- Plane Weaver
EFFICIENT AND TRUSTWORTHY CITIZENS SOUGHT TO RETRIEVE LOST ARTEFACT.
Elena Di Graza seeks adventurers to retrieve a lost item from Connection. Moderate risk anticipated. Successful completion of the task would elicit her particular gratitude.
There's more guards than usual on the streets of Rom - and they're more alert, more tense. The atmosphere is overwhelming, attention pulled taut on a knife edge. The whole district seems to be searching for somebody. You feel, as you make your way through, that you are under scrutiny. The feeling will not go away.
The party are ushered into a relatively opulent house in Rom to meet their employer: Elena Di Graza. Go-getting secretary of Magister Isabella, she wants an opportunity to prove her worth. Isabella recently lost a valuable artefact during an experiment gone wrong; it got grabbed by a powerful Connection entity and spirited away into the plane. The party have been hired to retrieve it. The entity in question is called Hierarchy, appearing as a tall, skeletal figure wrapped in chains. The party are warned of its power and told to use all they have against it. There are Connection weavers on hand to extract them once the task is completed.
Upon entering Connection, the party find themselves under attack by a group of hostile entities. In the struggle, Gidie perishes. Tensions begin to rise, and continue rising after Gidie returns to life.
Soon afterwards, the party come across Hierarchy, the lost artefact lodged in its chest. After a difficult fight - in which Sofia dies - they manage to dispatch it and retrieve the artefact. Mission complete. The artefact turns out to heighten the emotional responses of anybody holding it. It is agreed that Gidie will hold onto it for the moment. The party continue to fight amongst themselves as tempers rise. This culminates in Hatevil refusing to follow Carmen's leadership any longer and attempting to storm off into Connection.
He doesn't get very far. Walls of thick, impenetrable shadow materialise around the party, hemming them in. It pings Shroud. As the party attempt to figure out what is happening, a panicked figure flees into their midst, shrieking for help. They are followed by Connection entities - Fears of Pursuit - that appear as figures in dark, hooded uniforms. The walls slowly close in around the party, and continue to do so after all the Fears of Pursuit have been dispatched. Just as they are about to be crushed, something new appears. It pings Connection.
This new entity offers the party a deal; while it cannot immediately destroy the walls closing in around them, it has enough control over this place that it can buy them some more time. In return, the party must subject themselves to a series of “trials”.
Out of time and options, the party agree to the deal. They attempt to question the panicked figure as the walls of shadow begin to move back but gain little information, since the individual appears to have forgotten much of their own identity. They do, however, recall escaping to this place after being imprisoned for some offence - when questioned on the details of this offence, they back away in terror, apparently either unwilling or unable to speak.
The Connection entity reaches for the fugitive and they disappear into shadow, still terrified. The entity then proceeds to watch silently as the party encounter a childhood friend of Doublethink's, accompanied by a horde of Connection creatures who aggressively demand secrets from the party. Doublethink's friend confides in him a terrible secret: that they are certain the Imperial Palace are lying about the existence of the Silent Regent. They beg Doublethink to keep this to himself, since such opinions would naturally lead to them being declared a traitor.
As the curious horde grows more hostile and closes in on Doublethink, he declares that he will not share any secrets with them. The scene immediately warps, with the trial concluded.
The party see several members of the Stingelhelm family posing for a portrait. Jeremiah Stingelhelm calls to Hatevil and tells him that the entire family is waiting for him to join them - this is apparently a matter of crucial importance! Jeremiah points out the brazier in the foreground of the portrait, which is representative of the family's faith in the Torch; but, he adds, Hatevil wouldn't understand that, would he?
As Hatevil defends his faith, Sly Genet and Lam Stingelhelm both approach. Sly and Jeremiah argue over Hatevil, with Jeremiah taking the stance that Hatevil could have potential as a Torch Paladin despite him initially joining under a sense of obligation rather than faith, while Sly tries to get Hatevil to admit that he never really wanted to be a Torch Paladin at all. Lam tries to stay out of the argument but quietly mentions to Hatevil that it's okay if he really does feel that the family forced him to become a Paladin - she just wishes he'd be honest about it.
Throughout it all, the Connection entity silently watches.
Hatevil rejects what his family has been saying about a sense of obligation and affirms his faith in the Torch. The scene shifts again, with this declaration having ended the trial.
The party run into a group of wounded Commissioners, led by a Throne Paladin who identifies herself as Aurelia Darling. The Commissioners explain that the Commission was overrun by a veritable army of Ichor creatures from below, and suggest that Carmen is to blame for failing to coordinate a successful defence. Aurelia is more blunt about it and mocks Carmen for her overconfidence; why would she volunteer so enthusiastically to lead the defence if this was the best she could do?
The party, including Carmen, suddenly gain vivid memories of this occurring.
Aurelia informs Carmen that the Mystikos has summoned her and she is escorted to them. The Mystikos declares their disappointment in her, but offers mercy if she acknowledges that she was to blame for failing to stop the invasion. Instead, she summons her own self-confidence to reject the blame attributed to her, and the scene shifts again.
The party are approached by some furtive creatures dressed entirely in rags, who usher the party to a safe place out of sight of the Connection entity. The party speak with these creatures and find that they represent an amalgamation of treasonous beliefs: some resent the Order of the Shroud for withholding crucial information, some passionately worship the Mystikos, some speak about their beliefs regarding the origins of the Emperor of Rastaban, and others spew vitriol towards the Commission.
The ragged creatures confide their beliefs in anyone who will listen but seem distraught that they hold these views - some of the creatures even erase their own memories so that they can temporarily forget their treason. Observing all of this is a small group of high-ranking Bureaucrats. They give little away, but one of them discloses that they are pursuing an escaped traitor. Their passage through this plane has been hindered, and their previous attempts to capture the fugitive have been pushed back by some unseen force.
The party is encouraged to stay with the ragged creatures where they are safe, and several party members who decide to strike out on their own have interesting encounters with the Connection entity watching over them as a result. Ultimately, the party decides to move on together and face the remaining trials.
The party leave the area and return to their trials under the ever-watchful gaze of the Connection entity. They encounter an Forest-Touched named Justa who is being harassed by a crowd of citizens. Gidie, who explains that Justa is a friend of his, steps in to help and attacks the harassers.
Justa's demeanour suddenly changes and she becomes gleefully malevolent as she insists that the Forest will triumph over Rastaban. However, Gidie's support and friendship seems to break through the Forest's hold on her, allowing her to talk freely with the party. Hatevil performs an Embrace to offer her protection from her harassers, and the party eventually manage to drive them all away.
Gidie speaks to Justa and eventually concludes that he will continue to stand beside her, regardless of the consequences. With this declaration, the trial ends.
The party find themselves bound before a group of soldiers from the False Empire. A gloating Legatus greets Sofia and congratulates her for her valiant attempts to outmanoeuvre him, but adds that unfortunately, the game that they've been playing together now has to come to an end.
The Legatus reveals Aurelia Darling, also captured and at the feet of a guard. He orders her execution, and despite attempts by the party to free her, Aurelia is ultimately killed in front of Sofia.
Once again, the Legatus speaks to Sofia. He gloats that neither of the Darlings could prevent his victory and asks her why she thinks this is; Sofia attempts to deflect his questioning but this only seems to amuse him. He shares his own personal belief that Sofia was simply too power-hungry and self-interested to put Rastaban first, and offers her the mercy of a quick and painless death if she confesses why she thinks that she lost.
Sofia gives her answer: that she lost because she was too dedicated to the Throne. The Legatus seems satisfied with this and prepares to execute her… and the scene fades.
The party find the fugitive sobbing in a heap on the ground. They apologise for all that they've done and beg for forgiveness as a swarm of spirits which proudly speak of Rastaban's power and glory close in on them. After holding back the spirits, the party once again ask what the fugitive did to deserve imprisonment. The fugitive, however, refuses to confess, stating that while it is painful for them alone to hold onto thoughts that they know to be treasonous, they don't want to selfishly pass that pain onto others any more.
The Connection entity approaches the party and asks them if their trials and confessions were worthwhile - do they feel good about themselves now? Intoxicated by the power it holds over the party, the entity brings forth strange duplicates of each of them, which immediately attack. The fugitive continues to sob in the centre of the battlefield, apologetic and desperate to help but too consumed with guilt and fear to do anything.
During the difficult fight which follows, Sofia performs an Embrace to lend confidence and power to the fugitive. The fugitive stands and addresses the party coherently for the first time, imploring them to speak their minds and to form their own thoughts about the world. The tide turns as the fugitive's championing of free thought begins to wound the Connection entity, and the party succeed in destroying it and their duplicates for good.
The party restrain the fugitive and Hatevil picks them up. They are then approached by the Bureaucrats from earlier who emerge from the shadows and order them to hand over the fugitive. Hatevil hesitates, and despite Carmen's orders and the insistent demands of the Bureaucrats, he refuses to turn them in.
Carmen attacks Hatevil and he is forced to drop the fugitive, who is dragged off by the Bureaucrats. The Bureaucrats then remove the shadowy walls and the party are pulled from Connection back to the home of Elena Di Graza. Hatevil strikes Carmen as they return, much to Elena's shock.
Carmen, Sofia, Gidie and Hatevil report to their respective superiors. Meanwhile, Doublethink checks in with his childhood friend and asks if they've been worrying about anything recently. Being apparently loyal, they talk to him at length about their relationship troubles. He leaves, relieved that he doesn't have to struggle with the dilemma of whether or not to turn in a friend.