Exalted: Ghost of a Chance

Border War (part the fifth)
In which they heal the sick and perturb a farmer

Our fifth game began the morning after Nine and Wataru's shopping trip. Nine and Wataru arrived at the Red Blossom tea house, and Wataru made a point to scan the room for strategic entrances and exits.

Nine received her first patron: an eight year old boy accompanied by his older brother, Matti, who explained that his brother had been attacked by his own shadow. Wataru distracted Matti for about half an hour while Nine healed his brother.

Matti lead Nine and Wataru to the field where the attack occured. After some investigation, Matti's father asked them to leave. Feeling the attack on the boy was spiritual in nature, Nine consulted the priests at the city temple who discerned the attack was caused by the ghost of a mad dog who died in the field.

Later that evening Senmai, Nine's attendant, was attacked by a stranger in front of the tea house. Wataru and Nine tracked the stranger into the forest to the northwest of Three Oaks but lost the trail. Wataru decided to lead Nine to the Great Tree outside of town, but the two were blocked by Gaias' dog, Aesis, and returned to Three Oaks by nightfall.

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Border War (part the sixth)
In which Luchea makes her move

Our sixth game began with catching Gaias and Luchea up with the rest of the group.

Continuing his search for the man in black, Gaias went into the forest west of Three Oaks. He discovered a trail of footprints and followed them to where they disappeared. There Rami, a musician and merchant the party met at the Red Blossom tea house, told him the tracks were his and, after some conversation, led Gaias to the great tree. The two inspected the area and headed back to Three Oaks.

While traveling to Three Oaks under mysterious circumstances, Luchea encountered Gaias' dog, Aesis, who stole her dinner (in the form of a dead duck). A fight ensued in which Luchea drew and was knocked out by her own Orichalcum Dire Lance. She awoke in the Red Blossom tea house with all her gear but no weapons. She spoke with the tea house Mistress Ara and learned that she had slept a full day, and that her expenses had been paid for. She cleaned up and went shopping to replace her throwing knives that had been stolen. Finding no metal blades, she purchased two skinning knives of flint from a vendor, telling him she had been beaten and robbed on the road by the toll collectors to gain sympathy.

Luchea then began to proselytize in the market about the Unconquered Sun and the greatness of the First Age in comparison to the current times.

On this same morning, Nine and Wataru visited the temple of the city god. In the middle of Nine's meditations, the pair noticed the acolytes of the temple in distress about a woman preaching in the streets and went to investigate. At the same time, Gaias was awoken by a hungry Aesis. He told Aesis to go hunt for breakfast and noticed the crowd gathering around Luchea. All three remained at a distance, listening to Luchea shout down the priests of the city god. At some point Luchea lighted her caste mark and revealed her nature as a Solar Anathema.

Wataru interrupted Luchea and commanded her to prove the worth of her actions. Luchea challenged Wataru to attack her and insisted that the Unconquered Sun would protect her. Wataru refused, and Luchea instead stabbed herself and was unharmed. She commanded the people to continue their daily lives in the name of the Unconquered Sun and wait for further spiritual instruction. She then retired to a villager's house to rest and regain the essence she had spent.

Gaias, Nine and Wataru decided to consult with the town council on what next to do about Luchea. They found the council hall in an uproar and, after helping the Council regain control, suggested that the council approach Luchea and discern her goals.

Elsewhere, Luchea commanded her followers to find her Artifact Dire Lance that was stolen from her, saying that a large black dog (Aesis) took it and that they should not kill it but just "bash it in the head."

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Border War (part the seventh)
In which the first shoe drops and we meet a tree

Our seventh game began in the chamber of the Council of Three Oaks. It was decided that the Council and an accompanying party would approach Luchea to discern her intentions and goals in the area. Gaias, Nine and Wataru decided to follow the Council to the farm where Luchea was staying. As they left the council chamber, they heard that the people in the square had been disturbed by the appearance of a man dressed in black who claimed to be of the Wyld Hunt enquiring about the location of Luchea. He had been informed of her location and had left the city.

The group proceeded to the farm with the Council and arrived to find another confused and upset mob. After questioning a few people, they found out that a man in black armor had fought with Luchea and injured her. He then threw down a challenge to all who would fight him and carried her into the forest. Another man was seen in the forest waiting for him. The group tracked the footsteps of the man in black armor a ways into the forest with the help of a hunting dog that they borrowed. When the dog became confused, they showed it Luchea's knife and told it to follow her scent. The trail they were following split, with Luchea's scent going in one direction and the tracks of the man in black armor going in another. Gaias decided to follow the tracks while Wataru and
Nine followed the trail of Luchea's scent.

Gaias followed the tracks and came to a clearing where he encountered the man in black armor. They fought and, during the battle, Gaias was poisoned and fell unconscious.

Following Luchea's scent, Nine and Wataru lost the hound they borrowed and encountered Aesis, Gaias' hound. Aesis showed them to a place in the woods where Luchea's orichalcum spear was hidden in a bush. Examining it, Nine saw an inscription in Old Realm on the haft marking the bearer of the staff as a person who carries authority in the sight of the Unconquered Sun. They decided to come back for it later and continued to follow Luchea's scent trail. Aesis' path took them near to the great tree, where they met up with Rami and continued onward. Wataru stealthily approached the clearing around the great tree and saw two men clad in black talking angrily as well as the bodies of Luchea and
Gaias. Returning, the three formed a plan to distract and attack the pair of men and rescue Luchea and Gaias. Surprised, both men ran from the fight at their first chance.

Luchea's body had been mangled and desecrated in a ritual fashioned to channel power into the great tree. Wataru spotted a large crack running down the trunk of the tree and Nine resolved to perform a ritual prayer to summon the god of the tree. She prepared ritual elements and asked Rami to retrieve a musical instrument to accompany the prayer. While they waited for his return, Nine used her artifact to quickly heal Gaias, revealing her nature as a Solar Exalt to both Wataru and Gaias. Rami returned with a wooden flute and a large, masterwork, woven tapestry of the great tree he said he retrieved from the city god. Nine performed a summoning prayer and successfully called down the god of the great tree with the help of Wataru and Rami.

Nine conversed with the god and asked how she could help it heal the damage done by Luchea's ritual death. The god responded by saying that to heal the damage would be to dishonor Luchea's sacrifice and that the door had already been opened. When the conversation turned towards Nine learning sorcery, the god replied that she was not worthy to learn the secrets the god had to teach her because she had no authority and no power.

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Border War (part the eigth)
In which Gaias may have to answer for his crimes

Our eighth game began at the great tree. After some discussion with the god of the tree, the party decided that the god was simply looking for someone to talk to and had nothing of value to say. The tree god said she could reveal secrets to them if they would stay and talk with her. Rami bargained with her, agreeing to spend three full days talking with her sometime within a year after asking a question which she would answer to his satisfaction. The tree god agreed to this and Rami sanctified the oath, revealing himself as an Eclipse caste Solar.

Nine spent time attuning to the spear which had previously belonged to Luchea while Wataru gathered up the remains in his overcoat. Nine then stashed the cloth-wrapped spear in her room at the boardinghouse while the party gathered pyrewood and summoned villagers to a funeral for Luchea. Nine gave an excellent eulogy in Old Realm language and Luchea's spirit could rest in peace.

The next day, Gaias and Nine were summoned to the council hall by a messenger and Wataru attended with them. At the hall, Gaias was accused of murder by a delegation from Sumar and the council was petitioned for his extradition. The council chose neutrality and stated that they would not interfere unless either party caused violence in which case both sides would be escorted to the border. Gaias claimed that the Sumarian guardsmen were killed in self defense and that the fight was started by a guard attacking his traveling companion, Halvor. To delay a confrontation, Gaias asked for time to prove the existance of Halvor by finding the cousin whom Halvor said lived in the city. The council granted Gaias one day after which a decision would have to be reached and mandated that he stay within the city.

The party spent many hours that day following up on leads and rumors trying to find the cousin of Halvor to no avail. Wataru suggested Gaias try to find Rami by tracking him down with Aesis, especially since they had left the tree god alone and talkative with Abyssals in the area. After finding Rami, Wataru sent Aesis back to town and the two of them continued toward the tree. They saw the man in black armor searching at the base of the tree for a strange mirror that Wataru had found and hidden the night before. After an hour of searching without finding it they followed him away and west across the river into Sumar lands. There they watched him as he waited at a small, temporary camp.

As night fell, Nine and Gaias gave up on their search and returned to the market to pick up packages. On the way back to the boardinghouse, they saw the tall Abyssal walking slowly through the streets and alleyways toward the council hall and seething with dark energy. Nine ran to stash the packages while Gaias went to intercept the man at the courthouse. A combat ensued which Nine and Aesis quickly joined, but the Abyssal managed to open up a small shadowland and escape through it. Thinking quickly, Nine encircled the spreading shadowland with a ring of her blood shed with the orichalcum spearhead and managed to stop it spreading. Unfortunately, Gaias and Aesis were trapped inside it unable to escape until dawn.

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Border War (part the ninth)
In which there is much damage and not very much control

Wataru engaged in a confrontation with the armored Abyssal and was joined by Brazen Ember, a figure from his past. During the fight, Ember was badly wounded and Wataru drove the Deathknight to retreat. However, Wataru's use of power exposed him to Ember as a "demon." Ember told Wataru that she had proof he was innocent of the crimes he had been charged with, that she had received the confession of the murderer who was also a demon, was in the area and possibly seeking his death. Unable to heal her himself, Wataru carried her back to Three Oaks in order for Nine Willows to tend to her. Unfortunately, Ember died in
transit and Wataru performed funeral rites at the river.

Rami, hearing the Abyssal say that Nine Willows and Gaias were facing trouble from his tall partner, left Wataru and returned to Three Oaks. There Nine, her ladymaid and Rami camped outside the edge of the shadowland where Gaias spent the night battling ghosts and zombies that entered from the Underworld. Early on, Aesis was injured and ran off into the Underworld. In the later hours of the night, Gaias fought from the roof of the council chamber and snuck a peek inside the chamber itself. He saw a faint, glowing light upon the dais where the Council held sway but did not get a clear view of its source. When dawn broke, Aesis returned and the pair emerged from the shadowland. Nine Willows healed Gaias and Rami spoke with the people gathered there.

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Border War (part the tenth)
In which the blind lead the blind

Ominous Whisper was assigned the task of stabilizing the relations between Tyria and Sumar to the best of her abilities. She arrived on the first day of Calibration, an inauspicious time, at the port of Kalia in Sumar. There she was told that she could not enter the city because the city's military was on the move and the entrances had been shut down. She persuaded a guard to pass a message to the Elder of the city asking for an audience. The Elder consented and they discussed the terms she would require for a return to peaceful negotiations. The Elder revealed she had heard reports of dangerous Anathema being sheltered in Tyria and that the Wyld Hunt had already been called for. Whisper then used the letter of marque the Elder gave her to requisition passage across the river into Tyria. Left at the riverside, she and her retinue traveled through the forest on foot and eventually crossed the easternmost river by stepping stones.

In Three Oaks, the Sumarian delegation did not arrive at the Council Hall at dawn as they promised the previous day. After Nine Willows healed him, Gaias and Wataru came to an accord on who would kill the armored Abyssal, both having a claim on his life. The trio was summoned to meet with the Council in an alternate location. Nine Willows sent her lady maid to rest while they talked about the events of the previous night, the Sumarian troops massing on the riverbank, and the fact that Nine Willows and Gaias had revealed themselves as Anathema. The Council asked of their motivations and said that they would not be interfered with if they could persuade the god of the great tree to assist in solidifying the Tyrian claim on the land. Priests of the city god were sent along with the party when they went to speak with her.

On the path between the western forests and Three Oaks, Ominous Whispers met with Nine Willows, Gaias, Wataru and the three priests and had a brief discussion about the dangerous Anathema operating in the area and parted ways.

Whispers continued on to Three Oaks where she asked a few townspeople about the shadowland at the Council Hall and was told that most people had been scared off while others were preparing to defend their town. Whispers met with the Council and discussed Sumar's terms for peaceful negotiation. The Council informed her of its position and requested time to consider it's response to the terms.

Meanwhile, the other party continued on to the great tree. The priests called down the god of the tree and promised to send a priest or acolyte to commune with her daily if she would consent to support the Tyrian claim on the land between the rivers. The god agreed and the priests left. Nine Willows confronted the god this time carrying Luchea's spear, Pinnacle of Noon. She asked the god what she would take in return for giving her knowledge of sorcery, to which the god replied that she desired one of the Abyssals who had returned her voice to her. Agreeing to the terms, the three met up with Rami in the forest and returned to Three Oaks to wait for the Deathknights to return. They also informed Rami of the strange, blind woman they had met on the road.

When they returned to the city, Nine Willows began to study the mirror that the Abyssals had left behind and, discovering it was an artifact, attuned to it. She entered the shadowland to study what effects that would have on its operation when Ominous Whispers rejoined them.

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Border War (part the eleventh)
In which much is revealed

Our game began with the two Eclipses, Rami and Ominous Whispers, moving somewhere more comfortable to talk. Wataru and Gaias headed off in the general direction where the armored Abyssal was last seen (weft, if I remember correctly) while Nine Willows and her ladymaid retired to take a nap.

Ominous Whispers and Rami discussed their diplomatic options regarding the mostly-abandoned town of Three Oaks, the massing Sumar army, the apparently renegade Sumar Elder, and the timing of the Wyld Hunt's arrival. It was decided that Rami would lead an organized resistance in Three Oaks and thus allow Ominous Whispers to escape through the forest to the next Sumar settlement over with the intention of gaining political support for overthrowing the renegade Elder. The pair visited Nine Willows to discuss the logistics of their plan.

Meanwhile, Wataru and Gaias searched about in the forest for the armored Abyssal to little avail. Gaias got turned around in circles for several hours while Wataru accidentally walked up to the gate of the Sumar port of Kalia which, being on lockdown, was quite suspicious of his open approach on the road. Managing to deflect the situation, he arrived back at the border in time to see Gaias sneaking up on the Sumar army. Gaias had seen a large, dark figure in the midst of the army and was going to see if it was the Abyssal. Wataru, convinced of the folly of this plan, talked Gaias into coming back to Three Oaks since the armored Abyssal would probably return there in search of his partner.

Returning to Three Oaks, Gaias and Wataru met up with the rest of the party discussing their tactics. After a brief report, they decided that Ominous Whispers' attendants were best left hiding in a safe location and that Nine Willows would function as an aide for her while she was without them. Gaias, Wataru and Rami would return to the army and stir up a commotion trying to frighten them back across the river. The party then split up with three headed to the border and two headed to the shadowland to see if further activity occurred.

The three reached the northern flank of the army and attacked them with a great show of power. To stop the rout, the armored Abyssal (who had been with the troops) confronted them and commanded the army to move out towards Three Oaks while he "took care" of the party. Wataru sent Rami back to Three Oaks to tell the others that the army was on the move. In a quick, brutal battle the Abyssal managed to take Gaias' hand off with a well aimed blow but was killed in the end. Revenge accheived, Gaias removed the Abyssal's helmet only to discover that the man was, in fact, his brother! Though his skill was limited, Gaias desperately attempted to heal him … but it was too late. Forgetting his own hand in his grief, Gaias, led by Wataru, carried his dead brother back to Three Oaks.

From the door to the Council Hall, the two women watched …

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Border War (part the twelfth)
In which he really should be dead

Our game begins with Nine Willows and Ominous Whispers standing at the entry to the shadowland at the Council Hall entrance. While gazing into the mirror the party had found, Willows watches as the mirror reveals the remaining Abyssal getting a dressing down from someone. That someone commands him to return to the city, and to bring an army … and above all, retrieve that mirror! Willows deduces that this mirror is some sort of communications device that allows people to talk over great distances.

Rami arrived at the Hall and conveyed what had happened at the river to Whispers and Willow, informing them that the army of Sumar was still marching on the town. Willow told Rami that a second army was coming as well, this one led by the remaining Abyssal. The three discussed their situation and Wataru approached with Gaias, who carried the dead body of his brother. The party left for the relative privacy of the inn where they laid out Gaias’ brother and Willow proceeded to reattached his hand through her powerful healing arts.

The party concluded that the Abyssal planned to kill the entire Sumar army inside the city of Three Oaks in order to expand and solidify the burgeoning shadowland. Wataru decided to try and head off the Sumar army at the second river crossing so that their lives would be spared. He told Rami to retrieve the black armor that Gaias’ brother had worn. Their plan was that Gaias would wear his brother’s armor and command the Sumar army return to the city if Wataru was unable to stop them.

Wataru managed to cripple many of the Sumarian boats and slow their crossing and, after much convincing, Gaias wore his brother’s black armor and dragged a “captive” Rami back to the Sumar front line. Masquerading as the Abyssal, Gaias said that Three Oaks had been taken, Sumar was victorious and that he would hold the city. The Sumar army rejoiced and began the trek back across the rivers while Gaias and Rami returned to the city.

In the meantime, Wataru and Nine Willows were searching the city for the people who did not leave and leading them to safety. Ominous Whispers had one of her attendants place her in a strategic location on a rooftop facing the Council Hall doors and the shadowland. As night finally began to fall, the doors burst open and out marched a force of the undead! A dozen zombies and a score of angry ghosts and, behind them all, the tall figure of the Abyssal emerged from the doors. With a single, powerful stroke, Whispers launched her artifact knife through the air at the unsuspecting Abyssal and struck a mortal blow …

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Border War (part the thirteenth)
In which there is love and mourning

Ambushed by Whispers’ attack, the Abyssal fell on the spot. She watched as his Essence dissipated, shifted from the general shape of a man to an amorphous cloud and drifted backwards through the Council Hall doorway and into the shadowland. His sword and breastplate remained on the ground where he had fallen. Her intense focus was almost her undoing, as a hidden archer loosed an arrow at her from the doorframe of the Hall. Whispers realized what she had thought was the Abyssal was, in fact, a decoy wearing the Abyssal’s armor and carrying his sword. The last Abyssal was still alive.

The two exalts continued their standoff while the undead forces spread forward into the city. Their hunger for living flesh and blood drove them to seek out the remaining citizens, the army they had been sent to kill mysteriously absent. In the streets, Willow and Wataru fought them alongside the mortals. Soon, they were re-joined by Gaias and Rami and made quick work of the shambling corpses and hungry ghosts. But a bright light at the Hall drew their attention, and they went to investigate.

The party came upon Ominous Whispers, who had managed to draw out the Abyssal, injure him, and pin him down on the roof of the Hall. Willow used her own Essence sight ability to gather the gist of the situation. Satisfied that Whispers had the everything under control, Willow decided to investigate the interior of the Hall to look for the glowing light that Gaias had seen the night before. The Abyssal sensed an advantage and moved to enter the Hall through a window and capture Willow. Whispers countered his plan, striking at him with her knife by ricocheting it off a neighboring roof. The Abyssal, on death’s door, crashed to the ground at Willow’s feet.

Willow, a master healer, was able to stabilize the Abyssal handily.

The major combatants neutralized, the party could begin to take care of normal business. Gaias left to sweep the city for remaining undead while Rami helped Whispers down from the rooftops and escorted her back to her room at the tea house. After stabilizing the Abyssal, Willow and Wataru took him back to the inn and laid him out next to his dead partner in Willow’s room. Wataru tied him up and decided to maintain a guard over him while Willow and her maid left to further investigate the Hall and assist the remaining townsfolk.

Wataru’s vigil was interrupted by a knock on the door and someone speaking the name that he was known by in the life he left behind years ago: Nomora Kageto. When he opened the door, he saw the woman he loved and whom he believed he had killed. The woman, Crystal Bay, revealed that she was also an exalt and had been searching for him. She performed a ritual to remove his curse and forgive him of the crimes he had supposedly committed … crimes she said he was innocent of. Wataru, now Kageto again, renounced his previous duties as Willow’s bodyguard and swore he would remain with Crystal Bay.

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Border War (part the fourteenth)
In which a new sun rises

Wataru, now Kageto once more, wanted to leave the area immediately now that his love had returned to him. Crystal Bay, now calling herself Silver-Draped Wraith, instead decided to take the captured Abyssal as her own prize. She reasoned that since his features looked like a Dragon Blooded, she could kill him, take his form and use it to fool the Wyld Hunt. To that end, the two made off with the Abyssal, sneaking through town to an outlying farmstead. Once there they discussed their plan to wait until nightfall so that Wraith could conduct a ritual hunt to take on the Abyssal’s form. They then retired to another room while the curtains fell over the scene.

Whispers and Rami discussed their diplomatic plans while waiting for Willow to return to the teahouse. Whispers had been shot with an arrow in the fight with the Abyssal at the Council Hall earlier and needed Willow’s healing before setting to any plan. Whispers intended to set out for the next nearest Sumarian town to negotiate for the removal of the Elder of Kalia. Rami counseled that to do so would be involving herself too much and that it would be safer for all of them (including Three Oaks) if every Anathema in the area just left before the Wyld Hunt arrived. If no demon threat existed, the Elder’s reason for sending troops would be removed and the townsfolk could return and not fear a Dragon-Blooded occupation. Whispers disagreed, saying that the Elder was already committed to war and had only been searching for a reason to begin one.

Willow and Mai came to the teahouse, and Willow tended to Whispers’ wound while Gaias and Rami left to round up survivors of the undead assault. after clearing the streets and taking the people to the tea house for Willow to tend, the pair decided to check the outlying farmhouses to see if any other refugees survived. After returning from one such trip, Gaias asked where the captured Abyssal was being kept because he wanted to question him about his dead brother (a former Abyssal). Willow told him that the Abyssal was bound and being guarded by Wataru in the inn up the road. Searching the inn thoroughly, Gaias found no signs of life or habitation in any of the rooms. Wataru had vanished with the living Abyssal, leaving Gaias’ dead brother and the other Abyssal’s artifacts behind. While investigating the room, Gaias smelled a faint perfume that he did not recognize and wished he knew where his dog was. Aesis, the black mastiff his mentor had loaned him, had not been seen since the night they had gotten trapped in the shadowland.

Meanwhile, Zephyr had heard a rumor that the Wyld Hunt had been called by the Elder of Kalia on the neighboring township of Three Oaks. The rumor said that there were more than one of the Anathema hiding in the city and that the Council in Three Oaks was giving them sanctuary. It was said that the Wyld Hunt should arrive in two to three days, before the end of Calibration. Seeking to destroy the Wyld Hunt, Zephyr set out down the river to Kalia to investigate further. Once he arrived, he found Kalia on lockdown. The troops were returning back from across the river in their boats in the early, pre-dawn light. Zephyr decided to check out the situation on the other side of the river and swum across. He built a small fire to dry his clothes and gear out on the opposite riverbank and headed towards Three Oaks. As he approached, he came upon an abandoned farmstead. He found no animals or people, and it seemed to him the owners had left in a great hurry in the middle of their tasks, their dinner half eaten. Continuing on, he noticed the outskirts of town were utterly deserted, not a soul in sight.

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