It's a spiral. A slow one, at that. They start off normal, and then they tumble down - like a snowflake, you know?In the bitterly cold winters of Iskaldhal, some unfortunate minds begin to lose their grip on what is real and what has long since melted away. Their minds become trapped in the hungry blizzards, fixating on those they were unable to save from the chill as their personalities fade into abject despair. For the longer-lived races, becoming snowfel is worse than a death sentence. The illness is one of the mind, not of the body, and so their lifespans only serve to prolong their suffering. It is considered to be worse when the sufferer is aware of their own condition yet remains unable to fight it. Being trapped in such a manner is comparable only to the most exquisite torture.
Transmission & Vectors
Genetic chance depending on species. 10% chance if both parents are dwarven and one was afflicted; the chance rises to 50% if both were. Humans and halflings seem more susceptible, with a 25% base chance rising to 75% if both parents were Snowfallen. Elves and gnomes, meanwhile, have a far lower genetic chance (at approximately 1%) and generally obtain the condition through other means. Half-breeds and other species have not been studied as thoroughly. Regardless, it seems that any singular person is able of developing Snowfel without genetic triggers. What exactly causes it is unknown.
The exact cause of snowfel is unknown, though healers of the Mieluran Order suggest that it is triggered by the pervasive darkness and aura of loneliness caused by lengthy winters. The genetic component is thought by some religious families to be a curse on their lines - usually due to some perceived insult towards their deities in past lives - though it is more likely to be some form of negative mutation in their bloodline. No relation to magic of any kind has yet been found.
Deific InvolvementLocal legend suggests that Kostchtchie, demonic lord of frost giants, might be involved in the inception of the snowfel due to his association with ice and snow. In reality, this is likely a false accusation: the demon lord seeks death and blood, and snowfel causes neither.
The first signs of snowfel manifest like any other form of wintry melancholy. Sufferers grow bitter and lonely, their hunger not sated by the meagre food they are able to obtain. Their temperatures plummet even on warmer days. They soon fall into confusion and misery as they begin seeing long-lost friends and family no longer present, often paired with a desperate plea for things to return to how they once were.
It's the third year of Jurhen's treatment. I don't think he'll escape it this year. We can all see how he stares at the snow - quiet, contemplative, longing. It'll take him soon enough, like it took his mother.Halting the condition's progression is a challenging task, and cannot be accomplished past a certain stage. If caught early, gentle care, warmth, and plentiful food can be enough to reverse the progression of snowfel. Healing magic and careful doses of therapy can aid more extreme cases, with alchemical solutions often necessary as a supplement. Treatment is not something that can be done once and forgotten about. The vestiges of snowfel lurk about a mind for years, waiting for the chance to claim a despairing victim. Too often, the victims will turn away from treatment and embrace either their fate - or a more final solution.
Perhaps the cruellest part of the condition is its lack of fatality. Those dragged under by its effects will never die: instead, reality will become more distant and bleak to them as they fall through its stages until their lifespans or a lack of satiation claim them. As they grow closer to reaching the depths of the condition, they become enthralled with the white snows of outside and often can be found simply standing in the snow, watching it fall. This odd habit is suggested as the origin of snowmen: children simply wished to mimic the pale figures they saw draped in a crystalline blanket.
The first recorded case of an individual wearing the signs of snowfel exists in a document written in the Era of Divinity, nearly six thousand years ago. It speaks of a dwarven woman whose mind was stolen by the icy fey, leaving her to linger in the snows and ignore the needs of her family. An axe of stone - a traditional Iskaldhan clerical implement - was not enough to steal back her thoughts, but her family could not bring themselves to use an axe of steel. She was, instead, given to the ice she seemed to love so much. When the calamity of Jäätta first broke out, other nations suspected that the snowfel was behind the civilisation's sundering due to the nature of its affliction. However, there does not appear to be crossover between the two events.
Individuals suffering from snowfel are seen quite differently depending on the region of Iskaldhal - or indeed, Istralar - involved.
Gildómar and the other dwarven nations once stemming from it (including the rebellious Fjolkandr) view snowfelled individuals as broken shards of what was once whole, and seek to ease the sickness in any way they can. Gildómar, in particular, has extensive facilities for containing and treating the condition.
On the other hand, Naarim views the condition as a form of pitiable weakness. Families with members succumbing to the snowfel will quietly end those members' lives to preserve their memory and privacy, as the snowfel will too often murmur words no other should hear from them.
The snow elves find the condition abhorrent, and snowfelled elves are usually sent to the Querei to be contained - or put down. They seem to struggle in interacting with other races that suffer from the condition, and it bears a heavy stigma - particularly in the wake of Jäätta.
Hvalgora, too, sees the condition as disgusting. It is not alone in condemning those who fall victim to the snowfel, as one of a few human-originated nations upon Iskaldhal who view it as necessary to purge the suffering to prevent any possible contamination.