- Plane Weaver
Citizens meet for food, drink and conversation at the Silver Laird Tavern in the Barrens.
Before we move to the Silver Laird Tavern in the Barrens, we must first speak of what was happening at Eli's forest home. Eli is sitting talking to Garrek, a blue head, when Mabel enters. Garrek has concerns about Eli's grandmother, though Eli insists that she is quite alright. Mabel attempts to communicate with Eli without Garrek noticing. She first turns his head around but he just bounces around. Then, to mess with Garrek, both she and Eli disappear. Garrek proves that he can too by phasing through the sofa. Mabel places her hat on top of the sofa so that when Garrek comes back up, he'll be wearing it and talks to Eli.
After some back and forth between them, Mabel eventually reveals that Eli's grandmother is dead. Eli insists she's only a little bit dead. Mabel expresses her concern for Eli. More secrets are revealed about Sato and Garrek learns that she spoke to him through the Chalice while Mabel despairs that Eli is still in contact with her and leaves in a huff.
Meanwhile, in the Barrens, four citizens are enjoying a parsnip pie in the Silver Laird tavern. Grand Commissioners Nikolai and Zosime are there, along with Aspirant Sullivan of the Rod and Apprentice Catarina Romaia, a connection weaver.
Discussions are had about which mutations people would like – in particular, Nikolai would like a mole nose, Sullivan is interested in behemoth's lungs and Zosime just wants a new arm (working out how she lost hers is complicated by her refusal to speak, even with a mindlink up and her atrocious handwriting).
Nikolai's plans prompt Catarina to ask if it would be a crime to boop a commissioner on the snoot and the consensus is that a snoot boop without permission would be a crime so they moot the snoot boop. Of course, Catarina points out that if Nikolai used his nose to sniff out subterranean treasure, it would be snoot loot and if he found the bottom of plants, they'd be snoot roots. The conversation goes on is this vein for some time.
They talk about the blessed cult (Zosime is visibly distressed by people talking about cults for some reason), and generally agree that the whole idea of people being able to come back to life is a little preposterous. So what if they have a little untrained healing talent? They can't be that special.
This gets people to thinking… perhaps there's a greater conspiracy. Perhaps, there is nothing beyond the Forest. How could anyone have travelled through such a place? How could anything still exist beyond? No, there's a much simpler explanation. The Order of the Wheel is giving people hallucinogens to believe they've left. That's why commissioners aren't allowed out: they'd be immune to the hallucinogen. The Order of the Throne, of course, has made up this other Rastaban to claim they're fighting a war (they couldn't even be bothered to think of another name than Rastaban!). Together, they've deceived the people, the Bureaucracy and even the Silent Regent herself!
Information from Zosime, gleaned by charades, sheds light on a deeper conspiracy. It seems a commissioner who isn't a commissioner who stole herself from the Imperial Commission and who may or may not be called Kevin and was maybe elected or has some really tall ichor-smelling people called Elect, is living in the Forest. Kevin is such an unusual name, unlike the common names that venerate the Muses: Rodericka, Rodrigo, Rod, Chairissa, Chythrone, Ashes, Ashley or Asher.
Given what they now know, what if there's a connection to the Imperial Commission? What if there's some sort of cult within their ranks? Zosime panics and the others begin to suspect she might be part of the cult. She shakes her head furiously. No, she isn't part of the cult. She cut off her arm to leave them. Why? Because there was a mark on it. Isn't that a bad idea for a secret cult to mark their members? She doesn't know.
Sullivan asks Zosime why she doesn't stand up to the cult and fight them. No, she just wants to hide. They ask if following the Rod would give her the courage to fight.
“Well, I'm all out of ideas then,” they say.