Scorn lurks in the higher realms, and curses those that would try to ascend with arrogance and hatred, while Dread lurks in the earth, preventing those who would call down power from above by cursing the Earth. The mystic arts are the work of Knowledge, and thus the use of it invokes the curse of Dread for those on Earth. It is because of this that the early people formed a movement against magics, developing their own talents to stave off the forces of Dread. These people, the first psions, formed a group that eventually became Alma Nostra.
It is believed that Alma's disappearance and the emergence of the being calling itself Dread are not unrelated. A confidential informant has approached Alma Nostra with information regarding Alma, through the secret group called Phantom- a hidden group in Alma Nostra composed of the risen dead, members who had died in service and been returned to life in order to serve Alma. Rose is a double agent, being both the secret Aerie member, and a member of Phantom.
The team is introduced to the telepathic specialist from Phantom, the mysterious cross-dressing Wu-Mei-Long. Wu-Mei-Long has arranged the meeting with the informant, which has been requested to take place in a tower a few leagues outside of Rebus. This tower, called the Tower of Black Sands, is a ruin from ancient days.
The team is teleported to the tower, but only Rose, Wu-Mei-Long, Luka, and Zell enter the building for the meeting. Once inside, they find the tower to be occupied by djinn, efreeti, and the janni. The djinn and efreeti are negotiating an end to their thousand year war, using Earth as a middle ground, and reanimating the fallen kings buried in the tower as a means of harvesting precious gold from beneath the sands in order to serve as a mutual tribute to the Khalif of the Djinn and Sultan of the Efreet. The team has to navigate the trap filled tower, and avoid the interdimensional political conflict while trying to get to the top of the tower to meet their mysterious informant.
Ultimately, at the top of the tower, they meet with a shadowy informer who tells them Alma is working on something called the World Project, but before she can continue, she is cut down by the Djinn and the Sheik of the Efreeti. He tells the Aerie members that the woman is an enemy of theirs, and that she must be punished and put to death. Wu-Mei-Long confronts the Sheik, threatening to kill them all in order to safely acquire the needed information. Luka and Zell are repulsed by this, but Rose explains that in Phantom, some things must be done in order to protect the organization- including things like this. However, Rose stops Wu-Mei-Long, and tells her that such violence is unnessecary, considering they can just extract the information from the informant whatever her condition is- dead or alive.
Just then, Tamari appears, and the djinn attack him, claiming he is their hated enemy- the son of the Khalif and a mortal woman, he is the most dangerous threat to the Djinni populace. Tamari brushes them off like he would swat away a gnat, and suddenly, the informant morphs into Vemiel. Vemiel and Tamari tell the team that they want to help look for Alma, but the Sheik warns them that Vemiel and Tamari can't be trusted. A fight ensues between the two strangers and the Djinn, and the team gets caught in between. Tamari crushes many djinni with the power of his mind, and Vemiel begins to devour their bodies, while Rose, Zell, and Luka attempt to contain the chaos. Meanwhile, the Sheik and Wu-Mei-Long engage in combat, and Wu-Mei-Long is wounded. Rose saves her old Phantom teammate, and gathers the team in the center of the room, attempting to escape through use of a teleportation stone, but before they can get away, Vemiel and Tamari get bored and leave- but not before shattering open a stone at the top of the tower, causing a pillar of light to erupt out of it. The djinn lament, saying that the "Path of Lights" has been opened.
The team heads back to HQ, disappointed by the failure of the mission. Karin explains that the Path of Lights is an interdimensional doorway that leads to the Astral Plane, and that it might be worthwhile to investigate it. Just then, Dread materializes, possessing Wu-Mei-Long and a handful of soldiers. The team, unwilling to harm the innocent Alma Nostra soldiers, is backed into a corner. Suddenly, Disa appears and cuts them down, but proves to be ineffective in battle against the Dread. Rose and Portia also attack, but are rendered helpless.
Just then, Adrian draws the Dread into his own body, and vomits it out in the form of a black, living slime. He then uses some unknown power to banish the vile ooze, causing the Dread to retreat. Everyone is confused and taken by surprise. Adrian explains that he is not who he says he is. He explains that Alma is very important to history, and that each generation along her line has produced one woman named Alma who would lead the line of the ancient peoples towards peace. He goes on to say that he is from 3000 years in the future, where Rebus is a large city of wonders that covers half the planet- the other half of the planet is dead and uninhabitable, destroyed by Dread. He tells them that Rebus is the last bastion against the forces of Dread, which has managed to destroy and corrupt much of the universe. He tells them that he is that generation's Alma, and he returned to the past through telepathy to merge with the Alma of this time in order to stop the abuse of magic and the awakening of Dread, in order to save the future. However, something happened that caused him to instead be born in the body of a human child, and that he was trapped in the past, unable to fully complete his mission. However, he has been working with Alma to control the abuse of magic, with the goal of negating the impact of Dread in the future.
He goes on to explain aside from him, one other of the Lametalle line has returned to the past- and that he became trapped in the past, and fathered a child. The child is Luka, who is a powerful anomoly with all the gifts of the Lametalle line, making him a very important resource in the war on Dread. Apparently, those of the Lametalle line are immune to the forces of Dread, and stand alone as the only ones who can fight Dread and drive it back. This is why it is so important to locate Alma. If she is lost or killed, the Lametalle line will be wiped out, and the future will be lost.
Finally, Adrian reveals that it may be possible to locate Alma by traversing the Path of Lights in the Astral Plane. He tells them that they can go there, and search her out. The team digests this shocking revelation while preparing to leave Rebus and face the perils of the Astral Plane.
Gender: Female (Dresses as a man)
An operative of Phantom, sent to arrange a meeting between a confidential informant and Aerie. She is tough, ruthless, and for some reason, dresses as a man. Secretly, she is working with Tamari and Vemiel, but the reasons are unknown.
A secret group within Alma Nostra that serves as a network of spies and assassins. They do the dirty work that others cannot. They are all specially trained for the most dangerous and savage missions, and all members of Phantom are legally dead, having fallen in line of duty in the past.