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Monday, April 16, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 2



Answers. More than you could ever want.


Chapter 2 - Summoning Sickness

In our pampered modernity, we take magic for granted, like sunshine or fire. One simply pulls up the memory of the appropriate land, one calls from that memory the power of its essence, its mana, and one lets fly, changing reality. Creatures are summoned. Fires blaze. Water shoots out of the ground as one wishes. Chasms open or shut on command. Even thoughts are rearranged and loyalties commanded . It is the sign of the ubiquitous nature of magery that, even though it is limited to the few who can truly master it, it is common enough that no one of a cosmopolitan nature is truly amazed by it.

But imagine the days of the Ice Age and before, when mages were few and far between and then were often considered creatures of legend and mystery, like dragons or griffins. What schools existed in those days were hidden from prying eyes or were controlled by great kingdoms and iron-handed kings. The mages of those elder days guarded their secrets jealously and slavishly and quite often fatally.

Imagine being a mage in those days, when little was known and less was shared. Imagine the secrets of spellcasting hidden under mummery and superstition, or hoarded like royal gold. Imagine having to be the first to cast a particular spell, to try to rend it out f the living mana without clue as to direction or result. Imagine being that mage committing an original act, casting an original spell never seen before on the face of Terisiare.

Now imagine being the target of that spell, and you are the power of magic in those time-lost days

-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

Jodah feels faint. The world seems to go out of focus, although oddly Lim-Dûl comes into more focus than ever before. He begins to pitch forward and Lim-Dûl raises his arms to catch his fall, but it's Chaeska that grabs hold of him from behind. Lim-Dûl tells the Keeper of Tresserhorn to fetch a chair and glass of wine for their new guest.

Jodah sits and tries to gather himself together, and oddly enough, concentrating on the five rings that decorate Lim-Dûl's hand brings him much comfort. Rings of onyx, jade, obsidian, ruby, and some blue orb he doesn't recognize. Five colors for the five colors of magic. For the five terrains to be tapped into to draw the mana that powers all spells. The information comes to him easily. It's feels real, and solid, and that knowledge comforts him.

Chaeska reports that Jodah remembers who he is, but beyond that, Chaeska leaves that for Lim-Dûl himself to discover. There's one last thing Chaeska has to say before he leaves. Something he thinks that might be best spoken in private, but Lim-Dûl overrules the suggestion and says that keeping secrets from their new guest isn't the way to being their relationship. With Lim-Dûl's decision made, Chaeska informs him of the scholar that recognized Jodah in the scriptorium. The one who referred to him as the archmage. Lim-Dûl suggests that the scholar be brought to them, and with that Chaeska leaves the room.

Now it is time to get down to business. Lim-Dûl tells Jodah that he knows that he is having some difficultly understanding what's going on. He asks Jodah if he remembers the Church, the Conclave, and the City of Shadows. Jodah replies that while those are familiar to him, it's too vague for him to recall any real details.

Lim-Dûl's features softened slightly. "I'll try again. What year were you born?"

Jodah nodded and relaxed. That one he knew. "The four hundredth and thirteenth year after the birth of Urza and Mishra. Three hundred and fifty years after the Devastation of the Brothers."

"Indeed," said Lim-Dûl, smiling again. "And if I told you it was over two thousand, five hundred years after the devastation, what would you say?"

What- That's impossible...

Lim-Dûl spells open the shuttered and the blinding light floods into the room while at the same time managing to keep the cold at bay. Outside is endless ice. Outside is a glacier that rises taller than the keep, hundreds of feet tall and hundreds of miles wide.

Ice. Outside there is only ice.

Lim-Dûl tells him that this endless ice is the result of the war between Urza and Mishra. This is his world now. The time he remembers is gone. A time now known as the Dark. The city-states of his time have become the few metropolises that survive today, Krov and Kjeld among the worst. And the towns of the north have simply fallen to barbarism. As for the other powers of the past... the Church is dead, the Conclave is dead, and the City of Shadows is dead.

Everything from his time is dead. Including Jodah himself. Not undead like the guards out in the halls, but truly dead and gone.

Lim-Dûl leans forward and asks Jodah if he remembers how to cast spells. Jodah says he remembers being taught magic by Voska... and others. But Jodah has lost patience for the way that Lim-Dûl is trying to extract information from him after revealing such shocking information, and before he's going to answer anything else, he needs to know something. He wants to know that if this is the time that he says it is, that if it is now over a thousand years beyond what he remembers... how can he be here? How can he be alive? In fact... is he alive?

Lim-Dûl leads him through the explanation one step at a time. The answer has to do with magic.

Lim-Dûl asks Jodah to summon a chair, and Jodah summons a chair. A simple chair, just as he envisioned it. Then Lim-Dûl summons a chair, but not a wooden chair like Jodah did. Bones burst through the floor and form themselves into a chair. Just the way he envisioned it.

"When you cast the spell, you envisioned that which you would create, a perfect 'chair' that you were trying to emulate. I have heard, and I believe, that there is an ultimate 'chair' somewhere that we both model our thoughts from - one that has the basics of all 'chair-ness." Does this ring any bells?"

Jodah nodded slowly, and the necromancer smiled. "It should. You yourself set down some of these ideas when you ruled the City of Shadows over a thousand years ago. We don't summon real chairs, but magical constructs, copies of our ideals of chairs carved in magical energies. Now, if that applies to chairs, it also applies to, say, animals. Were you to summon a dog and I to summon a dog, we would get different dogs, but they would both have the nature of 'dog-ness,' and the ultimate dog would embody the important, shared parts of both."

The same applies to people. If they both summon a warrior or a sage...

"You would... get your reflection of a warrior. Or a sage. Is that what you're saying? That I'm nothing but a magical spell?"

Lim-Dûl tells him that he's close to the answer. That, yes, he is only a living representation of the Jodah that lived years ago, summoned to serve him.

Jodah stands and declares that he is no man's slave. He tries to cast a spell in retaliation but Lim-Dûl is quicker, and he cuts off Jodah's access to his mana. He then apologizes and says he didn't mean to imply that he's a slave, just here to serve. To understand what that means, Lim-Dûl insists they follow through with the line of thought they were exploring.

He asks Jodah what would happen if he summoned a warrior. If he summons a man that is based off the core characteristics of a warrior, and then tries to use that man to take the place of a scholar. What would happen? It wouldn't turn out so well. He would be lacking the necessary skills and knowledge to perform his tasks. The scholars in the scriptorium have all been summoned to serve their purpose.

The door to the throne room opens and Chaeska returns, now with the scholar that had recognized Jodah earlier.

"Lord Lim-Dûl," said the fat scholar. "Lord Jodah. I meant no disrespect, earlier..."

Lim-Dûl raised a hand. "None taken. You we called for only to demonstrate several things to my colleague here. Tell me, who was Tawnos?"

The fat scholar straightened, relieved. "Ah," he burbled. "He was the apprentice of Urza, as noted in the legendary text The Antiquities War, by Kayla bin-Kroog. He was regarded in that text as-"

Lim-Dûl interrupted. "And General Jarkeld ?"

"Um," said the scholar. "From my recent studies, he was a popular general of the Kjeldorans, known as the Arctic Fox for his tactical brilliance. He was, ah, presumed slain when his battalion was lost in battle in the Adarkar Wastes-"

"And Jodah of Giva?" interrupted Lim-Dul again.

"The Archmage Eternal of the City of Shadows," replied the scholar, switching smoothly, beaming at Jodah. "Studied magic under Voska, Sima, Barl, Ith and Mairsil the Pretender. After the fall of the concla-"

But when asked if he knows his own name, the scholar cannot say. And of course he can't. Lim-Dûl says aloud for Jodah's benefit that it's because it isn't important for the purpose he was summoned for. Then what happens next takes Jodah aback. Lim-Dûl unsummons the man standing before them.

Starting at the fingertips the man unravels in front of Jodah's eyes.

Jodah tries to stop it from happening, but Chaeska keeps him in his seat. Jodah calls Lim-Dûl a murderer, but the necromancer explains that he cannot kill what was never alive. It's important that Jodah understands that this is the nature of his existence.

"What makes you think I will serve you?" snapped Jodah. "After seeing all this!"

"Because you have no choice," said Lim-Dûl, emotion brightening his cheeks for the first time. "No, rather, because you have the choice of serving me or being returned to the oblivion from which you came. That is your choice!"

Jodah chooses oblivion, and Lim-Dul is sad to hear that choice. But before Lim-Dûl can begin the process of unsummoning him, Jodah interrupts. He doesn't want to die. Or... if he's not actually alive... he doesn't want to cease to exist.

Lim-Dûl is glad that's settled, and he continues on with the final piece of his explanation. He begins by summoning a new scholar to replace the other. This one is a slender woman with dark skin. A scholar that is near the exact opposite from the one before, but still at her core is still a reflection of scholarliness that she is intended to be and can serve the same purpose as the one before her.

But for Jodah it's different. He's special. There are a few people who make such an impact on the world that they live on past their deaths. They become legends. Jodah isn't a reflection of an abstract concept. He's a reflection of himself. That's why he knows his name, and the scholars do not.

(Nice use of the Legend super-type.)

Jodah understands... but at the same time it's too much to handle. He's not himself and is captive to the necromancer's wishes. Captive, as Lim-Dûl explains, to the point that even if he escaped and ran away, Lim-Dûl would just eventually forget to maintain the spell and he would disappear.

It's just too much, and Jodah both demands and pleads to know why he was summoned. Why he is here. What does Lim-Dûl want.

Lim-Dûl leaned back in his chair and smiled. "I want to know about the planes of existence. I want to know how they interact. In particular, I am looking for a rogue plane, one that wanders among the others erratically. And if you find the time when you're doing all of that," the smile deepened against his narrow face, "I want you to tell me how to kill a planeswalker."

* * *


Wait, wait, wait... What!?

Hold on a second here. What is going on!? Jodah isn't Jodah? He's just a spell? What was all that with the Fountain of Youth in The Gathering Dark? I was expecting that to be the key to his survival throughout the trilogy despite the time span the books need to cover. I wasn't expecting this.

That was my initial reaction... but after taking all this time to type up this post... another thought occurs to me. One that wouldn't have popped into my head had I just been plowing through straight to the next chapter.

Can we take Lim-Dul's words at face value, or is he pulling an elaborate hoax? Let's not forget the very familiar circumstances that Jodah was in, in the beginning of Chapter 1. His symptoms were very much like those that Lord Ith experienced while caged . The cage would explain the memory loss, and Lim-Dul's threat to unsummon him could simply be a bluff.


Summons

Looks like this trilogy is still maintaining the magic lessons that were a part of the core of the first book. We learned about what magic is and how it is classified, but we only saw a handful of spells, and no actual spells that summoned things and living creatures. We get a full explanation on what summoning is in this chapter. I love it. And it's great that misleading or not, we get first hand look through Jodah's own perspective on what it's like to have summoning sickness. A very nice touch.


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