Blessed in Blood
The 34th Relentless Imperial Heavy Field-Force.
Librarians Notes: Transcribed from a memory crystal recovered from a unnamed village on the northern coast of Scavenger Lands during the Second Crusade of Unification in Realm Year 75, clearly recorded during the late-Shogunate. Few other records bare notation on the 34th Relentless Imperial Heavy Field-Force or the Blessed Mortal Murder Association. The first was a known elite Legion under the direct control of the Shogun, though records of it’s actions were lost shortly after the onset of the Contingent. The Murder Association mentioned bares further research, as other references conflict it as a religious organization of mortals bound in the worship of the Great Elemental Dragons or as nothing more than a mortal emulation of a Sworn Brother’s Oath done through simple blood magic. They seem to be unique to the 34th Relentless Imperial Heavy Field-Force however, as no other mention of them occurs outside of it’s records, thus ensuring that this somewhat troubling trend had little effect on the outcome of any battle or the future of mortal armies lead by Dragon-Blooded commanders.
Entry number one.
“It has been nearly three weeks since Taiymo Lei Ruwong, may the Oily Dragon devour his po, marched us out of the Shaigu Redoubt into the face of horror. White-Eyed Sheng says it was a foolish and wasteful maneuver. He is right and to a man we knew it even then. A third of our force already lay dead or dying thanks to the wasting illness and only a handful of Dragon-Blooded officers yet lived. We were in no condition to march no matter how properly our equipment functioned, but Taiymo Lei Ruwong was adamant in that we take the offensive to the enemy and we had no other direction to go, save to follow our commander. It is the only way the Murder Association knows.
“We somehow managed to assemble something resembling an army before we made our attack. The Dragon’s have blessed this area in that the wasting illness has not killed so many as else where and we culled whatever we could from the surviving militias and the Imperial Regulars stationed to protect nearby depots and infrastructure. Perhaps we should have left them where they stood though. The armies of the Rhaksha chewed our formation to pieces and spat back out only the bits of us too tough to die. I lost countless brothers-in-arms, too many to name or number, and we all could feel their loss. The glory of the Shogunate lay broken and bleeding under the ever-shifting presence of the Shapeless Ones. White-Eyed Sheng and myself have been assigned to take a tally of the dead, but there are more names than we have paper or ink to write them anymore and our eyes too full of tears to write just the same.
“Taiymo Lei Ruwong then ordered us to retreat to the Redoubt, I think as much to save himself as to salvage what he could of the Field-Force.”
Entry number two.
“I can only thank the Divine Dragons that the blood-rain slowed us down by a day, just in time to witness the Shapeless Ones overrun the Shaigu Redoubt and consume all those yet living within.”
“With the loss of the Redoubt, Taiymo Lei Ruwong seems paralyzed. We’ve fallen back further to a hidden camp by the Black River Basin, but sit unmoving in spite of the growing danger of being uncovered and the lack of supplies. Talk of desertion has been passing through the remaining militia and among the once loyal Imperial Regulars. Even a few among the Murder Association begin to give thought to abandoning our addle-minded commander. My brother-in-arms, White-Eyed Sheng is among them. It does my heart poorly to see him so doubtful, but I hope it is merely a momentary pessimism and not a breaking of his spirit…
“I have yet to give serious thought to desertion. It would be better to die a loyal servant to a foolish master than a traitor to all Creation, yet I know that this belief will lead to certain death here. Our scouts bring word that the Wyld incursions are growing ever larger and that a great host of Rhaksha march along side the Shapeless Ones. Those who risked going further and afield and lived to return speak of all the local Field-Forces dissolved before the might of this onslaught and entire cities being consumed in prismatic waves of nothingness. We are safe here for now, but not for long. Should the time come, I will stand and fight with my brothers, but I will die cursing the foolishness that brought us such a low fate.”
Entry number three.
“Blessed be the Holy Dragon’s in their divine wisdom! Taiymo Lei Ruwong was taken from us last night. We know not if it was the wasting illness or simply some other malady that could strike the heart of one of the Chosen, but the Taiymo was found dead and blackened by the waterside. We buried him beneath the soft river mud and gave prayers to his spirit that he find peace in the underworld, though many of us secretly hoped that he would find anything but.
“Nu-Fong Azei, one of our last remaining Dragon-Blooded officers, has assumed the role of acting Taiymo. There is a great uncertainty now among the troops, for the acting Taiymo is scarcely more than a girl and has only been Exalted for five years. She had been little more than a cadet officer when she joined and ranked to Taizei only due to the great losses suffered from the wasting illness. Talk among the Murder Association places our position as one of overt neutrality to the new leadership and cautious support. We will not swear ourselves to her fully yet, but we will follow her until she gives us reason not to. At least she has managed to quell talks of desertion already.
“To our great relief, she has ordered us away from the Black River Basin and towards the sea, where she hoped to make contact with an Imperial battlebarge and arrange our evacuation to the Blessed Island. What hope there may be that the Imperial Air Legions yet remain active over the Inner Sea is uncertain, as we do not yet know how badly the wasting illness struck the Blessed Island, but it is a better plan than sitting around here waiting to die.”
Entry number four.
“We have began to encounter the others on our march to the sea. It is unexpected and unnerving. They come wandering out of the forests and landscape like ghosts, silent or moaning pitifully. Shattered remains of other Field-Forces in the area, civilian refugees from those cities claimed by the Unshaped Host, even spirits and elementals fleeing for their lives. Most are broken, many are completely mad. It seems as if the Relentless Imperial Heavy Field-Force are the only Imperial formation still functioning as a formation in the whole of the East. All of the others we’ve encountered looked to us desperately for protection and guidance.
“Acting Taiymo Nu-Fong Azei responded with great composure. I must compliment her on this among other things. Knowing nothing of her politics and sharply aware of her lack of experience, she impressed greatly me with a head for decisive decisions so cooled that one would think the Blessed Dragon of the Air itself spoke through her. Organizing the refugees and pressing back into service as many of the demoralized soldiers as she could, she has made a rough caravan of us and has kept the refugees from scattering apart as we continue west. She placed the Murder Association at the front and back of the column, counting on us to both clear the path and beat back any attacks by the Rhaksha. It is an honorable position, but I question the wisdom of not keeping the best troops to mind our over extended flanks instead.”
Entry number five.
“Acting Taiymo Nu-Fong Azei’s plan had been to bring us to the Stone of Heavenly Ascension and make camp at the top, employing the Soaring Eagle Imperial Fast-Attack Air Wing’s assortment of lesser sky-ships to evacuate as many of the civilians as we could until the battlebarge could be contacted. We all agreed it was a good plan, but it had been foiled before it could even begin. When we reached the Stone this morning, we found it’s garrison fled and it’s defenses stripped bare. I do not know if I should curse the Soaring Eagles as cowards or admire their wisdom.
“While we claimed a pair sky-chariots and assorted equipment and desperately needed supplies, acting Taiymo Nu-Fong Azei, under advice from several of our Taizei, surmised that the Stone was now indefensible. We will abandon the Stone tomorrow to head further south. A hopefully more defensible position may be taken at the port of Xing-Ju, former supply base for the Soaring Eagle Imperial Fast-Attack Air Wing. It is the most likely place in the area that further refugees will come as well, once they discover the Stone abandoned.”
Entry number six.
“The flow of refugees has been growing far stronger heading towards Xing-Ju that we expected. The ranks swell to more than we are properly equipped to handle, yet none spoke of this nor sought to turn any away. These people may well be the last vestiges of the living within the whole of the East. It is a sad fact that we all realize more acutely that we may care to. We no doubt made a mighty sight to the scouts flying in the sky-chariots above, this mass of humanity dragging itself slowly across the earth, but on the ground they were a hopeless lot who seem little better than walking dead.
“Supplies run low again. We’ve been ordered to scavenge all we can from the landscape. A herd of horses found grazing only too idyllic in an abandoned pasture made a good meal for many tonight, but we cannot expect that sort of luck to continue. We’ve found several people among the refugees this morning who were eating the dead. Acting Taiymo Nu-Fong Azei ordered them put to the sword and their bodies burnt by example. I wonder now if that were not too harsh a punishment, for the act of trying to stay alive…
“Every day we march another soul give themselves to the Dragons mercy in despair. The Murder Association has brought as many as we could into our ranks to let them feed from our strength, but there were far too many for us to touch them all.”
Entry number seven.
“Xing-ju was an empty shell by the time we reached it, little better than the Stone of Heavenly Ascension. It’s population seems already to have taken every sea-going vessel in the port and fled to the Blessed Island. Or perhaps simply to open waters. Anywhere, it seems, it better than the mainland.
“There was sign of some sort of minor battle on the outskirts of the city, but not against the Rhaksha or the Shapeless Ones. The burn marks of Essence weapons and stones crushed and toppled under the heels of Warstiders only too strongly imply that Imperial hands were at work. What occurred here before our arrival is a mystery we will not soon solve, though my new brother-in-arms Daozi believes that the Soaring Eagle’s may have attempted to destroy the fortifications of the town before fleeing, to ensure they could not be later used against us. What truth there is in this, I do not know, but it makes our situation only that much more dire.
“We are here and we can go no further, less we fall into the sea. The passages to the north and south are blocked now by the armies of the Shapeless Ones and we are fortunate that they seem more intent now in breaking the Blessed Island than they do in hunting down the pockets of living who remain. But it does not make us safe. While the Shapeless Ones are trapped in their destructive fervor, we know from speaking to civilians that the Rhaksha are not so incensed. Indeed, it seems that many are quite intent on taking “trophies” of Creation back to their twisting lairs. It may be one such trophy-taker we will soon find ourselves embattled with. The scouts report sighting a large force of hobgoblins crawling towards our position. They move in an organized fashion, as if controlled by a more steady hand than any of the Shapeless Ones could manage. Acting Taiymo Nu-Fong Azei pushes us every hour to ready whatever defenses we can muster and daily sends forth directionless mystical messengers towards the Blessed Island in hopes of making contact with the Shogunate.
“It will only be days now until their scouts reach us. Perhaps a week or more until the first wave crashes against our unsteady shore. We race to dig defenses and thrust a sword into the hand of every young person in sight, with no more time to explain it’s use than to offer it to them with the handle first. The refugees are already packed tightly into the deepest corner of the port. May the Holy Dragon’s Bless her selflessness, acting Taiymo Nu-Fong Azei has sworn that we will do all in our power to save as many of them as we are able. Our faith in our brotherhood and the Dragons sustains us, even as our supplies dwindle only further. The Murder Association will die to the last before we dare give ground. We only ask that we can die well…”
Blessed in Blood in the story of the shattered remains of the elite 34th Relentless Imperial Heavy Field-Force and their stand against the forces of an insane Rhaksha warlord. Taking place over the course of several weeks within the madness and desperation of the Balorian Crusades, players will take the roll of these brave but hopelessly outnumbered mortal soldiers as they try to keep safe the cluster of refugees they believe might well be the last living mortals in the East.
This is not a happy game!</i>
It is a game of honor, loyalty, brotherhood, and sacrifice. It’s a game which embraces one of the fundamental ideals of Exalted; standing up to something bigger than you are. But it is also one of pain and desperation and loss. It could very easily end in a total party kill. You have been warned.
The 34th Relentless Imperial Heavy Field-Force: Elite heavy infantry of the Shogunate. One of the last few functional Field-Forces in the East.
The Imperial Regulars: Second-line garrison troops employed to protect vital infrastructure. Well equipped, but lacking the training and discipline of a Field-Force.
The Militia: Poorly trained and equipped peasant soldiers culled in times desperation.
The Blessed Mortal Murder Association: A blood-oath bound brotherhood of mortal soldiers. Unique to the 34th Field-Force.
The Refugees: Common citizens of the Shogunate forced to flee before the Wyld onslaught.
Acting Taiymo Nu-Fong Azei: Young Air-Aspect Terrestrial who assumed command by virtue of rank alone. Inexperienced, but naturally skilled leader saddled with a strong moral character.
Characters are made as standard Heroic Mortals.
<i>Knowledge and Experience: The soldiers at Xing-Ju are an elite and highly experienced group and any among the Imperial Regulars or refugees who comes forward to stand beside them is likely to be an exceptional individual themselves. Characters gain a total of 5 extra Background dots they may divide between Knowledge and Experience.
Artifacts: In their current situation, the troops at Xing-Ju have far more equipment than they do soldiers to use it, though this is all generalized military equipment. All dots in Artifacts count as double, but Artifact 5 cannot be purchased. Any Shogunate Age equipment is readily available outside of Warstiders and Sky-ships. Please feel free to be creative and come up with your own Shogunate style artifacts.
Manse: There are several minor Terrestrial manses at Xing-Ju and in the country near by and few to attune to them. Characters may only purchase up to 2 dots of the Manse Background.
Thaumaturgy: The Arts and Sciences are more common in this age than the Age of Sorrows. While training in mortal magic is not encouraged, nor does the Shogunate openly dissuade it’s mortal population from mastering small magics as the Scarlet Empire will come to. All characters may take a number of rituals equal to their Occult score, though the level of a ritual taken cannot exceed their Occult score. Levels in the Arts and Sciences may be purchased as for 3 points rather than the listed cost. Thaumaturgic merits may be purchased at one less point than listed.
Brotherhood of Blood (1-5 point Social Merit)
The Blessed Mortal Murder Association is an oath-bound group of mortal soldiers unique to the 34th Relentless Imperial Heavy Field-Force and their legacy died with the unit. Sworn to serve one another as loyally as they serve their Exalted masters, members the Murder Association are put through a long and painful ritual in which they spill their blood together as a sign of faith to their fellows. The more blood they spill, the strong the magic of the ritual ties them to the others. People often died during the ritual and for someone to kill themselves during the ritual was seen as the ultimate sign of devotion to the Association and their spirits were honored in song and prayer. While not as powerful or as binding as the oaths of the Exalted, never the less this ritual does connect the mortal soldier to her companions in a way that transcends the flesh. They have an acute awareness of those around them and feel unusually strong camaraderie with the others of the oath
The Brotherhood of Blood merit represents the extent to which the soldier bound himself to other members of the Murder Association. Each point of the merit taken confers a number of situational bonus dice for each scene. These dice can be used any time during a scene in which two members of the Murder Association make a joint effort towards a task or in which one member takes an action to solely benefit another member of the Murder Association.
The ritual which creates a Brotherhood of Blood requires Occult 3 to perform and takes several hours of meditation and ritual preparation of those who are to be involved.