I dreamed of Keral Keep, the heavy scent of sulfur hanging thick in the scorching air. Group meditation in the lava fields with Seranok, playing hookie whenever Luti . . . Jaya tried to drag me to practice. Laughing with Brannon over some prank he’d played. The deep brass bell rang, calling us to the dining hall.

Wait. There wasn’t a bell at the keep. Jaya had told me once that they’d tried putting one in, only to find out nobody could hear the blasted thing over the volcano. I looked around and blinked as the hazy walls of my bedroom faded away to reveal uncut stone, lit by deep red light that flickered wildly and made shadows race across the jagged stones. The steady toll of the bell resolved slowly into a rhythmic clang, the sound of metal on metal echoing harshly off the stone.

I turned around. This new dream had put me in a cave. Light flickered from a forge at the far end of the cave, it’s light so bright that I could barely see the outline of a broad-shouldered man hunched over it. An arm as big around as my waist rose and fell, and I remembered where I’d heard that sound before. It was the same as the piston-hammers in the foundries back home.

I started towards the forge, past bits of scorched and twisted metal that littered the cavern floor. Nothing was finished. More than one swordblade was driven point-first into the rock, some bent in half and others missing the bits that made up the handle. Tiny lifecrafted birds lay headless, surrounded by screws the size of an eyelash. As I approached, the hulking smith snarled and threw his project—Some kind of automaton?—across the room so hard it hit the far wall and shattered, its edges still glowing.

So of course I stumbled over a buckled breastplate, sending a loud Clang through the cave. He whirled towards the sound, and my hair burst into flames as I got a good look at him for the first time. He was big, not just giant but twisted and disproportionate. His skin seemed to be cast from half-molten bronze, with the metal of his head both swooped up like the crest of a helmet and carved to look like a face. Or maybe not carved. Carvings don’t blink, or scowl ferociously as they narrow their eyes at you.

“Greetings, Chandra.” His voice was like the roar of an inferno.

“You’re Phos . . . Porf . . .” Stop stammering! “The Forge God?”

He nodded and sat cross-legged, bringing his head down to my own eye level.

“Is this about me screwing up your name every time I say it? I just can’t get it right and I know I sound like an idiot and—” I cut myself off. Blathering wouldn’t make this any better, whatever it was.

“No.” He scooped a twisted bit of statue off the ground and started tinkering with it, popping dents out with his fingers and driving new rivets into the metal with a single tap from his hammer. He lost himself in the work, a blissful expression smoothing the fearsome lines of his mask-face thing as he took a nearly useless sheet and remade it into a shield Gideon would be proud to carry. Then his face twisted and he hurled the shield into the flames behind him.

The backblast of heat made even me flinch. There’s fire, there’s volcanoes, and then there’s whatever that was.

The god let out a heavy breath and set his hammer against the cave wall. “You showed me something that I had not seen before at the beach. I wanted to ask you about it.”

At the beach? I scrunched my nose, trying to remember what he could’ve cared about back then. “You mean redirecting the fire? It kinda just . . . happened. I didn’t plan that or anything.”

“No.” the God let out a bellows-sigh. “It will be easier if I show you.” The metal of his chest rippled and flowed, forming a roundish mirror. I saw my own face reflected back at me, then the image rippled and changed. It showed a beach from high above, the lapping waves painted orange and the beach covered by delicate, gossamer-thin patterns as a tiny pinprick of a person walked back and forth across the sand.

Is that what I look like to a God? I leaned forward and squinted, trying to catch a clearer view of myself. The image slowly zoomed in, drawing closer and closer as tiny Gideon walked up and sat with me, as I drew Liliana in the sand and burned the sketch away.

“That.” The image froze, centered on the puddle of molten glass I’d left in the sand. “What is that?”

“You—” my voice caught in my throat. “You don’t know what glass is?”

“Once, perhaps I did.” There was a deep sadness in his voice. “But no more.”

“What do you mean?” the words blurted out before I could stop them. “I mean, you’re the God of making stuff. This is kinda your thing, I would’ve thought.”

“It was.”  His fiery eyes grew distant. “I made a mistake once, and Kruphix took my art from me as punishment. I can picture the wonders I once made, but the knowledge I used to make them is lost. There is little joy at the forge for me now, but I know no other way.”

To know you can make something beautiful, only to have it turn to ash when you try. Just like mom, all those years in the Consulate jail. Just like me, every time I pick up a paintbrush and ruin a canvas.

“Would you like me to show you?” I sounded small and timid, even to my own ears. “About glass, I mean. I’m not very good, but I can show you what I know.”

His fearsome expression softened. “You are kind, worldwalker.”


Gideon kept watch over Chandra. She was breathing, but he’d been unable to wake her that morning. That had been two hours ago, and yet she’d barely moved. Even her breathing was distant and quiet, a far cry from the rattling snores he’d grown used to.

The uncertainty of it all was the worst part. Her slumber was clearly magical, but he had no way of knowing what had caused it or even if the culprit was hiding nearby. The dense trees of the Nessian forest had enough dark corners that he didn’t dare leave her to try to find help. If only Jace were here. Gideon shifted his weight slightly, easing a cramp that was starting to form in his leg. He might be able to talk to her in there. Or at least tell me what happened to her.

He touched the sunspear, which he’d driven point-first into the ground to conceal its light. It tugged him to the northwest at a noticeably different angle than it had when he’d woken that morning. Erebos’s champion must be close, too close for him to relax. The tension made his breaths short and shallow, his heart pounding with anticipation.

Gideon glanced down at Chandra’s prone body before returning his gaze to the treeline. He wanted to meet his fellow champion in battle and be free of Hazoret’s prophecy, at least for now. But he couldn’t risk it with Chandra unconscious. And if he couldn’t fight, they couldn’t stay here.

The thought of losing this opportunity stung, but weighed against losing Chandra it wasn’t much of a choice. He could pick up a trail that had gone cold. He could not bring back the dead.

Packing went quickly. He’d put most of their supplies away last night. All that was left was figuring out how to jigsaw Chandra’s loose bits of armor into her bag. He finally squashed the last corners of her chainmail shirt in far enough that he could tie the satchel closed. With everything set he pulled the sunspear from the earth and turned to find Chandra sitting up in her bedroll, blinking owlishly at him through tangled hair. She yawned hard enough that Gideon heard her jaw pop.

“G’mornin’Gids. Where’s the fire?” A slow smile spread across her face. “It ain’t me for once.”

Relief surged through him, and he crouched down so she wouldn’t have to strain her neck to look up at him. “Trust me, you were the fire.”

She cocked her head and blinked again then shrugged, the edge of her bedroll falling away from her shoulders.

“You were out for hours,” Gideon pressed. “I couldn’t wake you. What happened?”

“One of your gods wanted to talk.” She groaned and stretched, glancing up at the sun filtering through the leaves above. “Didn’t think I was out that long.”

Gideon’s fingers tightened on the sunspear. “Are you hurt?”

“That’s not . . .” Chandra shook her head like she was trying to get water out of her ears and wobbled to her feet, the bedroll falling in a heap around her. “Someone Jace’d your forge god, made him forget a bunch of things. That’s what it sounded like, anyway, he asked about making glass.” She touched his arm, fingers fever-warm but not scorching. “I’m fine, really.”

He met her gaze, searching for any sign of fear or that someone else was inside her head. But there was only Chandra’s earnestness. Gideon let out a long breath, letting go of the anxiety and uncertainty that had been building all morning. Chandra smiled and squeezed his wrist gently before stooping to dump her armor onto the ground

Gideon picked his own pack up from where he’d left it and tightened the straps around his chest. “Let’s get going. The sunspear’s pulling northwest now. We must be close.”

She shook her head. “Gids, you need to know this first.” “When I was in the dream, I asked Purphoros why he started the war.”

“Really?” Gideon blinked. “What did he say?”

“I figured it would be about power.” She shrugged. “That’s usually what gets people to do stupid stuff. That or . . .” She blushed. “Nevermind, not important. But he said that wasn’t it. Apparently he made this really dangerous sword once, so powerful that it almost destroyed the world when he drew it. He only used it once, ages ago. The other gods punished him for it, and the sword was lost for a long time. But a few years ago Heliod found it. And it sounds like he’s been using the sword to terrorize the other gods ever since. That’s what this is all about. They’re sick of being bullied.”

“I think I heard this story before. The first bit sounds familiar, at least. They called that sword ‘the blade of chaos’ or something like that.” Gideon frowned. “When we met Heliod, I felt something strange. It was like the air itself was straining around him, and one wrong move could rip the very fabric of Theros.”

She bobbed her head. “It felt like being near the Eldrazi, only not as big.”

Gideon nodded. “I’d assumed it was Heliod himself and I hadn’t noticed it before because I wasn’t a planeswalker the last time I met him, but if Heliod’s spear is this stolen blade, and it’s powerful enough that even the other gods fear it . . .” He gritted his jaw. “You said it yourself. This is the kind of weapon that could destroy a plane.”

Chandra’s eyes widened. “Ob Nix is going after the spear. We need to warn Heliod!”

“We do.” Gideon said. “But he won’t listen to us now. Our best chance of gaining another audience with Heliod is finishing the quest he gave us.”

“Damn.” Chandra slung her pack into place and tugged the straps tight. “Let’s go.”

They didn’t have to go far. The sunspear led them into the woods. Not long after breaking camp Gideon noticed the blood. At first it was just a faint tang on the wind, but soon they found a trail of trampled ground and broken branches, the leaves of the undergrowth smeared with red.

“Hey Gids,” Chandra whispered. “Think I found where all this came from.” She pointed to a pair of hooves just visible in the underbrush.

Gideon tore the branches aside to reveal a centaur, its human torso streaked red from a jagged gash across his stomach. Gideon knelt down and laid his hand on the centaur’s neck. There was no pulse, but his skin was still warm. Gideon closed the centaur’s eyes and rose.

“He died recently, a few minutes ago at most.” Gideon squinted at the ground, following the tracks back down the trail of trampled bushes. “He was stumbling before he collapsed, but it looks like he was fleeing something.

Smoke began to trickle from Chandra’s hair. “That’s where the spear’s pointing, isn’t it?”

He checked the weapon and grimaced. “It is. Straight as an arrow.”

By wordless agreement they spread out, Gideon running ahead while Chandra followed ten feet behind him. If they ran into a trap he would take the brunt of it while Chandra would have time to pull back and unleash her fire. Trees passed by in a blur, but Gideon spared the forest only enough attention to make sure he didn’t twist an ankle on the uneven ground. His gaze was fixed on the broken path ahead, towards his quarry. Suddenly the forest ahead of him brightened, and then the dense trees opened up into a wide clearing.

It was a massacre. Centaurs were scattered around the clearing, at least twenty of them. Crows rose from their morbid feast as he skidded to a stop, cawing their displeasure at the interruption. Broken and splintered weapons littered the ground and several of the mangled corpses wore fearsome blue warpaint, marking them as a band of trompers and raiders.

Chandra crashed out of the woods behind him and let out a blistering string of curses. The air around her scorched and blistered like the inside of a forge.

Gideon tightened his grip on the sunspear and stepped forward. It pulled him to the far edge of the clearing, where a dark figure was slumped against a great oak. They seemed small, unusually so for a warrior, but the deep shadows under the tree were too thick for him to see much else. He advanced slowly, keeping his spear leveled at the figure.

A series of soft clinks behind him told Gideon that Chandra had moved to his side and taken up a position in the center of the clearing. The heat at his back slowly faded as he walked. The bodies lay thickest here, where the band must have made their final charge.

When he got within throwing range the head of the sunspear flared, casting Erebos’s champion in stark detail. She was a woman of middling height, doubled over three spears that had pinned her to the wood. In many ways she looked like one of the Returned, but despite her ashen-black skin and tar-colored blood she wore no funerary mask.

The woman’s head snapped up and her eyes narrowed in the spear’s light. There was an unmistakable intelligence there, but when she opened her mouth only a horrible wheezing rattle emerged. No matter what she looked like, this was no mindless returned.

As Gideon watched she took one of the spear shafts in both hands and wrenched it out of her, ripping the barbed blade free of both wood and flesh with a single powerful motion. She fell back against the trunk, the weapon falling from her limp fingers while her breath rasped in and out. Black smoke began to rise from the wound.

The sunspear was almost blistering his fingers, itching to fly from his grip and destroy its prey. “You’re Erebos’s Champion?”

Another wordless rattle, then the woman let out a frustrated snarl and nodded.

It would be easy, the tactical part of Gideon’s mind told him. The part of him that had sent thousands of Ravnicans to die fighting the eternals. This was the weakest his enemy was going to get. There wasn’t going to be a better opportunity to strike. And yet, he realized as she tugged at the second spear embedded in her chest, that wasn’t him. He wouldn’t attack a defenseless opponent, even a monster. Even a murderer.

He took a step back and planted the butt of his spear on the ground, making a discreet hand signal for Chandra to stand down. He couldn’t see her response, but he could imagine the confused expression on her face.

If the woman noticed their exchange, she didn’t show it. She was busy working one of the spears side to side, slowly inching it free of the tree but also shredding her flesh around the shaft. Black smoke was pouring from her wounds now, and as he watched her slowly free herself Gideon realized that it was regenerating her wounds as quickly as she was being hurt. No wonder she was the lone survivor. Nothing the centaurs could do had mattered to her at all.

Unease began to stir in his gut. Once battle had been his escape from stress, but now it was just another thing to worry about. There was no such thing as indestructible.

Erebos’s champion threw the second spear to the ground. Instead of removing the third from the tree behind her, she simply walked down the length of spear and left it protruding from the trunk. She staggered, then retrieved one of the dropped weapons and leant on it until the black mist faded away.

Her voice started out as a gravely rasp, but quickly evened out to a quiet alto. “Heliod sent you to kill me.” It wasn’t a question.

Gideon nodded anyway. “He did.”

“Let’s get this over with.” She brushed past him and took a position in the center of the clearing, directly between him and Chandra. She twirled her blackwood staff around her head like a baton, making the air hum. “Are you a lone crusader, or can I expect a fireball to the back?”

“Depends.” Gideon undid the buckles on his pack and lowered it to the ground, looking from the blunt ends of her staff to the deep wounds that marred the centaurs’ corpses. There was more going on here than met the eye. “Do you work for Ob Nixilis?”

“Never,” she spat.

The venom in her voice surprised Gideon. Until now she’d been reserved, almost bored. Now her entire body was quivering and her pitch-black eyes shone with anger. Whoever she was, whoever she had been, this woman despised Ob Nixilis. Another dead end.

“Chandra,” he held his spear loosely and didn’t advance. “I’ve got this.”

“You what?” she stormed over to him, though she kept her presence of mind enough to go around the champion in a wide circle. “Do not tell me you’re gonna fight the unkillable zombie knight on your own. What part of team don’t you understand Gids?”

“Listen to me,” he whispered. “This fight, it doesn’t matter to the plane. I think she’s telling the truth about not working for Nixilis, which means the only thing that matters is we warn Heliod about his spear. We can’t do that if we both die here. No matter what, one of us has to survive.”

“So you’re gonna throw your life away?”

“No.” He shook his head. “I have every intention of winning this. But I can’t risk us both, and like it or not Heliod stuck this quest on me.”

“So screw the quest,” she gritted out through her teeth. “We go warn him now. He doesn’t like it, he wouldn’t be the first god I’ve exploded.”

“Heliod doesn’t work like that. I take her down or die trying. Anything else won’t be good enough for him.” Hazoret’s prophecy won’t be kind to me either. Gideon rested his hand on her shoulder. “Chandra, please. Promise me you’ll stay out of this.”

“No.” Chandra’s hands balled into fists. “I’ll let you fight, but I ain’t watching you die Gideon. If I think for a second she’s gonna hurt you I’m burning the damn forest down.”

He let out a frustrated breath. “I won’t be able to talk you out of this, will I?”

“Nope.” She clanged her armored fist against his breastplate. “Go kick butt.”

He turned and walked to where Erebos’s champion waited, her staff resting in the crook of her arm. The anger that had briefly flashed across her face at the demon’s name was gone, her detached mask back in place. The restless motion of her staff was the only sign of any impatience.

“Sorry to keep you waiting.” Gideon leveled the sunspear at her chest. The spearhead blazed once more, as if the noontime sun had fallen from the heavens to rest in the shady clearing. This close to its prey it felt like molten steel under his fingers, and he had to cloak his hands in bands of golden magic to stop his fingers from burning.

Black smoke began to leak from the champion’s eyes, forming a light haze around her. She settled into a low mirror of Gideon’s own stance, her staff leveled at him as if she was going to stab him with the rounded wood.

They locked eyes for a long moment, then Gideon lunged.

He’d expected her to let him hit her and use to opening to counterattack, but instead she snapped her staff up and twisted to throw his lunge wide. No sooner was she safe from the blow that she spun inwards, arcing the butt of her staff up towards temple.

He got his bracer up just time for the hardwood to connect with a loud crack that echoed down his arm. His spear was at an awkward angle to bring to bear so instead he lashed out with a front kick. The heavy blow caught her in the gut and sent her staggering back several feet, but when he charged she met his advance head-on.

Metal clattered on wood, sharp bursts of impact filling the clearing. The woman darted in and out, jabbing and prodding tirelessly as she danced around the edges of Gideon’s longer reach with fearless ease. She was faster and far more nimble than he was, but the few blows she managed to slip through his defense did little more than rattle his armor.

The next time her staff bounced off his armor he dropped his left arm, opening up a hole in his defenses. A glowing white blade formed around the end of her staff as she dove back in, thrusting for his open shoulder. Golden light erupted from Gideon’s skin as the magical blade connected and he felt no pain.  A heartbeat later his return thrust caught the champion in the stomach with a shock that ran all the way up his arm.

The magic pent up in the spear detonated, its light vaporizing undead flesh in a flare that blinded Gideon. He staggered and tried to blink, but the image of her ribs silhouetted through her skin was seared into his eyes.

When his vision cleared he saw the smoking sunspear laying in the mulch, its once brilliant length a smoky grey as if it had spent all but the last flickers of brilliance in an instant. He could hear Chandra cursing softly somewhere behind him.  The champion was slowly picking herself off the ground, torrents of black smoke repairing the cavernous ruin he’d made of her chest. Gideon watched in stunned fascination as her bowels reassembled themselves and layers of muscle and ashen skin stretched over the top.

When her lungs returned she let out a wheezing laugh. “Nice trick with the invulnerability, but it looks like that was your only shot. Erebos needs me more than Heliod wants to destroy me. We’re done here.” She snapped her staff up to a vertical salute before stepping into a devastating overhead strike.

He recognized that salute.

Gideon turned his back on her blow, abandoning defense and opening himself up to a hit that never fell. When he looked back he saw she’d stopped her the shimmering white spearhead an inch from his shoulder blades, her eyes wide with surprise while her chest heaved from exertion.

“You trained in Valeron.” He’d assumed that Erebos’s champion was a general from some long-forgotten age. He’d never dreamed she was a planeswalker.

Her eyes narrowed, scrutinizing him. “Akrasa,” she said after a few tense moments. “Or maybe Eos. I’d say you weren’t there long, either way. You got most of your training in Akros.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “Why would a knight of Bant serve Erebos? How could you murder an entire centaur band?”

“Spare me your revulsion. They attacked me.”

“That doesn’t excuse this.” Gideon swept his arm to indicate the smoking corpses around him. At least three had been badly charred by the explosion.

“No,” She said simply. “It doesn’t. But I had my reasons, and frankly I don’t feel bad about sending someone to an afterlife where the biggest hardship is getting lost. There’s far, far worse fates out there.”

As sick as it made Gideon, he couldn’t deny her. He’d seen far too much of the cruelty of dragons recently. “Tell me, why did Erebos bring you back to life? In all the legends I’ve ever heard, that’s the one thing he would never do. ”

“Nothing lasts forever.” She leaned on her staff. “I was sent to destroy Ob Nixilis, before he destroys Theros. Which is why I’d dearly like to know where you learned that name, planeswalker.”

That was the exact opposite of what Kydele had told them. Oracles were enigmatic, but he’d never heard of one being outright wrong before. Someone had lied to him.

Ob Nixilis

The war of the gods, locals were calling my scheme. How ridiculous.

They were barely squabbling.

I’d been manipulating and prodding in the background for months, setting the local deities at each other’s throats. It had been shamefully easy at first. Unchecked millennia without competition had left them arrogant and fatally prone to infighting. It took mere weeks to draw the battle lines, and yet for all their thunder and nightly skirmishes they were unmistakably holding back, either too cautious or too afraid to commit. The distinction was an important one, the difference between victory and death on the battlefield.

Neither option was acceptable.

I needed something big, a spark to finally ignite the inferno I’d been building. I’d been in search of it long before the general and his pet pyromancer had arrived, only to be met with continual setbacks and frustration. And so I had come here, to the end of the world.

I fanned my wings, getting a sense for the tumultuous winds that raged around the waterfall. It would be easy for a stray breeze to suck me into that endless torrent, oceans of water plummeting into nothingness with every passing minute. Easy and deadly. They called this waterfall the edge of the world, but in truth it was impossible to say. That bottomless chasm of mist could mark the boundaries of the plane, or it could merely be another entrance to their drab underworld, or a chasm too wide and too deep to see the other end. And that uncertainty was why I’d come here. I alighted on a small spur of rock and looked down, gazing into the darkness.

Horizons are the boundaries of knowledge, not its limits. A fitting home then, for the God of Mysteries.

Kruphix knew I was here, just as he knew my plan, my goal, my resolve, and how crucial it was to stop me. He was a being that embodied the very limits of knowledge, and everything within them. There was no keeping secrets from a being like that, which meant that by definition I could not have a plan.

“Well.” I spoke aloud, but the roar of the waterfall ripped my words away. “Let’s get started.”

I launched myself off the rock and flapped hard, gaining height until I was comfortably above the water’s edge and could follow the curve of the world without fear of the winds. The god’s temple soon came into view, two titanic trees growing straight out of the horizon, their branches intertwined into a single leafy crown. Even from here I could feel the magics engrained into their bark, ancient spells that had shaped the course of history here for eons.

As I approached, the edge of the sky warped and unfolded, a titanic four-armed being made from the fabric of the stars stepping into being between me and the temple. Kruphix towered over me, his horizon-spanning presence blocking out the sun. I continued my flight, aiming for where I’d last seen the temple.

“Worldwalker.” His voice boomed painfully.

I gritted my teeth and redoubled my speed.

The god’s magic reached out and warped the world around me. There was a ripple and suddenly I stood on the shore I’d left from last night, looking out at the distant god on the horizon.

“Turn back, Lord Nixilis.” The god’s voice was just as loud as it has been when I stood before him at the horizon.

“Have it your way then.” I turned my thoughts inward and planeswalked. The beach and the night sky dissolved into multicolored chaos, then I aimed for Kruphix’s temple and dove back down.

The fabric of Theros shifted as I reentered it. Instead of landing at the base of the two trees, I was thrown violently into the ocean at Kruphix’s feet.

I surfaced and spat out seawater. It hadn’t entirely been a surprise. Teleportation, telepathy. Kruphix favored the powers I hated most. More likely, he knew that I hated them and was deliberately trying to get under my skin.

The thought had barely crossed my mind when Kruphix reached out and swatted at me with a starry hand the size of a mountain.  I blasted the onrushing wall of stars with enervation magic but the spells vanished into him without so much as a ripple. Then his hand hit me.

I’d expected pain, perhaps followed by unconsciousness. Instead the whole world shuddered and I fell into a void of stars, eventually tumbling to a stop at the feet of a titanic hydra made of shifting green light. Fifty heads reared and spat, giving me just enough time to planeswalk away before they finished their threatening display and ate me.

Once more I was thrown into the water at Kruphix’s feet when I returned. A cycle quickly developed. Kruphix waited until I tried to get closer than a few hundred feet to his temple, then he warped the world around us to remove me from his presence. The whole time, I tested theories. I discovered that Kruphix had no soul to rip from his body, that he had no physical form to assault, that he could vanish twenty summoned demons simultaneously without losing track of me. Before long I ran out of ideas and simply started hurling magic at him whenever I got the chance. It would’ve counted as an unforgivable tantrum under any other circumstances, but thanks to Kruphix’s nature a totally unplanned attack was the only one with even a hope of succeeding.

Nothing worked. No matter what I tried Kruphix refused to move an inch away from his temple, nor did he show the slightest sign that my magic was even touching him. I even threw my sword at him, though the blade merely vanished into his portal-body.

It was so ridiculous that I paused to laugh and scratch one of my horns. “I’m surprised you haven’t killed me yet. You must be holding back.”

“You would only crawl out of the underworld. Death is meaningless to someone like you.”

“Only on worlds with an afterlife.” I sent a barrage of enervation magic soaring into the god’s face. “Too bad you can’t leave Theros and kill me elsewhere.”

“No matter. There are ways to destroy someone who won’t lie down to death. You’ve thought of seven already.”

An unseen force jerked me sideways and I had time to catch a glimpse of the underworld’s river hurtling towards me before I planeswalked away. Too close. This time when I turned back to Theros, Kruphix’s magic seized me immediately and threw me back into the blind eternities.

Seven times I plunged back into Theros and seven times he threw me beyond the horizon. On the eighth attempt I emerged into scorching and sulfurous air. I barely had time to glimpse the field of lava beneath me before my momentum hurled me into the molten rock and my world became pain.

It was agonizing, but no more so than dozens of other injuries I’d suffered over the centuries. I was screaming, but part of my mind kept detached note of the circumstances. Contrary to what most people imagine it’s impossible to sink in lava. Molten it may be, but it’s still stone. Which meant that I didn’t sink upon impact. I bounced.

The first landing shattered my knee, the second wrenched my wing from its socket and ignited the membrane as if it were paper.  I forced my other wing to open, trying to catch the air. It half-worked, enough to bring my wild pinwheeling to a stop without halting my descent.

I brought my arms up fast enough to avoid driving my face into the lava and tried to roll with the impact, tumbling to rob my momentum and finally come to a halt. Standing was impossible with my knee broken, and I already knew I wouldn’t be able to fly out. No matter. I turned my face to the sky above and focused on a single white star, imagining the pain falling away and leaving me in the utter nothingess between planes.

It took far too long, crucial seconds while my flesh cracked and burned. But finally I forced my thoughts into order and planeswalked, leaving the volcano behind. No sooner had the shift begun to take hold than I felt my path being bent against my will, sending my broken body careening into a mountainpeak with the force of a thunderbolt.

He was trying to break my will, I realized, as Kruphix battered me from snowy peak to the depths of the sea and back. With death meaningless that was the true victory, to defeat your enemy so thoroughly that they couldn’t conceive of standing against you.

As that realization sank in I relaxed and grew still, accepting whatever world-warping beating that Kruphix was hellbent on delivering.

More than two full days later I plunged into the dirt at the god’s feet, my body still spasming from the lightning bolt he’d just teleported me into. With no warning I forced my mouth to move and whispered a single word, the truest name for pain I’d ever learned. The magical agony hit me with the force of a mountainpeak, but compared to everything else I’d just gone through it was almost a minor inconvenience. The same could not be said for Kruphix.

In all my centuries, I’d never heard the sky scream.

He clutched his head and staggered back, nearly vanishing from view with a single horizon-sized step. That was all I needed. I reared up and slashed my hand through the air, blasting Kruphix’s precious trees with a blade of pure blackness. Then the arm I’d propped myself up on gave out and I collapsed, sprawled out on an empty island at the end of the world. Before my eyes the trees withered and died, once magnificent wood turning grey and brittle. When the first tree collapsed under its own weight it came with a rapid series of arcane explosions as centuries of secret spells lost their foundations and failed. When the second fell it took the island with it, pulling me and everything else into the roaring void.

I let out a single hacking chuckle and gathered my will to planeswalk. It wouldn’t be wise to return to Theros until my wounds were healed and things were truly underway, but the pieces were in motion now. Theros dissolved around me as I sank into the Blind Eternities.

“Your move Jura.”

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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