"Past valleys filled with endless pines,
Into the mountains, stark and cold,
Awaits a place with ale aplenty,
Filled with folk both brave and bold.
Bring your gold and bring your silver
Mattocks echo, hammers fall;
The work of Zaramunz never ceases,
The list is long, the order tall.
Work for all who wish to claim it,
Pipesmoke billows as forge-fires roar
Come, come, find your place at the table.
Within the dwarven halls of yore."
-Traditional Dwarven poem translated into the common tongue
The Iron Realm encompasses the southern portion of the mountain range cutting off Northwestern Eremar from the rest of the continent. It stretches to the south-westernmost point of the range to about 120 miles northeast of the Realm’s center. This amounts about approx. 17000 sq. miles though not all of this area is directly controlled. At the heart of the realm lies, Zaramunz the capital and largest of the cities (or clan holds). To the south lies the Valkin river. This functions as a primary trade route out of the mountains. Unlike their cousins to the west, the Iron Realms have no direct routes (that they retain access to) into the Underdark.
The climate of this area is temperate in the south and is quite cold in the north. Given the altitude of many of the peaks, some areas are blanketed in snow year round. There are many paths leading through the mountains, but without a knowledgeable guide it would be quite easy to become lost, or worse. The southern areas are less mountainous and the foothills and valleys are dominated by pine forests and glacial lakes. The more northern areas give way to mountains and more barren valleys.
Tribes of barbarians, goblins, and other humanoids have been known to live within these lands. Generally the dwarves attempt to remove them wherever possible, though they have been known to have dealings with the barbarian tribes from time to time. Further north lie the kingdoms of the giants (mainly hill, stone, and frost giants). It is also rumored that colonies of Oread live to the north though none have ever been able to confirm this.
Karkoran: See below for greater detail.
Lhaz Mogg: Translated the name means sea gate and it is an aptly named city. It lies at the south-westernmost point of the empire and is directly connected to the sea by manmade (or rather dwarf-made) rivers. Despite its prominent position on the coast it is not the main trade route into and out of the dwarven empire for most goods. The roads leading to and from the other dwarf holds are dangerous and only available during the warmer months. That said it does function as a trade hub for exotic goods that can only be gotten from very far away.
The dwarves that live here are considered odd by many because of their open embrace of the sea. Sometimes called salt-beards by their kin. They primarily subsist off fish and the other bounties of the sea. They are also considered odd because they value pearls and coral over many gemstones and metals of the earth. They do not maintain a strong navy though their coast is well guarded by the infamous “Burning Balistae”. Ships of an unlawful persuasion generally steer clear of Lhaz Mogg.
It has a population of about 55,000 people (about 85% dwarves). The current ruler is Thane Thaldur Heimdur who’s great-grandfather was given his status as thane when he slew the sea drake Baphemox (who’s skull is said to adorn the thane’s hall to this day).
Gold Gate: The city has several dwarven names, but due to its rather metropolitan nature it is more commonly referred to as Gold Gate. This is the trade hub of the empire. It lies directly on the river that leads out of the mountains and which is the main route into and out of the mountains. The city is extraordinarily large and built above ground in a valley. Many of the older dwarven homes are built into the various mountain sides while the other races live above ground.
Though the entire empire is known for being relatively welcoming to outsiders, this city is one of the only ones with a large non-dwarf population. Goods of all sorts can be found within the city and roads lead out from a variety of gates toward other sections of the empire. Though the city has never been attacked by an outside force it is well guarded by not only the city guard, but contingents of Bright Axes (though of late there have been fewer of them within the city).
It has a population of about 120,000 people (about 60% dwarves). The current ruler is Thane Hilfnir Brassbuckle. A stern and taciturn dwarf, he often functions as the face of the empire to trade guilds and non-dignitaries. Some say that his wealth rivals that of the royal family Zaramunz, but this is only a rumor.
The Iron Realm is a monarchy. Its current ruler is King Lodrek Zaramunz, son of Balgor Zaramunz. He rules over the main clan hold of Karkoran (meaning “First City”. Other clan holds are traditionally ruled by appointed Thanes who pass such positions along to their own sons. These Thanes are not necessarily of relation to the royal family, but instead earned their position through deed (or possibly coin). Law is rigidly defined, and it is generally expected that all who come within the lands of the dwarves should know the laws. If not, ignorance will buy no pity. The laws in these northern lands are just, though the fines are in many cases quite excessive.
The Blacksmith’s Guild and Mining Guild both hold great political sway with the King. This has allowed them to maintain a tight control on who can mine where, and what can be done with the metal. To a lesser extent the College of Engineers holds some sway, but this is likely only because of the current guild master’s relation to the royal family.
The dwarves of the Iron Realm are a pragmatic lot and prone to mercantilism. As far as they are concern anything can be bought, and it is common to hear the phrase, “Da Ignak Lu’dar Kranus” which translates roughly to “everything has a price”. Subtlety is largely a foreign concept in the Iron Realm. Contracts are spelled out in full, sales plain, and even the most mundane of agreements come with a certain fanfare. Loyalty and trustworthiness are great virtues, though cleverness is also highly respected provided it is used for the right purpose and is not without reason.
Industriousness is another sacred virtue in these lands. Common laborers are not looked down upon (i.e. miners), instead every member of society is valued for the work that they do. Lazy workers--no matter what their profession--are not well liked. City guard and others who work to protect and uphold the laws are revered.
Magic is not as commonplace as it might be elsewhere. Few arcane casters of any sort are found here (sorcerers or others of an earthly bent would be more common), though this is not due to any aversion. There simply is little history of arcane tradition here. Priests are more commonplace, and the most venerable of these are seen as pillars of the society.
Most races are accepted, though somewhat looked down upon (albeit not physically). Non-dwarves are generally seen as frail, lazy, and inept though with enough coin that attitude easily changes. Goblins are the key exceptions to this; they are outright banned from entering any of the clan holds. In any case those who show themselves to be useful are held in respect, but this usually does not change the opinion of the group(s) to which they belong.
The Iron Realm is a very old nation (founded sometime around 1500 BRW), though it has born other names and been ruled by other families. In the distant past the dwarves settled the city of Karkoran and lived prosperously for some time. Some say that the dwarves were fleeing from some unknown foe, but those who says so are quickly dismissed. At first the dwarves seemed content with their southern holds, but as their knowledge of the land grew, so too did their desire to see and work the riches of other nearby lands.
In the coming years, their kingdom expanded outward northward further into the mountains until they had encompassed fully half of the range. The more southern mountains hold many veins of iron and other workable metals, but in their greed the dwarves pushed north for they had rumors of rare metals of which they knew nothing. Many of the ancient weapons of the dwarves were crafted of this stuff, but many and more were also lost in the later darker years. In this time they also grew mighty in rune-lore and the crafting of magics as well as in the building and working of stone and metal. The lore of these forefather dwarves is carefully guarded and would certainly be worth a kings ransom if it were to be found. This was known as the golden time for many of the northern mines were quite prosperous. Unfortunately all good things end.
In order to secure those northern regions the dwarves had pushed the goblins of the mountain range even further north. The dwarves cared little, reasoning that the goblins knew nothing of mining and were simply squatters on some of the world’s richest nodes. The goblins saw it differently of course. Fully two-hundred years after the goblins were pushed north (about 800 BRW), they rallied under a great war leader (perhaps the greatest their kind has ever seen) known as Buz-crack the Beardpuller and pushed southward into the Dwarven lands. They came with armies both grand and impressive. Their weapons were crafted with brutal purpose and they bore no armor, but instead were garbed so as to mask their approach.
The dwarves had not taken proper precautions to this threat, having seen the goblins as simple savages. They were wrong. The goblins had a single minded fury in their hearts and they had nursed it long. Before they could react the dwarves had lost several of their northern holds to the hordes of greenskins. The dwarves sent their armies northward to defeat the goblin scum. To their surprise it was not just goblins that awaited them, but giants as well. The dwarven armies were scattered. As they fled, chased by the horde of giants and goblins, a miracle happened. A great thunderclap was heard and a full half of a mountain peak fell into the midst of the oncoming army. At this the dwarves rallied and charged what was left of the opposing army. The fighting was bloody, but the Dwarves emerged victorious. This event became known as the Battle of Broken Peak. Since that day no holds have been built north of Broken Peak. The site itself is a holy place to the dwarves of the Iron Realm and most dwarves pilgrimage there when they reach the age of 100.
That momentous day was nearly four hundred years ago. In recent days there has been talk among some of the younger dwarves of pushing north into the mountains once again to reclaim the lost clan holds of old. Little credence was given to such talk until King Lodrek took the throne (after the death of his father). One of the first edicts given by King Lodrek was to organize expeditionary forces into the northern mountains to scout the ancient clan holds. Many of the scouts who have left have died, but those who return tell of wondrous treasure and great danger in those northern peaks, for dwarves brave enough to dare them.
Rumors abound that the kingdom is girding itself for war, but if this is the case reliable word has yet to leave the kingdom of it. Who or what they could be going to war with is anyone's guess.
As its name suggests, the Iron Realm is most known for its exports of iron and metalwork. In the mountains can also be found other metals as well as the occasional gem; these dwarves are not so blessed in resources as their cousins to the west. In addition to raw ore, many objects of worked steel are exported by the kingdom. The forges of Karkoran are the envy of smiths in the West, though many of the techniques used there are kept secret.
The Dwarves are also renowned for their mercenaries. Dwarven mercenaries can be hired from one man to a whole regiment if the buyer has the right coin, though the dwarves have strict terms about who or what they will fight for (they don’t want to anger any potential future clients). Well-equipped and well trained these mercenaries are often called “Bright Axes”. Though the name implies otherwise, they wield many different sorts of weapons. In recent years, these warriors have been seen less frequently. This is due in part to two things: First, many of them have been hired to accompany the scouts travelling into the northern parts of the range. Second, the master of the Bright Axes has become increasingly worried about souring trade with the other nations of Western Eremar, and has been very discerning in his choice of clients.
Due to the nature of the land they live in, they primarily import grains and other staples in order to make their brews and breads. Livestock are sometimes imported, but generally are maintained within the mountains by the surly dwarves. Given their reliance on others for their food they try their best to remain on good terms with their neighbors.
The Dwarves of the Iron Realm aren’t on particularly good terms with anyone though most nations are content to trade with them. Of their neighbors the only group that outright refuses to trade with them are the elves of the Verdant Realm. The elves find the Dwarves acceptance and trade with Tog Nar distasteful and have issued an embargo on Zaramunz trade goods. These tensions with the elves have even led to a few skirmishes with dwarven caravans passing through elven lands. The elves have refused to acknowledge their part in these attacks, and the dwarves for the most part have endured it with stony resolve. The way they see it: When the elves need good steel they’ll come to their senses.
As far as their cousins to the east are concerned the Iron Realm rarely deals with them. What little dealings they have had have led them to call the Central Range dwarves arrogant, entitled, and overly blinded by their anger toward the orcs (a hypocritical stance, given the Iron Realms hatred of goblins). In turn the Central Range dwarves decry their western cousins as greedy, flighty, and all-in-all too willing to forget the evils of the orcs.
Recently there have been rumors of the giants of the northlands uniting into more unified tribes and kingdoms. For the most part the giants have always stayed in their own lands, but some fear they may make an attempt to move south or take some other action against the Iron Realm. Given that many giant tribes are also allied with the nation of Tog’Nar this would put the dwarves in a very difficult situation. Attempts have been made to ascertain the truth of these rumors, but as of yet they have been met with failure.
Karkoran - Capital of the Iron Realm
Karkoran is the capital city of the Iron Realm of Zaramunz. It is located very near to the center of the realm and built upon a mountain. A significant portion of the city is built underground inside of the mountain (and partly above the mountain) while the remainder is built around the base. The city is not a hub of trade and largely remains the capital due to dwarven stubbornness. The population is primarily made up of dwarves, though other races can be found.
-The city covers an area of roughly 1 mile out from the mountain on its south side (forming a half circle) and burrows about one mile into the mountain.
-Races making up at least .5% of population: Dwarf, Human.
The city is divided up into two sections: The inner and outer city. The inner city is what is built underground, while the outer city is what is built around the mountain. The inner city is accessed by a fortified gate (smaller secret entrances may exist), while the outer city is accessed by the southern gate. The entire outer city is surrounded by a fortified twenty foot high wall with a twenty foot trench surrounding it.
Outer City: The outer city is made up of four districts: Worker’s, Forge, Trade, and God’s Quarters. Despite the name these sections are not equally sized.
Worker’s Quarter: Most of the cities miners and poorer citizens live here. Despite the low economic status of its citizens it is clean and crime is quite low. This is the westernmost section.
Forge Quarter: This is where many of the cities foundries are located and it is the easternmost quarter. Many metalworkers can be found here long into the night hammering away and as such the district is sometimes called the “Bell Quarter”. Despite the name of this section of the city most of the premier forges are located within the mountain. The Blacksmith’s guild keeps its office here despite the fact that its more prominent members reside in the city.
Trade Quarter: The trade quarter is sometimes very confusing to outsiders as it is not all in one place. Half is located to the east of God’s quarter and the other half to the west. If one wanted to buy something this is where it would be done. Due to the cold climate of the area, there are few street vendors.
God’s Quarter: This section of the city is the first quarter one will find when entering the city. There are a few temples here, primarily to dwarven gods. The quarter is said to have been named by so-called King Zaramunz the Pious in order to save himself from illness. It must be noted that he later died of that very same illness. Since that time the name hasn’t been changed and temples have been built here simply to keep up appearances. The cities courts (with exception to the royal court) are found here as well as the homes of many of the middle class citizens of the city.
Inner City: The inner city is made up of three districts: Zaramunz, Nal Zara, and High Forge. The gates that lead into the city are well guarded and have a tower on each side. Visitors are only allowed into certain areas and must purchase a pass to enter for a few hours (at a cost of about 500gp). In dire circumstances this fee may be waived.
Zaramunz: This is where the royal court, high temple, and mining guild may be found. It is beautifully decorated: Golden statues, stone fountains, and other symbols of worldly decodence are common here, but this area is strictly off-limits to outsiders without great cause. It is patrolled and guarded by the famed Mithral Guard, so-named because each and every one is armed and armored with full sets of mithral armor and weapons. They are few in number but expertly trained.
Nal Zara: Meaning Old City this section is where the wealthiest and oldest families of Kalkoran live. Visitors are allowed in certain sections, but are kept under strict watch. This section is not as lavishly decorated as Zaramunz, but is still quite beautiful.
High Forge: This is where the royal armories and forges are. The smiths who work here are privy to many forging techniques that are unknown outside the city. They are bound into strict secrecy. No outsider (and few others) are allowed here. The royal mithral works (as well as the adamantine works) are located here. It is said that many magic items of great craftsmanship are made here as well, though most are not sold to outsiders.