IFAQ: Yrlag and the Direshark Prince

As time permits, I like to answer interesting questions posed by my Patreon supporters. Questions like…

Could you tell us an interesting detail about Yrlag in the Shadow Marches?

Yrlag is one of the largest cities in the Shadow Marches. It’s one of the few safe havens on Crescent Bay, and the most substantial port on the west coast of Khorvaire (which isn’t saying much, but still). Yrlag’s particular claim to fame is its proximity to the Demon Wastes. Due to the diligence of the Ghaash’kala, landing on the coast is far easier than crossing the Labyrinth. With this in mind, Yrlag is to the Demon Wastes as Stormreach is to Xen’drik—a jumping off point and safe haven for scholars, explorers, and opportunists keen to take their chances in the Wastes or to acquire goods recovered from it.

The city is located in a Lamannian manifest zone with The Land Provides property. The land is exceptionally fertile and the river well-stocked with fish—a notably change from Crescent Bay, which is home to many unnatural predators. This is one of the major reasons Yrlag has been able to thrive in such an isolated and inhospitable region. As such, Yrlag has a significant population of farmers, fisherfolk, and hunters who provide for the general needs of the city and travelers.

Yrlag is effectively run by House Tharashk; the Shadow Marches aren’t recognized as a Thronehold Nation, and no one in the region cares about the Korth Edicts. Ships run regularly between Yrlag and the outpost of Blood Crescent… but Blood Crescent is a small fortress that endures constant attacks, and most sages prefer the shelter of Yrlag when conducting long term research. As a result, Yrlag has an unusual number of scholars and luminaries, along with a bookstore and a shop specializing in supplies for calligraphers and cartographers. A number of the Dragonmarked Houses have outposts in Yrlag. There’s a Sivis speaking stone, a Jorasco healer, and even a Gold Dragon Inn. House Lyrandar helps maintain the harbor, but as of yet there’s no airship docking tower and no lightning rail into Yrlag.

There’s far more I could share, but the original question only asked for one detail, and I’ve already gone beyond that!

Doesn’t all travel into the Demon Wastes have to go through the Labyrinth?

The wording in Eberron: Rising From The Last War is unclear, but prior canon has established that it’s possible to travel to the Demon Wastes by sea. The original Eberron Campaign Setting says  “Built on the shores of Crescent Bay and regularly supplied by ships from Yrlag, a large town across the bay in the Shadow Marches, Blood Crescent serves as House Tharashk’s long dreamed-of foothold in the Demon Wastes”—it would be hard to regularly supply the outpost if every ship that arrived couldn’t leave. The general intent is that FIENDS can’t leave except through the Labyrinth; think of it like an invisible fiend fence with only one gap in it. With that said, it’s not supposed to be EASY to travel to the Wastes by sea; if it was, people would have done it long ago and we’ve have more and larger outposts. The coastline is extremely hostile, with a combination of foul weather, unnatural sealife, and a maze of demonglass spires that can tear a ship apart. Reaching Blood Crescent requires the vessel to follow a very specific path. Tharashk spent a great deal of resources to chart that path, and they are holding it as a secret of the house.

So it’s easy to reach the Demon Wastes by sea, but MOST of the time, those who try will end up shipwrecked… which is in fact what happened to the ancestors of the Carrion Tribes. Meanwhile, the Carrion Tribes themselves don’t have the sophistication or resources to build ships, which is why when they try to leave, they go through the Labyrinth.

In the Player’s Guide to Eberron we learned that Lhazaar Prince Kolberkon of the Direshark Principality is a changeling. Do you think Kolberkon’s changeling nature is known or something he keeps hidden behind personas?

In my campaign, Prince Kolberkin is a changeling foundling, as described in this article. He was raised by his mother and has a human persona that he considers to be his true face; he doesn’t identify as a changeling, have any familiarity with tribal changeling customs, or have any sympathy or affection for the changelings of the Gray Tide. He makes no effort to hide his ability to shapechange; he used it very effectively in his rise to power, and he uses it to keep his enemies and potential traitors on their toes, but he doesn’t feel any bond to other changelings or consider his changeling face to be his true identity.

This ties to the point that in Eberron, culture is often more significant than species. He’s a Lhazaar pirate who happens to be a changeling; but he doesn’t care about the Children, the Traveler, or any of that. As the Prince of the Diresharks, he takes pride in being a PREDATOR, and uses his shapeshifting as a tool to help him overcome his prey. He’s extremely skilled at shifting shape in combat in ways that may give him momentary advantage—not fooling an enemy in the long term, but throwing them off their guard.

With that said, while Kolberkon considers his first human face to be his core identity, he also will shift that to fit the situation; when negotiating with Lyrandar, for example, he may assume a half-elf version of his human form, sort of like dressing up for a meeting. So again, he doesn’t hide the fact he’s a shapechanger; he celebrates it. As such, he uses this gift in obvious ways. When he becomes a Khoravar to meet with Lyrandar, he’s not trying to FOOL them; it’s a Khoravar version of his normal appearance, just done as a “Hey, I recognize you’re Khoravar, and you know, I could be too.”

So in short, he often uses casual shapeshifting in ways that he thinks may give him a psychological advantage. It’s known that he CAN impersonate other people—potential traitors KNOW that any of their conspirators could be Kolberkin playing a game with them—but he more also uses it in obvious, social ways.

The most famous city in Khorvaire—Sharn—is built around a manifest zone. Are most cities built up around manifest zones, or is it the rarity?

Manifest zones are much like natural resources in our world. Most manifest zones provide an ongoing, reliable effect. Some are dangerous, and such regions tend to be shunned. Others are beneficial, and these areas often become hubs for civilization, just as rich deposits of natural resources often draw communities in our world. Yrlag is an example of this: if people in an inhospitable region find a manifest zone that enhances the quality of the land and of life, why wouldn’t they settle there and make use of it?

The short form is that communities that thrive usually do so for a reason. Rich natural resources. Strategic value. Fertile land. In Eberron, useful manifest zones are one more item on that checklist. Not every city is in a manifest zone; but every city will usually have SOME reason to be where it is, and in Eberron, manifest zones are an important part of that equation. Also keep in mind that manifest zones vary dramatically in size and power. The Lamannian zone that contains Yrlag is a wide zone that blankets the city, as does the Syranian manifest zone in Sharn. But you can also find manifest zones that cover the space of a single building, or even a single room. A town might spring up around a Jorasco healing house built in an Irian manifest zone… but the zone is small enough, that only those in the healing house benefit from its power.

So most major cities likely have a manifest zone SOMEWHERE in the city, though not all. In some cases this has been called out, as with Sharn or Atur. They aren’t alone, but I don’t currently have time to make a thorough list of zones that can be found in other major cities. If there’s interest on Patreon, this could be the subject of a future article.

Can Mabar consume fragments of Irian?

Mabar, also known as the Endless Night, consumes fragments of other planes. On the other end of the spectrum, Irian creates new seeds of light that fill the voids left behind by Mabar. As a general rule, Mabar doesn’t consume pieces of Irian itself. The two are two sides of a single coin, reflecting creation and destruction; they tell their story by interacting with other planes, and usually don’t target one another directly. With that said, it’s POSSIBLE that Mabar could consume a piece of Irian… and if it did, Irian would in turn regrow that missing piece.

That’s all for now! Thanks to my Patreon supporters for providing interesting questions and for making these articles possible.

37 thoughts on “IFAQ: Yrlag and the Direshark Prince

  1. Can Mabar consume fragments of Dal Quor or Xoriat, given these two planes’ out-of-sync positions in the Orrery?

    • Xoriat definitely feels like it could be outside of the spectrum of Irian and Mabar, and I’d support that. I’m on the fence about whether Dal Quor being cut off from Eberron would protect it from Mabar; I could see a case for it going either way.

      • Does the fate of the monolith in the Shanjueed Jungle (3.5 Secrets of Sarlona, pages 81 to 82) suggest that Mabar can exert some measure of influence upon Dal Quor?

      • I can see Xoriat needing planar maintenance just like any other. After all, it is part of the Orrery, not outside it, and it does fulfill a function. Even if it is more “Far Realm” than a traditional part of the planar system, what program doesn’t benefit from an “editor” trimming off dead code and unnecessary functions? Mabar might even be the ultimate fate waiting worlds trapped in the Maze of Reality as “dead rats”. It simply takes longer to digest these frozen Eberrons, perhaps even nibbling them piece-by-piece.

        Maybe there’s a planar time limit on their world that the Gith have only recently learned about, so they have to shift from hiding to actively trying to save it, justifying their sudden appearance in the world during a campaign.

  2. Thanks, Keith.

    It is fun to think of how manifest zones affect different cities.

    Could the skybergs/floating islands of Xen’drik take advantage of zones that aren’t located below them, or are the zones more like columns from the ground up?

  3. I am absolutely in love with Yrlag, alongside Port Verge, new favourite port!

    A few questions:

    -Would civilians live in Blood Crescent for any length of time or would a character from the area have grown up in Yrlag?
    -do the ghaash’kala have any contact (positive or negative) with Yrlag? What about the nomadic dwarves of the Demon Wastes?
    -do the Tashana shifters who navigate the Barren Sea ever drop in?
    -does Tharashk keep a tight hold on the law in town or is Yrlag basically left to the whims of the Cults of the Dragon Below and the Gatekeepers?

    • Would civilians live in Blood Crescent for any length of time or would a character from the area have grown up in Yrlag?
      If you go by the original ECS canon, there’s 82 people living in Blood Crescent… and the description notes regular assaults and that it has “a very military outlook; many of the longtime residents of Blood Crescent feel as though they have been under near-constant siege.” So first of all, it’s questionable whether “civilian” would be the right word for a denizen of Blood Crescent. It’s possible someone could have a family there, but it would be a very rare exception; I expect people would be taken back to Yrlag before any children were born, and I doubt they’d raise children in Blood Crescent. But what’s the story you want to tell?

      Do the ghaash’kala have any contact (positive or negative) with Yrlag?
      No. The Ghaash’kala don’t care about the people beyond the Labyrinth. Fiends can’t leave by sea, so whatever they are doing in Blood Crescent isn’t a problem the Ghaash’kala have to deal with.

      What about the nomadic dwarves of the Demon Wastes?
      With YRLAG? I doubt it; it’s not like they regularly pass through the Labyrinth or sail on boats. On the other hand, a tribe might well have established a relationship with Blood Crescent over the last century, which would explain how you could potentially get some of them joining a Xen’drik expedition in Dragonshard. So it’s possible you could see one or more of the dwarves in Yrlag, having been convinced to accompany an expedition returning from Blood Crescent. But I don’t the the dwarves as a CULTURE have ongoing contact with towns beyond the Wastes or a particular interest in the wider world.

      Do the Tashana shifters who navigate the Barren Sea ever drop in?
      Probably, yes.

      Does Tharashk keep a tight hold on the law in town or is Yrlag basically left to the whims of the Cults of the Dragon Below and the Gatekeepers?
      Define “Tight Hold.” Tharashk enforces the law in Yrlag; remember, the house maintains mercenary forces and we’ve already seen them enforcing the law in the Calabas of Graywall. At the same time, the Marches aren’t a Thronehold nation and they aren’t bound to uphold the Code of Galifar. So it’s frontier justice, to be sure; but it’s also an important outpost for the house, and they want scholars and merchants to feel some degree of security there.

      • Thanks for the replies Keith! Especially good point about the fiends not leaving by sea, I’d suppose any fiend would need to infiltrate Blood Crescent itself, a tall order but one an immortal could wait out…

        Mostly trying to get a feel for what backgrounds someone from Blood Crescent would have, but I suppose it’s more constructive to think of Blood Crescent and Yrlag as connected (example: Soldiers in Blood Crescent, Guild Artisans from Yrlag, but both touched by the other)

        • I suppose it’s more constructive to think of Blood Crescent and Yrlag as connected.
          I would. Blood Crescent is really an outpost of Tharashk and extension of Yrlag as opposed to being an independent community; it’s not self-sufficient, and is dependent on supplies from Yrlag.

    • Hey, could you tell me a source for the Demon Waste dwarves? I’ve forgotten they existed.

      • I believe Keith discusses them in the Dragonmarks: The Barbarian article. Ctrl+F “dwar” should get you there.

        • Honestly I was struggling last night to figure out WHERE I remembered them from, and was kind of amazed when Keith’s answer wasn’t “the who in the what?”, as I sometimes have to double check if it’s just some part of InMyEberron. Thanks to ESE for the prompt, the quote below:

          “The dwarves are the Hammerfist Dwarves, a clan that lives in isolation in the Demon Wastes, fighting the Carrion Tribes and the Demons and sustained by the power of an Irian manifest zone. Where the Ghaash’kala guard the Labyrinth, the Hammerfist Dwarves are deep in the Wastes. Like the Ghost Guardians, they oppose the darkness – but they have little contact with the Ghaash’kala.

          Now: in Dragonshard the dwarves are serving with the Order of the Flame – the “Good Guy” faction – but they are not followers of the Silver Flame. Instead, they follow a tradition that runs parallel to the Undying Court of the Aereni: They have Deathless. It’s established that what you need to create Deathless is a strong manifest zone to Irian and deep devotion of a group of people. They have both in the Demon Wastes, and this has let them create their own tiny Undying Court; this is reflected by the other Dwarven unit in the game, the Deathless Guardian.”

  4. Can dual manifest zones exist, by your reckoning? There is canonically a Mabar/Shavarath zone in Valin Field in Thrane (3.5 The Forge of War, pages 98 to 100), and a Dolurrh/Shavarath zone in the Harvest of Pain in Argonnessen (3.5 The Forge of War, page 36), but what do you think?

    According to your IFAQ: The Emerald Claw article, there can potentially be a “micro-manifest zone” inside a much larger manifest zone. Is it very rare for a city built within a manifest zone to also have one or more “micro-manifest zones” inside?

    • Manifest zones are already rare. Micro-manifest zones and dual manifest zones are possible, yes, but they are VERY rare. So you could introduce either one as a plot point in a story, but they should be called out as being remarkable.

  5. Once you cross over into Blood Crescent, are you trapped there, forced to return only through the maze? Or is that just a limitation for demons? Some lore seems to imply the maze is the only way anyone can get out, fiend or no.

    • I’ll add a longer answer to the main article, but the role of Yrlag is clearly defined in canon — from page 162 of the 3.5 Eberron Campaign Setting, “Built on the shores of Crescent Bay and regularly supplied by ships from Yrlag, a large town across the bay in the Shadow Marches, Blood Crescent serves as House Tharashk’s long dreamed-of foothold in the Demon Wastes.”

  6. Are important cities in Riedra (e.g. Durat Tal, Dar Jin, Dar Ulatesh) built upon non-wild manifest zones, or do the Inspired prefer to take no chances when it comes to extraplanar influences in Sarlona?

    • Also worth checking if Sarlona and Riedra specifically have any non-wild zones.

      Also, we know they will take advantage of the wild zones; pomow was magebred in a Lammanian wild zone. On the other hand, they want their populace as “dulled” as possible. So I imagine they have no cities in wild zones, but may have them nearby if they need resources from one.

    • I think the Inspired have avoided building bastion cities on manifest zones in order to avoid any unanticipated extraplanar influence. However, I think that smaller communities and settlements that predate the Sundering could contain or be built within manifest zones.

  7. Yrlag features in the first half of The Binding Stone by Don Blassingwaithe. It’s the only Eberron series I’ve read so far, and might be worth a look for the asker. Lots of Shadow Marches stuff in there.

    • I took a look, but it seems Bassingthwaite’s version is a little incompatible with this one.

      “In actual truth, there was little to distinguish one region from the other—low, harsh scrubland rolled across either side of the Grithic, wild and ungoverned. The only reason that Yrlag existed at all was trade. The wilds of the Eldeen, the uplands of the Shadow Marches, and even the barrens of Droaam came together along the Grithic.”

      • It’s not like Don and I consulted on the concept, and everything on this website is what I would do in my campaign. But setting the physical description aside, I agree with the key point that the reason Yrlag is such a large community is because of that trade —not only being poised between so many different cultures but also being a port. You get Marchers, Reachers, and the people of the Barrens; it’s certainly a city full of opportunities.

  8. One of the novels set in Breland implies a minor “entrapping” effect to Wroat. Now I’m not going to ask for minutiae, just your opinion:

    Does a “focus on your minor tasks, diligence over flashiness” effect make sense as a manifest zone?

    If I remember correctly, the discussion I had was over whether it was a Dolurrh manifest zone. I imagine it could be Daanvi as well with that effect. What do you think? It certainly explains why the central government of a kingdom, especially one known for corruption, manages to work efficiently. It also offers an explanation why the royal Court goes on an annual tour of the country; clear the monarchs mind of the “Wroat Trap” and help them remember there’s more of the country.

    • I think you’re more likely to see a capital arise and prosper on a manifest zone to Daanvi than to Dolurrh—though I’d have to look back and review what I specifically said if I was going to write up a formal description of Wroat.

    • I have long suspected that Wroat is on a Daanvi manifest zone, especially given the ‘eerily perfect’ way it’s described in Rising From the Last War.

  9. I’m glad you’re well. One of my players invented the Feast of Passage, based on Thanksgiving. I thought it was a great idea, and allowed it to happen. Right now, my players are participating in the feast. So, I let it happen, in my Eberron.

  10. I am definitely looking forward to an article about major cities and their links to manifest zones, and will advocate for this in Patreon. Naturally, without pressure. I’m aware that you are quite busy, and your regular articles here are all the more appreciated.

    A question linked to Yrlag, however: how do the Gatekeepers feel about links with the Demon Wastes? While they are most famous for fighting aberrations, they are watchful against all supernatural threats: is this limited to extra-planar ones, or do the native outsiders of the Demon Wastes (and the Khyber demi-planes) also catch their ire? The shipping between Yrlag and Blood Crescent could go both ways, after all.

    • How do the Gatekeepers feel about links with the Demon Wastes?
      The Gatekeepers aren’t really a monolithic force; most Gatekeepers are focused on specific sites or seals and aren’t trying to direct the actions of other factions. There are Gatekeepers within Tharashk, but an obvious point is that Blood Crescent was established a century ago which suggests that the Tharashk Gatekeepers either don’t oppose it or don’t have the power to affect the decision. The same applies to Tharashk activity in Q’barra, which could be seen as unwise.

      Personally, I would run it that the Tharashk Gatekeepers aren’t trying to dominate the direction of the house, but are trying to be sure to monitor potential dangers. So I’d say that there is surely a Tharashk Gatekeeper observer in Blood Crescent who’s trying to guide the people there, as well as a few Gatekeepers in Yrlag supporting the observer and prepared to call for help. But always keep in mind that the point of Eberron is that the world NEEDS HEROES. The Gatekeepers aren’t SUPPOSED to have everything under control. They’re an ancient, crumbling order primarily concerned with their narrow focus. They have observers and guides trying to keep the house from doing anything truly foolish, but if they fail in this mission, the answer we WANT is that the Gatekeepers in Yrlag need to find capable champions to go to Blood Crescent and fix things—IE, they need the help of player characters—not that they already have powerful forces in place that they could deploy to handle the situation.

      • Thanks! It’s understood that player characters are needed to actually do anything, but the question was more whether there are Gatekeeper doomsayers who go around warning everyone who wants to listen (and maybe getting some PCs to do so).

        From what you say about the age of Blood Crescent and the tacit agreement or lack of true opposition from the Torrn clan, I take it that it’s not a cause for deep alarm among a majority of Gatekeepers at least. Caution, yes, but not concern.

        I have some more questions regarding the Gatekeepers and their views of entities from planes other than Kythri or Xoriat – say, whether they consider fey from Thelanis or the extraplanar fauna from Lamannia, planes tied much more to nature than the classical ‘far realm’ ones – to be threats, and what they think of native outsiders… but I feel that is something more appropriate to a future Patreon question session, if not a full-sized article. So this is more some musing on my part than an actual question here.

        • If you wanted something on the Gatekeepers and the Demon Wastes, you can always pull from Faiths of Eberron: “Most Gatekeepers are concerned with more mundane matters, mainly destroying aberrations and extraplanar horrors wherever they might lurk. The boldest
          join the Maruk Ghaash’kala guardians in the Demon
          Wastes to combat the fiends of Khyber.” (FoE, p. 100)

          • I didn’t work on FoE, and the idea of Gatekeepers—especially THE BOLDEST Gatekeepers—joining the Ghaash’kala seems unlikely to me for many reasons. What makes the work of the Ghaash’kala more important than the work of their own sect? But do what you will in your campaign!

  11. Question, what would Yrlag mean translated to common do you think for your campaign? Would it reflect the manifest zone with something like “bountiful port” or be named by a orc named Yrlag that established the settlement?

    As a manifest zone can be the size of a singular room, could a building have two or more manifest zones of different planes rooms inside it? If I recall Arcanix had something like that?

    • Question, what would Yrlag mean translated to common do you think for your campaign?
      It’s an Orcish word, and no one speaks Orcish anymore, so it’s somewhat irrelevant. But it means “Plenty.”

      As a manifest zone can be the size of a singular room, could a building have two or more manifest zones of different planes rooms inside it?

      It’s theoretically possible, yes.

  12. Is Baruk (the half-orc ranger commander of Blood Crescent) a member of House Tharashk? Does he possess a dragonmark? Besides elite guards from House Tharashk are there any monstrous mercenaries from Droaam among the forces at the outpost assisting with collecting Khyber dragonshards or narstone or acting as guards?

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