Chapter Eight- The Four Deities
Eondeog (언덕)- Hill
Mun (문)- Kingdom
Kim Dae Hyun’s Residence…
Kim Dae Hyeon and Tae Jun discussed for a long time. The two had left the pagoda and moved to Kim Dae Hyeon’s impressive library.
Tae Jun had told him about the books the Prime Minister had been trying to acquire, and Kim Dae Hyeon had told him those were merely copies. The originals had been hidden in the Palace, where, after a lot of secret searching, he and the King had found them. They themselves had found someone to translate it.
“The books contain secrets that Sang Yoo Jin wants hidden.” Lord Kim told him. “Unfortunately, they only contain a part of the story… The part recorded by your ancestor, Jang Seung Jae.”
“The King who killed the entire Royal family to rule… So, my bloodthirsty ancestor does have something to do with this.”
“Yes. But that’s another thing. Jang Seung Jae Wang did not murder the Royal family.”
“But the Palace records-”
“Were put in place to hide the truth, by Jang Seung Jae Wang himself.”
“So what happened to the Royal family?”
“They were killed by the Queen.”
A hundred and fifty years ago.
Eondeog Mun Palace, the Jade Palace…
Eunuch Moon stared helplessly at his young master, the Fourth Prince of Eondeog Mun. He was seated outside his chambers, playing a long and intricate flute. He played beautifully, and combined with his renown good looks, he had attracted more than half of the Palace maidens, who stood around cheering him.
“Omo! Seja!” Their voices rose occasionally. This was a constant problem that occurred whenever Seja was playing his flute or training. Eunuch Moon was worried because, whenever this happened, the King flew into a rage.
“Seja.” He addressed, bowing. “I think perhaps you SHOULD stop now. Jeonha might be informed of the commotion. Besides, we might be late.” Prince Seung Jae stopped, sighing. He gave a mock bow and smile to the ladies, and they resumed their screaming. Then he and Eunuch Moon went in to his chambers.
Inside, Eunuch Moon tried to get the Prince ready, but to no avail.
“Seja. Jeonha has insisted that all the Princes be present at the training ground.” He implored, but Seung Jae was not moved.
“Appa Mama is just trying to show off in front of his sons. He would not miss my presence.” He turned a page, his expression, bored.
Eunuch Moon tried another tactic.
“Seja. If you are not present, Jeonha will refuse to let you meet Lord Geom Jeong, the Black Deity.”
“What?!” He had dropped his book. “Are the deities coming?” He got up and started allowing Eunuch Moon to get him dressed. “They haven’t been to the Capital in a long time. They only come for the Winter Moon ritual and Appa Mama does not like them, so wh-”
“Seja! Please be silent…. Someone could hear!”
“I cannot believe Appa Mama would threaten me with Geom Hyeong-nim.” He paused suddenly. “That. Did you just yell at me?”
“Jeo- Jeoseonghamnida, Seja.” He bowed deeply. “I am deserving of-… Seja!” Fully dressed, Prince Jang Seung Jae had left him and was already heading out of the sliding door.
The Kingdom of Eondeog Mun was extremely prosperous.
Known for being wealthy and producing high ranked scholars, her military forces were also feared by many distant kingdoms, and most believed Eondeog Mun was blessed by the heavens.
This was indeed the case.
Eondeog Mun was named after four beautiful hills, placed at the four corners of the Kingdom. In these hills, four deities lived, each in a separate hill. These deities blessed the Kingdom in their own way.
The White deity, Lady Hayan, lived in the North, close to the Capital. She represented all things good in the Kingdom. She lived on the White hill, where everything was pure white and snowy all year round.
The Black deity, Lord Geom Jeong, lived in the South. He lived on the Foggy hill and represented all physical and military strength. Most people secretly believed he was pure evil… He was the one they feared the most.
The Green deity, Lady Chorok, lived in the East. She lived on the Green hill, which remained green all year round. She represented prosperity and all things that grew.
Then, Lord Paran, the Blue deity, lived in the West. He lived on the Blue hill, named for its many rivers. He represented knowledge.
The four deities were also called ‘Munjigi’ as they guarded four gates, which protected Eondeog Mun from evil. No one particularly knew the origin of these deities. When one died, another emerged. As far as people knew, they rarely ever came down from the hills, but when they did, they were treated with complete awe and respect.
This was the reason the Capital was in such excitement.
The King had summoned the deities to the Capital before their annual prayer ceremony, where they came yearly, during the Winter months, to bless the Royal family, and pray for the Kingdom with the priests and shamans.
The people stood by the sides of the road, shouting out greetings as each palanquin passed, the palanquins, designed to match the colours of their owner.
Lord Paran, a born scholar, had his nose in a book.
Lady Chorok, chubby and always lively, was the only one sticking her head out of her palanquin window, waving at the crowd.
Lady Hayan, played with a white fox she had rescued on her way.
Lord Geom Jeong sat quietly in his palanquin. Bored.
They had all traveled in secret from their homes, disguised as ordinary people, to a hidden temple in the north, where their palanquins awaited with the King’s guards, servants and a long line of priests and shamans.
The four deities had led normal lives until they had each turned eighteen. Lord Geom Jeong and Lord Paran were the eldest. Lady Hayan was next, and the youngest was Lady Chorok, having just replaced the Green deity six years prior.
Each time a deity awakened at the age of eighteen, they lost all their memories of their lives. All they knew was that they were deities who blessed the kingdom.They also possessed the memories of all their previous lives.
For example, the white deity possessed the memories of all previous white deities…
Living as deities was a lonely existence, but they had no memories to miss, so they did not complain. They, however, found ways to entertain themselves. Sometimes, they met secretly. These were usually filled with laughter and teasing, as they pointed out each other’s undesirable attributes, or complained about their chosen habitats.
They all hated meeting at Lady Hayan’s home; it was just too cold!
Most times, they disguised themselves as normal humans, exploring a world they could not remember.
At present, Lord Geom, as he was normally called, finally looked out of the window, looking up ahead at the white palanquin in front of him. He wondered what Lady Hayan was doing. Probably playing with that annoying fox, which she had wasted all their time to rescue.
He stuck his head back in, shutting the window. He did not understand her desire to save every little life form. The last time he had gone to the white hill, she had been playing with an injured bear.
There had always been something attractive about her though, and in their small circle, she had been the person to draw him out of his natural solitude…
The Central Palace, Gwang Guk.
The King, Jang Yoo Jin, took aim and shot the arrow.
“Bull’s eye!” The guard at the target yelled, waving his red flag. Everybody dutifully applauded and cheered, the five princes at the front of the small elite crowd. Jang Yoo Jin reveled in his power.
Born to the previous King’s elder sister, he had not been directly entitled to the throne, but he had always secretly coveted the throne.
Being a clever young man, he had drawn close to his uncle, the King, framed his cousin, the Crown Prince, for treason and had him banished from the Kingdom.
Of course, he had also ensured that he did not survive the long journey to a distant land… He had arranged for his murder on the ship.
By the time the news of the Grand Prince’s arrived, he was there to comfort and console the King, as the only apparent heir.
So, he had become King, the first Jang on the throne.
He was proud of his accomplishments. He had gone from being the son of a Consort who could not partake in politics, to being the King of Eondeog Mun.
Recently, however, he had begun to feel discontent. He was ageing fast, and that would mean either dying or handing over power. He refused to believe that was all his life was worth. After everything he had achieved, he was basically keeping the throne for his son.
His second wife, the current Queen, was already trying to get him to name her son, the fifth and only Grand Prince, as the Crown Prince. He did not care who was Crown Prince, but he knew that the moment he made the Grand Prince his heir, the Queen would try to kill him and rule till her son was old enough.
He did not intend to hand over power to anyone.
With a crazed mind, the King had selected a handful of priests and shamans… those who did not mind getting their hands dirty. They had begun to plan his immortality for a while, and they had finally found a way.
To achieve it, however, he needed the four deities of Eondeog Mun.
“Jeonha.” Eunuch Geum, the head of the Palace Eunuchs and personal aide to the King, interrupted his thoughts, bowing. “The four deities have arrived. They are in the government hall with the Ministers.”
The king ignored him, and he bowed, backing away. ‘Let them wait!’ The King thought to himself.
After a few more rounds, he called the gathering to an end. He did not like the deities because they knew exactly what he had done to gain the throne… The previous deities had been aware of his actions, and the current ones, though young, had inherited their memories.
Of course, as was customary, they had pledged to him. Fate, they called it. Still, the look on their old faces whenever they came to the Palace, made him feel uncomfortable.
Jang Yoo Jin also did not like the idea of someone having more power than him, and it had become obvious that the deities were more powerful than he was.
If they ever spoke against him as King, the people would respond in their favour!
He had begun to systematically reduce their political power by slowly turning some priests and shamans against them, but most of the priests and shamans, and even the people were still on their side!
Every time he had tried to spread false rumours about them, new rumours always popped up to defend them!
He stormed to the Sky Palace to get ready, before going to the government hall of the Palace, were they were probably waiting. He did not like associating with them, but he needed their help.
The Government Hall…
Prince Seung Jae sat before the four deities, engaged in conversation with them. The other Princes had not approached and sat quietly in their places.
Most people believed the deities to be unapproachable, but due to a near death experience in his younger years, Seung Jae realized they were more human than they seemed.
First he had latched onto Lord Geom, who had saved him, then had slowly drawn close to the others. He had discovered they were wise and entertaining to discuss with. Being naturally improper when it came to rank and hierarchy, he openly spoke to them when he saw them, referring to them as Hyeong-nim and Noonim. This had of course, gotten him in trouble with the King, but he had never let it faze him.
“You have grown, Seung Jae.” Lady Hayan said, listening to the Prince’s recount of his life since they met last.
“Of course! I’m Eondeog Mun’s perfect prince. Seja Jeoha is always buried in a book.” He said, referring to the Eldest prince, who was also the Crown Prince. he continued
“Second Prince is always at the Gyobang, Third Prince is always training with the sword, and our youngest Prince is too little. I have all their talents!” They all laughed at this, including the other Princes and guards, who were listening.
“Yes, I do believe your only problem is your overconfidence!” Lord Paran said, and they all laughed again. The discussion had to end, however, as the Eunuchs outside the door announced the King’s arrival.
Seung Jae rushed to his place before he entered…
The Moon Palace….
“Jung Jeon Mama, the King is meeting the deities now. He has asked everyone present to leave. The atmosphere is suspicious.” The head of the Palace maidens, the Queen’s lady in waiting, informed her. The lady in waiting also handed her a small casket.
More than twenty years younger than the King, the Queen had her eyes on ruling from the minute she had been married.
“I wonder what Jeonha is planning now.” She dropped what she had been stitching and reached for the small casket. She opened it and brought out a small, wrapped piece of fabric. She unwrapped it gently, saw the smooth white powder within and smiled.
“You have done well. The King can run around all he wants. My son will become the King. I think it is time to eliminate the competition and force Jeonha’s hand.” She wrapped it back up, placing it in the cask gently.
“Prepare a small feast for me and the Princes on Second Prince’s birthday. Thankfully, it’s not the first time I will be throwing a feast for them. They may not like me, but no one will question it.”
“Ye, Jung Jeon Mama.”
“The wine that day will be poisoned.” She stroked the cask.
“I will drink a little to avert suspicion, and my son is too young to drink so he will be clear. I will have to think of a scapegoat before then.”
“Ye, Jung Jeon Mama. This servant will see to it.” She bowed and left the Queen alone.
The Queen hid the cask and resumed her stitching.
She only had to wait six days for her son to become the only Prince.