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Farewell Performance: A Game of Gateway

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  • Farewell Performance: A Game of Gateway

    I believe I am done with Exalted, and the Exalted forum. It seems unlikely I shall be hired to write anything for the game. My gaming group certainly will not play it again, either (though that may change if 3e is A) unbelievably cool, and B) fully playable out of the box, without too many game-mechanics land mines.) So, my attention is on other things. A while back, though, I wrote this and never found a good reason to post it. Jen's thread about the UCS coincidentally comes just as I dug this out of the files and decided, "What the hell."

    This fiction vignette presents possible views of the UCS and a few other topics of interest to me. While I rather like the ideas explored in this vignette, I would not want any of them made canonical. Anyway, I hope it's a nice bit of character interaction.

    So good bye for the foreseeable future, good luck, and may the UCS take a liking to you.

    Dean Shomshak



    You will not find the room anywhere in Creation, Heaven, Hell or any other world. It is a place of its own, and not large. The floor, walls and vaulted ceiling are white marble, set with medallions: green stars in plates of gold, gold stars in plates of green. The center of the room holds a white marble table and two overstuffed comfy chairs. A Gateway set rests on the table. Four crystal lamps in the corners of the room provide a shadowless, white illumination.

    A soft ticking comes from two identical doors in opposite walls of the chamber. At the same moment, they click and unlock. One opens promptly and a man walks in. The other door opens and a second figure enters, just the right number of seconds later to show that he did not hurry to this meeting. Although the first man has skin of polished bronze and the other has skin of polished brass, they could be brothers.

    The bronze-skinned man speaks first, as is his duty as host. “Greetings, Ligier.” He holds a bottle in one hand, a pair of tumblers in two others, and a corkscrew in the fourth. The second figure also holds a bottle, but nothing else.

    “Greetings, Ignis Divine,” says the other. As the first figure deftly uncorks his bottle and pours drinks, the second sets up the board. He too has four arms. Ignis Divine passes a glass of sunrise-hued liquid to Ligier. They clink glasses.

    “Happy days,” says Ignis Divine.

    “Well, here we are again,” replies Ligier. They sit. It is Ligier’s turn to make the first move in the game. He moves a spearman a single space on the board.

    Between moves, the players speak of inconsequential things. Ignis Divine mentions labor troubles with Heaven’s canal maintenance guild. Ligier suggests executing the ringleader of the agitators, and names the small god to show that he already knows of the affair. Ignis Divine smiles and says it would be counterproductive. The situation will work itself out. Then, Ignis Divine mentions a foolish bit of cruelty by the Second Circle warlord Octavian, to show that he has eyes in Ligier’s realm as well. Neither has said anything the other truly did not expect.

    An hour later, half the pieces are gone from the board. The bottle of celestial wine is empty, and they start on Ligier’s bottle of Forbidden Delights Elixir. Ligier moves a talonlord to threaten one of Ignis Divine’s winglords two possible moves later. “You have studied the games of Kes,” observes Ignis Divine. He moves a spearman to remove the incipient threat; the same response Ragara Szaya made to the gambit in her first game against her future husband. It is another I-know-that-you-know exchange; but this time, Ignis Divine does not let the matter drop. He shakes his head. “Sigereth will give her back, you know. This time, she plays out of her league.” He fixes Ligier with his eye. “Kes does not play alone. As you should know. You seem off your game.” There is no more pretence of triviality from either of the two.

    Ligier smiles thinly. “You mean Mistress Emerald? The gambit was to draw her into the open. I think you are the one off his game.” His dragonlord crosses the board to take one of Ignis Divine’s dragonlords: a bold move.

    “And in so doing, you have revealed one of your Chosen to Kes. He will infer Manosque’s involvement — and what she is.” He moves a fanglord two spaces on the board. “I take your dragonlord in two moves.” There is no way for the dragonlord to escape in less than three.

    “And will he also infer what Mistress Emerald is? That seems a zero-sum move.”

    Ignis Divine meets Ligier’s smile with his own. “I trust the patriotism of Kes. And I trust my Chosen.”

    “As you trusted them before?” Ligier sneers. “Half of them belong to me and my dead… uncles. Already, some of them betray you by grasping forbidden power. See!” He snaps his fingers at a wall. The marble shimmers and fades to become a window.

    They see a man with a harsh, narrow face and close-cropped black hair. He wears a glittering gold-hued breastplate over dark leather, and wields a huge, spiky axe of metal as black as despair. A hollow ring of gold gleams on his brow. The man squares off against a Fair Folk lord armored in children’s fears, bearing a trident forged of lightning and rainbows. They battle among pine-trees of frost hung with marzipan cones. A black-haired maiden fair as — well to be honest, she is only moderately pretty — sleeps on a couch of clouds.

    The axeman lunges at the faerie lord again and again but his opponent dodges every time, elusive as a fading dream. Ligier and Ignis Divine hear the raksha’s mocking laughter.

    And then the circle of gold on the axeman’s brow turns black and raiton-shadows flap about him. He swings the axe, though he is across the grove from the raksha — and a flash of black crosses the grove. The faerie raises his trident barely in time to save his head, and the dream-plumes on his helmet drift to the ground. The raksha spins to see the axeman now behind him. The axeman swings again, once more flashing across the grove like a stroke of ebon lightning. The raksha lord barely deflects the blow again, but fear now twists the perfect beauty of his face. Sooner rather than later, the axeman will strike faster than the Fae can see, and kill him.

    The Fae lord drops the butt of his trident to the ground, drops to one knee and calls, “I yield! Take her and go! …Abomination.

    “Not that easy, O Khedive of Light After Storm,” the man replies as a single huge shadow-raiton lands behind him, dark wings folding around him like a cloak. “I will have an oath from you.” The raksha grinds his teeth in fury, but bows his head.

    Ligier leans back in his chair, folds all four arms and smirks. “Do you see, brother mine? They leap into the Abyss.”

    Ignis Divine cocks an eyebrow. “I see power used for another’s aid,” he says. “I see a tactic well-chosen to defeat a foe. I see the Abyss bent to my Chosen’s will.” He nods, and the window becomes wall again. “Jiunan did well, and will do more. He and others will bring My light to the Underworld. And, I think, lead their darkened brothers and sisters back to the light.” He smiles slightly, though it does not reach his eyes. “Their siblings in green, as well.” He toys with a dragonlord, then sets the piece down again. “You and the Neverborn opened doors to power within their Exaltations, added shards of yourselves to shards of Me — you may not think so, but you did. And parts remain connected to the whole, and to each other. The Principle of Hierarchy could tell you that much. I think you made every Solar a little bit Abyssal and a little bit Infernal. But every Abyssal and Infernal is already a lot Solar. And more importantly, they are all still human. I don’t know how this ends — what becomes of this blending of powers — but I think it may end well.”

    Ligier snorts. “You can’t believe that. Mortals are weak. Now and forever. Last time around should have proved that to you.” He lifts his glass to take another drink.

    “Yes. They are not perfect. They make mistakes. But sometimes, they learn from their errors. Something we gods should try to do, perhaps. And so…” Ignis Divine smiles and shrugs. “I have faith.”

    Faith.” Ligier spits the word like a curse. “You speak like a mortal yourself.”

    “Perhaps I do. As they carry part of me, perhaps I now carry part of them. But remember, brother. I did not defeat our father. They did.”

    “Shut up and play. Your move. If you’re done babbling like an idiot.”

    Ignis Divine looks down at the Gateway board. Gambits and strategies swirl and multiply in his head, ten thousand paths to victory.

    His move?

    He sweeps his arm across the board. Pieces carom around the room. Ligier springs to his feet. Ignis Divine stands more slowly.

    “Count this as a forfeit if you like. I am not playing any longer. From now on, my pieces play themselves.”

  • #2
    Huh. Thank you for the story. It's a nice little piece.
    And, I do hope you and your group will enjoy 3rd Edition, and you'll write something else Exalted-related. You've always been pretty good at it in my book. :-)

    Preaching the enlightened gospels of Gaming Anarchy


    • #3
      Originally posted by DShomshak View Post
      I believe I am done with Exalted, and the Exalted forum.
      I thought the same thing for a long time. Hope to see you around again, Dean.

      "Chicanery-No: If a player uses this Charm in an abusive or exploitative manner, the ST may punch him right in the goddamn face." --TheDementedOne

      "Happiness is very brittle and short-lived in the Exalted community, because ressentiment is our cultural touchstone." --Gayo


      • #4
        This is disappointing news. I hope this doesn't turn out to be the end for you with Exalted, but I understand how things go. Here's hoping your group enjoys EX3 and you get a chance to write again someday.

        In any case, this is indeed a nice read! ^__^ Thank you very much for the offering, Dean, and for all else you've done for the line and fandom. I hope this isn't the last we see of you around here, but if it is, you've chosen to go out on a high note.

        The EX3 What We Know Wiki, courtesy of Marin and JMobius
        Nishkriya, the EX3 Freelancer Quotes Tracker, courtesy of Anathema and Moonwolf
        The White Wolf Forum Archive, courtesy of The Dark Wizard and Sanctaphrax (see its Patreon)
        Arrghus: There's also the Shepherd of the North Star, busily guiding the one thing in all the heavens that doesn't move.


        • #5
          I've always enjoyed your work. Farewell, happy travels elsewhere, and safe returns if 3e exceeds your expectations.


          • #6
            I enjoyed the nations you wrote on the old forums, and hope you do well. The idea of Sol Invictus and the Green Sun having a annual game(Maybe on Calibration every five years) seems like a nice idea.


            • #7
              I offer my condolences that your leaving is on bad terms, Mr. Shomshak (unless I'm misreading your tone, in which case, I apologize for misrepresenting you and for assuming). You were a good fellow to have around, and we're the poorer for losing your voice.


              • #8
                What a sad thing to hear just before bed.

                I shall attempt to think on this matter tomorrow. As well as gladly devour this small story.

                Formerly Inugami, formerly Tornado Wolf.

                My RWBY Blog on Tumblr: Semblances, Kingdoms, Grimm, and more!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by DShomshak View Post
                  I believe I am done with Exalted, and the Exalted forum. It seems unlikely I shall be hired to write anything for the game. My gaming group certainly will not play it again, either (though that may change if 3e is A) unbelievably cool, and B) fully playable out of the box, without too many game-mechanics land mines.) So, my attention is on other things.
                  I'm sorry to see you go.
                  I'll wish you luck with your future endeavours and hope that maybe we'll see you again someday.

                  Onyx Path Forum Moderator
                  Please spare a thought for updating the Exalted wiki.


                  • #10
                    It is saddening to hear that you won't have input on 3rd edition. All the same, good luck and safe travels.


                    • #11
                      I'm sorry to see you go, Dean. Even if you don't have awesome pulpy adventures in Exalted, I hope you have awesome pulpy adventures.


                      • #12
                        Thank you all, and I may turn up once in a while on other Onyx Path forums. At the moment I'm just doing Champions material, but the Hero Games forums are... how do I put this politely... a bit slow. And rarely interested in anything beyond, "How do I write up this power?" So I hope I shall see many of you again, even if it has nothing to do with Exalted.

                        (And I do have the best wishes for 3e. But until it appears...)

                        Dean Shomshak
                        Last edited by DShomshak; 09-30-2014, 08:26 PM.


                        • #13
                          Nice story; thanks for sharing it. Having been less active since the forums shifted but no 3e yet coming out, I hope that you, too, will return when it does. But we'll see, and regardless, I wish you luck in whatever you do go do. See ya around the internet.