THE CIRCLE OF LIGHT
As one approaches the mountains, the gates of the Kingdom of Throal are a welcome sight, perhaps because they relieve some of the breathtaking grandeur of the setting. These proofs of Namegiver habitation are reminders that the huge mountains can be tamed after all. The entrance to Throal lies through three massive arches carved into the mountains, their edges plated with gold. Because the mountains are so enormous, it is only from directly under the arches that one can truly appreciate the vastness of the gates. They tower overhead; people who look directly up at their golden curves often suffer the momentary sensation of falling over backward.
The three arches open into a vaulted chamber hundreds of feet high, which serves as the official entrance to the kingdom. Here is the place known as the Bazaar, where merchants who obtain licenses from the Kingdom of Throal can set up their booths. Throalic guards patrol the Bazaar, watching for questionable business practices and keeping a sharp eye out for thieves.
On the Halls of Throal
From the Bazaar, nine huge hallways lead into the heart of the mountains. All along their length, these hallways branch off into smaller corridors, leading into a maze that winds its way through the mountain range. Its myriad corridors and passageways extend a distance of many days’ walk, branching off to other, seemingly endless corridors. Massive chambers and caverns filled with Throal’s huge inner cities lie along these passages, as do all of the kingdom’s important areas.
The winding halls of Throal and the living and working spaces which they connect represent unique dwarf construction styles. The countless wide tunnels reach some twelve feet high and wind through the mountains for a distance of many days’ travel. These passages make up the old sections of the kingdom. Most citizens of Throal live here, preferring to dwell in the underground chambers where they feel most comfortable. Light quartz crystals line the walls of these corridors, illuminating their shadowy depths.
The old part of Throal, which served as the kingdom’s kaer during the Scourge, is divided between residences and chambers used for trade, work, and research. Countless homes line the residential corridors, many-roomed dwellings that lie behind thick, wooden doors. In the trade and work spaces, the people of Throal conduct business, the making of goods, and scholarly research. These areas serve as workshops for craftspeople, provide meeting places for those who deal in importing and exporting goods, and contain the Great Library.
Long stairways carved from the mountain lead from certain tunnels, providing access between the different levels of Throal. The landings of some of the longer stairways feature small parks where people can rest, for the walk between levels can sometimes take an hour or more. In some of the parks are fountains of magical water especially enchanted to refresh those who partake of it. Unfortunately, the water loses its healing property when carried out of the city.
On the Great Library
Within the kingdom lies the Great Library of Throal, the most complete and inclusive library in the province. Its stone walls house the collective literary, artistic, and scholarly works of the people of Barsaive. Given the great numbers who dwell in Throal and the dwarf kingdom’s extensive history, this priceless collection has grown over the centuries to a size almost beyond comprehension. In addition to gathering scholarly and literary works, the librarians are constantly adding to the record of Barsaive’s history, from the province’s beginnings to the present day.
Among the many ways the librarians accomplish this goal is by hiring adventurers to seek the truth behind certain legends and rumors and to verify events reported from every region of Barsaive. Rather than relying on memory alone, the librarians require these adventurers to keep journals of their travels, recording each day the perils and wonders they have faced. In addition, the library purchases the journals of adventurers who have explored all areas of the province.
The library makes a formal acquisition of journals once a year, during the months of Sollus and Riag. Thousands of adventurers descend on Throal at this time, all hoping to sell their stories and become a part of Barsaive’s history. Some adventurers earn enough from the library to continue their journey or to return home; however, no adventurer or group can expect to earn a fortune in this way.
The Master of the Hall of Records, currently my colleague Merrox, administers the library. At any time, roughly two dozen librarians and scholars assist the Master, each taking charge of a general area of study: topography, city lore, history (this subject requires five librarians), and so on. The library also catalogues maps of the entire province as well as of the smaller regions within it.
All of the manuscripts and papers stored in the library are exhaustively indexed and coded so that visiting scholars and travelers can easily find what they are looking for. Visitors may use the library for a fee of twenty silver pieces a day, which includes assistance from the librarians, scribes, and research scholars.
The Chambers of the Inner Kingdom
Certain tunnels lead to the chambers wherein the King and his court conduct the day-to-day business of Throal and Barsaive. These rooms include the king’s audience chamber and banquet hall, where formal functions and ceremonies take place; the private chambers of the king, his family, and his court; and the vaults of the kingdom, which contain Throal’s treasure and valuable, magical artifacts.
Because it houses what we of Throal hold most dear, this Inner Kingdom remains under heavy guard at all times. Without exception, those venturing into this area without an authorized escort are detained.
On the Mines
The endless tunnels of Throal also provide access to Throal’s most important natural resources: the magical and mundane minerals drawn from the mining tunnels and shafts that wind through the deepest heart of the Throal Mountains. Though many of Throal’s dwarfs immerse themselves in the theory and practice of governing a kingdom, the vast majority prefer to delve into the earth and uncover its treasures.
Such work carries risks; cave-ins may occur at any time, as may attack by creatures that roam the tunnels. Some of these are mundane animals that have crept into the tunnels from the surface of the Throal Mountains. Other, more dangerous creatures emerge from the elemental plane of earth and attack the miners to prevent them from gathering elemental earth.
Several different mining companies work within Throal, constantly searching for new, rich sources of raw material and more efficient means to mine it. The level of competition for the market and the companies’ unsurpassed ability to work the mines effectively puts the prices of minerals and elemental earth in constant flux.
On the Caverns and Cities
More recent additions to Throal include the massive cities built in huge caverns throughout the Throal Mountains. City architecture differs considerably from the building style of the old kaer, reflecting the present-day variety among Throal’s citizens. When King Varulus III invited people of all races from across Barsaive to take up residence in the Kingdom of Throal, the officials in charge of housing the anticipated influx of people decided that the newcomers would adjust to their homes more quickly if their new residences resembled the homes they had left. Accordingly, Throalic engineers set about building roads, towers, and storied residences on the wide floors of the vast caverns. As was common in the kaers, these areas are illuminated by a magical, glowing moss that lines the roof of the caverns, supplemented by light-quartz crystals around the outer walls of each city.
The cities the dwarfs built inside the caverns, though generally smaller than cities in the rest of Barsaive, are no less splendid in design. Each houses approximately 25,000 people of many different races. Each city is ruled by a baron or baroness, also of a variety of races, who has sworn loyalty to King Neden. The city’s noble families hold their titles for the life of the current baron or baroness. Upon the death of a city’s ruler, the king may allow an heir to assume the place of his or her father or mother, or he may place a new ruler in charge of the city. In general, the king considers the current ruling family’s popularity among the citizens when making this decision. If the people find their current rulers satisfactory, that family continues to rule. If the people feel otherwise, the king gives the stewardship of the city to a new noble family.
At this writing, the dwarfs have completed seven subterranean cities: Bethabal, Hustane, Valvria, Wishon, Tirtarga, Oshane, and Yistane. These cities are filled with a mix of races who chose to become citizens of Throal. Bethabal is famed for the garden that seems to float near the roof of that city’s giant cave, planted on an observation platform built during the city’s construction.
Six stone walkways now lead to the garden from various parts of the cavern, each affording a spectacular view of Bethabal. Two more cities, Raithabal and Thurdane, are in the final stages of construction. No residents have yet settled there, and only a few dwarfs still work in the quiet cities. Walking through their streets is an eerie experience, almost like exploring an empty kaer or citadel.
On the King and the Noble Houses
Several families have ruled Throal during its 1,500-year history. The current ruler, King Neden, is the last heir of House Avalus. House A valus has been dwindling since the early days of the Scourge, and following the assassination of King Varulus III. The kingdom is a heartbeat away from a dynastic change, and in Throal such changes are rarely peaceful.
Throal has a total of twenty-eight noble houses, each privileged to select a courtier to attend the king. Three of these houses may send two courtiers each. Countless minor free trading houses also exist in the dwarf kingdom, but only six of them have real economic clout. Unlike noble houses, free traders do not customarily use “House” as part of their business name. Though most houses belong to a given political faction, not all houses are equally dedicated to that faction’s goals. The two largest factions are the conservative old guard and the loyalist reformers. Whether old guard or reformist, the noble houses are all run by extended families.
House Chaozun is run by a group of old guard spinsters known as the Five Sisters. The house specializes in the sale of weapons and armor, and Throal’s military is one of its chief customers. House G arsun is the largest and richest of the noble houses, and many communities in Barsaive still associate the Name Garsun with stability and honesty; they remembered the name of the trading house through all the years of the Scourge. House leader Lomron is a popular figurehead of the old guard faction.
The remarkably successful House Ludi is run by a family dedicated to the Passion Chorrolis. This old guard house is notorious for tricky contracts and other practices that just fall short of fraud. “Trust is the foundation” is the motto of House Mikul, a prosperous family that has always believed in the long view and prides itself on their honest and above-board approach to business. A prime example of a trading house that withered during the Scourge is House Pa’vas, which spent their fortunes during the long night and recently sold its noble heritage and allowed a greedy trader to become house leader.
House Ueraven is the nemesis to the royal family and built its business empire on a trade monopoly with Iopos. However, the revelation that the Denairastas were responsible for the assassination of King Varulus III dealt a serious blow to House Ueraven’s reputation. The loyal reformist House Byril’ah maintains close ties to the king and specializes in the sale of luxury items such as sculptures, paintings, and jewelry. This house produced more than its share of philosophers, diplomats and politicians.
House Elcomi does little business outside of Throal nowadays. The reformist house remains a major force in Throal and is a prominent financier of ventures by many other reformist and old guard houses. The rapidly expanding House Neumani is actively involved in building new trade routes and relies heavily on adepts and adventurers these days. Close friends of the royal family, the flashing swords of House Neumani are swift defenders of King Neden.
A quiet but staunch supporter of the king, House Sarafica’s true motivation remains a mystery. House leader Zendes is remarkably young and has shown a talent for spotting and exploiting weaknesses in the competition.
The family of House Yilwaz decided to use its trading operations against the Therans, promoting anti-slavery agitators. Needless to say, House Yilwaz is more strident in its opposition to the Therans than the king himself.