By Roger E. Moore
Each installment in this series provides more detail about a network of portals linking various parts of Faerûn and beyond in the Forgotten Realms campaign. These portals can take your party to new adventure for a night or as part of an ongoing campaign across Faerûn.
Voices of the Lost
Part IV: Activating "Voices of the Lost"
One possible way to introduce this portal network is to have the PCs be in Daggerford at the same time a well-known bard there announces that she has a special announcement and special performance to make at the Lucky Lady. The half-elven bard is a part-time historian as well, and she has researched the legends and (few) known facts about Illefarn for most of her life. She believes she is a direct descendant of one of the wood elves of Illefarn -- but then, so are many other elves across in this region, know it or not.
The bard's announcement is that she has managed to piece together, from many sources, one of the great lost poetic works of Illefarn. The simplest translation she can make of the poem's title, from its original Seldruin into Common, comes out as "Voices of the Lost." She plans to sing the song for the assembled crowd in its original language, which the bard has managed to learn. The poem is sung a cappella as it was originally written. As the bard is widely known for the exceptional quality of her voice, the surprise performance, even on such short notice, swiftly causes the Lucky Lady to be swamped with the largest audience it has seen in several years, with an unusual number of elves in attendance. The tavern is in danger of selling out of alcoholic drinks hours before the performance is even scheduled to start, and some shipments of wine and ale destined for elsewhere are suddenly derailed to meet the demand.
Though most nonelven patrons could care less, the bard's historical research was astounding, indeed. Despite the difficulties she faced, her detective work in assembling the long poem was flawless and inspired. She was allowed access to several protected libraries in Evereska and Candlekeep in her research, and she has already delivered copies of her final reconstruction of the poem (and its translation into Common) to the libraries that aided her. The poem's reconstruction and translation are regarded by elves who have read them to be unparalleled masterworks, an event akin to discovering a lost play of Shakespeare in the modern world. The bard's eternal fame among the elves is ensured. Some elves from Evereska, tipped off about her performance here, arrived in Daggerford earlier under the pretense of being on other sorts of trips, and they were swift to get to the Lucky Lady for the performance.
The poem's interaction with the portal stone, however, is entirely unexpected by everyone. Fifteen minutes into one of the greatest recitals of ancient poetry ever made, while elves weep openly for their lost realm and other races sit entranced at the music -- the bard vanishes while standing on the portal stone, which began to register as increasingly magical during her performance. She's activated the portal and has been involuntarily sent on to the next one. The portal stone's magic vanishes with her disappearance, but it can be activated again under the usual circumstances. The scene inside the Lucky Lady is a screaming riot, with everyone hunting for the bard. Many elves are convinced that antielven forces are behind the disappearance. Some say the poem was cursed, others cry that the elven deities who watched over Illefarn have taken the bard to hear the song for themselves. Martial law is declared. Chaos reigns.
The PCs may choose to pick up the scattered copies of the bard's notes, left behind on a table before she vanished, and attempt to duplicate her actions. Luckily, the bard's notes show how to pronounce the unfamiliar words in Seldruin for anyone who speaks only Common, but this process is laborious. Have anyone attempting to read the transliteration of "Voices of the Lost" make an Intelligence check for every 5 minutes of reading. A failed check means the reader takes an extra 5 minutes to finish this segment of the poem. For example, activating the first portal takes 15 minutes normally, or 30 minutes total with three failed Intelligence checks.
The fate of the half-elven bard is left to the DM to decide, but the PCs should move quickly if there is to be any hope of rescuing her before she gets to the most dangerous portal stones. (She quickly figures out what happened, but she becomes determined to follow the portal system to its end, at any cost.) Elves in particular wish to see the bard returned in the fastest possible time. This would be a good adventure for elven PCs, particularly if one is related to the bard.
It is possible for the PCs to put this portal system to some use, but as the portals are one-way and do not link up to major trade centers, such use is questionable. However, elven spellcasters and historians will jump at the chance to explore the portal network, once the PCs have worked the bugs out of it. Discovery of the portal system as well as the lost poem will become a major topic in the clack across Faerûn for months to come.