Fort Bones

Frontier Outpost, Population 400
At first it’s just a white blot in the shimmering haze of the horizon. But as you approach, the blot resolves into a cluster of white stone buildings surrounded by a wall. You also see the first sign of human life for miles: armored soldiers walking along the top of the wall. You approach closer and see that your initial impressions were false in at least two respects: The figures shuffling along the top of the wall have a gait matched by no living human. And many of the white stones aren’t stones at all. They’re bones—human and otherwise.
Fort Bones is the farthest extension of Karrnathi power on Khorvaire, an armed camp, established in 903 after the Second Siege of Eston, that projects force not only into the Talenta Plains, but beyond into Valenar. As the sign above the main gate says, “Welcome to the edge of the sword.” From Fort Bones, Karrnathi commanders and grizzled mercenaries play a deadly cat and mouse game with Valenar riders across the Talenta Plains—which are not without dangers of their own.
Most adventurers reach Fort Bones by traveling to either Fort Zombie or Vulyar, both of which have lightning rail stations. After a 150-mile overland journey, they arrive at Fort Bones. No one checks their travel papers when they walk through the gate—most people who come to Fort Bones aren’t eager to advertise their identities and pasts.
Throughout Karrnath and among mercenaries across Khorvaire, Fort Bones is known as a place to get a fresh start. When you enlist with the Captain of Bones, Berre Stonefist (LN female dwarf, ranger4), she writes the name you give her in the rolls of the Company of the Skull. Then you’re issued identity papers with that name and made a Karrnathi citizen on the spot; your previous identity legally ceases to exist. In exchange, you agree to serve at Fort Bones for a year or until the Captain of Bones releases you from active duty. Many a fugitive, tragic lover, and prodigal son have found their ways to Fort Bones, eager to start their lives over with the Company of the Skull.
Environment: Unlike in the rest of Karrnath, the weather around Fort Bones is generally warm and dry. Rolling plains, low foothills, and the occasional copse of trees are the only features in the vast landscape. It’s ideal horse country, which is why almost all the soldiers at Fort Bones are cavalry-capable.
Terrain: Southeastern Karrnath and the northwestern Talenta Plains are grasslands, as described on page 91 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Fort Bones hasn’t been attacked since the end of the Last War—it’s more of a jumping-off point for patrols into the Talenta Plains and incursion into the deserts of northern Valenar.
The Valenar elves have such fast horses that an attack is always possible, however, as are attacks from the halfling tribes. (Karrnath has permission from the major halfl ing tribes to patrol the western regions of Talenta, but not every tribe was party to those negotiations.)
Every soldier at Fort Bones figures that if an attack comes, it’ll arrive without warning—and the nearest Karrnathi units are three days away on the fastest horse. After a few weeks at Fort Bones, new recruits start reflexively scanning the horizon for the telltale dust cloud of cavalry on the move.
Wall of Bones: Valenar elves razed a previous fort here during the Battle of the Long Night during the Last War. When the Captain of Corpses arrived too late from Fort Zombie with a relief column, he vowed that the enemies of Karrnath would rebuild what they had destroyed. After years of reprisal raids into Valenar and Cyre, the Captain of Corpses made good on his vow. Rebuilding the fort, he incorporated the skeletons of Cyrans and Valenar elves into the fort’s walls, a grisly reminder of what happens to those who cross Karrnath.
The walls are 20-foot-high tangles of bone and stone (hardness 3, 180 hp, Climb DC 10). They exude a permanent desecrate effect (as the spell, caster level 5th) within 10 feet, which aids the Karrnathi skeletons and zombies that patrol the walls.
Stable: The largest building within the fort’s walls, the stable has dozens of light and heavy warhorses, plus more than 50 of the skeletal steeds that the Company of the Skull favors.
The cavalry at Fort Bones can’t hope to match the speed of fine Valenar horses, so they compensate with undead steeds that never tire and thus can travel 24 hours a day. On long journeys, the skeletal steeds are actually faster than the best horses Valenar (or House Vadalis for that matter) can provide, simply because they never stop. Furthermore, their swaying gait is smoother than that of a living horse. An accomplished rider on a skeletal steed can sleep normally in the saddle by making a successful DC 15 Ride check; failure means a night of fitful sleep that provides only 4 hours of rest.

Skeletal Steed CR 2
LE Large undead
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Spot +0, Listen +0
AC 13, touch 11, flat-footed 11
hp 26 (4 HD); DR 5/bludgeoning
Immune undead immunities, cold
Saves: Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +4
Speed 50 ft. (10 squares)
Melee hooves +5/+5 (1d6+4) and bite +0 (1d4+2)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +3; Grp +11
Abilities Str 18, Dex 15, Con —, Int 2, Wis 10, Cha 1
Feats Improved Initiative

Infirmary: Sanjaen d’Jorasco (NG female halfling cleric 5) rarely leaves her station among the sick beds of the infirmary that takes up the lowest floor of Fort Bones’ central tower. The Karrnathi army pays House Jorasco well to keep Sanjaen here, so she’ll freely heal anyone who staggers into her infirmary, subject to her available healing spells that day.

Most adventures use Fort Bones as a starting point; the vast Talenta Plains offer more adventure than the walls of the fort. Unless you’re planning an adventure where Fort Bones falls under Valenar attack, send the PCs out into the Talenta Plains, where they’ll find plenty of Valenar elves to chase and other monsters to fight.
The accompanying table has random encounters suitable for riders patrolling from Fort Bones. There is a 10% chance of a random encounter every 30 minutes.

If the PCs accept the offer of a fresh start and join the Company of the Skull, have the Captain of Bones send them out on patrols into the Talenta Plains. Once they distinguish themselves, introduce more capable Valenar adversaries. And once the PCs become heroes in the captain’s eyes, she’ll release them from their year’s commitment so they can adventure elsewhere.
If the PCs don’t join the Company of the Skull, the captain might still hire them for specific scouting missions—especially ones that might require some spellcasting or time out of the saddle.

In some ways, the Company of the Skull is a romanticized version of the French Foreign Legion, and you can certainly develop organizations of your own that trade a fresh start in life for dangerous military service. Such groups naturally attract a colorful cast of characters, so the PCs will fit right in.

Source: Eberron Campaign Setting, Five Nations

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