Thursday, August 29, 2013

Realm of the Karrnath: Townships of the Eastern Empire

A waystation approximately midway between Kurest Hurgon and Vilch consists of a three room hostel, a well of barely-drinkable water, and a supply of firewood and/or coal, depending on the season. The corroded mechanisms for restocking a smoke-belcher sags in disrepair, and bins of replacement parts gather dust and cobwebs in the corners of the tool shed alongside the building.

The town of Vilch (population 3,000, 80 percent dwarven, 10 percent orc, 10 percent goblin) squats across the opening of the great fungal forest cavern. The buildings are carved from the huge stalagmites, the streets winding amidst the great columns of stone. Something of a logging (stalking?) industry has sprung up, using the harder, inedible parts of the fungi as a sort of lumber. After treating the “wood” with a series of chemicals, the stalks become rigid, sturdy enough to be shorn into planks. Coupled with a varnish refined from mosses and ichor from a local species of giant spider, the fungal-wood stands up well to both cold dampness of the fungal forest caverns, as well as the hot and humid climes of the north-western Hurgon-Hrokh, The “wood” is greatly prized by the tordar of the Karrnath’s city.

The fungal forest itself sprawls at the base of the 100’ drop that marks the edge (literally!) of town. A switch-back trail has been chiseled from the northernmost side of the cliff, but most use the Great Platform, a slab of iron nearly twenty feet square seated on a huge threaded spike. Slaves turning the great gearwheel in the middle raise and lower the platform within its metal scaffold. The trip takes nearly an hour, sometimes longer when heavily-laden wagons are packed onto the elevator.

The forest consists of giant and humungous varieties of all types of fungi, many towering nearly level with the township atop the cliff. Slimes, molds, and jellies are common, sometimes also of unusually large size. Insects and vermin of all type flourish amidst the fungal trunks, most notably giant wasps and spiders. The summer months are particularly dangerous, as the number of vermin soar, and they swarm, clashing over territories and resources.

The dwarves have managed over the centuries to burn a road along the very edge of the forest, but it requires constant maintenance. The Karrnath’s troops make regular sweeps up and down the road, escorting the mine shipments from Kurest Hurgon, chopping and burning the corrosive slimes and mosses away from the roadway. 

 A handful of logging trails are maintained by the various Industrial houses in Vilch, but their locations are closely guarded secrets.

Travel through the fungal forest can be dangerous to foreigners. The denizens are attracted to torch and lantern light, and building a campfire is a sure way to ensure a sleepless night.
When traveling the dark trails of the fungal forest, the dwarves employ halfling darklamps, lanterns which “burn” blackflame, which is all but invisible to the creatures of the forest.

Droath (pop 4,000, 80% dwarf, 10%goblin, 10% halfling) is carved and terraced along the wall of the cavern. The forest road hugs the wall, rising some 150’ to the lowest level of the town. Where Vilch relies on the forest for lumber, the dwarves of Droath make their industry from distilling liquors and brewing ales from the various species of fungi. The northern fungal forests are home to particularly vicious species of giant ant, pale and blind but with a highly poisonous bite (Save at -2). Strangely enough, if the poison gland is extracted and distilled, it makes a potent healing drought, capable of curing poison, disease, as well as restoring 3d6 hp. The queen ant’s nectar is said to possess this ability without having to go through the distilling process, though no raiding parties have ever succeeded in bringing a queen ant back to the city alive.

The road north out of Droath corkscrews down a vent shaft, exiting from a huge crack at the base of the cavern wall. The road continues north to Garr Hurgon, and doesn’t require as much maintenance to keep it free from the fungal forest. 

The two towns in Garr Hurgon are something of an anomaly in the dwarven lands: both townships are built in the open away from the walls of the cavern, from stone and fungal-timber with clay tile roofs, much like a human or halfling village. A huge vertical shaft pierces this cavern, the dwarves have named it the Throat. Rainfall and snowmelt from the tips of the Black Peaks collects in the caverns higher up, and tumbles some 1,000’ into the lake below. The ceiling of this cavern is so high that clouds form, when the mists, warmed from the sunlight shining down the Throat fades and the air cools and condenses, resulting in a “nightly” rainfall that ranges from 1/4” to as much as 1 1/2”.

As such, fresh water is the main export of Sargarr, most of it being shipped to the two southern towns in the fungal forest cavern in great brass tanks. A great aqueduct and canal has been cut to feed water across the expanse of the western caverns. The town of Kuldgarr was built to maintain the great bellows and wheelhouses that pump the waters from the lake west, to the City of Crystal Splendors, the Brass Fortress, the seat of the Karrnath’s power in the Eastern Empire: Kor-Karrest.

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