When the soldiers came to Aylun, they were dressed for war. None of them had ever conceived of winter, snow and frost. Even the seasoned veterans only knew of the light winter chill that crossed the eastern sea when the days turned shorter. Now they were across the sea, across the horizon, beyond the sunrise and winter became a harsh foe.
Every full moon the soldiers would gather in the mess. Some because they had to, their commanders would make them scrub the floors if they didn’t, others because they missed being together. It’s lonely being a soldier abroad, even with tens of thousands… So they came, at the end of their days or the beginnings of their nights. Some came for the food, that would be cooked plenty for the ceremony, but most came to praise their Gods… THe Fay who made the world.
And it was on such an evening, when the snow had fallen to the height of their knees, that they gathered. A few were talking, and some were sneezing, but most were quiet… Quiet because it didn’t seem like the night for talking… In the silence they heard the howl of the wolves, and wondered if they had finally realized the river that kept them at bay had frozen. It was a feast for the Fay of Madness and they laughed at that quietly as they sipped their hot broth. The Mad Cold.
The trees surrounding the camp had lost their leaves now… Most had never seen that before in their lands of evergreens. The Fay had brought madness and winter to their door and their hubris would be punished.
The leaves were gathered by the commanders and made large bonfires with it. So they sat there, that night of madness, with the snow piling up around them. They listened to the wolves and other sounds in the dark and hoped the fire would be enough to keep them at bay.
Morning came. Some awoke to the sun, others to the sound of their commander’s bark. A few returned to bed after holding watch. The sky had cleared, the snow had ceased, the Fay showed mercy.
A year passed and the day came once more. They felt the chill of winter on the howling wind. Come morning, even though no snow had fallen, they gathered the leaves and made the bonfires in hopes of driving away The Mad Cold.
3 centuries later the battlefields and camps are cities and roads and winter’s bite has been harsh more than once. Crops have frozen in their fields and men have fought the cold in their wooden shacks. When the Moon of Madness comes around, the people gather… Like the soldiers once did. For food, for companionship, for their gods and their believes.
Farmers bring their crops, fresh from the fields. The roots and inedible garbage thrown upon the fires that bring warmth, and happiness. Still, this is a day of madness… A day of fear… What winter brings is death and endings. Children dress up in colorful masks. They run giggling and singing from door to do door, proclaiming they are winter and they are there to get you. They expect sweets in return for their innocent game, and the elders laugh.. remembering how they once did the same.
As the night falls, earlier than usual, the people gather to dance and sing and be together. Winter may come, it always does, but madness can be stopped.