"The shrieks of winter specters can be heard on the howling wind. The winter phantom approaches..."
Ice Shemira is one of the mini-bosses in AFK Arena. She takes on the boss role for part of the Midwinter Festivities Event, and eventually take on the role of a mini boss for The Twisted Realm. After the death of her husband and son, spirits of Winter came to Shemira and granted her icy abilities. Upon defeat, she drops glacial keys that can be used in the aforementioned event.
When the northern winds batter at the door and frost rims the windows, Shemira becomes reflective. She recalls that winter which now seems like forever ago. Her son, only two years of age and barely able to stand on his own two feet, bundled tightly against the cold seeping into their home and looking out at the driving snow with wonder. She remembers the way his breath, so warm, fogged the panes of glass.
This was contentment. She remembers the messenger at the door. The skirmishes were happening with more frequency. They needed more men. More healers and medics, he explained. They needed her husband.
Niru left the next morning and though she had been assured that he wouldn’t be at the front lines, she had a nagging feeling that scratched at the back of her mind. She felt as if something was going wrong. As it happened, she was right.
The fighting continued unabated. What she had expected to be one difficult season turned into several. Eventually even the longing she felt became a dull kind of pain after the seasons turned to years. She received news with some regularity, him ever optimistic, but now the letters were more a curiosity than the lifeline they had once been. She read over them distantly, barely internalizing the words on the page. After all, if he wasn’t there then what good was this? It was like talking to the dead.
All the while, their son grew. Shemira did the best she could on her own but the burden was heavy. She had good work as a tailor, fashioning dresses for noblewomen and wives of the wealthier merchants. She would spend long hours over the fabric, working her needle with a careful hand. Sometimes she would think briefly of Niru and wonder if he too was holding a needle, sewing up some wound rather than fine cloth, somewhere far away from his true duty here at home. Each year when winter came she would watch out the window as Daimon, getting bigger all the time, would play in the snow. She wasn’t unhappy, not truly, but something was certainly missing.
It was a day much like the one that stood monumental in her memory that Niru returned. She surprised herself by recognizing him by his gait alone, guarded as he was against the elements. She surprised herself even more by feeling a flood of relief, a surge of joy, at his return. Running outside, she scooped up their boy and ran with him to the father he’d nearly forgotten.
Her joy was short lived. The man who had left their threshold that day years ago was not the same as the man who’d come back. He was gaunt, disheveled, with a feverish glint in his eye. Getting settled back into their old home, he spoke at a frantic pace of the things he’d seen. He went on and on about the graveborn they’d been fighting, saying he’d learned more from them than from all his previous studies.
“They don’t tire! They require no food or rest. They feel no pain!”
He had exclaimed.
She knew now that he had been right about most of his claims, but there was one that he had misunderstood. Years more had passed since his return. Years more than that had gone by since she had herself undergone the transformation. It was true that she never felt hunger. It was true that the icy winds swirling around her caused her no discomfort. It was not true that she felt no pain. She was consumed by it. Every memory of her old life was overshadowed by the memory of Niru’s trial and execution and the subsequent death of their son.
She stood alone in the cemetery with only her wretched memories to accompany her. Cold tears froze on her face. She screamed her anguish into the howling wind, and the spirits of winter heard her call. The flurries of snow became ever more animated, circling around her in a vortex. She imagined that once or twice she saw faces in the whirling white. When the winds finally subsided, she was donning gossamer sheets of frost. She was the image of death. A perfect picture of endings.