To Rise from the Ashes

Covert Ops in Thrane
snoopin' 'round

It was a cloudy day that took a while to warm up. Fog hung heavy in the air until mid-morning, and it appeared that the quarry was full of mist for hours after dawn. A light breeze kept the temperature down, and it wasn’t until the sun poked through thick clouds at mid-day that the chill of the night fully disappeared. By mid-afternoon the clouds had asserted themselves over the sun again, and a light rain came, on and off, until the dinner bell, when work in stopped and the prisoners were marched back to the camp.

After watching the camp, quarry, and worksite for a few hours to get a sense of the ebb and flow of people and work, Amarack prepared for his daytime reconnaissance, standing in the shadows of the great forest as Luc weaved his invisibility spell around the cleric. Within an instant of the wizard completing his arcane mumblings and hand motions Amarackk faded from sight. “Remember, you’ve got an hour, and no more, and I can’t hide any sound you might make, so be careful,” Luc reminded as Amarack made for the open field between their forest camp and the western edge of the quarry.


That night, Deaton went through the same short process with Luc, and took off at a jog into the darkness, heading around the southern side of the quarry so as to examine the worksite some, and move around the southern side of the palisade. His would be the longest, in terms of distance, and so he would need to move quickly.


Early on Thursday morning, after Deaton had returned, provided his report and went to sleep, it was finally Luc’s turn. Casting his spell on himself he started toward the camp, searching for water and food sources, and any other information that might give them an idea as to how to formulate a rescue plan.


The clock was ticking louder than 24 hours before – they would need to be gone from this area, prisoners in tow, no later than Friday night, or at the latest some time before dawn on Saturday, if they had any hope of making it to the rendezvous point. Time was not on their side at this point.

Remember: Once you all read this and the secrets for each of you it will be Thursday, 8am. You are running out of time.

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Sentinel Peak
a quarry and a camp

Meta
You can download a map of the facility here, and I’ll email a copy to you, as well.

During the day the flags of the Silver Flame flies and Thrane fly from a tall pole on the Thrane side of the camp. The morning started off with what looked like prisoner role-call, with the men and women being mustered in the yard between their barracks and the wall that separates them from the Thrane side. A bald, bearded man addressed them and led them in morning prayers to the Flame – the response was muted, but they followed along. Several guards stood around the assembled group, but it didn’t look too strict – orderly, yes. Routine, yes. But it didn’t look like there were any beatings about to be meted out. The man addressed the 50 or 60-some people for about 10 minutes, wearing all black with silver ornaments and jewelry on him, but you couldn’t make out what he was saying.
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Once this was over the prisoners marched, in orderly fashion, toward the L-shaped building and filed by it, getting breakfast from what had to be a food line (which you couldn’t see due to the building & palisade). They milled around the buildings and yard, under watchful eyes, for another 10 minutes and then a bell rang, calling them to attention. They formed up in tight groups near the western gate and were then marched out in a two-column formation.

Most of the prisoners went directly to the quarry, which means you lost sight of them due to the angle from which you viewed the whole scene. About 1/3 of them headed to the yard south of the camp and could be seen getting animals and equipment ready. Some activity continued in the prison camp, with a small group of what looked like prisoners doing work details there and on the Thrane side.

Work is underway no more than 45 minutes after sunrise – not that hard-driving, but with what you saw, definitely orderly and routine.

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Anticipation
The biting of nails and counting of seconds

Deaton sits staring at the camp, staring with eyes that dry to a sticky irritation before consciously forcing a blink. His thoughts wobble back and forth, like a spinning top that was losing momentum and preparing to fall. He had been trying to keep from allowing his hope to build up during the trek to the quarry, but once he laid eyes on it—saw that it was real—he could not help but give in to the fantasy. His father and two brothers were military men in the life before this one. The life before New Cyre. He imagined his brothers, alive but emaciated, forced to break or excavate rock after rock. He saw as they faltered when they were whipped for some minor infraction. He imagined his father, always the strongest man in the world in Deaton’s eyes, trying to protect his brother from the lashing but receiving his own instead. Deaton forced a blink to rewater his eyes again, shaking the ghosts of a dead life from his mind. He knew it was a fantasy, but as the seconds ticked and the pieces came together at an agonizing pace he couldn’t help but to give in to it more and more. Each time the temperature of his blood rose another degree. Each time his mouth salivated with the thought of revenge. Even still, shame welled up in his stomach that he had not marched next to his family as he should have.

“Amarack, I know you to be a righteous man. But, I also know there are wicked men down there. Men we cannot leave in this world for the sake of itself. They deserve our presence here. This is the first step to the world righting itself again”

Deaton looks at the silver amulet he has clutched in his hand being careful not to let it glint in the sun. The silver raven embossed on the face of it had a bit of grime from being handled too often lately.

“I think Luc knows what must be done. I also think you are absolutely willing to do what must be done. I just hope you know the desperate place to which we have arrived. We aren’t just freeing these poor men for their sake. This may be our last chance to breathe life back into Cyre to raise it from the deathbed upon which it now rests. Our way of life exists now only as a hospitality of a foreign host. We have no land. We have no culture. Our brothers are breaking rocks for the people who have done this to us. Make no mistake, we are still at war and this is our battle. The other nations want Cyre to die quietly. But, you already know that, I think…”

Deaton starts to crawl backward toward the sleeping rolls but pauses.

“Whatever happens, brother, I’m glad we’ll all be standing together… Cyre’s Sons of Oblivion, right?” Deaton feigns a chuckle and continues crawling back to the camp.

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"Think they'll make it?"
seem like good men...

Owen and his crew steered their vessel, the Ginny’s Delight, out of the Brey River and southward out into Lake Brey, shrouded by the pre-dawn mists. The men began talking in appreciation of the deer the three Cyrans had brought them. The conversations turned to estimates as to their chances in Thrane, and the likelihood of making it back to the rendezvous point a week in the future.

“Their hearts are in the right place, and you can tell they’re serious…and I’d say capable,” mused Owen as dawn broke. “And we’ll be there for them, as agreed,” he continued, “and ready to speak their eulogies if needed, should the Thranes take them.”

The men, subdued by the thought, went about their work as one of their number dressed the deer and prepared to cook some and salt the rest. A busy day lay ahead of them, and more long days to follow if they were to complete their scheduled runs and slip back into the river several days hence.

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Into Thrane
crossing the border to find our boys

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Tohma’s friend, Owen, seemed to be a good man – certainly a smuggler, and comfortable working on the edge of the law, but a decent fellow. The meeting, an hour or so after sunset, went as planned, and the three Cyrans were scrambling up the northern banks of the Brey River just before sunrise the next morning.

The muddy, hilly country slowed their movement through the morning mist, but they made steady progress up a series of low hills away from the river and deeper into Thrane. Navigating a marsh on the northern slopes of these hills later on the first afternoon, the three men were set upon by four frog-creatures and two giant frogs, which rose from the water and foliage around them on all sides.

The beasts initially surrounded the three men and landed some significant blows before Deaton’s quick movement and Amarack’s healing gave the men some breathing room. Rogert, forgetting the risk to himself, scurried up a mossy log to get within range of several of the attackers and sprayed a cone of flame from his hands at them, killing two outright and badly singing a third. From this point forward the fight tilted in the favor of the men, who dispatched the frogs and frog-men. The only things of value on the creatures were their four rustic short spears and a very nice shield strapped to the back of one of the things. After Rogert spent time identifying it he determined that it had a magical aura that not only provided additional protection to the attuned wielder, but also provided special protections against ranged attacks. A surprising find on such primitive creatures, but a welcomed one.
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Onward the men pressed after a short rest, through the early hours of night before finding a hidden area to camp. Each man felt uneasy that night, hearing distant breathing in the darkness, and feeling a slight sense of being watched, as well. Thrane seemed angry to have been penetrated as such, and was perhaps making its presence known.

On the morning of the second day of travel the men came across a small, rough campsite – a lean-to, small rock campfire circle, and some other evidence of recent use – and then heard a woman’s voice, scared, calling out “who’s there?” Spreading out to ensure their safety the three simultaneously looked into the campsite, checked the woods around the trail, and sought to move around to one side to get another view. Deaton saw a woman in dirty clothes and wielding a primitive club, moving among the trees opposite him; Rogert also saw this, albeit from afar, and then watched as she disappeared from sight while behind a tree, blocked from Deaton’s view. One moment she was there, and then there was a blurring of the lines of her figure followed by a sudden fading of her color and then…nothing.
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Moments later she reappeared, behind Amarack and swinging over-sized clawed hands at him, and missing horribly. The short fight was defined, in fact, by her ineptitude and expression of anger, then frustration, then surprise and fear as she realized how outmatched she was. It was at that point that she started running, only to be struck down by a volley of force bolts from Rogert’s fingers. In addition to some coin found in a greasy leather pouch she had a number of fetishes made from bones and teeth and, disgustingly, a small collection of what looked like the jaw bones of human children. Clearly, they’d rid Thrane of a foul killer.

Onward the moved north, toward the quarry, following two smoke trails rising from over a hill to their forward right and the growing green expanse of the Harrow Crowns – a massive, old growth forest – to their forward left.

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Moving out
and undercover

Meta
I know we’ve only a day or so, but use this post as a place to discuss some of your ideas about how to get across the border and to your destination. Anything will help me finalize plans for tomorrow.
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Take a look at the distances involved. New Cyre to Starilaskur is about 120 miles, and you took an established road between them. From Starilaskur to your desination is about the same distance; however, if you go as the crow flies it’ll be over open terrain, a good amount of which is swampy. Sure, there are minor roads and trails, but it’ll take longer. From the camp to Vathirond is about 150 miles or more. Mind you, the quarry is only about 30 miles north of the Brey River, which is the border between Thrane and Breland in this area.

As I’d mentioned before, the rainy season has ended, although it still pours on some days. The river is swollen and the areas around it are marshy. The foliage in this area is dense right now, which could make for tough travel overland, and will also provide better cover. Game is likely to be plentiful due to the good weather and water. The days are getting warmer, as you head toward summer, and the nights are cool. Overall, the weather is great for travel.

The towns of Nethyrr and Siyar are one the scale of New Cyre, although more firmly established. From what you’ve been able to learn there are Thrane forces stationed at both, along with what you’d expect to be a typical constabulary, but there are no Thrane military bases of any size in the area – of which you know, at least.

Lurching Tower, a Brelish post, sits near the border, and is atop a series of caverns and catacombs with a mysterious, nasty reputation. Beyond that all you know is that some major battles were fought in this area, where three of the five original nations of Khorvaire came together.

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Tohma's Information
and plans for the next step

Steppin Tohma and Naeri were suspicious at first, but were willing to discuss a deal once Dyamauex Artur D’Phiarlan was mentioned – apparently the two had at least a good working relationship, because the smuggler opened up more. That and the heap of gold on the table.

Yes, there was at least one work camp, at a large quarry, in southern Thrane. Yes, he was certain there were Cyrans held there, at least as recent as a few months ago. “Cyrans are easy to spot – funny accent, sharp features, and there aren’t many of you left, so you’re all the more obvious. Especially around Thranes – your people are easy to spot,” he confirmed.

No, he would not help them in moving people. No, he couldn’t stand the Thranes, although he’d do business with most anyone who’d help him turn a profit. And no, he wasn’t interested in playing any direct or even indirect role in some kind of mission or “…whatever half-baked plan you’re hatching.”

But yes, he would provide information – a location, with reasonably detailed directions. And what he knew of the site itself, with a sketched map on paper and some questions answered about who was there guarding the place and how many people were being, it seemed, held there. He would also answer some questions about the border. No trade secrets, of course, nothing to incriminate him, of course, but he’d part with some information for the 20GP Deaton provided. And he agreed to Rogert’s request, with a 30GP retainer, for a one-time Sivis message if he found out something particularly useful for them.

The place is called the ‘Sentinel Peak Labor Facility,’ and is the camp for the workforce of a large quarry to the east of the Harrow Crowns, and south of Nathyrr. It’s within a mile of the forest, and about 10 miles southwest of Nathyrr, a medium-sized town that exists as a focal point for the quarry and local agriculture as they connect on the trade route that runs through the town. The quarry is south of the Nathyrr-Silar road, and about 25 miles north of the Brey River, with the area between the quarry and the river being pretty swampy.

The camp is run by a guy named Toor Grin’dar, who is apparently not only the commandant of the camp but also some kind of official of the Church of the Silver Flame – “I don’t keep track of their titles, but he’s got a long one,” remarks Tohma. There are probably about 60 or so workers, whom he thinks are prisoners, given the way the place is laid out. There are also probably 15-20 guards and some other Thrane workers, so maybe 100 or a few more people there.

The camp is surrounded by a wooden palisade, and the western gate provides entry into an inner yard, which is then separated from the rest of the camp – what looks like the working portion of it and the housing portion – by another palisade. The guards are typical Thranes: serious, official, and doing their best to at least appear that they’re on the job, all the time. Perhaps they are.

Tohma is willing to give you a few more minutes over a beer to answer some questions. He’s been to the camp only once, although recently. What is it you want to know, in addition to what he’s told you?

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Traveling to Starilaskur
with some bumps in the road

Their meetings with Prince Oargev and the Lady Taerings were both informative and pleasant, with more weight added to the ‘rumors’ of Cyran POWs held in Thrane. No Cyran patriot believed otherwise, but the issue was complicated due to the diplomatic status of New Cyre, Thrane’s general intransigence concerning requests of outsiders, and the logistics involved in either finding or freeing any such people. Those challenges aside, quiet support was offered by the Prince and the noblewoman, especially in the case of the latter, who offered use of her estate outside Vathirond and even provided the team with 100GP to help with their efforts.

Having agreed to escort a small trade mission to Starilaskur, the team departed New Cyre the next day and headed north along the secondary road that connected the two cities. Although they encountered a few other travelers over the five days, for the most part they were alone, and so it wasn’t that much of a surprise when they were waylaid by a group of highwaymen. Claiming to be Brelish officials, they attempted to extort a travel fee from them, but were rebuffed with arrow, blade, and spell. Despite the fact that Luc almost blew up his own horse, the bandits were defeated and left where they fell – as an example to others.

The remaining miles to Starilaskur were uneventful, and the wagon, coach, and group arrived late in the afternoon on the fifth day, providing enough time to get cleaned up at an inn near the Lightning Rail station, spend the night, and then see the four diplomats – two nobles and two influential merchants – off at the station the next morning. The teamsters would wait in town for another day or so before traveling back to New Cyre with a scheduled Orien caravan.

Rogert had arranged to link up with Dyamauex Artur D’Phiarlan, whose troupe was in town for a few more nights, performing at the Thaerman Odeon, a local theater. The show was a typical Phiarlan production – quirky, visually engaging, and avant-garde enough to warm the heart of any good Cyran.
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After the show the team met up with Artur and made their way to the Casting Call, an in across from the theater frequented by performers and crew. Artur was unwilling to offer support in the way that Rogert had hoped – smuggling of people – but he was willing to part with some information regarding the probability of work camps in the vicinity of the Harrow Crowns, a large, rough forest north of Lake Brey. Southern Cyre was quite rural and was good for both agriculture and was home to several mines and large quarries – all places where labor was needed. Rumors had been traded for years about work camps persisting in the area, and it was confirmed that Thrane had used POWs as labor in that area during the latter years of the war. According to Thrane, however, and in keeping with the Treaty of Thronehold, “…all recognized non-criminal prisoners of war…” had been released in accordance with the treaty, the last of them almost a year ago. Cyran patriots always chafed at the language of the accord, to which no Cyran was a signatory, and which opened the door to legalistic side-steps to redefine the status of Cyran troops. The fact that Valenar elves – upstarts and betrayers! – had their prisoners released was an affront to civilization, while Cyrans were still held.

Armed with more information, the team headed off into the seedier part of town in search of a Brelish smuggler recommended to them by the elf – a man familiar with the ground of southern Thrane, and also the border posts and authorities in the area. Winding their way down dark, sometimes cramped streets, Amarack and Rogert talked casually of their efforts as Deaton fell back, keeping to the shadows. Near Gryphon Park, where they were told the smuggler often spent time, three toughs stepped out of an alley and mocked the two Cyrans, looking to either get a rise out of them or intimidate them. Neither ended up the case, as the response from Amarack and Rogert was quick and threatening, enough to cause two of the thugs to begin backing down by the time Deaton’s blade made up the mind of the third, who promptly wet himself before the three ran away, seeking weaker prey.
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Turning toward the park – more of a small square between buildings – the three men saw three figures standing in the shadows. As they approached one walked away, in the opposite direction, while the other two – one of average height, and stocky, the other tall and large – turned their attention on the team, silent as they approached.

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A few days in town
the things you can discover

After spending a few more days with the miners and celebrating with G’Toch and his people, you head back to New Cyre to meet with Prince Oargev, resupply, and find answers to some pertinent questions.

The prince is interested by the sketches from the tomb walls, and suggests that perhaps some archaeologists or historians from one of Breland’s universities might want to see them. He’s very happy with your having further improved relations with the hobgoblins, and isn’t at all perturbed about you giving away an enchanted weapons – “such things are the price of diplomacy,” he says.

He’s also interested in the idea of investigating the rumors of Cyran POWs – in fact, he’s certain that they’re true, and most likely in Thrane. He seems to have a particular loathing for the Thranes, given that it was their leader, 100 years ago, who refused to accept Mishann’s rightful claim to the throne of Galifar, igniting the Last War. Mishann, as every good Cyran knows, was Cyre’s leader, and the next in line for the throne…until her brother from Thrane decided that 1000 years of tradition didn’t mean anything.

He is concerned about pushing too hard against Thrane, however, and is adamant that any such investigations would have to be covert in nature.

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Finding the reason behind the abandoned mine
and creating a solution

Some 70 feet or more down another slope – all carved tunnel – Deaton moved stealthily, the lantern floating near him to provide light. Upon coming to the end, where another chamber opened, he saw four still figures standing awkwardly about the room, and a glow emanating from the right side of the chamber. Upon entering the chamber two of the moldered undead began moving toward him, while the others lagged behind, seemingly unaware of his presence. Cracking and popping with rigor mortis, the two zombie miners shed dust and parts of their clothes as they shambled unsteadily toward Deaton, who attacked one as he called back to the others.

Seconds later Amarack and Luc were in the chamber, and another opponent appeared – a semi-translucent figure floating feet above the floor, winking in and out as it moved. The ghostly humanoid struck, draining away what felt like life itself, before Amarack called on the power of the Host. The burst of divine power from his holy symbol bathed the wraith in a nimbus of light, causing it to convulse in fear and pain, and sending it retreating back to the far wall of the chamber. It seemed that the power was expended on the more powerful enemy, as the zombies were unaffected.
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The team quickly dispatched the remaining zombies, whose tactics were insufficient to threaten the skilled coordination of the three warriors. Soon, only the cowering, mad spirit remained, pinned against the back wall some 10 feet up, shaking violently as Amarack approached. Remembering the scroll they’d found, Luc and Amarack planned a simultaneous attack. Upon reading the spell, which should further fix the thing in place for a moment, the two spellcasters slung what spells they had at the spirit, knocking pieces of it off and degrading it.

In a mad rush, the wraith descended on them, incorporeal arms flailing and a spine-tingling howl screaming from its breathless lungs. More spells followed, and the thing was no more, its ectoplasm frozen by Luc, and the remaining pieces tossed into the lava chasm along with the zombies’ bodies.

Upon searching the cavern – which was mostly natural aside from the tunnel through which they’d come and the left side of the room, which had been dug out – they found two things of interest. First, the chasm, which was about 25 feet deep, held a thin stream of magma, about 1 feet wide and perhaps 8 feet long at the bottom. Glittering shards of gems and other minerals were visible in the dull glow from the molten rock, and the types of rock and color of the magma – a strange violet hue – led the miners and adventurers to one conclusion: they’d found a very narrow sliver of Khyber, the underworld of Eberron. The ancient, evil dragon’s body had transformed into a rotten complex of tunnels and in some places vast chambers that, together, spanned the globe. In it lived some of the worst horrors known. Khyber was usually not accessible this close to the surface, but in some places random upwellings could be found, and when they were they were capped, covered, and avoided. Perhaps the mine was abandoned because of this?

The second was another, small, chamber, accessible through a hole in the left wall: a burial chamber holding only a single stone table and the ancient remains of a hobgoblin, probably of some renown, if the barely-visible carvings on the walls and mighty battle axe left with it were any indication. The thing matched the visage of the wraith in that both were hobgoblins and both wore armor in the Dhakaani style. Putting their heads together, the team guessed that it was possible that something could have come out of Khyber and animated this dead hobgoblin of old, or perhaps something else left its spirit undead and buried for so many centuries.

The burial chamber itself had a small, long caved-in access tunnel in the upper part of one wall – probably the means by which it was accessed, improved, and finally sealed off, long ago.

The miners were eager to seal off this entire portion of the tunnels, beginning in the chamber where the wraith was found and moving backward all the way up the tunnel to the work room. “The more rock we put between us and an entry to Khyber – even one now plugged with a magma flow – the better,” stated Allyn emphatically. Reopening this mine would require all the usual risky work, and was now added to by the fact that at least in this one area of the mountain it was possible to access one of the worst of all places, Khyber – every miner’s deepest fear.

Over the next several days the miners and their security detail surveyed the rest of the tunnels, finding and killing some more beasts, but nothing else as dangerous as the undead or ettercap. The mine, by Allyn’s estimation, was worth reopening, and would probably yield a good amount of wealth for a while. It had been abandoned for security reasons, not because it was spent. With the help of Luc’s spells the miners were able to collapse to their satisfaction part of that chamber and the tunnel leading to it. They’d put more work into sealing that tunnel with mortar once they had some, and talked of their desire to have it warded and magically sealed, as well. That would be adequate, they believed, and would enable them to get to work in digging out wealth, rather than burying threats.


Meta
What’s next? Spending another week or so at the mining camp would open opportunities to interact with G’Toch and his people some more, so if you want to go that route please indicate as much in the comments on this post. The miners seem ready to go the next step, that of rebuilding enough infrastructure to restart operations. That’s going to take more men and materials, however, and they’d really like to have some magical warding and whatnot put on that sealed tunnel before proceeding, too. These are things that can only happen with the help of resources in New Cyre. Looking for other opportunities to improve the city and the lot of Cryan survivors means going elsewhere, too. ALl that said, you guys make good friends in the miners and get to know the mountains around the camp reasonably well, as well as the mine itself.

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