A New Creation

Downs and Ups

When last we left our intrepid heroes, they were in a crater of their own making, facing a woman all in green, complete with green hair and tattoos, and their local god. The woman in green introduced herself as Elephant Speaker, and informed the trio that they were now Solar Exalted – the chosen of the Unconquered Sun. Seraphina, as it turned out, had not yet awakened from her own vision quest, and Uot Van carried the unconscious merchant back to town, as he had something to show the newly Exalted.

The group passed through the temple, still full of nervous villagers whom Shan Tzu attempted to calm with some success. Uot Van led the Exalted into a storage area dug beneath the temple and revealed a hidden wall and a spiraling tunnel deep into the earth that no one else knew of.

During the walk, Elephant Speaker breezed through an overview of Creation: how it was, how it came to be what it is, and the role of the Exalted. In the beginning, there were the Primordials, who created the world. They created the Incarna, whom mortals know as the highest of gods (The Unconquered Sun, Luna, the Five Maidens) to manage creation. The Incarna, protective of the world that the Primordials kept damaging and the people the Primordials kept murdering in the thousands, eventually rebelled against the Primordials. But they could not fight the Primordials directly due to the nature of their creation, so the Incarna gave power to mortals, transforming them into the Celestial Exalted. The Exalted eventually threw down the Primordials and became the rulers of the world. At some point, the Solar Exalted, the most powerful of all the Exalted, went mad with power and became as abusive as the Primordials had been. The Unconquered Sun turned his face from Creation and the Sidereal Exalted, the chosen of the Five Maidens, conspired with the Terrestrial Exalted, the Chosen of the Elemental Dragons (children of Gaia), to slay all of the Exalted and trap the Exalted portion of their souls so that they could not reincarnate. In recent history the cage into which the Exalted souls were put was broken open and the Solar Exalted began to return. The Exalted Shards bond with the souls of people with great capability and heroism, such as our three heroes.

50 stories down the party travelled into the bowels of the earth before coming to a door. The door bore carvings of several of the Incarna – the four-armed Unconquered Sun, Luna, the Five Maidens, as well as two other beings, one of who was identified as Gaia, but no one knew the lame man. Uot Van could not open the door, but Shan Tzu, expending some of his Essence, was able to trigger the door’s mechanism and reveal what lay within.

A structure that took up those 50 stories was beyond the door. A sphere held a roiling polychromatic mass of energy and pipes constructed of various magical materials wound through the structure. Different control panels appeared in alcoves and a set of desks were in a geodesic dome at ground level, along with a throne-like seat and a desk with 40 clear gems embedded in a jade latch system. Kado, Shan Tzu, and Elephant Speaker were able to determine that the gems were part of a system that used the energy to craft Hearthstones and both Kado and Shan Tzu created Hearthstones of their own choosing – a process that would normally take months and significant magical and geomantic power – in a matter of moments with the touch of a few buttons.

In seeking to understand what it was they were looking at in greater detail, Shan Tzu prayed to the Unconquered Sun, as he had done with Uot Van before. From heaven, the priest received a vision: either the newly Exalted could build a fortress here, using the power they had discovered, or they could leave this location secret (It was, through means unknown to anyone present, occluded from Fate itself) and explore the wider world to build their destinies. Shan Tzu and Kado discussed the matter, and, after Shan Tzu pointed out that building on the site would involve the amassing of a “fortune,” it was agreed that they would remain at Cot and build their empire outward. One set of controls seemed to indicate that the facility could create an outpost and this was done. Shan Tzu also talked to Uot Van, who was now, per the Creation-Ruling Mandate of the Unconquered Sun, subordinate to three of the beings who had been his worshipers only that morning. The small god asked only that he be allowed to remain a small god of a marsh, and that if the area were to grow in power, that some other god be brought in to manage greater affairs. He then bowed to his new masters, which affected both Kado and Shan Tzu greatly.

Upon returning to the surface, the “outpost” was discovered to be a magnificent tower of brown jade, impervious to damage and replete with magical conveniences: automatic doors, air conditioning, plumbing, lighting, food preparation, and clothing mending. It also had quarters for 2,000 people. The tower had appeared in the rice fields of one of the farmers, Nan Quang.

Shan Tzu gathered all the villagers together at the temple and made a statement. He told the villagers they had been deceived, that the Immaculate Philosophy was a lie and that there was a supreme God whose love of humanity and of Creation has been harmed by the pride of others, but had returned in force. This god, the Unconquered Sun, had sent his Chosen to Creation to lead and to protect. Shan Tzu spoke of the Unconquered Sun’s Chosen – Kado, a hunter without peer whose mastery of the wild would ensure that the people would never again know want; Seraphina, a wise master of craft who, even as they spoke, dreamed of the past and would return with visions for the future; and Shan Tzu, himself, a humble priest content to speak the will of the Gods and their chosen. He completed this speech with an invocation of power, causing his aura to flare like the noonday sun. The villagers were suitably impressed.

But Kado, sharp-eyed as ever, noticed that Tri Thayin, a member of one of a handful of families in town who followed the Immaculate Philosophy, had fled from Shan Tzu’s heretical words. He tracked the woman back to her home and followed her as she set out on the road to Nathir. Seeming to appear from nowhere, he confronted the woman about her intentions, his menace causing her to immediately confess all – she said she was bound for Nathir to tell the Immaculate Brotherhood, a group of monks charged with proselytizing and enforcing the Immaculate philosophy, of Shan Tzu’s words. Choosing mercy in this moment, Kado erased himself from the woman’s memories and vanished back into the wild, letting her carry on as though she had not just been terrorized by a chosen of the Gods.

Meeting in their new tower, Shan Tzu, Kado, and village headman Cao An discussed what was to come. Kado informed the others of Tri Thayin’s intentions and Shan Tzu welcomed the coming of Immaculate Brothers as an opportunity to begin proving the truth of the destiny of the Exalted. Kado set forth to establish a watch over the roads to and from Nathir, so that the village would know when others came. Nan Quang, who had lost his rice field, was given charge of the village shop until such time as Seraphina came back to herself, as well as a large quantity of jade both to help Kado supply himself and to alleviate the sting of losing rice fields to an enormous, invulnerable tower. With plans in motion, the heroes now wait for their comrade to waken from her deep slumber.

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Sun's Day

It was a simple day in the village of Cot – a worship day. Shan Tzu led the majority of the villagers in their prayers to Uot Van, the marsh god that protected and oversaw the village. Sephirina took in the service with only passing interest – she had jewels to craft and whispers to gather. Kado lurked near the back, not wishing to antagonize the god of the marshes where he spent so much time, but not wanting to spend too much time in worship either.

Kado was the first to notice when Fa Zheng stumbled through the temple door, his outfit a bloody ruin. He collapsed near Kado and the hunter rushed to the dying man’s side in time to hear his final word – “Cataphract.” Kado called for medical aid and Shan rushed over, but the farmer’s last life’s blood was already spilled on the floor. When Kado relayed the dying man’s last word, the priest paled – a cataphract was a warrior of the Fair Folk, purportedly capable of slaughtering the entire village. Shan told his acolyte to begin ringing the temple bell and directed the villager to remain in the temple. Knowing the danger they faced, he sought a hunter and a negotiator to come with him, taking Sephirina and Kado. Kado was reticent at first, wondering what was in it for him, but Shan advised him that it was better to know the threat than to not.

The three villagers travelled to Fa Zheng’s farm, where they heard the sounds of battle. Climbing atop the house, they saw a battle between supernatural forces: a score of hobgoblins waged a fierce battle against an equal number of beastmen. The three mortals considered fleeing, but the sounds of another battle could be heard the way they had come. As they debated what to do, the hobgoblins and beastmen finally took note of the humans who were watching. The villagers resolved to attempt to draw the hobgoblins atop the building, then set it ablaze as a distraction to enable their escape. Fate had other plans.

Sephirina slipped off the house and entered, discovering that the farmer was working with a mix of fertilizer and oil, that would allow a far more…aggressive option than simply setting the house on fire. Atop the house, the villagers’ combat skills proved to be near futile against the least minions of the Fair Folk. Shan managed to injure one of the Hobgoblins, but not fatally. Kado’s arrows either missed or ricocheted off of the creature’s armor. The creatures fell on the villagers with their cruel swords, slaughtering the priest and the hunter with one and two sword strikes, respectively. Shan’s body hit the dirt outside the house, while Kado’s crashed through the roof and landed in front of Sephirina, who had an explosive ready, but not a fuse. Surrounded and threatened with almost certain death, she made use of the weapon at hand and the world of the villagers, the hobgoblins, and the beastmen became roaring fire.

The villagers were in for two shocks – first, they were not dead or burning to death; second, the heat they felt was that of a bright summer day. They bore witness to a great, four-armed man who named himself as the Unconquered Sun and the villagers as his chosen – his Exalted.

They awoke in a crater, their enemies scattered. Uot Van, the god of their village, lurked nearby, nursing a wound, alongside a woman in green, bearing the mark of Jupiter, the Maiden of Secrets. She introduced herself and said the small god had something to show them. And here we paused…

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