We come to the final chapter. Read the first ten chapters here.


Smoke and ash filled the air, burning Elspeth’s lungs with every breath. She took stock of the people around her. They’d made it to the far side of the chasm, herself and Pavios and a few dozen survivors, most of them injured. Maybe more remained within the walls, there was no way for her to know. A grizzled, one-eyed sergeant was bullying the Akroans into ranks, distributing weapons and shields from the fallen. Gideon and Chandra were gone. Gideon had taken Ob Nixilis down like a hero, and Chandra had leapt into the void after them without hesitation. The final image of Gideon haunted her—his face bloodstained, lips locked in a snarl of pure determination as he wrestled with the demon.

She helped Pavios remove the jagged greatsword from his chest. When they were finished the young mage slumped against a stone on the side of the path. “Is it over?”

“Not yet.” The pull drew her to the edge of the cliff. The slope dropped away sharply into a gulf of impenetrable darkness. Here and there flickers of fire still clung to life, too far down to say which were the charred remains of the demon army and which were lava. Ob Nixilis was still down there, plotting, scheming. Hatred like that would never rest. She hopped up onto the railing, radiant wings spreading from her back. “I’m going after them.”

And the pull vanished.

No! She thought desperately. He can’t have left. Not again. Not now! Had the demon fled because he was outmatched, or because he’d won? Had Gideon and Chandra pursued him offworld, or were they dead at the bottom of the chasm?  She teetered on the edge, uncertainty gnawing at her heart.

“Elspeth?” Pavios’s voice was very small. “What’s wrong?”

“I . . .” She shook her head and stared down into the abyss, searching for something, anything to tell her what had happened. “He’s gone.”

Elspe—” A terrible, wracking cough cut her name short. She turned to see Pavios clutching the wound in his chest, brackish blood pouring from the injury. The black mist that had been closing the wound faded before her eyes, dissipating into nothingness. He looked up to her and smiled, and for a moment she saw a fierce pride through the pain. “I think that means we won.”

Then he fell sideways, crumpling into a ball next to the demon’s sword.

“Pavios!” Elspeth rushed to his side, but the young mage’s eyes were already clouded with death.

She knelt next to him and slowly closed his eyes. “I’ll see you in the Underworld, my friend.”

Gravel crunched behind her, heavy footsteps drawing to a halt at a respectful distance. The voice that went with them was gruff and clipped. “Who was he?”

“His name was Pavios.” Elspeth brushed a lock of hair out of her friend’s face. “Much of his story is unknown to me, but I know he was training to be a scribe before . . . before his first death.”

“That was no scholar’s death.” The grizzled sergeant knelt next to her and placed two silver coins over Pavios’s eyes. “Would that my recruits had half the heart of that boy.”

“Would that they did.” Elspeth swallowed past the lump in her throat. “What next? Will Akros rebuild?”

The sergeant cast a sidelong look at her. “I remember you. You came by a few years back, before the Great Revel and the Silence. Always running around in a huge white cloak. The way I heard it Anax was spitting your name for months after you stopped him from dueling a minotaur or some nonsense.” He shook his head. “Aye, we’ll rebuild. It’ll take more than this to break Akros.”

“Where is King Anax?” She tilted her head back. The night sky was almost empty above them, but at the very edge of the horizon she saw brilliant flashes of light. “I expected him to be leading the defense.”

“Left more’n a week ago. Off to challenge Setessa’s Council to single combat, and don’t ask me how that works. Iroas showed up and gave his blessing to the whole endeavor and just like that half the army was gone.” The man spat. “Too convenient, if you ask me.”

“And Queen Cymede?”

“Buried somewhere in that.” He pointed his spear as the smoking ruins of Akros. “That gods-rotted demon went straight for the palace. The whole city saw her get torn apart.”

Elspeth closed her eyes and mourned the fallen queen. “May she find peace.”

“No such luck for us.” The sergeant whistled an order and the remaining soldiers began forming up to march back across the bridge. “Minotaurs will come sweeping down from the mountains within the week, mark my words. We need to get the gates fortified before they smell the death.”

“Sergeant!” She called out.  “This duel Anax went out to fight. Where was it?”

“Plateau of the Four Winds.” He let out a bark of harsh laughter. “Someone was right full of themselves when they thought that up.”

“Thank you.” Elspeth unfurled her ghostly wings and leapt into the chasm. Updrafts from the lava catapulted her high into the sky, until Akros was laid out beneath her like a child’s plaything and she couldn’t pick out the corpses amid the rubble. With a final shake of her head she wheeled in a wide circle and began flying south, following a coastal road she’d once traveled by wagon. Onward to the Plateau of Four Winds.

When last she’d traveled this path it had taken more than a week, the caravan snaking down a path that wound in and out of the mountains. Now it rushed by below her, familiar campsites and landmarks lost in the darkness. At first she worried about losing her way in the night, but as she crested a snow-capped mountain she saw why the night had been so dark.

The entire pantheon was gathered in the sky over the plateau. Their divine radiance illuminated the world for miles around, transforming the trees and plains below into an alien, multicolored landscape that shifted and flickered with each passing heartbeat. It would have been beautiful, if not for the savagery of the battle that spawned it.

The gods themselves were nearly impossible to look at. They seemed to flicker, shifting forms and teleporting around far too quickly for her to catch more than a few fragmented slivers of what was happening. Keranos, driving a bolt of lightning into Purphoros’s eye. Thassa pinning Nylea to the ground with her bident. Thick coils of snakes wrapping around Iroas, poison dripping from dozens of bite marks. Heliod weaponless, being beaten down by three of his siblings. Every blow made the sky itself tremble, and Elspeth felt a terrible pressure building, as if the boundary between the two realms was about to split like an egg and dump the warring gods into the mortal world.

Elspeth closed her eyes against the carnage, tears making her eyes burn. And once I thought that the gods would make Theros incorruptible.

Far below the warring deities, two armies were gathering on the plateau, visible from this height only as opposing swarms of flickering torches. As she flew closer details jumped out at her. The arrows already knocked on bows. The touches of Meletian blue scattered among both the Akroan and Setessan armies. The small group gathering between the two armies, forming a circle of torches around two warriors. Elspeth tilted her wings and began a wide, circling, descent.


Helena shifted her weight back and forth, her fingers tense on the bowstring. She was far from the limelight, stationed deep in the back ranks of the Akroan army. There was some military term for her position, but she’d been too busy learning to march and hold a bow convincingly to learn it. She licked her lips and closed her eyes, trying to steady her thoughts. For all the work she’d put into making this battle happen, now that she stood on its brink she couldn’t stop her fingers from shaking. There was a very good chance she would not live to see the dawn. The fact that it was largely her fault only made the absurdity stand out more.

The kings and heroes were out there, somewhere in the darkness. She couldn’t see them, let alone hear what they were saying. Everyone around her was waiting for the slightest trigger to ignite the battle, but only Helena knew how likely peace was. She’d brought everyone to the brink of war with wildly conflicting lies, calculated to inflame and provoke. But rash rulers did not hold their positions for long. Given time to talk things out, her house of lies would quickly collapse.

She stepped back, into the shadows at the very edge of the torchlight. Phenax was somewhere up above, present but hidden amongst the chaos. She lifted the bow at a high angle, and drew the string back, until the feathers brushed across her cheek. What did her god think of this farce? Did he find humanity charming in their gullibility, or did he just enjoy causing pain?


She didn’t see what started it. One moment the leaders were approaching each other with the wariness of caged tigers, the next moment cries of pain sprung up from both armies and a storm of arrows shot up in answer from both sides. Hundreds fell under that first volley, while the survivors without bows snapped shields up into tight defensive formations. She saw Anax look around in confusion and rip his sword from its sheath just in time to parry a slash from Anthousa.

Enough. Elspeth gathered all the mana that she could muster and felt light pour into her from every plane she’d called home. Her wings flared to twice their normal size, casting the battlefield below her in a harsh white light. Soldiers on both sides looked up at her in awe, the battle forgotten for just a moment. It wouldn’t last. She needed to act. Anax and Anthousa were still fighting, though their guards were rushing forward to intervene.

Elspeth folded her wings and dropped, landing heavily in the space between the dueling heroes. At the same time she released the pent-up mana in a shock wave that blasted out, knocking both rulers to the ground. Arrows dropped from the sky by the hundreds and buried themselves in the open ground between the armies.

“Enough!” Her voice boomed like thunder, momentarily cutting through even the din of the gods fighting above.

She rounded on King Anax, who was picking himself out of the dirt with the help of his guards. He snapped the tip of his spear up to meet her, but then something made him hesitate.

“Elspeth?” He removed his helmet and shook out his curly hair. “What are you doing here?”

“Turn around,” she shouted. “Take your men back to Akros.”

His face twisted in wordless confusion. “What are you—tell me later.”

“This can’t wait.”

“I’m fighting a war!”

Elspeth grabbed him by the breastplate and pulled him close. The king was taller than her, but she snarled her news up at him like a curse. “Your wife is dead!”

Shock made the king’s face go slack. “What?” his voice was barely audible.

“While you were off playing at hero, the Kolophon was razed. Cymede died defending a city that you abandoned! Barely a hundred survived the slaughter. Maybe less.”

“I, but—” Anax shook his head as if searching for a way to make sense of what had happened. “Iroas gave us his blessing! The God of Victory would not lead us astray.”

“Tell that to your dead!” She shouted. “Tell that to the children that died trying to defend a city you abandoned!”

“Iroas needs us!” The king grabbed her wrists, fighting her off with his calloused hands.

“You don’t need him!” Elspeth shoved him away and turned to the gathered Akroans. “Listen to me! Most of you don’t know me. Some of you do. Xiro, Themistius. I fought beside you against the satyrs, and again when minotaurs surrounded the Kolophon in the night. You know who I am, and you know that I served as Heliod’s Champion. What you might not know is that Heliod murdered me for striking down the traitor god. What none of you know is that Erebos brought me back to be his champion and save your polis, and to reward me he turned my lover into a monster.”

Elspeth licked her lips. They were listening, passing whispers amongst the ranks. She didn’t have a plan; she just needed them to believe her. She raised her voice again.

“I don’t ask you to believe me. It’s a crazy story and any madwoman could spin it. But look around you, for pity’s sake. Everyone here is a damned good soldier, you know this is rotten. The world’s shaking itself to pieces around you, and you got pulled halfway across the world to fight a duel? Tell me that doesn’t feel off to you. Everyone here knows how empty you left Akros, how vulnerable it is without you. You aren’t the only ones that realized that.” She raised her hand and extended a finger, pointing at the gods warring directly overhead. “Iroas wants to fight? Let him fight. Anax wants to fight? Let him. They need you. You don’t need them.”

She stepped back and turned away. Anax was staring at her with wide eyes, his face beet red. “You dare—”

“Yes.” She shouldered past him, walking towards the Setessan army.

“Elspeth.” His voice stopped her in her tracks. No longer angry, he sounded calm, in control for the first time. “Is what you say true?”

“Yes,” she replied without looking back. “If you lose this fight it will be the end of Akros. Think on that, king.” As Elspeth approached the enormous woman in leather armor she heard the king bark an order to pull back.

If Anax had looked down on Elspeth, Anthousa towered over her. The Setessan champion stood in the middle ground between the armies, watching the display through hooded eyes.

Elspeth dipped her head. “We have not met before. Your reputation precedes you.”

“As does yours, Champion.” Anthousa’s voice was a low rumble.

“You’ve already heard what I want. There’s no need for this war.”

“I’m not here for the gods.” Anthousa drummed the flat of her sword against her leg. “Some of us are. Not me. Setessa has suffered enough at their hands.”

“Then what do you want?”

“That leech has been sending children into my city to assassinate my people. Children. I will not stand for such an abomination.”

Elspeth blinked in surprise. Anax was intelligent and cruel, but she’d always thought that kind of subterfuge would be beneath him. “I knew Anax, briefly. Before I died. What you are saying, it doesn’t sound like him.”

Anthousa shrugged one heavy shoulder. “And yet he is here, spouting nonsense about a challenge he claims I laid before him. If the man is not delusional, then he is surely up to something underhanded. The Akroan Empire is ever-hungry. I see no reason why they wouldn’t resort to such tactics to soften a difficult target.

“And yet they’re leaving,” Elspeth looked back. The phalanxes were slowly backing away, warily eyeing the Setessan ranks. “I just talked an army of Akroans into walking away from a battle. Do you really think I would’ve been able to do that if they were hellbent on taking your land?”

The faintest hint of amusement sparkled in Anthousa’s eyes. “That is a deed that will never be equaled, I think. But it changes nothing. I will not show weakness to those jackals.”

“So don’t,” Elspeth said. “Let them leave. Let them run away from you. Tell the story about how you broke the Akroan vanguard with a single volley and sent them slinking away with their tails between their legs. Anything. Enough blood has been spilled today.”

Teeth flashed beneath Anthousa’s helmet. “I like how you think, champion.”


Her plan had taken an unexpected turn. To all appearances an angel had descended from Nyx and stopped the battle cold. She was barely a dozen feet away from Helena, who had taken a position in the ranks of Anthousa’s personal guard. Other Helenas were out there, scattered throughout both of the gathered armies. But none of them had quite the view of things that she did.

And things were going badly. The fierce King Anax had entered the day reckless and fiery, the perfect combination to be twisted to her needs. But the news of Akros’s destruction and his queen’s murder had left him ashen-faced. He’d already called for his forces to retreat, though it was obvious to Helena that the order had been received poorly. Anthousa was a different matter. She’d received the angel’s shaming with composure, and while she had yet to speak Helena feared she was wavering.

This peace was miraculous but it balanced upon the edge of a knife. The slightest nudge would be enough to shatter it beyond repair. Her fingers tightened around her javelin. The angel was a mystery and incalculably dangerous, but Anax was the cornerstone to all this. An attempt on his life after he called a truce should launch the Akroans into a blood frenzy. She’d probably be killed in the first charge, but that was her lot in all this. She had accepted that when she marched to war, as had the other Helenas here today.

And yet, would that not be the greatest lie of all? To bring the world to the very brink of ruin with every intention of pushing it over, and then to simply not? Phenax would be furious. She would be furious, once her other selves realized her inaction. Or would they be proud? Such things were impossible to know among those who worshiped deception. Likely she would never know the truth until a blade pierced her back in the night. This would be a terrible, blasphemous risk. And yet, it was too good to pass up.

Helena did nothing, and when Anthousa gave the order to retreat she left the plateau with a smile hidden beneath her helmet. Countless worlds awaited her beyond the horizon. They would never know what hit them.


For the first time in an age, the gods bled.

The stars of Nyx ran freely through the heavens, pouring from countless wounds among the warring deities. At first there was very little, a mere dusting of extra stars that twinkled in the darkness. But soon enough the light grew thicker and pooled across the dome of the sky. It undulated as the primordial essence boiled.

The snarling head of a bear formed and tried to pull its way out of the pool, only to soften and collapse back into the rest of the lights. A thick, leathery wing came next, followed by a pair of hoofed legs and a long scaled tail. None lasted for more than a few moments before collapsing. The stars were the essence of life. They yearned to leap up and frolic across the sky, but they lacked the strength.

Slowly, the light became aware. It did not think, but it felt. It experienced the savage joy of the god’s battle and the eldest god’s fear as he strove to keep the bones of the world from splintering. It felt the zealotry of the mortals below, their fear and their pain and their passion, burning bright in the night. It felt the dark seeds of malice that rested in each of them, and the hope that kept those seeds from taking root.

It felt the exact moment when their belief in the gods frayed.

It began slowly, a single note of disgust that caught and spread. One by one the mortal’s adoration of the divine wavered and snapped like over-taut threads, until all at once it was too much and the fabric binding the two realms tore.

The humans below barely felt it, but in Nyx the gods cried out in agony. Never before had they felt such pain, to be severed from the source of their divinity. Some of them fled the battlefield, limping away to lick their wounds and plot their revenge. Others stayed and fought with redoubled savagery, sensing that their opponents would never be more vulnerable. Mogis and Iroas had discarded weapons entirely, clawing and stomping and gouging each other.

Something about that angered her, for she was a her. It felt right, so she decided it was true. Unlike the battle unfolding around her. Just watching the twins fight made her heart fill with disappointment. She needed to stop them.

She rose, the loose pool of stars flowing up to form the loose shape of a human. She was little more than a glowing torso with spindly, ill-defined limbs. It was enough. She stepped forward, wading into the middle of the battle between two titans that she suddenly realized were smaller than her.  She seized Mogis’s horns in one hand, Iroas’s plumed helmet in the other and pulled the brothers apart. It was surprisingly easy.

“Who are you?” Mogis’s nostrils flared with rage.

Who was she? That was a question she hadn’t thought about yet. She knew she was a god, but she didn’t know what she was a god of, or what her name was. The lack of knowledge didn’t trouble her. She would decide who she was when it mattered.

“I am your sibling.” She released both brothers. “That is the only answer that matters.”

Mogis roared and charged at her, his mighty horns lowered to run her through. Iroas instantly sprang to block Mogis, but she extended one hand and caught him between the horns. The sky around them trembled as she stopped his charge with ease that surprised even her. Iroas pivoted lashed at his brother’s snout with his hooves.

She caught both of Iroas’s legs and held them off the dome of the sky, making him prance awkwardly for balance. She looked from one god to the other and spoke. “Brothers shouldn’t fight. What you are doing is wrong.”

Mogis bellowed in frustration and erupted into bloodred flames that consumed his body. Identical flames flared up at the edge of the horizon and the god of slaughter stepped out of them, bellowing and chasing after Karametra with his axe raised above his head. Iroas let lose a clarion war cry and followed as a lance of light that smashed into his brother’s chest. Then the two of them were fighting again, as if nothing had changed.

She ground her teeth in frustration and stared to run after them. This would be tiring until she learned to travel as thought.

“Hold, Sister.” Ephara appeared in a shimmering column of light. “Speak with me a moment.”

“Later.” She turned to go. “I need to stop them.”

“I know you do.” Ephara rushed to block her path. “And I will help you; I only need a minute of your time first.”

Ephara too was her sister, even if she wanted to crush her right now. “Make it fast.”

“Something terrible has happened,” Ephara said. “The gods are cut off from mortal worship. We are weaker now that we have ever been, and I fear it will only grow worse. But you are still connected. Whoever you are, the mortals believe in you still. I believe that makes you the key to fixing what is wrong.”

The fear in Ephara’s voice tugged at her heart, but she didn’t know how to help.  “What do you want?”

“Tell me who you are.”

A simple question, with an unsimple answer. ‘I don’t know” would only invite more questions and more delays while the twins fought. But she sensed this was important to Ephara, and Ephara was wise. A false answer felt dangerous.

She closed her eyes, searching for an answer that felt right.

“I am Agápi. God of Kinship”


Long after everyone had left, Elspeth stood alone in the middle of the darkened plateau. The sky above her was a swirling soup of stars after the god’s battle, only just starting to show signs of the celestial creatures that would rise from the ashes.

“It’s strange,” she said to the darkness. “This is the first time I’ve seen a world rebuild. I always ran away when things got bad. Somehow I never stopped to consider that they could get better,”

“All things end.” Erebos drifted past her. He was human-sized now, a specter in the night. “But all things must begin, as well.”

Elspeth blinked at the unexpected response. “That sounds backwards.”

“Is it?” Erebos looked up at the sky of stars, his expression unreadable. “For every dusk, there must be a dawn. That is the way of things, as surely as every dawn must fade to dusk.”

“That’s a nice promise.” Elspeth’s hands tightened into fists.

“I promise nothing,” Erebos said. “Only peace.”

“Tell that to Daxos!” she yelled. “I traded my life for his, and for what? You’ve seen his torment!”

For a long time Erebos said nothing, merely watching the stars churn overhead.  Elspeth turned and began to walk away, but his whisper froze her in her tracks.

“When you offered your life in trade, Daxos had already left the underworld. No power on Theros can heal a Returned, and Heliod was already preparing to strike you down. I said what I had to make your final moments comfortable. No more, no less.”

“You expect me to return to the underworld? After what I’ve seen?”

“I expect nothing. You have a choice.”

“Go with you or be killed by Heliod again?” Elspeth scoffed. “That’s not what I would call a choice.”

“So leave.”

“I’m not a planeswalker!”

“Are you not?” Erebos turned to face her for the first time. “My darkness eclipses even the brightest spark. You were free to leave the moment Ob Nixilis died and my blessing faded.”

Elspeth rocked backward. She was a planeswalker again? She’d never thought that she’d have the option to leave Theros, but now that it was in front of her . . . did she even want to? Memories welled up, her friends mutilated and butchered by Phyrexia, hordes of undead devouring the paradise of Bant. The planes outside Theros were plagued by unspeakable horrors. She’d been seeking asylum for so long that she’d only remembered what being safe felt like after she died.

Erebos slowly extended a skeletal hand, darkness pouring from his empty eyes. “If you truly desire peace Elspeth Tirel, you are welcome in the underworld.”

Elspeth reached out to take the offered hand and hesitated. This was what she wanted. Wasn’t it? To be safe, to find freedom from the nightmares of her past. To leave her duties behind and just be.

But when she tried to imagine herself in the underworld she saw Gideon, his teeth bared as he fought for every inch of ground in his home polis. Chandra, fighting past exhaustion and still blazing in defense of people she’d never seen before. Pavios, chaining his hands to the demon’s blade in a desperate attempt to avenge his beloved’s death. Ajani, his white fur stained as he faced the horrors of her childhood alone. Akros had lost so many today, yet a precious few had clung to life by the tips of their fingers. Would they have made it without a few strangers willing to give everything to protect them?

The dead called to her. The living needed her.

She bowed her head to Erebos. “Please, apologize to Pavios for me. He deserved better.”

Erebos dissipated into the darkness, but after he’d faded his voice whispered in her ear. “Nobody ever told you it would be easy.”


Gideon awoke in softness, a warm glow easing the pain in his chest. He panicked and clutched at the spear, but his fingers closed only on a thick scar over his sternum.

“Rest now,” a voice like distant trumpets cut through the haze of confusion. Firm fingers gripped Gideon’s shoulder and pressed him back into the pillows. A face of unearthly beauty came into focus through the soft light, with eyes that blazed and a flowing mane of bloodred hair. A small smile touched her lips, and only now he noticed the red-feathered wings arching up from behind her, enveloping him in radiance. “Your battle is over. Do not be afraid.”

“Am I dead?” His voice rasped painfully, the words jarring and ugly after the angel’s musical speech.

“Not yet.” She cupped his cheek with one hand. Her touch was impossibly feverish, filling his body with warmth as if the midday sun had reached down to embrace him. “I have no use for the dead, Legionnaire.”

Gideon’s throat went dry. “Guildmaster.”

Aurelia stood, towering over him. Her wings filled the space around them, painting the brightness with flickering red lights. Something crossed her face like a shadow, some flash of emotion that was gone before he could identify it and yet brought him to tears in that instant. “You are a good man, Gideon Jura. Try to remember that the multiverse is better for having you in it.”

“I . . .” He dropped his gaze in shame. “I’ll try.”

“Good.” Aurelia stepped back, and for the first time Gideon saw the room that he lay in. Small and spartan, he lay in what seemed like a hospital cot. There was a redstone wall to his left and a tall white curtain on his right, separating his bed from any other patients. “Once you are whole, report to Sunhome. Speak with me there.”

“I will. As soon as I’m able.”

She raised a clenched fist in salute and left. The room grew noticeably colder as the door closed behind her, as if a cloud had passed in front of the sun.

There were a few medics he could see from his bed, but they were busy tending to other patients. With a grunt of exertion he swung his legs out of bed and sat up. Doing so sent a lance of pain through his chest that made him clench his eyes shut. When it faded enough for him to see straight he brought his hand up to the wound, poking the new scar with his fingers.

He felt fine. Battered, of course. Sore and a little shaky, as if the battle for Akros had ended mere minutes ago. The wound in his chest ached with every breath and movement, but there was no blood and it hadn’t even been bandaged. Every time he looked down he expected to see the dreadful spear rising from his chest like the mast of a ship.

When he closed his eyes he remembered the shock on Nixilis’s face, the sudden numbness as the spear ripped his shields aside and pierced his chest. The desperation to hold on to his shield, to stand, and finally to take the demon down with him. He remembered every breath growing shallower, his hands going numb. And he remembered slipping away in the darkness.

He ran his fingers over the new scar. He’d gotten scars before, when he’d been ambushed or made mistakes or just gotten in the way of something far too big for him. This was different. This should have killed him. So many dead, and yet he survived. Like he always did. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right.


He turned in time to see Chandra throw herself at him and pull up short at the last moment. She stumbled and caught herself on the bedpost, brushing wild bits of hair out of her eyes and grinning like a lunatic. “Right, you’re hurt, sorry. No hugs yet.” She sat next to him, almost vibrating with excitement. “I’m just really glad you’re not dead.”

“Chandra.” His voice still sounded like sandpaper, but speaking didn’t hurt as much. “What did you?” He gestured towards the window, where Ravnica’s skyline was turning golden orange in the sunset. “How?”

“I carried you. Same way we got Jaya to Keral Keep.” Her wide smile dimmed. “It was bad Gids. You were dying and I didn’t know what to do and I just panicked and this was the only place I could think to bring you and—”

“It’s ok.” He squeezed her hand.

“What’re friends for?” She squeezed back before rocketing to her feet. “Oh, right! I’ve got stuff to tell you.  It sounds like Akros is gonna be ok. Elspeth showed up a few hours ago, said something about shouting at the gods ‘til they pulled their heads outta their butts. Apparently half the city was out when Ob Nix attacked. I don’t really get why, something about fighting a lady from Stessea? She’s not a zombie anymore by the way. Elspeth, not the Setessan lady.

Gideon held up a hand to stop her. “It’s okay Chandra. Slow down for a bit. You said Elspeth came here?”

Chandra nodded. “Apparently getting un-undeaded made her a planeswalker again. No clue why. And she joined the Gatewatch. That’s what Jace said anyway. I was still outta it when she took the oath.”

Out of it? Gideon pulled back and looked his friend up and down. There was a brace around her left wrist, but other than that and a few bruises she was remarkably unscathed. Then she cocked her head and he noticed a faint shimmer from where the setting sun hit her temple. Looking closer, he saw a thin circlet of nearly-invisible glyphs around her forehead.

“What happened there?” He tapped the side of his head.

“Oh, that.” Chandra flushed. “Turns out you can’t boil your way to the bottom of a river without getting a little wet, no matter how hot you burn. Jace put these on to keep by brain from dribbling out my ears like spaghetti. But he says he got to me in time, so I should be fine.”

“You didn’t have to—”

“Damn right I didn’t.” Chandra thrust her jaw out stubbornly. “But I did and I’m glad I did. Don’t you dare get mad, we both know you’d’ve done the same for me.”

“It’s just . . .” He hung his head. “I expected to die.”

“You did kinda get stabbed, big guy.” Chandra flushed. “Sorry, didn’t mean to blurt that out. I was worried too, is what I’m trying to say.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Gideon sighed. “Back on Amonkhet, before Bolas arrived. Hazoret made a prophecy about me. She said that she saw my death, that one day I would betray an immortal and it would kill me. Ever since then I’ve tried to avoid any commitments that could trigger the prophecy. I did a good job for the most part, but when Ob Nixilis called me to Theros I felt like he had to know, and was trying to set me up so I needed to walk right into it to beat him. And if I had to choose between me and my home . . . it wasn’t even a choice.”

“Sounds like a dumb prophecy.” Chandra wrinkled her nose. “You’re here now. So either Hazoret was jerking you around or you misinterpreted it.”

“I . . .” Gideon shook his head. “You’re right.”

“Don’t sound so surprised Gids.” She tapped her fist against his shoulder. “I was an abbess. Sage wisdom is kinda my thing and all.”

He almost managed to keep a straight face, but a smile twitched at the corners of Chandra’s mock-serious scowl and he couldn’t stop a low chuckle from escaping. Then they were both laughing, until tears streamed down their faces, Chandra was clutching the bedside table to stay upright and Gideon was clutching his ribs.

Chandra wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand and fumbled a folded note off of the end table. “Right, Elspeth left this for you. Said it was from someone on Theros.” She flushed. “I peeked, but the letters are all weird.”

Gideon frowned and unfolded the rough paper. Inside was a single line of Therosian letters, hastily scrawled in charcoal. It took him a few moments to remember the alphabet of his childhood and decipher the smudged writing.

Well done boy. If you ever find your way back home, let’s have dinner together.  –Hixus

“What’s it say?” Chandra asked. “Are you okay Gids?”

“It’s an invitation.” He wiped his eyes, hoping she blamed his tears on their laughter. “From the closest thing I ever had to a father.”

“Oh.” She smiled uneasily. “That’s . . . good, right?”

He nodded. “It is.”

“You should go,” Chandra said. “Sorry, didn’t mean to make that an order or anything. Just, I spent most of my life thinking my whole family was dead. It might not be easy to go back, but it’s worth it.” She frowned. “Unless this guy was a jerk. Then screw him.”

“I will. Go back, that is.”

She gave him another gentle hug and pulled away. “I should let people know you’re up. Jace said he’d come by when he’s done Guildpacting for the day and I think Elspeth’s lurking downstairs somewhere. Vraska even stopped by a few times.” She stood and wiped nonexistent crumbs off her tunic.


“Yeah?” she blinked. “What’s up?”

“I’ve been putting this off for a while, because of the prophecy and . . . well, everything about our crazy lives. But there’s not going to be a good time, so . . . . Do you want to go on a date?”

Her face flushed and she opened and closed her mouth several times before squeaking out. “Yes.”

Gideon looked down and swallowed, trying not to think about how much standing would hurt. “I can’t really do much, but maybe we can get dinner together? Once I can walk?”

“Sure. Sounds great.” A wide smile split her face in half. “I’m gonna bug Jace ‘til he gets us reservations somewhere.”

She kissed his cheek and dashed out the door before he could say anything. The echoes of the heavy wood slamming behind her hadn’t quite faded when he heard her muffled shout through the walls. “Hell yeah!”

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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