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Mysterium Bestia: Ice Wraiths

Tags: #Mysterium Bestia  #event article 
  • Member
    March 29

    Ask even the most sheltered Nord child, and they will speak clearly of the natural dangers in this land. There are many beasts to study and local tales to tell of Skyrim’s savage wilderness, but for the sake of brevity, this book will concentrate on one particular predator. Ice Wraiths, native to Skyrim and the orc-infested mountains of Wrothgar, have been a source of pride and grief for my people since the days of Ysgramor.

    Ice wraiths are snakelike, skeletal frost spirits and incredibly hostile to all living things. Hard as bone and bound together by magic, their bodies are long as a man’s arm from wrist to shoulder. Excluding the head, ice wraith bodies are segmented into 8 fragments of graduating size - getting smaller and less defined the closer one gets to the ‘tail’. Their bodies end in a vaporous contrail of ice. The head is easily the nastiest part; their lower jaw is bifurcated in the middle like a snake’s skull, and there is no way to discern where the serrated fangs end and the actual mandible begins.

    Attached to the mandible are thin tendrils of ice that extend along the ice wraith’s body, and look to assist in movement as the creature uses the wind and it’s own magic to glide through the air. Speaking with a seaman who has been to the coasts of Valenwood and the Summerset Isles supports my theories; they move like sea serpents, their bodies undulating like ribbons, propelling them through the natural air currents the way their aquatic cousins move through the ocean.

    I have encountered enough ice wraiths in my long years to notice the miasma of frost magic around them, radiating from some unknown point of origin. Their primary mode of attack is by biting, and any contact with an ice wraith’s fangs has the same effect as a low quality frost destruction spell. Take caution: ice wraiths can not only bite, but strike through an unarmored body, as if to freeze a Nord’s heart right in their chest.

    Spikes erupt from the ground whenever ice wraiths go on the attack, and they have been known to skewer the unsuspecting traveler who walks too near a dormant wraith.

    Take caution: ice wraiths carry the disease of witbane in their bites. While not deadly, witbane can rob even the most skilled mage of their ability to conjure magic; a clever, horrible means for the ice wraiths to kill their targets.

    Ice wraiths are considered lesser souls, and can be stored inside a soul gem.

    They do not have hearts, or any internal organs to speak of. However, if one can get close enough without paying the consequences, you can see the ice wraith’s eyes; their vision seems poor, navigating and seeking out their prey through other senses.

    When combating them, it shouldn’t need mentioning that they are resistant to frost spells. They are, however, weak to fire, but immune to paralysis and reanimation. Fortunately, my people are hearty and aggressive, strong and unrelenting. Combating ice wraiths takes intelligence, yes, but it also takes brute strength and hard strikes to take one down. A battleaxe would do nicely.

     

    Ice wraiths are found in very cold climes, in fact, you will not find an ice wraith in any biome where snow is not present; Falkreath, the Rift, the Reach and Whiterun Holds do not have ice wraiths. They are plentiful in the Pale, and Winterhold, and they congregate around places with a high concentration of magicka.

    I’ve journeyed to Winterhold and been to the College myself; I have seen the Midden, and laid eyes on the many ice wraiths that cluster there. Ice wraiths can also be found at standing stones, and Nordic ruins with a strong magical presence (they may be able to sense the draugr buried within). I have not tested this, but their natural attraction to magic might make mages and spellswords more prominent targets in the wilds than the average brigand or traveler.

    Ice wraiths do not just float around, waiting for anything with a pulse. They are stealthy and hard, if not impossible, to spot when they nestle down into the snow drifts to wait for their prey. It’s possible they enter a dormant state while in the snow; ice wraiths do not eat whatever animal, man or mer they happen to fell. I propose that ice wraiths are, instead, territorial - laying claim to high concentrations of magicka, and often attacking as a ‘pack’ anything that comes near it.

    Which leads me to my next topic of focus: why are ice wraiths attracted to magic?

     

    To call victims of an ice wraith ‘prey’ is misleading. ‘Prey’ implies that the ice wraiths intend to eat the animals and mortals they kill, but this could not be further from the truth. In my studies of these creatures, from High Hrothgar to the naked wilderness of the Pale, I have never seen an ice wraith consume so much as a single bite of flesh.

    Yet they must sustain themselves somehow. They are alive, or fit inside that term as loosely as a hostile ice spirit can, and the law of all living things is that they must consume to continue living.

    My theory is that they eat magicka. It explains their attraction to holy places and sites of great magical power; they feed off of energies we cannot see, like leeches in the salt marshes though far deadlier. When nowhere near a feeding source, ice wraiths are forced to attack anything they come across - including wary travelers - in an endless search for more magicka. Ice wraiths are a part of nature, and I suspect must abide by those laws just as the skeever, sabre cat, and elk do.

     

     

    I spoke to a Riften Thaumaturgist about the alchemical properties of ice wraith teeth. Human and Mer have found a way to extract the qualities that make ice wraiths so deadly and brew it to our favor.

    Ice wraith teeth are a crucial ingredient in invisibility potions (no doubt because of their natural camouflage and ‘wispy’ nature), and potions that fortify heavy armor (incredibly tough bodies). They are also useful in making the poisons ‘weakness to fire’ and peculiarly, ‘weakness to frost’.

     

     

    A savvy butcher once told me that ground ice wraith teeth are an excellent way of keeping meat and other foodstuffs fresh. This is a practical usage both the Redguards and the Nords have been known to employ.

     

     

    Even without answers to the questions surrounding ice wraiths, they hold great significance in Nord culture. In the Old Holds (Winterhold, Rift, the Pale and my own, Eastmarch), it is still a common practice for young men wishing to test their mettle to go slay an ice wraith. It is a rite of passage, and one done willingly by any Nord who claims to be a true warrior. In the old days, killing an ice wraith (returning with an ice wraith’s tooth as evidence) granted them full citizenship in the eyes of the standing Jarl.

    This rite of passage still holds meaning to many old Nord families, even if it has fallen out of favor in present times.

    There is not much else to say on the subject. Ice wraiths have kept my interest at it’s peak for these past 5 moons, and it is time I moved on to something else. I will keep the teeth I have collected in my research as trophies, and perhaps store one or two in my pack. It never hurts to have something to keep the crostatas fresh on long journeys.

    May the curious reader find this tome helpful, or at the very least informative.


    Frøydís Free-Winter
    Daughter of Eastmarch, Naturalist

     

     


    Resources:
    https://www.imperial-library.info/content/herbanes-bestiary-ice-wraiths
    https://www.imperial-library.info/content/kynes-challenge
    http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Skyrim:Ice_Wraith

    Skyrim

     

    With the exception of the ice-wraith teeth image, all photos were taken by me, Spottedfawn. :)

    The teeth image belongs to the Skyrim.wikia, so all credit goes to them!

    This was a fun event, I hope I included enough information. I added as much as I could find.

  • March 30

    This is very cool, Fawn. Congrats on getting it up. 

  • Member
    March 30
    Those are some nice looking Ice wraith textures. I take it they're 4K?
  • Member
    March 30

    Fawn, this is brilliant :) Very well written and informative with the addition of a wonderful theory on what the wraiths eat. I like that a great deal, as well as your thoughts on where they fit in the natural world. This sentence: "Ice wraiths are a part of nature, and I suspect must abide by those laws just as the skeever, sabre cat, and elk do" is incredible food for thought. Are they counted among Kyne's Children, then? Or are they of the same genus as Kyne herself, et'ada, or even Ehlnofey? The diverging implications found in either answer are truly fascinating. 

    I mean, if they are original spirits and so part of the natural order in that respect, what purpose or role did/do they play? Is there, perhaps, a symbiosis between them eating magicka and what comes out the other end, so to speak? Like a tree, do they actually give back and purify that which they take do you think? Or if they are counted among Kyne's children, is their existence purely designed to test or limit man? 

    Much to think about here, plus those screenshots are incredible! 

  • March 30
    What came first? Ice or Ice Wraith? :)
  • Member
    March 30

    Amazing work Fawn. It's a very informative article and well presented article from the very crisp looking screenshots to the great detail in their anatomy. While it seems obvious at a glance that they are inspired by snakes, you pointed out some of the reasons why we almost immediately attribute the word "serpent" to ice wraiths, from the movements to the shape of the jaw, very nice.

    Your theory on them needing magicka to sustain themselves is amazingly simple and effective. It covers everything you might imagine about them. Where you can find them, why they kill and indirectly you also added the puzzle piece I was hoping to find in an article on Ice Wraiths.

    You might remember this phrase from the event write-up: "You could compare two creatures that are similarly named". This little sentence was basically my overly subtle (read completely stupid and invisible) way to hint at doing something about the ice wraiths. In Oblivion we can come across wraiths (as in ghosts) but these things have nothing in common with the ice wraiths we find in the northern parts of the world, except for being somewhat translucent (which isn't something very unique in Nirn). While you haven't directly approached this oddity you actually do give a possible explanation. One I never actually considered simply because I didn't think of "where do they live" other than wherever the fuck it's cold enough.

    Ice wraiths can also be found at standing stones, andNordic ruins with a strong magical presence

    So with this piece of information; we've got translucent, extremely territorial magical creatures that live around and protect nordic tombs. Suddenly the name makes a whole lot of sense from a cultural perspective.

    On a side note; another place where I've occasionally had them spawn was in front of Nightcaller temple; now if there's a place along the nordic coast that is more infused with magic (other than the college) I would love to know.

  • Member
    April 1

    KaiserSoSay said: Those are some nice looking Ice wraith textures. I take it they're 4K?

     

    Actually I don't think so, unless it's the ENB (Seasons of Skyrim) I'm using that makes them 4k. :) thanks though.

     

    Phil said:

    Fawn, this is brilliant :) Very well written and informative with the addition of a wonderful theory on what the wraiths eat. I like that a great deal, as well as your thoughts on where they fit in the natural world. This sentence: "Ice wraiths are a part of nature, and I suspect must abide by those laws just as the skeever, sabre cat, and elk do" is incredible food for thought. Are they counted among Kyne's Children, then? Or are they of the same genus as Kyne herself, et'ada, or even Ehlnofey? The diverging implications found in either answer are truly fascinating. 

    I mean, if they are original spirits and so part of the natural order in that respect, what purpose or role did/do they play? Is there, perhaps, a symbiosis between them eating magicka and what comes out the other end, so to speak? Like a tree, do they actually give back and purify that which they take do you think? Or if they are counted among Kyne's children, is their existence purely designed to test or limit man? 

    Much to think about here, plus those screenshots are incredible! 

     

    Thanks so much, Phil! Unless we get more proof that they have a symbiotic relationship with the world they're apart of, I'm inclined to believe they're designed to test mankind. Ice wraiths sort of straddle the line between what we define as 'alive' and what we define as 'supernatural'. They're very interesting in that regard. :) Not like ghosts or actual wraiths, which are sorta like remnants of living things, these seem almost like an amalgamation of nature and magic. Like Spriggans!

     

    Karver the Lorc said: What came first? Ice or Ice Wraith? :)

    Thanks Karv, I just got a little nugget of inspiration for another Skaal legend!

     

     

  • Member
    April 1

    Teineeva said:

    Amazing work Fawn. It's a very informative article and well presented article from the very crisp looking screenshots to the great detail in their anatomy. While it seems obvious at a glance that they are inspired by snakes, you pointed out some of the reasons why we almost immediately attribute the word "serpent" to ice wraiths, from the movements to the shape of the jaw, very nice.

    Your theory on them needing magicka to sustain themselves is amazingly simple and effective. It covers everything you might imagine about them. Where you can find them, why they kill and indirectly you also added the puzzle piece I was hoping to find in an article on Ice Wraiths.

    You might remember this phrase from the event write-up: "You could compare two creatures that are similarly named". This little sentence was basically my overly subtle (read completely stupid and invisible) way to hint at doing something about the ice wraiths. In Oblivion we can come across wraiths (as in ghosts) but these things have nothing in common with the ice wraiths we find in the northern parts of the world, except for being somewhat translucent (which isn't something very unique in Nirn). While you haven't directly approached this oddity you actually do give a possible explanation. One I never actually considered simply because I didn't think of "where do they live" other than wherever the fuck it's cold enough.

    Ice wraiths can also be found at standing stones, andNordic ruins with a strong magical presence

    So with this piece of information; we've got translucent, extremely territorial magical creatures that live around and protect nordic tombs. Suddenly the name makes a whole lot of sense from a cultural perspective.

    On a side note; another place where I've occasionally had them spawn was in front of Nightcaller temple; now if there's a place along the nordic coast that is more infused with magic (other than the college) I would love to know.

     

    Wow I somehow missed the obvious connection between 'wraith' and 'ice wraith'. xD Am I spared the embarrassment of looking ridiculous by saying I've never actually played Oblivion? It brings up an interesting explanation, though. I don't think ice wraiths and wraiths (spirits) have much in common at all, other then they seem to be skulking around ruins.

    Ice (what they're made of) and wraith (they're semi-transparent and tend to move through solid objects, though that's more a game glitch than anything haha). The Nords weren't very clever when it came to names, eh? However, it's entirely possible that the earliest humans in Skyrim thought they DID have a connection to the dead. Maybe the leftover familiars of powerful conjurors? Or something a little poetic, such as the angry spirits of warriors left forgotten or without a proper burial? (Explains how ornate some of these tombs are; nobody wants Great Uncle Gerhardt to come back as an ice wraith, LOL) Just spitballing ideas here, xD I'm sure somebody can come up with better theories.

     

    I wish we knew how the Snow Elves thought of ice wraiths. What the name for these creatures would've been in their language, and whether or not it would shed more light on exactly what they are.

  • Member
    April 9

    SpottedFawn said:

    Thanks so much, Phil! Unless we get more proof that they have a symbiotic relationship with the world they're apart of, I'm inclined to believe they're designed to test mankind. Ice wraiths sort of straddle the line between what we define as 'alive' and what we define as 'supernatural'. They're very interesting in that regard. :) Not like ghosts or actual wraiths, which are sorta like remnants of living things, these seem almost like an amalgamation of nature and magic. Like Spriggans!

    Karver the Lorc said: What came first? Ice or Ice Wraith? :)

    Thanks Karv, I just got a little nugget of inspiration for another Skaal legend!

    Like Spriggans, eh? :D And what are spriggans? It would be tempting to put them into a broad category of "nature spirit", what with the repeated referrences to their connection with Y'ffre and Kynareth. If spirit is "ada" and Ehlnofey are of the "et'ada", maybe there is something to be said for nature spirits being of the same genus as the gods themselves.

    Or maybe those repeated connections to Kyne-who-is-Y'ffre mean that Spriggans are creations from a time when the forest folk were still changing their forms all the time... Spriggans have knife-ears too :D

    What's the Skaal inspiration? :)

     

     

  • April 9

    I've died one too many times to Ice wraiths while roaming the northern parts of Skyrim, and it's fascinating to now think that they weren't knawing on my frozen flesh after but rather leeching my body of its magical essence. This is an excellent article full of both great information and even better observations! The pictures are fantastic as well, cheers :)