The small barony of Icenvale is located in the far north, on the edge of an arctic wilderness. The area is rich in natural resources -- particularly furs, fish, and iron ore -- but the harsh conditions make capitalizing on this wealth difficult at best. Thus, the barony's exports are low and its economy is weak. Since most of Icenvale's residents are content just to survive the six-month winters, they give little thought to events beyond their own borders. But they are a sturdy, hardworking people, and their respect for tradition is as great as their respect for law.
One reason that Icenvale has stayed out of the local political arena is that it lacks an official ruler. A white dragon named Hinterbite slew the last baron of Icenvale more than three hundred years ago and stole his symbol of authority -- a rod of rulership. By Icenvale law, an heir to the title must have that specific rod (not some copy or replacement) to take power. Though the baron's heirs and their supporters certainly did not lack the drive and the capability to take on the dragon and recover the rod, an ancient prophecy states that should the ruling family ever lose it, only outsiders -- that is, folk not of Icenvale heritage -- can recover it. Any Icenvale resident who participates in such a venture is doomed to die before it ends. This odd combination of ancient law and prophecy has thus far kept any of the baron's heirs from assuming control.
A Guild Council made up of local master crafters and artists stepped into the void and quietly took control of the barony's civic functions. For the past three hundred years, this council has made most of Icenvale's ruling decisions. Though it has no official power, most citizens accept it as a ruling body in the absence of a true ruler.
Orielle Bladeworthy, a well-liked young paladin, is currently the only legal heir to the baron's throne. Like her predecessors, however, she cannot take power because she does not have the rod. Though she has toyed with the idea of ignoring the prophecy and setting off to recover the rod herself, the citizens have thus far dissuaded her from doing so because her death would mean that Icenvale could never again have a ruler of the true blood.
However, the situation in Frosthaven, capital of Icenvale, is becoming increasingly unstable. Orielle has accepted the fact that she may never be able to rule, but she has recently begun pushing to make the barony a republic and place the political power in the hands of the citizens. So far, she has gained little support for the idea, but her efforts (as well as the heroic actions she has taken in defense of Icenvale) have made her very popular with her people.
Meanwhile, Hinterbite has grown older and larger, taken a mate, and produced a brood of young. Though his mate died fighting a group of adventurers, the youngsters have grown strong and cruel. The four young dragons and their father have begun raiding larger and larger areas. Orielle has announced her intention to kill the dragons in order to save her people, and only a vast public outcry has thus far prevented her from making the attempt. Thus, she is currently in search of heroes to undertake the task on her behalf.