This thread contains a number of short stories taking place in the Magic storyline. Most of these where posted on older webistes or in the Duelist, and are thus hard to track down these days.
The first couple of stories comes from the Encyclopedia Dominia. Once that was a great storyline source, now it flounders in and out of existance, only accesable via web.archive.org. The original site can be viewed here.
This thread also contains a number of articles on the storyline that originally apeared in the Duelist.
The following stories have been reposted here:
Eater of the Infinite
History of Benalia
Return of the Empress
Still Waters, Deep Roots
Tales in the Sand
The Ambassador’s Journal
The City of Brass
The Dragon War
The Enemy of My Enemy
The Hero’s Tale
And the following articles have been reposted as well:
A Who’s-Who Guide to Mirage
Dominia and it’s Walkers
Dominian Chronicles: A Dark Corner of the Multiverse
Dominian Chronicles: Stepping into the Darkness
Dominian Chronicles: The Heart of Rath
Dominian Chronicles: The Lurker’s Guide to the Stronghold
Fortune Favors the Bold
Mirage: the Name Guide
Storyline of Portal: Second Age
The Library of Leng: Autumn Willow, Caretaker of the Wood
The Nature of Dominia
Weatherlight Takes Center Stage
Want to read more stories? check out the following pages!
Keening wails of the dying reverberated through the cooling waters of Vodalia as Galina gazed bleakly across the final battlefield of the royal city. Brave warriors and mages held back the mindless army of relentless Homarids by force of will alone. This is the end of the empire, she thought as she absently rubbed the pearl set in the blue scales of her cheek. I am sorry my husband, may Svyelune's Light shelter you, but I can do no more. Our food is gone, our forces wasted. You were always the strong one, but even you succumbed to the horde . . . .
"Your Serene Highness, the time has come." Galina turned her piercing gaze on Marshall Karel Volnikov, the only merfolk who would risk disturbing her thoughts. A long silence filled only with the wail of the dying passed between them like a conversation. Karel absorbed her stare impassively until she slowly nodded. "Gather the survivors, we go to Akoroun's portal," she said curtly. Karel nodded solemnly, touched his forehead in deference, and jetted away in a flurry of water. Galina's gaze followed thoughtfully after the noble warrior who had led her military forces unfalteringly for so many years and who had lent such astute political savvy to her court. Her thoughts turned to the distant colony of Etlan Shiis, the only colony likely to have escaped the ravages of the Homarids. It was well past time to remind the artisan caste, who founded the distant colony, of the duty they owed to the Empire.
The cold waters swirled around her, chilling her as she made her way up the spire where the mage Akoroun would open a portal to Etlan Shiis. Akoroun was waiting above with Karel, and they both touched their foreheads as she swam up. At least four score survivors gathered about the base of the spire from throughout the royal city as the Homarids began to claim the final stronghold of Vodalia for their own. "All is ready?" Akoroun nodded, "Yes, your Serene Highness." "Then let us begin." Akoroun motioned half a dozen mages forward, and each pulled a large pearl from their robes. The mages stroked their pearls softly and crooned strangely mournful notes of deep longing. Voices embraced and danced in complex harmonies of delicate intricacy as tendrils of moonlight twisted out of the pearls. At the murmuring command of the voices, the tendrils wove a web of light. Each mage's voice slid with serpentine grace among the strands, pulling them tighter into a pool of glowing brilliance until, one-by-one, the voices slid free of the pool. At last, only Akoroun's tendril remained attached to the portal. He nodded. "The portal is ready, but I must maintain the weave." "Very well, let us begin," Galina said, motioning the survivors forward through the portal. With a final glance at a dying Vodalia, she swam through.
Warm currents gradually cleared the white haze obscuring Galina's vision, and she glanced around at the remarkable change of scenery. To the west, a vast rolling plain stretched endlessly, broken only by coral formations, deep sea kelp, and darting schools of fish. Rising to the east, and on whose slopes she rested, an impressive island-mountain range stretched from south to north. Further north, the range swept back to the east, hiding itself for a time before reappearing in the distance. For the first time in a long while, she began to feel warm.
Karel swam up and waited for her to speak. "I see you, Karel." "Your highness, I have taken the liberty of dispatching scouts to determine the exact location of the colony. They bring some disturbing news." Karel seemed troubled. Galina raised an eyebrow and waited for him to continue. Karel hesitated. "Etlan Shiis seems somewhat . . . larger than anticipated. Too large, in fact." By way of an explanation, he gestured to the group of mages who were in deep conference. Galina frowned thoughtfully, then said, "Gather everyone. I would see this 'city' of artisans." Karel nodded as he moved to collect the remnants of Vodalia and said, "It lies beyond the northern bend of the mountains." After a few minutes, Galina made her way northward in the shadow of the eastern island-mountains. The Vodalians began swimming after their empress in silence, naturally falling into strict caste order with the warriors immediately behind Galina, then the mages, a few of the merchant caste, and lastly a handful of the lowly artisans--even in battle it was occasionally useful to have servants for demeaning labor.
Galina led the silent entourage, gliding over deep chasms in the slopes of the island-mountains, through coral formations and vast schools of brightly colored fish. She skirted the hot waters surrounding a column of bubbles rising from a steam vent and eventually came to the final mountain separating her from Etlan Shiis. As she crested the last ridge, she suddenly halted in a turmoil of warm waters, gazing at the city below. Rolling plains sprawled to the north and west until they reached the mountains in the far distance. Unlike the western flats, however, this plain was filled with far more than just coral and kelp. Etlan Shiis began at the base of the island-mountains below her and stretched to the north and west. A slow anger began seeping through her eyes as they traveled the vast expanse of sweeping arches and artistic spires and towers that were so different from the royal city so recently lost to the Homarids. The city stretched on and on to the west until it vanished from sight. Her eyes picked out five enormous spires linked by arches on the far horizon, and her anger erupted. "How dare they mock the Imperial Towers!" she thundered in rage as her followers cringed in their awe. The city rivaled the Vodalian royal city in size, and exceeded it in grandeur. "Your most serene highness, if you please, all may not be as it seems," Akoroun touched her lightly on the arm. He was about to continue when he realized what he had done and his eyes widened with alarm. Galina slowly turned to face the mage who had defiled her by his touch and suddenly gripped his neck with a darting hand. She gazed at him in the calmness of rage as he began to convulse beneath her hand. His eyes rolled back in his head and he began keening as steam bubbled from his skin. He thrashed on briefly after his keening died away; when he grew still, she released him to float upward to Svyelune's Light above the sea.
Her fury abated, she located another mage and calmly demanded, "Explain Akoroun's statement." Startled, the mage stammered, "Ah, he was saying, ah, that we seem to have arrived in Etlan Shiis some years after we left Vodalia." Galina absorbed the news impassively and said, "How many years?" The mage swallowed and said, "About, ah . . . we think it may be as much as three thousand years later." He braced himself and closed his eyes and prepared to receive treatment similar to his predecessor's. Galina glared at the mage for a long moment, then nodded and said, "Very well. We must re-acquaint this city of artisans with their duty to the Empire." She turned and made her way downward, leaving her entourage to gradually recover from their shock. They followed her.
It was almost too easy. She had led the Vodalians into the city of Etlan Shiis without a single challenge and on to the new Imperial Towers. The chamber containing the group of artisans that styled themselves the "Council of Etlan Shiis" was not difficult to find. They had been initially startled by the appearance of their brethren, then outraged at being disturbed. They had reluctantly listened to Karel's introduction, which they found unnerving even as they doubted it. In the end, what decided the matter was one of the councilors' comments. "Toss this garish riffraff out and let us get on with our business." Oblivious to the effect his words were having on his visitors, he continued. "After all, even if they are who they say, didn't our ancestors leave Vodalia because the caste system put the most violent and unfit to rule in charge of the nation?" Several of his fellow councilors nodded in agreement. Karel calmly turned to this most vocal of the council, swam forward, and with fluid grace, broke his neck. The council chamber erupted with cries of outrage that became panic as Karel seized the next councilor and dispatched him with equal ease. The council members began scattering in all directions. Within moments, a scythe of energy from a Vodalian battle mage cut the councilors down as they fled. Only one escaped. At Karel's signal, a warrior quietly slipped out of the chamber to apprehend him. Galina gave the order to those remaining to subdue the city immediately and inform the residents that she would be assuming her throne once again. Her lords touched their foreheads and departed in all directions with small bands of warriors and mages.
For the next several hours, she heard the occasional sounds of short-lived battle as each objection was squashed and those who objected were brought into line. Galina gazed thoughtfully across the silent council chamber through the floating bodies of the ex-councilors. In her solitude, she began laying plans for the defense of the city, for the marshaling of military forces, and for the future. Some day, my husband, may Svyelune's Light shelter you, I will return with hundreds of thousands of warriors to reclaim your Empire. We will utterly destroy the Homarids and dedicate the victory to the memory of your glory. From this day forward, a new Vodalian Empire is born . . . .
The following encounter was recreated from a transcript that is, unfortunately, incomplete, having suffered extensive fire damage. Nevertheless, that only known record of the interrogation of a priest of the entity Yawgmoth sheds fascinating light on the philosophy of these mysterious beings.—Taysir
He lay shackled in the dark, and the furrows on his wrists and ankles neither bled nor faded. Some of his brothers could summon light from within, during the deepest stages of meditation, but he could not afford to block out his surroundings: he had been delivered into the hands of dangerous fools.
He heard a door thrown open far down the corridor, and the formless void around him receded in the face of an oncoming torch. He heard the moist squeak of wood on wood, and went momentarily blind as the torchbearer threw open the door. He writhed, and the shackles scored his flesh anew. A second bearer entered, creating a bubble of light barely large enough to contain them all. Through the door and into the bubble strode a stern, bookish man in an inappropriately splendid robe.
"Awake, zealot," the man called, insistent but strangely cautious. "We have little time, and I would make the most of the opportunity you represent."
The prisoner remained silent, but stared unblinkingly at the robed figure.
"Vandal," continued the visitor, "you are at the mercy of your most hated enemies. The Order of the Ebon Hand—" he gestured at the torchbearers, who wore initiates' robes— "will break your body, your spirit, and your mind." He leaned forward slightly, squinting. "I would have words with you before your endless screaming begins."
The prisoner hissed softly. His voice, though soft and monotonous, reeked with casual scorn. "I am Y'sith, Fifth Circle Priest of Yawgmoth. Who do you represent, if not the Order?"
The interrogator smiled. "I am of the Order. But I am here now on my own behalf." He threw his head back, giving the torchlight full play on his features. "I am Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder, Creator of Life, and Race Architect. You are an enemy of the Ebon Hand, and I am here to determine if that marks the limit of the conflict between your goals and mine."
"The Ebon Hand is not our enemy."
"No? Are you not of Phyrexia, false priest? Have not you and your kind stolen the efforts of articiers' efforts for generations? Does not the worship of your Yawgmoth demand that we make war on eachother?"
Y'sith raised his head off the inclined slab and snarled haughtily. "Soft fool. We are a force beyond your ken."
Endrek Sahr smiled once more. "But not our enemy."
"When a swamp insect stings, do you go to war on it? Do you declare it your enemy?" The prisoner lowered his head back onto the slab. "So it is with Yawgmoth and your precious Order. Begone, Master Breeder. You and the Ebon Hand are an annoyance; nothing more."
Sahr's eyes darkened, and drawing a dagger from the folds of his billowing sleeve, he approached with slow, deliberate motions. He rested the knifepoint across the bridge of the captive's nose.
"The bite of some swamp insects can kill," he said, gently inscribing ellipses around Y'sith's eyes. "And some, I think you'll find, bite hard enough to pierce even the hide of a Yawgmoth priest." The dagger tapped solidly on Y'sith's forehead, and clicked as if stricking a stone wrapped in velvet. Then it disappeared back into the robe. "Choose your enemies and friends carefully, Y'sith. Though you are sworn to destroy artificial life, my primary interest is in the genuine variety. I have no need for brass or cogs: my creations are truly alive."
"We do not destroy, soft fool, nor do we accept your distinction between 'true' and 'artificial' life. All life is energy, and we would rather see that energy put to constructive use than allow foolish artificers—or breeders—to make a mockery of it."
"'Constructive use?' No one and nothing has ever returned from your realm, false priest. Is it constructive to consume the work of others, which you find loathesome, and to produce nothing?"
Y'sith hissed again. "No one and nothing ever created on this plane is fit to survive in Phyrexia. We do not destroy your misguided efforts: Phyrexia does. It winnows out the weak and cauterizes the diseased. We no more loathe your artifacts than a sugeon loathes a gangrenous limb. Remember that the best and brightest of your artificers conquered entire cities with a clumsy recreation of a machine he glimpsed in Phyrexia, the height of artifact purity. But your pathetic marveling at his poor copy, this 'dragon engine' demonstrates the poverty of your imagination and will."
"I see Phyrexian ire still runs deep on that subject. But again, I fail to see why your disdain for mechanical creatures should put you at odds with me. Artificers build machines: Phyrexia destroys them. But I am no artificer." Sahr turned away from the shackled priest, stroking his chinas he spoke. "If, as you say, there is no difference between real and mechanical life in Phyrexia, and if by Phyrexian standards, the greatest of our artificers was a groping child, then perhaps it is time for your faith and my work to interesect."
Sahr drew an armchair alonside the slab, and a torchbearer followed. The Master Breeder sat silently as the second bearer moved to illuminate Y'sith, and then said, "Do you not see how much we have to share with one another? I understand that there are machines in Phyrexia that cannot be distinguished from living creatures; here, I build living creatures from nothing. My thrulls are alive, infused with eldrich energy until such time as the Order chooses to release it."
Y'sith spat on the floor, an oily froth, as close to Sahr's feet as he could manage. "You are deluded, Endrek Sahr. The creatures you breed are as inferior as any that are built. They would not survive the First Sphere. 'Infused with energy?'" He sneered and spat again. "The wonders of Phyrexia draw power from the ambient energy around them. Your thrulls are perpetually limited by the single spark of creation. They will never be any more or less than they are at the moment of inception."
The priest's voice cracked with anger, and he fell back, panting softly. "We hold base dabblers such as you in the lowest regard. Just as you would not allow an initiate access to your most powerful secrets, we will not allow you to litter this or any other plane with your jetsam.
"As I lie here now, so does Mishra lie deeps in the center of Phyrexia, his body wracked with fresh pain and torments day in and day out. He shrieks and cries in his prison, and begs us to forgive his transgressions against our faith. But he will never be forgiven. He will never be released." Y'sith rose up on his slab. "And when your time on this plane is done, Master Breeder, you will join him."
Endrek Sahr was silent for several long moments. Then, with a short, barking laugh, he rose expansively from his seat. Thank you, my truculent friend. Though you have unwisely refused my invitation to share knowledge, you have nonetheless given me food for thought." He drew his dagger once more and rammed it deeply into the arm or the chair, where it quivered. "May the rest of your conversations with the Order be as beneficial."
The Master Breeder turned then, his mind furiously baying from the dark inspiration it had just winded. He made haste from the chamber, leaving his attendants to collect the torch and dagger and re-bar the door. The light they carried faded down the corridor.
Alone, Y'sith listened for a moment, face expressionless, and then briefly smiled. It was a grim smile, one that set his lips like razors against eachother. His eyes were alight, reflecting for barely a heartbeat the dark and malevolent brilliance that lies at the heart of Phyrexia itself.
The following parable is short, but telling. The elves of Riashil perhaps best reflect the ancient shyness and reticence of the Llanowar elves. Theirs may well be the closest to pre - Ice Age elvish culture. Although the Riashil's insularity grows out of a desire to protect their culture, it also fosters a certain amount of fear. The following story illustrates the latter, reactionary, response to the elfhame's secluded existence.--Taysir
Listen closely, children, and I will tell you a tale while the Glitter Moon gazes upon us and shines down blessings upon the earth. In years before you were born--but not too many years before--there lived a young elf named Finn. Finn was not unlike most children, full of energy and spilling over with questions. "Why does the Glitter Moon shine? Where do maggots come from? Why do I have to be nice to others?" Most of Finn's questions were answered more or less to his satisfaction, but there was one question his elders could not give him a simple answer to. "Why do we never leave Riashil?"
Of course you all know that the boundaries of Riashil are sacred, for we live in the most blessed place under Freyalise's care, yet Finn could not seem to understand this. "I want to see more of the world!" he cried. And the elders just shook their heads and determined to wait with the patience of the trees for Finn's foolishness to come to an end. But it did not end. Instead, Finn's curiosity grew like a patch of itchweed, and Finn felt bound to scratch.
Journeying to the edge of Riashil, where the Moen river marks our southern boundary, Finn found himself staring at a young human across the water. "Ah!" thought Finn. "Perhaps this human can answer my question." Solemnly, Finn hailed the human and asked his question. Staring intently, the young human gestured for Finn to wade across the Moen, made shallow by drought. So excited was Finn at the prospect of finally finding out why the Riashil never leave their home, that the young elf dove into the chill waters and swam across to where the human waited. Shaking the water from his eyes, Finn repeated his question once more: "Why should elves stay only in Riashil?" The human gestured again, and Finn edged even closer. Smiling, the human opened a large bag at his side and gestured for Finn to see what was inside. Finn peered closely into the bag's dark interior, hoping to see something that would explain the mystery to him. But before he knew what was happening, the human shoved poor Finn into his bag and took him away forever. So, you see, Finn got his wish much faster than he would have gotten it if he waited patiently, but the answer was perhaps not what he hoped. You must have still waters to grow deep roots, my children. Rapids wash away only the foolish, not the wise.
Although the mage Tande is perhaps best known for his musings on the
principles of artifact consciousness, this particular journal entry is far
more pragmatic--and at the same time more fantastical--than his other known
writings. Scholars differ strongly on whether Tande and his lover Trebecia
actually visited Phyrexia, or whether the entire story is a hoax or a
particularly vivid fever dream. After all, Tande was bedridden for almost
two years with a mysterious illness around the time he scribed this entry.
As I write these words it seems a wonder that my hand can hold even the
weight of my quill. Until a few hours ago I was convinced that the
impressions of the past day and night would forever be carved into my mind.
Yet, already the jagged, knife-edged memories begin to blur. Perhaps it is my
mind protecting my sanity? For I am certain no man could carry these images
in his mind and not lose himself to the horror. I must record now what I have
seen, while it is still clear.
Two days ago I was just entering my workroom when I witnessed my love,
Trebecia, an artificer like myself, fall through a Phyrexian portal.
Phyrexia, that dreadful plane, is a place I have long known of, and debated
and discussed with other artificers. How and why the portal opened I still do
not know, but I managed to throw myself through before it closed.
And thus did I enter Hell.
I must have lost consciousness, for I remember nothing of the passage. I
awoke lying in a bed of strange silvery vines. If I hadn't been wearing
several layers of woolen clothes, the sharp edges of the almost metallic
leaves would surely have sliced my skin. As it was, I had to abandon my outer
tunic, shredded in my efforts to extract myself from the strange plants.
I looked around in an attempt to regain my bearings. But how can any sane man
find his bearings in an insane world? A soot-streaked sky lowered over a
broad, dusty plain spotted with clumps of oily trees that could as easily
have been machines as plants. A small stream meandered nearby. Apart from
myself and the lethargic stream, this plain was silent and stifling and
still, the omnipresent haze of grime gummed even the air itself, which left
its foul reek as residue in my mouth.
I bent down on one knee to splash water on my face. But I immediately changed
my plan, for the water in the stream was slick with oil, while congealed soot
clung tenaciously to its rocky bed. Rubbing at the tacky coating with my
sleeves only smeared it deep into my pores, and I could feel airborne grit
building up on my palms and fingers.
Stumbling away from the stream, I looked down to find in the glittering,
sticky soil a series of human footprints staggering away across the plain, as
though made by one moving hesitantly. I immediately forgot my own fear at the
thought of Trebecia wandering this place alone.
I jogged rapidly across the filthy land, maneuvering around piles of cogs and
gears, and the rusting remains of tormented artifacts. Several saurian
creatures wandered in the distance, their immense bodies glistening with oil,
their motions easy and fluid in the oppressive stillness. They struck me as
being both organic and mechanical, as if they were machines grown instead of
made. I passed perhaps three, perhaps four of these monstrosities as I
crossed the charnel plain.
Although occasionally it seemed that fierce red eyes glowered at me from
clumps of metallic vegetation, the only other creature I encountered on the
dark plain was a dragon engine. Of course, I have seen a number of the
engines Mishra created. Yet none of those clumsy creatures could compare with
the lithe form before me. As sinuous and quick as any dragon of flesh and
blood, the creature was still, quite obviously, a machine. There is such a
thing as horrible beauty, and this personified it.
Moving on, I soon reached a tunnel piercing the very heart of the plain. Here
my heart fell, for now Trebecia's footsteps were echoed by those of smaller,
clawed feet. A foul, hot wind from the tunnel had obscured those prints
closest to its opening, but their implication was inescapable: at least half
a dozen creatures had surrounded Trebecia. Their footprints replaced hers en
route to the tunnel entrance.
Praying to every god I had ever heard of, I entered the heart of darkness.
The tunnel wound downwards for what seemed hours. My eyes wept constantly,
and my skin alternately itched and burned in the choking exhaust that flowed
over and past me. Sweat and tears barely kept my vision clear, but finally,
I emerged, dazed and half-blind, my lungs burning with sulfur, on another
part of Phyrexia. It was as if the tunnel burrowed through this hellish plane
to reveal a second layer inside the first. The land I now faced was different
from the dread plain above. Here the air burned even hotter, an almost
palpable weight to my seared lungs. Within moments, I was indistinguishable
from the rest of the blackened, blasted landscape.
Of course, there was no true sky. Instead, twisted beams and metal structures
formed a dark ceiling high above my head. Red light spilled balefully across
the rusted, pitted metal, casting twisted shadows that somehow managed to
look like scenes of torture. The light itself came from vast, smoke-grimed
chimneys thrusting upwards almost to the ceiling-sky above. Fire and soot
spewed from their tops, and in some unrepaired spots, long fingers of fire
scratched through cracks, as if a terrible flame beast sought escape from
its metallic prison.
Ignoring the horror of my surroundings as best I could, I followed the small
pack of renewed footprints. They led me easily through the ashen wastes,
filled with random and numerous piles of broken machinery. Though lighter
than the soil above, this ash had been so compressed by the company's passage
that not even the constant streaming of the foul air could disturb it.
Somehow I traversed that expanse without stumbling upon any other creatures.
Cries and grinding movement echoed near me several times, but never did an
actual beast move close enough to distinguish itself from the clouds of soot
Once again the footprints led me to a tunnel, and once again I followed them.
The tunnel floor soon grew rough, and as I neared its end, pipes and tubing
also sprouted from the floor, causing me to often stumble and fall. I soon
took to crawling like an animal.
At the end of this latest journey I looked out upon a massive labyrinth of
ancient metal pipes and beams, begrimed with congealed oil. Staring at the
vast, confusing network below me, I at first despaired of following Trebecia
and her abductors. Then my eye was caught by one small piece of pale blue
cloth, crammed into the juncture of two pipes. Looking further, I saw another
piece of cloth. Trebecia was alive! She was leaving me a way to find her
through the infernal maze.
Steeling myself, I pressed forward. Even with Trebecia's aid, the journey was
terrible: there were brief stretches when I could walk upright, or even
slightly hunched, but these infrequent breaks merely underscored the
wretchedness of my sojourn. I was often forced to navigate pipe junctures
that left hardly enough room for a man to pass. Sometimes I could only
partially expand my chest, which made breathing the hot, fetid air still
more difficult. I spent an eternity inside a broken segment of pipe without
being able to move at all, staring at the hard, close darkness around me
while my own pulse boomed in my ears. Had I not been coated in oily grime, I
would be there still--but I eventually dragged myself free like a snake
shedding its skin.
I know I called upon my magic more than once to survive the long hours, but
just what spells I can no longer recall. My thoughts crawl with images of
corpses hanging from chains and shoved into tubing; a child-sized figure
splayed across a mammoth pipe; two men--one blond, the other dark--forever
struggling, each clutching the other's throat; a single skeletal hand
reaching out to me from blackness.
I can write no more of this. Suffice it to say that I did, at last, reach
another tunnel. For the last time, I went deeper.
Phyrexia undoubtedly contains more rotting spheres, but I at last found
Trebecia within the fourth. This one reminded me of a burned-out mansion I
once hid within as a child. Everywhere hollowed, decaying structures loomed,
while a constant drizzle of oil rained down. Instead of celestial bodies,
there were cogs and wheels, gears and clockworks, hanging like macabre
trophies from the rusted piping overhead. Fitful bursts of light emanated
from the furnaces that dotted the landscape. Their cheerless illumination
only served to emphasize the utter blackness of this terrible realm.
And the noise! As the sights reminded me of ruins from my childhood, so the
sounds were that constant, jarring din that frightened children hear in fever
dreams. Around me, all whirred and crunched fruitlessly, constant creaks and
groans producing a ceaseless, agonizing cacophony.
I believe if I had not heard my love's cries only moments after I entered this plane, I would have gone mad. But Trebecia's voice formed a net around my soul, and I followed the strands as desperately as any drowning man ever clung to the rescuer's rope.
When I found Trebecia she was surrounded by over a dozen coal-black creatures with gleaming red eyes and soot-encrusted teeth. These Phyrexian gremlins constantly gibbered, occasionally turning on one another, biting and clawing their neighbors. Several of the feral creatures held tightly to Trebecia, but their true attention seemed focused on a tall, twisted being at their center. It was motionless, but I did not trust it to remain so. The gremlins were a chittering swarm at its feet, kneeling and falling over one another in obscene and frenzied supplication.
Viewing such chaotic motion, unable to separate the creatures' endless chatter from the discordant whine of machinery overhead, I began to sicken and swoon. As I stumbled, I spied the partial and still functioning remains of a hapless brass man between the gremlins and their totem. Although the brass man still seemed conscious, its struggles grew weaker still as I neared the awful scene. With a dreadful certainty I knew that this token offering would soon be replaced with one of considerably more value to their masters . . . and immeasurably more value to me.
At my approach, the gremlins took up a concerted howl of discovery. The pack had at last noticed my presence. As they came away from their ritual, I clearly saw the statue of the Yawgmoth demon they were capering beneath. Its eyes flashed as it grinned at me, though I could not determine if it had always been so oriented, or if the terrible head had actually swiveled to greet me. Meeting its eyes, I was seized with a terrible knowledge: that one day Phyrexia would rise up to yoke all planes to its dark designs.
I truly don't remember how Trebecia and I fought our way through the gremlins to the dying brass man's side. If I had not been granted the sight of her struggling to break free, I daresay I could not have done the same. Snatching up an unfortunate gremlin that had not survived the encounter (or perhaps it had not succumbed to the orgy of worship--I am still unsure), we bound its flesh and the brass man's body in dread ritual. A portal opened before us.
I have existed for thousands of years, one person amid
a multitude too vast for even a planeswalker such as
myself to comprehend. Yet each of this great throng, each person who exists
upon any of the planes in Dominia, weaves his or her thread into the
tapestry of history. Unfortunately, few beings can actually gain any
perspective upon the worlds they live in or the peoples with which they
live. Life is too short and the planes too vast.
Here I presume to take my experience and my knowledge, and set to paper
history, legends, and tales from the immense array of cultures found in
Dominia. Hopefully, others will come to gaze upon this collection and learn
from it. Throughout these volumes I shall provide commentary, yet I vow to
never censor the words of others within their own stories.
In my youth, I would not have had the patience for this lengthy task. But,
having lived and died--and lived again--I have come to a greater
understanding of the necessity for the quietest virtue.
Long ago I loved a woman with greater passion than any other man had ever
loved . . . . Of course this isn't true--my love was no greater or lesser
than any others, but I was then convinced of its unique worth. It brought
me only grief because it was a selfish love that did not truly care about
the woman at its center. Since that time, I have learned much.
I dedicate this compilation, which I shall call the Encyclopedia Dominia,
to Kristina . . . and also to my adopted daughter, Daria. Both women are
brilliant, and the fabric of the world is richer for the shining threads of
While I sit among the creature comforts of my
library, I can't help but muse upon how
important our environment is to who we are.
Imagine, if you will, that I choose to clone a
young mortal. The boy and his other self would
be identical in all things. If, however, these
two identical people were placed in very
disparate environments, they would rapidly grow
different from each other, no longer truly
identical. For example, if one boy spent his
time in a tranquil place where he faced nothing
more terrible than the teasing of his siblings
and the occasional minor injury, where all his
physical and emotional needs were met, would
not his character and personality reflect this
environment? Would not the identity of the
other boy, living in a place of constant want,
with no one to care for him, grow (or wither)
in very different ways?
A truly wonderful or terrible environment
leaves a deep imprint indeed upon its
inhabitants. The best and worst of places may
even affect the other realms with which they
coexist. Thus, the literature and myths of
numerous cultures again and again reference
certain places. One of these places is the
realm known as Phyrexia, a black abyss of pain
and terror. It is astounding that creatures
manage to not only exist, but occasionally even
thrive in this place of charnel smoke, metal,
and ash; a place where the only light is
belched forth by huge soot-spewing furnaces.
The impact of such an environment on any who
spend time there is surely great. Undoubtedly
the unrelenting misery crushes the bodies and
spirits of most creatures, but it is also true
that only in the hottest forges are the truest
blades formed. Without adversity there is
seldom heroism. Without evil, good is
meaningless. Thus, I feel it is just as
important to record the history and culture of
a place such as Phyrexia as it is of one more
palatable, such as Llanowar.
I have spent many hours contemplating the way in which the elves of Llanowar have managed to create and maintain a world unto themselves. Though they do have some contact with their neighbours, the Llanowar have done a remarkable job of keeping other peoples and cultures from influencing their home. Some scholars claim it is the tremendous size of the forest that has long protected the elves, but although the forest of Llanowar is, indeed, quite vast, it is not in any way unique in its size. There are other elves in other vast forests throughout Dominia who have been much more "infected" by neighboring cultures.
There are reportedly up to ten separate elven cultures (or "elfhames," as the Llanowar term them) contained within this sprawling forest realm. Each of the elfhames supports in its own way the elves' desire to keep their culture and traditions safe from outside influence. Some elves disappear into the trees and rarely, if ever, venture from their homeland. Others trade with the outside world of humans, minotaurs, etc., but maintain a strict belief, grounded in religion, that they must keep some distance from other peoples in order to retain their mystical connection to nature and their forest home.
This isolationist philosophy is taken to its most disturbing extremes by the Order of the Steel Leaf, a select cadre of Llanowar said to have been first brought together by the goddess-planeswalker Freyalise herself. The Steel Leaf are zealous in their efforts to maintain the purity of Llanowar. To this day, any non-Llanowar risk their lives when entering territory controlled by the Order, which has been known to kill intruders (not merely goblins) without trial. A few arrows and the unfortunate strangers' bodies soon "feed the forest."
The Steel Leaf have even been known to direct their isolationist zeal against other Llanowar, for they disapprove of any cooperation or "collusion" with non-elves. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that someday the Order might turn their swords and arrows on those of their own people whom they consider traitors for consorting with outsiders.
In their fervor to preserve their people, will the Steel Leaf be the Llanowar's savior--or its executioner?
Across the bay, the distant flare of Lucassa's Lighthouse burned in the soft night, throwing myriad sparks upon the waves. It shone with a friendly yellow light, beckoning wayfarers and their ships to the safety of the Orvadian trading town.
Yet of the group aboard the dhow, only the Orvadian fisherman Tarin gazed across the water to the lights of Lucassa. The rest watched the dark water itself as it slid by, or listened to the waves and the sigh of the breeze, alert for any changes that might signal the arrival of newcomers. Tarin sat tiredly at the stern of his boat, alone at the steering oar, hoping the merfolk would make their presence known soon. He was a leathery nub of a man, eroded by sun, wind, sea, and time. His passengers frightened him, and he rued giving in to the temptation of gold the merman had promised.
"Surprised" had not quite described Tarin's feelings a week ago when a merman heaved himself into the dhow. Merfolk had grown rare and unfriendly since the Empress of ancient Vodalia had returned and ruined the trade between her people and the Orvadians. She curtailed commerce between the two peoples and heavily taxed what little trade remained. Business and personal relationships became strained and difficult to maintain, and blood had spilled more than once between man and merfolk since then. Tarin's first thought upon the merman's bizarre introduction had been to grab up his gaff, but the dull thud of a heavy gold coin on the wood between them stayed his hand.
That one gleaming coin was more money than Tarin had seen in three years, and the merman promised nine more if Tarin would only bring certain people from Lucassa to a meeting spot on the water. Tarin had thought about life in Orvada during the dry days of the Empress, of the dull ache in his bones in the morning, of the tired, beaten look his wife always wore, and of how easily the last years of their lives would pass with that gold hidden in the hollow under the hearth. He had not thought about sharing a dark journey with a wild-haired Urborg War Mage, a hulking, tattooed Kukemssan privateer captain, or a dark-cloaked and cowled figure that hadn't left footprints in the soft beach sand. What would they do to him if the merman did not come? Tarin peered again at the lights of Lucassa and wished he was there, sharing friendly warmth, cheer, and ale inside the weathered walls of a tavern.
It was the Kukemssan who first noticed the merfolk, their heads and torsos breaking the waves near the small rock outcrop Tarin had been told to steer for. A gesture brought the others to his side. As Tarin reefed the sail and dropped a sea anchor, he glanced curiously at the pair in the water. It was obvious which of the two was the leader. Moonlight jeweled from the beads of water that slid down his heavily-muscled torso and glinted from his long-bladed spear. He was larger than even the big Kukemssan, and his chest was banded with strange markings. His voice was deep, full and melodious. Although his tone was formal and studied, he spoke with assurance and a note of command.
"I greet you, in the name of the citizens of Etlan-Shiis. I am Aheeraq, chosen successor to the High Councilor of Etlan-Shiis. I thank you for meeting with me tonight."
The War Mage had a rusty voice, as if he had too often roared orders over the clangor of battle. "I am Isonidas of Urborg, Mage and War Captain." He motioned to the Kukemssan and the tall, motionless figure of the other mage. "My companions are Jelamau, Captain of the Kukemssan privateer Wave Splitter," a hint of scorn had come into his tone, but it evaporated into neutral sobriety as he continued, "and Khausiss, a priest of the Breathstealers. We are interested in the rich rewards you hinted at, but we have heard little of your people since the coming of your Empress during my grandfather's days. From your markings I see you are not of her court. What would you have us do?"
Tarin had shrunk further back into the stern at the realization that he was in the presence of a Breathstealer; he thought that even Jelamau had paled a bit as Isonidas said the word. Tarin's uncle had told a tale years ago of the Breathstealers: dark and evil no-longer-men who stole the life from others in order to live forever. If Aheeraq had heard this tale, it did not outwardly trouble him. He gestured to his companion who reached in to place a dark silken cloth on the dhow's middle bench. Unfolded, it cushioned thick gold coins, pale in the moonlight, around which lay lambent pearls and diamonds glowing with moon-fire. Jelamau licked his lips as he stared at the baubles and Isonidas smiled at the sight. Khausiss seemed to take no notice, standing unmoving and mute as Aheeraq replied.
"The riches are real, and this is but a paltry sample. Since fleeing the Homarids and the fall of Vodalia, we have watched hundreds of treasure ships crewed by scores of different races founder and sink. Their cargoes are of little interest to us, but they might appeal to you. Riches that you can only imagine, but the task we require in return is also of great magnitude." His voice took on an icy resonance. "I will see my people freed from their slavery. We will break the ancient castes once and for all and She who commanded the destruction of the High Council will meet with the doom that should have befallen Her three thousand years ago!"
In the sudden quiet following Aheeraq's angry outburst, Jelamau dropped to one knee and stirred the glittering wealth with a callused forefinger. "Consider your problems solved, oh soon-to-be ruler of the deeps." His eyes were fixed on the jewels and there was a hunger to his tone that made Tarin long once more for the safety of the tavern. "Even if the others here won't help, I know those who will." He swirled diamonds around with his finger and said softly, "Gladly . . . ." Isonidas tore his eyes from the mesmerizing contents of the black cloth, glared suspiciously at Jelamau, and then locked his gaze on Aheeraq. "Tell me, Councilor: why do you need outside help? Are you not the one who truly commands the hearts and spears of your people? How can a handful of ancient relics bring a powerful civilization to its knees?"
Aheeraq stared steadily back at him. "They may be few, but the power of their magic is immense. We fight them at every turn yes, but without hope, for we have no power comparable to theirs. Our magic could let you breathe in our waters, sustain and warm you, but it cannot blast living coral apart, nor freeze the very sea in our enemies' veins. Sadly, their power has cowed those who lack courage, and attracted many who seek power themselves. Their army is numerous." He paused, doubt evident in his eyes. "Thus I come to you now, while we are still strong enough to benefit from outside aid. I ask that you wield your power and skills to battle and destroy the Royal Mages of ancient Vodalia." He looked steadily at each of the warriors in turn for a long silent moment. Tarin was relieved not to be noticed. Aheeraq finished in ringing tones, "Do you have the power, the strength, and the willingness to do this? In return I will provide you with a thousand times what I have shown you here." Jelamau started to reply, but Isonidas cut him off with a roar of laughter. His hair flew wildly, though there was no wind, and blue fire leapt from finger to finger, dripping to hiss and sputter on the damp deck at his feet. "I fear no water Mages. I have fire enough to boil the seas around them. None shall-" he stopped, his speech cut short by a bubbling scream.
Tarin had seen the Dark Priest throw his cowl back to reveal a near-fleshless face with burning green eyes. Skeletal arms stretched up to the sky, and glimmering filaments of night itself tore free and plunged down at the priest's command, sliding with a furious hiss into the sea. At a gesture, a huge black net rose steaming out of the dark water, a screaming merman enmeshed within. Patterns of bright color shifted across his skin where it wasn't charred by the touch of the web, and he writhed and howled in horrible pain. Then, with the abrupt closing of Khausiss' hands, the net contracted into nothing, leaving bloody bits of strained merman to patter back down into the sea. Even Aheeraq seemed stunned as silence returned.
The Breathstealer turned to him, and with a voice of dust and shadows said, "Be more watchful for spies in the future. They could be . . . inconvenient." It seemed to Tarin that his eyes flicked towards Isonidas. He continued, "I, at least, will undertake your commission. I foresee no insurmountable difficulties . . ." He stretched thin lips in a rictus smile and slid his cowl back up. The green eyes glowed from within and the tomb-like voice dropped to a bare whisper, ". . . sire." Isonidas looked at his erstwhile companion speculatively, but no one spoke for a moment. Aheeraq looked at them with troubled eyes. "I will meet you three, with your men and ships, here in five nights." The other merman tossed a small heavy purse at Tarin who was cowering in the stern. Then the two merfolk sank into the sea, leaving the dhow rocking gently and the treasure still bright on the cloth. Jelamau bundled it up while Isonidas looked back at the darker swirling water where the spy had died. Tarin got up slowly, pulled in the sea anchor, and began to raise the sail. A fog had begun to roll in, and the light from Lucassa's Lighthouse was further obscured by the mist and the haze that lingered from the Breathstealer's magic. Tarin glanced down at the small purse that lay at his feet, but made no effort to claim it. With these men aboard he would need to go carefully if he ever wanted to spend what he had earned. He concentrated on thinking like a sailor, on getting the dhow back to the dock.
Bigasdat's Escape This tale provides an outsider's view of the elves of Llanowar. It is often interesting to see how one people appears to another, very different race. One often learns something of both the object and reporter of the tale. Readers should bear in mind, however, that the outsiders in this case are goblins. Goblins are, by their very nature, prone to exaggeration and hyperbole.-- Taysir
I never did like Bigasdat. Mom Three-Slugs named him "Bigasdat" 'cause he was big as two cats when he was born. I only got named "Flegg" 'cause Mom had a cold when I came out. So, I never did like Bigasdat.
Anyway, Bigasdat stole one a' Gramma Gooseguts's kites the other day and went flying. He says he borrowed it, but from Gramma's curses I don't think she agrees. Anyway, Bigasdat got a good wind and whoop! off he went. Giblet, did he go! All the way up and out 'til he hung over da Forest of Death. Then he dropped like Grampa Umph after he ate dose three rocks. (We never found out why Grampa did that.)
Anyway, I was happy then 'cause I thought Bigasdat was gone. But now he's back. And he thinks he's a hero. Sheesh!
So Bigasdat starts bragging: "Yah! I crashed dat kite--kerbang--right in da Forest of Death. The crash woulda killed Flegg here, or any of you, flat. But I swung into a tree and lived."
Which means Bigasdat closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and waved his arms like he always does when he's scared, and his hood probably got caught in a tree branch.
"Da forest had the hugest trees ever a goblin saw. They went up to da sky and da roots went almost as high. And everything was silent like when we all wait for Chief Blurglump to belch. I knew if I waited da death elves would come. But I couldn't see da sun, so how's I to start runnin'?"
If the trees are so high, how come I can see da sky over 'em now, huh?
"Then I heard 'em--there musta been five . . . nine . . . no, ninety of 'em, all comin' fer me! Death elves with their pointed teeth, evil eyes, and poison arrows. So I knew home was da way they weren't. I coulda fought them if there were only ten or so, but with so many I had ta run. Mom Three-Slugs woulda hated it if I died."
Yeah, who'd she have to klunk when I'm not around? And who'd ever believe so many elves came after Bigasdat? 'Sides, even one elf'd send Bigasdat screamin' naked into a snowstorm.
"So's anyway, I ran and ran for hours. I don't think any goblin ever ran so long. I could hear da elves everywhere, and once I hadda hide in a pile of leaves. But they didn't find me, no."
Then da elves are stupider'n Bigasdat's pet stone. Bigasdat can't hide from Gramma Gooseguts, and she's half-blind and deaf!
"Finally, after what musta been two or three days, I escaped da Forest of Death and got back to da Ironclaws. So's even a whole tribe of pointy-ears couldn't get one goblin--and dat's me. Hah!"
"But, 'Gas, you was only gone fer an hour. And your kite only crashed a stone's throw inta da forest," I pointed out.
"Well, it seemed like days, and if it was only an hour it's 'cause I'm so fast! Anyway, da kite's at least an hour's run inta da forest."
"Yeah? Den how come I can see it from here, bug-burp?"
Bigasdat stared at da forest and da kite hangin' from a tree right there fer as long as it takes Gramma ta catch a bug with her toes. Then he musta seen the logic of my statement, 'cause he bopped me. So I bopped him back. My fist can out-logic Bigasdat's anyday.
Anyway, dis went on until we both fell asleep. And in da morning Gramma twisted Bigasdat's ears for hours. Guess my brother's good for something after all.
The Ambassador's Journal The following account was composed by a Shanodin dryad living in the Llanowar forest. The Llanowar and Shanodin peoples share a deep respect and connection despite the tremendous distance (several thousand miles) between their forests. The dryad, Sythia, did not record this story on paper, as most cultures do. Instead, she sang it into the wood of her tree. The connection between a dryad and her tree is so strong that the dryad's thoughts are imprinted within the living wood--for those who know how to read them. --Taysir
Although I have lived within the Llanowar's comforting shade for several bloomings of the crocus, I have seldom ventured from Hedressel's sheltered peace. The druids still seem overawed by my presence. Whenever I pass into my tree to rest or meditate I fear the younger ones will swoon at the sight. Perhaps this reaction comes from envy of the dryad's bond with the forest? Perhaps not.
The elves here in Llanowar divide themselves into tribes, or elfhames, as they call them. Each elfhame has a distinct populace, territory, leadership, and social structure, and although most of the elfhames get along with one another there is occasional strife between them. In the past, elfhames have even warred among themselves, although no such grand hostilities mar the tranquillity of the forest now.
The other month I asked the druids if I could begin to see more of the splendors of Llanowar. The structure of the elfhames intrigues me, and I have seen practically nothing of the forest, save the holy ground of Hedressel, since my arrival. The druids readily assented, asking only that I allow a cadre of the Order of the Steel Leaf to escort me. When I asked why members of the military should accompany me, Cedrian, the eldest druid, responded that such an escort was first and foremost a show of respect, but there are also dangers in the woods, with orcs from the Ironclaw Mountains occasionally making raids into the forest. Thus, escorted by nearly a dozen Steel Leaf elves, I ventured out to see Elfhame Loridalh.
Over the course of our journey (which lasted nearly a fortnight) I learned much of Girian and the Steel Leaf under his able command. The young elves, with their eye patches, tattoos, and brightly colored hair, remind me of the young everywhere: overeagerness and passionate belief are their greatest faults--and their greatest assets. Long ago given a mandate by their goddess, Freyalise, to guard the forest and the elves, the Steel Leaf have never shirked their duties. In fact, they seem to have stuck so staunchly to Freyalise's words that they can even condemn elves who act in ways the Order does not believe fitting. Still, Girian and the others were the souls of courtesy to me.
When we arrived in Loridalh I was immediately reminded of a child whose mother has come home from a long journey. The child clings to her mother's skirts, as though to remain attached to her mother forever so that terrible absence can never occur again. Likewise, these elves seem forever striving to increase their connection to the infinite life-giver, nature.
The buildings of the Loridalh are unlike any I have seen elsewhere. The structures are created from living wood, coaxed into existence over countless years (although the elves did admit to me that their magic hurries the process). The Loridalh carefully set up frameworks, physical sketches of rooms and buildings, beside a chosen tree. The tree's wood is then encouraged to flow in the shapes indicated, creating ever-ascending buildings that reach well into the heights of the forest. I found this arrangement beautiful and highly indicative of the elves' psychology. It is no wonder they look on my ability to live within wood with such envy and awe.
All this time, the Steel Leaf's patience seemed frayed. As I discussed the Loridalh building philosophy with the elders, I noticed the strained looks on the faces of my waiting escort. While they thought I was sleeping, I overheard several of the Order grumbling about drawing such gloryless duty as escorting an ambassador. Ah, youth!
It was just as I was getting ready to depart the city that I saw something I believe brought me to a slightly deeper understanding of my hosts.
A young mother hovered on the edges of the small crowd observing my visit, her child cradled tenderly in her arms. I glanced up to find her looking at me with tears in her eyes, and I began to cross over to her. Girian stepped up, reminding me that it was past midday and we might want to consider leaving for home soon. I patted Girian's arm reassuringly and approached the young mother (I never did discover her name). When I asked her why she was crying, she responded that she was certain my visit was a sign from Freyalise, for her child was named Llonya, which means "dryad" in Old Elvish. With such a sign from the goddess, surely her child must be blessed.
Staring down at the solemn elf-child, I watched the girl's fragile hands reaching up towards me, or perhaps the sky, a braided twig-toy clutched in her hand. I took the child into my arms and held her up towards the dappled light; still the child waved impatiently. As I glanced at Girian, who stood with arms folded grimly over his armor, I presented the child to the largest tree in the town. Grasping at a living branch, the child pulled the smallest leafy twigs into her mouth while her other hand tangled itself in my hair. Then little Llonya began to cry. Hastily, her mother collected her, apologizing for her daughter's behavior.
The Llanowar are like this child, I thought. Although they see themselves as ancient sages and warriors, they are really still youngsters torn between the desire to leave their home and the desire to stay within their mother's arms forever.
Smiling to myself at this insight I could never share with my escort, I nodded to the relieved Girian. It was time to return home.
The following brief tale gives some insight into the elusive world of the assassin cult known as the Breathstealers. It is notoriously difficult to gain information about these silent killers, and it is certainly unusual for a Breathstealer to record his deeds. However, although we cannot be certain about the veracity of the exact details of this story, Suq'Atan history documents the results of the assassin's mission. -- Taysir
Third Day, Fifth Month.
Today I heard a mother whisper to her child that if he would not hold his tongue in the market then a Breathstealer would come in the night and steal his breath. In the morning the mother would have to wail for her child's spirit, stolen along with her child's life. What a story to tell a babe! But perhaps the young mother thinks the Breathstealers are merely fantasies to frighten children into behaving. I fear she is wrong.
-- Qhattib, Vizier of Amiqat
Two Days before the Slumber of the Bright Moon.
My mother named me Hilel because I was born at the very moment the Bright Moon turned its face away from us for the month. I have always been most comfortable in darkness. Even before I was stolen by the Breathstealers. When you become a Breathstealer you must face the ending of one life in order to begin your new one. I can still feel the breath leave my protesting lips, the air turn stale in my lungs, the hazy burning away of the conscious mind before awakening again to utter night. Last night I was awarded my first chance to gift a soul with shadow. I am honored to have been chosen for a mission of such importance. I must prepare. In two days I shall eat the breath of the living.
-- Hilel, Breathstealer
Fourth Day, Fifth Month.
I awoke this morning in a cold sweat. I dreamed the Pasha was assassinated and, when the other advisors turned to me for guidance in this time of crisis, I had no wisdom to give. The Pasha is not a man of profound wisdom, but he is an icon to our people and icons are of increasing value in these desperate times. This is the second time I have dreamed of death this month. I fear for the Suq'Ata nation. Kaervek's armies may only walk the land now in little more than memory, but I feel more certain than ever that the Breathstealers are real, and that they breed like a virus in the close darkness of our city streets.
-- Qhattib, Vizier of Amiqat
One Day before the Slumber of the Bright Moon.
I have watched my prey for a full day and a night now, and I believe my path is becoming clear. If I can maintain the patience of death I shall surely succeed in stealing the breath from perhaps the most important man in all of the Suq'Atan empire. When he closes his eyes tonight, I shall close mine. Our breath shall be as one. I will dream his dreams. Our spirits will ride the night winds together. When the next night comes and I enter his chambers, his spirit will welcome me as a brother. I sleep in the arms of the Spirit of the Night.
-- Hilel, Breathstealer
Fifth Day, Fifth Month.
I dreamed again of the Pasha's death. Only this time my tongue did not desert me. No, in this dream I spoke passionately of how our brave land must hold another man who could lead our people in honor and wisdom. I am ashamed to admit I even spoke ill of our Pasha in my dream. It is not his fault that his wisdom is that of the cheetah and not of the lion. I must pay special tribute to the Pasha in my prayers this night.
Has our land won its freedom from Kaervek's aggressive suit only to be losing itself to the wiles of a far more cunning foe? I wish the gods would grant me wisdom in this matter, but I fear in the past few days I see better sleeping than awake. I fear for our nation. If the Breathstealer assassins or another, unknown enemy should take the Pasha's life, the Council would almost certainly choose Telim'Tor as our new Pasha. Although Telim'Tor's words feed those hungry for a powerful protector, the loaf of his knowledge is unleavened by wisdom of any kind. The Suq'Ata might do better to have a child lead us. At least a child's gullibility is expected.
I shall pray for the Suq'Ata as well as the Pasha. And on the morrow I shall talk to the Pasha of my fears...for him, for our land, and my concerns about Telim'Tor. I am certain I can get our leader to allow me leave to investigate these Breathstealers. Yes, I am certain now that they are the real danger to our land.
May the gods' eyes be as blind as a mother's to her children's imperfections.
-- Qhattib, Vizier of Amiqat
The Slumber of the Bright Moon.
This night have I granted the Dying Breath for the first time. It is true that you can feel the spirit slipping its mortal tethers. We are indeed celestial beings. Last night as I walked the path of dreams with my brother, Qhattib, I could feel his fear of my kind. And I could feel his worries about Telim'Tor. What well-founded concern! Telim'Tor will one day soon, Spirit willing, grace the throne of the Suq'Ata...and his mind is as easy to bend as summer grass. Yes, my new brother had reason to fear. Tonight he breathes no more and we are safe from the brilliant light of his wisdom. Qhattib's mind was as a sun in Suq'Ata, and we prefer the darkness.
-- Hilel, Breathstealer
The following story is a verbatim transcription of an eyewitness account of one of the most important events in recent Jamuuran history. -- Taysir.
I'm not certain where to begin . . . or why you want me to tell this tale. Kulinda or Jerran could tell it better . . . ah, but their wounds are still healing. Well then, I'll tell you what I saw and heard for myself. I can vouch for nothing else, and what I can attest to is fantastic enough for ten tales. Well then, this is the story of how the mage Mangara was set free from his terrible, unlawful prison. And, as you know, if it was not for Mangara's help we would never have beaten Kaervek's magic and undead minions.
I have fought in Scalebane's army for over a year now, and no warrior could wish a more inspiring, brave leader than Rashida Scalebane. I would die for that woman -- indeed, I almost did. Less than a fortnight past, Rashida called three warriors to her tent: myself, Kulinda, and Jerran. Wasting no words, Rashida explained that she had chosen us to accompany her and a few others on a special mission, a mission to save the mage Mangara. At these words Kulinda gasped, and I nearly did as well. Mangara had disappeared many months ago. How could Rashida know he was imprisoned, let alone where he was trapped.
Nodding sharply at Kulinda, Rashida answered only that all would be explained that could be explained by the prophetess Asmira, who had joined our encampment only hours before. "At dawn we will again meet in this tent and Asmira and I shall tell you all we can of our quest." Telling us to prepare to leave immediately after the dawn meeting, Rashida bowed her head over her legendary dragonslaying banesword. The first gathering of Scalebane's Elite was at an end.
Restless and nervous after a troubled night's sleep, we met once more in Rashida's tent at dawn. Asmira was already waiting within, seated upon the floor herder-style. Asmira was smaller than I imagined, but her dark eyes reflected both confidence and conviction. Clad in white and gold garments mixing both Femeref and Zhalfiran styles, the great prophetess Asmira greeted us with the most serene smile I have ever seen.
"Greetings and thanks, Children of Fate," the prophetess began. "In recent days great omens have wafted across our land on the wings of dreams. I have felt their feathery touch, as has your leader, Rashida. Now is our chance to free Mangara from the stone in which he has long been imprisoned."
"What sort of stone could imprison a mage?" Jerran asked in his sing-song whisper.
"An amber prison," Rashida answered. "It is a magical stone into which a mage may thrust any single being."
"And the being may remain trapped there for an infinity of eternities if he is not freed," Asmira concluded. "It is our responsibility to free Mangara from this prison. The dreams have told us where Mangara's prison lies . . . a handful or more days travel into the Mwonvuli Jungle. We must begin our journey at once if we are to have any hope of rescuing Mangara before Kaervek's might grows beyond all hope of stopping him."
"But what is our role in all this?" I asked. "We are only warriors and not many in number."
"You are my warriors and the heart of all Jamuura beats in your breasts," Rashida answered.
"And you are so few in number because we do not believe more warriors could avoid many of Kaervek's patrols," Asmira finished. "But come, gather your things, it is time for us to begin the Lion's Eye Quest."
As we gathered our gear together I thought on the ancient saying -- "Caught in the Lion's Eye." Yes, if ever there was a moment of crisis, we were walking into it. And with that thought I joined my fellows to confront our fate.
The next few days are mostly a blur to me. We did our best to avoid Kaervek's patrols, but there were far more than even Rashida had predicted. Attempting evasion in the plains proved difficult. Alternately battling and avoiding the undead patrols, we reached the final hill overlooking the jungle far later than we had hoped. We could all see Rashida's nerves grow raw as time drained away from us. Even Asmira's face began to appear ashen with worry on the third day as we neared the final hill.
But at the end of that day as we crested the final rise, we found new hope in the form of the flying ship, Weatherlight. Rushing up to the ship's captain, Sisay, Rashida demanded to know how and why she was here. The slightly embarrassed captain responded that she had had a dream that bade her come to this very spot. Although I'm sure Sisay thought Asmira and Rashida would think her crazy for flying her ship into the middle of an enemy-infested plain because of a dream, our leaders merely nodded. After all, the Lion's Eye Quest itself was the stuff of dreams.
It took only a few minutes to scramble up rope ladders and climb aboard the Weatherlight. On board, Sisay's crew were fewer in number than I would have expected, but Sisay said she was still rebuilding. I wish there had been time to speak to her crew, particularly the sharp-eyed minotaur, but exhaustion and the need for all hands to man the ship did not give me the chance. Perhaps I will be able to buy Sisay and her crew a round of drinks at a tavern on some future night.
Now, where was I? . . . Oh, yes, Sisay and the Weatherlight immediately set sail through the still jungle air. You'd think flying through sky would be much smoother than riding the ocean's waves, but it really isn't. The Weatherlight constantly hummed and vibrated as we cut our way through the air. We flew in one day what would have taken us five or more on the ground. Without the Weatherlight we would have lost crucial days and perhaps the war.
When we finally landed, we found ourselves outside a small palace just beginning to decay. Vines covered much of the western wall, but the rest of the squat edifice was still relatively unmarred. A large metal door blocked our way into the compound, but it proved little impediment to us. With Asmira leading us into the palace, we passed through two long hallways in complete silence, unbothered by guards of any kind. Then silence became screams and Kaervek's dread minions descended upon our small group.
The battle through the palace seemed to last for days. Have you ever fought continuously for your life for hours on end? It is a constant battle to maintain the shield of hope, to not give in to the terror surrounding you. Yet, we persevered. If it were not for our dragonscale armor and other magical protections, we never would have survived the assault. But survive we did, and made slow progress into the fortress until at last we saw the amber prison floating within a scintillating beam of white light.
As Asmira managed to push closer to the amber prison, Kaervek's forces began to pummel us with magical fire and other terrors. Jerran was badly burned several times over and it is a wonder he survived at all. I remember little of the next few minutes save the struggle to remain standing. I remember seeing Asmira reach the amber prison . . . I remember seeing the holy one bend her head in concentration over the magical stone, her face ghostly in the magical beam's sharp light. Then my sight was overwhelmed by the forces in front of me and I was sure I would fall at any moment.
It was then that a terrible shrieking howl echoed through the chamber and I saw Rashida and Scalebane dancing through the undead with the grace of a thousand cheetahs. Even when fighting dragons, I had never seen Rashida fight so well or so dexterously. On her face she wore a mask crafted of dragonskin, and its eyes, blazing with yellow fury, were not Rashida's. Rashida must have killed two score or more of Kaervek's minions in the time it took me to slay one. But such a display of valor does not come without cost. Just as I reached our leader she collapsed in complete exhaustion. Standing over Rashida's body to keep what remained of Kaervek's forces from harming her, I looked again to Asmira.
And in that moment I forgot the jungle heat as my blood froze in my veins. For as Asmira raised the amber prison in triumph a darkling panther warrior-woman leapt from ambush towards the holy warrior. Even as I screamed a warning, I recognized the legendary slayer Purraj of Urborg. As my scream echoed, too late to warn Asmira, Purraj's knife dug deeply into Asmira's back. Arching backwards Asmira ignored the terrible blow, managing to whisper out the last words of her spell to free Mangara. Her ritual complete, the amber prison suddenly glowed with such ferocity I could no longer bear to look on it.
When the blinding shaft of light faded all of Kaervek's forces lay dead around us and a middle-aged man in strange clothes stood where Asmira and Purraj had grappled seconds before. Of Purraj and Asmira there was no sign. Perhaps they were both consumed in the amber prison's shattering light.
Rashida stirred below me, and as I helped the shaken warrior onto her feet I saw her eyes meet Mangara's. With a deep bow the freed mage disappeared in a glimmer of pale white light.
Of course, you know the rest. Mangara confronted Kaervek and managed to prevail against the dark mage and his overextended resources. Now Kaervek lies within the very stone that so long held Mangara prisoner. It seems a fitting punishment. Asmira has officially been granted the title of Holy Avenger, but I fear it may be a posthumous honor. As for Purraj . . . I have no idea but I am sure if Asmira fell, then so did that Urborg assassin.
I grow tired now, and I must check on Jerran. I hope my tale has been of some use to you.
May you never live in the Lion's Eye.
-- Forena, Scalebane's Elite.
It should come as no surprise that the first tales I gathered to place in my encyclopedia come from my birthplace, Rabiah. I find this tale compelling because it leaves the reader with several tantalizing references to a place of power that lies on the cusp of a plane. Of course, it is also a tale of high passion and pain, and my youthful self knew too well where such emotions can lead.
While a memory lives, so shall its maker. . . . For those of us who tell stories and write down the great and infamous doings of our people, these words carry greater weight than a hundredfold gold bars. Today, my tale is brief; the lesson drawn from it perhaps a bit longer, perhaps twice as short. Only my readers will know.
Princess Fatima was the wealthiest of women. She had riches galore, camels and silks, and a lover who was one of the most powerful men in her kingdom. She also was rich in magic. In Fatima's land as in many of our backward kingdoms, women have little control over their own lives. Their husband or father controls them. But Fatima's father was dead, no uncles or brothers lived, and she had not yet married. Every night, Fatima whispered in the ear of her lover, al-Abin, "Ask me not to marry you, and I will love you forever." To which al-Abin would reply, "Do not marry me, dear one."
For months, their strange arrangement lasted, until one night Fatima whispered, "Ask me not to marry you, and I will love you forever." To which al-Abin replied, "Marry me and make me the happiest of men." Furious, Fatima declared that she would never marry him. Despite al-Abin's begging, Fatima remained adamant. That very night her lover left Fatima for good.
Furious at al-Abin and the land that birthed him, Fatima went into a rage that lasted for days. At the end of this time, she turned all of her attention to her magic. Determined to build a place where none would ever dare disturb her, Fatima chose to create a City of Brass that blazed with the heat of her fury.
With every month she worked on her city, Fatima's power grew until it was so great she could stride across the planes and leave her people behind. She moved her city to the very farthest edges of Rabiah, where she worked in complete solitude. Yet, after a number of years, Fatima felt a touch of loneliness. Although she did not wish to see her people again, she wished some companionship. Thus, Fatima built the first of the Brass Men.
Fatima cared deeply for her brass creations, who bore the grief she never allowed herself to feel and thus often stopped to mourn after performing any task. As was her city, her brass men were cold as al-Abin's betrayal and hot as Fatima's wrath. Yet they were--and are--her children, and Fatima loves them to this day.
Go not to the City of Brass, unless you can bear great pain. For if you venture within its molten walls you will find yourself burned by the heat of its fires and by the rage and grief of its lone mistress.
The Hero's Tale The following excerpt gives an interesting insight into the life of the famed Benalish hero. Usually, one glimpses these renowned warriors only when they are fully trained, as if they had risen full-formed from some god's imagination, the perfect warriors. But, of course, such perfection requires much work and sacrifice. The author of this note, Noira, is but at the beginning of her life's work. --Taysir
We're allowed to send one letter this month, but by this time next year I should be able to write whenever I choose. So, you see, it is not my fault this is the first I've written you. There's so much to tell, and I've so little time. Let's see . . . .
The city of Benalia is huge! Before I arrived here six moons ago I could never imagine such a place existed. Even from the highest of the council's towers at its centre, it's impossible to see the city's edges. The census-takers claim there are more than two hundred thousand people here. Can you imagine?
It's funny. We've been learning history until my mind feels as if it's been danced on by the ghost of Tobias Andrion himself! We haven't truly begun arms training yet. In fact, I haven't touched a weapon more fierce than my eating dagger since I arrived. But every morning we practice a strange battle-dance that our instructor, Hero Tavin, promises will make us into the most graceful and deadly of warriors. Hero Tavin says it is the basis for the Fei' th Drange (that's "Soul Dance" in Sheoltun -- See? I have been learning.) The Fei' th Drange is a particularly deadly battle-form only taught to heroes of Benalia. I am honored to learn such a form, but I wish we'd get on to using weapons again!
We've also begun studying philosophy with Hero Wynne. I think the most important thing I've learned so far is that we are the chosen of the gods. Hero Wynne says that the gods' breath graced our brows even before our mothers'. This is why the gods call upon us so often to battle for them wheresoever they need. We must be ready for the call every moment of our lives. Sometimes I'm frightened to think about that . . . but, it's exciting and important too, don't you think?
Hmmm . . . . What else can I tell you? Well, the "blackguards" are a bit odd, but they're not so bad once you get to know them. They're all children of commoners (well, at least one commoner) but they're allowed into the ranks of the heroes anyway. They start younger than us--some aren't even ten when they begin training--and they always wear black leather and go about with shaved heads. They can't grow their hair until they graduate, and even then most of them keep their heads shorn. Some of my friends here think the blackguards are arrogant, but I bet they think the same of us.
I haven't gotten my hero's tattoo yet; I know you were wondering about that. We won't receive them until after our second year of training. So, I wear my clan tattoo, but nothing else yet. Hug Derryn and give Kitten a treat for me!
P.S. I've still got the boar's-hair charm you gave me. So far, its luck is strong!
I chose this story for inclusion in the encyclopedia because its style is distinctive to the legends of Rabiah. It is also an interesting tale of the creation (or re-creation, if you will) of two important peoples/beings: the Serendib efreets and the desert nomads. -Taysir
Blessed are we who live in Rabiah, which is but one of infinite Rabiahs, for our gods smile upon us and grant us bounty of which other people can but dream. In this time of bounty it is difficult to believe that such a land could ever be endangered, yet there once existed on this very sand a Serendib efreet whose heart was so cold and jealous he could not stand the thought of other beings sharing the same earth as he. This efreet fumed for years, vowing to the winds that one day none but he would walk Rabiah's endless lands, and while he muttered to himself he searched for a way to make his vow complete.
One day, a foreign planeswalker called upon the efreet to aid him in battle. The efreet performed heroically, and when the battle was done the planeswalker agreed to grant the jealous creature a wish. One can only assume granting a wish to an efreet amused the young 'walker, for why else would the magic-wielder make such an offer? Seizing upon this opportunity for which he had waited years, the efreet declared that he wished to be the only creature able to walk the lands of Rabiah.
Taken aback by the efreet's brash desire, the planeswalker pondered the request. Finally, after much thought, he reached out and placed a jewel on the efreet's forehead. Working magic unknown to us in these modern times, the 'walker split the efreet's mouth in two. He then turned his will upon the efreet's left hand, changing it into a hooked knife sharper than a grandmother's tongue.
"With these changes, I grant your wish, efreet!" the 'walker declared. "Anything that you cut with your left hand shall shrink to the size of a sand bug. Any such creature you swallow with your left mouth will disappear from all Rabiahs for all eternity--as will all other creatures of its kind. With enough perseverance, you may soon walk the planes of Rabiah in perfect solitude."
Glorying in his newly granted power, the efreet turned to the first creature he saw and speared it with his left hand. No sooner had he done so than the poor creature shrunk to exactly the size of a sand bug, and the efreet popped it in his left mouth and swallowed it whole. Just what the efreet ate we do not know, for the creature and all its cousins no longer exist in our lands. Greatly pleased with his success, the efreet declared himself Eater of the Infinite. From that moment on, the Eater searched out all the creatures he could find and began casting them and their kin out of Rabiah.
For a fortnight the Eater's appetite ran unchecked. But then a young bird maiden, by the name of Fyhra, witnessed the Eater destroy a whole herd of beasts by merely shrinking and eating one. After quietly following him for a day and a night, Fyhra soon realized that the Eater was destroying untold numbers of creatures. Praying to the all the gods she knew, Fyhra landed on a rocky outcropping near the Eater just as dawn blessed Rabiah with her first blush.
"Why do you eat these beasts, efreet?"
Laughing, the Eater responded: "Why, because I can. And because with every creature I eat, I eat every one of its kin on all the Rabiahs. Soon I shall have Rabiah to myself. Come closer, little bird maiden, that your kind may join the Infinite inside me."
Shaking her head in fear, Fyhra flew off quickly into the morning sun. As he was in a lazy mood, and perhaps because he reveled in Fyhra's fear, the Eater did not pursue the terrified bird maiden.
Flying on the morning winds, Fyhra wondered how she could possibly stop the Eater from casting all creatures out of Rabiah. Although her fear carried her for the entire day, Fyhra finally grew too tired to continue. Alighting upon the cooling evening sands, she sobbed quietly to herself.
"Why do you cry to yourself, winged one?" a voice whispered from the shadows of a large dune.
"Who are you?" Fyhra exclaimed.
"I am but a Watcher, and I see you have met the Eater of the Infinite," the shadowy figure replied.
"Yes, I have, and I fear Rabiah will soon be his and no one else's," Fyhra responded.
"Perhaps. But, then again, perhaps not. Take the gift I leave you and wake the man you shall find asleep on the other side of this dune. The Eater may destroy with his left mouth, but there is balance in all things. There is a right for every left, a beginning for every end. Tell the young nomad you wake of the Eater, and of my words. Together you may yet save your home."
Fyhra was bursting with questions, but before she could ask even one, the shadowy figure shimmered and faded with the wind. Only a small but bulky carpet, neatly rolled, remained. Upon unrolling this, Fyhra immediately realized from its woven pattern of wings and swirls that the stranger's gift was a flying carpet.
Still pondering the stranger's words, Fyhra took up the carpet and flew over the large dune. Lo and behold, exactly where the stranger said he would lie, there rested a young nomad. Fyhra silently thanked the gods for bringing him to this dune. She landed beside the scruffy man and called out softly to him. When he awoke, she introduced herself and poured out the entire story to the solemn nomad.
The man, whose name was Pakhir, listened intently to the bird maiden's story. When she finished, he said, "Thank you for telling me this tale, maiden. When I left my family's camp this morning I went to find a place to die.
"For, you see, I am the last of the nomads. The others have died from a terrible plague. The world will grieve our loss. Yet, perhaps now I may end our family's saga in glory, instead of infamy," Pakhir finished.
"But who was the man who instructed us?"
"Does that matter? Either he tells the truth and we may save our land, or else he lies and all is lost. We can only try."
Nodding her head, Fyhra took to the air with Pakhir following on the flying carpet, and traveled back the way she had come only the previous day. The pair finally found the Eater nearing the city of Bassorah. Stretching her shimmering wings to their fullest, Fyhra swooped round and round the Eater, calling and taunting the would-be world-killer.
The Eater eagerly followed the darting maiden as she maneuvered him away from the city with its teeming multitudes. When the Eater was judged to be far enough removed from the city to ensure no one else was endangered, Pakhir screamed out his family's name and plunged directly at the efreet.
The Eater's two mouths opened wide with glee as he deftly speared Pakhir on his left hand, shrinking and twisting the young nomad. At that moment, Fyhra again swooped down and swiftly shoved the now-tiny Pakhir into the efreet's open right mouth. "A right for every left, a beginning for every end," she chanted as the Eater's eyes grew wide with horror. For when Pakhir's dying body entered the Eater's right mouth all of the nomad's direct ancestors appeared again across Rabiah, alive and well.
But Fyhra and Pakhir weren't finished with the Eater. As soon as the efreet's left hand touched the inside of his right mouth his enormous, unquenchable hunger grew even more immense. Swallowing and swallowing, the Eater's right mouth soon consumed first his hand and then his arm. In rapid order, the Eater of the Infinite swallowed himself piece by piece until only the echoes of his enraged screams were left upon the air. Yet, in the very moment that the Eater consumed himself and disappeared from Rabiah, dozens of other Serendib efreets were reborn upon the land. Each efreet was marked with the double mouth and hook of its progenitor. Yet, fortunately for us, the new efreets did not possess the Eater's dread power.
They do, however, possess a curse. For all Serendib are bitter with the legacy of defeat, and any who wish to summon or command one would do well to think twice on the matter. The Serendib curse those who would use them as did that long-ago planeswalker, causing suffering and pain to the magic-worker so long as they work in his or her service.
And what of Fyhra? She became a heroine of her people, as did Pakhir of his--for Fyhra told the desert nomads of his great sacrifice on their behalf.
And who was the man who told Fyhra how to defeat the Eater? That is something we shall never know. Perhaps it was a god who took pity upon our lands. Or perhaps a planeswalker . . . even the very planeswalker who granted the Eater his fell power. We must be content with our knowledge of how the Serendib efreets came to possess two mouths, and how the nomads will walk forever upon our lands.
History of Benalia
(This story reads a bit odd. The spoiler-tagged parts are orriginally footnotes that apeared in a bar next to the story if you clicked on a * placed where you can now see the tags.)
Benalia is a complex and ever-growing society. In some ways it reminds me of a robust organism, bursting with health. But whether this organism that is Benalia is the heart of Dominaria or merely a cancer upon the land is still in question. Still, this brief treatise, by one of Benalia's clan historians, gives the reader some idea of the nature and origins of Benalish politics, and of the relationship of the seven great clans to one another. --Taysir
On Recent History and the Glory that is Benalia Under the August Leadership of Tamira of Rosecot. This treatise is humbly presented by Varren, Historian of Clan Rosecot (with additional commentary by Vola, Historian of Clan Deniz; Ebenin, Historian of Clan Tarmula; Fannia, Historian of Clan Ternsev; Cl'eueth, Historian of Clan Capashen; Sytryr, Historian of Clan Joryev; and Havram, Historian of Clan Croger).
As is doubtless already known by those citizens of the empire who live in the capital of Benalia itself, in recent years the leadership of our nation has undergone some restructuring. However, just as doubtless, those citizens not living within sight of the Seven Pillars may not have had opportunity to learn of the Seven Clans' wise accord. As Council Leader Tamira's appointed historian, it is my duty--and my pleasure--to inform all of Benalia of the clans' most recent actions.
But first, a brief overview of pertinent facts leading up to our present glory
Pertinence is as relevant as the judgment of the individual who determines its meaning. --Cl'eueth
The remarks of both my esteemed colleagues are irrelevant. The facts speak with the voice of truth. But it is up to the reader to pluck out the diamonds of fact from the plain glass of rhetoric. --Vola
Ever since Torsten Von Ursus first took up the reins of the great horse Civilization and guided our ancestors out of the ruins of the once-grand Sheoltun Empire, Benalia has been a nation set on a path towards greatness. Even the name Torsten chose for us--Benalia, or "aspiration"--proclaims our intent to the world. Our empire grew in power and size even more rapidly than that of Sheoltun once fell
The accuracy of Varren's comments is at issue here. There is little evidence that Sheoltun fell swiftly; in fact many documents point to the reverse. He is merely engaging in academic hyperbole for the sake of drama. --Ebenin
One must look outside one's own clan records to learn truth, Ebenin. --Varren
Multiple interpretations of any ancient facts are, in and of themselves, worthy of introduction into discussion, gentlemen. --Vola
Today Benalia stretches from the Spice Isles to the west, matchless in their wealth, to the metal-rich Red Iron Mountains to the east, the Kb'Briann Highlands to the south, and the edge of the Avenant Isle to the north
Once, the Avenant and their peerless archers were a part of our nation, but an unwise Joryev leader insulted the Avenant and we lost the isle. --Fannia
Actually, according to our clan records, it was a Ternsev leader who fell in lust with an Avenant prince's daughter. She did not take well to her kidnapping, and neither did her father. --Sytryr
At Torsten's death, his seven lieutenants read the words of instruction their great leader left them. To which of his lieutenants would Torsten pass the reins of leadership? Though the exact wording of this Lost Edict is lost to us, we know the outcome: Torsten chose none of these followers--and all of them.
Under the watchful gaze of three priests of the Church of Angelfire, the lieutenants argued for seven days and as many nights over the true meaning of their dead leader's instructions. Finally, they came to an understanding, and on the eighth morning they addressed the crowds, still dressed in the red of mourning, who waited impatiently outside the temple where the lieutenants had met.
"From this day forward," Ilyana of Rosecot proclaimed...
Once again, Varren interprets the situation instead of conveying fact. It is unclear just which clan leader first spoke on that historic day. --Cl'eueth
Rosecot is mentioned more often than any other clan, Cl'eueth. --Varren
Only if one counts your clan's handful of "contemporaneous" accounts written over two hundred years later by so-called twiceborn clan members claiming to have seen the ceremony with their own eyes. Only Rosecot gives such claims any credence. –Vola
..."we and our families all take on the mantle of responsibility for this greatest of nations. The Seven Clans, as Torsten has written we are to be known, will each lead our nation for one lunar year; the head of that clan will rule all Benalia as well. At the start of each lunar year, our positions will rotate, so that the clan that the previous year was most prestigious is the next year the least of the Seven."
Some students of Von Ursus believe the great leader designed this system to keep any one clan from seizing power, as no one leader could truly fill Torsten's shoes. --Cl'eueth
Still others say he was merely trying to force the issue of leadership, so that one clan would have to compel the others to obedience. If so, his plan failed. --Vola
And yet others claim the entire document was a joke written by Torsten's fool and mistaken for a last declaration by even-more foolish priests. –Fannia
Clan Membership and Standing
An ancient legend has it that the gods fought for years over the stars in the sky, with each god claiming the sparkling treasures for him- or herself. This quarrel grew more and more grave until some of the gods began to destroy stars rather than let a rival lay claim to them. Finally, one wise godling suggested casting stars across the heavens: Whatever was covered by stardust from each god's throw would belong to that god. Since all the gods believed that they would be superior in any such endeavor, they all swore to abide by its results. Today, when we see the summer star-showers, we know the gods are reenacting their famous contest
A variant of this--a superiorly documented variant, I might add--speaks of the gods drawing comets to choose which constellations would belong to them. –Ebenin
And thus each god cast his or her stars, and each claimed to have received the best of the glittering sky-jewels for his or her own. At that time, each god also declared a people to be his or her personal charge (unlike today, when the gods have turned to matters of greater import). Thus, any child born under that god's constellations belonged to that god.
Since before the days of the Sheoltun Empire's grandeur, the great families of northwestern Central Aerona have looked to the stars to determine whether a child belongs to them or to some other great family. In later years, only the noble families followed this tradition. Today, such birth-blessing belongs only to the Seven Clans, each striving to ensure its children are born in an appropriate month. Still, accidents happen, and those born outside the assigned time become members of their star-clans (as opposed to birth-clans) upon reaching the age of twelve. Such an accidental birth is always cause for grief
The practice of star-birth determining clan membership is not as counterproductive as it might first appear. Many cross-clan allegiances--sometimes the only things keeping one clan from another's throat--are only made due to a fortunately placed person with mixed birth- and star-clans. --Havram
Today, each of the Seven Clans takes responsibility for a certain area of government--the treasury, navy, army, etc.--while one clan holds leadership of Benalia for the year. A catalog of the exact grouping of responsibilities is available for perusal in the government archives, in Benalia.
And so we move into the next era of Benalish leadership, the largest and most productive society on all of Aerona. Our leaders are to be commended for their judicious decisions, achieved through reasoned consensus, not brute force, as is the unfortunate habit of the leaders of some of our neighboring countries
"Reasoned consensus" is, again, a relative term. Do you call three poisonings, one stabbing, and uncounted bribes, blackmail attempts, and threats "reasoned"? --Vola
There is little, if any, documentation of such "facts," Vola. --Varren
Today Benalia stretches from the Spice Isles to the west, matchless in their wealth, to the metal-rich Red Iron Mountains to the east, the Kb'Briann Highlands to the south, and the edge of the Avenant Isle to the north.
Quote from The Squirle master »
It was actualy on the orriginal site 0_O
Damn, I must have been tmeporarily blinded or something...
You can open it?
Cuz I caaaan't...:crying:
EDIT: I merged you posts. NO DOUBLE POSTING! *waves finger acusingly* I can't open the site either, but I have the whole thing saved on my computer, including that link -_-''
-The Squirle Master
Sorry for this. Well we could start to editing this post rather than post new ones.:) What you think? -MORT
I suggest to add Love Song of Night and Day to short stories thread. Also you could add here short stories for Kamigawa or links to them and to Legendology. -MORT
There was a story missing here: Roreca's Tale, written by Richard Garfield for the orriginal Alpha rules book, and thus effectively the first magic story ever.
By- Richard Garfield
The Ergamon plane did not impress her with its colossal peaks and exotic fauna. Of course, “colossal” and “exotic” are nearly meaningless words to Worzel, because they assume everything else in Dominia is “average” or “normal,” which is not and assumption Worzel makes by now. So I suppose it is no surprise that she wasn’t impressed. I was, though.
Ergamon is a small hidden plane. At least, that is what Worzel told me, though it looked as vast as any other world I have visited. I have no idea what she means by hidden. For me a hidden place is a hole-in-the-wall tavern where I can escape attention, or a woodland grotto obscured by the surrounding forest. For someone who has ways of seeing and traveling between worlds like Worzel, maybe planes can be “hidden” in the same way. But what would obscure a wizard’s sight when she can see from plane to plane? Some sort of plane-forest? Thinking about what Worzel means usually makes my head ache, so I’ve learned to stop worrying about it.
We were standing near the bottom of a ravine between two of the Ergamon mountains. The breeze was dry and subtly scented. The base of the mountain met the ravine in a craggy black slick with trickling streams. About a hundred feet away on the ravine floor we could see what appeared to be a dry river bed.
Worzel was examining the ruins of a structure built of shiny black rock. Each stone was as large as a horse. Occasionally she would mutter some incantation, or pulled some weird instrument out of thin air which she would pass over the rock. When she was satisfied, the instrument would disappear. Planewalkers can travel light.
We came to Ergamon to seek lines. Wizards use lines to connect to the lands of planes, from which they draw most of their power. Once we find a line Worzel establishes a bond to it, and then she can draw on that bond for mana. Finding the lines is my job. I am good at it; I think that’s because I am built so close to the ground.
Occasionally we come across something else she’s interested in, like a device or place or maybe a creature of some type. Or a pile of black stones. I can never what will interest her and what she will pass by. Sometimes she will spend days examining something and then leave without a comment. At other times she will give a shout and show me a kaleidescope of colors emitting from her hand, or a pool of some sparkling liquid, or sometimes something I can’t even see. She says that these things have lines, and that she bonds with them too. I don’t usually ask what these lines do for her anymore. Sometimes I understand her response, but more often I nod and wag my tail as she tries to express something I can’t comprehend. Sometimes she’ll flush a little while explaining; I suspect that even she isn’t sure what all the lines can do.
I was resting, half napping, beside the stone heap. Worzel was sitting beside me reading a parchment she had pulled from nowhere, when my fur began to stand on end. I started with surprise—her warning field had just activated. That usually meant another wizard was near by, which also meant there was going to be trouble.
I have a theory about why wizards fight so much. When whelps are together they fight. We call it fighting, but it can get pretty serious. The thing is, they can’t hurt each other too badly. Their second set of teeth haven’t come in yet; the male’s acid sacs still contain water and the females haven’t hit their growth spurt. I think wizards fight a lot because they can’t really hurt each other too badly either. With an infinite number of places to flee to and their personal magic to protect them, wizards can’t suffer much direct harm.
Worzel though, would probably say she fights to protect her domain. Her precious lines are threatened with other planeswalkers around. She would also say she has to fight because they attack her. That’s true, and she attacks them in anticipation of this. Planeswalkers do make friends with each other, but the paths to friendship are like the paths between planes: unstable and often violent. Worzel’s best friends are old duel opponents.
I had only been in a few duels by then, and Worzel had told me that if I didn’t stay close by she might not be able to keep me shielded or bring me with her if she was forced to flee. She also told me that if I were constantly underfoot she would toss me out herself, even though I weigh about three times as much as she does. So I wasn’t sure just how far away from her I should get at a time like this.
She gestured and pulled a handful of lichen-covered dirt out of nowhere. The dirt clod was dripping water, and then the lichen looked like miniature trees, over which hung a tiny rainbow. I glanced up and saw a real rainbow in the distance. I swung my head to see more clearly: a handsized map showed rivers flowing between her fingers, and tiny mountain lakes reflecting cloudlets. She sighed. “Thomil.” Her sigh made me shiver. I knew Thomil was another planewalker, and a powerful one, from what Worzel had said.
I peered closer at her clump of dirt, trying to see Thomil. Worzel glared at me and blew across the top of the map, raising a cloud of dust which made me back off, sneezing. Letting go of the clod, she reached in front of her with both hands, as if she were preparing to play an unseen harp. I had seen this before: she was gathering her lines for battle. You could tell by the way her fingers and hands would disappear and reappear quickly, with a flicker. Soon I saw some of the land lines in her hands. She took some of the lines and began to braid them. I can see why wizards don’t keep their lines braided all the time so they can always draw on their power. The energies that crackle through the lines are immense, even to those standing close by, let alone to the wizard holding the lines in hand. It would be like leaving a teapot always boiling so you could make tea any time. Except that the wizard is the teapot.
Worzel pulled at the air with one hand as if yanking an invisible rope. There was a crack and out of the air fell half a dozen little winged people. “Scryb,” I thought and backed away. They hit the ground and dusted themselves off, buzzing angrily amongst themselves. The cloying odor of slightly aged marigolds hung in the air. One of the Scryb pointed at me and said, “Kawa buje nor Ro-ree-ka Kamf,” rolling the ‘r’s like Scryb do, and then they all laughed. I’m not sure what it means, but that’s what they call me: “Roreca Kamf,” which means Roreca Blanket. I don’t like Scryb; once some of them stole a square foot of my back fur for a coverlet. Worzel fixed it, but it felt like a thousand iornburs, and since her healing magic is not as good as it could be, I have a tattoo there rather than fur. Worzel snapped her fingers and a glowfly appeared. The Scryb were still laughing noisily but she looked at them sharply and they were quiet. Worzel waved a hand and the glowfly went speeding off with the Scryb following it. The glowfly would lead the Scryb where Worzel wanted them to go. I hoped they wouldn’t come back—the Scryb usually don’t.
Worzel yanked again and pulled an enormous bear form nowhere, bring with it the cool, musty smell of deep forest. It reared up briefly on two legs and then went back down on four and flared its nostrils at us. Shortly after that, another bear appeared. The bears followed their own glowflies. There weren’t any bears or Scryb native to Ergamon, but since Worzel didn’t have any lines to local creatures she used creatures form other planes.
I noticed Worzel had a blue land line in her hand which she hadn’t woven. I hoped she wouldn’t braid it in. The last duel we were besieged by sea snakes, which Worzel says gained access to the plane we occupied through the land line itself. All I know is that she wove the line in and the world was titanic teeth and scales and cold black eyes as large across as I am. I looked at the land lines she had woven: several green ones and a red one. The green lines are where the Scryb and bears would have come from. The red line could explain the flashes off in the distance and rolling thunder. I watched the line fade to a dark red and slowly grow brighter to the sound of the thunder, like and artery filling with blood.
I was wondering what Thomil was doing, when Worzel in haled sharply. “Black magic,” I heard her mutter with surprise and what seemed like disappointment. Then a sound burst from far beyond the nearest crag, a wail that made me cower and shiver: the cry of a bear being terrified to death. I found myself howling before I could restrain myself. Worzel looked grim but said nothing, focusing on her lines.
I could smell it before it came into sight down the ravine, something rotten. Even Worzel seemed to choke on the stench for a moment. Creatures began to shamble up the slope toward the clearing in which we stood. I couldn’t tell if they had once gone on four legs or two, or perhaps three; I could tell only that these beasts no longer lived, they just moved. I saw their progress falter and stop. The walking dead gnashed their teeth and swiped their claws at the invisible barriers that kept them at bay. Worzel betrayed signs of pain as they struggled to close the gap; it was costly for her to repel the decaying things herself.
“Where are you, Cabralin Shire?” I heard her complain, as she did some more weaving. Cabralin was where we were the shortly before Ergamon, a peaceful plane with lots of rolling hills and fields. The shire was the area where I found the white line. I noticed she had braided in the blue line and I looked around nervously for signs of snakes. She gestured toward the sky and dark clouds began to gather, and the wind picked up.
The storm began to abate, and I relaxed a little. The wind had cleared the stench of the grave, and the sun came out again. I wondered if both bears had been killed, or just the one whose death cry I heard. Worzel was still muttering about her missing white line, and about the protection she’d have if she found it, when she suddenly quieted and froze. She looked off into the distance and began to turn pale. She glanced anxiously at the floating clod, and went back to her weaving with redoubled effort. I was terrified. I looked at the map and saw a dark shadow hanging off to one side. The air began to stink again—not as strong as the walking dead, but more corrupt. And I suspect the source of the smell was still far away.
A wild gibbering echoed from down the ravine, and up the hill came bounding a lanky, hunched man thing. Worzel didn’t look like she was even paying attention. At first I was relieved that the threat was so small. But the man thing’s scent was not the same as the corrupt smell that came over the mountains. In fact, the scent was now so strong that I could barely make out the scent of the creature crawling its way through Worzel’s barriers. Worzel snapped and invisible rope and out of nowhere fell more sprites. I concealed my disappointment. She created a glowfly for them to follow, and sent them off over the mountain, confirming my fear that the real threat hadn’t arrived yet.
The sun was blotted out as a solid, spreading darkness came over the mountain. The stench was overpowering. The cries of the man thing were drowned in the beating of enormous wings. When the darkness landed, the ground shook so hard that rocks broke from the cliff and fell about us. The creature stood in the riverbed down the hill, but its head was level with us. It was some type of demon, the skin blackened and bathed in patches of flame. From it’s huge fist, with nails the size of plows, fell the charred remains of the sprites.
Heat struck me as the demon strode up the hill; small trees and bushes on the hillside burst into flames as it past. The man thing still yammered and clawed before us, cowed by this new terror. Crushing the beast in its left hand, the demon tore at the limp body with its teeth. “Well, that’s one problem solved,” cried Worzel. “The Pitlord! I can’t believe you can be this stupid!” The demon raised both fists above its head, the remains of the man thing dangling form its mouth. It brought them down on us with such force that Worzel was thrown to the ground even under the protective fields. I heard her scream in pain. I howled. Gasping, she scrambled to her knees and began to gesture frantically. I closed my eyes and pressed myself flat against the ground. Perhaps the Pitlord wouldn’t notice me. Not that it mattered; if Worzel died, I was as good as gone anyhow. I wondered which of us the Pitlord would eat first.
I could hear Worzel beside me, mumbling something, in a last desperate attempt to fight off the demon. The footfalls of the Pitlord made the ground tremble, and the stench was paralyzing. Worzel shouted; I wanted to run, but fear held me frozen. It took me a moment to realize she was laughing. “Thomil, you fool, you wonderful fool!” I opened my eyes and say her smiling at her hands. Some of her land lines were changing color, fading from pink to white. “Rubbing it in by denying me my mountain forces, Thomil? I guess you don’t know I’ve been brushing up on my white magic.” She spun in a circle as the Pitlord brought its fists down again. This time they met a shield of white flame which formed over out heads. The Pitlord howled in surprise and pain. The heat stopped, the sound lessened, and even the smell faded as a glowing membrane of light surrounded us. Outside I could hear the Pitlord raging, but I couldn’t feel even a tremor as it clawed at the edges of our sphere of light. Wherever it touched the sphere sparks flew and white flame sizzled.
The Pitlord bellowed, but it seemed distant. Worzel watched it intently, fingering her land lines. Frustrated by the impenetrable light which surrounded us, the Pitlord soon gave up the attack. Spreading its wings, the demon launched itself upward and flew over the mountain. Worzel looked pleased with herself. She returned to the still-floating clod and watched as the patch of darkness moved from the center back to the edge. “Poor Thomil. You should be careful what you play with.”
I guessed then that the duel was over and that Worzel had won. The glow faded, and Worzel scrambled out of the ravine. I followed her reluctantly; without the sphere to protect us, I wasn’t sure the Pitlord wouldn’t come back. Worzel noticed me lagging behind and smiled. “Don’t worry, Roreca, “she smiled, “It won’t be long before Thomil is forced to abandon the plane, and I’m sure he will spend ages healing. Meanwhile, it’s time to claim the spoils of victory.” I knew what that meant. Often when a wizard is banished form a plane in the heat of battle they leave behind lines untended. We headed over the mountains to Thomil’s last location. We could have gotten there much faster is Worzel had used magic, but she seemed to enjoy the climb. She was thinking about something, something that excited her.
The Pitlord ragged about for a while, but eventually took its anger out on the Ergamon wildlife and scenery: when I looked at Worzel’s map later a few hours later, the dark spot had vanished. A thick oiling smoke hung in the air for the remainder of the day. When we arrived at the place Thomil had last stood, we saw only a steaming hissing crater. I couldn’t find any land lines. Still, more must have happened in the duel with Thomil than his defeat, because Worzel didn’t even seem disappointed. “I think its time for another trip to Cabralin, Roreca,” she said.
And then there is this, an introduction to a story that was, as far as I know, never written. I have no idea of it's orriginal source but I've taken it from this page. The source is probably on there somewhere.
Worzel felt the telltale prickling at the back of her neck; her domain was being challenged! It's someone old. She though. Someone I know...Thomil! It had been a long time since he had challenged her. Quickly, she called her vassals into action. She would need much mana for this duel, much indeed.
The last time Worzel fought with Thomil, he had focused on the destructive magic of the mountains. It had been a close fight; she still saw in her nightmares the brigade of firebreathers that had pushed her to the brink of submission. Since then, Worzel had learned from a specialist in white magic that there were ways to protect herself from the raw forces Thomil loved. Unfortunately, the white magician had been unwilling to part with the knowledge in exchange for her offered artifact; she had been forced to coerce it out of him in other, more violent ways. It took a while, but she was a far more experienced duelist that he, and in time he was forced to yield what she sought.
Worzel soon found that gathering the proper mana for her protective spells was going to be difficult. She needed the mana of the countryside, and disturbances in the ether were preventing her from making the necessary psychic bonds to any of those lands. She had precious little to draw on in the first place, so it could take a while before she managed to get a link to the plains. Just having the knowledge to protect yourself isn't enough. She thought. Well, let's see if I can stall him with my friends of the forest in the meantime.
Worzel resisted the temptation to invest herself in blue magic, in case the rumor that Thomil had taken to raising serpents had any truth. Now she began to regret the loss of the Glasses of Urza, which might have given her some clue where the focus of his attack would be.
Thomil countered her creatures with a legion of undead. Black magic, she though. Thomil! I wouldn't have expected that from you. Thomil had always enjoyed displays of pure power, but she had regarded him as a relatively clean fighter. At least cleaner than most.
A sudden sense of horror came over Worzel as she felt a large drain on the mana plane – an enourmous drain, accompanied by a stink of sulfur and the grave. Something big was coming.
Learned some new tricks since we last met, eh? Muttered Worzel, under her breath. Well, so have I, dear Thomil, so have I...