THE SHAN QABAL
The Shan Qabal is a sect of the arcane caste that specializes in the study of new forms of magic, as well as the rediscovery of ancient forms of magic lost to the world. Its members are dedicated to research, and the urge to discover and harness new forms of magic has resulted in several competitive feuds within the sect.
The Shan Qabal is based in Io'calioth, although its members are scattered throughout the Dragovar empire. Members are notoriously ruthless in their quest for magical knowledge, plundering sacred sites without a second thought and sacrificing whatever they must to unearth new arcana. The sect's current leader is a venerable dragonborn arch-wizard named Lenkhor Krige. He reports to Grand Vizier Turazad, one of the Emperor's key advisors in Io'calioth, and has powerful allies within the divine and arcane castes.
THE WYRMWORN EXPERIMENT
The covert Shan Qabal endeavor known to a select few as "the Wyrmworn Experiment" demonstrates the depths to which this organization will sink in its quest for magical power.
In 1445 DY, a Shan Qabal expedition unearthed the Temple of the Wyrm's Eye, a five-thousand-year-old site rumored to have been destroyed in the great cataclysm. There, long ago, a secret covenant of ancient, spell-wielding dragons met to share rituals and find the means to achieve godhood. It took a decade of research, but the Shan Qabal discovered a means to summon the spirits of these dragon sorcerers back to the world. Initially, the Shan Qabal were interested only in communing with the spirits and learning their ancient knowledge, until Lenkhor himself devised a ritual that would enable them to trap the spirits inside of living hosts. Although Lenkhor tried to suppress this knowledge, word reached Turazad of the discovery, and he ordered Lenkhor to begin experimenting on living hosts. In 1455 DY, the Shan Qabal spirited 40 host candidates—all orphaned children—out of Io'galaroth, took them to the Temple of the Wyrm's Eye, and bound within each of them a slumbering dragon spirit that could be awakened upon command.
After the rituals were completed, the children were taken to a secret Shan Qabal facility in Io'halador to be raised, trained, and indoctrinated as loyal agents and assassins of the Dragovar empire. Meanwhile, back in Io'calioth, the Council of Viziers was in upheaval, and the political landscape was changing so radically that Turazad feared the Wyrmworn Experiment might jeopardize his political career. He ordered Lenkhor to terminate the experiment and destroy all of the evidence and documentation, including its subjects.
The Wyrmworn (as the children were called) were not exterminated as ordered but rather smuggled onto two ships headed west. One ship, the Tempest, made it to its destination, and the children disappeared soon thereafter. The other ship, the Morrow's Folly, was lost in a storm and presumed destroyed. Lenkhor informed Turazad that all of the children had been killed.
Nineteen years later, an ambitious Shan Qabal wizard named Hahrzan found proof in Io'halador that the Wyrmworn Experiment had not been terminated, as ordered. He shared his findings with Grand Vizier Turazad directly, behind Lenkhor's back. Turazad instructed Hahrzan to track down the surviving Wyrmworn and eradicate them, and gave Hahrzan all of the resources he demanded. Turazad also searched for evidence to support Hahrzan's assertion that Lenkhor Krige was complicit in the orphans' escape, but nothing surfaced. Given Lenkhor's wizened state and political connections, Turazad is more inclined to just let the feeble, tiresome wizard die of old age—much to Hahrzan's chagrin.
The following members of the Shan Qabal have been encountered in the campaign to date (and are presented in alphabetical order):
Faerdan (male elf): Serusa's murderous henchman had his right arm amputated and replaced with a symbiotic insectoid arm that he can attach or detach at will. When the arm is detached, Faerdan usually carries it around in a wooden case. The arm enhances his strength, and its talons are razor-sharp. If Faerdan dies, the arm detaches and continues to attack on its own.
Hahrzan (male dragonborn): Hahrzan oversees numerous Shan Qabal endeavors, operating out of the sunken city of Io'halador and elsewhere. Serusa, Javahn, Iojad, and Kalaryste all report to him. A failed magical experiment years ago resulted in Hahrzan not being able to breathe air. He is required to wear an armored leather body suit equipped with a gas mask, attached to which is a backpack that produces the magical admixture of poisonous gases that sustains him.
Iojad (male dragonborn): Iojad runs a secret elemental weapons foundry on the island of Zonjar. The Shan Qabal has been conducting research into elemental magic for years, but the foundry represents its first attempt to mass-produce elemental-powered weapons and vehicles for the Dragovar empire. Iojad believes the assignment puts him on the path toward becoming a leading member of the Shan Qabal, even though many of his peers consider him an overdeveloped worker drone who takes credit for the achievements of his underlings.
Javahn (male dragonborn): A courteous and open-minded member of the Shan Qabal who reports to Hahrzan, Javahn is charged with conducting and overseeing a secret auction of elemental weaponry at a hidden Shan Qabal research facility on the island of Tetherus.
Kalaryste (female human): Kalaryste works closely with Hahrzan and is very protective of him and his projects. She had both of her hands removed and replaced with insectoid symbionts, similar to the arm worn by Faerdan. She also built a clockwork swordmage that serves as her personal bodyguard. Her true area of expertise, however, is demon-binding magic, and she has a gang of shadow demon cronies that follows her around.
Nilus Costeran (male human): Nilus was indoctrinated into the Shan Qabal a little less than two years ago, but he quickly caught Hahrzan's eye after displaying his ruthless pursuit of magical lore. Nilus, in fact, bought his way into the sect by handing over several spellbooks he "acquiried" while studying magic in Bael Nerath. His expertise lies in elemental magic, and he keeps a magmin familiar close by.
Serusa (female dragonborn): Superficially polite, Serusa speaks slowly and precisely, in a manner best described as supremely condescending. She comes to the island of Kheth searching for a wrecked ship that disappeared with all hands some nineteen years ago. She wears a pair of magical, articulated spectacles that allow her to perceive dragon spirits. (A Wyrmworn viewed through the magic lenses radiates a pale aura that's otherwise invisible.)