Friday 26 July 2019

Exalted - Our First Command

This is the story of our Second Age Exalted game, told from the point of view of my character, Cathak Taji. Click here for the index.
We headed north, knowing we couldn't take on the Bull (yet) but determined to learn as much about him as possible. The journey was uneventful: we rested at Port Kaylen, where the gate guard slept as we walked past. The inn we stayed in was cheap, pleasant in itself, but run by a harridan. We were back at Highcastle by the next evening. Rey greeted us with good news: she'd been reassigned with us as the Empress pulled some strings after our visit, and was glad to be out of the cold. She led us to Rose Black and the leader of House Tepet to make our promotion official. Our new unit was the 73rd Regiment, a scale within the 33rd Legion. Our first mission had the primary objective of coming back alive: to the north was The Hold of White Idols, a rice farming region whose produce supplied much of the Realm and Threshold, but they'd gone quiet recently and we were to learn why. On our way, we were to stop at a holding of one of the lesser Houses of Ledaal. She gave us a Hearthstone amulet that would allow us to contact her, our medals of office showing us as Scale Lords, and sent us on our way.

We picked our way through the campsite to reach our scale, their tents in a semicircle that broke the perfect order of the camp. 6 who appeared to be normal humans, and 6 Dynasts: 3 from Tepet, 2 from Cathak and 1 Ledaal, Sven. He called us "kids", but I managed not to rise to his baiting. We were young, and I knew we'd soon prove we were there on merit.

They were the troublemakers, which delighted me. It meant they could think.

We found a rabbit in Kito's bed that night. I was set to punish them or at least get revenge, but Kito calmed me and I listened. We fashioned it a harness and named it 'Ghost' and kept it as a mascot. It was a sweet thing, white with black spots.

We left in the morning and got to know our unit as we travelled. Cathak Cainan was particularly grizzled and seemed to have the most leadership experience. The other member of our House, Kou, was the youngest of the Dynasts, an Immaculate Monk wearing a tunic with a leaping flame motif. House Tepet was represented by Rihannon, a blonde-haired older woman with a reaper diklaive and an excellent cook, Elena, who felt familiar until it struck me she reminded me of the Rose Black, and Hoarst, whose bald head was one of the shiniest things I'd ever seen, and who seemed... shifty. He kept grumbling about the cold. Ledaal Sven had fair hair and skin, blue eyes and light stubble, and seemed young and irreverent. Everything was a joke to him - I had no doubt he was behind Ghost's appearance. Of the mortals, Osada and Iki were married. They wore full plate armour as though it were nothing, and had strange amulets grafted into their wrists. Matsu Dairu had a pair of ornate guns with which he was very skilled.

After half a day's travel, Sven was already bored. We could hear running water and headed toward it. Before we reached the river, we found a giant rock gouged with great clawmarks indicating we were passing into an Anathema's territory. After a quick discussion, we decded to take the risk as the river would vastly speed up our travel. Once we reached it, Cainan oversaw the building of a raft while Rihannon, a good fisherman and cook, prepared a meal. Osada, Rey, Elena and I secured the perimeter, and I learnt more about Osada and Iki's armour. It wasn't full plate, but "gonzai" armour, linked to the amulets. It's a special kind of power armour that can be used by those who can't normally channel essence, but it halves their lifespan. In thanks for such a sacrifice, the Realm promises to look after their families and gives them a command. He met Iki through this, and they're here rather than commanding their own unit because they're coming to the end of their time and "well, I'm not the type to die in bed, so I'm refusing to retire." I could respect that.

Cainan and I were sharing watch when the tyrant lizard attacked that night, crashed through the trees towards our camp. I fired arrows into it as Cainan swung at it. It bent its mighty head and caught him in his jaws, lifting to swallow him, but in that instant he flared so that it looked like it was breathing fire for a moment and cut his way free, the sword getting wedged as he finally fell. I fired an arrow into its open mouth and must have hit a nerve that caused the jaws to snap shut, lodging the sword deep into the creature's brain. We looked at each other with the joy of hard fought victory. There's good eating on a tyrant lizard. Rihannon joined us in time to organise the creature's dissection, splitting the parts into edible, valuable, useful and detritus.

The river raced us along until we reached an offshoot used to irrigate the fields of the Ledaal holding. We saw fewer people than we'd expected, but it seemed to be very efficient. Overseers stared as we floated past,visibly relaxing when they saw the  Imperial red armour worn by some of the unit.

After tying up the raft, we were led to Overseer Vash, a corpulent man grown comfortable in his position. He introduced us to his servant George and showed us around. Housing for the workers and livestock was pointed out and dismissed as he led us to the gardens, replete with ornate topiaries and pristine lawns and flower beds. Even the ivy clinging to the buildings was immaculate. The stables housed horses of particularly fine eastern stock. As we approached the main house, servants tripped out and lined up as though for an inspection. Vash then offered his hospitality for as long as we might want, his obsequious bow and unctuous grin failing to hide his desire it wouldn't be long: with so many Dynasts in our party, perhaps he thought he was being replaced. He then began a detailed tour of the house, and this was when we noticed Hoarst was missing. Kito left Sven in charge, and we snuck off to look for him.

We found him in a study, feet on table, flicking through paperwork, looking, he explained, for any dodgy dealings. Behind him, a painting rested on the floor to expose a safe in the wall, the open door revealing a jewellery box filled with large gems, and two talents of yellow jade! Hoarst chuckled at our shocked expressions. 

"There was more." He indicated the paperwork. "Our Overseer Vash has been dealing with the Azlanti." And not just the Azlanti: he showed us where 12 talents had been paid to the Azlanti, 5 to the Guild (for slaves), and finally 5 to the Realm. Payments had been coming later and later and with less and less interest, so the Realm had become suspicious. This was the real reason we'd been told to go via this site. He explained something the Rose Black had omitted telling us: each member of our unit has their own purpose and their own mission. This was his.

As we helped him restore the room, I discovered a secret compartment in the safe, holding a key labled 73256. Hoarst pocketed the guide and promised to keep digging, but seemed genuinely impressed I'd found the key. We rejoined the tour briefly: Sven was doing a fantastic job of keeping Vash occupied, so we slipped off again to look for a bigger safe. 
Kito suggested the wine cellar, figuring a safe as large as we're expecting would have to be underground. As we walked, Hoarst explained the unit's recent history. The previous leader, Scale Lord Chow, faced down an Anathema so the rest could escape, but even so half the unit had died. 

The wine cellar was filled with expensive bottles of wine and spirits, and barrels of various sizes, up to some several metres in diameter laid on their sides. One of these sounded empty so I fiddled around and found a catch that opened the front, revealing a large metal door. The key fitted the latch, and the number turned out to be the code. The wall the barrel had been pressed against wasn't, as it had appeared, been the edge of the cellar. While the room had been large, where we now stood was even larger. The size and structure made us think the room had to be Shogunite, or even older, but was clearly in current use. The wine stored here was worth even more than that we'd already seen. There were green jade talents stacked fairly near the door, artworks and other items dotted around. Kito found a small box in green jade. Opening it, we found 8 needles around the length of a finger and the diameter of a stem of wheat, 2 in each of the magical materials. We recognised them as Wound Healing Needles and hid them in my bag. A fine pair of gloves next caught our eyes, chased in orichalcum. The left included a Hearthstone socket. Kito identified them as Gloves of Martial Readiness, and again we squirrelled them away. I picked up a small orichalcum chevron, that could clip over a belt buckle, and spent a moment attuning to it. Throwing it to the ground caused it to expand until I could stand on it, hovering. It responded to my awkward movements and my feet felt secured. With practice, I knew it would make a very useful archery platform (I'd later learn it was known as a Wind Blade Class Personal Transport, and it remains one of my favourite possessions). Finally was another small jade box, with motifs picked out in moonsilver, locked and dusty like it had been discarded. Kito attuned to this which allowed him to open it and discover a plasma tongue repeater, like the one the Highcastle Quarter Master had given us, complete with ammo. I restored my wind blade to belt buckle sized and shared a look with Kito: there was a lot of orichalcum in the room.

What we found there made us look more closely at the yellow jade Hoarst had found in the office. Stamped by the Imperial Mint but dated to the first 5 or 6 years of the Shogunite. We took these and rejoined our unit, throwing the jade down in front of Vash with our accusations. He prevaricated and tried to justify himself, but before he got far Elena's blade flashed past, beheading him. I was shocked and angry, wanting to hear more, especially about where he'd found the orichalcum items (Anathema tombs, but we didn't learn the location), and frustrated that she was acting on orders from above me and about which I knew nothing. I understood this wasn't unusual in an army situation, but I felt undermined and that was nearly unbearable. I suppressed my feelings and gave instructions to split up and find more evidence.

As the others amassed paperwork and such in the great hall, I found a hidden room behind the kitchen - I had to squirm through the back of a cupboard to reach it. Inside was a strange device, with an array of buttons and blinking lights. I didn't recognise any of the symbols and curiously tapped a couple of the buttons. The lights and some symbols changed. I tapped again, and the blinking intensified. An alarm sounded. I frantically batted more of the buttons until the blinking and alarm synced into what sounded like a countdown. I bolted from the strange room and started yelling for everyone to evacuate. As I reached the edge of the gardens, I saw a large, metal dragon-shape break out of the house and explode. I was shaken but not injured, unlike Kito who'd been trying to rescue servants. He was bleeding profusely when I found him, badly bruised all over with his leg twisted beneath him. We laid him out carefully, and I tested the needles. To my relief, they worked. Guards came running over, but Sven led them off. I instructed our unit to clear the ruin, and we got the surviving servants to prepare the guest house as the main residence.
As Kito came to, he pointed out there was no essence in the area. The device must have been similar to a Thousand Forged Dragon, though with less destructive power. All the same, it shouldn't have been possible to accidentally enter the launch code. Either I got very, very unlucky, or those things have a lifespan and become unstable towards the end. That might explain why there was less damage, too... Either way, I was just grateful my brother was ok and the damage not as bad as it might have been.

Wednesday 24 July 2019


Does have lymphoma. She also has a limp they thought initially was arthritis but now think is a tumour, and another leg has started limping since then. She's on steroids to make her feel better and encourage her to eat, and they do seem to be helping but they aren't a cure. We're giving her lots of love and affection and all the food she asks for. We're hoping she makes it to Christmas, but have no idea how long she might have: the only way to find out would be invasive exploratory surgery which doesn't seem fair to her. For now, she's happy and we'll do what we can to keep her happy as long as possible.


Wednesday 10 July 2019

Mage - Introductions

This is the story of our Mage game, told from the perspective of my character Ragna "Reagan" Halvorsen. Index here.
1st March 2016
I sat among the other hopefuls, waiting for my turn. While they ran lines in their heads and practiced faces and poses, I centred my breathing as I moved between yoga poses and looked over their auras, seeing the nerves, the confidence, the hopes and fears of every other audition room I'd been in. This time, I was going to try something different and needed my mind in the right place.

When they called my name, I walked to the stage and looked out, through their auras, into their minds to see what they thought they were looking for, and deeper, to what they actually wanted. They were mostly bored, but I got their attention anyway. A little life magic can add sparkle like that.

It's not cheating, using the gifts I inherited from my mormor. After all, I could be using her name and her agency to get parts. At least this way I'm doing it myself.

They smiled as they thanked me. I smiled back and hid the relief. A chocolate milk commercial might not be much, but it had lines and that's a start.

Caervus, the man who'd initiated me to the Euthanatoi tradition a few months ago, met me outside. He gave me an address and told me to be there at 9pm, before slipping away in his mysterious manner. I raced to my waitressing shift - long as usual, still lacking any high powered film producer who might cast me as the lead in his movie. Managed to find the right buses to get me across town to what turned out to be an occult store. You know the type, lots of dangling charms and trays of gemstones (many fake), and tarot cards behind glass, and a funny smell from mismatched incense. Confused and shy, I spoke to the guy behind the counter. He led me creaking stairs to a landing so decrepit I felt sure I'd fall through - he went back to his store and left me there, so I went through the only door.

To somewhere bright and sunny, but cool (or at least, cooler than LA). The ground was made of carved stones and a pool glistened. Snowy mountains in the distance. Caervus came over and explained this place is a meeting place for new members, and I won't be back here for a while.

"Your path coincides with another for now. This is Marcus Waite." 

Older than me, maybe mid-20's. Dark hair, styled longer on top and shorter on the sides with a purple tinge, dark eyes. Was wearing ragged jeans and a white shirt under his long coat, the way he was nearly always dressed, I'd come to learn. He removed his headphones as we were introduced. Caervus explained he's further on his path and will be teaching me. Gave him my number and he left, then Caervus wished me luck and gave me a blessing. Felt a bit sad when I realised I wouldn't be seeing him for a while. Initiation isn't gentle and he supported me through it.

When I left, I saw the door stood with in the middle of the balcony. Marcus was waiting, took me for a coffee and we chatted. He was from the East coast, played in bands and came here for a record deal that fell through. Caervus found him in a particularly bad spot - he looked haunted by it and I didn't ask more. The more we talked, the more I thought Mormor would like him.

He took me to meet a mysterious "someone". The house was typical suburban, maintained with pride. Before we went in, Marcus explained I was here to have a reading, which I should only discuss with him, and any questions should be to him not her - she "gets funny".

The lady was African American. I'm no expert on accents, but I think she was from somewhere South. She looked older than Mormor looks, but not as old as Mormor is. She had a nice smile and ushered me into a candlelit room, sat me down in front of a table covered in a deep velvet cloth. Talked me through the cards. She clearly knew what she was doing, but I felt dazzled by it and came away only understanding I had a lot to learn.

Marcus got us a cab home, somehow getting away without paying for it.

2nd March 2016
Marcus was worried about a friend of his who'd gone missing, and wanted me to check out a laundromat in Chinatown where there were rumours of strange goings on. Warned me "be circumspect" so I 'accidentally' spilled somethng down my uniform at the end of my shift and headed over, humming to myself - singing to the building. There was a tingle of ... something. I couldn't place it. Went in and talked to the guy, but I couldn't get a read on him. As I tried, a strange, skinny guy came in so I left. Back out on the street, I tried to pinpoint what I'd sensed before, sketching a circle and trying to focus through that onto the building, but the skinny guy reappeared, and everywhere I went he seemed to follow. Went back in and arranged to collect my uniform the next day - try again then. The strange guy offered me a lift home, which I eventually accepted. Howard. Think he was surprised when I got him to drop me off in Beverly, and Mormor, of course, teased me mercilessly.