In a build up to redo the sticky threads on the F&S forum, I’ll be posting every story on the Tome for a vote. These stories a copied as presented in the Tome.
Except where noted, all these stories relate to an existing plane.
All stories that are accepted will be closed unless the author requests them to be open.
Because of the volume of stories this time around, this vote will be open until all the council members have submitted a vote.
And now, the stories:
The following stories are for the plane of Alara and all its shards:
Anomaly by Dav Flamerock
There was an anomaly.
Hani knew it immediately—it was a trick she had picked up from her time studying and interacting with the winds of Esper. Not far away, the air had suddenly become significantly altered. Changes like that didn’t happen on the orderly plane of Esper, even with something as volatile as wind.
“Alright, Sorun, what was it?” Muttering to the wind under her breath, Hani reached out her left hand in the direction she believed the change had taken place, extending her arm very slowly and deliberately. If she had fallen from her perch atop the incredibly high steeple above the Capitol, she probably would have been fine—such was her mastery of the winds around this wondrous city—but with her curiosity over this anomaly, she didn’t want to induce any further complications. Flexing her fingers, Hani sent out a pulse of air rocketing towards where she believed the anomaly had been detected, using the air as a form of sonar.
The wind whistled through Hani’s hollow, metal arms as it rushed to fill the now-empty space in front of her palm. Platinum-blonde hair swirled around Hani’s face, but it was thin enough that she could see fine through it. As she probed the streets far below with her magic, Hani kept her other eye on the horizon, where gargoyles, various etherium-infused birds, and assorted enchanted objects all flew, most bearing messages or packages from one place on Esper to another. She was a Windwright Mage , and so her job was to keep the airspace from becoming too heavily trafficked. At this hour in the early morning, the air wasn’t too troubled with flying beings, but she was needed nonetheless. Off in the distance, Hani could see the silhouette of one of Esper’s mysterious and regal sphinxes. The young woman smiled at the sight. Sphinxes were always a good omen.
Finally she located the anomaly. On a riverside walkway, two people were standing there—though it surprised Hani that their arrival was sudden enough to create a noticeable disturbance in the air. Not for the first time, Hani wished she could simply employ her ability to manipulate the winds and fly down to see who they were. But she was needed at her post.
Hani summoned a courier dove with a mental command. The small white bird flapped up to her, the message gripped in its claws forgotten as it swooped past her. As it passed, she reached out and nabbed a metal ring attached to the bird’s eye. Sliding it out of the bird’s head, she took the circle of glass ringed in metal and fitted it before one eye like a monocle. After a moment, the images appeared on the glass plate, revealing to her what the other eye saw. Hani twirled one wrist and commanded Eisha, the Guiding Wind, to take that particular bird down to the street to see who the anomalous people were.
The first thing Hani saw, though, was not the people—it was a trio of vedalken enforcers, a staff in one man’s hands, all approaching the new arrivals with intent. Then the bird’s sight rotated and Hani gasped at what she saw. A woman wearing a high-cut shirt and pants was standing between the river and an EsperAcademy, looking around in wonder. But her strange attire—what kind of lunatic wore green?—was nothing compared to what she physically looked like. She looked much like Hani, actually, being slender and pale-skinned, with long blonde hair (though her hair was pulled back into a strange kind of bunch that made it look like it was a horse’s tail). Both had fair skin and had a certain beauty—but the similarities ended there. Her arms, for one, were not etherium-forged, as Hani’s were, and from what Hani could see, the woman had no etherium infused into her body at all! What was more, her ears were unnaturally long and pointed, in a manner Hani had never seen before in her life.
The other person who stood beside this strange woman looked very similar to the woman—except the second person was a twelve-year old girl, from what Hani could tell. Wearing clothes that looked just like the woman’s, Hani had to assume that this child was the woman’s daughter.
Momentarily, the two imperfect people were surrounded by the etherium-perfected vedalken. The newcomers were shocked by the city—to be true, they acted as if they had never before seen Esper’s glorious cities. But that became a moot point when the vedalken confronted them. The woman seemed to be controlling herself, but she also didn’t look like the kind of person that would willingly allow someone to take her to a confinement chamber, as Hani expected would happen. Hani watched the dialogue for several moments through the bird’s eyes, wondering what was being said, until finally the woman shared a look with her daughter and agreed to come with the vedalken, who led the strange two off down the streets towards the Capitol building.
With the women moving off now, and her job requiring her attention, Hani began to shift her focus away from the glass monocle and onto her beloved Esper skyscape. However, just as she was removing the glass circle from her eye, Hani noticed that the bird—which was now returning to its predesigned destination—had spotted something unexpected and incredibly important. A sphinx crouched at the top of the Academy, watching the proceedings below with what could only be described as vested interest. Whatever had just happened was important.
Hani had no idea just how important the two newcomers’ arrival would be.
After hours of arguing, yelling, and general disobedience, the boy finished the night by refusing to go to sleep until he'd been told a story. The mother obliged.
"Fine, Taruk," Mahzahdi said as she tucked her child in under blankets of eagle down. "This is a story of many years ago, when I was still actively serving in Akrasa's military."
Taruk's eyes lit up and the boy grinned. These were always his favorite stories, those of his parents' days on the battlefield. "Oh, okay," the boy said, failing completely to hide his enthusiasm.
"Well, a long time ago, Valeron and Jhess were at war. The war lasted for many weeks. On one day of the war, ritual battle was called by both sides, and I was chosen to be a part of it. The focus was a young knight, barely in her twentieth year, and with enough sigils from her honorable deeds that she might soon become a paladin. I'll call her Collette. She was athletic and dutiful, but small for a knight. She showed no fear to her coterie, but I think she was scared. How could she not be? She was the one that would fight, and only the sigils of a dozen squires, soldiers and knights would be her battalion.
"It was then that we met Jhess's champion--Brynlonn, a rhox ten feet tall and three of us wide." Taruk's eyes widened, but Mahzahdi continued. "The whole coterie was paralyzed with fear. His footsteps shook the ground, and you could feel his voice in his chest. He called out, 'Jhess has chosen my power to bring their victory! Though we six are not weighed down with mere trinkets like you, my strength and training are unmatched!' All of us engaged in the preparatory rituals, we dozen and their six.
"Finally, it was time to fight, and it was brutal. For every strike, Collette barely dodged or was knocked about even as she blocked. As the power of our honor was further channeled through the sigils, Collette was able to deflect Brynlonn's hammer or more easily dodge his strikes. And then finally--and I'll always remember this--the songs of angels were coming from the sigils, and light surrounded Collette like a blanket. She dodged another of Brynlonn's swings and retorted with a mighty sword strike that cut through the rhox's armor and knocked him to the ground."
"What happened then?"
"Well, Collette got right on top of that rhox--so big she could stand on his chest with plenty of room to spare--and pointed her longsword at his face. She demanded that he surrender, and he did."
"Wow. She sounds strong."
"But she wasn't. She was short and thin and barely came up to the rhox's tummy."
"So how did she beat him?"
"Each sigil that empowered her, each squire serving her... Taruk, on this world, honor and virtue and obedience are more powerful than even a rhox's muscle. Remember that when you start being disagreeable," added a smiling Mahzahdi, toussling his hair playfully.
There was a grin on Taruk's face as he finally allowed himself to start drifting off to sleep. Mahzahdi quietly left her son's room, and outside, her husband waited for her.
"Why didn't you let him know where that story actually came from, 'Collette?'" asked the warmly smiling former knight.
"The angels smile on humility, too, Farzha," smiled Mahzahdi, and they both stepped towards their room for bed. Mahzahdi paused briefly on the way to gaze at her first paladin's sigil, mounted on the wall, awarded on the Jhessian shore after a battle against a grey-skinned behemoth whose power never matched her virtue.
Hunting in the rain by japoniano
Rain. Such a strong word for such an unexpected event. In his own homeland the most similar thing would have been volcano explosions which left the sky, air and land full of ash and sooth for days, a climate where only the most brave warriors dared to go out. And of course, there was “rain” of fire when a dragon attacked; curiously enough, both rains of water and fire were suffocating in very different ways.
Even in these new lands Rakka Mar called “Naya”, whatever differences a warrior finds in a new terrain, the Life Hunt never finishes, only more new and deadly challenges cross his path and he must surpass them. This land has offered such challenges over and over again, yet every time Keso has managed to surpass them.
After hearing so many curses from the so-called elves mentioning that “Progenitus” would destroy his tribe, Keso decided to take a hostage to find out more. She tried to tell him useless stories that mattered little, so he was forced to torture her to know how real this prey really was, and how important hunting it could be.
Ever since then, his tribe marched only interested in that prey, taking prisoners in each battle just to interrogate them. The humans and nacatl were useless for information, only the elves repeated the same stories until today… they finally found a real trace, and now the tribe was heading in the right direction.
If it weren’t for the rain, they would have reached traces of the prey, but it didn’t matter, sooner or later they would find a track to follow. The cursed rain! Bow-strings were ruined, flaming spells useless, their movements and senses hindered…
Finally the rain stopped, but started anew a while later… Keso looked to the sky and got a glimpse of a serpentine head, bigger than any dragon he had ever seen parting the clouds and blocking the rain where it passed. He wasn’t afraid, the prey was just as glorious as it was described to them, his only thought to himself was “You're gonna need a bigger bow”
Sirv finished his calculations for the hundredth time. And yet it came up the same. According to his calculations there should be five varieties of magic, not three. And yet as sure as his lungs breathe, he knew his math was true.
He started a hacking fit, coughing up so much blood it turned his hand red. He was running out of time, he needed to get to Unx. He wiped the blood from his hand and rolled up his notes. They would have to wait until he return, if he returned. Before he left home, he took one last look at the tiny hovel he had carved out for himself, and closed the door.
The trip to Unx was far more taxing then Sirv expected and he reached the outskirts of the city by dusk. Using a few tricks he’d learned from clinging to life for so long, he easily evaded the large, mindless armies of Unx.
The city of Unx was a crumbling hellhole unfit for human habitation. Deep within the center of the city, rising from the city like a bone jutting out of a rotting corpse was the tower of Unx. The tower was in no better wear than the rest of the city. It leaned sharply to the right having lost much of its foundation. Ghostly fires lit the inside of the tower, the only sign of habitation in this dark dead place. Sirv headed there.
The stairs leading up the tower were crooked and in disrepair. They creaked and strained under Sirv’s light weight. Each step sapped a bit more of his strength. But after long hours, he finally took a step into the master chamber.
The room was too dark to see. A cackling laughter filled the stale air. Cold lights flared up across the room, illuminating a dark figure in the center of the room.
“It has been a long since I last tasted the scent of live flesh. Tell me why I shouldn’t drain your life now and add your corpse to my army?”
Sirv sagged under the weight of a long life. “Archdemon I have come with a deal. I have spent my entire life studying the nature of magic. I just need more time… a little more time.”
“You come to a master of death for a new lease on life? You may know magic, but you know nothing of demons.”
“Archdemon, my body is failing me. I don’t need a lease on life, I need to strip away my weakness.”
“What do you propose mage?”
“Take my vis, and turn me undead. Just leave me with my mind.”
The Archdemon’s face cracked into a wicked smile. A blue fire burst in his hand. As it contracted it congealed into a papyrus scroll. “This is a contract of unlife. With the added stipulation that when you are complete with your work you’ll return and lead one of my armies as a general.”
Sirv did not hesitate to sign it.
The years pass deep within his hovel. His cold flesh hands doing calculation after calculation. The ink worn to flesh, the flesh worn to bone, the bone worn to nubs. Years, and years, and years, and years, Page after page, identical, the same.
“…There can’t be five types…” “…There can’t be five types…”
The decision of what to write about was a tough one, and in the end I decided to set my tale in Bant. I found it very interesting that as the "civilised" shard, it was the only one with a "rogue" creature subtype, which I thought was an interesting social commentary . Anyway, I hope you all enjoy!
Consciousness returned, filling her vision with the neverending plains of the Topa Savannah. All her plans, all her ambitions, reduced to nothing by her conniving "partner". Together they had planned thier heist, gaining entry inside the barracks using the good faith Gwafa had garnered over the years. She had slipped in undetected, her years of training as an Infiltrator serving her well. The Sigil's were in her grasp, when the yelling began.
Fearing that she had been spotted, she used a quick incantation, allowing her to hover up to the roof, seeking to blend into the shadows that were cast by the insufficent candlelight. Hovering above the door, pressed against the roof, she watched as Gwafa led a group of intimidating Rhox guards.
"She is here somewhere, I'm sure I noticed her slip in the gate as I was drawing my caravan within your walls." The Rhox split up, searching the barracks for her. Betrayed by her employer, her partner in crime, Hakhana felt her blood boil. All her life, she felt different from those around her. She felt stifled by the caste system, and boggled at the lack of ambition that others displayed when it came to rising above the Mortar rank. The military offered her a chance of expansion, but it was equally confining to her sense of freedom. When she met the merchant Gwafa, she felt she had found a like soul. His ambition was refreshing to her, and although his ultimate prize seemed to be wealth (something Hakhana cared little for), she was pleased to have found someone who was willing to rebel against the system.
But it was Bant's system of Honour that Hakhana had assumed Gwafa would follow when she agreed to work with him. 'Honour among thieves' she scoffed to herself, realising that she had been setup, used by the man she had judged to be just like her. She watched him, loathing him for what he was, for what she realised she must represent. Would she ever sell out a partner, a friend? No, she wouldn't. Gwafa was something more than she, driven by greed and willing to do whatever it took to get what he wanted. If only she could draw him away from the last Rhox, she could slip her rapier in between his ribs, pierce his heart and spit on him as his lifeblood slipped out from his deceitful body.
Using another incantation she had learned as an infiltrator, she conjured a loud clanging noise at the Barracks entrance. The Rhox waiting with Gwafa hefted his halberd, and set off back the way he came, shouting orders for Gwafa to stay put. Hakhana waited a few moments, pressing herself tighter to the shadows, as the other guards ran back through the room, heading towards her distraction. When she was sure the coast was clear, she deactivated her hover spell, withdrew her rapier and lunged at Gwafa's black heart...
...at least, she tried to. Her coin purse, the one Gwafa had insist he give her as an advance payment, suddenly became overwhelmingly heavy. Upon deactivating her Hover spell, she fell uncermoniously to the ground. Gwafa slowly turned around, and stared straight into her eyes.
"My dear Hakhana" he whispered, "fancy seeing you here." Slowly, without any fear, he reached down and took the Sigils from her grasp. She tried to grasp them, to hold on, but it took all her power to hold her head up. He muttered a cantrip, summoning a small pouch into his open hand. Delibrately, he dropped the Sigils in one by one, before waving his hand and dismissing the pouch. She tried to curse at him, but found her tongue held firmly within her mouth. Holding a finger up to his lips, he shushed her in an exaggerated fashion. With a wink, he called for the guards.
Her trial was quick, considering she was unable to speak in her own defense. The Sigils were nowhere to be found, an accomplice was assumed. She would not (could not!) name them, she was forced to take part in the excommunication ritual. Looking around at the endless plains once more, she suddenly realised what it meant to be Bantian. The ideals of Bant were there to protect it's citizens, not suppress them, to uplift a community, not an individual. She waggled her tongue, rejoicing in it's freedom. Gingerly, she stood up, feeling freed from the cursed coin that Gwafa had forced her to take as sign of good faith. With a depressed sigh, she had realised that she was finally free of the caste system she had secretly railed against all her life. She was Unbeholden, her own boss, master of her own destiny.
And it felt very, very lonely.
Jund by Xailiar
Urak sorely wished he’d not used his fire magic as he struck the ground, face down in the mud and slime. Days before he’d been an accomplished hunter with a quarter dozen braids. He was gaining influence on his tribe and was not far from being chief. They had been looking for another grove of Tukatongue trees to provide food and building material. After three days of travel, they’d finally come upon one. The only problem was it’s elevation; it was on the edge of viashino territory. They had only begun to set up their temporary settlement when the thrinax emerged from the stand of trees. By the time he could do anything about it, the thrinax had already killed three warriors-three more than the tribe could afford. Urak knew the vast network of predation on Jund had actually caused some creatures to adapt to being destroyed-and the thrinax was one of them. He quickly responded with a blast of elemental fire to prevent any chance of the lizard sprouting. The flash caught the attention of the local viashino thrash, who overran the tribe without delay, slaughtering all but a few. The remainder of the tribe blamed Urak for the massacre. His peers promptly severed his braids and tossed him from a cliff, thrusting him into his current position. He ached all over, but none of his bones were broken. He sat up and scanned the area for predators before rising to his feet. He began to walk north, hoping he could make his way out of the canyon and find the neighboring tribe of humans. It was nearly two hours later that a sharp sound shattered the uneasy silence. Urak froze when he heard it. That was his first mistake. A gurgling turned his attention to his rear. He turned and cast a dramatic ward spell. The manaplasm doubled in size and crashed upon him like a living growing volcanic eruption. Urak sorely wished he’d not used his protective magic as his lungs collapsed.
Death was never something that Taric had truly feared. In the past, all discretions were solved through single person combat. Each side of the field would be full of cheering knights rallying around their champion, empowering him with arcane magics of glory and hope. Now however, as he lay on the battlefield bleeding from under his chain mail, he realized how much he had lived in a fairytale world.
These were not people of honor, or even lowly thieves he was fighting. These were the spawns of evil, brought to life with hatred flowing through their veins. Their sole purpose in life, or unlife as it may be, was to kill for their master, and kill without mercy. Taric had seen these horrors rip through bone and sinew, and feast upon their lifeblood as it drained from their bodies. Their faces were visages of absolute torment, and pain. His own neighbors he saw die before him, when not even a year ago they had spent a warm summer’s evening enjoying a feast with each others families. Now they were just another meal for the demonic creatures of Grixis.
Something suddenly stirred next to him. A putrid skeletal form slowly started to rise from the fallen bodies around him. What sorcery was this that reanimated the already dead? What unholy acts of blasphemy did this creature perform in order to overcome the limitations of life? As it extended its hand down to a fallen weapon, pieces of its flesh fell to the earth and infected the ground where they landed. It hauled to its shoulders a long, chipped and rusted scythe, attached to a blackened bone of some long dead demon. At the sight of this Taric gasped in surprise and shock, which drew the attention of the zombie. As it shambled closer, now hefting its deadly weapon into a position with more leverage, Taric began to contemplate death once more.
When it seemed like the end was truly near, and he could feel the cold hands of death grasping him by the neck, the world stopped. The zombie held fast, as if frozen in time. The battle around him slowed and halted. The only thing with any free will of motion seemed to be him. As he gazed at the sight around him, a soft voice spoke into his ear.
“Do not fear, you are safe for now.”
“Where am I, what limbo is this?” said Taric.
“This is no limbo, faithful warrior. I have merely slowed time to allow this meeting to occur. Your nation needs you, as do your brothers in arms. Will you stand to protect them?”
“I would if not for my condition. I’ve been wounded beyond repair. I could feel the icy grip of death on my mere moments ago,” explain Taric.
“Do not fear, you shall be healed, but in return you must use your renewed life to do the bidding of the angels. Will you accept my blessing?”
“For Bant I would gladly give a thousand lives. I accept your blessing.”
With that a heavenly figure descended from the clouds. She glided down gently upon wings of pure ivory and landed in front of his splayed body. She slowly bent down and leaned in over his forehead and gently placed a kiss upon him. Instantly he felt his wound staunch and heal. Blood once again flowed to his limbs and heart. He felt his strength return and flexed his muscles to test their capabilities.
“Before you go noble warrior, allow me to grant you one last gift in the hopes that Bant will survive.”
With a wave of her hand he felt something fall gently around his shoulders. Looking at his back he was amazed to see two heavenly wings extending out of his back. His sword also glowed with an unearthly light.
“Go forth and slay the enemies of Bant, you have Asha’s blessing and mine.”
With that she was gone leaving behind only an ivory feather. Around him the world sprang to life again. The sound of battle around him returned and more bodies from both sides of the battle fell. The zombie before him stood with weapon raised, muscles bulging as it begun his swing. But before the scythe reached the apex of its swing, the zombie found a blade lodged deep within its chest. The purified steel struck home and the zombie’s spine was severed in two. It crashed to the ground in a heap; its flesh falling away, and its bones crumbling to ash. With a flutter of his wings he took to the sky. A new hero had been born on Bant, and with his new life and strength Taric would do all in his power to rid his home of the vile Grixians. -------------------------------------- Hope you enjoy!
"Leave me be you jund scum, my kind are the masters of the grixian shard." Shouted the Demon.
The mighty creature peered over his wing in a mix of amusement and disgust at the cowering demon. "You mistake me for a mere dragon?" "I would have excepted a kind hello, but such things are rare here, are they not?" The smug dragon responded.
"If you're no-not a d-dragon, then what are you?" said the demon, gargantuan in his own right, he had never been dwarfted by anything in his existance. And fear... He was an avatar of fear, not accustomed to being on this end of it. "The wings, the tail, the sc..."
"The voice?", intrerupted the dragonesque figure. "I do not recall any other dragons on this hideous plane capiable of speech."
"Plane?" said the with an arogant smile twisted upon his scaled face. "I can sense your very thoughts, does that make you uncomfortable?" "Your world is but one of many. I am an all power being capible of traversing through the fabric that seperates your world from the next."
"Am I a god?", sensing the demons next line of questioning. "Call me what you will; God, Elder dragon, Planeswalker, it matter not. My name is Nicol Bolas." Enough about me, have you heard of the Progenitus?"
The demon let out a part snort, part laugh, part roar. "A myth! a tall tale made up by the Naya!" "If you believe that rubblish than you are not as intelligent as you look DRAGON!"
Ignoring the demon's apparant ignorance Nicol continued. "What do these Naya fools say of the Progenitus?" "Forgive me, my curiosity is my one weakness." "I know, lets discuss it over dinner."
The demon rose up in acceptance of the strange being's offer. "You are all right Nicol Bolas, what are you in the mood for?"
Certain that the demon wouldn't sense sarcasm if if ate him for dinner, "I was think something a little demonic. I hear the wings here on this plane are breathtaking." What do you suggest DEMON?"
"I like my meals still living it possible," replied the demon. "What is a meal if not accompanied by the last wails of life? "Living or undead, everything here is mine to rule as I see fit."
"That seems a bit cruel don't you think?" said Bolas, still choking back a smile.
"Cruelty is the lifeblood of my kin. What do you know of cruelty Nicol?" spouted the demon as he grizzled down the remains of of half roasted goblin.
"I know it when I see it demon. And you and I have more in common than you even know. But I beg you forgive my manners. I haven't ever asked your name." As he gave the demon a sly wink.
"What is it to you DRAGON?" said the demon, seeming almost insulted.
"It would be rude, no cruel if I didn't know who I was having for dinner." Said the dragon as his forked tongue licked back and forth across him razor sharp teeth.
"Mmmy Nannname is" "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT NAME IS!" Interrupted Nicol Bolas. " I think I will start with your toes. I am curious about those last wails of death you speak of so highly. HAHAHAHAHA!"
Three days had passed since they started following the human hunters. Three days away from their mountains to adventure through the forest. Ach! The forest isn’t the place for a goblin. It’s filled with dangers, just like the plant which ate Nars. Killed by the flora, that’s a bad death even for a goblin. He wouldn’t end like that. But now, now they were so close to their prize. He could almost taste the fresh meat. Their preys were weakened from the journey, the figh…
A scream brought back Ruuk to the hunt. Bokd was charging headlong towards the surprised humans. He should have charged immediately, alongside the rest of them, instead he hesitated. The battle was going to be difficult, they were outnumbering their preys only two to one. When they begun trailing them they were four to one, but the forest has no mercy for goblins. Ach! Just like everything else in the world. All he could hope for was a nice death. Not like Serg who drowned while they were crossing the river. Some of that water would’ve been nice, he was thirs…
Fignar pulled Ruuk by the arm, out of his mind and into the fight. Their preys were putting up a ferocious resistence. After all, they were hunters. The four sons of Murlk bravely fought against a single surrounded human. Zorv fell when he stumbled over Bokd corpse. Poor Bokd: first to charge, first to fight, first to die, as always with goblin raids. Well, being killed in battle is a fine death all in all. Muax downed a warrior maiden and got killed while stunned for the emotion. That’s the prize goblins receive for their prowess. Murf and Orgyl fell together to a single spear, ending like meat on a spit. They sort of funny, in a sick way. Svafn ducked an axe swing, jumping behind a tree and quickly answered with his javelin. The skirmish was not going well for the goblins: a crazied human, covered in scars, was rabidly taking down goblin after goblin, unfairly seeking single combat. Joop, Trab and Ghiw fled from the battlefield, while Limn instead opted for a strategical retreat. Fignar’s spear finally put an end to the man’s frenzy.
Then, through the heat of battle, Ruuk suddenly felt a much more tangible heat. The prey of the human hunters. The biggest hunter of them all. Now it was everybody for himself. He run and then he run and then he run. And then he tripped. He looked back to see he was already safe. A scaly snout, two angry eyes and dozens of hungry teeth answered a roaring NO! Even though he was paralyzed by fear, Ruuk felt somewhat proud. He wouldn’t have bitten the dust against some damned humans. Fate reserved for him the most honourable of deaths. He was goin…
The dragon’s hunger interrupted his last thoughts. If Ruuk still had been able to think inside the beast’s stomach, he would have been satisfied.
The elf child clung to her father’s leg as she was brought to the priest at noonday. The girl didn’t like the priest. His demeanor scared her, the way his eyes seemed empty and wild when he stared into hers. But her father comforted her and she walked with him to the temple. He motioned to her then, with a crooked finger and a rasping, harsh voice.
“Hello there, little one.”
“Hello,” she mumbled, suddenly incredibly fearful of the fragile creature before her. Something in his voice, perhaps, or maybe it was the eyes. The child shied away even further from the priest, leaving the safety of her father’s presence for the first time during the meeting. She looked around, desperate to find something to look at other than the withered figure before her. The young eyes fixed in an oakenwood staff leaning in the corner as if discarded in a hurry. The grainy surface was carved into twisting, turning patterns, tracing images across the young girl’s eyes. A fang changed into a talon with a shift of the light, another transformed it into the head of a great beast that the girl had once seen in a an old storybook. The old elf gently picked up the staff and extended it towards the child. As she reached out to touch the twisting wood, he began to speak again.
“Child, you have been chosen for a great duty. Do you understand the importance of your role today?”
The child shook her head silently.
“Really?” The wizened old elf turned to the father. “I though you would have told her the old stories.”
The father looked down and grunted. “We thought that as she was to come here, it would be best for you to tell her. You do know the tales better than the rest of the village.”
The old man thought for a few seconds, idly stroking the intricately carvings, before replying. “That is true. Well then, little one, come here and I’ll tell you a story from when the world was young.” The child walked hesitantly over to the priest, eyes mesmerized by the ever-shifting staff. She sat down before him, and he reached out to muss her auburn hair affectionately. She shied away from his hand, and with a sad, resigned sigh he began his story.
“Long ago, when Naya was young, the Great Hydra rampaged through our world, destroying the races who populated it. The thing was an enormous beast with five heads and iridescent skin, shimmering with a glorious sheen that left any living witness in awe of the monstrous creature’s great beauty. The Nacatl were devoured in their canopy cities, the humans trampled into the dirt. We elves were caught in the path of the Great One as well, until a mighty Anima sealed him away in a state of eternal slumber, his heads resting on the forest floor with a resounding crash that brought the mountains down, burying his body in rubble.
“From his sleeping body sprang the gargantuans that roam our land, the beasts that govern our lives from sunrise to sunset. The gargantuans are as numerous as the stars and as unique as you and I. So often have we needed to move entire villages in order to evade the path of these beasts. Usually that is enough. However, a few exceptional behemoths emerged from the Sleeping Lord as well, beasts that cannot simply be avoided, but must be sated by blood and fire. I hope you understand how important you will be to the village and how grateful we all are to you, my little one.” The child began to ask a question, bewildered by the priest’s last entreaty, but the priest put up a hand to silence her. “There is no time, and we must go. Your questions will be answered in time, my dear.” The child nodded and stood up.
Suddenly, her father pressed a bundle of herbs to her mouth and nose, which emitted a sweet, ashy smell that clouded the girl’s nose and mind. She struggled weakly, but she was young and weak, and the scent overwhelmed her. She collapsed into her father’s arms.
* * *
When the child awoke, she was bound and gagged. She looked down and saw that she was lying on a stone altar, with carved in the same manner as the priest’s staff. She took a further look around and saw that she was in a clearing, a rare occurrence on Naya. And from the trees on one side of the clearing came a thunderous roar that shook the earth. The child began to scream. She screamed into her gag, screaming for her father, her mother, anyone. Crashing sounds arose from the trees and the beginnings ofa claweded foot spanning a quarter mile came into view. The child’s screams turned into cries, then whimpers, the moans, until she broke down into pitiful racking sobs. An eye, red as fire and as huge as the sun itself, gazed down on her, neither kind nor malevolent, simply hungry.
And the child’s father watched as his terrified daughter was eaten alive, tears of joy streaming down his face.
"Mine is an insatiable god, with appetites as magnificent as the jungle itself."
Bar bet by Skibo
The Sickleharvest Inn was abuzz with conversation about the newcomer. The man sat at the center table drinking a mug of ale. What drew the patron’s attention was the man’s disheveled appearance. He looked as though he had walked from one side of Bant to the other without rest. His clothing was in ragged, and his look was unkempt.
But the man did not drink alone. Tables were sparse, and three men had joined the stranger at his table.
“I’ll make a bet,” said the stranger, breaking the awkward silence. “I’ve traveled long, and acquired many techniques. Now if I win the bet, you three men must pay my tab. If I lose, then you’ve humored a poor man.”
"What's the bet?" The woodsman asked.
The stranger smirked, "The bet, is who can produce fire the fastest."
The man in white robes smiled, “Stranger, I’ll take your bet. And if you win I’ll pay your tab myself.” With a hand shake the bet was set.
The first man at the table undid his shoe laces. He was a thickly built man, rough around the edges. The man was most likely a tracker who spent extended times in Bant’s manicured forests trapping animals. The man quickly assembled a firebow and began teraing up some paper into kidling. He readied himself, then looked up.
“Oh right,” the man in white said. He reached into his sleeve and pulled out an hourglass. “I’ll keep track of the time. Woodsman you can begin when ready.”
The woodsman began pulling the firebow back and forth. After the hourglass had run out twice, smoke began to rise from the paper beneath the bow. Then it burst into flame.
“Well that’s gong to be hard to beat,” said the man in rich clothing. He was a merchant passing through town. Like many traveling merchants he spent some nights on the road. He reached into his pocket and pulled out flint and steel. “You can start the hourglass now,” he said. Just as the hourglass ran out of sand, the tinder ignited. “Huzzah!” the merchant exclaimed, extinguishing the fire.
The man in white stood up and handed the hourglass to the merchant. He lifted up his walking stick, examined the inset jewel in the handle and rubbed the fingerprints off it with his sleeve. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out a magnifying glass. “I took this bet because I have an advantage. You see, I’m a royal mage. Behold as I start a fire.” The merchant started the hourglass. The mage held the walking stick forwards. The stone inset in the handle glowed brighter then the sun itself. Holding the magnifying glass between the cane and the tinder, he focused the light. After only half the sands of the hourglass had fallen, the tinder burst into flames. The man in white sat back down, confident in his victory.
“That was impressive” the stranger said, “your control of magic is extremely refined.” The stranger prepared his tinder, focused his attention, mumbled something to himself. “Start the timer”
The royal mage started the timer. The stranger took a deep breathe then breathed out. Instantly the air before him ignited in a giant fireball. The room was silenced instantly. The stranger got up and smiled, “Thanks for the drinks.” The royal mage stared off glassy eyed.
Sarkhan Vol stood outside the Sickleharvest Inn readying himself to planeswalk. He hated Bant with its rules and its weak. But he couldn’t deny that they brew the best ale of the five planes.
Crafter by Skibo
The Crafter scowled as he looked over his latest creation. It was leaning slightly to the left. He had made a mistake. A human mistake.
He hated mistakes.
He slammed his fists into the table, splintering it. Why couldn’t he sculpt today? Instinctively he checked his etherium enhanced arms. They were undamaged.
They were perfect.
He turned away from his creation” This was his fourth mistake today. Crafter wrapped his hands around the tiny living sculpture and crushed it into slag. He then stepped down the table crushing each of his mistakes in turn until the table was filled with slag.
Something was wrong.
The fourth homunculus was missing. That ugly thing with misshaped limbs, too flat and wide. The Crafter looked out his open window to see a tiny figure walking haphazardly along the canal that ran through the alley. Such a valuable supply of etherium could not be lost.
Crafter backed up and jumped out the window. He didn’t worry about injury. His body was more metal than flesh, and any damage he could repair himself. He landed awkwardly on his leg, it buckles and snapped. Crafter lurched forwards and rolled into the canal.
This was bad.
The water passed through the holes in his hands and slipped through the large gaps in his legs. He failed and gasped, and howled as his head slipped under the water. He wished he replaced his lungs when he last underwent etherium infusion.
What a stupid way to die.
Just then his head was pulled up out of the water, and he gasped fresh air. His misshapen creation had affixed itself to him. Its broad flat arms cut through the water and propelled the tiny creature against the current and towards the bank. Crafter had to admit, if the homunculus were perfect, it would have been unable to battle these currents.
Back at his apartment, the Crafter repaired his leg. By his side, his minion hopped up and down. The Crafter smiled peering down at this plucky little object. He patted it on the head…
Then crushed it into slag.
“The next one,” he said, “will be perfect.”
Excommunication by Skibo
[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Stage 1: Denial[/FONT]
The dungeon was dank and filled with the scent of mildew. Sirry Irol paced her tiny cell endlessly, “No, no no. This can’t be happening. Not to me, not to me.” Sirry’s mutterrings carried down the dungeon to the cell of Reba Juorhal. Reba sat cross legged, meditating on the choices that she had made. A low rattling filled the dungeon. The warden dragged his hands across the bars of the cells as he passed down the hall. Behind him two imperial guards followed, with shining armor and a glistening sigil each. The warden stopped in front of the first cell, “Sirry Irol, you have been tried and found guilty of trafficking in stolen sigils. Your punishment will be exile to the savannah. Come now to the chamber of justice.” He unlocked he door and opened it. Sirry stepped back with a scared look in her eyes, “You’ve got the wrong person. This isn’t how its suppose to be… this isn’t, do you know who my father is?” The warden grabbed her roughly by the shoulder and pulled her out of the cell, “Your father is Vwert Irol, and he can’t help you now.” The warden shoved her into one of the guards. “Take her to the chamber.”
The warden closed the door and proceeded down to the only other occupied cell. “Reba Juorhal you have been tried and found guilty of trafficking in stolen sigils. Your punishment will be exile to the savannah. Please come now to the chamber of justice.” Reba opened her eyes and stood up. She took a step forwards. The warden opened the door, and she walked willingly down the hall. The warden smiled as he closed the cell door, “That is the way a Bantian accepts justice.”
The ritual of excommunication was rarely preformed. Troublemakers were hard to come by in these parts, and those who were caught often confessed. Not these two. One still confessed innocence while the other wouldn’t speak.
The room was filled with mist. A circle of mages ringed the room. The women were directed to stand in the center of the mages’ ring. The warden stood behind the mages.
”Sirry Irol & Reba Juorhal your sentence will now be carried out. May the angels show you mercy.”
The mists thickened and in that moment the women vanished.
[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Stage 2: Anger[/FONT]
“Why aren’t you ****** off?” Sirry yelled out. The two women had been traveling for some time in the hot savannah and neither was in good humor. “We weren’t doing anything worth exile. Perhaps a heavy fine, but not excommunication.”
Reba continued to ignore the woman next to her. But doing so was near impossible. “We broke the law, this is the price we have to pay.”
“Laws are meant to be broken.”
“Spoken like a person who shall never rise an angel.”
[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Stage 3: Bargaining [/FONT]
Sirry tore through the meager supplies the warden had given them to survive. Besides two short swords, which Sirry had snapped up right away they were only left with two blankets, some water and food.
“Oh what I wouldn’t give for a decent meal.” Sirry flipped the bag over, a flint and steel fell out. “nothing.”
“Be grateful that we have enough food for a few more days.” Reba said, nibbling on dried jerky. “The warden was kind enough to give us some extra food.”
Sirry took out a pice of jerky and sniffed it. “What kind of meat is this anyway?”
Reba took a bit and chewed it thoughtfully, “Rat I think.”
Sirry tossed down the jerky. “Okay, that’s it.”
She got to her knees and stared into the clouds. “If there are any angels out there, hear me. I’ll change my ways. I’ll donate more. I won’t be so rash. I won’t break the law. Just get me out of this grassy hell!”
“Is that how you solve your problems?” Reba picked up the discarded jerky, brushed it off, and placed it back into the bag. “You throw money at it. You make false promises. Trust me, there isn’t a way to pay or lie yourself out of this mess. We are on our own, and only we can get us out. Perhaps you should take this time to reflect upon the choices you have made.”
Sirry looked onwards, out over the horizon. She saw no angels coming, no savior in the distance. She was alone, she would have to save herself.
[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Stage 4: Depression[/FONT]
Reba carried a weight around her neck. A wining, crying weight that kept her back and slowed her down. Without her companion she would have been home already.
Sirry on the other hand, had just given up. She still walked, but her heart wasn’t in it. She would often collapse and was prone to fits of hysteria. Things were looking hopeless.
The duo were making more frequent stops, to Reba this was unacceptable. As they stopped next, Reba spoke up.
“We’ll run out of food before we get back to civilization. We are going to have to step up our pace.”
“I’m sorry that my pace is unacceptable for you. I’m not a cold mechanical she beast like you. I shouldn’t be here, I should be in my shop selling merchandise.”
Reba sat silent. Then she spoke. “I’ve broken the law many times. I’ve done horrible things. I’ve stolen, trespassed, stole state secrets, and murdered. I did all these without remorse, without regret.
I could do this because I did these things for my nation. Not for myself. This is the price I pay for my patriotism. This is the punishment I endure for doing my job. So if I seem cold and mechanical, its because I’ve accepted my fate.
But here’s the thing Sirry, you lied, stole, and cheated your way to a fortune. But you did that for yourself. Perhaps that is why you are so depressed. You’ve been justifying your actions for so long, and now you are forced to face the evils you have done.”
Sirry sat stone-faced, “Let’s get going.”
[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Stage 5: Acceptance[/FONT]
“The path to salvation is long and winding,” Reba had been quoting scripture and sayings for the past few hours. Sirry trailed behind sulking.
The flat, wide open country of the savannah had given way to rolling hills. They were getting closer to civilization.
“Only one who’s forsaken sins, will ever fly on gilded wings.” Reba turned a corner and was instantly sideswiped.
Before she could get up a mighty wild leotau was on top of her. The beast pinned her under its weight. It snapped and gnashed at her. She screamed and twisted trying to escape.
The beast bit down on Reba’s neck. She felt a great pressure, and went limp.
The pressure released, and the blood flowed back into her head. She opened her eyes. The leotau laid lifeless on the ground. A shimmering dagger imbedded in its forehead. Sirry breathed heavily. “Guess were having cat for dinner”.
The fire crackled as the two women ate their dinner. The sun had set and the stars shown down with the glory and magesty of a thousand points of light. The leotau meat was a bit gamey, but better then nothing. Sirry spoke up first.
“I’ve been things a lot about the mistakes I’ve made. I’ve relied on my money, my strengths, my connections. But I’ve never once relied on myself. Until today. It was me, I saved you. Not my money, and not my political power.
When I get home, the first thing I’m going to do is right all the people I’ve wronged.”
Reba smiled, “Well it seems like you’ve matured some.”
[FONT="Book Antiqua"]Stage 6: Moving on[/FONT]
The girls came across a well used path. They were destined to travel different directions. Sirry turned to Reba, “You never did tell me. Why did you stay during the raid? You could have escaped, you could have avoid being arrested.”
Reba looked wistfully into the sky, “Perhaps it is that I’ve sinned too much for one life. Perhaps I was seeking some sort of punishment. Some sort of balance.”
She started down the path towards her home country, “Good luck Sirry. I hope you find your wings one day.”
Sirry stood meekly, for the first time in her life she felt truly blessed to be alive, “Good luck Reba. May you find redemption.”
Day 5: There are some things that you hear once and it rings in your ears for the rest of your life. For me, that sound was the death throw of a godsire. Five days ago, a gargantuan had collapsed outside our territory. I as the village healer, was sent out to see if there was anything I could do for the noble giant.
Day 6: I have just laid eyes of the dying ancient. It’s perfect form hunched over. It has cleared a large swath of forest in its throws of pain, and it screams in pain almost constantly. I shall begin my examination of the Godsire.
Day 7: The Godsire has many wounds, wounds that are bleeding out at an alarming rate. It must have been fighting with the local Thoctar. I am adapting my healing magic to the size of the Godsire. I’ve taken to collecting bushels of herbs, and sowing together leaves into large patches. Hopefully, I’ll be able to stop the bleeding.
Day 12: My attempts to heal this majestic beast have failed. It’s still bleeding out. Today we caught each other eyes. In that moment I knew it was thanking me, but urging me to give up. It had accepted its fate. It was ready to die.
Day 13: Last night the most magical thing happened. The Godsire’s moans of pain had die down, and were replaced with howls. I got up and looked out into the twilight. Gathered around the fallen Godsire, like great oaks stood its herd. Each was a smaller replica of their fallen sire. The chorus of their howls rang through the forest, and echoed deep into my heart.
That morning, I woke to find the Godsire dead.
Day 15: I’m heading back home. But I know that I shall forever be changed. In time the godsire’s body will decompose, cover in soil, and transform into a fertile hill. But more than that, I don’t think I can go back to being just a healer of other elves. I understand now what the Godsire was telling me that day. It was long dead, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying.
I left town as a Cylia healer. I return as something better.
I return, a godtoucher.
Jund Nursery Rhyme by Skibo
A plant was just sitting, absorbing some light. When along came a rat and sat down in sight. The plant grabbed the rat with all of its might. And gobbled it down with not much of a fight.
Along came a goblin and sat himself down. And hungry he was saw the plant of the ground. He snatched up the plant as soon as it was found. And gobbled it down without even a sound.
Along came a human, the goblin was spot. The goblin ran, but soon it was caught. The human killed it quite easily, it barely fought. And gobbled it down without a second thought.
Along came a Vashino who saw only red, Who crept up on the human and bashed in his head. The lizard kept hitting until the human was dead, And gobbled him up, with exuberance he fed.
Along came a dragon, who dove from the sky. The Vashino was slick, but the dragon more sly. It snapped up the Vashino before it could cry. And gobbled it up, as the king of the sky.
The dragon was lazy, he had eaten his fill. So he rested his wings on top of a hill. The hilltop did rumble with lava it did over spill. The dragon burned and lied there quite still.
So no matter your strength, and no matter you will, There is no one in Jund, that Jund can not kill.
Screeches echoed down the flooded corridors below the streets of Eppra city. The metallic smell of rotting steel filled the stale air. Through the dank passages walked a mysterious figure. The figure carried a stern look on her face, and shuffled quickly along.
The corridor opened up into a large vaulted room. The remains of a basement of a mansion. The glorious mosaics stretching across the walls have long since crumbled with disrepair. Water flooded the room turning it into a still pool. The flooded hallways snaked out from this room like canals. The woman conjured up an orb of brilliant blue energy, and cast it out into the middle of the room. She took a seat on the cold metal floor and waited, bathed in the cool blue light.
[indent]Seven years ago, the Lady of scrap screamed as she threw down her mirror. The mirror shattered into thousands of pieces. She was the richest woman in the city and yet she couldn’t buy youth.
When she looked into a mirror, she saw only wrinkles.
Time was not kind to her. And she was running out of mirrors. [/indent]
A small light flared up down one of the flooded passageways. It crept closer to the chamber. The woman stood up, and stopped focusing on the blue beacon. The beacon faded just as the Sculler came into view. The Sculler had long since passed from the world. It’s stiff joints and corroding muscles dug the pole in its hands into the water and propelled its tiny boat forward. The boat was just as corroded as its master. Barely big enough for the sculler and its lantern. Perched on one end of the boat sat a Strix. The owl like creature was cleaning itself.
The boat coasted to a stop on the shore bank. The lady of scrap approached. Close up the Sculler looked like something out of a nightmare. It’s face had long since rotted away, leaving a shattered skull, and bits of jagged metal. The sculler extended its ragged arm to collect its fare. It touched the lady’s forehead.
She didn’t flinch, or resist. The fare of the scullers was well known. The lady focused on a spell. It was a less efficient version of another spell she knew. She wouldn’t miss it. The knowledge of the ritual, the components, the words, all slipped from her mind. What remained was a cold feeling. After it had taken the spell, the sculler shifted towards the back of the boat to allow the lady to get on.
“Take me to the burial chamber.”
The sculler moaned, the strix screeched, and the boat drifted forwards.
[indent]The tiny homunculi worked round the clock to polish and buff. There work was tireless and thankless. Every inch of the great palace was spotless and pristine, reflecting the greatness of its occupant. The lady of scrap walked past the tiny workers, not even acknowledging their existence. On any other day she might have stopped and guessed the amount of etherium contained in each. Today was not the day for idle thoughts.
There was talk about town that the lady of scrap had made a deal with the sphinx Sharuum. Every day for the past seven years she went to the sphinx’s palace and presented her with a riddle. Today was the seventh anniversary of that agreement.
Sharuum’s chamber was filled with admiring veldaken and human attendants. Sharuum lay around, sipping from her large cup of wine and popping fresh fruit into her mouth. The crowd of attendants took note as the lady of scrap entered the room. Sharuum sat up to take notice. The lady of scrap licked her lips and began.
“What rises without legs, whispers without a voice, bites without teeth, and dies without having life?”
There was silence in the room. Then Sharuum chuckled. Her bellow echoed around the room. She wiped a tear from her eye, “The Sovereign’s favorite.” She looked left then right. “Attendants, leave.” The attendants moaned and grumbled as they shuffled out of the room.
Sharuum then turned her attention to the lady. “Seven years ago we made a deal. You feed me a different riddle every day for seven years, and I would tell you where it is that you seek.” The Sphinxes eyes glowed and she spoke with a disturbing voice.
“In the silent city where the scrappers dare not tread, waits the tomb of the ancients, in the chamber of the dead, Under the casket cover, untouched by time and tide, Lies a box of gold, your prize awaits inside.”[/indent]
In the center of the burial chamber stood a mound of soil. A marble statue of a veldaken stood poised. It’s robes and posture suggested a mage of some power. That was a good sign. The Lady jumped from the boat as soon as it grounded and ran up to the top of the hill. As the sphinx had spoken, at the feet of the statue was an old wooden casket top. She threw open the side. Before her was a granite grave, a veldaken skeleton laid still clothed. It’s body glistened with talismans and jewelry. At its feet laid a golden box.
The lady of scrap snatched up the box and pulled it open.
The sculler waited for several days before pushing off the shore and leaving. It had work to do and couldn’t waste anymore time.
Atop the hill the lady of scrap sat in a stupor. She caressed her face slowly peering at the curious mirror she found in the box.
In her reflection she found no wrinkles. In her reflection she found no blemishes.
She could spend an eternity just staring into that mirror. And for all she cared, she would.
Though she could not see the source, Taylana heard the slow, meticulous dripping echoing of some unknown liquid through the large open cathedral. Despite all that she had been through, she always said she was blessed by Gorael for the etherium enhancements made to her ears. She didn’t care that the majority of her body had been transformed as well, but without the adjustments to her ears, Taylana would have probably died many years ago. As she told countless other Agents, it was better to hear an enemy and know when to sneak off, then to have to think you were stronger than him and fight. She crept through the shadows, leaping from one pool of darkness to another. Her body was camouflaged well to the surroundings, and she wondered if it was Gorael’s blessing that allowed this new world to be so easy for her to manipulate. She had seen others who had not adjusted so well. Pausing once again, she looked up at the large, domed ceiling and felt like she was inside the belly of a large creature, like the leviathans that some had claimed to have seen. Perhaps this had once been a glorious cathedral, but now the building was nothing more than a shelter from the random lightning that would occasionally snake across the sky. The walls were covered in a dark black mold, and when Taylana had first crept into the cathedral, she had noticed how it smelled like decay. She was thankful that she was able to turn off her sense of smell before continuing on. The sound of the dripping seemed to be growing louder, and Taylana scanned the rafters above her for the sound. Perhaps it wasn’t an important detail, but one never knew when something would be of importance in the future. Her eyes zoomed in and out as she focused on the mold on the walls. Depending on the sources of light, her eyes would adjust to and from night vision in an involuntary motion. It only took her a moment to find what it was: a small, furry corpse of a creature never seen in Esper. It looked almost rodent-like, with its head twisted off its spine and only hanging by a small flap of skin. It was hanging upside down by the ankles (there seemed to be some crude metal spikes keeping it hanging against the wall), and the blood seemed to be flowing out of its neck ever so slowly. Taylana tilter her head like a confused animal, studying the dead creature, before waving her hand in a satirical blessing and moving on. She moved out of the open entryway of the cathedral into a long narrow corridor. She switched on her scent glands and noted that the amount of decay here was stronger than in the entryway. Off in the distance, she could hear something shuffling around, as if it was moving slowly, whatever it was doing. Unsheathing her dagger from her back, she pushed it gently into the wall and climbed up, her legs and arms pushing against both sides of the narrow corridor, allowing her to scuttle across the ceiling as need be. It was even darker as she moved through the corridor, but it matter little thanks to her night vision. The corridor twisted and turn, like an ancient serpent, yet the slow shuffling seemed to grow louder and louder. She finally came to an open room, with a ceiling much higher than the corridor had been. She dropped to the floor in a silent fall, and after brushing her thick black hair out of her face, she looked up to see the source of the shuffling. It was a large, bloated zombie hybrid. It was composed of numerous parts from other organisms. She noted about thirteen different creatures assembled into one. The creature was so large it could only shuffle slowly around in the darkness. It made long, drawn out sniffs, which Taylana deduced had to do with scent, since the creature had no eyes. Her master had given her warning as to why he had hired her for this job. “The creatures in this new world seem to thrive off the living. You of all the Agents have repressed that scent well.” Gorael’s favor upon her, she darted from the corridor entryway past the hybrid, into the next room, a small chamber containing a scepter the size of her forearm upon it. The scepter twisted, much like the etherium that made up her arms and legs. It had been stolen in a skirmish a few weeks back. It was now hers to return. Her eyes scanned for magical wards, and, after finding none, gently lifted the scepter from the floor. A rush of knowledge took her mind, and she heard a voice that was not hers inside her head. Run. No sooner than she had turned and started moving, the chamber floor began rumbling, and numerous remains surfaced, covered in an unholy, dark fire. Switching on her scent glands, Taylana sprinted, knowing her dagger would be of no avail, and that only her wits and enhanced senses could save her. The air smelled like smoldering flesh. The hybrid creature roared at her as she ran past it, and Taylana realized that the burning bodies must have somehow alerted the creature to her presence. She nimbly somersaulted between the massive legs of the creature, and found herself in the narrow corridor which she had originally navigated. The mold seemed to be moving against her, trying to suffocate her and hold her for the captors that pursued her. She slashed at the darkness encompassing her, clearing her way until she found her way into the open entrance of the rotted cathedral. Still clutching the scepter in her hand, she ran out past the entryway, the open sky erupting in a burst of violet electricity. She held the scepter aloft as she had been instructed to do, and in a quick moment she saw him, the vedalken knight atop an enormous gargoyle flying towards her. She felt a small wave of disgust that they would send a vedalken, especially since they knew of her appreciation of Gorael and his beliefs. The smell of charred flesh reached her nostrils, and she turned to see the flaming remains exiting from the corridor. Taylana sprinted towards the gargoyle as it swooped lower, until it was low enough that she could leap onto its back. The vedalken turned his mount around, and they flew away from the dead place, back into the calm skies of Esper.
Tidehollow was a familiar haunt to Taylana, though she was uncertain if it was such a place for somebody as honorable as the messenger. He was cloaked and hooded so that it was impossible to see his face. “You have done well Disciple of Gorael,” the hooded figure whispered. “Thank you Lord,” Taylana replied. “I have returned with the Scepter.” She held out the object to her contractor, who took it and exchanged it with a large sack of currency. “I will tell Voln what you have done. He sends his thanks.” The hooded figure turned and walked away, back to the sculler who would take him back to the upper cities. Taylana weighed the sack of currency in her hand. Times were changing, but business was good.
Siege by Mercer
Marix realized she was going into shock when she kept trying to connect the mana tuners with her missing hand. She had, by her estimation, spent four minutes trying to manipulate an appendage that no longer existed... not growing more frustrated by the inability of trying to make the connection, merely maintaining a dull sense that it had to get connected. This isn't working, she thought slowly, as though her thoughts were made of mud. She focused her thoughts enough to remember an intelligence-boosting spell... the effects while mentally impaired could be dangerous, yes, but it was the only thing she could do. Psychological impairment was no an option at the moment. Her thoughts smoothed out, her faculties returned to her. Her mental processes once again flowed easily. She looked at the clock (a sheet of magically-resonant crystal that could tell time even through chronal distortions in the lab) and cursed. She'd been uselessly waving her etherium stump and casting the cognition spell for almost ten minutes. She blew strands of her long, black hair out of her face and turned back to the machine. Still unaccustomed to the razor-edged wrist where her left hand used to be, she was clumsy as she connected the sapphire-tipped wire to the intricate artifact. "Are you almost done?" a nearly mechanical voice said behind her. As she turned the appropriate dial and mentally recited the proper incantation to start the machine, she replied, "Done." The vedalken raised her eyes in shock as Marix turned around. "What happened to your hand?" "One of those... things got a hold of me. Something very big and very, very dead." She walked past Iritha with purpose towards the entrance of the lab. "Deader now, I suppose. Is everyone else upstairs?" "Everyone who's still alive. I mean... you know what I mean," Iritha replied, their filigree footsteps creating a hollow but musical echo across the floor. "We've sealed off everything above this" Iritha was interrupted by a blur of something moving out from behind one of the numerous pipes and pylons in the hallway and slamming into the vedalken with enough force to shake the floor. They got to the lab already? thought Marix, spinning around to face the threat. The monster was bigger than either of them, a pastiche of dead, necrotic flesh held together by fused bone. All claws and entangled limbs, it overpowered Iritha and started spewing a green venom from what might have been a face. Iritha, never one to display emotion, was clearly restisting the urge to scream as the agent began eating into her face and etherium. Marix spoke a quick incantation and traced the appropriate sigils in the air. As she finished, parts of the wall itself leapt to remove the horror from the vedalken and pull it into a metallic embrace. "Are you okay?" asked the human, helping her wounded friend to her feet. "No... that... creature attacked me with some sort of biological agent. I believe I will succumb before long. No matter. We don't have much time." "How long before the fifth wind dies down?" "Approximately twenty minutes." "Eighth wind?" "Won't rise for another three days." "Even if we get to the central hall in the next twenty minutes, will this work? Teleportation's never been my strong suit, certainly not with half the tower coming along..." "It will have to. The seals on the doors will not stop the dead flesh of these creatures for long." The two longtime rivals and suddenly necessary teammates cast a ward spell on the lab door (using the last of Iritha's personal supply of mana), and then they began to run. Down one hall, turn and down the next. As they went, the sigils on the mana conductors strung through the entire facility began to brighten and hum. Down the next corridor, and into the entrance of the floor's main foyer, a grand vision of polished metal and architectural beauty. Marix's heart sank. Dozens of enemies stood in the foyer, most of them freshly killed academy students. The undead uniformly turned to look at them, their eyes hungry with the anticipation of a fresh meal. Marix slammed the door, trying not to shout even as panic began to set in, "No good. South corridor." "I just came from ther--Ah!" Iritha started as dozens of hungry hands slammed on and scraped against the closed door. The two women turned and ran. "South corridor's completely jammed with them. I suspect the only way to the central hall now is through the tenth floor." "Everything below this floor is completely infested, Iritha!" "Do you have a better idea?" There was a long pause before Marix answered.
Marix was shocked when the headless form of the head artificer began trying to claw at her. The woman pierced the heart of the fat corpse with the torn etherium of her left arm. He was bigger than she was, but it allowed her to pin him against the wall for a few precious seconds. "Iritha, grab the scroll!" She found the scroll she was looking for, an unspeakably ancient piece of parchment pulled from a tower that had appeared in the ocean as mysteriously as these monsters had appeared in the town. As Marix shoved the former artificer off of her arm with a solid kick, the vedalken spared a moment to look at the human. "I still fail to see the point of this." "Hunches and intuition have always failed you," Marix shot back as the pair escaped from the office, the headless body trying to find its way to them. "The Tower Scrolls talk about forms of magic that interact with other forms of magic." "Neither of which exist, I would remind you." Iritha's pace slowed as the infection of flesh and etherium began to reach her joints. "They might. The Vectis searchers found that scroll weeks ago, and it talks about these monsters." Marix paused to muscle open the hallway door in front of them. She could hear the scrabbling of dozens of etherium limbs, their tuneless echoes reverberating through the hall. And approaching. "It speaks of how to destroy them, correct? I still fail to see what good it would do us. The scroll requires a color of mana that does not exist." "It speaks of biomana as a contrast to necromana. We're throat-deep in necromana right now. And if it predicted this form of black magic, I'm willing to bet the biomana exists too." Marix took Iritha's arm and picked up speed as she approached Storeroom E. "None of that matters if we can't utilize it." "You don't remember the sphere?" The scraping grew louder. "Oh, yes. The sphere. We thought Marmic's calculations were fundamentally flawed, but perhaps they were prescient." "Exactly. I hope the thing works." "It never drew the appropriate forms of mana before it spent decades in stor... age..." The conversation ended. In the center of the hall stood the door to Storeroom E, where it had been home to Marmic's sphere for nearly thirty years. On the opposite end of the hallway, a horde of former students and researchers, many of which were barely holding together from the wounds that killed them, rushed toward them with hands outstretched. "Go. I'll hold them off." Marix nodded stoicly. The two vitals began running; Iritha towards the horde and Marix towards the door. Iritha, even slowed by the infection, began drawing power from the mana conductors to cast one final spell. Marix got to the door and managed to get inside, even as her dead cousin, showing none of her former humanity, barely missed hitting her in the face with a wild grab. She slammed the door shut and uttered the command word that shut the locks. Please let me have the time. Please. There are so many people I can still save. Marix found the sphere, covered in a semimetallic fabric. She tossed the covering aside. The machine was still intact. She looked for the sigils she needed to infuse with mana as she considered what she had just done. She mentally asked--somebody? nobody?--for help. She wondered where she'd gotten the idea for that. She found the inscription at the base and infused it with blue mana. Five glowing globes on the multi-ringed sphere ignited into five different colors. Each sat upon a seperate steel ring that began to rotate, each going in a different direction and each beginning to spin. The sounds of battle died down outside, punctuated by a heartbreaking female scream. Marix didn't let herself become distracted. Drawing mana from the conductors out in the hall, Marix focused it into the emerald globe. The silence was broken by the sound of something slamming the door, the metal buckling under the impact. Marix studied the scroll under the light of the device. Another impact. A thousand little scrapes emanated from the door, dead wizards and artificers turning their attention to the living still inside. She concentrated, mentally preparing the incantation. Another impact, the door straining under dozens of walking corpses. She felt an entirely new sensation of energy take root in her heart. The door broke open as she began speaking the words.
The two pupils of Rakka Mar, were already worn out, and they hadn’t even reached their destination. They were muscle-bound warriors, one garnished a sword, and the other an axe. Battle scars covered their bodies, they had seen a lot of fights, they had survived a lot of enemies, they had escaped many battles alive. It is no surprise that Rakka had chosen these two to go on such an important journey. The lands they would need to cross require the toughest men the world has to offer.
The warriors made their way through the twisting, scorching, lava infested, blistering lands. They journeyed deeper and deeper into the mountains, being careful to avoid detection by the dragons circling above in the distance. They had a run into a few Thrinax’s in their journey, but the beasts were no match for the two combined, and were quickly disposed of. Finally, they arrived at their destination, a cave. It was prominent that this was the cave, by the mana flow that seemed to resonate within the entrance.
Their instructions from Rakka were simple: “Investigate the cave in the mountains. It may contain a power source we can harvest. It could be used in weapons, armor. My master demands it.” The Warriors questioned whether or not Rakka had a master, they had never seen or heard from him themselves, but they never questioned what would happen if they did not obey. Old women can be very dangerous when angered.
The warriors ventured inside the cave. It was a dark, dank cave. Roots from the trees dangled in the cave. They seemed to grow more near caves in Jund, but especially more in this cave for some reason. It was obvious that this cave had been untouched by a living being for some time. There were no footprints in the dirt, no rank smell of some dead meal from a beast, no strange noises. The warriors seemed relieved a little, this was a lot easier than they thought it would be. The deeper the two went, the more the mana seemed to resonate, they could feel it within themselves. It was strange tingling sensation, one they couldn’t get a grip of. Was it a dangerous, or a pleasurable feeling? The flow was getting stronger, mana was abundant here. And now, it was making a noise, a soft humming at first, but it had now become a loud hum.
The warriors followed the sound, through the gloom, until at last they came to a large room. In the center of the room was a large red ball, with long tentacles stretching to all the surrounding walls of the room. The warriors were baffled. One started to circle the liquid looking thing, while the other stood still and simply observed. Their skins were tingling and hairs standing on end from the mana that seemed to echo around them, the hum was so loud, like sticking ones head in a hornets nest. The roots in roof seemed to be drawn towards the red thing, like a flower to sunlight. And the small tar puddles that littered the room seemed to swirl in its direction.
The warriors gathered that this red thing was the absorbing the mana from it surroundings into itself, perhaps through its tentacle looking things. It seemed to be gaining strength, perhaps their presence had triggered it to become more active, but it seemed to be wiggling and fidgeting more. That ruled out the possibility of it being a stone or rock. It must be a living thing, as it was moving. It began to grow. Slowly but surely, it was growing. The tar pits were now bubbling, and the roots in the wall swaying, though no breeze was present. The red….thing…ooze maybe, was becoming more and more active. Its tentacles started to retract from the wall. The warriors were fascinated by it, yet at the same time feared it a little. If not for the numbing sensation they were experiencing, they may have even reached for their weapons. No matter, the ooze was doing it for them. All of the sudden, the tentacles from the ooze thrashed about, and reached for the two warriors. The warriors were too dazed to even react, as soon as they realized what was going on, it was too late. This time, they would not survive, they would not escape.
The battle was over before it began. This was the worse way to die for a warrior. To not even be allowed to raise a weapon to fight with is unthinkable. Survival of the fittest indeed, and on this day, the warriors were not the fittest. They were outdone by an ooze. At least they would not have to face a woman’s scorn.
Fates entwined by Skibo the first
Fire blazed to life inside the cramped space. Venndi screamed. She almost lost concentration on her protection spell. Without it, the massive weight that surrounded her would crush in.
Besides Venndi, the protective bubble was also occupied by a ragged man named Jourak. The odd man with braids in his hair held the fire in his hand.
“Only agents of Malfegor can produce fire so readily,” Venndi said shaking, “And only his agents could hold it in their hands.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just on a life hunt when my tribe ran into yours. If you would prefer I’ll extinguish my flame.”
“No…” Venndi rubbed her sigil, and kept her other hand on her dagger. “I need the light to concentrate.” She shifted back to the edge of the protective bubble. “Just stay on your side.”
Jourak poked at the edges of the bubble. The barrier flashed white when he prodded it. “What manner of sorcery is this?”
“It’s a simple protective spell. It’s meant to catch arrows, but it seems to be holding up fine here. Hopefully it will hold out until my comrades can get me out of here.” She ran her hands along her dagger.
Jourak smirked, “Your tribe is probably crushed dead, just like were going to be.”
“They’re not my tribe”, Venndi retorted “They’re my army. And they’ll get me out.”
Time passed. The bubble was stifling with the heat created by the fire. Jourak shook his waterskin, it was empty. Venndi pulled a red fruit from her pack and threw it to Jourak. “I want you to know, I don’t intend to die here. And your fire is helping me keep us alive.”
Jourak looked over the fruit. “Sure, we can’t live civilly, but we can die civilly.”
Jourak ate the fruit in a few bites.
“Are you human,” Venndi looked over Jourak, “Or are you some sort of demon?”
‘I’m as human as you.” Jourak ran his callous fingers through the flames. He showed his unburned fingers,” I’ve just been survived worse.”
Venndi examined the fire from a distance, “How can it burn without fuel?”
Jourak clenched his fists squeezing the fire out from either side. “It’s simple survival magic… any child can do it.” Jourak smirked.
“Simple!” Venndi said, “I’ve been in hundreds of battles, and I’ve never seen magic like this.”
Jourak shifted uncomfortably in his corner, “I’d say its fair turnabout. This magic is something I’ve never seen.”
Venndi explained, “I’ve trained long and hard to perfect it. Arrows and blades can’t pierce it.”
Jourak slunk back into a sleeping position, “That’s the difference I guess. Where I’m from, if faced with arrows you just take the hit and cut down the archer before he can reload.”
The sun must have set because Jourak had fallen asleep. The Sigil Venndi wore kept her from feeling tried or hungry. Venndi lit a torch and for the first time, since this whole ordeal began, she felt relaxed. The unfamiliar magic had ceased, and she was alone with her thoughts.
She rubbed the handle of her dagger. Jourak was a tough man. He was a born fighter. But Venndi was sure she could slit his throat before he could react. She checked her torches. She had three left. Each would burn for eight hours. Together they would give her over a day of light. If her men couldn’t get her out by then… they weren’t going to at all.
The solider of Bant pulled her dagger out of its sheath. One quick motion, and he would be dead. She shifted it in her hand. He’d barely feel it, she told herself…
Why do I care if he’d feel it or not.
She lowered her dagger, and sheathed the blade. Despite his crude remarks, besides his odd ways, he was her friend. He was someone to talk to. And she knew she’d regret killing him. She sat down in her area, and concentrated on her spell.
Just waiting for him to wake up.
Days pass. The two lost adventures talk of their lives. Growing up on the ridges of Jund, and attending balls in the gardens of Bant. Every time Jourak would go to sleep, Venndi would light another torch.
Her last torch flickered as Jourak woke. His face showed distress. His eyes were sunken in. Black ringed his eyes. His face was haggard. Jourak conjured fire in his hands. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” Jourak sighed, “This spell is designed to light fires, it’s not meant to be used for a long time.”
The bubble began to fill with smoke, as the fire died slowly.
Jourak’s eyes fluttered and he keeled over. He moaned. Venndi moved closer to the man and put her hand on his shoulder. “Jourak are you okay?”
Venndi began to cough uncontrollably.
The smoke obscured all sight. The fire finally died.
The protective bubble rippled then collapsed.
Deep within the Naya jungle a Thornling paused. [indent]It coughed up a cloud of smoke, then continued on its way. [/indent]
At last, Kresh reached the highest most point of the Great Volcano.
No being in his sane mind, may it be Goblin or Human, would normally dare climb the Great Volcano. Even the greatest of dragons only fly past, avoiding roosting on it. This is where one of the greatest forces of Jund lay dormant, awakened only if they were disturbed.
The trip here alone took over seven hours, over three of which were spent climbing the Volcano and another two hiding in a tiny cave from a persistent Hellkite that wanted Kresh as an appetiser.
If he could avoid it, he wouldn’t want to climb the Volcano either. However, his clan numbers dwindle by the night by creeping horrors and zombies from that cursed piece of land. Although using fire could efficiently burn off a great number of them, but their numbers seem to keep replenishing every day, to the point that the Clan had to burn off the corpses of dead members to save them from being turned to such a horrible abomination. Such undeath was an insult to the natural food chain as well as the natural life cycle, and must be removed from the ecosystem as fast as possible.
Kresh knew something had to be done. Dragons, being the masters of this realm, would never listen to the words of something only worthy as an appetiser, and a great number of them have moved to the other side of Jund, where he heard rumours that there were meaty gigantic beasts and couldn’t blame the dragons for migrating over there. He had only one option left, and it is to disturb the slumber of the forces of Jund itself. He was well aware that this expedition would likely be a life-costing one, but to restore Jund’s balance, that death would be a glorious one, even much so as hunting down a hellkite hatchling single-handedly.
Now that he was at the top of the Great Volcano, he had to be doubly cautious, as he had no idea how these forces of nature look like at all. Taking out his sword, he cautiously stepped on the uneven, rocky surface of the peak, being prepared for anything that might just burst out of the lava.
After around forty minutes of cautious stepping about, Kresh began to wonder if these forces were ignoring him, have left the volcano or didn’t even exist in the first place. He took another step.
The ground moved.
Sensing danger, Kresh immediately jumped nearly five steps’ distance back. The ground he was standing on less than a second ago slashed upwards, slicing of the front half of Kresh’s sword cleanly.
Kresh could only stare with awe and he watched as what he thought was the ground rose quickly in front of him. He immediately had positioned his sword in a defensive position and panicked when he saw that what remained of his sword was the bottom half of it.
Kresh could only stare at the now awakened elemental, which was emerging fully from the lava. The elemental stood in the lava, its indistinguishable face looking down at Kresh. It moved nearer and looked like it was smelling the scent of Kresh. Kresh hoped it could smell the rotting stench of the hordes of undead he cleared the previous night and perhaps even understand what Kresh had came for.
With no hint of any emotion or warning, the elemental slashed Kresh across his body diagonally.
Kresh dropped his sword and fell to his knees. His chest and arms were bleeding profusely. ‘Is this the end?’ he thought ‘that not only have I died here, but failed to convince the forces to aid Jund to restore its balance?’ True panic ran across his mind as he thought of the days ahead for his clan and for Jund. He panicked over the unnatural death of Jund itself.
Painfully tilting his head, he saw the elemental had doused the arm it used to slash Kresh into the lava. The same arm rose slowly from the lava and over Kresh. Kresh had collapsed from the ground from fatigue and his heavy injuries, facing the sharp arm of the elemental.
A drop of lava fell from the edge of its arm on Kresh.
Kresh felt the burning sensation through his injury and body. He screamed in true scorching pain. However, after a while, both the burning sensation and pain subsided. Kresh looked at his slashed chest. What remained was a black scar that looked as rough as the edges of the elemental.
Kresh immediately got up and looked up. The elemental was gone, leaving a pool of lava where it was. Turning around, he saw the elemental cruising through the lava and realised that the elemental was almost two times larger than it was when it was first awakened. The elemental proceeded to the edge of the peak, used it arms to slash and break some rocks and lava flowed down the volcano, with it cruising along with it, in the direction of the undead frontier.
Kresh felt a glimmer of hope at last. The elemental could understand what he was here for. The price he paid for it was heavy but worth the cost. Slowly he proceeded to descend the Great Volcano. He was too injured to search for another powerful ally like this, with convincing the first nearly costing his life.
As he descended the Volcano, he saw that the elemental was cruising across the savage lands and seemed to be even larger now, and saw a group of thirty goblins splitting up and fleeing for their lives. He understood the elemental’s source of power.
“Born of volcanic forces, it thrives on the absolute panic it inspires.” Kresh whispered to himself.
‘Now those abominations will learn to panic and fear’ he thought.
‘Not even they stand a chance against a world which would fight for it own survival.’
Sheep's Clothing by Heyra666
Author's Note: To clear up some possible confusion, this story takes place at a point in time where Nicol Bolas's machinations had brought about the beginnings of Bant's fall, through violent warfare replacing the duels seen in SoA.
The old priest was cleaning the doorstep of the temple when the man in blue dismounted his horse. He squinted a bit to see past the glaring sun, and a smile lit his face when he recognized his guest. “Gwafa Hazid, as I live and breathe! Old friend, it’s been too long,” he called out jovially.
The young man smiled and called back, “I was heading through to Jhess Keep when I spotted the temple. I thought I’d drop in around noonday for a bit of lunch,” said the man, with a quieter smile than his friend. “What do you say?”
“I say come in! We haven’t talked in ages.” As the two men walked through the golden gilded doors to the waiting feast, Hazid turned and tossed a rather large coin to the squire and winked playfully. The squire fumbled the coin, letting it land amid the arid dust that clouded the road. The boy scrabbled in the dirt for his payment, stammering his thanks and assuring the blue-clad noble that his horse would be well taken care of.
* * *
“So what have you been up to since you graduated from my tutelage, you young rascal?” asked the priest, tearing into a glistening piece of meat with his knife.
“Well I’m certainly well off, if that’s what you mean.”
“I gathered that from the feast your chef provided. So there’s no chance to lure you back to the priestly life, then?”
Hazid gave a little chuckle. “I’m afraid not. Say, have you thought about bringing on an apprentice to take over after you’re gone? You are getting a bit on in years, after all.”
“Funny you should bring that up,” said the priest, in between bites. “Jon, come here for a minute and meet an old friend of mine.” A young boy approached, dressed in the garb of a novice. As he entered the room, he made no effort to conceal his amazement at Hazid’s finery, a sharp contrast to his own plain white robe. Hazid took no time dancing around the issue.
“You have a good eye for silks, Jon. Perhaps you’d like some of your own?” The boy’s eyes widened quickly.
“Now, now, you know that luxuries are forbidden to us,” said the old man quickly, clearly ill-at-ease with the direction the conversation was going. “Jon, why don’t you run along and practice your rites?” The boy nodded absently, backing out of the room while darting furtive glances at the stranger’s clothing. When his footsteps faded from hearing, the priest turned back to Hazid, a slight frown on his face. “Alright, no more beating around the bush. What exactly are you playing at?”
Hazid looked shocked. “Why, you offend me. Can’t I just drop by and see an old friend every now and then.” His look of surprise was quickly replaced by a sly smile. “Of course, now that you mention it, I do have something I’d like to talk to you about.”
The old priest chuckled a bit. “It was always like this with you. What is it this time?”
“Now, now.” Hazid’s grin was plain in his voice. “A simple proposal, all in good time. First let me ask you something. Take a look around you. What do you see?”
The priest gave Hazid a questioning look. “I see a holy place.”
“Exactly. But doesn’t a holy place deserve more than a leaky roof and patched up walls? Doesn’t a holy place deserve more than a single priest and a single apprentice. Shouldn’t it be a noble establishment, one to be the envy of all the temples nearby?”
A small frown formed on the priest’s face. “Watch your words, old friend. The angels frown on pride. But I will admit that the place could use some help. We aren’t bringing in the number of worshippers we need anymore. I had to travel to five towns until I found a couple willing to give me their son as an apprentice. The war is taking its toll on the faith of the people.” The old man buried his head in his hands. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do,” he murmured.
Hazid put a hand on his friend’s shoulders. “I can help you.”
The other man turned towards him. “No. No charity from you. I couldn’t live with myself.”
“This wouldn’t be charity. You’d be doing something for me, as well.”
The priest raised an eyebrow. “And what might that be?”
“The war is affecting us all, including the higher-ups in Jhess. Right now, they need to win the hearts and minds of the populace. They need dedicated soldiers, willing to fight to their last breath. But the people are suspicious these days. They speak of corruption and bribery within the government. They need someone to reassure them, someone with the trust of the angels.”
“You’re asking me to spread propaganda? To preach war?” asked the priest, an bit of anger creeping into his eyes.
Hazid put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Don’t you want to help spread the glory of Jhess? And don’t forget that the money you’ll receive will allow you to build a temple truly worthy of the angels’ greatness. The populace will be happy, the angels will be happy, and you’ll be happy. Everyone wins.”
The priest did nothing but stare at him for a short while, a tired look on his face. Then he turned away from Hazid and walked wearily to the door. “I need to think about this,” he muttered. “Wait for me here, please.”
* * *
The priest’s face was a steel mask when he returned to the small kitchen. Hazid was sitting by the table chatting idly to Jon, tousling his hair every now and then. Hazid turned to him, gently shooing the young student out of the way. “Your answer?” he asked. “No. You’ve changed, Gwafa changed for the worse. You ask me to send young men to die. The angels do not wish for wars of this kind, struggles between petty orders, a shade of the noble battles of dignity we waged in the past. And yet you speak of this as if it was something to be proud of. I will not spit on Asha’s teachings for the sake of glory or wealth. Now I’m afraid I have to ask you to leave this temple.”
Hazid pulled himself up with a sigh and a shake of the head. “I wish you had chosen differently.” The priest suddenly felt an explosion of pain behind his eyes, followed by a sudden dizziness and a warm wetness dripping down the back of his neck. But before he could recover, another blow was struck, and another, forcing the priest down to his knees. And as he lay on the ground, unable to speak or move, Hazid looked down at him and said, “Most everyone has a price, old friend. Holy men are no exception.” Then the priest’s skull was caved in with a sickening crunch.
The young apprentice dropped the bloodstained stone on the dusty floor, eyes wide. Hazid strolled over to him and placed a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Now Jon, let’s have a talk about your new temple.”
Asha, why don’t you come back? The world needs you. I cannot recognize it anymore; everything is changing, but why? Why are we brutalized by this phenomenon?
The world is changing. The very air is different. It’s getting hotter here. They say it’s getting colder in the North. There are rumors of thick jungles sprouting in the South, and strange clouds gathering in the North. The sages say they come from the other worlds. We are crushed between them. While we are yet to see what the strange clouds will bring us, the jungles have given birth to horrible creatures, monstrosities. Their simple enormity challenges all of nature’s laws. And they have no purpose, except to destroy, destroy and destroy. None of us are powerful enough to control them. Even our supreme beings are powerless against them… But they have to be maintained. Already, fourteen cities have fallen. All crushed onto the ground.
For now, we can only fight for whatever hope is left. We pray to the angels every day for keeping the beasts away. But they cannot be contained. And one day, it finally happened, one of the beasts found its way here –my home. It was the most colossal creature I ever saw. It seemed so alien here, too tall for the sky, too heavy for the ground, too big for this world. It was an aberration of nature. It had so many heads, so many long necks that looked like huge snakes. And its body was like a mountain, hidden inside a cloud of dust, perpetually lifted from the soil by the monster’s gigantic feet. It attacked the castle, without reason, eating rock and marble. We were waiting on a nearby cliff, looking at the horrible destruction. We were so many, but so small. And we charged the beast. We were fools to think it could be defeated. Its heads snapped and ate everything; soldiers, rhinos, leotaus, even angels. The angels, the sacred beings, the great ones, those who are the protectors of this world, had no meaning for such primitive bestiality. Their teeth chewed on them, as if they were merely… food.
And after an hour, the creature lost a head, and we lost a thousand souls into its stomach. How can a world resist such a thing? I realized that our time here was done. Humans and rhinos could no longer live here. The time of the beasts has come.
I kneeled before it, the new angel of this new world, begging it to destroy me. Bant has fallen, at last. And I will embrace my death, so I may not see what horror my ancient land will become.
The Brothers Six by Skibo
Many months ago a large mansion rose out of the ground outside the sleepy town of Desh. Each night the townfolk disappeared. The town was in fear of the mansion’s occupants.
The town was gathered in the city center discussing their problem when a young farmer’s son came into town with a cartful of produce. The boy had hair as black as a raven’s feather. So those in the town called him raven.
“What’s going on,” Raven spoke. The townsfolk wasted no time in telling him the odd doings. “I’ll save the town,” the young man said, filled with the foolishness of youth.
The boy packed up his things, and left town. The mansion was a day’s walk from the town, and he would sleep on the road. When the sun set, he built a fire off the side of the road.
Along the road came an old man, he came off the road and approached Raven. “Hello young fellow might a traveler rest his feet near your fire.” Raven was more than happy to have the company, and even though his supplies were meager he shared them with the old man. The old man smiled, “You are very generous young man to share your fire and food and drink.” He reached into his pack and pulled out a bag. “For you, I give this bag.” The bag was worn and empty. Raven picked it up and looked it over. “Your very kind old man to spare with your bag, but I don’t have much use of it where I’m going.”
The old man chuckled. “That’s a magic bag. It can hold anything you put in it and will never get larger or heavier. Turn it over.”
The youth turned the bag over and several items fell out. A box, a stone, and a decanter. “The bag has four pockets, each can hold infinite supplies. That box, when opened gives off a terrible shriek, that stone, when you tell it to fly becomes a bird, and that decanter contains water, that can be poured out endlessly.”
Raven packed up the items, and looked up. The old man was gone.
Raven reached the mansion at dusk.
Raven entered the mansion quietly. He didn’t want to get eaten.
The room was covered in a thick layer of dust. The door was on the other end of the room. A large statue was leaning against it. The statue was grotesque, horrible in appearance. It was immovable.
The statue stirred.
It shifted its eyes down at Raven. “Who are you?” the statue said slowly.
“I am a farmer from Desh are you the one taking people at night?”
The statue shifted, “No, my brothers are the ones taking villagers at night. I only get the scraps. Good thing you found me first, otherwise you would get eaten.”
“Will you let me pass?”
The demon laughed, “I haven’t moved from this spot in seven hundred years. I move for no one.”
“But if I move you, I can pass?”
“I guess, I won’t put up a fight.”
Raven pulled, pushed, pried, and heaved. He tried for some time to shift the massive monster all to no avail.
Then he reached into his bag and pulled out the box. He opened the box, and a loud shriek filled the air. The sound caused the floors to rumble, the walls to shake, and knocked the dust off of the walls. The demon began to vibrate over and soon he fell over next to the door. Raven closed the box and put it back into the bag. Jur went back to sleep.
The next room was filled with food. Meats, and deserts, platters of foods. The foods piled to the ceiling of the room. In the center, taking up a great share of space was a demon. Gravy ran down his front, and his mouth was filled with food.
“Are you the one stealing townsfolk?” Raven said boldly, the fat demon didn’t seem like he could move quickly.
The demon grumbled, “I am one of those who kidnapped the townsfolk. It’s unfortunate for me that you are so skinny. Such a scrawny person would hardly be a meal.”
Raven faked being insulted, “Why I can eat more than you.”
The demon started to laugh. It started in his throat and rippled over his entire body. “Oh human, you make me laugh. No one can out eat me.”
“Fine, then I challenge you to an eating contest. If you win, you can eat me, if I win then you let me pass.”
“Appetizer before my meal. Excellent”. The challenge was set.
“before we begin,” Raven said, “Would you mind dimming the lights? They are so bright its hard for me to concentrate. The demon clapped his hands and the lights decreased. Raven pulled out his bag and tied it around his neck. “Okay I’m ready.”
The demon began to stuff his face, he was taking his time and chewing.
Raven, for his part, took up food, brought it to his face, and then slipped it into the bag.
After some time, the demon had grown to three times its original size. He jammed more food into his mouth trying to keep pace with the youth who was putting away food at an alarming rate.
And all at once, the demon’s stomach burst. And he grumbled, and died. The youth untied his bag, and walked past the dead demon.
The next room was filled with stacks of golden coins. Gold bars lined the walls. Behind a large wooden table, was a demon. It didn’t look up from its piles of gold as it counted them.
“Are you the one kidnapping townsfolk?” Raven shouted. The demon didn’t look up.
“I feed on the town yes. But I make sure we don’t overtax the supply of humans. That town will last us for many years to come. Though I don’t think losing one more human will cost the town that much.”
The demon walked towards Raven. He jingled and jangled as the gold coins and bars on him clanked together. He was moving slowly, with all the weight.
Raven pulled out his decanter and dumped it out. The room began to fill up with water. Raven swam to the ceiling. Below, underwater, the demon held onto his gold. He couldn’t swim and refused to release his gold. He convulsed, and then died.
Raven opened up his bag, and the water flowed in. Then Raven loaded up all the gold into his bag and moved on.
The next room was filled with weights. A demon ran around it.
“Are you the one who is kidnapping townsfolk?” Raven said to him.
“I am. But I only consume the most lean and fit. You’re far too out of shape for my tastes.”
“Out of shape? Why I’m more fit than you.”
The demon laughed. “I think not human.”
“I’ll prove it.” Raven said. Grab that weight and hurl it up in the air as high as you can. The demon did. The weight crashed through the roof hung in the air for a minute and came down to the ground with a resounding crash.
“Not bad…” Raven said pulling the stone from his bag. “Though not as good as me.” Raven hurled the stone through the roof. When the stone reached the apex of its flight he whispered “fly stone fly.” In that moment the stone became a brown bird and continued to fly high in the sky.
The demon just looked up slack-jawed. He continued to look at the stone bird expecting it to fall. He let his guard down. Raven pulled his dagger out and slashed the demon’s throat. He died looking up at the sky.
The next room was filled with mirrors. Mirrors in all shapes and sizes. In the center of the room stood a large demon holding a mirror. “My horns are so nice. My flesh is so purple.” He didn’t even notice Raven.
“Are you the one kidnapping townsfolk?”
The demon was startled and look down at Raven, while keeping one eye on his mirrors. “I consume the pretty ones yes.”
He moved closer, “You aren’t good looking enough for me, so I guess I’ll just crush you underfoot.”
Raven pulled out the box, and swung it open. A terrible shriek filled the air. The mirrors jiggled and shattered. All around mirrors were breaking. The demon screamed. Piling up broken glass in an effort to see his reflection. Raven pulled out his decanter and poured out some water. He whistled. “Hey demon.” The demon saw the pool of water and rushed over to see his reflection. He got real close to the puddle. Raven jumped on his back and pushed his head into the puddle. The demon struggled as his face was pushed into the water. But soon he went slack.
Raven walked onto the last room.
The last room was the largest. High columns held up the ceiling. Great fires blazed in a circle. A demon fumed with anger in the middle.
”Are you the one who killed my brothers?” The demon spoke before Raven could. He demon stood up. Twice as tall as the other demons, this demon held a giant axe made of bone.
“You’ve killed my family. Now you die.” The demon rushed Raven, he dodged and he ran. The demon swung his axe wildly. He took out columns and statues alike.
The ceiling began to shift. The mansion was ancient, and its unsteady ceiling was losing support quickly. Raven continued to run behind the supports. Part of the ceiling collapsed, pinning the demon under a pile of debris. Raven drew his blade, intending to finish him off. pieces of plaster were falling as Raven approached. The demon gnashed his teeth and spat insults.
A beam fell between them. Raven snapped out of his spell, sheathed his blade and ran towards the door. Behind him the mansion collapsed.
The mansion burned throughout the night. The only thing to survive it was the slothful demon, still sleeping. The five other demons were burned to a crisp. All dead. Raven found a horse and cart and loaded up the slothful demon. He placed it in the town center and told them his tale. Then he went home.
His father was angry. His son’s day trip took two days. “My son where have you been?”
“Father I have much to tell you.”
“I have no words for your tall tails. The crops need to be watered, there is no food on the table, and we have no money for the winter.”
The youth smiled, he pulled out his bag and poured out the water stored in there. “The crops are watered.”
The youth then walked into the small kitchen and poured out all the food stored in the bag, “Now we have all the food we can eat.”
Finally he walked to the barn, and poured out all the gold stored in the bag, “And now we have more money than we can spend.”
The father and son sold their farm and moved into the town where they lived forever happy with their pet demon.
“We can’t reach for our future standing in the past.”
Gret scowled, spoke a word, and set the man ablaze. His screams died down quickly, leaving only silence. That shut the rabble up. There would be no more talk of leaving today.
Gret was merciless. But one had to be merciless in the cruel world of Grixis. Society was a pile of tinder just waiting for a spark of rebellion to burn the world to hell. He wasn’t about to let go of his power.
Gret stood in the darkness. He always thought best at night, in his study. The only light in the room was a tiny candle flame. He looked over a map. The parchment was yellowed with age and drawn in blood and charcoal. Across the paper from the circle named Scarhaven was an X drawn with a heavy hand. The X was new.
The door to the room opened. Gret had half a killing spell out of his mouth before the intruder spoke.
“Gret it’s me.” Gret stopped and let the magic fall out of his mouth. He felt a surge as the mana flowed back into his blood. The voice belonged to his close friend and confidant Peo.
Peo stepped into the candle’s light. “Great show today. The rabble really enjoyed your show of force.”
Gret stared intently at the map. “The only thing people respect is power. Show one sign of weakness, and they’ll tear you to shreds.”
Peo put on a grave face, “Sir, I wish you would reconsider. The people are demanding action. You aren’t winning anyone’s favor ignoring them.”
Gret looked up, “Get me a drink.”
[indent]Overnight three buildings were burned. The arsonists were brought down by a hail of bone arrows before they could cause anymore damage. The masses demand action.
Gret just sat and looked at this map. Looked at that damn X. His trouble all started weeks ago. Some vagabonds had settled outside of Scarhaven. They spoke of a great forest that rose out of the black dead earth some distance away. As the nomads had said the forest simply sprang up overnight. Gret’s personal scouts confirmed the story and gave an exact location for this new forest. Then the problems started. [/indent]
Peo entered the study with little urgent news. “Sir, the fire cost us a lot of resources. Not only did we lose three buildings, plus all the supplies they housed, we also lost a lot of moral. No one wants to rebuild. They just want to move on to the forest.”
Gret sighed, and placed the map down on the ground. “Here,” he pointed towards Scarhaven, “is us.” “This,” pointing at the X, “is the forest. Between the two is demon territory. We go out there and we won’t live to see the forest.”
Peo stood straight, “We die either way sir. We stay here and die a slow death, or we die walking towards a new home. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll reach it.”
“I’ve spent too long keeping these people alive to turn around and feed them to demons. Survival is key, and the best chance for survival is here.”
[indent]The guardhouse was attacked at dawn. The rebels came from all angles with swords and bombs. They came out from everywhere like rats descending on a fresh carcass. Most of the guard died without raising a finger. The rest fell to swords and fists. [/indent]
His hands shook. That’s how nervous he was. The smell of anarchy was thick in the town. There were too few guards, and too much dangerous talk.
Peo knocked then entered the room. “More reports. People are demanding that you let them leave.”
Gret looked at his friend. His eyes were sunken from lack of sleep, he face aged with stress and tiredness, “What kind of king rules over an empty kingdom?”
“You don’t need to stay Gret. You should lead them. Lead a glorious precession to the forest.”
“Peo I build this place up. I erected its walls. I’ve seen it stand up against undead armies. I’ve seen it withstand demons. Scarhaven is the safest place in the area, perhaps all of Grixis. And your telling me that I should abandon all that safety in order to go a forest? No, that won’t do, won’t do at all.”
“Well if that’s your final decision.”
Gret felt a pinprick on his neck and swatted at it. He felt a tiny thorn sticking out of his skin. He pulled it out. It was a tiny dark made of bone. Hallow. With black liquid dripping out. Gret looked up at his friend. “Peo?”
“I’m sorry sir. I didn’t want this to end this way. I’ve always admired your work securing Scarhaven. You’ve kept this town together through the worst of it.
But when I heard that a forest had risen up in Grixis… I felt something I’ve never felt before…”
I felt hope
Gret’s skin blackened. The discoloration started in the veins then spread out into the rest of the skin. It was spreading towards his face.
“You… you were the one organizing the rebels.” Gret’s voice was weak.
“I’m sorry,” Peo’s voice wavered, “I had hoped that if I applied enough pressure you would change your decision. I see now how foolish it was to think I could do so.”
Gret screamed as the poison reached his brain.
Peo leaned down over the convulsing body of Gret, “Don’t worry Gret. I’ll take them to the forest safely. They’ll all make it to the forest safely.”
Gret’s screams died down quickly. leaving only silence.
The next day, people began to get ready. They packed their meager supplies, and said goodbye to their hovels.
The rabble gathered around Peo at the town center. He smiled a leader’s smile, pointed in the direction of the forest, and took the first steps towards certain doom.
Metal love by Skibo
Major Vectus peered through his binoculars. The world was changing daily. More of his world was merging with more of another world. A world of castles and knights. Of weak flesh.
Vectus twiddled his filigree fingers. He heard a loud noise and turned around. His daughter was picking up some food she had dropped. “What are you up to honey?”
The young girl picked up the food, “Oh just getting a snack. How’s it going with you.” Vectus turned to the window and peered across to the gleaming castle in the distance. “Not well. We are evenly matched.”
Amour Vectus was a lonely girl. She stayed inside, and spoke to few. She came to the basement storage area. Opened a door to the linen closet and walked in. This area was forgotten by most.
Amour put the food on a shelf and walked to the back of the room. She removed a pile of clothing to reveal a young man.
The boy was no older than her. His hair was untamed, a farmer’s son perhaps. She had learned about farmers studying the information gathered by her father. His flesh was untouched by metal. And despite this fact, he was healing quickly.
It was curious. The idea of etherium was to improve the physical form, and yet this boy’s form was perfect. She smiled. The boy hadn’t regained consciousness since she found him.
The sudden emergence of the castle and surrounding land created havoc on the metallic landscape. Water from the green pastures flowed onto Esper. The water sought out the easiest path and created something Amour had never seen. A was natural stream. It wasn’t engineered, it wasn’t redirected to increase efficiency, it simply was.
Amour came to the river every day. She just sat for hours watching the crystal waters. One day, when sitting she spotted a body. It was a boy. He was bleeding, and battered. He must have been caught in the recent battle.
Her father told her to pity the castle dwellers. That they were imperfect. That they were ignorant.
She brought the boy to her father’s outpost and hid him under a pile of linens.
Vectus scowled. He had lost a lot of men the previous day. To many. A guard popped into the room. “Major Vectus, may I have a word?” the major waved the guard to continue. “One of my guards has observed your daughter enter a storage area. We thought you would like to know.”
Vectus thought for a moment. “Search it.”
Amour came to the closet to find it in disarray. It had been searched. She rushed to the back, and tore through the pile of linens. She found no one. She screamed.
Vectus stared out blankly. He ground his teeth.
Amour entered in a huff. “You had no right.”
“I had every right. You bring an enemy into my outpost. I told you, no pets.”
“He’s a person dad. A living, breathing person. He not an animal, and he not a savage.”
“I know,” Vectus smiled. “I made him acceptable.”
“Oh, no you didn’t. You didn’t.”
“As we speak he’s getting his first infusion of etherium. His wounds will be healed, and his body will be perfected. In a few weeks he’ll be fit for life in the outpost.”
Amour wept for weeks. Vectus couldn’t stand emotions. And that’s all that his daughter seemed to be filled with these days. Each day more and more grass sprouted up. Trees and houses, barns and cattle rose up. Amour just sat at her window and looked out.
She saw a cart come down the road driven by a young man. She recognized that face anywhere, it was the face of the boy she kept. She ran down the stairs to meet him at the cart. His face was untouched by eitherium enhancement. The boy stood up.
“Are you Amour?” He asked. His voice more beautiful than she ever imagined. Amour nodded.
He smiled, “They tell me that you’re the one I should thank for saving me.”
The beast that came to Esper by Skibo
I’ve seen murder before. I’ve seen men torn apart, people crushed under machinery, and magics that rot the body from the inside out. But in all my years I’ve never seen anything like this.
The call came in early in the morning. The sun had barely risen when I arrived. It was a murder. Not uncommon in these parts. The sewers under the city were filled with scrappers. Every week or so someone would find a body stripped of its enhancements floating along.
This body still had all its etherium. That was different.
I examined the body closer. Its etherium enhancements were mangled. Perhaps it was a scrapper who got on the wrong side of the wrong people. People more interested in sending a message than making a buck.
Something was amiss. The filigree on the body’s arm was discolored. I touched it. It crumbled.
What sort of magic can destroy metal?
I let the etherium dust fall from my hand. If whoever did this used magic, he could track it. I retrieved my etherseekers from my pocket and put them on. The magical lenses allowed me to track the path of the magic user. Etherium normally glowed a bluish green… but the enhancements on the body glowed purplish red. A reddish haze hung in the air around the corpse, and trailed off down the sewer.
I followed quickly. After hours of tracking, the trail ended in a large partially flooded chamber. In the center of the chamber were a pile of bodies. They had the same reddish haze as the first body. Most looked as although they had chunks missing. I stood there as in a stupor until a noise caught my attention.
I pulled out my lightstaff, and shot a beam of light towards the ceiling. The creature I saw… I’ll never forget.
The beast had cold hungry eyes. It had no enhancements whatsoever. Its body was completely covered in scales. Like a fish, but courser and redder. It stood up on two legs and hunched over grabbing a pipe in the ceiling. The beast’s eyes narrowed when the light hit its eyes. The fish thing hissed and escaped up a tunnel.
This odd creature was heading towards the surface. I knew if I acted fast enough I could catch it before it escaped into the city.
I reached the surface just in time the see the beast climb out of the sewers. I yelled for it to stop. It looked at me for a moment, it almost seemed to comprehend. The beast began to speak in a grumbled language. Its hands and eyes glowed red. Through my etherseekers I could see swirls of energy forming around him. Inelegant, and crude. I ducked behind a nearby building. The ground shook at a large piece of the corner of the build was ripped to shreds. The air was headed to an unbearable level, and pieces of burning metal rained down on me.
When I got up some time later the creature was gone. Only the dead bodies in the sewers and the charred building were proof that it ever existed in the first place.
My requests to find the beast have so far fallen on deaf ears. The dead bodies found have been attributed to a new syndicate trying to take over the undercity. Such powerful and arcane magic could not have been created by a simple beast such as I described.
But something’s coming to Esper. I can feel it. I can taste it on the winds. I’ll continue to hunt the undercity. Track through the sewers. I’ll find this thing and bring it to the light.
Anomaly: I like this story. It’s an interesting look at Esper, and about the coming conflux. Yay.
Akrasan Squire: This is another good story. It really shows off Bant. Yay.
Hunting in the rain: I don’t know if the premise of this work is correct. I think they likely have rain in Jund. I’m a bit skeptical about the use of Progenitus here… I’m going to vote nay.
The Contract: You are going to be hearing this a lot, I’m abstaining from voting. Looking over this story, I enjoy the imagery of the piece. I also like the idea of an obsessed wizard.
The Price of Freedom: I like this story a lot. It’s an interesting look into a storyline character that I don’t feel violates the spirit of that character (and isn’t likely to be refuted by wotc). I vote Yay.
Jund This story feels a bit too mechanical for my taste. Nay.
The Birth of a Hero: Another great story. Yay
Cruel Ultimatum: I’m a bit worried about accepting stories with known characters. Since this story is all about Bolas (and not really about Jund) I’m going to say Nay.
On the hunt: This has a very interesting story structure. Also the humor hit home for me. This is a good look into Jund. Yay.
Behemoth's Herald: An interesting look into Naya. Yay.
Bar bet: Technically I should abstain from voting, but I’m going to vote Nay. When I wrote this we had no clue what Vol’s personality was like. Nay.
Even if Vol was replaced by a random red mage I still have issues with the story.
Crafter: Abstaining. Though I do enjoy this one, mostly because I enjoy characters who don’t change. (I might even submit Crafter as an official, unofficial character of Alara)
Excommunication: Abstaining. (man I wrote a lot of stories this round) Anyway, mixed feelings about it as usual.
Godtoucher: Abstaining. This story just didn’t pan out as I wanted it too. But I like the overall premise.
Jund Nursery Rhyme: Abstaining. For the record, I love poetry.
Tidehollow: Abstaining. I think I failed to capture the correct feeling I was going for. As a result the story comes off a bit flat.
Grixis Plunder: Solid story. Yay.
Siege: Esper survival horror story… count me in. Yay.
The cave: I’m a bit on the fence about this story. It’s not really about Jund, it’s not really about Mar… I’ll vote present.
Fates entwined: I like this story. There are a few rough parts, but overall I felt I captured the feeling I was going for. Abstained of course.
Fighting for survival Story about an existing character… nay.
Sheep’s clothing: I like the concept up until the ending. A Bantian wouldn’t attack someone from behind like that. Nay.
A new world I like the feeling this work evokes. Yay.
Six brothers: Abstained. This story works more for Lorwyn than for Alara.
Hope: Abstained. One of my favorites from the Tome.
Metal love: Hate the name, like the concept… I’m a bit mixed on the whole thing really. Abstained.
The beast that came to Esper Another story about the beginning of the conflux. I like the idea of a detective, but there are a few rough spots I would iron out. Abstained.
Just a general suggestion before my vote: Why don't we collect all the Alara stories together when we're done, give them a rough chronological order, and release them as basically one volume? In fact, why don't we do that for the other planes we have already, and do that in the future as well with other plane competitions?
Anomaly: Less of a story than a vingette, I think this does an excellent job of introducing the collection as a whole. Yea.
Lovely. An excellent addition. Yea.
Hunting in the rain: This work really needs some polish, although I don't think it's a bad work, and the premise and ending are rather fun. To some extent I feel like my impression is tinged by the two stellar works before it... ah well. Present. No strong feelings one way or the other.
There can't be five types... There can't be five types... There can't be five types... There can't be five types... So much yea for this story. In fact, I would actually love to see more of Sirv, if Skibo or someone else wanted to write more about him. Seeing him post-Conflux would be fascinating.
The Price of Freedom: Can we remove the disclaimer from the beginning of this when we actually put it into the archives? I hate disclaimers... Otherwise this is great, and doesn't contradict continuity. Definite yea.
Jund Could have been good with a bit more imagery, but as it is it comes off as a list of things that happened more than a story. Nay.
The Birth of a Hero: Solid, good imagery, and a nice way of showing how Bant operates. We seem to have a predominance of awesome Bant and Grixis stories so far... Yea.
Behemoth's Herald: Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh this made me very unhappy. What a downer... crivens, so much for my day. Still, it's so damn competent that I can't do anything other than vote Yea. [grumblegrumblesniff]
I actually quite enjoyed this, but I agree with Skibo that Sarkhan's presence makes it extremely problematic. I'm going to vote present, though, because I still think it's a solid story.
Crafter: HAH! Nice ending. Subverted tropes ahoy. Yea. Crafter, like Sirv, would be fun to read more about.
Excommunication: [bangs head against desk]14![bang]More![bang]To go![bang]
But Skibo's stories make the going so much easier. This tale is the wild leotau meat that keeps me going! Yea. Definite yea. This is one of the few true short stories we have, as opposed to the microfiction vignettes that most people write. Not that that's a bad thing by any means, I just find the distribution interesting.
Godtoucher: Only my girlfriend can call me that! I like this idea in general, but something about the execution is throwing me off a little bit. It's not quite as strong as some of the others that are in this collection. I think I'm going to go with Present on this one.
Jund Nursery Rhyme: This was great. I would love to see some more poetry in the EM in general, and this is just such an entertaining little rhyme. Just beautiful. Yea. Note that Viashino is misspelled a number of times. That should be fixed before this goes to the archives. There are a number of typos in other stories... should we deputize an official editor to take care of such things?
Tidehollow: I liked this story quite a bit. I like how it rewards knowledge of the set to get the ending... Yea.
Grixis Plunder: Fun. Yea.
Siege: Epic. Yea.
The cave: Something about the style of this one just isn't working for me. The phrasing of things is a bit clunky in many places. With polish this could be good, but I feel like it doesn't know where it wants to go. Nay.
Fates entwined: Another one that brings me down. (no no no no nooo... Ooouhuuuu!) I remember reading this back when we first did this contest and liking it, despite feeling as though the ending was a little too abrupt given the setup. Yea.
Fighting for survival Like the Gwafa story above, I don't think this contradicts canon in any important way, and I like the general flow of the tale. I'm going to vote a hesitant yea on this, with a retraction in the event of our Gurus vetoing it.
Sheep’s clothing: I thought this worked wonderfully, actually, and is a fantastically chilling depiction of the breakdown of Bantian society. The fact that a blow from behind is so uncharacteristic makes the story work even better. Yea.
A new world This is brutal. I love it. Yea.
Hope: Wow. Again, absolutely brutal. Yea. Maybe this should be the last work in the collection...
Metal love: Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. Yea.
The beast that came to Esper
Another good vignette. Yea.
Anomaly: +2 -0
Akrasan Squire: +2 -0
Hunting in the rain: +0 -1 1 Present
The contract: +1 -0 1 abstained
The Price of Freedom: +2 -0
Jund +0 -2
The Birth of a Hero +2 -0
Cruel Ultimatum: +0 -2
On the hunt: +2 -0
Behemoth's Herald: +2 -0
Bar bet: +0 -1 1 Present
Crafter: +1 -0 1 Abstained
Excommunication: +1 -0 1 abstaining
Godtoucher: +0 -0 2 abstaining
Tidehollow: +1 -0 1 Abstaining
Grixis Plunder: +2 -0
Siege: +2 -0
The cave: +0 -1 1 Present
Fates entwined: +1 -0 1 abstained
Fighting for survival +1 -1
Sheep’s clothing +1 -1
A new world: +2 -0
Six brothers +0 -0 1 Abstained 1 Not As Is (see below)
KeeperofManyNames----Six brothers: I'm going to go with Not As Is for this one. I think it's a fun story, but I don't think it really has anything to do with Alara at all. So, I'll vote yea if this story is put up for a separate vote. Additionally, I think if it's going up for a separate vote it should be polished a little, as there were some typos and choppy bits. Oh, and... what happened to Lust? That threw me off a little.
Also, there were a bunch of places on the tally where Skibo marked both Abstaining and -1. I've assumed those are errors, and have changed them to Abstaining votes.
An anthology sounds good. Eventually they'll return to Alara, and it's important to label where the stories fall.
In that case i'll skip over future sight and do the last Alara story in the next salvaging vote. (Which I might do tonight and get it out of the way [As i would like to get all the salvaging threads done before winter break ends]
On six brothers, i'm not that enthused about it, it feels more like it should be in Lorwyn, not Alara.
It doesn't exactly fit Lorwyn either, what with the demons and humans... Of course, if you're actually not interested in reworking it, I guess the point is moot. I just liked the story quite a bit and thought maybe there was another place for it somewhere.