The Central Empire

Seeking Narcissa

Straddling the East of our world from the frozen northern borders to the lush tropical mangroves of the south the Central Empire stands as witness to the continuation of human habitation on this planet. The chronicles do not go far enough back in history to accurately state when their existence as a culture began, but the legends do the myths justice. Upon mountaintop and in cave valley deep symbols in languages no longer decipherable bear witness to the longevity and survival of a people who call this land home. From the dragon sagas of the peaks to the magical wars of the striding wizards and the philosophical debates that raged from rice paddy to palace hall, there is as much fable as truth in Centralese culture. Emperors and warlords from far and wide have expanded, retracted and defended the borders, absorbing new peoples into their rich melting pot and creating vibrant and mysterious new ways. Naturally, all long-standing empires eventually fall prey to envious outside forces who demand a piece of the wonton, and it was not uncommon over the millennia for those in royal circles attempting to organise a counter-coup, only to discover the people had turned against them and were even now lighting their torches. This resulted in many major dynasties springing up and sharpening their fans and even though the names changed, somehow the everyday doings of ordinary folk remained largely the same which allowed for a world famous cuisine to develop and for artisans to really get stuck into those sweeping stuccoes and dragon motifs that have proven so popular up and down the land. At long last, the dust must settle and a somewhat stable dynasty sat upon the peacock throne. If by stable every queen aims to have 17 babies so that once the fratricidal storms have calmed, at least one is left living to hopefully procreate and frighten the eunuchs. Enter the Song dynasty; a long line of emperors that sat upon the throne for varying amounts of time, slowly digesting magnificent meals while the artisans, farmers and everyday folk propagated across a calm and peaceful land. Eventually, the outside world became aware of this strange and yet powerful place and more importantly, the fabulous silks and materials that hung off every peasant's door. For the newly crowned and essentially bankrupt kings and queens of Europe, invading was a costly and logistical nightmare since their borders were still cooling from the last war. Emissaries and self-funded merchants instead set off to find the quickest route and hopefully trade some pasta for something they had heard were called noodles. It was a very long way indeed, and the Centralese emperors in their jade and gold lined slippers were not too bothered by these large eyed, pasty white people with dubious teeth. The Centralise merchants, however, saw a potential killing in exporting the excessive amounts of fabric and objets d'art that such a large population had been firing in their kilns and established the first trade routes sending home Europeans and Middle Easterners their pockets empty but their mules piled high with what mum kept in the back bedroom meaning to throw out. They grew rich in money and the rest of the world grew rich in misconceptions of culture. It was a happy balance that enabled entire civilisations to spring up on route and master the finer points of the greatest evil ever known to man: taxation. Huge piles of money regularly changed hands but kept the world and its tyrants turning.

Such are the distances between East and West that where complacency and dormancy sets in one side fecundity and progress festers in the other until ambition outstrips all reason or morality and begins to hunt what was once an ally. So too did the great Western European powers see in the sleeping dragons of the Central Empire a chance for glory if glory herself was nothing but a fettered whore. Political intrigue, derision, division and the introduction of perfumed narcotics laid waste to the merchant class who so industriously ran an empire and opened the battered door to poisonous influence and westernisation. The European powers battled it but none of them were a match for the British Sir soon to be Lord who tied the Emperor up in political chains and side stepped the throne to declare it under the protection of those who had broken it in the first place. An opium-addled hand stamped the seal upon the parchment that reduced a vibrant 3000-year-old nation to a vassal state of the corpulent British Empire. The doors to the city closed and the harbours and ports rang high with the sound of many tongues and peculiarities, and the Centralese wondered what had happened. But, this is a land of fire and illusion. She sleeps but she does not slumber.