Portals in Ruins
By Robert Weise
The Longsaddle Portal
The town of Longsaddle, in the northwestern part of Faerûn, is a quiet town on the main road from Waterdeep to Mirabar. Longsaddle sits in the center of the Dessarin Valley, which is an area held by orcs until the rise of Waterdeep. The orcs found themselves pushed back into the Spine of the World Mountains, but they remain a threat. Not that the orcs could sweep away the towns now, but smaller groups can still threaten the peace of the inhabitants. And there are other threats as well. Longsaddle itself has never had any extraordinary excitement, until recently.
Sitting at the edge of the town is a crumbling arch made of stone. Sages say it has been there since the time of Illefarn, and possibly longer. It certainly stood there when orcs held sway over the Dessarin Valley, because crude orc runes have been added to the arch since it was constructed. The arch is about 8 feet tall, and about 5 feet wide, with a section missing from the top down to about 3 feet above ground on one side. The rest is weather-beaten and crumbling. Sages say that the arch was a monument for some long-forgotten people, perhaps a military victory or a sign of some covenant between two groups. The many runes that adorn the arch seem to support these theories, though they do not tell a clear story. No magical energies have been detected in the arch. The people of Longsaddle have built the western edge of town around it, so that it is a local village square with taverns and shops.
Needless to say, the people were surprised one morning to find a hobgoblin standing in the arch, looking over the town as a conqueror looks over a new prospect. Then a second appeared, and witnesses fled in fear. The militia took care of the creatures, but small groups of them appeared throughout the tenday. For reasons that remain mysterious, the portal located in the arch became active again.
Sages came and studied the portal while the militia set up a permanent watch on the arch, and the local residents were moved to parts of town further away from the problem. The sages determined that the arch was one part of a two-way continuously active portal that had its other destination in the Gray Forest, all the way over in Impiltur. A circle of stones nearly buried in dirt and underbrush is all that marks the portal in the Gray Forest.
The hobgoblins living in the Gray Forest are taking full advantage of this new opportunity. Day by day they send forays into Longsaddle to test the strength of the defenders there and to scout the town. Occasionally they steal, and once they took a tavern worker from the nearby Tavern of the Arch. Troops from Longsaddle rarely follow the hobgoblins back into the Gray Forest, for they are not prepared for a protracted campaign there and don't know if the portal will stop functioning again suddenly. The commander of the town militia, Suka Hjilt, believes that containing the threat is sufficient for now.
Suka Hjilt: Female human Rgr1/Ftr8; CR 9; Medium-size humanoid; HD 1d10+3 plus 8d10+24; hp 86; Init +8; Spd 30 ft.; AC 16 (touch 12, flat-footed 14); Atk +11/+6 melee (1d8+5/17-20, longsword) and +11 melee (1d6+1/19-20, short sword); or +11 ranged (1d8/19-20, light crossbow); SQ Favored enemy (orcs); AL LG; SV Fort +11, Ref +4, Will +3; Str 17, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 11. 5 feet 5 inches; 170 lbs.
Skills and Feats: Climb +7, Craft (siege engines) +6, Handle Animal +4, Knowledge (local -- North) +6, Knowledge (nature) +6, Listen +8, Move Silently +4, Ride (horse) +10, Search +6, Spot +11, Survival +9; Alertness, Blind-Fight, Blooded, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Critical (longsword), Improved Initiative, Track, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Focus (short sword), Weapon Specialization (longsword).
Possessions: Chain shirt, light crossbow, 20 bolts, longsword, short sword.
Originally from Silverymoon, Suka moved westward to Longsaddle when her family decided to move east. She loves the North and the hardy lifestyle that she finds here. She is rather direct with people, and this trait has caused her trouble when a little diplomacy would have been much better. However, she is an excellent leader of troops, and the militia has thrived since she took command. The infestations from the portal have her concerned, as the small groups of hobgoblins are clearly the prelude to a larger invasion. She is doing her best to prepare the town.
How to Incorporate the Longsaddle Portal Into Your Champaign
- The hobgoblin raids increase and the militia's resources are becoming depleted. Hardy adventurers could be a great help defending the town.
- The characters are sent on a scouting mission through the portal by Commander Hjilt to determine the strength of the hobgoblin forces on the other side. They find more than they bargain for when they discover that the hobgoblins are led by a more powerful monster that has heard of the portal and has specific designs on Longsaddle. These designs could be revenge or conquest, or merely to use it as a base to conduct some actions against Waterdeep.
- A sage studying the portal finds some runes that connect it with the Illefarn Empire of long ago. Wanting to learn the origin of the portal, he or she sends the characters to investigate various other historical sites in the region. Naturally these are dangerous in and of themselves, but there is also an ancient undead creature that does not want the characters or anyone else to find out about the origin of the portal.