Portals in Time
By Robert Wiese
The Portal Through Time (Part 1)
Deep in the Orsraun Mountain range, southwest of Iron Fang Keep, stands a stone monastery. It is the home of a very reclusive group of monks who reputedly practice a bizarre philosophy. The stone walls of the monastery stand like those of a fortress, forbidding and lonely, as if to discourage anyone from entering. The monks are unfriendly toward outsiders, and they deal with the outside world as little as possible. The reason the monks are so reclusive is the secret that they protect. Within the monastery is probably the most dangerous magic construction ever created by mortal or god, and they know the dangers should it fall into the wrong hands.
Currently this dangerous device is in the hands of the Imperial Society of Historical Study, which is a group of sages, wizards, and others who study the history of Faerûn. This group, which was founded centuries ago, is not associated with any throne or empire any longer (though it might have been at one time). The members write about historical events in Faerûn, adding their own interpretations to the events, and they band together more for the prestige of being members than for any actual research reasons. That was, until recently. A small group within the membership really wanted to do serious work, and they did not like that other sages did not take the Society seriously. A recent dig in the ruins of Netheril resulted in the discovery of the rarest magical knowledge, and the group suddenly had a way to do unequalled study.
The dangerous device within the monastery is their creation: a time portal. The portal is constructed in an arch 4 feet wide and 7 feet high. Instead of depositing travelers at a different point in Faerûn, this portal transports things backward in time but to the same place in the mountains (the monastery, or where the monastery "will stand"). The Society's wizards knew of the dangers of traveling backward in time and disrupting the flow of events, and they did not want disruption. They wanted to watch historical events as they transpired. However, the danger of the portal being used by Society members to affect the flow of events was too great, so they constructed the portal with variable destinations, including one spatial one in the present. The default and only spatial destination is a spot in the plains of Turmish, about a mile south of the city of Alaghôn. Society members use this aspect of the portal to reach the city quickly. Any gear or equipment with the creature traveling through the portal is sent instead to one of the five temporal destinations: 22,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago, and 500 years ago. No living beings can pass backward in time through the portal.
Since the Society members themselves cannot travel in time, they developed a new kind of construct they call a survey construct that they send back in time. The construct can see, hear, and remember events around it. The basic idea is that the construct observes the event and then catches up with the present (since it is ageless) and the Society members interview it to learn what it saw. To keep their constructs safe (because they are expensive), the Society members first sent a group of zombies through the portal to 22,000 years ago and had them dig out a cavern beneath the monastery. All constructs sent back in time are told to return to the cave when their "mission" is over. Should their mission involve a time period between the points the portal can send constructs to, they must also wait in the cave until that point in time arrives. Constructs waiting for the present keep the cavern clear and accessible as needed.
For the Society, this method produces instant results. They send a construct back in time, then immediately go down to the cavern and question it, since its wait through time is instantaneous for those in the present. Thus, they can send the constructs back again for more detailed examinations of particular aspects of an event, or particular sites or persons. The scholars don't worry about paradoxes because the constructs all have permanent instructions to ignore themselves or others like themselves when outside the cavern. Further, the constructs have instructions to flee any situation in which they are coming to harm, and they are instructed never to attack any creature, so they have little impact on the events of the past. Or so the scholars hope.
Since the first use of this portal, the group has produced some very accurate, and often surprising, reports about historical events. This has brought them the notice and respect of other scholars, but the group is adamant about not revealing how they really get their information. Instead, they claim that they speak with the dead and have found some previously unknown written accounts of events in question.