Michael’s Musings: Homecoming

By Michael, Trade Minister of Arendelle

“Boss lady” by Arute (@ast05water)

“The best part of any trip is the trip home.”

This saying was so true when our travellers came back from Arendelle.

Queen Anna, Snow Queen Elsa, Kristoff, Sir Alan, Queen Colisa of Chatho, and Peony Sinclair returned safe and sound from the Celestial Empire of China, where they met with not only the mysterious Lord Aisin Gioro Yixin, but also with Lady Kam Chik-leoi, the very beautiful and intelligent comprador of the Princely House, Kristoff’s company of Bjorgman.

She’s also the head of the Crocus and Lotus, the Arendelle-allied but illegal triad society (according to the British overlords in Hong Kong) that’s locked in ongoing turf warfare with Harrison’s criminal allies, the Floodgate gang.

When the Floodgate thugs attacked our party, Kam’s triad fighters were Johnny-on-the-spot to defend our friends from Wily Will Harrison’s hit squad.

But I digress. It’s time to greet our weary travelers!

Thursday morning came early as the call from the fjord guard posts reported Anna’s ship, Pride Of Elsa, approaching the harbor docks. I had gotten up and dressed to meet our returning royals. Our First Vampire and regent Vi, who’d been injured in the fight with Selene Severin, was doing better, but still needed more rest from her wounds. Princess Danny did a fine job of using her ice powers to help close up Vi’s wounds. She needed blood, so Tess Gaunt and myself donated some. Hilde and Tess stayed with Vi until she got more of her strength back.

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Queen Anna and Tai-pan Harrison, Part Two

“The New Exalted” by Arute (@ast05water)

The queen of Arendelle was in the book-lined study of Harrison, a private and literally cigar smoke filled backroom on the second level of the Qilin Cabaret. Outside in the lounge, singing, cheering, and clapping could be heard along with the clinking of wine and whisky glasses. Elsa and the others were waiting for Colisa and Anna, who were still in negotiations with the tai-pan.

“You’re offering access for me to the government of your Union across the Atlantic Ocean in return for the chance to participate in my search for the elixir of life? To partake in the elixir itself, if I find it?” confirmed Anna, crossing her arms as she sat before Harrison’s desk. “How is that different from being a member of the Exalted – which, as long as I’m leader, you’ll never be?”

Harrison grunted. “The difference is yours to decide, queen. I don’t need necessarily to be in an executive position. What I can provide is ships, resources, finances… all that stuff you’ll inevitably find yourself hankering for as your operations go global. I’m offering you my… conditional allegiance. And a… negotiated duopoly over various industries in the China trade. Between my own company and that of your beloved Kristoff’s Bjorgman. Together, we’ll hoard all profits to ourselves and watch our rivals sink into the depths of the China sea.”

Continue reading “Queen Anna and Tai-pan Harrison, Part Two”

Queen Anna and Tai-pan Harrison, Part One

“Swinging Sisters” by Arute (@ast05water)

“Tiffany Hunsecker” by Arute (@ast05water)

“Mr. Harrison will see you now.”

Radiant and beautiful in her Chinese dress, Anna reluctantly released Kristoff, who she’d been swaying leisurely with to the sound of romantic piano and lilting drums. She looked at Tiffany Hunsecker, Harrison’s second-in-command, with a defiant grimace. “So, does he expect the negotiations to go his way again?”

“Of course he does, as I’m sure you expect them to go yours,” said Tiffany smoothly. “Nothing personal. May the best dealer win.” She gave a small smile. “Who shall it be – the queen of Arendelle, onetime small Nordic kingdom to rising world power? Or will it be my employer, greatest tai-pan in the Chinese seas?”

“My point is simple. Harrison has you, Tiffany,” she said, staring down the secretary to the opium dealer. “I get to bring Elsa with me going in.”

“Out of the question,” denied Tiffany. “She’s the Fifth Spirit. Harrison isn’t stupid enough to be in the same room as her should negotiations with you collapse.”

“Why, you – ” snarled Alan, rising from his seat in the Arendellian group’s booth, but Elsa put a hand on his arm, and he reluctantly relented.

“Then at least let Anna bring in someone else. Maybe Alan, or Kristoff,” said Elsa.

“Yeah. I get to bring someone in the Exalted with me. It’s only fair,” contested Anna.

Continue reading “Queen Anna and Tai-pan Harrison, Part One”

The Qilin Cabaret: Party the Night Away!

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

“What should I do?” said Anna, throwing Tiffany Hunsecker’s invitation onto the coffee table. Kristoff, Elsa, Colisa, Peony, and Alan looked down at it, their expressions grim. They were in a palatial, terraced accommodation used by Peony Sinclair to host British diplomats to China. They’d had several days to digest everything that had gone down in the Forbidden City, during their long-awaited meeting with Yixin. Not only was Anna being tempted with power beyond imagination, it also had the potential to transform Arendelle forever and redefine her reign and legacy.

Yet the risks and pitfalls were enormous. As if that weren’t enough to mull over, Anna had received a letter shortly after speaking with Yixin. It was an invitation, in which Tiffany asserted that Harrison had, in light of Anna’s ascension to the Exalted’s leadership and her weathering everything he’d thrown at her, forced himself to acknowledge her as an equal.

Yet it wasn’t in the queen of Arendelle’s capacity or her business to completely destroy Harrison. She couldn’t. His assets were transnational and he could sail anywhere, be it Boston, London, or Hong Kong. His opium firm could incorporate anywhere in the world. He could sever ties to his triad associates long before Anna could produce any evidence to anyone that cared. Arendelle’s jurisdiction was much more limited than his business’s mobility.

Continue reading “The Qilin Cabaret: Party the Night Away!”

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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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.

Continue reading “Anna’s Column: My Meeting with the Lotus and Crocus, Part Two”

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

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

By Anna

Hello everyone, from far away across the oceans! My greetings from the British-ruled port colony of Victoria Town, on the Chinese island of Hong Kong.

I’ve had the craziest meeting with Lady Kam. She left an impression I won’t be in a hurry to forget: she’s a tall, willowy woman, whose jet-black hair is done up in an elegant ponytail. Her rich dark eyes sparkle with a thousand secrets, and her smile is at once warm and enigmatic. And she’s told me things that have shaken my very sense of place in the world. My mind is still processing the outrageous things she’s divulged to me. There was one particular secret, related to the elixir of life, that I’m reeling from.

But just as things were getting interesting, we were attacked by a group of terrifying fighters and assassins! Kam said that they’re from the Floodgate triads, who are employed by none other than – you guessed it – Will Harrison. I should’ve seen that scumbag coming, but what unnerved me even more was that just as Elsa moved to protect us all, Lady Kam struck back and subdued our intruders with her own group of hidden bodyguards! They were triads too, but part of the “Lotus and Crocus” – a triad group founded to protect Elsa and me! To protect Arendelle!

I’m still stunned that there are underworld, technically illegal societies that fight for our distant kingdom. What other secrets is Lady Kam hiding?

Want to know more about what I’m up to on the other side of the world? Just read on…

Continue reading “Anna’s Column: My Meeting with the Lotus and Crocus, Part One”

Arendelle and the Fragrant Harbour

“Weaver” by Arute (@ast05water)

Gentle waves licked at the hull of Pride of Elsa as it slowly docked in Victoria Harbour, named after Anna’s fellow sovereign. A wooden plank descended upon a quiet wharf, with very few people around except for a neatly dressed Chinese fellow who stood beside Pride of Elsa, waiting to receive the new arrivals from Arendelle.

This colonial entrepot had been conceded by the Daoguang Emperor to Britain the year Anna was crowned queen. Unlike Portugal or Arendelle, to whom the Chinese emperor had granted generous trading rights, the Qing had hastily thrown Hong Kong Island at Britain, as part of a deal to get the persistent barbarians off their backs for trying to ban opium. Despite its barrenness, the British also wanted the island as a safe harbour at which to do business and dock ships. Curiously, Yixin had done nothing to help his own hapless ruler navigate the complexities of international diplomacy. But then again, back when Yixin controlled the Exalted, Harrison – a China trader and prominent opium dealer – was one of the core members.

Anna strongly suspected that the Celestial Empire’s day-to-day concerns and problems no longer concerned Yixin – if they ever did. And she knew why. The Exalted had always been a means for him to amass the wealth and resources necessary for his true goal.

He was no typical Qing prince regent. There was something unsettling about him. Something about the night. About the supernatural.

“He’s looking for the elixir of life,” she murmured to herself, “and I’m here to help him. To swear fealty to him.”

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Allies of Arendelle: KAM CHIK-LOEI, Comprador of Bjorgman

Featured image “Weaver” by Arute (@ast05water)

You’ve met Will Harrison and Tiffany Hunsecker, Anna’s foes in Asia. Now get to know four of Anna’s closest foreign allies. They come from far away, separated from Arendelle by land and sea. Yet they’re as close to Anna and Elsa as you are, and help protect Arendelle’s international interests. “Allies of Arendelle” features four OCs that assist Anna with her goals in our Emerald Dragon arc: Kam Chik-loei, Tileke, Fujiwara Takako, and Luna de Borbón.

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Kam Chik-loei (金織女)

With a nod of her head, Arendelle prospers. With a snap of her fingers, economies flourish. Making people wealthy is the power of Kam Chik-loei, the richest person in the British-ruled port of Hong Kong. Lady Kam serves as the comprador of the Princely House, Kristoff’s company of Bjorgman. She’s also the secret leader of the Crocus and Lotus, the Arendelle-allied but illegal triad society that’s locked in ongoing turf warfare with Harrison’s criminal allies, the Floodgate gang.

To call her Kristoff’s second-in-command is almost too simple. True, she’s a member of Bjorgman’s executive committee, and she sits on Kristoff’s board. But she’s so much more. She’s the procurement officer. The personnel recruiter. The guarantor. The underwriter. The chief interpreter. This isn’t even where her power is. Her authority comes from being the conduit through which all of Bjorgman’s money passes. There’s no transaction that she doesn’t oversee, no income or expenditure she doesn’t supervise. Depending on her snap judgement, a simple “Okay lah” or “No lah” can mean months of revenue or crippling financial losses. She’s the master of the Chinese world of trade, in which her boss would be lost without her.

Continue reading “Allies of Arendelle: KAM CHIK-LOEI, Comprador of Bjorgman”