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Elminster Speaks - Part 42
By Ed Greenwood
Doings in Delzimmer, Part 1
So now we know what Delzmaer eat, the general character of the hot and either dusty or damp (usually the latter) trade center, and who lords it over the place. Were I inclined to pedantry, I'd now take ye on a tour of the clingvine pits outside the city, where offal, nightsoil, and refuse -- not to mention the more-than-occasional hastily and somewhat discreetly disposed-of corpse -- are devoured by hungry plants that turn such noisome leavings back into earth. From then 'twould be but a logical turn to survey the local groundflowers and most plentiful trees and bushes, saying which was edible and which shaped and determined the look and life of Delzimmer and its environs.
Yet I see thee a-yawning already. Patience, as the famed seer Alaundo observed, is the armor that shields many a throne -- but ne'er mind. Ye want to hear news and rumors, scandals and tales of adventure -- and I can give ye those, too. Hearken, then.
The dabblings and everchanging enthusiasms of the satraps I described earlier serve as a sort of spotlight on unfolding events in Delzimmer. Where those four families turn their attention, so follows the general public regard and interest. Yet beneath what they've yet noticed, in the bustle of trade that makes Delzimmer what it is, other happenings befall. I'll deal later with the latest passing fads and matters of gossip, but first 'tis best to understand underlying local themes -- "ethrael," for instance.
In the past shoddy workmanship (usually related to building structures too high without adequate footings -- or with none at all) caused many building collapses in the city. More than a few folk were killed, and public anger grew. When such collapses became fewer but specific (that is, occurring only to personal foes, creditors, and trade-rivals of certain builders or satraps, at inconvenient times), fury reached a height. Certain citizens took to paying children to watch by night in the darkness, with lamps and horns at hand.
Eventually a crew was caught -- in the light of many lamps, with horns blowing to rouse neighbors and bring witnesses running -- covertly removing key support stones to cause a collapse. They were slain on the spot by enraged citizens, and the city erupted into angry debate. Building collapses swiftly became much rarer, but it wasn't long before the now-wary citizens noticed two things: night fires within bedchambers of citizens who never awakened to escape the flames had drifted from something unheard-of in Delzimmer to a once every two tendays or even more frequent occurrence; and often after either a collapse or such a fatal fire, an important builder or a satrap would somehow acquire the site and erect a new and grander structure.
Dozens of merchants descended upon a high-ranking cleric of Tyr when that priest's travels brought him through the city, and prevailed upon him to convene a Council of Delzimmer. At that long and often heated meeting (which lasted the better part of three days and was marked by public fights, several knifings, and "disappearances" during the nights between session), the participating citizenry hammered out two things: the "kauladd," a rough code of conduct with enforcement and justice, and the system of "ethrael" (deeds to properties). I'll say more about both of these things in later ramblings.
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