At the Edge of the World

Glacial winds screamed over the barren expanse of ice and snow, churning the bed of frost into swirling cascades of pure cold. Ashen clouds crawled viciously overhead, consuming the sun entirely. Now and again they would let loose another wave of biting snow, disgorging the alabaster powder in great sheets.

The frozen hell extended as far as the eye could see in all directions, with no landmarks to guide travellers, no shelter to shield them from the raw force of nature that consumed the land. Vegetation was utterly absent, as was even the smallest beast, rendering the hunt for food futile.

Yet for all its fury, all its icy wrath, there were some who braved the rime-wreathed plain. Cowled figures dredged through waist deep snow, slowly but steadily crossing the waste before them. Each was wrapped three times over in fur-lined hides, bundled so tightly they resembled cocoon-bound moths. The only break in their shell of leather was a small, reinforced cowl, laced with hemp cord. Their labouring breaths froze as they puffed forth from their hoods, before being blown away by the horrid winds.

A half dozen in total, they defiantly marched into the storm, a winding trail in their wake. Single file they snaked their way over the waste, driven forward by promises of wealth beyond belief.

Tales had long circulated of a mountain, sat upon the edge of the world. Though it’s sheer, unforgiving face presented naught but rock and ice, bound within was a bounty of glittering gems, as pale as ice and frigid to the touch. Scholars believed them to be an elemental remnant of the world’s creation, the crystallized essence of water. Priests believed them to be sacred treasures left by the gods, given to those graced by divinity.

Looters believed the cache to be worth a fortune. A single gem could be exchanged for an exceptional warhorse, a handful could buy a modest townhouse. A mountain’s worth could purchase a kingdom.

Such tales drew the attention of the greedy, the adventurous, and the downtrodden. Bands of looters, rich and poor, secured passage to the frost-wreathed oceans of the far north. From the meagre ports that lay anchored in the ice they began their trek across the wastes.

Their bones lay hidden beneath the snow. Hundreds flocked to that frozen hell, perhaps thousands. Yet none have returned richer for their trials. Those that crawled back to the coast were in a sad state, fingers and noses chewed off by the biting cold. Stories of desperate cannibalism ran rife, and none who left that rime-locked place dared speak of what they had seen.

New arrivals scoffed at these broken individuals, declaring them weak. They were more than ready to make great sacrifices to cross the wind-swept wastes in search of fortune. They were ready to risk their lives.

All for a tale from the edge of the world.

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