The Peace and Progress Society

The Soul of the Great Bell

“She hath spoken, and her words still resound in his ears”.

-Hao-Khieou-Tchouan: c. ix. (See Note #1)

By Mr. Lafcadio Hearn

The water-clock marks the hour in the Ta-chung sz’ (See Note #2),—in the Tower of the Great Bell: now the mallet is lifted to smite the lips of the metal monster vast lips inscribed with Buddhist texts from the sacred Fa-hwa-King, from the chapters of the holy Ling-yen-King! Hear the great bell responding!—how mighty her voice, though tongueless!— KO-NGAI! All the little dragons on the high-tilted eaves of the green roofs shiver to the tips of their gilded tails under that deep wave of sound; all the porcelain gargoyles tremble on their carven perches; all the hundred little bells of the pagodas quiver with desire to speak. KO-NGAI!—all the green-and-gold tiles of the temple are vibrating; the wooden goldfish above them are writhing against the sky; the uplifted finger of Fo shakes high over the heads of the worshippers through the blue fog of incense! KO-NGAI!—What a thunder tone was that! All the lacquered goblins on the palace cornices wriggle their fire-colored tongues! And after each huge shock, how wondrous the multiple echo and the great golden moan and, at last, the sudden sibilant sobbing in the ears when the immense tone faints away in broken whispers of silver,—as though a woman should whisper, “Hiai!” Even so the great bell hath sounded every day for well-nigh five hundred years,—Ko-Ngai: first with stupendous clang, then with immeasurable moan of gold, then with silver murmuring of “Hiai!” And there is not a child in all the many-colored ways of the old Chinese city who does not know the story of the great bell,—who cannot tell you why the great bell says Ko-Ngai and Hiai!

Now, this is the story of the great bell in the Ta-chung sz’, as the same is related in the Pe-Hiao-Tou-Choue, written by the learned Yu-Pao-Tchen, of the City of Kwang-tchau-fu.
(See Note #3)

Nearly five hundred years ago the Celestially August, the Son of Heaven, Yong-Lo, of the “Illustrious,” or Ming, dynasty, commanded the worthy official Kouan-Yu that he should have a bell made of such size that the sound thereof might be heard for one hundred li. And he further ordained that the voice of the bell should be strengthened with brass, and deepened with gold, and sweetened with silver; and that the face and the great lips of it should be graven with blessed sayings from the sacred books, and that it should be suspended in the centre of the imperial capital, to sound through all the many-colored ways of the City of Pe-king.

Therefore the worthy mandarin Kouan-Yu assembled the master-moulders and the renowned bellsmiths of the empire, and all men of great repute and cunning in foundry work; and they measured the materials for the alloy, and treated them skilfully, and prepared the moulds, the fires, the instruments, and the monstrous melting-pot for fusing the metal. And they labored exceedingly, like giants only rest and sleep and the comforts of life; toiling both night and day in obedience to Kouan-Yu, and striving in all things to do the behest of the Son of Heaven.

But when the metal had been cast, and the earthen mould separated from the glowing casting, it was discovered that, despite their great labor and ceaseless care, the result was void of worth; for the metals had rebelled one against the other,—the gold had scorned alliance with the brass, the silver would not mingle with the molten iron. Therefore the moulds had to be once more prepared, and the fires rekindled, and the metal remelted, and all the work tediously and toilsomely repeated. The Son of Heaven heard, and was angry, but spake nothing.

A second time the bell was cast, and the result was even worse. Still the metals obstinately refused to blend one with the other; and there was no uniformity in the bell, and the sides of it were cracked and fissured, and the lips of it were slagged and split asunder; so that all the labor had to be repeated even a third time, to the great dismay of Kouan-Yu. And when the Son of Heaven heard these things, he was angrier than before; and sent his messenger to Kouan-Yu with a letter, written upon lemon-colored silk, and sealed with the seal of the Dragon, containing these words:—

“From the Mighty Yong-Lo, the Sublime Tait-Sung, the Celestial and August,—whose reign is called ‘Ming,’—to Kouan-Yu the Fuh-yin: Twice thou hast betrayed the trust we have deigned graciously to place in thee; if thou fail a third time in fulfilling our command, thy head shall be severed from thy neck. Tremble, and obey!”

Now, Kouan-Yu had a daughter of dazzling loveliness, whose name—Ko-Ngai—was ever in the mouths of poets, and whose heart was even more beautiful than her face. Ko-Ngai loved her father with such love that she had refused a hundred worthy suitors rather than make his home desolate by her absence; and when she had seen the awful yellow missive, sealed with the Dragon-Seal, she fainted away with fear for her father’s sake. And when her senses and her strength returned to her, she could not rest or sleep for thinking of her parent’s danger, until she had secretly sold some of her jewels, and with the money so obtained had hastened to an astrologer, and paid him a great price to advise her by what means her father might be saved from the peril impending over him. So the astrologer made observations of the heavens, and marked the aspect of the Silver Stream (which we call the Milky Way), and examined the signs of the Zodiac,—the Hwang-tao, or Yellow Road,—and consulted the table of the Five Hin, or Principles of the Universe, and the mystical books of the alchemists. And after a long silence, he made answer to her, saying: “Gold and brass will never meet in wedlock, silver and iron never will embrace, until the flesh of a maiden be melted in the crucible; until the blood of a virgin be mixed with the metals in their fusion.” So Ko-Ngai returned home sorrowful at heart; but she kept secret all that she had heard, and told no one what she had done.

At last came the awful day when the third and last effort to cast the great bell was to be made; and Ko-Ngai, together with her waiting-woman, accompanied her father to the foundry, and they took their places upon a platform overlooking the toiling of the moulders and the lava of liquefied metal. All the workmen wrought their tasks in silence; there was no sound heard but the muttering of the fires. And the muttering deepened into a roar like the roar of typhoons approaching, and the blood-red lake of metal slowly brightened like the vermilion of a sunrise, and the vermilion was transmuted into a radiant glow of gold, and the gold whitened blindingly, like the silver face of a full moon. Then the workers ceased to feed the raving flame, and all fixed their eyes upon the eyes of Kouan-Yu; and Kouan-Yu prepared to give the signal to cast.

But ere ever he lifted his finger, a cry caused him to turn his head; and all heard the voice of Ko-Ngai sounding sharply sweet as a bird’s song above the great thunder of the fires,—"For thy sake, O my Father!" And even as she cried, she leaped into the white flood of metal; and the lava of the furnace roared to receive her, and spattered monstrous flakes of flame to the roof, and burst over the verge of the earthen crater, and cast up a whirling fountain of many-colored fires, and subsided quakingly, with lightnings and with thunders and with mutterings.

Then the father of Ko-Ngai, wild with his grief, would have leaped in after her, but that strong men held him back and kept firm grasp upon him until he had fainted away and they could bear him like one dead to his home. And the serving-woman of Ko-Ngai, dizzy and speechless for pain, stood before the furnace, still holding in her hands a shoe, a tiny, dainty shoe, with embroidery of pearls and flowers,—the shoe of her beautiful mistress that was. For she had sought to grasp Ko-Ngai by the foot as she leaped, but had only been able to clutch the shoe, and the pretty shoe came off in her hand; and she continued to stare at it like one gone mad.

But in spite of all these things, the command of the Celestial and August had to be obeyed, and the work of the moulders to be finished, hopeless as the result might be. Yet the glow of the metal seemed purer and whiter than before; and there was no sign of the beautiful body that had been entombed therein. So the ponderous casting was made; and lo! when the metal had become cool, it was found that the bell was beautiful to look upon, and perfect in form, and wonderful in color above all other bells. Nor was there any trace found of the body of Ko-Ngai; for it had been totally absorbed by the precious alloy, and blended with the well-blended brass and gold, with the intermingling of the silver and the iron. And when they sounded the bell, its tones were found to be deeper and mellower and mightier than the tones of any other bell,—reaching even beyond the distance of one hundred li, like a pealing of summer thunder; and yet also like some vast voice uttering a name, a woman’s name,—the name of Ko-Ngai!

And still, between each mighty stroke there is a long low moaning heard; and ever the moaning ends with a sound of sobbing and of complaining, as though a weeping woman should murmur, “Hiai!” And still, when the people hear that great golden moan they keep silence; but when the sharp, sweet shuddering comes in the air, and the sobbing of “Hiai!” then, indeed, all the Chinese mothers in all the many-colored ways of Pe-king whisper to their little ones: “Listen! that is Ko-Ngai crying for her shoe! That is Ko-Ngai calling for her shoe!”

Note # 1: HAO-KHIEOU-TCHOUAN.—This celebrated Chinese novel was translated into French by M. Guillard d’Arcy in 1842, and appeared under the title, “Hao-Khieou-Tchouan; ou, La Femme Accomplie.” The first translation of the romance into any European tongue was a Portuguese rendering; and the English version of Percy is based upon the Portuguese text. The work is rich in poetical quotations.

Note # 2: TA-CHUNG SZ’.—Literally, “Temple of the Bell.”

Note # 3: “La piété filiale en Chine”, translated by Dabry de Thiersant, into the French, in 1877. It includes “curious drawings”.

Welcome Home Alex
Dog of War Unleashed

San Francisco, an old warehouse on Washington Street, late night

For longer than he’d care to think about, the only sounds echoing through the, mostly, abandoned warehouse had been the sounds of fists striking flesh and blood hitting the floor, all of it his. And still, despite what felt like an eternity of brutal punishment, the only sound Alex was really paying any attention to was the inhuman voice screaming bloody murder in his mind.
Through one swollen, partly-closed eye he could just barely make out the battered old bronze helmet resting on a table nearby. It wasn’t more than a handful of feet away, but tied securely as he was to a sturdy chair bolted to the ground it might as well have been on a different continent.

As the Triad enforcer took a moment to catch his breath and nurse his bruised knuckles Alex let his mind wander briefly, drowning out the frenzied demand for violence and bloodshed that echoed through his mind by thoroughly cursing himself for his own carelessness and idiocy for getting landed in this bloody mess.

It was just so fucking stupid! Surviving the insurrection, getting out of Iraq in one piece, all those years wandering, fleeing, surviving on his own, with the maddening influence of that damned voice growing stronger every single day, only to lose it all on his first fucking day “home” in San Francisco!

Alex managed a weak shake of his battered head, split lips mumbling something softly to himself as more blood dripped to the floor, much to the amusement of the three Triad enforcers. All of this just because he, for some god-forsaken reason, had had to get himself involved when he saw some pimp beating up one of his girls near Grant Avenue. He’d just meant to tell the punk to lay it off before he killed her but then the stupid motherfucker had pulled a knife on him… and then… it all went… red.

He was shaken out of his reverie by a jaw-rattling punch as the beating began anew, a fresh Triad member having apparently stepped up to the plate. Alex had long since lost count of for how long the beating had been going on, and at this point he wasn’t even entirely sure if he remembered why they were working him over. Something about wanting him to join their crew… or maybe spill the secrets of his powers?
Obviously someone had seen the rather horrific mess he had made of that pimp, and made sure his bosses were made aware of it, and like a green rookie fresh out of boot-camp he’d let them get the drop on him. If his eyes weren’t swelling up to a point where his tear ducts were blocked shut it would have been to cry for!

However, before he had a chance to let what remained of his consciousness be swallowed by self-loathing a most surprising sensation suddenly snapped his attention back to reality as the Triad thug swung hard… and missed completely, catching nothing but air with his fist, yet seemingly failing to notice!

Thinking for a moment that he’d completely lost what little remained of his mind, Alex could only watch in complete bafflement how the thug continued to punch and punish empty air, to the approving cheers of his two friends as if every blow had landed perfectly. Shaking his head hard in a feeble attempt to dislodge the cobwebs he suddenly caught a sliver of movement out of the corner of a half-closed eye, turning his head to focus on what revealed itself to be a young woman, probably barely out of her teens, sneaking across the warehouse floor towards him without making a sound, her almost inhumanly pretty face set in a grimace of pure concentration.

With all the grace and silence of a prowling cat she reached the chair he was bound to and set to work on the heavy-duty ropes tying him down, vaguely almond-shaped eyes still focused intently on the trio of brutes who continued to grin and cheer at the, apparently, expert pounding one of them was dishing out to the empty air.

“Shh… don’t move” she whispered through clenched teeth. “I’ve almost got you free but I can’t hold up the glamour much longer. We have to hurry and get out before they notice!”

As she finished the sentence, the last rope came undone and, acting purely on instinct and adrenaline, Alex hurled himself out of the chair and directly towards the small table, grasping hands closing around the helmet like a drowning man clutching at a life-belt. The racket, however, from his sudden leap and the disturbed table was more than the girl could manage to conceal and almost as one, the Triad trio turned in shock to face Alex just as he lowered the helmet down over his bruised and bloodied head “You guys wanted to learn my secret?” Alex growled in a voice that barely sounded human, even as bruises and swellings began to fade away like the girl’s illusion before their shocked eyes. “Well here… it… IS!”

He shouted out the last word in a terrifying voice loud enough to not only wake the dead, but to scare the life right back out of them again, bringing down one fist on the table, shattering it completely with a single blow!

Moving with almost surreal speed he snatched up one of the shattered table legs before it could even hit the ground, flipping the jagged piece of wood over in one hand before hurling it like an improvised javelin, catching the nearest thug in the throat with sufficient force to nearly decapitate him where he stood!
His two remaining friends could only watch in shock as he collapsed to the floor, a gushing jet of blood drowning any last cries he may have attempted to make. As they stood their, shell-shocked minds still trying to comprehend what had just happened, Alex exploded into movement. In what seemed like the blink of an eye he had covered the ground between them, snatching up the heavy chair as he moved past it, the metal bolts pinning it to the floor snapping with a scream of tortured metal that, fractions of a second later, was drowned out the by the pained scream of the second gangster as he smashed against the far wall with a sickening thud, his ribcage shattered by the force of the blow!

The last of the three, however, was apparently faster that his two unfortunate fellows and somehow managed to deploy a nasty-looking switch blade, lashing out at Alex with rather depressing results as the razored edge of the knife somehow glanced off against Alex’ unprotected side, barely leaving a shallow cut in its wake.
In return, Alex wasted little time bringing his armoured head down in a devastating head butt, crushing the thug’s face even as steel-hard fingers dug into the gasping man’s throat like barbed hooks, tearing it out in a gruesome shower of blood and viscera!

No more than a handful of heartbeats had passed since he’d been unleashed from his bonds, yet in those precious few seconds the warehouse had been turned into a slaughterhouse! Covered almost from head to toe in the blood of his former tormentors, Alex turned with agonising, exaggerated slowness to face the girl who had freed him.

She’d gone pale as a sheet, eyes wide in pure shock and terror at the scale and speed of the carnage that had unfolded before her unbelieving eyes, backing slowly away towards the furthest corner as she saw the expression creeping across his gruesome, blood-soaked visage.

In his ears, the irresistible roar of the Uncaged God pounded like a drum, drowning out any hope for rational thought and the denied, animalistic passions of thousands upon thousands of triumphant victors burned in his boiling blood. His face twisting into a feral grin he took another slow, measured step towards the frail, delicate and so utterly helpless girl before the alarmed shouts of another half-dozen Triad enforcers who had just burst through the door, weapons in hand, commanded the full scope of his terrible attention…

The Dog of War had been Unleashed!

Several days later, in a small flat somewhere on Grant street

Alex still wasn’t entirely certain why he had come, or what he was doing there or for that matter what was even going on as he watched the young, somewhat androgynous man work his “magic”. Expressive eyes set in a pale face were focused entirely on the screen, ghostly-green backlight making him look even paler than he already was, while slender fingers danced across the keyboard with a life of their own.
Alex was quite literally so far out of his depth in this brave new world of information highway hi-jacking that he might as well have been standing on the ocean floor, but everyone had assured him that this kid, Sal something or other, was the best of the best, and it wasn’t like he had any better options anyways.

Besides, as the kid dove deeper and deeper into the vast vaults of information, opening sealed doors with the flick of a finger, spinning an entire life’s worth of experiences and footprints from threads pulled out of empty air while whistling some tune Alex didn’t recognise either, he was beginning to think that people were selling this kid short.
In the blinking lights of server-racks and the gentle hum of over-worked cooling fans, the ever-present, always hungry cry for bloodshed and carnage in his mind that had been his constant companion for so long now was changing pitch too.

Instead of endless calls for the sound of fists against flesh, of steel against bone and the coppery scent of arterial blood, spraying from torn jugulars it now sang a different tune. A seductive, sinister song of vast stockpiles of abandoned chemical weapons, of vat after vat of biological death languishing in dusty storage and of forgotten nuclear silos, pregnant with thermonuclear destruction… all of them ready and waiting like a world-slaying arrow on a quivering string… all of them simply awaiting the right electronic key to throw wide their gates and rouse them from their slumber…

Alex shook his head hard and managed to banish these thoughts back to the blood-stained corners of his subconscious that had been fully conquered by the Host-Breaker, blinking again in surprise when, for a moment, he thought it looked like one of the busily blinking routers weren’t even plugged in at all. Before he could investigate further however, Sal uttered a small exclamation of victory, quickly drowned out by printers and what seemed like some form of laminating machine bursting to life.
Moments later he found himself looking down at a freshly minted drivers licence, indistinguishable from the genuine article, his own photo looking up at him next to the name “Alex Mars”.
For a long moment he just stared at the card, the identity and life it represented, and the horrible pun it encapsulated before he looked up again to meet Sal’s triumphant grin and his outstretched hand.

“Welcome home Alex!”

Welcome to your Adventure Log!
A blog for your campaign

Every campaign gets an Adventure Log, a blog for your adventures!

While the wiki is great for organizing your campaign world, it’s not the best way to chronicle your adventures. For that purpose, you need a blog!

The Adventure Log will allow you to chronologically order the happenings of your campaign. It serves as the record of what has passed. After each gaming session, come to the Adventure Log and write up what happened. In time, it will grow into a great story!

Best of all, each Adventure Log post is also a wiki page! You can link back and forth with your wiki, characters, and so forth as you wish.

One final tip: Before you jump in and try to write up the entire history for your campaign, take a deep breath. Rather than spending days writing and getting exhausted, I would suggest writing a quick “Story So Far” with only a summary. Then, get back to gaming! Grow your Adventure Log over time, rather than all at once.


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