Welcome back to Archive Trap, the unofficial guide to Magic: The Gathering! Today we will talk about the second major character novel of the post-Mending story: The Purifying Fire. The Purifying Fire was the second Magic novel from the "A Planeswalker Novel" line, which was disconnected from card game blocks (and all the better for it). This novel is known for its excellent characterization of Chandra Nalaar and the introduction of Gideon Jura, who would go on to have a major role as leader of the Gatewatch. Of course, the stated origin stories for both characters were retconned with Magic Origins, becoming two, distrusting, versions of the truth. It is also worth noting that there is an awfully coincidental name similarity between the god Heliod and the Order of Heliud.
Art by Chris Rallis
Origins: Gideon and Chandra
On Theros, Kytheon Iora is just a thirteen-year-old boy languishing in an Akroan prison. He was leading his street gang, the Irregulars, when he was caught for thievery. He was immediately singled out by Ristos, the prison’s tough guy. Ristos made the mistake of thinking Kytheon an easy target, but Kytheon’s natural aura repelled Ristos’ attack, and the boy made short work of the bully. The fight brought him to the attention of Hixus, the prison's warden. Hixus decides to train the boy, and over the course of the next three years straightens Kytheon out and teaches him in both combat and hieromancy. Kytheon finally gets a chance to prove himself when harpies descended upon Akros in record numbers. Needing every body they could get, the most capable prisoners were released to help defend their home.
The defenders are quickly overwhelmed by the onslaught, despite their magic. With cyclopses closing in, Kytheon asks to assemble his Irregulars. Hixus agrees, and he sets off to reunite his friends. Together they execute a maneuver — that later became legendary — to defeat the cyclopses. In the battle’s aftermath, Kytheon scouts outside the city for any sign of more monsters, but instead stumbles across Heliod’s Shrine. The god appears before him and hands him a blessed spear, giving him the power to destroy the real threat: Erebos's Titan. He reassembles the Irregulars and together they tackle the God of the Dead’s titan. They destroy it, but when Erebos arrives personally, Kytheon believes he can take on even a god. Erebos corrects that misperception, easily deflecting Kytheon’s spear. When it lands, Kytheon’s magical defenses are up but his friends have no such aid. As the dust settles and his friends' bodies surround him, Kytheon realizes what he has done. His spark ignites at the horror, and he ends up on Bant. After they mishear his name, he decides to shed his old name and instead become Gideon Jura.
Art by Cynthia Sheppard
Not so many years later, on Kaladesh, Chandra Nalaar is the daughter of two inventors: Pia and Kiran Nalaar. Pia and Kiran belong to the renegade faction on Kaladesh, trading illegally in the artifact fuel known as Aether. Aether is strictly regulated on Kaladesh by the Consulate. Chandra is caught by consuls enforcers while on a smuggling run for her parents, and her latent pyromancer powers help her escape… but also ensures that the consul soldier Captain Baral wants to hunt her down.
Chandra and her parents escape to the countryside, and Baral is ordered to stand down. Baral ignores that order, and pursues the Nalaars to Bunarat, the village in which they hid. He kills Chandra’s father and burns down the village, pinning the blame on Chandra, and bringing her in for execution. At her execution he reveals why he was so dead-set on Chandra: he is a mage himself, a rarity on Kaladesh and he could not afford to let Chandra roam free.
Before Baral can execute her, however, Chandra’s latent spark ignites, transporting her to the plane of Regatha. There, she appears outside of Keral Keep — a monastery filled with pyromancers like Chandra, all of whom follow the teachings of another master pyromancer: Jaya Ballard.
Art by Steve Argyle
Stealing the Scroll… Twice
At the urging of the mysterious and dubiously canonical planeswalker Ramaz, Chandra goes to the plane of Kephalai and breaks into the Sanctum of Stars to steal a scroll. Her smash and grab goes well at first, but she injuries a guard attempting to escape the soldiers and their gargoyles. She is prepared, however, and manages to planeswalk home. The Prelate hires the Infinite Consortium to recover the scrolls and wipe any memory of it from the thief’s mind. The Consortium sends their mind mage, Jace Beleren. Note that this takes place approximately halfway through Agents of Artifice. Jace finds Chandra’s aether trail and follows her back to Regatha.
Chandra is showing off her new find to her young friend Brannon at Keral Keep. Brannon suddenly notices a mysterious cloaked figure in the room, who demands Chandra return the scroll. Brannon runs away at Chandra’s urging, and the two face off. He counters her fire magic easily at first, but her raw power forces him to create illusions. His final strategy is to create an illusion of Jace holding Brannon hostage, and in exchange for the boy’s life she trades away the scroll. Jace uses his powers so she does not see him leave.
She wakes up with Jace having wiped her memories of the scroll. Thankfully, the monks had already copied the scroll. Chandra is furious when she learns the monks at Keral Keep made errors in transcribing the scroll, and it is only the timely intervention of Mother Luti that keeps things from spiraling out of control.
That night, she wakes up in a sweat. Nightmares about the death of her family plague her. Unable to go back to sleep, she looks out at the landscape beyond Mount Keral, to the forests below, the plains beyond, and the city of Zinara. There the Order of Heliud has begun a repressive regime, and it is only a matter of time before they involve themselves with Keral Keep. If you are confused by the Order of Heliud and Heliod, I recommend Cary Thomas Barkett’s Breaking Down the Order of Heliud and Heliod.
Chandra and Brannon meet with her friend Samir, an elf chief in the Western Woods. He tells her of the Order and how they began sending ghost wardens into the forest just to watch people, and how they decreed that the forest follow their laws.
Art by Igor Kieryluk
He spent time in Zinara and recounts the story of the Order’s namesake, Heliud. Heliud was a prophet who was exiled with his followers. They had traveled the continent from the sea, but hungry and tired, a large faction of his followers, led by a man named Zin, decided enough was enough and they should stop at what would become the city of Zinara. Heliud wanted to continue and was cast out, starving and emaciated. He returned later, hearty and with his hair turned gray. He claimed to have found a sacred flame he named the Purifying Fire, and challenged Zin for leadership by proving his purity. The two went off and Zin was never heard from again.
At the end of their talk, Samir points out that a Ghost Warden has been eavesdropping for a while. Chandra is startled, then enraged. She chases it through the wood, destruction in her wake. She burns down enough that a horde of furious ouphes chase after her. Samir holds them off, but when Chandra catches the Ghost Warden, she has to scare away an Order patrol and starts a forest fire just to catch the Ghost Warden in the conflagration.
Chandra lays awake in her bed, thinking about the scolding she got from Mother Luti, when she hears voices at the door. She is shocked at two Goblins entering shortly after. The Goblins attempt to kill her, but she incinerates one while the other one gets away. The Ouphes have put a price on her head, and assassin after assassin come for her. Walbert, master of the Order, sends Luti a letter demanding that she submit to the Order and threatening her with justice for the destroyed Ghost Warden. To get her out of harm’s way, Luti sends Chandra back to Kephalai to re-steal the scroll.
Chandra planeswalks back to Kephalai, and scopes out the Sanctum of Stars again. Seeing no increased security, she hides her face beneath a hood and fakes a limp into the Sanctum. She meanders around, but as she stares at the scroll she is seized by guards.
Civilians flee the Sanctum of Stars as soldiers pour in to hold the captured Chandra. Chandra is bewildered at how they caught her so fast, until a pair of telepaths reveal themselves. They knew she was there the whole time, and gathered up everyone they could. She thinks crude thoughts at the telepaths, and casts two fireballs. The first explodes in the center of the room, the concussion wave knocking everyone off their feet and shattering the case holding the scroll. The second blows a hole through the side of the building, through which she escapes, scroll in hand.
A few guards manage to follow after, but everyone is stunned by loud noises and turn to see the entire structure of the Sanctum come crashing down, dust everywhere. Chandra slips away in the ensuing panic, guilt weighing heavy on her chest. When she stops to rest, she is approached by a large man, who introduces himself as Gideon. Gideon has been hunting her down, and the two argue over what she just did. Gideon does not want her caught by the Prelate’s forces, but in the time spent arguing they are spotted. Gideon unfurls his sural, and uses magic to lasso Chandra with it. Whatever he does, she hears him apologize before fading into unconsciousness.
Chandra wakes up to seven snake-like creatures draining her power in a dungeon. An interrogator asks her what she did with the scroll, and with a shock, Chandra realizes Gideon must have taken it. She tells them nothing. A torturer is brought in to extract the location of the scroll from her. She immediately screams for the guard. They bring her some water, and she uses what magic she has to boil it and fling it in the guard’s face. This ends up disrupting the power-draining magic, and she suddenly has some of her strength back. She incinerates the snakes, but leaves the guards (now begging for mercy).
Art by Michael Komarck
The Prince of Diraden
She quickly aborts her escape attempt as dozens of guards rush in from the entrance of the dungeon, and flees back into her cell. With no time left, she planeswalks away recklessly. In the Blind Eternities, she is nearly lost. When she regains enough of herself to look for a plane to recouperate, she has little choice but to land on the first plane she can find. The world is covered by darkness, and Chandra is confused why all the trees seem to be dying of rot. She comes across a helpful goblin, Jurl, who tells her how there is no dawn here because of Prince Velrav, and how the Prince’s men kidnap people.
Jurl leads her to water, and Chandra drinks, until Jurl warns her. A big wraith watches them from across the water. Jurl says they should kill it, but Chandra remembers what happened with the Ghost Warden and decides discretion is better. They try to sneak away and Jurl goes off to hunt. Chandra sees a bright white light in the distance and goes to investigate. Near where she entered the plane is a man she recognizes: Gideon.
Gideon and Chandra argue, and he makes her realize that whatever has caused the shroud on this plane seems to have restricted their magic and ability to planeswalk. They strike a rough alliance, but are almost immediately set upon by Goblins. Chandra tricks one and bashes its head in with a rock, and Gideon captures the other with his sural. The goblin begs them not to kill him, and reveals himself to be Jurl.
Gideon binds Jurl and they demand to be lead to a village. Chandra and Gideon discuss their pasts, both of which we learn in Magic Origins were untrue. Still, the seeds of truth are in their stories, and they begin to bond as they walk. Gideon explains that he did not know about the snake-things, or he would not have left her to escape on her own. He also left the scroll in a place that it would later be found and returned by someone who could use the reward money. Along the way, they are forced to hide, as nightmarish fog riders transport a captive back to Velrav’s castle. After a long walk, they finally arrive at a village.
They meet the village wise woman, who is actually a young woman named Falia. Surprised at her age, she mentions that a blood ritual passes wisdom down from mother to daughter in their family. As they talk, the wise woman is clearly smitten with Gideon. She has food and drink brought to them, and Jurl devours his food and falls asleep. She tells them of how Prince Velrav was exiled and returned with blood magic, murdering his entire family except for his father, King Gelidor. He turned the king into a vampire like himself, and an everlasting night fell over the plane, the work of blood demons. Falia herself, and the planeswalkers, are targets because of their power. They lock Jurl in a cage in a nearby barn, thinking it a good place to imprison him, but the goblin warns them that they are sentencing him to death.
Art by Jason Chan
That night, Chandra wakes up from a nightmare about her past. Gideon comforts her and she is able to slip back to sleep. The morning, she wakes up to find Gideon gone. Falia tells her he went to look at the Fog Rider trail, and she takes Chandra to the barn where the locked up Jurl, and he is gone. Falia, gleefully malicious, reveals that the villagers are skinning the goblin and preparing him for a meal. Chandra gets angry, but without her power has nothing to retaliate with. She hears hooves in the distance, and realizes that Falia called the Fog Riders on her. The young woman wants to take Gideon for herself and so has sold out Chandra, who she believes is her competition. Chandra grabs a torch to fight back against the riders, but without her powers she is quickly overwhelmed and knocked unconscious.
Chandra wakes up in a lavish bed with a strange man watching her, who she quickly learns is Prince Velrav. He tells her that she was unconscious for a while, and no one was quite sure if she would live. Given how healthy she is and how different she looks from the natives of the plane, he asks where she is from, but she demurs. Outside, she is shown that Gideon has been strung up and is being slowly fed on from dozens of small cuts by the vampires inhabiting the castle. The Prince had him tied up because when Gideon spotted the Fog Riders attempting to abduct Chandra, he charged in to rescue her despite his lack of powers. He even managed to kill one of the vampiric riders in the process. Such a strong and healthy specimen intrigued the Prince. Velrav was very bored of his perpetual night realm, you see. He knows Gideon and Chandra are from somewhere else, and he wants to go there.
Chandra visits Gideon later, in the dungeon. Gideon is going to be a sacrifice in an attempt to take his spark. She and Gideon talk, and he tells her that when he got rid of the scroll, he knew where it was from — a plane called Zendikar. He had attempted to find it when he was younger, lured by its power. They ponder what to do, with no plan making sense, when Velrav’s father, the King, pipes up from the next cell over. He is half-crazed, but he has an idea.
The plan involves using magic that the King knew as a boy to allow them to swap forms. Chandra leaves to prepare for her own part of the plan, but when Velrav summons her, it is immediately clear that something has gone wrong. The trick did not work at all, and Gideon was helpless in the old man’s body against the Prince. Both the King and Gideon are in their own forms again. In an inexplicable turn of events, Chandra’s rage allows her to fuel a spell that summons a sword of fire (for why this is hard to believe, I recommend reading Sam Keeper’s Chandra’s Story: Diraden). She beheads the prince, and before she can stop him, the king impales himself on it as well. The eternal night fades with the king dead. Chandra and Gideon are free, and they planeswalk back to Regatha.
The Purifying Fire until I wrote this article. I am not a smart man.
The Purifying Fire Cover Art by Michael Komarck
The Purifying Fire
They reappear in the Great Western Wood, where they are found by Samir. Samir recognizes Gideon; they were acquainted during Samir’s time in Zinara at the Temple of Heliud. Chandra is at first enraged at the revelation that Gideon was tracking her for the Order from the start, but Samir urges caution. With all they have shared over the last few days, a bond has formed between the two. Gideon tells her everything, including that the Order, or at least Walbert and his successor, know about planeswalkers. He does not know why Walbert is so obsessed with Chandra in particular, though. He had come to Regatha to study the Purifying Fire’s power, but Walbert had demanded that Gideon apprehend Chandra first. In their absence, Walbert has turned the Western Wood against her, and the Tribal council has accepted a compromise deal involving turning in Chandra to the Order. This also pitted the Keralians against the Woodlanders.
During the night, Gideon and Chandra part ways. Gideon tries to convince her to leave, offering to report her as dead if she does not return, but warning her he will not betray his duty. Samir helps Chandra sneak toward the mountains, but she is spotted by a patrol and is forced to kill a mage. She realizes the other is just a young teen, and spares him, but the commotion alerts more patrols. She makes it home, but the Keep is soon put to siege by Walbert and the Order’s forces. None of the pyromancers of Keral Keep are willing to turn her over to the Order, but she sees the effect that the battle has on them and makes a decision.
Chandra offers to turn herself in, so long as it is Gideon that takes her into custody. He arrives a couple days later, and as they leave, Order mages encase her in a white mana field that prevents her from casting. She is brought directly to Walbert when she reaches Zinara, and the Order’s leader's nice guy facade vanishes when Chandra refuses to be cowed. Walbert displays more than a little megalomania when he reveals he had visions of a planeswalker from Keralia plunging the plane into chaos. Chandra tells him to get on with executing her, but Walbert has something else in mind. He wants to give her to the Purifying Fire to be judged and have her power stripped away. This takes Gideon aback, because Walbert never shared his visions or plans.
Roaring Flame by Aleksi Briclot
In Walbert's twisted mind, Chandra could then be used as an example for all those who would oppose the Order. Chandra panics; she thought she was agreeing to death, not a life without her power to be used as a puppet. She attacks Walbert, tackling him and choking him before Walbert’s guards can intervene. Gideon does not move to aid him, something that frustrates Walbert, but to which Gideon replies that such help is why Walbert's guards were there.
Later, Gideon visits Chandra in her cell, and tells her that he researched the Purifying Fire. There is no way for her to come through intact without accepting the weight of her actions without excuses. She tells him of the death of her family (later retconned to be a lie), but she feels lighter. She spends the night thinking over all that she has done and accepting responsibility.
The next day, she is taken to the cavern containing the Purifying Fire. It is bigger than she images, a raging bonfire without sound, and chilly to the touch. She asks Gideon to leave before she enters the fire, and Walbert allows it. She steps inside, and the fire is not at all what she expected. She is tormented with everything that she has done, but having accepted the weight of her actions, she is judged worthy. She emerges with her power intact, and immediately destroys the cavern, killing Walbert. A section of the temple collapses above, and the debris knocks her unconscious.
Some time later, she is found in the rubble by Gideon. He is furious with her, and asks if this is what she had planned all along. Chandra simply replies that she knew if she came out of it with her power, she was going to destroy the Order. Gideon’s rage fades when Chandra reveals it was a group much like the Order that was ultimately responsible for the death of her family. He is taken aback, and agrees to buy her time to planeswalk away.
Chandra decides it is time to find Zendikar.
And with that, I have lead us right back to The World of Zendikar, the very first Archive Trap article. Chandra's journey is nowhere near done, and while Gideon started out as a side character, he has very much come into the limelight.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments or on the forum, and we will address it in future updates. Have a suggestion for something you want to see? Let us know, and we may address it in a future column. You can also follow me on twitter @Jay13x or on Tumblr.