Hellfrost: The Long Night
The Witchwood is part of an ancient forest which once covered much of western Rassilon. Silverleaf Forest and Nutwood are distant remnants of the same arboreal kingdom. The native hearth elves fled into southern Rassilon a century after the long winter began, and for long years the forest lay silent save for the rasp of loggers’ saws and the occasional battle cry of orcs.
Then, some 125 years ago, the Ice Queen appeared. Her vast frozen palace formed overnight, as the temperature at the core of the forest plummeted far below freezing in an instant. Waves of magic and bitter cold began transforming the forest around her citadel, and within scant years, tall, coniferous trees had grown to maturity, and the realm had become locked in snow and ice. Taiga elves forced out of their northern homes by the rise of the Icewall drifted into Witchwood, as did frostborn, all seeking a place to call home. All were welcomed, so long as they swore fealty to the Ice Queen. Most of these folk live in the outer and middle zones, finding the core too frigid even for their natural resistances. Dozens of hrimwisards, exiled from their birth lands because of superstition and ignorance, have also flocked here. Their immunity to cold allows them to live in the arctic core.
Orcs, goblins, and frost giants have been spotted in and around Witchwood. The few hardy explorers who have entered her domain have also reported snow wings, frost wights, hvitrwyfs, Hellfrost spiders, ice trolls, and other beasts commonly found only far to the north.
Witchwood is growing at the rate of about two miles a year, and the deciduous and coniferous regions are slowly being replaced by living icewood trees. In the next century, all of Chalcis will be swallowed.
Here dwells the Ice Queen, ruler of Witchwood and mistress of all its inhabitants. Very few of her own people have seen the Ice Queen, and no outsiders have ever reported meeting her. Many rumors about her exist in Aspiria and Chalcis, where her presence is most felt.
Some insist she is a fearsome frost giantess. Others claim she is a beautiful human hrimwisard whose skin is as cold as ice. She also has, according to whom one listens, the power to freeze flesh with a word, a kiss which can freeze a man’s heart, hair made of icicles, and so on.
Some mages claim she has an unnatural bond with the forest, and can cause paths to shift, summon and dispel blizzards, call forth animals to attack interlopers, and even compel trees to awaken to serve her commands, though how they know this is subject to debate.
The Ice Queen has resisted all attempts at diplomatic contact. She occasionally trades icewood to the dwarves of the Granite Mountains, though the dwarves are not predisposed to discuss their affairs with other races.
The Queen has both living and unliving servants. Those of flesh and blood are mainly hrimwisards and furwrapped frostborn, taiga elves, ice goblins, snow orcs, and frost giants, though she maintains a force of 1000 Tuomi cavalry as well. Her unliving servants are coldfire, ice, and slush elementals, permanently bound to her castle, and animated statues of ice.
The realm of Witchwood comprises just the forest. The outer forest is deciduous, full of oak, birch, and maple, though the trees are generally leafless, trapped in a near eternal winter. Deeper in, as the temperature drops, the trees change to pine and spruce. In the core, the trees are living icewood pines. The temperature of the forest also changes as one heads deeper. In the outer region, the temperature is equivalent to the Low Winterlands, enjoying a brief but noticeable summer. Among the pines it is the same as the High Winterlands, with only a very short warm period. The core is equivalent to the outer Hellfrost.
This wide, fast river runs through the center of the realm, and close to the Winter Palace.
THE WINTER PALACE
Population: 5,000 (estimated)
Ruler: The Ice Queen
A citadel of solid ice, a wonderland of glittering spires, icy walkways and bridges, and gleaming blue-white walls, rises out of the center of Witchwood. Surrounded by a moat of coldfi re and accessible only by a drawbridge coated in Hellfrost dragon scales, the Winter Palace is a structure that invokes both awe and fear.