The following is a bit of lore I wrote as a backstory to my upcoming foundry quest, An Affair of Magic: Act II of the Obsidian Enclave. It is actually part of the side lore of the quest, and does not relate to the main story of the campaign except in that it pertains to the locations where part of the quest takes place. Some of this is hinted at in the quest via optional dialogue and lore items the player can find if they explore, in fact, to see how this ends, you have to play the quest and explore. This is just a little of a broader scope of side lore that permeates my campaign, ready to be discovered by the those who choose to explore and don't mind reading the extra dialogue.
Hidden deep in the forgotten realms of the large library, in a back corner that has not seen the touch of a cloth or sweep of a broom in years, lies a shelf of books that even a moth would shy away from. Seemingly at random, or guided by the hand of fate, you are not sure, but you hold in your hands a faded blue book. The title is worn away, just a few words are readable.
"Journeys an......of lost.....
By Granz..... III....The Traveled"
The pages inside however are in no way hard to read, in fact it looks as if someone took the time to re-scribe the book and place the newer pages in the original bindings. You thumb through the book until a well crafted illustration of what appears to be a Dwarven city catches your eye. You begin reading.
Cairnhol: Village beneath the forest
eneath an unassuming mountain in the Neverwinter Woods lie the Dwarven city of Cairnhol. Really more village in truth, but don’t let any of the resident Dwarves of Clan Cairnhand that used to reside there hear you speak such blasphemy. Dwarven pride has never been something to be bound easily.
Small, claustrophobic alleys, hidden tunnels, low ceilings and the ever present dampness permeate the solid rock around Cairnhol, but in true Dwarven fashion, the builders of Clan Cairnhand belay their small stature with large, grand openings and plazas. Indeed, it would seem even a race so accustomed to living underneath the earth, with a sky of stone and dirt, still attempts to mimic the wide outdoor feel of the land above. High vaulted caverns allow ample room for the grand statues and structures that Dwarves are wont to build.
Central to everything is the main Plaza, of which entrance is via the grand gate of Dun ‘Cairn. Great statues flank anyone who walks through this mighty gate, and indeed, even if this place is a village in population and size, it is a true giant in demeanor. Through the gate and across the great chasm that edges the city, the Plaza houses the stout stone buildings of traditional Dwarven architecture. One who wanders the stone streets will find naught but more stone, yet will still amaze at the immeasurable ways a Dwarf craftsmen can shape and give life to the most inanimate of material. Beside the bridge from the Dun’Cairn gate lies stone benches, set along along the chasm, with great stone arches framing the area. If you replaced the stone ground with grass, and the deep black chasm with a clear, soothing river, you could mistake this as a park. Of course, with Dwarven sensibilities being as they are, this is indeed a place of relaxation and contemplation. One can imagine a stout figure atop one of the benches, gazing out across the empty chasm, looking upon the great statues that adjoin the Dun’Cairn on the other side. With ale in hand, a pipe hanging from his lip, all his cares and worries are tossed down into the endless blackness below.
As if the Dun’Cairn gate and great stone houses lining the Plaza are not enough, overhead is a mighty structure that is awe to behold. The Span. A massive bridge in the dark, hovering like an always present cloud in the night sky, its flickering torches as starlight, barely outlining the true size of it. This bridge has been here since before Grisold Cairnhand brought his small clan to mine the ores located in the surrounding rock. Much of the bridge is gone, returning back to the very rock it was built from ages before. By chance, and Dwarven curiosity when it comes to caves and tunnels, Grisold found where the bridge seemed to be intact once again, rather just one small section of it, small being relative of course. Where the bridge begins from and ends, is still a mystery.
Following this new path, Clan Cairnhand stepped out into the massive cavern that would house Cairnhol. The Dwarves would have just moved through, attempting to find where the bridge ended, but the clan’s expert prospectors, who never stopped plying their trade as the Dwarves journeyed, informed Grisold of the richness of the surrounding rocks. This would make a fine place to set up a mining operation. It did not take much to convince young Grisold Cairnhand, as he was ambitious and eager to settle roots and make a name for his clan.
Within the week, the hundred strong Dwarves of Clan Cairnhand began to carve their new home. First they dug a route to the surface, where they could sell first the ores that they mined, and later the fine Dwarven implements fashioned with it. Of course a proper smithy would need to be built first. Slowly, over the months, more Dwarves, distance relatives of Clan Cairnhand eager for life on the “frontier” began to arrive, bolstering the workforce. In just eight years the Plaza was built, with an impressive smithy located under the shadow of The Span, as the bridge was now called, and work began on the Dun’Cairn gate, which was the main entrance, leading to the smaller network of tunnels that lead to the surface.
After about twenty years, a drop in the bucket for a Dwarf, the population plateaued at around three hundred. However, the rocks rich in ores never seemed to end. Grisold, desperate to increase his standing among the great clan leaders, needed to produce more ore, and thus needed more miners, but he was loath to pulling too many of the artisan carvers and shapers away from turning Cairnhol into a great city that would be renowned in its own right. Dwarves, like the rocks they are from and live in, strive to be everlasting, if not in life, then in their legacy.
For such a small statured race, they do have a very large way of doing everything, but sometimes the means do not justify the ends. It takes wisdom to see this before the fact, and it was this wisdom Grisold lacked.
To achieve his ends, Grisold sank to the lowest depth of Dwarven sensibilities, and reached an agreement with The Rusthands, a fledgling cartel eager to make its own name. Upon a chance meeting at the overland trade post, Grisold had a conversation with the leader of the Rusthands, and it was determined that it would be in both their interests if the cartel provided the extra labor to work the mines, and in return received part of the profit in sales from the ore, as well as the tools and weapons made from it. On the part of the cartel, they did indeed bring in much needed labor, but in the form of slaves, typically beggars and vagabonds taken from the streets of Neverwinter and other locales.
The cartel took care of everything, including building their own underground prison to house and care for the “workers”, ran the work gangs, and generally administered all the nuances of a mining operation. The deal was that the only contact between the Dwarves of Cairnhol and the cartel was when delivery of the ore was made.
Clan Cairnhand, eager to increase their profits and standing, turned blind eyes from how they got their extra help. To them, they kept their hands clean, never seeing or interacting with the cartels slaves. This is not to say the Dwarves were evil or even without sympathy. Many of the residents were not truly aware of the inner workings of the cartel, and assumed their workers were actually down trodden citizen eager to work for meager pay. Indeed, if such was the case, then it might have been a charitable endeavor. Even if the best of times, there were many without work or food.
At some point, Clan Cairnhand moved on, away from Cairnhol, and abandoned their clan name, though if you dig deep enough you can trace the roots back to Cairnhol. The Rusthand cartel, just disappeared completely and to the man.
To this day nothing is known about what happened beneath that unassuming maintain in the Neverwinter Wood, the truths still buried beneath.
To find out what happened to the dark Rusthand cartel and the ambitious Clan Cairhand, as well as explore Cairnhol stay turned for the quest An Affair of Magic, Act II of the Obsidian Enclave. Keep in mind, this is optional lore and you must be willing to explore a little to find all the juicy bits.
To catch up on the story leading up to Act II, play through Act I: An Affair of Magic,
a story driven dramatic quest.