The Shadow Path: A Portal Network
By James Wyatt
In the lowest depths of the Underdark, beneath the Shining Plains and somewhere between the surface cities of Lheshayl and Ormath, the City of Loretakers broods in unremitting darkness. Oryndoll is a city populated by mind flayers and their thralls, and it is known for its residents' insatiable thirst for knowledge.
Drow traders -- primarily slave traders -- from Sshamath, Szith Morcane, and distant Maerimydra make their way through miles of tunnels to the City of Loretakers, while both drow and duergar from the northeast occasionally make use of the portal in the Labyrinth to reach the illithid city. The portal leads to an unremarkable tunnel about a mile north of the city, with no markings indicating in which direction Oryndoll lies. Though no guards are posted at the portal's destination point, the illithids of the city are aware of its location and keep it under constant surveillance by means of clairaudience.
At first glance, Oryndoll appears as nothing more than a sprawling network of troglodyte warrens, and few nonillithids ever see more of the city than that relatively fair façade. Mind flayers who choose to engage these merchants in trade do so in one of these upper caverns, amid the stench of troglodyte thralls. The rulers of the city dwell below, in caverns arranged around tubular ring-shaped tunnels connected to the thrall caverns above by well-hidden spiral staircases. Below even these ring caverns, and accessible only through teleportation magic, ethereal travel, or similar means, are the Undervaults where the city's Elder Brain resides and where its stores of knowledge are kept.
Just south of the thrall caverns, not linked by any tunnels or other physical connections, is a small network of natural caverns where the Shadow Path continues. The caverns lie only 30 feet south of a large thrall cavern, so it is easy for those who know its location to reach it ethereally or via a passwall spell. Several of those illithids who use the secret caverns regularly have access to teleport or dimension door abilities, as well, and they have made themselves intimately familiar with the site's features. For visitors who do not know its location, of course, it is practically impossible to find.
The mind flayers who use the secret caverns are members of an order of assassins known as the Life Eaters. Like the baphitaurs in the Labyrinth, they are devoted to the demon lord Baphomet, which makes them a chaotic anomaly among the illithids of Oryndoll. The main cavern (area 1) contains a statue of their Abyssal patron on a platform above a pool of briny water. A narrow tunnels winds south from this cavern into a series of small cave hideaways, including the home of the Life Eaters' leader, a mind flayer named Wiirlan (area 5). This tunnel ends in a small chamber (area 6) that contains another portal. The presence of the portal is marked only by four black gems set into the natural stone wall at the south end of the cavern, and it can be triggered only by placing a hand within the portal and saying the phrase, "The horned god shall rule Iltkazar." The dwarven city of Iltkazar is the portal's destination.
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