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 Dharma: Bone Flowers, Songs and Bones

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PostSubject: Dharma: Bone Flowers, Songs and Bones   Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:22 pm

The Song of the Shadow
There is life, there is death and there is the bridge between the two.
The Midnight Jewel (an important Dharmic sutra, from which the name "Bone Flowers" comes) compares the spirit realm to a glittering web and the living world to the dew upon its strands. Drifting across that web like spiders, the followers of the Shadow Song Dharma taste the dew, pluck the strands and occasionally feed on unwary flies. Like the Dragon, the so-called "Bone Flowers" learn from the song of mortality. Wreathed in the dust of death and the wind of life, they dance slowly to the rhythms of both. Like autumn leaves, these Kuei-jin glide between the Jade Kingdom and the living world. Along the way, they comfort the grieving, shepherd the ghosts and punish disrespectful mortals. In the Middle Kingdom, there are plenty of all three.

Aware of their immortality, these Kuei-jin share a thirst for discovery. From libraries and mass media, they gather stories about the living world; from the spirits, they collect memories and news. To bind the two together, the vampires record their insights in works of art or scholarship. The Second Breath stimulates their curiosity, and the hunger to learn rivals the hunger to consume.

Learning seems to be the only passion these creatures have. In all other matters, Bone Flowers seem distant and precise. Every fact must be dissected for significance, and each event becomes a symbol for a much grander thing. This curiosity brings them into the company of other shen; there, they act as ambassadors, mystics and lore keepers. With their talent for enigmas, such vampires understand the spirit paths as well; an elder makes an excellent guide to Yin and Yomi Worlds alike. During her instruction, the average Bone Flower visits both.

Training: Following Xue's legacy demands a certain detachment. To stand at the doorway between life and death, one must grow immune to the torments of both. Still, to rise from dust, one must feel the tears of living things. Some vampires take that literally, while others try to overcome the cold void.

Mandarins of the Shadow Song Dharma stress learning and meditation. All lessons come in symbolic terms, leaving the disciple to figure out the meanings. Most Bone Flowers prefer to be left alone, but gather into troupes to create grand artworks. These performances feature elaborate rites, haunting music and stylized dancing. Through these plays, the vampire try to capture insights and pass them on. Not surprisingly, few patrons understand, but the Bone Flowers keep trying.
Weakness: Bone Flowers are cold and dispassionate, flowing through the darkness like silent kites. White as corpses, skin stretched across their bones, they seem fragile, almost girlish. The winds of death whisk their voices away, and they speak in eunuchs' whispers. There's something both abhorrent and beautiful in a Bone Flower's face and faraway gaze, and she never seems to care about anything that happens. The shadows' song drown out mortal concerns.

While many vampires (and some mortals) find the bone-song bewitching, others are appalled. Most hengeyokai bristle when a Bone Flower draws near. Mortals run in one of two directions; either they fly away screaming or fall hopelessly in love. The Bone Flower never seems to care on way or another.

As romantic as they might seem, Bone Flowers are known for their cold cruelty. Familiarity with the Hells and the fleeting nature of creation makes them callous to suffering of any kind. Where the Devil-Tigers teach through pain, the Flowers dismiss it. Like all things, agony is short-lived and therefore irrelevant.

Auspicious Omens and Symbols: Bones, cool springs of water, autumn leaves, theater masks, chill breezes, withering plants, dead flowers, funerals
Affiliations: Metal, the color black, the number 4 and the west direction

1. Bathe in the breath of the Ebon Dragon, but hold fast to the Scarlet Queen's teardrop.
2. Behold the pillar of the family and safeguard it against vandals and thieves.
3. Kiss the spirits in their houses and the ghosts in their shrouds. Both are lonely and adore the healing touch.
4. Gather what you can from the falling leaves of knowledge.
5. Press the truth like fine paper and ink it with the visions you have seen
6. Give freely of your knowledge, but wrap it up like a precious gift.
7. Look beyond the obvious and discern a deeper meaning.
8. Console the grieving and remind them to respect the dead.

The Cold Mind
Bone Flowers follow a principle belief of the Black Metal Egg. The theory is this egg contains all the enlightenment that a Kuei-jin could need to advance to the Hundred Clouds and leave the state of the Hungry Dead that the Bone Flowers currently reside in. The Egg is Metal and Black, like Yin and holds the knowledge inside, but can be let out with training. This is what becoming a Listener of the Quiet Song is. To become like the Black Metal Egg, is to take on the Cold Mind.

Apathy. Silence. Control. All these things are parts of the Cold Mind. The first lesson, apathy, teaches that you must remove yourself from human emotions, embracing a black or white, non-caring approach to the world. Silence is just that, a bone flower should speak only when it she something important to say, and even then, should speak in riddles to perplex the minds of the listeners. Control is the ultimate lesson. Using the cold mind, the P'o can be easily ignored and inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom more easily manipulated.

Ambassadors and Scholars
In the courts of the Hungry Dead, Bone Flowers are the prime ambassadors to use. They are unfeeling, so they cannot be swayed by emotional pleas, which makes them ideal. Those that follow the West direction are most common and are usually liaisons between the courts and the Dark Kingdom of Jade. The kingdom of Wraiths, run by Yu Huang, the Yellow Emperor, was a favorite location for many Bone Flowers to travel until the recent times of the Yin storm that plagues the realm.

Bone Flowers also have a tenacious craving for new knowledge. There is nothing that a follower loves more than to learn a new rite, discipline, or even just a new word. Many study the dictionary or ancient texts in their spare time, even if they have no inclination to use the material learned.

The Quest for Knowledge
What was just a small sect in the past, has become an increasing phenomenon within the Song of the Shadow Dharma. There are many Bone Flowers, closed up in the farthest regions and libraries, constantly studying ancient texts. The 6th Age is on its way and there is no way to stop it. The first targets of the Yomi forces will be the libraries and other educational buildings, but this is a matter that the Bone Flowers intend to control.

They have created sects of scholars whose sole purpose in this Age is to preserve the ancient texts and knowledge for the Ages to come. Many have eidetic memories, using this ability to memorize the passages verbatim so they may be written down at a later time. Other dharmas may see this as a last ditch effort, and really, it is.

Two Different Songs
The followers of the Song of the Shadow and the Howl of the Devil-tiger differ in every way and yet have a special chemistry together. They are complete opposites, even more than the Thrashing Dragons, and usually abhor each other.

Where the Bone Flowers practice calm and strategy, the Devil-Tiger strike out wildly without thinking. Where they love to study and learn new things, the Devil-Tigers end up in fights just about every night and are constantly testing their limits of pain. They are in every way different and yet, a Devil-Tiger warrior in the hands of a Bone Flower strategy is almost unbeatable. How could there be two more dissimilar Dharmas? Answer, there can't be.

Control Yourself
"Control Yourself" is a phrase that is thrown around by the Bone Flowers on an almost constant basis and yet means so much more than what is normal. The other dharmas believe that they can control themselves, but this is far from the truth. The Devil-Tigers and Thrashing Dragons are anything but controlled, giving themselves over tot eh forces of P'o and Yang. Thousands Whispers believe themselves in control of their unlives, and yet are just confused children making up pretend things to guide them. The Cranes are controlled by their own environment, using rules and such to dictate what they do and don't do.

By using the cold mind, detachment, the Bone Flower can discern exactly what needs to be done in every situation, without the problem of others' voices, or emotions getting in the way.

Points of View
Sects, as the other Dharmas know them, don't really exist in the world of the Song of the Shadow. Only two separate mindsets about how knowledge should be acquired. Either it is ok to study the forces of Yomi or it is not. That's that. There are pros and cons to each view, but it's a very simple matter and sides are definitely taken.

Tenets (A Brief Overview)

1. Bathe in the breath of the Ebon Dragon, but hold fast to the Scarlet Queen's teardrop: You are undead, but never forget that you are not actually DEAD. You have that spark of life in you and it should be revered at times when the Yin inside takes too much hold.
2. Behold the pillar of the family, and safeguard it against vandals and thieves: protect your family unit (your actual family, your city, your wu, your court, etc.) the best you can.
3. Kiss the spirits in their houses and the ghosts in their shrouds. Both are lonely and adore the healing touch: protects all spirits, whether they are Yin or Yang!
4. Gather what you can from the falling leaves of knowledge: Learn as much as possible, for you will never rise on your Dharmic path without knowledge.
5. Press the truth like fine paper, and ink it with the visions you have seen: when looking at the world through you eyes and the eyes of the apathetic, you will get different pictures. Do not confuse one for the other.
6. Give freely of your knowledge, but wrap it up like a precious gift: nothing sacred has ever been easy. Those who listen to your words should have to think about what you are saying. So this is basically the Bone Flowers' excuse to speak in riddles all the damn time!
7. Look beyond the obvious, and discern a deeper meaning: nothing is as good or bad as it seems. By looking deep into the whole meaning of something you will find enlightenment.
8. Console the grieving, and remind them to respect the dead: they are very concerned with the lack of reverence in modern Asia. They seek to bring the old ways of burial rites and sacrifices back.

Suggested Disciplines

* Bone Shintai
* Yin Prana
* Tapestry
* Cultivation
* Internalize
* Black Wind
* Smoke Shintai

Portraying the Dharma
No other dharma has the versatility of those who follow the Quiet Song. Their tenets are so widely varied, that no matter what mission or quest you perform, you are following one of them. Many view them as the quiet, boring beings that are cramped up in libraries and such, and that is true about most of them. But remember once again, that that character is still pretty human at Dharma 1. They stumble along their path and make rash decisions, and then just kick themselves for it later. Oh, and just for the sake of variety: Can we have some male Bone Flowers please!?

Also, I've seen those characters that are played so Yin aspected that they stand by the sideline and watch their friends fight for them. Now, I know that inaction is the way of the Bone Flower, but isn't that sort of breaking the 2nd Tenet by not helping? Yeah, thought so!

Suggested Auspicious Occasions

* Successful Research of a New subject
* Mediation at a Full Moon
* Experiencing the Little Death
* Profound Study into Death
* Solving a Situation through Non-action
* First Trip to the Yin Realms
* Stumping a Bone Flower of a higher Dharma with a Koan
* Protecting you family from a big threat
* Help a Wraith gain reverence from his Descendents

Original Discipline Variants
Hollow Bones (Bone Mastery Variant)
Using the Bone Mastery (Level 3 Bone Shintai) discipline, the Bone Flower takes advantage of less weight and extra jumping ability. The Kuei-jin hollows out their skeleton and fills it with Yin energies. This way, they may rival any practitioner of Jade Shintai without learning the whole separate discipline.

System: Exactly like Tread the Thrashing Dragon's Tail (Level 2 Jade Shintai), except that the effect costs 2 chi and last for only a scene.

Devourer (Level 5 Yin Prana)
As an almost constant surveyor of the Yin realms, the Bone Flowers know that sometimes a Wraith is too far gone in his Angst to let go of anything. If they become violent towards the Kuei-jin, it is the Bone Flower's job to destroy the ghost before it gets out of hand. This rule goes double for the ravenous Kuei. By mastering the principles of Yin, the Bone Flower has learned all there is to know about the make up of a Wraith. And now, upon learning this power, can use the power of the Wraith to her own whims.

System: The Kuei-jin must touch the Wraith and make a Willpower Roll (difficulty Cool against the Target's Willpower (same difficulty). If the Bone Flower gets more successes, the wraith is absorbed, every point of chi they possessed is transferred to the Kuei-jin and is treated as normal temporary chi. That Wraith is no more. This is huge break in the tenets and must be used carefully. If used at a time that is it not really needed (whether it succeeds or not), it calls for a Dharma Check as it breaks the 3rd Tenet of the Bone Flower Dharma of protecting spirits and ghosts. This check is never needed when dealing with the violent Kuei.

Original Rites
Page Turner (Level 3 Rite)
Those who work to keep the knowledge of today ready for the next Ages do not all have eidetic memories. Those who do not need to compensate in other ways. With this rite, the Kuei-jin can memorize passages, chapters, and even whole books in preparation for when they will be needed. This is not a widely known rite among the Bone Flowers, kept almost exclusively to those working on the special project, but there are always leaks.

System: The Bone Flower sets the book in the center of a square of soot and blood, then begins chanting for 10 minutes. An Intelligence + Mediation (Difficulty 7) roll is needed to begin the rite and with every success one passage (1-25 pages), chapter (26-200 pages), or entire book (200+ pages) can be stored in the Kuei-jin's mind. The words of the book visibly come out of the book on into the mind of the Kuei-jin, who must be left in meditative peace for the duration of the rite. If broken out of the meditation, the info in the book is lost forever, out of the book and out of the Bone Flower's mind for good.

Restoring the info to pages is much simpler, but more time consuming, taking as much as 2 hours to complete. Another Intelligence + Meditation roll (Difficulty 5) is needed to place it all back into its original pages, or into other pages. To access the info stored in you mind on the fly, however is much harder. You can recall a passage stored at Difficulty 8, chapter at difficulty 9 or a whole book at difficulty 10, on a Willpower Roll. And at least 2 successes are needed, but it takes only a turn to recall the info.
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PostSubject: Re: Dharma: Bone Flowers, Songs and Bones   Thu Sep 09, 2010 2:23 pm

From the Within, Unto the Supplicant
Upon the thinking of tenets as penned by Keigo Senzen Jokage
Bathe in the breath of the Ebon Dragon, but hold fast to the Scarlet Queen's teardrop.
The fire burns. The cold freezes. When jumping into the fire, you burst into life and dust as the hurried life of a thought, a love spurned, a mote in the eye of heaven. Yet, too far in the clutches of the glacier keeps beauty for eternity. Captured as the eternal image of blossoms on rice paper by the artist. Seeing too long in the cold blinds us. We became lost without movement. To remain between the flame and the ice brings a measure of warmth and chill. Never delve too deeply within the yin for you may never come to realize the visions of eternity as a frozen thing. Our brothers of the dragons act as reminders of the warmth of flame, the world of yang.
Behold the pillar of the family and safeguard it against vandals and thieves.
What is family? The mortals that surrounded you in life? Friends and neighbors before your walk into yomi? Your wu of kuei-jin seeking their paths yet connected through the bonds of friendship, love, and spirit? The spirits seeking love ones, those that disgraced them, or the next step of the cycle? Varied and whole, the family is more than a character or unit. More than the guanxi of our unlives. More than the trappings of our mortal days. It is the eternal connection to our ancestors, fellow travelers, and the living. Consider what the word means to you and guard it well.

Kiss the spirits in their houses and the ghosts in their shrouds. Both are lonely and adore the healing touch.
To turn west is to die, to enter the state of being transcendent and ephemeral. It is to become one with the Middle Kingdom. To turn west brings a full circle of intent, for the circle must turn back to the east and the rising sun, of life and living. Yet, those who pass beyond the veil of night should not be forgotten. Seek the spirits of the world, the essence of Yang and life. Without them, we have no earth to tread, no blossoms to watch, no life for our families. Seek the ghosts in their shrouds and remember them. The turning of the cycle brings them back into this world. They are our ancestors. We once walked their path...and if forgotten, they may become unhinged from the circle of nature. The world of the living and dead depend on the care of yin and yang, of ghost and spirit. As singers of shadow song, we bring forth the messages of the realms to the living and the living to their past kin. The mirror cannot exist without the face and the reflection.
Gather what you can from the falling leaves of knowledge.
Words are characters that reflect thought, consideration, intellect, conflict, resolution. Yet, words may fail without knowledge. Learn all that this world, the next, and the realms of failing and rising light inbetween. Through lessons, texts, and whispers on the wind, we gain the insight to understand all things. Through the pursuit of knowledge, we gain insight and enlightenment of Tian and Yomi, of life and unlife in its varied forms. Knowledge is the key to the door within. Once unlocked, all that is required is to move through it. This is the singular path of Singers of Shadow. Learn all you can, and the way of ascension will follow.
Press the truth like fine paper and ink it with the visions you have seen.
Nothing is gained through fire but ash. If gone, what would be known of the experience? What truths found are lost? Those who taste of the Middle Kingdom's waters come from all ages, all times. To pass from one life to the next is a travel of a thousand steps that begins with none if forgotten. Watch the world with cold logic, and all will become clear. Seek the way of cold metal, of solitude and observance. What is gained through the attention and cold mind brings to the surface all truths. Never accept without review. Ours is the way of understanding through logic, gleaning the pearl within the sands. And once learned, we document it for eternity. Take up the pen, chisel, and voice. Recall what you learn for your mind and the next. To be one with the metal egg is to allow the hot emotion to fall away for greater insight to come. Through unity of motionless peace, the inner sight becomes clear, unhindered. Through the reading of the journal, experience is gained, wisdom earned. Trust in your hand, eye, and mouth. Document the world you left, the one you enter, and all the sights and sounds you have encountered. Then the steps commence, and heaven attained.

Give freely of your knowledge, but wrap it up like a precious gift.
To learn something that awakens the mind, expands the senses, is never gained easily. Bone Flowers seek knowledge in all of its forms. When we teach or speak of matters important, complex, or simple for the mind to gain lessons from, endeavor to teach as befits the knowledge gained. When answering if you prefer the color blue or black may not provide enlightenment to another. Yet, when teaching of spirits, the way from one realm to the next, the proper attunement for reaching forth and changing the path of the stars, must we not give information in a fashion bespeaking its importance? Create koans and riddles through words and art for those you teach. Impart through your inner journey. Nothing sought of importance should be given as easily as breathing. The seeker gains nothing but disrepect in such ways. Create and represent the knowledge as a wonderful gift to be treasured, contemplated, and learned from.
Look beyond the obvious and discern a deeper meaning.
Where do we gain knowledge? To study the cherry blossom from the tree's snowencrusted limbs, to the first opening bud, the awe of thousands of petals, and the falling of petals upon water we can learn the insights of the worlds within and without. The path of the elderly man up Mount Fuji. The rot of cancer in a child's body. The lies of the Yomi realms. The truths of Heaven. All things carry within them the budding of knowledge. Seek out the hidden meaning of all things around you. In a land of images, symbols can be found for all things...to mean not just one but none and all.
Console the grieving and remind them to respect the dead.
We have returned from the mouth of Yomi. Entering our decaying forms, we took the Second Breath. So many reside in Yomi...in the Middle Kingdom. They are forgotten as the traditions of mourning and death. The world has became too too fast. People move and speak without thought of yesterday or five minutes ago. They do not live for every moment. Without the proper grieving and service learned, taught, and followed for ages untold, people remain locked in a state of near mourning. Their ancestors cannot move or become lost shades. To learn and sing of shadow, we remind the world of the past...of those who have walked this way and that. We teach them to console and mourn. Through our efforts, the ancestors and Heaven are not forgotten but redeemed. Pull away the urgency of the stop watch. Bring mortalkind full circle with those they have lost.
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