Exalted: Duty and Honor

The Gang's All Here
Like a Joss Whedon Episode

Coming off or preparing for various assignments, the protagonists each receive a scroll from the Directorate of the Adjutant General, ordering them to report for reassignment under the command of Yushoto Juro of the Fourth Field Force.

Kirigasa Sogeki was the first to arrive, confirming his identity to Juro and then taking a seat. Kirigasa Yukiko was next to arrive, likewise checking in and waiting patiently. She began to suspect a plot against the Kirigasa family, which only seemed confirmed when the siblings Kirigasa Cranesong and Kirigasa Sora entered. Finally, Kirigasa Kurenai arrived in a blaze of glory, dressed to the nines in his armor and acting flamboyantly.

After a little verbal sparring between Cranesong and Kurenai, Juro called the troops to order. He explained that they were part of an experimental force deployment made up entirely of one Gens, to see if it would tighten operational efficiency. Moreover, they would share the responsibility of being fang leader, as another experiment.

Then he gave them their assignment. During routine maintenance on one of Lookshy’s warstriders, sorcerer-technicians had discovered that the hearthstone powering the warstrider had crumbled. Yukiko informed the group that this usually meant massive damage or alterations to the manse. The team was given a detailed map and transport to the manse, called the Emerald Sanctum, and told to investigate. The ship was to depart the following morning. The team was promoted to Rangers, and told to suss out the source of the problem and decide whether or not to call for reinforcements before dealing with it.

The group spent the evening preparing to leave. Cranesong informed her mentor, Yan Tu Jiang, who was confident that she would bring honor to his dojo. Kurenai protested to his parents that he would have to be assigned to the same unit as his fiancee, but both parents told him that they had no say. Yukiko said farewell to her grandfather, and Sogeki received blessings and words of caution from his parents.

When they met at the docks, Kurenai gave Cranesong a gift, which she reluctantly opened. The hungry ghost mask inside was, according to Kurenai, to keep her face from frightening the rest of the group. Predictably, a verbal fight followed. When Sogeki arrived with Yurei, his tree pard, both Cranesong and Kurenai were fascinated, and the animal grudgingly allowed both to pet him.

The ship took approximately two weeks to reach Velis, during which time Kurenai was bored and the rest of the group tried to keep him from setting fire to the ship. Velis itself was a tiny village along the Gray River, the nearest disembarkation point for the village of Masaru, sixty miles away. The Emerald Sanctum was built near Masaru which, according to Velis’ elders, had not been heard from in some time.

Sogeki ran ahead of the party to scout Masaru. He found it abandoned, likely for more than a month, with not a soul in sight. He did spy a winged, bug-like hobgoblin, which seemed to be scouting. He also discovered some large, mysterious trenches, which he could not explain. He reported back to the party, who decided to explore the village itself.

Flying hobgoblin
Image Credit: Wayne Reynolds (Oona’s Prowler for Magic the Gathering)

They found no survivors, no bodies, but plenty of signs of struggle. They also spied a number of hobgoblins lurking about the village. The party attacked, killing two of the Fair Folk and wounding a third before interrogating it as to the location of the villagers. It also told them their leader was Cadoc the Flawless, and that he had “many, lots hobgoblins, and one Big.” Then, Kurenai (who hates Fair Folk, he was eager to point out) killed it.

The party ventured into the forest, which grew thicker and mistier as they went. Kurenai, Sogeki, and Yurei took to the trees, while Cranesong, Sora, and Yukiko continued on the ground. Kurenai was the first to notice rustling through the trees, and drew the rest of the party’s attention to a massive, ladybug-spotted bug monster moving surprisingly stealthily toward them. The party readied for a fight.

Daikaiju
Image Credit: Anthony S. Waters (Faultgrinder for Magic the Gathering)

Yurei and Cranesong leapt onto the beast, slashing at its thick carapace, but neither the pard’s claws nor the Terrestrial’s hook swords could pierce it. Yukiko dealt it a mighty blow with her hammer, knocking it to the ground, but it lashed back and sent her skidding away. Sogeki’s arrows were functionally useless.

Kurenai flared brightly, attracting its attention, and commanded the group to focus their Elemental Bolt through Sogeki. All five Terrestrials channeled their Essence into a single bolt of five elemental energies that Sogeki sent screaming into the behemoth. It was horribly wounded, but not down, and in its rage, it smashed Kurenai backward into a tree, bruising him badly. A second elemental bolt fired into its mouth detonated the beast from within in a spectacular series of explosions.

The group, wounded, exhausted, and forced to endure Kurenai moaning about his beautiful face being ruined (which it wasn’t), decided to camp overnight in Masaru. They kept watch, and though they saw numerous hobgoblins, they were not attacked.

The next day, they set out into the heart of the forest, seeking the Emerald Sanctum. They wandered in the mists for hours, unable to locate the manse, until Yukiko spotted a stone archway in the middle of a clearing. The rest of the group was unable to see the archway until Yukiko touched it, at which point they could all see that the landscape through the arch was some lush, glamorous reflection of the forest around them.

Freehold
Image Credit: Jae Cheol Park (http://paperblue.cghub.com/)

They entered, noting a series of buildings in the distance. Yukiko deduced that it was a freehold, a Fair Folk construction, and inferred that the Emerald Sanctum must have been demolished to make way for this. The area was definitely Wyld, as the stream beneath their feet laughed instead of splashing.

As they plotted to sneak into the buildings and murder the Fair Folk lord, Cadoc himself spoke from the stream, appearing in reflection in the water. He taunted the group, playing his Fair Folk games and showing them the captured citizens of Masaru. Sogeki ordered him to depart, which he refused. When Sogeki threatened him more directly, he stepped up out of the reflection in the water, suddenly VERY present, and stabbed Sogeki.

Cataphract
Image Credit: Pencil by Edouard Guiton, unknown color. (Daikinees for Confrontation)

The fight that ensued was very brief. The team worked well together, forcing him to dodge Yukiko’s hammer and Cranesong’s swords, herding him onto Kurenai’s spear. With a mighty yell and a flare of his fiery anima, Kurenai drove his spear through the Fair Folk, incapacitating him. Sogeki offered him a very one-sided deal in exchange for his life, and when he began trying to negotiate, Kurenai killed him.

The group searched the buildings and found most of the citizens safe, if a little befuddled. Some didn’t want to leave. Approximately fifteen had already been dream-eaten, and the group decided these should be put down out of compassion. Sogeki offered to perform the task, and the others left him to do so.

The group sent a report back to Lookshy, and awaited their next orders.

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Something Rotten in Marukan

After reporting back to Yushoto Juro regarding the outcome of the Whispering Glade, the Kirigasa Fang was given new orders; to continue down the Grey River to the Marukan Redoubt, where the group would serve as advanced rangers for the Lookshyan post there. Predictably, Kurenai complained about being on a boat.

Fortunately for everyone involved, a pair of thuggish river elementals, Sobeksis according to Yukiko, attempted to extort a toll from the riverboat as it passed through their territory. Apparently not clever enough to recognize the boat’s Lookshy flag, the Sobeksis demanded gold, lapis, food sacrifice, or worship. Sogeki told them in no uncertain terms that their demands were illegal, but they remained unimpressed until Kurenai flared her anima and told them to back off. They did so, and a report was dispatched back to Lookshy, who would hopefully send some monks to deal with the upstart river spirits.

The Marukan Redoubt was a relatively small outpost, and yet still incredibly impressive by Second Age standards. The Lookshy presence included a large garrison, magitech weaponry, and an airship. The party immediately reported to Taimyo Maheka Yori. Yori assigned the fang to ranging and scouting, assisting the Marukani in tracking down some troublemakers along the border with Thorns to the south.

For several weeks, the fang worked individually and as a unit to map out and investigate much of the border between the Marukan Alliance and Thorns. Eventually, while working as a team, they discovered a wounded Marukani scout, near death, strapped to her horse and wandering near one of the Marukani range towns. Sogeki used his magic to heal the woman, and they led her back to the town.

She reported an ambush by strange, shambling creatures, things that moved very quickly. The team determined where the attack had taken place and made plans to return to scout the incident. Surprisingly, the scout insisted on returning with them to the site of the ambush: a narrow, hilly valley.

At the site, the group discovered evidence of a scuffle, but investigation was interrupted by the arrival of a patrol of oddly-armored figures. The group took to cover, but upon realizing the armor the figures wore appeared to be made of bone, they inferred the patrol’s allegiance to Thorns and set upon them. The battle was fierce, but short. During the kerfuffle, Yukiko and Cranesong noticed some manner of horrid, snarling spirits emerging from some of the dead soldiers, but investigation was deferred.

The fang recovered the strange bone-armor and the bodies of the slain and returned to the range town, where Sogeki, Sora, and Yukiko proceeded to forensically examine both the armor and the corpses. Kurenai fled the “barn of horrors” as she dubbed it. Yukiko determined that the armor was very much like Gunzosha armor, but made of bone and tissue, while Sogeki found necromantically enchanted runes engraved in the collarbones of the dead. It was surmised that these bones held hungry ghosts captive, accounting for the appearance of the snarling spirits. The bones and armor were prepared for shipment back to the Redoubt, and the fang prepared to investigate further into the valley.

It rapidly became apparent that the valley was the mouth of a significant shadowland, and the fang advanced further. To their horror, they discovered a massing army of the dead, a large force led by none other than the Prince Resplendent in the Ruin of Ages, a.k.a. Crumbling Pillar. Crumbling Pillar was a notorious Anathema, who had slain many Lookshyan Dragon-Blooded in his career of mayhem and madness. He was a known subordinate of Thorns, and his massing forces appeared more than capable of making a sizable strike against one or more of the Marukani range towns.

The group retreated to send a report back to the Redoubt, but was spotted by some manner of scrabbling thing, a small man with multiple arms sewn onto his body, some of which ended in wickedly sharp knives. It gave brief pursuit, but Sogeki put it down with an arrow. The party returned to the range town and send a Wind-Carried missive back to Yori.

The response was nearly immediate: A force of heavy infantry, foreign legion Janissaries, gunzosha troops, archers, and two warstriders, the red jade Adamant Charge and the white jade Valorous Shield, was dispatched in the airship Unfettered Sky. Led by Taizei Amilar Kiyomi, the Seventh Legion force arrived to annihilate the army of the damned.

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