Ravnica: Chain of Events

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Welcome to "Ravnica: Chain of Events," a chain story written one passage at a time by several contributors!

In this original post, I will give a brief description of the basic rules, as well as a list of the participants, in turn order. Enjoy!

Each participant will write part of the story. The next participant will continue from where the previous participant left off. Sections of the story will be separated with this mark: * * *. A participant may place this mark wherever it makes sense, at the beginning, middle, or end of their post, or not at all. The story will continue until all remaining participants agree that it has reached its natural conclusion, or until each one abandons it (sad, but true.)
Participants post their contributions in turn order, the order being predetermined. When it is a contributor's turn, they have 3 days to post their contribution. If they have not posted within that time, they "pass" their turn. Participants may also choose to pass their turn for any reason. If a turn is passed, that participant is skipped and doesn't submit again until their turn comes around again. Additional participants may be added as the story continues with the agreement of the majority of active participants. Anything posted to this story by non-participants is not considered "canon" to the story, and essentially does not exist.
Submissions to the story should use three pages as a guideline for the maximum length. Less than this is perfectly acceptable, but more should be used sparingly. For "wall of text" purposes, participants should consider using [ sblock ] for their submissions.
Participants should also remember to respect one another, one another's work, the story so far, and Magic's canon. We are here to work and create together, not oppose one another.
Have fun!

Participants (in turn order):
Dr. Demento

Railu is a guildless Elf archer. He vehemently hates the guilds and nearly everyone and everything associated with them.

Gazwin is an eccentric, human, Izzet guildmage who, like most Izzet guildmages, is obsessed with experimentation.

An Izzet goblin and Gazwin's lab assistant.

A Rakdos Ogre with a passion for storytelling and gluttony. He seems to be a particularly pleasant and jovial Ogre, though also seems to be largely unaware of his effect on those he interacts with.

Daog is a Dimir agent and assassin, who up until very recently had been posing as a Rakdos functionary following Mospe-Tr-Gan.

An Azorius official and officer of the law.

Jakob Bashner:
Jakob is an ambitious and effective Golgari of some position within the Street Swarm.

A female Devkarin elf and intermediate between Jakob and Jarad. She is a powerful magic user of some kind.

An elf mage, formerly of the Simic Combine, though now apparently in business for himself.

A genetically altered Ogre in the service of his master Ardir.

Casamir is an Azorius official of a somewhat advanced rank.

Old Demethre:
A guildless tavern owner on Tin Street. He is a friend and mentor of Railu's.

One of Casamir's principle house guards.

Gruul Viashino assassin. Reluctant friend to Mospe-Tr-Gan.

Sylene :
Sylene is an Izzet guildmage and associate of Gazwin.

A female human commander in the Civisward, a volunteer, mostly guildless branch of the Boros Wojek league.

Allia's second in command. He carries a rapier.

A viashino tracker under Allia's command in the Civisward.

An elven Dimir mage and granddaughter of Ardir.

An female Orzhov agent working with Jaraslav to find Railu.

Dienda's imp companion.

A female Simic merfolk mage charged with hunting down Ardir.

A Gruul warrior, now wife of Gazwin.

A Gruul warrior in Gazwin's pack.

Thus-far unnamed characters include the agent who reported to Casamir that "K is dead," the human and goblin members of Allia's Civisward unit, and the Azorius officer who came to Gazwin's door looking for Railu.

I'll start things off because, well, because it was my idea.

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

Ravnica: Chain of Events


            It was raining again on Tin Street. Rivulets of water cascaded down in a heavy but uneven torrent, moving as inconsistently and unpredictably as the crowd it fell upon. But the crowd was thinning out far more than the rain. Tin Street was legendary on Ravnica; perhaps the longest stretch of unbroken road in the entire city. But that didn't make it safe, and beyond the outer reaches of the Market, Tin Street grew narrow, and dark, and dangerous.
            It was dusk, and the last stragglers of the crowd were finally beginning to move off towards their own private, desperate safe havens. At the mouth of a small alley connecting Tin Street to some of the back passageways stood Railu, his sharp, Elven eyes scanning the growing darkness with a practiced indifference. It was raining harder now, but Railu protected, at least to some degree, by his umbrellarua, an Izzet contraption designed to protect the wearer from the weather. It's protective bubble worked only marginally well, as this was an archaic model Railu picked up in a junker's shop. Somehow, Izzet technology always seemed to work fine until a newer model was released, but Railu hardly cared. He would never have bought new, and not simply because he could never afford to. The junker was a second-hand shop; no profits went to the Izzet. Railu would never support them, or any other guild, if he could possibly avoid it.
            A sudden movement caught his attention as some dark shape crossed his field of vision from across the street. Lost in thought, Railu had no time to register anything but the movement itself. Whatever it had been was fast, and it was big. Beyond that, Railu knew nothing. But a life on the streets of Ravnica had sharpened more senses than his sight. He knew it had not gone far. Perhaps it had sensed him as it ran by, or perhaps it could even see him, even shrouded in shadow as he was. Slowly, so as not to draw any more attention, Railu dropped to a crouch, his eyes constantly scanning for any variance in the rain-soaked street. His right hand instinctively came to rest on the handle of his dagger, which he wore in a leather sheath sewn into his clothes. He did not draw the blade, because the flash of steel on a Ravnican street usually brings more problems than it solves. Controlling his breathing as well as he could, Railu waited.
            The wait lasted only a few, short moments before Railu became aware of a sound like rolling thunder. It was approaching from his left, the same direction that mysterious form had appeared from, and Railu risked one brief second to glance down Tin Street in that direction. That one, brief second was all the beast required, and within that momentary distraction, it sprang. Only Railu's instincts saved him as he pushed off with his left leg, bounding just out of reach of the creature as it crashed heavily into the wall next to which Railu had just been standing. His knife slipped, no more than an inch from its sheath, but the unearthly growl the beast froze the young elf in place.
            It was certainly big, eight foot long at the least and thickly muscled. It was vaguely demonic in shape, including the two short horns protruding from its skull, but had no wings, and no sign of the dark intelligence usually found in demons. What captured Railu's fear-stricken attention most, however, was its teeth, two rows of jagged, pointed teeth that resembled the very serrated arrowheads Railu himself preferred. The beast growled again, almost a roar this time, and then, in a move that surprised Railu even more then the first attack, it turned and charged down the alley, away from Railu and Tin Street both.
            Refusing to breathe for fear his luck would run out, Railu took two steps backward onto Tin Street, just in time for his instincts to save him again as he reeled away from another towering shape bearing down on him. This one was accompanied by the loud neighing of a horse and some colorful cursing. Raith looked up to see a white horse, at least eighteen hands high, and atop it a rider in silver armor, whose face was not nearly so splendid as his adornments.
            "Knights of Prahv? Here?" This was all Railu could manage as he noticed this rider was not alone, but accompanied by at least half a dozen others, all similarly attired.
            "Out of the way, Guildless!" snarled the rider as he lifted his leg to kick at the elf. Railu was too shocked at their appearance to defend himself, and instantly discovered that the Izzet umbrellaura, while moderately successful at stopping rain, snow, and even wind, was not effective whatsoever against a heavily-armored boot.
            Railu rolled backward as the Azorious Riders turned and charged down the narrow alleyway, apparently chasing the very demon that had attacked the elf. Mutual enemies, however, did not sate Railu's ire, and he instinctively reached behind his back for his bow, his singular prized possession. Old Otak, a shopkeeper he had known since he was a boy, once told him he was a match for any sagittar in the Selesnya Conclave. Railu had considered that an insult. If the shot was possible within the basic laws of nature, Railu could make it. If it wasn't, Railu would find a way anyway.
            A sudden break in the rain made Railu pause, just before he had unhooked his bow. The rain returned a second later, but he spotted the cause immediately, an Azorious sky patrol scout. Railu had no doubt he had been seen, and the scout passing directly overhead was merely a warning against retaliation, a warning Railu reluctantly heeded.  Even the other guilds barely retained their rights in an Azorious court. The guildless stood no chance, and even if Railu could afford an Advokist from Orzhov, he would never support them anyway. This was certainly a time where discretion was the better part of valor. Railu released his grip on the bow and rubbed his back, as though it were sore from the fall. The last thing he needed was to be followed around by the Azorious for several weeks on suspicion of being a malcontent. Railu sighed and turned down Tin Street, resigned to the knowledge that the guilds had won…again.

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

*          *          *


            Gazwin giggled giddily as he skipped about his laboratory. The rain was just what the Firemind had ordered, setting the mizzium water wheels mounted in his walls to spinning. They were actually the prototype devices that had been used in the design of the Blistercoil system, which Gazwin had appropriated when they had been ordered back to the foundries for recycling. It wouldn’t have been too much trouble for him to have acquired the raw mizzium once they had been melted down, but…well, waste not, want not. One night’s worth of forged paperwork had saved him more than a month of tedious metalworking. Besides, it wasn’t like anyone would miss the mizzium itself, as he had been careful to replace the wheels with a load of his own scrap.

            Gazwin clapped his hands with glee, making for quite the sight as he capered about his lab. Tall and lanky, with a head full of brown curls that never quite seemed to agree on what they all wanted to do, he looked more like an escapee from the nearest asylum than one of Izzet’s more successful (or, at least, less dead) experimenters. The runes he had hand painted to his wall began to shine a blue so dark that it almost seemed purple in place, bathing his naked skin in their ethereal glow. “Success! Success! At last, I have unlocked the gravcelerant potential of rain and used it to create a photonic resonance!”

            He was so excited by his new discovery that he wasn’t paying much attention to the room around him. So he was completely oblivious when the hatch to the roof swung open, smashing into the back of his head with a dull whap. Gazwin let out a small screech as he fell, wrenching his arm as he tried and failed to catch himself on the edge of the table. The one saving grace was that thick carpeting, oddly stained by the consequences of hundreds of experiments, had been set down on the floor of the small apartment.

            The open hatch admitted a goblin in tidy brown robes, now soaking wet and plastered to his small frame. The ladder he clambered down was slick with rain, but what would have been risky for a full grown man was almost childishly easy for him. He dropped silently to the floor, and began wringing his robes dry as he shook himself like a dog. A small puddle was forming at his feet as the water dripped off of him faster than the carpet could absorb it. He turned around, trying to see where Gazwin might have gone. “Master, I- AGH!”

            “What, what is it?” Gazwin demanded, flipping over onto his back. Half way through the maneuver he ended up banging his knee into the table of a nearby chair. He instinctively pulled the wounded limb up to his chest, revealing far more than his assistant ever would have cared to have seen.

            “AGH! AGH! Master, where are your clothes?!” the goblin demanded angrily.

            “What?” Gazwin looked down, realized the problem, and quickly became a tangle of limbs as he tried to cover himself. “Oh! Sorry, Flibt, I wasn’t expecting you back so soon! I wanted to enjoy the beauty of the storm for a bit, and I suppose I got a bit carried away.”

            “Master…” Flibt said. He spoke with the tone of voice used by one who had long since given up on patience, and was holding on through a combination of stubbornness and tenacity alone. “Master, we have talked about this. What if I was a lady, hmmm? You want the Great Dragon to reward you with a harem of lovelies, but how can you do that if you cannot behave properly, hmmm? You remember Ms. Veszian, hmmm?”

            “You are right as always, Flibt,” Gazwin replied as he pulled himself back to his feet. “Now, where did I leave that kilt…?”

            There was a crack of thunder, accompanied by the hiss of tearing metal and the sizzle of mana grounding harmlessly back into the wild as the entire room plunged into darkness. There was a moment of silence, and then, “Flibt? I’m scared. Hold me?”


*          *          *

*  *  *
[Spoiler=The Stories of Mospe-Tr-Gan]
To hear 'im tell 'vit. From the mouth of Mospe-Tr-Gan ran a silver stream down to the forearm of himself. And if shimmered in the light as his mouth spoke his words. Slurred and loud they came. When there was pause, Daog, the follower of first his feminine pursuits and second his monetary ones spoke aloud, without the slur and volume.

"And what would you do, Mospe-Tr-Gan of the oldest peoples, Mospe-Tr-Gan of the roast fowl and of the great Bovine Mandibles - with an 'Elmsplitter of the Azorious - who've been known for locking away and putting in the dark and sweeping or washing of the alleys and the dark streets where Mospe's feet make the holes for the steeds to trip over?"

Many eyes glanced at Mospe-Tr-Gan, who had his eyes fixed on a piece of dusty air a Goblin's arms length in front of his mighty nose, brimmed with foul brownish and blackish glycoproteins as it was. With the assistance of one leathery forearm and a blurry mess of fingers, wrist, palm, and knuckles, Mospe-Tr-Gan of the largest wart, Mospe-Tr-Gan of the rain drinking, slurry stepping, hound squealing, ale digesters, slog off his clay fixture - which, as they might say, that it was filled, though not so full anymore, with the liquid elixirs of fermentation and alcohol of all of the best varieties to be found across Tin Street and any subsidiary neighborhoods or 'burbs, high or low.

"Mospe-Tr-Gan has seen with his large eye", Mospe-Tr-Gan slurred through his hole of mouth - an aperture designed for heavy consumption of sweet liquors, and that of roasted animal fleshparts, but not so well for the manners of speech through which the general communities and societies and individuals of the Watery and Cold and Hot Ravnica chose to deign communication, "quite several of the White-Armoured trenchmen. The cold steel wearing Sphinxboys. The jewel clad officers of Orderous Law and Maintenance of Peace. Mospe-Tr-Gan of High Helmet and Wooden sticks, Mospe-Tr-Gan of -" Here Mospe-Tr-Gan of the inflammatory intestinal tract paused for an exclamation. The nature of this exclamation was not vocal, but it still exited the orifice of his Dark and Odorous mouth - coating the few teeth that remained there with a gaseous presence though molars and canines as they were did not seem to notice, as they wallowed it the black gumscape pitying their idle and sorry lot. "the Pickle Sniff does only one thing and that he has done three times and no more, when he encounters the feather-haired ring-bearers of Azor. When first Mospe-Tr-Gan, rat catcher, cartwheeler, and Blood Poet, encountered the clean and upright standing Manchildren of the Highest Emblem he took him into his Meathands, and crafted him into a long and narrow shape. The Pale creature with ten fingers and ten toes molded well, and when Mospe-Tr-Gan of the veiny eye was done, he put the Soldier of Justifications into his own Underbritches and ran across the streets as he was want to do and went trotting with his legs moving quickly all the time and the yellow and brown sweat bringing on the Shitflies to crowd around Mospe's face and fan him with their translucent frostwings. And when Mospe-Tr-Gan was done with the running and he removed the parcel from his own Underbritches which were now wet as the deepest lake and widest ocean and the most Winterous of storms, he removed the corpse-like vertebrate human and set him upright and sat on a barrel of dead fishings and even the copious amounts of Shitflies were more than interested in the contents and the patron."

And now, Mospe-Tr-Gan set down the clay vessel which held only a small amount of its dark and oily tincture within, upon the wooden hearty table which had seen as many or more visitors than the offices of Orzhov with the pleading and salty tears. A cobweb of strings and dust hung mere fingers above Mospe-Tr-Gan's giant domed hairless head. It swung and the shadow of it flickered against several of the dust-covered walls and upon the filthy faces and fleshbodies of several of the guests or patrons.

Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Brown clothe. Mospe-Tr-Gan of the broken bottle, and scarred kneecaps with several of the veins in each, all red, blue, purple, and green, continued to finish his Bold tale, "And he stood upright, with his spine straight, and his watery eyes unblinking and staring straight ahead, and 'twere I left him there. And then twice more, I continued the entire process of this, with the molding and the sweat and the Underbritches. . ." Mospe-Tr-Gan's stainface took on a dark and wistful appearance. Then his hole of a mouth evacuated onto the strong and wooden hearty table the contents of his innermost guts and the bodily processes of his self.

And as Mospe-Tr-Gan and Daog the follower and the rest of their sweat-drenched and shoeless cronies began another round, and Daog, who wishes only for pleasure and entertainment and fortune and power, asked with his own smaller facial orifice, "And but, Mospe-Tr-Gan, of the Shitflies, and Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Hide Ropes, what would Mospe-Tr-Gan of the stench-gutter do if he were to encounter a pair of Endriks? One male and the other female and in the season of right time?"

The small-bodied goblin, Flibt, of the service and exotic experimentation, sat on his own rear end, and heard, though didn't listen as hard as he could, to the response through Mospe-Tr-Gan's gumhole - and he of the little fingers and sensible mind wondered with his very own ponderous brain, what his purpose was and if perhaps he had been especially cruel in some lost memory of his own Skullmind, to deserve this sort of stench-filled and uncomfortable fate.
*  *  *

139359831 wrote:
That is a lovely painting of Richard Garfield. It really brings out his feminine side.
Far away, a Boros guildmage lay sprawled in a gutter, naked and pale, save the pool of crimson spreading from his neck. A victim of cutthroats that picked him as an easy mark, a victim of drunkness that dulled his reflexes, a victim of rain that quelled his fire, a victim of a woman who drove him to drink, a victim of circumstance, a victim of Ravnica. Who knows what dreams were now seeping into the undercity, what history brought to a suddon close, what adventures aborted by a thug with more tatoos than vocabulary.

At least one figure did, and it was not pleased. Stepping cooly over the darkening blood, it pulled a quill and parchment from its cloak and hurriedly scribe a message
"K is dead. Need new catalyst. Recommend J."
before crumbling it to dust and casting it in the wind. The figure was only a block from its new destination by the time the reply manifested itself in a shop window's reflection.
"Proceed with extreme caution."

Jaroslav scarecly noticed the hooded figure that bumped into him on his way out of the Azorious field office. He was in a bad mood, which seemed to be the one constant of his new dispute mediation job. The Selesnyian and Golgari plantiff's yells followed him out into the humid night as he angrly murmered to himself.

"To hell with who did it, how the hell is a slum that got up and walked itself away even my jurisdiction?"

* * * 
"I think me going Bang bang bang I win is pretty intuitive" Mafia Record: Wouldn't you like to know? 2011 Mafia Awards - Mastermind of the Year
57817638 wrote:
58060728 wrote:
88318561 wrote:
58060728 wrote:
Moriok Rigger does absolutely nothing to boost other riggers. You are incorrect.
Moriok Rigger is not a Rigger in print. Only in Errata WHAT NOW! (yes, I did put that phrase in for that exact reason)
Congratulations, they have activated your trap card!
Jakob couldnt beleive where he was... In Korozda, the maze of decay itself!! Only in his wildest dreams did he think he would ever be here. Him a street swarm member!!! Only 6 years in. Jakob could rember it well. The gate. It looked so... so... unwanted. When he saw it he knew he was goin to join it. It reminded him of himself. Now 6 years latter and he was a up and comin star in the ranks of the street swarm.

Already he had a pair of sewer trolls under his "command", as long as he fed them every so often with good bodies there were happy. He had 2 dozen of the Devkarin under his "command" as well. Only as long as he kept up the expansion in the smaller districs goin at least. As for the other street swarm. They nubered between 200 on a good day, to 50 on a bad. Alot of them despised him. In his first week he had somehow gotten the Gruul to move out of a small district. Now that was a something that was almost unheard of in the street swarm. Especially in his first week! Now he had 4 medium districs under his belt and over a dozen smaller ones.

Yeah life was lookin good. Till she had arrived. A devkarin elf, but one with the sense of power that was incredibly intoxicating. Everything about her demanded respect. It was amazing. What she told him was a huge surprise.

"You Jakob Bashner?" She asked with power literally oozin from her. Her eyes, the color of the darkest purple. Almost black. Her suit spoke of silence and death. Her face was cut like that of a Boros statue. Her hair was literally glowing Green and Black. He couldnt tell if she was makin her mana appear somehow or if it was just a special type of fungus. He couldnt care less. She was the definition of beatiful.

"Yes" He breathed out, barly able to stay conscious. Suddenly he felt self-conscious. He realized that he looked like a mess. After come home from the bar. His clothes wrinkled and he smelled of some of the dead bodies he had hauled around. Not to mention he stank of smoke. He really should stop smokin. Bad for the lungs and fungus and all that.

She looked him straight up and down. He could feel her disapproval. She her face twisted into a sneer.

"You have been called to Lord Jarad. He wishes to speak to you in person. Tomorrow at 4. If your late, I will torture you personally, then I will kill you, raise you up again and torture your spirit till the end of time. Understood?" Her eyes studyin his face intensly.

Now that had gotten his attention. "Wait, Lord Jarad? You mean Lord Jarad, the guildmaster of the Golgari? Lord Jarad the Master Lich? That Jarad?" 

She noded her head. Her beatiful eyes starin at him cold.

Now here he was at the gate to Jarads inner chambers. Suddenly he heard clickin and the gate started to open. He saw a light slash through the crack. He gasped for on the other side was....
                                                            *    *    *

"Pull the lever!"
"I am, the problem's in the component."
"I thought I told you, cretin, go and see the Izzet tomorrow - you've been putting it off again!"
"You would too if you saw the state of the labs!"
"Oh shut it Graz. Look, I've fixed this bit, reverse the Gil Crank and try again."
"Yes Master."

Grumbling, the heavyset mutant did as he was bid and, once more, pulled the lever. Bolts of lightning lanced from the apparatus, streaking across the room to ground themselves in the salt pools causing, he paused to note in the logs, rainbow effervescence. The inhabitants of the pool, an elf, a vedalken and a human, seemed less than happy about this change, although it was hard to tell as they had had most of their upper bodies removed and replaced with gleaming organic crystals, then all sewn together to form one singular abomination. Still, as their eyes took on the glow that indicated fatesight, Graz could have sworn that their grimaces of pain got that bit more intense.

"Graz! Stop gawking like a fool and get to the Oracle!" Ardir shouted, shaking his elven head at the oaf. He watched as the once-ogre shambled into place and took his own behind the crystalline recorder. Soon the whirling images of fate were flying from the minds of the submerged trio into the Oracle machine. After a second, Graz twisted the display to send a stream of decoded visions towards the reader.

An archer watches the Azorius charge past, hate filling his soul. Two men, dressed in Orzhovy finery, dine together like the old friends they pretend to be. An elf, devkarin by her markings, wielding dark power over other rotscum. Four dark eyes watch a conclave guard drop dead, hiding mirth behind their various disguises. A head, covered in writhing serpents turns towards -

The display cuts out. Adrir curses, his enhanced fist smashing a small table to splinters as he swings it down. Breathing deeply, he focuses, an organic lattice spreading from his hand towards the pile of wood. The crystal wind their way throughout the framework, swiftly rebuilding it, leaving a gleaming new piece of furniture in their wake. Smiling at this effort, Ardir turns to his assistant.

"Graz, stop whatever you're doing now. I need you to go and talk to that crazed Izzet wizard."

Graz turned his misshapen head towards Ardir, grinning unnaturally wide as he answered:

"Which one?"

144902215 wrote:
Morgothra has the Syntax and Grammar of a God.
56754738 wrote:
I love this card.
56771968 wrote:
I can't compete with this.
57461258 wrote:
@Morgothra: Beautifully said, sir. Beautifully said.
Contest Winners
CKY, magicpablo666 and Dinobeer combined ingenuity and silliness to win a Summer fUn contest each! vlord beat the rest to become the architect of a better tomorrow in Build it and they will come! CityofAs pranced masterfully to victory in Skipping Merrily! ConfusedAsUsual conquered both tropes and opponents to ascend in Metafiction! FirstTurnKill condensed Success into Art form in Summing it Up!

“K is dead. Need new catalyst. Recommend J.” Casamir reread the note that had appeared on his desk and sighed. “I liked him.”

He looked out his window at the rabble in the street below. He exhaled onto the glass and wrote in the fog, “Proceed with extreme caution.” Wherever the spy was the message would reach his soon enough. This was his first foray into cloak and dagger affairs and he found it ill-suited him. He’d been a decent officer, a terrible judicator, and now it seemed likely his last work would be as a chess master, spending the lives of others in a game he could never ask them to understand. He turned back to his desk, feeling every day of his fifty-five years.

He pulled the quill from its bottle and wrote;


It has come to my attention you are dissatisfied with the current arrangement of your district (which is to say: with you and yours on the bottom). I am an interested party willing and able to assist with your situation”

Here he marked out “situation” and rewrote “plight,” the message as the elf received it would include the more sympathetic word.

“Near the docks work two former Simic, well educated masters of scrying via highly morbid but effective means. You will know them when you see them. You need only find them and give an Azorious named Jaroslav a letter bearing their location. I know you detest working with the guilds, but you will find enclosed a valuable gift. A way of keeping the guilded from so easily taking advantage of your status.

-Your brother in freedom”

He wondered if the last part was too much. “Coconspirator,” maybe? In the end he just hoped the gift would be enough to win the elf over.  He then carefully wrapped the note around his gift and placed both of them in the fireplace. The spells that made the notes find their recepients cost a small fortune, but Casamir valued the absolute secrecy they provided enough to pay anyway.

After he was done with that he wrote another note, this one on normal paper and much longer, to Jaroslav. It contained a lot of Azorious legal jargon but essentially ordered him to drop what he was doing and go to Tin Street to resolve a dispute he knew was already settled. The elf would find him and the note would be delivered. He didn’t bother to worry about explaining things to his subordinate. Within a few months the paperwork to fire him would have gone through and to Jaroslav it would be just another nonsensical task. He stamped the letter with his official seal, the seal of his district, his boss and finally the seal of the guild. An assistant would mail the letter.

In the meantime he read through a few small civil cases and signed verdicts however he damn well saw fit. Some counsel somewhere would no doubt reverse them, but by then most of the humans involved would already be dead. The Azorious were inexorable, but a clever hand could stall them long enough that it usually did not matter.



            Railu stared at the box, his mouth in a tight, straight line as he inhaled and exhaled sharply through his nose. "Damn the Paruns…" he muttered to himself. He had only been sitting at the tavern table for a few seconds before the note and the small, pristine box had been delivered to him. He read the note over again, and it told him just as little. 'Assist with your plight,' 'a brother in freedom.' This whole thing stank of a trap, but a trap for whom? A lifetime of living on the streets had sharpened Railu's instincts, and they were screaming at him now. This note was a trap, but so what? Everything inside Railu told him it was a trap for this Jaroslav, not for him. Those same instincts were also blazing about the box. He hadn't opened it yet, but already he knew it was legitimate. Whatever was in that box radiated power. Not enough to make whatever it was unattainable, but enough to justify the claim of its mysterious sender.
            Railu fumed. What did he care? Send some Azorious lapdog into a trap, why not? But again, the sender of this note must assuredly be guilded, as well. So wouldn't he be helping the guilds by cooperating, and worse yet, betraying his own convictions? Still, though, if he didn't do it, someone else would, and this way, he got whatever was sitting in that plain white box. This entire thing bothered him. Whoever sent the box knew him by name, found him with ease, and approached him with almost deadly secrecy. The guilds shouldn't care about him any more than he cared about them. Hadn't an Azorious kicked him in the face just earlier that night, simply for being guildless? Something here didn't make sense. It took several minutes, but finally Railu, with another curse uttered toward the guilds, decided to open the box.
            Just as the top flap was released, however, a sudden crash from behind him drew Railu's attention. He looked back at the door of the tavern, or where the door of the tavern had been minutes before, and saw the opening now filled with the massive form of…something. It was huge and misshapen, but the area of its body that seemed to be a face wore a tremendous grin. As the thing squeezed itself inside, it spoke, speaking in a low, guttural voice with an almost hauntingly jovial edge to it.
            "Ahh, this place will do! Come, my amusing little goblin friend! You will see how Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Emptying Casks drinks a tavern under the table!"
            As the lumbering monstrosity separated from the wall behind him, a sad, sullen little figure shuffled in behind him, looking not the least bit interested in the company of his companion. Railu tried to turn back to his own table, but before he could, the gargantuan spoke again, and to the elf's discomfort, it spoke directly at Railu.
            "What's you got there?" This creature seemed to have only one eye, but from its asymmetric position on its face, Railu doubted this was by design. Either way, that eye seemed to be focused intently on the box resting half an inch from his hand. Railu tried to pick it up and move away, but this Mospe-Tr-Gan (as Railu assumed was the beast's name) crossed the floor in three steps. Railu attempted to twist out of the way while making a grab for the box, but Mospe-Tr-Gan swatted him away. To the rest of the room, this seemed like a carefree, dismissive gesture. Railu felt differently, however, as the impact sent him flailing across the room and hammering into the far wall.
            Railu reached for his bow just as Mospe-Tr-Gan withdrew the box's contents, a small, dull-green gem made even smaller between the massive fingers that held it. The giant creature spoke, his rumbling voice almost giddy. "I wish I could shows them all in Rix Maadi what Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Plunder has found!" Then, in a moment no one in that tavern was likely to ever forget, Mospe-Tr-Gan simply vanished, just a split second before Railu's arrow passed through the spot Mospe-Tr-Gan's eye had just been.
            Even in Ravnica, it is certainly not every day that a thousand pounds of muscle and bone simply disappears, and the shock of witnessing it showed on the faces that remained. Railu recovered first, and used his next few moments to observe the reactions of those around him. The little goblin stood with his head cocked to one side, his mouth working without producing a sound. Old Demethre, the barkeep, stood frozen, a dirty rag still comically set inside the glass he had been cleaning. Two drunken gamblers were rubbing their eyes, while a tall elven woman, probably Golgari, was just shaking her head in disbelief. The Azorious officer was just just looking around until his eyes locked with Railu's.
            Wait, Railu thought, the Azorious officer? The guildless elf started as he realized this man hadn't been there before. As quickly as he could, Railu moved back toward his table, intent on rereading the note. There was no way this could be the Azorious he was supposed to meet, but he needed the name to be sure. As he moved toward the table, the officer moved toward him, and the goblin, apparently wanting a look at the spot his companion had been, moved toward both of them. Railu grabbed the piece of paper and read the name just as the officer spoke it.
            "I'm Jaroslav, Azorious Mediator and Officer of the Peace. Would someone mind telling me what that was all about?"
            Railu said nothing, still trying to figure that out for himself. The goblin, on the other hand, answered quickly, and his articulation alone betrayed him immediately as an Izzet.
            "I wish I could tell you, Mediator Jaroslav, but I am afraid that the circumstance defies explanation. One moment Mospe-Tr-Gan was here, and the next he most assuredly was not, and in all my observances of him, I feel I can safely say that neither invisibility nor translocation are amongst his common skills."
            The other two men stared at the goblin for a moment before both shook their heads and refocused on one another. "Anything you would like to add?" Jaroslav asked.
            Railu thought for a moment, trying to decide on a course of action. This Mospe-Tr-Gan, whatever sort of creature he might be, had stolen the gem that was meant for Railu. Even the Orzhov wouldn't hold Railu to any sort of an agreement, since he never took possession of his payment. However, if it was the gem that caused Mospe-Tr-Gan to vanish, maybe it was as valuable as the mysterious benefactor had hinted. If that were the case, he wanted it back. Railu folded the note and shoved it into his pocket as he answered.
             "He stole from me. He attacked me, unprovoked, and stole something valuable from me, and I want it back."
            Jaroslav frowned. "And didn't I see you fire an arrow at his head? Hardly a legal response to theft."
            Railu couldn't contain his ire. "You damn Azorious are all the same! Laws for everyone, justice only for the guilds! He attacked me! He stole from me! If I had killed him, you'd have hauled me off to Prohv, right? But if I were Selesnya, or Boros, or one of you back-sores on legs Azorious, it would be too much trouble, right? Damn the Paruns for siring the guilds!"
            Jaroslav was about to answer when the goblin tugged on the sleeves of each of their shirts. When the two men looked down at him, he was looking around the tavern, and they followed his lead. Something was definitely not right. The room had filled with a light fog, tinted a dark blue. No one but the three of them were moving, not even an inch. While before Old Demethre was standing still with shock, now he was merely standing still, unblinking and unresponsive.
            "What's going on here," Jaroslav managed in a whisper.
            Before anyone could answer, a figure materialized where the door had been. It approached the trio standing by the table near the center of the room. The tall, gaunt frame of the man belied a sense of dark power from within. He looked at each of them in turn, and then spoke, his voice hollow, yet somehow concerned.
            "Where is Mospe-Tr-Gan?"
            "Wait," the goblin said, squinting at the newcomer. "Daog?"
            The figure looked downward. "Yes, Flibt. It is me. Now, where is Mospe-Tr-Gan?" His voice obtained a more urgent edge to it as he repeated his question.
            Confused, Flibt the goblin answered. "He disappeared. Completely. No trace, whatsoever. It was fascinating, really."
            The color drained from Daog's face, literally. His skin-tone, previously a tanned peach color, turned ghostly white, the same white as the small box which had contained Railu's stolen gem. For a split second, the archer thought he spotted movement to his right, but when he looked, all he saw were the two gamblers and the tall elven woman, seemingly as motionless as before. He turned back to Daog.
            "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"
            Daog exhaled, but something told his observers the action was only for show. "My true name would be unpronounceable to you, so you may refer to me simply as Daog, as Flibt knows me. I have been masquerading as a Rakdos subservient, but in actually I have been watching Mospe-Tr-Gan closely. We have it on good authority that Mospe-Tr-Gan may soon play a vital role in a catastrophe which may well destroy the guilds themselves."
            This piqued Railu's interest, but he tried to hide his reaction as best he could. Jaroslav was interested in other things, however. "Who is 'we?' What authority?"
            Daog paused, but only briefly. "The Dimir. I am a Dimir agent. I hope the very fact that I am revealing myself to you is proof enough of the severity of this situation. We must find Mospe-Tr-Gan, before he does something even he'll regret."
            "I'll have no part in this," Railu blurted. "All of your guild business is a heap of drake droppings, and I'd enjoy watching you all topple."
            "I don't know who you are," began Daog, "or why you're here, but all of my Dimir training and my natural instincts tell me you play a role in all this, as well. It would be best if you came along."
            Jaroslav nodded. "Besides, protecting the guilds is a duty of all of Ravnica, not just the Azorious and the Boros. Ravnica owes its success to the guilds."
            "I'll tell you what I owe the guilds, quill-pusher," Railu answered antagonistically. He looked first at Flibt. "I owe the Izzet for the death of my mother, when they blew up a neighborhood where she was trying to heal the guildless." He changed his view to Jaroslav. "I owe the Azorious for sentencing my father for poaching after her death. They sentenced him to help try to convert an expanse of the Undercity to Azorious control," he looked to Daog, "an expanse controlled by Dimir smugglers, who killed him. Yes, I owe the guilds a lot."
            For a few moments, no one spoke as Railu considered his options. He decided he no longer cared about the gem, or Mospe-Tr-Gan, or the trap. That sparked a thought. The only thing in the tavern that Jaroslav might think was a clue was the note in Railu's pocket, the trap that someone set for the Azorious. If the trap would eliminate one, maybe it could eliminate all three, and Mospe-Tr-Gan could do whatever it was that might destroy the guilds. Railu fought back a smile as he remembered that Jaroslav's name appeared just under the fold he had made in the note. In his pocket, Railu struggled and eventually succeeded in tearing the paper in half.
            Railu turned away from the others, then hesitated. He pulled out the note to make sure he had the correct half, then turned back. "I want no part in this. But I have heard about someone who can help you, if you want. Here's all I know about them"
            He handed Jaroslav the torn note, and then resisted a grin as Jaroslav read it. "Two former Simics, huh?" There was a note of uncertainty in his voice. "Very well, then, if that's all we've got."
            He extended his hand to Railu. Without thinking, Railu took it, and immediately regretted it as Jaroslav slipped a small metal band around his wrist. Railu jerked his arm away, and the band immediately began to glow a dull yellow. The burning sensation he felt was only slightly less dull. "A restraining band?"
            Jaroslav smiled and held up its match around his wrist. "I get lied to for a living. Did you think I wouldn't recognize it? Until we recover your 'stolen merchandise,' you're in my custody. Now let's go see what's down by the docks."
            Railu's face distorted with rage, but there was nothing he could do. He recovered himself just enough to sputter, through clenched teeth, "Damn the Paruns…"
*  *  *

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

There was a thunderous knock at the door, jolting Gazwin out of a sound night’s sleep. The dullish blue glow of ethereal metals washed over the walls of his room, offering just enough light to see by without it taking him any time for his eyes to adjust. He waited for a moment, hoping the noise would go away, but as the knocking resumed at an even louder volume Gazwin found himself wondering if his poor door was capable of surviving the assault. “Flibt! Where are you, Flibt? There is someone some one at the door! See what they want, and if they don’t have anything we want make them go away! And if it’s more of those damned Azorious busybodies, make sure their pants are on fire as well!”

            Gazwin waited for an answer, then frowned in confusion when the goblin failed to answer. Instead there was a high pitched schcraaack as the door finally gave way. Bits of dust and dirt filtered down from the ceiling as someone – or something – heavy stomped its way into the ground floor waiting room.

            “Flibt?” Gazwin asked much more quietly. Was he under attack? Why was he under attack? And what had they done with poor Flibt? ‘I swear, if they harmed one hair on that poor gobbo’s head, I’m going to rend them down to atoms and mail them back to which ever thick headed, slope browed, mouth breather of a parun they work for in a garbage bag with the contents of my chamber pot!’ he mentally promised. ‘Well, unless they work for Niv, I suppose. In that case I probably want to wrap it up nicely, maybe with some bath salts or mizzium trinkets? “Thank you, Master, for the chance to prove my loyalty by removing the dim witted from your august company.” Yeah, that has a nice ring to it, I think.’

            Gazwin spotted his thermoelectric atmospheric reionizer lying in its cradle just a few short feet away. The blaster was a variant of some of the more typical Izzet weapons, as he had, of course, made some personal modifications. The contraption was somewhat barrel shaped, narrower at one end and with a spectacular bulge of shaped sapphire in the middle. Half a dozen different dials on the left monitored energy levels, while the capacitor’s current charge. An emerald targeting gauge was mounted halfway down it’s length, projecting an estimated area of impact on the reionizer’s target. Taken all together, it sort of looked like a child’s plaything, much to the surprise of more than one assailant.

             Moving as quietly as the crowded lab allowed him to, he snuck over to the work bench and carefully slipped his arm into the mounting ring. The weapon activated as soon as his skin made contact with the metal, vibrating pleasantly as he slipped it into place. He glanced down for a quick reading and smiled at what he saw. The capacitor would be good for at least five continuous shots before he would have to wait for it to reload. Granted, he could always fire them off in delayed bursts, but why give the other guy a chance to survive?

            From downstairs came the sound of shattering furniture and some rather prolific cursing. ‘Oh, no, they’re trying to search my labs! The brutes will ruin everything! Gah, I almost wish it had been Azorious!’

            Gazwin launched himself at the stairs, taking them three at a time as he bounded into his living room. He leveled the blaster in the general vicinity of where he thought the intruders were and shouted, “Nobody move, I have you surrounded!”

            “You do?” a voice like falling rocks asked. “By yourself? That’s an impressive feat.”

            Only then did Gazwin get a good look at his erstwhile visitor. The man? Creature? Thing? Standing in front of him had clearly been an ogre at one point or another, and still had the two prominent tusks jutting up from its lower lip. Unlike the typical Gruul or Rakdos brute, this particular ogre had gone to the trouble of filing the tips of his tusks down to a flat level and covering them with silver caps decorated with gold filigree. He was also wearing a rather well tailored suit, cut along traditional lines rather than the avant-garde fashions of the truly noble. The clothes were also some what worn and faded, indicating that their wearer had found himself recently facing some hard choices. It might all have been explained by the uniform bulge at the top of his head and the scar line just barely covered by his well trimmed hair, both clear signs that this particular ogre had once been an experiment belonging to someone else.

            The ogre was also clutching the ruined remains of a chair in two ham sized fists. From the looks of things he had been trying to repair the obliterated piece of furniture, and just as clearly had not been having much luck. It was just so many splinters and pieces of fabric, almost as if it had been a victim of one of Gazwin’s own experiments.

            “You might as well not bother,” Gazwin said, motioning towards the chair rather carelessly with his cannon. “I buy those things pretty cheap. I wouldn’t exactly say they’re designed to break, but they’re also fairly cheap to replace.”

            He then leveled the cannon at the ogre, and a bright white light began to form at the back of the barrel, accompanied by an ominous huummmmmm. “Now tell me who you are, and what you did with my goblin.”

Polite Host

"Don't be ridiculous. Lower that thing. I am of no danger to you. My hatred extends no further than for shoddy furniture." The ogre set down the shattered stool, and began to walk toward Gazwin. "Now. You are interested in the things I can tell you - but I need something for you in exchange."

Gazwin still felt fear - but he felt something else too - shame. He was just a little embarrassed of his hasty actions. Who was this fellow? And why was he being so reasonable? Still, the fear of this brute was enough. "Not any closer!" Gazwin squeeled.

"Fine. Fine." The Ogre stopped in his tracks. "Now, do you want to know what I can tell you?"

Gazwin did. He was quite interested - and he made this clear with several motions of his head.

"Good. Then I'll need a few things from you. As you can see, I'm quite filthy. Draw me a bath. I'm also famished. Is there anything of sustenance in you abode? And if you wouldn't mind - I'd appreciate the use of a wash tub for my suit." The ogre strolled past Gazwin and up the stairs.

Gazwin supplied him with dried Indrik and some Orzhov-grade wine. After which, the Ogre took a lengthy soak in the tub. Whilst he was splashing and soaping, Gazwin dozed. His dreams were filled with an endless night. He saw the city spreading out beneath him. It was so dark, but then he saw the sun begin to rise. But lo and behold, he realized that the light was not coming from the Sun. Instead a fire so bright that it lit the heavens was spreading across the structures of Ravnica. It came for him. He started awake. One bead of sweat on his temple.

"You should go back to sleep, my friend." The Ogre stood in front of him, toweling off. The meager cloth didn't cover much. Gazwin quickly averted his eyes. "Would you mind helping me out here?" The big fellow couldn't reach the small of his back with such a tiny towel.

Gazwin stepped forward and rubbed the wet dark skin with his woolen clothe. It looked like a mere doily against the strong mangled back of this gigantic creature. "Is that better?" Gazwin inquired.

"Yes, much better." The ogre turned and smiled warmly down at the sleepy scientist. Then he raised his hand, and slammed it down on Gazwin's head. Gazwin fell to the floor. His eyes shut. Dead asleep. "You were tired little man, weren't you?"

After tucking the scientist into bed, the Ogre stood up, and continued his search. . .

139359831 wrote:
That is a lovely painting of Richard Garfield. It really brings out his feminine side.
A gorgon standing before a huge throne with a Zombie elf sittin on it. The elf looked at the gorgon "Leave us" The gorgon bowed her head then simply vanished. 
Jakob's eyes bulged. What just happined? He had never heard of this kind of magic. The zombie elf looked at Jakob, his eyes felt like they were studyin Jakob for any threats, or for any ways he could be useful in death. Jakob felt himself self counciously try to hide himself before that gaze. So this was the gaze of a guildmaster. His power was simply breathtaking. 
"Enter" The elf commanded.
Jakob could feel his feet moveing forword on their own command. Jakob inwordly tried, in vain, to turn around and run out the gate and as far away as he could. 
He didnt. Instead he just kept on walking towards his guildmaster. He knew that if he didnt play this out right then he was going to be dead in a matter of milliseconds.
 He stood at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the throne where Jarad king Lich, and master of all Golgori sat. As he looked up in horror/fascination, he noticed how the Guildmaster seemed to be less elf and more plant. He saw how the guild master seemed to be literally held together by fungi. He shuddered to think just how much mana was coursing through the guildmaster, Just to keep himself upright must have taken loads of mana. More thenn he could ever hope to possese. 
 He felt himself get to his knees and bow his head. As soon as his eyes locked to the floor he could see bodies lieing all around him. instead of being left in the open they werecovered in moss and dirt and such to make in oh so easy to walk on them with out notice, but as soon as you looked down you could see them. What they must have done to have been killed and stay in the guilmasters sight.
 Suddenly one of the bodies twiched in his direction. Jakob eyes literally went as wide as they could go. The bodies might be rotted but the minds were still at a state of awareness. At least enough to know he was here. These werent corpes but ghouls. Gaurds that would rise up and defend the guilmaster if an enemy got to close.
 Suddenly he noticed the hives on the walls. He could actually here an unending wave of little scuttling coming out of the hives. He had seen these same hives. In fact he had used hives of the same species sept a fraction of the size. The amount of Insects in those hives must have been enourmous. If the anything got past the ghouls then the Guildmaster was protected by a infinite amout of insects. Indeed if anyone got past these defences then they desereved to be guildmaster. 
 "Jakob" Said Jarad.
 "Yes my lord?" Jakob eyes went back to the ghoul right under him.
 "I have summoned you for an important mission. I want you to go to a port district that is under Orzhos control. There is talk of them moving out. They have an important shipment that my spies tell me will inform them of them staying. We need this port district under our control. I need ships carrying important equipment unloaded. You are charged with this task. I watched you these past years and I think your ready for a challenge. If you fail, you will wish for torture. For torture compared to my wraith is honey compared to salt. If you succed your prestige in the golgari will grow exponetially. My favor will be with you and the comforts of both life and death will be yours. Do you accept?"
 He could feel Jarad eyes burning into the back of his skull. He didnt dare look up for fear of diein right then.
"Of course guildmaster." He voice shaking completly. He  could actual smell his fear from his breath.
"Good now get out of my sight worm." The guildmaster told him. His disgust the only emotion in his entire voice. Suddenly a hand shot of the ground and grabbed Jakobs head. He screamed as he was pulled into the ground and slowly swallowed up. He saw movement at the other ghouls were moving towards him. He saw the killer light in their eyes. As his waist went under he knew there was no chance of escape. His heart pumping harder and harder. He started to black out.
Then he saw nothing....    
*      *      *

"You're a bleedin' fool, frogsucker" Railu muttered bitterly to the other elf as Jaroslav led them both away in shackles towards the nearest Azorious Guildhouse "Why didn't you fight? I've seen you Simic bastards tear through crowds in guild-conflicts. Once you told him he couldn't see your labs without a warrant what did you think would happen? You're not with your frogsucker guild anymore; the law has no place for you now." 

Ardir merely grinned. "You think that my guildless status is what matters? I am one hundred and seventy three years old, boy. My son-in-law is an Orzhovian Advokist, my granddaughter a Dimir mage. I have friends and contacts in every guild in this city. Guilds don't run this city, they just act like they do; by the time that young man acquires a warrant he'll be old and grey."

"You seem very sure of yourself for someone tied up and going to prison."

"I had numerous ways out of that situation. This was merely the most expedient for my current goal."

"What current goal? A nice cosy chat with me?"

Ardir held his gaze. Railu cursed.

"Demonshit! I'm no one special! I'm not going to be anyone at all once I reach that prison and they shove me into a containment cell just for being in the wrong damn place at the wrong damn time. Why does this crap keep happening to me?"

Ardir waited for a beat, then extended his arm and gestured to the par beside Jaroslav, the goblin continously failing to start up a conversation. "Why are they here? Neither of them would welcome a tour of the Azorious law enforcement offices, yet they remain. Something draws them, boy. Something means that strange and msterious events continue to befall you. That something - what I've spent over half a century researching- is fate."

Railu snorted.

"Wait, boy. You're going to tell me that you don't believe in fate. That you have no destiny laid out for you. That you're free. You don't understand. Fate isn't a path that you walk down, a page in your life - already written but yet to be turned. Destiny isn't something you follow, it's something you are. It's a part of your being, a measurable phenomenon, an amount by which you bend reality around you. Think of it as a taut sheet of canvas, slanted downwards, and us as objects rolling along. Each object pulls the canvas under it, drawing the others towards it. Most people are barely specks of dust, but you boy - you're a boulder. You've got enough fate to change course of history and that's why every jumped up chessmaster in this whole world is doing their damn hardest to manipulate you."

"No. There's no guilds-cursed way that any of that is true. You're just a crazy old frogsucker who  spouts nonsense."

"Think, boy. You ever stop to wonder why you're always on the scene when something dramatic happens? Why something always turns up right before you get killed, or jailed, just in time for you to make it out? Why those you love die in tragic ways? Face it boy, you're fated. It's just up to you to figure out what you want to do with it."

"It's not my fault my family were killed! It's these thrice-cursed guilds! They cause all the problems! Not my fate! You face it old man - if I'm so bleeding well fated then what the hell am I still doing here, chained to you and this blasted enforcer!"

Jaroslav reeled about "Will you two just shut the hell up! We're almost there and we don't need a bloody breakdown so unless you want me to -"

A roar cuts across the tirade as an immense horned, demonlike beast burst around a corner, scattering civilians like a small child kicking up autumn leaves.

The enforcer cursed; the goblin dove for cover; the dimir agent drew a hefty crossbow from his back. Railu watched as Ardir gripped the chains that bound them, then gaped in astonishment as they metal links turned to crystal filaments and burst apart, freeing them. "Do you believe me now?" The elf shouted.

Railu gave no answer, instead recovering swiftly from the shock, he began sprinting towards the enforcer. In one graceful motion he struck Jaroslav to the floor, grabbed his bow and leapt upwards towards a low balcony. Within an eyeblink he had vanished to the rooftops, leaving the rest on the street with the beast.

Whilst the combat raged, Ardir slipped into a back alley. A quick search found him small beetle, which he easily captured, caging it in his slender hands. Focusing, he could feel the life of the beetle, a subtle glow of vitality ready to be used, improved. Flexing his mind, the scientist sent tiny crystalline strands out from his palms, watching intently as they threaded their way under the skin of the beetle, working into its body. A minutes work later and his project was complete. He held a tiny winged messenger, newly furnished with message and eager for action. "You can't miss him" the elf said "no other ogre has his sense of fashion." With that he released the once-beetle, watching it fly away into the night.

Then he straightened, mentally reaching for the link he'd made between himself and the archer. It was there, blazing clearly, like a guiding star. But that could wait. He'd find the lad anywhere now, so why rush? A cautious elf knows when he needs help, after all.

"Well" The Ex-Simic researcher said to himself, as he began to walk towards the nearest Gruul settlement "It seems like it's time to talk to some old friends."
144902215 wrote:
Morgothra has the Syntax and Grammar of a God.
56754738 wrote:
I love this card.
56771968 wrote:
I can't compete with this.
57461258 wrote:
@Morgothra: Beautifully said, sir. Beautifully said.
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     Casamir had made a life on self-assurance. Surety had given him his own battalion, and his men and his work had given him purpose. Doubt was of no use to him. Likewise fear was to be felt, acknowledged even, and then ruthlessly crushed. He was afraid now. Defeat had just become inevitable, his secrets would be exposed, the Azorious would have his life and the Orzhov would take his soul. He needed the elf, and what he’d gotten was some great useless thief.

"Mospe-Tr-Gan's girth is greater."

"I didn't furnish the room for you!" shouted Casamir, slamming the door. He was supposed to be talking to the elf right now. Instead his basement was full of Mospe-Tr-Gan he didn’t know what to do with. Through the door he heard the creature's muffled voice continuing to rail against the unsatisfactory living conditions and lack of drink. He'd taken his sudden appearance in the richly furnished basement in stride, demanding drink, but otherwise being amicable wards his captors.

"Sir?" said Mojmir. A good soldier, his father had been one of Casamir's finest. Mojmir was paid by the Azorious, but like all the house guard he was loyal to Casamir first.


"Two things. What should we do with Mops-Tear-Grain? And your Dimir agent is asking for you."

 Casamir took the offered letter.



I trust you're enjoying your new guest.

You can consider my services no longer available.

You are beaten and I control the elf.




"What's wrong sir?"

"Oh, I'm going to be hanged for treason, is all."


"Nothing. It's my own fault really. I’m a foolish old man who thought I could fight the Boros, out-think the Izzet. Lie to the Dimir. It's over." Casamir hung his head in defeat.

Mojmir looked at his boss for a moment and said, "Out party the Rakdos, sir?"


"My father told me about the Battle of Second Feasting. He said his whole platoon was surrounded by Grull marauders as far as the street would go. They were being led by a cyclops a story tall, drunk on wine and blood. They'd written you off as dead when they saw you run through on a spear that got by your armor and they lost you in the fighting. He said you came out of nowhere and fought one-on-one with no armor and a rapier. And you killed him like it was nothing. You led a charge against them and chased them out of the district entirely. If you can do that, sir, what's this?"

     Casamir smiled at the memory. The bastard troll hadn't found a way past his armor, he'd put that damned spear through an inch of plate and the chain underneath. The battle had moved on as he lay on the ground in spasms of agony. It had seemed to take a day to work that rough length of ironwood out of the wound, inch by horrible inch, and just as long to strip off his armor. He'd stumbled through the abandoned streets in a daze, looking for his men.

     The size of their leader hadn't been an exaggeration; the cyclopean goliath was easily three times his height. Searching for a better view he'd climbed to a third-story balcony to find his men. He'd looked down to find the giant raising its club to shatter their fragile formation and allow his followers to ravage those who remained. Heroism of the madness of youth, he'd sprung over the balcony and used the fall to drive his sword through the base of the Cyclopes’ neck and into his heart. The surge of blood as the leader stumbled in confusion and pain had threatened to throw Casamir off, but he rode the falling giant to the ground and stood before the hoard, covered in their leader's blood. The rest he took from the stories told by his men, for his own memory failed him from that point on. It had been their first real battle, and though he'd never attempted such heroics again it had forever solidified the men's loyalty. Shattered by the fall and bleeding, proud and rightfully so, he had never felt so alive.

"But that was a long time ago," he said, "And that was only pain. This is defeat. You will say you knew nothing of my actions or my plans, and you know nothing of my whereabouts, which will be easy enough because you won’t know them."

"Sir... Not a chance sir."

“I don’t suppose I could leave you if I wanted to.”

“Catching on, sir?”

He’d brought this on himself, he though with a smile. After all, what kind of hypocrite would he be if he didn’t teach his men to occasionally disregard his orders? “Gather the men, form them up in the courtyard.”

"The giant?"

"Oh, yes. Bring him with us. Can't let the beast starve in the basement, even if he is a thief."

"Yes sir. Good to have you back, sir."

"Today, lieutenat." 


*  *  *

            "It is no use," said a deep, rumbling, yet somehow vaguely sweet voice. Graz straightened both his posture and the collar of his suit, stretched his shoulders briefly, and allowed himself an uncharacteristic grunt of disappointment. Prior to the effects of Ardir's mutation experiments, such noises had served as his primary mode of communication. He was better than that now. But all of the improvements his master had made to his limited Ogric physiognomy had failed to produce the desired result in at least this one instance. Graz could not find what he was looking for.

            The ogre glanced over at Gazwin, still unconscious but safely tucked into his bed. Graz frowned. Of all the guilds Ardir had dealings with, Graz hated interacting with the Izzet the most. Even the Gruul, who he despised for reminding him so much of his own former self, were easier to deal with than the wild, unpredictable Izzet. The ogre's intelligence was several times that of most ogres of Ravnica, thanks to Ardir's advancements, and because of this, Graz had learned well to anticipate the reactions of those he met with. The Boros would get defiant and preachy, the Selesnya would get frightened and preachy, and the Orzhov would try to bribe, and get preachy. But the Izzet were too crazy to be consistent, and it made anticipation impossible.

            Graz narrowed his eyes at Gazwin, blaming him for the ogre's current predicament. The Izzet were all crazy, especially at higher levels, but this one was the worst of the lot. While the rest of the Izzet guildmages had their heads in the clouds, Gazwin's was in the upper atmosphere. This was not the first time the two had met, in fact Ardir had sent Graz here numerous times in the past, but Gazwin never once remembered him. And Graz was not an easy ogre to forget.

            Ardir had once explained to his mutant that Gazwin started out in the Izzet as an ambitious but limited mage. He had had intelligence, but lacked the comingling sparks of genius and insanity that denoted the most successful of his kind. But Gazwin's ambition was not to be stifled by such matters, and he performed a radical experiment on his own mind. Were he to compete with the natural geniuses surrounding him, he needed every spare scrap of mental power he could muster, and so, through magic and science, he divorced himself of every mental faculty he deemed unnecessary. Apparently, remembering occasional acquaintances fit this definition.

            The Izzet were a people of opposites and contradictions. If they wanted a spell to burn, they would look first to ice. If they wanted a spell to find something, they would create a spell to lose something else. Graz had hoped this would mean that if an Izzet wanted something hidden, he might put it in plain sight. This forlorn hope had led to disappointment, however, as had his more barbaric search of the labs, and now there was only one option remaining, one last, desperate tactic that Graz had hoped to avoid. He would need to speak to Gazwin again.

            The elegant ogre braced himself, already feeling the pressure of an emerging headache tug at his long-healed stitches. He sighed once, and then, without further delay, emptied half a bucket full of water onto the sleeping guildmage.

            "Wawawawa WA!" stated Gazwin, in his somewhat less than eloquent manner.

            "Indeed," Graz agreed absently. He moved to sit in a chair by Gazwin's bedside, but, remembering the stool from earlier, decided against it. "I apologize for the cessation of your recumbence, but I require your assistance in procuring an object of some importance."

            Gazwin blinked at the giant hulk of flesh before him. "Who are you?"

            Again, Graz sighed. "Who I am is of little importance next to the object I seek."

            "Are you looking for a photonic resonator? You know, I just very recently managed to unlock the potential gravcelerance of rain to power just such a device, although I haven't had the chance to actually build it yet…"

            "Fascinating." Graz's utterly dry tone seemed completely lost on the mage, as did his exaggerated rolling of the eyes.

            "Quite! But it does mean that if you're looking for one, you have come at precisely the wrong time, as it won't be completed for a week or few. Well, I guess it's not precisely the wrong time, rather more generally the wrong time, as anytime before it's built would be the wrong time."

            Graz nodded in something between understanding and sympathy. His headache was getting worse. "In any case, that is not my quarry on this brief sojourn. To be frank, Gazwin, I think you know perfectly well what I am after."

            Gazwin shrugged. "We are all looking for something. And therefore, what we're looking for must depend on who we are. After all, if you were me, you would be looking for whatever it is I'm looking for. So, if you need to know where the thing is that you are looking for, maybe it would help if you told me who you are?"

            The mutated ogre placed his hand gently to his head, lightly massaging the temples. "I fear I am losing my implacable calm."

            "I bet I have something for that," said Gazwin, brightening up a bit.

            "I'm sure you do," Graz replied, darkening. This was getting him nowhere. Ardir had removed many of the inherent imperfections of the ogre psyche, but even that former Simic genius had been unable to completely remove the emotion of anger. At times, Graz wondered if Ardir had even wanted to. Graz's anger was now much more difficult to attain, but once reached, it was just as dangerous as it had ever been, which made it occasionally useful to the elf.

            Suddenly, Graz decided a more direct approach was needed and took a step forward, towering over the Izzet mage. However, even before Gazwin could react, the large ogre stopped, turning his head sharply to his right. A moment later, a strange, flying insect flew into the room, hovered in front of Graz, and then landed on his outstretched hand. The ogre knew it instantly to be the work of his master Ardir, the crystalline lattice a dead giveaway. It was rare, almost unheard of, for Ardir to contact Graz in the middle of a job, which meant this was no small matter.

            The mutant held the bizarre insect up to his ear, listening intently, although more with his mind than anything else. For a few moments, he stood there, allowing his master's message to sink into his brain and translate into his expected course of action. When it did, Graz looked back toward Gazwin as he squished the bug in his hand. "It looks like I am needed elsewhere. From the Izzet to the Gruul, out of the dragon's claw and into its roost! Very well. Until we meet again, good Gazwin. And I am certain that we will."

            "I will remember you," promised Gazwin with a silly, almost adolescent smile.

            "You say that every time," the mutant said as he shook his head and left the Izzet guildmage's lab.

            Gazwin's absent smile turned to a scowl, and then to a smirk. "Yes, and every time, I am speaking the truth, Graz."

            He looked down at the floor where the lumbering beast had flicked the remains of another of Ardir's insufferable creations. It twitched one, broken leg, and Gazwin's smile returned in full force. Gazwin rubbed his skull and stepped out of bed. "Yes, Graz, I will certainly remember you."

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

                Light. It’s always been about light, Gazwin thought as he cleared some space at his desk. He hated when Graz showed up out of the blue like that. Not only did the ogre never actually get around to explaining what he was looking for, but he always made a point of knocking Gazwin out before getting up to his skullduggery. Gazwin didn’t so much mind the searches, and if he ever figured out what Graz was looking for he would make sure to leave it in a suitable “secure” place for the ogre to find. What annoyed him was the constant interruptions burned through the day light hours, and that was an unforgivable sin.

                Because it is all about the light! Gazwin fumed. Designs and theories raced across his brain like Boros legionnaires charging towards the enemy. It was impossible for him to lock down on just one thing, and bits and pieces of paper were thrown this way and that across the desk as he first sketched out one thing, started another, then went back to the first project. Towering signal beacons were given as much attention as personal accessories, each marked by bizarre formula that only he and Flibt could read. Ok, any maybe Niv Mizzet. Gazwin had never sent the cipher to the Parun, had never written it down, actually, but surely it would be no challenge for the Draco Genius to decipher it with a mere glance.

                The world needs light, Gazwin’s mind insisted, while his fingers started rapidly assembling a…thing. He didn’t have a name for it yet, but it was a simple enough idea, so simple he was surprised he hadn’t thought of it yet. The Azorius had created simple recording spells a long, long time ago as such things were a necessity when your average guild member could natter away on a subject longer than most species could stay awake; in fact, Gazwin was fairly sure the Azorius practiced giving speeches in their sleep, as it was the only way for them to actually accomplish some of the more impressive filibusters he had heard of it. The recordings were stored in simple gems, and then when a person found themselves at the end of their lives and were looking for a painless and boring way to end it all, all they had to do was press the gem and let the soothing sounds of bureaucrats lull them into death’s arms.

                But that was just sound. Sound! Ha! Sound was nothing compared to light! Sound was weak and slow; it faded after mere moments. Sound was stupid. Light, on the other hand, was eternal. The dark might creep around the edges of reality, but it could never overcome the light. The sun made sure that there was always light, and every species had invented fire, and from fire came electricity, and with electricity came brilliance. It was the fate of the dark to run before the light, for the light would devour it in the end. Gazwin made sure of that.

                But they never understand! Sure, the other guilds used light. The Selesnyans decorated their structures with pictures of the sun, recognizing its role in the circle of life. The Azorius and Simic used light the way a farmer used his tools, to make sure they could be about their jobs. The Dimir, that darkest of guilds, they pretended they loved the dark but even they craved the light. Gazwin had seen reports on lanterns they had been building, beautiful masterpieces that filtered light like no other, but even those paled in comparison to his project. The Rakdos threw their parties by fire light, and the Gruul held their ceremonies accompanied by roaring bonfires. The Boros attacked at dawn, and fought until dusk; perhaps the goblins could keep going into the dark, but the humans needed light to see, and the angels simply refused to operate at night. And the Izzet were simply brilliant.

                It took an hour to complete the device. Where the Azorius could only record sound, Gazwin could now record sound and light. It could even play it back by showing the images against a handy wall, though it looked a bit weird with all the objects in the way, and there might have been a slight delay between when someone spoke and when the sound was heard. Oh, and it would explode if someone uninitiated tried to toy with that. That last bit was very important. It wasn’t a proper invention if it didn’t at least have the possibility of exploding. Another hour, and there were four more of them, more than enough to cover every inch of the lab with surveillance.

                Gazwin had just set the last device in place when he heard the door open again. He hopped down off his ladder even as Flibt yelled from below, “Master! I am home!”

                “Flibt! Where have you been?” Gazwin demanded angrily as the goblin came up the stairs. “We had visitors! Again!”

                Flibt frowned. “Graz?”

                Gazwin nodded and peered suspiciously at the goblin. “You know, Flibt, if I was a lesser man I might think it a tad odd that you always seem to be away whenever that Simic reject comes to visit the lab.”

                Flibt held his hands up innocently, one of which held a series of unwrapped letters. “Sorry, boss, but there was a clan meeting. It seems the clan has been taking some pretty heavy casualties, and a lot of the younger broods are working on some errand for Big Boss. Because of that, the elders have been looking to scrounge up extra man power for other projects, and there was talk of reassigning me to another technician. I had to justify our expense reports to Glumig, and then Sijin wanted a progress report on the Thermoluminazer. The good news is that I talked them out of it, so I’m here to stay. Oh, and I picked up the mail.”

                “So I see,” Gazwin replied, snatching the letters away from the goblin. “Anything new to note?”

                Flibt shook his head. “More bills, a few Orzhov scams. But I ran into Sylene on the way home. She said she is very thankful for your assistance on Project 71. Now that they have the Dedopplinizer you sent them they’ve managed to get it airborne and practiced its homing ability. You’ve actually put them ahead of schedule, and she owes you a favor that you can call on for anything. She said also said to stress the anything part, like it was supposed to mean something special. Oh, and she gave me this.” 

                The goblin reached into a pocket and pulled out a silver amulet, with a polished ruby in the center. The words, “Project Rainbow” had been carved into the silver around the stone, and the number 71 sat beneath it. Gazwin took it carefully, but when nothing seemed to happen shrugged and slipped it over his neck, making sure to hide the amulet beneath his robes. Syelene was not only a beautiful redhead, but was also one of the more talented mages in the guild. She had a penchant for showing a bit more skin than was wise for someone who worked around constantly exploding objects, and that, coupled with her guild marks, often led people to expect her to be extravagantly flamboyant and extremely short tempered. In reality she was actually quite demure and levelheaded, as well as being one of the more careful and quiet guildmages. As a result she tended to be given control over projects where some form of discretion was not only desired, but required. Her giving Gazwin an amulet tied to her current dealings was a high sign of trust. “Any idea what it does?”

                Flibt mimicked Gazwin’s shrugs with one of his own. “She said now that the project was operational she had set one of the birds aside for your use, should you ever need it. She mentioned that it was her own personal bird you’d be calling on, so you could also use it to get a hold of her as well.”

                “Interesting,” Gazwin murmured, tapping his lip in thought. “But not so important at the moment. With Graz taking more interest in our doings, I want you to make sure the lab is extra secure from now on. I can’t help but shake the feeling that something is about to happen, and I want us to be ready when it does.”

The Ball Roles On

Flibt returned to his quarters. The “precautions” that his master insisted upon were both ludicrous and labor-intensive. What did Gazwin think was going to happen, a full on assault on his lab? Of course Graz was harmless enough – the enormous fool. He was not a tool, more of a meter. He was being used for measuring Gazwin, but Flibt needn't tell the scientist any of that just yet.

The small goblin did a quick calibration of the surrounding spaces. Gazwin was as conscious as a Selesnyan Wild Gangliberry – which is to say: his brain was working, but his eyes were closed, and they wouldn't open for some time. Then Flibt changed. Putting away her coarse Goblin garb, she withdrew from the air above her head a nightgown of silk and infantile Indrik fur. “That's better”, she muttered quietly as she got into her bed. It felt nice to hear her own voice again. The goblin's shrill squeak was not as pleasant as an imaginative person might imagine.

A summary of her thoughts as she lay in bed: I may have to act like a goblin, talk like a goblin, eat like a goblin, and sleep like a goblin, but at least I can dress properly from time to time. I can see now why they are so eager to give their lives to the Boros – it's like giving away free rashes.

Locking the door, the one known as Flibt was left secure. She snuffed her candle, and closed her eyes. And fell into the same slumber that Gazwin had entered already.

* * *

But elsewhere, there was no sleep to be had. Old Demethre's eyes had witnessed a lot in their time, but the events under the stars had been of value to others this time. He could not enter slumber for the mindthoughts inside his skull. To think of the sheer number of rags he could purchase – why 'twould be rags enough to fill each of Isperia's many courts. And what of their colours? Never again, would Old Demethre's ocular globes fix themselves upon the sorry sight of a dull, faded, off-white, yellowish, stained, tattered, offensively scented, tactily both coarse and of a slimy nature, dusty rag. Nay, he would have only the finest. Rags fit for the rear of Augustin III, his very self. His mind wandered, wondering if perhaps he could even add one of the very rear-rags of the Augustin line to his new-found rag-passion. Snapping back into the moment, he realized that he'd like all his rags to be composed of velvet, red in colour. The red of good grape-made wine or of heart-pumped blood – and certainly not dyed with anything that might fade. He'd purchase for himself One-Hundred and Ninety-Nine of them, for he knew of no higher numeral.

But, his recent influx of gold would be put to better use than mere luxurious raggery. He'd find for his small tavern all of the best accommodations. Some sort of non-chair seating, yes! Like cushioned orbs, capable of supporting any set of hindquarters that could fit through the door. Or was that a preposterous notion? Perhaps booths of a kind would do. . . Yes, that way his beloved customers could no longer hurl chairs at one another. But then he must find a new form of entertainment. Old Demethre's old brain worked inside his old skull. Yes, he thought. Some form of game, involving balls. Why there must be millions of those. He mentally noted that tomorrow would be the day to briskly trot on down to the Rix Maadi Emporium of Fun and Games. He remembered too, that he must stay strictly on the “Games” side, and that he must avoid at all costs the “Fun” section.

But what of his stock, he thought, glancing at his trusty old barrels. They'd taken him far. From a street urchin selling Spitshine to other less-connected urchins until the day he'd first opened this place, and for the decades that had crumbled on afterward. Now, Old Demethre decided, they would be used to keep him warm, for he would have the finest selection of ales and spirits of any tavern in the Quarter. That'd be another thing to find in the Rakdos district. No more Spit-flavoured beverage for Old Demethre, Old Demethre thought. But his thoughts were interrupted.

“Glad we found you awake, Old Demethre.” The door slammed shut after this utterance of words.


“Who, indeed. We'd like to know about any other visitors you've had this evening. Who came here Demethre? I think you'll find that we're less generous, and I hope we won't have to prove that we're less merciful as well. . .”

Old Demethre's old eyes grew wide.

139359831 wrote:
That is a lovely painting of Richard Garfield. It really brings out his feminine side.


     Damn the paruns, Railu thought again, though without much enthusiasm. It was well on its way to being his personal mantra. From a shadowed belfry he watched his erstwhile captors try to halt the raging beast. Only the Dimir agent was armed and his heavy crossbow, no doubt powerful enough to punch through Boros armor, was having little effect on the beast.


     A crowd was gathering (in second floor windows and far enough down the street to feel safe and still offer a good view), and there was nothing the spy wanted less than to be seen. Revealing his Dimir status to the guilded was already risky, he didn’t need the whole of Ravnica recognizing him on sight. He sidestepped one of the monster’s horns and brought a dirk from amongst his robes and into the creature’s neck. The hide was far too tough to fully pierce, of course, but that’s what he paid so much for magical poisons for. The beast staggered and spun, but it was a lethargic movement. The creature would be dead soon enough, but he didn’t have time to wait for something that wasn’t really his problem to die. Jaroslav ran up to him and began to speak but was cut off, “I recommend you leave.”


“Because I am.” And with not so much as a puff of smoke to mark his passing, he was gone.


     The Dimir has vanished! Damn! Railu turned on the scene below and began to run, but stopped a moment later. Somewhere close, dark eyes were searching for him by magical light. A cold, electric sensation swept him over, casting a ghostly light into the shadows.

“I am not easy to hide from.” Railu felt suddenly disoriented, not sure if the voice had come from his ears or his mind. Unnatural fear rips at his heart with ratlike claws. As his muscles tense to sprint away a man steps out from behind a pillar, breathing heavily. “Why can’t you just stay still?” it says.

“Hush!” whispered Railu, “He’ll see you!”

“He’s not looking for me. I’ve been guilded two months and I know how this works. Listen, I need you to hold still for just a moment more, let me know when the spell wears off.”

     Railu was about to ask what damn spell when the fear that had settled on him vanished. “Are you alright?” asked the man.

“Yes, I think so. What was that?”

“No time to explain, I don’t know how long a handful of zombies can hold off an assassin. Come with me,” the man turned and jumped off the belfry to the roof.

“Assassin? Who are you?” Railu asked, stress and fear giving way to anger.

“I’m Jakob, you’re Railu, introductions over, running now.” The man was human, and set a slow pace Railu could easily follow, but for him it was clearly taxing.

They jogged three blocks with no sign of pursuit before Jakob had to stop for breath.


“So why are you helping me, what’s in it for you?” asked the elf.

“I heard about you in a tavern, they said you know the area and you sounded useful.”

“That’s it?”

“No, there’s… there’s,” But that was it. There was no other reason. Looking back Jakob had no idea why he should bother with someone with such dangerous enemies when others would surely be just as good. Why the hell did I do that? He wondered. He realized he had absolutely no idea. Since saying that sounded stupid he finished with, “Anyone the other guilds want that badly must be worth the effort.” Jakob felt like an absolute imbecile.

Railu looked at him a moment in suspicion and said, “‘Other guilds?’”

“I’m a member of the Golgari,” no sooner had the words escaped his lips than his jaw exploded with pain and he found himself on the ground listening to departing elven footsteps. He wasn’t unconscious, but knew damn well he couldn’t catch Railu, so he didn’t bother to immediately get back up. A few moments later Mokosh, the elf who'd led him to Jarad, appeared above him. When it became apparant she wasn't going to help him up he got up on his own. She'd sneered at him when they'd met, and he wasn't sure she'd changed her expression since.

"So do I work for you or do you work for me?" he asked idlly.

"Could you kill me?"

"Probably not."

"Well I could deffinantly kill you. Come on, I don't like being in the sun."

"Well that's cleared up." 


To all possible hells with this! Thought Railu, I need to talk to Old Demethre.


*  *  *


     For a moment, Jaroslav stood, mostly in silence, glancing around the street and scratching his head. This, he thought to himself, has been one very strange day. Beginning the day by being told to hunt down a renegade district was bad enough, but having his assignment suddenly and inexplicably changed to make his way to Tin Street (which would normally have taken two thirds of the day just to get to), all to address an issue he knew full well had already been addressed, was far too strange. The fact that his travel time was cut into a small fraction by that passing Izzet Transpornado, which moved too fast for Jaroslav to avoid but happened to be travelling in the right direction, only added to the bizarre day. When he arrived at the tavern, hours ahead of his prescribed schedule, he walked in on the encounter between Railu and that Rakdos Ogre, which in turn put him into a temporary alliance with Flibt, who had disappeared now, and Daog, who had done so quite literally, and ultimately led him to standing alone and perplexed with nothing but the carcass of a large beast for company. Jaroslav was beginning to miss paperwork.

     "What guild, sir?"

     Jaroslav almost jumped at the voice that sounded behind him. He turned around to see a pale woman, cloaked in a black hood trimmed in white and holding and quill and parchment. "I'm sorry?" he asked.

     "What is your guild?"

     "Ah, Azorius. Why?" Jaroslav stammered.

     The woman clicked her tongue and shook her head slightly. "Azorius, eh? You should have known better."

     "Known better than what?"

     "Is that your creature over there?"

     Jaroslav glanced over at the dead monstrosity, then back at the woman. "No. It attacked us and my…" he paused, realizing he had no word to describe what Daog was. He was no friend, no colleague, and acquaintance didn't seem to fit, either. "And we killed it."

     The woman nodded. "So you admit it is your kill? That makes it rightfully yours. Are you aware that this street is Orzhov property?"

     Jaroslav exhaled sharply. He knew where this was going. Suddenly, he didn't miss paperwork at all. "How much trouble is this going to cause?"

     The woman smiled, which somehow made her look much colder. "Though I know how much you Azorius love your legal documentation, let me skip to the end of the parchment, as it were. You have violated Orzhov law, and if we were to press the issue, we could have you incarcerated in a facility of our choice for up to three years, not to mention the substantial monetary penalties you would owe. However, I happen to have here a convenient favor contract, complete with an overlook clause that would cover this…incident, were you to sign now."

     Jaroslav didn't blink. "What do you want?"

     Her smile deepened, sending a chill up Jaroslav's spine. "You are much more 'to the point' than most Azorius. I like that. To put it bluntly, we need you to do something. If you do, then legally, this," she motioned toward the beast, "never happened."

     Jaroslav took the contract and read it quickly, his Azorius mind scanning every line. When they had finished, his face registered shock. It was legitimate, not a single string or loophole. He knew he could beat the charge, but it would cost nearly as much as losing. Jaroslav shook his head, signed the parchment, and said "What do I have to do?"

*  *  *


     Even before he opened the tavern door, Railu knew something was wrong. His sharp, elven nose immediately detected the strong scent of decay that always marked the trail of the Golgari. At times, it was difficult to distinguish the Golgari smell from the smell of the homeless, desperate guildless who also lived amongst the garbage, filth and disease of Ravnica. However, having just been in contact with that Golgari Jakob (Railu rubbed his knuckles in fond memory of that "contact") he recognized the odor immediately.

     The guildless elf forced open the door and burst inside. The room beyond was dark, but his eyes focused immediately and intently on the form of Old Demethre near the bar, or rather, what was left of the old barkeep. Railu screamed the word "no" within the confines of his mind, but his mouth refused to echo the cry. For several moments, the archer merely stood, dumbfounded and disgusted by the sight of his long-time friend and sometimes mentor, sprawled in gruesome pieces on the floor.

     Slowly, carefully, Railu began to make his way across the cavernous tavern room, all the while trying to make sense of the horrid scene about him. Old Demethre had never been a saint, and he had scammed his fair share of patrons over the years, but he was a good man who had never hurt anyone physically, and never stole or scammed from anyone who couldn't afford it. He was guildless, like Railu, but had made himself a success in a guilded world despite it. The young elf looked at his old friend's face, just about the only thing left to Old Demethre, and fought back a tear. Old Demethre didn't deserve much, he thought, but he deserved better than this.

     "Who did this to you?" Railu begged to know, this time out loud.

     "That's what we'd like to know," a voice sounded from the darkness.

     On instinct, Railu dropped to one knee and reached behind him to unhook his bow. Before he could, however, the same voice, a hard, feminine one, spoke out again, hurriedly this time.

     "I wouldn't do that! If you pull your weapon, I might not be able to stop them from skewering you where you stand, and neither of us wants that."

     Railu's grief had dulled his normally keen senses when he had first seen the remains of Old Demethre, but now that danger had sharpened them again, he saw this woman was far from bluffing. The guildless elf was practically surrounded. Two men, a human on his left and a viashino behind him, carried long and exceedingly sharp lances leveled straight at his heart. Two more men stood to his right, a goblin with a short sword and another human, this one with a rapier, both drawn but held almost casually with their tips hanging near the ground. The speaker, a human woman of medium stature, was actually the furthest from Railu.

     "Who are you?" asked Railu, neither drawing his bow nor relaxing the hand that had been reaching for it.

     "We might ask you the same question," responded the man with the rapier. "And I suspect we're in a much better position to ask."

     "Relax, Arros," the woman said. "Let's all of us relax." She focused her attention on Railu and took a few steps forward. "Please, if you relax, then so can we, and nobody needs to be unnecessarily hurt."

     Realizing he had no chance in an all-out battle anyway, Railu relented, withdrew his hand, and stood up. As he did, however, he indicated toward Old Demethre's body. "Someone has already been unnecessarily hurt."

     The woman glanced in the old man's direction, grimaced, and then nodded. "Very true. And we want to know who did this as much as you do. Now please, if you would be so kind, who are you, and what are you doing here?"

     "My name is Railu. I didn't do this."

     She nodded. "We know that, Railu. No murderer reacts the way you did."

     "So fine," Railu responded. "It's your turn. Who are you?"

     "My name is Allia. These are my men. We're with the Wojek Civisward."

     Railu scoffed. "More guild Imp droppings! Will this never end!"

     "Actually," she corrected, "we're guildless. The Wojek League is a Boros organization, granted, but the Civisward is a volunteer splinter of the Wojek. Nearly all of us are guildless volunteers. We associate with the Boros, but very few of us are members."

     "Just aspiring, huh? Nearly as bad. Anyway, what are you doing here?"

     "Someone came here for a drink and stumbled on the scene," Allia explained. "That someone contacted the Boros, but…"

     She trailed off, so Railu finished her sentence for her. "But Old Demethre was guildless, so they had better things to do."

     Allia started to protest, then reluctantly nodded. "The Wojek officials said that if the Civisward wanted to look into it, we could, although, I admit they said we'd be wasting our time. Railu, do you have any idea who did this?"

     The guildless elf only thought for a moment before his nose reminded him of the prevalent Golgari scent lingering in the air. "Jakob. He's a Golgari. I had a run-in with him earlier today, and he said he got my name from a tavern. He must have meant this one. And obviously the Golgari have been here, their stink is everywhere."

     "Only one problem with that," Allia said with a note of disappointment. "Verrik?"

     The viashino nodded, "Your elf nose is good, but mine's superior," he hissed. "You're right, the Golgari have been here, there's no doubt about that. But something else was here afterwards. The Golgari scent trails end right over there. They never touched the old man. Whatever that other scent is, though, it was right here."

     Railu closed his eyes. His natural dislike of being shown up was screaming at his mind to distrust the lizard, but his desire to avenge Old Demethre won out. One by one, Railu shut off his other senses, first sight, then hearing, then touch and taste, until only smell remained. The scent of decay was overpowering, both from the Golgari scent trail and the obvious odor coming from his dead friend. After a few moments, though, Railu broke through and discovered the viashino was right. There was another scent, much weaker and impossible to identify. There was a sick sort of sweetness to it, and yet it seemed to burn, just slightly. It was like nothing Railu had encountered before.

     He opened his eyes and glanced at the lizard. "What is that smell?" But the viashino only shook his head and shrugged. Railu refocused on Allia. "Whatever it is, don't try to stop me from finding it."

     She smiled. "I wouldn't dream of it. Even the Boros support the vendetta laws. But take this, just in case you could use our help." She handed him a small, reddish, glass figure in the shape of some sort of bird. As he was examining it, Verrik flicked his lance up, catching Railu's hand with the blunt side and sending the figure crashing to the floor. Miraculously, it didn't shatter. Railu looked over at the lizard only to see him smiling. He looked back at Allia.

     "It's enchanted. It cannot break on accident. However, when you choose to break it, we will know," as she spoke, she withdrew a similar bird figure, this one white, hanging from her neck, "and we will make our way to you. Only break it if you need the help of the Civisward, or if you find the murderer."

     Railu picked up the trinket and, after considerable debate, slipped it into his pocket. "And what will you be doing while I'm looking for Old Demethre's murderer?"

     "We'll look into it from the usual channels," she said bluntly. "Although something tells me you'll have considerably more luck than we will."

     Railu thought back to his conversation with Ardir and scowled again. When he spoke, he merely muttered. "Luck or something like it."

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

                Gazwin didn’t bother looking up as the young elf came barreling through his laboratory window. The boy was surprisingly nimble, and, in the brief second between hitting the window and smashing through to the other side, he had already plotted out the one route through the cluttered lab that would keep him from crashing into anything too painful. This required him to roll under a table, and for a moment he was nothing more than a lumpy ball of flesh and clothing before he collided with the far wall with a dull thump. The Azorius falcon that had been following the elf wasn’t so lucky. It flared it’s wings as it tried to avoid the jagged edges of the shattered window and it looked like it might actually avoid cutting itself into pieces…which just meant it was a sitting duck, er, falcon for the trio of energy lances that had been recently mounted in defense of that window. Lightning wrapped around flame as all three weapons fired at once. The poor bird wasn’t sure whether it was supposed to be disintegrated or exploded so it tried to do both at once, covering the broken wreckage of the window and the street below with a fine cloud of grey ash.

                “Well, I suppose that was one way to test the system,” Gazwin said as he set his cup of hy-brew to the side. His lips twisted into a wry smile. “And look! Clean up’s a breeze!”

                The lump of elf piled against the wall groaned in reply, though Gazwin wasn’t sure if it was from the pain of running into the wall or the pain of the bad pun. “Oh, fine be that way. Who asked you anyway?”

                Gazwin shook his head as he wiped his hands on his apron and began heading for the stairs. “Flibt! We have company in the main lab! You might want to bring a medical kit!”

                Gazwin bounded down the stairs and yanked the door open, revealing two surprised Azorius justicars, one of whom was just about to knock. “Yes?”

                The justicar who had been about to knock stared at Gazwin for a moment, before shutting her mouth with a click. “In pursuant to article 2342.5 of the Azorius Legal charter we hereby state our intentions to-“

                “No, you can’t come in,” Gazwin said, cutting her off midsentence. She was pretty, in a common sort of way, and her long golden hair frolicked in the afternoon breeze. It didn’t hurt that the chest piece of her armor had to have been custom made. She had also, if Gazwin was any judge, put on a bit of perfume before arriving for her shift, something that reminded him of spring flowers. “Would you like to get a bit to eat later, however? There’s this lovely little pub about three blocks from here. I need to wrap up my experiment, but I suppose we could meet at about seventh toll?”

                “We are pursuing a prisoner!” the other justicar snapped. “You will let us in at once, as per article 23-“

                “Nope, not gonna,” Gazwin interrupted again. He glanced over at the second inquisitor for a brief moment, then paused to take a longer look. The man’s brown hair had cropped down to little more than stubble, and his face looked like it had become unfortunately and repeatedly intimate with a brick wall. His armor, unlike the blonde’s, was liberally adorned with spines and etchings of fierce looking creatures and was clearly in compensation for something. On top of that… “Aren’t you a little short for a justicar?”

                Gazwin thought he saw a flicker of a smile on the blonde’s face as the man cheeks turned a rather unhealthy shade of purple. “You are required by law to let us in!”

                “Actually, I’m not,” Gazwin said, trying to sound as bored as possible. “Article 2342.5 only allows for you to access unguilded territory in the pursuit of an unidentified criminal. In order to access guilded property you need to cite article 79874.32, but that still wouldn’t get you in. Would you like to know why?”

                “Why?” the man asked. The sound of his teeth grinding together could be heard a block away, which was more than loud enough for the gathering crowd.

                “Because article 6942.15 specifically exempts all Izzet territory that is congruently the site of an active phenomenological experiment from being entered by Azorius personnel, on grounds of termination and subsequent execution of said personnel. Apparently Isperia didn’t take it too well when a flock of hussars accidently got themselves turned into a pile of two inch high, bright blue talking frogs. Now, I heard that the effect wore off after only a few days, but apparently they still haven’t quite gotten the taste of flies out of their mouths. Well, those that changed back, at any rate.”

                The man’s mouth began to open and close, closely resembling a fish taking its last desperate gasps of air. There was now a distinct curve to his partner’s lips, and a small twinkle had appeared in her eye. The Azorius might have had a reputation for being overly ordered and stuffy, but that didn’t mean they weren’t human as well, and being an obnoxious git was still being an obnoxious git. She clearly didn’t like her partner very much either, and Gazwin was willing to wager there were all sorts of rules and regulations that he was cheerfully breaking in her favor.

                “You will let us in right now, or- or- or-“

                “Or, what?” Gazwin asked.

                The justicar’s hand snaked out and before anyone could stop him he had snatched Gazwin’s apron off of his hips. He held the bit of cloth up triumphantly as he crowed, “Or we shall arrest you for public indecency!”

                The entire crowd gasped as Gazwin’s nakedness was exposed. Children gasped and tittered with excitement, while fully grown adults fainted dead away, the women from fear and the men from envy. The only thing he was wearing was the silver amulet he had been given by Syelene. Oh, and the illusion spells I’ve stacked on it since then, he thought with a trace of amusement.  But then, there’s no need to tell them that, now is there?

                Instead he folded his arms across his chest and leaned nonchalantly against his door frame. “Now, normally that would have cost you at least dinner and a good bottle of wine. Instead I’ll have to settle for making you feel even smaller, since you still can’t lay hands on me. You seem to have forgotten that between the three of us, the only ones standing in public are you and your lovely young partner. I, on the other hand, am still standing inside my house. Which reminds me…” Gazwin turned towards the blonde and said, “Excuse me miss, I would like to file a report of a voyeur lurking about these parts. He’s a short, ugly looking man, but that’s not the worst of it! Would you believe the scoundrel has the audacity to disguise his depravity by using the honorable outfit of an Azorius justicar as a decoy! Why, he even assaulted me in my own home!”

                This got a laugh from the gathered crowd, and even the blonde’s demeanor finally cracked. She grabbed her sputtering partner by the shoulder and began to lead him away, but not before warning, “I will be back to follow up on this investigation…later.”

                “But I didn’t get your name!” Gazwin called after her.

                “Well, then you’ll just have to hope that I actually do come back to look into your matter more closely, won’t you?” she said teasingly.

                This earned another laugh from the crowd, which finally began to disperse as Gazwin turned around and headed back inside. He did some quick calculations based on the direction they had been heading and raced for his lab.

                Flibt had picked the young elf up, and was carefully stitching closed a small cut across the youth’s hairline. They both looked up as Gazwin charged back in, then recoiled in unison at the sudden burst of nudity.

                “Master! Clothes!” Flibt insisted, even as he put the last stitch into place.

                “No time for that!” Gazwin replied, hastily fetching  a pair of large, curved pieces of glasses. He handed to each of them, then tried to push them in opposite directions. When this didn’t work due to his inability to be in two places at once, he ordered, “Flibt! Go stand at point F4! You, elf, come here! Stand there! No, not there, here! Ok, now put your arms out like this… A little higher… A little more to the left… Hold on, I want to make sure this is lined up properly!”

                “Wait, what are you doing?” the elf asked.

                “No, don’t move, not yet!” Gazwin screamed as he lunged for a nearby blind. He yanked it open, there was a flash of light, and then a scream from several blocks away. Gazwin immediately rushed across the room and peered down the street to the Butcher’s Block.  “Haha! Got the bastard in one shot!”

                “Wait…” the elf said. He sounded as if realization had finally dawned on him. The glass he was holding felt extremely warm, but not quite hot enough to drop. “What did we- I mean, what did you do?”

                “I don’t know,” Gazwin answered with a cheerful shrug. “Do you believe it is possible for sunlight to kill a fully armored justicar?”


                “Well, then we haven’t done anything at all!”

                Railu stared at Gazwin in horror. “By the bells, you’re Izzet!”


A pale sun peeked out. The rocky facade that climbed the sky was dark, but its intricacies were many. By night it would be illuminated again. If one could see it clearly in the post-dawn haze, one would notice that it was speckled and dotted with numerous fixtures. Inside each crag and nook lurked life. Organisms of a multitude of sorts chose to eek out their respective existences within the sediment. It had not taken long for the face to form, but it had been many eons since the single event that had pulled the skin of the planet apart. Torn it like fowl's flesh.

A pale creature, perhaps the length of a cattle horn, with a pouch or two on its underside scampers beneath the roots of a tasteless shrubbery. It sniffs as it goes and occasionally nibbles tiny objects. Emerging from the shrub, it hastily darts up a crevice and onto another small platform. This one is home to patch of grass, brown as dirt and almost as dry. If one had ears of incredible discernment, one would be able to listen as the young things inside their mother trembled and cried quietly. They are blind and hairless – completely vulnerable. All that protects these miniscule balls of flesh, bone, and connective tissue from the cruel elements of this land, is their mother's fleshy sheath. Why do they cry? Only to communicate. There is no fear in their weak minds – they do not know it. Fear. It is not always so with human young.

Below the valley stretches on to horizon. It is a cold marshland, in a state of constant breeze. The breeze carries everything away, except the temperature, which remains a constant. Sometimes ice is found on the surface of the water. Or it would be, were people to ever venture into the bleak environment. Suffice it to say, that the valley is even less hospitable that the facade. It stretches on for a day or so, and then becomes a large delta feeding out into a swamplike sea. To the north it gradually becomes less and less wet. A day in that direction and you needn't worry about your feet so much. Still the trees that begin to grow in that direction hold the cold to them, well. The country has no name.

A snap. Grunt. Trot. The mother is dead, and already her body is in the gloved hand of a man. His scarred fingers clutch her lifeless neck and he makes his way down the face, for home. One can see in the surface of his scarred skin that this land has not been kind to him. The word that comes to mind looking at him: Survivor. Everything he wears was once alive. He killed it all. Scrambling down over dirt and rock his feet finally land at the doorstep. Noiselessly he opens it, and steps inside. Now, if one were listening, one could easily hear his steps. Heavy and graceless on the flat surface of the home.

There are other noises present now too. The home is dark. Illuminated here and there by a small lamp, burning away with unpleasant scent. It is cramped but the rooms are many. Like an ant-built structure the tunnels curve around. The mother has been delivered into what passes for a kitchen in this land. She'll be skinned and cut up and eaten. As will her young. The man's wife will cut it up without thinking once about what it means. But her daughter will cry in the solitude of her hammock tonight. While her siblings sleep she will sing a lacrimal dirge for the hairless, lifeless things that she is digesting.

The goblin strokes the top of his bald head thoughtfully. The lessons of the past are not always obvious, but his memories have always been a great resource. He pondered on Gazwin. As hard as Flibt tried, there were forces in this world that could take away that which he cared for. His pink hand smelled of the salt of sweat. Salty sweat. Salty tears. Salted meat. How many times would the cycle have to repeat, before it would be understood?

139359831 wrote:
That is a lovely painting of Richard Garfield. It really brings out his feminine side.
Just my luck. Jakob sat in the corner of the abandoned warehouse and thought about the elf. Of course Mokosh was disgusted in me, Jakob thought. I cant even hold onto one elf, let alone defend myself against that same elf. Ugh, this wont help my standing in the Golgari one bit. 
Jakob looked over at Mokosh, she was looking at a map and some scrolls that the Lich Lord had given her with instructions. She seemed too busy,to get close enough to explain to him what Jarad wanted him to do. Though her bodygaurds didnt help her appearence 2 trolls with skin coming off on the ground and another 2 trolls on the rafters watching the ground below them. The trolls were twice the size of the trolls that Jakob had under his service.

   Suddenly Mokosh looked at him."Jakob come over here now" Her eyes narrowed and, her lips twitched in disgust. Jakob stood up and walked over to Mokosh

 "How can I help?" Jakob tried to keep his eyes on her and not on the two hulking trolls behind her that were staring him down.

 "I need you to-" BOOM. They all twirled around. The wall that was behind them had a huge hole. As the dust settled Jakob saw a hulking figure, probably a ogre from the size and girth of the thing, and around it stood a group of armoured figures. Around fifty soldiers, Jakob estimated. All of them appeared human and they all were heavily armed. There were three figures in the back of the group, two were dressed like battle mages the last one looked like the commander, he was wearing the best looking armor and also the way he walked commanded respect from everyone around him. 

 Mokosh looked at them cooly. "What do you want old man?" Her left eye started to glow black while her right eye glowed green. Jakob shuddered as he heard the the plant-zombies claw their way out of the ground.

 "I am Lord Casamir, I am here to kill you all and retrieve your artifacts that you have with you." He looked at them like a hunter would look at a deer, his eyes were hungry for power. 

 Mokosh snickered, then broke into out right laughter. " Forgive me Lord" Her voice was full of sarcasm "But I thought you just said that you were here to kill us" Her face turned from happy to disgusted in a instant. " As you can see most of us are already dead and the ones that are not dead plan to stay alive." She drew two curved blades so fast that Jakob thought they just appeared in her hands.

 " Look elf just drop your weapons and tell me where the artefacts are. I promise to kill you quickly." Casamir smiled, Jakob thought the commander looked almost like a gentle soul, except for the eyes which where filled with anger.

 Mokosh's left eye shot out a stream of pure black mana at one of Casamir's soldeirs. Instantly the man was on the ground and decayin in a matter of seconds. "Today you die old man" Mokosh face in contorted in both disgust and anger. 

 The commander stared at her, clearly not impressed. "My dear I think you underestimate my troops and you over estimate your skills." He looked at his warriors and nodded

 Suddenly the ones with shields lined up in a line, locking their shields togther to make a wall between their bodies and the plant-zombies that were rushing towards them. Next came spear men and archers. Instantly Mokosh took care of the archers with her left eye, sending out rays of black mana that instantly killed them. Before she could do further damage a mage sent a wave of fireballs at her. She swatted them away with ease.

 While she did that, the trolls at her side charged at the soldiers. The sheild wall was holding up against the zombie barrage. Any plant-zombie that tried to breach the wall was stabed with a spear, then the shield bearer  would cut the plant-zombie's head off. But if a zombie did get through that then the spear men would jump back for a longswords man to step up and neatly cut the zombie in half. All in all the strategy was incredibly affective to the point that the plant zombie's were being pushed back incredibly fast.

 Jakob was starting to worry that they might actually run out of plant-zombies. That was until the trolls hit the line. Automatically they broke throught the wall and laid about them with glee killing five shields men with in three seconds. Jakob smiled in triumph. Now that the trolls had entered the battle it would only be a matter of minutes till the wall completly broke down and retreated. Leaving their backs to the rushing plant-zombie hordes that would then drag the soldiers down and devour them. 

 The wall opened up around the trolls instead of breaking. Five Longswords men walked up and took fighting postions. Instead of fear, Jakob saw boredom. What is this? Jakob thought, these men are fools for not running, those swords wouldnt be able to kill the trolls. 

 Suddenly all five of those longswords mens swords burst into flames. Jakob's eye's opened up in horror. The fastest and, most effective way to kill a troll was with fire. The swordsmen advanced slowly, each step measured to match the other's. Jakob looked around, trieing to find where the source of the fire was coming from. There! The other battle mage was chanting and looking at the five swordsmen intently, he must be the reason there is fire on their blades! One of the trolls charged the swordsmen.

 Suddenly the two swordsmen on the sides jumped behind the troll right as the three in the middle engaged the troll. While the three swordsmen and the troll traded blows, the two swordsmen behind the troll jumped up and sliced off both arms then the middle swordsmen jumped up and shoved his sword through the trolls head. The fight lasted only two minutes! Jakob couldnt believe it! That was incredible! suddenly the swordsmen lined up and started their measured marching to the other troll, as if nothing had happened. Once the troll saw them, it charged at them. It was over in a matter of minutes. The shield wall closed up and continued its impleccible march towards them once again.

 Jakob looked at the battle mage again. The battle mage was chanting again, he raised his right fist at Jakob as fire gathered around it. Jakob started to back away slowly. The Battle mage pulled back his hand then thrusted it forword sending a fireball at Jakob. All the time Jakob had was for him to put his hands up and take the hit. He flew back and hit the ground hard.
 Jakob started to see black at the edge of his vision. Suddenly he started to hear two distinct voices in his head.

 Nice one idiot, why were you standing in sight of the battle mage? You do realize that they cant hurt you with magic? Plus this is our body! I dont care how stupid you are if you keep putting our body in danger Im going to assume control more often, I dont know why I let you control it at all. Now we have to wake him up and save us again cause you are to stupid to listen to your insticts and run from a fight. Nice going idiot.


Cassamir smiled. With the battle mage taking care of the elf and, with his soldiers advancing with speed towards the elf this should be over smoothly. In the end he had only lost five men. A heavy loss but compared to the enemies losses incredibly small. Ah well he needed to train some of his regular troops to join the specialist squad any way. Now he had less mouth's to feed.

 Cassamir whistled as he watched the man fly backwords. Ouch now the landing looked like that hurt too. Cassamir laughed a little at the sight. "Good job battle mage." Cassamir smiled at the battle mage who was watching the battle that was unfolding before them with great caution. 
 "Thank you Lord Cassamir, I live to surve." The battle mage bowed to him in respect then returned his attention to the battle at hand. Ha, such respect Cassamir liked that.

 Cassamir looked over the battle field. The elf and the mage were still busy fighting each other. Though it was clear that the battle mage was far out mached, so far that the elf was looking at Cassamir the entire fight. Now she might be a problem, Cassamir supposed. Cassamir glanced at the man's body once again and was surprised that he was standing and staring directly at the wall.
 Interesting, thought Cassamir. I thought he was done for. Seems like he is made of sturner stuff. Suddenly the Human started to sprint towards the wall.

 "Is he mad?" Cassamir questioned out loud. "My lord?" The battle mage next to him turned to him with a questioning look on his face. "That Man." Cassamir nodded at the man running at the wall. The battle mage's eye's opened in surprised 

 "what the... He should be dead." Cassamir looked at him immediatly. "What?" The battle mage looked at Cassamir abruptly "My lord it would seem that the enemy has another mage at their disposal." The battle mage looked abruptly at the man before turning his attention back to Cassamir. "It would be best if you retreated and left the rest to me." Cassamir studied his face for a minute. 

 " No, I will not run from a battle knowing that my men, especially my elite, are out here fighting. I will not turn my back from them." The battle mage's face looked worried as he studied Cassamir's face "But my lord-" Suddenly a sound filled the entire building drowning out even the cries of battle coming from the battle below. After a few moment's Cassamir realized it was the man running towards the front line. Except he didnt look all that human anymore. Instead he looked taller and more bony. Indeed he looked like he was a bigger, thicker version of those plant-zombies that he was running with.

"What the he-" Suddenly he reached the wall and grabed hold of one of his men's shield. He pulled it towards him and instead of doing nothing to the wall he actually pulled off an entire section of the wall towards him. Cassamir's eyes opened in wonder and horror as he saw the man start to grow even more. suddenly it seemed his chest opened up and these tentacle like things spring out of his chest and hit his men in the head. The thing continued to go deeper into the wall nothing stopping him. Every move he made was a man down. Those that got hit by the tenticles came back up, Cassamir, at first thought they the tentacles really didnt do anything, that was until those same men turned on their comrades around them.

  Thats when Cassamir realized that the tentaces not only killed his men, no that would be to easy, they raised them back up as plant-zombies, already he could see green coming out of the wounds from the tentacles. He also noticed that the man was no longer a man, no he was covered in a ton of dirt and roots. He realized the tentacles were actually roots as well, and that the man was sucking the dirt up off the ground around him creating a natural armour around the man's body, that resembled a giant plant-zombie. It reminded Cassamir of a egg, except this egg could fight back and was incredibly dangerous.

 They couldnt win this now, not with that thing right there. Even his commadoes were no match, indeed if he wanted to cut back losses he needed to retreat now. "Retreat! Everyone fall back. We will finish this later now move." instantly his men started to move back in precise segments. Breaking the wall into several smaller walls to protect those behind them. It was a great move and cut down losses. In a matter of minutes only a couple of the small walls were behind, the majority all ready heading back to head quarters. Suddenly Cassamir felt a prescence behind him

 "This is where we part ways human" The ogre told him. Cassamir spun around. "And where are you going Ogre?" The Ogre nodded to the horror fighting down there. Now eating zombies as well as attackin what was left of his men. " Mospe-Tr-Gan plans to fight a foe finally worthy of him. It has been awhile since Mospe-Tr-Gan has fought. Now it is time for me to prove my worth to my master once again." Cassamir stared at the ogre for a second then said "Well I wish you luck Mospe-Tr-Gan."

 Mospe-Tr-Gan Looked down at him and nodded "You to human" At that the ogre set a pace and started to head towards the horror-plant-zombie-thing. Cassamir looked at it again and noted that roots had sprung up out of its back and that it was picking up zombies and stuffing it into its mouth voraciously. 

 No Cassamir was sure he would see both again. No doubt in his mind. With that Cassamir turn and fled, with the sound of the battle mage that had been fighting the elf the entire time scream out in pain then die. No he would see all of them again, and he would pay them back for this humiliation.
*                *                   *

     Ardir walked steadily towards the ruined dovecote, trying not to laugh at the scene behind him, which featured an enraged Graz being swarmed by hundreds of feral goblins. He'd been annoyed when Ardir had told him how they were getting past, but it was good to let his wild side out at times - under controlled circumstances.

     Without bothering to knock, the elf strode through the simple wooden door, his augmented eyes allowing him to see clearly through the gloom. Reaching into his robes he pulled out a plumed bird which he'd purchased from a street vendor on the way and released it, flapping with relief, into the tower.

     It lasted three seconds. A great clawed hand plucking it from the air and stuffing it into a fang-filled maw. Then the Viashino was gone, vanished into some hidden section of the cote beyond eben Ardir's senses. He was still alive, which meant that his offer was to be heard out. Clearing his throat the elf stepped forward.

     "There is a Dimir agent by the name of Raod.  His goals are unclear and thus will undoubtedly turn out to be a huge problem for my own plans. I want you-" and here he reached once more into his robes, pulling out a small glowing gem, like a spike of emerald "- to shove this into him. This is important, Dove, I'm calling in the favour you owe me."

    An intake of breath from high above, then the assassin stood in front of him, a lean, scarred mass of scales and claws. Ardir tried not to shrink back and proffered the gem - which was snatched faster than the eye could see before the Viashino once more vanished into the tower.

                              *                 *                       *

     Maria had been following the pair for a while, slipping along the roof ledges with her usual elven grace. She knew she had official Dimir work to be doing, but the young agent could never resist her curiousity. 

     Ardir had been taking a long and circuitous route through the city, stopping many times to pass on messages, collect strange items and talk with a vast collection of people, some of whom easily identifiable by their guild markings, others complete unknowns. Maria couldn't fathom it, she knew that Ardir was an antisocial old git, outside of family and fellow scientists, so this must be something very important, but he hadn't gone back to his lab once, in the four hours she'd been trailing him. Above all, what was in that brown package he'd strapped to his back. She'd watched the Loxodon banker pull it from under his counter, but had no idea what it could be.

     She sat and pondered this for a while as she watched Ardir progress through the Boros garrison. Then she wondered what Graz was up to - the pair had split in Whelkstone Street market and she'd decided to follow the leader. It was this decision she was beginning to question as boredome set in, when an immense hand grasped her by the leg.

     Maria twisted, violently. When Graz spoke six of her daggers stuck out of his face, causing the bat-winged Orzhovan thrull on his shoulder to dance in panic.

     "What are you doing here young lady?"

     "Let me go, Graz, you great big oaf!"

     "No. I believe my master would like to have a word."

     With that, the ogre flipped her over his shoulder and jumped off the side of the building, landing easily in front of Ardir, who stood flanked by a pair of Boros. She glared at them, no wanting to be seen in this undignified state. They were clearly twins, the male in the robes of a guildmage, the female dressed in full armour. Neither of them looked happier to be there than she was. Raising a hand for quiet, Ardir spoke.

     "Put her down, Graz. She's saved us the trouble of finding her ourselves. Now Maria, hows business been? Your girlfriend still undercover in Selesnya?"

     Maria sighed under her breath, she knew what was coming.

     "I'm fine, she's fine, can't tell you."

     "Well, when are we going to be hearing the patter of tiny feet then girl? I mean, your partner's a shapeshifter for Vig's sake, would it hurt to try and -"

     She rolled her eyes at the twins, who looked as if they'd rather be in a Rakdos pain rite than here, then held up a hand, cutting the old elf off.

     "Look, grandfather. If I just agree to go along with your plan without arguing will you please shut up about me having children?"

     "Agreed. But you haven't heard the last of the matter."

     "Whatever. Just tell me the plan."

     "I'll fill you all in on the flight."

     The Boros guildmage broke in. "What flight, you didn't mention-"

     A huge drake dropped from the sky, landing metres away from the group. Ardir grinned, then motioned the group to mount up in the correct positions. When they were all strapped in he began to speak, magnifying his voice to be heard over the sound of the immense beast taking off.

     "Well, the first step is to collect a certain elusive archer named Railu..."

                    *                        *                       * 
144902215 wrote:
Morgothra has the Syntax and Grammar of a God.
56754738 wrote:
I love this card.
56771968 wrote:
I can't compete with this.
57461258 wrote:
@Morgothra: Beautifully said, sir. Beautifully said.
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"Madame Magish?" the voice was cultured, respectful, and perfectly out of place in the deep, dank tunnels where it echoed.

Mokosh turned to the speaker, dismissing the once more human Jakob with a wave. Mojamir had been exceptionally careful to tread heavily as he approached, and he stood with his hands politely clasped before him as he waited for her to respond. "Mokosh," she corrected, "Sit." She indicated Jakob's now unoccupied seat.

"Thank you," he said.

"Enough pleasantries. You're one of the Azorious who attacked us."

"Yes, ma'm."

"'Lord' Casamir allows you to visit the enemy?"

"I do my best work in insubordination, ma’m. Lord Casamir is a good man, but he suffers from an overabundance of practicality. He recognizes this and I am given considerable leeway in order to balance it. He trusts me."

"What do you want?"

"Pleasantly brisk. Delightful. As a member of the Golgari Swarm you are well positioned in one of the three guilds that will be necessary should our mission succeed. Before we lost our spy we found out you are being employed to gain control of this district for the Swarm. I would like to extend to you an invitation for dual employment within our ranks, while furthering your mission with the Golgari."

He isn't lying, she thought in perplexed fascination. What kind of idiot walks into the enemy's home and starting throwing around something as dangerous as the truth? "Continue," she had no intention of helping him, but saying so would only make him try to leave. She wasn't quite ready to kill him yet.

"Hrm, I don't quite know how Golgari rank structure works, so I'm not sure what information you would need to know."

"Better tell me everything, just to be safe," she couldn't help the thin edge of contempt that crept into her voice.

"Lord Casamir intends the destruction or severe weakening of seven of the guilds, in particular the Dimir, the Orzhov, and the Boros. Your own, with the Azorious and the Izzet, will become the ruling powers of Ravnica. He will accomplish this by obtaining and maintaining control of a specific scrying device housed in this district. I haven't the vaguest clue how, but with enough knowledge, provided by the device, he will be able to control events on nearly the sale the Guildpact once did. It is in your best interest to assist us."

"You will live, for now, because I choose not to think of that as a threat. Why did you attack us?"

"We actually hadn't expected it to be necessary. Most people, when you knock down a wall and threaten them with an army, run away. Our spy, who turned out to be untrustworthy, told us about you and said you possessed magical and artifice equipment that would be quite useful when the time came to capture the scrying device. It seems this was a lie, intended to draw us into wasting resources against an unexpectedly powerful opponent. Unfortunately, it succeeded."

"How did he know we were here, we've communicated our mission to almost no one."

Mojamir shrugged, "He was a very good spy."

     Mokosh decided this was all she needed to know and summoned up a small amount of black mana. Her eyes must have given her away, because Mojamir lifted a hand and the power she'd gathered simply vanished. He stood, "Now I choose to let you live."

"How dare you!" she shouted, losing her calm, "I could have a hoard of undead or Jakob in here in a second!"

The polite smile he'd maintained finally fell, "And do you think you could hold me off in a sword fight until then, ma’m? I don't. I do hope your anger does not color your judgment in this matter." He bowed, about faced, and sprinted off.

     Mojamir was certain he would die at any moment as he ran the first mile. He was a terrible mage, and the mana needed to counter that one spell had taken him hours to gather. She’d never forgive him if she realized he couldn’t have done it again.

“How did it go?” asked Casamir.

“I’m certain I have no idea what you’re talking about, sir.” Casamir gave him a slow, even look. “About as well as it could have, I suppose.”

“How did you even find them?”

“I just asked around, sir. They couldn’t have missed that gorgon and her monster even in the sewers.”

“And people answered?”

“Why wouldn’t they?”

“I swear, if I could just figure out how you interact with people I wouldn’t even need the machine.”


     Jaroslav shook his head silently to himself as they walked. He and his two unwelcome companions had been at this search for hours, and nothing had come of it yet. In general, Jaroslav preferred to work alone, but when he had to have partners, he preferred them to be of a more pleasant disposition. Dienda, the Orzhov agent who had signed him into this predicament, rarely spoke and never smiled. She merely scanned their surroundings and watched him like a bird of prey, watching, he presumed, for any hint of defiance which could constitute a breach of his contract.

     Their other companion was even worse, an uncharacteristically muscle-bound imp that Dienda had insisted on bringing along. Jaroslav and the imp had never been introduced, though the Orzhov woman called him Lob. It was impossible to discern whether this was his actual name, or some sort of epithet she used. Either way, he possessed the same sort of impish ugliness that always turned an Azorius stomach. Jaroslav despised imps as a rule, though he had to admit, an Orzhov imp had one thing going for it: it wasn't a Rakdos imp. If Lob had been Rakdos, the smell alone might have already caused Jaroslav to lose his meager lunch.

     Jaroslav was a good officer, but had never been much of a tracker. Despite Dienda's assurance that he was the man for the job, they had lost the trail of the elf almost immediately. Although the Orzhov agent showed minor irritation at this setback, it was not nearly as intensive as Jaroslav expected. She merely insisted they go out of their way to collect Lob and then continue the search. So far, however, the search had turned up little. Railu's seemed to have disappeared. And Jaroslav's one inquiry into why the Orzhov was interested in him had resulted in Dienda making it abundantly clear that the reasons had no bearing on Jaroslav's task. He, at that moment, decided he simply wanted to get this job over with.

     "Hold on," Lob coughed as they approached the next street corner. "Something's waitin' fur us up there."

     "Any idea what?" asked Dienda, her expression no different than it had been all day.

     The imp shook his misshapen head. "Nope. I's sense somethin', somethin' magic, but I's not sense it before." The creature closed his eyes and licked the air, which turned Jaroslav's stomach once again. "It tastes like…brine."

     "Brine?" She repeated, indignant. She thought for a moment, then turned to Jaroslav. "Well, Azorius, what is your plan of action?"

     He squinted one eye at her, a look somewhere between confusion and accusation. "What plan of action? Let's go see what it is."

     Jaroslav had turned and was around the corner before the Orzhov woman could manage a protest. If anything, the Azorius officer simply wanted something to happen. Unfortunately for him, he was disappointed. He rounded the corner to see simply a deserted stretch of street. Moments later he was joined by the other two, who were equally unimpressed.

     Dienda glanced over at the imp. "You're getting old, Lob."

     Their flying companion shook his head and batted his wings, which were already struggling to keep him aloft. He glanced around nervously as he spoke. "I's not like this…"

     Jaroslav rolled his eyes as he took a single step forward. The moment he did, however, reality seemed to ripple. The street in front of him seemed to go out of focus somehow, and then, with the sound and the visual of a bursting bubble, the empty street melted away and was replaced by a similar one, only filled with over a dozen armed men and women. Most of them were human or elven and carried short spears with serrated blades. The foremost of them, though, was so shocking, even to a seasoned veteran of the streets like Jaroslav, that his mouth actually hung open in surprise. After all, even since the sinkholes had emerged, few Ravnicans living had ever seen merfolk before.

     This particular merfolk was a tall and exceedingly thin woman, wearing a gossamer robe and carrying what looked like a tiny glowing crystal encased in a bubble about the size of her palm. One of her armed compatriots leaned in and whispered something to her, and she nodded stiffly in response. As she spoke, her voice was low and lyrical.

     "You, Azorius. We require information from you." When neither Jaroslav nor his companions spoke, she continued. "We are representatives of the Simic Combine, and we are here on Simic business. I am afraid I am going to have to insist on your cooperation." Still, no answer. The mermaid's voice now assumed a tint of annoyance. "Very well, we shall dispense with the pleasantries. Answer my question and you will live through this day. Where is the elf?"

     This shook Jaroslav out of his stunned daze. "Alright, that does it! Why is everyone so blasted interested in that damn elf? I don't know anything about him, alright! So leave me alone."

     The merfolk woman shook her head.  "I know that you know something. His aura is notoriously difficult to track, but it does leave an imprint on those he meets. And after years of experimentation, we finally have the means to track it." She held up the bubble-encased crystal as a demonstration. "His aura resonates with you, which means you have been with him recently. Now tell me where he is!"

     A few of her guards took a menacing step forward, but Dienda spoke first. "I am sorry, fishling, but the Orzhov have already laid claim to him."

     The mermaid's eyes narrowed. "I am called Nara, and your claim does not supersede our own. That elf has commit heinous crimes against our guild, and neither your corrupt Orzhov advokists nor your sniveling, Azorius lawmages can dispute our right for vengeance."

     "A good advokist can dispute any right." Dienda responded coolly. "This is an Orzhov district. The rights to the elf belong with us."

     "The matter of which guild controls this area is a dispute we shall settle another day," replied the other. "The ancient delta that once fed this port district, thousands of years ago when goods were transported by ships of the sea rather than ships of the sky, is ancient Simic land. The Orzhov usurped this land from its rightful caregivers, and one day there will be a reckoning. But for the time being, give us the elf."

     Again, her soldiers stepped forward, more of them this time, and raised their spears in preparation for assault. In response, Lob hovered forward a bit, and Jaroslav could feel dark mana gathering around Dienda. Before things could get too far out of hand, Jaroslav spoke up again, trying to avoid the paperwork that would assuredly follow.

     "Listen, Nara, this is unnecessary. I don't have the information you're looking for anyway. It's true I had Railu in my custody yesterday, but he escaped in short order. We're looking for him, too."

     The merfolk's jaw clenched tight. "So he gave you the name of 'Railu,' did he. His web of infamy grows still greater." She noticed the look of confusion on Jaroslav's face, and so she explained. "Names are sacred possessions to the Simic. By providing you with a false name, he has forsaken his own, another of his vile sins."

     "That's strange," commented Jaroslav. "I thought Railu was guildless. He certainly said so enough."

     "Naturally, he is now, after betraying the Simic and fleeing our ranks. May the ancient gods of the forgotten depths thrice damn Ardir for his evil deeds."

     "Wait, Ardir? You're looking for Ardir?"

     "Do not play games with me, human," warned Nara.

     "No, we thought you meant Railu, the elf everyone seems to be looking for. If you're looking for Ardir, that's an entirely different story."

     Nara sighed, the gills on the side of her face flaring slightly as she did.  "Very well, then. Where is Ardir?"

     "Oh." Jaraslav said. "Well, I guess it's not an entirely different story. I also had him in custody quite recently, and he also escaped in relatively short order."

     Although he would not have thought it possible, Nara's eyes narrowed even further. "I should kill you merely for your incompetence."

     Jaroslav thought he caught the sight of Dienda nodding her head out of the corner of his eye, but he ignored it. "Look, I might have gone after him, but all I had arrested him for was refusing to let me search his lab, which was a trumped-up charge to begin with."

     This caught Nara's attention immediately. "Wait a moment, you know where Ardir's lab is?

     "Yes," confirmed the Azorius, "but it won't do you much good. That elf has that place so warded and protected that even the Dimir spy I was traveling with at the time couldn't crack them."

     "The Dimir undoubtedly did not have this," she responded, once more holding the bubble up. "Do you think we would be so foolish as to attack one as powerful as Ardir without a means to defeat him? It took us years to decipher the secrets to his crystalline magic, but now that we have, we will bring him to justice."

     "We do not have time for this," Dienda interjected. "We have our own search to conduct, and we have no leads."

     "If I may say," Nara offered, "when Ardir was still with the Simic, he made use of a powerful scrying device. This device is a gruesome monstrosity, but I would be willing to suffer its use once, if it will lead us to our hated prey."

     "You'll help us find Railu?" Jaroslav asked anxiously.

     "If you bring us to Ardir's lab, and his hideous machine is there, we will operate it for you, to find both your quarry and ours. What do you say?"

     Jaroslav looked over at Dienda, who seemed to be considering. After a few moments, she simply nodded her head. Jaroslav smiled. "Very well, then. Follow me."

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

                “Yes, I am a member of the Izzet,” Gazwin admitted casually. “Were you expecting something else when you came crashing through my window and found yourself in a laboratory littered with mizzium and the remnants of vast, world changing experiments in luminosity?”

                “You bastards killed my parents!” Railu hadn’t meant to shout, but any trace of calm had fled from his mind the moment he had realized just where he was and who he had been helping. Of the ten guilds, the Izzet were the absolute worst. The Azorius and Boros would kill you for breaking their version of the law, even if you hadn’t realized you had done anything wrong, but at least it was to uphold their own sense of justice. The Orzhov would sell you your life and then bleed your soul dry to pay the debt, but at least they were honest about it. The Dimir might slight your throat before you even knew they were behind you, but that was just business, nothing personal. The Gruul and Golgari would stake your corpse out as a warning to anyone else who might invade their territory, and the Rakdos would kill you just for kicks.

                But the Izzet? They would kill you and not even notice. A weird broke loose and rampaged across the market district, burning down half a dozen tenements in its wake? Fascinating! Who knew it could reach those temperatures? One of their power plants explode, obliterating the busy factories clustered around it? Incredible! We thought we could only get half that charge! One of their labs have an “accident” poisoning everything in an eight block radius, except, oddly, the guildmage and his assistants? Amazing! It was only supposed to have half that level of toxicity!

                There was never any mention of their victims. No letters of condolences, no offers of compensation. Even the psychos in the Rakdos circuses would occasionally offer a cut of the gate to their victims, if they weren’t purchased from their families outright! But that would never occur to the Izzet. Their slavish devotion to the grand Niv-Mizzet and his Firemind blinded them to the reality of the consequences of their experiments. They didn’t even bother to help clean up the mess, usually leaving that to whichever other guild was unlucky enough to be nearest to their latest catastrophe.

                Gazwin paused for a moment, his nose wrinkled in confusion as he considered Railu’s accusation. “Is that all?”

                Railu’s hand dropped to his waist even as he launched himself at Gazwin. He had had just long enough to be shocked when his fingers closed over empty air where the hilt of his dagger was supposed to be before eighty seven pounds of goblin smashed into his stomach, driving him into one of the work benches. He tried to fight back, but Flibt was too fast and too close to stop. Railu cried out in pain as three sharp fingers stabbed into a point just inside of his left shoulder, causing his entire arm to fall numb and useless to his side. He flailed with his right, trying to push the goblin to the side. Flibt ducked the clumsy blow and responded by punching Railu in the throat. That was enough to take the fight out of the elf, who simply lay there on the floor gasping for air.

                Flibt knelt over the elf, straddling Railu’s chest with his knees as he held his fist back and ready to strike. “Don’t. Move.”

                Railu spat in Flibt’s face.

                Flibt’s next punch knocked Railu unconscious.

                “What do you want me to do with him boss?” Flibt asked once he had finished tying the elf up.

                “Put him in the basement for now,” Gazwin replied, not bothering to look up from his latest experiment. “He did something to annoy the Azorius, which is worth a notch or two in my books, at least. Keep an eye on him and when he wakes up we’ll try to have a more rational conversation with him.”

The Sacred Bell

The only similarity was the wind. It was exactly the same as it had been by the cliff. But her vaste and barren marsh was long gone now. She would never be able to return. Atop the mossy stones an inlet sat, like a well-fed fowl. Across the pass, a valley lay, and the wind would cut across it at dawn and dusk. It was an icy and chilling wind, and it made her remember.

She could recall sitting by the fire of their cavernesque home, while her mother told her stories of owl and of catfish. She remembered the sweet honey that her father brought back from the city. She remembered drinking it like water. She could remember hearing that wind through the door as her parents spoke of the city's fall in hushed tones. She could remember her child's fear.

In the Valley of the Sacred Bell, she only feared two things: her memories and her master.

*H'Whack* Her door swung open quickly, and the young student was already off her cot. She stood in stance, as her pre-dawn intruder let himself in. The darkness was black as pitch and she could feel it in her mouth and in her nose. She changed stance and as she did, she lost several pounds and shrank a few inches. Her abilities changed as well and the world was coloured a dark amber. She could see now. She could see her opponent's fists as they hungrily drove at her. The blows were far too fast for even her foxed reflexes, and she soon found herself with her back to the floor, manipulating her legs in vain attempt to keep the oppressive assault from returning her to a state of unconsciousness. A chance must be taken, and her little fox tail quickly assumed a scaled appearance. It wrapped around her master's leg and dropped him to the ground. She grunted inelegantly and rose, making for the door.

The cold morning wind hit her wet scales and nearly toppled her, but her wits were not gone. A beak sprouted from the lizard face, and her tail shrank to inexistence as her talons sprouted. Her wings raised themselves, but before the first flap, she knew that she was too late. A blow to the base of her skull sent her careening into the nearest conifer.

The young student rolled over and tasted blood. Again she could not see beneath the canopy, but her master's presence was strong.

"Running away from your battles is not the same as winning them."

She paused. She knew better than to speak at a time like this. That was one thing her master had done a good job of teaching her.

"Rise. Return to your form."

The girl did as she was told. Her feathers disappeared and her skin developed goose-pimples.

"Flight is not a style. The style that I strive to teach you is that of the hunter. You must not wait for your opponent. You must go and find him and smite him. The kamis do not rest, and neither do the minds of men. You must always be traveling. Now. Stance."

Her fists recurled themselves into their little cochlear balls.

"No shifting this time. I would like to see what your body can do without your gift."

By the time he was finished, she'd developed several more bruises and two more wounds that bled. But at least the sun's aura was glowing on the horizon.

He walked silently away, as she struggled to stand. The brothers were up now too, she could see them doing their morning duties. She watched Marumosa tread on bare feet down to the well. He'd be going back and forth until nightfall. She was not so lucky.

Coal-duty was especially dreaded. Each monk is taught early that fear is never to be expressed. They do their requisite tasks without qualm. Without a wrinkle on their brows. The young girl did not tremble as she picked up the coals and transported them from the great furnace to the individual furnace units. She stirred them with finger and forearm, and the burn soon lost its teeth.

By nightfall, her arms were numbed by fire. The iron door rang sweetly as it closed. The metallic deposits in the valley had been kind to the monks. Everything they could they'd built of the dark metals found here. The furnace, the well, each statue, every bench, and of course the Bell. Everything else was stone. Personal ornamentation was usually constructed of the wood of felled conifers - and it was most often found in the form of a staff held in one's hand.

On the pale cobbled floor with the brothers she sat. Her arms gained their feeling back.

"Come student." She rose and paced to the center of the room. "You are blessed with a special ability. You can change your shape. But there are many powerful wielders of magic in the world. What will you do when they use your ability against you?"

Her master's hard eye stared into her. She looked at the wall behind him. His brow furrowed, and a little saliva escaped his mouth as he shouted, "Akki!" In instants her skin had turned red, and her eyes had taken on a turquoise velour. She hunched and her claw-like hands raised themselves to fight.

"Hukoru." The prize student was on his feet before anyone's eyes had reached him. His solid footfalls were heard but not felt.

"You may not change form. You are trapped this way", he turned to Hukoru, "Do not go easily on her."

The chimes sounded their battle. Hukoru's feet were large, but deft. They struck at her like a woodpecker's beak and the goblin girl was barely able to dodge them. She could feel Marumosa's eyes watching her with fear. She glanced. It was a mistake. In the time she took to glance at her friend, her enemy had lowered her to the ground. Again she had to use her legs, but instead of the dextrous and strong fox legs she'd had this morning, she fumbled with her clumsy goblin appendages instead. She felt the defeat seeping into her.

"Your form is not a handicap. Use it to your advantage."

Her master's words did not make sense. How could being a little, weak, clumsy goblin be an advantage when she was fighting a strong and agile human? But that was the only thought she need wonder. Of course that was what Hukoru was thinking as well, and he would not be expecting much from this fight. He would assume that he was making an example of her again. Yes, Hukoru took the sparing seriously, and was doing his best to reduce her to shame as quickly as possible.

She wrapped her legs around his abdomen, and shot her torso up, clutching his arms and holding him. Instantly he slammed her back to the ground - and now his weight was upon her, but she knew how to escape his hold, and now they faced each other once again. She knew she only had one chance to disable him. She must not hesitate. She rushed into him while he was maintaining his offensive posture and they tumbled across the floor. Though the advantage of her small size, the goblin was able to end on top. Her hand formed itself into a three-legged arachnid and it shot itself like a dart into Hukoru's shoulder. First one and then the other. She sprang off of him, and he struggled to stand, only to find that he could not move his arms. Two students rushed to his aid. He stood and bowed to his opponent. She bowed back.

Flibt tucked Railu's shivering body in. What an angry young man, she thought, though not altogether un-handsome.

139359831 wrote:
That is a lovely painting of Richard Garfield. It really brings out his feminine side.
Mospe-Tr-Gran smiled, thinking of his up and coming fight with the creature. Finally a foe who can challenge me. He thought to himself reaching the end of the street. Looking around he found he recognised the street to his left and could see the tavern of where he was with the goblin. Thinking about the place, Mospe-Tr-Gran started his walk towards it. Suddenly a group of soldiers, looking like Boros Wojeks, came walking out of the tavern. There were three, the leader a human female and flanking her were to men. One was holding a crossbow, the other a rapier. By the walk of them they had taken some lessons on how to use the weapons, but were not masters of their craft. Not worthy to fight me. Mospe-Tr-Gran thought to himself.
 The Woman saw him "You, ogre, halt in the name of the Boros guild" Mospe-Tr-Gran looked at her questioningly. "Yes? How may Mospe-Tr-Gran be of service to the Boros legion this night?" The woman looked at him suscpicously, noting all the scars crisscrosing his face. "What are you doing in this sector?" Mospe-Tr-Gran looked at her, saying "Just taking a stroll to the tavern there" nodding towards the tavern where the Wojeks had just came from "For a quick drink"

 Instantly her eyes narrowed in suspicion. "That tavern has been quaritined, there was a murder there and we have been sent to investigate what happened to it. You wouldnt happen to know what happened there would you?" The two men at either side of her gripped their weapons, preparing for the fight that might break out. "Mospe-Tr-Gran knows nothing of the murder." He answered truthfully.
 Her eyes narrowed some more and was about to reply when two more boros soldiers appeared, one another human male, the other a Viashino male. Marching towards her the human male reported to her "Sir the area around the sector have been clossed off per your instructions, but---" The Viashino male stepped forward, suddenly, and started to sniff the air. Looking at Mospe-Tr-Gran he rasped "He smells of the scent in the tavern"
 Instantly all five of the Boros guild readied their weapons and encircled Mospe-Tr-Gran. The woman yelled "Get on the ground hands on your head, NOW!" Mospe-Tr-Gran looked at them confused, when he suddenly heard the crossbow go off and he felt something enter his back. Spinning around he saw the crossbowmen begin to crank another arrow for fireing.
 Mospe-Tr-Gran felt a sudden wave of disyness hit him as he felt his body hit the ground. His eyesight started to fade away, the last thing he saw before blackness, was the female leader looking around and yelling orders. Then Nothing
*                                     *                                 *

     Daog whipped around, one hand lashing out with his sword, the other pulling his crossbow from beneath the oak desk. His blade glanced off scales, then he felt the searing pain of claws scoring his face. He flipped backwards, putting the desk between him and the lithe Viashino who had somehow managed to infiltrate this hideout. She leapt. He fired. Three shots slammed into her and then she was on him, jaws digging into his side, tail lashing his face and the small crystal dagger she held in her left hand being shoved painfully into his thigh. Daog gritted his teeth - it had been twenty-four years since he'd last screamed and he wasn't about to break that pattern now - then shoved a dagger into his assailant's heart. Amazingly, she didn't die, twisting backwards and once more attempting to strike. He dodged, limping to the side, then fired point blank until all his bolts were spent.

     Only later, when he was patching himself up, did he notice the strangest thing about that odd encounter. There was no wound on his thigh - the very place that assassin had struck at him with a crystalline dagger was as smooth as a newborn. Puzzled, he thought about investigating, but decided it could wait. Right now, he had a job to do. 

                                   *                                     *                                 *
     "I'd like to see the archer."

     Gazwin looked warily at this strange elf, who was presently perched neatly on his windowsill. He looked more warily still at the large transport drake which had settled across the street bearing its five passengers, one of whom was horribly familiar.

     "You must be Graz's boss. "
     "Yes. Please, call me Ardir. I must apologise for the way my subordinate treated you, I merely sent him to collect certain components and well, he tends to be a little too independent - if you know what I mean."
     "I can sympathise, my own assistant is far too fond of his excursions around the city for his own good. Indeed, I believe he was there when you were arrested, which, much as I disagree with the Azorious way of doing things, would be preferable to you standing on my windowledge."
     "I would gladly step off the ledge if you just let me speak to the archer. I know he's in your basement, so do yourself a favour and bring him to me."
     "I don't take kindly to threats, particularly from elves who've sent ogres to beat me up. I'm going to ask you to leave. Now."

     Ardir remained motionless. Gazwin frowned, then pulled hard on a nearby lever, which sent mirrors and lenses whirring, realigning to fire a beam of light hot enough to boil stone right at the elves head.

     There was an incandescent explosion. Where the elf had been there was now only a supernova, flooding the lab with brightness. Gazwin twisted swiftly to avoid blindness, only hearing the devastion as wood ingnited, glass melted and metal warped, a thousand agonizing  souns that indicated the destruction of his precious laboratory. Then the light dimmed, retreating, until only the daylight form outside remained to shine upon the wreckage. Gazwin glanced around, Flibt, having uncharacteristically hung back from the earlier conversation, was nowhere to be seen. The elf, however, was, striding towards him, his skin now clearly showing thousands of crystalline veins that still leaked the light they had absorbed. The Izzet scientist struggled to breathe as he was roughly hoisted to his feet.

     "Enough. It was a shame to destroy your laboratory, I had reviewed your work and was reasonably impressed, but perhaps the time for labs is over. You still have your part to play after all; which for now includes taking me to see Railu. It's only polite and besides-" he grabbed the large brown sack which was strapped to his back "- I have a present for him."
144902215 wrote:
Morgothra has the Syntax and Grammar of a God.
56754738 wrote:
I love this card.
56771968 wrote:
I can't compete with this.
57461258 wrote:
@Morgothra: Beautifully said, sir. Beautifully said.
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It was dark, but an unknown source of impurity sullied the cool and dampness. Not true light, more like... implied light. Light that didn't quite know what it was doing, it created lines so faint as to convince the captive who saw them they were his own sensory deprived imaginings. It implied much, showed nothing. It would be the ideal amount of light, he decided, to make someone insane.

      Railu considered himself tough, at least reasonably. He endured and survived as a free elf in a world owned by the Guilds. He'd faced down the injustice of the Haves inflicted on the Have-Nots, and no matter how badly he was beaten (and he was always beaten) he stood again with his pride intact. Break my back, I will not bow. Break my legs, I will not kneel. Raised mostly by indifferent fate he'd sometimes met others who'd tried to teach him. One had been an obviously sick, aging but not-quite-old human man whose frailty somehow seemed to contain all the angry energy of a swarm of startled hornets. He'd sat there drinking himself to death and shook with a feverish indignation of insulted dignity. "All you have and all you need to define yourself as a person is pride," he'd said with a high, cracked voice, his body seeming almost unable to contain the bursting energy within. "Everything else they can, and will, take from you, even your life. But as long as you keep your head up you know no matter what happens they never beat you. All their money and thugs and high buildings, not enough to beat you. Can die with dignity, then." Young Railu had been unsettled by the unhealthy man who'd seemed to shout without raising his voice, and had left. The man had died hours later of alcohol or his wasting sickness. But Railu had listened, and agreed. Pride wasn't much, but it kept you going.

     He felt it now, though, scratching at the edges. Enemy of pride, enemy of all strength: despair. Staring at the things he couldn't identify that might or might not be there, Railu began to consider the idea that he might not survive... whatever this was. A mysterious letter containing a stone that made the thief disappear (meant for him? had the sender known it would be taken? if so then what was the purpose of the letter, written by someone who knew what reassurance was but hadn't quite got the hang of it?), arrested for trying to retrieve his property illegally (not that the law would have tried to help him), hunted by some assassin for no apparent reason, the seemingly pointless but not random death of Old Demethre, and now this. Locked in a dark room, unable to tell if awake or asleep. The door falls gently off its moorings. An elf would be silhouetted in the light, if he weren't already glowing. Realizing he's watching his own thoughts, Railu decides he's taking this well.

     The glowing elf unties him. "Oh, hey, it's you," he says, recognizing Ardir even with his veins shining from within. Ardir thrusts a simple looking but short bow into Railu's hands. To it is tied a single, unimpressive looking and not quite straight arrow.

"I really do wish I had more time but we absolutely do not. Graz can keep my premises secure for only so long, you understand. I do hate to be so rude to Gazwin but, alas-"

"You're glowing."

"...Follow me."

Railu pulled the arrow out of its bindings, notched and fired it before most people would have had time to change expression. Ardir caught it and handed it back without comment. He walked off. Failing anything better to do, Railu followed.


     Casamir stirred from his nap. Just admitting to himself that’s what he’d been doing made him feel old. They’d taken up residence in a warehouse occupied only by street rats, they were unwelcome but of course other than a few things left carelessly about being pilfered there wan’t much the locals could do about it. He’d sent five scouts out to search for signs of the elf or the lab, and three had returned unsuccessful. He’d had time to stand and straighten his shirt when the fourth burst in and reported, “Sir, I think I found the Simic’s labs, my lord.” Changing the habitual honorific was giving the men trouble.

 “What did you see?”

“An ogre in a suit. Pretty sure there’s only one of those, silord.”

“Where?” The man pointed to a section of riverfront less than ten miles from their current position. “Outstanding, tell the sergeants to prepare to march within the hour. Leave everything that is not essential to battle. This is it.”

“Yes, sir.”

When the man had gone Mojamir detached himself from a nearby wall and said, “They’re not used to having a lord.”

“You don’t approve?”

“No, no I do not, my lord. It sounds... dangerous.”

“More than Supreme Judge Isperia?”

“Yes. We still need the elf, though you won’t tell me why.”

“He’ll be there.”

“How do you know?”

Because it feels right. “Do you still trust me?”

“Personally, I take every word you say as moral truth. Professionally you pay me not to trust you.”

“I don’t pay you that much.” Their laughter was uncomfortable, strained. “Hurry up the men.” As Mojamir walked off he cast a backwards glace at his captain and would be lord. Something had changed between them after the battle in the warehouse. Comfortable friendship had been replaced by an unfamiliar gulf of mistrust. Damn, I hope I can get through this without killing him.


     "Captain, I think it's coming to."
     The young Civisward captain glanced over her shoulder at the immense frame lying chained in the center of the room. She nodded, grabbed the bucket of water at her feet, turned around and walked toward the ogre. Glancing around at her motley crew, she took a deep breath.
     "Let's hope those chains hold."
     Arros laughed. "Captain, those chains would hold an Indrik herd."
     She looked at her second in command dead in the eyes, neither laughing nor even breaking a smile. "You saw what happened to Old Demethre, right?" Arros lost his smile.  "Let's hope those chains hold."
     With that, she dumped the contents of the bucket across the face of the massive ogre, which brought him, suddenly, the rest of the way back to consciousness. On impulse, the Rakdos surged against his bonds, but much to the Wojek volunteers' relief, the chains held. He continued to struggle for a full minute before he finally slumped down to the ground, growling slightly like a wolf under his breath. He looked around at his captors, then furrowed his distorted brow.
     "Mospe-Tr-Gan of Many Hangovers is confused! He is chained, and his head is pounding, but this is not Rix Maadi, nor does it seem a Rakods festival has been in this place! And usually when Mospe-Tr-Gan of Painful Pleasures awakes, there is more than one female there, and they are not as dressed as…"
     "Enough!" Shouted the Civisward captain, unwilling to listen to any more Rakdos ramblings. To emphasis her annoyance, she sent a small helix of lightning at her captive. Although he barely flinched at the attack, it was enough to silence him for the moment. "I am Allia, a captain of the Civisward and deputized official recognized by the League of Wojek and, by extention, the Boros Legion. You will answer my questions or face summary judgment for murder."
     The drug Mospe-Tr-Gan had been shot with was beginning to wear off, and his head was beginning to clear, allowing him to remember who these people were and where he had met them. "Oh, that's right, Mospe-Tr-Gan remembers. The tavern."
     "He admits it!" The short goblin Civisward shrieked. "He admits killin' Old Demethre!"
     "Huh?" Mospe-Tr-Gan's usually verbose ways were, for the time being, overcome by simple confusion.
     "We already know he was there, Keyt," said the Viashino. "That scent on him is undeniable. What we need to know is why."
     "Verrik is right," agreed Allia as she refocused on Mospe-Tr-Gan. "Speak the truth, Demon-friend. Why did you kill Old Demethre?"
     The ogre's brow would have furrowed deeper, but it was already furrowed as deeply as it would go. "Who is Old Dememtre?"
     "He's the man you murdered in that tavern," Arros answered through clenched teeth. He drew his rapier, allowed a small amount of fiery mana to seep into it, and then took one careful, precise swing at the captive. Mospe-Tr-Gan roared, the sting more painful than he would have expected. "Now answer the captain's question."
     The ogre struggled harder, more out of frustration than anything else. "Mospe-Tr-Gan swears by Rakdos himself, Mospe-Tr-Gan has not killed anyone since last festival, over a month ago!" He thought for a moment before continuing. "Well, also a few Golgari plant-zombies just before Mospe-Tr-Gan met you, but they don't count! Zombies are already dead!"
     The Civisward soldiers glanced around at one another, suddenly uncertain. Allia was the first to speak. "Do you think he's actually telling the truth?"
     Arros shrugged. "He seems too dumb to lie."
     "My nose doesn't lie, either," insisted Verrik. "I've been a tracker my whole life, and I've encountered just about every scent there is on Ravnica, and I have only ever smelt that scent twice. Ever. Once in that tavern, and now again on this ogre."
     "You sure your lizard lizard nose ain't lying to ya?" Keyt chimed in, almost giddy. "I didn't smell nothin' in the tavern."
     The Viashino glared at his comrade. "The elf smelt it, too, remember? Maybe if you hadn't burnt out your nostrils snorting pixie powder as a youth, your nose would work as well as other goblins."
     "Uh, that's why I joined up in the first place! You think I'd be here by choice, you overgrown boot! I serve my time, bang goes my crime, then I'm outta here!"
     "Enough, both of you," interjected Allia. "This is getting us nowhere. Verrik, are you absolutely sure it's the same scent?"
     The Viashino tracker nodded proudly. "No question, captain."
     Allia sighed heavily.  "Then we have no choice. Ogres are not known for deceit, and I believe this one. However, your nose has never steered us wrong before. I hate to admit it, but we need to bring the Wojek proper in on this. I say we leave him here, and go to the Wojek for help."
     Arros shook his head. "With due respect, captain, they've basically already given their answer, and told us where we can stick their help."
     Allia nodded. "Yes, but now we have a lead they can't deny, and we've lawfully detained a Rakdos guilder. They have to take notice of that, even if they don't listen to us. Besides, what else can we do?"
     "We can kill it." Arros stated simply. "If Verrik says there's a connection between this ogre and the murder in the tavern, that would stand up in any tribunal, and odds are it won't even get that far. I say we kill this Mobster Gone and be done with it."
     Allia closed her eyes, disliking the idea but unable to dismiss it. "So, our options are kill this creature, who is likely innocent, or detain it here for the Boros to deal with. What does everyone think?"
     "Unfortunately, I am afraid I cannot abide either option." The Civisward members shuttered unconsciously at these words. They were spoken out of the mouth of the captive Mospe-Tr-Gan, but not in his voice. Instead of the low, rumbling, gruff voice of the ogre, this was lighter, sweeter, and somehow infinitely more terrifying.
     "I smell it again," Verrik hissed, and for the first time in their association, Allia detected fear in the Viashino's voice. Together, the small band of Civisward watched as the creature known as Mospe-Tr-Gan casually stood up. His skin seemed strangely covered in something, an almost translucent fungus glowing in a very dull green. His eye, the one that was not already obstructed by his misshapen flesh, was, in contrast, glowing in a vibrant white. The chains which had held him physically and magically to the ground were draped loosely around his body, and he glanced, first at his right side and then at his left, before throwing his head back in a dramatic gesture. The dull green light that surrounded Mospe-Tr-Gan's body expanded to the chains, which shuttered for a moment before shattering into thousands of tiny fragments and falling uselessly to the ground.
     "Attack!" Allie shouted, and immediately two crossbow bolts flew through the air, only to be deflected harmlessly off the glowing fungus now covering every inch of Mospe-Tr-Gan's gigantic form. The Viashino's lance sprang out as if from nowhere to pierce their foe, but the ogre grabbed the shaft almost disinterestedly and, with a mighty heave, used it to toss Verrik directly into Allia, sending them both sprawling to the floor and pinning the captain's sword, edge up, into her stomach. Mospe-Tr-Gan then tossed the lance like a javelin, impaling the further of the two Civisward crossbowman.
    Keyt threw himself mindlessly at the Rakdos, leaping onto his chest and hacking away at his head with the goblin's short sword, but the weapon did not so much as dent the fungus armor encasing him. Instead, the fungus seemed to burn beneath the goblin's feet, and before he could jump free, Mospe-Tr-Gan's massive arm grabbed him, squeezed him to death, and flung his lifeless body toward Arros. The human Civisward deftly avoided his comrade's corpse, and was funneling all the mana he could muster into his rapier, which actually seemed to be doing some slight damage to the fungus. Verrik had regained his feet, and the remaining crossbowman had dropped his weapon in favor of another lance, and together these two joined Arros in his stand, but they were no match for their adversary. The human crossbowman fell first, his back broken by another of the giant's strikes. Verrik perished as his neck snapped against the far wall, thrown carelessly by the ogre. All that remained were Arros and Allia, the latter of which had struggled to her feet, but was bleeding profusely from the wound in her gut.
     The creature that had been Mospe-Tr-Gan stepped back from the melee, the few cuts inflicted by Arros's enchanted sword already healing over. He smiled and spoke, his voice still sickeningly lyrical. "It always amuses us when an ant wishes to challenge a Wurm. Creatures ought to know their place. You are not part of the plan. This creature, graceless and hideous though it may be, is. We could not allow you to interrupt our plan by detaining this monstrosity. We have worked too long and too hard, and this beast has an appointment for which it cannot be late."
     "Who are you?" Allia managed.
     "Do not ask foolish questions, little ant. Who we are is of no importance to the dead. We leave to the Orzhov or the Golgari the affairs of the dead. We deal with the living. And soon, all of Ravnica will be ours. We shall return it to its rightful splendor."
     "By the Paruns," she breathed. "The Selesnya Conclave?"
     The fungus-covered lips of the large ogre lifted slightly into a smirk. "Clever little ant." He took a step forward.
     "Run, Allia! I'll hold him off!" Arros shouted, pouring as much power into his blade as possible. Allia tried to resist the suggestion, but her body obeyed as she ran for the door. As she got there, though, she found it completely covered over in the same glowing fungus that covered Mospe-Tr-Gan. A moment later, she felt the sudden impact of Arros's dead body slamming into her back. As she struggled to stay conscious, she saw the ogre approach from behind her. She turned around to see him bearing down on her, a grin plastered on his face.  Fighting for breath and desperate to stave off the darkness, she stared into the glowing eye of her death.  Suddenly, for reasons unknown to her, she thought of Railu, his passion and his fury, and she wished him well in his vain struggle against the guilds. This, however, reminder her of the beacon bird she had given him. She wondered if the teleporting spell hers contained would work without him breaking his first. It was an impossible hope, but it was all she had. With one last glare at the approaching Mospe-Tr-Gan, Allia reached up and smashed her glass bird pendant, and immediately disappeared. The fungus creature stopped, cocked it head sideways, and cursed.

*  *  *
     With his heart pounding, his sweat pouring, and his muscles aching, Mospe-Tr-Gan awoke with a splitting head ache. He looked around the room, unsure of where he was or what he was doing there. There was a great deal of blood, and several bodies strewn about, but Mospe-Tr-Gan could not seem to recognize any of them. A few were human, one a goblin, and another a viashino, but if the orge had ever met them before, he did not remember. The last thing he could recall was his fight with the Golgari plant-zombies and their large leader. Thinking about that brought a smile to his grotesque face, just hungering for the rematch, though, now that he thought about it, he could not even remember how that fight had ended. Looking around, the ogre spotted a door.
     "Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Faded Memories must have drunk much last night! Mospe-Tr-Gan of High Helmet and Wooden Sticks must have won Rakdos festival, but doesn't remember! What a life the great Mospe-Tr-Gan lives!"
     Mospe-Tr-Gan kicked open the door and strolled into the streets of Ravnica, toward a specific destination he did not know.

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

                Gazwin’s face was expressionless as he stared at the wreckage that was all that remained of his work. His throat still ached where Ardir had hoisted him off his feet, and he was going to have to make a point of making sure that he wore high collars, at least until the bruises faded. Broken glass covered the floor, beautifully lethal shards that sparkled in the moon light. At least one bench had been shattered into splinters, a jagged obstacle that would make cleaning in the dark near impossible. That was the least forgivable act of all. The violence and destruction had disrupted all of his careful creations, leaving Gazwin alone in the dark for the first time in many, many years. But, oddly, for the first time this also allowed him to see clearly for the first time as well.

                The time for labs is over.

                Ardir’s words echoed over and over in Gazwin’s thoughts, shutting down all other trains of thought before they even had a chance to register. It was amazing how much clarity six simple words could bring when they were all one could think about.

                You still have your part to play, after all.

                But what was it? What possible connection could there be between his experiments, a random guildless elf, and the Simic ogre master? Ardir clearly knew more than he was letting on, and the more he dwelt on that the more unnerved he became. How could the Simic mage have known so much about him? What had Ardir and Graz been looking for all this time? Where was Flibt?

                Where was Flibt? Where was Flibt? Where was Flibt?

                The answer, as usual, was: not here. He was never there when Gazwin needed him. In fact, that sneaky little goblin seemed to have a particular knack for being somewhere else every time Gazwin was in trouble, and he had never been there whenever Graz had come to visit. Gazwin’s face turned pale as realization dawned.

                The little runt is a spy!

                The thought barely had time to settle in before Gazwin sprang into action. A plan was taking form in his head, and he quickly began gathering up as many materials as he could carry. Gears were stuffed into sacks, and mizzium shoved into bags. Here and there he would stop to tinker with a device, making sure they were all pointed towards the same target. Once he was sure his preparations were complete he headed for the door and out into the night.

                Fifteen minutes later he was more than a dozen blocks away and starting to feel winded as his sudden burst of activity taxed a body unused to such long endeavors. Still, a dozen blocks was plenty of distance, and he barely heard the explosion as the devices in his lab detonated as one. The thunderous roar of the blasts echoed off the nearby buildings as his lab collapsed in on itself, but by the time it reached his ears it might have been mistaken for a particularly noisy cart. The flames did more than simply consume what had been left of his life, however. As they spread to the nearby buildings and into the street they carried with them the smell of fresh poppy flowers, blotting out his own scent as they went. Hopefully that would be enough to confuse any pursuers who might doubt his demise.

                In the meantime, he had a rogue district to track down and tame.

White Flowers and White Bones

Hummingbirds flitted hastily between the blossoming blossoms, swiftly inhaling sweet nectar. The flowers themselves seemed to sing a quiet harmonious melody, while the many-coloured fowl that lived amongst them sent forth a real one. The air was peaceful and heavily scented. Soft steps could be seen and not heard walking through the gardens. Man and woman and child walked dazedly amongst their plant brethren. The sunlight fell on them thickly, giving them a warm honey appearance. All things were quiet, serene, and mindless.

A small aphid hopped from one petal to another. His journey took him through the leaves and vines and mossy rocks. He trekked long over the afternoon. Darting in and out of the sunlight he made his way through the shadows to the gate. Settling on the steps the little aphid began to nibble at the sweet viridian grass. His last meal was pleasant enough. Perhaps the little creature's final thoughts had to do with savoring the flavour more, for he ate rather hastily, and perhaps he could have enjoyed himself more. After the little creature was done feeding, he sat back to relax for a moment. Then, the sun was covered. A darkness spread over the world and the aphid felt fear. Moments later, an enormous foot had indented the ground where this miniature being had lived.

The walkers and strollers of the garden looked up. Neither smile nor frown crossed their blank faces. "Where can Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Parched Lips find Libations of an Inebriating Manner in this Sun-Squalored Flower Factory?" The roar of his voice was the loudest thing to have crossed these paths for decades. He stood glaring down at the little robed figures.

A woman stepped forward. "Come", she said. "We have been expecting you. If you thirst we shall find you drink. If you hunger--"

"If Mospe-Tr-Gan Hungers?" He boomed. "Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Bottomless Gut never ceases in his search for the Endless Sustenance. He travels the world on Scabby Toefoot and Callous Fingerhand and Purple Blue Bentknee in Hellbound Hope of discovering something to fill the Gutvoid inside of him."

"Well, perhaps we have something for your void--"

"Aye! That you better have, lest Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Man-Sized Oesophagus will have to Quench his Intestinal Desires some other way!"

"Let me take you to our hall", the robed woman quietly said. She began to walk, and Mospe-Tr-Gan followed her with rumbling steps.

The Hall was hardly that. It was merely another garden. This time larger and with small clearings neatly situated under shadetrees. Mospe-Tr-Gan sniffed something that might be food. His enormous nostrils sucked in the odorous air for several more seconds as his mind worked over the scent. A furrowed brow and a grimaced mouth marked Mospe-Tr-Gan's alarming face. He was still wondering why he had come here when he realized that he was no longer walking.

"Greetings Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Courageous Strength and Impeccable Valor." The voices came in unison from a multitude of smiles. Mospe-Tr-Gan felt disconcerted, then confused, and finally befuddled.

"Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Alarming Tastes has never eaten anything like this before." The smiles merely smiled slightly larger.

"You will be fed in good time, friend. First we have matters of much importance to discuss with you. Do you not wonder why we have summoned you here?"

Mospe-Tr-Gan's gaze held.

"We have come to ask you for your service." Mospe-Tr-Gan watched the centaurs and dryads and loxodon sitting peacefully in the grassy clearings. He felt their eyes. "You are a great warrior, and there is much you could offer us. Likewise there is much we could offer you, in return. Of course, should you refuse", their voices took on the slightest of menacing tones,"-should you refuse, we have ways of making you do what we ask. . ."

Mospe-Tr-Gan grinned. "Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Black-Toothed Grin reluctantly declines. Mospe-Tr-Gan of the Proud Liver is not one to be threatened. And Mospe-Tr-Gan," he noticed the creatures he had observed before rising, there were a great deal of them, "of the Sadistic Stones is in no need of the Dejected Employment of the lot of Tree-Whispering, Leaf-Licking, Brain-Sleeping, Honey-Sucking children of Pistil and Stamen like yourselves." And with that, he uprooted the nearest tree and brandished it.

The fish in the ponds were turned upwards. The water had become inhospitable to them. Their white bellies were exposed in the now-red liquid. The once alabaster flowers now dripped crimson. Feathers dusted the garden sticking like gum to wall and ground and tree. The only things that were still white, were the bones that Mospe-Tr-Gan had licked clean.

139359831 wrote:
That is a lovely painting of Richard Garfield. It really brings out his feminine side.
 Breath... Breath damnit! Dove sat on the floor of her hut forcing herself to rest up and heal. Stinking Dimir spy... He knew how to fight. Dove felt her body heal itself with the magical substance from the Simic elf. Curse that elf for making me do this job... I should've just killed him on the spot.

 Dove heard scuffling outside. Goblins. The trash of the world, whenever civilization left a district the first to move in were always goblins. Dove couldn't help but smile at the thought of them. Useful creatures for the most part, indeed she kept several under her leash.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Dove's eyes flew open. Those are not goblin footsteps, by the sound of them it is a cyclops of some size, a huge minatour, or a dragon welp, or its... no it can't be... I havent seen that creature in years... anything but...

BOOM! The wall opposite of Dove exploded inword sending shrapnel and peices of wood at her. "Hello again Dove swiftblade" Dove stared at the ogre... Stop breathing... Stop breathing... STOP BREATHING DAMNIT! Ever so slowly she moved her left hand to one of her claws to pick up one of her many daggers off of her belt. Anything but him... Not this idiot, this thing, why cant it be a dragon... Or a angel, anything but... " Ah Mospe-Tr-Gran sees you are hurt Dove of the small blades, you are lucky that I have had a snack before coming here or else I might have had you for dinner my friend." Oh of course you have already had a snack... The one time I am willing to get eaten by you and you are full.

 Dove looked up at Mospe-Tr-Gran studying him. She noticed him staring at her. "What are you looking at?" She croaked at him. Instantly Mospe-Tr-Gran looked at the floor and started to shuffle his feet, reminding Dove of a 2 year old child caught in the act of doing something he knows he shouldnt have. Gods dont tell me he... he ... KNIFE KNIFE!

 Suddenly Dove noticed a familiar scent. "Mospe-Tr-Gran who have you been fighting?" Mospe-Tr-Gran looked at her and smiled " Ah lately Mospe-Tr-Gran has fought Selesnyans and Boros and a Golgari human mage who can transform into a giant earth creature."

 Instantly Dove's eye's narrowed "Tell me more of the human earth creature Mospe-Tr-Gran"
*                                           *                                               *

Maria was exhausted. Graz had taken the drake and the Boros twins back to the laboratory in order to pick up something that had been 'hatching' - whatever that was, while the Orzhovian thrull was trailing Gazwin from the air, which left her to shadow Ardir and his newfound friend. Unfortunately, despite her grandfathers' precautions, every force in the city seemedto be after one or the other of them. Already she'd killed, duped, misdirected and in one case defenestrated over ten different watchers and spies during this cross-city trek.

Finally they reached a safehouse, deep within Rakdos territory. Maria performed a full sweep around the area then, deeming it safe, walked into the simple room where Ardir and Railu were waiting as patiently as could be expected.

"What in the blazes is going on? First you tell me I'm some sort of thrice-damned chosen one, then you drag me halfway across the city and give me some sort of shoddy bow which you claim is so special and you haven't said a single word about - Who in the blasted hells is this?"

He'd jumped as she appeared, her grandfather, as usual, barely looked up.

"Sit, both of you. Excellent, now I have your attention perhaps I can begin to shed some light on what is, I must admit, a slightly tangled situation."

"Well that's an understatement, I can't even keep track of the names of the people you've said are involved anymore."

"Hush, Maria. As you are both aware, I have made a study of Fate. Fate is the power to warp reality around you. Some people have it in abundance' - here he indicated Railu with a nod - 'and these peoples' actions are the turning points of history. Provided, of course, that they are pointed in the right direction. This bow, which you claim is so poorly made, is not of this world. No, it comes from beyond Ravnica, from the Great Spirit War, from a world so alien to us it would melt your childish minds. But I digress; this weapon may have been perfectly ordinary in its own world, but the simple act of crossing borders that shouldn't be meddled with have granted it a wealth of Fate. Between you and it, each shot you make will be a dramatic event, as long as you put your mind to it.

  Now I know you're asking yourself 'why did he give me this all-powerful weapon when the first thing I did was try to kill him?' Well, the answer is simple. I can give you what you want. This afternoon, I sent my servant to my old laboratory, where a lot of Fated people are gathering. He has a 'suprise' for them which should keep them occupied for a while-"

" Hang on, old guy, how does this scheming give me what I want?"

"Because while their backs are turned, we are going to destroy every guild in Ravnica." 
144902215 wrote:
Morgothra has the Syntax and Grammar of a God.
56754738 wrote:
I love this card.
56771968 wrote:
I can't compete with this.
57461258 wrote:
@Morgothra: Beautifully said, sir. Beautifully said.
Contest Winners
CKY, magicpablo666 and Dinobeer combined ingenuity and silliness to win a Summer fUn contest each! vlord beat the rest to become the architect of a better tomorrow in Build it and they will come! CityofAs pranced masterfully to victory in Skipping Merrily! ConfusedAsUsual conquered both tropes and opponents to ascend in Metafiction! FirstTurnKill condensed Success into Art form in Summing it Up!

*  *  *


     It took three lawmages with varying degrees of warrant-spells and no small amount of commandeered Boros fire-magic to implode the warded front gate of the Azorius mansion. It was far from the largest or most luxurious of the mansions in the district, but for reasons currently unknown, it's wards were amongst the strongest. The lawmages entered first to cast a quick sweep of the small courtyard, and when they found it clear of both guards and spells, the Azorius investigators swept in by the droves, followed by their captain, a handsome, middle-aged man decked out in armor of white and blue. As he entered the grounds, frowning as usual, the foremost of the lawmages approached him.

     "Captain Movias, it appears there is no one here."

     The captain nodded. "It is as we expected. When a man like Casamir stops showing up at his office, there is always a reason. When the door to his home is warded beyond even the courthouses, that reason cannot possibly be good. When was the last time Casamir has been seen?"

     "It has been several days at least, captain, perhaps longer. No one seems to remember for certain whether they saw him or not."

     Movias nodded. "Suspicious. Casamir's file indicates that he is a potentially ambitious man, although he seems to have no official marks against him. Do you know what that tells me?"

     "That we cannot know what to expect?"

     The captain glanced over at the lawmage. "That he is cautious. Ambitious and cautious. A Dangerous combination. What could he be up to?"

     For several moments, the captain and the lawmages stood in near-silence in Casamir's courtyard, the only sound coming from the occasional implosion of a door within the Azorius house. The investigators were always thorough, but the first sweep of a premises typically did not take longer than an hour or so. There was always time later on to examine, record and catalog every square inch of the place. The first sweep was only for the glaringly obvious.

     After  about twenty minutes, one of the investigators came running out the door of the mansion at full speed, barely able to stop himself before crashing into Movias.

     "Sir, there's something you need to see. Something…" the man could hold out no longer, and vomited on the ground beside him. Captain Movias glanced at the lawmage, then hauled the investigator back to his feet.

     "Show me."

     With considerable effort, the investigator led the captain into the house and through a series of hallways, doorways and stairwells until they arrived at the basement. At the far wall, a section was held open, a secret door in the masonry that led down to yet a lower basement. Without hesitation, Movias pushed past the investigator and down the stairs. There, he found himself face to faces with an abomination he would have never thought a fellow Azorius capable of housing.

     It was a wicked contraption, something out of an Izzet or Simic nightmare, all filled with tubes and wires and who knows what else. At the base was a pool of liquid that may have started out as water, but was no longer. Extending out of this liquid was a creature, no, three creatures, but merged together as one in a manner too grotesque to contemplate. At one time, they seemed to have been a human, an elf, and a vedalken, though they were mercifully dead now. Captain Movias fought the urge to retch. "What the hell is this?"  No one there had an answer.


*  *  *


     "What do you mean, destroy the guilds?" Railu asked, indignant. The prospect intrigued him, of course, but such a thing was impossible. Even the guilds that hated one another, warred with one another, still fought to maintain the balance they created. Railu had, for his entire life, dreamed of a Ravnica without the guilds, but that's all it was: a dream.

     "Well, perhaps destroy is too strong a term," admitted Ardir. "But weaken, at least. I don't envision a world without the guilds, I envision a world where the guilds no longer have a stranglehold on the city. A world where being guildless is no longer synonymous with being nothing."

     "Why do you care?" pressed Railu, ever distrustful of anything involving the guilds. "You said yourself that being guildless means nothing to you."

     "That's not exactly what I said. I said my guildless status doesn't matter, because I have friends, relatives and contacts in every guild in the city. That's what I envision, Railu. A Ravnica where every-day interactions aren't dominated by guild politics." He paused for a moment, looking meaningfully at Maria. "A world where innocent people aren't killed just because they don't have a gate to pass through."

     Maria turned away, but Railu continued to press. "What would you know of that?"

     "More than you think, my angry friend. Much more than you think." Again he looked toward Maria, but she seems intent on studying the wall.  "My only daughter, Maria's mother, was born, by right, into the Simic. But she shared little of our passions, and never truly joined. The Combine still considered her a member by birth, but she, in her own mind, was guildless. Then she met a man, and Orzhov Akvokist, and fell in love. When they married, the Simic officially ceases considering her one of them. They ceased considering her a person whatsoever. After her daughter, Maria, was born, she made a trip to see me, naturally deep within Simic territory. They stopped my daughter, and, since she was guildless to them, they took her, experimented on her, and killed her. It was weeks before I learned of it."

     Railu stole a glance at Maria. There was a single sniffle, but no other reaction. "How long did you stay?"

     Ardir smiled a sad smile. "Too long. Longer than I should have. But long enough, I suppose, to exact a measure of revenge for what they had done."

     "And is that what all this is about?" Maria exclaimed, turning around to face her grandfather. "Is this all about guild politics and revenge? Is that what my mother would have wanted?"

     "Not in the least," Ardir said. "It's what I want. It's what Railu here wants. And I suspect, if you're not too deep into the Dimir mindset to speak the truth to your grandfather, that it's what you want, as well."

     Maria said nothing at first, she just shifted her wait from one foot to the other. Finally, she slumped her shoulders. "If you succeed, it will hurt people I care about."

     Ardir nodded. "That is the price we pay. The cost to buy a better world."

     "Even if I believe all of this, how do you hope to succeed anyway?" asked Railu, anxious to move this along.

     "It's all about fate. As I said, you are a highly fated individual, but objects and places also have measurable degrees of destiny. That bow is such an object. This district, such a place. This district is Orzhov territory, but thousands of years ago, it belonged to the Simic, and I assure you, they want it back. Likewise, other guilds, for reasons they likely don't understand, are beginning to make a move here, including the Golgari, the Selesnya, and even the Gruul are looking to move in. They are being drawn here."

     "By what?" Maria managed.

     "By something buried deep beneath us. Something that has been trapped for an age, perhaps even before the signing of the guildpact. Whichever guild manages to take control of this district within the next few weeks, will undoubtedly be the guild to uncover the secrets beneath it. Unless we get there first.

     "But what is it?" Railu repeated Maria's question.

     Ardir hung his head as he answered. "There, I must admit my one failure. I don't know what it is. Whatever has kept that secret buried for thousands of years has also obscured it from even my scrying device's sight. But while I have not seen it directly, I have seen the possible futures that occur when the guilds claim it. Above all else, we must prevent that power from falling into the hands of any of the guilds."

     "How?" asked Maria and Railu in unison.

     "If everything has gone according to plan," the former Simic elf continued, "the representatives of the major contenders for this district should be converging on my lab within the next few hours, and the result should be spectacular. And will likely take out several of our problems at once. But even if they survive, by the time they realize what hit them, we'll be well on our way."

     "So what are we waiting for, if time is so precious?"

     "We are waiting for one final bit of information. There are numerous chessmasters at work here, and I have been able to scry out or deduce nearly all of them. One, however, has eluded me. I have narrowed it down to three or four individuals, but before we move out, I must know who it is."

     "And when will we know that?" Railu insisted.

     There was a knock at the door.  "Right now, apparently." Ardir said as he moved to and opened the door. As he stepped aside, Railu immediately recognized the form of Daog, the Dimir agent who had accompanied him, Flibt and Jaroslav to Ardir's lab in the first place. Ardir noticed his companion's consternation, and spoke again to alleviate it. "Don't worry, Railu, he's thoroughly under my control now. A little birdie saw to that. This Dimir belongs to our enemy, or rather belonged, and now that my crystals have done their job, we can learn who it is."

     Daog seemed to struggle, but then spoke, his voice echoed across far more than the walls of the tiny room.  "Casamir."

     Ardir slumped.  "Damn. Truly, I had hoped it was any of them but him. This is worse than I had feared."

     "Far, far worse," confirmed Daog, yet his voice seemed different now. Softer, older perhaps, but much more terrifying. Suddenly, Daog was lifted, by some unknown force, until he hovered about a foot off the ground. His body seemed to convulse, bulging unnaturally in random places until, with a sickening sound, it exploding, sending tiny shards of crystal throughout the room. When the three conspirators looked back, all that remained of Daog was his head, floating in the air where it had been before, his eyes glowing a dull blue.

     The color had completely drained from Ardir's face. He could manage only a single word. "Casamir."

     "Ardir, you disappoint me. Did you really think you could steal my spy from me? I never hire anyone, particularly someone as inherently untrustworthy as a Dimir, without, shall I say, a little insurance? You may have the elf, but I have the Other, or will, soon enough. This game is far from over."

     With that, the head of Daog fell to the floor, lifeless. Ardir looked first to his granddaughter, and then to Railu, before saying, quite simply, "We have to go. Now."


*  *  *

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

Gazwin wasn’t wandering, not quite. It was just that the path the rogue district had taken to the Rubblebelt wasn’t what anyone would consider straight. Normally when the Izzet animated the streets they assigned a careful path to minimize the damage caused by having a city block wandering around. The one Gazwin was following had come to life on its own for whatever reason, and was behaving more like a wild animal, leaving a trail of constant destruction in its wake. It didn’t seem to notice houses or any other form of dwelling, often just smashing them flat as it passed by. Clock and bell towers were decapitated, as if it had been taking out rivals, while Orzhov structures seemed to be its favorite targets for marking its territory. It had been a while since it had passed by, and everywhere Gazwin went was accompanied by the constant sound of hammering.

                It took him the better part of two days to reach the Rubblebelt, by which time he was tired, broke, and hungry. He had suffered the misfortunate of running into not one, but two different Rakdos “celebrations”, and he had been forced to fight his way free both times. The city had also begun to change the farther he went from the guild strongholds, becoming dirtier, grittier. People simply didn’t show him the respect he had become accustomed to, often spitting at him or cursing him as he passed by. He had spent the night in a chilly alley, forcing himself to stay awake lest any of his meager possessions walk away.

                When he finally reached his destination, all he could say was, “Damn.” It was just so…so…so green. He had never seen so many plants in one place in his life.  The air was different, thicker and warmer with a strange smell that caused his eyes to water and his nose to run. He was standing on the edge of a large crater, which gave him an extensive view of the land sprawling out in front of him. The sheer openness terrified him. He had grown up in the safety of the city, where there were always walls towering over him, strong walls of bricks and stones with clearly visible support beams. Now there were trees, and there was nothing holding them up! He could see the sun! Not just a little bit, but the entire thing! It was so bright and warm, so wonderful so-

                ‘Oww, that hurt, Gazwin thought, blinking rapidly as he tried to clear the spots in front of his eyes. ‘New rule, do NOT stare directly at the sun. Bad idea, that.’

                Something deep in the ruins roared, only to be answered by an angry bellow from something equally as large and scary sounding. For a moment Gazwin briefly considered abandoning his plans, turning around, and beseeching aid from the Guild, but a deep breath steadied his nerves. ‘I have come too far now to turn around. I refuse to be cowed by the likes of that slimy Simic exile.

                That decided, he began to cautiously pick his way down the slope into the overgrown wasteland. Huge, cracked footsteps marked where the district had entered the Rubblebelt, and he knew instinctively that his quarry was near. It would only be a matter of time before he tracked it down and tamed it – providing he didn’t end up getting eaten by one of the many monsters that supposedly lived amongst the ruins. It would be rather disappointing to end up as a midday snack for some rampaging elephant or a trophy of war for some barbaric goblin clans. That would have just been embarrassing for the all-powerful Firemind.

                The trees in front of him rustled and shook as something huge passed by behind them. Gazwin just stopped and stared. The trees were taller than the tallest even the Selesnyans’ tallest indrik, and whatever owned that grey hide was larger than the fattest and laziest of krovods. A tree bent over as a reptilian snout appeared, followed by a pale yellow eye the size of wagon wheel. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, but that didn’t matter because Gazwin found himself frozen by fear. They stood like that for what seemed like an eternity before the beast decided that hapless mage wasn’t enough for even a quick bite and turned around and headed deeper into the woods.

                Gazwin shivered as the beast lumbered away. He was used to having power at the tip of his hands, of having people fear him just because of the symbols etched into his gauntlet. Even those rabble who had spit at him had made sure to do it from a distance and to make sure it didn’t actually hit him, lest he wreak a terrible vengeance for the insult. But the reputation of the Izzet meant nothing out amongst the shattered buildings and climbing vines of the Rubblebelt. It was the last sanctuary for all the primordial monsters and great beasts that had been slowly squeezed out their natural territories by the expanding city.

                ‘There is something sad about that. Still, best not ,’ Gazwin thought as he knelt down amidst the rocks. The ground was remarkably soft, the soil dark and rich and ripe for growing things. He shoved his hands into the dirt and reached out for the mana that he knew must be there…only to yank his hand back with a yelp of pain. Part of that had to do with the rather large beetle which had clamped its pincers around his middle finger. More of, it though, was that the mana had felt…different. Gazwin was no stranger to manipulating the forces of magic, and was an expert in the manipulation of the various devices the Izzet used to harness those powers, devices like the gauntlet he wore on his right arm. The mana had always been tame and easy to use, requiring little effort to direct it in his experiments. The mana of the Rubblebelt, however, had nearly burned him when he tried to touch it. It was wild and free, eager to be used, almost desperate, but at the same time it was so chaotic that it had almost overwhelmed him. Even then his hand was pink and sore, as if he had spent too long exposed to the sun.

                He pulled the beetle from his finger and crushed it underfoot before kneeling down once more. This time he was more cautious about where he placed his hands, wary for any more tiny defenders that might be looking for a taste of his flesh. Taking a deep breath to deep breath to steady himself, he closed his eyes and reached out for the mana once more. This time he was ready for it, however, mentally grabbing hold of it with both hands. It was still scorching hot, but he was ready for the pain now and refused to let go. It bucked and twisted as if it were a snake trying to wrestle him into submission, and sweat broke out in tiny beads across Gazwin’s forehead and arms as he put even more effort into dominating it. He focused on his gauntlet, directing the seemingly boundless energy into its thirst reservoirs until his own flagging will power forced him to let go of the source he had tapped into.

                “Oh my,” Gazwin said as he looked down his gauntlet. The mizzium connections were smoking, and the dials that monitored how much power it had remaining had shattered and the tiny little needles that had taken so much time to install were snapped like dry twigs. The entire rig was glowing, and sparks of red lightning danced across the casing as it discharged and reabsorbed the excess energy. He wasn’t quite sure exactly how much mana it had, but he was fairly sure that it could blow a hole even through one of those grey skinned monsters he had previously seen.

                He pushed on after the district. The ruins and trees were full of noise, the likes he had never heard before. There were raucous mating calls of wild birds, and the tireless chatter insects that probably should have known better. There were the thudding footfalls of great beasts that just didn’t care if anyone knew where they were, and the slither sounds of goblins leaping between the branches as they tried to avoid getting crushed underfoot, as well as the occasional scream when one slipped and fell to their doom. It was a wonderland of smells, of sweet, freshly blooming flowers and the stench of rancid meat left out for so long that not even the most desperate scavengers would dare risk a bite. The rogue district had carved a path through all of this, laying down a broken path in mocking imitation of the roads it had left behind in the city.

                When Gazwin finally found the district, his first thought was that it was just another hill of broken ruins, until he realized the spires from all those decapitated towers back in the city had been absorbed into its spine, and were now rising and falling with each breath as it slumbered.  He approached it carefully, not wanting to get squished by accidentally waking it up, and eventually drew close enough to lay his hand on its flank. The smooth stone had been baking in the sun for a while, and was now warm to the touch. The beast snuffled at the contact and kicked out with a leg formed from the pillars of a Selesnyan temple. It came nowhere near Gazwin, but the force of the blow was enough to shake the ground, which saw him fall flat on his rear. Someone behind him laughed.

                Gazwin didn’t bother to try to get up, but simply twisted and rolled so that he was aiming his gauntlet in the general direction of where the noise had come from. “Who is there?”

                “Long way from home, aren’t you, city boy?” came the answer. Gazwin’s eyes narrowed as five figures slowly faded out of the foliage. Two of them were viashino, their tails and claws augmented with metal sheaths to make them even more dangerous. The one on the left end was the taller of the two, or at least appeared that way as he held himself erect. Two broadswords were crossed over his back, and a crude bone shield had been tied to his right forearm. The other stood horizontal, whipping her tail back and forth for balance. She didn’t seem to be carrying any weapons, though Gazwin thought it looked like she might be carrying several sacks of stones near her waist. Whether they were used as ammunition, as materials for a spell, or were simply decoration was impossible to tell. The three in the middle were human, two males flanking their female companion. The one on the left was dark skinned giant, standing more than six feet tall with a bare chest that was crisscrossed with ropelike scars. He gripped a bone punch knife in his left hand, and his shoulder was protected by long metal spikes. The right side of his body was protected by the skull of some great beast, and Gazwin had no idea how a person could carry such a thing without stumbling under the weight. His only attempt at modesty was a knee length fur kilt, and he looked amused by Gazwin’s current predicament, it was more jovial than cruel. The other two were much less encumbered. The girl was fair skinned and wore simple leathers decorated with metal and stone medallions. She carried a blood tipped spear, with a jagged-edged machete slung over her back. She left her midriff bare, and her hair was short but shaggy, braided around various feathers for color. She seemed to be a little bit bored, a little bit curious. The last man was only slightly taller than she, and carried a simple staff topped by a carved leg bone. He wore the most clothes, if such could be called that, comprised of a pair of leather breeches and a dark cloak, which he wore with the hood up and unbound, so that his chest was bare as well. He was the one who had spoken, and there was a certain meanness to the curve of his lips that annoyed Gazwin to know end. It was a bully’s grin, and Gazwin could not stand bullies. All five were painted with various tribal markings, though what they might have meant was entirely incomprehensible.

                “I am right where I am meant to be,” Gazwin replied, slowly getting to his feet so as to make sure he could keep an eye on them. “I fail to see what business it might be of yours.”

                “Well, this is Gruul land,” the robed one sneered, “So I think that does make it our business, city boy.” He used his staff to point at Gazwin’s gauntlet. “Give that to me.”


                The Gruul mage’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t think you understood me, boy. These ain’t your fancy streets where some law mage can save your pretty hide. This is the Rubblebelt, where might is right.” He held out his hand and summoned a ball of flame. “Now, I said give. So give, before you get burned.”

                ‘No law mages, huh?’ For the first time in a long time, Gazwin smiled. “You want it? Come and take it. You might find the attempt enlightening.”

                The other mage snarled, and hurled his flame at Gazwin’s face. Gazwin tucked and rolled, barely avoiding the conflagration. The ball of fire passed so close that he could feel the heat of it on his skin, but he didn’t let that worry him. Instead he reached out to the air around him and grabbed hold of it, whirling it about over his head until it had stirred up a fierce twister, which he sent spiraling into the middle of the raiding party. The raiders scattered in different directions, easily dodging the attack. Of the five of them, however, only the mage made any attempt to retaliate; the other four simply dusted themselves off and sat back to watch the duel unfold.

                Robes shrieked out a babble of words and thrust his staff into the ground, causing the earth around him to explode as hundreds of stones leapt into the air and threw themselves at Gazwin. There was nowhere to dodge, no time to think. Gazwin reached out to the mana from before and threw it recklessly in front of him. Lightning stabbed down from the clear blue sky, and both mages were thrown from their feet as the stones burst into fine powder. Gazwin’s head slammed into a rock protruding from the district, and his entire world began to spin as blood poured down the side of his face. He rose unsteadily to his feet, but his opponent had already recovered and Gazwin’s breath was stolen from him as Robe’s staff slammed into his belly. He fell back into the dirt once again.

                “Should have given it to me, boy,” Robe growled as he flipped his grip on his staff and prepared to stab Gazwin. “Now I’m going to take your pretty toy and your life.”

                Gazwin stared at the bone about to end his life. His mind flooded with thoughts of Ardir’s arrogance, Railu’s seething hatred, and Flibt’s agonizing betrayal. With a shout of pure rage he shoved his gauntlet into the other man’s stomach and pulled the trigger. The world went white as mana thundered out of the cannon and struck his opponent at point blank range. When things finally dimmed enough for him to see, the only trace left of his opponent was a black spot of burned dirt and pockets of rising smoke.

                “I guess this means I was right,” Gazwin gasped as he sagged back against the district’s flank. He wiped some of the blood away from his mouth and began to laugh. He was still laughing when the other four raiders walked up to him. He tried to lift the gauntlet, but his strength had fled with the passing surge of adrenaline. “So, now what?”

                The dark skin man looked at the girl, who just shrugged. That seemed to be answer enough for him, so he bent down and carefully picked Gazwin up, as if he were a child about to be put to bed. “Now we take you to Nikya.”

Jaroslav watched the simic warriors, lead by Nara head towards the gate to the building that he pointed to. "Once we find Railu my contract is done correct?" Jaroslav asked without turning around to look at Dienda "Correct" was all she said back.
 Jaroslav's eye's narrowed as he watched Nara hold up the bubble encased crystal before her with her right hand. Suddenly there was a bright flash before she stepped up and pushed the gate open with her left hand, going inside with the rest of her group.

 After a few more of seconds of waiting Jaroslav turned around "Well are you..." Looking behind Dienda he noticed twenty or so Orzhov soldiers in full body armour, every time Jaroslav saw these guys he always wanted to get on his knees and bow to them, for they looked so regal and commanding. Dienda glanced at Jaroslav "Yes, we are ready right Lob?" The imp bowed to Dienda before replying "Yes'm the basilica gaurds are ready to move"

 With that Dienda, ever so slowly walked forward, followed by the basilica gaurds who marched behind her. Jaroslav shuddered when he noticed how mechanical they moved. Even the boros are jealous of the way these guys march, simply inhuman. Suddenly Dienda called to him "Coming Jaroslav?"

 Suddenly noticing how much space had been covered in that short of time, Jaroslav rushed after them, meeting them at the gate. Looking inside he saw simic warriors moving in and out of the buildings "Not much fighting, heavy defense for a empty building." Jaroslav stated as he walked into the courtyard. "The building wasn't empty of the living until just recently Azorious." Peering into a hallway Jaroslav saw Nara walking towards him, behind her were two men carrying something between them.

 As they got closer Jaroslav made it out to be a human male, with an Azorious armour on. Nara looked at him "Do you recognise him?" Jaroslav looked at the body closer before answering "No, I don't even see which branch he is from."

 Nara studied Jaroslav's face closely "Interesting..." turning around she started to speak as she walked back inside "This is simic properity now so if you'd please get off our property." Dienda stepped forward at this looking directly at Nara's back, her eye's twitched ever so slightly. "What about our deal?" Nara turned around and smiled at Dienda "What deal Orzhov? Pull out a document that said we had a deal? Besides the machine I spoke of is destroyed from what I can tell"

 Dienda stood there for a second "Very well then I'd like you to get off Orzhov property immediatly. Seeing as I have the contract to this building" Denda reached into her pocket and pulled out a document, holding it out for Nara to take hold of "As you can see everything is in order and I believe that you are on private property, so please" The Suddenly the front walls of the courtyard burted outwards as more basilica gaurds arrived. "Get off our property."
     In the wilds of Ravnica (there's only one wilds in Ravnica) Gazwin sipped tea and watched an animated amalgamation of buildings fight some sort of giant beetle. He decided the day could have gone almost infinitly worse. The tea was tepid and bitter, his host almost certainly planned to kill him, and he had serious reservations about the sanitation of his cup, but overall he could not deny that he had not thus far been beaten to the ground and stabbed to death with a flint spear. Plus, since his lab had exploded there was a strange clarity of thought, he could focus on only one idea at a time but unlike before that forcus was razor sharp. "Not to insult your hospitality but the Grull have something of a reputation."
"Do we? I hadn't noticed." Nikya was in physical appearance very much as Gazwin would have expected, a tall and broud-shouldered woman whose skin was deeply tanned and lined with sun and work. She was defined at first glance by the dignity of age and the stregth of a survivor. Dry humor and articulation were not so readily apparant.
"At the risk of you having someone stab me-"
"I need no help to fight my battles. Say something like that again and you won't inhale again in this life."
"Well spoken!" His guantlet's charge was empty so whatever he thought of the Gruul, the time seemed prime for learning respect and understanding.
"You want that elemental?" she asked, pointing to the raging battle.
"Yes mam." He didn't use the word "mam" often, but it now sprang to mind with incredible ease.
"And you can tame it?"
"I don't know if 'tame' is the right word. I was thinking more along the lines of beating it with this marvelous mana until it did what I said." The elemental wrestled the insect to the ground and a series of thunderous blows cracked the beetle's head.
Nikya raised her eyebrows as if suprised. "And here I'd expected to have to kill you. You must not come here to tame, to tame this place is death for us. Worse than death. You want to dominate, however? To rule it because you are stronger?"
"Go. Dominate or die, as is proper. But you are of the dragon. If you return you die."
"Then it is really imperitive I stay gone then," he said, getting up.
     The sun was setting when he reached the elemental. It was too late to reach the lab before Ardir and the misilanious others began whatever they were planning, but he kept himself occupied picturing himself standing atop the almalgamated creature as it smashed Ardir's lab into it's component elements and possibly further into pure mana. As he'd walked he'd gathered the seething mana of the Rubblebelt back into his guantlet. It cracked with lightning, a few internal pipes broke, and it was all very facinating. He'd study it later. "Hi."
The construct turned.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way. I already know what way we're going to go but I always wanted to say that."
     Gazwin raised his fist at the same time the creature raised its, and stone met fire with such force people in neighboring districts heard the boom.
The Battle Begins

*  *  *


     Mokosh, along with Jakob and the rest of their Golgari task force, had been waiting in a nearby sewer duct since dawn with growing frustration. They had seen the old Azorius and his cadre enter the grounds of the lab, but had never seen them emerge. Several hours later, another group took the same entrance in (although they had a much easier time, since Casamir had destroyed most of the wards) and they, too, had yet to come back out. Something about this entire situation just didn’t seem right.
     "I don't like this," Mokosh said, more to herself than to Jakob. "That old man is more dangerous than he looks."
     Jacob shook his head slightly and allowed a brief smile to cross his face. "You're just angry his guard shut you down."
     She looked down at the man, dark mana flaring momentarily in her eyes before she allowed the power to drop. She would spare the man for now. Like Casamir, Jakob was something of an enigma to her. Until their battle with the Azorius, she was beginning to think the Guildmaster had gone mad when Jakob was summoned. He seemed to have little power and, though he was well-liked by those under his command, he was not exactly a natural leader. Only when his power had emerged in battle had she even begun to suspect the secret of his success, yet still it remained a mystery. Jakob had said nothing about it afterward, and when questioned, he pretended not to remember anything of the battle after the initial strike. Only the fact that he clearly had his uses kept him alive then, as it did now.
     "Wait, what's that?" Mokosh said in a harsh whisper, pointing toward the gates of the lab. Jakob and the rest of the Golgari looked and watched as a large, lumbering ogre made his way across the street and to the door, or what was left of it. There was a collective gasp from the Golgari behind Jakob, at least from the ones that were alive.
     Jakob leaned slightly over to Mokosh and whispered. "What is it?"
     The Golgari elf shot Jakob a suspicious glance. "That's the ogre you fought to a draw back at the warehouse. The one who was with Casamir. Remember?"
     Jakob didn’t, but he said nothing. They watched as the ogre plowed through the already-broken door of the lab without stopping and without consideration for possible consequences. After he had disappeared into the grounds of the lab, Mokosh turned and whispered loudly to the rest of her people. "Alright, we've waited long enough. We know that thing works for Casamir. The old Azorius probably called him in as reinforcements. Remember in the fight at the warehouse, the ogre stayed back until the end? Now's the time to get the jump on everyone in there."
     Jakob, however, was hesitant. "Why do we need to take this place, anyway? I see no value, strategic or otherwise, in this lab."
     Mokosh groaned. "We've been over this! Casamir wants this lab, and we've seen both the Simic and the Orzhov move in there. Lord Jarad has ordered us to take this district, and if three other guilds want that lab, we'd better be the ones to wind up with it. Now move out!"
     The Golgari sprang from the open sewer duct and moved toward the same entrance the ogre had just used. Jakob hung back a few steps, but reluctantly followed along. He couldn't quite put his finger on it, but some voice in the back of his head seemed to tell him this was a bad idea.


*  *  *


     From the third story window of an abandoned home diagonally across the street from the entrance to the lab, Dove watched as Mospe-Tr-Gan crashed through and into the grounds beyond. Working with the ogre was far from her conception of fun, or even a good idea, but if what he had told her was true, this was her chance for vengeance. Mospe-Tr-Gan had spoken of a man made of earth, vines, and death, and his description (once she could cut through his usual flowering diction) struck a very sour cord. For just a few moments, she allowed her concentration to slip as she remembered her own encounter with the Golgari man-beast.
     Some six years earlier, Dove's Gruul pack, led by a wild and crazy centaur named Madrick, had ruled the Ganuun District without question. It was a small district, about a day or two's walk from this one, but it suited her pack. They had everything they needed, and could live more or less in peace, or at least the sort of peace the Gruul enjoyed. In any case, life was pretty good, and the skills Dove currently employed as a tracker and assassin were put to use more as a hunter and trapper. They were good days.
     But then, the street swarm moved in. Madrick and Dove had had to fend off invaders before, of course, and so at first, they thought little of it. If anything, the Golgari often provided a fun fight, and usually their pack came out on top. But this set of Golgari were different. At first, the Gruul had dominated the little skirmishes, pushing back the street swarm almost with ease. But then, in one decisive fight, he showed up. None of the Gruul had noticed where he had come from, but he tore through their ranks as though they were nothing. Even Madrick, one of the strongest men Dove had ever known, fell to this creature almost instantly. Without his leadership, the pack fell apart, and the few who lived fled. Dove, an expert tracker, had hunted for him for over year, but even she found nothing.
     Movement on the street forced open Dove's keen, Viashino eyes. Their appearance alone screamed Golgari, and the fact that they charged forward from a sewer just seemed a little too appropriate. They moved forward as one, but not in unison, more like a gelatinous ooze crawling around using different parts of its body at random intervals. All except for one, who was holding back about three or four paces. As the anomaly of the group, it was this one that most attracted Dove's attention. Something about him seemed familiar, but even her eyes could not quite make out his features from this distance. Still, Mospe-Tr-Gan's presence had drawn them out, which told Dove that either the man-beast was with them, or they knew where to find him.
     When the Golgari had finally all oozed their way into the lab grounds, Dove followed, keeping to the shadows and utilizing the camouflage enchantments she had gotten from Ardir and others over the years. She hoped that between Mospe-Tr-Gan and herself, as well as the others already inside the lab, they would be more than a match for the Golgari this time. She simply hoped Mospe-Tr-Gan wouldn't think she owed him a favor after this…


*  *  *


     Casamir stretched while he fought back a smile. He, Mojmir and the remainder of his house guard had been standing, or often sitting lazily, against the inside wall of Ardir's lab for the better part of the day. Casamir had sent one of his guards into the lab earlier to spring whatever traps may have been laid (although he told the guard it was to 'scout ahead') and the guard had not returned. The Azorius commander feigned concern to the rest of his men, but that was simply a matter of morale. After that first foray in, Casamir had decided it was "too dangerous" to send anyone else. Instead, they would wait, behind six levels of Casamir's most powerful illusion spells, and see what happened.
     The Azorius had waited and watched silently as the Amalgam force of Simic warriors and Orzhov guards had entered the lab proper, and Casamir had to admit to himself a certain degree of disappointment when they place did not explode, even though that might well have ruined his carefully-laid plans. Most of these people didn't matter in the least to Casamir or the bigger picture of his goals, but one in particular needed to survive the next few days. While they waited, Casamir had slept, or so his men thought. Actually, he had entered a deep trance and retaken control of Daog, and used his link to kill the Dimir agent. His usefulness had exhausted itself. Casamir briefly wondered if he had been wise in taunting his adversary Ardir, especially since Ardir had that damn elf, but this game was nearly over, and there was more than one way to win.
     When Mospe-Tr-Gan had entered the grounds, Casamir was genuinely surprised, so much so that he almost cursed out loud. That ogre had been nothing but a thorn in his side since he had first stolen that gem meant for Railu, and now he shows up again, just as Casamir was about to seize success. Mospe-Tr-Gan did not seem to have a purpose, either, or any set destination. He simply wandered about the small courtyard, waiting for something. A few minutes later, and Casamir saw what. The Golgari force he and his men had engaged back at the warehouse, the very people Casamir had been waiting for, burst through the broken gates like a flood. At nearly the same moment, the door into the lab proper was flung open, revealing Simic warriors and Orzhov Basilica guards clashing against one another with spears and swords. Casamir glanced over to Mojmir, smiled and nodded. All their enemies in one place. He simply had to wait until one emerged victorious, and then strike.
     Unfortunately for Casamir, someone else had already orchestrated this particular plan. As the several small forces from the various guilds stared at one another in confusion, wondering who to attack first, there came a loud, rumbling creak from somewhere in the lab. This creak grew louder and closer until it sounded as though the entire building was going to push itself apart. Then, at the top of a small, three-story tower connected to Ardir's lab, three shapes appeared, the foremost of which was an ogre dressed in a tailored suit. He spoke to those below him, his voice booming unnaturally over the gathering.
     "Salutations to all our distinguished dignitaries! My master abjectly regrets that he cannot be here to make felicitous welcomes upon each of you, but he has allocated to me the distinction of presenting you with this benefaction." He paused, smirking. "My condolences."
     With those final words, Graz smashed a small crystal in his hand, and the sound emanating from the lab proper grew almost immediately unbearable. Following that came a sound like rushing wind, and a moment later, the entire front face of Ardir's lab blew away, the pieces falling on those gathered in the courtyard with varying degrees of damage. The next thing to hit was a pulse-wave of energy, which passed harmlessly over the people there, but shattered both the bubble-sealed crystal that Nara held and the illusionary walls behind which Casamir and his men waited. There was no time for anyone to be shocked at their sudden appearance, as a second pulse of energy cascaded out. This one formed a giant bubble around the lab grounds, preventing any possible escape. The final thing to emerge from the darkened recesses of Ardir's lab was one, gigantic, scaled tentacle.
     Nara gasped in shock, though few around her could hear. All she said was "An apex krasis! Gods protect us!"
     No one else said a word as the massive creature began to pull itself out of the quickly ruining lab and towards its prey.

Shameless Self-Promotion

These are the MTG Fiction pieces I have written:

Planes of the Dual-Walkers
Allo's Fortnight
The Butcher's Cleaver
Dead Man 'Walking
Deals and Devils
The Tears of the Djinn
Cromat Comes
Kiss of the Shorecerers
Numerous poems in The Poetry Plane
Magic: The Musical

Please read and comment! I love hearing people's thoughts and reactions to my work!

                The force of the blow was enough to rock the elemental back on its heels – and to send Gazwin flying across the crater. He landed hard in the dirt, the toes of digging lines through the dust as he continued to skid backwards on hands and knees. Both fighters roared and charged each other, the elemental’s primal bellow drowning out Gazwin’s hoarse scream. The elemental tried to smash him flat, and Gazwin raised his arm to block. Rock smashed into metal, shattering the Izzet emblem with explosive force. Flame and lightning arced out from the impact, and the elemental screamed as the timbers in its arm caught fire.

                Not that helped Gazwin any. The timbers might have been on fire, but the creature was still mostly stone, nor did it really feel any pain. Whatever primal intelligence guided it quickly realized that it had gone from wielding a heavy club capable of squashing its attacker flat to wielding a heavy club capable of squashing its attacker or burning him to death instead. Embers danced through the air as it swung again and again, forcing Gazwin into a series of dizzying dodges. The elemental didn’t care. The puny human could run all he wanted because it was only a matter of time before he was pulverized.

                And yet… Gazwin had never felt more alive than he did at that moment. The blows were so powerful, so close, that the wind caused by them parted his hair as he rolled under the fiery stone fist. He could feel the mana of the Rubblebelt pouring into him, and red sparks crackled along his skin. He tumbled backwards, coming out of the roll in a kneeling position as he clapped his hands together so that both index fingers were pointed at what he guessed past for the creature’s head. Power surged down his arms as white lightning erupted from his fingertips.

                The accompanying thunderclap was deafening, and he could feel a slight trickle of blood oozing from his ruptured ear drums. It was a point blank shot, but even then the elemental almost dodged. Instead of taking the blast to the face it took it in the shoulder. The stone joints exploded into powder, and the burning arm fell to the ground with a bone shaking crash.

                The two combatants stood there for a moment, just staring at the fallen limb as if neither could believe what had happened. The elemental grunted, then bent down and picked it up. It shoved it back into place with another grunt, twisting it back and forth before rotating it over its head to make sure it still had the full range of motion. Then it charged.

                Gazwin just shook his head and ran towards it, ripping wires from his gauntlet and twisting them around his arm. He pulled the gauntlet free and whipped it at the monster’s chest, wedging it between two bits of shattered chimney. The air was thick with the smell of wood smoke and burnt ozone, but Gazwin swallowed the urge to gag as he was wrenched off his feet by his impromptu grappling hook. The elemental tried to shake him free like a dog worrying a bone, but Gazwin refused to let go. He could feel the wires stripping the skin from his arm, but that didn’t stop him from dragging himself forward until he was climbing on the beast itself.

                He was soon straddling the back of its neck, punching its head with spell enhanced fists even as he was forced duck attempts to swat him into paste. Despite the magic hardening his skin his knuckles began to bleed as relentlessly pummeled the stone blocks. “Why…won’t…you…fall!” he gasped in between blows.

                The elemental let out an anguished bellow and collapsed to its knees, throwing Gazwin from its shoulders. He rolled limply through the dust, ending up spread eagled on his back and panting for breath. The elemental tried to push itself back to its feet, and all Gazwin could do was stare at it and slur out, “Sit.”

                The elemental froze as if thinking about it. Then it sat.

                Gazwin decided to take that opportunity to pass out.


*             *             *


                He woke up a few moments later, only to find himself staring into the face of the young woman who had been with the Gruul mage he had fought earlier. She was clearly trying to say something, but it was impossible for him to hear with his eardrums ruptured. She eventually gave up in frustration, and motioned to someone standing outside his line of sight. Gazwin flinched as a pair of warm hands clamped down on the side of his head and his ears popped as a flux of power stitched themselves back together.

                “Owww,” he moaned as he sat up and rubbed the back of his head. “I’m sorry, what were you saying?”

                The girl motioned to the elemental. “I said you had a fine hunt, husband.”

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