Gather round and I'll tell the tale, and I'm sure you wont be disappointed...
The bard brushed a stray curl from his eyes and began to play a haunting tune. A friendly grin played on his lips as he began to speak...
When I was just a boy when I first heard of the Winterborne. Back then there were only five...and they weren't much different than you and I.
He stood from his chair by the fireside and began to move through the crowd of patrons.
There were only five, 'tis true. And their names were Amadius the Sneak, Gorbann, Elenora, Moradar Swiftsteel, and Sir Eleborn the Just. They were adventurers, you see. Traveling far to the North in search of lost kingdoms...
He paused, watching the crowd. They stirred in their seats, hopeful of a rowdy tale of good defeating evil. Only the bard knew this was not one of those tales...
They traveled far beyond where most men dare tread. Weeks after weeks they rode...traveling with a caravan of pilgrims searching for unspoiled lands. Through the hot months and the cool ones, hoping to find some shelter, as winter was winding close.
They did find what they though to be a good shelter...a cave in the depths of a deep ravine. It was large enough to hold not only the adventurers and the pilgrims, but their horses and livestock as well.
So they all gathered their meager supplies and set up camp in the cave. Their food had to be rationed, it promised to be a long wait.
He took a drink from a nearby table, using his other hand to play lightly on the open strings of his instrument. When he had drained the cup, he continued.
As the weather grew worse, the people in the cave grew more and more ill at ease. The opening, covered with a wagon and some of the cloth merchants wares, was shedding less and less light as the days continued. After but two weeks, no light could be seen save for the little that came through a hole in the ceiling.
Almost as if his words commanded it, the fire in the large fireplace settled and the flames dwindled, leaving the shadows in the inn to grow and dance even more than before.
The cold winter wind outside blew hard against the walls, blowing drifts of snow past the windows.
With no game to hunt, the store of food dwindled rapidly. The livestock made it bearable, but it was in short supply and promised a meager few meals.
Nevertheless, the adventurers did their best to persevere. The pilgrims, however, did not fare as well. Quarreling began, over food, drink, even simple things as who was to put wood on the fire. What began as a minor nuisance grew with every passing day.
The fighting became more dangerous daily, and one ended in the death of one of the pilgrims, the merchant. Keeping the peace here was out of the question now, and fighting was breaking out every few hours now. A second and third death, a couple set out to find good farmland, brought the fighting to a temporary end.
Sir Eleborn the Just, a knight of some renown, called together his companions to discuss their options. He was, after all, responsible for the wellbeing of these pilgrims.
After much deliberation and a harsh word or two, they came to the decision to leave the cave and try to press on. This seemed like the best option, given the lack of supplies and the state of the pilgrims.
In the morning, they began to remove the cover from the opening only to find snow had packed in tight behind it. It took nearly three days to dig them out.
It was the deepest part of winter now, the cold wind nearly freezing exposed flesh.
A strong wind rattled the windows in the inn, and startled more than one of the patrons. Even the bard now seemed uneasy. He did his best to steel himself. It was just a story, after all...
The story continues in a similar manner of many legends. The rest of the trip was wrought with peril. Hungry wolves, nomad attacks, and monsters are but a few variations. Murders, and even cannibalism, are also popular themes. Greed, envy, and lust are commonly the driving forces sited. Every bard has his own version, though no one knows which one is true. The ending however is always the same...
With none of the pilgrims left, and two of the adventurers mortally wounded, Sir Eleborn made a decision. Having disgraced themselves, the adventurers swore an oath that day. They swore to return to the mouth of the ravine and warn off anyone who should try to pass.
They set off, limping and bleeding, into the storm that had risen.
It took two days to make their way back to the mouth of the ravine. Starving and half frozen, they set themselves to watch the road. The storm had not let up, and the wounded were lying in the gathering snow...watching the slowly seeping blood freeze their wounds closed...
None of them survived the night, of that we are sure. Though in all truth, their bodies were never found. It is said that they roamed the cold nights, following winter storms and warning people of the danger of the cold.
There are more of them now, the Winterborne have been seen in almost every village and city across the land. They stalk the winter nights, always hungry. No one knows how they came into being, these new stalkers of the cold, white nights, but one thing is for sure...if you are out in the snow, alone at night, be sure to bring along plenty of food. It may just stave off the Winterborne, if but for a moment...
They appear to be men in every way, save their distinguishing features. Upon close inspection they are quite pale. Their long, emaciated fingers end in yellowed talon shaped nails. Looking into their eyes is like staring into a fire, and their breath smells of sulfur and burnt wood. Their hair, those who still have any, is usually patchy at best, in long and greasy clumps. When they smile, their teeth are revealed to be rotting in a pattern, very shark-like in appearance.
These men are not evil. They have no ill will towards anyone except themselves. They are cursed for the mistakes they have made, and now wander the snowy wastes trying, in their own maniacal way, to save anyone from the same fate.
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!
Not Registered Yet? No problem.
Do you want Strolenati super powers? Registering. That's how you get super powers! These are just a couple powers you receive with more to come as you participate.
- Upvote and give XP to encourage useful comments.
- Work on submissions in private or flag them for assistance.
- Earn XP and gain levels that give you more site abilities (super powers).
- You should register. All your friends are doing it!