An expansive lake which meanders hundreds of miles through the Vikmordere Valley. The valley and the lakes were carved out over two thousand years ago when a massive glacier passed through the area. In the great Serpent Lake the preferred method of travel is by boat. One must be cautious and hire an expensive and well-trained navigator to steer through the maze that is Serpent Lake lest they lose their way.
The Lake is named after large slimy black predatory serpents which are spotted surfacing from time to time. Legends speak of a behemoth Serpent which dwells in the deepest darkest part of the lake. The Serpent is rumored to surface and feast upon entire ships which lose their way in the confusing corridor of linked lakes of the Vikmordere Valley.
Environment and Weather
The lakeside area west of the southern reaches of Serpent Lake is a unique habitat not just in the Klavekian realm but maybe in the whole known world. It is a very small strip of land, framed by water to the east and a small mountain range to the west, but most of all it’s a land where a glacier receded but a few centuries ago.
While sages link the receding of the glacier to the magic of the Sun Lord Ka’teek and the Ancestor People, who supposedly wanted to open up trade with the southern lands, the process needed centuries to reach its current state. Maybe the magic that caused it was very long-term, maybe the current advance of ice in the far North slowed it down, the result of the process is a unique habitat that is still repopulated by flora and fauna.
Although the highest peaks of the western mountains only reach 1200-1800 m (4000-6000 ft), these extensive, frigid highlands trap lots of snow on the lakeside. Winter storms cover it with deep snow that takes a long time to melt, so summer doesn’t come here until July. The spring and summer are quiet, with little rain and less wind, while in autumn the stormy season breaks itself once more at the low mountains, bringing lots of rain here and to the Grassy Plains on the other side.
The average temperature is milder than in the plains due to the influence of the Serpent Lake, temperatures vary from −20 °C to 30 °C throughout the year. The abundance of snow most of the year may cause different feelings though.
The relatively small region is enclosed by mountains and a lake and has slowed plant seeds and spores reinhabiting the land. Among those that have arrived by now, few traveled by wind or bird, most by wave, which has given the lakeside a comparably curious plantlife.
One can see the diverse states of recolonization by going from north to south, for it was the northern regions the glacier gave up last. The chaotic rock-and-rubble aftermath of a glacial romp is deficient in nitrogen, so in the northern gap is still no more than “black crust”, a mostly algal, feltlike nap that stabilizes the silt and retains water. Further south moss begins to add more conspicuous tufts. Next come scouring rush and fireweed, dryas, then alders and the occasional willow, and finally some spruce. The alder already form dense entanglements, fixing nitrogens with their roots and adding them to the soil with their falling leaves. This allows the spruce to take roots and they begin to overshadow the alders in the southern gap. Furthest to the south is also muskeg, because the soil packing caused poor drainage.
Since the scouring rush is unusually fertile in its part of the region, one Klavekian general has named this part ‘the forest’ and the name stuck, maybe because of the irony. Until today you can find it on maps, befuddling the occasional greenhorn traveling the lakeside and looking for more than an occasional tree once he has passed the alders.
The Dranden flower is an ornament on the seashore rocks of the southern gap near the mound of the Serpent Tail River. Their white heads about 12 cm across with red centers on the background of fleshy pinnatifid leaves greet seafarers the whole summer.
A special flower is the Algrass, a strange plant the reminds of a kind of land-dwelling red algae. In open spaces, it is easily seen and avoided, but hidden in fireweed one can easily step on it with a failed knowledge (nature) or survival check DC 12, causing it to explode its seed with popping sounds. In this case, a Fortitude saving throw DC 10 is required, failure resulting in partial paralyzation of a leg. This reduces the movement speed by 10 feet for the next two hours. If a natural 1 is rolled on the saving throw, the victim is completely paralyzed for this time. A leg covered with Algrass seed feels like being iced.
Opposite to plants, animals have no true pioneer species paving the way for succeeding species in re-inhabiting the land. The southern way into the lakeside is relatively isolated from the Klavekian Grasslands but often used by humans like the raiding Vikmordere, though they usually came by ship, or the counterattacking Klavekian infantry. As a result, animals avoided the small but apparently populated southern gate with its poor plant coverage. Since there are no mountain passes leading into the lakeside from the west, the only open gate was the wider northern end, but that place was the last part of the glacier for long years. As a result, common land animals are almost nonexistent in the lakeside. Only a few live off this young terrain part of the year, a resident population hasn’t been build yet. A notable exception of this rule is the big glacier toad.
What was bad for the land animals was good for the sea animals though. Without much pressure from land the region is still a habitat for freshwater seals sunning on the rocky beach, and they were easily able to avoid the noisy humans traveling there. That worked at least until the sea predators learned that the landsleepers couldn’t flee further inland when noisy humans traveled the shore. The result has been attacks by sea monsters on seals while humans were in the vicinity, and shortly after that period attacks of sea monsters on the noisy humans themselves, who also turned out to be very edible. Modern-day travelers in the region should have their eyes fixed on the water to the east for the most likely source of problems.
Another creature that bears mentioning regarding the lakeside is the Gilded Sea Serpent. This rare serpent is one that seldom attacks prey on the shore, but nonetheless is attracted to it by the Dranden flowers which grow there, though what makes the flowers so attractive for the serpents is unknown. Whatever it may be, the golden-hide serpents have been revered by the Ancestors as holy and pictured with this flowers since ages untold. The Gilded Sea Serpents are venomous, and a powerful narcotic can be distilled out of their poison. Even more useful is their hide, which is rumored to have the same properties as mithril scale armor. Should a Vikmordere see someone in golden armor made of this hide, conflict is nearly impossible to avoid. May the fearless raiders of the North have adopted the belief of holiness or not, there is a surprisingly huge number of Vikmordere ships who have the likelihood of the Gilded Serpent on their bowsprites.
The biggest horror of the lakeside area is probably the greater tentamort, which plagues the southern part of the region alongside its smaller tentamort cousin. Tentamorts normally live in marshes, so some sages did speculate about a marshy condition of the Serpent Tail mound in times when the glacier didn’t recede yet. The tentamort could have adapted to the unique conditions of the region over time, but it hasn’t spread further north into the colder parts of the Serpent Lake.
The tentamort wears its regional crown because it is relatively common. There are two inhabitants that are even more dangerous, but luckily much rare. It is the giant lake octopus, which was a mere myth until only ten years ago, where it was witnessed attacking a caravan bound for Rybalka, and the giant reefclaw, a large variant of the common reefclaw that plagues not only the Serpent Lake, but also parts of the Serpent Tail river. At least the reefclaw, dangerous as it is, is a delicacy which is baited with fresh meat. Fishermen also like the monstrous crab as an addition to their dishes, but these cold-water creature are as dangerous as their more common cousins which live in warmer waters. The Serpent Lake crabs prefer the coastal swallow water zones and are specialized in attacks on landlubbers.
Other strange and aggressive inhabitants of the region are the amphibious six-legged Bukkavac, who try to impale their victims on their horns, and the oily Bagiennik, an aberration that is known to stabilize injured travelers with its secretions one day and attack them the next. The seadrake, one of the strongest drakes there is, is known to hunt the lakeside too.
There are dense bird colonies common along the coast and on nearby small islands. Most of them are harmless and live of the plenty fish in the lake, but the bloodhawk can be a danger not only to the eel. It likes human flesh and can relentlessly attack even if not hungry.
Place of interest
About halfway from both gaps of the lakeside is the famous Valley of Colorful Geysers. The entrance to it is small and not easy to see unless there is an eruption. Then the boiling water is easily seen, and the following rain of cooling colorful splashes is a sight no one is likely to forget even if only one of the geysers did erupt. When all six lined up geysers are active bards sing of the symphony of colors with strange patterns. There are rumors that there is a code hidden in the colors, but if that is true no one has deciphered it yet. There are geysers that gush forth every 10-12 minutes, while others may erupt once in 4-5 hours. The biggest one, Bolshoy, is active only once every 8 hours.
At the western end of the valley is the beautiful Malachite Grotto. Dwarves have tried to mine it in the past, but economic reasons and a protective stonedruid have prevented success as of now. The druid doesn’t interfere with visitors, but once someone takes even a single green stone her anger is raised.