Crossing the Rendor’ath is possible this time of year, but it is difficult. The black ridged mountains are thick with snow and the main passes are long since closed, it will be another half a year before the snow melts enough for wagons and carts to make the crossing. If the need is urgent, and the coin is bright enough then there are ways across. I should know, there isn’t a better mountain guide than me.
Shasol Myrn, Barbarian Guide
Rendor’ath, the Black Ridge Mountains
The Mountains of Rendor’ath are not considered to be great mountains, as none of the peaks particularly tower, nor do they seem to rip at the sky. They are old mountains, worn smooth by ages of wind and rain, their valleys are deep and smooth, worn by the cyclical movement of the glaciers, themselves as ancient as the mountains they call home. Their stone is black, but in the long winters the mountains appear as nothing but great snow heaps, and passage along the passes comes to a complete stop.
Canny guides know footpaths and safe-ways across the mountains that skirt around the valleys and avoid the low passes that are choked with snow. The trek can be long and fraught with danger. Avalanches, ice spirits, and reclusive pygmy yeti are all normal hazards. Yet there is another hazard, one less obvious than those often hungry dangers.
This peak, somewhat taller than those around it is considered to be one of the most inviting and dangerous locales of the Rendor’ath mountains. In the local tongue it is called the Mountain of the Warren. The peak itself is largely unremarkable, looking much like the last peak, and certainly quite alot like the next one. Yet it is the nexus of a potent animal totem’s domain, as well as a holy place to a barbarian tribe, and a nest of hominid animal spirits.
A shrine is hidden in one of the many folds and caves of Ilar Harjor. This hidden grotto, called Naal Horthaan in the local dialect is a site holy to the totem Hare. While not powerful as other totems such as wolf, bear or elk, Hare is a wily totem, wise and cunning, and one who survives despite many foes and predators. The druids and barbarian shamans who voyage to Ilar Harjor are able to commune with Hare in this holy place, and there make offerings of incense, burnt grass and roots and sing humorous or clever songs of Hare’s praise. In this they gain wisdom to protect their tribe from the other tribes. Others learn divine orisons that give them the ability to emulate Hare, making Hare rangers and druids more cunning than most.
‘All of the tribes have their emblems. The Tribe of the Dragon has a dragonskull on a stick hung with red streamers, Elk has the seven braids of elk hair, and the Tribe of the Hare has the Three Hares. Don’t underestimate them just because they follow Hare. Their axes are just as sharp and they are just as willing to butcher some soft skinned civilized folk.
Shasol Myrn, Barbarian Guide
The Tribe of the Hare is a smaller tribe, loosely allied with the larger Elk tribe. Many at first underestimate this tribe as few of its warriors have the rippling muscles and massive physiques of other tribes. This is more than compensated for the speed and dexterity of Hare tribesmen. They use as many bows as spears, and the hallmark war axe is present, but uncommon. Moving in fast groups, combat is rushed, with thrusts of spears, hails of stone-tipped arrows and close in fighting with siagham, which the tribesmen call their Hare-Claws.
The tribe considers the Hare to be a sacred animal and make a practice of only allowing the leaders of the tribe to hunt and eat hare, while the rest must subsist on more basic fare such as caribou, elk, and snow fox. The settled locals who live near the Rendor’ath mountains consider it to be back luck to harm a hare, and many have adopted the three rabbit motif of the Tribe of the Hare. This has lead to a sense of peace between the Tribe and the settled folk, and a small trade has grown between the two.
The spirits of the mountain are fickle and restless, the teeming spawn of Hare himself. These spirits spend most of their time hidden deep inside the spirit warrens of Ilar Harjor, or in the incense laden depths of Naal Horthaan. On occasion, groups of these spirits will travel to the surface to hunt for loners and small groups crossing the mountains. Those passing closest to Ilar Harjor are at the highest risk of encountering a pack of these mountain hare spirits.
Once a band is encountered, the Varkyri will shadow them for a while, appearing as spectral hares if spotted by the band. Such followers can be dissuaded from stalking a group if the group takes the correct actions. Wolf calls, a ring of blood, or a piece of carrot, wrapped in a green leaf and hung from a tree will frighten or distract the Varkyri long enough for a band to escape. The problem is that despite the widespread knowledge of these wards, many groups and bands make little to no effort to resist the huntings of the Varkyri.
Once the attack is begun, the Varkyri will assume human forms. Each spectral hare becomes a comely human female of suitable breeding age. These women are immune to the cold, but a strange sense of modesty clads them in bikinis made of soft white rabbitfur. The Varkyri seduce the male members of the band and couple with them many times, leaving them drained and weak. This can be fatal to loners who are left exposed to the elements. Larger groups fare better but are less likely to be approached by a Varkyri.
Snared - The PCs encounter runners from the Tribe of the Hare, and hijinks and mayhem ensue over the Tribe’s less than impressive name and patron. This can be even uglier if the PCs have been caught munching on snared snow hares.
The Hooked Guide - This mountain guide has become addicted to the seduction of the Varkyri, and as such, leads his charges into encounters with the snow bunnies, hoping that through larger numbers that he will be able to survive. His luck will eventually run out, hie eyes looking for spectral hares only to be surprised by a very hostile mountain bear or avalanche spirit.
Snow Sports - If magically summoned, the Varkyri make for very excellent concubines, though held for too long they tend to become overly tame and quickly plump to the point of being obese. They can teach skills of moving across snow, as well as fun things like skiing, sledding, and other ice and snow sports.
This submission was inspired by a lively chat with Wulfhere and Ria Hawk in the flash chat dealing with the next quest idea. The hour was late, the mood was silly, and I had consumed a number of beers. The idea refused to die and I was compelled to bring it to front page status.