Friday 29 December 2017

Exalted - First Years in the Army

Bringing an Anathema to the heart of the Realm in a flying chariot visible for miles was not our best plan, and left the Empress in a bit of a quandry. Once the dust had settled, she explained she was sending us to join the Rose Black's forces in the north where we could stay out of trouble.

Jia and Mi-Yung came with us, remaining by our side for the first couple of years, but eventually getting separated and joining another unit. The Rose Black remembered us from Nexus, though whether that was the reason she kept an eye on us, or the fact we were young to be soldiers I don't kow. We fought mostly against Beastmen; I didn't suffer my first kill as severely as Kito had, but it still took time to get used to, even with the inhuman nature 
of those we killed. 

I remember one early trip out where Kito was severely injured. I hovered outside the medtent for days, while they worked on him and wouldn't let me in. It killed me, to be forced apart from him, and they weren't interested in making it easy for me.

We had frequent trips back to the Realm, to see our family and the Empress, Captain Ling and her family - she had a daughter while we were in the army - when they could make it, even the Abbess when she was free. We talked to her one time about our ability to see spirits and essence flow, something we thought she'd taught us. Her reaction was... unexpected. She visibly calmed herself before explaining we shouldn't be able to do that - it was an Anathema thing, really. I asked if this meant we would be Anathema and she reassured us not necessarily - it could be that one of our parents was Anathema, or even a God. I wasn't convinced - our parents were Dynasts, Dragon-bloods - but the way she spoke and the gentle way she looked at us made me feel I could trust her, even if we did turn out to be Anathema.

Each Calibration, the Emissary collected us for a traditional gathering of sorcerors, although our magic was only Terrestrial Circle and the gathering was really to protect Creation from more powerful magics. Most of the others there barely tolerated us, but one man was kinder. We recognised him: the 'Sage' - the hermit all Realm children were taken to who'd vanished after our visit. Here, he was known as the Seer and would talk to us - sometimes cryptically, but he'd often answer our questions when the Emissary told us "another time". 

It was white mice that first caught our attention: he told us to ask our mother whether she'd seen any at our house. Our next visit home, she gave us a confused look but eventually recalled chasing some out of the small house in Derren's Ford when they first moved there - the Emissary had told us that, if we were Solars, as everyone believed, that our previous incarnations had had a manse there, but that they were pranksters and it was filled with traps too dangerous for us to explore now. So it was curious that they'd chosen Derren's Ford to hide out in, but we didn't know how to ask her about that. 

Another visit, Hak finally agreed to Kito's request for a spar. With Hak being an Exalt, it seemed it could only go one way, but somehow Kito got a lucky, and said a white mouse had appeared. It had a strange symbol on its back; he saw it run toward a bush and vanish there: the mark was on the root. We asked the Seer about it next Calibration, and he told us the Unconquered Sun would sometimes appear to people as a white mouse, for luck - and that the symbol was his symbol. Already feeling concerned about the possibilities of being an Anathema and having realised the Realm hadn't been entirely honest with us about them, I started encorporating mice or the symbol into my art, as subtly as I could.

We befriended the Quartermaster, keeping our eyes open for things he wanted when we were out or back in the Realm. In return, he kept an eye out for items we might like; over the years, he gave us a plasma repeater and each a set of power armour as the most notable items.

After a couple of years, we were paired with Rey, a maverick soldier of great skill, especially in athletics and wielding her huge lance. The three of us were sent on scouting missions together, and it was on one of these we met another Anathema, a Lunar - Steward - called Raging Tiger. He couldn't come to the camp with us, but he helped us (or we helped him) defeat a mad Steward who was mutating people into beastmen... We didn't tell the army about Raging Tiger and were worried Rey would be unhappy about it, but we learnt instead her abilities came from her mother - a Solar.

Not long after defeating the rogue Steward, Kito and I were given our first command; Rey informed the army she'd join us (they tolerated her insurbordination and parentage because she was so capable a soldier). They were experienced soldiers; I have no idea why it was considered a good idea to put people as young and green as Kito and I in charge. Probably because we were heirs of House Cathak. The Realm is strange like that about nobility.

Their previous CO had been killed by an Anathema not long before - they were all of their unit that survived the battle, and managed to kill it. We impressed them by telling them about the Anathema we had defeated (leaving out the assistance we had).

One of the unit, Sven of House Ladall (our mother's House), was fond of practical jokes and placed a rabbit in Kito's bed one night. It was a sweet thing, white with a few black splotches. I named it 'Spook' and it stayed with the unit as a mascot for quite a long time. 

Sven was a soceror like us - though more powerful, as a Dragon-blood. Other notable members included Elinor, the Rose Black's young sister; Cainan and Rhianon, both of House Cathak; and a member of the Immaculate Faith whose name escapes me.. Horst was a broad man with a shiny bald head, expert at getting into places without getting seen and with a knack for knowing where to find information. Matsu Dairu fought with a pair of plasma repeaters in a style we'd never seen before, but was not Dragon-blooded, and neither were the oldest members, a married couple whose armour drew on their life to enable them to power it.

We were sent, as a unit, to investigate a Realm outpost at the Hold of White Idols. It had stopped paying tithe, and the army wanted to know why.

There was another stop en route, at an estate where the owner's tithe was lower than expected. Turned out, he was not only skimming but also selling things he'd found in a Solar tomb onto enemies of the Realm... Horst executed the man as soon as we had evidence. It was a bit of a shock. The servants and others who lived there fled. We raided the place for as much as we could: a plasma repeater and bullets, a good pair to the one Kito had from the QM that Kito said I should have, and a 'windblade transport' - a belt buckle-sized device that expands to provide a board on which one can stand and fly. Kito let me have that too: I love it. There was also a small box of healing needles in various magical materials that got use almost immediately, when I accidently found a Thousand Forged Dragon that was primed and ready to explode (or became so after I poked it) [[ OOC note: triple botch on a search roll... what's the worst that could happen? ]]. I was hurt, but not badly: Kito took the brunt of it, but the needles were fairly intuitive to use and I soon had him back on his feet.

We continued to the Hold of White Idols, a significant place both for what we did and whom I met.

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