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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 6

The chapter title says it all. Enter Freyalise, Planeswalker.

Chapter 6 - Freyalise

Most of the writings on Freyalise come to us from the elves of the southern lands, Fyndhorn in particular, which grew in the wreckage of Argoth's shadow. These writings declare her a goddess and speak nothing but praise for her. Not a flower blooms, they say, nor a leaf falls, without her permission.

The few human records of this planeswalker are less complementary, particularly in the light of what happened following the Ice Age.

Yet Freyalise was not of elven blood, when she was mortal, but rather human, and several accounts place her as a native of one of Kjeldor's predecessor states. These accounts have been debated and debunked and revived and revised hundreds of times in the past thousand years, so that no one can truly say what the truth of the matter is.

However, in one of these great legends, it is said that she went mad as a young planeswalker, as so often happens to the breed, and only the actions of a wizard kept her from becoming a mad, destructive force like Leshrac or Tvesh Szat.

In the serendipity of the Ice Age, that mage's name was given as Jodah.

-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

Jaya had imagined this moment. She was supposed to use the charm, and when she demanded aid, she would be strong willed, keen minded, and sharp witted. The reality of what happens is a bit different.

The presence of the planeswalker is overpowering, and she stammers to the point that can't get a word out. Not that it would matter much since Freyalise is hardly paying attention to her. Instead she wrinkles her nose and her first words are to state that Leshrac is near by and his minions are close and coming closer. She suggests that Jaya activate the safe haven to take them away from here.

"We don't..." Jaya paused. "I don't know how to use those magics."

"A small matter," said Freyalise. "There. We are elsewhere."

Jaya looks towards the cave's entrance and the snowstorm is gone and the angle of the light has changed. She turns to Freyalise and the planeswalker gives her a small smirk and tells her that this is the point where she's supposed to thank her.

Jaya does so... but... that's not why she was summoned.

Oh? Saving her from almost certain death isn't enough?

Jaya tries her best to respectfully tell her about what's going on, but Freyalise is more than annoyed. She isn't a servant, to be summoned and do a mortal's bidding. She is Freyalise and those who summon her will accept the help she chooses to give or get none at all.

Before things get out of hand, Jaya is able to finally get out that the man lying on the stone bench is Jodah, Archmage Eternal of Lat-Nam.

That catches Freyalise's attention. She takes a closer look and she's amused that the mighty mage has finally fallen... because of Fyndhorn pollen . Jaya tells her that she has to help him, that that's what she's supposed to do. She can't just do nothing and watch him die!

"Humanchild," said the planeswalker, making the word sound like an insult, "the Freyalise whom the elves worship as a god has seen more men and elves and dwarves die in her existence than you have drawn breaths. I have seen cities and tribes and nations die. What matters if one more body is added to the pyre?" She looked at Jodah's crumpled form. "He will survive or he will not. That is the way of Gaea, a force greater than even I."

Jaya then claims that Freyalise owes her, and so of course Freyalise questions how that can be since she clearly is not one of her worshipers. Jaya tells her that her elder druid of the Juniper Order is the one that gave her the charm in exchange for a service she did. One that Kolbjorn said was a favor to help him, and Freyalise herself. Freyalise dismisses that claim, telling Jaya that the elder druid is too free with her favors and she has been repaid by already saving her life.

Jaya makes a gamble and tells Freyalise that she needs to help him because she owes Jodah himself. The claim forces Freyalise to ask Jaya what she was told about that, and of course Jaya tells the planeswalker that he never told her anything about it, but she just revealed that it's true.

Freyalise glares at the task mage, but makes no denials. She asks Jaya for more details of what's happened and Jaya fills her in. Freyalise then tells her that it's not only the pollen that has him disoriented. Every century or so the pain of being immortal becomes too much for him and so he purges some of his memories. The process of doing this weakens him and leaves him open to attack. It's quite possible that Jodah was taken from Lat-Nam during this process.

With all that Freyalise asks Jaya what she wants her to do, and Jaya tells her that she wants the poisons purged from him of course.

Freyalise leaned forward, towering over the auburn haired woman. "Are you quite sure?"

"Of course," said Jaya, suspicion already creeping into her voice. Freyalise's willingness to help was in many ways scarier than her refusal.

"Very well, then let me begin," said the planeswalker.

Freyalise goes over to Jodah and spreads her hands above his head and a yellow mist begins to stream out of his nostrils.

...In Jodah's mind...

It is cold in who knows where Jodah is. All he knows is that he's running and he's been running for a long time. He runs through hallways that transition from simple wooden floorboards to perfectly laid stonework on the floor, from torches to glowing beetles to crystal bulbs that light the way. Out through windows is only darkness. Darkness and unseen shapes whispering things in a language that Jodah is supposed to know, but cannot understand.

And there are doors. Thousands and thousands of doors. They're of all shapes and sizes and all of them are locked. Jodah runs and runs for what feels like a lifetime, and not a single door opens for him.

Then he hears something, and stops in the middle of a great hall lined with doors. A wind picks up that blows strong enough that the dust and grime in its path are being swept away. Then comes the sound of marching... no... not marching. The steady rhythmic clicking that is progressively getting louder isn't the marching of feet. It the sound of locks coming popping off. The sound of deadbolts snapping open.

Then the doors all around him come unlocked.

The doors were all flung open at once, outward into his halls, and the things they held back began to shamble and slither and scrape outward. Jodah knew them, knew each one of them, but could not describe them. No, to describe them was to admit them and give them mass and existence and being - to give them power. That was what they wanted from him, what they called to him in a thousand voices. They wanted his power. They wanted his existence. They wanted his eternal life.

They were the things that were wrapped in the fog, trapped in the ice in the back of his mind, and now they were free.

Jodah runs once more, screaming, but the sound of thousands of more locks snapping open can be heard up ahead.

...In the safe haven...

Jodah opens his eyes and screams and long, exhausting scream until his breath runs out only to inhale and scream again, completely unaware of his surroundings.

Jaya demands to know what's happened to him, this isn't what she wanted. Freyalise was supposed to help him. Freyalise tells her that this is exactly what she wanted. The effects of the pollen have been removed. Because Jodah was taken in the middle of his purging, in the middle of building up new defenses that would protect him from all the pain, loss, and regret that builds up over the centuries that are too much for a normal mind to handle, the pollen was the only thing making him forget and keeping him sane.

Jaya feels cheated. but if Freyalise knows that much, she must know how he can be helped. The planeswalker admits as much. She tells Jaya that she is one of the few people that Jodah trusted that secret with. Jaya demands that she help him once more, but Freyalise says that her debt to him was paid with the removal of the pollen. She isn't a genie to simply do whatever the summoner wishes, and her obligation to her charm has already been fulfilled.

So why should she help?

Jaya folded her arms again and shoved the sound of Jodah's hoarse shouts from her mind. "Because then I will owe you something."

"Anything in... particular?" smirked Freyalise, raising a finger to her lips like an ancient coquette.

"I... I don't know," said Jaya. "But I will owe you, and so will he!"

"Ah," said Freyalise, folding her legs up beneath her so she floated there in the cavern. A nasty smile appeared on her face. "Then that's different, isn't it?" said the planeswalker. "Let's bargain then, shall we, Humanchild?"

* * *

Jodah Uncaged

I guess there was, in fact, no modified Barl's Cage used to keep Jodah inline. It works just as well this way too, if not better. Either way, his confusion and the ruse was a great way to get us a glimpse of the villains for this book, and a great way to introduce us to this new time period. Jodah has centuries of experience, but was still able to be used like the typical wide-eyed, innocent that is the protagonist of all kinds of stories.

Freyalise, the Mighty

I can't really blame Freyalise for acting the way she does. She makes excellent points. First is, what does it matter if one person dies? So many people have died since the beginning of her existence. People just come and go according to her longer view of life as a planeswalker. Not to mention that she is also very clearly green aligned, and death is as much a natural order of things as life is.

Her second point is that she is the one with the power here. She isn't a slave to her charms. She doesn't have to do anything the bearer of such a charm asks. I like the way she was able to flip things around so that Jaya would owe her a favor.

Jaya, Task Given

It looks like Jaya Ballard has been promoted. The most important thing about the end of this chapter is that it seems like Jodah is going to continue to be out of it for at least one chapter more, if not longer. That means Jaya is going to have to take up the role as protagonist. I can see this lasting quite a while or being over next chapter. Either way would work. And it seems pretty obvious that the object in question is going to be Jodah's mirror [Mirror] that was given to him by Voska. The one on the cover.

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