Exarchate territory enjoyed the fruits of sophisticated technology. Robotics and cybernetics brought productivity and community. In exchange, the Exarchs themselves—AI merged with human consciousness—laid out a strict plan for behavior and lifestyle, sacrificing freedom of expression in the name of progress. The Exarchate focused on discovering the lost technology of the previous civilization, to learn from their mistakes and advance the cause of humanity.
To this seeming utopia came John, Haura, Garrit and Rasmus, bound together on a mission to prevent the Dragons from crushing human resistance. At the borders they faced the firepower of a massive Exarch wardroid, narrowly escaping its plasma cannon. Through show of force and reasoned words they made contact with an Exarch Justiciar, who led them to the capital city, and an audience with the Patriarch.
The ultimate leader of the Exarchate vision had no human flesh—a mechanical body infused with the wisdom of countless AI processes. It showed John the fruits of their labors. Through careful study and scientific inquiry, the Exarchate held a theory for the temporal difference John experienced between this world and the Pyre.
The Dragons and their dragonspawn hordes burst from the portal some centuries ago, But that facility—the one from which John emerged—was only one of two. This world was once part of a vast civilization that spanned the stars, and this was but an outlying, distant world. Scientists and researchers came here to conduct clandestine experiments into the fabric of space and time. Two primary facilities were at the center of the planet’s efforts—one exploring the existence of other universes, the other trying to peel back the mysteries of time and master it. The dimensional facility was the first success, opening on the world the denizens of the Pyre knew as Ashen. Colonists from DraGun went through, becoming the Strangers of Ashen lore, the ones John learned of from the Dragon Guardians. John realized that the humans of Quelya were not native to that world, nor even that universe—Domnika, Akuma and all of their fellow humans were the ancient descendants of colonists from DraGun.
As the colony was reaching its zenith, the temporal research facility gazed beyond the veil of time, upon something that should not have been seen. In a single moment, the stars above dragun shifted abruptly, all contact with the interstellar network was lost, and dragons and their kin erupted from the dimensional portal, laying waste to the unsuspecting world.
Through their study of the changed stars, the Exarchate realized that time was frozen on the world for millenia. The dragons that entered the gate in Ashen did not emerge until time resumed here, on DraGun. Hope returned that John might still see the Pilgrims of the Pyre, as long as time was running at equal paces in both universes.
But time was running out for the patriarch. Even as John spoke of the burgeoning alliance between the human factions and warned the Patriarch that the Vignar planned his demise, Ichero’s plans bore fruit. A sentient, arcane virus erupted into the Patriarch’s mind, corrupting and possessing his systems. It retained enough self control to ask John to stop the corruption before it could proceed. John executed the patriarch, purging its systems with arcane fire that rushed out back to the source of the virus, flushing the system and slaying the myriad techmages in service to the Vignar, operating under the pseudonym of Ichero.
Though he’d saved the Exarchate from servitude to Falazure, their systems were thrown into disarray. The Justiciar who’d escorted him to the Patriarch now pursued him as an assassin, and the four companions were forced to flee. Deep in Exarch territory, surrounded by machines and networks, their path seemed blocked. Only the intervention of Rinn, sister to Manda and rebel against the Exarchate, secured them a way out.
Fleeing from the civilization they’d saved, John received a message from Rinn’s sister. The Red Cross Knights were coming. It was finally time to meet the elusive Gilwargis.
Carmichael warned it that the Vignar techmage Ichero planned to corrupt the Patriarch itself, to undo the unity of the Exarch and turn their connectedness against them.