Jeff Lionheart is a new planeswalker character I created. He's a Leonin coming from Tethmos (Oreskos, Theros). I wrote his origin story for the July MCC, which I hosted and was inspired by the set Magic Origins coming out that month, and I'm writing the sequel for the August MCC, which I'm also hosting. This blog post is meant to be a summary of all his stories in chronological order.
It's a day just like any other one in Oreskos. When a new Leonin is born, is he a baby or is he a cub? Does it matter at all? In the end, Theran Leonin live in a community isolated from human poleis, so they are what they are. They aren't bound by human definitions. What will this young male become? A warrior, like his father? A trader? An adventurer? There's something in his eyes, like the glimmer of a new dawn. That must mean something: whatever he'll become, success will be with him. That's a good omen, and there's no need for Heliod or another of his kind to reveal that. Who is Heliod? He's no one here! But this newborn will become someone instead, his parents were sure. "How shall we call him?" his mother asked to his father. He answered: "His name shall be..." and the whistle of a gentle breeze came to seal this moment forever.
Creature - Cat (C)
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control another Cat creature, put a +1/+1 counter on Leonin Newborn.
He will grow well as long as there is someone else of his kind to take care of him.
Jeff Lionheart. This was his name, in spite of what many in the pride probably expected. There's a little irony in having a name that means "peace of God" among a tribe that has abandoned worship of human gods. Anyway, that hasn't prevented him from learning and training as a warrior, following his father's footsteps. He liked to fight when it meant protecting the meek, but he hated having to do so without a reason or to execute orders he found wrong or immoral. He was a free spirit. Whenever he could, he liked wandering alone enjoying the nature in long walks, confident that he could always fight to self-defend or defend those in need he encountered along his road. During his walks he used to reflect about his people. He felt different, and there was something he couldn't grasp about them. How could they become so insular, so detached from all other living beings that they needed to isolate themselves from everything and everyone? The more strangers he saved, the stronger this question got inside his mind. "We can't ignore others", he thought. "We all live in this world. Why can't we get along with other beings living in the same world? Our only difference is our outer appearance, inside we're all the same! Here I swear: I'll fight for all those in need, whichever race they might be!"
EXAMPLE CARD (only meant to be considered for clarity of the round's requirements, not for balance):
Legendary Creature - Cat Warrior (M)
Whenever another creature you control blocks or becomes blocked, you may tap Jeff Lionheart. If you do, Jeff Lionheart deals damage equal to its power to each creature blocking or blocked by that creature, then remove that creature from combat.
"I'll fight for all those in need!"
Jeff quickly made a name for himself among Oreskos ranks. He was well known for being a valorous and selfless fighter. He refused promotion multiple times because he felt his place was among the troops, not among those who decided everything but didn't step foot in battle a single time. One day he was patrolling the surroundings with his boss, when at the side of the road they saw a dying human screaming: "For Heliod's sake, help me! Help me!" The boss told Jeff to proceed on their road, because the Leonin had no god to share with the humans, and that human was invoking a god's name. But Jeff replied: "I don't care about such details! He's suffering and I'm going to help him!" His boss replied: "Lionheart!" with a bit of sarcasm, "You're not going to do that! This is an order! If you disobey, I'll fight you as our enemy and King Brimaz will banish you from our land!" Jeff didn't care. He ran to the dying human and gave him a healing potion: "Here! This will heal you! Use it and then wait for me over there, behind those rocks!" Jeff's boss attacked him. After a long and exhausting battle, Jeff finally dealt the fatal strike to his boss. "What have I done!" he screamed, then he felt like passing out. He fell to the ground, eyes closed. After a few moments to regain control of himself, he opened his eyes, but he didn't recognize the place. "Where is my boss's body? Where are those rocks? And where is that stranger? Where am I?" Panicked by all those thoughts, he closed his eyes again, keeping his head into the palm of his hands. Then he reopened them and he was back on the land he knew. He saw the rocks. He ran towards them. The human behind was healed and waiting for him.
"Thanks! I don't know how I would have done without you! I'm a merchant and I've been robbed of all my goods. They escaped and left me dying on the road! What's your name, my savior?"
"My name is..." Jeff pondered for a moment how wise it was to tell him his real name. Then he thought he could trust him. He just saved his life after all, at the expense of his boss's one. "...Jeff Lionheart."
"You have the heart of a real lion indeed! I saw how you had to fight against your own companion to heal me."
"Yeah. But now I have no home. I can't go back to Oreskos. They'd see me as a traitor."
"Then come with me to my home! I'm from Meletis and I can be your host there! It's the least I can do for the one who saved my life!"
"Many thanks, but I think I just have to follow my own road. Anyway, what's your name, so that I could find a safe place in Meletis should I need it?"
"Just ask of Martin Hellanos! Everybody knows me in Meletis!"
"Do you need anything else, Martin?"
"No, thanks. You have already done more than enough for me!"
"Then you can go back to Meletis now. Maybe one day we'll see again!"
"I sure hope so! Thank you again, Jeff! I owe you my life!" screamed Martin as he disappeared into the horizon.
And there he was. Alone. He had that image of a different unknown landscape stuck in his mind. He travelled all of Theros during his long walks, and he didn't recognize that place. What could it be? Maybe there were other worlds beyond the one he knew? And now that he had no home on Theros, may one of them be his new home perhaps? One thing was for certain: "I don't belong here, not anymore. Where is my home? Where is my home now?" he screamed to the sky. He closed his eyes, and disappeared again.
Jeff, Champion of the Meek
Legendary Creature - Cat Warrior (M)
: Another target blocking or blocked creature you control gains indestructible until end of turn. When that creature is dealt combat damage this turn, exile Jeff, then return him to the battlefield transformed under his owner’s control.
Jeff, the Free Spirit
( ) Planeswalker - Jeff (M)
+1: Until your next turn, target creature can’t attack or block.
-2: Jeff, the Free Spirit deals 2 damage to target creature that attacked or blocked this turn.
-8: Creatures you control get +4/+0 and gain trample, vigilance, and indestructible until end of turn.
(The example card is only meant for clarity of this round's requirements, not for balance.)
Art 1: http://ruth-tay.deviantart.com/art/Lion-Warrior-111616144
Art 2: http://caananwhite.deviantart.com/art/LIONman-184810466
Being able to wander the Multiverse has changed Jeff quite a bit. He still is a free spirit, but he developed an even stronger hate for authority, which he saw as always oppressing people, while keeping his strong sense of morality. His long solitary walks on Theros have turned into long walks between the planes, but they still were his favorite chance to reflect about himself and what happened around him. On Theros, he walked just to think, without any particular other purpose, while now his walks acquired a new one: he was looking for something. He was looking for meaning. Why was he born? Why was he gifted with the spark? He knew, he felt he had a mission to be carried out, but what was it? Maybe he just had to accept that nobody will ever be able to give him the answers he seeks. Maybe he was born to defend the meek of all planes against the authorities oppressing them. Maybe... too many "maybe"s and no certainty. His search was becoming increasingly within himself instead of out of himself. He still won't give up helping those in need, but pure altruism was no longer his main way. On the other side, his inner one, he had a new quest. But will that quest ever be over? Could it even be over someday? Maybe...
Jeff, Soul Explorer
Planeswalker - Jeff (M)
Lifelink (Damage dealt by this planeswalker also causes you to gain that much life.)
+2: Until your next turn, whenever Jeff, Soul Explorer is dealt damage by a source, he deals that much damage to that source’s controller.
-3: Draw a card, then Jeff deals damage to target creature or player equal to the number of cards you’ve drawn this turn.
-9: You draw X cards and gain X life, where X is the number of creatures you control.
(The example card is only meant for clarity of this round's requirements, not for balance.)
One day, Jeff was thinking back of his family in Oreskos. It was a few years he was away from them, and while he knew he couldn't come back there, as he would be captured at least and killed at worst, he still missed them. That day he realized one thing that somehow had always escaped him. Theran Leonin refused the gods everyone else believed in on Theros. Then why did his parents name him with a name that means "peace of God"? Why was his father's name Matthew, meaning "gift of God"? And why was Matthew's father named Micheal, meaning "Who is like God"? Even Jeff's mother was named Elizabeth, meaning "God is an oath". Why did all his ancestors have a very Leonin last name, Lionheart, but first names always linked to those same gods they were supposed to reject? His inner search for who he truly is was now leading him back to his home plane. He was himself part of a mistery, his own name was part of a mistery, and he wanted to shed light on it somehow.
The following is how the story will go on in rounds 3 and 4 of the August MCC. These paragraphs also contain hidden hints about what the challenges for those rounds will be. You're reading it at your own risk. You have been warned!
A few weeks had passed since Jeff returned to Theros. He was based in Meletis, at the house of Martin Hellanos, the man whose life he saved years ago when his spark first ignited, but he still wandered all the plane except Oreskos in his usual meditation walks. He wasn't the only one to wander the plane though. One day he was walking on a forest trail, when far on the horizon he saw a human figure coming towards him in the opposite direction. There was something familiar in that man and how he walked. When he came closer, Jeff finally recognized him. "It's Lanathos!" he thought, "He knows all the stories of the past. He can help me!"
"Lanathos!" he shouted and began to run towards him.
"Who's calling my name?" He hadn't seen Jeff yet. He began to look around himself until he finally saw him coming.
"Lanathos! Do you recognize me?"
"Well, you must be one of the many Leonin who listen to my stories in Oreskos. There are so many of your kind there..."
"Yes, I was one of those when I was still accepted in my homeland. Your stories were really fascinating, but now I'm writing my own!"
"Oh, that's interesting! Who are you then?"
"I'm Jeff! Don't you remember me?"
"As I said, there are so many of you in front of me when I tell my stories, and I'm also getting old..."
"Anyway, even if your memory isn't so perfect, you still remember the stories of the past, don't you?"
"Oh, yes! I will never forget those!"
"Good! Tell me if these names remind you of something: Matthew... Elizabeth... Micheal..."
"Well, they have all something to do with the gods..."
"Exactly! That's the point! Why?"
"We Leonin have no gods! And yet, me and my ancestors all have names who have to do with the gods. Why? Where do they come from? Where do I come from?"
"Then it would help to know your family name too..."
"You really must not remember me... Lionheart!"
"Lionheart? Oh my, are you Jeff Lionheart?!"
"Yes, that's me."
"Everybody's looking for you in Oreskos! They say you killed the head of their army and they want to give you retribution!"
"Yes, that's true. And that's exactly why I told you I can't return there."
"And anyway, that last name does remind me of someone in the past..."
"Who?! Tell me anything you know!"
"He was called Josh, which is also another name that has to do with gods. It means 'God is salvation'. He was called 'the Lion's Heart'. And finally, he was a champion of Heliod!"
"Yes, Heliod had many champions in the past, and Josh was one of them. It was very long ago, still during the tyranny of Agnomakhos. Back then, Leonin were the archon's army. They hadn't renounced to gods yet, and most of them worshipped Heliod. The god himself was very proud of them, to the point that he chose the bravest, the strongest among them and anointed him his champion, rewarding him with his favor and protection. Wait! Do you know what that must mean?"
"I think I do. That I am his descendant?"
"Exactly! That's why you're all named after the gods, as an unspoken form of gratitude to Heliod who chose your ancestor Josh as his champion! Jeff? Jeff!"
"Oh, excuse me. I was just thinking. Thank you Lanathos, you've been very useful!"
"Oh, you're welcome! You should be proud of your ancestry!"
"That's something I will have to decide..."
"And you mentioned you're making your own story! Tell me!"
"I'm afraid I can't. It's not over yet. Maybe one day I'll tell you, but now I have to go. I'm sorry, Lanathos, and many thanks again!"
Jeff began walking away from Lanathos, who kept standing still.
"But you are going to tell me one day, aren't you? Hey, Jeff! Will you tell me one day?"
But Jeff was gone. He solved his mystery, but now he felt like a weight in himself. Everyone taught him since when he was still a cub that there are no gods and that he shouldn't believe in them, but now he knew that his own ancestor was once a champion of a god. So what was he supposed to do? Believe or not believe in the gods? Did they really exist after all? As it often happens, an answer posed even more questions. He felt weak in that moment. He didn't know what to do. He had physical strength, but that was nothing. It couldn't help with all the thoughts swirling in his mind. He had the strength, but he was weak. And that strength could do nothing to help with that weakness. In the end, he decided to go back to Martin's home in Meletis and go to bed.
That night Jeff didn't sleep much. Too many thoughts were disturbing him. Was everything he had been taught a lie? Did the gods really exist after all? And if they did, was Heliod trying to tell him something? And what was it? Maybe he was just supposed to not care, leave his plane and start a new life somewhere else? But where? And how? Or maybe he had to embrace the fact that gods existed and show himself his valor to Heliod, trying to become his champion himself. Did he have to be Jeff, Sun's Champion? Did he want to? In that moment, appropriately, the Sun itself rose up. It was morning. It was time to get up. Maybe a walk could help.
Jeff left Martin's house and started to walk on the roads of Meletis in random directions, going where his heart told him to go. When he turned one corner, he saw another Leonin talking to a group of Meletians. It was somewhat strange, Leonin aren't that common in Meletis; but then it got even more strange. Jeff noticed something. A scar, right over the left eye.
"Could it be... Ajani?"
When the talking was over, the crowd dispersed, and Ajani saw Jeff coming to him.
"Ajani! Do you remember me? I'm Jeff!" He didn't say his last name, but both knew what he did.
"Jeff? Jeff Lionheart? I haven't seen you in quite a while! They want to kill you in Oreskos, do you know?"
"Of course. That's why I'm not coming back."
"So you really did what they tell you did?"
"Yes, but I'm not sure if it matters anymore. Please just don't tell anyone we met."
"I will not. I don't want to cause you any more trouble."
"Ajani, I have a problem. Maybe you can help me."
"You mean another problem?"
"Yes, another one. Many ones, but they are actually doubts. They're killing my brain, I can't understand anything anymore."
"Calm down, Jeff, no need to worry. What is it that's tormenting you?"
"Many things. You've always told us you came from other lands, way beyond the mountains..."
"I think I may have been to those lands too. Do you know what happened after... well, after what they want to kill me for? Do they know?"
"Nobody knows. You just disappeared and they never found you. I never found you either."
"I suddenly found myself in an unknown world. Then I came back here. And then I was able to see many worlds, way further than Theros and Nyx. Those worlds were my exile, that's where I went. Do you understand me?"
"I know what happened to you, Jeff, even if I didn't think it was possible. You are a planeswalker, Jeff. Just like me."
"Planeswalker. Those worlds you saw and visited, they're called planes. And those few like us walk between them."
"So that's where you really come from?"
"Yes. Have you been to Alara? That's where I come from."
"No, that name doesn't tell me anything. But anyway, so I was jumping from one world to another, when I come back here and discover everything I've been taught is false. The gods exist, Ajani. An ancestor of mine, Josh, has even been Heliod's champion..."
"Stop there, Jeff! I... I'm not sure I want to know more than that..."
"And why? I was hoping you could help me understand..."
"Don't you know what happened to the last champion of Heliod?"
"No, I've just been back for a few days."
"Let's just say she's no longer with us. See, Heliod killed her in my presence..."
"Heliod killed his champion?"
"Yes. I hope things went better with your ancestor..."
"Yes, Heliod gave him honor and protection. But why would Heliod kill his champion? And most of all, so he does exist for real?"
"Yes, he and all other gods exist, but only until we believe in them. That's the message I'm spreading here in Meletis, and that's why you found me here. Beware Jeff, Heliod doesn't like planeswalkers. He didn't know that I am one too when he killed her. If he knew, well... I'm not sure I would be here anymore."
"And why does Heliod not like those like us?"
"Because he doesn't tolerate that we can go to worlds he can't go to, see things he can't see, rule on planes of existence he can't rule on... Jeff, I'll tell you right now: don't mess yourself with him. It won't end well."
"I was thinking if he was trying to tell me something, if he wanted me to be his next champion..."
"No, just no! If anything, he's telling you to not get involved!"
"Then what about my ancestor?"
"I hate to say this, Jeff, because I know the importance of respecting and honoring our forefathers, but he was who he was. You are who you are, and that's what matters. Heliod might have been nice with him, but would he be with you too? No, he would not! You're one of those he hates, you're a planeswalker! Just find out who you are! As I was just telling these citizens, create something for yourself! You even have the fortune of not being stuck in this world! There are many worlds out there, some indeed in trouble but others are very nice places to live in, just choose one and make that your home! Find your own way!"
"Thanks, Ajani. You've just told me what I needed to be told. I hope to see you again somewhere, who knows, maybe not even on this world..."
"Let's hope! You can make it, Jeff! You see, I'm strange as a Leonin, with this white fur I have, but I've found my way nonetheless. You'll do it too, I'm sure!"
"Many thanks again! Maybe one day I'll find my true colors too..."