Sunday 14 January 2018

Exalted - The Quest for Blacksmiths (Nexus)

This is the last of my pre-prepared Exalted catch-up write-ups I'd written before my GM kindly offered to lend me my notebook from the game (having noticed I've made a few (a lot) of errors). I'm not sure whether I should use my notes to edit my existing posts, or start again with the notebook to hand (I'll pick it up from him next time I see him, assuming I remember). I'm most strongly tempted to finish my 'from memory' write-ups, then start again with the notebook. Will change the tags on the memory ones to reflect the fact they aren't quite right...

Of course, I still need to finish writing up Aberrant and Deadlands, and haven't even started on Mage. I do at least already have my notebooks for the first 2...

We were on Kito's cloud, he, Syren, Pounce and I, when I saw one of the tall statues that ring Nexus. I did as I have always done since learning that these are statues of the Emissary, and that he can see through their eyes when he's in Nexus, and grinned and waved enthusiastically at one. I was lucky - he happened to be looking at the right moment and saw us: a beam of light struck down from the Sun and soon after a chariot raced from the ground towards us. My smile broadened as I watched it get closer, timing my jump just right to reach the Emissary at the earliest moment I could, and give him a huge bear hug.

There were screams from behind me. For a split second I thought I'd just scared the boys with my antics, but quickly realised something had gone wrong. It transpired we hadn't warned Syren about the Emissary. He'd seen what he perceived as a magical threat flying towards us and had attempted to dispel it. That had backfired, bouncing from the shining chariot to hit Kito's cloud. Pounce had leapt clear just in time, landing beside me, but the boys were falling. The Emissary swung the chariot round, and we plunged. The air rushed through my hair as we dived down to come beneath them and catch them. It was exhilarating!

There were gabbled introductions in the chariot, made more formal once we reached the White Tower. We mentioned the hawk which Syren thought had been following us, and the Emissary laughed and opened a window. In flew... Raging Tiger, who twisted back into his usual human form and settled himself on a sofa as we talked. The Emissary had asked him to keep an eye on us, after we met the Undying Fury of Creation. Just in case.

We gave Syren a quick tour. He was impressed with the observatory on the rooftop, which I think pleased the Emissary - Kito and I have never shown that much interest in the room, apart from the fact it's beautiful, with all the stars. They talked divination long after Kito and I had lost interest and wandered back downstairs to help make food for everyone (an idea that pleased both Raging Tiger and Pounce, and for us a chance to catch up with the Emissary's housekeeper). They rejoined us in the lounge, where we learnt the Emissary knew Syren's mentor - the one who'd sent him to find us. The twins.

The Emissary recognised Syren's sword as having belonged to the mentor. Syren said there was an important secret hidden in it, but he didn't know how to find it. Borrowing it, the Emissary fiddled with the pommel and it twisted apart to reveal a small compartment. He withdrew a piece of paper from inside and handed it to Syren. It was a list of names we could trust. Hakuran we knew, and Undying Fury of Creation, which surprised us. The others, Azure Titan, Radiant Summer, Meredith, Yika, Eskil, Sabine, they were new to us. The Emissary was there as Zhou Yoon - but with a warning: "he has his own agenda". Syren read the other names out there, but left the Emissary off, showing us later. The Emissary nodded along to the other names, he recognised them and wasn't surprised.

We explained to the Emissary why we were there, hoping to borrow some blacksmiths for the Imperial Army. He wanted to know why, and said we could certainly negotiate for blacksmiths, but the necromancer would be more than the Army could cope with. He suggested he come with Kito and I, and bring Hak and the Undying Fury of Creation (if he'd join), and we act as a strikeforce while the Army acts as distraction. I was happy with that suggestion, though Kito still had reservations about Undying Fury.

We went to the Laughing Badger for dinner. We'd brought the Emissary here before, though Lawrence didn't know it: the Emissary continued to wear his mask for official work, but left it off when out with us. We were sad to learn Lawrence's aunt had died since we'd last been to Nexus, but she'd left him the pub and he was doing very well. 

Syren spent most of our stay in the observatory, studying the patterns of the stars in an effort to get clues to the future. Kito and I met with various blacksmiths, but Andra Song of the Anvil Song stood out. From the front, it looks like a tea room, and indeed there is a waiting room set up as such, where her son, very young at the time, played with wooden toys behind the counter. He ran out back to get his mother when we said we wanted to speak with her, and as he opened the door we heard a beautiful chorus of hammers - more orchestra than forge. I don't know how it was achieved, but every time I hear it it strikes me again. She oversaw a lot of smiths there, and could put us in touch with more.

Again, the numbers of skilled smiths we were after would affect the local economy, so again we had to negotiate to take them, and while that took place Kito and I (spurred on by the person I'd got arrested in Cherak) decided we'd have a go at crimefighting. We heard about people going missing, particularly in the Firewander district. The suspicion was that they were being taken and sold as slaves. After what had happened to our mother and the younger of our older siblings, we weren't at all happy at the idea of anyone being a slave, so we wanted to investigate. I thought the best thing to do would be to look vulnerable in an area where people were likely being snatched, and trust in our army training to protect us and enable us to take them down and drag them in for questioning. I had images of how easy it would be. 

Kito was more cautious, but I skillfully walked him into an alley and a mugging almost before he noticed.

Turns out, he was right to be cautious. They were more powerful than I'd expected. I threw down my windblade and jumped on it so I could shoot arrows, which meant they targetted Kito first. I screamed as he fell, but then they started firing their own bows at me. The fight was bloody - I'm pretty sure Kito had managed to take most of them out, but the remaining ones shot well and I spun at a roof, badly injured. My bow wasn't doing enough damage, so I reached for the plasma tongue repeater - the one I'd found at the estate where the owner had raided Solar tombs - and fired it into one of the two who remained standing. He burnt up, but the other kept aiming for me, when a flicker of shadow spun into focus: an archer, taking aim. The arrow flew through the last man, embedding into the wooden doorframe. I left the rooftop I'd taken refuge on, racing for Kito. I looked up, but the shadowy figure had gone. I fixed Kito with the healing needles and pulled the arrow free. It was beautifully made: orichalcum, with a spiralling design along the shaft and fletched with feathers I'd never seen before, an iridescent blue-black. I fingered its sharp point thoughtfully, before hiding it in my pack. We'd been told the Solar who'd had the weapon buried with them wouldn't mind us using it, but this was the first time we had, and I couldn't help wondering if our protector had come from the repeater, or was that same Solar...

While Kito slept off his injuries, I sequestered myself in the Emissary's study, thinking to learn more about factory cathedrals and geomancy. I started reading about a place called Hollow; noticing my interest, the Emissary showed me secrets: 'Hollow' is a very old name for what is now Nexus. He protects it. The laws that seem so arbitrary and everchanging are part of the complicated magic that keeps the place from flooding. I asked him about some notes I'd found in a margin, referencing other texts I couldn't find. He explained these weren't texts, but something else, and took me away to somewhere else - somewhere in Elsewhere, I think. Here, I met the AI Iam for the first time, though I had no idea what it was. The Emissary had it show me a day in his life when he was an architect working on the Blesséd Isle back in the First Age. I was amazed at what I saw, the prosperity of even the poorest there. Free school, healthcare, for everyone. Plenty of food. His younger self had a quill that took dictation, and the Emissary told me I could have one if I earned it. He took one from a shelf, showed me how it worked, and tucked it behind his ear.

We returned to the study, where Kito was looking for us. I told him what I'd seen, and told him we had to work to make that happen again. The Emissary looked surprised, then delighted, and whipped the quill from behind his ear to present it to me with a flourish.

I'm still working on restoring the Blesséd Isle, but I will get there.

On the missing people, we started investigating empty and abandoned buildings - with Raging Tiger again instructed to watch over us. Skulking around one one night, we found ourselves arrested by Hooded Executioners. They weren't pleased that we'd jeopardised their operation into the problem, but we agreed to work together.

The Emissary became interested too, and joined Kito, Tiger and me next time we went along. This time, we found a way into the building, and a passageway from the cellar. It led deep into what is under Nexus - into Hollow. A signpost frightened the Emissary - he cast an incantation and looked carefully over Kito, Tiger and me. The sign had warned of the Grand Contagion - something I still know very little about, except it killed a huge amount of the population of Creation and it's possible this place was still capable of infecting us, though fortunately the Emissary was able to provide protection for us in time. 

We carried on, through the dark, to the Wild incursion that extended roots to these depths. The path carried through, and we walked along until we found a manse within. The Emissary stopped us and made us promise to do exactly as he said inside, and not to attack anything. As long as we did so, he said, we'd be safe. We obeyed.

The Fey inside was far more frightening than the other we'd met, though perhaps because we had a better knowledge of them now. It talked of dreams and gossamer, and the Lost Egg behind the disappearances: he was feeding them to the Fey.

The Emissary sealed the path behind us to prevent anyone else being brought here.

When it came time to leave, Syren requested to stay and continue his studies. 

Kito and I wanted to stop off at Derren's Ford on our way to our next stop, Thorns.

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