It’s approaching the end of January in the Faroth Islands and there are sightings of northern ice bergs drifting west from the glaciers to the north. Normally they do not reach as far south as the Faroth islands, but this has been a exceptionally cold winter. There has only been standing (unfrozen) water for one day on the islands since the winter solstice. The chance of the prevailing south winds deflecting the course of any large ‘bergs is low.
The large mountains on the islands make them safe for land lubbers and hence the large population of dwarves and surprising numbers of gnomes on the islands. The geology supports cave systems above sea-level. There are many other smaller islands through the Sing’jar straight that are much more at the mercy of the weather.
Not far north of the Faroth shipping lanes are the Octra Islands, a set of eight small islands arranged symmetrically. Each of these islands is barely a mile wide at best, and barely produces any wood or crops. Most frigates will not approach because there are other rocky reefs in the area. Only an experienced captain, or a crafty one with the local magics (such as summoning a water elemental) could find their way through the Octras.
Many Faroth sea elves brag about sailing the Octras. This is unlikely, because the Octras are populated with Marine Elves (Aquatic Elves) which live a mostly submerged lifestyle in harmony with water animals. Faroth Aquatic Elves keep to themselves and tend to taunt sea elves and minotaurs. Sea elves are ‘lubbers, which is insulting because sea elves live their lives on boats. Minotars are referred to as sea-sows or horned manatees. This completely offends their intelligence and athleticism. In response, any aquatic elf will respond with, “What, are you a better swimmer than I? Can you summon a killer whale or a shark, then ask it to give you a ride? Or are you just standing there so you can poop on my shore?”
Each of the Octra islands is named and has a chieftain, an elf of at least level 10, and usually a sea ranger. The Octra, as they don’t mind being called, rely on the sea life for protection, communication, and food. If you can befriend an Octra, you have demonstrated humility, honesty, and intelligence. You also must have something to offer them.