The Queen's Solstice
"She died on the first day of winter."
- from the journal of Dimri Tel, bard
Full Item Description
The Queen's Solstice is a beautiful winter cloak. The exterior is the deepest of purples, bordering on black, edged in ermine all around. The outer velvet fabric is patterned with half-moons and sharp snowflakes, the emblem of the Iviernu Tribes. The interior is lined with lush reindeer pelt, deep and incredibly soft. A thick hood is attached to the top, finely crafted and with a layer of wool between the interior and exterior. The cloak is fastened together in the front by a thin iron chain that attaches to a broad brooch; the brooch, shield-shaped, bears the engraved image of a single snowflake, gemmed with diamonds and sapphire.
The fierce tribes of Iviernu were well-known throughout the land as being stubbornly independent, owing trust to few and loyalty to none. It was often said that the glacial homeland of the Iviernu was indicative of their demeanor: cold, harsh, desolate, barren. No beauty was thought to come out of those icy lands, save the rarely seen queen of Iviernu, Tsalja.
Known famously as "the Ice Queen," Tsalja led her people with the ferocity of a polar bear and the icy heart of the North wind. When the Bowerblade family took the throne of the Southern Kingdoms, they rapidly expanded and crushed all nations and peoples who stood in their way, either by the edge of the sword or the heft of the purse. Under Tsalja, Iviernu was one of the few resisting kingdoms. While the Ice Queen was rarely seen outside her capitol, she made noted and deliberate attempts to publicly denounce the Bowerblades' seizures and conquests, decrying
None shall take our land, be they rich, mighty, holy, glorious. Our tribes have borne the icy steppe and the blue glaciers for a thousand generations; no haughty warlord will take it from us, no matter the titles and fineries with which they wrap themselves. If you doubt our mettle, then meet us on the ice with your boldest soldiers and sharpest steel: the snow looks glorious in red. Otherwise, seal tight your lips and move on, for we will not let Iviernu fall to your banal kind.
The Bowerblade rulers, despite their vast holdings elsewhere, held a deep desire for the freezing north, believing endless stores of gold and gemstones to be locked in its high mountains. Thus they marched into Iviernu lands with their armies. Twice they mustered out, and twice they were driven back by the two forces of Iviernu: the glacial ranger bands guarding the border, and the impossibly cold blizzards of the North. The Ice Queen's people, it seemed, were invincible. The Bowerblade nobles began to wonder if Tsalja herself was not.
At first, the Bowerblades sent assassins into the north, but they either perished on the route or were discovered and killed. They then tried a number of less violent methods: bribes, which were turned down in disgust; political negotiation, which received the same treatment; even male body slaves were sent up to tempt her, but even the finest bodies in the Southern Kingdoms did not sway her. Truly, it was said, her heart was ice. That was before Dimri Tel arrived.
A world famous bard and storyteller, Dimri Tel journedy to Iviernu territory of his own accord without political ties. His only purpose was curiosity: he had heard of Tsalja's coldness and ferocity, and wished to meet this legendary woman. In truth, he also wished to melt her heart of ice.
"Song, as they say, can tame wild beasts. I wondered: could it tame too the hearts of those that are wild? And who wilder and more ferocious than the Iviernu people! The lion and the whale are put to shame before them. None are as cold or fierce, it is said, as their queen Tsalja. Such beauty as few have known, and yet such fury and icy wrath. Can the Ice Queen's heart be thawed, as the ground thaws in the spring, and have love germinate, blossom, bloom? I must know."
- from the journal of Dimri Tel
Tsalja granted him an audience - one of only four individuals in her reign she gave such honor - after he was brought from the borderlands by her glacial rangers. He wore an odd smile, seeming to delight in the hoary and desolate Iviernu land, but delighting more in seeing the Ice Queen on her throne. With lyre in hand, he strummed out a beautiful and soulful melody as he had never given, putting his very heart and every bit of being into the music. It was then, it is said, that the ice in the queen's veins began to melt.
After their first meeting, Tel was granted quarter in the palace; after their second, he was made an advisor of the queen's court. As weeks went on, Tsalja became more and more enchanted with the foreign bard, and they soon became lovers.
Though the Iviernu court was strictly silent on the strange matter, not given to gossip or spectacle by nature, it did gradually leak out to the people that their queen had taken a lover.
Winter. The final frontier. For who truly knows, if spring will ever come.
This months quest revolves around the concept of winter, in all its hoary splendor. Cold, death, decay, and torpid hibernation. Snow, ice, and frost. These are the ubiquitous images of the long, bleak season.
We are looking for the finest examples of winter-themed submissions. The winners of this major quest, will become worthy recipients of frosty mugs and glasses, engraved with odes to victory, courtesy of Scrasamax! Good luck to all. Don your mittens!
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