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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Chapter 9



Restoration and corruption.


Chapter 9 - Hearts and Minds

The fact the Kjeldor was known as the "Ice Civilization" does not mean that it was the only civilization on Terisiare. Isolated outposts of dwarves battled against the waxing and waning hordes of orcs and goblins. The elves survived in Fyndorn and Yavimaya, and merfolk still teemed in their underwater mansions. Yet all these races suffer from the problems of not being human, and as such are passed over and ignored in human histories.

Even the declaration that Kjeldor was the sole great human civilization on Terisiare is erroneous. The ice forced entire nations into the transient lifestyle of nomads, and they changed to meet their new world. Of these nomads, the best known is the Balduvians from the north of the north of the Karplusan Mountains, and they are known primarily for their long-running battles with the Kjeldorans.


-Arkol, Argivian Scholar

Jodah ran and ran, afraid of the unseen things that pursue him, half-formed beasts and half-formed memories. He runs through his ancient home, but all the rooms aren't where they're supposed to be. He runs through libraries, and bedrooms, and studies and all its all so familiar but not familiar enough.

Memories emerge at the edges of thought, but the pain and regret and the tears force him to flee once more before they catch him. He recognizes the great room where scholars will sit and listen to what he has to say, but he has to flee as the shadows of memory creep into the room. He stands at the base of a glacier he created to protect his students, but the shadows seep through its crack and he runs. Candles ring a body laid out on a bier in one of the rooms of his school, and once again the shadows chase him away.

Then he hears a bell. It calls to him. Jodah runs once more, but this time towards the sound. The shadows chase after, but Jodah pays them no mind. He runs and runs and finds himself running in a familiar foggy city with a fountain at its heart.

Jodah looks into the fountains waters and sees something glimmering at the bottom.

It was a mirror, about the size of his hand, shiny on both sides. It felt heavy, solid, and real. Jodah turned it over in his hands and looked into it. It reflected his face, the face that was older than he remembered it being but younger than it had any right being.

There was a flicker in the mirror, another face seemed to loom over the reflection - Jodah's shoulder. Immediately, he flinched and looked over his own shoulder, but there was nothing there. He was alone at the fountain in the central plaza, the shadows waiting for him at all the exits.

He looked back into the mirror and saw the secondary face was his won as well, seemingly a trick of the mirror, a flaw that caused it to reflect double. But the flawed reflection looked better - more sure of itself, wiser, more knowledgeable, more confident, and more understanding. As he watched, the second face slowly moved across the mirror's surface, superimposing itself on his own face.

Jodah feels something familiar pass inside and settle into him. Himself. All two-thousand five-hundred years of it. But this time it does come into him in a flood, but as a steady manageable trickle.

He remembers his childhood, and Mairsil, and the College of Lat-Nam which became the City of Shadows which became the School of the Unseen. E verything changed, but everything stayed the same. Jodah himself has hardly changed since accidentally bathing in the real version of the fountain before him. Perhaps a new wrinkle or grey hair would appear with the passing of another person's entire lifetime. To any but the truly immortal planeswalkers would think that he, himself, was immortal.

And memories of people came back to him. Friends and enemies and lovers. Memories of watching people repeat the same mistakes over and over again, despite all his efforts to change things. The memories piled up into a mountain of regret that weighed down on him, and so he came up with a method to store his memories in the mirror, only to return them back to his mind, keeping the knowledge but filtering out the emotion that was driving him insane.

This last time, something went wrong. He couldn't remember how or why, but he knew it was so. He also knows that he's ready to face those memories once again. Memories of his last wife, Aliana who created the the great silver statues of the Adarkar Wastes. Memories of Shannan who rediscovered the original notes of the scholar Drafna, and memories of his old mentor Voska. And memories of his first wife Sima, whose death triggered the first time he almost succumbed to madness.

Then the shadows surrounding him speak. Not at him, but about him The ghost of Sima speaks with another's voice and says that it seems like he's going to be alright. The shadow of his one time enemy Jonte speaks with a woman's voice and says that at least he's stopped screaming.

Sima arched her eyebrows. "Come on, old man, Jodah, are you with us?"

In the barbarian tent, Jodah's eyes flicked open. Jaya's face hovered just inches off his nose. beyond her, a massively muscular blonde woman stood, her arms folded over her chest.

"Of course I'm with you, Jaya Ballard," said Jodah smoothly. "Where else would I be?"


...With the tent...

Jaya asks if he's alright, and she tells him that he's been out for ten days. The barbarian woman sharing the tent adds that seven of those days were here in this tent. Had it taken much longer for Jaya to return, her shamans made have stopped listening to her and gone to work on him on their own. It turns out she's the chieftan, Lovisa Coldeyes .

Jodah thanks her for her hospitality.

Lovisa Coldeyes snorted, and it was a powerful snort. "You're just another lowlander. We kept you because the task mage helped me years ago. A lowlander hawkrider brought her back. The hawkrider probably owed her as well, so we did not open fire on it."

Jaya asks him what he remembers, and he tells her that her hardly remembers much since his Emotion Ritual. He knows he did some research for Lim-Dûl and he remembers his rings. Jaya tells him about the pollen and the necessity of calling on Freyalise, however she leaves out the part about being in the planeswalker's debt.

While the story is quite impressive to Lovisa, she needs to be able to tell her shamans that they'll be getting a favor of their own from Jodah. She wants him to help them kill Lim-Dûl.

Despite what Jodah said why half mad from withdrawal, he tells her no. It would be impossible to kill Lim-Dûl, even with his help. The necromancer has a planeswalker of his own on his side, Leshrac the Nightwalker, and his armies are larger than ever. What they need are allies, and that's what he can do for Lovisa. Jodah asks for time to return to Kjeld and commence talks to enter an alliance.

This is when Jaya interrupts and tells him about what she heard between the royal mage and the new so-called magus , but Jodah only sees the positive in how Gustha was actually concerned about the plan to hand him over to the Lim-Dûl from the very beginning.

The conversation done, and a temporary halt in Lovisa's plans to assault Tresserhorn agreed upon, Jodah turns to leave and Jaya chases after him and reminds him that he has yet to address the fact that she just saved him and restored his sanity.

Jodah agrees he owes her and asks what kind of spell of device she'd like as payment. Jaya looks him in the eyes, and after a moment she frowns and says she doesn't want anything. That just isn't the Jaya Ballard that he knows if she doesn't ask for anything at all, with that she's reminded that she'd at least like to be taught to do whatever it was that he did to blast away Leshrac's minion.

He tells her that it's just a simple unsummoning spell. Jaya thinks it could be useful and she then reminds him that he also owes her a simple thank you.

Jodah's eyes softened for a moment, and he said, "Of course. Thank you, Jaya, I owe you my life." He kissed her softly on the forehead, and Jaya reached forward to hug the larger archmage.

Her arms closed on empty air, and she looked up to see Jodah's retreated form passing out the door into the snowy evening. There were chiefs to meet and shamans to convince.

Jaya allowed herself a long, low curse, gathered her own fur robe around her, and followed him into the cold.


...Tresserhorn...

Belenda touches down on the battlement and dismounts.

(Oh! That's right! Zombie Stromgald was talking to someone back in Chapter 3! It was her.)

A skeletal guard escorts her to where Lim-Dûl and Marton Stromgald wait. To the first she gives a small bow, to the other she drops to her knees. Belenda tells them that the leaders of all the major military orders stand with them and are ready to act. They're ready for Stromgald to lead them once again lead Kjeldor's armies and restore the glory of days gone by.

Lim-Dûl is pleased, and pours wine for a toast. For Kjeldor! One by one they all drink. Lim-Dûl smiles at her... then spits out his wine.

Belenda tries to reach for her sword, but already her body is failing her.


...Soon after...

Lim-Dûl kneels down beside the skyknight's body and works his necromancy and soon Belenda's undead body picks itself up off the floor. He tells her that Kjeldor will return to the hands of its true master, and unfortunately the dead outnumber the living. Both Belenda and Stromgald are dismissed.

Lim-Dûl himself hurries on towards the archive vaults. He has his own master to report to.

"You have done well, my beast," said Leshrac, in his multi-octave voice. "Your toy magician did much while he was here. Much that will be useful."

"Thank you, my liege," said the necromancer, bowing as much as his ram-horned head would permit.

"Yes," said the planeswalker, turning a page, not looking up. "When this rogue plane rockets through our shard, we must be ready to strike. How are your forces?"

Lim-Dûl tells him the army grows by the day and will be ready when needed. Leshrac then asks the necromancer about his other research, and Lim-Dûl tries to deny it but the planeswalker tells him that he's no stranger to rage, futility, and resentment. In fact, his initiative he's shown is quite pleasing to see in him. He should accept the praise for what it is.

Lim-Dûl does so and attempts to bow, but the new horns on his head it quite difficult. Leshrac decides that further, painful, adjustments to his body are required so his body can actually support his still growing horns.

After the augmentation, Leshrac bids him leave. Lim-Dûl bows a proper bow this time, and declares that soon they will control the north, and then all of Terisaire.

Long after the necromancer had left, Leshrac allowed himself a chuckle. "That always was your problem, fleshworm," he hissed. "You would settle for a mere continent. You think too small. Too small indeed."

* * *


Allies

This world is a hard, divided place. It's hard to imagine Jodah getting through to anyone, but at the same time we've still seen little on how people him in this era. He's built up quite a reputation over the centuries when we last saw him in the previous book, so perhaps he actually has the influence to pull something together.

The big question is what will he do with Gerda when he gets back to the School of the Unseen? Will her betrayal be punished, or is her connection with Gustha strong enough that he'll have to leave her alone in order to get Kjeldor and the Balduvians to work together.


Friends

Poor Jaya? I don't know if I should feel sorry for her or not. That missed hug and the way Jodah ignore's her attention is a bit pitiful. He has to know what he's doing right? Or is the immediate threat combined with his recent return to sanity just occupying too much of his thoughts for him to notice?


Enemies

Why kill Belenda? She's already on board with the plan. Or is the plan not what she thinks it is, and now she'll be used to take out all the military leaders? Is this part of an elaborate plan, or is Lim-Dûl that much of a micromanager that he needs to be in absolute control of all those who serve him.


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