After they finished sparring, and Danny was laying in the snow, trying to get his energy back, Frostbite floated several feet overhead, looking at something down past the edge of the island.
"Are you, um," said Danny, breathing hard even though breathing was at least somewhat optional for him, "are you looking for something?"
"Not precisely," said Frostbite. "More… examining something. I believe your color vision is better than mine. Would you mind checking something for me?"
Danny peeled himself out of the very comfortable snowbank and flew up to hover next to Frostbite. "What is it?"
"There," said Frostbite, pointing. "Do you detect any difference in color in that direction?"
"Um," said Danny, blinking, squinting, and tilting his head to one side. "It's a little bluer than usual, maybe?" He turned to look in other directions for comparison. "Yeah, it's bluer. Kind of that sea-blue-green whatever color. Is that a bad thing, or…?"
"Oh," said Frostbite, beaming. "No, no, it's excellent. Excellent news. I thought I might be deluding myself."
"So… what does it mean?"
Frostbite blinked at Danny for a moment. "Ah, yes, I forget that you are young enough that you have never seen the turning of the age."
"Uh, yeah. Yep. I can confirm that I do not know what that is."
Frostbite nodded. "It is… something like changing seasons, only less predictable."
Less predictable did sound like the Ghost Zone.
"So, is it going to be, like, green-blue season or something?"
"To be entirely proper, it is a cyan age," said Frostbite. "Although some people also call it a blue age."
"And things will just be… cyan?"
Frostbite chuckled. "There are a great many more changes than that. I think you will like this age. Cyan ages tend to be… peaceful."
Danny tried to imagine a color change making any of the ghosts he knew less violent, and failed miserably. "How's that?"
"It's, hm." Frostbite scratched his chin. "It can be a little difficult to explain all at once. I believe we managed to retain some sculptures and murals from the last cyan age that you can see. In the meantime, I will do my best to explain as we return."
"Sure," said Danny, with a shrug, starting towards the village at a sedate pace. He was trying to be, well, cool, but his curiosity was well and truly piqued.
"An age," said Frostbite, after a moment, "is like a season. But it is also a change to how the Realms work, how they are structured, how they behave. The ambient ectoplasm color is something of an indicator, showing the character of the age we are turning to long before any major changes. Green ages, of any shade, tend towards the chaotic, diverse, and individualistic. Some would call them natural. Others say they are merely anarchic."
That did match more or less with what Danny had observed of the Ghost Zone and the ghosts.
"You mean, it's not always people wanting to fight all the time?" asked Danny.
"Well," said Frostbite, scratching the back of his neck, a character tic he'd picked up from Danny, "not all the time, Great One. But, yes, the turning of the age comes with altered appearances and instincts for most ghosts, and although the core of who we are does not change, much else does. For example, red ages engender very hierarchical, stratified societies with a great emphasis on obedience."
"That doesn't sound great," said Danny.
"Red ages aren't all bad," said Frostbite. "But I imagine that going from a green age to a red age would be quite a shock, especially for you."
"Because despite the nature of green ages, you tend towards attempts to be social, even to fit in, to some degree."
"So… a red age would make me, what, more social?"
"You might find it difficult to resist the instincts of your new form, yes," said Frostbite.
Danny grimaced at the reminder that, somehow, they were going to get new forms. Whatever that meant. "But what about blue ages? Cyan ages, I mean," he corrected himself, wanting to use the right words. "What do they do?"
"Specifically with regards to society… City states and democracies are very common. But with regards to everything else…" He paused, thinking. "Most ages align with one or more, how should I put this, human conceptions of the otherworld. To fantasies. Red ages tend to appear hell-like, to use it as an example again. One persistent fantasy is that of a world under water."
"Like the Drowned Quarter."
"Very like the Drowned Quarter," agreed Frostbite. "But vast. An ocean that encompasses all the Realms."
Danny… wasn't sure how that would work. "So, kind of like it is now, but… wetter? Floating in water instead of in the air?"
"No," said Frostbite. "There is a reason I wanted to show you the murals." They had reached the village again. "Come, Great One."
They entered the cave complex that also hosted the Infi-Map and a number of other artifacts the Far Frozen protected, but peeled off the main tunnel, taking a smaller one that Danny had never been down before. There was a square cave at the end of the tunnel with a statue in the center, each of the cave's three uninterrupted walls covered by a large mural made of gold, ice, and stone.
"Here we are," said Frostbite. "These were made in the last cyan age, which was quite some time ago."
"Huh," said Danny, walking around the statue. It was made of ice and a bit bigger than Frostbite, with wide, flipper-like paws and a substantial tail. It looked a lot like a cross between a polar bear and a sea lion… and maybe… Danny glanced back at Frostbite before turning to the murals.
All three were seascapes, icy ones, with huge glaciers both above and below the water. Beings like the one in the statue swam through waves, but they weren't alone. Mermaids and mermen with seal-like tails and strange patterns on their torsos swam alongside them. Overhead…
"Is that another ocean in the sky?" asked Danny, who was half sure he was interpreting the picture correctly.
"It is," said Frostbite. "It is not a constant feature, but it is quite common in cyan ages."
"Right, right. Um, are these…?" He hesitantly pointed at the polar-bear-sea-lion beings.
Frostbite chuckled. "Yes, that is what we yetis become. In fact, our tribe's history indicates that we were first founded in a cyan age, which is perhaps why we enjoy them so much." He sighed, happily. "Ah, and it may be of more interest to you to note that those are halfas."
"Wait, what?" asked Danny, head whipping back and forth between Frostbite and the mermaids - merpeople? - Frostbite was pointing at. "Really? How?"
"Halfas are much more common in cyan ages," said Frostbite. "For one, natural portals in the ocean become much more common, and historically sailors–"
"I get it, I get it," said Danny, quickly. "But… you said for one? Are there other reasons?"
Frostbite nodded. "Many halfas born in cyan ages do not remain in contact with the Realms when the age changes. They, ah, in cyan ages the transformation halfas use is changed quite a bit. So, when the age changes, they can choose to stay human. Most do. But when the age changes back, their descendants tend to return, called back by the water. I do hope they do this time as well. It has been a long time indeed, and I think it would be good for you."
"Uh huh," said Danny, who, if Frostbite hadn't said something super concerning, would probably be asking dozens of questions about the families. "But what do you mean my transformation is going to change? Am I going to be stuck?"
"Not at all! Not at all!" said Frostbite, reassuringly. He patted Danny's back. "The ones I knew transformed by removing their skin."
"What," said Danny, not at all reassured.
"Their- Not in the way you are thinking, Great One. They would have a sort of garment, usually a coat, which they would put on when they wished to transform. It would… meld with their skin and change them to the form you see here." He pointed at the murals again. "Then, to become human again, they would take it off."
That sounded awfully familiar. Something Sam mentioned, maybe? Something to do with seals… He shuffled through his eclectic mythological knowledge. "Selkies," he said, finally. "That's what you're talking about, isn't it?"
"That was one word that was used," agreed Frostbite. "But you can see why it would be very easy for them to simply… not wear their coats again."
"Because they didn't want to be changed."
"That's, um. That's. That's a lot," said Danny, looking at the murals. He… genuinely didn't know how he felt about all this. He wasn't sure if he could say he liked the Ghost Zone as it was, but it was familiar, at this point, and… "Frostbite, how is that going to happen for me? I mean, am I just going to transform one day, and then I'll have, like, a sealskin coat flop off of me?"
"I confess, I'm unsure," said Frostbite. "As I said, few halfas ever stayed through the end of the age."
"Cool," said Danny. "That's… cool." Maybe he'd just have his suit be his 'coat' or something. Hopefully. He could be lucky sometimes.
"But as a positive for you," said Frostbite, clearly sensing Danny's lack of enthusiasm. "You won't have to deal with ghost attacks anymore, yes?"
"I mean, the portal is still going to be there, so…"
"Very few will go through it," said Frostbite, confidently. "In addition to no longer being able to fly–"
"Wait, what?" asked Danny, that little casual piece of information much more upsetting to him than the skin thing. "I won't be able to fly?"
"Many powers are altered in these changes," said Frostbite, apologetically. "But, again, as ghost becomes mer, attacks on your town should stop. Very few of us can stand to be on dry land during cyan ages."
"But I won't be able to fly?"
Frostbite gave him a cautious pat. "I'm afraid not, Great One, but swimming is very similar."
Danny, somehow, had doubts.