A Magic the Gathering RPG
Rated PG 13
Alara, the jungles of Naya
He rushed through the forest, leaping between the trees, a blur of white amongst the foliage. He had his prey in his sights...even though the beast wasn't exactly hard to track. The creature was huge, one of the largest he had ever laid eyes upon; massively muscled, with tawny red fur and darker spiraling stripes. A ridged mane of deep red fur ran down its back and neck, and two huge tusk-like fangs protruded from its lower jaw.
It was a powerful creature, one of the giants of Naya that had newly adapted to the conflicts that erupted after the Conflux. It was completely unaffected by Esper's countermagic and blue magic. Some thought its immunity to countermagic evolved because of the constant mage attacks on Naya. Jareth just figured it ate a bunch of wizards. But its ability to prevent countermagic was something Jareth knew he needed in the turmoil that was engulfing the newly unbroken plane of Alara.
He had traversed the multiverse; he'd seen things no one else in Alara (nevermind his small pride in the corner of Naya) had ever seen before. He'd been to Kamigawa and the Razor Fields of Mirrodin. He'd been to the sprawling and crowded city of Ravnica and to the unconquered wilds of Zendikar. But in the end he'd returned to Alara, to his home. It was where he was needed most; in the chaos that followed the Conflux. He was powerful enough now--after becoming a Planeswalker, after everything he'd experienced--to make a difference, and bring some semblance of order to the newly-reunited shards.
The Spellbreaker behemoth crashed through the underbrush, but Jareth kept on its heels. It knew it was being hunted; Jareth's pure white coat wasn't exactly built for stealth and subtlety. Fortunately for Jareth, neither was the behemoth. It wheeled around and let out a bellow, shaking the leaves from the trees with just the force of its roar. It charged him, tearing up the forest in its path. Jareth redoubled his efforts, calling upon the might of the forest.
The Spellbreaker was enormous, but it wasn't the largest Jareth had come across. There were even larger beasts in the jungles of Naya.
He called upon that strength, filling his mind with the image of the titanic beast, the Godsire; filling his soul with the beast's power. He leaped through the air, glowing with the power of the beast. He drew back his massive hammer, the Behemoth Sledge, and swung it against the Spellbreaker with all his might. There was a tremendous crack as the hammer made contact with the behemoth's forehead. The power of Jareth's strike rippled down the length of the creature's spine and shook it off its feet.
Dead before it even hit the ground.
Jareth dropped down into the beast-made clearing. He placed a hand against the dead beast's forehead and whispered his magic through it. He closed his eyes and felt its soul shimmering through his fingers.
"Be at peace, great beast," he said. He drew in the power of the creature's soul and held it within himself. And with a breath, he bid the Spellbreaker's spirit rest.
"A Spellbreaker?" He heard the voice behind him.
Jareth turned, he wasn't surprised to find Rafiq in the wilds of Naya. The Bant knight-champion had made a point of patrolling the regions bordering Bant and had found the time to cultivate alliances between the more agreeable factions. Most in Naya were fairly amicable with those from Bant, and the barbarian Kresh led a tribe in Jund that wasn't advocating total and open war like the followers of Rakka Mar and the dragon-tyrant Karrthus. The former shard of Esper had its own squabbling power-factions. The sphinx Sharuum and the Sen Triplets didn't quite see eye-to-eye in how to handle their interactions with the other shards.
And then there was Grixis. Few had been successful in navigating the wastes and approaching the rulers...if they had any. The rumor was that power belonged to several different monsters: the zombie-assassin Thraximundar, the undead necromancer Sedris, and the demon-dragon Malefegor. None of them were very eager to negotiate for peace.
"I find the hunt exhilarating," Jareth said. He slung the sledge back over his shoulder. "Though perhaps I give myself too great an advantage. Though with the Spellbreaker's power..."
"Found it more necessary?" Rafiq asked. "Its power would be useful against the magic of Grixis and Esper if we should come to blows."
"Against any who would disturb the peace," Jareth said, correcting the knight with a stern glare. "Even those from Naya and Bant. I will not stand to see Alara collapse into turmoil and war again."
"I feel the same, my friend," Rafiq assured, throwing up his hands defensively. "You don't have to worry about difficulties from my end, not so long as I have some say over Bant's affairs." The knight crossed his arms and looked up at the towering lion-man. "You may be surprised, but most of Alara is interested in seeing the conflict end. We miss our old lives."
Jareth did, too. He missed the simplicity of Naya-alone. Before everything came together it was a peaceful place. It was wild, but pure. There were no monsters lurking in the night, no undead wandering the darkness, no dragons scouring the skies. It was--
A pull. He felt it then, a split second touch at the edges of his awareness, and then one that lingered. A presence, a beacon; reaching to him through the Blind Eternities. Could it be?
"I must go, Rafiq," Jareth said. He clasped hands with the knight, then turned and raced into the forest. He leaped through the air into the trees, and vanished into the Eternities.
Lance of Avacyn
Ravnica, Orzhov Catacombs
He woke from a dreamless sleep; his eyes sharp, instantly aware of his surroundings, of exits and entrances, of obstacles and obstructions. It was not a panicked concern, but an extreme situational awareness that sharpened him and brought him clarity when all others would still be reeling from the mind-numbing haze of sleep. His mind was a razor's edge, honed from years of struggle, of enemies lurking around every corner, of screams and dying. His lullabies sang him to sleep with the sounds of war. It made the eerie morning calm that much more disconcerting. There was danger in silence, anticipation of swift, violent movement lurked in the still darkness.
His trepidation last only for an instant, only for the space of time between when his eyes snapped open and took their first blink. He was a predator acknowledging and evaluating his surroundings, and it took only a moment for him to reaffirm that he was indeed still the most dangerous thing in the immediate vicinity; the top of the food chain, the apex predator, hyper-lethal.
There was movement beside him, a shifting of bed sheets and soft skin. He disentangled himself from the sheets, throwing back layers of black silk. He pushed away the pale arm that had draped itself over his chest during the knight and dislodged himself from the tangle of limbs. He rose from the bed in a single purposeful motion, not because of any sense of urgency or purpose, but simply because that was the way he always moved. The bed's other occupants were left behind; forgotten. He had no further use for them.
Naked, he made his way over to the washroom sink, padding softly over the cold, stone floor. It was dark in the windowless, underground room, but his eyes cut through the black veil and things came to him in perfect clarity. He was as much a creature of the still darkness as anything else in the shadows. He turned the faucet, half-marveling at the inventiveness of the Izzet League and the wonder of their innovations. If only all planes had such convenience. He washed away the dried blood from his lips and chest. He smirked to himself; he'd gotten a little carried away last night.
He glanced to the three creatures that still occupied his bed. Orzhov Syndicate angels, called "Angels of Despair" by some of the public. They were a strange breed of angel; naturally bald, rough and black-winged; pale-skinned--but flawless; bodies perfect--soft and strong and lean. They were graceful and terrifying and empty. So much like him. Except for their will; except for that wild sense of passionate self that he found burning within him. They lacked any sort of inner fire.
They were nothing at all like the glorious angels of the Boros Legion. Not like Razia, fiery and spirited; warm bronzed skin, hair like golden flame, feathered wings as white as anything he'd ever seen and softer than gossamer. When he touched her, she responded passionately, heatedly; not with the cold and empty physicality of these Orzhov angels.
But he needed them. He needed their cold, will-less, emptiness. Because above all else he was beholden to the Need and the Hunger. He could feed, they would give him the blood he craved because they were ordered to, because their duty and commitment was to the Syndicate. And he had found a way to make the Syndicate indebted to him.
Sangromancy was a wonderful tool.
The room lit with a faint glow, another of the Izzet League's little wonders, though he much preferred the natural fire-light. He heard the click of hobbled footsteps heading towards his room, and smirked. It was about time she showed up.
"Teysa Karlov," he acknowledged as the footsteps neared his door. He reached out with his power and opened it, allowing the young woman and her attendant, a brooding hulk of a man, to enter freely.
Teysa limped in, supporting her nearly-useless left leg with an ornate cane. That was the price for being born into the upper echelons of the Orzhov Syndicate. They used such potent and ornate magics to prolong and extend their lives that they risked passing deformities down to their children. Teysa was such a child. Though she was a child no longer.
"I thank you again for providing me a wonderful evening," he said with a fangy smirk. He slid close to the young woman, breathed in her scent, let his hot breath tickle her neck. "Though I wished you would have joined us."
Teysa swallowed. He could see the lump move down her throat, felt her fight the madness of his voice and whisper; persuasion: a dark vampiric power he'd long since mastered. She was tempted, even without the whisper, but she was adept in dark magics of her own. Her mind was not so easy to mold and break.
"I derive much more pleasure from the denial of yours," she whispered back. She tossed her long black hair and stepped away from him, as clumsy as that was.
"Don't be so sure," he said, running a finger along the side of her cheek.
She pushed his hand away and nodded to her attendant. The tall man collected the clothes strewn throughout the room and made his way to the bed where the three angels were sleeping.
"Get up. Dress yourselves," he said, tossing their clothes at them. The three angels did as they were told, obeying the higher Orzhov. They dressed wordlessly, blank-eyed and without expression. They were cold and hollow, loyal only to the void of Orzhov duty.
Not like him; loyal only to himself. He took the moment to dress as well; it wouldn't due to be the only one standing around naked. Though he opted to remain barefoot and shirtless for the moment.
The three angels were ushered out of the room, and he neither waved nor bid them goodbye, and they did neither to him as well. They'd performed their duty. He'd satisfied his Need. That was all. He smirked, though, at the sluggish way they moved; not at all like the graceful angels they were supposed to be. Perhaps he'd been more enthusiastic in his feeding than he should have been. No matter. They'd recover quickly enough.
"I take it we're done here, Lance?" Teysa asked curtly. He felt her pulse through the air, heard her heart beating as if his ear was pressed right against it. She was always nervous around him, as if she didn't quite trust herself. Good.
"Unless you want to join me." He glanced to the bed. But Teysa had already turned, and was hobbling away, her attendant placed protectively between him and her back. Oh well. He'd overstayed his welcome.
Lance made his way through the dark catacombs of the Orzhov labyrinth, which was empty of all but him. Teysa had made sure of that; she wouldn't allow anyone else to succumb to Lance's charms and manipulations. He'd already managed to achieve a significant hold on the Orzhov's operations. It wouldn't do to give him any more freedom than that. But the Orzhov Syndicate, however indebted to him it was, was not his primary residence on Ravnica.
That "honor" belonged to the Boros Legion, the paragons of justice and order throughout Ravnica. The highest of the Legion were the angels: warriors of White and Red mana. They were fire and passion and virtue. And Razia was their Parun and Guild Leader, the epitome of all the Boros Legion represented. She embodied the concept of fiery, passionate justice most fully. She was as much a military leader and icon as she was an inspiration and demi-god.
Lance had found a way to ingratiate himself to Razia, appearing at a critical moment of battle, swathing himself in all the light and glory he could muster, and striking out against the enemies of the Boros. He had earned their gratitude, and Razia's curiosity. She was no fool; she knew there was something different about this angel. Of course she had her suspicions as to his darker nature, but he'd managed to cultivate a physical attraction between them. He'd charmed his way into the heart and bed of even the inscrutable Razia.
He shed his vampiric form, willing it away with a thought and a long breath. His fangs shortened, his sharp nails withdrew into his fingers; his hair turned from silver-white to dark brown again; and his eyes changed from black-and-gold to simple brown as well. He stepped into the sunlight and threw open his wings. He caught the first breeze that passed and launched himself into the air. He sailed over the city-plane and Sunhome, the guild hall of the Boros; then he turned skyward and shot up towards the Parhelion.
The Parhelion was an enormous flying fortress, a ship that had once been constructed to serve as an interplanar exploration vessel to research the nature of the multiverse. But the project had been abandoned--Lance didn't quite know why, though suspected that the Izzet League had simply found a more economical method of exploration. But while the Parhelion was no longer used as it was intended, it still served as the home and headquarters of the Boros angels.
There, high above the clouds, watching over the entire plane, was where Lance chose to reside. Not down in the dark, not hiding in the murk and the dust and shadow.
He ascended to the Parhelion and landed in the open courtyard at its perimeter. That was the "dock" of sorts; it had been designed to accommodate all manner of flying creatures and contraptions, but now served only to greet arriving angels or messengers from the Sunhome below. He folded his wings behind him; only in the Parhelion did he not hide them completely.
The Boros angels bowed as he passed; the angels looked nearly identical, indeed, they were all "clones" of Razia, creatures created in her image. Only over their long lifetimes did they change and deviate enough to grow distinct from her. And they did: shorter hair, longer hair, tattoos, different builds...but none were as perfect as Razia herself. When one laid eyes on her, there was no doubt that she was Razia.
Lance found her where he always did, in the Parhelion's main hall, overlooking the Parhelion's courtyard and (beyond that) the city-plane below.
"You were missing all night," Razia said, not taking her eyes from her vigil. Her dedication and sense of duty were truly something to behold. Even someone as twisted and manipulative as Lance could appreciate that.
"I had some things to take care of," Lance said with a smirk. He never told Razia what he did or where he went. She'd annihilate him in an instant if she knew...or she'd try, at least. And Lance was just too content with their arrangement to risk disrupting it.
They stood face to face, almost touching, just teasing out that moment. Both were too proud to cave to the physical desires of their own bodies; too proud to admit that they needed the touch of the other. That was the game they played. For Lance, it was second nature. For Razia, however, it was something new. Lance had arrived with a spark of newness to her ages-long life; a change of pace and sense of spontaneity. For Razia, there was something forbidden and darkly tempting about Lance, even though all she'd seen of him was burning and fiery glory.
"You were missed," Razia said, turning from Lance back to her vigil.
"Was I, now?" Lance asked. He stepped up beside her and brushed the back of his fingers against hers. She pushed her hand against his.
Lance was so enraptured with their little game that he almost missed it, a little shift and pull at the back of his mind, the sharpening of his senses.
A chuckle, low and deep and condescending from the passenger behind his eyes.
"Dominaria," he whispered. He knew the feel of that plane. He'd been drawn there once before, by the pull of the Black Blade. It was calling him again, not the sword this time, but the plane itself.
"And who might that be?" Razia asked. She played it coy and cold, but Lance could see the hurt and the spark of betrayal.
"'What'," Lance corrected, and laughed silently as he saw that hurt and betrayal dissipate and turn to confusion. "It's a place. I've been there, once before...it's calling me again." He placed a passionate kiss on Razia's lips, drawing a surprised gasp from the angel. "I have to go."
And he was gone.
Shadowmoor, the village of Mistmeadow
She dashed through the forest and burst out into the clearing. The trail wasn't difficult to follow; a straight line of billowing flames and ceaseless destruction. How things had gotten so bad on Lorwyn were beyond her knowledge. She'd been gone only a few months, hadn't she? What could have possibly happened? Why was everyone calling this world "Shadowmoor"? Why did no one remember her or the Lorwyn she'd visited before?
And what had happened to Ashling?
The young elemental was transformed, bristling with sharp edges and purple-black flame. She'd slaughtered everything in her path, consumed with boundless rage and unbridled power. It was terrible. Ashling was such a bright, happy girl. What could have happened?
Claire kept running. She'd agreed to meet with the elves Rhys and Maralen in Mistmeadow to discuss what had happened. Apparently, Maralen was one of the only beings on the plane who remembered the world before and wanted to speak with her. Claire might be able to help reverse whatever had happened.
Mistmeadow was burning. Claire didn't know whether or not Rhys and Maralen were even alive anymore. Ashling the Extinguisher was a monster of an elemental, as powerful--or more so--than any Claire had come across before. Ashling had smashed through the village's defenses and slaughtered anything in her path. The charred bodies of elves and kithkin littered the ground. Claire had seen some horrible things in her travels, but nothing as terrible as this pure carnage.
"You," hissed a voice. It rose up out of the black-burning flames and strode out into the fire-flayed clearing. It was Ashling, billowing indigo flames and pitch-black rock skin; razor-sharp claws and the same horrible grin carved onto her face. "Thief. Savage. Abominable."
"Ashling, what's happened to you?" Claire asked. She clenched her fists. "You have to--you've gotta stop this. This is--this is too much."
"Abominable," Ashling said again. She raised a clawed hand, glowing with that burning-black flame, and sent it in a fiery cone towards Claire.
Claire reacted instinctively; she raised her battlegear armor. The mizzium-darksteel alloy was incredibly durable and fireproof, but she still felt the heat of Ashling's power, and the force of the blast sent her flying. She rolled back, reforming the battlegear into its bladed iteration. She drew her power out, feeling it into ground and calling up the strength of the wild itself. She called out to the elemental forces and crafted them to her need. A crash of stone erupted around her, crackling with lightning and glowing with fiery light.
The elemental charged Ashling, but she rushed into it and shattered it with a single blow. The backlash of energies crashed into Claire and knocked her off her feet. Ashling flew towards her, claws bared, but Claire had enough presence of mind to swing the bladed wrist of the battlegear and intercept her slash. Claire threw a wild punch and caught Ashling under the chin, and a spinning back-kick doubled her over and tossed her back.
Ashling lifted her head and grinned that terrible, wild grin. She gathered her power in the palms of her hands and sent the indigo flames billowing towards Claire. But she fought back, drawing on her pyromancer's skill and countering with fires of her own. They collided, and Mistmeadow was consumed in the conflagration. The explosion sent Claire flying.
She rolled to her hands and knees, coughing, trying to regain her breath. Ashling stalked towards her, parting the flames as she did. Her fists crackled with that terrible, dark, extinguishing power. Claire knew that power, she'd tasted it herself. It was too much; she didn't have the power to face her--not Ashling--in open combat. Not like that. She could fight anyone else, but it was too much to fight Ashling, her truest friend.
Ashling raised her claws as she stood over Claire, poised for the killing blow. The malice and sheer glee etched into her features made Claire sick to her stomach. This wasn't the Ashling she knew. This Ashling would kill her without a second thought.
She had to get out of there. Or she'd--There was a pull. She felt it, drawing her into and through the Blind Eternities. It was an urgent feeling, more powerful than any she'd felt before.
Ashling struck, but Claire was gone; catapulted through the Eternities by the pull, her survival instinct, and her Planeswalking powers. A name came to her lips, one she'd never uttered before, but one she knew was the name of the place drawing her.