Grief-stricken over the death of his wife, Lord Alistair Worthington founded the Hermetic Brotherhood of Al-Jahiz. He hopes that the society can re-discover the occult secrets with which the famed Al-Jahiz restored magic to the world. As founder, he is the Grand Master — of course. Some of his followers are as sincere as he is. Others merely crave proximity to the man’s wealth and influence.
Motives don’t matter in the end, because everyone present at what turns out to be their final meeting is brutally murdered, burned to death by a fire that consumes flesh but not clothing.