The Yawning Portal
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Amid the bustle of the thriving city of Atharavon, within the Castle-Ward Distrct; where barristers, nobles, and emissaries battle with word and contract, stands an inn quite unlike any other. Before there was a Castle Ward or even what could be recognized as an ancestor of the ancient elvish city of Elutheria, there was a dungeon, and in that dungeon begins the tale of the Yawning Portal.

In ages past, the mighty wizard Finarfen built a tower in the center of the Elvish city of Elutheria. From the base of that tower, he delved deep into tunnels first built by dwarves in search of ever greater magical power. Finarfen and his apprentices expanded the tunnels they found, worming out new lairs under the surface for reasons of their own. In time, their excavations grew into the vast labyrinth known today as the Catacombs, the largest dungeon in all of Corwyn. Finarfen eventually disappeared, as did all his apprentices, but the massive complex he built remains to this day. For untold years, the secrets of the Crypts remained hidden from the surface world. Everyone who entered its halls failed to return. Its reputation as a death trap grew to the point that criminals in Atharavon who were sentenced to die were sometimes forcibly escorted into the dungeon and left to fend for themselves.

All of that changed with the arrival of a great adventurer named Durnan. He was the first adventurer to return from the Catacombs, laden with riches and magic treasures. After his safe return, Durnan retired from adventuring and purchased the land on which sat the ruined Tower of Finarfen. In the basement of those ruins was a deep well that was the only known entrance to the crypts below. Around this well he built a tavern and inn that catered to adventurers and those who sought their services. He named his inn the "Yawning Portal." Some of the magic Durnan looted on his successful forays into the Catacombs granted him a life span that exceeded even that of an elf. For decades, Durnan left delving into the Catacombs to younger folk. Yet one day, something drew him back. Days of waiting for his triumphant return from the dungeon turned to months and then years. For nearly a century, citizens of Atharavon thought him dead. But one night, a voice called up from the well. Few at first believed it could be Durnan, but folk as long-lived as he vouched it so.

City-folk believed The Yawning Portal had claimed yet another victim, but Durnan returned with enough riches for a dozen lifetimes. Durnan then again took his customary place behind the bar, raised a toast to his own safe return, and then began serving customers as if he'd never left. Adventurers from across Corwyn, and even from elsewhere in the larger known world of Oris, continue to visit the Yawning Portal to explore the dungeons themselves, or simply to exchange knowledge about the Catacombs and other dungeons elsewhere. Most visitors are content to swap stories by the hearth, but sometimes a group driven by greed, ambition, or desperation pays the toll for entry and descends the well via the elevator. Most don't survive to make the return trip, but enough come back with riches and tales of adventure to tempt other groups into trying their luck.

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FEATURES OF THE YAWNING PORTAL


The Yawning Portal is a sprawling three-story building, built with a stone foundation taken from the very stones of Finarfen's fallen tower. The upper two floors contain lodgings for guests, while the main floor contains the kitchen and taproom. The taproom fills most of the first floor of the building, and a rickety staircase down to the cellar; home of the the infamous Well. Once in the cellar, There is a 20-foot-diameter well which provides direct access down to the Catacombs. The "well" is all that remains of Finarfen's Tower, and now, devoid of the stairways and floors that formed subterranean levels, it simply drops as an open shaft for 150 feet. There is an old hand-cranked elevator cage that lowers adventurers from the cellar into the bottom of the well. Durnan had the device built a century ago by some dwarvish craftsmen he met upon his many travels.

ENTERING THE WELL


Those who wish to enter the Catacombs for adventure (or the daring tourists who just want to "ride the elevator") must pay a 10 gold pieces to be lowered down. The return trip also costs 10 gold pieces, sent up in a bucket in advance. Once the initial payment is made, the party is put into the wooden cage and lowered down one at a time. At the bottom is a bell on a rope to signal for a return ride up to the Inn's cellar.

STRANGE DECOR


A staggering variety of curios and oddities adorn the taproom. Traditionally, adventurers who recover a strange relic from the Catacombs present it to Durnan as a trophy of their success. Other adventurers leave such curio to mark their visits to the tavern, or relinquish them after losing a bet with Durnan, who likes to wager on the fate of adventuring bands that enter the dungeon. Occasionally, something that strikes Durnan's fancy can be used to pay a bar tab.

A TYPICAL EVENING AT THE PORTAL


On quiet nights, guests in the Yawning Portal gather around a large fireplace in the taproom and swap tales of distant places, strange monsters, and valuable treasures. On busier nights, the place is loud and crowded. The long talbes and crowded booths overflow with merchants, nobles, adventurers, and their associates. Invariably, the combination of a few drinks and the crowd's encouragement induces some folk to pay for a brief trip down into the Catacombs. Most folk pay in advance for a ride down and immediately back up, although a few ambitious souls might launch impromptu expeditions into the catacombs. Few such ill-prepared parties ever return. Groups seeking to enter the Catacombs for a specific reason generally come to the tavern during its quiet day-time hours. Even at such times, there are still a few prying eyes in the taproom; shadowy lurkers who carry news of the comings and goings from the Catacombs to many different dark cults, criminal gangs, and other interested parties; such as the Veiled Society and the Arcanum.

Common Rumors of the Catacombs.

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DURNAN; the owner of the Yawning Portal


The proprietor of the Yawning Portal is himself something of an enigma. Blessed with a seemingly limitless life span by treasures he brought back from his expedition nearly many centuries ago, Durnan is as much a fixture in the taproom as the well. Durnan is a man of few words. He expects to be paid for his time, and will offer insight and rumors only in return for hard cash. "We know the odds and take our chances," he says, whether he is breaking up a card game that has turned violent or refusing the pleas of adventurers trapped at the bottom of the well who are unable to pay for a ride up. Despite his stony heart, he is an excellent source of information about the Catacombs and other dungeons, provided one can pay his price.

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