Postfest XII(Richfest 2009): The Spire of Ice
Date: Tue, October 06, 2009
Topic: Mysterious Places
"The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan - heard you of it?" questioned the sage. At our nods, he continued: "What of the Temple of the Earth Dragon? The Ghost Tower of Inverness? Hmmm?"
"Oerth is infused with magic. This magic is stronger at certain places - Castle Greyhawk, for example. I believe the builders of the Shrine, the Temple, and the Tower tapped into a line of such strong magic - a ley line as it is known on other worlds. Nothing else explains the placement of three such sites in exact north-south alignment."
"I believe there is at least one other place where that line was tapped, far to the north. The legends of the Rovers of Barrens speak of 'evil from the north' in winters when the Icy Sea is frozen solid. Tales of the same type of evil come from Blackmoor, only the evil comes from the east. The legends of Blackmoor even give it a name: the Spire of Ice."
"The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan - heard you of it?" questioned the sage. At our nods, he continued: "What of the Temple of the Earth Dragon? The Ghost Tower of Inverness? Hmmm?"
"Get on w' it, auld man!" growled Taurus. "We dinna have all day."
Glaring at the dwarf, the sage continued his lecture. "Oerth is infused with magic. This magic is stronger at certain places - Castle Greyhawk, for example. I believe the builders of the Shrine, the Temple, and the Tower tapped into a line of such strong magic - a ley line as it is known on other worlds. Nothing else explains the placement of three such sites in exact north-south alignment."
"Those places are already known and plundered," stated Kyrie. Trust a thief to think first of the gold!
"Indeed," responded the sage. "However, I believe there is at least one other place where that line was tapped, far to the north. The legends of the Rovers of Barrens speak of 'evil from the north' in winters when the Icy Sea is frozen solid. Tales of the same type of evil come from Blackmoor, only the evil comes from the east. The legends of Blackmoor even give it a name: the Spire of Ice."
"From the Shrine of Tamoachan to the Ghost Tower is 1,400 miles, almost exactly. From the Temple of the Earth Dragon to the Tower, 400 miles - a ratio of 7 to 2, extremely significant numbers. I believe that 1,400 miles to the north of the Ghost Tower, in the Icy Sea, exists an ancient tower or temple to some long-forgotten god. It remains undiscovered - and hence unplundered - to this day."
"Find this place, the Spire of Ice, and bring back a report to me. Artifacts if possible, rubbings of any runes or art, and I will richly reward you. You may, of course, keep any treasure found."
"That is a far journey for uncertain gain," said Amaranthar calmly. "Is there nowhere closer?"
"Nowhere I am interested in!" snapped the sage. Relenting, he continued: "Two other possible sites are in the Shield Lands northeast of Critwall, or just north of the western Fellreev . Not likely candidates - those areas are known too well and no such temples have ever been found."
"Clangeddin's bones!" Taurus cursed without heat. "Best be packin' me woolen hose!"
The Spire of Ice
The Spire of Ice is located in the middle of the Icy Sea . It is surrounded by a permanent icefield that does not melt even in High Summer. At its smallest, the field is still nearly 30 miles across. The winds tend to push late-season icebergs against it, where they freeze during the fall and winter. As a result, the edge of the field is extremely rugged and high - nowhere less than 300', in places more than 500'. The Spire sits at the exact center of the ice field, surrounded by a "moat" of perfectly smooth ice more than a mile wide. From the outer edge to the "moat", the ice grows progressively smoother and easier to travel. Crossing the last mile will require skates or sleds to avoid constant falls and bruises. The bitter cold makes travel to the Spire even more difficult. From a relatively balmy 20 degrees at the edge, the temperature drops to around -25 degrees at the Spire - at High Summer. In midwinter, the temperatures are 50-70 degrees lower.
The Spire itself is the color of the oldest sea ice, a deep blue, and merges with the icefield as if it grew there. It is approximately 100 yards in diameter at the ground, and the top disappears into the ever-present low clouds above. From afar, the Spire seems a natural wonder. Up close, it is apparent that it is made of mighty blocks of ice. The only entrance is on the north side and stands open, but is sheathed in a thick layer of ice. It will take several hours to clear the ice from the entrance (assuming the tools hold out ). Fire has minimal effect - brute force or spells like passwall are the only way to get inside ,
The interior of the Spire is a hollow shaft vanishing into the dim blue light filtering through the thick walls as it rises. The shaft is 150' across, with walls 75' thick. The temperature inside is around -50 degrees - considerably colder than outside in the summer, slightly warmer than outside in the winter. If the entrance is open, a chill wind flows down the shaft and out over the icefield. Close examination reveals a 10' wide ramp spiraling up the inside of the Spire. About 5' above the ramp is a series of runes, pictographs, and carvings following the rise of the ramp. In the exact center of the floor of the shaft is a great seal covered by several inches of ice. The seal resembles ancient those of the ancient Suel, but also incorporates elven and dwarven elements. Anyone standing on it becomes extremely cold .
The 'ground' tier of the Spire contains the great seal and the ramp to the upper tiers. There are also three rooms, to the south, east, and west. The southern and western rooms are empty of all save fragments of ice covered with a dusting of fine ice crystals. Close examination of the fragments reveals that they are the remnants of furniture carved (?) out of ice, down to the grain patterns of wood. In the eastern room lies the frozen corpse of a warrior in archaic armor . While obviously dead, the corpse has not been despoiled but arranged with hands clasping the holy symbol of Hieroneous at his breast and eyes closed.
Ramp to Tier 1
The ramp circles the Spire twice, rising 100 feet to the first tier. The runes, pictographs, and carvings following the ramp seem to tell the story of a people originally from a much warmer clime. Flan-looking men, elves, and dwarves are represented, all being defeated by another barbaric people. The carvings end just below the first tier of the Spire with the appearance of a new, godlike figure who opens a door to a new home. The godlike figure has classic Suel features.
Just below the first tier, the inside (and outside, if anyone tries to fly up the outside) of the Spire is encircled by a 1' high band of magical runes, glowing softly with a cold blue light. Touching the runes gives an intense flash of cold, similar to standing on the seal in the floor below . The runes are mostly unfamiliar, but the glyphs for ice, reversed/negated fire, and evil magic are all repeated. This line of runes is repeated below each of the tiers above, as well.
The first tier is marked by a 10' x 10' landing before the ramp continues upward. A 15' hallway open to the shaft and lined with pillars circles the Spire. The tier contains four rooms at the cardinal points of the compass. Two are empty of all but shattered ice furniture (easily identifiable as such) and shattered bones. A third (to the south) contains another frozen corpse, that of a dwarf, again in archaic armor. He appears to have been arranged as was the first corpse, albeit clasping his notched axe instead of a holy symbol.
The fourth room on the tier (to the west) is undisturbed. Ghostly furniture made of ice stands intact, resembling a soldier's barracks. Entering the room triggers an attack. Skeletons of ice emerge from the walls, floor, and ceiling - the remnants of the 12 elite guardsmen whose barracks this was. Priests can attempt to turn them, but with difficulty . If turned, they will sink into the floor only to reemerge in a very short time. If the skeletons are defeated without destructive magic (fire, lightning bolt, etc.) a book of ice will be found during any search of the room. Unless extreme care is taken in handling it, it will crumble at a touch, leaving only the last page. Comprehend languages or the like will reveal the following: "The end is near - my very blood runs slow and chill..." If the diary is handled by a thief with nimble fingers, more may be read . See the Diary section at the end.
Ramp to Tier 2
The ramp again circles the Spire twice, rising 100 feet to the second tier. The runes, pictographs, and carvings change, showing the people from the first set of carvings living at ease in a fertile, temperate valley, ruled over by the one who saved them,
The second tier is marked by a larger platform than tier 1 - 20' x 20'. From what can be seen in the dim light, the entire tier is one large room with massive pillars holding up the roof. The room is about 30' deep from the edge of the shaft to the exterior wall with pillars every 15' or so. It appears to have been used as a storeroom of some sort. Investigation turns up several empty potion bottles and stiff cloths with rusty-brown stains. These items are covered with fine icy dust, but are not made of ice. Lingering in the storeroom for more than a turn will wake the former inhabitants: six wights , former guardians.
Ramp to Tier 3
The ramp to tier three circles the spire four times as it rises 200'. The line of runes, pictographs, and carvings continues but changes again. The scenes are now of buildings, cities and folk of the pre-Cataclysm Suel. About half way to the third tier, the scenes change to the destruction of the Rain of Colorless Fire. The people from the south and their ruler flee again through a gate, together with bands of elves and dwarves. They are shown battling creatures of the north - white apes, winter wolves, and white dragons. As the battle rages, the Spire of Ice rises behind them. Interspersed among the fighting men are elves and dwarves, but these grow rarer as the ramp grows higher. By the time the third tier is reached, the elves and dwarves have disappeared completely.
The third tier contains eight smaller rooms set at the points of the compass. The room to the south is a library, but the books are all ice and crumble at a touch. The library contains another corpse, this time left as it fell. The face is twisted into a grinning rictus of fear. This fighter fell to the wraiths on this level and was abandoned by his party, only to rise as a haunt. If the haunt succeeds in possessing a PC, he will head straight for the top of the Spire without stopping. Only after opening the top chamber will the haunt rest. Each of the other rooms appear to be bedrooms and contains a wraith . In the southwestern room, not all of the furniture is ice. A chest remains, faintly radiating magic. It is under a spell of stasis which will break when the chest is open. Inside are warm clothes and furs, a dagger (+2), various unremarkable personal items, and five books. All are in a typical Suel Imperium style. While the books are non-magical, they are of incalculable historical value. They are a five-volume set of A History of the Suel Peoples, which documents the rise of the Suel Imperium through to the year before the Rain of Colorless Fire. Only fragments are known to have survived - the complete set will be sought out by every sage in the Flanaess...along with the Scarlet Brotherhood.
Ramp to Tier 4
The ramp to tier four is the same as the ramp to three, rising 200' in four turns around the interior of the Spire. In the runes and carvings above the ramp, the Spire is shown as completed. A star sits atop the Spire, apparently shining with black flame. Later, the people are shown bowing down to the one who saved them yet again. He holds the star in his hands with black flames running up his arms. Comparing his picture to the previous ramps reveals that he has begun to look skeletal and evil.
Three corpses are strewn over the landing at tier four, again lying where they fell. The remains are of two humans and an elf, and they have begun to turn to ice (not just freeze solid). Only the magic they carry remains completely solid albeit encased in ice. One human has a ring of warmth, one boots of the north, and the elf a wand of illumination and gem of seeing. If too long is taken to examine the corpses, the three spectres  on this level will attack. The east room (nearest the ramp) has been looted, but the other three are undisturbed, The only treasure is a mirror of scrying (similar to a crystal ball) with clairaudience. It is 90% likely to be mistaken as a normal mirror made of ice unless magical detection is used.
Ramp to Tier 5
As the ramp spirals up the last few hundred feet of the Spire, it approaches a giant stalactite of ice hanging down the center of the Spire. The stalactite is obviously part of the Spire, made of the same blocks of worked blue ice. After 300', the ramp crosses to the stalactite via narrow (5' wide) flying bridge. A 3' wide stair spirals 100' up the outside of the stalactite. Cold flows down the spiral stair from above. The carvings here show the star of black flame in the hands of the leader. As the ramp rises, the star grows larger and the leader less distinct, until finally only the star remains.
At the top of the spiral stair is tier five, the top of the Spire. It is divided into four rooms - quarters facing north, south, east, and west. with the spiral stair climbing into a middle circular room 20' across. All of the rooms have clear ice 'windows' allowing more light in than the rest of the Spire. The tier is utterly cold . The door to the southern room is ajar. Opening it fully reveals a lifelike statue of ice, arms thrown up in horror. Closer examination reveals it to be the last member of the adventuring group whose corpses lie below. The room contains a table and chairs of ice. The star of black flame sits in stand on the table, and a skeletal figure covered with ice occupies the chair at the head of the table. When all have entered, the skeletal figure's eyes begin to glow with a pale blue light and it begins to make the motions of spellcasting .
The skeletal figure is Sul-Iljast, formerly a Suel Mage of Power and now transformed by the Star of Black Flame into an ice-lich, a unique undead creature . If attacked, he will respond with spells (icy variants of fire-based spells like iceball instead of fireball). If pressed sorely, he will invoke the power of the artifact to lower the temperature and force his attackers to flee. As a last resort, he will open a gate to the positive material plane and flee into it, destroying the artifact, the Spire, and all within it.
If Sul-Iljast is not attacked, he completes his tongues spell and tells the story of the Spire and the Star of Black Flame - an artifact directly linked to the para-elemental plane of ice and infused with the power of the negative material plane. The Star is the source of the permanent ice field that surrounds the Spire. He explains that he can continue to restrain the artifact for the foreseeable future, unless one of the party cares to destroy it? If not, he asks to be left alone and offers his research notes on the Star  as compensation for their trouble.
The diary was kept by an elite guardsman in the
service of the builder of the Spire. The first 40 or so pages are
mostly uninteresting, day-to-day happenings of a troop of soldiers
protecting a peaceful people. The last 10 pages contain entries on
fleeing the Rain of Colorless fire ("beautiful, but deadly...Amrak was
dissolved into dust when he tried to return to the barracks"), the
northlands ("Kord's teeth, it's COLD here"), and the fighting ("dragons
and all manner of ice creatures assail us...Tranylk was lost yesterday
- a pack of winter wolves pulled him down...the master says he will
soon be ready to aid us"). The next-to-last page describes their
victory: "We have triumphed! The master brought forth a ball atop the
Spire, ringed with black flames and shining like a star. Most of the
creatures assaulting us ran; the few who remained turned to ice a
heartbeat later...I do not understand. The master has commanded us to
bow down and thank him and the Star of Black Flame for our salvation.
When Yertis protested, he was turned to ice!... The master is cold and
distant...What hath been unleashed upon the world?" The last page has
only the words "The end is near - my very blood runs slow and chill..."
scrawled in a shaky hand.
Star of Black Flame
retired from active life, Sul-Iljast became an explorer of the Oerth
from safe at home in his hidden valley. When he came across a group of
men, dwarves, and elves about to be destroyed by barbaric tribesmen, on
a whim he opened a gate and allowed them to travel to his valley. For
many years they lived in peace, and Sul-Iljast came to truly care for
the people he had rescued. Then came the summons: Sul-Iljast was
recalled by the Mages of Power. Once one of their number, he left when
he became bored with the endless schemes and puerile evil of the
younger Mages. Sul-Iljast aided in the forging of the magic that
brought down the Invoked Devastation upon the Baklunish. When the
far-sighted Mage detected the first signs of the Baklunish retaliation,
he fled back to his valley. As the Rain of Colorless Fire approached,
he led the people through another gate into the icefields of the far
Many died of exposure in the first days of the flight,
and more fell to the fell beasts. The few elves and dwarves, less
affected by the cold, bore the brunt of the initial fighting, and soon
all were slain. The lessened (but tougher) people continued on,
following Sul-Iljast over the ice. Upon a particularly flat and smooth
patch of ice, Sul-Iljast found what he was looking for: a source of
magic. While the people built shelter and fortifications, Sul-Iljast
began the building of the Spire of Ice to focus the natural magical
power of the area. He also began researches into the nature of cold
and ice, hoping build resistance to it among the people.
the Spire rose, his research succeeded. Sul-Iljast fashioned a ball of
pure crystal ice. Into it he placed a permanent link to the
para-elemental plane of ice. As he attempted to tap the positive
material plane for energy, something went very wrong. The link within
the crystal changed and grew darker - instead of being powered by
positive energy, the crystal - the Star of Black Flame - was powered by
negative energy, drawing heat and life from around itself to flow into
an endless internal void of ice and negation. Instead of empowering
his people to live in the cold, it drew their life force out and left
only icy shells.
Sul-Iljast fought the effects of the Star as
long as he could, but he eventually succumbed. Because of his innate
power, the Star could not twist him, as it had many others, into evil
undead. As Sul-Iljast held back the effects of the artifact, it slowly
transformed the warm-hearted Mage into an icy mockery of his former
self, an ice-lich. His mind remained his own, however, and he has
remained in the Spire for a thousand years reducing the effects of the
Star. Without the mitigating effects of Sul-Iljast, the Star would
have long since frozen the Icy Sea permanently and begun a new ice age
The artifact may only be destroyed by carrying it
through a gate to the positive material plane. This will result in the
destruction of the artifact along with its carrier and anything
surrounding the gate.
"We left the Spire whole in body, if not in mind. The trip back to the ship was made as quickly as possible - none of us wanted to be near the Spire any longer. The thought of the endless cold and darkness contained in that structure was enough to chill the brightest soul.
The long journey south brought relief - even the routine of facing bandits helped - and clarity. We were all agreed - we would give the sage the books we had found, but nothing else. No one must ever attempt the Spire of Ice again."
 The other two possible locations mentioned by the sage are in A4-76 and A4-58, respectively. Perhaps they are buried deep...
 Hex A4-43 on the Greyhawk map.
 At the low temperatures around the Spire, metal is extremely brittle. Typical metal tools like picks and shovels have a 25% change of breaking each turn of use. Magical weapons have a 10% chance of breaking each turn, -5% per plus.
 Non-magical fire has no effect, while fire-based magic stands a flat 50% chance of failing due to the magic that powers the Spire. That chance rises to 80% inside the central shaft.
 Characters take 1d6 cold damage for each round they stand on the seal or touch the circling runes.
 A bard or historian may be able to identify the armor as the style of the Great Kingdom's knights about 100 CY.
 The skeletons turn as spectres. Due to their icy makeup and more powerful negative energy, they do an additional 1d6 cold damage and have a 25% change per successful strike of draining a level.
 For each page turned, the thief must make a Remove Traps check. Success indicates the page is turned successfully and the next may be read. Failure destroys the turned page and the one after. Failure by more than 10%, or 3 failures in a row, destroy the diary leaving only the last page.
 The wights are cunning but slow, attacking last in each round. They may wait until the party begins the trek to tier 3 to attack, following them up the ramp until someone lags or the party is distracted. As with the skeletons, they do an additional 1d6 cold damage. Their normal level drain attack is augmented, with a 50% chance of draining 2 levels. They turn as ghosts.
 The wraiths will wait until they can attack in force, either when the party is distracted by the haunt or engaged in combat with one of their number. They do an additional 1d6+3 cold damage, and have a 75% chance of draining two levels. They turn as Special Undead.
 The spectres inflict an additional 2d6 cold damage and have 25% chance of draining three levels instead of two. The are not turnable inside the Spire.
 Even magical protections against cold are not complete; everyone will take 0-1 (1d2 - 1) points of damage per round.
 A successful check against Int by a mage or Wis by a cleric reveals that this spellcasting is not hostile.
 Treat an ice-lich as a standard lich with AC -8 due to hard icy bone. All within 15' suffer 1d10 points of cold damage each round. Sul-Iljast was a 22nd level mage in life, and retains his spellcasting powers. However, he cannot cast fire-based spells, instead transmuting them into ice-based equivalents.
 These notes will enable a mage to cut the time and expense needed to research any cold- or ice-based spell by 75%.