Portals of the Harvest Gods
By Robert Wiese
The Greenhouse Portal
In the old empire of Mulhorand, there is some disagreement between clerics as to which god presides over the harvest. While agriculture is firmly the domain of Isis, some believe that Osiris watches over the harvest. Debate will no doubt continue for some time on this issue, but in reality the people who seek a good harvest pray to Isis for a blessing. The idea of associating a time of plenty and growth with the god of the dead seems alien to most Mulhorandi, but some few point out that the plants are being killed to provide the harvest and thus they fall into the purview of Osiris at that time. Some think that the church of Osiris makes the push to associate the harvest with their god, since they believe that Osiris has lost some of his popularity to his wife Isis. The followers of Isis have rebuttals to every argument advanced by the priests of Osiris, and it is this kind of religious debate that keeps the lives of average Mulhorandi citizens in a state of some turmoil. After all, no one wants to find out that suddenly they are praying to the wrong deity.
In addition to the common people of Mulhorand paying tribute to Isis for the harvest more often than Osiris, the priests of Isis contribute on a practical level to good harvests much more than the priests of Osiris, who often forget that they claim the harvest for him when planning and performing their death rituals. One of the ways that the priests of Isis aid the farmers of Mulhorand is through the development of new plants that grow well in the somewhat arid landscape of their nation. The Mulhorandi have long used technology and "science" in place of magic, or with magic, to accomplish their ends. Their great agricultural pumps are but one example, and the church of Thoth is making great strides to reintroduce a technological way of thinking to the people.
In the city of Gheldaneth, the priests of Isis and some powerful wizards cooperated on creating a demiplane on the Ethereal Plane for the purpose of studying and breeding plants. They did this for a variety of reasons, and one of them, but by no means the most important one, was to further consolidate their position in the harvest debate they had with the followers of Osiris. This demiplane, called the Greenhouse, is really a set of "islands" in the Ethereal connected by portals to the central land mass. Thus, each is separate, and the weather of each can be changed without affecting the other islands. This allows the priests to import plants from elsewhere and breed strains that can live in the Mulhorandi environment. A portal called the Greenhouse Gateway was created from the church of Isis to the demiplane. All this was done without the knowledge of the other deities (or their churches), and when the churches found out they were not pleased. However, Thoth's clerics sided with those of Isis, as did the clerics of Osiris (who realized the benefit such a place could bring to their people). In the end, the Greenhouse was allowed to remain so long as the work done there was reported fully to the church of Horus and the Pharaoh.
The Greenhouse demiplane is used for a great many agricultural (and magic) products. The priests study plant blights, try to develop new strains of crop plants, and grow a few plant creatures. The wizards who helped form the demiplane also have access to it and use some of the islands to conduct magical research without rivals prying into their secrets.
How to Incorporate the Greenhouse Portal Into Your Campaign
- An evil Thayan wizard has discovered the Greenhouse demiplane and taken it over, killing all the previous occupants. This wizard uses the islands to create hybrid monsters and grow plant monstrosities. The priests of Isis have sent several groups to the demiplane to recover it, but all have perished. The priests have yet to tell the Pharaoh, and they really would rather not do so. They look for powerful adventurers to rid the demiplane of its invaders.
- One of the islands is used for the study of plant blights so that they can be quickly combated should they appear in the land. One blight has mutated and spread into Mulhorand through spores attached to priests using the portal. The blight spread quickly and has devastated crops. Further, it has attracted the attention of a blightlord that wants to spread the mutant plant sickness to the rest of the Realms. The PCs have to help the priests of Isis (and others) combat the blight and the blightlord, and then they must track the blight to its source and destroy it. The priests of Isis oppose the reporting of the blight's origin, naturally, and the PCs have to choose their best course of action.
- The PCs, while guarding a caravan of Mulhorandi produce, fall ill from eating the fruit of a plant. One of the new strains of aggressive fruit-bearing plants developed by the priests of Isis seems to have become unstable (it no longer produces fruit fit for humanoid consumption; choose a poison effect from Poisons) and is being spread throughout Faerûn in the seeds that the priests trade with other nations. In actuality, there is an evil druid behind the breakout who wants to ruin the reputation of these new "unnatural plants" so that they will never be used. (DMs can choose the manner in which he tainted the fruit.) The PCs have to find the truth before the Mulhorandi are blamed for spreading tainted fruit-bearing plants.