Turnsheet 8

Tsung Chang-Mai

Extracts from the turnsheet response of Tsung Chang-Mai. Written by Ivan.

Summon the Fucanglong

You journey by boat to the small Island of Marton where the East India Company have evacuated the Cathayan refugees and have constructed the factory which will be the new home of the Fucanglong. The waters around the factory are patrolled by a number of armed East Indiamen, heavily armed merchant ships of the John Company. It is noticeable even from a distance that the shores of the island have a number of redoubts armed with cannons and closer in that there are periodic patrols by armed guards.

The guards and crew of the armed merchant men are primarily English, but once you step ashore it is more like being in a provincial Chinese town. The majority of the population of the small town that has sprung up around the factory at the centre of the island are Cathayan refugees, once important officials of the Ming Dynasty. The factory building itself is impressively large, if utilitarian and undecorated. The surrounding dwellings are still makeshift and the roads mud paths, neither paved nor set with stone, except for the road between the factory and the harbour which has become the towns main street.

The buildings of the town are a weird mixture of occident and orient. Clearly cheaply and quickly constructed by the Company to house the refugees, and with a great deal more emphasis on working space than living space, the frames are in a Western style. The refugees have been here a number of years now, however, and the decoration of the buildings has become distinctly more Chinese. The majority of the writing is in Chinese script with only the larger buildings and those of most interest to Company employees clearly signed in English. The majority of the refugees are still living in crowded barracks but new homes are still being built and those who have shown themselves most useful to their new patrons are gradually being moved to less crowded accomodation.

Mandrake and Tsung enter the factory which seems potent with magic. Mandrake can trace his previous alchemical workings and seems satisfied that they remain stable and intact. Tsung is still worried about the quality of Sir Christophe Swal's penmanship, the subtly glowing characters with which the entire enormous hall is decorated. Everyone entering the hall can feel a strange sense of peace and comfort, or rather an echo of it, as if entering someone else's well-worn home but as a guest. Tsung believes that the space has been prepared well enough and commences the ritual to invite the Fucanglong in.

The first step is to fill the echoing hall with the smell of sulphur, to show the demon-dragon that it will feel at home in this place. A mix of ground pumice and shiliuhuang (brimstone) is burnt in obsidian dishes placed around the factory. While the factory fills with the fumes Tsung chants the ancient tales of the Fucanglong. A translator has been assigned to allow the Company officials in attendance to understand. The tales are of the history of the Fucanglong, their deeds both great and terrible but magnificent nonetheless and demonstrate their great power. They are worthy of such respect shown them. (The translator apologises that his poor words cannot adequately convey the poetry with which the respected Jinshi Tsung Chang-Mai speaks.)

Offerings of Jade and Pearl workings of the highest craftsmanship are also made. The Company has scoured the island and asked amongst its staff current and retired who have been to Cathay for such items. The expense has been considerable but the treasury of art stacked between layers of charcoal and wood at the centre of the hall is taller than a man. Several members of the observing party of Company officials seem to be mouthing a single number to themselves, and to have gone quite pale, as Tsung Chang-Mai sets the pyre alight and calls with a great voice to invite the Fucanglong Meilong to take up residence in the home they have prepared for it and which she humbly hopes will be suitable for it.

The heat of the pyre grows greater and greater as Tsung Chang-Mai keeps shouting her invitations, conveying the quality of the accomodation that has been provided, praising the sagacity and wisdom of the guest and humbly promising to see that it shall be treated with all the respect that a worthy of its station deserves. The pyre is now so hot that the stone beneath it is growing cherry red and it is difficult to look at its heart. The proximity with the which sorcerer and others are standing ought by now to be in danger of setting their clothes and heart alight, and certainly the less brave are on the edge of running. Baron Mandrake is seen to take a swig from his hipflask and laugh nonchalantly at the danger.

It quickly becomes evident that there is no danger however.

Even as the fire grows into a conflagration that would fill the entire building, it becomes clear that the inside of the building has been growing. The walls of the opposite are actually becoming indistinct, receeding so far as to fall into haze. It is only the apparently constant size of the fire at the centre as it grew impossibly, but in synce with the growth of the interior of the building, that has created the illusion.

Tsung Chang-Mai is growing horse now, her voice quavering and dropping as she continues to shout invitations from this humble sorcerer of such low station to the great Fucanglong Meilong who is ten-thousand times her superior in might and wisdom.

The great fire cracks open as if a curtain of flame has parted in the middle and been drawn temporarily apart. Out of it comes first an enormous black-scaled dragon head. Those who have been to Naples recognise the creature at once, though it seems even more gigantic encountered within a building than it did in the centre of the caldera of Vesuvius beneath Mediterranean skies. Its eyes are made of boiling magma and its teeth from diamond which glow with white heat as it smiles at Tsung and nods graciously. Even Tsung takes a step back at the dragon's smile (many of the party at her back take the opportunity to unceremoniously flee and Mandrake takes a rather larger swig from his hipflask before smiling back and then getting distracted by his hand.) Tsung regains her poise as a respectful and humble host when she recognises the smile as kindly in intent, and bows low. The lowest bow before the kowtow that is the right of the Son of Heaven.

Even as the dragon crawls out of the fire, its enormous sinuous body seeming miles long, the calligraphed characters set upon the walls by Swal swell with light and the impression of power. The alchemical workings behind them begin to glow to, veins and traceries of brilliant light set into the black rock of the factory.

And then the first trembling. The first shaking. A gentle rolling earthquake. And the impression of movement, almost of falling. Of being borne up into the air.

And then darkness as the great fire winks out as the last of the Fucanglong's tail emerges. Tsung, Mandrake and the remaining braver souls of the Company take several moments to regain their vision in the darker environment. It is a twilight level now in the factory, lit by alchemy and theurgic wards and in the centre an enormous dragon dwarfing the humans.

It looks straight at Tsung and its mouth moves but no words come out. She bows very low again and turns to the party to usher them out that their new guest might become comfortable and sleep. Behind her back there is an enormous sneeze.

When the party emerges into the sunlight again little appears to have changed, except that the streets are deserted. As Tsung and Mandrake head back to the harbour however they encounter a great mass of people at the edge of the island. They are looking over the side, several hundred metres below the waters are still boiling with agitation as they settle into the void that the islands lifting has caused.

The island is being directed by company theurgists, sorcerers and alchemists to the south and once clear of the turmoil winches are lowered to the new sea-level below for testing. In future all goods and personnel will have to hauled into the sky.

Mandrake begins the work of studding the exposed inverted cone of rock, the root of the island, with cannons and defences. Tsung prepares herself for an audience with the Crown Princess Chang Ping.

Mission to the East

Tsung Chang-Mai and Mandrake have at this point simply become accustomed to regular trips to the East and Cathay. It has become almost a steady semi-annual event in their lives to pass through the Pillars of Hercules, call in at Malta, greet the ships of Albion patrolling at the mouth of the Gerard Canal and on to Company business in the ports of India before reaching distant Cathay. Storms and calms alike can no longer disturb or worry them so used to the voyage or they. This journey they make accompanied by Marcus Fervent who is no stranger to the East himself now.

Upon reaching Cathay the situation is much as Company reports have painted it. The Manchu have suffered a serious setback with the destruction of the gunpowder factory and the eruption of the volcano in central Cathay. The sourthern nobles refuse to kowtow to the new child emperor of the Qing dynasty and claim at least to be loyal to the Ming dynasty. News is already spreading that the Manchu armies have marched and that many cities in rebellion against them along the Eastern coast have already fallen. The Ming loyalists are too fractious to come to one another's aid and it is clear to the outside observer that eventually, though it may take another decade, all of Cathay will fall to them.

The sole potential exception is the the Kingdom of Tungning which is somewhat stronger but benefits much more significantly from being situated on the islands off the coast. The Qing navy is weak and so Tungning is almost certain to hold out longer.

Baron Mandrake acts as diplomat and Tsung Chang-Mai as his interpreter. Tsung is also a diplomat in her own right and together they make a powerful team as they tour the south of Cathay. Representatives of Albion are still welcome and the EIC still trades through the ports there. There are agents of the Manchu though and as it becomes apparent that this tour of the South is for more than simply business or pleasure, but is political in nature Marcus Fervent's sword is occasionally called upon to protect the party from “bandits”. Director Mandrake does not stint in advancing the cause of the Company while in talks with the nobles however and manages a number of advantageous deals.

The situation becomes clearer over the weeks travelling. The majority of the nobles will rally behind a claimant to the Imperial Throne of the Ming that they view as legitimate. Surprisingly the rulers of the Kingdom of Tungning seem particularly fervent in their support of the Crown Princess, enough so that Tsung feels confident of revealing her presence to Láng È-le, the de facto ruler of Formosa (Taiwan). He is unsure himself where his younger brother Ambassador Lang will stand on the issue and volunteers not to raise the issue himself. In Tsung and Mandrake's view the Princess would rapidly rally a significant fraction of the south at once and with much of the rest following if she shows evidence of having earned a part of the Mandate of Heaven.

With the business in the south concluded the party travels north to the troubled border between Qing and Ming loyalists. Between them lies a no-man's land of armies and bandits and trampled crops and burned villages. Here both Mandrake and Fervent are forced into frequent shows of strength or even fights; there are also a few horseback chases in which the party barely escapes.

A days ride from the lands firmly controlled by the Mancu, Fervent and Mandrake must stop and allow Tsung Chang-Mai travel on alone. Only a very small number of Westerners are now allowed in the North and it will be impossible to sneak two who do not even speak Mandarin across the length of the country.

Tsung travels on alone to the capital of Beijing, with Nine Fires her guardian now. Beijing is still recovering from the scars of civil war and conquest but the markets of the town are full again and the people walk abroad unafraid. The Qing are unpopular, viewed by the educated and noble amongst whom Tsung has contacts as nothing more than horse barbarians. Tsung sees something more though, as an occasional visitor to Beijing who has not been exposed to the changes made there gradually it is clear to her that the Qing are much more vigorous and active in government than the Ming at the end. More than that their justice seems fairer and Prince Dorgon has the potential to be a good ruler if never truly loved.

The Jesuit Johann von Bell is a subtle presence in the Imperial Court, a man who has continued to grow in influence and power even as one dynasty fell and the next rose. He is now head of the Court Astrologers, a position of considerable influence which he has now parlayed into the role of chief advisor to the Regent. If Prince Dorgon has a weakness it is his superstition. Von Bell has used his influence at Court to drip poison into the Regent's ear about Albion; he claims the stars blame Albion for the loss of gunpowder and the eruption that has slowed the Manchu conquests. It is on his advise that the Qing are Albion's enemies and have closed their ports to the East India Company while keeping them open to Catholic Spain and Portugal.

Von Bell is a powerful at a Court at war, he is beyond Tsung's power to meet, let alone injure. To bring about his death will need a skilled assassin. To destroy his influence will require discrediting in the eyes of the Regent, either proving an important prediction false or making a vital reading of your own.

It appears from discrete, and dangerous, questions that the Manchu have pieced together the requirements to reconstruct the gunpowder factory but lack knowledge of the exact rituals. This is directly connected to the fact that most of the powerful sorcerers and theurgists of Cathay fled Beijing for the safer south when the Ming fell and few have returned yet. It is likely though as the Qing Empire expands it will eventually put together a team of magicians capable of rebuilding the factory and summoning a funcanglong. It will not be this year but it will happen.

Nine Fires Cap the Hills

While in Cathay, travelling through a small town slowly crumbling away as its people flee armies of the advancing Manchu and complacent Ming loyalists, you dispatch Nine Fires to take the eyes of its buddha. There is only a single monk left to tend the temple and when next a band of warriors passes through you think that they will take the diamond eyes themselves and leave behind a dead man. Perhaps it is sophistry to justify your theft, but whatever the truth Nine Fires returns with the Buddha’s eyes. You depart the next day at dawn before any alarm can be raised.

Princess Chang Ping

The Princess listens to your advice and nods politely; she will wait a handful of months but then she must act. Even if she does not come before the King of Albion as the Crown Princess of the Ming, she owes a duty to the people of the Island of Marton to argue for their place in the Kingdom. She does not yet reveal herself to Lang; news of his wedding has reached her and his treatment of his bride does not best please.

From the Merchant Companies Briefing


Baron Mandrake, Tsung Chang-Mai and Marcus Fervent have recently returned from the East and a diplomatic tour of Cathay so all staff planning on journeying to the region or taking actions which might have political consequences in the region are advised to consult with these staff. The situation in Cathay remains largely unchanged; the Manchu continue to close their borders to our traders and their borders continue to grow. This situation is unsatisfactory and we hope that the officers of the Companies will attempt to rectify it.


The East India Company is once again supplying gunpowder to the armed forces and people of Albion. The source of this new black powder is regarded as a trade secret by the East India Company and the officers of the Joh Company, should they be aware of its origin, are forbidden to discuss the matter with anyone without the formal permission of one of the Company's Proprietors or Lord-Director.


Let it be known that the Right Honourable Baron Mandrake has been appointed to the Court of Proprietors of the East India Company this day, and that he shall henceforth have all the rights, privileges and duties of that rank. The Lord-Director would like to extend his personal congratulations on this promotion, in large part due to the Baron's tireless work in assuring Albion's gunpowder supply.

New East India Company Facility

The powerful magics of the East India Company have succeeded in lifting the small island of Marton, owned the John Company, clear of the ocean and into the sky. This new facility has been placed under the management of the Proprietor the Baron Mandrake and is home to the Cathayan refugees employed by the Company. Individuals wishing to visit the flying island should approach the Baron Mandrake for permission as the island is a restricted facility.

We would also like the Company's officers to investigate alternative means of ascending to the top of the island. The current system of winched lifts has proved too much for all but the most courageous of personnel and is rather interfering with the transfer of staff.

Problems with the Gunpowder

It has been brought to our attention that the new gunpowder being supplied by the East India Company has some unexpected side effects. Soldiers and sailors report that when they swear or blaspheme around the new powder they are suddenly compelled to sneeze. We would instruct the officers of the John Company to investigate the origin of this magical effect and whether a solution is possible.

bonus.cathay/8.txt · Last modified: 2008/03/27 19:13 by ivan