The Lunar Exalted [Exalted]

Exalted

The Lunar Exalted

The Lunar Exalted are Creation’s divine apex predators, monster-heroes chosen by Luna to hunt and prey upon the enemies of the gods in the Divine Revolution. Like their divine patron, the Lunars are puissant shapeshifters, devouring the forms of their human and animal prey and making these a part of their own nature. The Lunar Exalted are creatures of boundaries and transgression — the boundaries between hero and monster, between devil and saint, between civilization and wilderness, between the mortal world and the divine. They stand on whichever side of the boundaries they please, and cross between them with unmatched ease. A Lunar who embraces the power and freedom of becoming an untamed monster need not sacrifice her humanity; a Lunar who devotes herself to living among mortals and protecting them need not abandon the freedom of running wild and untamed.

In the Divine Revolution, the Lunars were monsters that even the most nightmarish among the enemies of the gods learned to fear. They waged war in the shapes of snakes as long as rivers, all-devouring swarms bearing devil-slaying plagues, beast-mothers with tusks like daiklaives and stampedes of murderous children, and countless other wild horrors. Fighting alongside the Solar and Sidereal Exalted, and with Dragon-Blooded armies, they toppled the makers of the universe and stained their fangs red with the blood of slain divinities.

As the First Age’s glories arose from the Exalted’s triumph, the Lunars enjoyed the fruit of the paradise they’d helped to win, and transformed themselves into the Lunar Exalted of an Age of Dreams. Though never forsaking the divine monstrosity at the heart of their Essence, they became guardians, guides, world-walkers, judges, and mystics.

The Usurpation brought an end to the First Age and a new transformation for the Lunar Exalted, the change that made them what they are today. The mass death of the Solar Exalted, and the foul murder of Lunars who fought beside their Solar mates or were deemed too dangerous to the usurpers’ plans to let live, awoke a keening fury in the souls of the Lunar host, a rage that had not been witnessed in Creation since the Lunars first hunted the enemies of the gods. The first Wyld Hunts perpetrated by the nascent Dragon-Blooded Shogunate and its Sidereal benefactors solidified the Lunars’ vendetta, ensuring that the usurpers would never know peace so long as one Lunar yet drew breath.

As the great wonders of the First Age unwound and crumbled into ash, the Lunars chose to remake themselves so that they could survive and thrive in this new Age of Sorrows. Over the course of years, they performed a mystical endeavor unparalleled throughout Creation, dissolving the fivefold castes that dwelt in the very Essence of Lunar Exaltation and creating new castes. Henceforth, the Lunar Exalted would be ferocious warriors slaying the usurpers’ legions, wicked tricksters testing society and plunging it into chaos, wise-eyed witches beckoning forth night’s mysteries.

It was this time that saw the birth of the Silver Pact. Though the Lunars had many different visions of how best to wreak vengeance on the usurpers and make a new place for themselves in the world — and in a few cases, had longstanding grudges against one another — the cruel reality of the Wyld Hunt made internecine strife a luxury they couldn’t afford. The Lunars came together in a loose-knit organization built on mutual aid and a shared vendetta against the usurpers, without any single leader or formal authority.

Throughout its history, the Silver Pact has become the single greatest force arrayed against the Dragon-Blooded and the Sidereal Exalted. The Realm’s borders fall where they do because the Silver Pact has denied them the lands beyond. The Sidereals of the Bronze Faction desperately coordinate the Wyld Hunt, because they know they cannot maintain the status quo they sacrificed so much for if the Lunars are unchecked. In the Time of Tumult, the Pact’s final victory may be at hand… or its best-laid plans might fall apart through the intervention of unforeseen foes.

War Against the Realm

The Silver Pact opposes the Realm for many reasons: as the successor state to the usurping Dragon-Blooded Shogunate, for its subjugation of the Threshold, and for its prosecution of the Wyld Hunt. Other Dragon-Blooded societies suffer the Pact’s wrath to the extent that they share in the Shogunate’s legacy and agenda; this includes Lookshy, Prasad, and the powerful cadet- house-led satrapies around the Inland Sea.

It’s easy for Lunars to find support against Realm aggression. For centuries, satrapies have labored under Imperial yoke. Farmers and merchants alike tighten their belts to pay their share of satrapial taxes, and face starvation or bankruptcy in bad years. Garrisons quarter soldiers in local homes. Threshold aristocrats begrudge their subservience and their own loss of income. Even the gods fume against Immaculate strictures.

The Realm’s power harms even those beyond its borders. Satrapies raid neighboring states and peoples to help pay their tribute, while Dynastic adventurers organize military expeditions to line their own pockets. Realm fiscal policies interfere with trade between satrapies and foreign lands. Immaculate missionaries destabilize traditional societies with their unfamiliar faith. And when the Realm finally conquers a neighbor, the aftereffects of war can be prolonged and devastating.

Blood Moon Rising: Lunar Victories

The Silver Pact doesn’t speak in terms of victory in the field. It’s no rival empire to seize and hold territory from the Realm. Rather, the Pact is a predator running down its prey, bleeding it from a thousand cuts until it’s ready to fall.

Across the Threshold, Lunars strike at Realm interests not to kill, but to wound. Piracy, raiding, rebellion, and civil war turn satrapies from obsequious sources of wealth to thorns in the Realm’s side. Sabotage, theft, and assassination strip away precious assets and undermine efforts at political reform. Harassment exhausts Imperial defenders and their auxiliaries, leaving them all the more vulnerable. Only at critical junctures wherein the Realm is overextended does the Pact strike with overwhelming force.

Where the Realm once spread networks of roads and bridges throughout its satrapies to better move troops and gather tribute, now it struggles to maintain existing infrastructure. Warstriders, First Age manses, and other irreplaceable relics have been sabotaged or destroyed outright, leaving only a small fraction of their previous number in Realm and Lookshyan hands. These strategies also played on the Empress’ conservatism and her obsession with perpetuating her rule. Knowing that overreach would play into Lunar hands, she slowed the Realm’s expansion to a crawl, tolerated greater independence in troublesome satrapies, and grew more reluctant to embark upon grand endeavors — subjugating the Scavenger Lands, reclaiming Prasad, seizing the West.

Centuries of Pact efforts diminished the Realm from unchallengeable hyperpower to “merely” Creation’s sole superpower. This was only the beginning. Running the Realm to ground might take centuries more and require enormous, persistent effort, but the Pact’s elders felt confident that their strategy was the best path to victory.

Now that the Empress is gone and the Solars are returned, everything is in flux. Many Pact elders favor continued adherence to a winning stratagem. Others are swayed toward immediate action, seeing an opportunity to finally go for the throat. Either way, destroying the Realm remains the Lunars’ objective.

Pact Organization

The Silver Pact has no official government. In principle, it’s entirely egalitarian, with no formal hierarchy or positions of authority. But even the Pact knows politics. Collective action requires direction, guidance, and leadership. Pact members align themselves along multiple social and political axes, including their approach to the Realm, their chronological peer group, and their association with the Pact’s shahan-yas.

The Shadow Fang Vanguard

Not all Lunars accepted the nascent Silver Pact’s loose, nonhierarchical nature. Some believed that war against the Shogunate required firm central authority; others sought strong leaders to serve; and still others were driven by ambition and craved the opportunity to command their fellow Lunars. Splitting from the Pact’s mainline, they largely coalesced over centuries into the Shadow Fang Vanguard, a unified authoritarian enclave.

Today, the Vanguard numbers only a score of Lunars, most dwelling in the deep Northeastern forests under the iron rule of the Vanguard’s reigning autarch, the Shogunate-era warlord Tayan Silver-Crowned, who is advised by Feather Drenched in the Blood of the Fallen, a First Age elder. They anticipate new blood, believing the Vanguard’s message will resonate all the more strongly amid the Time of Tumult.

Relations between the Vanguard and the Pact are complex and fraught. Both share the same overarching goals; indeed, many Pact members view the Vanguard as simply another part of the Pact. More than a few Vanguard members attend Pact gatherings, where they find themselves welcome, and while Pact Lunars encounter a cooler reception among the Vanguard, those in need are rarely turned away.

The major point of tension between the Pact and the Vanguard is recruiting new Lunars. Occasional skirmishes have resulted, as recruiters seeking the same young Lunar have squabbled or even come to blows — though both groups severely censure anyone whose squabbling escalates to vendetta, or drives a young Lunar away from Pact and Vanguard alike.

Shahan-ya: Elders and Mentors

Silver Pact elders are called “shahan-ya” — Old Realm for “guide” or “teacher” — and lead coteries of adherents, disciples, and supporters, known as schools. Any member of the Pact who’s accepted as a leader or mentor by a school may take on the mantle of shahan-ya.

The structure of these schools varies. Most often, adherents live apart from the shahan-ya, visiting intermittently to study, discuss strategy and politics, take on new tasks and responsibilities, or simply to socialize with a friend or ally. Such shahan-yas occasionally gather their adherents en masse to discuss matters of mutual import.

Adherents may be loyal or devoted, but never slavish. Each is a Lunar hero and champion, not a servant at her shahan-ya’s beck and call. An adherent may sever her relationship to a shahan-ya at any time, and vice versa. Prestigious shahan-yas can leverage the value of their patronage to demand that adherents toe the line, but even so, most accept varying degrees of dissent lest they drive adherents away.

When Silver Cracks

Shahan-yas are not formal authorities, and so one shahan-ya’s refusal to recognize another’s status matters little to the Pact as a whole. But on rare occasions, a shahan-ya’s extreme views or actions may cause her peers to reject her authority en masse. The Pact’s laissez-faire approach to politics makes it vulnerable to such breakdowns. To combat this tendency, the shahan-yas aggressively police schisms once they form. When a shahan-ya’s behavior threatens Pact stability, her peers address this as a grievance in council (p. XX).

When the Pact has failed to alleviate tensions, consequences have ranged from schools isolating themselves from broader Pact culture, to outright schism. Early examples include Radhika Stormswift’s offensive against the Shogunate and Thousand-Swords Oravan breaking away to form his own kingdom. More recently, Raksi and Ma-Ha-Suchi went to war over the Pact’s future direction; Northern Pact members feuded with the necromancer Smiling Rat over his strategy of bedeviling the Realm by opening shadowlands en masse among its satrapies; and Klesamra Lotus-Seed polarized her Southern peers by courting aid from the Fair Folk.

Part of the purpose of ongoing communication and socialization within the Pact is to gain a sense of one’s neighbors’ inclinations and persuade them to one’s own points of view. A handful of Lunars dedicate sizable amounts of time and effort to such interaction, both on their own behalf and to forestall future rifts.

The Pact’s Endgame

Each individual shahan-ya and her school has her own vision of the future of a Creation without the Realm. Some dream of rebuilding the glories of the Old Realm under a Lunar Deliberative; others wish for a world free from all empires and tyrannies. Many would see the Scarlet Empress’ bloodline extirpated in bloody pogroms, yet some envision the redemption of the Dragon-Blooded as divine soldiers of the Pact. Thus far, the Silver Pact has focused on the destruction of the Realm, not what comes after. For most of its history, the Realm’s downfall has seemed distant enough that it made no sense to invite internal turmoil by squabbling over what to do after. But with the Time of Tumult accelerating the Pact’s timetable, many Lunars believe the the Pact’s endgame must be determined now.

  4 comments for “The Lunar Exalted [Exalted]

  1. Isator Levi
    November 8, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Looking good. I like the variety of new personalities in particular.

  2. Mike E
    November 8, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    The variety in shahan-ya perspective and endgame desires seems like it could open up a lot of varieties in tone depending on the needs of your chronicle.

    I love it!

  3. Imrix
    November 8, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    A looot of good details here, like the acknowledgement of modern reasons to oppose the Realm, the existence of Elders hailing from different periods in Creation’s history. Trying to push Lunars as having a cohesive, setting-wide organisation is never going to make much sense, though.

  4. YOLF
    November 8, 2018 at 7:35 pm

    Woooo, Lunars lore! This is looking good. This approach to the Silver Pact, following in the core book’s description, seems to follow pretty well on the premises that encourage the Lunar exalted to have a shared culture, even though it’s the farthest thing from an organized or hierarchical organization.

    It sounds like it gives them a pretty coherent place in the setting, set against the Realm, and the examples it gives of internal disagreements exemplify well the variety of different opinions and conflicting methods and ideas within.

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