T’u Lung

T’u Lung, the wild and mysterious rebels of the south, seeped in arcane magics and full of the savage nonsense that leads men into their wars. T’u Lung has been at war since it broke away from Shou, almost300 years! If not with our powerful legions, then with the warring states farther south, jungle barbarians or itself. I have travelled through this land and seen the abandoned cities cursed and destroyed by wars and evil magic. Yet, the people endure, and new cities are built on the ashes of the old.

I have known many from T’u Lung, but Tan Hikao Nong the Balladeer is my favourite. He is an excellent storyteller, and full of all types of useful information. I originally saw him perform in Karatin, and realized he was using magic to influence the audience, but he had talent and his voice was strong. Then I saw him at the reception for the marriage of Sung Tsi, and he sang The Three Lords’ Romance. Some of the audience was moved to tears, it was so compelling. I became interested in Tan Hikao Nong that evening. Later, when I heard school-children chanting a bit of his songs, or overheard a young women who hummed passages from “The Romance”, I realized he had a rare gift, and so I sought him out.

Traveling with Ambassador Hing Ti Chin as advisor and observer, I first met Nong in Shang Stzi in the heart of T’u Lung. He later visited me in my apartments in the Imperial City, and I have watched his performances many times. Over the years, our mutual love of histories and knowledge has made us fast friends. This touring minstrel has returned to Shou Lung many times, and his epic ballads and light-hearted melodies are part of the current popular culture of both our lands. We spent a week together in Wafang, and what follows is excerpts of our correspondence, Nong’s thoughts, stories and teachings about T’u Lung.

There’s a few things I’ve discovered about Tan Hikao Nong that he will not discuss himself-the fact that he has lived 145 years, yet still looks the human age of a robust 45 is one, and his childhood is another. Since I was very interested, I used my powers over time to observe his early life. Of course, Nong will never mention his past, as these memories are painful. He does explain his life with Fargh Choi, so I’ll leave that to him. Much of what the relates is truth and that is why I chose him to tell you of the rebel south. Here are the words of the famous Balladeer of T’u Lung, Tan Hiko Nong:

Important Sites

Come, ye multitudes, listen to all my words. It is not I, the Little Child, who dare to undertake a rebellious enterprise; Heaven has given the charge to destroy the enemy for his many crimes against ye, the people. The Wonders of Kara-Tur reside in the heart of T’u, the richest culture and true divine Dynasty. The peoples of the world are pale in comparison, art is decadent and ill-inspired and magic is weak and impermanent.

T’u is the Might of the South, the bastion of truth and freedom, the chosen arm of the celestial bureaucracy on Kara-Tur. We must never for-get this fact. Hold our banners high! This is T’u Lung! – Wai Chu Doang, the fifth Emperor of the Lui Dynasty speaking to his troops before the ill-fated Battle of Tan.“

The South holds many of the wonders of Shou, and while maligned and discredited, it lies like a sleeping dragon, awaiting the signal to rise like the sun. – Wei Tsao Te, Court Historian of Kao Dynasty, in Shichi Hsi, the 200 volume False Histories of Shou

I have travelled the length of my homeland and visited its most famous and obscure villages, cities and monuments, so I will tell you of the varied places and the colourful people that make up my T’u Lung.

Anechu: This is one of my favourite spots. Anechu is run by a righteous man named Ho Kui Dung, an honest and trustworthy member of the great Ho clan. His village is prosperous, and the people are happy. There is an inn there called the Hearth Warmth which serves the finest food in all T’u Lung. The local temple has a golden statue of Ju Shou, the West, and I often make offerings at this altar, since Ju Shou has helped me in the past.

Ausa: This mighty port is famous for its 15 wharfs, each named for a different god. The Ho clan is still the most powerful force in Ausa, but the merchant marine, under the leadership of the “Four Sea-lions”, controls a large section of the city and its people. The four men who control the port and its trade are seldom seen and have walled off their mansions within the greater walls of Ausa. There is a natural spring in the market square in the centre of the city, and it provides water for the entire population. The shrines of Sokeng and So’wanu are beautiful gold-leafed and domed pagodas and are open to the public, but filled with watchful sohei. Criminals of all sorts are ferried to the prison-town called Zawqun’s Landing where they are forced into heavy labour mining the limestone slabs that form a primary building supply for Ausa’s expansions and make a good export as well!

Off the east coast of Ausa is the Xifung Reef, a curse to navigators and the grave of many ships and seasoned sailors. There are rumours of a witch named Helgara Twi who haunts this reef and lures sailors to their dooms, and stories of a ghostly ferry-man who saves drowning men, only to dine upon them! Every year we hear stories of brave adventurers who return rich from reef salvage, but that is not the rule – most disappear and are never heard of again.

Balanzia: From its birth in 422 DR to its destruction in 1153 DR ,Balanzia was the biggest port city in all of the south-lands. Its reputation was built on its easy access to Zastrasai Bay and the Straits of Va’shung, its great seawall and its magnificent towers. For many years this city was the heart of the south, where the Emperor of Shou sent his fleets and merchants to search for the most exotic gifts and wares. Sailors from all of Kara-Tur called this port their home, and it was common to see all nationalities here, from wild southern junglemen to Cold Koryoans and the legions of Wa (Koza-kura was not known to exist at this time). Raw jade and magic woods, pottery and ceramics, brass and iron and hardened steels, all were brought to Balanzia to trade, for the best prices were to be negotiated here.

The people of Balanzia grew arrogant and powerful, ignoring the challenges of other cities, states or emperors. And for many years their pride was justified, as no power could breech their great sea wall or conquer their militia and navies. These foolish people began to compare their city to the Palaces of the Celestial Heavens, and huge civic projects were begun to enrich the wide streets and squares with fancy murals and statues, and multi-coloured banners and tapestries were hung from the houses. Balanzia became the most beautiful city in Kara-Tur.

In 1118 DR a wandering wiseman named Loarru the Just came to Balanzia, and in the centre of the town he had a vision of the mighty city’s fall. The walls would be breached by many battles, and when they fell for the sixth time, the pride of this city would turn to madness. The Celestial Heavens would punish the people for their arrogance, and their beauty would be turned to insanity. For years this wiseman wandered the streets of this town preaching his message ofdeath and destruction, but his cries went unheeded.

T’u Lung was at war with Shou again, and numerous battles raged on the Plains of Blood. In the year 1147 DR, the north wall of Balanzia was breached for the very first time, though it was repaired and the city staved off invasion. The next year it happened again, but once again the city’s defences held firm against the enemy In the year 1150 DR the Gate of Shuza was collapsed and two months later the great sea wall was overcome by a pirate gang. After the thieves had been routed, many of the people remembered the prophecy of Loarru the Just, and some began to leave the port city. Again, the north wall fell to the warriors of Shou in 1152 DR, and after a huge and bloody battle, the city barely turned away the waves of invaders! The proud inhabitants of Balanzia began to fear the words of Loarru, and refugees sailed away to the safer lands of Ausa and Wai.

In 1153 DR the great wu jen Moia Chun used a mighty elemental to bring the north wall tumbling down, and the fearful warriors of Balanzia broke rank and fled for the sea. The people went insane with fear and thousands were killed or trampled as they tore down the great sea wall to escape the encroaching armies of Shou Lung. Men ran mad in the streets and monstrous fires swept through Balanzia. In less than a month, the city was deserted, haunted by ghosts and evil spirits, and it is avoided to this day!

I was given these maps of old and current Balanzia by a shukenja named Doraxo Bwen. The places he has marked in his key to the old city he swears still stand today, although his reports may not be reliable.

Ca’hong Chwi: When Shou originally built the Broken Road, it ended at the gates of a mighty city called Ca’hong Chwi. This massive fortress and walled town sat on the edge
of the wild Henai River, and it was filled with loyal
men of Shou, who never allowed the men of the south
to have status in Ca’hong Chwi. It became a hated
symbol of the northern Emperor’s power and domination.
It was this way for hundreds of years and the
people of the south sought revenge against the haughty
“shih” who held Ca’hong Chwi.
When the south revolted, the people of Ca’hong
their liking. I have lost two friends to the political
intrigue of Wai, and a third rots in the Emperor’s
dungeons for crimes he did not commit. Heed my
words and steer clear of Wai.
Places Of Interest
E’do Formal Gardens
Chwi remained loyal to Shou and the Hodo’ung Cha
garrison sent troops and began a siege of the city. The
forces were equally matched and the siege lasted for
months. It began to look as if the walls of Ca’hong
Chwi would never fall, then the hero Wantu Fang had
a marvelous idea. He asked the garrison to aid him in a
civic project north of the sieged city. The proud Shou
sympathizers in Ca’hong Chwi celebrated as the
attacking armies marched away, but soon their victory
cries faded to weeping!
Wantu Fang had commissioned the garrison forces
and all the local people to build the S’tuni Dam, and
soon the water was rising and flooding the magnificent
city of Ca’hong Chwi! It took four months to complete,
but soon the entire city was flooded, and the
area was irrigated into one of the most prosperous
districts in all T’u Lung. The people of Ca’hong Chwi
were caught and executed, and all that remains of the
city are five towers that still rise out of the center of
Sin Bukai Lake. There are only rumors now, of the
ghost of the lake that wanders from tower to tower in
the moonlight, and of fantastic treasures left behind
in the flooded city.

E’do Formal Gardens: The sublime E’do formal gardens are north of Chempka on the road to Chunming, and have been the scene of many historic visions and events, like the prophecies of Jaki Wan before the bell of Sandor, or the murder of Wai Finto Hu, the cousin of our emperor, in the Maze of Torlak Zo. Wai’s treaty of peace with Ausa was signed here, and the “Hostage’s Revolt” was centred in the main pagoda of E’do. Here is a map of these famous gardens, given to me by the monk Sintan who tends E’do. Often the first gate is crowded with supplicants and seekers of knowledge, but few venture into the hanging gardens or stop to contemplate the wandering trees or the elms of the mighty wu jen. The final shrine stands in a grove that never needs tending, and seldom do men chance the madness that comes with the arcane visions it bestows, so the grove stands always empty and still. The gardens are the ultimate tranquillity in all of T’u.

Ha’chou: On the northwest edge of the Hills of Quai lies the grand city Ha’chou, home of the master Nift of the Silver Eye. This great sage is the keeper of the Books of the Nanking, a chronicle of magic study by famous wu jens of Ha’chou. There are 11 volumes by 19 esteemed contributors. Nift has one false eye made of silver and he is a tall, thin old man. He allows only one man entrance to his libraries for consultation, and it is not uncommon for a line of interested scholars and seekers to stand outside his door awaiting their chance at the volumes.

Ha’chou has 25 towers, each painted a different colour and flying the city’s banner, a blood red field with silhouettes of three birds of prey: the owl, the hawk, and the blue-crested kestrel. Its streets are wide and well kept, which is because of the Gahn clan’s rule, a strict and powerful government with hundreds of guards, officers, and informants throughout the city.

Lai Sao: On the banks of the wide Fenghsintzu River, about midway between the cities of Zun Hi and Shosun, lies the little village of Lai Sao and its famous temple. The village is ruled by the Hinto clan, who have controlled this area for four generations and have connections with yakuza. It is a loose government, and vagrants come and go with ease through its main gates.

The temple is north of the village on the Broken Road. This is the spot where General Damar of Shou was blinded by the shukenja Joki Lam, thus ending his invasion and attempt to seize the capital city, Wai. The two fought for hours in personal combat, with the general finally killing the holyman before the altar, but permanently blinded by the wiseman’s curse. The blind general was forced to retreat and was unable to take the capital. A monument to the holyman was erected in the courtyard of the temple, and many men aspire to the bravery of Joki Lam. The Emperor himself attended Joki’s funeral and proclaimed him a hero of the realm. Some believe his ghost will council brave and honest supplicants to the Temple of Lai Sao, and so pilgrimages to this temple are common.

Wai: Wai, formerly “Chia Wan Ch’uan” when it was part of Shou Lung. The city of Eleven Gates and Nine Great Walls is a series of fortresses and suburbs stretching from the Old City, founded in -781 DR, all the way to the Dakarazu Palace Compound in the north. It encloses two very large parks, the Nwekasu Walk and the Do Chi Botanical Gardens, with its attendant school of philosopher naturalists. The city has overbuilt itself, arching new highways over the roofs of squalid slums and erecting new buildings above, clearly stratifying the actual buildings as well as the classes. Certain grade status allows one access to “higher” parts and more influential sections of the capital city.

The streets are crowded and the lower levels are in perpetual squalor, but in contrast, the clan mansions and Dakarazu Palace are the most splendid buildings in all T’u! Their towers and minarets rise gracefully into the skies, and their domes sparkle with gold leaf and silver. Green copper dragons adorn every rooftop and elaborate trolleys and elevators link the city’s parts. Ivory balconies wrap the sides of the palace, and jewelled chimes tinkle in the breeze. The current Emperor enjoys caged birds, so a thousand gilded cages with birds of all descriptions hang from balconies and windows, chattering and singing. The Palace is so large it can house 1,500 guests for one event, and often less important guests are kept in the village of Donu s’ai, miles to the south where they won’t be annoying.

Even as beautiful and cultured as Wai appears, it is all a mask for the plotting and scheming that is rampant in our capital. It is unwise to enter this city without powerful allies, or a most important reason, for often bystanders are drawn into bad situations not of their liking. I have lost two friends to the political intrigue of Wai, and a third rots in the Emperor’s dungeons for crimes he did not commit. Heed my words and steer clear of Wai.

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