Portals of Thay
By Robert Wiese
The Portal of Fire
During the Salamander War (1357-1358 DR) that ravaged the coastal cities of the Priador, the forces of Thay found themselves sorely beleaguered by former salamander allies. The salamanders burned everything in their path, because the Red Wizards had betrayed a promise to them to build a permanent portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire. An up-and-coming Red Wizard, Aznar Thrul, pleaded with the fire god Kossuth for aid, and Kossuth drove the invading salamanders away with his own elementals. That is the history of how Thay acquired the Priador tharch.
There is always more to the story, and this is no exception. What history does not record is that a portal was created. One was required, since the salamanders would not go home of their own accord. When Thrul contacted priests of Kossuth for aid, the priests joined with him in creating a one-way portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire, through which the invaders would be sent. This portal was built into a vault inside the temple of Kossuth in Escalant. It served its purpose well.
The portal is about 15 feet by 15 feet, and marked by an arch of stone that seems to burn all the time. This is a trick, but a clever one. The arch is riddled with small tube-like passages, which come to the surface of the stone regularly. A slow-burning version of alchemist's fire runs through these tubes, and it burns when it gets to the surface. The portal allows passage only to the Plane of Fire; no return traffic takes place, but it is continuously active. Aznar Thrul intended to have a return portal created at a later time, and thus control a key access to the Plane of Fire. This would essentially give him a secret set of allies that he could wield against other tharchions or Red Wizards.
Within the temple of Kossuth, priests of Kossuth closely guard the portal, which is known to very few. Aznar Thrul would like to keep the secret as quiet as possible. However, word has leaked from the temple; priests drink in taverns, too. Word is spreading in Escalant of the portal, and rumor grows even faster. People say that the portal allows passage from the Plane of Fire, and that Kossuth sends minions through it. Others remember the Salamander Wars and say that enemies of Thay built the portal and that the priests must be containing it. Others claim that rumors of the destination on the Plane of Fire are lies, and that it goes to a secret treasury where Red Wizards keep their darkest secrets. But people will say anything . . .
Passing through the portal is completely safe; it is what awaits you on the other side that is dangerous. The salamanders were not pleased to be thrust out of Faerûn, and they continually monitor the portal's location so they can take revenge on anyone who comes through. The guard is always a contingent of salamanders of total encounter level equal to two more than the average party level of whatever adventurers show up. Here are some groups for various parties:
(EL 4) Average party level 2 (four 2nd-level characters): two flamebrother salamanders;
(EL 8) Average party level 6 (four 6th-level characters): three average salamanders, or two average salamanders and three flamebrother salamanders;
(EL 12) Average party level 10 (four 10th-level characters): one noble salamander and seven average salamanders;
(EL 16) Average party level 14 (four 14th-level characters): twelve noble salamanders.
Naturally, if a group larger than an adventuring party were to come through, say an army of Red Wizards, not enough salamanders would be there to oppose them, but the word would spread and a great many salamanders would come as reinforcements.
How to Incorporate the Portal of Fire Into Your Champaign
- The characters are in Eskalant trying to solve a mystery, and they run afoul of a local Red Wizard. The Red Wizard has enough power to prevent them from leaving the city. They need a way out, and they hear about the portal. They can sneak into the temple, and the vault, and escape Thay, or they can negotiate with the priests of Kossuth (this is easier if one of their number is a priest of Kossuth or an allied deity). Of course, Aznar Thrul will know about their travel through "his" portal and may use the occurrence to his advantage somehow.
- Strange creatures are appearing in Rashemen, and the Witches think they are coming from Thay. They send several groups to find the source of these creatures, and the characters are sent to Eskalant. The PCs hear of the portal and the many rumors surrounding it. Does the portal hold the secret to the strange creatures?
- Thrul wrests control of the portal completely from the priests of Kossuth and begins to construct a return portal. The priests are in hiding, and the public does not understand why Thrul has targeted the temple of one of the nation's most revered deities. Thrul spreads stories that the priests had sold out to some enemy deity. The characters have to stop Thrul's plans for the portal before he can bring an army of creatures to send against Rashemen and Aglarond.