Portals of Anauroch
By Robert Wiese
The Lost Portal at Hlaungadath
When Karsus stole the Weave from Mystryl and brought about the doom of the Netherese Empire, the sudden loss of magic caused the floating cities to crash to the ground. The city of Hlaungadath landed the most northward of any of them, and it sits now near the High Ice. The ruins of this place have been covered to some extent with the sands of Anauroch, but structures still poke through the sand and littered stone, marking the passing of this once-great place.
Since that time, various groups of Bedine desert raiders occupy the ruins, but each group has found some kind of evil in the place and has abandoned the site. No one can describe the evil, except to say that it lurks and disturbs the dreams of those who remain in the ruin area. Adventurers have explored some of the ruined structures, but they found no trace of a magical "evil" such as the more superstitious Bedine describe.
In the last few years, the ruins of Hlaungadath have become home to a group of proud and arrogant lamias, led by a lamia sorcerer of great power named Koreeis. The lamias once wandered the desert sands and raided Zhent caravans. They overstepped some hidden boundary of respect and earned the lasting enmity of Jolarr and his group of magic-hating Bedine raiders. The Bedine forced the lamia clan steadily northward to the ruins of Hlaungadath, where the evil reputation of the place stopped the Bedine. Attempts by the lamias to move southward again have all been met by stiff resistance from Jolarr and his Bedine. Now, the lamias raid where they can, and they send smaller groups southward to further their evil ends.
The downward turn of the fortunes of the lamia clan might be arrested now, however. Deep within what was once a temple to Mystryl, the god of magic before Mystra, the lamia leader has found a portal. The portal is 7 feet high and 5 feet wide, and it is framed by a permanent glowing light similar to a faerie fire effect. The portal itself constantly shimmers with a bluish misty undulating light, but so far the lamias have not been able to use the portal. Since the discovery, they have been raiding particularly to capture a spellbook or sorcerer from which they can learn to analyze portals.
The portal was created during the heyday of Hlaungadath's glory to ease travel to and from the dwarven city of Ascore, principal city of the powerful dwarven realm of Delzoun. However, the creator secretly added several other destinations, since the cost was low. He used these alternate destinations for his own purposes, and no one ever found out about them. The portal is two-way for each destination.
Activating the portal requires that one recite an ancient dwarven chant. The chant has been lost to the ruins of Hlaungadath, but the composer inscribed it on a wall in ruined Ascore so that the dwarves would remember it. The chant is a mere 30 lines long -- very short for a dwarven chant -- and ends with the line "that the halls of our fathers may stand for 10,000 years" (loose translation). The creator decided to key the alternate locations to the same song, but with a different length of years in the final line. For example, "... for 10,000 years" opens the portal to the ruined chamber in Ascore, while "for 1,000 years" opens a portal to the Astral Plane. The creator did not have a really strong memory, though, and recorded the alternate numbers in a journal. This journal was left behind when the people of Hlaungadath fled the city, and it is now a crumbling ruin of leather flakes buried in the sands of the room where the portal stands. The lamias have not found the journal fragments, and they could not recognize them as valuable if they did. By piecing them together slowly and meticulously, one can recover a section that lists the following:
- 1,000 Astral Plane
- 2,000 Miyeritar
- 6,000 Anauria
- 12,000 Myth Drannor
The portal at Myth Drannor is actually some three miles north of the site of the old city in a great tree that once served as an elven home. No trace now exists of the home, but the portal remains within its branches. Anauria is now in ruins under the sands of the Sword. This portal is not the one described in the "Anauria Portal" article later in this series. Miyeritar is the name of the ancient elven kingdom that once existed where the High Moor now lies. The portal is no longer marked; it sits in the midst of a group of stones that might once have been part of a wall of some kind, or an arch. It is in the central High Moor, and only a concerted search using analyze portal reveals its location without actually using the portal.
Sheik Jolarr and the Bedine Forsakers
Many tribes of Bedine nomads live on the sands of Anauroch, eking out their living by raiding, raising cattle, or trading when possible. Few become serious threats to the peace of the region, but sometimes a sheik leads his people down a course of death.
Jolarr was a young boy when the Zhentarim entered his life. His tribe raided a Zhentarim caravan, but met with stiffer resistance than expected. Jolarr was part of the raiding party more as an observer, and he saw his father slain by hideous magic. A wizard of the Black Network enspelled the young boys waiting on the hill, Jolarr included, and would have sold them into slavery if the tribe members had not picked them up during the retreat. That incident made Jolarr hate and fear magic and changed his whole life. He took the path of the forsaker, and as he grew he convinced others that magic should be destroyed. By the time he became sheik he had a large following.
Jolarr turned the peaceful, wandering tribe members into a fierce army of death to spellcasters and users of magic. He teaches others the secret of his knowledge, passing on the forsaker class among his people. He leads raids against Zhentarim caravans with a passion not seen in normal Bedine and brings especially gruesome deaths to spellcasters accompanying the caravans. He leads his people in attacks against any magical race or settlement; even magical beasts such as the lamias are not safe. He even targets the spellcasters of other Bedine tribes and tries to recruit among his victims once the magic-users are destroyed. His people believe that magic constructs, such as portals, should be destroyed by whatever means are available.
The tribe does have a couple of sorcerers whose place it is to destroy these items and unbind the magic that enemies cast. Thus, they are experts at dispelling magic and at counterspelling, but they do not use their spells to attack very often. Clerics are unheard of in the tribe; all religious worship is conducted free of magic.
Jolarr's tribe is more than 300 strong, though with few herd animals. They prefer horses and always keep moving -- herds slow a group down. They keep just enough to feed themselves as needed and trade with other tribes when they run low (or get what they need from the Zhentarim).
Encounters with Sheik Jolarr and his people are always tense, and whether they are friends or foes depends on many factors. If the PCs are interested in destroying some site or magical enemy, they find staunch allies in Jolarr's people so long as they don't overtly use magic themselves. If they seek a portal or other magical source to use it, they find Jolarr to be an enemy. Jolarr does have honor, however, and he considers as permanent enemies only those who use magic. The PCs could become his friends if they abstain from magic use around him, even if they previously were enemies.
Sheik Jolarr: Male human (Bedine) Ranger 3/Fighter 6/Rogue 4; CR 13; Medium-size humanoid; HD 3d10+6 plus 6d12+12 plus 4d10+8; hp 103; Init +3; Spd 30 ft.; AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 13; Atk +15/+10/+5 melee (1d8+3/19-20, masterwork saber*) and +14/+9 melee (1d6+1/19-20, masterwork short sword), or +16/+11/+6 ranged (1d8+3/x3, masterwork mighty [+3 Str bonus] composite longbow); SQ DR 7/+3, fast healing 2, favored and hated enemy Zhentarim +1, forsake magic, hated enemy damage reduction 5/--, hated enemy spell resistance, magic destruction, natural weapons, rancor +2d6, slippery mind, SR 16, tough defense; AL LE; SV Fort +17, Ref +12, Will +10; Str 16, Dex 16, Con 15, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 13.
Skills and Feats: Balance +5, Handle Animal +5, Hide +9, Intimidate +11, Intuit Direction +3, Jump +5, Knowledge (nature) +5, Listen +12, Move Silently +7, Ride (horse) +13, Spot +9, Tumble +12, Wilderness Lore +16, Great Fortitude, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Survivor, Track, Weapon Focus (saber*).
Fast Healing (Ex): Sheik Jolarr regains 2 hit points per round, to a maximum of 30 hit points per day.
Favored/Hated Enemy: Sheik Jolarr has selected Zhentarim as a favored enemy and as a hated enemy. He gains a +1 bonus on his Bluff, Listen, Sense Motive, Spot, and Wilderness Lore checks when using these skills against Zhentarim. He gets the same bonus to weapon damage rolls against them. He also gets the damage bonus with ranged weapons if the target is within 30 feet. The bonus doesn't apply to damage against creatures that are immune to critical hits.
Forsake Magic: In addition to avoiding all use of spellcasting, spell-like abilities, and magic items, Sheik Jolarr must also refuse any benefits from others' magic -- including magical healing. Thus, he must attempt a saving throw against any spell that allows one. For most beneficial spells, such as displacement or neutralize poison, a successful save negates the spells effects; for a cure spell, it halves the benefit. If Sheik Jolarr unwittingly uses a magic item or casts a spell, he loses all the special abilities of the forsaker class for 1 week.
Hated Enemy Damage Reduction (Ex): Sheik Jolarr gains damage reduction 5/-- against attacks from Zhentarim.
Hated Enemy Spell Resistance (Ex): Against hated enemies, Sheik Jolarr has spell resistance 35.
Magic Destruction: Sheik Jolarr gains access to his damage reduction ability (see above) through the destruction of magic items. If he goes more than 24 hours without destroying magic items whose market prices total at least 700 gp, he loses that ability until he does so.
Natural Weapons (Ex): Sheik Jolarr's weapons act as +3 magical weapons for the purpose of bypassing damage reduction.
Rancor (Su): Against hated enemies, the foe hunter can make one attack per round as a rancor attack (declared before die roll). A successful hit deals +2d6 points of damage. This damage is not multiplied on critical hits, but applies to creatures that are immune to critical hits.
Slippery Mind (Ex): If he fails a saving throw against an enchantment effect, Sheik Jolarr can make another one the following round. He gets only one extra chance at the saving throw.
Tough Defense (Ex): Sheik Jolarr adds his Constitution modifier (if positive) as a natural armor bonus to AC (already included in the Statistics above).
Possessions**: Masterwork studded leather armor, masterwork saber*, masterwork short sword, masterwork mighty composite longbow [+3 Str bonus], 30 masterwork arrows, 30 arrows, waterskins and desert survival gear, tent, light warhorse, tack, saddle, 90 pp.
*With a saber, an attacker gains a +1 circumstance bonus to attacking someone on the ground from horseback.
How to Incorporate the Lost Portal of Hlaungadath Into Your Campaign:
- The lamias capture the PCs as part of a raid, and in exchange for freedom or life, the PCs agree to help find how the portal works. The PCs may not intend to keep this agreement, but the agreement itself is enough to earn them some freedom. After some magical divination, the PCs head to Ascore to find the key and face a group of Shade wizards who happen to be there for completely different reasons (see Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, page 175). Once they deal with that threat and find the portal key, they must decide how to deal with the lamia clan.
- The lamias figure out the portal and begin appearing out of nowhere in the Dalelands. The Dalefolk become alarmed since many are taken away to a mysterious place, and they ask the PCs to find their lost friends. The trail leads the PCs through some dangers in the Dalelands and eventually across Anauroch to Hlaungadath, where they must rescue any captives, find the portal, and use it to get home. Crossing the desert again with so many people would leave them vulnerable to the lamias (if any are left) and Bedine raiders, not to mention sandworms (desert-dwelling variants of purple worms) and other monstrosities.