The Court of the Autumn King (Shunrin)

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The Court of the Autumn King (Shunrin)
Date of Cutscene: 01 April 2016
Location: The Twelve Kingdoms
Synopsis: Shunrin reflects on the day that she chose the Herald-King of Shun.
Cast of Characters: 970

Thus it is written that in the autumn of the fifty-seventh year of the Era of Vast Righteousness, the minister of Shun lost the Way and was undone. So did the king fall within the court during the third moon and was buried in the Silent Halls beneath the Mountain of Frozen Flame. Herald-King she had been called for fifty-seven years, the Jackal-King her death name for eternity.
In the next moon the eggfruit of Shun appeared on the Mountain of the Sage's Brush, and the Taiho of Shun was hatched ten moons later, to be cared for by her lamia and instructed by the oracles of Brush-Jar Palace. In the second moon of the sixty-second year, the yellow flags were raised throughout her birth kingdom of Shun.
Twelve years later, Souyo, his surname being Jaku, passed through the Gate of Virtue into the Yellow Sea and made his ascent. There upon the Mountain of the Sage's Brush, he accepted Shunrin's pledge, thereby taking his place among the gods, to be known as the Herald-King henceforth.
Thus began the Era of Heavenly Joy, and so the Court of the Autumn King began.
—The Book of the Red Jewel


For twelve years, the yellow flags have flown in the Kingdom of Shun, and aspirants have flooded the Mountain of the Sage's Brush at every equinox and solstice. People come in shocking number, hoping the kirin of Shun will choose them as the next Herald-King.

Cold wind stirs the boughs of trees clinging to the slopes. It brings clattering leaves and autumn chill; it tousles the hair and clothing of the aspirants. A veritable city of tents has sprung up almost overnight as people and animals crowd the mountain's foot. Nobles, commoners, soldiers, and shopkeepers; men and women have come here from every walk of life.

For twelve years, these hopeful people come to present themselves to the kirin season after season, making offerings to the Emperor of Heaven and ingratiating themselves with the oracles of Brush-Jar Palace. And, for twelve years, she has disappointed them. Not one of the aspirants has presented the kingly aura she seeks.

The failure weighs on her, for she knows the price of an empty throne. Disaster and strife ravage her home kingdom, and demons assault the shores. The fields lay barren and Shun's beautiful rivers run with blood.

Today, she walks the camps sprawled at the foot of the mountain with her attending oracles. Her head is bowed, eyes lidded and downcast. It will be another year gone by without success. Not one of those here has given her pause. No one has displayed the kingly aura she seeks. How can she right this terrible wrong and make it up to the people of Shun? They fight a losing battle against natural disaster and demon infestation, all because of her indecision.

Even so, the oracles and aspirants have cast no blame. That's almost worse. A red kirin, they say, is most fortunate. As rare as a black kirin, and only born once every few hundred years, yet that is no excuse at all to her. What use is she if she cannot fulfill the duty for which she was created?

By the time she looks up, she finds she's standing in front of a grandfatherly old man. This is significant to her, because everyone else here is no longer standing. Some bow, some kneel, and some touch their heads to the ground. He merely watches her with a stillness that unsettles her to her very core.

The oracles attending her trail after her as she makes her way slowly toward him; slowly, as though in a dream.

"You." The word is a breath; a hoarse whisper. "Who are you?"

He turns to face her fully, raising bushy white brows in befuddlement. "No one of any import, my lord. To what do I owe this honour?"

"Tell me your name." There is an urgency to her tone that even she doesn't understand. "Please."

"I am known as Souyu, and my surname is Jaku." He clasps his hands beneath his sleeves and bows deeply. "May I be of service to the Lord of Brush-Jar Palace?"

A heaviness settles over her shoulders; pushed down, she kneels by rote, unaware of what she's doing until her knees touch the ground.

"Never to leave your side..."

Overwhelmed, the ritual oath wells up from within her.

The old man's eyes widen from their befuddled squint. He gapes down at her. Her head lowers until her forehead actually touches his boot, bright flame-coloured hair pooling on the ground around her. Her eyes close.

"To follow your decree..."

Souyu looks around, as though silently beseeching the people around him to stop this elabourate jest. Nobody moves. They stare, spellbound, at the man who will be their new king; for a kirin cannot bow before anyone but their chosen king.

"To serve you in utmost loyalty..."

He looks back to the beautiful creature bowed before his feet, ignoring the dust marring her robes.

"...This is my pledge," she whispers.

A heart-wrenching instant of silence; then, he chuckles.

"I accept."