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Author Topic: The Maiden in the Ice  (Read 1295 times)

Offline NewGuy

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The Maiden in the Ice
« on: February 06, 2013, 02:13:07 PM »
Ulrican? Yes, theoretically the family of Graf Scholz was Ulrican. They gave to the local church, and they made their presence there known at all of the major holidays (even if so rarely otherwise.) In practice, though, the Scholzes (especially their patriarch, Werner) were about as far from the lean, powerful, lupine Ulrican ideal as possible. If there was any trace of the canine in their spirit, it was that of the obese corgi squatting by a roaring bonfire and subsisting off of the table-scraps of its indulgent mistress. The sort of dog that good Ulrican wolves snack on, in other words.

This hadn’t happened yet, strangely enough, mostly because the Empress Duccia frowned on that sort of rivalry, and the Empress was most definitely Alpha Female. While the Empress was alive, the mere fact that she had bestowed the title of Graf on Werner Scholz meant that he would not be touched. The mistress had teeth of her own, and the other wolves were afraid. Now that she was dead, though, and there wasn’t a clear Alpha left in the pack, the corgi began to look awfully tasty to the half-starved feral animals in the forest. It seemed like only a matter of time before Werner Scholz and his small estate became the meal of one or more larger, more savage beasts.

Because Graf Scholz came from a long, proud family tradition of incompetent governing and irresponsible management. Most of his fief lay fallow, as Werner had neither the manpower to effectively work what was his, nor the humility to employ outsiders to do said work in their place- besides which, the soil was thin and full of rocks anyways. The forests were depleted of game, because there were no wardens to repel poachers from larger, more prosperous neighbors. The forests themselves barely were due to a logging blitz twenty years before, which had the fortunate side-effect of making Beastman inhabitation difficult but left the little territory devoid of native building materials. All that remained was an abundance of pride and of snow, two things which would not do anyone much good come a fight worth writing home about.

Werner Scholz hadn’t done much to improve his situation anyways. Improvement meant work, and work was anathema to men such as Werner. He much preferred to stay in his leaking manor house and indulge in his noble right to eat and drink himself into a stupor. The effort had taken its toll- by the time this account is set he weighed in excess of three hundred pounds, and had the bulbous sort of cherry red nose and rosy cheeks that can only speak to determined alcoholism. He had married below his station, which would generally be perfectly acceptable if he had wed for love- but in this case, it seemed that he had wed for hate, as the only time that he and his wife weren’t arguing was when they were sleeping, eating, or drinking, ensuring that all three were common occurrences. When Gertrude Scholz had first arrived she had been scrawny and pale. Now she weighed more than her husband and judging by her constant state of inebriation had managed to internalize the production of alcohol. Neither was happy with the other, but both realized that they would be even less happy having to do something else, and so their matrimony continued by means of mutual lethargy.

There was a third reservoir of blue blood in the family home, and that was Hilde, the daughter produced in a brief moment of uncharacteristic dynastic guilt. Hilde was a small child, slight of frame and feature in a way that made visitors question her parentage right up to the point that they realized that no one else would willingly sleep with Gertrude Scholz. Once it was safely established that the child was not a boy the Scholzes had felt perfectly justified in paying the minimum amount of legally mandated attention to her, shuffling her onto their long-suffering elderly retainers in a litany nearly as old as mankind itself. It was probably for the best anyways. The servants felt more affection for the girl than her parents were probably able to muster up for anyone besides themselves. She was raised as best they could, educated in a manner slightly befitting someone of her supposedly advanced status, and informed of her responsibilities in a way that made some small progress towards covering the utter lack of positive example.

Of course, no one lives forever. When Hilde was thirteen both of the now-octagenarian servants passed into Morr’s care within weeks of each other. Her parents barely noticed- new servants were summoned from the nearby hamlet, a much younger couple who shared her parent’s lust for copious quantities of alcoholic substances and the consumption thereof. Hilde was fed and watered- both of her parents were placid drunks- but left alone otherwise, spending most of her time penned up in her room, mechanically cared for but emotionally destitute.

At the end of her seventeenth year the sequestered child’s world was changed significantly, or perhaps she was changed to accomodate the world. One night after a particularly boisterous celebration by her now perpetually soused parents, Hilde could have no more. She slipped out the back way, neglecting to take anything with her but a cotton shift. Whether she sought escape, aid, or simply to die is immaterial- all that is known is that her tracks were seen and followed the next morning by a trapper in the woods, perhaps curious why someone would choose to cut across his territory during the night. He followed the path to where it intersected a frozen stream, and saw to his horror that a large hole had been broken through just where the steps ended- and then the trail continued on into the denser, darker forest beyond, where he would not follow.

Three nights later the perhaps lowest-ranked messenger in the Imperial hierarchy came pounding up the road with news of the Empress’ sudden departure from the lands of the living. Upon arriving, though, he stopped in shock- for the Scholz manor house had been frozen into a solid block of ice.

Two nights after that a girl matching Hilde’s description appeared in the hamlet closest to her former home. Those who had known her at a distance recognized her at once, and she bore a birthmark that established her identity without question. She was barefoot, still clothed only in a white nightdress, but wrapped around her shoulders was the fur of a massive albino brown bear.

Her voice was cold, her manner regal in a way that her besotted parents had never dreamed of, her every command powerful enough in a way that made it as irresistible as an oncoming glacier to the small folk of the forest. The peasants learned what had happened to her parents, but dared not speak of it, or perhaps chose not to- for her presence filled them with a speed and a vitality they had not possessed in wolf’s years. The people walked with straight backs and quick steps, for ice filled their veins and they moved in the presence of a rapidly congealing legend. Now they were not afraid- not afraid of beasts in the forest or beasts in the cities.

And so ten days after her appearance, the new Grafin and her people marched to war...
I've dumped the plans of using Bretonnians. They suck.

Offline Mogsam

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Re: The Maiden in the Ice
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 08:44:18 PM »
Excellent!

Also it's excellent you've quoted me!
Curse you and your ability to stay within the lines.

Offline NewGuy

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Re: The Maiden in the Ice
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 05:03:48 AM »
Betrayal had a way of lightening the soul, Hilde found. The dispatch from the front lay discarded in the snow behind her, slowly buried in the piling drifts. Her hands were clasped tightly behind her, and she surveyed the last trickling remnants of Romanov’s doomed army with a mixture of pity and contempt.

How easy it all was now, now that everything was lost. She supposed that she should feel despondent, ashamed at losing all, but she did not. She felt like... like a bird set free of its cage, like a great and heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

Her teacher, the man who had stood in for a father to her, had told Hilde about honor towards defeated foes. He’d practically screamed it, actually. That she should always treat a captured soldier like she’d like to be treated in such a situation. That it was her duty before Ulric and the Empress to give a fairly beaten foe the mercy he deserved, let alone a bystander.. Her teacher had been a bit dotty by this time, and she wondered if he was always aware that he was speaking to a little girl. But the lesson had sunk in nonetheless.

But he also told her about traitors, and their masters, and what should be done with them. Kill them, mostly. Desecrate their corpses in some way. Mock them. Mock the ones they served. Kill their families. Destroy their causes. A traitor wasn’t worth anything, because where a noble soldier fought with strength of arms a traitor’s only weapon was lies. She wasn’t sure that he’d said all these things to her, per se, or if it had been to the shadows on the wall, but the lesson had sunk in there as well. How lovely.

A noise came from the city behind her, something above the constant sound of von Friedman’s troops marching away in the distance..

“My lady. There are... a party of Dwarfs here, and the leader is quite insistent about seeing you... a Korrigan Bloodaxe? Shall I send him away?”

Once Hilde might have blanched at the idea of blood shed on such a scale, at the idea of take-what-you-please and justice on the end of a sword, but... not now. How easy it was, now, to let all of that go.

“Coming. Tell him to wait for me.”

When she turned back towards Delburz there was none of the warmth that had once filled her eyes. All that remained, flickering in the distant firelight, was ice.
I've dumped the plans of using Bretonnians. They suck.