Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Growth of Dwarven Folkhalls

The greatest dwarven cities are not the ringtowns with their rod-diameter walls or the staunch green dwarf clan-holds that stand like frowning stony crags upon hilltops and loom over rivers. They are the mighty Folkhalls, the bastions of iron dwarven culture since the first Sons of Stone awoke beneath the earth. These halls serve as the great political players in dwarven life, some holding hundreds of clans. Allegiance amongst dwarves ascends from below; family comes first, then clan, and then folkhall, and only lastly the great dwarven kingdom as a whole.

The folkhalls follow a fairly predictable growth pattern that we can look at as an exemplar for how dwarven settlement, law, and architecture functions. First, let us examine a folkhall in its complete state: Partially above-ground and partially below, the folkhall controls a wide hinterland outside its walls. When approaching one from a distance, for several rods in each direction a traveler is likely to find tame woodlands, farms, and other "outhall" plots of land, maintained by the "outhall" clans. These garner the least respect amongst their kin for they do not live within the safety of the wall and their crafts, while necessary, are neither honed nor beautiful.

Approaching closer to the folkhall, one will see a rough mountainside that has been brought to heel by dwarven craft. Stone manors, workshops, smelters, inns, and temples all stand along cliffs, steps, or steep inclines carved into the rock. This vast collection of buildings is always surrounded by a semi-circular wall that emerges from and joins back to the mountain's shoulders, protecting the hall from invasion. The outer portion of the city is often inhabited by the crafting clans who make weapons, armor, and sought-after trade goods. The wealthy craftsmen all dwell beneath the rock.

Towering over this city is the hall-gate, cut into the mountainside. Huge beyond imagining (and, by dwarven craft, easy to open or shut in peace time) it is guarded by the Gaethaff and her militias. Beyond it lie the public halls of the mountain, which form a central hub for all the undermountain delvings. These halls include taverns, clan-shops (run by clan-brokers, the face of the wealthy clan to the outer world), clan workshops (which only clansdwarves may enter), and the Great Temple which sits at the center of the public halls like a wheel and its spokes.

Private clan-halls branch off from these central delvings in all directions. Goldsmiths, silversmiths, jewelers, architects, and even (in some cases) whole priestly clans. Noble clans as well can be found here, with their various workshops not in the public spaces but hidden away in the clanhalls, which only clansdwarves may enter. The Hall-Prince's palace, a separate and public set of delvings, generally branches from the Great Temple's delving directly.

But how are these things arranged? How are new delvings made? Firstly, each folkhall has a temple dedicated to Grafar, the Architect, where all plans and designs for diggings are kept. Land outside the mountain is limited, for the wall dictates just where buildings may be built. This land is divided into parcels or plots which cannot be broken up except with consent of the Hall-Prince and the clan who owns it. All ownership is determined by clan, and clan treasuries are used to buy up or dispose of plots.

Within the mountain, things are a bit trickier. A clan who wishes to expand their halls and delvings must submit a request to the Hall-Prince. The Prince will then ensure that several things are true:


  • The Architect's priests have determined that the delving will not endanger the structural integrity of the hall.
  • The clan's proposed delving will not damage the monopoly of any other clan (jewelcrafters opening a gold mine, for example).
  • The delving will not open new gateways into the hall or otherwise strike into dangerous caverns where foes may dwell.
  • The clan has the resources required to undertake the delving on their own—clan masons and architects—or has the money to hire these from other clans.
Still, it is traditional that only one proposal for delvings may ever be submitted by a clan in a year, and that the Prince will only entertain the possibility of making one delving each month before deciding. This is precisely why the months of each season in dwarvish are named merely "First," "Second," and "Third Delving."

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