A Spiritual Cleansing
Drawn from The Five Hills of the Five Tribes Valleya group of unlikely young men answer the call of the Elders and embark upon a small series of excursions that will take them to each of the five families Hill Shrines.
Elder Byeol warns that there have been subtle but recurring imbalances within the Valley’s local spirits, and that they have been acting out in aggressive manners. The elders say that this may simply be that the spirits are not properly being appeased or may have something to do with the Celestial Conjunction that occurs irregularly upon the winter solstice (which is a mere two months away), and that the group is tasked upon the morrow to venture forth and deal with the situation through the act of ritual supplication at each shrine.
Nothing of note happens in the Elder’s Village aside from a curious discourse between B’ard and a woman of the Shu tribe he knows, Seong (B’ard has been trying to locate her for sometime), and Elder Aki-Teong’s retication (incorrectly told Sang Woo notes) of Founder Dong mighty arm wrestling match with the Giant Mohangaru, which opened the valley itself and spread the mountains apart (Aki-Teong always neglects to mention Charming Badger’s important role in the story).
Seong invites B’ard (and the rest of the tribe) to the upcoming marriage of her daughter, Sei-Ming, and the young Li of Ghao (a rather obtuse and unpleasant bully Sang-wooremarks in silent thought).
The next day the Elders present the group with five talismans. Each is a medicine bag of spiritual offerings, prepared for each of the shrines to the spirits and ancestors atop the five hills. The five young men are Instructed by the elders in the manner of placation and ritual that must take place at those shrines. The group sets out, planning to start towards the tribe of Hue and proceeding counterclockwise around the valley (stopping at the Noriaki last due to special considerations that Wei Kim presents). Makoto is silently pleased with this for it will give him a reason to visit his cherished mother and family first.
When they reach the first Hue encampment they are met by a small group of ruddy skinned miners and some of their attending family members. The headman Suk invites them to their evening meal and exchanges gossip and pleasant stories over a well laid meal and simple grain beer. Learing glances are always left upon Wei Kim as he has a certain reputation with married and unmarried women, so the miner’s make sure he is well attended and unable to speak to them.
The Hue have little interest in the fears of the Elders, but do nothing to oppose the plans of the group. Hiro draws a connection to the Hue’s more recent mining attempts and the resulting groundquake caused by restless and disturbed earth spirits and suggests that the tribe should avoid over taxing the spirits of the earth too quickly with aggressive mining. The only other recent events amongst the Hue has been the discovery of a vein of Jade near the shrine. A material of which is rarely found and even more rarely carved and possessed by the people of the valley. Hiro also mentions that this recent find may also have some negative repurcussions with the spirits and asks for a small amount of jade to be given to the group so that they may return it as part of the offering to the spirits when they reach the shrine.
As they head towards the common house, or homes of family and friends, a distant figure along the hill can be seen walking along the forest path. No one would have noticed him if it wasn’t for a disturbance of birds flitting about and around the area he was walking. The man is hunched and was walking slowly, with only his long staff to guide him. His broad jingasa nearly concealed the fact he had an incredibly long and pointed nose, those with the moonlight and copious amounts of grain beer perhaps it was just a optical illusion.
At dawn the next day the group heads up the steep and forested hill towards the Shrine of the Hue. It is an ardous climb, but not an unpleasant one. Wei Kim manages to kill a large pheasant for dinner, one that is oddly sporting it’s mating plummage (which in the Fall is quite strange). The air is filled with strong scents of trees and flowers and the calls of many birds and monkey’s are heard throughout the woods. Passing by many miner’s the group eventually finds the rich vein of Jade that was recently happened upon. It is a beautiful and colourful sight. The split open rockface holds a wide swath of colour working from the deepest reds to the creamiest greens, violets, and whites. Such colours of jade have never been seen before.
Upon reaching the hill shrine (a simple affair that is constructed from the natural elements of the hilltop arrayed around a bronze brazier) the group begins their long ritual ceremony. Hour’s pass and a hazy smoke fills the area of the shrine, irritating their eyes if nothing else. Their task accomplished the group returns to the riverside Hue encampment. A warm breeze flows from the mountains and from the high hilltop overlook a perfect scene of stillness is observed. The other four hills in the distance, the tiny lights from the most populated villages, the reflecting of the moon upon the Lake and the constellations of the sky. The constellation of the Celestial Dragon is strongly seen in the heavens (a guardian of the Heavenly world no less), with the stars of Leng and Shun prominently in view (Shun being the tail tip, Leng being the head star).
Not one of the group remembers such a clearly viewed scene of the heavens on such a late fall eve.
Gathering their supplies early morning and after speaking to more Hue villagers about current events (and commisioning wedding gifts for Sei Ming and Li) the five young valemen head along the river and past the old bridge into the Shu tribal lands.
The trek is as calm as the sloping hill itself. B’ard ablely leads them through the swiftests paths. In the distance close to the edge of the southern forest a commotion is spotted, and the far carrying cries of squealing boars. It immediately brings to mind the chief pursuit of the Shu headman Eun, the hunt !
Shortly thereafter the comes upon the scene of the great battle between the Shu and their quarry. Eun openly greets the five young men and invites them to help his men carry the slain boars along the rest of the trail, atleast until they reach a place where they can rest as a group, or until the riveting tale of the great boar hunt, as told by Eun, is finished. Whichever comes first.
Gladly it is the former, for the group is quiet tired as it is and hauling large boars through the woods makes even the strongest man’s muscles weep.
Approaching the home of Iseula (a cousin of B’ard), the five travellers find some food and well earned rest. If not for the noise and hassle that Iseula’s 17 children cause they’d even manage to get some sleep. They while the rest of the day and evening away amusing children, recounting stories, listening to Iseula and her neighbours talk of any trespass by angry spirits, but generally hear none. Eun returns later that evening to share a drink with the five young men and chats about such things as well. They learn little aside from the fact that Eun doesn’t place much traction into the spirits themselves or those who speak in their name.
The next day they head out early to the Shrine of the Shu Family, atop the hill, and perform their adrous ceremony and ritual placation. This time the event heralds a minor disquiet as the stars themselves seem to breath in the smoke of the burnt offerings and glower with a distant and colourful light. It is at this moment, gaze fixed to the heaven’s , that the astute Sang Woo and Hiro notice the stars themselves are not properly aligned for this season, and that after thinking on it for a moment the weather in the valley itself is unseasonally strange for an Autumn. This worries the young men and they decide to broach this to the elder’s after they have completed their trek.
They camp under the stars that night and head the swiftest path to the lands of the Ghao family. Knowing secret paths that only the most adept hunter finds B’ard tells the group of a fallen ancient tree that can lead them swiftly to the upswept hills and mountainside of Ghao lands. It would talk them away from the main lower trails but it would prevent a lengthy uphill trek once in Ghao lands. Opting for speed (even if at some small risk) the five men follow the hidden paths.
Fallen trees can always present a mossy obstacle, but one that has fallen over a ravine can often present an alternate means of travel. This is one such case. With a girth of 10 feet in diameter the tree, though mossy, provides an excellent manner of foot bridge. The ravine chasm falls 50 feet down into the swift rapids that begin to carve their way through the mountains and eventually out to sea. Calling upon their skill and caution the men secure safety ropes and cross without much concern (and only a slight bit of showing off their atheletic skills)..
Already upon the highest side of Ghao Hill it is a relatively sort trek to the Ghao Monastery, which conveniently also houses the Shrine of the Ghao Family as well.
The Ghao Monastery is a stone structure and within houses the relics of Dong and the written works that are attributed to him, those he travelled and lead the families with, and what little records of the outside world remain. Most male members of the Ghao who are not first born are simply given to other families to foster, the elder’s village, or to the Monks of the monastery. It is a simple life and prayer and song, with plenty of farming as well.
Unlike other families the Ghao seem to centralize more often than not and share vaster acreages of land to collective tend and farm.
Warmly greeted by the locals, and with very wary glances from the Monks, the five young men are lead into the Monastery proper and meet with “Acting Abbot” Tseng, a rival of young Sang Woo. Tseng greets the group with some disdain and doubts their story until he questions them more aggressively. He is somewhat thrown aback that the Elder’s would send Sang Woo as part of the group, and that such matters should be dealt with more more learned men and elders than a group of foolish boys. The group quickly points out that if the Elder’s wished for such people, then they would have asked for them.
With Grandmaster Hwan traveling to the small Ghao fishing village, and then to the Elder’s Village on “spiritual business”, the requirement to offer hospitality falls upon Tseng’s shoulders, and with reticence he does extend it to the group.
Wishing a few hours of time to themselves and to properly wash and eat the five young men head their seperate ways after making certain that they be allowed to proceed with their task at the Ghao Shrine. Not one to be left out of an important deed needing to be fulfilled “Acting Abbot” Tseng immediately offers the entire support of the small monastery.
While most of the young men spend time speaking to the Ghao, gossiping about the impending nuptials, and asking about other more spiritual matters and occurences, young Wei Kim arranges time to meet with an old friend of his, the busty Wu-Shar. Hiro, B’ard, Makoto, and Sang-woo are told many interesting tales involving the spirits and other local matters and that the monks themselves have been spending more and more time stargazing and argueing amongst themselves, and that there has been a few strange instances involving tribesman and the local water spirits.
Making the most of his few hours before the ceremony Wei Kim manages to pry small bits of information about goings on and why the group got such a cold reception from Tseng and the other monks. Wu-Shar says that she believes it has mainly to do with Sang Woo being disfavoured by the monks, though commonly seen as due to his apt knowledge and know it all mannerisms, it is actually because of some form of old prophecies being kept by the monks. Of this Wu-Shar knows little, only that this may be the case.
Prior to the arranged time for the ceremony Wei Kim gathers his traveling companions and relates this to them. It immediately brings a very obscure memory to the fore that Sang-woo has concerning some scrolls he got a glimpse of when he was forbidden to see the scrolls by Grandmaster Hwan. It was some vagary or prophecy concerning the settling and possible expellation of the Five Tribes from the Valley. Prophecies that were told to Founder Dong by two fallen stars from the Celestial Heavens.
Though the prophecy made little connection to recent events it did clearly note that the people of Founder Dong would not remain protected in the valley forever, and that in truth that time may be shorter than many thought.
Disturbed by this the five quietely contemplate it’s meanings before the ceremony.
Late in the evening the ceremony begins to take place. Prayers sonorously fill the central courtyard of the monastery accompanied by soft drums and wafting incense. The Shrine of the Ghao is rather large and well maintained compared to the other families. It’s centerpiece is a very large bronze brazier, high decorated, and ensconced in the center of the courtyard. Beginning the ceremony the five young men fall into a heavy lull, whether from the droning sound of the monks, or the strong and heavily scented incense is unclear, but time seems to pass in a strange manner and at the end of it, through blurred vision, the stars seem to burn all the brighter in the constellation of the Celestial Dragons.
Omens, of any kind, never herald good news…
(For the Tales of Founder Dong please see the group forum)_