Tom jammed his palm into the rock, closing his eyes. It hurt, drawing mana this rapidly from the landscape, but he managed to gather enough to push some into the sandstone and yank part of the rock back. He thought, slowly, about how dry the land was here; how every square inch of Shiv burned with red mana, and his hand smoldered. Lines of script and symbols extended from his skin, laying on the surface of the rock, then slowly drew back into the palm of his hand. The ‘walker could feel the sturdy energy inside him, the rigid and tough nature of the earth running through his veins. He bit his lip, and forced that feeling forward. His fingers thickened, his skin sprouting patches of rock, those pieces spreading. His hand, just like before, looked as though it had been carved from the earth of Shiv and yet moved slowly like any other hand. He flexed his fingers and clenched his fist, punching into the rock. His fist smashed an imprint in the stone, the alloy of flesh and rock harder than the original. He released the spell, and his hand crumbled back into a twin of the other, shedding a cloud of red dust onto the ground.
“Interesting. Are you absorbing the mana from the plane, then replacing your individual mana with it?” Jhoira walked up behind him, faintly suspicious. She’d returned from her errand only a few hours ago, empty-handed but optimistic.
“Not really. What I’m doing is copying the qualities of the material, then using gathered mana to replicate that quality in parts of myself. What’s interesting is that I can make material that’s harder, better, than the original. You remember what I said before, though, about hearing one of my friends appear on the plane?”
“Yes, but I thought your friends were all off on this plane of your own? Volst?”
“They were… one of them must have turned into a planeswalker and arrived here. If I can use that feeling from their ‘walk, I can follow it back, I think. Like footprints.” Tom wriggled the fingers on his formerly-rock hand, still feeling stiff in the knuckles. “What did you find?”
“Venser thinks that you don’t need his little trick, and so you’ve got to try planeswalking on your own. Sorry.” Jhoira shifted her weight, then leapt forward, hurling a small bolt of flame at the young man. He flinched, throwing up his forearm to block, and started throwing up mana to form a shield. The fire struck the mana before a spell could be formed and disappeared. His mana dropped, and Tom looked at her, His arm glowed softly at first, then glowing lines appeared under his skin, along his fingers and forearm until small flames appeared along the lines. He narrowed his eyes, raising his arm and wiggled his flaming fingers. “Thought that might happen. You can absorb qualities of things other than matter.”
“You… you shot me.” He blinked. His hand ignited further, then flickered out back to normal.
“Heh. You got better.” She took a step back, then hurled a larger blast. Tom forced a net of mana up between his hands, catching the blast and absorbing it, then raced forward, his arms steaming with the energy. He swung a burning fist at the artificer, who agilely avoided the attack, then the second and third. “I hope this works.” She snapped her fingers, and a swirl of air hit Tom in the back as a gate opened behind him. She smiled, wryly, and kicked the planeswalker’s foot out from under him, forcing him to fall backwards through the hole in space. When the gate closed, Jhoira took a deep breath, walking towards the fist-print in the rock.
Chasity sat underneath a tree near the center of campus, reading a fantasy novel while several mages worked on perfecting casting technique. Alex’s right arm was sore and torn up after the block that had forced him to wake up his planeswalker spark, leaving him mostly unable to cast through it; he was forcing himself to use his other hand to form weapons and spells. Zach had been working with Alex as part of his penalty for starting a fight with Mike the other day, and Joe Dicianni (a.k.a. Loud Joe) was trying to undergo additional training. They specialized in different areas, but Nick had asked the four of them to work together as part of his plan to alternate assistants and head mages. Zach leapt up, swinging a punch at Dicianni’s face, which he ducked and threw mana together around himself. Fabric-thin mana swirled over his jeans and shirt, forming a trenchcoat and steel-toed boots, as Joe extended an open palm towards Zach’s airborne body. Part of the costume melted, forming ribbons up around his arm, twisting and wrapping along it, forming invisible dull hooks at the end and catching snatches of Zach’s clothes before yanking him backwards. Joe landed a smack on Zach’s shoulder before loosing the spell as he stepped away. The young man spun slightly, landing on his shoulder in the grass.
“Right, so what did you do wrong this time, Zach?” Alex called out. He was hanging upside-down from a tree limb by his knees, his right arm in his pocket. He was juggling three spheres of silvery energy in his left hand, forcing himself not to reach out with his other, weakened arm.
“I was born.” He stood up, angrily, and kicked the ground.
“Wrong. You left yourself open, think next time and maybe your luck won’t interfere, eh?” Alex frowned. “Again, and this time with feeling!”
The pain was familiar, Tom thought to himself as he woke up. It was every bit what he’d imagined a hangover would feel like, with slightly more prodding on his shoulder and cursing in another language. He opened one eye, and was met by the most amazing set of white beard and mustache. “You… you did this, didn’t you?” The facial hair bobbed in anger.
“Probably, yeah,” Tom admitted, moaning as he pushed himself up slightly. “What’d I do this time?”
“You… you destroyed my Weird experiment!” The beard was attached to a weak chin and that, he noticed, was attached to a scrawny older man in brass and silk armor. Bright reds and blues surrounded them, as well as several metals of different hues. A thin hand waved a large, bulbous bottle of sparkilng liquid fire near Tom’s nose. He snatched out in reflex, a hand wrapped around the large mass of the bottle. He pushed mana out, and the old mage’s eyes widened as lines of runes appeared around the bottle. Tom pulled back, drawing part of the weird bottle contents with him, and looked up.
“My name is To-Thomas Wisel.”
“Hm… You might be a relative. My name is Quzyl, Izzet mage and researcher.” He looked down at Tom’s hand. “What did you cast there?”
Tom smiled, and started copying the feeling of strange warmth from the bottle, his hands slowly bubbling and melting into a claw of fluid fire.
“… I think we might be of help to each other, eh?” Quzyl said, warmly.
The sun had gone down quickly, and a new swarm of shifters had appeared. These were a mix of the varieties seen up until now, mostly blue and black with a scattering of whites. The library had been full of them, and Alex sat outside the Library’s front doors. Zach and Chasity were nearby anyway, and Joe hadn’t gotten far before the warning had gone out.
“Here’s the plan. I’ll do what I can to support you, but I’m still down for the count. Joe, you and Zach are taking point. Chasity, you’re going to stick near me, just in case. ” The three of them nodded.
Inside the library, someone was sitting and watching the shifters milling around. It had taken some time to train them not to drain his powers, but lucky breaks had paid off and now they knew not to try anything with him, their new master. Wild magic hadn’t been easy to tame.
Eventually, he thought, these would be the perfect tools for taking out his foe.
Zach snarled, swarming nuisance bugs around his feet, a long shield strapped to his arm preventing the black shifters around him from getting nearby. The metallic bugs were providing additional defenses, but nothing in the way of offense. “No time for an Overbeing, but… little bits and pieces…” He dissolved more of his nuisances, their fragments swarming slowly around his right hand and shoulders, forming thick and furred shoulderpads and a large warhammer floating near his hand. The shifters were massing near his position outside the conference rooms in the lobby, and he stood on the remaining nuisances to ride them forward slowly. On a loose platform of nuisances, Zach rode forward and forced the warhammer through the shifter groups, swinging wide swaths into the walls. He roared out at the shadowy forms, smashing them into the ground.
Blue demons swarmed around Joe, inside the ring of public computers across the library. He raised a hand to his forehead, black and yellow goggles appearing in his fingers that he lowered over his eyes. Red spirals appeared, swirling on the surface of the yellow lenses. He smiled, and a small box formed in his hands as blue shifters leapt into the air towards him. He twisted the box once, twice, then opened a side wide. Black ribbons flew out the side of the object, tipped with invisible hooks, catching and dragging the shifters into the box. The ribbons were fast, but almost not fast enough. He wondered what he’d have to do next.
Alex swept across the incoming shadowy shifters with a silver chain, his left arm extended. Chasity sat, her book open on her lap, in the middle of a green mana circle hovering above the ground. She drew a sentence of typeface from the page and threw it into the circle, making it glow with energy. Chasity flicked her wrist towards a small incoming group of black shifters, and a large stylized flower appeared on the ground under them. The petals, made entirely of glowing green outline, rose off the ground and swallowed the whole troop into the ground. The young woman raised her hand and green lines writhed from the ground, wrapping around her wrist and tracing flowers around her hand. The flowers formed a rough circle in midair, each center glowing. Chasity closed her eyes, muttering a word, and each flower released a beam of energy, piercing a shadowy shifter and dissipating it.
“Damn. Nice…” Alex started to congratulate Chasity, when a shout from outside drew his attention. The ‘walker ran outside, ducking a leaping shifter as he slammed into the door. Zach was sliding around on several of his nuisance bugs, barely holding his own against the shifters attacking him. Alex narrowed his eyes, calling a familiar spell into his head backwards, the silver gauntlet forming on his left hand instead.
“Now, again!” Tom leapt forward, his forearms molten and shifting, large weird-claws replacing both his hands, and he tore open the training golem with three swipes. He released the spell, snarling, and his skin hissed slightly from the release of energy. Quzyl was taking notes carefully, using words like “transmogrification”, and “multifluctuation” as Tom kept absorbing weird energies. Weirds, Tom learned, were a type of elemental the Izzet League had developed that combined fire and water into one stable force. The raw energy was strange to absorb with his new powers, but it made a strong alloy for attacks.
“This much data should get me back onto my old research, all this weird work has kept me from my office too long.” Quzyl shook his head. Tom jogged over, hands in his pocket.
“So, Quzyl, what’s your real specialty?” Tom asked, sitting on a broken training golem.
“Oh, I’m a chronomancer.”
“A… wait, you’re a time mage?”
Zach slipped, falling back onto his nuisance bugs, dropping his warhammer. Nine shifters leapt up, claws out to attack him, when a silver chain shot over him, grabbing his arm and yanking him out from under them. He saw Alex pass by as he rocketed past along the ground. Zach slowed to a stop, and sat up, moaning. Alex formed something in his gauntlet, extending backwards into a twisted racket. The face was oddly shaped, a bladed edge along the side facing down. The planeswalker leapt up, arm across his body, and started slicing apart the shifters, spinning and attacking awkwardly with his off-hand. A chain appeared at the end of the racket, and Alex hurled it into a shifter half-formed from the remains, spinning it by the chain in the air, slicing through enemies in anger. He caught the racket backwards, the chain disappearing, and stared at one of the few remaining shifters. From midair, a chain sprouted forward and wrapped itself around the blue shifter, wrapping it into a ball. Alex slid his wounded arm from his pocket gingerly then replaced it, instead pointing the racket blade at the sphere. He shouted one word, and the chains constricted to destroy the shifter. Alex turned, storming inside the library, slicing enemies as he walked, flipping in midair to cut through one on the ceiling. He stepped forward slowly, arm moving in wide arcs, shifters ricocheting off the walls into other shifters.
Joe looked up, seeing a ruckus at the lobby. The young planeswalker was Ginsu-ing through the monsters with a determined look in his eye. He spun in midair, knocking a shifter against the far wall. Joe blinked, and decided to retreat immediately towards the back of the library. All he heard was shredded forms raining onto the walls and carpet. When the noise stopped, Joe checked back in the lobby, his goggles rashly on his eyes, scanning. Alex stood, panting, in the midst of a ring of demolished shelves and shifters. Chasity ran up with an embarrassed Zach at her side, walking slowly up to the ‘walker.
“Uh… you… won, huh.” Zach looked down, kicking at a lump of shifter already dissolving. Alex took a deep breath, dropping his gauntlet and racket spell.
“Guys… let’s grab some food. I’m wiped.” Alex walked out of the library, his squad behind him by a few steps.
“So… you need to find a time and place that you say exists, and on a plane that we’ve never heard of before.” Quzyl looked quietly confused at the planeswalker. Tom copied part of the golem’s metal and wood, forming stripes along his hand, and nodded. “Sounds amazing. I am absolutely in on this one.” The chronarch dug in his pockets, throwing a gemstone at the wall. A portal opened into a large laboratory where it struck. “We’re going to burn the midnight oil on this one!” He dragged the ‘walker into the laboratory, happily.