The League’s territorial claims include the Great Ice. From Diamond Hearth in the Far North and southward to Icehome’s shores and Gethamane, a coat of ice and snow ranging from a few feet to more than 50 feet thick lies over mountains, coastline, islands and open sea. Outsiders are amazed that anyone bothers to claim the area at all, thinking it must be barren and useless.
They are not far wrong, for the Great Ice has little of value to anyone not prepared to work extremely hard.
And yet, wealth can be gained from the Great Ice for those prepared to labor exhaustively. Beneath the White Sea’s frozen surface are schools of fish and pods of whales.
Ice crews set massive cracking machines built of strong timbers and tension bands of mammoth guts on the open ice, to open broad crevasses in the surface. The light and air draws walruses, seals, whales and fish to sudden plankton blooms exposed to the Unconquered Sun. Even treeless rocks hold colonies of shellfish that can be harvested for oysters and mussels. Shipped farther south in brine barrels, they are a delicacy in the East and South. Some oyster beds hold fabulous riches in pearls, as well, and where the Wyld has touched, miners sometimes discover abalone growing diamonds and opals instead of pearls.
LIFE ON THE ICE
For iceship captains, the Great Ice is constantly in flux. Crevasses and sinkholes appear and disappear in the ice with great frequency; places frozen for a thousand years open suddenly in warm weather. Tidal forces and mortal hands shatter icebergs out of the Great Ice, and, when these ice boulders turn over, mountains and hills appear that must be avoided as if they were islands.
Charts must be constantly updated.
Crevasses in the ice can catch silt and wind-blown seeds, forming an emerald. These oases become refuges for those working on the snow plains. Green men find and cultivate these plots and hollow house-caves out of the snow for hunters tracking frost bears, ice cats, black walruses and snowy seals, as well as for prospectors.
Mining and fishing are the major occupations on the Great Ice. Rocky islets in the White Sea yield amethyst, topaz, amber, turquoise and diamond. The largest diamond deposits are near Diamond Hearth, where miners risk their lives by going 20 feet below the snowcap and half a mile beneath the earth to dig for the brilliant crystals. Sometimes these mines connect with the shadowland surrounding the First Age city of Tzatli, which adds to the risk but also to the fabulous prices commanded by these stones.