The prison island of Dreadhold rests off the northern ranges of Cape Far in the Lhazaar Principalities. First established by Karrn the Conqueror as a place for exiling overthrown rulers or aristocrats who have fallen from favor, it was eventually converted by the early Galifar kings into an almost inescapable prison for those too important to execute and too dangerous to be left free.
The dwarves of House Kundarak maintain the prison, which houses the most dangerous criminals from across the continent, including numerous prisoners from the Last War sent here as punishment for wartime atrocities. Most of the dwarves consider a tour of duty at Dreadhold to be equivalent to exile, but the bearers of the Mark of Warding make sure the prison stays secure despite the drabness of the place. Rumors persist that an important prisoner from Karrnath is interred here, and that the dwarves use the prisoners to mine Khyber dragonshards from deep chasms beneath the island.
At the end of a long path stands a massive fortress shrouded in shadow. This shadow has the effect of a permanent Mordenkainen’s private sanctum; people within can see out, but even darkvision cannot penetrate it. This effect also makes it difficult to scry into Dreadhold.
Dreadhold only has one gate. A few barred windows and narrow slits break the smooth surface of the upper towers. People who pass through the front gate must walk down a hallway to the inner gate, where three elite and six regular guards keep the area under constant observation. A permanent antimagic field covers the central 20 feet of the hallway. This field serves to reveal the presence of invisible intruders or disrupt magical disguises, resulting in immediate action on the part of the guards.
The interior of Dreadhold is as desolate as the island itself. It is built using the smooth dark stone of the cliffs, and the design is grim and functional. The only decorations are the seals of House Kundarak and the (now defunct) Kingdom of Galifar. The upper levels are illuminated by everbright lanterns, but there are no lights beneath the surface. The guards rely on darkvision, and the prisoners in the deep cells are left in the darkness.
All of the walls, floors, ceilings, and doors of Dreadhold are strengthened by the effects of the manifest zone (see below). In most cases, the doors are simply strong wood, and an arcane seal enhances those of any consequence. Truly important doors, such as those in the Deep Ward and those separating the prison wards, are instead made of adamantine.
Dreadhold is divided into a number of wards for the incarceration of prisoners with differing security levels and social status.
The Red Ward
As the primary prison complex, this is where most prisoners are held. The Red Ward is designed to hold up to three hundred prisoners, and currently averages two hundred. Prisoners are kept two to a cell. They spend most of their time there but are usually brought out in 4-hour shifts for work duty and recreation. Work typically involves small groups, chained together, mining below Dreadhold, from where Khyber dragonshards are erratically produced. Depending on their talents, prisoners might perform other forms of menial or even skilled labor. A workshop in the ward allows trusted prisoners to practice their trades. Any large work detail is accompanied by a wand guard, an elite guard, two guards, a scout, and a slaughterstone eviscerator.
The Golden Ward
The Golden ward is designed for the comfort of its inmates. This is the usual destination for exiled nobles or powerful people imprisoned for political reasons as opposed to criminal actions. It is designed to hold eighty prisoners, and currently holds forty-three. Cells are designed for single occupancy and include well-appointed furnishings, such as feather beds, finished tables, and comfortable chairs. Trusted prisoners are allowed to spend up to 12 hours per day out of their cells, and can take advantage of a library, luxurious bath house, and other assorted recreational facilities. Security, however, remains tight. Dwarf guards and slaughterstone eviscerators patrols the ward. Disruptions are dealt with swiftly, and troublesome prisoners might lose their privileges or be reassigned to another ward.
The Stone Ward
Some prisoners are too dangerous to allow any sort of freedom—yet for some reason, execution is not an option. These prisoners are kept in the Stone Ward. Flesh to stone transforms the malefactor into a statue, after which he is taken to one of the seventeen vaults of the ward.
In addition to criminals, there are a few people who have voluntarily chosen to become inmates of the Stone Ward. Some are afflicted with strange curses that cannot be cured in the present age. Others merely want to outlive certain problems. Most notably, a number of people went into “stone sleep” during the Last War, with orders that they be resuscitated once the conflict came to an end (the warden is still deciding whether or not it has ended or merely taken a pause). While this could be done anywhere, by engaging the services of Kundarak, a client knows her body is safe during her “sleep”. A petrified character receives all of the benefits the manifest zone provides to stone objects; the effects of the zone do not block stone to flesh.
Currently, one hundred and seventy-five prisoners and thirty-two voluntary sleepers reside in the Stone Ward.
The Deep Ward
The most dangerous convicts in Dreadhold are held in the cells that lie beneath the prison. There is only one path to this lower level: a shaft that extends 100 feet into the earth. Its smooth walls are coated with grease, but a levitating metal cage allows travelers to move between the two levels. The controls for the cage reside in the observation post at the top of the shaft, and the magewright on duty does not allow the cage to return to the surface if there are any signs of trouble in the lower staging area.
No light sources exist in the Deep Ward, and inhabitants without darkvision are forced to wander blindly. There are one hundred cells, and prisoners are generally held one to a cell. Over the centuries, a number of the cells have been imbued with magic to counter abilities prisoners might possess. Spellcasters might be bound in heavy hand manacles and placed in silent cells, chambers bathed in magical silence. Creatures with dangerous innate magical abilities can be incarcerated in one of the dead cells, which lie within the radius of an antimagic field. There are only six dead cells, and currently no artificers or wizards in House Kundarak can reproduce this effect. These special cells are reserved for magical beings that cannot be bound any other way.
There is no recreation or work for those in the Deep Ward. They remain in their cells for the duration of their sentences. Food and water are passed into the chambers through narrow passages with two locked doors so the prisoner never has direct access to the outside. Even if an inmate does escape from his cell, a number of physical doors and walls of force divide the halls.
Currently, forty living prisoners reside in the Deep Ward. There are also six petrified prisoners—people too dangerous to be trusted even to the Stone Ward.
Although not a ward for holding prisoners, the vaults are secured like any other. As a stronghold of House Kundarak, the western side of Dreadhold is devoted to house operations. This includes mystical workshops, luxurious living quarters for visiting nobles, and massive vaults for storing treasures of the house, its clients, and the personal belongings of inmates. These treasure vaults have many of the same protections as the deep cells. In addition to ordinary defenses, the vaults are shielded with forbiddance attuned to creatures of lawful neutral alignment. There is no password to bypass this protection, but the house possesses a supply of twenty silver amulets. Anyone wearing one of these amulets can avoid taking damage from the spell, regardless of alignment. These amulets are stored in the protected area and brought out when they are needed.
The ward also contains a nexus with three extradimensional vaults. These can be attuned to the Kundarak vault system (described on page 234 of the EBERRON Campaign Setting). Many of the supplies of the prison are delivered through these vaults. If the prison comes under attack, the dwarves start passing the most valuable treasures to other Kundarak facilities through these special vaults.