Coldsnap, Ruin of Frostkeel
Rob Lyon & D.Garry Stupack
With the advent of the new Dragon Collectors Set, and the release of the dragon stats imminent, we thought we'd release some fiction to paint a very brief character portrait of the type of creatures these unique dragons are. Coldsnap, our wonderful white dragon, is first. She's a little more clever than most, and has some unexpected talents, but we don't think you'll mind.
Ghosts at Frostkeel
The cloying ice-fog that shrouded the little trading post at Frostkeel was probably the least of the little garrison’s worries. Although Frostkeel was often icebound for nearly 5 months a year, it was entirely unnatural for winter to come as early as it had this particular year. Two of the fartraders had been caught fast when the bay froze overnight, and unless the cold relented, the crews were going to have to winter on the remote northern island.
The grizzled steward of the post, Helmut Olgerson, was a Dwarf with more than a century behind him, and more than a third in the frostfell climes. Olgerson put out story after story of past early freezes between drifting smoke rings, trying to calm the fears of those within earshot with his calm, gravel-scratched tenor. Yet none present believed that the worst of his stories were real, while all knew deep down in their guts that the stories that seemed true did not -simply could not- compare with the current season’s blight. By all rights, it should have been the end of summer. There should still be more than a month before the harvest would mark the end the brief growing season so critical to survival in the far north. Instead, the lands were shrouded in white; the crops frozen in the fields and the boats locked in the bay. The gathering of thirty six rangers, miners, traders and sailors should have been sitting in fear of starvation during the coming months. But that was not the case, or at least not quite the case. The men were certainly frightened, however, the shroud of fear that hung over these men was more visceral, somehow more primal, than the fear of coming famine. Something sinister was at work.
There was certainly evidence of that. The first day after the bay froze and the first snows came, an entire mining party of well-armed and armored dwarves had been found frozen stiff along the mining trail. Found by two rangers just before nightfall, there was still enough light to show their faces locked quite literally in frozen horror of whatever had dispatched them. But the wind rose up and howled that night, forcing the rangers to retreat. They returned with help by the early morning's light to reclaim the bodies, but in the interval many of the dwarves were already missing. The area had been disturbed,and the snow blown around, that much was evident. Waht was missing was some kind of evidence of tracks. It was as if their bodies were simply lost to the night, the victims of a flesh eating spirit that whorled in and devoured them whole.
The cold had been relentless since then, varying only in its form. Some days began cold, crystalline, and still, only to change within minutes as the winds came up howling, bringing clouds and more snow. Others began howling, but slowed to a steady blow of new snow mixed with ice crystals swept up off the shifting drifts. More of the garrison had gone missing since, and once sensible and hardy folk now turned superstitious, speaking of curses and fearing to walk between the few buildings alone, even to relieve themselves. All stayed inside, where it smelled of sweat and urine, fear and desperation.
No help was coming. None of the dog teams had gotten through. The single mage that dwelt with them had seen that in his scrying, though he knew little more. Most of the others eyed him warily for his lack of information. Some even suspected him of being at fault, a 'Manitou a-midst.' After all, hadn’t this all started just days after he arrived? All he could, or would, describe was a sudden white out, then a sound he called ‘Hell’s own bellows,’ and sudden great swirls of blasting, blinding snow. And the cold -cold so bitter he could feel it by clairvoyance. Then the screams. Screams rising so shrill they momentarily pierced the roar of the maelstrom.
When the snow blinded visions cleared, the victims were all frozen solid. Most were completely intact, though sometimes an arm or leg was missing, ripped away at the torso. There was no blood in the snow. The lack of blood spilled suggested that the victim had already succumbed to some elemental demon of cold, before losing the limb. Whatever the demon was, it ate people one piece at a time. Something wanted them here, and it seemed there was little they could do to change it. The typical fallback was prayer.
Coldsnap hauled off the rigid bodies of the miners one by one. She was not a huge wyrm, so it was not an easy task for her. Frozen stiff, each corpse was somewhat unwieldy in the air, particularly with the storm winds blowing. She had to adjust her flight constantly each time she carried one of them to her new lair where the end of the long, timber-clad valley. There, where the forest met a towering, ice blue glacier, a growing pile of frozen frontiersmen was stacked like cordwood. Resting briefly outside her dark, crystalline cave, she considered the pile. Given the number of people she had harvested, she probably had enough to last through the lean days of winter. Clearly, she might have to move them inside to keep them away from the wolves that sang to her each night. Of course, she wasn’t anywhere near finished with Frostkeel yet. No, those poor folk were pinned in that outpost with meager supplies. She imagined, from the size of the boats frozen in the bay, that there must still be too many of them for the food she guessed they had stored. She would have to cull down the numbers further, or risk them beginning to waste away. Worse yet, what if they began to eat one another? That could deprive her of the overstocked larder she had planned, and she would certainly prefer to have the option of not eating the dwarves.
However, it was getting more and more difficult to get any of them to leave the outpost. If she didn't come up with a good idea soon, she just might have to pay them a direct visit.