Auril, is queen on the Great Glacier, few beyond Sossal pay her homage, but within that realm many thousands of followers pray to no other. Further south there are only a few tribes that would call her mother, for most mortal beings relish a warm fire in the chill of the north.
Obalda, was such a rarity, her lips were blue and her cheeks rosy, her flesh was as-pail-as death. The Winter Maid, the tribes called her, and more than a great many feared her. She was a queen in the pass between the Ice Rim's and Nathoud.
She lorded over a throng of powerful minotaurs in the north of the Giant Pass. Called the, Bosut, this tribe had dwindled the giant populations and thinned out the human tribes like the Chif, and the once mighty Tark.
Her lands were cold, unlit by any fires, and her tribe was brutal, echoing that chill by killing almost everything living they encountered. They had driven the Osi out of the eastern Ice Rim's, and reduced the territories of their kin the Osismii. But the minotaurs were contented to rest in the pass, where raiding was good into giant and human lands.
They had no ambitions to move outward and claim more ground. Obalda, left them to their natural persuits and went exploring in the caves and dwarf caverns that lead eastward through the roots of the mountains.
Unbeknownst to her, these passages were not open. Neither were there evil creatures with whom she might exert her goddesses wicked influence. This was the home so boldly claimed from those perils six years before by brave interlopers.
She found a familiar path steadily rising upward. After twarting a series of well lain traps set for the unweary, the cleric came into the great chamber, which held the remains of the destroyed dwarf corpses.
She looked before her, the glimmer of her patrons own blue glow lighting the way. She then beheld the now dusty and forgotten ruin of the barbazu lord, entombed there on his throne. Auril's light pulsed in cold waves, creating a frost on the tarnished golden feet of the massive throne. Her pathway to it now a glittering shimmer of frosted ax heads, helms, and verious other strewn items.
Her head hung low in seeing the sight. For this once malevolent being was not unknown to her. It had been six winters since the great demon lord had come to call on her. His teachings, his gifts...they had abruptly ended. The maiden could not say why until this moment. Her chilled heart was broken to see his sorry end, her eyes ached, struggling to pass tears of ice....
The passage into the west was blocked up by some powerful spellcraft that had blocked the corridor from the east as if the natural stone had simply regrown itself since last she'd visited the place.
The unmistakable hand of a master wizard was upon it. That smacked of Thavian's in her mind. Even so, she placed her palms on the stone wall, and in moments a crack ran it's length from floor to ceiling.
She would round up her brutes in the pass, and soon return.
It was the 18th day of constant daylight in the north and the bulls lazed about the camp, gnawing on the bones of past meals. Not a one wanted to stir to a hunt, but they would be stirred, nonetheless.
"White One, the Winter Maid, was seen!" Istros, the keen eyed lookout told his chieftain.
"She is on approach?" Zia Wide Sides, the chief's mate questioned.
"She is even now, lady Zia." Istros confirmed.
"WAAAKE UP!" Zia roared!
Dadas, one of the largest of them stood swiftly, rolling the kinks out of his shoulders!
"Danger?" he snorted.
"A summons more likely!" the brown hided, Napoca, speculated.
"Orola, Blaesus, Dablosa, Rigozus!" Mucapor, the greatest warrior of the tribe noised, to gather his fighters forth!
Tarbus and Brasus, were last to rise, but stood flanking their mother, Zia, as the woolly colored, Daizus, came forth from his hide lean to be seen.
"The Winter Maid comes, you louts! I want you all warmed up and ready to march if she commands it!" White One bellowed!
The minotaurs began to hop, jog in place, and to beat their faces and chests to get their blood flowing. They roared, snorted, pawed the earth with hooves and butted heads! The brothers' headbutt degenerated into a brief sibling brawl, that was halted by their father walking between them in a rush.
They all fell in behind their lord chief. He would go to meet his priestess of Auril. The debt owed to that woman was great in his eyes. Her crafts had helped them to gain this new realm beyond the glacier. Only the brothers were born in the pass. The rest recalled the flight from the frost giants in the valley of Novularond.
In Damara she had come to them, by the Frozen Ford, they had preyed on caravans for a tenday, but it wouldn't have been much longer and Narfell would have sent an expedition against them. With her lead, infiltration of human towns along the route, and cunning in helping them raid and move undetected. The tribe had plundered all along the Cold Road into the Ice Rim's.
Her hand was on the victory over the stone giants in the Giant Pass, and they retreated to their secured hill-forts with their larger kin. From that time on, it had been easy pickings attacking straggler bands of giants and launching punitive raids on the humans of Osi and Osismii.
If she was on the return so soon, it meant she had met some trouble. If that was the case, Daizus White One, would bring trouble in kind!
She nearly fell at her feet as Zia caught hold on the Winter Maid's arm to steady her.
"Are you wounded, priestess?" she asked her.
"Not in body, I fear." Obalda replied.
"As cold as it might be, I do have a heart..and this day..it has been torn from my chest." she related.
"The Great Cow share her bounty with you, mistress, if you are weak you should go to our hovel and rest. Let your warriors lay waste to your enemies!"
"It's, Baylor Axtol, he was slain in his temple..." she explained.
The minotaurs cringed as one, a look of shock washing over every face.
"What could have slain such a powerful being?" Mucapor asked for all of them.
"What indeed.." the cleric responded with a shake of the head. "Whatever it was, was adept in spells and must be mighty of itself. I broke the seal it set over the East Rim Passage. But I'm not fit for battle..my mind is too clouded by rage and grief to call on my goddess. Nor would I send you to fight such a foe without me." Obalda faintly returned.
"Allow me to make a foray, my priestess." Mucapor requested. "I will take our best warriors and go into the mountains to seek the eastern entrance. If it be a dragon or some greater beast I will return, but if it be Red Wizard's with their slaves or some other human rabble, we will take head's and weaken them for a later attack." the wise war captain suggested.
The priestess thought for a moment. She suspected the enemy were humans of Thay. It was possible a mighty priest of Lathander or Tempus might have rallied the Osi remaining in the foothills. But she did not fear a dragon this far south. The more she considered the minotaurs plan, the more she began to agree.
"Take five with you, Muca, and make speed over the hills along the rim, murder all you find in your path. The rest of your brethren will breach the seal and go in under the mountain to envelope them. With Auril's blessing, nothing will escape that complex alive!"
Off they raced, Mucapor, Orola, Blaesus, Dablosa, Rigozus, Istros, five huge bull people hungry for flesh and battle. They met no giant's or hobgoblin's.
They had learned well to flee for the southern reaches of the pass. But as intended, the raider's met a refugee band of the Osi tribe. The slaughter of that sad encampment followed.
Many Chif were in their number also, the tribes were butchered all the same, all the minotaurs saw were scurrying pigs to feast on once they were gutted!
With wars between men, rapine, slavery, and plunder are the main worries. It takes much to drive men to exterminate whole peoples. Something of them will remain to live again someday. But with these monsters, the fight ended in being eaten raw. Chunks of men lined their journey bags like so much jerky.
The war on the Osi had come so fast that confusion and fear sent many clans running in a hundred directions after the army was mutilated. Many of the beasts themselves had fallen as well, but these few who remained were twice as cunning, twice as skillful, and ten times more vicious!
They dealt grievously with the starved and staggering refugees.
Stumbling over rocks and tundra grasses, struggling to find footing with every step on the inclined terrain, a man near seventy ran for his life over the hills below the Ice Rim's.
Behind him he left a scene of utter carnage were great horned monsters had fell upon peaceful families. Among those massacred was his thirty-winter-old goddaughter, her unborn child ran through with a devilishly curved blade likewise cutting her spine asunder.
That image would haunt him for the rest of his days. Tears ran freely on his wrinkled cheeks, but finding some uncommon will, he staggered on away form that place of death.
In his arms was a bundle of rags. In those rags was the first born of that woman so wrongly ended. A young girl only barely two-winters-old.
This unassuming pair were a rare fortune in the world of the Osi. The man was called; Ullio, a venerated holy man and servant of the balance.
His people worshiped Tempus and Lathander, but he was the Arch Druid, his order taught sacred knowledge hundreds of years before him by the all but mythical Avariel. The girl was not so important, but she was his spiritual successor since her mother had been a druid under his instruction.
Her name was, Ashane, named for the great southerly loch of Rashemen. The gods of light must have had their hands on events, for now the druid raced over the hills with his new charge, the only two survivors of the southerly camp.
On he went until he stumbled over, and in righting himself the looked up to see five lean young men, one wasn't even a man at all. It was a goblinoid of some sort, but all wore Ulutiun stitch trousers, and vests of caribou hide.
They appeared to be of the same people, though some had dark flesh and black heads, while two of the men were freckled with red manes. While it was certain they were one people, they were a strange people for this land.
He could not have known it then , but he'd found his salvation.