30 Monsters of the North
A horde of devious, ferocious, tenacious, and atrocious creatures, beasts, and monstrosities to populate the northern realms of your fantasy. Get them while they're cold!
In the mountains of the chill north, malicious architects ply their trade. Yearning for the taste of human flesh, the apeish Shol'Gorath make their lairs in high passes and on treacherous mountain paths, toiling away to make the route ever more dangerous and labyrinthine. Slopes are prepped to release rumbling rockslides, bridges sabotaged to look stable but collapse when the unwary traveller is halfway across, and the paths between the black pines twisted to lead a man on and on, until he freezes to death.
At the core of this danger zone lies the beast's lair, resembling an inn or mountain hut. Should a traveller approach, the beast will abscond and strangle him in his sleep. Then, it will add the corpse to its ice-bound cellar, next to its other mangled victims, and encase it in enchanted rime. Shol'Gorath may appear simian, but are in fact malicious spirits made flesh. They feast on the frozen souls of their prey, and hold an unearthly sway over them, capable of sending the frozen dead to do their bidding.
The first snow flake of the year will awaken the beast, which will hunt as long as winter holds the mountains it its icy grasp.
2. The Prison Shards
The spawn of Serrind were locked away in the frozen wastes to end their rampage forevermore, and to prevent their demigod sire from rousing his malevolent offspring. Prisons of living, sentient ice were made by the disciples of Meluu to house one captive each, and actively prevent their escape or any rescue with glacial fists and spells of frost. The crystal holds of the Meluu stand empty today, but their creations wander the icy waste, obedient to their prime directive: prevent escape, prevent rescue.
Each Shard is a many-limbed golem of ice, able to adapt and heal by incorporating glacial mass into their bodies. Powerful sorcery shields them and allows them to unleash torrents of icy shards and storms of sleet at any who cross their path. They will engage and attempt to drive away any sapient who approaches, quite aggressively so. The Meluu are all dead, and without their guiding hand, the constructs deem all sapients to be hostile.
In battle, the Shards are protected by powerful spells, with blows and spells clattering off their hide seemingly without effect. In truth, attacks drain their energies, and may lead to a containment failure. As the damage mounts, the Shard will begin to employ ever stronger spells and mightier strikes to bring down the interloper, and it will attempt to withdraw to recuperate after it has taken a solid beating. This would give the impression of a monster that becomes ever stronger when under attack, without any obvious harm being visible on its surface - luckily it walks away when it has lost interest, often in the middle of battle!
When sufficiently damaged, their contents will begin to seep through the cracks in their surface - a spawn of Serrind, trying to make its way back into the world. A thing of baleful black flame, it will assail its rescuers and take over one of their deliciously warm bodies to ride it out of the frozen waste - and to kill its compatriots so that none can tell. Serrind's spawn know neither gratitude nor mercy.
An empty shard will halt and crumble, as they were powered by the entity within, leeching off its magical energy.
3. Rime Dryads
Tundra summers are a brief, fervent affair where everything tries to get its business done within a three-month period in an orgy of life and growth.
The dryads of these lands are similar - they are bountiful and beautiful to behold in the time of warmth, taking root, their bodies blossoming and swelling with vitality and fruit. In this period, they are amiable and even social, often offering a word of advice to the traveller, or an invitation to a little pollination.
Alas, these maidens become grim and feral as the days shorten, dressing in furs of white and growing fangs and claws. While in summer, the sun sustains them, in the long dark, blood and flesh will have to do. A winter dryad has the strength of a bear and the speed and endurance of a wolf, often hunting with carnivorous beasts and assuming the role of a pack leader.
Rime Dryads are a difficult foe, as they use magics of nature to extinguish fires, foul ammunition, corrode blades and worsen or cause weather phenomena. When threatened, they can call down the bedazzling northern lights to blind and confuse their foes.
Among the orcs of Khaz Naggoth, legend has it that if a man is able to wander into the waste alone and make a Rime Dryad in her winter form his wife, she will give him sons of great might and cunning, and become his retainer. A few do try, but only the legendary Tyrgall is said to have succeeded.
Akin to the sand trap of dry regions, the Slider is a hungry beast that makes its lair in frozen regions, hiding slippery slopes of ice under a sprinkling of snow dust. The beast possesses an oversized maw with a vicious beak and bone-crunching chelicerae atop a bloated lower body that resembles the unholy union of an arachnid and cephalopod; the back of its head and body is overgrown with undulating sensory stalks that are on the look-out for any signs of prey.
Its traps are manifold - hidden slides, thin icy roofs with a cavern underneath and snow drifts that immobilise those who would cross them. With its ice magics, the creature will alter terrain and carve ice to create a web to lead the unwary to its maw. Battling it in the heart of its glacial sanctum is difficult, as the ground is treacherous and unstable, and the polished surfaces reflect the monster a thousandfold, obscuring its true location. One cannot deny the Sliders a great degree of artistic ability, as their lairs (without the threat of mortal danger, of course) would be a marvel to behold - a filigraine carving of ice, conducting light from the heights above, and sparkling with waves of luminescence.
While undeniably intelligent, the Sliders usually do not seek to communicate with other sapients, seeing them only as prey. If their voracious appetite is sated, though, their minds will turn to procreation, injecting their captive with their spawn. The birthing process is usually fatal, but those few who survive will forever be changed, one with the ice of the north. Tales speak of a witch and a Slider who run a northern barbarian kingdom as despotic partners in crime, the beast feeding on its herds and on the occasional criminal or foreigner, and the witch enjoying the perks of being queen.
5. The Sovereign of Snows
Many petty kings lay claim to the northern domains, yet one sovereign pays heed to none of their crowns. A hauntingly beautiful yet cold queen rides into towns upon wings of the winter storms, followed by a court of pale-faced retainers. People hide on stormy nights and bar their shutters in hope that she will not choose to visit their house. For when she does, she will select a member of the household, a youth in their prime, and pierce their heart with a shard of unmelting ice. Her victims join the Court, and vanish when the storm moves on. With a hoarder's obsession, the queen will hunt the talented, the beautiful, the strong to add them to her menagerie; she seems to have a certain penchant for clergy, as if defiantly calling out to their patrons: 'What do you have that I cannot obtain?'
The courtiers' minds are bent to the sole purpose to please their queen, their bodies chill and barely alive, driven by the winter's magic. Those who assail the sovereign will find that the courtiers are more than willing to die for their liege. Should she die, she will reborn from the ice one of her minions' hearts the very next winter storm. Were one to break the mystical link between the queen and her captives, they'd wander off on their own, vain, self-absorbed and inhuman, lesser villains in their own right. The only way to end the menace is to slay them one and all.
6. The Raiders of the White Arks
As the skies turn to grey, and chill rides in on the morning winds, the folk of the island kingdoms of Tyrden and Nordumbra watch the waves with worried gaze and sword in hand. Among the drifting glaciers, some are carved into battlements and cities, cruising the waves as if driven by an unyielding will. Upon them dwell the Kessun, the scourge of the northern seas.
Each winter, they foray south with the storm, raiding the shores for wealth and slaves, as well as to kill for sport. Possessed of powerful ice and water magic, their sorcerers steer their iceberg fleet with surprising speed and skill, crushing any opposing ships with the glacial masses, and lashing coastal defenders with storms of sleet and hail.
For much of their loot the Kessun do not have any use, and encase it in their treasure chambers in clear ice, to preserve the spoils of victory forever. Likewise will slaves of interest be frozen, their life preserved but halted within the crystalline mass. Much like treasure chambers of human nobles, the hearts of their glacial cities are testaments to their unceasing raids, giving an account of human history in the North far better than the humans themselves could.
Battling the Kessun is no trivial task - at sea, the currents will conspire to break your vessel between floes of ice, and all their forays onto land are accompanied by furious storms. The raiders themselves tower over man; of trilateral symmetry, theirs is a vaguely insectile appearance, with willowy limbs ending in wicked claws. Hauntingly pale, their flesh is suffused with the essence of cold; the blood freezes anything it touches in the blink of an eye. As the Kessun age, this chilly energy coalesces into sapphire-like gems of frost embedded in their flesh; using these, their elders are able to project waves of frost at a distance.
7. The Hollow Ones
A tale as old as time - those lost in the frozen waste fall prey to wolves, their strength claimed by ceaseless pursuit, their firewood spent, their limbs ice. The predators sometimes do not wait for their life to seep away before they begin devouring the entrails. Should the pack be disturbed and made to abandon their prey before they take anything but innards, the malevolent spirits of frost can take the preserved shell as theirs. The Hollow Ones crave two things, one acquired through the other - the feeling of warm intestines in their hollow cavities, and murder. Adept at stealth, they will attempt to claim one of a group of travellers. By stuffing his entrails into their torn bellies, they acquire a semblance of life in the victim's guise, until the last bit of warmth seeps from the stolen flesh. Using this convincing illusion, they attempt to lure the rest of the victim's band to their doom.
Should a pregnant woman meet her fate at the fangs of a wolf pack and rise as a Hollow One, she will become one of the dreaded Frost Witches, hunting for heads instead of guts, with a distinct preference for those of wizards - after all, a Frost Witch has all the spells once known by the heads in her belly at her disposal. They are a disconcerting sight, with blue-lipped heads whispering arcane phrases from between crude stitches that hold the torn flesh of their torsoes together. More cunning than common Hollow Ones by far, Frost Witches commune with the dread powers of the ice, advancing agendas eldritch and incomprehensible to mortal minds. The women of the north know this, and will rather take their lives than fall prey to wolves when heavy with child.
The winter court of the fae hosts creatures so distant from the cheerful, frolicking good folk of spring and summer. The deathly pale Solitude bears resemblance to the elfin fae, being possessed of unearthly grace and ethereal ageless beauty expressed in muted grey, blue and silver. Much unlike its boisterous counterparts, it is utterly silent, conveying meaning through gesture, mien, and especially its expressive eyes. Self-styled caretakers of the most remote of locales, they are content with tending their silent realms, only occasionally causing the demise of an ill-prepared explorer. In rare cases, though, the Solitude takes liking to a mortal, and a strange courtship begins, lasting either until the fae understand it is rejected - or until its wooing is successful, whereupon its chosen mortal disappears forever. This can take a few intense winter days - or decades. The chosen one learns soon that frost cannot harm his flesh - yet the warmth of the abodes of man begins to be felt as discomfort. Those close to the Solitude will find that the magic of the snowlands is upon their disposal, and their way never lost, even in trackless blizzads and chilling mist. Their tempers cool, and humans seem distant; with greater perspective comes an understanding of mortal pettiness, and clarity lends itself to pondering. With their newfound powers, the chosen one will set out for longer and longer hunts and sojourns, the wilds infinitely more peaceful and in tune with their increasingly lonesome nature than the noisy world of man. Those who abandon their mortal ties altogether will join the fae in twosome exile.
9. Corrie Guardian (Moraine Sentinel)
Glaciers carve deep into the heart of the mountains, unearthing secrets contained within. In their passing, the landscape is unmistakably changed, with valleys and lakes telling of the erstwhile voyages of ice. The debris of these voyages is left behind once the glacier recedes, and druids know well that it may be worth searching, for sometimes the glacier cuts so deep that it carves out the mountain's heart. A skilled druid can divine which peak has died in this fashion, and trace the river courses and glacial trails towards where it came to rest. The dispossessed mountain spirit within is weakened, and agreeable to pacts that may help in its predicament - such as becoming the heart of a stone guardian.
With command over stone, frost and water, the Corrie Guardian is a powerful ally both in peace and in war, aiding in construction, agriculture, siege and battle. Alien at first, the Guardians become socialised with prolonged exposure to humans, learning to understand human language, their nature, thoughts, and drives. Therein lies the principal peril of their creation - Guardians who are not familiarised with humanity are universally difficult to communicate with, and will go on a destructive ramapge if their pact is voided, such as by the druid's death; meanwhile, Guardians too familiar with humanity may pick up their vices, such as pride, greed, and desire for dominance, along with duplicity, self-deception and wrath, with the consequences being worse than a simple rampage.
10. Skull Raven
A peculiar corvid, capable of learning human speech and understanding their ways, the Skull Raven has feathers that respond to temperature, being charcoal black in warmth, and white on their back and blue-grey on their belly when surrounded by cold.
In preparation of nesting, the Skull Raven will seek out lone humanoids, and attempt to lure them into a snow drift, glacial crag, or other immobilising terrain. Once the victim is helpless, the raven will use its sharp beak to peck open their skull, not only to feed on the nutricious brain, but also to lay its eggs. Though dead, the victim will be reanimated by the eggs' magic, his fractured cranium and hair growing into a veritable roost for the vile bird. The undead nest-bearer will do its best to protect the eggs, and otherwise stand in a suitable remote location, moving the nest into the sun, or hiding it from ill weather.
Strangely, the birds learn some of the secrets of the dead, and use them in devious ways to blackmail or tempt the living, in order to acquire more victims and fodder.
A nest-bearer will stand idle or roam about akin to a feral zombie while it is not hosting eggs or chicks, but may be re-used in the following years if sufficiently intact. Each subsequent generation will make it appear even more inhuman as it absorbs the eggs' magic.
The necromancers of the north know well that a simple spell cast upon an oval stone is sufficient to activate a nest-bearer and let it do their bidding, but they likewise know well to take care lest they be pecked to death by vengeful birds.
The spirits of the far north detest humans and their ilk, their weakness, their civilisation, the warmth they bring. They abhor the felling of trees, the mining of ores, the slaughter of herds. Sometimes, a spirit will take the form of an exceptional horse, bull, reindeer, or similar animal, and seemingly let itself be captured. Instantly accepted as an alpha beast, it will seemingly represent the bounty that its new owner hopes to reap in the north, but rather than that, it will bring great misfortune.
With its control over nature, it will influence the weather, and call fierce storms to wreck the works of man, especially any cultivated land. More deviously, it will turn beasts feral, instilling the nature of wolves into hounds, letting horses forget their training, and cattle to gore and stampede. As man is but a beast as well, it will make men more feral too, slowly eroding the veneer of civilisation, and leading to violence over possessions, women, or food. Finally, when its owner is the only one left, it will reveal its nature and claim his life.
Should the beast be slain without proper eldritch preparation, the spirit will emerge as a massive spiritual version of its host, and drive herds of feral beasts to trample crops, call storms and hailstones to destroy the dwellings of man, and fell floods and blizzards to ruin what is left. Druids and expert beast-hunters know of the right rites to appease a Hagalaz, or to trick it into believing it is being killed in line with the ways of nature - one of those is wearing wolf skins and inviting a wolf spirit to ride you for the duration of the hunt.
12. The Devourer
A common theme of the North is hunger. A southerner will not understand the sheer inhospitability of a world covered in a white veil, with all that is edible buried or hidden. The Devourer is an entity born of this voracious emptiness, of the desperation to sink your teeth into anything that is not ice. Dwelling in a non-place next to our world, the beast licks at the borders of reality, its voracious appendages manifesting as monstrous wolves. You shall know them by the fact that they fear no cold, being immersed in the utter frost between the worlds. As they tear through the borders of reality, this unnatural frost follows them in gusts and chill blasts. A cone of shadow trails behind the Devourer's wolves, and distortions in the air make their immediate surroundings seem off and false, earning them the name of Unwolf in the Northerners' tongue.
The wolves suffer from ceaseless hunger, as whatever they consume does not fill the emptiness within - their insides are linked to the guts of the Devourer.
Untiring in their pursuit, and hard to harm due to their otherworldly composition, the Unwolves present an insurmountable danger to the uninformed voyager. Those who know will tell you to find a place where the land is exceedingly hard to navigate, such as an iced slope, and make the wolf run forever towards you. Its master's understanding of reality and space is poor, and it will exert the beast to levels that exceed the magical flow from the beyond. Having all its prey taken by the otherworldly parasite, the magic is the only thing sustaining it, and the Unwolf will starve to death before your eyes, and collapse into an emaciated husk.
13. Blue Eyes
Father Frost is said to walk the longest night of the year. He is supposed to suffuse the men of the clans with his chill essence, and, when the cold drives them into a warm embrace, take the place of the men, and beget children with their wives.
Whatever the truth is, sometimes a child begotten in the depth of winter will be born with eyes of the purest blue, and be gifted with supernatural beauty, as well as wits and strength. As they mature, they acquire intuitive mastery of the magic of frost, and learn to bend many an icy creature to their will. Even more curiously, should they meet an untimely end at the hands of man, the winter will stike back with great vengeance and fury - it will be long and fierce, and if the death was particularly cruel, the snows may not retreat the entire year, the skies shrouded in a perpetual storm. The legendary Tiirinka, torn into pieces by an enraged mob at the end of her tyrannous reign, is said to have been followed by a winter of ten years. Whatever entity exacts this cruel vengeance is no fool, and is quite adept at finding the real culprit behind a Blue Eyes' death, even when no mortals know who did the deed.
The rivers of the North are ripe with gold, and many an enterprising miner with dreams of instant wealth journeys there to stake a claim. The Northerners rob them on occasion, but also enjoy the trade and news the prospectors bring. One might ask whether the Northmen have no need for gold, or why they are so bent on plunder when such wealth lies untapped. Deep into their cups, some men will tell stories of Goldshine, the queen below the mountain. The rivers are hers, and so is the gold within. A maiden in her prime, her body supple and full, she is seemingly made of solid cream, and her brow is crowned with abundant tresses of gold. The only thing to match her fair mien is her vanity. Served by misshapen giants and grotesque dwarves, she sprinkles gold from her vast holds into the rivers, to lure men into the wilderness. There, she tempts them with ever greater finds and dreams of wealth the colour of her mane, with glints of gold in upstream waters, and veins hinting at vast subterranean stores. Those who stay too long will be surprised by the abrupt onset of winter, and heavy snow drifts bar all passes. When the supplies grow thin and the fires die away, Goldshine will appear, clad but in silks seemingly spun of ice, and offer a simple bargain: die in the cold, or serve her for all eternity. Those who agree will be bent by her magics into hulking or stunted hideous forms, and Goldshine makes them toil night and day to craft ever more beautiful jewels to display on her immaculate flesh.
Even deeper into his cup, a rare drunk might speak of how the Golden Queen ruined their stores, tempted them with a morsel forever denied, and laughed as men turned on their brothers out of hunger. Some say that they catch a glimpse of her every winter, and claim that she has ruined their lives ever since. Whatever the truth may be, some men of the North do not trust gold, do not take it as payment, and bear only steel and silver upon their bodies.
15. Hungry Yurts
Some shapes are just convenient - such as the rotund shape of a yurt - or the half-buried abdomen of a certain ambush predator. The beast, called Snakemaws by some, possesses many serpentine appendages that end in strong jaws that are joined in a central body; these feeders are fanned out below ground in its surroundings, and devour whatever they can sink their teeth into. The body itself is harder to hide, and will stay only partially burrowed. Often, it will lay in wait at herd migration routes, river crossings, and similar places where many beasts are bound to pass.
Especially if it's covered in snow, it may be hard to tell whether the round shape is a yurt where you may find shelter and aid, or a bloated beast surrounded by a field of voracious maws. As a general precaution, the nomads do not approach lone yurts; setting up a lone yurt has become a good way to remain undisturbed.
Some scholars claim that Snakemaws is the foundation of the legend of Tukun-Kran, who is said to have traded an eye, a hand and a leg to a witch in a yurt in the middle of nowhere, in exchange for the gift of sorcery. Curiously, the beast's saliva contain a certain toxin that can lead to madness, but also awaken hidden magical potential, and significantly bolster wizardly abilities.
16. Helgarm, the Shepherd of Glaciers
Once, frost giants ruled the valleys of Noldrim. Once, the Icecrown sat upon a giant's brow, and their armies plundered the southern lands down to the very shores of Everstream, trampling all opposition in fierce battles in the dead of winter. The hosts returned with plunder and slaves, and all feared the name of Noldrim. In the end, they feared it enough to ally, and lay siege to the giants' rimebound citadels, toppling the kingdom and its dynasty, and driving all survivors north, into eternal ice.
Helgarm, the erstwhile king of Noldrim, the last of his line, swore a terrible pact with the spirits of ice, condemning his people into eternal servitude if they aid him in reclaiming the lost homeland. And, in their alien fashion, the spirits obliged. They bound the giants' souls in their glacial halls, and let them descend ever again upon the hated southerners, their dead bodies being reborn of shadows in the ice. The victims of their raids, entombed in the ice as sacrifice, will rise at the spirits' behest to do battle. With time, Helgarm has learned to use his will and hatred to drive the glaciers on, and have them lap like frigid tongues at far lands, standing at the prow of ice akin to a vessel's captain, swathed in a storm he can no longer feel. The more his victims, the further is the giants' king able to drive the crushing glaciers, the most ruinous of forays being known as a Grim March.
Since then, the conquerors of Noldrim have known eight Grim Marches over the last two hundred years, each a struggle but narrowly passed, at great loss in life. Some claim that only Helgarm's wrath and impatience made him strike too early, and kept him from hoarding his power for a decisive shattering blow.
The giants themselves can be slain only in their frozen demesne, in the frozen halls haunted by their souls. Their victims are freed if their bodies die a second time.
While fire can drive away many a creature of ice, there are some it attracts. When your campfire suddenly goes cold without going out, it is a sign that Frostfires may be near - wily fox-spirits that delight in tormenting and enslaving mortals for their perverse entertainment and pleasure.
Adept at magic, they utilise illusions and tricks of the mind to conceal their abodes and mislead their victims; they're able to blind with the glare of sun-lit ice, or obfuscate their bestial nature from the unsuspecting. They also possess the power to dictate which external source of warmth actually can warm you, and thus deny you comfort of the hearth and campfire.
Those who fall prey to the Frostfires will be given a simple choice - serve unquestioningly, or die. There is no obvious benefit the spirits would gain from having such servants, except whiling away eternity in whimsical sadism. They will abuse their captives physically and sexually, play mind-games with them, place them in escape scenarios, and sow paranoia in their slave flock. Nothing delights the fox-spirits more than seeing mortals at each other's throats due to a devious plot the fox designed. When out of ideas, they will make their victims fight over food.
The unclarities about how to actually slay a Frostfire testify to the difficulty of such a task. Some claim that in the bowels of their holds, there are burning hearts frozen in pillars of ice, and you have to destroy them to slay the fiends. Others think the fox spirits immortal; it is said that humiliation and being outwitted at their games are such severe trauma to the Frostfires that they will withdraw, and (if the humiliation was grave enough), pursued by the incessant mockery of their peers will wink out of existence.
18. Blood on Ice
As old as the tale of man is the tale of the hunt; the connection between hunter and prey is so strong that the dynamic between them has evolved into a mythical ritual in hunter-gatherer societies. Prey is thanked and asked for forgiveness, and thought to bestow its most iconic ability upon those partaking on choice parts of the body, be it swiftness, courage, or strength.
The nomads of the North tell one such myth about Blood-on-Ice, a spirit of mammoths, the very epitome of the boreal pachyderm. The thinning of the herds has weakened the king of mammoths, yet he still honours the age-old pacts, and will appear, as a challenge and possible salvation to the worthy.
You may find Blood-on-Ice only in the dead of winter, and hunger must pain you, your supplies run dry; if others depend on your hunting success, the chance that you encounter him increases; he can sense desperation, and sees through any simple ruse. The fewer trappings of civilisation you bear, the more likely it is that he will cross your path.
Those few who encounter the towering mammoth will notice its blood-smeared tusks, its scarred hide, and the weapons of less successful hunters embedded in it. They will soon learn that it is cunning, and will not give up its life easily; the pursuit and battle will take all of their might and skill.
Should you succeed, and slay the majestic beast, it will provide meat that never spoils. Its heart will bestow great might of arms, its brain excellent memory, and its testicles vast fertility and stamina upon those who dine on them.
What few know is that these boons are coupled with a subtle curse - somewhere, someday, the someone 's survival will depend on killing you. This will not necessarily be one of your foes or victims, just someone who needs to kill specifically you to live, for whatever contrived reason the Fates can imagine.
19. Pale Knights
Snowbound citadels of strange make tell of a time when the North was a much more welcoming place, sufficiently so to serve as a cradle for a civilisation that built these seemingly eternal holds that weather storms, glaciers and sieges by ice giants. The dead walk their halls, clad in garb unseen elsewhere, their features exotic, their speech an enigma. Yet, the Pale Knights are their most iconic inhabitants, as they venture forth tirelessly across the frigid land, in pursuit of quests known only to them.
Their flesh is cold, and covered in rime; their eyes frozen in their sockets, yet their armour and cloaks untarnished, and adorned with ancient script and the inhuman visages of unknown gods and coats of arms of vibrant colours. By this heraldry do the Northmen tell them apart; a lore most vital surrounds each, telling of the observed behaviour patterns of each individual knight.
The Pale Knights bear exquisite arms and are experts in their use; they also possess potent ice magic. While most often they avoid conflict, and sometimes even greet passers-by in their strange tongue, they are known to slaughter entire villages for reasons unknown. So does Seven-Setting-Suns visit Tumale Vale once every three dozen years or so; some of these visits are peaceful, yet on three separate occasions, the knight proceeded to fight his way through the entire vale, not resting until every single occupant lay dead or fled. Green-Moon-Above-Trees comes to whoever rules Tysond at the moment, every single year, bearing a dead beast as tribute, yet woe to whoever would open a door to him, for that unfortunate fool will meet the knight's icy blade. Gold-Bleeding-Rose sits in a square in Trundholm, the pavement around him predating the city by millennia. He rests upon a stone-hewn chair, feeding birds if the locals offer him bread or seeds, and otherwise motionlessly. Only rarely does he stand up, but then it is always to seek out one individual, slay him without mercy, toss the mangled body at the current ruler's feet, speak a single word, and return to his resting place.
20. The Trackless
Much like the Will-o-Wisp of the temperate reaches, the Trackless are spirits that lead mortals to their doom. Whether it is by glittering like gold beyond a treacherous snow-covered crevice, shining like a warm hearth in a wintery night, or imitating a lighthouse on the stormy sea, the Trackless relish the vitality escaping from their victims, shining brighter with every life they claim.
Capable of using low-key magic, the flickering spirits can fill the air with mist, fracture ice, wipe away tracks and marks, and cover paths in slippery frost. Perhaps most peculiar is how they react upon trapping a person suffused by longing for their home and loved ones. Instead of draining their souls immediately, they will be sucked into the emptiness, and possess their victim. Through his mind, they seem to be able to understand the path to the object of his longing, and follow it - not to return the victim to his home, but to feast upon those dearest to him. Learning ingenious ways to trap and immobilise mortals from the human host, it will lay devious pits, snares, nooses and lures, and delight at the suffering of those caught, slowly feeding on their vitality.
The possessed can be told apart by how their eyes flicker with a dancing inner fire in the dark. The Northmen keep those returning from long voyages and those believed long lost in the Temple of Cleansing, for priests to evaluate before admitting them to the town. Meanwhile, voyagers and seafarers steel themselves against the feelings of longing, so that evil spirits have no link to follow.
21. Floe Fiends
A tale speaks of how Tervaskandi stole summer from the paradise gardens of the gods, to warm the world, break the hold of eternal winter, and allow humanity to flourish. During his visit, the trickster also helped himself to divine artifacts and books of lore penned by the Allfather. These tomes contained the very magics that deities used to control winter, and thus Tervaskandi deprived them of the means to undo the gift that he bestowed upon mortals. The bards also speak of the vengeance of the deities against the halfbreed, the torture and trials he had to endure - but ultimately, the gods did not find any witnesses to the theft, and no evidence upon Tervaskandi's person. In fact, they were not able to find any of the lost treasures and stolen lore upon the face of the world. That's when Fjara, the justicar and arbitrator of the divine flock, decreed the trials over, and Tervaskandi innocent.
Since then, Thulhorth the Wintersmith was deprived of much of his power, and unable to reclaim the world from summer for extended periods of time.
What the gods do not know is that Tervaskandi used his family ties to the Netherworld to ensure the help of allies skilled at deceit and subterfuge, and entrusted the stewardship of parts of the lore and treasures to them for safekeeping.
In the trackless expanse of the northern seas, drifting atop ever-moving floes of ice, neither part of the land nor sea, do the Floe Fiends dwell. Their sorcery foils tracking spells, and surrounds the floes by mist, storm, and a swirling maelstrom of broken ice. In times of great need, they can flip over the ice floe, to move it onto the seas of the Netherworld for a day. In battle, the Floe Fiends rely on magics of the mind and illusions to confound foes, and pick them off when they least expect it; the demons are not to be underestimated in pitched battle either, though. Never forget that each of them also has access to a part of the stolen lore - which may be the most powerful frost magics in existence; using it would break their secrecy though, and would necessitate a long and arduous flight.
Tervaskandi's ruse is not perfect - a select few denizens of the underworld know at least that he had dealings with a missing member of their house around the time that summer came into being; some even suspect a specific individual. Furthermore, his allies are no automatons - they have needs, and must secretly procure resources - or act against encroaching insanity brought on by solitude. So does Kuzz-Tich join the masked ball at Bandoe every New Year's eve, letting the floe be guarded by his spells and creatures of the ice in his absence; Blythwen abducts sailors for entertainment, and deposits them at random places along the coast when she tires of their presence.
22. The Face of Gorrog
In the coldest reaches of the land, where the ice never thaws from the mountain heights, there's a sheer glacial cliff of blue ice. Just below its surface lies a colossal visage, distorted by utter hatred and malevolence. Its furrowed frown and bare teeth are frozen still within the translucent mass. Any hints of its body are but shadows deep within the blue glacial depth.
In the language of the locals, 'Gorrog' means 'hatred', and they avoid the vale overseen by the face at all costs - for good reasons, too. When the watcher in the ice glimpses any hint of a sapient mortal, it will use its sorcery to fracture the ground underneath the wanderer's feet, cause nearby rock and ice explode into deadly shrapnel, and incrementally curse the victim with weakness and pain. All this is accompanied by muffled roars of rage from the depths of the glacier, as the Face of Gorrog bellows in frustration at any failed attempt to murder the trespasser.
People would generally be content to let Gorrog fester in his hatred, alone - were it not for the fact that his wrathful countenance watches over a vital pass, as well as an extensive field of ruins contained therein. The pass is the by far shortest route between two realms separated by impassable mountains, while the ruins tempt with architecture and glyphs unseen elsewhere, and promise of treasure and obscure lore.
What few know is that Gorrog may be a creature of immeasurable malevolence, but shares a trait of many thinking entities - the capacity for ennui. For aeons beyond remembrance, he has been frozen in the mountain face, with only occasional trespassers to pass time. With sufficient care and ingenuity, one may be able to distract the imprisoned guardian sufficiently to allow others to pass - if one is able to somehow avoid being murdered by Gorrog before the show gets started.
23. The Daughters of the Long Night
In arctic regions, people huddle in the abodes for a good part of the year, surrounded by a land of starving beasts and frost. Tempers flare when one has nowhere to go to simmer down. Especially during the long polar night, few venture out, and cramped conditions easily lead to conflict. Yet strong emotion attract things from the dark, spirits that would feast upon feelings or upon flesh, or those who are fascinated by it - such as Morikhel, the Queen of the Long Night. On occasion, she comes to those who fled the warmth of their homes in anger and conflict, and offer them her kind of solace - to be taken away to a fey realm of eternal frost, abandoning the mortal family and becoming hers. Morikhel seems to prefer young women, and legends speak of some who deliberately called upon her to exact vengeance.
The pact is sealed by drinking her blood, fluid but impossibly cold, that saps all warmth from the body without killing it. The blood infuses her Daughters with powers of illusion and mastery over shadow, as well as the capability to meddle in fate and luck as the Fae do. Enslaved smiths garb them in impossibly beautiful suits of black cold-forged iron, and bestow upon them weapons of hissing moonlight; the stablemasters mount them upon beasts of billowing shadow. Perhaps equally strange is how their feelings of wrath and alienation from the mortal realm become as ice - cold, stable rage and disdain, tempered by the solace and alien love of their newfound mother.
The Daughters do the Queen's bidding in the courts of the Fae, yet in the depth of the polar night, the realms of frost and the material world join; then, the Daughters venture out on tasks in the mortal world as well. Take care, for mortal lives hold little value for them. The only way how a Daughter can become human again is to capture her, and expose her to the spring sun, whereupon the Queen's blood leaves their veins, and mortal feelings return again.
The northmen know that bears possess strong magic and great wisdom. Underneath the skin, they say, the bear looks like a man. Still, few understand the true strength of the primal sorcery the greatest ursines wield, and the extent of their cunning.
As man struggles against nature, so does nature struggle against man. Fishers, hunters, loggers, farmers, miners, the spirits of the land despise them all; the further man strays from nature, the deeper their hatred. When an especially powerful and prideful male finds himself alone face-to-face with the challenges of the wild and fails, a Skintaker may come in the form of a great polar bear or grizzly, and eat his flesh but preserve the skin. Clad in his guise, the ursine will return to the humans, and play the role of the man it replaced. First, it will study the humans, and should it find them wanting, advance into a position of power by cunning, magic, and brute strength - who can oppose a swordsman with a bear's strength and endurance? The Skintakers possess an animal magnetism and primal charisma, and will work towards subverting the human settlement over time. Some dwellers may be murdered and replaced by other Skintaker spirits, yet this is far from common - usually, the bear will slay some men and make the others revere him, and enthrall the women to be his mates; the children born of such an union will all have a bear's soul. The bear's magic will slowly transform the spirits of receptive humans into animal souls as well.
When the time is right, the skin-clad beasts will shed their disguise, tear apart the remaining humans, and return to the wilds, letting the now-empty settlement be reclaimed by nature.
The tundra is dotted with round lakes large and small, their water unable to escape below the frozen ground in summer, their ice pushing at the shores come the frost.
Their waters are serene, and no great beasts dwell within, yet the natives still watch the surface intensely whenever they come close, and never erect their tents in direct sight of one. To foreigners they find likeable, they will tell the tale of the Envious Eyes. Very much like the round lakes puncture the landscape, they seem to provide access to a strange realm beyond. When the stars align, some of the waters are replaced by eyes of alien beasts that gaze into our world through these holes, filled with curiosity, envy and hunger at the sight of creation. Humanoids and other sapient creatures in particular seem to pique their interest. At first, they will observe and try to understand, as all things in creation are as incomprehensible to them as these horrors are to man. Later, the creature will try to emulate what it saw, and deposit duplicates into this world; these are at first garbled speechless caricatures with distorted features, but as the beast observes, the copies become better and closer to the original. Driven by their creator's hunger, the spawn will attempt to feed it by dragging the unwary to a lake that, instead of an eye, reveals a maw with endless rows of gnashing teeth.
As the creature cannot withdraw from the lake surface quickly, the nomads have learned to bring in trees from the south, and ram large sharpened stakes into any lake they suspect of housing an Eye - a wise move, as Eyes who have been allowed to observe for too long seem to understand life at long last, and begin creating not just copies, but their own original horrors.
26. Ice Shrew
Owls are seen as wise, and the spirit of the snow owl is especially renowned as a source of rare wisdom. It is an uncaring and alien teacher, though, and you should be wary of dealings with it: its lessons may pose lethal danger, and the payments it exacts may include your life if worded carelessly. The Ice Shrews are witches who gave too much of themselves to the Owl, yet not enough to end their lives. As the essences do not mix well, their spirits are an incongruous amalgam of beast and human, alternating between the nature of a mortal, and the uncaring predator. You shall know them by their intense eyes, silent stride, and cloaks that resemble an owl's wings - and can easily turn into them.
Dealing with an Ice Shrew is still possible, perhaps more than with the Owl that created them, yet they are predators at heart, and instead of divulging wisdom will often consume the petitioner - by strange magic, their jaws will unhinge, and they will swallow the victim whole. The remains are spat out as a pellet after digestion, and can be used in numerous magics, such as necromancy, stealth, and protection against cold; the skeleton makes also for supreme material for reanimation into higher corporeal undead. The most knowledgeable source on these magics is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the snow owl spirit.
27. Icebreaker Seals
Seemingly, the Icebreaker is just a large seal, a welcome catch. Still, the hunters of the northmen know well to avoid approaching them when they're perched upon ice floes. First of all, the endeavour will most likely be futile, and if the beast touches you, then also deadly. This is because the Icebreakers possess a curious talent - they may pass through ice as if it was water, and they may bestow this quality upon anyone they touch, for as long as they wish to. Younger specimens use the ability mostly for escape, but older animals are aware how helpless a human is in the freezing waters of the north, especially if they are unable to crawl back upon the ice, as it passes through their hands as the waves around them. Especially devious individuals have been seen diving up through the ice, and dragging unsuspecting men to the depths below.
Deep into their cups, men will speak of how some Icebreakers in fact are shape-shifting sea witches who pass through walls of igloos unhindered, to steal the children within as their cold loins are incapable of making a man give them offspring.
Fleshless spirits that go hungry in summer build themselves bodies of river ice as it starts to form. Reptilian in appearance, they resemble crocodiles with scales of glistening ice. Above the waters, that is - below the surface, they are almost invisible and just ripples give away their position.
Possessed of a low cunning, they will dam up rivers with ice floes, flooding valleys and roads to expand their habitat and force man and beast to cross it. On rivers, they will attempt to capsize boats and are a bane to fishermen. In spring, they turn to water once more, and must starve until river ice forms again. The worst are those who dwell in ice caverns, as the ice there never melts, and Jaws grow to humongous proportions.
A slain beast will simply reform next year, but the sages know that if you catch one of them and make it melt inside, the spirit will not be able to leave the vessel. By drinking it, one temporarily gains the ability to be unseen underwater, resistance to cold, and greater aptitude at swimming.
29. Hibernian Zmey
The northern ice dragon is an iconic predator, known for its ferocity and hunger, less so for intelligence, philosophy, magic, and other draconic pastimes. The reason is simple - most never come face-to-face with their ultimate form.
Serving Rukh, the justicar of the divine, the Zmey travel on the wings of the northern storms to capture and lock away that which shall not be. Apostate priests, artifacts of baleful power, rogue demigods, if the Justicar wills it gone, claws of the Zmey will seize it and lock it away in northern frost.
The Zmey coccoon themselves in ice multiple times over the course of their maturation, and thus their final form is very different from the classic white drake - they possess several heads on sinuous serpentine necks, and array of wings and frills that allow them to glide through air and water alike; six powerful legs carry the beast. The maturation is not based on age as much as on individual magical power and divine favour - dragons who master sorcery and serve well will mature fairly swiftly (at least compared to other wyrms), whereas those who are lacking in both will never become Zmey.
Due to their wide travels, and the wide range of strange phenomena they encounter, the Zmey are quite scholarly, and conduct a surprising amount of research on the captured anomalies; they're also very eager to obtain sorcerous texts that would aid them in containing their charges better, and develop novel magics themselves.
United by a common purpose, the Zmey are suprisingly social for dragons, which is reflected in their plentiful offspring that infests the north; the spawn are very diverse yet none too bright, and are sent out to the wilds until they 'come to their senses', so that they inadvertently don't break the prison of some archdemon or something similar.
As the winter does not hold sway in southern lands, the Zmey employ networks of agents to aid them in locating their targets, and then appear in a freak snowstorm to claim it.
Battling a Hibernian Zmey is challenging, even compared to a 'normal' dragon - the numerous heads are able to utter multiple incantations at once, and sorceries that befuddle the mind are of limited use against the gestalt-persona that is the wyrm. Also, remember that even though the Justicar commanded the wyrms to hide the Rod of Unmaking and other baleful artifacts, they're still allowed to use them.
30. The Oathmen
Beset by biting cold and gnawing hunger, the deaths of their loved ones imminent, some call upon the uncaring deities of winter. Some of them are heard. The price for aid is invariably an oath of service.
The Powers of Frost invariably heed only the call of the strong and skilled, for what use is a dull-witted, lame thrall? The duration of the oath is always as long as any of its beneficiaries live; if you ask aid for yourself, you will serve a lifetime. The Oathmen do not age as long as the pact holds, and resume normal aging once it is over. If they break their pact by disobeying their liege, the Power will exact great vengeance upon those it once saved.
The oath gives the Powers of Frost control over the Oathmen's shape, allowing them to bestow features of beasts and of the northern wilds - so are some Oathmen akin to an amalgam of ursine features and an ice-encrusted cliff face, while others sprout horns and a skin of bark.
The Oathmen serve in the incessant feuds and wars in which their masters are embroiled, battling each other, those who slighted the Powers, and fabulous beasts. These tasks are also an entertainment for the Powers - often, they will give a minion a limited amount of power (even though they could give more), and see whether they succeed or fail. For challenging tasks, the Power may even share some of its magics and fish out weapons of legend from its frosty trove.
When their service is not needed, the Oathmen appear human save for the marks of the Power they are sworn to, and are left to their own devices. Most settlements are wary of them, wisely, as the Oathmen will either do the will of Winter, or incur its wrath.
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? Responses (8)
Working my way through this. So far top notch!
Well worth reading.
Not done, but far enough to say Damn good.
I started reading this days ago, almost two weeks, (my free time being such that I can barely finish 250 words of unwork related text) and the ideas and stories in this have been bouncing around my head ever since.
I love the iceberg fleet, the attacking the glacier, the horrific birds that lay their eggs in peoples skulls and the even more horrific zombies that look fill their empty guts with one's fresh warm entrails. Equally intriquing is the notes of culture provided, the peoples who won't use gold, distrust free standing Yurts and yet in some part of the collective psyche there is a love for this country: in the idea that if you are strong enough a winter goddess will be come one's consort.
You guys have given us an impressive list. I could see this published as like a novelity coffee table book. My parents had books such as this when I was kid, artistic folios of imaginary worlds, and of course there was the smashed fairy book and the more recent books about dragons and stuff that the kids read. If you guys could team up with an artist this would could make a really cool tome or itself a website worth exploring.
This is not to sugest that this lack anything, as a citadel post this is perfect.
Took a while to get through, but wow! A superb, hoary bestiary!!
Great stuff! Defiantly got some great ideas from your work.
Gold +, HoH, 5.0/5.
This was an excellent read!