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The Cold Line

By Wesley Quadros and Martin Laurie

The Cold Line is a thankless posting, reserved for malcontents and troublemakers. Yet at the same time, the Line serves a vital function in the Empire; an immovable barrier to the winter storms that come howling down from Valindus’s Glacier.

Kalikos Keep is perpetually shrouded in clouds of steam At the time that Kestinoros wore the Mantle of Sovereign Majesty and ruled from Raibanth, the Hollri, ice demons, came from the north and sought to thrown down the makings of the Golden Empire. The Ice came and ground under the city of Verapur slaying the gods there. The god Kalikos rode into the north with his Red Stone and took battle to the Palace of Ice and beat back the invasion – though not in time to save the Empire.

With the forging of the new empire by Teelo Estarra and our noble Takenegi, mighty heroes rediscovered the secrets of Kalikos and set out to stop the annual incursions from the glacier. They travelled deep into the Hero planes and far into the frozen northern lands charting places of power for both the Ice and the Ice-Breaker. Joranaddi Soot-Step, a Kalikosi hero from Nenuvus, quested into the Dead Place and returned with the Iron Ram. The Ram, was the god of a barbarian people who invaded Dara Happa and were defeated by Urvairinus. The Ram god protected Dara Happan from the Ice - breaking its advance - until it too fell under the relentless advance.

Finally, the Empire built a grim fortress in the Kalikos Hills – north of Erigia and Eol – on a site where a fragment from Kalikos’ Red Stone struck the earth. The bastion, called Kalikos Keep, was built with red rock carved from the fallen fragment and crowned with the Iron Ram. A string of outposts was established along the Hollrigash River to extend the Keep’s reach.

Today, winters in the Empire are mild and storms rare. The farms produce food year-round and travel is uninterrupted by the harsh winters of old.

Kalikos Keep

Deep in the Kalikos Hills there stands a jagged hilltop crouched above the Hollrigash River. The hill is crowned by a grim fortress made of red stones that steam in the rain and never have any snow on them. The fortress itself is all blunt angles with many nooks and crannies to trap the winds and protect the defenders against the same. A great iron statue of a ram – the mythical Iron Ram that broke the Ice’s assault on Dara Happa – crowns the northernmost bastion. It stands guard again and draws the forces of Valindus to it to be broken upon the hot stone walls.

Kalikos Keep sits atop Red Hill, where a fragment of Kalikos’ sacred stone fell to earth. Here the power of Kalikos manifests itself most readily in the world. The hordes of Winter are drawn to the hill by the great Ice-Breaker temple and the Iron Ram and the Red Hill itself, like moths to a candle. The hordes throw themselves at the towering walls and rune-carved battlements and waste their strength there rather than upon the heartlands of the Empire. So harsh are the winter storms around the Keep that a man may freeze in moments and the snows pile up in banks a hundred feet high. The magical nature of the red stone warms the keep and melts any snow within a few feet.

The Keep itself is a collection of disparate buildings. The Ice-Breaker temple dominates the hilltop and funnels the power of the legions of priests and acolytes into the defences. The eastern wing is taken up by a Makabean chapter house where the sorcerers add their own magic to the defence. The Crooked Tower, on the southern wall, is the home of a score of Kalikos Shaman sent by the Char-Un Ur-Pan, or High Khan, to aid the defence.

Deep under the Keep in warrens carved by their own brand of sorcery the Eyzaal wizards concoct their own magics. The entropic energies harnessed by the Eyzaal chapter house are evident in the river. For miles downstream of the Keep the waters glow softly at night and never freezes, even during the darkest days of winter. Recently, malformed fish have been caught in the river, some with three eyes, some with two heads, and other stranger things that do not bear mentioning. The wizards are rumoured to have an entropic generator down there but none know for sure.

The Keep is the main garrison point for the Cold Line Foot, a regiment dedicated to maintaining the Cold Line and protecting the Empire from the winter. About half of the regiment is kept at the Keep, 400 men, and bands of Char-Un auxiliaries range through the hills seeking invaders.

Cold Line Forts

Once Kalikos Keep was built the Empire built a line of small forts along the river to protect the supply line up the river – ironically, it is easiest to carry supplies to the keep when the river freezes. It was soon discovered that many smaller incursions from the northern lands bypassed Kalikos Keep and crossed the river above or below the fortress. The forts below the Kalikos Hills stopped many of those raids and storms. As a result, the Empire extended the line of forts above the Kalikos hills. The Cold Line Forts now stretch from White Harbour on the coast all the way up the Hollrigash River nearly to the Rathori Forest.

Each outpost is usually garrisoned by 20-50 men from the Cold Line Foot, spearmen and archers who have earned the ire of their commander or one of the priests in the Keep. There is also a like number of Char-Un auxiliaries drawn from the local clans.

Cold Line Foot

In 1/24, Dara Happa rebelled against our noble Takenegi and waged war upon loyal citizens of the Empire. When the rebellion was crushed, the Dara Happan army was broken up and the regiments moved about to preclude a future rising.

One of the regiments that been at the fore of the rebellion, and one of the last to surrender had been the Tholmic Line. The Tholmic Line was a regiment of in the Elmexdros tradition and was best known for their burning spears. Takenegi immediately saw the benefit of the regiment’s magics – on the Cold Line. The regiment was renamed the Cold Line Foot and assigned permanent garrison duty in the far north.

Today the regiment is a punishment posting. Political malcontents from across Peloria are sent to the Cold Line to , literally, “cool off”.

The regiment’s standard is a swooping hawk. Their shields show the hawk holding Kalikos’s Red Stone and are rimmed in painted ice. Over the years they have adopted heavy bows with “cracker” arrow-heads that can split ice. Many of the spearmen have adopted heavy two-handed axes to better hew the ice-demons and trolls that assail them.

White Harbour

White Harbour is a small, fortified town and port at the mouth of the Hollrigash River. Several vessels in the Imperial White Sea Fleet are based there while whalers and fishers often put in for supplies or shelter. The “Surety of Purpose”, a sturdy galley that belongs to the Makabean order, puts in twice a year on its journeys between their grim tower in the north and Joranit. White Harbour is the supply centre for Kalikos Keep and the rest of the Cold Line. The town is garrisoned by a score of Imperial Marines and a syntagma – 100 men – from the Cold Line Foot.

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May 29, 2001

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