(An Exalted game pitch from June 2004, which became a truly terrible game that ran for only a bit.)
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
(W. H. Auden, “1st September 1939”)
“It is a terrible time to be alive. In the West, the puissant Scarlet Empire makes war upon the inhuman Bull of the North and his armies of demons. To the South, the deathless Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate in Unrent Veils sends forth her packs of half-dead followers to hunt and consume the living. To the North lies the blasted wastes of the trackless Proving Grounds, where the feral Anathema and their bestial get congregate and plot war upon the good people of Halta. Truly, this is the end of days.
“The savants and the wisest agreed that an apocalypse loomed, in those last few days before the razing of Chanta. The final threads of light and civility snapped on the Day of Burned Branches, when the massive bronze head of some mad god rose unbidden from the Earth, a huge and terrible colossus — a bust one hundred feet tall from chin to crest. And from that god’s gaping mouth spewed the Locust Crusade, uncounted thousands resplendent in their brass and copper armors, riding automata that fume and dragonflies that steam. The redwood heart of the Kingdom of Halta broke that day.
“Heroes rose up in those chaotic times, men and women of gold and light, but what good is a candleflame against a tempest? The Solar Anathema — if such they were — broke and fled, the same as everyone else. Same as everyone else, they scattered into the forest. Same as everyone else, they fell prey to Fair Folk and slavers and barbarians and any of the thousand thousand terrible things in the woods. They will not be seen again, no, they will not be seen again.”
(From the journal of Rytho the Pessimist)
So once upon a time there was a fabulous kingdom in the trees, called Halta, where people lived in harmony with their animal friends and trained monkeys did all the hard labor and people could be hunter-gatherers and still live in cities with populations up above five hundred thousand.
Then one day, a powerful man from the Northwest came to Halta, and told them that a new age was opening. They could either join him, or he would call them enemy. And he was a very powerful man, and he helped them plant trees, so they agreed to help him fight his enemies.
And then his enemies came, and in the war between him and his enemies many Haltans perished. And the undead to the South cackled and grew fat at the carnage, and the barbarians of the North raided the weakened nation.
And then cyborg ninja from outside space and time invaded the capital, and reduced it to its component parts, and carried those parts back and away to their home beyond space and time. And everyone in the city quaked in fear, and tried to fight the cyborg ninja, but that didn’t work too well.
Among the handful of refugees (only a tiny fraction of the population of Chanta, capital of Halta, were able to escape, but a tiny fraction of one and a half million is quite a large number) were a few Solar Exalted, who had been present in the city at the time of its destruction, and who fought against the invaders, but to no avail. They fled into the dark and wild forest, vast and full of hidden dangers, to lick their wounds and vow revenge.