Castle of wind and sky
Little Bat stared at the tall dark-skinned man. He was dressed in fine silk, the bleached white robes pulled tight to his body. He was crouched down sheltering behind the low wall struggling for air, the wind screaming at him as it tried to steal the breath from his lips.
Strangers can harm you.
There were a lot of new people visiting the vale now. They had started arriving as summer faded, as soon as the castle was complete. Little Bat liked the castle. It reminded her of the picture in Little Rhino's book, the one with the giants and the castle in the clouds. The strangers had brought the clouds with them.
Never approach a stranger.
The strangers mostly stayed in the castle. It was calm when they were indoors - the wind would rest waiting for its prey to emerge - it only blew when they dared to set foot outside the castle. It didn't bother anyone from the vale - it was only the strangers that it hated. As soon as the clouds could see them they would call to the wind and it would run to attack them.
Never talk to a stranger.
The stranger was struggling to make head way, fighting against the wind with every step, desperate to reach the safety of the castle. He leaned hard in to the wind, fighting to keep his balance, but as he moved to take a step the capricious gale switched directions and sent him sprawling in the wet snow. The scrolls he had been clutching were torn from his grasp, but fortunately they dropped to the ground only a pace away despite the raging wind.
Never trust a stranger.
The man clutched his robes around his cold body, moaning as he reached for the nearest scroll. Just as his fingers made contact, the wind screamed again, tearing the paper from his grasp, hurling it into the air. It landed barely a pace further away, but the torment was too much for the stranger and his arm dropped to touch the cold snow cursing. The wind paused, watching, waiting, ready for the mouse to move again.
Never help a stranger.
Little Bat skipped forward enjoying the pattern her shoes made in the snow. She scooped up both the scrolls and standing near enough to help and far enough to be safe she handed them to the stranger. He looked at her, astonishment plain on his face - perhaps it was because she was helping him, perhaps it was because his tormentor had ceased to bellow. Little Bat dropped the scrolls into his hand. "Safe journey" she said, the same way her mother had said it to that odd stranger who had come visiting the vale last Winter.
Never mistreat a stranger.
She kept a fixed smile on her face just as she had been taught and carefully backed away from the stranger. Once she was a safe distance from him, she turned and ran for home. The wind picked up behind her as she ran.
The Icy Crag of the Eternal Sun, the grand imposing fortress of learning constructed on the edge of the vale of Volchitrava is labouring under a powerful curse. It seems the occupants have invoked the wroth a powerful enemy - and the Mistress of Blizzards has taken a care to remind the magicians of the Empire from whence comes her name. Ever since the solstice, the peaks of the castle have laboured under the weight of heavy white clouds thick with snow and ice that falls on anyone foolish enough to step forth.
Such a thing might be bourne, but the true terror is the wind. The Immovable One has sent her most vindictive child to berate her enemies. Gales strong enough to knock a citizen from their feet appear from nowhere and then vanish just as quickly. Inside the castle, the magicians are safe, some power in the stone protects them, but the wind whips around the fortress walls, screaming abuse at those within and daring them to come forth. It attacks any foolish enough to meet the challenge.
As if to stress that this is no ordinary wind, it picks its targets with care. The inhabitants of the vale are almost completely unaffected. Young and old walk through the storms without a care - untouched and untroubled by the raging gale. Even the simplest things are rendered strange by this chaotic weather. Washing hung out on a line is dry within an hour - even when the snow is falling. Nothing is as it seems.
One thing is abundantly clear - Cathan Canae is furious.
Despite the best efforts of Cathan Canae, the fortress still stands and remains open for magicians to come and study. Great magics are attempted within the walls and the business of creating new rituals continues apace.
The problem is getting magicians to travel to and from the Icy Crag. Every time anyone steps forth they are attacked by the elements. The naked hostility of the Lady of Frost is causing a great many magicians to question the sanity of defying her. Even the strongest fret about the risks, they may be able to endure the curse, but what if her temper should grow worse. Who knows what she might do next? Once the situation becomes clear, the Empire begins to experience great difficulty motivating anyone to make the journey north and take the risk.
Sadly in the end the question of motivation is resolved the same way it is always it - with money. The Crag is able to operate fully - but only by offering wages far in excess of what was planned. As a result of the curse, the day-to-day upkeep of the college ends up costing the Empire twice what it had expected. This dire situation looks set to continue for as long as the curse lasts.
Dealing with the Curse
It seems certain that Cathan Canae has placed a curse upon the Icy Crag. It is possible the curse could be broken - it is possible it may simply end - the temper of the eternals of the Summer Realm is notoriously fickle. It is at least unlikely to grow worse if past behaviour is anything to judge by - unless someone does something to anger the eternal further of course.
According to rumour what has infuriated Cathan Canae is the fact that the banner of Meraud hangs in the Crag's halls. In theory the college could reject Meraud and invite Cathan Canae to resume the patronage she was promised. But wise heads point out that if that Meraud is also a Summer eternal. He doesn't have much affinity for storms - but he does like to drop comets on things. Any attempt to solve this problem diplomatically is going to need be handled exceptional carefully to avoid making the situation worse.
The simple alternative might be brute force. If the Imperial Conclave were to declare enmity to Cathan Canae - it would prevent her wielding her power openly in the Empire - and that would definitely break the curse. Of course it is almost certain to anger Cathan Canae even further - but at least her anger could not then be directed against the Empire - well not directly at least.