Our latest dispatch is a collection of hurriedly scrawled notes sent by the desperate Xen'drik Blackwind expedition to their benefactor, the mysterious patron known only as Kalistos. Previous correspondence indicates that the team was preparing to depart Stormreach to barter for an item in the possession of a fire giant faction deep within the wilds of Xen'drik. Events, as usual, do not go according to plan.
Disaster has already befallen our expedition. I have little time for details, as we find ourselves deep within the wilds of Xen'drik, harried and pursued. In short -- After assembling the Blackwind team in Stormreach, we set out toward the territories of the Battalion of the Basalt Towers. According to the map Gorodon provided, the journey required overland travel through Riedran lands outside the forbidden city of Dar Qat(1). Professor Palinostrum made arrangements with Dar Qat officials before our departure to ensure safe passage, but in vain. We have been betrayed by the treacherous Riedrans!
In a narrow ravine just outside the city's main trade route, we were to meet with our guide, the expatriate Khorvarian druid known as Cairn. Instead, we were ambushed by a squad of Riedran assassins. Their attacks were, at once, physical, magical, and psionic. The assault was tactically sophisticated. Tybor was killed by a monastic warrior wielding a blade of pure psychic energy, and Jast fell to the concentrated mental attacks of two Riedran mindmages. Ashford, after engaging a trio of half-drow/half-scorpion monstrosities(2) apparently under the thrall of the Riedrans, disappeared in the melee. We would all have perished if not for the intervention of our druid guide, who arrived just as the battle was joined. Cairn brought the might of Xen'drik jungle itself to bear, and we managed a narrow escape.
We are three now -- myself, the Professor, and Cairn. I have of necessity taken the druid into our confidence, and he has agreed to send this message by way of animal courier. I can only hope it finds you in Stormreach. Alas, we must ourselves take flight, as our pursuers are closing. If it is within your power to scry or otherwise ascertain our position, please send help.
It is approximately 12 hours since we dispatched our last message. The Riedrans continue their pursuit, despite our best efforts to move quickly and lightly toward the Battalion territories. They are relentless. Cairn contends we are passing utterly without trace, thanks to his earth magic, so the Sarlonans must be tracking us by other means. The druid has summoned aid from the native creatures to delay our pursuers, but all other attempts at arcane communication and teleportation have been thwarted. Against my judgment, the professor believes we should send the attached documents to you in case we are defeated and all is lost. The included papers, magicked and encoded, indicate our current position and landmarks leading to the Battalion rendezvous. We are fatigued and far from battle ready and can only hope to keep running. Cairn reckons we are half a day from the fire giants' territories, and the Professor is confident we shall receive succor from allies there.
In sincere hope that this is not our last communication, I remain your friend …
Our luck improves. We have seemingly eluded our Riedran pursuers and are now camped near a bluff overlooking the Basalt Tower edifice indicated on the map. However, the area is abandoned, and there is evidence of a recent siege and much bloodshed. According to the documents provided by Gorodan, the artifact we seek is secreted within the vast, cyclopean vault below, belonging to giants of a past age.
Professor Palinostrum intended to barter with the Battalion for access to the artifact, but it appears that path is closed to us now. After communing with his bound vestige(3), the professor believes the artifact is still secreted within the ancient vault. It is his assessment that we can likely overcome the wards and attempt exploration of the ancient ruins. I concur. We shall commence at dawn. I trust our next communication will bring happier news.
(1) Dar Qat
Small City, Population 6,430
The city is beautiful -- more a work of art than a place of habitation. The wall surrounding the city is four times the height of a human, formed of blue crysteel that glitters in the light of the sun. It seems to have been carved from a single slab of crystal, though surely that can't be possible. Safely behind the wall rise a dozen towers of glass and stone studded with crystal spheres that pulse with all the colors of the rainbow. The buildings are smooth and rounded, with curved walls that create an aesthetic quite unlike the towers of Sharn or the ruins of Stormreach. As impressive as the city is, it is dwarfed by the massive monolith standing to the south. The ovoid monument is at least 800 feet tall and covered with a tracery of glowing lines.
Stormreach might be the largest human city in Xen'drik, but few people know that it was not the first settlement. That honor goes to Dar Qat, the outpost of the distant empire of Riedra. The Inspired lords who dominate Riedra have long been interested in the resources and secrets hidden in Xen'drik, and they established their city a full century before the pirates of Khorvaire set the first stones of Stormreach. In fact, Riedran merchant vessels have long been the favored prey of the northern pirates. Were it not for the steady stream of Riedran shipping, Stormreach might never have been established to begin with. Though many Sarlonan expeditions set out from Stormreach, Dar Qat is where all Xen'drik trade goods bound for Sarlona are refined and processed.
For more on the city of Dar Qat, see page 20 of Secrets of Xen'drik.
Eight segmented legs support the long body of a black scorpion. Where its head should be, the smooth torso of a dark-skinned elf rises up, its arms wielding silvered blades. The eyes of a hunter scan the area, while a long tail ending in a deadly stinger dances overhead.
The scorrow's physical kinship to driders is obvious, but they are not simply transformed drow. Rather, they are a race that breeds true. Scorrow live long lives and reproduce infrequently. Their young hatch fully formed and are expected to travel with the colony from birth. Those who are unable to keep up with their elders are left to fend for themselves, for the scorrow abhor weakness in any form.
Although their true origins are lost to time and the depths of the jungle, the scorrow claim that they were once the most skilled tribe of drow hunters in all Xen'drik. Their god Vulkoor admired their skill and sent to them a great gift. A colossal scorpion came to the village and stung every member of the tribe. Although the poison brought great pain, it also brought about a transformation, changing these drow into the first scorrow. The scorrow speak of the great scorpion with reverence and say that it lurks in the jungle still, appearing only to those worthy of its gifts.
The scorrow's predatory and migratory nature means that they have no central leadership or culture. Each individual or small clan lives according to its own whims. Scorrow's mutual disdain for other races mean that they rarely come into conflict with each other. The drow of Xen'drik respect the scorrow and treat them as divinely favored, but no great alliance exists between the two races. They sometimes work together -- if the scorrow view the drow as deserving their company.
For more on the scorrow, see page 81 of Secrets of Xen'drik.
Scorpion Empathy (Ex) A scorrow can improve the attitude of scorpions. This ability functions just like the druid's wild empathy class feature (PH 37), using the scorrow's Hit Dice in place of druid levels.
Skills A scorrow has a +4 racial bonus on Hide, Move Silently, and Survival checks.
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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