A young archer named Diegolas wakes up hanging for his life on a cliff's edge. Caught in his Orichalcum Powerbow, which he holds with his other hand, is an unconscious red-haired woman. A quick scan of the surroundings reveals several dead bodies of soldiers, a scattered handful of still living ones that fight on, and four massive demonic bears. Just beyond his line of sight is a shadowy figure that sticks to the concealed vantage point, waiting for the right moment to strike at the supernatural creatures. This was the opening sequence to a one-shot Exalted demo game that I ran for my new office mates in the company I just landed a gig in. Quickly, the game progressed with Diegolas slowly regaining memories of how events lead to this current battle. Images return of how his services were acquired by the women of this tiny town in hopes of helping them assassinate a woman whom they all deemed to be an evil witch.
The woman arrived at the town some time back, and practically overnight all of the men in the town began to fawn over her and devote their services to her. When the women convened in secret to discuss what they could do to stop the witch, a hooded man named Kendrow stepped out of the shadows and offered his services. Only Samantha, the red-haired pseudo-leader of the women recognized Kendrow as the golden-flamed demon that they had just chased out of the town some months back. She found herself trusting in him, however, and the two eventually sought for an archer to help balance out the group in the assassination attempt.
Alas, destiny would not be on their side that night. As they made their approach to the mountain where the witch was residing at, the young archer peered with his essence-fueled sight towards the mountain and found the Witch already aware of their approach. His fatal mistake of not warning the rest of the group that the Witch was already expecting them lead to over 70% of their small army being devastated in the initial assault. A demon bear would then later hurl both Samantha and the young Diegolas over the end, and it was only his luck that would save him.
It would later be much more apparent how evil this Witch was. Utilizing a simulacrum, she lures the heroes to a specific peak, then unleashed pre-planned sorcery to bring the mountain down upon them in an avalanche! It takes both Diego's fiery arrows and Kendrow's Cascade of Cutting Terror to mow down clear areas for them to survive the assault. This avalanche, alas, would then be revealed to be just an opening salvo as the Witch then invokes "Death by Obsidian Butterflies" upon the three. With both Exalts preoccupied, death was coming to take their lives.
It was that moment Samantha Exalts, and in her panic, calls upon the Heavenly Guardian's Defense to block the incoming salvo with the chopping knife in her hands. Through teamwork and magnificent stunts, the Exalts eventually slay the Witch, cutting her into a hundred pieces that scatter across the battlefield.
Six months later, a lone monk fleeing from the Elemental Dragons chances upon a silent town. Inside, all the men seemingly are forlorn and depressed. All the women seem anxious upon seeing him, but flee whenever three figures wearing dark cloaks, bandages around their extremities and bird like masks are visibly watching them. The bird people eventually confront the monk and demand him to leave his weapons. Guided by the Unconquered Sun, the monk learns that the three are tainted in some manner and that only by killing one of them will the curse upon the town be lifted.
Not willing to act rashly, the monk learns more of the town's plight and soon learns the three bird people were the heroes who tried to free the town from the Witch in the past. With the Curse afflicted on them, they are forced to wear these costumes to protect them from the Sun's unforgiving gaze, which now burns their very flesh. When the Sun once more reminds him killing one will free them all, he opts to challenge the bird people to a duel to free the town of its curse. Samantha agrees.
The two fight, with massive shows of power and skill. And at one last instance, the monk finds an opening and moves in to strike Samantha. He blinds her with his own blood and hears the Unconquered Sun demand she be killed now for the rest of the people to be free. He reminds the monk, who always ignored the Unconquered Sun's urgings, that nothing has happened without a reason. And that he should see now the importance in being more charismatic and social than the battle tank he currently is now.
The monk stays the killing blow, and drags Samantha to the shade. The Sun beams down and uses the monk as a channel, unleashing a Solar sorcery cleansing spell to bring the town back to its feet.
Months pass. The town is prosperous and Samantha now rules as its mayor. Her Dawn caste skills easily guide her in making her people strong. The monk has become an influential high priest, and now worship towards the Unconquered Sun grows stronger each day. Kendrow watches the town in secret, fading all hint of his existence to myth. He still suspects the Witch somehow had a spy who tipped her off of their approach during that assault one year back. He watches silently. Carefully.
And the young archer Diegolas peers at the surrounding area of the town every day. He peers during the day searching for any signs of the Scarlet Empire sending men to the town. But at night, he finds his sleep troubled with nightmares and dreams. He awakens and fearfully fights the urge to gaze at the mountain once more. He fears he will look and see the Witch once again staring back at him. What if she had another Simulacrum, after all? What if she still lives?
He peers one last time and sees an owl staring back. With his charms guiding the arrow, he strikes at it with an arrow that knows no distance. The owl falls dead.
And in the shadows of the wood, a woman emerges, picks up the dead bird, and feasts on its heart. The woman whispers a prayer for the dead owl and promises, "You will be avenged."
And then the woman becomes the owl.
And flies towards the town.
And flies towards the town.
Special thanks to James Lo and his kid Diego, as well as Alex (I think his name is) who were part of this game. This was one of many demo game sessions I plan to hold at the new office I am part of, Indigo Entertainment.
Demo games always have the challenge of having to teach the game and run it within a very limited amount of time. In this case, I only had two to three hours to run the whole game. Adding to that complication was a third player joining in on the third act (the monk joined the game after the two players killed the Witch, which originally was the planned ending of the game). So quickly my brain added a finale to the story, wherein we see the Curse, the monk and hints of the Lunars to come in the future.
All in all, I'd like to think people really enjoyed the game.