|"Are we done in this reality yet? Hello? Hellooo?"|
The storm of war looms over the Freljord.
Rumors of strife in the north have spread for months, but Demacia is only now taking notice. The Freljord has remained divided and tribal for centuries, but should they unite, a barbarian march could threaten our borders. It's time someone assessed the danger to Demacia.has granted me leave to gather information.
Val and I leave tonight.
Avarosan Camp, Southern Freljord
The stories I've heard always made the Freljord out to be a barbaric, uncivilized place. If the cold doesn't kill you, the people will (so the soldiers of Demacia say)
I didn't expect the warmth that greeted me in the Avarosan camp. If not for the snowy mountains in the distance, I'd have mistaken this for a Demacian border town, not a tribal stronghold. It's clear that , the Avarosan leader, has greatly advanced the Freljord people since our last envoy visited this place years ago. These are not scattered barbarians at war with the land and with each other. The people here are adapting to the hardships of the Freljord, growing grain, and building the foundations of a civilization.
Ashe is diplomatic and welcoming. She carries herself with the air of a leader that shines through her youth. Even Val likes her (how rare) Ashe guessed that we'd come here to offer Demacian aid, but she insists nothing of the sort is needed. "We fight our own battles", she told us.
Her words may be true, but I see division amongst her people. Val's tense around some of them, and he can sense their discomfort. Some happily tend to the fields, while others hold their tools like weapons. They're waiting for a war, not a harvest.
I've spoken to a few tribesmen. Most are confident that Ashe is the rightful leader of the Freljord. They swear she'll unify the tribes, but I can see some doubt in their eyes. They whisper one name in fear: Winter's Claw. It's clear some of Ashe's people fear her strength and ferocity.. She leads the tribe known as the
Val and I are off to scout Sejuani's territory at dawn. We'll determine the extent of the threat she poses to the Freljord - and to Demacia.
Winter's Claw territory
The farther we travel into Sejuani's lands, the colder the Freljord grows. I'd cover my tracks if the falling snow didn't do it for me. I know we aren't welcome here.
Near the border we passed the burnt remains of an Avarosan village. Hundreds of hoof prints led in all directions. Did the tribesmen who died here choose to remain loyal to Ashe in the face of the Winter's Claw? Is this the ruin Sejuani brings upon her opponents?
What I can't explain is the second Avarosan village we discovered. It was deserted without a single sign of battle or struggle, although the Avarosan banners still hanging from their huts had been shredded. Did these people flee?
Vala Winter's Claw warband nearby. Without his eyes, I might be dead. We ducked out of their path and they passed without spotting us. Then we followed them to Sejuani's camp.
Several warbands joined the first, each bearing the spoils of conquest: weapons, food, and to my surprise, recruits. I realized then that the people of the second Avarosan village hadn't fled, but had instead joined the Winter's Claw willingly. The most zealous of Ashe's people had described the Winter's Claw as a starving, ill-supplied band of raiders, but at dusk the camp burst into celebration with plenty of food and drink (especially drink)
I only caught sight of Sejuani herself for a moment. Atop her massive, she was a fearsome sight, but even she joined her men in celebration. Their songs celebrated her name.
It appears Sejuani is more than a destroyer. She too seeks unity between the tribes of Freljord and her tribe grows with those who choose to join her.
This isn't what I expected. Val and I will head east and seek the people loyal to the Avarosan there. If Sejuani recruits as easily as she destroys, the Freljord under the control of the Winter's Claw would certainly be a threat to Demacia. Is Ashe's tribe at risk?
Shatterfrost camp, Eastern Freljord
We traveled east, putting Sejuani's territory further behind us. For many days of the journey, I couldn't be certain we'd find anyone or anything alive out here. The Freljord is so sparse and so empty. It's no wonder the tribes fight for every scrap of fertile ground.
The people of the Shatterfrost, a small tribe fiercely loyal to Ashe, took us in. They offered us what spare rations they could, which wasn't much at all. They seemed ashamed they couldn't give more. They told me that trolls had been raiding their camps and villages, stealing supplies and murdering their hunters. While trolls are usually seen as foolish brutes who travel in small packs, these attacks seem organized. One tribesman claims that a new leader, a, is rallying his kin to war.
But there's a deeper threat, one that the people of the Shatterfrost seem afraid to speak of. Rumors of the legendaryof Freljord have these people terrified. She has attacked travelers and small hunting bands, leaving her victims impaled on jagged shards of . They say no one has ever seen her face and lived.
We left the Shatterfrost behind us to seek more of Ashe's eastern allies and soon found ourselves in a deep and heavy blizzard. I couldn't see much through the snowfall. Val saw the danger ahead before I did, but I still heard the sounds of battle on the wind.
Trolls (hulking, awful brutes) sacked a small village in the distance and smashed everything they couldn't take. I couldn't save the tribesmen - they were already dead. I got as close as I could. One of the trolls barked orders at the others (who clumsily tried to obey) This troll leader carried a massive club that seemed to be carved from the ice itself. It glowed with power even in the dark of the growing snowstorm. Is this the Troll King?
Val snatched a banner from the wreckage - this tribe had been loyal to the Avarosan, but not a soul came to their aid. Eastern Freljord is not secure. Ashe won't be able to call on reinforcements from these distant tribes if she needs them.
Still, the Frostguard to the north are said to be Ashe's most powerful ally. The Frostguard have pledged since ancient times to stand watch over this land, and the name of their leader, Lissandra, is spoken in reverence throughout the Freljord. The trolls, the Winter's Claw, and the Ice Witch - together, can Lissandra and Ashe hold them back?
Frostguard city, Eastern Freljord
I underestimated the journey here. The snow and the glacial landscape slowed our travel, and Val could hardly fly in this cold to scout the way ahead. We'd nearly run out of rations by the time we reached the Frostguard city gates, but the tribesman welcomed us as allies of Ashe and fed us well.
This place is nothing like the Avarosan camp or Sejuani's roaming warband. The city seems somehow both ancient and new. Its black stone structures are clearly ages old and climb the walls of the glaciers. How were they built?
Lissandra, the leader of the Frostguard, is a well-spoken and elegant woman who carries herself with the poise and presence of a queen. She reminds me more of the nobility of Demacia than the barbarians of Freljord - maybe that's why Val doesn't like her.
Frostguard city, later
We've been treated well as envoys of Demacia, but something isn't right. Lissandra will tell me very little about her alliance with Ashe. I asked her of the troll threat, which she believes is overstated. Lissandra claims the Frostguard are capable of wiping out the trolls and securing the east, yet if that is the case, why hasn't she struck back? When I mentioned the Ice Witch, she dismissed the rumors I'd heard as children's tales.
The Frostguard insist on escorting us at all times, and there are parts of the city we're not allowed to see. What is it they don't want us to know?
If there are secrets here, I'll find them. Val and I will investigate the city at night. The guards will never know we left our quarters.
Frostguard city, night
Something is wrong here.
I crept through the city with Val circling above. This place is even stranger at night. Many of the structures here are marked with a symbol of an open, staring eye. It's everywhere, watching over the city and everyone in it. And I don't like feeling watched.
We came upon a group of Frostguard deep in the city. They knelt in a circle around a giant stone eye and spoke in a strange tongue, venerating it. The Frostguard are hiding something - something that's clearly more important to them than an alliance with the Avarosan. What are they planning?
I can't shake the feeling that we're being watched. We aren't safe. Val and I are leaving - now.
We had to escape the city before sunrise. I couldn't risk the Frostguard discovering that Val and I had seen the secrets they'd tried to keep from us. Val distracted the guards while I opened the main gate and slipped away. I knew the risks of venturing back into the Freljord: it's a long way to Demacia, and there aren't any landmarks to guide me so far north. Every glacier looks the same, especially in the dark of night.
A few hours after leaving the city, I sensed something following us. Val scouted from above. Even through the snow, we could see something following our trail. We quickened our pace, yet Val cried a warning that our pursuer was gaining ground. The night grew darker and the snow grew colder around me. Shadows moved across the faces of the glaciers as if something had come alive within them.
We couldn't escape.
Fearing for our lives, I moved off the trail and gave my journal to Valor - if I died in the Freljord, my reports had to get back to Jarvan. He flew ahead while I flanked my pursuer.
A shape emerged from the darkness: a tall, slender figure floating over the ice. There was something faintly human about her, but it was clear she wasn't human at all. She remained deathly still as she silently glided towards me. Beneath her, wicked shards of unnatural black ice leapt from the ground. The cold I felt in her presence nearly stopped my heart. I've never felt such dread.
She slowed and hesitated when she came near my hiding place. Did she see me? I can't be certain. She finally turned away and disappeared into the night. The shadows in the ice vanished with her. Did she spare me?
Val is safe. He had circled above the whole time. Part of me thinks he would'veto the death instead of taking the report back to Demacia (stubborn bird)
My hands are still shaking as I write this, and it isn't from the cold. The Ice Witch is more than a story to scare children. I've seen enough here, and once we're farther south I'll write up my final report. It's time to go home.
We're finally heading home. It's been a long journey, and I'll be happy to see Demacia again.
I've begun preparing my report for Jarvan on the state of tensions in the Freljord. I believe he'll be surprised with the results. There is much more to the Freljord than Demacia assumed, and the threat of war is very real. Ashe has a strong vision, but not all of the Freljord's tribes are willing to unify under her leadership. Some have left her to ally with Sejuani, a warrior whose ferocity and strength are legendary in this land. I can't prove it, but Lissandra may be a third force to consider. The Frostguard are mysterious and isolated, and they clearly have their own agenda. A united Freljord led by Sejuani or Lissandra could pose a true threat to Demacia - perhaps all of Valoran.
What happens next might be the spark that lights the fire of war. Knowing what I've learned, I think it's safe to say that we will be watching.