Fortitude

Session 7, part 2
Market day, and the truth about ghosts

Previous Part

Masae Writes
With so much happening, I have had to take twice as much space writing about this week. I will still be scrubbing ink from my hands when school starts again.

Wednesday
Arcadia comes to Fortitude for the Market.
It was a very strange day indeed! Everyone was in costume, the gathered Fae all dressed as (I suppose) ‘normal’ people, although a seven foot tall bright blue oni in a hawaiian shirt and shorts…
Anyway, with everyone playing opposites (children-as-monsters chasing monsters-as-people around the market) and everyone shopping for all the oddities that a year’s planning can think up, it was actually rather good fun. San-Ni spent his day dressed as a cheshire cat – the big grin on his mask suited him quite well. I don’t quite know where the little man on his cloud came from, but San seemed intent on chasing him all over the place. Too much cat in his costume, maybe. Then again, it could have been something in the strange noodle soup I saw him gulping down – it looked like a laboratory jar, full of preserved nerves. Unnerving, I thought!
Vya-chan’s Frankenstein’s Monster was very good… I think he went over the top on the lightning for his neck-bolts though. he certainly seemed to be regretting it, anyway. He managed to find someone selling terrifyingly realistic brain-cakes – they even bled when you bit into them. So gruesome.
Nami-chan was well turned out in a spectral-looking ghost costume – no bedsheet with holes for her! She seemed to enjoy the skull-cakes, crunchy on the outside, and (so she said) deliciously brainy on the inside. I will keep hoping it was just cake in there.
After one of my favourite stories I was dressed as a Kitsune. I suppose its a little stereotypical, but they are always so interesting in the tales. A lot of the younger children were having good fun chasing the Fae around, but I was more interested in the market… until one of the oni decided he would taunt me! A foot-race out in the open, in a place I didn’t know, he might have won. But in a crowd in Fortitude? He looked a little surprised when I managed to corner him. Maybe it was because he was used to being the one doing the chasing.
Of course, a big event like the Market had to be attended by the Sacred Child. She didn’t get to dance though; she was in a very fancy costume, and (poor Ayumi!) stuck sitting and watching everyone having a good time. Of course, this being the week of sorrows, she was there to remind us all of the long history of this festival. She was on a great platform, covered in the names and pictures of all the sacred children right back to the first – a girl named Vanya. She looked so forlorn, Nami and I bought her some sweets for later, just to cheer her up. She seemed really pleased with the ones we got her – beating hearts. I don’t know how (and I don’t want to know) but the chef had made them so that the still twitched and pulsed in your hand. Ayumi had a bit of a cheshire-cat smile as she bit into hers, and ‘blood’ went everywhere. I think she enjoyed the chance to make a mess.
The only other thing I have to mention, because no one will believe me, is the spectacle caused by Pferdinand . He had covered himself head to hooves in bright gold, even down to a pair of silly gold pants. It was at that point that a lot of the children were led away. It’s not usually a good idea to let them get ideas from Pferdinand.

Thursday
This was San-Ni’s big day, the one he has been carefully building up for weeks. We all think of him as a mischievous prankster, but he has a very serious side that I wish he would show more often. I have a lot of respect for what he can do, when he puts his mind to it.
He set it up rather well – Finding a place that wasn’t too crowded, but still had enough people for word to be spread and an audience to form. He started his chant – A Recollection of Fortitude, I think he called it. It drew people from streets around, as he went through, one at a time, all the stories he has been collecting. For a while now, the shadows that came to Ayumi’s dance on the first day have been getting stronger – almost real. From San-Ni’s stories, they grew a dozen times as strong. The stories he sang out about were enough to give them shape, and faces. I don’t know for sure, but I have a very creepy feeling that these shadow-people are more than just the memories that some people claim. San-Ni made them more. It was a hugely impressive feat.

On a smaller scale, and no less impressive for it, the rest of the Hayashi were hard at work making memories real too. Small ‘memory-glasses’ were given out to select people to recall the loved ones they had lost, and the most treasured moments they had shared with them. The glass pieces caught the memories, and (if the glass masters are to be believed) will preserve them forever. A few of the shadow-people were there, too, and added their own little touches to the remembrances, and showed their faces – the faces of the departed.

Friday
The festival moved from remembering all of the dead, to remembering one in particular – Jade Irinka, the sun. Each crossroads sprouted an effigy of her, all unique as the makers tried to capture their own image of the fallen but unforgotten goddess.
The effigies were all lit as evening fell (such as it does in Fortitude) by a hooded figure, riding a white horse. It’s part of the tale of Jade Irinka’s death of course, and seeing it played out was truly a sight. The Horseman drew out a bow and a black arrow, and set Jade Irinka ablaze with a single shot. Vya told a much more lurid story, but I think his talk of burning blood and magic is just him getting caught up in the moment. His walking Irinka burned very well, I must admit.

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Session 7, part 1
Sorrows abound as we remember the past

Masae Writes

The final preparations for Sorrows week have all been completed. The christian folk have wrapped their crosses as a display of welcome to the Fae who will soon come visiting, and all the ironwork has been wrapped to keep it from sight. I am told (though I didn’t have a chance to go and see) that Vya-chan got a little carried away, and wrapped some things in swathes of cloth, and others in almost nothing. It sounds very much like him.
Kobo-sama allowed me to help on his ship, not something I have done before. Grandmother still doesn’t trust me to help in the kitchen though. I spent a full day washing dishes – I’m sure she made more mess just to keep me out of the way!

Monday
The rituals began – and there were many. As a fishing family, Kobo-sama, grandmother and I began our day on the docks, offering prayers to those lost on the lake, and the great seas beyond. We offered prayers at the foreigners graveyard, where the bodies of those unknown in Fortitude are laid to rest. Even if it is their last home, the spirits of the unnamed dead should find comfort and peace here.
We followed the Hayashi procession to the main graveyard. I would have run ahead to walk with Nami-chan and San , but that would be a show of disrespect. Vya-chan was with them, and even he seemed to be acting sensibly. (His sailor-suit was far too cute for so solemn an occasion though!).
All of the Shrine families were in procession, and every able bodied person in Town was there. And Ayumi finally had her chance to dance. I know she practices hard, and it showed, it truly did. She called out to the shadows of the dead, to be with us for this festival, and they came. Tiny little shadow-people, dancing with my friend. I don’t know if its supposed to be a part of the dance, but she even managed to throw a shadow-kite for them to play with.
I went over to thank her for such a wonderful performance, and happened to overhear something quite pleasing, though I don’t know that I will tell Ayumi. Katrina-Sama was speaking with Captain Susonov, who saw me hug Ayumi, I think. The Captain commented (perhaps a little louder than she needed?) that Ayumi had danced excellently, even better than Katrina-sama had in her youth. I felt so proud of my friend!

While we sat and picnicked with the departed (all very strange) San-Ni disappeared, as he does. I heard later that he had been at one of the old Wanderer’s Shrines . I don’t quite know who he was waiting for, but I guess they didn’t come. He was still alone when I saw him later. I suppose there is a secret there, one that we don’t see under that ne’erdowell prankster attitude of his. I feel a little sorry for him, but I can’t quite say why.

Tuesday
The Russian Orthodox church takes it leave. While I’m not Russian, or christian, and neither are Kobo-Sama or Grandmother, we still went to line the procession route. Part of this festival is about community, after all. The big cross from the church and all their holy things were marched through the streets on display. It was quite a sight, part of the trappings of making the Fae welcome.
They came in the night. It took a little effort to persuade Kobo-Sama, but Grandmother, in that very serious way of hers, said I had better get a look at the Fae when they weren’t up to too much mischief, in case I should come across them when they are less well-behaved.

They were impressive, and terrifying at the same time. First in the procession came the swan people, all elegance and perfect poise. They were led by a young woman (I suppose? Being Fae, its impossible to be really sure) dressed for ballet. She had enough grace to make anyone stop and watch in awe – even George-chan . He had best take care – pretty hair and a winning smile are like honey to some of the Fae!
After the swans came the Kelpies – seal people. They looked entirely normal, and Kobo-Sama says there are a few living in Fortitude all the time. The next was a spriggan, a wood sprite. He looked ungainly, but he kept an easy pace with the long legged creatures around him. After him came a procession of Cheshire-cat people. I don’t suppose Fortitude’s rats will care for them at all. There was something very nasty in the way they smiled. There were skeletons rattling along – a little bit odd, in the middle of so many fairy-tale creatures. But I won’t speak ill of them, it would be bad manners after all.
It’s harder to keep from being rude about the last creatures I saw, before Grandmother shoo-ed me off to bed. I know rather more stories about Oni than I do about any of the rest, and the big, red-skinned one in charge of his little cohort was a true monster. Fiery skin, curly horns, and a huge glaive too. I’m trying hard to be a warrior, but seeing him, I feel very suddenly like a little child again.

Part 2

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Session 6
High Tea and Dancing

Masae writes

We managed to get Ayumi out of the house entirely today! We picked her up early, so we would have plenty of time (if Katrina-sama became… distracted) and we could have some fun. To stretch the morning out, just in that didn’t happen, we convinced Katrina-sama that we should really stop and make sure we had an appropriate tea… the Sacred Child couldn’t be expected to drink just any old blend after all.

Of course we went to Mr and Mrs Mi’s Fine Tea The sign out front is a little bright, and the usual customers at the front counter can be really odd, but they are the finest tea blending masters in Fortitude.

I’m always amazed by just how many blends they carry. I’ve never known them to run out of anything (Grandmother swears by their Hojicha Fire-on-the-mountain blend). They have a little sampling area to the side, where we had a chance to try the days offerings. We bought the one Ayumi liked most – Gentle Lotus with Phoenix Feathers. Smooth and tasty, with a little bit of heat. Mrs Mi explained that was a gift from the Phoenix. I’m not sure if she was making a joke, or if she was serious. It’s hard to tell in this Town.

We got to the House of Crystal without any more trouble, and with Katrina-sama looming too close. When we got there, I was worried that we might not get a chance to steal Ayumi away from her side, but George (bless him!) rose to the occasion. I never knew he’d learned Ballet! By whatever magic it was, he swept Katrina-sama right off, and with Ni-san keeping a close eye on them, me, Ayumi and Nami-chan ducked inside. I could never admit it to their faces, but I really am grateful to those boys. We, and especially Ayumi, would never had had so much fun without their help.

We got the fitting done very quickly – Nami had already gotten most of the work done of course, so that barely ate into our plans. We explored the house of Crystal, and the first time Ayumi has been able to run around for ages, I think. She asked to go up into the Hayashi Lighthouse, and of course, Nami-chan arranged that. It’s a good job she was along, as the locks need more than just a key to get through. Of course the lighthouse is important, so that only makes sense.

Ayumi seemed really nervous while we waited for Nami to get the key, and it turned out just to be because she wanted to fly a kite. Again, I suppose thats not something the Sacred Child does – it might be fun, and Katrina-sama would consider that wasted time. We made kites (Ayumi’s was the best – crafts are part of her training) and we went right to the top of the lighthouse tower to fly them.

Ayumi actually laughed as the breeze caught the kites and took them up into the air. When a gust caught her kite and pulled it out of her hand, I managed to get hold of the string before it got away. I lost mine, but it was worth it to see Ayumi happy. She lifted herself up on the railings, and with the wind catching her hair just then, you could almost believe she was flying…

I’m going to do everything I can to give her have another day like today. Even just an hour like that one. I promised her. And seeing how happy she was, its a promise I can’t let myself break.

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Session 5
Of favours and friendships

Masae Writes

Nami-chan always seems so forgetful. I suppose its all that glassworking genius. She managed to run out of silver wire for the Sacred Child’s head dress. She was still so busy with other things, that me and the boys decided we’d get her some more. Of course, we should have thought that offer through a little more carefully.

We went along to Mr. Malachi’s jewellery supplies – Mr Malachi is a rat, so his store is up on the roof. I got up there the right way (with a little effort and a few bruises) while Vya-chan of course went way too far, and built himself some kind of laughter-and-lightning powered catapult. I never dare ask how he gets the lightning to happen on cue, just in case I understand the explanation. George and his new-found dancing skills are… a little bit creepy. He actually danced up the outside wall. Ni-san can get where he wants, somehow, and he was waiting by the time we made it up there.

Of course, getting up there was the easy part. We forgot to take any money, and of course even as a favour for the Hayashi nothing is free. So we had to do a favour for Mr. Malachi, and drop off a delivery for him. That sounds easy too, but the bag was just way too big for any of us to carry, and something inside it was moving. I tried to stop George looking inside (its bad manners!) but that silly hair of his… Where was I?

With such a big delivery to make, we immediately knew the most Reliable person to help us out – Dominic Waystreet – Fortitude’s Man with a Van. Vya-chan stayed behind to sort some kind of hoist for the bag, while the rest of us went looking for Mr. Waystreet. It took a little doing to find him. I missed him at the docks, where he had picked up a piano to deliver to Mrs Higgs-Boson, up on the hill. Ni-San met me and George there (of course Ni-san was there first) and we discovered that poor Mr. Waystreet had hurt his back.

He’d be happy to give us a lift, he said, as soon as we picked him up some Tiger-balm from Angela Lake’s Apothecary shoppe. That’s really how its spelt on the sign. She’s a nice enough lady, I suppose, but the witchy shop is a little odd. Of course, she was happy to help too, but asked if we’d mind doing her one little favour…

We ended up back at the House of Crystal dropping off an order note with ‘Dave’ who insisted he wasn’t ‘dodgy’. I have my doubts. With that done, we got back to the apothecaries, got the balm for Dominic, and got a lift back down to the jewellers with him. Vya-chan had gotten bored with his winch and was making a scale model of… I don’t actually know. Luckily, Dominic’s van has a crane of its own, so it was a matter of exploding the straps on… (Vya-chan managed that of course) and off to the docks.

Up to this point, George, who had taken a peek, had been insisting the bag was just ‘full of rocks’ and nothing to worry about. As Dominic was dropping it off the back of his van though, it hissed at us! George yelled something about a giant snake-god, and made a dash back to the jewellers. I can never understand that boy. We had to race daylight by that point – we’d spent the entire day chasing around, and barely got back in time before Mr Malachi closed up.

Nami barely noticed we’d been gone (she didn’t seem to have noticed the sandwich I’d made her before we left – she doesn’t eat enough!) but was pleased to get the wire. The headress is looking wonderful now. I hope Ayumi-san is as pleased when she see’s it tomorrow.

After all that running around, we were all ready to fall down where we stood, but Nami-chan insisted that, after all the hard work (it took a while to explain our day) we should stay for dinner. I’m glad we agreed – the cooks at the House of Crystal are masters at their art. It was exhausting, but in the end, it will all be worth it to see Ayumi looking happy again.

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Session 4
How to make friends, and terrify people

Masae writes

With the Festival only a week away, Fortitude is as bustling as it could be. Nami is very busy with her current work; a head-dress in glass for Ayumi, the Sacred Child. Nami and I went to visit her, so Nami could make sure on the fitting of the piece. We were both horrified, and a little speechless, when confronted with the merciless teaching methods of Katrina Yamanov, formerly a Sacred Child and instructor to Ayumi.

In his usual fashion, San Ni snuck a mean-spirited sign onto the teachers back, a prank which almost earned further willow-cane marks for the Sacred Child, and perhaps for the two of us as well. Only our incredible composure spared us from punishment for the suddenly absent San’s action.

Doing our best to monopolise the Child’s time (and prevent Katrina-sama finding reasons to beat her further) Nami and I managed to arrange for Ayumi to visit The House of Crystal for tea, and a further fitting, to make the head-dress looked perfect – and to offer a distraction from her intensive training.

George, beginning to wonder if there could possibly be more to life than simply being really really really good looking (and breaking up glass for his father), began to investigate the expressive potential of dance. He certainly didn’t bargain for what came next – he found himself caught up in a whirlwind of emotive power, dancing through the streets with ominous, thrashing music flowing like a tidal wave at his back.

He was unable to stop himself, pushed beyond pain to actual physical and mental injury by the Demon of the Dance. Confronted by Rubick and his Cubes, George felt words of deep angst flying from his lips, his expressive dance moves terrifying the uncomprehending bullies and sending them in search of less deranged (and potentially dangerous) prey.

Meanwhile, Vya-chan began work on his submarine, inspired by the weekends diving. While busily at work, he began to unravel the mysteries of his new Captain’s Hat – its ability to project an artificial intelligence directly into the wearer’s brain.

Naming his new AI companion Lady Felicity (registration pending, as the AI was cut off from its central control) he learned about a fantastic place called Elysium – the original home of the sunken glass catamaran.

Immediately he headed out onto the docks in search of someone to take him there, approaching the captain of the Krillo – Sharon Susonov. Insistent that she wear the Captain’s Hat (to prove the existence of Lady Felicity) Vya suffered a thorough beating, but was eventually successful (earning him a sliver of respect from the crew).

Accepting that he was only a little insane, Captain Susonov still told him that she wouldn’t risk her crew or her ship on a journey so dangerous as the one to Elysium, and that he would have no better luck with any other on the docks. Blocked only for the moment, Vya headed back to his work (nursing his bruises) to carry on building his submarine, so he could make the journey by himself, if he had to!

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Session 3
Shall we go to bluebell park?

Masae writes

After the prank on thursday, we all got to spend our fridays at home. Parents (or adoptive grandparents) are not good news for children with a free day off school. It meant a lot of extra chores.

Grandmother Suzuko was curious to know why her photo albums had been moved around so often, and after some while under her very polite watch I had to explain. We managed to find the man in the photos, and she sent me to The House of Crystal to get the picture cleaned. Rubick and his Cubes tried to interfere, but the picture was delivered safely and sunlight will do the rest.

On saturday, we went to Blue Bell Park, which is looking lovely at this time of year. We walked down to the boating lake, and the boys were excited to see there was to be a model ship display. Nami-chan seemed a little worried about something, so we went for a walk for a little while. We found somewhere peaceful amongst the bluebells to relax. My flute-playing is improving I think, and Nami’s sketches were very nice. It was exactly what we both needed to be doing.

We got back to the boating lake to find that Vya-chan and George had gotten involved, in that very explosive way they often do. The loud and expressive tones of the 1812 Overture, scored for 27 part orchestra and battleship was just coming to its end as we got to the bandstand. They seemed very pleased with themselves over all the noise. (I have to admit, they did a very good job with the piece. Just don’t tell them I said so).

On sunday, George offered to take us all fishing on his boat. We were expecting something pretty, or at least functional, but it was a bit of a wreck. Nami was on the verge of refusing, but George used that winning smile of his, and before we knew it we were rowing along the edge of the lake. I wish I knew how he gets his hair to do that!

In the end, we didn’t go fishing. Instead, we ended up diving. George’s tall tales for once turned out quite true, and we found some very interesting looking ship wrecks. One was all glass, a two-hulled thing with strange lights running through the hull. We all came back with a souvenir. George swears he saw a mermaid, but I think he might just be making that up.

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Session 2
Jealousy and the solidarity of friends

Masae writes

The festival of sorrows approaches, and everyone has been busily preparing. Nami-chan has been especially hard at work on her project, but we managed to get to school on time even so.

Mr Tobyin (the basketball coach and also our history teacher) seems to be jealous that Masae is focusing on cross country this semester, and his monday morning pop quiz was aimed at making her feel stupid. She managed to be gracious about it, but George and Vya -san decided they would get even on her behalf.

Tuesdays is home econimics with Ms. Green, who was delighted to have Masae with the cross country team. She helped her as much as possible with the pasta sauce, but somehow, Masae’s just didn’t turn out quite right. ‘Leave to thicken’ should not mean a sauce becomes a solid. George also managed to set fire to an oven, in a much more literal sense than most people do.

The revenge prank on Mr. Tobyin happened on thursday. Nami distracted him while Ni-san snuck into his teaching room with an exploding foam cake. It exploded a little more spectacularly than expected, and flooded the whole school with foam. everything seems much cleaner, and slightly lemon scented. School was cancelled on friday, while the foam was brought back under control.

It looks like the man in the picture must be getting hungry. I think he took my neighbours budgie, Arthur. Poor little Arthur. I really hope he just got out of his cage.

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Session 1
Playing with Rubric and Admiring Photographs

Ni Writes

This week has been an eventful one with tales of the unknown and triumphs of the science club.

The smell was the best addition to the pressure plate triggered clockwork trebuchet trap, it should be at least a week before Rubric and the cubes have a chance of catching us unaware.

The Place to mention this week is the shadowed cliffs, the seagulls from there have been getting around.

On a side note the view from atop the house of glass is magnificent, I can see why the Rats love it.

Items from from the other washed up in a box on the cliffs, Victorian furniture if I remember from history lessons. And the Photographs.

There is something unusual about the photographs, or should i say what is in them. Perhaps a spirit, youkai or even an effect of dust.

It seemed to follow us to the Hayashi estate and since the warding charms reacted that cannot be good. Well have to try exposing the photos to the light of the sun to see what happens.

I’ll have to ask everyone else if they noticed anything.

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