Perilous Gateways

Portals of Lantan

By Jeff Quick

The Welcome Gates

The Lantanese government has two great desires for their people: to let them invent, and to be allowed to do it safely. While wars and nations raged on mainland Faerûn, Lantan has maintained peace and noninvolvement. The most amazing facet of Lantan's obscure security is not that they stay hidden, but that they do it without looking like they're hiding.

In retrospect, this is not a terrible surprise from a nation whose main inhabitants prize trickery. The Lantanese do not erect stout defenses or possess overwhelming offenses; they just look uninteresting and give the impression that they are too much trouble to invade. They claim to be open and willing to trade, but they develop obtuse entry statutes and trading policies for nations they would rather avoid. They rarely hide, but they have a near-bottomless supply of diversionary tricks. As the old gnome expression says, "Always smile, but do it with false teeth."

Nowhere is this policy more evident than the absurdly named "Welcome Gates." The Welcome Gates is a large, clearly labeled (but never advertised) portal leading from the Lantan Embassy in Waterdeep to an area known as the Visitors' Vale right outside Anchoril on Lantan's southern isle. On both ends, the portal is 12 feet tall, 8 feet wide, and bordered by a metallic frame imbedded with countless whirring mechanical gewgaws. Travel through the Welcome Gates is ostensibly free and open. In reality, it's troublesome and convoluted by design.

Lantanese residents and their families have access to the portals whenever they it. Residents must show a passport and proof of residence, and they may obtain a gate pass for a small fee. The process for obtaining a gate pass by non-Lantanese is a labyrinthine five-day affair involving numerous forms, daily trips to various official buildings around Waterdeep, and signatures from three to six different city officials (depending on the stated nature of the visit).

Welcome Gate hours for nonresidents are only the daylight hours between dawn and dusk, except between highsun and afternoon, when they are closed. The precise interpretation of when highsun and afternoon begin and end depends on who is acting chief portal warden that day. Illiterate visitors are flatly denied entry (according to the application handbook) as Anchoril can be dangerous to visitors who cannot read warning signs.

The gate pass is a small wind-up toy -- a tin bird with flapping wings. Portal wardens inform visitors that the gate pass is the portal key. The key is actually the word "enjoy," spoken in Gnome, which a warden works into the conversation as visitors stand before the portal, ready to activate it with their phony key.

Most of the paperwork and runaround that Welcome Gate portal wardens require is perfunctory, and like many gnome behaviors, a blind for the actual process. Regardless of an applicant's ability to fill out forms and follow obscure directions, the wardens observe applicants' behavior and then divide them into three categories:

None of this behavior is ever presented as a security precaution, but rather as a desire to help the applicant get the most out of his or her visit to the Multifaceted Capital, Anchoril. (The fact that other gnomes claim that Sambar, or sometimes Sundrah, is Lantan's capital is an incidental gnome misdirection ploy. All three cities are considered to be a capital of something.)

Some Basic Tasks Portal Wardens Assign

When the portal wardens want to keep out a possible threat, they first resort to some of these basic tasks:

These three different tasks can take the applicant a long time to complete, and each can have a series of stages if warranted. Portal wardens can easily add on more tasks, such as requesting a Purpose of Visit form to be completed and notarized by a gnome in a different part of the world, verifying the identity of anyone who shows up on earlier forms, and so on.

The Delights of the Visitors' Vale

Once visitors make it to Lantan, they enter at the Visitors' Vale. The Vale is a pleasant bowl surrounded by low hills and is about half a mile from the entrance to Anchoril. This side of the portal requires no key, although the pretense of the toy bird is continued for visitors. In the Vale, two 10-foot-tall iron statues flank the Welcome Gate. These statues are of a male and female gnome, with the expression and posture of benign workers, tinkering with the edges of the portal. They are, of course, iron golems who spring to life if a weapon is drawn or if any of the five basic elements (fire, lightning, cold, acid, sonic) magically appear within the Visitors' Vale. The golems defend themselves, but their main order is to move combatants back through the portal.

Though effective, statues that turn out to be golems is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Anyone who pays attention knows that the obvious threat is seldom the only threat when gnomes are involved. The vale has a flagpole at five points around the perimeter of the hills. Beneath the huge Lantan flag on each pole is a large metal horn, which is known as a vale sounder. Sounders are the second line of defense, and gnome watchers activate them only if one of the golems falls.

Iron golems (2): hp 170 each.

How to Incorporate the Welcome Gates Into Your Champaign

Getting into Lantan is tricky, and no one gets in without knowing someone who already lives there. Some ways that PCs might break through the screen include the following:

Portals of Lantan