- Plane Weaver
Invitations have gone out to those in the know and quickly circulated through adventuring circles.
“The Respected Zara of House Rom would be grateful for the assistance of trustworthy and dependable citizens to undertake an expedition into the Plane of Perfection. Discretion and a certain comfort with planar travel are desirable. Applicants are to report to Diarmada House, Rom.”
Once every seventy-seven years, the Plane of Perfection comes into a particular alignment which allows a window in which an otherwise unreachable area is accessible. There, there lies a gem of particular splendour known as the Glistering Stone. Zara of House Rom hires the party to retrieve it.
Using Aldrich's connections and a little gratitude, the party manage to arrange a meeting with Magister Audata who agrees to permit Peleus and Garrek use her erosion totem to protect them from excessive perfection. In return, Peleus offers his gratitude and Garrek consents to an experiment wherein Audata's familiar is inserted into him to travel into Perfection.
The totem very nearly costs the party their lives but they are ultimately successful and proceed to meet up with Zara's granddaughter, Hana Ní Diarmada, who reluctantly opens the way to Perfection. The party push forward through the guardians of the place – eight-legged, silver-furred monkeys – and thanks to the protection of the erosion on Peleus and Garrek, are able to figure their way through a strange locking mechanism.
A dome of psychic energy blocks their progress and proves to be a difficult obstacle as the party are unwilling to submit to the purification to pass through. Eventually, Peleus devices two rituals, the first two connect everyone to Aldrich's familiar Curio (a fragment of Glory) and the second to pull everyone through once Curio has passed to the other side. With Garrek announcing the approval of the Wheel, they put the rituals into action and manage to pass through with a minimum of negative outcomes.
At the top of a flight of marble stairs lies the Glistering Stone, guarded by a large crystal guardian which reflects off beams of light. The party fight valiantly but it is clear they are outmatched. One by one they fall and are sucked up by the light. Rekha is the last one standing; she turns down an offer of power from Glory to instead switch with her familiar who charges in and falls…
The party simultaneously wake in an antechamber. Aldrich suspects they are in a different place in the Tower of Perfection, which seems at once to be protruding from the side of the Tower and yet also within it. The sound of a dinner gong and the aroma of food draw them through to a great circular chamber where there is a great golden sphinx who names himself Order, the warden of the prison they are in. With him is Law, an androgynous figure with a blank metallic mask who explains that they are an agent of law.
Among their fellow prisoners, they meet a creature of the forest, Gerharde Kamali and most notably a young woman named Bethania who claims to have been a partner of Zara and that they attempted to steal the Glistering stone together what must have been seventy seven years ago; Zara escaped but Bethania was captured and imprisoned. Time seems to work strangely, eternity and moments being one and the same and it seems no one has aged since their imprisonment.
The party set out to escape and break out as many prisoners as they can. They manage to deduce their way through the warden's security riddle chamber, disabling the security measures protecting everyone inside and preventing them from leaving. They follow the sounds of commotion, cutting through swathes of Avatars of Purity and rescuing several prisoners, including Bethania who flees outside.
The unleashed forest creature poses a threat to Rastaban though and the party cannot stand by. They fight their way through the moss poppets spilling out of the entity and cut it down but it rises, greater and more terrible than before. A long fight ensues but the heroes triumphantly slay their foe an Rekha drags the corpse with them.
They find Bethania standing very still, surrounded by winged figures of light. She warns them not to move but Peleus and Garrek make a run for it, which ends badly when they find their weapons merely pass through the creatures of light. With Rekha and Aldrich unwilling to risk moving at anything more than a very slow pace, Peleus and Garrek bleed out and die.
Accompanied by Bethania, Rekha and Aldrich make their way to a geode crevasse of burnished metal studded by razor-sharp crystals. A powerful wind howls through holes in the metal. Rekha drops the body of the forest creature and the three of them climb down slowly, using the force of the wind at the bottom to blow them across to a safe ledge where Aldrich conducts a ritual to bring the forest corpse to them.
Meanwhile, Peleus and Garrek awake nearby to a rather surprised Hana Ní Diarmada who opens a portal into Perfection to reunite the with the others. However, Law has caught up with them, supported by more Avatars of Purity. Law attempts to prevent the party leaving their jurisdiction and at first holds the party back, with Aldrich even being purified but eventually the party make a push for the portal and break through, stumbling out into Rom.
Between them, the party carry the giant form of the forest monstrosity out toward the Foresters Guild. They attract a lot of attention and very quickly gain an escort of watch officers and paladins. The Foresters Guild are grateful for the specimen and very interested to hear about where it came from.
From there, the party return to Diarmada House in Rom and are led up to Zara’s solarium. It sounds like there’s an argument going on inside and raised voices can be heard. As you approach, the doors burst open and Hana Ní Diarmada storms out, looking red in the face.
“She’s all yours, adventurers,” she says as she passes.
Inside the solarium, Zara is waiting, reclining in a wicker chair. Bethania leans against the back.
“Oh, there you are my dears,” Zara says. “I’m sure I owe you all an apology for my little ruse but I am quite sure you would never have agreed to it had I told you that you were going to a supposedly inescapable prison, now, would you? I don’t suppose you managed to get the gem on the way? No? Pity, but I suppose that is for the best and of course you have my gratitude for bringing my Bethania back to me.”
“And my gratitude,” Bethania adds, “it was getting quite tiresome in there.”
Zara smiles. “I’m sure you must have questions. Ask and I shall answer.”
Garrek has a lot of questions. “What was that argument with Hana about? Why did you forbid her from coming?”
Zara sighs. “My granddaughter is an extraordinary woman but she's never handled change well. She's lived her whole life among a certain class of people and I think the revelation that her grandmother was once, well, let us not be coy – a thief – has upset her. I expressly forbade her from coming so that she would not be risked. I'm sure you understand that I could not have borne her loss but I suspect that that has only made things worse. Still, I am sure she will come around, given time.”
“How did you escape last time?”
“By the skin of my teeth. Bethania and I faced the crystal guardian. We didn't stand a chance. She sacrificed herself to buy me the time to flee, back through the purification dome. It wasn't until later that I learnt of the prison and by then it was too late to go back. I spent seventy seven years preparing for this day. I regret that I fled rather than staying with her.”
“Not that I ever want to do that again,” Bethania says, “but I have no regrets.”
“So, what were the rope and brooch for?”
“The brooch was so that Bethania would recognise it and know that I had sent you. It was the first thing I ever stole when she taught me how to pickpocket all those years ago. As for the rope, there should have been a crack in the tower to descend, according to my readings. The rope was so that you could rappel down. Did you not use it?”
“Well that sure would've made things easier,” Bethania says. “We went down the old-fashioned way.”
“What about the forest thing?” Garrek asks. “Did you know we might be freeing it?”
“A forest thing, dear?” Zara raises her eyebrows. “One of the prisoners, I presume? I admit, that I had very few details of anyone inside the prison and none of any forest entity. The few references I could find were obscure and cryptic. It was my life's work to piece together enough clues to plan this break out.”
With Garrek's curiosity temporarily sated, Aldrich speaks up with his own questions, asking about the Glistering Stone and the seventy-seven year wait.
“What do I know of the Stone?” Zara shakes her head. “Back when we first went to steal it, all we cared about was that it was priceless and that its protections were practically impenetrable. What can I say? We were young. From what I have learnt since, it is a cut gemstone with perfected edges. Any gem will refract light but this, it is said can refract reality. It's doubtful that any human mind could withstand that information though, and besides, it'll be another seventy-seven years before it is once again accessible. I'm afraid, my dear, that that was a restriction on accessing the Stone, not the prison.”
Aldrich attempts to convince Zara to refund the favour spent to secure an audience with Magister Audata but Zara declines.
“I have been generous with my gratitude already. It was your choice, Apprentice Kamali, to grease your way in. Had you been more frugally inclined, there were other options.”
Bethania sniggers. “Since when have you used the word 'frugally'?”
“Since I became a proud, integrated member of society. On that note, I would ask that the four of you be discreet with what you have learned about my less than respectable past. A scandal would do no one any good.”
After the meeting with Zara and Bethania, Aldrich returns home, bringing Gerharde Kamali with him, who is welcomed back. Aldrich reports about Zara's deception, saying that they were lucky not to be trapped forever or unleash a horrific forest beast on Rastaban. This information is noted but the general consensus is that there is little to be gained at this point in time from publicly criticising a supposedly respectable member of House Rom such as Zara, espescially since she holds no real power.
Aldrich reports back to Magister Audata who had almost forgotten the whole experiment. She takes detailed notes and asks many questions, sometimes more than once. She's not too perturbed by the loss of her familiar and is satisfied with Aldrich's information.
Aldrich then goes and finds Hana Ní Diarmada and talks to her about the adventure. Most interestingly, Hana seems to have a differing view of the seventy-seven year cycle to her grandmother.
“She's waited for a very specific conjunction of planes,” Hana explains. “Think of it like a door which only unlocks at a specific moment. But, that door is only one way into the room. If she'd deigned to ask for my help, I could have told her this years ago. My hypothesis – and bear in mind that this is only that – would be that it should be possible to enter the… what was it, crystal dome? from another route at any time. Going down is always easier than going up… if you could work out where in the tower it is, you could climb above it and descend down. However, that would be a long way up… you'd better have a good team and a better plan. At the very least, you'd need to be a Master Weaver. I'd be willing to help you if you want to try.”
Aldrich returns home once more to write up and publish a paper on the adventure, including details of the Glistering Stone, the planar prison and the denizen known as Law. He opens the connection to Glory further, seeking advice and inspiration, resulting in an astoundingly accurate paper. [Potential side effects TBC.]
Following from this, Aldrich performs a ritual to attempt to copy the properties of the Stone. What he creates is a mirror but looking into it, it does not reflect his own visage but rather shows another place entirely. The place seen changes sometimes when he isn't looking; sometimes it is a scene overlooking the canals of Rom or the grand statues of the Imperial Boulevard, other times the fields of Telemere or the twisted undergrowth of the Forest of Loss. So far Aldrich hasn't seen anything useful; more often that not the scene is empty or shows only mundane happenings.
Peleus reports everything back to House Telemere. They are very interested to hear about Zara's past history as a thief and record it, though of course it's been far too long to definitively link her to anything but it's definitely worth knowing, just in case.