The Wu-Keng are all born men but are raised as women, each of them bound in service to demonic patrons (possibly Yama Kings), which have given many of the Wu-Keng Demonic Investments. The Wu-Keng were bound to serve these masters for a thousand years — a term that would have expired at the very end of the twentieth century. However, after the Avatar Storm broke out, the Wu-Keng lost contact with both their demonic masters and their own Master-level mages.
Once the Wu-Keng guided the Shang. They gave them writing and lord their cruel gods for them. They were husbands, wives, mothers and fathers to ghosts, the wind and the rain. They traveled to the Heavenly Flower Garden to tell them of births to come and dug into the yellow earth to call the dead. Men and women practiced their Arts together, traveling the Divine Road between worlds.
The Successors of the Shang, though; the Chou, disregarded their abilities. They preferred secular Legalism and vain learning. Books destroyed the wisdom in oracle bones and replaced them with dead sheets of paper and some even believed a virtuous scholar could rival a god. These scholar-wizards banished the Wu-Keng from the sides of rulers and laughed at the voices of the dead spoken by their mouths.
Of all their lovers and children only the Princes of Feng-tu answered the Wu-Keng's pleas. Three Millennia ago Lord Ku of the Thousand Tears showered the tomb of the Yellow Emperor with lotus petals to honor their arrival. They implored Feng-tu to return them to places of honor.
And Lord Ku asked for symbols of fidelity and the Wu-Keng offered the Divine Bones from their foreheads, giving them their souls.
And Lord Ku asked that their marriage be honored with offspring and the Wu-Keng offered to steal a strong son every year and to make him a shaman, honoring Feng-tu with the Juk Ak.
And Lord Ku prophesied the Sam Chin Ak: A thousand years of Secrecy to hide fro the mortal world. Then a thousand years of Silence for serving Feng-tu's wishes. Finally the Age of Motion would prepare them to master the Middle Kingdom once again. He forbade them the power to bind spirits or change the passage of moments so the Wu-keng could not turn against their benefactors or cheat the span of union.
When the Chou lost the Mandate of Heaven, the Wu-Keng did all that Feng-tu would permit them to do to protect their country people. They even turned to the scholar wizards for help, hoping to cast aside differences to aid the common people but they had strayed even further from Heaven's will, becoming the Wu Lung, and found a cruel boy from Qin to control and bind the Middle Kingdom to his will. Qin Shihuang became a weapon for the Dragon Wizards to use against their enemies. Rival scholars had their works burned and the Wu-Keng were captured and tortured. And the Wu Lung envied the strength and vitality given the Wu-keng by Feng-tu and urged Qin Shihuang to boil alive one Wu-keng everyday until the gave them the secret of immortality. To prevent them from escaping they even sawed off the Wu-Keng's feet.
The Wu Ling claimed that finally a Wu-Keng took the shape of a cricket and gave them their secrets and the First Emperor order the Wu-Keng's deaths. And so they called on Feng-tu to save them and they, in turn, disguised then as women and took them to freedom. From that point on the Juk Ak decreed they should take the form of women and bind their feet. And heaven punished the Qin: peasants burned the fortresses of the Dragon Wizards and the Wu-Keng settled south, obeying the Silence.
Shaolin warrior-monks campaigned for them and barbarians came from the east to enfeeble the Quing and claim Hong Kong. In the Millennium of Motion the Japanese fools reveled in conquest, never knowing whose hands guided the bombings and burnings. The great Chou yan, Zhen Di, raised an army to massacre the last of the Wu Lung but the communists killed her first.
And all these words are lies.
- Chan Fa
- Chou yan
- Divine Bones
- Divine Road
- Heavenly Flower Garden
- Juk Ak
- Kei tsip si
- Khay ma
- Man Mae Phax
- Man Saeg Phax
- Sam Chin Ak
Brides of Feng-tu Edit
Before they made their oath to the Princes of the Slain, the peasant sorcerers described their relationships with the spirits in familial or romantic terms. Ancient songs described umbral beings as inconstant lovers and the shaman as the companion who tames their capriciousness with tenderness. If a child died at birth, the shaman acted as a Khay ma or Khay kong to them.
When the scholar magi who became the Wu Lung drove the Wu-Keng into desperate bargains with Feng-tu, their demonic masters twisted this love into concubinage and slavery. The Divine Bones that link the shaman to the Heavenly Flower Garden were twisted into Juk Ak: the bracelets that bind a spirit's soul to the Yama Kings. A Juk Ak demon treats "his" shaman as a slave, lover, and victim. The shaman's power now ultimately comes from flattering the monster who wears her power around his arm.
The Juk Ak isn't constantly watching his consort, however. The Wu-Keng's belief in their servitude provides the power and that power can be used without the Juk Ak's approval. However, all who have ever tried have been caught and now languish in the Thousand Hells to await the pleasure of their masters.
Treachery & Hope: Blossoms From a Crippled Lotus Edit
In 2000, the Wu-Keng were to end their service to the Juk Ak. While everyone knows that demons rarely keep their word, few of the shamans realize they serve the Yama Kings. Only the Chou yan know the true nature of the beings they serve. Through the '90s these six ancient Chi'n Ta prepared for the rebellion by secretly training a few A-ma in the Spirit Arts and the pure tradition of their shamanic roots. These students see the Juk Ak for what they are: Demons, and pass on the lessons of the Chou yan to their own students and independent shamans. These pure Ng carry the true spirit of the shamans uncorrupted by demonic influence.
Ironically, when Ku of the Thousand Tears uncovered heir plan, he used it to justify a new Age of Silence, lasting until the renegades were annihilated. As some of the most powerful Chi'n Ta left on earth, the Chou yan managed to protect their students and throw Feng-tu into disarray until Lord Ku devoured the Juk Ak (and the demons holding them), condemning their souls to Oblivion.
These pure Ng, though, free of the Sam Chin Ak, have multiplied to the point that they now rival the Wu-Keng in number, if not power. The Wu-Keng have begun imploring Ku to let them multiply initiations but he stands by his bargain... one a year. If his slaves gain ground too quickly he will be denied their ongoing suffering.
Peasant Magic Edit
The Wu-Keng were originally shamans and herbalists; heirs of Fu Hsi, the animal tamer (not to be confused with the shinma of the same name) and Na Kua who repaired the pillar of Heaven and mended the sky with blue stones. They taught humanity the arts of fire, agriculture, and other secrets that gave birth to civilization. They were usually granted their power after serious trauma changed their lives, whether a difficult birth or loosing spouse or child. Shamans from birth had Divine bones, 36 joints that connected their souls to Heaven. In most people these bones are broken at birth but these shamans never lost theirs. Pain and loss allowed them to find the Divine Road. Both men and women were called, though women who had lost a child had natural spirit guides.
A fully Awakened Shaman bound themself to both the Bones and the Road and sent their soul to the Heavenly Flower Garden where they courted the gods with songs and artwork until they were accepted as agents on earth. If they had lost mortal lovers or children, they became tutelary spirits: conduits to the spirit world and native advocates which in turn earned them merit to be reborn more auspiciously on earth. Magic was the art of divine romance and guardianship of the dead.
Under the Chou, the shamans' ways were ignored or reviled. Out of desperation they turned to Feng-tu. Under their new obligations their magics changed greatly. They were allowed to have only one paramour: their infernal patron, and they were forbidden to contact their children and lovers beyond the Wall. Without these advocates, Heaven turned its back on the Wu-Keng. Thus the magic of the WU-Keng is a perversion of the ancient ways, forcing them to love the very beings who twist their bodies and souls. Their tools of divine agency are reduced to accolades for the Juk Ak. The original arts remain only with the scattered Ng nurtured by repentant Chou yan and their confidants.
While the shamans assert that the gods of china literally exist, they also believe that the Celestial Bureaucracy is a recent thing; a device of the Most High to try and touch an overly intellectual people. In the Heavenly Flower Garden the gods cultivate the souls of the next generation. While Infernalist Wu-Keng can no longer travel there, the do believe that when the Sam Chin Ak is lifted, all the souls stored in Feng-tu will float to the Garden where they will receive virtuous births in healthy bodies.
The gods must be flattered, even flirted with. As these affairs brought the god's power to the shaman, the Wu-Keng's devil-husband grants her access to his gifts. Affairs between gods and mortals have always been one-sided and ultimately doomed but a command of etiquette, verse, and oracles helped the shaman end the liaison without provoking wrath. The Wu-Keng still use these tools, along with sacrifice, to pry more power from their patrons. The dead were divine intercessors for the shaman, especially if they were close to her. A Khay ma or Khay kong received a defender for life and an ambassador to the spirit world by honoring them. As for the Wu-Keng, they are occasionally given companions as well: pretty demons that abuse the misplaced nurturing of their "mothers."
As the shamans rebuild their Arts from ancient tradition and modern Cantonese ritual, the greatest Khay ma have taken the title Man Saeg Phax, or "Venerable Lady," to distinguish themselves from the Infernalist A-ji. The fall of the Chou yan leaves both the peasant sorcerers and the Wu-Keng no decisive advantage and as the peasants grow, they fear the day that the quiet rivalry will break into war.
Ancient Arts Edit
The Shaman's Arts were meant to honor the gods, care for the dead, and heal the rift between earth and the spirit worlds. It was not a task undertaken lightly and their magics: slow, careful rituals tailored to time, place, and season, reflect this. Magic was a fleeting love affair with the gods and wistful songs and passionate rituals were preferred over formulaic libations and stilted speeches.
Even when enlightened enough to leave their foci behind, modern shamans, including the Wu-Keng, rarely discard them as doing so would trivialize the gifts of Heaven and risk angering an offended god.
Sample Foci would include
- Oracle Bones: Tortoise shells and cattle shoulder bones are prepared with carvings and Shang characters. When held over the fire, they split along these carvings, revealing the future or influencing fate with the result.
- Clappers: A pair of blocks carved in the shape of tortoise shells. Clapped together they alter the minds of listeners or rouse spirits.
- Pits: A hole in the ground brings a shaman closer to the Yellow Springs and the spirits of the dead. For the Wu-Keng it allows them communication with their Juk Ak and a place for sacrifices and gifts.
- Trance States: To see the hidden, a shaman must use quiet music, wine, fire, and other stimuli to put herself into a trance. This opens the mind to the invisible realm and lets ghosts and spirits enter the body. The Wu Keng use the same foci to remove doubts when facing their Juk Ak.
- Songs & Poetry: To flatter the gods, a shaman must sing a song worthy of their attention. A beautiful poem, spoken or written in a lovely hand is also effective.
- History: The Wu-Keng to their legacy as a source of power. The will re-enact their torment at the hands of Qin Shihuang and their betrothal to the Princes of Feng-tu to strengthen their loyalty by reproducing that pain. Other shamans call on the legends of Fu Hsi and Nu Kua for the power of creation.
- Written Charms: Done in red ink, classical Chinese characters can transmit the power of their meaning or simply send a message across geographical or metaphysical boundaries. Gold or silver paper invokes the power of money which bends minds and even attracts the dead.
- MtAs. Dragons of the East, pp. 61-71.