Art by Mixa. From artstation.com
The news from the Celestial Empire was grim. The expedition to Khara-Khoto had failed. Months of intelligence gathering by Arendelle’s agents, discreet dealmaking in the back streets and private tea rooms of Chinese cities between Anna’s intermediaries and mercenary trekkers and explorers, and finally, leveraging the influence of Kristoff’s Bjorgman House among friendly Qing officials whose coffers were enriched by trade with Arendelle to turn a blind eye to a foreign-funded expedition in Manchu-ruled territory.
All of that. Wasted.
Anna’s top commanders, Mattias and Hilde, delivered the grim news to the queen in her throne room, standing several feet from the royal as they announced the ramifications.
“Fortunately, Lady Kam, being the careful businesswoman that she is, covered her tracks carefully. She outsourced the retrieval of the bodies of Yelu and Arban to the Qing authorities,” said General Mattias, reading from his notes. He winced. “It was a complete disaster, Anna. I’m so sorry.”
“And, of course, Kam had to lobby hard to stop them from executing Babuhai, to keep his silence. Far easier for the governing Manchus to wipe this failed exercise from all records, leaving the three trekkers to be forgotten by everyone,” added Hilde, her hands behind her back as she stood at attention.
Continue reading “Ghosts of Vengeance: Return to Haunt You”
Follow the search for the elixir of life here
The Gobi Desert. Late afternoon
In the scorching region of Khara-Khoto, amidst a town of eerie structures that had been abandoned centuries ago, several shrouded figures were huddled around a campsite, their visors screening their eyes from the inhospitable howling of tempestuous wind.
“Is this the place, Yelu?” shouted one of the trekkers. “We’ve been trying to get here for weeks.”
“Yes. The City of Black Water, called Etzina in the writings of Marco Polo, that Venetian explorer. There are whispers,” cried the other called Yelu, over the screaming wind and holding up his scarf to stop too much sand from flying into his mouth. He paused, mindful not to gasp or panic, or else his mouth would be filled with even more grit. “That this could be the place. The place where a fragment of the elixir of life is located.”
Continue reading “Ghosts of Vengeance: Khara-Khoto”
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.
Continue reading “GANG WAR: The Lotus and Crocus versus the Floodgate!”
Featured image art “The New Exalted” by Arute (@ast05water)
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.
Continue reading “Postcard from Anna: From Harbour to Heartland”
Featured image “Emerald Dragon” by Arute (@ast05water)
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”
Featured image “Emerald Dragon” by Arute (@ast05water)
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”
“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.”
Continue reading “Arendelle and the Fragrant Harbour”
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.
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”
Featured image “The New Exalted” by Arute (@ast05water)
By Fitch, Politics Reporter for The Arendelle Guardian
There was a palpable mix of pride and anxiety as Arendellian citizens gathered at the docks to send off their queen, who finished packing last night and is now aboard her flagship, Pride of Elsa. In her most recent column in the Sunday edition of The Arendelle Guardian, Anna reassured the kingdom that her upcoming voyage was a trip of goodwill among Arendelle’s allies in Asia: in particular, the Great Qing Empire (known to most as the Celestial Empire), the British port colony of Hong Kong, and the Shogunate of Japan.
The queen leads an entourage of friendly heads of state and senior figures connected to the royal household: Elsa the Snow Queen, Kristoff, her husband-to-be and managing director of Bjorgman, Queen Colisa of Chatho, and the mysterious English-born diplomat working for the Chinese imperial household, Peony Sinclair. Anna has left the running of day-to-day affairs in the hands of her prime minister, Vi, while other major matters are tended to by people she trusts, like Michael and Alan or Mattias.
Rumour is rife among the press that Anna has private objectives that she’s declined to disclose to the public. The Arendellian military, led by General Mattias, has gone out of its way to call this trip “of utmost importance of national security,” using this as a pretext to avoid questions about why so much of the outing will be focused on Peking, the capital city of the Celestial Empire.
Continue reading “Cheers and tears as Queen Anna sets sail for China”
By Gudrun, World Affairs Reporter for The Arendelle Guardian
HONG KONG; ARENDELLE – In a mysterious disaster for Kristoff’s ice subsidiary, Bjorgman’s Asian branch in the colonial port of Hong Kong was burned to the ground in the middle of the night several days ago. The suspects remain unknown and at large.
The British authorities, with local Chinese community leaders, have decried foul play, but no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility.
The Celestial Empire is one of the largest markets for Kristoff’s business, where quality ice is popular among wealthy Chinese and non-Chinese merchants and British governing officials. Ice is also in demand by hospitals and other strongholds of science and medicine. So important is ice to the Hong Kong elite that the colonial authorities founded Ice House Street, a one-way street for companies in the ice trade to set up shop, including Kristoff’s.
Continue reading “ARSON ON ARENDELLIAN PROPERTY: Kristoff’s ice branch in Hong Kong destroyed by fire”