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Skalf's Hold is a walled city built on a bluff overlooking two mountain passes. To the east lies the winding path toward Karak Azul. To the west is the bustling settlement of Deadgate and the path toward the Badlands. Skalf built the city using the treasures he found in the Dragon's lair. Since the day he slew the dragon, his clan has been identified by the symbol of a rearing Dragon. To honour him, his descendants incorporated that symbol into the very structure of the city itself.[1a]

Construction

Dwarf craftsmanship is renowned throughout the Old World, especially when it comes to stone working. With the Dragon's treasure at his disposal, Skalf was able to summon the best builders to create the hold on the ruins of Karak Azgal. Although the holdfast and the temple were the first buildings constructed, the Dwarf engineers were confident the community would prosper and grow. The plan for the city walls was made with this in mind, so they enclose the entire level portion of the plateau. Their foresight was rewarded, as the city today fills the entire area inside the walls.[1a]

Streets

All of the streets are paved with smooth, tight-fitting stones. While there are no formal sewer lines beneath the city, Dwarf engineers made use of the natural caverns beneath the city to move water and effluvium away from the city. Gutters line the curbs and water runs down through cleverly placed metal drains.[1a]

Buildings

The buildings of Skalf's Hold are constructed of grey or white stones quarried from the mountains nearby. Most of them only reach a height of one or two storeys at the most. The exterior doors are all made of stone and are perfectly balanced to open with the touch of a hand. Many are decorated with sculptures and fine carvings in the stone, and it is not uncommon to see visitors staring slackjawed at these works of art when seeing them for the first time. All written signs are in Khazalid with runic characters, but a Reikspiel translation is often written in smaller text underneath.[1a]

Defences

A 20-foot-high wall of stone surrounds the city, with only two gates, in the east and the west. A parapet and walkway connects towers along the wall, providing excellent defensive positions for Dwarf warriors. The towers each have a stone carving of a rearing Dragon at the top, facing outward and hovering over the ground below. If attacked, the Dwarfs keep barrels of oil in each tower they can heat up and pour out of the mouth of the Dragons onto any besiegers. Each tower also has a Dwarf cannon on it.[1a]

Descending from the enormous west gate is a switchback stair carved from the face of the cliff, passing three turns until it ends at the shantytown of Deadgate far below. The Dwarfs constructed the steps to appear from afar as the winding tail of a Dragon, replete with spikes and scales, while the gate itself resembles a Dragon's mouth, the flanking towers serving as its wings. Though an amazing feat of architecture in its own right, beyond the decorative façade, the gates and steps are very practical. The Dwarfs care little for the inhabitants of Deadgate and if attacked would completely abandon it. The switchback stair is the only way to enter the hold providing the Dwarfs with plenty of opportunity to shower the besiegers with missiles. A massive reservoir of oil is stored in the Dragon Gate as well, ready to be unleashed upon interlopers.[1a][1b]

Population

Skalf's Hold houses a total population fluctuating between 5,000 and 6,000 at any given time. Those calling the hold their home are about 80% Dwarfs, 15% Humans, and 5% Halflings. During the day the total number of people increases, as many come into the hold from Deadgate to conduct business, journey into the ruins, or simply to have a good time.[1b]

Gazetteer

What follows is a description of the various districts and layout of Skalf's Hold. As mentioned previously, the city is divided into 4 questers: the Temple Quarter, the Holdfast, the Gold Quarter and the Foreign Quarter.[1b]

Temple Quarter

The temple quarter is one of the oldest sections of the hold, built shortly after the holdfast. It is located just south of the western gate. The numbered descriptions below detail the most important location in this quarter. The other buildings contain minor shrines to other gods and some shops selling healing herbs and other medicinal products. The remainder of the buildings are homes for the wealthier residents who are not of noble descent and hence cannot live in the Holdfast quarter.[1b]

1. The Great Temple of the Ancestors

Soon after the keep's construction was completed, Skalf, to show his reverence for his culture and people, commissioned a mighty temple. He wanted it to honour all aspects of Dwarfen culture, from their gods to those who died defending their homes. Skalf employed Roran Gundorson, a famous architect from Karak Eight Peaks, noted for his towering structures and attention for detail and the final product exceed all of Skalf's expectations.[1b]

The exterior is impressive, consisting of an enormous round building at the centre with eight smaller round tower situated around the perimeter. Stained glass windows set into the face of the building tell the story of the Karak Izril's fall. So impressed was Skalf, that he named this building the Temple of the Ancestors, to honour all the Dwarfs who have come before.[1b]

Eight carved stone doors lead into the temple, one set in each of the walls between each pair of towers. The interior is completely open, the roof supported by expertly crafted arches. Eight aisles lead through rows of stone pews up to a circular dais where three evenly spaced outward-facing stone statues of the gods surround an anvil-shaped altar in the middle of the temple. Mosaics cover the ceiling, each illustrating various facets of Dwarf life: mining, brewing, gem cutting, blacksmithing, stone cutting, and fighting being the most prominent.[1b]

The temple is open every day from dawn until dusk, except on Dwarf holidays when it is open 24 hours. Three services are held daily with a different deity honoured during each, and all three gods being honoured in each service on the seventh day of each week. The High Priestess Balikina Furlisdotr lives below the temple with her five priests and ten initiates. The High Priestess presides over the services on while her priests handle the other services in her stead.[1b]

There is an entrance to the ruins in the basement of the temple known only to the High Priestess herself. It is a 100-yard-deep shaft covered by a 500-pound capstone. Only Balikina knows the runic password to lift the stone. She uses the entrance rarely—only when a specific quest needs doing to benefit the hold or the temple itself, such as the recovery of an artefact or treasure from the ruins, but use of the entrance could involve rescue missions as well.[1b]

2. Temple of Myrmidia

Due to the nature of Karak Azgal and its proximity to the southlands, it is no surprise that the Humans of the city have built a temple to the warrior Goddess Myrmidia. It is a squat, two-storey structure built in the shape of an "L". Shields adorn the outside walls of the building, bearing devices from all over the Old World. A practise yard has been fenced off in front of the building and is used by the priests of the temple for training. A stone statue of the Goddess wielding her long spear and shield presides over the yard.[1b][1c]

The inside is sparsely furnished, with the main shrine located in the west end of the building. Supplicants are expected to stand before the golden spear and shield of Myrmidia, so there are no chairs. The temple is open during the day and closed at night. The east end of the building is a private training area used only by the priests of the temple and select members of the faithful. The top floor houses the living quarters for the three initiates and one priest.[1c]

The master of the temple is Gaetano Rivera, an anointed priest from Tilea. Once a mercenary, he dedicated his life to the service of the warrior goddess. Short-tempered and arrogant, he is nevertheless an excellent teacher. He and his priests are more than willing to train anyone in combat as long as they can afford to pay. Gaetano charges 25 gc for two weeks of intense daily training and can only take on one student at a time.[1c]

Each month on the 15th Gaetano holds a contest in honour of Myrmidia. Any able-bodied warriors are welcome to enter. The entry fee is a small donation of 1 gc. Participants must fight each other head-to-head, trying to stun their opponent. The victor of the final match wins half of the total amount of money collected as entry fees.[1c]

3. The Temple of Shallya

Shallya is said to have mercy for all those who are suffering and call for her aid. Her temple here in Karak Azgal is proof of that, as the sick and dying almost always fill it. The temple has only a single storey, but it is long and has an enclosed courtyard in the centre with a beautiful fountain known as the Tears of Shallya. The north hall houses the temple to the Goddess while the south hall is an infirmary lined with beds. The entrance is on the east wall, where there are stretchers for emergency cases and a receiving desk. A bronze statue of a soaring dove hangs from a chain 20 feet above the temple floor.[1c]

The Tears of Shallya gushing from the fountain are rumoured to have magical healing powers, so there is a great demand by locals. As a result the temple restricts access, disallowing most supplicants to even enter the courtyard. The temple priestesses say drinking the water from the fountain is no guarantee of help, for Shallya can see inside the soul of all people and helps only those truly deserving of her aid. Nevertheless, people continue to pay donations to the temple just for a chance to sip water from the fountain. Most of the time it is their own belief in the healing power of the water that makes them feel better, but the water is actually blessed. Perhaps the Tears are for all the suffering in Karak Azgal, or maybe something else entirely—something sinister. In any event, when the Tears work, it's believed the goddess finds the supplicant is worthy and heals them of their ills.[1c]

Gaining a draught of the Tears of Shallya requires approval by the anointed priestess and a donation. The result of drinking the draught is up to fate. If it's proven mundane, however, the liquid is noted as tasting brackish.[1c]

The anointed priestess of Shallya is a beautiful woman from Altdorf named Hildegard Grunwald. Lady Hilde, as she likes to be called, is middle-aged with deep blue eyes and straight blonde hair reaching down to the middle of her back. She despises the lifestyle in Karak Azgal because she has seen the injury, death, and harm that comes to the people adventuring in the ruins and especially those who live a life of excess and debauchery on the surface. Her order is pledged to help the infirm and those in need, but Lady Hilde chides those seeking her aid, working to turn them away from their self-destructive ways. There are seven initiates, one priest, and a physician in her charge, and each works night and day to keep the temple open to serve those in need. They live together in the west end of the temple.[1d]

The healing services at the temple are excellent with clean beds, good food, and caring attendants. The priestesses have an uncanny knack for knowing just how much someone can afford to pay for their draughts or services, so the donations they ask for vary. The temple keeps a good stock of draughts including Antitoxins, Cure Alls, Healing, and Tears of Shallya. The staff charges more or less depending on the affluence of the patient.[1d]

4. Temple of Gorlaz the Golden

As Dwarfs are an ancient race with a long history, scholars occasionally uncover references, in dusty old tomes or the bas-reliefs adorning the walls of ancient ruins, to lost holds and forgotten clans. Strange beings, distant gods, and unknown conflicts lie hidden, awaiting rediscovery by some explorer, some adventurer with a willingness to brave whatever lies in the cyclopean depths of the world beneath the mountains. Such was the case with the founding of the Gorlaz cult.[1d]

Hegakin Rokrison was always a little off. An ambitious scholar working to make a name for himself, his entire life he knew there was something more, something other than the dogmatic teachings of the established Grungni cults. But his searches took him into forbidden places, earning him ostracism and eventually exile. Defeated, he fled to Karak Azgul and took it upon himself to explore some of the deeper ruins beneath the hold. To his pleasure, he discovered an old shrine to a god he had never before encountered, though it was clear to him Dwarfs never visited this place, for the craftsmanship was slipshod and decidedly non-Dwarf. Intrigued, he approached the altar, still sticky with unspeakable fluids even after centuries, and reached out with a trembling hand to touch it. When his thick fingers came into contact with the stone, he forever after became a creature of Chaos, a minion of Slaanesh.[1d]

Fearing discovery, the scholar fled the warrens to return to the city. For weeks, he suffered strange dreams and stranger fantasies, working to resist the taint that spread through his body. He watched with horror as his skin assumed a leathery cast and drew tight around his bones. He had to do something quickly, so he fabricated Gorlaz. After a month he began to preach of this newfound deity at the Silver Fountain, spreading the message of wealth, luxury, and glory. By night he murdered adventurers, stealing their treasures so he could purchase the vestments appropriate for a god of wealth. But despite his best efforts to found a new cult to bring glory to great Slaanesh, the Dwarfs mocked him, ridiculing his foolish message as nothing more than the product of a feverish brain.[1d]

Undaunted, Hegakin continued his work, and one day his persistence paid off and attracted the attention of Elgrom Dragonslayer, a Dwarf believed to be a descendant of Skalf himself. Each day for weeks, Elgrom came to listen to Hegakin preach and eventually joined the scholar, sensing the path to his glory lay through the teachings of this new god. With Elgrom’s support, Hegakin and the cult of Gorlaz earned some measure of credibility, and soon after more people flocked to the fountain to hear the words of these prophets.[1d]

Elgrom converted to Slaanesh after a year of working with Hegakin. The scholar instructed his pupil that the path to claiming the throne of the hold was through wealth and power: two things Slaanesh could provide to the pious. The two Dwarfs journeyed into the ruins and approached the temple, where Elgrom himself touched the moist stone, condemning himself to a life of slow corruption and mutation.[1d][1e]

After 20 years, Hegakin and Elgrom established themselves as a presence in Karak Azgul. Not only are they the centre of a new and expanding cult, but they also serve as the premier banking centre in Karak Azgal, holding coin and other treasures for a modest percentage (5% for Dwarfs, 7% for Humans and Halflings, and 12% for Elves). With the funds earned through banking and donations, they purchased an old building in the Temple Quarter and refurbished it with white marble, replete with a gilded roof and columns. In time, they installed double doors of solid gold and a ten-foot-tall golden statue of the false Dwarf god Gorlaz holding up a coin in front of him to be admired. Hegakin and Elgrom preach the ways of Gorlaz, reminding their congregation wealth is good and urging them to hoard as much gold and jewels as they can to revel in the beauty of Dwarf creations. The members are expected to make holy pilgrimages into the ruins to bring up as much treasure as possible to honour Gorlaz, to keep as much of that treasure as possible away from non-Dwarfs. They are told that by doing these things a member glorifies and honours his ancestors.[1e]

Though the Dwarfs have amassed a large congregation that indirectly glorifies Slaanesh by worshipping the idol of Gorlaz, few, if any, realize this. Most honestly believe Gorlaz is a true god, gladly absorbing the teachings of the lunatics leading the cult. However, as the cult has grown, things are becoming dangerous. The cult has started to attract powerful nobles of Lord Thordin's court. Even the head of the Jewelsmiths’ Guild, Zarador Svenginson, now belongs to the cult. Worse, Hegakin and Elgrom's mutations worsen, becoming more pronounced, making it harder to conceal their true natures. They have taken to wearing heavy long robes to better hide their corruptions, but people are starting to get suspicious. Elgrom, who’s quite mad, encourages the growth, coveting the lordship of the hold, believing Slaanesh will grant him the throne.[1e]

Twenty temple guards serve the cult leader, ten of which are on duty at all times. They wear Full Plate Armour with the golden coin symbol of Gorlaz emblazoned on the breastplate. Of these, only four know the truth about the cult, gelding themselves in service to their dark master. The rest honestly believe they serve the cause of this new and ancient god. In any event, they are subservient to Elgrom and follow his commands to the death. Even if presented with the truth they deny it, attacking to preserve the integrity of their faith.[1e]

Pending...

Source

  • 1: Warhammer Fantasy RPG 2nd ED -- Karak Azgal: Adventures of the Dragon Crag
    • 1a: pg. 11
    • 1b: pg. 12
    • 1c: pg. 13
    • 1d: pg. 14
    • 1e: pg. 15

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