This temple has been at the center of many faiths since it was first built, but just before the Empress took her throne, it was just a shelter for the desperate. The few survivors of the Contagion clung to their lives deep within the pyramid. They say the huge statue of a selfish god stood in the center of the rotunda, but the god had no love for its worshipers and its statue was consumed by this massive tree.
The Fair Folk consumed this region as they prepared to conquer the Blessed Isle. But the Sword of Creation ripped through the lands, pulling the plateaus up out of the earth and driving back the Fair Folk. The tree’s deep roots held the temple in place. And when the tremors ceased, the image of the Scarlet Empress appeared over the tree as she crowned herself as Creation’s guardian.
That moment is preserved in this temple. The Empress’s divine beauty was carved into the tree, and the temple became a symbol of Jiara’s rebirth at her hands.
As the group descended into the bowels of the temple, a foreign worshiper became violent and attacked Striador’s guards with a massive chain. Striador begged for Youko’s assistance, but she wouldn’t go without Neema. Neema rode Youko’s shoulders down to the platform, upon which Striador caused the stairs connected to their platform to retract. Striador revealed that Youko was anathema, and that she was to be captured by Striador’s guards and the chain man.
On the bottom floor of the temple, Dàhl realized that although Juto was driven by hate for him, Juto’s feelings of betrayal were mixed with his admiration for Dàhl. Juto offered Dàhl an alternative to the State Police’s plans for him, but when Dàhl realized that the god of the tree was present and resentful of the Realm, Dàhl decided to make a pact with Unwavering Roots and intentionally riled up Juto. Dàhl convinced Unwavering Roots that risking her domain to fight back the dragon-blooded would be worth it, as the Solars would protect her. Dàhl accused Juto of still wanting to be below Dàhl, prompting Juto to pull out his whip.
But we both know where you really want to be is below me.
A young follower of Dàhl’s attempted to run out to protect him. Juto cracked the whip into the air as a statement of intent, but inadvertently hit the kid, driving the scared and passive worshipers to confront the monks. Juto stepped back from Dàhl, horrified by what Dàhl’s words can do to him. In that moment, Unwavering Roots controlled vines of the Great Tree to ensnare Juto and poison him with thorns.
Up above, Youko leapt from the platform onto the tree. The chain man followed suit, using his chain to swing onto the tree. Neema began to climb down the tree. Youko bashed through the branch they stood on, sending both the branch and the chain man falling. The chain man was able to hold on to his chain, but experienced severe friction burns on his hands. The branch fell toward the pool at the base of the tree, and killed a monk in the process.
Juto broke the ensnaring vines with flame-covered hands, not caring about the vines’ debilitating poison.
Neema made a sloth cry that echoed through the temple, triggering Youko’s mercenaries to make themselves known. Kumoll (nicknamed “Eagle-Eyed Pete” by Neema) leapt from behind a waterfall and redirected one of the temple’s mirrors to make the eyes of the Scarlet Empress glow. He impersonated the Empress’s speech from when she ascended the thrown, frightening some of the monks and driving the followers of Dàhl to flee. Neema reached the ground and pleaded to Juto to protect her from Youko. Juto recognized her as a fellow Dynast of import and had his remaining party escort her out of the temple. Youko broke through the branches beneath her and dropped into the water, where she was followed by the chain man. As Youko attempted to climb out of the water, the chain man was grabbed by Lord and Lady, who were camouflaged at the base of the tree. Striador was able to set the stairs back into place before he fled, allowing his guards to arrive on the first floor as the monks retreated with Neema.
Juto attempted to strike Dàhl with his whip, but Dàhl gained distance in his evasion and punched Juto in the gut.
Outside, Tian and Oset learned that the army was surrounding anathema who were trapped inside the temple. The duo pursued their initial goal of sabotaging the trebuchets while disguised as an inspection crew, only to realize that the trebuchets were already worse for wear. They then reported this problem to the head of the operation, framing the commanders in charge of the trebuchets as potential anathema saboteurs. While the commanders were detained, Tian’s men spread rumors that these commanders had been possessed and could spread their anathema taint through touch. The officers under command of Blazing Ember were quick to defend her honor and shoot down these rumors, leading Oset and Tian to make a grand public display to back up their scheme. They led Blazing Ember’s supporters to where she was being transported, triggering a small riot in which Oset touched Ember and revealed his caste mark, “proving” that Ember was an anathema, the taint had spread to the State Police, and that no one could be trusted. Panic spread through the entire army, driving soldiers to fight their comrades. Oset escaped into the aqueduct.
Neema escaped the temple via the ground floor entrance, witnessing the chaos caused by the rebels. She ran into Striador, who invited her to escape with him via rickshaw.