A little more than a hundred miles away from warm weather, blossoming apple trees, and the drama of the Gods on the lives of mortal man lay a cold underground cavern with a block of ice about a foot thick. Unlike other parts of this underground system this cavern hadn’t seen the light of day or a mortal adventurer in centuries.
Primary proof of this was the perfectly preserved frozen body of a man in thirteenth century dress. The man was lying on his stomach with his right arm stretched towards the solid block of ice in the center of the room. At the foot of the frozen man lay a raven just as frozen as the man was and even though the raven was long gone a strange (one might say malevolent) gleam seemed to still be in its eye. At the foot of the frozen man and bird were two large statues that looked as though they were coming out of the icy walls. The man was in a tunic and leggings and the woman was in a dress and kirtle. Both looked regal and proud just as both appeared to be walking to the block of ice that was in the center of the chamber.
The block of ice itself appeared to give off a slight blue glow. You could almost see a faint outline of something inside of the ice cube. Along the edges of the perfectly square block of ice were strange carvings. Carvings that an educated person of modern times would call runes. These particular runes hadn’t been read aloud in a very long time.
Despite the obvious age of the runes they each glowed in a bright gold ink – ink that appeared to flow in its own symbol. The gold symbols were brighter than the large ice cube they were carved upon thereby providing light for what appeared to be a rather large cavern that was sealed on all sides by walls of solid ice.
It was a large cavern. There were several stalactites hanging from the ceiling (most of which had extremely sharp tips on them). Multiple stone pillars rose up from the ground to hold up the roof of the cavern. Each pillar had a different rune carved into it just as each pillar was at least three feet in width -with some many times larger than that. Perhaps a dozen feet from the glowing block of ice (on the opposite side of the frozen man) was what appeared to be an altar made of stone.
The same type of runes that were carved on the ice cube appeared to be carved on the stone alter. The only thing on the altar was a single black raven’s feather. The feather actually looked fresh as there was not a single ice crystal on it. The feather itself sat in the middle of a pentagram.
At each point of the star was a dark read pool of what looked to be gelled blood. The blood itself was still steaming as though it had just come from a living host.
Perhaps a foot behind the stone alter was a sunken depression in the cavern floor and protruding from the center of the icy depression was a carved bone handle. The carvings on the handle were inlaid with gold that made the handle glitter and shine in the strange light of the strange cavern.
Beyond the stone alter, on each of the walls to the cavern scenes were carved into the ice. Each scene consisted of a man and a woman and took up an entire wall. They were in late fifth century dress. In each scene they were doing something different. There were only two constants in each scene – one of them was the man and woman and another was that there was always an apple tree somewhere in the picture.
On one wall the man and woman stood together under an apple tree, another had the woman under the tree and the man next to a shining sword. In a third the man and woman were arguing and glaring at each other and the final image depicted the man and woman standing in a circle of stones while other people were looking down on them from the clouds. In all four scenes the etchings were so detailed that the people actually appeared to be breathing and one could see the very veins on the leaves of the trees or the cracks and crevices in the stones. All in all the etchings appeared to carry a great amount of emotion and meaning.
As for the two great statues that were overlooking the block of ice well each face had a look of peace and knowledge – as though they knew what knowledge the ice block contained and were determined to use that knowledge for the good of the world around them.
Regardless of all the strange things that were in this chamber (the least strange of them all was possibly the frozen man) something even stranger was happening between the two ice statues, for growing up through the ice and stone floor was single green vine that had a woody texture to it. If you stood close to the vine you could pick up the faint smell of apples.
How such a thing could happen was something of an unknown. But slowly it was happening. Inside this cave where the light of day hadn’t been seen in centuries new life was taking root and what it would bring with it was something that not even the gods knew. For their primary conduit into the world of mortals had turned from them to another. Long ago she had been the one to see through the chaos and to tell them what the chances were of certain things happening but now that option was lost to them. And this the gods of old seemed to know well.
For as the tree grew so too did mysterious shapes begin to form out of the air and ice. Slowly the forms of men and women began to form. They all had dark hair and eyes that seemed to glow. All were tall (most seemed to barely fit into the icy chamber) and all seemed to be wearing dark and heavy cloaks several of them had accompanying furs for comfort. Some had their hair loose and flowing while others had it tied back, one or two had twigs or berries tangled in their locks. They all had crowns or circlets on their head of different materials – from precious metals to twigs and leaves, all forms of nature were represented at the gathering.
Most of them had narrow faces and high cheekbones – a few had fuller faces and equine noses. They all had the look of nobility and royalty about them, a haughty look lurking in their eyes. The women had perfectly red lips and cheeks that were slightly colored. The men had high forehead and their mouths were in hardened lines. Many of them had skin as white as alabaster. All of their eyes were old and wizened and that knowledge showed in the way they glowed. They were dressed in attire that was comfortable to them – namely dresses and kirtles for the women and tunics and hose for the men. A few of the beings had small animals (such as ravens, crows, and snakes) to attend them.
After several moments the forms of maybe thirty beings filled the freezing cavern. They were silent for several moments before they broke out into what could be considered as excited chatter. These fine beings hadn’t fully formed in centuries and this air that they now breathed was cause for jubilation. It was such a rarity for them that they were naturally on high to be on the mortal plane. Even if it was in a protected, sacred place.