[WiC] The Nerathi Winterlands

Tour the Nerathi Winterlands with your tour guide, guest blogger Adam Page.

The winterlands of Nerath are brutal and cold, a temperament shared by the prominent race that call them home, the so called snow elves, the Aeskakiaur. These lands, far to the north of Nerath, well beyond the trade routes and several weeks of hard travel from the frontier outpost of Winterhaven, are harsh and unforgiving.

Within them, you will find vast stretches of forest, home to several species of hardy evergreens.

You will find wide rivers of ice cold water, filled by the spring melts and occasionally filled with broken chunks of ice that have collapsed at the rivers glacial source.

You will find foreboding mountains, grim and dark, storm clouds wrapped around them, with their jagged peaks permanently capped in snow.

You will find rough broken coastlines, their rocky beaches pounded incessantly by wave after crashing wave, the surf seemingly ready to pull careless travellers into its black and ice cold foam embrace.

And in these winterlands, you will find constant threats and dangers. From weather systems that create intense blizzards where the sky and land become one, causing even the most perceptive rangers to lose their mind in the whiteout, to brutal storms that fill the air with shards of ice that can cut your skin to shreds, to gusts of wind that can pluck even the heaviest of warriors from their feet, blowing them off knife edged arĂȘtes. There are predators that lurk, silently, their bodies almost as cold as the snow around them, waiting for prey to walk past, and where the influence of the feywild creeps through. Caves give shelter to frost giants, cave trolls and other fell beasts that are only too willing to tear you limb from limb.

Welcome to the Winterlands...
Few willingly travel north from the Nentir Vale, for there is little to see beyond the muddy track as it gives way into the Winterbole Forest. The forest is large, but not as large as the peaks that rise up behind it, their immense size seemingly casting a shadow that brings a chill and silence to the air. This far north, the seasons get shorter, spring, summer and fall fit into the span of a single season nearer the Midnight Sea. And winter comes quickly, creeping up on the scant few days of autumn and plunges the winterlands into an unforgiving darkness. It is little surprise that the few ruins and dungeons of ancient design that can be found are referred to under the name, The Sunless Citadel.

If the land is so dangerous, the question remains, why would adventurers travel to the winterlands and put their lives in such jeopardy?

While the winterlands are sparsely populated, the snow elves and few barbarian tribes that call the land their home are hardy, and having adapted to the environment, incredibly knowledgeable about how to survive here. One must remember that the arcane winds that blow across the surface of Nerath do not do so equally, and while all of the world can tap into these energies, there are some areas where the energy pools or travels in a predictable and thus exploitable manner. These special sources do not exist unnoticed, for the ancient powers that wrought devastation upon the land now subtly change these sources. From a unnaturally cold plunge pool of clear water beneath a waterfall, to a twisted copse of trees upon a remote sea cliff, to the ley lines that emanate forth from intrusions of the feywild onto the natural world, these sources of immense power are generally located in here in the wild, far from civilization of any kind.

For the tribes of humans that do live here, survival has become almost a religion. These people are as wild as the lands they inhabit, possessing a fierce fighting spirit and unstoppable survival instinct. And while they may appear brutal and insular, they are a caring people, well versed in the ways of nature. Their skills as wilderness scouts, trackers, and hunters are legendary.

These people are tall and heavy framed, their broad shoulder and muscular arms creating an intimidating profile, and this appearance is common amongst both the males and the females. There is no inequality between the sexes here - all are needed to help in order to survive. Both sexes wear their hair long and uncut, to have your hair removed is the mark of an outcast, and their clothing is simple, furs and hides, felt and wool.

Trade is important amongst those of the winterlands, and they willingly trade between tribes, the Aeskakiaur, and travellers. Food and warm clothing are the most sought after items, often in exchange for crude items made from bone or stone, abundant materials in these cold wastelands. Travellers should not be quick to refuse such items though, for these natives spend the winter months huddled together, sharing their warmth and crafting these items, imbuing them with a shared primal power. While these items look crude, lords and kings throughout the known world are willing to pay good gold to get their hands on an item.

As the long winter retreats and the spring thaw begins, the tribes, Aeskakiaur, and the beasts of the winterlands migrate, trying to outpace the swelling turgid rivers of cold water. Unsurprisingly, this leads to conflict, as travellers find themselves stranded or swept away, and the natives have to choose to help those they can trade with, or hunt and gather supplies in the short time they have before darkness cloaks the winterlands again.

Specific Areas of the Winterlands

The Giant Downs
Artwork courtesy of @symatt.
Click through for full-sized image.
Located just beyond the Winterbole Forest, the Giant Downs is one of the first areas travellers must cross to reach the Winterlands. It is a hilly region, with many barrows dug into the hillsides, containing the burial chambers of long forgotten warlords and barbarians from these northern lands. The presence of such ancient tombs has increased the penetration of the feywild upon the known world, and the region has garnered its name due to the high incidence of giants that roam these hills. From hill giants to stone giants and frost giants, all make the valleys and rocky outcroppings their home.

The Goblin Fens
One of the more temperate areas of the Winterlands, the Goblin Fens are a series of streams and ditches criss-crossing a marshland that is fed by the spring thaw meltwaters. The goblins that inhabit this land are dirtier than most, their leathery skin caked in the silt of the fens, and they travel in the water, swimming from bank to bank rather than constructing bridges that would only get washed away. Unlike the hordes of goblins that amass upon the plains of the Stonemarch to harass the towns of the Nentir Vale, these band together into small groups where they use their wicked intellect to drive travellers into swampy pools of mud that drag them in like quicksand.

The Icemarsh
Where the Dawnforge Mountains meat the grand peaks of the Winterlands lies the great glacier of the Bhallsk, and upon that glacier is the Icemarsh. While much of the Winterlands sees the brief changing of the seasons, the Icemarsh doesn’t, here it is perpetually winter. Unnatural darkness drains the colour out of whatever light illuminates the land, and frost develops quickly upon any surface, ice crystals reforming mere moments after they are scrapped away. Only travellers come here, for the natives claim that an ancient curse means the Icemarsh will never feel heat again.

Mist Valley
While most of the Winterlands melt and flood, the Mist Valley is fed by a constant stream of water. Warm underground springs heat the base of the glaciers above, and the resulting meltwater plunges down ragged cliffs of alabaster rock to slam into the coldest, crispest, and clearest plunge pool in the Known World. Waters drawn from here are so pure that they can be used to create potions of incredible strength. The downside is that the waterfall produces a thick mist that obscures the valley, allowing predators sensitive to the arcane forces that cling to heroes to lurk here.

See more entries in the Winter Is Coming RPG Blog Festival.

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