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Thunderdelve placement theoryby Paleologos
In the spirit of LoZompatore's excellent "Another Vacros and Cathos placement theory" I would like to present the following musings about a possible location for the lost Dwarven "Halls of Paradise" (see adventure module XS2 "Thunderdelve Mountain").
Like the aforementioned Vacros and Cathos placement theory, the following exploits a "cartographic hole", in this case from the study of ancient maps of the Cruth mountains.
Here is a part of the map of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos and surrounding lands from the Cook/Marsh 1981 Expert Rulebook:
When this map was revised for Frank Mentzer's 1983 Expert Rulebook, about a dozen caves indicated on the original map were removed, although the names of many of the humanoid tribes were retained (except for the dwarven community in the area depicted in the map, above).
To give a better idea of the respective location on the continent, a part of the continental map from the 1983 Expert Rulebook is reproduced below, with an open circle placed in the approximate area of interest.
The premise is to use this vanished dwarven community as the lost caverns of Thunderdelve. The underlying rationale is that the location incorporates information from an older map which was not reproduced in subsequent maps, as would be the case with a forgotten dwarven community.
# 1) There are no major dwarven communities outside of Rockhome.
"You didn't know there were any more dwarves in this area. You heard that the last was driven out years ago from a nearby ruin called Rumble Bell. Their clan was supposed to be extinct."
# 2) The dwarven clan was thriving fifty years prior to the common era (assuming 950 A.C.)
"Fifty years ago I was master of the richest dwarves in the realm. Long did we and our ancestors prosper in our home of Thunderdelve. The upper mansions were beautiful indeed and were called, in our tongue, the Halls of Paradise."
# 3) Thunderdelve lies "a short march" (for a dwarf) from a town. Either Farstead or Dolos would be possible candidates, but a small town in Farshire (not indicated on maps) would be the closest to the ruins.
"Our mansions were famed for their beauty and industry, and still they lie at Thunderdelve beneath the mountain outside this very town."
"You pick up your few belongings, don your harness, and head off toward the mountain outside of town. A short march brings you to the main gates of Thunderdelve, the entrance to the Halls of Paradise."
# 4) Thunderdelve is not located within the actual mountains, but rather is accessible within a small valley.
"You follow the now broken track that leads away from the main road, toward the mountain. It is untended and covered with debris and growth. Around you are the sounds of forest animals, but little else. As you near the mountain, you leave the track and press on through the undergrowth, always being sure to keep the track within site. At last you find yourself in a small valley nestled between two of the mountain's spurs."
Placement inside other canon material:
The location fits nicely into the map from Gaz 11 "The Republic of Darokin", indicated below as an unmarked ruin:
Taking a page from Thorfinn's most recently updated map of the Republic of Darokin, the ruins nestle quite neatly into unclaimed territory just south of the Helleck river, in the foothills of the Cruth mountains. Given Thunderdelve's location within a small valley, it's reasonable that the Helleck would exit the mountains through just such a valley:
It's therefore likely that Thunderdelve "Mountain" represents a prominent foothill, since the description in the text does not actually describe a journey through mountains, but rather a short march along a road through some forested areas.
The Legacy of Loktal Ironshield
Gaz 8 "The Five Shires" describes the history of the hin, and the years of dwarven rule under King Loktal Ironshield from 929 B.C. until the successful hin uprising in 912 B.C. This was during a period of centuries of continuous war between the dwarves of Rockhome and orc and goblin tribes, and there is no mention of Loktal Ironshield or his clan in the annals of Rockhome.
It could be that Loktal and his followers were therefore outcasts from Thunderdelve and were attempting to carve out some territory for themselves...
However, a more compelling theory would be that Loktal Ironshield and his followers were originally from Rockhome. Their ancestral lands may have been overrun by orcs and goblins during the wars, and so Loktal led his surviving warband from Rockhome in search of a new home. He might even be regarded as a great leader among the dwarves, and it would be understandable that his reputation would be less admirable among the him during those troubled times.
When Loktal finally turned his back on the Five Shires, never to be heard from again, it is possible that his clan actually founded Thunderdelve, going deep underground and keeping a low profile in order to avoid attracting hostile attention. This would be 1800+ years prior to the common era and Loktal Ironshield could very well have been the founder of the Halls of Paradise.
This sets the stage for a number of compelling adventures in and around the Cruth mountains north of the Five Shires. The hin of Longflask are particularly suspicious of dwarves, and the reemergence of a powerful dwarven clan would stir things up in the geopolitical miscrosphere of the region.