Jun 30, 2003
“Why don’t you stay for a while, rest your weary feet?”
“If I rest I will have reached a destination. Dolurrh is such a destination. So long as my feet keep moving, in some way I avoid Dolurrh’s embrace.
“...besides, this ice cream I’m carrying has to be in Festering Holt by sundown or I lose my bonus.”
Thousands of years ago some of the humans who occupied the land that would one day become Aundair were great riders and wanderers. Some said they had been born simply to see what lay beyond the skyline. Open and free people, the ancestors of House Orien often seemed to race the wind, trying to see which of them would reach the horizon first.
When the Mark of Passage first appeared in several related families they quickly travelled to where their kin were located to spread the news. Using the abilities granted them allowed House Orien to pass the information about their blood much faster than one would have thought possible. Seeing the success they had at rapid transport, the visionaries of what would become Orien decided to expand upon their strengths and offer their services to those who could pay. Today Orien continues this history of being, “the fastest with the mostest.”
A typical House Orien member possesses an adventurous spirit. They are explorers and movers. They favour motion and action over contemplation and research. Some would ascribe a foolhardy mentality to them, but in many cases it is an almost innate curiosity and love of travel that drives them.
An Orien enclave generally has many open spaces. Dark, cramped, narrow stone passageways are not the Orien style. Bright, airy vaulting chambers are preferred, open to the sky if at all possible. Many enclaves are thus a collection of buildings and rooms linked together with open archways and tree-lined paths where others might just go for one big keep. Large windows and tapestries depicting far off lands occupy the few walls that must exist in an Orien structure. Always having a view of the horizon is the goal of any Orien architecture.
Very rarely will an Orien family bother to lock their doors. When dimension leap is a common Marked ability, a locked door is pretty futile.
Being wanderers from the time they willingly venture forth from their mother’s womb, an Orien enclave will have children exploring rooms, corridors, and secret places. They will be climbing the rafters, investigating the grounds beyond the enclave’s walls, hanging from (non-creature) gargoyles to watch people below. Being anywhere near an Orien centre means often you can’t walk ten paces without having a child dart across your path on some grand adventure.
Most Orien workers will be experts, although bards, rogues, scouts, rangers, druids, and sorcerers are fairly common as well. Adepts and clerics will gravitate towards Kol Korran, the God of Trade and Wealth, or The Traveler, patron of the more mysterious aspects of travel. Barbarians can happen when an Orien heir ‘goes native’ at some favoured location. Book learning wizards, strictly devoted paladins, and constrained monks are relatively rare for Orien NPCs.
Almost all Orien members will take Improved Initiative as a feat: all the better to act sooner and thus do more. Run, Endurance, Acrobatic, Athletic, Agile, Dodge… Orien members are generally fit and eager to move. Heirs with PC classes will take feats that work on the idea of motion: so expect Spring Attack, Shot on the Run, and the Mounted Combat trees. Skills will be just about anything, although few Orien leave childhood without having some ability in climbing, tumbling, jumping, or swimming. None leave without learning how to ride.
Orien maintains control over two businesses: The Couriers Guild and the Transportation Guild. Like many of the larger Dragonmarked Houses, these Guilds are vast enterprises and thousands of members of each Guild have no blood ties to Orien itself. Still, an Orien heir can usually do the same job better than an outsider, and the blood maintains a tight control on the running of the Guilds. Talented outsiders can make a name for themselves in the Guilds, but they’ll always have to work that much harder.
The Couriers Guild focuses on deliveries that are impossible to prepare for. One does not set up a schedule to use a member of the Couriers Guild: you simply show up at an Orien station and say, “I need to be in Rhukaan Draal by sundown Zor.”
Messages, packages, passengers; whatever needs to be taken. By its very nature the Couriers Guild does not do bulk transport. Its money lies in the swift transport of small, precious items.
The prices on ECS page 121 are general ideas for how much transport costs. But consider the importance of the package being sent. The regular price will get you someone mounted on a horse, or perhaps a use of their mount Least Dragonmark ability. If it just has to be there faster, then a little more will free up a swift breed magebred horse. An even greater premium will get the Courier mounted on a griffon, or perhaps even using the Lesser phantom steed ability. And if it absolutely has to be there soonest, a Greater Mark’s overland flight or even teleport is possible. More gold opens more possibilities.
It should be noted that the teleport ability of the Greater Mark will only cover 800 miles at the lowest available level (1600 miles if directed towards an Astral Beacon (ECS 261) in a large Orien enclave). Because of this, crossing the continent can take several jumps. From Sharn, an expert 4/ dragonmark heir 4 aiming towards an Astral Beacon still can’t make it anywhere near Fairhaven or Flamekeep, let alone Karnnath. Be prepared to pay for the use of Dragonmark Focuses or Dragonshard Reservoirs.
(Note: I did some very rough measuring here. If I’m off assume a Sivis gnome provided me with a mislabelled map for some nefarious reason.)
The unlimited greater teleport ability of the Siberys Mark is thus much sought after and much, much more expensive. Most Siberys Marked heirs are either on special assignment for their House or else on retainer for governments or shadowy groups to transport highly sensitive items and people. No-nothing adventuring parties that tie up a valuable Siberys Mark may unknowingly make some very powerful enemies.
Low ranked or unmarked Couriers are often employed to transmit messages within a city or town. Often their first job for the House is taking messages from a Sivis Speaking Station and delivering it to the correct individuals, using the Least Mark’s expeditious retreat if available to outrun conventional means. Because of this, many low rank Couriers have high ranks in Knowledge (local), because they know the ins and outs of their local community.
The Couriers Guild exists wherever any group of people come together on Khorvaire. Many thorps are too small for a Sivis enclave but are host to a simple Orien message station. Often nothing more than a rider or two and some magebred horses, some message stations are lucky enough to have a hippogriff in the stables out back, or employ a neutral gargoyle who is looking to pick up a few easy coins.
There are a relatively high percentage of changelings and shifters in the Couriers Guild. The idea of sudden travel to possibly exotic locations and the challenge of the race appeals to them.
Occasionally when no riders are available or the journey particularly dangerous, Orien will turn to adventures to carry the goods. If the station manager knows she is being asked to move contraband, sometimes she will seek a level of deniability by employing freelancers as opposed to House members. So if Orien approaches you for a job, it could be simply because they have no one available who could make it to Fort Bones at this point in time. Or, you could be asked to take a package to the front gate of Mordain the Fleshweaver’s tower. And remember, no matter how much the package moves by itself or what noises emanate from it… don’t open it.
The other main branch of Orien’s business is the Transportation Guild. This is the more structured and organized of the two businesses. Where the Couriers Guild focuses on sudden, unpredictable jobs, the Transportation Guild is about the regular movement of large quantities of goods.
As such, they run caravans that move bulk items throughout the Five Nations and beyond. Slow and steady, they may lack the glamour of the Couriers, but it is the Transportation Guild that is responsible for conveying the foodstuffs that keep the cities of Khorvaire fed. Without them civilization itself would quickly fall into hungry, rioting mobs.
Being a less demanding organization, many Couriers ‘retire’ to the Transportation Guild when the wisdom of age suggests a Couriers’ hectic life no longer offers the same thrill it once did. Still, many Transporters eagerly await their next job and the chance to feel the wind on their faces again.
The Guild is also responsible for maintaining the network of roads that criss-cross the countryside. Existing from the Kingdom of Galifar, some of these roads were torn up or destroyed during the Last War. Many were in places too dangerous to work on while armies battled across them. With the Treaty of Thronehold in place the Transportation Guild is trying to get the Five Nations to agree to repair these roads, but many leaders are fearful that armies would use the repaired causeways to march into their own nation.
The regular caravans the Guild sends out are one of the safest ways to travel cross country. They often have Deneith guards for protection from outlaws, and the status of the House for protection from those who steal via legal means. Still, some are willing to chance it because high profit often accompanies high risk. An extra set of swords, a few more spell slingers, or a bard to tell stories during the long stretches are always welcome in any convoy.
While they dominate the caravan business, Orien does not completely control it. There are private guilds that run smaller convoys cross-country. Sometimes they are hardworking people who simply want to control their own destinies; sometimes they are hardened criminals trying to move things best left unsaid. Whatever your reasons, if you need to move something cheaply or without any question there are alternatives to the Orien giant.
The Transportation Guild also runs the miraculous Lightning Rail that capped one of the greatest triumphs of Galifar’s kingdom. Providing quick, convenient, and cheap (relatively) transportation of bulk goods and passengers to major locations, the Lightning Rail is very profitable for House Orien. It should be noted that while profitable it was often the target of saboteurs during the Last War. Troops and supplies could be ground to a halt if a patch of conductor stones were disabled. No trains were lost from such actions during the War, but many delays were recorded. The long stretches of stones meant that one could never guard the whole thing.
Such actions violated the House’s neutral status of course, and were very hush-hush operations. With each nation having multiple enemies, finding out who sabotaged this particular length of track this time was simply not worth it. Orien simply sent crews to replace lost stones and billed the expense to all the Five Nations. Although, they did occasionally add a glyph of warding or a modified fire trap to some stones.
Orien personnel are of two minds regarding the Lightning Rail. Some see the idea of chaining the wind as thrilling, the very stuff of adventures. Holding a possibly dangerous elemental to your will with only a few feet of leather studded with Dragonshards… now that makes one feel alive!
Others see the idea of a single path to follow, no change, no chance to investigate that grove of trees over there or taste the waters of that brook as you speed by… is this really what life is all about? The journey is what makes the arrival momentous; but this journey is all laid out for me. I was born free, not chained to some metal contraption!
Whatever the view, the Transportation Guild generally cycles its heirs through service on the Lighting Rail in a revolving door fashion. Some eagerly await their time at the helm of the metal beast… others stoically accept it as part of a job and dream of the siren song sung by lands beyond the horizon.
An Orien blood member is generally open to new adventures and experiences. They don’t want to read about what’s happening in Korth, they want to experience it themselves! Many members of the House are sensationalists and eagerly embrace the new and innovative. Physical activity and sporting events are very important parts of House culture.
They also understand the need for things to happen. Better to do something *now* and correct for things on the fly than to spend endless time planning for things that may never happen. “Don’t delay. Do,” is a common Orien expression. (That House Vadalis takes a more laid back approach to time has caused more ulcers for Orien heirs than any single other source.)
As a House, Orien is generally chaotic, its members expressing a need to try and experience things as soon as possible. The Couriers Guild is also relatively chaotic as well, although more neutral because it must give service when required. The structured nature of the Transportation Guild’s business moves this Guild into the lawful range, although it is pretty easy to find fee-wheeling individuals wearing Guild colours.
Personality conflicts aside, these Houses have a long history of working well together. The constant need for magebred animals insures these two giants will constantly come back to each other no matter what happens around them.
Orien members carry messages for the widely spread Vadalis House at reduced rates, as the vast distances make it otherwise difficult for the House of Handling to keep in touch with other family members. As such, Vadalis often considers Orien personnel to be honorary members of the family. Strange, weird family with bizarre customs, but family nonetheless.
Of course that close relationship has led to some unwanted connections between the two Houses. A large number of the Mixed Marks that exist throughout the human bloodlines can trace their history to Vadalis and Orien heirs that took the concept of family just a little too far.
Because a number of Orien runners get their start working as messengers for a Sivis Speaking Station, they are on good terms with the Speaking Guild. Many long-term friendships start in such places and last a life time.
The paper-bound bureaucracy of the Notaries Guild, however, is something to be avoided at all costs.
The Defenders Guild has provided for the protection of Transportation Guild caravans for centuries. Defending the drivers and workers has made House Deneith a friend, but their stolid and generally stern and lawful outlook on life has prevented a tight bond from forming. Still, the two mercantile Guilds work well together.
Being a House of travellers, Orien has need of fine inns and good taverns wherever the roads take them. When dusk settles, Ghallandra ensures that the riders will be ready to face the road come the dawn.
A collection of the powerful and the wealthy, the Aurum are interested in expanding and promoting trade, mostly for the purposes of enriching themselves. As Orien is one of the pillars enabling trade, the Aurum will generally provide assistance. Members of the concords will use their legitimate connections if possible, but employ unsavoury methods if necessary.
At one point in time these two Houses were the greatest of friends and working on magnificent projects together. In fact, it was a team of Orien and Cannith heirs working with Sivis gnomes at the Twelve that created the Lightning Reins and the concept of the Lightning Rail. Together these groups created Orien’s greatest triumph.
The fact that Cannith promptly stole the idea and worked with House Lyrandar to create elemental galleons and airships will never be forgotten by anyone with a drop of Orien blood in their veins.
In Eberron, when a baby is born that looks nothing like the father you don’t go hunting down the milkman: you first go looking for an Orien. Traveling man was a phrase created with House Orien in mind. Here today, gone tomorrow, filled with tales of exotic locations and willing to embrace the thrill without concern for the consequences… House Orien does not exactly have a spotless reputation with the common folk.
Delivering messages often means either presenting bad news, or else carrying communication that no one wants traced. “Don’t fireball the messenger,” is a common saying among Orien Couriers, but tragically, people don’t always listen.
There are many rivalries that exist between Dragonmark Houses. Phiarlan and Thuranni’s conflict may be the most personal, but none have the pure, unmitigated, full-on soul-inspired loathing that exists between the House of Passage and the House of Storm.
Competitors in all senses of the word, these two behemoths clash their long-range transportation businesses together with a fury and bloodlust that would leave a Karrnath general sick. No dirty deal is too low, no promise unbreakable, no vow too extravagant to make… anything to make the other House lose this particular race.
With the destruction of Cyre and the shattering of the Lightning Rail inside, Lyrandar currently holds a significant edge in east/west transportation. Orien is desperately trying to rectify this problem, but no matter how much they lobby neither Thrane nor Karrnath are eager to see the White Arch Bridge and the Lightning Rail there restored.
It is an Orien custom to spit into the water whenever they cross over a bridge, just because. Most would sooner moon the Daughters of Sora Kell than ride in a Lyrandar boat. A Vadalis flying mount is preferable to riding in an airship, even during a typhoon.
What is truly sad is that aside from members of their own House, the only person an Orien heir could truly talk shop with is a Lyrandar heir. The two Houses are a lot more alike than one would think, which probably contributes to the ongoing rivalry.
As the old Khorvaire saying goes: put an Orien and a Lyrandar together in a tavern and they’ll trade insults. Get them drunk and they’ll trade blows. Get them really drunk and they’ll trade stories. Get them totally smashed and they’ll end up in bed together.