Ironhelm is the great city of the dwarves. Ironhelm is a massive underground fortress, built to withstand the sieges of armies of giants. The city is formed by the linking of three very large caverns and with Harbek’s Hold, the great fortress built into the top of the mountain.
Ironhelm has never been taken by an opposing force, despite weathering the assaults of hordes of orcs, demons, drow, giants, ogres, and undead.
The Outer City
The Outer City of Ironhelm largely comprises the docks and associated buildings outside of the Eastern Gate, plus living quarters for a fair population of non-dwarven sailors and dock workers. There are several small trading posts and taverns, but mostly the Outer City serves as a loading ground for the city proper. Buildings in the Outer City are built out of stone and wood, and the Outer City is laid out in a random, labyrinthine manner.
Ironhelm’s docks are large stone structures, elegantly and carefully carved and maintained. Attached to the main docks are a number of smaller wooden piers and jetties, and while smaller than might be expected the docks are run with remarkable efficiency and forethought.
The Main Cavern
The Main Cavern is where most of the population of Ironhelm lives. It is seperated into several wards and contains the Eastern Gate – the main gate into Ironhelm.
The Eastern Gate lies in the mountainside cliff and overlooks the docks and Ironhelm’s Outer City. The gate itself is a formidable structure – it stands nearly 200 feet tall, with an opening that is a 100 foot square. Massive stone gates are rigged to be closed by a complicated system of water-driven pullies in the case of a siege by sea. The gates are ancient, and have withstood sieges by everything from giants to demons.
Bardryn Lake is a huge underground lake in the middle of the main cavern. Phosphorescent algae in the lake provides a sizable portion of the lighting in the main cavern, and fish and algae farms provide a decent portion of the food. The lake is constantly populated by a large number of small boats and ferrys.
The Outer Wards hold the businesses and dwellings of most of the non-dwarf citizens of Ironhelm, as well as a fair body of poorer dwarves. The Outer Wards are kept fairly tidy, but are not as well organized as the other parts of Ironhelm. There are a number of small temples and most of the larger and better known taverns, including the Broken Bellows.
Closer to Bardryn Lake lie the Inner Wards. The Inner Wards are dominated by heavy merchant activity. Most of the bazaars and merchants’ offices in the city are located in the densely populated Inner Wards. The Inner Wards are primarily populated by dwarven guildsmen.
Atop the Island of the Master Forge in the middle of Bardryn Lake lies the Great Temple of Moradin, the dominant shrine to the smith god in all the world. The temple is built of stone and iron, and is constantly being refined and renovated. The priests of Moradin live on the island, as do a small population of farmers who tend to crops on its ancient slopes.
The western wall of the Main Cavern slopes up steeply. Into the sloping wall the dwarves of Ironhelm have carved a large portion of their city. There are three main terrace levels, each of which is filled with tall buildings carved into the cliff walls. Gigantic staircases provide easy access to the different levels.
The first level contains much of the housing of the wealthier citizens of Ironhelm. The second level is an artistic district, filled with musicians, jewellers, painters, and sculptors and their studios. The third level contains the libraries and magical guilds of the city.
Through the Cavern Gate lies the Bulwarks. This large gate is almost always open and unmanned, but in case of a siege can be closed and manned and defended from either side.
The Bulwarks lie in a large cavern adjacent to the Main Cavern. In the Bulwarks, the streets and buildings are laid out with military precision, segmented regularly into identical districts. Each district contains several barracks, a mess hall, a small smithy, and a drill square. The military of Ironhelm live and train in this cavern. Once, the cavern was filled to capacity, but in recent centuries only about a third of the buildings are in use.
The Deep Gate and the Citadel are Ironhelm’s protection against incursions by the denizens of the Underdark. The Deep Gate is a fortress in and of itself, but should it fall the Citadel stands ready and always manned as a fierce second line of defense. The large gates of the Deep Gate and the Citadel are normally left only partially open during the day and are regularly closed at night. During the day, carefully monitored merchant traffic is allowed in from the more civilized regions of the Underdark.
The Workshops are where the mining and most of the smelting and forging occur in Ironhelm. It is also the location of the main guild halls for the various crafting guilds of the city. The cavern is lit at all times by the bright but incontant lights of the forges and foundries, and constantly echoes with the din of the work occurring in it.
Harbek’s Hold is a colossal fortress built directly into the side of the mountain of Ironhelm. Very few outsiders ever step within its walls, and there are no doors into the castle from the outside – the only entrance is through the underground tunnels of Ironhelm. The hold is a bleak, monolithic structure, and its blank and grey stone face stands a millenia-old vigil over the surroundings of Ironhelm.
Harbek’s Hold is the living quarters for the royal family of Ironhelm and their personal soldiers, retainers, and their large extended family. Much of the castle is unused now that the family is much smaller than it was in centuries past, and it is said that there are still unknown and unmapped dungeons and corridors within the structure.