Tower Isle gets it's name from the tower of gleaming ice that climbs high above the surface.In the summer it gleams in the sunlight and can be seen for miles away.But even in the summer the tempreture never climbs above -5 degrees, and in the winter it is not a place where most people would want to be.Myths say that a king slumbers there waiting for the world to end.
For more then a thousand years the island has been like it is today. In the six light months of the polar summer it is so cold that the ice and snow never melts. In winter freezing katabatic winds from the nearby ice shelf and great waves dash against it, piling up the snow in great drifts.These winds can cause frostbite to someone not dressed well enough within ten minites and kill him or her within an hour. Even in the summer the weather is unpredictable.
The freezing seas are full of fish, which are preyed upon by seals and whales, but the only land life is a kind of lichen which can cope with the cold.The tower is in fact made of stone and over the centuries it became coated with a thick ice layer, until it seemed to be carved out of the ice.
Once in the distant days of the past things were much warmer then they are now, and what is now a frozen continent was warm and pleasent and full of life. And the Sea People came in their great longboats and settled. It was not perfect-there were dangerous animals like the predatory sandkoi, and the tribes to some extent fought with each other, but it was better then the overcrowded & war-torn lands where they had come from.
And then after several centuries things changed, as an Age of Ice took over the continent and it's outlying islands. Gradually the warm summers grew shorter, the winters grew chillier and the crops began to fail.The first time the crops failed totally it was not a major problem as there was plenty of spare food in the storehouses and the cold kept it safe from disease and helped keep the pests down.
In the second year the crops failed again and King Redwald, the ruler of the largest kingdom, asked his priests for help. They told him that the gods required human sacrafice to bring back the warm times, and so a great Wicker Man was built and seven of the most beautiful girls in the kingdom were dressed in fine clothes and jewels and cerimonaly burnt alive as a gift to the gods.
When it was clear that the crops would fail for the third year there was panic as the only crops left was the seedcorn that was for the next year's harvest. There was no longer enough food for the dogs and horses and cattle, so they had to be slaughtered.The king called on the other kingdoms for help but they were all suffering the same problems. Meanwhile his priests were calling for more human sacrafices, something that under normal conditions was reserved only for the worst criminals & rare indeed.
Both to get the sacrafices and to gain more food to survive, the King started a bitter war with the other tribes.His army was doing allright when they chased some rivals into a cave system that had been sealed off for centuries by an earthquake.They won the fight and massacred their opponents but not long after, disease broke out. At first the victims merely felt weak and cold, and sneezed and coughed a lot, then they lost the feeling in their limbs, then their hearts ceased to beat.
First the bodies were buried in the normal way until the graveyards overflowed.Then they were burned on great pyres until the fuel was needed too much for the living.Then they were thrown into the sea or catapaulted into beseiged towns as biological warfare.
When King Redwald himself died of the disease, his royal body was treated with the respect due to a king. His crown of gold inlaid with emeralds, his silver sceptre, his bejewled royal sword and his golden orb, as well as a chest of gold and some food, water and wine were placed with him in his tomb,and two servants had their throats slit and were buried to serve him in the Otherworld.His tomb was sealed with two seals, his own and another warning of deadly disease, and a curse was laid on those who would desecrate the tomb.
That winter was the coldest that the tribal kingdoms had either known. Racked by war, decimated by disease and starvation, with their fuel running out as they had cut down so many trees, they sailed away from the area as soon as the brief summer permitted and never returned, convinced that the gods and goddesses had punished them for their pride.
In the earlier times, most of the royal tombs had been robbed within at most,two decades, despite being on islands far out to sea.Despite a penalty of burial alive for captured tomb robbers the lure of wealth was normally too great. Not this time.The risk of disease kept the robbers away-nobody wanted to die such a horrible & painful death as the King perished of.And then the area was abandoned and forgotten about.
The warmth of the short summers did not penatrate the cold tomb, and after a few decades the tempreture above ground ceased to rise above zero.So the bodies did not decompose, and the disease germs remained dormant within them-waiting for new hosts.
Should adventurers land or be shipwrecked upon the island, they will need almost certainly to seek shelter in the tomb.The door is strong but can be broken down by sheer force or opened by magic. Inside is one or more traps that may or may not have lost their effectiveness over time.It is up to the GM how many there are and how deadly they are.
The stairs both in the tower (which is empty) and down towards the tomb, will be slippery with ice.
Once the adventurers break the seal of the tomb, they will almost certainly loot it and thus get the disease. In the cold weather the germs are dormant and cannot cause harm. Should the adventurers reach a warm country, one or more of them will come down with the disease within a week, but not before they have spread it just through breathing and/or selling/fencing the grave goods to everyone around them.
If they survive the disease, there will be angry mobs out to lynch them, City Guards trying to isolate them/punish them/bring them to trial for the deaths they've caused/all three, and if they have fenced the grave goods then members of the underworld will have died and their friends will want a brutal revenge. It may be that they are brought to trial in the courts for their lives by the authroities-or are forced to flee/ disguise themselves/both to stay alive.
OOC-I will add this to the islands thread in a few days when people have voted on it.It started as just a frozen tomb island, but has aquired it's own plot & a rich backstory.
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? Responses (9)-9
Wonderful island, very buetiful. But I wouldn't want to live there. Well, just remember to include this in the islands thang, Muro has a dream of 60 islands by May 1st next year.
100 actually :D
You said Katabatic! +1/2 sword
You had virgins burned inside a Wicker Man! +1/2 sword
I like it. You obviously put some thought into it Cheka and it shows!
Theologically egyptian Vikings facing an ice age, nice idea and the execution was solid too. I like the usage of the wicker man, and the twin seals on the tomb. I think that there couldbe more shelter on the island than the tomb, or were the homes of the tower-builders completely destroyed?
First to the points... I took off a few for clouded sentences and the random though into the storyline. It took a bit away from me. However, this is a unique blend of so many ideas and they fit wel ltogether that I love it.
I agree with Scras, where are the villages and towns? Did they tear down their homes for fuel or for ships? What exactly caused the disease? A divine disease of sorts would require some pretty huge offense to the gods I'm thinking yet this seems just like that. The cause of the shifting of weather, the disease, maybe there is something on the island the gods do not want mortals to have or know about?
Maybe the tower is agateway to the divine perhaps and someone from the tribes scaled it and learned something or stole something they shouldn't have.
All in all, good stuff.
The tomb is by itself on a small island to try and deter grave robbers.The towns ect of the civilisation were on the mainland before it became a frozen wasteland of ice.
Fantastic background on this sub!
This is great, wonderful description, and excellent base for so many interpretations. Perhaps the Gods were offended by the human sacrifice and cursed the lands. Perhaps the souls of the dead that were never properly buried roam the island. These angry souls may be looking for the descendants of the priests and leaders in order exact revenge. I like the idea of the PCs being descended from the lost nations and linked by destiny to the island is some fashion.
So many possibilities....
Perhaps there a is ghost ship trapped in a frozen firth, the tormented souls wait for release both physical and spiritual or maybe there are still men on the island. Living as nomads, eating seals, whales, growing sparse crops around thermal spring and hunting the fantasy snow beasts. This lost nation still remembers Redwald and waits for his heir.
All this said your ending leaves me flat. This is a matter of personal preference I realize. But if the PCs get the disease, they either get better or they don't, there is not an intellectual process to it. If the plot goes as you say with them being blamed for the disease, it is fine plot but it doesn't not depend on the Ice tower island, and thus the ice tower become nothing but window dressing.
If the PCs have to solve the mystery of the disease then you might have something. They may not be able to isolate the pathogen from the victims, but will have to determine where the natural reservoir of the pathogen resides, then travel to it, isolate the pathogenic agent and design a treatment protocol (which in fantasy setting could include sacrifice and ritual). The PCs might be better served by all this backstory if they play the detectives. It might be more interesting if the PCs are the agents of the mob, government or the underworld and they have to find where the disease came from. Thus they will have to learn the story Redwald and the Isle of Ice.
Overall great location....and I voted on it as a location.
Great background, great location. My only beef is this smells of a railroad plot where the end goal is for the PCs to bring back the deadly, frozen plague.
Axles comments on this point are spot on.