Cold Belly Lake
Cold Belly Lake is a gargantuan body of water in the southern lakelands of Cairne. Fed by the glacial ice that runs down from the peaks of Barren Ridge and the underground aquifer of the Carrig River, this freshwater expanse was famed at one time as a glistening natural resource of the Becht Empire, but now the lake remains black and still, large swaths of floating black ice drifting across the mirror like surface that obscures an undulating mass of horror in the dark depths below.
The largest lake in all of Cairne, the Cold Belly Lake stretches nearly five hundred kilometers from end to end. The black surface and erie myths that surround it make the place seem haunting in the post Blight gloom, and the coldness of the place due to the arctic winds that sweep down from the nearby Barren Ridge only serve to make the once opulent and bustling location even less inviting.
While a large number of mutated and adapted creatures remain within and around the lake, none of it resembles what once was. The fish and other wildlife now take on a more sinister demeanor as they have become violently aggressive and harbor toxic elements of their environment as well, not to mention the tales of cryptids and monsters that supposedly make their homes along the banks and within the haunted ruins of the towns and villages that once surrounded the lake.
Many travelers making the journey over land from the Becht lands to the Greenlands Commonage go missing, most never to be seen again.
The area of Cold Belly Lake remains cold year round due to the downdraft that comes off the Barren Ridge and the ice runoff that drains down into the water from above. The fresh, untainted melted snow from the higher alititude often mingling with the tainted waters of the lake to generate a thick, chilling fog that clings to the water surface and the surrounding land.
Fauna & Flora
- Fish - The majority of the fish that once made this such a viable and even profitable location died off with the Blight, however, there were many that did not and adapted to the new landscape. Due to their constant immersion in the concentrated energies of the Void and their short lifespans, the mutations are virtually impossible to track as they change rapidly, but common constants are that these fish are all voracious carnivores, territorial, and organized in schools that prowl the waters looking for anything they can either overcome with sheer numbers, or that is unlucky enough to fall into the toxic waters
- Snakes - The serpents of the Blackrun have always been a danger to the citizens that made their lives around the river, but they were a respected danger that the fishers and traders that lived there understood. The mutations that led to their continued survival pushed them into a strange state of constant hunger and aggressive behavior. They are no longer content to make their lives along the banks of the river, but will regularly foray further inland in search of prey. Their sizes have become substantially larger, leading to venomous snakes that have been known to measure up to six meters in length and able to single-handedly devour an adult humanoid. No longer do they shy away from villages and settlements, and as a result many homes and outer perimeters of these locations are webbed with twisted lengths of metal wire or rings of sharp glass and metal in attempts to dissuade the creatures from seeking food there.
- Birds - Most of the avian life forms no longer frequent the river as they once did when it was a bountiful source of food for them, but those that remain are horrors to be sure. Primarily the most commonly seen birds are gnarled ravens that seem to carry an infection similar to The Breathless Plague , those oddly they remain docile and make no attempts to attack or harm the population of the river, humanoid or otherwise. Instead they perch on windows, roofs, and fences and watch the people that make their homes in these locations silently. While there remain other, less common type of birds that do not exhibit this behavior, the majority of them only seem to subsist on insects and are nocturnal, flying out in the dark of night to hunt the myriad insectoid life that infests the waters edges. Their songs can be heard all along the river as warbling, breathy calls that echo distantly.
- Cryptids - Locals that remain in the areas around the river have many tales of strange and unusual creatures that haunt the shadows and darkened corners of their lives. While there may have once been a time when these claims would have been laughed at or written off as folk superstitions, in the modern age people are far less quick to jump to such conclusions. This does make the area a point of interest for would be monster hunters and desolation striders that seek to make a name for themselves. Creatures such as the Dobhar-chú , the Wendigo , and other aberrant horrors are common tales in taverns and gatherings.
- Flora - There is a great deal of undocumented aquatic plant life beneath the surface, though most of what has been dredged up to study dies and wastes away too quickly to get an accurate sample of that remains viable long enough to pull forth details. Along the banks, most of the area remains barren, but several strains of mundane toadstools, lichens, and molds are very common, not to mention the Red Veined Touch-Me-Not which are actively avoided by most creatures.
Named for the strange occurrences surrounding the discovery of bodies in the lake with surprising regularity, Cold Belly has held a place in the legends and myths of Cairne going as far back as there have been settlers in the area. Surrounded with mystery and and a sense of danger, the beauty and rich abundance of life in and around the lake however was more than enough to entice droves of settlers to plant their roots along its banks and make their lives there for generations. Going back as far as written history retains record of, there has been a phenomenon whereby a body will be found in the lake once a month missing its head and hands and exsanguinated entirely. While life went on and the occasional missing person would generate some degree of concern and uproar, over time it became apparent that main the dregs of the burgeoning society that was growing there were being taken by whatever cult or creature had decided to pursue these strange atrocities. With this realization, crime began to dwindle a great deal and the people that made their lives there grew more and more accustomed to the event when it did happen, some towns even eventually seeing it as a benevolent spirit protector and celebrating the even by throwing red flowers in the water when a body was found as a way of saying thank you to their benefactor. These traditions continued on for many generations, and eventually it was as common and normal as any other civil rites of seasons. Life went on. When the Blight hit, this area was severely upset by the initial shockwave which caused a flood. The displacement of the waters of Cold Belly washed over a large number of the towns along the southern coast of the lake and on that day, thousands died due to the rising waters and mud it carried onto shore, burying many settlements and drowning the majority of the people that lived there, catching them completely unaware in a catastrophic wave of destruction. The Northern coast did not fare much better, being that much closer to the initial blast. Those that remained migrated quickly as the food and potable water began to dry up in the time that followed until eventually, the once vibrant and heavily populated area was a barren and haunting reminder of what once was. A body still turns up in the lake once a month however, missing its hands and head and entirely exsanguinated.