One of the Independent Territories. During the final days of the Imperial Unification War the Marish people of the eastern wetlands fled their homes in the wake of the Uniting Army‘s latest attack. They fled north to the Dragon’s Spine mountain range, where they re-discovered the Dragon’s Road lost since the Dwarven dynasty of King Bredden after his conquest of the Scaled Ones. From this road, they travelled west and found the ruins of Old Kethen, lost since Bredden’s Expansion, where the Marish people settled down and called it Ketten. After the war, Ketten maintained its independence due to the Dragon’s Road being kept a closely guarded secret, and the only other path to Ketten being through Gamwood, which has been lost to travellers since the Tainting of the Drow.
Following King Bredden’s conquest and plunder of the Scaled Ones, he sought to expand his empire and provide his people and soldiers with a more effective way to travel across the land, so he created the Dragon’s Road. A masterfully built wide roadway hewn through the rock of the mountain in a long tunnel that surfaces occasionally in areas sheltered from the elements that provided airflow. The end of the road was Kethen, the crown jewel and most ambitious endeavor of the King.
Unheard of in Dwarf society, Kethen was a surface city, and one near the ocean too. Bredden saw the trade and commerce that the Andar Sea offered, between Yegen and Ulren and the towns and villages dotting its surface. It even linked into the Elf Lands. Connecting it to the Thunder Hills would allow his people to have influence from sea to sea. It was meant to be the end point of the Dragon’s Road, with everything in between acting as way points and defense.
The city itself is beautiful. A marvel of Dwarven architecture. The buildings are solid and made of rock. They have the blocky appearance of most Dwarven architecture but with the space to build upward, Bredden filled the city with bright towers that elongated the usually square designs into strong, elegant towers. Every surface is marked with runes and designs, every single structure created with purpose and beauty.
The runes of the city are carved into every exterior surface. They are great strengthening runes carved by ancient masters of the runic craft. They make the simple yellow stone of the city stronger than steel, magically enhanced by their presence.
King Bredden anticipated that Kethen might get cut off from his empire in the event of warfare, weather, natural disaster, or any other problems or disasters that might prevent travel from Mount Thunderhead to the city. So he provided the city with things it would need to continue to provide for itself, both in commerce and defense, as well as the ability to pick a new leader in his absence.
The Rune Hall:
A great domed building that sits on one side of town. Despite its size, it only has one entrance. The door contains a series of stone tablets set into tracks that can be slid around into different positions. Each plate is etched with a rune. Placing runes beside each other will cause them to combine and their effects to be realized, if there is an effect to happen. The goal is to manipulate the runes into a position such that the runes that will open the door are adjacent to each other, but in doing so one must also keep many dangerous runes from moving next to each other. It is both a puzzle and a test of one’s runic knowledge. An appropriate lock for the vault of runic knowledge outside of Mount Thunderhead.
Inside, the first floor is a workshop, stocked with tools and workstations necessary to perform runecraft. Benches stocked with diamond styli for carving into metal, chisels for stone, and furnaces to heat blades for carving into wood.
Another rune door sits at the top of a flight of stairs. The runes on this one don’t move, but there are slots to slide in blank tablets that can be etched with runes. This requires the user to not only be able to re-arrange runes but write their own in an arrangement that will not only open the door, but diffuse the dangerous runes involved. When the last rune is entered, the effect written on the door takes effect, whatever it is, and the runes that were placed disintegrate. If done properly, the door will open.
The second floor is one massive room that goes all the way up to the domed ceiling. The walls and intermediary space are filled with runes. Every rune, to be precise. Bredden’s chief runecrafter Parloven Sharpeye designed it himself and it is one of the wonders of the world. Every magic rune in existence is not only represented, but none of them are inert. Each one is in constant action, working alongside others to demonstrate their effects in action. As such, magic not based in runes does not function in this hall. Even on the first floor it is diminished. There is far too much interference from the delicate balance of the runes in this place.
Since every rune is represented, this place is a veritable lexicon of runes. This place can provide anyone with an expert knowledge of the working of rune magic if they’re willing to spend the time.
The Dragon’s Eye
Keeping in the theme of the Dragon’s mountains, Bredden adorned the centerpiece of the city with another feature of the great Dragon. The tower at the center of the city is the tallest of them all, and at the top of it sits an enormous clear gemstone, nearly four meters in diameter. It is set into a silver fitting that holds it high above the city. During the day, it captures the light of the sun and shines brightly. The light reflected down the tower by a set of crystal mirrors that draw and reflect the light to a set of lenses. Runes worked into the stone and lenses allow them to capture the light more effectively and capture more than just the light. They reflect the light down into an apparatus above the main chamber of the leader of Kethen, a huge vaulted ceiling where the light is reflected around in a bright halo around the top of the room. The mirrors can be redirected with a series of levers that allows someone to make use of the power stored in the sunlight. In particular, this is used to redirect the light back up into the crystal which glows like a second sun at night, bathing the city in true sunlight if needed. Bredden was wary of undead.
Guardian, Forge, and Pool
There is a stone door at the bottom of a set of stairs in the center building of the city. It is etched with runes of strength and is immune to any and all magic, there is a single knob in the center of the door. On its surface, in Dwarvish says “Repeat these words aloud only if you think you are worthy. Any will be allowed entry, but only the worthy shall survive.” And below that are the words, “I know what I face, and still I will enter. I will face the guardian’s judgement and walk to the forge and pool.” When spoken, these words will cause the knob to glow a shimmering blue. When one touches the knob with their hand, it will temporarily place a glowing rune on their hand to match. It will permeate through all material and cannot be removed, though it will fade with time. Turning the knob causes the door to open.
Inside is a long hallway that leads down at a a slope to a spiral staircase downward. At the bottom is a wide hall lit with glowing white crystals. In the middle of the room stands the Guardian. It is a huge metal humanoid construct, like a golem but more sophisticated in design and etched with powerful runes. It will step forward and judge the one that approaches. First, it will engage the rune on their hand and force them to kneel. The rune creates a powerful Dominate Person effect and the Guardian will interrogate them to learn of their intentions and character. The interview process is intense and exhausting. If anyone descends the stairs unmarked, the Guardian will attack them. If anyone fails the interview, the Guardian will execute them. If they pass, however, they will be allowed to rise and led deeper inside.
Past the Guardian chamber is a winding series of hallways, a veritable labyrinth. A constant soft grinding noise will let anyone that listens know that the walls rearrange themselves. Though, the Guardian’s runes allow it to open passages and take a straight path through. Anyone that gets past the Guardian with malicious intent will have to content with a labyrinth of stone that almost seems alive.
Past the labyrinth is the final chamber. Lava lights and warms it from pools set around the vast chamber. At the center is a room is a vast forge with runecrafting supplies readily present and a furnace heated by the lava. The anvil is platinum and rune encrusted, allowing it to pass special qualities into the metal it forges. At the far side of the room is a sheer cliff that faces an immense magma fall. The magma is redirected to flow under an enormous flat cauldron of metal, filled with what appears to be silvery liquid platinum. A wonder from the Age of Miracles, this pool is the true prize. At the bottom of the pool is a piece of Moradin’s Hammer, one of a pair gifted to the line of Dwarf Kings. The magic surrounding it makes the cauldron hot enough to melt even the god’s hammer, yet it does not have sufficient power to destroy it. This creates an ever filling pool of magic metal fueled by the power of the forge god. Metal drawn from this pool and cast will be magic. Anything dipped in the pool will take on magic properties. It is the find of a lifetime.