Ring of Winter in Play

Nebulous

Adventurer
If Artus leaves a lot of those perma-frozen zones in the tropical jungle, somebody will figure out 2 + 2 = 4 and then the hunt will be on. Artus is tied to a fixed place (Mezro); he can't wander the world at will. Therefore he has to be stealthy in a strategic sense: not leave a lot of signs of his presence, let alone his position. He will be most reluctant to use the powers of his Ring in front of witnesses, and he will only use the things that never melt because he or Dragonbait are going to die if he doesn't.

If you haven't already, don't use most of the Ring's powers. Maybe the PCs will find that Random Encounter with a frozen zone after they meet Artus (who can predict the dice?), and figure it out themselves. But he should be played as a "sorcerer" (of approximately the party's level) dependent on his focus instead of his blood. He should not behave like 'Arctus Cimber, King of Winter' in a decidedly not-winter setting.
They have seen sleet storm and wall of ice, that's all. But he's going to use the Ring VERY sparingly, and if I want him to get possessed then I will just have it happen at a dramatically appropriate time, I'm probably not going to roll for it. Dragonbait knows the danger of the Ring, but because he can't talk, that's going to be difficult to explain to the party when Artus wigs out. This is great. Between the Frost Giants after the Ring, and the Red Wizards of Thay (maybe that lich in the Heart of Ubtao knows about him) and Artus succumbing to possession by an utterly inhuman intelligence, I think this will all work out just fine.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
They have seen sleet storm and wall of ice, that's all. But he's going to use the Ring VERY sparingly, and if I want him to get possessed then I will just have it happen at a dramatically appropriate time, I'm probably not going to roll for it. Dragonbait knows the danger of the Ring, but because he can't talk, that's going to be difficult to explain to the party when Artus wigs out. This is great. Between the Frost Giants after the Ring, and the Red Wizards of Thay (maybe that lich in the Heart of Ubtao knows about him) and Artus succumbing to possession by an utterly inhuman intelligence, I think this will all work out just fine.
I may have to steal that idea if I get a chance to run the mod. I can see it now ...

PCs ask Artus a question, but he doesn't respond. Instead he turns to the group, breathing out a foggy cloud of ice vapor, his eyes glossy white orbs, a light ice frost covering his features. "Artus is no longer in control of this vessel" comes the chilling reply. :uhoh:
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
I may have to steal that idea if I get a chance to run the mod. I can see it now ...

PCs ask Artus a question, but he doesn't respond. Instead he turns to the group, breathing out a foggy cloud of ice vapor, his eyes glossy white orbs, a light ice frost covering his features. "Artus is no longer in control of this vessel" comes the chilling reply. :uhoh:

HAHAHAHA!! Yes!!! Now I'm stealing your idea :)
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
My players were "joking" about killing Artus and taking the Ring. I think after what happens next in the near future, they're going to want a couple of continents between themselves and the Ring of Winter.

EDIT - Oh, and the start of the next session, the wizard has been infected by lycanthropsy, no one knows, he's been having nightmares about killing all of his companions, and he's going to go full WEREBOAR the next long rest. So yeah, it's gonna be an interesting session. Maybe that's a good time for A) the Frost Giants show up , B) Artus gets possessed by the Ring of Winter and it either defends itself against the giants or tries to join them.
 
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Now that's a GREAT idea! I hadn't even considered the Ring as sentient and able to control him. Is that in the description of the statblock? Either way, yeah, I'm going to use it. The Ring doesn't care about Mezro really, or the Death Curse, or even Artus. I guess it has its own unfathomable agenda. Maybe it wants to unite with the Quasi Elemental Prince of Evil Cold!
Yeah, it's in the stat block, though ToA should have called it out in the text. Chris Perkins actually depicted Artus Cimber possessed by the ring with glowing blue eyes in an episode of Dice Camera Action, Season 2. Here are the relevant quotes...

[SECTION]ToA 207: SENTIENCE. The Ring of Winter is a sentient chaotic evil item with an Intelligence of 14, a Wisdom of 14, and a Charisma of 17. The ring communicates by transmitting emotion to the creature carrying or wielding it, and it has hearing and normal vision out to a range of 60 feet. The ring craves destruction, and it likes inflicting indiscriminate harm on others.[/SECTION]

[SECTION]DMG 216: CONFLICT. A sentient item has a will of its own, shaped by its personality and alignment. If its wielder acts in a manner opposed to the item's alignment or purpose, conflict can arise. When such a conflict occurs, the item makes a Charisma check contested by the wielder's Charisma check. If the item wins the contest, it makeone or more of the following demands:
  • The item insists on being carried or worn at all times.
  • The item demands that its wielder dispose of anything the item finds repugnant.
  • The item demands that its wielder pursue the item's goals to the exclusion of all other goals.
  • The item demands to be given to someone else.

If its wielder refuses to comply with the item's wishes the item can do any or all of the following:
  • Make it impossible for its wielder to attune to it.
  • Suppress one or more of its activated properties.
  • Attempt to take control of its wielder.

If a sentient item attempts to take control of its wielder, the wielder must make a Charisma saving throw, with a DC equal to 12 +the item's Charisma modifier (DC 15 for Ring of Winter). On a failed save, the wielder is charmed by item for ld12 hours. While charmed, the wielder must try to follow the item's commands. If the wielder takes damage, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on a success. Whether the attempt to control its user succeeds or fails, the item can't use this power again until the next dawn.[/SECTION]

The glaring flaw I see with the presentation of the Ring of Winter in ToA is that it's actual goals aren't described. Its motivation to inflict "indiscriminate harm" is boring & doesn't give the DM anything to build upon nor any way to tie the ring more closely to the ToA adventure. Now, I suspect why they handled the ring this way is because the designers have future plans for it in a future product, and they don't want to spoil the ring's true purpose yet.

Which is all well in good for their multi-media marketing & building hype for the brand, but ToA as an adventure suffers for it. In my opinion.

Here's what I've done in my own campaign:

[SBLOCK=My campaign secrets]The atropal is Kyuss, The Worm That Waits, and Acererak is "ripening" the atropal in order to soul-drain Kyuss in a ritual that will make Acererak into Undeath itself, allowing him to possess undead anywhere (essentially making all undead his phylactery & letting him speak through them). The Ring of Winter was used by the eladrin to defeat Kyuss long ago in his bid for divine ascension at the ancient city Kuluth-Mar (part of the Age of Worms adventure path from Paizo's DUNGEON).

I'm equating these eladrin with the first green elves to immigrate to Faerûn, landing planar-traveling ships on the shores of Chult before colonizing mainland and establishing ancient "Crown Wars" kingdoms like Keltormir, Thaernytaar, Ilythiir, etc. They joined a force of Chultan druids/shamans/spiritlords & wild dwarves organized by couatl, and the Ring of Winter was instrumental in freezing over Kyuss' resting place so his spirit could never return. However, Acererak has found a way around this by locating Kyuss' physical form in the Negative Energy Plane and channeling souls into it. After being used by the eladrin against Kyuss, however, the ring has a strange connection to Kyuss (now the atropal), and its goal is to make its bearer travel to Kuluth-Mar (located in eastern jungles of Chult) and place it in a special receptacle which will grant Kyuss sentience/willpower to outmaneuver Acererak so that in the endgame Acererak can't soul-drain him & Kyuss can claim the ring and pursue his aims of making all living things undead.

This builds on a LOT of obscure past edition lore & ties it all together in one tighter story bundle, allowing me to portray a ring-possessed Artus Cimber more clearly and evocatively. However, the inclusion of Kyuss isn't for everyone. My group is still in the early stages of ToA, but if all goes well, I may put together a DM's Guild supplement of my playtested material expanding on the ToA storyline in what I feel makes for a more compelling & cohesive story.

It does hint at a connection to the Gloaming Court (which 5e equates largely to Unseelie led by Queen of Air and Darkness...at least so far). So I've also introduced the Maiden of the Moon (a lycanthrope hunting/redeeming archfey from 4e) as an ancient elven queen who once ruled first elves on Material Plane of Faerûn; she ruled over elves of Chult, disagreeing with kin who made grand kingdoms as she preferred a simpler life, but ultimately the Maiden of the Moon returned to the Feywild ("spirit world" in Chultan belief) after events with the Ring of Winter left her disillusioned. I'm hinting that the ring is, in a way, responsible for creation of the Gloaming Court. In the AD&D Jungles of Chult there are references to several half-elves but few elven tribes & there are clockwork globes of light in the library of Mezro which are powered/operated by little "elf-like beings" (which I read as coure eladrin in ball-of-light form). This in turn feeds into the FR lore about original green/wild elves being culturally & technologically more advanced than current wild elves of FR, which I'm playing as a "fallen Wakanda" (from Marvel's Black Panther).

I chose the Maiden of the Moon for her connection to lycanthropes. You'll recall that weretigers have a significant presence as one of Chult's "hidden races." Drawing on old lore about Katashka & Maztica (where humans & tabaxi emigrated from), I've alluded to a being/monster/demon known as The Sleeper. It was just mentioned in FR lore briefly in the story about the emigration of first human tribes to Chult & the first bara (chosen of Ubtao). I've made The Sleeper an enemy of the Maiden of the Moon, with it attempting to possess tabaxi who are born with the "rakshasa paw" (an inverted paw) as it pursues the human & tabaxi tribes which escaped its reign of terror. This builds on the idea of dream magic being a "Chultan thing" what with Saja N'baza's dream-like encounter & Dendar the Night Serpent feeding on nightmares.

I've equated the Feywild with the "spirit world" which has a big role to play in Chultan beliefs & is hinted at in several DM's Guild Adept products. Mezro is in the "spirit world" in what is essentially a Feywild equivalent of a "domain of dread" demiplane...maybe I'll call it a "domain of wonder"?

This way the DM isn't left hanging with what to do with the ring, and adds a lot to story (plus gives a reason to explore eastern Chult...which I'm detailing in my own game), but neither does it infringe upon the ring's ultimate purpose. [/SBLOCK]
 
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Nebulous

Adventurer
[MENTION=20323]Quickleaf[/MENTION], I'd be very interested in seeing your DM Guild stuff if it goes up. I like your ideas. I had not thought much about tying the Ring of Winter into the storyline. I kind of liked it as a completely unrelated subplot, but having it possess a deeper meaning is interesting too.

I must have read through the Ring's statblock far too quickly, I did not even know it was Chaotic Evil. Bad DM :(
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
So, after hundreds of years of possession by a Chaotic Evil greater artifact, why the hell isn't Artus Cimber chaotic evil??? I mean, that Ring messed Gollum up big time! Lol
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
The glaring flaw I see with the presentation of the Ring of Winter in ToA is that it's actual goals aren't described. Its motivation to inflict "indiscriminate harm" is boring & doesn't give the DM anything to build upon nor any way to tie the ring more closely to the ToA adventure. Now, I suspect why they handled the ring this way is because the designers have future plans for it in a future product, and they don't want to spoil the ring's true purpose yet.

Which is all well in good for their multi-media marketing & building hype for the brand, but ToA as an adventure suffers for it. In my opinion.



I chose the Maiden of the Moon for her connection to lycanthropes. You'll recall that weretigers have a significant presence as one of Chult's "hidden races." Drawing on old lore about Katashka & Maztica (where humans & tabaxi emigrated from), I've alluded to a being/monster/demon known as The Sleeper. It was just mentioned in FR lore briefly in the story about the emigration of first human tribes to Chult & the first bara (chosen of Ubtao). I've made The Sleeper an enemy of the Maiden of the Moon, with it attempting to possess tabaxi who are born with the "rakshasa paw" (an inverted paw) as it pursues the human & tabaxi tribes which escaped its reign of terror. This builds on the idea of dream magic being a "Chultan thing" what with Saja N'baza's dream-like encounter & Dendar the Night Serpent feeding on nightmares.

I've equated the Feywild with the "spirit world" which has a big role to play in Chultan beliefs & is hinted at in several DM's Guild Adept products. Mezro is in the "spirit world" in what is essentially a Feywild equivalent of a "domain of dread" demiplane...maybe I'll call it a "domain of wonder"?

This way the DM isn't left hanging with what to do with the ring, and adds a lot to story (plus gives a reason to explore eastern Chult...which I'm detailing in my own game), but neither does it infringe upon the ring's ultimate purpose. [/SBLOCK]
Ah, yes, maybe the Ring ties into the next campaign arc. Although what you've come up with is just as credible IMO. So yes, I might use some of those ideas. How are you handling Mezro and Ras Nzi? I think in the Mezro supplement it says that True Mezro cannot be returned until Ras Nzi is dead, which would be something Artus would try to do. And he still might, but after the PCs have to deal with Frost Giants and a possessed Chaotic Evil artifact that won't let Artus DIE (really, I won't let him die, even if he reaches zero hit points something else just steps in and whisks him away)
 
[MENTION=31465]Nebulous[/MENTION] Yeah, some groups really enjoy the potpourri / mixed medley feel of D&D in general and ToA specifically. Playing gonzo D&D can indeed be lots of fun. My notes probably wouldn't interest groups leaning more in that direction or enjoying a more casual experience. Not that they're mutually exclusive. I play with some detail-oriented savvy folks, so having clarity & a layered story & internal consistency behind the screen is important to me.

With DM's Guild, I only release stuff I've playtested entirely or mostly, so it'll probably be a while. I understand how folks like to be first in the door, but playtesting is just too valuable for me to shirk on.

Yeah, ToA could have used a sidebar about the ring & Artus' interaction. Then again, I feel like it could have used at least 12 more pages of material in general to fill in some plot gaps. C'est la vie!
 
So, after hundreds of years of possession by a Chaotic Evil greater artifact, why the hell isn't Artus Cimber chaotic evil??? I mean, that Ring messed Gollum up big time! Lol
There are some elements from the original Ring of Winter novel that I wished they'd elaborated on. Artus has a sort of communion with the ring, and believes that it's ultimate purpose is for good. This unremitting belief, the novel suggests, is why Artus has so far resisted the ring's malign influence and why others (Ras T'fima) lacking such belief are more vulnerable to its power.
 
Ah, yes, maybe the Ring ties into the next campaign arc. Although what you've come up with is just as credible IMO. So yes, I might use some of those ideas. How are you handling Mezro and Ras Nzi? I think in the Mezro supplement it says that True Mezro cannot be returned until Ras Nzi is dead, which would be something Artus would try to do. And he still might, but after the PCs have to deal with Frost Giants and a possessed Chaotic Evil artifact that won't let Artus DIE (really, I won't let him die, even if he reaches zero hit points something else just steps in and whisks him away)
So I picked up Ruins of Mezro from Will Doyle (EDIT: I call this "Will's notes below) – it's a good starting place for running the false ruined Mezro in Chult. There's a disgraced bara called Ras T'fima who guards the ruins from those seeking the truth of Mezro's location in a Feywild demiplane; Will wrote him as a death knight which was an interesting choice because in the novel Ras T'fima was a "gem mage" who once had control over weather but had his powers stripped by Ubtao for lack of faith. Ras T'fima used the ring's powers to cover up his own lost powers. He was depicted wielding a sword once IIRC, but mainly he fired lightning bolts and healed people. He was much more of a N or LN figure than a CE one (which is death knight's default alignment).

Building off of Will's notes, if my PCs decide to pursue the "real Mezro" storyline, I'm going to flesh out the College of Wizards in Mezro (which is a "shifting rooms / teleporter dungeon") using an adaptation of the Shifting Tower from DCC 73: Emirikol Was Framed, with clues on how to reach "real Mezro" within.

There's a myth in Will's notes of the "Forsaken One" (a crocodilian semi-deity born of Savras & Lleira); in my version the “Forsaken One” is actually Kyuss & the myth is misguided.

My PCs are traveling to Mezro following the Company of the Yellow Banner (who went overland, instead of weighing anchor at Kitcher's Inlet as ToA suggests). From my notes....

[SBLOCK] Brokenbarrel (from Will's notes) remembers well the origins of the Flaming Fist as adventurers organized by the Grand Duke of Baldur’s Gate over a century ago. She even had a soft spot for adventurers…until she suffered the gilded curse and crossed paths with the Company of the Yellow Banner. She lost her best priests in the Library, and the last of her scouts to investigating the Library (hoping to reinstate the scriptorium) and looking for missing soldiers who were supposed to meet with resupply party from Fort Beluarian. Once she single-handedly killed a sarcosuchus by baiting it with a music box that allowed her to hunt it down, but some soldiers have reported hearing eerie music in Flooded Boulevards and Amphitheater.

Hanging on wall of her “audience chamber” is a golden silk banner with yellow swan & moon (150 gp) – claimed as a “fine” from the Company of the Yellow Banner. Brokenbarrel crossed paths with the Yellow Banner and is angry with them. After questioning why they were in Mezro exploring without a charter, Brokenbarrel let them explore after paying a fine & being forbidden from College of Wizards. They were looking for ancient prophecies about a “lost city” and broke their word, entering the College “to loot it” before “fleeing” south along River Olung.

Because of this, Brokenbarrel disallows PCs entering ruins… unless they help her either eliminate the Children of the Crocodile – human-sacrificing cultists in the Agricultural Quarter (in fact, she wants to consult the oracular Mudmaw herself) – or banish Ras T’fima – who she describes as a death knight seeking to claim Mezro for the undead (in fact, she has learned that the curse turning Mezro gold to ash outside the city is caused by Ras T’fima).

Ras T’fima (LN heavily modified death knight) is a disgraced bara, a mage once able to control weather who championed the cause of Mezroans outside city walls who were magically cut off from city’s resources/protection. Many of these were tabaxi who Mezro's barae didn't trust due to prophecy of the Sleeper. Ras T'fima championed these marginalized people who, despite being humans & tabaxi, called themselves "Tabaxi" as a sign of solidarity (EDIT: explaining confusion between AD&D "tabaxi" human tribe & 3e/5e "tabaxi" race). After Ubtao stripped him of his powers, T’fima used gem magic (lightning, healing) to prolong his life and the Ring of Winter to keep his station until Artus Cimber exposed his treachery. When the Spellplague wracked Chult, Ras T’fima arose as a death knight and swore to redeem himself to Ubtao. His undying duty is to protect the holy city from defilers, but he is bitter that the city has once again been sealed off by magic in Chult’s hour of need. He only appears amidst the ruins during heavy rains or fog. As long as he protects Mezro all gold taken from the ruins turns to ash.[/SBLOCK]
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
There are some elements from the original Ring of Winter novel that I wished they'd elaborated on. Artus has a sort of communion with the ring, and believes that it's ultimate purpose is for good. This unremitting belief, the novel suggests, is why Artus has so far resisted the ring's malign influence and why others (Ras T'fima) lacking such belief are more vulnerable to its power.
I never read the novel. In fact, until I picked up ToA, i didn't even know about the Ring of Winter, and only recently discovered it was novelized a long, long time ago. I'm a rather casual Forgotten Realms fan :)
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
So I picked up Ruins of Mezro from Will Doyle (EDIT: I call this "Will's notes below) – it's a good starting place for running the false ruined Mezro in Chult. There's a disgraced bara called Ras T'fima who guards the ruins from those seeking the truth of Mezro's location in a Feywild demiplane; Will wrote him as a death knight which was an interesting choice because in the novel Ras T'fima was a "gem mage" who once had control over weather but had his powers stripped by Ubtao for lack of faith. Ras T'fima used the ring's powers to cover up his own lost powers. He was depicted wielding a sword once IIRC, but mainly he fired lightning bolts and healed people. He was much more of a N or LN figure than a CE one (which is death knight's default alignment).

Building off of Will's notes, if my PCs decide to pursue the "real Mezro" storyline, I'm going to flesh out the College of Wizards in Mezro (which is a "shifting rooms / teleporter dungeon") using an adaptation of the Shifting Tower from DCC 73: Emirikol Was Framed, with clues on how to reach "real Mezro" within.

There's a myth in Will's notes of the "Forsaken One" (a crocodilian semi-deity born of Savras & Lleira); in my version the “Forsaken One” is actually Kyuss & the myth is misguided.

My PCs are traveling to Mezro following the Company of the Yellow Banner (who went overland, instead of weighing anchor at Kitcher's Inlet as ToA suggests). From my notes....
I just finished our fifth session in Mezro. It was pretty fantastic altogether. I forgot Ras T'fima's name mid-session so I called him Bara T'yliki. He IS a death knight still in my campaign, and he wields a flame brand scimitar named Fire Eye that came from the bowels of the College of Magic. Bara T'yliki is bound to the Residential Quarter where Artus lives. He cannot actually wander the entire city. This was a spontaneous decision I made because the PCs were able to befriend him and would have used the Bara (if possible) to destroy the Flaming Fist.

I printed that absolutely BADASS Mezro map out and have used it quite a bit. The PCs are leaving Mezro now, but they'll be back I think one day, they've only seen a portion of what is there.

 
I never read the novel. In fact, until I picked up ToA, i didn't even know about the Ring of Winter, and only recently discovered it was novelized a long, long time ago. I'm a rather casual Forgotten Realms fan :)
Yeah, I'm not a FR fan. I just liked ToA enough to do some research to improve it (for my group) & shore up the adventure's shortcomings.

With Ras Nsi... he committed genocide against a tribe called the Eshowe (who'd summoned Eshowdow, a "shadow giant" who nearly destroyed Mezro only to turn upon the Eshowe) in the Valley of Lost Honor. This is why he was exiled. So, I think that why real Mezro won't return until Ras Nsi's death has less to do with Ras Nsi posing a real threat to Mezro & more to do with the barae living with the guilt/shame of Ras Nsi's unforgivable crime.

In my game, I'm building on this with Kyuss having promised revenge to spirits of the Eshowe tribe which returned as shadows bound to Kuluth-Mar. I also have a small band of mixed race Eshowe survivors (human & half-elves) in eastern Chult who seek to banish the "shadow giant" their ancestors summoned.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Between the Death Knight, Artus, the Flaming Fist and the Croc Cult, we had a little faction war going on. The map is so incredibly detailed, it practically told the story itself, and blown up to that size you can see everything clearly.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Yeah, I'm not a FR fan. I just liked ToA enough to do some research to improve it (for my group) & shore up the adventure's shortcomings.

With Ras Nsi... he committed genocide against a tribe called the Eshowe (who'd summoned Eshowdow, a "shadow giant" who nearly destroyed Mezro only to turn upon the Eshowe) in the Valley of Lost Honor. This is why he was exiled. So, I think that why real Mezro won't return until Ras Nsi's death has less to do with Ras Nsi posing a real threat to Mezro & more to do with the barae living with the guilt/shame of Ras Nsi's unforgivable crime.

In my game, I'm building on this with Kyuss having promised revenge to spirits of the Eshowe tribe which returned as shadows bound to Kuluth-Mar. I also have a small band of mixed race Eshowe survivors (human & half-elves) in eastern Chult who seek to banish the "shadow giant" their ancestors summoned.
I like the FR just fine. Neither me or my players care much about the fiddly bits of lore, it's just a place to kill monsters, steal their stuff, and have a chuckle while doing it.

Your background work is quite impressive. I doubt I would go into that much depth, mostly because I don't think the payoff of impressing the players would be worth it. But I've got plenty of time to flesh out the story. They just reached 4th level, and their next stop is Nangalore, and then Orolunga, so it's going to be a while before they ever reach Omu, and then they got to deal with the surface of the city before they even touch the Fane of the Night Serpent.

Oh, and that reminds me, the Omu MAP will look ridiculously awesome printed 5:1 scale




I love maps and battle maps, and a good map can tell the story just as well as a good DM. Hell, I might even make that thing half the size of our game table. 24"x 40"
 
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CapnZapp

Adventurer
I can't wait for part 3/3 of the Mezro guild adventure. I really would like a (semi-) official take on where Mezro went and how to bring it back again!
 

Eltab

Villager
The Ring doesn't care about Mezro really, or the Death Curse, or even Artus. I guess it has its own unfathomable agenda. Maybe it wants to unite with the Quasi Elemental Prince of Evil Cold!
The Ring of Winter (like the frost giants) thinks it has been condemned to wander in Dante's Inferno (a.k.a. the tropical jungles of Chult) and just wants to sit in a comfortable (read: -30*F) room and curl up to eat a nice ice cream cone.

Although, come to think of it, maybe the Ring would most prefer to be near the Great Glacier because it can feel the presence of Ulitiu's sunken Ice Necklace at / underwater below the glacier's core.
 

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