In our latest series of Dispatches, the anonymous expedition sponsor known as Kalistos has hired the changeling rogue Clovis Forlaine to infiltrate the borders of Riedra. Traveling surreptitiously in the repressive land of the Inspired, Clovis and his team attempt to make a very dangerous rendezvous -- and learn the true nature of this most unusual of expeditions.
Zol, 2 Vult, 998 YK
To: Clovis Forlaine
archival reference code 1653-B: transcribed from message via augmented speaking stone, magically sealed and encoded
I have received your report and hasten to reply.
Now that you have assembled the team at the border, you are to progress inland into the Riedran province of Dor Maleer, staying north of the Frostwall Mountains. The Akiak representative, Dens Joerlan, has been provided a map that details the area. Bear in mind that you are now in Riedra. The very sight of your duergar and shifter companions will cause panic among any human commoners you encounter. Remember that the humans of this land have been indoctrinated to believe all outlanders are, quite literally, demons. You must use the utmost precaution on this first leg of the journey and remain entirely unseen.
Your ultimate destination is the Riedran town of Dar Paneth. Following the trade route, you will come to a covered bridge approximately a half-day's travel from the coast. If all goes according to plan, you will be greeted at this bridge by two more travelers. The newest members of your entourage will be:
The first is Shiaali, a human dissident from the Corvagura province. She is associated with the underground group known as the Dream Merchants and is a skilled illusionist. Shiaali is among the most wanted 'criminals' in all of Riedra, and the Thousand Eyes have several death squads specifically tasked to hunt her down. The second is Pak'tokl, an emissary from the underground dromite communities. The dromites have been exploited as a slave race by the Inspired for many generations, and Pak'tokl is one of the very few city-hive leaders willing to associate with "surfacers" at all.
It is here that you must adopt your full disguise and make use of the identification papers we have prepared. It is absolutely critical that the ruse be prepared and executed as carefully as possible. You are to present yourself as the bounty hunter and gaoler known as Jharee of Pyrine. Shiaali will pose as your lieutenant, Dujiira of Rhiavaar.
To maintain the deception, Pak'tokl, Tel-Marq, and Joerlan must of necessity pose as your prisoners. Shiaali will provide the slave cart and draft animals. The cart is barred and covered and designed to pass the most thorough of inspections. There is a secret trap-door escape toward the rear of the containment area -- Shiaali will be able to demonstrate this when you rendezvous. You will likely pass through many checkpoints before you arrive at Dar Paneth. You must work closely with Shiaali. Her magical skills are very nearly a match for your own powers of deception. Together, you should be able to bluff the Riedrans long enough to make the journey.
As you may already have guessed, this expedition is far from typical. We do not seek gold or valuables, neither do we pursue artifacts or historical treasure. Instead, we endeavor with this quest to smuggle these important dissidents out from under the watchful eye of the Inspired and the Thousand Eyes.
I know you share my deep concern about the true nature and intentions of the Riedran leaders. It is our intention -- those of us bound together in this conspiracy of honor -- to bring to Khorvaire a collection of emissaries. These emissaries represent those people of Sarlona fighting back against the infernal machinations of the Inspired -- duergar and shifter, changeling and dromite, Tashanan and Akiak, Syrk and Adaran. Fate willing, your party will grow even further before we set sail. It is our hope that this delegation of worthies will convince the powers of Khorvaire of the grave threat that is Riedra.
Further instructions await when you reach Dar Paneth. Godspeed, my friend.
Organization: The Dream Merchants
(from p. 61 of Secrets of Sarlona)
People always want what they cannot have, and every new law creates a source of profit for those who challenge it. The major challenger in Riedra is a cabal known as the Dream Merchants. The Merchants are smugglers first and foremost -- they run dreamlily and other Sarlonan goods to Khorvaire, and they provide a black market for Riedrans who want goods beyond the basic tools of survival provided by the Inspired.
The Dream Merchants, while established in bastion cities, are rarely seen in the villages. Individual merchants sometimes travel between villages, posing as couriers. They carry bags of holding containing a wide range of contraband goods they can exchange with villagers.
Wandering merchants are generally masters of Sense Motive. They are very careful about whom they reveal their true nature to, since one misstep could bring death. Although most Riedrans have heard of the Dream Merchants, common wisdom is that these people are the direct servants of the altavars, sent to tempt and test the devotion of the innocent. Loyal Riedrans report such criminals immediately.
Dream Merchants can be found in most bastion cities with a successful DC 25 Gather Information check. Failure by 5 or more results in the authorities learning of the character's interest.
Organization: The Thousand Eyes
(from p. 56 of Secrets of Sarlona)
To a Riedran, no one in his right mind turns against the Inspired. Those who do are clearly victims of altavar influence. Someone must help these victims if possible, or do whatever is necessary to ensure that they do not threaten innocent souls. Those tasks fall to the Thousand Eyes.
The Thousand Eyes administer justice across Riedra and maintain the reclamation centers. Public agents of the Thousand Eyes -- easily identified by their green uniforms and golden badges of office -- can be found throughout any bastion, and people take comfort in knowing that these guardians are watching. Far more dangerous, however, are the secret members of the Eyes. Nearly anyone in Riedra could be an agent.
Agents of the Thousand Eyes are typically human, Chosen, or changeling. The bulk are simply observers, 1st- or 2nd-level experts who have maximum ranks in Disguise, Hide, Listen, Gather Information, Knowledge (local), Move Silently, Sense Motive, or Spot, along with a Craft or Profession skill used as a cover. More capable agents tend to be rogues or monks specializing in observation and stealth.
Sarlonan Characters: Dromites
(from p. 108 of Secrets of Sarlona)
Sarlona has a secret civilization deep beneath its surface -- that of the dromites and their city-hives (Expanded Psionics Handbook). The dromites of Sarlona are not a unified nation. They are insular at best and xenophobic at worst. Their inter¬actions with surface-dwellers have rarely been good. The Inspired have dealt with dromites using only murder and enslavement as "diplomatic" tools. Most dromites are content to live and trade among their kind.
In some areas, however, dromite reclu¬siveness is not the norm. The kalashtar made diplo¬matic inroads with them more than a millennium ago. Zi'til'natek, a city-hive under Adar, is loosely allied with the defenders of that land. Under the tundra, the few dromite hives have had decent relations with some dwarf clans.
Some dromite hives have taken a militant stance against all "surfacers." These extremist city-hives are uncommon and their citizens too few to engage in outright warfare. Instead, dromites from these hives employ sabotage and guerrilla strikes against threats they can manage, from unlucky ogre nomads to Riedran Edge¬walkers. Dromites of the city-hive of Nar'zix in Syrkarn are more insidious -- they have begun trading tainted Khyber shards through merchants in Ardhmen and other settlements.
Dromite settlements, large and small, exist all across Sarlona, hidden from surfacers and often removed from one another.
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.