THE IRON WASTES
|Kostchtchie takes care of intruders
Layer Number: 23
Ruler: Kostchtchie (see page 68)
The frigid Iron Wastes are home to the dullard lord Kostchtchie, the malformed demon-giant who claims all frost giants as his protected kin. A place of unrelenting blizzards and icy rifts, the inhospitable layer might have been avoided by most Abyssal inhabitants if not for the presence of one of the most coveted gates in the Abyss, a rime-encrusted stone monolith arch leading to Jotunheim on Ysgard, near the frost giant town of Utgardt. More importantly, the gate opens near the roots of the Great Wheel-spanning Yggdrasil Tree, a major transplanar thoroughfare leading to locales throughout the Upper Planes. Demons from all corners of the Abyss therefore congregate in the Iron Wastes in hopes of moving through this gate, but Kostchtchie's fierce protection of his home realm results in de facto protection of the Yggdrasil, making the Prince of Wrath one of the most hated demons in the Abyss, despised by good and evil alike.
The Prince of Wrath nonetheless enjoys strong support from his chosen people, tribes of frost giants from the Material Plane who have sworn themselves to Kostchtchie in return for eternal life in the Iron Wastes. Such is the demon lord's control over his Abyssal layer that he can prevent the aging and natural death of mortals who dwell upon it. While intended as a reward for the demon's chosen folk, several canny mortals benefit from the effect as long as they can avoid detection.
Weather in the Iron Wastes ranges from cold to extreme cold. See Cold Dangers, DMG 302, for more information. DMs who wish to make the environment an important part of their campaign should consult Frostburn, which also includes numerous monsters suitable for populating the layer.
A number of locales within the Iron Wastes bear further discussion.
Blacksteam Rift: Rare warmth blasts in great gouts from this glacial rift, which extends leagues into darkness. Periodically, the depths rumble with terrible screams that seem to come from multiple mouths of the same unholy creature. By order of Kostchtchie, several frost giant clans stationed along the west edge of the rift routinely deliver sacrifices of mammoth and dire walrus flesh into the gaping crevasse to appease its master, Gogbehomel, a shivhad (Frostburn 152) who emerges about once a century to wreak terrible destruction upon the layer.
The Glacier Citadel: Whenever the muse strikes him, Kostchtchie bellows orders to his followers from the sweeping terrace of this immense ice fortress, carved into a glacier flowing between two mighty peaks. The cracking, jumbled palace serves as the prince's personal redoubt and is off limits to all residents of the plane save for the frost mages, elder frost giant skalds who have served as the demon's envoys among the tribes for generations. Huge advanced leucrotta (City of Splendors: Waterdeep 136) prowl the cavernous passages and feasting chambers within, scattering for safety in the event of one of Kostchtchie's legendary rages.
Grjotgardheim: This towering fortress of massive ice blocks contains the chained godling Grjotgard, one of the ten brothers of Thrym, god of Frost Giants. The Prince of Wrath captured the frost giant hero a decade ago for use as a bargaining chip against his hated enemy, but all he has received since is a steady flow of frost giant warriors loyal to Thrym who are all too willing to throw their lives away in honor of their divine patron. Defending this structure costs Kostchtchie dearly, but the obstinate demon lord is unwilling to admit defeat as long as the doors of the fortress hold fast.
The Howling Rift: Wind rips through this jagged rift to create a keening scream that echoes throughout the layer. Deep within the crevasse, icy tunnels hide the birthing warrens of a huge colony of frost worms. The overcrowded caverns occasionally belch forward new litters of fresh young, who emerge on the surface in ravenous desperation.
Stoldottir Gate: In an act that might have ultimately granted him control of the layer, Kostchtchie opened a stable portal to Ysgard by sacrificing a deformed daughter on this spot, in a desolate valley where a great glacier meets a vast ice shelf. The hideous, malformed thing had been born of a union with the valkyrie Geirskögul, making it a being of both Ysgard and the Abyss. The slaying cemented a connection between the two planes that remains a major threat to the Upper Planes.
The bodies of frost giants from both sides of the conflict litter the land for miles around the portal, which appears as a standing stone inscribed with the runic legend of its creation. Kostchtchie keeps the place well defended, and enemies hoping to harass his citadel or rescue a prisoner must first run a daunting gauntlet of demons and cold-dwelling monstrosities.
Svafnir's Lair: A scab of ice and snow caps this immense mountain peak, named for the great wyrm white dragon that dwells at its zenith. The proud, fiercely territorial beast serves Kostchtchie as a mount in important battles, recognizing the demon prince as the only superior being on the layer. She tolerates the presence of a tribe of conniving fensir (Fiend Folio 58), who dwell in a connected series of caves that honeycomb the mountain and virtually worship her as a protective goddess. Planar lore says the fensir and the dragon fled Ysgard centuries ago after angering the tempestuous gods of that plane.
Volstaad: The bloody small town of Volstaad serves as the primary gathering place of Kostchtchie's faithful, who arrange themselves in tribes that formed ages ago on the Material Plane. The Prince of Wrath personally led each of these tribes into the Abyss, so the hetmen of each believes himself to have the ear of the great demon prince as an honored favorite. Disagreements over who better serves the great granter of eternal honor and immortality frequently end in brutish festivals of savage warfare.