Joe had no idea how he had gotten here. One moment he had dragged himself to bed after a fifteen hour watch shift and the next thing he knew, he was standing someplace wildly different.
The room was made of stone like some kind of old temple you’d see in a movie. It was even overgrown with vines and roots springing from cracks in the walls. At the other side of the room stood two carved stone doors. There wasn’t a visible light source in the room but for some reason Joe could almost see everything in the room.
“Ah, you’re finally here. I was wondering how much longer I would have to wait.” Joe looked over into a corner near the two doors a man stepped from one of the few shadowy areas in the room. Whether they were there before or he made them Joe didn’t know.
“Who the fuck…?”
“I am Raedi Faran-Sesko, The Abiogenesist.” Now that the figure was out of the shadows Joe got a good look at him. He was a tall man well over six feet in height, with tan almost red skin. He wore a strange type of business suit made out of vines and leaves that shifted just enough to make it known that they were still alive. He leaned forward on a simple wooden walking cane twisted as if it were a tree branch with a polished silver ball as the head.
Joe then shifted his gaze upward towards the man’s face, and had to stop himself from showing revulsion at the sight. While one side of his face was what some may say almost beautiful without a blemish his left side was hideously disfigured with the skin in tatters revealing the white bone of skull beneath, with part of his jaw jutting out in an unnatural angle. On the same side of his face, his eye is missing completely with some type of yellowish puss oozing from the socket from behind a monocle.
“I don’t give a…”
“Yes, I know.”
“Will you stop….”
“Interrupting you?” Joe felt his blood pressure quickly spiking. He found his initial revulsion to have been quickly replaced by irritation and the need to hit something.
“We’re inside your mind.”
“No you’re not going to hurt me. Now stand there quietly and I’ll explain everything for you.” Raedi Faran-Sesko as he had introduced himself began to absentmindedly twirl his cane in one hand as walked and talked. “Again I am Raedi Faran-Sesko, The Abiogenesis. You may call me Raedi if you wish I know the name and title is a handful.”
Raedi let his top hat roll on its rim from his head all the way to his hand catching it with his empty hand giving a polite bow. Joe was pretty sure he was meant to be impressed by the display, but frankly everything this man was doing pissed him off that much more. He stood there silently electing to physically harm this guy if he didn’t get to the point soon.
“I, am not a manifestation of your mind. You are quite sane. I, am an ancient eldritch being that has been alive for eons, but have recently been embedded inside you since birth. Why, really isn’t that important for you to know. What is important is that I will appear every time you sleep. And when you do sleep we will play a game. You like games yes? Of course you do. You cannot hide from me, and you cannot stop this from happening through trickery or magic. You can stop this by winning. If you beat me in a game you may exit this temple through one of those two doors. It doesn’t matter which just know they are the only way to escape.” Joe began to open his mouth. Raedi interrupted him without even looking over. “The temple is a physical manifestation of your mind. We, are simply projections.”
Raedi gestured to the rest of the room by raising both hands above his head. “All this is you, and I must say you really need someone like me to help you along this place is an over grown chaotic mess. So what do you say? Would you like to have me a a conscience?”
Joe’s mouth twitched to open. “Ah just think it over later. I’m not going anywhere.”
Joe immediately launched dozens of thorny vines at his new source of irritation.
Tom followed Alex up a winding staircase to the surface with barely a thought. They took the steps two, sometimes three at a time. He was winded by the time they had gotten to the top. He could feel the muscles in his legs tighten and burn at the same time. He immediately began to regret his decision to follow Alex. At this rate he’d be too tired to actually do anything.
Topside Tom could see they were back on the plains he had been driving on earlier even the wreck of his car was off to his left. In the distance ahead Tom could see maybe a dozen shifters dancing through the air dodging the knife blows of a familiar blonde headed mage. He knew he knew that guy, just not how.
Didn’t you almost get that guy killed. Oh wait that’s everyone on this plane.
Tom ignored the comment. This was a pittance compared to the massive waves of shifters that used to attack the campus. That he was told anyway. Then a new threat rose from the ground it was several stories tall easily dwarfing any of the other shifters. It looked to be living shadow in a vague humanoid form with strands of what was probably supposed to be hair wildly erupting from its head. The very light around it seemed to be absorbed into it like a black hole.
The blonde haired dude was quickly sent flying across the field landing not far from where Alex and Tom himself had just come from.
“Clint report.” Alex said without checking to see if he was alive. Suddenly the guy named Clint jumped up off the ground patting the dirt off his filthy pants and jacket, quietly swearing under his breath.
“Nothing new. It looks like a standard raid group of dozen Tinnies and a Void Titan.”
“Yeah our sweeps show nothing big. I got this if you wanna go back down.”
“Okay.” Alex began too turn to walk back down the stairs before stopping with a thought. “You still on for poker tomorrow?”
“What? Oh yeah totally. Tell Jason to make that extra spicy salsa again.” Clint said as he threw a knife that split into several more only to impale four different shifters. The sight of them casually talking about cards and salsa only made more surreal by the combat and imminent threat ahead of them.
“Will do. Good luck try not to fall down the ravine again. Come on Tom he’s got this.” Alex without checking continued to walk away.
“But….But, what about the attack?” Tom stammered out as he followed Alex back down into the city below.
“Nah don’t worry about it. Clint’s got it under control.” Alex waved dismissively.
“Yeah its not a big deal. Tinnies are weak as hell. That armor of theirs is basically just for show.”
“What about the big thing? You’re telling me that’s not a threat?” Alex stopped to look back at Tom.
“Are you a light particle?”
“Nooooo?” Tom replied weirdly unsure where this was going. Alex then began descending the stairs they had just run up.
“Then you’re fine. They look big and scary, but any Mage can take one out no problem.” Alex said as he walked.
“You sure?” They walked further down the stairwell then they had originally entered. Without a word Alex guided Tom to a branching hallway he hadn’t noticed before. It was a lot narrower than the main path they had just been on. The stone walls looked like they had been worked just enough to allow passage, and nothing more.
“Yeah, come here I wanna show you something. Within a few minutes of navigating a myriad of winding hallways and stairs they ended at a dead end. When they finally arrived Alex turned around.”Alright this is gonna be weird.”
He then grabbed Tom’s wrist and and pulled him through what he guess were about ten feet of solid stone before coming out the other end. Inside his new environment was a massive room rivaling the main chamber housing Argolis proper. Inside it was surprisingly well lit. Eventually his eyes fell upon what this secret room housed.
It had been a nice day. The sun was shining, but it wasn’t particularly hot out. Nick comfortably sat on a park bench with a sandwich in his lap, and a light breeze that blew over him. He watched as people busily walked around to the various buildings in the square. Some to work, others to get their supplies for the week. He felt himself disappear into the crowd. Completely unnoticed by anyone. It was his favorite spot in the whole city. It was here of all places he could be alone to his thoughts. A boy looking to be only a few years old stood near his bench staring. Nick looked down and realized he wasn’t even looking at him. The boy’s purple eyes fell on the untouched sandwich he had taken with him for lunch. He had almost forgotten there was rationing in effect to deal with the poor crop yield this season. Winter was going to to be a harsh one for the citizens of Volst.
Nick let out a sigh and offered the sandwich to the hungry child. The boy without a word ran up and grabbed the sandwich. And just as silent as before he ran away not once actually looking at Nick himself.
“He gets you with that every time.”
“It’s fine he needs it more that I do.”
“You’re gonna starve yourself if you keep it up.” Leah commented as she sat down next to him.
“You look better. I see you checked out of the hospital.” Nick replied changing the subject.
“Well it’s not like things would get any better with me stuck in there. Besides, I finished my book again.” Leah rummaged through her bag until she produced a sandwich of her own. She unwrapped it, and took a bite out of it.
“Ah ha okay. So what do I owe the pleasure?” He asked knowing she came by for more than lunch. Leah took a drink from her thermos before responding.
“Why did you send Max out?”
“What are you talking about he’s right over there?” Nick pointed to a lanky figure in the distance. It was clearly Max.
“Please, don’t insult me. You taught me that spell. He hasn’t been seen more that a hundred yards from you since yesterday, and he has been moved to special projects suddenly after the fire. Also suddenly our vehicle registry has one less car listed than before.”
“My car was stolen remember? I had it removed. I probably won’t see it again.”
“Nick, stop. You’re going to arrested if the council finds out.
“You’re the one confronting me in a busy public area we both know is being watched.” Nick replied not looking over. His arm resting on the back of the bench.”
“You mean here on the bench you have enchanted to discourage observation?”
“When did you…?”
“Please that’s the worst kept secret in the city. All the mages know the spell activates when a mage sits down, suddenly no one knows this bench exists. Even other mages have trouble finding it without permission.”
“Correction, dolls can see it just fine.”
“It’s not a big deal. I have Max tracking Tom. I’m hoping they find other survivors”
“This again? Nick, it’s been a year. Tom was the only one we found.”
“Yes I know, but Tom doesn’t have time limits and distance restrictions. He can go as far as he wants to find them.
“And what will he find? He’s one guy that’s madly running from what he did. He almost killed Mike for God’s sake.”
“He’ll find something.”
“You’re risking everything on “Something” you know that right? The militia are tearing apart the labs looking into our projects.”
“Of course they are. They have an excuse too.”
“No Nick you don’t understand. They have a collaborator. They’re tearing apart hidden sections at this rate they’re going to find the food stores.”
“That would imply we’re under enemy occupation.”
“We might as well be with these new laws.”
“Besides the food was magically produced. We can’t legally bring it into the city, but there’s nothing wrong with feeding the people we can while they’re at the labs.”
“They’re not going to see it that way.”
“No, but that’s my problem. I’ve been the face of everything for a reason. It gives them one target. I’m the only one they’re going to see.”
“Don’t worry about it. Somethings going to happen soon I’m sure of it.” Nick responded unconcerned.
“And what are we going to do when that happens? You’re the face of us. They remove you from the council or arrest you we don’t have any protection.”
“I’ll figure something out. I’m not about to let you guys get dragged into it. Just don’t worry about it. Enjoy your recovery and sandwich. Take the day if you need to. Otherwise I’ll be at the labs later this afternoon.”
“You know what? Suddenly I’m not that hungry anymore.” Leah said frustratedly. The look on her face clearly showed she was done with their conversation. “Why don’t you finish it since you don’t have a lunch.”
Without waiting for a response she stood up and walked off leaving the half eaten sandwich on the bench.
“Leah don’t do that there’s rationing going on!” Nick called after he as she stormed off ignoring him. He knew he was going to regret that later. “Oh well.”
Nick muttered as he picked up the sandwich with his good arm and began eating the food he didn’t need.
“That’s a good question. clearly it’s a ship of some kind.” Alex replied as he walked towards the large vessel. It was actually an impressive sight to behold. It was a large metal ship about two stories high. It leaned to one side on the ground with a large gash on the port side of the hull.
“How’d it get here?” Tom asked as he continued to follow Alex without any further prodding.
“Well here specifically I teleported it.”
“You can teleport something that large now?”
“Oh yeah that was easy.” Alex seemed rather smug as he climbed the scaffolding to the top of it. “As for how it got here on the plane itself I have no idea. Jason and I just sort of woke up on it. It looked crashed when we found it.”
Tom climbed after him onto the main deck of the ship. He stepped carefully so as to not slip on the slanting ground. Tom could see it wasn’t an ordinary sailing ship. The sails underneath it meant it could fly, and even in its damaged state he could tell it was very magical, but twisted in some way.
“This isn’t from this plane is it?”
“No, it’s from a much worse place.”
“How do you know?”
“I knew when we woke up for some reason, but….. Look on the undamaged side of the ship.” Tom cautiously inched his was over towards the other side of the ship that had been hidden when he entered. Then he swung himself over the edge and released himself after taking flight. His eyes few on the undamaged side of the ship until it fell onto a large circle with a single vertical line going through it.
Thorns covered the entire area of the temple as Joe launched vine after vine at his obnoxious target. He had never wanted so badly to harm something in his life. Raedi himself barely bothered to move save for the swinging his cane around like he was fencing. He always seemed to be just fast enough to parry Joe’s attacks no matter the speed or direction.
“Come now, Don’t be angry I was only teasing you. I don’t need to be your conscience.” Raedi said as he parried another set of thorny vine sending them flying wildly in another direction almost hitting Joe himself.
“Shut-up!” Joe finally managed to yell as a black aura began to envelop the vines. As it crept further along them small yellowish pustules began to grow along the once green flash of the vines. The pustules grew quickly and within seconds they looked like they were about to burst from the slightest contact. The spell wasn’t the most stable one he had cast ever cast, but he was pretty sure it would do the trick.
Vines flew from every direction growing from places that a plant shouldn’t be able to grow from, and not just parts of his body. Their movements became more erratic as Joe tried to keep track of all their movements and Raedi without them also colliding into each other or Joe himself. This was much harder than Nick had made this out to be.
As soon as the pustules had grown on his vines Mr. half skull had stopped blocking his attacks and started dodging instead. His movements we even quicker than before and surprisingly graceful for one of his since. It just pissed Joe off more with each miss. He wasn’t about to lose this fight though. He had faced so many irritating homicidal opponents already one more shouldn’t be a problem. But he was.
Joe added more and more vines. They jerked in every which way. He felt himself straining as his concentration lapsed in parts of his network. Until it finally had happened.
He had summoned hundreds of vines, each capable of individual movement and each covered in pustules. Raedi had practically danced his way in circles surrounding Joe in his own web of destruction until he couldn’t keep track of them all. Finally a pair of vines moved incorrectly as one jerked into another and set off both sets of pustules. Then a terrible chain reaction occurred as acid spewed from thousands of pustules splashing the ones closest to them.
Soon the entire room was filled with acid as the corrosive liquid filled every part of the room. Joe himself had barely managed to cover himself in his protective vines as the substance covered everything else. In hindsight of a few seconds ago this was probably a bad idea, but he was sure that asshole was probably dead. That’s what he thought anyway as Joe poked his head out once the last of the pustules finished bursting.
The room was a mess. His vines were in tatters all over the room. The acid had eaten away large chunks of them some were barely connected to his control points. Even the stone on the walls seemed to have taken some bad damage, but seemed so have taken a smooth almost glassy sheen. Strangely enough it seemed like the only thing unaffected by his spell were those doors.
“Come now, do you really think something so pedestrian as a room covered in highly corrosive acid would be enough to kill me?” Joe’s blood ran cold as he heard the Abogenisist speak behind him. Unfortunately for him he didn’t have time to register anything beyond that had felt a hard object smash into his side sending him flying out of the remains of his cacoon, and into the nearby wall to his right.
His world was a blur of pain and confusion as Joe laid in his stomach. The next thing he knew he was casually pushed onto his back with the foot of his assailant. When his vision cleared somewhat as healing spells worked overtime to repair the damage done to him, he could see a grissely sight.
Raedi Faran-Sesko, The Abiogenesist stood over him with his right foot planted squarely on the injured planeswalker’s chest. His suit made of leaves was smoking and he seemed utterly unconcerned as the rest of his flesh on his face melted away.
Raedi looked down on Joe with what he assumed was a smug expression. His cane rested in his shoulder like a batter waiting for his turn at the plate.
“It seems our time is up for tonight, but don’t worry we have plenty of time later to continue. Why don’t you take this time to think about what you’ve done, and when you return….. ah time to go.” Joe felt his conciseness fade away into blackness.
“Okay you got me. Why is there a Phyrexian ship sitting on this plane?” Tom asked nervously. “We aren’t about to be invaded are we?”
“Probably not?” Alex responded almost questioningly. “I mean we’ve had it sitting here for about a year now. If it was going to attract the Phyrexians it would have done so already. That and they’re probably to distracted with their conquest of Myrrodan.”
“Their what?!” Tom blurted out in shock.
You know, Mirrodin. Shinny metal place. Lots of sharp objects. You drank a spell bomb from there one time.
Tom could see in the corner of his eye Weaver sitting atop the railing to the ship. His legs swinging back and forth just out of view of Alex who had his back turned away from him.
“You know, Mirrodin. Shinny metal place. Lots of sharp objects. You drank a spell bomb from there one time.” Tom heard Alex quip. It was the same joke Weaver had just made, and it unconsciously made him dislike his friend a little bit for it.
“Ha ha very funny.” Was the only thing Tom could think of to respond with. He had been listening to Weaver’s jabs and commentary for days, and his pacience was wearing thin.
“No, but seriously Phyrexia invaded Mirrodin like 6 months ago. There’s a pretty brutal war going on there. I wouldn’t recommend visiting any time soon unless you want to die or worse.” Tom decided not to respond to that. Instead he walked closer to the ship and placed his hand on a jagged section of the hull. It was beaten up pretty badly like it had crash landed. But a functional airship would have been nice to have before everything had changed. After a moment of silence, Alex elected to continue a previous conversation. “Tom, be honest with me. What happened?”
“What do you mean?” Tom asked as he let his hand fall and looked back at the young mage.
“You asked me a weird question in the cafeteria. Have I come across anyone not from the campus? Does that mean you have?”
“Kinda?” Tom answered sounding more like a question than a real respsonse. “I met a person that wasn’t a person. She couldn’t use magic but could affect it. Like a walking signal booster for all the magicy things we do.”
“You know that makes no bloody sense right?” Nonplused Tom just shrugged as if that were a good enough answer. “And where did you find this person that isn’t a person?”
“Tom?” The Izzet mage heard a familiar voice echo across the chamber as he was about to answer a very uncomfortable question.
Tom looked to the right passed the down ship to see Jason walking over. He knew the fellow planeswalker had survived, but hearing and seeing were very different things.
“Oh hey Jason. We found Tom on the perimeter this morning. I was just showing him around.” Alex responded seemingly to forget about the current conversation.
Jason finished his approach with a mix of concern and happiness on his face. Something told Tom, he wasn’t supposed to see what was in here. Before he could comment on anything Jason spoke up.
“Hey how are you? Where have you been?”
“About what you’d expect from a guy that went from, battle to the death with a psychopathic mage, to suddenly the entire campus is overgrown and abandoned.”
“Well you see…”
Joe’s head hurt when he woke up. It felt like a dozen jackhammers had decided to go off a separated times in all corners of his brain and the combination of light sensitivity and nausea made it feel like he had the worst hangover in existence. It was somehow worse that he didn’t even have anything to drink the night before.
“Oh well at least I doesn’t have watch today.” Joe mumbled to himself as he rolled over to go back to sleep. He felt himself slowly drift back to sleep positive he wasn’t forgetting anything.