The Shadow Path: A Portal Network
By James Wyatt
The dwarven realm of Ammarindar was neither the first nor the greatest dwarven kingdom of Faerûn's ancient history, but it was founded before both the elven kingdom of Cormanthyr and the human empire of Netheril. Founded in -4100 DR, Ammarindar at its height occupied much of the upper Delimbyr valley, between the High Forest and the Fallen Lands, and stretched into the Underdark as well. It fell alongside the elven kingdom of Eaerlann in 882 DR, when hordes of orcs and the demons of Hellgate Keep swept it away.
In the centuries after Ammarindar's fall, the drow of Ched Nasad and the beholders of the Graypeaks both moved into its subterranean tunnels and fastnesses, looting its treasures and defiling its halls. Around 1220 DR, the demons of Hellgate Keep began to appropriate these areas for their own use, driving out the drow and beholders and establishing a network of outposts throughout that region of the Underdark. To their fiendish delight, these demons stumbled upon the Unspoken Hall -- a cavernous shrine built by dwarves but custom-tailored to suit demonic needs. For the dwarves that hollowed out the Unspoken Hall were the worshiper-slaves of a demon lord.
A portal in Iltkazar leads to a nondescript cavern, which also serves as the only place of entry for anyone stumbling upon the Unspoken Hall by way of nearby Underdark tunnels (area 1 on the map). A number of dead-end tunnels branch off from this area, as well as one narrow tunnel that winds over a treacherous and monster-infested route to a main Underdark thoroughfare connecting Ched Nasad to distant Menzoberranzan.
To the west of this entry cavern, a statue stands on a raised platform in the middle of another large natural-looking cavern (area 2). The statue depicts a dwarf with demonic features -- large feathered wings, clawed hands and feet, and an elongated, almost birdlike face. Crafted long before the birth of the individual it depicts, the statue represents the Speaker, a half-vrock dwarf who now makes his residence in the Unspoken Hall. Branching off from this chamber are three more natural caverns, with one (area 3) containing a deep sinkhole whose depths have never been plumbed. Stairs leading up and away from the statue's demonic face indicate the continuation of dwarf stonework in the remainder of the hall.
To the east of the stairs in the hall's upper level is the Hellfire Forge (area 6), which is a blazing smelter of undying abyssal fire. Actually a portal of sorts in its own right, this furnace carries any creature wholly entering its flames into a fiery region of the Abyss that is populated with balors and other, nameless, fire-loving demons. Strangely, the tremendous heat from the fires does not extend farther than 5 feet into the remainder of the room. Work tables and anvils are set up near the forge. A smith can heat metal in the abyssal flames, carry it back to an anvil or work table, and work it successfully for as long as 5 minutes away from the flame, thanks to the demonic magic of the flames and the anvils. Countless unholy weapons and other tools of evil were forged here in secret during Ammarindar's height, and then they were forged openly when the hall was held by fiends from Hellgate Keep. (In game terms, the magic of this forge reduces the time required to create magic arms and armor by one day, but the crafted item is always tainted with evil in some way, and a holy item cannot be created here. The forge does not reduce the cost of creating any item.)
Stairs and a ramp lead down and east from the Hellfire Forge, to a natural cavern (area 7) that was probably once connected to area 1. This cavern served as an armory for the dwarves of the Unspoken Hall. It held their weapons and armor at the ready in case of attack from the good dwarves of Ammarindar. Drow and demons have long since plundered the unholy treasures once held here and unwittingly spread them across Faerûn. The northern alcove, however, holds a treasure of a different sort: a portal leading into the Labyrinth . The portal is marked by an archway carved into the natural stone wall and is activated by placing a hand on the stone within the archway and reciting a sentence in praise of Baphomet: "Lord of might, horned god, praise to you, great Baphomet."
Drow from Ched Nasad occasionally use this portal as a way of traversing significant distances with no interference from faerzress. Occasionally, raiding parties camp in this cavern before venturing to the Labyrinth and on toward Gracklstugh or the outskirts of Menzoberranzan or onward through the Labyrinth's portal to Oryndoll. As long as they avoid the western part of the Unspoken Hall, they find they can make camp in safety, at least by Underdark standards.
A long hallway leads west from the stairs to the shrine area of the Unspoken Hall. Area 8 was once a barracks area for dwarves who either lived in the hall full-time or needed to stay for a while -- either because they were needed in the hall or because their loyalties had been discovered and they could not return home. Three small chambers on the east side were more private rooms for high-ranking leaders of the demon-worshiping cult. The large room on the west was never occupied until a few years ago, when the Speaker arrived and claimed the room that had been ready for him for three thousand years.
In -1650 DR, a secret cult of evil dwarves in the kingdom of Ammarindar built the Unspoken Hall under the pretext of mining adamantine and forging weapons and armor from that rare, fine metal. They built it -- and portals linking it with the other centers of their far-flung cult -- on the basis of a prophetic vision their leader received. In three centuries' time, he believed, a half-fiend dwarf would come to the hall and claim it for his own, doing the will of the cult's demonic patron. The statue in area 2, the large room off area 8, and, indeed, the whole Unspoken Hall was built in honor of this yet-to-be-born half-fiend. A century to a demon prince passes on Faerûn like a thousand years, or else the cult leader was misguided -- but now three millennia have passed and the Speaker has come, unwilling heir to an ancient prophecy and an evil birthright. He now lives in his appointed room, scavenging in the Underdark for food where the hall's builders intended him to feast in luxury.
At the north end of the barracks, ornately carved double doors forged of solid adamantine (2 inches thick, hardness 20, 80 hp, break DC 60) lead to the inner sanctum of the Unspoken Hall. Here stands a massive stone statue of a figure like a minotaur -- a bullheaded humanoid with large, curving horns, covered in shaggy hair, with a long, bovine tail. This is Baphomet, the demon prince revered by the corrupted dwarves of Ammarindar. Two smaller shrines to the east and west contains smaller statues. The one to the west depicts a normal dwarf with an evil visage. This is Balik Blackhand, the builder of the hall and founder of the Baphomet cult. The one to the east represents the Speaker again.
Behind the statue of Baphomet is a secret door so well hidden that it has remained undiscovered since the fall of Ammarindar (Search DC 35). Beyond the door, Balik Blackhand is interred in a stone sarcophagus bearing his likeness. Lying on his breast is Gamadurth, his greataxe.
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