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)

1 comment:

  1. Amazing Mon, I can feel a chill run up my spine as I read this.