This week begins War Games, a serialized work of fan content based on the Magic: the Gathering story assumptions outlined here.


Death smells of salt. Whether by product of some unknown multiversal constant or merely an ever-building coincidence, each of the twelve afterlives I’ve visited has downright reeked of salt. Mountaintop palaces of white marble or blazing Hells, it didn’t seem to make a difference. This underworld was a bit tame in comparison. Its chief feature was an everpresent green-black fog that limited visibility to a few dozen feet, and the chill air was riddled with downdrafts that made flying more dangerous than it was worth. From time to time screams of madness and despair echoed through the mist, torn from anguished souls coming to understand their new reality. In total it was more dreary than fearsome. A ridiculous afterlife for an insignificant world.

But these were minor annoyances. Seeking audience with a dark god is rarely a comfortable endeavor. It is almost always a fruitful one.

I had been wandering this wasteland of the dead for some time. Days or weeks, it was impossible to say. And yet there had been no sign of the underworld’s caretaker. In a realm this big that wasn’t altogether surprising, but it also meant that combing the afterlife piece by piece would take far too long.

I was on a schedule.

I turned towards one of the whimpering voices in the fog and started walking. Before long the prone form of a spirit materialized out of the mists. It was keening in a low voice, bent over a boulder that appeared to be made of solid gold.

It saw me coming out of the fog and dropped to grovel at my feet. Stupid, I thought as I drove my greatsword through its back and pinned it to the stone below. What fool expects mercy from a demon? Black ichor stained the rocks, barely visible against the dark slate. No matter. It would be enough. I withdrew a few steps and stood at ease, fanning the mists with my wings as I waited.

The spirit struggled to free the blade from its chest, slicing its hands to the bone and coating the full length of the blade in more of the ichor that passed for blood down here. The dead on this world did not fear pain. Nor did they seem to die, I noted as time passed with no measure but my steady heartbeat. Even when all of its ichor had drained onto the rocks and left little more than an ashen shadow, it still struggled against the blade pinning it to the ground. Curious.

Once the spirit gave up scratching at my sword and started whimpering for its mother, I let part of my mind wander. In times past I wouldn’t have attempted a move like this without spending years beforehand to learn the local practices and customs, minimizing the chances that the beings I called on would turn against me. Even by the standards of my hastiest work this was a messy offering, crude almost beyond belief. It would seem my memory had grown rusty with disuse during my long stay on Zendikar. Unacceptable. I’d need to correct that soon. The multiverse does not suffer fools for long.

The air changed. Those inexperienced in such matters would describe the sensation as cold, an unnatural chill that crept up their spine. I knew it was emptiness, the barely palpable lack of presence as a piece of the Void drew near. No mere demon then. The people of this world had put their faith in something far more powerful. How novel.

A gaunt figure formed in the mist, appearing as a skeleton with skin barely stretched over the bones, lambent stars glistening where the shadows should hang heaviest on its form.

“This is not yet your place, little demon.” The god’s voice was little more than a whisper, and yet it shook me.  “What does the living seek in the land of the dead?”

I clasped my hands behind my back. “It would be simpler if you looked for yourself Erebos.”

The figure loomed forward, black smoke trailing from its eyes to join the miasma.  His presence skimmed through my mind, heavy and oppressive. Memories of my darkest times flooded to the surface in response to his touch. Campaigns and battles that had gone horribly wrong, the times on Zendikar when I had lost hope of ever escaping my prison. The singular, excruciating pain of my spark shattering. I felt my lips pull back in a savage grin. Only a fool seeks out pain, but there is no greater affirmation of life.


“I am.” If Erebos was surprised, he didn’t show it.

“You seek the end of Theros.”

“Of all worlds,” I said. “Theros is only my current target.”

The God of the Dead doubled in size, looming above me. “And so you come to me, seeking help.”

The changes that had rocked the multiverse during my imprisonment were vexing. Once snuffing out a plane had been as simple as clenching my fist, but that kind of power was long gone.  I looked up and met the god’s empty gaze without flinching. “Yes.”

“To expand my realm beyond that of all other Gods, claim this entire world in the embrace of death and usurp the sun itself from its throne? None has ever stood before me with a proposition so bold.” Erebos turned away from me and drew my greatsword from the ground with two fingers. The two-handed sword was little more than a dagger in the god’s hands, but he stared at its ichor-stained length as if enraptured. “How little you understand.”

He threw the sword at me with an almost lazy flick of his wrist. I leapt into the air with a flap of my wings and the sword lanced through the space I’d just occupied before impacting something hard behind me with a thunderous crack.

In an instant spells came to my call, words of death and agony that would slay even the mightiest giant in an instant. And then I stopped: magic pulsing at my fingertips but still crucially unused. Erebos’s nature was still partially a mystery to me, but it seemed unlikely that I’d be able to find a spell that worked on him before he was able to do something decidedly more lethal to me. So I opted to do nothing as he loomed over me, miasma pouring from the holes where his eyes should be. It clung to me now, leeching the strength from my body as my vision flickered and went grey. As the underworld faded I heard the God’s voice rumble once more.

“You’ll have no help from me, little demon.”

*  *  *

Consciousness returned to me with the lapping of waves. I was half-covered in water, my face pressed into the coarse sand of what I presumed was a beach, my limbs still trembling with weakness after being doused in the essence of death. And yet, I realized as I rolled onto my back and stared up at the burning sun, I was alive. Gloriously, irrefutably alive.

I staggered as I rose to my feet, basking in every creak and shudder from my body. I was weak, yes. I would grow stronger. I had nearly died. It had happened before. I was weaponless, alone, and in a great deal of pain. Pain is for the living. I raised my face to the midday sun and let loose a bellow of triumph. Erebos had refused me.

There is more than one way to kill a plane.


Hot volcanic wind scorched Gideon’s face, raising a few golden sparks from his protective shield.

He stood on the outside of a circle of Keral Keep’s pyromancers. Every monk in the monastery had gathered on the roof of the Keep’s central tower, but even for an occasion like this they seemed incapable of standing still for more than a few moments.  A constant hum of conversation mixed with the distant roar of the volcano, both occasionally broken by bursts of laughter or a loud sob. A fistfight had even broken out on the stairs up to the roof, although a wizened elder had separated the teenagers with a few quick blows from his staff.

Not for the first time, Gideon thought about his bizarre relationship with this plane. The first time I was here I was little better than a kidnapper, good intentions be damned. The next time I showed up I practically begged Chandra for help. And now I’m here for a funeral. The monks must think he was some bizarre specter of ill fortune.  He wouldn’t blame them if they did. That’s why he stood on the outside of the crowd looking in. This wasn’t his home. He didn’t want to intrude.

“Alright you lot!” Chandra’s hoarse roar rose above the other voices from the center of the throng. “We all know I’m not good at the speech stuff, so I’m just gonna say my part and shut up so we can get on with the night.”

A few cheers and a shrill whistle erupted from the crowd.

“Shut up, or so help me I’ll drag a dictionary up here and make you all listen to me read it!” Chandra’s head and shoulders rose above the crowd. She must’ve climbed on top of the pyre. She made a show of scowling at each of the monks before speaking again.

“We all have dozens of stories about Mother Luti. Or Jaya, whatever you want to call her. She was always kind to me, even when I got frustrated and yelled at her. Even when I really didn’t deserve it. She was good like that, ‘cause she understood what it was like to be young and angry and stupid.”

“When I found out who she was I didn’t really understand why she’d hide herself like that. And well, I mostly shouted at her a lot instead of listening to what she said. I’m still sorry about that. But I think I get it now, at least kind of. If she’d told everybody—told anybody that she was Jaya Ballard, she wouldn’t be able to do what she loved anymore. She once told me it took her about fifty kajillion years to figure out what she really wanted to do with her life was sit on a mountain in the middle of nowhere and teach a bunch of ungrateful pyromancers, and yeah, I was the worst of the bunch.”

Chandra went quiet for a moment, looking down with her eyes closed.

“What I’m trying to say is, if we’d known that Mother Luti was actually Jaya Ballard, we all would’ve been too busy worshiping at her feet to listen to what she was saying. She could’ve had all the glory in the world. She could’ve been the next-best thing to a God. But she didn’t want that. So the next time someone praises the myth of Jaya Ballard, try to take a moment and remember that you were more important to her than that myth.”

She wiped her palms on her robes. “Um, that’s all I had to say, so, uh. You know.” Chandra cupped her hands in front of her and a small flame flickered to life in them before she hopped down off the pyre.

Through the crowd Gideon saw her go from monk to monk, pausing in front of each to exchange a few words and for them to add a piece of fire to the flame she carried. As the throng broke up into groups of twos and threes talking about Mother Luti he watched the small flicker of orange fire grow into a blazing orb shot through with multicolored threads.

While everyone was occupied he walked up to the plinth where Jaya’s body rested, surrounded by oil-soaked wood. She’d been arranged with her arms folded, her face still with the peace known only by the dead. Gideon laid his hand over his heart. “I didn’t know you for long, but you were a good friend. Erebos watch over you Jaya.”

It was ridiculous of course; they were halfway across the multiverse from his homeland. But the words felt right.

Some time later Chandra tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to see that the orb of fire had grown to a globe twice the size of her head and she was holding it away from her body with one hand so that her robes didn’t catch on fire. He stepped back to let her stand next to her mentor, but she held the blistering globe out to him like she wanted him to take it. “Come on,” she whispered after an awkward moment. “We’re all supposed to add to it.”

Add to it? Gideon frowned. He was no pyromancer, and his flint and steel were with his pack in the guest room he’d been given. Chandra just bounced the fireball in her hand a few times, waiting for him to do something. Frowning in concentration, he willed his shield to activate around his hand, shaping the golden light into a thick ring that sat shimmering in his palm. Then he placed it in the flame. A burst of thick black smoke erupted from the fire, accompanied by a sound that he could only compare to a dragon’s belch.

Chandra caught his eye and shrugged before stepping over to the pyre. Most of the background conversations faded away as she did, although Gideon caught a pair of young acolytes elbowing each other into silence with bruising enthusiasm.

Chandra raised the fireball over her head, and it dimmed to a sullen red light that cast stark shadows on everyone watching. “Remember the past, but never wallow in it. Jaya was the greatest of us all, but that makes this teaching all the more important. It is one thing to mourn a fallen friend, another to let your life slip away while you grieve.” She lowered the blazing globe and placed it on her mentor’s breast. Within seconds the pyre caught fire in earnest, and a torrent of flames leapt into the night sky.

“Farewell Jaya,” she whispered. “I’ll miss you.”

*  *  *

Hours later Gideon watched the sun rise from the top of the Keep. He and Chandra had stayed well past when the pyre had burnt out and its embers cooled. Most of the monks had long since gone to bed; some who were particularly young or particularly drunk had been carried downstairs as the night wore on.

“This is a nice place.”

Chandra let out a loud yawn and slumped against the ramparts. “Yeah, it’s kinda great isn’t it?”

“You’re a lucky woman.”

She nodded. At first he thought she’d fallen asleep entirely, but then she spoke in a low voice. “If Luti and Serenok hadn’t taken me in when I was a kid I don’t think I’d be alive now. I tried to kill Serenok the first time I saw him, ‘cause I thought he was another consulate butt trying to take my head off.” She shuddered. “If I’d wound up someplace else. Anywhere else, I’d have killed a bunch of people and probably gotten executed for real. I owe this place more than I can ever repay.”

“I’m sorry.” Gideon raised his face to the wind as the morning breeze swept his hair back.

“For what?”

“When I first came here, the first time I met you. I couldn’t see the heart that this place has, the good that gets done here. I was thinking too much like a soldier, and all I saw was the threat. I made mistakes because of it. I hurt you. I hurt these people.” He paused. “So, I’m sorry. It’s not much, but I am.”

“Already forgiven you big guy. Your heart’s way too good to hold the small stuff against you.” Her eyes grew sad as she looked out over the valley below them. “I wonder what’s going to happen now. Luti and Serenok were the glue that held this place together.”

“Thinking of taking up the abbot’s mantle once again, Monk Nalaar?”

“No,” she said. “They offered it to me last night, but it’s not my place, you know? I love Keral Keep, don’t get me wrong. But I have family on Kaladesh again, and I’m not going to abandon my commitment to the Gatewatch. They deserve better than an abbot who’s being pulled in three directions at once.”

“No one would blame you if you wanted to stay.”

“Maybe in a few decades, once I start creaking every time I move.” She pushed herself off from the wall and stretched. “Ravnica?”

He smiled. “Ravnica.”



The sulfurous and ever-present volcanic smoke of Regatha gave way to the smell of a city in flames. It had been days since the Seventh had been set ablaze to hold back a legion of the eternals, but despite the efforts of some overly enthusiastic Izzet stormages small fires still smoldered in hard to reach corners and the scent of burning asphalt clung to the district like a blanket. Every building in sight had suffered some kind of damage. Almost half were little more than rubble, crushed under the weight of some giant beast on one side of the conflict or another.

It didn’t seem to matter to the vendors of the night market. There were fewer stalls in the square outside Jace’s house than there used to be, but those who remained were hawking their wares with renewed fervor. Some had little more than an upturned bucket to sit on and a single crate of goods to sell, but it made little difference.

“So, did you know about Jace’s place?” Chandra asked as they approached one of the mostly-destroyed buildings at the south end of the square. All that was left of it was a huge pile of shattered bricks and a single red door, somehow standing despite the absence of walls or anything else to hold it up.

“No, but I can’t really say I’m surprised.” Gideon banged his fist on the door three times. “Did you?”

“Actually, yeah.” The door swung open to reveal Lavinia, out of her ceremonial armor for the first time Gideon could remember and with her right arm in a sling. The Planeswalkers stepped through the teleportal and into Jace’s house, untouched by the destruction half a city away. “I snuck out by climbing over the roof garden one night and wound up in the middle of the Tenth. You have no idea how long it took me to get un-lost.”

“Get some rest Lavinia.” Gideon went to clap her on the shoulder and stopped himself. “You don’t need to be up answering the door at this hour.”

“I was up anyway.” Her nostrils flared ever so slightly. “The Guildpact has a guest.”

“Here?” Chandra let out a jaw-popping yawn. “That doesn’t sound like him.”

“It’s the new Guildmaster of the Golgari,” Lavinia replied. “And the Guildpact has enacted a new bylaw of Senator Nhilosh’s Statues for the Regulation of Squires, Bodyguards, and Protector Spirits Volume Three to forbid any former Azorius Arrestors by the name of Lavinia from being within fifty feet of the Guildpact while they are injured.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked at the entrance to the library. “So I am performing my duties from here for the time being.”

“That was . . . ” Gideon searched for the right words. “Very specific of him.”

Chandra snorted.

“He did not wish to inadvertently harm anyone else with his addendum, and wrote the bylaw with requisite precision.” The corner of her mouth quirked up slightly. “In doing so he left several loopholes. I have already filed the necessary forms to have my name legally changed and should be able to resume my duties within the week.”

“You won’t be able to do your job if you don’t let your body heal.” Gideon gave her a gentle push towards the stairs. “I’ll keep an eye on him until the Golgari delegation leaves, but only if you go and get some sleep. Now go. I keep a spare cot in the gym.”

“Very well. I stand relieved, General Jura.” She snapped off a left-handed salute before turning and marching up the stairs.

“I swear she isn’t human.” Chandra whispered once Lavinia’s footsteps couldn’t be heard anymore. “I’ve met golems with more personality than her. Heck, I lost thirty zinos and a thopter schematic to one in a hand of poker not two weeks ago.”

“You’d be surprised.” Gideon scratched the stubble on his cheek. He was long overdue for a shave. “Wait, what was that about sneaking out through the roof?”

“Oh nothing important.” Chandra shuffled towards the stairs, stifling another yawn. “I’m gonna go crash. Have fun babysitting the Law.”

“Goodnight Chandra.” Gideon watched her trip up the stairs before entering the library.

Jace’s sanctum was as orderly as ever. Three stories of bookshelves and experiments, stacks of neatly squared notes on every available surface. One of the skylights had been shattered during the battle, but the glass had already been swept up and a shimmering barrier of blue light covered the hole in the ceiling. Gideon had expected Jace to be at the big table in the center of the library, but it was empty except for an illusionary map of some part of Ravnica, with small colored blobs denoting either troop positions or reconstruction crews. He squinted at the map. Reconstruction crews. Or possibly a Rakdos mob. Any sergeant worth the title would’ve had their troops scrubbing latrines for the next month if they set up a camp that haphazardly.

Gideon looked up at the maze of bookshelves and groaned internally. Even if he’d taken the time to fully explore Jace’s library, there were far too many nooks and crannies to search. He glanced around to make sure none of the other guests at the house were camped out under the table and raised his voice. “Jace? Where are you?”

A glowing blue line appeared on the ground at his feet, snaking up a set of stairs to his left and disappearing into the upper floors. Gideon blinked at the glowing line before shaking his head and following it up the stairs.

Jace and Vraska were sitting at a small reading table tucked away in a hidden corner of the third floor. They’d stopped talking as Gideon rounded the corner, but Jace was still laughing quietly and Vraska’s snakelike tendrils were trembling slightly. Some body language that he didn’t yet understand.

Gideon plastered a stern scowl on his face. “Did you just idiot-proof your library for me?”

Jace flushed and dropped his gaze. “A bit, yes.”

Gideon tried to hold onto the scowl, but Jace looked so flustered that he couldn’t stop a wry smile from creeping across his face. Vraska noticed and rolled her golden eyes, but it took Jace a few seconds to catch on. When he did a wide smile stretched across his face, and once again Gideon was struck by how much his friend had changed during his several-month absence. Whatever had happened, it had been good for him.

“How was Regatha?” Vraska pushed out a third chair with her foot in invitation.

“It went about as well as a surprise funeral can, I suppose.” Gideon waved away the chair and leaned against the nearest bookcase instead. “I don’t know how the monks took it, but I think it helped Chandra a lot.” She’s grown so much from the reckless thief you met just a few years ago.

“I never would’ve guessed you could carry the body of a Planeswalker between worlds.” Jace rubbed his eyes wearily. “It’s not something I ever wanted to know, really.”

Vraska rested an emerald hand on his shoulder in a silent gesture of support.

“Actually, I wanted to thank you, Guildmaster.” Gideon cleared his throat awkwardly. “I know you went out of your way to recover Jaya’s body and I don’t think Chandra’s really thought about what that means. So, from both of us really, please accept my thanks.”

The gorgon’s tendrils grew still for a moment. He couldn’t begin to read her reptilian face, but after a pause just long enough to be awkward she bowed her head slightly. “Don’t mention it General. It was a simple enough favor, and it didn’t cost me anything.”

“Please, call me Gideon.” He grimaced. “I’m only the General when the world’s ending.”

She threw back her head and laughed, the sound ringing off the glass above their heads. “Then call me Vraska. I’m here as a friend, not as head of the Golgari.”

“Oh thank the angels.” Gideon turned the empty seat around and slumped into it. “I promised Lavinia I’d watch over Jace until the Golgari delegation left, but if you aren’t here on official business I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”

“She let you take over?” the disbelief was clear in Jace’s voice. “I’ve never been able to make her stand down, and I’m the damn Guildpact.”

“I am a member of the Boros Legion. There’s probably some subsection of a bylaw that makes me an acceptable substitute during times of emergency. Besides, that arm has her in a great deal of pain.” Gideon crossed his arms over the back of the chair and rested his chin on them. “If I can give you some advice Jace; things will go better if you aren’t fighting with your bodyguard at every turn. Lavinia knows that she needs time off to heal, but she’s also duty-bound to protect you. Give her the authority to select a temporary replacement; otherwise you’re going to have her running a fifty-foot perimeter around you day and night to make sure assassins can’t approach.”

“I’ll think about it.” Jace sighed. “Sometimes I think Chandra was the smart one for turning down the abbotship.”

“She isn’t a good leader, and she knows it. You are.” Gideon clapped his friend on the shoulder and rose. “Anything else I should know about before I go to bed?”

“Karn called a meeting for tomorrow to talk about his plans for Phyrexia. Midday in the library. Well, downstairs. You know what I mean.”

“I’ll be there.” Gideon called over his shoulder as he walked away. “Have a good night you two.”

He conducted a final check of the house before turning in. Lavinia had set up the cot and was sleeping fitfully. He found Ajani in the courtyard garden, sleeping in the branches of the biggest tree. Shaking his head, Gideon moved onto the guest rooms. Teferi and Karn had taken over one of the empty ones, though it was closed for the night.

Next door to them, Chandra had left her door open. Gideon poked his head in on his way past. The room was in its usual state of chaotic disorder, clothes and art supplies strewn across the floor. The pyromancer herself was partially visible as a shock of red hair and a pair of boots that stuck out from under a mound of blankets and other bedding. There was a rustle and for second it looked like she was moving to get up, then a pair of feline eyes flashed back out of the darkened room at him. Just a cat, he thought as he went to his room. They certainly like her.


I waited until Gid’s footsteps disappeared down the corridor before hugging Mr. Mouse to my chest and sniffling into the cat’s fur. Last thing I needed was the big lunk getting worried and coming in here, not just ‘cause I wasn’t sure which clothes I’d taken off before throwing myself at the bed. I wasn’t a kid anymore; I didn’t need someone to hold me when I got upset and no I wasn’t crying. I’m not crying, I’m not. Damnit.

Mr. Mouse purred loudly, vibrating against my chest and rubbing his head up under my chin. Cats make everything better.

*  *  *

Morning came with a bang, someone pounding on the door and the stupid cat kicking me in the stomach all at once. I sat up in an explosion of pillows and curses, Mr. Mouse bolting out the open door with an angry mrow. Right. That’s why people hate cats. What was I doing? Right. Door, banging.

“Whazzoin’on?” The room was really blurry. Did I need glasses or something? Right, sleepy seeds and crying don’t mix well. I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand until I could tell my floor had more bed on it that the bed did.

“Meeting in the library.” A deep voice. Not Gids. Teferi?

“You go’it.” I rolled off the bed and hit the pile of pillows with a fwump. Ow. That wasn’t nearly as comfy as I’d wanted. What was I doing? Right, pants.

I sat up and gave Teferi what was probably a very bleary glare. “I’m up. Gimmie a minute.”

“Take two, I have plenty.” Teferi’s teeth flashed in a smile and I groaned. His time jokes weren’t even good.

Turned out I’d fallen asleep in my robes from the Keep, so I was already dressed. Mostly. I only had one boot on and had no idea where the other had gotten to. When rooting through the bedstuff didn’t turn it up I shrugged and pulled the other one off before walking to the kitchen barefoot.

Jace’s chef-illusion thingy had made a pastry with some kinda fruit that I swiped and ate on my way to the library. I think it was cherry. Something red. Getting into the library took an extra try, ‘cause someone had left a big old statue with ugly bat wings in the most convenient doorway and I had to walk around to find one of the other entrances. There’s like, twelve doors to the library for some reason.

The rest were all seated around the big table by the time I got to the library. Jace got a real grumpy look when he saw me, or maybe that was the pastry. At least I didn’t drip it on anything this time. I’d been planning to take a seat, but it was real crowded around the table so I sat on one of those rolling ladders instead. Not that there weren’t enough seats. Gideon and Ajani and Karn just took up an awful lot of room.

“Thank you for gathering,” Karn rumbled. “I know all of you are busy, so I will keep my summary succinct.” The golem rested his hands on the table. “As I stated on Dominaria, it is my intent to travel to the plane formerly known as Mirrodin and use the Cylix to purge all trace of Phyrexian infection. It was my intent to go alone, but Teferi has offered to help and he suggested that I pose the option to the rest of the Gatewatch.” He raised a thick silver finger to punctuate the sentence. “To clarify, I do not feel that any of you are obliged to go with me in any way. Phyrexia is a world of horrors, and none who go there will escape unscathed.  It will likely be better for your health and sanity if you do not come with me. That is all. We will discuss strategy and topography after you have decided who will go.”

Gids was already shaking his head. “You knowingly picked a fight with Bolas to help us save Ravnica. I can’t speak for the others, but I’d be honored to help you with this battle.”

“Agreed,” Ajani put in. “I’ve been keeping an eye on the Phyrexian threat for a few years now, and even if we put aside all personal obligations they are still exactly the kind of threat the Gatewatch was founded to face.” He blinked his single blue eye. “Rejecting an alliance would be unwise.”

“There’s something you all need to know before you say that.” The green woman spoke for the first time, her voice like silk on a dagger and her snaky hair lashing. “A demon broke in last night.”

I tried not to choke or shoot pastry goop out my nose. A demon? Had I really slept through that?

“…petrified before it did any damage, but it was carrying a message.” Jace pulled a rolled up piece of paper out of his cloak unfurled it and slid it to Gideon. “This is addressed specifically to you, but I think it’s wise to assume this is targeted at the Gatewatch as a whole.”

Gideon frowned at the page and read it aloud.

Greetings General Iora.

I gave you the option of choosing the world where our duel would happen. Since you have not answered me, I made the choice for you. Three months ago I laid Theros under siege. If things continue on their current trajectory your world will fall within the month. Choose wisely.

Lord Nixilis

Oh, no. No no no. That did not sound good. Who the heck is this Nixilis jerk? And how the heck did he know Gids’ name was Iora? He doesn’t even use it.

Gids was shaking, his face a mask as he crushed the letter. I hate it when people do the mask thing. I screw up plenty when I can tell what people are feeling. Forget about when I can’t.

“I take it you’ve met this Lord Nixilis before?” Teferi this time.

Jace shook his head. I shrugged but nobody was looking at me. Gideon crumpled the paper up in one hand. “I fought him before, we all did. He was the first enemy the Gatewatch faced as a team. A demonic Planeswalker that had a grudge against Zendikar. We managed to beat him then, but he swore to take revenge. He picked a hell of a time to do it, too.”

That demon. My eyes widen, memories of Jace and Gids and Nissa being tortured springing to mind.

“ . . . seems we must divide our efforts,” Karn was saying. “One group to purge Phyrexia, one to fight this demon on Theros.”

Gideon nodded—not angry, just thinking. “I can’t abandon my home to the demon’s mercy. I know Theros better than anyone here; I’m the best choice to lead a team against him.”

Teferi again. “I spent the better part of a millennium studying Phyrexia. My knowledge will be far more helpful there than on a world I’ve never been to.”

“Three groups.” Jace sounded tired. “We’ve given this a lot of thought, and Vraska and I can’t afford to leave Ravnica right now. Not when it’s rebuilding. Now, more than ever it needs its Guildmasters.” He lowered his head, his hood cloaking his face in shadow. “It needs the Guildpact.”

Things were moving too fast. My head whipped back and forth as I tried to keep up while my friends  carved up the group. Wasn’t that why we swore the silly oaths in the first place? So we could face the big stuff together? Why did none of them see that?

“Ajani?” Gideon turned to the big cat. “What are your thoughts?”

“Wait!” I blurt out. Everybody turned to face me, and I felt my cheeks flush red. “Don’t you dare think you’re going without me Gids. We fought this butt before, we’ll do it again.”

He nodded and gave me a small smile that the others probably didn’t notice. But it felts like the sun had risen in my chest.

I could barely listen as Ajani decided to go with Karn and Teferi. Something about a lost friend who had unfinished business there. It sounded important. We were going to Gideon’s home! I’d always wondered what Theros was like. And I’d get to punch that Demon again. I was looking forward to that. Even if he scared me a bit.

While the others started to talk over infection rates and a bunch of other boring stuff Gids caught my eye. “Let’s get ready. We leave in an hour.”

Levi Byrne has been with the game since Worldwake and has a rabid love for fantasy writing that goes back decades. Despite some forays into Legacy he plays Commander almost exclusively, and has a love for the crazy plays and huge games that make Magic what it is. He was the go-to advisor of his playgroup on deck construction for more than five years before joining Dear Azami.

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