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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 5

Jodah and Jaya on the run.

Chapter 5 - Minions and Madness

It is difficult for modern individuals, even those who live at higher altitudes or in northern climes, to truly appreciate the depth and severity of the Ice Age. Those in the modern north are at least aware of a warmer south, and those in the mountains of fertile lowlands.

During the Ice Age the world was wrapped in ice much of the time. Annual snowfalls of thirty feet or more were not uncommon, and the snow hung about even into the summer months. In more and more locations, they snow did not vanish at all, and farmers would have to clear their fields of ice before their hardy crops could burst forth from the frozen soil.

The weather was both capricious and unrelenting. They only variance was in the type of snow
- hail-like sleet or soft, slippery flakes, a dry snow, or a wet snow, or a snow mixed with ice. It was a regular feature of life for everyone living in northern Terisiare. Only its consistency varied.

The snow encouraged further segmentation of the various populations. The city-states of Kjledor became more independent as news took longer and longer to reach Krov, the nominal capital. Worse yet, with the increase of foul weather, there was also an increase in monsters who were less affected by the weather than humans. The unliving - zombies, wights, and specters were particularly resistant to the cold and needed only flesh to keep them going. Usually this was the flesh of those foolish enough to be caught out in the freezing storms.

Winter ruled the world in those days, and undead creatures ruled the winter.

-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

Up the mountain they go, away from Lim-Dûl, away from the keep, and away from the horns that signal their escape. They run on, with the snow storm fierce enough to make it difficult to track them from both the ground and the air. Jodah looks at the world around him and wonders to himself that if he really is real, what has he been doing all this time since his last memory?

But maybe it isn't the time to dwell on such thoughts. Jaya leads him to what turns out to be a cave, hidden away in the mountain side. A cave with a pair of stone benches carved into either wall. Jaya looks to him expectantly, and is disappointed that this place isn't jogging his memory.

Well... since that didn't work, maybe they can hide out a bit, and hope that Lim-Dûl won't think that they'd try to hide this close to the keep, and he'll send out the search parties right past.

Jaya is a bit amused and amazed when Jodah can't even make a simple fire to warm himself up, and she creates a seed-sized ball of heat. Jodah takes it within his hands and the warmth thankfully spreads throughout his body.

Jodah asks her about himself, how long he's been the Archmage of the School of Unseen and if he, himself is a planeswalker. She tells him that he's always been the Archmage Eternal as far as she remembers and as far as all the records go, but if he's a planeswalker, he's never mentioned it to her. He then asks how is it that he's still alive, and she tells him that she asked him once and he told her that he doesn't tell anyone that answer because it makes them to foolish things.

"I see," said Jodah. "I'm a bit secretive then."

"It has been noted," said Jaya. "I think I used the phrase 'secretive, insensitive jerk,' if I remember the particulars."

Jodah looked up at Jaya, into her wide, expressive eyes. "You know me well then?"

"Better than you would like to admit," she said breezily.

"Were we... close?" he asked.

She tells him they've been together and apart and she's known him for a long time. She came after him because something didn't smell right, and she came to investigate out of principle, and she knew that coming here is something he wouldn't have approved of which was only more reason to do it.

But for now, it's best he get some sleep, and hopefully the pollen will pass through his system.

...That night...

Jodah dreams, and Jodah starts to remembers. He remembers a man who taught him about building a mental house to store his spells. In his dream he walks through that house, but all the doors are locked. He remember walking on a walkway that connects to great underground caverns that contain a city in shadow, hidden away from the rest of the world.

As he walked, he noticed the walls were moist. He touched the walls and put his fingers to his lips, tasting the liquid - salt. The walls were weeping great tears. Then he pulled his hand away from his mouth and saw his fingertips were tipped with blood. The walls were bleeding now, first slowly, but now in torrents that pooled in the passage. Jodah began to run.

Then he was in another place, this one with opulent hallways filled with thick rugs and rich wall hangings. There were torches in sconces, crystal bulbs carved in the shapes of flame. He was running away down this hall. No, he was running toward something, and as he barreled down a great stairway, eh heard deep throaty laughter. He turned and saw Lim-Dûl, dressed in gold and purple finery, standing at the top of the stairs. The necromancer pointed with his ring-bedecked hand, and Jodah felt the flesh boil away from his bones.

Jodah wakes covered in sweat, and Jaya immediately clamps her hand over his mouth and hushes him. There's something outside.

The two remain still and silent and watch as the shadow outside pauses before moving away. Jaya crawls to the entrance to make sure its really gone. She looks around and finally relaxes. And when she turns to face Jodah to tell him they're in the clear... the creature dives up out of the snow and attacks!

Jaya is slammed face first into the ground, and from atop her back, the humanoid bat creature stares at Jodah. Then it laughs. The laugh of the planeswalker Leshrac.

"You did not run far, Fleshbag," said the creature, its eyes sparkling in sadistic mirth. "Not far enough, not fast enough. Oh, you fooled your master, but not your master's master. A pity - the necromancer paid dearly for my services, and now I return to him so soon with my prize. I had hoped to be here much, much longer."

Jodah is still injured from his battle with Chaeska, and most of his spells are still locked away in his mind, but he fights back. Jodah gathers his mana, and focuses it into a blade. However Leshrac's minion is too quick, and soon has Jodah pinned to the ground. The creature sticks its tongue out and caresses his cheek with it, and Leshrac tells him what a shame it is that he has to bring him back alive. But when he threatens to gut and peel Jaya while he's forced to watch, something within him snaps.

A growl rises in Jodah's throat, and he grabs the creature by its nose.

Sweat now streamed down Jodah's forehead, and he felt all his energy go into what should have been a simple task - holding onto the minion and telling it what to do - at least a simple task for an archmage.

"Go," he sad through clenched teeth, "away !"

And that was it.

Jodah wants to be relived, but he knows this will never end. Lim-Dûl will just send another. And another. And he'll keep on sending more until he gets what he wants. As sweat continues to escape his every pour, Jodah goes to Jaya and tells her that there is only one way out of this.

They have to go back and kill Lim-Dûl.

Jaya tries to calm him down, tries to tell him that they have time yet to escape because that was only a minion of Leshrac that they faced and not Leshrac himself, but Jodah will not listen. He shouts at her that they have to go now. Before Lim-Dûl catches him. Before the ice in his mind melts. Before he's driven mad.

All Jaya can say to that is that he isn't making any sense. He rambles on that it's she that isn't making any sense, that her world of ice and cold is a terrible place and all he wants is the warmth back. Jodah is ready to head back with or without Jaya, so she does the only thing she can think of. She knocks him out.

...Soon after...

Jaya checks to make sure that Jodah is okay, and she finds that he's sweating more than ever. His temperature is too hot and he's turned as red as a lobster, and she has no idea what to do.

Jaya looked at the sweat-stained and lined face, no older than the first time she met him. When she broke into his precious college, his city of secrets , in search of an item for a less-than-reputable patron. For her it was a job, but after he had stopped her, leveled her with his spells, he did not kill her. Instead he forgave her and allowed her to join his other students. He taught her those first few spells.

And in the end she left, though not because of him. Not exactly. No, rather it was because of his power, his position, his way of thinking. She left but not because of who he was at the heart.

They had crossed paths a half-dozen times since then, and each time he was maddening, infuriating, superior, and frustrating - just like she remembered him. If was a kind of security to her.

But he was never like this. He was never dying.

There is only one thing she can think of to help him, one thing she's hesitant to do. It would mean dealing with a superior being, and it would mean using up a favor owed to her.

Jaya reaches into her shirt and pulls out a charm and kneels on the cold floor. She take the charm in her hands and beings to sing.

Mistress hear my prayer
Mistress hear my plea
Mistress h ear from one devoted
Mistress come to me

Jaya pauses, and nothing happens. She feels a bit silly to presume so much that the call from someone such as herself would actually be answered. But Jaya continues. She sings the chant again. And again. And again.

Jaya keeps on chanting until she feels a cold breeze stirs. She continues chanting and the wind rises and blows freely into the cavern. She continues chanting and then it happens.

She feels a pressure all around her, the presence that heralds the coming of a planeswalker. Jaya opens her eyes and she is no longer alone.

She was tall and carved in ivory, her features delicate and elongated. Her eyes were almost elven, though her dress was of the human type not seen for hundreds of years. She wore armor woven from hardy winter plants, covered with quilted overlays. her hair was gathered beneath a great cape of stone feathers sprouted from her shoulders, looking as delicate as a wrapping of fog. She floated effortlessly before Jaya, her slender form bathed in a nimbus of her own light.

Yet it was her eyes that Jaya would remember always - they were as deep and as dark as the night skies, and as merciless.

Jaya Ballard halted her song, the words now frozen in her throat.

The new arrival looked down at the kneeling task mage and said, "Who is it who calls for the help of Freyalise, mightiest of the planeswalkers?"

* * *


There we go. There's the help that Jodah needs... or does he? I know this book is only just introducing to us what it means to be a planeswalker, but at this very moment in time, I'm not quite sure how these planeswalkers are. I thought Grubb did a great job showing us the relative power levels between Jodah, Lim-Dûl, and Leshrac... but here I'm not quite sure what to think.

We had Marton Stromgald tell Jodah about how Lim-Dûl uses people like puppets, but here in this chapter, all we really see Leshrac do is pretty much the same thing, but with his bat creature instead of a zombie.Jodah is able to unsummon the thing and that's that.

It's only the beginning, and I'm sure we're going to get a lot more planeswalker action, so no final judgement yet. It's just something that I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for.

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