The winter frost creeps in, and the mountains cease to stir. Castle Dragonsbane follows suit as the workers and citizens huddle indoors for warmth and ale.
This year the snows came early, and without warning, making the pass to the south insurmountable by normal means. In fact, all roads are now closed after just the first two storms that raged back to back. But that was only the beginning…
The older folk in the town began speaking of an ancient evil in hushed tones, insisting that this winter was full of death like no other. These tales of dread were commonly scoffed at and ignored with a shiver and snuggle into the warmth of one’s coat—until ill-fated word reached the Citadel on a gray frigid morning.
The messenger was rushed into the throne room quickly by two concerned guards and a healer, working magic on the boy as he hurried in to soothe the frost bite and blackened skin covering his frail body. The guards helped him to the foot of the throne, where he dropped to his knee before Queen Dragonsbane. “What is your name? Speak to me of your news,” she commanded her subject.
He looked weakly up to her, with cold, surrendering eyes. “They’re dead. All of them,” he said without emotion.
This perturbed her highness, as food rations in the kingdom were low and she had hoped his news would be that of healthy herds, merely stuck in the drifts. “Not even a single cow or lamb?” she responded with doubt and impatience.
“My lady… " he paused. “I speak not of the animals, though they have fallen from the freeze to the very last. It’s your people, your highness.” He looked her straight in the eyes with horror reflecting from his memory. “Frozen… all of them. Three villages I rode through. They couldn’t survive this cold!” He became more frantic, with a lost look in his eyes. “It’s not natural, my Lady! You’ve never known cold and ice like this, not in your life! NOT EVER!” At this the guards subdued him and swept from the chambers, leaving the young Queen staring forward in a mild shock.
Alaric strode in past the exiting guards, annoyed at the commotion. Walking to Aeryn, he announced, “There’s another storm coming. Rhaine would like to bring in the animals again, if you’ll allow it.” After a pause, “Aeryn? Are you listening to me?”
Aeryn’s gaze had crossed the room to the magnificent windows that lined the throne room high above the floor. Snowflakes had begun to fall.