Exalted: The Legend of Denandsor

A Garden of Black Lilies
Whispers of a New Age 3

“It’s going to be hard,” Enkhergal had warned her, “Too many ‘companies’ of whores, or fools being sold as cannon fodder on a gimmick. Everyone is going to think you’re a joke.”
That was over a night of drinks and conversation a year and a half gone, after a chance meeting in Nexus. As it turned out, an actual, demonstrable Dragon-blooded forming a mercenary band drew eyes no matter who that Dragon-blooded happened to be hiring. While plenty of onlookers did their share of jeering and ribald jokes, the few who had turned out soon snowballed into a scale, then a talon.
Now, a full wing of spearwomen, swordswomen, light cavalry and archers stood outside Captain Ping’s tent, awaiting her battle orders.
She splashed water on her face, and checked the straps of her plate in the mirror behind the washstand. All seeming in order, Ping took up Trueheart from the weapon rack, the weight of the black jade feeling familiar and potent in her hand, before ducking under the entrance and joining her soldiers on the field. Silently, her bodyguard- four hand-picked soldiers from the elite of her band- fell into place behind her.
Enkhergal was right. It had been hard, at first. Most national militaries were roughly egalitarian when it came to women soldiers, but the same could not be said of mercenaries. Even the famed Lady of Thunder admitted she traded hard on her reputation as a Marukan horselord. This was something Ping knew well- back in the day, half the reason why Jian had lead their little band without protest from Jun was because of the advantage it would give them in representation. It was struggle, with her first little handful of soldiers, to find valuable work.
For most of her life, when she was mute, Ping had let the men she worked for determine her identity. First Lin, then Jian. So when she finally struck out on her own, not having men involved seemed symbolically important, despite the difficulties it posed. But she was still Exalted, chosen by the Earth Dragon for her prowess and passion in battle. She had years of strategic and tactical experience under great generals, and if logistics was still a struggle from time to time, well, there were no shortage of experienced quartermasters for hire in the home city of the Merchant’s Guild.
But as it turned out, there were hundreds of soldiers too green to be considered by a more professional company, and too female to be taken serious by rougher bands. With every success, word had spread, and recruits turned up, including more than a few veterans abandoning established bands to march along their fellow women.
Now the Black Lilies were an experienced, battle-tested company on the eastern front of Linowan, defending the borderlands against Haltan skirmishers. Their standard, a black fleur-de-iles on yellow, held proudly by bannerwomen in a dozen places in their battle line.
Tansy, the eyepatched and battle-scarred former healer who served as Ping’s right-hand woman, was there to greet her from the front lines. “Beastmen in the trees, Cap’n, wolves and stags and and such,” she reported, “Scouts’re reporting back to camp, as ordered.”
Ping nodded. “When they appear, we’ll want fire arrows into their back ranks, to make them stupid and drive them forward,” she ordered. As Tansy nodded, Ping said, a little bit louder, “Hey, Tansy, do you know why they say beastmen have long pricks?”
Tansy grinned, experienced with this by now, replied, “I dunno, ma’am, does it have to do with them bein’ taller than men?”
“Yes, indeed. They have much more blood so it takes them longer to go down after you prick them,” Ping replied, to a chuckle from the ranks of spearwomen nearby. It wasn’t a good joke, but Ping knew it was important to appear relaxed in the face of danger.
As Tansy dashed off to relay orders to the archers, Ping levelled her spear at the forest ahead, and channeled Essence into her voice. “Blades up and eyes forward, ladies! The beasts on the way and it’s time to earn our keep!” As the officers down the line relayed her orders, and the air filled with the sound of three hundred soldiers taking battle position, Ping could only grin.
“Dancing Spear” Ping was a mute little girl only good for being a soldier and pining after men who spoke for her, she thought. A woman like that would never be able to lead half a fang of cadets, nevermind a formidable mercenary band.
These days, she was “Gardener” Ping, and with her Black Lilies she would forge a new story for herself.

Flow like a River
Whispers of a New Age 2

Jun Wei shook her, trying to clear her frazzled nerves. For the hundredth time she checked that her sword was loose in it’s sheath. The direction she expected her enemy to come from. The angle of the tarp-covered wagon that was hidden just inside the archway of a millennium-abandoned forge.
“Keep that tarp down, the glittering might give us away,” she said, uselessly, to one of the guardsmen crouched by the wagon. He nodded nervously, checking back over everything. Of course, it was already fine, but it gave the man something to do.
Suddenly, the sound of running footsteps echoing off the buildings. Jun straightened herself. It was time to cast the dice.
“Alright, people,” she said to the half-dozen guardsmen and guardswomen gathered in the T-shaped intersection she had chosen for this trap, “This would normally be a job for the Anathema, but we don’t have that luxury. They’ve bigger problems to deal with, so unfortunately this falls to us. We have our plan, we have our weapons, and we have all the iron we need right here.” She emphasized her last point by thumping her breastplate right above her heart.
The assembled guards nodded, and took their places. Everything was ready.
Chao Dun, unarmoured and with sword in hand, came careening around a corner, launching himself forward and making for the trapped intersection. “She’s coming!” he shouted breathlessly as he sprinted past, collapsing with exhaustion just inside the forge.
Jun drew her sword. “Positions!” she barked, although her soldiers were already in place or scrambling to get there.
The Rakshasa floated around the corner, hovering effortlessly, almost casually, a few inches from the ground. Most of her appeared to be a beautiful, if oddly-coloured and garishly clothed, woman. Her skin was the colour of lilacs, her long hair a shockingly vibrant green, and her dress of crisscrossing diagonal stripes was every colour of the rainbow. But her most glaringly inhuman feature was her arms… longer than the length of her body, she possessed massively muscled arms ended in taloned hands the size of a soldier’s shield. The multicoloured sleeves ended with a flaring ruffle at the wrist, but the hands themselves were brown and furred, almost as if taken from another beast entirely.
Upon spotting Jun, the Rakshasa tilted it’s head with curiosity. Then, in a surprisingly weak and feminine voice, it asked, “Where are your children?”
Jun took a step forward and fell into a defensive stance. “You’ll have no more children tonight, fae,” she growled, “I’m your opponent.”
The beast let out a high-pitched giggle, and with sudden speed dashed forward to strike at Jun with a massive, clawed paw.
Jun barely got her sword up in time. With the Rakshasa’s speed and power, there was no chance that Jun could beat it in a straight-up sword battle even if the beast was vulnerable to steel. But she was good enough- just barely- to keep the beast’s claws away, provided it didn’t get bored. Thankfully, the Rakshasa was toying with her, grinning like a fool as it played with this new, interesting prey.
Slowly, accompanied by the ring of claw on steel, Jun gave way. Every step was carefully chosen. Every retreat was carefully planned. After all, just because Jun wasn’t skilled enough to beat the beasts, didn’t mean that she couldn’t choose how to fall back.
With one last hop back, careful not to disturb the line of iron filings sprinkled on the ground. Jun put down her sword. The other guards had just finished completing the circle, stepping back with empty sacks stamped with the Blacksmith’s Guild emblem. The Rakshasa raised an arm to strike at Jun, then paused.
Suddenly, it screamed in frustration, a loud and piercing wail that made Jun wince and step back.
“You foolish woman! I will have vengeance for my slaughtered child! My prince, my lovely prince!”
Jun calmly sheathed her sword, as she walked back to where the wagon stood, ignoring most of the Rakshasa’s curses. Her heart pounded in her chest, but she needed her guards focused, and couldn’t betray any nervousness.
“This ward will not hold me forever, mortal bitch! I will have my blood!”
With one hand, Jun took the bow and quiver of raw iron-tipped arrows that Chao Dun was handing her, and with the other, she pulled the tarp off the wagon, revealing the glittering orichalcum barrel of an Essence Cannon.
“Fortunately for us both, that ward won’t have to hold you for long,” Jun retorted as the shew the arrow to her cheek.
“Guardsmen! You may fire when ready.”

Adapt and Overcome
Whispers of a New Age 1

The Engine of Perpetual Zealotry looked out over the smoky expanse of the Patropolis of Greyfalls. In only a few short years, the handful of shoddy buildings of wood and stone have been removed in favour of orderly rows of aluminum and concrete prefabs, arranged in concentric circles. Before, bound to the tunnels and platforms of the Maker’s body, cities existed in three dimensions, forming to the contours of pipe conduits and cavities. Now, given a relatively flat, two dimensional surface on which to build, the engineers of the Tripartite created a sprawling wonder of geometric shapes, with decadently broad streets and luxuriously tall archways. It was inefficient, but for the first time in their lives, citizens were adjusting to the idea of having private space, a rare treat reserved only for the upper echelons of society. Of course, the land had it’s own say- the circles of the city were broken by the river slowly coursing down out of the hills.
To think that one day there would be so much clean water that people would consider it a nuisance….
She wondered idly how long it could last. For all that the people of Creation were strange, war never changes. “Expansion inevitably bring conflict,” she said to nobody at all, “And if we choose to remain strangers, then what friends will we have in the coming battles?”
She grimaced. Unfortunately, of the hundreds of lifetimes of experience she had access to by virtue of her soulgem, almost none were of diplomats or plutarchs. She had been a scout, an assassin, a bodyguard, a general, and many things more. She knew a thousand ways to end a life, but not one word of how to change a society.
With a sad sigh, she stepped off her perch on a manufactory’s smokestack, activated her gravatic boost module at the last second and lighted gently on the manufactory roof. War was coming, as inevitable as death, and if Perpetual Engine of Zealotry could not stop it, she could at least see that she was not unprepared.

Diamond & Guards Defend The Manse Fortress
All's Quiet on the Manse Front (Or Is It...?)

Setting: During the Siege of Denandsor

All was quiet as Diamond stood guard outside the Manse, dressed in her best armour, occasionally patrolling around and attempting to keep guard morale up. She would not forsake those who would give their lives for the civilians of the city she’d sworn her allegiance to, and made sure they knew that. They might not be at the front of the battle, but that did not mean they were any less important than any others serving in defence of the city. There were still Lunar assassins present, potentially, as well as any others that would try to sneak in from behind, or around.

After a while, she decided to go to the top and see how the archers fared, when, after a short while, a commotion was heard down within the building itself. She grabbed a group of five archers, capable as well with their short swords, and raced downwards to see what had caused it. The ruckus was not immediately found, as it happened to be in the basement, but within minutes Diamond arrived, only to find the third of three guards, assigned to watch the cistern, being stabbed and falling to the ground. It was one of the Lunar assassins, stealthily doing her job. Well, up until now.

Caught in the heat of the moment, Diamond let off a shot at the Lunar’s head, but missed. She re-holstered her gun and pulled out her own short sword instead, charging the would-be assassin. She sliced at the Lunar’s knee, attempting to incapacitate, only to miss and instead slash the back of the Lunar’s leg. One of the guards Diamond had brought down with her attacked with his sword, giving the Lunar some pretty serious injury, and Diamond, remembering that she was to attempt to save any Lunar from death that she could, switched to the flat of her blade and attacked again, twice. Unfortunately the momentum from the attack was more than enough to shove the Lunar against the stone door to the cistern that she’d tried to open, crack her helmet, and kill her.

Diamond regretted it instantly, but since it was in self-defence, not only of herself but of the citizens around her within the Manse. She knew it had to be done. Upon further investigation, the Lunar was found to be carrying a red dye within a pouch on her belt. This confused Diamond momentarily, but it was pretty easy to figure out – clearly the Lunar had set out to incite panic, and divide the city from the inside out to make easier prey. Diamond cleaned the scene out, assigned new guards, and resumed her patrols and morale building of the guards.

((OOC: Pretty sure I got all the details. If not, NoMoshing can let me know.))

Ch. 2 Treachery At Shattered Hearth, A Foe Reveals Themselves
The first threat to Denandsor reveals itself.

Within the year that the Denandsor Circle spent helping the city grow, the outside world had continued. Lookshy had annexed Sijan, and the port city of Thorns had fallen to the Necromancer King. It is unknown if these events or other concerns convinced them, but the Solars decided to heed the advice of Hidden Mercy and travel to Shattered Hearth, to seek advice from the Lunar Elder, Ma Ha Suchi.

During their travels the Solars along with a number of mortals and Blue-235 made peaceful contact with the Chayan village in the area, and established a trade pact with them. They also discovered a first age tomb, within where several artifacts of Soulsteel that the group took with them for latter study. They also had an encounter with a delegate from the Bear tribe that they left on peaceful and warm terms. Last discovery they made on their journey was a petrified forest that contained a untapped Demesne.

Once the group arrived at Shattered Hearth they where greeted by Eloquent Panther, who told them Ma Ha Suchi was unavailable and looked forward to seeing them later. In the mean time Eloquent Panther invited them to partake of a feast. Unknown to any of them the festive atmosphere was a ruse to an ambush. It is known that one of the followers was killed during the ambush and that thanks to the intervention of Choir of Birdsong there were few other serious injures, but it was time to make there escape from Shattered Hearth. This was done with the aid of Hidden Mercy’s mentor Hundred Cunning Rabbit.

Upon their return to Denandsor the Circle had to decide how they would proceed.

Ch. 1 Flight from Great Forks and The City Of The Mad
A brief look at the cleansing of Denandsor.

This work will not endeavor to prove the merit or detriment of those Exalted by the Unconquered Sun, it will merely attempt to give details of what they did and how. In particular this work will focus on the Solar Circle that formed in Denandsor, the fabled City Of The Mad as it was once know.

Little is know of the lives of the members of the Denandsor Circle from before they became Exalted. What is know is documented at the end of this volume. What is know is that they all Exalted at roughly the same time while fleeing from the Lookshy invasion of Great Forks during the Festival of Flame. While doing so almost a thousand individuals where able to escape into the surrounding country side. From this point the Exalted decide to march south to what was known then as Denandsor, The City Of The Mad. It was so named since none could enter without being driven mad. When the refugees decided to join them they where lucky enough to gain supplies from a good natured merchant. During the long march some died to disease, however many managed to complete the journey.

When the Exalted arrived at Denandsor they had more to deal with than the maddening taint, all but one of the automatons had also been tainted. Despite the danger the group pressed into the center of the city. With the help of the only remaining sane automaton, by the designation of Blue-235, they evaded patches of wild taint and set out for the palace. Upon reaching the palace they crept through the halls evading automatons and other “things.” Eventually they found themselves in the royal chambers. It is here that Cedrick found his bonded Lunar from the first age. Although it had maintained its mind its body had been corrupted and Cedrick returned his soul to the cycle. After this they followed the advice of the late Lunar and discovered the device that caused the taint. At this point they destroyed the Miasma Generator, and thus released Denandsor from its maddening influence.

For the next year the Exaltes helped with the founding of the city of Denandsor, with a few of them taking seats on the newly formed Denandsor Council. Once the city was underway and trade began to come to Denandsor the Exaltes could once more turn their gaze to the world outside the wall of their city.


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