Heaven’s Sword and Sinners Gold

Welcome to my weekly series “Designing from Bones”, where we use archaeology and the artifacts of human history to find and design stories. Join me today as we seek out two lost treasures and unveil the story potential they hold.

Come closer friends and step through the misty portal in search of two treasures bathed in infamy. The first can empower its finder to claim an Emperor’s throne. The second promises wealth beyond measure, so much in fact, that saints will sin to possess it.

The mists part and before us lies the Shimonoseki Straits, the burial ground of a child Emperor and the magical blade that ensured his rule.

Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven

Kusanagi, the Imperial Sword

Kusanagi (officially, Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi) is a legendary sword and one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan. Legend says that this sword, beyond being an incredibly sharp instrument of death, allows its wielder to control the wind by moving it in the direction of the swords swing. The original name of the sword was Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi or “Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven”.

Possession of this sword also equates to the right to possess the Imperial Throne of Japan.

According to a collection of oral traditions translated in 1371, the child Emperor Antoku died in a naval engagement at Shimonoseki Straits, drowned by a member of his own household rather than allowing him to be captured. In an act of extreme grief, the Emperor’s grandmother led the remainder of Antoku’s family members to drown themselves in the straits, taking the three Imperial Regalia with them. Soldiers managed to save some of the royal family and two of the Regalia, but Kusanagi, the sword of the Emperor, was lost to the depths.

What if Kusanagi were to resurface today? Given the long history of traditional mindset in Japan, it is highly possible that some would call for the one possessing the blade to be named Emperor. Others would vow to steal it for their own gain.

What if Kusanagi reappeared with it’s renown ability to control the wind? How would a modern populace respond to a magical effect? We can add an element of horror to this by reanimating the child Emperor Antoku who is set on reclaiming his throne, adding power from beyond the grave to that of his ancestral sword.

In a fantasy setting, Kusanagi becomes a magically endowed variant of Excalibur. What if we added intelligence to the blade, allowing it to act of its own accord? How would the sword resist unworthy wielders and converse with those it approved of?

Step with me now through the misty veil as we travel to Cocos Island in search of a saintly treasure, gained by avarice, lost by lust and waiting for discovery.

The Lost Treasure of Lima

The Golden Madonna awaits our treasure seeker

After the defeat of the Inca in the 16th century, Spain seized control of Lima and large portions of modern day Peru. This control allowed the Spanish-backed Catholic Church to amass vast quantities of treasure in the region.

By the early 1800’s, revolution and a drive for independence threatened to overwhelm Spanish control and the treasures of Lima, which included two life-size solid golden statues of Mary and the infant Jesus, came under threat. Captain William Thompson of the ship Mary Dear, was tasked with gathering the Treasure of Lima and transporting it to safety in Mexico.

Overwhelmed by treasure lust, Captain Thompson and his crew turned rogue and hid the treasure on Cocos Island near the coast of Costa Rica. Later captured, the crew of the Mary Dear were hung for piracy, except for Captain Thompson and his first mate who offered to lead authorities to the treasure in exchange for their lives. Upon reaching Cocos Island the two pirates managed to escape and neither they nor the famed Treasure of Lima were ever seen again. The treasure is estimated to be worth $60 million dollars currently, if it can be found.

What if the treasure were there, waiting? What if it were guarded by the undead spirits of Captain Thompson and his first mate, cursed by the sanctified Madonna’s to protect them against all, save the faithful, for eternity? Would we make our hero one of the faithful, a potential convert or a callous treasure seeker?

Cocos Island Treasure Map

Imagine a hiker finding the skeletal remains of Captain Thompson. His bony fingers having clawed a riddle or crude map into the side of a tree or painted in his blood on the side of a rock.

What would a modern treasure hunt be like? Can you see the chaos? Nations, religious organizations, wealthy individuals and criminal syndicates, all vying to possess this immense treasure. Who will be the one to find it? Will they be able to keep it against all opposition? What will they have to do to win?

Now my friends, we step back and let the mists draw us back to our place and time. A world filled with lost treasure, forgotten history and untold stories. What treasure will your heroes seek? Will they seek power by might or power by wealth?

Looking for more great ideas and information on writing? Check out my previous “Designing from Bones” entries. Join me next week when we take a look at a few recently arrived inhabitants of the Zoo Arcane, the creatures of mythology.

Peaceful Journeys!

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About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. “Only the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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21 Responses to Heaven’s Sword and Sinners Gold

  1. Even better, what if that gold were cursed by the spirits of the Incans who the Spanish (and the Church) destroyed in their greed?

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Very nice, Shea. I like it. And the curse drove Captain Thompson insane, called to him to hide it, then later to protect it. Thanks for the great comment 🙂

  2. L.S. Engler says:

    These posts are so fantastic! As a fantasy writer, I know I’m quick to create a world filled with magic and wonder out of something that doesn’t exist, but the reason I studied history in school, too, was because there’s so much magic and wonder and mystery already in this world.

    I’m picturing the Kusanagi legend resurfacing with a reincarnation of Antoki; that sort of reincarnation of the spirit into an otherwise seemingly normal character seems a popular motif in the Japanese works I tend to watch and read. Which is to say, of course, that it would make an awesome anime series….

    • Gene Lempp says:

      You right on track there. It would make a good anime, comic, trade paperback or novella series without a doubt. There is such a wealth of material out there if we look. Studying history was an excellent choice, there isn’t a great deal of money in it, but the value is priceless.

  3. Great post Gene, can I use the sword to change the weather so we get some wind?

  4. Gene – I love these posts. They’re beautifully written and make me wish I could create a fantasy world, or a time piece where I could utilize these brilliant writing and research techniques…

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Tiffany: We each have our gifts and our creative arts. I know you are highly talented at what you write, don’t discount that. Perhaps one day a character will visit you and boom, you’ll be ready to go 🙂

      Nadja: Superstition and conjecture are truly the twin aunts of fiction. Thanks for the compliment and the comment!

      Lance: I hope so as well. I’d love to be able to spark a few young writers into a lifetime of adventure.

      Catie: Ah, excellent point. Everything does have its price and nothing is “as advertised”. Personally, I feel there is a duality in everything. Such as, how would we comprehend good without having first experienced evil?

  5. Great post! There are ideas hidden in the objects, locations, and people around us, and let’s not forget the history that is rich with legend and lore! If necessity is the mother of all invention, then superstition is the aunt….at least when it comes to inventing stories. Happy writing! ~ Nadja

  6. Nice series. I hope things like this enrich the next gen of fantasy writers.

  7. Catie Rhodes says:

    What I’d like to play with here is the result (or price) of finding something like this. You know, nothing is ever what you thought it would be. Some blessings are really a curse.

  8. Gilliad Stern says:

    I love this topic. Great post! It inspired some new ideas! I’m going to have to go back and check through the previous posts. Sounds very interesting.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Gilliad: Glad it sparked your imagination. Enjoy the other Designing from Bones posts 🙂

      Lynn: Moving the wind would be an incredible power, would it not? Inspiring the imagination is exactly what I hope to do in this series. I’m very glad you are enjoying it 🙂

  9. Lynn Kelley says:

    Great stuff in this post, Gene, painting these images for us in a mystical, fascinating way. So many cool ideas to spark our imaginations. I love how people believed the sword could control which way the wind blows. And all these great comments! Your posts really do trigger our creative buttons!

  10. kerrymeacham says:

    I love these posts Gene. I think there’s a legend about a lost Civil War treasure of gold that was never found. (Maybe that’ll be one of my options for WWBC next week as a story). Where do you find this stuff bro? Is it just dig in research, or is there a “stuff that’s lost to history” site somewhere? Great stuff.

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Some is research based on personal interest, some are from a few sites I’ve found that culminate information on archaeology, mythology, etc. The Civil War, due to the chaotic nature of such events is plum with “lost things” and mysterious events. Glad you are enjoying the series 🙂

  11. Amanda Rudd says:

    I can’t tell you how excited I am that you included Kusanagi in your “Designing from Bones” posts! It is one of my favorite legends. My grandmother used to tell me stories about it all the time (she’s Japanese) — it was found by Susanoo in the 4th tail of the eight-headed serpent of Koshi and given to Amaterasu, the sun goddess. It’s also sometimes called the Grasscutter Sword.

    I hadn’t thought about those legends in a long time. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. That made my day!

    • Gene Lempp says:

      Glad I could bring back some good memories for you, Amanda. I knew about the Amaterasu legend and perhaps I’ll focus on that in a future post. The origins of the sword are a wild adventure. The Grasscutter name came in correlation to the power of Kusanagi to move the wind. Both were used in combination to defeat an enemy and burn them with their own fire.

      Have a great day 🙂

  12. I have only one, semi-insightful thing to say:

    That sword is frickin’ cool. I want one. Thanks. 8D

  13. Pingback: Short Story Fridays: Severus the Rogue – The Arena | Neither Here nor There….

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