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Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Eternal Ice - Prologue

The Ice Age begins!

PROLOGUE - Legacies

The misconception inherent in discussing history in the terms of "ages" is that the casual reader assumes that all ages are similar in length and therefore equal. This is not the case. The time of the Brothers was a handful of decades, while the era of the Dark was a few hundred. The Ice Age lasted, depending on where one begins it, over two thousand years and is a period that, save for its very end, remains as silent as snowdrifts for the modern historian.

Few records survive of that time, and as a result, most assume that it was a quiet period, when humanity bundled itself up in the face of worsening winters or fled before the advancing ice cap to warmer climes. Yet it was a period that the birth of the modern nations of the Terisiare and the refinement of magic into its present state. It was a time when planeswalkers held sway over the world, when great beasts evolved to battle the cold, and when mages sought out the greatest secrets of their arts.

Our modern world stands only twelve centuries after the end of the Ice Age, less than half of the length of the great glacial age itself. Yet we think of the modern world as permanent and enduring and the past only as something to be discussed, dissected, and eventually discarded.

But the past stays with us, and we carry it with us into our future.

-Arkol, Scholar of New Argive

A storm rages so fierce that the impressions that each foot makes in the snow with every step is nearly filled as soon as each foot is lifted to take another. The wind is so strong that even the snowflakes are torn apart into small slivers of ice known as rime, slivers that flay at any part of man's skin that is unprotected.

The struggling figure was dressed as a warrior. A thick blanket of quilted armor covered his chest and reached down to his knees in a protective tunic, belted at the waist with metallic cords. Other pads of fabric, covering metal plates, clung to his shoulders, forearms, and calves. Along one forearm, the plate had been torn away, revealing the heavy cotton padding beneath. Elsewhere wool and fur jutted through the gaps in the armor.

A metallic cap, conical like a goblin's hut, crowned the soldier, its frame set with greenish panels of felt. Heavy cheek flaps slapped against the warrior's face, flaying against the thick scarf that only barely kept the icy wind out. Only the eyes were visible, their lashes frozen in the gap between the scarf's winding, and these eyes seemed little more than dark pits set in an ice-scarred face.

He flings away his armor and curses everything he can think of. The armor that is of no use to him. The armorer who made it. The great Kjeldoran warrior Stromgald , who led them into a goblin camp of untold numbers where only the weak and crippled were supposed to be. The soldiers that chose to abandon him by staying to fight against impossible odds rather than flee with him. And the goblins that did the killing. He curses the planeswalkers. And he curses the names of Urza and Mishra.

They were brothers, said the old tales, tales from a warmer, golden age. Urza was the malicious, plotting elder. Mishra the rebellious younger. Their war had ripped the land apart and darkened the sky. They had stolen the sun to power their machines and leeched the warmth from the ground itself. In the end, the stories said, the planeswalkers caught them and exiled them to the eternal prison of Phyrexia, but by then it was too late. The winds of the north had been unleashed and now lashed at Terisiare, and the walls of ice surged slowly down, crushing everything in place.

The thought of Mishra and Urza trapped and forever tormented in Phyrexia, suffering a fate worse the one he's in now, is the only thing that provides him comfort, when a lull in the wind reveals a dark spot in the ice wall. An opening to a cave. He pauses, afraid of not knowing what might be waiting for him inside, but a look around and the unending white tells him he has no choice and so he goes in.

The cave is dark, the ceiling is low, but it's shelter enough for his mind to realize what a hopeless situation he's in. He's out of the storm but he has no food and no fire and will likely die in his sleep frozen and alone.

Alone except for the small red glow along the black wall. If he's to die, he has to at least know what that glow is, and so the soldier crawls. He crawls towards what looks like a pile of sticks... or bones. Bones from a burnt body that died long ago. How and why the fire happened, he doesn't know, or care. All that occupies his mind is the ruby ring on the finger of the dead man.

The skeleton crumbles to dust at his touch, and ruby ring provides warmth.

Something else burned within that warmth - an assuredness, a confidence that had been missing within the soldier for so long. It was as if there was something else present with him in the tight confines of the cavern. The something else pressed hard against him and then pressed into him, through his flesh and into his own living bones.

The soldier closes his eyes and the words of a spell that hasn't been spoken for a millenia escape his lips and the old bones ignite. The soldier stares into the flames and slips the ring onto his finger.

Lim-Dûl, the soldier formerly in the service of General Stromgald, watched the bones burn and knew he would never feel the cold again.

* * *


The necromancer himself. The one spoken about in some of my first Magic cards and the one feared by all during the Ice Age, a fear depicted in the story story Feast of Kjeld by John Tynes.

I was wondering what that ring was in The Gathering Dark. I thought that maybe that ring was going to be the Ring of Immortals , and that it would be one of keys that Marisil was going to use to attempt to reach his goal towards becoming a planeswalker. It may very well still be that ring, but Mairsil is gone, and now Lim-Dûl stands to take his place.

Will we get an explanation as to what the ring is in this book, or will that come with the end of the trilogy in The Shattered Alliance? I don't know, but I'm sure it will come.

The question now is how far in the past does this prologue take place? While it would be fun to see Lim-Dûl's entire rise and fall, if I hadn't known it already, the cover clearly depicts Jodah. He's the protagonist still despite the time that has past.


It's been a long time since The Gathering Dark. It looks like that the passage of time and a greater understanding of magic and artifacts no longer has Urza and Mishra labeled as great mages. The passage of time has also led to the existence of planeswalkers spread to even a common soldier, even if they might not have all the details right.

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