The Blooming Lotus

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The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:53 am

I will use this thread to share some of the prose posted on the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] by some of our members. I will post any future writings about Pandaren in this thread also.

From the introduction to Boqin Chaoxiang's Five Principles:
Author: Chaoxiang.

"The correct stewardship of governance is of utmost importance to the weal of the state; it is the path away from ruin and disorder, mutiny and defeat. Any prince who conducts his government without due respect of this art is doomed to failure; his people will overthrow him or his enemies will destroy him. Thus the correct administering of the Five Principles that underlie all successful states is a subject that must not be neglected by any ruler. These are: Law; Art; Tactics; Merit; Inscrutability.

The Principle of Law is the highest of the Principles; a ruler without Art can retain power with brute force, and a ruler without Tactics can bribe his enemies for a time: No ruler can maintain the state without the codification and consistent conducting of Law. The Law is the Spine of the State, and thus the centre of society: It protects the people and lifts up the ruler; it must punish the foolish and the lazy, and reward the clever and the industrious. The Law must count equally for all beneath the ruler, and must be carried out without distinction. Should the Emperor's favourite courtesan steal from his table, though his heart is softened by her pleas, the Law must yet be enforced. For while many lives can yet be found about his Empire a mere single injustice can destroy the Law. Thus a single injustice may unseat a ruler.

The Principle of Art is that of passion and speech, of rousing the love of his people. Though the Law may be harsh, the ruler who masters this charismatic principle will still be loved throughout his territory; for that ruler has mastered gentle manners; the correct etiquette of speech; the most artful calligraphy; the haunting poetic forms of our forebears; the vast sounds of the guqin; and the noble game of Go. With these noble arts well in hand, the ruler may address his people and gain their love, and act on equal footing with other rulers. Thus, the Principle of Art secures the ruler from mutiny from within, and mockery and disdain from without.

The Principle of Tactics is that of clever strategies, of spies and of warfare. The ancient masters have written on this subject with far greater wisdom and eloquence than this most humble one might ever attain, and so this will be summary. The ruler must understand Tactics in accordance with proper strategical principles, so that he knows to wage war when it can be won; to make no hurried plans, but to accept no lengthy wars; to incite the people of his enemy to inform; to utilize the military principles of Heaven and Earth against his opponent. This is of utmost importance as war will lead either to the state's ruin or salvation.

The Principle of Merit is the correct way of administering bureaucracy. The ruler must not choose his ministers from amongst his friends and family, but from the most sophisticated and sagacious candidates for the task. Skilled soldiers must be allowed to rise in ranks; frugal merchants must be allowed to amass their fortunes; clever clerks must be given suitable promotions. Exams ought be instituted to test with neutrality the suitability of the state's bureaucracy, and even the Emperor's sons and daughters ought be set to tests before their final place in the world be decided. This Principle ensures that the Emperor will never be left with incompetent generals or advisors; only the wise and skilled should be allowed a place near the beating heart of the state.

The Principle of Inscrutability is the shield that guards the Law from the love and anger of the ruler himself. A ruler who bears his passions on his sleeves is easily manipulated; his ministers may merely carefully choose their words to incite his rage or regret. Thus, in accordance with the principles of the Shado-Pan, it is required that the ruler seem as of stone; no insult must interest him, nor must any beauty seem to please him. In this manner the only way to advancement before the ruler becomes to act in accordance with Law and Merit, safeguarding the state from corruption and keeping foreign lords without weakness to exploit.

These Five Principles must be intimately known by every ruler who desires his dynasty last the test of time, and those unhappy peoples who stand without a single ruler should look amongst themselves for one suited to shoulder the weight of such responsibility and with the wisdom to administer his charge with reason, benevolence and strictness. No reasonable case can be made that a central bureaucracy with a strong ruler at its head is less viable than a situation of disharmonious chaos; the foreigners have pooled their resources over the years and can field vast armies, great fleets both in air and on the waves, and possess weapons of great ingenuity. Even held back by a decade-long war these peoples have amassed such power and strength in their unity that we can hope to do little to check their advance across our continent. The Shado-Pan are too few to protect Pandaria. The villages are too small to resist the foreigners for long. It is a general truism of this world that anything long divided will surely unite, and anything long united will surely divide. Let the wheel take yet another turn."

Excerpts from other chapters of the work will follow.

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:54 am

From the beginning of the chapter entitled "Of the Mogu":
Author: Chaoxiang

"In studying the Mogu Empire we are weighed down by our common history with this race of slave drivers. We received the worst of their policies and have cultivated a quiet distaste for the race as a whole for this reason, and before I offend let me add I think this justified; but it is for this reason that a proper study of the principles of organization employed by the Mogu has never been attempted. After all, they were uplifted as the pinnacle of decadence and tyranny; surely nothing good could come of attempting to learn from them, in any way except from avoiding their structures and forms.

As can be guessed, I find this to be a shame. While the Mogu Empire collapsed for a reason, it was also a force to be reckoned with for countless years; it equalled the troll Empires in the east and north, and avoided subjugation to this mighty civilisation. We can learn from what they did right; their early Empire's embrace of Tactics, Art and Law, while pointing out the gradual collapse of this correct practice of statecraft.

The flaws of their Empire have often been denigrated, though often, to our great shame, only for the fact that we stood at the receiving end of their monstrous treatments. There are true, good reasons why their policies of slavery are improper to any state that desires to exist in perpetuity, but, as I have mentioned above, compassion and honour are never rewarded at the level of nations, and these are no proper grounds to criticize a nation. Instead, we step back and watch the functions of their Empire with an unexcited eye; they are ants and we are watching their colony.
As we approach an Empire we inspect it in this wise: To what extent does it exist in harmony with the principles? Is it infused with the authority of Law? Has it mastered the practise of Tactics? Is it wreathed in the cloak of Inscrutability? Does it function under the constraints of Merit? Is it made full and good and noble through respect of Art?

For the Laws of the Mogu we can read the histories; we know of the punishments set upon the subjects of theirs who were slaves, and yet we know little of the punishments levied upon Mogu subjects of their Emperors. It is a reasonable thing to assume, however, that the Mogu punished their own less harshly than their slaves; an obvious betrayal of the principle of Law. By administering justice differently across their Empire, they foster the rising feelings of mutiny within the slave communities. Planting the seed of their own downfall by their usage of unequal law is the first flaw in the Mogu Empire. The harshness of their laws is slight saving grace; the usage of torture and execution to keep the Law sacred is admirable, though the selective application is the cause of more breaks with the Law in the behaviour of the subjects and slaves. Apply harsh Laws to all equally and you eliminate the mind that is without harmony with the Law; you gain Unity.

The military Tactics of the Mogu were peerless in the beginning; they understood the usage of Heaven and Earth. Distances, terrain, weather and morale held no mysteries to them; indeed, morale was circumvented by the usage of terracotta soldiers, untiring and undying; merciless and fearless; without need for supplies or remuneration. The flaws that arose in the administering of this principle are amongst the most interesting; we see that the unchallenged Empire grew decadent. Weaponry, once useful and functional, grew to be ceremonial; huge, unwieldy and merely kept for the purpose of inspiring fear in those that saw them used. Armies, once drilled in marching, striking and formations, grew lax. Banners and drums were disused and the army was without the ability to focus itself on a single point. The construction of the Serpent's Spine in this period is a good example of the pervasion of this attitude amongst the Mogu of the time. The Late Imperial Mogu were more like the raiders that followed the fall of the Empire, and less like the early race that founded it. Let the history of the Mogu Empire's failure to keep their armies prepared be the greatest lesson learnt. The General is the bulwark of the state; if the bulwark is generally strong, the state is well-protected.

Inscrutability and Merit were both practised to varying degrees by succeeding dynasties of the Mogu; in any case there are better examples to teach these virtues than that sprawling slave-state.

In the final case, the Mogu embraced Art. They understood its importance; they wrote elegies, gushi and renku; they crafted monuments, made paintings and erected towering tombs; their architecture was to last eternity and to impress upon any watchers that the Empire was boundless in mind and body. The highest amongst the Mogu studied the works of both their own and trollish luminaries; learnt the alien tongues of the western insectoid Empire, and immersed themselves in their incomprehensible verse-forms. They crafted the arts of the Guqin and Go out of nothing, except a void where no civilisation was; and formed the land in ways congruent with our emerging understanding of geomantic flows.
If any virtue can be attributed the Mogu, I argue it is this. They understood beauty; even if only as they understood all other things: As a tool. A tool to spread their thought-forms and to garner prestige and fear for their Empire.

In this fashion we conduct our analysis; think not of Moral or Immoral. These two concepts are true and right, but they have no bearing on the success of a nation; my work's purpose is only this: To discover the correct way to craft imperishable works of Law and Lineage. If all else is equal, the Moral State will suffer and the Amoral State will prosper; for to act Right is a burden that will disadvantage the State. Thus, in any situation act only based on rational calculations: This will lead to the thriving of the Nation, and thus to its greatest good, whereas pursuing the greatest good by any other means will impoverish and destroy a Nation.
Strike at the enemy's weakness, never at his strengths; punish your people mercilessly, and without distinction; if mutiny spreads in your kingdom, let the enemy strike to unite the people behind you; if an enemy has no immediate successors, assassinate him to avoid protracted conflict. If a situation should occur where to act morally carries no disadvantage, seize the chance.

For you will get only few."

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:14 pm

(( I thought I'd include a bit of explanation in this thing if people were curious about the mechanics behind these scribblings and my thinkings on them.

Verse is writing which divides into lines based on the fulfilment of a certain pattern of sound, in the case of syllabic verse the repetition of a certain number of syllables. The Chinese Gushi form (Meaning "old poetry") is syllabic, and delineates either after sixth, seventh or eighth syllable. In addition, the form demands cross rhymes, such that every second line rhymes. The use of syllables is a slight inaccuracy on my part: The Chinese tradition divides according to characters, but in translating the form into English I decided to try approximating this with syllables.

The following pieces are written in this adapted form. I chose to write two different pieces: Both are written in eight syllable lines, and the first consists of eight lines while the latter has more. The first contains two different cross rhymes, while the latter keeps the same rhyme throughout, though the scheme is slightly less regular, with extra rhyming added in for a dramatic finish and to build up for the volta.
It should be noted that these things of Chao's have long since been published.

Anywho. Enjoy if you want.

An Elegy
Author: Boqin Chaoxiang

Lonesome cliff; reaching through the storm,
Beset by wind; assailed by squall;
The eye arrives; the lines are drawn,
Tiger, crane; ox, serpent and all
Stand ready in four corners, back
to back with watchers darkly clad.
Repel the storm; shackle the wind;
No rest ere the waves bound are sat.
-The Sun Sets over the Wall, Boqin Chaoxiang

When at night I contemplate
The falling mote of winter's snow,
The bough of cherry in the Spring
When breeze and light its leaves do grow,
The statue forged of deathless stone,
It's worn down features' green jade glow,
In cherry grove, with falling snow,
I wonder why these wonders show
No sign of sorrows, as I do.
The seasons turn without you now:
The cherries sown grow ripe and rot,
And thrive with melting wintry snow.
Beneath these cherries stands a stone,
Of master's hands, well-wrought but low,
Beneath that crumbling conqueror's feet
Whose face we can't read nor mind know:
A mute and morose monument.
Flower petals in the breeze there blow,
To mark a melted mote of snow.

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:16 am

From the chapter entitled 'On the Purpose of Art':
Author: Boqin Chaoxiang

'Internally there can be only one thing that is holy to the Ruler: the loyalty of his subjects. It is this ephemeral resource which he needs to shepherd in times of war to keep the people willing to sacrifice their sons and husbands for his interests; it is the collar through which his ministers and officials are kept to exercising his will; it is his only shield against spies and the best guarantee of his continued lordship. The loyalty of many is what truly separates the madman with delusions of grandeur from the mighty Emperor: as such it must be protected or the Ruler shall be unseated from within or without.
In this way it is useful to divide the disloyal into two different groups for which different tactics will best remove their threat: those that have been wronged and those that have other loyalties. The former are wayward sheep and must be treat them as such. Bringing them back into the fold with kind gifts and regretful words being good; recognizing their sacrifices and honouring them better, being free. The sheep will be pleased by these gestures and gifts and other sheep looking on will nod at each other and say: "Truly our Ruler is kind and wise. We are lucky to be ruled by one such as he."
On the other hand are the more dangerous disloyal beings: he that is loyal to another ruler or he that is loyal to an antagonistic ideal.

He that is loyal to another ruler is like one of your own subjects, only loyal to another. His weaknesses are the same as your own then: his loyalty is dependent on receiving the advantages of his ruler's assistance and on the grace of his ruler's speeches, manner; it is a competition in the Principle of Art and mere bribery that decides the loyalty of such creatures. Depending on the strength of his loyalty he can either be bribed or cajoled back into your service by words or deeds: If either proves untenable, his life was already lost when he chose to betray you; it need only be carried out.

He that is loyal to the antagonistic ideal arrayed against you is a danger that cannot be left untreated. Disloyal ideologies are plagues upon a ruler's flock and need to be hunted down and destroyed without mercy: they spread, turning loyal subjects into rebels; cannot be bribed if they truly believe and are difficult to threaten. The ruler ought watch the faith and ideologues that dwell within his territory and take care that they support him or are kept small or destroyed. It is a fact that can hardly be denied that even the most civilized, graceful and impressively spirited ruler; even he that has mastered all the greatest Arts, whose speech is precise and beautiful and fine; even he will stand powerless to shake the faith of True Believers. Remember in this fashion it is always best to either pamper or destroy your opponents, as it is best to have allies and no enemies. Harm them but a little and they can strike back; cripple them and they can be removed with little effort.

Above all other concerns the Ruler must make certain that one thing is true: the only army allowed within his territory must be his own. For a ruler to allow an ideologue or a criminal to gain the ability to field an army is to give that ideologue or criminal access to the Principle of Tactics; many ideologues will command the Principle of Art already, thus allowing them another is merely to accept a competitor for your position within your own territories. Likewise the criminal given military: supplementing their mastery of Merit with that of Tactics is to create a powerful underworld that could challenge your Law. Remember, the difference between a madman and a ruler is the loyalty of armed forces. Allowing anyone within your territory to keep soldiers is the gravest breach of proper policy.

I note, with calm displeasure, that this simple and obvious fact is one that many Rulers fail to respect: the Alliance thus allow their 'Church of the Holy Light' to keep armed and trained 'paladins', this in addition to the great masses of peasants and scarcely educated city-dwellers this faith could amass to its cause. In this way the King of Stormwind is bound to the demands of this church: to fail to conform to its dogma would invite swift retribution. While the King, I understand, purports to be a faithful follower of this faith, as any rational ruler would in his dire situation, he is yet constrained in exercising his will over his state: an unacceptable consequence of poor statecraft. The proper course of action for such a shackled King would be to undermine the faith over time; granting its enemies permission to act within his territories, thus making allies for himself to balance the power of the Church; replacing its hierarchs and priests with ones loyal to the King; maintaining a constant state of war to ensure the 'paladins' can be permanently enrolled in the King's own armies, rather than exist as a separate force. These, however, are merely bandages on the festering wound that lies underneath.

The Horde, on the other hand, admirably allows only a single cult that I've been able to discern: a fanatical worship of the Ruler. There are murmurs of elements and earth mothers, but within Garrosh' Horde these faiths are made secondary to loyalty towards the Warchief. Indeed, it is my understanding that the trolls of the Horde have been made to give up significant parts of their spirituality to conform to their lord's demands; power wielded like a scalpel to exorcise bothersome tenets and ideas and leave only the fervour that faith produces; an admirable first step to limit the damage such faiths can cause the Ruler.

In the end, it must be remembered once more that it is not the good Ruler nor the faithful Ruler who will conquer and keep his throne. It is exclusively the rational Ruler who will keep the reins of his State indefinitely: we ask not what action is right, merely what action will extend, support and expand the power and glory of the Ruler. As it happens, the Rational Course will often coincide with the Right Course: You must keep your people fed, entertained and educated; otherwise your state will fall behind compared to your competitors and you will be dethroned and defeated. The greatest burden and glory for a Ruler, however, is to make the rational choice when it flies in the face of social mores. To break religious commandments when it will provide an advantage; to break concepts of honour and love and fairness in order to place a toxic knife in the back of an enemy that would have caused far more harm; there is no moral principle that can overshadow the importance of perpetuating your Rule. Keeping the reins of the nation is the end of all statecraft; and towards that end all means are permissible.'

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:17 am

'On the Death of the Turtle King'
Author: Boqin Chaoxiang

O Mingsing, mighty Turtle King,
shield-bearing, four-footed friend.
you were right: Life's the thing.
Like that storied island
of whose rider writers sing,
and on whose back gen'rations reared
did frolic in his temp'rate spring,
so too were you, but stopp'd too soon.
A restless trav'ler, from place to thing,
you journey now beyond the vale,
amongst ancestors sleeping.
May spirits sing you to your rest,
and sleep you well, sweet King.
A single sorrow soils my song:
that loss was senseless, Mingsing,
and so I simply ask:
Can we still that mortar's ring,
its din of death, its sund'ring sound,
if only for our Turtle King?

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:19 am

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Mu (Nothingness)
Author: Pao (player).
Features Character: Paozi Wulong.

Paozi Wulong, forlorn and fatigued, climbed the steps to the pagoda in solitude. Though he had not visited the Monastery in many years, his fellows had not forgotten his face and name. Each and every Shado-pan, from the lowliest recruit to Lord Zhu himself, knew every other by name. Beyond the wall, their fellowship was their greatest strength; animosity their biggest weakness.

So they let him climb alone, unaided, forlorn, and respectfully kept heir distance, bowing their heads as he passed.

Paozi Wulong panted with haggard breath as he felt his trembling knees slowly give way under the weight of old-age.

In its younger years, the fur of Paozi Wulong would not have yielded to the slicing winds.

In their younger years, the paws and feet of Paozi Wulong would not have gone numb from the cold.

Many strangers had come to Pandaria since the mists dispersed. Were they to be trusted? To be shunned? To be welcomed, to be cast out? The animosity between the Horde and the Alliance was great; their war, inevitable. The battle at Serpent's Heart, with all its disastrous consequences, was but a shadow on the wall cast by the flame of the coming conflict. Should he, Paozi Wulong, like his beloved cousin, don a color and pick a side, to end the conflict swiftly with one of the two competitors as the victor? Or should he stay neutral, and continue waging the war of wars, the battle inside the battle: the eternal struggle to suppress the Sha?

In its younger years, the resolve of Paozi Wulong would not have been doubted, for the path had been clear.

Paozi Wulong reached the pagoda at last and seated himself at the center, as was custom. He had been at this particular pagoda only once before. It bore the name of Mu, or Nothingness, and it was here a form of meditation was practiced that was feared and avoided even by the Shado-pan.

It is said that, if one's resolve was not unbreakable, and one's will unyielding, one would surely perish while attempting the technique of Mu, or absolute nothingness. The frozen corpses of a-great many Shado-pan seeking wisdom could be found up here, stripped of their fur and flesh and left to rattle in the winds.

Paozi Wulong did not waver or doubt. Not here, not at this; never. He sat down in the full-lotus position, as had many of the frozen skeletons besides him, and rested his wrists on his thighs, weaving his fingers together so that they formed a blooming lotus: the mind opening to the celestial energy the monastery was rife with. He did not close his eyes; for the object of meditation is not to close oneself off from the sensory world, but rather to close the self off to itself; to destroy the receiver, and allow it to dissolve into the received. No longer would there be a see-er of sights, a hearer of sounds, a feeler of feelings. Thoughts would flow trough the cosmos without a thinker thinking them. They would not be his thoughts, but just thoughts, without an owner. His spine was to become a conductor for the Cosmic, as the energy flowed in from the heavens at the crown of his head to flow straight back into the earth itself trough the belly and the wishbone.

To cast aside one's burdens and to become one with the land: that was the Way of Shaohao and the Way of the Shado-pan.

Paozi Wulong breathed deep the incense and felt its magic take hold of his mind. Slowly but surely, his surroundings began to waver and dance in blackening mists. Before him rose a great dark figure taking on the form of a pandaren silhouette. The figure spoke in a terrible voice that made the whole world tremble. Paozi Wulong could feel his body shake when it spoke, as the voice filled the entirety of his mind.

“Paozi Wulong,” said the spirit, “as you have called, so I have appeared before you. I am the spirit of your ancient lineage. Rise, so that you may receive my boon; but know that no boon is given freely, and mine, too, will come at a price.”

Paozi Wulong looked upon the spirit, but did not tremble. He rose to his feet and faced the spirit, looking it straight in his black eyes trough which the void shone clearly.

“Paozi Wulong,” continued the spirit, “you seek enlightenment. This I shall bestow upon you. But in return, I will take your legs, so that you will no longer be able to stand. You will go trough life kneeling, for ever forced to humble yourself before your peers and have them gaze upon your crown from above, as they carry you on their backs as a burden, secretly loathing you for it”.

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong answered: “I do”.

Paozi Wulong screamed in agony as the spirit broke his legs. He could feel every individual bone snap and crack. Inn great pain, he fell head first on to the ground, presenting his crown for the spirit to leer at. Yet, with great strain, he pushed himself up with his arms to look at the spirit, for his resolve had not yet been broken.

“Paozi Wulong,” the spirit continued, “Now you can no longer walk or stand, as your legs are broken. Next I will tear your arms off. Without your arms, you will no longer be able to block or deal blows, and be forever forced to take beatings, with no way of retaliating.”

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong answered: “I do”.

Paozi Wulong screamed in agony as the spirit tore of his arms and he once more fell to the ground, no longer having anything to support him. Yet, even without arms, he managed with great strain to tilt his neck, so that he was able to continue looking at the spirit, for his resolve had not yet been broken.

“Ah...Paozi Wulong,” the spirit continued mockingly, “Without arms or legs, all you can do is lie there. Now, I shall cut your ears and tongue off. Without arms or legs, you could still dedicate your life to the enjoyment of merry song and philosophical rhetoric, but without ears, you will no longer be able to hear others sing or speak, and without a tongue, you will no longer be able to sing or speak yourself. You will be alone with your thoughts, unable to receive those of others, or to express your own.”

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong answered: “I do”.

Paozi Wulong felt a great stab of pain as his ears and tongue were cut off, yet he could no longer scream, for he had become dumb; nor could he even have heard if he wasn't, for he had become deaf. Yet, he looked the spirit in its eyes, for his resolve had not yet been broken.

By forming floating words in the black mists, the spirit continued his trial.

“Paozi Wulong,” the floating letters read, “Without hearing or speech, you are isolated from others. Next I shall gouge out your eyes and feed them to the crows. With them, you can still see and appreciate nature's beautiful bounty, and though you can no longer hear their joyful cheers, you can still watch the children play. Without your eyes, you will live in eternal darkness, forever cut off from the beauty of this world. Without sight, this too will be lost to you; and you will be properly alone.”

The spirit paused for a moment, before asking: “Do you accept this?”

Without hesitating, Paozi Wulong nodded his head.

Paozi Wulong felt a great stab in his eyes as the spirit gouged them out. Now that he could no longer stand, speak, see or hear anything but for the voice of his own thoughts, the spirit would speak directly to his mind. Yet, his resolve had not yet been broken.

“So, Paozi Wulong!” the spirit sounded in his head, “Now I can only communicate directly to your mind, as your thoughts are all you have left. In the end, I will take your mind, though you probably don't want to allow that, do you? You need only to speak up for me to stop.

The spirit paused for a moment, before saying: “So...You can't answer? You cannot speak? You cannot see me or hear me, and you cannot even move? Are you sad? Are you lonely? If you lose your mind, you also lose any feelings of sadness and loneliness. Do you accept this?”

The spirit paused for a moment, before saying: “I will take your mind, Paozi Wulong! Now that I will forever posses it...”


Paozi Wulong rose from his meditation, enlightened.

Paozi Wulong felt the winds slice trough his fur, yet did not yield to it.

Paozi Wulong's paws and feet were numb, yet the numbness did not hurt.

Paozi Wulong's resolve did not fetter, for the path was clear.

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:21 am

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Author: Pao (player)
Featured Characters: Paozi Wulong, Li Fireborough

The great keep that guarded the gate of the Setting Sun was shaking. With every blow, thin streams of dust trickled down in the same rhythm the beating of an excited heart.

Pao's small study was faintly lit by a flickering fire that was fighting to stay alive under the dust that flaked down the hearth trough the chimney and had nearly buried the flames whole. The room itself was very soberly furnished without any furniture besides a large low table. Along the wall stood many bookshelves that had spilled their scrolls during the rumbling siege. Pao's trusty scarf and helmet hung defiantly on their hooks next to the entrance, and he himself sat in uniform; standard black, red and iron.

On the table rested a large map of Pandaria. The map was divided into squares by many intersecting horizontal and vertical lines. On some of the intersections small red and blue tiles were placed. The beaches of Karasarang in particular were almost entirely filled with tiles. Long lines of red tiles seemed neatly aligned to blue lines that ran parallel to them in a steady, logical pattern.

Pao was sitting silently amidst the heaving and sighing of the great garrison, picking up and dropping tiles across the board and sipping from his lukewarm tea, when a young Shado-pan recruit, fresh from the garrison, burst in carrying a tray with a still steaming-hot pot. The recruit hurried to place the trey on the floor next to Pao and scurried back to re-enter the fray outside when his eyes caught the board. Though Pao could not see the boy's eyes under his hood, he could tell that he disapproved of his game by the assertive posture the he took. Yet, the recruit had been raised well and knew better than to judge his elders. Pao drained the rest of his tea and poured two cups.

“I really shouldn't, sir.” The recruit said in response. His voice was blunt and direct, brutally efficient, a voice that fit a grizzled veteran more than a green rookie.

“I insist.” Pao said, offering tea to the recruit who, having been raised well by a prosperous family, could not refuse. The recruit accepted the cup and sat down opposite of Pao, as if he were ready to play the opponent.

“You are going to have to lower your scarf if you want to drink, son.” Pao said slowly, smiling gently. The gray circles of fur around his tiny jade eyes made it seem like he was tired and weary and about to doze off into a deep slumber. He looked like a man who was long overdue for his retirement.

The recruit obeyed what he perceived to be an order and lowered his scarf. His fur was of a dark brown hue, thanking its rich and vibrant color to his youth. He raised the cup to his mouth and took a sip and, in spite of himself, could not help but breathe a sigh of relief as the warm brew swirled down his parched and cold throat to eddy around in his belly. Pao picked up a blue tile from the board and placed it on the field, next to a red one, equaling the amount of red and blue tiles that ran parallel to one another.

“Pardon me for asking, sir,” the recruit said after some time, “but isn't Go usually played with black and white? I just mean to say, sir, that I have never seen anyone play with red and blue. It is quite extra-ordinary, sir, in the truest sense of the word.” The recruit paused for a while, and, after not getting any response out of Pao, added: “I do not mean any offense of course, sir, if you'd pardon my insolence”.

Pao reached inside of a small box on the floor and took out a single black tile. “Very perceptive...Li, was it?”

“Firebrand” Li quickly added, “Li Firebrand, son of Mandurin of the Firebrandy”.

“Li,” Pao said, “do you know how this game is played?”

“Of course, sir.” Li said, “The objective is to conquer as many squares as possible by putting your tiles down wherever the lines interject. However, your opponent has the same aim and can capture your troops by encircling them, an action commonly referred to as 'capturing'” Li took a moment to observe the board, before adding: “It looks like both players are playing very aggressively this game. Neither side is letting up, and both seem to be more focused on capturing, then on conquering land. The tiles are thickly concentrated instead of widely spread.”

“Very keen observations,” Pao said approvingly in between sips, “Who do you think is likeliest to take this game?”

“It's hard to say, sir.” Li said, “It looks pretty even.”

“That it does, Li,” Pao said, “That it does.” Pao started tapping the single black tile on the edge the board in a steady rhythm. “Did you ever consider how this game would change if a third player were to enter it?”

“Can't say I have, sir.” Li said, “I suppose it depends on the rules. I mean to say, sir, that you can't exactly do a lot of capturing, sir, if you enter the game when there are already so many tiles on the board. To capture a tile or group of tiles you need to surround it. You can't do much surrounding when the board is almost full already.”

“That does sound rather unfair.” Pao said, smiling. Li knew the old Shado-masters loved playing tricks on the young recruits, and suspected that crafty old Wulong was leading him into some sort of intellectual trap. In the way in which Pao was asking questions, it was unlikely that Li would be able to answer in way different than what the old master was anticipating. He was being lead to some sort of pitfall of wisdom, no doubt. He would dive in head first.

“I'll tell you what,” said Pao, “How about we let the black player choose?”

“What do you mean, sir?” Li said, a little anxious, sensing the trap forming around him.

“How about,” Pao said, “Every time black places a tile adjacent to a row of either of his enemies, he gets to choose which color he wishes to complement. For example – ” Pao placed a black tile at an impasse between red and blue, and proclaimed: “I wish for this tile to complement the blue tiles”.

Li bent forward to examine the board. The black tile would, if placed like Pao has just put it, help the blue tiles capture a long line of red ones. The common impasse of both players extending the line ad infinitum would be interrupted, since, placed like this, it would be impossible for the red player to break out of the blue-aided-by-black stranglehold.

“A single tile by black,” Pao said, “could break the impasse between red and blue.”

Ji pondered this a little, taking several sips of his tea. The master would no doubt be expecting something profound and insightful, yet all he managed to say was: “That may be well and good, but how will black decide which player to assist? How can black win the game – by helping another player win? That doesn't seem very fair to the opponent that will be playing two against one.”

“You're quite right, Ji. I hadn't thought of that yet,” Pao said, though he obviously had, “that hardly sounds fair at all, and therefore can't be much fun for anyone. An unfair game may be fun for the favored, but rarely for the unfavored, unless there is a great disparity of skill between the players”.

“Are you talking about playing with a handicap, sir?” Li asked keenly.

Pao smiled, visually growing more enamored with the boy's smarts, and said: “Yes, handicaps can help alleviate any disparities in skill and can allow there to be a fun and fair game even between a master and a novice. Do you know a handicap commonly used by experts?”

“The most common handicap would be,” Li said as if he were reading from a textbook, “For the lesser player to be allowed to set up a few extra tiles before the game even begins. That way the novice will have an advantage in numbers and, if the handicap is cleverly used, positioning”.

“So, when playing with a handicap, the advanced player enters a game where there are already some of the opponent's tiles on the board?” Pao asked.

“Indeed it does,” Ji said, and, sending where the conversation was headed, added: “In that fashion it would be similar to a third player entering a game half-way trough.”

“Another keen observation.” Pao said, “A third player entering an ongoing game would indeed be much like a player with a handicap entering a game without.” Pao paused to sip from his tea that had by now lost its scalding properties and had become generally pleasant to the throat, “However, that does little to alleviate the greater unfairness.”

“That of the third player being the tie-breaker and thus outnumbering a player of his choosing. ”Li was quick to add. “Allowing the other two players to set up some of their pieces before the third player enters would only make it easier for the third player to break a stalemate and grab a victory by declaring fealty to one of the warring parties”.

Pao frowned deeply. “Warring parties? Fealty?” he said, “We are still talking about Go, I hope?”

Li was taken aback by this comment and lowered his head in silence, not knowing what to say.

“Good.” Pao said, “We discuss one thing at a time, without muddling up the subject with any interference from other matter. Is that clear?”

The students shuffled around anxiously, showing the uneasy signs of a mind struggling to suppress a pedantic comment. It was most disrespectful to correct a superior on intellectual matters. Trough great effort, Li remained vigilant in his manners and kept his silence, waiting for the old master to address him with a question. Pao watched the youngster with a gentle smile and, after some time, addressed him in a thin, quiet voice.

“It's all right, Li. Speak freely.”

“But has the noble game of Go not its origins in Mogu war simulations?” the students said breathlessly as his comment was finally allowed to slip out. Pao nodded briefly, but did otherwise not acknowledge the student's excellent point. With a great gush of shame arising in his belly, Li realized that he had diluted the point of the Master's impromptu lecture, merely for the sake of impressing him with his knowledge. He hung his head low.

Mercifully, Pao did not allow him to wallow in doubt for too long and interrupted his meandering in a cheerful tone. “You raised the point that, for the third player, breaking an impasse between two players would be easy. Earlier you asked the question what the victory conditions for the third player would be. We have already established that, if the third player was allowed which of the two already competing players to support and in doing so share in his victory, the game would be unfair for the unfavored player. An unfair game is no fun. How about instead of letting the third player side with one of the two, he chooses none?”

“What do you mean, sir?” Li asked meekly, “Are you suggesting that the third player needs to beat both the first and the second in score?” Li pointed at the board and said: “That would be impossible in the given scenario. And, given that we have discussed the option of a third player joining in an already ongoing game, and, given that we are pursuing the spirit of fairness, this hardly seems like a viable option.”

“Very thorough and convincing,” Pao said approvingly. Li started to glow with renewed vigor, forgetting all about his former mishap. The master continued: “Yet another option we must discard on grounds of unfairness.” Pao took the black tile from the board and balanced it in his palm. “Allow me to suggest a third option”.

“Please.” Li blurted out.

“How about,” Pao said slowly, “We make it the objective for the third player to ensure the game between the first two ends in a tie?”

Li considered this for a while in silence. Due to the nature of the third player's position in the game, the strategy of tie-breaking was a logical and sound choice. However, if the objective were to force a tie, rather than to break one, the third player would have to carefully weigh his support, as to not give one player an advantage over the other. In the given scenario on the board, this would be tricky indeed: assuming the black player was forced to put a tile down every turn, just like the other two players were, it would be difficult indeed to place the tiles in such a fashion that neither of the two factions benefited from them.

“That's...” Ji started, but was interrupted by Pao saying: “Fair, is it not?” Pao placed the tile on the board somewhere on Krasarang where it would prevent two parallel running red and blue lines of tiles from joining one another, making the likelihood of either of the two players winning any ground on the other significantly smaller. Pao finished his tea.

“You should return to the battle, son.” Pao said calmly, looking up from his game. Li snapped up from dreamily staring at the board. Looking at and beyond Paozi, he now noticed for the first time several sketches hanging on the wall of different games of Go, each with blue, red and black dots on the many intersecting lines.

“Yes sir.” Li said. He turned around, expecting to head back into the fray alone when he noticed Pao had stood up and was binding a crimson scarf around his mouth and donning his weathered hat.

“Well then.” Pao said, “Time go go. Lead on, son.”

The pair departed, leaving the game alone, unfinished in a still rumbling and heaving study.

Last edited by Pao on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:38 am; edited 2 times in total

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:34 am

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A Friendly Game of Go.
Author: Pao (player)
Featured characters: Paozi Wulong, Drustai(?)

She had been down this shit-hole for Light knows how long. It was too far underground for the sun to reach down, and they did not allow her any clocks. Fel if she knew why they didn't allow her any clocks.

Ever since she had set foot on this accursed land, the pandaren in the black hats had been stalking her. Wherever she went, the Shado-pan followed, like an invisible shadow. Oh, they had introduced themselves first, of course. They were very polite like that. The Shado-pan were nothing if not polite. They had told her that she was on something called the Black List. Told her that, while they were terribly sorry for it, they could not allow her to roam free without surveillance.

Even down here, she could feel their little beady beetle-like eyes observing her from the shadows of her cell. Since bringing her down here, they had only ever spoken once to tell her a single thing: that, if she could beat their best player in a game of Go, they would release her. At the time, she did not even know what Go was, and they never bothered to explain it to her, though they no doubt would have if she had asked. Luckily, the game was fairly self-explanatory. It was a little like chess or checkers: there was a board divided into spaces by horizontal and vertical lines, there were black tiles, and there were white tiles. They never allowed her to play with black.

At first, she had refused to play their game. She had refused to make any compromises with these beasts. And why would she? They had her in their power; and they expected her to dance to their tunes? To do tricks like a tamed monkey? Fail at their games so they moch and laugh at her? She would have none of it. But every few hours or so, the pandaren monk still loyally shuffled in on his padded claw-feet and set up the board, patiently putting all the little tiles in place and waiting for her to make the first move. Still she refused. She would not break and play along with their little games. They would break first.

They always break first.

At this time, she kept her sanity thanks to her imagination. She fantasized in which brutal ways she would torture her captors upon her inevitable escape. They would break before she ever would. This was certain. They would not be able to keep her down forever. Her allies would come for her. They would rescue her.

Yet, the large wooden board with the black-and-white stones intrigued her. In spite of the fact that she knew that they wanted her to play, and that they kept stoically offering it to her for exactly the reason that it would start to creep up in her mind and distract her thoughts from her just vengeance, she could not help herself. Down here, in the deep dark, there was very little else to do, and after what seemed to have been a very long time, only for it to later be revealed to be a very short while indeed, she placed one of the stones on the board. Instantly the black-and-white pandaren paw shot forward and shifted her stone just a little teensy bit to the left so that it was placed on an intersection of two lines, rather than on one of the squares in between of them. Filled with an inexplicable shame, she refused to play any further, even as the pandaren placed a single black stone somewhere down the board, his face still hidden in the shadows of that black hat of his. And, after some time, just like always, the pandaren cleaned up the board and left her cell, leaving her with a dumb sense of longing. In spite of her searing hatred, she found herself anxiously awaiting his return

She refused the next few games, but she knew that they knew that this was only a hollow gesture. They had begun to break her. She had started to play, and, now that the pandaren had corrected one of her faulty moves, she could not help herself from trying to figure out what the right kind of moves were. So she played. If she was being forced to play their game, then she would be damned to lose it. They would be sorry for their mischievousness when their clever tricks would be turned against them.

So she began learning. She placed her white stones randomly across the board, wherever the lines intersected, and read the pandaren's responses. She soon noticed that, once her stones were surrounded by the opponent's, he would remove them from the game. Her fist loss was due to her thinking that the goal of the game was to just wipe out as many of your foe's units as possible. It did not take much imagination to figure out that, by placing your stones closely huddled together, the opponent would not be able to capture them, thus ensuring a solid defense against being captured. As a response, the pandaren would scatter his stones across the playing board, placing them as far apart as possible; and, after not too many turns, spoke his first words since bringing his opponent down here:

“You lose”.

Next time, she tried to mimic the pandaren's strategy, by scattering her stones all across the board, as far apart as possible. In response to that however, the pandaren quite easily captured her fleeting stones with a tighter formation. She lost again, this time learning a lesson that should have been obvious: neither an all-out offensive, nor an absolute defense, would earn her a victory.

Though she realized that spending all her thinking-time on a childish game, rather than on figuring out a way to escape, was probably precisely what they had intended she would be doing, she no longer found herself caring. She started spending her time in between games strategizing, thinking about the game, figuring out new ways in which to play the game and ultimately beat the pandaren. She would envision past games in her mind, in which she would counter the pandaren's moves in such a way that she would nullify his petty plans and come out victorious. Every move had a counter-move. She would just have to figure out every single one – luckily, she was blessed with an excellent memory.

When asked about it, she would later hesitantly admit that at the time she had forgotten all about the Shado-pan's promise to release her once she beat them in a game of Go. And why should she have remembered? All that mattered was to beat the stuck-up beast in his own game. Though she could not see his face, hidden as it was in shadow, she fantasized often about a scowling, feral face that snarled at every move that she made, prowling like a savage beast. She could see his eyes become more feral, his frown more vicious, as she got better at the game and the matches lasted longer and longer. The matches, indeed, felt like they flowed in to one another. She found that she could no longer figure out when the previous match had ended, or when she bad begun her current one. The in-between time seemed to melt and fade away, as all she could think of was Go. Soon she would have this pathetic mongrel growling for mercy, as she would turn that one sentence he was so found off back at him:

You lose.

Yet, no matter how many strategies she thought out, no matter how well she played, no matter how clever her tricks and how well-thought out her counters were – the pandaren seemed to be always two moves ahead of her, always having the counter to the counter prepared well in advance, revealing her strategy to be childish and naïve. Every way in which she thought she could gain an advantage, the pandaren would turn against her and warp in to a disadvantage.

After all those games, she could not even manage to get the softest whimper or sigh out of that accursed hidden head. All she heard, repeated, endlessly, always in the same voice, the same damned monotone:

“You lose”.

She began flipping the board when she lost. Punching it. Breaking it. Splitting it in two, three, four pieces. She almost launched herself at the smug pandaren's neck, in order to crush his windpipe and forever silence him, so that he may never again usher that damned sentence. You lose. It was maddening. After what seemed like a thousand-thousand losses, all she wanted for that blasted pandaren to be silent; that, just for once, she was the one to say:

You lose.

All this time she had remained silent. After all, what did she have to say? She could curse and damn this blasted pandaren, but that would just shame her as a poor loser. She could ask him for advice and help on how to play the game, but that would mean she loses the unspoken game. It would mean that she would have to succumb and acknowledge the superiority of this dirty backwards fur-ball. It would mean all of those games in which she taught herself how to play would be meaningless and silly. All she had to do was ask. But she could not. She would not. She mustn’t.

She still had her dignity.

Do you have any tips on how to play this game?

“You are too focused on your opponent,” the pandaren answered slowly and without bile, “you waste most of your energy trying to disrupt my strategy, rather than to working on progressing your own”.

“The most efficient way to defeat your opponent is to ensure that he is unable to execute his strategy.”

“So it is.” The pandaren lifted his hat just slightly, showing a gentle smile underneath eyes still hid in shadow. “And yet – is beating your opponent all there is to winning, I wonder...?”

“To win and to have your opponent lose, is the very same thing. So yes. That is all there is to winning. It is the same”.

“So it is”.

After this short exchange, the ice had been broken. Though neither of them appeared to be of the talkative kind, they started to leisurely discuss the game while playing it. When requested, the pandaren would comment on his moves, and on hers, as she now started to improve more rapidly thanks to the pandaren's insights in to the game. She learned the specific terms for the ideas that drifted around her head in want of a concept; she was vindicated in some of her tactics, as they were revealed to be standard strategies; and the rule-set she had formulated for herself was all but confirmed. All of this helped her to improve greatly. As the games lasted longer and longer, the conversations became more casual and pleasant. Soon, topics that had little to do with the game were being discussed. Where she had come from. Why she had come to Pandaria. About some of her dreams and ideals. About the war. About his family, his sons, and his daughters. Soon, the pandaren had taken off his hat completely, and revealed his kindly old face. Eventually, the pandaren would stay with her even after the games had been concluded.

One day, when the pandaren was setting up the board like he always did, she said:

“Can I play with black today?”

The pandaren smiled his goofy grin as he picked up both pouches that held the stones, holding them out as if he were a scale and jingling them merrily. “Why, my friend, why would you want to do that? We have discussed this. White begins, giving it half a percent advantage. It is not much, but I figured you could use whatever edge you can get, no?”

“Black is my color”.

“You do not mind the disadvantage, tiny though as it may be?”

She shrugged. “Pao, we both know that I am never going to win any of these games. Not in this century at least. So I might as well play in the color that I like the most”.

The pandaren stopped jingling the stones and gently put them aside. “You would play, knowing that you have no chance at winning?”

“I do not think I ever had one to begin with”.

“Yet, still – you play. Why?”

She fell silent for a while, gathering her thoughts. The pandaren smiled kindly as always, patient, though something in his demeanor betrayed a certain anxiety.

“I guess...It is the most fun I'll have while I am stuck down here.”

“...Fun?” The pandaren asked.

“Fun, or something else, I don't know,” she snapped, a little bitter, “I just...I like it, I suppose. I like playing the game.”

“You enjoy playing the game, no matter whether you win or lose?”

She hesitated.


Pao gestured to an invisible guardsman with a subtle hand-sign. Instantly, two Shado-pan warriors, dressed in their familiar black guise and hats, emerged from the shadows, one holding a set of keys.

“I think that we have played enough. I do not know about you, but I have been getting a little bored with it. I think you are ready to re-enter the game played above. You have spend enough time in the penalty-box.”

The guardsman unlocked the shackles around her wrists. The accursed chains, after having held her for so long, dropped to the ground with an anti-climactic thud.

“Go on, then. Go. Play the game.”

She rubbed her wrists, looking dumbstruck. After having fantasized about this moment for so long during the early days of her imprisonment, she now suddenly appeared woefully unprepared for it.

“But...Why?” she stumbled, “Why now? What's changed? Why are you releasing me?”

None of the pandaren answered. The guardsmen unlocked the cell-door and returned to the shadows, invisible. Pao remained silent.

“You never even asked for my name”.

“Nor will I ever.” the pandaren said. “Now go.”

That was the last she had ever heard of Pao. She sometimes returned to the monastery, looking to play another game with the old pandaren, but he was never there to be found. Once she was released, the Shado-pan removed her from their so-called blacklist, and she never again felt the presence of their beady beetle-like eyes looking at her from the shadows. The war carried on, as if she had never been away from it at all. Her life continued, as if it was never interrupted in the first place. When enough time passed, her imprisonment seemed to only have lasted a fleeting moment. A single breath. In the biography of her life, there would scarcely be place for it, except perhaps for a short footnote. Nothing had changed. Everything remained same.

And in the end, she had never did beat Pao at Go.

Not even once.

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Fri Feb 08, 2013 3:34 pm

The Pit of Yesugei the Mogu
Author: Boqin Chaoxiang

Canto I: Invocation of inspiration and the Pit

I beg you, listener: let wingéd thought,
With story stray from worldly matters, thence
Of distant desolated sands to think,
And of the mighty gladiator slaves.
In crystal halls with glass inlaid, beneath
The ever whisp'ring dunes of Silithus,
Where many coiling horrors lie in sleep,
From sand the Masters did erect a Pit,
A horrid octagon of sharpened glass,
Wherein the war-torn Empire's slaves would fight
And die to inscrut'ble insect's applause.
Before the chitt'ring monstrous mandibles
The mogu, trolls and stranger things were made
To bring before their Lords their lives; and die.
Thus Heroes like the troll-lord Djam'ba-Lar,
In dreadful dress of skins and bones (; a gift
From Mueh'zalah, Son of Time); was brought
In diamond shackles from His tribe. That warrior
Did countless beasts and monsters boldly fell;
Upon his Sparkling Spear the hoisted dead
Were eagle spread and offered to his God;
A silent God he found; for in Aqir
The Old Voices alone the Mind can reach,
With whispered word to make men mad or Mad.
Born to the Line of Thunder was Yesugei;
The forefather of countless Mogu Kings.
Beneath the vulture sun Yesugei fought,
Until his Emperor Right he fin'lly sought.

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

Post by Thelos on Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:33 am

The Pit of Yesugei the Mogu
Author: Boqin Chaoxiang

Canto II: A child is born

Beneath the sun-baked desert's sand a mother's
Despondent screams, reverberant till muffled,
Presaged a mogu's birth. A faded mem'ry,
The prophecy of famed Kao-Zu, did spring
Into the scheming mind of Yen Li-Han:
"I saw a growling lioness give birth;
Around her paws were fastened chains of glass.
Upon her head she bore the name of Mother.
With blades in both her fists she pushed a cub,
A mewling babe, from out her bleeding slit.
Defiantly she roared as jackals swarmed.
Between their snapping jaws I glimpsed the name
Of Emperor across his forehead writ
In golden ink and crackling green jade lightning."
Amongst his kind he was betrayer called
And wished to see no King or Emp'ror rise.
So Yen Li-Han his mighty axe did hoist,
A troll in height, with boulder weight, it groaned,
And bellowed to the mother with cold words,
Commands of old authority, unused
Since they from tribes by insect lords were plucked.
"O Mother, birthing on this morn a cub,
Yen Li-Han, the Axe That Grinds, compels you:
Take thy bladed tools of war and fight us"
The scoundrel cast his arm to show his gang,
"Or take from out thy womb thy babe and see
The weakling little beast be torn asunder."
The mother roared to thundering applause,
Aqir would see their slaves give one more show.
In gladiator's ears the noise was naught
For, battle joined, the bloodlust sank on sense
And sight and mind. The mother took her blades,
A pair of axes, twins in whirling death,
And with her crying son beneath her bulk
She took her stance. Li-Han with flashing steps
The sandy floor in clouds and puffs did spread
And threw with axe his mighty giant strength
In heaven-bound arc the Mother to smash!
That sound of which the ancients often spoke,
Of twins of stone repelling Li-Han's blow,
His avalanche of rock, did grind and spark;
And lo! With merest sound of leaf through air
The Mother's twins bit in the schemers sides.
Without a sigh of dull surprise or wonder
Yen Li-Han his blood upon the cub did spill;
A life begun with Mother's storied kill.

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Re: The Blooming Lotus

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