Meta Fiction: Shuang Gu Sword (Double Branched Sword)

Author’s notes: this sub borrows heavily from actual Chinese history and folklore (at least, so far as the legend section goes but a fair bit was just the author adapting real history to her own use).

Appearance:

It is a set of two short swords (housed within the same scabbard) that weigh approximately the same but one (the female sword) is shorter than the other (the male sword) by a few Chinese inches*. Neither of these swords are ornately decorated but to a trained eye they show superb craftsmanship.

*The male sword is about 0.9m long in modern terms while the female one is about 0.8m in length

Legends:

Crafting

The Shuang Gu Jian is well-known as the weapon of Liu Bei, lord of the Shu Kingdom during the Period of the Three Kingdoms. The story of its crafting is not really known except for the speculation that it was crafted by a local smith as a special gift to Liu Bei for freeing the region Han Zhong from the rule of the villainous Cao Cao, lord of the Wei Kingdom. It was recently put forth as a theory that this set of weapons was actually the long lost set of swords Gan Jiang and Mo Xie crafted by and named after the famous swordsmith couple in the era of the Spring and Autumn Warring States and somehow recovered by Liu Bei. Neither version could be proved (or for that matter disproved) since this legendary set of swords had long been lost.

Ownership History

After Liu Bei passed away, the Shuang Gu Sword went to his eldest son and successor Liu Shan. Later when Liu Shan surrendered to the Wei court, he gifted the weapon to Cao Cao as a tribute. It was said that this greatly pleased Cao Cao, who subsequently kept the weapon of his strongest opponent lovingly among his personal collection of trophies.

Upon his succession, Cao Pi- surviving eldest son of Cao Cao, attempted to kill his younger brother Cao Zhi, who had been his chief rival in terms of contending to be the crown prince. The sequence of events from this attempt that culminated in the forming of the Seven-steps Verse is already well-known. In addition, one text recorded (via oblique references) that after this unsuccessful attempt, Cao Pi gifted the Shuang Gu Sword to Cao Zhi. It was conjectured that such an action was done in mockery on the part of Cao Pi, using their father and his chief rival as analogies for himself and his younger brother respectively.

And from this point on, the whereabouts of the Shuang Gu Sword passed out of official records but periodically, rumours would surface of an extraordinary pair of swords that is similar to the Shuang Gu Sword. In each of these tales, this pair of swords confers a totally different yet similarly spectacular ability to its owner.

Amongst them, the most dramatic relates to that of the legendary Xue Cheng Yue in the era known as the Northern Song period, the leader of the rebels in the Northern part of the Dragon Empire that was held by the Jurchen invaders at that time (who adopted this particular name to declare his intentions of taking over the mantle of responsibility for repelling the Jurchen invaders from the patriotic general Yue Fei). However, it is hard to ascertain whether Xue Cheng Yue was an actual person that existed or merely a mythical figure that came about from the populace’s laments over the demise of the tragic hero Yue Fei at the hands of the villain Qin Hui. Consequently, there are two schools of thoughts divided on their belief regarding the authenticity of the ‘subsequent sightings’ of the Shuang Gu Sword. One firmly believes that the Shuang Gu Sword did surface from time to time and moreover that it is one of the remarkable weapons made from wishsteel that allowed it to adapt its properties to its owner. Meanwhile, the other stream maintains that these other weapons were in all probability simply replicas. As for the reported special properties, it was thought that they were merely embellishments that were wont to occur in these local legend/folklore type stories.

Special Properties

According to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Shuang Gu Sword is a loyal weapon, much as its master Liu Bei. Allegedly, it would fly out of the grasp of Cao Cao of its own accord whenever he attempted to hold either of the blades in his hands. Nothing so dramatic was mentioned when this weapon was in possession of either Liu Shan or Cao Zhi. This was taken to be a sign that the Shuang Gu Sword did not find either worthwhile masters for itself even though they were not as repellent to the sword as the most heated foe of its rightful master.

Of the ‘subsequent sightings’ of the Shuang Gu Sword, most accounts did not delve into exactly what the special boons this legendary weapon gave to their owners. Where a property was mentioned, different versions arose. For example, in the Northern part of the Dragon Empire, it was passed down in legends that Xue Chen Yue held a set of blades that were bloodthirsty- it was said that the more blood they were fed, the more voracious their appetites grew, such that they would seek out bodies to cut down of their own accords. In the Southern, though, most believe that either he wielded a pair of swords that gave him the ability to make his troops invisible or move like the wind in combat.

Meta Fiction- Han Yu

Appearance:

An irregular shaped block of white crystalline rock, on top of which six strings of undefined material lay.

Special Property:

The strings of Han Yu exudes a slight chill that can be felt if one passes one’s hand close above them. However, upon actual contract with human flesh, they start to exude mild warmth. This property gave rise to the term *Han Yu Sheng Wen (literally Cold Jade giving birth to warmth) which is used to describe a pleasant surprise.

*This term is based on actual Chinese characters but the term itself is made up

Benefit:

Tunes played from Han Yu have a calming effect on their audiences and also provide them with better mind focus.

Drawback:

When played, coldness is summoned to a radius approximately equal to its maximum hearing range. The drop in temperature is a very gradual process. However, that is not to say that the effect could not be lethal*. The well-known incident in which a gathering between several masters of the guqin, among them Master Plum Blossom who happened to be the owner of Han Yu and was using it to perform his masterpiece “The three variations of plum blossom” at the time, resulted in all attendees being frozen to death remained the most lamented event among those with a true appreciation for music.

Lore:

Reputedly, Han Yu was not made by conventional craftsmanship but rather a product of nature. It was said that the strings of Han Yu were actually morning dew condensed into line form by Snow Spirits who were the original owner of this legendary instrument that have now fallen into mortal hands.

Twist:

Whenever Han Yu is played, it acts as a beacon to Snow Spirits. Moreover, it not only attracts them but the sound produced from Han Yu acts as an aphrodisiac that put them ‘in heat’. In fact, the drawback of this instrument is entirely attributable to the tendency of this instrument to put Snow Spirits in heat.


Moonlake’s Meta Fiction (4)

This is the last bit of meta fiction that I had written for the Citadel. It is part of a collaborative submission I did with MysticMoon for the Kaiju (monster of massive size ala Godzilla style) quest. This whole submission is based off on MysticMoon’s idea of a chimera creature created through scientific means i.e. DNA mixing and I mainly helped to create the underlying context of how such research came about. Anyway, the following meta fiction (mostly in diary entry form) is really about the lead scientist who created this ultimate chimera monster that became effectively Godzilla running amok. The original inspiration for this character is this youtube clip of a Captain from a space opera that MysticMoon pointed me to but the name of the show/movie never registered on me.

Dr. James Wooden

11:00 a.m., Sydney, Crown Center, Press Conference

With an air of self-assurance, Dr. James Wooden strode in, smiled and seated himself. In a charcoal black suit, Dr. Wooden conveys the image of a true gentleman.

“Welcome to the Press Conference on Project Chimera. As everyone here is well aware, now farming has to be done predominately either with animal or human labour. Also, the radical movement is gaining momentum and causing major disruptions to our lives.  Now, I ask all of you, what do we do about them? Well, my answer is that we create something that will simultaneously address these two problems…  Now, is there any questions?”

18/05/3031

Finally, those walking monies have given me the funding for my Project Chimera! Imagine the fame I will get when I create the perfect animal that will solve the two most pressing problems of humanity at the moment.

19/05/3031

What specimens of DNA should I use to create my Chimera? Let me see, grizzly bear for its strength and ability to sustain mob attacks, the Tasmanian devil so that it will have a rapid reproductive cycle, snakes so that it would have a means to quickly immobilise those pesky radicals and yes, the giant squid from Japan that has that delicious gene with the propensity to mutate, why then my Chimera can continuously breed with other species, creating unique offsprings. Who knows that those walking monies won’t take the fancy to getting their special pet Chimera and give me follow-up funding on project extensions?

10/01/3032

Curse those radicals, here I thought this ghost town of Alice Springs would be the perfect place to set up my research compound and all my Aboriginal ‘assistants’ have escaped in the confusion as well. I know, I will move to Bourke in New South Wales, surely there the opportunities to ‘recruit’ more Aboriginal ‘assistants’ are plenty as well.

08/11/3032

Those ethnical guidelines that scientists are supposed to uphold are damn nuisances. What’s the difference between a non-lethal venom that will paralyse someone so that they can be killed and a lethal one that directly kills? Damn hypocrites

~ excerpts from a partially recovered personal diary of Dr. James Wooden found at the site of the destroyed research compound at Bourke, NSW

Moonlake’s Meta fiction (3)

The following three bits of meta fiction are written to tease out a set of two legendary places called Still and Limbo that I wrote up for one of the quests at the Citadel. And I don’t think I can sum up these two places better than the following tagline I wrote:

“Two forgotten places there be- Still and Limbo,
Still where Time is forever Still,
Limbo where Naught is ever Remembered.”

The Abbot cordially greeted the Lord who strode in regally clothed in fineries that would not look out of place in court but somehow had an unkempt look about him. He looked about to speak but then being lost on the choice of words, was irked and started fretting about. Seeing this, the Abbot smiled knowingly and calmly reassured him, “You have come to the right place. Fret not over it. But this is not the right time and place for the kind of talk we’ll be having, not yet. Let us retire to a more private place.”

The Lord seemed pacified by the words and followed the Abbot meekly into the Inner Sanctuary. He did not take note of anything but the white-robed figure drawing him onwards as they traversed through a long corridor. Otherwise, he might have noted and indeed given voice to the contempt in his servant’s eyes of the dilapidated state of the Abbey and its measly decorations.

In the Lord’s mind, the concept of time passage had fled entirely. All of a sudden, he found himself alone with the Abbot in a study.

“Now we can speak freely.” The Abbot looked at him with his keen eyes. “Now which are you, one who seeks a quiet place for a contemplation, or one who seeks contemplation indefinitely?” An amused smile came onto his lips when he said the latter.

The Lord was confused. “What difference does it make?”

“None and a great deal.” The Abbot smiled enigmatically. Then an otherworldly gleam came onto his eyes. He recited the following verse in a grave tone:

“Two ever that seek Still while One only craves for Limbo,

The Two urgently need Contemplation and the One yearns for not Remembering.

One of the Two pursue falsely for the Hope of Longevity,

Yonder the Lust for Limbo is ever Pure.

Be it the Two or the One, seek Still or Limbo need not be.

Still and Limbo calls its like, whether or not Like beware.”


A series of images flashed past in Garmon’s mind. Garmon knew not from whence they came for he had never seen or even heard of the ritual depicted. For all that those images rippled and undulated and everything seemed to be shrouded under shadows, Garmon knew instinctively that what was shown was a ritual to achieve one purpose. A purpose that fitted with his need, at least for now. Without further contemplation (which was somewhat strange if he reflected upon the instance later, he had always been a cautious man), he started performing the first step of the ritual that would start a process that there could be undone once started…

When he came to again, he found himself in a place that contained no sound nor any odours. Neither was there any sight to behold. Everything here was of a murky colour- it looked like grey at first but upon closer observation, it contained a little of every possible shade he had ever seen and more. When combined together, the murky colour gave off an impression of desolation, comfortable desolation. Just then, Garmon felt something… a concept evaporating from his memories like wisps of smoke that faded to nothingness. But he shrugged it off as it was not important. What was important to him now was the contemplation of this place that he was in now. It was a misty place. No, that’s not right. It was a shrouded place, for sure, but not by mist. Even the lightest mist had weight but this place was shrouded by something… impossible to cipher but definitely weightless. When he reached out his hand to touch it, he felt nothing as if it did not exist at all. But Garmon knew it was there. Just as he knew that this place, this realm he had just entered was a forgotten place, a thoroughly and completely forgotten place, a place that does not exist in his world nor any others. It is a place where you get to forget everything, even yourself, pure bliss for someone who wants to forget, wants to forget everything, wants dearly and most of all to forget himself.Just the place for him.


Iblinikalis, Master of the Ebony Tower, Loremaster of the Uncharted Realms, Paramount Explorer of Arcana Extraordinaire, looked into the scrying orb in front of him. He was looking on the landscapes of a realm lying outside of the physical world (an arcane realm by definition) that he was thinking of claiming fief rights to as First Discoverer. Actually, looking on would not be the correct words for the experience. For Iblinikalis had perfected the art of scrying. Not only could he determine at will what sights to see of a location, he could actually experience of the location as if he had truly visited it.

This arcane realm he had just recently discovered was a strange place. It was not bizarre with a totally different of basic laws governing over its functioning like some of the others that he was Lord of. No, in that aspect, it operated much as the realms of the physical world. Its physical landscape was also ordinary- it had mountain ranges, rivers and streams, flat land covered with vegetation and all other types of terrains that could be found on Taineer, his own home Realm. And yet there was something odd about it. No wind stirred the plant lives, they lay dormant on the ground like creatures that had been hibernating for eons. The streams and waters did not flow, their waters lying stock still like those of a lifeless lake. Yet, there were no unpleasant odours as one might expect from a place without any exposure to the winds. No, in fact, the air was filled with a light crispness of a morning in early winter. It was just that there was a complete absence of any movement- and therefore any sound, at all in this place. It was a place that was still and idling. It was a place that seemed entirely frozen in time.

Moonlake’s Meta Fiction (2)

Another of my meta fiction pieces, in fact this is part of the first piece I wrote for the Citadel when I first joined up as a member. It was intended for the Expand a 30 quest inspired by the fact that the Citadel have a large batch of submission that are 30 somethings composed of small interesting entries that are often worthy of expansion. This meta fic piece presents the background behind a particular set of hammer called Twin Lotus. It was an expansion of a short entry about a set of twin hammers with lotus-shaped heads that I wrote and which belonged to the 30 Hammers submission that was a collaborative effort between multiple members of the Citadel. Here it is:

In the Lu dynasty, there was a house of master smiths which is rumored to be descended from Liang Chu, the man who forged the great sword that the First Emperor, Hwang Ti, used to slay the great water serpent that was responsible for the Great Flood. As with any household that has a long history with a particular trade, every member of this household worked together at the forge, with the men being master smiths and the womenfolk helping out with some of the more menial but physically non-exerting tasks. It is in such an environment that a remarkable woman grew up, the rumored founder of what come to be known as Soul Craft.

Like other womenfolk in her household, this woman routinely helps out at the forge except where the others do so out of family duty, she is drawn heart and soul to the craft. Yet, like the women of her era, she is resigned with the expected role of females in society and does not dare speak of her dream of taking up the family craft rather than waiting to be married off to a family of similar caste to her own. Secretly, however, she observes her father and brothers at work and practices her smithing skills at the forge in the dead of night when her families are asleep, all the while waiting for and dreading the day when she will be married off.

Fate, however, intervened on her behalf. Through an undetailed event which left her household bereft of all the menfolk, she found the opportunity to take up the family craft. With the full support of the rest of her family, she masqueraded herself as a nephew of his father- the alternative to this would be for the whole family to starve or selling some of the daughters into a brothel so the rest can survive. Thus she became the master of the forge and in time expanded the fame and prosperity of her household to even greater heights than the days of her father. Her forge becomes the largest in the Dragon Empire and is renowned throughout, with youths from everywhere coming in the hopes of gaining an apprenticeship with her. So her story might have ended with her real identify never known to any one but her own family. However, as a master craftsman, her desire to reach the “perfect state” in her craft is so insatiable that soon she feels herself increasingly frustrated with her own inability to progress her craft further.

In the later years of her life, she often worked in the forge for an extended period of time without food and sleep, attempting to create the weapon of perfection. This continued for quite a number of years. One day, it was recorded, her apprentices suddenly heard such a loud exclamation of joy that they all stopped in the track of the normal bustle of activity to see her standing triumphantly, holding in her hands a pair of hammers. Then, to the shock of all of them, this remarkable woman collapsed. Her spirit, in departure, showed her true feminine form and with the most serene satisfying smile on her face, fled to the afterlife. The apprentices gazed upon the hammers in awe and all, with certainty, felt the essence of their mistress within them. This pair of remarkable hammers was put in a place of honor in the forge and remained so for many generations. Unfortunately, the Lu Dynasty soon ended, followed by a period of civil war, during which the forge was demolished and the pair of hammers disappeared.

It is believed that this pair of remarkable hammers is the first of the Soul Constructs created by a master craftswoman. Nowadays, there is no written record of what the pair of hammers really look like. However, given that the craftswoman is a devout follower of Buddhism and many of her work in later years also revolve Buddhism themes, it was speculated that these remarkable hammers might have a religious touch to them.

Moonlake’s Meta Fiction (1)

Today I’m supposed to post my Book Discoveries for March but since I’m committed to finishing off a short story before the end of next week, I think I might have to delay the book post until the end of this month. Today I’m going to recycle one of the meta fiction pieces I have written and posted up in my writers’ home at Strolen’s Citadel. The meta fiction doesn’t stand on its own so I might as well re-post the whole submission. The meta fiction is the block of text with a blue background.

The War Drum of Oyr

Description and Properties:

The War Drum of Oyr looks like a conventional war drum made specifically for one player. It is only special in so far as it was made from the skin of Oyr the One-Legged Cow and had inherited the full power of its Call of Thunder. An enchantment laid onto it by a mage of later ages unearthed its full potential- to compatriots and allies, it can reverberate at great distances but always at a suitable volume to uplift their spirits; to foes, none can escape from its beat of doom no matter how far away they are. Some rumours say that the Drum also has the effect of driving bovines within a large radius to wrathful stampeding.

Yet, the War Drum has been long lost. Therefore, it is uncertain to what degree the added enchantment has worn off or if it has expired altogether.

Lore:

The main debate between sages on the War Drum of Oyr is neither over its construction nor its whereabouts- both are unknown and it is as simple as that. Instead, they argue incessantly about whether Oyr is a unique creature come into being before the ages of time or it was a conventional cow which accidentally swallowed a Shard of Storm and became the creature that legends describe- a one-footed cow four times as large as any conventional cow which can emit a sound like thunder.

Now, you want to know about its construction and possibly its whereabouts? Well, let’s see what scattered accounts there are in the form of colourful local lore and tales from grandsires. There are lots, in fact. They’re not as trustworthy as the words of sages and oft conflict with one another- not that sages don’t- but it’s a hobby of mine to keep track of such rumours and tales revolving around legends. So that I can form my own personal conjecture over the truth. It will probably never come to light, the truth, but one can find one’s enjoyment by seeking to tease out what it could be.

Where shall I start? Let’s start at the beginning. Curiously, the earliest tales recorded of the Drum’s construction was some time after the Great Exploration. And as we all knew, the Great Exploration brought back many artifacts from foreign origins. It might be pure speculation on my part- certainly, no sage had ever entertained the possibility before. At any rate, as many as eight or maybe even more kingdoms claimed that their founder played an unequivocal role in the construction of the War Drum. And yet, there wasn’t a single rumour or family tale floating around of the actual crafter of the War Drum. I find that another curious aspect and it just happens to match up so well to that speculation of mine.

More on the stories about construction themselves? Let’s see. As many as five kingdom’s founders were a great hero and counted among their exploits the deed of having slain Oyr the One-footed Cow though so far as I can see, there is nothing that Oyr had done which qualifies its slaying as being a heroic deed. Ah well. These great heroes tend to be an impulsive lot, slaying anything that doesn’t fit into their mold of conventionality. Wait, there was one among them who claimed that it was the decreed of some obscure immortal who showed him that it was the sure way to defeat his villainous foe. But we only have his own words for that. Then, two others chanced upon- or rather were directed upon by divinity- on the carcass of Oyr. The last is the ultimate showcase of the hubris of humankind, in my opinion. It claims that Oyr itself willingly gives up its own life so that its skin can be used to construct a war drum that will forever ensure that the Righteous triumph. What nonsense, there has never been a single war waged in the name of true Righteousness throughout the history of humans! For the ambitions of single men or as a last resort to violence when two interests irreconciliably clash! That’s what all wars come down to, ha!

Where is the Drum now? Well, foremost there is the claim that it is buried with whichever kingdom founder that really has an instrumental role in its coming into being. That clearly turned out to be false for some of these claims. Which ones I don’t know and am not that interested to find out. Then, there is the legend about the War Drum being restless in mortal hands and never willing to stay with a single mortal beyond several uses, sometimes just one. Of course, war drums had come into fashion over the last few centuries. Enchanted ones made by Hiter musician-wizards abound now. Somehow, these artifacts were being mixed up with the War Drum of Oyr itself and we now hear colorful tales of some of these more special war drums’ histories being passed off as the history of the Drum of Oyr. I have chased down a few false trails myself but it is too early to proclaim that I have found the single true path.

And that’s all I can say at this stage. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some references that I would like to find for another of my conjectures over the buried truths of history.

The Concept of Meta Fiction

I mentioned something called Meta Fiction in my last post and since it’s not a well-known term I think I better explain what it is in a follow-up post.

 

Basically, I have come up with the following definition for it: it is a piece of prose written in the voice of a fictional character but rather than telling a story, it presents world meta or trivia. One can write and probably can only a meta fiction in one of the 3 following ways:

  1. As a single or a series of diary entries
  2. As excerpts from a fictional book
  3. As verbal conversation between two fictional characters

 

Now, as an example, I would provide the following excerpt of a fictional book that I wrote up on the Citadel, my Virtual Writer’s Home:

When a life is snuffed out through a cause other than old age and natural ailments, the spirit lingers in the Mortal Realm rather than immediately entering the Spiritual World, as is its due. The incorporeal form attached to such a being is what is commonly referred to as a Ghost. A ghost is bound to the Mortal Realm for as long as the time it takes for his physical remains to return to dusts or ashes. During this period, although a ghost can no longer influence the material world in any way, it is generally free to wander the world and enjoy new sights. In fact, a ghost is at a greater advantage when doing so compared to average humans as it can travel at a faster speed.

From individuals done to death by violence, however, a different type of ghost forms. These are spirits confined to the site of their deaths until their time to enter the Spiritual World. In addition, they differ from average ghosts in that their memories can manifest in a way that are physically seen by humans, although these memories do not actually take on a corporeal form that allows human to interact with these memories. Furthermore, such manifestations occur quite rarely, as the memories of these ghosts have to be drawn out through a medium that acts as a focus for memory recall. In general, the only activity that these ghosts engage in is to wander aimlessly among the sites of their demise. As a result, they are generally known as the Restless Horde.

Furthermore, there are some among the Restless Horde that are bound to the Mortal Realm even after their remains are no more. These are called the Bound Ones. They are the individuals who died with an overwhelming sense that there is still something left unfulfilled in their lives. Thus, their spirits are barred from the Spiritual World until such times when they are reconciled with their fates, either through being satisfied that they have finally fulfilled that which is on their minds at the time of death, or losing all hopes in ever attaining whatever it was they desired in life. There is also a third possibility. As time goes on, a particular one among them might be driven mad by the failure to attain their goals and be doomed to forever being barred from the ultimate haven for spirits. Mortals should be very careful of items strewn around potential scenes of carnage, for these can house a Bound One who might be able to usurp the place of the spirit natural to a particular physical body. This is what is commonly known as possession.

~ an excerpt from Primer on the Spiritual World