Perilous Gateways

The Shadow Path: A Portal Network

By James Wyatt


The sole surviving kingdom of the eight dwarven nations that once formed the mighty realm of Deep Shanatar, Iltkazar is a reclusive, conservative city-state in the upper Underdark beneath Tethyr. Located under the Omlarandin Mountains at the eastern end of Tethyr, Iltkazar is unusual among Underdark nations in that most of its connections -- both physical and mercantile -- are with the surface. As the shield dwarves of ancient Iltkazar have experienced a resurgence with the Thundering, they have reawakened old ties with the humans of Tethyr and the Lake of Steam region.

Increased activity in Iltkazar has reawakened more than that, however. Long a bastion of "the ancient ways," struggling to keep alive the traditions and lore of Shanatar in a world that has all but forgotten of its existence, the dwarves of Iltkazar still remember much that would otherwise be lost. Among the secrets that might best be forgotten is an ancient two-way portal. All physical trace of the portal was obliterated centuries ago, but the magic still functions, and traffic in both directions is increasing. The portal, located in an out-of-the-way cavern on the east side of the city, leads from the mind flayer city of Oryndoll -- creatures traveling from that city's portal simply step out, apparently from the solid rock. No return journey to Oryndoll is possible, however. When properly triggered, by resting one's face on the stone wall and humming three notes (a C-sharp in any octave, a C-sharp one octave lower, and the G between the two), Iltkazar's portal leads far to the north to a small cavern outpost of the ancient dwarven kingdom of Ammarindar.

No unhallowed shrine to a demon lord stands in Iltkazar, or ever has, to the best of anyone's knowledge. In a dwarven city like Iltkazar, as devoted as its people are to the traditional ways of the dwarven race, the existence of such a degenerate cult is unthinkable. One dwarf, however, has discovered that just such a cult once existed in the city -- a demon-worshiping cult of the most loathsome stripe that devoted itself to the minotaur-god Baphomet.

Durhgathu Maendrar discovered the existence of this cult not among Iltkazar's vast stores of knowledge, but beyond the portal in a place she calls the Unspoken Hall. Three years ago, she set out on the Shadow Path -- possibly the first person to tread its entire length in nearly three thousand years. She discovered Iltkazar's portal by what seemed at the time to be accident: Loitering near it, she found herself humming a strange tune she couldn't place, and pressed her head against the wall, she thought, to drive the tune from her mind. Transported to the Unspoken Hall, she explored the whole area and continued on to the Labyrinth, to Oryndoll, and at last back to where she started, returning to her home a completely transformed dwarf -- Baphomet's most rabid follower.

No shrine to the demon lord is yet built in Iltkazar, and no cult yet reveres Baphomet there. If Durhgathu Maendrar's vision comes to fruition, however, these things will come to pass.

Shadow Path