Elminster Speaks

(Part #65) : Khôltar, Part 16

A Brief History of Khôltar, Part 3

So let me take ye back to the Iron City of 577 DR again . . . comfortable? Good. Hearken, then:

From the moment of Shieldlord Dubrin's arrival, when he began building a new and large set of walls (the inner walls of today, with the gates I've shown ye and the great triangle of streets joining them), he was the target of covert Onsruur plots and schemes to bring him down. Their aim was to whittle away at the real, daily power of the Shieldlord, and then discredit him in some scandal or other so he could be overthrown -- and any successors repudiated by the city as a whole.

For his part, Dubrin ("DOO-brin," by the way) soon saw very well what they were up to and reported to his superiors in the Rift, leaving the decision with them as to whether he should outlaw the families and imprison them (which would cause great human unrest), or withdraw from the ever-increasing headaches of governing Khôltar, secure in the knowledge that the dwarves could control its prosperity and ultimately its survival. (Its tall towers readily could be made to collapse by undermining them from below if it ever became necessary to shatter the power of the Iron City once and for all.)

The dwarves debated for almost forty years. As Dubrin grimly survived one "accident" and open assassination attempt after another, Khôltar grew ever more prosperous, and an orc horde arrived and was hurled back (amid two massive Shaaryan raids and countless smaller ones). The outer wall was the result of the orc-strife, and it was still half-complete when the dwarves decided to withdraw.

Dubrin got his own measure of revenge by slowly and without announcement bringing in a dwarf army. After the Onsruur had stewed in the juices of their own fear for almost a tenday of this whelming, on a particular evening in 619 DR Dubrin used the troops to hand-deliver to every citizen a surprise proclamation of his departure from office and Khôltar's new freedom. Then he and they simply disappeared that same night, departing the city by cellar tunnels and other still secret passages. Dubrin knew full well the bloodbath would soon begin.

He was not disappointed. In the days that followed, first one Onsruur family and then another proclaimed themselves rulers of the city, and their hired bodyguards grew rapidly in numbers, clashing more and more openly in the streets. The city devolved into lawlessness and utter terror ere a senior human garthraun, Embran Orntathtar, grew tired enough of the knifings and street-battles that were taking over the city. He wielded all of the garthraun like an army against their fellow citizens -- or rather, against the bodyguards hired by some of their citizens -- for the first time. He proclaimed himself Belarkh (ruling lord) of the city in late 619, arrested and slew the worst Onsruur hotheads, and made the rest his governing council, bluntly telling them to behave or die.

Of course, as is the way of things, the Onsruur who survived the first few attempts to murder Orntathtar decided that even if this first Belarkh was going to defy and rule them, his successor would become their puppet in the years ahead -- somehow and by whatever means became necessary. They succeeded, too, although I believe it took them four Belarkhs to achieve complete control (with Hulik Strathtar, who ascended into High Khôltar in 687 DR). Open election of the Belarkh came somewhat later, but as only Onsruur can name candidates, suffice it to say that no one has been ruling lord of the city whom the Onsruur did not choose, train, and have an iron hold over.

I won't weary ye with the subtler machinations of power-shifts among the Onsruur and on the part of the Deep Realm dwarves since, but suffice it to say that nothing essential has changed in Kholtan politics from Strathtar's days to now. So let me list the present Onsruur families as briefly as I can (know thine enemies).

Blaskarn: Blaskarns are large, burly, and strong in bloodline; hedonists; martial; slavers and coster owners; sponsors of Kholtan building firms; coarse and crass; and almost as powerful among the Onsruur as they believe themselves to be.

Carthclarr: Carthclarrs are sharp-featured and handsome in bloodline; snide and superior; learned and dabble in magic; extensive investors in Shining Sea coastal cities; and skillful manipulators, long-term intriguers, and poisoners.

Daunphar: Daunphars are nondescript in bloodline; horsebreeders and livestock ranchers; on fairly good terms with some unscrupulous Rift dwarves; as aloof as possible from fellow Onsruur and Kholtan politics.

Emelduur: Emelduurs are short, handsome, and lithe in bloodline; talkative and restless schemers by upbringing; tireless intriguers and "sharp" traders who make much coins by swift investments and manipulations; and riders of "the moment."

Horthander: Horthanders are tall and elegantly handsome in bloodline; owners and breeders racehorses; extensive landholders in Shaareach and Lapaliiya; owners of Horthander casting foundry and dozens of small repair and installation concerns; and longtime rivals of the Khaundroves.

Mystra, but I sicken of these folk just listing them. I've tasted more than enough for now; I'll list the rest of these delightful ruling Iron City families next time.

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