What is the Crimson Codex?
Behind every king, queen, emperor, empress, duke, or duchess, a network of people pulls strings and subtly influences the ebbs and tides of power. Khorvaire is no different. Since the founding of the Five Nations and the creation of a united Galifar, a group has acted as the power brokers and kingmakers who guide those who stand in the public eye as rulers.
The Crimson Codex has its roots in the advisory group to the first king of a united Galifar. Even a man with as much wisdom and charisma as King Galifar I recognized the necessity to rely on the counsel of others, who themselves had at their disposal dozens or even hundreds of loyal followers and servants. For the centuries that passed after the death of Galifar I, the powers behind the rulers worked tirelessly to ensure stability in Khorvaire and cement their own power in the process.
As with any organization, the whims and personal ambitions of its members can sometimes overshadow the goals of the organization as a whole. This is exactly what happened at the death of King Jarot in 894 CY. Rather than remaining completely focused on the continued existence of a united kingdom, certain members of this mysterious group attempted to manipulate the politics and economics of the situation to give themselves more power and influence. As a result, the already unstable situation deteriorated, until finally civil war rocked Galifar. The fragmented group tried to pull together and forge peace, but the wheels were already set in motion. Nearly 100 years passed before the group could come together behind the scenes and trigger the events that would lead to the Treaty of Thronehold.
One of the events that unified these divergent power groups was the discovery, collection, and translation of various pieces of the draconic Prophecy into a single document by a Korranberg scholar named Ohnal Caldyn. This document, known as the Caldyn Fragments by most, gave the powers behind the thrones a rallying point through which to focus their efforts. Taking the name Crimson Codex after the tome compiled by Ohnal Caldyn, this group pledged to use the Prophecy, as well as the secrets locked away in the continent of Xen’drik and elsewhere, to re-establish their control over the events of Khorvaire and increase their power throughout Eberron. In this way, the ultimate goal of the Codex is lasting peace and a unified kingdom on Khorvaire through the study and manipulation of the draconic Prophecy. However, whenever there is great power like that held in the Prophecy, there are people who would seek that power for their own ends.
Who joins the Crimson Codex?
While the leaders of this faction are usually highly placed wizards, sages, priests, and philosophers, the organization is far more than a cadre of intellectuals. Certainly the faction does draw those who seek to unravel the mysteries of magic and the great power that lies dormant in Xen’drik. Bards, loremasters, and other collectors of knowledge are drawn to the Codex, hoping to be the person who finds and interprets the next big piece of the Prophecy.
The Crimson Codex also relies heavily on spies, rogues and even ruthless warriors who can navigate the dangerous political landscape of both Khorvaire and Xen’drik. Members of the Crimson Codex must remain keenly aware of what other nations and power groups are doing in Xen’drik. And, of course, where there is danger, a strong sword arm and keen martial skills are also much needed. Those who will not fail in the face of either intrigue or battle are recruited heavily into the hierarchy of the Crimson Codex.
Finally, the connection between the draconic Prophecy and the dragons of Argonnessen is strong. Those individuals who marvel at and yearn for the powers of the dragons are drawn to the Crimson Codex. Since the Prophecy is like a living, breathing entity rather than a collection of dry tomes, people who possess or seek to investigate draconic powers within themselves often feel as though they are portions of the Prophecy given form and life. And they just may be right.
Where is the Crimson Codex?
The Crimson Codex has no true base of operations on Khorvaire, as the group is comprised of operatives within all nations and areas. Clandestine meetings take place in secret locations throughout Khorvaire, Xen’drik, and anywhere else two people can find privacy.
The Crimson Codex in Xen’drik, however, found it necessary to establish “barracks” in Stormreach where their operatives could be available at a moment’s notice. These barracks are tenement houses, boarding houses, and inns operated by the faction. Crimson Codex members often pose as average adventurers seeking fame and fortune in the wilds of Xen’drik. Some might take more mundane employment in Stormreach. Some members are sent to Xen’drik as representatives of other groups: spies for the nations of Khorvaire, bodyguards for a dragonmark house, acolytes of a church or correspondents for the Korranberg Chronicle.
What does a Crimson Codex member do?
Members of the Crimson Codex often specialize in certain areas: gathering information, interpreting information, research, stealth, intimidation, infiltration, and extermination to name just a few. Crimson Codex members operating in Khorvaire belong to one of four branches:
The Tomes – These are the scholars and seekers of scholarly knowledge about the draconic Prophecy and the happenings within and between the nations of Khorvaire. A Tome spends most of her time studying and writing, although a Tome may be called upon to travel when following a lead based on her research, or when sharing this research with others.
The Hammers – These are the military operatives employed by the Crimson Codex. A Hammer spends most of her time guarding important sites, escorting high-ranking Tomes on important missions, or searching out information in areas too dangerous for Tomes to enter. Hammers may also be called upon to perform highly dangerous paramilitary tasks in order to keep one nation from gaining too much power over another and upsetting the uneasy truce that currently keeps nations on Khorvaire from tearing each other apart.
The Specters – These are the spies and information gatherers of the Crimson Codex. Most Specters simply go about some sort of activity in the normal, day-to-day existence as a cover for their true allegiance. Specters have infiltrated various walks of life in all the nations of Khorvaire and elsewhere. A lower-level Specter may gather news while going about her daily routine as a cook in the employ of a noble or a dragonmarked house. Other Specters occupy dangerous positions as moles in other secret organizations.
The Serpents – This final type of Crimson Codex member is the elite of the organization. All PCs in the Crimson Codex are Serpents. These individuals have proven themselves to be special cases that can succeed in many roles. Each Serpent usually starts in a role in one of the other sections, but gets promoted to the Serpents by exhibiting special talents. Many times a team of Serpents needs to be put together on short notice. The team will be comprised of those who fit the roles needed for the specific mission objectives but flexibility is always key. Because of the chaotic and highly dangerous nature of life in Xen’drik, most of the operatives of the Crimson Codex on Xen’drik are Serpents.
When dealing with the obscure and esoteric fragments of the Prophecy, knowledge is obviously important, even for the most martial operatives. Knowing where in Stormreach to find something or someone without having to gather information for 5 hours can be the difference between life and death. Knowing the arcane or religious significance of an object or event may be more important to a mission than destroying an enemy. The inability to solve a puzzle may result in failure more surely than attacking a beholder with a butterknife. That said, even the most scholarly operative better be prepared to travel into the wilds of Xen’drik, leap chasms, fight terrible monsters, and survive the dangers of even the most grueling adventures.
But perhaps more importantly than all of this, the Serpents on Xen’drik learn very quickly that people do anything for power: friends kill friends, the good fall victim to their own desires, oaths are broken, and allies may come from the strangest places. The Serpents must navigate the maze of truths and lies without themselves falling victim to the draw of power. Power may corrupt, but even the corrupt can live a lifetime of pleasure that power brings.
Crimson Codex Organizational Structure
In Xen’drik, all matters flow through a single individual, who reports directly to Ohnal Caldyn. As Ohnal spends most of his time traveling the length and breadth of Khorvaire studying the Prophecy, his proxy in Xen’drik is an old friend named Zekeriff Brithlestone. Known as “Zeke” by all of the Crimson Codex members, this aging human poses as an importer and exporter while keeping his finger on the pulse of Crimson Codex activities.
Beneath Zeke are three assistants who help him maintain his cover business, as well as manage the activities of the Codex in Xen’drik. Each of these assistants is in turn responsible for three “handlers.” The handlers are tasked to manage the Serpents in their care. While there are attempts to protect identities of the assistants and handlers, Zeke is either unwilling or unable to hide his identity, and he often contacts Serpents directly to give them instructions or encouragement. In fact, the identities of Zeke’s assistants are more of a secret than his.