Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lower Stoutfellow -- Alphatia's Underworld

Mapped with Hexographer
Here's Part II of Stoutfellow.  It's another large map, so feel free to download the file from HERE.

A few thoughts

Stoutfellows control the following cavern complexes and their fortresses: Denwarf-Hurgon, Drakon Hollows, Dimholm, the Grand Vault of Bar-Zaram, Duerhold, and Fangholm.  Stoutfellows enjoy a theoretical claim over the Great Swammholt and most of the Swammholt Trench, although they do not actually control its monster-infested fungal expanse.  Cave trolls occupy the Trollmark, but so far have failed to capture surrounding dwarven fortresses.  A mysterious race of Shadow Dwarves own Shadow Deep and its fortresses, threatening the lowest reaches of the Swammholt Trench.

Food in the under world comes from four main sources: moss farmlands (also known as the dwarven breadbasket), fungal forests, fishing, and breeds of cattle indigenous to the under world.  The remainder comes from the surface.  All cavern complexes featuring lakes and rivers experience regular condensation rainfall.  Colossal stone pillars support the caverns' vaults arching often more than three thousand feet overhead.  Dwarven runes and carved decorations adorn the surface of the rock near towns and cities of the under world.  Inexplicably so far, larger caves also experience winds and updrafts near high cliffs.

Access to the under world is available through various "Gates."  These are fortified stairwells with many intermediary portals.  Additional defenses come from underground fortresses, which are part of the rock walls separating cavern complexes.  They feature massive doors and defenses carved directly into the rock.  High ledges and turrets provide platforms for siege weapons.  

Travel throughout most of the under world can be expedited through a unique and marvelous device called the Dragon Express, a steam-powered machine pulling wagons along a set of steel rails.  The engine is a relic created by dwarven, gnomish, and Alphatian master crafters.  It is used for passengers traffic, food transportation, and emergency military deployment.

Most of the caverns are imbued with light radiating from Brighstones or from the vegetation.  It is diffuse and much dimmer than sunlight.  Brightstones are brittle and of varying intensity.  Some generate the full spectrum of light, others only ultraviolet or infrared  The best veins can be mined.  Other mining resources include Firestone (a black mineral that can be burned to produce steam inside the Dragon Express's engine), gems, gold, iron, marble, salpeter, and sulfur.  There are rumors of Darkstone mines in Shadow Deep, but their powers remain hopelessly unknown and feared.  Nothing good ever comes from Shadow Deep.

The Great Swammholt & Trench:  this large area of complete wilderness stretches all along the under world's eastern reaches.  Hunting parties often travel the land in search of more exotic catches to sell in the streets and markets of Denwarf-Hurgon.  The Firegrims of Naragdûr consist of a ring of bubbling lava surrounding a shaft that rises to an dormant volcano on Haven's surface.  A mountain ridge contains the lava.  Steaming mudflats spread from the Firegrims' foothills, featuring geysers and ponds of boiling water.  Dwarven master crafters sometimes come to this desolate and dangerous place to collect rare minerals.  Fungal jungle and mycofloral swamp fill much of the Swammholt.  Three immense cataracts interrupt the flow of the Nad-Dringol River.  Aside from the fortress guarding the entrance to Denwarf-Hurgon, two other access points exist, located atop vertiginous cliffs overlooking the massive trench.  They are used to watch for any incursions from Shadow Deep.

Denwarf-Hurgon:  it is the most highly populated cave complex of the under world.  Its city was carved out from a towering stone pillar nearly sixteen miles across, and stretches more than 3,000 feet to the surface.  The city's lower level is located on a plateau surrounded with waters from the Nad-Ithryl River flowing northward.  The city features the Dragon Express's grand central station.  The railway extends north and south across the river, via stone viaducts guarded by towers.  The northern segment continues through a mountain side across the river before heading down a steep slope toward the next cavern complex.

Drakon Hollows:  this cavern complex is unusual as it harbors a breed a small wyvern-like creatures living in holes high up in the rock face or in the vault.  These creatures can be captured and used as mounts by trained specialists.  The main source of wealth comes from a strategic Brightstone mine near the fortified Gate of Nalnorë.

Dimholm: as the name implies, natural light is scarce in that area.  Fishing and farming are the main activity here.  However somber, the Dimholm features unique pure-white mineral lace and coral-like stone excretions covering its walls and vaults.

The Grand Vault of Bar-Zaram: it is essentially a vast underground sea of fresh water supplied by the Nad-Ithryl River.  Water drains through a whirlpool on the northwest side, spiraling into an unexplored abyss.  Fishing is the main industry here.  Over the centuries, Stoutfellows carved a precarious ledge along the east wall just large enough for the Dragon Express to reach the other side.  Visiting Alphatians traveling this way usually pull shut the curtains of their compartment rather than watch, as the Dragon Express boldly hurtles along the edge of the cliff.

Duerhold:  as may seem obvious, its value is mostly strategic, as a crossroads between multiple cavern systems, and a site of Brightstone mining.  Its central stone pillar housed Zul-Barad, a city that rivaled with Denwarf-Hurgon in more ancient times.  It was destroyed during an invasion from the Trollmark.  The entire structure is filled with the rubble of destroyed great halls, caved-in floors, and crumbling stairways all the way to the surface.  The ruins are now home to a host of monsters.  Another passage was later built, called the Gate of Zul.

Fangholm: this cavern complex would be a worthless waste of rocks, gravel, dust, and tar pits, if it wasn't for its mines of gems--priceless goods for any dwarf worth his muck-incrusted beard.  As a result, Stoutfellows maintain a vigilant presence in Duerhold and the dark confines of Fangholm.  Like Duerhod, this cavern once boasted a pillar-city, which was destroyed by a feat of mysterious magic.  No one knows for sure what really happened, but many whisper among themselves the ancient sigils for Shadow Deep.  One thing is certain, however.  The ruins are home to the undead.  Very few among Stoutfellows ever venture up the ornate stone ramp leading to Dag-Atûr for even fewer ever return.

The Trollmark: it isn't part of Stoutfellow's under world, yet it remains a constant source of trouble, as its denizens mount relentless attacks against dwarven fortresses blocking the exits.  However badly wounded, cave trolls always return for more.  A river is said to furnish brackish waters and untold wildlife to the salt fens in which the trolls thrive.  It is an inextricable, spore-infested morass of mycoflora run amok, oozes and slimes of all sorts, and muddy swamps.  A rumor persists about the existence of a shaft leading to a deep dungeon beneath Trollhattan, through which Limn rulers obtain troll champions for use in their military.  It has never been proven.

Shadow Deep:  so very little is known of the mysterious depths of ashen lands and petrified woods, thus it is best that it remains unvisited and unspoken of, for its denizens harbor dark truths and soul-wrenching secrets.