The Expeditionary Dispatches series journeys to the distant continent of Sarlona, where the changeling rogue Clovis Forlaine undertakes a mission on behalf of the mysterious Khorvarian power broker known only as Kalistos. As the mission commences, Clovis leads his team from the coastal shantytown of Whitetooth in the Tashana Tundra to the borders of Riedra, land of the Inspired.
Mol, 2 Vult, 998 YK
From: Clovis Forlaine
archival reference code 1653-A: transcribed from message via augmented speaking stone, magically sealed and encoded
We have arrived at the northern border of Riedra and are moored within a small archipelago just off the western coast of the Tashana Tundra. I assembled the team in Whitetooth, as per your instructions. We number three now -- myself, the Saartuk shifter ranger Tel-Mark, and a representative from the Akiak duergar clans, Dens Joerlan.
I have made Tel-Marq's acquaintance many times before. His tribe, the Telaani, have become the de facto shifter authority in Whitetooth. He is a stalwart soul, a great warrior among his people, and rather a noble sort. Nobler than I, no doubt. Joerlan I know only by reputation. He is said to be among the leaders of the Akiak resistance forces in the Paqaa mountains. Neither have any love for the Riedrans, however, and in this we are all brothers.
The journey was typically arduous. The Tundra, as you know, is an unforgiving land at the best of times. In the dead of winter, it is a special kind of anguish. Tel-Marq knows the coastline well, however. The Saartuk people have been plying these shores from time immemorial. From Whitetooth, we skirted the coast for much of the voyage, and also took advantage of some shallow, inland waterways.
Yesterday at dawn we encountered one of the Tashana's infamous aukaraks or reality storms. In my time here on Sarlonan soil, I have endured more than a few of these, but this gale was particularly vicious. As you may know, the aukaraks are suspected to be rogue planar breaches, free-floating manifest zones that drift across the Tundra like weather fronts. This particular storm blew in from the east, bringing wind and snow, but also -- in sequence -- lightning, superheated rain, a hail of obsidian glass, a slightly acidic fog, a sustained drizzle of blood, a kind of sonic maelstrom, and finally an extended shower of fish. Yes, fish. Joerlan, who has made a study of the aukaraks over his many years, identified the storm as a breach to Kythri, the plane of chaos.
At any rate, we are now assembled at the border and I await further instructions. I trust the augmented speaking stone I am using, provided by our mutual friend in House Sivis, will bear this message to you securely, wherever you may be.
In alliance and companionship,
Magical Location -- Aukaraks (Reality Storms)
(from p. 144, Secrets of Sarlona)
Ask anyone on Sarlona about the vast, open spaces of the Tundra, and you're likely to hear the same refrain -- it is a land of strange weathers. The native shifter tribes can tell you more specifically -- The Tundra is home to aukaraks or reality storms.
Aukaraks are free-floating planar breaches, remnants of a long-ago era in which terrible magics rent the very fabric of the planes. They move about the Tundra, blowing in just as a rainstorm might and blowing over again just as quickly. In terms of game effects, aukaraks usually function as small, temporary manifest zones to one of the twelve planes that have coterminous phases with Eberron (see ECS 94). Aukaraks tend to be more intense and powerful than typical manifest zones, but they are unpredictable and impermanent. Reality storms also have a chance of "porting in" natives of a particular plane as if summoned -- these creatures are effectively unsummoned at the end of the storm's duration and return to their native plane.
When traveling in the Tundra, PCs have a 5% chance, cumulative per day, of encountering an aukarak (on the second day of travel, the chance is 10%, on the third day 15%, and so forth). An aukarak takes 1d10 minutes to fully manifest, sometimes simply materializing overhead, sometimes rolling over the horizon and toward the characters at the appropriate speed. The duration of an aukarak is 2d4–1 hours, with exceptions for burst storms.
Magic Item -- House Sivis Augmented Speaking Stone
This prototype from House Sivis is an augmented version of the ubiquitous speaking stones (ECS p. 263) that facilitate long-distance communication across Khorvaire. Only a handful have been manufactured, and their existence is a closely guarded secret within the House. An augmented speaking stone works like a typical speaking stone with the following changes.
- These prototype stones are smaller, more powerful, and designed to be portable -- weight is five pounds. Messages travel at a rate of 10 miles per minute; maximum message length is approximately 1,000 words.
- Augmented stones work in exclusive pairs, passing messages only between one another. They cannot (normally) send to or receive from standard speaking stones.
- Augmented speaking stones, in this prototype phase, do not require a Mark of Scribing to operate (although the Mark is still required to create them). As an interim security device, each set of two stones is magically connected to a corresponding set of two signet rings. A particular set of stones can only be operated by characters bearing the matching signet rings.
As prototypes, any given set of augmented speaking stones has a chance to malfunction. There is a 20% chance per use that a stone will malfunction, as randomly rolled from the following table:
||transmission fails; message is lost
||partial transmission; portions of message garbled
||transmission fails; message bounces back to original sending stone (with appropriate "travel time" elapsed)
||message transmitted to random standard speaking stone in 1,000-mile radius
||message broadcast to all standard speaking stones in 1,000-mile radius
Augmented speaking stones cannot currently be obtained on any open market. House Sivis, however, is currently 'field testing' several sets in various locales throughout Eberron.
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.