the wolf on a field of ice and stone. ice, hardened by turmoil. stone, dark with age. they say when you go north, you never truly leave it. the cold, when it comes, stitches spikes upon the skin. this is the land of winter, of a war-hardened people whose blood spill not in rivers but cascade in hail. they say when a northerner dies, the land gets ever harder until no southerner can till the plains and tame the mountains. the age of heroes had been a patchwork of dynasty upon dynasty, each emperor crowned by snowfall, beget with hearts of ice. the qin dynasty unified the greater families and when barbarians threatened their delicate peace, they had built a wall; han breathed upon a swell of new territory and marked the silk road to trade with the south; tang brought the golden age, commerce and renown. they had been the most loved until the death of the recent lord and the coming of the mongols. those born with ice in their hearts refuse to thaw, until their feet too have rooted upon the infertile earth. to pray to the gods is to pray to the past, and every father and mother that leaves the earth only thickens the stone until houses become temples, and palaces are carved with the heavens. they say the north is for the north, and the cold takes care of its own.