The Icepen and Ladders Settlement in Shadowfire | World Anvil

The Icepen and Ladders

Deep in the shadows of the cliffside that looms over the port at Omberstad lies the quarter of town known simply as the Icepen. So named, as it is forever encrusted in the snow and sleet that blows in from the ocean, and is hidden from the warming rays of the low sun by the cliff that looms above.   This is where the least fortunate amongst the denizons of Omberstad are housed - often against their will. The core of the Icepen is a huddle of lean-tos and shanties that are little more than tents, and those living there huddle in blankets around fires.   Above this, the cliffside is riddled with caves that have been adapted into a chaotic multilevel village, with ropes and ladders connecting the many levels, and an unmapped maze of tunnels has been dug deep into the hillside. The cliff has become known simply as The Ladders   The Icepen is where the invading Protectorate forces established a prison for the defeated Tokaru goblins just after the invasion, and has since been a mix of prison, slave quarters and slum before its current state.   While officially slavery is no longer tolerated by the Protectorates, the denizons of the Icepen have little in the way of true freedoms. They are predominantly employed as labourers and servants for the various institutions of the Protectorates, and their meagre wages allow little room for anything other than rundimentary survival. Many of course have resorted to crime and smuggling in order to survive.   The original harshness of the Icepen has been alleviated a little since the building of the Lux Steam House and the associated network of steam pipes that criss-cross the entire town. Annika Lux made sure that there is a plentiful supply of hot water fed directly to the Icepen, that the locals have built their own extensions of the pipe network to warm their homes across the Icepen, and up the cliffside caves.


The population of the Icepen and Ladders is still mostly made of goblinkin from Clan Tokaru - third or fourth generation since the invasion. And it has only been the most recent generation that has enjoyed relative freedom from slavery since a series of violent riots with support from activists in Sudengard forced the Lord Protector to alleviate the conditions somewhat.   Since this, others have come to live and trade in the quarter, increasing the diversity somewhat. As well as the Tokaru goblins, there are a small number of Iceward and Dawncrag goblins who visit and refuse to trade directly with Protectorate forces. A few local goblins have captilised on this and now act as mediaries between the visiting goblinkin and the Protectorate forces.   Alongside the goblinkin, are Midkin from Camp Thrifty, and most recently refugees from the disasters at Ostfen and the failed rebellion at Kaltstad.


Their long slavery has led to a fracturing of the traditional leadership structures. The Tokaru goblins that remain in Oberstad have largely lost their connections to the Mothers of Motu and the Seers of Ashtiri, although do retain leadership that roughly follows similar structures.   Unlike Clan Motu and Clan Telela, the Mothers of the surviving Tokaru must meet in secret, and the Seers have lost their connection to the Moji - many of which were stolen. The Protectorates tried to eliminate much of the traditions of Kingroups and Kithweaving, and the most critical ritual of funerary rights, where the goblins bond their Kahi, Ancestor Spirits to the living has been driven largely underground.   The clan's governance now relies more on secrecy and subterfuge, and within it there are many factions that include the non-goblinkin as well. They meet in secret and hide their surviving artefacts deep within the twisting tunnels of the Ladders.

Industry & Trade

There are key relations with The Dealrunners at Camp Thrifty and The Master of the Blackpool, Janus Wade. Through this and the many hidden tunnels behind the Ladders, the goblins of the Icepen have become critical links in the network of smugglers that ply their trade through Ombertstad.   Some have even abandoned their traditions altogether to join the The Roving Vintners, The Icerunners Guild and even the The League of Shadows.

Guilds and Factions

There are conflicts within the goblins of the Icepen, a struggle between tradition - those who want to follow the old ways of Ashtiri and Wala's Vigil, and those who seek a new path, embroiled in the nefarious trade that they see undermining the hegemony of the Protectorates.   The divide between the two sides is murky and strained, but alliances and uneasy truces between the various parties change and evolve as needed. They are quick to unite against any concerted effort by Lord Akron against any within the Icepen or their interests.
Town map of Omberstad, port village and fort on the island Tokaru.
Location under


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Dec 30, 2022 15:21

The icy, treacherous terrain and the unique challenges faced by the residents paints a vivid picture of life in this harsh environment.

Jan 7, 2023 18:46 by Fall

Brrr... I can feel the icy winds from here!   I just wanted to take a moment to stop by and comment on how much I enjoyed this article! Your world just has such an amazing look and feel to it all. Great Job!   P.s. I've featured it in my New Year's Resolutions article <3

Jan 9, 2023 08:50 by Ononomad

Thanks for the kind words and write up! That's awesome that you liked it so much... :)

Jan 9, 2023 16:32 by Sapha Burnell

Truly a horrific place, given the treatment of the denizens. Your work shows a lot of harsh realities, here. The subterfuge of the remaining 'government' to hide significant objects broke my heart.