Expeditionary dispatch 3: Sul, 16 Sypheros, 998 YK
From: Carnaby Tok, Expedition Leader, Mournland Silvercloud Team
To: Professor Ingrim Jarell, Library of Korranberg
archival reference code 4923-C: delivered ink-on-vellum, encoded, scroll case seal intact, clockwork courier
Dear Professor Jarell --
You will be pleased to hear that we have finally located Ulieth's Valley within the Mournland and ascertained the location of the hidden House Cannith compound. It is a small miracle -- all pre-War maps proved utterly useless, as did all traditional orientation processes such as star reckoning. However, thanks to Gantry's arcane resourcefulness and the abilities of our dragonmarked Orien guide Keleena, we managed to find a reliable technique of navigation in this impossible land. I'll be happy to share this valuable method(1) with you and the Library upon our return and the subsequent renegotiation of our contract.
You'll note that it has been a full week since the dispatch of our latest update via clockwork courier.(2) The intervening days have been spent in a most jolly and invigorating manner -- incessant flight from sentient spellstorms, regular encounters with the mutated dead, and a general ambiance of desperate, howling paranoia. Also, one of our porters turned into a giant cockroach.
As you will recall, we recruited four porters in Vathiron prior to our departure on the expedition proper. The porters were native Sharns, bound on a return caravan trip to that city, but we secured their services by doubling their usual fee. We lost one porter on our voyage upriver via elemental river skiff(2), but the remaining three proved stalwart and durable. Until three nights ago. 'Tis a tale for the books --
Ashford and I were awoken by the sounds of a struggle. We found our female porter, Yenna, defending herself against the sullen and generally mute porter who called himself Blatt. We were attempting to sort out the situation when Blatt, to our consternation and alarm, commenced to shed his very flesh. Within moments, a hybrid roach horror stood before us, standing upon two legs but with the torso and six claws of a grotesquely enlarged Sharn trash roach.
Ashford and myself made short work of the aberrant beast, but poor Yenna is thoroughly traumatized by her encounter with the monstrosity. I'd heard tales of these creatures in Sharn -- roach thralls(3) they are called, insects masquerading as men. Apparently, this specimen had traveled from the city in guise of a porter and was attempting to reproduce abroad. Gantry performed a perfunctory autopsy and pickled a few choice organs for later study.
So our luck continues to be grim, albeit in a most fascinating manner. Ingrim, my dear, I was a holy fool to ever undertake this expedition in the first place. But I swear on my grandmother's beard that we shall see it to completion.
As of this dispatch, we are encamped among a small boulder mound just northeast of the valley and near to the Cannith compound. The entrance itself is a small hatch in the ground, previously covered over with camouflage both actual and illusory. The mark imprinted upon the hatch seal matches the design you provided. Ashford has assessed the mechanical aspects, and Gantry assures me he can overcome the magical wards. Our supply of goodberry wine is all but depleted, so tonight we rest and attempt infiltration of the compound before dawn. Our intent is to retrieve the schema(4) as quickly as possible, then travel east across the Cyre River and into the Talenta Plains. I have contacts in Gatherhold that will shelter us there.
Yours Very Truly,
Carnaby Goebb, Expedition Leader, Mournland Silvercloud Team
(1) New Spell: Mournland Reckoning
Through the dark gloom of the Mournland twilight, a bright, beckoning star glimmers in your mind's eye, showing you the way ...
The magical energies released on the Day of Mourning rendered navigation in the Mournland next to impossible. Pre-war maps are useless, as the landscape is radically altered by magical forces. All techniques for wilderness orientation, even the stars, can be unreliable here. Mournland reckoning is a spell that can be used both to discern true north and/or find a single location, landmark, or item within the Mournland. Once cast, Mournland reckoning lets the caster automatically discern true north (as per know direction) for the duration of the spell. In addition, the caster can select a single location or item within the Mournland with which she is already familiar from past experience. By concentrating on this item or location, the caster can 'see' a glowing star on the horizon indicating the proper direction of travel. This illusory star glows a ghostly green and can be seen only by the caster. The caster must be able to 'see' the horizon directly (without using magical aids to penetrate walls or earth, for example), but the 'star' shines through any non-magical obscuration such as fog or cloud cover.
The spell has a chance of failure in proportion to the caster's familiarity with the location or item in question. If the spell fails, there is no effect, and the location of that particular item or location cannot be retried -- its location is obscured by the arcane eddies of the land. This spell functions only within the Mournland proper.
Special: A caster with any Mark of Finding or Mark of Travel adds a bonus of 20% to the usual chance of success. An ally with either Mark who helps prepare the casting of the spell adds a bonus of 10%.
Material Component: A pinch of Mournland soil.
(2) See Expeditionary Dispatch 1.
(3) Roach Thrall: See Sharn: City of Towers, page 183.
(4) For more on House Cannith schemas, see Chapter 12 of Eberron Campaign Setting or the adventure Shadows of the Last War.
About the Author
Glenn McDonald is a freelance writer and game designer in lovely Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He writes about games, film, technology, pop culture, shady characters, conflicted heroes, strange and terrible magic, and shadowy fantasy noir intrigue. Not all at the same time.
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