Lynn Abbey - Artifact Cycle 2 - Planeswalker

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Transcript of Lynn Abbey - Artifact Cycle 2 - Planeswalker

LYNN ABBEY "PLANESWALKER" (Magic: the Gathering. Artifact cycle. Book II.)

CHAPTER 1 A man descended. His journey had begun in the clouds, riding the winds in search of a place remembered but no longer known. He'd found the place, as he'd found it before, by following the ancient glyphs an ancient folk had carved into the land, glyphs that had endured millennia of neglect and the cataclysmic finale of the Brothers' War five years ago. Much of Terisiare had vanished in the cataclysm, reduced to dust by fratricidal hatred. That dust still swirled overhead. Everyone coughed and harvests were sparse, but the sunsets and sunrises were magnificent luminous streaks of amber reaching across the sky, seeking escape from a ruined world. The brothers in whose names the war had been fought had been reduced to curses: By Urza's whim and Mishra's might, may you rot forever beneath the forests of sunken Argoth. Rumors said that Urza had caused the cataclysm when he used Lat Nam sorcery to fuel his final, most destructive, artifact. Others said that the cataclysm was Mishra's curse as he died with Urza's hands clasped around his throat. A few insisted that Urza had survived his crimes. Within a year of the cataclysm, all the rumors had merged in an increasingly common curse: If I met Urza on the road, I'd cripple him with my own two hands, as he and his brother crippled us, then I'd leave him for the rats and vultures as he left Mishra. Urza had survived. He'd heard the curse in its infinite variations. After nearly five years in self-chosen exile, the erstwhile Lord Protector of the Realm had spent another year walking amongst the folk of blasted Terisiare: the dregs of Yotia, the survivors of Argive, the tattered, the famished, the lame, the disheartened. No one had recognized him. Few had known him, even in the glory days. Urza had never been one to harangue his troops with rhetoric. He'd been an inventor, a scholar, an artificer such as the world had not seen since the Thran, and all he'd ever wanted was to study in peace. He'd had that peace once, near the beginning, and lost it, as he'd lost everything, to the man-the abomination-his brother had become. A handful of Urza's students had survived the cataclysm. They'd denounced their master, and Urza hadn't troubled them with a visit. Urza's wife, Kayla Bin-Kroog had survived, too. She now dwelt in austere solitude with her grandson, writing an epic she called The Antiquity Wars. Urza hadn't visited her either. Kayla alone might have recognized him, and he had no words for her. As for her grandson, Jarsyl, black-haired and stocky, charming, amiable and quick-witted . . . Urza had glimpsed the young man just once, and that had been one time too many. His

descent continued. Urza had not wanted to return to this place where the war had, in a very real sense, begun nearly fifty years earlier. He wasn't ashamed of what he'd done to end the war. Filling the bowl-shaped sylex with his memories had been an act of desperation; the sylex itself had been a sudden, suspect gift, and until that day he'd neither studied nor practiced sorcery. He hadn't known what using the sylex would do, but the war had had to be stopped. The thing his brother had become had to be stopped, else Terisiare's fate would have been worse. Much worse. No, Urza would not apologize, but he was not pleased by his own survival. Urza should have died when the sylex emptied. He suspected that he had died, but the powerstones over which he and his brother had contended had preserved him. When Urza had awakened, the two Thran jewels had become his eyes. All Thran devices had been powered by such faceted stones, but his Might-stone and Mishra's Weakstone had been as different from ordinary powerstones as a candle to the sun. Once rejoined within Urza's skull, the Thran jewels had restored him to his prime. He had no need for food or rest, though he continued to sleep because a man needed dreams even when he no longer needed rest. And his new eyes gave him vision that reached around dark corners into countless other worlds. Urza believed that in time the battered realms of Terisiare would recover, even thrive, but he had not wished to watch that excruciatingly slow process, and so he'd walked away. For five years after the sylex-engendered cataclysm, Urza had explored the 'round-the-corner worlds his faceted eyes revealed. In one such world he'd met another traveler, a woman named Meshuvel who'd confirmed what he'd already guessed: He'd lost his mortality the day he destroyed Mishra. The blast had slain him, and the Thran powerstones had brought him back to life because he was-had always been-a planeswalker, like Meshuvel herself. Meshuvel explained to Urza that the worlds he'd visited were merely a handful of the infinite planes of the multiverse, any of which could be explored and exploited by an immortal planeswalker. She taught Urza to change his shape at will and to comprehend thought without the inconvenience of language or translation. But even among planeswalkers Urza was unique. For all her knowledge, Meshuvel couldn't see the multiverse as Urza saw it. Her eyes were an ordinary brown, and she'd never heard of the Thran. Meshuvel could tell Urza nothing about his eyes, except that she feared them; and feared them so much that she tried to snare him in a time pit. When that failed, she fled the plane where they'd been living. Urza had thought about pursuing Meshuvel, more from curiosity than vengeance, but the plane she'd called Dominaria-the plane where he'd been born, the plane he'd nearly destroyed- kept its claws in his mind. Five years after the cataclysm, Dominaria had pulled him home. Urza's descent ended on a wind-eroded plateau. Clouds thickened, turned gray. Cold wind, sharp with ice and dust, plastered long strands of ash-blond hair across Urza's

eyes. Winter had come earlier than Urza had expected, another unwelcome gift from the sylex. A few more days and the glyphs would have been buried until spring. Four millennia ago, the Thran had transformed the plateau into a fortress, an isolated stronghold wherein they'd made their final stand. Presumably, it once had a name; perhaps the glyphs proclaimed it still, but no one had cracked that enigmatic code, and no one cracked it that afternoon. Urza's jeweled eyes gave him no insight into their makers' language. Fifty years ago, in his natural youth, Urza and his brother had named the great cavern within the plateau Koilos, and Koilos it remained. Koilos had been ruins then. Now the ruins were themselves ruined, but not merely by the sylex. The brothers and their war had wrought this damage, plundering the hollow plateau for Thran secrets, Thran powerstones. In truth, Urza had expected worse. Mishra had held this part of Terisiare for most of the war, and it it pleased Urza to believe that his brother's allies had been more destructive than his own allies had been. In a dusty corner of his heart, Urza knew that had he been able to ravage Koilos, even the shadows would have been stripped from the stones, but Mishra's minions had piled their rubble neatly, almost reverently. Their shredded tents still flapped in the rising wind. Looking closer, Urza realized they'd left suddenly and without their belongings, summoned, perhaps, to Argoth, as Urza had summoned his followers for that final battle five years earlier. Urza paused on the carefully excavated path. He closed his eyes and shuddered as memories flooded his mind. He and Mishra had fought from the beginning in a sunlit Argive nursery. How could they not, when he was the eldest by less than a year and Mishra was the brother everyone liked better? Yet they'd been inseparable, so keenly aware of their differences that they'd come to rely on the other's strengths. Urza never learned the arts of friendship or affection because he'd had Mishra between him and the rest of the world. And Mishra? What had he given Mishra? What had Mishra ever truly needed from him? "How long?" Urza asked the wind in a whisper that was both rage and pain. "When did you first turn away from me?" Urza reopened his eyes and resumed his trek. He left no footprints in the dust and snow. Nothing distracted him. The desiccated corpse propped against one tent pole wasn't worth a second glance, despite the metal plates rusting on its brow or the brass pincers replacing its left arm. Urza had seen what his brother had become; it wasn't surprising to him that Mishra's disciples were similarly grotesque. His faceted eyes peered into darkness, seeing nothing. Now, that was a surprise, and a disappointment. Urza had expected insight the way a child expects a present on New Year's morning. Disappoint Mishra and you'd have gotten a summer tantrum: loud, violent and quickly passed. Disappoint Urza and Urza got cold and quiet, like ice, until he'd thawed through the problem. After four thousand years had they plundered the last Thran powerstone? Exposed the last artifact? Was there nothing left for his eyes to see?

A dull blue glint caught Urza's attention. He wrenched a palm-sized chunk of metal free from the rocks and rubble. Immediately it moved in his hand, curving back on itself. It was Thran, of course. An artificer of Urza's skill didn't need jeweled eyes to recognize that ancient craftsmanship. Only the Thran had known how to forge a sort of sentience between motes of metal. But Urza saw the blue-gray metal more clearly than ever before. With time, the right tools, the right reagents, and a bit of luck, he might be able to decipher its secrets. Then, acting without deliberate thought, as he very rarely did, Urza drove his right thumbnail into the harder-thansteel surface. He thought of a groove, a very specific groove that matched his nail. When he lifted his thumb, the groove was in the metal and remained as he slowly counted to ten. "I see it. Yes, I see it. So simple, once it can be seen." Urza tho