The agents went about investigating Isra’s shadowy organization. Through their own disparate methods, they discovered that the “Children of the Dragon” are cultists who seem able to channel the power of the Black itself in their strange, stygian magic. As a result, they don’t defile, and have access to a source of arcane magic relatively unknown in the world. They’re a relatively recent phenomenon, having arisen in the last two hundred years or so. They tend to infiltrate the city-states, influencing the lowest classes. One famous cultist, Amitabha, founded the Bhikaraya Sabha, or Beggar’s Guild, in Nibenay a hundred years ago, and that organization has influenced the underworld of that notoriously intrigue-riddled city ever since. Similar groups have taken root in Balic and Tyr, and even Urik is rumored to have a few.
They apparently have an ideology of service to the Dragon, a quasi-mythical, thoroughly feared figure to which each city-state sacrifices a percentage of their population annually. They typically see the Sorcerer-Kings and Queens as loyal servants of the Dragon, and work to secure the rule of the monarchs from behind the scenes. Things in Raam, however, were apparently quite different, as Dregoth has decided to call the Dragon’s bluff, refusing the Dragon Sacrifice that year. This refusal, and the appearance and infiltration of the Children seemed to coincide.
The agents seems somewhat confused about the Children’s approach. Isra seemed well aware that Najaf, Shahzadi, and Safa were agents of the King, yet rather openly solicited the alliance of their families, and practically advertised the Children’s agenda. After consulting with Mon Adderath, the agents concluded that the Children were playing a long game, playing relatively straight with Dregoth, and openly letting him and his agents know that they were watching. After consultation with Padme Shuja and Jai Maarham, the two houses decided to tentatively accept the offer of alliance while simultaneously seeking counter-infiltration of the Children’s lower ranks.
Most of this time, Dhaara was alone in the Jeweled Scarab. The experience of psychic combat inside Najaf’s mind once more disturbed her, and she needed time to herself to cleanse and meditate. Lanaya, the Saddhu proprietress of the establishment, came to her private room and told her that her great-great-great-great-grandfather wished to speak with her. Confused about this, Dhaara accompanied the Saddhu into the depths of the establishment to a room of white marble. In the center was a shallow pool full of fire, burning without smoke or fuel. Lanaya calmly walked into it and Dhaara followed…
She found herself on the elemental plane of fire, in a great city of brass. Ships plied the magma sea while the cinder-filled sky radiated uniform heat. Only Lanaya’s touch upon Dhaara prevented her instant incineration. They went into a mansion where bronze-skinned people of many races served and met the master of the house, the aforementioned ancestor. Many of Dhaara’s ancestors chose to be dedicated to Earth or Water, but this one had chosen Fire, and had done rather well for himself. He indicated that he had watched Dhaara perform Shahzadi’s wedding through the ritual fire, and was very proud of her. He saw great potential, and told her that she had his blessing, and that she could call upon his boon at any time. Lanaya returned Dhaara to the world, where she took a bath and thought about these events.
Eventually, they all rendezvoused at the Jeweled Scarab. Alekel did some impromptu performance which wowed the jaded crowd. Shahzadi ran into Fatima Hassan, the scion of her house, and fellow Offspring. They shared some veiled conversation about Abalach-Re’s appearance at the wedding, and agreed to meet for tea sometime.
The agents, having wrapped up their outstanding business, went to the Sepulchre where Taxma made his home. Taxma told them a bit more about Isra and the Children of the Dragon. Apparently he had once traveled with a fairly high-ranking member of the cult named Sorcha, who remained in New Antalus far to the south. Isra was a psychic copy of Sorcha stored in the body of an obsidian golem, capable of self-polymorph. This said to Taxma that the Children were wary of Raam, to send such an expendable agent rather than a real practitioner. He did indicate some of the rather outlandish resources Isra could bring to bear if suitably angered, however.
Taxma revealed the errand he wished them to embark upon. To the south of the ruins of Giustenal, at the borders of a part of Athas renowned for the most savage and unnatural beasts and dangers, there is a place called the Pristine Tower. This place has some connection to the Sorcerer Kings and Queens, and each of them has a “key”, a psychic construct or concept. Taxma has the “keys” from both Abalach-Re and Dregoth, and seeks to find out the significance of the Tower, but although he knows the general geographic location, it is apparently proof against all manner of scrying and long-distance information gathering. He speculates it resides in an otherworldly pocket, much akin to the Land Within the Wind. He charged the agents with physically traveling to the Pristine Tower, and upon verifying its relative safety, contacting him via Planar Sending. Taxma produced a thigh bone, ritually inscribed with lead and arcane powders. He indicated this was the focus that would permit him to teleport to their location regardless of interference. Upon being asked, he confirmed it was, in fact, his own thigh-bone, ritually removed (he got better). He gave them a somewhat crude map and wished them luck.