Story by The Nimrodellian Tale-Spinner
The cold air swirled and danced around the inside of the cavern, tracing centuries old pathways through the pillars of ice and snow that had been there for centuries. At first the movements are formless and natural and at other times something akin to a human face, or a wolf’s jaws will briefly appear before disappearing into eddies and whirlpools of frozen water and air.
No natural force of nature, the frost grim roamed the white halls and icy passages, looking for any sign of heat and warmth to feed on and drain. It passed its way near a strange sight, though not so strange for the grim. But to anyone else,it would look bizarre and out of place. A woman, skin pale with a slight tinge of blue, sat on a throne carved into the ice and rock of the cavern itself.
She sat there, not moving, staring out towards the caves entrance, a frozen statue, cold and dispassionate. The grim knew that there was no warmth there. The woman lacked heat, lacked the fire of living things that the grim craved so much.
But she didn’t lack life….
Occasionally a hint of movement, an eye slowly scanning the horizon outside the cave, the slight exhale of breath, imperceptibly slow movements of fingers or lips, would betray that the woman was still alive. She might have once been beautiful, but her surroundings had slowly stripped all beauty from her form.
Long dark hair once full, now lay straggled and unkempt across her shoulders and back. Her eyes, once a deep crystaline blue, were now pale, hard and unforgiving. Her body, surely in her younger years, the envy of every eager bachelor, was now gaunt and bony. Hers was a shadow of a life left long ago for the hardness of the crags, hidden under dark blue robes.
No, that was never a life of hers she mused, the warmth of the sun, the green of the grass or the comfort of the home fire burning at night.It was only a prelude, this was her home now.
She had made her abode in the crags of the Misty Mountains for years, the slow numbing forgetfulness of the frost erasing the exact count. Driven from the lands in the south where she had been born, she had found her way into the perilous cliffs of the mountains, embracing the solitude and the cold that mirrored her innermost nature.
She had also found power, the dwarven fortress of Helegrod held many secrets for those brave and wise enough to seek them, and many things darker still for the taking. Dwarf runes of power were etched in many places on the walls of her cave, some glowing with a dull light, others emanating waves of dread and fear in a pulsing rhythmic beat.
The frost grims, her only companions in this unforgiving land, swirled in and out amongst the pillars and objects of evil portent, waiting for a command from their mistress. No command came. The woman continued to stare hard out into the distance, her eyes catching some movement far off into the storm that raged unabated outside her abode.
Had it always been like this? Every once in a while she caught glimpses of memory, or if she thought hard, she could discry that far away life as if through a pane of murky glass. A lonely childhood, a young woman, beautiful but distant and haughty, and the cries of impenetrable sorrow echoed and lingered in her head.
She had a name also, Briana DelaCour, daughter of a rich city merchant in that former land of green and gold. The young children of the town had another name for her though, at first sung and spoken in furtive whispers, and then louder as taunts and jeers of scorn. Briana Frost or the Winter Witch, and the name of DelaCour was forgotten forever more.
Forgotten by all but the woman herself, who had little to no use for it anymore. They would all pay though, Briana saw to that. They paid with the tears of mothers and fathers, holding young ones once coursing with life, but now cold as stone. Brianna would then remember torches and pitchforks, a burning tower and a flight north into exile and then she would shut the memories out, bury them under sheets of numbing ice, hoping to never see them again.
As Briana Frost stared out into the snow storm, the movement she had thought she spied earlier, showed itself again except closer. She could make out what appeared to be a man, well armed and armoured, holding a large multi-spiked shield in front of him to ward off the biting wind and snow. He moved slowly up the face of the mountainside, up pathways that snaked their way to old Helegrod. Desire flared up in Briana. Desire for the warmth inside that distant body, an uncontrollable need to drain it and feast on it, to use it to extend her own pale existance for just a little while longer.
Uncounted years amongst the grims had tranformed the sorceress into a living breathing version of the shades, desiring the warmth of living beings. Her only wish, to drain them of every last ember of heat and life, leaving just a frozen husk, a cold casket in the snow. Briana was not a grim though, but the last vestiges of a human being who needed the warmth and fire of the living spirit to survive the harsh prison she had made for herself, and she was hungry.
She had survived on the occassional creature or Corcur who foolishly came into her cave for succor from the storm. At other times her grims would travel out into the cliffs and bring her back some unfortunate adventurer, seeking for the lost treasures of Helegrod, the dwarf fortress perched at the top of the mountainside. Briana would then, with the use of the dark dwarven runes and her own powers, drain the prey of life, siphoning the heat into herself and sustaining the witch until the next victim could be found.
The man, appeared to be the latter and Brianna closed her eyes and slowly mumbled something that was caught on the breeze and carried to the frost grims that currently occupied her home. The grims quickly sped from the cave and towards the stranger and Briana opened her eyes, her pale blue orbs watching the scene with intense interest and longing.
The grims attacked and the man was now struggling against storm and hail, loose footing, and the creatures of ice that slashed and bit at him with ruthless hunger and tenacity. He fought long and hard, swinging his shield and sword with exceptional skill and efficiency but finally he fell to the combination of tempest and ice spirit, his body lay defeated in the snow.
Briana moved slowly, it had been a long time since her last meal and the wait made her movements torpid and delibrate. Finally with the help of her minions, she dragged the body into her cave. Brianna looked down at the man, appraisingly. His armour was intricately wrought and finely crafted. His shield, which in the storm looked plain, up close showed an emblem of a lone mountain emblazoned in the center, and beneath his helmet a long flowing mustache of brown with eyes of piercing black.
As Brianna studied the man, a strange and vile thought occured to her. She had been so lonely for so long and the man was certaintly good-looking in his way. For the first time in ages a flame appeared in the long dead, pale eyes of the witch. She would not just drain this one, this one she would use for another purpose. The man stirred, long bony fingers reached down towards his forehead as the storm outside lashed and sang out its furious dirge to the world.