Serial Setting 2 ~ Week 8

The Casting Shadows blog’s second Serial Setting has been running once a week for two months, and will continue for another four, providing basic details for heroic pulp adventures for the Ubiquity Roleplaying System as presented in Hollow Earth Expedition. These ideas, set in a fictional version of the Korean peninsula in 1936, present a community oppressed by faceless enemies and their own countrymen. It will additionally suggest routes, leads, and hooks for GMs to entice groups based elsewhere in the world to get involved.

8 The Golden Boy and the Footprints of Silver –  Greed and Moonlit Secrets prey on weak and strong alike

As far back as the elders can remember, and likely farther for much is lost between generations which discourage questions and enforce rote adherence to what has gone before, children have been awed in their beds by mothers’ tales of the Golden Boy. While children in other parts of what will one day be an even more divisively separated nation laugh and thrill to tales of troll-like creatures with magical clubs and a penchant for teaching important life lessons to the unwise, the children in Samhang hear of the Golden Boy and those foolish folk who follow his silvery footsteps into the mountains, and their inevitable doom. On the surface, it sounds like a parable warning about greed, but it is not. It is an admonishment to be strong. Like any tale, the focus shifts from generation to generation depending on need and the moral climate, but the tale of the Golden Boy is one which remains truer than most, for strength is always needed in a country where times are always hard.

Each family embellishes the tale in their own way, but the tale essentially remains the same.  In the lives of regular folk references to the Golden Boy are made in such a way as to suggest regret for an opportunity lost. A fisherman might bemoan not investing in building an additional boat and hiring an additional crew last winter, when he realizes how plentiful the catches are this spring. “I lost the trail of the Golden Boy,” he might say sadly into his makgol-li (a milky white, rice-based moonshine that regulates the bowels at the cost of producing fine hangovers, but lubricates conversation like nobody’s business).

The Golden Boy is said to appear as a handsome youth in his early teens, made entirely from gold. At times of plenty he is said to appear to those for whom loss or privation is due to fall. If they can catch him they will not go wanting, if they cannot, they will see their neighbors profit at their expense. In some versions of the tale, the footprints of the Golden Boy glitter with flakes of gold, but in most, he leaves a silvery trail that is visible in the moonlight and allows those with the endurance to follow a metal man a chance to track him. Some families tell the tale like a proverb, lacking names and specific events. Others tell it about a character named Stone who caught the Golden Boy and saved the fortunes of his family, by virtue of his indomitable tenacity.

The Tale of Stone

Stone was a loving son, the first of three, and a devoted husband. He was not handsome, nor all that smart, but he worked hard, was always obedient, and refused to give up, no matter how hard life got. One fall, during an incredible harvest where the rice practically jumped into the hands of the farmers, Stone found a trail of silvery footprints across the road leading up to his family home. He did not recognize them for what they were, and continued home where he told his wife and mother about the event. They scolded him for being an idiot, reminded him of the tale of the Golden Boy and the warning he represents, and sent him back out to catch the mysterious visitor.

Lacking a devious nature or really any sort of smarts at all, Stone went straight to the trail of moonlit footprints and began to follow  them – the wrong way. He simply walked along, never once considering that he was going in the direction that the heels were pointing. Grandmothers especially love to tell this tale to children in such a way as to make them cry out with laughter and worry about the fate of poor Stone whose lack of thought made him go the “wrong way.” Great tale tellers can spin this agony out for ages while the story unwinds, but eventually hit the kids with the real point to imprint an important lesson.

Of course, the point of the tale is tenacity above all else, so Stone eventually finds the elusive Golden Boy walking backward up the mountain. He does not ask why the being is walking in this way, he merely walks up and humbly says, “Golden Boy, please help me serve my family and keep them fed and warm in hard times. The Golden Boy, who was walking backward to keep a close eye on where he had been, says to Stone, “I saw you coming, and I am glad to help such a dedicated and determined son as you,” and gives him a bag full of heavy gold nuggets to help him in time of need.

No one gives any thought to this story other than as a good fable, but as with most such long-lived tales it is sourced in a kind of truth.

Gifted Explorers with a strong foundation in history and investigative methods may catch on to the idea that this tale is actually speaking of veins of gold and silver hidden away in a treacherous and misleading part of the mountains. The locals have no idea that such a thing could exist… or perhaps there are one or two who know, and are desperate to keep it a secret?

A member of the military assigned to oversee this region has some reason to suspect the truth, but has no desire to report it to his superiors. In fact, so desirous of secrecy is he, he has reported his suspicions to no one. On his own time, he develops better and better maps of the area, looking for the silvery footsteps of the Golden Boy.

Hisao Inoue, Seeker of Wealth and Keeper of Secrets

Entering his fifties, and finding the struggle to keep fit ever more of a challenge, Rikugun Taii (Captain) Inoue rises with the sun to cleanse his mind, give honour to his ancestors, and to practice the simple sword kata the military exposed him to as a young officer. He does not like running or other forms of calisthenics, but the sweet hiss of steel in the dawn light is like music to his ears.

His thin hair has receded from his forehead, but is unlikely to surrender its hold on the top of his well-shaped head before it turns white. His face is lined with the marks brought on by stern disapproval of almost everything. His eyes are still strong, and there is steel in him. A person opposing the Captain across a negotiation or interrogation table can feel it, and it unmans most. Not fully attached to the command in this area, Inoue is responsible mostly for overseeing companies the empire has consumed, and persuading local scions to see the light of reason and join the emperor willingly, with full voice and commitment.

In his private hours he seeks the gold he grows ever more certain lies in the mountains beyond Samhang. He tries not to think of the Tengu he pretends he did not see in the hills above the monastery.


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