Darkfrost is a annual Vale Verdial holiday season taking place just after the winter soltice.


Petalcap Vale Flag by BCGR_Wurth
As far back as anyone can remember, the Vale Verdial culture has always connected the depths of winter with death. Their home in Petalcap Vale, while kept somewhat warm by the presence of endemic thermogenic fungi, is located in the chilly Caudal Tesseract. Each year - especially in the peripheries of the Vale - punishingly cold weather reaps the elderly, homeless, and those caught outside unprepared.   Because the daylight hours are short, dangerous, light-sensitive Distal creatures - especially distal polyps - can use winter nights to expand and potentially come into conflict with rural communities. The Darkfrost tradition developed over time as a way to keep people together in warm indoor environments and away from what lurks in the frozen darkness outside.


Most traditional homes in the Vale feature large root cellars dug out among the mycelia of the enormous, glowing mushrooms that cover Caudal D. The mycelia exude warmth and glow faintly with orange, green, or violet hues. During Darkfrost, verdials gather their families into their homes or travel to stay with relatives, spending most of this time in these root cellars.   Though most Vale Verdials are Forgist - and, therefore, skeptical of ghostly apparitions - they often smear glowpaste around their doors, windows, and doorsteps in decorative sigils during Darkfrost. This tradition is an imitation of the wardings rituals found in now-extinct ancient Vale spiritualist traditions and persists because of the holiday's long-standing association with death. Indeed, as cross-cultural contact has increased, some Vale Verdial families have adopted symbology from Rostran Esotericism (especially Knappist binding circles) in the creation of these sigils.   While below ground, participating families share home-cooked meals, chat with relatives, and play games.   As with the Mushroom Harvest Festival, Darkfrost meals include healthy servings of mushroom-based dishes, though baked goods and seasonal crops like cranberries also feature prominently. Bits of the tender mycelium in the walls can be harvested to enhance the flavor of otherwise preserved mushroom dishes. Because the underground reaches of the community remain free of frost during winter, some fruits and vegetables can be grown under lamps in the cellars for fresh consumption during Darkfrost. In fact, by the time Darkfrost rolls around, many of the fruits of the earlier harvest season have already been fermented into brandies which are then mulled and spiced for holiday consumption.   In a similar fashion to the Mushroom Harvest Festival, Darkfrost gatherings often entail heavy drinking among adult verdials, warming the vitals and loosening inhibitions. Unlike with the summertime festival, however, Darkfrost drinking is more likely to bring out sorrows from the previous year than to cause other indiscretions. Even with modern technology, Darkfrost is often surrounded by many deaths from the cold itself, cold-related illnesses, or social diseases brought on by close proximity around the family hearth. As the young are shuffled off to bed, many adult celebrants remain awake into the late evening, sharing stories of lost loved ones and comisserating about the family members who can't be present for whatever reason.


Darkfrost activities are held every Seldun, from Kekuni 24th to Dakuni 27th, as this is around the coldest period of the year.

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Cover image: by Michael Oeser


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