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The dog snarled, his jaws pulling back to reveal a mouthful of canines that would terrify most folk. He was big for his breed, and full grown now, he must be at least a hundred fifty pounds of muscle and sinew. All coming together in a pair of jaws strong enough to rip your face clean off your skull. Good job he was Thilda's best friend then.

She'd bought him from a shop in Holberg that trained dogs. Apparently he'd been a stray or something, or so the shopkeeper claimed. They probably gave the same story to every Wintermark hunter who turned up looking for a wolf-hound. These city types were all the same - he probably had a litter of them out of the back.

Or maybe not. She like to imagine there wasn't another hound in the whole Empire like Wolf's Bane. She didn't know if dogs did Virtue, but she knew what commanded her heart's devotion above all else. Her dog would fight off Voice of the Pines himself to save Maethilda Fulesdottir and dammit if she didn't feel the same.

"Focus on the job" Thilda she urged herself. This was serious. If she didn't play her part they'd both end up dead and being puked up into the guts of this bastard creature's offspring. Bane was doing his bit, it was time to do hers.

The monster screamed in rage at them, as they circled around it. The beast was big, that was for sure, six, maybe seven feet tall, its sleek black feathers looked oily in the cold winter light, its beady malevolent red eyes filled with fury as it glared at them. Its terrible beak kept opening and snapping closed, giving off a thunderous crack that served as a chilling warning of how easily it might shatter bones if given half a chance.

Bane was snarling and snapping, crouched ready to pounce at any moment; but he knew better than to get too close. Keep the monster on its toes, keep it agitated, it would grow weary and then it would make a mistake. The monster kept rising up into the air, hopping madly towards her or Bane, wings flapping wildly before it crashed back to the ground. It was tiring now though, she could tell, the moment to strike was at hand.

She gripped her spear and readied for the thrust. Maybe this monster was one of Whisperers, maybe it was one sent by the King of Wroth. Either way the bastard thing was going back where it came from this night...

Watching My Mistakes.jpg
"No hero should ever say they will triumph at any cost lest you dare fate to take you at your word."
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Wintermark is whole once more. The Jotun are gone and the territory of Sermersuaq is firmly under Imperial control. The castles the western orcs built to stamp their dominion over the tundra and ice floes now stand as silent sentinels, guarding the West against their return.

The triumph of victory soon gives way to a more tempered celebration. The Jotun are gone, but their brief rule has left a scar in the heart of the people that will not quickly fade. Some of those who took the Choice, and bowed the knee to the Jotun now struggle to stand as heroes in the eyes of their fellow Winterfolk. Others took to the snows to fight the invaders at any cost. But there is an old quote the mystics say, usually ascribed to fabled Tekupala though there's no evidence they ever said it. "No hero should ever say they will triumph at any cost lest you dare fate to take you at your word." Fate may not have heard the Wintermarkers vow, but someone was listening...

A Question of Skeins

The stormcrows of Wintermark recognise that for Winterfolk, accepting the "choice" to become a Jotun thrall is not heroic. Those who become thralls are torn from our egregore and subsequently Frayed. We urge those fighting the thralls to spare their lives, so that they may come home.

Usko Argonning, Wintermark Assembly, Spring 383YE, Upheld (206 - 22 Greater Majority).

The priests of Wintermark encourage ex-thralls of the Jotun to return to the nation and re-affirm their bond with Sulkavaris. We assure them that Wintermark has not forgotten them and that for those who feel that their skein has frayed, there will be a stormcrow waiting to guide them back to the way of Virtue and heroism.

Ursa, Wintermark Assembly, Autumn 383YE, Upheld (201 - 0 Greater Majority).

A previous statement of principle (383YE Spring Equinox), regarding the skeins of citizens in Sermersuaq who became thralls misrepresented our traditions. Becoming frayed is not like a curse you can put on someone. It is a personal matter you should be guided to decide for yourself, in consultation with crows, mystics, and other Wintermark traditions. The stormcrows are there to guide the skeins of Wintermarkers, not dictate them.

Ilhelm Avercall, Wintermark Assembly, Winter 383YE, Upheld (228 - 13 Greater Majority).

We the national assembly recognise the series of tragedies that have befallen Sermersuaq. War, destruction, meddling eternals, questions of their virtues, and the challenging of their skeins. In loyalty to our fellows we call upon the scops, mystics, and stormcrows of the Mark to help them reweave their skeins with the nation. The Suaq are one of the three people.

Maarit Suvidottir, Wintermark Assembly, Autumn 384YE, Upheld (386- 0 Greater Majority).

When the Jotun armies conquered Sermersuaq, many Wintermarkers took the choice. While there are more Suaq living in Sermersuaq than the other territories, there are plenty of Steinr and Kallavesa dwelling in most halls here. Members of all the traditions accepted life as a thrall.

Not all by far. Some fought to the bitter end in countless dramatic final stands that all ended the same way. They earned the respect of the Jotun, who then cut them down and buried them in one of the thousands of cairns that now dot the landscape.

Those who escaped to Kallavesa and Hahnmark were the lucky ones. Able to start a new life, or else join those heroes fighting to retake their homeland. Those who fled into the wilderness, hiding out on ice floes, were less fortunate. Many survived by paying a different price.

But most chose to live. They chose a life of toil and servitude to the Jotun over certain death at the hands of their conquerors. A statement by Usko Argonning clearly condemning those who accepted the choice, denouncing them as Frayed and outcasts was backed by the greater majority of the Wintermark Assembly. But then Usko appeared to change their mind, withdrawing a follow-up mandate that would have urged every Wintermarker who took the choice to consider the damage to their skein. Instead, the Assembly chose to pass a different statement in Autumn 383YE, extending the hand of forgiveness to those who took the choice and making clear that Wintermark stood ready to welcome them back.

Finally Maarit Suvidottir's judgement was upheld with a resounding greater majority. It recognised the multiple tragedies that have befallen Sermersuaq and called on scops, mystics and stormcrows to help the people reweave their skeins.

Maarit's judgement seems to settle the matter in the minds of many. Wintermarkers welcome a good death, but where the Jotun throw their lives away, because they believe any death in battle is their only chance to cross the Abyss, a Wintermarker knows that heroism is about striving to succeed in the face of adversity, not embracing a doomed gesture. A good death is one that happens in pursuit of heroic goals - that might be a battle that offered a chance of victory, but it's not embracing certain death because you don't have the courage to bend the knee until the time comes when victory is a real possibility.

Of course there are many who feel shame for their actions. There will be work for the crows in Sermersuaq for years to come, helping the Frayed come to terms with what they have done. But as Ilhelm Avercall promised, the crows will be "there to guide the skeins of Wintermarkers, not dictate them".

Voice of the Pines

However, not all can be reconciled so readily. Some Wintermarkers - of every tradition it should be noted - chose to fight the Jotun with whatever weapons they could find. Sermersuaq is one of the largest territories in the Empire, and perhaps half of it is a vast desolate tundra broken up by ice-covered mountains and impassable snow-drifts. It is easy to flee into the wastes, easy to hide there. What is hard is surviving.

Most who took to the wastes were hoping to fight a guerrilla war - what they found instead was starvation. And without the impenetrable shield of the Conclave to protect them, something more. The Voice of the Pines. The Wastewalker, the Whisperer. According to the scops he takes his name from the fact that you will first hear him if you listen to the howling of the wind when the storm is at its highest. Or, call him by the name the Suaq know him by. Blood-on-the-Snow.

Scores of Wintermarkers made pacts with the Whisperer. Some acted from raw desperation, the only way to fend off starvation was to eat that which is forbidden. Some acted from fury, the only way to strike back at the Jotun was to accept the weapons the Dream of Famine offered. The Wintermark Assembly condemned them for it - and that stemmed the tide, ensuring that countless more stopped up their ears and refused to listen to the Cold North Wind.

But it can't be denied that many of those who fought hardest against the Jotun did so with the active encouragement and support of the Voice of the Pines. The facts are incontrovertible - the question is what to do about it.

""Say my name, and everything just stops."


  • There are several steps the Empire could take to deal with the threat of dangerous cults growing in northern Wintermark
  • None of these options are exclusive, and are only available during the Winter Solstice

Wintermark and the Empire could choose to ignore the problem. The Jotun conquest of Sermersuaq was arduous for everyone and people made difficult choices. Some of the people who resisted the hardest did so by employing methods outside Imperial law, outside Imperial conscience. But the Jotun are gone, and all of that is now history. Maybe it is best to let sleeping dogs lie?

That would be the easiest option certainly, but it might not be the wisest. Blood-on-the-Snow for one, is unlikely to leave the matter there. How many cults has the Dream of Famine established in the frozen tundra? And worse... if the Empire turns a blind eye to the actions of those who accepted the aid of the Abominable One, then you can be certain that it will be quick to point that out next time an opportunity like this presents itself again. Many of those who refused to succumb to the Horned Manticore's blandishments no matter how bad things got did so because they knew they would face a worse punishment in due course. What happens if that is no longer true?

The alternative then is to act; to investigate every Wintermarker who resisted the Jotun and discover who wielded the weapons Heartcrack offered. That won't be easy or cheap, but there are a number of different ways the Empire might attempt it, none of which are exclusive.

Send in the Magistrates

The Imperial Senate could pass a motion authorising the magistrates to arrest, examine and interrogate every hero of the resistance they can find. Normally, powers of search and arrest are only used where there are reasonable grounds to suspect an individual of committing a crime but here they would be applied in a sweeping fashion. Anyone who is found to have to have accepted the aid of Blood-on-the-Snow will be tried and most likely executed.

Such actions are not without costs. The Everhowl and their agents are careful to hide from prying eyes so any attempt by the militia to identify them would need to be intrusive if it was to be effective. The civil service estimate that the overall impact would be a loss of two ranks from every military unit based in Sermersuaq for the next two seasons, while the investigation was carried out.

The magistrates will never find every Wintermarker who owes a favour to the Whisperer, but they could identify the worst offenders and execute them. Such an action would ensure that there was no possibility of any dedicated cult forming in Sermersuaq in the years ahead. The fact that it would please Blood-on-the-Snow enormously (there is nothing the treacherous eternal apparently loves more than to see his own followers cut down by the Empire) would be a price that would just have to be borne.

Ring the Silent Bell

The Imperial Synod could choose to get involved if they wish. The Silent Bell exists to investigate internal threats to the Empire in pursuit of Vigilance. The Assembly of the Nine could instruct them to head to the far north and seek out those who listened to the Cold North Wind.

Such an approach would have advantages of subtlety, there would be no disruption to the military units based in Sermersuaq that the magistrates might cause. The Silent Bell would provide a report to the Cardinal who raised the judgement, detailing the evidence they had uncovered of any wrong-doing. It would be down to the Cardinal to do with that information as they saw best. Provided everyone can accept that outcome, this might be the least intrusive way to root out the Howler's allies.

Shutter the Lantern

The Imperial Conclave could take a different approach. A Declaration of Concord from anyone empowered to raise one could be used to ask the members of the Order of the Shuttered Lantern to investigate the agents of the Howler in Sermersuaq.

The manifesto of the Shuttered Lantern states that "Acquiring the knowledge and secrets of the Empire's enemies strengthens us." Blood-on-the-Snow will have offered boons of various kinds to those who were prepared to accept them. Not just rituals, but boons, curses, magical items or strange relics birthed in the bloodiest depths of the Winter Realm. There is power in such things - that is a truth that nobody should deny - people don't throw in their lot with Blood-on-the-Snow due to his charming disposition.

Such an action would provide the Grandmaster of the Shuttered Lantern with more information on the Voice of the Pines and the boons he offers. There might be ways to wrest such power from the Howler's grasp and use it to benefit the Empire. The only risk would be that any such option might just be another of the Howler's games.

Murder the Crows

The Wintermark Assembly could use a mandate to urge the stormcrows and the other Wintermark priests to head to Sermersuaq and to seek out those whose decisions have twisted their skein.

We urge the faithful of Wintermark to seek out the poison in your neighbour’s fields. We send {named priest} with 50 doses of liao to remind everyone that cold cannot compromise. Those who have made dark bargains must be rooted out

Synod Mandate, Wintermark Assembly

If this mandate is endorsed, then Wintermark priests in Sermersuaq will work to try and identify who has accepted Blood-on-the-Snow's aid. They can work with the Imperial law; there is a well-respected softly-spoken Kallavesi magistrate based in Sealtoq called Heorl Thunderspeaker who could conduct any trials that were needed.

Such an approach would be insufficient to root out every ally of Meat Tearer in the area, the assembly lacks the skills or the powers to carry out a more thorough or invasive search. It would not ensure that no cult of Blood-on-the-Snow formed in the territory. But it would catch the most well-known as well as those prepared to confess their crimes to a priest. That would be enough to stop Blood-on-the-Snow claiming that the Empire turns a blind eye to those who side with him when times are hard - the eternal wouldn't be able to use the example of Sermersuaq to make their case the next time they have a chance to tempt the downfallen.

Time and Tests

To reiterate, these four opportunities are not mutually exclusive and any or all of them could be brought to bear in Sermersuaq. In the event more than one of them are implemented, however, they may potentially be unexpected consequences that mean the outcomes differ from what the civil service expects.

Timing, however, is paramount. These four options are only available during the Winter Solstice. After that the situation will have changed, and the outcomes listed here would no longer be guaranteed.

A Beacon in the North

  • Monsters are loose in Sermersuaq; some from the Winter realm and some from the Summer realm
  • The Hall of the Hunters would provide a base from which to hunt the beasts and prevent them becoming a larger threat
  • In addition to functioning as a sinecure, the Hall would create a new paid work option for Wintermark and Dawnish military units

The mortal allies of the Whisperer are not his only legacy in Sermersuaq. The enmity of the Imperial Conclave is enough to keep the Dream of Famine and his heralds locked out of the Empire - they cannot slip from a regio into the mortal world anywhere the Empire's dominion holds. They can walk over the borders, but that is a long and uncertain journey that few of Blood-on-the-Snow's heralds seem to have the patience for.

Unfortunately the Conclave's power in Sermersuaq faltered when the Empire's rule there ended. To keep the Howler at bay, the Jotun erected blood-red stone markers around the main settlements, carved with runes and decorated with weltsilver and ambergelt. Either they don't work at all, or there weren't enough of them, but whatever the case, they weren't enough to stop the Howler releasing all manner of beasts and monsters into the wilds of Sermersuaq. A few of these creatures were twisted heralds of Wastewalker. Most are simply monsters, released by Agramant from the Winter realm, these horrifying beasts with snarling jaws and bloody teeth pose a terrifying danger even without the Howler's hand to guide them.

At present these threats are simply lurking in the wilds. Some force, some pact is making them stay their hand. The monsters terrify those that stumble across them, but at the last minute they pull back from bloody slaughter. The heralds aslo seem to be avoiding contact with Wintermarkers seeming content to lurk quietly in the dark places until their master calls for them again. They're there - nobody is in any doubt about that. But they're not doing anything... yet. It seems most unlikely that Wastewalker will be content to let his offspring to wander the wilds of Sermersuaq forever however - so the sooner something is done to remove them the better.

And sadly, these horrors are not alone. Hayaak, the Griffon-King, unleashed his vengeance on the Thule warlocks gathered at Tanikipari in Autumn 384YE. The Empire tried to prevent the massacre, but they were too late to stop an army of Hayaak's followers from descending on the warlocks and ripping them limb from limb. Bad news for the Thule maybe... but not just for them. After the Thule were dealt with, Hayaak's monsters did not return to the Summer realm. Instead they scattered across the land. And unlike Agramant's twisted offspring, the instruments of Hayaak's bloody vengeance seem only to eager to prey on unwary travellers.

Fortunately such threats are meat and drink to the heroes of Wintermark. If they had somewhere suitable to stay and base themselves out of, then the heroes of the Empire could hunt down these monsters and curtail the danger they pose indefinitely. The slavering beasts that Blood-on-the-Snow and Hayaak have set on Sermersuaq will surely be a danger for years to come, threatening individual lives and posing a risk to travellers. But this approach would ensure that they never become a coherent force that could threaten the safety and security of the territory. Imperial heroes might have to travel by sentinel gate to deal with an individual monster, but they wouldn't become a danger that needed the attention of the Senate or the Military Council.

Hall of the Hunters
Commission Type: Sinecure
Location: Sermersuaq, Suaq Wastes, Lake Atkonaroq
Cost: 12 white granite, 3 thrones, three months
Effect:Produces 9 mana a season and creates a paid work option for Wintermark and Dawnish military units

The best way to enable that would be to create a new hall in a central location that could serve as a welcoming area for bands of heroes venturing into Sermersuaq to hunt down the beasts of Icesnap and Hayaak. The Hall of the Hunters could be built on the edge of Lake Atkonaroq in the Suaq Wastes. It would need 12 white granite and three thrones, and take three months to construct. Once built, it would create a new Wintermark title, the Banner-Bearer of Atkonaroq, which would need to be appointed by the Wintermark National Assembly each year. The title holder would be responsible for the safety of the hall, and for ensuring that the heroes who came there were adequately provisioned to brave the dangers of the Suaq wastes. In return they would gain an income of 9 mana crystals a season drawn from the waters of the lake.

Crucially, if the hall were constructed and a Banner-Bearer appointed by the Wintermark Assembly, then Wintermark heroes and their military units could base themselves here when hunting down Hayaak and Blood-on-the-Snow's monsters. This would create a special paid work option for all Wintermark military units to "Hunt the Suaq Wastes". In place of the normal production for paid work, this would produce a mixture of coin, and small amounts of both winter and summer vis taken from the bodies of monsters.

Inevitably some Dawnish Glory hounds would likely turn up as well from time-to-time - drawn by the promise of desperate battles against terrible monsters - but the more heroes that came the better. The existence of the Hall, and the presence of the heroes who used it as a base for their adventures, would be enough to keep the monstrous heralds of Winter and Summer at bay indefinitely.

Further Reading