The Hybrids stand on the brink of extinction. Each day they struggle for survival and fight tooth and nail against annihilation, but they are alone. Most of the world doesn’t know of them. Those who do are just as likely to help them as to call them an abomination, an unholy blend of human and elven, of Water and Earth. Half-elves. There are only a few who refuse to accept this hollow war and dream of something greater. Ralael is one of them, a young Hybrid with big dreams and an iron will, and when two elves show up at their gates with an offer from their king he defies the will of his entire community in pursuit of a chance to be heard.
But the Hybrids are not the only ones who deal with such hardship.. Fifty elemental cycles after the Withdrawal, the Ice Elves are turning restless. To prevent the unrest from spreading, their king is forced to take extreme measures to quell the turmoil, but will in turn be compelled to protect himself against those who would harm him — and those close to him. All of his relations are thus sent away from the crown city in the hands of capable protectors, except for one…
The circumstances are not an ally of either party. Before the end, everyone will have to make a choice, Ralael included. Does his mission truly come before everything else? What weighs more on the elusive scale of conscience? His kind’s future, or the life of a stranger?
Heirs of the Frost explores the northern forests of the land of Thessian, where the ice elves live: sensitive and righteous, they feel love and hatred stronger than any other people in their world.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
When the initial, raw idea for the world of Thessian came to be it was tied to my interest in the psychology of personality. The idea that would anchor this interest into a fantasy story was the theme of the Elements: each one has its own race and that race has its own traits that mirror that element. Now the title "Heirs of the Frost" should be clear: it deals with an aspect of the Water, in this case the Ice Elves.
This makes up the equilibrium, which si disrupted by the fact that the Hybrids exist. The story deals with acceptance, at its core: each elf we find reacts differently to the supposedly unnatural nature of the Hybrids.
Or, as the elves call them, Hyxaenn.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Right at the beginning I knew I needed a strong character for a protagonist, someone that would take on responsibilities and that steered clear of both the Reluctant Hero and Chosen One trope. Ralael has a strong conscience and an iron will, and strikes a balance between pragmatism and starry-eyed idealism.
Alongside him, I wanted a character that would contradict and thus reinforce his traits. Rha'nall is just that. She's every bit as optimistic as Ralael is pessimistic, innocent in the face of his cynicism and so on… Months after writing the story I noticed where the initial input for the character had come from: people who have played Bioshock Infinite may sometimes see faint glimpses of Elizabeth Comstock in her character.
From the first chapter, A Cold Welcome
“When will he arrive?”
“Soon, Rha’naal. Soon.”
Naal reclined on the backrest of her seat, keeping her eyes on the door. Her father sat in the throne, looking at the large hall in front of him. All the way on the other side, she could see the morning's first light coming in. It was still quite dark inside. The lights on the stone walls were enough to brighten it up. She sometimes cast glances at the ceiling, noticing details she had never picked up before. There were small crevices or protrusions in the rock here and there.
She was looking at the ceiling because she didn’t know what else to do. She felt impatient. Sometimes she envied her father's calm, although she knew better than to trust appearances. He too grew tense when there was nothing to do, and she wasn’t different. He had learned to be patient however, whereas she had never managed.
The wooden door on the side clicked. Before she had time to look at it, it had already opened. She observed keenly as two Frost Scourges walked in. She didn’t recognize the first one that came through, but the second was the one that had spoken to her father before. She remembered now that she didn’t bear any weapons, and neither did her companion.
After the two of them, a third person walked through the threshold. Naal held her breath, feeling the muscles tensing in the attempt to remain still in her seat. She had immediately spotted something different about the newcomer, but she didn’t understand what. He donned a thick black cloak, quite precise in the tailoring of its edges. He wore a cowl which hid his face, and his armour was also strange. Some pieces were of leather, that she recognized, but she also saw some pieces of it that were shining grey. Iron. She had heard of it, but didn’t remember ever seen a suit of armour made from it.
Two steps, quite distant from one another, elevated the throne above the rest of the hall. The two Scourges stepped on the first and stopped just after it, keeping far away from the second. They spread out a little more until they were quite distant from each other, and stood straight and still. The warrior in black imitated them, keeping exactly in between the two. He stole a fleeting glance at Naal; she smiled, but he had already shifted his gaze at her father.
“King Saerith, Lord of the Ice Children,” said one of the Scourges. Then he looked towards her father. “Sire, this is the Hyxaenn. He is called Ralael.”
Naal pinched her eyebrows. A name in high elvish? Very few elves had names in high elvish, and she would have never thought a Hyxaenn could bear it. She supposed that they all had at least an elven parent, but it was still strange. Not only was it a name in high elvish, but it was quite a heritage to have on one’s shoulders, to be named after one of their greatest heroes of legend.
Her father, as per usual, didn’t show any signs of surprise. Perhaps he already knew his name, or perhaps not. “Welcome to Frost Orchard, Ralael. You will pardon me for not having readied anything in preparation of your arrival, but the customs of your people are, regretfully, unknown to me.”
“The thought alone is noble, sire.”
“To make up for that, is there anything that you’d like to ask? I will answer to any questions you might have before we come to the reason you’re here.”
This time Ralael’s gaze lingered a little longer on Naal. “If I may know,” he said, once again looking towards her father before she could smile back, “who is the lady sat next to you, and why is she here?”
Naal looked at her father, and saw a shadow of a thought cross his face. Possibly the same one she had. Whoever that Hyxaenn was, he wasn’t just cautious by nature. He was used to dealing with people in higher positions than him. He had not been insolent, however, and his composure in the face of a monarch was admirable. Had she been asked whether she liked him or not, she would have leant toward a yes.
“She is my daughter,” her father answered. “Her name is Rha’naal. As for the reason she’s here, we will have ample time to talk about it. She is the reason why I have summoned warriors from every corner of this land, including you.”
If Ralael had reacted in any way, Naal didn’t see it. He turned towards her, this time clearly looking at her and not merely glancing. He grabbed the rim of his hood with both hands and threw it behind, on his shoulders. Locks of ashen hair fell over them.
She looked lengthily, enthralled by the blend of elven and human traits that his facial features bore. She had seen only a few humans, but she recognized their traits in him. His face wasn’t as angular as an elf’s, although the cheekbones were still quite high and the cheeks quite skinny. The chin was round and elegant, but rather big, and the jaws were strong and squared. His cheeks were covered by an ashen shade, which she recognized as a hint of the thick beards some humans grew. There were also his ears, long and thin like and elf’s but not pointed at the end, instead rounded off into an ellipse.
He was truly looking at her, and his eyes were of a deep green that resembled the colour of a fir’s needle. “My regards, princess,” he said, hinting at a bow.
She chortled and smiled. “Call me Naal.” She stole a glance at her father before continuing. “I suppose you will soon receive all the information on your task, but I can already assure that it will be better if you start calling me by name now.”
Again, he hinted a small bow. “As you wish.” He returned his attention once more to the king. Naal looked at him carefully, unable to explain his complete lack of reactions as well as the tightness in his motions. “That is all for now,” he said to her father. “At this point, I think I should be informed of what my task entails.”
King Saerith gripped the armrests of the throne and took a deep breath. “These are times of change for my people,” he said, “and the days that will follow will be particularly important for the future of the ice elves. However, even among our kin there are some who are fiercely resistant to change. They look to the past, seeing any attempt at distancing it as insensitive and criminal. Fearing the extreme measures some people might take towards me, I have decided to temporarily make myself invulnerable. All the people dear to me and that do not have anything to do with what I’m doing are being safely taken away from Frost Orchard for a few days. I have an inkling my enemies could use them as hostages in some misguided attempt to stop me.”
Her father paused, looking at the Hyxaenn intently. Naal looked too, searching for any signs that might hint and what he was feeling. And yet again, she saw nothing.
“All the people I had planned to send away have already been escorted from this city, all save for my daughter,” Saerith continued. “To this day, no one has accepted this responsibility, and I do not want any more of my fighters away from the city. So, I have decided to quietly extend this call to my entire realm. News of this must have reached you as well, despite your homeland being out of elven borders. In more concrete terms, I ask you to keep my daughter safe for at least the next five days. You may go wherever you or she wishes, but you will not stay too close to this city. As a final element, you may name whichever reward you wish; if reasonable, it shall be given to you.”
Naal didn’t hear her father’s final words too clearly because finally she had seen something creeping up into Ralael’s features. It wasn’t what she would have liked to see, however. His brow had furrowed slightly and his lips were tightened. He wasn’t looking at her father anymore. His eyes were wandering on the floor, moving from in front of him to his right and then repeating that movement.
Naal felt mixed things. On the one hand, a void seemed to open inside of her for a moment. When she had looked at him she had guessed he would have been the one to finally accept. Was he really just like all of the previous ones? All of those who had refused because they felt it was too high a risk or too great a responsibility? He couldn’t be. He had come from so far away, and he shouldn’t have refused now. However, that feeling was soon covered by a slight amusement at seeing him so confused. So poised and so ready for everything, and now he just got cold feet?
“Sire,” Ralael said, raising his eyes, “I’m not sure-”
“Begone from our palace, you disgusting half-blood!”
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