Portals of Anauroch
By Robert Wiese
The Sand Dragon Portal
The sands, heat, and winds of Anauroch discourage most life, and the desolation spreads a little every year. Some creatures, however, thrive in these conditions and seek them out. One such creature is the brown dragon. Born in the Raurin Desert from the magic of the Imaskari, brown dragons have migrated westward into the deserts of eastern Mulhorand. They are not much seen outside of that land, but there is at least one exception.
Valraxaxath, the dragon portal maker, visits the far corners of Faerûn seeking new places to build gates to aid the dragons that he works with (see "The Dragon's Claw Portals"). Realizing that the Anauroch offered little in the way of wealth, but much in the way of secrecy and tactical advantage for his allies, he sought a dragon to live there and guard the portal that he planned to create. He found such a dragon in the brown dragon Axlitis (adult brown dragon Sor10), who tired of life on the plains of Mulhorand. She agreed to ally with Valraxaxath and move to Anauroch. They selected a site in the Scimitar Spires Mountains, on the south side away from the city of Shade, and there constructed a portal and treasure hoard cave.
Axlitis's role is to prevent nondragons from using the portal and to guard the hoard that is located there. Valraxaxath stores some wealth in this remote spot, separate from and safe from his main hoard. Other dragons on raiding missions also deposit large items of wealth at the Anauroch cave and move on, returning later to retrieve the items. When adventurers become too interested in an allied dragon's hoard, the dragon moves the most valuable items here to the Anauroch hoard and allows the adventurers to clear out the dross. In return for temporary storage, Axlitis is paid in gems and coin by the other dragons. Axlitis herself sometimes uses the portal to raid in some far away place, returning here with her loot. This loot is sometimes traded to other dragons if it would be more useful for them than for her.
The portal is located above a cave opening at the base of the Scimitar Spires. The portal is sized for dragons of any size, and it is marked by a kind of horseshoe formation of rock that occurred naturally in the mountain range. The horseshoe opens upward and is some 70 feet wide, and the portal sits just above it rather than inside the horseshoe. Thus, one must fly through the portal to use it. As with the other Dragon's Claw portals, it has several destinations, and all are two-way portals. This portal has not been fully integrated into the Dragon's Claw portal set.
- The portal to the Dragonsword Mountains in Mulhorand, located on the east side of the range close to the Plains of Purple Dust, requires acid to pass through the portal area. This can be from a brown dragon breath weapon, or a spell, or a vial of thrown acid.
- The portal to the Forest of Wyrms requires a dragon's breath weapon directed through the portal marker to activate.
- The portal to the Dragonjaw Mountains requires the user to speak the word "gem" in Draconic.
The Dragon's Claw portals (and the Mulhorand one) mentioned above all connect to this one, using the key that a clawful of sand (at least two pounds) must be thrown all at once at the portal to set it to this location. The thrown sand does not pass through the portal when activating it.
Deep in the cave complex beneath the portal is the lair of Axlitis and the hoard she guards. Finding where she sleeps is not that difficult (normal chances to track), but the hoard is warded by spells designed to mislead. This is especially true of the temporary storage areas, which are also sometimes behind walls that have been altered with stone shape spells.
Valraxaxath has plans to use this portal to stage raids on the wizards of Shade at some point in the future, since he intends to capture their wealth of knowledge for the use of dragonkind. In the meantime, it makes a good place to store loot because of its remote location.
The Bedine all know that a dragon of sand lives north of the Saiyaddar, but they have little reason to seek it out. As Valraxaxath's schemes involve keeping this portal a secret, Axlitis does not visit the surrounding lands much except for the occasional food raid.
How to Incorporate the Sand Dragon Portal Into Your Campaign:
- Axlitis decides that her life of some secrecy is over and begins more aggressive raids on the Bedine who live on the Saiyaddar. The PCs are traveling through the region, possibly on the Black Road, and hear stories of a dragon coming out of the sand and devastating Bedine tribes. Dragons usually have hoards, so the PCs may decide to seek it out. It is unlikely that Axlitis would stay around to be slaughtered if the adventurers are too powerful for her, but she would use the portal to escape and return later (possibly with help). Meanwhile, the PCs could help themselves to the stored items of the hoard -- if they can find them.
- The PCs follow a green dragon from the Forest of Wyrms to the Scimitar Spires portal to retrieve some valuable magic trinket that it stole on a raid. The green dragon swoops into the cavern and then back out, and flies through the portal to another destination. Whether it dropped the trinket or not, the PCs probably investigate the cavern area and have to deal with Axlitis.
- The Saiyaddar is a plain of plenty (relatively) in the midst of the waste of Anauroch. Many Bedine tribes live there. Axlitis, liking such a supply of food so close, leaves them alone for the most part. However, other creatures do not. When sandworms (sand-dwelling purple worms) begin attacking, they are the harbinger of a much worse threat to the Bedine. The PCs find themselves approached by Axlitis and asked to solve the problem, and they are left to wonder why an evil dragon would care so much about the lives of these petty humanoids.
- Jolarr's tribe of magic-hating Bedine would find the existence of a spellcasting dragon intolerable and would do all it could to wipe out such an abomination. The PCs are approached on the Black Road and asked to help with this holy quest. The PCs get to decide whether it is worthy after interacting with Jolarr for several days of travel.