Nordheim (5e Environment)
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|The frigid cold is a cruel mistress. Sister to the seas and oceans, she claims lives as well, as well as anything they ever made. But her death is not so painless as being lulled asleep by drowning in the waves. Watch as your fellows freeze and their eyes glaze. Soon, you can't even open your eyes without a struggle anymore, as they've frosted over. Your skin starts turning purple; first from your fingers and toes, then your ears and nose... Then they fall right off. It starts to feel like knives are stabbing in you with every movement from inside. All the fires can't start. Too damp. Eating ice because all the water froze... and no food will thaw. Children aren't crying anymore. You sleep and you don't wake up. Gods, what have we done... If anyone finds this, please do not linger. I believe the cold wants more servants... And I see them... walking at night... Oh GODS!
Nordheim is a ghost kingdom, devoid of all life that once filled its walls with raucous laughter and merriment. It was a place founded by raiders and barbarians, nestled among the shores of a tundra. While it was cold, the people had never let it encroach on their hearths. Then, by ominous portent, the snows and blizzards one year never ceased. Their ships were moored and frozen into disuse in their ports, and the cold forced them to remain indoors. Fire no longer seemed to keep away a terrible cold that stayed in their bones. It is believed that the goddess of winter, Auril, had come, and she was not going anywhere. Those who died of the cold first were children, fallen to frostbite and infection. Then food and water ran out and that sealed the fate of the small coastal kingdom.
Explanation for this event was never conclusive. Some think the island serves as a point of supremacy for the goddess to claim against Talos, who was the popular storm deity in this kingdom. It is said Auril's clerics had come to try and convert the Nordheimers. When they refused, the clerics foretold of a wrathful, unending winter that would destroy them. Talos had not come to the aid of Nordheim when Auril swept in and froze the entire population. Then, again, Talos was usually one for destruction.
Nordheim is built within the frigid, frost-slicked caverns of a small island that is unmarked on most maps. A good deal of the beaches are actually icebergs that make land seem larger than it really is. All the streets and buildings of the once merry kingdom are quiet and frozen over by vast amounts of stuff like permafrost, which never permanently melts and reforms if it does. The structure of the kingdom is virtually preserved, but hidden behind great sheets of ice. People sometimes dare to venture to this place in search of the treasure which was plundered aeons ago by these barbarians. Many meet their end when they stay a night too many, and those who die on that kingdom isle are confined to the same fate as the former citizens. There are forms frozen within the ice all over the kingdom. These forms are corpses of the former inhabitants.
Auril preserved a good deal of all the inhabitants and enslaved them to be her mindless sentinels of the kingdom after their deaths. Most of them are basically frozen zombies, undead counterparts of beings like coldskin. Some had the breath of the goddess affect them strongly, granting them magic powers as well, becoming litches. While it is daytime, they cannot move due to the temperature of the ice making it melt and hold together. However, when night falls, they are able to move and roam the cities as shells of their former selves. The breath of Auril fills them with animosity, and they will attack anything of warm-blood. Undead have some ability to avoid them, however.
Within any lost kingdom lies a good deal of plot hooks and danger. The small island is relatively easy to traverse if you have the appropriate gear, as the terrain is snowy and icy, proving to be difficult for those going by foot. And the climate is no longer just temperate cold; it is Extreme Cold all year round. The roving ice zombie inhabitants also make spelunking difficult. If a full-fledged adventure is desired, then heroes may want to go and strike at Auril's hold on this place, and end the eternal blizzard once and for all.
Upon entering the isle, creatures are inflicted with the beginnings of a ragnarok mark. It remains relatively harmless until the creature is dead. The curse then takes effect and the marked body rises the next night as a frozen, zombified version of themselves, under the malicious control of Auril. This mark is so named due to the beginnings of Ragnorak being detailed as the sun being devoured, meaning the freezing over of the world in darkness.
This small province housed the crowning jewel of the Nordheim kingdom. Its perimeter cities are largely frozen wastelands now, filled with roaming icy undead. It is landlocked, but has a large frozen loch within its territory. At the highest point in its topography is a crag that reveals the capital within.
The former glorious walled capital of Nordheim is nestled within a sheltering crag in the middle of the island kingdom. It has most of its former glory still intact, with paved streets and well-built homes. The central palace is where the avatar of Auril sits atop the stolen throne. If she is defeated, then the never-ending winter curse on Nordheim is lifted. Knights of ice patrol the place on rotary hours of the day, monitoring the ways in and out of the palace. The former servers and handmaids remain as well, soulless and servile to the ice goddess. The former king, Haraldr Hárfagri, is a hierophantic lich who serves Auril's avatar. Deep within the heart of the castle is where the centuries of accumulated treasure sit in numerous vaults guarded by an ancient white dragon within the thrall of Auril. Those who find it are set for life... if they get out alive.
This barony occupies a good deal of the seaside on the east coast of Nordheim. Once a site of prosperous fish markets, the place is now but a graveyard for ships that try to approach, as they often crash on the myriad icebergs that float about.
This is the usual area port of entry into Nordheim, as the fjords moored here are signs for ships through the cold mist at sea. The entire sea side is frozen for several feet down. Fiska Verk is a small community in the Kiel Strand Barony on the southeastern edge of Nordheim. The town had about 600 civilians before the killer blizzard ensued. Several abandoned inns and taverns house the remains of goods from nearby farmers and fisherman. Due to the cold, much of the food and water is frozen solid and must be thawed magically. It refreezes fully within an hour of thawing.
- Temple of Talos
- Atop a hill overlooking the bay is the ruined temple of Talos, Nyp Uppsala. Since the coming of Auril, the place has long been desecrated, one of few that were brutally ruined. The pillars and wooden supports lie smashed and the roof is gone, leaving snow and ice to settle in the innards. Plundered treasures were often offered up to the gods, as well as food. These riches now lie under the altar, forgotten. The former Talos cleric, Torden Thunderbringer, is now a mindless watcher for intruders from the bay vantage point. He is a 6th-level cleric of the tempest.
- Fiska Verk Lodge
- The lodge is by the seaside cranny near some cliffs by the northern side of Fiska Verk. The ice here is brittle and thin, not ideal for walking. The lodge has its personal port, where small skiff fjords are still in usable condition due to being sheltered somewhat by the cliffs. These skiffs are used to reach the nearby isle of Bragdoya, where the former owner of the lodge, Ainarr Daggson, survives. He is heavily inflicted with frostbite, though the cold magic has sustained him simultaneously. He mourns the loss of Nordheim, and fears Auril's eyes on him, which is why he has no courage to leave this isle. Ainarr is a totem warrior.
The 7-Star trading store has franchises scattered about the barony, with maps and abandoned modes of travel, all with directions to Vågsbyg, the largest city in the barony. The main company building has a vault with all their accumulated wealth. Arihana, the former company representative, now stalks these roads for any who try to traverse them as a frozen, murderous highwaywoman. She is a 5th-level arcane trickster rogue gnome.
Further away from the seaside is Daghburg. It is a territory with many small farms and minor villages built into the flatlands once covered in short grass and grazing goats. Now, it is just a vast terrain of snow and curved sickles of ice. Thayans, the xenophobic group of human magic-users, had their own holdings here, where they plotted maps to hoards of treasure of non-humans like dwarves and gnomes. Now, their Nordheim branch lays in ice like the rest of the population. Their frozen ranks are led by the risen Soren Hastien, a revenant. He still has sanity in his mind that Auril could not rob him of, and he bears sorrow and hatred at himself for having failed his home of Daghburg. His second in command, Darrick Longstrider, is an undead dwarven warrior that is not as lucid.
This area west of Uslu was the Sparta of Nordheim. It was the largest province, stretching all along the western heartland and out to the east coast. People trained rigorously there, and the economy was flourishing. Now, that is all but gone under sheets of ice and snow. The former training barracks hold weapons and momentos for the soldiers away from home. Fordburg was famous for mercenaries, which it exported to cities around the world. There was also a nice red-light and entertainment district. The streets are now filled with the former soldiers that wanted to protect the province. They have the same stat block as an iceforged golem but are undead creatures instead of constructs. Unlucky others have met their ends at the hands of the mercenaries raised by Auril, now undead mercenary mages.
Jobrooke is a small province located at the kingdom's southernmost edge. It had been a trading outpost for furs, as there is a nearby cove of otters that provided a steady stream of quality material. In the manufacturing cities of Jobrooke, there were tanneries and process plants for refining furs and tailors for making adequate clothing. If someone came unprepared for the cold in Nordheim, they can still find these articles of protective clothing there, in the snow-buried shops. Many merchant shops remain standing near the old coastline, and all their monies are still there. Strong winds make it difficult to see in Jobrooke, as the snow can buffet one's vision, making the entire town one of lightly obscured terrain. Other than the usual frozen zombie inhabitants, there are also frozen zombie animals here that rise at night as well.
- Dungeon Master's Guide, p.110