Mèng Pó (The Soldier)

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[[Soldier2/TwoOfSwords{{!}}Mèng Pó (The Soldier)]]
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Name

Mèng Pó

Also Known As

Madame Willow

on MUX as

(Unknown. Please set this!)

Archetype

The Soldier

Occupation

Apothecarist

Apparent Age

Mid-20s (Mèng Pó)
Late 30s-Early 40s (Madame Willow)

Played By

Florence Faivre
Maggie Cheung (Carnival)

Faction Membership

Artisans, Craftsmen and Vendors
Apothecary & Tea Room
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四季歌 (Song of the Four Seasons)

秋季到来荷花香 大姑娘夜夜梦家乡

醒来不见爹娘面 只见床前明月光

冬季到来雪茫茫 寒衣做好送情郎

血肉筑成长城长 奴愿做当年小孟姜

"Wandering Chinaman" - Charlie Chin

I left my home and my parents

At the age of twenty-one

In a family of eight children

I was the youngest son

Little choice was left to me

But to go to a foreign land

Oh who will mourn the passing

Of this wandering Chinaman?


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Duty to family, to honor, and to self, in that order. The Soldier understands that they are but one cog in an expansive machine and are willing to accept that their own comforts may be superseded by the needs, and whims, of a greater vision. Adaptable to ever-changing circumstances yet decisive in times of need, they will push forward doggedly in the name of their purpose. And if they lose that purpose, they will find another to fill the void. The arrow always points forward for The Soldier. Regret cannot be in their vocabulary.

You are a cog in a bigger machine, and you do your duty. You may not be an actual warrior every story, but you serve in your own way and follow orders. It's what you were born to do.


Role in Carnival

Coming To America

Han Dynasty China

孟婆. Lady Dream. Guardian of the Last Gate. These are some the names given to the deity who served in Dìyù, where the souls of the dead gather to atone for their sins committed in life.

It was Mèng Pó's duty to wipe clean the memories of each spirit in preparation for their reincarnation. Hers was an act of mercy as much it was an act of requirement; if not for her, each renewed soul on earth would become ever more burdened by the knowledge of their past follies and the grueling punishments they had endured in the ten realms of the underworld.

To this end she brewed an enchanted tea made from a mysterious blend of herbs, flowers and waters to give to all passing souls. A single sip would be all that was necessary for the deed, eradicating memories so thoroughly that the drinker would lose even the ability to speak. Then, and only then, would the soul be ready to cross the bridge to reincarnation, a purified vessel for the new life that awaits them on earth.

Mèng Pó served her people for over two thousand years in this way, ensuring that no other would be burdened as she* had been while the wheel of life turns.

*For comments on her origins, see Additional Notes & Miscellany below.

Gold, Iron, Blood

The first large wave of Chinese immigrants to the United States arrived in the mid-1800s after the First and Second Opium Wars, comprised largely of young men hailing from Kwangtung Province. They had caught wind of the opportunities that awaited them across the ocean. Laborers were needed, and labor they could provide.

In the 1850s they came to California to work the gold mines. In the 1860s they braved freezing winters and scorching summers to blast through imposing granite rock, fell trees, and lay tracks for the Central Pacific Railroad through the infamous Sierra Nevada. Unknown numbers of these men died to explosions, accidents, disease, and landslides.

It was one of these laborers who called her to the New World--a "John Chinaman" bleeding from stumps that were once his legs, blown off by the dynamites that he himself had lit along the precarious mountainside. He raged at his fellow workers who did not lift him away fast enough in his basket, and raged that he should die so far from his wife and children, and raged against his lot in life that brought him to these strange lands in the first place. Then he began to cry, wishing for his mother's comforting hand and a heavenly kindness that the next life would not be so cruel.

Thus Mèng Pó came to him, conjured from the deep in the recesses of his mind that still remembered stories of what comes after death. She knelt by his side and held his head in her lap, murmuring words of calm to ease the agony of his final minutes. When at last he succumbed to his wounds she found his soul not too far away, and she was there to greet him with a smile.

He was left behind, as so many were in the wake of the project's time-pressed ambition. Mèng Pó stayed long enough to watch the vultures settle over his body; then she began to follow the tracks that lay ahead, for she could hear others calling.

Carnival of Wonders

Mèng Pó has settled into an unobtrusive role with the caravan since she and the Carnival found one another in the outskirts of New York City, a far cry from who she was in the prime. As Madame Willow she runs the apothecary jointly with Hypnos, plying her trade in Chinese herbalism with a dash of sensational Eastern myth and decadence to entertain the masses who have only ever heard whispers of the faraway lands. Her presence has altered the space such that it is now a strange amalgamation of East and West, where absinthe and pu'erchá, snake oil and "snake oil" coexist in odd harmony. And on her own she runs a small tea room that remains out of the way from much of the carnival proper.

Of course, the apothecary itself serves largely as a front for less legal goods behind the curtains. The opium den has not been entirely spared from her touch, though only with Hypnos' assent; the smoke-filled tent is his domain, undoubtedly, and she but a familiar guest.

(WIP)

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Madame Willow

Mèng Pó’s front as the enigmatic, soft-voiced matron of the tearoom and co-proprietor of the apothecary. The face that she prefers to present to the mortal world.

Procurer of Exotic Goods: Her expertise lies in natural goods from the Far East. Do you have sudden need of deer antler velvet? Black henbane, to see spirits? Datura seeds to ease your pain, or perhaps to exact delirious revenge on another? Snake venom? Tiger pelt? She will find all these things for you and more, at an appropriate price.

Green Thumb: She enjoys tending to her little collection of plants, though the task of keeping them alive grows ever more difficult.

Madame Willow: She runs the carnival's "apothecary" with Hypnos, and comprises the half of the duo who is in fact able to lend a sense of authenticity to the enterprise. Behind this the opium den can exist in relative comfort, an open secret to those who seek the hazy decadence within.

Join Me For Tea?: Tucked away in a quiet corner of the carnival is a tiny tent with a simple wooden sign inscribed with "茶室"--tearoom. It is a small plush space only big enough to accommodate a single wooden table and three chairs. It is not very popular, but people can occasionally be seen wandering in, having heard rumors of a lady from the Orient who will listen to your worries and lamentations over a wonderful pot of tea for as long as you need, for as much as you are willing and able to pay. She may not be able to provide solutions to what burdens you, but you will surely leave the tent feeling the spring in your steps again. It's like magic, they say.

Sheet

Brawn: Poor
- Delicate (Negative)

Fine-boned and not one to do well with backbreaking work. Not to say that she won't pull her weight where she can of course, but the reality is that her weight may not be worth very much. Her expertise lies in less visible areas.
Finesse: Good
+ Graceful (Positive)

Her movements are graceful, deft, and calculated, aged with the patina of millennia.
- Deliberate (A Kinder Word For "Kind Of Slow") (Negative)

Sometimes the situation calls for someone to do something with great force or speed. The wise person knows not to call Mèng Pó to a such a situation.
Brains: Normal
+ Keen Eyes (Positive)

Some souls were understandably fearful to lose their memories when the time came. Mèng Pó was vigilant in her watch for those who tried to evade her on the path to reincarnation, and legends say that the only man to have avoided the taste of her tea was the Buddha himself. Very rarely, a young child who is oddly knowledgeable or speaks unnaturally soon is whispered to have somehow escaped the worst of her magic and retained parts of their prior life--but those are exceptional occurrences indeed.
Spirit: Good
+ Enduring (Positive)

Her people are young and struggling to find foothold in this new land, and she will endure for them. Sheer determination is what keeps her tethered to this unwelcoming world where belief has become thin and brittle.
+ Calming Presence (Positive)

Something about her can be soothing to others. Her presence can dull the worst of an ugly rage or ease the chest-tight throb of heartache. Not always of course, for it all depends upon the person to be affected. But the uncanny phenomenon does seem to follow her around more frequently than not.

Perks and Quirks

+ Minor Power: Faded Memories

Mèng Pó still holds the power to fragment a person's memories, though she can no longer erase them completely. Details can be washed over, the clarity of faces dulled, the accuracy of dialogue smudged. She can even distance someone from the emotions they associate with a memory to the point of utter indifference. The effect she can exert is dependent upon how much must be altered: given the same amount of time, a short memory can be more thoroughly manipulated than having to hastily rummage through several years' worth. (Brains)
+ Minor Power: Catharsis

She can induce a cathartic state in people with her touch, releasing them from fear, anger, pain, or whatever intense emotion they may be holding on to at that moment. (Spirit)
+ Shapeshifter: Human

Certainly a useful ability. She dislikes changing faces more than she must, however, and so her repertoire is narrow.
+ Cult

Mèng Pó's followers are a ragtag group of people who sought her solace and reprieve. Each of them stay with the hopes that the next life will be kinder than this one, and that their deity will be able to guide them when the time comes.
- Minor Weakness: Ginseng

Ginseng has been used in Oriental medicine for centuries and is a staple in every Chinese medicine chest, except for Mèng Pò's. She will avoid eating or drinking anything that has been touched with the root, much less the root itself. Fortunately for her, ginseng is not so widely used in the United States. But the panax quinquefolius grows native to the continent and it is just as dangerous to her as its cousins in East Asia.
- Archaic Mind

Mèng Pó is a being born of tradition, and the rapid societal and technological changes of the last several decades have been difficult for her. Beastly loud cars and trains unsettle her, and electric lightbulbs are no more explicable than the very real magic of gods and monsters. She will catch herself speaking various Chinese dialects in modes that have been out of fashion for decades, if not centuries, given the chance to speak her native tongue. And she will make a point to set a bowl of rice on the table whenever possible, for a meal is never complete without one.
- Superstitious

  • Don't give any clock or timepiece to her, even if it's just in a "hang on to this for a moment" sort of way. She'll shove it right back into your hands or promptly dispose of it.
  • She might insist from time to time that your door face south, in order to invite good luck.
  • 4 (四 sì) is an unlucky number as it is a near homophone with the word for death (死 sǐ). She'll avoid associating with the number whenever possible, including avoiding groupings of four (of anything). Maybe bring this to her attention if she overlooks it by accident. Or don't? (In better days she would not have been bothered by such things, given who she is. But recent years have been trying for her as they have been for most of the surviving old gods, and she is not inclined to tempt fate.)
  • It's bad form to stick chopsticks upright into a bowl of food or to leave a single chopstick laying around.
  • White is the color of mourning. Funerals should end with a meal elsewhere to disperse the negative energy before going home.
  • To be continued?
- Diurnal

Once, sleep was of no consequence to her. Death did not rest, and neither did she. But her powers are not what they once were. Now, like so many of the plants that she cares for and uses in her work, Mèng Pó's activity waxes and wanes with the movements of the sun.

Gallery

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This is a gathering of the uprooted, disenfranchised and disowned, of those perhaps hopeful that the next turn of the cycle will be more fortunate than it has been for this life. They came to seek the solace that Mèng Pó could provide, and for reasons that each call their own, they are the handful who decided to stay.

She is not a familiar deity to those who never grew up with stories of Dìyù and the brew of oblivion. As such virtually all of her believers in the United States are Chinese immigrants or their descendants. Still, there are some who have come to know her in other, less predictable ways.

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"Joe" Zhou È

Role: Opium Den "Bouncer"
Age: 34
Played by: John Lone

Working for one of the Chinatown tongs as a (rather un-Cantonese, un-Toishanese) hatchetman was rough business that earned him a bum leg and plenty of scars by the age of seventeen--but it was the Spanish flu that very nearly did him in. Mèng Pó found him as one of the many afflicted in New York City, feverish and shaking such that he would likely not be long for this world. She kept watch over him as he wandered between life and death, and Joe initially dismissed her presence as a delirious apparition. Yet she persisted even through the improbable breaking of his rigors, and when he came to his senses he realized he could not deny that something supernatural had visited him.

Joe took this as a sign of redemption. In his near-death he had been granted a rare second chance at life, and he would not squander such a rare blessing. It would be several years until a dying fellow boo how doy crossed his path with Mèng Pó's for a second time. He held on tightly to her presence there, long enough to tell her that he had been cleaning his act, distancing himself from the more criminal workings of the tong (certainly by no easy feat). And he told her that he owed this life to her name. In doing so, he became her first follower.

When time came for Mèng Pó to join the Carnival, there was no question that Joe would go with her too. His life on the road is quieter than it was before--certainly less violent, if still on the more illicit side of things. There admittedly isn't very much to bounce in an opium den, but it keeps him near his deity and he nevertheless keeps careful watch, vigilant for the possibility that anything untoward might happen to those who lay within.

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Mabel Kwan

Role: Musician, Apothecary Clerk
Age: 25
Played by: Gong Li

(Blurb coming soon.)

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Sun

Role: Fixer-Upper, Shooting Gallery
Age: 19
Played by: Kim Taeri

She only ever introduces herself as Sun, though she is hard-pressed to be as radiant in demeanor as the name would imply. Word has it that she was an independence fighter from Joseon forced to flee under threat of execution when Japanese colonial authorities uncovered her involvement. It is certainly a colorful tale if true, but she is reticent to elaborate on its veracity, or how she came to slum with the Carnival in the service of a foreign god.

Sun contributes her share by helping maintain the various games and equipment in working shape, which generally involves not very much talking and mostly just fixing. It seems to be how she likes it, as she's never complained. Sometimes, if she's out and about on her own time, she'll wander over to the shooting gallery to show off her not-too-shabby prowess with the gaming rifles and spark the interest of passing rubes.

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William Thomas

Role: Roustabout
Age: 29
Played by: Matthew Goode

A once promising student of oriental studies who fell far from grace, William ran into Mèng Pó in the back streets of New York’s Chinatown piss drunk and straight out of luck after an evening gambling away his estranged parents’ allowance. Mèng Pó offered William a listening ear and a couch in the back of her shop to sleep away his intoxication lest he find himself in bad company overnight. He became a regular customer once he recovered from his embarrassment, curious to learn more about this 'Mrs. Meng'. It was over these many visits that he began to have an inkling that she might be something more than a simple shopowner, though there was nothing to prepare him for the shock of discovering truth in myth.

Bill, as he goes by these days, helps set up and take down equipment for the apothecary and opium den, though he will go anywhere else that might need a strong back and an extra pair of hands. When work is slow he can often be seen sweet-talking impressionable young ladies by the tents (usually to the benefit of the carnival, it must be said), though about as frequently he'll spend his time poring over (in a baffled way) some old text filched from Mèng Pó’s personal collection, still the aspiring scholar at heart.

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Hypnos

Apothecary

A kindred spirit from a land far away and a time far gone. She first crossed paths with Hypnos and his brother Thanatos while caring for the dying during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Now their paths have aligned in parallel.

No supporting cast found for this story.

No badges for Carnival.

2019-04-01
A Broken Teacup
(2019-04-01 • Teahouse) A mysterious visitor to Meng Po causes trouble.
Cast  •   Mèng Pó  •  The Unicorn (as Marcy)  •
2019-03-26
In the Tea Room
(2019-03-26 • Carnival of Wonders - Madame Willow's Tea Room) Cedric, Madame Willow, and Sebastianus discuss radios, job offers, and missing gods over sweetened huangjiu and bai tang gao.
Cast  •   Mèng Pó (as Madame Willow)  •  Manticore (as Sebastianus)  •  Mad Sweeney (as Cedric)  •

Origins

All stories agree that Mèng Pó was once a mortal before she became a god. A few present her as a devout, virginal hermit who lived in the mountains studying scriptures until she transcended into immortality, remembering nothing of the past save for her name. But that is a bit dry, isn't it? Her contemporaries in the China of ages past certainly thought so, for a far more popular rendition states that Mèng Pó was an immortal who was tormented by memories of her earthly life. She set out in search of ingredients that would become the tea of forgetfulness--and though she could not drink it herself for fear of forgetting how to make it, she eventually assumed her duties in Dìyù, giving a taste of the míhúntāng to all passing souls to spare them from a similar fate.

While the details of her mortal life are generally left to the listener's imagination, stories postulate that Mèng Pó was in fact Mèng Jiāng Nǚ of the Four Great Chinese Folktales, whose bitter tears toppled the Great Wall itself before she threw herself into the sea.

The Willow

柳 liǔ - the willow tree
留 liú - to stay, to remain
流 liú - to flow, to drift

The Lotus

"I love only the lotus, for rising from the mud yet remaining unstained." -Zhōu Dūnyí, 11th c. Neo-Confucian scholar

The lotus signifies purity of the heart and mind, cleansing, and rebirth.

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