Strongholds of Undeath Portals
By Ramon Arjona
The Portal of Negative Energy
As a lich of immense power, Zzarka could construct a portal to any destination of her choosing. If the necessary resources to create a portal were not immediately available, she could afford to wait the hundred or so years it took to amass them. In this way, through patient application of powerful magic and the diligent use of her enormous wealth, Zzarka opened a portal into the Negative Energy Plane itself (Manual of the Planes page 80). Some, including her lieutenants Torin and Lars, suspect that she has hidden herself in the eternal darkness of this plane and lurks, immune to the energy draining qualities of the environment, so that she can her next move. It is almost certain that she used the plane as one of many hiding places for her phylactery.
The portal is located in a tunnel complex in the mountains of Thay. Cave-ins and earthquakes buried the portal beneath tons of rubble centuries ago, which is an immense blessing to all mortal beings who would otherwise have to contend with the armies of undead that might one day come spilling out of its inky black maw.
It is unlikely that someone would stumble across the portal by accident, though Torin knows of its general location and may one day choose to go searching for it. More likely, the portal would be uncovered by an insane or deluded spellcaster who sought to usurp Zzarka's magical secrets -- or perhaps by a well-meaning paladin looking for a way to mobilize an army against the forces of darkness that dwell within the Negative Energy Plane. In any case, it will take extensive research, as well as access to some of Zzarka's private files that remain in her lab near Lake Thalambar, to uncover the exact location of this most abominable of portals. That is, unless Zzarka herself one day emerges from hiding and uses the portal to unleash a plague of undeath upon the living world.
Like Zzarka's other portals, the portal to the Negative Energy plane is keyed to allow only undead spellcasters to activate it. Once it is activated, the portal remains open for 1 full round. Any other creatures that touch the portal during this round are also transported to the Negative Energy Plane.
The portal's destination is the city of Death Heart, which is one of the most stable locations in the Negative Energy Plane. Zzarka chose this destination because, unlike most other places in the Negative Energy Plane, Death Heart is virtually guaranteed to be the same from moment to moment. Death Heart is also much less boring and monotonous than the rest of the plane since it has plazas and tall spires built by its former inhabitants. This stands in sharp contrast to the utter void that waits outside the city, and Zzarka found it interesting. After all, if she needed to experience the void, she had only to step outside the city to do so. Meanwhile, within the city, she could amuse herself by participating in the endless warring of undead factions, led by other powerful creatures like herself, or torture mortal travelers unlucky enough to stumble into the plane. In this way Zzarka's relationship to the city of Death Heart -- and to the Negative Energy Plane in general -- is much like that of a mortal person who lives and works in a metropolis because there's something to do, but who also enjoys a jaunt to the country on weekends for the peace and quiet. The only difference is that Zzarka's idea of peace and quiet is a formless void that sucks the energy out of any living thing exposed to it, leaving nothing but a lifeless husk behind.
How to Incorporate the Portal of Negative Energy Into Your Champaign
- Contrary to popular belief, Zzarka continues to exist. Fearing a revolt from her undead lieutenants, she retreated to her stronghold on the Negative Energy Plane and has been carefully plotting her strategy for the last 200 years. Now, armed with eldritch magic wrested from the very fabric of the plane itself, she is prepared to visit total annihilation on all those who would oppose her or seek to destroy her. Unfortunately for the PCs, this means most -- if not all -- of the beings on the surface of Faerûn. They must find a way to contain her on the Negative Energy Plane or, failing this, find a way to stop her power from obliterating the known world. In the characters' favor is the fact that her former lieutenants, Lars and Torin, will likely lend their aid to stop her. Against the characters, however, is the fact that some of the more evil and demented deities of Faerûn approve of Zzarka's plan and may be willing to give her aid.
- After centuries of searching, Lars Blackspike has finally uncovered one of Zzarka's portals. He does not know where it leads, or how it is keyed, but he is determined to unearth it and activate it. The PCs must stop him or face any number of unspeakable horrors that wait on the plane beyond.
- A single xeg-yi (see Xeg-Yi) has discovered the portal on the Negative Energy Plane and is using it to manipulate events in Faerûn. The interference that the xeg-yi performs seems nonsensical at first, for these beings possess intelligence wholly alien to our own, but soon a diabolical pattern emerges. The PCs must find and deactivate the portal before the xeg-yi and its undead minions cause further harm to Faerûn.