Portals Under the Black Gauntlet
By Dale Donovan
Centuries ago, when the Calishite empire still ruled the Lake of Steam region, the rulers ordered that an extensive network of portals be created across the length and breadth of the empire, the better to facilitate fast travel and communication between far-flung points of Calishite territory.
One small section of that ancient network has recently been brought to light, although those who possess it consider knowledge of these portals intelligence of the highest order. Only those most trusted by the possessors are ever likely to hear of these portals, which means that everyone who is interested in the current unstable situation in the region will try desperately to gain the information.
The three portals discovered and located thus far are all in or near the city of Mintar. This location is extremely important because Banite forces have now held that once-proud city for over a decade. On Midwinter night of 1362 DR, Teldorn Darkhope, a Banite cleric and leader of the Banite religious order, the Knights of the Black Gauntlet, assassinated the ruling family of Mintar and assumed control of the city after several days and nights of ferocious fighting and riots in the streets. Many mercenary warriors and wizards bolstered the ranks of the Banites. The citizens who could do so fled east to the city of Saelmur, which has since become the bulwark against further eastward expansion of the Banites.
In 1369, Darkhope turned his attentions northward to the town of Kzelter after hearing the regional legend regarding an ancient stash of powerful magic Tethyrian treasures and weapons said to be buried somewhere near there. Banite forces easily conquered the small village, but the cache of magic has never been found.
Darkhope planned more military action that year. Unfortunately, he found himself stymied with his inability to locate the ancient Tethyrian items, dealing with a series of popular uprisings and strikes in Mintar, and watching Calimshan, Tethyr, and Saelmur beef up their defenses. The situation stands now at it did almost two years ago: Mintar and Kzelter are in the grip of the Knights of the Black Gauntlet, Calimshan and Tethyr are content not to act as long as the Banites don't attack their territory, and Saelmur is organizing a mutual-defense pact with the other Lake of Steam cities to protect against Banite attacks.
Some in Saelmur feel that the time to attack and free Mintar is long overdue, but until the other cities in the region (Calimshan, Tethyr, or the Shadi'ar tribes of nomads that roam the rough hills north of the lake) fully commit to what would likely be an extended siege of the city, Saelmur lacks the resources to act alone.
The presence of these portals in and around Mintar could play an important role in breaking the long-standing deadlock that currently grips the region, for good or for ill.
These portals function by tossing a number of coins into the air as one passes through the portal. Tossing any two coins takes the creature stepping through the portal to the wizard's mansion, any three coins takes you to the town of Kzelter, and any one coin returns you to the Academy portal. The coins so tossed disappear. Other reasonable numbers of coins don't seem to work. Perhaps other destinations involve sets of specific (and now ancient) Calishite coins or items other than coins.
Portals have been found in and around Mintar. Could they be the key to the city's freedom?
About the Author
Dale Donovan is a 13+-year veteran of the gaming industry, during which time he edited Dragon Magazine, wrote or edited many Forgotten Realms products (along with every other roleplaying line produced by the company, be it TSR or Wizards of the Coast), moved from southeastern Wisconsin to suburban Seattle when Peter Adkison of Wizards saved TSR, and worked as a Managing Editor. Since going freelance, he has worked for Steve Jackson Games, Guardians of Order, White Wolf, and Wizards, among others. He loves RPGs, horror and fantasy fiction, most every kind of music, and his lovely wife and wonderful daughter.