A little while ago, I published The Real Story Behind Ice Age, which linked the flavor texts of the cards in Ice Age with the novel The Eternal Ice by Jeff Grubb. However, since the flavor texts were relatively general and dealt mostly with environmental matters, I decided that this novel required its own look so that anyone who was interested in being informed of the deeper details of the storyline could learn about them without actually reading the book. Naturally, then, this article will contain spoilers about The Eternal Ice. But, although you will already know what happens in the novel, perhaps you’ll also be interested in the finer points of how it all happened to the degree that you’ll read the book itself. Alternately, I would also hope that this look into the storyline will encourage you to delve into Magic’s storyline more in the future, either by reading the novels or just my articles. (Please excuse the shameless self-promotion.)
Before we get to The Eternal Ice, you may want to take a look on my article on the first book in the Ice Age Cycle, The Gathering Dark, which deals with the cardset The Dark. Very briefly, The Dark takes place in the period between Urza’s world-destroying spell and the onset of the Ice Age that gripped Dominaria for thousands of years. In the novel, the youth Jodah ends up in a conclave of magic run by Mairsil the Pretender and Barl the Artificer, both of whom usurped power from their former master, Ith. Eventually, Jodah frees Ith from his cage and Ith – aided unknowingly by a band of "righteous" townsfolk – destroys Mairsil and his cronies. At the end of The Gathering Dark, Jodah decides to move on to the City of Shadows, a good and proper school of magic, in order to further his knowledge.
In the beginning of the Eternal Ice, Jodah awakens in a strange bed in a strange room. He walks past the vase of flowers and is led by the Keeper of Tresserhorn to someone who is obviously the Keeper’s master. This dark figure addresses Jodah with, "You honor me with your presence… Welcome to Tresserhorn, Lord Jodah. I am its master, Lim-Dûl, called by some the Great Necromancer. Welcome back from the dead."
Throughout the muddled confusion of just being told that he’s been dead for some thousands of years, Jodah listens to the introduction of Chaeska, the Keeper of Tresserhorn, which is Lim-Dûl’s headquarters. Lim-Dûl tells Jodah up front that he plans on conquering the continent of Terisiare. Furthermore, Lim-Dûl informs Jodah of his new purpose in life: To do research in order to discover a rogue plane that is rumored to exist and how to kill a planeswalker.
Still confused, but kept humble by this confusion and the threat of being unraveled should he displease his new master, Jodah sets to work. He begins to do wonders with the research capabilities of Lim-Dûl and begins to get to know his new home. On one of his trips around the castle, Jodah stumbles upon the sullen figure of Marton Stromgald, who tells Jodah that he has also been raised by Lim-Dûl – though for what reasons he doesn’t know, aside from that Lim-Dûl hated him while he was alive.
After making tremendous progress in his research, Jodah goes to visit Lim-Dûl. Hearing voices inside Lim-Dûl’s chambers, Jodah listens in on the conversation. He hears Leshrac the planeswalker giving Lim-Dûl his instructions to find the rogue plane quickly. As proof that he’s serious, Leshrac gives Lim-Dûl nubs of horns that will quickly grow into mighty antlers. Lim-Dûl catches Jodah spying on him and kicks him out of his study, impressing on Jodah that what he’s seen is only more reason to work hard on finding the answers that he’s looking for.
Jodah approaches his work with a new sense of urgency, but this is quickly interrupted when a young woman researcher in the tower speaks to him. She tells him that he’s real, planting a seed of doubt into Jodah’s already confused mind. Eventually, the woman convinces Jodah to escape with her and to give her the chance to prove that he’s real. They do escape, and when they engage Chaeska and Jodah does not simply evaporate – in fact, he has the ability to fight – he flees with the woman with more vigor. They escape Tresserhorn and take refuge in a nearby cave.
Here, the woman, Jaya Ballard, is able to convince Jodah that he’s not simply a conjuration by being very frank with him. She tells him who she is, and she tells him who he is. Furthermore, he is still alive and obviously not under the direct control of Lim-Dûl. Jodah slowly trusts and believes the young task mage. Just as they’re settling down, a minion of Leshrac attacks them in the cave. After a fierce battle, Jodah is able to unsummon the creature, but something about the fight affects Jodah. He begins to rave like a madman and threaten Jaya. Jaya is forced to knock Jodah unconscious and resort to the course of action she fears the most: Calling upon a planeswalker for help.
Jaya knows that summoning Freyalise is risky, but she has no other choice – she certainly doesn’t have enough knowledge or power to heal Jodah, and there’s nowhere she can go. Activating a locket she’s stored away for some time in case of just such an eventuality, Jaya calls the planeswalker Freyalise to help her save Jodah. Freyalise answers the call, and Jaya begins to explain the situation. Freyalise activates the Safe Haven in which Jodah and Jaya are hiding (for Jaya thought that taking Jodah to one of his transcontinental transport facilities might help jog his memory), thus rescuing them from imminent peril. However, Jaya meekly informs the planeswalker that that’s not why she summoned her. Freyalise is indignant at being treated as a servant – but when Jaya tells her that Jodah will owe her a favor if she saves him, Freyalise agrees to help.
She tells Jaya that Jodah was exposed to addictive memory-suppressant pollen during one of his uses of his mirror. This mirror, given to Jodah by his first master Voska, is what allows Jodah to maintain his sanity along with his eternal life. Jodah is able to dump his entire compliment of memory into the mirror when he gathers too much life experience and then draw forth the information without the emotional attachment. Without the artifact, the dead wives, missing friends, and lost opportunities would pile up enough regrets to make Jodah insane. It was during one of these memory cleansings that Jodah was kidnapped and exposed to the pollen in order to keep him from regaining his memories. Freyalise removes the addictive substance from his body, but does not offer to retrieve the mirror that Jodah needs to regain his sanity. She does, however, provide Jaya with the means to find it – though bringing it back to Jodah will have to be Jaya’s own task.
Freyalise transports Jaya to the tower of Kjeldor’s royal mage Gustha Ebbasdotter. Being the sneak that she is, Jaya is able to find her way to the top of the tower in order to look for the mirror. On her way, she overhears the royal mage talking to someone else. She looks into the Gustha’s chambers and sees her talking to another figure being displayed on some sort of communication artifact. Of course, Jaya listens in and discovers that the two of them were instrumental in the abduction of Jodah. As it turns out, Gerda Äagesdotter is Gustha Ebbasdotter’s cousin and also happens to be the second-in-command of the School of the Unseen on Lat-Nam – directly under Jodah. She was the one who captured Jodah while he was in his stupor and transported him to Gustha. Gustha then shipped Jodah off to Lim-Dûl and kept the mirror for herself.
Having heard enough, Jaya sneaks off to the top chamber of the tower. There, she finds a little owl whose purpose is to help locate objects. Jaya uses the creature to find and take Jodah’s mirror and then traps the animal under a glass casing. However, on her way down the stairs of the tower, the owl breaks loose and screams an alarm. Jaya uses her quick wit and agile body to trick, charm, and rappel her way out of the tower and to safety in a friend’s house.
This friend, Belenda, is a skyknight of Kjeldor and an old acquaintance of Jaya. She agrees to transport Jaya out of the city on her aesthir, and does so. On the way out to the wilderness where Jaya wishes to be dropped off, Belenda tells Jaya of an upcoming revolution in Kjeldor and urges Jaya to join it. Jaya declines and asks Belenda to set her down in the middle of nowhere (Jaya certainly doesn’t want the Kjeldoran to know where she’s headed), and Belenda goes on her way. Unbeknownst to Jaya, her way is directly towards Lim-Dûl’s tower in Tresserhorn.
After stumbling around the confusing corridors within his mind for as long as Jaya had been gone, Jodah finally starts to regain lucidity. He regains himself – and, with a little help from Jaya, pieces together what’s happened. He finds that he’s currently in the tent of Lovisa Coldeyes, the chieftain of the Balduvians. Apparently, Freyalise thought that would be a safe place for him while Jaya got the mirror back. Reestablishing his composure, Jodah begins to act like the Archmage Eternal Jaya is used to, starting with the familiar game of diplomacy.
Jodah nearly immediately engages in talks with Lovisa. In exchange for her hospitality in keeping him safe, Jodah promises to help her against the Balduvians’ contest against Lim-Dûl (which also serves his own desires to see the necromancer deposed). However, having witnessed firsthand how powerful Lim-Dûl is, Jodah knows that he and the Balduvians cannot fight the sorcerer alone. He vows to try to gain the Kjeldorans as allies against this threat to all of Terisiare.
Meanwhile, in the necromancer’s tower, Belenda the skyknight is delivering her report. She tells Lim-Dûl that the time is right for a revolt. Seeming to agree, Lim-Dûl offers Belenda a drink of celebration. She takes a draught and discovers that it’s poison. Shortly, she has been raised from the dead in order to carry out Lim-Dûl’s plans in a more controlled manner.
However, despite being pleased by Kjeldoran events, Lim-Dûl’s night suffers an extreme displeasure: An unexpected visit from Leshrac. Leshrac tells a terrified Lim-Dûl that he knows about his research in how to kill a planeswalker. Whereas the necromancer believes a harsh reprimand is in order, Leshrac actually approves of Lim-Dûl’s presence of mind. He "grants" Lim-Dûl extremely broad shoulder and neck muscles in order to bear the weight of the mighty horns that have grown on his head as reward. Leshrac departs with an admonition to Lim-Dûl: Don’t think too small in your plans to conquer only the continent.
After their departure from Lovisa’s home, Jodah and Jaya make a visit to the royal palace of Kjeldor. Jodah confronts Gustha, and Gustha meets him with an accusation of theft of the mirror. Jodah tells her that the mirror was his, but that doesn’t faze the Royal Mage. Jodah allows Jaya to be imprisoned over the protestations of the task mage. However, Jodah has Jaya’s best interests in mind and tells her so when he visits her in prison. He plans on letting her loose to gather information, and the pretense that she’s in jail should protect Jaya from indictment.
Before she gets to leave, though, Jodah explains some important information that he’s found. His visit to King Darien has revealed that the general Avram Garrison has the ear of the king, and Garrison is using that position to convince Darien that Lim-Dûl is not a threat. However, Captain Varchild doesn’t get along with him, and she’s no small player in the Kjeldoran military. To complicate matters, the magical forces of Kjeldor are all in contention with one another. After telling Jaya all he knows, Jodah frees her to drum up more information on the streets. Meanwhile, Jodah returns to his own sphere of excellence and goes to talk to Gustha.
Being no stranger to the streets, Jaya knows just where to go to find information: The pubs. The first interesting thing she sees is Avram Garrison making some sort of proposition to Captain Varchild. Varchild refuses Garrison, though, and Garrison leaves, disappointed. Jaya follows Garrison and secretly listens in on a meeting of the Stromgald Cabal. This group is dedicated to the ancient ideals of Marton Stromgald and is planning to overthrow King Darien in order to bring them back to the seat of power. What no one really considers strange is that Marton Stromgald, long dead, is a guest speaker at the meeting. Furthermore, Jaya’s friend Belenda is also a guest speaker at the meeting. Jaya notices that both of them are rather listless when not talking – which, of course, is because they’re undead, but Jaya knows nothing about any of that.
At the meeting, the Cabal states its intent to assassinate King Darien that very night, so Jaya leaves in order to warn the king. However, on her way out, she’s heard and pursued. "Luckily," Freyalise decides she needs to speak to Jaya during her flight from the guards of the cabal and arranges for the two of them to speak alone on the roof by removing the direct threats to Jaya’s life. Freyalise simply asks Jaya what Jodah was researching while under Lim-Dûl’s control. Jaya tells her what she knows about the research about a rogue plane, and Freyalise seems to light up at the idea. However, she sees Lim-Dûl’s method of using the plane as a boat off of Dominaria incomplete – she says that instead of a boat, the rogue plane should be a hammer. With these words, she leaves Jaya to get herself off the roof on which she’s perched in order to pursue her own measures.
While Jaya is out at the local dives, Jodah is enjoying a royal feast – at least, the food may have been enjoyable while the institution of royal dining was less than relished by the Archmage Eternal. During the meal, Jodah talks at length with Gustha about various matters. Of course, he brings up Lim-Dûl – but like the rest of the Kjeldorans he’s spoken to, Gustha dismisses the necromancer. They also discuss the immortal Zur, with Jodah believing the sorcerer’s arguments about eternal life being less than cogent. Jodah would have liked to have talked to King Darien, but he spent the entire meal dealing with subjects with matters they wanted to bring to him.
After the meal, Gustha takes Jodah to visit one of the royal artificers, Arcum Dagsson. Dagsson shows Jodah his weathervane, which has made a very frightening prediction: Midsummer will be even colder than the winter. This troubles Jodah, and the archmage agrees to supply more information for Dagsson’s machine. After this meeting, Gustha takes Jodah to her chambers where Gerda Äagesdotter is waiting for Gustha’s return. Jodah’s second-in-command informs him that Freyalise is at the School of the Unseen and is demanding to go through his library. Jodah tells Gerda to allow Freyalise to do what she wants and to give him a full accounting when he returns. After leaving Gerda with this formidable task, Jodah tells Gustha that he has set much in motion and cannot return to his beloved school until he has seen them through. But before this discussion can go further, Jaya bursts into Gustha’s chambers with the dire warning of the assassination of King Darien.
Gustha and Jodah (with Jaya clinging on) fly to the palace and find Captain Varchild already fighting against the insurgents. Apparently, Jaya had alerted her of the imminent attack on the king before making her way to the Royal Tower. Unfortunately, when the attack began, most of the guards threw in with the assailants. Nevertheless, as the mages flew toward the floor of the throne room, they could tell that Varchild had the attack well in hand. Once the undead began to arrive, however, it was evident that Varchild couldn’t hold them off herself. No amount of undead warriors (that can fit inside a throne room) could stand up to Jodah, Gustha, and Jaya, and they were quickly dispatched.
Jaya tells King Darien that the attack was orchestrated by Avram Garrison. Jodah informs the king that Garrison is a puppet of Marton Stromgald, who is in turn a puppet of Lim-Dûl. This finally convinces Darien to commit his kingdom to fighting the necromancer. His resolve is tested when the merchant guild questions his decision. However, Darien holds firm assuring the merchants that whereas the dead don’t buy things, the King does. This staunch resolve convinces the merchants and Jodah that Darien will carry through with his promise to deal with the necromancer, even if it means joining together with the Balduvians.
Finally given a common enemy, the Kjeldorans are able to temporarily forget their distaste for one another… But banding together with the Balduvians promises to be a much more difficult task. They go out onto the battlefield together, but when Varchild and Coldeyes meets, Jodah realizes that the chances of these two women working together are slim. With careful negotiating, Jodah is able to wrest a mutual respect out of the warriors for each other. Perhaps more importantly, a battle plan is decided upon, and the preparations for war begin to be made.
After these negotiations, Arcum Dagsson seeks Jodah out. He tells him that despite the extra data offered him by Jodah’s vast library, the prediction remains the same: The Ice Age is getting worse fast. This paints the situation with a certain grimness, given that even should the Kjeldorans and Balduvians win the day, the undefeatable ice looms in the future.
Meanwhile, Jaya seeks out Varchild to ask her what she thinks of the upcoming battle. Varchild expresses great disdain in working with the people whom she’d always considered enemies. Jaya points out that her loyalty to King Darien that she showed when thwarting the assassination attempt is more important than her personal misgivings. However, Varchild tells Jaya that although Garrison’s goals were not her own, that does not mean that he is wrong.
After this somewhat disturbing interchange, Jaya feels the mental tug that means she’s being summoned by Freyalise. She follows the tug and discovers Jodah on his way to the same destination. The two of them meet Freyalise on a hill, and she demands Jodah’s mirror without telling him the purpose. Unable to argue with the planeswalker (since this is what he needs to do to be even with her once again), Jodah gives her the mirror. Just before Freyalise departs, she says, "The dead don’t rest. And neither should you." This sparks in Jodah the realization that the estimates made for the arrival of Lim-Dûl’s troops would be overshot because they took resting into consideration. Of course, Lim-Dûl’s undead soldiers wouldn’t be sleeping on their way to the attack.
Jodah and Jaya alert the camp of their oversight, and shortly thereafter, the huge battle begins. The battle is long and hard, and there are many casualties including Avram Garrison and Gustha Ebbasdotter. Meanwhile, Jodah makes his way to the mobile pyramid that is Lim-Dûl’s headquarters in this battle. With his faculties about him this time, Jodah remembers why Lim-Dûl’s rings looked so familiar back in Tresserhorn. Jodah realizes that Mairsil, his first "teacher" and antagonist, locked himself away in his most powerful ring, which Lim-Dûl the soldier found and put on after being separated from Marton Stromgald’s company. After bringing him back to health, Mairsil in the ring possessed Lim-Dûl, resulting in a powerful crossbreed of evils. At last, Jodah has a face-to-face showdown with his oldest enemy who had been waiting 2,500 years for such an opportunity. Similarly, Jaya finds herself facing Lim-Dûl’s second-in-command, Chaeska. Jaya ends up unsummoning Chaeska back to Tresserhorn, making good use of the spell Jodah taught her. Jodah’s duel is more interesting indeed.
At the beginning of their fight, Lim-Dûl casts a spell that would have destroyed Jodah’s mirror had Freyalise not taken it. After an intense session of offensive and defense spellcasting, both Lim-Dûl and Jodah are exhausted and almost dead. Leshrac shows up and Lim-Dûl pleads with him to give him the strength to reanimate the armies (both his and his enemies’) and finish the war. However, with the rogue plane near at hand and sensing his ability to escape this plane, Leshrac refuses. Cutting off Lim-Dûl’s hand with Mairsil’s rings, Leshrac whisks him away for his own purposes, to shape in a new world as he would see fit.
With Lim-Dûl gone, the allied armies easily defeat the weakened and toppling undead. Casualties are high, but the day is won (though Jodah curses himself for allowing Lim-Dûl to escape). Jodah and Jaya are summoned away from the carnage of the battle by Freyalise. Freyalise informs them that she plans to cast a spell similar to that released by Urza from the Golgothian Sylex. Destroy the world though it might, it will also remove the shard from Dominaria so that she can escape. She gives Jodah the option of using his Safe Havens to dilute the impact of the spell, allowing it to cause great damage – but not as much as Urza’s. He agrees, even though it will destroy his worldwide transit system. He gets to see the mind of a planeswalker and weeps from the beauty, but when he returns to his mortal body, he realizes the devastation and grace he has bestowed upon the world.
Jodah verbally lashes out at Freyalise, telling her that her spell will still cause tremendous devastation. Freyalise is convinced that she’s done what needed to be done, though, and she and the rest of the planeswalkers depart from Dominaria. Jodah and Jaya are left at the end of the novel looking for a way to survive in a completely changed world.
And that’s the story. Now, as it’s written, that’s not very climactic, is it? Well, if you want to experience the intense dialogue and vivid imagery of what’s inside a planeswalker’s mind, you’ll have to pick up Jeff Grubb’s The Eternal Ice for yourself. If you don’t, I hope this serves as a capable replacement in order for you to have a handle on the backstory of Ice Age. And if you liked this installment or found it useful, look for my next piece, which will deal with the Alliances storyline.