Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Thawing Kingdom: Draailant

This is a Thawing Kingdom post. If you have not heard of the Thawing Kingdom before-

Ah, wait a moment.

This isn't about the Thawing Kingdom. When you stand on a high hill and look south, in a place where no mountain obstructs your path, you'll sometimes see it. Dark clouds lining the southern horizon, clouds that snow ash. Sometimes they even come close enough that their soot falls on the red water of the Iron Swamp, where an invasion force hailing from the same place rests dead and sunken in the mud. The people know that the devils came from that place in a great long caravan of emaciated imps and bandaged and beaten hellions. That they were murdered and exiled once the Gods had fallen to earth.

In that place, machines of cast iron and metal belch and sneeze black smoke, they drink oil and they eat burning coals like snorting and wheezing hogs. While King Iceheart's kingdom slept, another lay wide awake with megalomaniacal ideas.

The Indomitable Heart of Fire. The Antroparchy of Vlauros, where gods fell before Man. This is what the the dwellers of the Thawing Kingdom call Draailant.

Art by Chris Cold

When the then-kingdom of Vlauros killed their gods, they tumbled from the flaming blood-red sky through a maelstrom of clouds, and crashed onto the earth. There were three of them. So now, the Machine Church has its vaticans built on the three divine corpses, where it excavates the knowledge to build its infernal machines from their brains. Its clergy of savants drink the blood of the Gods and it allows them to wield powerful Pyromancies and Profanities. They are the political rulers of the Antroparchy, and among them, the circle of Pontiffs holds the highest authority. Do note, the Machine Church does not worship machines. It celebrates humanity, or at least the humanity of Vlauros, and its ability to create the machines. It's a technocratic, egotistic progress cult, who believe in right of conquest and exploitation under the banner of alchemical and technical advancement. A twisted Enlightenment movement, a result of the giddy adrenaline shot and ego boost that literally killing God tends to cause. Instead of ensuring the worship of a God, the Church ensures that Vlauros never really falls short of progress hype. They maintain a nation-wide momentum of mania.

The monarch of Vlauros is long dead, incinerated in an iron-maiden-like petrol engine and blown into the atmosphere as a soot cloud. What's the point of God-given right to rule, if God's corpse is bleeding out on the dirt? Instead they chose the title of Antroparchy. Reigned by humans.

Art by Ihor Pasternak, Field of Thorns

To maintain its fervor of advancement, Vlauros constantly eats up more territory, space and resources. That is why they are continually trying to expand, to innovate, to conquer, to celebrate. The land is gutted and deboned for the last lump of coal, the last grain of iron. Trees no longer exist in Vlauros, as living wood is a waste of perfectly good charcoal. All buildings are made from stone, clay, and fired brick. And of course, iron. But that's just because of the machines. There's so many of them, built so indiscriminately, and why leave space open when you can fit a machine in! There's always use for a machine. In the centuries that the Thawing Kingdom slept in the ice, Vlauros developed the power of coals and built steam engines. However, once whatever they used to kill the Gods fell into their hands, their engineering progressed immensely. Oil. Petrol. Devils in torment, and intense Pyromancies, bound in engines. Single machines range from the size of a cat to that of an entire factory compound.

There are few kinds of animals that can survive in Vlauros. Those that do are creatures that have adapted to their new smog-choked, dead and hot environment. A sort of crusty lichen that lives off the heat of the machines as energy source, abundant and the basis of the food chain. Ash dung beetles. Factory smoke moths. Thickly carapaced reptiles with air-filtering lungs and a blowhole for the accumulated soot. Petrol vampires, flapping and flying, that bite through sheet metal and suck the fuel out of tanks and reservoirs. Somehow the bastards can actually digest it. They explode when you shoot them with a gun after a meal though. A notorious tall tale amongst factory homunculi is that of a flaming dragonfly and beetle zooming over the barren plains, one always appearing in the soil as a reflection. Hah. What a story. Must be the smoke, tar and ash finally choking out their flame.

Art by Andreas Rocha

It's hard to speak of Vlaurean nobility, because pretty much all of Vlauros' human populace are as wealthy as what you'd normally consider nobles. They don't need a working class, because their factories are manned by legions of homunculi and golems. Expendable, servile, mass-manufactured humanoids made of stone and clay that pyromancers jammed a tiny spark of True Flame into, which is the material of the soul. Funnily enough they need to pull those sparks out of their own souls, because contrary to what they expected, the Gods turned out not to have any. Anyhow, homunculi. Low-maintenance slaves that contrary to the classic human model, you can actually grind back down and recycle. Efficiency! Only the ones who need to think for their job, can think. Only the ones who need to speak for their job, can speak. The Vlaureans are absolutely sure the things don't have emotions, independence of thought or a notion of existentialism, because they didn't give them any when they made them. But they are made with True Flame, even if it's just an ember of it. With soul. And the soul is a tricky thing.

Anyhow, with the homunculi doing the grunt work, the people of Vlauros are all craftsmen, scientists, innovators, engineers, pyromancers, and so on. They love to think of themselves as visionaries. The elite of the world, both in terms of power and intellect. As you can imagine the average Vlaurean is a massive imperialist. And as befits imperialists, they love showing off their wealth and power in the most baroque and over-ornamented way. Manor and palace gardens are filled with roses and flowering trees made of fire, whose cinders twirl like petals. Fountains are filled with molten metal instead of water. High fashion means fiery dresses that leave a tail of dancing smoke and cinders, wigs of flame that instead of falling down reach up far into the air and lick the ceiling. Vlaureans are obsessed with fire. Enraptured by it. They're eternal pyromaniacal children staring into the fireplace. Vlaurean pyromancers are gardeners, couturiers, sculptors, painters. Artists. But make no mistake. They are also soldiers, torturers, and war criminals. For every cinder-rose, a meadow blackened. For every blazing ballgown, a skin charred. For every firework in the sky, an incinerating rain unto the ground.

Fire elementals may not exist, but they don't need to. Vlaureans will do just fine.

Art by Giorgio Grecu

In the Thawing Kingdom, very few people would know any of this, because the Vlaureans can't get past the Iron Swamp. The wet cold of the Kingdom is too much for them: not only has their growing affinity for fire caused most of them to grow paltry and weak in the cold, their machines aren't build for the marshy, wet terrain. This is something the Swamp attests to. It's filled with half-sunken iron war engines and snuffed out homunculi soldiers that are now just crude clay statues. Ironically, the kingdom's greatest ailment also protects them against the fiery conquerors southwards. Mind, passing beyond the Swamp is also difficult for denizens of the kingdom. Vlauros' air is so hot and filled with soot and pollution that it is hard to breathe for non-Vlaureans.

However, as I said, Vlaureans are conquerors and explorers. That means that naturally the Iron Swamp does not stop all of them. Vlaurean Boreonauts have crafted harnesses with furnaces on their back, that keep the heat and flame inside, and pyromancers can summon inner fire that keeps them heated. They may be found exploring the Iron Swamp. Past it they dare not go, on account of the half-thawed, who would be attracted to a person wearing a box of fire on their back like moths to a lamp. Not to mention imbuing yourself with it. What they also try is flying over with hot air balloons, which normally don't work in Vlauros because the air there is already far too hot. So, it's possible to sometimes see a black, strange shape fly over, from which Draailanders wrapped in thick coats and scarves peer down with binoculars. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Thawing Kingdom: Drakes and Devils

After an intermezzo in a strange and warm dream about bathtubs and occult mysteries, we awake on our river boat, coated in thick pelts, looking out on the waterlogged plains, and we remember that there is a cold and forlorn story to tell: the story of the Thawing Kingdom.

I've talked about the kingdom, and how it came to be. About its people, and its not-people-anymore. About the mysterious swan knights that wander the land and the half-thawed that approach in the shadows of a fire lit carelessly. These are all things that came from before the ice, or even from the ice itself. Now, let's chat about things that only arrived in the kingdom once the ice had already thawed. About the Great Drakes, and the lesser drakes small enough that the Great Drakes don't bother eating them. About the devils, who have been nomads ever since the Gods died in Draailant.

From Thomas Hawkins' The book of the great sea dragons.  
Drakes are squamous, somewhere in between fish and reptile and protean toothed bird. They swim in the sea, crawl over the land and some fly through the air. They lay eggs that are hard as a cannonball, and they breathe out sickening fumes from the pounds and pounds of fish digesting and rotting in their crop and stomach. These rancid gases are enough to turn even the most aged fishmonger sick on the spot, and have an incapacitating effect just by being breathed in. Drakes are monsters through and through. They thrive where they can live off carrion, fish, birds, anything really. The Great Drakes constantly fight amongst each other, eating each other's fat and squalid bodies to become even more greater in mass. Their mating ritual is the arriving at an impasse, after days of terrible fighting, where neither can quite manage to finish the other off. And the small drakes stick to the Great ones like sycophants, feeding off the debris of their kills, stripping their leftovers bare. They mainly live on shores, beaches, cliffs and offshore rock formations, but flying ones have found the lakes and swamps of the Kingdom and lost their wings there, beginning anew their process of violently eating each other in an ur-soup to become bigger and bigger and bigger.

Drakes don't give themselves names, and only speak the language of food and violence. Do not mistake this for stupidity. They can show a crocodilian cunning, it's only that most of the time they're so big and strong and have so many teeth that they don't need to. The flying drakes that live inland are usually lesser ones. The Great Drakes never developed wings. There is a terrifying tale however of Bulgro, a Great Drake carried through the air by more than a hundred lesser drakes, holding on to his many spikes. You should hope never to meet him. Lesser drakes vary in size between a large dog and a small horse. If you encounter a Great Drake and they are the size of your house you are probably lucky. 


Flocks of lesser drakes are a terrible plague. They can harass or even carry away villagers, ruin crops with their noxious guano, eat livestock, and generally shit on everything treasured and sacred like the cow-sized crocodile fish pidgeons that they are. Their nests could make a mountain pass or a swamp dangerous. They could be turning the water foul. Knights typically fight these, but tend to be underdogs.

Great Drakes eat sea ships. Fisherboats, explorers, that kind of thing. However, they can also live at the centre of a horribly putrid swamp, which was once really just a wetland but became poisoned with carrion, fumes and guano from the Drake. In the old mostly ruined cities they could live in the sewers, breathing squalid 'life' back into those tunnels. They tend to be far, far more stationary than the lesser drakes, but they are extremely formidable. Only a handful of Great Drakes have ever been killed by humans (usually they do it amongst themselves). They are more of an environmental disaster than a combat opponent.

By Peter Ferguson
Devils are different. In the time before the frost, devils were servants of the Gods tasked with carrying out evil to remind people what it looks like, and with the tempting of humans into evil, to test their loyalty to the morality of the gods. However, while the kingdom was encased in ice something happened. 

Draailant killed the Gods. 

It's still unknown how they did it, what terrible weapon they must have created. But they did do it. And so, the devils became relicts, freed from their service and marooned with no purpose, no home, no language. Nothing except for the newfound freedom from their task. But Draailant, out for revenge, cared not for the sudden free will of the creatures that had been the Gods' instruments of terror for centuries. Nowadays only the smaller devils remain. The great horned ones were hunted and butchered like whales. The flaming torturers of yore died impaled on their own tridents. The pontiffs of the new Machine Church wear jewels of black devil ivory. Gods lost, and humans won.

The remaining imps, fiends, gremlins and hellions are now a furtive wandering folk, usually speaking a pastiche of the languages they've picked up from humans along the way. Many of them have fled to the Thawing Kingdom, because in Draaylant they are treated like vermin. They come in many sizes, but almost none of them are bigger than a small human. They're scavengers, wandering merchants, troubadours, theatre players, or do what little magic they have left for food and coin. You'll likely encounter them in nomadic caravans that offer many small goods and services, or as traveling troupes. They're never sellswords. Ironically, devils are likely the least violent race in this world. Well, they are now.

By Wren Farren
There is ash in the air. And heat and black soot. Draailant is approaching...It will be the next post.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

4d12 Supernatural Mystery Clues or Occult Sacrifice Components

"To perform the occult is to perform predation upon mankind; for indeed, in no sense can the byzantine art that worships the gods of the creatures before man be of benefit to a race, that could only flourish by the virtue of its disappearance. It is an act that, by nature, declares hostility to humanity's survival interest. Because the predator is an agent of destruction, he leaves a trail of detritus; of carrion. I am a vulture that eats lions."

- Bartholom Rotlinger, Witch Hunter General of the Patronite Order

"Humanity is and has always been the only resource of our kind. The slaves that built the great pyramids and mined the stones now bleed on the factories and the office desks instead. Any resource our planet has to offer is harvested at an exchange rate of human time and life. Any structure we build, any matter or thought we organise, we pay for with humanity. It is the only thing the Art desires of us, because it is the only thing we have to offer."

- Sotiria Dimopoulos, the Ziggurat's Grand Observess


These tables are two things, depending on how you look at them. If you're a seasoned noire detective who has never seen a case quite like this one before, then they're a table of clues that you can use to figure out what the hell they're talking about behind the smoky meeting room's closed doors. If you're a sharp-minded character who's willing to lift the veil and look beyond into the abyss, then they're tables of materials and prerequisites for your next expedition into the deeper truths.

There are four tables here. One contains indirect matters. They only get you so far in your investigation. They're things you need, not for the ritual itself, but for business surrounding it. When you're a detective you discover or learn of them. When you're a cultist you have to obtain or enact them. The second contains direct matters. They are clear as day, and their implications terrifying. These are the heart of the matter. Your ritual won't work without them. The third contains books and documentation. Getting a hold of these may tie seemingly unrelated things together. They contain the lore, instructions and invocations you will need. The fourth contains people. To question. To tail. To rescue. To fight. To avoid. To control. To enlighten. To sacrifice.

Indirect Matters

1
Something completely irrelevant. You’re clearly on the wrong track.
2
A visit to a show. Theatre. Dance. Opera. It has a meaning. A message?
3
An unnerving painting. Landscape, or portrait.
4
Diving gear, climbing equipment, other specific utility gear.
5
A break-in, but nothing stolen. Or so it seems.
6
Evidence/method of travel. Train tickets. Ferry bill. A new location.
7
Very specific plant/insects. Usually an ingredient for something.
8
Museum theft: from seemingly unimportant item to key feature of collection.
9
A grave dug up. (Parts of) skeleton missing.
10
Sudden activity at a long-abandoned site. Perhaps looting of a secret stash. Perhaps disposal of something.
11
Large order of a very particular good.
12
Consistent late night work. Light behind windows.

Direct Matters

1
Large number of human sacrifices.
2
Hideous machine with a sickening purpose.
3
Monster(s) with a body. (Animal-men, undead, eldritch abominations, …)
4
Monster(s) without a body (reflections, shadows, man-eating colours,…)
5
Terrifying true identity. Perhaps yours.
6
Antediluvian sanctum unlocked, something horrific inside.
7
Obvious possession by an Old God, will/must attend the ritual. Never you.
8
Debauched event. Gluttonous feast, sadistic games, orgy. Possibly a combination.
9
Small-scale human sacrifice by very specific, very painful torture.
10
Resurrection of dead figure(s) of importance, will/must attend the ritual. Not human anymore.
11
Kidnapping and sacrifice of person of high importance.
12
Opening of gateway to another dimension, planet, … Ancient terrors inside.



Books and Documents

1
Clay or stone tablet, hieroglyph pictograms.
2
Bundle of newspaper clippings, all about specific date, event or area.
3
Worn paperback scribbled full of hand-written annotations.
4
Map of a particular area. Possibly with notes.
5
Parchment scroll in old language variant.
6
File folder with many pages in narrow typeset.
7
Picture book. Some pictures missing. Likely the most important ones. With some luck you can track them down.
8
Rich hardcover book, marbled inside, no publisher. Likely unique.
9
Diary. Full of banalities at first glance. Contains messages in code.
10
Never-published research paper. Likely no more than one of the authors still alive.
11
Plain, aged hardcover. Obscure publisher. Detailed illustrations.
12
Tape or film recording. Disturbing but revelatory content.

People

1
Museum curator, librarian or archivist. Very historically aware. Takes a long time to forget anything.
2
Locals. Fishermen, labourers, factory workers. Not talkative, but observant.Wary of strangers.
3
Harlot or cabaret dancer. Addicted to something. Bleak sense of reality. Good liar.
4
Journalist or pressman. Hears many rumours. Coffee fiend. Always up to date.
5
Cartographer, archaeologist, explorer or colonialist. Well-travelled, but arrogant.
6
Bartender. Good listener, tumultuous past. Has an eye for people and newcomers. Always old.
7
Washed-up private detective. Hungry for a case. Smokes and drinks. Cynical morality.
8
Local lord or lady. Aristocratic and reserved. Many secrets. Remembers the old days, not always fondly.
9
Academic. Extensive knowledge about specific topic. Dry sense of humour. Tends to overlook practicality.
10
Mobster. Very loyal, if you respect the unwritten rules. Proud and vengeful.
11
Author. Shut-in, strange. Looks haunted. Owns a cat with a bizarre name.
12
High society member. Vain but influential. Never short on money, always short on dignity.


(All above art by Daryl Toh. Happy Narblesnard from the Santicore, Marquis!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

1d20 Haunted and Cursed Bathtubs

Before continuing my other planned Thawing Kingdom posts, I thought I'd take a break with some unrelated fun things. One is a secret, it'll show up soon. The other is this.

Baths and bathrooms are no stranger to the scene of ghosts, horror and high strangeness. Why is that? Well, because when you take a bath you're in the perfect state for something nasty to get you. You think you're very safe, but you're also naked and (usually) alone, so you're as vulnerable as you can arguably be. You are at the mercy of the tub, and its invisible but always present connection to the underworld (sewer). You can use this table for haunted house baths, for bath-related side quests, for baths you bought on ominous and misty bazaars/vaguely occult open air markets/DungeonBuy.realm, for spas and bathouses that have a stroke of bad luck or an off-limits room. You can probably think of more.

Art by Daryl Toh

1
Any water put inside tub turns to blood. When looked at from the corner of your eye or in mirror, naked person sitting in it with obvious and gory wound.
2
Plumbing turned into monstrous hungry intestines. Bathtub drain is a hagfish-like mouth.
3
When filled with water, person or spirit can be seen in the water’s reflection, trying to break out. Could be intentionally trapped evil spirit.
4
Antique porcelain tub. Overly ornate. Anyone who bathes in the tub, instead of going pruny, slowly turns to porcelain.
5
Pale giant head appears in tub. Long and wet black hair spills everywhere. Does not leave until fed a bowl of rice one grain at a time.
6
Rubbery boneless merman has squeezed itself into tap or drain. Will come out and try to eat anyone who tries to bathe. Leaves no traces of meal. Hides bones somewhere in the bathroom.
7
Roll 1d6. Instead of water, tap produces: 1-Leeches, 2-Eels, 3-Insects, 4-Fish Guts, 5-Worms, 6-Screams
8
Spirit/demon has appeared and does not want to leave the bath. Ugly, hairy, potent and foul stench.
9
Water suddenly turns scalding hot when bathing. Tries to boil you alive.
10
Water so perfect you don’t want to get out. Lulls your mind into hypnotic bliss. You don’t want to get out. You’ll never want to get out.
11
Countless bloodstained arms come. Try to pull you underwater and drown you in the tub. If they succeed your arms join them.
12
Tub grows large spider legs at night, runs amok.
13
Subtle poison in water. Every time you bathe you grow more affected. Possibly not cursed but just a death trap formerly owned by a psychopath.
14
Spirit/demon possesses the tub. Drain becomes a mouth. Sleazy and obnoxiously talkative.
15
Tub drains your blood as you bathe. Each bath you take makes you more anaemic.
16
Large water serpent lives in drain. Lets you bathe if you answer its riddle. Eats you otherwise.
17
One of two exactly identical tubs. When submerging in one completely, you surface in the other. Other tub always in strange location. Moves sometimes.
18
Oily black tar fills the tub. Something bloodthirsty and invisible comes out. Can only be perceived by the black foot- and handprints it leaves.
19
Bathtub is the only thing in the house that isn’t haunted.
20
Novelty puzzlebox-like temperature control. While bathing, bottom opens like trapdoor and dumps you into extradimensional Cenobite torture room. All tortures are bathroom-themed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Thawing Kingdom: the Remaining Frost

This post is about the Thawing kingdom. If you do not know what it is, click here. If you do, go ahead.

Most of the kingdom has at this point thawed, albeit with disastrous flooding and the spiritual amnesia of the populace as a consequence. However, not all of the ice is gone. There are plenty of places that are still covered in snow and where the lakes' surfaces are still frozen, winter landscapes that range from pristine and eerily beautiful to harsh tundras. Sometimes, even great glacial masses of ice remain, still in the process of melting. They may just be ice, but they could still contain who knows what: old castles, entire towns, forests, or things much more sinister. There is often no telling what terrors from five hundred years ago may lie in wait in the frost, biding their time to be released.



It is not always, however, the great bodies of ice that are the most disquieting. As the people of the frozen kingdom thawed, not all of them did so properly. Some of the denizens have limbs that are still riddled with persistent magical ice. These are not commandable frost powers. They are ugly and painful clumbs of frozen water on and in your skin. Some are trapped in place, only sticking out of the ice with a head, a torso, an arm or two if they're lucky. These unmoving figures often become oracles or philosophers as they have the capacity for little else. 

In some the cold has remained perched on their brain. Memories are eroded and personality is embedded in permafrost. These half-thawed are mute frostbitten humans that are alive, but barely. Sometimes shambling, sometimes crawling, sometimes walking on long stilts of ice as high as trees through the waterlogged landscape.

The half-thawed have an irrational desire to thaw themselves. They flock to heat, though when clutching it they will usually extinguished it with their wet and frozen fingers by accident. Fire can distract them, but it also lures them towards you if you carry it or light a campfire. You'll have to weigh the fire's protection from the cold carefully against its attraction of half-thawed.

Sometimes the half-thawed will be particularly terrifying: icicle spikes protruding from their bodies like porcupines, or limbs cast in large blocks of ice that are swung and smashed around like clubs. These are more challenging enemies than the average half-thawed horde, and diversify the threat that half-thawed can pose. They need not necessarily be humans. They can be animals too. 

Sometimes they will be truly cold. These people are dead. Their brains have crystallised and cracked. The ice has its heatless fingers inside the body like a cold and wet elastic finger puppet. They would be speakers for the ice itself, if it had anything to say. Truly cold do not seek fire or heat. Anyone's best guess is that they are after some kind of profound, all-encompassing silence. They are isolationistic, solemn, and do things that no one understands. You may find one standing in a lake to waist height, unmoving, or one making repetitive patterns in tree bark with its fingernails. In a wide radius around a truly cold, temperature lowers immensely. It feels like being submerged in cold water. It saps your strength. The sight of affection and love makes them fly from serenity into a bloodthirsty frenzy. Assumedly that is a remnant of the King.


These half-frozen creatures are not the only spectres of the frost that still remain. Aside from blizzards, snowslides and collapsing glaciers, which are both lethal and large in scale, there are large bodies of ice that encapsulate castles and keeps from the time of yore. The thawing has opened up just enough of them to enter these frozen fortresses, towers and dungeons through rhime-covered stone corridors and glacial cave tunnels in the ice. These boreal mazes are unnaturally silent, and inherently suppress any sounds inside them. After all sound is vibration, and in the end, so is heat. The ice knows this, so it does not like sound. It does not like when things move. Not even trembling air. Perhaps stilling the vibrations of music and voice is its spiteful retort at the battle that it is losing against the heat.

The greatest of these frostbound monuments is, without a doubt, King Iceheart's castle, Vengenheim. This enormous bastille, being at the heart of the ice spell, is still completely frozen, sitting inside an enormous jag of ice that juts out of the landscape, an irregular and translucent white pyramid tomb for the king. Should anyone find an entrance to it, they will find it haunted by the frozen banshees of the King's brides.

In addition, some soldiers of the king's dread army still remain: the Glass Knights. These are ten foot tall knights made of blue ice that wield weapons inflicting terrible frostbite when they cut flesh. They do not have a heart, have minds like machines, and their ice can only be melted by fire from the hearth of a loving home. These vicious killers patrol around the vicinity of the King's castle in high numbers, but make no mistake, singular or small parties of Glass Knights can be found anywhere in the kingdom.

Many of them, due to lack of directions from the king, simply guard the area in which in they unthawed against any form of life, their last directive to go on having been the destructive intent of the king's suicide by frost spell. However, some still have a notion of loyalty towards the subjects they were once made to protect (well, and tyrannise, but that aside). These Glass Knights are not hostile towards denizens of the kingdom, but they will immediately take up arms against Draailanders, Drakes, Devils, and so on. Loyal Glass Knights are as their name implies loyal, so they can be relied upon in a way, but it is impossible to communicate with them, as they remain mute and emotionally dead killing machines, so their exact motives remain unknowable.


Lastly there is perhaps the most devious being of all. The ice itself. Where exactly King Iceheart took it from when he cursed the kingdom is unknown. Perhaps from millenia ago when it ruled the earth. Perhaps from far up north, off the map, where it still reigns. It is everywhere where the frost has not melted, and even in some seemingly thawed tundras it lurks underneath the cold mud as strata of permafrost. Anyone who is affected by the cold can sense its presence. It is a kind of instinctual dread hardcoded into the citizens of the kingdom after spending five hundred years frozen solid. A sense of a perpetrator of an unconscious trauma being near. Lurking eyes. When you become frozen and frostbitten this intensifies. The ice never speaks. It makes no attempts to tell you anything. However, when influencing someone for a long time it has a tendency of inducing an insidious desire for cold and silence. A memory of the ultimate frozen bliss during those hundreds of years. A wintery stockholm syndrome. Sometimes it acts, but this always seems coincidence to anyone but the very experienced or completely paranoid. A falling icicle. A slipperly patch in just the right place. Especially if you are loud and disruptive, something bad might happen to you.

(all above art by Skraww)