Talons of the Sky
They dominated the skyline: tall, jagged peaks stretching upward as if to claw at the sky. Their tops, capped in ice, looked down forebodingly on the travelers approaching. It would be a long, difficult journey through the passes, even in summer, and some of them might perish on the way.
The Talons of the Sky are the mountain range on Qopith stretching southward from the northernmost coast until they sink into the foothills just north of the Kruiln Expanse. They are considered a very hostile environment, and above the tree line, a near-constant layer of snow and ice makes it nearly impossible for anything to eke out a living.
The Talons of the Sky rise up directly from the Jade Sea on the central northern coast of Qopith. They stretch southeast for several hundred miles, branching about two-thirds of the way down into an eastern and southern chain. Just outside the mountains themselves lie the foothills, which are lower and much more smooth, rich with clay and copper deposits.
In the center of the Talons lies a deep valley, through which a river of meltwater runs in the spring and summer. In this valley sits the city of Ironforge, a mining city and the capital of Osna, where it grows rich on mining and ironworking. At the opposite end of the valley, the volcano Mt Iuz rises up, far taller than the rest of the range. It spits a steady stream of slow-moving lava, which cools as it travels down the mountain. This creates a rippled field of lava rock stretching partway into the valley.
The mountains themselves are very tall and steep, and nearly impossible to traverse in most areas. There are a few larger passes snaking their way through to the valley from outside, and it is through these passes that the roads to Ironforge are built. For about six cycles of the year, these passes are snowed in, making travel in and out of the valley impossible. When mid-spring arrives, the snow melts and the passes clear, allowing caravans and supply wagons to go through.
At higher elevations, the large conifer trees that populate the lower slopes begin to thin out, replaced by smaller shrubs and then by mountain grasses and shorter plants. Eventually, these too vanish, leaving bare slopes of stone and scree. At these elevations and higher, the snow rarely melts, instead covering the ground almost year-round. It is only in the peak of summer that this snow cover may melt, and even then only in the driest and warmest years. Few living creatures venture onto these snowfields, which are cold, dry, and scoured by strong winds. The snow and ice at the very peaks of the Talons never thaw at all.
Fauna & Flora
Few plants and animals can live higher on the slopes of the Talons of the Sky, faced with strong winds, rough surfaces, and blankets of snow. Those that can often spent the colder parts of the year in hibernation or dormancy, awaiting the spring thaws when the air warms and plants can grow, providing food for the animals that inhabit the rocky slopes.
One larger animal found on lower elevations of the Talons is the Ironside, a giant lizard known for its integration into civilization as a pack animal and companion. It is able to survive on the plants that grow just above the tree line, and its adaptations to traversing the dangerous landscape make it an excellent mount with which to cross the mountains.
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