Exalted: Northern Skies
By the time I was born, the number of the People had greatly diminished. My childhood was shared with less than a dozen other children near my age and there were fewer babies born each year. Fewer still survived to adulthood.
From the heirlooms, clothes, and weapons passed down through generations it was apparent the tribe also consisted of members smaller and weaker than in earlier times. Bows no one was strong enough to pull and cloaks that fit better over two than one were reminders of a better past.
As I came of age, much of the life of the forest was disappearing. The trees had stopped seeding, depriving us of the important nourishment the pine nuts had once provided. The migration of birds and small mammals that accompanied Ascending Fire came in dwindling numbers until the year it never came. The birds we once caught for food were replaced by desiccated, foul-smelling crows. Our hunting owls came back empty-taloned week after week and we began to see skeletal bats patrolling the night sky.
It was around this time that the dreams began. I dreamed of fallen trees on black snowscapes. I dreamt wolves feasting on human flesh at a table made of ice. I woke shaking from scenes of crows pecking the eyes from emaciated children. The dreams were always terrible and bathed in moonlight, always in moonlight.
And then the final dream came.
A cloaked figure stood in a clearing, a great pine forest to her right and a river running through a field to her left. The hood of her cloak obscured her face, but taloned feet dug into the snow beneath her. She stood in silence. Gazing to her left down the river, I saw a landscape that was strange to me. To her right I recognized the distant glaciers that marked the forest as my home. Then a sudden gust of wind swirled the snow away from my feet and revealed that I was standing on an ice floe. Entombed in the ice lay the body of a young mother from my tribe, the only to have birthed in five seasons, her infant daughter clasped in her arms. This deathly embrace entranced me and I stared down for what seemed an eternity. When I finally looked up, the cloaked figure had raised her head as well. Two eyes sparkled like stars from a face still swathed in darkness and peered into my soul. I knew then it was up to me. I must lead my people out of the trees. We must find a new home and a new way of life if we are to survive.