Reign of Winter
Visitors are wise to remember that Whitethrone is inhabited primarily by monsters and people from another world. The descendants of Baba Yaga, the jadwiga (meaning “children of the witch-mother”) came from an unknown realm far beyond the stars or planes, and while they are identical to the humans of this world, their ways are not entirely the ways of Golarion. The jadwiga rule Whitethrone absolutely, each in his or her own ruthless ways. What makes life in Whitethrone both bearable and dangerous in turn is that these descendants are not always aligned with each other, and sometimes oppose each other directly. To survive in Whitethrone for any length of time outside of the tight strictures and closed world of the licensed merchants, visitors must learn the trick of playing these forces against one another, using them to block potential enemies and in turn shelter themselves and their plans. When not dodging jadwiga and their plots, adventurers can try their hands at coexisting with a variety of monsters who would ordinarily consider them food—for snow goblins, ice trolls, and winter wolves dwell in Whitethrone as citizens.
Another important point to remember is that Whitethrone is not intended for outsiders. The city is the hub of a network of world domination and a playground for the families of the ruling daughters of Baba Yaga. Heroes are typically seen as part of the world to be dominated or toys on this
playground, so PCs would be well advised to spend their time in Whitethrone making sure their actions have some direct benefit to someone more important than themselves. As far as the rulers of Whitethrone are concerned, utility is the only reason humanity has a place in Whitethrone and not the Bone Mill. A clever group of visitors can fit in long enough to do their business and get out—for longer stays in Whitethrone almost always end in tragedy.
Arriving overland, travelers know they’re approaching Whitethrone the same way they’d find out they’re nearing Baba Yaga’s hut: after sojourning through a winter-shrouded forest of conifers, they suddenly find themselves surrounded by beech trees. These leaf less trees aren’t dead, but they might as well be, for there will never be another growing season in Irrisen, and these trees will never bear another leaf. After half a day of ghostly white, the travelers come to a tall wall made of giant femurs, each sharpened and topped with a skull. This is an illusion, or a trick of the eye—as the travelers near, they note that the walls aren’t actual bones, merely bone-white. A looming gate opens onto a breathtaking prospect: a city of whites—ivory, snow-white, and the blue-white of ice palaces and statues. The main thoroughfare winds gently downhill to the edges of tall cliffs, where it turns into a delicate and impossible span connecting to a shimmering, many-faceted palace made entirely of ice. Gatehouse denizens and loiterers are quick to take note of the reaction of visitors to the site; those who stare with jaws agape are obviously new blood— first-time visitors, and easy marks. There is plenty of bustle in Whitethrone, and travelers who haven’t heard the stories may make it as far as a few blocks before realizing that they’re walking on a roadway made of human skulls.
While other colors are in evidence throughout the city, the most popular styles of architecture incorporate the heavy use of white, with various pastels employed for accents. Monumental domes are often touched with light pink or green, and the ice structures show bluish-white in the sun. The Merchant’s Quarter is more colorful, with bright signs and awnings, but even here permanent buildings are likely to be more somber, with whitewash, half-timber, or pale granite being the order of the day. Most of the city’s monstrous denizens favor white and gray clothing, the better to blend in with their surroundings. The jadwiga wear whatever strikes their fancy, though they often prefer pastels in cool colors. Merchants wear ordinary traders’ clothes, but local workers generally dress in drab browns, greens, and other typical peasant colors.
While the color scheme would not seem to allow for much individuality, the jadwiga and prosperous slaves decorate their wooden dwellings extensively with delicate woodwork, known as locally as “gingerbread,” often involving layer upon layer of different shapes. An observer would be hard pressed to find any but the poorest houses boasting identical trim. Whitethrone is home to some of the most skilled woodworkers on Golarion (though the land’s eternal winter means they must import much of their wood), and because their apprentices cut their teeth on low-cost projects for the lower-class humans, the city is covered with gingerbreading. Consequently, a house of plain construction is a fashion statement of the boldest sort.
The Floes: The city west of the Water Palace is riven with numerous streams, fresh from the hot springs and still steaming as they rush toward the cliffs. This district is home to many of the Jadwiga Elvanna and other government functionaries because of its proximity to the Royal Palace. Also crowded onto the islands are some of Whitethrone’s heavy industries and foundries which use the rushing waters as motive power for their great wheels and pistons.
Frosthall: The northwest quarter of the city is among the most prosperous, featuring the homes of many jadwiga, along with those jadwiga Elvanna who don’t reside in the Royal Palace. The streets are lined with fashionable shops selling a variety of luxury items. The centerpiece of the district is the elite Frosthall Theater, where the great theatrical works of Golarion are performed on ice for the Whitethrone nobility.
The Howlings: The Howlings district spans the world both inside and outside Whitethrone’s walls. In fact, a gap in the wall allows the winter wolves something no other visitor to Whitethrone enjoys: unfettered entrance and egress without the inconvenience of guards and customs officials. The winter wolves don’t take too much advantage of the situation, and the amount of smuggling that goes on is manageable—a small price to pay for keeping key allies happy. Furthermore, when Baba Yaga ordered the construction of Whitethrone, she crafted a powerful enchantment: in the Howlings, any wolf can walk as a man, the better to deal with the humans of the city. Winter wolves in human form may be noticed by silver or white hair, and sometimes unusually large canines, but otherwise appear fully human.
Ironside: The intimidating structure known as the Iron Barracks looms above Whitethrone’s southeastern wall, and the grim, duty-bound aura of that edifice pervades the entire quarter. Ironside residences tend to be austere and utilitarian, and the decorative touches are fewer than elsewhere in the city. While the jadwiga residing here tend to be lower in rank and class than those living in Frosthall, they are the backbone of the human ranks of Irrisen’s military and see themselves as the backbone of its culture as well.
The Merchants’ Quarter: Surrounding the Market Square lies the Merchant’s Quarter, originally set aside to allow merchants a safe place to reside during trading missions. Unlike the rest of the city, the Queen’s monstrous allies are supposed to step lightly here, so as not to scare off the foreign custom that is Whitethrone’s lifeblood. While no winter wolf or ice troll would stand still for an insult even here, they are much less likely to pick a fight or order around those humans who get in their way. Most visitors to the city can be found here, and several restaurants and taverns that cater to foreign tastes base themselves in the Quarter.
The Troll Quarter: Trolls make up a significant portion of Whitethrone’s population, and are allotted living space disproportionate to their number. Though only one in 20 residents is an ice troll, the Troll Quarter spreads over more than a tenth of the city, along the southern wall. The ice trolls follow very strict customs and mores to prevent the naturally territorial males from killing each other off. Females run the district, and male trolls are usually given the most physically grueling tasks—the better to sweat out their aggressive impulses. In addition, an ongoing fighting tournament operates in the quarter, designed to allow males to fight out their grudges in the arena rather than the street; the Eyefang Arena is host to nightly ranked fighting, with the rankings used to award housing and other scarce resources, and females tending to prefer high-ranked males for mates.
Twohill: Whitethrone is mostly f lat, sloping gently down toward the cliffs. The high points of the city are Observatory Hill and Veskaya Hill, the dual foci of the Twohill district. Around the hills lies a quiet neighborhood characterized by the shops of master woodcrafters and the studios and lofts of visiting scholars.