The Dark City: Col Sargoth

Approaching Col Sargoth from the Sea of Gathol, one might think himself sailing upon an active volcano rather than the crown jewel of the Five Kingdoms. The culprit? Two giant smelting factories bookending Col Sargoth to the north and south, belching sulfurous clouds of smoke into the sky that trail away to the horizon in the east.

Ostensibly, Col Sargoth is the city of the future. The Five Kingdoms have been combined into the Sargothian Empire, a vast realm on the cusp of surpassing the Old World Republic in its enlightened progress. That’s what Emperor Thedric Guderian would have you believe, at least. In reality, the city is a confused mess. Are there technological wonders? Yes. The major thoroughfares and public squares are lit day and night by ether-fueled lamps, a distinction shared only with Khail Sanctu in the Old World. And then there are the wagons and rickshaws, powered not by beasts of burden, but by coal-fired combustion engines. They are sight to behold, but like much of the city, they are a product of form over function. And the form is unpleasing.

The steam billowing from rickshaw boilers only adds to the already stifling air, choked thick with ash and smoke from the streetlamps and smelting factories. The streets are not cobbled, but rather paved with gravel and tar, which clings to wheels, hooves, and feet alike in the heat of the midday sun. All this does nothing to add to the simple, stark Sargothian architecture, little changed in the three hundred years since Sargoth Lightbringer founded the city.

According to the writings of the great skald, Tayte the Wanderer, the square, stolid structures of Col Sargoth—a combination of stone and thick-timbered construction—were originally built as a symbol of stability and strength for the mixed peoples of a new nation. To the nomadic tribespeople indigenous to the land, the city was a symbol of permanence and strength. To the immigrant sorcerers and their followers, the simple architectural lines were a symbol of practicality, and a purposeful departure from the gaudy, overwrought fashion and tastes prevalent in the Old World at the time.

It is this quaint, pragmatic aesthetic that clashes so horribly with Col Sargoth’s newfound industrial technology. Walking through the streets amongst the cheerless citizens who dress in clothing as stark as their city—muted and gray—it is hard to ignore how the lack of magic and sorcery has robbed the city of life. Sadly, if Emperor Guderian’s philosophy and ban on magic continues, this could be the template for all the great cities of the Five Kingdoms: Norg, Kal Pyrthin, and Sol Valaroz.

Ironically, the one source of beauty in Col Sargoth, Lightbringer’s Keep, is the source of all this ugliness. The five towers of the keep are breathtaking, rising far above all the other structures in the city and gleaming like obsidian in the setting sunlight. No fortress in any other city can compare. But it is in one of these towers that resides the scent-hound, a creature borne of the Dreamwielder War that can sniff out magic. In another of the towers resides Wulfram, the only sanctioned sorcerer in the Empire, and a source of perpetual nightmares for children everywhere. And in yet another tower resides Emperor Guderian himself, the king who pontificates to his court and all who will listen of Sargoth’s triumph over nature.

No, Col Sargoth is not a city to visit on a whim. Visitors are not welcome. Come only if you have business. Keep to yourself and your work by day. At night, you’ll find the streets more lively, the taverns full. Partake in the spiced grain spirits distilled only here in Col Sargoth, and commiserate with the locals, but do not talk politics too loudly, or you might find yourself in the hands of the city cavalrymen, or worse, in the clutches of Wulfram himself.

Sargoth Sketch by Patrick Williams

Sargoth Sketch by Patrick Williams

Col Sargoth is part of the epic world created in Garrett Calcaterra‘s novel, Dreamwielder.

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