In our last dispatch, Provost Tal d'Archer of Morgrave University employed the rogue Ashford Terra to investigate an ancient goblinoid well mouth discovered in the Depths of Sharn's Dura Quarter. Ashford, in turn, sent two local associates to scout the area -- the hobgoblin warren leader O'bo dob'Dura and his kobold comrade Jabber. Their discoveries prompt Ash to make a more careful inspection…
Sul, 15 Aryth, 998 YK
Greeting Provost d'Archer;
After receiving your note, I dispatched associates to uncover the well mouth. They were interrupted in their delve, however, when they found a new passage carved into the side of the well. There they encountered a starving human who claimed that Cyrans -- or rather, Sharn immigrants from the ruined nation of Old Cyre -- were being held captive in an underground network.
I recalled my associates and paid for their silence. I reckoned that, for reasons that will become clear in a moment, there may be political aspects to consider here. After a brief preparation, I undertook to explore the well mouth myself, along with the druid Cairn(1), with whom I believe you are familiar. What we found was disturbing indeed.
It seems the initial well is truly ancient, of goblinoid design, sealed and untouched until only very recently. A new tunnel has been joined to the original, laterally, about 30 feet below the mouth. This is of much newer construction -- within the last few months, I would reckon. It appears to have been magically excavated and sealed off with an iron portcullis.
By use of Cairn's nature magic, we descended upon the air down to the level of the lateral tunnel. The druid grasped the metal and rusted it through in an instant, allowing us entry. Cairn, as you know, is quite versatile for a druid, as home in the Depths of Sharn as he is in the deep shadows of the Eldeen. He has concerns in the Citydark, principally with planar breaches, and is well-traveled indeed -- are you aware of his pedigree within druidic circles?(2)
The tunnel led directly to a section of the old, municipal sewer system. Many tracks here, all humanoid, both boot-shod and barefoot. Cairn says many of the tracks are recognizable to him -- a boot design specific to the Brelish army. We found a holding cell scooped from the sewer wall, abandoned. The sewer section itself was choked off at both ends by collapsed rubble. These collapses were very recent, almost certainly deliberate, and completely impassable.
Within the holding cell were fresh blood and scrapings on the walls -- evidently captives trying to dig their way out. Also this -- wedged into a crack in the cell, we pried loose an epaulet of the old Cyran army, from a rather vintage period it would seem.
Finally, we found the item I am including with this package. I'm hoping Morgrave scholars can make some sense of it. I haven't seen the like(3). Whatever it is, I find to my surprise that it physically sickens me to behold it -- and I am not easily sickened.
While there exists a standing Brelish army, there is, of course, no Cyran army anymore. When my initial retainers encountered the prisoner, he claimed that Cyrans were being kept and killed or hunted. It's obvious that we have accidentally uncovered a portion of a larger network of tunnels, and that the collapses are deliberate attempts to evade immediate pursuit. What grim mystery unfolds here?
Cairn and I returned to the surface to examine the Cyran epaulet more thoroughly and to consult with our mutual friends at the Emporium(4). I have my suspicions regarding these events and think it best to avoid official channels for the present. If you choose to become involved further, meet us at dusk this night at the Emporium.
(1) NPC: Cairn, Gatekeeper and Warden of the Wood
Cairn, Gatekeeper and Warden of the Wood
AC 17, touch 10, flat-footed 17 (+7 armor)
Speed 20 ft. (4 squares); woodland stride
Abilities Str 10, Dex 11, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 19, Cha 14
Cairn, Dire Bat Wildshape Form
AC 27, touch 15, flat-footed 21 (-1 size, +6 Dex, +7 wild armor, +5 natural )
Speed 20 ft. (4 squares); fly 40 ft. (good)
Abilities Str 17, Dex 22, Con 17, Int 10, Wis 19, Cha 14
The druid known as Cairn received his initial training as a Warden of the Wood under the tutelage of the awakened greatpine Oalian deep within the Eldeen Reaches. As he rose through the ranks, Cairn worked closely with the orcish Gatekeeper sects of the western Reaches. He is, in fact, one of the very few druidic initiates to hold official title as both a Warden and a Gatekeeper, and serves as the primary liaison between the two groups. He is also a rather advanced linguist, fluent in eight languages and familiar with a dozen more.
In recent years, Cairn has dedicated himself to determining the nature of the great catastrophe that ended the Last War and created the Mournland. His pursuit of this goal has led him to travel the breadth of Khorvaire, as well as portions of Xen'drik, Sarlona and Argonesson. He is equally at home in urban and wild environments, viewing technology and civilization as merely manifestations of a deeper natural order. He reserves his wrath instead for those who would breach the planar barriers that protect Eberron from the horrors of the outer planes.
Physically, Cairn in his natural form appears as a tall, rake-thin human of advancing years, with dreadlocked blond-grey hair and windburned, weathered skin. However, when traveling or otherwise living outside the city, he tends to remain in wildshape form of a great brown bear or dire bat. His travels currently prevent him from keeping a permanent animal companion.
In battle, Cairn prefers to remain in wildshape, often hovering as a dire bat, while casting via Natural Spell. When electing to stay in human form, he will often concentrate on summoning elementals via Summon Nature's Ally, commanding them directly with his elemental language skills.
(2) Gatekeeper Hierarchy (from p. 100 of Faiths of Eberron)
Being few in number and widely scattered, the Gatekeepers have little formal organization. The most senior druids are usually occupied with studying the heavens, but when a threat arises, they quickly call the others. Individual bands of hunters are widely scattered in the world, many in far-flung reaches such as the Mournland and even across the seas, which makes contact difficult. Still, their Siberys observatories enhance scrying spells, greatly aiding communication.
The elder Gatekeeper of the Shadow Marches, Saala Torrn (NG female half-orc druid 14) is as close to a leader as the sect has. She does not command others or set policy, but those in search of wisdom seek her out. It is said she carries the last words of Vvaraak to his pupils, recorded in a mystic crystal passed down through generations of Gatekeepers in her clan.
Other gatekeepers and initiates serve their regions as authorities on the sect's history, preside over initiation ceremonies and major rituals, and help to pool aid against common dangers. Only a handful of gatekeepers proper exist and perhaps three dozen initiates. No more than two hundred members of the sect are aspirants, generally not exceeding 3rd level. Most aspirants are druids, but some are adepts, and the orc culture contributes quite a few spirit shamans (Complete Divine 14).
A typical hunting group comprises three or four combatants led by an aspirant. It's unusual for a member to exceed 5th level. In more dangerous areas or where the hunters are called together against a specific threat, a group might number up to a dozen, with two aspirants and an initiate or even a gatekeeper in command. Such groups might contain moderately high-level rangers or barbarians. A hunting group operating out of the Green Spire (a Gatekeeper bastion located in the Shadow Marches) might even include a symbiont-wearing impure prince (Magic of Eberron 73).
(3) Religious Equipment: Flayskin (Faiths of Eberron 153)
Flayskin is created by tanning leather through a lengthy alchemical process. (The leather is sometimes human skin, though this is not required.) When this special leather is worn against the skin, the substances within it slowly numb the wearer's flesh. The wearer still feels pain but can withstand more than normal. Followers of the Mockery sometimes use flayskin during rituals involving self-mutilation, allowing them to extend those rituals much longer than normal.
Any living creature wearing flayskin gains DR 2/lethal (that is, they gain damage reduction 2 against nonlethal damage only). A given application of flayskin functions for only 24 hours. After that time, the alchemical substances leave it brittle and useless. A suit of flayskin fits any character of its size category (Medium flayskin fits any Medium character, for example, but won't fit a Small or Large character). Adjust the price for smaller or larger creatures as if flayskin were armor.
Price 100 gp.
(4) a.k.a. Carnaby and Tok's Wondrous Emporium; see
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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