Star, Loyal and Surf (and Fluffy) snoop around through the underbelly of the Gethamane tunnels, studying the strange green magitech pillar for a while and eventually decide to come back up to the city. They run into some guards, only one of whom vaguely speaks Old Realm, so they call for backup, including an officer who speaks Old Realm better. Loyal is now stuck explaining why he (apparently still the Pandit from Varangia) and his bull and robot are here in the tunnels, and he starts to sweat. Surf, still in cat form, slips by the guards and then uses her anima to take on the appearance of a southern noblewoman to persuade the guards to let the others pass, pacifying that particular encounter.
Now in the lower reaches of the city, Star uses her knowledge of the city’s layout to plot out the most likely entrance to the hidden zone within the city that may be used to make a new Elemental Pole of Earth. She identifies the most likely hallway, then uses her newly upgraded eye to see directly through three meters of stone and find the hidden entrance. By studying the hidden door she is able to eventually project a golden essence aura that triggers the door to display a warning in Old Realm that the area is for authorized personnel only, then it evaporates and reveals a solid steel and jade door with a hallway behind. The massive door has two jade keyholes that at Star’s inspection appear to be relatively ordinary keyholes but they are spooked by the door’s warning and believe there is a good chance that only a Solar (or former Solar) would be allowed through, so they decide to go fetch the Abyssals.
Meanwhile, the Abyssals (carring Charon along for fun) are headed to Katrin Jadehand and run into Lumaria on the way. Lumaria is back in Gethamane because she has been sent on a quest by the Lunar Elders, bearing a warning about the green pillars underneath the city. The three get to Katrin’s office and run headlong into one of Orchid’s uncles, apparently a survivor from her sordid past. Orchid had removed her helmet to try and intimidate the secretary and so he recognizes her, but she silences him with some hideous threats. The three head in to Katrin’s office, and though she is understandably upset to see them again she listens to what they have to say. When they mention a secret locked-away area inside Gethamane, Katrin realizes something, and calls for them to follow her.
Katrin, the Abyssals and Lumaria, and a few guards head to one of the weathiest sections of town and arrive at a mansion which is the centerpiece of the wealthy Mindros family. She asks to speak privately with Mindos Sahaki, the elderly patriarch of the family, and asks to see a very particular artifact that belongs to the family. It turns out to be a large blue jade key. When inspecting it, Lumaria uses Mirror Sight Dismay to invert his belief that it belongs to the Mindros family by referencing a clerical error that caused ownership of the key to revert to the city.
Katrin and the group step out and Katrin explains that several of these keys have been found before, and most of them belong to the great families. Star, Loyal and Surf catch up, having been watching through Charon, and Star inspects the key and confirms it will fit in one of the locks. Katrin leads the group to another family where Lumaria trades the key for a fork (using Any-Trinket Allure), and Star confirms this key will match the other lock. Katrin decides for safety’s sake to acquire the other keys as well, but those have apparently been recently stolen. One red jade key was on a velvet cushion in a box, which left an impression that Star can read to confirm it matched one of the keys in their possession, and another red jade key had gone missing from another family through similarly mysterious means. The party surmises that whoever is planning on messing up Creation’s geomancy already has the keys they need to get through the door. The other key is determined to be a fake.
The group returns to the locked door, and Star uses the essence projector tool on her bracers to once again project the essence needed to open the wall. Lumaria touches the steel door and uses a lunar charm to sense the layout of the building beyond the door, grasping that it is several miles in diameter yet is a fully enclosed space consisting of several rings of hallway, one inside the other, and that somewhere inside is a set of powerful reality engines.
Orchid and Voice use the keys to open the door, and beyond is a short hallway of only 30 feet, with another door at the end. This door is also steel but has many small holes instead of two large keyholes. When Star takes a step forward to inspect the door, hundreds of small scarabs crawl out of the holes and form into a humanoid mass that roughly asks for the password. Surf closes her eyes, wondering if her connection to her past lives might possibly hold the answer, and suddenly feels as though she is looking through his eyes, as he is being tortured for a password he knows but will not reveal. His torturers include a man wrapped in bandages and another with an enormous sword with an eyeball in the middle. Shaken, her eyes fly open and she whispers the password to the scarab guardian. The scarabs crawl back into the holes and work the tiny gears and levers to open the door, allowing the party into the Habitation Ring. Katrin and her guards keep watch while the party enters into the hidden area of Gethamane, left over from the First Age.
The Habitation Ring has houses, shops, magically growing food, and a lot of jade weaponry, apparently all for survival in case of Creation’s destruction. The party at a large door with 25 symbols on it, and Star recognizes the symbols as the colleges of astrology. With some educated guesswork, she pushes five buttons in a particular order and the door opens to a massive auditorium, intended to be used by the Solar Deliberative, adorned with decorations of the Solar caste marks. At the back is another door, which Star has some more trouble with but eventually guesses the sequence to open as well. This hallways is glowing brightly, and Voice and Orchid flinch when they try to go in, as it burns them (but not the others). They hang back and wait while Star, Loyal, Surf and Lumaria explore the engineering room, which includes another hallway to a very central room with two orichalcum keys on a chain by a control panel to activate the Reality Engines. There is a plaque with instructions written in Old Realm.
Star isn’t really sure what to do, so she decides to pray to Autochthon for guidance, sacrificing the orichalcum keys to boost her prayer. Meanwhile, Orchid gets bored and leaves, and Voice eventually follows her out of jealousy. Orchid snoops around the mining section of town, with various ores for processing and sale, and finds a house with one of her cousins (the daughter of the uncle she saw earlier) inside. She meets her cousin and chats her up for a while, while Voice sneaks around and manages to see in through a window. Orchid doesn’t seem to be sure what she’s doing, and when Voice arrives it doesn’t really help, but they have a civil conversation.
Orchid’s cousin works as part of the family’s mining company, and makes reference to a ghost that is haunting the major mineshaft outside the city. Orchid and Voice perk up, and decide to take a look.