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~TIEN LYN~

Tien Lyn knocked on the doors of the Chamber of the Waning and Waxing Moon, "Uncle?"

When nobody answered, Tien Lyn stepped inside the room cluttered with the precious objects. She could not tell just how long she stood gawking at the countless incense burners shaped as demons, dragons, faeries, and monsters. The only reason her enchanted stupor did not last longer was that her eyes accidentally stopped on the nook fully provisioned for tea making. It even had a mechanism that poured water from the dragon-maw shaped spout by pulling the dragon's leg.

It was always better when your elders found you busy, and she was properly occupied when the Mage came in from his personal apartments. He carried a wooden board covered with symbols, an inkpot, a scroll-case, and a pouch embroidered with gold thread and pearls.

"Come here for a moment, child."

When she obeyed, he handed her his pouch. Even through its heavy fabric, she could feel the jagged edges of the horoscope bones. She massaged the bones inside the pouch with her fingers, making them roll and rub against one another, a soothing thing.

The mage did not stop her. He arranged his load around a grass mat and settled in like a cat looking for the most comfortable position imaginable. When he finally was satisfied with how the board was balanced on his lap and the direction he was facing, he motioned for Tien Lyn to spill the bones.

They rolled out in a haphazard hail of delicately-tinted ivory. Each bone had multiple facets, and each facet had a symbol in the Ancient Script carved into it, not altogether different from the Modern Script, but not close enough for Tien Lyn to be sure of the exact meaning of each symbol.

The mage lifted the bones and carefully positioned them on the wooden board, matching the symbols on the bones with the symbols on the board and scribbling notes. He was completely absorbed in his scrying, so Tien Lyn knelt by his side to offer him his tea.

The mage accepted the cup with a distracted 'Thank you, child' never taking his eyes away from the bones.

Tien Lyn sat on her heels for a bit, but he did not seem to need her any longer, so she quietly crawled away to look at the incense burners. She tiptoed from one fantastical shape to another. Mauve fumes curved-up towards the ceiling in patterns so distracting that she bumped into a gigantic table. The monstrosity took up a quarter of the Pagoda's floor and barely left room to squeeze by along the walls. Its top was painted with the map of the Evershining Empire and the borderlands.

She leaned over it, pushing the hair out of her eyes. The symbols were in the modern script, so it was not the effort that made her hands sweat. Quantong marked a narrow valley snaking its way through the mountains in the Northwest. Her heart thumped at the thought of Han Zheng, how he could not acquire his map, and this hermit wizard had it, with all the minute details.

The map shifted towards her, nay, jumped at her, changing from flat to lifelike, as if Tien Lyn was a bird speeding down the valley. The gray and brown mountain slopes fell away on either side of her, stretching up to the snow-capped points well above her head. The caverns and the strongholds carved into the wild rock appeared in her peripheral vision, making her dizzy. A truly barbaric place to send a man to die.

Tien Lyn closed her eyes, steadying her breath, trying to decide if she wanted him to die, or if she could not bear for anyone else she knew to die. The two emotions clashed like cymbals leaving her shaking from head to toe and sinking her nails into her temples.

When she dared to peek through her eyelashes again, the map was flat once more, but populated by wax figurines. Each miniature figure was so amazing in its detail, that she could recognize four among those crowding Xichon on the map: the Celebrated Emperor Wo Jia, her mother, Han Zheng and... someone very familiar, looking a bit like her mother, only with her eyes opened wide in nearly comic terror.

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