After being driven from their home by a roving band of slavers, half-demon Sirris and her older brother Idris are forced to migrate to the neighboring kingdom in search of refuge. There, they find work with a mercenary company, the Rose's Thorns, who mistake Sirris's powers for those of a sorcerer. While in service to the Thorns, Sirris discovers that the source of the increase in piracy is a massive, ancient glacier demon named Moloshevkha that has been mysteriously released from its slumber and is slowly but steadily laying waste to everything in its path. The Thorns are among the many companies called in to deal with this monstrous threat, and along the way, Sirris starts to realize that demons in general—and Moloshevkha in particular—are not what she's long been led to believe.
Wintershod provides examples of:
- Anachronism Stew: 15th- to 17th-century politics, 16th-century medicine, 18th century economy, Swords and Sorcery-style battles, and magical automobiles powered by fire demons....
- Badass Crew: The Rose's Thorns.
- Captured Super-Entity: Clavel and the Arcanist try this with Moloshevkha. It goes... very, very badly.
- Casting a Shadow: Shadowbond adjutants' powers are based on the manipulation of shadow, mainly creating artificial darkness and jumping from shadow to shadow in order to cover great distances.
- Cast from Hit Points: Demons are Made of Magic, and so they don't have a separate "pool" to draw from—using any ability uses up a proportional amount of their essence. Adjutants and feoborn, however, are fundamentally mortal, and so depleting the "demonic" part of them is more akin to casting from mana.
- Conlang: Eight, one for each Fantasy Counterpart Culture listed below, each roughly halfway between a Type 2 and a Type 3. (Each language is based off an extant Earth language, but loosely, with heavily-modified syntax and syllabary.)note
- The Dung Ages: Averted. While standards of living aren't what they are today, the prevalence of Magitek allows for luxuries such as running water and indoor heating in affluent areas. More rural regions are much less technologically-sophisticated, certainly not to the level of Ye Goode Olde Days, but they don't live in desperate squalor either.
- Engineered Public Confession: Veth possesses Clavel to force him to confess his creation of Moloshevkha to Queen Catriona.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Deliberately invoked, alongside a fairly large helping of Culture Chop Suey, because the author wants to stick to the minuscule world-scale of the Standard Fantasy Setting but is also very tired of the lack of diversity therein.
- Capall fills the role of shortly-post-feudal England.
- The politics of Vashava, where Sirris and Idris are from, are based largely off of the 18th century Alaouites.
- Lunen is Viking-era Iceland.
- Otivis is Ancient Grome meets Renaissance Italy.
- Travhano draws inspiration from Mongolia under the rule of Genghis Khan.
- Valedda is based off of the Inca Empire.
- Shouda encompasses most of the Far East.
- Sahandi is based off of the Yoruba city-states of Central Africa.
- Half-Identical Twins: Cassius and Noela.
- Happily Married: Enkha and Svana.
- Hybrid Power: Feoborn inherit the elemental abilities of their demonic parent.
- Ice Magic Is Water: Played with. Both ice and water are deadly to fire elementals, but fire is just as potent against ice—at least until it melts back into water.
- If I Wanted You Dead... Veth says this to Sirris on their first meeting and is immediately called out for it by Enkha.Enkha: Why do you people always say that like it's meant to be reassuring? I can't think of a single situation where telling someone you could kill them if you wanted could possibly be considered reassuring.
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: Zhouqi's shop.
- Medieval European Fantasy: Deconstructed; Capall serves as the Fantasy Counterpart Culture (see above) to Medieval England, but only part of the story takes place there, and none of the protagonists are actually from there. The story itself serves (at least in part) as an exploration of what would happen if a pseudo-Medieval society advanced into an industrial era through the use of magic instead of technology.
- Mighty Glacier: Moloshevkha, literally.
- My Blood Runs Hot: Whenever Sirris's emotions get the better of her, she starts heating up, to the point of setting the grass around her on fire.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Veth, Zhouqi, and the other spirits who believe that the solution to their oppression is not to Kill All Humans but to try and work with them.
- Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous: The Arcanist.
- Our Demons Are Different: there are eleven types, each with its own unique set of powers and weaknesses depending on which elemental force they embody. They are considered to be little more than animals, driven mainly by instinct and a visceral hatred of "good" in general and humanity in particular.
- They can possess other creatures, choosing as they do whether to suppress the awareness of the host entirely or simply take control, leaving the human to scream and hammer helplessly at the walls of their own mind.
- The offspring of a mortal creature and a demon, or a normal mortal and one who is possessed, is called feoborn. They appear to be more or less of their parent species, but possess powers dependent upon their demon-parent's type. As demons are viewed as unintelligent animals, having sex with one (or with someone who is possessed) is seen as tantamount to bestiality, and such offspring are shunned or even executed if discovered.
- A human or animal can be magically "adjointed" with a demon to gain its powers. Doing so destroys the demon's mind and leaves the adjutant forever scarred by the process.
- The adjointment always destroys the demon's mind, but if the recipient's willpower is not great enough, the demon may seize its last chance for revenge and drag the recipient down with it. This creates an aberration, a mindless, vastly powerful elemental entity hell-bent on destroying everything in its path. Because of this, the adjointment ritual is heavily regulated and illegal for the average citizen to perform. This doesn't stop everyone from doing it, though, which is why aberrations are such a threat.
- Our Dragons Are Different: They're the offspring of a normal reptile that has been possessed by a demon, typically of fire, and are about the size of a large pony.
- Pardon My Klingon: If something is being said that isn't in English, it's probably either dirty or rude.
- Politically Correct History: Zigzagged. The Medieval world really was that diverse, but there's more personal freedom, especially in terms of gender equality. Enkha and Svana are the most Egregious example of this; but even that is explained In-Universe by the fact that humanity's Theory Tunnel Vision eclipses historical lesbians so thoroughly that we get overtly sexual paintings◊ (nsfw image) titled "Sappho and Friends".
- Possession Burnout: The more powerful the demon, the more quickly this occurs. Shadow and Arcane demons can only inhabit a single body for a matter of weeks or months tops, but lower-tier demons such as those of fire can remain undetected for years—like Najanna, the demon that inhabited (and killed) Sirris's mother.
- Power-Strain Blackout: Happens to Sirris after Firthgate Watch.
- Silver Has Mystic Powers: It's toxic to spirits and is used for adjointments.
- Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Adjutancy has to be, because when the rules aren't followed, the results tend to be messy.
- Training the Gift of Magic: Enkha takes Sirris on under the (correct) assumption that Veth will be able to train her, and that unattached adjutants are so rare that even the amount of time this takes will end up a worthwhile investment.
- Twin Banter: Noela and Cassius never shut up.Sirris: Are they always like this?Veth: Oh, no. Sometimes they have real arguments.
- Warrior, Rogue, Mage: Svana, Noela, and Vashriel are warriors; Enkha, Idris, and Cassius are rogues; Sirris, Sebudrin, and Veth are mages.
- Weakened by the Light: In the Wintershod mythos' elemental roulette wheel, Shadowbond adjutants are uncomfortable in direct light (hence the House of Ash's all-concealing garb), and shadow demons can be trapped and paralyzed by it.
- When Trees Attack: The Firthgate aberration.
Hypothetical Casting: Courtney Eaton
The half-demon protagonist and third-person narrator of the story. Born in a small town along the coast of Vashava, Sirris was (mostly) content with her life as a baker before it was upended entirely by the Call to Adventure.
Forced from her home, she and her brother make their way to the capital of the neighboring kingdom and eventually wind up in the employ of the Rose's Thorns. With the help of the Thorns' resident adjutant Veth, Sirris begins honing the powers that Idris has long commanded her to keep secret. As her abilities grow, so too does her confidence, and eventually she manages to step out from her brother's shadow and become a talented mage in her own right.
- Doomed Hometown: Dar Hehnen.
- Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Because of the cultural treatment of feoborn, her powers are unpredictable at first, but her optimistic nature and headstrong tendencies more than make up for this.
- Fantasy Character Classes: The Sorcerer.
- Farm Girl: She starts the story off as a baker.
- My Blood Runs Hot: Her core temperature and metabolism are both higher than a purebred human's.
- Playing with Fire
- Power Crystal: The familiar-stone, which essentially acts as an amplifier for her powers. Veth likens it to the lens of a spyglass, in that it doesn't actually do anything on its own, but can be used as a tool by someone with the right know-how.
- Psychoactive Powers: She tends to flare up unintentionally when she's angry or stressed, but in direct counterpoint to that can only call intentionally upon them when she's calm and focused.
- Simple Staff: Her eventual Weapon of Choice, which later gets upgraded to a Magic Staff.
- Skilled, but Naïve: She doesn't really know what she's getting herself into when she signs on to the Thorns, but learns the ropes fairly quickly under Veth's and Enkha's tutelage.
Hypothetical Casting: Luke Pasqualino
Sirris's older brother and sole caretaker since the deaths of their parents. He's a serious, committed individual whose efforts to keep his sister from being strung up by an angry mob border on the controlling. He really does have her best interests at heart, but as she grows older and more headstrong he becomes increasingly desperate in his attempts to get her to rein in her powers.
He's skilled with a longbow and a decent outdoorsman, and once past his prickly outer demeanor he's actually a pretty sweet guy... even if he doesn't have much in the way of a sense of humor.
- Archer Archetype
- Big Brother Instinct: He really does want the best for Sirris, especially since she's his only family. He's just... not very good at it.
- Fantasy Character Classes: The Sniper Ranger.
- No Sense of Humor: Or not much of one, anyway.
- Only Sane Man: Merc life tends to attract a certain type of person, whereas Idris is mostly just there to try and keep Sirris from doing something that will get herself killed. He lightens up a little as the story continues.
- Promotion to Parent: After their father Iskander's death.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: To Sirris.
Vethali (Veth) Shehani
Hypothetical Casting: (pending)
A Shadowbond adjutant and former member of the House of Ash, a monastic order of supernatural assassins. He was exiled from the ranks of the Ashen for reasons unknown, and now serves the Rose's Thorns instead (while still taking the occasional contract on the side).
As the only other adjutant in the Thorns, he takes on the role of Sirris's mentor after she joins, tutoring her in the methods of sorcery. The two become quite close despite his secretive nature, but as his past begins to catch up with him it becomes apparent that he's been hiding even more than it initially appeared.
- Casting a Shadow
- Creepy Good
- Dark Is Not Evil
- The Exile: After escaping the Abbey, the House of Ash declared him an exile, to be killed on sight if he ever tried to return. They know about his work with the Thorns, but can't do anything about it without admitting their mistake to the Suzerain Queen.
- The Faceless
- Fantasy Character Classes: The Shadow.
- In the Hood
- Kill and Replace: How he escaped the House of Ash.
- The Mentor: To Sirris, in a much greater capacity than Enkha.
- Professional Killer
- Stealth Hi/Bye: His modus operandi for getting around.
- Tall, Dark, and Snarky
- Vitriolic Best Buds: With Enkha."Ancestors save me from any more siblings," Enkha said, rubbing her forehead in mock aggravation."You're the one who keeps picking them up, Vasüra," said Veth. "One couldn't be blamed for thinking you ran an orphanage, not a free company.""I can and will hurt you, Shehani."
- White Mask of Doom
Hypothetical Casting: Karen David
The leader of the Rose's Thorns free company alongside her partner Svana. She's tough, outgoing, raunchy, and all the other things you'd expect from the leader of a gang of warriors-for-hire, but she cares fiercely for her crew and does everything she can to give them the best chances in life.
After witnessing Sirris and Idris fend off a group of back-alley thugs during their stint in the shanties, she offers them a job. From then on she serves as their commander, employer, and occasional mentor, eventually leading them to discover Moloshevkha's origins and the hidden truths about demons' true natures.
- Braids of Action
- Fantasy Character Classes: The Pirate.
- Happily Married: To Svana.
- Lovable Rogue
- The Mentor: More to Idris than to Sirris, but she guides both of them through their strange new world.
- Pirate Girl
- Reasonable Authority Figure: She won't allow her company to act in ways that endanger the others, but errs on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt and is generally a practical, approachable person.
Hypothetical Casting: Gaia Weiss
Enkha's partner and second-in-command. She's tough and stoic, although much of her tacitness comes from not speaking all that much of the native language. Whereas Enkha is the Rose's Thorns' Natural Leader, Svana is their tactician, and has a good head for situational assessment and on-the-fly strategy.
- An Axe to Grind: Her Weapon of Choice is a double-bitted battle axe.
- Butch Lesbian
- Fantasy Character Classes: The Knight.
- The Lancer: To Enkha.
- The Stoic: So much so that Veth makes a bet with Cassius as to whether she's even capable of telling a joke. She is.
Noela and Cassius Laetorus
Hypothetical Casting: Anastasia Zhidkova and Dylan Fosket (pending)
Albino Ottivan twins who serve as the Thorns' scouts, flankers, and Comic Relief. They're totally inseparable and almost dangerously codependent, but as a unit they're both effective and annoying.
- Angsty Surviving Twin: Cassius is rendered completely insensate when Noela is swallowed by a Bottomless Pit while searching for Moloshevkha. She gets better.
- BrotherSister Team
- Combat Pragmatist
- Fantasy Character Classes: Noela is the Swashbuckler (fighter variant) and Cassius is the Bandit.
- Foil: As a unit, they serve as this to Sirris and Idris, both in terms of relationship and eventual Character Development.
- Half-Identical Twins
- Noodle Incident: They are walking generators of this trope.
- Trickster Twins
Hypothetical Casting: [pending]
A Valeddan adjutant working as a healer in the Delikor shanties. He's a solemn, soft-spoken individual dedicating to doing as much good as he can in a world that isn't likely to thank him for it. Unlike most, he believes that the perception of demons as wicked monsters that deserve their treatment as natural resources is cruel and unfounded.
- Expy: Fans of Dragon Age might find a pro-bono healer with Social Justice tendencies very familiar....
- Fantasy Character Classes: The Healer Mage.
- Green Thumb
- Headbutting Heroes: With Idris over the nature and treatment of demons.
- Healer Signs On Early: Averted. He and Vashriel don't join the Thorns until roughly halfway through the story, after their original healer Tristran is killed.
- Healing Hands
- The Medic
- Perpetual Frowner: He's not unhappy so much as he is existing in a constant state of mild exasperation.
- The Straight Man: To Vashriel, for a given value of "straight".
Hypothetical Casting: Q'orianka Kilcher
Sebudrin's friend/cousin/bodyguard who accompanied him from Valedda. Everything he is, she isn't: she's cheerful, outgoing, inquisitive, and energetic. She also happens to be more than a little bloodthirsty and went with Sebudrin specifically to see more action. She's ecstatic to join the Rose's Thorns, but her outbursts often cause conflict within the group.
- BFS: It's taller than she is.
- Blood Knight
- Cute But Psycho: She takes orders well enough, which is the only reason Enkha is willing to keep her around, but gleefully delights in any sort of bloodshed.
- Fantasy Character Classes: The Barbarian
- Glacier Waif
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: On the surface, anyway...
- Odd Friendship: With Sebudrin.