Four powerful merchant families control this free-trade city: the Harlhauns, the Jathlets, the Belarks, and the Olaundrans. Though they are rivals in business, the families have managed to find enough common ground to establish some level of law and order for the town, using their private militias to keep the peace. The families all run businesses asociated with serving caravans, including storage warehouses, outfitters, and financial services (moneylenders and moneychangers), but they are not costers themselves.
The stone walls surrounding the heart of Delzimmer have long since outlived their usefulness. The city has grown considerably since the walls were builtand shops, dwellings, and warehouses have spilled out into the open ground beyond their perimeter. Roads have been cut through the walls to provide access to the businesses outside, and the remaining portions are in poor repair, sporting cracked mortar and holes of various sizes.
Delzimmer’s citizens are all in the on any given day are caravanmasters, their escorts, and the merchants who hire them. of providing services, ethier for the caravan traffic, or for the locals. The rest of the people in the city
In Letters from Elminster, he describes the city thusly:
A First Glance at Delzimmer
Perendra’s specific interests in this hot, surprisingly damp trading city remain a mystery to me — but ‘tis the sort of lawless, everchanging, bustling center of commerce that appeals to wanderers and merchants everywhere. Aside from the climate, dusky-skinned elves that many might mistake for drow going about openly in the sunlight, and an abundance of chattering halflings, one might well be in Scornubel, far to the north in the Sword Coast lands. Delzimmer’s population rises and falls constantly, but I’d judge that in most years, ’tis about eight to eleven thousand, perhaps falling to as little as six-and-three-quarters of a thousand in winter.
In Delzimmer, winters tend to be two months of lashing cold rainstorms that are hurried through the city in swift succession by fierce winds. Sometimes rain falls hard enough to flood the streets for some hours at a time. That potential for flooding and the snakes and dust the rest of the year combine to make cellars rare, to make ground-floor rooms sparsely furnished (and often tile-, flagstone-, or dirt-floored), and to restrict any opulence of furnishing and storage of valuable items to upper floors.
Delzimmer has city walls, which are of stone and about twenty feet high, sloping from a thickness of three feet or so at the top to thrice that at the base and lacking battlements or a walltop walk for defenders. However, their condition is somewhat akin to those of the ring walls of Malthuk’s Tower: crumbling and pierced by many breaks, which now carry streets through them, and which long since allowed Delzimmer to expand beyond and in the end ignore its walls. The cute little one-room, spire-topped towers that cap the wall every so often now serve as rookeries for trained message doves and pigeons. (The ranks of which are often thinned by hungry local urchins skilled at slinging stones and desirous of pigeon pie.)
Delzimmer lacks a formal ruler or much authority. What it has instead are four well-established human families who operate storage warehouse, moneylending/changing/banking services, and caravan outfitting concerns. (These are not costers. They prefer to let other individuals go to the discomfort and danger of actual caravan travel.) Their private armies of liveried guards police the streets in a rough-and-ready manner — and interestingly, although the four families are rivals, they seem to have long ago come to some firm pacts to prevent their clashing interests (and the swords of their guards) from ever erupting into open strife. In short, they share the wealth that flows to them by maintaining Delzimmer as an open trading city.
These local satraps (I employ the collective southern term for petty rulers because these de facto rulers of Delzimmer entirely lack any formal titles or authority) are the families:
Belark, whose guards wear leather armor of crimson hue to which are affixed painted metal bucklers displaying a black hawk in flight winging to the sinister on a white sky device;
Harlhaun, whose guards and retainers wear blue-green (deep blue dominating) livery or armor adorned with bucklers emblazoned with a purple upright sword on a white field;
Jathlet, whose colors is a light lime green and whose badge is a blue-black panther or hunting cat that is depicted leaping upward toward the sinister (on a white field);
and Olaundran, whose colors are gold trimmed with white (aye, cloth-of-gold or shimmerweave, not yellow of any hue), and whose device is a circle of six gold coins (each of which is decorated in black with a single staring eye, which has won them the name “watchcoins”) on a scarlet field.
As aforementioned, four wealthy, well-established local families unofficially rule the trading city of Delzimmer. They can be very dangerous if crossed (for instance, although none of them officially keep slaves, they employ drugs to enslave certain individuals — slayers, thieves, and personal bodyservants — to their wills). Wise visitors learn all they can about these folk, and as with all self-styled nobles, their feuds and intrigues are long, involved, and as ye might say, “Byzantine.”
Here I provide a more cursory “know thy potential foes” guide, taking two families in this missive, and the remaining pair in the next.
This traditionally haughty, aggressive, and thankfully small in number family runs to black hair, hooked noses set in ugly (“strong,” as flattering bards say) faces, and fat, squat, long-armed and bandy-legged physiques. However, ’tis the failing of far too many “outlanders” (as Delzemaer call all visitors) to consider them stupid brutes. They tend to shrewdly act such parts so as to learn more about strangers.
The Belarks dwell in Belarkhuruin (from an old local word “haroon” or “grand house”), a many-spired dark stone mansion set in walled gardens between the Wide Way (Delzimmer’s main street) and Gaunthan Street. They breed and sell many stout horses, collect sculptures, and own companies of stonemasons based in several cities of the Tashalar. They also partake of the banking, warehousing, and caravan outfitting trade shared by all four Delzemaer “satrap” families.
The Belarks like gold, have much ready coin on hand, and maintain a strong standing army of well-armed and -trained guards armed with blades of all sorts and hand crossbows equipped with poisoned darts. (Most of the poisons cause sleep or paralysis, but some are more deadly.) Belark livery is crimson, so family members (save for funeral and wedding robes) seldom wears the color. The Belark Hawk badge appears on all family documents, contracts, gates, and servants.
The family is led by their grossly fat patriarch, Oldyle (NE male human Ftr8/Rog5). His heir is Hlonsker, who has two maliciously sadistic younger brothers, Corauth and Aslyn who delight in causing trouble for all in Delzimmer. There are also half a dozen wastrel uncles, but no blood-offspring Belark females in the current generation.
This clan tends to be tall, thin, sophisticated and handsome, with large, dark eyes, cheekbones that would not look out of place on a pureblood elf of elder heritage on Evermeet — and a cold, calculating, “take the long view” manner. Unlike the brutish Belark, they eschew aggression and proudly wear their family colors just as their servants do.
More than any other wealthy Delzemaer family, the Harlhaun reward and train their senior servants, giving them power to act as trade agents for the family, and paying them well. Years of such treatment have resulted in a large, fiercely loyal, dedicated and shrewd staff of servants who are proud to wear the Harlhaungreat sea green (the house color) and the Harlhaun sword of honor badge. All of the servants are trained in arms, although only somewhat under half customarily serve as guards.
The Harlhaun dwell in their walled mansion of High House, which stands amid wooden gardens that feature a sequence of pools that drain into each other (the water being endlessly pumped around in a cycle) in a long, narrow triangle on the western side of Delzimmer that is bounded by Alonthan, Baerkezel, and Taloth Streets. They engage in the commercial activities common to all the satrap families, and also trade in gems, perfumes, and herbal and alchemical products. (Some folk whisper that poisons are also important Harlhaun-made products.)
The family cloaks their true feelings behind elaborate manners, even in their private dealings, and are adroitly steered by their patriarch Maraunt, whose hobby is perfecting new scents and subtle drugs (often both in the same draft). His daughter Arleithe is a bitter, sensual dark beauty who considers herself thrice as brilliant as her two louder younger brothers, but sees herself being steadily relegated to the mother of the house role since the death of her mother Maulauke, as her brothers try to assert their fitness to take up the family reins soon. Her brothers are a scheming pair who devote much of their time to working subtle evil on each other’s ambitions, family standing, and private pursuits: Lariond (LE male human Ari3/Ftr9) and Narthel.
The traits of this numerous, fecund family include mimicry and nondescript facial features, which has allowed them to impersonate many folk in their travels. Only sixteen Jathlets at most are to be found in Delzimmer at any time. The rest are scattered across Faerûn pursuing trade and theft opportunities with all the skills and avid hunger of the worst sort of Rat Hills merchant (the Sword Coast term for any outrageously dishonest trader, the sort of merchant who’ll sell you someone else’s wagon when its owner has just stepped into a tavern to sell a keg of ale).
Jathlets own any number of small trading companies working the Tashalar ports, and there are persistent rumors that the family ranks include at least one necromancer skilled in magic that can knit body parts together and alter human physiques and faces enough to hide someone permanently. Enemies of the Jathlets claim these abilities are used to forever trap important persons (kidnapped by the Jathlets) into slavery.
In Delzimmer, folk say “a Jathlet’s behind it” of almost any trade transaction or change in the prices of goods, because the family dips their fingers into almost all local mercantile doings.
Jathlets rule their staff by fear, not bothering to pay well or hire for long, and only reward loyalty on the part of their numerous house guards (highly trained and superbly equipped warriors). Jathlets care little for pomp, ritual, or showing off their wealth, and customarily dress in anything comfortable. Their servants have overtunics of Jathlet green emblazoned with the Jathlet at hunt badge. The family maintains no less than three grand houses in Delzimmer, but the oldest and largest is Selkturrets on Alvandaer Street.
Since the recent death of longtime patriarch “Happy” Jolthur Jathlet in a rather suspicious riding accident, the family is nominally led by his widow Elsraea (LE female human Ari6/Rog4), but dominated by its independently operating “forest of uncles.” Some two dozen in number and typified by the saturnine Feldaern (NE male human Ari4/Ftr8/Rog6), these men are rarely in Delzimmer for long. There are a dozen younger, more reckless Jathlet sons, such as Dolrur (CE male human Ari2/Ftr2/Rog1), who swagger about Delzimmer trying to prove themselves — but behind all of these are the mysterious elder mages of the family, of whom I’ve only met Malthorn (NE male human Ari6/Nec14).
As the Delzemaer saying goes, “One can always tell an Olaundran — from as far as the eye can see.” These are the sort of self-styled nobles familiar to any Faerûnian traveler: nose-in-the-air, luxuriously garbed sticklers for etiquette who demand that all others defer to them (except members of the other three satrap families, whom they prefer to ignore).
Cloth-of-gold (usually with cream silk trim) features prominently in most Olaundran garb, but any expensive-looking fashion may be seen adorning their generally soft, overfed, and overindulged bodies. Their many dozens of servants, however (a ring of whom accompany every Olaundran, at all times), are always seen in uniforms of gold fabric adorned with prominent breast, back, shoulder, and belt-buckle “circle of watchcoins” family badges. It’s a popular belief in town that Olaundran servants sleep in their uniforms, disrobing only when the family launderers come by (every few hours) to “take the old and replace it with the new.”
Olaundrans own interests in many ships plying the Sword Coast shipping lanes, and so are wealthy enough to own substantial real estate in the centers of many cities of the Tashalar, Calimshan, and Amn. In Delzimmer, they carry on lives of apparent idle luxury, spending much time feasting, pursuing private hobbies, and shopping. (They buy without care for price — after all, what Olaundran would ever care about money, given the shiploads of coins the family possesses?) Trusted senior family servants (who have recently, in a number of hastily hushed-up scandals, shown a tendency to work and invest for themselves) handle Olaundran trade matters in Delzimmer.
All twelve current Olaundrans are personally well known throughout the city because their dabbling in ever-changing rosters of hobbies brings them into contact with most of the citizenry. The family is led by the frail “Old” Gauthklaun, but in daily life his powers are largely usurped by his rotund and cruel adult sons Yolaun and Bezrar.
The darkly handsome Bezrar is childless (at least officially), but Yolaun has half a dozen youthful wastrel offspring. This young brood is dominated by the seeker-of-culture eldest daughter (music, poetry, dance, or whatever catches her fancy this month) Rassalice, and the two brothers born after her, the brawling (hawking, hunting, and wagering-over-beastfights or slave mudwrestling) duo of Elvolaer and Sardrin. Delzmaer warn that the most alert and dangerous-to-cross family member, however, is the aging uncle Dendrand, because he always gets even.
Life in Delzimmer
I happen to be one of those folk who believe that the seeking of knowledge is its own reward and justification, but there are others who challenge me when I impart news of this or that deed, cabal, or locale of Faerûn with queries of: “That’s far away or long ago — why should I care?”
In the instance of Delzimmer, my reply is that every region of Faerûn has its crossroad places, its centers of trade vital to foreigners trying to acquire things or get things done, and Delzimmer is one such. In its small, dusty-when-‘tis-not-damp way, this city is every bit as vital as Waterdeep. In Delzimmer, traders from Dambrath and Luiren meet the wider world, eager to acquire things they can’t get or dare not be seen at home making or buying.
Mercenaries, wagons and their drovers, and even small bands of thieves can be had for hire, and almost every building in the city has a street-level shop and dwellings above — shops usually crammed with a wild and crowded variety of goods new and old, including cargo that came out of (or, as they say, “fell off of”) wagons that passed through in the past.
Oxen, draft horses, and riding mounts galore can be bought in plenty in Delzimmer, and more than once their numbers have attracted wemic raids out of the north. (These and bandits and goblins from the Toadsquat Mountains were the original justification for the satrap families assembling private armies.)
Folk of all races rub shoulders in the city, trade is easy, swift, informal, and usually bustling day and night. (Large iron lanterns are hung outside shops that are open for business in the dark hours.) There’s always an air of excitement in town.
Competition keeps prices for nonrare goods quite low. Folk with few coins can eat quite well if they dine on quace and other local fruit (pickled quace in winter), skewers of fried snake and lizard, and handpies (known less politely as “rat pies” for the source of most of the ground meat therein, but tasty enough when cooked with chopped wild onion and the hot brown local sauces). Cheeses, jugged fruit jellies, and roast boar from nearby Luiren are always plentiful.
Almost half of all Delzemaer are halflings from nearby Luiren, and they tend to swiftly and cheerfully embrace one get-rich-quick scheme and then turn to the next, playing it all as a big, cheerful game. Even heavy losses don’t seem to bother them much, so long as they detect no skullduggery.
Hin love to gamble, in Delzimmer as much as in Luiren, and games of cards and dice and strategy can be found everywhere in the city. For the last decade, new table games — ye would call them board games — have swept the city every few months, as avid Delzemaer gamers invent new ones. Some games travel with the caravans to become pastimes o fthe idle rich of other cities, but most are known nowhere else in Faerûn.
Folk of Dambrath are apt to be far less open and cheerful than halfings, but those who come to Delzimmer are generally civil, or even looking for what ye might call “a good time.”
In short, Delzimmer is one of those colorful, often-wild places where the world comes to scheme and trade and play. Worth a look, if ye’re in the area — or stumble across the right portal in Voonlar.
- Has a church of Kelemvor led by Zempir attempting to pass himself off as Awar.