By Robert Wiese
The destruction of Zhentil Keep in 1368 DR resulted in the strengthening of Zhentarim rule over the city, and Fzoul Chembryl now administers the city and uses it as an arsenal of the Black Network and as a temple of Bane, his dark god. He naturally plans large conquests for the Zhentarim, and he keeps a close eye on the workings of his underlings as well as the movements of the do-gooders of Faerûn. For this purpose, he had created for him a second artifact, Bane's Eye.
Located deep within Zhentil Keep itself and guarded by a legion of Zhent soldiers, Bane's Eye is a huge circular stone structure that marks a very unique portal. This portal is two-way and activated by the key phrase, "In the name of Dark Bane, I seek access to [location]," where [location] specifies one of the exits for the portal. As only Fzoul and two others know this phrase activates a portal at all, the secret is well kept. The portal has six separate locations: the Citadel of the Raven, Darkhold, a spot near Shadowdale, and three places around Faerûn where Fzoul has intrigues in the works. Using a sacrificial ritual that involves the deaths of many innocents and the direct intervention of Bane himself, Fzoul can change the exit locations of this portal at need, but to have two-way travel he must arrange for a new portal to be created at the new destination.
This fell portal has other powers besides since the black marble arch that marks it has been enhanced with many powers. Its primary purpose is to aid in scrying, and use of the arch grants a +20 bonus to Scry checks. It also imposes a -10 penalty to attempts to detect its scrying. With this device, Fzoul, or those wizards he might designate, can watch events unfold anywhere in Faerûn. Thus, it has the frightening power of allowing Chembryl to view a place where he is active, see the most secret discussions of his enemies, and send creatures through to disrupt the plans they thought were known only to them.
Further, the portal arch can defend itself. In defense, it bestows a bestow curse effect on anyone within 1,000 feet who seeks to harm the portal or to use it in the service of any but Bane. (At the DM's option, this curse could instead cause strange events to befall the person that take control of his or her life away temporarily, such as suddenly being attacked by a press gang and sold into slavery on the high seas, or meeting a young child who then leads the person through a labyrinthine path through the underworld of Zhentil Keep on some errand that the person had no intention of getting involved in at all. The curse would also affect anyone not in the service of Bane by causing a -2 penalty on all attacks, skill checks, and saving throws made within 100 feet of the portal itself.)
All is not perfect for Chembryl, though. He does not know that his cherished portal was tainted from its creation. One of the priests who assisted with the construction, and who was later sacrificed to fuel the magic of the portal, was in fact a follower of Cyric. The followers of the Dark Sun keep an eye on their enemies, as well, and they heard about Chembryl's plans to create the portal. Thus, they sent one of their own inside, and this priest carried within his body foul, corrupting magic. When he was sacrificed in the ritual, the magic leaked into the portal, becoming part of its essence. This magic is slowly turning Bane's Eye away from the control of the followers of Bane, and it's opening the way for the Cyric priests to wrest control of it. The corrupting process will take some time, and before the portal is sufficiently weakened, Chembryl should notice some variations in its functions, but it is very unlikely that he will suspect the truth. Meanwhile, the priests of Cyric scry on the portal, watch Chembryl and his lackeys, and bide their time.
How to Incorporate Bane's Portal Into Your Campaign:
- You can build up to the introduction of this particular portal. For example, the adventurers find themselves operating in a place where the Black Network is active and whenever they make plans against the Zhentarim, their enemies seem to know their plans. Defeat after defeat can be frustrating, and you should not pile too many upon your poor players, but definitely give them the feeling that someone is somehow watching them. When they finally are successful, they learn about the connection back to Bane's Eye, though not all its powers. This can lead higher-level adventurers into the heart of Zhentil Keep itself as the PCs seek to neutralize the powers of the Eye. In doing so, they would face not only the forces of the keep and the powers of the Eye, but the priests of Cyric who do not want it destroyed before they can gain control of it.