The Tolhalr of the dwarves (rendered into Varan meaning something like “folk-hall”) are their great cities and delves. Larger than the small ring-towns (Rigtal in Orthr) or other middle-sized settlements, they are composed of a group of dwarf-clans that have settled in a particular region. Most large Tolhalr are located within Arinnfal, Craftman’s Reach, or or Haugrund. They are composed of various sections, each of which is known as an aethal or “clan-hall.” These are the private property of the dwarf-clan that inhabits them.
Clans are led by their eldest and most respected members, the Ætlairdr (clan-lords). Only one of the ancients of any clan is ever named Ætlaird at any given time, giving him or her almost complete autocratic power over the comings and goings of any clan tempered only by the council of ancients who surround them, the ætroc (clan-judges) and the Law. They set the tariffs within their clan-halls, determine who may change jobs, who may go out into the world as an adventurer and so forth.
Justice within a clan is administered by an ætroc who has studied the Law since childhood. When inter-clan justice is required, both clans choose one of their ætrocr who must discuss the case until a suitable solution has been discovered. They are empowered to question the victims (and the offenders) and generally to do whatever is required in order to solve the case amiably.
Physical Layout of Dwarven Holds
Dwarf Holds are generally arrayed as follows: The public areas in which all clans gather and where outlanders (undwarves) can live and enter. This area is commonly called the utanhal or “outer district” (literally out-hall) and is built up in the standard dwarven fashion. These areas are almost always above ground and outside the mountain or hills the rest of the Tolhal is located within.
The Utanhal is normally a place where dwarves with no clan in the city live, where outlanders (gestr, or strangers) can come and trade. These areas are strictly administered by the princely clan and the Halkonung of that city. The district is assigned its own aetroc from the prince’s own clan to resolve disputes. He is commonly known as the Warden or Gatekeeper (gaethaff) and his word carries a certain amount of weight in the governance of the city. Sometimes, there are some clan-halls in this district though many of them are located underground in the safety of the hills or mountains.
Ring-towns are normally composed of only one or two clans, and thus the utanhal area is inside the inner ring between the outwall and the central fort.
Dwarven settlements are always well protected. Dwarves spend years designing the gates to their colonies and cities and decades carrying out those plans. The gate to an underground section of a dwarf city (an undanboer or under-town) is one of the most well defended locales in all of Arunë. The gaethaff is also in charge of who gets through the Gate and when, as well managing the very touchy ancestral position of the gate-guard.
The Central Halls
Most subterranean dwarven settlements are built in the same way; they contain a series of central halls with clan-halls and work-halls radiating off of those. The central halls are a social meeting place. No one lives in them, but dwarf-only markets often set up beneath the pillars, and drinking parties sometimes form beneath them. These are the heart and lifesblood of any dwarven city.
The Work Halls
These halls are where the smiths work the forges, the gemcutters file their stones, and various other dwarves perform their professions. Each major profession in a dwarf hall has its own work hall associated with it where its craftsmen may perform their jobs. Those crafts which are under represented in any given Tolhal will have to share a hall.