Zol, 2 Vult, 998 YK
Mere hours ago, under cover of a driving rain, we made our rendezvous with Shiaali of the Dream Merchants and her companion, the dromite emissary Pak'tokl. Beneath a covered bridge, we assembled our disguise. Shiaali and I are now presenting ourselves as Riedran gaolers, using the full powers of our illusion magic along with the uniforms and forged identification papers we prepared in advance. Our nonhuman companions -- Pak'tokl, the shifter warrior Tel-Marq, and the Akiak duergar Dens Joerlan -- are posing as our prisoners in the 'slave cart'.
This is a most dangerous game we are playing. Riedra is, without doubt, the most difficult land in all of Eberron in which to practice such bold deception. I worry particularly about the mind powers of the Riedrans and their Inspired leaders. I have no training whatsoever in the psionic arts and am trusting to the dromite and the duergar to maintain our concealment on this front. I am assured that they are equal to the task. Shiaali and I, meanwhile, are combining our arcane resources -- spells and items -- to avoid magical detection.
Wir, 3 Vult, 998 YK
We have settled tonight in a small roadhouse. The Riedran peasants maintaining this crossroad inn have proven warm, genuine, incessantly friendly, and completely unnerving. With our orange-and-yellow uniforms, Shiaali and I were immediately welcomed as noble soldiers of the Harmonious Shield, Riedra's standing army. These same innkeepers, however, so gentle otherwise, regarded our 'prisoners' with utter fear and hatred. More than ever am I convinced that the soul of the Riedran people has been blinded and poisoned by the infernal propaganda of the Inspired.
Zor, 4 Vult, 998 YK
Two days' travel toward Dar Paneth, and we have successfully passed through three impromptu inspections along the trade route and one official checkpoint.
It appears our deception is holding well enough for now. The Riedran countryside is remarkably bucolic and beautiful; such a counterpoint to the corruption that festers beneath. The inspections appear to be mandatory on this trade route. The military squads have simply checked our papers and stared with open hostility at our slave cart and its occupants. Near dusk yesterday, we spotted a massive hanbalani construction on the horizon. Scrying the site in more detail, Shiaali described hundreds of identically-dressed laborers clambering over the massive scaffolding like busy worker ants. It was at this point on the road that we endured a most rigorous checkpoint inspection -- by an official, I suspect, of the Thousand Eyes. We were very nearly discovered, but Shiaali was able to persuade the official -- via arcane suggestion -- that his efforts were better spent interrogating the farm convoy behind us in line. A very near thing, that.
As you can imagine, the journey is particularly uncomfortable for the others. Dens is complaining constantly now. Tel-Marq and Pak'tokl have managed to forge an unlikely shifter-dromite friendship by way of an impressively complex dice game they apparently invented to pass the time. We anticipate arrival at the rendezvous point in Dar Paneth on the morrow. Once we have picked up the last of the emissaries, I hope to report again immediately upon our departure for the coast. Most sincerely, I remain --
Magical Location: The Hanbalani Altas
(Secrets of Sarlona, page 62)
The massive monoliths of Riedra serve many purposes. They draw on the emotions of the nearby populace and transform these thoughts into psychic energy, which is used to power many systems in nearby communities. More importantly, they allow the quori to shape the dreams of masses of humans and in so doing, to prevent change in Dal Quor. Most important, the hanbalani are slowly bringing Dal Quor into alignment with Eberron, repairing the damage inflicted by the giants ages ago. Already, the quori are able to possess willing humans. As more monoliths are built, quori might be able to possess other willing creatures, and manifest zones tied to Dal Quor could appear across the world. Eventually, the quori should be able to physically manifest on Eberron.
NPC: Shiaali, Riedran Dissident
Shiaali, CR 6
Female human beguiler 6
AC 18, touch 13, flat-footed 15
Speed 30 ft. (4 squares)
Combat Gear wand of charm person (12 charges), potion of cure light wounds (x3)
Beguiler Spells Known (CL 6th)
Abilities Str 10 Dex 16 Con 8 Int 17 Wis 8 Cha 14
Armored Mage (Ex): Normally, armor of any type interferes with an arcane spellcaster's gestures, which can cause your spells to fail if those spells have a somatic component. A beguiler's limited focus and specialized training, however, allow you to avoid any chance of arcane spell failure as long as you restrict yourself to light armor. This training neither extends to any other form of armor, nor does this ability apply to spells gained from other spellcasting classes.
Cloaked Casting (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, a beguiler's spells become more effective when cast against an unwary foe. You gain a +1 bonus to the spell's save DC when you cast a spell that targets any foe who would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether or not the target actually has a Dexterity bonus). At 8th level, you gain a +2 bonus on rolls made to overcome the spell resistance of any affected target. At 14th level, the bonus to your spell's save DC increases to +2. At 20th level, you become able to automatically overcome the spell resistance of any affected target.
Surprise Casting (Ex): Starting at 2nd level, when you successfully use the Bluff skill to feint in combat, your target is denied its Dexterity bonus (if it has one) to AC for the next melee attack you make against it or the next spell you cast. You must remain in melee with the target, and the attack must be made or the spell cast on or before your next turn. The target is not considered flat-footed and therefore can make attacks of opportunity against you if you do not cast defensively. At 6th level, you gain the ability to feint in combat as a move action instead of a standard action. If you have the Improved Feint feat, you can feint in combat as a swift action.
The human beguiler known as Shiaali goes by many aliases and pseudonyms within Riedra. She is an adjunct member of the Riedran smuggling syndicate known as the Dream Merchants and a former operative within the Thousand Eyes, Riedra's 'secret police'.
Whether Shiaali was a spy within the Eyes or a legitimate Riedran agent since gone rogue, no one can say for sure. What is known is that Shiaali is particularly concerned -- obsessed, even -- with instigating revolt against the Inspired within Riedra. She is active in the smuggling of valuables, information, and dissidents out of that oppressive land, and has recently initiated contact with other Sarlonan groups outside of Riedra -- notably the shifter tribes of the Tashana Tundra and the refugee Akiak dwarves in the Paqaa Mountains.
Shiaali typically disguises herself with whatever clothing and accoutrements suit her current alias. She is small in stature, rail thin, and often shaves her head to a dark stubble. Her many years on the run have taken a toll on her health both physically and mentally, as reflected in her diminished Constitution and Wisdom stats. She tends to be cautious to the point of paranoia, anxious, and unhappy, as if haunted by guilty memories she cannot share.
PCs might encounter Shiaali anytime they encounter dissident elements within the nation of Riedra.
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.
©1995-2008 Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a subsidiary of Hasbro, Inc. All Rights Reserved.