At the foot of the world

Background and GM's Notes
Chapter 1 - The Icy Seas
Chapter 2 - The Barrens
Chapter 3 - The Ice Castle
Chapter 4 - The Necropolis
Appendix A
Appendix B

Background and GM's notes

This adventure takes place in the World of Neyathis on the continent of Sagaris, but can be in any world with an isolated arctic region with Ice-Age flora and fauna. The adventure takes place in the dead of winter, so the sparse land is even more hostile.

One of the largest of the continents of Neyathis , it sites astride the planet's southern pole. Not quite as cold as Earth's Antarctica, this land is more akin to the North American Arctic region. Life is similar to Earth's last ice age with a notably large population of mega-fauna. There are some intelligent races present, including numerous human tribes and isolated mining colonies from other continents.

It is a land mostly shunned by the peoples of the warmer clime, for the sea voyage to come here is long and very dangerous. The teeming seas are home to many large predators, some which will occasionally attack ships, and ferocious storms that can strike with little warning. None would come if it were not for the gold. It is not known exactly how the gold was first found - there were no explorers interested in these cold, dangerous lands, though sorcerous investigation is suspected. A consortium of powerful merchants out of Stoneholt, the largest nearby port, banded together to form the Sagaris Mining company, and set up a mine to harvest the richest deposit in memory. To defend their mine against possible rivals and hostile natives, the Ice Castle was built. A massive structure, it was partly built by magic, and partly built of countless gallons of water frozen into clear ice by the relentless cold.
The mine was fantastically rich in nature - the gold required little more then breaking up of the 'ore' to release solid nuggets of gold!
And so, even half a world away from civilization, the mine was very profitable. Even with gold laden ships occasionally succumbing to the elements, sea-beasts and pirates, enough treasure made it to Stoneholt to allow for major transformations in that vast city. Its growing wealth led to more and more immigrants settling there. And then the first ship came back empty...

The Truth:

There is no Mine. The source of the immense wealth is a massive necropolis covered by hundreds of feet of ice directly beneath the Ice Castle. Here are interred the remains of huge, 18' tall reptilian humanoids - the Giants of Stoneholt! The location was found after a Temple of Stoneholt was successfully breached and an inscribed map found and partially translated.

But the reason why the ships are retuning empty handed is more mundane. Not all of the merchants in Stoneholt were part of the consortium, and a second group arose, largely Eastward merchants, who sent out a group of adventures and mercenaries to seize the mines. The Company suspects this but has no proof. Once the truth is known, possibly through the efforts of the PCs, the Mercantile Wars of Stoneholt will start, though in truth the strike against Ice Castle was the initial salvo.

The Eastward Merchants mercenaries were successful, but the battle was hardly one sided, and the battled awakened something... that then fell upon the victorious but weakened mercenaries and destroyed most of them. There where a few survivors who scattered into the icy landscape, and may be found later by the PCs.

Enter the PCs

The PCs have joined an expedition put on by the Sagaris Mining Company to retake the mines. The company has put out a call for mercenaries and 'trouble-shooters' and have offered high pay, free transport and supplies. Many have answered the call, including PCs, and now an expedition of three large merchantmen, armed to naval standards, and carrying supplies and powerful armed warriors is leaving port.
Terms of payment are up to the GM, but will be unusually high for such work. It is possible that even items of magic may be part of the deal, but this should be unlikely unless your world is very high magic. The company will prefer to pay with gold. Terms will be for up to 50% of the fee payable at the start, once the PCs have boarded ship. Virtually any reasonable equipment request will be provided, though no dog-sleds are currently available in Stoneholt. It seems any have already been purchased, though the sellers will keep mum on who has purchased what.

The PCs will be informed that the company has lost contact with their mine and that they are paying for the expedition to reestablish contact, even it if it requires besieging an invader. They have a theory that a rival Merchant union may be behind it, but currently have no proof. The last ship to return found that no caravans had come to the port when expected, and was more then a week overdue. A party sent to make contact similarly never returned.

The Departure

Three ships are scheduled to leave Stoneholt to undergo the dangerous passage - the Cormorant, Marhy's Mettle and the Frothrider, the PCs ship.

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Chapter 1: The Icy Seas

The passage from Stoneholt is a long and dangerous - fully two weeks at sea. To add to the stress is the presence of the mercenaries and other adventurer groups, who may be rivals of the PCs. Stress, boredom and rivalries could spark a full blown battle on the confined area of the ship.

In addition to the simple hazards of such a journey, they will face several threats en route:

1. The Seamonsters:

The Salwar, Giant walrus-like carnivores unnaturally hostile to humanity, will attack the ship during a period of fairly light winds. They are strong enough to propel themselves from the water onto the ships. They can also try and knock crew off into the water by bowling into them. The Salwar are almost psychotic in their intent to kill and their size makes them a deadly threat. Unable to sink the ships by breaching the hull, enough of them can overburden a ship and swamp it.

2. The Ice Storm

"All hands on deck"

The day is as dreadful as any has been so far on the trip. Heavy seas make it impossible to get comfortable below. Suddenly, a hatch is opened and the boatswain calls 'All hands on deck - and that means you! The ship is in danger!" If the PCs venture on the deck - and they had better, unless they want the ship to flounder, they see that virtually everything is coated with ice. The tallship's mast and rigging groan under the weight of it. Sailors frantically scramble over the icy rigging, desperately trying to remove the ice before the weight causes the ship to turn turtle, and condemn all to an icy, wet grave.

"For Gods sakes, help chip off the ice!" shouts the boatswain.

The PCs can help as their resources and ingenuity will allow. Careful use of spells and magic items may speed the effort. So long as they try, the ship will survive. Not all of the ships will be so lucky:

To their right, The Cormorant is less lucky, and suddenly, the vessel tips - sending sailors screaming into the frigid waters, and the keel swings into the air. Shortly thereafter, the stricken vessel slips beneath the waves. The PCs might be able to help with magic, but virtually all of the passengers and crew are likely to be lost in the killing waters. While working, PCs need to occasionally make dexterity or equivalent checks to avoid injury. Possible outcomes of failure are injury to self or other with tools, loss of tools/weapons overboard, falling - either on deck or overboard, being hit by falling debris or anything else the GM can think of. This work is dangerous.

3. The Killing Fog

A strange fog descends upon the ship, limiting visibility to just a few feet. Within the fog is an array of evil spirits who will then enter the ship and cause one or more misfortunes:

Effects of the Killing Fog...

1. A crew member or rival adventurer is possessed and become psychotic. This may or may not spark a general brawl depending on how blatant the possession is.

2. A crew member or rival adventurer simply disappears into the fog. Someone _might_ hear a body fall into the water, but the encompassing fog makes rescue unlikely.

3. A shipboard animal - perhaps a pet, war dog, or other beast, undergoes a grotesque transformation, becoming demonic in visage and attacking.

4. Several crewmen are found dead, their skin a dreadfully pale white. Unless properly disposed of with funeral rites, they will come back to haunt the ship. Searching of the ship turns up nothing.

5. Incorporeal undead board the ship - perhaps as minor as poltergeists, or as deadly as wraiths.

6. All sources of fire are snuffed and refuse to light for many hours after the fog dissipates. The cold may claim some unless magical warmth is available.

If the GM chooses to lengthen the voyage, Appendix A contains a list of other potential occurrences to fill the time.

Towards the end of the trip, yet another violent storm strikes, putting the ships in grave danger and sending the PC's ship (at least) horrendously off course.

Chapter 2: The Barrens

The terrible storm rocks and shakes the ships and cuts visibility to zero. Once the storm clears after several violent, dangerous days, the PCs find their ship blown very much off course and the Marhy's Mettle no where in sight. During the storm, many of the crew were lost, and the captain among them. While the crew tries to restore order, the ship runs aground hard!

Little time is available to abandon ship, as the hull is battered against hard rock and ice, enough for the surviving PCs and crew to manage to make their way ashore. All of the extra provisions and supplies not carried personally are lost beneath the icy waves.

The GM is free to have as many or as few NPC's survive the landing as desired. Perhaps a rival party will try and strike it to the castle before the PC's do, or perhaps they will join forces.

As the survivors pull themselves ashore, sputtering and shivering, they see a formidable group of people and .. things .. approach.

Not far from where the ship has gone aground is a Megamoth Hunter's village, and shortly the PCs are met on the beach by a war party of the the Hunters, for the hunters have learned to be wary, and they have brought along at least one Megamothoid. The Hunters are not hostile, but very wary.

Once the Megamoth Hunters are satisfied that this is not an attack - easily done given the dire condition of most of the crew, the PCs are approached by Nomak Unotak. This outgoing and bubbly toothless old warrior is the tribes spokesman and knows several languages - partially. He will welcome the PCs, surviving NPCs and crew to his village where shelter, food and limited medical aid will be provided.

If the PCs ask Nomak to purchase dogsleds or the like, he will indicate that they have too few to spare, and even more so if they inquire about the Megamoth. However, this will prompt him to say thay there might be the possibility to get one.

The Hunters recently lost two of their megamothoids to a crevasse occupied by a great evil spirit, and if the PCs help recover them, they will lend them one to make the journey across the glacial ice to the Ice Castle.

Few other options exist, for apart from seizing goods from the Megamoth hunters, there is little available to mount an expedition - either to the ice castle, or to Port Leeward. So the PCs are left with the choices of staying and waiting for spring or rescue - 6 months distant, attempting to travel poorly equipped, or making the requested arrangement for access to a Megamoth.

The Crevasse

Deep in the glacier, a creature of nightmare dwells. The Methranar is lost spirit of an older age, and wears the form of a massive bearlike creature with white fur. Its claws and teeth are of razor-sharp ice and its breath can steal the warmth from the stoutest soul. Eyes filled with cold, bright light gaze upon the world with malice.

It was awoken by the footfalls of the Megamothoids which regularly passed by. He carved a trap, creating a chamber under the ice, weakening the surface so that the next procession of Megamothoids on their patrols, would fall within.

His plan worked, and now his lair is adorned by the two massive bone and sinew figures, along with the bones of their devoured crews. And so he waits for others.

The hunters will not risk another of their precious Megamothoids on the recovery effort, but will send a number of large dogsleds equipped with much hide rope and other supplies. These will, however, follow the PCs at a safe distance and avoid any combat. If the PCs want their aid, they must defeat the Methranar themselves.

Within the icy pit, the Methranar is a deadly foe - there is little cover and the ice is slippery and sharp in places. If the beast misses on a strike, his claws will send showers of ice shards if they happen to hit the walls of the pit. There are side tunnels and overhangs the Methranar can retreat to if assaulted with missile weapons, and it can carve new tunnels though the ice at walking speed.

Should the PCs defeat it, it will quickly lose its coloration and fade into a mound of transparent ice. This ice, when melted, can be used in the production of potions with either greater ease of brewing, or slightly greater power.

Once the threat is ended, recovery can proceed. The task is difficult and dangerous, but is straightforward. Both of the Megamothoids are somewhat damaged, their crew compartments torn open and some controls damaged. Once they are brought back, the local shamans and craftsmen can quickly rebuilt and restore the mystical constructs, and one will be made available to the PCs for use in their quest. It is expected that it is to be returned, otherwise the hunters will consider the PCs enemies in any future encounters.

The Methranar can be substituted with other monster types - Frost Giants, icewyrms, etc, as long as there is a rather hard going battle.


A rival group of adventurers will attempt to recover the Megamothoids once the coast is clear, trying to beat the PCs to the punch.

PCs and the Megamothoids

The Megamothoids are a little difficult to control, with separate bone levers controlling the arms and legs. A Megamothoid takes a crew of three to operate properly, one for the arms, the other for the legs and a third to 'command', keeping an eye out without having to concentrate on moving each limb. Additional tent-like compartments armored with heavy hides and bone plates can contain additional passengers and/or cargo, with up to 8 man-sized beings (including crew) carried.

The magic of the Megamothoid is strong, and so the Megamothoid will keep from toppling over unless it is very badly mishandled, or struck by a very severe blow.

The Trek to the Ice Castle

Depending on if the PCs are using a Megamothoid, dogsleds or hoofing it, they will find the trek quite lengthy. It is 200 miles from the Hunters Village to the Ice Castle. Skillful negotiation on part of the PCs could obtain a guide to get them withing sight of the castle, though the guide would return as soon as the PCs were that close.

The Megamothoid can travel about 100 miles/day over the icy plains before needing to 'recharge' for 8 hours.

The Megamothoid has excellent traction and mobility in the snow, so it is able to maintain this speed regardless of terrain (unless blocked by deep water, ravines or the like).

There is little fuel or food apart from the occasional 'tumbleweed' and rare encounter, so it will be tough going unless the PCs are well prepared. The physically weak and/or poorly equipped will not make it across the wide ice-fields unless truly lucky. Once the Glacial lands are reached, they will not encounter any living encounters - only terrain, weather or remnants will be found. During the winter, even the Megamoths avoid the ice.

See Appendix B for additional encounters as desired.

Chapter 3 - The Ice Castle

Once the ice has been traversed, the PCs see the tall, glittering Ice Castle appear on the horizon. If the PCs arrive using a Megamothoid, they will see two huge figures emerge from the main gate - two 'possessed' Megamothoids - which will sally out to attack them. The two possessed Megamothoids are very slow and clumsy and the lingering spell that drives them was implanted by the Harbinger. In truth, these massive bone automatons have been converted into undead and have the weaknesses of such. PCs using more subtle approaches will not provoke the attack until they enter the inner courtyard.

Each Megamothoid is capable only of movement OR attack at any given time - they cannot attack on the move unless they are trying to ram. They will, however, trample smaller foes without a problem. Though less capable then the PC operated Megamothoid, there are two of them, and they can take a great deal of punishment before their animating spells are broken.

The castle is fairly large and consists of a outer ring of walls with six towers, the southernmost tower actually being two cylindrical towers close together with a single large gateway, 25' in height. The walls and towers are of odd shape, looking more like stalagmites (as they were formed by pouring water, this is logical) and have much wider bases then tops. No battlement tops the walls - the only firing positions are in the towers. The icy walls are too exposed to the elements and would be dangerously slippery to man. The walls are 40' in height and the towers 90' tall.

Inside the courtyard is a large simple keep, also resembling a huge stalagmite, or volcano, but rising nearly 320' from the ground at its peak. A single large gatehouse provides entry, and there are many arrow-slits 30' from the ground and higher.

Otherwise the upper castle is devoid of all life, for those who did not fall in the battle to take the ice castle were subsequently killed by the Guardians awakened by the conflict, or have fled.

The PCs at first will encounter naught but the remains of the dead of both sides, some felled by swords and spell, others torn apart by raw force. There may be the occasional threat left over from the battle, but the real threat are the guardians found deeper in the structure. The Guardians have left deep footprints in the ice, their great weight and latent heat pushing deep into the hardened ice. Battle damage has created hazardous areas were ice can fall down, or break beneath ones feet. Virtually all of the man-made traps installed prior to the battle in the castle have been sprung.

There are of course all of the rooms that one would normally find in a castle, and fair amounts of intact provisions can be found. There are copious amounts of seal and whale oil in kegs, as these were used to provide heat and light in the frozen castle. This material is quite flammable, but not explosive. No 'raw' gold or mining equipment can be found.

Ice Castle Hazards and Keyed encounters:

1. The Great Battle

Nearby the gate, one can find the remains of a great melee. Warriors bearing the sigil of the Sagaris Mining Company lay among warriors bearing personal coats of arms and insignia, all dead from battle. Blackened ice showed where battle magic was used, and the violence of sword and spear is obvious everywhere. The corpses are all frozen to the ground, and do not appear to have been looted.

2. Weakened Floor

This area (on second or higher floors) is directly above a room where a stiff fight occured, and fiery magic has weakened the floor. Heavy PCs have a chance equal to their weight above 100 lbs (or 2% per kilo above 50kg) to break through to fall 20' onto the icey floor beneath.

3. Weakened Ceiling

The site of more battle, the ceiling above has been weakened by battle magic and may spontaneously fall, especially if anything is done to provoke it. Ice weighing several tons will come crashing down, with lethal results.

4. Lingering Spell

The lands of Sagaris closer to the pole have odd magic effects. Spells which fail for whatever reason have a chance to 'linger' and take effect later. The exact effect and trigger is up the GM, but there will be a tell-tale shimmering visible nearby. Even the presence of powerful magic items could cause the effect to take. Many of these Lingering spells are leftovers from the battle to take the castle, or from the subsequent battles with the guardians.

5. Crushed Corpse

A corpse of indistinguishable origin - it has been stepped on by the Harbinger and squashed to jelly. The large reptilian footprint is melted into the floor.

6. Unquiet Dead

Some of the dead warriors of either side, having been rather unpleasant in life, have arisen as corporal undead with frozen but mobile forms, such as an Ice Ghoul.


After a fairly short search, the way down, an empty vertical shaft cut into the ice and descending out of view can be found. The lift that once served here was destroyed and the PCs will need to find some means to descend. The shaft walls are glazed, smooth ice and would be very difficult to climb without the correct equipment, though there are massive 'hand-holds' cut in places where the Harbinger and Guardians climbed the shaft.

Chapter 4 - The Necropolis

Through a deep, vertical shaft cut in the ice in the ground within the inner keep, the 'mine' can be reached. The vast Necropolis consists of hundreds of magically hardened stone domes buried under 400' of ice. Individually protected by magically-hardened stone, it takes a major effort to breach each dome. Once breached, each dome is a treasure trove of largely solid gold artifacts.

The existing 'dungeon' is a network of the stone domes as 'nodes' and linking tunnels. There are 9 domes currently breached and 3 domes accessible, but currently not breached.

When the castle invasion battle made it to the Mines, the magical pyrotechnics used managed to awake the Harbinger and its two Guardian allies. Bursting forth from hidden rooms they destroyed attacker and defender alike and then set about 'cleansing' the mines and ice castle of all living creatures. Once that was accomplished, they descended back into the mines and alternate between sleep and patrolling. Thus they can be found pretty much anywhere in the underground network of domes and tunnels.

1. Corpses

1-4 Corpses, in various states - from intact to eviscerated. No corpses have been looted, so their equipment will be as intact as their own state will allow.

2. Guardian #1

This large (8' tall, 2 ton mass) construct is vaguely elephantine in appearance, with tree-trunk thick limbs and what appears to be a stubby trunk. It appears to be carved out of some bluish-gray stone and faster then its appearance would suggest. No eyes mark the somewhat featureless head, only smooth expanses of stone where they should be. The Guardian will attack with headless ferocity and seeks to destroy the closest opponent before moving on to others. It takes no defensive actions, trusting to its unusually hard stone body for protection.

3. Supply Crates

Several large wooden crates, some damaged, sit in a pile. Within can be found picks, shovels, and several crates of Lechiers Salt can be found. The latter will need to be handled with care.

4. Guardian #2

This huge abomination of glittering metal appears as a huge crab as made by a madman. No two limbs are the same size or have the same number of segments, and its vicious claws are odd-sized and dotted by numerous sharp spines. As with the 1st gaurdian, no eyes mark the beast's face, and where mandibles would mark a mouth is also featureless stone. This beast also will launch itself heedlessly at any intruders and knows no fear.

5. Mining Sled

This large sled with massive metal blades has been thrown on its side, and several large gold ingots weighing 70lbs each have been scattered around. If moved, a frozen, crushed corpse can be found beneath the sled.

6. The Harbinger

This being is of a singularly alien nature. The very air is bent nearby the figure - distorting vision of both the Harbinger and anything else nearby. It appears as a 10' tall, somewhat reptilian humanoid made from a shiny deep black mineral. Two eyes gleam with an evil light, but are somewhat indistinct due to the bending effect. This aura will serve to disrupt any beam-type magic effects - scattering them as a prism scatters light, morphing and redirecting their effects. The very touch of the black stone of its being has a fell impact on living tissue - it passes through such as if it were soft mud - flesh yielding like pudding to the spoon. Only through stout fighting and puissant skill of arms will the PC's triumph over this monstrosity.

Once the PCs have dealt with the Harbinger and Guardians, they will have some time to recover (unless they leave immediately) before additional Sagaris Mining Company mercenaries arrive. What happens next is up to the GM, but could be as simple as "Great job" with few complications, somewhat easier trip back and a nice pay packet, to an attempt by the other mercenaries to kill the PCs and take the castle for themselves.

Rewards above and beyond the PCs commission is in the offing - they have the salvage of many skilled warriors, as much gold as they can contrive to carry and should they breach a dome of their own, perhaps other secrets great and fell. And who knows what they might awaken in their own search?

Appendix A:

Shipborne Encounters

1. Accident!

A crewman falls from the rigging and has their head dashed by the deck. Alternate accidents include Man Overboard, falling yardarm (possibly crushing someone), etc.

2. Ships Fever

Several crewmen acquire a nasty fever which includes terrible spotting of the skin and troubles breathing. It is contagious, so careful handling of them must be made, possibly with magic. Unless something is done - either excellent mundane healing, or magical, these men at least are doomed.

3. Fire!

On a rare good day, a fire breaks out in the 'kitchen' and begins to spread. Fast action is needed to keep the ship from disaster!

4. The Keg

One of the kegs of ale that is kept under lock and key is inexplicably left out, where a handful of crew find it, and promptly drink themselves into a roaring good time. A brawl insues and the PCs need to help break it up without having too many crewmen injured.

5. The Black Sail

On the northern horizon, a black sail is seen, heralding a ship following that of the PC's. Regardless of the ships movement, it keeps very far away and dogs the ship for 1d4 days before simply disappearing.

6. The Pod

A huge pod of great whales swims along side the ships, but does not attack or otherwise interact with the ships. They are faster then the ship and quickly pass by.

7. The Lifeboat

Ahead in the water can be seen a ship's boat - good for perhaps six people. As it comes closer, one can see someone sitting in the boat. Upon close examination, perhaps even boarded one can see the lone occupant, a sailor of indeterminate nationality, is frozen solid into his current pose. He is carrying nothing of worth and no marks identify where he or the boat came from.

8. Fish!

The ship encounters a massive school of fish - so many cod that the progress of the ship is impeded. Using nets, baskets or other devices, the ship can load up on as much fish as it cares to carry.

Appendix B: The Wastes Encounters

Due to the time of year, only the hardiest of creatures are found on the ice fields, and still these are very rare.

1. Frost Owl attack

These fearsome predators will attack the PCs from ambush, regardless of numbers or use of Megamothoids. Using camouflage and limited flight, they will attempt to go after stragglers first, focusing as many attacks on single targets as possible. Hunting is quite poor and the Owls will attack unceasingly until slain.

2. Frozen Corpse

Somehow overlooked by the various scavengers and predators of the wastes, a recent, frozen human corpse is found. It is the corpse of a member of the mercenaries who managed to escape the slaughter at the Ice Castle. He was poorly equipped for the trek to the Port and succumbed to the cold en route. He is not wearing the livery of the Sagaris Mining Company and is wearing metal-reinforced padded armor. He has only a dagger left for weapons, his spear and other arms dropped along the way. A small quantity of gold coins may be found, along with documentation on his current contract. This evidence will implicate the merchants involved in the attack and cause the Merchant War to ignite fully should it be revealed back at Stoneholt.

3. Icerollers

These odd plants are a type of tumbleweed which spreads using the flat ice and high winds of the winter season. The swarm of rolling plants is harmless, and could be used as kindling and fuel if gathered.

4. Weather event

i. Brilliant sunny day. Slightly warmer then usual (10-20o F), however PCs must look out for snow blindness.

ii. Exceptional Cold. True Antarctic cold with high winds drops the effective temperature to -30F.

iii. Blizzard. Heavy snow and gale-force winds cause whiteout conditions. Unless magic is used, no means of navigation may succeed and PCs will become lost.

iv. 'Heat wave'. Temperature rises to 34 F, causing some melting and slush on glare ice.

5. Glazed Ice

Area of very, very smooth ice making travel (unless on skates or Megamothoid) extremely difficult.

6. Dead Megamoth

A frozen mountain of flesh, this corpse has been here for quite some time. It will serve as a good windbreak, and the meat is edible if chipped off. It's tusks are missing.

7. Aurora

A brilliant display of lights cover the sky. Strange magic side effects also accompany the display, causing constant-effect magics to flicker and perhaps intensify or shift in effect.

8. Crevasse

A physical hazard, a large crack 5-10' wide and several hundred feet long blocks the PC's path.