INVITATION from the Qilin Cabaret to HM Queen Anna and her Exalted

Featured image art “Narco lords” by Arute (@ast05water)

To Her Majesty the Queen of Arendelle,

I’d offer you pleasantries: wishes of good health to you and Elsa, congratulations for seizing control of the Exalted, and even some grudging respect for how ruthlessly you expelled my boss, Mr. Harrison, from the cabal. You’ve got an… unforgiving streak, don’t you? Especially for those that mess with your family. I like that.

You and Mr. Harrison know each other well enough that you’ll see any pleasantries from me to be hollow and meaningless. You despise each other, so I won’t patronize you with insincerity.

I’ll accord you the respect you deserve as my boss’s nemesis and get straight down to business.

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At World’s End in the Purple City, Part Two

Featured image art “Cosmic destiny” by Arute (@ast05water)

“You should probably sit down,” said Peony calmly, as Anna visibly swayed in shock. Yixin didn’t budge, staring thinly at the lavish gardens outside his lavish window. Elsa also looked stupefied, as did all the guests in the Qianlong Gardens. Peony handed Anna a soft handkerchief, and the queen of Arendelle gratefully took it, wiping her sweating brow.

At long last, Yixin had told them the whole truth and nothing but the truth. All this time, Anna and her friends had simply known him as a powerful figure in the Qing court, the power behind the emperor’s throne. Of course, he had a second identity as the leader of the Exalted, but even Anna hadn’t suspected there was so much more behind the organization. How he was a Moonborn: a unique class of beings born from an outer space goddess, Chang’e. How Chang’e had made the Earth’s Moon her domain. How at the dawn of humankind, she’d given her former husband, the mortal Hou Yi, a taste of eternal life through her holy elixir: the legendary ambrosia sought after by all that sought immortality.

And how Hou Yi had become civilization’s first tyrant, drunk on power and his newfound immortality, his cruelty forcing Chang’e to wage a cataclysmic war against him until Hou Yi was destroyed.

It wasn’t their familial drama that Yixin chafed at. What he couldn’t accept was Chang’e’s decision after Hou Yi’s defeat – that humanity wasn’t ready for the elixir of life and that it needed to be hidden from mortals forever.

Continue reading “At World’s End in the Purple City, Part Two”

At World’s End in the Purple City, Part One

Featured image art “Cosmic destiny” by Arute (@ast05water)

Anna’s Column: We’re in China!

By Anna

Hello, Arendelle! How are y’all? I miss the kingdom terribly. I miss you awfully. I got news of the scaled-down celebrations on my birthday, which was only a week ago. I wish I could be with you, but take heart – my journey is approaching its end. Soon, I’ll be back with you. And I have some explaining to do when I’m back. For now, I can only apologize to you for keeping the true objective of my journey to the Celestial Empire a secret.

Just a little while longer.

Before our troupe left the British colony port of Hong Kong, I was told by Lady Kam that the Forbidden City is also called the zijincheng, which means “purple city” – the “purple” being a reference to the North Star, around which all other stars revolve. It’s the political centre of the entire Celestial Empire, and no foreign leader has ever stepped within its grand walls – until my parents, Iduna and Agnarr. They knew Yixin not just as a ruler, but as an associate. They passed on their relationship with him to Elsa and me, and although my sister and I have handled Yixin in our own ways, we’ve always honoured his presence.

Now my reign and fate as queen is intertwined with his plans as the former leader of the Exalted – a position that he chose me for. He’s promised me a glimpse of something truly mythic – a philosopher’s stone that’s captivated leaders throughout world history. But I know he’s got his own secrets, his own agenda. I just need to find out why he’s so hell-bent on locating this legendary elixir of life.

And most importantly, even if I lead the Exalted now, has our true goal all along been to locate and secure this elixir? All of the world’s resources at our disposal, and we use it all for this?

If I can protect Elsa forever, and shield Arendelle from the ravages of war eternally… no wonder why it’s so coveted.

I’m just putting the finishing touches to my column, and Gale will hopefully whisk it all the way over to Arendelle from here inside my inn room. We make for the Meridian Gate – the entrance to the Forbidden City – tomorrow.

I’m putting on a brave face, but I can’t help shaking in nervous excitement. Wish me luck.

Love,
Anna

Continue reading “At World’s End in the Purple City, Part One”

Arendelle celebrates Anna’s Birthday as Summer Solstice arrives

Featured image art “Swingin’ Sisters” by Arute (@ast05water)

By Gudrun, Home Editor for The Arendelle Guardian

ARENDELLE: With Anna absent from Arendelle, the kingdom hosted a muted celebration for the queen’s birthday this year, with General Mattias holding a party in the square by the docks with well-stocked food and drink and entertainment for gathered families. The party was informal and akin to a gathering for friends rather than any formal anniversary for Anna, with the bishop of the Arendellian Church dropping by to make a quick speech blessing Anna’s overseas journey before joining in the festivities himself.

Anna is currently deep in the heartland of the Celestial Empire, having made a brief pit stop in the British colony port of Hong Kong before pushing further inland. Her destination: the Forbidden City itself, the great palace complex overseen by successive emperors of the Qing Dynasty. She’s accompanied by some of the most trusted members of her inner court: Elsa, her sister and the former queen, her fiancé Kristoff, tai-pan of Bjorgman, and Colisa, the queen of Chatho.  

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Greetings from Zapolyarny: Katina Romanov Re-Emerges!

Featured image art “Supreme commander” by PURY (“puryartist)

FROM: HH Katina Romanov, princess of Russia

TO: HE Michael, trade minister of Arendelle, and HM Queen Anna

Dear Michael and family,

Thank you for your letter. I read it over several times, and it still lies open on my desk. It was very kind of you to think of me even after the conflict between our countries concluded. In truth, I often think of you and your queen, and the kindness you all showed me even after my disgrace. I’ve come to accept my role in that whole fiasco, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I must live with my mortal error of banishing Sora, my companion and protector. The one who never gave up on me.

I’m not used to writing letters that discuss intimate matters. I envy you, Anna, and the rest of your beautiful circle. It must be so nice to never have to have one’s guard up among those you love. I had that with Sora, although it was always me that pushed her away. And then I betrayed her.

My defeat at Anna and Elsa’s hands was well-deserved. Just as I know that Anna has tried to swallow her lingering anger against me for my mass invasion of her home, I’ve tried to accept my defeat with a humbled heart.

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Cosmic War II: The Celestial Court

Featured image art “Chang’e and Yixin” by Arute (@ast05water)

By SkyInk

‘The moon is that which lacks. It becomes full and wanes. It is the great Yin.’

Extracts for ‘moon’ from the Shiming (c. 200 CE) and Shuowen Jiezi (100-121 CE)

There was a war among the stars. A great conflict over the destiny of humanity and its worthiness to partake of the elixir of life. A goddess, full of regret, decided to hide it so that humankind would never be tempted by the irresistible allure of tyranny eternal. But her son believed that a select few – those that he chose, of course – would be worthy. And so there was war, and the son was cast down from the starships. Humanity wouldn’t know of the aftermath, but all would, in time, be revealed to Anna and Elsa, the Arendellian heirs to this starward odyssey…

*

It had not been two days since had she blasted her son to Earth when a delegate from the Celestial Court arrived.

“Keeper of the Moon Palace, Chang’e,

Receive this edict:

The Divine Superior is heartened to learn that thou art well, but is disappointed that thou hast not disciplined thy son well enough. The Divine Superior remindeth thee that thy outer defences are protected by a Heavenly Corps seconded to thy Lunar Guard. The expenses for their upkeep in the face of this calamitous rebellion by thine unfilial son shall be deducted from thy monthly stipend. The Divine Superior commandeth thee to speedily arrest thy son and present him before the Heavenly Court for trial.

Thusly proclaimed.”

“The unworthy official humbly receives the edict.” Eyes glittering, Chang’e takes the engraved tablet from the Jade Emperor’s messenger. She knows she will have to make a visit to plead before him, in light of what she has just done.

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COSMIC WAR: The Truth Behind Elsa and Anna’s Journey!

More than 1 million years ago, when the earliest human beings had just begun to walk upright and spread across the already ancient Earth, forces far beyond mortal minds were already tussling over the mammalian race’s destiny.

Deep in the mountains of what is today Hebei Province, China, a slightly hunched Homo Erectus man shuffled into his cave, striking a flint and lighting a torch. He moved the torch over the wall of his little shelter and dwelling. He grinned toothily, proudly looking at the rock carvings he’d made of the animals he’d seen on his hunting and foraging ventures.

There was a great war among the stars. One fought by celestial bodies over the terrestrial baby that was Planet Earth.

Humanity had grown. Evolved. Matured. True, their technology was millennia behind those that watched over their primitive species from the shadows. From where human beings had not yet gathered the courage nor the knowledge to venture. But in time, they would become this planet’s masters, and eventually, leaders among their own kind.

But who deserved a seat among the immortals? Who was worthy enough to escape the fate of all mortal creatures? Or were they all unworthy?

The secret history of the elixir of life would shape thousands of years of human history, culminating in the appearance of Elsa and Anna in the world.

The homo erectus man slowly got up and walked out onto his cave ledge, staring up at the glowing full Moon that bathed its luminescence all over him. He wondered what was happening up there, on the surface of that benevolent celestial body.

Then his reflective moment passed, and he shrugged, shuffling back into the safety of his cave.

This is the story of the war between Chang’e and her son, Yixin. This is the story of how it all began.

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GANG WAR: The Lotus and Crocus versus the Floodgate!

Featured image art by Arute (@ast05water)

It was time to evacuate.

The queen of Arendelle’s strategy was simple: she, Elsa, and the other Exalted members needed to get out of Hong Kong as quickly as possible. The British island colony was commonly used as the first port of call by foreign visitors into the Celestial Empire, but the group’s sense of urgency was even higher than before, now that everyone knew that Harrison had them in his crosshairs. The drug lord and tai-pan wanted to stop Anna from reaching the Forbidden City at all costs. Anna had expelled Harrison from membership of the Exalted after ascending to its leadership, and Harrison would be damned if he let his Arendellian enemy humiliate him further by becoming the Exalted’s number one.

It was midnight, when the city was theoretically asleep and done with business. But Hong Kong is never done with business. Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Colisa, and Kristoff were standing on the esplanade by Victoria Harbour, where there were docked several ships. There was a boat waiting for the group, which would take them to Pride of Elsa, which was anchored a short distance away in the deep waters of the colony. Lady Kam had disappeared to “make preparations” – it was an enigmatic statement that even her boss, Kristoff, couldn’t understand. After spending a single night in the ransacked and ruined Sinclair Mansion, Peony had warned them that they needed to board Pride of Elsa and get to the Chinese mainland as soon as they could. Another assault by the Floodgate triads wasn’t only inevitable, but imminent.

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Postcard from Anna: From Harbour to Heartland

Featured image art “The New Exalted” by Arute (@ast05water)

By Anna

Hello, Arendelle! From far away, across the waves, on the mountainous slopes of Victoria Peak in Hong Kong!

Sinclair Manor, the mansion belonging to my fellow Exalted member Peony Sinclair, suffered an intense and unexpected battle with Harrison’s hired assassins and warriors. No thanks to the British colonial administration, which we suspect has been paid off by Harrison to look the other way! I’ll be having a word with my British counterpart, Vic, when I have the chance back in Europe. Harrison is getting away with murder, and I fear it won’t be just a figure of speech if he gets his way.

I had the most extraordinary day: Lady Kam, comprador of the Princely House and Kristoff’s manager of the ice trade in China, invited me to inspect her clandestine force of… how do I put it? Triads. These well-trained, well-built women and men are members of the Lotus and Crocus, a clandestine underworld group Kam formed for my sake.

For Arendelle’s sake.

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Anna’s Column: My Meeting with the Lotus and Crocus, Part Two

Featured image “Emerald Dragon” by Arute (@ast05water)

By Anna

The mansion of Peony Sinclair had been invaded. The chandelier above them shook, and the hall was filled with battle cries.

“It’s the Floodgate triads, I’m sure of it. Harrison’s men,” declared Lady Kam, Kristoff’s comprador and the manager of Bjorgman’s Chinese trade. Everyone had stood up, nervously readying themselves for a violent brawl, but Anna was still glaring at Peony, who’d just dropped a bombshell on them all.

“Lord Yixin is immortal? He isn’t human? I mean, I knew he was uniquely powerful, and sure, there was something disturbing and otherworldly about his appearance. Elsa and I have always known that. But you can’t just pull this revelation on me and then let this go,” cried Anna, putting a hand on Peony’s slender shoulder.

“I’m not letting it go. In case you haven’t noticed, the Floodgate gang has broken into my manor. I don’t have time to explain now. Let’s ensure your safety first, and then I shall reveal all. In fact, it’s still ideal you hear it from my lord’s mouth,” said Peony coolly.

The mansion rang with rapid footsteps as screams of the household servants rang out through the halls and rooms. “They’re attacking my people. Lady Kam, you’ve got to get out of here, and bring the queen and her retinue with you,” demanded Peony.

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