At first glance, Crow’s Rest Island is a paradise of the North, a pearl in the Serpent Lake. The rugged island hosts a mix of black spruce and white pine, while birches, poplars and willows display beautiful fall colors starting in early autumn. Evenings are made memorable by breathtaking sunsets, whilst on clear nights there always is the likelihood of a appearance of the northern lights. The northern part of Crow’s Rest Island is bounded by spectacular red granite cliffs and coves that give the appearance of being magical and are mostly unexplored by humans as of now. They are inhabited by kobolds, but that may not always have been the case, since there are far older ruins on the island. The kobolds don’t look favorably on other humanoids rummaging around there and to prove this point, they leave shrunken heads and spread-eagled skeletons pinned to the cliffs. But even if they somehow could be avoided, there are also grim repositories of long-undead creatures and worse, if tales can be believed. Like so often in the North, what looks like a stunning paradise at first glance is actually only hiding its dangers behind mirages.
The western sector of the island is flat, while almost mountainous relief is characteristic of the eastern part and accounts for about 70 per cent of the total area. Although absolute heights are low, the hills have steep, dissected slopes where only the sparsest vegetation and the hardiest goats manage to eek out survival.
Secluded bays provide some of Serpent’s Lake most important waterfowl habitats, and, to the delight of every fisherman with the courage to brave the dangers of the sea serpents, they teem with lake trout and northern pike. While golden and bald eagles abound, Crow’s Rest Island is known for its migratory bird life, aside from the name-giving crows, there are ducks, geese and loons as fellow summer visitors.
Terrestrial mammals are mainly linked with the forest: brown bear, wolves, foxes, sable, and red squirrels have crossed the ice in especially cold winters and made a home on the island. Foxes are ubiquitous, and without the crows, it would in all likelihood have been known as the ‘island of foxes’ long ago. Such abundance of this species has provoked rumors of Kitsune living here too, either impersonating most of the foxes or at least living among them in hiding. The existence of pond drinkers may be a clue toward this, but it is unproven nonetheless.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Crow’s Rest Island is the abundance of sea mammals which form beach colonies in the west. In addition to the sea lion and common seal, widespread in the Serpent Lake, there are colonies of two rare species, the six-legged Zantula (see below) and the giant sea otter. Crow’s Rest Island lies on one of the major migration routes of birds nesting in the North. More than two dozen bird species are known to pass and rest here in times. Marine birds and crows are particularly common and form extensive colonies on the coastal cliffs in the north and the forest respectively.
The coastlines of the Crow’s Rest Island are plagued by almost all the creatures that are common to the Klavekian Lakeside, so you can see the details in that part. Further inland, forest creatures prevail, but since there is no megafauna on the island, the predators tend to be smaller here compared to the mainland. There’s no reason for adventurers to relax, though, for the predators like the wolves are known to hunt in packs and the kobolds are numerous and cunning. Some of the scaly humanoids have dire rat mounts, and there is at least one sorcerer, maybe an ice kobold, known to be on the island. There also are more undead than one would think, and they are not only inside the ancient ruins. Among these undead, the cadavers have to be mentioned, for it seems to be very difficult to lay them to eternal rest. The kobolds usually avoid cadavers and the even more dangerous cadaver lords for this reason.
The six-legged, vermin-like pond drinkers are rare around the Serpent Lake, but they are more common on Crow’s Rest Island. These blood drinkers are rumored to have banished the fey from the island, with the possible exception of the kitsune, and are now plaguing the kobolds and sometimes fishermen coming to close to the coastline.
With its ability to prepare itself for long, cold winters by consuming huge quantities of aquatic insects, snails, small fish and fish eggs, and to survive for up to six months under several meters of ice if need be, the Zantula is well adapted to the Serpent Lake’s northern parts and likely to be found along shorelines and in shallower bays there. That it is so abundant this far south has made sages speculate if Crow’s Rest Island’s northern coves may be the long sought-after breeding ground for the strange mammals. Zantulas have an oily pelt which is surprisingly warm and gives a +2 on saving throws versus non-lethal cold damage. The oil vanishes three months after the harvesting though, and sooner if it is washed regularly. After two months, the pelt starts to stink, making its wearer and everyone downwind and closer than 20 feet distance nauseated as long as the pelt can be smelled. This can attract reefclaws, who are not above eating the occasional carcass, and the smell an old zantula pelt emits indeed reminds of a very old carcass.
Sometimes known as the Vikmordere fish, because of its very large, brightly-spotted dorsal fin that reminds of a vikmordere sail, the alisfish is one of the most distinctive and attractive fish in northern waters. It is vividly colored, with an iridescent light purplish-blue back, and white sides. It also lives in the warmer parts of southern Klavekian rivers, but grows to trophy size in the cold, clear waters of Serpent Lake, reaching record weights of over four pounds, and super-lengths of 30 inches. Close study by fishermen of the alisfish’s habits has revealed that large specimen gravitate to deeper waters, with smaller fish inhabiting medium depths. Zantulas, seadrakes and tentamorts alike hunt the Alisfish, so it is very dangerous to compete with the latter monsters, but a small bay on the northern side of Crow’s Rest Island is known to be a location were it is easy to harvest Alisfish, if one survives the competition. It is very easy to bait the normally shy zantulas with alisfish to harvest their pelts (see above).
The coastline of Crow’s Rest Island is characterized by deep, clear waters and a shoreline dominated by mosses, lichens and low-growing shrubs. Further inland, black spruce, white pine and birches grow with the aforementioned spectacular colors in fall. On the western side, horsetails, sedges, wetlands filled with willows, and banks lined with mixed balsam poplar and spruce woods also provide ideal breeding habitats for ducks.
Crow’s Rest Island is not known for its biological strangeness ,as most of the plants found here are common in the rest of the Klavekian realm.
One exception for this is the elven berry, a highly nutritious, orange-colored fruit from the Klavekian willow, which is indigenous to the eastern shore of the southern Serpent Lake and some of its islands. Despite being a little berry, the elven berry is considered by some to be one of the more useful foods found in the Klavekian realm today. It is a fruit having a short post-harvest period, after which it tends to deteriorate. That is why elven berry is available only as juice fruit pulp outside the North. This juice and pulp are used in numerous local beverages for its spicy taste, but a successful Craft (Alchemy) check DC 20 can produce a product that is able to enhance the normal eyesight for 20 feet for 2d6 rounds. Low-light or darkvision are not enhanced by the elven berry. The enhancing quality is the reason for the name of the berry, though a human still can’t compete with elven eyesight, however much elven berry beverage he has consumed.
Another berry that bears mentioning here does it for warning purposes only. The saliberry is a blue fleshfruit with many seeds inside and has the size of an average sword pommel. Like the elven berry, it grows mainly on the southeastern part of Serpent Lake and some islands. Saliberries are thought by some to be a highly effective weight loss food, although no magic evidence exists to prove this statement. Indeed sages claim that consuming a certain amount of fresh saliberries causes the delusion of an immediate loss of weight, obviously some illusionary defense mechanism of the berry versus its natural enemies. The delusion lasts for about eight hours and can be disbelieved as usual. Victims of saliberries who want to believe in the fruits do get no saving throws, more sceptically minded eaters have to succeed a will saving throw DC 5. This is a mind-affecting (compulsion) effect. Saliberries have a bitter taste and are sometimes served with bloodhawkwings to complement the flavor.