Lock the windows tight, close the shutters, pull the curtains. It’s that time of year when the cold begins to think for itself. There are frightful horrors on Innistrad, but none send a chill down my spine quite like the Niblis of Frost.
“You’ve told us this one,” Jenny said.
Grant rolled his eyes. “It caught you, pinned you down, you couldn’t breathe or move or think or”—he grabbed his throat, eyes bulging—”anything. Right?”
Hmph. Little buggers think they’re safe. I tell them the story because it’s true, because it could happen to them. “Yes, that’s right.”
“Tell us a new story.” Jenny whines. “Ple-e-e-ase?”
He throws a fresh log onto the fire. “Do you know why I tell you about the Niblis of Frost?” They shake their heads. “Because it’s out there. Listen...Sh-h-h!” he puts a finger to his mouth, eyes unblinking. A moment passes, another, anoth—there, a rattle at the window, the cracking of frost. “Did you hear that?” They nod, their eyes wide.
“What was that?” asks Jenny.
“Was it...Was that one of them, Grandpa?”
Maybe, maybe not. No telling. “I don’t know.”
Grant’s eyes dart to the window, but only for a second. Afraid to look. He knows how his grandfather was frozen. Unable to move for a full day. If not found by a passing trapper he would have died. The boy knows this, knows it well.
“It was similar, but I can’t say it was the same. That was many years ago, I was younger then. But ghasts and nibli are tricksters. They don’t always sound the same. The only thing I know for sure is that they like the cold. That’s why we stay inside, with the doors and windows shut tight, where it’s warm.”
“And safe.” Jenny adds.
“Right,” says grandpa, “and safe.”
Later that night the children climb to the loft for bed. Heat rising from the ground floor fire makes it warm enough that they only need thin blankets. Grandpa tucks them in, kisses each on the forehead, wishes them sweet dreams, and heads back down to his chair to read.
“It’s too hot,” Grant whispers. “I’m going to crack the window.”
Jenny shakes her head, “Please don’t.”
“It’s just a story, Jen.”
“You heard the sound too. I know you did.”
Downstairs Grandpa thinks he hears a window opening. But no, surely the children wouldn’t do that. Not here, not on a night like this, not after the story he told them. He pauses, listening, then returns to his book, turns the page, and pushes the thought aside.
Grant swallows. “It’ll be alright, I’ll leave the chain on.” He falls asleep a short time later.
Jenny lays awake staring at the window. She shivers, but not because of the cold. A soft wind blows outside, causing the chain to sway. Sounds of people walking on the street below drift through the window. Sometime later that night she stumbles into a fitful sleep.
Grandpa sits in his comfy chair reading. The fire crackling away. He rubs his feet against each other, a grin on his face. It’s been a good day. His grandchildren are visiting, the city is asleep, and he has a book. The only thing that could make things better would be a hot mug of tea.
At the stove, about to start the kettle, a sound stops him. The gentle rattle of a chain. Is it his imagination or did the temperature drop too? His breath leaves in clouds, he shivers. Then comes a familiar sound, like metal being dragged over ice, like feet on hard snow, like a pane of cracking glass. Fear freezes him. He wants to throw a log on the fire, rush up the ladder to the loft, save his grandchildren, but he can’t move. Even his thoughts begin to slow. He wonders...Will they...So cold...Just...Brea—