Many, many years ago, a woman changed the course of the entire world, though she knew it not at the time. The Lady Karina, survivor of great tragedy yet with a soul as bright as a flame, had won the heart of Winter itself. Winter loved her so much that it would not allow her to die, not when further tragedy befell her house and the Lady Karina's mind was broken. Instead, it shielded her with wind and ice and snow, devising sword and shield of storm to ward her from all danger.
Millennia passed, and all the world was changed. Seas rose. Cities burned. Tribes were lost and scattered. Yet after a great and terrible Winter, lasting nigh 100 years, the world was reborn into an age of never-ending Summer. The forests were clad in green, and flowers carpeted the land. Save in one place only.
The Heart of Winter
Sheltered from the world within a forest made great by countless years, lies a secret land of eternal winter. The epicenter is a clear, icy lake, roughly 100 miles in diameter. If one were to tread upon it, they would see straight to the bottom. There lie the ruins of an ancient city, frozen and still.
In the center of the lake an island juts out of the ice, some hundred feet into the air. It has a roughly cylindrical shape, too regular to be a natural outcropping of rock, though time has worn most features away. With a little imagination, it could be the top of a once-great tower. On cold, clear nights, a blue-white light shines fitfully from a cave-like crack in the walls.
None have set foot on that island for an age.
Deep within the Old Wood, a place we dare not go
With frigid fingers grasping, amid the drifting snow
Peril unimagined, traveler beware!
For Winter's Heart is waiting, beneath the frozen mere.
Summer has persisted now for nearly a millennium as the power of Summer's Ruby grew unchecked. Winter flora and fauna are all but extinct -- everything from the fragile silverbloom to the mighty Stamagast have dwindled to their very last numbers. Those that found their way to the Heart of Winter survived, and were given unnaturally long life, but can never leave. Many lesser elementals were driven mad by the confinement. They attack any who enter their domain, making the journey through the Heart of Winter extremely perilous.
Lately the Summer has grown harsh, and water is become scarce. Many regions are in danger of turning to desert. The imbalance must be addressed.
At the same time, people living around the edges of the Old Wood report having disturbing dreams. A woman's voice calls to them from afar, before being swallowed up by a flurry of snow. Some have been unable to resist the siren's song, and have disappeared into the Wood. Frozen corpses stalk the borders of the wood, brought to life by some fell power.