Yunshan is the place in this world where the veil between the realm of spirits, and the realm of mortals is thinnest. Thus this land is filled with spirits, powerful and small who take great interest in the doings of those who live here. This very temple is protected by spirits. In fact most places here are. The spirits have powers to hold men who enter their domains to account. Each spirit has preferences, and can be either pleased or angered. In turn, a man who is wise will respect the spirits and practice the things which please them, and avoid that which angers them. The spirits will bring order and prosperity to such a mans life. You see, in Yunshan there is an order that binds all things together in a harmony of opposing forces, maintained through celestial laws and anceint agreements. In this way, our people live with a power and harmony that the barbarians of the west cannot attain.
But once long ago the spirits were wild and without disipline. They wared on one another until the Gods of the Tein Ming came to our heaven, and seeing that it was far more beautiful than any heaven they had ever visited, decided to stay. As they moved into heavenly Yunshan, so to did their noble people move into earthly Yunshan. The Earthly Tein Ming brought order to Yunshan, teaching it’s people how to live lives ordered by agreements and honor, and the gods of the Tein Ming pacified the wild spirits and bound them to celestial laws. Thus, for 1000 years it has been.
Now long ago a great evil was unleashed in the heavens by demons, and chaos rained there. All the gods broke out into war with one another. On earth, their was the Shu Ha rebellion, where the the hundred nations of the Tein Ming Empire went to war, first against their Emperor, and then against each other. This chaos on earth was mearly a mirror to the chaos in the heavens, as it always is. This time of darkness still continues in the wilderness of the barbarian west. There all holy places have been defiled and lost their magic, and always there is war and banditry.
But here in Yunshan, closest to the most high heaven, The ever wise, and ever reasonable god Shang Ti appointed 8 celestial govenors to keep peace here while he left the world to find the ultimate wisdom. While the gods of other nations in this world fell into selfish wars and destroyed order everywhere on the earth, here in Yunshan, Shang Ti’s divine govenors remained steadfast and protected this land. The Celestial govenors are the cheif gods who we praise, without which, Yunshan would be as steeped in blood and horror as the world you have come from.
Shui Khan is the God of Men, who taught man how to build cities and nations, and how to make all possible with orderly agreements and contracts. He is loved by men who rule because he is noble and admirable. He is loved by men who serve because he is Fair and just. He is loved by soldiers and heroes because he is brave, and an expert with his silver sword. He is loved by those who administer because he is organized and knows the laws. Also he is loved by common men of craft, for in any matter which involves skill, Shui Khan is sure to excel.
You see there Tsai Shen. He is the keeper of all forbidden lore. Deciding what secrets of magic shall be made known to whom. He is also charged as the protector of holy places. He watches over temples and shrines, and hidden places in the wild with secret powers. Should you cross over into the spirit world without permission, it is Tsai Shen and his minions who will always be a step behind or ahead of you, seeking to punish your transgression without mercy, for this is his duty, and he pursues it with an evil passion. As protector of forbidden places, and the gate keeper of secret magics, Tsai Shen guards the throne of Shang Ti while he is away. He is ever watchful of great spirits, rising mortals, and even the other governors, any who might claim the throne of Shang Ti for themselves. In truth, he himself would love to take the throne, but in his duty as protector of the most holy places, he is helpless to pursue this secret desire.
Before Shang Ti left he gave Tsai Shen a mighty weapon to enforce his role. A staff made of jade, that if thrust into the ground before an opponent, from the mightiest spirit to the lowliest beast, will so shake the ground where he stands that he will be shaken lose from his shadow, and thus forever flawed in spirit.
Next in our story is Bolin. He is god of the winds, the skys, and all weather. Bolin is a trickster, and masterful manipulator, Who betrayed the trust of Shang Ti and since he left, turned to banditry, and hatching plots among the other Celestial governors to turn them against one another. After Dinner I, or rather together we shall tale the tale of Bolin’s First betrayal of the celestial governors, and how this place came to be what it is…But let us now eat together
But first, Dinner. A small army of young initiates, white robed and shaved heads, disappear into a large storage area beneath the stairs you didn’t even realize was there. They emerge with 6 square tables, the kind you must sit on the floor to eat at, and butt them against one another to make one long table in the middle of the room. Others carry dozens of pillows for sitting. Some priests with instruments take up a place on the dais. The throne is taken down and two large stringed instruments, too large for one man to weild, are hoisted up on beefy stands that keep them up right while the player plucks them. Behind them a metal rack of chines and a long wooden horn, also supported by a special stand.
Now a great feast is brought out with much order and practice. The whole chamber, which is quite large, seems crowed by a whirlwind boys moving furniture in an organized sort of chaos only they understand. You’re not sure where you should stand and feel very out of place. The young initiates are trained to be humble and keep their eyes to themselves but they are cracking under their curiosity at you. They seem so focused but you soon realize they are shooting each other subtle looks that say volumes as they quickly take note of every detal about the new visitors from the corners of their eyes as they do their duties. A great caldren of rice is brought out next to a similar kettle of a fragrant gulasch in a spicy sauce. Large wood platter are brought out piled high with peppers and other hollow vegetables that have been stuffed with a mince of lamb and spices, and cooked in great clay ovens somehwere in the shrine. It is a fancy meal to the order of the Pacified Shadows, one reserved for holidays and honorable guests. More Prepartations are made As The Keeper beacons you forward to him.
At this point the Keeper welcomes the players to go up into the temple and light candles and prayers to the gods.
Dinner starts with a chant to each god that is sung by the priests on the Dais, and then repeated by all in the room as they play music along. Initiates bring out wooden bowls filled with clean, very cold water, and next to these sit miniature wooden tables with white hand towels. All begin washig their hands. Once this is done, the wash bowls are taken away, and eating consumes all else. There is no conversation. Those at the table gobble up the food hungrily in a way that seems just shy of rude. The Priests and Sohei nod, make and break eye contact, or tilt their heads at one another in meaningful ways as they shovel food into their mouths with their hands. Occasionally one of the men will stamp his feat, or softly tap the table in a significant way while locking eyes with the person across from him. No one will make eye contact with you except the Keeper of the Sanctum who you are seated near to, who looks directly at you from one to time, an interested smile just barely visible on his lips that makes you feel he’s assessing you very closely and having all kinds of thoughts. The gathering say nothing out loud while they eat, but you soon get the impression an entire conversation is going on around you, and you’re probably the topic.
After all is finished initiates bring out more wash bowls. Extra pillows are brought out and the tables are taken away. The Priests make small take with one another, breaking the silence. It seems to be getting dark outside much to soon, and more initiates are lighting lamps that hang from the red pillars that hold up the roof. This lighting is done in a ceremonious way, the same each time, like its own little ritual. all gathered seen to relax and recline.