The Empty Vessel
“The heart and soul of Hammerfast, son, High Hall is where the movers and shakers make all the decisions.”
High Hall, or the Old City, is where the city leaders convene to govern Hammerfast Few folk still live in High Hall since nearly every inch of available space is given over to the various ministries making up the city’s government. Thus, aside from a few extremely wealthy folks, most people funnel out of High Hall at the end of the day to head home to Elftown, Stonehammer, or elsewhere.
Buildings: High Hall consists of a forest of massive buildings packed tightly inside its walls. Towers thrust up from the fortress like structures, climbing high above the walls and affording a look at the entire city and the lands all around. Most buildings house one of the dozen or so ministries that see to keeping the city operating. Examples include the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of War, and so on. Each operates out of a marble or brick building fronted by impressive statues of dwarf warriors, artisans, and historical figures, while the walls themselves bear intricate carvings and bas reliefs capturing key moments from the city’s history. The outer edge of High Hall holds the businesses and few homes of those who grease the engines of politics. Restaurants, inns, and a few shops provide patronage to the city’s elite, but they shut down at nightfall.
Streets: Suffering from too many buildings in a confined space, High Hall’s roads are positively perilous. Tight and cramped while winding through the heart of Hammerfast, they contain numerous shadowy alcoves, dead-ends, and limited range of sight as they turn and twist. Although High Hall doesn’t have a thievery problem, it does suffer from hired killers. The dwarves deal honorably with one another, but the same cannot be said for all the city’s representatives, and rival humans, tieflings, and others might resort to murder to eliminate an inflexible politician. Thus, most high-ranking officials surround themselves with guards, making travel anywhere in High Hall all the harder.
People: The Council of Elders might all be dwarves, but the rest of the city’s government is as diverse as the city. Bureaucrats, functionaries, messengers, and palanquins bearing representatives from other districts all make their way through High Hall throughout the day, and sometimes at night.
Sights: Buildings, buildings, and more buildings crowd the district, their carved façades telling ancient stories of heroic dwarves, the end of the Age of Chains, and other historical events that helped shape this region. One might see workers cleaning up a murder scene, while street vendors sell everything from amulets that promise to bring good luck in the courts, to food dealers, and tattered street lawyers searching for clients.
Smells: Overcrowding and the malaise of too many people gives High Hall an unpleasant aroma in spite of the fact that the Council spares no expense in keeping this part of the city clean. Wafting up from the streets is a mix of rubbish, food, and sweat, but compared to other sections of Hammerfast, High Hall is tolerable.
Sounds: Throughout the day, a steady hum of conversation sounds, punctuated with the ringing of bells, the angry shouts of guards as they escort their worthy charges through the press of people, voices raised in protest at some new law, and an assortment of other noises make High Hall loud. At night, however, it becomes deathly quiet.