Strongholds of Undeath Portals
By Ramon Arjona
The Illithid Gate
Among those Zzarka counted as her peer was an ancient alhoon known to posterity as Korid Takazz. Though an infinitely patient being, Zzarka still craves amusement and stimulation of her prodigious intellect. Many years after becoming a lich, human and humanoid intelligence came to bore her since she had long ago learned all of their petty games and trivial observations. Simply put, Zzarka had already thought all of the thoughts a human mind could think, and she yearned for more.
It is not clear how Zzarka came to meet Korid Takazz, but in the undead mind flayer's alien intelligence she found the novelty she so desperately sought. Korid, himself bored after a near eternity of undeath, also came to enjoy Zzarka's company. In his lair, hidden so deep in the Underdark that neither drow nor duergar nor living illithid would willingly come near, amid the undulating fungi and strange fetid oozes that cling to life in the eternal darkness, Korid shared with Zzarka some of the most mind-warping and horrible secrets of his race. It is rumored that under Korid's tutelage, Zzarka even developed a taste for humanoid brains. It is certain that the two liches valued one another's company greatly, as if partners in a perverse and unholy marriage.
So greatly did Zzarka come to value the alhoon's company that she created a portal to join their lairs so that they could talk more frequently without troubling themselves with teleport spells. Like her other portals, the Illithid Gate is keyed so that only undead spell casters can open it. Korid visited Zzarka nearly as often as she visited him, and the two took turns playing host. Once the portal is open, it remains open for 1 round. Any other being that touches the portal during this time is transported to the opposite side.
One side of the portal is in Zzarka's ruined laboratory in her tower in Thay. This is not the same portal that leads from Thay to the High Ice. While Zzarka enjoyed her conversations with the alhoon, she did not want to expose all of her secrets to him. The opposite side of the portal leads to a cavern complex in the deepest regions of the Underdark, where the alhoon once made his lair. The cave walls curve and twist at strange angles, as if shaped by the wandering of an insane hand. Adventurers unfortunate enough to find themselves here will likely stumble across tremendous oozes and huge carnivorous fungi, as well as the alien artifacts left over from the illithid's habitation.
Zzarka's relationship with Korid was destined to end tragically. Satisfied, finally, that she had learned all she could from the undead mind flayer, she grew bored with him. Their visits became less frequent, and she became hostile toward him. Finally, Zzarka destroyed him. Some say she even devoured his shriveled, undead brain before crushing his phylactery. Torin Zsan, who was outside her door that night, tries not to think about the strange slurping sounds he could hear emanating from her chamber.
How to Incorporate the Illithid Gate Into Your Campaign:
- A young mind flayer wants to usurp the power that once belonged to the alhoon Korid Takazz. He assembles an unlikely group of illithids, drow, and spellcasting undead to find the ancient mind flayer's lair. When he does discover it, deep in the Underdark, he obtains vast power as well as the portal to Thay. He and his minions begin to use the portal to obtain brains (the mind flayer's food) and spell components necessary for the next stage in their plan. The undead and the mind flayer maintain an uneasy truce -- the illithid needs the undead to activate the portal, while they need him to interpret Korid's writings. The PCs might thwart their vile schemes by setting one set of the evil foes against the other.
- Neither Zzarka nor Korid are destroyed. Two hundred years ago, Zzarka and Korid both were buried under tons of rubble by a powerful cleric of Tempus. Now, the alhoon has established a mental link to a subject near the surface. This may be one of the PCs (especially if they have character levels in psion) or an NPC that is close to the PCs. The individual the alhoon has contacted finds herself compelled to travel deep into the Underdark and excavate the site where the two liches are buried. The PCs might choose to stop her from doing this, or they might try to help with good intentions and only speed the day when these two horrible creatures will be unleashed again on the world.
- A group of psychic warriors went looking for the lair of a fabled alhoon called Korid Takazz. Instead, they found the lich Zzarka who, since consuming the brain of her former friend and confidante, has been plagued by strange dreams and visions. After two-hundred years of this mental torture, she is no longer sure if she is the being once known as Zzarka, the being known as Korid, or some strange hybrid of both. She does know, however, that psychic warriors possess tasty brains -- and that those she does not devour will make effective slaves to use against her enemies, real and imagined. The surviving psychic warriors are sent on a murderous rampage by Zzarka -- and the PCs are forced to deal with them and with the insane undead creature lurking in the Underdark.