By Robert Wiese
The Soggy Dwarf Portal
An old proverb states, "Where wealth can be found in the earth, you can find a dwarf." This proverb proves itself true more often than not, and dwarves even use portals in their search for mineral wealth. The Graypeak Mountains, like all mountains, contain ores that dwarves can trade with humans and elves. Unfortunately, the Graypeak Mountains also contain a lot of aggressive stone giants, goblins, and other nasties. Nonetheless, a group of dwarves snuck into the mountains and engaged in a little quiet prospecting. The group, an offshoot of the dwarves of Mirabar (in the North), found a promising vein and mined into one of the peaks. Their luck could not hold forever, however, and some stone giants discovered the tunnel. The giants sealed the opening with a small landslide, but the dwarves were undaunted and merely dug themselves out again. The giants were waiting, and in the fighting, the dwarves barely escaped.
When the dwarves returned with a larger force, they found the entrance sealed again. They opened it and began mining, but the giants sent a landslide again to close the mine. This happened several times, and the dwarves got tired of it. They finally left the mine entrance buried. The vein was rich enough, and large enough, to be worth some effort, so the dwarves concocted a plan. They hired a wizard to create a two-way portal from within the mine to a site near Mirabar. The wizard, an old dwarf named Ferros Fireforge, magically looked around the mine and teleported inside with some dwarves to create the portal, so that the giants and goblins of the mountains would not know it was there.
The portal is 7 feet wide and 6 feet high, roughly rectangular, and marked by an arch covered in Dwarven inscriptions. The arch is set into the wall, and it appears as if an older dwarf clan constructed it but then abandoned it. The inscriptions all warn of hideous deaths that await anyone entering the archway, but the archway does not seem to go anywhere. Anyone looking at it might think that the wall within was put there to prevent anyone from passing beyond the arch. However, words that cover it were a sort of joke on the part of the creators and serve as part of the "disguise" for the portal. The portal is two-way and keyed to activate when a dwarf stands in the arch. Nondwarves can pass through only if they do so in the same round that a dwarf activates the portal.
With this portal, which the dwarves call the Mine Portal, the dwarves could continue mining without revealing their presence to any of the inhabitants of the mountains. This arrangement served very well for a number of years, and the minerals from the Graypeak Mountains were traded through Mirabar. The dwarves that lived in the mine built a stronghold that faced the old entrance, the one buried by the giants, in case the giants decided to come calling.
Then one morning the dwarves in the mine awoke to find their portal underwater. Investigation revealed that water from outside had broken through some rock and filled the portal chamber. Eventually they discovered that a mountain lake was in a valley next to the mountain under which they were mining, and the water had broken through weak sections of the ground. The water completely submerged the portal to a depth of 8 feet, but rose no higher. The level of the water in the portal chamber had equilibrated with the lake's surface level.
The dwarves spent weeks trying to block off and then remove the water. For short periods they enjoyed success, but within a week of clearing the chamber of water it filled again. After months of draining the chamber, only to have it fill again, they gave up. They still needed the portal, so they used it underwater. This resulted, of course, in all dwarves passing through getting soaked, and it came to be called the Soggy Dwarf Portal by the humans of Mirabar.
Since that time, the dwarves have developed ways to use the Soggy Dwarf Portal with minimal soaking. They recruited a wizard to work in the mine, who provides water breathing and freedom of movement spells as needed. The underwater portal is inconvenient, but draining the lake would anger a druid that lives nearby and also attract attention to their "secret" mining effort. Some of the dwarves tell the story of it as an example of dwarven perseverance.
How to Incorporate the Soggy Dwarf Portal Into Your Campaign
- A dangerous water creature has crept in through the lake and into the portal chamber. It is strong enough to prevent the dwarves from using the portal, and the dwarves in the mine are trapped as well. The PCs have to go into the mine and hunt the creature down. To make it more interesting, it could be amphibious, and therefore can leave the portal room and hunt in the mine.
- Word of the Soggy Dwarf Portal spreads beyond the local area, and suddenly there is a lot of interest in it. Various evil, and possibly not evil, factions send agents to the area to learn the secret and hopefully profit from it. The PCs are hired either by one of these factions or by the dwarves to find out everyone's agenda and help keep the secret of the portal's destination.