The story opens in the characters’ small, walled hometown of North Point. Accessible only by boat, this town and five smaller satellite villages are a settlement of about a thousand residents, in the far northern fringes of a kingdom’s territory. To the west is a grey, frigid inlet perhaps 60-70 kilometers across. North and south of the settlement, the coastline is fjord. East of the villages rise tall, snow-capped mountains. Glaciers send cold, swift waters through the forests to the sea.
About a thousand people call this settlement home, farming and fishing the temperate Summer months and sheltering against the cold dark Winter. Generally it is a quiet and peaceful existence, with some exceptions. About twenty years ago, an Ogre assumed leadership of a random collection of underlings. Randomly, they raid outlying farms and cause a nuisance.
Thirteen years ago, Frost Giants raided and destroyed one of the satellite villages; during the crisis, the settlement’s population retreated to the safety of caves. After their rampage, the giants went back to their frozen wastes in the north. The townsfolk returned to the settlement and rebuilt what was destroyed. The Frost Giants have not since returned.
Eight years ago, a massive collision of ice floes blocked the narrow straits where the inlet meets open seas, far south of the settlement. This hazard cut off all travel and contact between the settlement and it’s patron kingdom. Mysteriously, when the mild summer months came, the ice blockage did not melt away, keeping North Point and its neighbouring villages isolated.
Season after season, this unusual ice jam remains. Every Spring and Autumn, North Point sends an expedition of capable men to investigate this obstruction and sail back with news of its status. Each time, the news is the same. No change; the straits remain hopelessly blocked. The settlement generates its own resources and lacks for nothing save news from the outside world, and most who live here enjoy the isolation and the peaceful unity of their wilderness home. Still, to have an open route for trade and re-supply would be welcome.
Three weeks ago, the Springtime expedition sailed from North Point. For the first time ever, the explorers have not returned and are long overdue. The men who have gone missing represent almost a third of the settlement’s militia; their disappearance raises both concern for their safety, and anxiety about the effective defense of the villages without them.
A town meeting has been called to address this situation and seek a course of action.
Eager to help out, and generate excitement in their otherwise mundane lives, the characters attend this discussion at the main hall…