Perilous Gateways

The Portal Stones of "Voices of the Lost"

By Roger E. Moore

Voices of the Lost

Part II: "Voices of the Lost"

A brief description of the elven work, "Voices of the Lost," is necessary to understand how this particular portal system works. Written by a master bard late in Illefarn's history, "Voices of the Lost" is uncomfortably prophetic, a characteristic typical of the finest of this nation's artistic efforts. In this song, a human wanderer finds a broad, weathered stone in a field on which elven runes can barely be seen. He reads of an elven kingdom in a primeval forest that once rose where the stone lay, a kingdom of such grandeur that the wanderer is staggered and awed by the story.

That night, the wanderer falls asleep on the stone and has a magic dream in which he journeys into the distant past to speak with the elves of this kingdom and tell them of their fate. The wanderer hopes to prevent the fall of this realm, but the elves already know their fate and have elected not to stop it. The wanderer, amazed and frustrated, travels even further back in time, meeting kings and mages even at the kingdom's founding over two hundred centuries earlier, but all of the elves questioned have at least an inkling of what is to come, and they accept it without question.

By the song's end, the wanderer realizes that the elves, rather than attempting to prevent the death of their civilization, elected instead to manage the life of their kingdom so that it reflected the best of their ideals at all times, even at its end. The elves avoided the excesses in magic and temperament that doomed other cultures before and after them, adhering to their better nature to the end and rejecting hatred and bitterness at the natural cycles of growth and death. At the kingdom's end, its people scatter and plant the seeds for later kingdoms that will rise to even greater achievements, influencing history, civilization, and people on a gigantic scale. The wanderer awakens, a sad but wise man, and follows the example of the elves of the unnamed kingdom in living his life well while also ensuring the world will be a better place long after he dies and his name is forgotten.

The song path created for this work was set up along what is now the Delimbiyr River. The network of portals was one-way and circular. Each portal was tied to a large circular block of polished marble about 9 feet across. Runes in the elven tongue of Illefarn (considerably different from "modern" Elven) encircled each great disk. The magic activating each portal was of a different sort than exists in present-day Faerûn, such that each stone would not register as magical until a certain condition was met: a person standing or walking upon the stone, singing a particular set of stanzas in Seldruin (the ancient dead language of the elves, especially of elven high magic) from "Voices of the Lost." The singer's words and the notes sung would cause the stone to become increasingly magical, until the last few words of each group of stanzas were said. These were the trigger phrase to activate the portal, and the singer would slowly dissolve from view, reappearing over the next portal stone in 1 round's time. There, the singer would continue singing and the cycle would repeat. This system was typical of many Illefarn song paths.

The portal system for "Voices of the Lost" began in the capital of Illefarn, its broken remains now somewhere under the streets of Waterdeep. The first portal stone originally lay in a broad meadow from which no trace of the buildings of the city could be seen. (The surrounding forest screened the structures.) Here, the first stanzas of "Voices of the Lost" were sung by elves wishing to take the song path. The wanderer's discovery of the weathered stone was sung, and the song's first part ends with the wanderer falling asleep on the stone at night, his magic dream beginning. The portal stone would activate at this point, shifting the singer to the next stone, which lay exactly where Daggerford is at present.

The creator of the "Voices of the Lost" portal network used the River Delimbiyr as a metaphor for time. The spot where Daggerford stands now represented the unnamed elven kingdom (Illefarn, of course) late in its history, the first stop of the wanderer in his dream. Further portal stones carried the singer upriver into the Nether Mountains, to the source stream of the Delimbiyr River, where the wanderer met the earliest rulers and spellcasters of the kingdom. From here, the portal network took the singer to the mouth of the Delimbiyr on the Sword Coast, where the wanderer viewed the fall of the kingdom and began to understand the elves' ultimate philosophy and goals. The coastal portal then led back to the starting portal stone, where the wanderer awakened and set off on his new life. The entire cycle using the portals took about six hours on the average, counting periods of silence for reflection and rest.

The Portal Stones of "Voices of the Lost"