I address this plea to all the men and women who care about the destiny of humanity. To all those who believe in a world without violence, without hunger. A place where there is no need to struggle for power, where wellbeing and equality prosper everywhere.
My name is Carlo Dolfin, but my name won’t mean anything to you. Until a few years ago I was a respectable professor of history at the University; today I am an old man, alone, hunted and too weak to face the terrible battle that looms before me.
But let us proceed with order: it all began a few years ago in Venice, the city where I was born and in which I live. As I was going through some ancient documents which I found in my vast family library, I came across a coded diary that told a story involving my distant ancestors, navigators and merchants, and the existence of an extraordinary object, which until that moment I thought existed solely in the legends my grandfather used to tell me: the Ruyi, Qubilai Khan’s magic imperial scepter which Marco Polo brought back to Venice, and which was hidden by the Most Serene Republic of Venice. This object has the most unimaginable powers, I am sure of this now; it can give infinite power to the person who owns it; many a bloody battle has been fought in its name, even within the Republic of Venice itself.
I had just retired, and thus I began to dedicate my time to this story with great passion. I soon discovered extraordinary events, beyond belief: Marco Polo returned to Venice in 1295 , when he was 36 years old; he was only 12 when he followed his father and his uncle to the Far East in 1271. His lengthy stay at the court of Qubilai Khan, the Emperor of China – he married one of his daughters, who followed him home to Venice – allowed him to come into contact with the greatest secret in the Empire of the Dragons: a legendary object that guaranteed the Khan absolute power: the Ruyi, the precious imperial scepter engraved with a formula that could concentrate the potent energy and invincibility of the Ancients, and which originated in a lost time in the history of the world, in which Good and Evil fought openly to win power over men.
The object was a newer version of the Cong, the ancient magic scepter from the time of the early Dynasties, created to open a connection between the Sky and men. With the help of the Cong, Genghis Khan and the Tribe of Mongolia united under his leadership conquered the entire “Chung Kuo”, China, “the land that stands in the middle”. Their name, “Monggol”, derives from the Tungusic language and signifies “the Invincibles”. Once Qubilai, a descendant of Genghis Khan, took possession of the scepter he ordered an even more powerful version to be made by the wise men at his Court, and with it he governed the lands of Kathai. “Ru Yi” means “Everything You Desire”, “At Your Orders”, and describes the omnipotence of the object. Further attempts to recreate the Ruyi were made by later Dynasties – starting with the Ching dynasty – though none were ever able to fully reproduce its magical properties, which prevailed in the sacred representations: the Ru Yi is the object that Lu Xing, one of the three Immortals, the Supreme Lords of time and wisdom, holds between his hands in each representation. Even the smiling Buddha carries one with him in statues and paintings.
Thus with the help of his bride, Marco Polo stole this object and returned to Venice, where he presented it as a gift to the Doge. The Venetian wished to help his country of origin become even greater and more powerful. Only a few years later, however, several young Venetian noblemen affiliated with the Invincibles – a Confraternity originating in the Mongol tradition whose purpose was to conquer power all over the world, and which counted many associates in every part of the earth –prepared to steal the Ruyi: the plan grew into a revolt, headed by Bajamonte Tiepolo, Marco Querini and Badoero Badoer, who attacked the forces of Doge Pietro Gradenigo in June 1310. But the Doge had been forewarned that night, and was able the quash the rebellion harshly.His victory was complete, but the Republic chose to defend itself with the Serrata del Maggior Consiglio and the creation of the Council of Ten, the powerful supreme court that was founded as a result of that event.
Several years went by: in the meantime, Tiepolo died in exile and in 1323 Marco Polo passed away, asking to be buried in the church of San Sebastiano. In the meantime the Republic, formed by pragmatic men of action, found that the answer to the need for order and wellbeing in Venetian society lay in man and in independent self-government, and thus began to nurture extreme suspicion towards this magical object. This fear was dramatically confirmed several years later: Marino Falier, who had only recently become Doge, plotted to become the absolute sovereign over Venice, by stealing the Ruyi. Unmasked and condemned, he was beheaded on April 17 1355. As a sign of contempt, he was buried with his head between his legs.
In the Hall of the Maggior Consiglio in the Ducal Palace, the portraits of the first 76 Doges who succeeded one another in ruling the Serenissima include the portrait of Marino Falier, which is represented as a large black drape, on which the following words are painted: “His est locus Marini Falethri decapitati pro criminibus”. Not even the memory of his image should be preserved for the man who betrayed the Republic. The magical object was becoming dangerous, and needed to be concealed before it fell into the wrong hands. Thus, it was secretly hidden in the tomb of Marco Polo, who had brought it to Venice sixty years earlier. The protection and control of the tomb and the scepter were entrusted to the glorious Partecipazio family, which at that time had already given seven Doges to the Republic, between 811 and 942. It was the first of these doges who established forever that the government of the lagoon would be located on a central group of islands, called Rivoalto.
But over the following century, the family, weakened and divided, disappeared. And with it the last traces of the tomb and the scepter. The Ruyi became just a story to tell children; then, even the legend itself practically disappeared from memory. Until the coded diary was found among my family papers, which I inherited from my mother’s family along with the protection of the scepter and the tomb of Marco Polo.Out of curiosity more than anything, I immediately set off to look for the lost object: but where could I look, given that the church of San Sebastiano no longer exists, and the remains of Marco Polo had mysteriously disappeared along with the Imperial seal?
Several months later, having incautiously revealed in several of the circles I move in that I was hunting for this legendary object, I was followed, spied on, threatened. I am sure the only reason that I have not yet been killed is that I have been able – so far – to keep the diary well hidden, since it is the only document that can truly lead to the Ruyi. The Invincibles, who have learned of my discovery, are working behind my back. The Confraternity no longer strives for open conquest. It has become a secret organization that plots in the shadows of official power, to achieve political control and influence political decisions to their own advantage: wars, market trends, the exploitation of the resources of our planet… so now I am afraid, for my life and that of humanity as a whole. I am also an old man. The search for the tomb and the Ruyi must be entrusted to someone else.
There is no time to lose: starting with the few clues I have in my possession, contained in the coded diary, you must try to get hold of the magical object before it falls into the wrong hands. Whoever moved Marco Polo’s body left traces behind, so that only the initiated will be able to claim possession of the powerful energy contained in the precious golden staff. Venice is disseminated with clues (numbers, inscriptions, magical cabalistic signs) which, when read correctly, can indicate the right steps to take. I myself will guide your movements, supplying you little by little, for security reasons, with the information required to solve one riddle at a time – with the help of a handheld computer phone – to reach the Ruyi before the Invincibles do.
Thank you, my friends. May Heaven help you in your race against time. And please… be very careful.
(Plot di Alberto Toso Fei )