Elminster Speaks
Khôltar, Part 6

(Part #55)

Looking Around the Farrgaunlar

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 the gate.

It looks like a castle keep with sides that taper inward and then erupt back out in exaggerated crenellations. The merlons aren’t 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 Darvoro’s Plates.

Darvoro’s 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 who’s 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 Darvoro’s Plates is Raelrur’s Run. It’s lined with strong guard warehouses and one tiny, dingy blurdren at the wall end of its north side: Mother Talasko’s.

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. It’s 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 buyer’s 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 it’s carried off). A serving of stew is 1 to 2 silver pieces, depending on what’s 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 buyer’s 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 Run’s 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, I’m told -- a ground floor of meeting rooms, and five floors of armories and living quarters for garthraun (because it’s 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.

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