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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 7

In search for the cure.

Chapter 7 - The Tower of the Royal Mage

Most of the ancient nations of Terisiare were ground beneath the booted heels o the Brothers, torched by the Church, and then buried by the ice. yet one nation rose in those cold lands and flourished in those last centuries before Freyalise's spell. For those years, the greatest and last nation of Terisiare was Kjeldor.

Kjeldor was named after one of its founders, Oriel Kjeldos, who led a pack of refugees from the earlier city state, one now buried beneath the glaciers, to the present site of the city of Kjeld. As a nation they prospered, helping others stave off the cold. Soon the nation occupied much of the eastern quarter of Terisiare and had trading ties with the elves of Fyndhorn and other small city-states to the west.

The capital and throne was moved to the expanding merchant city of Krov, though the summer palace remained in Kjeld. Krov and Kjeld formed two of three largest cities of Kjeldor, the third being Soldev, and independent city-state known for its clockworks and artisans.

What made Kjeld truly a nation was the fact that most of its population dwelt in the rural areas, the hinters, and not in its great cities. These were a touch, peasant people farming the short summers and hard rocky ground, and were the basis for the legends of Kjeldoran stoicism, bravery, and patriotism.

The three great cities flourished, and Krov most of all. It was known for its great public buildings, the mightiest in the known world built by modern hands, and for its academy of magic, often pointed to as a counterpoint to the secretive School of the Unseen
on Lat-Nam at the antipode of the continent. Their spells and military might had brought them security in the shadows of glaciers. It seemed that a new golden age was building, and civilization would survive on Terisiare after all.

But nothing is permanent in Terisiare, not even the ice.

-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

It's been two centuries since the glaciers have advanced, but their presence on the horizon is a constant reminder to everyone on Krov of their threat. The Royal Academy of Magic, occupying one of the tallest towers in the city, is the reason the unforgiving ice is kept at bay.

The shutters of one of the higher windows of the academy is carefully opened, and after Jaya is sure there are no magical alarm, she sneaks in. Jaya slips out of her sneaking clothes and into the uniform of one of the Academy's students. Jaya checks the runes guarding the doorway, and while she finds alarms that will signal to the presence of various magic, there is nothing to stop a normal thief from just walking on through, and so she does.

Voices approach as she moves up the tower, so she grabs the nearby tome The Saga of Jarkeld's Lost Order and buries her head in it as a student wearing robes similar to her own and a artificer dressed in the pocketed tunic and leather apron of a Soldevi machinist. They argue with each other about where to look for the location of Urza's original school and take no notice of her and pass on by.

Onward and upward she goes, trusting Freyalise at her word, and hoping that she hasn't been given only half-truths. Jodah's cure lies in the recovery of a certain mirror .

Jaya makes her way through one more door and finds herself in a curved hallway with rich wall hangings and tapestries that speak to a more personal taste. The top two levels of the tower are the personal quarters of Kjeldoran Royal Mage. Gustha Ebbasdotter is the most powerful mage in all of Kjeldor, ignoring unknown rogue mages that follow Mad Zur.

The quarters overflow with wealth, with curtains made of precious gems rather than beads and a golden perch for some bird that could be used to buy several buildings in the lower city.

A chine sounds soon followed by footsteps approaching from up above. Jaya knows her disguise won't fool anyone in here. Jaya scans the room looking for a place to hide.

...Soon after...

Gustha Ebbasdotter, the royal mage in the service of King Darien of Kjeldor, entered her private reception chamber, pulling the tie of her robe shut, her normally calm, dark face furrowed with irritation. The walls of this chamber were covered with ornate wall hangings, pleasing to the eye and thick enough to keep the worst of the early winter chills at bay. The center o the room was covered with an ornate pattern carved into the exposed stone of the tower floor by Zur himself.

She lights a censer and gently swings it back and forth from its chain so the smoke can spread through the room when the chime sounds again.

"Hold on," muttered the dark-haired mage. "Don't get your knickers in a knot, Cousin. I have to get things together."

Jaya watches on through the gap between two of the tapestries as the form of another woman forms within the coalescing smoke. This one also dressed in robes of blue and white, but hair as white as the smoke she appears in.

"Greetings to the Royal Mage of Kjeld, Krov, and Soldev Gustha Ebbasdotter, from the Magus pro tem of the Unseen , Gerda Äagesdotter, of the School of the Unseen at Lat-Nam."

(Oh? What do we have here? Conspiracy!)

The two speak to each other with biting remarks, but Gerda has important news to pass on. Jodah has escaped the clutches of Lim-Dûl, and that could ruin everything. The royal mage goes on about how she thought this was a bad idea to begin with, giving their common enemy access to someone with such knowledge and power and tells her that he should have been given into her care. The new Magus of the Unseen counters that she didn't want her to have access to such knowledge and power either. And they both argue about he's going to come after first.

The two are so busy arguing with each other that it's clear that their conversation will continue on for some time as each tries to top the other, so Jaya quietly slips out the room and heads to the final level of the tower.

At the top of the stairs is one final domed room filled with all manner of books and maps and liquids and charts and devices. Jaya scans the room, but suddenly feels like she's being watched. She turns to find two bright whitish eyes looking at her and it lets out a cry that startles her.

"Meep!" it cried again, in a thin, piping voice. "Meepmeepmeepmeepmeep!"

It was an owl, the mage's familiar, designed to help her with her work. Since it didn't appear to be a threat, Jaya resumes her search for the mirror. She spots a table piled with books of military recrods and a large maps with all kinds or marking. While the marking indicating battles with the Balduvian barbarians of the north are scattered all over the place, the tale told by the marking that indicate the battle against Lim-Dûl's forces is more grim. Each year the battles are closer and each year they lose more ground. It's not wonder that royal mage protested giving Lim-Dûl access to any kind of potential aid, but from the way her and her cousin argued, it seems likely that she's too stubborn to reveal the full situation to her cousin. Too stubborn to ask for her help.

Jaya searches on with no success, and the owl continues to catch her attention. So finally Jaya decides to test how smart of a familiar the owl really is. She tells it that she's looking for a mirror, and immediately the creature flies towards a full-sized stand mirror that is too big for it to carry and it meeps in excitement. Jaya then tells it that she's looking for a small mirror and uses her hands to indicate the size. The owl flies off and comes back dragging a mirror the size of the span of her hand. This is it .

The owl meeps in triumph at the top of its lungs and won't seem to stop and so Jaya traps it in the glass dome that was used to cover the royal mage's evening meal and places the tome she's been holding on top of it. The owl looks up at her in confusion, and Jaya gives it a smirk and leaves, hoping to be well away from the tower long before Gustha knows it's missing.

Behind her, the small gold-feathered creature scowled, then threw itself against the side of the glass dome. The dome shifted, weighted book and all, a fraction of an inch. The creature launched itself again and bounced itself against the glass again, another fraction of an inch.

Again and again, with each lunge the small owl moved its glass prison toward the edge of the desk...

* * *

Fetch Quest Complete!

The fetching part at least. She still has to escape, and that glass dome isn't going to contain that owl for very long. The more important thing here is that the story has opened up by introducing these two new characters to us. I should have guessed that someone gave Jodah up for capture, but when it was a planeswalker that captured him, and we have yet to see Jodah in his fully powered state and so have no way to really judge their relative power-levels, Jodah's capture could very easily have taken place by Leshrac alone with no outside help.

I'm not saying that as a bad thing. In fact, that was a pretty effective way to let the story expand without having a scene where Leshrac yells at Lim-Dûl, telling him how much work he had to do to convince his enemies to work together, to make a bargain, for Jodah's capture. Referencing the past in such a way would have been awkward, whereas these two are passing on the word and discussing what to do with the current situation and so it feels much more natural. It just so happens that Jaya overhears the conversation, which she can later relay to a fully-recovered Jodah, and she also isn't hear through coincidence because obviously Jodah's possessions were part of the bargain that was struck between all three parties.

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