Elminster Speaks
Khôltar, Part 7

(Part #56)

Khôltar, Part 7: Leaving the Farrgaunlar

If we'd been entering the Iron City in the normal manner, along the Traders' Way, the gate guards on duty would have levied an entry tax on us right away, even before leveling their queries as to our business and what goods we were carrying or seeking. (Most of them accept personal payments from local merchants to recommend certain establishments where such-and-such can be had, and this practice is not unlawful.)

One of the reasons a guard detail during daylight hours is some 20 strong is to make sure all of this taxation doesn't slow the flow of traffic overmuch. Near dusk, the strength of the guard is often raised to thirty-odd to make sure no one slips in or out uninspected, no tax thefts occur, and no one's left waiting to enter or exit as darkness comes.

But back to the entry tax itself -- forgive me; I do go on. Well, then -- entry on foot or on a single ridden beast, even if openly carrying goods, is free. Entry with a handcart, mule, or other single beast of burden (packframes are permitted for this rate, but not beast-hauled carts or sledges) is 5 copper pieces. Additional mules or pack animals are 2 coppers each, and this rate also applies to animals pulling wagons or coaches, even if they're also ridden by a person or carry no goods. Each wagon is 2 silver pieces, empty or full, and regardless of size.

Those who can't pay or refuse to pay are typically denied entry. If they're citizens, they suffer forfeit of goods to the amount of double the denied tax. Beggars aren't welcome in Khôltar, but someone who arrives coinless and claims to have been robbed will typically be given a bowl of soup and detainment with some searching questions at a duty house before being expelled from the city or personally escorted by garthraun to wherever within Khôltar's walls they claim to have business waiting.

Before we leave this busy spot, let's wheel around and look at the inside of the gate itself. See the carvings of wild desert nomads mounted on rearing horses dying with Iron City spears through them? All of Khôltar's gates sport different carvings, so this none-too-tasteful display tells us we're at the Farrgaunlar.

Let's head up the North Way to Handrornlar. Our route is one of the most visually interesting streets in the Iron City, because after initial ramparts of greatfists north of Pauntraal on the east side, and north of the two competing Onsruur mansions of Anthormbrur and Baharrokhbrur on the west side, the North Way becomes a welter of older, smaller buildings -- forges and foundries scarred and soot-blackened with age and daily hard use. Most of them have the fragments of collapsed stairs and balconies, and projecting beams (much enjoyed by the local plumphaers, a sort of pigeon that poorer citizens often fell with slung stones to make nasty-tasting pies) fitted with block-and-tackle winches for the raising and lowering of goods into storage lofts. These are the most run-down and cheapest of Khôltan buildings, and they change hands often -- so often that the North Way sports the greatest abundance of shop signs in the city.

Here the visitor can expect to find the largest number of second-hand goods shops, curio and failed or salvaged cargo vendors, repairers and fixers and crafter who claim to refinish as good -- and of course many of the most desperate low local thieves and swindlers (as opposed to those grander thieves and swindlers whose business runs to shoddy goods and short shipments among hundreds of wagonloads, or misappropriations of very large amounts of coin in dealings with large businesses elsewhere).

Here, too, many costers (such as Saravho's and the Torch and Shield) and independent caravan masters (such as Thalmuth Hulden and Undro "Old Master" Mhalanklar) have offices where they sign on lone travelers and small-wagon merchants into whelming caravans.

Dozens of small alleys and largely residential streets open off the North Way, but only two routes cross it directly (that is, have mouths facing each other across the Way): Erethorn's Ride and Suldroon Street. I mention them because we'll explore them later on.

Well, well -- my nonstop blather has brought us to another little crisis for me (Mourngrym's at my door now, with a long face and someone's blood dripping from his gauntlets), and the waymoot hard by Handrornlar for ye. So, see thee next time.

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