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Hero’s Guide to the Waterworks

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Hero’s Guide to the Waterworks

With the launch of The Mines of Moria, the first expansion for Lord of the Rings Online, scheduled for release next week, Turbine has published another installment of their dev journal series which looks into the many regions of Moria. today we take a look at an area known simply as the Waterworks.

In the utmost south of Moria, caught between two terrifying regions of peril and shadow, lies the strange serenity of the Waterworks. Here, cool mists and wide stretches of calm water create an ethereal atmosphere that simultaneously mingles grandeur and reflection. That calm is dangerous, for it belies the threats that lurk there, both above and below the surface.

Though far removed from Moria’s Hollin and Dimrill Gates, the Waterworks includes what appear to be some of the most ancient stone-works in Khazad-dûm. Rough, old-fashioned statuary and corridors made of stacked stone bricks still stand here from the days of old. Enormous palatial structures, built to contain the region’s massive namesake waterworks, stand alongside older and more modest towers. The road connecting to the dark and dreaded mines of the Silvertine Lodes in the north leads through aged catacombs built into the rock behind the rushing waterfall called Durin’s Beard. From the east, rustic statues of Dwarf-warriors line the way in from the hellish smoke of the Flaming Deeps.

The Waterworks territory consists of a single, gigantic cavern beneath the mountain, which a network of aqueducts divides into orderly sections. Hulking edifices—from functional palaces to lofty pillars—stand where lines of aqueducts intersect. In the east, this neat plan meets the cavern wall at a series of modest buildings and plazas punctuated with stained-glass windows. An arched passage here connects to the Burning Stair and, thus, the Flaming Deeps beyond. In the west, the plan gives way near the cavern wall to a short wilderness of mushrooms, shoals, and stalagmites known as the Drowned Deep.

The sheer scale of the Waterworks is difficult to take in all at once. A damp haze diffuses the light, and fog swallows up distant buildings. The misted ceiling feels more like an overcast sky than a dome of stone.

Perhaps the best vantage point for taking in the vision that is the Waterworks can be found in the array of buildings in the northeast corner of the region, built up along the cavern wall. This is also roughly where the roads to the east and north meet. Not coincidentally, the Free Peoples make their camp in this most remote corner of Moria as well.

The Rotting Cellar

When the expedition from the West finally made it through the Silvertine Lodes and into the Waterworks, it stopped here in a defensible public square partway down the cliffs from the arching bridges that crisscross in front of Durin’s Beard. Those brave Dwarves established what is now the deepest colonial outpost in Moria.

With their customarily grumpy sense of humor, the Dwarves call this place the Rotting Cellar. Though broken crystal lamps and defunct waterwheels litter the place, it is clean and quiet, warm with the fires of newly built ovens. It also serves as home to a Stable-master, and perhaps most vitally, it affords a view of the rooftops and caverns below that is both enchanting and strategic.

From here, Dwarf-smiths devise ways to restore the water-driven mills and pumps. Expedition leaders recruit travelers and explorers for scouting missions, and sentries keep watch for Orc-raiders and bold beasts storming out of the mist.

Wheels and Water

Broken aqueducts and years of neglect have left portions of the Waterworks flooded beyond their intended depths. Toppled arches lay half-submerged in swollen reservoirs, and past floods have washed away stone and stairs, leaving some of the machine-palaces of the region unreachable.

Yet so many of the old Dwarf-machines still function. When the expedition first arrived, even more of the Waterworks stood flooded. Using the pumps and waterwheels of the ancient engineers, the Free Peoples may master this region once more.

One of the Waterworks’ soaring columns also serves as the base of an enormous fountain built in the shape of four watchful Dwarf-faces, each one pouring forth a rush of dark water. Once, it seems, there were two such fountains, but the extreme water pressure the ancient Dwarves channeled into the second fountain may have been too much for it to endure. All that’s left now is a shattered base—still larger than most houses—and the scattered remains of colossal heads lying half-submerged in the reservoirs.

Look out across the field of reservoirs at the feet of the stacked arches of the aqueducts, and you may see tiny figures dashing along the banks. These are Goblin runners dashing along the cisterns’ edges and patrolling nearby plazas. Quick and cowardly, they represent a wary foray by the Enemy into the Waterworks, probably from their strongholds in the Flaming Deeps nearby.

These Goblins serve as scouts and messengers dispatched not only to learn the plans of the Free Peoples in this place, but perhaps also to discover the fate of the Orc-kind who preceded them. A while back, a tribe of plundering Orcs crept in to the Waterworks, bent on capturing or ruining the old Dwarf-contraptions, but did not fare so well.

The Poisoned Well

Something taints the waters south of the Rotting Cellar. Perhaps it seeped in through the groundwater from the grotesque lake in the Foundations of Stone. Perhaps it was brought in on the skin of infected Orcs. Perhaps it was blown in as spores on a sulfurous wind from the Flaming Deeps. But the sickness is here.

The plague is a kind of fungal infection that swells and coats its victim with layers of gross, red growths. The Orcs call their infected fellows Globsnaga, meaning “Filth-slaves.” The fungus infects the mind as well as the body, it seems. Sufferers are left mad and in anguish.

For now, the Globsnaga in the Waterworks dwell only in a single camp in the southeast, near the Chamber of Dark Waters. There they languish in a haze of dusty spores, surrounded by diseased fumes and piles of gore and bones. If the Globsnaga are allowed to spread their sickness—if the fungal plague infects the expedition camps—the new era of Khazad-dûm could end before it is truly begun.

Keep the Globsnaga contained, beat them back, but beware: they may be sick, but they are not so weak.

Monsters in the Deep

The Waterworks has developed a compact but thriving ecology of its own. Its dank depths and copious mushrooms provide a fertile foundation for nests of lizards and amphibians, while the even, diffused light keeps creatures like Deep-claws away. Frilled lizards nest in the rocky corners of the Drowned Deep, and smooth-skinned Deep-salamanders stalk the reservoirs and shoals.

With silky webs as thick as ropes, weirdly translucent Fell Cave-spiders lay claim to drier reaches, often inside ill-fated buildings like the Lost Palace in the north-west. Glowing like crystals and armed with spiked abdomens, this ilk of Cave-spiders is perhaps not seen anywhere else in Middle-earth.

For all that the Orc-kind have plundered and trespassed in Moria, in the Waterworks it’s the spiders and salamanders that have permeated deepest into the old places of the Dwarves. Beyond a stretch of natural caves at a remote edge of the region, there crouches a forgotten place built of dark stones and cold crystals, now wrapped in layers of ropy webs. The light of Dwarf-lamps glowing half-smothered behind walls of webbing illuminates Dwarf-sized bundles that hang cocooned in gruesome nets from the ceiling.

It’s in these forgotten and secret places where the fate of this region, and perhaps the fate of all of Moria, may be decided.

Forgotten and Secret Places

Some remote chambers of the Waterworks have yet to be rediscovered. Some may be hidden behind forgotten Dwarf-doors. Who knows how many invisible Dwarf-doors have been lost forever?

Other such chambers may be nothing more than rumors. Legends say that early Dwarf-kings hid a grand treasury deep below the Waterworks, for example, and that piles of hoarded coin wait there still, untouched even after all these many centuries.

Other chambers are simple enough to locate but difficult to reach. Attached to one of the Waterworks’ palatial edifices located in the south of the region, the Great Wheel is easy to find, but reaching the vital Chamber of Wheels inside is not so simple. Beyond the building’s doors winds a tangle of mossy tunnels swamped beneath rushing waters and teeming with hungry Salamanders. Successfully navigate these tunnels, however, and you emerge amid the indoor waterfalls and turning timber mechanisms of the Chamber of Wheels. There the complexity of Khazad-dûm’s ancient machines becomes clear, even when their function may not.

Dwarves of the Waterworks expedition have already reached the Chamber of Wheels, but it is still a place of lost lore. The devices of the ancient Dwarves have been left deteriorating for so long—and so many of their makers perished in the sad late days of Moria—that none now recall just how they all operate. Puzzling out their designs and repairing their workings requires a great deal of ingenuity and sweat—and that most precious of resources: time.

The most remote place in the Waterworks, in contrast, is oft discussed but seldom seen. Marked by orange crystals smoldering like coals amid the rocks of the Drowned Deep, the elaborately carved gate of Harâzgund may not lie hidden, but it is still difficult to brave. The gate marks the entryway to a place now known as the Vile Maw.

Inside sits a dark pool beneath the surface of which many deep channels and lightless tunnels come together. These submerged tunnels reach far beneath the mountain, possibly connecting all the watery depths of Khazad-dûm into one large system. At the very least, it seems that they reach all the way to the Black Pool, which lies at the outermost edge of Moria.

This is a place of terror and woe that no lone hero can endure. The fearsome foe that dwells within is more than bravery or fellowship can hope to overcome. A host of brave souls must be rallied to raid the Vile Maw if its fell denizen is to be defeated.

This is the lair of the Watcher in the Water, that vile monster that decimated the early expeditions as they circumnavigated the Black Pool. It lay in wait for so long to keep the mines of Moria in the hands of the Enemy that it doubtless yet holds in its black core some cruel notion of revenge against those who drove it from the verge of the West-gate.


Guest Writer