I don’t know about the rest of you, but I often find muses from the natural world, especially weather. As proof of this, almost all of my world builds include extremely soggy weather. Just a little bit of Seattle seeping through, but I digress.
A lot of us are still feeling the cold away from our beloved gaming tables, and as such, we were inspired by the oppressive cold outside and created a few prompts based on the theme of “Winter.” Of cold, freezing climes that are as deadly an encounter as the monsters that hide away in them.
We hope they don’t leave you out in the cold.
by C.T. Kinkaid
An embittered chill crawled under the door and scurried across the warping wooden floor. It searched, frantically, desperately, for purchase. A bare foot. A lazing dog. A cooling hearth. Anything porous. Anywhere safe. There — just above the slipper, below the tattered cuff — a hint of ankle. The gust rushed for the leg. Cold prickled the hermit’s flesh as it climbed, higher and higher, to the small of his back. The chill burrowed into the old man’s bowing spine. Tight spasms wracked the recluse’s arthritic bones. Stoking the coals of his fireplace offered no relief. Flame had no effect on fear.
The High Pointe Saint woke at the solstice. With a striped cane, he hooked the sun and hefted merry old Sol from its resting place. The Saint became a symbol of light, of hope against darkness. His every step made the world brighter. For a time, duty was enough. As the crowd grew to greet him, so did the chorus of praise. Oh, how they loved him.
But words were not enough. The High Pointe Saint controlled the sun itself. He extended the days. He brought the thaw. He needed more. Deserved more. And the people were willing to give. New boots on door steps. Trays of sweet treats. Flagons of the strongest ale. Six stuffed geese, freshly roasted. Golden rings. A fleet of sled dogs. Every year, his demands increased. Every year, the people obliged.
Until the year of sacrifice came. They thought he wanted children. (They always think it’s children.) The High Pointe Saint, however, cared little for age. He wanted extremes: the purest and the vilest, the virginal and the debauched. A crowd did not greet him. There were no songs in the air, no confections or baked birds on the tables, no gifts at all. Only the silence of night that would not know dawn.
Holding back the sun would have been enough. This, though, was a matter of pride. The High Pointe Saint leveled a curse. A fever spread with the wind. The chorus was beset by coughs. Fatigue brought the people low, both in body and in spirit. Until they broke. Until the sacrifice was made. Until The Saint was satisfied.
Every year, he returns to cast away darkness, to usher out winter. Every year, his demands grow more elaborate, more severe. Who will defy The High Pointe Saint?
The Dogs Knew
by Mike Ellis
It started first with the dogs. They could smell them out there, just beyond the pines. Gnashing teeth and hollering at specters in the death-cold dervish winds. We should have listened. Gave us a few days notice, but we were too busy with the dig to do so. And when a hush finally fell over them, it was too late. The silence didn’t last long, savaged by bone-deep chilling howls. A whole chorus of them. First one, then three, then seven. From all sides of us. Not a warning, a promise.
They struck the tent of our guide first, ripping through, and dragging him out into the snow. His screams died with the wet, sticky sound of flesh leaving bone. The devils were clever. They had watched us, and knew we weren’t in our element. And now we had no guide.
Then they destroyed the supply shed we had built. Shovels, pick axes, torches, even some weapons and winter gear, all battered, busted and scattered beneath snow drift.
By the time we all managed ourselves out of winter sleeping gear and into our armor and weapons, the camp had already suffered. Clumps of bright red carrion stained the snow where those unable to defend themselves had once been. Then they turned their attention to us, a group of wayward adventurers, now alone and adrift in a frozen wasteland, and the creatures’ home.
Even after we learned their fear of fire, and depleted our spells trying in vain to get whatever we could to catch, it didn’t matter much. Some of the beasts retreated just beyond the tree line, so that all we could see were those devilish eyes gleaming hungrily in the dark. Sent a chill down some of our spines, paralyzed with fear. And that’s when others struck, hidden in the onslaught of snow. Massive, gnarled claws quickly tattered our frozen, brittle armor, catching flesh beneath; blood gurgling pink life force all across the snow.
If we somehow outlasted the wretched beasts, we’d soon after face the elements, and that might be worse. Fighting we understood. Survival was a whole other matter.
#001: Feast | #002: Winter