Prologue - Exalted
It is the Realm Year 769, the spring of Ascendant Wood. Near the northern edge of the Hundred Kingdoms, is the Kingdom of Khacin. This kingdom is one of warriors, and ruled by an elite family of warriors, Dragonblooded. The kingdom sits along a tributary to the Lesser Rock River, and is famous for its exports of Tiger’s Courage – a special brew of sake – and shards of the unbreakable metal known simply as Diamond Shards. The kingdom is so skilled in warfare that it holds an annual martial arts tournament, and its troops form some of the most famous mercenary armies.
Towards the mountains, where mystic monks make their home, is the village of Wai’hl. This village is lucky to be near the fresh water from the mountains, and its population is also safe from the predations of the Hyena men on the plains.
It was morning as the ragged traveller, Falling Rain, rode into town. Rain was hungry and in need of rest having fled his home in the capital of Khacin. More importantly he needed to keep a low profile. He led his horse in to the town past the villagers who were working. The smith’s forge was ringing out the sound of hammered metal, and in the town square the shop owners were selling their wares and preparing loads to be taken to the next town and onto the city. Rain tied up his horse at the inn and made his way in passing the other curious man in the village. Sat outside on the porch of the inn was Red Echo. He was dressed in military garb and was obviously not from Khacin but from the Lookshy. He had a shock of red spiky hair and was sat writing in his journal while smoking opium. He conducted himself with strict precision, both in how he smoked his pipe and how he wrote. Rain then returned to the porch and a table was set out before him where the inn keeper served him rice and meats for breakfast.
Elsewhere in the village Resplendent Trout was performing his sacred duties and preparing salves and ointments for sale from his family home. The town messenger Kheralin was taking it easy at her home, grooming her horse and polishing her riding gear. She had only returned from Khacin the other evening.
In the town market the guild trader, shaman and seer, Aisha, was once more peddling her wares and reading people’s fortunes. Aisha had also taken note of the curious arrangement of gods in the region. Khacin had its city god, the Grey Tiger Kha Alahan. This town had its own minor god, Sapphire Talon, another god of the hunt. Aisha had learnt that the shrine of Sapphire Talon was a collection of twisting metal pipes made of the same strange metal dug up in the region. The pipes would hum with the wind. Aisha had also concluded that it would be worth getting more trade for the Guild and that this find would make her a lot of money.
Another strange local was the northern barbarian, ex-gladiator, and now game keeper, Norn. Compared to the locals he stood an entire foot taller and had long white hair and a beard. He often would aid the villages in its defence against raiders and beastmen.
That evening in the inn Aisha was sat drinking with Echo. She already had got used to the one sided conversations she would have with the mercenary captain. Trout was sat, as usual, playing his harp, and Norn was engaged in arm wrestles. Kheralin spoke to the inn keeper and bought the bottle of apricot brandy he had recently been sold by traders.
Rain went to sit with Aisha, thinking it be better to sit with the outsiders, and was then joined by Kheralin. Rain asked her about the roads about the village and what route he could take next. He learnt that this was the most extreme part of the kingdom, and that to go on further would require scrambling up into the mountains.
Norn, somewhat intoxicated, wondered up to the group of strangers and challenged Echo by trying to steal his journal. Echo did not back down and after a tussle Norn had fallen on top of a table and sent drinks flying. The inn keeper broke the fight up and sent Norn home.
Later that night once everyone was home and asleep, Rain was sat watching the village. He could see the lanterns of the town watch patrolling. He looked up at the stars and spotted something amiss. The constellations of were somehow wrong, especially the Ships Wheel. It was then against the disc of the moon a floating citadel on a floating rock appeared. The air then hummed and soon the village erupted in chaos as large darts of dark metal crashed down.
One dart landed in the village square and Rain could see that the sides were etched with a language similar to that of Old Realm, and they glowed an eerie green. The sides of the dart opened and out stepped 5 men, dressed head to toe in dark leather, metal armour plates, and a full metal face mask and goggles (see above). They also carried strange weapons from which arrows were fired. Another carried a cylinder on his back and a hose, from which a flame flickered. Rain readied his two swords.
Woken by the screams, Echo leapt into action, donned his clothes and armour, and grabbed his swords and made his way down out of his room in the inn to find Rain standing there looking on. Echo asked what happened. ‘They came from the skies’ replied Rain. Echo readied his great sword.
Elsewhere in the village, practically naked save for his fighting gauntlets, Norn was already in the streets fighting, watching the attackers raid homes and taking people away. From the citadel a number of floating boats descended. Norn was easily able to crush heads with his fists.
Kheralin was also fighting, taking aim with h
er bow, covering the escape of some villagers, looking on in horror as gouts of flame engulfed homes.
Trout was charging raiders with his spear. He impaled and slashed at them, leaping forward to drive it through the next man.
Aisha had got out of the inn to find Rain and Echo cutting through the attackers. Rain was quick and slashing in all directions, while Echo hacked men in half and cleaved heads off. Aisha saw her chance to flee and help other villagers.
It was then that something stirred in all of them. Something erupted within their souls. They heard it speak. ‘I am the Unconquered Sun! You are my chosen. This path was not given but it is now yours. You are Exalted and this world’s heroes!’
All felt power course through themselves. The air shimmered about them, and their foreheads burned with the power of their caste mark. From each their anima banners exploded, sending up a column of light a mile into the night sky. The air about Trout exploded with light which deflected arrows. Norn caused soldier to flee in terror from his bear like anima banner. Both Rain and Kheralin felt their animas erupt and twist inwards, hiding them in shadows as they fought. Echo was now a lord of battle as his anima took shape as a roaring griffon. Aisha felt power flow through her and her hands knitted together the injuries of the villagers.
The raiders then fled, taking what slaves they had captured, and returned to the floating citadel on their flying skiffs. The last to leave was also crewed by an imposing figure in black. A monster of a man with burning purple eyes and a huge axe in the form of half a cog.
For Trout, Kheralin and Norn this was not the end as they saw friends and family taken away and killed.