She looked out towards the vast fields of her crop from the highest balcony on her citadel. She had everything and yet could not fulfil her deepest desire, the purest purpose for which her entire world was built for. She needed to grow, had grown these last few cycles. Her orthodoxy was the strongest force on the plane, and it had expanded to cover nearly the entirety of this metal rock. The Phyrexian nature of compleation was its core reason for being, and now that was all but complete, she felt a sudden surge of frustration that her needs were not being satisfied anymore. New Phyrexia had been born, but she was bigger than that. Her perfect form of the Phyrexian image needed to be shared with all creation, and yet her Praetor rivals were preventing her from seeing that dream through.
She needed to kill them all, bring them within the confines of her porcelain dream, and then take over more worlds like her kind hundreds of years prior. She needed a vessel, and there was one Vulshok that could fill the role.
The citadel was a shining example of Elesh’s persona. It was a preposterously tall and imposing building, built of shining white metal without so much as a scratch adorning a single inch of its walls. The tower was surrounded by a great annex a hundred meters tall, a compleated angel standing watch on each pillar. It served no real purpose other than to instil respect in the shattered minds of every Phyrexian that laid eyes upon her domain. The security of the annex was irrelevant in a world that she ruled, and with no more living remnants on Mirrodin, the machines that made more of her kind in the dozens of floors of the citadel served no purpose. It was all a façade to maintain her rule.
She ran one sharp finger down her crescent head, feeling for the cracked and rotting imperfections of flesh and bone. She felt a small notch along the curved edge just before the point and lopped it off with a sharp flick of her finger. She looked down an inspected the first signs of rust on the slither she had just removed. Flesh felt like a disease, but this entropy of metal was what she feared most. It was a sign of coming weakness, of age. She flicked it away into the air and continued to scour her arms for any speck of irregularity. Her obsessive inspection was interrupted as her crop of soldiers began to part.
Down below, a hundred thousand white faceless legionnaires stood awaiting her orders, willing to wait days if not weeks. They would not breathe if she commanded them not to, but she knew more than any other their thirst for an invasion. The orthodoxy was being denied its rightful duty to invade. If they were not given the opportunity soon, they would make one themselves. They had not only taken the plane, but decimated the domains of nearly every other Praetor. One of which, was making his way through the parting ranks, flanked by his pitifully small brood.
Elesh’s clawed hands clamped onto the railing in front of her and bared red teeth in her skinless mouth. Before her walked the impure embarrassment of Phyrexian progress. Urabrask had been a disappointment in every right, had failed in his duty to cleanse his lands of the Mirran, and faltered from the very beginning. He needed to be cleansed and rebuilt in the true image of Phyrexia. He was fast, but small and weak; his force of poorly reconstructed Leonin that followed him would be stopped at the annex. She would welcome him in and then tear him limb by limb. He would be remade in her image, and he would become beautiful.
Her attention was quickly diverted by a corpse being carried by four of Urabrask’s shambling creations. Her false heart raced in anticipation, and she could not wait.
“Stop.” Elesh muttered, no louder than a murmur.
The crowd of legionnaires far below faced inwards to the approaching party, the front line refusing to budge unless their leader demanded it. A circle of spears dropped around Urabrask and his cohort stopping them in their tracks. Urabrask was visibly flustered.
“The Mirran are no more. The Vulshok, the Leonin, the Elves. They do not walk this plane.” He spoke to the wall of flat porcelain faces before him, aware that the crazed self-imposed leader in the distance would be listening through them. “The coming of Phyrexia is complete.”
“No thanks to you.” One of the faceless minions in front of him spoke, but the hiss behind the voice did not belong to what stood in front of him. The figure spoke once more.
“What do you bring to your Mother?” It asked, a red raw fleshy hand pointing towards the lump his escort was carrying.
Urabrask had hoped to make it into the citadel before giving up his prize. He needed some kind of security. If he gave up the body now, her endless ranks could fall in and pulverize his inferior force in a matter of moments. He had done all of this to gain favour, but was immediately regretting his decision. Elesh was as ruthless as she was perfect, she would allow nothing to stand in her way. He did however know that this news of Phyrexia being complete would render her work essentially done here. The Phyrexian force would need a new line of expansion, and it would look to her to provide it. If she could not, they would topple her rule in time. Both Praetors were in difficult circumstances, but he was providing her a critical lifeline. He thought better of antagonising her at this point.
“IT IS OUR VESSEL!” He shouted to the army around him.
Two of his processors lifted the body up, parading Koth’s limp body in the air for all to see.
Elesh’s fingers crushed the metal of the balcony rail in front of her in heated excitement. She lifted her arm effortlessly up to point at the body in the distance. Obeying silent orders, a colossal angel swooped down from behind the point of the citadel’s spire. Its head was created in the image of its mother, its body was as tall as an obliterator, and its wings thrashed the air into reverberations. It swooped down with intense speed towards Urabrask’s small force, and the small crowd of orthodoxy soldiers scattered at her approach. She broke the air hard with her wings as she reached the ground in front of Urabrask, knocking dozens of red and white Phyrexians alike. She stood tall and grand, a testament to the combined power of the Praetor’s potential creative effort.
All save for Urabrask. He had heard word of Atraxa’s creation after the failure of Koth’s assassination attempt near the core, but had chosen to remain in hiding. He was always suspicious of his brethren’s true intentions, and feared for his own life. Now he stood completely inferior to their creation. She was greater than him, and yet she was a mere servant to the mad one that called herself mother. He was truly at her mercy. He slunk across the one side, hoping not to remain in the fallen angel’s path. His party followed suit, the two processors laying the Vulshok’s body on the floor like an offering.
Atraxa stomped towards the body, never offering as much as a glance at a single standing Phyrexian surrounding her. She was as confident and formidable as her master. She picked up the body with one hand and turned to Urabrask.
“To your mother.” Atraxa demanded, her voice echoing like an angel in perpetual agony.
She ushered Urabrask to her back.
He considered for a moment, ever suspicious, until he finally agreed and crawled onto the angel’s shoulders. She kicked off and climbed into the air, leaving Urabrask to cling on for his own safety, and made her way to Elesh waiting on her uppermost balcony. He used the moments to look down on his rival’s domain, and his eyes confirmed the inevitable. The army he had approached from this side of the domain was but a fraction of the force the white Praetor commanded. Surrounding the entire annex was a great ocean of Phyrexians loyal to the Machine Orthodoxy, numbering into the hundreds of thousands. There was no imaginable force that could penetrate the ranks, let alone get past the annex and into the citadel. Elesh Norn had surrounded herself with the indoctrinated masses, and it occurred to him they were a single command away from sweeping the Praetor rivals from the face of New Phyrexia. He was not alive because of his cunning. He was alive because she allowed it.
He turned to face the citadel and saw Elesh awaiting them expectantly, not even the slightest movement from her mouth. If there were emotions, she had utterly supressed them, but she looked to be in no mood for games. If he moved a limb out of line she’d have Atraxa repurpose him forcibly. She wandered back indoors as the angel made her way towards the balcony for landing. She dropped Koth’s body on the floor like a sack of unnecessary limbs and landed hard enough to shake the spire above. Urabrask slowly crept down onto the floor, feeling slightly uneasy about being quite so high above ground. He had spent his entire existence under it, and now he was nearly a mile above it with two creatures that would be more than happy to reintroduce him to the surface with some speed.
Elesh waved a hand and Atraxa disappeared with a silent dive. Urabrask never heard her land.
“Imagine what she could have been with your support.” She was facing away from Urabrask, allowing him to take in her perfect form. “Now bring the body.”
Urabrask hauled the Vulshok onto his shoulder and walked across to a raised table where Elesh was stood in wait. The floor felt too clean, it tapped and felt somehow more artificial than he was attuned with. The direction this praetor had taken their race was not what he had envisioned. It all seemed so false, so far from their raw instinct. She had set herself so far from the original front of Phyrexia that she had become deluded with grandstanding. She was serving herself, not the needs of Phyrexia.
She is less a Phyrexian than I.
He dumped the Vulshok’s body on the table before Elesh. Her floating hand twitched at the sight of him.
“How did he die? I see no cause.” She inspected the body with her eyeless mask.
Urabrask’s head remained low.
“He was found dead on the battlefield alongside the last of the Leonin.”
“You do not know how the most dangerous inhabitant of this plane and the most important tool in our future died? You are even less worthy of your status than I imagined.” She laid her hands on the table.
Before her lay the body of the only remaining Planeswalker, and the only possible chance of sending the glistening oil to other planes. Here he was, dead, cause unknown, brought to her by an entirely untrustworthy source that once lived alongside these Mirran. Still, he had seen to their compleation in the end.
“I must bring his flesh to our cause. Ensure the shard of energy that once lived in this body remains. Leave me.” Her voice wandered into distant ramblings.
“What of me and my brood?” Urabrask asked – body ready to leap into action despite the appalling odds in his favour.
They will be mine and so shall you. I will take your being and you will be useful. She thought.
“Leave them among the ranks outside. You may remain in the citadel. I will summon you whatever the outcome.” She had her hand on the Vulshok’s chest and turned her head to face the red Praetor, a grisly grin spread across what little flesh was left of her face.
“You are in my domain. Your brothers and sisters have fallen as you have. I will have my perfection, with or without your existence. I will be what he was not.” She turned back to the corpse, sinking her fingers into the metal flesh.
“Yes… Mother…” Urabrask responded before skulking out the doors.
I am dead regardless.
He needed an out. His gift had granted him far less favour than he anticipated. She was already too far gone to the whims of her own insanity and if this Vulshok granted her what she wanted, she had the potential to send something to other planes. She needed more than just a Planeswalker however. She needed the Father of Machines to build them a way off of this world, or she would still be stuck on this rock.
He crossed the citadel to the farthest edge that faced the Mephidross, what was once his sister Sheoldred’s domain. He peered out to see what had become of the wasteland since Elesh Norn’s orthodoxy had decimated the presence there. None of the Praetors had heard word of her fate, but she alongside Urabrask had been presumed dead. Vorinclex had become obsessed with his vision of the growth that he had secluded himself among his own creations.
In the distance the sky above the Mephidross churned and sank. To Urabrask it looked like it was fighting itself, tearing itself apart as it made its way closer to land. He looked down to see if anyone had noticed the anomaly, but the entire army was still, unwavering. They were so soaked in Norn’s grandeur, nothing concerned them. He peered back up to the sky as it thrashed, desperately trying to explode under its own pressure.
If that is you sister, it must be of catastrophic proportions. If it is not, your efforts will be fruitless.
The rogue Praetor turned his back on the coming storm and willed it to sweep away all that held this porcelain stain, wash away the frivolity and allow the true raw power of Phyrexia to come to bear. To see this giant totem to his sister’s glory fall under a crashing wave of destruction would bring him more satisfaction than the successful compleation of Koth. His head swam with thoughts of his brothers, each following their unique desires for perfection. The Phyrexian ideal had become so fragmented there was no balance. This was the plane’s defence against such advances. The mana bonds of each region was so strong, it divided those who attempted to conquer. Elesh’s sheer will and cunning had gotten her ahead in the race, and there was no discernible way to catch up.
Urabrask yearned for her to fail.