- Plane Weaver
The Order of the Torch (under Grandmaster Dandachi) and the Order of the Throne (under Grandmaster Adrasta) seek skilled, reliable, and moral citizens for a joint venture to the city of Labyrinthos, deep within the False Empire. Agents have reported that the city has been put into quarantine following the presence of strange mutations, ill portents, and the sky supposedly weeping blood.
In less salubrious places, the word goes around that the organisation known as Threshold have an additional interest in this mission.
After a discussion with Grandmaster Adrasta in which the lack of food and its implications for the city are made very clear, the party are briefed on the situation in Labyrinthos and told to investigate, purge the city of any Outsider influence, and claim it for the city. Grandmaster Dandachi brands the group with symbols of the Torch, providing some degree of protection from the plague, and they set off. They immediately run into trouble when they find soldiers of the Clock's fledgling empire blockading routes out of the city. Attempts to diplome are interrupted by the sudden and violent mutation of one of the Imperial soldiers, and the party take the opportunity to jump the rest of the platoon. The violent battle and the intervention of Starlight-powered emissaries of the Clock nearly kills several adventurers, but an experimental attempt on Never's part to combine the energies of the Magos with Paragon helps them to regroup, and push ahead into the quarantine zone.
Faced with piles of corpses and swarms of man-eating rats, the party enter the city via the sewers, feeling the plague eating into their brands as they do so. In the catacombs under the city, they encounter what appear to be patchwork Elect, formed from painful surgery rather than the application of Ichor, feasting on the corpse of a strange and starry monster. The Elect appear heavily unstable, and the leader of the group repeatedly flares with Devotion as it attacks the group, before being eviscerated by Knives. An autopsy confirms that these were once human, and that they have been very hastily patched up. Finding the streets to be filled with more proto-Elect, the group take shelter in a cathedral, finding some very battered remnants of Imperial society. Never immediately takes issue with the one remaining loyal Immaculate - a feeling that is very, very mutual - while the rest of the group discover that the mutations are less a matter of change, and more one of reflection: different qualities merging and separating across different people. After the Immaculate is killed, Knives performs an Embrace to summon a Rodlike guardian to protect the group. It is established that the survivors believe themselves to have been here a month, though the party know it to have been only a week, and that the Elect appeared in the centre of the city soon after the sky started crying.
Heading toward the centre of the city, the party are accosted by angelic, paladin-like things that emerge from the chrysalis-like bodies of fallen Elect. Finding more Elect patrolling the streets and rounding up survivors, Paragon and Never conduct a ritual to disguise themselves, and are promptly taken in to a hastily repurposed hospital. Anoushka is separated from the group and Knives falls in battle against the angels, but is hastily revived by a purple creature at the other end of her blessing mark, which gives her an unusual dagger. Meeting up to rescue the others from the hospital, they instead discover a frightened chirurgeon in the process of turning people into the proto-Elect seen earlier. Though they initially assume he is to blame, it transpires that this is not the case; after the Elect showed up and it became impossible to leave the city, he did what he could to help the survivors by improving them with whatever he had to hand. Moreover, he remembers years of this horror. Conferring, the party realise that the Outsider incursion is altering the passage of time in the city. Those near the centre experience time much faster, and as the first Elect in the centre of the city expand outward, the humans respond in the only way available to them - trying to outrace them in perfecting their survivability.
Resolving to head to the core of the incursion to prevent an endless army of Elect spilling out into the world, the party find the horribly mutated city governor, amid a series of Elect factories, accompanied by a now-familiar Planar Cauldron and a saffron-robed figure who wears a modified version of the Threshold sigil, altered to include nine orbs rather than four. Never pokes the Cauldron in the middle of the fight and is sucked through it to the other side, while the other adventurers engage the governor, who seems on the verge of ascension. After displaying the ability to intensify the purpose of those she fights - temporarily restoring the humans in the party to their factory settings as drone soldiers in the process - the party kill her and her advisor, a glinting angelic thing emerging from the corpse in one final attempt to ascend before failing and disintegrating. With thousands of Elect converging on their position, the group follow Never through the Cauldron, Knives' role as the Wound in Reality smoothing their passage.
On the other side, they find each of the four handlike structures affixed to similar things on the outside - the Connection hand grasped by an impossibly coloured one, the Perfection hand attached to a passive, watchful shape, the Conflict hand held by something shadowy, grasping and avaricious, and the Erosion hand held almost tenderly by a black, shifting form. Finding themselves outside even Dream, and surrounded by the corpses of humans, Nephilim, and Outsider soldier-forms, the party catch their breath. Paragon dissects a Nephilim and accidentally exposes itself to the Fool, whereupon they have an interesting conversation and covertly agree to a very particular deal. Electing to travel outside the world to avoid the Elect army, the group fight their way through lost soldiers, Outsider superweapons, and stranger experiments, one of which Never binds to herself through Magos-y means. Eventually, they find the rent from which the Outsider incursion in Labyrinthos began, and an incongrous study attached to it.
Inside the room, they find Asher Kelvin, the creator of the Elect and the person responsible for this. Although Never attacks her, she fends her off using Perfection-based abilities, and explains that although she induced the Elect here, she did not actually create them - rather, they are both a natural response to exceptionally inclement conditions faced by humanity, but also a means of focusing both body and mind in favour of rapid and effective awakening to purpose. The temporal and mutative effects in this city, both formed through contract with the Outsider entity called the Mirror, exist to farm the humans within, ensuring competition and eventual elimination, until one Final Elect remains, ready to ascend. Some diplomatic talks take a strange turn when Paragon reveals that they have a city in which the experiment should be repeated, but in any case, Kelvin opines, the experiment is already complete, and the Final Elect will be born in mere moments. Much discussion is had about the ethics of such an entity, but Kelvin mindlinks with Paragon and then departs, leaving her body - a now-familiar Gyre corpseshaping trick - behind.
Heading back into the city through Knives' connection to the Forest, the group find that the city seems to have aged hundreds of years, and that highly-advanced, experimental Elect now litter the streets in droves. Following the trail of destruction, they arrive in time to see a strange, ethereal Outsider cradling the nascent form of the victor of the contest, the Final Elect. Bringing down the Outsider midwife without too much trouble, the party watch as a newborn Alpha is created, a strangely innocent creature that can sense and accentuate purpose. Grabbing at Never's shield for a while, it promptly creates a consciousness. It also appears frustrated that Knives and Anoushka are 'blocked' from further ascension by their Muse, and attempts to refine Meridian - who replaced Paragon earlier - into a Perfection denizen. Eventually, amidst all the chaos, the Ascender simply wanders out of the city, and nobody seems willing to stop it.
Eventually returning home - and finding the area around the city to be infested with the few experimental subjects that managed to escape the city - the group report in to their various affiliations, some of them omitting certain details. Given that the Outsider presence is clearly not entirely gone, the Honourable Companions advise against going to the city. The Orders of the Torch and Throne promptly ignore them, and Labyrinthos is shortly lashed into some sort of order, helped by Meridian's offer of a boat to speed matters along. Some concern is had over the status of the Mirror, which consensus suggests is a component part of the Fool, but appears more often to be a law unto itself.
Never hands the shield over to Grand Magister Isabella, who is delighted to recover what appears to be a very potent artifact. Poking and prodding of the shield provides contradictory results - it does appear to be an awakened item, complete with the expected power signature and consciousness, but it also appears to be in some respect Forest-like. Some quiet papers suggest that it might have been forcibly merged with the Forest, which is after all the Defender first and foremost, which would not usually be possible. This done, Never asks the Order of the Torch for a ritual chamber and promptly remakes herself into an Erosion weaver once more.
Paragon continues their talk with Kelvin, and hands over Utopia for use as a repeat performance of this experiment, with a set of stipulations which after much haggling Kelvin ultimately agrees to. The city shuts its gates, with Kelvin promising a longer gestation period and even better results. Some time after this, an organisation contacts Paragon and offers to provide their help with a particular project by way of thanks. It is never made quite clear what they are being thanked for.