Exalted – The Hanging Gardens, Part I

Nestled in the hills and moors of Scotland, Leon’s freehold – and it is very much a personal creation founded on his graces and charms – will soon be attracting the notice of England’s very active fey community…

The Hanging Gardens are a vision of the ancient east as it once was, or perhaps as it should have been; a place of trickling streams, lush wetlands, rich fields, and mossy outcroppings surrounding a massive plateau, it’s upper reaches hewn into a fabulous city of stony buildings and tunnels, its waterfalls feeding terraced rooftop gardens, it’s slim towers crowned with elegant domes, and its many fountains playing. The busy streets are watched over by the benign statues of the combined Egyptian-Babylonian Pantheon, and it’s harbor (thanks to a Chancel-Gate) opens upon the seas of chaos, and the realms of Aden – and, for that matter, Sinbad – just beyond. The mighty Guardian Statues protect each side of the Plateau while Obelisks and Stelae mark important locations and the heat of the sun is moderated by the cool stone and flourishing greenery into gentle, cooling, breezes. The slightly off-center step-pyramid is relatively modest, but it’s terraced gardens, paths, and hundred small waterfalls make it a lovely place to stroll and relax. The occasional hawk, fire lizard, or flying carpet soars above, but most heavy traffic – and the more modern amenities – are handled below the surface. Sadly, a good deal of the more distant vistas are actually semi-illusory, or are miniature scenes populated by manikins or (for those which are supposed to be “closer”) poppets.

Just below the city a trio of waypoints serve as a guardpost, as a staging area, and as a crossroads for the Journeys linked to some of the Chancel-Waypoints that the Freehold has claimed. From there, a ramp spirals down to another complex of waypoints hidden deep within the black depths of the mesa – where the barracks for the Freeholds troops, armories, vehicle hangers, a command post, and other military facilities await a call to arms that will, hopefully, never come. Still, if the call does come… a modest fleet of light tanks, APC’s, attack helicopters, and other light military units await. The access-ways to the surface, the harbor, and the fields and practice ground at the foot of the mesa appear to be solid rock, but the portals can be easily opened with a little simple shaping. Here is the Stronghold headquarters of the Commander, the Old Man of the Mountain, Master of the Dervish Janni – his skills at command exceeded only by his mastery of his twin blades and the Quixotic Knight Style.

The Hearthfire burns beneath the central palace, the mighty edifice which Leon uses as his home and workshop – taking the form of a seething pool of volcanic fire, suitable for forging mighty rings of power with a splendid winecellar close at hand and without all that bothersome traipsing about through a rocky wasteland full of orcs. Here too is Leon’s Throne Room and the offices of Lohenwilt of the Night Mist, the Evil Grand Vizier, who usually keeps the Freehold organized. Lohenwilt is a Heroic Commoner Raksha, most noticeable for his use of an inward-facing onieromancy (The Serpent’s Fang Ring) that allows him to readily conjure poisons, toxic mists, impenetrable fog, blasts of molten lead, and chains, as well as for his mastery of swift telekinetic thaumaturgy (also a feature of the ring actually) which he can use to manipulate such things. He usually wears an assumption of Fire, Wood, and Fox. Most poisons are utterly ineffectual within the Freehold thanks to it’s Manse, but if you get a nasty stomachache after a meal, it may well mean that Lohenwilt is annoyed at you. Outside of the Freehold such tactics are MUCH more effective.

The Cathederal Of The Winds soars at the edge of the plateau area, looking out over the rippling waves of the storm-tossed sea, the wings of it’s swanlike-roof offering cool shade and a place to study. Here are kept a thousand scrolls of heroic tales, each a catalyst capable of transforming a mere mortal into an embodiment of dream. Here the Doctrine and the Hanging Garden’s internal Onieromancies are managed by “Cardinal Richelieu”, the Freehold’s Prelate – a slightly odd Heroic Commoner Raksha who, in his spare time, plots to take over France and reinstate the monarchy while sparring with several commoners playing the Three Musketeers. The fencing academy is out back and, while the master is no great challenge by Exalted standards, he’s a true marvel as a teacher for Mortals.

Deep in the stone beneath the plateau, in an aquifer that is a metaphor for the seething power of Chaos that empowers the Freehold as much or more as it is supplied by melting snows in distant mountains, great pressures sealed beneath layers of impermeable rock drive a stream of water and essence up through a fault to erupt at last in a might fountain atop the central ziggurat, rolling down it’s sides to flow out through a hundred miniature aqueducts to feed the flowing pools and channels of the rooftop gardens, the thirst of the city, and the waterfalls that cascade down the sculpted cliffs and terraces of the plateau. Where that seething water flows the power that pours from it as it pours from the Font has engendered consciousness – a mind vast and slow that informs the entire Freehold. Here the Chancellor of the Hanging Gardens listens to the ever-shifting song of chaos and from it plucks melodies to drift upon the airs of the Freehold, bearing with them obscure strengths.

Hanging Gardens Freehold Consciousness. Demesne 5, 14 waypoints base. One primary and six secondary gates are scattered around; these are DC 10 to stunt through (usually with Larceny) and conceal themselves with ten automatic successes. It produces 15 Pennants.

  • Virtues and Graces: Heart 4, Sword 10, Ring 9, Cup 9, Staff 9, Way 6, Means 7, Mirror 6, and Thorn 6. (Compassion 4, Conviction 4, Temperance 2, Valor 2.
  • Caste: Noble Artisan (with 250 XP).
  • Essence 4 (5), Essence Pool 50, Will 10 (5 BP)
  • Health Levels: Effectively infinite.
  • Thaumaturgy; Access to Adenic Thaumaturgy.
    • Physical Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 8, Stamina 6
    • Social Attributes: Charisma 5, Manipulation 7, Appearance 4
    • Mental Attributes: Perception 6, Intelligence 8, Wits 8
  • Caste Abilities: Bureaucracy 3, Craft 4, Integrity 2, Investigation 4, and Lore 4.
  • Favored Abilities: Larceny 4, Archery 3, and Occult 4
  • Other Abilities: Awareness 3, Presence 3, and War 3
  • Specialties: +3 (5) Occult/Spellcasting, +2 War/ Raksha Forces, +2 Craft/Graces, +2 Lore/Mythology,
  • Backgrounds: Arsenal 1 (5), Gossamer 3 (6), Birth 5, Followers 4, Retinue 5, Style 5 (From Charm),
  • Birth-Charms: Assumption of Earth Form, Ravishing the Created Form, Banquet of Crumbs, Essence-Forging Art, Awakened Dream Manufacture, Forging (The Grace) (All) (these manifest at the Cathedral Of Winds, where mortals and others may read heroic legends and develop their own Graces), Gaping Virtue Mouth, Ecstatic Reproduction Style.
  • Other Charms: Continuum Of Dreams (may move into common mortal dreams), Dreaming Thunder Guardian (may perform wyld stunt defenses reflexively), Essence Forging Art (plus, Gossamer Forging Art, Crafter’s Arsenal, Unreal Shipwrights Method, and Principle Of Worlds, all manifested as workshops), Evocation of Earth Form, Fall Of Night Shadows The Truth (conceals the city from investigation), Forge of Dreams (boosts wyld stunts, may perform (Sta) per day extra), Glorious Hero Form x 5 (+1 to each attribute), Gossamer Winged Flight (it can fly), Great Works of the (Grace) and Unshaped (Grace) Transformation for all eight graces (yes, this means working with types of treasures that are currently unknown; A part of the workshops at the Cathederal Of The Winds), Harvest of the Winds (gain motes and glamour from the magnitude of the mortals around you each day), Into The Maelstorm (wyld stunts are per session, not story), Oneiromantic Conjuration (draw one gossamer/scene where there’s a sleeping mortal; yes, that’s citywide, for about 80/day), Ordinary Object Conjuration, Scourging Wind Raid (steals things), Shape Forged Servant (gives your creations mutations), Style Improving Spirit (gain style five), Subversion and Transformation Artifice and Morphogenic Mastery (may mutate normal and fantastical creatures, including sapients), The Dream-Quest Of Unknown Kadath (+1 to artifact level, four maximum, requires (new dots) months, 5 Committed Motes, 1 XP or 20G, soaks things in the Font), Transient Works Of Flesh And Bone and Calling The Dance Of Blades (summon superior armies and monsters), Unassailable Tower Of Glamour (all stunt dice succeed), Unsightly Rigor Approach (temporarily boost virtues/graces), Veiling The Gods Eyes (Instant area effect thaumaturgy with no components).
  • Currently Chancel-1 Gates to Aden/The Sea Of Chaos, Los Angeles, London, and Ireland.

Thanks to Leon’s incredible graces, the Freehold founded upon his power is a most impressive Freehold indeed…

The Beacon is a blazing gemlike structure, high above the center of the city like a glittering star (Only the great guardian statues rise higher) and serves as a lookout into Creation. Here Savina of the Tower, The Elerin, Seer of Tanis, looks forth across the leagues, occasionally using her thaumaturgic powers, the guiding power of the Beacon, or the Staff-Shaping powers of the Brush of Etherill to launch Staff-Shaping “attacks” (often bestowing various mutations via Behemoth Forging Meditation) at mortals in the surrounding lands – or guiding the lost and abandoned to the Freehold or otherwise interfering. Savina rather likes mortal children – they’re cute and make great pets! – and occasionally grants them unexpected boons of power. (Yes: she uses Imposition Of Law to ALWAYS spot things she will find interesting within several hundred miles unless they’re hidden by magic or stunts. With mortals… they rarely are)

The Brush of Etherill:

For this cycle of the moon I shall strive to touch the lives of mortals with the wonders of the Wyld.

This Sthiti Oath has a five-mote committment cost and takes the form of an artists brush, shimmering with the opalescent hues of wild energies. As a Staff-Shaping Weapon, the Brush of Etherill has Speed 5, Accuracy +1, Damage +16, Defense +1, Rate 2, and the “P” tag. As a five-dot artifact it also has a major power; the Brush of Etherill can sketch the Sigil of the Logrus – the True Sign of Chaos. Even in the very heart of Creation the user may expend 3M to launch a staff-shaping attack at a six-waypoint range or over an arcane link.

As an Oath it bestows:

  • Workers Gift (2): Whenever the user brings the forces of the wyld into creation, he or she will gain two Gossamer.
  • Gossamer Winged Flight (2): The user may be borne aloft upon the brushes shimmering rainbow radiance.
  • Swift Wings of Song (1): The user may add his or her Cup rating in automatic success to Join Battle, Join War, and Join Debate rolls.
  • Untouchable Performer Technique (1): It is most difficult to stir up action against the user.
  • Gladdening Visage (1): The user is almost impossible to directly identify as a Raksha.
  • Surpassing Excellence (1): The user gains a +2 stacking speciality in Craft (Art).

The Brush of Etherill is a very potent artifact indeed – as befits a five-dot device of any kind.