Tom opened one eye, blearily. His head pounded angrily and felt as though someone had shoved hot wires under his temples. He remembered going to sleep, and then…
/the door marked Development, opening into a whirlwind of fire and mist…/
PANG. Tom grasped his head with his right hand, and a cloud of red dust flew into his face. He sat up, suddenly, coughing loudly and spitting to the side. Something large in his line of vision evaded his thought as he took a mental inventory of his limbs. Arms… working. Something above him roared in defiance. His left arm throbbed, and his right arm was still drained from his battle with the Weaver of Deceit. His legs, too, were sending reports into his brain of dull pain. So, all accounted for, more or less. The magic he’d felt easily back in… wherever they’d ended up with the rest of the campus. Names. Later on, he’d have to find out what they’d named their new home. There was something breathing on him that was begging his attention, but he blinked, unseeing. The mana around him felt starved, and only a shadow of what he’d been used to throwing around. The breath reeked of sulfur, and he shook his head, clearing his eyes. A pair of slitted, yellow eyes over a lot of teeth looked back. Attached to it was the rest of a dragon. Tom sat still, assessing what he could pull together to warp the dragon out of existence. The large chunk of his mind recoiling in terror was shoved back for the moment, and spells floated by his vision. More than that, he felt a rush of magic that he didn’t know, details of spells that he could only guess the nature of.
The dragon roared, and Tom took a deep breath. A spell rose to his tongue, and he started to make hand-motions; the dragon swept forward with a claw and pinned his arms and body against the ground. A string of foreign words floated over the air, and the dragon suddenly turned into a sheep sitting on Tom’s chest. A short woman with red-streaked black hair stood over him, looking down with irritation at the sheep-pinned planeswalker. A burst of flame appeared, engulfing the sheep and blasting it off his chest. She stepped over towards him, narrow-eyed, and one of the hourglasses crawled up her arm onto her shoulder. “Mage, what are you doing in this part of Shiv?”
Tom sat up slowly, holding his forehead. “I, er, dropped in without intending to. Where am I?”
“Shiv. Dominaria.” She looked at him with disdain.
“Ah, right, you mentioned. Sorry, I’m a bit disoriented. Nice… ants?”
“I call them timebugs.” She brushed a fingertip along one of the hourglasses, which on closer inspection were the bodies of large insectoid machines. “I’m feeling generous; further explain who you are and what you’re doing here, or you’ll meet the same fate as that sheep.”
Joe Swafford, known to most club members as Quiet Joe, stood in the forests outside the college and focused. Tattoos glowed and shifted along his arms and skin, vines and black runes formed of mana underneath his skin. Plant matter and fungi crawled along the ground, clumping together awkwardly into a small circle drawn in the dirt. It took only a moment to form what could be considered a fungal Saproling. He conjured a small mass of dead flesh in a second circle, next to the Saproling one. As he forced more magic into the Saproling, the markings on his skin twisted and thrummed; the plant creature howled and dove into the mound of dead matter, eating it with fury. When it stood back up, it resembled nothing more than a horrifying, undead Saproling, and he was pleased. “Now, if I can make them explode… lots of them…” He grinned at the thought, and started on a second.
Tom walked along the dusty mountain road with the mage, who called herself Jhoira. He’d finally come out and told her he was a planeswalker from another place, and had accidentally ‘walked here in his sleep. She, surprisingly, was accustomed to planeswalkers and merely took this as data. What was more important, she put forward, was how she was going to get him off her plane. She didn’t quite say it out loud, but Tom felt as though she’d been expecting someone else rather than a strange ‘walker. Jhoira didn’t believe that Tom didn’t know how to get home, and kept insisting that he needed the proper motivation to ‘walk in the right direction.
Tom recognized some of the terrain as from land cards; he refrained from mentioning the game to Jhoira as they walked towards her dwelling. Memory served that the set’s storyline had several planeswalkers sacrificing their powers to heal the plane; he wasn’t quite ready to add his own spark to the pile.
It turned out that Jhoira, however, was not just a master-class artificer; as a result of her part in the healing of several time rifts and plane disjunctions, she was adept at something called Suspension magic. Tom was quite impressed when she threw a rock in the opposite direction, which disappeared in midair in a flash of energy. A few minutes later, it smacked him in the small of his back hard, from the other way.
It would take a few days before Jhoira was able to get Tom to anyone who could help him get home, and in the meantime, he would be helping her clean up some lingering time anomalies. She taught him the basic suspension spell, then led him on horseback towards a large canyon.
Three of the club members ran through the mountain trail, occasionally tripping over patches of marshy ground as they scrambled ahead. Occasionally, bursts of flame would explode at their feet to force them forward faster. Maytee strolled along after them, pointing her finger in the shape of a gun at their backs. Energy formed, swirling with shadow and flame, and she smiled slowly. “Spirit Gun…” She ‘fired’, and a bolt of energy lashed at the ground behind them. They yelped, and kept running. “One day… they’ll learn not to start fights with non-mages…” She snapped, her clothes shifting to mimic a space-pirate from an anime, and she formed energy spheres in her hands. A faint smell of brimstone emitted from them, and she levitated into the air, laughing as she chased the delinquent assistants around the mountain. One of the spheres she expanded and stretched into a energy blade; the other simply shot off energy beams at the punished students. None of them would actually get hurt, of course; but they’d be a little less likely to wave cantrips around and bully the ordinary students.
In the middle of the desert-looking mountains, Tom was amazed to find a large canyon filled with what appeared to be seawater. Jhoira scoffed, and threw a rock into the water. A large, slow tentacle rose and dragged the rock under the water, leaving just a shadow and rippling saltwater. “Damn thing appeared, and no one noticed. Now the rift’s closed and I’m stuck cleaning it out.” She flexed her hands, and Tom shook his head.
“How about you let me handle this for you?” He looked at his feet, sheepishly. “If you can get me home, I’ll owe you at least one, right?” Jhoira raised an eyebrow, and made a motion towards the water.
Tom closed his eyes, and that feeling of grasping for mana in this area came up sharply. He forced his mind to replay the suspend array that Jhoira had taught him yesterday, considering his options. He reached out, hummed a major third, and snapped his fingers. Nothing happened at first. He could feel it though… what little mana the land held now, it was gathering. Wisps of light formed around his hand, drifting sleepily over the water in a hazy line. He could feel the slow beat of the water against the red soil, and…
Quiet Joe raised an eyebrow, feeling three people crash through the terrain. He slowly brought a hand to his forearm, tracing the skull tattoo carefully, energy gathering on his skin. When he could tell something was about to crash through the underbrush into his clearing, he released the power into the ground and stood back. Three young men, whom he’d seen working in one or another of the research groups, yelled and tried to run past the mage in front of them. One by one, they fell onto their faces, black energy rising from the ground and tangling around their feet. Joe directed three of his Necrolings to scramble onto the students’ backs, holding them down with plant-matter limbs. Maytee, in a strange-looking costume and holding a sword of red energy in one hand.
“Thanks, but they’re still on punishment.” Maytee gave a smile to Joe, showing she wasn’t serious; her voice gave up none of this levity and made the three young men shake on the ground. Joe looked down, irritated.
“They disrupted my work. Get them out of here before I ‘punish’ them further.” He raised an eyebrow, flashing Maytee an identical smile, before calling his Necrolings off the three. “Clear off!” The three apprentice mages got up, running towards the campus, and Maytee floated after them lazily. “Heard anything from Tom?”
“Nothin’. He’s probably up to something.” He glanced at the retreating trio. “How long’s this going to go on?”
“Until I get bored, or tired. Or they pass out.”
“Kewl.” He pronounced the word in that way before turning back to his work.
Flying wasn’t helping… there were too many tentacles on this Kraken to avoid them all. Tom dodged them narrowly; the thin mana in the environment was slowing his reaction. Jhoira called out, making suggestions, and the floating planeswalker was grazed slightly by a thick limb sweeping through the air.
Right… what do I know about this… Suspending spells allows for less mana expenditure for the same spell by drawing over time… He dodged another one, slower than he should have been. So… time is a resource for this kind of magic. Tom stopped in midair, focusing what meager energy he had to work with, and started throwing together a spell from scratch. The Kraken rose and started to surround him with rising tentacles. So… use less time… He felt the air movement slowing as he powered his spell, the Kraken slowing down and halting in midair. By standing still, Tom could see that the monster was moving very, very slowly. The spell faltered slightly, and Tom pumped it with the thin broth of mana he could gather from the saltwater and the mountains. He could see the air grow darker as light moved slower, slicing seconds into fragments to use a little at a time. What terrified him for a moment was that he had no idea how he was keeping the spell going, but he forced his mind onto other thoughts. He could feel a smug presence in his mind for a brief moment, then it was gone. Hesitantly, he started humming to himself as he floated to the ground, slicing time as thinly as he dare. When his shoe touched red dirt again, he let the spell loose, and the Kraken was momentarily grasping towards thin air, exposing more of his body. Tom laughed, pointing at the Kraken’s body and barked a spell aloud. Nothing happened, and the Kraken eye was drawn towards the sound. Jhoira stood up, and swept her arm forward. The last thing Tom saw before he passed out from sudden exhaustion was a Kraken-shaped hole in the air, a swirl of seawater behind the gap.