Tuesday 31 July 2018

Exalted - Hunting Beastmen pt 2

This is the story of our Exalted game, told from the point of view of my character, Cathak Taji. Click here for the index.
The next evening, Raging Tiger sent us after a party of beastmen to see what we could do - he'd be nearby in case we got into trouble. There were about 20 of them with a wolf-like appearance, settling at a campfire, cooking meat and squabbling over scraps. Something about them seemed to disappoint Raging Tiger.

Kito and I quickly planned our attack. I don't think either Rey or Tiger expected us to open with a flurry of Obsidian Butterflies through their tents, and a Blazing Raptor straight into their campfire. The beastmen certainly didn't, but none tried to flee and Kito stepped in front of me to take the blows as they charged.

The fight was fierce and bloody; we were victorious, but Kito was severely hurt. Raging Tiger carried him away with Rey in support, telling me it wouldn't be safe to follow. Unnerved but trusting them, I explored the camp, finding a few furs but no clues as to where the beastmen had come from or where they were heading. When the others returned, Kito was healed. Completely healed, no scars remained anywhere, not even the ones he'd picked up as a child. Weirder, his hair and skin had gone white, his eyes blue, paler than anyone from the North.

We continued on, a strange group. Time started to blur. We'd run into the occasional small band of beastmen, all easily dealt with.

After 2, maybe 3 weeks, Kito got Raging Tiger to tell us a bit more about the Children of Luna and the rules the existance of the beastmen breach. Luna doesn't have a strict code, but chooses those who've survived hardship, telling them they're chosen and now her warrior, and there's a duty of stewardship over the land that comes with this. It was this stewardship our quarry had breached: they were lording it over their creations and using them to encroach Raging Ti2ger's territory. We worried again about the military camp where we were based, but he reassured us he didn't mind as long as we didn't overhunt the area. He valued self-sufficiency and wouldn't be a hero, not wanting the people he'd helped to fall back into the same danger once he'd moved on. The way he said it, it sounded like there was a story there, but when we asked more, he gave us the same line we'd heard many time from the Emissary so many times: "another time, perhaps". He repeated that when we tried to ask about how he got chosen by Luna, then told us to sleep. We'd reached the mountains we'd need to climb to reach to the valley where we'd find the other Lunar.

It was a hard climb, steep with few handholds. The first rest point was about 100m up; just as I was pulling myself onto the ledge, there was a terrible rumbling, clamourous clanging from below me. Ray and Raging Tiger were already on the ledge: my eyes widened to realise it was Kito who'd fallen, and I screamed the kind of scream that froze my entire body. Raging Tiger swooped into a giant bird to carry him to us: we couldn't get into his armour, which meant we couldn't see how hurt he was, but at least meant he was alive. Tiger strapped him to his back as we continued; he was just about conscious by the time we made camp, and halfway through the next night's travel he was fine.

And eventually we looked out over the valley. It was beautiful, utterly idyllic, and without Tiger we'd never have found it. A small town of old buildings surrounded a stepped pyramid being reclaimed by the local vegetation, more akin to a jungle than a tundra. There was no snow, either, and the climate was warm and humid. We guessed the place to be at least 2,000 years old: it was clearly First Age, so possibly even older. Armed beastmen and unarmed people walked the streets. Tiger explained the pyramid at the heart was likely a powerful manse, judging by the effect. At Kito's question, he said it was likely the hearthstone was with the rogue Lunar, assuming there was a stone. At our surprised expressions, he explained not all manses have stones; some are built to a specific purpose instead.

We observed the town for a while. The normal people seemed to act as a serving class. Of the 60 or so beastmen, not all were combatants. One stood out from the rest, a pure bipedal snow leopard, of which the others were cruder, more human-looking simulcrams. This individual was smaller and compact than Raging Tiger's first appearance and carried a longsword. Concern passed over the face of our new friend: this wasn't our quarry, who's Aspect was Raven, but one of their followers. He was confident he could take on Raven, but not so sure about Leopard. As nervous as this made him, it worried us more. He suggested we - Rey, Kito and I - shoot at the beastmen and keep them occupied while he fought the Lunar. Shoot and move on, he reiterated. Kito and I cast Invulnerable Skin of Bronze, and we were ready.

The Leopard leapt to intercept Tiger as he walked brazenly into the town, yanking a di-klave from its arm. Slightly more than half the beastmen followed into the fight, so Rey joined Tiger while Kito and I ranged the jungle the other side of the river, shooting into the remainder until we had their attention. I stayed in the trees, shooting and moving to make it harder for them to pinpoint me, but one small group reached Kito and he had to switch to his blades - Rey joined him as more hurtled toward the melee. 

I saw 4 of the beastmen creeping into a hut and thought they were hiding from the fight until I saw them leave again with a cart-sized ballista! I took aim as they set it up, but they fired before I loosed. A ball of glowing blue energy expanded... exploded... killed them all! I swung my bow, seeking a new target.

Shoot and move. Shoot and move.

A group made a break for the temple, the pyramid. I killed one, but the other 5 ran inside. I looked around: only 3 remained. One threw a javelin at Kito - I shot it, and hid again. A glance showed me it was still standing, so I fired again as I wormed my way into a spot with vantage on the temple. This shot went through his side and embedded on a wall beyond, dripping heart's blood as he slumped to the floor. As I turned my attention back to the temple, I saw Kito running across the rooftops and fall into a building - before I could leave my hiding place, he'd recovered and continued on his path. I continued to mark the temple doors. 

Raging Tiger continued a blur against the Leopard while the last beastmen fell to Kito's swirling blades. It was then we noticed the humans milling around, armed with scythes, pitchforks and other utensils. Only one held a shortsword, and awkwardly at that. Kito investigated the ballista while Ray defeated the farmers. I kept my bow trained on the temple doors, waiting for the beastmen to come out with whatever threat they had in mind, but the corner of my eye saw the other, the Leopard, heading towards it, and Tiger's aura flaring as he spent Essence in response: a silver light building until it exploded out in a blinding flash, revealing a join-the-dots tiger roaring behind. The Leopard's blade span away as she fell in half.

The temple doors swung open. I saw fleeting black movement within and feathers falling out, and Tiger was there.

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