Autumn wanes as the cold and darkness sweep through the land. Winter has come. The air is frigid and unforgiving. Trees become leafless, the area covered in ice and snow, many creatures take shelter from the lower temperatures while others thrive in it. The days are short and the nights are longer, various creatures who prefer the dark often lurk and roam in the land of endless winter. The ruler of Winter is the undisputed Queen of Air and Darkness, colloquially referred to as Queen Mab, though her original name is lost the ravages of time. There is also the Prince of Frost, a creature \who ripped their own heart out their devotion only to be forsaken by his love, leaving a cold, empty void that can never be fulfilled. While the Prince of Frost is a deadly and powerful force on his own, all Winter fey know that the Queen is the real supreme leader.

Winter often symbolizes death, the end of a cycle, cold and harsh weather, but through Winter, Spring shall bloom again. So Winter has a vital part to play in the sequence of the seasons, often severing as the time nature sleeps to be born again. Darkness is usually an excellent symbol for secrets, mysteries, and illusions. But during these harsh times, creatures often bond and form communities to ensure the tough times, there are fey that reside within Winter but serve to bring warmth and good tidings to all beings. If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, Santa Claus is a Winter fey folk. I’m not joking. The D&D 5th Edition lore has established the Winter court as the Gloaming Court or sometimes referred to as the seat of the Unseelie Court. Further, the widespread folklore maintains this predisposition that the Unseelie fey are inherently evil or evil-aligned. As we’ve discussed in multiple articles about the Feywild, the mortal morality of the good & evil axis do not apply to the fey. For game mechanical purposes, most Unseelie fey would be attributed to some sort of evil alignment. But like anywhere, there is bound to be exceptions, as I said, Santa Claus as a Winter fey is a side of “good.”

Remember to think about the Winter Solstice, when the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer (at least if you’re in the northern hemisphere). It should be noted that all pretexts of the seasons are based on the weather in a northern hemisphere region. We will cover other aspects of nature & different courts in another article.

You can read my other Feywild articles here:
Spring Court | Summer Court | Autumn Court | Courtless, Other Courts, & the FeydarkRealms of the Feywild | Roleplaying Fey & Archfey | Santa Claus (2015 & 2016 Ed.)

This guide borrows some lore from the 5th Edition ruleset on the Feywild, in addition to the multitude of sources of lore regarding faeries and the fey. This guide assumes a four season-four court apparatus while still maintaining the dichotomy between the Seelie and Unseelie Fey. The information here, hopefully, will help inspire you for ideas when dealing with the mysterious fey in the Frozen Lands of Winter.

Frozen Wastes of Winter, Image by bogjh

The Frozen Lands (Wastes) of Winter

The Frozen Lands or Wastes of Winter are a desolate land of ice and freezing gales. Vegetation is virtually nonexistent in this realm of the Feywild, food is scarce and ultimately the embodiment of the phrase: “life is harsh.” Creatures in the mortal coil typically work hard up until the last harvest and bunker down for the long nights of the winter season. In this part of the Feywild, darkness dominates the landscape, with only pockets of light for their “dawn.” Imagine a world where light is in a dusk/twilight phase for probably 4-6 hours and then darkness for 14-20 hours afterward.

Far in the distance of the flat and icy lands, tall mountains loom over the horizon, a sky often diluted with grey clouds. Sudden snow storms and blizzards are familiar, creatures not adequately prepared can quickly succumb to a frozen death with the land serving as their icy tombs. There are patches of leafless forests, or forests covered in layers of snow, hidden away. Mortals may make offerings to winter fey in the hopes of a less-harsh winter season or to ward them from the volatile winter season. Such offerings usually do little to appease the whims of a winter fey, stern bargains are the way to deal with such entities. While most winter fey can be emotionless, the notion of a promise carries a higher weight concerning currency for a wandering adventurer in this part of the Feywild.

The Queen of Air and Darkness resides in a frozen crystal palace on top of a desolate and steep mountain. Legendary speaks of a black diamond hidden somewhere deep its structure, rumored to be the essence of winter itself. Beyond the Winter Queen’s dominion, there are various other enclaves, for example, Santa’s Workshop if you wanted to go that route. Just remember that winter is cold, both physically but also emotionally and spiritually. Always keep the phrase “as cold as ice” as reminder text when dealing with the places in Winter or the fey that inhabit it.

Fey & Fey Lords/Ladies in Winter

Remember, deals with the fey carry a certain degree of risk, especially the archfey or greater fey of Winter. Winter is a season of death and loss, fey from Winter typically deal and are empowered by sorrow, much like how Autumn deals with fear or Summer in wrath. You can have powerful ice hags, and even greater fey seek out sorrows, especially unique and complex ones. Tragedies are very delightful for winter fey, at least, the traditional variety. Most Winter fey are cruel, emotionless, and often ruthless. Others can be sly and mischievous (like most fey) but with a hint of cruelty. The few Winter fey are gentle, kind, and caring. Saints, gods, and spirits of Winter are great inspirations for fey of this court.

  • The North Wind. A powerful spirit that embodies and manages the cold north wind often heralds the coming of winter. A stubborn, unrelenting fey that takes anything it wants and stomps over those who oppose to the march of winter.
  • Chione. The Snow Maiden, a mighty wind nymph often associated with snow. A beauty that possibly rivals Queen Mab, but equally shallow and fickle. Sometimes a kind fey to travelers but if angered, summons powerful flurries and blizzards at the unworthy. The most beautiful snowflakes are made from her tears, only shed for those worthy of it.
  • Prince of Frost. A former winter fey of mischievous deeds and pranks, eventually the prince found a mortal maiden and declared his love with his heart. But she rejected him, leaving the greater fey heartless and become a cold, emotionless entity. If you’ve ever heard the story of Jack Frost, you can imagine that the Prince of Frost is the direction where Jack became twisted and darker after his encounter with a mortal woman.
  • Santa ClausFather Christmas, sometimes referred to as Chris Kringle, Ded Moroz, Old Man Winter, Saint Nicholas. A kind-hearted entity that resides in the cold, harsh lands of winter that brings joy to children and inspires good-will and good tidings to all. A very community oriented fey that also enjoys festivities, feasts, games, and parties.
  • Queen Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness. The Winter Queen, the sole ruler of Winter. I’m not a fan of the “evil” murderous entity that 5th Edition attributes her, especially when evil is a relative term for the fey. Mab is the polar opposite role of the Titania, the Summer Queen. Mab is often associated with emotionless, cruelty, harshness, and a cold demeanor. In Butcher’s Dresden Files, Mab is mentioned as being a creature of great hatred, and her voice is a reminder of the storm of hate within her. Mab can be compassionate, but it’s a display that often could be attributed to weakness so will not openly convey such emotions. Hans Christian Anderson’s Snow Queen is a great inspirational piece of literature. You can also refer to Mercutio’s monologue in William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Mab is a complex entity and should be treated as one, like any sovereign of a faerie court, there are many facets to their personality and agenda. Always keep the motivations of Mab in mind, even if you attribute more “evil” qualities to the Unseelie fey.

When thinking about your fey, remember the environment these entities are situated; it’s dark, cold, and harsh everywhere. Most denizens reflect the environment but with a grace of most fey. So beautiful but equally removed and emotionless. Granted, there are some entities within the world of Winter that are equally kind and gentle. Ice elementals (combination of air & water) are plentiful here, water and air genasi can frequent such a realm, and various snowy horrors roam through its white, icy vistas. Plenty of creatures that favor a nocturnal existence can be found in the Lands of Winter. Consider the predator and prey roles, think about the adaptations of the predator while non-predators will have survival skills, so consider each fey’s adaptation and it should provide a good grasp of how they behave here.

Consider the Fey – Queen Mab

Queen Mab

Mab is a great character to interact with an adventuring party, especially if you have a Fey-pact Warlock with the powerful faerie queen as their patron. If you need ideas or inspiration, I heavily consider these sources:

  • The Merlin movie (Mab is present)
  • Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files
  • William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (Mercutio, Act 1, Scene IV)
  • T.H. White’s the Once and Future King (volume 2)
  • Queen of Air and Darkness from D&D’s own Monster Mythology (1992)

Ultimately, remember that Queen Mab is the embodiment of Winter and all that it entails. She is intimidating, fierce, overbearing, and outright ruthless. No mortal should underestimate her. Those foolish enough to betray her will undoubtedly suffer a terrible fate.

Don’t miss my other Feywild articles here:
Spring Court | Summer Court | Autumn Court | Courtless, Other Courts, & the FeydarkRealms of the Feywild | Roleplaying Fey & Archfey | Santa Claus (2015 & 2016 Ed.)

You can find more ideas, inspiration, and topics in the “Journey into the Feywild” supplement. Now available on the DMs Guild

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