Venerable godfather of the Jade district
Li is a master of nature. Hailing from the dragon empires in the far east this venerable elder follows no druidic law.
Zhixian is an oracle. Steeped in the myriad mysteries of nature.
Zhixian Li was born into a life of slavery in the northern Tian Xia province of Chu Ye. His parents, Guafong (father) and Hua (mother), were indentured servants to a evil and powerful Oni Daimyo (leader to many Oni, which are fallen kami – good spirits). They somehow managed to create a child throughout their servitude, but Guafong was murdered before his son was born for disobeying a strict command against the slaves fraternizing amongst themselves. Hua was turned into a love slave, destined to be serially raped by her owner and his many insatiable guests for the rest of her life. Zhixian was not raised by his mother, who was never allowed to see him after his birth. He was instead raised by a particularly brutal slavemaster, Weng-fu.
Weng-fu taught Zhixian the primary tenets of being a slave. As a child, Zhixian was not aware of the corruption in his existence and accepted it as his fate. He made a very obedient slave child and though he was lacking in power and grace, he found he could always win the favour of his masters through his quick wit and compelling sense of humour.
Weng-fu particularly took well to Zhixian, and eventually invited him to stay in his quarters. Weng-fu had much better living conditions than Zhixian (as the slavemasters are well taken care of to keep them from inciting mutiny, being humans themselves), and he could not in good conscience dismiss this offer.
While living with Weng-fu, Zhixian had many opportunities not typically permitted to slaves. He was awarded the opportunity to learn reading and writing, basic arithmetic, and other basic schooling not considered deserved among slaves. He learned cooking and hunting, and most importantly for Zhixian, the art of manipulation.
As an adolescent, Zhixian became very curious of his origin. Thirteen years had passed since his birth, and he knew very well now the cycle of life and death; he knew that Weng-fu was not his father, for which he was grateful (Weng-fu was a sadistic and malevolent soul, twisted by hatred and resentment towards his common man). He had learned that his real father had been murdered shortly after he was conceived, but the slaves in his company could never tell him of his mother’s fate.
He needed to know.
Discovery & Escape
Li was a bright, intelligent child, and it soon became very apparent that he was not living in a fair and balanced world. There was no reason for his enslavement, or anyone else’s enslavement for that matter.
Other boys around him were starting to be picked for different tasks. The stronger boys would be sent for labour, working on building settlements or shrines for the Oni; the fleet of foot were led to become hunters, to provide the Oni with delicious food; many slaves were sent to become warriors of sport, to fight in the arenas of the Oni, for their entertainment. Zhixian did not possess any of these traits; he was not developing in quite the same way as many of the other male children – he did not seem to be growing big or strong; he was not fast or graceful like some other boys. He worried about his fate, and his usefulness to the Oni throughout the coming years.
Zhixian decided that he needed to flee. Soon the Oni would discover that he was of little value to them and find some cruel and twisted fate for him. He would not let this happen, but before he could flee he needed to gather information about his parents whereabouts.
On the eve of his 16th year, Zhixian confronted Weng-fu about his parents. After pressing him for hours and trying to get any amount of information out of him, he finally rolled a nat twenty on his motha-fuckin’ gather information check – Weng-fu spilled the beans like some kind of a drunken bean salesman. Learning of his parents fate was jarring, and it solidified his resolve.
The following day, his 16th birthday, Zhixian devised a brilliant plan to escape from the confines of enslavement. He would confront the grandmaster Oni Daimyo, who had been his master for his entire life, and make a bet on his life. Oni, despite being twisted and chaotic beings, are often quite lawful and will hold true to a promise – they also loved making wagers and bets. Zhixian needed to find something to bet on which he was sure to win.
That evening, all according to plan, Zhixian was intended to serve the Oni Daimyo his meal for the night. It is a tradition for this encampment to ensure that slaves are awarded the honour of serving the grandmaster on their day of birth – and offer up their bodies to the Oni Daimyo’s wicked and cruel ways. Zhixian had prepared a fine meal and with Weng-fu’s assistance, he served it to the grandmaster.
As the Oni Daimyo was gorging upon his king’s feast, Zhixian decided that it was certainly the best time to confront him. He was full of food, and consequently full of good spirit. He would be most receptive now.
Zhixian approached the Oni Daimyo; “What do you want, you pathetic whelp?” the Oni snarled.
“Oh great and powerful Oni Daimyo, grandmaster and leader of all futures! I come only to bask in the supreme benevolence and wisdom emanating from you, O Great Spirit. But, as I have come here now merely to gaze upon your magnificence, and since I will always and forever be in awe of your impressiveness – perhaps you would honour me further on this, my day of birth, with a splendid wager. My life, of course is all I have to forfeit, and is yours to do with as you see fit regardless. But in good sport, we shall set terms ahead of our wager. What, O Great and Powerful Daimyo, would you ask of me should I lose our wager?”
The Daimyo looked at Zhixian and responded, spitting chunks of stewed cabbage and rabbit as he bellowed. “You? You fancy a wager with me? Oh, I see. You think that you’re a clever little peon, and that if you bet your life on the line, you’ll be set free!” He laughed a hearty, condescending guffaw. “I shall hear you squeal as though you were a swine this night! Drop your pants, I will fill you like your parents before you!”
Zhixian needed to act with incredible speed, which he did not have. The Daimyo dropped his pants and stood facing the boy. Zhixian grabbed a fork from the table to defend himself, and thrust it into the Daimyo’s chest. The Daimyo chuckled and pulled it out without any effort.
Before he had any time to react, Zhixian was forced onto the table by other Oni in the room. He squirmed helplessly as the depraved, evil creatures laughed at his misfortune. As the Daimyo approached Zhixian, the Oni suddenly began to scream. His blood-curdling cry shook everyone in the room, it was as though knives were being stabbed into the very souls of every listener. From behind the Daimyo, Zhixian could see Weng-fu holding a large cauldron above the Daimyo’s head, pouring boiling hot water. Weng-fu looked at the boy and yelled, “Run you idiot! There is no time! Flee!”
Zhixian rolled over onto the ground and slowly got to his feet. Weng-fu unsheathed a dire longsword and began a hopeless battle against the Oni, who greatly overpowered and outnumbered him. Zhixian escaped in the commotion and confusion, but could hear Weng-fu’s screams of agony as they overtook him.
Zhixian escaped the encampment that night, with Weng-fu’s unexpected sacrifice still fresh on his mind. He flew over valley and hill, across mountain and river – anywhere else but that hellish den of torture.
Zhixian had always been a very witty and intelligent person, but was constrained by what knowledge he could gain. He was only considered learned among slaves, and that is a feat accomplished by a great many. Not knowing where he was or anything of the world around him, he unwittingly travelled northeast, towards the great Forest of Spirits.
Upon entering the Forest, Zhixian was a broken child. Exhausted, starving and of barren mind, he wandered aimlessly into the woods in search of shelter and food and was soon rendered unconscious despite his efforts.
When he awoke, there were lights dancing about him. It seemed to him that they were speaking to one another in some strange, airy language he was not familiar with. They ceased sharply as he stirred and sat up.
“Can you please help me?” Zhixian pleaded, “I am lost, I am hungry, I need your help!”
The lights danced about with a great fervor, jingling and whispering in their feathery speech. After a short while, they started to drift off deeper into the woods. Zhixian stood and cautiously followed the strange creatures.
The lights danced into the woods, and Zhixian followed them for several days. Deeper and deeper they delved, and after days of travel the light of the sun could only seldom be seen through the thick foliage above. The lights had brought him to a great clearing with a large tree in the centre.
They approached the tree at the centre, and the lights danced about the top of the tree. The tree stirred, its branches unfurled and a face emerged from near its top. This massive being looked around, seemingly annoyed by the two lights dancing about his face. He then spotted Zhixian and seemed particularly perturbed.
“Elaf? Elef?”, the tree spoke in a deep, earthy voice, “Sear mirfae sein mi. Hi?”
This was not a language Zhixian had ever heard. It must be the same language these lights have been speaking. “I am afraid I do not understand your ancient and beautiful tongue, my lord. Do you know the common speech?”
The great tree seemed enraged by this, swatting at the lights. “You have brought Oni spies to my woods! We are all doomed! You fools, he reeks of disgusting Oni filth!” The tree uprooted, showing great legs beneath. He walked towards Zhixian, who stumbled as he staggered back to avoid the terrifying treant.
“I am no spy!” Zhixian stammered, “I was a slave, but have escaped! I am in search of sanctuary, and I am in need of aid. I am not fit to be a spy. Please, you must believe me!”
“Hmmm, okay.”, the treant said, settling back in his roots. “I do not know how or why, but I trust you. Please stay a while – I shall fetch for some fruits for you. Tell me your tale, fleshy one.”
The treant was a servant of Gozreh, and proved to be a helpful ally. Zhixian told his story, and offered assistance to the spirit of the woods. The treant was willing to allow him to stay in exchange for protection of the wood. Zhixian must always keep the clearing safe from intruders, and was charged with the protection of the woods from the encroachment of the Oni.
Zhixian performed this task diligently, and became very good and frightening wanderers away from the woods. The forest was a dark and eerie place, and Zhixian found that he could trick travelers into believing he was a great and powerful spirit, and would threaten and lay false curses upon them should they not flee. It worked more often than not, and provided him with a very benevolent home.
Fire & Water
Zhixian had been living in the safety of the Forest of Spirits for ten years now, and had grown very accustomed to it. One day as he was patrolling the woods, he espied two Oni scouts searching through the woods. The Oni typically never came to the woods themselves, preferring to send slaves or even slavemasters. “They must be here searching for me,” Zhixian thought to himself, “I should sneak up on them to get more information!”
Now, in spite of all of his efforts, Zhixian was still a clumsy fuck (if not somehow clumsier). In trying to sneak up on his prey, he stumbled, hurling himself into them and knocking them over – screaming the entire time, as he had been caught so unawares.
The Oni obviously spotted him, and dashed off back towards the forest entrance. Zhixian hurried back to the treant’s grove, worried the Oni would return to capture him.
Once he reached the grove, the treant was in a sort of panic. “They are ruining everything!” the treant screeched, “Our home is being devastated! We are routed!”
“What are you speaking of, my friend? I have only seen two Oni scouts! They are not pleasant, certainly, but our home is still here.”
“NO.” the treant said forcefully, “They are burning the Forest! They have come to wage war on the peaceful spirits of the wood!”
In the few moments Zhixian had to let all of this sink in, the trees around them caught ablaze. Flames were licking at them now, surrounding them.
“I am doomed,” the treant said morosely, “but I have prepared an escape for you. Travel to the stream in the forest, not far from here. There you will find a small raft. Do not underestimate this raft, it is imbued with the powers of Gozreh, and will carry you north to the Wall of Heaven”.
Zhixian hurried out of the clearing and headed north to the small stream running through the forest. He followed the river running north through the forest until he found the raft, and climbed aboard. The raft propelled forth with a sudden, unexpected force. Driven by an invisible power, the raft rushed faster and faster northward until before long Zhixian had emerged from the great Forest of Spirits and was now traveling toward the towering mountain range protecting Tian Xia from the rest of the world: The Wall of Heaven.
After a brief passage beyond the woods, Zhixian found himself racing across a great valley by the river. In the fields he could see myriad creatures grazing and galloping. The wind in his hair reminded him that despite his loss, he was still free; the Oni would not catch him thanks to his treant friend. He looked north to the great cliffside ahead and breathed deep. It was time for something new.
After a few days of incredible haste, the raft slowly came to a halt just before reaching a great city at the base of the mountain. Zhixian had reached the metropolis of Ordu-Aganhei, the capital of the province of Hongal.
God’s Not Home
Ordu-Aganhei was a community unlike anything Zhixian had ever heard of. It was bustling with the energy and power of the Tian-La people – powerful, stockier folk with pale skin and a tendency towards blunt honesty. These people were clearly hard-working, but not like slaves. They openly worked together to help each other build a society, not at all like the selfish and evil Oni which Zhixian had become accustomed to.
Zhixian soon settled into this city as a home. He started by taking as many odd-jobs as he could, helping elders clean their homes and providing help where he could in exchange for some food or ocassional lodging. Gradually, the people of Ordu-Aganhei warmed up to Zhixian and he became a very well-liked individual; he was very active in the community and always concerned for the welfare of his newfound people.
He took up a steady job as a trapper and after many years he became a regional council member in the city. By his 35th year, Zhixian was making a steady and comfortable living among his new friends and enjoying the luxuries of hard work. He protected many individuals in his community and was very well respected.
Before long Zhixian had met a miraculous woman and instantly fell in love. Her name was Tsetseg, she was young and in the prime of her life; her beauty was incomparable. It did not take much effort for him to woo her, and over the next five years they had five children. Two sons, Bataar and Temujin; and three beautiful daughters, Nergui and the twins, Bayarmaa and Bolormaa.
Soon Zhixian’s 45th year was upon him, and he still felt youthful and filled with energy. He loved going for long walks with his youngest child, Nergui, and exploring the countryside surrounding them. They would trapse about in the mountains and he would teach Nergui about trapping techniques and mechanisms which he had become very familiar with over the years.
One day while out checking his traps high in the mountains atop the Wall, Nergui spotted that something was amiss in the city below. It looked as though an army was approaching Ordu-Aganhei from the south, probably from Chu Ye.
Zhixian told Nergui to hide in the mountain, and not to reveal herself to anyone – she was very stealthy and still very young. She would be much safer here in the mountains. He hurried down the mountain, leaping down recklessly towards the city.
Zhixian reached the city moments too late. The main gate had been breached by the approaching force and the enemy had begun a fervent siege of his new home. These warriors were enthralled by some powerful magick, their eyes were glazed and they mindlessly slew the citizens of Ordu-Aganhei.
The citizens were beginning to gather their forces however, and soon the town was swarming with armed men and women, all ready to give their lives to defend their home from these faceless invaders. Zhixian ran straight to his home, close to the southern edge of the city, to protect his family.
As Zhixian approached his home he felt his heart sink into his stomach. His home was set ablaze, his sons’ lifeless bodies laid out in the yard. His whole life was melting away, and he became just a helpless child once again: powerless to stop the forces of evil stretching out from every corner. He was still a young boy pinned against the table by his captors, but now his fate had already been written. No one was coming to save him or his family, it was all lost.
He pulled himself together. With a burst of energy and rage he kicked down the door of his blazing home, smoke billowing out of the charred remains of the doorway. With difficulty he found his wife and twin daughters lying in bed together. He grabbed them without thinking and dragged them outside, laying them down on the soft grass of the yard next to his eviscerated children.
As the adrenaline subsided he looked down upon his wife and daughters. They were in horrible condition; Tsetseg had clearly already passed, a fatal stab wound barely visible was upon her chest. The twins were alive but likely not for long. Zhixian was not a healer, he did not know what to do. He let out frustrated cries for help, screaming at nearby militia.
“My daughters! They need help! Please, someone! Anyone!” he pleaded, “I cannot lose any more, my family is gone…” He trailed off, cradling Bayarmaa in his arms. No one came to his aid, and his screams went unheard amongst the cacaphony of battle waging around him.
Zhixian wept, holding his daughters as life slowly drifted from their eyes. Stroking their hair and face, he could not believe they were gone. They could not be gone, no one should be this unlucky.
They are gone, he thought, they are gone and I could have saved them. I could have stopped this.
Nergui loomed upon his mind. She was all he had left – and he could lose no more. He left the city and returned to the mountains, in too much shock to deal with the loss of his family. He needed to find Nergui and protect her as best he could.
He climbed to where they had been in the mountains, and shouted for Nergui. He received no response and began to search.
“Looking for someone, whelp?” a familiar voice inquired, “A little girl, perhaps? I’m afraid you won’t find much. We’ve already had our fun with her.”
It was the Oni Daimyo. He had been watching the battle from here, atop the mountain.
“You sick fuck, give me back my children!” Zhixian was screaming blindly, a terrible rage building within him. “Give me back my life!”
“You say that as though your life was ever yours to live in the first place!” retorted the Oni, “You were born a slave and you will die a slave. It is a pleasant coincidence that I should meet you here, as I had very much never expected to see you again.” He moved forward, smirking.
“The battle is almost over. We will need to retreat, but I am very glad that it was not all for naught. We have captured many slaves, the Tian-La are difficult to capture but they make excellent labourers, you see.” The Oni eyed Zhixian closely. “I don’t suppose you are even armed, are you? Perhaps I ought let you live – it seems you are quite a tortured soul already! Go ahead, live with your weakness and shame!” The Oni began a sick and hearty laugh.
“I will not let you leave this mountain alive,” Zhixian spoke rigidly, “One of us must die before I can have peace.”
The Oni continued his disgusting laughter, “Oh, well then you leave me no choice you pathetic dretch!” He raised an arm out, and small stones began to rise from the mountain’s floor. “I’m certain this will be enough to render you unconscious! I bid thee adieu, you fool.”
Outstretching his fingers, the levitating rocks burst forth and struck Zhixian across his temple. Blackness consumed his vision as he fell to the ground.
When Zhixian woke once again, the sun was gone from the sky and he was alone atop the mountain. He felt as though his soul had been ripped from him, and his mind was blank. He stared from atop the cliffside for a great while, thinking about what could have been.
I am cursed, he thought hopelessly, I have nothing. I bring nothing but misery and death to those I care for.
He stood up looking at the plains before him. They were set aglow by the brightness of the full moon above. He felt so small in comparison to the greatness of the landscape before him; absorbing it all in his heart.
The world is such a beautiful place, he pondered, it is a shame we could not part on better terms.
With that thought and a deep breath, Zhixian stepped forward and leapt from the top of the cliff.
The Planet’s Cry
Nergui emerged from a cave after several days of hiding. She was completely unaware of anything which had happened, and just a young child. She wandered back down the mountain and started her return journey to Ordu-Aganhei. She chanced upon the body of a fallen traveller, his body broken and bent in many directions. It was her father.
“Are you okay, daddy?” She said, almost a whisper. No response. She struggled to turn over the body of her fallen father. He was not moving. Frightened and confused, she turned and ran back to the city.
Zhixian stirred with the sound of powerful gusts. A great wind was rushing all around him, and the sound of waves crashing could be heard closeby. Zhixian sould see nothing, nor did he seem to have eyes at that! He slowly realized that he must be in some incorporeal state.
“I see you have awakened, misfortunate one!” an authoritative, booming voice said, “You amuse me, and so I have brought you here. You were seeking to end your life, but I’m afraid that must wait – in fact, I’m afraid it must wait for quite some time.”
A feminine voice came from somewhere above Zhixian: “Yes, you have work to do for the planet. As such, you must cling to your mortal coil. Before returning you however, you must agree to do something for me.”
“I’m not sure I want to go back!” Zhixian insisted, “My family is gone; though my community is still there, it would bring great pain for me to return home. I would very much wish to remain deceased, were it possible.”
The two voices melded together, creating an eerie harmony. “I am not giving you a choice. You are to be raised from the grave. Your wounds from this fall will never heal – but you shall. You must return all death to life and end corruption against the natural beauty of this world.
“Before you jumped you had feelings of regret in your heart, regret that you could not leave this world in the favour of the eyes of nature. Well here is your chance: I am Gozreh, and I would have you return to life and correct all that is foul and corrupt on this world.”
“But I am no pawn of divinity,” argued Zhixian, “I do not worship or pray to you. I do not deserve this. Surely there are others who would fight injustice in your name and serve to correct the planet?”
“You are not my pawn.” the eerie voice rebutted, “You are your own free person, but rather you will be compelled to quell any corruption of nature that you see. You are not fighting for me, you are fighting for the planet itself. It cries to me for champions, and so I shall provide one. You shall protect it, and it shall protect you.
“Enough talk! I would revive you and move on to more pressing matters. If you do not wish to return home, then do not! Take the path of Aganhei north and across the Crown of the World, there you will find new lands filled with corruption and despair.”
With a flash of light, Zhixian had returned to his broken body smashed upon the rocks at the base of the Wall of Heaven. He tried to stand, but his left leg had been flayed wide open, his bones protruding from the wound. He managed to shift his balance to his right side and stand after some time.
He turned south towards Ordu-Aganhei and paused a moment, wondering if he should return to say farewell to his friends.
“No,” he said aloud, “there is nothing but sadness waiting for me there. I must move on ahead.” And with that, he turned north and scaled the great cliffside, dragging his broken and battered leg behind him.
The World’s Crown
Zhixian spent many years traveling along the Path of Aganhei. He stopped everywhere he could along the way, helping the people with their many perils. Each time he stopped, he stayed a while; just long enough to find something to do and move along. The people of the Crown were few, there were not many settlements along the path, and many of the environments were far too inhospitable to establish anything more than a camp.
Before long, Zhixian had lived among Dwarves and Gnomes within the mountainsides – he helped fend off invading Duergar and Sverfneblin. He helped small tribal communities continue to thrive despite the harsh environments, and discovered a way to cultivate edible plantlife native to the tundra regions – possibly helping to establish agriculture in some communities.
He traveled along the Crown for 16 years, and gathered many stories from his travels. Alas, the time had come for him to settle down and finish his journey. He could only tell himself “all things in good time” so many times, and eventually he felt his own time running short.
On the day of his 62nd year, Zhixian finally reached the end of the Path of Aganhei, in the city of Kalsgard. He felt that his long life was surely near its end, and so he decided to stay there among his own people, and re-acclimate to his culture of birth. Because of his incredible personality and the culture of his own people, he was very well liked in the Jade Quarter and found little reason to leave.
After his 70th year, Zhixian found his mobility was immensely decreased. He was still spry enough to walk into the fields and woods, but often required assistance and avoided all kinds of conflicts. He had grown into his new community and was cherished as a grandfather to many adults and a few prominent figures.
Over time, he began to age more and more. He only felt truly young when surrounded by the powers of nature. He would still travel to forests and stand in silent awe of the unique forces of time and nature. He held a very strong reverence for trees especially, as he felt they became stronger with age. In some ways, he felt a strange kinship with that.