Twelve kingdoms of the Dragon Empire, twelve aspects of the cycle.
Five temples, five elements.
Coincidence? Xiao Fa, at least, thinks these things ought to map, and suggests these as possible mappings.
Cycle Animals to Kingdoms
What follows is purest conjecture, but here are mappings of Cycle animals to Kingdoms. This mapping tries to keep seasons within a country of each other. Other mappings could very well be better. This one has the greatest confidence in the mappings in bold. Feel free to comment (Here's the map for reference):
- Bear (Iron Mountain pka Bear Mountain): While slow and ungraceful, the large and powerful bear endures his trials until his enemies foolishly move within his grasp. This one feels straightforward.
- Dog (Qin Chao Steppes pka Steppes of the Watchdog): Loyal, dependable, and self-sacrificing, dogs make the best soldiers and bodyguards. As the kingdom that defends the Empire, the loyal dog seems a good choice.
- Crane (Roof of the World pka Cranesflight Heights): Graceful and precise, the crane prefers to keep its distance and strike from afar. Popular among weapons fighters. The Roof is remote and high, which suggests Crane to me.
- Tiger (Savanna of Tears pka Savanna of Tigers): Fierce, straight-forward. Preferring the attack to defense. A favorite among martial artists.
- Tortoise (Illuminated Precincts pka Tortoiseshell Precincts): The wise and thoughtful tortoise is a natural choice for loremasters, sages, and teachers of all stripes. The learned nature of the Precincts seems right for this. Maybe Roof of the World (many teachers/ masters), Savanna of Tears (training ground).
- Monkey (Forest of Chin pka Monkeypuzzle Forest): Quick and unpredictable, the monkey is easy to find, but hard to catch. Flamboyant and without care for the opinions of others.
- Butterfly (Butterfly Kingdom): With little care for this world, the spirit of the butterfly touches those focused on another. The best artists, poets, dancers and musicians are of the butterfly. Again, this one seems like a giveaway.
- Phoenix (Shrouded Isle pka Phoenix Hearth (ppka Whalesong Archipeligo)): The ethereal Phoenix is master of forces few understand. Sorcerers, monks and monsters can all be touched by the firebird.
- Serpent (Strand pka Serpentine): The serpent is shy, preferring to hide and watch rather than confront - or strike in surprise from hiding. Healers, herbalists, and the collectors of secrets share the nature of the serpent.
- Fox (Jade Taiga pka Foxruns):Smooth as silk, the fox is a master of words, not weapons. Sly or subtle, the fox will always keep you happy.
- Spider (Hidden City pka The Dragon's Throne): With plans within plans, the spider weaves its web from out of sight. They lead the unwary to a gruesome fate.
- Magpie (Hon'eth Arcade pka Magpie's Treasure): Seldom seen, but often felt, the magpie is a collector, of items, money, and power. Thieves, merchants, and bureaucrats are drawn to the magpie.
Kingdoms to those touched by Cycle Animals?
Is it possible that if something happens to a kingdom, that those touched by the Cycle animal associated with that kingdom will also be affected? If, for example, the Strand gets taken over and its chi corrupted, what would happen to all those touched by Snake?
Party Members to Cycle Animals?
The party has no Bears, Dogs (except for the actual dogs) or Spiders. Wei Han is allied with three cycle animals, or none. Wasn't there a list somewhere of what else we had?
Elements to Temples
Similarly, it seemed clear that the 5 elements mapped to the 5 major temples, as well. This one has nothing but a sense of aesthetics to guide him here, though. As before, feel free to comment and edit.
- Wood/Tree (Selfless Path): Servants of the Selfless Path do not attempt to perfect themselves; they attempt to perfect the world, impossible though that may be. This strikes me as very outwardly directed and nurturing, much like tending a garden might be, and so Selfless Path seems to reflect wood. Also, Wood feeds fire, as selflessness feeds the spirit...
- Fire (The High Path): One suspects that the Ascetics of the High Path are followers of the spiritual fire. Renouncing the indulgences of the body and the mind, seeking only to perfect the spirit. Fire creates earth, and spiritual power can create enlightenment...
- Earth (The Spiral Path): As enlightenment wants stillness and focus, the least mobile element seems well-suited to the least active temple. The Priests of the Spiral Path, through meditation, contemplation, and self-awareness, seek enlightenment. Earth bears metal, so enlightenment supports action...
- Metal (The Ascending Path): Spiritual enlightenment creates a foundation for the use of righteous force, the bywords of the Ascending Path. These monks seek to perfect themselves in both spirit and body and use their gifts in the world. Metal carries Water, speeding its way in the world...
- Water (Wandering Path): ...So perfection of internal pursuits leads almost inevitably to pursuit of the external. Water wanders constantly, like the Seekers of the Wandering Path. Also, we know that water nourishes wood in the same way that interacting with the world can nourish the impulse to selflessness...
The whole "each animal gets to have a year with 2 of its months" thing is just to compensate for there being no Dragon anymore. Each aspect needed to contribute its part of the Dragon nature, which would mean that every 12 years, at the end of a greater cycle (each aspect having contributed once), something cool or interesting is able to happen.
Assuming the Tao is the same universally, perhaps the Northern realms suffer from an excess of Yin (e.g. the undead) and the Southern realms suffer from an excess of Yang (although the only evidence for this so far is the excessive plant growth near the southern Wall). Alternatively, an excess of Yang could animate corpses while an excess of Yin could translate into favorable conditions for immobile life (i.e., plants). The Empire traditionally has balanced its Chi between Yin and Yang.
It's also notable that the empire seems to have pinched off bits of the terrains of the northern and southern barbarians (Qin Chao and the Strand, respectively), perhaps to anchor the empire's chi to the world surrounding it?
A dodecahedron has twelve faces. Each face is a pentagon.
The 30 edges of a dodecahedron can be colored with five colors such that if we assign elements to the colors, each possible ordering of the elements corresponds to a single face. So if we assign an aspect of the cycle to each face, then each aspect is associated with a given pair of cyclical sequences of elements. For example, sorcery uses a creative cycle Earth-Metal-Water-Wood-Fire, which would correspond to one aspect, say the Phoenix. Its destructive reverse Fire-Wood-Water-Metal-Earth would correspond to the same aspect. The other cycle used in sorcery is the destructive Earth-Water-Fire-Metal-Wood, and then it and its reverse would correspond to another aspect, maybe the Rabbit.
We might expect the positions of the faces on the dodecahedron to roughly correspond to the geographic positions of their respective countries. There are several ways to unfold it into a net, so it could be difficult to determine this relationship.
Cycles Within Cycles
A cycle (as opposed to The Cycle) is a set of thirteen years. The current cycle is the cycle of the Spider; we are in the first year of that cycle.
The first Bear emperor ascended to the throne at the start of a cycle of the Bear. The dynasty lasted just under 169 years, ending towards the end of the next Bear cycle.
Is there such a thing as a great cycle, i.e. a cycle of cycles? If so, it's tempting to call that the great cycle of the Bear. Upon further Astrological consideration, it appears that there is such a thing as a great cycle, but the Bear reign was not in fact a great cycle of the bear, but the closest thing to it crossing the great cycles of other aspects. If we label things that way we are currently in the last year of the cycle of the Fox within the great cycle of the Tiger, assuming my math is correct. So what great cycle are we in currently and what drove the timing of the fall of the Dragon Emperors?
According to Master Zhou's calculations, we are in the Great Cycle of the Spider. So at the end of the year, we will go from the day of the Fox, the month of the Fox, the year of the Fox, the Cycle of the Fox, to the day of the Spider, the month of the Spider, the year of the Spider, the Cycle of the Spider, and the Great Cycle of the Spider. The last day of this year will be a particularly auspicious time to end a plan that is touched by the Fox. The first day of next year will be an incredibly auspicious time for plans that are touched by the Spider.
It's probably safe to expect lots of trouble from Spiders in the near future.
Master Zhou's astrological pondering leads him to believe there is such a thing as a Great Great Cycle, i.e., of 2197 years, but that it is slow enough that its effects are probably mostly environmental. He doesn't think the world is old enough to have gone through a whole cycle of Great Great Cycles yet. --Justom 22:32, 27 November 2009 (EST)
From the information gleaned during the run on the Shrouded Isle, the Cycle began with the year/Cycle/Great Cycle/etc. of the Dragon, and this is currently the third Great Cycle of the Dragon/Spider. That means we're currently in the Great Great Cycle of the Magpie, and the current year is 4213. --Justom 17:21, 17 May 2010 (EDT)
Integrity of the Cycle
This is wild speculation, even wilder than most of what goes before. This now seems more solid.
Has the Cycle as we know it always been the same? In particular, have the same twelve aspects always composed the Cycle? Is it possible that, for example, a spidery demon somehow usurped the position of one of the original twelve spirits? They say that the aspects are "shards" of the Dragon, but what if that's just a cover story for the replacement of the Dragon by the Spider?
It seems there was once a Great Whale Spirit: Travelling with the Butterfly Prince: Conclusion#Forgotten Prayers.
Master Kwan feels that while there may be another way to achieve balance in the Cycle, twelve is well-balanced. Six would leave the seasons unbalanced against each other; sixteen would be a very long year. Eleven would be very bad, terribly unbalancing. --Justom 13:54, 7 May 2010 (EDT)
The Cycle and Empire History
I've put together some Astrological Notes about where and in what cycle things in the history happened. As of Phoenix Hearth we know that when the Phoenix replaced the Whale in the cycle this accidentally made the cycle breakable. Oops. Maybe a cycle later the last Dragon Emperor dies. Oops again. I'm thinking that these two things look suspiciously related. Also suspiciously looking related is the "seven generation" reign of the Regency Council, which is looking suspiciously like it took over at about the time the Spider punted the Dragon from the cycle. Oops. Fix the cycle and I'm betting we can at least get some kind of Emperor back on the throne. Elizabeth 16:27, 20 May 2010 (EDT)
There are currently 13 talismans out there, one for each of the current cycle spirits, plus the dragon one. In order to punt the spider back out of the cycle we need as many as we can get, and we must have both the spider and dragon talismans. Current knowledge is that the Great Talisman of the Spider is in the Hidden City in the possession of the Marked, and that Kar Fai has the Great Talisman of the Dragon. We have the Great Talisman of the Butterfly, Zhao Feiyan has the Great Talisman of the Fox, the Song of the Phoenix has the Great Talisman of the Phoenix, and the Magpie one seems to be in the Hon'eth Arcade.
My guess is that the best place to start looking for the other Talismans is in the kingdom associated with the cycle animal in question. For example, the Great Talisman of the Tiger is probably in the Savanna. Elizabeth 16:40, 24 May 2010 (EDT)
We know what two of the Talismans do. The Great Talisman of the Butterfly doubles the wearer's Status, and the Great Talisman of the Phoenix doubles the wearers Health and gives the effect that fire heals the wearer. I'm wildly speculating that each of the Talismans doubles some non-Tao stat. My current guess would be:
Some of these are more likely than others. We know what Butterfly and Phoenix do. The Fox and the Crane seem pretty obvious to me. I think the Bear and Dog ones also seem likely; I could see an argument for Bear being resistance, but then there is nowhere likely for Dog, since dogs are described as being 'self-sacrificing'. I put Tortoise in for Intelligence because of the Tortoise-Illuminated Precints-Sages connection. I put Monkey in for Dexterity since the enlightened monkeys all seem to have sneak skills which are mostly dex-based. That leaves the remaining physical stat of Energy for Tiger, which seems like a likely pairing. Then there are the three I have least confidence in, Serpent, Magpie and Spider. I put Serpent in for Grace, since serpents seem to be good and keeping secrets, and grace is the stat you'd use to collect and not give away secrets in most cases. Wits seemed the most Magpie-like, and that left Resolve and Spider. Actually, I like Resolve-Dragon as a pairing, and since Phoenix replaced the Whale and Health-Whale makes more sense that Health-Phoenix I think that Resolve-Spider isn't a mad combination; you probably have to make your talisman similar to the one of the cycle spirit you're replacing, maybe with some extra color effect to make it plausible, like the 'healed by fire' thing. Elizabeth 16:40, 24 May 2010 (EDT)
- When Jerry and I were guessing about this the other night, we had the Reflex spirits rotated one (Tiger = Accuracy, Crane = Dex, Monkey = Energy), and swapped Tortoise and Spider/Dragon (so Tortoise = Resolve and Spider/Dragon = Int)). I think I still find ours slightly more plausible, but it certainly could be this way. Charles 17:14, 24 May 2010 (EDT)
- Jerry mentioned to me that you did a connections reading on some of these and got some more information. I've bolded the ones I know are true on the table. If you could make appropriate edits or notes when you have time that would be great. Elizabeth 13:51, 4 June 2010 (EDT)
Given that I was wrong about Crane being Accuracy since the connections reading confirms that is Tiger, I swapped the reflexes column to the Jerry/Charles version. I also swapped Bear and Dog since the reading told us that Bear is not Strength. I still like the Tortoise for Int since the Exalted Library is in the Illuminated Precincts, but I could certainly see Dragon as Int as well. Actually, I could see Dragon as almost any stat. I think we really need to find the Magpie Talisman if we want to fill this in more. It seems like it'll be the best one to just nab, and knowing what it does will narrow the other choices. Elizabeth 10:57, 9 June 2010 (EDT)
The so-called "Great Spirit of the Spider" is not an actual spirit, but a skinwalking demon. But what about the real (non-Great) Spirit of the Spider? Wouldn't any common animal have its own totem spirit? Where the heck is that guy? Xian 12:52, 4 June 2010 (EDT)
Note that Aku is not just pretending to be a Spider Spirit, he's wearing the skin of a Spider Spirit... probably a fairly powerful one, at that. There are likely other spider spirits around still, as there are animal spirits other than the ones in the Cycle. --Justom 17:32, 9 June 2010 (EDT)