Portals of the Harvest Gods
By Robert Wiese
The Portals of the Gathering
South in the land of Luiren live the strongheart halflings, as well as a few lightfoot and ghostwise halflings. They are known to have a seemingly chaotic lifestyle, but their way of life works for them and endures for season after season. The hin of Luiren farm extensively and trade their produce with the dwarves of the Great Rift and the other lands nearby. They also engage in crafts, and their woodworking is as desired in the northern lands as their oranges and limes.
The hin boast no "national" government but are ruled instead by their churches - especially the church of Yondalla (the protector god of the halflings). However, the other halfling gods take their parts and enjoy fervent worship. For those most involved in farming and raising fruit trees, the deity nearest their hearts is Sheela Peryroyl, goddess of nature, beauty, song, and love. All good crop years, and most are good, come from the bounty of Sheela Peryroyl, and the annual celebrations of the harvest involve much singing and dancing.
As trade with other lands prospered and expanded, the farmers and priests considered how best to get their goods to market in a fresh "just-picked" state. Two approaches were tried, and both met with success. The first was to use magic to preserve the plants for the long journeys, and the second was to shorten the journeys by creating portals. The temple of Sheela Peryroyl in Beluir became the center point of a small network of portals in Luiren -- the start of a great endeavor masterminded by the priests. There are eight portals that all connect to the main one at the temple in Beluir, and these allow the halflings to get their produce to the port within one day. The priests plan to work with the merchants of far-off lands to create portals from the temple area to and from these lands so that the goods that come into the temple can be sent by portal to their destination on the same day they were harvested.
Each of the eight remote portals is located in one of the main farming districts spread throughout Luiren, such that they provide an even coverage of the land. They are one-way portals at present, but there are plans to make them two-way in the future. They stand about 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide, which is large enough for a hin-sized wagon to pass through. They are continuously active, because the hin did not think much of security when building the first portals. The load limit of 850 lbs (common to all portals) is somewhat problematic. The limit is applied to each creature using the portal, and the halflings have discovered that a couple of halfling kids or some marmots on the wagon increases the amount that they can send through a portal on any one wagon. The portals all arrive at the temple of Sheela Peryroyl in the back courtyard. The arrival point is guarded always by a small militia force and some clerics, because there is no way to know who or when something will come through, and the thought of having some goblin (or worse!) enemies appear in your temple court unchallenged is not a comfortable idea. Hin that bring goods through must travel back to their homes by normal means, which is something that does not bother the hin at all. Sometimes those about to relocate after the season take the produce and move on from Beluir.
The first portal that was created, located in the north part of the country near Shoun, was not designed all that well and malfunctions. Corrections were made in the creation methods for the later portals. Use Portal Malfunction to determine the malfunctions. Because this portal is known to malfunction, most users don't take any magic items with them. Thus the worst effects are the inflict wounds spell and the false destination. Since the false destination effect eventually sends the travelers to some farmland near Beluir, this results only in a delay and some damage. Some halflings won't use this portal.
There is a legend about this network of portals, too, told by halfling bards in the north. Some seasons ago, when the portals were new, it is said that a halfling farming near the Lluirwood was attacked one evening by worgs from the forest. The attack, so the story goes, took place in the hin's field. The halfling, though brave of heart as befits his race, knew that the five worgs would tear him apart if he stood against them alone. He ran, and the creatures followed at their best speed. The halfling farmer could not outrun them and was about to fall when ahead of him the stalks of his plants came together and formed an arch over the row through which he was running. A single daisy grew from the top of the arch in the second or two that it took him to reach the place, and as he ran through the arch he disappeared. He appeared in the temple of Sheela Peryroyl in Beluir, where he collapsed from exhaustion. The five worgs appeared seconds later. Now confused, they were easily cut down by the priests and warriors who guard the portal. When the farmer returned home, he could not find the plant arch that had saved him, but he did find a daisy lying on the ground where it had been. He offered a fervent prayer to Sheela Peryroyl and converted from the worship of Tymora (many halflings in Luiren worship the goddess of fortune) on the spot. The goddess, these tellers assert, moved one of the portals to where the farmer needed it.
How to Incorporate the Portals of the Gathering Into Your Champaign
- A startled group of halflings with a loaded wagon appears in front of the PCs on the road near a field. The halflings say they are from Luiren and were using their local portal to send their produce to market, when apparently something went wrong. They need an escort home, and the priests will certainly want to find out what is going wrong with the portals, since the one used by these halflings had not malfunctioned before. At the root of the problem is a powerful creature from the Lluirwood that is somehow manipulating the portal near the woods. (See Wrench Portal)
- The PCs are in Beluir for some reason when the temple of Sheela Peryroyl comes under attack. The temple is taken and controlled by forces of evil, and the PCs have to help liberate it. They then have to help track down where the creatures came from.