Serial Setting 2 ~ Week 12

The Casting Shadows blog’s second Serial Setting appears in weekly installments scheduled for a 6-month run which is now half over. This series is focused on providing basic details for heroic pulp adventures for the Ubiquity Roleplaying System as presented in Hollow Earth Expedition. These ideas, set in a fictionalized and mysticized 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.

12  The Cave Mural – Golden Shells, and Hollow Men

In the maze of caves behind Samguk Sa there are numerous murals, paintings, and carvings of spiritual and instructive nature. Many of the locals enjoy the opportunity to look a the more easily accessed and more familiar ones, but in truth few of the works have ever really been examined by anyone but monks. As with so many things, there are many who look, but so few who see.

One in particular, a mural assembled over a life-time of effort from hand painted bits of sea shells fitted snugly into hand-carved spots on the cave wall, depicts a huge golden egg or shell with a world nestled inside it. This shell appears to be inside the open chest of a man, where the heart would be. The mouth of the figure is pressed firmly shut, but the reflection of the golden shell can be seen reflected in its eyes.

The cave itself is shaped like a teardrop, with the mural occupying the large curving wall of the bottom of the tear. The narrow upper end of the tear is much less smooth, and rocky projections and undulations of the stone walls cast long, dancing shadows in torchlight. In the middle of the cave, but slightly nearer to the mural than to the actual center of the whole area is a brazier suitable for burning coals for light and heat. When lit, it brings the mural to glittering life, while casting the entryway in darkness. These shadows hide all detail of the entrance. The allure of the mural has the same effect – drawing one’s eye away from the way in.

Not far from the entrance, hidden but from the sharpest eyes [Perception, Difficulty 5] is a narrow crack which will present significant challenges to a Size 0 or larger person or creature trying to pass through. With a calm mind, agility, and maybe some shed skin, the narrowness of the passage can be overcome after a painful and awkward sidelong journey on a downward angle of nearly almost 2km. Even those not bothered by tight places may have issues with such a challenge. At the end of the passage the fissure widens out into a vast cavern that could best be described as a bottomless pit. Perhaps a vast lava tube, or just a pocket of nothing, it would seem to extend down into darkness forever…

Sohn Il-Gu, caretaker and resistance leader

Il-Gu, Sohn could have been many things in life, but chose to take care of the monks. He made this decision early in life, and as he has grown has come to learn many things, not the least of which was that he was not destined to be a monk himself. As a child, he traded service for learning; martial art, languages, music. As a man he trades service for food and peace of mind. In his heart of hearts he wishes he could freely give service rather than trade it, but he is trapped in the basic realities of the world, and cannot escape. He believes the true monks possess the means to escape.

Il-Gu, given a meaningless name constructed of two numbers (1,9) by his grandfather, has never approached the world like other people. He looks for meaning where others see none, and ignores those places where others look first. As a child he came to find this mural, and then not much later, he came to find his way to the room of the endless void. Its emptiness has shaped him. The secrets which sometimes come out of it, have shaped him even more. Sharing the experience with fellow resistance leader Kwon Oh-Dok refined him into the man he is today. While he presents the face of a servant to the world, he is in truth, a knight. As boys the two explored many of the pathways below the surface of the world, and in so doing, came to see the surface through different eyes. When they learned the truth of the mural, and their own preconceptions, they became men.

Il-Gu has become a very spiritual man, and has lost his fear of this world. He is burdened with a fear for it, however, and cannot rest until he feels it is safe. He is of average height and weight, perhaps a little thin, with hard, wiry muscles. His face is unlined, featuring neither smile nor frown lines, but his dark eyes are bright with intelligence and humour. He is open to all people that he meets, but will allow them to separate themselves from him if they prove to be allied with the forces that make men sick, and cruel.

Il-Gu is extremely hardy (Tough) and intelligent (Calculated Attack (melee)/Defense, and always knows where he is (Direction Sense). He has never married, nor entertained the idea of having a family, despite the deep pull in him to nurture the young and watch others learn about the wonders of the world. He is not able to articulate the reasons for this, but a part of it is the subjugation of his nation, and the evil men that lair in the valley, and prowl the mountains looking for the secrets he knows they must not find.

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