The agents of Oronis teleported into the Ivory Palace along with Eloyas Ardian, who departed to the gardens to safeguard the lives of the citizens of Raam should Safa fail.
The other six met with Mon Adderath in the antechamber to Dregoth’s laboratory, where they were informed that the King awaited to congratulate them on their victory over Hamanu’s champions along with general Khalid Hanafi, the kaisharga who was once Najaf and Shahzadi’s grandfather.
They entered the King’s spacious lab where he, in human form, started with the kind words… he suddenly stopped, as if suspicious… whereupon battle was waged. He almost immediately assumed his true form of an immense undead dragon, while Qhari-Kos immediately ensured that General Hanafi would not be a significant participant in the fight.
Dregoth’s power was immense, but Mon Adderath’s apparent betrayal confused and weakened him. As his defiling energies poured out toward the city, Safa became filled with fire, transforming into a potent being of the Elemental Chaos, Dhaara’s fiery ancestor, and held the dark power at bay, preserving the lives of the citizens of Raam while Shahzadi ultimately was able to pin Dregoth into a corner of his lab, safeguarding the distracted psion.
The Guardian, an ancient Raaig, manifested, but Mon Adderath was able to mostly confuse it into quiescence aside from summoning a few dark shrieking shadows that were easily disposed of. Shahzadi distracted Dregoth by aiming a few blows at his lab equipment which focused his rage even more on her. Ultimately, after a fast but hard-fought battle, Dhaara beat the massive King into a second death. His body dissolved, and Mon Adderath became… somehow more real. It became clear that the High Templar was in some fashion Dregoth’s phylactery, and much was made clear about his conditions for participating in this seeming betrayal.
Oronis was summoned, Dhaara’s ancestor returned to the City of Brass, and Qhari-Kos guarded the chamber from the balcony. Oronis led a group ritual with the aid of Najaf, Alekel, and Safa to resurrect Dregoth. Such resurrection was normally impossible, of course, a feat of immense magical power requiring a fundamental connection to the foundations of the world itself. Oronis, as a twice-refined emergent of the Pristine Tower, was able to, after an hour, bring Dregoth back to life.
The now-living sorcerer-King was… not happy about events, but acknowledged the reason for it. After a few terse words, and the revocation of Najaf’s templar bond, Dregoth and Mon Adderath teleported away, presumably to Tyr, to make use of Kalak’s ziggurat with the goal of transporting to some other space and time and becomeing the god he so wished to be.
Oronis went out upon the balcony, and with the aid of some immense illusion magic, publicly claimed Raam in his name, and delegated it governance to his “High Templar” Najaf and Najaf’s companions. He then spent a few weeks taking audiences to transfer templar-bonds from Dregoth to himself, and then returned to New Kurn.
The now-Regents of Raam spent a year reshaping the city to their interests. They convinced the Cult of the Dragon that their god Dregoth had, in fact, become a god sometime in the past, and was trying to break through the barriers erected by the “old Dragon” to come again unto his people. Najaf set the Cult against the Children of the Dragon who made it clear that their agenda of not paying the Dragon sacrifice put them at odds. The two opposing but similarly named cults were manipulated into a costly shadow war.
Najaf took the service of Dregoth’s powerful undead servants. He met with Jia, whose original name was apparently Theodosia Chandrelina, the undead priestess of Sielba, and she bargained for her continued existence. They let her leave the city but kept her phylactery against future trouble.
Dhaara initiated, along with the Saddhu caste, a “cleansing policy” where the City would front the customary fee for soul-dedication for any now-undead citizen who wished to pass on and join the ancestors. This, along with the lifting of Dregoth’s “death tax”, started the slow decline of undead citizens in Raam.
Alekel walked the streets, the PR face of the new regime, composing catchy ballads of Dregoth’s fate, and the enlightened new policies of the city’s new rulers. He, with Najaf’s help, started social policies aimed at loosening, and perhaps ultimately dissolving, Raam’s caste system, along with the seeds of a public education system.
Shahzadi, after talking with Qhari-Kos, finally permitted herself to become pregnant by her husband Aasif. All the best magic and psionics that money can buy were procured to ensure healthy twin girls with excellent magical or psionic potential.
Qhari-Kos flew throughout the wastelands near Raam, finding solitary clutches and sharing the ancestral memories of the Great Queen that she had become. She spread the prophecy of the coming Green Times, as well as the great human Companions who would soon be born to accompany the Queen, and her successors, throughout the ages. She recruited fanatical thri-kreen “grim guards” to protect Shahzadi and the children at all times.
Najaf ran the city’s bureaucracy. He contacted Sumita, the templar they had plucked from the life of a thief and turned into Raam’s ambassador to Tyr. She told them that Dregoth and Mon Adderath had appeared in her chambers, sharing just a few words before departing to confront King Tithian. They took Narl, the key to the Ziggurat, and entered Kalak’s folly. Nearly two weeks later, an immense surge of arcane energy came from the ziggurat, every soul bound into the edifice was consumed, and the thing collapsed into a mound of mundane (and slightly smoking) brick. This has caused many panicked rumors out of Tyr.
Eloyas Ardian, with the intercession and introduction of Najaf and the others, met with King Tithian and assumed the title of “Lord-Protector” of Tyr, casting the protective mantle of one who has been through the Tower over that city to protect against future aggression by another sorcerer-King. He left Tithian the title of King, as well as most administrative powers, while he himself renewed his ties with the halfling tribes of the forest ridge.
Many other loose ends were wrapped up, old friends spoken to, old enemies co-opted or subverted.
Finally, after a year, the five Regents of Raam met with Eloyas Ardian to discuss passage through the Pristine Tower themselves. Najaf had spent his spare time in Dregoth’s laboratory constructing an elaborate key that would admit all of them should they wish to go. They wanted to know what the experience was like.
Eloyas Ardian told them that passage through the tower was a chrysalis, a vast and alien power deconstructed you, refined you, into your most basic essence, then rebuilds you into what you SHOULD have been, writing you, your essence, into the world itself. Eloyas indicated that the original thirteen Kings and Queens had entered the tower together, under the guidance of the Dragon, with a powerful shared purpose… survival and the defeat of the Enslavers. They were generals in a fight for existence, and the strength of that shared purpose saw them through. Without a singular focus, or strongly held ideals, or a powerful intellectual understanding of the fundamental rules of the universe, you would probably just be obliterated in the process.
They five conferred, and all but Shahzadi decided to enter the Tower. Shahzadi and her husband and daughters would sit vigil, along with other guardians sent from New Kurn and the thri-kreen protectors of the family.
The five traveled to the Tower, the last, greatest enigma. Najaf called forth his key and they entered.
Alekel was deconstructed. He walked in the shoes of endless people, from all walks of life, he saw his purpose as one of endless curiosity, and relentless craving for new experiences. He sought change because stagnation was incredibly boring. He saw himself as a moral counterbalance to the rest of the group, knowing that despite not liking many of them, they could accomplish great things together…
Najaf was deconstructed. He came face to face with the person he used to be, the compassionate, kind, soft-hearted pushover. The moral man he was met the immoral power-hungry creature he became due to the psychic parasite that caused his transformation into a Greater Khayal. The parasite was winnowed away, but the potential, the power, the purpose it gave him merged. Najaf became, more wholly, a fusion of both people…
Qhari-Kos was deconstructed. She came face to face, for the first time, with the possibility of immortality. A creature who expected a mere handful of years, who lived entirely for the benefit of the generations who would come after her, was suddenly faced with the knowledge that she didn’t have to come to an end, that she could guide and guard all the future generations of her people… and she rejected it. The old Kings and Queens became stagnant. Only through constant birth and death would the thri-kreen adapt to the new age that was coming. She embraced her short lifespan, embraced the knowledge that everything she was would be passed on to a new Queen, and in so doing, ensured that the thri-kreen as a people would benefit from the transformation the Tower wrought…
Dhaara was deconstructed. She saw a life of action lived without concern for consequence, a Path of Action that sought to do what was right without concern for the fruits of action, and she was confronted with those fruits. She saw the endless chains of consequence, and had to grasp a balance between pure action without attachment, and right action for better consequences…
Some time later they emerged, transformed, four entirely new beings who had never, previously, existed.
Would they herald the end of the Age of the Kings? Would they, along with King Oronis and Lord-Protector Eloyas Ardian, succeed in making Athas bloom into new life once more?
I like to think, perhaps, they did.