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.