Herd Location – The Tundra Isle
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The frigid isle that Helmfirth occupies is massive– so massive that the local phae have split the task of maintaining society into four. Still, it is a land of rugged beauty and great vistas.
Located at the northernmost reaches of the isles, Helmfirth occupies arguably the largest island, although much of it is covered by snow for a good portion of the year. Although almost all of the isle is charted, only a few select areas are actively inhabited. Safety, in numbers, as they say; but even so, there is no shortage of known places in the holds.
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Skyreach is the southernmost hold, nestled close to the border of Stonemire and mostly occupied by forest and mountain. Eldgrim Forest sports majestic, tall evergreens and a rocky landscape, but there are clearings and the main settlement for the hold is within its green embrace. Certainly the most protected and abundant hold, it still boasts no shortage of threats: Wolves and bears like to hide in the foothills, and the shadows of the forest provide excellent cover for hunting. Those unaware may be made quick work of– it’s best to keep your wits about you here.
Eldgrim Forest is a great pine forest, stretching from south to east, and terminating near the westernmost end of Fangeep in Brumehaven. A great many resources grow here, but it is littered with its own dangers. Along the western edge of the forest near the mountain are several geothermal springs and warm flowing rivers. Though remote, these are largely safe areas, as well as the main, well-worn and cobbled path through the forest to Pinehollow
Pinehollow is the main settlement for Skyreach, and where the Jarl’s hall is. It is surrounded by a tall wall of trees that create a natural fortress and safe haven for the phae who live within. A great many shipworkers live here, and it is the home of the Wayferer’s Guild
The Icerun River Flows from glacial runoff to the north, near the mountains and from the similarly named Icerun falls. Though the water flows liquid year ‘round, in Frosthold, the falls freeze and create spectacular pillars of ice with water running through and around them. It flows southward until it reaches the sea, but splits into one offshoot that feeds into Fangdeep.
The Wolftail River forks from the Icerun River and feeds most of the glacial melt into the absolutely massive lake of Fangdeep. The waters are fast, cold, and deep, and the unwary should be cautious of it. There are a great number of marked crossings that are safe, however when the weather is cold, these crossings can become slick with ice from spraying water, and are best navigated carefully.
Port Westshard rests on the other side of the Cloudback Mountains, and while it is a bustling port, it occupies too small of an area for the guild proper to be able to take up residence there. Home to a massive dry dock and plenty of crafters who specialize in creating boats, it is a magnificent hub with breathtaking views of the fjords and inlets all along the coast. The puffins here are also especially friendly, and ship makers often have families that they adopt and take care of alongside their other duties.
To the east of Skyreach is Brumehaven. Largely occupied by vivid tundra and fertile plains, it is a great place to graze where one can see danger coming from fathoms off. Host to the great city of Wolfengard, it is the most active hold in Helmfirth, host to many farms and smaller, lesser known settlements and steads.
The Karnsmyrr Range spreads from the edge of the Eldgrim forest eastward to the coast, and northward until it reaches the dryer, colder areas of deep permafrost. As much as it is a tundra, it is also a fertile, rich land that is easy to till and to grow in. Many of the food that are grown here are to help keep the herd and other holds fed throughout the colder months. It is also a great place for families to come to raise young fawns, if they do not wish to rough it out wherever they came from.
Wolfengard is the capital city of Brumehaven, and the largest city in Helmfirth and home to the illustrious Guild of the Glinting Coin. Wolfengard is also where the Jarl’s tournament, the election for Sage, and most other important all-hold events are held. It is a hub of commerce and the melting pot of the isle. The Jarl’s hall is here as well.
Fangdeep is the absolutely massive lake that takes up a third of the hold’s territory. Prone to its own tides, storms, and interesting wildlife, Fangdeep is the largest body of fresh water in the isles. Many unique plants and animals call this lake home, including a species of freshwater seals and large freshwater porpoises. In Froshold, most of the lake freezes into crystal-clear ice, although jagged spikes have been known to form farther out due to the powerful winds and subzero temperatures.
Silverspear Summit is the tallest peak in the Cloudback range. It is said to be where the gods reside, and the peak is frequently shrouded by cloud cover. So tall that it splits storms and generates its own weather patterns, Silverspear nonetheless has a path most of the way up the mountain. It is well traversed. Inside Silverspear is an absolutely monstrous forge that is frequented by smiths both from Stonemire and from Helmfirth. The Cloudbacks are also filled to bursting with precious ores.
Located in the chilly northeastern reaches of Helmfirth, Chillbarow is home to the most sacred sites on the isles, and their chief settlement is the oldest. Bare of much besides tundra and mountain, it is home to one of the twin lakes fed by snow and glacial melt.
The Framisvar Expanse
The Framisvar Expanse takes up the majority of the space in Chillbarrow, a great open tundra with gently rolling hills and beautiful flowers in Rainfall. With sparse copses of trees nearest the mountains, it would seem the only thing out here for a phae to find is space and sky. However, the tundra is littered with cairns and pathmarkers, as well as burial sites and the remnants of locations long past.
Landfall is the oldest settlement in Helmfirth, said to be situated where Utmjirr and his followers first landed. Surrounded by breathtaking cliffs and fjords, Landfall is a massive port city that trades mostly in income from the sea. Known for harvesting fish, kelp, and other oceanic treasures, it is shockingly home to the Guild of Unending Song. Many phae have come seeking inspiration from the vistas of the endless horizon, and many shall continue to do so well into the future. As well as hosting the guild, Landfall has no shortage of ancient sites and statues, and a great many Sojurners work out of the city as well. It plays host to the Jarl’s hall, which overlooks the bay here.
Utmjir’s Cistern is the large lake to the southwest of Landfall, and is fed by snowmelt. While not as large as Fangdeep, it is nonetheless massive, and freshwater shellfish in great droves call the body of water home. Fisheries and hatcheries line the shores, and they export freshwater pearls and shells in abundance. It is said to be where Utmjir’s body laid upon the ground, and after the lights appeared in the sky for the first time, it sank into a depression that collected precious water for his followers to drink from.
Shatterbow Cove is to the west of the hold, and contains the remnants of ships long past, caught in the treacherous winds and currents of the Windswept Sound. The waters here are, fortunately, quite shallow, and yet more ships and wrecks wind up here year after year during the Seafarer’s Mete. Parts of ships are also salvaged and reused, so while it is remote, it is quite frequented.
The westernmost hold, Snowever reaches potentially the most land, but it is almost always a frozen snowfield. Even in the height of Sunhigh, there is occasionally frost overnight. Fortunately, due to the protection of the Cloudbacks, the weather here is mild, if bitterly cold. The farthest western reaches offer not much beyond a frozen waste, but if one continues beyond that, the tundra eventually gives way to rolling grassland that no one quite claims.
The Eythidalr Snowlands
The Eythidalr Snowlands stretch for almost all of Snowever’s boundaries, and are largely flat with gentle hills. Cold and dry, they offer little in the way of much beyond basic grazing. Still, it appears to be a safe haven for ground-nesting birds, who line the rocky northern shores and find safety in the groundcover of the tundra.
Snowstead originated as a small settlement, but as the tough phae who founded it worked their hardest, they managed to turn the land into a workable farmland where only the hardiest of crops can grow. Home to the Guild of the Crossed Tines, as well as the Jarl’s hall, Snowstead hosts the most military might, as only the strongest and most adamant of phae come here to better themselves and join to train with the guild.
Sytva’s Well is to the northwest of the territory, and Snowstead is located on the shores of it. Cold and clear, the well provides unparalleled drinking water and irrigation from its waters enables the crops of the farms nearby. Said to be where Sytva spends her Sunhighs, the lake is as she is– somewhat treacherous, and best respected. Of all the lakes in Helmfirth, this one runs coldest.
Lostlorn Tarn is a quiet falls and small lake, to the south of Snowever and near the Windswept Sound. It is said to be where Sytva takes the spirits of those she claims, and if any of their surviving friends and family wish to converse with them one final time, they may do so here. It is a sacred place, and even the falls seem quiet in the clearing it occupies. A great many woodland flowers seem to grow here, and a shrine is placed near the falls that is covered in offerings and mementos by mourners. Amazingly, no one has ever lost their life here– it is occasionally known as Sytva’s Mercy.
Bordering Stonemire to the south and unclaimed lands to the west, it is a natural, impregnable fortress that has stood proud since time immemorial.
Routes to Other Herds
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Have boat, will sail; Helmfirth is the launching point for many boats across the Crescent Sea. Most commonly, though there is a safer route to Stonemire through the south that is frequently traveled.
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Most of Helmfirth is dangerous to the uninitiated; from predators to the elements themselves, the isle is a treacherous place to live unprepared. Fortunately, the locals are warm, and welcome those who wish to wander their land, or otherwise join them in cohabitation. Only the mountains truly remain inhospitable, as their valleys may be greened in Sunhigh, but create lethal traps for avalanches the rest of the year. The open ocean to the north and east boast dangerous tides and currents, and traveling out beyond the inlets and bays even by the strongest boat is a death sentence.
Flora & Fauna
A vast variety of wildlife, shockingly, inhabits the isle. Home to unique species such as the Whitewater Harbor Seal and Fangwhite Beluga in Fangdeep, to massive whales that can be sighted off the coast, this treacherous land somehow supports life in abundance.
In Eldgrim forest, predators lurk. Wildlife here includes, but is not limited to foxes, brown bears, wolves, weasels, badgers, lynxes, martins, rabbits, small rodents, and bats
Out on the tundra, smaller wildlife like rabbits are abundant. Arctic foxes stalk the open plains, and to the north, white wolves hide in the foothills of the Cloudbacks. Large ice bears stalk the plains along the coast, and a great number of seals and even walruses haul out along beaches and in coves, dangerous to those who they might be able to overpower. Narwhals and harbor porpoises, as well as orcas and larger, normal belugas can be seen in the waters along the coast, with larger baleen whales coming farther inland occasionally to feed on shoals of fish. Osprey and sea eagles prey along the cliffs, while hawks and eagles soar high over the tundra to spot their prey. Large sea birds occasionally nest a little farther inland, and there’s a colony of Albatross near Landfall.
As well as sea birds, there’s a truly staggering number of ducks, geese, cranes, storks, and even swans that seasonally call the lakes and pools in the tundra home. There are great salmon runs in the rivers in Leafturn, and the iconic snowy owl can be seen here year ‘round.
Great pine trees and herbaceous ground cover rise in the south, while sprawling, low tundra plants carpet the rolling plains elsewhere. In Rainfall, a truly staggering amount of wildflowers sprout and color the lands vividly, and there is no shortage of plants here for a capable herbalist to cultivate and learn from.
For more examples of flora and fauna in Helmfirth, click here, here, here, and here.