Elminster Speaks

(Part #63) : Khôltar, Part 14

A Brief History of Khôltar, Part 1

I've heard some of ye yawning at my forays into the past before -- oh, now, don't try to fool a wizard with an innocent look! What a waste of time! Ahem. Eagerly interested, all?

Hmmph. Know ye, then, that I'm not going to subject ye to long lists of dead folk, or tongue-by-tongue political battles from the founding of Khôltar to yestereve. What I am going to do is briefly tell ye the highlights that have made Iron City folk what they are, so ye can better understand their character and probable reactions.

Khôltar began circa 316 DR as a camp-moot for humans and halflings who came north from the Great Coast to trade with the dwarves. The Stout Folk wanted their visitors confined so as to cut down on thievery, lawlessness, open sword-strife, dangerous diggings without permission that were occurring nigh everywhere, and idiots falling into the Great Rift at all hours, wagons and all, and bringing ruin down on the heads of dwarves below.

The dwarves began by erecting a rubble wall -- more of a rampart, really -- in a great ring and instructing visitors to camp within it. Those who refused were attacked by night and chased away, and those who complied received first pick of the choice trade-goods. The visiting traders learned swiftly -- particularly after the dwarves built large, sturdy warehouses and installed both guard-towers and guards.

At first they drove out anyone who tried to stay in the compound year-round, but as Shaaryan attacks on the camp grew persistent, the dwarves saw that it was drawing some of the traditional nomad raids away from Eartheart.

Amberu Khôltar was the young, adventure-loving Rift dwarf who offered to garrison the camp and take its increasing expenses in hand -- in return for a small measure of independence from the Deep Realm. When this was agreed to in 341 DR, Khôltar promptly offered human costers and mercenary bands permanent bases within the walls of Durthkhôltar (literally, Fort Khôltar) and set about recruiting his own "axemasters" among his fellow young, restless Rift dwarves. Humans (both traders and folk of Shaareach tired of Shaaryan raids) respected the firm, even-handed rule of "Lord Blackbeard" (Khôltar had a glossy black beard as wide as his shoulders that descended to ankle level) and came to the nascent city to settle in droves.

Now known as simply "Khôltar," the city outgrew its walls thrice in a decade, expanding so rapidly that the dwarves of the Rift grew alarmed. When their traders brought back word that the Blackbeard was running short of funds, they moved swiftly (in 366 DR) to meet with him in private. The result was an endowment that allowed Amberu Khôltar to build the great walls he'd dreamed of raising and to give his friend Dunsel free reign to build his dream: the good stone road linking Eartheart and Khôltar. It still bears his name today, and although it became derisively known as "Dunsel's Dream" to some Kholtans, the builder pushed on, continuing the stone, gravel, and hard mud caravan road from the other side of Khôltar to meet the Golden Road at the now swelling trade center of Shaarmid (which was then only a paddock he built at the waymoot).

This influx of funds and building made Khôltar great. The price was its independence: Khôltar himself became Shieldlord of his city. He was allowed to hold the title for as long as he desired it -- but it was understood that his successors would be governors sent by the Deep Realm to rule under their direction. The humans grumbled a bit about this, but the continuing stream of dwarven gold and disciplined dwarf guards (who for the first time set themselves up as garthraun and malgart, and began handing written laws to Lord Blackbeard for him to decree into open force) soon silenced it -- the swindlers and bullies departed, and the humans interested in wealth and peace stayed and prospered.

In 368 DR, a human crafter and Kholtan citizen named Ulbrask Hael came up with a heavy wagon design of strength and durability that could be made (and repaired) swiftly. Produced in great numbers, his wagons overnight made the Iron City a permanent trade center rather than a tent city with elaborate defenses.

Many swiftly made their fortunes, and crafters threw aside their tents and shacks and built stout stone houses and workshops. Crowding within the walls became a problem for the first time -- and Shaaryan raiders slaughtered and burned those who built outside the walls. Most crafters preferred to cower inside the walls and leave fighting to the dwarves, who in turn preferred to stand and defend rather than charge forth to chase elusive nomads -- but one human smith, a giant of a man named Handrorn, made himself armor and confronted Lord Blackbeard, demanding the right to lead Kholtans to war. More to calm the smith's fury (and the mutterings of Handrorn's most angry human supporters) than out of any real enthusiasm, Khôltar gave him coin and approval. Handrorn, the Iron Blade, burst forth to scour Shaareach and the land south of the Iron City, slaying nomads with such fury that they came no more to the western side of the Rift but confined their raids to the village of Shaarmid and lands north of it.

But I've talked enough and more than enough for one history lesson, so let's save the rest of it until next time, shall we? Thy eyes look heavy, and the lass who now plays Lhaeo to me has brought some tea that has interesting-looking things swimming in it . . . hmmm . . .

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