Far, far into the Frozen Waste are the lands of the Sra tribe. Nomadic hunters, they seldom build any permanent structures. One of the very few exceptions to this is Ganamed, home the Great Necropolis. Ganamed is a vast glacier around which the Sra territory is centered. It is also seen as the sacred domain of Illyana, the icy goddess of death.
The Sra storysingers say that the sacred glacier has always been the realm of the dead, but if studied in detail, archeological evidence would suggest that it has only been used as a necropolis for the past hundred generations or so.
The Mortuary Temple houses the priests of Illyana, the only living humans to be found on Ganamed. Funeral rites and ceremonies honoring Illyana are carried out in the temple. However, the real purpose of the temple is guarding the gates to Illyana’s Palace, the Catacombs of the Dead. The entrance to the Catacombs is in the main sanctuary of the temple, and only the priests and their inanimate charges are permitted to pass.
While the temple is built mostly of worked stone and a little wood, the Catacombs are carved entirely from the ice of the glacier. Tunnels lined with niches, larger tombs for the wealthy, the great sepulchers for the nobility, even the doors and tomb furnishings are all carved of the sparkling ice of the glacier.
Ganamed is a veritable maze of tunnels that the uninitiated could easily get lost in. The main tunnel is lined with the niches that the poor dead are laid to rest in. Branching tunnels lead to actual tombs, the size of which depends on one’s station in life. Bodies are laid on raised platforms, and their grave goods are arranged around them. The bodies are not placed in coffins due to a belief that to do so would deny them the peace of Illyana’s embrace. Indeed, in the oldest tombs, the occupants have been slowly engulfed by the ice until it forms a solid block around the body.
The bodies and grave goods (food and drink, clothes, hunting equipment, weapons and armor if they had them) are usually in surprisingly good shape, since the temperature prevents decay. Unfortunately, the temperature also makes rigid objects, particularly those made of metal, very brittle. A few of the wealthier tombs also have caches of money and jewels to be found.
Even in such an inhospitable location with the priests carefully standing guard, tomb robbing is not unheard of. The priests of Illyana have taken measures to deter thieves, such as deadfalls and deep pits full of spikes of ice that can trap and/or kill the unwary. There are also some similar features that have occurred naturally, a product of the ice shifting and refreezing over time.
While any thieves that are caught are dealt with harshly (typically by being buried alive), many would-be looters are never apprehended, for the simple reason that the cold usually kills them first. Temperatures in the tunnels stay well below freezing, and can easily freeze a man to death. Even if they don’t die, hypothermia and frostbite are common occurrences.
Any appreciable raise in temperature has its own dangers. Since the entire necropolis is carved from ice, it can melt. This can have effects ranging from making the floors almost too slick to walk on (and an uncontrolled slip down a hallway can result in a plunge into one of the many pits) to flooding or cave-ins.
The dangers of the terrain and temperature are not the only ones. Some species of arctic wolves and the odd bear have been known to make their dens in the catacombs, getting in through unknown fissures and cracks. There are also the Children of Illyana, ice elementals that prowl the tunnels. It is not known whether they were summoned to be guardians or if they are naturally occurring, but it is agreed that they do not harm the priests attending to their duties. There are also the Disgraced to worry about: undead that have risen for one reason or another and seem to have a blind hatred for the living.
In the center of the necropolis is Illyana’s Bower, a naturally occurring cavern of ice. It is considered sacred to Illyana, and once a year, the Festival of the Dead culminates in a procession to the Bower, where offerings are made to the goddess. The rest of the year, it is completely abandoned by the living. The Disgraced have never been known to enter the Bower, but sometimes what sounds like ghostly whispers can be heard. It may be just wind and the sounds of people moving around echoing off the ice, or it could be something else.
The only two salient features of the cavern are a huge effigy of Illyana carved into a wall and the apparent profusion of diamonds littering the floor. These are part of the offerings made during the Festival of the Dead. They appear to be flawless diamonds of unimaginable size. However, these are not diamonds. They are what the Sra call “frozen stars”: large lumps of clear, rock hard ice cut like jewels. Outside of the catacombs and the Sra religion, they’re worthless.