In the Winter realm of the Vinlings, Hrundel Lightbearer was born to Queen Frythia Fair Frost. Messengers brought word of the birth to King Hungarling, who had been away from his hearth for seven years, adventuring with his army beyond the Northern Frontier. Returning to his kingdom, he drowned his wife in her bath and put the men of her coterie to the sword. The infant, however, was a creature of such purity and beauty that he could not bring himself to kill it, and resolved instead to raise the boy as his own.
As he grew, it became clear that Hrundel Lightbearer was not an ordinary child. His exceeding beauty was itself a sign of his strangeness, but he also showed unnatural proclivities that were seen by some in the Vinling Halls as portents of dark times. Both fire and ice seemed to obey the boy, who could make the flames of the hearth take human shape and dance around the hall or bring a snow-filled wind through his window, to settle on the floor in the shape of a pretty girl’s face — this to impress Thendrya, a particular pretty girl whom Hrundel hoped one day to make his bride.
Hrundel’s father looked on him with increasing unease. Though he needed a strong successor, he sometimes wondered if he saw in the boy’s eyes the first machinations of a usurper. The boy asked too many questions about his mother (about whom nothing could be related on pain of death), and demonstrated a particular curiosity in the matter of the source of his powers — a curiosity that could only lead to doubt about his true patrimony. The Priests of the Hall, frightened by the boy’s abilities, warned their king that these transgressions would bring evil upon his house if left unpunished.
On his eighteenth birthday, Hrundel was summoned by his father to a special party in his honor, to be held inside a new wooden hall that had been erected to commemorate the occasion. All of Hrundel’s friends awaited him there, including Thendrya, blushing in a special dress that she had made for the party. Taking her hand, Hrundel exulted, “Everyone I love has gathered here today to share in my joy! But where is my father, first among my family?”
There was an answering crash as the hall’s wooden doors slammed shut and were locked from the outside. Bewildered pleading turned to screams as a distant crackling gave way to the roar of a fast-kindled fire — the hall had been set aflame with the party-goers inside. Hrundel, clinging to his beloved, tried in vain to keep the flames at bay. At last he could not tame the mounting firestorm, and Hrundel wailed as Thendrya turned to ashes in his arms. As the flames engulfed him, he swore a foul oath.
King Hungarling looked grimly on the column of fire that raged on the Hall Pyre. “So the travesty has ended,” he said, and turned to his priests and consorts for comfort. But they looked back on the inferno with terror in their faces, and the king turned to see a blazing figure rising from the collapsing hall. Black within a halo of fire, its flesh burnt completely away, rose a charred corpse, its hollow eyes alight with wordless pain and fury. It seized from the crumbling wreck one of the hall’s still-guttering torches and turned to the assembled royal cadre.
Few Vinlings survived the night.
The Torch Bearer’s screams, like tearing metal, echoed across the vale. The creature rode on a spreading carpet of unquenchable fire and gutted every town from the foot of the Skalendar Range to the frozen Harbors of the Green Sea. Wearing the king’s crest and horned helmet, the monster vomited fire in waves that spread across the ground, summoned it in avalanches from the sky, spat searing bolts from the head of its staff. All things burned.
When the Halls of the Vinlings were no more and every field was razed to dust, the creature moved on to colder places.