The lightning rail changed the way people and good were transported across the Five Nations. It’s become such an important and integral means of cheap and reliable transportation across Khorvaire that it would be hard to image life without it.
House Orien takes great steps to ensure that the trains run on time. They work with House Cannith engineers to keep the mechanics and magic in check, and they employ House Deneith Marshals to maintain order onboard the vehicles. All aspects of running the lighting rail happen so efficiently that most people forget all the work that goes into keeping the train running on time – and that’s just the way House Orien wants it.
The last thing House Orien wants is negative publicity. Although the lightning rail is one of the safest means of travel there are occasional problems. However, when issues arise they are dealt with quickly and quietly.
The Desperadoes (as they’ve been dubbed by the Sentinel Marshals) are a group of train robbers that have plagued House Orien and the lightning rail for over a year. They specialize in robbing moving trains – getting on and off before anyone realizes what’s happened. The Desperadoes have successfully robbed over 20 trains in the past year and so far no one has yet been caught or charged for these crimes.
Over two years ago an Artificer employed by House Cannith accidentally and inadvertently damaged a series of connected conductor stones while performing regular maintenance. The stones remained functional, but trains passing over the affected stones slowed to half their speed. The slowdown happened gradually and after the trains had passed the affected areas they were able to accelerate back to their regular speed.
The Artificer realized that knowing how to replicate the disruption might be valuable information. He spent the following few months attempting to duplicate the accident before he finally figured out how to do it in a controlled manner. However, during his test he affected the regular operation of numerous lightning rails and was eventually dismissed from his job before he could share his knowledge with House Cannith.
Without a job or reference from House Cannith, the Artificer was without funds. He grew desperate he quietly spread the word that he was selling a device that could stop the trains from running. His timing was perfect. An Eladrin adventuring party hired to steal valuable cargo from a lightning rail were struggling with a way to accomplish their task, the idea of stopping the train between stations had never occurred to them. They enlisting the Artificer’s help and agreed to cut him in on the commission in exchange for his secret. When he explained that he couldn’t actually stop the trains, just slow them down, they were disappointed but still believed that this was an advantage they could work with.
It didn’t take long for them to come up with a workable plan. The Artificer would slow the train and the Eladrins would Fey Step onboard. Once onboard they’d recover the goods and then before the train accelerated back to full speed they’d Fey Step or jump off. It was simplistic, but it worked.
Realizing the potential for huge profit after their first successful mission, the Eladrins decided to rob another lighting rail a few weeks later. They got on and off the trains so quickly that they met little resistance. Continued success encouraged more robberies. They rarely engaged anyone while on the train and when they did they never hurt anyone. They were thieves, not ruffians or murderers. Within a few months they’d accumulated substantial treasure.
House Orien kept word of the thefts quiet and demanded House Deneith stop the Desperadoes and keep the trains safe. However, since the bandits hit trains randomly it was impossible for the Sentinel Marshals to know when or where they’ll strike next. House Deneith realized it was cheaper to reimburse House Orien for material losses than bring in additional resources to counter thieves that strike so randomly and infrequently. The Marshals continue to try to stop or capture the Desperadoes with the resources they already have onboard the lighting rail. Unless the Desperadoes become violent, House Deneith is unlikely to spend any more time or resources perusing them.
The Orien Desperado
After the Desperadoes successfully robbed their fifth lighting rail in two months House Orien demanded the Sentinel Marshals do something to stop them. When it became clear to House Orien that House Deneith was unwilling to put any real effort into stopping the thieves they decided to take matters into their own hands. After all, the lighting rail is a huge source of pride to House Orien, not to mention the means by which the House generates the majority of its revenues. If people stopped shipping goods by lighting rail for fear of theft, House Orien could face serious financial hardship.
Sparing no expense House Orien sought information about the Desperadoes and quickly discovered that they were all Eladrins. House Orien then enlisted the aid of an Eladrin adventurer who had recently manifested the Mark of Passage. Normally the House would have nothing to do with a non-human bearing their House’s Dragonmark, but they felt the situation required it. They agreed to acknowledge the Eladrin as a member of House Orien, complete with full House privileges if he could infiltrate the Desperadoes. He agreed.
The Orien agent easily managed to join the Desperadoes. He leaned how they operated and reported his findings back to House Orien. As the Desperadoes became wealthier they started recruiting new members as the original members sought to relax and live a more comfortable life supported by their ill-gotten gains.
House Orien realized that there was value in keeping their agent in place and letting the Desperadoes continue robbing the lighting rail. Now that House Deneith was reimbursing them for lost cargo, House Orien could insure goods for substantially more than their actual value and have their undercover agent direct the Desperadoes to steal them from the train.
The Orien Desperado is still active and climbing his way up the ladder of seniority and leadership among the group. Until the Sentinel Marshals get more serious about stopping them, House Orien plans to let the Desperadoes function with their agent reporting back on everything they do.
- The PCs are onboard a lighting rail when the Desperadoes strike and witness them stealing goods from the train. The Desperadoes refuse to engage in combat if engaged and instead flee.
- House Deneith hires the PCs to ride the rails in an attempt to capture one of the Desperadoes.
- An Eladrin PC hears about an opportunity to make some easy money by robbing a lighting rail.
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