The Pillars of Heaven
Ald is a Dwarven city whose name means “Face of the Stone.” Dwarven culture is inherently insular and protective, and Ald is intended as the exterior “face” of the Dwarven race… quite literally. The massive face of Oldskel, the First of the Stone Elders, is build into the north face of the rocky Mount Gyrthang. Visitors to the city walk in through the gaping stone mouth of the Elder. Aqueducts spill water from either side of the Elder’s vast mouth, and a tongue-shaped bridge spans a plummeting chasm that protects the city from surface assault.
Inside, the city is build in a spiral, one vast continuous ramp that corkscrews down into the earth. Visitors peering over the edge of the many bronze rails can see the distant glow of magma that lights and warms the city from beneath. Nor is the center chasm is empty; the Dwarves are constantly undertaking architectural and engineering challenges that, to outsiders, look reckless and deadly: statues or pillars might hang suspended from wires thousands of feet above certain fiery death, while dwarves walk casually across rope bridges or suspend themselves from guy wires.
The topmost “level” of the Great Spiral is the Kingdom Market, a noisy, crowded bazaar where all the trade of the city takes place. Altars to the Elders punctuate every gap between shops or stalls, and crowds frequently gather around these places of worship to pay homage to their ancestors.
Beyond the Kingdom Market lies the barracks, housing, and many museums and libraries of Dwarven art and culture. While these are accessible to outsiders, access is strictly regulated, and a series of bureaucratic “observances” must be made first, generally involving a lot of bribery and graft.
Ald is ruled by King Dramad the Joyously Melancholic, who has run the city-state with an even hand for the last hundred years, siring many bastards and (some sages worry) setting up Ald for a bloody interregnum once he dies.
Somewhere far deeper in the Spiral are the tunnels that connect Ald to the eleven other Dwarven cities, which no non-Dwarf has ever named, nor shown to any outsider.