The heroes arrive on Luparnas and are greeted by Tresh Vanul, a member of Canis’ tribe and high priestess to the Mother Goddess. She asks them to enter the old forest at the base of the mountain and find the offworlders who are defiling it. They must be stopped.
Qiui and Qintin, the two duva on the crew, fear that they will be incapacitated by the planet, a known side effect of visiting the world for their species, but when they disembark, they find no ill effects. As long as they walk with the chosen of the Mother Goddess, they will be protected.
As they walk through town, Canis notes a group of lupanians preaching against the Mother Goddess. He is outraged by the appearance of the Brotherhood of Ascension on Luparnas, but the priestess ignores them.
Meanwhile, Asena is drawn to an old woman who seems to recognize her scent, calling her Nahvesh. Asena learns that Nahvesh was the woman’s son who left Luparnas many years ago. The wheels begin to turn in her mind, but she does not pursue the connection at that time.
While leaving the village and heading for the forest, Brother Tahvesh appears, beaten and bruised. He was swayed by Canis’ words last they spoke and has turned his back on the Brotherhood, barely escaping. Canis desires to return and slay the false preachers at once, but Qiui insists on dealing with those in the forest first.
They enter the forest after traveling down the mountain and are ambushed by other members of the Brotherhood. The ambushers are handily defeated, but the crew discover themselves to be surrounded by a shale-gray skinned duva.
Qiui steps forward and asks after them, and through conversation, the crew comes to realize they are ancient. Once, the duva and lupanians shared Luparnas, but the duva transgressed against the Mother Goddess and were cast out. These few duva stood against their kin and were spared from the exile. They have lived in this forest since that day. The crew tries to get more information from them, but they speak in riddles and obfuscations.
At their village, the crew finds Zimir returned from the Pfbritu dimension. He came to Luparnas in pursuit of the Jackal, an ancient being of power who kidnapped his father from the other dimension. He tracked them to this forest, and he rejoins the crew of the Phoenix to enter the ancient city.
The crew approaches and discovers several members of the Brotherhood, and a fight ensues. They defeat the gathered lupanians, rescuing some captured beings who were forced into servitude, and press on, deeper into the city. They come to a central temple where several more members of the Brotherhood in addition to two massive wolves are waiting. The crew breaks into groups, moving into flanking positions. They see a human male laid out on a stone altar, and the battle begins.
Canis engages one of the wolves, recognizing it as a member of his former pack, and attempts to parlay with it. They come to no accord, and Canis chooses to flee the battle rather than fighting against his pack. He warns the others to run as well, but they are not swayed, focused on rescuing Zimir’s father. While Petra and Zimir drive forward from the front of the temple, Asena and Qiui descend from the roof toward the altar, under the watchful rifle of Qintin.
It’s a bloody battle, and several of the crew almost fall, but they manage to extract the unconscious, though yet living Claedan Stokadine. They begin a fighting retreat, racing back toward the duva village. As they flee, Canis hears the voice of Dirus, his father and leader of the pack, whispering to him, calling him to his side. Dirus has long served the Mother Goddess, but he will be subservient no more. He intends to rise up and strike her down. He attempts to enlist Canis’ aid.
At the same time, Qiui hears the voice of the Mother Goddess, telling her of the coming war and the part she may play.
They return to the duva village and rest, finding that Claedan will not wake. They decide to take him to the sanctuary of the Mother Goddess. Meanwhile, Qintin and Asena head back to the village at the top of the mountain.
At the sanctuary, Canis has a crisis of faith, calling out to the Mother Goddess. Her responses are less than adequate, and doubt fills his heart. Zimir speaks with the high priestess, who performs a ritual, and tells him the spirit of his father is absent from the body. Dirus stole the spirit and took it with him, fleeing the planet, seeking items for a ritual.
While in the village, Asena returned to the old woman and speaks with her of Nahvesh, presenting her with three gifts. The woman speaks of her son and the human researchers he departed with. She then bestows three gifts on Asena.
After reuniting, the crew helps Canis purge the false preachers of the Brotherhood of Ascension from the village. In the midst of which, a group of Ravagers attack the planet. Canis’ faith is further shaken because the Mother Goddess makes no obvious show of power to protect her people. He begins to wonder if she has any true power after all.
The raiders are defeated, and Qiui and Asena manage to pursue the raider ship long enough for Phoenix to upload a tracking virus into their computer.
Frustrated by the delay and single-mindedly focused on his father’s rescue, Zimir uses the repaired teleportation bands presented him by Asena before his departure to teleport to the Hobbled Kragnar in the Cassidan system.