Comment-fishing aside, here's what happened:
We had one expected and one unexpected absence on Monday, which meant we were down to four players. Sessions with four players generally go extremely well, because we have a very high (3:4!) ST:player ratio and everyone can get as much attention as they need. However, we'd introduced a particular sub-plot the previous week specifically in order to tie Remius to the rest of the group; with Joe absent, this created some rather interesting difficulties for the rest of the group since they didn't have his insider information. We had to scramble a bit to get that sorted, but other than that session was very smooth.
What's strange is that the players absolutely loved the session, but I didn't think it was an extraordinarily good session on our part. It was solid, you know? Not brilliant, not bad, just solid. The PCs negotiated with a number of Very Important People, which meant there were a lot of one-on-one or two-on-one interactions. The goal was to figure out what would be done with the new, super-buff Praetorian Guard (which expanded five times during this period), as the previous controller of the Guard, Appius Claudius Martial, clearly couldn't be allowed so much additional power. The PCs had a great scene where they faced him down - the first time for all of them that they asserted power over a House head! - and another where they then sat around and went, "WTF!!!! I can't believe we just did that and won!"
They've come up with a pretty clever political solution (Martial gives half the Guard to the other members of his Alliance, and they blame any opposition on the Filii of Mithras, who they all hate). However, they have some concrete opposition who believe that even one Alliance shouldn't have that much concentrated military power within Rome. We'll see who wins, and what the consequences are! I am really happy with what's happening, because one of my favorite things about the game is how we're writing a secret history of the world. Last story arc, for example, the PCs basically invented the Blood Hunt (though it's not yet called that). This time around the PCs have a big chance to change (or not!) Roman mortal history. I think it would be most interesting if they stuck to history. Of course, we're prepared to rewrite things if they don't, but so far we've set things up so that they have generally wanted to pursue historically realistic courses. The reasons that made Rome act in certain ways have also affected the PCs quite concretely, and if I may say so, it's one of the things that I'm proudest of about this game so far.
Of course, no one has yet asked the most important question of all: why did Severus feel the need to disband the Praetorian Guard and bring a new, larger Guard into the picture? The PCs have heard two or three possible explanations for this; I'm curious what they believe, and whether they'll dig deeper.
Secondary plot stuff went quite well, too. We ran the games where the three sisters won their respective events and were awarded full citizenship. Before the actual awards, though, there was an attempt on the life of Geta, the Emperor's younger son. Balachandra stopped Geta's death with a well-timed curse and has drawn the attention of more than one Family head for doing so - whether for good or for ill we shall see. Of course, it's unlikely that Geta's faction will simply let this pass unavenged!
Finally, we ended session with the loss of a long-time NPC: Lucretia Valeria is dead. She was the undisputed (well, until recently) queen of the Fifth District, where the PCs carved out some territory when they first came to Rome. Some of them loved her, others hated her, but she became a symbol to them of older times. Well, the PCs moved on and moved up, while Lucretia Valeria stayed where she was - and now they've outlived a major figure from their past. We'll see whether they investigate the death, and whether they're going to like what they find when they do.
I wonder whether the reason the players enjoyed the session so much was because of plot, or because the STs got to bring out some great new NPCs, and bring back some favorite old ones. A few good character interactions can go a long way to making a session feel good overall. My favorite character moment of the session was when Mirza Soraya Khanum (Hamsin Family head, rather old-school Parthian) was talking to Aniketos about her philosophy of life. I can't remember how they got onto the topic, but she ended up talking about how she valued a man by what he was willing to risk, and why that meant she had particular affection for mortals. I didn't even know she felt that way until Aniketos got her talking about it, which is always fun for me; when I have a good enough feel for a character (even one I've only played twice!) that I can figure out what they'd think and feel about almost any topic on the fly, I just want to play and mess around with them. Even better, it means I know this is a character the PCs will like and keep wanting to interact with. The more I like a character, the more the PCs do - usually, unless it's Melita or Isana. I think those two just talk too much. :)