You could hear Zahrak Gol long before you saw it. Hammer on nail, pick on stone, axe on tree, all amplified by the mountains and carried by the river. The sounds echoed through the ancient Valley Forest, making it easy to find your way back home from an excursion to the woods. Very useful indeed, since the roads leading to the Grah-Gol were not much more than paths trodden by animals in search of water. The first thing you could see is the palisade, making a cut into the forest. It was tall and new, yet still seemed intimidated by the endless green canopy beyond. Then there were the fields of rye and hop, along with a natural cave refitted to be a cold storage for the crops. Then there was the river Baungr, lifeblood of the dwarven lands. It wasn’t especially deep at this point, but widened into a shallow pond.
Small docks and a bridge lead into the Grah-Gol proper. The mountain rose suddenly beyond the river, a tunnel and stairs carved into the side. It flattened into a plateau that was bustling with activity. Tents, stables, market stalls and other makeshift wooden structures were scattered along with storage and a lift to get produce up from the fields. The main thing that draws one’s eye, however, is the great opening into the mountain. Maybe not as great as the magnificence of older dwarven holds, the statues were still being carved and only the floor had been tiled inside. But compared to the endless wilderness around it, it was quite the sight. Carts came in and out, carrying all manner of goods and building materials. It was very crowded and noisy, yet still somehow felt organized. The tunnel itself led into the trade hall, still very much under construction. The central pillar was only half-carved, and none of the stalls and merchant houses were truly finished yet. The rest of the Hold was still only being dug out, only a few dwarves had the privilege of living inside the halls yet.
But one room stuck out like a piece of marble in a pile of coal, a room fully finished and decorated. The Clan Hall. It was the metric from which the prestige of Holds was measured from for the Grah-Gols of the southern Sybjyr and surrounding regions. Nothing else truly mattered if the Clan Hall was unimpressive and vice-versa. The Zahrak Gol Clan Hall was a sight to behold: gold, silver, jewels all lit up with the finest glowcrystal. The room was very large, the doorway could fit three horse-drawn carts through it side by side and the inside could fit half the dwarves in the hold at the same time. Pillars carved with reliefs detailing the founding of the hold from the start of the great journey into the valley and ending with the discovery of the first shades and the comet, with room to add more. In the back of the room there was a slab with the name “Johtab Dwodraeck Enzgrym, the one with the Pull” engraved on it, with room for hundreds more. The there were the Clan Seats and the meeting table, situated exactly in the middle. The table had a relief of a map of the surrounding area, and the chairs were inscribed with motifs related to each of the current three clans. The doors of the hall were always open, even when the clan leaders were discussing important matters. Anyone could walk in and listen to the great debates and even chime in with their own ideas, and in older holds there usually was a steady number of spectators for the council meetings. As a new hold, however, the dwarves had more important jobs to do and trusted their chosen leaders with the politics. It would likely take decades before Zahrak Gol stabilized from the early building phase. But for now, Zahrak Gol is a truly unique place where you could see history in action. It is not often when you can see a hold being built from nothing.
A quick vocabulary:
Grah-Gol: "Lone-Hold", a solitary dwarven settlement carved into a mountain. Usually has smaller settlements around it in its sphere of influence. A Dwarven city-state.
Johtab: "Leader", the South-Sybjyr dwarven equivalent of King. Can be a hereditary title or one chosen by the clan council.