By Jeff Quick
Avernask, the Sullen Portal
After more than a century of plying his trade around the continent, the portal master encountered an intelligent magic item: a bard's harp that sang of its own accord and spoke through the music. Jhaurmael was entranced, and he traveled with the bard for many months just to be near her harp. During the entire affair, he hotly denied that he was under the effects of any charm spell.
In one adventure, the bard and her harp were teleported to another plane. Jhaurmael searched, but found no trace of the pair. He fell into a deep melancholy for several months, locked himself in his workroom, barely ate, and saw no one. Eventually, he came around, but he remained fascinated with the idea of intelligent magically enhanced creations. Replacing one perhaps unhealthy preoccupation with another, Riversedge began researching the creation of an intelligent portal.
With minor interruptions, Jhaurmael spent the next few years hammering out the details. Once he thought he knew how to start, he needed a place to build his latest masterpiece. He traveled around Faerûn searching for a location where no one would find or interrupt him. Deep into the unclaimed territory of the mountains north of Veldorn, he found a ruined temple to an unknown god. No magic radiated from the ruins, and no one seemed to have disturbed the place for decades. Jhaurmael built a permanent shelter and storage space for himself among the ruins and began.
The portal took several more years to complete. It stands on the dais at the front of the ruined temple, where there is a 15-foot square hole in the wall. The surrounding area has tiny runes and glyphs carved into it. In addition to creating a portal with intelligence, Jhaurmael wanted to make it his ultimate portal creation -- one that could take those who pass through anywhere. He has never revealed the secrets behind creating a portal with infinitely variable destinations (perhaps, as a sorcerer, he doesn't know himself). Regardless, the portal awoke. Jhaurmael named it Avernask.
Avernask was curious and lively for its first few months of existence, and Jhaurmael talked to it about all the places he had been and people he had known, especially his bard companion. He had infused it with his own sense of wonder and wanderlust, and Avernask was insatiable. The more places it knew about, the more places it could open onto and look into. Unfortunately, though Avernask could open to thousands of places on Toril, it couldn't actually go to any of them. It could only send other creatures and watch.
As the consequences of this limitation became more apparent, Avernask soon became sullen and withdrawn. It would still ferry people to places when they asked, but it took some effort. The portal wanted to be talked into teleporting people, and the only thing that would cheer it up and get it moving was a story of a faraway place -- a place it hadn't heard or seen yet. This job becomes increasingly more difficult as more people use Avernask.
The portal has become a legend among bards now. Those who can find it consider it a high challenge to their storytelling ability to get Avernask to work. The portal has heard a great many tales; it has become very difficult to tell it about a place it hasn't heard of yet. Spending so much time around tale-spinners also has given the portal a keen sense of falsehood. It usually knows when someone is inventing a story about a made-up place just to get it to perform.
Avernask has sworn never to allow Jhaurmael to pass through itself again for creating such a wretched existence for it. The elf, who had built a small home near Avernask, left in turmoil - his greatest creation had turned against him. Jhaurmael still wanders about Faerûn and creates new portals, but he hopes one day to reconcile with his greatest creation.
Details about Avernask
As an intelligent item, Avernask has ability scores of Int 14, Wis 10, Cha 18. The portal is capable of speech, and it can speak Common, Dwarven, and Elven.
Avernask has complete control over its ability to teleport users. Its teleportation abilities are similar to the teleport spell. As a result, the portal can teleport users only to a place it is somewhat familiar with. The first time Avernask attempts to take someone to a new place, roll on the familiarity table and treat the familiarity as "Description." Once successful, Avernask scrutinizes the new location with great interest. Treat subsequent attempts to teleport to the same location as "Studied Carefully."
It is also possible to use Avernask as a gate spell. Jhaurmael secretly knows that Avernask needs time to mature and settle before this aspect of his magic emerges. This can happen only when the portal has been "broken in" enough by teleporting people enough on the Material Plane.
Anyone who views Avernask with an analyze portal spell sees only Jhaurmael's arcane mark floating in a swirling plane of color. With Avernask's permission and a successful Scry check, characters may discern other locations through the swirl and use it to look on those destinations. Note that it is extremely difficult to scry on specific people using Avernask. The portal's abilities are location based. It could show a place that someone described to it in great detail and show that place from several different angles, but it can be used to look at people only when they cross into the portal's viewing area.
How to Incorporate Avernask, the Sullen Portal, Into Your Campaign:
- The PCs can use Avernask to take them to nearly anywhere they want to go. First, they need to find it -- the portal's location is not well known. Then, they need to have been to a place it hasn't seen yet and tell an awful good story about it.
- Wherever the bard and her harp are, they're trapped. The only thing that could help them get back would be an extremely powerful -- and unusually intelligent -- portal that would go looking for them. But even if some portal were to do just that, someone else would still need to go through and rescue them. Jhaurmael would be the first to go through, but Avernask has forbidden him from entering. If only someone else could be convinced to undertake a dangerous trip to foreign planes. Even if some silver-tongued diplomat could possibly convince Avernask to let Jhaurmael go through, the elf would still need back-up. No matter how powerful he might be, he's only one elf. He would pay a well-known group of powerful adventurers well for their assistance in the quest.