Agents of Artifice: A Planeswalker Novel

BOOK: Agents of Artifice: A Planeswalker Novel
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“What see you, soothsayer?” boomed the voice from above.

“Two have come to Grixis, master,” she replied, falling into a strange, vaguely disturbing cadence. “World-walkers, mana-drinkers. Vital still, they stand amid the rising dead.”

“Two?” The cavern resounded with shifting scales from above. “Two … Tell me.”

“Mind-breaker, thought-taker, eye-blinder, dream-raker. He walks the intentions of others as easily as he walks between worlds, but knows not his own.

“Death-bringer, corpse-talker, spirit-rider. She teeters on the edge of death, and fears to fall in after those she has sent before her. A blossoming of truth that rots around a seed of endless lies.”

“Ah,” came the voice from above. “Them.”

Ignite your spark.

Discover the planeswalkers in their travels across the endless planes of the Multiverse…

THE PURIFYING FIRE
BY LAURA RESNICK
The young and impulsive Chandra Nalaar—planeswalker, pyromancer—begins her crash course in the art of boom. When her volatile nature draws the attention of megalomaniacal forces, she will have to learn to control her power before they can control her.

CURSE OF THE CHAIN VEIL
BY JOHN VORNHOLT
(February 2010)                 

The mercurial necromancer Liliana Vess and psychic sorcerer Jace Beleren are back and ready to challenge the netherworld forces that threaten to tip the delicate balance between life and death. Can Jace help Liliana learn to control her new-found power, or will it control her?

ZENDIKAR: IN THE TEETH OF AKOUM
BY ROBERT B. WINTERMUTE
(April 2010)         

Deep in the heart of Zendikar lies a threat deadlier than any of the myriad pitfalls that await the fortune seekers who comb its ruins. Nissa Revane, a planeswalker and native of Zendikar, thought she’d seen it all. But if she has any hope of seeing more, she will need to stop this burgeoning evil.

And revisit these classic planeswalker tales, repackaged in two volumes

ARTIFACTS CYCLE I
THE THRAN
by J. Robert King
THE BROTHERS’ WAR
by Jeff Grub
ARTIFACTS CYCLE II
PLANESWALKER
by Lynn Abbey
BLOODLINES
by Loren L. Coleman
TIME STREAMS
by J. Robert King

To George, for trying to keep me sane—
but even more so for going nuts with me
when that didn’t work

Author’s thanks for…
Means: Fleetwood and Courtney
Motive: Mom, Dad, Naomi, and George (again)
And opportunity: Phil

T
hrough a place that wasn’t, where time held no meaning, the figure walked.

Winds blew, and they were not winds. Without source, without direction, they tossed the outsider’s hair one way, clothes another. They were the hot gusts of an arid desert, the frigid breath of the whirling blizzard. They bore the perfume of growing things, the rancid tang of death, and scents unknown to any sane world.

The ground rolled, and it was not ground. Shifting grays and black—not a color so much as a lack of color—formed a surface scarcely less treacherous than quicksand. Through it, deep beneath it, high above it in what could hardly be called a sky, snaked rivers of fire, of lightning, of liquid earth and jagged water, of raw mana. Colors unseen by human eyes flew overhead, refusing to congeal, soaring on wings of forgotten truths, borne aloft by stray gusts. Mountains of once and future worlds wept tears of sorrow for realities that never were, unchosen futures that no other would ever mourn.

Chaos. Impossibility. Insanity.

The Blind Eternities.

Far behind, and falling ever farther, a curtain of viscous light separated the maddening expanse of raw
creation from one of the many worlds of the near-in finite Multiverse that existed within. There was nothing special about this world, at least not when viewed from without, save that this was whence the figure had come, and where it must soon return.

The figure. Here, in this realm beyond worlds, that was all it was. Was she male? Was he female? Short or tall? Human or elf or goblin, angel or demon or djinn? All and none, perhaps, and none of it of any import. Any normal mortal would already have been lost, body and mind and soul torn apart and absorbed into the twisting maelstrom of what was, is, and could be.

Not this one. Anchored by a spark of the Blind Eternities itself that burned within the figure’s soul, a planeswalker strode through the tide, and the maddened chaos between worlds was just another obstacle on a road that few would ever walk.

Danger and distaste aside, the figure persevered, continuing ever onward for who knew how long. Finally, when perhaps a whole heartbeat and perhaps a mere century had passed, another curtain of light loomed from the roiling instability. The traveler passed through and was born into a new reality, standing once more on the solid ground of a real world.

It had no name, this world, for it had long since died. No winds blew, the stale and nigh-poisonous air sitting heavy on the earth. No trees or mountains broke the featureless contours, and nothing but a fine dust coated the world’s skin. Long dead, lifeless, desolate …

Private.

And there the planeswalker stood, and waited, and paced, and waited longer still, until the Other finally appeared.

The figure’s first thought was not relief that the wait was over. That would come shortly. No, that first thought was, instead, Next time, I choose the meeting place!

That would not, of course, be the most political thing to say. So the figure bowed, deeply enough to show respect, shallow enough to say I do not fear you. “Have you decided?”

The Other gazed unblinking for long moments. “I have. Perhaps a better question would be, ‘Are you still certain?’”

The walker shrugged, a strangely mundane gesture in so peculiar a discussion. “I’ve put too much time into this, and I’ve too much riding on it to back out now. You know that.”

“This is a complex scheme you bring me. Convoluted; labyrinthine, even. A great many things must go precisely right if you’re to deliver me what’s mine.

Another shrug. “My bargain comes due before too much longer. It’s not as though I’ve much left to lose.”

“There is that, yes,” the Other conceded.

“And this way, I’m protected. If I were to go after it myself, and I were discovered—”

“Yes, yes. So you’ve explained.

The walker lapsed into silence, a silence that stretched horribly across the entire world.

Then, “You know what must happen now?” the Other asked. “To ensure the mind-speaker cannot just pull the truth from you?”

One deep breath, a second, and a third, to calm a suddenly racing heart. “I do.”

“Then do not move.”

And then there was only the scream, breathless, endless, a scream that would have drowned even the roaring of the Blind Eternities … as the Other stretched forth inhuman fingers, reached into the planeswalker’s mind and soul, and began, oh so carefully, to fold.

A
s it turned out, the district of Avaric wasn’t any more appealing when one was drunk than when one was sober. The fog of irrimberry wine didn’t make the filthy cobblestones, the half-decayed roofs, or the sludge coating the roadways any more attractive; and the sweet aroma of that libation didn’t remain in the nose long enough to muffle the stagnant rot and the eye-watering miasma that passed for air. The rows of squat houses and shops leaned over the road like tottering old men, and the wide spaces between them resembled gaps left by missing teeth. Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the entire evening was the surprising lack of mosquitoes. Normally the rains brought plague-like swarms up from the swamps and sewers that were Avaric’s unsteady foundation, but apparently even they were taking the night off for the Thralldom’s End celebration.

Kallist Rhoka, who had spent a considerable amount of coin on the journey to his current state of moderate inebriation, glared bitterly at his surroundings and felt that the world’s refusal to reshape itself into a passingly tolerable form was the height of discourtesy.

Then again, the Avaric District wasn’t alone in its refusal to change its nature to suit Kallist’s desires or his
drunken perceptions—and between the stubbornness of a whole neighborhood, and that of a certain raven-haired mage, he was pretty certain that the district would break first.

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