- Plane Weaver
During a recent clear out of some dusty old storerooms to make room for their Chosens' new gym (the previous one having been lost to a a bout of excessive enthusiasm), the Order of the Rod have uncovered an ancient map leading to something called the Forge of Champions.
Despite the high likelihood that this Forge has long been picked clean by scavengers or fallen into utter ruin, Grandmaster Grandwick has declared that anything with such an awesome name is worth a shufty and has sponsored a small group to go and have a poke about
The party travel up a mountain on the borders of Eustragath following the map to an ancient crypt. Breaking the crumbling seal on its exterior they find an number of two-headed Dreamer skeletons and murals depicting a battle between Dreamers and some monster which they apparently won only after many deaths. Myron notices that the bodies have been moved some time ago and Catarina determines that restoring them to their original position will reopen a path into Connection.
They find themselves in an inhuman section of the plane filled with incomprehensible denizens whose attempts to make themselves understood cause a certain amount of mental discomfort. Tracking onwards they find an incredibly rare occurence- a stable planar conjunction between Connection and Conflict. A pair of denizens, who the party dub Friendly and Angry, appear to dwell on the border, entertaining themselves with a long running rivalry. The party are able to learn from Friendly that this passage was forged through some sort of bet between a Dreamer and a Contender. Angry indicates that the Forge lies somewhere within conflict, though the denizen's disdain for verbal communication hampers the party from learning much more.
Leaving Duchess comfortable in Connection, sending the pair warm thoughts, the adventurers brace themselves and plunge into the blizzard climate of Conflict. Braving winds and snows they make it to the foot of a great structure of bone and ice, the skull of some ancient behemoth now converted into a building of sorts. This door too is also sealed, but deciding that the business of the Rod takes priority over some ancient, unreadable edict the party break the seal and venture in.
Inside the structure the pair are immediately labelled as Consignment 197 and told to proceed for processing. They are subjected to some sort of test of physical aptitude which they promptly fail and are disposed of as 'faulty specimens'. Dumped into a pit of frozen human corpses the adventurers find themselves assailed as the latent power of Conflict drives the ancient bodies into combat with them. Overwhelmed by the undead foes as they attempt to climb to safety the pair are only saved through their Blessing, clambering back out of the mass grave and heading further into the complex. Their activities are noted by the Voice who apparently judges that their survival qualifies them for reassessment. Assault by golems formed from the substance of the building they manage to fight off several waves before eventually falling when they face foes at the 'standard difficulty'.
They wake up some time later in a room where a number of other plainly clothed humans are sparring or exercising. Their attempts at communication are unsuccessful: whilst capable of speech the other humans only appear interested in martial matters and when mindlinking to one of them Catarina finds that their is no meaningful mind on the other end of her link. Looking into the ice making up the walls of the chamber the party spot hundreds if not thousands of silhouettes of people frozen within. At this point the Voice of the Forge begins quizzing them on their unusual behaviour, inquiring whether they are part of some new product line. Still not really sure what is going on the party end up suggesting that their purpose is as bodyguards and healers rather than dedicated killers. The Voice seems satisfied with this an informs them that it has arranged a suitable training program. It directs them into alcoves and when Catarina is backed into one she is instantly frozen; Myron attempts to resist but the other humans are directed to subdue him and he is incapacitated in short order.
The party unfreeze several months later, dazed through having experienced decades of constant war against cosmic horrors. They are directed by the Forge to perform some physical activity to get their bodies into shape, and shakily start complying, however Duchess reaches out to Catarina and prompted by her familiar she performs a ritual to help them both get a grip of their faculties, consigning the lives led under the thrall of the Forge to the illusory. Both of them are then directed by the Forge to report to the Command Centre. There the Forge laments that its teachings don't seem to have properly embedded themselves in the pair, and it speculates that they may be hosts to some sort of mental parasite. Smashing up a large golem sent against them the pair reveal that there are now no Dreamers left in the world to give orders to Humanity. It is at this point that a pair of Contenders arrive, apparently called here by the presence of a threat to the Forge.
The Contenders reveal that some ancient pact requires them to defend the Forge, and they are a bit unsure what to do about these sentient humans wandering around the place. They don't have authority to command the Forge as that was given over to the Dreamers, and their interest in helping out is limited as they apparently spend most of their time trying to escape the barrier in Conflict that keeps them separated from their rest of their kind who are off enjoying the Eternal War. They are however quite keen to gain some control over the frozen army so they have a bit more firepower to throw into their escape attempts. The party see if they can influence the Forge by flashing their blessing marks. The Forge sticks several of its diagnostic probes into the mark and reports that it has now determined the human's purpose now, but unfortunately lacks the planar expertise to facilitate their training. Catarina is quite excited at the prospect of undergoing an Apotheosis into a Dreamer and starts being purposefully killed in order to hasten the transformation. After several successive conversations with Anata however it becomes clear that the being that will result from the fulfilment of the blessing will not necessarily be her. She then persuades one of the Contenders to perform a conflict ritual that will allow her to fight for control of the new body, and when she dies for the fourth time she explains this to Anata. The last Dreamer is not thrilled by the idea of immediately thrusting a newborn into a life and death struggle for survival and withdraws the Blessing. Furious at this whole state of affairs Catarina seeks further assistance from the Contender who enthusiastically purges the vestiges of Connection from her, its blade piercing through the broken circle of the defunct blessing and sinking into her body, occasionally emerging from her neck in an extremely disconcerting fashion.
Having decided that they won't be taking control of the Forge today the party make their way out of connection, and take three pairs of Dreamer Skulls from the crypt to ensure that the way is won't easily be opened again. As they clamber back down the mountain they are intercepted by a strangely clad group of soldiers apparently from the Philosophy of Seluga. They claim to have dominion over the mountain and demand to inspect the party's bags for contraband. Despite the copious official documentation on display the adventurers are disinclined to acquiesce and deliver a swift beatdown to the soldiers, leaving them to lick their wounds as they proceed on their journey home.
The party make it safely back to Rastaban and decide that it's for the best to keep the order of the Rod from further investigating the Forge. They inform the paladins that the Forge is nothing more than an old obstacle course; good for training up the feeble perhaps but of little interest to Rastaban's greatest warriors. Their employer is disappointed by their findings but happy enough to part with the promised Favour for their report.
They then split the Dreamer's skulls between them and part ways, each going to report to their respective houses. House Telemere is predictably thrilled about news of an army for the taking, though disappointed that they'll need to negotiate with Rom to obtain the other half of the skulls to reopen the route. Myron happily takes the favour he is offered by his Exarch and parts with a warning that the situation may not be quite as favourable as his superiors seem inclined to take it. Isabella of Rom on the other hand is relatively indifferent to the Forge itself but fascinated by news that there are still some Contenders abroad within the planes. She is rather disappointed that her niece has ended up aligning herself to Conflict, but not so upset that she doesn't willingly part with considerable Favour for the skulls and information.
Myron catches up with Catarina later, and asks if she has any objection to him taking care of Duchess on a more permanent basis. Catarina is pleased that her old partner has not been left alone by her change of circumstances and happily agrees, noting that the familiar is now in possession of all her memories of a top notch education in Connection Weaving. Under Duchess' tutelage Myron finds that he has quite an aptitude for weaving himself.
Catarina hits up her usual haunts, spreading word of the Conspiracy, now including the terrible fact that Rastaban's inhabitants are just tools for some inhuman entity's plan to convert humanity into its alien brood. This Truth doesn't gain much traction however as it appears that Sinister Forces (TM) are moving to discredit her findings.
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe
Decades of war have exposed you to horrors other can't imagine.
Once per encounter you can gain a FEAR call against other humans by dispassionately describing a nightmarish scenario you experienced.
For each rank of Strong Willed gain 1 Resist Fear
If you have the Stoicism skill then ROLEPLAY calls never hinder your ability to fight.
Ultimate Exercise Regime
Following the Forge's rigorous exercise regime you too have developed the body of a primal killing machine.
If you have any ranks of the Tough skill Gain 1 Hit
If you have the Adrenaline skill Gain 1 Dodge
If you have the Strong skill Once per encounter you can strike for DOUBLE
If you have the Resilient skill reduce the Duration of Wound and Stun calls by 2s
You may pick one of the following specialist skills imparted by the forge. After taking one of these skills you will now faintly register to a Paladin's 'Sense Devotion'
Zen and the art of Human maintenance
You can put the human body back together under the most stressful of circumstances.
Once per Encounter when an effect call would disrupt your medical roleplay, you may instead complete the treatment instantly.
Whilst on your Death Count you can perform Medical Roleplay on anyone within arm's reach. After completing the roleplay you fall unconscious.
Thanks to incredible training it's almost impossible to shake you from your charge's side.
Each encounter pick a person to protect- so long as you are attempting to stay by or reach their side then you gain 5 RESISTs to use on any call that would impede this.
Whilst on your Death Count you can crawl towards your charge.
No matter the scale of the foe they should be wary of you. After all you were built to kill gods.
When you are hit by a melee blow of DOUBLE or greater gain a DODGE
When you DODGE a melee blow of DOUBLE or greater you gain a BACKSTAB that can be delivered with any weapon.
Once per Adventure when you are on your Death Count you can call TIME FREEZE and ask the GM whether an opponent has any weaknesses. After TIME IN take a FIGHT ON