Dark Elf Portals
By Ramon Arjona
The Dark Maiden's Portal
Famed home of the drow adventurer Drizzt Do'Urden, Menzoberranzan is cosmopolitan as far as drow cities go. Numerous tunnels bring trade from other Underdark realms and occasionally from the surface world. Outsiders are not welcome in Menzoberranzan, but they are grudgingly tolerated. However, there is no room in the city for those drow who do not obey the Queen of the Demonweb pits and her powerful matron clerics. Those drow who dare make a show of disobedience, or whose clandestine acts of disloyalty are discovered, suffer a terrible fate at the hands of those who wield power.
Among those who would not follow Lolth are the rare good-aligned drow, who are the least well-equipped for survival. Without resorting to tactics of treachery or assassination, these drow must somehow make their way in an evil and corrupt society. To comply with the rigors of drow society would compromise their conscience; to refuse compliance would certainly mean death. At best, such drow could hope to die quickly at the hands of their more violent and treacherous brethren. At worst, their lack of loyalty to the Spider Queen could be uncovered.
Those whose lack of loyalty is thus exposed usually meet a fate worse than death. Sometimes, they are sacrificed to the Spider Queen. At other times, they are tortured to death by yochlol or transformed into driders. The clerics of Lolth are as capricious as they are cruel and frequently devise even worse horrors than these with which to discourage those who might contemplate the betrayal of the Spider Queen.
The good drow are not without allies, however. Eilistraee, patron of good-aligned drow, and her followers do what they can to help these uncommon dark elves escape unharmed from the Underdark. Not all good-aligned dark elves are willing to abandon the Underdark, and not all who are willing to leave know the way to this portal. Followers of the goddess work clandestinely to find likely candidates for rescue and shepherd them along the path to the Night Above. These fortunate drow receive rapid passage to the upper world. It is true that new challenges and prejudices await them there, but at least they will not be devoured by a yochlol.
The portal was created a thousand years ago by a powerful cleric of Eilistraee. The name of this cleric was a closely guarded secret known to a very few and the knowledge is likely lost, though it is said that she returned to the goddess some centuries ago in the ritual known as the Last Dance. To activate the portal, one must speak the Lady's message, "A rightful place awaits you in the Realms Above, in the Land of the Great Light. Come in peace and live beneath the sun again where trees and flowers grow." The portal is keyed so that only good-aligned elves or drow can activate it, and once activated the portal remains open for 1 round. Afterward, the portal seals itself again.
The Menzoberranzan portal is unidirectional. Drow seeking to escape from the city must travel to an abandoned storage facility near the outer wall. The portal itself is well hidden among broken crates and other refuse. Powerful nondetection magic prevents the portal from being revealed by a detect magic spell cast in the area, though once the portal is located, the analyze portal spell functions normally. The portal transports creatures -- but not their clothes or equipment -- to a well-guarded location on the surface where clerics and followers of Eilistraee stand watch for any who may emerge. When the user of the portal emerges, naked and weaponless, the clerics immediately cast know alignment. While the portal's key should prevent any evil drow from using it, the followers of the Dark Maiden are all too familiar with the treachery of which the drow are capable and so take no risks.
Should an evil drow somehow use the portal, for instance by tagging along behind a good drow, the clerics deal with the interloper quickly by using hold person, daylight, and other nonlethal spells to bind and confuse their opponent. Once such an evil drow is captured, they are imprisoned by the clerics of Eilistraee to prevent them from harming the Dark Maiden's surface community. Should the evil drow present a mortal threat to the followers of Eilistraee or seem likely to escape, the clerics do not hesitate to employ more deadly force against their foe.
How to Incorporate the Dark Maiden's Portal Into Your Campaign
- While adventuring in the Underdark, the player characters are captured and imprisoned by one of the ruling houses of the city of Menzoberranzan. Before they can be sacrificed to Lolth, they are contacted by a good-aligned drow prisoner who knows the location of the portal. She is willing to help the players escape from their predicament if they will also help her get to the portal.
- The drow of Menzoberranzan are close to discovering the location of the Dark Maiden's portal. Clerics of Eilistraee enlist the player characters to thwart the evil drow in their efforts to uncover the portal or, failing this, to seal the portal to prevent any possible misuse of it by the minions of the Queen of the Demonweb Pits.
- The player characters are tasked with guarding the surface endpoint of the portal. A group of three apparently good-aligned drow emerge. Despite the typical precautions, it soon becomes evident that at least one of the drow is a follower of Lolth. The player characters must determine which one is the traitor before she can do any harm.