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Monday, April 9, 2012

Feast of Kjeld




During the Ice Age, on the continent of the Terisiare, in the village of Mikkel...


Feast of Kjeld

Today no one celebrates the Feast of Kjeld. No one travels the roads to join everyone in the capitol, no one comes with filled packs and offerings because the threat of Lim-Dûl looms over all. His undead armies used to be just a story of a far off threat, but his armies have crossed the mountains, scouts have seen them with their own eyes, and villages have fallen. Today is feast day, and none knew if they would see another.


Warmth is life,
Heat is peace,
Strength is safety,
In the heart of Kjeld.

Kjeld is all,
All are one.
Rising moon,
Setting sun.

Sun is truth,
Water is flux,
Ice is power,
In the heart of Kjeld.

Kjeld is all,
All are one.
Rising moon,
Setting sun.


The Benediction of Kjeld is spoken by Halvor Arenson within the church, empty of all but the Kjeldoran priest and the kneeling girl beside him. This is supposed to be a time to honor the past and reinforce faith in the future, but there is only so much that Halvor can do.


The girl asks him where everyone is, and all Halvor can tell Kaysa is that they're in their home, hiding from the storm and hiding in fear of the undead. But together the two of them can offer the benediction on behalf of all those who aren't present. Kjeld will understand.

Then all of a sudden the doors blow open, and along with the howling wind, three people enter and quickly shut the door. Two armored knights and one dressed only in warm auroch fur. The priest welcomes them to share the fire, and they introduce themselves. Lucilde Fiksdotter of the Oder of the White Shield, Klazina Jansdotter of the Order of the Sacred Torch, and Disa the Restless.

(Oh wow, this is a Who's Who of Ice Age flavor text! Flavor text for each character is collected down below if you want to take a peek.)

They tell Halvor they were on their way to the Krov hoping to make it in time for the feast, but the storm is just too intense to go on. The priest lets them know that unfortunately feast day has already come, but they are quite welcome to celebrate with himself and his ward. When Klazina angrily asks him what's wrong with the villagers and asks why none had the decency to answer when they knocked up their doors, Halvor apologizes on behalf of the village. Then he tells her that the bread they've been preparing all day is just about ready which brings a smile to Disa's face.


...At the dinner table...

Halvor and Kaysa appreciate the enthusiasm their guests go at the pile of fresh waybread, butter, and jam. After a bit, Lucidle takes the time to apologize for creating such a mess, and she explains that they've been up in the mountain pass for the past two weeks awaiting the return of Disa from her expedition.

Disa tells Halvor of her trip to the west. And there's no good news. Out west past the Adarkar Wastes and the Yavimaya River is nothing. All the way to the sea there's maybe a scattering of dwarves and goblins, but no cities large or small. No one to stand with them. Her allies were killed and scattered by the legions of Lim-Dûl for nothing. Kjeldor stands alone.

Halvor nodded. "I feared as much. this is not a time for civilization and growth. We do well just to endure this terrible cold, and with the necromancer's forces growing, simple survival becomes-"

There was a small sound, a sniffle, and the group turned its eyes to the little girl. A tear rolled down her cheek. "They're going to kill us, aren't they?" Kaysa cried. "And then we'll be dead like them?"

Disa jumps out of her seat and comforts the little girl in her arms and tells her that things will be okay. That Kjeld did not build this great land to see it die. Then Disa notices a mark on the Kaysa's neck, and cautiously asks the girl if it's always been there. The tone in her voice prompts Klazina to ask what it means, and Disa tells her that it means the wheel has finally turned.

Then a loud knock booms from the door, and Halvor gets up excitedly, ready to welcome another guest. Halvor opens the door, and a blast of snow from the storm outside reveals a tall man dressed in crystalline blue robes, with a long white beard and gnarled staff..

The sight of Kolbjörn, Elder Druid of the Juniper Order causes Disa to jump up out of her seat once more, this time out of excitement, and she asks him how he got through the storm.

"The winds are the breath of Freyalise, and the storm her spirit," he said solemnly. "The snows are her tears, and their caress is her love. How did I get through the storm? How could I not? Freyalise watches and Freyalise protects." His voice possessed an air of sternness and authority.

Kolborn's tendency to speak Freyalise's name with every breath brings a smile to Disa's face, and she sarcastically lets him know it. Kolborn returns the smile and tells her that by her impertinence it seems like she's still the same herself.

Halvor on the other hand isn't quite as amused. He tells the man of the woods that he thought druids were even less likely to travel out of Fyndhorn than even the elves they live with. Lucidle interrupts and tells him straight out that she thought he was dead. Kolbjörn jokes about how they overvalue the attraction to their land, but Disa doesn't care about small talk. She tells him that the little girl has the mark. Kolbjörn nods and tells her that's why he's come.

Halvor's face reddens and he tells the druid that he presumes too much. Kaysa is his charge. He and his tree-goddess needs to look elsewhere.

Kolbjörn apologizes. He didn't mean to offend anyone, especially on hallowed ground. They'll all be dead soon anyway, he can wait. Then he'll take Kaysa with him back to Fyndhorn.

(Whoa.)

Klazina speaks first and asks him what he means. The answer is simple. They village has already been taken by the forces of Lim-Dûl. Every home they knocked on before reaching the church gave no reply, because their was none to give.

Voices roar at this information, one over another, but there isn't time to argue. The doors open for the third time this night. And a third time a cold gust of wind blows.

In the doorway stands a knight, one that calls out to Klazina and Lucilde by name. They call out to Avram Garrison, and praise Kjeld that another ally has appeared to help fight beside them in this dark hour. He takes off his helmet, and Avram, Knight of Stromgald shows them his undead face.

Klazina gasped and drew her sword. "He is one of them! They've taken Avram!"

Kaysa stepped next to Kolbjorn and clutched his robe with one small fist. She stared at Avram, her face full of silent accusation.

The druid shook his head, putting his hand on Kaysa's shoulder. "They could not take what was freely given."

Lucilde, too, had drawn her sword. "What do you mean?"

Avram laughed. "He means that the Knights of Stromgald have finally achieved our destiny. 'Kjeldor for Kjeldorans!' has been my cause, now more than ever. Those who rule our land are weak and without honor. They haggle with elves, traffic with dwarves, and give food to the wild folk of Balduvia. I believe that such abominations deserve only one verdict: death. Lim-Dûl bears that gift to the deserving."

Lucilde calls out for breaking his oath, but he tells her that he's still true to his cause. The true Kjedorans are the ones that have fought and died for their country, not those nobles hiding in Krov, and not the fat and wealthy merchants. The corpses of the true Kjeldorans burst through doors and windows and swarm inside.

Kalazina, Lucilde, and Disa fell zombie soldier after zombie soldier. Halvor hands glow with a bright light and zombies melt before him while Kolbjörn's lips move and none approach him or Kaysa.

They fight on hard and fast while Avram watches his army close in, unrelenting. They don't give up, but they do lose hope. Klazina and Lucilde lock eyes, and both know the end is coming. There are too many. Their muscles will soon tire, but their enemy never will.

The druid calls Kaysa to him, and is surprised to find the fear in her eyes gone, and he hears the words that escape her lips and understands.


Life is warmth,
Peace is heat,
Safety is strength,
In the arms of Freyalise.

Freyalise is all,
All are one.
Setting moon,
Rising sun.

Sun is life,
Water is peace,
Ice is safety,
In the arms of Freyalise.

Freyalise is all,
All are one.
Setting moon,
Rising sun.


She's joined him in the speaking not the Benediction of Kjeld, but the Benediction of Freyalise. Together they chant, and all of a sudden the undead stop their advance. Klazina is confused at the fear and hatred on Avram's face, and then she hears it. Strength flows through her, and a reminder of the life they lost flows through the veins of the dead. The legions of Lim-Dûl moan and fall to the ground.

The battle is over.


...Dawn...

Kolbjörn and Kaysa spend the morning talking just to each other about things that the other do not understand, but all feel safe. After scouting the village it is confirmed that everyone in Mikkel is dead, but at least they still live, and after some work at least the villagers will have a proper burial.

Kaysa tells Halvor that she's going with Kolbjörn, and Halvor says he cannot deny the miracle he witnessed. Kolbjörn tells the priest that they both serve the same purpose. Halvor agrees with the statement that they're both working towards the preservation and celebration of life, and he goes to fetch more bread for them to eat.

Disa sat down beside Kolbjörn, who stared out the window at the morning sun. "So, Kolbjörn. Did you miss me while I was gone? I can never tell with you."

"I value all life, Disa. even such a troublesome and impertinent life as yours."

She cocked her head at him quizzically.

Kolbjörn allowed himself the merest trace of a  smile. "All right. Perhaps especially such a life as yours, restless one."

Disa took his hand and held it in hers. "I'm not always restless, husband. And I always come home... sooner or later."


...Outside...

Lucilde and Klazina are happy to be alive, there's much digging to do. There's one thing that still bothers her though. They searched the whole village, and there was no sign of Avram Garrison.

* * *


Good stuff

This story by John Tynes (who apparently now works for Microsoft Game Studios) appears in full in Issue 5 of The Duelist magazine by Wizards of the Coast, pages 17-21, published in 1995, with accompanying illustrations by Amy Weber.

I liked it. There's only so much you can do with four pages. We got nice snapshot of what it means to live in the Ice Age. We got setting, culture, suspense, action, hope, and despair. Not to mention we got the appearances of major players that are quoted throughout the flavor text of the Ice Age set.

There's really not much more you could ask for. It's not hard to see why Jeff Grub gave a special thank you in his acknowledgements in The Eternal Ice to John Tynes.

I would also like to thaink those who have trod the lands of Ice before me: John Tynes (again) for his short story "Feast of Kjeld," which first appeared in Volume 2, Issue 2 of The Duelist, and Jeff Gomez for his graphic story contribution. I appreciate the chance to lend my voice to the chorus.


Full of Flavor

Here is a collection of Ice Age flavor text attributed to each of the major players.


- Halvor Arenson -
Kjeldoran Priest

Hallowed Ground - "On this site where Kjeld's blood was spilled, let none raise a fist or deny a beggar."

Blessed Wine - "May the bounty of Kjeld enrich your days."

Lost Order of Jarkeld - "Let us remember brave Jarkeld and his troops, who perished in the Adarkar Wastes so long ago."

Curse of Marit Lage - "Our world has not felt her thundering steps in lifetimes, but Marit Lage's presence is still with us."

Brine Shaman - "The Shamans of Marit Lage do her bidding in secret, but they do it gladly."

Jokulhaups - "I was shocked when I first saw the aftermath of the Yavimaya Valley disaster. The raging waters had swept away trees, bridges, and even houses. My healers had much work to do."

Hymn of Rebirth - "There will come soft rains, and spring shall be amongst us, a welcome friend."

Heal - "Sometimes even the smallest boon can save a life."

Prismatic Ward - "These, of all spells, must have common components I can isolate and use."

Sacred Boon - "Divine gifts are granted to those who are worthy."

Armor of Faith - "Keep your chainmail, warrior. I have my own form of protection."

Arenson's Aura - "I have my faith, and I have my prayers. But if push comes to shove, I've also got a little something extra."

Death Ward - "Sometimes, a soul is not ready to complete its journey to the next world."


- Lucilde Fiksdotter -
Leader of the Order of the White Shield

Order of the White Shield - "Shall we turn away a worthy soul because his parents were peasants? I think not."

Swords to Plowshares - "The so-called Barbarians will not respect us for our military might—they will respect us for our honor."

Glaciers - "Even the highest mountain can be ground to dust."

Trailblazer - "Our Elvish Hunter Taaveti led us swiftly along hidden paths through the dense forest. We caught the Orcs from behind, and completely by surprise."

Kelsinko Ranger - "Rangers not trained by the Elves just aren't the same."

Legions of Lim-Dûl - "I have seen the faces of my dead friends among that grim band, and I can bear no more."

Glacial Crevasses - "We were chasing Lim-Dûl when the ridge in front of us suddenly crumbled. I can't believe it was mere coincidence."

Flow of Maggots - "The very earth seemed alive and made a sound like the writhing of the damned."

Infernal Darkness - "I thought the day had brought enough horrors for our ragged band, but the night was far worse."

Hyalopterous Lemure - "The Lemures looked harmless, until they descended on my troops. Within moments, only bones remained."


- Klazina Jansdotter -
Leader of the Order of the Sacred Torch

Fumarole - "Too many of us have died in the explosions that wrack these hills."

Mountain Goat - "Folklore has it that to capture a Mountain Goat is a sign of divine blessing. I just know it's a sign that dinner is on the way."


- Disa -
The Restless

Mountain Titan - "The Titans claimed to draw strength from the rocks, but I suspect them of some darker allegiance."

Karplusan Giant - "They aren't the brightest or the quickest of Giants. For that matter, the same holds true if you compare them to rocks."

Woolly Mammoths - "Mammoths may be good to ride on, but they're certainly bad to fall off of!"

Giant Trap Door Spider - "So large and so quiet—a combination best avoided."

Adarkar Sentinel - "We encountered the Sentinels in the wastes, near no living thing. Their purpose was inscrutable."

Hoar Shade - "The creature we fought in the western waste was doubly dangerous: mortally wounded, it rebounded and attacked again."

Yavimaya Gnats - "It is our third day of travel on the Yavimaya River, and still these creatures plague us. Davin Lansson, our naturalist, has facetiously labeled them ‘gnats,' and the name has stuck."

Gorilla Pack - "We learned this at a dear price: once you cross the great river, get through the Yavimaya forest at top speed."

Balduvian Bears - "They're a hardy bunch, but I'd still bet that they just slept through the worst of the cold times."

Rime Dryad - "The Dryads told us to stay, as no new horrors would come when it was so cold. Three of us left anyway. The rest believed their lies, and their skeletons weren't found until the thaw."

Stampede - "We could see the horizon blacken with the great beasts, but it was too late. The icefield offered no immediate safety, but luckily most of us reached a crevasse in which we could take cover."

Illusionary Terrain - "The drawing of maps is fruitless in the west near the ice walls; the very earth is formless."

Glacial Wall - "We are farther west than any could have imagined possible, but I still wish to press on. Unfortunately, huge walls of ice block further travel. We can't believe they are natural."

Mistfolk - "Although my official log will state there is no evidence pointing to the existence of the Mistfolk, my certainty is lessened by the cursed consistency of the expedition's eyewitness accounts."

Clairvoyance - "As we followed the ice wall, we had the distinct feeling of being watched. Many of the party wanted to turn back."

Illusionary Presence - "We could feel the Shaman's power, as surely as we felt the storm."

Anarchy - "The Shaman waved the staff, and the land itself went mad."

Avalanche - "The pass was completely blocked by the avalanche; we're forced to turn back. Nevertheless, we've gone farther and seen more than any before us."

Kjeldoran Frostbeast - "Two of my Warriors found that the creature was dangerous not only in combat, but also in simple proximity."

Monsoon - "No one in her right mind would venture off the coast of Kjeldor during this season."

Hurricane - "This was quite possibly the least pleasant occurrence on the entire expedition."


- Kolbjörn -
Elder Druid of the Juniper Order

Nature's Lore - "Fyndhorn is our home."

Juniper Order Druid - "The filthy towns of Kjeldor are no place for anyone to live. Fyndhorn is our home now."

Foxfire - "Only the foolish fear Foxfire."

Giant Growth - "Here in Fyndhorn, the goddess Freyalise is generous to her children."

Essence Filter - "Freyalise has cleansed our bodies and minds of the plagues of Kjeldor; all she asks in return is that we keep pure our newly given home in Fyndhorn."

Fyndhorn Elves - "Living side by side with the Elves for so long leaves me with no doubt that we serve the same goddess."

Earthlore - "Even the ground is our friend."

Fanatical Fever - "Let go your fury, and hone your anger. Become the fist of Freyalise!"

Maddening Wind - "It is Freyalise, walking on the world."

Thermokarst - "Finally we understand the lesson of our home: loss begets renewal."

Ritual Subdual - "That which does not bend to the will of Freyalise shall surely break."

Elder Druid - "I am older than any Elder Druid before me, and still no child has been born with the Mark to take my place. When will the wheel turn?"


- Avram Garrisson -
Leader of the Knights of Stromgald

Celestial Sword - "So great is its power, only the chosen can wield it and live."

Sibilant Spirit - "Relax. I'm sure it's just a snake hissing."

Conquer - "Why do we trade with those despicable Elves? You don't live in forests, you burn them!"

Mercenaries - "Blasted amateurs Doesn't the queen think we can fight well enough on our own?"

Imposing Visage - "I can't believe they expect me to fight with this rabble. A Goblin in a big mask sends ‘em running for cover."

Knight of Stromgald - "Kjeldorans should rule supreme, and to the rest, death"

Kjeldoran Phalanx - "There's nothing I like better than watching a street full of soldiers kicking down the doors of the guilty and the impure."

Kjeldoran Warrior - "Give me a thousand such Warriors and I could change the world."

Stronmgald Cabal - "Kjeldor must be supreme at any cost."


- Lim-Dûl -
The Necromancer

 Skeleton Ship - "The sea gives up her dead as easily as the soil."

 Diabolic Vision - "I have seen the true path. I will not warm myself by the fire—I will become the flame."

Minion of Tevesh Szat - "A minion given over to Tevesh Szat is a stronger minion gained."

Seizures - "Sheathe your sword, warrior, lest ye fall on it when stricken."

Spoils of Evil - "Virtue has its rewards, as does its opposite."

Mind Whip - "A mind in agony is a sparrow without wings."

Moor Fiend - "Let them close the gates of Krov from dusk until dawn if they so choose. It matters not. My fiends shall yet rend their flesh from their bones."

Icequake - "When the earth shakes, and their animals are swallowed up by the ground, perhaps they will think twice before attacking again."

Leshrac's Rite - "Bind me to thee, my soul to thine. I am your servant and your slave. I shall hunger for your word and thirst for your blessing. Blood for blood, flesh for flesh, Leshrac, my lord."

Dark Ritual - "Leshrac, my liege, grant me the power I am due."

Howl from Beyond - "From the mouths of my servants, my voice shall emerge to shake the souls of my foes."

Touch of Death - "What was yours is mine. Your land, your people, and now your life."

Ghostly Flame - "Walk slowly when in the nether world, and seek that which calls."

Abyssal Specter - "Open the gates, and bid them enter."

Burnt Offering - "My foes serve me twice: in dying, and in death."

Drift of the Dead - "Take their dead, and entomb them in the snow. Risen, they shall serve a new purpose."

Lim-Dûl's Cohort - "Join me in the place of power, you risen dead. Join me where the waters weep and the trees have no hearts."

Kjeldoran Dead - "They shall kill those whom once they loved."

Fear - "Even the bravest of warriors yet knows the dark clutch of fright upon his stalwart heart."

Lim-Dûl's Hex - The weak shall fall. The strong shall remain."

Foul Familiar - "Serve me, and live forever."

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