Several days had passed, and during this time, Rachael had managed to get the Disa fully operational again. It was discovered that, while the vessel could fly without any problems, it was impossible for it to pierce the border of the subspace to gain access to the rest of the galaxy.
In order to try and figure out a solution, Chesed and Mauta met with The Alma, who called a meeting of the order’s leaders to discuss the problem. Although the off-worlders had proven they meant no harm, there was still much distrust of them due to the order’s previous complications involving beings from other worlds. Arriving late in the conference came two of the original Nine Saints, who had been with the first Alma at the time of Scorn and Dread. The first of these two was Tyler Oberon, a user of sorcery who allied himself with Alma to save the world. Tyler remained alive due to his unique heritage and talents, which caused him to age at a much slower rate than his companions. The other was The Ahriman, the immortal nomad and reincarnated Old One who had with his own power erected the Veil that separated Maya from the rest of the universe.
Ahriman and Tyler were both distrustful of the off-worlders, and wished them to leave as soon as possible. However, Ahriman explained it would be very difficult to remove the Veil without destroying Maya itself, as the integrity of the subspace was maintained by connecting it to the life-force of the planet itself- and this was yet another reason why use of sorcery was so greatly condemned.
However, there was a possible solution. Tyler suggested that the team investigate a certain ruin to the north of Lacamontane, where it was rumored that a legendary artifact that could allow for dimensional travel existed. Alma, recognizing the tale, chided Tyler for trying to send their guests into peril. Curious, Chesed and Mauta asked for more information.
As it was explained to them, the ruins of Noam were a place shunned by much of the world because of the stories of great evil that had once occurred there. It was said that long ago, a religious sect had made erected the ruins as a monastery for their holy women, but something terrible had happened that caused most of the inhabitants to die off. Later, the ruins disappeared for several hundred years, until they were rediscovered unceremoniously by travelers. It was said that the monastery itself was pulled outside of space and time, into a private dimension where the spirits that guided the sect tormented those that dared to catch their interest.
Many scholars believed there may have been some truth to the rumors, but the ruins themselves proved too daunting to the average explorer to verify much of anything. It was believed that the leaders of the sect had managed to move the monastery through use of a device called the Shahmeranic Key, named so for their goddess, Shahmeran. Tyler insisted that the Key had be within the ruins somewhere, and Ahriman confirmed that he believed the use of such a device would allow the travelers to remove themselves from Mayan space without disrupting the stability of the planet.
Chesed seemed to think this would be the only way to get back home, and went to relay the information to the rest of the group. Meanwhile, Mauta stayed behind a bit, and he and the Alma continued a previous conversation about responsibility and the powers that are given to those that bear it. Alma expressed a desire to leave behind her position and live on her own, something with which Mauta himself seemed all too familiar.
Back at the Disa, the team located the position of the Noam Ruins on the charts and maps they had been given, and set a course for Lacamontane. While flying there, they formulated a course of action. Kolibri would lead a team into the ruins, and Tuona would accompany to provide support and heal the injured in case of a mishap. Roth would also assist, given his skill with infiltration and stealth. Meanwhile, the rest of the group would stay aboard the ship and be on standby.
The team set down in the woods outside the ruins, and began to explore. They quickly found an entrance through a broken down gate in the monastery walls, and investigated the courtyard. The outside of the monastery was beautifully landscaped, with a lush garden surrounding the main structure. Tuona noted that it was a very unnatural place- noting that the location had been abandoned for many years, but the garden managed to maintain a perfectly manicured appearance despite the passing of time. She pointed out that the place didn’t feel like a real garden, but felt artificial and controlled, as if by some sort of supernatural force. While exploring, they heard a soft sound coming from an oddly placed mausoleum in the right wing of the garden.
Within the mausoleum, they met a strange young woman, who was singing alone in the crypt. She introduced herself as Lora, and said she was waiting for her sister, who had gone into the ruins several days ago looking for the Shahmeranic Key. The team explained they were looking for the Key as well, and Lora seemed to be very pleased. She said she had grown worried for her sister over the past few days, and was hoping someone would come along that could help her find her.
So, Lora led the group into the monastery, which was run down and incredibly eerie. Much like in Votum before it, it seemed the ruins housed the displaced essences of its unfortunate inhabitants. They also encountered a type of creature that Lora only referred to as “The Oracles”, which were humanoid creatures that crept about in darkness and seemed to thrive on blood and carnage.
Pursued by the Oracles, the group made their way through the commons of the monastery, working their way up into the music hall, through the great gallery, and up into the Oracle-saturated guest house. There, they encountered apparitions of former tenants, who were both hostile and benevolent. Oddly, when ambushed by Oracles, Tuona noticed something disturbing. In order to drive off the creatures, Tuona let loose a blast of sacred flame, which caused the Oracles to recoil, but also caused Lora to react very strangely, almost as if in fear. This was noted again when the group discovered a sacred statue that had been altered through alchemy to produce alchemically perfect water. In the presence of the water, Lora seemed to be almost a different person altogether.
Finally, the group made it up through the guest house, into the rooftop gardens, and into the central tower of the ruins, where Lora claimed her sister and the Key would likely be. Within the tower, they encountered deadly traps, but also met with Daphnala, Lora’s sister. Daphnala explained she had found the Key higher up, but she requested some aid in retrieving it, since it was surrounded by more Oracles than she could handle.
Winding their way to the top of the tower, Tuona’s suspicions grew even more insistent as they emerged to find no Oracles at the pinnacle, only what appeared to be the Key and a large platform surrounded by alchemical symbols. Inside the room, they were surprised when both Lora and Daphnala began to behave strangely. Lora said she was so very glad to finally be able to get away from the “filthy Temple”, and Daphnala said she thought they would have to wait forever for the “primates” of Maya to develop their first star ship. Confused, the team began to realize that the women were not who they seemed.
Both women transformed into supernatural beings, or Scornkin. Lora took the form of a alluring winged female, and Daphnala took the form of a fiery angel. They explained they had been subservients of Scorn and Dread under the Silver Beast, Naar, and that they had been trapped in these “avatar bodies” since the time of the cultivation. Later, when the monastery had been moved into a separate space, they became trapped, and by the time it returned to Maya, the world had been placed within the Veil. They stated they would do anything they could to return back to their home world and migrate to Seid, but first they would need a star ship to move through space once they activated the Key again. From within the tower, they had scryed and witnessed the arrival of the off-worlders, and had been waiting for them to come seeking the Key since that time, assuming their current forms as a means of luring the group into a sense of security, only to betray them and steal their ship.
Lora drew the whip Androphage from a pocket space, and told them they would have to kill them, and assume their forms aboard the Disa. Once they managed to escape Mayan space, they would kill the rest of the crew and return back to their home planet where they could finally merge with their Seid halves and abandon their limiting avatar forms and live in perfection for the rest of time.
Obviously not keen on cooperating, the group engaged the two beings in combat. The powers the Nashans had were powerful, despite their complaints of being so limited. Lora managed to turn Roth against the team with her telepathic skills, and Daphnala mortally wounded Tuona, leaving her bloodied and on the brink of death. Fortunately, Kolibri was there, and assumed a form that had many potent healing abilities, with which she was able to save Tuona’s life. Roth broke free from the compulsion, and killed Lora, driving Daphnala into a rage. She assaulted the team with an unrelenting fervor, until Tuona’s companion, Orsa ripped her apart. As she lay dying, she cursed the name of Naar and stated she only wanted to return to her native body once more before passing on. Unfortunately, this was impossible, and as the forms of the creatures perished, their bodies dissolved into dust. Kolibri noted that their forms were not real bodies, but merely shells of matter that housed their psionic essences, much like the bodies of the Lacrymans. The group claimed the Key, and returned to the ship to report.
The group was both relieved and troubled. Were the strange creatures really Nashans? Communications with Alma revealed that it was believed that advocates of the Silver Dragon had taken on the forms of demons and angels while working on Maya, in order to command the respect of the people. Ahriman confirmed this, stating that while he existed as a servant of the Beast, he had taken the form of a winged being of tremendous power, but once he was placed in human form, he lost his powers and most of his memories from his previous life. Tesla pointed out that the Nashans seemed to have the ability to exist outside of their bodies as an independent essence, which is how ASURA-04 came to be. It could very well be possible that Nashans moved from body to body on a regular basis as part of their culture. Still, even with this information, why were there Nashans on Maya? And could Naar really be the Silver Beast? If so, was he also the reason humans appeared on Arkova IV? As more information came to light, the more the mysteries surrounding Votum and the other worlds became harder to navigate.
However, there were more pressing matters. Ahriman showed Rachael how to utilize the Key, and explained that once outside Mayan space, they could use the Key at any place where the dimensions were weaker than normal to return back to Mayan space. He asked they they keep contact with them and try and help them develop a means to lower the Veil without endangering Maya any further, as he knew that it would only be a matter of centuries before the planet’s resources were entirely depleted. The group agreed, and bid a farewell to the people of the order.
Once leaving the subspace, the Disa was immediately confronted by a fleet of Coalition vessels. Rachael took evasive maneuvers, but she was outmatched by one particularly persistent vessel. They received a hail from the ship, which was being manned by Colonel Ressa Armandag. She asked to hold conference with Rachael and her current guests, to which the Mendel grudgingly agreed.
Within the Disa’s conference chamber, Ressa and several Coalition soldiers met with the group. Ressa explained that in the two weeks they had been within the subspace, the condition of the Coalition and the galaxy at large had changed significantly. Following the attack on Macada II, Lacryma had seceded from the Coalition, and declared war. They stated that they could no longer tolerate the waste of vital resources committed by other systems, and claimed they would make themselves the regent of the galaxy, doling out resources where needed and making the decisions regarding development of orexisite mining. Macada was the first system to fall, followed soon by the Solar System and the Rovano System. Using Macada’s vast lure supply, and Rovano’s advanced psi-tech weaponry, Lacryma seemed to be quite capable of taking over the rest of the galaxy. With total control of the lure supply, no one else could make a move against them.
Ressa explained that it was at this time that the remains of the Coalition were contacted by Arias Klondstein of Mendel Race. She stated that Klondstein had sought to ally with the Coalition to oust the Lacrymans from Macada and terminate their ambitions, even if they had previous been bitter enemies. Rachael found this hard to believe, but Ressa provided an official communication from Klondstein himself to verify her claims. She stated that while they were very limited on resources with Macada in Lacryman hands, they still had plenty of financial resources. It seems that Kodotama, lead by Maxwell Demian, had provided several million credits worth of weaponry. It seems that Demian, who was Klondstein’s half-brother, had been backing Mendel Race financially for years, and had now turned the full resources of his multi-billion dollar empire over to the Coalition in support of the war effort.
Arro was curious about the attack on Macada, and asked for more details. Ressa explained that Lacryma had hoped their last conference would open the Macadans up to allowing compromised mining rights, but had prepared themselves to take the planet by force if diplomacy failed. In order to do so, they contacted Major Jack Jennison, who had previously expressed a desire to become a Lacryman himself. They offered him a new body in exchange for vital information that would allow them to exercise a coup over the Coalition vessels stationed around Macada, and then infused him with a nano-treatment that allowed him to derive power from the white lure discovered on Votum during the arrest of the team to Arkova. After the attack, he was commissioned to use his new power to kill off the surviving Arkovans and their companions, to remove any trace of opposition that could use alchemy without lure. He was also told to kidnap Tesla Soldat and bring her to Lacryma VI, where she would have her Lachesis functionality restored by The Last and be forced to help the Last abandon their battered old bodies for new bodies, in the form of ASURA series bioreplicas.
A little overwhelmed by all the information, the group asked Ressa was she proposed. She told them that they were prepared to offer Arro a position as Colonel, with his own vessel and command over a small fleet of ships. Janet was offered an honorary rank of Major, and would be granted similar benefits in return for her aid. Meanwhile, both Janet and Arro could request the aid of anyone they wished on their vessel. They immediately asked to gain the aid of Tesla and the Arkovans. Rachael and Kolibri were assigned by Klondstein to aid Arro, and Chesed tagged along, hoping to make himself useful, and not wanting to return to the superficial life of a performer in light of the dangers facing the galaxy.
Ressa then explained that Lacryma was currently trying to occupy the Delsidia System, but they hadn’t been able to take it over entirely. Coalition forces, along with aid provided by Mendel Race and the refugees from Earth, Mars, and Rovano system, were able to keep the Lacrymans from taking the Delsidian homeworld, and Ressa requested Arro’s aid in cementing Delsidia as a stronghold of the new alliance.
Arro agreed, but was a little overwhelmed. In a matter of months, he had gone from Coalition soldier to traitor, and now had been installed as a hero of the Coalition. The group prepared themselves, and headed towards Delsidia.
Everyone was very anxious and didn’t know what to expect, entirely. Chesed confided in Janet that he felt very useless in contrast to the rest of them, and asked if she felt it would be better if he just went home. Janet didn’t seem to think so, and said that without his negotiating skills and quick mind, they would probably be in a dungeon somewhere on Maya.
Meanwhile, Arro and Ressa confronted each other over the events of the past few months. Ressa had hoped Arro would understand why she had been forced to arrest him on Votum, and why she couldn’t do anything to save him back on Arzin, but Arro would hear none of it. A huge argument broke out between them, and Ressa stormed off, infuriated.