The Battle of Kjeldor.
Chapter 15 - The Dead Don't Rest
The last armed conflict of the Ice Age is known by several different names. It was called Lim-Dûl's Battle in a few references of the conflict, mostly from the west where the necromancer was the better known of the combatants. Most of the respectable histories call it the Battle of Kjeldor, for it was on this particular conflict that the future of Kjeldor hinged.
One interesting variant name from a southern report of the battle called it the Battle of the Planeswalker's Proxies. This version puts forth the idea that both armies were little more than the toys for the powerful figures Freyalise and Leshrac, and the loss of life and what followed was nothing except one more game in the great cosmic chess match between these great forces.
This is of course moongathering of the highest order. While Lim-Dûl did trace a great deal of his power from Leshrac, there was no contemporary account from either the Kjeldorans or Balduvians that put Freyalise at the site of the battle.
Indeed, Freyalise's actions on the day of the battle are probably the second best known in Terisiare, right behind the devastation of Argoth itself. Why would she concern herself with a mere mortal war when she had more important things to accomplish?
Indeed, argue proponents of this idea, that's exactly the point. The entire battle, indeed the entire war, was to keep Leshrac engaged with other matters through his proxy Lim-Dûl until it was too late for him to do anything about Freyalise's plan. The entire war in the north was not the result of Lim-Dûl, with Leshrac as his patron, but rather the careful eons-long planning of Freyalise.
As an historian, I see this purely as the inborn desire for individuals to make events, even important events, bigger than they truly were. Putting both planewalkers at his climactic battle would be the icing on the cake, what would be necessary to make this the truly legendary battle that, even without their presence, it was.
It is an interesting fancy that Leshrac or Freyalise would take interest in this particular gathering of mortals at this time. but that is all it is - a fancy.
-Arkol, Argivian Scholar
(So it is Freyalise that is the master pupeteer. More on this later.)
Freyalise floats cross-legged in the air, with a green cloud of power radiating from the planeswalker, dressed in an archaic padded armor of the like he hadn't seen in centuries. By magic or otherwise, no one else approaches as Freyalise, Jodah, and Jaya speak.
They greet one another and Freyalise gets straight to the point. Jodah is better, and no longer out of his mind or dead thanks to her intervention. Intervention provided due to the promise made on his behalf by Jaya. And no, Jodah's giving access to his libraries on Lat-Nam do not qualify as payment.
Freyalise looks to Jaya to reveal the price, and guilt-ridden Jaya replies. She tells him the price is his mirror .
Jaya cries out that she had no choice, and that she should have told him sooner, and that she didn't know what else to do. He was dying.
Jodah suppresses his anger and gently embraces Jaya in his arms.
"It's all right," he said softly. "Never regret. If you regret too much, you go mad."
Jodah turns to Freyalise and tells her that the mirror won't work for her, and the planeswalker only laughs. She isn't going to use it for something so primitive as to see the true nature of herself. Despite Jodah's own pleas to postpone payment on the fact that the mirror could provide a key advantage in deciding the future of an entire nation, Freyalise tells him that she has her own schedule to keep, something far more important than any nation.
When she's finished with it, and if he survives the conflict with Lim-Dûl, then he can have it back. In fact she will contact him one last time after this is all over, and she will show him something he will want to see.
"One more gift before I leave. From me to you, for all the old times. No strings attached. Remeber, Jodah, the dead don't rest. Neither should you."
The planeswalker vanishes, and Jaya promises she'll help him get the mirror back, but the import of Freyalise's words dawn on the archmage and he runs back towards camp.
The dead don't rest .
The skyknights return to give warning before Jodah can. Lim-Dûl's armies will arrive at dawn.
Lim-Dûl's forces spilled forth like a mass of maggots from a rotting corpse. Kjeldorans and Balduvians clashed with zombies and skeletons alike, with Jodah and half the mages watching over the front lines, Gustha and the other mages watching over the barbarians on the left side, and Jaya with the barbarians on the right flank. Varchild went where she was needed to shore up defenses and boost morale through her presence.
Although tempting to fling spells at the undead targets, Jodah knew what Lim-Dûl's strategy would be. His army vastly outnumbered their own, and these first waves would simply be used to prod at the alliance and wear out the mages if possible. And so Jodah and the others hold their spells back.
The first wave is dealt with hand to hand, and soon a wall of fire feeding upon the corpses of the undead bars the way, but Lim-Dûl compells his army forward, and a second wave commences and in turn, is quickly turned back.
And still, Jodah knows the real assault is to come.
A new assault comes from up above, and the screech of abyssal specters fill the sky. The ghostly mounts swoop in low and mages cave in to the taunt and launch their spells into the sky. And despite the successful kill of one or two, Jodah knows Lim-Dûl would count the attack as a success as many more spells miss their marks.
The specters retreat as the skyknights fly out to meet them, and this too goes in Lim-Dûl's favor. Half the knights ignore the call to return, and as they near a small black hill in the distance, a great fireball lights up the sky and the pursuing skyknights are no more.
Lim-Dûl is here.
The black hill was his mount. He rode a great step-pyramid, a ziggurat crafted of black wood and carried by a hundred undead slaves. It was a constructed mountain, and at its apex rode Lim-Dûl, beneath a great black canopy. Though not in range of any spell the archmage had, Jodah saw the huge armored form of Chaeska the Keeper one step down, all in black save for a reddish sleeve along one arm, the arm that Jodah had severed. Another figure, dressed in Kjeldoran armor, stood one step below the keeper. Avarm Garrison, leader of the traitorous Knights of Stromgald.
The real assault began.
These undead weren't the worn and battered undead of the first assaults. These were more finely formed zombies and more polished skeletons that withstood more than a few blows.
Their lines buckle and Varchild and Jodah ride out to keep the army from breaking. Jodah curses at himself for each minor healing he performs that drains him of precious mana that he knows he will need for later.
Ashen ghouls attack while Jodah is amongst the Order of the Sacred Torch. Their leader used to be a man named Klausson, and is now instead one one of the ghouls with short lengths of chains attached to iron balls implanted where his eyes used to be. Jodah lights him up, and leaves Klazina Jansdotter to lead the Order of the Sacred Torch to finish repelling the assault as he rides on looking for where else he is needed, and as he wonders how Jaya fares.
The barbarians weren't as easily cowed by Lim-Dûl's terror tactics. In fact they delighted in the fact that there were Kjeldorans before them, albeit undead, that they could kill with impunity. Taking Jodah's words to heart, she holds back with her spells, and instead charges with the barbarians with runesword drawn.
The latest wave of skeletons is lead by one of Stromgald's cabal . Jaya watches at its great axe cuts down a barbarian and she rushes to meet it, only to stumble as she recognizes the traitor.
"Hello, Jaya," said Belenda Danisdotter, still wearing the skyknight armor that Jaya had last seen her in. Her face was gray, and the flesh had been torn away at both cheeks, hanging like pennants along her jawbone. her eyes were dead things.
Belenda tires to sooth her with words while striking out with her weapon. Jaya is on the wrong side. She will see. Lim-Dûl will care for her, he will care for everyone. That's all he wants. She should join them. She will join them.
Jaya knows pitting former allies against the living is one of Lim-Dûl's most basic tactics, and yet it works on her anyway. She clashes with her former friend in a frenzied melee , yet finds it hard to swing a killing blow at her former friend. But in the end, with tears in her eyes, Jaya slams her sword through her friend's chest and twists it to create a gapping hole.
Belenda glances down as her insides fall out, and with a flash of recognition, she utters, "Thank you," before Jaya cuts off her head.
Jaya ignores the battle around her until Lovisa Coldeyes snaps her out of her daze. Jaya realizes all of Belenda's forces have fallen, and that the barbarians are charging towards the necromancer and not holding the line. Jaya cries out that they're supposed to wait for the signal, but Lovisa only shakes her head.
"You might as well argue with an avalanche as call off a charge by my tribesmen. The best we can do is ride it out."
Lovisa signals the charge, ready to take Lim-Dûl's head and earn her cask of ale.
Gustha screamed. She screamed at the barbarians to hold. She screamed at her mages as they wasted their energy. And she screamed at herself as spells flew from her own fingertips, each one seeming as necessary as the last. A wall of ice to shore of defenses, illusionary forces to distract reinforcements, and searing mist sent amongst her enemies all spring forth from her on instinct.
Then a large boom destroys part of her line nearby, and Gustha watches as the undead march forward in an endless wave. She sees firsthand the endless ranks the necromancer posesses as body after body marches forward simply to fill the crater so more behind and walk upon their undead bodies and resume the attack.
Then a voice calls out her name. Avram Garrisson.
He calls her traitor for siding with the barbarians, and Gustha throws one, two, then three arrows of ice at him. And although the third makes him stagger, the fourth simply bounces off him as the pendant around his chest glows.
Avram scoffs at her attack and tells her that her petty magics cannot stop him. She'll be joining their army soon.
"I'm sure we have a position for you," he said, his smile becoming even wider as he toed the half-shattered skull of one of the zombies at his feet. "As filler if nothing else."
In a rage, Gustha unleashes spell after spell at the undead general that forces him to stagger back. His pendant shatters and still the mage does not relent . As the dust clears, there is nothing left where Avram Garrisson used to be.
Yet despite her victory, Gustha realizes the cost was too high. Her mana is gone.
The lake of corpses begins to ripple as they undead bodies begin to climb out, and Gustha releases one final scream as a wave of undead falls upon her.
Varchild yells at Jodah that they must give the order to advance. Jodah says it's too soon, but Varchild points out that the barbarians have already charged on ahead. They have no choice.
Jodah realizes the truth of it and gives the signal to the mages under his command to finally prepare their spells. Their job is to protect the army from the worst of Lim-Dûl's spells while the central vanguard advances.
Atop a rise, Jodah sees that the barbarians have gotten surrounded, and Varchild has already taken the Hipparion Cavalry to aid the forces by the crater. The help must come from him.
Jodah cursed and reached into his mind, to a new spell recently mastered. He thought of the research he did on Kjeldor's histories. He thought of the legend of the Arctic Fox , a warrior who outshone even Marton Stromgald. He thought of the legendary lost unit , which disappeared into the mists when Stromgald had met his end.
He combined those memories with the power of shining mana withing him, and he brought them all to life .
Down to her last spells, all Jaya can think to do is try to reach Lovisa Coldeyes . The battle has devolved to individual skirmishes, and the dead of their allies are already beginning to rise. Hope may soon be lost.
Then Jaya hears horns in the air. Mystical horns.
Mounted ghostly knights appear, and attack Lim-Dûl's forces. Jaya recognizes the banner as those of the Order of Jarkeld and realizes that despite all his warnings, even Jodah is now spending his mana, and he just did so to save her.
Jaya fights her way to Lovisa, and side by side they lead the charge and the barbarians surge forward once more.
The wards of Jodah's mages successfully defend against magical attacks, and the only deaths come from combat. The undead army is thickest here on the ground while abyssal specters and the bat-faced minions of Leshrac attack from above.
They move ever closer to Leshrac, while at the same time Jodah's mages and soldiers slowly fall one by one. There's been no word from Gustha in some time on the left, and he's lost sight of Jaya on the right. Arcum had managed to get one of his golems working, but it would soon fall as well. Lovisa and Varchild's units were the closest to reaching Lim-Dûl's pyramid, but time was running out.
A flash to the right distracts Jodah for but a moment, and the summoned Order of Jarkeld vanishes from the battlefield. The giant fireball that created the explosion landed where Jaya should have been, but there's no time to dwell on that as a group of moor fiends led by a menacing Avram Garisson atop an undead unicorn. Varchild answers his challenge and Jodah watches as she's torn from her saddle as she tries to make her way to the undead knight and watches the chaos that follows amongst her unit.
Then lava bursts from the ground killing friend and foe alike. The lava engulfs both Avaram and Varchild, and Jodah barely manages to erect defenses the following explosion wipes away everything.
As Jodah raises his head, he finds himself in a pocket of barren ground, with one lone figure standing at the base of the black pyramid.
The necromancer had been fully transformed. Lim-Dûl bore horns the size of a great ram's, and his shoulders were overly muscled to support them. He still wore the robes that Jodah had first met him in, and his right hand was filled with rings. The fingers of his left hand played over the rings, and he nodded at Jodah.
The archmage nodded. It was quiet here, and the noises of death and the battle seemed miles away.
"Hello, Friend Jodah," said Lim-Dûl in an offhanded way.
"Hello, necromancer," replied Jodah, pulling himself up from teh blasted ground. "Or should I call you by your real name? Should I say Hello, 'Friend' Mairsil?"
(I was right!)
* * *
So this whole battle is just a distraction so Freyalise can act first when it comes to the approaching plane? How exactly did she control him? It seems Leshrac, through Lim-Dûl, is just doing what he was going to do anyway.
I can accept she's using this as a part of her plan, but at this point, it's hard to see how she had an active hand in shaping these events, rather than is just taking advantage of what's going on... unless her protecting Jodah and Jaya when she did counts as this whole conflict as being all her master plan.
Well... if that's the case... and the whole thing is a distraction... then Freyalise doesn't really care who wins this battle, and it's not really so much a battle of proxies, because Jodah/Varchild/Lovisa aren't her champions, and Battle of the Planeswalker's Proxies is a misnomer.
Still... despite all I just typed, it's really a small nit-pick. I don't really know the full extent of what's planned, and Freyalise does have something to show Jodah if he survives.
The Pretender as the Necromancer! Was it really necessary for Mairsil to go under a different name? The soldier Lim-Dûl was pretty much dead all alone in the middle of the snow. Who would have been alive to recognize the name Mairsil other than Jodah. But maybe that's enough considering how powerful Jodah's become in the time between when he originally died, and when he took over Lim-Dûl's body.
Although this is something that I originally expected, it's also somewhat disappointing. As much of a threat they've built Lim-Dûl up to be... I kind of now wish he was his own person, rather than just the pseudonym for someone else.
Oh well. It was necessary I suppose, when trying to shoe horn The Dark with Ice Age and Alliances in creating this trilogy.
Only three more chapters left to go!