Author’s Note: Titled after the Zenith card cycle from the Mirrodin Besieged expansion set. Enjoy the story and R&R.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to or of Magic: The Gathering.
The suns dawn upon an infected Mirrodin, its erstwhile saviours now its implacable oppressors.
“Glissa! Pay attention to me when I am addressing you! Move, stupid! I order you to move!” a voice derides.
The name drips like acid. Putrescent. Reeking of an evil presence. A part of her tries to remember.
Flare! Her frontal lobe is set aflame, and she doubles over. Not an unfamiliar feeling.
Sunseeker! What has become of you?
At the forefront of her septic cognitions are a goblin wearing artificer goggles, squat and green, and a disembodied head, yammering nonstop in her ear.
Slobad and Geth.
The three of them, Mirrodin’s last inhabitants, or so she thought.
Slobad sacrificed his – her – Planeswalker spark, and the war with Memnarch reached its meridian. The five suns shone without witnesses on a barren, alveolate world. It was this world Glissa sought to discover. A blank canvas of infinite possibilities opened up beneath the sunburst, ready to be explored – ingested – in an entirely different light. The Viridian elf felt a newfound affinity towards the place.
Mirrodin’s metallic circumference scintillated, a rare beauty despite its scabrous terrain. She’d journeyed the aciculate Razor Fields, shifting Quicksilver Sea, noxious Mephidross, plateauing Oxidda Chain, and leaping canopies of the Tangle during her stint as the plane’s reluctant hero. Peeled back the layers of the terrarium to expose its core, where its mythic god-king watched from his Darksteel Eye, the hidden citadel of Panopticon, and issued orders to his Levelers to thin the surface dwellers’ population every hundred years.
Memnarch was mad. A child who envied his parent and obsessed to emulate him, he schemed to follow the golem into the Blind Eternities. For that, he required a spark. He required her, representing that microscopically small percentage of ascension, to tap true godhood.
He would have succeeded, had it not been for Slobad.
But Slobad was gone. In their paranoia, the displaced left by the Vanishing, younger generations imprinted solidly on Mirrodin, separated Glissa and Slobad.
The skittering, modular memnites furloughed her.
Deprived its tyrannical warden to routinely cleanse the contagion, the immunoreactive mycosynth branching the lacunae fastened themselves to the heart of the sphere, providing the mana-rich foothold for a darker industry’s resurgence.
Annexation. A dead nightmarescape. Mirrodin, pure no more.
She cried tears of black ichor over copper cheeks for a woman she remembered not. Poison rankled. The glistening oil pumped through her rearranged veins, subverting her tragic identity.
Awake! You are compleat, child. Today, you shed the curse of sentience. Come, let us advance the great work. The Great Evolution.
Those were the whisperings of Vorinclex, praetor of the Vicious Swarm. No sinew. Just bloodied, bisected struts imitating bone, mantled in patches of dissimilar fur.
Your purpose? he hissed at his rebirthed emissary, his living weapon.
Domination by the strongest. That is all that matters, she regurgitated his doctrine. It was etched into her brain via Phyrexian implements.
Was it her brain? Not a cortex of cerebral slough, fat, and tendon cultured in a tank? Precursor to the crotus blooms she pioneered to raze independent thinking?
The hulking vat-born monstrosity fortified his region behind the exenterated vitals of Tel-Jilad.
Vorinclex dwarfed her, yet per his own psalms, size alone did not guarantee survival. That is how she saw him for what he truly was: a mindless beast, like the rest. The Vicious Swarm’s mascot. Even the autonomy of his unlife must be cut out.
In the end, Phyrexia would consume itself.
“Food?” the insulting voice returned, tendering a bowl of molder slugs and scavenged gelfruit.
He was mocking her. They had no need for sustenance. The animals of her faction, which gorged aplenty and relied on their superlative senses, devoured as a question of function. They ate, not because they craved nourishment, but because nature demanded they perpetuate the predator-prey cycle. All prey predators, and all predators prey. The ultimate species. Natural selection. Law of the Tangle. Scripture.
“No. And you are a contemptible nuisance for offering.”
“Everyone should owe you something,” he inculcated.
Geth bid his arachnoid body rise, scuttering up the seat of Ish-Sah. Underneath the spiny chair, he still proliferated narcotics, equipment, and in violation of the Orthodoxy’s pre-emptive taboo against written and spoken texts besides the Tome of Machines, his personal grimoire.
His Moriok skin repulsed her.
Flesh is weak.
Flesh is heresy.
Raking a claw across the dull scythe surgically implanted in her radius, she again vilified the cur, “You’re a decaying sack of flesh sitting idle on a mortal throne.”
“I recall saucier retaliations from you,” he reminisces, though his drawl finds zero niche on her scrubbed intellect. “I was a pain in your side, but you enjoyed my company.”
“The hierarchy is fraught with indecision. Our leaders bide time growing forces we already have. To the Nine Hells with this Deadlock! We ought to mount a full-scale invasion immediately!”
Normally, she played closer to the chest, allowing her enemies to believe her as deficient as Vorinclex. However, she was confident Geth would not leak her criticism to their superiors. He may have been a sycophant, but he shared Sheoldred’s appreciation for the power of information. Too valuable a resource. Not that she cared whether the praetors realized she viewed them as cowards.
“That’s the problem with these Phyrexians,” he issued his verdict, also unabashed in his deprecation. “They’re slow on the uptake. Worse than the nim. Infighters. It’ll be juicy to watch them go boom!”
She had just about enough of his commentary. “Quiet, head.”
“See, you know you love me.”
She was sure she heard the wisecrack somewhere before.
“Looks like it’s up to us to do the heavy lifting, eh? Except we’re on the opposing team this time around.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, corpse-peddler.”
“Then let me be succinct, in the words of a troll I met not long ago.”
“Language is meaningless. We will renounce it eventually.”
“The one who once saved this world was branded as a Traitor, and a Traitor she became.”
“Useless,” she spat.
The Lord of the Vault, keeper of the secret of her innocence, cackled. In another life, she’d have laughed with him.
The black sun, Ingle, claimed its zenith above the Dross’ necrogen-belching smokestacks.
“Under the suns, Mirrodin kneels and begs us for perfection,” the bootlicker toed the line.
At least the thane got something right.
Who is Glissa?