By Jeff Quick
Dungeon Escape Portal
In Thentia, which is considered by many to be the most open city in the Moonsea region, the nobility's currently elected watchlord, Gelduth Blackturret, lives with his family in the Watchlord's Keep near the water.
The watchlord is filled by a person elected by the nobles of the city. Although most of the power in Thentia resides with the noble families, the watchlord has several real duties. One of them is keeping political prisoners and rabble-rousers in a dungeon located within the keep until trial and sentencing. The dungeon is empty more often than not, but every few months, Blackturret or one of the nobles finds it expedient to have somewhere dark and quiet to put troublemakers until they come up with more permanent arrangements.
A Little Insurance
Gelduth is a smart man in a tricky spot. He knows how quickly political leaders can become political prisoners, and this awareness is heightened in the suspicious Moonsea region, especially with Zhentil Keep so nearby. Gelduth has pockets of magical "insurance" scattered around the Watchlord's Keep, in the form of glyphs hidden behind tapestries and portraits, and under carpets. He also has an escape route for emergencies.
With the aid of one of the more powerful wizards in the city, Phourkin One-Eye, Gelduth has installed a one-way portal from the dungeon. The command words for the portal are the phrase "Joya deliver us," spoken with a proper thick Damaran accent. (Joya was Gelduth's grandfather, a man he admired greatly for his forethought and decisiveness.)
The portal deposits travelers inside a farmhouse a few miles outside of Hulburg around the coast to the east. The farmer there, Katka Czornya (LN female human Com1/Rog3) is a loyal retainer to the watchlord, though her husband and four children don't know exactly how loyal: Hidden under the floorboards of the house are three masterwork longswords, two masterwork short swords, a set of masterwork plate mail, three sets of studded leather armor, and half a dozen potions of cure serious wounds. Katka can produce these items in minutes if the watchlord, or anyone who knows his password, suddenly appears in her house.
Phourkin and Katka are supposed to be the only people outside the Blackturret family who know about the portal's existence. Gelduth knows the power he holds is fickle, and not his own. Every secret he can keep is one more little bit of power he has access to later when something goes wrong.
Gelduth's young adult middle son, Koyich (N male human Ari2), is quite taken by the glamorous skullduggery that comes with his father's position. He frequently brags about his family's activities to his sycophant friends while carousing. When the portal was installed two years ago, he went on at length about a secret he couldn't tell for reasons of Thentian security.
Of course, he did tell at least one person, Drela Casplardann (N female human Ari1), a noble girl he was seeing at the time. Drela and Koyich were supposedly betrothed, but Koyich's wandering attentions spelled doom for the relationship. About four months ago, he spurned her for another girl. The breaking of the betrothal caused some discomfort between the families, but things have settled down. The Casplardanns always knew Koyich was a wastrel and are quietly happy he's out of the picture. The Blackturrets are dismayed at the loss of a politically advantageous marriage, but Koyich's behavior is nothing new to them.
Dear, sweet Drela, however, still burns with the rejection. She has had revenge in a few social situations, making Koyich look bad, but Drela has a spiteful heart and long memory. She's not done making Koyich pay yet.
She doesn't know how she's going to use the information she has against Koyich, but she has the beginnings of a plan. She's been flirting with a dashing young Zhentarim merchant lord who has set up shop in Thentia. Irolna Mesilvik (NE male human Sor2/Rog5) is a Zhent spy-in-training. His ties with Zhentil Keep are well known, but Irolna is handsome, friendly, and well mannered. Even when people know he's not to be trusted, they still want to.
Drela and Irolna have been seen together at two social functions now. Drela is mainly using him to get back at Koyich, and Irolna is completely using her to spy on Thentia economic and political weaknesses. Drela might have her best revenge by telling Irolna how to escape from the Watchlord's Keep in the event that he is caught in a compromising situation.
Alternatively, the next time that an exciting band of adventurers, comes to town and stirs things up, she might cozy up to one of the handsome men of the group and let her knowledge slip out in a private moment.
How to Incorporate the Dungeon Escape Portal Into Your Campaign
- The PCs do, in fact, run into Drela, and she makes an effort to get on one male PC's good side. When she tells the PC about her secret, what does the PC do? Is there a "long talk" in Drela's future, or will it end up being in Gelduth's future?
- One of the PCs falls victim to either mistaken identity or to suspicion of having done something very badly wrong. He or she ends up in the dungeon with Irolna, who was taken in at the same time or shortly thereafter. Irolna, in return for helping him get free of the bind he's in (and what may lie at the other side of his "escape route"), offers to let the trapped PC go with him. What does the PC do?