So here we are, together again
-- still hovering inside Farrgaunlar, above all the groaning, jostling
wagons, looking into the city. Turning away from the two klathlaaedin
facing us and the marching ranks of greatfists that flank them to both
west and north, we turn hard to our right across the North Way, and our
gaze falls upon a huge stone building fronting on the waymoot just inside
It looks like a castle keep
with sides that taper inward and then erupt back out in exaggerated crenellations.
The merlons arent real stone defensive piers, of course, but a series
of carved, snarling-down-at-the-street stone lions. This was once The
House of the Lions, headquarters of a now-defunct trading coster of the
same name that mounted fast runs between Khôltar and Var the Golden, but
it now houses Darvoros Plates.
Darvoros is a large and
wealthy firm that makes ornate metal plaques of all sizes and finishes,
from lockplates and kickplates for doors up to ornate shield-shaped heraldic
nameplates meant to cover almost an entire human-sized door. They ship
engraved or blank plates all over Faerûn -- upon prepayment, of course.
(As a result, most of their business comes from enterprising caravan merchants
who buy blank plates at the counters just inside the door to sell as chance
cargo elsewhere along their travels.)
Darvoro is a polite, handsome,
fair-haired man whos grown so rich that he can do just about anything
he desires -- except get into the ranks of the Onsruur, which has of course
become an obsession that consumes him. He fills his days with plots and
schemes and hired spies and bribes that only serve to amuse the Khaundroves
and similar "standfast" families who have no intention of ever
allowing anyone new into the ruling ranks.
The narrow street running east
off North Way (to the city wall) along the side of Darvoros Plates
is Raelrurs Run. Its lined with strong guard warehouses and
one tiny, dingy blurdren at the wall end of its north side: Mother Talaskos.
No one remembers who "Mother"
was, but this Khaundrove-owned eatery busily serves drovers and crafters
who are in a hurry and have strong stomachs. Its perhaps typical
of the worst Iron City blurdren. Eight surly, much-scarred male dwarves
who have the look of outlaws or maimed battle casualties work in shifts
to dish out food across a counter day and night, serving forth some splendid
Shaar stew (a thick brown broth of sliced boiled tubers and field greens
enlivened with small, hot-spiced and pan-seared strips and cubes of mysterious
meat that usually comes from trail oxen and horses past their useful lives,
stray field vermin, and rothé) and some truly vile trathake (buns filled
with the fried innards of various hooved animals held in place with pepper-spiced
melted cheeses). Stew is served in crusty breadloaf bowls or the buyers
own metal cup (warriors often use their upturned helms), and a copper
coin buys a wrap (a large, thin cloth sheet for bundling up food and keeping
the soot and dust of the streets out of it while its carried off).
A serving of stew is 1 to 2 silver pieces, depending on whats in
it, a trathake is 2 coppers, and a pour (ye might judge it about a pint)
of thin, sour Talasko ale into a breadloaf bowl or the buyers own
container is 3 coppers.
Better Iron City blurdren run
to sausages or "hog fry," soups, scoops of nuts, sweets (sugared
dates, if nothing else), and a slightly wider and better selection of
drinkables, but the prices generally go up a coin or two.
The sole remaining nearby landmark
of interest to visitors is the building that occupies the northeast corner
of the Runs junction with North Way: a square six-floor fortress
with narrow barred windows and a ballista-battery mounted in a slit-deck
on the corner where it can fire through the gate or down either of the
wide streets. This is Pauntraal, the Farrgaunlar duty house (where visitors
report for inspection if ordered to by the gate guards, or go if they
desire to contact the garthraun or lack the correct coinage to pay their
entry tax). It has dungeon cells and seized-goods-vaults beneath -- four
levels, Im told -- a ground floor of meeting rooms, and five floors
of armories and living quarters for garthraun (because its also
the main garthraun house).
Ah, yes, the entry tax. I almost
forgot. Folk leave the city freely -- but if they enter (even if returning
after a brief outing) they must have a guard chit (obtained free upon
inspection at any duty house, or bought illegally at dozens of city inns
or taverns, or demanded without inspection if you happen to be a member
of the Onsruur) or pay an entry tax.
Citizens pay certain other business taxes, but visitors
pay only this one. I should have told ye earlier, but mages so often avoid
such things out of habit (not the parting with coin, necessarily, but
the warning authorities of our arrival and presence) that I clean forgot.
Heh-heh. Next time.
the previous Elminster Speaks
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