The Rise of a Clan (fanfiction)

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The Rise of a Clan (fanfiction)

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:38 pm

Chapter 1: Student Trouble

Disclaimer: Don't own anything other then my imagination. Might own James but he disputes that.

The year was 182 AD and all was not well within the land, the once prosperous Han dynasty had been in decline for some time, nearing its 400th year, it was close to collapse. Corruption had been rife for decades, bandits and rebels plagued the provinces while the Imperial Army constantly fought against the tribes in the north. The treasury was empty and under the musically talented Emperor Huan then the literary Emperor Ling, things only got worse. In need of money to run the empire, support the large harems and the many ambitious building works, ranks were sold for cash while many good men were proscribed from office if they dared defy the eunuchs. The people were tired and desperate; the gentry now turned away from the court and students of the Imperial University had turned against the government. Good men were refusing office and those that remained were leaderless, nobody had yet emerged to lead the court in political battle with the eunuchs. Every time a glimmer of hope emerged, the regicide prone regent Liang Ji getting overthrown, eunuch leaders including the wily Cao Jie dying or the anti eunuch factions looked on the brink of success, something always seemed to turn the hopes and dreams of loyal men into a nightmare of execution and exile.

Still, there were good and noble officials trying to keep the Han alive while the generals continued to hold back the Qiang. However it would be for naught if someone didn’t step up to become leader of the anti eunuch faction and succeed where many had failed, managing to oust the eunuchs. As always there was still hope for the Han but it was a corrupt and fearful capital that a student by the name of Dong Meng stepped into in 182 AD.


xxxxxx

It was a warm day in Luo Yang, the heat from the sun countered by the cooling breeze blowing through the city. It was a fine Autumn afternoon and few wished to work so with the Emperor away on a lengthy hunting trip, many officials were taking time to relax and it seemed even the farmers were returning home early to be with their loved ones. One student at the Imperial University was also leaving his duties early, having spent the day trying to understand the Classic of Rites. It was the only classic that he still struggled with and after hours of trying to get to know the subject better, the teachers had told him to go home; he now looked forward to relaxing with some honeyed water and maybe going to see the sunset.

The student was a young male, barely even a man, by the name of Dong Meng, he had only enrolled this year to improve his considerable education. He was wearing his favourite green robe, fading from continuous use, his large hat’s handy veil protecting the back of his neck from the sun. His thin moustache and small black beard were well groomed and made him look a little older then he was, his dark blue eyes were often more expressive then his face. In his right hand was the dread text that was plaguing his day, his left was hidden deep within a pocket. His mind was far away in Ling Ling, remembering the bitter-sweet day he left his family with the wish to expand his mind.

All three of them were there, sat around the table in complete silence, it had only been a few days since Meng had taken the ceremony that turned Meng from child to adult. An unshaved Meng, in a simple shirt and trousers, his long hair unbound and sweeping down his neck, was feeling very nervous. He was fidgeting, self-conscious about where this meeting was going to head and about his childish attempts to grow a moustache. Sat opposite him was Tian, his face shaven and wrinkled from many years out in the sun, a wealthy landowner and influential in the town, his eyes always on the only child as if he could see into Meng’s mind. Perhaps Tian could indeed read Meng’s mind, he had always known his son well but whatever he thought was about to happen, Tian was obviously relaxed about the situation. Sitting by Tian, casting anxious glances between husband and child was Tong Eliang, a plump lady in a light brown robe, her hair tied into a bun, her brown eyes showing her own concerns.

The silence dragged on for awhile before Tian stood up and poured them all a glass of wine, speaking as he did so. “I was so proud to see you given your cap and come of age son but we both know that with the privileges of being an adult, you must also take the responsibility. We can’t protect you now and you must make your way in the world doing something to earn money for yourself and your future family. A year older then you, I was happily married and buying up land, becoming part of the local gentry, a pride to my father!” Meng opened his mouth to speak but was waved quiet by Tian. “Oh I know you don’t want to be a landowner Dengning, you would be unhappy just managing all this land. Don’t think I ignored your feelings when you had control of matters while I was ill or had other matters to deal with so I want to know what it is you want to do.” This time the mother tried to speak, again Tian raised his hand. “Let Meng speak dear, whatever he does must be his own choice, not one made out of filial obligation.”

Meng flashed his father a grateful smile, both for not obliging him to take up the family job and for stopping his mother. He knew her fears well enough, that he would either become a mystic or merchant, disreputable trades that would shame her. Meng smiled in an effort to reassure her, he didn’t have a knack for trade and while being a mystic sounded like an easy way to con people into giving money, he didn’t fancy being alone. The problem lay in her desire for him to become a Han official and rise through the ranks as a force of good, she had long tried to inspire him with tales of good officials who had reformed the dynasty. Dong Meng on the other hand didn’t want either to live his life as a petty clerk in some office or be executed for saying something to offend a eunuch yet he didn’t know how to break it to her. Summoning all his courage, Meng had to tell her the truth and deal with the tears later.

“Mother, Father, I wish to be a... a simple... teacher.”


A shout brought Meng back to the real world, his eyes looking right to see what had caused such a commotion. The sight of two of the Universities artisans arguing amused Meng though part of him was filled with annoyance, the Emperor was coming to visit the University in the winter. Meng had considered ways to avoid being around for the visit but quickly discovered that only death would see the students avoid being dragged in but at least he could write about the occasion to Mother. Quickening his pace, Meng allowed his mind to wander back home again.

His mother had tried to hide her disappointment but her sad eyes made Meng briefly reconsider, Tian on seeing the hesitancy made sure that Meng could not change his mind. “Then it is settled, you will become a teacher! How do you plan to do that though Dengning? Have you planned out your career path?” Meng knew his father would have come up with a plan if asked but the young scholar had dreamed of his days away from home, rather naively he had mapped it out all in his head. “I would go to the Imperial University and make contacts with influential men, study under the best and once my studies were done, go with someone to spread knowledge for a year or two. Then I would...” His words were interrupted by the sniffles of his mother, trying to contain her tears. Unable to see her suffering so much because of him, Meng caved in and told her what he knew she wanted to hear. “I would return to Ling Ling and spread what I learnt here. While I’m away I’ll write to you both and you would easily be able to find me with a letter, I’ll make sure of it. Perhaps, while I’m at the capital, I might become interested by government affairs, who knows and I might join them then one day become the Grand Administrator of Jing and bring the whole province to be an example of good government.”

Oh the tears of the mother, both at the hope of her beloved son becoming a respectable official but also at having to lose her only child for a few years. She threw her arms over Meng and held him tight while the father watched, Meng feeling guilty for both the lie and wanting to leave home but he said nothing, just putting his arms around Tong and supporting her. “I won’t be gone long and will return home whenever I can Mother...please don’t cry, I will always be your loving son. Please...”


Dong Meng had a little tear in his eye as the old emotions returned, he missed his parents and even the lies in the letters he wrote to them were making him feel guilty. He would never be the man his mother wanted, his goals were just too different but he couldn’t let her know that he hadn’t tried to become even a clerk. As he was thinking of the letter he would have to write soon, Meng felt something hit his leg. Glancing down to see what Meng had walked into, the student was somewhat surprised to see it was, in fact, a him. The man was rather portly, had a bald patch, a fine beard but was dressed well in a green robe, muttering curses as he struggled to his feet. Meng picked up the small hat and halted in shock, the seal on the front indicated that the owner was a man of considerable office, powerful enough to get Meng into trouble. Hastily bowing, Meng offered back the hat and an apology, grovelling into a bid to escape censure.

“My apologies oh wise and worthy Minister, I was thinking of my parents and wasn’t paying attention to where I was going so tripping you with my unworthy leg. My fault is grave but I pray you have mercy, oh gentle and merciful Minister, for I am an only son and my aged mother would be heartbroken if I should lose my unworthy head, please don’t burden her heart further.”

“Look up boy!”

Meng was somewhat caught out by the sudden instruction and it took a moment to stop the grovelling, the student looking up at the minister. The minister had a little moustache and a pleasant face, even as he scowled; the face seemed to be always on the verge of a smile and a hearty laugh. It was the eyes though that drew Meng’s attention, the minister seemed afraid of something or someone and the minister, now with hat on and robe brushed down, always seemed a little rushed in his speech.

“That’s better boy, no harm done but I see you have a book. Are you a student?”

“Yes Minister, just returning from my lessons.”

The minister seemed rather relieved by the news, his scowl turning into a friendly smile, his eyes lighting up while Meng briefly wondered what trouble he had got into as the Minister spoke. “Take me to your residence and we will talk there. Don’t worry, I will ensure you will be rewarded but move quickly before we are found.”

Meng was somewhat alarmed by this but decided he had no other choice but to obey, defying the Minister would almost certainly cost Meng his head, whatever the reason for the Minister’s panic. Bowing to signal his agreement, Meng moved through some of quieter alley’s he knew so well, instinct taking over as his mind considered the possibilities. Hiding from an angry farmer over taxes? Or maybe even an angry husband? Those Meng could cope with but if he had upset a powerful faction, then Meng himself was in serious trouble, if he was fortunate his death would be quick and painless.

Some of the less desirable alternatives were spinning through Meng’s head when the two men arrived at the small house just outside the University. It had been a gift from Tian, someplace of Meng’s own to study and relax without having to worry about the rent, it was well made and Meng guessed pretty expensive considering the location. Opening the door, Meng stood aside for his guest to enter, secretly hoping the Minister would find it unsuitable to his needs but no such luck, The Minister had take a seat and was beckoning Meng inside. The inside of the house was clean and comfortable enough for Meng, if a little small, one bedroom and one room that acted for all purposes, for eating, for studying and on the rare occasion, hosting guests. Meng put his book away before pouring out two cups of wine and finding two stale meatbuns to eat. When the student turned around he saw two cushions on the floor and could hear the Minister in the bedroom.

Soon after Meng had settled onto the cushion, the minister came out dressed in white, a bag of rice in one hand and Meng’s own mourning robe in the other. Throwing the robe at the surprised student, the Minister went into the kitchen, talking loudly as he prepared a chicken. “Well lad, I am glad to know that the students of the University still hold to the old values. I had been worried that service... well I was worried for nothing. It is only fair you know why I am here and prepare you for dealing with the problem. It will be best if you do not know my name but I was a local official in Yong province for a long time, even became Governor before moving to the capital. I left my family behind where I thought they would be safer but since my youngest daughter has come of age, they have got into trouble.”

The minister sighed as he got out some wine before continuing his tale. “My darling girl has grown up to be a real beauty, throw in the riches accumulated by my years of service and she is quite a catch. A local prefect by the name of Kai Rui wished for her hand but I refused and thought that would be the end of the matter, evidently I was wrong. He told some of his superiors and they have brought in the eunuch Duan Gui’s help to ensure I either give up my princess or lose everything I have. Do not worry, I have been careful to ensure he has little reason to accuse me openly and have ensured my family and money are out of sight; they will be safe from harm. All I need to do is avoid being spotted doing anything wrong or being murdered by thugs looking for me till nightfall, and then I will make my escape. Here is what we need to do...”

Meng had turned white on hearing that one of the Regular Attendants, Duan Gui, was involved. Duan Gui had got a reputation for seizing land, protecting his clients and dealing with enemies as ruthlessly as he could. Still, he couldn’t summon the will to get the Minister out of the house so Meng was committed to trying to help the Minister; if the chubby elder got out alive then Meng would be safe. As the plan was explained to the student, he was more relaxed but the threat of failure and death hung over them both as they waited.

They two passed the time in a mixture of silence, Meng studying while the Minister prepared, and the rest in polite conversation. It would be a couple of hours before they first heard shouts and thumping from nearby houses, the thugs had got to the right street. Meng offered a little prayer to his ancestors, when he judged the thugs to be next door, he kicked his foot against the wall to deliberately create tears in his eyes. Then it was their turn to answer to the knocks, the Minister slumping onto the floor with head in hands, Meng opening the door with a bow, faking a sad smile and wiping away a tear.

“Please gentlemen, come on in.”

The three men entering were not guards but a reliable group of thugs, normally used in the country rather than at the capital to arrange accidents or kidnappings. Meng had seen plenty of men used for such purposes in Ling Ling, men selling their strength and lack of morals for coin; it shouldn’t have surprised him to see some in the capital. On the other hand, he could tell the thugs had not expected to find two men in mourning, a thin man trying not to cry and a chubby man, with a small dishevelled beard, clearly in some distress. The room was filled with the smell of wine, poured liberally on cloth and hung up, the prepared chicken prominently on display. The lead bandit, a handsome man with flowing hair and brown eyes that drew people in, was the first of the bandits to speak, after bowing to the Minister and to Meng.

“My condolence on your loss gentlemen, but my duty demands I visit each house. There is a dangerous man about and I wish to catch him before he harms others. I have been searching all the houses around here and wish to... sorry sir but who is the deceased?”

The Minister had burst into another sob at the mention of a search, Meng rushing over to soothe him, calling him Father. When the fugitive was quiet, Meng turned to the leader, looking embarrassed. “Forgive my father, the funeral for my mother is tomorrow and as you can see, he is clearly distraught about it. It was kind of the University to allow him to stay with me, I would have hated to leave him alone, don’t know what he might have done. If you must search this house then do so, I wouldn’t wish anyone to come to harm but please be careful, I would hate to lose anything from my mother.”

Another sob from the “father” had Meng trying to calm down the distraught man but he had one eye on the thug leader. The student could guess the thoughts in the leader’s mind; the search’s no doubt involved some looting of the homes but was it worth it here? If word got out of searching the house of a mourning family on University grounds might lead to trouble. If the University complained, the three of them would be hunted down and executed; the paymasters would not rescue them from that disaster. The leader bowed and edged towards the door, there would be other plunder to find.

“We will leave you to mourn with our sincerest condolences gentlemen. If you should happen to see Minister Shen Rui, be careful of him and when you can, find us so we may arrest him. His corruption has been exposed and he seeks refuge from those he has robbed, the court wishes him brought to justice. Rui is a vain man, obsessed with his well groomed beard, fat and looks cheerful, he is a charmer but he is a creature of deceit. We would, of course, ensure you were recompensed for your trouble good sirs...”

Meng’s eyes light up at the mention of a reward, struggling to suppress a greedy smile. “No reward other than having served the Son of Heaven in ridding the land of a corrupt official is needed. I promise you that we will keep an eye out, amidst our mourning, for the foul beast.”

This seemed to satisfy the leader and after the rituals goodbyes the thugs left to terrorise some more unfortunates. Once the footsteps of the three could not be heard anymore, Meng glanced outside before closing the door. “They are gone Minister Rui, you should be safe from them at least. Not sure how you are going to escape the city though, by tomorrow the gates out of the city will have the guards watching for you.”

Rui stood up, smiling with relief as he poured two cups of wine before offering one to the host. “For a minute Meng, I was worried you were going to sell me out, I am glad that money couldn’t sway your heart. As for getting out, I will be out of the city and on my way to my new home by the time you wake up tomorrow. Do not ask how I plan to do this; it is best such means never reach your ears so nobody can harm you. About time I get out of politics anyway, I have enough money set by and can live out a quite lift of hunting, good friends and good food. Still, we have the rest of the day ahead of us, come sit down and we will talk of happier things my friend.”

So they did, Shen Rui questioned Meng about the student’s family, his life, his aspirations, always gently, always under the subtle art of conversation so Meng never noticed. Every time Meng finished his drink, Rui pressed more wine on the student but never seemed to finish his own cup. The more Meng drank, the more careless his tongue got and the drowsier he became until eventually, on trying to walk to get some water, Meng collapsed, banging his head on the floor. Shen Rui grimaced as he poured his own glass of wine away, the drugs had worked and now he was alone in the gullible Meng’s house, now for the hard part...
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Re: The Rise of a Clan (fanfiction)

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:24 am

Chapter 2: Consequences

OC: Sorry for delay, had writers block so worked on something else for awhile. Hopefully will get better next chapter.

It wasn’t too unusual for a student to wake up with a thumping headache, even though Meng was careful with his drink the young man was no stranger to hangovers. When Meng woke up around noon, all he could concentrate on was the throbbing in his head and the stirring in his stomach. It would be another hour before Dong Meng was able to think straight, it had taken awhile to get dressed, it had been difficult to get anything down his throat when the light was so blinding but finally he got the bun down and had drunken enough wine to counter the effects of the night before. Meng prepared a cold bath and as he entered, he was shocked by the pale face reflected back at him.

His facial hair was a mess, there were dark shadows around his nose, his eyes looked dull and his skin had lost its colour. Dunking his head under the water, Meng found the biting cold refreshing; it cleared out the nasty taste in his mouth and brought his mind into focus. The memories of the previous day came rushing back, fighting for room inside his mind, causing a self pitying moan to come from the student. There wouldn’t be questions over not coming in for one day; it was hardly unknown for students to have missed a day for “illness” before and Meng was in no state to concentrate on his lessons. It was best for him to sort his head and turn up tomorrow when his mind would be clear and he would look normal, not like some ghost.

Getting out of the bath, Meng slipped on an old robe as he searched around the house to see what was missing. His money, valuables and books were intact, his house had been left tidy and only a little bit of food had gone. So Rui had not been a thief or conman as Meng had half-hoped, he had been a minister in trouble and that meant danger if anyone found out. Still the damage was done and Meng couldn’t change it, no matter how much he wished otherwise, the question was what to do now. Meng could flee the city but it would put his parents in danger and he would be easily tracked down, Meng lacked the connections to shield him in his flight into exile. If he stayed, the student would be among friends and could keep an ear out for any fallout from Rui’s flight however staying at the capital left Meng easy to arrest if his actions were discovered. Pouring some more wine, Meng decided what he had to do, first of all he would trim his beard and then he would buy some poison... yes that would be for the best.

When Meng returned to the University the next day, colour had returned and there was little comment about his brief absence. Meng knuckled down and put his energies in his studies, finding the work was a good distraction from his problems. News of Rui’s sudden departure and the disappearance of his family quickly found its way into the University but it vanished from people’s minds just as quickly, the consensus being that Rui fled money troubles. With no word on any reaction within the court, Meng began to relax and was able to put the whole incident at the back of his mind.

xxxxx

The illusion of safety was rudely shattered three weeks later when Dong Meng returned home after a pleasant day of study. The sun was setting and Meng was looking forward to having something to eat but all pangs of hunger were replaced by a feeling of unease when he saw that the door to his house was open. Cautiously approaching, the pleasant smell of freshly cooked food wafted through the air, teasing the hungry youngster and distracting his mind from danger. Meng guessed that his mother had made a surprise visit and was cooking food as a welcome, an idea born more from his stomach then his brain.

It was not a pleasant surprise for Meng to see that his home was occupied by strangers, for a moment the occupants and the cleanliness convinced the student that he was in the wrong house. In the centre, setting up a game of Go, was a man of obvious wealth, his dark blue robe with gold bands at the elbow, his second fingers with a little ring, each containing a shining emerald that drew the eye. The robe was rather short but black trousers covered the legs while above a white scarf wrapped around the neck, was a handsome noble face. A small moustache, black as his hair, no hat on the top but two long strips on the right and one on the left framed the face. The other two men in the room were busy, bringing over plates containing rice, chicken, a tray of meatbuns, some pork and glasses of wine, they were young men with small beards and decent brown robes, they were clearly servants.

Meng took a step back to ensure he was in the right house, the sound of his feet causing the three men to look up. The rich man got to his feet and, having stepped over the game, walked over to Meng, bowing before putting a strong hand on the student’s arm, his smile seeming genuine.

“Master Meng, right on time for the meal we have prepared for you as a thank you for helping a friend of mine. I hope you can forgive me for imposing myself on you like this but I wanted to meet the man I have heard so much about. Since I know your name, let me introduce myself, I am Yuan Shao of Ruyang, descendant of the Excellency Yuan An.”

Yuan Shao had guided them to the Go board, observing Meng’s face carefully as Shao talked. Meng was clearly puzzled throughout but he was also a little shaken by the mention of a friend and of who his famous guest was. Hastily offering a bow, Meng struggled to force out a polite greeting.

“It is an honour to meet one of such high reputation as yourself sir though I fear ignorance of who our mutual friend is. I am Dong Meng of Ling Ling, a student of the Imperial University, had I known you were visiting my lord I would have prepared my home in a way befitting your station.”

Yuan Shao waved away the comment on the home as the two of them sat down. The servants finishing putting out the food and then departed while Shao sorted out the Go pieces, handing Meng the black pieces, the Han officer’s tone conciliatory. “It is a lovely house and you left it so tidy, I am afraid my servants though find dust on the cleanest of surfaces, I apologise. Still their cooking makes it impossible to be angry with them for taking such liberties. Come on Master Meng, try something.”

Yuan Shao picked up a bowel and began filling it with food for Meng, placing it in the younger one’s hand before gathering some for himself. Meng could see that Yuan Shao was dominating things but was afraid to bite back, instead offering polite congratulations. “I heard that your exulted uncle Yuan Wei became an Excellency again, my congratulations on his deserved promotion.”

That made Yuan Shao smile and once he had poured them both wine, he responded, pride clear in his voice. “It is good to see Uncle Wei made Minister over Works again, he has worked hard to regain his rank after seven years. Still, it was only a matter of time before a Yuan occupied the highest offices again and it will only be a matter of time before he leaves office again. Three changes among the Three Excellencies and Nine Ministers a year; it is ridiculous and offers no stability. What would happen if the University changed its best teachers every year?”

Meng chose not to answer the rhetorical question, he was enjoying the meal and thought it best to start the game of Go, less controversial, placing his first piece down close to his edge of the board. There was silence for a few minutes, the two players making their opening grabs for territory on the board while eating. Yuan Shao created a high wall with his white pieces while Meng looked to secure his right corner. Eventually Shao picked up the conversation again: “It is frustrating being nearly forty and having only got as far as Chief of Puyang when my father and uncles were reaching high office at a young age. I was running escape tunnels for the persecuted when I was just a little older then you, got that job in Puyang then my parents died. Two sets of full mourning later, I return to see the eunuchs still controlling the Son of Heaven and not much to do, I won’t take another job while they control everything! So I spend my time in my house in the city receiving privileged guests or travelling with friends of similar mind as knights errant. My dear uncle probably wants me to take up a position in the government and I have had one or two summons, do you think my exulted uncle is right Meng?”

Meng had managed to secure the right of the board corner and was building in the left corner but had left enough of a gap for Yuan Shao to exploit. Meng was now forced to react to Yuan Shao’s aggressive manoeuvres as the student said what he thought would please Shao. “Minister Wei, I’m sure, is only trying to do his best for you however serving in a government controlled by the Regular Attendants is a matter for one’s conscious. Many great men have refused service; sacrificing money and their career for doing the right thing, their reputation in the eyes of all men have been strengthened. Your reputation is high among the common people my lord and your refusal to serve in such corruption is much admired, nobody can say you are doing the wrong thing, indeed knights errant can do thing that the government will or cannot do, your just helping others by a different way than your uncle.”

Yuan Shao seemed pleased with that answer, draining his glass before pouring himself some more wine. Shao’s scarf slipped into his lap as the older man considered his next move. “Enough about me Meng, why not tell me about yourself? What brought you to the University and what will you do afterwards?”

Meng conceded the left hand corner and began using the safe right corner to build a wall while Shao finished off the corner. He explained about his enjoyment of studying from books and his hopes of becoming a teacher. Both men had eaten their fill and were now relaxing with the wine as they slowly made their moves, enjoying the silence before Shao spoke up. “I never quite understood scholars like you Meng. I have been educated properly and I will ensure my three sons get a fitting education but why would you then go into further study for the sake of it? You gain all that knowledge of history, of ritual, of propriety and then do nothing with it other than wander the country, it helps nobody my friend. Why not take government service, use that knowledge for something useful?”

Dong Meng noticed his pieces were being encircled and trapped so began trying to manoeuvre his way out of the trap both on the board and in the conversation. “My lord, I lack the ability or virtue to be anything more than a teacher, I only hope my students can be worthy of service. Even if I had the moral character and the ability, I have not the fame to avoid having to rise through local government. With the eunuch’s clients all over the land, I would be of little use as I could not bribe my way out of trouble and would have no patron to shield me; I would be easily exposed to the machinations of the corrupt in any provincial post.”

Neither move to extricate himself from trouble was working, Shao forcing Meng to go in the direction Shao wanted on the board, the older man speaking with a smile. “Meng, you can already lie with a straight face and can speak words of modesty to disparage yourself, you would make a fine courtier. I have spoken to your teachers about you and if you cannot master ritual then you will fail at the University. This matters a little in court life but you have other talents, you can write well so you could become a clerk or enter the Secretariat, you have showed some ability to think on your feet, you have enough knowledge of the past to use it as advice and with a bit of training, your ability to organise could be useful for administration.”

Meng looked hurt and was about to speak but Shao waved him silent. “The poison you hid may not have been the bravest thing but I know why you are scared. Shen Rui sends his apologies for drugging you but it was to protect you in case things went wrong, little blame can fall on a man with his senses muddled. He told me everything, how you kindly invited him within your home and helped shield him when those thugs came looking for him when you could have turned him in. It was a brave thing and showed character, thanks to you, he was able to find me and I could get him away safely.”

Meng was looking down, blushing with embarrassment as Shao flattered him but the next thing he heard caused the student to look up in shock. “As for avoiding trouble, by aiding Rui, you have brought trouble upon yourself! In truth, the Attendants probably care little for what Duan Gui wants or for Shen Rui but they have had a bad year, if they can punish Shen Rui and those that helped him then it will serve as a warning to those that oppose them in court. Shen Rui is out of their reach, my tracks are covered but you, my friend, have nothing to protect you. It won’t take them more than a few days to find out about you and I can’t be too sure that the University would shield you till you got away.”

This time Meng did interrupt, his voice tinged with bitterness, tears in his eyes. “They won’t protect anyone, the older ones still remember the purge by General Duan Jiong. Then the University was a power, now we still hate the eunuchs but we bow our heads and keep quiet, it is all we can do now. Besides, there are enough problems to deal with without protecting a student; accusations of corrupting texts leave the teachers in a weak position, limited openings to get a job in government from the University and the Emperor visiting soon. Why would they risk destroying all that and see more mass arrests when they can hand just hand me over? Nor would a job help me, I still lack a patron to shield me and they will just as easily find me.”

Dong Meng looked at the board, his pieces had been encircled and trapped, Yuan Shao had just taken more than half his pieces and controlled the board. “My lord, I must cede this game to you, I have no hope of winning now. Thank you for your warning, I know... know now...what I must...”

Meng couldn’t continue talking, faced with the choice of arrest and execution of all his clan or suicide to protect his parents, he knew he must take his own life. Filled with despair, tears streaming down his cheeks, Meng was a pitiful sight to behold. Yuan Shao stood up and put his arms around the student, allowing Meng to rest his head on Shao’s robe. Shao’s voice was comforting as a father to a son, his hand stroking the top of Meng’s head. “Hush now Meng, I did not come here just so you could die, dry your tears and listen. My uncle is not as young as he was and he has become a busy man, he could use a clerk in his department to help him with all the paperwork. It wouldn’t hurt for me to do something for my uncle to keep his favour and my uncle has both the prestige and charm to ensure certain people don’t get in trouble. Now my friend, do you know of anyone looking for a job?”

Meng managed to stop the tears, reassured by the strong hug and the kind words. Meng was glad he could make the choice of death or service, it might not be much of a choice but it was his to make.”My lord...” Shao stopped Meng immediately “If we are to be friends, call me Shao.” Meng nodded and pulled his head back to look at Shao’s face, the knight errant masking his feelings as Meng plied the flattery. “Shao, this is most awkward but I am looking to leave the University and enter official service, I have taken my studies as far as I can. My mother was always eager for me to take up a job in government and it is only right that I use my meagre talents for the service of the state and the people. You my friend are a man of impeccable reputation and all good men seek to become known to you. I would hate to disappoint my mother and fail to find any work so I was hoping you could help me find employment?”

A little ruffle of Meng’s hair and Shao ended the hug, instead putting his arm around Meng’s shoulders and pulling the student towards the door. “I am sure I can find something suitable, your desire to serve the Son of Heaven and your filial piety is most inspiring. However I wish for you to reside with me tonight, it will be easier to me to arrange things if you’re close at hand.” Meng tried to interrupt but was shushed as they made their way into the cold night. “But nothing Meng, my servants will collect everything and bring it to your room by the morning and won’t you feel better knowing you can relax in comfort while waiting for me to fulfil my promise?”

Dong Meng glanced at Shao and on seeing the determined look, decided not argue the point, he doubted that Yuan Shao was a man easily swayed from a course of action. Besides, the wine was getting to Meng’s head, he was feeling rather tired so he allowed Yuan Shao to lead them into a carriage without comment. A servant passed Shao a cushion which he placed behind Meng’s tired head before the carriage began moving through the quiet streets of the capital. Tired, psychically and mentally, Meng drifted off to sleep with only the clip clop of the hooves piercing the silence.

xxxxxx

Meng woke late the next morning in a very comfortable bed, reluctant to leave the warmth as he sorted out his memories. Sitting up, Meng glanced around the room and was somewhat surprised to see he wasn’t in his own bed and the discovery that he had been changed into a nightrobe was not very comforting either. Forcing himself out of the bed, Meng headed to the table and discovered a bowl of water with a cloth dipped in ideal for washing away the fog in his head. As Meng used the cold water to wash his face, the two servants from the night before came in, carrying a tunic and trousers, the other bringing some bread. As they bowed to hand over the clothes and food, the oldest servant spoke.

“Ah Master Meng, we are glad to see you are up and about. His Excellency has arrived and is waiting but Master Shao did not want us to wake you up, he said you needed your rest. Now young master, get dressed and eat well, you want to make a good impression today do you not?”

The servants helped Meng get ready, finding him some warm water to trim his beard, dressing Meng in a dark red robe, binding his hair under his hat. Once Meng had wolfed down a late breakfast and was prepared to leave his bedroom, the servant spoke again, this time with bad news for the former student. “I regret to inform you Master that an hour after you left your home last night, some rogues forced their way in and destroyed your house, all that remains are the ashes from the wood. Fortunately Master Shao had your valuables withdrawn before that happened but what we couldn’t bring with us has been lost. I’ll have an inventory of what possessions remain later tonight but I assure you that while you’re here Master, you will lack for nothing.”

Meng was clearly shaken by the news, his books were the most important thing to him and if he lost those, he would have lost a lot of his work brought about from childhood studies. The idea that someone had deliberately targeted his home didn’t occur to Meng, such a thing was beyond his comprehension even now. Robes could be replaced, his father would buy him any lost writing equipment but his books had been written on by Meng, little notes or thoughts, each one held memories for him.

Dong Meng stumbled out of the door and followed the old servant who left the younger one doing the cleaning up. Meng could hear the sound of Yuan Shao’s voice but could not make out any words. Two other voices could be heard, one male constantly exchanging words with Shao with the third voice being a female. As servant and student got closer, they could hear the strange male voice again, a hint of frustration in his tone.

“Benchu, I have seen you grow as into a handsome man with so much potential, our ancestors know that I love you like a son but your reckless behaviour worries me. When you stay at home or go out with your friends, nobody will notice or care if you go raiding weddings but when you pull stunts like this, I can promise you that the eunuchs will care. Last time you ran those escape lines, you were lucky not to get caught and now you do it again! Do you not care what will happen to your family? What about the little ones, did you not think of them?”

Meng wanted to hold back and listen into the conversation but the old servant had other ideas, stepping into the doorway and bowing. “Excellency Yuan and Master Shao, Lady Ma Lun, Dong Meng has awoken.” The servant stepped aside and the nervous student stepped into the room, bowing to the three figures. Yuan Shao was wearing a black robe with a blue belt, a wide smile on his face, clearly not perturbed by the lecture. The older man had the same bearing, height and his face was similar to Shao’s, Yuan Wei though had a more traditional haircut, long and wrapped in a bun on top of his head, his hair turning white, his insignia proudly displayed on the grey belt, like his nephew wearing an expensive black robe. The woman was older then the two men, she looked in her sixties, her white hair reaching down to her shoulders, her serious expression undermined by a glint of amusement in her eyes as she looked up from the book she was reading. The room they were in was fairly large, many books and papers spread on the large table, it quickly dawned on Meng that this was his writings, a discovery that brought relief and a tinge of fear, had he written anything that could upset them?

Shao stepped forward to greet his guest but Wei halted him with a glance, the Excellency still not finished lecturing his nephew on his reckless ways. Meng was unsure what to do but the servant grabbed him by the arm and led him to a table with two small piles of papers. Meng did not recognise the writing on the first pile and flicked through them, the writings were simple administrative orders and letters to clients but the lettering was rushed, while legible such poorly written characters would be considered impolite and uncaring by the gentry. The second pile was full of clean paper, waiting to be written on; Meng doubted he could get a word in during this argument so why not show what he could do as a clerk? Getting out his writing equipment, Meng began copying the works down in his best handwriting.

Time passed quickly, the row escalating as Shao started responding, giving as good as he got, Meng was tuning them out. It was not exciting work but it took Meng’s mind off his troubles and gave him something to do while the Yuan’s argued. After awhile, he felt a pull on his leg but shrugged it off at first, until he felt it was a second time and then a rather painful third. Looking down, he saw a well dressed child, approaching its tenth year, hair short with little wisps escaping any attempt to pat them down, a little smile on a kindly face that looked remarkably like Shao. It was the child that spoke first, his voice reflecting his alarm.

“I heard you come in last night, father was carrying you to the spare room and your feet kept hitting the wall, woke us all up, you should have heard Shang’s crying. Are you here to become my teacher? Father said he was going to get a new one to teach me and my brother letters so I would stop training to be a soldier.”

Meng put down his work; it would not do well to upset a child of the Yuan’s by ignoring him, mentally noting that he owed Shao further thanks. “I am a student of the Imperial University, Dong Meng is my name and I assure you young Master Yuan that I do not seek to become a teacher just yet. I am sorry for having woken the house; I will only be here a short while I seek a new home and a job. Why do you dislike being taught your classics and letters Master?”

The child seemed rather defensive at the question, one that he had perhaps been asked before. “My name is Tan, Yuan Tan and I will become a famous general when I grow up. The people need a protector and I will be one for them, destroying barbarians, slaying rebels, bandits will fear me! I am good with my sword, my instructors say so but Father wishes me to become a scholar, become like Uncle Wei and do paperwork. What use is being able to write prettily to a General?”

Meng had a good guess of what arguments had been used on Tan, being a general was not considered a prestigious job, children didn’t want safe jobs arguing over taxes, they wanted glory, he doubted adding another voice of objection to the career path would help. “A most noble goal Master Tan, the Han needs men to keep it secure from those that wish it harm. Yet a general does need to learn his letters for the court prides itself on its learning, a general of ability may be looked over through lack of scholarship. If you wish to start a campaign against the tribes, you need to win over the court to your plans, to do that requires being able to use the Classics and history to justify it, if you cannot then your plan will be refused. Impressing others with your knowledge and support of scholars will do much to advance your career, apply yourself to lessons so you may rise to great heights, that is all your Father wants I’m sure.”

Yuan Tan looked doubtful at that but before he could mull it over, he was grabbed around the waist and pulled into a hug from Ma Lun, fretting over her grandnephew like a mother hen despite Tan’s protests. Dong Meng visibly busied himself in the papers, he had hated it when elder relatives at publically smothered him with affection, he knew how embarrassing it could be for a young boy. Besides, he hoped to finish the work while Yuan Wei was berating Shao and Tan was busy trying to extract himself from Ma Lun’s affections but it seemed even the headstrong Yuan’s were finished with the discussion with Meng only managing to finish a small portion of the paperwork in... how long had he had? Meng had no sure way of telling the time, he suspected about an hour had passed since he came down. Yuan Wei was coming towards them his face like thunder after the argument with his nephew, Meng feared he was to be the target of the Excellency’s wrath.

Meng quickly stood up to bow but before anybody could speak, Tan ran forward to greet Wei. The minister brightened on seeing his grandnephew, pulling a small bag from within his robes to give to Tan. “Ah, my little Xiansi, it is a fine afternoon to go hunting. Why don’t you take this, get your little brother Xi ready and we will go hunting today, just the three of us? When we return home, we will stop off at the market and you can buy anything you want with this money, after supper I’ll tell you one of those tales you like. But you best both be dressed for it by the time I am ready or I might change my mind, so hurry.”

Yuan Tan, clearly eager to go hunting and worried he won’t be ready in time, grabbed the pouch and began heading for the door, Shao sighing at the thought of what his son might bring home. Suddenly Tan stopped and turned to Meng, bowing as if in thanks “I do hope you will return again Master Meng, your kind words have touched me, I will study harder and be a good scholar. You would surely make a good clerk for a man of importance.” With a not very subtle wink, Tan slipped out of the room, having helped a scholar as Meng had advised.

Yuan Wei turned to Meng, his smile turning into a frown again, his tone angry with voice gradually rising as he spoke. “My nephews Shao and Shu have taken to gallivanting around the capital, making friends with like-minded wastrels, righting perceived wrongs, getting drunk and causing trouble. I have yet to hear why raiding a wedding and running away with the bride is an activity I should encourage, if lady napping is your thing, just follow my nephew and Cao Cao around for awhile. I’m sure it was a thrill, emulating those students in the past who defied the eunuchs when you took in a wanted man. You defied the law willingly and then expect help as a reward for your stupidity?”

Meng’s head was down, his shoulder slumped as Wei began looking at the work Meng had been doing, still berating the student. “You’re a mediocre scholar in an institution now used for books rather than talent or government debate, you could pass the exams but you would never make it to Grand Administrator even if we were hiring. What use is possessing a man of so little talent, it would give me more credit with the Regular Attendants if I did my duty and handed you over. Go on student tell me why I should overlook your crime, why it was justified as my nephew would do!”

Meng was cowed, his voice so quiet Wei had to strain to hear him. “Excellency, I make no excuses and place my wretched self at your mercy.” With his eyes down, Meng did not see Ma Lun’s pleading look or Yuan Wei’s smile, only regaining hope as he heard the gentle tone in Wei’s force. “I was expecting some proud speech which is what all of my nephews friends would do. Still, we were all young once and your penitence touches me, I will not report your crimes. Your writing is neat, keep your head down, keep humble and avoid following in the escapades of others, you will survive service in the government or as someone’s clerk.”

Yuan Wei headed to the door, grabbing Ma Lun’s arm on the way before stopping, glancing at Meng. “Finish your work this afternoon, Ma Lun will arrange a home in our compound and send a servant for you. Since Tan and Shao like you enough to recommend you, I will trust their judgment; tomorrow you will begin working for me, by the time the court returns I hope you will be suitable for the task. Work hard, keep out of trouble and we will see if my family’s judgment of men can be trusted.”

It took all of Dong Meng’s restraint not to cry in joy and relief, he had a job and he hoped he would be safe now under Yuan Wei’s charge. It was a good reliable job, he might prefer studying but it would please his mother and hopefully secure him a decent wage until he could gain influence with his master to gain a government post near Ling Ling. Only a smiling Yuan Shao remained with him, staring at Wei’s retreating back with amusement.

“For a moment, I thought my uncle was going to hand you over but I suppose he just wanted to assert his authority over me. I best write to your parents and inform them of your new career, shouldn’t be too hard for a messenger to find a Dong family in Ling Ling. Work hard Meng, when you get some free days, come visit me, we will share a few drinks and you can meet my wife and other children.”

With that, Dong Meng was alone for the rest of the afternoon, carefully finishing off the work and leaving it for Yuan Wei. A servant came to escort him to his new home; it was a short walk from Shao’s house till Meng saw a large mansion, fit for the richest of men, very near to it was a considerably smaller house but one still larger than anything Meng had lived in, including a room for entertaining guests. Inside, Meng found most that he owned was there, his books came in shortly after, carried by more of Yuan Wei’s servants. When everything was complete, the servants left and Dong Meng could finally relax, his life had changed direction but that could be left for another day. Tonight he would enjoy a warm bath, a nice meal and rest, ready for a brand new and non life threatening day.
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Re: The Rise of a Clan (fanfiction)

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:05 pm

Chapter 3: Turban Plans

Everything was quiet in the village, the fields were ripe for harvesting but nobody came out of their homes, the only sounds were the patter from the paws of dogs, eating from the dead. Many in the village had been killed by the plague; others had fled for their lives. Inside a small hut, the disease had taken hold; those that had fallen sick were left behind by those that were well enough to get away. The only one left alive now was a six year old girl, she had not eaten for days and could barely crawl, to conserve energy she slept as much as she could. Her elder brother had died quickly and with blessedly little pain, her mother, aunts, uncles and some of her cousins had died, some quickly, some had lingered on in pain. Her father had gone to get help but that was long ago, even the little girl didn’t have any hope of his return now. Her body ached from hunger; flies swarmed the house to settle on the rotting flesh of her family, rashes and pustules disfigured her face, she was looking forward to the sweet embrace of death. As she closed her eyes, she could faintly hear a familiar voice, a trick of her ailing mind.

“My little Tian, it will be alright, Daddy is here now.”


It had been many years since Xian Tian had nearly joined her ancestors, now she was sitting on top of a hill in Jizhou in white robes of mourning for the loss of her father nearly a year ago, observing a growing community of Turbans where once her small village lay. The girl had been fortunate to survive, her father had found three healers in Julu, and they had managed by prayer and charmed water to save her, one of the many miracles of the Great Teacher though even he could not prevent old age claiming her father. Xian Tian had become a healthy young woman; her long black hair had caught many a boys’ eye and was used to hide a nasty scar, a legacy of her illness, on her cheek that marred an otherwise pretty face. While she had grown from child to woman, the following of the Great Teacher had gone from small cult to a religion with millions of followers spread across the north. She had seen it all, how Zhang Jiao and his brothers had gone where there were epidemics and performed miracles, curing many with only the unworthy failing to survive. At first they had spread the teachings of Huang-Lao based on the Yellow Emperor and Laozi. Now though the Way of Great Peace was about overthrowing the corrupt Han.

Hearing footsteps behind her, she glanced behind to see Zhang Jiao clambering up, using his staff to ease his passage. Once the Great Teacher had worn yellow robes, simple despite their regal colour, and a yellow headband .Treasonous, perhaps, but people turned a blind eye to the eccentric ways of a healer. His long black hair had flown freely and was distractingly disorganised with his moustache sprouting up and splitting on the left side and his small beard showing the same lack of care as his hair. Now his robe, still yellow, reflected his status as a great leader with billowing sleeves that had small tassels on the end, several dark red strips coming out at the back and a red collar with a golden sun on top. His once simple headband now included a red and yellow symbol and his hair, sideburns, moustache and beard now combined into one, was dishevelled. When he turned around quickly it could lose all shape, swinging loose in the wind. His staff was a new addition splitting into three flame shapes at the top, the middle flame smaller than the others, with tassels hanging on the bottom. She had never dared ask where he got it but she had seen its power, she had seen a light purple glow around its head when it was helping the Great Teacher in his magic.

As the Great Teacher reached the top of the hill, Xian stood and bowed but he waved her to sit then, laying his staff at his feet, sat down to admire the view. His usually calming voice had a tendency to suddenly go high for a few seconds, something that took awhile to get used to, this time his voice contained obvious concern. “You only ever come up here when you want to think my child. Is it about your father or perhaps our preparations?”

His eyes were glancing at the mourning robes Tian was wearing but his fears were set to rest by her smile. “I’ll be alright, I loved my father but he missed mother, I do not think he was happy without her, it was for the best. I am anxious to begin helping gather more followers or assist Zhang Liang in training some of the soldiers. Having nothing to do but wait is frustrating; I wish to help fulfil Heaven’s teachings.”

Xian received an angry look, Jiao reproving her “You serve Heaven by mourning your father as you are supposed to. You will complete the sacrifices to your ancestors and only when enough time has passed can you return to helping Liang but not if you continue to disobey the Teachings.” Xian was ashamed, she could not look Jiao in the eye, with neither speaking all they could hear was the noise of one man herding his reluctant animals. Jiao shuffled closer, the Turban leader’s anger was spent and pity took over. “Child, the Han will die at our hands but I have been teaching for over a decade, these things take time. You will be out of mourning by the time we launch our attack but first, we must make sure of our victory before we make our move. Next year, I will send an envoy to those in the capital who can be swayed to our side then when all is ready, they will open the gates and we will overthrow the blue heaven, setting up a new cycle and a golden heaven for all.”

They both thought of the day the Turbans, with the purple behind them, would enter the capital in triumph after defeating the Han, yellow flags in the air, people cheering as they rode in, their troops behind them. It was in such a state of mind that Xian asked “What will happen when the Han is defeated Great Teacher?” Zhang Jiao’s eyes were looking far away, as if he could see the future and wished to grasp it with his hands “We will seize the land of the gentry and split it among the people, the landlords will give up their lands to their farmers, and we will hunt down the corrupt and put in honest ministers to govern. I will spread my disciples over the land, to instruct and to heal so that all will follow the Way of Peace, even the barbarians, then the land will be pure and its children worthy of Heaven’s blessings.” Xian smiled at that though some tears slid down her cheeks as she stared up to the heavens “Then there will be healers to look after those that are sick and the people will have food to eat, the people will not suffer while the government sits there and does nothing to help us. I long to see that day Great Teacher, I will train hard for that moment when we shall be free of the tyrant and can create a better land.”

Content to enjoy the sun, the two would talk long into the day on many things, their spirits lifted by the thought of that one glorious day in the future.
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Re: The Rise of a Clan (fanfiction)

Unread postby mrwongshappymushu » Fri Jul 16, 2010 5:39 pm

Am i allowed to comment? :? But this is really good, i spent alot of time reading this! :D I like the way you incorpirate other characters which gives a web kind of feel, after this i was lost in thought :wink: really good stuff Dong :P
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