On the Location and Hospitality of Dweghom Holds

Humans have long speculated on the reason why most Dweghom Holds seem to be cloistered upon mountain sides, more often than not on inhospitable, rough terrains, with precious few natural passages going anywhere near them. A common theory suggests that the old age when they were built offered entirely different landscapes and that the disappearance of the civilization that birthed them explains the lack of passages and trails. Others, more learned perhaps or who simply happen near more active Holds, claim that the locations were chosen exactly because for their unapproachable landscapes, be it because they reflected the reclusive and even savage nature of their denizens or as natural defenses against mighty enemies long gone. Human curiosity to answer such questions, however, seems to have been mostly trampled in the case of Dweghom Holds. Since the Fall, humanity has avoided settling near or exploring Holds, bar cases when scholarly interest or simple, old-fashioned greed and treasure hunting prevailed. In those cases, those that returned only fueled the talk of a long dead civilization, speaking of sealed tombs waiting in darkness.

Daring scholars who have managed to study at least partially the Mnemantic depictions on Hold entrances have discovered that there is some truth in such speculations. The Dweghom have indeed long withdrawn from the world, leaving their gates and their surroundings mostly unattended and indeed each location was connected with a battle against an ancient and powerful enemy. Still, while each of these scholars is offered a glimpse of the truth, such individuals are few and far between, scattered throughout the world without a chance to compare notes and theories. Had they such a chance, perhaps they would have discovered a near universal truth about Dweghom Holds: they are built on graveyards.

Be it on the site of an emptied Dragon Rook, an ancient battlefield or, in some cases, the petrified husks of their defeated foes, all Holds are more than cities and houses for their Dweghom. They are monuments to the Clan’s birth upon victory against their hated former masters and their ilk. While it would be an exaggeration to say that under every rock and nook around a Hold’s entrance lie the remains of Dragons, Dweghom and Crafters alike, it would not be a gross one, for such is possibly the case for many Holds. Yet the sharp rocks and deep crevices around Gholond are not explained by fossilized dragon bones (at least not all of them), as some grim romantics could hope and the rivers of lava flowing through Ognisros are not the blood of an Elder of Fire that was felled there. The rough landscapes owe their formation elsewhere; they are testaments to the vast sums of pure, primordial elemental force employed and released, both by the Dweghom themselves and upon the deaths of powerful dragons, which have twisted and morphed the land and have seeped into it, dominating since. Such a primordial influence could also explain why only some humans have ever been drawn to Holds but rarely settled near them if it could be avoided. If the landscape is not uninspiring enough, the sense of dread and death, even millennia after the fact, has surely proven to be so.

Still, some explorers, be they brave, fool or both, have dared approach and even enter Holds that either were or looked abandoned, for it must be said that there are more sealed Holds than those active, even if not many. Of them, only the heartiest have kept walking, braving the darkness beyond; for if Hold entrances are metaphorical graveyards on the outside, these daring and foolhardy souls soon realize that they are literal ones once their gates are crossed. While many never returned, some did, at times bringing back treasures from the abandoned Holds, all however described the eerie atmosphere, resulting to endless ridiculous tales of haunted treasures. In 652 P.R., a Russ scholar by the name of Alexei Drashinov exploring the gates of Orobdhuo, accurately captured the feelings that walking into a Hold invoked. In his notes he wrote:

“Even the heavy curtain of light from the gates and its openings seemed hesitant to disturb the darkness and silence beyond. The silence! So much worse than the darkness, it was. If my torch’s light seemed to dance shy and afraid in darkness so deep, then every noise I made seemed an insult; an affront to the silence that reigned, immediately answered as angered whispers, in echoes that returned distorted and threatening. It was not long before I came to know who they had disturbed. After the large cavern beyond the gates, I found tunnels, wide enough for three or four carriages to cross and so tall that my torch’s light barely licked the ceiling.

Steeped in darkness that got denser with every step, above doors barred by heavy chains held in place not by locks but by seals of melted metal alloys unknown to me, rows of stone faces glimmered in the torchlight, greeting me with grim expressions over entrances to what could only be tombs. I was so startled when I saw the first face that I yelled and my own scream came back to mock me in cackling echoes, as if the sealed dead snickered at my fear.”

Alas, Drashinov’s warnings never reached a large audience, neither was he credited for the various discoveries he made on his days-long exploration. Mnemancer Vodhergodh, however, to whom the belongings of the slaughtered intruding scholar were delivered, found his notes enlightening and the incident of his startled yell indeed amusing.

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