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Webcomic / Gifts of Wandering Ice

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Rikter: How was it? Well... Five little hunters came to the shore. / One found the ice gift and then there were four. / That's what we hunters now teach our kids: / You want to live? Don't touch the ice gifts.
Tanya: And do you know the story behind this verse?
Rikter: Well, each family has a story to match it. We've got the biggest island, so we get most of the "gifts".

Gifts of Wandering Ice is based on the short novel written by Olga Makarova (Mildegard), though the story differs a bit. Both the art and English translation were made by the author of the original novel.

The old world is dead. A catastrophe of forgotten origin has wiped out the old civilization, followed by an ice age. And then—a thaw, when water levels rise tremendously and even ancient icebergs begin to melt. People of this post-ice age are peaceful and remember very little of their history. They can only guess what it was like by the 'gifts'—objects and creatures wandering icebergs bring to their shore each spring. Sometimes these 'gifts' are dangerous, or even alive.

You can read the comic in English or Russian on its own website, or in English on ComicFury.

There is also a side story with its own page, entitled Ice Gift.

And there's a choose your own adventure game based on the comic, also available in English (Ice gift hunt) andRussian (Охота за дарами льдов).

Gifts of Wandering Ice contains examples of:

  • Alchemy Is Magic: All tech of forgotten human civilization is marked by alchemical symbol of eternal life. Hunters believe all marked things to be magical.
  • All Myths Are True: Legend of the black iceberg. A fairy tale little kids love so much turns out to be a real story where ancient technology described as magic.
  • Art Evolution: The art quality has steadily improved over the years. While even the early pages display an attention to the emotive quality of the characters' faces & body language, over time the artist's mastery of proportion, volume, and shading have grown dramatically. Compare one of Elie's fist appearances on page 39 with a later illustration on page 383 (mild spoiler warning for the later page, for those who have yet to read the comic).
  • Artificial Limbs: Faith, one of the Norns, has a cyber-arm and a cyber-leg.
  • Big Sister Mentor: Rita is a mentor to her younger brothers—Nikt and Rikter.
  • City on the Water: The legendary Black Iceberg was actually a highly advanced city from the ancient world before the cataclysm, built on floating platforms.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: The politics of the old world died along with most of its population, only few people survived the catastrophe and an ice age that followed it. But they didn't become bloodthirsty savages. Quite the opposite: in many ways they are much better people than their ancestors were. There are no wars in their world, also people of the new era are kind and intelligent. At least it was until the threat of disease from the ancient world reared its head...
  • Death by Childbirth: Discussed but ultimately Averted—there's a very real danger that Rita could die if she has children, but she and Tim take that risk anyways because Rita cannot lead her tribe before she becomes a mother. Rita ultimately survives the pregnancy and the birth of her child.
  • Domesticated Dinosaurs: A Justified example — in Ash's time, technology allowed for easy and widespread genetic manipulation. His pet "Bitey" might look like a small raptor, but she's essentially a large bird whose latent "dinosaur" qualities (clawed forelimbs in lieu of wings, sharp teeth) have been "switched back on" and combined with parrot-like intelligence, ability to mimic sounds, and bright feathery plumage.
  • Dream Weaver: In GWI, people take lucid dreaming very seriously and those who carry more than one personality in their minds, rely on imaginary worlds to interact with their inner enemies/friends.
  • Drunk on Milk: A justified use of the trope—Ash gives Elie a couple cans of soda with thirty gramms [sic] of sugar and a crazy dose of caffeine ostensibly to calm her down from the shock of meeting Bitey, but his true intention was to distract her so he could think clearly.
  • Due to the Dead: The Hunter Tribe keeps tomb caves where portraits of the deceased are painted onto "tomb stones." The flu outbreak has resulted in so many deaths in such a short period of time that the artists can't keep up with all bodies—the portraits of those lost to the flu are just sketches on little scraps of paper, affixed as a placeholder until the tribe has the chance to paint a more permanent memorial.
  • Facial Markings:
    • Birth of twins is considered a bad sign in hunters' tribe, and to prevent any mischief that can possibly come from the visual identity of two people one of the twins—usually a younger one—is to be marked with a red tattoo on the face. Being a younger brother Rikter has such tattoo—three red stripes on his right cheek.
    • Chief Lara's mother, Chief Alice, had three stripes on her left cheek—marking her as a "younger twin" like Rikter.
    • Jan's face is heavily tattooed to mark him as an exile from the hunters' tribe.
  • Flashback Echo: The memories in Elie's head can be triggered by the sight of ice gifts from the old world, and sometimes by discussions of ancient events. The sight of a child's body retrieved from an escape pod in the ice pulls her into a vivid flashback of a tsunami that destroyed much of the old world. In reality the "flashback" she experiences is one of Ash's memories.
  • Forceful Kiss: Rita does this to Tim after shouting at him for calling her "little chief" again.
  • Genetic Memory:
    • Elie carries alien memories in her mind. They reveal themselves from time to time in the form of painful, vivid reminiscences of the past triggered by the sight of ancient things. There is more to this: the conscience of the person to whom these memories belong is still alive in the girl's mind and makes attempts to take control of her body.
    • The Mute Tribe carries powerful genetic memories — combined with the photographic memory of each individual, and the ability to draw very well, this keeps important events and knowledge from fading in the collective memory.
  • Ghost Story: Elie and Rikter use scary bedtime story to test their new dream-catcher (to see whether it really can catch nightmares).
  • Harmless Freezing: Sometimes the ice gifts are living creatures, as was the case with the raptor that nearly killed Rikter, Nikt, and Rita. Being frozen for hundreds of years & thawing in the sun doesn't seem to have damaged the creature.
  • House Husband: Tim, Rita's husband.
  • Human Popsicle:
    • Elie was discovered in a cryonic capsule and unfrozen by Ksenya.
    • All members of the Mute tribe are descended from 18 children who were discovered frozen in cryonic tanks aboard the Black Iceberg. According to the legend, there are hundreds more children still frozen in storage inside the Black Iceberg.
  • Human Subspecies: The mute tribe are a different species of humans, as explained on page 218.
  • Iron Lady:
    • Both Lara (chief of the hunters' tribe) and her heir Rita are strong, brave women, and are born leaders.
    • Faith, the eldest of the three Norns, is a retired soldier. Though she loves her daughter Hope and granddaughter Love, that doesn't change the fact that she's a superhuman soldier born-and-raised with a sociopathic brain type — and as the de facto leader of the Norns, she's hardwired to make the kinds of tough decisions necessary to keep the Norn's work alive without the burden of emotions to consider.
  • Matriarchy: In this world women are in charge. Men can be become clan leaders too, but only if they prove clearly that they understand the value of human life as well as a woman who raised a child does. There were very few male chiefs.
  • Fictional Holiday: Hunter tribe celebrates "Fire Festival" when chief's daughter comes of age in case she had decided not to marry. She chooses a father for her child there.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Chief Lara fell in love with a Mute (a guy belonging to different human species related to Neanderthals) in her youth and married him against her mother's wishes. She used to be a tomboyish, reckless girl, quite the opposite to the austere, cold woman she became later.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Jan was known to be very cruel to his little sister. Also, at the age of 13 he killed her mentor and, when asked for the reason for this at the trial, said that "it was fun".
  • Lack of Empathy: Jan.
  • Lost Technology: most of the "ice gifts", plus some of machines in cave dwellers' possession.
  • Message in a Bottle:
    • One appears in the background on page 28 as Rikter contemplates his tribe's ice gift stories.
    • A very important one appears in the Ice Gift Hunt minigame it turns out to be a message from the legendary black iceberg, revealing the fate of the cryonically frozen children and the famous chief Rita.
  • Mind Virus: So-called psi-profiles when "assigned" to a person act as a gateway for very specific mind viruses.
  • Mishmash Museum: Cave dwellers have a museum on their main island where they keep most of the "ice gifts" that wash ashore, which vary from airplanes to dinosaur bones. It's a huge chamber filled with shelves, sculptures, and other items from the old world.
  • Mysterious Past: Elie is a girl who thought to be a living "ice gift". But who she really is she is yet to learn.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Elie was raised by cave dweller couple. Her biological parents died hundreds of yeas ago.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Rita is named after a famous chief of the hunters' tribe—her namesake, who lived two centuries ago, was one of the three explorers who boarded the Black Iceberg and rescued the ancestors of the mute tribe. Lara remarks that Ren picked out the name, as members of the mute tribe remember the historical Rita fondly.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Ash living in Elie's head. He is a copy of a dead boy's memory nobody but Elie can see and talk to.
  • Only Friend: Rikter for Elie (in Chapter 1).
  • Photographic Memory: People of the Mute tribe have photographic memories. They also draw very well and reproduce images of ancient objects and places in perfect detail which therefore do not fade in their collective memory over generations.
  • Physical Scars, Psychological Scars: Rita was wounded by a monster at the age of 12. The encounter left her with huge scars on her throat, and she tends to hide them since then. She says she feels helpless and vulnerable when they are not covered at least with a thin cloth. She is yet to master her old fears.
  • Raptor Attack: One of the "ice gifts" turned out to be a living raptor. Rita had to fight this monster at the age of 12 to protect her brothers.
  • Reluctant Psycho: All the descendents of the sociopathic soldiers are given extensive training/therapy to develop their cognitive empathy and social skills to the point that they can function normally in society.
  • Retired Badass: Faith, the oldest of the three "Norns" the adult Ash/ Nolan encounters. She's a retired "Sentinel," or as Nolan puts it, "a bioengineered sociopathic superhuman born and raised to kill without remorse." Even as a battle-scarred old woman who hasn't seen active duty in decades, she's a more than capable fighter whose enhanced reflexes and combat training make her a formidable threat.
  • Rugged Scar:
    • Rita has a long claw-mark scar on her neck and shoulder from the Raptor Attack that nearly killed her when she was 12. Overlaps with Physical Scars, Psychological Scars at the beginning of the story, when she still has reservations about not keeping the scars covered up. When she decides to make Tim her husband and take up more chief-duties from her mother, she becomes more confident about her scars and begins to wear clothing that shows them off.
    • Faith is a retired supersoldier who appears to have suffered a serious injury to her left side - her left eye, arm, and leg are prosthetic, and scarring can be seen on the left side of her face and neck.
  • Scavenged Punk: Cave dwellers gather ancient things that melting icebergs bring and use them as they see fit. Most of the time they don't know what these things were originally used for.
  • Shout-Out: A model of the Planet Express ship appears in Elie's study, among her trinkets from the old world.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Nikt and Rikter are twin brothers, and they do not get along well.
  • The Sociopath: Chief Lara and her family. They make it work to their advantage.
  • The Speechless: Ren, father of Rita, Nikt and Rikter is a mute shaman who uses magic string to "talk" to his family by way of signs.
  • Story Within a Story: Rikter proudly admits that he knows eight legends about the ice gifts, several of which he tells to the Cave Dweller teens at the beginning of the story:
    • The Legend of the Ice Giants, who built palaces of ice during the last great ice age. According to the legend, they all died off as the ice age ended, and icebergs are the ruins of their castles.
    • The Legend of Daris, the first man to become chief of the hunters' tribe.
    • The Legend of the Black Iceberg, wherein a healer, an engineer, and a monster slayer explored a mysterious black iceberg and face many trials therein. (A type 3 example, where the story-within-a-story is a plot point.)
      "Three brave people came to the black iceberg. The engineer, the healer, and the monster slayer. Two cave dwellers and a hunter chief. They fought monsters. They disarmed ancient traps. They healed cursed wounds. And there's the door that asked them riddles only the real chief could solve. The engineer's guesses were funny though... Then there's the battle of the minds. And the ice people... them rescuing the mutes. Oh, and the best part that makes it a horror story! The mystery of what broke these brave women!"
  • The Storyteller: Kalare is a scientist who knows that her magical legends are not true, but believes them to be important for developing creative type of thinking in her students.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Enforced. To become a chief of the hunter's tribe, a candidate must prove they understand the value of human life: usually by giving birth (almost all the previous chiefs have been women). As the position of chief is somewhat hereditary, this leads to a system of mother chiefs who pass down the mantle when their daughter becomes a mother herself. The tribe even has a festival, celebrated during a future chief's 16th year, wherein she chooses the man who will be the father of her child. (Theoretically a chief's daughter could choose to give up the position by refusing to have children, but there's been no mention of something like that happening in the story.)
  • Temporary Blindness: Kalare lost her sight to explosion during one of her experiments. She has to rely on her apprentice's—Elie—help get around and complete her work until her eyes are healed.
  • There Are No Therapists: Surprising averted for a post-apocalyptic world, and in more than one instance:
    • After being attacked by a defrosted Raptor, Rita's wounds were healed by the Cave Dwellers and she received physical therapy while in recovery. She mentions having to relearn how to walk and talk while in their care.
    • Rita, Lara, and all members of the hunters' tribe with a sociopathic brain type are taught to recognize emotions in others and gain control over their own emotions — developing "cognitive empathy" in lieu of the emotional empathy they lack — in order to function properly in society. Years of this therapy instill a subpersonality Note  that "controls" the sociopath's violent nature, molding natural born killers into guardians and leaders.
    • Elie gets training that will help her control the psi-profile in her head and recover from her last painful "memory attack" in the form of meditation, physical exercises, and practice in lucid dreaming.
    • Ash mentions that he spent a year in therapy after the tsunami.
  • Tomboyish Ponytail: Rita wears her hair pulled back for most of her early appearances in the comic. She only really lets it down around Tim, and then later when she begins to take on more responsibility as a future chief and as a mother.
  • Transferable Memory: People of pre-ice age era used various methods of memory transfer as a way for chosen individuals to live forever.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: On page 97 Elie wakes up while Tim carries her away from the cliff she nearly fell off. She is not herself and says eerie things.
  • Wonder Child: Elie had been frozen inside an ancient machine for hundreds of years and came to life when found. She experiences painful "reminiscences" about distant past almost every time she sees any other "ice gift". Also, the ancient machine she'd been found into recognizes her "psi profile" (whatever it is) and responds to it. Elie is being raised by adoptive parents who are normal people.
  • Young Love Versus Old Hate: In "Gifts Of Wandering Ice", there are two rival tribes - hunters and cave dwellers—whose leaders dislike each other. The story focuses more on their their children and grandchildren, who do not even understand the reason for this.
  • Youthful Freckles: Elie has freckles and brown hair.