Malak Travak (the Iron Haven in Rune-speak) is located deep within the flesh of Midworld, beneath the Stoneclaw mountains. When Nalim Iron-rune first found this network of caverns, they were lit flowing flame, radiant crystal and glowing moss. Nalim’s disciples and descendants have since built upon this natural majesty, carving their new homes and workplaces into the cave rock. Time and war have taken their toll on Malak Travak, but the Iron Kingdom has rebuilt its city each and every time.
The city of Malak Travak is actually several cities linked by massive tunnels, elemental-powered elevators and several powerful elementals bound by contract to Runed Throne of the Iron Kingdom. Modern Malak Travak has grown beyond the runed walls that marked its first borders. Caverns and holdings lost to warfare and disaster have been reclaimed even as new tunnels have been opened for use. The Golemic Advancements Guild has even linked the districts together through the Lift, a massive mechanical construct that allows for quick travel to one’s district of choice. The main districts of Malak Travak are:
– Flamecrown or the Crown City
– Nalimar or the Temple City
– Clammorath or the Forge City
– Aggarak or the Basin City
– Deepwatch or the Under City
Each city is ringed by the residences of the urban poor, often called a Slagtown. These poverty stricken Dwarves, sometimes called Slaggers or Slag Dwarves, are the target of criminals and those seeking cheap labor. The Church of the Maker and the Runed King often attempts to help these disenfranchised folk, but their efforts are often stymied by certain Councilor Guilds among the Ten. Still, Slagtowns are markedly better places to live than the slums of most other cities in Midworld.
Beyond the Slagtowns are the Sporetowns, where typical dwarven fare is grown – mushrooms, moss and cave animals (giant grubs, cave pigs and blind fish)are quartered here. Those who live in a Sporetown are sometimes called Spongers or Grubbers by wealthier Dwarves. Similarly, those Guilds who make their money off of the agricultural trade are called Spongelords or Grublords.
Flamecrown, the Crown City
Ringed by the first walls of Malak Travak and lit by a pillar of falling flame, Flamecrown (also called the Crown City) houses the elite of the Iron Kingdom as well as the many buildings of administration and government. The royal court as well as the oldest and wealthiest families reside in this district.
The military arm of the Runed King, the Throneguard, claims main jurisdiction of this area. Indeed, only the manor guards of the Council of Ten can claim the same – except only in the dominion of the mansions that they protect. Even then, certain circumstances (e.g. a charge of Treason) can allow the Throneguard access to whatever holding or residence they require.
Flamecrown also hosts the main campus of the Runespeaker University, a place of scholarly learning and magical training.
Nalimar, the Temple City
Nalimar, named for the founder of Malak Travak, is sometimes called the Temple City by the Iron Dwarves. It is to the surprise of none that the Church of the Maker dominates this section of Malak Travak, although it is far from the only faction in strength within the Temple City. Ten colossal pillars flank the Hall of the Maker even as a molten lake burns at its core. The Hall forms the heart of Nalimar and its walls are warded by the ancient stone forms of the Church’s bygone leaders and saints.
Besides the Church of the Maker and its Priests, other Guilds make their residence in Nalimar. These are Guilds that have aligned themselves to the Church or those who provide necessary services to this religious faction.
Clammorash, the Forge City
Built in the hollows of a dead volcano, the Forge City is typically called Clammorash by the Travaki. It also features the main industrial complexes of the Iron Kingdom. The smoke of the foundries make Clammorash a dark place to live, although the poisonous fumes are channeled to the mined-out tunnels of Mount Garhenn above.
Clammorash is the biggest of the districts but it is also the most densely populated – the Guilds are in constant search for laborers for their factories and foundries. Likewise, crime and vice are in great abundance in the slagtowns of the Forge City – the density of the population make these unsavory elements difficult for the Guilds to uproot.
On frequent occasions, the warring between the Guilds degenerate into violent raids or other acts of corporate sabotage. The feud between Golemic Advancements and Stonecunning-Hammersmith Industries is particularly bitter, with more martial Guilds profiting on the side and the poor of Clammorash suffering the collateral damage. Similarly at war are Roughrigger Enterprises and Trustworth Securities, with the latter currently dominating the security and guardianship business while the former attempts to move into the industry with almost no subtlety.
Aggarak, the Basin City
It is well-known that the First-born are not overly fond of lakes large or deep. The Big Basin is especially large and deep for its kind, spanning dozens of miles across and fed by several waterfalls. Despite this, the Basin City or Aggarak is the second most populated section of Malak Travak. The walls of this underground lake hold the headquarters of many prominent Travaki Guilds. Even the Runed King’s Throneguard are here in force, protecting and maintaining the Aqueducts that feed into the rest of Malak Travak.
Astride the aqueducts and the waterfalls of the Big Basin are the gigantic watermills add further value to holdings in the area. The ownership and usages of these mills are in high demand, ensuring that only the strongest and most vicious of organizations can maintain their stranglehold upon them.
In the center of the Big Basin are islands and giant mushrooms that house one of the biggest agricultural centers of Malak Travak. Once, these lands changed hands almost yearly. But the Runed Throne has since claimed them as its own, dispensing their bounty to the Guilds and the poor alike. King’s hold on these islands and its grubbers is a tenuous one, challenged by Guilds who only have to band together to oust the King via pressure from the Council of Ten.
Deepwatch, the Under City
Located far from the light of the surface world, Deepwatch is a small section of Malak Travak that stands poised at the edge of a bottomless chasm. Discovered only a few centuries ago, the chasm known as the Great Void is wide enough to swallow a mountain… and its true depth has yet to be determined. Some sages believe it to be a physical passage to the Underworld although there is yet to be a suitable support to this grim theory.
The Spiral Cabal, Groshak Excavations and several outlier Guilds hold court at this darksome district. The criminal elements of the Iron Kingdom are the strongest here and the most defiant, bowing only to the occasional Throneguard raid and to the strength of the Guilds here.
The Iron Dwarves believe that the Sundering Sin that turned the Maker away from the First-born was the Sin of Chaos. Because the early First-born fought among one another and gave no respect to the laws of the world, the Maker became wroth with his children and sent scourges to cleanse sin from Midworld. Against Chaos, there must be Order. Thus, the Dwarves of the Iron Kingdom live their lives in a lawful and calculated fashion.
From the teachings of Nalim and the commandments of the Maker’s Church were forged Throne Laws and supreme among them are the Five Greater Laws of Malak Travak. All Order in Malak Travak follows from these laws and all First-born of Malak Travak must abide by them.
I. The Law of Contracts; No Dwarf shall ever breach a Contract they have signed.
The First Law of the Iron Kingdom and also considered to be one of the most Sacred. Order is the Dwarven Race’s armor against the Sundering Sin, Chaos. For Order to exist, oaths must be followed, contracts must be unbroken.
It is through this First Law that Order is maintained in the Iron Kingdom. Debts are repaid. Promised services are rendered. The King is sworn to protect his people just as his people are sworn to obey his edicts. A Guild is sworn to pay those under its employ just as its Guilders are sworn to perform the tasks they have been set to.
As the Iron Kingdom advanced and mushroom parchment became readily available among the Travaki, written oaths and contracts became more respected than spoken ones.
That said, it is very difficult to have an Iron Dwarf sign a Contract without them looking over it in great detail. Similarly, following the letter of a Contract rather than the spirit is considered acceptable behavior, especially when faced with an unfavorable Contract. On occasion, finding loopholes within a Contract is considered a mark of audacity and cunning; however, such craftiness is rarely appreciated by those in the disadvantage — it should be said that powerful organizations, such as an entire Guild, can make their anger felt through physical, economic or political force when provoked.
A Contract signed under duress or without consent is Annulled under the Throne Law.
II. The Law of Blood; No Dwarf shall ever harm or kill another.
The Second Law of the Iron Kingdom dictates the Travaki’s penchant toward diplomacy and negotiation when it comes to the resolution of conflict. Amongst the Travaki, only the lowest of Dwarves stoop to the thuggery of killing and injuring a fellow First-born. True Dwarves of the Iron Kingdom humiliate Dwarven enemies or at worst, send them into Exile.
That said, the Law of Blood is far from utterly inviolate. Those who transgress it are fined according to the worth of the Injured or the Slain. Those who are unable to pay the fine are either indentured to the Runed Throne, imprisoned or are exiled from the Iron Kingdom for a set amount of years (10 years being a minimum and Eternal Exile being the worst).
Also, the Law of Blood only applies in whole cloth to true, Contracted citizens of the Iron Kingdom. Injuring or slaying a Stone Dwarf or a non-Dwarf within the reach of the Iron Kingdom incurs still incurs a fine similar to hurting or killing an Iron Dwarf of the lowest tier.
III. Law of Property; No Dwarf shall take what belongs to another.
Whereas Dwarves cannot own other Dwarves or Mortals, the protection of one’s possessions constitute a major part of Throne Law. The Maker gave his Children the ability to produce creations of their own — those that thieve and rob are vile and unwholesome in the Maker’s eyes.
This philosophy eventually became the Law of Property which not only gives Travaki the ability to possess items and territory, it also punishes those who steal (Theft) or destroy (Arson) that which does not belong to them. The punishment for such a Crime is dependent on an item’s worth as well as the worth of the Dwarf who owned it.
Also protected by this Law is the ability of the Runed Throne to tax the Iron Kingdom and apply tariffs to commercial functions. Evading taxes is considered to be a violation of the Law of Property. In the same fashion, evading Church Tithes or Guild Dues when contractually obligated to do so is a crime against the Law of Property.
IV. The Law of Liberty; No Dwarf shall ever own another.
Just as the Maker made the First-born with free will and choice, so too are all Dwarves (and Mortals) born free to make their choices and benefit (or suffer) from them. No Dwarf is born into slavery and no Dwarf can be enslaved. Similar Throne Laws extend this privilege to Mortals who are not Dwarves; non-Mortals do not benefit from the Law of Liberty and like Laws.
Employment, Stewardship and Debt Redemption are related conceits to the Law of Liberty that appear to run counter to it.
While the Law of Liberty prevents a Dwarf from being owned by another, an employer can still “own” an employee via contract. However, because such contracts often include a form of compensation to the employee (money, services, goods), the practice does not violate the Law of Liberty.
Stewardship is the conceit that the Runed Throne uses to establish its supremacy over the Iron Kingdom. The Runed Throne was raised by the Travaki, chosen by Divine Mandate and descended from Dwarven Heroes — all signs that enable the King to make decisions for the Iron Kingdom. In the same way, a family is awarded the rights of stewardship to their children until the latter enters legal adulthood – this grants them the ability to make decisions for that child, despite the Law of Liberty.
Finally, the conceit of Debt Redemption is closely related to Employment. In this case, a Debt is repaid via servitude rather than through goods or currency. In cases where a Criminal is unable to pay their fine, the Runed Throne may instead buy a Criminal’s Contract and enlist him or her into a task of the Throne’s choosing.
One of the main tasks of the Royal Bureaucracy is to oversee all Employment, all Stewardships and all Debt Redemption to ensure that these do not violate the Law of Liberty.
V. Law of Domain; Malak Travak is given to the Iron Dwarves and it is home to the Travaki.
Central to the Law of Domain are several concepts:
1) Only Iron Dwarves may reside in the Iron Kingdom. There are exceptions of course, including foreign dignitaries, imprisoned outlaws and similar personages.
2) Throne Law mainly applies only to Iron Kingdom business. This also means that the laws of extra-national organizations does not apply to Malak Travak.
3) Treason is the crime of conspiring against the Runed Throne and the Iron Kingdom. This crime is punishable by Death and one of the few crimes that mandate such a sentence.
A Dwarf’s Social Standing in Malak Travak is dependent on their personal wealth and their profession, as decided by the Royal Bureaucracy after taxes. Massive debts may cause a Dwarf to drop in Social Standing. Similarly, a windfall that was properly invested may yield an increase in Social Standing.
– The Throned: are the highest of status in Malak Travak. Only the King and his immediate family are in this tier. Other members of the Royal Family are usually well-connected and end up amongst the Elite or the Gilded.
– (Travag) The Forged: are the wealthy of Malak Travak, those highly placed within the Guilds or within the Maker’s Church. Forged Dwarves are enjoy many protections from the Throne Law however, they are taxed relatively more than their lessers.
– (Marrag) The Gilded: are the middle-class of Malak Travak, the second highest population in the Iron Kingdom. They are almost always part of a respectable Guild in Malak Travak. They pay more in taxes but they are better protected by the law than their lessers.
Some Gilded Dwarves manage to maintain their Social Standing without being part of the Runed Throne, a Guild or the Maker’s Church. These entrepreneurs and freelancers often provide vital services to wealthy individuals or organizations that can afford to keep them their unusual terms of “employment”.
– (Sullag) The Graven: The poor pay the lowest of taxes and even receive supplies from the government. However, they are relegated to the Slagtowns and Sporetowns of Malak Travak. Unlike the Guilded, they work for the Guilds of Malak Travak on a temporary, contractual basis. This work is usually of brute, servile or low-end labor.
Life as a Sullag is harsh compared to those enjoyed by one’s betters. After taxes (and/or tithes), supplies and other necessities, most Sullag have very little disposable income. However, the Runed Throne provides food to Graven Dwarves. The Church of the Maker provides basic healthcare and protection to the faithful.
When conflict or dispute arises between the people of Malak Travak, it is the task of the Runed Throne and/or the Council of Ten to adjudicate and resolve the matter. There are four main types of conflicts within the Iron Kingdom.
Individual vs. individual — In this case, one or more of the First-born has a complaint against another Dwarf. If the matter is not a trivial one, the Runed Throne arbitrates and makes a decision based on physical proof, witness reports and other forms of evidence. The Throneguard and the Royal Bureaucracy enforces the decision, usually in fines or other punishments.
Individual vs. Guild — On occasion, a Guild has a complaint against an Individual who is unprotected by a Guild for any reason. Alternatively, an Individual may have a complaint against an Individual who is protected by a Guild or against the dealings of an entire Guild. In this matter, the Runed Throne arbitrates the matter and makes the final decision.
When this happens, the Guild sends several members to represent their cause against the individual. These cases rarely go well for the individual although a Guild’s larger “size” also means more chances to leave unfavorable evidence.
Guild vs. Guild — The Runed Throne sometimes has to arbitrate conflicts between two rival Guilds. This tends to be a commonplace matter as many Guilds go to the Throne when they feel that they have been wronged or if a rival Guild appears to have the upper-hand through illicit means.
Usually, each Guild sends several representatives to present their case to the assigned arbiter of the conflict. The arbiter of the matter is a combination of the Runed Throne and a representative of each Guild within the Council of Ten. If the complainant or the defendant is one of the Councilor Guilds, then that Guild is exempt from the arbitration process.
Individual/Guild vs. Throne — People or Guilds that have violated any Throne Laws are subject to fines and/or any other punishment deemed appropriate by the Runed Throne (and the Council of Ten if this is a Guild matter).
Most Travaki families are Patriarchies, with most big decisions being made by the patriarch or father figure. In this structure, the matriarch directs the management of the household while the patriarch oversees and arbitrates on the important issues of the families. This is a traditional arrangement among the First-born although the meritocratic bent of Travaki society allows for less “conventional” structures — these usually happen when a family is very wealthy (above scrutiny) or very poor (beneath everyone’s concern).
(Forged) Travag families live in the lap of luxury with many servants to attend to them and many comforts to enjoy.
On the other hand, greater wealth also means greater control. Young Forged Dwarves are usually enrolled in some kind of schooling, either in Runespeaker University, the Church of the Maker or with a private tutor. This education is less “hands-on” than the apprenticeship given to poorer families, but the subjects it tackles are far more varied and more abstract — the better to form a Dwarf’s mind to roles of leadership and supervision.
After this schooling, many families send their children into the family business. This is the portion where they acquire practical knowledge of their craft. Fortunately for them, their personal capabilities have less to do with their high positions than their filial connections.
Because their parents can cut them off from their inheritance, those born to Forged families have little choice with regard to their schooling, marriage prospects and even a fair amount of their adulthood.
(Gilded) Marrag families have less disposable income than their betters, but they can usually afford at least servant or two on retainer.
Some Gilded children are able to enter into schooling, similar to their Travag counterparts. This is especially so when a child displays a propensity for elemental magics. Most Marrag children however, enter into apprenticeships with the family’s Guild or an allied one.
In time, a Gilded Dwarf’s Guild becomes a greater influence over their life rather than their family. The Guild dictates much of the Dwarf’s lifestyle, including their schedule and their paycheck. Much of a Gilded Dwarf’s social circle centers around the Guild, especially if it is a Guild that their family is closely affiliated with.
(Graven) Sullag families have very little in the way of disposable income. Unlike their betters, Family nor Guild does not dictate their education or profession — fortune and opportunity do.
Most Sullag remain Sullag and give birth to children who will most likely continue in this unfortunate social class because of its mire-like grip upon one’s finances and financial opportunities.
In a Travaki’s life there are several milestones that are celebrated via ceremonies that reflect Iron Kingdom attitudes. Each and every milestone is also documented and recorded by the Royal Bureaucracy.
Pious First-born have a Priest of the Maker officiate these ceremonies and rituals. Non-religious Dwarves have elders or patriarchs lead and guide the proceedings instead.
Birth and the First Contract
When a Travaki is born, the parents of the child fill out documentation that serves as a birth certificate, a written contract of stewardship and a written oath for the child to follow the Throne Laws (signed by the parents and made legitimate through Stewardship). All but the poorest of families have feasts and celebrations to commemorate the signing of the First Contract.
Sullag families with children receive more food rations according to the number and age of their children.
Dwarves without this First Contract are not considered to be citizens of the Iron Kingdom and are not protected by its Laws (but are still subject to them while within Malak Travak).
Adulthood and the Confirmation Contract
Rather than a separate Document, this Contract is an update to one’s First Contract that actually replaces it. The Confirmation Contract relinquishes a Dwarf’s parents (or legal guardian) of responsibility and gifts the signer with personal responsibility over their own actions.
The Confirmation Contract is usually done after a youth completes their apprenticeship or schooling. Sometimes, it is done immediately before a Dwarf begins their first day at their new job. Sullag families perform the Confirmation Contract at 20 years of age — this is when the Runed Throne considers its citizens to be adults for the purposes of food rations.
Marriage and the Matrimony Contract
Travaki marriages tend to be as unconcerned with romance as the standard Contractual relationship. Most Iron Dwarves marry to develop connections and strengthen their own financial power. On the other hand, Graven Dwarves are more likely to marry for love. Travaki marriages are also monogamous, preferring the “stability” provided by such an arrangement.
The Matrimony Contract is signed by the marrying couple and their families. This signing is usually preceded by feasting, mingling and general celebration rites. Pre-nuptial contracts are a standard for the Iron Dwarves. A Travaki bride takes up the surname of their husband, although they may choose to keep their own surname as a middle name or when the marriage ends (depending on the Pre-nuptial documentation). Similarly, a male Dwarf’s children take up his surname as their own.
In the case of a divorce, the Matrimony Contract is ritually destroyed by a member of the Royal Bureaucracy or the Church of the Maker. In either case, a member of the Royal Bureaucracy has to be present and their own official copy remains intact.
Death and the Closing Contract
When a Travaki is finally called to the Maker’s realm, they are given a solemn farewell by family and friends. A member of the Royal Bureaucracy has to be present to record the death.
Travaki that prepare for their demise in advance may a Closing Contract prepared; such a Contract includes the deceased’s final desires, wishes and statements in addition to a will.
Similar to the human practice of Primogeniture, the first-born son of the family is usually granted the greatest portion of the inheritance. The remaining share is divided between the other children according the parental whim.
Sullag families have very little to give to their children and practice a slightly more equal division with regards to what their children inherit.