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All The Emperor's Men: Jian Bozan and the Birth of Fulgistan


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OOC: This thread will serve as a soft reboot, both for Jian Bozan and the history of Fulgistan, but also for the lore of the nation itself. Expect more contemporary insights into Fulgistan to follow.

 

And it was in those days that Lei Junfa, the Thundering Warlord, led an army down from the heavens, whose soldiers carried fire in their stomachs and sliced men's flesh with only the palms of their hands. This cannibal army ravaged the wurld, and soon they had conquered all the realms of the Huang. For generations, Lei Junfa and his sons took the children of the Huang for their roasting-boards, broke their swords, stole their fields, and ground the common people beneath their feet. So mighty were they, not even the finest heroes of the age could oppose their armies. And so it came to pass that in the reign of the seventh son of Lei Junfa, the people suffered terribly, even worse than before, and the gods could no longer ignore their suffering. So one night, when Lei Junfa's son was sleeping, the Great Sea Serpent came to him, and said unto him:

"You and your brothers and your father have tormented the Huang for too long. I shall send you the seed of your destruction, but I shall send him by Another Way, for that is my wont. Though I am King of the Seas, my servant shall come to you from land bounded by land bounded by land again. Though I am Prince of Rectitude, my servant shall need to seek redemption for his wrongs. Though he shall be your doom, he shall come to you from within your own household. So it was said in heaven."

When Lei Junfa's son heard these words, he awoke with a fright. The Serpent had planted the seed of his Painted Dynasty's undoing: the man called Gang Liuwei.

-The Funeral Ballad of Gang Liuwei, Unknown Author, ca. 11th century CE, describing events of the 4th century

 

March 27, 1898. Bozanistan, westernmost province of the Five-Colored Empire.

They saw the buzzards before they saw the bodies. Four men and a boy, bound as if crucified on long stakes on the hilltop, their corpses the tallest objects for miles around. As the troop of blue-jacketed cavalrymen came within sight, their tall red mares dyed a deep umber by the dust, the young major signaled the halt, and approached the gruesome scene on foot with Captain Liao, both men leading their horses. It was not long before they got to the top of the hill, and the major shooed the buzzards away with a few swishing strokes of his lariat.

"What do you make of it, Captain?"

Liao turned his head abruptly; was this boy really so green as to ask a question like that when he saw what was clearly the aftermath of a Bozan raid? But then, the lad was half-caste (though he didn't look it) and perhaps he had a sense of humor. Then again, aristocrats so loved to give their underlings these little tests, extend a little lure of good humor then huff themselves up into a rage at your newfound familiarity...yes, they loved their little tricks to let you knew where you stood. Against his better judgement, he decided to be flippant.

"I reckon the good news is we can take the scouts off our payroll, sir. Maybe we can think about increasing the tea ration."

To the captain's surprise, his superior's broad mustachioed face cracked into a grin, and a dark chuckle emerged. The black visor of his gold-trimmed kepi shaded his eyes.

"You have it right; that is indeed the good news. The bad news is, as you can clearly tell, only two of these men belong to us. This one, and that boy, they look like they're just peasants. Why would a Bozan raiding band, riding hell-for-leather across the plains with two Imperial captives, stop to kill their captives, stake them up like this, and kill these two poor peasants besides?"

"I don't know sir, unless..."

Liao pondered. He had earned his commission, not purchased it, but it had been granted for his ability to marshal men on horseback and keep cool under pressure, not his detective skills. Nonetheless, he ventured:

"They wouldn't do this unless they wanted us to see it."

Another big smile from the major; it was unnerving juxtaposed with the scene in front of them.

"Precisely! They suppose we'll come upon this tableau, fill our hearts with fiery revenge, and ride off in the direction we've been tracking them. But! Look here- the scouts, their faces are smashed in. They're unrecognizable but for their uniforms."

"The Bozan do that to all the captured scouts. They hate them most of all, for betraying their people."

"That may be so, Captain, but in this case, I think we will find it has a secondary purpose..."

The major reached for the shoe of one of the dead scouts. With a sickening sound, and a sloughing of dead skin over dead tissue, it came free, revealing its owners deformity.

"Now, Captain, when did the Imperial Army ever accept a man with a club foot? I'm convinced the Bozan still have our men prisoner, and if we don't hurry they're going to do a lot worse than this to them."

"Sir! You said they wanted us to follow them!"

"Not the first group. It's an old trick. Two bands meet on a well-used trail, then one doubles back along the trail while the other rides away through open country, leaving a fresh trail to distract pursuers. If my instincts are correct, we'll run into the other party of braves about four, five miles behind us. If we hurry, we might be able to stop them before they get to their home ranges and the hills are bristling with arrowheads."

As he spoke, the young major strode confidently to his horse and mounted it. As the Captain made ready beside him, he took a small notebook from his saddlebag and marked it once, twice, four times with a pencil. On the notebooks page, he now had sixty such marks. It was certainly macabre, this accounting of the dead, but he thought little of its strangeness.

After all, how else was Major Jian the Big Sword going to ensure he had properly honored the slain, when it came time to balance the total?

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