Sheila's Lair - 14 G (Dominaria)
Sheila’s Lair, site of the former Coalition base Spithra, is one of the darkest bastions of Phyrexia’s might on Dominaria. The conditions of Sheila’s Lair have changed significantly since the compleation of the spider that calls this place home.
The Outer Devastation
This area was formerly a forest of trees so tall that they scraped the bottoms of the clouds. Since the Phyrexian takeover, the trees have been broken down: none of the once majestic examples of pure life remains.
Yet, there is still a forest around Sheila’s lair: gigantic mushrooms now grow here, feeding on the decay of uncountable cords of wood scattered over the landscape when the trees were felled and smashed against the ground. Most grow to around twenty feet high, but some specimens reach as far as a hundred. In any case, they grow close enough together that very little sunlight filters through to the forest floor. Under the great mushroom caps, a complex ecosystem of mosses, lichens, and lesser fungi have taken to serving as the undergrowth.
The shattered wood that completely carpets the surface makes any trek through the Devastation on foot hard going, but other factors impede travel. The fungi, both small and titanic, release clouds of spores into the air around them, saturating anything beneath the caps and frequently causing plumes in the air close to the canopy. The spores are incredibly harmful to anything that inhales them and is not somehow adapted. Naturally this means that artifact creatures, the undead, Sheila’s Brood (see below), Thallids and other fungi, and natives of Phyrexia or any similarly toxic environment are more or less fine – the spore clouds impede visibility some, but no more than a light mist. Those with an unfortunate reliance on lungs and a need for air that is not filled with corruption, however, suffer extreme fatigue and ultimately repertory failure. Simple protective measures like tying a damp cloth around the nose and mouth will help, but prove ineffective in the long run. No improvised protective measure will keep a soldier fighting-fit for more than 24 hours under even light miasma. Assuming an exposed victim survives, though, clear air will make everything better in but a few hours rest.
Sheila’s brood have also been corrupted. The predatory spiders are the primary survivors of the native life in Sheila’s lair. Feeding on whatever they can catch (mostly thallids and saporlings) in the fungal forest, they still owe their loyalty to the brood mother, and she now owes her loyalty to Phyrexia. Linked in a low-level hive mind, when one spider becomes aware of an invading force, others will begin to home in on it. Individually, the spiders aren’t very dangerous to a platoon of trained soldiers, but they have a tendency to eat scouts, and Sheila (and defending Phyrexians, through her) will know the approximate direction, speed, and size of forces approaching the forest core.
The Forest Core
Built, or rather grown around the clearing where Spithra once kept itself, the Forest core is difficult to miss, a mountainous web of fungus, wood, and metal that at its pinnacle reaches as high as the great trees of the forest once did.
The Forest Core is, in effect, the proper structure of the Stronghold, though it is far bigger than is typical for any construction. This is because the Core is also the proper lair and ultimately hiding place for Sheila, a spider the size of a small keep. The entirety of the Forest Core has a few properties: It is free of the miasmatic spores that fill the rest of the forest, and its makeup (even when seemingly oily wood and cobwebs) is hugely fire retardant (nearly fire proof) and resilient against physical damage. The Forest Core can be broken down into a few sections.
1) The Upper Aerie: Above the highest reach of the miasmatic clouds is a landing and launching point for flying creatures. The Aerie is probably the poorest defended section of the Forest Core itself, but the rest of the Core is defended against intruders in the Aerie at choke points between entering the Warrens. The Aerie has hangars for most forms of flying craft and accommodations for all known airborn servants of Phyrexia (which means accommodations suitable for most flying troops, period)
2) The Warrens: The warrens are countless miles of tunnels, both those large enough for Sheila herself (or an army) and those only big enough for her brood or single file troops to march along. The area is a hell of a maze, and several pathways, especially the more minor ones, are subject to change as they’re webbed over by Sheila and her brood or torn open by either the same or Phyrexian forces.
For a living thing of her size, Sheila is terribly hard to find. Though she spends most of her time in The Warrens (though some in the Roots), the tunnels are so complex and branching and their three-dimensional turns so odd to most minds that the general rule is that if Sheila doesn’t want to be found, she won’t be. Even if she is discovered, the spider is now covered in Blightsteel plates, armoring her against nearly any attempt to slay her. A skittish creature by nature, though, Sheila will attempt to flee if engaged, heading up or down some tunnel that most creatures can’t follow, leaving a trail of entangling web behind.
Major Phyrexian living quarters are tucked away in the Warrens, both a major cluster near the roots and several smaller checkpoints intended to be staffed and defended long term by decent but by no means full-army sized forces that are placed either near the forest-level entrances or at the few tunnels that lead between the Aerie and the Warrens.
3) The Roots: The Roots are much like the Warrens, only beneath the ground and thus not nearly as subject to change. The tunnel networks are also simpler, featuring far fewer ways to ambush or be ambushed than the Warrens above. Eventually, if you follow any path in the Roots long enough, you’ll reach either the Warrens above or, going the other direction, a gigantic chamber known as the Dark Heart
4) The Dark Heart: The Dark Heart Chamber is big enough to hold an army, even two armies locked in combat, and open enough to, unlike the rest of the Core, permit flyers (even big ones, though perhaps not the largest dragons) to fly and maneuver effectively as they could in open air. In the center, near the top is what looks to be a woody seed, the Heart itself, coiled in pulsing fungal veins that affix it to the root. This seed is what remains of the Coalition base Spithra, a last stage of armor around the Phyrexian power source that keeps the Forest Core alive.
The chamber of the Dark Heart is also the “portal” chamber, though no such structure can be found in it. Instead, when Phyrexians need to conjure a connection to their home for reinforcements, they call to Sheila using the Dark Heart (the only means by which even the vat priests that compleated her can communicate, beckoning her to the Heart Chamber for her work or receiving her knowledge of the outside). The spider, called by some of them “The Web between the Worlds” then spins a massive portal-web that fills the room and, when it is completed, opens. The process takes between four and eight hours, and when the portal is closed after about twice as many hours as it took to spin, the web is destroyed (presumably sucked through to Phyrexia and a blossoming Phyrexian silk industry), necessitating that the process begin again if another link is to be made.
Destroyed by Myril
Damia growled slightly, peering up at the massive, rotting husk of Sheila's lair... conflicted. As a being of both death and rebirth, a part of her rejoiced at the conversion between her two identities, as the once-verdulant tree sat converged into a epitaph of finality, a massive structure celibrating the finality of death.
Still, the sight of so much life corrupted made her stomach turn... the metal plates upon Sheila's husk and the tainted scent of iron and filth which had been hammered into every inch of the sprawling lair. Sheila's Brood has dissipated with the death of its mother, none of the spiderlings having any taste for the perversion the location had become... even her own men felt unnatural here, an absolute stillness...
Death was not still, she knew. Death was a time of renewal and reclaiming... a transmutation where the individual became one with the everything, and the body decomposed into the etherial... and yet... this? This was stagnant and wrong.
She turned to her men, the assembed creatures that had fought so hard to drive the great Coalition Bane from his roost, smiling severely. "Today is the day we depart this battlefield... a battlefield I'm not sure that any of us thought we would ever leave. As you look over my shoulder... I want you to see two things. First, see the true face of Phyrexia. The face that comes and consumes... a face which takes everything it sees and squashes it into the same mold. Phyrexia has changed our world... forever. Time immortal it seems they have come marching across our landscape... and no longer can we continue simply holding our line! The time has come first... to rest... but second to enter the Phyrexian homeland and put an end to all this! Countless worlds have they marched across... countless worlds have they defiled... and countless worlds shall we reclaim! The power of technology is vast, but the power of innovation is always vaster." She hesitated, a sly smile moving across her lips.
"Though the battle was won... Coalition Bane slipped away and has gone back to his own homeland to lick his wounds... which I think means we have a party to crash... come on lads... the hunt is on!"