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November 21, 2010, 9:14 pm

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Denizens of the Chill Squall

By:

The wind picked up to the point where it sounded like a chorus of a hundred howling banshees. Even deep in the cave, we all felt the temperature drop even further as the Chill Squall moved through; snatches of wind fingering in as if it was trying to pluck us out of our hole.

 Introduction

"Hail there and well met, Adventurer!"

"Aye, but of course! Pull yourself up a seat. I was jes about to recount another of my harrowing adventures; when me and my party took on the vile Bone King himself and claimed his ancient trove of riches after a long and arduous battle where I lost my eye and almost my life!"

"No, Tremmis, ya daft fool. I did not lose my eye in the Battle of Banghorn; that was where I lost half my foot to a squadron of bullywug raiders! Now don't interrupt me..."

"I never said that; ya fool! Too many years of working in the coppermine has gone and made you soft in the head. Here; here's a silver. Now be of some use for once and go get us a round afore I start my grand tale; my whistle needs a solid whetting afore launching into this epic. Now hurry it up."

"Don't mind Tremmis; he's always been a couple arrows short in his quiver, if ya know what I mean. Anyhow..."

"Who be I? Well, seeing as you are new to these here parts, I'll take no offence at yer brashness. 'Who be I'; indeed. Why, I'm Brogan Brownbeard, although you may have heard tell of me by my nickname 'Brogan the Basher'; mostly from my exploits in the Ten River Seige."

"No? Well, some have also called me 'Bareknuckles Brogan', from my times as a fighter in the Pits of Salaz-an."

"Doesn't ring a bell? That's redicul... oh, good; make way for Tremmis. There ya go lad, set that down here. Hey! Watch that ya don't spill any, ya dolt!"

Ah; that's better. So where was I? Oh yes; about to recount the epic saga of me and my boys, and how we faced down the Bone King. I remember it like it was yesterday; the memory is burned into my mind. We started off on a blustering wintry day. Night; I meant night. Yeah, a lot like this one. The wind was howlin to beat the band, and the snow was swirling around us so thick and furious, it was nigh impossible to see more'n two feet ahead of our faces. It wasn't just yer typical snowstorm; it was practically a Chill Squall. Actually, now that I think about it, it was indeed a Chill Squall; at least that's what our sorceress identified it as. I didn't care much about what it was, I jes kept my trusty axe in hand; ready in case somethin' tried to take a poke at me or any of the boys, and kept trudging towards Bone King's crypt..."

"Chill Squall? You really aren't from around here, are you? Why, everyone knows the legend of the Chill Squall. I'm surprised you haven't heard of it afore. I 've had some encounters with those 'living storms'; after I finish the tale of the Bone King, I'll be more than happy to fill ya in on the Chill Squall."

"But I'm jes gettin warmed up on this here tale..."

"Impatient, aren't ya? Ah well, if yer buyin, then I suppose the least I can do is indulge yer curiosity. Come to think of it, the last time me an the boys had to face down a Chill Squall was pretty exciting, indeed; why, it probably even rivaled our expedition into the Bone King's crypt, now that I remember. Alas, my mug is already drained, and seein' as how yer buying..."

"Ah; that hit the spot. Anyhow; me and the boys was headed to a confrontation with a mammoth, five headed dragon and his horde of followers that were terrorizing all the northern settlements near Helm's Gate. The situation was dire, so me and the boys had to do a forced march through the night..."

"Shuddup Lothram! What would you know about the dragon; were you even there?"

"Oh, that's right. Yeah; I haven't forgotten how ya lost me my favorite axe, as well; ya stinkin elf! Alright, alright. It was a hydra. Dragon, hydra; they are basically the same beast, anyhow! Least, that's what our sorceress always said, and she's quite the authority..."

"Travis! Be careful how you pour that! Yer clumsier than an umber hulk trying to use a fork! Anyhow; where was I? Oh, yes, me and the boys were marching through some of the nastiest weather you've ever seen; the wind was practically roarin' like a lion, and the icy, blowing snow felt as sharp as razors against our skin. I was all for pushing on, but some of the boys were complainin' about their fingers falling off from frostbite. Anyhow, we came upon this tavern, and decided to stop off for a bit; you know, let the boys warm up and get some victuals in our bellies afore we started on the last leg of the journey."

"Well, you heard wrong, Lothram! Twasn't me who wanted to stop. I'm a dwarf, through and through! Had I my way, I would have marched those men straight to the Gate; we woulda been there in time to save the church from going up! Who's telling this story anyway?"

"I don't think I want to continue this account; seeing as how Lothram is practically calling me a liar. It'd take alot to..."

"Oh, yes; fill'er all the way up! Ah; I figure I'll regale ya with a bit more, so long as Lothram holds his forked elven tongue, and you keep the liquid nourishment coming. So, any ways, while we were waiting out the storm... er... eating dinner in that little hole of a wayside, one of my men gets to chattin' with one a the locals; a feller named Priven. Turns out this Priven fellow was quite adept at navigating winter storms. Said he had some sort of run in with a 'Chill Squall' a while back, and it gave him some sort o' sixth sense when it came to blizzards. He could tell when they were coming, as well as find his way through them as easily as you or I could navigate in broad daylight."

"Well, he seemed a bit odd, but then again, aren't most humans? Heh, heh... Sorry; no offense to you, there. It was freezing cold in that little inn; the place was drafty and the innkeeper was stingy with the firewood, but that feller Priven was sweating as if he had just climbed out of a suit of plate armor under the midday sun! He said that the Squall had 'touched' him, it somehow gave him some sort of resistance to the cold as well, but now he couldn't stand warmer temperatures."

"All that made me a bit leery about him, but we needed to get to Helm's Gate as quickly as possible, and if he could indeed get us through the storm, it would be invaluable. So we convinced him with a decent amount of change to accompany us to Helm's Gate; which was still about six hours away. It was way more than I wanted to part with, but..."

"Shut yer trap, Lothram! Ya don't want to try my patience any more! I'll have no more of yer interruptions, hear? I'm not at all stingy. In fact, if this nice, young feller here weren't already buying, I would have picked up this last round! Speaking of which, my mouth is almost as dry as my tankard..."

"Ah, that hits the spot. Anyhow, Priven told us more of his encounter with the Chill Squall; said he had been walking back to his homestead when a fierce blizzard suddenly hit. He said that the wind was so rough it was making a strange chattering. Then, as things got really bad, he said he saw what looked like a bunch o' human skulls jes floating along serenely, despite the awful blowing wind. They were all over, and drawing close to him. He made to run, but slipped and toppled into a snowdrift. Musta hit his head on something. When he came to a little later. The night was clear, and there were no sign of the gale that had beset him."

"Turns out the feller was telling the truth about his sense of navigation. When we left the tavern, the blizzard was in full blast, but he guided us through it more easily than even I coulda done! Anyhow, we had probably been going about two hours, when Priven suddenly doubles over as if he ate some of Lothram's cooking."

"Yeah, I've tasted yer cooking, Lothram; even with my dwarven constitution, I'm still surprised to be alive! No, you're right; you don't have to sit here and take that. You can do us all a favor and make yerself scarce! Good riddance to bad rubbish... What? Oh, yeah. But first, why don't you top me off there..."

"Ah, yes; nothing like a bit of ale to sooth the storyteller's throat. Not that this is a story, mind you; I'm jes reporting it exactly as it happened. Yessir; nothing gets past these keen senses. Hey, did anyone see what happened to my axe? I thought I had set it right... oh, never mind. Where was I?"

"Anyhow, we're caught in the middle of a fierce blizzard with this Priven fellow getting sick on us. I'm trying to tend to him when he looks up and tells me that we're in for a bad one. I ask him what he means, and he says that a Chill Squall is headed our way; we need to find shelter fast. Well, fortunately, I managed to spot a small cave that we got into just in time. Now, when I say 'just in time', I mean that we were seconds ahead of the worst winter gale I'd ever seen. The wind picked up to the point where it sounded like a chorus of a hundred howling banshees. Even deep in the cave, we all felt the temperature drop even further as the Chill Squall move through; snatches of wind fingered in as if it was trying to pluck us out of our hole. It was as if the wind itself was alive and wailing in anger at having lost its intended victims!"

"Suddenly, this Priven fellow jumps up. He's suddenly got blood coming out of his mouth and nose, and says he's gotta go. We figured he was losing it, so a couple of the boys tried to tackle him. But the old feller was as slick as an eel and surprisingly strong, to boot. With a wild look in his eye, he skirts around my boys and heads out into the storm."

"Well, feeling responsible for his welfare and all, I figure I'd go after him. But just as I tried running out, there was a sudden snowslide at the cave entrance. Took us about ten minutes or so to dig out; once we did so, the night was cold and calm. The stars were shining in a clear sky, and there was nary a breeze. We looked around for a bit, poking through the newly fallen snow. We eventually found him; or at least what was left of him; his body was blackened and all shrivelled up like a raisin."

"Sad for our companion's fate, we nevertheless had to push on; we were needed at Helm's Gate. The odd thing is that, from that point on, the weather for the remainder of our trek was clear and mild."

"Now some of my boys claimed that, before we made it into the cave, they saw something similar to what Priven had described; those floating skulls. All the rest of our trip, they were arguing amongst themselves about what we had encountered. One thought the Chill Squall was a living storm of sorts; seeking out victims to devour. Another thought that maybe it was actually an air or ice elemental. Me, I've got my own opinion. What is it? Tell you what; pour me one last draught and I'll tell ya."

"Ahhh; that does the trick. Now, what do I think? I think it was the spirits of the restless dead, who themselves had perished at the mercy of a winter storm, come back to haunt the living!"

"Now, on to the next story! Ah yes; the Bone King! Before we start, who wants to buy old Brogan another tankard? What? Off so soon? Well, yer missing a whopper of a tale, I warn ya. At any rate, stay safe and watch out for the nasty weather around here. Fare well, adventurer!"

 

General Background

A Chill Squall appears as an extremely fierce blizzard that may touch down on a specific locale several times. Individuals surviving the snowstorm tell that, beyond the wailing winds and bone-chilling cold, they see visions of the dead; human skulls floating and wavering, approaching amidst the churning snow and ice. Indeed, it does appear to be an encounter with death, in that the bodies of most of those caught unaware are found as withered mounds of dessicated flesh; frozen to the point where their skin has blackened.

It is surprising that anyone ever survives such an ordeal, yet there are those who live through it. Survivors usually have little more than a mild case of frostbite. They also describe that, beyond the wailing winds and freezing cold, they saw visions of the dead; disembodied human skulls floating and wavering; approaching amidst the churning snow and ice.

However, even the survivors generally do not live much longer. After an individual survives a chill storm, they develop an aversion to warmer temperatures; at first, they will prefer their climate to be a bit on the cool side. Eventually this moves on to snubbing the warmth of a hearth fire for the cold blast of the northern winds. What would be a comfortable climate for most people produces profuse perspiration in such a person. What's more, the person seems to even attract inclement weather; where conditions permit, ice storms seem to follow this person. Eventually, most survivors of a Chill Squall are claimed in another such storm in the not too distant future; almost as if the storm is seeking them out.

Some have postulated that the Chill Squall is the depraved offspring of an air elemental and a water elemental; ravaging across the countryside, and tainting whatever it doesn't outright kill. Another theory is that the Chill Squall is actually a "ghost storm"; wherein the restless spirits of those slain by the elements group together to release their combined necrotic vengeance upon the living.

 

Denizens of The Chill Squall

The Frost Spiders are an ancient race of arachnids which have somehow managed to breed and thrive in arctic-type conditions. It is not only possible, but quite likely that these creatures are magical in origin; for not only do they appear to be quite comfortable in weather far too cold for any other creature, but they are capable to control and manipulate it; intensifying its effects. Due to this strange ability, it is postulated by some sages that these creatures were originally denizens of another plane or dimension with an extremely cold climate.

Human-sized, the frost spider's gaunt, grey colored body is ideal for blending into arctic terrain. It's oversized head closely resembles a human skull. Hence, the stories of disembodied skulls "floating" in the middle of a snowstorm.

While some other members of the arachnid species weave webs to trap prey, the frost spiders appear to rely on their ability to control the weather; they typically lay in hiding, and when a sutable prey comes near, they use their cold weather control to bring about or intensify a blinding winter storm. Once the prey is immobilized or weakened, the frost spiders then move in for the kill. Frost spiders typically hunt in groups.

Sometimes, instead of killing them, the frost spiders will use the captured prey as a "host" for their young. The frost spider's venom, although not particularly toxic, does have a paralyzing effect on most creatures. The victim is then injected with a single, tiny frost spider egg.

A frost spider egg soon hatches into a tiny, squidlike creature with eight appendages and a small, suctioning mouth with serrated points capable of burrowing into and through flesh. During this stage, the young spider is quite vulnerable and requires its host to survive. After anywhere from one month to one year of incubation, the spiderling is fully formed (although small) and ready to leave its host.

It is very difficult for frost spiders to procreate; although creatures of ice, the egg/larva must gestate within a very warm environment (97 to 100 degrees). A human host is ideal; it provides all the nutrients necessary, as well as the ideal temperature. During the early stages of gestation, the host may notice mild nausea; which usually lasts for several weeks. Once the egg has hatched inside the host, the larvae burrows towards the nearest artery and attaches itself. From this point forward, the host experiences no ill effects. In fact, the presence of the frost spider larva actually affords the host an interesting benefit; they develop a tolerance to cold.

As the spiderling matures and forms, the required environment needs to be colder and colder; when it is ultimately ready to hatch, it needs a host temperature no higher than 32 degrees farenheight. As a result, the host will begin to feel more comfortable in a colder environment; whereas the ideal temperature may have been 70 to 80 degrees prior, the new comfort level declines rather quickly over the next week or so; at the end of two to three weeks, the host can exist quite comfortably at freezing temperatures with no ill effect. Conversely, warmer temperatures, although they do no actual damage, will make the host feel quite ill; causing them to seek out colder environs at the first opportunity.

This "cold tolerance" not only allows the larvae to metamorphasize into a spiderling, but it also typically ensures that the host will remain, or at least return to a cold climate at the time of birth. A frost spider larva has an innate awareness of the presence its brood; similarly, the members of the brood have some sort of innate means of locating and tracking either the host or larva. At any rate, when the spiderling is ready to come forth, it will compell its host to seek out even colder weather while the brood in turn will seek out the host a second time; creating an ideal blizzardlike climate for the new spiderling to be "born" into and join the parent brood.

Destruction of a frost spider larva is actually quite simple; raising the host's core temperature to over a hundred degrees (such as that produced by a mild fever) is typically sufficient to kill off the larva. However, such warm temperatures will feel quite intolerable to the host as well. 



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Comments ( 12 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Cheka Man
November 21, 2010, 22:01
0xp

Not creatures I would like to get in a tussel with.

Voted Black Jack Rackham
November 21, 2010, 23:48
0xp

Interesting monster.  I even like the less mysterious solution. 

My suggestion would be to put this as one of a possible group of solutions.  So instead of the spiders being the 'correct' answer, they are one, as is the spirits of the dead (perhaps those lost in storms, or punished by the gods for their wanton cruelty or 'coldness' if you prefer), living storms who's motivations are completely alien, etc.

Just my 2.8341923478 cents worth

Mark

Voted EchoMirage
November 22, 2010, 3:08
0xp

The monster is interesting, the introduction quite difficult to read, though - and most of it does not pertain to the topic.

I echo Black Jack: a group of possible explanations is better than just one answer.

slartibartfast
November 22, 2010, 5:15
0xp
Interesting; that was my original intent for this. Had several different explanations as alluded to in the intro, but didn't know whether the entry would qualify as a 'monster'.
EchoMirage
November 22, 2010, 8:27
0xp
Evil floating skulls in a blizzard, that eat people and scare puppies? Sure as hell is a monster in my book ^_^
Voted herrozerro
November 22, 2010, 7:38
0xp

Only Voted

Voted Pieh
November 22, 2010, 8:59
0xp

I really didn't like the spider explanation, but it works. I love the idea of skulls floating in a blizzard, and, as Echo said "Eating people and scaring puppies."

Good work, and I also really liked the intro story. I didn't find it hard to read and it did more for my than the details of a spider larvae.

Voted Dossta
November 22, 2010, 13:26
0xp

Those are some of the most interesting spiders that I've ever come across -- cold loving, communal and (to some extent) nurturing are not qualities normally associated with arachnids.  I will second Echo, though, and say that the intro is a tad long.  Good for flavor, but it doesn't disseminate the pertinent bits quickly enough for my tastes.  Don't get me wrong; it is definitely well-written, but could be condensed, perhaps.

slartibartfast
November 24, 2010, 17:52
0xp
Yeah, I know. Unfortunately Brogan outweighs me by about a hundred pounds. Once he gets talking, there's no way to shut him up ;-)
Voted Everclear
November 26, 2010, 12:30
0xp

I like this!

Don't let the others curtail your creative flare, the intro is good.

As the others above have pointed out, I think you should portray the spiders as an equally plausible solution rather than the correct explanation.

A metaphysical malevolent creature always seems to go down a treat on these pages; and the first explanation is rather interesting, perhaps that's why the spider explanation (though clever) doesn't have the same impact when it comes after the living storm idea. 

Keep up the good work.

Voted Scrasamax
December 18, 2010, 9:26
0xp

Only Voted

Voted MysticMoon
December 19, 2010, 14:11
0xp

Like others above, I would have liked to see the other possible explanations given equal weight.

The intro was long compared to the length of the description, but I'm not complaining about that - it was far too enjoyable.

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