The Winter Father

by C.M. Galdre

It is said the ice giants are dead. But people say many things, and of those many, more are untrue than not. For how can the ice giants be dead when their father, Issfavr, comes each year at Winterhart to test the mettle of Thorgithe's sons? Perhaps it is because the last and greatest of the ice giants dwells only in the memories of the ancients, his existence as forgotten as his name, for all who see him now call him now the Winter Father, the Cold Wanderer. But beneath his cloak and fatherly gaze his heart still remembers the beat of the world soul.

Let us turn our tale briefly from the adventures of Thorgithe's most famous son, and look now to the events in the North, where winter has come once more, milder than the vicious days of old and all the lesser for it.

Upon a lonely hill on the outskirts of Thorgithe's Seat, sat the house of Roan. Long has this ancient house stood, looking over the wide frozen plains, and longer still have the men who dwelt there been some of the bravest sons and daughters of the north. Roan son of Rogir son of Rofar was a longseer, a scout of some renown as all of his line have been. That night, the night of Winterhart, when Sol rests longest beyond the bend of the world, Roan sat upon the threshold of his long hall, sharpening his trusted blade, for within his house slept Rovinir his young son neglecting his first Winterhart Watch.

Roan wondered what the consequences might be, should his son not take up his wood sword and stand to chase the Winter Father from their home as all of the sons of the north had done since the first hearthstone was placed for the first hunters hall. There were songs, yes, of the old days when the Cold Wanderer would visit the home of a coward and leave naught but bones and blood in his wake, but there had not been such an incident in an age. Either Thorgithe produced no cowards or the Winter Father was more legend than lethal.

As Roan dwelled upon the legends of old a cold wind blew down from the northern sea, smelling of bitter ice and brine. It was an ancient wind that bit deep through the layers of his furs and settled in the Thorgithens marrow. The longseer gazed into the distance towards the the sea, some still called it Northholme and said the mountains that ran along the coast were all that remained of the longships that brought their ancestors to this harsh land. Roan laughed as he thought of these old men and their tales, the men of the north had always lived within the borders of Thorgithe.

Roan turned his gaze back to the long cold plains, but his far seeing eyes were not needed to see what stood before him. Nine feet tall and hunched over like an old crone andnearly as wrinkled, its hands were too large in proportion to its body, blue veined and muscular as a smithe's. The creatures mane of cold grey hair fell around its overtall face and tangled into its gnarled white beard. It's rheumy grey eyes were fixed upon Roan and Roan returned its gaze.

“Evening Cold Wanderer.” said Roan.

“Where is the boy.” rumbled the Winter Father, his voice rolling over the man like waves surging in an endless sea.

“He sleeps, Father. The old ways are dying, and a growing boy needs his rest.” replied Roan.

“It is bad,” grumbled the Winter Father “when a son of the North will not take up the sword.”

“He is young.” said Roan.

“You were younger. It was not even your time. You chased me down as I traveled to the homes of older sons.” Laughed the Cold Wanderer.

“Times change.” replied Roan.

“You will get him.” the ancient thing demanded.

“No.” barked Roan.

“Things do not change so much as you think. Bring the boy.” The Winter Father growled.

Roan brandished his gleaming blade. “Or what, ancient thing. The sons of the North need chase you away no longer.”

“I am the North!” The Winter Father bellowed, standing tall, his fist clenched. “Know you nothing son of the north.”

“An ice giant!” Roan cried, startled by the change in the Cold Wanderer.

“Not an ice giant.” The ancient thing rumbled. “THE ice giant, Issfavr, the old father, from whence two great races sprung.”

“Lies.” Roan yelled. “You’re just some remnant the great kings of old missed in their culling.”

“When man knew not the names of the titans, and the Wolfmother was but an aspect of hunger, a tribe of men threw a snow white virgin into the sea. Such was her beauty that I lifted her from the waves and made her my bride and from her womb sprang forth a race of men with the hardiness and strength of the sea and the craftiness and adaptability of men. But none of my art could save her from the fate I had merely delayed. Death comes to all men, as it came to my love, and in her stead I bedded a winter witch and from her the ice giants sprung driving my favored sons into their longships and away from the lands of their births.” Issfavr bellowed. “You would deny me? That father of your fallen race? Bring your son.”

“Shut your cursed maw wicked spawn of sea foam, father of dirt. Your lies are not welcome here.” Roan growled, menacing the Winter Fathers ribs with his blade.

“Iron bites not I.” Issfavr rumbled, gripping the warriors blade with his long fingered hand, the metal bending beneath his mighty grip. “It has been long since I have tasted sonflesh.” He growled, his eyes filled with feral menace.

In great Korgeth's Hall a knock came pounding upon the mighty door. Isgal the wainright answered, for he had slept closest to the door in the plundered hall of kings, filled now with the snoring of lesser men.

“Where are thy sons, oh northern lords?” Came the voice from beyond the gap.

“They sleep as all the merry men of Thorgithe do on this fine winters night.” The wainright answered, peering into the snowless night.

“Then a merry feast there shall be.” Said the voice in the darkness.

Such a howling rose upon the wind that morn, when Winters Watch was done, for all the sons of Watching age, not left was a single one. In their wake was blood and bones, and the message was quite clear. Though legends oft be forgot, forget not old father Issfavir.

This article is my 42nd oldest. It is 1118 words long