Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lorem Ipsum - Crown Jewel of the Dwarves

Separating Caelum from the Arkhosian Desert are the great edifices of granite that form Morradin's Shield. For hundreds of miles across the northern border of the Surviving Kingdoms they reach toward the heavens, visible on the horizon from even Des Nekketh in the south. They have a bold sort of beauty to them, from snow-covered peaks that frame the rising moon, to the high waterfalls of the Vale of the Fey. Yet within, they are far less enchanting. Winds howl through sheer walled canyons, and glacial sheets cover the roots of the mountains. And the magic of the fey that emanates from the Spiral Tower holds influence beyond the Vale home to Anmera; throughout much of the mountains powerful ice elemental stalk the stone. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Rimewind, where Haarken's Heart reaches high into Morradin's Shield. Treants suffused with elemental magic wield the ice and snow about them as potent weapons, and consider themselves protectors; even the Haarken's Heart Druids must tread lightly in this part of the forest. 

Yet a small cadre of the dwarves of Caelum call this remote reach of the mountains their home, basing themselves in the ancient fortress Ossum. Where the druids and treants consider themselves protectors of the forest, the dwarves think of themselves as guardians of the mountains. Yet the Davarrin sect is distinctive, for though their works of steel are still of quality uniquely dwarven, they bear far more resemblance to the Druids of the forest than their brothers deep in the mountains.Their home in Ossum is hewn into the granite of the mountains, and they do not crave the wealth so many of their kin fall prey to. Instead they value their home in its natural, primal state, and their warriors guard this part of the mountains wielding axes and frost magic.

However, most of Caelum's dwarves now live in the sprawling city of Lorem Ipsum. For centuries the dwarves that sealed themselves within the mountains to battle the Underdark were presumed to have fallen. Yet decades ago, a long dormant volcano went out with one last hurrah; an explosion powerful enough to turn solid granite to gravel. Left behind was a Caldera two miles wide in diameter, water at the bottom heated by the remaining magma far below. For the years since they had sealed themselves off, it had been a slowly losing battle against the Underdark for the Dwarves. With the hells advancing above, their ongoing battle turned for the worst as the attacks came relentlessly. Slowly, stronghold after stronghold failed, until finally but two were left, surrounded on all sides. Though a dwarfs pride is without peer, their stubbornness to cling to ancestral homes had been eroded by more than a century of battling the darkness. Commander Velkas stayed behind with his legion to stave off the Underdark as his people fled to the caldera to begin anew.

The city itself exists because of a microclimate; the Caldera is surrounded by walls of stone hundreds of feet high, sheltering it from the winds and the worst of the snow. The magma far below creates ambient heat, allowing the city to exist in the heart of the unforgiving cold of the mountains. Despite its fantastic geography, the craftsmanship of the dwarves makes the sight awe inspiring. A massive pillar of glass framed in copper rises from the center of the city near to the top of the Caldera, where it meets aqueducts that span overhead to the edge and the snow and ice of the heart of the mountains. Copper pipes follow these aqueducts delivering steam to melt the snow, bringing water into the heart of the city to continue not only quenching thirsts, but fueling the steam which powers mighty dwarven machinery. The streets and buildings below are granite inlayed with precious metal left behind by the volcano, and everywhere copper pipes snake through the city, delivering steam for heat and to power the machines.

At the center of the city, surrounding the great aqueduct, is the wealthiest district of the city. At its epicenter is the Hall of Lords, through which the great aqueduct flows, and spreading from this towering monolith of stone and glass are the homes of the wealthy, the streets also dotted with great bath houses heated naturally by the magma hundreds of feet below. Beyond these great structures are the many artisans and merchants who craft not only machines of brass and copper, but weapons and armor of unparallelled craftsmanship, and jewelery whose beauty is without peer. Then the buildings along the streets give way to the homes of the commoners, and the opulence begins to fade. Though bath houses are common throughout the city given the natural heat and the pipes that reach even to the edge of the Caldera, they do not even begin to rival the magnificence of those nearer the heart of the city. Farther still, forming a ring all the way round the Caldera, are the slums as such a city has, yet perhaps more appropriately it is the industrial district. Steam drills bore at the walls, procuring granite and copper in vast quantities. Here, massive refineries cast the copper pipes, of which there are untold miles in Lorem Ipsum, and miners find a second home in the many taverns of the district.

Here, one may also enter the undercity. Where the city reaches its limit against facades of granite, some delved down. Where above there is beauty in the bold architecture of metal and stone, here are the monoliths of machinery that sustain it. Causeways of granite encircle and branch from the great pumps and steam vents which make the city possible, and overhead, miles of copper pipe stretch in every direction. Dwarves suspended from chains work endlessly to repair and replace pipes as they grow old, working in sweltering heat suspended a hundred feet or more from the stone causeways; and the true daredevils hang over the places where the causeways fail, and magma awaits them some five hundred feet below.

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