- 1 Gnomish Spires of Hitehkel
- 1.1 Dock and Factory Levels
- 1.2 Fungus Farm Levels
- 1.3 Residential Levels
Gnomish Spires of Hitehkel
The gnomes of Taladas mostly live within tall spires formed during the Cataclysm. Most of these spires are found in and around the Spire Mountains around the fiery cauldron of Hitehkel. It includes factory levels, fungus farm levels, residential levels, armory levels and governmental levels all connected by a series of elevators.
Dock and Factory Levels
The foundries, common to all the citadels with access to the Lava Sea, are a bustle of activity day and night. Here the gnomes seek to smelt enough usable ore from the molten slag for casting purposes. It takes a great deal of lava to produce a single bar of usable iron.
This level is also the docking bay for the ships that sail the Lava Sea. Thus, it is one of the main entrances to the citadel. Due to the threat of fire minion attack, the main gates are heavily guarded.
Unlike some levels of the citadel, the ceilings here are exceptionally high to accommodate the huge pieces of machinery and the fire fleets that use this level.
Projecting out over the lava are these defensive points, designed to serve as firing platforms for the gnomish warriors against attackers from the lava. Each redoubt is fitted with an air filtration system and firing slits for crossbows and magical spells. The slits can be shuttered and sealed when not in use, leaving open only periscope-like viewing ports. Each redoubt is manned at all times by 2 to 3 gnome sentries.
These rooms are the quarters for the foundry guards. The duty is an unpopular one because the foundry is noisy, smelly, and hot 24 hours a day. The garrison duty is rotated to a different outfit every month. Each barracks room holds 3 to 18 gnome warriors at any given time. The small rooms are the officers' quarters.
These areas are the docking bays for the fire fleet ships. Both troop and cargo ships dock here. Unloading equipment - cranes, pulleys, hooks, etc. for handling cargo - hangs in lofts over each bay. When a ship arrives, the cargo is loaded onto pallets lowered from the ceiling and then hoisted into warehouses on the floor above. THe gnomes working this equipment jokingly refer to themselves as "spiders".
These unlit rooms hold amazing collections of junk and useful items. No one, not even the gnomes who work on these floors, is certain of what can be found here.
These are elevators for personnel and freight. In one shaft, the screw turns upwards. In the other, the screw wind down, creating one up and one down elevator. There are no emergency exits from these elevators.
The main floor of this level is a hubbub of energy. Here is where much of the metalsmelting work is carried out. Lava is pumped from the basin or diverted into small canals to places where it can be separated, purified, and cast into workable bars of metal. There are cauldrons of the boiling stuff being hauled on overhead tracks, open casting molds, being filled, centrifuges and other machines in constant operation.
The equipment here is heavy duty, sound, and generally well-tested. It cannot be damaged except by powerful magic and is naturally immune to fire. If it should take damage, there is a percentile chance of catastrophic failure equal to the amount of damage taken. Such failures result in explosions, smoke, and lots of noise, enough to encourage all but the most dim-witted to run like crazy.
These conveyor belts of buckets are part of the lava transport system. In constant motion, they scoop buckets of the stuff from the basin and dump it into the pumping system. From there it is diverted throughout the citadel to power equipment and provide heating.
Fungus Farm Levels
These levels are broad cavern-like areas, hewn out of natural rock. The air stinks of manure and mold, not surprising since much of the waste from the residential levels is pumped here for fertilizer.
Normally calm and peaceful (indeed a favored spot for relaxing contemplation by those who can endure the air), the farms become a clatter of noise and chaos during major harvests, which occur about once a month. Then, the gnomes bring out their favorite machines, new and improved form the last test, and begin a tumultuous attack of steam-powered pickers on the innocent fungus crop they have grown.
The twin shafts here are for the up and down elevators that service this level. When one is going up, the other is automatically going down. A sign between the doors lists the arrival time of the next car and also lists the fertilizing schedule for the farm. This last is to serve as a warning for when the muck sprinkler will be turned on.
The main floor of the cavern is overgrown with stands of highly productive and nutritious mushrooms bred by the gnome myconologists. The mushrooms typically grow three to four feet in height. Narrow paths wind between some fungus patches while in other areas there are broad open areas of ground being prepared for the next spore-sowing. The ground comprising the fungus fields is heavily mucked from the fertilizer sprayers mounted in the ceiling overhead. These sprayers (much like fire sprinklers) release a combination of water and waste, a vital nutrient to the fungus.
This large room is the storage area and workshop for the fungus harvesting machines. Parked near the doors are the machines, strange combinations of spider legs, scoops, hands, oversized suits, and even one model that looks like a vacuum cleaner mounted on a pogo stick (it's being dismantled for parts). Behind the equipment are workbenches filled with tools, broken parts, scrap metal, boxes of screws, and half-finished projects. Grease-stained plans are nailed to the walls or buried under junk. A few personal decorations hang from the walls. At the center of the back wall is a small forge for doing simple ironwork.
This hall is piled with carefully sorted stacks of fungus divided according to size, color, and type. Just inside the door hang several breathers. These aren't necessary so long as the fungus is not disturbed. However if the mushrooms are violently handled, they release choking clouds of spores.
This hall is where the fungus is sorted according to type and spores for new plantings are collected. This is one of the few operations the gnomes have deliberately chosen not to mechanize. Despite all their efforts, poisonous fungi still grow in their fields. Not willing to risk the health of their citizens to undependable machines (as challenging as the design project might be), the masters of the citadel require all sorting be done by hand.
The sorting hall is only in use during the brief periods immediately after the harvest. Then there are always 21 to 40 gnomes present. All wear breathers since the air is thick with fungus spores. Those without such gear cannot even enter the chamber due to the choking clouds.
Unlike some other areas of a gnome citadel, the halls and ceilings of the residential areas are scaled to gnome heights. The main passages are approximately 10 feet wide and have spacious 6 foot high ceilings. The majority of passages are only 4 1/2 feet high and 5 feet wide.
Built around the elevator station is a large (by gnomish standards) area of parkland. This is a carefully cultivated expanse of trees, flowers, and grass growing in a bed of natural earth. A system of ducts and mirrors is used to provide natural light from outside. Not only do the plants (and gnomes) get sunlight, but the light shifts, sets, and rises according to the outside world. The gnomes have found this is better for their own mental health and doesn't hurt the plants any.
Most of the space on the residential levels is devoted to the warrens. Each warren forms a separate community from all the others. WIthin a warren's confines live an entire extended family of gnomes, each usually having a chamber entirely to themselves.
As with all things however, the size and comfort of the warren is determined by the wealth of the family. Small warrens are normally those of small families (new branches of an old family or one that is slowly dwindling in size) or of those that cannot afford anything better. The majority of the warrens are for middle-class gnomes. A few large warrens belong to the wealthy, however, most of the well-to-do gnomes, the nobility, make their homes higher up in the governmental levels.
The commons areas are large meeting halls and markets. Crowded with children and housewives during the day and whole families at night, they are the meeting places for neighbors and friends.
In these areas can be found plants, water cisterns (there is no running water throughout the warrens), waste disposal centers, market stalls, tavern tables, and quiet cozy corners. There is no privacy here, only less notice in some areas. As with all groups, the commons have their cliques, gathered in little corners, excluding others.