While I'm on the Isle, I will try to arrange for a private audience with His Majesty.
- You can do this. It's not as easy as it usually is; the court is still all jangly and unsettled and people seem to be double-checking everything to make sure they won't get yelled at. You get shown into one of the more formal rooms; this is clearly more of a Formal Audience (though a private one) than a casual chat, the way some in the past have been.
Takanata bows more formally than he sometimes does, and waits to be told to sit.
He begins with "Your Majesty. I do not know if anything I can tell you regarding the relocation of the Isle is of use, but I thought it appropriate to say as much as I can. I know that you are already familiar with the first half of what I have to say, but I do not believe you have previously heard all of it." He will then relate quickly the story of the Northerners trying to mystically assault the Isle because it was the last support for the Dragon Empire and the power of the Northern Wall being brought down to stop them with Wei-Han's appointment to the court, leading to the outright assault at the end of Book II.
He will then relate in somewhat more detail that Mola Ram is going to launch a Southern assault on the Shrouded Isle at Midwinter, to capture the spirit of the volcano, and that it has similarly been tied to the Southern Wall by Da-Xie, so that it will be better protected against Southern Magics. Apparently, the islands have now switched places to reflect these new relationships to the Walls.
- The King waits until you have finished presenting your initial report before indicating the chair and asking you to be seated. (Again, not the usual for your meetings, but not really out of place for this particular room.)
He tries to fill in any questions that His Majesty might have, but doesn't actually know much about the mechanics of the switch.
- He asks a bunch of questions, which tend more towards "why" than "how". Why did Shen Wei Han exert such an effort to persuade his son to allow a garrison to be opened on the Isle? Did he know the Northern Attack was impending so far back? Why did he resign so soon thereafter, to allow more transfers in? (Takanata has enough Grace and Conversation to pick up that these are pointed questions toned down from angry questions, not questions deliberately made pointed as chastisement).
Takanata considers these for a moment, and then says "Shen did not consult with me significantly before making these decisions, only periodically about implementing them, so I speak from a general assessment of his character, rather than information on the particular incidents.
"His nature is bound up in the following of rules, and he needs to know clearly what his duties are. As he grew more and more aware of the threat to the Empire which my companions and I seek to prevent, he saw his duty to the Dragon Army as in conflict with the actions needed to prevent that threat. His efforts to be posted here as a Garrison, and then his resignation from the Army entirely to seek a post in Your Majesty's court, were efforts to seek to avoid those conflicts. I do not believe there was any intent at the time he sought the Garrison position that he would later resign, but he discovered that the Garrison position was insufficient to resolve the tensions that he could not encompass."
He pauses to think for a second, and then continues "As to whether he knew the Northern threat was looming... I do not believe he knew it directly. If he had, I am certain he would have warned us. But he does have... a sense for the Northerner's actions, that might have been propelling him in that direction without his realizing it."
- He nods, understanding but still not pleased. "You know that We stood against the establishment of the Dragon Army in this kingdom for many years, because we did not consider such an establishment to be beneficial for the kingdom. It was Our belief at the time that stationing Shen Wei Han himself here would not be detrimental, but his subsequent actions led to the very thing that We sought to prevent, and in ways that We cannot entirely compass signaled the beginning of an ending. And these actions have ended with this... great shift. We do wonder, whether you are sure of the part this man plays in the conflict. As you have said, the Northern Wall is Winter. But this is... was... a summer kingdom."
- (The sense of anger is still there, simmering.)
Takanata nods slowly. "There is a war in the Cycle, and it does damage here in the Middle Kingdom. The Isle is tied to Butterfly, and its fortunes rise and fall as the war progresses. I believe in that war, Shen Wei Han stands opposed to Butterfly's enemy, Spider. I believe he thinks he stands with Butterfly, but in fact, if forced to choose, would actually stand with Dragon, the creator of the Cycle, the Walls, and the Empire. Butterfly and Dragon are largely allied against Spider in this War, but their interests are not necessarily identical."
"Butterfly is a Summer Spirit. It is my hope, and my companions and my intent, to reforge some of the links between Butterfly and the Isle of Beauty that have been broken in the war. I believe that Shen Wei Han wishes to see those links restored, but I will remember that by his nature he may not be able to assist as much he would like. I cannot promise Your Majesty that we will succeed, but I can assure you that it is our fervent aim, both for its own sake and as a strike against Spider in the war.
"This war has weakened the Empire against the Barbarians. I think it likely, given those weaknesses, that the Northern assault on the Isle of Beauty would have succeeded without the Northern Wall's intercession - certainly their notes show them believing that all proceeded according to their plan until the Wall arrived. I think it was a necessary intercession, but not one without costs.
"I believe that the opening of the Isle to the Dragon Army has created dangers, and that Your Majesty was wise to oppose it. But when it did occur, I think that danger that was avoided was greater than the dangers that we now face."
- You get the feeling that the King is paying particularly close attention to that last paragraph, and weighing it carefully with... something.
- For the Shrouded Isle questions, there's less hidden anger, but the questions are almost as pointed, most principally - why was the spirit of the Southern Wall chosen to protect the Shrouded Isle rather than the Northern Wall? Can the Northern Wall not actually defend against Southerners? Is the Isle of Beauty more vulnerable to Southern attack now?
"I do not understand the details of the differences between the Walls, but they are not the same. The Northern Wall is Winter, the Southern Wall is Summer. Wei Han notices undead and other Northern magics, Da-Xie notices Southern intrusions. Both Walls stand against physical invasions and ... subtler corruptions, but Da-Xie seems more in tune with the subtle corruptions, and Wei Han more prepared to deal with invasions. So while I doubt it is true that the Northern Wall provides *no* protection against Southerners, the Southern Wall is a better protection against them, and particularly against their Rituals, which is what we are anticipating at Midwinter.
"I suspect that does leave the Isle of Beauty more vulnerable to Southern attack now, although I had not considered the question before. Perhaps that is why the relocation happened, to make us a less tempting target."
Once he is done [with questions], Takanata will ask what the Isle experienced.
- His Majesty shakes his head. "Nothing to point at and make any sense. One morning we awoke and things were slightly different. Some people are confused, some people think they were confused in the past, some people apparently never really paid that much attention to exactly where we are located."
Takanata nods. "That is approximately what happened on the mainland, as well. I would be interested in trying to see if there are any patterns in who thinks what, if Your Majesty will authorize such an investigation."
- He frowns. "We would not have people deliberately unsettled further, for curiousity. To what end would you be investigating?"
"As you know, my companions and I believe there have been ... other changes, which have gone unnoticed by most. I would try and learn why this change is *not* unnoticed, and what the patterns in those who are aware and those who are not are."
- "Very well. But do not cause any more panic than is necessary."
- (This thread branches from an earlier discussion, but it's the last bit that happens, so it's been moved to the end)
He grimaces. "Similarly, Your Majesty, there is another danger coming, which I came to make you aware of." He looks around for a moment - "Would it be acceptable for me to try and ensure there are truly no other ears on this conversation?"
- "As you will."
Takanata will activate eyes of the I Ching, and look around for either mystic or people spies.
- There are people within shouting distance - you think they match guard placement. The distance seems to be the traditional "you can hear a commotion, but not eavesdrop on a quiet conversation" distance, but it's possible that if they are really good eavesdroppers they could hear.
Takanata nods, and drops the Eyes of the I Ching.
"Shortly before my companions and I last left the Isle of Beauty, His Highness asked us to extend an invitation to His Excellency, Regent Ishii, to return to the Isle for a visit. His Highness expressed the hope that his uncle would be able to assist Her Majesty in moving past her grief. He stated that he had made no promises not to request his uncle's return, and that the reasons for any promises that were made were from so long ago that they could hardly be relevant now.
"This is a thing which both Butterfly and Spider wish done, and so I am confident it has both benefits and risks for the Isle. I do not know if those benefits will be those His Highness hopes for, but I suspect that the risks are tied to those long ago reasons. We have recently delivered the invitation, and His Excellency is travelling here even now, although I believe he has been somewhat delayed by the relocation of the Isle.
- You realize that before, when His Majesty was angry about the island moving and was asking you pointed questions about Wei Han, he wasn't actually angry with you. It becomes clear in this instant, like the difference between being uncomfortably close to a fire and being on fire, because now he *is* angry with you.
"In an attempt to determine what risks might be presented, I have read His Excellency's I Ching. Where such a thing normally presents advice to the subject, this reading was more directed at advice to me. It stated that His Excellency's loyalty is most strong, and that it is critical that he not learn that he has been betrayed, or 'his fury will shake the heavens and earth.'
"There were no more specifics regarding this betrayal. But if Your Majesty believes it would be unwise to speak with His Excellency regarding his child, that is a thing I must pass on to my companions quickly."
- "Yes. It would be unwise, which you already know or you would not be asking me. As. Is. His. Return."
- He stands up, and you are pretty sure that it would be a bad idea to be seated any longer.
- "Pass that on to your companions. You have brought the winter upon this island, and now you bring the storm. Pray to the heavens that there are any blooms left or stones standing one atop another when you return next."
Takanata stands up and bows, and remains bowed until the King dismisses him, leaves, or says something else. But I'm guessing this one is over.
- Yup, you're dismissed and can go.