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Snow Warrior

The wind howled over the jagged mountain peaks. Behind him was the valley and behind that, the ring that surrounded the Ice Flats. The explorer had taken this challenge knowing full well what was ahead of him if he did. The Greater Pass opened into a northern region of stone and ice forests, deep crevasses, and a harsh wind that, if you weren't careful, could slice right through you like your rival's blade. Before him now, in the distance, he could see the beginnings of virtually impassable stone and ice wilderness.   He carefully found his footing on the snow and ice as he descended the mountain face. A gust of wind picked up, pulling snow off the slope and pushing the explorer to one side. He lost his footing and tumbled down the slope. He landed on his chest on a plateau carved out of the mountainside. Pulling frigid air into his lungs, he gradually looked up to get his bearings. On the plateau next to him, he saw in the wind-tossed snow the shape of armored boots. The explorer's eyes trailed up the form of the person who had seemingly just appeared there. The masked face of the individual tilted to one side, regarding the explorer in turn.   The explorer opened his mouth to speak, but could say nothing. He reached for the stranger, and the stranger took a step back. After several moments he pulled himself to his feet. In the valley below, the wind began to howl, throwing snow everywhere and obscuring the explorer's sight of it. He looked at the stranger again, but he was gone. The wind continued.   I understand.   The explorer turned back to the mountain face, and began scoping a path back over. Back toward home.

Summary

The Stenza have a long, complicated, and storied relationship with entities which they believe live beyond the rim surrounding the Ice Flats, the most prominent of which is an adult male usually described as wearing advanced armor many witnesses suspect is appropriate to the setting. He is sometimes accompanied by anywhere from five to seven un-armored pups, who each have names and specific properties associated with them. The adult male, commonly called Ḍæṣḍîⱱúy ('dæsh'diluya), or "snow warrior", is believed in the present day to be a corporeal being, although the exact logistics of this are subject to debate. Many who study him as a phenomenon (including, where appropriate, the equally anomalous Snow Pups) hypothesize that the entity has its origins in very ancient ideas of spirits "outside" the "known world", some of whom were so powerful they controlled or personified forces of nature. Even the name "ḍæṣḍîⱱúy" points to origins in ancient Stenza words for "winter" which still survive in such odd places as the name of Jal'sa droga.   Unlike entities of this type on other planets in the cosmos, the "snow warrior" is believed to be a physical being, as well as a powerful nature spirit. (See On the Soul, Ancestor Veneration, and the Afterlife for more notes on the Stenza view of spirits.) As a physical being, many believe he can be photographed and otherwise physically interacted with. This has led, like the hunt for Bigfoot, to attempts to obtain a sample of DNA for testing (what does come back is either judged "Stenza" or "inconclusive"), as well as a host of photographs and video images of dubious quality. A host of "rational thinkers" have thus concluded that the entity does not exist, but the vast majority of the Stenza population are still cautious enough to perform old rituals and offerings if they ever need to cross into "his" territory for any reason (most commonly for work or to inter the dead, but occasionally for other ritual purposes such as a Citizenship Trial or seeking the aid of gods and spirits).   However, because he is thought to be a physical entity, he is (sometimes in jest) held responsible for mysterious-seeming deaths encountered during Hunting Season. Libations are usually poured over the animal, and the animal may be taken as a gift, depending on a host of factors (apparent age and sex of the animal, signs detected by any present, needs of the party, and so forth). This seems to have led to a latter-day revival of belief in the entity as someone who watches over the process of death so that the deceased is at least remembered by someone.

Historical Basis

It is commonly believed that the Snow Warrior legend, and related legends about his Pups, evolved out of ancient tales of the handful of powerful nature spirits that lived on the surface of Mudewei proper, whose primary job was controlling the weather and minding the Ice Flats and specific areas of Stenza life. As such they have retained a lot of their primordial powers and functions well into the present day, including being (seen as) responsible for the Ice Storms and periodic hospitality checks done by the Pups.   Though there is no concrete evidence of a "snow warrior" as a physical entity in the same way Stenza or humans are physical, there are many, many alleged sightings. Through the ages his armor has changed, from ancient hardened leather to more advanced Battle Armor designed for even the Ninth Circle of Dante's Hell. He is said to watch the observer, but never say anything, and never get too close. There are claimed images of him, casts of prints he has allegedly left, and the odd claimed DNA evidence (blood, skin, and so on). Many tests on these samples have yielded inconclusive and sometimes controversial results.   The best image of the Snow Warrior comes from a drone assigned to monitor the Ice Flats during High Winter as part of a scientific experiment. The puzzling file depicts an armored individual walking across the Flats directly toward the camera, holding a spear-axe point downward. Despite the drone's continual imaging of the region throughout the course of the experiment, this image exists for seven frames before being obscured by a blizzard and vanishing from view. He does not appear to move across any of those frames. Each has been studied extensively for any sign of a hoax or an ordinary Stenza wandering around in High Winter for unknown reasons, but no such explanation has been found.

Spread

Snow Warrior legends are known in the Greater, Lesser, Wide, and Low Passes and the foothills in the mountains that ring the Ice Flats, and are less well known (and well-received) closer to the Flats and in the more sheltered areas of the rim.

Variations & Mutation

Several Droga, especially near the Greater, Lesser, Wide, and Low mountain passes, routinely circulate stories of sightings and alleged evidence of the Warrior's existence, while more sheltered clans do not. Correlated, members of the more sheltered clans tend to, especially in modern times, think these people stupid or backwards for their stories. (After all, they are normal, modern Stenza living on normal, modern Mudewei with their normal, modern space-faring empire. They are supposed to be beyond superstitious nonsense, the logic goes.)   At least two clans who live in the foothills of the mountains claim death-related phenomena attributed to the Warrior. Alleged sightings tend to occur when one of their own is dying or will soon die. Occasionally he is seen directly over the recently deceased, and may be accompanied by a Snow Pup or two (which, if they are identified, vary telling to telling and incident to incident).   Among these two groups of Stenza, there is a shared belief that the Snow Warrior causes things like Ice Storms and other dangerous weather phenomena, either when angered or for his own reasons (in some accounts, this control is so complete that he can suspend the falling snow). He lives beyond civilization, and so is believed to not merely be capable of surviving it, but have control over it, for good or ill (this does not seem to go well with belief in his physical nature). Research into this particular subject has suggested that the Snow Warrior is a modern form of an ancient nature spirit or spirits, whose domain was the harsh conditions that govern Stenza existence.

Cultural Reception

The Snow Warrior as an entity is known south of the natural border between the forest and the arctic region. The Sandibari have long attested to the harshness of winter storms, and believed the Stenza at face value when early interactions brought the concept of a personified winter to them. By all accounts, the Sandibari simply rolled with the idea.
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Comments

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27 Jul, 2020 08:56

The Snow Warrior has all the hallmarks of a really great myth. I can see why he would be believed in (or not).   I really liked the piece of prose at the beginning. Very evocative.

27 Jul, 2020 22:25

I had a lot of fun messing around with the format of vignettes (the divine characters like Iradae and Lan'tha, f'ex, I tried to channel Red from Overly Sarcastic Productions for). Also I based him off of Bigfoot :D

28 Jul, 2020 07:47

Definitely got Bigfoot vibes from him! :D

28 Jul, 2020 17:28

:D   I've been deliberately leaving it ambiguous if the gods and spirits like this fellow here are actually real, which is truer to life but a lot harder as a writer because it's just so easy to come down one way or the other.