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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: A Glimpse into the Ardenai Celebration of Hiemaltide.

Author: Uniana Anduin Nalfein

The Ride to Ta'Ardenai

We took the Road of Marble through the upper acreage of Loenthra and the majority of the trip was pleasant despite the pervasive cold that attempted to seep into the carriage. Though we started quite early in the morning it became obvious we would not make it to the southern capital of Ardenai before nightfall as the outside of the carriage grew darker. The wheels slowed tenuously on the snow-covered road, I pulled back the curtains of the windows to the carriage and saw waiting for us was a pair of walled sleighs lit by glass-paned lanterns, their vivid orange light briefly amplified by the falling snow against the vast darkness of the forest and cloud-covered sky.

“The hours flew by,” I remarked to my husband as the door to the carriage was opened from the outside, “how quickly it became night.”

Teveriel smiled and offered me his hand as he guided me down the steps of the carriage. “We are further north, my love,” he gently reminded, “the hour is not so late but we will not see another sunrise until we return south.”

After our party transferred from carriage and horseback respectively to the caribou-pulled sleighs the road was lit solely by the caravan. At some point the reflective properties of the snow seem to become lost against the dense thickets that encroached against the roadway. My party informed me that the hour was near nine when a distant golden glow crested the horizon. As we drew closer, the dark briars that surrounded the roadway gave way to giant plains blanketed in snow. On the distant side the horizon was shaped by monstrous trees, the outline of their forms lit by golden lanterns hung by chains within the branches. As tall as a single story building, the lanterns carried on in either direction as far as could be seen. Over the road was a natural arch of intertwined branches rising like a portcullis, veins of magic incandescent pulsating throughout narrow carvings along the limbs.

I had been through the gate of the Darkling Wood before but in the pitch of this long night it seemed otherworldly in its magnificence. On the other side of the gate, the forest on either side became hauntingly plenteous once more. The road however was enchanting, lit on either side under the carpet of snow by a bioluminescent verdant glow, amplified in radiance by the icy covering. As we got closer to the capitol, the scent of woodburning invaded our senses and would remain with us for the duration of our stay.


Draekreyn (or "dark rain") happens alongside the Eve of the Reunion, a time when some northern Ardenai houses prepare for the darkness of winter. It is also a time when the animals who will not survive through the cold are slaughtered. The Ardenai use every part of the animal and so the slaughtered are hung from trees to exsanguinate the animals, hence causing the blood to fall like a "dark rain."

At that point the days get significantly shorter and it becomes a very dangerous time for Ardenai who live in the far north. This time of year is heavily inundated with superstition especially about trekking out alone. The Ardenai are in fact a quite social house which perhaps leads to the perception that they are more approachable to outsiders. But make no mistake, this kind of aloof, friendly attitude is born out of necessity to those who do not live in the comforts of the larger, more modern cities and are encouraged never to trek in the dark of Hiemaltide alone.

During this time of prolonged dark there is a great deal of forest management that happens. Despite being near pitch black for most of the day the Ardenai have created ways to force visibility in large areas of land. Giant imflass discs are arranged around the plot of forest, the reflective surface amplifying the light. When cold enough the ice crystals in the air catch the light and help create beacons that serve as guide points. The snow-riddled ground creates some difficulties but some advantages as well, fires are much easier to maintain and control. Being an Ash Tender is the premier responsibility of the Darkling Wood Wardens in the winter months.

The majority of fires burn leading up to and on Hiemaltide, a festival that celebrates winter solstice and the promise of the return of sunlight. Wreaths that were hung in the months before are removed from their perches and set ablaze, tossed down hillsides for sport, drunken amusement but also to symbolize the cycle of time, life and death and that all will eventually turn to ash.

Huge bonfires the size of towers are set ablaze, calling to the Sun in an effort to speak to its pride by being outshone. (Note: Some recognize that this entity is Phoen while others in Ardenai see the Sun as more of a primal force that cannot be contained or fully controlled by an Arkati.) Another manifestation indicative that the "force" called to during this time is Phoen, is the overt displays of virility that take place during Hiemaltide which can take the form of physical games and battles of strength (ice breaking, log hurling or even displays of combat) or the frequency of public coupling. Many Ardenai share birthdays in Imaerstan but those who are truly blessed are those who were conceived under "Skyfyre"

Skyfyre is when ripples of multicolored light burn across the black vastness overhead. It is a relatively frequent occurrence but to have it specifically happen during Hiemaltide is considered an omen of a prosperous year. Another superstition during this time is that of Bamaas, the ice troll witch. Bamaas looks for children who stray too far from the light of the bonfires to take them back to her lair and make soup from, though any child will do it is said she has a particular taste for lazy children whose softness makes them sweet as honey.

While the fest is rife with all manner of food and beverage, the most unique is the selection of mead and specialty cakes made with honey infused with thuja. The psychotropic effects are said to encourage a fresh state of consciousness that allows one to better experience the world as it goes through this annual change.