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DeadWinter's Tidings


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This was written in response to a quiz at the Attic for a festival themed story.


Before anyone asks, the name DeadWinter was not split up in the sources I saw, so it isn't a typo.


I had wanted to finish this before Christmas, but real life definitely prevented that from happening. For those who may remember, this is a segment adapted from a section that was going to be in my story In Sheep’s Clothing. I hope I can find the creative urge to restart it.


For those who may not know or remember, Delainy is a werewolf character that the Bhaalspawn met tentatively in Baldur’s Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast (if the character was male. If female, the werewolf was Durlyle).




Nalia clung to the shadows along the edge of the escarpment, melding seamlessly with the dark shadows cast by the towers of the de Arnise fortress, producing nary a sound on the freshly falling snow. Down below, the sounds of festive music reached her ears, causing a dull ache to stir in her heart. The fleeting hurt passed, then she made her way to the edge of the parapet. Even now, several months after the troll invasion, the aftermath of their fight could be seen by the roughly filled holes within the curtain wall, as well as the thick soot that clung in reaches well beyond


“Father…is this how you felt when mother died?†whispered Nalia in the cold air, her words forming momentarily patches of silvery fog before fading away.


“Is this why you threw yourself into your work? To fill the gaping sadness within?†murmured the crimson-haired mage.


Nalia closed her eyes, inhaling deeply of the cold, invigorating air when she heard the crunch of footfalls on the undisturbed snow. Instinctively, Nalia’s hand dropped to her belt knife, and she leaned further back into the shadows to see who had trailed her.


Uncannily a figure approached her position without even trying to hide its presence. Stepping into an open space enveloped by moonlight, Nalia saw that it was only Delainy, a werewolf who was also her traveling companion. The werewolf was dressed in a light tunic and pantaloons, not much different than her summer garb, seemingly unaffected by the change in seasons.


“Is there something wrong Delainy?†Nalia asked in a neutral, strong voice as she emerged from the shadows,


Delainy stopped and frowned slightly at seeing Nalia’s annoyance.


“No, Lady Nalia, there isn’t…†hesitantly answered the werewolf, “It’s just that you left the party so early…â€Â


Nalia impatiently tapped her foot, and she said, “You know that you don’t lie very well Delainy. Well, you’re here, you might as well tell me why you followed me.â€Â


Delainy hung her head slightly, exposing the small of her neck, and replied, “I’m sorry. The majordomo saw you leave, and he was a bit worried about you. I told him I would follow you…â€Â


Nalia nodded, though her expression didn’t soften at all, “I…needed some time alone. If it hasn’t been one thing, it’s been another. Between my father…â€Â


There was a slight pause in Nalia’s voice as another wave of sadness filled her, then she continued, “Between my father dying, regaining the keep, defending what is mine from the Roenal’s, bringing in the harvest, repairing the damages from the flood…I could go on and on…but I just wanted some time alone.â€Â


The werewolf shuffled her feet nervously, but she tilted her head slightly, and said, “Forgive me for intruding…â€Â


As Delainy moved to retreat, Nalia’s arm snaked out, and grabbed the werewolf’s shoulder.


“You don’t have to go,†stated the noble, “Just be aware I may not be good company this evening.â€Â


Delainy smiled sanguinely, and patted Nalia’s hand, “You need not explain. Among the pack, just being there is enough.â€Â


The corners of Nalia’s lips lifted slightly, then she looked skyward, noticing for the first time a rainbow corona around the moon.


“It is a beautiful night, though, isn’t it?†Nalia remarked, her drawing her cloak more closely around her.


Delainy, unsure of this change in Nalia’s demeanor, said, “That it is. And some of the lore…the songs…of the pack makes more sense now.â€Â


“Sense?†interrupted Nalia.


Delainy shook her head affirmatively, “Yes. Before coming to the mainland, we lived on an island. Snow was something we only heard of in stories. In fact, if you had told me water fell from the sky, and it would stay…I would have called you a liar. Sure, there was hail, but that melted almost as quickly as it arrived.â€Â


The werewolf looked heavenward towards the moon. Adoringly, Delainy slowly started to chant in a language that Nalia could just barely make out as related to Common, but one filled with growls and whines of wolves,


“Icy claws trace

a circle around the moon

among glittering stars

and the earth glistens with cold.


No cloud shrouds

Selune’s naked beauty.

Shadows dance

In her cool light.â€Â


Delainy stopped, her voice rasping softly, “It sounds much better in the original wolf. This human form isn’t suited for such things.â€Â


“Still,†Nalia replied, “You conveyed the sentiment well.â€Â


Delainy shrugged, “Possibly. It could be better, though, if I didn’t find your holidays and customs confusing.â€Â


“Confusing? How so?†queried Nalia.


“Well…†Delainy started quietly, “I heard people saying they couldn’t wait until DeadWinter, while others were looking forward to the High Festival of Winter.â€Â


Nalia smiled, “No big mystery there. They are one and the same. Well, there is a slight difference. For the peasantry, they call it Deadwinter. It is the halfway point of winter. Among nobles, it is called the High Festival of Winter. Both are appropriate.â€Â


Nalia’s face darkened upon mentioning the nobles, and grew silent once more.


Delainy felt the heaviness of silence pressing down once more, and apologized, “I…fear I said something wrong again, didn’t I?â€Â


Nalia vigorously shook her head, “No, you didn’t. It’s just that DeadWinter is traditionally the time when vassals pledge fealty to their liege lord for one more year, and the my father’s nobles were no different.â€Â


Nalia’s voice grew as cold as the air, as she said, “And a good quarter of my nobles didn’t appear this High Festival. Unless they have a good excuse for not doing so, I’m afraid it means war.â€Â


Delainy’s cheeks burned red, and cast her glance over the edge of the parapet, feeling more comfortable in the quiet at the moment.


Then, off in the distance, she made out several figures near a small, frozen pond. The distant flames made the people’s shadows dance, while the people themselves seemed to be sliding on the ice.


“What are they doing?†asked the werewolf, pointing with a sturdy arm in the direction of the pond.


“What are who doing?†answered Nalia, eager to give up the rising tides of anger.


Nalia's eyes focused on the pond in the distance, and she added, “Oh, they are ice skating.â€Â


“Why?†asked Delainy, her green eyes straining to follow the swift passing of bodies.


“Oh, it’s just for fun…†Nalia said, then her face flushed red as she realized that this may be the first time the werewolf had seen ice skating.


“Fun?†said the werewolf, “Are you sure?â€Â


Nalia smiled, and said, “Sure it is. Come on, I’ll show you…why, I remember the last time I went skating, my father…â€Â


This time Nalia solemnly accepted the grief that rose up in her breast, for it brought along a memory of a happier time.


“My father,†she said in a tone slightly more subdued, “Declared a holiday for the castle staff.â€Â


Nalia focused on Delainy, her eyes running down the werewolf’s lithe, muscular legs, and added, “I think I have a pair of skates that would fit you. Meet you down at the pond.â€Â


The red-haired mage found herself eagerly moving towards her quarters, strangely excited at this change of her evening plans. Nalia thought wryly, Well, anything is better than indulging in self-pity.


Down below, she could hear the sonorous tones of Keagan, one of the old men of the castle, who took it upon himself to tell stories to the children on DeadWinter. As Nalia rummaged through her belongings, her mind started to fill in her own remembrances of Keagan’s favorite winter tale…


Long ago there lived a mighty people who made their the home by the sunrise. One and all, they favored Mielikki the Huntress. She was kind to her people and did many great deeds for them.


One day it grew extremely cold. Snow and ice covered everything. Fires would not give enough warmth.


Mielikki set forth for the far north where all was ice. Here in a sparkling houseof ice, she found Lady Frostkiss, Auril, the Lady of Winter.


Mielikki entered the castle and approached the Auril. Intrigued, Auril bade Mielikki to sit down, and they shared tales of olden times when Auril reigned everywhere and all the land was silent, white, and beautiful. Her frost charm fell upon Mielikki and as Auril talked on, Mielikki fell asleep. For several months she slept like a bear, then the charm left Mielikki. She was too strong to be bound by itand awoke only to find Loon, waiting for her..


Loon described a country far to the south where it was always warm. There lived Chauntea, she who could defeat Auril. To save her people from cold,famine and death, Mielikki decided to find her.


Far off to the southern seashores Mielikki went. She sang a song gifted to her from Trishina, the Mother of Dolphins, a magic song which whales had to obey and up came a whale who served as her carrier.


The whale had one rule, though, She said: "You must shut your eyes while I carry you. If you do not, I am sure to go aground and be unable to get off. You could be drowned."


Mielikki got on the whale's back and for many days they traveled together. Each day the water grew warmer and the air softer and sweeter, for it came from spicy shores.


Soon they found themselves in shallow water. Down in the sand clams were singing a song of warning: "Keep out to sea, for the water here is shallow."


The whale asked Mielikki, who understood the language of all creatures: "What do they say?"


Mielikki, wishing to land at once, only replied: "They tell you to hurry, for a storm is coming."


The whale hurried on accordingly until she was close to land. Now Mielikki did the forbidden; she opened her left eye, to peep. At once the whale stuck hard on to the beach so that Mielikki, leaping from her head, was able to walk ashore on dry land.


Thinking she could never get away, the whale became angry. But Mielikki put one end of her strong bow against the whale's jaw and, taking the other end in her hands, placed her feet against the high bank. With a mighty push, she sent the whale out into the deep water.


Far inland strode Mielikki and found it warmer at every step. In the forest she came upon a beautiful woman, dancing in the center of a group of young girls. Her long brown hair was crowned with flowers and her arms filled with blossoms. She was Chauntea.


Mielikki knew that here at last was the one who by her charms could melt old Auril's hold. She leaped to catch her and would not let Chauntea go. Together they journeyed the long way back to the lodge of Auril.


Auril welcomed Mielikki but she planned to freeze the huntress to sleep again. This time, however, Mielikki did the talking. Her charm proved the stronger one and soon sweat began to run down Auril's face. Mielikki knew that Auril's power was gone and the Charm of Frost broken. The glistening castle melted away.


Chauntea now used her own special power and everything awoke. The grass grew green and the snow ran down the rivers, carrying away the dead leaves. Auril wept to see her power taken away.


But Chauntea proved merciful and she said, "Now that I have proved I am more powerful than you, I give you all the country to the far north for your own, and there I shall never disturb you. Six months of every year you may return to Mielikki's country and reign as before, but you are to be less severe with your power. During the other six months, I will come back and rule the land."


Auril do nothing but accept this. So it is that she appears in Mielikki's country each year to reign for six months, but with a softer rule. When she comes, Chauntea returns home to her land. When at the end of six months Chauntea returns to drive Auril away, she awakens the north and gives it the joys that only she can bestow…


Nalia shook her head out of her reverie, only to find herself already moving out of the castle gates, two pairs of skates firmly in hand. Upon arriving, she found the werewolf looking uncertainly at the ice.


“It doesn’t bite, you know,†Nalia chuckled, noting that though the teenagers gave her a few seconds glance, they otherwise didn’t comment on her arrival at the pond.


There were some benefits for sneaking out under Auntie’s nose, mused Nalia.


Nalia handed a pair of skates to Delainy, and instructed, “Put these on. Make sure they are snug to the feet, but not tight.â€Â


Delainy tapped the top of the ice, apprehension filling her face, and said, “I don’t know if this is such a good idea.â€Â


Nalia stood straight up, putting her hands on her hips, and much as a mother might scold a young child said, “I won’t lie that you will fall…but like anything else, it takes practice.â€Â


Then her voice softened, “Did you learn to walk as a human right away? Well, this isn’t much different.â€Â


Delainy closed her eyes, and muttered, “Fine, have it your way. But if I’m sore all over, it’s going to be your fault.â€Â


Nalia gave a warm, throaty laugh as she said, “Then I will send some horse liniment to your room.â€Â


“Thanks,†Delainy said dryly, having already known the joys of said liniment on tired muscles.


Nalia nodded approvingly as Delainy put on the ice skates, and held out her arms to help the werewolf keep balanced as they edge outward on the ice.


“It isn‘t to hard, you just have to get your legs under you†Nalia quietly said, “Keep your feet under your hips. Don’t lean over your skates; this will unbalance you. Try not to look down at your feet, but look in the direction you are going. Stand straight, and hold your head high.â€Â


Gingerly the two moved forward, and Nalia encouragingly said, “That is it…now, I’m going to let you go.â€Â


And as soon as the noble let go, Delainy moved forward a few inches, a smile on her face when the werewolf’s arms started to windmill.


“Delainy, no! Keep your arms out wide…†Nalia started to say as Delainy fell with a loud crack on the ice.


Nalia winced at the sound, and she was quickly by the werewolf’s side, bending down to ascertain the condition of her friend.


“Are you alright?†Nalia asked, running a hand along Delainy’s body to make sure there were no broken bones.


“I wish,†Delainy growled, “that I could say only my pride was hurt. I’ll be alright though. If I was in my other form, I would have a broken tail right now.â€Â


Gingerly, the werewolf stood up, leaning on Nalia for support, and said in a tight voice that bordered on a growl, “Try it…again.â€Â


The werewolf pushed off, and after several more spills, though none-as jarring as the first time. Bit by bit, Nalia saw Delainy’s energy start to waver, and the noble said, “Maybe you should take a break.â€Â


Delainy, her chest heaving hard, “I would…but how do I stop? Stop so that I don’t fall, I mean.â€Â


Nalia paused to think, closing her eyes as she tried to remember her father’s directions, “Bend your knees…turn the toes of each foot in toward your other foot…point heels out…and…â€Â


Nalia opened her eyes, shrieking, “Watch out for that tree!â€Â


“Too late…†howled Delainy, and Nalia shuddered at the ensuing crash. Hurriedly, the mage made her way over, and hovered protectively over the werewolf.


“I’m sorry…†Nalia whispered frantically, brushing away limbs and snow, when she felt a wet nuzzle in the side of her neck.


Pulling away, she heard Delainy groan, “I’ve had worse…remember when you asked me about walking as a human? Imagine going from four legs to two…â€Â

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