Elminster Speaks

(Part #64) : Khôltar, Part 15

A Brief History of Khôltar, Part 2

Well, now, here we sit together again, and I've no doubt ye're ready for the rest of the Iron City's history. Now, when we left off last time, Handrorn was destroying nomads right and left, Hael was rolling wagons out of his shop slower than clamoring folk could buy them, taller buildings were going up all over the Iron City, Blackbeard and the dwarves of the Rift were grumbling into their beards for different reasons, and crafters were supreme in a human city of Faerûn for the first time and bathing in more gold coins than they'd dreamed possible.

All of which brings us to the first inevitable calamity. A certain haughty gold dwarf of the Rift, one Inbrurr Harlenstar, saw no reason why humans should be enriched by (as he saw it) dwarven endeavors and goods, and demanded that the dwarves take over Khôltar, drive the humans out, and reap all the gold. The fact that this would have driven trade and therefore prosperity away overnight seems not to have occurred to him, but others of the Deep Realm saw it clearly enough, and refused to support his snarlings. Inbrurr brooded for a year or so, and then in 374 DR hit upon a dark scheme: If he could slay Shieldlord Khôltar but make it seem as if a human did the deed, this would rouse the dwarves of Eartheart against "the ambitious murderers on their doorstep" -- and if he spread some dark rumors about whoever was sent from the Rift to be the new Shieldlord and stir up anger among the humans so that they defied the dwarves, this would turn opinion in the Rift against the humans, and . . . aye, it all fit.

Inbrurr chose poisoned weapons to be Blackbeard's undoing and hired some rogues (through layers of others, so that no one involved in the actual slaying would be quite sure who was really behind it all). He forgot two things: that the rogues might have ambitions of their own that include outliving the slaying (so that they might suspect their own demises had also been arranged and take steps), and that some humans dabbled in magic. Blackbeard was slain, but his killers overcame the hired slayers who were meant to end their lives, keeping two as helplessly-trussed captives, and the garthraun turned to human wizards visiting the city and hired them to use magic to get to the bottom of things.

The scheme was slowly traced to its heart, and Inbrurr was exiled from the Deep Realm. (He'd fled into the wild Underdark a few running strides ahead of justice anyway, to become a recurring rumor, down the centuries, of dark plots against the Iron City.) The new Shieldlord, a dwarf named Onskrar Hammershield, found himself facing much anger from the citizenry. He promptly established a council of citizens to hear complaints, draft laws, and make suggestions regarding the governance of the city. It was his intent to have this body consist of twelve old and wise human crafters, four dwarves, two gnomes, and a halfling, plus eight seasonal members appointed by him, and that no one have a permanent membership. If these humans were all swift tempers and change change change, let it be so, with their own elders as the only lodestones to hold them back.

Of course, by the time (424 DR) Hammershield died in the collapse of a faultily-built human tower he was inspecting (a true misfortune, not any attempt at slaying him) and his jovial, fun-loving successor Gonth "Merrybelt" Forgegold had devoted his stewardship to befriending (and drinking with) every Kholtan in sight, the council had sorted itself out through its own dirty dark-night means. The temporary memberships had become a hereditary dozen (later sixteen, and then twenty, as the Onsruur grew), the nonhuman members were gone, and the seasonal appointees had been reduced to secretaries and envoys.

The Decrees of Onsruur, a councilor of the time, were set forth almost silently in 512 DR, formalizing what had already become fact. Forgegold cared not; he was busy getting to know as many Kholtans personally as he could, giving them all little gifts and aid, and becoming deeply loved by all in the process. He regarded them all as his to look after, and he made sure that Iron City folk lacked for nothing. Luckily, the "hard work" ethic of Kholtans was so well established by then that only the wealthy families of the council fell into the decadence of believing they deserved everything Forgegold could give.

Something befell Forgegold in 577 DR that abruptly made him resign his stewardship and go adventuring with a small group of oldtime friends from the Rift, from which none of them ever returned. In that same year, Angloam Dubrin became Shieldlord. He was to be the last dwarf to hold sway in Khôltar.

I suppose I should call for a doom-chord of heralds' trumpets at this point to foreshadow the bloody foolishness to come -- but nay, I'll leave that fun for next time, when we wrap up this potted history of mine and when I say a bit more about the villainous Onsruur of today. See thee all then.

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