After a briefing on the political situation, including the names and political stances of the representatives of the various other cities, Templar Sumita engaged in some existential angst about her rapid rise from gutter-thief to Templar negotiating on behalf of a King. After being reassured, they all went to meet King Tithian of Tyr.
He sat on Kalak’s old throne in Kalak’s old throne room. Beside him, ostentatiously wearing the accoutrements of a slave, was his court wizard Sadira. Tithian welcomed the agents of Dregoth and the two parties engaged in some stilted conversation to feel out each others’ positions. It was mentioned that Tithian could easily become Templar to Dregoth, or for that matter any other King, including Hamanu, and the war would be over. He seemed strongly disinclined to do so. Eventually the reason came out.
Tithian considered Kalak’s disappearance to be a great gift. Tithian revealed that he, as High Templar to the former Sorcerer-King, knew rather more about Kalak’s mysterious fate than most people perhaps assumed. He believed that in that one act, of leaving not only the world, but this time itself, that Kalak had granted the people of Tyr a great boon… freedom. Tithian wasn’t referring to freedom for slaves, he had done that out of economic and military necessity. He meant freedom from the Dragon Sacrifice. The ancient pact between Dragon and Monarchs apparently only extends to those cities rules by parties to that pact. Tyr, as a free city, is outside the mandate of that bargain, and outside of the Dragon’s power to affect directly. So long as Tyr is ruled by someone who is not tied to the symbols and the power of one who has been transformed by the Pristine Tower, his people have effectively broken the shackles that bind them to this “prison of a world.”
It seemed clear that Tithian was feeling out the agents for their own knowledge of the Dragon’s purpose for Athas, and their own intent, or rather Dregoth’s intent.
Najaf, negotiating for the group, made it clear that Dregoth’s aid for Tyr was not contingent on Tithian becoming a templar again, and could certainly continue on the basis of foiling Hamanu. He also made clear his desire to research the interior of Kalak’s ziggurat. Tithian indicated that the ziggurat is tied to the power of the Kings, and that only those bearing symbols of a King’s authority may enter. He himself, no longer a Templar, could not, but the agents of Dregoth, as genuine instruments of that King’s will, could. He insisted that Sadira go along provided they could provide her sufficient temporary “agency” of their own King.
This, it turned out, was not a problem, as Sadira was secretly King Oronis of Kurn’s agent in Tyr, and had been inside the ziggurat, secretly, a number of times.
The agents and Sadira went to the ziggurat, finding a ruse to send Templar Sumita off on some errand. Once inside the ziggurat, they enacted further rituals to foil scrying and spying, and spoke openly of their shared service to Oronis, and discussed the complex geopolitical situation they found themselves in. Sadira led them deeper into the massive pile of brick. Each of the millions of bricks contained a trapped soul, and each of the chambers they passed through bore a different, exotic symbol. They reached the “foundation stone,” a single block of uncut, unformed obsidian.
The agents and Sadira put their respective vast skills and knowledge to bear on figuring out this stone, as well as the ziggurat themselves. They each contributed some knowledge to the whole.
The world, when scarred by violent, unnatural magic, such as powerful defiling, will form a “scab”, typically of obsidian. This is a magical and natural reaction to deeply unnatural acts. Far to the south is a vast plain of obsidian that stretches for uncountable thousands of miles. Entire forests were turned to black glass. Some immense cataclysm in the ancient past nearly destroyed the world, and the Great Obsidian Plain is the scab the world grew to contain that great wrong. Whatever it was, it was far beyond mere defiling magic, and this block of obsidian came from the heart of it. The oldest of legends and most hoary of ruins indicate that once the entire world was ruled by a malign, non-human race known only as the Enslavers, the race that the Dragon and his Champions arose in rebellion against. The runes on the ziggurat floor were reminiscent of old half-effaced symbols in their ancient ruins. It is guessed that in the immense past, the remnants of this race caused the Great Obsidian Plain in an effort to escape the war, to send the remainder of their race scattered backwards in time.
The upshot is: The ziggurat is an immense magical artifact channeling arcane energies into a matrix reminiscent of ancient Enslaver psionic methods, focusing on a block of obsidian infused with the energies of a place where time and space are weak. In short, Kalak spent centuries and the souls of millions to send himself somewhere distantly back in time, before the Dragon, before everything. He had well and truly escaped the prison of the world.
Najaf and Sadira spent the next 24 hours studying the ziggurat. They, and the other agents, discussed a number of ways it could be used. It could, for instance, be used for its intended purpose again, provided they could find another sacrifice of 199 gladiators in the arena at the base of the ziggurat, the blood sacrifice of which, as part of an immense rite, can power the device. They speculated that, if given an opportunity to pursue his original goal of becoming a god in a time where the Dragon wasn’t there to oppose him, perhaps Dregoth could be convinced to permit himself to be resurrected, and more importantly, leave the world behind and no longer oppose Oronis. They also discussed Tyr’s current problems, and ways they might motivate either Andropinis of Balic or the Regent of Nibenay to send an army, using the enticement of the ziggurat. They also discussed ways of changing the ziggurat’s function, altering the world in different ways. Dhaara floated the idea of dedicated all of the millions of trapped souls to the Elemental Fire, freeing them from a fate in the Gray, and maybe even buying the services of an army from the City of Brass against Hamanu.
Dhaara, using religious rites from Raam, summoned up a few of the millions of souls on their way out. They returned to the palace to sleep and contemplate the many earth-shattering possibilities before them.