Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Under-City of Duirnhold

Duirnhold was founded by the dwarfish King Duirn over 2400 years ago when an exploratory tunnel into the mountain that now bears his name revealed rich veins of Atuta Dhatu (mithril), iron, copper, gold, silver, and other precious metals and gemstones. In time, the mines and foundries of Duirnhold became one of the most productive and lucrative dwarfish enterprises in all of Agartha.  Traders came up the Xanthus river from across the continent to do business with the dwarfs, trading food, furs, textiles, and other goods in exchange for raw ore, prepared ingots, and finished products such as weapons, armor, metalwork, jewelry, and custom goods.

There are two publically known entrances to Duirnhold. The first is located on the west slope of the mountain in the town of Duirndown near the headwaters of the Xanthus river. The second is located  on the east slope of the mountain facing the desert wastes of Gazh. On this side, a long stairway descends the mountain to the desert several thousand feet below.

Anyone entering through either entrance descends down a twenty-foot wide corridor for a few hundred feet before needing to pass a checkpoint. It is here that the trade goods were inspected and the traveler recorded and given a passport. Past the checkpoint, the corridor descends another mile.
Visitors from Duirndown must cross over a bridge that spans a great cleft under the mountain. The cleft rises several hundred feet above and descends into an interminable chasm below.

 Lower Level

The lower level is the only level accessible to outsiders. It consists of five connected chambers: two Halls of Statues, the Hall of Trade, the Hall of Metals, and the Hall of Goods.

Visitors entering from either direction then pass through one of two impressive Halls of Statues, a one-hundred foot tall vaulted gallery filled with 16 colossal statues of ancient dwarfish heroes and legendary figures. The gallery is imposing and is meant to intimidate and impress visitors as they pass underneath.

Visitors then enter the Hall of Trade, a busy bustling gallery of offices where factors from the various dwarfish mercantile houses meet with visiting merchants to conduct business transactions. Visitors may be taken into the adjacent Hall of Metals or Hall of Goods to inspect the items they intend to purchase prior to completing the transaction.  The Hall of Trade also maintains houses of accommodation for visiting dignitaries. Diplomatic envoys are escorted through one of two passages to the upper level to conduct court business.

Rumors tell of secret doors that lead to hidden chambers and covert passages to restricted levels.

Upper Level

The chambers of the upper level is restricted to the dwarfs of Duirnhold. Only visiting dignitaries may enter.

The upper level consists of one large gallery connected to three smaller chambers as well as three labyrinthine networks of rooms and corridors.

The largest gallery is devoted to the royal palace and the temple to the mountain lord. This cavernous chamber rises five hundred feet and is supported by ten forty-foot wide stone columns. The south end of the gallery is dominated by a large stepped pyramid, a temple to Daenthar the Mountain Lord, chief g the dwarfish pantheon. A moat surrounds the impressive structure. Eight statues of each of the gods of the dwarfs stand against the west and east walls surrounding the temple.

The north end contains the palace of Duirn, an impressive edifice sporting two tapering two-hundred foot tall obelisks and a soaring 150-foot dome. The wide stairs that lead into the entrance is flanked by statues of Duirn's mother and father. During its heyday, hundreds of dwarfs lived and worked within the palace household and the descendants of Duirn held court in the audience chamber.

The southern gallery is 300 feet wide by 540 feet long by 300 feet high. This chamber contains the forge, a mighty furnace that taps into the very heart of the mountain. Here metal ores are melted down and separated into refined metals. During its day, the forge was filled with working dwarfs, rock crushers, blast furnaces, bloomeries, powerful mechanical bellows, crucibles, and foundries. Vents leading to the surface provided fresh air for the bellows and carried away exhaust from the furnaces. Water wheels powered by underground rivers drove the fans that moved the air through the vents.

Ores were mined far below and stored in the adjoining Hall of Ores, a 300 feet wide by 300 feet long by 300 feet high warehouse piled high with various rocks laced with metal ores. The ores were separated into distinct piles: gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, and the exotic unbreakable metal the dwarfs call Atuta Dhatu, found only in the deepest places under the mountain.

Finished metals and parts were later cleaned, polished, and assembled into weapons, armor, tools, and other devices in the adjoining workshop. The workshop is 180 feet wide by 540 feet long and 240 feet high. The workshop contained hundreds of work benches and anvils. Ores, metals, and finished goods were then transported to the Hall of Metals or Hall of Goods for trade with the outside world.

A complicated network of metal tracks connected the mines to the Hall of Ores, the Forge, the Workshop, and the trade halls below. Mine carts were pulled by mules.

The eastern gallery is known as the Hall of Workers. The Hall of Workers measures 780 feet long by 420 foot wide by 240 feet tall and is supported by 18 40-foot wide columns. In its day, the hall contained homes and dormitories to house the common unskilled workers, miners, and laborers of Duirnhold. The gallery is a network of public spaces, dormitories, private apartments, dining halls, taverns, and other residential services.

The Hall of Nobles measures 660 feet long by 300 feet wide by 300 feet tall and is supported by 9 columns. The chamber is divided into 12 private multi-story compounds, each belonging to one of the 12 noble families of Duirnhold.

The Hall of Artisans measures 300 feet wide by 480 feet long by 300 feet tall and is supported by 6 columns. This space contains the private residences of the twelve master artisans of Duirnhold. Whenever a master artisan dies, a contest of skills is held and a new master artisan is selected from the general populace.

Secret Locations

There are several secret locations in Duirnhold, including the fabled Vault of Duirn, rumored to measure 300 feet wide by 600 feet deep and 300 feet high, it is said to be filled with the accumulated wealth of thousands of years of prosperity. Its location is unknown. Other locations not shown on the maps above include the catacombs which lead to the burial vaults of the twelve noble families and the ossuaries of the commoners. According to dwarfish tradition, dwarfs are buried in their finest raiment with their most treasured possessions. These tombs are protected by deadly traps enchanted guardian statuary.

The Fall of Duirnhold

Forty years ago, the dwarfs of Duirn uncovered a lost chamber deep underneath the mountain, far down in its very roots. The chamber unleashed a primal force of evil, the titan of chaos known as Zoggolorth, buried since the dawn of time. Once freed, the evil of Zoggolorth quickly spread, corrupting everything it touched. The dwarfs built bulwark after bulwark to defend themselves from the spread of the evil, but it slowly overcame each line of defense. Eventually, the city itself fell. Thousands of dwarfs died in the final desperate battles against the Spawn of Zoggolorth. The surviving dwarfs were forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives. The dwarfs called upon the aid of the human mages to magically seal the portals behind them, preventing the further spread of the chaos. Today, Duirnhold is sealed behind multiple layers of magical gates. Each gate can only be opened by a magical key in the possession of one of the human mages of Bhaakru.