Exalted: The Sun Also Rises
In the earliest times, the gods became discontented with their lot as keepers of the world, tenders of Creation, and mere servants of the Primordials. The Primordials had created the gods with mighty bindings laid upon them, however, such that the gods could not use anything divine or any power of the heavens or earth to work the undoing of their creators. The Primordials did not mention mortal life in these bindings, for they did not believe that anything merely mortal could be a threat to them.
The Unconquered Sun proposed to his fellow Incarnae, the highest of the gods, that they should take humans and grant them great power, so that the humans could fight as their champions against the Primordials. The other Incarnae agreed, and they went out and chose mortals to become heroes—the first of the Exalted. Gaia would create no soldiers, but she gave her blessing to the Elemental Dragons, and they raised up soldiers to serve as armies for the heroes, the Dragon-Blooded. Autochthon, also a Primordial and the first of all smiths, turned against his brothers and gave the Exalted designs for mighty weapons that could destroy their enemies.
After the war with the Primordials was concluded, the Incarnae retreated from mortal affairs, leaving the stewardship of Creation to the Exalted. In turn, the Exalted took up the position that the Celestial Incarnae once held, having authority over Creation and the Terrestrial gods.
Of the Exalted, there are six known types:
The Solar Exalted: The Solar Exalted are the Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, god of the sun, created to be the rulers of the world and the leaders of the other Exalted. Solar Exalted come in one of five castes. The Dawn Castes are unparalleled warriors, the Zenith Castes are priests and mystics, the Twilight Castes are scholars and sorcerers, the Night Castes are spies and assassins, and the Eclipse Castes are diplomats and ambassadors. A Solar’s Exaltation chooses him based on the capacity for heroic deeds and personal excellence, and their powers tend to be focused toward personal power and ability.
The Lunar Exalted: The Lunar Exalted are the Chosen of Luna, goddess of the moon, the viceroys, generals, and strategists of the Solars—and often their consorts as well. They are shapeshifters and hunters, warriors and survivors. The Full Moons are berserkers and potent fighters, the Changing Moons are tacticians and scouts, and the No Moons are keepers of lore and sorcery. Originally, instead of the Changing Moons, there were three separate castes: the Waxing Moons, priests and courtiers; the Half-Moons, observers and tacticians; and the Waning Moons, guileful spies and tricksters. The separation between the three was lost following the Usurpation, when the Lunars fled into the Deep Wyld for generations. The Exaltation chooses Lunars on their capacity to survive great hardship, as well as their willingness to act as guardians and custodians, particularly of the natural world.
The Sidereal Exalted: The Sidereals are the Chosen of the Five Maidens—goddesses of the five planets and the stars themselves—the most secretive and inscrutable of all the Exalted. They are advisors, viziers, planners, counselors, and masters of intrigue and the martial arts. Each Sidereal Exalt is chosen by a particular Maiden, but there are never more than 100 total Sidereals at any time. The Maidens are: Mercury, Maiden of Journeys, whose Chosen are messengers and travelers; Venus, Maiden of Serenity, whose Chosen are artists and lovers; Mars, Maiden of Battles, whose Chosen are soldiers and tacticians; Jupiter, Maiden of Secrets, whose Chosen are spies and lore keepers; and Saturn, Maiden of Endings, whose chosen are assassins and executioners. A Sidereal is Chosen by his Maiden at the moment of his birth, when the weavings of the Loom of Fate become known.
The Dragon-Blooded: The Terrestrial Exalted differ from the Celestial Exalted in that they can pass on their powers to their descendants. They were formed by the Elemental Dragons as foot soldiers to the Celestial Exalted. Separately they are weaker, but when working together, the Terrestrials can topple dynasties and menace even the mightiest gods into submission. A Dragon-Blood has one of five elemental aspects: Air, Earth, Fire, Water or Wood. Because of their ability to pass on their powers to their offspring, the Dragon-Blooded place great emphasis on good breeding and lineage.
The Abyssal Exalted: Increasing reports from around Creation have spoken of a new kind of “dark” Exalted. Properly known as Abyssal Exalted, these lethal warriors are sometimes called “deathknights,” and they are the subject of much terrible rumor but little certain knowledge. Reports seem to suggest that they possess castes like inverted versions of the Solars: Dusk instead of Dawn, Midnight instead of Zenith, Daybreak instead of Twilight, Day instead of Night, and Moonshadow instead of Eclipse.
The Infernal Exalted: Rumor suggests that the Yozis have empowered champions of their own in the modern era, though so little information exists that most folk assume that the Anathema of legend are simply being conflated with akuma, mortals foolish enough to sell their souls to demons for power.
The Alchemical Exalted: Champions of the Realm of Brass and Shadow, the Alchemical Exalted are the greatest heroes of the Eight Nations of Autochthonia. Artificially created humans with the souls of heroes, the Alchemicals are part-flesh and part-machine—but all Exalted.
Sometimes referred to as the Second Breath, Exaltation is the process by which a human turns into one of the Exalted. It occurs when the Celestial Essence attaches itself to a person’s soul. Those so blessed are chosen for various reasons, but all are Exalted for their capacity to use the Exaltation to its fullest. Solar Essences tend to seek out individuals who are extremely talented, ambitious, and heroic, mirroring the greatness of the Unconquered Sun. Exaltation may happen at any time, though the Essences seem to attach themselves most commonly to young adults, manifesting in times of great emotional or physical strain.
Among men, the Exalted have no equals, for they were created to be the weapons of the gods in their war against the Primordials. When young in his power, an Exalt might be mistaken for the child of a mighty god or a particularly talented mortal thaumaturge, but as he matures, he far surpasses the potential of both. Each sort of Exalt is its own distinct being, but certain qualities are true across all of the Exalted.
The Exaltation grants a vast life span. The mayfly Terrestrials endure for only two or three centuries, while the Celestial Exalted typically live more than ten times as long. The Exalted are nearly ageless, enduring in the prime of their lives until the very end of their long spans. Any Exalt who appears elderly is ancient indeed.
The Exaltation grants tremendous vitality. The physical body of even the weakest Exalt is incredibly resilient. Exalted heal with great speed, are largely immune to disease, and are intensely resistant to poison. An Exalt can endure the most incredible hardship and survive wounds that would instantly fell a mortal.
The Exaltation demands heroes. Exaltation is a fundamental alteration of destiny, turning a mortal into a semi-divine weapon. To be capable of benefiting from the Exaltation’s power, a potential Exalt must already have an important destiny. No Exalt is unwilling to wield his power. The Exaltation is not a rational or moral force, however, and it simply seeks out those who can and will wield its divine power. It could descend on the most pious of hermits or the most immoral of rascals, so long as the chosen one is of consequence to history and will put its might to use.
The Exaltation desires hale hosts. The Exalted heal without scar and recover without permanent disability from all but the most terrible non-magical maiming. The power that inhabits an Exalt is a military weapon first and foremost. Though rare exceptions occur for those whose talent and destiny surpasses their limitations, the vast majority of those who become Exalted are free of any serious birth defect and possess full use of their limbs and senses. The Exaltation knows no gender or ethnic preference, however—it desires only quality base material from which to make a hero.
The Exaltation is imperishable and inseparable. No known process can sunder the bond between soul and Exaltation. When a Celestial Exalt is slain, the power flees his mortal frame and seeks out a new host. Only once has this succession of power been interrupted, when the Solar Exalted were slain and banished, and that merely postponed their return until the current day. A Terrestrial Exalt is born with his Exaltation lying dormant in his spirit, waiting for a moment of crisis or passion to burst forth and grant its gifts.