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.


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