Gazetteer of the Speaking Lands: Granite Hold

Home of the Ranger from Ascent to Prime, this week’s entry is Granite Hold, a prominent dwarven trading outpost and politically poweful chokepoint on the dwarven High Road.  This place plays double duty as both a place to be from and a place to adventure in, and someday I’d love to play a big political game where dwarves jockey for position while their neighbors see how big a bite they can take out of the trade cartel.

But for now, here’s the entry:


Tucked into the southern foothills of the Kharzan Mountains, Granite Hold is a prosperous dwarven city known for its eponymous granite quarries. The saying “Half the High Road is Paved in Granite” refers not only to this city’s exports of building material but also its political influence across the dwarven trade network. Granite Hold has been the seat of the King Under the Mountain at least three times (they claim five), and was the seat of the most recent King Under the Mountain.

The Hold commands a powerful position on the High Road: its surface gate opens onto the end of a deep valley, while the other side of town is built into and looks across a series of chasma within the mountain range. Centuries of extensive quarrying work have expanded the chasma to cut off trade routes that don’t go through the city’s gates. Alternate routes through the area still remain, but none are as stable as those passing through Granite Hold. The city’s caravanserai and other amenities only further cement its appeal as a waystation for traders.

Externally, the Hold’s surface gates face Verdas, and the dwarves maintain trade links with a number of cities and minor states throughout the jungle. Fervent partisans, the leadership of Granite Hold maintain the trade war against the Ivory Throne and thus only trade with communities not trading with the gajanana queendom. This sphere of influence is often referred to as the “Granite Jungle.” Because of this trade and its own extensive hunting industry, Granite Hold is not reliant on subteranean mushroom farming, and much of northern Verdas’ permanent structures are built out of granite.

During the Imperial Wars, Granite Hold was conquered and occupied by Lorathan forces. The elves controlled the rain forests above the hold as well as the caverns below for nearly fifty years. Local resistence eventually unseated the elves, sparking a territorial push that swept the elves northwards and made the dwarven general the King Under the Mountain.

In addition to the oft-touted history of proud dwarven nationalism, this period of history also left behind a number of elven groves, both on the slopes above and in the surrounding rainforest. While everything else about the elven occupation was and is reviled, the groves have remained and in some cases have even been maintained by the dwarves and other Verdas residents. Few explicitly worship in these groves, but many visit for quiet contemplation or simply to enjoy the outdoors.

The current government of Granite Hold consists of a triumvirate: the ostensible laird of the hold plus two powerful craftmasters. The two craftmasters exert significant control over the east and west tunnels, respectively, and playing them off each other is the only way the laird is able to maintain any power himself. He strongly suspects that one of the craftmasters was responsible for his mother’s assassination, but can’t move against either without proof. Together, however, they are intent on rebuilding the hold’s position on the High Road, which was decimated by rival dwarves and outside influences backed by the Dread Tyrant. In the new power vacuum, all three dwarves quietly scheme to become the next King Under the Mountain.

We’ve got a fun grab bag of options for next week’s entry: the huuuuge equitorial region of Verdas, the ancient history of the Imperial Wars, those wily and elegant Elves, and the venerable and versatile social position of Craftmaster.  Which one would you like to read about next week?

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