- Plane Weaver
As a Conflict conjunction with Rastaban creeps closer, it becomes known that all walls are the property of the Silent Regent and the defilement of them with unauthorised posters is a heinous crime. Weavers are employed in their masses to ward walls against the plastering of posters, and as the shadow of Conflict can be felt across the city, not a single poster from the Lord of Fire can be seen. The Bureaucracy prepares to relax, everything is fine, until-
“MORTAL FOOLS OF RASTABAN!!” comes the booming voice from a gigantic floating flaming skull rising above the city, “I, THE INDISPUTABLE MASTRESS OF MISERY, THE TORMENTER OF ALL, THE GREATEST LIEGE OF CONFLICT, WARDEN OF STRIFE AND CHALLENGE, LORD OF FIRE AND TREMORS, DEMAND SERVANTS IN A MATTER OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE.”
The bells of ending sound as the Bureaucracy desperately tries to drown the voice out, but the skull merely shouts louder, “THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE WILLING SERVANTS SHALL FIND YOUR WAY TO ME ON THE TWELFTH BELL OF YOUR SIXTH DAY AND RECEIVE BOONS FOR YOUR SERVICE. THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE TOO PATHETIC TO AID ME SHALL BE CURSED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF YOUR FAILURE AND RECEIVE NO BOONS. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!!”
Somewhere in the Bureaucracy, someone weeps.
Despite the Bureaucracy's best efforts, the willing minions find themselves summoned into Conflict where they fight off a swarm of fire raptors before being greeted by the Lord of Fire and Tremors themself. Before they employ their minions proper, they set them to a team building exercise wherein they face down a series of Doom Botherers as they struggle to build a skeletal minion for the Lord of Fire. Having proven themselves, the Lord of Fire brands Hat (as the last unbranded member of the group) and tells them their plan to recover the legendary Ultimate Insult, requiring one part from each plane, into an unstable insulting cacophony that they will use to insult Perfection given it's waking up: the Double Edged Blade of Wit from Conflict; the Backhanded Compliment from Connection; the Crystal Mega Rhino Horn from Perfection; and the Hat of Meaningless Authority from Erosion.
At the first stop, for the Double Edged Blade of Wit, the party sneak past the unwatchful eyes of the Liege of Darkness and steal it from the cabinet it's locked in. As they try to make their way out, shadows coalesce into a dark and dangerous figure that seeks what they've come for and annihilates the Liege of Darkness by ripping their heart out. The party attempt to fight this powerful threat, the Lady of Blood, but when Hat attempts to divine the essential nature of her he discovers that it is an aspect of the Thief.
The party retreat and are dropped into Connection where they face a series of mimics in a thorny mirror maze before being eaten whole by a crystal chest containing the Backhanded Compliment (a bronze trophy for participation). Inside, they encounter envoys of the Duchy of Ire who are being driven mad by Oversharers. Hat gets into an argument with Sarcasm and expends a Perfection ritual to drive Sarcasm even more insane to the point of requesting a mercy death. The party negotiate a portal out to Perfection from the Oversharers, which Cindy provides, but not before they are tracked down by the Lady of Blood. They escape through the portal while the Lady of Blood is teleported away with the Oversharer.
In Perfection, the party find themselves at the bottom of the Tower, where they encounter some terrible denizens who seek to improve them. They take several “improvements” from the collective of 2=1, Pi=4, All Numbers are Rational, and the Fact Sphere, none of which are particularly helpful except Joachim's improvement from the Fact Sphere that gives him knowledge of where to find the Crystal Mega Rhino Horn. The Horn, at the end of a corridor guarded by dogs with lasers on their heads, turns out to be incredibly fragile and incredibly demanding, and very hard to move, so they are doubly alarmed when the Lady of Blood (now oversharing zealously and glowing with Conflict, Perfection and Connection) appears and tries to take it from them. Joachim is caught by the Lady of Blood and she steals some of his anger before he follows the party into Erosion.
In the ocean of Erosion, the party fight a benthic horror while trying to meet the demands of the Crystal Mega Rhino Horn. They make it to shore where a skeleton is wearing the Hat of Meaningless Authority. The party fend off waves and waves of eels while negotiating with the skeleton for the hat, ultimately playing a poisoned chalice game for it. With all elements united, the Ultimate Insult is ready and thrumming with power, but the Lady of Blood shows up, now fully armed and ready to take it. The party stall for time as the Lord of Fire refuses to portal them out, until their name is called into question and they arrive and authorise the party to use the Ultimate Insult on the Lady of Blood. Hat finishes a Perfection ritual to hold the thing together for one more use, and together they call YOU ARE THE ABSOLUTE WORST and produce the most devastating insult imaginable that melts the Lady of Blood from existence.
The Lord of Fire is duly impressed, takes the Ultimate Insult and bestows BOONS of Eels, Strength, and Influencing Knowledge, before yeeting them back to Rastaban.
Hana returns to the Order of the Rod and gives them a brief but accurate summation of what happened. The Order are highly enthusiastic about the idea of creating an insult as devastating as the Ultimate Insult, and when Hana communes with the Rod to find out its thoughts she is filled with a sense of awe and approval at having done this. The Order of the Rod decide, on this basis, to redouble their efforts into being verbally strong, inviting Hana to join and train new aspirants in the art of being incredibly rude to people.
Not quite knowing how his Boon will work, Joachim nevertheless decides to try it out. He travels to one of the few Weaver taverns in the Barrens, an old haunt of his, and strikes up conversations with other weavers of Connection. He has been waiting for a long time to discuss his views, without fear of persecution. With the power to Influence Knowledge he thinks he can manage it. He’d prefer to get more genuine conviction out of people, but doing this is for the greater good. Besides, he is compelled to spout facts now: and his beliefs ARE factual.
Joachim discusses how the Perfection outside is awakening. This is surely dangerous; perfection has little to do with the real life of people. But are all outsiders really as bad as they’re claimed to be? Was it not the case that the idea of striving for individual perfection at the expense of others, the idea of decay, and the idea of conflict all have one, much more positive antithesis: the connections between people. The Shaping of the Muses - false gods who he once foolishly served - was part of this process of betrayal, as Outsiders jealous of Connection’s fundamental truth joined together to slay it, then together endangered all other things. The betrayal was perhaps necessary: the fight against the Outsiders paved the way for humanity. But it does not follow we should continue to live in a world riven by competition, decay, hierarchy and selfishness, when we could instead live in a world of Connection. If Perfection can revive, so can Connection. We just need to find out how.
There is a lot of interest in this idea, and certain elements in the Barrens seem very keen to start a guerrilla attempt to revive Connection outside of the jurisdiction of the Great Houses or the Bureaucracy. They suggest keeping this under wraps from the Great Houses, but as soon as someone knows what did happen to Connection and lets them know, an attempt to revive it should commence from the most unlikely part of the city.
Hat confirms with Magister Zaboul that the Lord of Fire sucks but given Hat is now branded he asks Zaboul whether the brand looks cool. Zaboul confirms that the brand is indeed cool, and encourages Hat to try out his new boon of strength by throwing shit around the office. After a while of
playing catch with dad-magister planar research, Zaboul confirms this is boon is awesome. Having done this, Hat follows his heart's greatest desire - THINGS - and pokes around Rom to see if someone is willing to forge a Connection with the Thief. It takes a few false starts to find someone owing to Hat's legendary subtlety, but he is eventually able to find someone willing to trade a minor Perfection ritual for a minor Connection ritual. Having made the unnamed apprentice's hair perfectly shiny, the Connection Weaver that Hat found attempts to connect Hat to the Thief. Things go… poorly. Both of them sense that attempting to cross Connection with the Thief has similar results to attempting to cross two of the mainstream planes. This is somewhat concerning, but fear not, the ritual achieves a minor effect: Hat can now store a hand sized item in the shadows of his cloak without it being detectable.
This done, Hat uses his ritual chamber to create a glorious gleaming statue of himself and leaves it in the most Erosion-y district of Rom. Later, a note is placed next to it by an apprentice of Magister Audata which politely asks him to not do this. He ignores this, for he is spending his time in a chrysalis meditating on how to be the best person in the world. Three paths show themselves: to climb to the top of the tower of Perfection, to become the Silent Regent, or to become a Muse. The first steps to each of these are vastly different, so Hat has to have a long think about whether any of these are where he wants to go.