One question that invariably arises when new maps of the Malazan world appear is how the climate works, since it clearly isn’t like our world. Deserts are present at unlikely latitudes and vast ice fields at even more unlikely latitudes.
In the deep prehistory of the Malazan world, a mighty war was fought between a race of proto-humans known as the Imass and an Elder race known as the Jaghut. The Jaghut were masters of ice and cold magic, drawn from the Elder Warren of Omtose Phellack. During the war, which lasted hundreds of thousands of years, the Jaghut repeatedly created vast ice fields to throw the Imass off their hunt, creating huge icy redoubts where they could survive for millennia. However, the Imass chose to simply wait them out, undergoing the Ritual of Tellann to become the undead warriors known as the T’lan Imass.
Eventually most of the Jaghut were killed and the Imass disappeared, either destroyed or becoming dormant until summoned back to life by the rediscovery of the First Throne. But the immense ice fields left behind by the Jaghut remained, and these fields seem to have contributed to the strange climate of the Malazan world.
The largest ice fields are located in equatorial regions, on either side of the island-continent of Jacuruku, making travel to that landmass difficult and dangerous, and also sprawling across the north-western end of the Letherii continent. This last ice field is the most powerful, created by the Jaghut arch-sorcerer Gothos in the aftermath of a magical conflagration between the Tiste Edur and Tiste Andii, and seems to have had dramatic side-effects across the entire continent, disrupting at least the perception of time (so the records of the Kingdom of Lether show that 7,000 years have passed since the continent’s colonisation, rather than over 70,000 years) and freezing in place the use of the Holds as the primary form of human sorcery rather than the Paths (the younger Warrens).
A significant ice field is also located on Quon Tali, separating the main body of the continental landmass from the subcontinent of Falar to the north. A further field sprawls across the southern frontier of Korelri, just north of the Aurgatt Range, separating the subcontinents of Korelri and Stratem from one another. Further ice fields are located south of Seven Cities and west of Quon Tali (discouraging explorations of south-western Seven Cities from Quon Tali, which is probably a good thing due to the presence of the fiercely isolationist Shal-Morzinn Empire). These are, of course, only the major ice fields left behind by the Jaghut. Much smaller ice fields, often indistinguishable from mundane glaciers, are located right across the globe, from Assail to northern Genabackis.
The ice fields are one part of the equation. The other oddity is the presence of large deserts – the Bandiko and Otataral – at a very northern latitude on Otataral Island, and the presence of numerous areas of scrubland, border-desert and wastelands, collectively known as odhans, sprawling across eastern Seven Cities, also much further north than you’d expect (especially given Seven Cities’ numerous inland seas, lakes and lengthy rivers). The answer seems to lie in a number of mysterious, gigantic statues built of an unknown jade-coloured material. These Jade Statues arrived on Otataral Island tens of thousands of years ago and seem to have turned the island dead, destroying the natural wildlife and creating the magic-deadening ore also called otataral. The disruptions to the climate seem to have spread across neighbouring Seven Cities, which in the days of the First Empire seemed to be much greener and more verdant, the home to vast, sprawling cities and a tranquil inland sea. After the climate disruptions the land became blasted and sere, and the inland sea dried up to become Raraku, the so-called Holy Desert.
The Malazan world is thus still afflicted by the ruins of conflicts that raged three hundred thousand and more years ago. To the people of the world, these oddities are the norm and not worthy of much investigation. The question does arise, however, should the Jaghut rituals fail and the ice start melting, what will happen to the low-lying areas of the planet?
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