Great Rift Portals
By Jeff Quick
Durgen's Folly Portal
When the Rift was an active quarry, traveling from the top to the bottom quickly was a valuable commodity for quarrymasters. Lifts anchored to the rock usually expedited travel to the top, and the system was used to ferry huge stone blocks up to the edge where horses or wizards would spirit them away to the sites of future palaces and castles. For Quarrymaster Durgen Graymantle, the speed of lifts was never fast enough.
Graymantle was an impatient dwarf and an unforgiving taskmaster. He was not merely greedy, but grasping. He oversaw his workers with a whip, and he would hire anyone to work at low wages: dwarf, human, or half-orc, not caring if they had stonecunning or training, as long as the workers were strong and able. He tried to control as much of his operation as possible in person and always wanted work done faster.
When it came to his attention that one could pay to have a spellcaster create a magical portal that would instantly move people and cargo to a given destination, Durgen began hunting for someone who could make one for him. It was hard for him to part with the gold to pay the exorbitant price that portal construction cost, but he had calculated that the time savings would earn his money back and more in just a few years.
In those years, the gold dwarves had much more distrust of magic than they possess today, and they eyed the elven sorcerer brought in to do the work with distrust and disdain. However, the sorcerer did his job and left with no trouble, and the portal worked perfectly after that. For those who would use it.
Many workers, especially the dwarven ones, were loathe to stop using a system they had built with their own hands in favor of a nonmechanical transport they neither built nor understood. The workers blamed accidents on "charms" that the odd elven sorcerer left behind, and they constantly associated the portal with bad luck. Further, Durgen quickly found that while the portal effortlessly and instantly transported people up and down, it would not carry more than a few hundred pounds of stone. He still had to rely on the block and tackle lifts to raise the heavy stones to the edge of the Rift.
In the portal's favor, customers often appreciated the instant, comfortable transportation to the Rift floor when they came to visit the site and negotiate a deal. Durgen himself used it to oversee both quarrying on the floor as well as storage and loading on the edge, hopping back and forth, in an ever faster attempt to control all aspects of the operation. He ruled his company with the same granite fist until the day he died. In fact, while on his deathbed, he griped that the cleric of Moradin would not work fast enough to save him from an early grave.
After his death, Durgen's son, Kurdun, continued to run the business. He had as little love for the portal as the workers did. Business returned to the traditional ways, and the portal fell into disuse, becoming known as "Durgen's Folly."
Today, the portal is more of a tourist destination than a useful part of anyone's life. Few gold dwarves have business on either the floor or edge of the Rift. Those who want to travel to one are rarely close enough to the other for a detour to the portal to be worth it. As before, lifts remain ready to ferry dwarves up and down long distances, and as before, some superstitious types still believe that the sorcerer hexed the portal so that accidents happen nearby. The portals are now marked with signs, and the portal of the Rift edge is watched by guards as any entrance to the Rift would be. It remains a curiosity and a reminder to many that magic does not solve every problem, especially the common dwarven problems of perspective and greed.
How to Incorporate the Durgen's Folly Portal Into Your Campaign
- Maybe the elven sorcerer really did set charms on the portal to cause accidents. Elves are long-lived and perhaps the sorcerer is still alive somewhere, with a plan in mind to use the portal for some evil purpose.
- Some gold dwarves see Durgen's Folly as a nuisance, an embarrassment, and a potential safety hazard. They want it removed. Others see it as a landmark, a reminder, and a legacy of dwarven history. They want it preserved. Once the PCs have performed a service for the gold dwarves and gained some notoriety, one or both sides comes to them asking for support for their political cause. The PCs must either take sides or do some delicate negotiations to keep their heroic reputations intact.