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 The 6th Age

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Join date : 2010-08-10

PostSubject: The 6th Age   Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:20 pm

The Prophet’s Trial
The first installment of the Ripples in the Water series, offering views into the Sixth Age.

Hello everyone. This is the first installment of the Ripples in the Water series. It will be composed of 9 very different stories, 9 different vastly different events that will shape and change Kuei-jin history and the future forever. These are written without the Time of Judgement series in mind, but are other ways of telling the Kuei-jin… the 6th Age is Now.

* * *

The seat of supreme power for the Five August Courts of the Quincunx, the Blood Court, sat firmly in the capital of China, Beijing. Here, the esteemed ancestors make every important decision affecting all Wan Kuei on the main land and beyond. It is a city literally packed with more followers of the Way of the Resplendent Crane and other Kuei-jin of the North Direction than any other location in the Middle Kingdom… and that is why he picked it. That is why he traveled to its center and faced the fires of contempt, trying save his brethren and the world. The Xian named Zhen Qing.

The Seers See
For years, the young trampled on the ways of the old, the ways of tradition. It became increasing hard for the elder Kuei-jin to hold their sway over the Running Monkeys of the court, especially with the mortal government of China actively working against tradition. Nicknamed the Dame-sama, which literally translates to Honorable Idiots, the ancestors and mandarins still attempted to keep their city in their palms.

Many great and entrusted seers went to the Blood Court on the same night and requested audiences with the ancestor, Ch’ang Li. After many days, each of the seers was granted their demand one by one. Each said they held the crucial news that would rock the Middle Kingdom and allow the ancestors to take back the night. They foresaw the coming, the reemergence of the Wan Xian.

It seemed logical to the Shining Ice Guardians at the time. The Wan Xian would, no doubt, praise their unhalting dedication to the Way and their determination in purging the wickedness from the Middle Kingdom. After all, the Cranes tried to take over the Wan Xian role in the world, filling it to their best capabilities. The possibilities for the return of the noble Wan Xian were endless. Ch’ang Li and his mandarins were in high spirits, praising their ghost-family ancestors with tribute and prayer, while the astrologers attempted to detect the exact time when he would arrive.

The Devil-Tiger mandarins seemed suspicious of this claim. The Wan Kuei are the direct descendants to the Wan Xian legacy. The two cannot exist at one time. The Wan Xian couldn’t exist any longer, for they were all were transformed by the hand of the August Personage of Jade. Many debates sparked in court, some even resulted in minor Twilight Wars to prove certain mandarins’ correctness.

The Coming of the Prophet
Rumors of the prophet’s return lingered in the Quincunx, being spread only among the most esteemed and honored Wan Kuei of the courts. It was also spread at such a slow rate, that even after several months, only a tiny fraction of the mandarins actually knew of the news. As with most things sought to keep completely confidential, the information was eventually leaked, giving even the average Wan Kuei the name of the prophet, Zhen Qing. Among the young Kuei-jin, word spread much faster.

There were various stories of the prophet’s origin. The first, and most obvious, was his being the so-called Xian who has returned to lead the Kuei-jin to their destinies. That he had existed since that time, but was not cursed by Heaven. It is thought that he has learned a way to circumvent the curse laid upon them by Heaven and has returned to stop the wheel himself or lend to bypassing the 6th Age all together and moving to the 7th, more prosperous, Age.

The second was that he is a Resplendent Crane Bodhisattva that had ascended to the Hundred Clouds, but has come back to teach the Wan Kuei the true way to enlightenment. Yet, he was not known among the courts. Someone so powerful and wise would not have escaped the Quincunx gaze for long.

Many things were said or questioned, but none were ever founded, until Zhen Qing began to meet personally with individual Kuei-jin from various backgrounds and alliances. These meetings were always in secret and all of them ended the same; that the Wan Kuei submitted to Qing’s will. No one knows what exactly was discussed, however. After this information flowed through the rumor mill to the mandarins, they began to fear for their power. He was not visiting ancestors, only the younger, errant Kuei-jin. Was the Xian supposed to return the elders to power, as their seers spoke, after all? Or was he there to unite the Running Monkeys under his banner against the Five August Courts?

More and more Kuei-jin, primarily of the Resplendent Crane Dharma, showed up to court less often and this occurred all around the Quincunx. It seemed that they were attending the prophet’s lectures and teachings instead, neglecting their courtly duties almost altogether. Every attempt to send reconnaissance to these secret meetings, led to empty buildings and other false leads, as if these gatherings were cloaked from reality in some way. This led to the mandarins of the Blood Court to call for the Xian to show himself, calling for their greatest enforcers to collect the Zhen Qing and bring him to Beijing, no matter where he was in the Middle Kingdom.

When the enforcers met up with Zhen Qing in Shanghai, almost another 6 months later, he did not resist their entrance into his home. He did not resist their dragging him along. He did not resist their harsh words. He went along peacefully, as if knowing all along when they were coming for him. Did he allow them to find him? They returned to Beijing with Qing in chains, brutally beaten and tortured. When asked how he ended up that way, the enforcers lied, saying that he refused to come. Little was questioned, as they were fine and upstanding enforcers of the Quincunx and Zhen Qing was obviously a troublemaker and traitorous rebel.

The Trial

Instead of welcoming the coming of the prophet, the Blood Court decided to put him through a trial to prove his obviously questioned intent. If he was really one of the prestigious Wan Xian, then he could surely prove this to the courts, couldn’t he? The ancestors brought in masters of Obligation, yet no one’s peer could gaze into Qing’s soul. Still no one believed his claims. Debates continued for days, while Zhen Qing stayed in a cell, between the higher mandarins, most of which were either Cranes or Tigers. There was a feeling that the Cranes wanted to believe the prophet, yet even they were skeptical.

When questioned about his origin, he explained: “I was born from the Mountains of Meru, my home.” The mandarins gasped at Qing’s audacity. How dare he speak that he has traveled to Meru, when no Wan Kuei has been able to journey there since the fall? Clever Devil-Tigers prompted Qing to tell them of his home in explicit detail. Qing refused. The ancestor Ch’ang Li urged the so-called prophet to answer, reminding him that this was a trial. Still Qing refused.

When asked why he returned, he explained: “The sun does not rise alone, for it brings the heavens with it. The moon does not rise alone, as it brings the stars with it. I am here to bring the deserving with me.” The mandarins present began talking amongst themselves. Surely, the most esteemed members of the Blood Court would be worthy. When questioned on how he decides who is deserving, he answered, “Those who believe. I can see their souls and they can see mine.” They asked him to elaborate. Qing Refused.
When asked why he decided to return now and not before, he explained: “The lion that roars in an empty room, only hears himself.” The prophet kept quiet when questioned further about this. Once again, the ancestor cautioned Qing, yet he still remained quiet.

The mandarins, in an outrage, demanded Qing be removed from the court, in order for them to decide his fate. This debate, while the most controversial and important the Blood Court has ever seen, went on for almost two months. Several challenges between the Crane and Devil-Tiger erupted. The Cranes craved more information; he was their key to avert the 6th Age. The Devil-Tigers, being extra careful to seem objective on the topic, pushed for Zhen Qing’s execution on the grounds of his outright lying and avoidance. No matter how ludicrous the accusation, the prophet had not shown enough proof to satisfy the mandarins in attendance. But they had one final test.

The Verdict
Qing stayed in his cell, in the dark dungeons of Forbidden City, with no food, no blood and no breathe. The mandarins had their servants keeping strict eyes on Qing. He died during the daylight hours, just as any other Wan Kuei and as the days turned to weeks, he was noticeably using his Black Chi to stretch his days in the cell. This was their final clue to his true origin.

Zhen Qing was brought before the ancestor two months later. He had the appearance of a starved and sickly being, much like someone who has been Black Cycled for too long. The mandarins demanded that he explain why he cannot draw chi from his surroundings like the Wan Xian in legends of old. He fell silent. They asked why an enlightened mandarin could perform this feat, yet a returned Xian could not. He still remained silent.

The Crane’s ideals and hopes for the future were crushed under the newly realized pessimistic outlook the Devil-Tigers had the whole time. They knew now that this man was not one of the Wan Xian, but sought to prove it once and for all. The ancestor then called upon the zhi and lin.

The thin, white goat-dragon-unicorn was pulled through the trial doors. She looked very weak, weaker than Qing even. She also looked freshly beaten. The ancestor commanded that she read Zhen Qing’s aura and tell the court whether he is who he says he is. The zhi looked into Qing’s eyes and fell silent. This infuriated the mandarins present. They commanded the zhi again, but she did not speak. Then, suddenly, as the unicorn wrangler raised his club to beat the zhi, the doors behind him burst open sending splinters through the room. Her lin was loose and very angered.

It stood as a hulking, black beast, capable of slaughtering several Kuei-jin; and it did. Guards came from every direction, the lin easily defeating them all, staking Kuei-jin with his massive horn and leaving them paralyzed and leaving mortal guards mere puddles under his hoof. In the middle of the chaos that sent many mandarins to run, Zhen Qing simply stood. He seemed resolute that they would not touch him.

When the court was cleared of any guards that were to be sent for the moment, Qing then spoke. ”I have now retrieved those that are worthy.” He says with a flick of his hand. The entire court lit up at that moment in a flash of bright red and when it was gone, so was Qing, the zhi, the lin, and a few of the mandarins.

The Blood Court was not to be disrespected in such a blatant fashion. Revenge would be had on Zhen Qing and his cult of rebels. Midnight War was declared on the false prophet.

Zhi and Lin
The zhi and lin are the mythical creatures known as unicorns for the east. They are not horses, but goat-dragons that wield powerful magics. The zhi can read the truth of word and soul and can brand those wicked beings to be disposed of by her counterpart, the lin, which is a huge destructive beast. The zhi and lin are detailed in the ELN Article “Heart, Blood and Horn” for Kindred of the East.

The Stars of the Sojourn
In the basement of the Forbidden City, there were many who watched Zhen Qing in his torment and felt for him. One of these Wan Kuei was Su Meng Lao. He surveyed Qing with clear intent from the first day he met him. He was a guard in the dungeons and was there to make sure that Qing never escaped, but he ended up being the very reason for it. Meng was the reason the chains of the lin were loosened for it to get out. He felt very secure in his love for the prophet, that he risked his life. He was quite scarred from his run in with the lin, as the beast mistook it as a trick.

The Stars of the Sojourn, as they have come to call themselves, has begun their ascension in the Middle Kingdom. Zhen Qing promised that, through their suffering with him, those Kuei-jin that followed his teachings would be saved from the 6th Age. He has not detailed all of his knowledge to his followers, however, leaving them to simply believe in him to continue their quest for true enlightenment.

He has taught the Stars several disciplines that have never existed before and rites that rivaled those of the oldest ancestors. This, amongst other things, has cemented Zhen Qing’s authority over his followers. The Blood Court suspects that his “new powers” were either stolen lore form the Yama Kings or simple tricks used to confuse the young. No true origin for his power has been found.

The Five-Fold Retribution wu
The Blood Court searched for several months, but was unable to find all the members of Qing’s brainwashed cult. The biggest question was “Where could they have gone?” Everywhere the enforcers looked, they either found nothing or lost what little leads they may have acquired.

Then a young Wan Kuei stepped forward with a new plan. Jing Zheng-Zhe, one of Su Meng Lao’s students, explained that if their quest was to find the cult, then they would have to go about it in a much different manner. Instead of looking for the cult as a whole or for their leader, who vanished from the court in the blink of an eye, they should look for one particular member: his former master.

He guaranteed Ch’ang Li that he would succeed in his endeavor, knowing what would become of him if he failed his court and his kind in general. The lies of the false prophet must be found out and destroyed, for a relative peace to once again come to the Middle Kingdom. Named the Five-Fold Retribution wu, Zheng-Zhe chose the best hunters amongst the Resplendent Cranes to assist in the search and destroy mission laid out before him. Other Dharma offered their assistance, but were denied politely. This was the duty of a Crane to solve, as it was their Dharma who had fallen the most to the false cries of an insane magician.

Handling the Prophet
It is important for each Storyteller to decide how to approach this situation. Zhen Qing could be for real, leading his followers to a better tomorrow. He could be an akuma who instead leads them all to their Final deaths. He could just be a trickster spirit or even an overzealous mage trying to gain power in a realm he should have no business being in. There is a lot of speculation, but its up to the ST to decide what’s actually going on.

The Middle Kingdom has Ears

The Other Courts of the Quincunx: There are 5 courts of the Quincunx. The Blood Court just headed up the trial and acquisition of Zhen Qing. The other courts, since that time, have slowly been brought into the loop, mostly for their help in finding the Stars of the Sojourn. It is important to know that the Bone Court has recently uncovered lost texts that talk of a prophet coming and being shunned. Many of them believe that their fates were foretold since the beginning, making their reason for searching for Qing quite different than the others.

The Green Courts: The Korean Courts have simply heard the rumors and nothing else. It is suspected that some of the Stars of the Sojourn probably are hiding out in the Green Courts, yet there have not been reporting of Kuei-jin leaving their stations or disappearing. This is a major reason why the Five-Fold Retribution wu has focused their search south of Beijing.

The Azure Dragon Court (Courts of Japan): Rumors have reached the Bishamon and Genji as well, leading to many of the younger gaki traveling to the main land to find their destiny. The taint of the twin bombs left a hole in many gaki’s heart that they intend to fill with the words of the prophet. However, they have not decided. Acting against such a revolution would be wiser than letting it wash away, as the Stars would soon find out that their leader is a fake. Many infiltrators have been sent to join with Stars, but none have returned.

The Golden Courts: The Penangallen have felt the sting of the Stars of the Sojourn as well. They have lost several warriors, as well as some of their children to their teachings. Their leaders rationalize it as losing those who weren’t worth keeping in the first place, which keeps the peace in the Golden Courts just fine. Also, they have heard the rumors and anyone that even resembles the Stars are killed on sight.

The Infinite Thunders Court: The heretic court has also been hit fairly hard by the Stars of the Sojourn. Many of their high-ranking Brahmin, mostly the Cranes, have disappeared, just as the rumors of the Stars began to circulate. This has crippled the Infinite Thunders Court beyond what they could have thought, and they are trying to compensate for their loss by other means.

New Rite
The Cloaked Haven

Level 5 Rite
By using this rite, taught only to the Stars of the Sojourn, the Kuei-jin can mask their haven as something totally different. This illusion is so powerful, that it cannot be penetrated by Heightened Senses, nor by any other means currently known.

System: The caster spends 3 Yin, 3 Yang and 1 Willpower point during the 20 minute casting and makes an Intelligence + Meditation (Difficulty 7). At this time, the Kuei-jin states what he wills his have to resemble, along with creating a mental picture of it. The amount of successes needed, depends on what is being cloaked. Changing a bedroom to look like a kitchen would only required 1 success, while making an entire building seem to be an empty alleyway with bums sleeping in it would require 4 or 5 successes. Those that encounter the illusion treat it as it real, totally going beyond the realm of reality. Those walking by could actually walk down that alleyway, even though it doesn’t exist. That is why this rite has proven the Stars of the Sojourn so hard to find. Each use of this rite last for a number of nights equal to the casters Hun rating.

Key NPCs
Su Meng Lao

Leader of the Stars of the Sojourn
Background: Meng grew up in Beijing and took his second breathe in the place of his birth. He adapted well to un-life within the Blood Court and served with unrivaled loyalty. He even served under Ch’ang Li directly for many years, finally becoming a Mandarin.

As he is very skilled in his martial prowess, he took to guarding important prisoners of war and the nests of local spirits quite well. Until the day that he met Zhen Qing. The man spoke to him with a voice as clear as the heavens and called to him to help with his emancipation. Meng could not resist.

Now he is on the run from the Blood Court. He also leads the Stars of the Sojourn, the followers of Zhen Qing, helping to recruit new members. He knows that his presence is needed. Without him, Qing would not have gotten loose and the Stars would not have the knowledge of the area that Meng possesses.

He does not know exactly what is to become of this choice, but stands by his decision with his very existence.

Description: He stands tall and with pride, usually wearing robes generally worn by those in high station. He still retains his queue (long braid of hair), as it is a symbol of strong duty to his heritage. He acquired a long scar down the left side of his face, while escaping from the Blood Court along with his new teacher, Zhen Qing. He wears it with pride, however, as it is yet another symbol of duty.

Roleplaying Hints: You are strong and steadfast in your decisions and this is the best one you have made in your entire existence. No one can sway you from your path now, not with Zhen Qing by your side.

Secrets: Meng knows a few things about Qing that others do not. Qing still requires chi from blood, which suggests that he is not very enlightened, not even as much as Meng, who can draw from breath. Qing also has a lust for women that cannot be matched by anyone Meng has ever met, suggesting some type of imbalance within his teacher. He stays with his loyalty to Qing, however, questioning if these things are simply tests.

Nature: Survivalist
Demeanor: Sage
P’o Nature: Slave
Balance: Balanced
Dharma: Resplendent Crane 5
Physical: Strength 4, Dexterity 4, Stamina 3
Social: Charisma 3, Manipulation 3, Appearance 1
Mental: Perception 4, Intelligence 3, Wits 3
Talents: Alertness 3, Brawl 2, Dodge 3, Empathy 2, Leadership 3, Subterfuge 2
Skills: Etiquette 5, Martial Arts (Hard) 4, Melee 4, Stealth 2
Knowledges: Investigation 3, Law 2, Occult 3, Politics 2, Rituals 5
Disciplines: Black Wind 2, Equilibrium 4, Yin Prana 2, Obligation 2, Tapestry 2
Backgrounds: Allies 2, Herd 3, Mentor 5, Resources 3, Rites 5
Rites: Harmonious Shielding of the Guarded Home, The Cloaked Haven
Yin 4, Yang 4, Hun 5, P’o 3
Willpower: 8

Jing Zheng-Zhe
Leader of the Five-old Retribution wu
Background: Zheng-Zhe was forever the loyal student of his master, Su Meng Lao. His training, through the Blood Courts, was very harsh. In spite of this, he continued on. He reached his Jina status very quickly, but for every attempt he made to prove himself as a useful member of the Blood Court, his efforts were always thwarted by his master’s popularity. Zheng-Zhe resented Meng for this.

When the news came out that they were searching for Zhen Qing and that Su Meng Lao was the cause of it, he could not contain his elation. He proposed to the courts to allow him and a carefully selected group of specialized assassins, that he trained himself, to hunt down his former teacher and disembowel him. They agreed and he is now on his quest and the Five-Fold Retribution wu was formed.

With the death of Su Meng Lao will come the falling of the Stars of the Sojourn, as well as Zheng-Zhe’s climb in status and release from his master’s shadow. This is one mission that he will not fail.

Description: He is of normal size, wearing thick clothing, mostly leather, often. His hair is kept long, but is usually tied back for ease in battle. He carries many weapons with him as well, which can be seen by the keen of eye.

Roleplaying Hints: You are resolute in your pursuit of Su Meng Lao. Nothing can stand in your way, because with his death, your true existence can finally begin. You are proper in court, but rude and rough around the edges everywhere else, making most people uneased about you. Use this to browbeat others.

Secrets: He knows every place that his former master holds dear. They will no doubt return there. And when they do, the Five-Fold Retribution wu will be waiting.

Nature: Competitor
Demeanor: Traditionalist
P’o Nature: Demon
Balance: Yang
Dharma: Resplendent Crane 4
Wu: Five-old Retribution wu
Physical: Strength 3, Dexterity 4, Stamina 4
Social: Charisma 2, Manipulation 4, Appearance 3
Mental: Perception 4, Intelligence 2, Wits 4
Talents: Alertness 4, Brawl 4, Dodge 4, Intimidation 3, Streetwise 4
Skills: Etiquette 3, Drive 2, Melee 4, Security 3, Stealth 2
Knowledges: Computers 2, Investigation 3, Law 3, Occult 3, Politics 3
Disciplines: Demon Shintai 3 (Demon Sword, Armor, Hive Body), Yang Prana 3, Blood Shintai 2, Chi’iu Muh 1
Backgrounds: Jade Talisman 2, Mentor 3, Nushi 4, Resources 2
Yin 3, Yang 4, Hun 4, P’o 4
Willpower: 6
I hope that everyone enjoyed that. I know I did. I’d love to hear any comments, questions, debates, etc. Please email me at kendril1@gmail.com if you have anything to say. Until next time. Peace!
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