By Eric Haddock
Mithral Tree Portal
Mithral Hall, home to about 5,000 souls (mostly dwarves) is in the Silver Marches at the edge of the Spine of the World mountains. It falls under the able leadership of Eighth King of Mithral Hall, Bruenor Battlehammer, who rules with a stern brow but a just heart. Mithral Hall and Silverymoon have been close allies ever since Battlehammer slew a shadow dragon many years ago.
Mithral Hall is not so distant from the Moonwood that lycanthrope attacks are completely unknown. Usually the creatures stick to roads along Sturbin River and molest the few farmers and rugged mountaineers who make their homes in the area because, in the past, they have been unwilling to face any armed group from the hall. So, it was a surprise when a small group of lycanthropes assaulted some shield dwarves within sight of the hall itself. The dwarves were returning from a routine day when five snarling beasts ambushed them. The dwarves fought the things off without casualties, but they could not kill or capture any of them for interrogation.
This event was quickly followed by a panicked word from a settler near where the Surbin and Rauvin rivers meet. Again, five lycanthropes appeared in an ambush, this time killing some livestock and severely wounding a farmhand. What made this especially troubling was that both attacks occurred as the moon reached its apex, indicating a coordinated attack by a team of lycanthropes -- something unknown to the dwarves, who were used to the usual barely organized raid and short, frenzied battle.
Word was sent to Silverymoon to beware of some sort of coordinated attack against the city. Battlehammer theorized that perhaps Mithral Hall may be attacked to keep it from assisting Silverymoon or to draw troops away from the city and all the way west to the hall. Battlehammer recommended that Silverymoon concentrate on defending itself and not to send help to Mithral Hall, preventing Silverymoon from sending away any good swords it might need for itself. Mithral Hall had taken care of itself for many years and it would continue to do so.
Meanwhile, Mithral Hall sent out all its scouts and used all its magic to look out for an attack. If something could coordinate that chaotic lot of lycanthropes, who knows what would be coming across Surbin River. . . .
The lycanthropes sent their message to Malar:
- Attack successful, my lord! The portal berries made the Big Portal stink just right! We found it easily. When we came out, it was out of an arched tree near the river -- just like you said, my lord! First, we hid to surprise the tiny dwarves. They were so slow! Their shields and weapons were nothing compared to the fury you put into us! We bit and clawed at them sparingly, just enough to rattle their metal-capped heads. They kept to a group and didn't break ranks -- brave stubby-legged dwarves! We did not stay long enough to kill them for the Moon was quickly moving to the time we needed to go eat that farmer you told us about. We ran away; the fun of playing with the dwarves was over too soon. Mayhaps my lord may see fit to let us stay longer next time. The Mithral Hall portal took us back to the Moonwood.
- Then we took the big portal to the farmer. His farmhand was outside and never smelled us coming! Didn't see us neither! He was walking from the tiny shack to the big house so we pounced on him -- screamed and shrieked, he did! He tried to say something but there was too much blood in his mouth. Ha! What fun! We didn't have time to play with him, though, so we just grabbed some pigs and left. We made it in time, though, as you instructed us, my lord.
The lycanthropes used a portal between the Surbin River and Mithral Hall. Two trees have grown into each other and fused, forming a crude archway, which is where the portal stands. The trees continue to grow and the arch remains intact despite a large amount of overgrowth. This is a two-way portal that leads back to the Moonwood portal discussed in Part 5. The other portal, near the farmhouse, is located near where Surbin and Rauvin rivers meet. The portal is in the form of a rough circle cut into the side of a boulder, and the stone is covered by a very thin layer of moss. Fortunately for the lycanthropes, the moss was too thin to prevent the portal from being used.
The lycanthropes found the location of what they call the "big portal" by smelling it out. Lycanthropes cannot naturally detect magic or portals, so they needed a bit of help. The help came in the form of portal berries.
This innocuous plant is a ground-covering, creeping plant that bears small silvery-white berries. When these berries are eaten by creatures that have the scent ability, the creature can smell portals within 120 feet, or within 240 feet if downwind. The effect is brief, lasting only 1d6 minutes, but if guided to the general area, a creature can smell a portal easily enough. (The berries would add 10 to any Search or Spot skill checks related to finding portals.)
Portal berries are exceptionally rare. The covering grows from 3 to 5 feet long and it bears several dozen berries, but only 3d4 berries on each plant possess magical properties. Their climactic requirements are strict and they're temperamental in that they're unwilling to bear fruit if conditions for the entire year aren't exactly right. As yet, no one has successfully raised them in a controlled setting. Their worth is primarily from their rarity, not from their utility, for it's generally easier to find a portal through conventional means. Also, few people interested in portals also have the scent ability and could use the berries in the first place. Still, they are pretty and for sale if you can find someone who has them.
Faint divination; Price 50 gp per dose of three berries.
How to Incorporate Mithral Tree Portal Into Your Champaign
- Silverymoon is a popular stop for adventurers -- especially the kind of adventuring party that would be eager to help Mithral Hall. Rather than send fighters from Silverymoon, the PCs might be asked to go to check things out and, if necessary, take action.
- Someone in the party may be related to the Mithral Hall dwarves or to the farmer or farmhand that was attacked, and he or she may wish to go to the Silver Marches to assist in any necessary vengeance.