Dec 21, 2010
[Keeper's Note: This classic story by longstanding Magic author Scott McGough was posted on the Phyrexian forum by guru Squeeman back in 2001. I retrieved it from there and made a couple minor text formatting changes.]
The following encounter was recreated from a transcript that is, unfortunately, incomplete, having suffered extensive fire damage. Nevertheless, that only known record of the interrogation of a priest of the entity Yawgmoth sheds fascinating light on the philosophy of these mysterious beings.—Taysir
He lay shackled in the dark, and the furrows on his wrists and ankles neither bled nor faded. Some of his brothers could summon light from within, during the deepest stages of meditation, but he could not afford to block out his surroundings: he had been delivered into the hands of dangerous fools.
He heard a door thrown open far down the corridor, and the formless void around him receded in the face of an oncoming torch. He heard the moist squeak of wood on wood, and went momentarily blind as the torchbearer threw open the door. He writhed, and the shackles scored his flesh anew. A second bearer entered, creating a bubble of light barely large enough to contain them all. Through the door and into the bubble strode a stern, bookish man in an inappropriately splendid robe.
"Awake, zealot," the man called, insistent but strangely cautious. "We have little time, and I would make the most of the opportunity you represent."
The prisoner remained silent, but stared unblinkingly at the robed figure.
"Vandal," continued the visitor, "you are at the mercy of your most hated enemies. The Order of the Ebon Hand—" he gestured at the torchbearers, who wore initiates' robes— "will break your body, your spirit, and your mind." He leaned forward slightly, squinting. "I would have words with you before your endless screaming begins."
The prisoner hissed softly. His voice, though soft and monotonous, reeked with casual scorn. "I am Y'sith, Fifth Circle Priest of Yawgmoth. Who do you represent, if not the Order?"
The interrogator smiled. "I am of the Order. But I am here now on my own behalf." He threw his head back, giving the torchlight full play on his features. "I am Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder, Creator of Life, and Race Architect. You are an enemy of the Ebon Hand, and I am here to determine if that marks the limit of the conflict between your goals and mine."
"The Ebon Hand is not our enemy."
"No? Are you not of Phyrexia, false priest? Have not you and your kind stolen the efforts of articiers' efforts for generations? Does not the worship of your Yawgmoth demand that we make war on eachother?"
Y'sith raised his head off the inclined slab and snarled haughtily. "Soft fool. We are a force beyond your ken."
Endrek Sahr smiled once more. "But not our enemy."
"When a swamp insect stings, do you go to war on it? Do you declare it your enemy?" The prisoner lowered his head back onto the slab. "So it is with Yawgmoth and your precious Order. Begone, Master Breeder. You and the Ebon Hand are an annoyance; nothing more."
Sahr's eyes darkened, and drawing a dagger from the folds of his billowing sleeve, he approached with slow, deliberate motions. He rested the knifepoint across the bridge of the captive's nose.
"The bite of some swamp insects can kill," he said, gently inscribing ellipses around Y'sith's eyes. "And some, I think you'll find, bite hard enough to pierce even the hide of a Yawgmoth priest." The dagger tapped solidly on Y'sith's forehead, and clicked as if stricking a stone wrapped in velvet. Then it disappeared back into the robe. "Choose your enemies and friends carefully, Y'sith. Though you are sworn to destroy artificial life, my primary interest is in the genuine variety. I have no need for brass or cogs: my creations are truly alive."
"We do not destroy, soft fool, nor do we accept your distinction between 'true' and 'artificial' life. All life is energy, and we would rather see that energy put to constructive use than allow foolish artificers—or breeders—to make a mockery of it."
"'Constructive use?' No one and nothing has ever returned from your realm, false priest. Is it constructive to consume the work of others, which you find loathesome, and to produce nothing?"
Y'sith hissed again. "No one and nothing ever created on this plane is fit to survive in Phyrexia. We do not destroy your misguided efforts: Phyrexia does. It winnows out the weak and cauterizes the diseased. We no more loathe your artifacts than a sugeon loathes a gangrenous limb. Remember that the best and brightest of your artificers conquered entire cities with a clumsy recreation of a machine he glimpsed in Phyrexia, the height of artifact purity. But your pathetic marveling at his poor copy, this 'dragon engine' demonstrates the poverty of your imagination and will."
"I see Phyrexian ire still runs deep on that subject. But again, I fail to see why your disdain for mechanical creatures should put you at odds with me. Artificers build machines: Phyrexia destroys them. But I am no artificer." Sahr turned away from the shackled priest, stroking his chinas he spoke. "If, as you say, there is no difference between real and mechanical life in Phyrexia, and if by Phyrexian standards, the greatest of our artificers was a groping child, then perhaps it is time for your faith and my work to interesect."
Sahr drew an armchair alonside the slab, and a torchbearer followed. The Master Breeder sat silently as the second bearer moved to illuminate Y'sith, and then said, "Do you not see how much we have to share with one another? I understand that there are machines in Phyrexia that cannot be distinguished from living creatures; here, I build living creatures from nothing. My thrulls are alive, infused with eldrich energy until such time as the Order chooses to release it."
Y'sith spat on the floor, an oily froth, as close to Sahr's feet as he could manage. "You are deluded, Endrek Sahr. The creatures you breed are as inferior as any that are built. They would not survive the First Sphere. 'Infused with energy?'" He sneered and spat again. "The wonders of Phyrexia draw power from the ambient energy around them. Your thrulls are perpetually limited by the single spark of creation. They will never be any more or less than they are at the moment of inception."
The priest's voice cracked with anger, and he fell back, panting softly. "We hold base dabblers such as you in the lowest regard. Just as you would not allow an initiate access to your most powerful secrets, we will not allow you to litter this or any other plane with your jetsam.
"As I lie here now, so does Mishra lie deeps in the center of Phyrexia, his body wracked with fresh pain and torments day in and day out. He shrieks and cries in his prison, and begs us to forgive his transgressions against our faith. But he will never be forgiven. He will never be released." Y'sith rose up on his slab. "And when your time on this plane is done, Master Breeder, you will join him."
Endrek Sahr was silent for several long moments. Then, with a short, barking laugh, he rose expansively from his seat. Thank you, my truculent friend. Though you have unwisely refused my invitation to share knowledge, you have nonetheless given me food for thought." He drew his dagger once more and rammed it deeply into the arm or the chair, where it quivered. "May the rest of your conversations with the Order be as beneficial."
The Master Breeder turned then, his mind furiously baying from the dark inspiration it had just winded. He made haste from the chamber, leaving his attendants to collect the torch and dagger and re-bar the door. The light they carried faded down the corridor.
Alone, Y'sith listened for a moment, face expressionless, and then briefly smiled. It was a grim smile, one that set his lips like razors against eachother. His eyes were alight, reflecting for barely a heartbeat the dark and malevolent brilliance that lies at the heart of Phyrexia itself.
And then, all was darkness.