Anvil Vale Upper Undervale
The Upper Undervale; or the Mountains
When most Valefolk speak of the Undervale, they are discussing the citadels and the Great Underroad. Even though most of these structures never see the light of the sun, most of them are built into the mountains that loom above the Vale, making them actually higher in altitude that most surface settlements.
- The Citadels: All three of the dwarven citadels that overlook the Vale are built into the Starfrost Mountains, and of them, only Hammer Peak has passage onto the surface (and even that is simply a peak-top outlet that gives access to the loch there, with no paths down). All three of them are connected to the Great Underroad, however, through incredibly well-defended gates.
- The Great Underroad: Nestled into the roots of the mountains, the Great Underroad is an ancient work originally practical in nature. None of the dwarven citadels have genuine surface access (save for Caer Goldhelm's two small valley outlets, but even these are secluded and cut off, inaccessible from any other surface route), and the Great Underroad is the vast passage that connects all three citadels with Hammergate and the Dark Gates.
- The passageway itself is some fifty feet wide, with alcoves chiseled into the walls every twenty miles or so to allow caravans and travelers space to rest safely. Many of these alcoves have cisterns fed by meltwater from the mountains above, allowing travelers to refresh their stores, but these get rarer the further from a citadel one goes along the road.
- It is quite common to encounter travelers and caravans traveling between the citadels. Most travelers go by foot, with caravans made up of wagons pulled by rothé.
- The Dark Gates: There are two of these gates, Vortarn's Gate between Hammer Peak and Caer Stormhold, and Aragoth's Gate between Hammer Peak and Caer Goldhelm. Both gates are immensely fortified, built with incredibly strong stone and steel structures, and defended by both dwarven military forces, the runethanes, and the Black Shield. Patrols of soldiers arrive and leave here every four hours, small groups of dwarven veterans who patrol the Patrolled Undervale reaches.
- Black Shield use both of the gates as barracks and training grounds, and when Black Shield rangers set out, it is from these gates. The soldiers at the gates are under the command of the Black Shield captain in charge at each gate, and it is only the specialized suits of magical armor worn by Black Shield notables that can even open the gates.
- Aragoth's Gate: Named for the founder of the Black Shield, Aragoth Darkwarden, Aragoth's Gate leads almost immediately into sloping passages into the Patrolled Undervale. This gate's fortifications includes the offices of the head of the Black Shield, who goes by the title "the Aragoth" (a reference to Aragoth's heir telling people he was "the new Aragoth," a usage which stuck).
- Vortarn's Gate: Vortarn's Gate holds back a much wilder vastness than Aragoth's Gate does – unsurprising, considering it is many centuries younger. After decades of creatures bursting through this space into the Underroads, the Great Clans elected to stop sealing up the breaches and instead built a new gate. They weathered years of attacks by creatures while the Gate was being constructed, but ultimately is has served the Vale well.
- The Rothé Pastures: Three small caverns connect with the Underroad along the path from Caer Goldhelm, with a fourth one on the way to Caer Stormhold. These caverns are small herding communities built into densely overgrown mushroom forests.
- The roads connect along the upper edges of the caverns, with balconies that overlook the cavern floor – the height is necessary, as these forests tend to be filled with thick spores in the air. While this doesn't seem to harm rothé in the least, the thickness of the air can affect even the hardiest dwarven constitution after a few hours. The housing of the herders and the herd-pens are built into the walls along this upper story as well, with stone ramps that lead down into the caverns for the rothé herds proper.
- By and large, the herds are simply allowed to wander down of their own accord; these caverns are carefully sealed off from the rest of the Undervale, so there's little chance of predators wandering in, although it happens often enough that herders do keep watch from the balconies above regardless.
Deeper into the Mountains
Though the Starfrost Mountains extend far in nearly every direction, and many of the great peaks of the range do have cavern systems, they aren't connected to one another, by and large.
- What connections they do have are usually connections into other parts of the underdark, mostly the Patrolled Undervale for nearby peaks, and the Near-Wilds ranging further afield.
- Many mountains have entire networks of caverns that are simply unconnected to the larger underdark at all; such cavern systems often house predators or tribes of mountain-dwelling humanoids.