Elminster Speaks

(Part #53) : Khôltar, Part 4

Our Tour Begins

Finding one's way about in the Iron City is both easy and hard, if ye take my meaning: hard because street signs are unknown, so many towers look very much like other towers, and civic landmarks are largely lacking -- and easy because the three gates of the city are linked within the walls by a triangle of streets that are thrice as broad as all others. Market stalls are banned in Khôltar, by the way, though vending wagons are not (so long as they move along whenever directed to by garthraun street patrols), so these wide streets may be crowded by wagons loading, unloading, and moving along to their next pickup or delivery, but they're seldom impassable.

Pretend ye can hover for a moment, and see through smoke, and do so for some gods-odd reason straight above the Iron City. Looking down upon it, ye'll see right away that the walls are irregular, jutting out in several prows, here and there, and having no clear south, west, or any other compass-directed faces.

Yet see, too, what I meant about these large, landmark roads. Just inside the southern gate (called Farrgaunlar after its builder) that allowed us entry along the Traders' Way up from Delzimmer, the road leading from the gate splits into a northerly route and a westerly one.

The north way is called . . . ye guessed it: North Way. It runs through the city to another waymoot just inside the north gate. That gate's called Handrornlar after an early human smith and warleader who defended the nascent Khôltar against Shaaryan attacks, long ago, and it lets the Dunsel Trail (the trade route that runs on to meet the Golden Road at Shaarmid) into and out of the city.

The westerly street running from Farrgaunlar goes to the west city gate and another waymoot, of course. That gate's called Dubrinlar after the last dwarven Shieldlord (governor sent by the Deep Realm to rule the city) to hold sway in Khôltar. It links to the main caravan whelming grounds and to the ring road that circles the walls, and is the gate that Khôltans encourage their own, resident caravan drovers to use when entering the city (to lessen the crowding and delays at Farrgaunlar). The westerly street linking Farrgaunlar and Dubrinlar is called Hael Way after a Kholtan who built the first heavy wagons (in great numbers) and overnight made the Iron City something more than a cluster of tents full of crafters.

The last road of this triangle, linking the moot within Dubrinlar and the moot inside Handrornlar, is called Orntathtar Way, after the first Belarkh of the city, who elected himself by force, ye might say, to stop ongoing swords-in-the-streets strife among the Onsruur, but set all the governing rules in place that the city now follows.

So if ye're lost in the city, just head away from the nearest city wall until yet strike a very wide street, and ye're somewhere on the triangle. Ye can tell just where at each gate, since their inside-facing carvings are quite distinctive, and landmark inns or civic buildings stand at each.

By night, the city's lit by dozens of forge fires and street braziers on high wall brackets. Traffic never stops, and garthraun patrols are generally helpful in giving directions, though ye may find yourself trading question for question if ye seem to be dressed as outlanders or up to something not concerned with work, work, work or selling and buying wares.

Of course, a ring route circles the outside of the city walls for the convenience of local haulers and travelers desiring to bypass the city or reach another entrance.

In later columns we'll poke our noses inside some of the most interesting and useful local buildings, but let's begin by touring about until we know where some of them are. Then ye can choose an inn for the night or -- who knows? -- just a place to duck into when the garthraun come looking for ye.

We started at the south gate, so let's hover just inside and well above it (standing there on foot would get us run over by half a dozen carters in the space of a breath) and look about. Hard on our left, in the southerly angle where Hael Way heads away west from the waymoot, is the ornate bulk of Harth Trithketh's House of Welcome, a palatial inn catering to wealthy visitors who expect the best surroundings and beauteous escorts to share them with.

Hah, I can't resist! Enough of waiting for later. Let's look in!

Among the eight floors of this statue-girt stone palace are two each dedicated exclusively in scale (ceiling heights and the like) and furnishings to dwarves, to halflings, and to gnomes. Trithketh is a merry little rogue and illusionist with the sharpest nose I've ever seen on a gnome, glistening black eyes, and a truly villainous expression. When not scuttling about spying on his guests, he's usually to be found relaxing with four or five of his escorts. If ye have the coins, mind, he serves an astonishing collection of drinkables, and even pours baths full of thy favorite quaff, if ye pay up front and have the ah, stomach for such diversions.

Mystra watch me, but I do run on! One building glanced at, and already 'tis time to leave ye and attend to a dozen pressing little matters, and continue our tour together next time.

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