By Eric Haddock
The Far Forest, on the western edge of Anauroch, is fairly unremarkable as forests go. Whereas the Fallen Lands is ruled by beasts and menaced by a gigantic beholder, the Far Forest remains a simple home of various monsters and creatures such as escapees from the Fallen Lands, beasts that have wandered into the forest from Anauroch, and perhaps the odd foul minion that used to live in Hellgate Keep.
It was Hellgate Keep that prompted Selûne to have a portal constructed in the Far Wood. Its location was near the keep but it also allowed entrance into what is now Anauroch, should the need ever arise. Indeed, during the unpleasantness of Hellgate Keep, Selûne sent creatures through the portal to help eradicate the fiends who had taken over the keep. Knowledge of the portal died with them, however.
The portal itself is an outcropping of rock protruding from a small hill. When moonlight from a moon not more than two days older than full shines on the rocks, the outline of a portal glows brightly. The portal is keyed; one need only speak Selûne's name and the portal activates, leading to the Moonwood portal.
The location of the portal was unknown until Shar passed the knowledge to Malar, who in turn passed it to his loyal lycanthropes of the Moonwood. The lycanthropes used the portal hoping to find something on the other side with which to have fun. They found a camp with only a few Bedine. Thinking them an easy target, the lycanthropes set upon them almost as soon as they saw the campers. Unfortunately, the Bedine were professional hunters who had been tracking a lamia from Hlaungadath and were quite capable of dealing with raiding thugs like the lycanthropes. All lycanthropes were slain except one, who retreated to the Far Forest portal. Of course, the Bedine, being able trackers, followed the wounded lycanthrope's blood trail easily and found the portal. Since the moon was still out, the portal edge glowed brightly. They noted the location of the portal and continued their hunt for the lamia as soon as they could break camp.
The Bedine compared the location of the portal with the fragment of the note that led to their hunting the lamia in the first place. Their note had the following text that was handwritten in Chondathan:
[. . .] Ascore when bandits [. . .] us. The caravan was largely scattered but I kept with his lordship to protect him and what he was carrying. I have to admit that my concerns were primarily with our cargo, not with [ . . . ]. After running, we found ourselves lost but continued east toward Ascore. Eventually, we found ourselves in the desert -- quite off our course. One of the scouts reported seeing a majestic creature, a lion with wings, far in the distance. Perhaps we [. . .]
That was enough for the Bedine to think a great treasure of some sort had been recovered by the lamia of Hlaungadath. They caught and intended to question one of the lamia, but it got away before interrogation could be completed. Thus the pursuit began. But, because the note did not mention the portal before them, they didn't go through it. In the back of their minds, however, was the thought that the lamia might have used it to evade them.
His Lordship's Treasure
Naturally, those who have been expecting the precious cargo of "his lordship" became worried that something terrible had happened and sent out scouts of their own. The result was a quick canvass of the area, resulting in news about a widespread lycanthrope attack all over the Silver Marches. This had to be the reason for the disappearing cargo. Although not expert in tracking lycanthropes, they assumed that since wolves lived in forests so would lycanthropes, so forests became the primary sites of interest.
In less than a tenday, the Far Forest was investigated. By luck, the scouts found the trail of the Bedine, which led them to the Far Forest portal. The nights of the full moon had long since passed so they found it curious that the Bedine had lingered in the area for as long as they did. Just as the Bedine had done before them, the scouts noted the location and moved on, continuing their hunt.
The "lordship" mentioned in the incomplete diary entry was Alecur Higherstride, an alchemist in Silverymoon. The writer of the diary merely referred to his employer with unusual formality, probably encouraged by the way Alecur dressed, which was always in the best clothes he could afford that were perhaps a little high for his station. At first glance, one could assume he was of noble birth -- perhaps from Cormyr.
Nevertheless, something valuable was being transported from Silverymoon: a gold and platinum orrery. An orrery is a mechanical model of the planets, sun, and moon. This orrery was configured for just the sun, Toril, and the moon. Alecur believed that perhaps the movement of the moon and the sun influence, in a very subtle way, some of the magic on Toril. A way to find this out would be to very carefully note conditions of magical effects on certain days, as noted by the orrery.
The orrery is a water-driven masterwork mechanical device that has been precisely engineered and created using magical construction techniques. Altogether, the device would fetch a price of 500 gp just for the gold and platinum it uses. The delicate nature of the craftsmanship and the information it provides is certainly worth more to an alchemist, wizard, or other scholar and would fetch a price of around 2,000 gp if sold to the right buyer.
The orrery functions for 6 hours on one waterskin's worth of water. The orrery must be properly aligned before it is put into motion, which requires a successful Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (nature), or Profession (astronomer) check (DC 15).
The Lone Lycanthrope and the Moonwood Portal
The lycanthrope who escaped the Bedine made it back to the Moonwood Portal, the nexus point in the network of portals stretching far east and west of the Moonwood. The Moonwood Portal is an elaborate, largely intact, small structure that is not unlike a gazebo made from white stone. A smooth, pointed roof is supported by ten white pillars that are solid pieces of marble. The interior is a full-circle dais that was also made from a single piece of marble and is highly polished. When struck by moonlight that is plus or minus two days from a full moon, the entire structure glows with a beautiful light. Since the portal has been unattended for so long, much of it had suffered from the plants, trees, and animals surrounding it, developing cracks, pockmarks, and quite a collection of dirt and plant matter here and there. Yet, it still works as long as any bit of it can be exposed to moonlight as previously described.
The Moonwood Portal is keyed. One must speak the goddess' name (Selûne) to activate it. Once done, the user steps onto the central platform and touches two of the pillars simultaneously of the pillars (two are always in reach of a Medium creature). The ceiling of the structure shows a map to the other portals it connects to, but it is not laid out plainly. A successful Decipher Script check (DC 20) reveals the diagram's secrets.
How to Incorporate Moonwood Portal Into Your Champaign
- Word of a lost or stolen treasure from a noble spreads more quickly than news of a pack of lycanthropes attacking villagers. Anyone interested in finding lost trinkets for grateful nobility will be drawn to the Ascore area. Word of the portal is more difficult to hear, but the scouts sent to look for his lordship's treasure aren't paid to keep things like that secret and would share it over an ale.
- Everyone knows lamia are in Hlaungadath, so it's unusual to see one as far south as the Far Wood. Adventurers hoping to fell a powerful and challenging beast, not to mention those who know of lamias' cruel and evil nature and want to end it, could be sent into the woods by farmers who saw the lamia fly over their homesteads.
- The Bedine, though excellent trackers, may need some help fighting the lamia or assistance with some other task. A brave group of adventurers wouldn't be their first choice since it means stretching whatever treasure they hope to find among more people, but unless they can capture and interrogate the lamia, they feel, the treasure will remain out of reach for everyone.