The Founding of Nopolitus
By Gerry Torbert
The date was 830 P.E. on the continent of Forntol. News of the very impressive stronghold of Walin's Cap had spread across the land to the human towns of Vetemus, Seahaven and Fargold's Crest, the first three human settlements. The lure of treasures buried beneath the ground peaked the interest of quite a few.
A few minor skirmishes with dark folk from the east, along with warnings and stories told by their Teregnaven mentors, made several of Farland's refugees wary of the dangers of unprotected fronts. After a visit to Walin's Cap, these stalwart men and women scouted the area for an equally foreboding location on which to build a fortress of their own, to protect human interests. They were directed by the dwarves to a valley to the north, where rocky features made it difficult for even the hearty followers of Khuldul to pass. It was meant to be a joke, a wild goose chase, a diversion to make the humans give up their quest. It was never meant to be a challenge.
During the waning weeks of the mild winter of 830, Flavius Vergilius led his band of fifty men down the side of the mountains to the north. Flavius was born and raised in the kingdom of Farland, a powerful province peopled by strong-minded, militant humans. Strong central government was practiced in Farland and much of the proceeds of trade and manufacturing were taxed to provide for the general security. Having this background, he understood the need for a powerful fortress. He also understood the idea of a challenge. He secured the venture with several donations from wealthy entrepreneurs of the southern cities.
This desolate area was indeed a challenge. The main road was the only path from north to south that could be traversed, as either side was nearly impassable. The valley spread wide and into a wide plateau on each side, then flanked on the west of the plateau by a rocky ridge and to the east by high, steep cliffs. The strange rock formations within the valley itself were daunting in size and weight. Huge pieces of rock were strewn about at all angles, some half-buried in debris and some leaning precariously on others. It appeared that the valley was once part of a rock shield that had shattered due to tremendous movements of the fault that created the valley itself.
Flavius and second in command, Tancrede DuNice, a builder from Kale, looked at each other in disbelief. Far worse in their eyes than the fact that this project was looking more and more like an impossibility was the fact that the dwarves knew it and were laughing at them at this very moment. While several of the party gathered food, pitched tents, and looked for water, others surveyed the valley and came back with descriptions for use in the design. A few of the surveyors found unexpected treasures as well - outcroppings of gold along the ridges to the west of the valley. Flavius had found a way to fund the project, after all.
Then, on the second day, a noise could be heard. Strange and so out-of-place, it was a pinging sound from the northwest. The sound rang through the valley. A puff of smoke rose above the horizon in that direction. As they listened, it was clear - it was the unmistakable sound of an anvil. Flavius and several men made their way over the jagged rocks and stony valley, finding a well-worn path as they closed in on the sound. As they cleared a large slab of rock, they found the source of the sound and smoke. A rather large, bearded man in a leather apron was busily beating away on one fine-looking anvil. Several others, apparently his children, worked the bellows and guided a mule being used to gather coal. A tattered shed stood not far from the blacksmith's work site.
Coming from around the rock, Flavius was greeted with a loaded crossbow. Unarmed himself, he had no choice but to raise his hands in surrender. "Easy, old timer, I mean you no harm. My name is Flavius. We're here to look around, that's all."
The blacksmith peered over the sights, looking for all the world as someone who knew how to operate a crossbow. He moved his finger off the trigger, just enough to prevent anything from happening too quickly. "Well, maybe ya are, fella, then maybe ya ain't. I'm Nopolitus. This here's my land, and yer standin' on it. Ya got three minutes, then my finger goes back on the trigger. State yer case, time's a tickin'."
Flavius sat down on the ground, motioning to the others to leave. He began to talk, well past the three minutes allotted. Nopolitus lowered the crossbow but kept it at his side.
"We're here to develop this area into a fort. There've been a lot of border skirmishes with the dark folk, and it looks like there might be more. We're just trying to look after all human interests, and this looks like the perfect place for a fort."
Nopolitus frowned. "Ya mean yer kickin' me out? What kinda crap's 'at? I been here for couple 'a years now, got ma family here, been tradin' with the dwarves."
Flavius had no interest in chasing a man out of the area - he had a great deal of respect for someone who could carve a life out of rock. "Tell you what. We'll work around you. We'll build a stone house, just the way you want it, right here, for free. We'll buy steel and iron from you, even supply coal when we find it. We'll need a lot. We'll pay in food, leather, clothes, any way you want. We just need to build there. . .", he said, waving his hand over the valley.
Nopolitus stroked his beard. He thought for a minute and scratched his head. "From Farland, are ye?" Something in the interloper's demeanor, his looks, it seemed to be familiar to the older man, but he couldn't quite place it. . .
"Yes. We may have made it here on the same fleet of ships, I don't know. You've carved a nice life for yourself here. I don't want to do anything to disturb it."
"Ya already done did 'at, mister. Things'll never be the same," the old blacksmith blurted. He looked down, then slowly raised his eyes to meet those of the Farland adventurer. ". . .but, I spose, could be better. One more condition. . ."
"Okay, what is it you wish?"
"Place 'as gotta be named Nopolitus. Take it 'er leave it."
Flavius smiled. "You've got it. Nopolitus it is. I'd do the same, if I was you. A drink of wine to seal the deal?"
Nopolitus fingered the crossbow as Flavius reached into his pack. "Slow, now, youngster. Wine sounds good, but slow. . ."
Flavius slowly removed the bottle and handed it to Nopolitus. The deal was set.
Back at camp, by candlelight at night and sunlight in the day, Tancrede set paper to pen and estimated what would be required to build in this valley. His figures didn't faze Flavius, who had a good idea of what to expect himself. After an exhaustive study of the area, they packed up and headed for Walin's Cap.
The group met the dwarves outside the Cap to buy more provisions for the return trip. The dwarves were quiet and pensive, wondering if Flavius would be angry at their attempted ruse. But he thanked them profusely, not letting on that he wasn't sure how he could build on such foreboding terrain, let alone the fact that they had discovered gold. He even toasted them with some fine wine before he left, leaving them to wonder what their new neighbors could possibly have seen in such a hellacious landscape. Flavius wondered himself as they left to recruit adventurous people for the job.
Flavius split the group into three separate factions. One, led by Tancrede, headed toward the Spire of Bestra and the University of Beladanall and the B'ellandroso College of Engineering. He would gather support from the Teregnaven and, possibly, the use of machinery to move the heavy slabs. The second, headed by Thomas Ack-Nicholas of Kelerak, left for Vetemus for more able-bodied men to build the fort. Flavius himself set off for Fargold's Crest and Seahaven to bring help.
Tancrede was quite astonished to learn of the experimentation being conducted at the University. He met with the Head of the College of Engineering, Ralmosovo Pentinario, who was fascinated by the breadth of the project. Several other professors at the college offered to lend some prototype machines for lifting and handling the rock. These consisted of advanced, forged-pulley compound rope systems, gin pole cranes and iron-clad lifting levers. The Teregnavens were more than happy to make this project a hands-on course for the more adventurous of the students. The towering Teregnaven youths would make an excellent source of labor as well. Quite a partnership was being formed.
Ack-Nicholas and Flavius were also successful in their endeavors. Due to a cyclical downturn in employment in each of the cities, hundreds of workers were found who would move to a land of promise in turn for the adventure and experience. They were promised nothing more up front than what they could make of the new land, but they came for the challenge.
Carefully circling Melkuul Wesfar (the stinging memory of their first encounter still fresh in the human psyche), Flavius and his group attracted much attention at the roadside markets skirting the mysterious forest. They stopped for provisions but came away with more. Using interpreters among the human traders, several dozen Kassa men became interested in the undertaking and promised help on a limited shift basis.
Almost six months after the initial survey, a crew of hundreds of human and Kassa walked past Walin's Cap to the astonishment of the dwarves - they never expected to see the group again. While stopping to camp near the fortress, Flavius was entertained by his new neighbors in the relatively cramped rock, sampling fine ale and sharing good wine. He also secured the rights to use the lush valley forest just north, in between the two settlements. This was to be a crowning touch, as the glade supported much life and food for all.
Upon his arrival, he and Thomas were surprised to see Tancrede's group already setting up a concrete supply system. Tancrede believed the best way to utilize the size of the massive slabs was not to break them down but to keep them large. This meant that they would need formable stone to use to tie the pieces together, hence, concrete. Some of the stones and some cement were used to build several small stone houses: one was to be the main construction office, one was built for calcining the lime, one for sintering and another for storing cement. But Tancrede was reminded of Flavius' promise, so they moved to the northwest to begin the old blacksmith's new home.
Tancrede's team had located the gypsum, limestone, iron ore, and coal and were mining and backpacking it to the site. The limestone was heated to calcinate it, then crushed. A grinding wheel was built out of a rock formation and chiseled with the aid of some magical Dwarven picks. Driven by horses on a circular path, limestone and gypsum were crushed, mixed and balled into bricks. Another building was built to sinter the limestone, iron ore and gypsum, fired by the coal. After the blocks were heated, another pass on the wheel ground it into a fine cement dust, which was stored in another stone building. It was quite a labor-intensive process, one which fascinated even the dwarves, who were prepared to buy some of the new material for their own use in exchange for a few picks of magical qualities.
Several of the humans split off and assumed the hunter-gatherer jobs to feed the crews. Another crew began immediately to develop the gold outcrop into a mine, with the help of some dwarven expertise. Most of them, however, used muscle and bone to begin work on the new settlement.
Flavius envisioned the fortress to be a successful city, complete with storm and sanitary sewers and water supply. To build the sewers it was necessary to begin at the bottom of the mass of rock plates. The only way to do that, other than by removing the millions of tons of material and replacing it, would be to work at one end and progress to the other, moving only that material that needed to be moved. He and Tancrede decided to attack the project from the north and work toward the south, from the deepest part of the valley fill toward the shallowest.
The greatest problem they faced was the sheer volume of rock and soil needed to be moved. Rather than move it all, Tancrede decided to look for every situation they could find to decrease the amount. He decided to move enough material to begin the north wall, entrance and towers and use this area as a staging location for the sewers. Rather than remove up to fifty feet of rock and soil, lay in a masonry tunnel, and fill in over it, he planned to tunnel through the aggregate mass to form the ducts, then to build sides and a roof for each one as they went. Most but not all of the soil had migrated downward toward the valley floor over years of erosion, which was a blessing in disguise. The soil would be easy to dig through, and magic picks (as well as several choice spells that shaped rock) could be used to remove any stubborn rocks and plates found jutting into the path.
However, the actual excavation would prove to be difficult. In order to build a sewer strong enough to handle the weight of the buildings and overburden, the conduit needed to be no larger than what was needed to handle the flow. This meant the digging had to be in low, close quarters. Dwarves were the only people short and strong enough to do this efficiently. Ack-Nicholas went to Walin's Cap to recruit. Luckily he found a few of the hearty Khazak who were idle, as the Cap was built sufficiently and the mines had not yet reached full capacity. He had to beat the going wages the mine offered, along with a promise of several bottles of spirits a day, but after some haggling their services were secured.
The spring of 831 found a bustling town working hard to build what seemed to be an impossible dream. The north wall was built first. Stone and soil from that side of the valley was moved further north to provide a footprint for the walls. A system of trench footings were cut into the valley rock from east to west. The stone slabs were then stood up on their edges, wherever possible, into the trenches, using concrete to seal the fit and support the slabs.
The trenches were cut to match undulations in the slabs, making the fit even stronger. Gaps were left at the bottom for the sewer exits. Two parallel sets of walls were built fifteen feet apart. The outer one was built with as many large stones as would fit, but the inner one was built with slabs laid sideways. This allowed a five foot "dam" between the walls, which was filled with tamped soil and stones before another layer was started. This method allowed material to be loosened up from the embankment to the south and hauled laterally, or even downslope, to the annulus between the walls, making for an easier haul. Larger stone slabs at the top of the bank were hauled to the south and stored for building material, allowing the soil to fall into the voids and be compacted by equipment, men and animals.
Flavius began to show his knowledge of security and strength of castles from the start. One crew was split off to work on the north entrance. As the actual "floor" of the city would be some thirty feet above the valley, a ramp would have to be built to enable visitors to enter the city. He designed a ramp but built it with the same standing-stone system used for the main walls.
Further, he built the ramp oblique to the main ramparts, allowing full view of all who were approaching (not to mention clear shots from the castle archers). Then the walls along the sides of the ramp nearest the fort were left at two feet high, to minimize the possibility of using it for cover. Finally, the ramp was cut short of the main gate by twenty feet, which was equipped with a standard ironclad drawbridge. If an enemy was successful getting past these obstacles, they were greeted with another. A hole was left directly in front of the main entrance, inside the main gates, and a drawbridge spanned this gap.
The sewers at the base of the wall were points of ingress that had to be addressed. While building the inner wall, a slot was formed at the face of each of the two ducts. It was made of narrow rock slabs spanned by another rock laid sideways, forming a rectangular pocket, into which an ironclad door was lowered from inside the walls.
Work was tough and arduous. Rocks had to be lifted with gin poles and oxen when the rare telekinesis spells ran out, which they did all too soon. First, a flattened area had to be made to afford a relatively safe working and walking surface - the rocky terrain could easily break the leg of any of the draft animals. A gin pole frame, consisting of a triangle of poles lashed and pegged together, was set into the ground, usually against some of the larger rocks that were in place and had not yet been moved. Two rolling pulley blocks were attached to the apex of the triangle. One end of the upper pulley was attached to another in-place rock, while the downward pulley was attached to a rope which was wrapped around the object rock.
As the oxen moved the pole upwards, a second gang of animals raised the rock. This was a difficult procedure, as the object rock could cut loose from other rocks and swing toward the back, upsetting the frame over vertical. Once high enough, the slab was lowered onto wagons, rolling logs or just dragged to a new location.
The system sounds slow, but twenty frames were used, each manned by rear and front draft team drivers, a pry bar man, a cart driver and a foreman. Three superintendents guided the work, each reporting to Tancrede.
Another machine developed by the Teregnaven engineers was used to compact the soil after being cleared of rocks. A set of two gin pole frames was used to lift one particular rock over and over, slamming the mixed aggregates and soil together. Two sets of draft animals were used, alternating as they lifted the rock upward. A pin/yoke/slipknot arrangement was used to release the rock, which was immediately raised by the alternate team. The frame was moved slightly each time, being equipped with steel-clad wooden tires.
A third refinement by the Teregnaven consisted of a plow blade pulled by mule power to grade the roads and bring the cross-grades toward the proposed storm sewer inlets to allow the surface to drain. The surveying of the surface, and setting of the slopes and grades, was provided by one Hessa Rockdreamer, the dwarf who was responsible for the accuracy of construction of Walin's Cap.
Work continued along the face of the north wall to the sides of the valley, where rock breaks and erosion left a steeper face to the plateau above on each side. An outer tower was built at each end, providing for an intersection of the east and west side walls, the north wall and the outer north wing. These wings were built as an extension of the north wall, providing for protection against encircling tactics. The wings consisted of two parallel walls a hundred feet apart, allowing for swift troop movements to guard the flanks. The double-wall system was used for each front wall, affording a loft for archers. The rear wall consisted of mortared single rocks. The front wall was built only to twenty feet of height.
Towers were built at the intersection of each set of walls. It was deemed necessary by Flavius to provide for quick troop movement from any part of the fortress to any other part by either floor-level roads or by the aerial route along the ramparts. Each corner tower (where the north, east, south and west walls met) was built with a lookout platform thirty feet above the walls, to afford the best view possible. Stone steps were installed to allow quick vertical movement.
The floor of the city progressed slowly but surely. The ground beneath proposed housing areas was ram-packed using the gin frames, and a very solid base was established. As the groundwork moved toward the south, however, Tancrede realized he would need building stone for each of the houses. Rather than move all of the rock, his crews were instructed to move the largest ones toward the center of the town, leaving smaller, more manageable ones near where the rows of houses would be. This would require moving the smaller ones to compact the ground, then back again in piles, preferably in the roads that were to be between the houses.
Roads were laid out predominately orthogonally, allowing most houses to be fronted on a road. This meant there would be only two houses per row, back to back. One "grand avenue" was built down the center of the city, north to south, intersecting these housing roads in circular plazas. This was to be the only aesthetically pleasing feature of what would eventually be a dusty, drab, utilitarian town.
In keeping with Flavius' main concerns, two radial roads were built as "spokes" from the projected town center toward the two north corners, allowing very quick access from the center of administration and military barracks to the all-important north wall. Another set of roads were built along the north wall and along the east and west walls, allowing ground troops even more access to the strategic locations of the city.
As work continued through 831 to 833, sewer construction kept pace. It was dangerous work, as the rocks above were constantly being moved and repositioned at the same time, creating vibrations and shifting strata. Sewer crews had to remove the soil as they excavated it, and considering the limited space available, it was a difficult task, and magic, as always, was scarce. But the Teregnaven came through with an interesting idea for material transportation. It was not one of new technology, but one of new applications of simple common sense. A system of pulleys was established, along with some great lengths of rope. The head pulley was placed near the working face of the tunnel, where the work was done. A series of cars were made and attached to the rope. The empty cars were carried to the face by a capstain driven by donkeys outside the north wall, while full loads were pulled outside. The smooth valley floor enabled this system to work well, and several dwarves stationed along the way watched to make sure carts didn't collide or catch on each other. They then rode the carts in to relieve those working at the face.
Planks and poles were used to support the sewer roof until it reached a point, about ten feet inward from the last mortared section, where more rock slabs could be set as walls and roof plates. These were mortared with cement carried in on cars, then work began again.
It was dangerous work, but the dwarves relished it. The humans gained a great deal of respect for their work ethic and the zeal with which they attacked their tasks. Alas, three dwarves lost their lives in separate incidents beneath the ground.
Every hundred feet or so, a vertical shaft was driven to connect the sewers with the inlets at ground level. The dwarves enjoyed beating the surface crews to a location, which didn't happen too often. More than one mule became spooked at the site. Each event was celebrated with the emptying of a small keg of fine dwarven ale.
Once again, accurate surveys of the sewers and vertical shafts was provided for by Hessa. Correlating the surface and subsurface surveys was a daunting task, but her mind worked in three dimensions better than most in two. Finished locations varied only slightly from their proposed coordinates.
The sides of the vertical shafts were cut as neatly as possible, then lined with concrete and troweled smooth by construction teams from The Spire. These locations gave a definitive location for surface crews to which to plow and grade.
As the excavation, sorting, filling, compacting and grading of the soil and rock continued, several seeps were noted along the east and west banks of the valley, flowing from cracks in the rock slopes. Thomas noticed them and realized there was little water in the valley to support a city. The seeps were uncovered by the lowering of the general level of the ground. Previously, they had simply flowed through the loose soil and aggregates to the valley floor, running out of the north end as a stream. He sampled the flows and determined the quality to be sufficient for drinking. He added a water delivery and reservoir system to the design of the city. The water couldn't be channeled to the houses, and hand pumps for separate houses were not deemed to be sufficient as the valley fill, once finished, would be sitting too close to sewage conduits to chance using perched groundwater. His remedy was to build a pond, using concrete lining, at the exit of each seep, creating a series of reservoirs for each portion of the community. Each household would be responsible for gathering their own water. It was not a user-friendly system but was the best that could be expected in these circumstances.
News of the scope of the project reached all corners of Forntol. Adventure-seeking people from other towns and communities migrated to the new site, some just to see what was happening, some to trade, and some to stay and work. From the hundred fifty men who began the work, the encampment grew to five hundred by the fall of 833. Other Kassa came to work for gold and offer their considerable brawn to the endeavor. Hilken came, first to sell fine meat products, then as time went on, stayed to help the dwarves build sewers. Their considerable brick-making and masonry talents came in handy, as some stone needed to be filled and grouted into place. Other Teregnaven youths came to work out of class, as an in-between-semesters program had been set up at the University. Gnomes arrived, trading and adding their considerable stone-working abilities. More dwarves were swayed by the promise of adventure, and helped out both under and above ground. And humans came from Vetemus, Fargold's Crest, and Seahaven.
The concrete plant had grown to twice its original size. Mining of gypsum, lime and iron ore continued, as well as gold. Flavius staked the claim on the gold but used all of the proceeds for payment for food and labor, keeping none of it for himself.
The humans were joined by their families, who grew tired of traveling back and forth to the site. As each house was built of stone and mortar, it was sold off for debt to Flavius' general fund: a small portion of their pay would be held to defray costs of building for a few years, after which they were to achieve ownership, minus a fair yearly tax. This system seemed foreign to most non-humans, but they eventually realized the scope of funds that would be necessary to maintain such a city and military presence. A few gnomes moved in, but the Kassa and Hilken remained migrant, as their only interest was in the pay, adventure and experience. The Teregnaven still stayed on to serve their hands-on requirements at the University and to lend their magic to the construction. Dwarves were dwarves. They lived close enough at Walin's Cap to work three days at a time and return home for a few.
The city was now half built, having progressed to halfway through the inner keep. The walls of the keep were very deeply compacted, as they were to be built on fill, not on the valley floor, as were the outer walls. Some of the larger rocks were left in place, however, to aid in their load-carrying capacity. The walls were built with the same system, as this was to be a keep, or location for a final defense. It was also to be the cultural center of the city, meant to house a chapel, jail house, administration buildings and what Flavius envisioned as a military school. Ever the militant one and still feeling the sting, as most humans, of the loss of their kingdom to the Dark Forces, he wanted to create the ultimate fortress and military presence. Plus he feared that eventually the hand of the Dweller would reach even across the stormy sea and find him here.
Also born of a society wherein strict laws were to be followed to the letter, he made sure that guard houses were scattered throughout the city. He began to enforce a curfew for all workers, a law that didn't sit well with most of the dwarves, some of the humans, and all of the Kassa and Hilken. By the fall of 834, most of these people had left, disillusioned by the incessant human trait of overbearing organization and law.
But with the emigration of those people came the immigration of other humans. The city was viewed by them as the erection of a symbol of the once-great human kingdoms of Farland, of Kelerak, Kale, Daven and others. Also it was seen as a strong "plug" in what was to be a very important road. Not as politically important as Vetemus nor as important to trade as the twin cities, on its own, it would still be an important influence in this new world.
The work on the keep continued. Housing development was now catching up with the rest of the construction, and by the summer of 835, a scant five years after Flavius, Tancrede, and Thomas found the site, most of the northern half of the city was dotted with houses and families. Bars sprung up along the grand avenue, and since sanitary sewers were limited, these were the only locations for bathing and necessary use. But with them came the usual behavior associated with drinking and relaxation. The administration buildings were quickly finished and the jail was finished and filled, as Flavius' laws were being tested. Public drunkenness was more common, as the hard-working men felt it their right to kick back and enjoy as hard as they worked.
With the new attitudes and slipping morals, Flavius came down harder on his own workers. Another law was cast - one of prohibition. That was the last straw for the dwarves. No one can tell a dwarf when he can't down a pint of frothy refreshment, it was once said. Flavius learned this the hard way and was left with quite an unfinished sewer system.
He refused to budge, however. He directed the human workers to continue the sewer system. Tensions rose as they realized how much they would miss the tenacity and stature of the hard-working dwarves, and as they realized that they just couldn't do the same work. The humans banned together and demanded an end to the prohibition, refusing to work on the sewage and storm systems. Flavius answered by suspending their pay and forcing the incarcerated from the jails to work. His hand-picked guards forced them at arrow-point to work, while other workers looked on in disgust.
Near the end of summer, 835 P.E., a clash occurred when one guard beat a prisoner for refusal to work. Other workers banned together and overcame the guards, leaving Flavius alone against many. Tancrede and Thomas, having tried to convince Flavius of the error of his ways, were unable to prevent the workers from forcing Flavius from the site, and as he left, he vowed to return.
Tancrede, having little stomach for confrontation and even less inclination toward law and order, asked Thomas to grab the reins and keep the dream from becoming a nightmare and an embarrassment. Thomas spoke before an assemblage of workers and pleaded for their support in return for the lifting of the prohibition. The workers softened and warily went back to work. Thomas then traveled to Walin's Cap and told a crew of workers of the change in management. They returned to work, also cautiously optimistic.
Work continued on the inner keep, and by the end of 835 the majority of the building foundations had been finished. The walls around it were finished along the east, north and west. The main east and west city walls had been extended five hundred feet south of the keep, to the last set of towers before the south wall. Thomas became more than a little concerned, however, concerning Flavius' threat to return. He discussed this with Tancrede, who admitted to a little trepidation over what could turn into a confrontation. Knowing Flavius as they did, and understanding his pugnacious and militant personality as well as his ability to influence others, they began to wonder why he wasn't here already. Together they visited Drurin Walker, the leader of the dwarves of Walin's Cap, to express their concerns. Paradoxically, the humans had no army, no way of protecting themselves. Drurin listened to their request for help, understanding their fears of Flavius' return. On one hand, he and his clan still stung from the prohibition, but on the other, he could see that the new management was different, more enlightened. But he had concerns of his own. The dwarves didn't build Walin's Cap to be thrown immediately into confrontations with a neighbor that they helped to settle. Drurin's final decision was that the dwarves would not be involved.
Disheartened and concerned, the two left the Cap. But on the way, as they walked through Ironbeard's Garden, Thomas noticed something as they sat down to rest and discuss their alternatives. He walked over to an apple tree to pluck a fruit. He startled a ground hog, who scampered into a small hole in the rocks along the side of the valley wall. Thinking nothing of it, he sat back down, only to hear scrabbling beneath him. Looking back toward the Cap, he noticed the same rodent poking his head out of another hole in the loose rocks. "It seems our friend has concerns over our lunch," he quipped to Tancrede. "He has us surrounded!" They both smiled, but Thomas had an idea. They might be able to create a method of surrounding Flavius' expected troops by doing the same thing!
They hurried to the town, developing a new strategy as they went. Upon arrival, they called their foremen together, along with the dwarves who were working on the sewers. They explained their plans, and the dwarves agreed that it could be done. They would dig tunnels into the rock from the east and west walls, exiting in manholes that would enable men to move beneath the ground and encircle their adversaries. One dwarf, Kalim Picker, suggested they hurry back to the Cap to enlist the services of one Talus of the Book, a magical sage who could help them in the removal of the rock. A plan was established, and work began soon after Talus arrived, with a backpack of additional picks. "I spoke to Drurin," he said to Thomas, "and he said the least we can do is help you with the tunnels."
The War Tunnels, as they were soon to be known, were driven from the south wall towers to the lower edge of the plateau on either side. A set of steps was built down from each of the towers to the tunnel. Talus' magical spells forced the broken rock to roll along the tunnel floor and actually "crawl" up the steps to the surface. The human workers were amazed, then wary of the eerie actions of the rocks which seemed to have minds of their own. Within a few weeks, the tunnels had been established, exiting in manholes along the plateaus, then covered with bushes and shrubbery. As they were finished, the workers were turned to the north, building other such tunnels to the north wings. The summer was waning and the change to fall was in full swing. The side valleys of Nopolitus, as it had become to be known, were stark and rocky, only dotted by several tamaracks, but their needles were beginning to change to a beautiful orange hue. The fortress walls were finished to a point just south of the main keep, and a block of the south city was delineated. The east and west keep walls were in place, leaving the final south wall yet to be built. Many large rock plates were still being pulled from the valley fill, and now were hauled to within the keep for use as walls for the rest of the buildings. Some of the more distinctive and cleaner of the slabs were put aside for the chapel.
To the northwest, a beautiful stone house, stone barn and smithy's shed had been built for the old blacksmith. Nopolitus put several of his children to work and even recruited others to help satisfy the city's new demand for plow teeth, pulleys and brackets, shovels, picks, hammers, nails, sewer car wheels, horseshoes and cookware.
Nightlife and revelry were still to be found in the bars along the grand avenue, but with fewer arrests and civil disturbances. At one point, Thomas even entertained the idea of redesigning the jail into a museum. But with trading and travel through the town increasing, he decided it may have a use later.
With the repeal of the prohibition law, several of the bar owners decided to form a loose organization of vintners. They traveled to The University and spoke with a professor of agriculture to determine which grapes would grow at such an elevated locale. The professor suggested several types and managed to come up with a few plants. After finding a fertile patch of well-watered ground in the valley, just northeast of the city, the organization, now named The Solid Rock Vintners Society, began growing grapes for wine. A small farm at first, they used some of their free time to build a small stone building far away enough from the cisterns. They traveled to Melkuul Wesfar and secured a trade with a Kassa cooper who was already supplying dwarves with ale barrels. A budding winery was on its way.
The gold mine continued to pour funds into the city. The original donations were repaid in full, and the ownership of the mine itself was taken over by The City of Nopolitus. Flavius' original claims were declared null and void, as he left on his own and could offer nothing toward his company. The vein was followed several hundred feet deep and was being mined by magic picks wielded by humans. Several dwarves stayed on in advisory capacities, having knowledge of the lay and strength of the rock and experience in setting shoring.
As for the city itself, Thomas Ack-Nicholas, with the advising and prodding of Tancrede, gathered the employees and families together for several meetings. He proposed that they consider free and open voter registration for any and all permanent residents, which now totaled over a thousand. He also proposed a set of regulations of the passage of power and of term limits for the proposed administrators of the city, and separation of the administration and military factions within it.
The mere mention of new laws irked those who recalled the iron fist of Flavius, and they balked at the idea. The first meeting ended in rowdy indignation and was adjourned by evacuation of the main administration, in search for an open bar. Thomas could see that this was going nowhere fast.
He decided upon a more friendly approach. A short, thin man, he decided that the men might find him more sincere and trust him more if he was to actually work with the men, right alongside them in the pits. It seemed strange to the workers at first, but he threw himself into work on the gin frame lines, mortaring crews, even in the sewers. After a few months of his incessant talking and dispelling of his ideas, and a lot of hard work, he called for another meeting. He first drafted a set of laws that:
1. Would assure no military intervention in the private lives of the residents in times of peace would be allowed
2. Would allow for free elections of administrators
3. Would apportion taxes fairly and with representation
4. Would assure term limits for administrators
5. Would assure people were allowed reasonable rights as citizens
6. Would assure a portion of the city's coffers be turned over to establish a military school and force.
He won the crowd over this time, as they realized the importance of administration and maintenance of the city. And they respected Thomas more now for his work. He was nominated for the position of Mayor and won, hands-down. Thomas then nominated a Ministry of Engineering, Maintenance, Elections, Civil Order, and Mining to serve with him.
The summer of 836 found the city of Nopolitus to be a viable, working community. The sanitary and storm sewers now stretched from the north walls to the keep, and another set was being built from the keep to the south end of the city. Only the brave looked forward to making the final connection to link the two. People worked happily and moved in to permanent housing as it was being built.
Work, as always, was hard and the pay was good. At this time the population reached two thousand, broken up racially as follows:
1. 87% Human
2. 7% Gnome
3. 3% Teregnaven
4. 2% Dwarven
5. 1% Kassa and Hilken
Employment consisted of:
1. 92.8% workers
2. 3% bar and restaurant owners and workers
3. 2% maintenance
4. 1% police
5. 1% miners
6. 0.2% elected officials, priests, mages, and staff
The workers consisted of:
1. 40% gin frame crews
2. 30% masonry workers
3. 12% compacting/grading crews
4. 10% sewer workers
5. 5% landscaping crews
6. 2% supervision/engineering/magic
7. 1% blacksmithing.
As summer approached, Flavius Vergilius had amassed a following of over a hundred well-armed men from Vetemus, Fargold's Crest, and Seahaven. Most were soldiers hired by the same entrepreneurs who originally funded him. Even though their original investments had been paid off, Flavius still was able to convince them that there was more money to be made there. Those in Vetemus wanted a military presence to help protect them, without any involvement on their part, so they were easily convinced.
Flavius marched his men from the last human city he visited, Seahaven, toward the north past Melkuul Wesfar which was, in retrospect, a mistake. Not much can get past the forests without making itself known to the Kassa. Several of them recognized Flavius and realized the problems that may be faced to the north by not only their new neighbors, but by other Kassa and Hilken themselves. After they secured permission from the Glemakmeetzak, Bek(twee)-Ok of the Reeds, a small contingent was sent a day after the humans passed.
Wherever Flavius' troops marched, they seemed to attract attention. Lowland Hilken and gnomes, aware of their brethren's work at the city fortress, followed and fell into ranks with the Kassa. And, as a final touch, Drurin's lookouts relayed the troop movements to the King, who immediately dispatched a dozen dwarves.
Flavius approached the city in the early afternoon, with the sun at his back. They marched along the main road, and he was amazed to see the progress of construction. His men marched in toward the keep, unimpeded except for the rough terrain. City police were sent to the south-central towers, while some stayed and blocked the main administration building's doorsteps.
Flavius climbed the steps to a point where he was stopped by the police. Thomas walked down from the doorway to meet him.
"Thomas, I have returned, as I said I would. I have a contingent from our investors, who are quite unhappy that you have turned against me. They want to protect their investment. We have reinforcements on the way. I heartily suggest that you turn over to us that which is ours, the rightful ownership of this city."
Workers began to drop their rocks and release the reigns of the draft animals, picking up shovels and staffs. Thomas was unabashed. "Flavius, you left the city on your own. You turned the workers against you, instituting unnecessary laws and creating a hostile environment. What you see here belongs to the City of Nopolitus, not to any one man, not to any investor. We finished paying off the investors, with interest. The gold mine has been turned over to the City. We now live in peace and are building a great fortress, much of which was by your design. We now have fair and equitable laws, by which we all have agreed to abide. You and your contingent are welcome to stay, to help us build, to live among us, but by our rules. What will it be?"
Flavius looked about at the meager police force and smiled. "This city is mine. I founded it. I funded it. I will finish it. I will rule it, the way I want to. Stand aside, you and your few men, and leave my building."
Thomas didn't flinch. Whether by the toughness he acquired from his work among the builders; by the respect his fellow had for him, evident in the way they were now crowding around the building; or because of the dark figures approaching from the south - tall Kassa, short Hilken and dwarves, axes held high - he had no reason to flinch. "Flavius, look behind you. Look around you." Some of his police force were already exiting the south War Tunnels, completing a circle around the intruders. "You can't win. Your pride, your arrogance, it will all spell your end. Come with us, be a part of us. We don't want the first battle of Nopolitus to be amongst ourselves."
Flavius and his men looked around. They saw the faces of proud people ready to defend what they worked so hard to build, under difficult conditions. They saw the faces of people who now had a home with the promise of greatness. And they saw tall saved Orcs of recent legend, determined dwarves of well-known fighting abilities, and angry Hilken - the kind of Hilken you don't want to face. One by one, they dropped their weapons. All but one.
Flavius drew his sword and pointed it toward Thomas. "You've done this! You turned them all against me! I will NEVER give up!" He ran toward Thomas, his sword raised high. Thomas gritted his teeth, expecting the worst. The sound of his footsteps was broken by a swishing sound from behind, however. From behind Thomas strode an old man clad in a leather apron. He reached with a huge blacksmith's hammer over Flavius' shoulder, where a loud clang was heard. A ceremonial dwarven axe hit the hammer, just as Flavius ducked, and was deflected just enough to fall harmlessly to the steps. Standing at the front of the mixed contingent was none other than Drurin in the full follow-through of his hurl. The blacksmith grabbed the sword from Flavius' surprised and confused grip, staring into his eyes. "I didn't recognize ya before, brother. It's been a long time. . ." Flavius stared in disbelief at Nopolitus. "Herkius? Is that you?" Nopolitus replied, tears in his eyes. "Yes, Flavius. I took the name to start another life. It's over, now, little bumpkin. I'm sure Thomas needs a General, and there's no one better. Come live with us. You have nieces and nephews. Don't make their only memory of you be a casket."
Flavius remembered the childhood name his older brother had given him and hugged the older man. He thrust his hand for Thomas to shake.
The population of Nopolitus quickly increased by a hundred. Most of the soldiers who came for a battle remained to serve the city and to begin the military force. They quickly realized that this far from the other human cities, they could do what they wanted. Above all, they wanted adventure, and this was a place they could call their own. A few returned home to pack up their families, returning later. Flavius was given the reigns of his very own army, all that he really wanted in the first place, and spent much of his spare time playing with the children of Nopolitus.
Work continued on the construction of the remainder of the city. The Dwarves, Kassa, and Hilken, seeing that this city administration was truly dedicated to good, weathered the laws and their enforcement to work as sub-contractors once again. Kassa artisans provided fine woodworking in the form of walls, doors, and trim. Hilken folk built a brick oven and provided fine brick arches and walls to offset the drabness of the stone walls of the main buildings. Dwarves returned to the sewers, finishing the ducts, even tying them together. And all joined together to build a beautiful chapel in the keep.
By 837, the east and west walls were finished, ending in the two south corner towers. Two south wing walls were built along the lines of the north wings. As the south wall was completed, a full set of War Tunnels was driven, surrounding the west, south, and east plateaus. A soldier could now travel from the north entrance towers to the south towers, either through the keep or around it by road, across the top of the city walls from tower to tower, or below the ground through the tunnels.
It took another year to complete the housing. House sites were cleared of rock and tamped thoroughly to provide for a sturdy foundation. They were graded mostly site-by-site, as the rock for the buildings had to be placed somewhere while the next site was being graded. But once a site was built, stonework began immediately. Roofs were built of wood beams and purlins, much of which was brought to the city from the lowlands to the south. The Kassa provided free reeds for the thatching in return for a contract to provide replacement thatching and installation. Their shrewdness was quite impressive.
Farming would have to spring up in the area, even though this was a hostile environment. The soil covering the plateaus to the east and west was fertile, but not very thick nor plentiful. Some soil was "mined," or plowed, from the hillsides to create better strata. Water was difficult to find, and much of the irrigation was accomplished by creative ditching of existing seeps from the hills. The winter came early and the summers were shorter than that to which they were accustomed. Nonetheless, healthy crops of root vegetables were grown, including potatoes, beets, turnips, yams and the ever-present mek-k-k roots brought in by the Kassa.
The agreement with the dwarves over use of Ironbeard's Garden to the south was honored, although the humans tried not to abuse the privilege. Most of the food sold at the markets consisted of imported vegetables and fruits.
Nopolitus was thus founded, and well on its way to making its mark on the history of Forntol.