This is part six of an article series analyzing the character of Jace Beleren. Be sure to read the first five parts as well.

We left Jace alone on Useless Island, at his lowest but resolving rise up. Over the next weeks, Jace fashions a raft and provisions to leave Useless Island. His ship wrecks on a reef and he almost dies, but neither his life nor his story are over yet. Jace has always been susceptible to peer pressure, and this is the point where he meets his first peer: The Talented Captain Vraska.

This isn’t an essay about Vraska, but she is a fascinating character who will play a huge role in Jace’s development. They have tangled before, and Jace knows her only as yet another ambitious Golgari murderer; while Vraska saw him only as The Man, personified. When Captain Vraska finds him washed up on shore, she is taken aback by his change in attitude.

Vraska picked up his spoon and threw it at his chest. He tried to bat it away and missed.


Clumsiness like that couldn’t be faked. “Not an illusion,” she concluded.

Jace’s irritation evaporated into happy surprise. “You know I can make those?” His lips were lifting in a little half smile.

Vraska couldn’t believe this. Why the hell was he so chipper? Where was the pasty, moody Guildpact she knew and loathed?

Jace makes his first, stumbling attempt at making small talk:

“Vraska.” Jace smiled a bit. “Your name sounds like it has a different linguistic root than mine. Where are you from?”

“You know damn well where I’m from, asshole.”

Jace looked visibly hurt.


Vraska felt . . . bad?

He’s like a dog, Vraska thought. He’s a human-shaped retriever. What happened to him?

What is it with Black-philosophied women comparing Jace to dogs?

There was no mystery in his movements; he existed entirely in the present. Gone was the uptight Guildpact Vraska had known, who hid uncertainty with fidgeting and wrapped himself in melancholy. Here sat a lean, earnest, and jarringly friendly variation of the second most dangerous psychic in the Multiverse.

Vraska finds him so helpless that she in unwilling to kill him. Against her better judgement she agrees welcome Jace for now and drop him off at the next port of call. In his time on the high seas, Jace becomes surprisingly popular with the crew of her ship, The Belligerent:

On one windless day, Vraska watched as he disassembled and reassembled a telescope.

The entire process took about fifteen minutes.

He began by studying the outside of the thing, finding its crevices, then using a borrowed tool to gently dismantle it. He was knolling the pieces as he went, organizing the bits in a meticulous grid on the deck of the ship. Once it was apart, he worked backward, putting each piece back together in the reverse of order he had taken it apart.

A small crowd gathered to watch in fascination. Vraska hung in the back, as impressed as she was perturbed.

The Belligerent engages in some light piracy, and in a moment of inspiration, Vraska decides to enlist Jace’s help in boarding a vampire ship. During the raid, we get to see a whole new side of him:

Jace grinned and clapped Vraska on the back.

Jace leapt into battle after her, summoning several copies of himself to run rampant through the crowd of confused Legion of Dusk conquistadors.

The illusions distracted and dodged, distracting the vampires just long enough for the pirates to subdue them.

Vraska jolted in surprise as Jace appeared on her left, and then also on her right, the twin illusions misleading the vampire captain long enough for Vraska to land a strike. One of the Jaces managed to land a punch, and Vraska realized that he was physically alongside her.

What on earth is going on here? Clapping people on the back? Leaping into battle? Has Jace ever leapt before, much less into a battle? Punching a vampire in the face? That’s so reckless, and confident, and heroic. Jace has become tall, strong, and fearless, but also gentle and noble at the same time. Someone who would stand between a young boy and his bullies. What is this?! Jace is acting like Gideon!

No. He’s acting like himself. Hahaha! With no one to tell him otherwise, Jace is free to take risks as he sees fit, which swiftly earns him the respect of even a hardened band of pirates. Vraska ends the raid by petrifying the captain, and changes her mind about dropping him off:

Jace was absurdly useful. Perhaps it would be best if she kept him around to make use of his skills.

And so, Vraska spoke with certainty. “I once thought we would make a good team, Beleren, and it appears I was right. Would you like to stay with my crew and help me with my mission?”

Jace’s smile reached his eyes, a grin emboldened with a voyager’s curiosity. “I would love to.”

Later, they dock at High and Dry, and Vraska gives him the lowdown on their mission. On the walk back from the tavern, the two of them have a moment. Jace asks her where they met, and she tells him about Ravnica. She’s feeling nostalgic and starts broadcasting really strong surface thoughts. Jace pulls them from the air and crafts them into an illusion.

“Just don’t do it again,” she said tightly, her gaze still locked on the majesty of the illusion-city around them. The acerbity of her warning did not match the sad look of homesickness heavy in her eyes.

It took every ounce of Jace’s self-control not to brush her mind for a look at what she was feeling.

“I wish I could remember it,” Jace said. “It looks like the greatest place in the world.”

“It is the greatest place in all the worlds,” Vraska murmured.

The illusion vanished. But the look of guarded wonder on Vraska’s face remained.

She was beautiful.

And so, in his way, Jace told her.

“Will you teach me more about Ravnica?” he asked.

By which he of course means “Will you teach me more about you?” For all intents and purposes, Jace is a Ravnican; he has spent most of his life there. On Ravnica, he and Vraska might have been the bitterest of enemies; but on Ixalan, surrounded by strange people and cultures, they actually have a lot in common. Jace usually shows little restraint with his powers, so his reticence here is quite remarkable. He typically asks permission before fully entering his allies’ minds, but reads people’s surface thoughts as a crutch to make up for his poor social awareness. Now, Jace is learning to muzzle his curiosity and respect the privacy of others.

One of the motives for these casual intrusions was his inferiority complex. The old Jace could not stand to not know what other people were thinking about him. But in a lull in the conversation, we see how far he has come:

The silence didn’t bother Jace. He had decided that small-talk was a largely overrated social ritual, which made it all the more lovely to spend time with someone who embraced the natural silences of good conversation.

This is a level of self-assurance and maturity we have rarely seen from Jace. He has been a clever and quick-witted conversationalist in the past, but now he has decided it is not worth the effort. He is not trying to appear suave and brilliant anymore, he is just being himself. Both Vraska and Jace have reinvented themselves on Ixalan, and their new personas are proving to be quite compatible:

Jace gave her a serious look. “Thank you for sharing your story with me. I’m proud to know you.”

He saw the outline of her mind but dared not peek inside. It was curves and nooks and swirls of delicate glassy strands. Vraska had no idea how fragile her mind was, just as he had no concept of how easily she could turn him to stone.

Vraska grinned. Jace felt his cheeks warm.

Both of them realized at the exact same moment that neither of them wanted to hurt the other.

Her smile was earnest and open. “I’m proud to know you, too, Jace.”

Enjoy this peaceful moment, because I’m afraid it won’t last. We have now come to the most important story in Jace’s arc: The Flood. So far, Jace’s past has been harmlessly suspended in the back of his mind, allowing him to play pirate. But that arrangement could never last. Schrodinger’s Jaces are about to crash back together.

Jace and Vraska are in a four-way race for the Golden City of Orazca. Along the way, they are pushed into a river and swept over a waterfall. Jace bangs his head on a rock, and it jolts something loose in his brain. He starts remembering all of it. All of it. Years and years worth of erased, suppressed, and discarded memories come rushing back to him in a flood. Being a telepath, he broadcasts it to everyone nearby—in this case, only Vraska. In this hideously intimate story, Vraska gets a ride-along to the most formative moments of Jace’s life. If there was only one short story to tell you everything you needed to know about Jace Beleren, The Flood is it.

I tried for days to analyze this story; over and over again I failed. The writing is brilliant, emotive, and wonderfully cumulative. It sums up his past and his present, and I could not find anything to add to it. Nothing is hidden; the story speaks for itself, and my best attempts boiled down to quoting a long excerpt, then rephrasing it poorly. If you have time, I highly recommend you read it from start to finish. If you don’t, I will provide a brief summary.

He starts with a memory of Zendikar, majestic Sea Gate marred and scarred by Ulamog. After that, we move to Ravnica. Remember the scars Jace could not make sense of back on Useless Island? Now he remembers. We see Tezzeret carving him up for failing one assignment or other. Then there is a memory from his first few days on Ravnica, where he hires a Gruul shaman to inscribe his famous white tattoos.

We then see a moment shortly after the events on Innistrad. Jace is with Liliana in her private apartment on Ravnica, playing chess. The conversation turns to their relationship, and eventually Liliana convinces him to spend the night. It’s a very distressing moment; Vraska is appalled by Liliana, and grieves for Jace.

After this horrible moment, he reaches back even further: Vryn, the plane of his youth. He remembers his mother, scenes from his childhood, and his mentor. He remembers the sphinx. Vraska witnesses that fateful clash again, where we get an answer to an age-old question.

Back on Useless Island, Jace could not place his personal symbol, but said it felt familiar. It has felt oddly familiar to Jace his entire life; that’s why he got it tattooed on his body and placed it on his robes, kept it with him as a physical reminder of something he should never have forgotten, but somehow did. It’s only now, a decade later, that Jace remembers its origin: the collar worn by his master, the sphinx he killed when he was fifteen. Like a brand, it has followed Jace his entire adult life.

Vraska felt herself yanked up and out of the memory, violently expelled, and the illusions of the world sped by and dissipated. As fast as she had been sucked in, she was back on the rocks and mud next to the waterfall, standing in the sunshine under the spires of Orazca. The current Jace, the Jace she knew, the illusionist, pirate, and companion, was lost in grief on the riverbank.

Vraska instantly dove to the ground and scooped him into her arms.

He wept a lifetime’s worth of tears.

After a moment, Jace gets control of himself  and stops sharing memories. Then he turns to Vraska. The two bond, commiserate, and forgive each other for their separate sins. Though he can remember who he used to be, he chooses to continue acting like the man who woke up on the shore of Useless Island. Again, this is a perfunctory summary, and a poor substitute for the real thing, which I urge you to stop and read.

In the next story, Jace and Vraska climb a thousand stairs to reach the summit of Orazca. Jace conjures an illusion to hide them, and Vraska compliments him, which provokes an intriguing moment of reflection.

Vraska looked him in the eye. “You’re incredible. You know that, right?”

Jace returned her smile and felt his cheeks warming. “I do my best.”

“Well, your best is incredible,” Vraska said, turning toward the central tower and approaching a large gate on what appeared to be its back side.

Liliana never told Jace he was incredible.

Liliana would have scoffed. She would have made a dismissive joke, rolled her eyes, and called him a show-off. She would not bother to talk to him for days. She would consume the body of a demon with a crocodile’s jaws and laugh over the sound of its flesh tearing off. She would do all sorts of things, but she would never call him incredible.

Ever since the first time we saw them together, all the way back in Catching Up, Jace and Liliana have been growing apart. Jace recovering his memories has not changed his perspective: all his memories of her were intact. She was the one constant in his life, which partially explains his attachment. No, what made the difference is Vraska.

Vraska is just as clever and determined and strong as Liliana, but she cares. Not just about Jace, she cares passionately for everyone around her, be they her pirate crew or her people in the Golgari. Now that he remembers his time with both of them, Vraska looks better and better by comparison, while Liliana just seems second-rate and immature.

And that brings us, tomorrow, to the concluion of this journey.

David Walley is only a recent fan of Magic: The Gathering, but a lifelong spectator to stories. After discovering the Magic Story earlier this year, he was greatly impressed by both its strength and subtlety. In his articles, he endeavors to expand the Vorthos community by showcasing the story’s excellence to the average Magic fan.

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