The Dwarven Hold is the traditional system of governance and existence for the Dwarven people, as they emerged from the depths of the earth centuries ago. There have been more than a dozen Dwarven Holds in the past, though now there are only three, all in the possession of the Small-Hammer Clan.
A Hold, strictly speaking, is the seat of a Dwarven Lord, as well as his citadel, and in some ways a dwarven ‘city’, though where one starts and one ends is hard to tell, even for the Dwarves.
Each is built in a similar fashion; a huge cistern, a pit, at least 25 dwarven paces across, and often much larger, is sunk beneath the earth, usually in a place with a firm roof of solid rock, and a location near substantial mineral resources. From this central pit will stem a network of tunnels and rooms. As the Hold expands, sometimes additional pits will be constructed. Multiple exits to the surface are common, though usually only one or two are larger than two dwarves abreast. Dwarves take secure from every direction intensely seriously; so warning bells are often found throughout a hold, and guards often posted both on the highest, and lowest layers of a Hold. Despite Dwarven knowledge, or perhaps because of their history, they are as careful against an attack from beneath as from the more probable direction of above.
A Hold may consist of thousands, or even tens of thousands of Dwarves. Habitation by others is very rare; Small groups of Gnomes may sometimes set up shop, but the other civilized races find dwarven holds often claustrophobic. The dwarves have enmity towards all the ‘non-civilized’ races. Still, the occasional human group, or Merchant, Elven Troupe, or some such might pass through or set up shop. It’s worth noting that there is a saying in Jassit; “Made ambassador to a dwarven Hold” that has a meaning of receiving a gift meant as an insult or punishment.
The Dwarven hold is a reflection of the Dwarven clan and class system. While a concept similar to that of human nobility exists within Dwarven society, it is far looser, as all Dwarves extant on the surface can trace their lineage back to ‘nobles’. Some families have come to predominance over others, but there is far less demarcation between ‘noble’ and ‘commoner’ in Dwarven society.
Dwarven society is thus generally more of a meritocracy. Each Clans elders, are composed of those within the clan who have gained prestige either through their wisdom and respect within the community or through direct acts. Since dwarves hold the creation of lasting works to be incredibly important, this means Craftsmen and Artists will sit alongside Warriors and Statesmen.
The Lord of a Dwarven Hold is usually a hereditary position, but one that is held by the grace of the Clan Elders. Though rare circumstances an older brother has been known to step aside or be forced aside by the votes of the Elders for a more prominent or ‘worthy’ younger son.
The Lord of the Hold than has a senior council which advises him, much like a king might, again though, dwarven sensibilities usually mean that head craftsmen also end up on this council. Administration in the Hold than falls to various appointments, some from the Hold Lord, others from the Clan, or from within other organizations within the hold itself.