Portals of the Written Word
By Robert Wiese
Written in Blood
[Note: This portal can be placed in any forest in Faerûn, near enough to the edge to have contact with a humanoid settlement.]
Deep within the forests live the treants, great protectors and rulers of the trees. Some treants are benign, but most are malevolent when their privacy is interrupted. Near the ruins of an old castle or keep, the treant "lord" Mithok holds sway over his little kingdom of treants, trees, and a few shambling mounds. Even the fey creatures give him respect and distance, since he is a powerful sorcerer and warrior. He clashes with the local elves and humans of the nearby settlement, and with the stream of adventurers that come to the ruined castle to find wealth. Many find death, but they keep coming.
One of the reasons that humans come to the castle is the portal located in what was the courtyard. A full 9 feet tall and 6 feet wide, it is marked by a huge arch painted with runes of a dark reddish color. The runes are in a language that no one has seen in the Realms, and sages think that the makers of the portal are from some distant world similar to Faerûn. The portal was discovered by accident, and the thing that came through ate most of the adventurers in the ruins when the portal opened.
Mithok killed the monster, whatever it was, and found one of the dying adventurers to question. When the next group came to explore the ruins, Mithok appeared and told them, in a voice filled with wisdom, that the secret of the castle was the portal located in the courtyard, and that it could be activated by drawing over the runes on the arch with the blood of a humanoid or animal. By chance Mithok was correct in how to activate the portal, and the adventurers passed into the other world beyond the portal.
Seeing a chance to revenge himself on animals and humanoids, he convinced the next group that the portal arch was a shrine to some unnamed power, and soon a group of worshipers moved close by to use the site. Since they had to use blood to activate the portal, and most of the people who went through the portal never returned, the little cult attracted many followers. To enhance the reputation of the site, Mithok began using his magic to affect the nearby forest and the human farms at its edge. The people at the site came to believe, slowly, that the use of the portal, and more importantly the blood "sacrificed" to it were important for bringing good farming and for keeping the woods healthy.
The blood rune portal, for lack of a better name, was created by beings from another world so they could come to this world and conquer it. However, the initial scouting group saw the extent of civilization here, and the powerful magic wielded by almost everyone (or so it seemed), and the conquerors decided to leave Faerûn alone. The portal was in a remote enough spot that it was unlikely to be disturbed, and the key for this side was unlikely to be understood by the natives.
In the years since, the lands in that world near the portal have been overrun by fearsome monsters, and the denizens of that world have forgotten about the portal entirely. Except for portals, magic does not work very well in that world (spells above 1st level don't function), and the people who go from Faerûn to that world find themselves unprepared for the horrible monsters and the lack of magic power.
The cult using the portal on this side sacrifices animals to get blood to activate the gateway, but occasionally they use the blood of someone they don't like. This gives the cult a fearsome reputation in the neighboring lands, but the cult members are not as bad as the stories about them would indicate. They see the portal as a gateway to some power that others in Faerûn don't have access to and are trying to claim it for themselves. But the use of blood is corrupting them, and Mithok watches the downfall with pleasure.
How to Incorporate "Written in Blood" Into Your Campaign
- The flow of people from Faerûn who go through the portal attracts the attention of some dangerous denizens in the other world. Seeing a new source of food, they begin to hunt at the portal exit point. Eventually, they see how to use the portal (it is continuously active on the other side) and come through. The PCs have to deal with the resulting slaughter, as Mithok watches and enjoys the suffering of those who prey upon his woods.
- A relative or friend of one of the PCs writes the PC about this new worship of the land, but he is not sure about the morality of it. This person asks the PCs to come and evaluate the new practice. While there, a PC or animal companion or familiar is abducted to be the sacrifice to open the portal at the next ceremony. The PCs must break through the rumors surrounding the cult to rescue their companion without killing everyone involved, since the cult members are not truly evil (yet).