- Plane Weaver
Anoushka, Chance and Mordecai are first briefed by some ominous masked figures within the Barrens, who introduce themselves as Threshold and request the return of an awakened item that the Bureaucracy have misplaced. They also suggest that House Rom are unlikely to use this new planar space most effectively, and ask that the power drawn from it might be more effectively placed in their hands.
This done, the party (sans Chance) go to meet Grand Magister Isabella, who explains that the situation has only gotten worse: though they assumed the destruction of the Mirror would put a stop to the disappearances around the District, in the past week over thirty high-ranking Forest Touched have disappeared, and just two days ago an entire Commission squad, lead by the highly-regarded Grand Commissioner Kelvin, brains behind the Elect program, also vanished. She wants the party to head into the new planar space formed by the Mirror's demise, discover what has killed or abducted these people, and return them if at all possible.
The party use a derelict warehouse to enter the Unspace, finding swarms of silvery rats and moths puppeteering ancient suits of armour, instinctively trying to protect their home from outsiders. Smashing the armour, the party track the rats deeper into the impossible corridors of the Unspace, finding strange snow that begins to rob them of their memories. Pushing on further into the psychic threat, they emerge in a bizarre snowfield, where strange, spindly creatures stalk through the blizzard.
The team encounter a familiar face amongst the creatures - Aspirant Selva Sithigh of the order of the Shroud, bearing a strange silver crown and seemingly in command of these creatures. Mordecai tries to assess what has happened to their friend, while Beatrice switches identities, confusing the party who believe they have lost one of their number. The cultivating creatures draw stolen memories out of the snow and fashion denizens out of them, then ask the party if there is anything within them that they wish to give to the snow. Much discussion is had about the costs of giving up memories and abandoning the traumas that make you you. In the end, Marmaduke abandons the negative memories that come with his becoming Forest Touched, Anoushka gives up her negative feelings about the Rod, and Mordecai gives up a positive memory of being recognised as a person and an individual. While Selva explains that this place attracts and protects things that are lost and that she is striving to protect it, the cultivators produce a humanoid entity which appears Forestlike but is not, and with a strong sense of individuality. It then proclaims its desire to destroy the Rod for the good of the world. This understandably causes chaos, as Anoushka tries to kill it, Mordecai tries to fight Anoushka, and Selva tries to invoke the terrifying aura of shroudy dread to prevent anyone from killing anyone. Eventually, the creature flees back into the real world.
Selva performs an Embrace to point the party toward the 'dark shepherd' she has seen passing through the Unspace toward the materium. Following the dagger that now points their way, the increasingly fractious party stumble into a planar overlay with Glory's Library, where ominously perfect inquisitors try to drive out those who would defile their perfect library. The team eventually manage to convince Glory that they are simply passing through, but not before Beatrice, Marmaduke and Anoushka are perfected by their attackers. Beatrice finds herself with a somehow less human mind, Anoushka finds her failing faith bolstered, and Marmaduke ends up with a fragment of Glory attempting to purge his Forest taint by killing him.
Following the strange seam between the planes and the dagger that is guiding them, the players arrive in a strangely mutated Erosion, dripping with waxy candles and butterflies in the air. The party find a confused, skeletal denizen from which biting butterflies continually spawn, and a wave of wax which strikes and mutates the legs of much of the party. Determining that the denizen too has seen something strange looking for Forest Touched, they push on into conflict.
Here, they find a four-armed, crimson Contender named Helios, sleeping atop a mountain of corpses. The party fail to get any information out of Helios because after the friendly duel they have with them, they proceed to try and fight them to the death, resulting in a massive firestorm and Helios being kited into a nearby battlefield, where they promptly become completely distracted. The party head deep into Connection, encountering a sinister being called Secrecy, which proves to be only vulnerable to the divulging of dark secrets. Anoushka admits that she killed families and Mordecai grants that they have largely stopped caring if they live or die, and Secrecy eventually unwinds to nothing.
Emerging from Connection, the party arrive at a plateau overlooking the confused, snowy landscape, and a small keystone determining the extent to which the plane is synchronised with the materium, which Mordecai promptly sets to full, using an Embrace to make themself a defender of this place. Moving in further, the party emerge from the tunnels to see a huge, ethereal city, similar to Rastaban but filled with a chilly light beneath a vividly starlit sky.
Clambering atop the walls of the city, the party find another expedition, bringing Chance and a large Embraced artefact of the Torch, a brazier that keeps away the cold and the persistent sense of dread that otherwise pervades the city. As they eat, the members of the other party are picked off one by one by ominous shapes in the snowfall. Chasing after them, Anoushka and Sophia are menaced by something that seems to flicker in and out of existence, and after Mordecai tries to use Marmaduke to bait it out, they are pushed back by a sinister humanoid form that seems to warp the light around it. Almost immediately afterward, as the group gather around the brazier, they are attacked by a squad of Elect, which at least suggests that Kelvin is somewhere around. Half of the group head out into the streets once the blizzard clears, and encounter rats from the Unspace attempting to determine whether they should accept offers to link the nascent plane to Perfection or Erosion. An Ichorwerker from Kelvin's team arrives, claiming that she has become compromised by Unit 11, a pair of strangely megalomaniacal scissors. They also offer three strange ichor preparations stolen from the increasingly manic Kelvin, one an Elect serum, one curiously white and inverted, and one glowing with fiery energy.
A strange eye appears at the camp, and the party make some attempt to deal with it. Trying to travel through the city's sewers, some of the party encounter a prison chamber containing a horrible Painter monstrosity and humans encased within it. Their desperate fight with it is interrupted by Mordecai, who kicks the eye and finds themself yeeted over to the rest of the party. This leaves Marmaduke to guard the brazier alone, which turns out to be a mistake when a shadowy figure with starlight on its brow arrives, incapacitates Marmaduke and devours energy from the brazier, weakening it. After some shenanigans, involving throwing bombs into the defeated Painter horror, the party return just in time to heal Marmaduke and attempt to repair the brazier.
It is decided that an attempt should be made to recover Kelvin, and three of the party head out to face the Scissors-possessed commissioner, who commands deadly Elect and turns into a huge spider as she nears defeat. Back at the camp, the two Rod Paladins encounter Unit 01, lost here in her search for the Creator. Both fight her and discover that her abilities are decisively Rod-like, albeit not Rod-like enough that she is on the same path. Some discussions are had about purpose before they point her at Rastaban.
The rest of the party, with an unconscious Kelvin in tow, get lost in the snow around the now-weakened brazier, and a pair of sinister duplicates of Beatrice and Chance meet up with Marmaduke and infiltrate the camp. A Herald of the Tetrarchy appears, offering help from any one of the Tetrarchs, and explaining that this place is a dream-palace constructed from the minds of creatures called the Nephilim. The party try to determine which of the four they should call on, but are distracted when the duplicates shatter the brazier, depriving them of protection. The real Beatrice and Chance return as the Nephilim duplicates melt away into shadows, and the party brace against the cold while Kelvin is restored. She explains that she was abducted by shadowy, starry figures, which the party determine must be Nephilim, that the Scissors seemingly drove her to use the power of this city to alter and perfect humanity. The group resolve to charge the faux Imperial Palace, and rescue the Forest Touched before the Nephilim can use their power for malign ends.
Given mutations from Kelvin that will allow them to burn their way through the blizzard, Mordecai, Anoushka, Chance and Natalia prepare to storm the Imperial Palace, or whatever in this strange city has taken its place. Marmaduke and Beatrice agree to stay behind to maintain the path out of the city and ensure they have an escape route. However, before they can start, the Forgotten One appears, in answer to the herald's call. Manifesting through the infant denizen in which it was trapped almost a year ago, a tiny form caught in unimaginably vast chains, something that Mordecai clearly does not feel great about. Asking for more information on the Nephilim and a guarantee that the Tetrarchs will not seek to claim the Unspace for themselves, the Forgotten One refuses to help unless it is freed. After some discussion, Mordecai and Anoushka agree to release the seal that Mordecai placed on it, and to destroy the one that Sofia placed upon it during the Conflict incursion a year ago. Engaging in a psychic combat with a pair of huge twin dragons representing Strife and Discord, the Rod paladins engage while Chance wrestles with his own Buckler, which is attempting to intervene in behalf of its liege, the Lord of Fire. Eventually, the Buckler releases the reanimated Lady of Tremors, who is compelled to fight the party but attempts with all her might to resist, causing massive psychic earthquakes as she is consumed in fire and rock. In the chaos, the party lay low the dragons and shatter the last seal.
Back in the real world, the tiny denizen combusts as Supremacy, once forgotten and now restored, manifests as a burning, seraphic entity of roiling white plasma. It exults and flies away, leaving behind some vivid and horrible memories. The party experience being primal humans strapped to an arcane operating table and implanted with shards of starry flesh, feeling it burn as it is implanted. The Nephilim, it transpires, are primal humans implanted with pieces of Outsider to better target their foes, deemed dangerous and unsuitable by the Dreamers who made them and exiled into the beyond.
Somewhat conflicted by this information but prepared to proceed, they charge through the gate of Triumph, finding ancient, animated Outsider-killing armour, including a huge suit built out of Outsider flesh and inhabited by furious ghosts. Their path is also blocked by a pair of Nephilim, dark yet starlit figures who vanish in and out of reality between blinks. The fight is long and hard, and the party only narrowly survive to enter the palace itself.
Within, they find rows of horribly defaced statues of Dreamers surrounding a great Cauldron built of four interlinked planar arms, and thirty Forest Touched hanging from immaterial puppet strings, linked into the machine. With another Nephilim and more animated suits of armour between them and the machine, the party throw themselves into the fight. As bursts of energy emanate from the machinery and more Nephilim begin to push their way into reality, it soon becomes apparent that cooperation with the Nephilim, despite their shared history with the Forest, will not be possible. Change tries to pull the Forest Touched from the machinery while Anoushka asks the Rod how it feels about the Nephilim and is told that their unpredictability weakens them, and that humans are a perfected form. Mordecai kills the Nephilim and confiscates an orb of pure Magos power from its corpse as it explodes into otherworldly, roiling power.
Now joined by Marmaduke and Beatrice, who have been pushed back from the walls by sustained Nephilim assault, the party realise that in spite of removing the central Forest Touched, the rent from which this city is emerging will not close on its own. In order to rectify things, they will have to throw the machinery into reverse.
Supremacy appears once more to guide them through the process, instructing them to wire somebody into the ritual apparatus and use their personal devotion to channel power into the Cauldron. Anoushka volunteers to be the core of the ritual, though Mordecai raises the issue of trusting the people within to do the right thing and not sabotage the process. Chance wires her into the machine while Mordecai drinks the white ichor from earlier and develops fragile, diamondlike growths that allow them to donate power to others. It is proposed that Anoushka use the Elect serum to bolster her mind by shutting off her emotions, which the entire party has very strong feelings about one way or the other. Eventually Chance is convinced to keep it in reserve if it becomes necessary.
As the process begins, the rent glows with starry energy and Nephilim emerge to disrupt the ritual. It is also disrupted by some members of the party, who covertly sabotage the ritual to establish a stable breach between the world and the Outside. As the fighting gets worse, the situation starts to look desperate, as more Outsider forces begin to breach reality. The colossal eye of the Magos bathes the palace in mutative energies centred on Anoushka, dividing human from inhuman.
Colossal, vividly coloured tentacles emerge, killing Marmaduke, and they are soon joined by a ragged emissary of the Thief which steals a number of abilities from the party, culminating in it stealing Marmaduke's sword. As Mordecai tries to pull it back, it cracks and explodes in half, battering the ritual. Anoushka is beaten down repeatedly, drawing on the power of the Forest Touched to keep herself up and burning most of them up in the process. Eventually, the Magos's gaze grows brighter, and colossal eldritch butterflies emerge, screaming praises to Transmutation and killing Beatrice. One draws near and repeatedly blasts the survivors with phoenix flames, just as Anoushka completes the ritual, shouting into the chaos as the energies burn out her body and mind.
As the energies die down, the few survivors, quickly joined by a shellshocked Beatrice and Marmaduke, prepare to evacuate. It becomes clear that the ritual has not been completely successful, and the rent, though stable, is not completely closed. Chance uses the rest of his ichor to convert the oxygen within the palace into stone, but Mordecai feels this isn't quite enough, and as the group retreat, they invoke the power from the orb they recovered to break this city away from the Unspace. Already badly wounded by the fight, the energies consume Mordecai's body as they ride the city away to parts unknown. Anoushka returns to life in time to see this happening, but too late to interfere.
MORE TO COME