Well, since I'm currently on hold with my other story, waiting for more answers to my question, and I just couldn't sit by idly, I've decided to type in something I've seen less people attempt. Everyone's doing Baldur's Gate or Neverwinter Nights... I figured I'd do Icewind Dale.
Now, the proper disclaimer would be quite pointless from my point of view, since this is a "fanfic" which implies automatically that nothing here is mine alone.
I'm afraid you'll have to go through this -points below- and wait until next part before you actually meet the party of six that I'll be using through the storyline. As a side note... I don't think I'll ever find the desire to watch that introductory cinematic again... nearly 30 times in a row more than suffice. -nods, almost insanely-
"They say that history... is the greatest of all teachers," the man's voice said calmly. It was the balanced tone of a weary old storyteller, clouded in remembrance, someone who had nothing left to do with his life but preserve memories. He took small breaks once in a while, to breathe, but it was an expertly calculated procedure meant to preserve the suspense. The same as the emphasis he put into some of the words, and the contrasts he struggled to create between certain images and others.
"And that tales of past deeds define WHO we are in the present, and what we shall BE in the future," he added, the only readable expression in his well-chosen polished words remaining that of a thoughtful mind.
"It is said that such tales shall, with each telling, illuminate us all with the light of truth."
Even as he made his last statement, three white candles sprung up to life on the desk in front of him, one after the other – center, left, right, their small twinkling flames cast their weary light about.
"I shall tell you of such a tale," the voice continued, addressing an unseen audience, absent by all appearances. "It is a tale quite familiar to me, for I have spent nearly a lifetime piecing it together and chronicling it here... within this book."
Wind from an unknown source caused the small flames to shift, a game of shades and lights engulfing the book that lay closed on the desk, held together by the heavy press of iron bindings, only inches away from the candles. Its cover bore a strange sigla, that of a dead tree on the bluish background of harsh winter, contained within a rhombic frame.
"For years, I have pondered its passages, studying every line, committing EACH word to memory. Perhaps now, in the telling of it, I shall at last find the answers I seek."
The speaker himself remained out of the scene. Even his shadow kept away from the desk, the book, the candles; away from his own sight. Slowly, beginning with a creak, the cover swung to a side, and the book opened to reveal yellow pages, framed by an intricate gray model of dancing lines and squared spirals. The upper half of the first page was covered by a picture, a crude drawing of an imposing mountain peak dominating a smaller one at its side. Below, rows and rows of orderly calligraphic handwriting followed its own course in black ink with great care.
"Our story," the man's voice was quick to explain, "takes place in the northern region of Faerun known as Icewind Dale." The tranquil, steady pace was kept to perfection, the level of liveliness calibrated in its place. "It is a harsh, frozen land, cut off from the rest of the world by a wall of jagged peaks, called the Spine of the World."
The page turned, the same manner the cover had drifted away to reveal it, and made room for the next, on the same side. Again, there was a picture – but this one had life in it, insignificant and small though the forms may have been, compared to the wintry peak's majesty.
"For centuries," he described unfalteringly, "the icy plains of the dale have been home to the barbarian tribes of Uthgardt, and Reghedmen."
Another turn of the page, another picture uncovered to the dim candlelight. This one was the portraying of a family of such barbarians, sitting by their fire and conversing, as full of life as the small child playing nearby.
"Huddled together in small, closely knit tribes, the barbarians lived simple lives." The intonation was almost sympathetic towards that which was being spoken of, somehow managing to capture the exact simplicity that made the whole image so... homely. And so fitting to the description that followed – "Free, proud, and fiercely independent."
A break was taken, before the tone changed. The same image appeared with the next drift of the page, only now the family had turned to look at the cliff in the distance behind them. Watching them from the top, was a shady man on horseback.
"Until the day an Archmage named Arakon came to Icewind Dale," the voice explained to the nothingness, sobering up to match the new course the story took.
More riders appeared at the looming figure's side, and the distant rustling of many horseshoes pounding against the ground at once, then a faint scream of dismay, were heard in the background of the storyteller's next words – or maybe it was just in his memory? "With an army of mercenaries, Arakon sought to conquer the North and FORCE the fierce barbarians... into slavery."
A man who had collapsed to his knees at the side of his fallen comrades, while a huge fire burned their village in the background, had been caught lamenting about his losses.
"Long weeks of battle followed," the words flowed on, as the pages continued to turn, one after the other, struggling to depict what was being said and follow the course faithfully, "and the scattered barbarian tribes suffered terrible losses. Defeat... seemed inevitable."
"In their darkest hour," – a glint of hope marked the next words, while the pictures showed a great figure dominating his barbarian kin benevolently, and gathering them by his side – "a barbarian shaman named Jerrod came forth and demanded a council between all of the remaining tribes of the north. A renowned and reputed warrior, Jerrod persuaded the council to put aside their differences and unite against Arakon."
The men in the pictures were now hopeful again. Powerful again. They struggled anew, together.
"Strengthened by a new sense of purpose, the barbarians rallied behind their new leader. The combined might of the Northmen proved more than a match for Arakon, who had counted on the division of the tribes." The voice began to rise as it went on and on, to meet the new intensity of the story it was telling. "Wave after wave of barbarian warriors tore into Arakon's hired army, forcing them on the defensive, and ultimately, into full retreat."
Another page turned with a leaf-like flutter, and the view switched to the chaotic scene of a mage attempting to summon something huge, amid scattered groups of combatants. Hurrying to catch up, the man continued to speak. "As his army crumbled around him, Arakon had time for one last, DESPERATE act before his enemies descended upon him."
Terrifying demonic figures were shown in the book, immortalized halfway through their passage into the world as they came from beyond. "Drawing upon his remaining power, the Archmage breached the planar boundaries, tearing open a portal to the Lower Planes."
Strange sounds echoed hollowly yet again, from a very distant far-flung place, still without appearing more real than too vivid a memory... a simple recollection.
"The foolish Archmage's cries of victory immediately turned to shrieks of terror... as the hideous and twisted shapes of demonkind materialized from the portal and poured onto the battlefield. The sudden appearance of the demons drove the combatants, barbarian and mercenary alike, to turn to meet their new threat... side by side."
The voice grew aggravated, while the turning pages revealed scenes of bloodshed and horror, men rendered helpless in front of throngs of demons. "The remaining warriors bravely charged the portal to drive the hellspawn back..." it said, "...and were SLAUGHTERED... by the hundreds."
The view switched again, to follow a solitary man in his path, a corpse lying at his feet as he had been watching the battle from a higher vantage point. His head, however, was now hopefully turned to even greater heights. "As his people fell around him," the narration went on, "the barbarian shaman, Jerrod, looked up from the blood-drenched snow of the battlefield and caught sight of a lone figure high upon a ridge in the distance. Jerrod immediately recognized this vision as an omen from his god, Tempos. And, in that instant, he KNEW what had to be done."
More pages turned, to reveal dynamic images followed by rows and rows of more handwriting, but their expressibility was outmatched by the intensity the voice of the storyteller had now risen to. Almost as if he was witnessing it right then, the man went on, pure emotion seizing control of him. "Shouting cries to his god, he CHARGED through the ranks of the demons and PLUNGED into the portal!"
A gust of wind fleeted past the book, turning the next page even as the candlelight faltered for no longer than a second, in a hesitation so short that it seemed like an illusion. The scene had now closed in on the portal, and men were staring at it. A figure hovered in its center... tall... majestic.
"As Jerrod's blood fused with the energies of the portal, an explosion of white light engulfed the battlefield. When the light subsided, the demons were gone and the portal was closed. In its place... hovered a disk of solid stone. Frozen within the center of the disk was Jerrod's body, locked in his final moment of agony... in his final moment... of TRIUMPH. For all eternity."
The gust of wind grew stronger and gained in quickly, whistling. Suddenly, it all was black again; the candles had lost the fight.
"But that is not the end of our tale..." the voice persisted, alone in the dark. "It is... but the beginning."