The Dragons' Claw Portals
By Robert Wiese
The Dragonspine Mountains Portal
Located west of the Moonsea, the Dragonspine Mountains are home to red and white dragons in the higher peaks, and giants and monsters in the lower altitudes. Zhentil Keep, Melvaunt, and Hillsfar all mine the range, and the infamous Citadel of the Raven stands on the western slopes. Valraxaxath linked this site into his portal network because of the reds and whites, but access to mines and to Zhentil Keep and other sites on the Moonsea is not to be belittled. The dragons of this range avoid the Citadel of the Raven, but they freely go elsewhere in the mountains. Fiercely independent, as most dragons are, they have lairs on peaks and small territories that they defend. Valraxaxath talked them into minimizing their infighting so that they could increase the sizes of their respective hoards, but adventurers find the occasional dragon corpse near an empty lair.
Valraxaxath does business with Mulmaster and Zhentil Keep merchants as well as with the Thayans at the Thayan Enclaves. He also keeps track of the mercenaries and Zhent forces, because one can never tell when one will need disposable resources. He uses a human form when in this district, though he rarely uses the portal himself.
The portal here is the most obvious of all those in the network, but it is atop a peak that few but dragons ever ascend. Since the portal was placed, no one has survived the ascent, though they were all quite tasty. The portal, a triple-sized one, is demarcated by a great U-shaped stone formation that looks like an oarlock and is about 20 feet across. One can access it by climbing up to it, but the climb is extremely treacherous even under the best of weather conditions.
The portal is variable, like the others in this network, and it can activate four times a day. The default destination is a spot in the midst of Raurin, the Dust Desert east of Mulhorand. This desert is a home to brown and blue dragons that devour any tasty morsels that suddenly appear from the portal. As with the other portals in the network, creatures are transported to the desert, while their equipment goes to Valraxaxath's secondary hoard in the Wyrmbones. It is likely that in the future Valraxaxath might build a two-way portal from here to bring the browns into his network.
The other destinations all require keys:
- The portal to the Forest of Wyrms requires a dragon's breath weapon to activate.
- The portal to the Small Teeth Mountains requires blood from a freshly killed (within the last 8 hours) humanoid or animal.
- The portal to the Dragonjaw Mountains requires the user to speak the word "gem" in Draconic.
- The portal to Rethild requires Valraxaxath himself as the key; unless he uses one of the other keys, Valraxaxath always goes to Rethild when using this portal.
With the Zhentarim, powerful wizards, and dangerous mercenaries, the residents of the Moonsea area have not really thought much of the increase in dragon raids on mine caravans. They assume some wizard or other is behind it, and they keep their mouths shut. The Zhentarim have noticed, even though the raids have been light compared to elsewhere in Faerûn. Several groups of mercenaries have been sent into the peaks to deal with this or that dragon, and their remains are found charred or burned by acid and broken from falls of over 1,000 feet. Sessions questioning these remains have provided the information that most died when a second dragon, often one not of a color known to live in the Dragonspines, attacked just as the mercenaries were about to finish off their target dragon. One report included references to a dragon that cast horrid wilting and acid fireball-like spells before spitting acid. Fzoul and his senior wizards continue to monitor the situation, but they do not take strong actions because other projects demand their attention.
How to Incorporate the Dragonspine Mountains Portal Into Your Campaign
- The characters are in the Dragonspines dealing with giants or ogres when they see a huge dragon fly over carrying a wagon. A couple gold coins fall to the ground near them. They can find out from local towns of your choice that a wagon train is late arriving from the Dalelands. They find the remains of the caravan. They are asked to hunt down the dragon or recover the gold -- if the PCs do not become interested on their own. The dragon flew through the portal to the Dragonjaw Mountains, and a "breadcrumb" trail of coins leads toward the portal structure.
- In the Dalelands, the characters are neck-deep in trouble with some evil creatures such as drow when a dragon flies overhead. It sees the characters and lets loose a breath weapon attack before moving on. The dragon later raids a farm to the south, and the characters are asked to solve that problem, too. It could be that the dragon is taking advantage of the other situation the characters are dealing with, or it could be the instigator. Its trail leads back to the Dragonspines and perhaps even to the portal itself.