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Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 11



Plotting uncovered.


Chapter 11 - Cabal

Revolutions are tricky things and are best viewed from a great distance, either from the physical distance of several countries over, or from the temporal distance of several hundred years. Both are safe vantage points from the parties involved in the actual revolt.

Up close, revolutions are messy, brawling things. Despite the claims made afterward, the sides are not drawn up like chess pieces, white and black, good and evil. Everyone is on one side or another for their own reasons, and all parties are pursuing their own goals. Players change sides frequently, or often go neutral without explanation. Only when one is far enough away, in space or time or both, can one truly say what is going on.

Those who are fighting the revolution consider themselves heroes. Those who are fighting against the revolution consider themselves heroes. Those who support neither, or both sides of revolution, consider themselves heroes. Only once all the deeds are done and one side or the other clearly triumphs, only then can the accounting be made, the survivors deciding who were the heroes and who the traitors.


-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

Freed from her cell, Jaya first drops by the Skyknights' Barracks and learns that Belenda's quarters have been emptied and no one wants to give her more details on the matter. The stop isn't a total waste, because she' able to acquire a skyknight cloak to help her blend in the city as she hopes from tavern to tavern.

In those taverns, Jaya finds a lot of refugees from Mikkel and Soldev, talking about the zombie hordes that forced them to flee, but she also finds that most people from the city and the nearby towns and villages speak out that everyone knows that the it's the barbarians that are the only real threat.

In the richer taverns where the merchants tend to hang out, the zombie threat is even more downplayed and it's the the threat of barbarians and elven mercenaries that is stressed all the more. Concerns about trade is seen as the only problem, and the undead don't care about money or goods.

In the taverns closest to the government buildings, where soldiers and officers reside, the talk shifts towards whether or not the king is as strong as he should be, and concerns about regaining the glory of Kjeld, and any mention of the undead is quickly scoffed at if allowed to be spoken at all. There is also plenty of talk of increasing desertion, and people having "gone over," but what that means exactly, Jaya can't piece together.

(Huh? Does the grim way that people are speaking of having "gone over" mean that the military knows that officers are being zombified? Or just that they've decided to support Lim-Dul?)

Jaya regrets not trying to get more information out of Belenda when she had the chance, but as she's about to leave the Great Dragon Inn, she notices Avram Garrison himself approach a very drunk Captain Varchild. The large man bends down to speak softly in the captain's ear, but whatever he's saying, she's not very happy with it. What starts with a shaking of her head quickly escalates to a drawn balde, and Garrisson ends up leaving in disgust.

(Hmm... going over has to simply mean supporting the idea of following zombie Stromgald, and Varchild isn't having it. But why is that Belenda doesn't have a room in the barracks anymore?)

Jaya decides to follow Garrisson out the door, and she finds a knight of the White Shield and a knight of the Flaming Sword waiting for him. The three keep the shadows and enter an abandoned merchants house, and she manages to sneak her way in and watch a meeting of about thirty officers of the various military factions all collected in one place, with Avram Garrisson front and center.

"For too long we have sat on our hands," he said, his voice clear and stirring. "We have watched as the rot has crawled into our military and into our morals. We have watched as the mages have feuded among themselves and as the artificers have dabbled with their horrid machines in Soldev. And we have watched as the barbarians and the ice have swallowed our norther marches!"

Cheers follow his speech, and Garrisson continues on to say that this night is the start of a new beginning. That it's time for new heroes to rise up and be lead by one of the greatest heroes Kjeld has ever known.

As soon as he says that, two knights pour some liquid over some hot coals, and within the steam that rises, two shapes form. Martin Stromgald and Belenda Danisdotter. A Belenda that moves too stiffly and too straight from the Belenda that Jaya knows, and not long after Stromgald begins his speech, Jaya realizes that he's moving too stiffly as well, like he was a mere puppet with someone else pulling his strings.

Stromgald speaks, but those present are already committed to his cause. He talks about the corrupt merchants, mages, and artificers, and how it's time for the return to honor, justice, and bravery. Cheers erupt at his every word. Despite being a part of various orders, they are his knights now.

And then Garrisson speaks again, and lays out the plan to assassinate the king.

Three knights chosen at random will break into his quarters dressed as barbarians and end his disgraceful reign this very night. By dawn, Kjeld will have a new leader.

Jaya watches the two images while all the attention is on Garrisson, and she notices they don't move one bit, even to breath, while attention isn't on them, and she realizes the worst. She understands where Belenda went after she dropped her off, and knows in her heart what happened and who is ultimately behind all this.

Garrisson continues on and tells them that they are going to take advantage of the wizard that has entered the city. They're going to go to the cells and kill his apprentice, and add them as conspirators to the assassination, then all the people will rise up and direct their anger at both the barbarians and the mages.

Stromgald speaks once more, and tells them that even though he is distant from them at the moment, he is ready to usher in this new era. And as the midnight bell tolls, they can all share in the moment as one because their host has graciously provided them a special drink so they can all toast to the new Kjeld as one.

Jaya knows it's time to leave, but she isn't as stealthy going out as she was coming in, and two knights guarding the exit hear her step on a loose floorboard. Jaya runs up the stairs and towards the roof as the two try to trap her. They chase her across the rooftops and she takes care of one easily enough with a spell that causes him to fall to his death, the other wears some kind of charm that prevents her from repeating the act. She'll have to handle him the hard way

Then a wind blows, and Freyalise speaks into her mind.

Of course talking to a planeswalker in the middle of a fight to the death with a Knight of Stromgald isn't the most convenient of times and Jaya makes that perfectly clear. Jaya does her best to fight the knight off with her dagger, but she's really no match for him. However, Freylise isn't too happy about not getting her way, and just before the knight can deal the killing blow, one, two, then three gusts of wind finally blow the knight off the rooftop.

Freyalise has matters to discuss.

She lets Jaya know that once her charm has been used to summon her, she can now call on whoever used it whenever she wants. Something that Kolbjorn happened to leave out when he gave it to her. What she wants to know right now is if Jaya passed on word to Jodah that he is now in her debt, and she wants to know what Jodah was researching while under the sway of Lim-Dul. Jaya tells her she hasn't gotten around to the first part, but she does know that he was researching methods on how to kill a planeswalker, although she doesn't know if he was successful, and he was also researching a rogue plane which could be key to leaving the shard of planes that they currently reside in.

Freyalise is pleased at the news, although she immediately sees how the rogue plane would be more like a metaphorical hammer rather than the boat to escape into the rest of the multiverse like how Jaya explained it. And with that news, she leaves.

After more cursing and careful negotiations to get to an open window, Jaya returned to the street level. She had to reach the castle before the midnight bell which might be two hours or two minutes away. And where was Jodah supposed to be? Would he be in his quarters?

Jaya paused for just a moment, then started running. not for the palace, but rather for the Great Dragon Inn.

* * *


The Big Picture

We're spending a lot of time in the capital city of Krov and we're past half way through the book. Where is this story heading? This is a pretty major event in history that is going on whether or not the assassination succeeds or fails, so it would make sense to take our time here. It would also make sense that a failed attempt is what leads to success in Jodah's mission in getting Kjeld to align with the barbarians against Lim-Dul, since it is the necromancer that is behind this plot.

I can't imagine that the mages would be too happy with an attempted framing of their orders in the assassination, and I can't imagine that the merchants would appreciate the assassination of a king that seems to be listening to what they have to say and his possible replacement by someone who looks down upon them so strongly in the form of zombie Stromgald.

(Although if Jaya can immediately understand what's going on with Stromgald, it makes me wonder if the knights all understand what it is that he really is. Do they wonder how he's still alive? Is their desire for a time long past blinding them to the fact that he's a zombie? Or do they know and just don't care?)

But where does this story end? Does it end with the alliance struck? Or are we going to witness one major assault that ends in disaster due to betrayal or something else, and that's how we lead into book three, The Shattered Alliance.

And how does Freyalise come into all of this? (While her return here was quite convenient, I do like that it happened here, allowing for a major revelation and surprise happening in the same chapter.) Perhaps that's why the attack fails, because Freyalise doesn't step in because she doesn't see it as any of her concern, while Leshrac knows it's in his best interest if his favorite pet isn't completely and totally crushed.


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