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Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 1

Jodah returns.

Chapter 1 - Tresserhorn

There is a thread through the snow-clogged millennia of the Ice Age, a name that appears again and again, always when something of import occurs. Sometimes that name is tangential, in the background, or present only as a hint in some ancient translation, but one name is always there. That name is Jodah.

There have been theories and ballads written about the man or men who were Jodah. Some say he was a family of spectacular mages. Other state that he was singular - a failed planeswalker. Still others say he was cursed by the planeswalkers themselves for crimes unknown, fated to walk the plane until he found another being suitable to take his burden of eternal life. Some say that the "Jodah" name was nothing more than a sobriquet applied by the mages of the School of Unseen to their most rebellious and brilliant students.

Whatever his or their origins, the Jodah appears again and again over the icy centuries. He is in legends describing the appearance of the great silver statues of the Adarkar Wastes . He appears in the ballads of the Quest of Mad Zur, who sought immortality and who set off a magical war in Kjeldor before finally vanishing. He is prominent in the now-discredited tales of  Freyalise's ascension as a planeswalker. he was a witness to the fall of Tresserhorn during the Age of Storms. And he is a regular feature in the fragmented lore of the now-desolate School of the Unseen. In a few surviving tomes of that place, whenever its Archmage Eternal was mentioned by name, the name was always Jodah.

One man, or legion? Name or position? Careful planning or mere serendipity? The modern historian, safely ensconced in a later millennium, would be foolish to say.

All that can be said is that during the larger events for two and a half thousand years, there was normally a Jodah somewhere in the story.

-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

It's cold. Jodah hates the cold. However when he gets up and uses the power of the mountains to light a fire, he has more pressing concerns. He doesn't know where he is.

The room is small, with a shuttered window, simple mattress, blazing hearth, writing table, and mirror. He doesn't recognize any of it and he can't recall how or why he came here and he knows it's not because of being a little sluggish from just having woken up.

Jodah gets up out of bed and head towards the door to find it locked. He's ready to perform a simple spell of shaping his mana to break the lock, but the familiar yet unfamiliar silvery-gray metal that it's made of makes him hesitate. As does the familiar yet unfamiliar runes that are carved into its frame.

(Oh no! Has he been caged ?)

Jodah goes for the window, but when he opens the shutter it reveals a glass window that is similarly runed. The cold and white that comes through makes him realize it is either the middle of winter or he's high up in the mountains, or both.

What's going on? He needs to remember? Jodah recalls traveling with his mentor Voska, and being taught a fire-lighting spell. He doesn't actually remember learning it, but clearly from the fire in the hearth he obviously did learn it. He also remembers goblins, the Church, and a woman. He remembers a war and a sea voyage. There is something about a man in rags , a man dressed in finery, and a man that was caged... and that dark haired woman again. She was important.

Jodah walks over the desk to find any sort of clue that will jog his memory, but all he finds are blank sheets of paper, full jars of ink, and unworn pens.

When he walks over to the mirror, what he sees comes as a shock.

He was old. Not decrepitly old, or venerable old, but old nonetheless. He remembered being a young man, leopard thin and wiry. Now his frame had the heft of maturity - not fat, at least not yet, but well muscled and thick. His hair was longer than he had remembered it, and his face was clean shaven - he remembered being so proud of a ratty thin mustache and beard that made him look like he had been gargling with ink.

But his eyes were the oldest of all. They did not fit his face. They were ancient eyes, venerable eyes, eyes that had seen too much for one lifetime. Jodah touched the fingers of his left hand to his face, and the thing with the ancient eyes duplicated the gesture in the glass.

Jodah doesn't remembered becoming so old.

Then the lock on the door clicks, and what was once an iron door handle, but is now ivory, turns. Jodah raises his hands, flames ignited on his fingers tips in anticipation for whoever walks through.

The figure who emerged almost filled the doorway - he was tall and broad shouldered and dressed in robes that opened in the front to reveal a white tunic bound with ebony bands. The figure wore a great axe at his belt but did not have the weapon drawn. He had removed his helmet, a thick metal cap topped with short horns. His face was a massive collection of muscles with only the barest hint of features.

The figure sees that he's awake and tells him to get dressed. Clothes are under his bed. The figure leaves, closing the door behind him.

...Soon after...

Jodah gets dressed in the night blue pants, sky blue shirt, and violet jacket provided for him. Jodah steps out of the room and the large man waits for him. Jodah stares long enough for the man to ask him if there's a problem, and Jodah asks if he's supposed to know him. The answer is no. The large man then introduces himself as the keeper of the citadel they're in. The Keep of Tresserhorn. His name is Chaeska.

Chaeska then asks him if he remembers who he is, and Jodah introduces himself as Jodah of Giva Province. Then Chaeska leads the way.

They walk down hallway after hallway decorated with worn or burn tapestries. Jodah pauses when one catches his eye. A tapestry of clockwork monstrosities towering over two battling figures.

The keeper turned around, noticing that Jodah had fallen behind. "Urza and Mishra in their last battle, before the Dark Lords they worshiped turned on them and dragged them down to Phyrexia. Where, it is said, they scream for mercy at the heart of its flaming citadel to this day."

Jodah shakes his head, knowing that some of the details are wrong, but what does it matter that Phyrexians didn't actually come down to claim them?

Up ahead Jodah hears the sounds of other voices, and finds comfort in the fact that it isn't just the two of them alive in this place. The continue on and enter a two-story high scriptorium filled with all manner of books, scrolls, tomes, and rubbings. The furniture is all mismatched, but what catches his eye are the thirty or so scholars that huddle over tables, search through the stacks, and converse with one another.

As Chaeska leads him through the room, a balding old man calls out to Archmage Jodah.

"It is you!" said the older man, squeezing the air out of Jodah entirely. "Ive been hoping to find someone from my era, but I didn't expect it to be you!"

(Era? What's going on here? Time travel? Some kind cryogenic freezing?)

When Jodah asks the old man if he's supposed to know him, the man tells him that he studied under him in the City of Shadows on Lat-Nam. What is now called the School of the Unseen.

The words seem maddeningly familiar, yet not familiar enough to jog his memory. When Jodah asks the man what his name is, the old man tells him that he doesn't know and was hoping Jodah could tell him.

Chaeska interrupts the conversation and says there's no time for this. He tells the man that Jodah has only just returned to them, and that explanation is enough for the old man to understand, and he turns to go back to his large pile of scrolls, and Chaeska leads Jodah through the citadel once more.

They continue on through more hallways, and guards start to line the walls. Unmoving guards. Dead guards. Chaeska turns to see why Jodah has stopped for a third time, and he explains that in these troubling times, they need to use what they can. The undead are bound to their master and under his control. It will all be explained soon. Then Chaeska adds that he was led to believe that Jodah had experience with their like before and shouldn't have a problem with them. Jodah nods because he does feel like he's seen their like before, but once again the details escape him. If he used them himself, was allied with one who did, or fought against them he can't say.

They continue on and reach two great doors. One wall of the room beyond is dominated by great stained-glass panels, and a man sits at the far end upon a throne of bone. The figure gets up as they enter the room and descends the dais and approaches them.

Jodah shakes his head at his memories that tell him that great lords should be surrounded by servants and courtiers, and is shocked to noticed that the man approaching him has a face that looks as if it's been exposed to the elements for a long time. The man who approaches is dressed in dark mage robes with a red cape, but the way he walks reminds Jodah more of a city guard.

Then the man did something else Jodah had not anticipated - he bowed deeply, spreading his arms as he did so, palms outward.

"You honor me with your presence," he said in a hushed reverent voice that slid over the walls as would a snake. "Welcome to Tresserhorn, Lord Jodah. I am its master, Lim-Dûl, called by some the Great Necromancer. Welcome back from the dead."

* * *

Surprise, Surprise

What is going on? Jodah meets Lim-Dûl already? Is this going to be Mairsil #2? Lim-Dûl is going to try to bring Jodah over to his side, try to convince him to join his cause? Lim-Dûl is the bad guy right? Feast of Kjeld certainly made it seem that way. This is quite an interesting development. Can't wait to see where it leads.

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