Location: Central southeast of the Known World. The Dwarven Holds lie within The Burning Mountains (a southern spur of The Divide) near the center of The Great Desert. Illucien and Ceracia lie across the Great Desert to the south and east, respectively; and The Sheeresh Matriarchy borders them to the southwest.
Climate: Varies by elevation. The lowest regions of the Holds touch the border of the Great Desert, and are sweltering, where the highest peaks towards their center are as frigid as the troll lands to the north. Most inhabited parts of the Holds, however, lie somewhere in-between, at a roughly cool to temperate height.
Government: Monarchical union. The independent holds are each ruled by a separate line of hereditary kings, and a simple union exists solely to regulate trade prices between holds and provide for defense in the case of a non-dwarven invasion.
Ancient beyond even their own history, the Neisagh Kaern (or Dwarven Holds) have existed within the Burning Mountains as long as the members of any race can recall. Dwarven myths speak of the Journey, the vast exodus of the dwarven race from what are known as the Crying Lands to their current home. These legends claim that the exodus was carried out to escape the Adversary, an unidentified foe often demonised and tied with hubris among members of their race by dwarven religious leaders. However, the true identity of the Adversary and the location of the dwarven homelands both remain mysteries forgotten to even by the dwarves.
What is known is that the Holds have existed for several centuries (millenia, possibly), and were fully formed before men ever arrived in the Known World. Not surprisingly, life in these ancient kingdoms has altered little, even given the massive changes in the world outside of the Holds. Other than to provide an increase in trade, the human nations have managed to stay clear of the affairs of dwarves, just as they would like it.
Appearing cohesive from the outside, the Holds are anything but. Ruled by a separate king or lord, the underground labyrinth of each Hold typically occupies a separate peak from its neighbors. This isolation has largely served to keep peace within the Neisagh Kaern, although what wars have occurred between Holds have been terrifying in their savagery. Sien, lizardfolk, and others foolish enough to attack the dwarves can testify to the danger these stout warriors provide in battle.
Although the Holds have not closed their borders to foreigners, few travel beyond the fringes of their territory, seeking only to trade with these quiet masters of the forge. To this end, a handful of Holds along the southern and eastern borders of the Burning Mountains cater to these needs, filled with merchants buying high-quality metalworks, tinkerer devices, and even the rare rune items from the more powerful Holds of the interior, who in turn sell their goods to human merchants from across the Desert.
Tregagh: The largest (and among the oldest) of the Dwarven Holds, Tregagh occupies a high peak near the center of the Burning Mountains. Peaceful and forward-thinking, the mountain-kings of Tregagh long ago provided for the construction of an elaborate network of stone bridges that connected the Hold to its nearby neighbors among the tightly-packed peaks of the inner Mountains. A more recent addition has been the skydock of Tregagh, the only one of its kind within the dwarven lands. The Hold has served for centuries as one of the principal meeting places of the monarchs of the dwarven mountain kingdoms, and is as close to a capital of the region as any one of the Holds come.
Resergh: Located near the eastern edge of the Burning Mountains, Resergh is home to the infamous Runecasters Guild. The dark practices of the Runecasters have made them unwelcome almost everywhere but within this kingdom, abandoned until the Guild rediscovered it. Still mostly unoccupied, save for the small cabal of the guild and their attendants, Resergh keeps open admission for visitors wishing to commission an item from the Guild. Prices are costly for their services, and Runecasters have been known to turn down even extremely generous offers for no apparent reason. Just as strangely, members of the Guild will occasionally craft simple rune items for sale on the open market or to be given away much below their true value. Whether these acts serve to fund the Runecasters, maintain awareness of their talents throughout the world, or accomplish some more clandestine purpose remains unknown.
Juregh: Serving as a center for trade with Illucien to the south, the Juregh Hold occupies a squat, outlying southern peak. Visitors to Juregh return with tales of its colossal entrance, a giant stairway carved from the mountain rising from the sands of the Great Desert to a pair of elegantly worked stone doors covered in stone artwork chronicling the greatest work of dwarven lords, smiths, and inventors. Through the doors, traders are led into a cavern as large as a small city, filled with storerooms and dwarven merchants, buying and selling anything that can come into or out of the lands of the Holds.