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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 12

The Archmage Eternal and the Royal Mage of Kjeldor on the city, the nation, and the multiverse.

Chapter 12 - Mage Counsels

Comparisons are normally made between warriors and wizards, between sellswords and spellcasters. The obvious differences are there; warriors work in the realm of fleshy reality, while mages exist in the ethereal one of magical forces. Good warriors have strong limbs, good wizards have flexible minds. Yet the fact remains that there are many more warriors than wizards, and larger armies than magical schools. Why is this?

In part, it goes to the first statement, that warriors deal with the "real" as opposed to the "magical." The average peasant does not need to have reality explained or justified. Theories on why the world is as it is often fall on deaf ears - everyone knows that the world is as it is, then why try explaining?

Magic, on the other hand, requires a sense of faith in an unseen world, even though the forces of that world have effect in reality. Magery is more of an art than a science and as such requires a level of comprehension. That is a step that few seem to be able to take.

But I believe there is another reason. There are many warriors in existence because humans (and other races) have come up with a codified system of power for soldiers. The various armies have ranks and positions and awards to let every member of that organization know exactly where they fall in the pecking order - guardsman to corporal to sergeant to captain.

Mages, on the other hand, have only developed the concept to the point of fighting duels over their levels of power. And while many of the duels are non-fatal, they leave long-lasting scars. Imagine how sparse our armies would be if the only method of advancement was conflict with your superiors. Yet that is how many magical organizations function, and as a result they are in a state of regular flux.

Wizards could learn a few things from the warriors and generals, if the mages only took the time to ask and had the wherewithal to listen.

-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

The Royal Banquet was much like every other banquet Jodah has been to. Music and food, posturing by courtesans and ignorance by leaders, and a shuffling of each person's position in the social order of things. What was most interesting to the archmage, however, was the fact that Darien didn't seem to be as clueless as the rumors had him believe.

There wasn't a moment when the king wasn't in the presence of a mage, scholar, cleric, or soldier, and the king listened carefully to each, and to each he gave them a response that wouldn't commit him to any one particular action. The city was so fractured amongst all the various groups, that none would accept being placed under anyone else, and without the ability for the king to delegate any of the responsibilities off his shoulders, he had to deal with each group himself and had to juggle all their wants and needs himself. The necessary act of compromise needed to keep him in power also gave off the impressions of weakness to all. It's quite a juggling act the king has to perform.

It took fifty years for Jodah himself to learn how to set up a system to get out of the mess that the king currently finds himself in. Although the act of treachery by Gerda clearly showed that his system was itself, not without its flaws. Still, Jodah suggests the idea of a council to help the king to Gustha, but the royal mage shakes her head and tells him they've already tried it. The city is just too fractured for it to work. The only way to get them to all agree on anything is in the face of a major threat.

When Jodah suggests a major threat like Lim-Dul, Gustha gets quiet, and so he turns the conversation to ask why the soldiers are so underrepresented at this feast. She tells him that the Royal Guard is stationed at the door as expected, and Elites guard the upper balcony. As for officers, she tells him that Avram Garrisson is upset that the king will not officially make him the leader of all of Kjeld's armies, like what was done with the great hero General Jarkeld, and so will not make an appearance. As for Captain Varchild, she prefers to eat amongst the soldiers much like many of the other officers, and there are a lot of pressing matters they need to deal with. But still... the room isn't complete void of all soldiers. There are skyknights in the crowd as well as some minor lieutenants.

The conversation then changes to the top of the charismatic Zur and his pursuit for immortality. Gustha gives a shrug and says she's surprised that as the archmage eternal, she's surprised that Jodah hasn't met with him on the subject.

"We talked," said Jodah, managing an indifferent shrug of his own. "I found him... less than cogent in his arguments."

The feast passes, and the musicians start playing a love song from three hundred years ago that makes Jodah wince for how off key it is from the original, and he's happy to hear Gustha suggest that perhaps it's time to turn in for the night. When Jodah says he'll accompany her, she makes the offer to release his apprentice. Jodah graciously tells her that a few nights in her cell might teach Jaya some manners when addressing more powerful mages, and Gustha smiles.

The royal mage then makes a suggestion that if he's not too tired, she'd like him to meet one of her artificers. There's a silence as they make their way, and Jodah gets the feeling like the royal mage is rehearsing some kind of speech with in her head.  Moments pass, then she finally speaks up and tells him she regrets what happened with his mirror and how it came into her possession. Jodah tells her that he regrets what happened as well, and tells her that what's done is done, and all that matters is that their shared regret is properly used to make sure nothing like that repeats itself in the future.

She tells him that she'll have his assistant freed, and Jodah thinks to himself that she's preparing to reveal a secret to him, and then ask a favor.

The machinist greeted them at the door. He was a diminutive, immaculate man, his presumably grayish hair swept back at the temples to reveal a prominent, bony brow. His eyes were bright and continually darting about, taking everything in. He was dressed in heavy red-hued robes that cling tightly around him.

He bows deeply towards Jodah and introduces himself as Arcum Daggson of the Soldevi Machinists. And there is a device of his that he thinks will be of some interest to the archmage. Arcum leads them to a chamber and shows Jodah a machine that stands over two stories tall. A machine of all kinds of gears, cogs, pulleys, and levers.

While it warms up, Arcum asks Jodah with interest if he'd ever studied under Urza or Mishra since he's apparently immortal. Jodah tells him he's not that old. All that he knows of the brothers is that they learned about artifice studying under an archaeologist. Arcum is surprised at the answer, and Jodah knows this artificer is contemplating the benefits of digging to add to his natural tendency to tinker.

But that's for another time. The device is warmed up, and Arcum tells him that it can accurately predict the weather up to six months out with a ninety percent degree of accuracy. The first read out says that it will snow, which isn't unexpected for this time of year. But a month from now it's going to get colder when it should be getting warmer. Six months from now it will be colder still despite being in the middle of summer.

Jodah turns to Gustha and asks if she believes it, and she tells him that it's already made accurate six month predictions, so chances are that it's right. Just then, a warm gust of wind enters the room and the machine's predictions are throw askew, returning some doubt to the archmage. Still, Jodah offers access to historical data they've collected at his School of the Unseen, and Gustha smiles and nods, thankful that he guessed ahead of time the favor that she was going to ask.

Arcum leaves, with modifications going through his head that will be needed to accommodate data from other sources, and Jodah asks if this distressing news is common knowledge. Gustha tells him that with everything else going on, she didn't feel it necessary to further burden the king.

With that taken care of, Gustha suggests they turn in for the night, but Jodah requests use of her scrying pool that he knows that she has. It is a courtesy that the royal mage cannot turn down without being rude, and so the two walk up the tower to her quarters.

As they enter, the two of them can hear cursing from the upper floor, and there is no hiding the fact that Gerda is trying to contact her cousin. She yells on about the difficulties in trying to contact her and goes on about an emergency.

"Calm, cousin," said Gustha smoothly. "We have company."

"I don't give an ouphe's rump about your com-" snarled Gerda. She stopped short, noticing Jodah as he stepped closer into the ritual circle."Lord Jodah!"

Gerda pretends to be thankful to see Jodah alive and well as if she wasn't responsible for his capture, he tells her he knows everything that occurred. But if there's an emergency, he wants to hear it.

Gerda tells him that the goddess Freyalise appeared in a gust of wind that overturned half of their iceriggers. She wants access to his their archives and claimed that Jodah would both allow it and understand.

Jodah does, but when he tells her to allow it to happen, her instinct to protect the knowledge within their school from outsiders forces her to protest. Jodah tells her that she will allow it, and scolds her, telling her that Freyalise is a planeswalker, but she might as well be considered a goddess considering how powerful she is. She's being polite in asking to be let in, as there is nothing they could do to stop her. However... if she wants any of their devices, she's ordered to destroy any such thing before Freyalise can get her hands on them.

She wanted to be in charge of the School of the Unseen . Now she is. She is magus until he returns, and should she try to betray the planeswalker in anyway, Freyalise will know and she will feel her wrath. And when the time comes that he returns to the school, he better find that all the decisions she made were for the betterment of the school, or she will face his wrath.

The communication is ended, and Jodah can only shake his head, disappointed that Gerda's first act in the face of a crisis is to panic. He wonders if this is how things always must be? If in the end he always has to simply exert his power on others. Gustha says yes. That's always the way of things. Apprentices and soldiers want to becomes masters and kings, and even planeswalkers themselves will always find that there is more out there and so they will need to accumulate more power to adjust. Change is the only constant, and change is the basis of magic. Gustha tells him that he's not at all like what Gerda made him out to be, and she's impressed with him. Despite the stories, it appears he's still human after all.

Then suddenly Jaya barges into the room, with guards right on her heels.

Gustha raised her hands in a protective spell, but Jodah stopped her.

"What is it?" Concern painted his face.

"The king..." panted Jaya. "Garrisson's cabal! They're going to kill the king!"

* * *

Meeting of Equals

This was quite an interesting chapter. Clearly Jodah is doing his best to smooth things over with Gustha, and is trying to gain an ally in trying to convince the king that they must ally against Lim-Dul. We learned of their opinions on the king, the dangers of the weather, and what is happening at the School of the Unseen, but through all the changes in subject, it was all part of Jodah's plan to gain Gustha's favor by showing her who he is as a person, and not through direct threats or pleas for help or kissing up to her. It's all in there in tiny doses, but no to any extreme.

Well done all around.

This chapter is quite a contrast to the previous chapter with Jaya, yet both are necessary if Jodah is going to succeed. At least that's what he thinks. The upcoming assassination is certainly going to speed things up.

Magus of the Unseen

So Gerda is now Magus of the School of the Unseen with Jodah's, grudging, blessing. The confict is resolved, and all the way from Krov. No traveling to the School was necessary, and it was resolved in a fairly satisfactory way.

That is very impressive.

These books aren't giant epics that can be told where the author can use as many pages as he needs like what's done with the best selling fantasy books out there. Grubb has to work within a certain page count, otherwise bookstores get very unhappy. Shelf space isn't unlimited.

The only question now is what Freyalise is going to do with the knowledge she gains, and what is it that she's actually searching for. The research Jodah did for Lim-Dul wasn't at the School of the Unseen, it was at Tresserhorn.

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