Friday, September 10, 2010

The Lifts

The Lifts are a true marvel of dwarven engineering, a conglomeration of chains, pulleys, levers, hooks, platforms and rope as thick as an ogre’s arm, winding up and around the pillar Olmak. There are fourteen independently operated lifts in continuous use, the smallest two the size of a tower shield and the largest capable of lifting an elephant, a feat already accomplished. The raising and lower of the platforms is accomplished completely by hand, a responsibility that falls to the members of the Lifters’ Guild. Lifter guildsmen work in teams of five to thirty five, heaving at great lengths of rope in time to rhythmic beat of drums. Crews are hired for their strength and endurance, with dwarves making up the largest percentage of membership, followed by orcs and half-orcs of great strength and stamina, plus a few ogres and even an unusually intelligent hill giant.

The cost for using the Lifts varies, based both on the size and delicacy of the cargo and the number of guildsmen required to lift it. The standard rate of measure is by the wagon load, charging a flat rate of one gold piece plus one silver per guildsman required for the lift. The guilders are savvy enough to know when magic has been used to lighten the load and charge full weight regardless. Lifts involving rare, delicate or unconventional cargoes are negotiated at the guild’s headquarters, a process sure to involve exorbitant rates. Smart merchants pay a few coins extra to prevent “accidents”, specifically those paid for by their rivals. The constant strain of raising and lowering cargo takes its toll on the Lifts, with snapping ropes, broken chains and mangled pulleys posing frequent problems. To facilitate delicate and dangerous repairs, the Lifters’ Guild retains the services of a dozen “free climb specialists”. The death rate of these specialist is high, claiming at least five lives a year but the generous wages keeps competition for the jobs fierce.

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