Paths of Westholm
Native Races of Westholm
THE RACES OF WESTHOLM
The Cataclysm split the Firstcomers into the many native races of Westholm. Elves, Dwarves, Drow, Halflings, Orcs, and Goblins are the dominant races in the Northeast, but Lizardmen from the Burning Sands have been seen as far North as Bren’s Cross, and the Sterren nomads have reported meeting other humanoids such as trolls and giants in the Sterrenades. Humans later settled on the continent, arriving from across the East Sea in two waves. Perhaps other races remain to be discovered…
The Drow of Westholm are shunned by most of the other races, having never given up on the Firstcomers’ dream of Ascension. Because of this desire, they remain mostly near Valdoreth, gathering relics, and channeling the wild eldritch energies that swirl around the doomed mountain and Tash Kahar, the blighted plain. The greatest concentration of Drow are found in the great stone city of Nebbon, carved deep into the Ashpeak mountains. Nebbon and Dul’Saht have been locked in almost endless war, fighting for fuel, gems, and other resources beneath the old mountains. Above ground, the Elves of Fellearin are constantly on guard and ready to harry Nebbon to disrupt their plans for ascension. If not for the vigilance of Dul’Saht and Fellearin, the Drow would have overcome Westholm centuries ago and perhaps even achieved the dark dream of the Firstcomers. Even so, the Drow still manage to surprise the other communities of Westholm with surprise raids and sorties, nearly overrunning the Dwarven kingdom of Dagonmund with a surprise assault from the frozen wastes.
The drow are ruled by the God-Empress Shallaketh, one of the oldest living beings in Westholm, and function as an absolutist monarchic matriarchy. Shallaketh is sustained almost entirely through arcane magics, with many warlocks devoted solely to finding new enchantments to keep her alive, or actively channeling their own energy into her. The older she gets, the more magic she needs to survive, so the Drow are constantly looking for new sacrifices to feed her or new ways to sustain her. Status in Drow society devolves around matrilineal relation to Shallaketh, though individual Drow may earn renown in the field of battle or through their achievements in the dark art of Ascension.
Drow are seldom seen south of Tash Kahar or east of the Gates, though it is suspected that their agents move among the other societies of Westholm.
After the Cataclysm, the Dwarves carved their first and greatest home in the halls of Dul’Saht beneath the old mountains. During the War of the Races, Kor the Wise, friend and advisor to King Throm, counseled his liege that, for the sake of the survival of their race and ways, perhaps some of his people should be sent away to forge a new home for the Dwarves. Throm refused to see the wisdom of Kor’s counsel, forbade his friend from deserting. Kor refused, and fled south along with a third of Throm’s people.
Whether by accident or purpose, the Goblin Warlord Szartch managed to break Throm’s lines that day and came after Kor’s retreating band.
Kor led his tribe south across Tash Sterren, pursued by Szartch. Fully half of Kor’s people perished along the way, but they finally found safety in the Sandy Mountains. Kor established the second Dwarven kingdom of Kormund there in the south, though his foe Szartch would not give up pursuit and built the great goblin fortress of Szar Tchun with the hopes of someday toppling Kor’s kingdom.
Kor’s wisdom proved true, as the Dwarves of Dul’Saht grew increasingly barbaric and brutal, hardened by their continuous battles with the Drow of Nebbon and Uk Thugrun’s Orcs. The Dwarves of Dul’Saht know little but war, and look with disdain on their brethren to the south, the followers of “Kor the coward.” But the beauty of Dwarvish craftsmanship and the ever-growing refinement of dwarvish martial arts lives on in Kormund, honed by the threat of Szar Tchun.
Kor’s grandson, Dagon, was a relentless explorer who traveled far from Kormund, spreading the wisdom and renown of the Dwarves to many other races throughout Westholm. He was sojourning with the Elves of Shannilar when the humans first landed at Bel Verren, and took especial liking to these newcomers. Riding north with the great Verrenese general Colle Sterren, Dagon helped the Verrenese settle along the Kyr and was instrumental in the building of the great river city of Kyran. Dagon’s exploits during this period earned him the sobriquet “Manfriend.”
Dagon brought several families of Verrenese back to Kormund, where they could share their knowledge of agriculture with his people and gain training and protection from them. The humans settled the plains south of the Ril river, and proved the breadbasket of Kormund, while taking on more and more of the Dwarves’ values, skills, and mannerisms over time.
Hoping to reunite his people, Dagon took a delegation of his people and returned to Dul’Saht and threw a great feast there. He spoke to the Dul’Saht dwarves and his own Kormund band of his hope for a middle path, where the hardiness of battle and the beauty of craft could coexist and strengthen each other. Though most of the Dul’Saht dwarves thanked him for his food and wished him well, few joined him. Othra, daughter of King Fruth, was enchanted by his voice and his vision and told her father that, like it or not, she would be going with Dagon. Fruth was furious, but knew he could not stop his daughter from carrying out her will. So it was that Othra and Dagon led a combined group of Dwarves east to the Snowpeak Mountains. But the two tribes would not unify, however much Othra and Dagon desired it.
When they finally reached the Snowpeaks tensions were at such a boil that, in an incident that remains clouded by the fog of feuds, they came to blows at their camp in Icepass and blood was spilled on both sides. Dagon and Othra agreed that the only way for the dream to survive was to give it space. So Dagon and his Kormund followers carved Dagonmund in the West Snowpeaks, while Othra and her Dul’Saht comrades built Mirfang on the other side of Icepass in the East.
When Mirfang was overrun by Drow in the battle of Icepass, Othra was slain, her body to be carried back to Shallaketh as a tribute. Dunn the Mighty, the human warlord, was able to overtake the Drow, however, and return Othra’s body to Dagon. In thanks, Dagon granted Mirfang to the Dunnish in perpetuity, and welcomed the survivors of Othra’s tribe into Dagonmund. There, late in the twilight of his life and at terrible cost, Dagon achieved his dream of reuniting the tribes of Throm and Kor. After his death, rule of Dagonmund passed to his and Othra’s daughter, Thaga.
King Fromin I, great-great grandson of Throm has recently taken over rule of Dul’Saht after his father, Tharmod, was slain by Drow deep in the Old Mountains.
Morth, Nephew of Dagon is currently the First of the Dwarves in Kormund.
Some hope that with the change of regime in Dul’Saht and the growing success of Thaga in Dagonmund, it might be possible to heal the ancient fissure of between Dwarvish tribes. Some have been hoping for a long time, though…
For the Elves, there is no greater tragedy than the Cataclysm. Longest-lived of the races of Westholm, there are still some Elves alive who remember the War of the Races personally. Though none living experienced the Cataclysm itself, they remember the stories told by their elders of the time before, when being and nature were perfectly in tune, breathing through each other, changing and being changed in delicate and harmonious interplay. The Elves are the most magic-sensitive of the native races of Westholm, powerful mages but also more susceptible to the vagaries of the arcane currents. As such they prefer to keep to the deep forests where they can use the trees to steady to flow of magic around them.
The Goblinoid races (including hobgoblins and bugbears) are the pests of Westholm. Moving mostly in disorganized bands, they are Verden’s foremost hedonists, pursuing pleasure at all costs. Unfortunately for the other denizens of Westholm, they take the most pleasure in chaos and violence.
Goblins lack the discipline to build great cities or farm their own food, instead they hunt and raid and steal what they need. They may often be employed as scouts and underlings by Orcs (for as long as they can be tolerated), and, in a pinch, as field rations. Very few other races can stand goblins and prefer to scare them off, or, if they are able, kill them on sight.
The one organized Goblin settlement in Westholm is Szar Tchun, which exists solely for the peculiar pleasure its residents take in causing pain to Dwarves. Not all goblins share this particular passion, but it has been inculcated into Szar Tchun by the generations of enmity between them and the Kormund Dwarves. No one really knows how Szar Tchun manages to function—no one taken behind its spiky walls has ever returned to report back.