Serial Setting 2 ~ Week 13

The Casting Shadows blog’s second Serial Setting appears in weekly installments scheduled for a 6-month run, now starting its fourth. 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.

13  The Stream of Steam and Flowers – Some secrets sing sweetly

Even though the area around Samhang has been settled for literally thousands of years, life here has never been easy. Without the arduous development of fishing as a major source of food, and the adamantine patience of farmers coaxing life from stone, ongoing survival and community growth here would have been impossible. Because of the level of hardship, once foraging and futile hunting was abandoned in favour of farming and fishing, few have had time to explore all the cruel teeth of the mountains which huddle around the village for warmth, although many starving bellies would say that there has been cause. Dangerous, overrun with gnarled and suffering pines, the upper expanses of the mountains ringing Samhang exist without names and without visitors; well-established as places where cruel starvation makes its home. It is for this reason, that none of the hardy souls of this community are aware of the miracle which could have eased their duress over the long cold centuries since the harbours were first settled.

High in the mountains, in a small valley of shattered rock walls and straggling  undergrowth, a warm river flows, wreathed in soft mist during the summer and energetic steam in the winter. Once known to early settlers as the Stream of Steam and Flowers, the river, which rapidly cools as it flows out of the valley and becomes indistinguishable from the numerous other water sources which flow down toward Samhang, is sweet and pure. In drought or in times of disease, the waters of the river never cease to provide the purest of waters, ensuring the survival of Samhang. Known now to the locals as Samhangcheon (Samhang River), the river banks are walled with stone for several kilometres beyond the town proper, due to the monsoon rain flooding of the summer. During these rains, the river swells five to ten times its normal volume. Some years, it cannot be contained. There are many who assume they know the location of the source of the river, but none living who do.

Issuing from a narrow crack in the floor of a high mountain valley, the Stream of Steam and Flowers flows as warm as bath water from cold and unforgiving rock. From time to time, strange plants, flower petals, and peculiar fish and water creatures come forth with it, soon to wither and die once outside the protection of the valley. The valley is always obscured by the mist, steam, and tropically dense vegetation which fill it.

Recently, in a publication printed at great personal expense by one of the cells in LA, documents and pictures depicting the depredations of the Oppressor got into the hands of soldiers, politicians, and regular Americans in major centers across that nation. One such image showed occupation forces beating a man with rifle butts as he tried to claw his way out of the stone river channel. Most viewers fixate on the blood streaming down his face, but less passionate observers note that incongruity of the river being full of enormous flowers while the brutal violence is being perpetrated on its banks. The few learned men among those dispassionate observers marvelled at the sight of flowers unknown to the botanical sciences. Even fewer recognize them as flowers not seen since the great lizards roamed across the Earth. Still fewer know these are flowers from the Earth within the Earth.

Could it be that an access point can be found in the mountains of Korea?

Ryu Jangpil, charming outdoorsman,

Life, no matter how hard, has a way of softening for Jangpil, Ryu. Charismatic, easygoing, and attractive, he finds it easy to live with people, enjoy and get along with his neighbors, stay on the good size of the annexation forces, and stay solvent in trying times. Jangpil has become adept at mechanical repair and maintenance, and his cheerful demeanour have enabled him to win the trust of the military overseer, and with it, the time, money, and freedom to benefit from their presence. Only able to remember a time before the soldiers came from the tales of his parents and grandparents, now gone, Jangpil has no particular attachment to how things used to be. He just wishes things to be good now and in the future. He speaks fluent Japanese and passable Chinese and French, but keeps these latter skills to himself for fear of being sent off with the armed forces to some awful place where they might prove useful to line troops.

Whenever possible, Jangpil spends his time walking in the foothills, and sketching what he sees. He is not an artist, but he can represent what he sees with a steady hand and competent technical skills. If anyone were to be recommended to act as a guide for strangers to Samhang, it would be him. Short, with a meaty trunk and short limbs, Jangpil is in the prime of health. He has a mouth full of strong teeth, a habit of smiling, and a sparkle in his eye.

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