NERIAK MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
In keeping with your request to find out more about Velious and the recent journeys being made there, I dispatched our spies to gather what information they could. We have had some success, and enclosed are transcripts of letters sent by a recent group of travelers to Velious.
While fragmentary and possibly filled with exaggerations, they do shed more light upon this mysterious land. Our spies are to be commended on the excellent performance of their tasks as that getting copies of these letters was by no means easy.
LETTER TRANSCRIPT RECOVERED FROM FREEPORT:
I hope this reaches you before too much time has passed. In my last letter, I told you about securing passage on the gnomish vessel IceBreaker, which had recently begun making voyages from the Northern Desert of Ro to the frozen continent of Velious. Little did I know what was in store for me.
The IceBreaker is not your typical vessel. Built like all things gnomish, it is more about function than form or comfort. I will not bore you with the details of my wretched journey across the Iceclad Ocean. I will also refrain from commenting on the nature of the gnomes who crewed the vessel. Gnomish pirates, indeed!
Having already made several voyages from Antonica, the gnomes established a beach camp and constructed a rudimentary dock. Beyond that, they lacked for almost any real creature comfort. They made a few short forays inland, but mostly, they stuck close to the landing area, trading with a relatively peaceful tribe of gnolls that inhabited the area.
Since my companions and I embarked on this journey for the sake of discovery and adventure, we immediately set forth to explore this frozen land. Venturing west from the landing, we came across a tremendous bridge spanning a huge chasm in the ice. Nothing built by the fabled Combine Empire can compare to this massive construction, seemingly fashioned from the bones of a great dragon!
Across this bridge, and away from the ocean proper, we ran into our first trouble. Giants! And not the giants you may be familiar with. These giants were different. We all know the story about how the giants and other creations of Rallos Zek were cursed by The Rathe for making war upon the gods themselves. That curse does not seem to apply to these creatures, though how they managed to escape divine wrath is still a mystery to me. In any event, they are much more intelligent and organized than their lesser brethren, while every bit as fierce.
We lost two of our party to a small band of these creatures when first we set foot upon the eastern wastes of Velious, and those of us who survived were scattered. Finding myself alone, I was determined to continue my journey westward. Moving most carefully, and using all that I learned in my many years of adventuring, I managed to avoid several more bands of giants as well as war bands of orcs. Eventually, I came in sight of a large keep, obviously built for giants. Not wanting to venture into what I felt would be a very dangerous place; I struck off in the opposite direction.
After several days of travel, I left the realm of the giants and orcs. Though, to my puzzlement, there seemed to be signs of some other inhabitants. Old campfires at first, then cleverly disguised structures built into hillsides, showing signs of recent habitation. Imagine my surprise when while investigating one of these structures, I was confronted by a group of odd pale dwarves! While wary around me, they were not hostile, and were able to converse with me in a colorful dialect of Common. They called themselves the Coldain and agreed to take me to their fortress city of Thurgadin.
Words can not describe this city built under an icy mountain, so I shall not attempt it. Suffice to say that these dwarves are every bit as industrious and hardy as their cousins in Kaladim. I was brought before their king, Dain Frostreaver IV. This mighty warrior welcomed me to his realm, and proceeded to query me for information about the world beyond Velious. In the process, I learned much about Velious itself. The Coldain take a very serious view of their heritage and from very early childhood learn a great deal about their history. It is their firm belief that they were chosen by Brell to inhabit Velious.
During the ancient days when the first city of the dwarves was under construction, dwarves were sent across the lands and sea to find precious reserves of stone, crystal, and ore for the project. Ships sailed in and out by the dozens bringing supplies for the great city. One fleet of such ships sailed across the South of Antonica to reach the island we know as Odus, where a quartz mine was to be set up in the name of the dwarves.
Led by the miner and explorer Colin Dain, the fleet carrying several hundred dwarves ran into one of the worst storms Prexus had ever unleashed. The storm raged on for days as most of the dwarves huddled together in the ships' holds waiting for the seas to calm. When at last the storm passed, they found themselves utterly lost. Even the best of the captains and navigators had no clue as to where they were. The stars in the sky could not be relied upon for navigation, as none of them were recognizable to the dwarves.
Using typical dwarven logic, Colin Dain picked a direction to sail and decided that their only hope was to keep sailing in that direction until they spotted land. As the days and then weeks went by the only noticeable change was that the weather began to get cold. Some nights were so cold that dwarves froze to death on the deck, turned into a statue of ice by the cruel weather.
Only the determination of Colin Dain kept the dwarves' hopes alive as he moved from ship to ship, assuring the dwarves that they would, "Hit land soon. If not tomorrow then the day after." Eventually Colin's words rang true as the dwarves did indeed spot a gigantic white landmass in the distance.
The landing proved to be as deadly as the voyage when icebergs both small and large tore the small fleet apart. Not a single ship made it to shore. Most were torn apart far from the land, and many dwarves met Death at the hands of the ocean. Less than a hundred made it onto an icy beach.
With no serviceable ships, Colin Dain wasted little time leading his people from the shoreline. He knew they would have to find shelter to keep from dying in the cold. He also knew they would need to find wood and other supplies so they could repair their ships and set off for fairer lands. So the quartz miners from the north settled in caves a few miles inland from where they landed. These caves were set into a giant mountain of ice and snow in the northern section of the Eastern Wastes.
There is an old saying that goes, "Dwarves are like time itself, neither can remain idle." This certainly proved true for the new settlement. The miners quickly discovered that the hard packed ice lying beneath the snow of Velious was as durable and malleable as stone, and ideally suited for construction in this frozen land. They would later discover that the ice, known as Velium, had magical properties as well.
Through time the cave settlement became a town, and then a strong dwarven keep began to take shape within the mountain. Named Froststone for the ice out of which it was built, the dwarves knew that with the completion of this keep their stay on this strange new land was permanent. Unfortunately the peace of the dwarves was shattered when they encountered another race upon Velious, the frost giants.
It was with great surprise that the dwarves woke up one day to find their home under siege by an army of giants. The frost giants inhabited the Eastern Wastes and considered those lands their home. They did not take kindly to the puny children of Brell building a fortress along their border. After much battle, the dwarves realized they could not possibly hold out against their large foes.
In desperation, Colin Dain led them from their new home in the Great Divide to the only place they could go - deeper into the mountains. The frost giants pursued, so a small group of dwarves volunteered to stay behind to allow the others to escape. Colin Dain himself led the suicide ambush, buying his people enough time to escape the giants. From this time onward the dwarves would refer to themselves as the Coldain in honor of their beloved leader. Furthermore, the leader of their people would carry the title "Dain."
While hiding out in the frigid caverns a Coldain miner by the name of Glight Snowchipper received a vision from Brell. The vision was of a labyrinth of ice where the dwarves could hide from the frost giants. In the narrow passageways, it was hoped that the giants would become lost and fall into the many traps the dwarves would construct. Glight presented his idea to Dain Frostreaver, the son of Colin Dain, who began construction of the labyrinth. The Crystal Caverns were completed in a little under half a century. The speed of the project alone was proof to the Coldain that Glight had indeed been inspired by Brell. These caverns of Crystal would be the salvation of the Coldain race.
The true test of the caverns worth came nearly thirty years later, when by following a party of Coldain, the frost giants discovered the location of the Crystal Caverns. Slagd Frozentoe of the frost giants led the invasion force of warriors to the cavern, hoping to wipe the hated Coldain from Velious once and for all. Glight Snowchipper, in the fashion of Colin Dain, led the defense, drawing the frost giants deep into the confusing caverns. His magical pickaxe, aptly named Snowchipper, felled many a giant as the dwarves struck repeatedly from hidden passages and around shadowy corridors.
Despite losing most of his force, Slagd and the remaining giants almost made it to the Coldain city in the center of the caverns when Glight pulled off his greatest and final trick. Thousands of tons of ice and stone crashed into Slagd and his remaining giants after Glight and a few of his brave miners led them down a false passage. Unfortunately it was an act of self-sacrifice as Glight and his fellows were also buried in the avalanche. The miners of Thurgadin still call themselves Snowchippers, in honor of Glight.
Over the next few centuries strange creatures began migrating into the Crystal Caverns. It was these foes and more which eventually caused the dwarves to abandon the caverns and set out to build a new fortress more akin to Frostkeep. I was cautioned to avoid the old caverns, as they still hold many dangers.
The Coldain retreated even deeper into the Great Divide. Led by Dain Frostreaver II, they founded the city of Thurgadin, or New Froststone.
Constructed on the northern edge of the Great Divide, Thurgadin lies within a glacial mountain rich with untouched supplies of velium and other ores. The outer region of the city is carved into the ancient glacial ice, while the inner region pierces the mountain rock where the precious ores are mined.
The Coldain are determined not to lose this home. Thurgadin is built in a very defensive manner, with passage through long tunnels lined with murder holes being necessary to get to the inner city. At the heart of the city lies Icewell Keep, where the Dain and his council of advisors reside and where he granted audience to me.
Surrounding the castle are the forges and shops that make up the mainstay of Coldain commerce. Mines burrow deeper into the mountains, some ending in cleverly hidden and easily collapsible escape hatches for easy access into the Great Divide. I have used my meager cartography skills to fashion a map of Thurgadin, which I am sending you with this letter.
I have decided to reside in Thurgadin for a time, to better get to know my hosts, and to assist them in rejoining the community of beings of Antonica and Faydwer. I feel very secure here in this mountain stronghold, and I think there is much to accomplish.
LETTER TRANSCRIPT RECOVERED FROM HALAS:
Took the gnome ship, the trip was bad. Ship was too cramped, not built for a Halasman. What is, outside of Halas? Made it to Velious with a strong group of Southrons. Weather was fine, looks like a nice place, plenty to eat, and plenty to fight. Not enough to drink, stupid gnomes lost all the rum.
Went inland, saw a strange tower, steered clear of it, it reeked of sick magic. Found a large bridge. Would not want to defend it, too big. Crossed the bridge, good country there. Looks like an excellent place to live. Found Kromrif here too. Thought frost giants were all dead. They are not.
Party was ambushed by Kromrif war band, some died, and others ran. I fought. Clubbed till I went black. Woke up being carried into giant fortress. Saw banners of Lord Rallos, gave homage. Kromrif saw this, nodded.
Taken to true leaders of city. Kromzek. Storm giants are still alive, and still strong. Someone should hit Margyn McCann over the head, her lore is wrong.
The King of Kromzek, Tormax, asked me many questions. Found out Kromzek and Kromrif escaped the curse. Kromrif are warring with ice dwarves to the north. Kromzek are trying to expand west, fighting a savage forest claimed by Tunare. They also fight Dragons. Very bad blood between the Velious dragons and Kromzek. Tormax sits on the bones of a dragon queen his sire killed.
Tomorrow I go out with a war band of Kromzek and Kromrif, heading west through forest to a dragon shrine, to do battle there. May Zek give me strength.
I am giving this letter to a Kromrif who is going east, to hand to the gnomes. Tell the warriors of Halas that Rallos Zek is strong here. Many chances for battle and conquest. Bring your own beer.
LETTER TRANSCRIPT RECOVERED FROM QEYNOS:
When I get back to Qeynos, I'm going to knock a few of your teeth out. I'm still not sure how you convinced me to make this trip, though I'm thinking Crow's Special Brew had something to do with it.
Leaving the new dock in North Ro, I took a launch that carried me out to the Iceclad Ocean. There I boarded IceBreaker, a so-called ship constructed by the gnomes. Several other people had booked passage for this voyage and were awaiting my arrival, including my comrades Tolan, Breen, and Solist.
It wasn't a fun trip. The ship's hammers were constantly clanking and banging, those blasted gnomes were making silly pirate noises, and it was cold. It nearly drove me crazy.
We finally made landing at a beachhead the gnomes constructed, but found little in the way of luxuries. The gnomes even managed to misplace the horrible rum that kept us warm during the voyage. And before you ask, I had nothing to do with that misplacement.
After looking around the landing, the group of us decided to head west, beyond the area the gnomes had explored. We passed quite a few interesting sights, and a tower I really wanted to inspect, but Solist and Breen both said to avoid it, so we continued on. After crossing a bridge that was so high it made even me dizzy, our luck ran out.
A group of well-organized giants took us by surprise. Deciding discretion was called for, I managed to duck out of the battle when it was obvious we were losing. Several people, including Solist, managed to escape, while Breen went down fighting, buried under a pile of giants. After the dust settled, I saw the giants carrying Breen off to the southwest and decided to follow them.
After a few hours of sneaking along, I was startled by a voice behind me. Tolan! The clever ranger had escaped the giant ambush the same way I had, and was tracking the giants and me across the wastes. We continued to follow the giants, and eventually came to a great fortress city.
With luck and skill, the two of us managed to sneak inside the city. We tried to find Breen, but there was no way to know for sure where he had been taken. The chance of getting caught was high, since the place was crawling with giants. We eventually passed through the city itself, and found ourselves on the edge of a huge forest.
The giants were working hard to push the forest back, but according to Tolan, they weren't doing well. He said he felt great power in the woods, stronger even than the heart of Faydark. I didn't question his statement; I could feel the life here myself. At Tolan's urging we left the giant city behind and traveled on through the forest. Tolan grew more and more excited, saying he felt we were nearing something amazing.
Tolan's woods lore gave us no warning when a group of strange flying creatures suddenly appeared. Finding ourselves quickly captured, we were trussed, blindfolded, and gagged. We were carried to the heart of the forest where a gathering of beings awaited us. They would not speak to me. But they jabbered with Tolan for a long while in a strange language.
Again I was blindfolded and carried through the forest. After some time I was put down and my bonds cut. I was at the edge of a clearing, facing the giant city. Tolan was there, unbound and smiling. He told me I should make my way back to the Iceclad Ocean. I wasn't welcome in this land, and to go any further west would be a bad idea. Dragons would kill me if I entered the shrine they had built on the other side of the forest. That is if I made it that far, since there was always the chance that the forest creatures would decide to have me for lunch.
When I asked Tolan what he was going to do, he said he would be staying there for a time as a guest. He was a grown man; I assume he knew his own business. Not wanting to overstay my welcome, I took Tolan's advice and said goodbye. I went back through the giant city (still no sign of Breen), across the wastes, and eventually, back to the shores of the Iceclad Ocean, where I sit now.
I'm going to head back out again soon to look for Breen, Solist, and the others. I wouldn't feel right abandoning them at this point, and besides, it could turn out to be profitable.
As you can tell by reading the transcripts, there is much more to Velious than we first imagined. The war among the dwarves, giants and dragons, suggests great opportunity for us, if we choose our allies carefully.
If you have any further questions, you need only ask, and I shall endeavor to find answers for you.
Your humble vassal,