Sun rarely shines in the Northern Realm, especially not during the long, harsh winters whose legendary storms are fierce and destroy anything in their path. Only the mountains are strong enough to survive the frozen wasteland long enough to see the slightly warmer days of spring. A rare form of diamond, known as the Sun Stone, is able to store and emit rays of sunlight. If they absorb enough, they can work as a substitute to the real thing and fulfill the role well enough to sustain gardens and provide enough warmth for life to exist comfortably without ever stepping outside. Through this method, the dwarves of the Northern Mountains cultivated trade posts with travelers daring enough to make their way to the Northern Realm. This is how people were able to survive the winters, and this is why people who call the Northern Realm their home live in settlements underneath the mountains. The largest of the Sun Stones, the Eye of Pelor, stands at the center of the largest settlement, the underground city of Gran Shar.
Gran Shar is an underground establishment, so naturally it has a fair share of Dwarven citizens. They are held to a much higher standard than any other citizens, however, since the Underlord fears rebellion. The caverns and the Eye of Pelor were both stolen from a prominent dwarven king who is still locked away as a hostage to discourage any political outbursts or acts of war. Dwarves are never allowed to enter the city’s inner walls for these reasons.
Dwarves are allowed to conduct business anywhere else in the city, and they prefer to do so near the edge of the settlement. Most dwarf business in Gran Shar is in trading magical items and runework on the black market. One need not look far to find a dwarf willing to craft an item with nearly any minor enchantment you desire. Given the political atmosphere of the city, dwarven merchants are extremely careful about dealings of this sort, and potential customers must ask a series of questions and carry out a dialogue in a correct order when trying to request these services. Even the smallest mistake will end up with you getting a raised eyebrow and a (feigned) puzzled look.
Seventy percent of Gran Shar’s population is comprised of humans. Before his conquest of the area, the Underlord traveled and petitioned a large number of the poor community in neighboring kingdoms to “join him in creating a new, better kingdom with opportunity for all.” Once news spread of the success of his military campaign in securing the mountain, thousands of men and women made the treacherous journey through the Northern Realm in spite of the horrible conditions. The survivors of the journey were given gifts of fertile land and promises of fair treatment as long as they swore fealty to the Underlord. It has been close to 40 years since then, and the subsequent generations are now well-adjusted to the comforts of life in Gran Shar, their only home.
There is a society of kobolds that is relegated to the slums of Gran Shar. Given their small stature and expendable nature in the eyes of the other citizens, they are very well-suited for working in the dark, damp caverns where sun stones and other precious metals and resources can be found. They are the primary workforce of Gran Shar’s excavation crews. No one’s quite sure how the Underlord was able to convince the Kobolds to live and work peacefully with the rest of the city’s populace, but they seem quite happy in their makeshift dwellings of mud, wood scraps, and whatever else they can find. Under the laws of Gran Shar, they are treated as equals (at least as much as kobolds can be) and are seldom the cause of any trouble.
As with most cities, there is a decent variety of other races and creatures that call Gran Shar home. There are a number of magicians and scholars who like to use the special conditions both in the caverns and city and out in the frozen landscape for experiments and tests. Many a traveler makes their way to Gran Shar to rest and resupply, and more than a few adventurers decided to just settle down and live in the city.