The Crown of the World

Crown of the World

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Far to the north, beyond all of the northern kingdoms of Golarion, lies a wind-swept wasteland of perpetual white, desolate in the extreme and yet home to many creatures that eke out a living in a realm that can kill the unprepared within hours. The Crown of the World is an icy land of near perpetual winter, stretching from the barrier peaks and glaciers of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, Irrisen, and the Realm of the Mammoth Lords to the endless tundra of the Worldwound and Mendev’s farthest reaches, and north, up to and beyond the pole itself, a massive frozen land bridge that spans nearly 4,000 miles before its algid embrace fades once more into the fertile lands of Tian Xia.

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Alabastrine Peaks: These towering mountains, some over 3 miles high, mark the midway point of the Path of Aganhei, sheltering the path on its nearest approach to the frozen heart of the pole. Stretching their perpetually iceglazed spires up toward the auroras of the polar night, the Alabastrine Peaks are said to hold many rock-hewn tombs of an ancient race, long since lost to memory and history. The mountains are known to be the home of prides of whiteplumed snow griffins, and it is rumored that some of the high mountain vales hold portals to the Elemental Planes.

Alasek Ridge: More a long fault-cliff than a simple folding of the land, the Alasek Ridge runs for hundreds of miles from the glaciers of Whitefang Bay in the west to the Koumssa Gap in the east. The ridge is nearly 1,000 feet high along much of its length. This imposing and unrelenting barrier between the tundra and the High Ice is pierced only occasionally with clefts and rifts; in colder months, these may offer shelter to travelers, but in the warmer months, they form spectacular waterfalls as the melting icepack cascades over the ridge to the tundra plain below.

Altan Zuud: The Path of Aganhei takes this route, which is sometimes called the Golden Pass or the Last Pass, through the eastern reach of the Wall of Heaven.

Cape Almhult: The southern tip of a mountainous subcontinent split from the main landmass of the Crown by the yawning Gulf of Svallmundr, Cape Almhult is home to scattered Ulfen settlements that are not technically part of the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, though the Ulfen here trade readily with their southern kin. North of the cape, the subcontinent is dominated by the volcanic Hellrung Mountains, spawned by tectonic pressures from the gulf and the Steaming Sea beyond.

Gaarjuk Hills: While not especially tall, the Gaarjuk Hills are extremely rugged, boasting myriad whitewater streams and falls that cut valleys and dales into the lake country of Hasanaliat below. The Gaarjuk Hills are rich in veins of silver and copper, and precious stones are occasionally discovered here as well, but the hills are most famous for the shining pebbles of gold sifted from their rocky streambeds. In the warmer months, gold-hungry prospectors comb the streams and innumerable small shantytowns sprout up, only to disappear as quickly when the chill grip of winter sets in. While a direct route through the Gaarjuk Hills could cut several hundred miles off the Path of Aganhei, nearly all travelers opt for the well-traveled route through the lowlands rather than one through the treacherous and trackless hills.

Hellrung Mountains: These rugged granite and basalt hills and peaks are arrayed in serried rows across the southern arm of the Crown that embraces the Gulf of Svallmundr. They were named for their jagged profile and for the mazelike rifts, ravines, and badlands that lie between the peaks and the simmering volcanoes that occasionally darken the horizon with sooty clouds, lighting it from beneath with an infernal glow. Earthquakes are frequent throughout the subcontinent, their epicenters typically along the fracturing and subducting coastal regions. The wide basin between the mountains is treeless in many places thanks to age-old lava flows, while in other areas ashfall and rain have created fecund forestlands. However, only an enterprising (or foolish) few dare the Hellrung Mountains’ dangers to extract their natural riches.

The High Ice: This vast polar plateau, nearly 2,000 miles across, makes up most of the Crown of the World, and bears an icepack over a mile thick. The plateau is worn smooth in places by the endless winds, but elsewhere remains jagged and scarred by glacial shifting, and riven with unstable crevasses. Entire subglacial mountain ranges barely breach the surface of the ice, if they reach it at all, and the elevation of the High Ice only intensifies the polar chill for travelers across the Crown.

Hills of Mournful Calling: These low, sparsely treed hills sprawl between the high tundra of the Hoarwell March and the mountains of Zavaten Gura. They are characterized by rugged vales and clefts, the relatively soft stone of these hills sculpted by wind and water and crushing ice into fantastic twists and whorls. The constant whistling of the wind would be reason enough to give these hills their name, but many attribute the incessant keening to the frustrated howls of giants, trolls, and bugbears alike expelled by the Gurans from the mountains and now reduced to raiding each other to eke out their meager survival, or the restless spirits of their forefathers slaughtered by the invaders from the south. According to the dwarves, however, the mournful cries are those of the honored dead of the generations of dwarves who once ruled these lands as well as their coastal and mountain holds, and whose barrows facing the endless waste were shattered and violated by the giants and their allies. Whichever tale is true, the hills are a dangerous place to wander, whether because of restless haunts, bitter weather, or dark-hearted exiles fighting for miserable scraps of shelter and sustenance.

Koumssa Gap: The Path of Aganhei follows the easiest path of ascent from the tundra lowlands to the high plains of the Hoarwell March, and it is at the Koumssa Gap that the encircling mountains and cliffs that bound the High Ice for much of its southward face give way to gentler tundra slopes that ascend gradually onto the permanent mile-high ice pack beyond. The trading town of Unaimo sits at the base of the Koumssa Gap.

Ovorikheer Pass: The high icecap of the pole descends gradually into the catchment basin of Ruun Uvas; the basin is ringed with high hills, which the Path of Aganhei touches as it follows Ovorikheer Pass. The pass is lined in many places with hot springs that feed the Jorma River (which flows back into the Ruun Uvas). The geothermal activity along the pass includes the site known as Baruun’s Breath, a desolate lava f low from a long-ago eruption that altered the course of the Jorma. The tumbled, blackened hillside still issues pale wisps of steam and noxious fumes from the bowels of the earth at unpredictable intervals, and wise travelers maintain a quick step when passing the area. More spectacular is the high alpine scrub forest atop the pass, once nurtured by a family of fey who also cultivated warming springs. A generation ago, however, the fey disappeared and the springs failed. Now this forest is sheathed in thick ice, as the clouds of mist that billow perpetually from lower in the pass are blown into these woods by the polar winds, blanketing them with an everrenewing coat of ice. The Erutaki call this the Domagalki Forest, but upon seeing the f lagging south-blown trees with their trailing streamers of ice, a nameless traveler thought it looked more as though a great beast had unleashed a hoarfrost tempest from the north. She dubbed the area the Wood of Winter’s Deadly Roar, and the name has stuck with travelers ever since. The deeper dells of this frozen forest beyond the pass are rumored to contain huge furred spiders that spin webs of ice.

Rimethirst Mountains: These mountains separate the Crown of the World from the northern plains of Avistan. There are few routes through these mountains—the Path of Aganhei is the most well known.

Wall of Heaven: This forbidding range forms a barrier between the Crown of the World and the northern reaches of Tian Xia, Hongal, and Minkai.

White Wood of Malarkhan: This sprawling forest of aspen, pine, and the beautiful whitebark holly covers a sprawling expanse of hills and broken lands sweeping north and west from the Wall of Heaven. Whereas many northern forests are characterized by their brooding silence, the White Wood is alive with sound, the seemingly constant shrieks and howls leading travelers to nickname it the Roaring Forest or the Hills of Screaming Trees. In fact, it is not the trees themselves but the feral and savage inhabitants who hunt the wood—ravenous and bestial trolls and giants—that give the forest its fell reputation. Their hunting cries and battle songs echo throughout the wood as fervently as the howls of the beasts they hunt (or that hunt alongside them).

The Crown of the World

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