I think so, but I'm not sure because there are 2 stories (see my previous posts ;)) Perhaps the short one was somewhere at the start of the book, and the other at the end? I wouldn't know, I never seen an Alpha-rulebook in my life.
I'm not sure if that belongs to this thread, but it should be posted somewhere in the info, so:
The Magic: The Gatehring Pocket Players Guide
Copywrited in 1994 by Wizards of the Coast
================================================== Dominia and Its Walkers
By Richard Garfield
Imagine a vast beach. The sand shifts constantly, moved mostly by the tide and the wind, but also by the creatures that scurry across it or burrow beneath. Subtler effects, like compression or changes in temperature, also make their mark. Sometimes the grains cling together, weathering as a single stone until they are broken apart by some other force.
Now, imagine that each of these grains of sand is its own world, and you begin to get a picture of how Dominia works. Dominia is a multiverse, a collection of universes. Usually, the inhabitants of a particular world have no interaction with the other universes; the live out their lives believing that their home is the “One World.” Even when some cataclysm on a nearby plane affects the surrounding worlds, the occupants of those worlds can blame the gods, or perhaps invent nonexistent natural laws to explain the changes in their plane.
A small number of the multiverse’s inhabitants, however, are fully aware of the existence of worlds outside their home plane. These planewalkers, often called wizards, have learned to travel between planes. Most have also developed secret methods of tapping the resources of the various worlds, and rich worlds are guarded jealously.
The simplest form of planewalking is to travel between touching planes. If two planes in Dominia touch, a wizard familiar with both planes can usually travel from anywhere on one of the planes to some location on the other. Of course, experienced wizards can control where they arrive better than less experienced ones can. A planewalker can also travel between worlds that don’t touch each other by walking through a potentially long series of intermediate planes that span the gap. Distance between two planes can be approximated by the number of intermediate worlds traveled through. Since travel between planes is rapid, even trips to extremely distant planes can be quick. However, if the region is unfamiliar, or the paths between planes even slightly unstable, the wizards may accidentally travel far astray or become lost. For this reason, planewalkers traversing unfamiliar or shifting paths will take their time to make sure they are going to the correct plane each step of the way.
Even experienced planewalkers cannot easily predict how he paths between planes will form and change. Some areas of Dominia remain in the same configuration for ages, and the paths that bind them shift only slightly. Others are in constant turmoil, making walking between worlds perilous. Some times a set of planes will crystallize, like sandstone on the beach; in these cases, travel between the united planes stabilizes, but the entire region may shift in relation to the rest of Dominia. Planewalkers have been known to disappear entirely if the universe they currently inhabit relocates radically, or shifts free of Dominia itself.
Each plane has its own laws, though these can change as the plane shifts into new regions. Some planes have no domestic magic at all: wizards traveling in these regions must draw entirely on extra planer resources. Others are so replete with magic that the occupants can be dangerous, even to wizards with the forces of many planes at their call. Planewalkers who spend a great deal of time on a particular plane can often master the laws that govern it, allowing them to control the plane or at least tap its resources more effectively.
The resources of a plane can be called upon by lines which connect to that plane. These are invisible except to one who knows how to perceive them. The lines carried by a typical wizard will connect to many worlds of Dominia. The lines which provide wizards with raw energy for their spells, the mana lines, usually connect to the lands of the various planes. Lands in most parts of Dominia can be divided into five basic types, each of which provides energy for a different kind of magic. There is white mana, stemming from the more serene lands of the planes, which enables the magic of order, protection, and construction. There is black mana, bubbling forth from the more corrupt lands of the planes, and powers the magic of ruin death and decay. Green mana emanates from the wild lands and generates the magic of life and nature. From the oceans and islands of Dominia’s planes comes blue mana, fueling the magic of artifice, water and air. Finally there is red mana, drawn from the mountainous regions, which drives the magic of destruction and chaos. Other lines will link to a wizards’ minions, spells, or to artifacts from other worlds whose powers the wizards can draw on. A wizard uses the energy provided by the mana lines to call upon these other resources.
Lines will fade and become unreliable at great distances from the source; at extreme distances, they can vanish altogether. Extreme care is practiced by wizards that deal with these lines for any length of time. The others die out. The lines carry the power of worlds.
Planewalkers answer to no higher authority, for no code of law is enforceable. You can’t restrain a wizard because wizards can leave a plane they are on at any time. You can’t banish a wizard because you can’t effectively keep a wizard from entering a plane. Killing a wizard is possible, but difficult, since at a moments notice the intended victim could be dozens of planes away. Once they flee, you have no hope of tracking them through all the shifting worlds of Dominia. Even if you do manage to kill one there is no grantee that a wizard will stay dead. Wizards have been known to plan for their contingency, creating completely new bodies one their old ones are destroyed.
Planewalkers tend to be individualistic and territorial. While there is some collusion between wizards and even a political structure of sorts in certain areas of Dominia, these are unstable as the paths between planes. Occasionally lesser wizards will form alliances to prevent more experienced hands from seizing anything of value. Just as often, though, these inexperienced wizards will search on their own for lines in out-of-the-way planes. Occasionally the more enterprising or foolhardy among them will attempt to jump another wizard’s claim, but the results are unpredictable. They may have the stealth and speed to avoid a confrontation, but they often sacrifice control of the claim, and loose their own lines in the process. Yet no matter how inexperienced they are, no wizard can be taken lightly. They are travelers of the multiverse; only they can fully explore its infinite planes and harness its vast, unpredictable power.
For anything you can conceive of can be found in Dominia – but it is as hard to find as a specific grain of sand on an ever-shifting beach. And in your search you will have to contend with the planewalkers, who, while not numerous, have a very wide influence.
Have you ever thought about remaking/reposting Oasis story here?
Unfortunately this site has some lacks.
There is a lack in your reposted version of Tysir's Journal. It should be at the beginning I think (due to URL's "welcome" word). It is here
Or maybe it is the last, cuz "Current Tysir's Journal" link also lead there?
Anyway I'll put it here before it's lost:
Whenever I look back on my youth, I can see every folly so clearly. Each sparkles as brightly as a diamond, drawing my mind's eye away from my more honorable or wise actions. (And there were some of those, I promise you! Not many, perhaps, but some.) Why is it that one's mistakes so often outshine one's achievements in memory?
Common wisdom says that people who are unaware of history will repeat it. Is this really true? Perhaps it is the uncanny brilliance of dark deeds and foolish actions that causes each of us, in turn, to repeat the mistakes of those who have come before. There is a certain seductiveness, a certain challenge, in the idea that we can surely succeed where others have failed. And thus we pick up the sparkling jewel of folly.
When I look upon the triangle of wizards that converged upon the land of Jamuraa years ago, I see in their actions the errors of my youth. Mangara, Jolrael, and Kaervek: Wizards, not planeswalkers, but their jealousies, insecurities, and needs are not so different from my own. Just ask my adopted daughter, Daria! And because of their might, their actions affected whole peoples and cultures. The shade of anonymity seldom protects those who seek out the sun of power. And so, their follies shine more darkly through history--glittering warnings to those who follow.
"...And that was how the moons wept tears that the owls carried away. Eh? So it is! Well, welcome! I'm so glad to see you here that our language is thirty words short of ways for me to express my happiness. Yes, I am the Loreweaver, though I was called Hakim in the years before that man was born. Back then, he told lies. Now I tell stories. Oh, some of them might still be lies, but every house of folklore is built on a foundation of truth. And I've lived in many, many houses.
"Some houses, sadly, are blades of grass before a storm. They pull free from the soil and disappear on a strong wind, or they're twisted and ruined beneath the driving rain. Such were those houses of the village of Kenlo when once a dragon came seeking prey. Do you know this tale? It is as much the tale of a young woman who found her destiny in an amber stone as it is that of a city in danger. [Fola's Story]
"I lived in a house once that, unfortunately, sat on a sandy hillside. The mundungu who built this house, a sulking wizard with a passion for brevity, set the rooms end to end. So it was that when the sands slid down the hill, only one room at a time tumbled to its ruin. The goatherds living on the plains below thought this was a most riotous event, and they often gathered to wager how long till the next room fell. Goatherds somehow see the simple truth in most everything, I think, and they believe in the best to come. Such a goatherd was Jojo. Do you know his story?
"I have often imagined that the house itself had a tale to tell--most things do, in truth. Every cloud can tell of the storms it has waged, every stream remembers the banks it has passed, and every beast has dreams of the hunt and of the kill. Have you ever seen a wild animal stalk its prey? Can you close your eyes and imagine how it feels to possess the stealth of the panther?
"Oh, no, no, no. You wish to hear a different story? A feral shadow's tale, or a Breathstealer's saga? Then you must be patient and listen, and perhaps the tale you long to hear will appear in another story--as is so often the case. Now. I have already offered to tell you three stories, which is three more than you've offered me. Which do you want to hear first?"
Something new for you today...
Something from old Duelist site... (I've heard that it was also one of stories in Tapestries anthology)
=================== Animal Trap
by M. C. Sumner.
Kolli pushed through the curtained doorway and wrinkled her nose at the acrid stench. The shop was narrow, dirty, and its oiled paper windows let in only a muddy light. Pelts of a dozen beasts hung from the rafters, turning the interior into a maze of hides.
"A good morning to you," called a rough voice from behind the skins. "What can I do for you today?"
"I'm looking for Morl," said Kolli. She saw heavy boots and thick legs approaching from under the screen of pelts.
"I'm Morl." A last skin was pushed aside, and the bearded face of a broad-shouldered man poked through. He didn't see her at first, a smile frozen on his thick lips as he looked left and right.
Morl's bearded face turned down, and the smile faded as he surveyed Kolli's ragged clothing. "Who are you?"
"Dason sent me."
Morl rubbed at his rheumy eyes with one sausage-fingered hand. "Dason? Well then, why'd he send you?"
"He said you were having some trouble with..."
Morl turned and walked away through the swinging pelts. "Go back and tell Dason to send someone old enough to lace his own clothes."
Kolli pushed through the skins after him. "I'm fourteen and I'm plenty..."
"Girl, you aren't big enough to make a good breakfast. Go and get your older brother."
"I've worked with Dason on..."
Morl turned back to her. "This is not taking change from some beggar's tray. Tell Dason to send someone else."
"Will you let me finish a sentence!" Kolli shouted. "I don't have an older brother. And Dason isn't going to send anyone else because you aren't offering enough to hire anyone else." She planted her hands on her narrow hips. "And you don't need anyone else. I'm the one you want."
Morl's brow furrowed. "Are you now?" He walked around and sat behind a stout table that was covered in scraps of loose fur and spotted with dark stains.
"Yes," she said.
"Did Dason tell you what the job is?"
"Doesn't matter," said Kolli. "I'm the one to do it." She came to the edge of the table and leaned over it, her hands on the rough wood. "What do you need stolen?"
"Careful there," said Morl. "You'll not be wanting to put your delicate little hands in anything nasty."
Kolli flicked her eyes at the discolored table, but she didn't move her hands. "What do you want stolen?" she repeated.
"What I need is a secret."
"How can I steal it if you won't tell me what it is?"
Morl waved a beefy hand. "I don't mean that, girl. I mean it's information I'm after. Somebody else's secret that I need stolen."
"Whose secret?" she asked.
"Kalenth Ush," said Morl, lowering his brow as he said it.
Kolli frowned. "The trader from Keldon? The one that lives out in the woods?"
Morl nodded. "The very one." His thick lips turned up in a smirk. "You're not so sure of yourself now, are you?"
"I've never worked outside of the city," said Kolli. She hesitated for a second. There had been stories of terrible things happening outside the city. In just the last few days, several people had disappeared. "I'll manage. What is it you want to know?'
The big man leaned across the table until his craggy face was almost touching Kolli's. "I need to know where Kalenth Ush is getting silver wolf hides."
Kolli frowned. "I would suppose he's trapping silver wolves. You don't think so?'
"Not here," Morl said with a shake of his head. "I never heard of a silver wolf within a hundred leagues of this place. But Ush keeps turning up with the things." He leaned back, picked up a scrap of fur, and rubbed it between his fingers. "There's nothing else like silver wolf fur: soft, warm, takes well to dye. And there's no animal in the world so tough to take: big as a man, mean, and only comes out at night."
"I don't get it," said Kolli. "What's the difference where this Keldon gets his furs?"
Morl snorted. "When silver wolf is plentiful, every other fur turns cheap. Why buy rabbit or common timber wolf if you can get silver wolf? Things keep up like they're going, and every trapper, tanner, and fur trader in town will be out of business."
"I'll find out where he gets the furs," said Kolli. "You have my word."
"Well," said Morl, "I can't say as I find that very reassuring. Run along, girl, but be careful how you play your games with Ush. He's not much nicer than a wolf himself."
Kolli knew every crooked alley and bird-spattered rooftop of the city, but the woods were a mystery to her. Compared to the densely packed houses and tangled streets, the thick boles of the ancient trees provided scarce cover. Kolli hugged herself tight against the rough trunk of an oak, hoping that her colorless clothing would blend in with the lichen-spotted bark. A dozen steps away along a dusty path was the home of Kalenth Ush.
The peaked roofs of several ramshackle buildings showed over a tall fence of sharp-topped poles. There was a narrow gate on the side of the fence facing the road, but it was closed. A length of cloud-gray fur that flapped from a tall staff like the banner of an army served as the only advertisement of the Keldon's business. A trail of smoke rose from one of the buildings and brought the scent of burning pine to Kolli's nose. Ush was home.
The plain fact that the trader felt confident enough to build outside the city walls said a lot about the man inside the fence. The woods around the city weren't known for their kindness. Bandits, giant spiders, and sword-clawed grizzly bears were all common under the dark trees, and basilisks were not unknown.
Kolli had not much fear of the bandits-- she'd lived her life among such as them--but the animals.... It was all she could do to keep from running back to the city when the reddened sun fell to the horizon. A few minutes later, she heard the horns of the city guardsmen. Then came the distant groan of timbers and clanking of heavy chains as the gates closed for the night.
She waited until the sky had gone a bruised purple and the night birds had started their songs before she released her grip on the tree and moved toward the Keldon's compound. Rubbing her stiff arms, Kolli stepped through the narrow band of woods and hurried across the dusty road. She pressed her face to the rough-hewn palisade and searched for some seam wide enough to look through, but Ush had chinked the gaps with mud.
Kolli's thin fingers slid over the wood, finding every knot and crack. Her arms pulled, and her soft boots left the ground. She climbed easily. It took only a few seconds before Kolli's face peered between two pointed poles at the top of the wall.
The largest building was the closest. Smoke came from a hole in the center of its roof, and Kolli could hear the cracking of cedar knots in the fire pit. Small sheds lined the back of the compound. Each shed was surrounded by its own stout fence. The gates on two fences hung open, but the others were barred with thick lengths of wood. A small pen just below Kolli held a heap of scythed grass and a trio of mangy sheep.
She wrinkled her nose in thought. What did Ush keep in the sheds? They weren't large enough for cattle, and there was none of the noise and offal that came with poultry. Surely the palisade itself provided all the protection his animals might need from the creatures of the forest. So the sheds weren't strong to protect what was in them. Maybe they were strong to keep what was in them from getting out.
A smile spread slowly over Kolli's face as she looked at the sheds. She dropped from the wall and trotted back toward town to see if the city's walls were as easy to breach as those of Kalenth Ush.
"Raising silver wolves!" shouted Morl.
Kolli nodded. "He's keeping them in sheds out there. He's even got sheep to feed them."
The fur trader ran a hand across his shaggy hair. "Raising them. I'd not have believed it. How could you ever manage them? For that matter, how did he ever catch them and bring them here?" He stopped and looked sharply at Kolli. "You saw these wolves?"
"I saw the sheds."
"Sheds! Sheds could be anything. I'm not paying you to find out if the man has sheds."
"If he's not raising wolves out there," Kolli said calmly, "then how do you explain the news I got from the city guard?"
"What news?" asked Morl.
"You've heard about the missing merchants and woodsmen?"
"I have, and it's surely the work of bandits."
"That's what everyone's been saying. But last night, some men on horseback were attacked by a beast."
"A hellcat, they'll attack anything."
Kolli smiled. "By a beast that looks like a giant timber wolf."
"Giant timber wolf," Morl said slowly. "Yes, I supposed that's how someone around here might describe a silver wolf. There's more difference than just size between them, though; silver wolves have hands like a man and hell's own meanness."
"Some of Ush's pens were empty," said Kolli. "I figure some of these wolves escaped and are taking care of travelers."
A thoughtful look came to Morl's deep-set eyes. "Perhaps I'll rig a few traps. Couldn't hurt my business to offer a silver wolf pelt of my own."
"Good idea," said Kolli. "Now, if you'll just pay me, I'll be on my way."
Morl's hand was halfway to his pouch when he stopped and asked, "Supposing you're wrong?"
"I'm not wrong."
"I don't know that. Besides, even if Ush did have silver wolves in those pens, they might have all been killed or gotten loose by now." He shook his head. "No, I need to know what Ush has in those pens now."
"I've done what you asked," said Kolli. "If you want more, you'll have to take it up with Dason."
"An extra silver."
"Done," said Morl. "But only if he's got silver wolves in those pens. No wolves, and I give you nothing."
Kolli remembered the heavy wooden bars across the doors of three of the sheds. Whatever was in there, it was something that Ush didn't want to get loose. And if she was very clever, she might keep Dason from finding out about the extra payment.
"Done," she said.
She was careful to climb the fence at a spot as far as possible from both the sheep and the wolf pens. Kolli let herself drop to the weed-choked ground inside the fence and sat still for several minutes, waiting to see if there was any response from the house.
No lamp showed from inside the ragged building, only the reddish glow of the fire pit. For the moment the night was clear and dark, but Kolli had just an hour to complete her work. Already the radiant spark of the lesser moon was nigh in the black sky; soon the greater moon would join it, and the night would be too bright for Kolli's comfort. She had to move now. She planned her steps carefully, moving from the fence toward the first shed in the line with quick, light steps.
The pens were filthy. The heavy railings were almost as tall as the palisade around the compound, and gnawed and gouged all the way to the top. The sheds showed signs of frequent patches and reinforcement. The wood of the doors was thicker than Kolli's palm. Scraps of light-colored fur were stuck on the rough wood.
At the third shed, she heard a muffled noise. The sound came again--a soft whine.
"I just have to see it," Kolli told herself. "I only have to look in, count the beasts, and get out of this fearful place."
She pressed her face against the rough boards at a spot where there was a finger-width gap. It took some time before her eyes adapted to the almost total darkness in the shed, and even more time before she could interpret what she saw. It was a man. He was tied hand and foot to the opposite wall of the shed. His mouth was covered by a strip of untapped hide. The ragged clothes that hung in ribbons from his body might once have been the garments of a well-to-do traveler. He was staring right at Kolli.
She gave a soft cry, and stepped back from the shed. The man tried to speak, his words an animal whine under the gag. Kolli went back to the shed and whispered, "I'll get you out. Don't worry."
A hand clamped around her neck and lifted her from the ground. She clawed at the hand and kicked with her feet, but found only air. Slowly, she was turned to face a fierce visage with eyes blacker than the night, and a smile filled with long, sharp teeth.
"Worry," said Kalenth Ush.
"I won't tell anyone," said Kolli. The leather straps from which she hung were chafing her wrists, and she couldn't quite turn her head far enough to see what Ush was doing. The fire was only a few feet away, and the room was lit red by the flames. On a small table was a heap of gold and silver -- undoubtedly taken from the pockets of the missing travelers, as well as from Ush's trade in silver wolf hide.
Kolli swung her legs, trying to turn her body toward the Keldon. "Really. I've had trouble with the guard. They wouldn't believe me even if I did tell them."
Ush stepped back into view. The man was so tall that his head almost brushed the ceiling. Despite the coolness of the night, his face was bathed in sweat. "Tell them what?" he asked in a voice full of guttural Keldon accent. When Kolli didn't answer, he gave a grunt of disgust. "You have seen it all, but you still don't know. Do you?"
"It's you that's killing the travelers."
"Is it? And why would I do that?"
"You're stealing their money, then feeding the travelers to your silver wolves," said Kolli.
The Keldon snorted. "You foolish southerners don't even know what a silver wolf really is." He stepped closer and ran a rough-nailed finger down Kolli's cheek.
She did not flinch; she would not allow herself to flinch.
"What do you know of the skin trade?" asked Ush.
"Nothing. I know nothing. Let me go and I won't say a thing about what I've seen."
He ignored her offer. "In this work, there is always a tradeoff. With an older animal, you get the largest pelt. But not the finest pelt." Again, his hand reached out to Kolli's cheek. "The softest pelts come only from the young."
Quite slowly, quite deliberately, he leaned toward Kolli and pulled her jerkin away from her shoulder. Then he bit her. Hard. She cried out; she couldn't help it. The Keldon's trader's mouth seemed hot as a furnace against her skin.
He leaned back, smiling at her over bloody lips.
Kolli took a hard grip on the leather thongs, then she pulled her feet up and planted both heels square in the trader's smiling face. As he staggered away, Kolli whipped herself back and forth until she was able to throw her feet through the smoke hole in the center of the roof. A cloud of embers came up with her, swarming around like an army of fireflies. The heat from the flames below was terrible, searing her legs and back. But relieved of her weight, the leather straps at her wrists grew looser, and she struggled free. Her head swung toward the fire.
Ush screamed something Kolli couldn't understand and stepped into the fire pit in his effort to grab at her. Sparks and smoke surrounded her as Kolli pulled herself completely through the smoke hole and rolled away across the roof. She felt broiled from head to mid-thigh. Her breeches were scorched, and she could smell the sickening odor of her own charred hair.
The door crashed open, and Kalenth Ush rushed into the yard. Orange sparks and smoke followed in his wake. He was beating at his smoking legs and screaming in some foreign tongue.
Kolli blinked away smoky tears, crawled to the edge of the roof, and sprang toward the palisade. Her palms were torn by a hundred splinters as she caught the top of the fence. For a terrible moment her feet could find no purchase, but then she was up and over the sharpened logs. She hit the ground hard, stood, and ran doubled over, with hand against her aching ribs.
It was almost a mile through the dark woods to reach the city walls. Even if she reached them, she'd have to find a way past the guards -- the story she'd used the night before was not likely to work again. The sky was turning grey. Any moment now the misty orb of the greater moon would clear the horizon. Kolli had feared it rising before; now she only hoped it would give her enough light to see the path.
Then her bones caught fire.
Kolli fell into the brush. She wanted to scream, but her throat was burning, too, burning white-hot. She could feel each vertebra in her backbone being twisted. Her muscles flowed over her melting bones like ice before a furnace wind. Her tunic and breeches shredded against her twisting flesh. Then the fire ended, and Kolli lay panting on the trail in the cool night air.
She tried to stand, but her knees bent the wrong direction. In the cold light of the moon, she saw that her arms were covered in silver fur, and each finger of her hand ended in a curving claw. Trembling, she lifted one clawed hand to her face and felt at the muzzle that jutted from where her mouth had been. She screamed. It came out as a howl.
Another howl sounded through the woods. It should have been the wordless call of a beast, but it wasn't. Kolli understood every chilling note of that howl. Kalenth Ush was coming.
Kolli found that her hind legs were too short to do more than an awkward shuffle. All fours was more comfortable. It took her a few strides to get the rhythm, and then she was running faster than she ever had before, running so fast that the trees around her were nothing but a blur.
Ush was still following. She could hear him on the trail behind her. He was growing closer with every long stride. Kolli turned a corner and caught sight of the torches burning on top of the the city walls. She had no idea of what she would do when she reached them, but anything had to be better than being caught by Ush.
The ground underneath her exploded in a spray of leaves and dirt. For the second time that night, Kolli rose into the air, this time in a stout net of rope. The net swung only inches around the ground, held up by a heavy hawser. As Kolli bounded and twisted in the net, a cheer sounded from the treetops about her. She twisted her head back and saw Morl climbing down the trunk of a heavy oak.
Kolli tried to talk. Tried to tell him who she was, what had happened. All that emerged from her snout was a series of whines and growls.
"You're about the scrawniest silver wolf I ever did see," Morl said as he walked around the net. From a sheath across his back, Morl pulled a wide-bladed sword. "But small pelts are usually the best." He raised the sword over Kolli.
A grey shape sprang out of the woods and sent Morl sprawling. The sword flew from his hands, falling into the leaves under the net. Morl screamed.
Kolli reached through the net and clawed at the ground, trying to get a grip on the sword. Her transformed fingers were more suited to slashing than gripping, but at last she had it.
One blow, and the net fell to the ground. It took several more hacks for Kolli to cut herself free. Lurching across the clearing, unsteady on her hind legs, she went after Kalenth Ush.
Morl was on the ground in the midst of a black circle of blood. Ush leaned over him, worrying the dead man's neck like a dog shaking a squirrel. He turned toward Kolli and howled, bloody foam spraying between his fangs.
Kolli swung the sword in both hands. Ush dodged easily. A backhanded blow from one of his clawed hands sent Kolli flying. She rolled into a rocky stream. Cold water matted her fur.
Ush stood on the bank, his shaggy form silhouetted against the rising moon. Kolli saw cold moonlight reflected from his silver eyes. With a snarl, he came for her.
It was Kolli's turn to dodge. As Ush hit the water beside her, she lashed out and caught his side with her new claws. His painful cry was rewarding. Kolli jumped away, looking for an opening.
Ush was faster than she thought. The pool of water exploded into spray. Claws tore into her shoulders, and she was hurled down. With one hairy arm, Ush held her in the stream. He opened his long jaws, exposing teeth as curved and sharp as the instruments in Morl's leather shop.
Kolli's clumsy fingers searched across the stream bottom, looking for a stone. What she found was the sword.
Her desperate swing struck Kalenth Ush's furry neck like an ax biting into a tree and stuck there. The silver wolf fell away screaming.
Kolli struggled to her feet and stepped back, then dropped to all fours and bounded into the trees before turning to look. Ush pulled at the sword, but the hilt was slick with gushing blood. His short arms could not get a grip. He snarled one last time and fell.
She was slow to approach his body. Only when the blood had stopped flowing and her new nose detected the odor of death did Kolli step forward. She pulled the sword back and forth to work it free. Then she struck over and over, until the silver wolf's snarling head rolled among the leaves.
The first light of morning brought the fiery pain of transformation. This time, Kolli welcomed it. When it was over, she was happy to find that all the wounds she had received in the night were gone. But that joy was nothing compared to finding her own face back where it belonged.
She looked at the still form of Kalenth Ush among the ferns at the side of the bubbling stream. Would this thing end with his death, or would she again become a monster when the moon rose? Kolli didn't know, and she was too tired to worry about it.
She stood up and started to walk, not toward the city, but back toward Kalenth Ush's compound. There were prisoners to set free. She might need their help if she ever had to explain the death of two of the city's best-known fur traders. And there was a pile of gold in Ush's house. Kolli would set that free as well.
Another hint that she isn't human: human usualy aren't furry or bearing poisonous fangs
Right I missed that (I read it long ago, and only thing I remembered was her ability of finding mana).
So she isn't Sangranzul...
Oh, and Sangranzul is a human-like race. They are very good at finding mana lines (even those which are not visible for planeswalkers). They also need to eat mana from time to time to survive.
The only Sangranzul we know about is Malvos taking part in Cursed Land novel.
Because Family Man 1-4 at Legendology aren't availabe (and probably the same will happen with the rest now or later) I'm gonna repost the whole story here.
------------------------------------- Family Man by Scott McGough
Originally appeared in The Secrets of Magic -------------------------------------
“And just who are you supposed to be?”
The tall man smiled as he closed the door behind him. He faced three men across the bare wooden room, casually noting their various bodyguards waiting in the shadows. He knew all three by name and reputation, each a powerful witch from a powerful family. He stifled a derisive snort.
“You may call me Virot,” he said. “I am here to represent the Maglan family’s interest in the port.”
He wore a form-fitting tunic of hardened leather and a luxurious black cloak, a long saber at his hip. His proud, bald head and sharp features loomed high above the other men’s. Though he was slightly older than they, his shoulders were broader than theirs, his eyes clearer, and his skin smoother.
The man who questioned Virot was squat and hairy like a boar. He wore a coarse hemp shirt with the Ilyssa family crest embroidered on the shoulder. His thick, black beard covered the upper half of his chest, and his piggish eyes glared suspiciously at the newcomer. The men flanking him stood silent, one with an eye patch, and one whose features were hidden behind a grinning silver harlequin mask. Both looked back and forth between the bearded man and the new arrival.
“This is a private meeting,” the bearded man growled, “and you are not welcome. Get out while you still can.”
Virot’s smile remained unchanged. “The port is ours and always has been. The likes of you aren’t even allowed to think about it without our permission.”
“Watch your tongue, filth,” the bearded man said. He snapped his fingers, and in response, three shadowy figures shambled forward from the darkened depths of the room. “I am the second-born son of the Ilyssa house. I will not be insulted by a Maglan errand boy.”
Virot Maglan laughed. “ ‘Filth?’ You come fresh from the cemetery, caked in graveyard dirt and reeking of corpses, and you call me filth?” He shook his head. “Only the Ilyssa could maintain such pride in the face of reality.”
The bearded man snarled, and the shambling figures advanced on Virot. Two human zombies and a reanimated wolf stepped into the light, grasping and moaning.
“This will be a short meeting, Maglan. I’ll send your still-living head back to that viper you call a mother as fair warning. She should choose her envoys more carefully in the future.”
The one-eyed witch put a hand on the zombie maker’s shoulder. Sweat had broken out on his brow, and he daubed at it with a silk handkerchief.
“A moment,” he hissed. “This meeting was supposed to be secret, yet the Maglan are here. He may not be alone.” His voice never rose above a hoarse whisper, and Virot wondered if he had lost a lung as well as an eye. “My family is not willing to antagonize the Maglan. Not openly. Not yet.”
The Ilyssa witch sneered, and his zombies hesitated, lost without his continued direction. “The Maglans are in decline,” he said. “That’s why we’re here. Killing him will make it even easier to achieve our goals.”
The harlequin giggled, whinnying through his nose. His voice was high-pitched, and it echoed behind the metal on his face. “I agree with Ilyssa. If they knew about us meeting, they would have come out in force.” He whinnied again. “I think he is all the force they have.”
Virot smiled. “I see the Ilyssa have not lost their touch for choosing the best and bravest to conspire with. But how did such clever folk make the catastrophic mistake of allying with such common gravediggers?” Virot’s saber slid out of its sheath, and he pointed it at the bearded man. “As for you, corpse-grinder, I assure you that mother chose very carefully when she sent me.” He ran his palm across the back of his blade and shook his own blood onto the floor, first to his left and then to his right. Wisps of smoke rose off the spatters of blood as Virot spoke a few guttural syllables, clapped his hands together, and said, “Rise.”
A small bat-winged humanoid rose from each spattered line of Virot’s blood. Each was covered in coarse black hair, and their eyes glowed orange. The feral imps bared their fangs in unison, then spread their wings and began circling the room.
The one-eyed witch took a step back, hissing in alarm. The zombie maker and his masked cohort both jeered.
“Is that all?” said the face behind the mask. “A dandy with a sword and a pair of homunculi?” He whinnied. “Nine hells, you Maglan are arrogant. Here. Let me show you a real witch’s bodyguards.” The man puffed air through the pursed lips of his mask, creating a high-pitched whistle. There was a flash, and the room was suddenly crowded with a seven-foot-tall ogre, a two-headed goblin, and a small buzzing firefly that spat sparking embers around the room. The goblin bore a jagged rock tied to a stick, and the ogre carried a heavy wooden club spiked with shards of bone. It crouched as it rolled the club over in its hands.
The zombie maker said, “Well, Maglan. You said you were here to represent your house. In fact, your only chance of getting out of this room alive is to carry this news back to your mother: Withdraw your claims on the port. It now belongs to the Ilyssa and our allies.” He indicated his partners on either side of him. “All three of our noble houses stand together against you. If we see any of you curse-merchants on the docks, we won’t leave any pieces big enough to bury.”
Virot’s smile hardened. “I have a counteroffer. Stretch out your necks, fools. Close your eyes, and die quietly. The alternative is much, much worse.”
“Enough,” the bearded man said. “He dies now. Agreed?” The harlequin nodded, whistling laughter through his nose. The one-eyed man dabbed his brow but did not reply.
Virot shrugged. “So be it.”
The room’s occupants exploded into action. Virot clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, and the imps came screaming from the rafters. One of them slashed the firefly from the air as it flew past, and the volatile insect exploded on contact. The ogre leaped forward with a wild swing of its club, and the goblin let out a war whoop as it followed behind. The zombie wolf crept around Virot to attack from the rear, but the human zombies remained at their master’s side.
The first imp darted past the undead humans and grabbed two handfuls of the zombie maker’s beard. It jerked him into the one-eyed witch while the other imp tore silver and flesh alike from the harlequin’s face.
Virot hopped back from the oncoming ogre, smoothly reversing his saber, so that the tip stuck out behind him. He felt the point drive home into the wolf’s body. It wouldn’t kill the undead animal, but it would protect his hamstrings while he fought the others.
The ogre’s first wild swing fell short and took out a chunk of the floor. Virot rolled over the ogre’s weapon and slung the wolf off the end of his saber, into the oncoming goblin. Neither creature was intelligent enough to determine friend from foe in these close quarters, and they fell into a tangled heap, snapping and tearing at each other. The ogre realized that Virot was now straddling its club and tried to reverse its swing to crush him against the ceiling.
Virot was far quicker than the musclebound brute, however. Positioned as he was, he had only to extend his arm to bring his hand close to the ogre’s face. He spoke a clipped series of guttural sounds, kissed his bleeding palm, then clamped his hand across the ogre’s nose and eyes. There was a soft implosion and a foul odor.
Immediately the ogre howled and clapped both hands to its face, dropping its weapon in mid-arc. With a precise, powerful swing, Virot embedded the long edge of his saber in both the ogre’s wrists, cutting into but not through the bones. He gave the blade a vicious twist as he pulled it free, and the ogre’s half-severed hands flopped grotesquely back and forth on its ruined arms.
Its face was no better off. Virot’s spell had flooded the brute’s head with noxious black magic designed to cripple an opponent’s senses. The ogre’s eyes were melting into slime, its tongue swelled to bursting, and blood poured from its nose and ears. It gagged and choked as it tried to draw air, and sank to its knees as the life ran out of its arms.
The Ilyssa witch had broken the wing of the imp in his beard, and he cursed Virot as he grappled with it. “Kill him!” he roared to the human zombies, and they dully shambled forward.
Virot stepped behind the ogre and placed his bleeding hand on the back of its skull. He growled out another series of syllables, and the ogre turned its sightless eyes upward as its mouth opened in a silent scream of agony.
The spell took effect, and the ogre’s body deflated like a punctured skin of water. As its muscles wasted and shrank, Virot’s swelled and expanded. In moments, the ogre was a spindly sack of bones held together by tough red flesh. Virot had grown accordingly taller, wider, and heavier as the ogre’s might coursed through his body. He cast his cloak back, his muscles rippling with stolen strength. He stomped down with his right foot, squashing both of the goblin’s heads into the hardwood floor. The wolf snapped as he pulled his foot free.
“Let’s put the Ilyssa zombies to the test.” Virot tucked his sword back into its sheath. “Are they truly undead or just reanimated corpses?”
He waited until all three zombies were closer and then smiled his most charming smile at the bearded witch. Then, in a blur of motion, he plowed through them all like a barbed arrow through clay. One moment he was crouched and facing the zombies, and the next he was on the far side of the room covered with necrotic gore. A trail of rotting flesh, broken limbs, and other sundered flesh lay strewn in his wake.
Before the ogre’s borrowed bulk faded, Virot struck again. He streaked across the room behind the three witches with his saber at calf level. The bearded Ilyssa and his cronies screamed as the muscles and tendons in their lower legs split beneath the blade. They fell painfully to the floor, crippled and immobile.
Virot’s body started to shrink back to his normal size. The ogre itself remained emaciated, however, its fabled strength gone forever. Virot prodded one of the severed, decomposing arms with his boot.
“Just as I thought. If this were a true zombie instead of a cheap Ilyssa knockoff, these pieces would still be after me.” He sauntered back toward the ogre, casually clicking another command to his imps. The vicious little creatures were crippled and bloody, but they had enjoyed their messy work. The one-eyed man was now a no-eyed man, and both the bearded Ilyssa and the harlequin had been savagely mauled about the neck and face.
“You’re dead, Maglan,” the Ilyssa husked. “I am the second-born son of the Ilyssa. My family will—”
“Almost done,” Virot called pleasantly. He stood behind the ogre once more, raised his saber, and plunged the length of it down into the top of the wasted brute’s head. The ogre barely twitched as it died.
“This is something new that I’ve been eager to try,” he said. He spoke in the harsh language of his family spellcraft once more, and he absorbed the ogre’s death as he had its mass. A whirling halo of smoke and sparks formed around his head, and he held his bleeding hand out toward the imps.
“Return,” he said. The winged monsters scrabbled and flew across the room in unison, disappearing headfirst into the slash on Virot’s palm.
“Mercy,” wailed the now-blind witch. “Forgive me, Maglan. I am your servant. Mercy.”
“Oh, please,” Virot said. “Have some pride.” With one hand on his sword and the other extended, he went from witch to witch, touching each on the forehead and inscribing in blood the same complicated character. When the Ilyssa resisted, Virot stabbed him lightly in the ribs.
“If it were up to me,” Virot said, “I would keep you three around. It seems so wasteful to cast conquered enemies aside when they could be put to work instead. But mother was quite clear on this issue.”
Virot smiled. “Not tonight.” He paused, bringing the precise words out of his memory. “Hear me, marked ones. On behalf of the Maglan, and especially myself, I offer your most valuable treasure to the Wealthy One. Your lives are forfeit to Kuberr.”
The bearded witch coughed and spat his final defiance at Virot. The masked witch struggled to produce another whistle through his torn lips and shattered mask. The blind witch simply groveled. Virot waited until their efforts were spent, then spoke clearly in the silence as they gathered their breath.
“In his name, I bid you—Suffer.”
All three of the crippled witches suddenly stiffened, convulsing in pain and choking on agony.
The skin on their bones hardened and cracked, growing blacker and blacker as their blood became a desiccating poison and their veins spread it throughout their bodies.
Three separate rattles groaned out of three separate throats. The Ilyssa and his co-conspirators slumped heavily to the floor and shuddered, never to rise again.
Virot Maglan surveyed the carnage in the silent room. He smiled, his dark eyes fairly twinkling in the gloom.
“Goodnight, gentlemen. It’s been a pleasure, in the truest sense of the word.”
The Maglan family manor dominated the west end of the city. It was a huge building, three stories high surrounded by a full acre of swampy ground. The manor was enclosed inside spiked gates and stone walls and was warded with the most fearsome spells imaginable. Virot strolled through the secret entrance he had created in the northwest corner of the wall without announcing himself and without fear. As a member of the family, the manor’s magical defenses were his to command.
As the third son of the house, he had also been raised to be more terrible than anything he might encounter inside or outside of the manor walls. He heard the heavy tread of the guard beasts in the distance and saw the indistinct shapes of life-sucking shades flitting through the trees. He paid them no more mind than he did the carnivorous grass beneath his feet. All of the resident monsters recognized him by sight, smell, or aura, and all found somewhere else to lurk or else cowered fearfully as he passed.
He found two of his older siblings, Valdim and Vinyata, waiting for him on the front steps. They were complimentary twins, mirror images of each other. Valdim had been born first, with one blue eye, one green eye, and half a head of sharp white hair. Vinyata was the same, but her eyes were switched and her half-tresses sprouted from the opposite side of her scalp. Mother was especially proud of the twins, for she had performed many painful and complicated rituals while they gestated to grant them their special gifts. Neither was as powerful a witch as Virot, but together they were capable of unparalleled feats of clairvoyance.
“Hello, little brother,” Vinyata called. She was the more outgoing of the two.
“Vinya,” Virot said. “Val.” He gestured to the skein of silver thread that his brother held looped around his hands and his sister was rolling into a ball. “Are you working or playing?”
“We are waiting,” Vinya said. She turned to face Virot and winked her green eye. In unison, she and her twin said, “We know what you did.”
Virot’s jaw tightened slightly, but he maintained a cheerful expression. He didn’t like the idea of the twins monitoring him for their own amusement. He liked it even less if they did it on mother’s orders.
“I did as I was asked,” he said. “I broke up the Ilyssa conspiracy to take over the docks before it could even get started. I killed the Ilyssa’s chief negotiator and sent a strong message to the other noble houses. And I did it with my usual flair and efficiency.”
“You did it with a spell that no one in the family has ever heard of,” Vinya said. “And you did it to the second son of the Ilyssa. His father is very upset.”
“So is our older brother,” Val droned. Vinya bounced the ball of thread lightly off of her twin’s forehead.
“Hush, now.” Vinya smoothly caught the ball and resumed adding string to it. “That was the secret part.”
Virot relaxed. “I see.” He bowed to the twins, then stepped forward. They remained as they were, facing each other and coiling string, without looking up. “Excuse me,” he said evenly.
“No, little brother. Mother made herself clear, and we promised. Sit and talk with us awhile. Val’s arms must be getting tired.” She patted the stone stair beside her. “Come on now. Obey your elders.”
“Look into your own future,” Virot said quietly. “And see what will happen if you don’t get out of my way.”
Vinya laughed merrily. “You can’t hurt us. We’re family.”
Virot feigned shock. “Who said anything about hurt? I’m merely pointing out that we all have secrets.” Val started to moan, but Vinya shushed him. “Since you told mother about my new spell, it’s only right that I tell her about the entrails you’ve been using for your predictions lately. You’ve been warned about taking children from the neighborhood, haven’t you? Several times, if I’m not mistaken.”
Val wailed softly and dropped the rest of the string. Vinya took his hand and squeezed it, crooning softly until her twin settled down.
“Oh, Virot,” she said. “Cruel Virot.” She pulled her moaning brother closer and held him tight. “Go on,” she said, her voice muffled by Val’s long hair. “But at least tell mother that we tried to stop you.”
Virot smiled wide. “I’ll do better than that. Blood has spilled tonight. The feud between Maglan, Ilyssa, and their allies will most likely resume in earnest. Even our brother cannot complain if you use the children of our enemies, no matter what part of the city they come from.” He casually inspected the hilt of his saber. “It would be very easy for you to collect your specimens if I made a point of driving them toward the manor, wouldn’t it?”
Vinya caught his meaning and returned his smile. “Yes, little brother. Yes it would.”
“Consider it done.”
Val looked confused, but as Virot passed them, Vinya was whispering excitedly in her twin’s ear. As he entered the family manor, Virot heard his older brother give an exultant cry and clap his hands together.
Virot’s mother sat high on a thronelike chair in her luxurious private chamber. The gems and precious metals that decorated the walls were worth more than the rest of the manor combined. Her chair had been carved from a dragon’s skull by master craftsmen.
She carried the symbol of her supreme power, the Maglan family scepter, tightly in her right hand.
Lady Maglan was over seventy years old, her limbs thin, and her skin stretched tight across her face. She had yellow cat’s eyes, complete with vertical pupils, and her hair was a shining cascade of copper strands that had been enchanted onto her head. She was not an overly vain woman, but she understood the importance of appearances. Upon the death of the children’s father thirty years ago, she had adopted the copper hair as an accessory to the family scepter.
Currently, she and her eldest son Vozama were receiving a visitor. Vozama was a stern, pinched, white-haired man with long arms and sharp nails. A man with the Ilyssa crest on his shirt was glowering in front of the two eldest Maglans.
“Virot, my boy. Come sit by my side.” His mother’s voice was calm but hard, her innate sharpness hidden like a dagger in a sheath. Virot always likened her style to a slow stab rather than a brutal thrust.
Virot hesitated. He did not routinely participate in this kind of meeting. “Mother. Brother. I wasn’t sure you’d be pleased to see me. The twins...”
“Sit,” she commanded, and Virot lowered himself to the steps next to his mother’s feet. “I think I may need you after all.” To the Ilyssa envoy, she said, “You were saying?”
The messenger looked suspiciously at Virot then continued. “Simply put, your position is indefensible.” Virot noted that he spoke in a slow, official tone, reciting a message he had been made to memorize. “You do not have the resources to control the docks, and you do not have the power to conquer Ilyssa. Maybe twenty years ago but not today.”
Vozama flushed and angrily flexed his fingers. Virot hid a smile. Mother didn’t react at all.
“And your message?”
“It is a demand, Lady Maglan, not a message. The savage who murdered the second-born son of Ilyssa will be given over to me. If I return to the Ilyssa manor alone, then you may consider the truce at an end.” He paused and dropped his formal tone. “My master will destroy you all. His minions will overrun the city. We have seen the portents, and the time of zombies is almost upon us. Within a generation, everything dead will rise again. The Machine God will repair and revive anything that has ever fallen, and those of us who have perfected this art will be rewarded. It has been foretold. Check with your own augurs if you do not believe. Be wise, Lady Maglan. Submit to us now, that we might spare you when the Age of the Undead begins.”
“I see. If you return alone, it means violence and conflict. And if you do not return at all?” She gestured to Virot. “Bring him up, my boy.”
The messenger yelped as Virot sprang on him, twisting his arms behind his back. He forced the man up three steps to the chair, then onto his knees.
“You will be my reply,” she said. She rose, drawing a long metal spike from her sleeve as she stood. Though old and thin, her arm flashed downward into the messenger’s face with the speed and force of a guillotine blade. She nodded to Virot, who let the twitching body drop.
“Deliver him to his master,” she returned to her seat, her breath easy and unlabored. “The feud is on.”
“But mother,” Vozama said.
The old woman raised her hand. “I know what you are going to say. ‘We are overmatched. We should negotiate. It’s better to have a small slice of the pie than to be dead.’ But there is only one way to deal with these grave-robbing vermin.”
“Hear! Hear!” Virot said.
“Hold your tongue,” Vozama said. Then, to his mother, “I would have said those things, mother, yes. And I would have been right.”
She shook her head. “They have been testing our resolve, squeezing our territory, and whittling away at our influence for the past five years while this damnable truce was in place. They are brutes, and brutes only understand a sharp blow to the face.”
Vozama crossed his arms, but Virot could still hear him picking at his own fingernails in frustration. “And when the zombies break through the main gate? When Ilyssa cutthroats murder us in our beds?”
Lady Maglan sighed and looked to Virot. “This is why I can never retire, my son. Your older brother knows how to use power but not how to keep it.”
“He is a worrier, Mother. It is his nature.”
“And you are an animal,” Vozama said. “All you need do is kill. It’s up to me to make sure that we live.”
“Hush, my children. Virot understands the use of force, Vozama. You would be wise to listen to him.” Virot smirked, and she added, “And you, Virot, should be more respectful to your elders. If Vozama worries, it is because he has the family’s long-term interests in mind. Glory belongs to the Maglans as a whole, not its individual members. We have survived, prospered, and dominated in this city for generations because we have never strayed from that belief. A Maglan has wealth, power, and most importantly, purpose. What more could anyone possibly want?”
Virot bowed his head. “Yes, Mother.”
To the still-furious Vozama, she said, “And the Ilyssa can’t simply kill us all in our beds. We have maintained the flow of commerce to and from the city for generations. The slavers and the smugglers and the pirate kings are used to dealing with us. If we disappeared overnight, it would take years to reestablish the level of security and trust that we provide. Each family would try to make its own arrangements, and full-scale war would break out in a matter of weeks. The Ilyssa know this. It’s one of the reasons they’re so angry all the time.”
“I think we are overestimating the Ilyssa’s grasp of the situation and underestimating their greed.”
“No, my son. The Ilyssa will bluster and perhaps even bloody our noses, but they will not storm the manor. If we don’t make a stand now and match them blow for blow, we will never revive our prestige. And our prestige has suffered lately.” She coughed dramatically into her fist. “I am not as young as I once was. What kind of mother would I be if I were to turn over the family business to you with our power at its lowest point in a hundred years?”
“So,” Virot said, “we will fight.”
“You will fight,” mother said, “and, I hope, with a little less relish than you exhibited tonight. We,” she motioned to Vozama, “will take up the other front. The subtler battlefields of negotiation and influence. If we all play our parts, the entire family will benefit. Which is as it should be.”
Both Maglan sons answered in unison, “Yes, Mother.”
Though he could see the wisdom of his mother’s words, Virot couldn’t stop turning over her rhetorical question in his mind. He had wealth. He had power. He had purpose.
What else could he want?
That night, in a dream, Virot stood alone on a vast expanse of polished black stone. The wind whipped past his ears, filling his head with an endless, droning roar. Far in the distance loomed a huge mountain that shimmered with reflected moonlight. Something vital was at its peak, something old and vast and valuable beyond measure. He started toward it.
He marched for an eternity toward the mountain, but the pyramid-shaped mass came no closer. He realized that was because as he moved toward the mountain, it moved away.
“You are the one.” The booming voice replaced the wind in his ears. Like the wind, it seemed to come from every direction. For the first time in his adult life, Virot Maglan dropped to his knees before someone other than his mother.
Virot squinted upward. “I am Virot Maglan.” His voice was half-defiant, half-questioning.
The booming voice chuckled. “For now.”
The mountain was looming larger but not because he was approaching it. Instead, it was bowing at its middle like a gentleman, the peak rushing downward at a frightening speed. He could see the pyramid for what it was - a giant pile of gold coins. A huge crowned figure sat on a lavish throne at the very top. The figure bent forward in its chair to get a better look at Virot, and the mountain bent forward to accommodate its king.
Virot started. This was suddenly familiar to him, the mountain, the coins, the throne and its occupant. He read about such a scene in the ancient text that gave him the spell he used to finish off the Ilyssa conspirators.
“Kuberr?” he said, and the wind died, leaving an eerily calm silence. “Are you the Wealthy One?”
“Once,” the voice said. “Perhaps someday again.” Virot saw the figure’s outline clearly now, but its features were lost in the shadows of moonlight.
“You are the one,” the voice said. “The one who called me. The one who offered treasure to the god of wealth.”
“Your offer was accepted. What do you seek?”
Virot was never intended to be a politician, but he recognized the opening of negotiations.
“Position,” Virot said. “Power. Dominion over all who come before me. I want their fear. Their respect. Their awe.”
The mountain stooped even lower, and Virot saw the figure on the throne clearly for the first time. It was a gargantuan, organic humanoid, almost featureless in the dim light. It seemed to be dressed in a high-collared robe, but the garment was the same pitch-black as the figure, and Virot could not see where the body ended and the robe began. On its head was a crown with spear-long spikes.
A huge crescent smile revealed row upon row of the figure’s razored teeth. Above the smile was a row of eyes, evenly spaced around the entire head. Kuberr opened his mouth wide, his grin expanding to fill Virot’s field of vision, his eyes in constant motion, searching the horizon in every direction as he spoke.
“Fear, respect, and awe. These things can be yours. For a price.”
Kuberr laughed, shaking Virot and the ground around him. “Slowly, slowly. Let us test each other with a small bargain. I will give you what you have asked for. In return, you will enter my service.”
Virot started, fresh panic rising. “Kuberr is kind to offer such treasures as a ‘small bargain.’ But I cannot accept. I am already pledged to serve another.”
“No matter. I do not ask you to break from your filial duty. I only ask that you do as you have already done. In my name, and with my methods, continue to serve your family. That is how you will serve me.”
“Before you answer,” Kuberr said, “understand. In my service, you will learn what true wealth is. All that you treasure now will become hollow and drab, and when you finally understand the greater gifts I offer, you will do anything to possess them. This is no game or confidence trick, Virot Maglan. I will give you what you want, and when I am done, you will beg me for more and thank me when I give it to you. For indeed, the prize is worth the price.”
Virot Maglan smiled. “Show me, then. For power as you describe it, I will serve you, Kuberr.”
“Then serve you shall.” In the distance there was a crack of thunder that sounded like Kuberr’s laughter. Kuberr’s arm swung forward, and he extended an index finger, taller than Virot, to touch the Maglan enforcer on the forehead. Virot shuddered, fell, and kept falling.
The wind whipped up once more, and the mountain began to straighten. The laughing figure of Kuberr was carried up and away.
Virot awoke with a painful jerk. The sun was slowly rising outside his window, and he could feel the electric hum on his forehead where Kuberr touched him. He rushed to the mirror at his bedside but found no marks on his face. For a split second, he wondered if the dream was a curse sent by the Ilyssa or a playful fancy sent by the twins. But when he looked down at his hands, he could see the ghost of the character he had inscribed on his victims’ foreheads earlier. He steadied his trembling hands, clenched them into tight fists, then jerked the bell cord. After a short while, a graying servant shuffled in.
“Yes, Master Virot?”
“Take my hand.”
“You heard me.” The servant tentatively reached out, and Virot grabbed on with his fingers and palm. The servant moaned, and when Virot let him go, he staggered back, rubbing his hand.
“Will there be anything else, sir?”
“Yes,” Virot said, wishing he could remember the old man’s name, “in fact, there is.
“Servant,” he declared. “Suffer, wither, and die.”
The old man gurgled, convulsed, and collapsed into a pile of black shards and leathery debris. Virot stifled a roar of delight.
He could kill with a touch and three simple words. By way of an introduction, Kuberr had made him the most powerful witch in the city, and all he had to do in return was employ that power. From this would flow the recognition and respect he had requested.
“If these are your lessons,” Virot said out loud, “then I am ready for more.”
Outside, as if in response, a chill wind kicked up and a soft peal of thunder rattled like the laughter of a god.
Over the next few weeks Virot was busier than he had been in years. Threats and angry exchanges flew between the Maglan and Ilyssa manors, and an escalating series of assaults rocked both families and their retainers. A squadron of zombies forced their way into a Maglan moneylender’s office, murdered the staff, and burned the building to the ground. An Ilyssa grave-robbing team was eaten alive when they cracked open a mausoleum and found Virot had left a thousand trained Maglan rats in place of the fresh corpses they sought. He enjoyed the privilege of beheading an Ilyssa courier bearing an offer to end the feud when the twins pointed out that he was also bearing a dormant strain of plague that would burst forth as soon as he set foot inside the manor. Ockeed, the head of the Ilyssa clan, narrowly avoided blindness and death when his daughter-in-law impulsively opened a cursed communiqué that appeared to be from his only surviving son.
Virot had never felt more alive. His face was unknown to most of the city, and it was relatively easy for him to move among the network of taverns, gambling dens, and docks that the two families were feuding over. If anyone confronted him or asked too many questions, he simply touched the nearest part of that person’s body, whispered his incantation, and left them dead where they stood. He left Ilyssa corpses in his wakelike footprints.
On this night, he brought Vinya with him when he slipped out through his secret passage. She hated being apart from Val, who nearly wept as he watched them go from his window, but there was no other option. The twins required a very specific person for a very specific augury, and she needed to identify the victim herself.
“Is this what you do at night?” Vinya asked. Virot thought she sounded more lucid and focused on her own.
“I’ve become something of a student of human nature,” Virot said. They were well clear of the manor and had reached the edge of Docktown, the epicenter of the feud.
“Really? What for? Is it part of a new ritual?”
“Something like that. I’m trying to understand what people value most.”
“So you can take it from them.” Vinya smiled slyly.
“So I can obtain it for myself. There’s a slight difference.”
“Bosh. You just want to find out what hurts the most when you take it away. Oooh!” she squealed suddenly and pointed to a street vendor. “Buy me a snack, little brother. I’m famished, and I haven’t any money.”
The pair went over to the vendor’s booth, and Virot pointed to a roasted meat kebab. “Two.” He put a gold coin on the counter. Virot handed one to his sister, and the Maglans strolled on. Vinya eagerly tore into her food, but Virot carried his at arm’s length as if he found it distasteful.
“If you’re not learning how to hurt people on these little jaunts,” Vinya said through a mouthful of meat, “what are you learning?”
“I thought you’d never ask. Come this way.”
He led his sister closer to the docks, where the street lights were fewer and the dangers more numerous. There were more people there, not less, as anyone who wanted to survive traveled in packs for protection. Burly stevedores and enslaved brutes lugged huge crates on their shoulders. Rodentlike men with valises skulked nervously between armed bodyguards. Gangs of thugs loitered on corners, looking for a fight or a whipping boy to pass the time.
Virot turned down a narrow alley and motioned for his sister to follow. She tore the last bit off her kebab and tossed the stick aside. Virot pointed to one of the semiconscious street people propped up against the dirty bricks. The man was malnourished, ragged, and filthy. Vinya wrinkled her nose.
“A starving person,” Virot said, “will beg for food.” He waved his kebab down in front of the transient’s face, and the man’s rheumy eyes creaked open.
“Please,” he croaked. Virot dropped the kebab onto the man’s lap and ushered his sister back out to the street. His charity had not gone unnoticed, and a handful of other street denizens groveled up to him.
“Alms, sir,” one of them said. “Enough for some bread? I’ve got a sick child. . . .”
“A poor person,” Virot scattered a handful of gold onto the street, and the shabby group fell on them, “will beg for coins.”
Vinya paid no attention to the scrabbling bodies at their feet. “You’ve been thinking about this a lot, haven’t you?”
Virot nodded. He tilted his head and flicked his eyes, and Vinya turned to see what he was looking at. A tall, elegant man with dark skin and braided hair walked proudly beside a beautiful canary-skinned woman atop a huge black dog. Behind the couple walked a cold-eyed man with at least a dozen knives belted across his chest, and a seven-foot-tall insectoid with spiked limbs and serrated mandibles.
“A rich man begs for power,” Virot said. “That handsome fool can’t protect himself or his woman, but he hires those who can. And then he parades himself through Docktown to prove that he is not afraid, that he controls his own destiny.”
Vinya yawned. “Are you going somewhere with this, little brother?”
“I am. In fact, I think we’ve already arrived.” They had come to the porch outside an Ilyssa tavern. The zombie makers’ standard hung over the door, and some of the toughs lounging outside also wore the standard on their shoulders. “My errand for the evening,” he explained.
Vinya’s boredom vanished. Now she glared angrily at her brother. “I’ve had enough sightseeing for one night, Virot. Take me home now.”
“Hey,” one of the toughs said. “Isn’t that the Maglan bitch who sees the future?” Some of the others grunted in reply, and one of the group dashed indoors, presumably to tell the owner. The toughs rose and began to move toward Virot and Vinya, drawing their knives as they came.
“What does a powerful man beg for?” Virot was caught up in his lecture, seemingly oblivious to the approaching danger. “It seems that no matter how much one has, there is always something more. Something one wants. Something one treasures above all else. I think I’ve figured out what that is.”
Vinya stepped away from him. The toughs now had them partially surrounded. “Can’t you tell me what it is after we get home?”
“You’ve made your last mistake, Maglan.” The owner of the tavern stood in the doorway. “Kill them both.” Virot recognized him as a nephew to the Ilyssa patriarch, and he smiled. Perfect, he thought.
In a flash, Virot drew his sword and lopped off the nearest tough’s arm. He shoved the maimed man toward his sister and said, “Defend yourself for a moment while I make my point.” The other toughs sprang forward at Virot, but his sword kept the gang at bay, parrying a blow here and slashing a torso there. As he fought, Virot made sure to touch each one of his attackers.
Vinya, meanwhile, had sunk her long black nails into the wounded man’s neck. Her eyes rolled back in her head, she bunched up her fists, then screeched like a brace of banshees. Her hair stood on end as she wailed, and then each strand erupted from her head, doubling, tripling, quadrupling in length. Guided by Vinya, spikes of her hair skewered the two toughs closest to her, pinning them to the brick wall then withdrawing in the blink of an eye. The toughs gurgled and fell with only the vaguest notion of what had killed them.
“Bravo!” Virot cheered. Then, without speaking, he thought the words of Kuberr’s spell. All around the Ilyssa tavern owner, his toughs staggered, clutched their throats, and crumpled painfully to the ground. It’s getting easier and easier, Virot thought. Soon I won’t need the words at all.
The tavern owner found himself alone and facing two sworn enemies over the broken bodies of the men he had just sent to kill them. He turned to flee back into the tavern. A coiled strand of Vinya’s hair speared through his shoulder, spinning him around and dropping him heavily onto his rump.
“Don’t kill me,” he cowered and held his good arm in front of his face. “Please, Maglan. Please!”
“Let me guess,” Vinya said. She was mopping the gore from her hair with her red silk sash. “A powerful man begs for his life.”
“Correct,” Virot said. “Listen closely, corpse-grinder.” The man whimpered and tried to staunch the flow of blood from his shoulder. “Your life is mine. I’ve killed so many of you over the last few days that I’m losing count. Do you want to survive?”
“I do,” the man bawled. “Anything, I’ll do anything, please!”
Virot leaned down and whispered in the man’s ear. “Renounce your family,” he said. He traced a finger across the man’s damp forehead. “You belong to me, now. When I call, you will answer. When I beckon, you will come. Agree now or disappear forever.”
The tavern owner choked, glanced frantically at Vinya, then let his face fall. “I am yours,” he said.
Virot tapped the man on the head and stood up. “I have marked you, so I can kill you with a word,” he said. “With the merest thought, really. If you ever displease me, I will.”
“Oh, there’s no need for that. Just remember whom you serve. Now. Get up and get out of my sight. You will hear from me shortly.”
As the man ran off, Vinya smoothed her hair back into shape. “Why did you let him live?”
“Because it’s time for us to change our thinking. Mother was right about the Ilyssa. They can’t risk destroying us all at once, and they can’t kill us one by one so long as I’m around. Dead, they’re of no further use to us. Alive and fearful, there is no limit to what we can make them do.”
“You sound like you have a plan. That’s not like you.”
“It’s more like me than you realize. I plan to create a community of people who think like I do. A society of shared concern. Mutual obedience, mutual benefits. Care to be a part of it?”
Vinya considered. “Not without Val.”
Virot gallantly offered his elbow. “My plan has always included you and Val both.”
Vinya took her brother’s arm, and they walked together through city streets that became deserted as they approached.
“So you have finally learned,” Kuberr said. “Life is the most precious treasure there is.”
In his dream, Virot nodded. “I think I always knew. I just didn’t understand.”
“One’s own life is to be savored. The lives of others are to be cultivated.”
“You are wise, Kuberr. I have marked a score of my enemies but let them live. They serve me now, as I serve you.”
“Then you are pleased with our bargain so far?”
“I am. And more, I am ready to extend it.”
“Outstanding. What do you propose?”
Virot smiled. “To expand the family fortune, my personal power, the number of your followers. The best way to amass wealth is to generate it ourselves.”
“I approve, Virot Maglan.” Kuberr’s multiple eyes flashed. “Do it.”
In a converted warehouse on the edge of the waterfront, a small gathering had formed. People and monsters stood in small groups, muttering to themselves and glaring at each other. Some had been invited to attend. Most had been compelled.
A servant, hand-picked for his booming voice, walked to the center of the huge room and raised his hands for silence.
“Thank you for coming,” he said. “You are among the select few who will witness something new. An entertainment not found in the taverns or the bawdy houses. And though it costs you nothing to watch, your attendance is not free. When we are done, you will go out and spread the word about what happened here. Your master expects to see you all again next week. And each with no less than three paying guests.” There was a murmur through the small crowd, and the servant waited for it to subside.
“Place your bets. We are about to begin.”
The servant introduced Vinya and Val Maglan as they came from a corner dressed in matching purple leather. The crowd muttered, and some even gasped. The twins were not often seen together outside the manor. Val looked confused and intimidated by the attention, but Vinya was calm and smiling. From his hidden seat high above the floor, Virot felt a rush of confidence. He had prepared the twins for a week beforehand, and he knew he could rely on his sister not to disappoint him.
“Friends,” the servant called, “also welcome Cato Ilyssa and her . . . ah, pets . . . to this special inaugural event.” Virot had caught the eldest Ilyssa daughter en route to a tryst. She was notoriously proud and haughty, but she had surrendered easily when she saw what Virot did to her bodyguards. Now she rode a huge black hound into the center of the room, a saw-beaked raven perched on her shoulder and a pair of zombified tigers trailing behind her.
Vinya turned to Virot’s elevated chair. “For Kuberr,” she said. She prodded Val, who echoed her words, then dropped lightly into a sitting position and began to meditate.
Cato Ilyssa raised her short sword. “For Kuberr,” she spat. Virot had promised her freedom only if she was the last person standing at the close of the evening’s entertainment.
The servant announcer spread his arms wide. “When the horn sounds,” he said, “begin.” He bowed and quickly retreated from the center of the room.
Val was rocking and chanting on the floor, his eyes tightly shut. Vinya stood behind him with her hands on his shoulders, her chants forming a dialogue with her brother’s. Their hair grew as they spoke, Val’s climbing up and Vinya’s trailing down until the ends met and intertwined. Cato Ilyssa spurred her giant dog forward a pace, then brought the two undead tigers up, so that they all stood in a straight line. She held her arm out, and the raven hopped from shoulder to elbow to wrist, waiting for the signal to take flight.
Virot leaned forward on his chair. His heart was racing, and he was grinning foolishly in anticipation. His voice rang out over the assembly.
“For Kuberr,” he said. “Begin.”
The horn sounded. Cato’s bird and her tigers leaped forward, making straight for the twins. She glared witheringly at Virot and spat on the floor. Then she dug her heels into the dog’s flank and she, too, sprang to attack.
The twins’ chants had begun to overlap and combine, their voices rising. The raven reached them first and slashed Vinya across the face with its claws, but she did not break contact with her brother, and she did not interrupt her chant. Instead, she and Val both opened their eyes to reveal a terrible yellow glow from within. Val screamed and Vinya roared, and from their mouths poured a great cloud of gelatinous light. The formless blob engulfed the raven in midair, rose toward the ceiling, then slammed into the floor hard enough to crack the boards. The crowd fell back against the walls of the warehouse, but the doors had been barred, and there was no way out.
Cato’s tigers plowed straight into the huge greenish blob and became stuck like insects in amber. They struggled and coughed, but the glob hunched up and over them like a thing alive. Once they were entirely within its mass, the glob contracted in on itself, and the horrified assembly watched as the raven and two tigers were crushed together at its center.
Cato struggled to control her dog and to keep it clear of the amoebic shape. Guided by its master, the dog bounded safely around the undulating heap and charged toward the twins. Val and Vinya continued to chant, arcane energy sparking from where they touched each other.
When it was a mere twenty feet long, the grisly mass shuddered and pseudopods lashed out from its front, rear, and top. Cato steered her dog away from the glob’s new appendages as the thing itself began to roll together and stretch itself out. The lower pseudopods became burly arms and thick legs, and the ones on top began to flap like wings. The thing’s newly sprouted head snapped at Cato, and her dog reared. Val and Vinya kept chanting.
The thing was now recognizably a winged quadruped, an unholy melding of tiger and raven. Its beaked, feline head screeched. Its tail lashed, and its wings fluttered as it padded forward. Cato’s steed finally panicked and threw her off, bounding through the crowd and trampling some of the spectators. Cato herself cursed the dog, then cast a searing black bolt of light into the tiger-thing’s face. Greenish flesh split where the light touched it, but the thing did not stop stalking.
“Hold,” Vinya called, and the twins’ monstrosity stopped with Cato Ilyssa between its paws. Virot nodded in satisfaction. Vinya had remembered his injunction to keep their foe alive if at all possible.
Vinya waved her hands, and the tiger-thing melted in a noisome wash of protoplasmic slime. Cato was carried back on the tide and slammed into the nearest wall. She rose, coughing the vile stuff from her lungs, and drew her sword.
“Kill you all,” she croaked. “I’ll kill each and every last one of you.”
Val held his hands palm-up over his shoulders, and Vinya placed her hands on top of his. She helped him to his feet, and, still connected by their hair, the twins exhaled together. A stream of stinging flies poured out of their mouths, buzzing across the room and swarming around Cato’s face. Hundreds of the savage insects tore into Cato’s flesh, and she staggered, waving her sword feebly, before falling face-first onto the floor.
Half the crowd cheered. The other half was too stunned to speak. Vinya waved her hands, and the swarm of flies disappeared like smoke, leaving the ravaged and unconscious form of Cato Ilyssa lying in the slime.
At a signal from Virot, the announcer stepped forward.
“This concludes tonight’s entertainment. Remember—next week, bring guests who like spectacle and have money.”
Dreaming, Virot stood on the endless plain of black rock once more. He waited silently, patiently listening to the wind howl and waiting for the moon to slip out from behind the cloud.
“You have returned,” Kuberr’s voice boomed. Virot looked up, and the bowing mountain of gold with Kuberr’s outline was visible against the moonlit sky.
“The feud is over,” Virot said. “Ockeed Ilyssa himself is coming tomorrow to prostrate himself at my mother’s feet.” He smiled thinly. “The cost to his family turned out to be greater than he was ready to pay. He will submit. For now.”
“So you have conquered. You are victorious. Why then do you sound so unhappy?”
“You know why. This is not what I want,” he said. “Mother intends to take complete control, as it was generations ago. The Ilyssa will become vassals of the Maglan. Their zombies will be put to work on our behalf, for our glory. And though my idea of exhibiting blood sports has proven quite profitable, I,” he snarled in pure disgust, “am to become the general in some sort of zombie army.”
“But your family will rule. You will be the undisputed masters of the entire city.”
“Who wants to rule?” Virot spat. “Politics is all ebb and flow, compromise and concession. Let others wield power. I am content to improve my own position. Content to amass real wealth.”
Kuberr chuckled. “Are you, now? So you have learned what the most valuable treasure of all is?”
“And you are ready to pay the price for it.”
“Tell me what you have learned, and then name your desire.”
Virot grit his teeth. “Wealth is not property, or currency, or even power. These things are derived from true wealth. There is only one prize that can guarantee all the rest will follow.”
Kuberr’s mountain brought him closer, down to where Virot could see each individual massive eye. “And that is?”
“Time,” Virot said. “I wish to live forever. I wish to serve you for a hundred lifetimes and beyond. A man could gorge himself to death on the crumbs from your table. I want a seat at that table, for all eternity.”
“Immortality.” Kuberr’s smile thinned, then stretched wide. “The price is high. And those who serve me forever, serve me to the exclusion of all others.”
“I understand. Have I not served you well so far? Tell me. What is the price?”
Kuberr spoke three words. Virot nodded. He had anticipated the cost of Kuberr’s gift and was ready to pay it.
“Done,” he said. “When?”
“Today. Tomorrow. It matters not, so long as it is done. And lest you think me a fool, remember this—my gift goes on forever. You cannot possibly receive it all at once. The longer you serve me, the longer you will live. If you renege on our deal, or fail to obey me in the future, our bargain is void.”
“There are details. Matters of form to be observed. Your name, for example. Cast it aside. I shall give you a new one. Are you ready?”
Kuberr stretched out his massive arms, each as long as a river. “Then come to me, and be the first to join my family.”
Virot closed his eyes and felt himself being swallowed up by a power so profound that it was indistinguishable from joy.
The Maglans stood in their manor’s great hall, each of them clad in their finest clothes and most expensive jewelry.
“How much longer till they arrive?”
“Not long, Vinya.” Mother’s copper hair glowed with reflected candle light.
“I have something to say before they do,” Virot said. “Something important.”
“Of course you do,” Vozama muttered. He was fidgeting and uneasy, unable to keep his eyes off the scepter in mother’s lap.
“Hush,” Lady Maglan said. “Make it quick, Virot. I don’t want our guests to find us unready.”
He tossed his cloak off his shoulders. “That’s part of what I have to say, my dear. I am Virot Maglan no longer. I reject the name you have given me, as completely as I reject the role I have played. I am done. I am leaving.”
Val gasped and Vinya’s eyes grew wide. Vozama sputtered and fumed, struggling for words. Mother picked up her scepter and passed it back and forth from her left hand to her right.
“Leaving, my son? Where will you go? Your family needs you.”
“This is a ploy, Mother,” Vozama broke in. “He wants the scepter for himself. He’s always wanted the scepter.”
Virot’s eyes never even flickered toward Vozama. He spoke only to the woman in the chair. “You’re not listening. I am no longer your son.”
Mother waved her scepter in annoyance. “This is ridiculous. You cannot simply declare yourself out of this family. We are blood. We are inseparable.
“But I do not have time to indulge you now, Virot. Go, if you must. We will accept the Ilyssa’s surrender, and we will enjoy the fruits of our victory. You are invited to join us. And no matter what, in a year from now, or ten, you will come back to us. I know this to be true. There is nothing you can do to destroy the bonds between us.”
“Come back soon, traitor,” Vozama spat. “For if I hold the scepter when you come, you will not be welcome.”
Virot stepped forward to the foot of his mother’s chair, but he did not sit there. Instead, he bowed his head and waited.
“You are an irksome and troublesome boy, Virot,” his mother said. She extended her hand, which he kissed. He held onto her for an extra moment, looking deep into her cold yellow eyes. Then he turned.
“Vozama,” he said. “Will you bid me farewell? For all the time we’ve spent together.” Vozama stepped forward and threw a wild slap at his brother’s face. Virot caught the slap and stared hard at Vozama. Then he released him and faced the twins.
“Farewell,” he said. He opened his arms, and Vinya leapt into them.
“I don’t believe you’re going,” she whispered against his neck. “But when you get there, send for me. I’ll come visit.”
Val’s mismatched eyes were wary as Virot took his hand and shook it.
“I’ve always been afraid of you,” Val said. When Virot let go, Val rubbed his hand as if it’d been squeezing something sticky.
Virot walked to the entranceway of the great hall, then stopped. He turned, placed a hand on his saber, and cleared his throat.
“There is one last thing I have to say.” His former family members watched him with a wide range of emotion. Anger and sadness, love and fear. I understand, he had said in his dream. What is the price?
Kuberr had spoken three words, and Virot had nodded. Virot had anticipated the cost of Kuberr’s gift and was ready to pay it. What is the price? he had asked. The Maglan family, Kuberr had replied.
“Suffer,” Virot said to his family.
Vozama was the first to scream, a fact that surprised Virot. He had thought Val would buckle before the others. In fact, as they writhed ignobly on the floor, Vozama and Val were the only ones to cry out. Virot felt a new rush of respect for his mother and sister.
The Maglan women had always been tougher than anyone thought. Vinya herself would be very difficult to replace.
“Wither.” Mother suffered the least dramatic effects, as her body was already dried and emaciated. Veins blackened, rose to the surface, and burst. Skin hardened and flaked away. Copper wire and white hair alike crumbled to dust.
There was a knock from outside the chamber. “The Ilyssa have arrived,” called a servant’s voice.
“Bring them in directly,” Virot answered. He marched over to the throne of bone, past the wretched husks of his former family, and took up the scepter, the symbol of Maglan power for ten generations. He spared it but a single glance, then snapped the ancient hardwood across his knee. With both hands, he raised the splintered wood and the black crystal globe high over his head.
“Die,” he said, and the sound of the glass globe shattering on the floor was loud enough to be heard at the farthest end of the city.
Ockeed Ilyssa wore a beard even bigger and blacker than his second-born son’s. He came at the head of a procession of ten, mostly distant relatives with a handful of trusted retainers. They all coughed and gagged as they came into the Maglan great hall.
“Nine hells, what’s that stench?” Ockeed peered at the tall man standing at the far end of the room. “Maglan?” he said. The man wore a black cloak, and his eyes were clouded over by a ghastly white film. He stood beside a pile of bleached and broken shards of bone that had once been a chair. “What is the meaning of this? Where is Lady Maglan?”
“There are no more Maglans,” the tall man said. He gestured. “Come forward, Ockeed Ilyssa.”
Ockeed slowly approached with his hand on his dagger. “Who are you?”
“My new name is a secret. But you may call me Pater.”
Ockeed sneered. “My father died long ago, boy, and you’re half my age. I’ll call you ‘fool’ until you tell me your name.”
“That’s Virot Maglan,” Danske, Ockeed’s eldest son hissed. “Their pet killer. I recognize the sword.”
“Where’s your mother, boy? What sort of game are you playing?”
“There are no more Maglans,” the tall man repeated. “Just as there will soon be no more Ilyssa. Or any other family but Kuberr’s.”
“Look, I’ve come to discuss terms. I expect to be humiliated, but I will not be ignored.” He turned to his entourage. “We’re leaving.”
The tall man sprang across the room before Ockeed Ilyssa could take a single step. He clamped onto the bearded man’s face with both hands, and with a terrifying expression of calm, turned a two-hundred pound man into a pile of ashes and grit before any of his fellows could so much as draw a blade.
“What’s your name?” the tall man barked at Ockeed’s son. His saber was out and at the younger man’s throat. The entire delegation found themselves unable to move, pinned to the floor by a spell they never saw their tormentor cast.
“I am heir to the Ilyssa fortune,” Danske said. His eyes were wide and his face damp with fear as he looked at the remains of his father. “And there is no need—”
“Danske Ilyssa,” the man blurted, and the tall man ran him through.
“What’s your name?” He oriented on a new target, not caring who it was. The woman hesitated, then said, “Whatever you say it is, Pater.”
He lowered his sword. “Very good.” He pointed the sword again. “And you?” In turn, each of the defeated Ilyssa rejected their given names in favor of whatever the madman with the saber chose to call them.
“Outstanding,” the tall man said. “Again, there is only one family left in this city. I am currently its only member. You will all join me shortly.
“There will be no more feuds. There will only be the docks, and the gambling houses, and the blood-sport pits. We will serve Kuberr, the god of wealth, and he will make us strong and rich beyond our wildest dreams.”
“How will we serve him, Pater?” The woman was fast, he realized. He would find the best place to put her quick mind to work.
“I will teach you. There are forms to be observed.” He smiled, remembering the words Kuberr spoke in his dream. “And we shall observe them. To start, you all need names. Line up,” he pointed to the woman, “behind her. There are a few simple rituals and oaths you will perform.
“And then—” he smiled broadly—“we will visit the other noble houses in the city and explain the benefits of joining our new family. And they will join us or die. Is that not wise, my children?”
“Yes, Pater.” Others were starting to follow the woman’s lead, answering correctly.
“Then tell me so. The First is wise.”
“The First is wise,” they all chanted.
The man who had been Virot Maglan sheathed his sword. He felt the familiar rush of a well-won victory, but it was paler, muted compared to the anticipation of the greatness that lie before him.
Though he grew closer and closer to his god each day and dreamed of him often, the First only had one dream of Kuberr, over and over, for the next three hundred years. In it, he was on the field of black rock once more, sitting on a throne of bones in the moonlight. Kuberr’s mountain of wealth was a short march away, but it had grown so high that its peak was out of sight, beyond even the moon. Thousands, perhaps millions of beings walked past the throne in a single file toward the mountain’s base. Humans, non-humans, spirits, and beasts alike all paused at his throne and bowed. Then they scratched the tiniest fleck of black rock from the ground and held it tight between both hands.
When they rose, their eyes were hollow sockets weeping ebon tears.
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The ulna bone that served as his armrest had a hairline crack near the wrist, right where adolescent Valdim Maglan’s arm had been broken during a particularly violent seizure. But for that crack, the matching ulna on the other side was a mirror opposite, smooth and slender like the bone from a vivacious and mysterious lady. The legs of the chair were bowed slightly, as Vozama’s had been, and the headrest was the small but durable skull of a wizened old women.
The line of supplicants continued to file past. He peered down the line toward the mountain. Though the figures were tiny in the distance, he could see each folding, melting, and reforming around their bit of rock, shrinking and hardening until they were indistinguishable from the coins they approached. With each transformation, the hoard became incrementally larger.
The first member of Kuberr’s community looked in the opposite direction, down the line that stretched past the horizon. There was no end in sight, but he knew that when the last adherent came and contributed to the pile, he would see Kuberr again. The god would call his secret name and praise the work he had done.
And then Kuberr would force him to rise from his throne, scratch a bit of rock from the plain, and join the rest of the cabal he had created. The wealth god feasted on life, after all, and the First knew that he must either feed Kuberr or become his food.
In his dreams, and in every waking hour, he vowed to keep the line of cabalists going for as long as possible.
Dominia is a multiverse of constant change and unorthodox challenges. Worlds spin, planes shift, and realities collide more often than you or I blink our eyes. In an infinite multiverse of unguessable possibility and unending change, what is the most precious commodity to those who understand the nature of Dominia?
Dominia has gods, though it was not created by gods. These gods roam from world to world, plane to plane, reaping the energies of each in the form of mana -- magical energy. They know each other by the common name of Planeswalkers. They are not omnipotent, or omnisicent, but they are worlds beyond the vast majority of Dominia's inhabitants in both power and intellect. Planeswalkers alone know what mana is, and know the forms it takes. There are many wizards in Dominia who are not Planeswalkers, and who therefore know nothing of the five forms of mana. Nor do they know the secrets of planar travel, or of summoning creatures to your side in battle. These secrets, like all the spells seen in the game, are the exclusive provenance of the planeswalkers. Yet even these mighty beings, who can call to their service creatures from across space and time, fear change... and seek stability.
A planeswalker can not travel with complete freedom -- like all of nature, they are subject to the shifting planes. A sudden (but naturally-occuring) wrench in the fabric of one plane's reality can leave a planeswalker cut off from the routes of travel they know best. To a planeswalker, the multiverse is a labyrinth of roads, gates, and mystical passages that is partially understood at best. Most planeswalkers can navigate fairly well as long as they stay on planes that are known to them. But if they should find themselves on an unknown plane, they must find a new way, a new passage, back to the planes they do know. Some planes, however, are moving so fast and so far that it could be years before a passage is again available. Planeswalkers do not routinely fear death, but they do fear loss of freedom and mobility. Many planeswalkers have been lost on strange planes so long that when they finally could return not only were they long-forgotten, but their knowledge of the paths between planes and the power sources they used to tap was hopelessly out of date.
To counter this fear, planeswalkers seek stability. They seek planes that have reliable, well-worn passages among them. They also seek diversity in both magical energy and natural life: energy to power their magics, and life to bend to their will. All of these things have been found, surrounding and enveloping a world known to the planeswalkers as Dominaria (DAH-min-ARR-ee-uh)-- "the song of Dominia." It is on Dominaria and the planes it routinely touches that many Planeswalkers have come to reside.
Dominaria is a massive world, supporting a staggering variety of beings and cultures. The surface of Dominaria is divided into dozens of small continents, each of which developed more or less indepenently up to the point at which extended ocean travel and trade became common. The result is a nexus of small civilizations with very different beliefs, customs, and life forms.
But the influence of Dominaria extends beyond the surface of the world. For reasons even the planeswalkers do not comprehend, Dominaria has become the focus point for a variety of other planes which maintain either constant or frequent connections with it. These other planes are other universes, which touch Dominaria in a variety of locations and through a variety of methods. Some planes are always "in phase" with Dominaria, and many inhabitants don't even realize that they have passed from one plane to another -- the journey is routine and seamless. Other planes come and go, sometimes touching at the same point, sometimes not. Many of these plane-gates are understood by those who live in the area, and the times at which the planes touch are celebrated with festivals and excitement. Still other planes are drawn to Dominaria's stable presence, caress it briefly, and move on.
The stability of Dominaria and its sister planes have drawn the planeswalkers there. Dominaria is vast, and its sources of mana are large and easy to tap. The great variety of creatures present means that the planeswalkers have many, many beings to call on in their great magical duels. The ease with which a planeswalker can slip between Dominaria and its sister planes is very attractive to them. Given that the loser of a magical duel must leave the current plane, the variety and stability of intersecting planes is even more attractive. On other worlds, having to flee to the closest plane means not always knowing where you're going to end up. In the realms of Dominaria, however, the degree of safety in interplanar travel is a known quantity, and a comforting one.
Imagine a large globe, hanging in space, covered in gossamer webs. As it spins, single strands of fine silk unspool and extend from the globe like slender arms. Another smaller globe is drawn to the larger one and as it grows near it is caressed by a single thread. This thread melds with the smaller globe, forming a connection, and the two globes spin together. Other globes approach, and each in turn is caressed and caught by a thread til there are several firmly attached. Still others approach, are caressed and kissed, but then move on. Among those that stay, the threads occasionally break, but momentum keeps them in place until another thread can lay claim to it once more.
The large globe is the plane on which Dominaria resides. The smaller globes are not other worlds, but other planes. Those that are caught and held are the planes with which Dominaria has either constant or very frequent connections. Those that are touched but move on are those planes which form a connection only briefly, and might well never return again.
The stability provided by Dominaria is the reason why so many planeswalkers call it home. There are other planes, to be sure -- such as Shandalar, where mana flows like water; Rabiah, where desert kingdoms battle powerful djinns; and others -- but for planeswalkers, Dominaria is the place to be.
The sages of Minorad have a saying: "To know a thing, change that thing." Dominia may, to some degree, be understood from the perspective of a human, or even from that of a planeswalker. Its constant shifts and shimmies may, to some degree, be understood and anticipated. But ultimately, none may truly know Dominia for none may truly change it -- Dominia changes itself, and knows itself, and that is the nature of Dominia.
A Timeline of Dominaria
Dominaria, the world at which dozens of planes intersect, has a long and exciting history. From the long-lived perspective of planeswalkers, however, there are several major defining events that stand out.
Because Dominaria is a world with many cultures, there is no single calendar or way of telling the year. Different lands have their own ways of marking the passage of time. As a result, the timeline below is uncertain at best, but has been assembled with the aid of the planeswalker Taysir. About four thousand years ago, the Brothers' War occured on the continent of Terisiare. This terrible conflict between the artificer twins Urza and Mishra resulted in great advances in the creation and usage of magical artifacts, but the massive magical devastation of their conflict resulted in climactic shifts and changes in weather patterns. The tale of this conflict is seen in the Antiquities expansion, and in some cards in Fourth Edition. A few decades later on the southern continent of Sarpadia, the changes in weather (which herald the onset of the Ice Age) make resources scarce, and eventually the empires of Sarpadia go to war. The outcome is disaster for just about everyone. This tale is told in the Fallen Empires expansion. Also, the events of The Dark expansion occur elsewhere in Dominaria. As the decades pass by, the magical disaster of the Brothers' War continues to have a massive effect on Dominaria and a terrible time known as The Dark begins. Knowledge of this period is sketchy at best, but it is remembered as a time of treachery and intrigue when the rich and powerful grappled to seize control of as much magic as possible at the cost of the peoples they ruled. Massive destruction and despair enshrouded Dominaria for several hundred years. The Dark time comes to a close as the Ice Age begins, and glaciers begin creeping outwards from the poles. Weather gets colder worldwide, and many civilizations fall. The struggles of The Dark are a distant memory; now the struggle for simple survival is supreme. Two thousand years into this terrible Ice Age, things get interesting. On the continent of Terisiare, civilizations have risen and fallen as the glaciers have advanced. Now, the lone civilized land of Kjeldor is menaced by the forces of a necromancer, Lim-Dûl, as seen in the Ice Age expansion. Late in the fighting, the forest goddess Freyalise (actually a planeswalker) magically reverses the course of the Ice Age and the glaciers begin to recede far ahead of the natural schedule. It is now the present day on Dominaria. The Ice Age is a distant memory, and the peoples and places of Magic Fourth Edition are present on a large continent known commonly as the Domains. The people and places of the Arabian Nights expansion is also present in this time period, as is the action of the novels. On the continent of Stonehaven, the action of the comic books is transpiring, too.
Dominaria's history is long and full of conflict. In the cards of the game, you will see bits and pieces of the history of this world (among others). They are not a complete history. Such a history does not, in fact, exist: it resides instead in the minds and hearts of the multitudes--planeswalkers and mere mortals alike--who have called Dominaria home.
I already put links to those in the first post of the thread
Oh, but I thought it would be much clearer to place on the first post link to posts of "Coldsnap stories", "Dissension stories", etc. Cuz soon there will be quite messy
Oh, and this time I was first.;)
The Amber Prison
Asmira, Holy Avenger
Church of Angelfire
City of Brass
Order of the Steel Leaf
Purraj of Urborg
Spirit of the Night
Torsten Von Ursus
The Amber Prison
This magical golden stone fits easily in the palm of a large man's hand. Although small, the amber prison contains great power. When wielded by a mage, the prison is capable of trapping a single being (of any size) in its amber depths. The unfortunate prisoner remains in stasis for as long as he or she is trapped in the prison. Although the prisoner apparently retains some vague, dreamlike awareness, time has little if any affect on the physical body. Upon release, the prisoner appears exactly as he or she did at the moment of imprisonment.
Asmira, Holy Avenger
Since her youth, Asmira has possessed the gift of prophecy. Although in recent years this gift has grown stronger, even Asmira's early teachers -- Femeref priests -- recognized her ability. Detesting violence and loving all the peoples and lands of Jamuura equally with all her being, Asmira has recently become the reluctant head of the Femeref resistance to Kaervek's advance. Although many Femeref cities have fallen, Asmira remains a shining example of goodness and hope to all the people of Jamuura. Her devotion to Jamuura and her will to see this terrible war ended have forged Asmira into a Holy Warrior of unparalleled skill and power.
Bassorah is one of the most established cities in all of Rabiah[link to Rabiah], found in the vast majority of the plane's incarnations. Bassorah boasts a tremendous variety of inhabitants (from bird maidens[link to Bird Maiden], to desert nomads[link to Desert Nomads entry], to gypsies) and a truly stupendous bazaar, known for the vast array of merchandise one can find there. Only the Bazaar of Baghdad is larger, and it does not have the same curious variety of goods.
Strange items from other planes somehow make their way into a Bassoran merchant's stall. Often even the merchant has no idea where he picked up an item. Such finds are often called "Shahrazad's gifts" due to their uncanny tendency to fall into the hands of those who most need them.
Although bird maidens are found in other lands of Dominia, Rabiah[link to Rabiah] is almost assuredly their true home. A beautiful, flying race of humanoids, bird maidens, as their name implies, are always female. They make their sparse homes high in the craggy caves and outcroppings of rock created by the constant winds and updrafts of the deserts.
One of the more curious arts the bird maidens practice is wind sculpting. Talented maidens place diamond dust in sharply funneled bone tubes, which they tie to rock formations. As the wind blows the dust against the stone, the rock erodes faster than usual. Over the course of several--even tens of--years, the sculpture appears.
Bird maidens mate with humans, and the resulting offspring is either bird maiden if female, or human if male. The human children are given back to their community, while the females are raised by the maidens. All bird maiden births are twins, and all twins are of the same gender. Bird maidens hold their birth-sisters extremely dear, although they seldom feel true kinship to their other siblings. Legends abound about the male offspring's exceptional strength, luck, and magical talent, which is why any village finding abandoned twin boys will almost invariably adopt and honor them.
Clumsy and slow, the brass men are mechanical-magical constructs of limited intellect. Although phenomenally tough and capable of withstanding extremes of temperature and weather, the brass men suffer from a strange malaise. Any action they take seems to use extreme effort, and no brass man will function long without intermittent, regular infusions of mana. Is this a flaw in their initial construction, or in their very nature? Such questions are for planeswalkers and wise ones, and outside the scope of this encyclopedia.
The Breathstealers are an ancient assassin guild from Urborg known for their ability to kill with complete accuracy and utter silence. In fact, the Breathstealers pride themselves on being able to kill a man without waking his wife sleeping beside him. The Breathstealers are currently insinuating themselves into Suq'Ata society, and although silent, these killers may be an even greater danger to the noble Suq'Ata than Kaervek's armies.
The Breathstealers can work minor magics, including controlling certain darling creatures, and they worship a terrible force known as the Spirit of the Night. It is the ultimate honor for a Breathstealer to sacrifice himself to become part of the Spirit of the Night made manifest.
The Church of Angelfire
The Church of Angelfire is perhaps the most popular church in present-day Benalia. Upwards of twenty percent of Benalkin (a term used by Benalish to describe themselves, particularly within the city of Benalia) proclaim themselves to be worshippers of Angelfire.
The church is named for the legendary warrior Gabriel Angelfire, whose spirit, it is claimed, burns on to this day. The main altar of every Angelfire church glows with the peculiar red-green candlelight of this "spirit-flame." The candles are thought to represent Gabriel's indomitable will, and are almost impossible to snuff once lit. The candle-making formula is considered a religious secret.
A number of historians believe the Church of Angelfire arose to replace the somewhat similar Church of Serra, whose worship is condemned in Benalia. This condemnation dates back to the days of Benalia's forerunner, the Sheoltun Empire. The growing settlement of Epityr cast off the ruling chains of Sheoltun when a priest of Serra called forth the angels of Serra to free the town. This uprising was the straw that broke the empire's back, and the already fading Sheoltun soon after lost all control of eastern Terisiare.
City of Brass
This mystical city is a shining paean to pain and rage. Legend has it that the city was built long ago by an aggrieved planeswalker who wished solace from some great pain. Located somewhere on the farthest reaches of Rabiah[link to Rabiah entry] (or perhaps even in the plane of Wildfire), the City of Brass constantly shimmers with heat, easily maintaining a temperature some 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding desert. Constructed entirely of stone and brass, the city's structures reflect the sun, shimmering blood-gold from sunup to sundown, and glowing dimly with heat radiance for hours after nightfall. Even the nearby mountains are coated in brass, and although snow and ice often forms in the peaks at night, it melts within an hour of sunrise.
Due to the unbearable conditions of the city only a few creatures make their home there. Djinns and efreets frequent the city, although brass men are by far the most numerous inhabitants. Other beings who attempt entry often do not survive the experience. Despite all this, the City of Brass attracts a number of magic-workers with its high concentration of readily available mana. Unfortunately, the mana burns as hot as molten brass, and no wizard may use it without pain.
Found in even the harshest of dunes, the desert nomads are ubiquitous throughout Rabiah[link to Rabiah]. It is difficult to believe that at one time this hardy people was almost lost forever to a series of terrible plagues. Yet today's nomads are tougher than ever, and they are truly unequaled at moving unseen and unheard through desert wastes. The nomads claim that even a desert child of six years can survive a fortnight lost in the sands. Although this claim is undoubtedly an exaggeration, the nomads do possess unrivaled knowledge of the desert and its ways.
The dragon engines were first introduced to Dominaria by the renowned artificer Mishra. Powerful artifact creatures capable of destroying almost anything in their path, Mishra's dragon engines were nevertheless only pale shadows of the original Phyrexian creations. Phyrexian dragon engines are as intelligent and swift as organic dragons, not in the slightest hampered by their mechanical origins. Many of Dominaria's goblin tribes believe that carrying a gear or cog from a dragon engine will keep other dragons from attacking the bearer.
Only planeswalkers may create flying carpets with relative ease. Lesser magic-workers must spend endless hours weaving together the delicate strands and complicated patterns that tie the magic of flight to these valuable objects. Most flying carpets are one adult armspan wide by two armspans long, and can support only one person. However, there are rumors of ancient carpets capable of carrying objects as large as a bull elephant.
This beautiful half-elven planeswalker is most noted for the tremendous spell she wove to end Dominaria's long Ice Age. Considered a goddess by the elves of Llanowar[link to Llanowar Elves entry] (who are unaware of her half-elven heritage), Freyalise is worshipped to this day by many of the residents of Dominaria.
One of a multitude of artifacts of uniquely goblin manufacture, a goblin kite allows a small humanoid (roughly goblin-sized) to strap the winged contraption across its back and use it as a glider. Although goblins have been known to use these devices strategically in battle (some observers claim any "strategy" is merely the result of random luck), "reliable" is a word not often applied to the gliders.
Home to the Ironclaw orcs and goblins, this mountain range forms the northeastern edge of central South Aerona. The Ironclaws are relatively mineral-rich, and the goblins and orcs who make their home here (along with scattered dwarven clans) use these minerals for trade.
The Burning Isles seared their harsh ethos into the young Kaervek. A ruthless survivor, the mage Kaervek considers everything fair if it advances his cause. Until his recent imprisonment, Kaervek waged an extensive war to exert control over all of Jamuura. With the imprisonment of his enemy Mangara in the amber prison, Kaervek thought he might succeed in this goal. Now Kaervek lies within his own trap while all that remains of his once mighty armies are unorganized bands of roving undead.
Actually made up of eight major bloodlines, or elfhames, the elves of Llanowar are a relatively diverse lot. Since the Ice Age the Llanowar have had to protect their forest[link to Llanowar Forest] from the ravages of outsiders (who initially came seeking precious firewood). With the help of their goddess, the planeswalker Freyalise[link to Freyalise], the elves managed to keep their cultures intact throughout even the most desperate times.
The Llanowar elves stand between five-and-a-half and six feet in height. They are generally slender with pale, brown, or even metallic-colored hair. Their eyes are quite narrow and their teeth slightly pointed, giving the elves a feral appearance. Elves remain youthful looking throughout almost their entire lives, with only the ears hinting at their age (the longer the ears, the older the elf). Only in the last decade or so of an elf's life does he or she begin to show signs of aging.
This gigantic, lush forest region in South Aerona ranges in width from several hundred miles to over a thousand miles across at its widest point. Home to eight major tribes of elves[link to Llanowar Elves], or elfhames, the forest contains some of the most ancient trees in all of Aerona. Goblins and orcs almost never enter the forest (save on raids) since the elves are merciless towards these outsiders. Even trading humans, minotaurs, and the like only enter the forest with great caution (and normally seek permission first).
This powerful mage was a force for peace in Jamuura for many decades, that is until he was betrayed and imprisoned inside of a magical stone known as the amber prison. Mangara's disappearance destroyed the balance of power in Jamuura. Only his release could grant the land hope for relief from the assault of Kaervek's undead minions.
Order of the Steel Leaf
This militant band of Llanowar elves[link to Llanowar Elves] were first organized by the goddess-planeswalker Freyalise[link to Freyalise]. Bound to serve her mission, the Steel Leaf helped turn the invaders away from Llanowar[link to Llanowar Forest] during the Ice Age, and have served as the forest's protectors ever since. The Order maintains a strict interpretation of Freyalise's sacred orders, and this rigidity has at times caused some internal conflict within Llanowar.
All Steel Leaf wear a patch over one eye. Some of these patches were first bestowed by Freyalise; these are said to provide magical sight to the wearer, allowing him or her to see the true nature of any being. In addition to the eye patch, the Steel Leaf all sport tattoos and brightly dyed hair, often worn in mohawk fashion.
Phyrexian gremlins are short, often hairy, ebon-black beings who serve the will of the Yawgmoth priests[link to Yawgmoth Priests] and demons[link to Yawgmoth Demons]. With their fierce, glowing eyes and razor-sharp teeth, Phyrexian gremlins seem at best semi-intelligent servants. They evince an extreme, almost gleeful, excitement at the prospect of destroying artifacts and artificers, and descend en masse upon anyone unfortunate enough to stumble into their domain.
The plane of Phyrexia[link to Phyrexia] is only accessible through a series of magical gates and portals. Such planar apertures are usually opened through the sacrifice of either creatures or artifacts. However, at times the sacrifice of a great deal of magical energy or knowledge will also open one of these portals. Unfortunately, any individual opening such a portal may find the sacrifice required is far different, and far more dear, than he or she ever imagined.
The dark plane of Phyrexia is a place few beings other than the foul natives of this plane have ever had the misfortune to visit. Creatures living in Phyrexia include Yawgmoth demons[respective link], Phyrexian gremlins[respective link], and numerous artifact-slaves.
Phyrexia is often called "the final Hell for artifacts." Its skies are filled with soot and smog, with the constant sound of grinding cogs and screeching metal tormenting the air. Unimaginably large furnaces throw ash and fire into the skies, illuminating in their harsh red glare the tortures of the artifacts trapped here. The plane itself is formed from multiple hollow spheres, each darker and more horrid than the last. Although legend says the true fiend Yawgmoth lives in the innermost sphere, there is no one known who can confirm this tale.
Purraj of Urborg
This intense female cat warrior was a legendary assassin whose ability to kill silently was unrivaled. Although Purraj viewed herself as a leader of her kind, many cat warriors only followed Purraj out of fear. Purraj's last mission, before her disappearance and presumed death, was the guardianship of the captured mage Mangara and his jail, the amber prison.
Rabiah the Infinite is a multifaceted jewel in the realm of Dominia. In ancient days, Rabiah split and refracted across a thousand and one planes. For every refraction, a new Rabiah sprung up, identical to the original. It is for this reason Rabiah is known as "the Infinite."
Of course, over the centuries each Rabiah developed an identity of its own, and today individual Rabiahs may differ dramatically from one another. However, there are some general features that are consistent across almost all variations of this wondrous place.
Rabiah is a desert world. Where Rabiah's plane touches another plane, the sere environment often begins to "infect" its neighbor. However, that seldom worries Rabiah's inhabitants, since they are hardy desert dwellers. Planar links in Rabiah often appear in the form of giant desert twister's. Such a maelstrom violently propels any who venture near it into whatever plane that gate links to.
Although most Rabian cultures are patriarchal and Arabic in feel, the vast range of Rabiahs also includes matriarchies and even a realm of horrific evil rivaling Phyrexia itself for sheer despair and terror.
This idle young Zhalfiran woman grew up quickly when several dragons decimated her village, killing Rashida's entire family as well as all her friends. Rashida's anguish quickly turned to rage, and the new warrior vowed to slay all dragons for the harm they did Rashida's village and family. After some struggle, Rashida discovered the location of her family's ancient relic -- a banesword. She dedicated the sword to the slaying of dragons, renaming it Scalebane, so that she could set about avenging her family. As witnesses attest, Rashida is amazingly quick and powerful when fighting her sworn enemy. Already, this great warrior has slain more than a dozen dragons, turning their hides into armor for her warriors. Today, Rashida leads a powerful army dedicated to ridding Jamuura of the dark army of undead that threatens the country's very existence.
These three warriors represent the best of the warrior-leader Rashida Scalebane's troops, hand-picked by Rashida to aid her in her quest to rescue the mage Mangara from the amber prison. There are few warriors in Jamuura with the courage, tenacity, and skill of these young fighters.
The Serendib efreets are a small group of air elementals seldom found anywhere but the plane of Rabiah[resp. link]. Giant pale humanoids with snow-white hair, the efreets are most striking for their double mouths and hooked left "hands," which, legend has it, were transformed long ago by a planeswalker in return for a service one of their kind once performed. Although the extra orifice adds to the efreets' frightening appearance, it does not have any particular function.
Serendib efreets often have bitter, vicious temperaments, although they will serve any who may summon or command them. Unfortunately, the Serendib are cursed and any who request their services will undoubtedly pay with the coin of their own pain and suffering. If anything, the Serendib seem to enjoy this collateral anguish.
Editor's note: The Serendib efreets are closely related to the larger, even more dangerous Serendib Djinns. The djinns also curse those who dare to summon them, although they seem far more interested in creating ever vaster areas of wasteland in the already arid realms they inhabit.
Spirit of the Night
The Spirit of the Night is a terrible creature that seems part cat, part unspeakable horror. An almost unstoppable killing machine, the Spirit of the Night leaves only death and destruction in its wake. Although there are few recorded incidents of the Spirit of the Night appearing on Dominaria, the entire Femeref grand assembly, known as the Council of Voices, is thought to have been slaughtered by this being last year. Only the Breathstealers[resp. link] guild is said to possess both the knowledge and desire to summon this dreaded being.
A Suq'Ata nobleman by birth, Telim'Tor earned his fame as a military leader when he brought back some important maps lost in the Ekendu mountains. Although his troops were decimated in the effort, Telim explained that his elder brother who had originally lead the troops had caused the casualties. Only through Telim's bravery were the maps retrieved and any troops brought back alive. Although some people dispute this story, the mission earned Telim'Tor much glory.
Today, Telim'Tor is respected (and feared) as a brutal, but inspiring general. His troops take no prisoners and Telim'Tor allows not the slightest infraction of rules by his soldiers.
Tobias Andrion was the most famed military administrator in the ancient Empire of Sheoltun. In the earlier, all-important military campaigns of Sheoltun, he was instrumental in establishing the young empire's military dominance over its neighbors. But his true legacy to Central Aerona was his successful campaign to eliminate the long-standing, organized piracy that once tyrannized the waves.
Although Sheoltun already held the mainland with an iron grip when Tobias was born, it was not yet established on the islands. Tobias dared to battle the legendary pirates of the Spice Isles, and, even more daringly, succeeded in turning the tide of the once-invincible raiders. Over the course of three decades, he ran the marauders down and destroyed even their most hidden fortresses. Unfortunately, Tobias was himself slain in an ambush by the captain and crew of the pirate ship Wavespawn.
Although the exact nature of Tobias's death varies widely from tale to tale, most stories suggest he was struck down by magical lightning. A terrible legend claims that Tobias was almost immediately reanimated, to dance upon the lifeless remains of his crew at the bottom of the ocean--a macabre dance he continues until this day.
Torsten Von Ursus
Originally a member of the legendary Knights of Jenges, Torsten Von Ursus came from the country of Wrenna. After a terrible mage claimed the throne of Wrenna, this great warrior left his Order and traveled southwest. Torsten spent some time at the base of the Hurloon Mountains, and actually entered the dread land of the minotaurs after he had the opportunity to study one that had been captured. His belief that the minotaurs were more than savage beasts was revolutionary at the time (and is still revolutionary to the less educated among us).
After studying minotaur philosophy for several years, Torsten journeyed onwards. When he stumbled upon the blighted city of Benfosa, Torsten immediately realized that he had found his life's work. Benfosa was a perfect place to implement his gathered wisdom and social philosophies. Determined to change Benfosa into his vision of a proper nation, Torsten let nothing stand in his way--including the rather reluctant citizens of the newly renamed Benalia.
Using sometimes-brutal tactics, Torsten brought an entire nation into being using nothing more than the force of his will and the brutal charisma of the natural leader. After succeeding in much of his goal, Torsten died at the age of seventy-two, leaving behind him the legendary Lost Edict, which consigned Benalia to the alternating care of his seven lieutenants and their families.
Servants of the dread entity Yawgmoth, the Yawgmoth demons are intelligent beings that take great joy in constantly attempting to outdo one another in destroying artifacts. Some artificers claim the demons are preparing for the day when Yawgmoth releases them in a rampaging horde to destroy all the imperfect artifacts currently loose in Dominia. This final purge will, in turn, prepare the multiverse for the coming of Yawgmoth.
Yawgmoth priests venerate the entity Yawgmoth. Working in concert with lesser Yawgmoth demons[respective link], the priests conduct strange rituals to purge unfit artifacts from all realms of existence. When an artifact creature shows promise, though, the priests guide its evolution towards perfection.
they've made some new entries to encyclopedia but didn't place them there before the whole site was down...
========== Update ==========
A member of the long-lived Imperial family, Galina assumes the throne after watching her husband fall under the twin pressures of the Homarid War and the impending Ice Age. Haughty and elitist, Galina does not hesitate to take brutal, decisive action when she feels the Empire's interests or its honor are at stake. Driven from the Imperial City by the Homarid War, Galina has her mages open a magic portal that allows them to evacuate directly to the almost-forgotten colony of Etlan Shiis. Unfortunately, their magic is imperfect. While the gate does indeed take them to Etlan Shiis, it also delivers them thousands of years later than when they left. This error is of little concern to Galina: Etlan Shiis is part of Vodalia, and she is Vodalia's Empress.
These large, sentient, aggressive sea creatures have been at war with the Merfolk since the two species first came into contact with each other. There is no reasoning with the Homarids, as they are a territorial species and see the merfolk merely as competitors to be removed. The Homarids are an implacable enemy, ruthless and relentless, each one a match for a skilled warrior of Vodalia. Over the space of a decade, the Vodalian Empire is continuously eroded by Homarid assaults. As the waters continue to cool due to the fast-approaching Ice Age, the attacks by Homarids begin to increase exponentially, as they thrive in the cold and are able to travel further from their homes deep in the trenches.
The merfolk are an aquatic species who have long, almost eel-like bodies, humanoid faces and arms, and spine-like protrusions at the shoulders. Their scales form multicolored patterns and they are capable of changing colors and patterns at will, similar to a chameleon. Red is a restricted color, used only by those whom have gained favor with the Empress, and defines leadership and social status within the merfolk society. Breathstealers [link to respective entry, don't ask me though why it's here]
Vodalia was a large military regime centered in the ocean around Sarpadia. The Vodalian social structure was and still is extremely hierarchical, ranging from the exalted Royal caste to the lowly artisans. The artisan caste had once been treated well within the society, but as Vodalia turned its eye towards imperial conquest, military and political skills became more important than sheer craftsmanship. Unappreciated and discriminated against, the artisan class sought and was granted the right to start a new colony that, by mutual agreement, would be located far away from the Imperial government that was oppressing them. The new colony came to be called Etlan Shiis ("Freedom's Warmth" in Vodalian tongue) by its residents, which became corrupted into "Atlantis" by the sea-faring human merchants they traded with.
Some centuries later, the Vodalian Empire began to notice its waters becoming cooler with each passing year. The Royal Mages were able to determine that the world had suffered a great injury during a war in the northern land of Terisiare, and that the world was sliding into a period of lasting cold. As the waters continued to cool, the Vodalian Empire was eroded by continual assaults conducted by their hereditary enemy, the Homarids. With the death of their Emperor, the cooling of their environment, and the constant threat of the Homarids, the demoralized and exhausted survivors began to evacuate Vodalia for Etlan Shiis. The Royal caste did not trek out across the ocean with this group. Instead, the mages hurriedly prepared a magical gateway that would take them straight to Etlan Shiis.
Presented below is a list of the various names of people, places and things that were used in Mirage and Visions. This list was compiled originally as a pronounciation guide but became more important as a historical document that shows where so many of the words were derived from and what the meaning of the words are within the setting. As for the pronounciation, I'd take that with a pinch of salt as they were done by a Brit (me) who was still trying to work out how Americans would pronounce certain syllables.
Some entries may seem very clipped, that's the unfortunate side-effect of other deadlines from the time. Others you may never have seen. These were either used for the names of small cities that were not featured in the storyline or characters that were dropped from Flavortext. There was a streamlining of the number of unusual names we used for clarity in the set.
I had thought this document was lost years ago but I found it recently on an old disk. Enjoy.
Afari ----•Ah-far-ee ----•Derived from Afi, Ghanan for “born on Friday”
Afiya ----•Ah-fy-yah ----•Health, Swahili
Akin ----•Ah-keen ----•Derived from Nigerian Akins, “brave boy”
Amiqat ----•Ah-mee-cat ----•Amiq meaning 'deep' (A city in the heart of their lands)
Ammar ----•Ay-mar ----•Arabic for “builder”.
Aselbo ----•Ah-sel-boe ----•Fictional
Asmira ----•Azz-my-rah ----•Derived name from Asima, Arabic for 'protector'
Azeworai ----•Ah-zay-woh-rye ----• Derived from “he who speaks pleasantly”
Azimaet ----•Ah-zee-my-et ----•Azim—great (great blue bay)
Bantau ----•Ban-tow ----•Variant of Swahili word for 'luck'
Brushwagg ----•Brush-wag ----•Fictional cute name.
Buleusi ----•Buh-loo-zee ----•(Buluu - Blue, Eusi - Black)
Daudi ----•Dow-dee ----•Swahili for “beloved one”
Daraja ----•Dah-rah-jah ----•Derived from the word for bridge. This plain is the neutral zone between Zhalfir and Suq'Ata.
Drulvurg ----•Drull-vurg ----•Fictional
Ekemet ----•Eh-keh-met ----•Derived or real name(?)
Ekundu ----•Ee-kun-doo ----•Derived from the word “Red”. Name of a mountain range.
Elbeisi ----•Ell-bee-zee ----•Fictional
Femeref ----•Feh-meh-rehf ----•Derived from Fethe – “judgement”.
Ghazad ----•Gah-zadd ----•Derived from Arabic, Ghadah, “beautiful”
Gowon ----•Goh-whon ----•Nigerian for “rainmaker”
Grahilah ----•Grah-hee-lah ----•Derived from “very expensive”
Hakim ----•Hah-keem ----•Arabic for “doctor”
Hanan ----•Hah-nan ----•Derived from an Arabic name that means 'beautiful'
Harmattan ----•Har-mat-tan ----•A real word meaning a hot dry coastal wind
Harqkur ----•Hark-koor ----•Suq'Ata desert city (Harq means “burn”)
Hellkite ----•Hell-kyte ----•Hellkite refers to a type of dragon. It means ‘one with cruel tendencies’ (3rd ed. dictionary). Commonly used in Magic for very large dragons.
Hivis ----•Hih-viss ----•Fictional, name of a Viashino warrior.
Imwita ----•Ihm-wee-tah ----•Can’t locate original source.
Jabari ----•Jah-bar-ree ----•Derived Swahili name meaning “great”, or “brave”.
Jamul ----•Jah-mool ----•Derived from Arabic, Jamil meaning “beautiful”
Jamuraa ----•Jah-moo-rah ----•Fictional
Jolrael ----•Jol-rail ----•Fictional
Kaervek ----•Care-vek ----•Fictional.
Kamau ----•Kah-moe ----• Swahili name for 'quiet warrior'
Kasib ibn Naji ----•Kah-seeb-ib-en-nah-jee ----•Arabic - “the safe fertile son”
Kiingal ----•Keen-garl ----•Zhalfirin Port City (Kiingilio – “admission”)
Kifimbo ----•Keh-feem- boe ----• Swahili name for 'thin baby'
Kipamu ----•Key-pah-moo ----•Zhafirin capital city (Kikapu – “Basket”)
Kipkemboi ----•Kip-khem-boy ----•Fictional
Kukemssa ----•Koo-khems-sah ----•A sea heated by nearby volcanoes. (Kuchemsa - "boiling")
Makht ----•Mah-kut ----•Fictional
Mangara ----•Man-gah-rah ----•Fictional (an anagram of the word 'anagram')
Maro ----•Mah-roh ----•Fictional (MArk ROsewater, developer)
Maumivu’ ----•Mar-mee-vu ----•Derived from word for pain
Melesse ----•Meh-leese ----•Derived from Ethiopian word for “eternal”.
Minarbirr ----•Min-arh-beer ----•Suq'Ata Frontier City (Minaebbih – “alarm”)
Mosi ----•Moh-see ----•the first born, from Swahili
Mtai ----•muh-tie ----•Real name
Mtenda ----•meh-Ten-dah ----•Derived from Mtinda (“buttermilk”). It’s Zhalfir's breadbasket; the plains where their crops are grown.
Mwani ----•mu-Whan-nee ----•Derived from Mwamini, Swahili for “honest”
Mwonvuli ----•mu-Whon-voo-lee ----•Derived from word for “umbrella”. Name of a jungle where it rains constantly!
Nabil Alamat ----•Nah-beel-ah-lah-mat ----• Arabic
Naimah ----•Nay-mah ----•Derived from Arabic. Nailah - “one who succeeds”
Najat ----•Nah-jat ----•A name derived from Arabic word for “safety”
Nuru ----•Nuh-roo ----•Swahili for “light,” or “born during the day”
Nyomba ----•nu-Yom-bah ----•Femeref City (Nyumba - “home”)
Okwera ----•Okk-wer-rah ----•Warleader Okwera.
Paka ----•Pah-kah ----•Swahili for “pussycat”
Panya ----•Pahn-yah ----•Swahili for “tiny mouse”
Pashad ibn Asim ----•Pah-shad-ib-en-ah-seem ----•Derived from Arabic name. Rashad is a North African Arabic name meaning “integrity of conduct”; ibn Asim means “son of the protector.”
Purraj ----•Pur-rahj ----•Derived from cat warrior linguistic style
Qhattib ----•Qhaht-teeb ----•Real Arabic name
Quirion ----•Quih-ree-on ----•Elves from Corondor.
Rana ----•Rah-nah ----•Name of a Suq'ata street fool.
Rashida ----•Rah-shee-dah ----•Derived name meaning “mighty”
Rhirhok ----•Rear-hokk ----•Fictional
Salamzuri ----•Sah-lam-zuu-ree ----•Elven city (Salama – “peace”, Zuri – “beautiful”)
Sefu ----•Seh-foo ----•Swahili name meaning 'Sword'
Shadimir ----•Shah-dee-meer ----•Derived from Arabic Shadi, “singer”
Shauku ----•Shor-koo ----•Derived from “night”
Sisay ----•Siss-say ----•Derived from “good omen”
Siti ----•See-tee ----•Swahili name meaning “lady”
Suq’Ata ----•Sook-ah-tah ----•Derived from Suq meaning “market”. A merchant nation.
Talibah ----•Tah-lee-bah ----•Derived from “seeker of knowledge”.
Talruum ----•Tarl-room ----•Derived from minotaur linguistic style
Taniwha ----•Tah-nee-wha ----•Means “giant serpent”
Taraneh ----•Tah-rah-nay ----•Derived from Arabic. Tarafah, a kind of tree
Tarub ----•Tay-roob ----•Arabic for “merry”
Teeka' ----•Tee-kah ----•Name of a female character from 'Distant Planes' anthology.
Teferi ----•Teh-feh-ree ----•Derived name meaning “one who is feared/respected”
Telim’Tor ----•Tel-lim-tor ----•Fictional
Teremko ----•Teh-rem-koh ----•Derived from word meaning “steep grade”
Terorq ----•Teh-rawk ----•Femeref Mining City (Teruworq – “good gold”)
Tetlok ----•Tet-lok ----•Fictional
Tulumai ----•Tuh-loo-my ----•Femeref City (Tumai - hope)
Tywanna ----•Tie-wahn-nah ----•Can’t locate original source
Ufunguo ----•Uh-fun-gwoe ----•Zhalfirin City (“key”)
Uktabi ----•Ook-tah-bee ----•Fictional
Unyaro ----•Unn-yah-roh ----•Derived from “foot”. Relating to its position and flatness
Uuserk ----•Ooh-zerk ----•Derived from Usiku meaning “night”
Viashino ----•Vee-ah-shee-no ----•Reptilian race in 'Prodigal Sorceror' book.
Waffa ----•Wahf-fah ----•Derived from Arabic. Wafa meaning “faithfulness”
Wayraqa ----•Way-rak-ah ----•Suq'Ata City (Waraqa - “bank note”)
Zuberi ----•Zall-feer-rin ----•Derived from Khalfani meaning “destined to rule”
Zirilan ----•Zeer-ree-lan ----•Extrapolated from Viashino linguistic style.
Obscure English Words
Aleatory ----•Ah-lee-ah-tor-ree ----•English word, means gamble
Baobab ----•Bah-oh-bab ----•Real tree
Benthic ----•Ben-thick ----•English. Water currents at ocean floor
Cerulean ----•Seh-roo-lee-an ----•English. It’s a color.
Ersatz ----•Ur-zats ----•English word
Ignovomous ----•Ig-noh-voh-mus ----•Literally means fire-spitting
Imbroglio ----•Im-broh-lee-oh ----•English. State of confusion leading to conflict
Patagia ----•Pah-tahj-ee-ah ----•English word
Sirocco ----•Seh-roc-coh ----•Real wind.
Ventifact ----•Ven-tee-fact ----•English. Means 'shaped by wind'
Wadi ----•Wah-dee ----•English. A term meaning 'dry wash' (geographical feature)
Yare ----•Yair ----•English. Means speed.
Just a quick note regarding this controversial pronunciation. I didn't notice this before I posted the list, and frankly I'd probably had changed it to the way I've pronounced it for years and heard many others pronounce it too; - Shar-Koo
I'm the person that originally wrote it as Shor-Koo but as to whether I changed my mind over time, mis-typed or simply pronounced things weird back in 96, I really couldn't tell you.
Since Portal Second Age is a basic set rather than an expansion, it doesn’t have a specific storyline. However, it does have a setting: the island of Caliman, which lies far south in Dominaria. It is inhabited primarily by humans, elves, and goblins, but other races (and plenty of monsters) also live there. Most of the civilized races use both magic and technology. Each of the five colors is associated primarily with one culture.
White is the color of Alaborn, a highly advanced human kingdom on Caliman’s southern plains. For thousands of years they lived peacefully, with no contact with other cultures. This peaceful existence came to an end when they encountered the goblins of the mountains. Only their military inventions saved them from complete destruction. More recently, they have also begun to battle the swamp queen Tojira.
Blue is the color of the Talas, merchants and pirates from the west of Caliman. They dominate the seas and islands in this area, and control some timber towns and some port towns. They have begun harvesting featherwood trees from the elven forests. The elves are not too happy about this.
Green is the color of the elves of Norwood, a forest which covers much of the north part of Caliman. Unlike other races, they shun technology, using their nature magic to fill all their needs. Elves are trained as warriors and scouts, and their skills with missile weapons make them formidable opponents.
Red is the color of the mountain tribes: goblins, ogres, and giants. These creatures (especially the goblins) have the reputation of being stupid and cowardly, but this stereotype may be more rumor than fact. They have come up with a number of dangerous inventions, including the ogrish battlesaw, a large chainsaw-like weapon that combines a Phyrexian mana battery with a specially forged blade.
Black is the color of the swamp dwellers and their queen Tojira. For centuries, the salt marsh at the north end of Caliman was home to only a few animals and semi-intelligent monsters. Ten years ago, the sorceress Tojira took over the area. She now dwells in the ruins of an ancient Thran city deep in the marsh, sending her minions out in search of artifacts and slaves. Her primary servants are magically created creatures called nightstalkers who ride large mechanical beasts.