Since this is part thirteen, I figured I'd go over some stuff on the Hellfrost itself. There'll be more of this in a later post on history of the world, but for now...
About five hundred years ago, a horde came from the north, strange creatures not seen before, in their vanguard Hellfrost Dragons, huge creatures, belching a strange fire that burned like ice, since named coldfire. Other fell creatures accompanied them, Frost Giants commanding them, strange composite armies of Orcs, men and Ice Goblins fighting together under a single banner. Some of the men had a bluish cast to their skin, and seemed impervious to the cold, others were simply tribes of northern barbarians. The armies of the Hellfrost marched south, shattering the Anari Empire in the west, and striking the killing blow when several dozen of the behemoth Hellfrost Dragons utterly destroyed the imperial capital at Alantaris Isle. The capital's buildings were ruined, the imperial family killed to a man, and over 90% of the isle's population succumbed to the destruction wrought by these creatures. In the east, the Saxa, newly free after revolting against their Anari masters, fought back but were steadily pushed back until they were almost at the edge of their lands, with only the sea behind them. Incredibly, they stood and fought, and brought the Hellfrost armies to a standstill. Eventually, they even prevailed, driving the creatures and their armies back, until they turned and fled.
Victorious, the Saxa and their Anari allies pursued them, but as they neared the most northern parts of the world, they came across complete and utter devastation. The northern reaches of the Selari and Vindari, thriving empires themselves, were no more, their lands desolate and covered with snow and ice, with no sign of their former inhabitants. As the vanguard of the allied southern armies approached the rear of the fleeing northern Hellfrost army, the earth itself shook for several days, the skies were blackened, and massive blizzards swept the north. When, after a few days, the blizzards had cleared enough for scouts to venture forth, they discovered that were once had been open plain was now a wall of ice, hundreds of feet high. Beyond it, the land was frozen tundra, and the creatures of the Hellfrost roamed across those icy plains, occasionally descending an attacking the northern realms below the Ice Wall.
A stand-off ensued, the southern armies eventually drifting back to their homes, the Hellfrost armies testing the defenses of the northern realms, but every year since then, the winter has seemed harsher, has started earlier, and has lasted longer. The lands above the Hearthlands are now called the Winterlands, as fully half the year they remain locked in snow and ice, while the warm southern Hearthlands are starting to feel the chill earlier too each year. How long before the Hearthlands are as icy-cold as the Winterlands, and the Winterlands as frozen as the Hellfrost above the Ice Wall?
In the years after the Ice Wall rose and the Hellfrost arrived, several of the pale, blue-tinged men that accompanied those first armies appeared here and there. They were usually killed on sight, but after a few years, when the Winterlands started to suffer and received their name, several children were born with the same bluish skin. Most were put to death as abominations, but some survived, and as the years have passed, more have been born throughout the lands, and not just to humans, but to elves, dwarves and halflings. All seem impervious to the cold, and despite being seen with suspicion, some have claimed that they are normal people, with no more liking for the Hellfrost than 'normal' people. Superstition and paranoia die hard, though, and the Frostborn, as they have come to be known, are almost always distrusted, even in areas where they have grown from childhood, and even where they have led productive lives. In most areas, they are second class citizens, in others hatred and fear of them has led to their exile or death. Only in one realm, the tiny Barony of Cul, have they prospered, and reports by travelling merchants say that as the Frostborn are taking power for themselves and slowly growing into a majority, that the tables are turning and those not born with the bluish tinge to their skin are becoming enslaved to the ice-blooded despots. But then there are many with a bias against the Frostborn, and who is to say whether they are not just encouraging hatred against a misunderstood people?
Thrym, Sigel and Kenaz
The Sun god Sigel and his son, the Hearth god Kenaz, went silent after the rise of the Ice Wall and the coming of the Hellfrost. The priests of both cults have not had any of their usual prophetic dreams, the usual route through which the gods make their wishes known to their mortal followers, and the powers of their magics is starting to dim. Even the sun itself appears to be fading and growing weaker, its rays not as warming as before, and people fear that the two gods are either being held prisoner, slowly wasting away, or are already dead, their divine corpses rapidly cooling. The blame for this state of affairs, it is said, lies with Thrym.
Once a lowly minor god of snow and ice, Thrym has shown his true power and gained standing alongside the major gods. It is he, it is believed, who has captured Sigel and Kenaz, and despite the Compact - an agreement between the gods that they not interfere directly in mortal matters - that he has set foot in the world himself, the Hellfrost his realm, and the Ice Wall his diabolical work. Not only that, but those able to cast ice-based magics, the so-called Hrimwisards (Ice Mages), have seen their powers grow as those who use fire-based magic have seen theirs weaken. Many of the Frostborn are Hrimwisards, and the ice mages are as distrusted as that blue-skinned race. They are found in plentiful numbers amongst the armies of the Hellfrost, and even the most strenuous of the pleading of innocence does little to halt the mob when they find a Hrimwisard in their midst. There are few in the southern realms, but they have learned to remain silent.
The few captured priest and priestesses of Thrym that have talked have boasted that the Fimbulwintr - eternal winter - is the goal of their god, and that with Thrym's aid, the entire world is destined to become like the Hellfrost to the north - nothing but swirling snow and ice, constant blizzards, and civilization utterly destroyed by the roaming Hellfrost creatures. As the snows descend further each year and remain longer every winter, they might be right.