Should these episodes have fancy titles? That sounds like work. Numbers it is!
Worldbreakers: Episode 2
The origins of the world of Eberron are intrinsically tied to Dragons. It is said that in the beginning there were three, Sibyris the Dragon of Light, Eberron of the Earth, and Khyber of the Dark. Sibryis and Khyber fought constantly as you might expect from such opposed forces and it was only through Eberron’s sacrifice of herself to keep the two apart that the universe finally found peace. Thus Sibryis became the starlit sky, Khyber the strange dark places below the surface, and Eberron the land upon which our story is told.
Dragons were also the first race to gain sentience. These great wyrms were not nearly so grand as the three that literally became the world we know but they shaped it nonetheless. It is said all races and cultures can trace their histories back to common roots of the Draconic civilization. The wyrms loved magic, commerce, and language. They raised the races of the elves and dwarves, oldest of the humanoids, from the ranks of monkeys and put them on the path to their own great civilizations. They made some of the halfbreed races such as the minotaurs and kobolds, one to serve as infantry and the other to be indentured servants. They fought the giants and won, nearly wiping out that race entirely and leaving mostly the smaller cousins alive. But most impressive of their accomplishments was the Draconic Prophecy.
This Prophecy was not the work of one Dragon. It could not be. This Prophecy told not of just one event in a single being’s life. No, this was the Phophecy of everything that would ever be. The Dragons used their magics to unravel the mysteries of time and were able to view and record the entire history of the world before it happened. There were of course disputes. Some dragons found the Prophecy would often contradict itself and it took some time before all were able to reconcile that though the Prophecy was always accurate it could not account for certain variables and thus alternate futures would branch off. These variables were determined to be powerful being possessed of enough magical energy and force of will that they shaped their own future, like the Dragons themselves.
On day there was a revelation in the Prophecy and on that the the Dragons left. All of them. They left and have not returned. Now and then you will hear tell of a band of adventurers who have slain a beast that fits the description of a dragon but these are feral creatures, relatives but not members of the great race that shaped the world and then vanished. Where have they gone? No one can say. Some fear one day they might return.
Or so we are told by the magical historians and philosophers today. Only the elves can claim to have been a true civilization when the dragons departed and their records are hardly conclusive. There are clues, however, and many researchers have hired adventuring parties to find these lost hints for huge sums of money. Scattered around Khorvaire there are pockets, caves, and ruins – much like the cavern our heroes discovered – where snippets of the Prophecy can be found. No one can guess why these fractions of the Prophecy were left behind but it is hoped that by piecing it together we might gain greater knowledge and understanding of our world.
Our heroes awake late in the morning and stumble downstairs to enjoy a passable breakfast and listen to the innkeeper suffer from his shrew of a wife. Trying to avoid the conversation they take their meals to a corner table far from the bar and sit to discuss what occurred the night before. As they talk quietly they are interrupted by a woman sitting at the table next to theirs though none had noticed her there.
“I couldn’t help overhearing,” she intones casually though their hushed voices shouldn’t have carried even that far, “and that sounds like quite a story. You also did all that for such a small reward. Tell me, would you boys like to make even more money?”
The woman was human with pale skin, dark hair tied into a tight braid, and her lithe dancer’s frame was clad in dark leather. She bore no weapons but exuded confidence and calm even when Raine started shamelessly hitting on her, then belittling her when she mockingly refused his advances. She introduces herself as Lily and as a talent scout for wealthy employers who needed a job done through unofficial channels. Villagers were going missing from mountain homesteads and rumours of an army being formed up there threatened the tenuous peace held by the Treaty which very clearly laid out the circumstances in which a nation could mobilize a force and unfortunately there was nothing strong enough yet to do so. Thus the need for independent contractors.
Raine, still licking his wounded pride, scoffs at the idea of helping this woman but she once again simply smiles and tells him that if he agrees to look into these disappearances she’ll tell him a secret. His ears perk up and she explains that on the way to the town where they should begin their investigation there is a tower said to hold an ancient Oracle. She only appears once every hundred years and she is due to appear any day. She might be the only person who could answer why he now bears a Dragonmark. This mollifies Raine somewhat as he recognizes the trouble this mark could be to him. He thanks her, a rare gift from him, and the others agree to go with him to the Oracle to have their fortunes told before looking into the missing villagers. Lily walks with them to the Lightning Rail station and buys their tickets saying that she will meet them in the town of Baran’s Keep. No one thinks to ask why she doesn’t board the train with them if it is the fastest means of transportation.
The Lightning Rail is a marvel of magical engineering. Once the tracks are laid nearly anyone with magical talent can with a small amount of training direct the electrical charges to pull the train at considerable speed. It was an invention of Cyre, as many marvels were, which did limit rail travel during the Great War and is still causing some difficulty as most tracks were designed with Cyre as the hub and no one would dream of riding into the Mournland.
It is everyone’s first trip on the rails and they settle into the comfortable seats planning to enjoy the trip. Suddenly shouts ring out as armed bandits stand up from their seats ordering everyone to get down and drop their weapons and valuables. Our heroes foolishly decide to endanger the lives of everyone on the train and fight the bandits instead. Fortunately it turns out the bandits are actually terrible and no match for seasoned warriors. Garradur takes a small wound from a thrown dagger but that is the only injury to hero or innocent as the heroes sweep from car to car. The bandits do not fare nearly so well and most meet a grisly and permanent fate at the tips of Raine’s claws. The ringleader, a wizard attempting to wrest control of the railcars while the conductor (god damn I love that pun) lies unconscious on the ground barely has time to turn and scream before he is engulfed by the druid in black panther form. The rest of the trip is uneventful and the conductor thanks the heroes again personally before making an unscheduled stop to let them off much closer to the tower than the station they would have had to walk back from.
Before the heroes stands an enormous rise, not a hill or a mountain, but a gentle slope that goes for miles slowly looming over the flat grassland around it and at the top an impossibly thin tower reaches for the clouds. This is known as the Dragonspire, said to have been built in the time of dragons and now home to the spirit of an oracle who has more understanding of the Prophecy than anyone alive.
But their progress is halted once again by enterprising thieves. As the heroes make their way up a trail through a small patch of rocks they are set upon by kobolds! The diminutive lizard-like creatures discover, like the bandits on the train, that these are not hapless travelers and that they are more than a match for the pathetic ambush. Scurrying a retreat down a nearby hole the kobolds assume they are safe and hurl forth a few shrill taunts. Unsurprisingly, Raine does not take kindly to being taunted and the kobolds shriek as an enraged panther begins clawing at the entrance to the warren, conveniently widening it enough for the rest of the party to follow him in.
The kobold warren is a dark and cool series of earthen tunnels which the cagey vermin have, as is customary of their paranoid and surprisingly clever race, lined with traps. The heroes briefly discuss the moral implications of slaughtering an entire family because of a minor inconvenience but when Magnus takes a poison dart in the back and Raine hears more mocking laughter the questions of morality are set completely aside. Killing and looting their way through the warren they come upon a chamber larger than the rest where the last of the kobold forces have gathered around the statue of a stone gargoyle to make their last stand.
The battle was surprisingly close but the heroes eventually prevailed. One kobold was only knocked unconscious and Raine and Magnus tried to decide what to do with him while Garradur and Jareb inspected the gargoyle. They noticed some writing on the statue in the same style of letters as the cave where Raine had been Marked. Succeeding on his knowledge roll to realized kobolds were once the slaves of dragons and many of their race still spoke the Draconic tongue, Jareb called for them to spare the kobold’s life just before Raine performed a coup de grace. They revived the kobold and threatened him with various acts of torture until he agreed to read the statue’s inscription, though he insisted that it was no mere statue but was in fact his clan’s living and breathing God.
The insription reads:
To reach the heavens one must start from below
Begin in darkness to find Sibyris’ glow
A guardian waits with a stony stare
Say “Enter” and fight, the portal is there.
Unfortunately the kobold is only barely literate so what he reads to them is:
Two grab star-sky-roof go up
Home in darkness get shinies
Rock will protect see
Say “In and Fight!” out the door
Perplexed by this nonsense the heroes sit and have a rest. Raine feels a strange tingling sensation in his dragonmark which feels strongest next to a certain spot in the wall. It isn’t long before Magnus who had been mapping out the cave realizes what might be on the other side of it and “You know, judging by how far these warrens have come, I wonder if we could knock out that wall and enter the spire from there.” and the gargoyle suddenly springs to life.
An intense battle is had as no one was quite prepared for a fight and the creature’s stony skin repels much of their damage while its petrifying gaze nearly spells the end for Magnus. Luckily Garradur is able to counter the magic while Jareb drives his spear through the creature’s chest. The statue crumbles to dust and with a grating noise and much dirt dislodged from the ceiling a doorway opens in the cavern wall. The heroes look to the portal only to see it blocked by yet another figure. The kobold stands silhouetted in opening having retrieved its swords and it looks upon them with an unreadable expression.
Then with a cry it hurls its weapons to the ground and throws itself prone shouting, “Greatest Mighty Gods! Forgives Biskik ’cause he didn’t know you was great an powerful and mighty and he spits on stupid rock-wing god guy – pitew pitew! – an Biskik makes promise to worship an serve an loves you! Fooooorrgiiiiiives Biskik!”
Jareb remembers that knowledge roll he’d made a few minutes earlier stating that kobolds are a weak and cowardly race that were bred for subservience by the Dragons. Their entire culture is built around the worship of powerful beings that don’t really care at all for their well being. This choice isn’t always based on intelligence or logic and since there are no actual dragons around the honour of Godship is often given to whatever the kobolds perceive to be the most powerful creature that they’ve met. By defeating the stone gargoyle the heroes have proved to this kobold that they are even more powerful gods.
So of course they bring him along on their adventure because they don’t have anyone trained to open locks and they need someone to spring all the traps.