Sunday, March 11, 2012

On Ice

Finished the worst stretch of my work week. For some reason I'm still wound up. I could be downtown, but it's cold as hell, I just broke the bank buying a ticket to Vietnam, and the taxi drivers are assholes on Sunday nights.

A teacher who left last week took this picture of me on a bench made of frozen industrial waste/maybe some water.
Wonder why she wanted to leave.
I might be making too much of this, but whatever. Back home, rivers never froze this much. This ice is thick. On foot, you're probably better off walking across the river itself than trying a bridge because the drivers never give a shit about almost killing everyone else on the road. To give you an idea of how safe I felt in this picture, Changchun's river ice is dotted with honest-to-God remnants of fire pits. None of them even seem to dent the stuff.

I like to imagine the fires were made by teenagers sneaking out to smoke their dads' cigarettes, drink stolen beer and brag about how they totally licked a girl's belly button. But from what I understand, Chinese boys can buy cigarettes and beer anywhere, and they're possibly asexual until they leave high school.

In a good Dungeons & Dragons setting, ice this thick might be the result of a frost hag's curse, inflicted over an insult forgotten by all but the most venerable mortals. There plenty of reasons why a frozen river would suck. It might be a community's only source of water, link to the world beyond, etc. And ice is a perfect bridge for invaders.

In the setting I'm half-baking, the Isles of Ecshal lie in a subtropical climate. Most of the isles' inhabitants pay tribute to the local elemental bad ass Olhydra, princess of drowning waters. Cold and ice are reviled because solid water is an abomination in the many eyes of their goddess. So the fact that an entire estuary on the remote corner of an island has been freezing solid for thirty winters is horrifying. Ever winter, the freeze drives the swamp's dreaded nixies, merrow, ghouls and walkodiles into civilized lands.

Most place blame on a mysterious cult known as the Disciples of the Dark Thirteen. They are believed to congregate in the ruins of an abbey near the estuary. The abbey was dedicated to a god who had a large flock before Olhydra and the other elemental princes appeared on the material plane and drove mankind's distant, mysterious deities into irrelevance. Orkandu, High Inquisitor of the Sunken Temples, currently offers 10,000 gp to whomever breaks the curse.

The twist is that (highlight to reveal spoiler) while the Disciples of the Dark Thirteen freeze the estuary every winter using ancient relics, they do so to prevent an abomination called Ineffable from emerging from a portal. Should Ineffable rise, it will turn the island's unborn into hideous monsters. The Disciples are a splinter group of the cult that tried to bring the abomination into the world, and are open to alternative solutions to stop Ineffable should any arise. Members of the original cult still linger, perhaps in high places...

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