Emerald Enclave Portals
By Jeff Quick
Forests of the Great Dale
The situation in the Forests of the Great Dale is practically archetypal: People outside the forest are attempting to exploit the forests' resources with no regard for the balance or long-term usefulness of the trees, animals, and mineral resources they harvest.
The local druids were happy to have the Emerald Enclave provide support and assistance to their efforts and at first welcomed their involvement. Soon after, things started getting ugly.
The Enclave assigned a sharp, competent half-orc druid/barbarian, Shumash Jaundiceeye (CN half-orc Drd9/Bbn6), to assist, along with two subordinate half-orc druids. Shumash is cunning, powerful, and has excellent instincts for both conflict and nature. He also has all the personal skills of a dire boar. Shumash knows how to get what he wants -- as long as it doesn't involve working with others very closely.
Almost immediately upon arrival through the portal, Shumash determined that the local druid circles in the Great Forests were almost wholly incompetent and could only be trusted with the simplest tasks. Even those tasks required painstaking amounts of handholding, in Shumash's estimation.
The local druids, who had been handling things nicely for the entire history of the forests, naturally resented Shumash's constant condescension and bullying. Shumash could be dismissed easily if he wasn't right most of the time. In truth, sometimes Shumash does know better than the local druids. And he isn't slow or gentle in telling local druids exactly when and how they're wrong.
When approached by someone about his combative behavior, Shumash informs the locals that the Enclave sent him, and he takes orders only from his superiors there. When the Great Forest druids attempt to contact the Enclave, they are shuffled around from person to person or have their concerns dismissed after being told that Shumash is an excellent Caretaker and that the Great Forest druids have full access to his capabilities.
If this hierarchical runaround weren't enough, the druids have a couple of other reasons to be suspicious of Shumash's presence and motives.
First, Shumash is secretive about the portal that he uses to travel between the Great Dale Forests and his headquarters on Ilghon. No one knows where it is, what it looks like, how it operates, or how often he uses it. He becomes belligerent if anyone asks more than one question about it.
Second, subordinates have virtually disappeared since his arrival. They are never seen in common meetings and rarely seen anywhere else. They talk to no one except Shumash, and even then speak only in Orc. Sometimes, late at night, under cloudy skies, murmurings in Orc can be heard coming from Shumash's tent, and his subordinates are seen leaving after long, quiet conversations. Predictably, Shumash does not discuss these meetings with the local druids, and he becomes intensely angry when questioned about them.
Third, Shumash seems to be resistant to divination and mind-reading spells. Information gleaned indicates that he is preparing "to lead a great defeat in the forests parallel."
The druids of the Great Dale Forests are not all sissies, but they're at a loss on how to deal with the situation, and they would like a resolution soon. Rejecting the Emerald Enclave's appointed Caretaker would be bad form. Shumash is so purposeful and strong-willed that subtle redirection proves fruitless. Reasoning with him has failed repeatedly. Some are beginning to suspect that Shumash is up to no good, though no one wants to move without proof. The only thing they know is the location and customs of the orc tribe from which Shumash comes. The tribe lives near the Great Glacier and is known for its violent confrontation and deep reverence for Gruumsh.
One useful tidbit the druids have learned from animal spies concerns ritual combat from Shumash's tribe. If the druids can find someone to defeat Shumash in ritual combat without killing him, he must (according to tribal tradition) open his mind and heart to the winner. Whether Shumash still considers himself bound by tribal law is a mystery, but it seems to be the best option available.
How to Incorporate the Forests of the Great Dale Portal Into Your Campaign
- Shumash might listen to another half-orc who speaks his "language." If the party has a brutish half-orc who could at all be sympathetic, they are asked to try to "reason" with Jaundiceeye in a ritual battle.
- If the party doesn't conveniently have a half-orc, the druids ask the party to go to Shumash's home tribe and escort a suitable orc back to fight him.
- One of the local druids might request that the PCs speak to the Emerald Enclave on their behalf in the hopes of getting their attention, or at least learning why the Caretakers are so unhelpful in their helpfulness.
- Shumash's protectiveness of the portal's location is suspicious to say the least. The druids might ask the PCs to find the portal and watch for what Shumash is up to with it.