The mountain range defining north-eastern Hammerfell's farthest reaches is a corner of contrasts. Geographically Hammerfell, this region is unique in the province for its chilly mountain geography and its proximity to High Rock and Skyrim.
The region features in two previous games, firstly in TES2:Daggerfall, where it contains the state of Ephesus, and also hosts the infamous Scourg Barrow, stronghold of Mannimarco. Its existence in the second game, Shadowkey, is inferred from the gameworld's setting in the corner of the three provinces, though it is name is not explicitly stated. ZOS has taken queues from both games, doing homage to such places as Mournoth, Ephesus, Fearfangs (Frostfangs), Loth'na, Earthtear, as well as incorporation of lore surrounding Azra Nightwielder.
The region, as depicted in older games
Perhaps the most important city, and cultural centre of the region is Dragonstar. And of its history, our friend Proctor Finemo from the Dragonstar Caravan Company has this to offer:
A town founded by Nord miners, expanding through the mountain passes? More on this later.
In ESO, the Dragontails can be found within the zones of Craglorn, Bangkorai and Alik'r. While in the latter, they are little more than a chain of insurmountable ridges and high plateaux; its within Craglorn and parts of Bangkorai that they can be traversed and explored.
Ephesus, a subzone in Bangkorai, is named for the Hammerfell state from Daggerfall. While in ESO Ephesus is considered politically High Rock, being north of the Bangkorai Pass, in Daggerfall it was a distinctly Redguard territory, completely surrounded by the Dragontails. Any doubt about what Ephesus was meant to be was further dispelled by noting the name is an unsubtle yoink from the real-world ancient Turkish city on the Asia-Minor side of the Bosporus from Constantinople.
Another- instanced- opportunity to explore the Dragontails comes during our jaunt to the Abbey of Blades during the OG main quest (and again during Elsweyr prologue quest). Here, again, if there is any doubts as to the intended providence of ESO's Ephesus, one must only note the use of the exact same asset sets- the rocks, plants and landforms- in both areas.
The mountain path within the Valley of Blades
Exploring the Abbey offers further insight into this part of the world- in the form of the monologue delivered by Sai Sahan as he introduces his ancestors. Amongst his honoured forefathers, Sahan, who hails from the Bangkorai region (according to The Chronicles of the 5 Companions), describes two of particular note:
The first describes Sahan's people as those, in particular, of "these mountain passes".
The second, perhaps even more intriguing suggests more history to Dragonstar than Finemo, or the Nordic architecture apparent in the town, would have us believe.
During the events of ESO, Ephesus- which we know from TES2 to be a Redguard place with a name evocative of a Middle-East-inspired world- is firmly part of the province of High Rock. It has no unique story, let alone Redguard story, no Redguard heritage. Likewise, while distinctly geographically Hammerfell, Dragonstar is Nordic.
Sahan's descriptions seem to be describing people associated with a region- the mountain passes of the Dragontails- a distinct part of Hammerfell. Should Ephesus and Upper Craglorn be essentially the same biome? Are their distinct aesthetics based on a (previously) poor understanding of the world, or just differently rendered due to different times? Shouldn't these parts of the world be connected? Shouldn't I be able to travel between Ephesus into Upper Craglorn?
Are there more stories to be told about this part of the world? Ephesus, clearly inspired -on some level- by a real-world city founded by the Hittites, but on the threshold of two distinct worlds seems to suggest so much latent potential for compelling story. And if the inferences drawn only from a name are not strong enough, what of the explicit memories of Ansei Satamah's Dragonstar? Another place on the threshold of two worlds distinct in both time and place.
I know we've already visited these places, but in some sense they've only been explored in the most superficial light, with clear hooks left neglected. But this is a fascinating part of the world, with unique character, series heritage and compelling political dynamics. Who are the Redguards of the mountain passes, and who are the bandit tribes who harassed them? Who is Satamah, and what was her Dragonstar like? Can it still be explored today? What happened to it? What happened to the Redguards of Ephesus? Certainly this region has more stories to tell, and I hope that one day ZOS finds the opportunity to let us explore them.