Icebound: Dawn of an Ice Age

What came before: the beginning
Frederick

I keep talking about posting something about Frederick’s backstory here; and I keep running into the brain-dead syndrome where I come home after work and feel so brain-dead that I don’t jot anything down. So I bit the bullet and set down a very short bit of backstory to show Frederick’s life’s trajectory before he became a spiritually corrupted hermit; the first of more, I hope. Without further ado…


The hall was dark, lit only by the gentle light of three candles, set to represent the threefold path of light. Masters of the art flanked the students to either side, silent and faceless in the dimness. Silence stretched the tension of the room taut; despite his anxiety, Frederick kept still and silent as the rest. He would not shame himself or his teachers by breaking the edged peace of the room. Finally, arch meister Lleylan raised his head to regard the students assembled before him. Lleylan had always tended towards the laconic and today was no exception. He said nothing but merely nodded his head once. The room seemed to exhale as one as the assembled students received their final confirmation: this class would graduate in its entirety. None of them had been found lacking in the will and discipline needed to wield magic in the service of their king. The class had seen its challenge through and a new coterie of the mystic arts had been formed. Frederick knew that this was the beginning of something great for him. While he’d never doubted that he would pass this test, having that truth confirmed filled him with a welling of pride. In the name of his king, he would bring light, peace and hope to the darkest corners of the world. His name would be sung by minstrels across the land as being synonymous with righteousness. Frederick permitted himself the briefest of smiles despite the solemn setting of the assembly hall. Nothing would come between him and his destiny.
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Alisandre's Private Notes, #3

[[Again in Liss’s more private notes rather than her notes for storytelling.]]

We made our way into the caverns, expecting trouble of course. Happily there was only one robed fiend to handle. Unhappily… I won’t get into the details, but he’d been torturing people, hurting them terribly. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved that they hadn’t lasted through his efforts. There’s not much I wish to say there. I’ll come up with something sanitized for public consumption later. I also won’t include how Frederick seemed to completely lose his grip on himself and hacked the brute to pieces and to pieces’ pieces until Cole calmed him. I completely understand the impulse but it would likely be too dark for our song.

At least the next part gives us the drama we might need to distract from any messiness. Just past the torturer, a presence came into the air. I presume it was being fed by the pain of those there. Something whispered in my mind, offering me the opportunity for fame and eclipsing my uncle if only I would help free it. I presume all of the others had similar entreaties whispered to them, though no one shared. I will have to worm the details from each later for my curiousity, then make up something properly interesting but absurdly impersonal for each to avoid offending them.

I was untempted, but only because I’ve read enough stories of demons to know better than to sell myself that cheaply. Cole was particularly offended and attacked outright, which had precisely the effect that you might expect. Frederick was more quiet, and I worry that this is all being too much for him. Rowan once more saved us by calling her goddess to cast the demon away, and then we were left alone again. Likely all shaken one way or another, though we didn’t talk about it.

Onwards and downwards we went, led by the relic. We found underground caverns that might have been fascinating to go through in better times, though none of us were in the mood. Soon we came to a fallen bridge over an underground stream, too wide for us to leap and too fast to make fording it our first thought. Rowan tried to climb over and around on a cliff-face, then did a darling fall into the waters. It was a spot of bad luck, nothing more, but in my story I’ll add a sudden burst of water to sweep her away to place it all firmly into the dramatic.

That left us fording the water our only choice. It was down swiftly by Cole, taking a rope and then letting us continue further down and on. And then in the deepest part of the area, we encountered a giant snake. A giant bloody snake. Our knight and a half were properly gallant in trying to protect us poor wee females. You can imagine how much of that I took, and attacked myself, valiantly and to absolutely no effect. Rowan herself threw arrows at the beast, and did as little harm. It was up to our brave strapping menfolk to save us. Hoorah.

First came Frederick with a spell of some sort, dark and foreboding. I do not know the intended effects, but it did little harm to the snake, only to our party later.

Cole though proved his mettle by smashing the beast terribly and won us our freedom. It’s a bit frightening how strong he is. A relief to be sure, but it also makes me worry about us all becoming a problem in a larger fight. I need to find a way to be and do more than be just a silver tongue.

I worry that my tongue is at its limits in our party. Frederick’s spell attempt put Rowan’s foot down and she demanded he use no more magic on her behalf. I tried to get her to compromise, perhaps for us to agree his talents there would only be used after other things failed, but that went nowhere. For her it’s a matter of religion and fervor. I don’t know that trying to make her realize how truly dangerous our situation is would do any good, and I don’t want to risk that hit to our morale. I’ll admit I’m worried about Frederick as well, but I’ll gladly let him cast something that might give pause to any giant reptile.

Cole has his own personal feelings for Frederick, and of course his knightly duty to protect, which pushes him to take Rowan’s side in a more gentle fashion. Ah, if only the other person with a practical bent weren’t Frederick himself. He seems to be under pressure from within, besides Rowan and Cole’s worries. I’m worried that he needs something to build him up again. I hope that soon we’ll have some time for this. If we have another encounter like the snake while in this state of concern, I fear the actions people need to take might make this might boil over.

To more practical matters again.. the relic now led us up once more, apparently having been guiding us in a path around the tower’s normal entrance. It was rather fascinating that the thing had intelligence enough to do that rather than being simply a mindless pointer. I’d love to know more about it if I get the chance to talk to our green friend again after this. Up it went to a hatchway, where above we could hear the bustling of servants.

We decided to open with one close, to grab, render unconscious, and pull them in to borrow clothing, and then continue onwards. That went as well as most of our non-battle plans do, and left her screaming and us making a run for where the relic pointed, to the upstairs in a mad dash. Up, up, up, to the quarters of the tower’s owner, who turned out to be my oh-so-beloved uncle.

Ha ha, demon. What a clever offer you made me, to both take out uncle and build my reputation at once. I am laughing so hard at your infernal wiles. Truly.

Anyway. I was disgusted enough at this turn of events, along with rather annoyed at my failure to be so useful in fighting yet, that I tried to kick his brazier straight in his face and just end this. But magic. Foo. So that failed and he resummoned the demon from before.

At least here I was useful, pointing out that the demon already sought to betray him. That led to the creature being sent away rather than set on us. And while I despise my uncle’s arrogance and power and how.. frustratingly effective and good he is at it, he at least as a noble is able to consider things coolly and speak, rather than attempting to just have us all killed for invading his tower and trying to set him on fire. It’s nice to deal with other practical people.

So we talked and argued a bit. Uncle knew and respected the Green Man, so there was that. He acknowledged the threat, and admitted he was involved with the entire thing. The darkness was due to the influence of a demon he had summoned and not been able to fully control. Though Uncle was being an arrogant prat, he was sure he could handle it all himself and we were just children who should run along now. As it turned out, he was also the one gathering the barbarians in order to create a great empire, intending to bring all the known lands into it under his benevolent rule, teach them all to be more civilized, and such and such. In the end, Rowan and I pushed hard enough to get him to allow our help with the supernatural side. In return he demanded our help with the other side of things.

We argued and set conditions and pushed and finally agreed. My own personal hope is that we’ll be able to simply throw my uncle low when we do everything else, and obviate the need for that ugly deal. If not, I hope to at least keep this part of our deeds quiet to avoid any messy calls of treason. In my song he can bow to our wisdom and his own shortsightedness without any further demands.

So from there he pointed out what we could do best to speed along fixing the supernatural side of our problems. He had already been in contact with a dwarven king for needed supplies for his ritual markings. Sending us to take delivery would speed things along more than sending his barbarians. At least, if he could be trusted…

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Alisandre's Private Notes, #2

[[This one took a while since she had some problems in working through how she wants to put things, that she’ll be working out in play to come probably. So I had to change the format from ‘how she would present this to the world’ to ‘how she just keeps in her own diary’.]]

I’ve had a great deal of trouble moving the past few days’ worth of events into my story journals. The crux of the matter is that I behaved shamefully. And not in a dramatically shameful manner that would let me wring out drama for my deeds, make a crowd nod and see how I’ve grown. No, I behaved like some wonderstruck child and I’m unsure how to handle this. Do I erase it entirely from my accounts and lose a strong event? Do I pretend that it struck me so mildly and betray a pristine day of wonder?

After leaving the city, our travel downriver came rather easily. After the excitement of the way down it was both a relief and a mild disappointment. No rapids from melting ice, only a cool swell of summer’s calm. We travelled well and came to halt when our young priestess found one of her pulls to lead us on. We followed, with Frederick’s normal sweet grumbling and Cole falling into place to guard our backs. And soon we found.. well. Soon we found things shaken up entire.

I’ve studied much of various faiths and their wonders, and it’s left me feeling jaded. I bow head to the one god of my city because disbelief is a social anchor, at least in some circles. I suppose I do even believe in him, but what’s he to do with my life? Thank you for your wonders, now let me make mine. But to actually see a creature of magic and green…

So, a creature of living wood and leaf and berry came to us and I played the sophisticate, taking one of his berries boldly to show that I was comfortable with anything. The taste was.. I won’t go into it here. It was the best. We followed him into a place untouched by the world around us, somewhere of true magic. Animals moved at peace in their places. His home was a tree larger on the outside than the in. He seemed to casually warp space to his needs, and dribbled the knowledge of something ancient and well-knowing as if it were natural. He answered anything put to him with patience, though some things he couldn’t put into our terms. And ah, miracle of miracles, he was someone who could actually bridge both Rowan and Frederick’s attitudes, earning both of their respects it seemed.

I’m sure that if I had stayed there for too long, I’d have wanted to get back to motion and doing. But just then I was giddy and happy to while away the hours with him for days, if I’d had the chance. I spent most of the time following him about like a faun, looking here and there and taking notes of his grove.

Anyway. The practical is that he set us on a path, told us a bit about a foe that had been growing in strength daily, behind these strange changes. He had little idea how the barbarians played into this, as he had trouble telling between people. But a solid, solid lead, made bedrock solid with the loan of a relic that we could use to track it. And.. praise be.. my companions suggested I carry it without me even having to start turning the conversation that way. He gave us a path past the mountains by some magic, landing just near the barbarian camps.

And there came my shame. I was dizzied and drunk on his wonder and took his words of safety as a license to be a fool. Rather than approaching carefully, I led us in song and flirtation. Oh, Rowan in particular talked of our safety and his promises and Cole backed her up well. But Rowan knows little of the world and Cole seems to be a knight’s knight with sure focus. I am the one who should have been keeping our focus. I neglected to recall that our benefactor was a bit fuzzy on mortal matters and may not have meant our safety in how we took it. I was giggling schoolgirl and religious neophyte, wanting to prove my loyalty and belief to all.

It went badly. They saw us coming and turned tail as if we were some threat. I know that I was not at my best performance, but still, that was rather professionally insulting. Sigh. It at least let us through in peace, but it is certainly not something that I’ll put straight when I do the public version. Perhaps I’ll make them out to be such uncivilized savages that they couldn’t make heads or tails of a good song. That would sell to many, I’m sure.

The following was much less problematic for our story. We went onwards, following the relic’s pull into darker lands scattered with dramatic skulls and waste. Perfect and needing little elaboration. We fell into a terrible storm and tried to walk it out, but the darkness grew too thick and we had to make uncomfortable camp. In the small of the morning, while my watch was over and I was well asleep (I am so happy to keep volunteering first watch!), a group of some manner of wizards came upon us, challenging us and sending a bolt of lightning past my head. Well, not quite the worst way I’ve woken, but very very close.

They called themselves druids, which were a people spoken about by the forest lord to Frederick. Some people who might help his own studies and dealings with magic. He has some things roiling under the surface, some needs there he’s not yet shown. I want to find out more, but couldn’t even begin to probe when Rowan is around without it falling into another of their sniping rounds. Fun to watch but unproductive for us. Despite seeming at first like something that might have been in league with the thing which we sought, they instead were being hunted by it. The relic helped soften them a little, from gravel to grit. They still had little love for us, but at least would allow us to pass on so long as we swore to help them and free their comrades who had been taken by the darkness. Threat, threat, rumbling. Dramatic fodder for my stories, but personally annoying and certainly the image of those that Rowan speaks against.

And so we passed on, searching out the tower and caverns they said would hold their people and perhaps our foe…

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Alisandre's Private Notes, #1

[[From the pages of Liss’s journal, personal notes of adventures from before being set into ballad, for potential later expansion and publication. The events within are more or less true. More or less.]]

[[chapter end mark from earlier writings of the journey to the town and meeting each person.]]

The morning chill in the quiet hamlet was bizarre, when hardly a hard day’s ride away in the capital people sweltered in a severely out-of-season spell. While there was no snow yet, the bite in the morning set crystal frost over the town. In that place the worries of a curse being upon the land were easy to believe indeed. We were hardly awake from our rest when we received a message calling upon us from their high priestess, who honored us by sharing her name of Rosemary.

We were received graciously in their grove, the center of their worship. Rowan was the focus of the holy woman’s scrutiny, of course, and had secrets of her order revealed in the dawning light. While I am unable to share them all, the most important and relevant was the existence of the most sacred of groves, somewhere to the East. Her lips were sealed by necessity, but she could at least indicate it lay to the East.

We spent the rest of the day gathering supplies for our return trip. Rowan herself gathered certain herbs with useful qualities in case of emergency. Our two defenders gathered what food would be necessary for the trip. I hunted the town myself for something to make the trip more enjoyable, finally settling upon a red from the Yulthis plains.. a rare find in such a small town.

When we set off the following morning, our plans hit a painful surprise. Once more the difference between the weather here and the weather in the capital came clear. The small boat that we used to first travel here to find Rowan was surrounded in ice! Too thick to cut through, we instead relied upon ingenuity and strength, creating a sled. Cole was the soul of knightly duty as he volunteered his warsteed to pull the boat and sled along until the air warmed unnaturally, breaking the ice enough for us to use.

The night was uneventful, and after a good meal and wine everyone settled to rest. I took the first watch, staring at the pure stars and wondering what the next day would bring. I had no idea how it would actually begin.

chapter end mark

We had hardly begun to start breakfast when our keen-witted priestess of forest felt something amiss. At her whispered warning Cole leapt onto his warhorse, followed as quickly by brave Frederick slipping into the brush and disappearing. Rowan scampered up the tree as easily as any squirrel. I steeled myself and waited for the invasion. From the bushes leapt three barbarians, their faces cruel and speaking of vile promise. They were so distracted by the thought of a single, to them helpless, lady that they missed any other thoughts.

It was the largest mistake of their lives, as Cole thundered down upon them. With one blow the head of their leader went flying past me. The next instant another went down from Frederick’s work. The last found an arrow in his shoulder from our Rowan, and then as he stumbled forward I introduced him to my sword and showed him that not all ladies are without their defense.

Cole and Frederick, experienced both, examined the barbarians to see if they could find out anything of them. But while they were uncultured, they were not without some base cunning. Or perhaps it was all at the hand of whatever fiend ruled them. No matter which, they had nothing to give clue to their home base, and so we had to continue our journey with little clue of where their camp was.

That day our travel was much harder. The river was driven mad by the mix of weathers and so had gone wilder than it was only a few days before. Cole rode his horse nearby on shore as he searched for any more signs of the barbarians, while Frederick and I fought to keep the boat on track and undashed. Noble Rowan spent the trip beseeching her goddess for protection and guidance, and I could swear that I felt the raft shift to currents that made no natural sense.

By the time we arrived in the capital, the heat had become worse than many summers. We were all glad for the soaking we’d been forced to receive on the way to fair Bjornar, truth be told. My boat was safely tied in place, and then we had a further upset, though one pleasing to many I am sure.

Pure, innocent Rowan removed much of her garb to combat the heat, dressed in little more than what a swimming child might. She had little understanding of the nature of the things less pure minds might think at her display. Eyes were pulled to her from all about, while Cole stood in quiet protection of her virtue. Experienced Frederick spoke of his concern for her moving in such a state, though was too gallant to speak frankly enough for Rowan to understand. It took a bit of careful bending of her ear to guide her into wearing something a little more for the next leg of our journey.

note in margins, ‘Get her something breezy and comfortable and a bit exotic to help keep her at ease and cool, and help set her own reputation’

Quickly enough we adjourned to my own home. There was no time for rest though. Cole went to spread word to the guard of the barbarians.

[[open page to be filled in with detail, and margin note, ‘Get information from Cole. It sounds as if it were partially successful, but I need more details. He got information on barbarians in the East, but who told him? How? What names can I sprinkle in?’]]

I led Rowan to my own personal library, not as extensive as many, but filled with scrolls about her order and related matters. We hoped to find some more hint of the sacred grove and how we might find it, but they were insufficient to answer our need. Hours of reading gave only dark hints that we would need some more forgotten source of knowledge to help our path.

Poor Frederick took the most painful path while the rest of us were at work, reacquainting himself with a city that he clearly had known once upon a time, but which changed in his absence. He encountered the righteous and their concerns of magic, understandable for people who did not know him and his restraint personally. He was turned from the library and sent back to us, trembling in frustration for the insults thrown at him, and the lack of respect given to someone who helped keep this land safe.

[[Another blank page for later filling in, and margin-notes: Skip us all returning to the library? Honestly, the tale reads better if we just go straight to the church rather than going back to the library only to argue for a minute and then leave as it closes. Perhaps say that we went straight to the church in our outrage against the library. Much better flow to the story that way.]]

I next guided our group to the church, in hopes that they might have some old esoteric knowledge lost to most. They immediately latched on to Rowan as an unbeliever, showering her with disdain that she in her innocence could not counter. I slipped in to divert their attention away from her, and cunningly pointed out that she might better learn more of the world and their own insights into it if they were to open their doors and shelves to her. In her depth of spirit and curiousity, she also offered to attend them and learn more of the One God on occasion as time allowed. Struck between my arguments and her grace in spirit, they allowed us to their most secret study chamber.

It is not mine to speak of what we learned there in detail, of Rowan’s own goddess and her history. Such things are private and only for her to speak of. But it confirmed our direction, to the East, and that the sacred grove would only open to a band in true need, good of spirit.

[[side-margin: Punch this up with prophecy? Later, so that I can tailor the prophecy to anyone else who we also pick up for that foreshadowing flair.]]

And so the night ended for most of our party now knowing our next stage. We were off to further in the East, to search for the barbarian stronghold and for the sacred grove. But for one of our group, the night had bare begun.

chapter end mark

[[ten blank pages and note: I need to find out how Frederick was outed as a mage again and captured, and what he was out doing. I should ask at dinner after I ask about Cole’s. I’d best loosen his tongue with wine first. Cole will probably just tell me what I ask, but Frederick is tempermental. Fill in this short chapter when I have his description, and maybe more rumors to temper]]

chapter end mark

In the morning we awoke unknowing of what befell our comrade. The morning was light and breakfast was calm between Cole and myself, when Rowan burst in from her morning rituals. Almost breathlessly she told us of the rumors that a wizard had been captured and drug off to be forcefully cleansed and purified of his sins. Though her view of the world was completely at odds with Frederick’s, she was hardly someone to hold a grudge against anyone. And so the three of us grabbed our gear and moved out to learn more of the situation.

At the city square there was no sign of the prisoner in stocks, but plenty of others had gathered under the watchful eyes of the guards to see what might happen. Cole slipped forward to the guards to have the true word without rumor. Bravely he admitted to being a friend of the person imprisoned. However, his previous day’s adventures served him in good stead. The King himself had heard of Cole’s quest to find the barbarians, and invited the company in to speak shortly with him.

[[blank page, side-note: Include glowing descriptions of the castle and King. Steal imagery from older works but rewrite it. Need to reinforce the general feelings and imagination of what each should look like to better tie in to expectations, and thus better fit what people are wanting.]]

The King himself was direct and to the point, as befit a man of so many duties. His concern for his people made him want to ask Cole directly about the barbarians, and his wisdom made him see to the dangerous possibilities of the matter, despite the unconcern of some of the guard. Still, he could hardly gather a force on nothing but one knight’s say-so. Instead he charged Cole to find these barbarians and bring back proof sufficient to the King. Further, he graciously commanded that Frederick be freed. Despite his own father’s death at the hands of a rogue wizard, he was willing to let Frederick live, if at the cost of exile.

And so our group was once more united.

chapter end mark

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