“I will give it to you then as best I know, without excessive details of the minute, but the important happenings only.” replied Yaran, still watching the fire. “As for time, I have that and to spare. Few come and talk of such matters, even the King who finds books of all kinds fascinating.” He cleared his throat, and began.
“There was a land, far away from here, beyond league after league of the treacherous waves that surround this continent. And thousands of years ago, before man awoke, the elves lived in peace. There were green pastures, endless plains and towering mountains. Every type of growing thing imaginable that was good dwelt there, and the elves lived in harmony with each other and all living things. For endless ages we roamed the fields and dens, acquiring knowledge. For once we were immortal, young but wise, and we had not yet felt the sting of death.”
“We worshipped the God of Sea and Tide, who we called Nenar, which is to say Water. For then too, we were still great seafarers, and journeyed often out of sight of land, our great ships carrying us to lands that no man has seen. And we spoke with the god on the highest height of a mountain which we had made our home, very similar to Helcar here.”
“But all goods things perish, and do not last. For one day as we were rejoicing in our strength and in our craft and in our beauty and in our peace, Nenar came to us, and spoke that the mountain would soon fall for the other gods would soon reshape the earth to their liking and our home would crumble into ruin about our heads. In great terror and fear, we cried out to him for help, saying ‘Help us, Lord of Wind and Tide! Lest we perish in the great destruction that is to come!’”
“And the god replied: ‘Build ye ships of wood and steel, of cloth and cloak, and get ye south beyond the horizon. For there is a land both green and good, which shall be a haven for all elves.’ And so we did, and make greater ships than had ever been built before by elf, whose like is not in the world today. Weeping bitterly for the land we would lose, we boarded the ships and sailed, the god sending a stout wind that blew us quick and far beyond across the waves. But behind us, a cloud gathered, and the green turned white, and the mountain reeled, and those ships which had not yet departed froze, covered in ice. But we did not turn back, and fled south, searching for the land foretold to us.”
Yaran sighed. “But we were deceived. For the land we found here was neither green nor warm, but cold and hard as ancient bone. Winds tore at us, snow froze us, and fire failed us. The winds sent by the god turned and held us against the icy coast, and we could not even search for a better place to land. And we cried aloud for Nenar to save us, but no answer we heard.”
“Then came a great storm, and smashed our ships on the rocky shore. Swimming to the land, and building homes from the wreckage, peace survived till the food began to run out. Then elf fell on elf, and all turned to blood. The great elven nation reeled under the torment, as for the first time immortals died.”
“When spring came, the few who had survived were huddled in the huts, staying in groups that fought for survival against each other. We fashioned spears and swords from the wreckage of our ships, and slew one another for food, and learned to hunt the animals we had once called friends. But we knew not yet the terror of this land.”
“It snowed all year, and never thawed. Spring was no different from winter, and summer no different than spring, and our numbers dwindled into the mere hundreds, where once thousands had stood. Finally however, the god came. But he was changed.”
“He spoke to one of the elves, and how he was no longer to be called Nenar, but Olosse, Snow and Ice, King of Frosts and Foe of Fire. He had brought us here to draw us closer to him, and strengthen us for the great tasks which he had prepared. To this end he touched the elves, and they suddenly found themselves white as the snow that buried them, and no longer felt the breath of cold. The dialogue between the elf and the god runs thus:”
And after we had fled from our ships to be cast upon this new land, I felt in the depths of my soul a stirring. The mountain called me, and so I answered.
I made the terrible climb. I scaled the cliffs, and walked the slopes. And upon the pinnacle, on the edge of a sheer cliff that sank down into nothingness before me, I saw him.
All in white was he clothed, and white was his armor, and white was his lofty helm. Eyes of blue beneath a crown of pale ice. It was cold when I arrived at the summit of the mountain, but when he looked at me, it grew yet colder still.
And he said unto me: Son of The Sea, will you serve the Father of the Cold? And I said to him, ye lord.
And he said unto me again: If ye would serve, say unto thy people, keep well the marches of winter. For there shall be two great tests. The first ye shall overcome, and all will tremble in the hour of your triumph over that test. But the second shall come, when elves fight elves in a land that snoweth not, and the stars are strange.
And I rejoiced, that we should succeed in the test of the god. But he said to me, Son of the Sea, did ye not hear? If your people tarry in my domain, then shall the second test be all the harder, for those who receive my gifts must pay a price.
And lo, I looked again, and I saw that the god had left me.
“Then the elf named that mountain the Wintermount, and told what he had heard told this to the elves, who gave themselves the name Helcelen, from the word Helce, which means ‘Ice’. And the elf returned to the mountain where the God had come to him, and is said to wait there for him still.”
“The elves for some years awaited the great tasks, but when they did not come, they fought against one another, for nigh on fifty years. Then it was that the first High King was elected, and soon after his ascension to the Frozen Throne the first test came.”
“The first test was sent to us by the God very soon after, and nearly destroyed the Helcelen utterly. The tale does not mention what it was, but the Teranor was slain in the fighting. Afterward, the clans attempted to rebuild, but fell again into war and ruinous fighting, and so it has been ever since. That is the story of the sea’s edge, and is an abbreviated history of the Helcelen, as it is recounted by legend, song, and myth.” Yaran finished speaking, and closed his eyes in thought.