Gray Pillar Guild
The Gray Pillar Guild is an association of architects and miners who hold the secrets of geometry, trigonometry, statics and urban construction that their ancestors learned from Maphr herself. It was their engineers who developed the enormous mining region of the Spine Mountains, and it was their architects who built the great underground labyrinth of Mlan.
That labyrinth had originally started out as a network of mining tunnels which were dug when the Dwarves first began to exploit the rich deposits of iron ore around their capital ("Mlan" is Dwarvish for "Milltown", as in "ore mill"). Later, the engineers of the Gray Pillar Guild were extending the tunnels to the east, always following the seams of ore-carrying rock, until they linked up with the Strip Mine in the Spine Mountains. From then on the underground tunnels served as a convenient means of transport and communication, relieving the Dwarves of the necessity to ship tons of coal and mithril ore with mule caravans over snow-covered mountain passes that were infested with Goblins and Orc brigands.
Apart from that, the Gray Pillar Guild had also built the famous Hanging Gardens of Schuttgart that adorned the roof terraces of the Governor's Palace there, making the stepped building look from afar like a mountain covered in greenery, as well as the Summer Labyrinth at Harnark, south-east of Schuttgart, where the provincial governor used to spend the hottest weeks of the year, hunting buffaloes and antelopes between high walls of rock that provided cool shade during most of the day. (Through a magical accident involving Princess Melissa, the Summer Labyrinth later turned into the Frozen Labyrinth).
For the most part, however, the Gray Pillar Guild is nowadays concerned with mining. In order to satisfy the never ending demand for minerals and metals, they regularly send out prospecting teams to the remotest corners of the Spine Mountains, always in the hope of finding new veins. In the past, the Grey Pillar Guild also had good business relations with the Kingdom of Gracia, importing from there precious metals like oriharukon or gemstones like chrysolite, which are needed for the manufacture of weapons and jewelry that are used by mages. Since the Children of Shilen took over Gracia some time ago, this source of raw materials has dried up, however.
A further problem for the Gray Pillar Guild is the shortage of mithril ore. In the eastern mining zone of the Spine Mountains there are the famous Mithril Mines that were originally operated at great profit by the Guild. But down there was sleeping since time immemorial the Earth Wyrm Trasken, one of the most powerful among Shilen's dragon breed. Ignoring the Earth Wyrm, the Gray Pillar Guild kept on prospecting and digging, until they eventually woke up the Earth Wyrm, and countless Dwarves perished. In the end the hero Lucien defeated Trasken and put a seal on the Mithril Mines, knowing that somewhere down there was still hidden at least one egg of the creature.
Some time ago, a gang of Ratmen made their way into the Mithril Mines and started illegal mining operations there. The Dwarves themselves don't dare to put a foot into those cursed tunnels any more, but Elder Filaur quite successfully recruits adventurers who kill for him those pesky Ratmen and bring back considerable quantities of mineral fragments. Even after Filaur has rewarded those fearless men and women with precious stones like leonard or adamantine, the Gray Pillar Guild still turns a nice profit with that arrangement.
Recently it has been discovered, though, that the animals at the Beast Farm in Rune Territory take in traces of mithril and iron while grazing the pastures there. Their metabolism seems to process the raw minerals into mithril alloy that can immediately be used for weapon production, making the complicated refining process with Varnish of Purity a thing of the past. Therefore it is expected that in the long run the price for mithril will go down considerably, and the Gray Pillar Guild will have to find new fields of activity.