Perse for its colour though the water is clear, reflecting the grey-blue sky beneath whose arch it runs.
Out beyond the Melanic the river has another name, the Kaldr. Called for the place of its birth, the Kaldr Hjarta Mountains, or Mountains of the Cold Heart. And the Mountains of the Cold Heart are called so for the cold-hearted sinners of Dryhthelm, whose walls are watched by insectile devils of ice, for the Kaldr Hjarta mountains are an outpost of Hell upon this uncertain world.
But before Hell, the river.
It runs cold all the way to the moors, with a temperature a little cooler than the air. Mist bands and bored whirlpools mark its margins where the waters meet.
The Perse is neither haunted by unlikely mists, like the Virid, or tortured by lightning and memories like the Or. Fat with life, it throngs with fish of many kinds. Mega-krill feed on the fish and small sperm whales no bigger than a big boy feed on the krill. The small sperm whales are hunted in their turn by man for their marvellous oils, by the Orca that predate in deadly packs, feared by all and by the Wreaca, the exiles, no fate more feared.
The bare, crone-haunted islands of the Perse are covered in freshwater penguins packed in shadowy ranks calling like whippoorwills in the voices of abandoned friends.
There are greater dangers still, for the Stone Men (who have sworn never to work metal, though this does not prevent some of them from using metal, including guns) drive their black bark canoes through the river and its tributaries on missions of vengeance, honour, trade, exploration or simply adventure. Tribal politics shift continually and it is impossible for the traveller to predict how encountered tribes will act.
The Fell Metal tribes from the scree sides of the deep dark lakes that feed into the Perse rarely come forth from their hearth halls on the mountain tops, but when they do they ride in shallow-draft long boats, swift and dangerous, with figureheads of galloping horses that seem to tread down the oncoming waves and trample them into flecks of white.
Only a mile beyond the melanic are the walled wooden townships of the distaff families of Jukai. Technically, legally, colonies and nascent outposts of that city state. In effect travel through the Melanic is never predictable or guaranteed and these fortress-markets effectively rule themselves.
The largest, right on the border of the river and the moors, is Vedet, built of black wood with brass minarets and docks jutting into the flow, packed with the canoes of the stone men, longboats of the fell metal tribes, rafts of the swamp drunks, official Jukai exploration craft and the numerous boats of fishermen, pirates, criminals, explorers and unaffiliated adventurers. Here in Vedet all coagulate and mix, with just enough law to keep the anarchy profitable, and just enough gunpowder and iron to beat back the Wreaca from the forest, wild stone tribe attacks or anything sinister coming out of the moors.
The redwood forest crowds close around these places, massively overreaching their walls and their survival never seems certain. Further up the river we find simple forts with palisades, logs for a dock and a handful of bearded traders and trappers, half frozen and cracked with the cold, the calling of the penguins and with fear of giants.
Beyond the palisades the trapper tales talk of Ent and Eoten, children of those who challenged the gods in their pride and were brought low, and of the terrible Thyrs, who are as to the Eoten as the Wreaca are to us. Here the Castoroides live, fierce and wise, damning the shallow lakes and tributaries with cyclopean works. Even one Castoroides skin can make a hunter rich for a year but they are cunning and watchful and perhaps more dangerous to man than man is dangerous to them. Should the Castoroides choose to damn a tributary vital to one of the fort-townships, then open warfare will be declared between giant beaver and mankind, in the deep forest the powder speaks as armed groups of desperate mercenaries and adventurers raid the huge dams of the the gigantic beasts.
By this point no-one calls it the Perse, the river is the Kaldr, or simply 'the river'.
As the redwoods fade and shrink the Kaldr passes into tundra and steppe where the megafauna roam. Pony-riding stone tribes hunt Caribou, Mammoth and wooly Rhinoceros. On the river itself the shadowy penguins are challenged for dominance by fierce gigantic ducks and the crones of the low islands grow ever more watchful and mad.
At times the Caribou and Elk migrate across the Kalder en-masse, sometimes herded and driven by the Stone Men. Orca pods observe, working as teams to pull down the young or weak. Mammoth families cross carefully, youngest held paddling at the centre of the group while their parents flail at the circling predators, dashing the water into shattered diamonds and sometimes hurling entire Orca bodily out of the water onto the land where they are eaten by gigantic hawks.
Beyond the tundra lie the lake lands. Here the Kaldr zig-zags through old glacier paths in a series of deep black steep scree-sided lakes. The small sperm whales are plentiful here and breach and fountain, descending to the unknown depths to battle the gigantic krill.
Up on the scree side, or hidden in the murky valleys between the hills, by black tarns and moorlands, are the hearth halls of the fell metal tribes, those who have chosen to work metal and put their trust in iron instead of flesh. They sit brooding in their hidden follies, grim, honourable, bound in the blue-grey silver of the fells and wearing fire-bright orange gems torn from ancient tombs.
Those who are driven out from the fell metal tribes become the Wreaca, the Exiles, strange and terrible, transformed by the night, maddened and solitary, hating light and warmth. Always wandering. Always alone.
It is not always easy to tell a Wreaca, many still have the forms of the men they once were, the only way to be sure is that the true Wreaca cannot sing for they hate joy.
Beyond the lake land the Kaldr enters realms of legend, where no explorer from Jukai has gone to and returned. All that is known is from the tales of river traders, the dances of the Stone Men or the gnomic riddles of the fell metal tribes.
They say that the foothills and slopes of the Kaldr Hjarta mountains are home to a race of women, fierce and proud, who live without order, knowing no law, and without men, knowing no love, who do not fear the cold for they have replaced their souls with those of birds, who battle against the yak men and monsters who come from above the ice line and against the fell metal tribes, the Wreaca, Thyrs, the Megafauna, each other and whatever else they can find.
The barbarian women also trade in small amounts of cigarettes, opium and other strange goods, brought, they claim, through the warrens of ancient cities deep beneath the Kaldr Hjarta range. passing under the ice line in the still darkness, brought by smugglers from a distant land.
Above ice line nothing mortal can survive, for the cold freezes the very life in the blood. There vast glaciers of ice emerge like snakes, calving endlessly into the springs of the Cold Heart river, keeping it cool, sometimes holding devils like specks of black.
And somewhere far above the ice line is Dryhthelm, never seen by mortal eyes but reported to be a metropolis of caves carved into broken ice where the souls of the amoral dead sit like hermits, freezing, sleepless and unforgiving.
Watching over them are insectile devils made of living cold, and this is known by the devils found floating down the Kaldr, trapped in small glaciers of blue-sheened ice, whispering secrets and promising revenge.
The ice-frozen devils, or 'Orcneas' are only rarely encountered, perhaps once in several decades, and no-one can be certain how or why they come. The devils themselves claim that this is the punishment in Dryhthelm for mercy, that since devils cannot truly die, should one of them be found lax in cruelty, or doing less harm than they could, they are sentenced to the ice, frozen in a glacier and then slowly calved into the river, floating downstream, held fast by the enormous cold generated by their own unearthly flesh, until they reach the strange waters of Jukai and melt, freeing the devil inside to return to Dryhthelm in the winking of an eye.
This may be true, or partly true, but it is well known that the Orcneas lie, promising power and revenge to those slighted in return for souls, freezing the heart with their words, casting spells and teaching dark magic. For as long as the Orcneas passes down the river, all sane and intelligent peoples ban all contact with it, only the Wreaca, the desperate, the penguins the criminals and crones actively seek them out, silently attending in the night.
Table talk claims that one of the towers of Jukai has an Orcneas imprisoned, held secretly in a cool room so that the ruling families may question it.
And there is a postal service between Jukai and Hell. For kings have cold hearts and many of the mighty rulers who were once in the world are in Dryhthelm now, and their descendants wish to speak with them, to discover hidden knowledge and the names of assassins, to settle old debts and confirm the inheritance of nations.
A letter given to a factor in Jukai will be passed to a trusted Swamp Drunk, taken through the Melanic, handed to a relative in Vedet, given to a trader or a Stone Tribe man, then taken up the Kaldr, handed to a fell metal thane, taken by a hero to one of the barbarian women of the north, taken by them to the ice line and handed by strange alliance to a yak man or Thyrs and so brought to Dryhthelm. There, should the soul of the recipient still exist and be sane, and actively desire to reply, they will scratch words upon a slate in blood, this will be handed to a devil, then to a Thyrs or yak-man, and so-on, all the way back to Jukai.
The turnaround for a communication of this type is one year minimum, but five is more likely, and the replies are rarely what the sender wished to hear. A quater of Jukai is made up entirely of scholars, ambassadors, distaff aristocratic lines, the deposed lines of great empires and other interested parties, all waiting the long years for a reply to their letter to hell
I imagine Eoten as is Tinglit hardwood armour was actually based on something that somebody actually saw and the armour was just an impression.
Mixed with Kirbys Celestials. Huge titanic beings living out in the redwood forests. Native-American Titans.
The tundra and redwoods are where you can put Straits of Anain stuff, the Barbarian women of the foothills of the Kaldr Hjerta are where you can put Zaks Amazone barbarian women when that comes out. Its assumed that Yoon-Suin is on the other side of those mountains, inaccessible due to the infernal cold.