Observe the humble centipede. Unlike the cricket, he does not jump; unlike the wasp, he cannot fly. Instead, he trundles along on 100 legs, each connected to a segment of his body. Each segment moves harmoniously, yet contains its own set of legs, its own shell and, some say, its own heart. Xue noted the harmony of the centipede; by its example, he was enlightened.
The Hollow Reed praises moderation; while the other paths describe themselves as storms or fires, the Reed speaks of emptiness given form. The sutra’s title comes from the Dharmic ideal: to be like the reed, fed by water but filled with nothing, rooted in the ground but reaching to the sky. The Way’s name comes from its practice of living multiple lives to gain multiple insights. To maintain balance, the so-called “Rootless Trees” walk a thousand roads, each under a different name. It’s a long path to enlightenment, but then, vampires have nothing but time.
The whispers do not believe that the Sixth Age is the end of creation. To them, it’s a ritual death, one of many. Like the reeds rising from a riverbed, the Rootless Ones trust that when the storm ends, their flexibility will carry them through. Other Dharmas will not survive. The cricket is drowned. The wasp is blown away. The centipede remains unharmed. The hollow reed still stands.
This path’s disciples love riddles and couch everything in symbolism. Some vampires claim that the Thousand Whispers write sutras for each blade of grass, and, while that’s an overstatement, it captures the Way’s perspective. These Kuei-jin love to look at old things through new eyes, and do so literally at every opportunity. Talented shapechanges, the Rootless Trees shift gender, alliance, lifestyle and temperament with bewildering speed. Each change, claim the sages, teaches a Whisper a little more.
The Whispering Way is the rarest of Dharmas, and with good reason: It’s the hardest to maintain. Kuei-jin are neither balanced nor temperate. To offset their destructive natures, Whispers cultivate the Broken Mask technique—a multiple-personality path to enlightenment. While most people cling to their identities, the Rootless Trees take on different personas, then kill them off when all lessons appear to have been learned. Since most lives tend to be full-time affairs, many vampires take on one or two personas at once, then stage tragic deaths and enter new roles. Immortal as they are, the Whispers can experience the full range of human perspective and thus rise above any single view.
Naturally, such insight takes time. In the early stages of the path, a Whisper is pretty much like any other Running Monkey. Her elders scold her and offer koans that demand a wider view. As she moves through many lives, the vampire’s vision broadens. In time she becomes like a fine jade carving—precious in the rough, but smoothed into exquisite form by the sculptor’s steady hands. The key to the path is to be both sculptor and jade, to craft yourself into a work of art.
Training: To follow the Whispering Way, a Kuei-jin must continually die and be reborn. Every few years, she suffers a ritual “death,” is buried and returns as a new person. During her burial, the vampire enters a long trance, during which she meditates on the lessons of her past life. Certain powerful Whispers project their soul into the spirit worlds while the body sleeps. The Kuei-jin’s body remains in stasis, guarded by mortal friends or other Whispers. The former are usually devoured when the vampire returns from her travels; the latter salute her and walk away as she emerges from the tombs. Each time she “dies,” the Kuei-jin severs all ties to her past life; in time, she walks away from her wu and court as well.
In their breathing days, most Whispers were either fanatics for one cause or scattered among many. Neither path allowed them to learn their karmic lessons. When the training begins, sifus ask impossible questions, then send their pupils out to seek the answers. Disciples are given three new identities by their masters, and these identities are as different as possible. All the necessary skills are passed on through early training, along with funds, sutras, meditations and Kuei-jin manners. When those three lives end, the disciple is on her own.
Weakness: Moderation is hellishly hard to practice, especially if you’re a vampire. Despite the meditations and Broken Mask technique, the four-way pull between Yin, Yang, Hun and P’o yanks many Rootless Trees from their paths. To hold true to their Way, many Whispers look to the earth. That earth appears solit, yet it melts away as mud, swirls into sandstorms and hardens into rock. Sometimes, it splits open and swallows its surroundings. It never simply lies still.
To be truly balanced, one must occasionally go to extremes. To avoid attachments, Whispers destroy things and people they love too much. These betrayals gave rise to the Dharma’s other name—the Way of the Wise Centipede, a sarcastic comment on the Arhat’s inspiration. Other vampires distrust the followers of Balance; who knows when your friend might suddenly turn on you?
Affiliations: Earth, the color white, the number 0 and the center point direction. Auspicious Omens and Symbols: Jade masks, caves, centipedes, tunnel complexes, boulders carved into human shapes.
Auspicious Omens and Symbols: Earth, the color white, the number 0, and the centre direction.
- Live 1,000 lifetimes, each one different from the last.
- Learn what you can from each life.
- Change as much as possible between breaths.
- If you grow too close to something, kill it. It will only hinder you.
- Turn your back on each life as you leave it.
- Give when generosity is needed; take when theft is required.
- Pry open the eyes of the sightless and make the mute defend their wordless state. All beings must confront their choices, so question them as you pass.
- When something appears to be out of balance, correct it. If you cannot, destroy it.