- Plane Weaver
The Order of the Throne would be especially grateful to citizens willing to participate in a number of strategic exercises for the furtherance of the glory of Rastaban. Candidates should report to the Throne Sanctum.
Sato, Sofia, Garrek, Hatevil and Watcher (disguised as Anastasia Atrova) meet with Chosen Adora of the Throne who takes them to the Throne Sanctum's secret simulation room where she generates a number of strategic simulations. An initial test of tactics against an imperial shield wall is impressively dealt with as Sato, Sofia and Watcher manage to outflank them. The second test involving a hypothesised alliance with the Unbroken Chain proves more challenging but the party insist on persisting until they succeed. In the third simulation, the party test a potential assassination attempt on the God Emperor and determine that sewing discord and applying Black Rot to one of their own may potentially be successful.
As Chosen Adora loads the next simulation, something goes wrong. The world flickers and the party find themselves standing on a battlefield bathed in the red light of sunset. Waves of enemies fall easily but an imposing figure stands before them, undefeated. Chosen Adora manages to stabilise the simulation but explains that this is not her own and that she has no control over its properties.
The streets of Rastaban materialise around the party and they find that their bodies are not their own. They explore a market place, talking with the simulated inhabitants and determine that this simulation is set some six hundred years in the past. Garrek is in the guise of Willelm of the Wheel and delights in being able to temporarily taste food. Hatevil, appearing as Lucian of the Torch challenges himself to eat the spiciest spice possible. Sofia as Li Juan of the Throne, Watcher as Gunhild of the Rod and Sato as Atreus the Seer gather information and Sato is approached by a beggar telling her that the grandmaster hasn't approved their expedition and directing them to a sally port.
Eventually the party decide to follow the simulation and pass beyond the barred door. They find themselves far outside of Rastaban, walking toward Tallamat's Fist which is unconquered by Forest. The scene changes again and they are inside, eating with the residents, including a shaper who shows off their collection of model boats, Ibrahim of the Rod and his young charge, Belzique and Jingle the Jester. After some discussion, the party convince them that they are permitted to inspect the fortress and manage to secure transport downriver.
Cut to a boat sailing down the River Eriden, Tallamat's Fist left behind. Exploding seed pods are thrown onto the deck and giant stick insects board. As most of his party hide, Garrek calls down an embrace of the Wheel, accelerating the boat downriver and leaving Hatevil far behind as he falls overboard.
Fortunately, Chosen Adora is able to locate Hatevil's conciousness in the simulation, apparently talking to the real Li Juan, or whatever is become of her in this place. The party struggle through a glitching environment to rescue him.
Back on track, the party find themselves on the plains beyond the forest as the sun drops toward the horizon. Their boat lays smashed against the bank and approaching them is a group of travellers. Their leader, Miyan, and the Mendicant Librarian accompanying him greet the party and explain that they hail from the Philosophy of Seluga and are seeking the real Rastaban, not the disappointing two cities to the south that claim the title of the Empire of Rastaban.
Each of the party are offered messages by the muses of those they represent, though Sato rejects her, assuming her compatriots will accept theirs. At this point, Garrek betrays the party, joining with Miyan and leaving to take them to Rastaban. The rest of the party let them go, disliking the odds. The simulation flickers and they are joined by a slightly dissapointed Li Juan who goads them about not having learnt what she was trying to show them until one by one they realise the truth: Miyan was the Emperor.
At this realisation, Watcher attempts an embrace to seal the simulation to only those of the Shroud, which Sato counters with a Throne embrace to absorb the knowledge contained within. The two face a battle of wills, beneath the watch of their Muses who stand over them giant in physical form. Sato prevails and everyone wakes up in the simulation room.
A tense standoff ensues. Chosen Adora summons guards and Garrek and Hatevil are seperated into contemplation rooms. While Garrek is kept occupied by taking him on a tour, Sofia and Sato attempt to find a way to convince Watcher to agree not to attack the Order of the Throne to prevent this information getting out. Meanwhile, Garrek and Hatevil are openly discussing the same secrets.
Sofia and Sato arrange for a member of the Imperial Bureaucracy to talk to Watcher. The Bureaucrat concurs with Watcher over the importance of keeping this knowledge contained and notes that Garrek and Hatevil are problems. He races after Garrek but intercepting a Wheel Paladin is as hard as it sounds and by the time he catches up, Garrek has already told Grandmaster Leymoon Wen everything, though being careful not to offer any interpretation of events other than the most tentative.
Speaking to Garrek, the Bureaucrat notes his like of blue fruit and that nothing interesting happened in the simulation. He offers Garrek a blue grape and explains that the simulated God Emperor was so realistic that Hatevil was fooled into thinking that it was the real Emperor. An unfortunate but easy mistake to make. So long as Garrek remembers that, there'll be more blue fruit.
Hatevil, meanwhile, has been happily telling anyone who asks about his day. He too receives a visit from the Bureaucrat. “Shame about your grandmother,” he says, “shame if something like that happened to your other family members… the ones you like.” In the face of Hatevil's obstinance, the Bureaucrat eventually plainly clarifies the threat that if he talks, his family will start being murdered.
A series of plays are performed about how the God Emperor is not the Emperor of Rastaban and making it clear that the two should not be confused.
Watcher uses her Undercover Agent skills to infiltrate House Stingelhelm as a servant. Meanwhile, Hatevil seeks information about what the erosion ritual which resulted in the collapse of the family home.
Sofia impresses the Bureaucrat enough to be admitted into the Imperial Bureaucracy. She reports to the Order of the Throne, praising Watcher and Sato but criticising Hatevil for revealing the existence of Black Ichor in the simulation and recommending that he shouldn't be let out of Rastaban.
Going There and Back Again, Garrek returns to the colour pools in the Forest and collects samples. It appears the pools are being overgrown and will soon be destroyed by the Forest.
Sato publishes a number of scholarly papers discussing the relationship between spies and commanders on the battlefield and putting forth several examples which demonstrate how spies must always act within the orders of, and in the knowledge of, their commanders. She uses this to subtly gather like-minded allies within the Order of the Throne who would be willing to oppose the Order of the Shroud and any Shroud-like paladins from the other empire.
Back in the Throne Sanctum, attempts by Chosen Adora and other senior paladins to access Li Juan's simulation prove unsuccessful.