Part 8: A First Look at Handrornlar
So here we hover, above the
waymoot inside Handrornlar, the north gate of the Iron City. First, look
back the way we've come (something adventurers often don't like to do,
I know, but bear with me). See all the fists and greatfists, rising like
so many fangs east of the North Way?
If Khôltar was built today the
North Way would undoubtedly be lined with warehouses -- or at least the
streets running east of it to the city wall would be, for the swift and
easy loading and unloading of wagons and swifter whelming and dispersal
The reason for the predominance
of houses everywhere in yon part of the city save at both ends (the streets
adjacent to the city gates) is because for years the view across the Great
Rift (and the relative safety afforded by its presence, prohibiting Shaaryan
raiders, orc hordes, or hostile armies from massing in great numbers)
was valued as the best ground in Khôltar.
The Onsruur later changed this
by buying cheaper land elsewhere within the walls (upon which to build
the newly fashionable klathlaaedin) and making fortunes selling off their
greatfists to socially ambitious citizens, but the residential enclave
remains. Many East Wall citizens sniff at the crowded, crumbling traal
lining North Way -- but take full advantage of the handy blurdren to snatch
inexpensive meals close to home at all hours.
Turn again, now, to gaze upon
Handrornlar, with its city-side carvings of proud dwarves posing with
hammers, pickaxes, and waraxes -- a not-so-subtle reminder that the might
of the Deep Realm lies just outside that gate. Some Khôltans see it as
a warning to be vigilant against the Stout Folk, but others (particularly
dwarves who dwell in the Iron City) see it as a recognition that dwarves
gave Khôltar a reason for being, and then made it great. (The city was
originally a great camping ground for all who came hither, desiring to
trade with the dwarves.)
Every gate waymoot in the Iron
City has its handy inns and eateries. However, this northerly one is the
least well served because Kholtans usually depart from it bound for short-run
trading business with Rift dwarves, or in huge caravans bound for distant
lands, and most of the inbound traffic consists of dwarves. It should
then come as no great surprise to ye that the two inns here cater almost
exclusively to dwarves -- as do the three small, thriving blurdren and
the large, roaring tavern.
As one faces the gate, the two
buildings immediately inside it on either side that are joined to it by
small curving battlements (in a sometimes forlorn and largely symbolic
attempt to make truculent dwarves stop, pay entry taxes, and submit to
wagon inspections) are the Turthtraal, The Turthtral are twin duty houses
which contain garthraun offices and armories, with small vaults and holding
cells beneath them.
Immediately to the west of Drurntraal
(literally, "West Traal") is a large stone building dominated
by a gigantic carved face with a stylized beard that runs into the ground,
unfinished. It is pierced by several arched windows and doors. Stout iron
bars form a thick latticework over the window glass, both within and without,
but that hasn't stopped angry or inebriated patrons from shattering several
of the windows over the years. The cracks they've left have been sealed
with pitch and molten metal. This is Taurgaur's Tarjteir ("tarjteir"
being a Deep Realm dialect word meaning "place of happy gathering"),
Khôltar's largest dwarven inn. It offers a ground floor dining room that
serves simple, hearty fare and deliberately weak ale. If ye can stand
the thick, ever-present cloud of smoke emitted therein by countless dwarven
"trood" (locally popular clay pipes of extreme length, typically
used to smoke a blue-green rockweed that's sickly sweet to smell but hath
a wonderful taste and bite), the roast boar, rothé stew, and sarth skewers
(alternating cubes of ox and horse meat that have been marinated for a
month in a variety of strong and wildly different sauces) are quite good.
Above the dining room is a floor
given over to short-term rental meeting rooms, and this is where many
dwarves transact all of their important business deals in the Iron City.
Many Deep Realm traders have little love for tramping all over Khôltar
making deals with humans, so they rely on the services of dwarves who
dwell in the Iron City and make good livings as "ammarakh,"
or local trade agents, who serve as go-betweens who can connect dwarves
in haste with Khôltan vendors and services. Inn staff runners (predominantly
human and halfling youths of both genders) can speedily fetch needed ammarakh
here if they aren't already lingering over a bowl of stew downstairs.
These meeting rooms, by the
way, have water pumped through thaelor set in the walls between and above
them, and are also furnished with double sets of entry doors with elbow-turn
passages between them, to lessen the chances of being overheard. (Thaelor
are "gurgle pipes" -- literally pipes fashioned with curves
and internal chambers and bulges to make water passing through them noisy.
They are a conceit first developed for Onsruur desiring to make their
Above this level are four floors
of guest chambers with the massive and durable furnishings preferred by
dwarves. Below ground, the Tarjteir offers several levels of extremely
well-built locked short-term storage vaults for the convenience of guests.
Some of these, it's rumored -- correctly, mind you -- have manacles for
securing unwilling occupants. They can also be rented by the season or
even longer, so that visiting renters can reach the Iron City on foot
and apparently near-coinless and yet have access to riches, a large wardrobe,
and all the conveniences they can store . . . such as casks of favorite
The Tarjteir is the anchor of
dwarven social presence in the Iron City, and the meeting place for dwarves
not engaged in covert business. Next time, our tour continues with glances
at other buildings near the Handrornlar -- including one with upper floors
reached only by hidden tunnels from adjacent structures.
the previous Elminster Speaks
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