Having partaken of the rituals of hospitality, the agents of Dregoth settled in for a conversation with the strange party of clearly potent individuals encamped about the Pristine Tower. Information was traded back and forth in a cagey manner, and in this fashion, knowledge was gained.
They learned from Kiran of Nibenay that the Tower theoretically made anything possible. 124,000 odd years ago, twelve humans met at the tower at the behest of the Dragon where they underwent the transformations that made them immortal and powerful enough to fight their ancient war. These individuals became the Kings and Queens who persist to today. They learned that these Champions of the Dragon have, in the intervening millenia, developed four ideologies.
First is the ideology of the status quo. These Monarchs continue to husband the guttering civilization of the world as a resource for the Dragon’s inscrutable goals, participating in the Dragon Sacrifice, and ensuring that nothing significantly changes. King Hamanu of Urik is chief among such Kings, but others include the Oba of Gulg, the King of Draj, the Dictator of Balic, and the King of Eldaarich (a city none of the agents had ever heard of).
Second is the ideology of flight. These are the monarchs who have tired of doing the duty set for them by the Dragon and who seek to flee the prison that is Athas, to find new worlds, new places where they can rule without being constantly under the Dragon’s thumb. Kalidnay was the first to succeed in this manner five centuries ago, but recently others have discovered their own methods, including Nibenay, Abalach-Re, and in his own fashion, Kalak of Tyr.
Third is the ideology of death. Dregoth of Raam and Sielba, formerly of Yaramuke, being the only two monarchs to achieve undeath, have decided not to husband the guttering life of the world, but rather to extinguish it, eventually ruling over the corpse of Athas and the corpses of all its citizens. These two have ceased the Dragon Sacrifice so as not to rid their future empire of souls to rule, and also to call the Dragon’s bluff, as the act of violently punishing such an errant city would simply play into the hands of this philosophy. This philosophy believes its success is inevitable, and so Dregoth plays games of proxy-war with Hamanu and others with the cold assurance that no matter who wins any war upon the field of battle, Dregoth wins in the end.
Those agents of Dregoth who were counting realized that only one of these ancient champions who had gathered at the Pristine Tower long ago remained unaccounted for, but they were at a loss as to whom that might be. Kiran went on to discuss the last philosophy, that of renewal. One of these ancient champions, filled with grief over the damage wrought upon the world by their ancient war, sought a way to heal Athas. After millenia of study, he returned to the Pristine Tower where he underwent a second transformation. This King works in secret, developing the means to reinvigorate the atrophied connections between the world and the Elemental chaos, so that life might spring anew. This King is well aware of the fragility of his position. He works through spies and agents, keeping tabs especially on Dregoth and his city. This King already possessed dossiers on the agents, and this King’s own agent, Usuch-Si the sculptor, was inferred in the discussion. It was on this King’s behalf that Kiran’s own father was currently engaged in his own trials within the Tower, and it was on this King’s behalf that Kiran and her companions sought to sway the agents of Dregoth into becoming double agents.
They retired to a tent and linked their minds and discussed the matter. Inside her own mind and soul, Dhaara asked her ancestor to burn out the seed of death that Dregoth had planted inside her so long ago as the boon he had promised her. So pleased was he that she chose the path of ritual purity, that he did so without expending the gift he had proferred. Queri-Sed also felt that the prophecy of her people aligned perfectly with the ideology of rebirth as espoused by Kiran, and knew that she would need to remove Dregoth’s boon in order to give birth to her clutch. Najaf, to the surprise of some, expressed a well-reasoned defense of taking Kiran up on her offer, although did bring up some cautions, namely that being caught by Dregoth after such a betrayal would undoubtedly result in the destruction of House Shuja. Alekel expressed strong support for joining Kiran’s cause, and Shahzadi, while indifferent to matters of ideology and philosophy, was hardly going to betray the rest or act counter to their interests.
Having decided to betray their King and their employer, they once more sought out Kiran to discuss how, exactly, this would work out. They told her of Taxma, the apprentice to Dregoth who had sent them. Kiran informed them that she and her companions would not permit one who followed the philosophy of death to enter the Pristine Tower and bolster Dregoth’s faction. It was eventually decided that the Agents formerly of Dregoth would report to Taxma as planned and lure him to the Tower where everyone present would dispose of him. Kiran’s companion Sa’sha indicated that she had awakened the somewhat alien spirits of the land near the tower, and that un-anchored spirits tended to get… consumed… meaning return from death was much more difficult.
Najaf reported to Taxma, and Taxma eventually arrived. He looked dramatically different than he had when he sent the agents off on their mission. In the interim, he had finally completed a complex, year-long ritual to convert himself to one of the more powerful forms of undead. His eyes were pits of blackness, and his flesh hung dead on his frame. It was not altogether unexpected that he brought a number of large, physical undead with him, as well as a host of dozens of enslaved spirits. The fight was brief but savage and arcane power from Taxma, Najaf, and Kiran wracked the battlefield. Taxma himself seemed vaguely disgusted, and perhaps even a little bored. He seemed utterly unconcerned at the prospect of dying.
He was eventually struck down, however, and Najaf leapt upon him and began consuming the necrotic, fetid cranial matter that had once been a living brain. Najaf choked it down, gaining extensive memories and insights into Taxma, the fact that he had actually met Kiran and her companions once before in far off New Antalus, and the details of the ritual he had performed. This led Najaf to believe that Taxma may, in fact, return someday, but that it was unlikely to be immediately, or even particularly soon.
Having sealed their new allegiance in this manner, Kiran informed them that their new patron was King Oronis of Kurn, a city far to the north of Draj. She told them that the Kurn that Draj trades with is a waning shell of its former self, mostly because the King had relocated it to a mountain valley that had once been a battlefield in the ancient war. Defiling magic had blasted this valley in a manner much akin to the land surrounding Giustenal, smoking pits of bubbling black necrotic tar, not only the absence of life, but the anathema of life. Over the millenia, the King had practiced his new rejuvenation arts and had succeeded in turning the valley into a paradise, a garden, an exemplar and symbol of his philosophy, and proof that it was possible. Kiran then had Sa’sha take them there.
Sa’sha utilized some primal form of teleportation, and they all arrived on a ledge on a cliff face in the cold of high altitude. Snow could be seen on the mountain tops. Below, a lush valley spread out, green with crops, orchards, and wild-growth. Docile animals were kept in pens, flowers bloomed in profusion. This was like the most lavishly tended city-garden of a wealthy noble, but on an immense scale. In the center of the valley was a city with no wall, rather a sprawling collection of building arranged in harmony with the flow of the rivers and the lay of the land.
As they descended, the tactically-minded realized that the city was not quite a defenseless as it seemed, but still must rely heavily on both secrecy and the presence of a single mountain pass to enter. The arcane-minded could still feel the ancient ache of the land beneath their feet, but the thrum of living magic bolstered everything around them. Sa’sha casually mentioned that there was no slavery in New Kurn, a prospect that caused much confusion in the caste-minded Raamese.
They found themselves in a garden in the heart of the city even more ridiculously lavish than the rest of the valley. Here they met King Oronis. He appeared as a simple man of middle-years, dressed for gardening, but with opalescent eyes. He greeted them with courtesy and without particular arrogance, and conversed with them, answering their questions. He explained that he could teach a new way of doing arcane magic, a method that didn’t siphon life from the land, but rather reached beneath the land to the Elemental Chaos beneath, drawing power directly from the wellspring of all energy and life. In so doing, his magic actually renewed atrophied channels of power, strengthening the connection between the Land and the Elements. His magic actively renewed the land and could not defile. He could teach this magic to anyone schooled in the arcane. The problem, he explained, was that it was effectively starting over. Wizards would be learning everything anew, and developing their power anew, and the temptation to revert to old methodologies at need was often too strong.
Oronis had a platter of fresh fruit brought. He muttered a complex spell over it, and asked the Agents to eat. As they did so, they felt the boon granted to them by Dregoth, the ability to summon the energies of death into them at need, draining away. Once more they were untainted by death.
King Oronis answered Najaf’s questions which was aimed at the odds of eventual success, namely how someone who encouraged life could hope to succeed against those who could use death and defilement indiscriminately. King Oronis answered that those skilled enough in his form of magic, as well as potent Druids and others connected to the land, had methods to prevent defiling. This not only removes a tool from the enemy, but also potentially could throw them off their guard and make them weak. Finally, amidst various other questions, the question was asked about what to do about Dregoth.
King Oronis indicated that, in his mind, the angle to pursue is Mon Adderath. Mon Adderath was split from Dregoth’s psyche by the long-ago process of transformation wrought by the Pristine Tower. They are, essentially, two halves of the same soul. More than a hundred millenia of separation, however, makes them effectively different people, but they still share a fate. It was Mon Adderath who performed the rite to return Dregoth to corporeal undeath, and it is Dregoth’s continued existenc that permits Mon Adderath to continue to exist. They also, however, embody very different aspects of the psyche. Dregoth is cunning, intelligent, but quite mad and power-hungry. Mon Adderath appears to have an actual, genuine concern for his subjects and the people under Dregoth’s rule. Oronis indicated that long ago, in the great war, Dregoth was actually a very popular general of his men, a tactician and sorcerer of great skill. Much of that charisma and genuine concern for his people remains in Mon Adderath.
Oronis opined that while Mon Adderath would never act against Dregoth, he could be convinced to act in Dregoth’s best interests even if that would mean going against Dregoth’s wishes. The trick is to convince Mon Adderath that the best course of action would be to resurrect Dregoth from the dead. Oronis theorized that a proper resurrection might give Dregoth a new perspective, and even if he did not become a follower of the rebirth philosophy, he may choose to diverge from the philosophy of death.
In answer to the query into how the Agents could hope to fool their former master, Oronis indicated that it wouldn’t be easy, but neither would it be as hard as they seemed to think. Dregoth has the utter arrogance that only a King, millenia old, with absolute conviction that he will eventually rule everything can have. If seven unified Kings and Queens couldn’t kill him for long, why would he consider one of his templars and his friends to be a threat? Oronis indicated that they would have all the support he could provide via Usuch-Si, as well as Raam’s Veiled Alliance in their endeavors, whatever they might be. He suggested a patient, careful approach.
Having given them much to think about, King Oronis left them to wander the garden and converse.
XP: Advance to Level 21