The Real Story Behind the Dark was written in order to connect the card set The Dark with Jeff Grubb’s novel The Gathering Dark. Personally, I thought the novel was very interesting and gave substance to cards that otherwise appeared as substanceless faces into a world that promised so much more. The flavor texts of the cards in The Dark made sense when tied together by Jeff Grubb.
In much the same way, the flavor texts of Ice Age are given new substance in the novel The Eternal Ice, also by Jeff Grubb. However, unlike The Dark, the flavor texts from Ice Age serve in a much more environmental capacity than in a storytelling one. For example, Disa, the Restless has a large role to play in the flavor texts of Ice Age, but no place in the novel – and no real impact on the goings-on of the time period. Alternately, Jaya Ballard has many enjoyable quotes from this set and plays a large role in the story, but the two facets of her existence are not interrelated. Therefore, as usual, The Real Story Behind Ice Age will give further insight into the storyline behind the flavor texts. However, the actual plot synopsis of The Eternal Ice will have to wait for an upcoming article: Ice Age Through the Looking Glass.
So, in this article, I’ll highlight the flavor texts that shed light on the major characters and settings of Ice Age in order to have them serve as background information for the plot depiction in my next article.
~”Barbarian raids were a common concern to those living in the northern provinces, but the Skyknights never dealt with the problem in a systematic way. They thought of the Balduvians as an ‘amusing model’ of their forebears’ culture.”
Kjeldor: Ice Civilization~
This is a very fitting way to begin the article, for it outlines the major civilizations of the Ice Age. Whereas Fyndhorn, Llanowar, Yavimaya, Jamuraa, and the like were all in the grips of the same ice, this set focused mainly on one portion of the continent of Terisiare. In this part of the world, the main”civilized” power is Kjeldor, made up of several city-states – including Kjeldor, Soldev, and Krov (the capital). Their main nemeses are the surrounding tribes of barbarians, who call themselves the Balduvians. This flavor text also depicts the great amount of respect given to the Kjeldoran Skyknights, who rode giant birds called Aesthir and exerted military command over the land.
~”My Aesthir is my most trusted ally. We fight as one and live as one, and we shall die as one.” -Arna Kennerud, Skyknight~
Arna Kennerud can be found on several cards from Ice Age talking about the valor and strength of the Skyknights – and in the time of the Ice Age, no military force knew greater power and respect. These warriors earned their titles by forming an intimate bond with their winged steeds and using the advantage of flight to command control of the skies and the earth.
~”Those who do not ride the wind on Aesthir still command loyalty and respect.” -Arna Kennerud, Skyknight~
However, that is not to say that the Kjeldoran military was entirely dependent upon the Skyknights. Here, even the grand Arna Kennerud acknowledges the strength of other units of the Kjeldoran army. In its peak, the Kjeldoran military knew no rivals; however, a peak can only be maintained for a short amount of time before crumbling into a treacherous descent.
Lost Order of Jarkeld
~”Let us remember brave Jarkeld and his troops, who perished in the Adarkar Wastes so long ago.” -Halvor Arenson, Kjeldoran Priest~
Later in the Ice Age, the Kjeldorans looked back on their glorious military days with envy. The barbarian invasions were very troubling, and the internal divisions in Kjeld were detrimental to the nation as a whole. A few of Kjeldor’s greatest heroes, including General Jarkeld and MÃ rton Stromgald, were revered as role models always to be emulated.
Knight of Stromgald
~”Kjeldorans should rule supreme, and to the rest, death!” -Avram Garrison, Leader of the Knights of Stromgald~
Long after MÃ rton Stromgald’s death, Avram Garrison, looking back at the glory days of Kjeldor, took up Stromgald’s name in order to rally the troops to him in a glorious revolt. (Note that although Marton Stromgald is a card in Ice Age, the great time period this set covers allows for another card in the same set to be looking back several hundred years at its peer.)
~”Kjeldor must be supreme at any cost.” -Avram Garrison, Leader of the Knights of Stromgald~
Like all fanatics, Avram Garrison was willing to do whatever he needed to do in order to bring about his vision of grandeur. He was prepared to betray his friends, his military, and his king in order to try to rebuild the glory days of a long-dead general.
~”There’s nothing I like better than watching a street full of kicking down the doors of the guilty and impure.” -Avram Garrison, Leader of the Knights of Stromgald~
And this flavor text highlights exactly the fanaticism that Garrison used to make good on his threats. After the quiet ingathering of revolutionaries was complete, Garrison was ready to wage full war against what he conceived to be the enemies of glory. This not only involved attacking Kjeldor from within, but also taking out long-withheld aggression against the much too infrequently attacked barbarians.
~”The folk of the Karplusan Mountains are impossible to ambush.” Lovisa Coldeyes, Balduvian Chieftain~
However, the Balduvians weren’t simply waiting to be mown down. Although Lovisa Coldeyes was not talking about her own barbarian tribe here, she does speak about”barbarians” in general. Those whom the Kjeldorans always considered an unimportant nuisance were, in fact, formidable foes in battle and adversaries in agriculture and commerce.
~”My mind and spirit are one – a barrier not readily passed” -Gustha Ebbasdotter, Kjeldoran Royal Mage~
Now, the uprising of the Knights of Stromgald may not have been remarkable difficult to deal with had Kjeldor not been facing other fractures as well. For instance, near the end of the Ice Age, the magical community of Kjeldor had separated into many separate factions held precariously together by Gustha Ebbasdotter. Several schools of magic, centered in various parts of the kingdom, vied for political power. Thus, when a concentrated enemy of the state emerged, no solid magical defense could be raised.
One of these factions was the artificers, stationed mainly in Soldev. At the end of the Ice Age, Arcum Dagsson became the leader of the artificers. He appears only briefly in The Eternal Ice, playing a much greater role in the Alliances storyline than the Ice Age one. However, he lived both in the time period of Ice Age and Alliances, and his weather-predicting machine played an important part in the governmental decisions made before the Breaking of the Ice (ending of the Ice Age).
~”The Elementalists’ talents could be useful if turned to other purposes.” -Zur, the Enchanter~
The Elementalists were another of the factions of magical persuasion. Here, Zur the Enchanter remarks on his own frustration at the talent wasted by these feuding sorcerers.
~”We are Kjeldorans no more.” –Zur the Enchanter~
Although The Eternal Ice doesn’t pinpoint exactly why and when Zur split away from the rest of Kjeldor, he remains throughout the Ice Age a separate magical entity. He neither hinders nor helps the nation of Kjeldor as he pursues his own magical goals.
~”I will go to any length to achieve my goal. Eternal life is worth any sacrifice.” –Zur the Enchanter~
And Zur’s number one goal was always to achieve eternal life. When the Archmage Eternal of the School of the Unseen spoke to Zur about his methods, they were found to be unorthodox, unsuccessful, but not without merit. Zur mainly kept to himself throughout the Ice Age, but everyone knew who he was.
~”This school was founded in secret, operates in secret, and exists for the teaching of secrets. Those who would alter reality must first escape it.” -Gerda Aagesdotter, Archmage of the Unseen~
Another unaffiliated magical entity in the Ice Age was the School of the Unseen – known before the Ice Age as the City of Shadows. The school was under jurisdiction of the Archmage Eternal, directly underneath of whom was Gerda Aagesdotter. This institution sought to accumulate as much knowledge as possible, though to what end was always a great mystery.
~Freyalise’s tears bring life and renewal, though they also bring trouble.~
Although great dramas were being played out in the lives of mortals during the Ice Age, the planeswalkers in Dominaria were also engaging in certain activities. Ever since the last battle on Argoth, when Urza released the blast that created the Ice Age, a shard had been formed around Dominaria that was impermeable to the planeswalkers. In other words, all the planeswalkers that had been on Dominaria at the time of that battle were trapped in the world. One of these planeswalkers was Freyalise, and though she invested herself in the lives of mortals, she did so in order to escape. As long as the action helped Freyalise, she would perform it whether or not it ruined the life of an individual mortal.
~”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.” -KolbjÃ¶rn, Elder Druid of the Juniper Order~
Among those that Freyalise deemed worthy to help her were the Juniper Order of the Fyndhorn forest. These followers were devoted to Freyalise as if she were a god – and for all intents and purposes, she was their god. Even down to the concept of sacrifice.
~”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.” -Lim-DÃ”l, the Necromancer~
However, no one understands the concept of sacrifice better than this set’s antagonist, Lim-DÃ”l. His planeswalker master, Leshrac, demanded much of his servant yet promised great rewards in exchange for loyalty.
~”Will not the mountains quake and hills melt at the coming of the darkness? Share this vision with your enemies, Lim-DÃ”l, and they shall wither.” -Leshrac, Walker of Night~
The partnership of Lim-DÃ”l and Leshrac was a mutually beneficial one. Lim-DÃ”l made use of Leshrac’s immense power, and Leshrac was able to work in the mortal world through Lim-DÃ”l. And of course, what would a dark alliance be without dreams of ruling the world?
Drift of the Dead
~”Take their dead, and entomb them in the snow. Risen, they shall serve a new purpose.” -Lim-DÃ”l, the Necromancer~
Furthermore, what evil sorcerer is complete without an army of undead? As the land became more and more of a frozen wasteland and commonfolk died in greater numbers, the notion of exploiting those resources could not be ignored. Naturally, as the years passed, Lim-DÃ”l’s armies only got stronger until finally, the disbelieving Kjeldorans were forced to deal with the threat head-on.
~”They shall kill those whom they once loved.” -Lim-DÃ”l, the Necromancer~
And when the Kjeldorans do face this nemesis, Lim-DÃ”l would be ready for them. Nothing is more disconcerting than entering a battle with your compatriot next to you – and battle on, only to find that friend facing you as a foe. Lim-DÃ”l relished the emotional devastation this caused, and made use of the tactic as often as possible.
~”Even the highest mountain can be ground to dust.” -Lucilde Fiksdotter, Leader of the Order of the White Shield~
I conclude these flavor text examples with a bleak reminder of reality: The latter part of the Ice Age was a truly scary time, for the end of the ice was nowhere in sight. Glaciers crawled across the land and made it difficult for food to grow and life to thrive. The political discord of Kjeldor, the formidable presence of the Balduvians, and the malevolent machinations of Leshrac and Lim-DÃ”l make for a setting ripe for drama to explode… And explode it does.
But to find out how, you’ll have to catch my next installation: Ice Age Through the Looking Glass. So until then, I’ll let the paperback cover snap shut on this issue of my storyline reporting.