Safeholds (Part One)
By Ed Greenwood
The King and Queen of Cormyr found themselves in a small, dark room quickening to coziness around them as two glowing globes came to life. One orb hovered above a round bed with shimmering overclothes, and the other overhung a desk. By their shared light, the Obarskyrs surveyed a wardrobe, a knights-and-dragons board set ready on the otherwise spotless and empty desk, two lounge chairs smooth and flowing enough to be elven-make, a carpet of dark and unfamiliar furs underfoot, and smooth, featureless dun-hued walls that curved to become both floor and ceiling -- and displayed a complete lack of doors, windows, or any other visible way out.
"And just where are we now?" The Queen of Cormyr looked less than amused. "Have you no way of controlling Vangerdahast's magic?"
Azoun sighed. "If I did, d'you think he'd be driving all Cormyr wild day after month after year, ruling us just as firmly as he does every last crofter and dung-carter in the realm?"
Filfaeril rolled her eyes -- and then, surprisingly, grinned.
"I meant, lord of my heart, can you control the ring you wear? Or does it take us wherever it wills?"
"It takes us, I believe, from one place to another in a sequence our beloved Royal Magician set. A sequence that I hope -- that he hinted, once -- is a circuit that will eventually return us to the Palace."
"Its dungeons, or his bedchamber, or the room we departed from?"
It was Azoun's turn to grin. "I begin to think none of those Palace destinations is preferable to any other. I'll be even less amused if our bedchamber turns out to be among them."
"Right, I'm having the tapestries that face the foot of our bed taken down tomorrow," his queen said darkly.
"If we get within speaking distance of any Palace servant by the morrow," Azoun reminded her gently.
"Ah, that's my Purple Dragon." Filfaeril's voice was sweet. "The man who heartens and inspires every lass and jack of Cormyr by his reassurances. The overconfident lord whose confidence spreads warmth to all, because he always says the right thing."
Azoun gave her an innocent look. "I see a handy bed -- and privacy. Care to be heartened and inspired?"
"I said 'overconfident,' not 'lucky.'"
Azoun and Filfaeril seem to have been translocated magically into a hidden room: a furnished space intended for the use of humans, elves, or similar creatures, that has no visible physical entrance or exit. Neither of them has yet noticed spells awakening or affecting them, any inhabitants or guardian constructs . . . or bad air.
They kissed each other affectionately, and then turned again to peer at their surroundings, each with an arm still around the other's shoulder.
"So where do you think we are, love?" Filfaeril murmured, hand going again to her dagger.
"A safehold," Azoun replied promptly. "Whose, and where it is, though -- I haven't the faintest."
"A safehold," Filfaeril echoed, gazing at the empty chairs and the knights-and-dragons board.
"A little refuge, a magical hiding-hole. Elves crafted these, in the elder days. Myth Drannor's said to be riddled with literally hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of them. You remember the Safehold, reached by setting a ladder atop the Standing Stone, and jumping up from it in just the right direction --"
"To break legs or worse if you miss, and crash back to the ground," Filfaeril said darkly. "I know very well what safeholds are. Yet I also know very well what Vangerdahast is. Whose safehold is this, and why has he cause to visit it? Is this where he hides folk he doesn't want us -- or divers murderous nobles -- to find, d'you think?"
Azoun sighed. "Do I have to think about that, Fee? Thinking's what always seems to get me in trouble. Can't we just use the bed and stop fretting about all Faerûn for a bit?"
"No," the Dragon Queen said flatly. "Such luxuries aren't for those who wear crowns. Vangerdahast could be busily marrying both our daughters right now, and declaring himself Emperor-Wizard of all Cormyr."
Azoun snorted. "If he tries, he'd better lash up Tana's tongue and Luse's sword hand, first, or he'll have the shortest reign of any --"
Filfaeril giggled. "Hold that thought, my lord. That's a mind-view I can savor."
The Purple Dragon sighed. "Well, that's one of us."
Azoun of Cormyr is correct: Safeholds were created in great numbers by elves in earlier centuries, but none are made now, because those who crafted them belatedly saw their perils. The presence of a safehold weakens planar fabric, allowing translocation and dimension-spanning magics to penetrate a location more easily, and unintended visitors (monsters) to "slip through the cracks" and arrive unwanted and unheralded.
This was one contributing factor in the fall of Myth Drannor; in the battles of the Year of Doom, both opportunistic monsters and the forces of the Army of Darkness often appeared without warning in the heart of the city, taking folk by surprise and slaughtering them in the most private chambers of their own homes.
Safeholds are called "elf holds" by many human sages, and they are sometimes confused with slightly more common, visually similar refuges made before and (rarely) since the times when safeholds were popular: subterranean chamber networks, tombs, or "landlocked" caches (buried rooms or chains of rooms that no longer have a physical entrance or exit to aboveground areas or adjacent Underdark passages) that are portal-linked to a room or spot in Faerûn.
The lighthearted Cormyrean royals will return in our next column, wherein we'll see if they learn enough about safeholds to find their way out of this one.
© 2004 Wizards of the Coast, Inc. All rights reserved.