Liliana, Crumbling Oppressor

Let’s move on to another one of the nu-Origin five walkers, one that takes on the role of Persecutor in our Karpman Drama Triangle. Here we dive into the seriously mentally ill persona of Liliana Vess, whom I can find numerous mental health parallels in history, most notably in John Nash, the famous Mathematician. In order for the Drama Triangle to arise, a person must take on the role of Victim or Persecutor. Our first example of this occurrence is between our focus character, Liliana, and future Victim, Jace Beleren. Persecutors typically blame everyone else for everything, insisting something is their fault. Persecutors are typically controlling (Liliana has successfully bent the Gatewatch to her desires), blaming, critical, oppressive, angry and superior (we know Liliana has a serious god complex stemming from her dabbling in the dark arts). Each participant in this triangle takes on their role by acting upon their own selfish needs – something Liliana has done since day 0.

Let’s begin.

Liliana grew up on the most important (arguably) plane in the multiverse, Dominaria. Her father was a general and ruler, possibly for the Forward Order (a load of chaps fighting some dark force, possibly Belzenlok’s cabal). She had a name for herself as a bit of a hussy (that’s slang for hoe), and because of daddy’s extremely high ranking profile, this would inevitably bring on family meetings of “you’re bringing shame to my name”. Liliana cared little of her reputation, so from her absolute origins, we’re told she pretty much doesn’t care about anyone or anything other than herself. We also discover she’s a somewhat gifted sorceress/wizard whatever you want to classify her as. Possibly a cleric, I guess? She learned the healing arts from a lass called Lady Ana, similar to Gideon’s Hixus, however being the blasé cleric that she was, she thought necromancy would assist in her healing career. It’s an odd parallel to draw between two opposites but then I know nothing of the dark arts or restoration so who am I to judge her conclusions. She wanted a shortcut to be better, because that’s just Liliana. The shortest and simplest solution is always best, a self-destructive behaviour that will follow her and essentially rule her life from this point onwards.

Her father’s enemies corrupted her brother Josu with some sort of curse. Now this is where a crackpot theory comes in. If indeed her father’s enemies were the cabal under the rule of Belzenlok, then it ties one of Liliana’s four demons into her storyline long before she makes her pacts with them. One might posit that Liliana’s life had already been woven by a scheme spanning her entire life. This leads her to a test by Lady Ana, which in turn leads her to the Raven Man. That leads her to Bolas, who then brokers the deals with her four demons, including Belzenlok, which then follows on to the Chain Veil storyline where the Raven Man then takes charge of her future interests. So whose scheme is Liliana’s life led by? Bolas, or this mysterious Lim DulRaven Man? Anyway, Lady Ana tells her she needs to acquire Esis root to cure her brother. Her father’s enemies have conveniently burned down the grove where this tree grows.

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She learns this when a curious man appears with the information. He then encourages Liliana to use her necromantic powers to revive the tree and make a potion out of it. Seems legit. It is at this point we can conclude Liliana is quite young and naïve, since undoubtedly a present day Liliana would have easily seen past this and probably let her brother die before raising him as a servant. Unfortunately Liliana loves her shortcuts, and loves to prove people wrong, so despite warnings from Lady Ana, she uses it on her brother. It cures him, but basically turns him into a shambling horror.

Pause.

A late teens early twenties girl, with little to no care for reputation or anyone but herself, zero desire for strict rules and guidelines, has taken her first massive shortcut. This in turn has forced her to witness her own family in a state of undeath, then forcing her to kill said undead brother. This is akin to you saying “damn the doctors” and giving your big sister cancer with the “best intentions”, then being forced to euthanize her. That is entirely fucked up, and very much easy to gloss over as a reader interpreting fantasy fiction. She sparks, and ends up on Innistrad – plane of zombies, stitched abominations and general gloom and doom horror. If any plane epitomises a person’s past nightmares, it is a perfect fit for Liliana. But she embraces it instead of running away. Despite her trauma she remains headstrong, it seems.

She studies under vampires and liches, becomes a master necromancer, but she stops short. They recommend she joins them in death fully to master necromancy, but the trauma of what her brother became stops her from fully committing to her path. She is not entirely without sense, and like Tezzeret, is living life by pure instinct for survival.

Eventually Sorin discovers she’s on Innistrad, and Sorin is a very old, very powerful and very solitary planeswalker that suffers no fools. He utterly stomps Liliana, to the point he deems her too paltry a threat to deal with. He allows her to be a guest on his home plane and play nice, or he’ll kill her. Just ask Nahiri how that goes. So the plane she’s adopted as her home is now yet another metaphorical set of rules that will remind her of her father. She returns to Dominaria after she’s confident she’s powerful enough to take on the Raven Man, but he miraculously escapes. Yet another failure for Vess.

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Between then and Ravnica, it’s revealed that the mending happened, and Liliana is no longer all powerful, or immortal. Being the vain, shortcut taker that she is, she mixes up with Bolas and brokers a deal with a demon for more power. She uses that deal to make another, and another until her soul is eventually beholden by no more than four demons. In exchange for youth and power, she must serve the demons, and this is where she gets her tattoos from, eternally reminder her and everyone else that Liliana sold her soul for life eternal.

After some time, Liliana becomes mixed in with Bolas’/Tezzeret’s Infinite Consortium, sort of as a freelancer I suppose. After Jace defects from the group, Liliana is tasked with tracking him down. She befriends Jace and his accomplice Kallist (whom Jace will later swap consciousness with), and then has an affair with Jace. She stays loyal to Jace through a number of bizarre happenings, including ye olde consciousness swap story. It’s then revealed she was using Jace in order to remove Tezzeret as the leader of the Infinite Consortium. Liliana had sold her soul to Nicol Bolas of all people (just ask Tezzeret how that went), and this was one of her many tasks.

Liliana is altruistic. She dislikes rules and regulations, but now finds herself under the thumb of a 25,000 year old elder dragon planeswalker, and four demons that lay claim to her soul. In true Liliana fashion, she has ideas on how she can most easily escape said deals in the bluntest ways imaginable, but she hasn’t quite had the push to get her ego that big yet. Enter Kothophed and the Chain Veil.

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Kothophed calls in a favour, and Liliana must obey. She’s sent to retrieve the Chain Veil, and ancient artifact from the now extinct Onnake civilisation on Shandalar. On her way, she’s attacked by one of Garruk’s Packleaders and kills it. My main man Garruk witnesses this, and decides she’s a target. Liliana retrieves the Veil and then Garruk attacks. Using the surprisingly powerful artifact, Liliana very easily sends Garruk on a Shandalar escape trajectory, and begins to muse at how much power is at her fingertips now. She wanders to a fortress on a random plane and utterly annihilates it, because the best way to test an artifact belonging to a race that is now entirely dead is to use it to wipe out another. She considers, and the urges to release herself from the thrall of Kothophed is too great, so she planeswalks and blast the demon to high hell. Her tattoos begin to bleed, which disturbs her somewhat. In true “simplest solution is best” she resolves that in order to make this pain stop, she’ll just kill the rest of her demons.

So, Liliana has gone from accidentally killing her brother with good intentions, to an egotistical maniac hell bent on returning her old power to her by any means necessary, even if it means permanently scarring her young but otherwise immortal body. That includes senselessly dispatching a demon that had a claim to your soul. Long term plans are not Liliana’s strong suit. Unlike Bolas, Liliana is a very short sighted, short term planner. What makes Liliana different from every other oldwalker is that she simply wants to be left alone to her own devices. While she doesn’t initially crave for the rule of planes or infinite power and wiping out all other rivals, she does want to live forever and be beautiful at that. She just wants to do what she wants as and when she decides to do it. Liliana Vess of origins is what we’d call a sociopath. Liliana Vess of post mending is what we call a psychopath. The key difference? Sociopaths don’t know what they’re doing is wrong. Psychopaths do, they simply don’t care.

Concerned by the bleeding of her tattoos, the Chain Veil, and her fate thus far, she returns to the plane of the Onnake. She resurrects the body of an old wise man who knew of them. The town is none too pleased with a necromancer, and do what any other old time populace would do: they chase her into a pile of wood (a barn) and burn it down. The man she raised begins speaking cryptic riddles about Liliana while preventing the flames from taking her. Just as she’s about to release her body to the sweet abyss, the corpse is revealed to actually be the Raven Man. He uses what appears to be the same potion as the one Liliana used on her brother, and her tattoos all turn the same colour and she is healed. In typical grateful Liliana fashion, she thanks the Raven Man by stabbing him and planeswalking away with the Chain Veil. I mean, stabbing your saviour is a bit of a dick move.

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Liliana, enthralled by her experience decides to annihilate some more demons because she doesn’t have a better idea right now. She heads back to Innistrad to kill Griselbrand but can’t find him since he’s stuck in the Helvault. Garruk shows up and tries to splat her, but Innistrad isn’t short of local meatshields, so she sends a few dozen zombies to keep the guy occupied and escapes. At this stage Garruk is simply a nuisance in comparison to her other problems. Like a big, meaty bad penny with an axe the size of a tree. She heads to Thraben for answers while its under siege by the duo Gisa and Geralf. Mikaeus the Lunarch has already been killed in the battle, and so with her usual respect for the fallen, Liliana raises him from the dead to get her answers. She learns of the Helvault.

Flavourfully black cannot do anything to artifacts unless your name is Geth. It can however demand sacrifices. Liliana casts a spell that forces Thalia, the acting commander of the defence of Thraben, to either sacrifice her soldiers, or crack open a cold one the Helvault. Being the white-white character she is, Thalia smashes open the vault and all the demons (and Avacyn) are freed. Oh and Nahiri. Yeah, you can blame memerakul on Lilana kind of. Liliana tracks down big old G, slaughtering everything in her path (including angels, Liliana really hates angels). Using the Chain Veil, Griselbrand is no more. Easy? Nope.

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The Chain Veil starts whispering to her, and this is when our all-powerful necromancer begins to remind me of the woes that beset John Nash. Now John Nash was a peculiar bloke in the beginning, but he was also a mathematical prodigy. This led him to massive success in his field, but the guy strived for more. Eventually people began approaching him for some pretty wild and exotic uses of his services, and wanting more to his life than occasionally teaching and working on cryptography, he agreed. This went on for many years, until eventually he was committed. It turned out that all these years, he had been working for people in his mind, doing jobs that didn’t exist, even imagining up his own roommate who he talked to and about to others frequently. He was utterly convinced that these people were real for years. Imagine having a best friend for a decade and then being told he didn’t exist. After stints in an out of psychiatric help, he maintained his sharp intelligence, but was besieged on a daily basis by his own brain, trying to convince him these people were real and these tasks he wanted to work on were a fabrication. Now, John Nash wasn’t aware of this until somebody else told him and convinced him. He had work colleagues, doctors, and a wife. Liliana has nothing, nobody. She’s hearing voices from the Chain Veil, she keeps seeing this Raven Man, so she’s convinced that the spirits in the Veil are real, and the Raven Man is some kind of planeswalking capable asshole of some kind. Like John Nash, Liliana is powerful, driven, and convinced of herself.

She heads back to Shandalar to find her own answers. She’s then confronted by an angel guarding the entrance and basically melts the thing, all the while it mumbles than Liliana has become a vessel of the Onnake spirits wanting to release themselves. She then has a vision of the Onnake’s extinction event, again seeing the Raven Man as an architect of their destruction. She indicates to the spirits talking to her that she’d quite like to learn such a spell. Her cockiness only grows from this point. She reaches the alter where she found the veil, but her own body refuses to put it back. She raises an Onnake skeleton to obey her command to return the artifact, but it also refuses to comply. Upon de-animating the skeleton, it throws the veil back onto her. By now Liliana should probably recognise when her body is being hijacked. An Onnake spirit materialises in front of her and tells her she’s the vessel of the veil of deceit. She tries to kill the spirit using the Chain Veil, and at long last realises that the thing is slowly damaging her body. Mentally defeated, she planeswalks away. For once, Liliana accepts her fate. Briefly.

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She heads back to Jace to manipulate her Victim once more, trying to persuade him to help her kill her two final demons. Back to that old chestnut. He’s angry with the way she dealt with Garruk at this stage however, as he and Nahiri have separately tried to help the cursed beast master. She invites Jace to dinner, but it’s interrupted by Gideon begging for help on Zendikar. Jace immediately accepts, and then Liliana moans how he’ll spare time for his friends but not his wife – in essence. She’s furiously jealous that somebody else can manipulate him to their every whim. Jace informs her bluntly, that Gideon asked nicely, whereas Liliana tried to seduce him. Liliana’s façade begins to crumble from here on, and when a chronically narcissistic person loses the power of their fake front, things begin to unravel. They begin to see a need to reaffirm their role to themselves and others. As a necromancer and narcissist, Liliana is beginning to develop a god complex, and the combined presence of the Chain Veil and the coming Emrakul are only too keen to feed it.

Back on Innistrad Liliana is sulking in her mansion. Jace tries to escape two werewolves after arriving on the plane, and Liliana uses some zombies to drive them off. Jace informs her that he’s searching for Sorin, and being a human of pure survival, Liliana warns Jace that that may not be such a good idea. Jace goes to the manor, goes a bit insane, and then returns to blame Liliana for everything that happened. He tries to break her brain a bit, but the Raven Man that is quite obviously inside her head protects her and tells her to kill Jace. As it happens, the Raven Man is quite afraid of Jace, because of course he’s a mind mage, and might find him lurking inside Liliana’s head should he delve too deeply. Liliana then tries to get some generic geistmage to exorcize the Onnake spirits from the Chain Veil with a witchbane orb, but unsurprisingly it does sweet F.A. Honestly at this point she’s desperate, and I think even she didn’t believe it would work, but she’s willing to try anything to escape attachments to anything. Vess just doesn’t like to be tied down, unless it’s with Jace’s cloak. Giggity.

Emrakul arrives, and the Gatewatch and Thraben are under attack by masses of Eldrazi horrors. Convincing herself that she doesn’t need Jace, Liliana tells herself that she needs the Gatewatch to need her, so that she can use them to kill her final two demons. Realistically both of these are true. She’s desperate, but also an Oppressor. A team of four young neo-walkers are probably just as easily impressed upon as she was when she was younger. Equally four mages with their own specialties are a handy tool for killing demons and not getting your hands too dirty. That is how an Oppressor sees these people – tools. Liliana raises a colossal army of zombies to drive back the horrors and Emrakul, she even thinks so highly of herself that she can take on the titan, calling herself Innistrad’s “Last Hope”. As it turns out, she quickly learns that the Chain Veil isn’t quite that powerful, and Emrakul begins to overpower her. The Chain Veil as well as the Raven Man pretty much begs her to escape with her life, thinking that they can’t possibly win against this thing. Multiple personality disorder aside, Liliana chooses her own fate. Miraculously Emrakul uses Tamiyo to seal herself into Innistrad’s moon and the whole group survives. Jace asks Tamiyo to join the Gatewatch (she thankfully declines) and instead, as second choice, they ask Liliana to join. That worked out well didn’t it Vess? She agrees to their childish terms, knowing full well she has no intention of following their code unless it happens to coincide with some demons.

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Liliana is short on patience however, and has a subtle distaste for wasting time on things that don’t concern her. The Kaladesh story comes to fruition, and Liliana notes a possibly entry into the good books of the highly impressionable and entirely chaotic Chandra Nalaar. The arrival of Dovin Baan triggers Chandra’s fury at the Consulate on her home plane, and Liliana plays on it. She takes Chandra under her wing, concealing the usual Oppressor tendencies, and instead takes on a role of Rescuer. She encourages Chandra to share her story, and then tells Chandra she should take revenge on Baral, Emperor Palpatine style.

They come across Tezzeret and Liliana pretty much flips her lid. She tells Chandra that Tezz is dangerous (and we know he’ll do just about anything to survive, same as Liliana), and they need to retreat. The rest of the Gatewatch arrive and scald Liliana for flying off with Chandra so fleetingly. Not wanting to risk her importance in the group, she heads back to her favourite tool and vouch man Jace, convincing him and Gideon to come to Kaladesh. Basically Jace will stick up for her when she does Liliana things. Who needs to convince a team themselves when they can have the defacto leader do it for them?

They join forces with the rebel scumrenegades and take on the consulate, blowing up some ships, confronting Tezzeret in the arena, only to have him escape and rob all the inventions from the fair. Liliana dispatches some troops rather too permanently for Gideon, he moans, but she snaps back at him as though he were a naïve child. You were like him too Vess, at some stage. She says she needs to strike at Tezzeret directly, because he won’t fight fair. She reveals that she’s a little more than weak in the knees for Jace, and wants to hurt Sucker-T for hurting Jace all those years ago. Liliana has somehow grown empathy. She heads off with Saheeli and finds Rashmi, the creator of the planar bridge, and brings her back to the renegades. The Gatewatch are now aware that Tezzeret has interplaner travel tech.

She convinces Gids to let her take on Tezzeret, as a cunning distraction for the Gatewatch to destroy the Planar Bridge. Suddenly she opts to use undead minions to “scare away” the consulate soldiers instead of killing them, leading us to briefly believe she’s taking the Gatewatch’s non-lethal approach some serious consideration. She makes it to Tezzeret and they then commence the most underwhelming planeswalker battle in the history of Magic™. Tezzeret initially believes Bolas sent Liliana to check on his progress. He then informs him He then tells Liliana Bolas is hidden on Amonkhet, where her third demon Razaketh is located. Before she can finish him off, the Gideon-Chandra missile hits and blows the whole fucking spire to bits. Tezzeret escapes with the core of the planar bridge. Liliana then suggests they head straight to Amonkhet to take Bolas on without giving him chance to prepare. What she actually means is, come to this god forsaken plane so I can kill my demon and escape while you all get fisted by the most powerful (known) planeswalker in the multiverse.

On Amonkhet more Chain Veil shenanigans ensue. Liliana gets eaten by a giant worm, but reveals to the Gatewatch that she used the Chain Veil to decompose the worm from the inside. What actually happened was the Raven Man assumed control over her body to prevent her death, using the power of the Chain Veil to kill it. They come across the gods, and the city of Naktamun, and she takes note of the mummified servants. She also derides the gods, as the only gods she knew were hubristic planeswalkers. She should know, she was one of them pre-mending.

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The Gatewatch continues with the story, while Liliana… gets fed grapes and uses the mummified servants to her advantage. The Raven Man returns, warning her that she had gotten soft. The voice inside her head has noticed her change from egotistical psychopath to egotistical psychopath with a developing conscience. Jace approaches and he vanishes again, hoping to avoid his cover being blown. They follow one of Liliana’s shades and discover Razaketh’s true involvement in the afterlife and the plane itself. The mummies set upon them and they escape.

The gate opens when the Second Sun rests between Bolas’ horned statue, and Razaketh is revealed. This demon is vastly more powerful than the previous two. He can assume direct control over Liliana’s body (it’s become the town bicycle at this point). It’s a brutal reminder that Liliana is never truly free until every person involved in her soul’s enslavement is ended. He toys with her, but the Gatewatch come to her aid. They distract her long enough to raise some undead crocodiles and tear apart and eat the demon. It’s noted viscerally that Liliana actively relishes the act of consuming the demon via the animals she has raised, and brings us back to the harsh reality that despite all the pretence, Liliana is still cracked mentally. Bolas appears, whips the Gatewatch’s collective asses, and gives Liliana the option to betray her friends and await his command, or die. Liliana is a being of selfish desires, but most importantly, the raw desire to simply survive. She escapes, with other members of the Gatewatch as witnesses to her betrayal. A harsh reminder that she is not allowed attachments to potential Rescuers, and any attempts to do so will be met by harsh consequences. It’s also a blunt reminder that she is still at the mercy of Bolas and her remaining demon, Belzenlok.

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She planeswalks to Dominaria to kill her final demon. As a writer, I am fully aware that the death of Belzenlok may not yield the results she hopes; in fact things may only grow more complicated for our psychopathic Oppressor. She is so singularly focused on one goal; she cannot see the forest for the trees. The only solution to the actors of the Drama Triangle is to deprive them of their payoff. Liliana’s superiority is crumbling, her authority is waning in the face of multiple actors within the group, and the blame has shifted significantly since their encounter with Bolas. Liliana’s role as an Oppressor is coming to an end. Three solutions remains – she leaves the triangle as a better person, she becomes a Victim, or, most likely, she ceases living.

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Gideon, Walking Hubris

As with any dysfunctional family there are three main psychological profiles. We have our Persecutor (See: Liliana, Bolas, Nixilis), our Victim (See: Jace, Chandra), and our Rescuer (Gideon, Nissa). Each of these roles within a family are acceptable within certain parameters, however the triangle can become one of extremes, where each personality can become toxic, a situation which I believe our Gatewatch has already reached. The first profile we’re going to run with is that of our Rescuer and most bland empty hero within the modern storyline: Gideon Jura, or as he was once called, Kytheon Iora.

Gideon’s origin story sets him up as a fairly interesting character with deep potential character arcs, however in some of the earlier stories and within some of the more recent stories, he has comically been referenced as “meatslab” both by the writers and the readers. The general consensus is that the most hate is directed towards Jace; however I find my own distaste quickly honing in on Magic’s most one-dimensional character besides ol’ Ob Nixilis. Recent stories including the fight against Emrakul indicate an internal conflict with Gideon, struggling to deal with his past, however every other piece of writing indicates that he has about as much personal depth as a potato.

In the Karpman drama triangle, the Rescuer’s typical line is “Let me help you”, very much orientated in the “my line of thinking is correct and if you could just see things my way and follow me everything will be better”. Rescuer’s feel implicit guilt if they are not able to rescue someone, yet their incessant behaviour has dire effects. It keeps the Victim role dependant on them as a Rescuer (which we see with Chandra throughout the story), and also gives a Victim permission to fail. Fundamentally, the act of rescuing a Victim moves the focus from them to the Victim – this in turn allows them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. The pivotal role of being a Rescuer is that their primary interest is in avoiding their own issues. The Victim enables the Rescuer and vice versa, until a point when either reduces their profile in said roles. When this occurs with the Victim, the Rescuer will still relentlessly pursue issues with a victim to enable themselves.

Sound familiar?

How did old meatslab become such a toxic white aligned character? As with any other psychological profile: childhood trauma.

Kytheon Iora

Wizard’s had a strange obsession with removing any historical information on most Origins walkers, and I mean OG walkers, before the nu-Origins stories started. Jace fled Vryn with no mention of family at all due to memories being erased, at least until recently with the stories mentioning a red-headed mother. Liliana killed her brother. Ajani found enlightenment following his brother’s death and the inability to integrate with his tribe. Sorin was ageless like his grandfather who thus far has been handwaved away as “being on Innistrad”, no mention of anyone else. Nissa, well, she had quite the number of retcons from her origins to her nu-origins, but little was mentioned. Chandra’s parents were assumed dead (now we’ve had a reunion and her mother conveniently telling her to get the hell off Kaladesh because she should explore (actually she did tonnes of damage and for Christ’s sake just go away and take your meddling kid friends with you)). What of Gids? Well his father left before he was born, and his mother died when he was “young”. A convenient subplot to allow an Origins Five walker to roam the Multiverse unanchored by such troubles as family. It’s also a fairly good starting point for childhood trauma, since growing up with no parents has a tendency to affect one’s moral character.

But noooooo, not our puritan child Gids. Little Kytheon joined a gang and became it’s leader, encouraging them to do good-bad things instead of bad-bad things. Steal from the rich and give to the poor, Wizard’s took a fairly hefty leaf out of Robin Hood’s book to make early Gideon some sort of saint in the making. This is usually a pretty difficult kind of character to build without some outside influence, but the plot corrects itself by providing one in Hixus, the Prison Warden. This is where I can only describe Gideon as a Scottish Sheepdog (or Border Collie if you prefer) – highly energetic, intelligent, but mostly problematic if you don’t focus their unending energy to do things constantly.

Scratch that, Gideon has no intelligence to observe.

Mini meatslab kept trying to escape, so our teacher of humble origins arrives to put our boy back on his path Karate Kid style. Only instead of Judo chops, he gives the damn boy a whip made of blades and death, like the ultimate papercut sword from Eldrazi hell. Nothing screams hieromancy and justice like rending your flesh to shreds. Hixus recognised that our lad with the personality of a peanut was probably a planeswalker, and when Gids walked to Bant and back, that was the point when he decided to gift him his old master’s weapon of whirling death. As it turns out Hixus’ old master was a planeswalker too, a Hieromancer no less, and this is where the plot neatly ties in Gideon and Chandra. Hixus tells supermeatboyman that his old master was killed by a pyromancer. Hoh boy do I hope it was Jaya Ballard. Anyway, onto the deep and meaningful story before Gideon becomes a faceless cog in the machine of colours.

Gideon is now Indestructible. Because the well-known issue of “Superman” characters isn’t a well detailed subject on how not to write a character.

The city ends up under attack; Hixus frees the prisoners willing to defend the place, including Gideon (still called Kytheon at this point). Gideon saves the day (supah-Gids) with his old pals the Irregulars. Heliod, the God of all things white then champions him and gives him his spear to defeat Erebos’ Titan. Using the spear Gideon succeeds (of course…), and then he gets a bit cocky. It’s at this point that in most Hercules plots, the young lad wizens up and humbles himself. Not in this case. Gids, with his newfound big balls decides to throw the spear at Erebos…

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Ya dun goofed.

Erebos redirects it and kills all the Irregulars. HAH. Gideon is shocked and appalled. SHOCKED I SAY. He planeswalks away to Bant to hide his shame and become a faceless soldier, his default setting in all things. The locals can’t say Kytheon Iora for some reason so he gets called Gideon Jura. Remember in my last article we were talking about name’s being of significant psychological influence? We’ll this is just one neat way of running away from one’s past.

Now we delve into canon but not canon but half confirmed The Purifying Fire. Now references were made to this book in recent stories, but this is basically where Gideon meets up with a big bad pyromancer and she very conveniently confirms how reckless and dangerous they are. It then becomes a story of misunderstanding and a whole lotta death actually, as well as a whacky trip to Diraden that follows a similar plot to Raiders of the Lost Ark – essentially Gids and Chandra dick about with cunning plans and stuff but they don’t really matter in the end, and despite the constant reminder that Chandra doesn’t have access to her mana, she somehow casts a spell anyway and kills the glorious leader Prince Velrav.

The plot is a bit boring (like Star Wars Episode I with trade negotiations), but we notice a link between Gideon being a member of an order called the Order of Heliud (geddit, Heliod?), which shows the evil side of white. Essentially Chandra wanders about causing mass destruction accidentally on purpose and just sorta whoopsies a few buildings and living beings, all the while Gideon watches in his typical judgemental fashion. They get close, serendipitous mistakes are made. Gideon ends up taking her to see the head of the Order, Walbert. Walbert goes on about his magical Purifying fire and how she needs to confess all her sins or it’ll burn her alive.

Gideon sends her down the stairs to the cave with Walbert in it and walks away; assuming things will totally go fine.

PLOT ARMOUR STRIKES AGAIN, IT’S SUPER EFFECTIVE.

Things do not go fine.

Purifying

Miraculously Chandra bears all to the Purifying fire about her being responsible for the death of her family (she’s technically lying because this information is later retconned. Purifying Fire cannot in fact break the fourth wall and cross reference with later information). So she doesn’t die. Instead she gets filled with a bunch of superpowers and obliterates the whole fucking cave and the temple above, killing everyone but herself. Gideon runs in and sees her passed out, and says he’ll let her live if she leaves and never comes back.

So a pyromancer, whom he was warned about, destroys Gideon’s second chance at being in a stable position within a mostly evil (but white!) but well-ordered group. Being the super nice guy he is, he lets said person leave. Welcome to the budding Victim-Rescuer relationship. But he doesn’t just like to Rescue people, oh no. It’s gotta be bigger than that. Meatslab whiteboy wants to rescue some planes. Two at a time no less. He follows Chandra’s trail to Zendikar because he misses the chaotic child because reasons. He witnesses the release of Memerakul and then fucks off to Ravnica to find a group of planeswalkers on Ravnica that can help.

But… a group of planeswalkers on Ravnica doesn’t exist yet. So I don’t really know where he heard this idea from. Regardless, he stays on Ravnica and finds the Boros. Yet another delightful White group he wants to align himself with because Gideon just needs that strong and stable leadership to point him in a direction and apply some good old white liberty to anyone looking in dire need of “correction”. He discovers over time that the red aspect of the Boros is somewhat alarming to him, so he considers buggering off with the Gateless (people without a guild) so he can be a pariah-on-a-pedestal for them instead.

It’s at this point I begin to wonder just how easily the Nazi regime might have been able to recruit our indestructible peanut of a planeswalker. Frankly, at this stage, Gideon was one heil away from “just following orders”.

In typical Gideon fashion, he continues to try and save the poor people of Multiverse all at once. He’s fighting two fronts on Zendikar and Ravnica because he thinks he’s the only important planeswalker in the universe. And to him, frankly, the entire universe needs a bit of Gideon in its life.

In all his travels, he has clearly not come across the word hubris. (If he did, he probably tried to rescue it).

Aurelia

Within the Zendikar storyline a great many things happen, mainly to Gideon’s ego. First he goes to recruit Jace and Chandra. Jace accepts, Chandra doesn’t. They arrive just in time to see Sea Gate get banana’d. Gids rescues Jori En in hopes that she can help Jace. Those two bugger off to The Eye of Ugin while Gideon stays behind and builds and army of survivors. Hubris kicks in, and he decides to go on the offensive and take back Sea Gate. This. Fucking. Guy. Kiora, a female blue-green aligned Gideon in the making arrives and help Gids and Co. drive the Eldrazi scum from the city. Nissa also helped because creative needed a way to shoehorn her in gently. They all party hard, fuelled by Gideon’s inherent cockiness. Basically Gideon has surrounded himself with people of his own ideals, a self-made echo chamber. Then Ulamog arrives, and despite a magical plan made by the planeswalkers and various legendary characters being thrown around, as well as an epic tentacle punch by Gideon, Kozilek comes to help the nearly-trapped Ulamog and wrecks shit. Even Kiora, asshole number two, who also thought she could take on a god, gets a lesson when her precious sea monster gets sautéed by Kozilek.

Ob Nixilis released Kozilek and comes in a wrecks the three planeswalkers despite Gideon being…well, indestructible. He tortures them, two dimensional bond villain style, and Chandra comes in a coolwhips the demon’s ass. Nixilis leaves “I’ll get you next time gadget” style.

Then the enormous travesty of the OGW storyline happens and the four of them kill two Eldrazi titans even after Kiora does a pre-revision Nissa and is all like “let ‘em go guys! They’ll just run away!” They each pledge oaths to over exaggerate their capabilities to the entire multiverse from that moment on, and Gideon essentially makes himself a defacto leader alongside Jace.

Are you absolutely sick of him yet? It’s OK he gets a slap on the wrist soon, and, well… penetrated.

Defeat
That’s his “oh” face.

The team gets a lesson on how they can’t use the same tactic twice, and Gideon soon discovers that while he is indestructible, he is not, in fact, a wall. They get overrun by Eldrazi horrors on Innistrad after a long and lengthy emo storyline involving another two childish white aligned planeswalkers. Liliana comes along and rescues them all, kind of, while Jace does the actual rescuing, following by Tamiyo doing the actual actual rescuing. Basically Emrakul seals herself while forcing the Gatewatch to live through their nightmares. Gideon’s? Watching his irregulars get pistol whipped by Erebos as she asks him what his goddamn issue is. Gideon asks Tamiyo if she would like the pleasure of joining their entirely flawless and cringe inducing team, and she sensibly declines. Instead we get Liliana. Gids is none too happy, but even representation of colour identities dictates we needed a black aligned character in the Gatewatch.

Kaladesh happens, Chandra and Gids get close, as do Nissa and Chandra. We see potential for an awkward love triangle but then it’s gently written away. Gids and Chandra become an explodey missile (no really, literally a missile), and then they recruit Ajani cause he knows these damn kids need a lesson in humility. Immediately after recruiting a big lion dude, one of the only two people that has defeated Nicol Bolas, they then ignore the lion man’s suggestion that they don’t take Nicol Bolas head on. Jace and Gideon dude bro a bit together and suggest they should go to Amonkhet and slap about a dragon. I mean, they killed two Eldrazi titans and nearly got reduced to Eldrazi mush in their last battle. What could possibly go wrong?

Amonkhet focuses more on developing Gideon but only succeeds in spectacularly outlining all the issues we’ve already come to the conclusion of ourselves. Gideon “witnesses” Oketra (shiny and chrome) and decides to throw himself into yet another very neat, strong and stable system, and takes the five trials. Yet another god of a plane takes a liking to him, and Oketra talks to him a bit. He then joins a crop with Dejuru and badmouths the black god Bontu, because nothing bad ever happened when you fucked with a black aligned god amirite Gids? You tool.

Cruel

He does the challenge and it turns out to be horrifying for our precious meatslab and his morals. Instead of bitch slapping Gideon for his insolence in refusing to take part in the trials, Bontu simply says he’s a jerk for judging a culture he never grew up in. The guards and the god restrain him, despite only a few stories before he was able to punch back the tentacle of an Eldrazi god. Power creep recedes in the story at last, I guess. Gideon continues to interfere, and when the Gatewatch is dumped a giant battle with all their powers subdued, he throws himself in front of Hazoret’s spear to stop Dejuru from receiving his final reward. Yet another person (Hazoret) tells him he isn’t a god, and that he’ll die by the hands of an immortal. At last some good news. Sadly he isn’t killed by Bolas, but the dragon does manage to penetrate through his indestructible barrier with his claw and tell him to get off his sandy lawn.

When I think of Gideon now, all I can hear him saying is “muh freedoms” while applying his sural of democracy to a savages face.

MTG Flash Fan Fic – Protean Raider

He swung the jacket round his shoulders and looped his right arm through the sleeves, pushing the door open with one shoulder as he pushed his left arm in. He wanted any onlookers to notice signs of a tussle, to see that he had come out the victor, his curious siren stalker unable to get a good drop on him. The jacket itself was a perfect fit, but then he could always grow a shrink a small amount to ensure the smallest details were impervious to scrutiny. He had entered the bar a Siren, wearing the Screamer’s colours in a slightly underplayed fashion to avoid slinging the blame too obviously to the overworked and underperforming frigate’s crew. He had seen the Siren a few days before, passed out in a pit not too far from a ferocidon hot spot. Thus far everything had gone swimmingly, and the body of the captain’s clothes he now wore sat bundled up in a barrel out back.

The captain ran a tight ship of formidable fighters, crewing a ship built to withstand a seven day pummelling of eight pound cannon fire and still come out of it able to sail. If they wanted to take the Defiant, a battle was the least favoured option. Every damn captain on the seas wanted to wrest control of such a fine vessel. Instead they had employed his services as a shifter, to take the captains place and quite formally shift command over to the forces in the Black Heart coalition. There would no doubt be bumps along the way – pirates were not a particularly orderly kind, but he was confident he could slip into the role. Playing a captain was always a healthy trip for the ego.

He brushed off his shoulders, flicking away a few errant spatters of blood and hair while scanning the room for glaring eyes. He scratched at his neck – he had always hated the human desire to grow the most ostentatious and ridiculous beards. That’s when a pair of eyes caught his eye. A woman sat on her own, two beers sat adjacent to her in a curiously perfect horizontal line. She was staring right at him.

That’ll be my first mate.

He strode over; sure to briefly flash a yellowing grin of hard won victory, arms pumping with authority. She simply flicked an eyebrow at him, rolling her eyes towards a slowly closing entrance door.

His heart hastened. This one might be a challenge.

He sat down without saying a word, eyes intently locked on hers. They seemed particularly hypnotic for a human. Deep and brilliantly blue. He looked down at the drinks in front of him, unsure which one was his as they had been laid out equal distance from each other, both central to the two sitting.

You’re a captain, you drink what you please.

He scooped up a mug and sunk half of it down his throat. Proteans had an ornate ability to consume anything necessary and dump it later. They couldn’t get drunk anyway.

“Captain.” A forced smile cracked the edges of her mouth. “Have you decided how we’re going to handle the attempt on our ship?”

“That Siren, under his jacket I saw Screamer colours. No doubt they’ll send more, and they won’t be the only ones either. We should quietly set sail this evening under the late fog. No witnesses.”

She nodded her head at an angle, eyes closing as she did it, a typical human response showing confirmation.

“I’ll inform the bare minimum of the crew. Best the eager mouthed ones remain ignorant.”

“This is why you’re in charge.” He responded, sloshing his drink in her general direction.

She still hadn’t taken a sip of hers, and seemed visibly frustrated at his reaction to the situation. Was he being too blasé?

Nonsense, a captain would do as he pleased and show absolute control of the situation.

“Ease up; no one has ever beaten the Defiant or her crew. Make preparations. We are not so easily swindled.” He motioned her away.

She huffed a brief laugh and stood to inspect the surroundings before leaving. She grabbed the full mug she had left, downed the lot and stomped out of the bar.

We’re on.

***

He hammered down the pier towards the Defiant, and could see the crew already making preparations to set sail. The night was dark and the clouds had lifted, but the fog from the mainland had settled low. It was bitterly cold and his boots were stiffening around his feet. He shrunk them down a little to ease the pressure.

“Captain on deck!” His first mate shouted to the crew, her hair now bundled up, her simple uniform now switched for light leather battle gear. She was prepared for a battle that would never come.

The rest of the crew stood to attention while a select few rushed around to drop the sails and throw off the lines. Most of them were heavily armed save for a small number of deck hands. His first mate had her hands on her hips, eager to execute his first order.

“Set sail for the port of Carner.” He boomed, eyes fixed on the dark slick ocean ahead of them.

“The Black Heart Coalition eh?” His first mate smiled with one half of her mouth, eyes locked to the same point. “You’ve always been so keen to emulate their success.”

“Imitation is the sincerest form of piracy.” He harkened back.

A job well done.

“That is why the Defiant remains so difficult to capture.” She sternly uttered back.

She slowly slid her cutlass from her belt, and the rest of her crew turned and did the same.

“Mutiny?!” He spat. “I’ll not accept-“

As his words trailed off the entire crew transformed, the façade dropping away as their human bodies revealed beings of pure blue energy.

His mouth hung.

Proteans.

All of them.

Tezzeret the Sucker

It occurred to me this morning that an awful lot of very big things are happening between very big characters and personalities. It thus becomes very easy for us (and MTG Story) to gloss over some of the more nitty gritty behind the characters that are slaving away in the background with zero recognition. In some cases, we care very little about their mental health and the stresses a human is subjected to when you’re at the mercy of the whims of multiversal threats with exceedingly erratic power levels and schemes spanning thousands of years. I speak of course, about Tezzeret, whom my playgroup fondly refers to as Tezzeret the Sucker (a reference to his foreign Seeker print) and his general ability to fail painfully at everything. He is MTG’s Worf from Star Trek: TNG. There were frequent grumblings about his characters sanity, or lack thereof, in the Kaladesh storyline. In short his mental stability was like that of a finely sautéed potato that had been left to the elements for several days, mashed together with days old vegetation to create some kind of abhorrent edible mess. Strictly speaking, his emotional range is fairly comparable to the texture of bubble and squeak. He is a well and truly broken and aging man, and no matter how much he may want to end it all, it was made quite clear that death was not such an easy way out.

People kept saying he was out of character in Kaladesh. Let me inform you how he got this way.

Sanity: 100

Liliana Vess, Jace Beleren, Nicol Bolas, even non-planeswalkers like Toshiro Umezawa. Notice how nearly every damn primary and most secondary characters have surnames? So can you tell me what Tezzeret’s is? Can you even tell me what his real first name is? Tezzeret isn’t even his actual name, it’s just slang he got from the cesspits he was brought up in, and even that title merely refers to him as a weapon. So not only is he the only Planeswalker without a surname, he’s also the only Planeswalker born without any name at all, allegedly.

Pistol whip for -1

Sanity: 99

Oh, his mother was a prostitute.

Sanity: 95

Then she died when he was seven and he had to help his abusive father clear the street of her corpse.

A minor setback to one’s state of mind. A cool -10?

Sanity: 85

Following on from the abuse from his father, he soon exceeded his father’s ability in salvaging metal, and unfortunately became the brawn of their paltry operation. His father was lazy, so Tezzy would steal some metal for himself and receive a thrashing as and when he was caught. He used said thrashings to aid him in stealing yet more metal. It’s also noted that while he rose the ranks in his little gangs, he murdered the mother of anybody who crossed him. That’s an interesting interpretation of emotions when dealing with the loss of a parent. I mean that’s only mildly psychopathic right? In the grand scheme of things this is relatively small fry for what our little lad has yet to do to the multiverse. Did I mention he hid some of the etherium he salvaged in his groin?

Walking around with magical metal floating inside your pork and beans. -10

Sanity: 75

Sucker-T is still doing OK.

He spends years learning an awful lot about artifice, and his rhabdomancy (the ability to find metal) helps him rob people’s stashes of etherium for his own diabolical ends of… a good education! At last our little psycho-scrapper has admirable goals in life. He was a baller, and completed most of his training in a third of the time. He becomes thrifty and shows great promise to his teachers and chops off his arm. Oh yeah, he wanted to do this ever since he was a child. I mean who didn’t think of lopping off a limb and replacing it with metal stolen from corpses when they were kids. Life goals my friends. The Guild heads notice this and think he’s a top notch guy and fast track him to master status. Tezzeret then leaves to the Academy of suckersSeekers

Chopping off an arm sort of weighs out academic success so we’ll say our boy broke even.

Sanity: A respectable 75

Oh wait he wanted to join the Seekers of Carmot (more on this later) but got roshambo’d by Silas Renn and told he sucked(hah!) too much to be considered. He protests to the headmaster but they decided to expel him instead. Tezz goes from child prodigy to unworthy in the space of a single (unfair) fight that may or may not have involved clockspinning. But he couldn’t have that could he? Oh no, when faced with expulsion what would any other student do? Why, they’d kill the headmaster of course! If you think that’s a watershed moment when Tezz goes from broken sewer boy to full blown crackers, you ain’t seen nothing yet. With the head teacher disposed of, he continues his training unabated for years, aside from the fact that all his peers hate him and everything he stands for. Office banter, I imagine.

SIlas
That shit eating grin…

Silas Renn, a man of a few natural limbs, makes himself an etherium heart (I believe if we go by A Test of Metal he’s eventually got nothing organic left besides his head). Such transplants are looked upon quite fondly by the Seekers, and so Renn proves his membership. This angers the already unstable Tezzeret, and so he decides to go and steal the Codex Etherium (Mary Berry’s secret family recipe for creating Etherium) but discovers it’s all a big fraud. He’s spent years of his life in service to this, and is swiftly informed that this was all one big lie. His life’s work and hardships were for naught. He’s then caught and given a good beating for his troubles to near death when his spark ignites.

Attack roll, score -10

Sanity: 65

Half dead, floating through the eternities for the first time, the poor bastard lands on Grixis of all planes. This guy really cannot catch a break. He survives the monsters of Grixis. Everybody is quite aware of just how grim and bleak Grixis is, let alone the demons and zombies that walk this plane.

He finds Bolas.

Sanity: 50

Bolas

Watershed moment people. It all goes downhill from here.

Hah, jokes on you, some story hand waving is done within a few lines of text and it turns out Sucker-T takes over the Infinite Consortium from under Bolas’ nose by assassinating numerous high ranking leaders and taking it for himself. Take that childhood trauma. It’s at this point when the power level of Bolas becomes somewhat questionable. This is post mending so Bolas is about as powerful as any other 25,000 year old elder dragon, aka, insanely powerful and will crush your mortal mind with the flick of his eyes. The fact that Tezzeret takes over the Infinite Consortium at this stage is somewhat of a curious turn of events. Yes there was a big long cunning plan of pitting our future mind mage against him, but that was in order to regain control of his planar wide biz. The actual act of losing it was allegedly never part of any plan and yet it just sort of happened.

Because reasons.

Enter Jace. Tezzeret is a pretty paranoid chap at this point and rightly so. He stole the IC (Infinite Consortium) from his boss whom he promised eternal servitude to, a boss that could appear at any moment he pleased and turn Tezzy into etherium macaroni. Tezzeret needed a mind mage and Jace was just the chap to root out Bolas’ spies. Tezzeret trains him in some rather unorthodox and seemingly brutal ways, mind mage BDSM style. He’s got beef that Bolas managed to set up the Seekers of Carmot and cause a large portion of his problems. Strangely, he felt betrayed that an all-powerful evil being bartering power for servitude would do such a thing. That must be strike three for Tezzeret woefully misjudging characters, and he’s about to get another swift lesson in such things with Liliana and Jace. Tezzeret foolishly thinks that if he trains Jace real good, he’ll be able to withstand Bolas’ mind games. As readers, hindsight is a beautiful thing, but yes, this does not end well. In fact it ends very badly for our unstable metal man.

So, Tezz takes Jace to meet with our elder dragon to negotiate (yes… I know, he’s trying to negotiate with Nicol freaking Bolas) over some mineral rights. Needless to say Bolas plunders both Jace’s and Tezzeret’s mind with the artful agility of an Italian plumber. Weirdly he sends some barbarians of the plane to track them down and kill them instead of, you know, just turning them into mush on the spot. They escape alive, and Tezzeret is mad. Like super mad. Jace fails another mission and now Tezzeret, homicidal maniac that he is, starts dreaming of Jace’s death. The mind mage has run away to begin his toxic relationship with Vess. He captures Jace again, and Baltrice (like Chandra but beefcake and grumbly) is set to work on some mind mage torture. Meanwhile Tezzeret works on a Mindslaver to keep that pesky mage in check. Plots dictate that Jace magically frees himself, battles Tezzeret and then subsequently turns Sucker-T into a vegetable, chops off his prized etherium arm (man, this guy is just terrible at keeping hold of his limbs), and then dumps him on Kamigawa to be burned alive by ratmen.

JaceTezz.jpg

So, Tezzeret is mindless, armless, mangled, burnt and very much dead. That’s game baby.

And then Bolas resurrects him and tattoos him with his symbol. The elder dragon equivalent of a dog kicking its leg up straight on yo’ face.

Sidenote: Tezzeret is in eternal servitude to Bolas at this point because of said tattoo. Who else do we know with a branding that causes them to be eternally indebted to someone/something I wonder?

Tezz Tattoo.jpg

Lili Tattoo.jpg

Sanity: 0

This is where things get a bit tricky. Test of Metal is not strictly canon. It’s also been contradicted an awful lot, so it’s difficult to say whether this had an effect on Tezzeret’s mental stability by the time we get to Kaladesh. So let’s summarise and see how this might affect a man.

Bolas injects a safety into Tezzeret’s mind called Dr Jest, who both taunts, aids and fights against Tezzeret’s will and can basically control his body.

Sanity: -10

He heads on over to the Crystal Labyrinth that’s under siege by millions of zombies, under the control of his old buddy Renn, and then heads back to empower himself by injecting sangrite into his heart (this guy loves to use and abuse his own body). He gets into a fairly savage fist fight with Renn who’s tricky to defeat because of his clockworking ability. Eventually, Renn is horribly horribly wrecked, and Tezz decides to keep the guy’s living head around for safe keeping.

Pet head status: Achieved.

Sanity: -20

He uses the head to solve the labyrinth, comes face to face with the Riddle Gate guarded by Kemuel, who informs him this has happened millions of times and usually Tezzeret goes crazy (oh sweet Kemuel, if only you knew) and kills himself or gets killed by the sphinx.

Your life was a Truman Show crossover with Groundhog Day for a hermit Sphinx.

Sanity: -30

He ends up on Metal Island (highly creative naming here) and finds masses of etherium that can’t be transported off-plane, but Sucker-T can use it while he’s here. An island with plot armour!

(My sanity: 95)

Lots of double and triple and quadruple crossing occurs, Tezz wins but loses, Bolas wins but loses, lots of hand waving occurs in the story and the end happens about twelve different times. Eventually (finally) we learn that it was all a super tricksy trick of Bolas. At this stage Bolas runs up to Tezzeret with his camcorder live streaming to YouTube and shouts “IT WAS JUST A PRANK BRO!”

Sanity: -999

Then we arrive on Kaladesh, discover that Tezzeret is a bit mad, and are greeted with such eloquent quotes as:

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” Tezzeret’s voice sounded as though it were coming through an amplifier.

And…

“I thought I made it clear before. You are nothing. NOTHING.” Spittle flew out of his mouth dusting her cheeks in a spattering of hot dew. “You are here ONLY because I wanted you to be. You are alive ONLY because I have allowed it. You will do as I say, or I will END you.”

Then people complained about Tezzeret being out of character in the story. So go back and reread just how Tezzeret got to this point, and then tell me that these responses are out of character. The dude had his arm removed, twice, had his brain gently beaten to Jell-O and burned alive, resurrected, all after discovering ninety percent of his life’s goals were in pursuit of a lie concocted by a man that literally owns him. Did I mention he injected metal into or around his testicles?

Somebody please allow this man a solid six weeks of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Dark int.jpg

Project #2 – Act 3: Mother of Machines Pt5

Urabrask remained still, his serpentine eyes fixed upon the deity that loomed above. She was seemingly looking on her works thus far with total disinterest. Urabrask had never felt so bare and vulnerable, and instinctively pressed his form closer to the ground in hopes that Marit Lage would go on her way without turning her unpredictable attention on him. He had subconsciously been holding his breath for the last few moments, his body’s memory of the fight with his brother already erased by terror. The longer he stared, the more the situation grew unbearable.

What you lack in intelligence you make up for in wisdom by tenfold, little praetor.  Her voice sang through his head, invading areas of his conscious and touching them in a way that felt like a fracture.

A great buzz ignited the air around him, the sky grew restless, and within a moment the great figure in the sky disappeared into a hum as her form evaporated. The air settled to normality, and Urabrask found himself alone again, without a single living being in sight. His chest released and his lungs clutched in his throat for air as his senses returned to some semblance of sanity. He wanted to collapse. He wanted the ground to eat him up painlessly and allow him to continue being without any level of sapience interrupting a simple existence.

His senses fired off again.

Can there be no rest in this world? He thought.

“I hear leadership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.” A familiar voice taunted in an elegant female voice.

“Do this traitor of his kind a mercy and cut me into pieces, then bury them, so that that false god can never raise me for her use.” He uttered back, wistfully.

“Strange talk for a Phyrexian.” Glissa’s voice grew closer.

Urabrask remained still, ready. Old habits.

“Greatness at any cost and all that. I thought you’d be glad to be a part of Phyrexian history that sees your pure kind traverse the planes.” Glissa wandered up to the side of Urabrask, never looking directly at him, but surveying the surroundings of her old home.

“We all fall Praetor. If you think this ends with your survival, I want to know what faulty gene or process enabled you to feel such false hope.” She paused. “I saved this plane once. Then I was labelled a traitor. I became a part of its end, and now we are cogs in a new kind of end for this brief moment. None can survive this. It is what they are. I should know, I was very nearly one of them.”

“They? I never thought you anything more than a slave, past or present.” Urabrask grew curious, passing a gaze across Glissa’s stern exterior.

“Planeswalkers. They are gifted the means of travel, and squander it. They use it to explore and simply meddle. I was robbed of my gift. Our new god is one, I have seen the way they move between the worlds. The creator of the first of us was… is one too. He created this rock in the multiverse and then abandoned it as he grew bored. He left us as mere children to carve out a stake in this place under a broken regime and this infectious disease.” She looked down at her hands.

“Not that I’m complaining mind you. It has its benefits.” She slide two fingers together like cutters.

“These planewalkers sound no different than us.” He proposed. “Yet our history with them shows they hate the very fibre of our being.”

“Most gods do not like to look into hell and find themselves looking back.” She flicked a thumb up to the empty sky. “Unless of course you’re the one that made hell in the first place like your adopted mother up there.”

“Sometimes there’s just bigger fish than you. You either get crushed underfoot or conform. If you’re lucky you can make it benefit you along the way. Nobody knows this better than I.”

Urabrask had not thought this kind of frank conversation between Glissa and Praetor… or anyone for that matter would have been possible. Still, to him she had made more sense than every one of his brothers and sisters. Glissa understood the fleeting nature of her presence here, and had managed to thrive under such tumultuous circumstances.

They sat there in quiet contemplation for a few moments more, Urabrask soaking in the silent beauty of the glade. He could see why the elf would hold her home in such close regard. Glissa’s demeanour had changed since their brief altercation beforehand. Laying eyes on such a grand terrible being as Marit Lage had its way of quickly changing the beholder’s immediate priorities. But what Urabrask saw in Glissa was not some new watershed moment of inner peace, or grand realisation. No, what showed in her posture was a new goal, a new drive. An opportunity had presented itself, and she was ready to set a plan in motion to seize it. Her laid back attitude towards Urabrask was not kindness, it was a professional courtesy.

“I will see this to its end.” He uttered to her as he pulled himself off the way he came.

“Yours or hers, little Praetor? Decide what you want Urabrask, because you and I both know it doesn’t fall into standard parameters for a Phyrexian.” Glissa arched her head to the side to wait for Urabrask’s response as he disappeared into the tangle.

“Both, I hope.” Urabrask stopped just short of the clearing.

“And what do you intend to do when our great war across the planes is waged, Traitor?”

A smile flashed across Glissa’s face in private.

“I will tend to Mirrodin.”

***

Sounds of the good work echoed across the corridors as he scuttled down towards the core room. Specimens were few and far between as of late, the Mirran population dwindles and as such the experiments became more difficult. In their desperation they had taken to keeping the subjects alive for as long as was physically possible with their fragile forms. They developed ways of keeping the subject alive through methodical approaches, without skewing their results outside of acceptable constraints. Subjects were now used for multiple tests at the same time to keep up with the Augur’s time structure. Faint wails drowned into sobs as the conscious parts of the subjects were kept subdued, their natural brain neuron firing interrupted so the body could not respond to the brain’s requests – mostly screams.

He didn’t stop to inspect the work, he didn’t have time. No, he was instructed by the few of their esteemed order that relayed with the surface that a planar expedition was fast approaching the horizon. The Augur would be pleased to know of the opportunities. He had also received word that the haughty self-serving white Praetor was most violently put to an end – information that would be most agreeable amongst the intelligent caste and their master. He even had news of Vorinclex’s acceptance of service, something which was most suspiciously out of his character.

Perhaps news of planar invasion was enough to envigor even the most simple of Phyrexia’s creations, such opportunities! He thought to himself. Such simple beasts as Vorinclex always made such a mess of things, but their master had thrived under such toil thus far. With any luck the less enlightened would be the first in line to the battle. Their caste had always been responsible for putting the brutes back together, and when one had such little to work with in the first place it made their life all the more difficult.

It would prove most insightful to work on the body of a Praetor, however. He tapped his grease-ridden mechanical jaw with lofty ambition. He wondered what they did with the body of Elesh. Such wastefulness.

He approached the core room, the corridor still bent up and patchy from where an errant manabomb had been detonated. Much of the area had been obliterated but it hadn’t taken long for his caste to make quick work of rebuilding and improving the area, this time more suited to Jin’s needs and general stature.

His exoskeletal mechanics chittered in excitement as he approached to entryway, now purely mechanical instead of those insufferable flesh holes. Jin practiced in private and took on only the most esteemed of tasks. He taught his brood to strive to remove flesh from the equation and find betterment through technological means; it was their sacred duty as the highest operating level of Phyrexia. He had to be sure not to interrupt at a critical moment, or he would have a large portion of his body removed for experimentation and kept alive to endure his transgressions. It was the best form of self-reflection. Sometimes one even got to reflect upon their own body as it was exploited in front of them, the ultimate kind of progress. In that he envied the Mirran that they got to observe their ascension to near perfection. They were the fuel that helped reach the ever approaching goal of final iteration. A pity they spent their appreciation on making such noise…

He pressed his metallic body against the door gently, probing with listening drums across the surface to gauge at what stage was most prudent to gently make his entrance. The news he had to bare was not to be sullied by imprudence. With focused attention he listened with every care. The inner room remained silent, his window was clear.

With gentle precision he fiddled with the locking mechanism and the door retracted its six panels and opened to allow him an artful entrance. Eyes to the ground he floated in, revering his Augur master with reverence as his limbs waved and bowed.

“Great Augur of the Core, I bring news of the…” He stopped as he noticed Jin-Gitaxias frozen in surprise and irritation as he crawled his way down from the tall throne that once seated the golem Karn.

The servant briefly forgot himself and then quickly resumed the task at hand.

“Master Jin, it brings great relief to tell you that your sister Elesh is dead. I have a great many other items on my instruction; however I thought this to be the most prudent to your immediate interests.” He stopped and waited for Jin’s response with eagerness.

He had to wait a few moments longer than anticipated as Jin-Gitaxias menacingly clambered down towards his subject, without word or clear intent.

Why was the core augur on the throne? And why did he seem so displeased for me to catch him in such a situation? He posited to himself. Perhaps now was his time to die for his accidental insolence. He had no doubt he would be recycled with fruitful results.

Jin-Gitaxias was nearly as tall as his brother Vorinclex, but significantly weaker due to his serpentine body. His entire height was built up by layers of metallic plates, woven together with sinewy parts and needles in imprecise locations, entirely unbefitting of his stature. Most of his body looked like a looming mechanical spine, with the exception of his long pointed head and gangly arms. His particulars were built for surgical accuracy and tight observation of every discernible data point they might collect. To his brood he was a marvel of Phyrexian science and engineering. To his brothers and sisters, and the now extinct Mirran, he was a backstabbing sycophant whose sole interest lied in senseless torture of his subjects for his own enjoyment. He thought himself above all other living life, the true heir to Phyrexia, and the one most well equipped to lead them to a final evolution of perfection. The sight of him was enough to instil terror in all of Phyrexia’s enemies, a common trait among the most powerful. Jin’s followers did not fear him however. They envied his excellence.

“Apologies for my intrusion great augur…” His served bowed his head in a slow and measured fashion, entirely accepting that his consciousness might end in a few moments.

Jin loomed over the small Phyrexian, long spindly arms hovering close to his body, needle-like fingertips scraping away at one another.

“You are my seventh iteration, are you not?” He rasped, neck craning about the room in search of eavesdroppers.

“Yes. Your most esteemed iteration yet, but our flaws are numerous and your next iterations will no doubt be doubly impressive in comparison to one such as I.” His servant remained still, still entirely unsure of the outcome of this curious line of questioning.

Fool, you just insulted his work.

“Numerous… flaws?” Jin straightened, his irritation vanished through a haze of intent absent thought.

After a moment his attention re-entered the room.

“What flaws have you observed?” He asked, genuinely curious of the scientific outcome of this line of questioning.

The small blue Phyrexian raised its head and was visibly confused.

The great blue Praetor wishes my opinion on something?

“These legs are impractical.” He gestured towards his lower limbs. “They are fundamentally hampering the progress of this form in general, and are simply a recreation of the limitation of the inhabitants of this plane.” He stopped and thought a moment more.

“Hmm!” Jin nodded, strangely positive about his minion’s criticism, willing him on.

“There are numerous unnecessary facilities within this area of the abdominal-“

“Elesh is dead. What other news?” Jin interrupted, a sudden change washed over his present mood.

“-I. It is.”

“Your mouth is impractical I see. We will fix this.” Jin grew impatient.

“Sheoldred, the Praetor holed up in the Vault, has returned and taken Elesh’s place in the citadel. The joint creation Atraxa lies in pieces, Urabrask grovels beneath the feet of whatever commands him, and a great being descended from the sky to oversee the expansion of New Phyrexia across other planes. Sheoldred, on behalf of the great new Mother of Machines, the so-called Marit Lage, has requested that you oversee the longevity of our presence here.” He blurted it all out in a very matter-of-fact manner before drifting his eyes up in thought.

“I believe that is all.” He nodded.

“My most esteemed creation is… dead?” Jin’s impatience grew to the embers of fury.

“Yes, the new Mother of Machines, the so-called Marit Lage, annihilated her during her defence of Elesh.” His minion seemed blissfully unaware of his master’s rapidly deteriorating psyche.

“She has killed Elesh… and Atraxa… and made herself our false progenitor…” Jin’s teeth grew agitated, grinding away at the metal that made up his long jaw.

“Ah yes, and Vorinclex has been repurposed.”

Jin’s eyes flashed back to his minion.

“Repurposed by whom?”

“The new Mother of Machines, the so-called Marit-“

“LAGE. MARIT LAGE. I AM AWARE THAT IS HER NAME.” Jin expanded to his full height, his voice reverberating through the throne room.

“Yes, core Augur, I apologise. She… she crushed him and then raised him as her own. Allegedly.” He pointed a finger up at the last word. “She is a self-proclaimed god of the multiverse. Powerful thought she is, a god, I very much doubt. Genetics, more than likely.”

Jin-Gitaxias’ anger grew to an explosion, then his intelligence overrode the thought, and the harsh reality that if this great being had destroyed his brethren so easily and without retaliation, his own longevity was at stake. He wanted to bury himself in work, relieve his stress generated by this inescapable predicament by inspecting a live autopsy, or witness the varying subsonic levels of the various races’ screams in quick succession. His perfect effort and work was threatened, all logical thought was at the risk of being tossed aside in favour of lesser advancements, and now his grand thoughts of leadership were in tatters.

And yet, the thought of fresh new subjects from different worlds enticed him away from his compulsive and logical foundations. The other Phyrexians could fight for scraps of war and attrition, but as long as they provided him with the living results of the carnage, he could further his own schemes to drive the Phyrexian form to greatness. There was the simple issue of avoiding this great godlike destroyer, or at the very least avoiding the potential of being “repurposed” by it. He looked down and saw the Phyrexian beginning to reflexively retreat inside itself, the looming threat of swift and grisly obliteration had grown significantly on its mind.

“I am to take charge of New Phyrexia?” The Praetor asked the tiny figure.

“Yes, Augur. You and your brood will take charge here while the other factions travel and conquer.” He replied, growing ever more confused at his master’s constant change in tones.

“The entire domain will be ours for improvement. The core, the lacunas, the dross and the entire damned forest.” Jin’s mind began wandering again.

“Shall… Shall I return word to the forces at the citadel, Augur?” This was his servant’s self-supplied queue to leave.

“No.” Jin-Gitaxias turned to his messenger and leaned in close from above. “You are correct.”

“About what my master?”

“Your legs are impractical.” Jin plucked up the Phyrexian within his claws. “Those and the rest of you are surplus to requirements.”

His claws sliced cleanly and silently into the tiny doll-like creature in his grasps at all angles until its body slowly went limp without a sound. He instantly felt sick relief, but the enjoyment of killing his own kind could never rival that of a test subject, wholly unwilling to face their end to no real benefit.

He needed to set schedules and plans in motion immediately if his brood were to expand across the surface. Boundless new opportunities were within his reach, and he would be entirely uncontested and unhindered. He could build a Phyrexia in his image, designed to improve from the core up.

Project #2 – Act 3: Mother of Machines Pt4

Glissa simply stared back at him in mistrustful consideration. He knew she had been placed second in almost every regard and yearned for familiarity, but also a more proactive role. The fact she was now dwelling in the Tangle indicated to Urabrask she was already growing a rebellious stance. If the hierarchy controlling this plane was largely removed, Glissa would initiate a hostile takeover of what she deemed hers. The only thing standing in her way was the wandering Phyrexian Praetor Vorinclex.

“I do not trust you Praetor. I will take you to your brother, simply because I want him gone. If you ensure that, we have a bargain. Once what’s done is done, however, I do not want to see you in my forest again. If I do, you will become food for the trees.” Glissa tilted her head waiting for agreement.

“Agreed.” Urabrask grunted.

With that Glissa walked off the branch into a freefall, Urabrask leant over the edge and spotted her grinding her claws down the trunk of a tree to slow her descent as she neared the forest floor.

She intends to lead me on foot? On the ground?  He wondered if Glissa had become complacent over the years, or was wilier than he anticipated and simply following a contingency plan. Elves preferred the heights and cover of the trees, as did he. The floor of the Tangle was host to a number of buried lurking beasts.

He leapt off the branch, darting between levels, opting for a slower and more controlled descent. After a minute or two he landed on the soft and squishy forest floor next to Glissa, her hands on her hips, claws tapping away at her copper gilded waist.

“This approach is… open to attack.” He murmured.

“I can feel the vibrations of your brother down here, he is not far away.” She pointed out towards the East of the forest.

“If we find ourselves beset on all sides I am sure your benevolent god will come to our aid.” Glissa said with doubt. “I can’t imagine you being much use in a fight without numbers on your side. If he doesn’t crush you, most of what’s alive in this forest will.”

Glissa began to walk away, her arms stretched out allowing her to rub the trunks of the trees as she passed them on her path.

Urabrask had been divulged the information about her past by Jin years before. She was once a child of the forest, a latent Planeswalker robbed of her spark, and defeated the original curator of Mirrodin. She had met Karn himself. Once compleated by the glistening oil and exiled by her people, she had become Vorinclex’s champion, and took a direct role in the compleation of the plane. Now she wished to usurp her creator and rule the Tangle, perhaps to exact revenge upon the ghosts of her people. Her spite had only grown fiercer and encompassed everything but herself, including her own Phyrexian kind.

Much to Urabrask’s distaste, they had walked through the trees for nearly an hour, only having to avoid a small gathering of Vorinclex’s bizarre thralls. A great lumbering lump of spherical flesh with pole like arms and legs had swung across their path, seemingly uninterested in their presence. The deeper Glissa took him, the louder the hum of Phyrexian existence grew. He could hear the clattering of trees in the distance from great herds of infected beasts knocking them down. Glissa even warned him of a small party of Phyrexian elves that were patrolling the canopy ahead. She had taken a small detour around their patrol lines, indicated by strange markings across the tree trunks that outlined their self-imposed borders.

In the distance there were great thumps that gently vibrated the ground. It was slow but methodical, almost careful in its nature. Ahead Urabrask could see a break in the trees, revealing an enormous clearing surrounding a massive lacuna that led to the plane’s lower spheres.

Glissa stopped and put her hand on Urabrask to do the same.

“Your brother lies in the clearing around the green lacuna. How is he likely to greet you?”

“The same as everything else does.” He shrugged his plated shoulders. “With intent to kill.”

He continued on as Glissa looked down at the floor and sighed.

“If death is what he wants for you I won’t stop him, you realise that right?” She shouted after him.

“I expect nothing less. From anyone.” He turned to Glissa with a sharpness in his eyes. “He may be large, but I am quick.”

Glissa made a sarcastic snort of confirmation and strode past him into the clearing.

Urabrask made a mental note of each part of his body that stung from Glissa’s ambush earlier. His ribcage had sustained some damage, and while many of his wounds had coagulated, he was still in poor condition. He hoped to avoid conflict, but in the event words were not enough, he hoped Sheoldred’s new master lived up to her word.

He built himself up mentally and broke through the last rows of trees into the vast field. The sight that greeted him was something of a rollercoaster. He had spent so long in his caves, dark, hot and cramped spaces, looked on at Sheoldred’s domain of the dead, and witnessed the sprawling citadel of Elesh’s annex; he had not prepared himself for a world of natural marvels. What he saw for the first time overwhelmed his already shot senses. There was a fungal-like and yet beautiful sea of grass that slowly built itself up, roaming compleated beasts in herds of imposing size, and a titanic quadruped being roaming around the largest lacuna Urabrask had ever seen. Strange Phyrexian foliage burst out of the hole like a plague as it stretched across Vorinclex’s glade, overwhelming the harsh metal origins of the world and covering it in alien yet soft and vulnerable life.

Vorinclex was circling the lacuna in a slow, lumbering fashion, swaying his head side-to-side as he inspected the progression of his habitat. He considered each and every infected beast he passed, gauging the effectiveness of the creatures since the infection had worked its way through their genes. He took one final step before pausing, shifting his gaze to the approaching Glissa and then slowly altering his course to collide with hers.

He was the largest, most stubborn of the Praetors. A single one of his legs out shadowed the full form of any of the other four Praetors, and his body was large enough to house the uppermost room in the citadel. His body was mostly red raw flesh save for his head, which held more armouring than an entire Mirran garrison. It was like a titanic plate battering ram, capable of flatting the entire Tangle should he build enough momentum. He was solely responsible for not only Glissa’s compleation, but that of the elves that roamed the jungle – their only core reason for existing to hunt inferior prey. Vorinclex cared nothing for schemes or plans, or for the expansion into the further multiverse. He simply strived to root out the weak, and sieve through his creations until all that was left was the strongest and most formidable Phyrexians the army had to offer.

To Vorinclex, Urabrask was weak. He was mere prey.

Urabrask kept his body low, hoping to avoid immediate attention while his brother busied himself with Glissa. He did however want to know what the green Praetor had to say. He needed to meter the potential reaction to his presence before he made himself seen. He creeped along the barer edge of the glade and crammed himself behind a mound of what looked like an especially aggressive and active moss.

“Glissa, why do you call?” Vorinclex’s deep voice rumbled from the depths of his enormous core.

Glissa spoke, head bowed in a way that indicated she hated the prospect of being a servant.

“There is a trespasser in the Tangle, great voice. I have wounded him but he still approaches, he wishes to talk-”

“You let an invader of the Tangle live? Tell me, traitor of elves, why I should not crush your bones.” Vorinclex’s massive head bowed low, his jaws revealing great metal fangs as long as an elf’s arm. A heavy growl reverberated from his belly.

“It is Urabrask. He brings word of the Phyrexian lords.”

Vorinclex’s growling heightened and he reared up revealing his full, colossal body.

“Where are you tiny failure!?” He roared, boulder-sized fists clenched, scanning the surrounding area. Beasts ran, the plantation stilled and all living organisms receded from its creators call.

The moss that was relentlessly and fruitlessly trying to eat its way through Urabrask’s carapace regressed, and the red Praetor’s body shook at the shockwave of his brother’s voice. Every ounce of his instincts told him to remain hidden, but he knew he could not hide from the giant predator’s keen sight and sharp sense of smell. He skulked out from behind his hiding spot, both eyes bolted to Vorinclex’s stature to anticipate his brother’s every move. He crept slowly on the balls of his feet, ready to spring to a safe distance should his brother begin to charge.

He started with the only thing he could hope to quell his brother’s rage.

“Elesh is dead, brother.”

Vorinclex replied with a speedy reply typical of his bull-headed nature.

“She was a false leader, weedy and small. She put herself before the true nature of Phyrexia. And you. You failed the Phyrexian ideal as soon as you learned to hide Urabrask. Here, in my fields of glory you cannot hide!”

Vorinclex faced him head on. As if by call, hundreds of elves appeared, grappling low among the trees to witness their creator destroy the last remnant of the red Phyrexian brood. Urabrask looked about to see if they would enter the fray, but they obeyed some silent order to simply observe. He searched the glade for Glissa but she was nowhere to be seen.

She hopes to see the fall of her creator, but not without the veil of the shadows.

Urabrask felt she was more like him than she realised.

He looked about the sky, hoping to see some kind of sign of his sister’s newfound Mother of Machines. He waited for a moment, a short few seconds that felt like a lifetime when such an imposing force was stood to confront him, ready to smash his body into a pulp to feed the forest floor. He had no option but to stand and deliver his message. He would either die quickly under foot, or pray that some salvation would arrive.

“There is a great being…” he spoke, moving slowly towards the lacuna to cut off his brother’s chances for a straight charge. “Her name is Marit Lage, and she is a mighty force of destruction. She is our new Mother of Machines, and she wishes us to conquer other worlds.”

“I will crush it as I will crush you insect!” Vorinclex began to bound forward, skirting the edge of the great green lacuna.

“She wishes to take us to a new plane, to compleate it and spread Phyrexia among the multiverse.” Urabrask began shouting, rooted to the spot by blind faith and fear. “They sent me to request your inclusion and all your brood to the new war that lies ahead!”

Suddenly his muscles kicked in and he sprang a few meters off to the size, skidding along the slippery glade surface.

“I serve no one. Not the false father Jin made out of Karn, not Elesh, and I will never serve another.” Vorinclex shot past the location Urabrask had leapt from and flicked his weight around far quicker than his opponent thought possible.

“Run all you like little brother, if you do not face me with strength and accept your fate, I will have my legion puncture you with a thousand blades. You are not worthy of the title Praetor.”

Vorinclex reared up and bent his rear legs hard, before leaping into the air in an impossibly tall arc, his descent trajectory bearing down on where Urabrask now stood. He would crush him like a falling meteor.

It is you who are weak. She whispered into the minds of the praetors, the elves, and the plants themselves.

Something in Vorinclex’s face changed as a sudden hint of dread crept over him halfway through his fall. Like a whip crack, the voice of Marit Lage struck Urabrask into action, and he rolled frantically to avoid the impending crash. He had rolled too far and had forgotten his environment in a panic, and half his body slipped down the ledge of the lacuna. He clung on with his enormous claws, his ribs and prior injuries stretching at the strain.

A great tentacle lunged at Vorinclex, snatching him from the sky like a hand plucking an insect from the air. The speed and strength compressed the air from his lungs and he crumpled like a ragdoll. He hung in the air, limbs hanging down as he processed the surprise assault. Meanwhile the full body of Marit Lage sprawled its way across the sky, covering the entire glade in the shadow of her mighty presence. As if by some juvenile instinct, Vorinclex opened his jaws and clamped down on the tentacle that held him aloft. His fangs could not puncture the surface, and the limb that held him didn’t even flinch from the attack.

It was then, Urabrask saw, that his brother realised the true power of the being that he had warned him of. A small part of him hoped that she crushed him on the spot, but a larger part of him hoped his brother would look beyond his stubborn nature and join the renewed cause. Of the latter he had very little faith.

“You are the mightiest of your kind, Vorinclex.” Marit Lage brought him up to a host of eyes that inspected him with greed.

“Gather your creations and be a destroyer of planes, serve me and your brood will reach heights of strength out of your reach.” The myriad of eyes grew wide, awaiting Vorinclex’s response.

“You… You are not Phyrexian.” The tentacle squeezed. “I. Serve. None!” He reared his head to chomp down on the tentacle again, but with a swift and echoing crack, his body snapped and fell limp. A look of fierce anger surprise was frozen on his face.

“Then you will serve in death.” She uttered.

She dropped the corpse of the green Praetor to the ground, and he hit the earth with an enormous thump. His brood of elves who had witnessed the ordeal looked on in stunned confusion, unable to process the loss of their creator.

A dozen tentacles reached down at the body and wrapped it until not a single visible surface could be seen amongst the writhing mass. Dark energy coursed its way through Marit Lage’s appendages and withered the living elements around it. After a few moments the tentacles receded, and Vorinclex’s heavy mass began to stir. His flesh no longer looked red raw, but instead oozed with black fluidity and death. The undead Praetor hauled itself up on its legs in silence, turned to the wall of forest and began to lumber in the direction of the citadel.

Elves looked at one another, then glanced back at the horrifying entity that filled the sky. Like dutiful servants, they each swung along the trees and began to converge on Vorinclex one by one, until the entire host of elves, beasts and monstrous creations were following their silent undead creator through the forest, partly out of servitude to their master, but also in fear of their new Mother of Machines.

Project #2 – Act 3: Mother of Machines Pt3

“Sheoldred, what is this being that now controls the fate of Phyrexia?”

“This is the great god that lives between the planes, and she will lead us to conquer the multiverse as is our way. Through me, Phyrexia will follow her, and she will bring us back to greatness.”

The two Praetors looked on in silence as the being that filled the sky craned around towards the citadel, and moved with her great tentacles outstretched. It floated towards them and slowly enveloped the tower as it came closer. Not a single spec of white was visible as Marit Lage came to rest, aside from the balcony that the red and black Praetors now resided on.

“Behold me Phyrexians, for I am your future.” The words resonated in the heads of every Phyrexian on the plains. “Gather yourselves; there are planes rich in mana ready for my consumption. Serve me through your leader and I will restore Phyrexia to its rightful place in the multiverse. Fail me and I will erase you from history.”

Marit Lage tightened her grip on the citadel and the walls cracked and crumbled before coming to an uneasy rest.

She spoke directly into Sheoldred’s mind.

Put your house in order, we leave for another plane soon, and we will require the entirety of your force. I have lived before time, but my patience is short.

“Get word out to Jin-Gitaxias brother, I wish to see him immediately. You must also meet with Vorinclex. I want the capable population of New Phyrexia here within the day. If he refuses, our Mother will annihilate him and his creations.”

“Vorinclex will never serve, you know this.” Urabrask was not particularly eager to venture into the tangle. The beasts there were twice his size.

Then he will serve through death, Marit echoed.

“I will do as you request. I will send an asp below the surface. What is Jin’s role in all of this?” He asked.

“He can remain here and continue his experiments on this pitiful plane. We will rule the rest of the worlds while he perpetuates his madness. At worst we may return to some useful results.” Sheoldred flicked her hand urging Urabrask to leave immediately.

He began to walk away to the door and begin the descent.

“I am not as foolish as my sister, Urabrask. If you are no longer useful, I will not allow you to live.” She spoke, back still turned to him.

“I have never doubted that. Your instructions are clear.” He slipped through the doors and rushed down to send word to the colossal force that had been ready to kill him just hours before.

***

Urabrask had never dared to venture into the Tangle since the very beginning of the invasion of the plane. He was the smallest of all the Praetors, and Vorinclex the largest, but it wasn’t his titanic brother that worried him. In the beginning the elves were as dangerous as the beasts that roamed the high tree tops and prowled the earth. Compleation only served to improve their strengths and do away with their weaknesses. If he survived the foliage, then survived the wild creatures, he’d still have to avoid the footsteps of his brother. Vorinclex did not take kindly to visitors that did not share his vision of progress – he tended not to look favourably on visitors at all.

Jin-Gitaxias had sent word back almost immediately to inform Sheoldred that he was on his way to meet their new Mother of Machines, eager to inspect such an ancient beast. Urabrask had been glad to leave the citadel before the mad Praetor’s return. The only part of the plan he felt positive about was leaving the blue Praetor behind and never having to look upon his bizarre test subjects. Jin did not work on creatures for the betterment of the Phyrexian form; instead he and his brood simply enjoyed the process of torture and pain. It was not progress Jin was interested in, because this plane no longer offered any. He had simply found a way to keep himself occupied after the loss of the golem Planeswalker.

Now Urabrask found himself standing on the edge of the Tangle staring in through the sky-high trees. It had taken too long to get here, and Sheoldred had wanted his results quickly. As much as he needed to keep to the shadows to avoid any undue attention, he needed to reach Vorinclex quickly. To Urabrask it felt like a pointless endeavour – he knew his brother all too well. Vorinclex would rather die than serve, to him it was unnatural. Today was the green Praetor’s last day to live, and Urabrask needed to find a way to survive this entire ordeal. If he failed, he would be killed by his sister. If he was too hasty, he would be killed by a wandering Phyrexian, and if he faced his brother head on with the ultimatum, he would be crushed by a large Praetor’s foot.

He had survived Elesh. He wondered if he could really come out of this in one unflattened piece.

He made a tentative first step into the forest, keeping his eyes keen for any sign of movement. He wasn’t used to being surrounded by trees, they made him nervous. He much preferred the hemmed in confines of the tunnels underground. They were dark and you could meet your prey head on. Here he was open to attack from every angle. He considered travelling along the tree tops, but it would slow his progress significantly. The ground was risky, but he could search the undergrowth more quickly at a steady sprint. He was light-footed and built for stealth, so he could dart about at a fair pace without being immediately noticed. The issue was the roaming green Phyrexians had a keen sense of smell and hearing. They were built to hunt and crush their prey.

He built up a canter and aimed as square to the centre of the Tangle as possible. Despite his best efforts the tainted foliage on the ground exaggerated the noise of each step. He noted the changes to the forest since the introduction of the glistening oil – while the trees and plants had not died, they had changed more than a native could have imagined. What were once strong impenetrable trunks of copper and iron had become soft and almost malleable. Foliage decomposed while still on the branch and droplets of sticky liquid pattered on the floor, feeding the strange fungal growths that had made their home on the ground. Urabrask heard no calls from the nature that once inhabited this place. Everything was silent. It made him feel uncomfortably nervous. He had expected to at least hear the occasional call of infested herd beasts or the sounds of compleated forest folk hunting.

He stopped dead.

He hunkered as low to the ground as possible, still maintaining a pose to pounce out of danger’s way should it come to it. He slowly scoured the immediate area, reversing his body in a circle to get a bearing on his surroundings. He peered at every tree trunk, every distant clump of debris, and every movement in the canopy. He saw nothing. There was not a living Phyrexian in sight, or anything living for that matter. So he waited, slowed his breathing and sharpened his immediate senses. His ear canals twitched, and he leapt behind a tree in a blur of movement. He turned to his original location and saw three bladed metal shards embedded in the floor.

Elves. He thought.

He had assumed the plane was cleansed of resistance, particularly in the Tangle. He guessed he must be under attack by a compleated husk that had mistaken him for a native. Another thud behind the body of the tree indicated another roaming projectile, feeling out for his location. Whoever it was knew he was here and was baiting him out. He knew the direction the blades had come from originally, but if it was an elf, they’d likely moved to a better spot, meaning his own location was already compromised. He turned and darted up the tree, launching himself up several meters at a time as his thick claws plunged through the bough.

He finally heard movement around him and tracked it off to his left. He adjusted his angle of ascent to keep the assailant’s approach behind cover. He needed to get an eye on his aggressor and close the gap without catching a flank full of blades. He made a mental note of the trees in the immediate vicinity – he needed to move quickly and unpredictably. He leapt off to one side, slamming onto a tree and then immediately launching himself forward to another, all the while keeping his head forward to scan the brush. Then he saw a small movement further up towards the canopy. He saw a sleek figure dart between branches, copper skinned and with thick black braids. The elf was dashing to higher ground, aware of his approach.

He pulled himself upward, working his way towards the highest level of the Tangle, constantly jumping between trees until he made it to the denser leaves above. If the elf moved in to find him he’d almost certainly hear the approach. He prowled through the canopy being careful to mask his noise with the natural movement of the leaves. At first he thought his stalking was effective, and then he heard a grunt and a leap. Before he knew it he was pushed off his branch and grappling with a relentless small figure. It was strong for an elf.

“Little Praetor!” She screamed. “You are not welcome in my Tangle.”

They plummeted through the upper brush, and dropped through the empty air between the pillars of trees. Urabrask struggled and grappled the small figure that was plunging tiny claws into his flesh, pulled her off of his side, and brought his attacker within his vision.

“Glissa. I am not here for a fight!” He roared.

She kicked him in the gut and launched off towards a nearby branch with grace, two curved daggers in her hands dripping with his infected blood. He spun the air for a few moments before coming to his senses. The floor was fast approaching and he instinctively flung his body off to one side, throwing his claws out to catch on anything that might slow his descent. Instead of grazing a trunk he slammed body first into a protruding branch, knocking the wind out of him and crumpling a number of metal ribs. He clung on for purchase and began to haul himself up. Glissa landed on the part of the branch that originated from the trunk, legs bent and her familiar murderous gaze fixated on him.

“I seek Vorinclex. I must talk with my brother, I was not sent to kill anyone.” Urabrask hauled himself onto his feet, keeping his eyes on Glissa’s twitchy hands.

“Vorinclex speaks to no one, not even me. This Tangle was mine before it was his. I intend to exercise my right to defend it from trespassers.” She began to creep forward, daggers at the ready.

“Elesh is dead. Sheoldred has taken over the remaining forces of the Machine Orthodoxy. She has taken what is left of the remaining Praetors and has allied herself with a being of godlike proportions that seeks to invade other planes. She intends to leave Mirrodin under the protection of Jin-Gitaxias while the full host of Phyrexia migrates to a new plane for an invasion. I speak the truth. A horrifying path lays ahead for us all.” Urabrask paused, he needed a hook. “If he complies, he and his forces will leave the Tangle with me and join the invasion. If Vorinclex refuses, this Marit Lage being will destroy him, take his army and move it off-plane with the rest of us. The Tangle would be yours to rule in either case.”

Glissa stopped her approach, and he waited for her response.

“I must speak with him first for either of these things to happen.” He continued.

Glissa looked bemused.

“It is a curious thing, red mana. What it has done to the Phyrexians is bizarre. Even now when I hear you speak I do not hear the raw savagery that befits a Phyrexian Praetor. Your origins have made you weak, a false representation of your people. And yet… you are the most reasonable of your kind, amicable almost.” She knelt down and sat along the branch, one leg handing down and swinging mid-air.

“You, Urabrask, are born of pure survival. You epitomise it. You may not be strong, but by the Father of Machines you are hard to kill.”

Urabrask relaxed his posture. He needed to close this altercation fast.

“If you look to the horizon you may find a far greater being has become the self-made Mother of Machines. She is born of pure malice and commands power greater than the five suns. She will see us born into glory, but she will also be our end. Jin and Sheoldred will never see that. I merely ask your help so that the epitome of survival may survive yet one more day.”

I have found myself begging for the third time in nearly as many hours. I have fallen as far as they say. He thought.