Ken Kaze

Awakened Investigator

A Character for Shadowrun (tm)
As you read the following page, keep in mind that I also have pages containing definitions of game terms and names of the people and places Ken Kaze knows.

His path is magic
Awake and Awakening
His soul slumbers on

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Magical Matters

Ken Kaze is a Magician Adept and that makes for a lot o' interesting complexities.  

Joining the Sixth Guides (a lot of e-mail)

GM: Ken Kaze was beginning to wonder if magic groups really did exist.  Three weeks had past and still no word or contact from anyone. He was confident the right words had been said and the strategic appearances at several awakened hang-outs had been appropriate. Maybe the dialogue with the Silver Hat's bartender had edged into boasting. Perhaps the inquiries at the Matrix Masters chat rooms had been a little less subtle than Ken had hoped. Oh well, life goes on.

It's Monday morning, the 31st of January. Bills are due tomorrow, but luckily shadowrunning has helped Ken return to his middle class lifestyle and supplement the mundane detective work. Ken is just finishing up the next month's bills, working at his small desk, when there is a knock at the office door. A hand on a pistol under the desk, Ken calls out, "We're open. Enter."

The door opens up and in walks an elven woman. She is a stunningly beautiful Amerindian with deep eyes, long black hair, and a confident look about her. She is wearing an armored long coat of plain dark gray and is wearing slacks and a blouse of slightly different shades of gray.  She doesn't seem concerned about the plain fashion statement her dress is making, but instead understands her appearance and body will speak for her instead.

"Welcome, Mrs..." Ken says as he stands up to shake her hand. She returns the grip solidly, hinting at some street background or savvy.

"Susan. Susan Ghostchaser. I'm glad I caught you before you headed out on your daily errands. Monday is usually the day you visit the data console down the street to check the news right?" She says with a smile as she sits down in the chair facing Ken's desk.

"I suppose you have me at a disadvantage. Can I help you?" responds Ken in a friendly manner, hints of flirtation sliding behind his pleasant words.

"I think we can help each other. I am a member of the magical group, The Sixth Guides.  We heard about your inquiries and I think you'd fit right in.  We are a small group right now, but our cause is a just one.  We believe in investigating and uncovering the magical mysteries of the new world and that such magical knowledge should be shared with metahumanity. Only by educating the public about magic and what lies around them and ahead of them, can we approach any level of unity. It's an honest belief and one that we've pursued for the past two years. If you are interested, we would love to have you," she ends the last sentence with a smile.

"I'm sure you have some questions," she says as she looks about the detective's office.

Me: Ken adopts a more comfortable posture, gun still in hand, and replies, "Yes, Ms. Ghostchaser, questions.  Please bear with me, as I was not expecting you, but of course that is what you wanted, yes?"

Susan only smiles in response.

"First, the name.  It's a little awkward isn't it? Why not 'Guides of the Sixth?' or 'Sixth World Guides'?"  Ken laughs.  "OK, perhaps those weren't the questions you were looking for.  Let's try these out for size, and forgive me if some of them sound trite:

Who do you serve?
Where does your support, if any, come from?
Why me?
What would be expected of me?
What's the probability of a beautiful woman getting involved with a dashing young detective?

"Ken sits back, relaxing his grip on the gun under his desk, but crosses his leg, keeping his hand close to his ankle-holster and the back up pistol inside it.

GM: "Don't be concerned about asking the right questions, or too many for that matter," begins Susan. "We're inquisitive by nature. I understand your defensive and suspicious nature, Ken. There are enough twisted people in this world to watch out for, and the urban legends of satanic magical orders bent on taking over the world doesn't help us at all does
it." The last bit she says while gesturing to herself and Ken.

"We are a small group founded by Steven Archallos. Archallos is a philanthropist and humanitarian. He is mundane, much to his consternation, for he is fascinated with magic and the wondrous effects it is having on the world. He tried getting involved in magical expeditions through the Atlantean Foundation and other corporations, but they seemed to hoard magical knowledge to themselves and looked down on any mundane being interested in magic. 'Only the awakened could truly appreciate or use this knowledge,' was what they said to him. He realized that he would have to start his own organization if he wanted to get involved in these magical mysteries. With recent events like the Chicago bug crisis, Steven also came to realize that magic did not just effect the lives of the select few Awakened metahumans. It was something that involved everyone and would eventually swallow the mundane public if magic did not become a familiar and understood entity.

"The public only hears about magic through small news articles and from warped trid programs. Education is sorely lacking. The second half of our agenda is to enlighten people about magic; bring these magical wonders out for the public to see. Corporations want to use magic, like they use technology -- as tools for power and profit. But magic is not something that is manufactured, it is all around us. Sure it is only within easy reach of approximately 1% of the population, most which don't know they're magical, but it is still there."

Susan pauses a second, "So I think that gives some insight into who we serve," she marks the questions off on her fingers, "and where do we get support."

She looks at Ken and smiles as if to re-establish the friendly atmosphere.

"Why you. Well, we are looking for people who are inquisitive by nature, have a good heart, and are willing to take action instead of sitting on the side lines. When it was time to seek out another member, I had heard about you and your group quest, so here I am. I kind of work in the same field as you, but with not as many official papers," she smiles hinting at something slightly naughty and playful.

"We have monthly meetings where we talk about current events, mostly magical in nature. Every now and then someone gives a report on an important topic. Each person helps the cause out in their own way. We have one member who reads magical stories to children every Sunday.  Another is active in the university lecture circuit. And a third spreads information about corporate magical projects on public matrix sites. To each his own. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands by doing odd jobs. We try not to let any opportunity go unfulfilled, whether by taking action ourselves, or passing the information on to the right people. It sounds more nefarious than it really is.

She finishes talking and waits for a response. A couple seconds pass and then she adds, "The last question is going to depend on how dashing." She says with a smile.

Me: Ken rewards her smile with his own, replying, "Well, I am equally intrigued by your benefactor, your group, and you.  I am looking for a group with diversity of thought, deed, and membership.  The investigative aspects especially interest me."

Ken looks off for a moment in thought then continues, "I had never really thought of mundanes exploring the mysteries of the Awakened world . . ."  He trails off in thought, looks down for a moment, then locks eyes with Susan again, ". . . but I don't think I like the way the Atlantean Foundation treated Archallos.  That aloof detachment and intellectual snobbery distances us from our fellow metahumans."

Ken stands up and starts pacing slowly behind his desk, expounding in a careful voice, reminiscent of a lecturer speaking, "The very word 'mundane' is an insult.  Our community has convinced itself too readily that it understands even the most fundamental mystery - Awakening.  Show me someone that can confidently point to anyone and declare them mundane beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I will show you someone that is not fully awake themselves."

"Our awakened colleagues . . . seek solace in taxonomy.  They classify and categorize the magical mysteries, drawing comfort from the label they create, as if naming the unknown confers understanding.  They seek succor through sorting."

Ken pauses to let his clever words take effect then continues, "I may be prejudiced, but I think a shaman has more respect for the mysteries.  Deep down we have an inkling of the depths of our ignorance."  Ken stops pacing, turns, smiles and looks back to Susan, then sits back down at his desk, his arms planted firmly on top of it, his fingers clasped.

"I have begun to ramble though.  I am interested in the group.  I would like to learn more.  I warn you, my heart is a mystery to me.  Perhaps it is good enough for your group, perhaps not.  I look forward to finding out."  He looks silently at Susan, matching her gaze.

GM: "Excellent," responds Susan while standing up with enthusiasm. "We have our meetings on the last day of each month. Tonight is January's meeting, and we are all ready for your visit ... and perhaps your stay."  Her smile brightens up the room and warms the slight chill in the office.

"I'll come by your office tonight around 7 pm. We try to make our meetings informal and include a dinner cooked by one of the members, so don't eat. Erlos should be cooking some cajun gumbo with dirty rice.  He's a good cook despite his disposition. Tonight at seven then?"

"I eagerly await your presence once again brightening this dreary space," Ken says with flourish while gesturing grandly to the office. A smile peeks through his faux serious face and the woman meets his smile in full.

With that, Susan leaves. Ken returns to his normal business, waiting for the evening to come.

Me: Ken conducts his normal affairs and stops by the gym for a workout.  He picks up a six-pack of premium beer and a bottle of decent wine for the dinner.  He stops by his apt. and gets cleaned up before the meeting.  Just to be safe, keeps an eye out for "tails" as the meeting draws close.  As he waits in his office, he catches up on reading some of the current journals on magic, to provide decent conversation material.

GM: Ken goes through the day's activities with a careful eagerness. There does not seem to be anybody watching or following Ken. He picks up a nice dry chardonnay for the seafood on the way to the office, the pickings in Central being much better than the malt liquor and boxes of synthwine at the Riverton stores. Ken catches up on current events relating to magic through his subscription to "Awakened Agenda," a Time-like magazine focusing on magical issues. He pays particular attention to a story on corporate sponsored exploration of Australia because of its relevance to the Sixth Guides' beliefs. The interior of the continent seems to have an abundance of unique artifacts and magicks that may provide insight into the evolution of magic in isolated high-mana areas.

At 7 pm, Susan Ghostchaser comes knocking at the office. He is dressed casually in slate colored slacks and a black thick fabric blouse that accentuates her attractive form. She smiles upon seeing Ken answer the door.

"Our chariot awaits," she says as she motions out into the hallway.

The two of you exchange pleasantries and minor flirtations one the way down to the street. Outside, a gray Chrysler-Nissan jackrabbit sits parked on the street. She opens the vehicle remotely and the two of you get in. The small commuter car is comfortable, with extra space for the front passengers at the expense of the rear bench seat. Some additional controls and displays indicate that although the car is nondescript from the outside, it has obviously been modified for Susan's liking.

"The drive is about 45 minutes in this kind of traffic," she says as she glides out into the near Downtown traffic. She seems adept at handling her vehicle as well as looking good in its synthleather seats.

"I'm sure we can keep each other entertained," says Susan as she floors the vehicle and cruises out past the slower daily commuters. She gives Ken a grin, showing off a little.

During the drive, Susan slowly opens up. She seems stoic and observant by nature, but is not adverse to conversation. Ken puts on the charm and eventually she opens up to him and talks about various small topics, mostly concerning the group.

"We've been operating for a couple of years now out of Everett. The headquarters is well furnished and serves as a meeting place, a study hall, and a temporary resident for those of us working late. Steven's been a very generous patron and always seems eager to provide anything we need for our work. Researching current topics and items is the main thing we use the Hall for, oh that's what we call the place.

"There are five of us now, but if you decide to accept we'll be at an even six. We take a lot of effort to make sure that potential candidates are sympathetic to our core beliefs, for that's why we are part of the Sixth Guides. We've only had one potential member decide to not join, but he bowed out discreetly and we still keep in touch with him. In his case, he just had too much in his life to dedicate to yet another cause.  He was interested in a more initiatory group.

"Andrew is our leader of sorts. Steven may pay the bills, but he is smart enough to defer to those with experience. He enjoys watching our activities and becoming involved every now and then, but mostly we follow our hearts without any need for help. Andrew is professor of
anthropology at Georgetown University in DC. He's also a hermetic mage of some skill. He is our public spokes person, even though we try and keep a low profile. He tours the university and corporate lecture circuit whenever he has time.

"Dirk Brannigan is a character. He's a professional explorer with ties to the Atlantean Foundation, Smithsonian, and several corporations. A real thrill seeker. He's seen more magic and more parts of the world than all of us put together. Dirk's a physical adept and a damn good one.

"Elaine is our resident conscience. She is an shaman devoted to the path of Owl. She runs a small talismonger shop and is kind of like a mother to us -- very quiet and protective. If she approves of you, then you are definitely in.

"Next we have Erlos. He's kind of an odd addition to the group because from meeting and talking with him you'd think he was more likely to be part of some corporate death squad than aligned with us. He knows Andrew from the past and has never let us down at all. let's be honest here, he's a reputable shadowrunner by trade. I'm sure we've both come across them before. You probably want to wait to charm him until later since he can be very tough to get to know. I still feel uncomfortable if I'm alone around him.

"And that leaves me. My magical aptitude is an odd one, but the Fates must have a destiny in store. Gargoyle speaks to me and grants me the ability to commune with spirits. I'm a detective, like yourself, although I've been involved in more unorthodox cases. More of a
freelance investigator for hire, not really the kind of steady work you have. Although I sense that you are branching out."

She is finishing the synopsis of the group's composition about the time she brings her car off the residential/office area of downtown Everett and down into an underground parking garage. She comes to a stop at the guard booth, an outcrop of some internal security station.

"Late night meeting again," she says as she hands over her credstick.  The Knight Errant guard nods and slots the stick into a handheld verification box. It beeps a friendly sound and he hands it back.

"Security is relatively good here. Of course, we've added our own to our area. We share a floor with a travel agency, a small group of lawyer offices, and a marketing firm. It's rather spacious," says Susan as she parks the car near the underground elevator.

The Hall occupies a quarter of the top most floor of the twenty story office building. The double door entrance opens into a large carpeted living room with an entertainment center in the far corner. The entrance foyer is relative devoid of furniture or items, save for a plush reading chair off to the side and a coat and hat rack to the other side. A dozen small rooms surround the center one like satellites, several still empty. A full kitchen and dining room complete the spread.

The other members seem scattered about the place, but upon Susan and Ken's entrance, they emerge out into living room to greet the new arrivals. A small caucasian ork with subdued metahuman features is sitting cross-legged in an arm chair near the trideo. She has a calm
look in her eyes and a pair of brown feathers keep her hair up in a loose pile on her head. She nods to Susan and looks deep in Ken's eyes, even from across the room, and then nods again.

A human in his early 40s emerges from a study with a newspaper in his hand. He has shoulder length brown hair and is wearing a plain blue vest over a button up shirt. His look smacks of the archetypical college professor. A latino elf, emerges from the first side room, a glimpse from the open doorway reveals a small gym area. He is smiling broadly and sweating from a recent workout. A towel is tossed over his shoulder and is wearing a simple tank top and shorts. He is obviously quite athletic.

Finally, as Ken and Susan take off the coats and head into the main room, through an open doorway, Ken sees the last member of the group. A human male of mediterranean ancestry is standing at the stove. He is wearing black pants and a black T-shirt with combat boots on. A white apron and chef's hat completely destroys the intimidating image and Ken stifles a grin as the cook glance back towards him. Solid gold cybereyes stare from the man's hard face daring the newcomer to say anything and then he returns to his cooking.

"Welcome Ken," says the older man as he grips Ken's hand enthusiastically. "I hope your time with Susan has not been too quiet."  Ken notices that his escort looks away with a slight grin.

"My name is Andrew. Andrew Carpenter. This here's our resident swashbuckler, Dirk. Over there is Elaine. You've met Susan and finally Erlos is in the kitchen fixing tonight's feast."

Andrew leads Ken over to the sitting area with Susan and Dirk tagging along. Everyone sits down around a central glass coffee table with a multitude of magazines and books relating to the Awakened world.

"So Ken, what do think of your visit and our little group so far?" asks Andrew. Ken can feel the four sets of eyes pinned on his response.

Me: Ken smiles slightly as he reclines into a chair, letting the silence ferment until he is certain everyone is listening, then speaks, "I am not given to premature conclusions, and even less so to premature statements, but I can tell that now would not be the time for silent contemplation.  Although it might be the best choice for earning respect, silence is not typically the best first step towards trust."

He pauses slightly then continues, "My experience with your group thus far has been somewhat unusual, but I had formed no expectations.  I look at each of you and see profound reflections of myself.  I was for a time an earnest academic," Ken looks to Andrew, "and although I maintain my interest," he tosses the Magical Journal on the table, "I am merely scholarly; I would not call myself a scholar."

Ken stands up and takes off his jacket, setting it on the back of his chair and exposing his holstered Ares Predator.  Erlos, having now stepped away from the kitchen and joined the group had picked out the weapon before Ken had exposed it.  Without missing a beat, Ken
smoothly pulls the weapon out backwards with his off hand and tosses it to Erlos with remarkable nonchalance.  "I trust you would approve.  It's been modified to include a Savalette Smoothtrak buffer system and balanced with Hammerli Magna Weights." Ken returns his attention and voice to the group again.  "Although it may not look like it, Erlos
and I probably have more in common than he might think.  I have known the streets intimately in the past and am becoming re-acquainted with them."

Erlos looks the weapon over, giving a coolly neutral response before handing it back casually.  Ken thinks he sees a hint of a grin in Erlos's eyes as he locks his gaze on his and finishes, his words enunciated as if they were weapons, "I have also learned how to be brutally pragmatic when the situation calls for it . . ."

Ken slides his gaze smoothly and quickly to Elaine, ". . . especially when people are relying on me.  My magic aids me in that, for my relationship with the Sky Father grants me access to knowledge beyond the norm.  With this gift I can better take care of my people, and myself.  You watch out for them and, when necessary, you take action."

He looks to Dirk as he sits down again. "Although I am an Adept and that gives me a certain capacity for action which I try to utilize, I am still no 'man of action' as many of my more . . . physical Awakened brothers are.  Nonetheless, I do not shirk from physical challenges my
goals present me with, and I appreciate the aesthetic of the path."

Ken finally looks to Susan and continues, "Perhaps that is easier because I do not see challenges as obstacles, but rather teachers.  I seek them out.  The quest for truth and solutions which I began in school has continued in my work; the streets have become my classroom once again.  I of course willingly accept Astral aid in my work from my spirits friends as I trust Susan does."  Ken settles back into his chair.

"It may sound like I have my bases covered, but I want more out of life.  I want to explore the Awakened world and my place in it, but I realize that my goals exceed my abilities in that arena.  I want to realize my full potential as a Magician Adept.  I know enough to realize that all of these things can be done without the aid of others.  Why would I bother looking for a group then?"  Ken scans across the faces of the people before ending, "Because I yearn for community as well.  I want companions and counselors on this path.  I want direction.  I want comrades."

"Of course, camaraderie is a two-way street, and I am but one of six.  I think the more important question is what do all of you think of my visit so far?  I am content to let those answers form more fully before you answer.  I am also content with no promise of an answer.  I will say that I did not imagine a group of people that I would have so much in common with."  Ken's face breaks into an infectious grin as he stands back up.  "Perhaps we can go with the more traditional approach."  Ken pulls the wine and beer from a sack.  "Meaningful, slightly inebriated conversation over a hearty meal."

GM: "Well said, Ken," responds Andrew with a smile as he stands up. "Is dinner ready, Erlos?" The stoic chef only nods in response and slowly walks back to the kitchen.

The group adjourns to the dining room. A large table, easily room for eight, dominates the room. It is made of black metal frame with a frosted blue glass table surface. Various foods have been laid out -- breads, two large bowls of dirty rice, several wines and other drinks,
and a big pot of shrimp gumbo that Erlos places in the center on a thick wicker mat.

Everyone starts in on the food with vigor and seems to be in high spirits. Even Erlos grins or subtly chuckles at some of Dirk's jokes.  Andrew starts things off with a story about his latest lecture at San Francisco's Community Future, an annual conference held for social, political, and corporate persons involved in community organizations. He tells of how he spun one of his favorite stories about a boy who discovers a magical amulet and ignores the advise of other mundanes to ignore it because magic is for magicians. In the end he befriends a spirit and uses the amulet to seal a collapsing dam. Andrew tells it well and Ken can see how his mix of genuine concern, knowledge, and oratory skills make him an excellent spokesman and lecturer.

"I'm sure Ken is more interested in his initial question than my little trips," begins Andrew. "How did you say it, again."

"What do we think of him so far," adds Dirk and broad grin on his face.  He seems to be enjoying Ken's visit and polite interrogation.

"Well I can see what you think," says Ken to the elven adventurer playfully.

"I can just remember being in your shoes and wondering why I would want to fight some academic social crusade."

"And why did you, Dirk?" asks Ken.

"You must follow your heart, right Professor," says Dirk hinting at some previous conversation or inside knowledge.

"Indeed. To following your heart and the interesting path that inevitably follows," toasts Andrew, raising his glass of Ken's white wine. The others agree in a friendly manner, but with a hint of seriousness, as if the toast strikes a chord in each of them. Ken takes
part as well. 

"Well I think he'd make a charming and interesting addition," says Susan, speaking for the first time since arriving.

"Definitely don't need another scholar. We have too many of those already," says Erlos seriously, hinting at Ken's other talents. His statement quiets the table slightly as if the friendly atmosphere is shaken slightly.

Andrew follows up quickly, reestablishing the mood, "Forgive Erlos, he is still learning to enjoy life."

"Anyone who can cook this well has at least one foot through that door," says Ken with a grin. Erlos doesn't respond, but the others concur in various ways, ending in a toast to Erlos' cooking and the evening's meal.

"Ken, we know about you already. We wouldn't have invited you here if we didn't all believe that you would make an excellent addition and strengthen our purpose. What we think of you is best defined by our out stretched hand," as Andrew says that he looks about the table for
confirmation. Susan smiles and chuckles to some private joke. Dirk agrees heartily, raising his glass to Ken and gulping down a large swallow. Erlos remains motionless and just locks eyes with Ken for a moment. Ken hardens himself and tries to maintain the look, but looks
away and towards the last member, Elaine. Andrew pauses at Elaine as if her approval holds some additional weight.

She has been sitting in a straight posture, her hands folded and arched over the plate of barely touched food. Ken has noticed her watching him, not judging, but as if to understand. A couple seconds pass and then she speaks.

"He has been walking a dark road, lightning illuminating the landscape in confusing brief visions. Whether he sees the path that is chosen for him here, is his decision."

The table seems to warm up to the enigmatic shaman's statement, as if her approval was hidden within her carefully chosen words.

"Here we are welcoming you in. Perhaps I should say a little more about the details of the Sixth Guides. We are dedicated to exploring magical phenomena and educating the world about our Awakened world, these beliefs are core to our group. We meet once a month on the last day of each month, although most of us run into each other more frequently here at the Hall. As Susan probably explained, our group is not a contemplative or initiatory group. We perform deeds and services, motivated by our own desire to see people more educated in magic as well as to break up the criminal corporate tendencies to hoard magical knowledge. Our group is a friendly one, and perhaps the most important declaration upon joining is that of fraternity. We are are all kindred spirits and help each other out whenever necessary, of course self-sufficiency is also a skill that is important in this world.

Because of our beliefs and how much we value our magical skills, we have all agreed to supplement our powers with whatever handicaps are necessary to maintain our strength. I believe you have some geasa that do just that. Some of us have taken such things to allow modifications or stave off the dangers of our extracurricular activities," Andrew looks to Erlos for the last comment before continuing.

"We have also all provided material links to the group. This is not out of any kind of dangerous conspiratorial plots to control members, but we often encounter magicks and run contrary to corporate interested. We keep such things so that we can find and aid any member that is in danger. Luckily, we have not yet had to use them, but the emergency contingency still exists. Finally, upon our first initiation, one takes an oath to strength their bond to the other members and to allow the first grade to come more easily. We certainly cannot seek out higher mysteries and preach about the metamagics if we have not reach them ourselves. Let's see, ah yes, Steven Archallos is our patron and pays for all this," Andrew says as he gestures about the room.

"You will meet him soon, but he has already approved your inclusion.  Enough about work. I will let you think about what we've said. I'm sure there are plenty of smaller topics that can entertain us during dinner.  After dinner we can address any other matters," finishes Andrew.

Over the rest of dinner everyone talks about mundane topics - current events, sports (Dirk and Susan are both sports fans), some minor philosophy. Attempts to steer the conversation towards the group or towards more detailed information about each of the group members is
diverted. It is obvious that the rest of the dinner is for pleasantries.

The dinner lasts two hours in all. The main meal is followed by coffee and a rum ice cream that Erlos apparently makes from scratch. All in all it is one of the most entertaining evenings for Ken in a long time.

After dinner, Andrew turns to Ken with a very serious look in his eyes.
"We would like you to join the Sixth Guides. Will you?"

Me: Ken is caught slightly off guard by how suddenly the question seemed to come up, and instinctively replies, "Well . . . at first glance this group's path and my desired one seem to mesh nicely.  Providing a material link definitely ups the ante on the commitment.  Perhaps it's my corporate experience speaking, but I trust that if I left the material link would be returned.  When I set out on my path to the higher mysteries, I will be better able to judge.  But I rationalize, and I think this is a time when reason must give way to intuition.  One might say I should listen to my heart."

Ken pauses and smiles weakly saying, "My heart and I don't talk very much as of late, so let's call it intuition.  There's some intangible influence that tells me that right now this is the right path for me.  Besides, I don't know a reliable Talismonger."  Ken looks to Elaine and maintains a deadpan just long enough to let the joke build, then laughs, following with "Yes, I will join you."  He raises his glass while the laughter still lingers and, not missing a beat, toasts, "To ancient mysteries and new friends."

GM: The other members give up a round of cheers and congratulations. They all seem pleased by Ken's decision - Andrew, Dirk and Susan vocalizing their approval; Elaine gives a friendly nod; and Erlos remains stoic, but a slight smirk creeps onto his face momentarily.

The group adjourns back to the living room. Dirk and Erlos move the furniture out of the way while Elaine disappears into a side room. She emerges moments latter with a quilt in her arms. They spread the quilt on the carpet and Ken can see many different squares, each with a different story and mood. The quilt is not a large one, barely enough room for the six of you to sit in a small circle around it's perimeter.

Elaine says, "We mark the evolution of our group by adding to the Quilt of Being. It is here that we can feel the thoughts, emotions, and paths of the memories. By experiencing and understanding we can embrace ourselves and each other."

"Every time a new member joins, we each add a new square. We all laughed at first, but there's something simple and pure about capturing a picture of one's experiences and sharing it with the others," adds Susan.

The group sits down on the quilt, some in a lotus position, others kneeling. Andrew motions for Ken to join the circle and to hold hands with the others. Everyone closes their eyes and quiet falls on the small awakened gathering. Ken follows suit, waiting for a ritualistic chanting or recital to follow. Instead, the others remain quiet and continue to meditate. 

Soon Ken finds his own breathing rising and falling with the others and a strange insubstantial link tries to form around the circle. He can feel it snaking its way through Susan, and like a cautious dog sniffing at a potential friend or enemy, it pauses at Ken's hand gauging whether to flow into this new addition or recoil from hesitation. The others seem oblivious to this energy, as if it is a test for Ken and Ken alone.

Minutes slip away, perhaps hours, with this new force probing at first and then flowing into the detective. It travels throughout his entire body, always the sense that it could retreat just as enigmatically as it arrived. Finally, it passes through Ken and into Elaine and he can feel the full being of the magical group. Not just an entity in name, it is a creature created and existing solely between these precious people. He realizes that he has been accepted into the Sixth Guides.

"Welcome Ken Tokugawa," says Andrew in a quiet tone, as if noises would banish this unique moment. The other nod, except Susan, who Ken hears faintly echo Andrew's words.

The members get up from the quilt and Ken realizes that, in fact, three hours passed while they were on the quilt. Everyone stretches and shakes out their aching muscles and seems spent in energy and conversation.

"There will be time for everything else later. Our next formal meeting is a month away, but everyone passes through the Hall regularly. You are no longer a stranger here, so come to know each of us more on our own informal terms," says Andrew, concluding the night's activities.

Susan offers to give Ken a ride back to his office, but Ken politely refuses. The rest of the evening is best spent alone in contemplation.

The Sixth Guides


The leader of the Sixth Guides, a skilled hermetic mage, and a professor of anthropology at Georgetown University in DC.  He is a human male in his early 40s.  He is the group's public spokes person, as needed.  He tours the university and corporate lecture circuit whenever time allows.
Kimono: His kimono is medium blue in color with a subtle, uniform electric blue pattern of tiny triple lobed wedges on it.  His haori is blue-black and the obi is white.

Dirk Brannigan

A Elven latino male professional explorer with ties to the Atlantean Foundation, Smithsonian, and several corporations. A very competent physical adept and a thrill seeker.  He has seen a lot of Magic in his explorations.  Andrew refers to him as a "swashbuckler".
Kimono: Dirk's kimono is at once the brightest and of the more austere of all of the kimonos Ken bought for the group.  It is a brilliant, solid crimson color, with a starkly contrasting black haori and obi.


An Orkish female Owl Shaman and Talismonger.  She is caucasian and small for her race.  She appears to be mother and conscience for the group, and tends to be somewhat protective.
Kimono: Out of respect for her Totem, Ken intentionally designed her kimono to mimic the plumage of the Eurasian Eagle Owl, the largest owl in the world.  It has a light brown base color and is spotted with flecks of black and dark brown.  The haori reflects the wing plumage and is black with gray bars.  The obi is dark brown. 


A male human with a mediterranean complexion.  He is a Shadowrunner that dresses and acts the part.  He has cyber eyes that are solid gold in color.  Andrew brought him into the group.  A very grim, silent fellow.  The one dominant quality Susan speaks of is his reliability.
Kimono: Erlos's kimono is consistent with his typical garb and demeanor; it is solid black.  It is unique among those that Ken purchased in that it has a pattern upon it, a brilliant gold ki-rin embroidered on the back with sparkling red eyes made from inlaid stones.  The ensemble is finished with a matching golden haori and obi.  The golden colors seem to match his cyber eyes almost perfectly.

Susan Ghostchaser

An female Elven Conjurer of the Gargoyle Totem.  She dresses mostly in gray, and her Amerindian features are complemented by her long. black hair.  She is a detective by trade.  She speaks of working "more unorthodox" cases.
Kimono: The marbled gray pattern of her kimono reminds one of her Totem, Gargoyle.  Her sleek form seems more enunciated by the broad black haori that make her shoulders appear taller and broader, giving her a strange, slim, inverted triangle appearance.  The costume is finished out with a matching black obi, the traditional broad waist sash.  Her hair is pulled up in geisha fashion, with sleek marble sticks holding it in place.

"The Hall" - Home to The Sixth Guides

The Hall occupies a quarter of the top most floor of the twenty story office building.  The building has good security in addition to the Hall's own extra security.  The Hall shares the floor with a travel agency, a small group of lawyer offices, and a marketing firm.  The double door entrance opens into a large carpeted living room with an entertainment center in the far corner. The entrance foyer is relative devoid of furniture or items, save for a plush reading chair off to the side and a coat and hat rack to the other side. A dozen small rooms surround the center one like satellites, several still empty. A full kitchen and dining room complete the spread.

Further Interactions

Towards the first grade - The Oath of Initiation

[Ken has the karma and has been trying to Initiate since the game started.  He found the group shortly before his third run and joined them.  After the third run, he had the karma, but he had a few more role-playing hoops to jump through . . .]

GM: Ken Kaze stops by the Hall, the day after the run, to start integrating himself into his new coven of friends. The place seems large and quiet upon arrival, the ghost memories of cooking and talking his only thoughts of the place. Andrew is the only other member there, sitting in the living room reading a small worn hard copy book. The lights to the Hall are dimmed and a single lamp provides a warm orange glow for the reading professor. He sets the book down as Ken arrives.

"Ken, come have a seat," he says motioning to the couch.

"I would have stopped by sooner, but work has kept me occupied for the last couple of days," apologizes Ken as he relaxes into the plush cushions.

"Don't worry, your schedule is your own. Some of us spend as much time as possible here, while others march to their own drummer. I'm glad we could talk without the interruption of the others. I'm sure you have lots of questions and feelings to sort out, not to mention curiosity and an eagerness towards the higher magicks," says Andrew.

"Actually, I feel that I am already prepared to explore the first level of the metamagicks. I have been thinking a lot about them, even before joining the Sixth Guides."

"And you are anxious to investigate and understand them, yes?" says Andrew with a smile.

"Of course, while I am still coming to terms with the beliefs of the group and learning to draw them out from within myself, I've always been hungry for higher knowledge," responds Ken contemplatively.

"And you will, all in good time. The first grade is the most important to the awakened. It is the first time they learn that there are mysteries and places beyond the everyday, even for most magicians.  Because of this, it is important for all of the members to guide and aid this second awakening. We have some customs that have become traditions.  Each member adds their own customs and influences existing ones, as I'm sure you will do.

"For the first grade, the member presents themselves to the group and recites an Oath of Conviction. This oath encompasses the strictures and beliefs of the group as well as anything else they wish to add. Some speak about a life changing event, others include discussion of the journey in finding and joining the group, while others include meaningful poetry. It is something that is created and unique to each person. During the oath, it has become customary to add a patch to the group's Quilt of Being. This dedicates the commitment in a more tangible form and symbolically links the member's being to that of the other members. After the oath, the member then begins their introspection and studying for their first grade, often taking a sabbatical from their mundane existence.

"For all grades, we start the process with a group meeting, where the member describes what they hope to learn and why.  Beyond the first initiation, these meetings are informal ones designed to keep some structure and support for the initiating member. Usually, members can gather for a meeting given a week's notice. However, we do not want to rush into the first grade. You will have your hands and mind full becoming acclimated to your new surrounds. Elaine has already spoken to me about teaching you the basics of quilting and is prepared to make herself available over the next few weeks. Privately, I think she enjoys this more than most of the group's other activities.

"So, young Skywalker," he concludes jokingly, "you have much ahead of you. Part of being in such a group is compromising and learning to understand the traditions and customs of your peers. I'm sure you'll come to tout them to our new members, when we accept some."

Me: Ken leans forward, a thoughtful look on his face.  He removes his fake spectacles as if to add emphasis to his statement as he answers, "Andrew.  I have faith in the wisdom of the patient pursuit of knowledge.  I respect this group and appreciate the opportunity to join.  I admit to a certain impatience.  I have always resolved intellectual challenges quickly in my life.  This challenge borders on the spiritual, but again, that is not virgin territory.  I have tread the paths of my soul.  I do not fully understand myself, but I have pursued such knowledge more than most."

Ken stands up and gingerly snatches up Andrew's book.  "To you, I may be a closed book."  Ken opens the cover and flips a few pages. "Or perhaps you have read my prologue.  I can assure you that you have read no further, any other belief would be blissful delusion.  You will come to know many of my masks as we walk my path, but I can not promise that you will know much about me," Ken points to his chest, "the real me."

Ken gracefully moves his free hand, tracing some pattern in the air that does not quite make any sense, then releases the book, which floats freely before him.  The book traces out a lazy, careless pattern in the air as Ken continues, "I am not some poor lost soul floating in the morass of a cruel, wicked world.  I did not come to the group begging for direction.  Rather, I was quite well grounded."  The book settles quietly on the table and Ken sits back in his chair.

"Did I need this group? Perhaps.  Does this group need me? Perhaps.  Are these questions that will be answered?  Perhaps, but not in one month, or two, or three.  Clearly, the five of you have done your homework so to speak.  I did not make it very hard for you.  I kept an absurdly routine schedule, I left my number with dozens of Awakened citizens.  Any doubts you collectively had must have been sufficiently quelled to bring me into the fold."

"I am not a novice to Magic, I have a Ph.D., and I earned it.  I am not a novice to my self, I've lived with me for quite some time, and I have been through some very trying times.  I am not a novice to the higher mysteries, I was prepared to continue on without a group."

"I sought out this group for fraternity and direction, not delay.  Initiation will bring me into an arena that will enhance my professional and personal life, but more importantly, it will make me a truly useful member of this group.  I despise wearing this conceptual blindfold that you have fitted me with.  I wish to remove it as quickly as possible.  I will not be able to pick the path nor judge its rightness until I can see it.  I would like to resolve the Oath of Initiation at the earliest possible opportunity."

"As for the ceremony itself, I already have an idea of what I would like the quilt to represent and how I will execute it.  I have only seventeen words I feel compelled to convey, but I could craft more as needed.  But what would I speak of?  Your investigations and my confessions have already spoken volumes.  I feel words are excellent tools, but such poor conduits of the soul.  I would like my ceremony to consist of a Japanese tea ceremony followed by the presentation of the quilt with its new addition unless there are objections."

Ken relaxes slightly.  An almost palpable air of quiet aggression dissipate just as Andrew fully realizes it.  "Andrew."  Ken sighs and smiles warmly.  "Andrew, I may be coming on strong, but I am no child, no wayward orphan of Magic.  Events in my life have delayed my transition to the higher mysteries and I feel a void, a weakness.  I have never been more ready for discovery and . . . perhaps, renewal.  As such, I would appreciate if you could call the group together quickly.  The design I have in mind is quite austere, as is the message, as will be the ceremony.  What say you?"

Tea Ceremony

[I try to find ways to learn things about the real world in the course of gaming, so I did some simple research on the Japanese tea ceremony and composed the following.]

Ken had contacted the other five members of the Sixth Guides and invited them to a Japanese tea ceremony.  The ceremony was to be his own vision of his "Oath of Initiation" into the group.  As the time passed until the fateful day, Ken collected the components and studied the formalisms of the ceremony.  The Zen roots of the ceremony often left Ken unexpectedly reading a random book on meditation.  This, combined with the significance of the oath and the dramatic change of finding a fraternal group had made Ken introspective. He began to explore his motivations, his goals, and the actions they spawned.

Woman and man, husband and wife.  Ken had not known his parents.  They were Yakuza assassins.  Hand in hand, they slaughtered mercilessly.  Woman and man, yin and yang, a coupling drenched in blood.

The faces they presented him were pretty masks.  In all, they did a decent job of parenting.  He remembered nothing bad about his childhood before their deaths.  They had been killing machines, their legacy was blood and violence.  He had killed remorselessly.  Was remorse inherited?  Was he destined to follow their path?

Ken had sent a "scream sheet" on the ceremony to his guests to give them some notion of what to do and what to expect.  In accordance with etiquette, they all responded a few days ahead of time and showed up the day prior to personally thank Ken for inviting them.  Most of them seemed equally entertained and amused by the whole idea.

The night has arrived.  The guests are assembled and provided with kimonos and slippers for the night's events.  Ken has spent a thousand nuyen on each kimono; they are authentic and finely made.  As they don their kimonos, they begin to get in the mood.  Their mannerisms become more subdued, their speech softens, and they become more contemplative.  Susan arrives and leads them out of the changing area.

The dining room of the Hall has been blocked off by a solid wall of shoji screens.  The gossamer sheets of rice paper held in the wooden frames are just thick enough to conceal what lies inside.  The central hall has been cleared of its normal contents and is surrounded with backlit shoji screens which provide the sole illumination.

Susan leads the other members of the Sixth Guides, minus Ken, quietly into the room.  The marbled gray pattern of her kimono reminds one of her Totem, Gargoyle.  Her sleek form seems more enunciated by the broad black haori that makes her shoulders appear taller and broader, giving her a strange, slim, inverted triangle appearance.  The costume is finished out with a matching black obi, the traditional broad waist sash.  Her hair is pulled up in geisha fashion, with sleek marble sticks holding it in place.

She is followed by her four friends, Andrew, Elaine, Dirk, and Erlos.  They too wear kimonos purchased for them by Ken.  All of them are samurai style, like Susan's, but they lack any weapons, including the wakizashi short sword that would mark the wearer as a samurai.

Andrew looks eager and bright eyed.  His kimono is medium blue in color, with a remarkably uniform and subtle electric blue pattern of tiny triple lobed wedges printed upon it.  His haori is blue-black; the obi is white.  His hair is neatly combed, but he has forgone any hair styling, possibly due to the fact that he is balding.

Elaine looks serene and watchful.  Her hair is only slightly different than normal and includes her usual feather accouterments.  Out of respect for her Totem, Ken intentionally designed her kimono to mimic the plumage of the Eurasian Eagle Owl, the largest owl in the world.  The kimono has a light brown base color and is spotted with flecks of black and dark brown.  The haori reflects the wing plumage and is black with gray bars.  The obi is dark brown.

Dirk looks amused and excited.  His hair is pulled up into a traditional samurai top knot.  Dirk's kimono is at once the brightest and one of the more austere of all of the kimonos Ken bought for the group.  It is a brilliant, solid crimson color, with a starkly contrasting black haori and obi.

Erlos is his usual grim self, although in this case, it is appropriate to the event.  Erlos's kimono is consistent with his typical garb and demeanor; it is solid black.  It is unique among those that Ken purchased in that it has a pattern upon it, a brilliant gold ki-rin, or dragon horse, embroidered on the back with sparkling red eyes made from inlaid stones.  The ensemble is finished with a matching golden haori and obi.  The golden colors seem to match his cyber eyes almost perfectly.

Susan leads them to a bench in the central area of the Hall and hands them rolled bamboo mats which unfurl to reveal simple instructions and a glossary of the names of what they are experiencing.  The mat is medium red in color with a watercolor painting as a background.  The letters are written in English, but in a calligraphy that smacks of an oriental style.  The guests read the mats and discover that the small, flowerless, freshly moistened garden that Ken has set up is called the roji, or "dew ground;" the room they are in is called machiai, or "waiting area;" the bench they are sitting on is called a koshikake machiai, or "waiting bench", Susan's role is hanto, or "assistant to the host;" and the room they waited to enter is called a chashitsu, a room designed for a tea ceremony.

The only sounds that accompany them are the rustlings of their kimonos and their breathing.  Erlos and Elaine seem quite comfortable with this, while Dirk and Andrew seem ready to burst with the comforting noises of conversation.  A few minutes pass and a calm begins to come over the group.

Night and hearth.  The dark and dirty times in his childhood were balanced by the warmth and light of his Uncle's love.  Light and dark, yin and yang, in balance.

His Uncle Saito now seemed all too distant.  He lived no more than twenty minutes away, but Ken's heart had farther to travel.  His jealous cousin Taishiko had driven the wedge between them, and held it steady.  Upon reflection is seemed like such a simple problem to resolve.  Why had he let it continue this way?  Problems rarely solve themselves.  If they do, they were probably not problems to begin with.

The relative silence is broken by the sound of water from inside the chashitsu emanating from the tiny, meter high, archway passage to the room called the chumon, or "middle gate."  The sound is one of water being ladled onto stone.  It grows into the sound of water filling a basin of some kind, then stops.  More sounds of water splashing are heard, then the faint sound of rustling cloth.  A moment later, Ken, who will be acting as the teishu, or "house master", stoops through the chumon and welcomes his guests silently.  His kimono is jet black with a dark blood red haori and obi.  His hair has been slicked back flat on his head and he is not wearing his ubiquitous spectacles.  His face is unusually serene and calm.  With a bow, he leads them into the chashitsu.

They follow him in a specific order.  Susan, as hanto, follows Ken, then Andrew, Elaine, Dirk, and Erlos.  All of them bow to pass through the small portal that the chumon makes.  Susan had explained to them earlier that the chumon had a two-fold purpose, to symbolize the passage from the physical to the spiritual world and to symbolize social equality in the house by forcing all who enter to bow.

Inside, the soft backlighting of the shoji screens is again the only illumination in the room.  The room has a portable hearth, or furo, on the floor as its centerpiece.  The kettle, or kama, sits beside it.  Just inside the chumon is the tsukubai, a stone basin containing pure water.  Susan, as previously instructed, stops to draw water from it to purify her hands and mouth.  The others follow suit and soon they fill the room with their presence.  The floor is made up of tatami mats, thin reed mats, with six thin cushions that are upholstered to match the kimonos of the guests.  The only other feature of note is an alcove in the wall, or tokonoma, in which is hung a dark cloth. 

The guests draw closer to the tokonoma to admire its contents.  Traditionally, a scroll with a philosophical message rendered in artful calligraphy would occupy the alcove.  The message would be relevant to the ceremony.  Because of the purpose for the ceremony, to serve as Ken's oath of initiation into the Sixth Guides, it instead contains the square of cloth that will be added to the Quilt of Being once this ceremony is complete.  The guests draw closer to the square and begin to make out the details.

The main square itself is made of fine silk, with padding to make its thickness commensurate with the rest of the quilt.  A Kanji character has been imprinted upon it in a dark blood red.  It is the character for "investigate".  Upon this is a message embroidered in a pearly white thread so fine that the fibers are difficult to make out.  The message is a haiku:

"the night wind wanders
a hearth light lifts the darkness
can it lift a heart?"
As the guests move around the room, their slippers making soft noises on the tatami mats that have been laid down.  They ritualistically admire the furo and kama.  The furo is simple, a square ceramic pit with magical symbols in relief on its broad lip.  The kama is simple, but beautiful.  It has an irregular, dark brown glaze and a small light green patch on which a few black kanji characters have been painted.  The whole kama, including its heavy iron handle is completely hand wrought, and even to the untrained eye great care has obviously been taken in crafting it.  The guests smile and nod approvingly, and then sit down around the room on the cushions provided.
Thunder and mountain.  Light and joy come to him as he thinks of his days in private school.  He began to discover his relationship with the Sky Father as his magic manifested and he began to know the heavens.  The earth became a living thing that washed into his senses, filling them as if he had never truly noticed it before.  Heaven and earth, yin and yang, in tandem.

The innocence of discovery of his adolescence seemed idyllic.  Those times had been some of his best.  There were stains on the tapestry of joy he envisioned.  Again, Taishiko came to mind.  His group of thugs had tried to catch Ken alone, but had instead found Ken well prepared for their attack.  Ken and his friends had won the battle, leaving Taishiko and his street punks broken and bleeding, but in the end, he had lost a cousin and sown the seeds for losing his uncle.  This was no time for regret, only realization.  The obvious paths are not always the best ones to take.

Ken sits down on the floor and addresses Andrew first, bowing to him then saying quietly, "Andrew-sama, thank you for attending.  Your heart guides us and your spirit lends us focus."  Ken waits for Andrew's reply.

*** Andrew's reply

Ken turns and bows to Elaine saying,  "Elaine-sama, thank you for attending.  Your heart joins us and your spirit lifts us."  He again pauses for a reply.

*** Elaine's reply

Ken turns and bows to Dirk saying, "Brannigan-sama, thank you for attending.  Your heart invigorates us and your spirit inspires us."  Ken falls quiet.

*** Dirk's reply

Ken turns and bows to Erlos saying, "Erlos-sama, thank you for attending.  Your heart girds us and your spirit watches over us."  Ken looks into Erlos' smooth featureless eyes, clearly intrigued at how he will reply.

*** Erlos' reply

Ken turns finally to Susan, "Ghostchaser-sama, your assistance with this ceremony honors me greatly.  Your heart calls me and your spirit sings of fraternity."

*** Susan's reply

As the sounds of Susan's words fade, Ken backs out of the room, sliding open a section of one of the shoji screens to reveal a full-sized portal to the kitchen area.  He moves quietly out of the chashitsu returning a few seconds later with a tray of food that he hands to Andrew.  The tray is a lustrous black lacquered tray with a few sparse orchids painted upon it.  On the tray are two covered bowls, a dish, and chopsticks that seem to match Andrew's kimono in color.  Ken and Andrew bow to each other, then Ken returns to the kitchen, repeating the sequence in turn until all of the guests have trays.  Then he bows to the guests and says, "Please begin eating."

They bow, nod, and uncover their bowls revealing rice in one and miso soup in the other.  They all place the lids off to the right side of the tray, the soup bowl lid over the rice bowl lid.  The dish is black lacquer with a gold hermetic circle pattern painted around its rim.  It contains a  handful of azuki beans and a similar amount of senmai-zuke, paper-thin slices of giant turnip radish pickled with kelp to give it sweetness.  Only Susan is aware how hard Ken worked to obtain the unassuming radish, fresh from a Kyoto native.  Ken steps back into the kitchen while they ate.

As they finish their rice and soup, Ken returns with a tray holding a medium sized bottle, tokkuri, of warm rice wine, saké, and six small porcelain cups, sakazuki.  The saké bottle is a simple porcelain vessel with a bulbous base tapering to a small neck which then flutes out slightly.  At the narrowest point is a rope collar from which extends a loop that serves to secure the lid of the bottle.  Ken carefully hands cups to his guests and serves them in the same order that he had before, starting with Andrew.  The cups are also white porcelain, and each has a blue, stylized bamboo pattern painted around the rim in the style of a water color.  Ken brings in more rice in a central dish from which the guests can serve themselves as needed.  This time Ken remains and proposes a toast.  He holds up his cup of saké and says quietly but firmly, "to friendship."

*** toasting from others?

Once the toasts have stopped, and the trays are almost empty, Ken asks, "Would you like more soup?"  Everyone declines in turn, having been warned ahead of time by Susan that a number of dishes would follow.  Ken fetches more food from the kitchen, this time returning with large bowls and a plate of strange little skewered rectangles, tofu dengaku, which Susan had explained were grilled, seasoned and garnished pieces of bean curd.  They remove the lid of the bowls and, as part of the ceremony, savor the aroma before eating.  The bowls contain tara no age-ni, a broth with fried cod in it.  As the guests eat, Ken brings in more warm saké for his guests and serves them.  Ken retires to the kitchen eat his food.

He eats quickly and retires to bring the next course, grilled foods.  There are two black lacquer plates with the same golden hermetic circle pattern as before around the rim.  On one plate are skewers of shrimp, ebi onigara-yaki, the bright red color explains their name, "demon shrimp".  The skewers are pearly-white, providing a complementary contrast with the food and the dish.  Another plate holds slices of grilled squid with sesame, ika goma-yaki, and whole, salt-grilled clams, hamaguri shio-yaki.  Ken fills his guests' cups with saké once again before returning to the kitchen to eat.

For the next course, the soup bowls are filled with a clear broth and Ken brings out a variety of vinegared foods, including shrimp, ebi; mackerel, saba; octopus, tako; and crab, kani.  He first places a small bed of peeled slivers of cucumber in the lid of the soup bowl of Andrew, then adds the meats, finally dressing it with a sweet vinegar dressing, repeating this in turn for the others.  Ken sits down with the group for this course, and the guests now take turns serving him saké.  The group seems to enjoy the course and the food is soon finished. 

Ken fetches the final "course" from the kitchen, the hashiarai, which is meant to rinse and refresh the guests' mouths.  It consists of two small portions of food, tiny green pickled daikon radish and mullet roe.  The guests put the pickles in their soup bowls with hot water and then eat them.  Finally, everyone carefully wipes their bowls and chopsticks.  Ken bows to each guest in turn as he removes their trays.  Once done, he gestures to the chumon and says, "please retire to the waiting area, machiai, while I prepare the room for tea."

The guests leave and the sounds of Ken sweeping the floor of the room can be heard before the door is closed once more.  Some twenty minutes later, Ken again beckons them into the room with five strokes of a bell.  They repeat the purification of their hands and mouths with the water from the stone basin.  The room has changed slightly.  There is now a fire of glowing coals in the furo and the scent of sandalwood burning.  The kama is suspended over the coals, full of water; a gentle plume of steam rises from its spout.  The tokonoma is now filled with a floral arrangement instead of the quilt square.

Fire and mystery.  Higher education beckoned and the recesses of a library became his home.  He plumbed the shadowy depths of the secrets locked within the dusty books as well those locked within his mind.  His guiding light was his burning desire to know the Awakened world, a brilliant flame that illuminated and consumed knowledge rapaciously.  Bright flame wrestles with dark of secrets, yin and yang in harmony.

Adulthood and wisdom had ballooned in young Ken as he earned his degrees and started up his own detective agency.  He learned some faces of the love of women: shallow, passionate, and void.  He learned the paternal love of a teacher, the intractable pain of loss, and the inherent power of the individual and the collective group alike.  He learned of higher goals and the depths of human pettiness.  He learned the blindness of justice, the power of corruption, and breadth of corporate power.  He strove to glean the most from his lessons.

The guests move into the room once again, admiring the kama, furo, and now the floral arrangement.  The water jar and bowl are sitting by the kama.  The jar is broad and appears to be ceramic with a mottled dark brown and black glaze.  It has two ear handles and the body curves in to a flat top with a hole in it that is covered by a black, cast iron lid.  There is a pair of subtle oriental dragon patterns cut into opposite sides of the jar.  The bowl is of a similar ceramic material with an identical glaze, but no inscribed patterns.

The flowers are a delicate array of orchids and slim green wisps.  The coloration of the orchids is subtle, but flecks and streaks can be picked out by careful observation that reflect the color of the various kimonos of the people assembled.  A few minutes pass as Susan points out the subtleties of the flowers.  Ken smiles, remembering that Susan had helped him pick out each flower.

Ken waits for his guests to be seated then begins bringing in utensils.  He enters with a fine silk cloth, fukusa, and the tea bowl, chawan, in which rests the tea whisk, chasen; tea cloth, chakin; and bamboo tea scoop, chasaku, resting on top of the bowl.  The more meditative nature of this step of the meal is obvious as Ken makes slow careful motions in laying out the utensils next to the water jar.  He retires again, returning with the waste water bowl, kensui; bamboo water ladle, hishaku; and the green bamboo rest for the lid of the kama, futaoki.

The tools complete, Ken sits down slowly and carefully with clearly practiced grace.  His breathing visibly slows and his concentration deepens.  He takes up the fukusa and methodically, ritualistically folds the cloth and carefully handles it as he purifies the tea container and scoop.  He gently lays down the fukusa, picks up the hishaku, and begins to ladle hot water into the chawan.  The gentle sounds of the water as it splashes into the bowl, caressing it, is quite audible in the silence of the room.  Ken sets the water ladle aside and picks up the tea whisk, rinsing it in the water of the chawan.  He then carefully empties the tea bowl into the kensui and wipes it dry with the tea cloth.

Ken lifts the tea scoop and bowl and begins putting three scoops of green tea powder, matcha, into the bowl for each guest into the now warmed tea bowl.  He then pours some hot water into the bowl, and whips it into a thin paste, adding water at intervals and whisking again until he finally stopped leaving a liquid not unlike pea soup in appearance.

Ken, seemingly satisfied with the consistency, hands the bowl carefully to Andrew.  Andrew rotates the bowl looking at the designs on it.  It is black lacquered with wisp-thin strokes of lightning around it.  Gold kanji character ring the rim of the bowl.

Andrew speaks succinctly, "The bowl is beautiful Ken, I look forward to hearing about its significance."  He takes the bowl to his mouth and takes a drink of the tea, carefully wipes it, then passes it to Elaine.  Each guest repeats the process in kind until the bowl returns to Ken.  He takes it and carefully rinses it along with the tea scoop.  Ken stifles a smile as Erlos's face betrays a hint of paranoia because Ken has not drank the tea himself.  Once the bowl and scoop are dry, Ken hands them around.  The scoop is somewhat plain in comparison.  It is made of bamboo.  It has a tiny yin yang symbol hanging from a short red cord attached to the end of the handle.  The yin yang is composed of black and white onyx set in a brass circle.  Three finely painted, black kanji characters run vertically down the handle from the top.  They are not the same characters painted around the bowl.

As the objects are passed around the room, he speaks, "The bowl reflects my magical potential.  The kanji characters variously stand for nature, lightning, wind, spirits, energy, knowledge, sight, and a host of characters related to magic and energy.  The path I walk with Sky Father is still not very clear to me.  I realize that I am quite young in this respect.  I am fortunate to have been well prepared to function as a magician, but I have a great deal to learn about magic, myself, and Sky Father."

"The scoop reflects my ability to realize my potential, to fill my bowl so to speak.  It variously represents my heart, mind, and spirit.  The kanji characters on the handle indicate this.  By communing with my heart I might better understand myself and drive myself on.  My spirit is my vehicle to understanding my place in the Awakened world.  My mind is the tool by which I can unlock the secrets of the Awakened world and discover how best to attain my goals.  I do not expect to fill my bowl, and I suspect I would not really want to.  The search for enlightenment is a joyous one; I do not wish it to end.  I suspect there is little danger of this.  In my quest I need to maintain balance lest I fall off the path; the yin yang reminds me of this."

*** replies from guests

Dark secrets and illuminating truth.  The path of an investigator, an explorer of truth, had called to Ken.  He walked the streets, bringing to the light of yang what others would keep hidden in the dark bosom of yang.  Another path had beckoned to him, one of shadows.  As a shadowrunner, his whole being was veiled in the shadows.  His very name, Kaze, the wind, pronounced the yin nature of his guise.  Light and dark, yin and yang, embodied.

Ken now walks two paths at once.  He is divided.  He seeks to focus his self, bring his yin and yang into harmony, and find a single path that makes him whole.  He welcomes guidance on this path but realizes that he alone walks it.

As the conversation about the objects comes to a close, Ken begins rebuilding the fire.  He fetches a large wooden bowl, natsume, and six smaller porcelain tea bowls from the kitchen and sets them down carefully.  He fetches a tray of small bits of dry sweets, higashi.  He warms and dries the wooden bowl and makes up another bowl of tea, using less powder and lesser quality powder.  He then carefully pours the tea into the smaller bowls, giving them to the guests in turn.  They consume the sweets as they drink the tea.  A palpable feeling of relaxation settles over the group.  The ceremony is nearly complete, their stomachs are full, and their palates have not been violently offended this evening.  Above all, the empathic waves of care and concern, perhaps even love that ken emanates in the way he executes the ceremony is impressed upon all of them.  They are pretty sure this night's efforts have gone beyond a simple desire to do something well.  The ceremony ends and final comments are made by the guests before they depart.

*** comments on the art of the ceremony and whatever.

The guests depart and Ken watches from the chumon as they head back to the changing area, brining the ceremony to a close.  His look is serene and he slips lowly back into the chashitsu.  Susan returns to the chashitsu and the sounds of sweeping can be heard faintly as she closes the door.

Metamagical Techniques and Magician Adepts

Shadowrun describes a lot of cool metamagical techniques for the Awakened.  Magician Adepts are constrained as follows:
Magician adepts use Centering in the same way as other adepts.  They may also learn to apply their Centering to other skills as do adepts . . . Magician adepts are capable of learning any of the metamagical techniques. [Magic in the Shadows (MITS), FASA, Pg.24]
How do they stack up for a Magician Adept (MA)?  A MA can not Astrally Project and has to purchase Astral Perception as any other Adept.
  • Anchoring: no extra constraints.  Costs karma, yuck.
  • Centering: as written in MITS, it appears that MAs start with the ability to apply this to Athletics and Stealth like any other Adept, then has to spend another Grade's slot for a metamagical technique to buy the "additional" ability to apply it to Magical Skills.  Also need to buy Centering skill (Magical Skill) and a creative skill to use for centering (e.g. music, meditation, etc.).  Big investment overall . . . but the idea just sounds so cool.
  • Cleansing: requires the MA to have Astral Perception.  Can only affect background count equal to or lower than Grade.
  • Divining: can be done with a material link, but being able to Assense (having Astral Perception) allows one to do this without a link.  Just like Centering, the initiate needs to also buy Divining Skill and a skill to be used for divination (e.g. Astrology, Dowsing, etc.).
  • Invoking: no extra constraints.  This could be dangerous to use at low Grades.
  • Masking: no extra constraints.  Immediately pretty cool and useful.
  • Possessing: requires Astral Projection, so not an option for an MA.
  • Quickening: requires Astral Perception; costs karma, yuck.
  • Reflecting: no additional constraints.  Not possible in practice until Grade is at least 2, because you need to roll more successes than the original caster.
  • Shielding: no additional constraints.  Immediately pretty cool and useful.  The target number bonus to spellcasting is profoundly protective within the mechanics of Shadowrun.