Dwarves are generally regarded as a stubborn lot. While they produce amazing smiths and craftspeople, they like things done just so, which makes dealing with them difficult sometimes. Dwarven adventurers might have little problem mingling with crowds of other races on the surface, but most dwarves prefer things more familiar and they generally want to look up and see stone over their heads.
But they are wise enough to realize that they need to deal with their neighbors in order to maintain comfortable lifestyles in their underground vaults and mountain cities, and that means trade. People want dwarven goods, but not everyone has the time, or motivation, to travel all the way to a citadel like Hammergate in order to buy dwarven wares. In fact, everyone else has to move their goods form place to place, so there are plenty of merchants who ask why the dwarves think they’re so special as to demand everyone comes to them.
With all of this in mind, several clans of dwarves began working together, and with outsiders, to find solutions that could work for everyone. What they struck upon was the trading hold. Dwarven trading holds are wide, generally low buildings of stone, most often situated outside of major trading hubs. They provide a place for dwarven merchants to meet with buyers from other races (or other dwarven communities), without making them go all the way up into the mountains or down under the surface.
It was the Ungart clan which came up with the idea of building them outside of towns. For one, it makes them technically dwarven territory, instead of being beholden to the laws of others, though they tend to at least make token efforts at paying taxes and the like, to stay on good terms. But this also allowed them to be squat and covered like most dwarven surface construction, giving dwarves the comfortable closed in feeling that they prefer. More elaborate trading holds are often built down, allowing for high ceilings that are still made entirely of stone.
Being town adjacent also makes it easier on dwarven caravans, rarely excited about threading through busy market streets, to deliver and take away goods. Having to leave town to go deal with the dwarves can be an inconvenience for some, but the goods are usually worth the effort.
And they’re called trading holds for a reason: they’re fortified and built to last, both to once again appease dwarven sensibilities, but also for the practical fact that they’re outside of town. In some cases, when they’re large enough, dwarves have even welcomes locals in during assaults, especially if the town itself lacks in defenses. These rare cases aside though, non-dwarves are rarely allowed to stay in a hold, and are never allowed to set up shop there. Though some do prop up stalls or tents outside the building in order to cater to dwarven customers who don’t want to stray too far from the familiar in search of a good deal.
Artwork: “Darnstall Palace/Sanctuary of Vames,” by Dyson Logos, 2016.