The Construction of Wawmar, Dwarven Fortress

The method of construction of Wawmar utilized consisted of simple, backbreaking hard work. Thankfully, it was performed with the use of special metals. Simple high-carbon steele picks, axes, breaking bars, drill steels and shovels were constructed with high-quality irone and techniques developed by skilled blacksmiths. Then the equipment was given to a dwarven wizard, steeped in the knowledge of special steele treatment, and with the help of the lead blacksmith, the tools were treated. Treatment consisted of "soaking" the steele in a mixture of special, magical metals, under the spell of the wizard, at yellow-orange heat, before wooden handles were attached. These special metals then entered into the structural steele crystalline matrix, and when the steele was properly quenched in other magical liquids, they exhibited certain properties that made them invaluable to the dwarves. These properties included heightened flexibility and durability, along with the ability to "focus" and amplify a hundredfold the striking impact of the user. A simple swing with an enchanted pick could break apart hard basalt immediately, almost explosively, giving the wielder incredible power and control.

Wawmar by Eric Williamson

The excavated rock had to be dealt with, as the force of the instruments would only carry the rock so far from the working face, after which it would settle and block the entries. At this point, several wizards were employed, and using appropriate spells, they were able to keep the rocks rolling all the way to the entrance. The rocks were simply and summarily cast over the edge of the interior roadway (ramp), to fall to the bottom of the cone. In addition, the miner was protected by another spell from the explosive nature of his work, and rock was deflected from striking him as it flew off the face.

A night shift climbed down to the bottom of the cone and placed the excavated rock more appropriately, moving the stones to fit well and create a base to support the final construction of the city below. At first, it was believed that only about 2 million tons of rock would need to be handled. As detailed further on in this report, this total climbed to 6.75 million tons as the community grew and more space was found for the workings. The total depth of the crater, from the lip of the cone to the floor, was originally 2500', and the bottom 1500' was filled with the excavated rock, leaving a crater 1000' deep.

The construction consisted of ramps driven upward and downward at about an 8 to 10 percent grade. This is generally the highest slope for comfortable walking and pushing carts. Several crews of dwarves would work on the ramps and switch out when tired, while others would "veer off" and begin side-rooms, such as the mechanical rooms, Cathedral, schools, living quarters, industrial sites and exit chutes. The working dwarf crews would live in the newly-built dwellings until a second crew worked toward them, fine-touching and cleaning the rooms, making them permanently habitable. Each dwarf would bring in his family when the dwellings were ready, get up in the morning, and walk to work.

Special drill steels were used to drive shafts between the levels of the mechanical rooms for water, sewage, and venting. The exit chutes were driven upwards at a slight slope to daylight, but widened in one place. The widening consisted of picking around in a fan, then picking back into a continuation of the chute, leaving a large rock in the center of the chute. This rock was then picked along its edges and broken loose. A hole was driven in the inner side of the rock and a rope attached. This created a "plug" that could be pulled from the inside to seal off the chute, in case of attack, or pushed to open the chute, allowing dwarves to walk around the sides of the rock. This was a perfect defense.

As work continued, at the bottom of the crater, the floor progressed upward as the excavated rock was dumped and then laid in. As the excavation reached the end, the last masses of rock, dug from the lower workings, was laid in with some mortar, but mostly interlocked, rock-by-rock, to form sturdy pillars. Some holes were driven with the long drill steels for the purpose of extracting some of the lava. Special ceramic buckets were used to lift the lava to the pillars and to the bridging pieces between them. The interlocking nature of the basalt was used, and where it was necessary, the lava was used to "weld" the rock in place. The pillars were held together so tightly they could stand nearly vertically, and they thus supported the King's Walk. This walkway was used for final defense, focal points of gatherings, ceremonies, and as a lasting symbol to the ingenuity of the very beings capable of constructing such a city.

The fissures at the floor level usually conveyed to the surface flammable gasses, such as methane (or Fireatin), hydrogen sulphide (noxin) and carbon monoxide (Devil's Breath). These were tapped at places under the floor of the cone and pumped by an ox-driven machine, compressed into copper tanks, and used to fire steam burners, then used for steam-powered weapons. Some of the gasses were fed into the mechanical room, where it was mixed with sewage gasses and burned as described below.

The sewage and all compostable materials were sent down the sewage chute. These chutes were funneled into collector chutes and slopes (a slope is a shaft driven at a low percentage of fall), and then to a main chute to the Festering Pits. There, the material was treated with special magical herbs and chemicals to assure complete deterioration, turning it all to combustible gasses. The gasses were vented to the main mechanical room, where it was used to turn a large turbine. This turbine then was belted to a fan which moved air from the surface to each interior roadway in the living quarters and industrial sites. This provided all with a source of breathable air and sufficient air changes per hour to sustain comfort.

The basic structure of the workings mined to create Wawmar was that of a spiral ramp, carved along the inside of the cone and angled downward toward the bottom. Along the length of this ramp were other entrances mined into the thickness of the cone. As these other entrances were mined, the mining spread out to form useable workings, such as housing, industrial sites, military barracks, community rooms and industrial sites. The workings were, for the most part, cut into honey-combed rooms, using the unmined rock to separate the rooms into useable subdivisions. In other cases, such as with individual housing units, the rooms were later separated by wooden or stone walls and doors.

The mining was begun from two directions; one from the top of the crater downward, and the other from the ground level on the south side of the crater through the cone to the inside. An initial survey was made of the inside of the cone from the ground level to the lip, and this survey determined where the upper crew would begin in order to meet the second crew. The survey itself was an impressive project. Agralin himself headed the crew. Through the use of gyroscopes, plumb bobs, a system of tiny reflective mirrors and innovative methods of hanging string panels, coupled with dangerous climbing and work while suspended above the crater floor, an extremely accurate survey was made of the proposed meeting point. The survey hit within 1/32th of an inch over 3000 feet.

For the purposes of communal organization, these workings were grouped into levels. The first, or Level 1, was cut from the lip of the crater down to where the south entrance would intersect with it. While it was being driven, a few dwellings were driven to house the miners, and it was believed to be important to build a barracks on this level, to maintain security while the rest of the work was being performed. The barracks intersected the ramp at several different locations, a tactical decision made to allow surprise and to allow the surrounding and isolation of invaders. Two tactical tunnels were driven as well. These tunnels went from the barracks to the two horizontal entrances, at the south and east, and allowed soldiers to enter the entrance tunnels from above to once again surround and surprise attackers. Another tunnel was driven from the barracks to the outside, an exit chute, and it and the tactical tunnel to the south entrance were both equipped with the stone plug system described above. The Level 1 portion of the ramp continued to the south entrance, with crews adding dwellings and a cargo winch room before intersecting with the south entrance. At this point, the crew began the mining of Level 2 workings while the entrance crew continued the ramp.

During the initial phase of the construction, some rumblings were detected at the bottom of the crater. Agralin placed a simple but ingenious device, a pan of water and oil, on the cut ramp away from the workings to monitor the vibrations during a few days' time. The vibrations ceased with the work and re-appeared when work commenced. Agralin felt that the vibrations were sympathetic reflections of the explosive nature of the excavation, and work continued.

The entrance crews created quite an impressive tunnel, and rightly so, as this would be the first, most lasting view of the development. As these crewmen had little or no experience with the new equipment, the learning curve was steep. But they excavated the tunnel about 4 to 5 feet narrower and shorter than what was designed. A second crew, with whom Agralin felt more comfortable in their abilities, followed the first, taking smaller, lighter cuts of the rock. They artistically smoothed and curved the rock, making the walls look and feel as if they were molded steel, ground smooth. A third crew followed, indeed polishing the walls with harder granite and marble stones cut to match the curvature of the walls. The opening of the entrance tunnel was widened into a large foyer, where a huge door was installed. The door was actually a huge slab cut from the rock in the tunnel, fitted with pockets and suspended on steel pins and arms. The resulting door could be moved with a mere touch, but was so thick and heavy that to open it fully required a crew of dwarves. The tunnel, once completed, was in itself one of the most incredible miracles out of all the amazing engineering feats that created Wawmar.

Construction took a different turn at this point, both unexpected and fortuitous. Agralin expected the complex to hold only a few thousand dwarves when he began the design stage. At Level 2, he found that the rock dome of the volcano actually spread out very quickly and uniformly in extent, and plans were changed. Level 2 was redesigned for an increased thickness of the cone, now well over 500 feet. And as the ramp progressed, it was found that the cone now became a bulge of lava in the earth, allowing many times the original volume. Assuming this was now a bulging type of a shield volcano, plans now allowed room for nearly 20,000 inhabitants, and the scheme of the project turned from one of an outpost and small town to one of a city and social center.

At the beginning of Level 2 construction, the rumblings were detected again, accompanied by some other strange sounds and belching of fire from the side of the crater, near the bottom. Agralin again placed the vibration sensor on the cut ramp and monitored the vibrations, ceasing the night shift below. There was concern that the volcano was not completely dormant. Agralin directed crews to continue after a short investigation and to dump most of the rock over the area where the flames were coming from. This was done, the rumblings stopped, and construction continued.

As the elevation of the ramp decreased for each revolution of the ramp, it was decided to design and build a series of secondary levels between each of the original levels, as there would be ample room, vertically, for additional levels. Levels 1.5 and 2.5 were begun with the help of additional crews recruited from the Clan. Apparently, the fame of Agralin, coupled with the excitement of the new structure, drew hundreds of dwarves to sign up for the work.

Another development was encountered at Level 2. A seam of an unknown metal was found. It was a bare, native metal that baffled alchemists, blacksmiths and wizards alike. Agralin knew this metal would be important, although it was not known how it would be used until later. He stockpiled the strange substance, and some further testing uncovered its ability to completely "dissolve" detritus and waste material without being consumed. Soft, shiny and maroon in color, it possessed the ability to catalyze chemical reactions. It was used in the festering pits to assure complete digestion of the city's wastes.

Level 2 was the first level built with a "standard" housing unit concept. The plan view was separated into 12 wedges, with a set of roads leading to the main ramp. Each wedge could house over 500 dwarves. A concentric inner road was formed across each wedge, connecting them for access, emergency exit, and ventilation. On each level, Agralin planned a set of ventilation shafts. They were connected to the fan, powered by a turbine that was fueled by burning gasses mostly from the festering pits, described above. The upshaft, or supply shaft, was driven between and into the fan house room of each level. The air was then blocked from the downshaft by walls, and the resulting difference in pressure forced air around the inner road and through the dwelling areas.

Level 2.5 was designed and built along the same lines as level 2, but two of the housing wedges were sacrificed to be worked in different configuration and to serve as schooling units. It was believed that this location would be the most centrally located of the levels.

Level 3 was designed and built with the same configuration as level 2. Room for more housing was available along the outer edge of the housing units, but Agralin felt that the stress calculations did not allow for more mining.

A source of water was needed. It was relatively simple to acquire drinking water, as there were several sources of water on the surface near the cone. A few streams were dammed and water was fed into a shaft to a series of cross shafts, where it flowed to the individual public rest rooms. One of these rooms was situated in each living unit and consisted of a water-holding pool, a sewage shaft, and at least six minor shafts connected to the main shaft. These minor shafts began about 6 feet below the level of the floor and splayed out (radially, equally spaced and vertically, about 45 degrees from vertical) to form holes in the floor. A privy fixture was attached to each hole, and the six holes were grouped into male and female rooms by a dividing wall. A constant flow of water was maintained down the shafts from the surface, usually a minor amount, to continually flush the system. A vent connected the rooms from below, carrying fumes upward. The water-holding pool was meant to provide running water for the use of the populace and to slow the descent of the water to the lower levels. Unstopped and contained in a single pipe, the water would exert pressure in the lower levels that would not be able to be handled.

A cargo system was developed to provide a method of transporting bulk materials, goods, and supplies to the levels below. It consisted of two wooden rails, about 4 feet apart, affixed to the front edge of the ramps, running between each ramp, all the way from the first level to the floor. Each set of rails had a swinging, hinged set about 8' long, which could be released and swung inward to direct the cargo transport to the ramp to be loaded or unloaded. When ready, the signal was given to raise the transport above the swinging location, the moveable ramps were swung and locked into place, and the transport continued down or up. The transport consisted of a simple wooden cart with wooden wheels with a cage for retaining the goods safely. The cargo was counterbalanced with a length of rope and a second cart on a parallel rail. At times, goods were placed in the second cart relieving the force needed to transport the other cart. A drum and donkey arrangement were used at level 1 to provide the necessary turning moment.

As work progressed downward, work also continued upward from the bottom. Crews were sent in to lay the rock tighter on the floor, in fear that the mountain was stirring to life. Only a few faint rumblings and vibrations could be heard, then they quieted. The upper portion of the development reached Level 4. Agralin intended this to be an industrial level, being closer to the eventual social center and trade and gathering area. At this point, however, he determined through some measurements that the virgin stresses on the rock were quite high. (His measurements were taken with a very highly accurate device he invented in the field on the spur of the moment. It consisted of tiny mirrors glued to the top, bottom and sides of a test opening that was driven into the side of the ramp. The mirrors were aligned with other mirrors at the other side of the crater, amplifying their angular movement. When sunlight hit one of the mirrors, the new location of the reflected light indicated movement. He was later hailed as having invented a scope of high accuracy, which was later dubbed the "Agralinometer"). This increase in stress was to be expected, and would be eventually alleviated somewhat as more of the upper workings were formed and weight was taken off the lower ones. But he designed on the side of caution and left some pillars in place near the center, not far inside the ramp. These pillars were left under the existing smaller pillars between the wedges of housing on the upper layers to form "rims" of rock going up through the mass, much like an interior, load-bearing wall in a house. Further, a limit was placed on the amount of housing, as measured from the ramp into the cone, at 600 feet, to allow the outer shell of the cone to take weight and redistribute stress. Construction then recommenced for Level 4, and few spalling or stress cracks were noticed.

The workings of Level 4 were extensive, but as the pillars took stress, they were hollowed out and arches were formed in the roof to help support the greater spans. It worked well, and several large rooms were created. A hospital, shop areas for silver and gold smithing, wood work, leather work, clothing and textiles and a brewery were created. A fan/turbine room was created for moving air in the workings, and another room was started at the north side of the ramp.

At this point in time, the rumblings began again. They were quite violent, shaking the entire mountain. Some of the rocks in the area of the floor, where the belching of flames was seen several months earlier, moved and heaved upward. A head of a beast appeared, immensely large, and began shooting flames and roaring a deafening sound. Crews ran for cover within some of the workings. The creature wrenched itself free to stand on the rocks of the floor, roaring and shooting flames. It leapt vertically, then flapped its wings and landed on the ramp at Level 3. It was a huge dragon, clasping its claws on the ramp and holding on to the workings vertically, much like a woodpecker holds on to the side of a tree. It craned its neck and tried to push its head into a working, but was repelled when several of the dwarves struck it with their magically-enhanced picks and drill steels. Many of the dwarves were killed in the fierce battle, being burned and bitten, but the dragon was loosened from its perch, partially from attacks above and also from attacks from workers on the fourth level. The creature spread its wings and soared around the crater, liberally spewing fire, until the crossbow bolts that the dwarves shot from cover drove it off. Over the next few weeks, the dragon appeared again and again, harrying the construction and nearly bringing it to a halt. Finally Agralin put together a war party to hunt the beasts in the wild lands around the mountain, and they managed to track it down. After a pitched battle, the beast was slain and buried where it fell.

Finally the task could proceed. As the workings of Level 4 continued, the rock level below rose quickly, now to within 250' of the level. Agralin calculated that there would only be enough room for one more level, with some rock left over. Level 5 was begun with the great Cathedral. It was carved in two stages, the first being the upper half of the entire room, enabling the top to be reached. The high ceiling was carved in an arch and polished to provide a breathtaking feeling to the worshipers. The basalt walls were carved following the natural columnar tendencies of the rock, carefully following the planes of weakness until each column "came free" from the sides. The rock between the columns was then removed to allow them to stand out, and they were cut near the top to provide ledges about 20' above the designed, finished floor. The rock was polished with the same technique as that used in the entrance tunnels. Once this was done, work began on the floor level. The walls were continued downward on the sides to reach the final floor level, with much attention paid to the polishing and some intricate carving along the walls, depicting great struggles and key social points in time. This left the seating area interior to the finished walls. This area was very carefully carved into solid basalt pews, rising up from and attached to the floor. The sides of the pews were carved with pictures of runes, animals, and great dwarves of the past. The pews were polished with stone but also polished with fine sand and quartz dust rubbed into the stone with leather cloth. The floor was then carved painstakingly with tools and polished with stone to a fine, shiny gloss. It was then rubbed with the sharp edge of a granite stone, carefully carving lines in the floor in the pattern of brickwork. The cathedral took several years of exacting work, performed by highly skilled artisans, and the finished product, kept from the King as a surprise, brought him trembling to tears at first sight.

Agralin now had to calculate exactly how much stone he needed and how much more room he had available to him. He envisioned a great walkway to the floor below and several large workings below the floor. He arrived at a target level for the finished floor and traced a path for the ramp to arrive at this elevation. The ramp was extended and the underhalls were built. First, the festering pits were installed. A simple pit, they intersected the planned airshafts, and the dangerous, difficult job of raising the shafts was begun. Miners had to climb the walls of the narrow shaft and cling and bridge themselves to the wall as they cut seats for themselves. They sat on the seats and protected themselves with a shield wedged against the walls, and using a drill steel, they cut the rock upwards, ducking rock as it tumbled down from side to side. When they reached the limit of the length of drill steel, they climbed onto the next seat and continued the work. Seeing how difficult the work was and how time-consuming it would be, Agralin created several crews to do the same work on each level, 10 crews in all. But this required exacting surveying to assure the shafts would arrive concentrically. Falling back on his previous accomplishments, he managed to stay within several inches of alignment in each case.

The blacksmithing area and the Great Halls were mined at the same time. Many of the ramp and housing crews were finishing, and manpower was not a problem. These workings were mined below the proposed finished floor elevation, and were accessed by driven ramps. The Great Halls were to be used by the King as quarters and by his staff to govern. The main hall enclosed four huge pillars, stark and rectangular, leaving separate halls approaching the throne. He so revered the work performed on the Cathedral that he decided not to have the halls done in such beautiful fashion but left the pillars and walls squared off and only slightly smooth.

The blacksmithing area was a model of industrial design. At one end, a melting pit was formed to allow heat to be accessed to melt iron to form ingots. A shaft was driven downward to intercept some fissures, hoping to find quick access to magma. Driving the shaft was a dangerous job, as the heat encountered limited the time in the shaft to a fraction of an hour at a time, even for the hearty dwarves. But it was finally reached, and a large rock was carved to plug the opening. Following this, around the side of the shop, were quenching pits and hammer forges, used to convert iron and steel to ingots of manageable size and shape. An area was set aside for storage, then forges and bellows were used to do fine smithing. Another area was set aside for sword and axe making.

Finally the King's Walk was formed. Agralin decided it had to be impressive in both size and shape, but he had little room to work with if he wanted to save some of the floor for the shops and city. He had crews stack rock carefully, using the individual rock pieces' natural size and craggy shapes to interlock, to form three "legs" of the walk. Some of the magma, brought up in specially-treated ceramic buckets, was transported from the smithing area to be poured over the rock legs and troweled into the placed rock to form a singular set of structures. The structures were created with a natural arching shape to allow joining them together with other fitted rock. The arches were then formed, and steps were built into the lava-mortared and fitted walkway to reach to a plateau above the floor. The arch was then continued to the cathedral in much the same way. The resulting figure towered over the floor of the crater, within less than two inches of designed elevation. Agralin took a deep breath and began planning the floor.

The design of the floor caused Agralin to switch from structural and geological engineering to urban development planning. The King's Walk was completed, necessitating design that complemented its size and grandeur. First, shops, dwellings and business offices were laid out to provide the best foot traffic flow possible, with an occasional donkey cart distributing goods to the stores. A plan of up to 85 individual houses, two stories each, was made with 30' roads in between each group of buildings. Several warehouses and distribution buildings were built along the east and north sides of the floor, to be used to store goods and sell them to the shops. Several gardens were placed near the "feet" of the King's Walk, and vines were planted and trained to wind up around the legs. The city streets were lined with bricks mined and cut during the excavation of the great halls, placed over a lift of compacted granular volcanic sand and leveled to within a quarter of an inch per ten feet.

Outside the crater, the main roads were constructed. They were built partly incised into the solid rock, with the cut stone used to raise the road several feet. This required more stone, which was mined from other areas to the sides of the dome. As the dome only sloped slightly away near the crater, the roads were built fairly straight. But as the roads reached the edges of the dome toward the forests, the dome became steeper, and several switchbacks were built, curving to maintain a usable grade. The rock was laid carefully, each piece cut and trimmed to fit closely with others, thereby tightening the structure, lengthening its life, and making maintenance minimal.

The cone was completed by adding simple wooden towers at three points around the circumference to be used as lookout stations.

The general overview of Wawmar can be found here.