
The chancellor merely nodded his head, unsure of what to say. He was pretty sure that the Archive had never visited the office before, not in his lifetime at least and there was never any mention of a visit in any of his predecessor’s journals.
“You shouldn’t concern yourself with the actions of those who came before you or their experiences, nothing but liars, cheats and scoundrels the lot of them”, and she spat on the carpet as he winced.
“Do you have any of the white flower tea? The uh…5th Heaven Tea..?
He just stared at her for a moment before answering carefully, “Your grace, that tea died out nearly a century ago when that blight of dark beetles came in from the rosewylds. Our herb houses couldn’t even find any seeds after they had been ransacked.”
“Oh that’s too bad, it was my favourite”, she said as she stared out the nearest window to the horizon.
“Uh..Archive, why are you here?”
She merely stared out the window for a few minutes before turning her gaze upon him.
“Have you chosen the nominees for your chair, yet?”
“The..uh..nominees for my chair”, he asked with confusion.
“Yes, the nominees that will be voted upon by the Court of Enigmas, to replace you when you are dead.”
“I wasn’t aware I was going to die soon, but I do have three candidates for the position that I’ve been contemplating.”
“Your choices need to be made before the end of the year and may I make a humble suggestion to your list of contenders?”
“Certainly, any one you would recommend must be placed at the top of the list for consideration.”
“He doesn’t necessarily need to be at the top of the list, just on it. He will take care of the rest. His name is Xi-Wang Fan, a minor onmyoji with some skill at the primal arts and very promising.”
“Um, Fan, he was banned from the keep for accidentally making a primal catastrophe in the middle labs. I don’t think he would be a good choice, he doesn’t have the experience necessary for the other councillors to consider him at all and…”, his speech died as he saw the direct look the Archive was giving him. “I, of course, will put him on the list.”
“Good, make an old woman happy will you and help me off this chair. I seem to stuck to the back.”
The meeting was over before he knew it as he walked with her to the door and bid her good day. It was only after as he sat back in his chair that a shiver walked its way down his spine. The way she was talking, he would be dead by next year. The Archive had never become involved in council politics before. What would the oldest and most powerful magi want with a ne’er-do-well like Fan?
The Archive unsteadily walked down the stairs to the next level and stopped to rest as she looked over the railing down the central well of the staircase. As she stood there, her spine straightened adding another 5 inches to her height as she began to walk down the stairs briskly followed by her guardian, Hun. No one seemed in the slightest bit interested in her as she descended the stairs quickly, her robes flying behind her. At the bottom, she made her way through the Grand Hall passed the dining chambers and to a little used service hallway that led to the Deeps, the basement libraries of Chenmo.
She paused at the large door that opened onto the Deeps as she fumbled for a key to open it with. As she drew it out and jammed it into the door, she stopped and drooped a little as she sighed.
“my friend, I am getting far too old for this world now. I had forgotten about the heaven tea being destroyed.”
Hun said nothing but laid his hand upon her shoulder comfortingly. She smiled as the seeming of age lifted from her face revealing the ethereal beauty there. Her skin unmarked from time, she appeared as a young girl.
She opened the door and continued her flight to the Deeps. There beyond the stacks of books, scrolls and other arcane paraphernalia she stopped at a blank wall between two shelves as she closed her eyes then stepped through followed by Hun.
The chamber beyond was a living quarters with a great fireplace set in the center of the floor. The walls were covered in tomes of all varieties and sizes as she collapsed onto a chair near the fire.
“Have the Seekers found the child yet? The one will replace me?”, she asked with some hope to her voice but Hun merely shook his head no. She sighed again and sat silently looking at the fire, watching it draw shapes and symbols in the air.