|No Goblins Allowed
|Page 290 of 291|
|Author:||Barinellos [ Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:37 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Well to be fair human societies have managed to get very complex without the need of large settlements like Aboriginal Australians and their highly efficient agriculture, societal structures and extensive trade routes.
The Roil supposedly prevents tradea ccoridng to the article, but this is clearly not true based on how Zendikari culture is cosmopolitan and hires services from everywhere.
The Roil is a problem if you're attached to your home, but from a realistic standpoint is not the end of civilisation as much as Creative wants to depict it as such.
Then we have another case of the Kaladesh rebels where the problem is overstated.
Though considering we've actually seen the kind of devastation the Roil causes, it'd be more accurate to say the effects are understated or largely ignored.
|Author:||Barinellos [ Fri Sep 04, 2020 3:47 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
We also have an unassociated story: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/a ... 2020-09-04
Overall I quite like it, a down to earth piece.
Agreed, it was really refreshing to finally get the vantage of a native again, and I particularly liked the attitudes that the travel of planeswalkers engender as well. There was something really old school about that.
|Author:||neru [ Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:36 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
We also have an unassociated story: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/a ... 2020-09-04
Finally got to this. I have always had a preference for little stories so I really liked this. It was also allowed to be slower than the main line of stories, which I assume have to hit plot points at a certain pace.
Miguel Lopez looks to be a less established writer; I wonder if he was recruited through the recent call for writers of color.
|Author:||neru [ Wed Sep 09, 2020 3:08 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Episode 2: Race to the Murasa Skyclave
It looks like use of the Makindi magic does petrify everything around it. Which makes sense if you're a white oppressive society of earthbenders that you want to make everything rocks so you can control as much as possible.
I like that the party member that has the most friction with Nahiri is the one that shares no colors with her, Zareth.
|Author:||AzureShade [ Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:10 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Ah, I'm so used to these stories not being here I totally oopsed and forgot to post this yesterday. Thanks neru.
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Thu Sep 10, 2020 8:13 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
So that's what lithoform blight is.
Also, a truth and tell version of a card game.
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Fri Sep 11, 2020 1:39 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
New story today. Pretty boring until the serpent showed up, great atmospheric horror and descriptions from then on.
|Author:||AzureShade [ Fri Sep 11, 2020 1:47 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Today's UR (Magic story): THE MAGOSI STEPS
THE MAGOSI STEPS
Posted in Magic Story on September 10, 2020
By Miguel Lopez
Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part story. Make sure to check out Part 1 before reading on.
Morning found the Magosi Portage warm before the dawn, seasonable but no less uncomfortable. The caravan of two dozen merfolk traders milled about the portage's packing yard, their pillarfield oxen laden and hitched together, blindfolded for the coming descent down the stair. The sun trembled up from the far horizon, and Akiri made her first checks of the straps, harnesses, blinds, and guide lines that would see the merfolk's oxen down safely and calmly. The merfolk were Zareth's responsibility; they were nervous, but Zareth did his best to comfort them.
"If you fall, aim for the river," Akiri overheard him say as she walked by on her inspection of the oxen. She couldn't help herself from laughing, which prompted a series of concerned questions from the caravan-master, who Akiri then had to spend another quarter hour reassuring.
"Might be that if you blindfolded him this would be an easier trip," Zareth said, walking behind Akiri as she made a third check of the oxen.
"I think we'd forfeit the rest of our pay if I did that," Akiri said, tugging a strap tight. She checked the lines that held down the crates and bundles of goods packed on the oxen's back. "Though it would certainly make this easier."
"Any idea what they're carrying?" Zareth asked.
"Do you want me to guess, or do you want to tell me?" Akiri said.
"This one has fruits from the interior," Zareth winked. He produced a small handful of deep purple berries. "Want one? I think it's elvish. It has a nice buzz, like morning tea."
Akiri raised a finger to admonish him, but she stopped as Zareth nodded past her toward the approaching caravan leader.
"No more of that," Akiri growled, then turned to the caravan leader, smiling, reassuring him that all was well and that they were ready to depart at his leisure. She watched from the corner of her eye as Zareth walked off down the line of oxen, making small conversation with the merfolk traders, laughing with them, making small adjustments to the harnesses on the beasts, and otherwise making nice. She hated that she watched him with suspicion. Not with distrust, for she knew Zareth well and knew where his heart stood, but certainly with disappointment. She resolved to put a stop to it. But first, they—
The ground shook. A slight tremor, short, accompanied by a sudden burn in the morning's heat, as if the sun grew closer by fractions. The oxen stopped their chuffing and grunting. The merfolk stopped their nervous talk. Even Zareth paused, rooting himself to the shaking ground, hands dropping to the twin knives at his waist. From a humid dawn, calm save for nerves, the world suddenly made itself known. The shaking only lasted for moments, though it felt like an hour, a day, a heartbeat.
Akiri was the only one who did not look around in fear once it passed. She had been surprised, to be sure, but not afraid. To the contrary, as the merfolk whispered and talked in hushed tones about ill signs, as the caravan lead fretted about trying to calm the oxen, Akiri was calm. Resolute.
The Roil—gone briefly after the Eldrazi defeat at Sea Gate—was back. A hint of it at least: Zendikar's reminder that the Battle had only saved the people that lived upon it, not the world itself. The Roil, when it came, never proceeded anything small; it was a herald of Zendikar's incredible power, the strength of the world itself. Despite any fear Akiri felt when the Roil shook, she welcomed its trembling. If you lived through what the Roil did, you understood the scale of the threat before you.
Zareth strode over to her, hands still resting on his knife hilts. "I thought we stopped the Roil," he said. "You think it will get worse?"
"No," Akiri said. "Once it passes, it passes, remember? We should be fine on the steps—they're sturdy enough. The Umara is stable, which is why we only felt a tremor."
"Will likely deal with some tremor waves out from the Halimar and the ocean beyond," Akiri said, "but the city will stand."
Zareth looked to the merfolk and the caravan. "And us? Elementals? Or—"
His grip on his knives went white, though otherwise, he remained composed, calm, and cool.
"No," Akiri said. She reached out and, with a light touch, lifted Zareth's hands from his weapons. "The Roil has passed. Let it pass," she said. "All we have to do now is go down the stairs, on to Coralhelm, then to Sea Gate."
Zareth nodded, exhaling. "Then we continue the work."
"Then we continue the work," Akiri repeated. She looked past Zareth at the merfolk caravan, who had clustered around their leader and were talking with him in hushed, strained tones. "See how little we shook?" she called over to them. "The route we take down is carved into this same rock. There is nothing to fear."
The merfolk spread out among their oxen, talking among themselves. Their leader approached Akiri and Zareth.
"That was the Roil," the merfolk leader said. "Not just a quake. You can feel it, too, can't you?" he asked Zareth. The merfolk leader touched his jaw. "That sound here, before the shake."
Zareth nodded. "I felt it," he said. "It hurt, but it did not seem like a terrible one."
"In any case," Akiri said to the merfolk caravan leader, "this is the safest place you can be in all of Zendikar. From here to Sea Gate, we're on stable ground. Our biggest worry is the heat."
"And any raiders," Zareth said, interjecting, "those are worth worrying about as well."
The caravan leader balked.
"He's only joking," Akiri said. She shot a glare at Zareth. "You and your people will be fine, and we'll see you to Coralhelm by the end of the day."
The merfolk leader looked between the two of them. Akiri, reassuring, and Zareth, smiling. He shook his head and walked away, to tend to his other duties.
The caravan departed shortly after, the oxen lumbering one by one down the first step of the long switchback path.
On the steps, despite the press of the caravan, the roar of the Magosi gave Akiri and Zareth some privacy in their conversation.
"That was a bad one," Akiri said. "I haven't felt anything like that since the Battle."
"My face felt like it was going to crack," Zareth said, massaging his jaw. "I don't blame these people for being scared," he said. "Depths, that one has me worried."
Akiri adjusted her hooks and lines. "Stay ready, Zareth," she said, "I don't think this will be an easy day."
They both knew, having lived through it before, the nature of the Roil. Like a body struggling with fever, the Roil was Zendikar's response to some deeper pain. The Roil was not the threat, though it could be terrible. The Roil was a warning.
The Magosi tumbled down. The steps continued down. The caravan, Akiri, and Zareth continued down, disappearing into the swirling mists that peeled off the Magosi and shrouded the steps in deep, humid fog.
The caravan shuddered to a halt somewhere above the midway point of the steps, not yet an hour into the journey. Here, the mist of the tumbling Magosi was all-encompassing, drenching both beast and person. In this high summer, what should have been a cooling fog blanketing the steps was instead a humid, sticky mess, blocking any view out from the switchbacks. With a high wind, the vista was magnificent, showing the full stretch of the lower Umara River Gorge winding from the Magosi to where it spilled into the Halimar, and the distant light of Sea Gate beyond the inland sea; on this rare windless day, the cliffside of the switchbacks dribbled with water. Opposite, a wall of mist showed only as far as the next switchback down. The oxen groaned and chuffed, and their handlers did their best to keep them calm. The roar of the waterfall was all-encompassing, surely as distressing to the caravanners as it was the oxen.
Akiri walked near the back of the caravan, talking with one of the merfolk there about Coralhelm and its cuisine—fish, shark, seaweed, crustaceans—what you would expect from a merfolk settlement (but, as the caravanner promised, unlike anywhere else. Better than Sea Gate's delicacies, even, as it was closer to the source). Akiri resolved to try a certain stall the caravanner recommended when she heard Zareth calling her name from somewhere up the line. She excused herself from the conversation and hustled up to where Zareth crouched, talking with the caravan leader and his retinue around a fallen, moaning ox. The creature lay across the narrow switchback, blocking the entirety of the passage, dividing the caravan in half.
"Broke an ankle," Zareth said. He offered Akiri a chunk of stone. "Looks like a loose cobble, probably eroded on account of all the wet."
Akiri winced, taking the cobblestone from Zareth. "Poor creature."
"Mmm," Zareth said. He looked at the ox, grim sympathy across his face. "They'll have to put it down, there's no way they can carry it out."
Even as he spoke, the caravan leader's slumped shoulders confirmed Zareth's speculation. The leader spoke with his retinue and directed them to start removing the goods from the beast's back. He turned, apologetic, to Akiri and Zareth. Behind him, one of his people moved to the head of the ox and with a quick, firm cut, put it to rest.
"We have to distribute its load out across the other beasts," he said, "and then dispose of the body."
Akiri nodded. "Do what you need, and let us know if we can help."
The caravan leader thanked her then turned back to his people, leaving Akiri and Zareth to stand aside and watch. The caravanners hurried, but unloading a laden ox under normal circumstances was slow going—unloading one that had fallen and scattered its cargo across a narrow, switchbacked stair next to a thundering waterfall was another task entirely.
Zareth rested against the cliffside wall and drank from his canteen. Akiri joined him, leaning with her arms crossed. They didn't talk, but watched the merfolk work instead.
"You've never been to Coralhelm?" Akiri asked Zareth.
"Not once," he said.
Akiri did not ask why. Not her place. Zareth offered her some of his water, she took a sip, and passed the canteen back.
A scream split the roar of the waterfall, followed moments later by a chorus of them, and the wild bleating of oxen. Merfolk at the fallen ox turned and started to flee from the head of the caravan, shouting for others to flee as well.
Akiri and Zareth stood from the wall, starting toward the commotion, then stopped, frozen by what they saw.
It did not make sense to Akiri; Zareth knew what the creature was but did not yet believe it. The size of the thing that loomed in from the swirling mist. The water dripping from what must be its tongue, probing forward from the fog. The dark shape of the creature's head obscuring the already diffuse sunlight, plunging the switchback into deep shadow. The appendage moved like low smoke creeping across the floor of a burning house, rolling forward with a grace not given to things that large, in defiance of what rules bound other living beings.
Akiri and Zareth pushed forward toward the trapped and fleeing merfolk, moving toward the reaching, naked muscle of the thing that remained hidden in the mist and roar of the fall.
"Keep that thing away from them," Akiri ordered Zareth. She loosed a loop of line from her pack and attached it to her slinger's harness, then drew the Makindi-kor hook Zareth had given her.
Zareth drew his twin blades. "I don't think we can fight this, Akiri."
"We have to try," Akiri said. She coiled, sprinted, and then leapt off the switchback, flying out into the open air and swirling mist to face the thing that waited beyond.
How would Akiri even begin to describe the monster that lurked behind the mist? Could she encompass its great bulk in a thought? The number of teeth that lined its maw? It was far too large; instead, she saw only moments of the coiling beast, and knew it to be a kind of serpent, one as large as the mighty river in which it hid.
The falling water of the Magosi exploded to steam as it drummed off the titan's sinewy body. It should not have been able to move as it did, flowing up and down the Magosi without effort. This was a beast of legend, some thing that defied classification and stood alone, a being unlike any other, without community or kin. A world unto itself.
Is this what the Roil had warned them of this humid morning? Or was this thing, this colossal serpent, whose body stretched hundreds of feet up from some unseen pool at the Magosi's base, the Roil itself in terrible, physical form?
The serpent drew its head back from the steps, tongue constricting a pair of merfolk who reached out to her before it swallowed them. Was this serpent a natural beast hidden for eons in the deep heart of Zendikar? Or was it another thing imprisoned and released during the Battle, dumped on this world to plague it? Did it matter to the people that it swallowed? The serpent plunged its head back into the switchback steps, hungry, searching for more.
The answer did not matter, Akiri realized; only the moment.
Akiri swung via an unseen anchor, having thrown her lead hook into the swirling torrent of the Magosi, trusting that the ancient tool would find purchase somewhere behind the water. She left her long knife securely strapped to her hip—she needed both hands free for this kind of line-slinging—and saw on her first pass around the monster that she would have to get close to this creature in order to wound it: its dorsal breadth was armored in thick, mucous-slick hide, split by rigid, spearpoint-tipped fins. Its endless coiling in the waterfall hid its belly and made it impossible to strike in the thundering column of the Magosi. Akiri, unlike the serpent, was still bound by gravity—she could fly by line, but if she swung too close to the falls, she had little doubt that the water would tear her down.
Akiri reached the end of her swing, alighting on an outcropping on the opposite side of the Magosi, slightly above the level of the switchback she had leapt from. She pressed her forehead to the rock, lips not an inch from the damp stone. The day's heat still radiated from the cliff face. The bass rumble of the water pounding into the rock somewhere far below could be heard even this high up.
The screams. Akiri could hear the caravanners and their oxen screaming. That brought her back—
To Sea Gate's umbral night, and the terror there. The enemy was silent even in death. Her sword buried in the center mass of some wriggling thing, and it spat ichorous blood out on her as it died and didn't make a sound. But the screams of her comrades echoed and clashed with the waves and roar of high magic.
—to the present with sharp purpose.
She can strike the head, maybe find an eye—surely the serpent has eyes—or some other soft spot in the creature's thick hide. She can sink her lead anchor in the cliff face across the Magosi, swing with both arms, and land on the creature's back. Once there, she can find a way under its guard: she might not kill it, but all she needs to do is buy enough time for the merfolk to flee.
Akiri turns around on the outcrop, braces, and jumps. With peerless grace, she throws her lead hook, aiming for an anchor point she sighted on her swing across. There is a weightless moment where Akiri fears that her hook will miss, or that even if it hits, it will fail to bite, and the single-point would skitter off the rock, and she would fall. She worries that time would slow during that fall, that she would feel every whip of tearing air as she plummets. She'd rather not fall at all, but if she's going to, then please let it be fast.
Her worries vanish as her hook hits, bites, and holds her swing through the misty air. Hurtling forward now, she tucks her knees up, twitches free her lead hook, and with her free hand, draws her long knife.
Momentum carries her up and forward and she flies, shouting a war cry that slips primal from deep in her gut—that fear place, that anger place, that place crying out through her for some kind of stop to the pain of this world—and then she hits the back of the serpent, holding on to it by sheer white-knuckle obstinance and honed reflexes.
She throws her free hook up around a nearby spine protruding from the serpent's back, where it loops over itself before catching its own line. Akiri wraps the line around her forearm, securing herself to the back of the serpent, able to move a radius around the spine as big as the slack she lets slip.
Knife in hand, Akiri springs gracefully forward, the crampons on her light boots biting through the serpent's mucosal sheathe just enough to give purchase. The colossus does not notice; it is still focused on the caravan. The thundering waterfall threatens to sweep Akiri from the back of the serpent as she struggles up its body toward its head. She does not look down—she knows it is far, far too far—as being thrown certainly means the death of everyone upon the switchback, and seeing the vanishing distance is too much; the serpent moves under her, languid almost, its colossal form rising up the falling Magosi without any apparent effort. Akiri drops to her knees, holds fast to her anchor, and wedges her knife deep as she can into the serpent's integument. This seems to have some kind of an effect: the bloodless wound twitches closed and snaps the blade of her knife in two, easy as one would break a twig.
Akiri holds on. The serpent rises into the falling column of the Magosi. The water hammers down, buffeting her. All she can hear is the roar—the roar of the world, of the beast itself, of pain unimaginable and, cruelly, not endless, but ageless—before the segment of the serpent, she clings to burst free of the water. It is as if Zendikar itself attacks her: the world's anger is in the wind of the falling river that hammers her, the bitter cold, and the beast itself.
Akiri drags herself forward. Holding her anchored radial line taught, she looses a free hook and flings it forward, catching a spine closer to its head. Anchored in two places, Akiri searches for a way forward and finds it: there, perhaps forty feet ahead, are the rills and ridges of the serpent's dorsal beak, the upper part of its wicked maw—a forest of handholds and hook-anchors for her to find purchase, and surely vulnerable parts for her to wound in her effort to drive the serpent away from the caravan and—
Zareth. She hopes he is alive, she hopes he can save those Merfolk still trapped on the stair. Akiri sheathes her broken knife and scrambles up the rising, coiling, writhing back of the titan serpent, pulling hand over hand up her newly set line. A moment at her next anchor to catch her breath, to unhook her radial and sight her next point, then to throw—
And her line caught the anchor. Akiri grinned. Her first. "Good," the slinger captain nodded, her voice a gravel-tint growl. "See it set? Give it a pull to be sure. Put all of your weight on it, kor; you need to trust the line will hold you up!"
—and climb once more. Hand over hand. Find grip wherever you can. The stink of the serpent this close to its head disorients her. A wind named Rot and Hunger beats against her, a swirling, nauseating gale, but still Akiri climbs on; this far up, every movement of the creature threatens to throw her. How many sizes larger than her is just the head of the serpent? Surely, if it could swallow one of the merfolk's oxen whole, it could devour her without noticing.
Akiri holds on as the serpent lunges once more at the switchbacks, snapping up an ox. It pulls back, dragging a tangle of merfolk with it. They fall before Akiri can do anything to help them, their screams lost in the roar of the Magosi.
Everything lost in the roar of the Magosi.
Akiri draws her broken knife, her target spotted: Eyes. Black, featureless orbs peering out from alongside its mouth, at least two on the side that she could see, likely mirrored on the side she could not. A strike there to blind it, to distract it, to send it reeling back from the switchbacks and to the depths behind the Magosi—that was the plan.
Akiri does not see the second head rising from the base of the mighty tumbling waterfall. Smaller, but still larger than her, it moves swiftly up against a current that should have battered it to pulp, mouth yawning open.
The serpent had not ignored Akiri. To the contrary, during her heroic struggle, it had watched her from below with its second head, and whether cruel or curious, it had allowed her to get this close before striking.
Akiri raises her broken knife to strike, but before she can, it is slapped from her hand by the thick, stinking tongue of the serpent's second head. She turns in time to see it lunge for her—fangs the size of her forearm, white and bloodless gums, a gullet lined with smaller teeth—and is saved only by her preternatural reflexes.
Akiri jumps, keen eyes sighting an anchor she can fly from.
The second mouth catches her in mid-air, teeth and buccal barbs skittering off her armor. Akiri cries out in surprise, and then fear, and loses her anchor.
The second mouth flings her to the side, into the open air.
Akiri is no longer flying.
Akiri is falling.
Zareth knows the name of the serpent: Verazol. All the merfolk in the caravan recognized it as soon as its head loomed in from the mist. Verazol, the Scourge of the Umara, the demon of the Magosi, the death of the Halimar. He remembers the little coral statuettes of Verazol some merfolk keep in their homes; as a child his family had one as well, back when merfolk had homes and not only places to live.
Verazol was a legend, a myth, a god to some. They can't stop it: try to kill a river or destroy an ocean. Raise your arm and strike down a world. Sure, there were some who could do that—
A night of fever and ash dust lit only by fire and the chromatic explosions high above, each blast like a dawn in a heartbeat.
—but not Zareth, and even with all her grace and skill, not Akiri.
So Zareth runs. He scrambles back up the switchback, away from Verazol's lashing tongue, shoving some straggling merfolk before him.
"Leave it!" Zareth cries, hauling the merfolk away from their frantic attempts to turn their oxen around. "Leave it! Run!"
The oxen bleat in panic, stumbling backwards. Zareth has enough space to press himself into the cliff face and avoid their lumbering progress, but one of the merfolk is not so lucky. Zareth reaches for the fallen merfolk, but Verazol's tongue snaps forward from the mist, a rippling trunk of steaming muscle, and snatches the fallen caravanner.
Zareth takes a step back from where the fallen caravanner had been not seconds before. The Magosi roars in its thunderous, endless tumbling. Running makes sense, but for one soaring reason:
She is still out there, somewhere, trying to fight this monster.
Zareth turns to face the mist behind which the legendary serpent lurks. He can't leave his friend again, even if he was afraid—even if they couldn't win this fight, he would fight by her side.
To be a bloom of the coming spring.
With almost deliberate care, Verazol probes its head in from the waterfall mist. The tip of its beak parts the water like the armored keel of a ship, gouged and scarred by legends and beasts that it had consumed in years long gone. Zareth's knives, deadly at their scale, are useless splinters against Verazol. Still, he raises them, and then stops. Somehow, through the roaring water, he hears a sound that chills him to the bone. A horrible sound, colder than any brine depth or howling wind.
Akiri's first fall was from a short height to a soft mattress stuffed with raw lambswool. This was a planned fall, the first part of any line-slinger's training. Learn to feel what falling feels like.
Her second fall came along a slingers' practice course in the far north of Tazeem. Sturdy anchors lined both sides of the shallow canyon, which was filled with still and deep water, a lake fed by numerous natural springs. There, Akiri learned how to suppress and—in time—ignore the fear of falling for the precious seconds one had at the top of a fall. At height, should an anchor fail, a line snap, or a throw miss, you had a window of time to save yourself; slingers learned not to waste that time being afraid.
Her third fall—not counting the hundreds she endured in that distant canyon—was her first real fall. One hundred feet up the face of a sheer escarpment in the Bulwark, chasing down a band of skilled raiders. She was upon them when the kitesail she wore on her back caught a blast of the stiff Bulwark updraft, snapped its locks, and flung her into the air. To this day, she refused to wear a kitesail: yes, it had saved her from that fall, allowing her to glide safely to the ground once she regained control of it, but it had thrown her from safety first.
Her fourth fall was this one.
She doesn't panic (she does, but she tamps down on the panic, suppressing it with decades of training and gut-level experience).
She sights her closest feature (the wet, mist-shrouded switchback steps next to the Magosi. The serpent's body slides in and out from the switchbacks and the waterfall column. She doesn't have much room to work with).
She throws her hook (twenty feet? Thirty? A long throw, in any case).
It bites, and Akiri holds through the swing that follows, slamming into the switchbacks well below the caravan and the bulk of the serpent's body, still some hundred feet above the gorge floor. Winded, she manages as gracefully as she can to untangle herself from the line and scoot back from the edge. A quick inventory shows nothing broken, but her legs are covered in cuts and barbs torn from inside the smaller mouth of the serpent. She pulls the barbs out and tosses them aside, ignoring the pain. She can walk, and once she dresses these wounds, she can start up the switchbacks to—
The air changes. Cold when she landed, the air suddenly runs hot and thick with reek.
Akiri looks up from her triage.
The main head of the serpent looms down from above, plunging Akiri into shadow. She reaches for her knife, but stops, remembering she'd lost it in the fall.
With nothing, Akiri freezes.
The maw yawns wide.
Zareth slides to a stop at the edge of the switchback, leaning over as far as he dares, hoping as much as he dares that Akiri made it. What he sees send a curse tumbling from him, snatched away by the high cliff wind.
Verazol has Akiri cornered. Her swing took her to a switchback about forty feet below, and now the larger head of the great serpent hovers just level with her, its titanic body spilling and undulating out into the open air. Worse, Verazol's second head made for them, smaller but no less monstrous at Zareth's scale.
Zareth steps back from the edge. He curses. He bought the caravanners some time, but buying them time would not stop Verazol from attacking until it had eaten its fill. Alone, he didn't stand a chance against the legendary serpent; together, he and Akiri didn't stand a chance, but they could at least make it out alive.
A distraction. Something to distract Verazol so they could escape. One of the dead oxen, already near the edge of the switchback.
Zareth curses again, paces, curses at the terrible plan forming. He slams his knives into their scabbards, clips them secure, and claps his hands.
"You," he calls to a group of merfolk. "The second head is coming. Help me with this. We'll distract it so we can run," he cries, pointing to the dead ox.
The caravanners hesitate, but Zareth had protected them, so as one, they hurry to help. With great effort, they shove the ox's corpse over the edge of the switchback. It tumbles, end over end, and slams into Verazol's main head, bouncing off to continue its long, long fall. Verazol's main head screeches, rears back, and looks directly up at them.
Zareth rolls back from the edge, pushing himself up into a standing position. The merfolk start at first to talk concernedly, then to shout, then to scream, as Verazol's main head rises from below. Serrated mouth open wide, breath a furnace-hot blast, Zareth sees in Verazol the rage of Zendikar incarnate, twisted by the terrible things that had been imprisoned here. The serpent's black and featureless eyes reflecting the unliving, aberrant Eldrazi—those terrible beings Zareth's people once called gods—and the Roil. The prison and the prisoner, both irrevocably poisoned by the other. Now it was his turn to face it, and he knew what he had to do.
Zareth tries to even out his breathing, to stay still and coiled as the merfolk around him run, panicking, trying to clamber over one another and get away. Zareth keeps his vision through the crowd on the movements of the great serpent, ready, waiting.
Verazol rears back and lunges forward.
Zareth sprints toward the serpent—two, maybe three steps, shouldering aside one merfolk caravanner who gets in his way—and then dives. Verazol's split maw scrapes by on either side of Zareth's leap, coming so close that barbs snag on his clothing, but do not catch him, do not stop him.
Zareth jumps into the open air and falls his first real fall.
Akiri watches from below as the serpent lunges at the switchback. She cries out as the whole cliff face shakes, as the great gout of shattered rock and dust explodes out from the force of the titanic creature's strike. She watches in horror as merfolk and pieces of merfolk fall with the tumbling rock and shattered steps, as oxen and a spray of glittering trade goods and crafts bound for Coralhelm arc out into the open air.
Her cry strangles short when she sees him.
He flashes past her silently. She sees his eyes are closed and that he has no slinger's harness or line. Akiri stumbles forward, ignoring the serpent as it gorges itself on the poor caravan above, and tumbles off the edge, hook and line in hand.
She falls, catching Zareth's outstretched hand, pulling him in close to brace just before her trailing line catches an anchor, jerking both to a breath-stealing halt.
They swing, both gasping for air, Akiri groaning in pain and Zareth silent. Somewhere far above, the terror gorges itself, but down here, it is just the two of them. They could not even see the body of the colossus; down here, an indeterminable distance to the ground, the roar of the Magosi was all-encompassing.
Some time later, Akiri realized Zareth was talking to her. She couldn't make out what he was saying through the obliterating sound of the Magosi. He shouted again, and Akiri could not hear. Finally, he put his lips to her ear, and spoke once more.
"I had no choice."
And Akiri knew he was right. She was furious, but Zareth was right, even if his reasoning began and ended at the day's tragedy. Zareth did not have a choice, she did not have a choice, none of them did; the serpent would have killed them had they stayed, would have killed everyone who didn't run from it. Zareth forced her hand, made her save him, and in doing so, gave her some cover from the shame. At least her friend was alive. At least they could still fight.
Akiri wanted to tell Zareth that it was okay, that he had done the right thing, but she could not, as there was no possible right thing for him to do, no space for anything more than brutal calculus; Zareth's choice meant their effort would continue, but his choice had been a terrible one, and he would carry with him the spirits of the dead he'd doomed. Akiri remained silent and held her friend as he sobbed like he did that dawn after the Battle. The same two people, again the only survivors.
"There was nothing else you could do," Akiri said, whispering to Zareth and herself. The brutal truth of this moment: in Zendikar, they did not have any choice but the grim options presented to them. To change their options, they would have to change the world.
The wind, some time later, drove the mist and heat and great serpent Verazol away.
Akiri and Zareth made it to the bottom of the Magosi. They waited a day, but no one else followed.
They avoided Coralhelm on the road back to Sea Gate.
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:14 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
New story, a novelisation of the trailer.
"I will bend you to my will"
Nahiri confirmed earthbender... wait...
|Author:||AzureShade [ Wed Sep 16, 2020 1:26 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Today's UR (Magic Story): EPISODE 3: THE DANGEROUS CLIMB, THE LONG FALL
EPISODE 3: THE DANGEROUS CLIMB, THE LONG FALL
Posted in Magic Story on September 16, 2020
By A. T. Greenblatt
As Nahiri climbed, she smiled. The Murasa Skyclave loomed above her, growing closer with each step. Soon, all the hurts of this plane would be healed. With the Lithoform Core, she would erase the Roil and make Zendikar as beautiful and tranquil as it was millennia ago.
Like she remembered it.
She noticed the labored breathing of Akiri, Zareth, Orah, and Kaza behind her, but she didn't slow her breakneck pace. Not when she was so close to her goal.
Instead, she stonecrafted more and more stairs, which clicked and slid into place as she took them two at a time.
They climbed above the harabaz trees and soaring cliffs of Sunder Bay, to where air smelled clean and cold. They climbed to where droplets from the ruins' waterfalls met their sweat-soaked clothes and made the footing precarious. They climbed until Nahiri could almost touch the intricate carving on the lowest reaches of the Skyclave.
It was only then that Nahiri needed her companions. Zareth's sharp eyes, Orah's quiet steadfastness, Kaza's quick thinking, and Akiri's masterful line-slinging skills. Because around them, the Skyclave floated in pieces and chunks. Some areas were large enough for waterfalls, trees, and landings. Some were only as wide as Nahiri. Stray hedrons dotted the spaces in between the ruins, glinting in the sunlight.
She made those hedrons. Centuries ago, when she thought trapping the Eldrazi on Zendikar was the best course of action. Back when Sorin and Ugin were at her side whispering reassurances that they would always be there when she needed them.
Now, the hedrons were scattered and tilted at unnatural angles, and Zendikar carried deep scars of the Eldrazi's wrath.
It will all be rectified soon, Nahiri thought, gritting her teeth. She pressed on.
The higher they climbed, the more treacherous the landscape became. Sun glare struck in unexpected moments, the ruins rumbled and moaned under their feet, and the handholds were slick with water and algae. Eventually, not even Nahiri could tell which stones would hold them and which were like temperamental allies, looking solid and trustworthy until you put some pressure on them. More than once, someone in the party lost their footing and Akiri would snag them with her ropes or Nahiri with her lithomancy. It required instant reflexes, and by the time they reached the largest of the ruins, everyone's nerves were frayed.
"Which way now?" Akiri asked, coming up beside Nahiri.
Before them, the Murasa Skyclave was a maze of towering channels of carved limestone, where moss grew in the crevices and slender, dangerous bridges spanned bottomless drops.
It was here that Nahiri understood that this Skyclave was a death trap.
"Let's find out," she said, grinning. The ancient kor set a deadly challenge before her, and Akiri accepted it gladly.
Nahiri removed the key from her pocket. It softly glowed and pulsed in her hand. She held it up to the ancient ruins.
And the ancient ruins responded.
The stones at their feet began to shine and thrum in a syncopated rhythm with the key, and stones around the party lit up. Then the glowing stones stretched out in a single line deep into the ruins. Behind her, Nahiri heard Orah gasp.
"A path," said Akiri, with admiration.
"Yes," replied Nahiri, "but watch your step. This Skyclave is old. And it doesn't like visitors." She saw Zareth give Akiri's shoulder a squeeze, and Akiri put a hand on his. Orah exchanged looks with Kaza.
"Noted," Kaza said, cheerfully.
Nahiri smiled. Proper adventurers.
They followed the lit stone path in silence, their instincts telling them that they were being led by ancient and powerful magic. Zareth, being the quickest and quietest of the party, often scouted ahead. He found traps full of poison and archways waiting to collapse and guided them around such threats safely.
These were only a fraction of the dangers in the timeworn Skyclave.
In the distance, there was always the sound of crumbling stone as hedrons crashed into the spaces around them. In the shadows of columns and crevices, they heard the scratching of unseen claws. But whenever the shadows got too close, Nahiri would make a hedron crackle with blue energy, and the shadows would retreat.
Aside from that one exception, though, Nahiri and her adventuring party passed through unmolested.
As if the Core wants to be found.
The thought made Nahiri smile.
The path ended at a massive wall, covered in tiles that formed a dizzying pattern of geometric shapes and lines. At the base of the wall, the glowing stone path flashed once more and then went out. There were no other entrances or routes in sight.
"What now?" Zareth asked, folding his arms.
"Maybe we can blow it up," Kaza suggested, not hiding the hope in her voice.
"No," said Nahiri. With one hand, she clutched the key to her chest. With the other, she placed her palm on the wall. She closed her eyes, feeling the miniscule vibrations under her fingers. In the speech of stone—that beautiful, silent language—she asked, "How do I get past you?"
The wall's answer came in shifting vibrations, leading her down to where the tiles met the floor. She followed the stone's invisible movement to a recessed and tileless spot at the very bottom.
A spot the exact size of the key in her hand.
Nahiri grinned as she slipped the key into the empty slot.
There, it pulsed and brightly glowed, lighting up the tiles in a chain reaction until the entire wall was aglow. Behind her, she heard the adventurers let out a soft gasp.
"Open," Nahiri commanded in ancient kor.
And the entrance did. Folding up from the bottom tile by tile, as if a waterfall in reverse, echoing like rain in the empty ruins.
Moments later, the party found themselves standing before a grand cavern.
"That's it?" Kaza asked, unimpressed. "Anyone could have done that."
"Very few can read the runes," replied Nahiri, "or speak the forgotten language."
"Besides, no one is as insane as us to make this climb," said Akiri. The kor woman was grinning, something Nahiri hadn't seen her do before. She headed into the cavern. "Come on. Let's claim this treasure."
Akiri had Orah and Kaza stand guard at the back of the cavern, near the exit. She knew they had been extremely lucky so far during this venture. But Akiri was too much of a seasoned climber and adventurer to expect that luck to last.
She'd lost her first traveling party to the Eldrazi years ago. She refused to lose her second one, too.
Be prepared, but quick on her feet. That was all she could do.
Together, she, Zareth, and Nahiri crossed the chamber to the center of the room, to the object that commanded all their attention.
The object that was impossible to ignore.
On a raised dais in front of them was a monolith of dark, polished granite, tapered to a point and split in the middle. Shafts of light streamed in through the ceiling, angling toward the monolith, and hedrons danced around it. Sharp crackles of dark lightning, flashing between the hedrons and the monolith, punctuated the silence of the room.
As they approached, the top of the monolith lifted away, and between the two halves of the granite, shining like a dark beacon, was the Lithoform Core.
If Akiri was honest, the Core didn't seem like much. It was small, something that could fit into her hand, though large enough that she wouldn't be able completely close her fingers around it. It shone like a small star, but it was unadorned, almost plain.
But Akiri learned long ago that sometimes the most powerful artifacts—or people—were the most unassuming.
Akiri stopped a few feet from the dais, tense and ready. She reached for Zareth's hand beside her, taking comfort in its warmth. Nothing about the Skyclave felt stable.
Nahiri kept moving forward.
Closer and closer she walked, until Akiri saw Nahiri's visage reflected in the monolith. Nahiri's expression was one of pure determination.
"This is it," Nahiri breathed. "This will change Zendikar forever."
Beside her, Akiri felt Zareth flinch. All his worries and his fears about the Core conveyed in one involuntary motion.
On an impulse, Akiri moved toward the dais, intending to take the Core, knowing that it was probably trapped. Zareth put a concerned hand on her shoulder, but she gave him a reassuring nod and kept going. She suspected that if she was quick enough, subtle enough, she could avoid setting off whatever deadfall laid in wait.
The Core flashed bright and sharp as she neared, as if in warning. She thought she detected the barest of whispers coming from it, like hushed prayers. Or threats.
For Zendikar, she thought, and swallowing her nerves, Akiri reached out.
"Careful." Nahiri's hand clamped over her wrist in an instant. Akiri turned to look at Nahiri. The crackling lightning overhead illuminated her face, and there was a new and dangerous glint in her eye. Something that Akiri hadn't seen before, not even when Nahiri faced down a stomper in Sunder Bay.
Years of line-slinging had taught Akiri when to push forward. And when to hold back.
Wait. Watch, she thought, and stepped down to stand beside Zareth again. She found his hand and squeezed it. He squeezed back.
Better to leave the ancient artifact to the ancient stranger, she thought. And a small part of her was relieved that it wasn't her on the dais.
With her breath caught in her throat, Akiri watched as Nahiri raised a palm under the Lithoform Core, curled her fingers around it, and slowly pulled it toward her.
For a moment, there was only silence. Just long enough for Akiri to release her breath. Just long enough for her to hope.
Then, there was a deafening crack, and the surrounding chamber was disintegrating, falling, tearing itself apart.
Good luck's run out, Akiri thought. She turned and shouted, "Nahiri, we need to leave—now!"
Before her, Orah and Kaza were already running. Behind her, she saw Nahiri sprinting down the steps of the dais, shoving the Core into a satchel on her hip. Beside her, Zareth kept pace with Akiri's long strides.
But even as she ran, Akiri could feel the floor trembling under her feet, and she realized that this was not only the Murasa Skyclave's trap at work.
The Roil was shaking the earth and the sky as the Skyclave tore itself apart. Perhaps it was reacting to the magic unleashed. Perhaps it was just bad luck. Akiri didn't know.
Ahead of her, the floor beneath Orah and Kaza shifted and rolled like a wave.
"Look out!" she shouted, but another thunderous crack drowned out her warning.
The stone floor shifted and splintered, and Kaza and Orah were hurled back. The ground they stood on tilted to sharper and sharper angles until the wizard and the cleric were scrambling to hang on by their fingers.
Then the floor shuddered. Kaza and Orah cried out, losing their tentative grip. They fell, disappearing from view.
"No!" Akiri shouted. She skidded to the edge, too slow, too late to help.
One agonizing moment later, far below, Kaza appeared, hovering on her magic staff, with Orah clinging to her waist.
Akiri exhaled, relief flooding through her.
"Keep going!" Zareth shouted. But she wasn't sure if he was talking to the separated members of their party or her.
Both, she thought, and ran.
Fear twisted Akiri's stomach as she sprinted and the structures around her shattered and gave way to empty sky. Would Kaza and Orah make it out alive? Did she lead her party to their deaths?
No, they were good, talented people. This wouldn't be like her first adventuring party. They would be safe.
She had to believe that.
Now, she had to focus on making sure Zareth and Nahiri reached safety, too.
Because all they could do now was try to get out of the Skyclave alive.
Nahiri ran, fighting to hold together the ruins with her lithomancy just long enough for them to cross the precarious stone bridges. The temptation to planeswalk away to safety flashed through her mind. But no, she was done with abandoning Zendikar in its time of need. The Murasa Skyclave offered her a challenge, and she would rise to meet it.
In her satchel on her side, she thought she sensed the Core whispering, but Nahiri didn't have time to listen.
Because the Skyclave was tearing itself apart without the Core. And the Roil, the damn Roil, was whipping up winds around them and making a dangerous situation a thousand times more chaotic.
She couldn't hold together the Murasa Skyclave and hold back the Roil at the same time.
At least, not yet.
So, she ran behind Akiri and Zareth, anger coiling inside her.
They hit a dead end. Before them, islands of tree-covered ruins floated with nothing between but empty sky and a few hedrons. With a masterful throw, Akiri flung her rope and latched onto a drifting ledge.
"Quick!" she said, before swinging over to the massive tilted platform below them. Zareth threw another rope, and Nahiri readied hers, but a huge swirling vortex of winds in the distance caught her attention.
Her momentary delay was too long. Before either she or Zareth made the jump, the Skyclave shuddered and shifted again.
Nahiri struggled not to fall as she watched the platform on which Akiri stood sail away from them.
"Hurry," said Zareth, holding out his arm to her. And Nahiri realized they were going to have to swing over together.
Nahiri considered refusing. This trickster, who has no love for her, might let her fall. But despite his tricks, she knew Zareth had enough honor not to murder in cold blood.
Nahiri grabbed the rope beside Zareth, and as he prepared to swing, she whispered in his ear, "I know you want the Core for yourself."
Surprise crossed the merfolk's face, but before he could respond, Nahiri commanded the stone underneath them to give them a push.
For one gravity-defying, heart-pounding moment, all Nahiri saw was sky. Wide and unforgiving.
Then they dropped to the platform. Nahiri rolled to a graceful stop. Zareth's expression melted into pure relief when he saw Akiri. She pulled him to his feet and gave Nahiri a small nod.
They were running again.
The noise was relentless as the gust of stiff wind that tore at their faces and their clothes and the Skyclave crumbled around them. The delicate stone bridges broke and fell, and the hedrons spun out of control, missing them by inches.
This was Zendikar in its most ruined, dangerous, and nightmarish form, and Nahiri hated it.
Still, she kept running, kept dodging, kept escaping.
Until the vortex appeared.
It sprang up without warning in a space through the floor of the floating ruin. Like a tornado, it ripped into everything and everyone around it. Seconds before, Zareth had swung down to a landing on the other side of the chasm. Nahiri no longer saw him. Akiri stood, paused with the rope in her hand as the whirlwind of stone and dust whipped to a frenzy around them.
"Go!" Nahiri shouted. With a small nod, Akiri slid down the rope.
Nahiri turned, and with legs braced, arms outstretched, she grimaced and faced the vortex.
I will bend you to my will, she thought. Like she did to the Roil in Akoum, like she did with Sorin and so many other enemies in the past. She stretched out her fingers and let her rage and her guilt pour out of her with her magic.
Piece by piece, the vortex slowed and then stopped, becoming a frozen, harmless thing.
Nahiri smiled, victorious.
But it was a short-lived triumph. The vortex swelled again. Like a dam on the edge of bursting, it contained so much anger and force it pushed Nahiri back, until she could contain it no longer.
And Nahiri went flying off the ruin's ledge.
There was only sky around her, blue and cold. Nahiri twisted midair and saw Akiri's rope inches away. She reached out her hand.
She was free falling.
Nahiri's heart seized in her throat as she summoned every shred of power she had left to stop her plunge. Until something caught her arm.
"Got you!" Akiri gasped and grinned. She hoisted Nahiri to the platform with Zareth's help.
Nahiri's cheeks burned with shame. "Let's go," she said, and shifted the floating ruins around them into a bridge. She dashed across it. Behind her, the raging rush of chaos and destruction grew louder, grew closer.
Nahiri bared her teeth. Now she knew for certain she couldn't heal Zendikar with her lithomancy alone.
The Core in her satchel was whispering again, but Nahiri wasn't listening. She was sprinting, and she was planning.
Nahiri landed on a wide stretch of the Murasa Skyclave that was still unbroken, followed closely by Zareth and Akiri. It was the first place they reached that wasn't crumbling or shaking. It took a moment for Nahiri to realize what was wrong.
Why is there lava here? she thought, perplexed, studying the area before her. Then realization struck her—the Roil had changed the landscape of the Skyclave, like it had done to so many other areas on this plane. Nissa said that the Roil had begun as a reaction to the Eldrazi, Zendikar's way of fighting the sickness within it. Now, it seemed, it was trying to fight her.
Is this what it calls a fight? Nahiri smirked.
The floor before her exploded in jets of fire and ash. It knocked Nahiri back, and an immense, furious elemental emerged from the ground, as if it was born from the lava itself. Its massive chest and fists radiated heat, crackling fire as its coal-red eyes turned and glared at Nahiri. The look was full of hate.
Nahiri stretched a hand behind her, and a moment later, a glowing stone sword emerged fully formed in her grasp. If this thing wanted a fight, she would give it one. Gladly.
Zareth was quicker, though. With unflagging courage, he charged the elemental, trident in hand. An arc of energy shot out from the weapon and surrounded the creature, striking it full in the chest.
The elemental didn't even flinch. It cast its calm stare upon Zareth, raised both of its fiery fists, and brought them down on the merfolk.
But as quick as lightning, Akiri was there in front of Zareth, arm raised, the gauntlet on her wrist flashing, a bright disc appearing as a shield between her and the monster. The elemental slammed both fists down on the magical shield. Akiri groaned and crumpled. The creature growled in frustration and raised its hands again.
Nahiri saw Akiri and Zareth bracing for another blow and knew they would not survive the next one.
Lifting one hand in an arc while grasping her sword in the other, Nahiri raised the earth and rode it up into the sky. She barely heard the whispering as she pulled the Core from her satchel.
The motion made the elemental pause, look away from the prone figures before it, and stare straight at her. Or rather, at the Core in her hand.
"Is this what you want?" Nahiri shouted.
The elemental growled and stalked toward Nahiri, fists balled, looming closer.
Nahiri raised her sword, but she knew it wouldn't be enough. She alone wouldn't be enough against this abomination created by the Roil. She lowered her sword. Looked at the Lithoform Core in her hand.
Should I? she wondered.
The Core continued its whispers, but she wasn't able to make out the words.
But words were not important. Actions were.
She heard Akiri cry out from a distance, and Nahiri shifted her glance toward the sound. Zareth was running toward the monster. No, she realized, he was racing toward her, trident pulled back, energy dancing between its prongs. His face was set in grim determination.
In the same instant, the elemental growled at Nahiri and lunged.
That was when Nahiri decided.
She raised the Core and easily, so easily, channeled the power in her hand.
The world cracked with dark energy. Then turned white. Color washed away in the brightness, sound became lost in the roar, and for a moment, there was nothing. Nahiri saw nothing. Heard nothing.
Her world was clean.
When the light from the Core dimmed, everything around Nahiri had turned to ashen gray. There was nothing but silence, and the elemental was completely gone.
Nahiri smiled, victorious. She had won.
Akiri's agonized voice broke the silence. "Zareth!"
Akiri was on her knees, holding the cold, stiff body of the person she loved. She blinked, blinked again, wanting this to be a mistake, a cruel trick. It had to be.
Zareth's hand was curled up into a claw, grasping for something. His mouth was wide in a silent scream. But it was his eyes that would haunt Akiri's dreams for months to come.
Zareth's eyes, which were always bright and full of emotion, had no light in them at all.
"Zareth . . ." Akiri gasped, holding the body of her friend, her love, close. This couldn't be. It couldn't . . .
She felt Nahiri's shadow fall over her. She glanced over and saw that the Lithoform Core was on the ground, a few feet away from where Akiri knelt in the ashes.
Nahiri moved to pick it up, but Akiri was faster. Within moments, Akiri was on her feet and stumbling back from the strange, ancient kor woman.
"What is this . . .thing, Nahiri?" she demanded. The Core was warm, glowing softly in her hand, like a clear sky on a perfect line-slinging day.
"No more storms or disasters," Nahiri said, sounding so calm, so reasonable. She moved closer, "No more hellish monsters. This is our chance."
Akiri took in the surrounding devastation, the corpse on the ground. "Our chance?"
Nahiri didn't reply. Just took another step forward. Then another.
Akiri stumbled back, aware that there was a ledge behind her, dropping into empty sky.
"Zareth's chance?" she shouted, pointing to the corpse. "No. This ends here." She couldn't let Nahiri reach her. She couldn't let her get the Core.
Zareth was right about Nahiri. He was right.
Nahiri kept advancing. Fear clamped around Akiri's broken heart, and when the ledge was almost at her heels, she stopped.
"No," said Akiri and held the Core over the edge, ready to drop it, ready to be free of this terrible, deadly prize.
But Nahiri's gaze fixed on something past her. Akiri turned and spotted a hedron rising behind her, just within rope's reach. She'd only have to sling a line . . .
The hedron sparked and dark energy reached out from it, coursing through her, and Akiri found herself unable to move. She watched, frozen, as Nahiri came closer.
Calmly, Nahiri took the Lithoform Core from her nerveless hand.
Nahiri reached up and touched Akiri's cheek. It was only then that Akiri realized her cheeks were covered in tears.
"I'm sorry, Akiri, I really am," said Nahiri, and she sounded truly regretful. But what Akiri saw in Nahiri's face was only determination and ruthlessness.
She wanted to scream, but her voice was lost. She wanted to reach for her ropes, but her muscles wouldn't respond. Akiri could do nothing as Nahiri planted a hand on her shoulder. And pushed.
Akiri toppled back.
The last thing Akiri saw was Nahiri standing, with a cold, calculated look in her eye, and the Core hovering over her outstretched palm.
Then there was only sky. Endless and cruel.
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Wed Sep 16, 2020 4:00 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
I also think its kind of strange that the core is constantly described as star-like in terms of brilliance, yet Nahiri makes a sedron emit "dark energy". Like the story almost had it with the white villainy but decided to screw with it for some reason.
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:51 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Flashback episode today: https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/a ... 2020-09-18
Really dig the feelings of lack of connection and cultural destruction.
|Author:||Barinellos [ Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:52 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Gods I am just depressed they squandered the Surrakar
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Sat Sep 19, 2020 7:07 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Yeah, they'd be a pretty unique aquatic race
|Author:||neru [ Mon Sep 21, 2020 4:45 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
I really liked Obuun's story. It also showed a good example of the subtle hegemony of white. The kor took in an orphan and gave him the tools to do well in their society; they didn't assume an elf had one predestined role that he's supposed to just accept. They created safe homes where people don't have to worry about their parents being killed by giant salamander people. Nahiri has reason to think the skyclaves were an ideal society.
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:36 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
New story today.
when they faced Nicol Bolas again.
Please don't, War of the Spark is already pretty pointless.
|Author:||neru [ Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:08 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
These mainline stories feel mostly functional. I don't really get Jace's actions through these stories.
The side stories are very well written.
|Author:||AzureShade [ Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:32 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Today's UR (Magic story: EPISODE 4: OF HAUNTING SONGS AND WHISPERED WARNINGS
EPISODE 4: OF HAUNTING SONGS AND WHISPERED WARNINGS
Posted in Magic Story on September 23, 2020
By A. T. Greenblatt
Akiri knew the sensation of falling as intimately as the strength of her own hands. She didn't fear the rush of air on her face or the way her stomach leapt to her throat. She was the best line-slinger on Zendikar, and she learned long ago that sometimes, in order to climb, you had to fall.
But she had never fallen so far and so long before. She had never fallen without hope.
She could see the Murasa Skyclave shrinking above her as she plummeted. And if she closed her eyes, Akiri saw Nahiri's cool, indifferent expression and the Core in her hand, in that terrible moment before she was shoved off the floating ruin.
In those first few desperate seconds, Akiri threw her ropes and hooks at every floating ledge or slanted hedron within reach. But instead of tearing itself apart, the pieces of the Murasa Skyclave were moving. It was stitching itself back together like an impossible puzzle, and her hooks lost their mooring or were smashed before Akiri could save herself.
Soon the only thing around her was empty sky.
These are the last moments of my life, she realized. Grief and anger hit her like a punch. Akiri hadn't managed to save or protect anything she loved in those desperate minutes before Nahiri pushed her.
Zendikar. Zareth. She closed her eyes and thought of her friend and love, pushing away the image of his frozen, screaming face in the moment of his death, remembering him instead laughing, line-slinging with her, his bright eyes full of mischief.
Akiri held his memory close as she waited for the ground. She would see Zareth soon.
The impact knocked the breath from her. Her neck and limbs jerked forward painfully. Then snapped back.
Suddenly, Akiri wasn't falling anymore.
Strange, she thought. Death is gentler than I imagined. She anticipated feeling the limbs of the harabaz trees break against her body, at least, if she felt anything at all. Opening her eyes, she expected only darkness, but around her there was bright blue sky. Turning her head, she saw Sunder Bay several hundred feet below her, its trees swaying and thrashing against the relentless waves.
"What?" she whispered. She was suspended midair. Impossible.
"Got you!" someone shouted from above.
Akiri looked up again, squinting from the sun, and above her, she could just make out a slim figure leaning on a staff. They were standing on what looked like a ladder of branches. Though that seemed impossible, too.
"What?" she whispered again.
Akiri felt herself rising and realized that there was a bramble branch curled tightly around her chest.
As she drew closer to the figure on the ladder, she saw that her rescuer was an elf woman with long dark hair, clothed in green. Farther down the ladder, a man with windswept hair and bright eyes was carefully climbing up.
The bramble gently set Akiri down on the ladder, a foot or so away from the elf.
"Thank you," said Akiri, after a moment. It was as much as she could manage.
"Are you alright?" asked her rescuer.
"Yes." Akiri glanced up at the Murasa Skyclave. It was nearly whole now, as if they had never sprung the trap. As if Akiri and her party didn't just fight for their lives. It was as if Zareth died for nothing. "No," she whispered as her knees buckled under her.
"Easy"—the elf caught her around the shoulders, steadying her—"I have you."
"Who are you?" Akiri asked.
"I'm Nissa," she replied and, with a timid smile, added, "The slow climber is Jace."
Jace groaned as he came up beside them. "I'm out of practice. We don't have sky dungeons in Ravnica."
Akiri studied them for a moment. There was something about the pair that she wouldn't have recognized a few days ago, something she always disregarded as campfire myths. A sense of unspoken power, that they contained secrets as vast as the world. A feeling that they had one foot here . . . and the other somewhere else.
"You can travel to other realms, can't you?" she asked, recoiling from Nissa's grasp.
Nissa and Jace exchanged a look. "You know about planeswalkers?" Jace asked.
The myths called you walkers. Planeswalker. My demon has a name, Akiri thought as her chest constricted with grief. "I've met Nahiri. She's the one who pushed me." She pointed up to the Skyclave.
She noted that neither planeswalker looked surprised. They both were staring at the Murasa Skyclave.
"Does she have the Core?" Nissa asked, her hands balling into fists at her side.
"Yes." An image of Nahiri's cruel face flashed again in Akiri's mind. And Zareth's dead one.
"We can still catch her," Jace said, beginning to climb again. "Hurry."
"No, Jace!" said Nissa. "Look!"
Akiri followed to where Nissa's finger was pointing. In the distance, she could just make out a white-haired figure running through the air, as if sprinting down a flight of steps. Akiri recognized the stonecrafting. The sight of Nahiri made Akiri's stomach twist.
Nissa thrust forward a hand and shot out dozens of thorn arrows at Nahiri. But the distance between them was too great. Nahiri had plenty of time to block the attack with a flick of her wrist and a well-aimed boulder.
Akiri flinched, readied her ropes. Wait, she thought. Not yet.
She heard Jace exhale behind her, and Akiri turned to see him staring at Nahiri in the distance. He extended three fingers out in the stonecrafter's direction, like an attack, and Akiri held her breath.
Then Nahiri stumbled, clutching the sides of her head. Jace's mouth twitched.
Nahiri regained her balance within moments and slid to a stop on the stone stairs. She turned toward Jace.
Even from this distance, the malice in Nahiri's glare made Akiri's skin crawl.
"Look out!" Akiri shouted, pushing Jace out of the way before a boulder slammed into him.
Then she was falling again. But this time with Jace in her grasp.
Akiri was the best line-slinger in Zendikar for a reason, and she'd been expecting Nahiri's attack. Within seconds, she tossed the rope in her hand and secured the hook on the ladder of vines. She used her momentum to swing out of the way of another boulder and, with three quick hand-over-hand motions, hoisted herself and Jace back up onto the bramble ladder.
When she looked across the sky again, Nahiri was gone. Akiri exhaled, both relieved to be out of Nahiri's sight and furious that she got away.
"That was . . ." Jace said to Akiri, getting his bearings, "impressive."
"Nahiri hired my party for a reason. We are . . . were . . . the best in the world," replied Akiri. With a pang of worry, she wondered where Kaza and Orah were.
Please be alive, she thought.
"We need to follow her quickly!" Nissa said as she began climbing down the brambles.
"Oh, if it's speed you want," Akiri said with cold certainty. She was Akiri, the Fearless Voyager, and she was the master of this domain. This was her home. She began to whirl another rope.
Between her line-slinging and Nissa's vines, they flew down, past Sunder Bay and the canopy of harabaz trees, toward Murasa's infamous imposing cliffs. Akiri swept like a bird through the air from those dizzying heights, despite needing to aid Jace. This time, her falling was practiced, controlled, though her heart was heavy with grief.
She could not let Nahiri get away.
But they were still too slow. By the time she, Nissa, and Jace reached the wide, forested plateau beyond the cliffs, Nahiri was gone.
Nissa clenched her hands and leaned against a massive jurworrell tree. There, she stood still, closed her eyes, head cocked slightly to one side.
"What is she doing?" Akiri whispered to Jace. Jace shrugged.
"Listening," replied Nissa. After a moment, she opened her eyes. "She went north, but I can't tell exactly where. Did Nahiri tell you where she'd go next?" she asked Akiri.
Akiri shook her head. Now that she was on the ground again, the memories of Zareth hounded her. She had spent too much time with mysterious planeswalkers. She understood now that they were as dangerous as the Eldrazi. "Thank you for saving me again," she said, gathering up her ropes.
"Where are you going?" Jace asked, alarmed.
"I need to find Orah and Kaza."
"My friends. Hopefully Nahiri didn't kill them, too." Akiri swallowed hard. She didn't know what she'd do if she lost her entire second adventuring party. Her second family.
"We could use your help," entreated Jace.
"Well, you can't have it," replied Akiri. "Working for Nahiri was one of my greatest mistakes. She used the Core . . . Zareth"—Akiri took a deep breath—"I'm done helping people from other realms." She wasn't sure where Nahiri had come from, but it wasn't from the Zendikar she loved.
"I'm not from another realm," said Nissa, quietly. "I was born here. In Bala Ged. My tribe . . . my tribe was almost wiped out by the Eldrazi. And I feel the devastation everywhere in this world." She straightened and looked directly at Akiri. "This is my home and always will be. And I refuse to let Nahiri change it into her dead stone vision." She spoke softly, but there was a fierce determination in her voice, in her position.
For the first time, Akiri noticed how the entire forest seemed to bend itself around this diminutive elf. Like it was waiting for her to give a command.
"You should know then," said Akiri, "the Core corrupts and kills. Beasts, trees . . ."
People, she couldn't bring herself to say.
Nissa's expression was pained, but not surprised. "So, you don't have any ideas on where she might have gone?" she asked.
"None," Akiri answered.
"I might," said Jace, looking guilty. Both women looked at him with surprise. "I peered into her thoughts," he admitted. "She's going to the Singing City."
Akiri knew the legends around the Singing City. It was said that those who wandered in its ruins went mad.
"I think looking into her mind was the right call," said Nissa, gently. Her brow then furrowed. "But why does she want to go there?"
"Because it was built by the ancient kor," Jace replied.
"What?" Nissa and Akiri said in unison.
"Well, it's a logical conclusion," Jace said. "They built the ancient cities of this world." But Nissa's eyes were closed again, listening.
"I can get there faster on my own," she said.
"Nissa, wait," Jace said, alarmed.
But it was clear to Akiri that Nissa was not waiting for anyone. There was already a tangle of jurworrell roots rising up under her, lifting her into the air. "I will stop Nahiri and destroy the Core," she said, looking down at Akiri. "I promise." But this time, behind that quiet determination, Akiri heard anger.
Akiri nodded. "Hurry."
"Nissa," Jace said, but neither woman paid attention.
Like a line thrown with purpose, the roots swelled and rushed forward into the forest.
Then Nissa was gone.
"Nissa!" Jace yelled after her. But there was nothing where she had stood, except the hum of the forest and the looming trees. He turned to Akiri. "Can you take me to the Singing City?"
"Yes, but I won't." Akiri latched a rope to a thick jurworrell root above her. She needed to find the griffins she and her party had ridden to Murasa. She hoped Kaza and Orah would be at Sunder Bay, waiting for her.
Please be safe, she thought.
"Please, Akiri," Jace said, coming up behind her.
"You're not great at listening, are you?" Akiri said, lifting herself off the ground. "I've lost enough for one day."
One lifetime. Zareth.
"My apologies," Jace said. "I'm usually a decent listener. It's been a trying . . . well, a trying few years, if I'm being honest."
Yes, it has. Akiri pulled herself on the root and looked for the next anchor point.
"Wait, your friends are Kaza and Orah, right?" Jace said.
Akiri stopped, stared at the man in blue. "What about them?"
Jace closed his eyes and pressed his fingers to the side of his temples for a moment. "I'm sensing two figures down at the bay. I'm assuming they're your missing party. Though I can't say for certain."
Akiri grasped the rope and slid to the ground. "How are you doing that?"
Jace shrugged. "I'm a mage. I'm good at illusions and thoughts."
"That's how you could read Nahiri's mind?" she asked. Jace looked guilty, and Akiri recoiled at the idea of her thoughts being read by this otherworld stranger.
My mind is my own, she thought angrily, just in case Jace was listening. Stay out of it.
She began climbing up again.
"What if I promised to take the Core somewhere else? Somewhere beyond Zendikar?" Jace called after her.
What does that even mean? Akiri wanted to ask but stopped herself with a small shudder. The Eldrazi were from somewhere beyond Zendikar. It was better not to know.
"Will the Core no longer be a danger, then?" she asked, instead.
That made Akiri pause. Zareth would have wanted you to save Zendikar. The thought made her heart ache. Stealing the dangerous object and sending it to another world? Zareth would have loved that. And, Akiri had to admit, it was a good solution. With a sigh, she turned back to Jace.
"I'll take you to the entrance of the City so you can help Nissa," she said, cautiously, "but no further."
"Thank you, Akiri," Jace said with relief.
If he was reading her thoughts, she found no sign of it as they made their way to the Singing City.
It was only much later, after she reunited with Orah and Kaza at Sunder Bay, that Akiri realized she never told Jace her name.
Jace followed Akiri through the tangled, towering jurworrell trees until they gave way to a forest blighted by the Eldrazi. Here, the sickly, blackened landscape made Jace's stomach clench with guilt, though he noticed there was new, tender life struggling to grow in the mire.
He pressed on.
He followed her as the trees broke against towering cliffs, as tall as Murasa's Wall. He followed her as they scaled the cracked stones, where the low growls of unseen beasts hiding in the cliffs' caves sometimes made the rocks under his hands vibrate.
Jace followed Akiri onto the Na Plateau and into the dense forest beyond. He was relieved he didn't have to make this journey alone, as the jaddi trees became denser and darker as they neared the city.
Akiri was silent through the whole journey except to whisper, "Look out for wurms" or "There are goblins around here. Stay as silent as you can."
Jace could tell she was holding her grief and worry close, trying not to show it, even though her pain was obvious to him. Perhaps because he had been holding close his own painful secrets.
They came to a break in the forest. Before them was a graveyard of a city beyond age. It was as if one of the massive Skyclaves settled on the earth. Its stone towers were broken and toppled, and its walls were covered in flora and moss. The air smelled dank and dusty, and everything was eerily humming. The gate at the entrance was made of marble—dark and huge and twisted and beautiful, curling and entwining in a complex pattern like the jaddi roots. It loomed before Jace and Akiri.
"Any advice?" he asked.
"Don't go mad," she replied.
"Right." Jace straightened his cloak. "Thank you for your help. And . . . I'm sorry about your friend. I know what it's like to lose someone close to you."
Akiri nodded, her jaw clenching with suppressed emotion. She turned and began to walk away, but then paused.
"I hope Nissa's luck holds better than mine," she said, over her shoulder. And then she was gone in the shadow of the trees.
"Right," Jace said again, and made his way to the gate.
It was unlocked.
Inside was a maze of ruins. Moss covered rooms and corridors stretched out before him with no end in sight. Jace's heart sank. It was apparent that this was not going to be easy. As much as he adored a challenge, this wasn't the time to get lost.
Everywhere, there was a low, slightly off-key humming Jace couldn't quite ignore.
On his right, something moved. Jace immediately threw a magic ward up around him. He followed the sound around the corner and saw a white-haired figure facing away.
"Hello, Jace," Nahiri said, without turning. "Of course you're here."
"I've come on Nissa's behalf," he said.
"She says that Core will destroy Zendikar."
Nahiri turned and faced her, scowling. "This from the person who released the Eldrazi on this plane."
Jace gritted his teeth. He was also one of the planeswalkers that accidentally released the Eldrazi. "She thought she was doing what was best."
"Like she is now?" Nahiri raised an eyebrow, and Jace had no answer. "Unlike that fumbling tree-dweller, I know I'm right."
"Like you were when you trapped the Eldrazi here?" Jace replied.
Nahiri's expression clouded over with anger. "How dare you."
"We don't understand the Lithoform Core," he said, evenly, though he kept a tight hold on his magical ward. "Give me the Core, Nahiri, and we can unravel its mysteries together. On Ravnica."
Nahiri paused, and, for a moment, Jace hoped.
Then she widened her stance.
"Never," she snarled. And with a thrust of her hand, she brought the stones on either side of him together.
The stones smashed through Jace's barrier but were slowed just enough so that he could dodge out of the way. He rolled to his feet, bracing again for the next attack, creating a dozen illusionary Jaces around him.
But Nahiri was sprinting down the corridor. Swearing, Jace dropped the illusions and raced after her.
Down he ran through ancient corridors, catching glimpses of spiraling arches and broken courtyards. Down he ran, following the footprints Nahiri left in the dust as she rushed through narrow passageways and winding halls.
Down he ran on twisted, broken stairs. Into the belly of this ancient kor city.
It was here that the strange humming of the city became an unsettling song. It sang a requiem for something Jace could not name, its lilting harmonies and deep vibrations filling him with such sadness and longing that he considered stopping his pursuit.
No, I have to stop Nahiri, he thought, hearing her footfalls ahead of him. They were slowing. He pressed on.
Deep in the city, the melody became louder, more complex and distorted, more insistent. Jace gritted his teeth. He could see the outline of Nahiri in the distance. The haunting song made his joints ache.
I have to reach Nahiri. Jace stumbled forward through the curling corridor.
But each step was worse than the last. The music swelled, the haunted singing rising, demanding his full attention. Jace stumbled, groaned.
I have to find . . .
He saw there were now blue arcs of magic around him, flashing in time to the music. The song drowned out all sound, all thought. Jace fell to his knees, hand clamped around his ears.
I have to . . . I have to . . .
He struggled to focus, grabbed onto the thought. Not. Go. Mad.
It was risky, untried, but Jace was desperate. He let go of his ears and attempted a spell, one that he'd been meaning to test out, but hadn't yet. A spell that was delicate and dangerous. A spell that blocked out any sound entering his ears.
The singing reached an impossible crescendo. Every fiber of his body spasmed, his mind screamed for relief, beginning to slip away.
Then, mid-note, the song stopped.
Jace exhaled. His spell worked.
Within seconds, his mind cleared and his joints unlocked. He could see Nahiri crumpled on the ground before him, hands over her ears. He got to his feet and rushed over to her, sweeping out his hands, enlarging the radius of his spell to encompass Nahiri.
She groaned and covered her eyes. Jace held back, unsure of what the lithomancer's next reaction would be, wary of an attack.
He reached out telepathically. Are you okay, Nahiri?
She stumbled to her feet, rolled back her shoulders, and glared at Jace. Are you expecting a thank you?
Naturally not, Jace smiled inwardly.
She scowled and stared at her feet. I didn't hear it before. The singing. Then, when I did, I thought I was too powerful for it to affect me.
Jace nodded. This plane has always been full of surprises.
The Core and I are not leaving Zendikar, Jace. Her stance straightened with a sharp, defiant look on her face.
Okay. Jace realized he needed to change tactics if he was going to get through to Nahiri. Where are you going then?
To the center of the city. To activate it.
Jace waited, crossing his arms.
Nahiri rolled her eyes. Runes said there's a magical focal point there that can channel the Core's energy all over Zendikar through the leylines.
This caught Jace's interest. Making the transformation universal?
Nahiri nodded, wariness in her expression.
Jace saw then how Nahiri imagined her healed plane. It was Zendikar transformed. Vast, beautiful cities with thousands of people crafting, selling, thriving. Intricately carved archways and complex, breathtaking architecture was everywhere. And, most of all, the plane was stable. Safe.
It reminded Jace of Ravnica.
I won't hinder you, Nahiri, if you promise not to use the Core until we study this mechanism in more detail.
Nahiri paused, considering, then nodded. I have no desire to harm my home.
But Jace could see her thoughts and knew that Nahiri's definition of harm was not the same as his or Nissa's. That she would raze cities and armies to achieve her goals.
He also knew that if he was ever going to unlock the mysteries of the Core, he was going to have to understand how it was activated. That if it was going to be a useful weapon in the battles to come, its mysterious power had to be quantified first.
And he knew they would need every weapon the planes could offer when they faced Nicol Bolas again.
So, with a placating smile, he turned to Nahiri and thought, Lead the way.
Nahiri and Jace traveled through the maze that was the Singing City, their uneasy truce hanging heavy in the space between them. Nahiri stayed close to Jace, making sure to keep within his spell range. She never wanted to hear those mad, haunted voices again.
As they walked, she kept one hand trailing the mossy stone walls, asking them for the way to the city center, and the other on the satchel on her hip. The Core under her hand felt warm, and she felt its thrumming power. It made her smile.
But it also still whispered, something just low enough that she couldn't make it out. Perhaps when she had a moment, after she restored Zendikar to its former beauty, she would try to decipher the whispers' meaning.
Fortunately, Jace stayed silent, perhaps seeing in her fuming thoughts, as she repeated the mantra never again, never again.
The vibrations of the stones led them down seemingly endless corridors, through empty courtyards, and back up again on cracked and twisting stairs. She was so close now. So close to finding the focal point in the center of the Singing City. So close to finally fixing all the damage she helped create so long ago.
When they emerged from the last staircase, they found themselves in the middle of an ancient garden, now overgrown and overtaken with jaddi roots, ferns, moss, and bright purple flowers. There were still stone trellises and dried fountains and the ghosts of paths between them.
Jace raised his hands and lowered them slowly, dropping the silencing spell. The eerie hum of the city returned but grew no louder.
"What now?" Jace asked.
She pulled out the Lithoform Core from her satchel. It shone in her hand with the promise of power. Its whispers became frantic, furious.
"Can you hear that?" Nahiri asked, holding up the Core.
"Hear what?" Jace asked, frowning.
"Nothing," said Nahiri, quickly. "Let's move."
Nahiri pointed to a large stone gazebo-like structure before them. Even from where they stood, she could see that it was collapsed and ruined. But wasn't everything in Zendikar?
She tucked the Core back in the satchel and strode forward.
Something was wrong. The feeling grew the closer they came to the ruined building, and Nahiri realized the gazebo had completely fallen in on itself, crushing whatever was inside.
"No," said Nahiri, and she ran forward, putting her hands on the collapsed entrance. The stone vibrations told her the damage was fresh.
"What are you doing?" asked Jace.
"Fixing this!" said Nahiri as the rocks around her began to shift and move. She could undo this damage. She had to.
"Don't bother," said a voice from behind them. Nahiri spun and saw Nissa standing in the ruins of an ancient garden, staff in one hand and the other curled into a fist at her side. She stood tall and firm, and there was a calm, yet dangerous, look in her eyes.
"The focal point," Nahiri said, through gritted teeth, "was here."
"It was," Nissa replied, coldly, "until the elementals destroyed it."
"You made your creatures do this?" shouted Nahiri. It would take her days, if not weeks, to undo the damage to the magical channels here.
"I don't make them do anything," Nissa replied. "I help them, and they help me. I'm Zendikar's guardian, and they are the living embodiments of this plane." Behind her, a giant elemental appeared. Its limbs were formed of roots and leaves, and its head had massive antlers that looked like swept-back wings. "Isn't that right, Ashaya?"
Nahiri scowled, but the appearance of such a formidable elemental made her pause. Both she and Jace stepped back.
"Nissa." Jace raised his hands in a pacifying gesture. "I promise I won't use the Core or let anyone else use it," he said looking at Nahiri, "until we understand it."
"And what does your word mean when the other party won't respect it?" replied Nissa. She was staring right at Nahiri.
"If she doesn't," Jace said with infuriating calm, "she'll find herself in an impressively believable illusion of the Singing City. Except this time, I won't hold back the song."
"Meddler," Nahiri hissed. She silently swore never to trust anyone ever again.
"I don't want to fight you. I really don't," Nissa said to Jace and Nahiri. "We've all fought enough. We deserve some peace."
"I agree completely, but . . ." Jace said, "I think Nahiri has a point. The ancient Zendikar was beautiful. I saw her memories."
"See, even the meddler agrees with me," Nahiri said with satisfaction. Finally, someone was seeing reason.
"Jace, we talked about this. The elementals—"
"Will grow back. Everything grows back."
"Not everything," Nissa said, quietly.
"The Zendikar I know is strong, unbreakable," Nahiri said.
"Think of the stability," reasoned Jace. "How people on this plane will be able to prosper without fear of the next Roil."
Nissa took a step back. Then another. "I trusted you," she said to Jace. The horror and hurt on her face were plain.
"Nissa," Jace pleaded.
"You don't want to fight me," Nahiri said, putting a hand over the Core in her satchel.
Nissa stared straight at her. "Don't try."
But Nahiri was done listening. She had faced elder dragons and immortal vampires. She would not be stopped. Not now. Not by someone so small and tender and unsure. Not when she was so close.
With a flick of her wrists, Nahiri created dozens and dozens of glowing swords. One for every instance of her rage in the last thousand years. With a second flick, she hurled the swords directly at Nissa.
But before any of her weapons could make contact, a blur knocked all the swords from the air.
Something collided with Nahiri and knocked the breath from her body, smashing her to the ground.
She rolled and got to her feet, preparing to strike back. But what she saw made her pause. Beside her, she heard Jace suck in his breath.
Nissa was floating several feet in the air, her hair streaming out behind her, green energy coursing through her. Even from a distance, Nahiri could feel Nissa's anger, her intent to protect this broken Zendikar at all costs. Because before Nissa was Ashaya in their full power.
The Soul of the Wild seemed to swell with strength, with the drive to protect. Its gaze was fixed on Nahiri, its eyes glowing green with energy, and it raised four of its twisted branch-like limbs, bringing them down on Nahiri with a fierce crack.
Nahiri rolled out of the way just in time. With a sweep of her arm, she raised stones around her and smashed them against the elemental. But the rocks broke upon the branches like glass, and the creature didn't even flinch. It turned its massive head toward her.
The elemental raised its vast arms again.
"Run!" Jace yelled behind her.
Nahiri always thought retreating was for cowards. But Ashaya was unrelenting. I need to protect the Core. Above all.
So, she ran.
Together, she and Jace dodged and leapt and sprinted through the ancient garden, using every illusion and counterattack they knew. But it still wasn't enough. Ashaya was too vast, too quick. Jace and Nahiri were knocked back and tripped by roots at every opportunity, until all they could do was skid toward the stairs, back into the belly of the Singing City.
The haunting singing flooded their ears. Jace immediately cast his sound blocking spell again, and together they ran back through the moss-covered corridors. Occasionally, moss elementals would stand in their path, but they were smaller and weaker and easily deflected by Jace's counterspells or a well-aimed fist of rocks.
Nahiri's fury fueled her escape. But for the first time in a long while, she also felt a thread of real fear. She had underestimated the elf.
When they reached the entrance of the city and saw the old marble gates, Nahiri exhaled, picked up speed. She was almost there.
But then she spotted a small, familiar figure standing at the entrance. And this time, Nissa and Ashaya were surrounded by dozens and dozens of other elementals.
Nahiri and Jace both skidded to a stop.
"How," Nahiri panted. "How are you traveling . . . so fast?"
"Zendikar is where I belong. It's the heart of my power and strength," Nissa replied. "I know all the paths and how to use them. But you two"—her face filled with fury, and behind her elementals born from the flora of Murasa began to rise—"you will never understand. Leave my home."
"Nissa, wait!" shouted Jace.
"This is my home, tree-dweller." Nahiri braced, called the stones around her, and she felt the Singing City behind her tremble in reply. "This has been my home for thousands of years. And I will not let you win."
Nahiri spread her fingers and raised the stones, calling on all her power for the attack.
But the elementals were faster, surging forward like a furious horde, toward Jace and Nahiri. And in that moment, Nahiri understood.
The battle for Zendikar's soul had begun, and it would be a ruthless fight.
|Author:||Barinellos [ Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:13 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
"Hello, Jace," Nahiri said, without turning. "Of course you're here."
I literally snorted with amusement.
|Author:||Heliosphoros [ Thu Sep 24, 2020 5:55 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Uncharted Realms|
Gotta embrace all villain cliches
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