Changeling (This is every creature type at all times.) Originally from Lorwyn
Devour (As this enters the battlefield, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. This creature enters the battlefield with that many +1/+1 counters on it.) Originally from Shards of Alara
Proliferate (You choose any number of permanents and/or players with counters on them, then give each another counter of a kind already there.) Originally from Scars of Mirrodin
Reap - [cost], Exile two cards from your graveyard: [effect]
NEW TO OUTBURST
Symbiosis - Whenever you cast a spell that shares a color with ~, [effect]/[effect] if you cast a spell that shares a color with ~ this turn.
Cherish (Put a +1/+1 counter on a token creature you control.)
Carrion [cost] (You may cast this card for its carrion cost if a creature you control died this turn.)
Ankryss’ last letter, left unread
I finally understand all. The Lahessi serve a purpose, I’ve just been too afraid of it to realize it at first. I still believe it’s outdated, but I am not the one that can change things. The only one who can defeat the Lahessi once and for all is you. There is not much left for me to do, so I’ll gladly accept my fate. My life was long and plentiful, and I’m fine in departing right now, especially if it is in my own terms. Whether you choose to follow my path is entirely up to you. I trust you will make the right choice for Medranos and I hope you succeed in your task. I’m not sure you’ll read this letter, but if you do make it to the Ancestral Caverns you’ll probably find out the truth by your own means. I’m really glad we got to know each other, and I’d like you to know our years of friendship are one of the things I treasure the most. I wish you the best for the future, Orriana.
May the grace of Medranos always be with you, Ankryss.
PART III: OUTBURST
CHAPTER XII: NO MORE HOPE
Have I gone deaf? thought Orriana when she opened her eyes. She was in a strange environment, it was a beautiful forest, but it was not the Eternal Fronds (she knew she was capable of recognizing every single corner of the Fronds), and the silence that surrounded her made the Lahessi seem like a mere nightmare. But she knew what she’d felt, the pain, the fear, they’d been all too real. She stood up and looked around, and her questions were immediately answered: the Lahessi were a few meters away, but they were incapable of reaching her due to the protective barrier that surrounded this grove. That explained the silence and the calmness. The wisps that had greeted them had gone to find Gondros and, after she had her discussion with Garruk, she’d decided to sleep for a few minutes. As the rest of her party woke up around her she realized they’d all followed her steps. “How long have I been sleeping?” she asked a nearby elemental realizing she felt much more alive than she’d felt in the past few days. “Ten hours” replied the creature simply. “What?! Why did nobody wake me up?!” She couldn’t believe what she’d heard. Medranos was dying and she’d taken the liberty of sleeping for ten hours straight? “Gondros considered you needed to rest.” “Indeed, I don’t believe you’ll be able to complete your mission if you keep pushing yourselves beyond your limits” spoke a deep voice echoing from the woods. As the group turned to the origin of the voice, they saw a massive sea of fire slithering through the woods. The fire converged to a spot immediately in front of them and manifested into the figure of a majestic elk: for the first time in their lives they were meeting Gondros, one of Medranos’ most ancient and wisest creatures. “Gondros…” whispered Orriana in awe “It is an honor.” She felt the urge to fall to her knees in a small gesture of reverence to the beautiful elemental. Some of her companions imitated her. “Rise, Orriana, for it is I who is honored of meeting you. I’m honored of meeting all of you! You are here for the most noble of purposes, and for that I am grateful. I do not know the magic that forbids the Lahessi from entering this grove, but I believe it will be able to resist them for at least one or two more days. “I’ve taken the liberty of casting a similar spell at the entrance of the Ancestral Caverns, and for as long as I live no Lahessi shall be able to enter them. That should give you enough time to find the answer you seek.” “Why do you not come with us, then?” asked Arina in full use of her pragmatic mind “If they cannot enter for as long as you are alive, then you being in there will ensure they can never access the Caverns.” “Ah, Arina, ever since you’ve been baptized I’ve been intrigued with your essence. You’re an intriguing person: smart, beautiful, cunning, resourceful, and yet there’s a weight in your past that you seem to carry too close to your chest. Unfortunately, the very nature of my existence forbids me from entering the Caverns with my physical form, meaning I can still be killed. I’m afraid I must stay here and fight the Lahessi in order to buy you as much time as I can.” “This is it, then? We just met you and we already have to bid you farewell forever?” asked Orriana disappointed. “I’m afraid so. Orriana, when I look into your eyes I see something that constantly holds you back: you’re brave, but in a careless way. You feel underappreciated, but your fear of letting go holds you from rising to your true potential. Just learn to accept your talents, understand that things happen for a reason, and maybe then will you become a person worthy of being the Warden of Medranos. “But I digress… I will guide you to the Caverns. Once in there you’ll be on your own. Just follow your instinct and the path will be revealed to you, remember that all of Medranos’ history is within the Caverns, so you’ll need to focus if you want to find what you’re looking for. I wish you the best, O heroes!” The Ancestral Caverns were well hidden within the forest, and every member of the party was sure that, had the way not been shown to them, they would’ve never been able to find them even if they spent an eternity looking for them. “Farewell, Gondros, it was an honor meeting you, even if for the briefest of moments” said Endelya solemnly. The elemental replied with a faint nod. The group turned to the Caverns’ entrance, looked at each other, and stepped inside.
* * * * *
The first thing Orriana had thought was to divide the group and have each explore a sector, but the second they’d entered the Caverns and she saw the countless paths unwinding before her she realized that, should they be separated even for a few minutes, they’d never be able to find each other again. So the group advanced through the Caverns as one, following Orriana who, in turn, was following her instinct as per Gondros’ instructions, even though she was not sure that would actually work. Even though the Caverns were almost pitch black, for some weird reason everybody realized they could follow the path as though it were in broad daylight, and the runes carved in the wall with the different moments of Medranos’ history seemed to glow by their own accord. They kept going for what felt like hours, but without the sun to guide them it was pretty hard to really know how much time had gone by. It was the Unfathomable who first stopped to study runes close to her. “Look at this” she exclaimed with an unexpected surge of emotion that seemed to go against her usual solemn tone. “Look” was a euphemism for the gorgon, since she hadn’t opened her eyes since they’d met her, but they’d learnt to stop questioning how she could “see”, so they gathered where she’d pointed out. It was some sort of stain that obscured the ruins around it, something that was a part of Medranos’ history but not a part of the world itself. As they studied the words surrounding it they realized why it had caught the Unfathomable’s attention. “Malextros” spoke Endelya “We’ve reached the very moment of your creation, Unfathomable.” She took a brief moment to explain the Gorgon War to the three strangers: years ago a demon planeswalker by the name of Malextros had arrived at Medranos, and he had created the gorgons in order to conquer the world. Thanks to the united Medranian forces, the gorgons were defeated and the Unfathomable was forced into seclusion in Gyradros. Malextros was defeated when Elegos stabbed him in his chest, which earned him the title of Warden. “I cannot read this rune, though” said Endelya “It’s weird, these are written in a language that I do not recognize, yet I can understand them perfectly, but this particular one is still hidden…” “That rune is my name” said the Unfathomable softly “Only I can read what it says, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll never decipher it!” It made sense, next to that rune were the names of Vurriana and Chrysta, Malextros’ other two daughters, who had been killed in the Gorgon War. So that was how the Caverns worked, an unknown language that could be read by anyone belonging to Medranos and runes that had an appeal to people who were looking for that particular moment in history. It was like an inorganic version of the Alluring Ancient, only you didn’t need to harmonize with it…
The group was going to continue when they realized Orriana had not joined them during the chat, and had instead been frozen solid for the past few minutes staring at the wall in front of her. When they followed her line of sight they realized the motive of her fixation: the word Lahessi was engraved in that particular spot. As if suddenly possessed by a burst of inspiration, the woman began running down the Caverns, and the group followed her unquestioningly, watching her turn left and right with dexterity as though she knew the place by heart and could tell exactly where she was going. When she finally stopped, the group halted behind her and saw the fragment of the wall that contained what they’d been looking for. “Here it is” whispered Orriana in amusement “The answer we’ve been looking for is right here. Two-thousand years ago the Lahessi…” “Two-thousand?” asked Garruk perplexed “I thought you told me the only recorded appearance had been a thousand years ago…” “I did, but that wasn’t the only appearance, look!” She pointed at the wall, where a strange timeline seemed to appear, indicating every single Lahessi outburst: a thousand years ago, two-thousand years ago, three-thousand, four-thousand… The list went on. Medranos was almost fifteen-thousand years old! How could nobody know that? Were the Lahessi a part of it? “I think I finally understand” said Orriana as she began reading what the runes said:
Two-thousand years ago the Lahessi made their scheduled appearance. It took them almost a month to finish their purpose. Once finished, the new Alluring Ancient was sprouted within the week and thus the new Medranos began forming.
“A new Medranos?” asked Orriana perplexed, she then continued:
One-thousand years ago the Lahessi made their scheduled appearance. It took them two months to finish their purpose, since Medranos had sparked two planeswalkers in the last thousand year period: a Krallynan merfolk and a nantuko. Together they ravaged a great amount of the swarm, forcing Medranos to spawn them in higher quantity. Once the planeswalkers had been dealt with, the Lahessi had no trouble in finishing their job. Adding two planeswalkers to the death count made for a stronger Ancient, which sprouted in less than a week and created a new Medranos in just a few days.
“So the Lahessi are Medranian?” asked Endelya “And that ‘new Medranos’, that is this one, it’s our home!” “What I read earlier in the Caverns gave me the hint. It said that the Lahessi were meant to awaken a few days ago, but a planeswalker arrived, and he wielded so much power they were tricked into spawning earlier. He didn’t stay for long, and nobody ever knew his name, so we don’t know who to blame, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter… “It’s clear now, isn’t it? We are expendable. Our lives don’t matter at all! All Medranos wants is to see us dead! We cannot stop the Lahessi, we might as well face our destiny!” said Orriana bitterly. She started walking away from them when she felt Garruk firmly grab her wrist. “Remember what you told me the night of the celebration? You explained to me how you and the other hunters helped keep Medranos from over-evolving. You explained how you kept growth at bay by hunting down some of its creatures. The Lahessi must be just the same, only at a grander scale. You are a Medranian, and a proud one! You believe that death allows for new life to begin, you told me that yourself!” he spoke. “But why should it end like this?” she retorted “Why can’t the world keep going? We’ve evolved a lot since the origins. Medranos’ growth is under much more control thanks to Ankryss and the Earthenlore, this method seems obsolete, barbaric! Why should future generations suffer the same thing we’re suffering now without even knowing…? That’s it! “That’s what we inherited: the fear of the Lahessi. We’ve always known about them, we’ve known they’d been stopped, but we always knew they had to be feared. It was all a farce. Medranos is taunting us, it gives us fear of the nonexistent, then makes it appear and it gives us hope that we can stop them, when in reality they stop themselves. The second they consume the entire world they die and sprout a new Alluring Ancient, which means…” She suddenly stared at all of them in shock. She contemplated each and every one of their faces in detail, save for the other three walkers. She began breathing heavily as a feeling of euphoric nostalgia drowned her heart. The solution was simple, but it wouldn’t be easy… “I know how to stop the Lahessi once and for all!” she exclaimed with a mixture of determination and solace.
CHAPTER XIII: NO WAY OUT
“Suvia” said Orriana sprinting toward him “I need you to tell me something, before you encountered the gorgons did you come face to face with a Lahessi?” “I... I believe it was one, yes. It must've been.” “And did it attack you?” Suvia thought back. The strange empty creature, devoid of the radiation of pain that other beings emit, did indeed ignore him. “No... It was as if I didn't even exist to it. It felt like it didn't exist to me, either, if that makes any sense...” “Of course!” said Orriana “How could we be so stupid? The Lahessi hunt for Medranians! Do you understand what I mean? Garruk, you became a part of this world by winning the Great Hunt, but you, Suvia and Arina, we made you a part of Medranos! We baptized you thinking that by doing so we’d strengthen you as allies, but in reality we just put a giant target on your backs!" “So you are telling me that had you not welcomed us as a part of you we would be immune to the Lahessi?” asked Arina perplexed, that was a sick turn of events for her. In trying to help others she’d actually become a prey to something she could’ve otherwise avoided? “What they say is true, then, no good deed goes unpunished…” It took Suvia a few moments to come down from his grievous shock. He thought he'd finally found it, his own home... and he'd never fit in that home to begin with. It was all he could do not to scream, or cry – he wouldn't break down. He wasn't allowed to. “B-but...” he stuttered, the selfish words coming out before he could stop them.“But I was supposed to...” “And what about your plan to save Medranos?” asked the Unfathomable impatiently “What does any of this have to do with it?” “I never said I could save Medranos, I only said I could stop the Lahessi” she stared at the non-walkers while her eyes began swelling with tears “Arina, Suvia, Garruk and I are planeswalkers, we can leave whenever we please… remember what the Caverns said about the previous two walkers? More Lahessi were needed to ensure their defeat. The Lahessi’s only purpose is to wipe Medranos clean, all of it! But what if they couldn’t? What if a Medranian were to hide where they could never find her?” Everyone stood still for a second. She could feel them judge her, she could feel their stares, their implicit hatred. She was sure they were all thinking the same thing: Coward. “So what you’re saying is that you want to abandon us to our luck and have us die just so you can escape and be safe from the Lahessi” said the Unfathomable, proving her words to be as murderous as her glare “I never took you for a backstabber, Orriana.” “Listen, I didn’t ask to be a planeswalker, I just am. I may have a way to destroy the greatest enemies of Medranos, and trust me that if I could take all of your with me I would, but I can’t." “And if you were given the chance to die in our stead, would you do it?” asked the gorgon mercilessly. Orriana hesitated for the briefest of moments. Why was she doing this? She’d been so helpful throughout the journey… True, she’d mostly kept to herself and she wasn’t particularly sympathetic to anyone, but she’d fought valiantly alongside them and got them out of quite a few difficult fights, so why this sudden recidivism? “I didn’t think so” said the Unfathomable triumphantly “Do you know why I joined you in this journey? Do you know why I didn’t just kill you in Gyradros? I’m the last living daughter of Malextros, so I’m the only creature left in this world that can spawn new gorgons. My survival and that of my race are connected, so I decided to join with my enemies in order to eradicate the greater evil. I’m not embarrassed to admit that had I found you useless at any point in our journey I would’ve murdered you with no regrets, for my purpose is clear and I will stop at nothing to achieve it. But that´s where our intentions diverge, for even in my egotism I’m doing this for my kin, and I’m more than transparent about what I’m really after. But what about you, Orriana? You’re just using us as your scapegoats. We’re nothing but pawns you can sacrifice just to ensure your survival. You’re weak, Orriana, you’re a coward. No wonder you were not chosen to be the Warden…” Orriana snapped. It was too much to take at once and she unsheathed a dagger she kept on her belt as she jumped at the Unfathomable and pressed her against the wall, her weapon ready to slit her throat. But before she could follow through, something strange happened to her. For some reason she could not bring herself to ending the gorgon, even though she knew every fiber in her being wanted to. Something was sucking the hatred straight out of her, or rather… someone. The Unfathomable laughed sadistically. “You’ve forgotten I control Suvia, right? I can feed him so he doesn’t need to drain the negative emotions out of any of you, but if I wish it then I can cut my link and he’ll be forced to feed on you. You cannot hurt me as long as he’s around, Orriana… So I suggest you cut this out and let me go.” Despite everything, the planeswalker did as told. Suvia was unsurprised; he'd realized something strange, a source of grief and pain that wasn't around him, but only now did he have the words to confirm what was happening. He couldn't look Orriana in the eye, having been wielded against one who'd stayed at his side... but he couldn't bring himself to hate the Unfathomable, either. “Now, if you please, be a darling and explain to me what else there is to your plan.” “If you’d only let me finish, I would’ve explained how I planned to also save your legacy. I cannot bring any of you with me, but I can bring something into the eternities provided I take good care of it: I can take a piece of the Alluring Ancient.” Everybody immediately understood, and whatever poisonous thoughts the Unfathomable had planted on them were immediately quelled. “The Ancient contains everything there is and was in Medranos in the last thousand years. If I can get a hold of even the smallest piece of it, then I can leave with it and tend it, then return after the Lahessi die of starvation and replant it. That way, I believe, I can destroy the Lahessi while ensuring this version of Medranos subsists forever…” “You do realize you are mostly working with theories, right?” asked Arina. “Besides, in order to obtain a piece of the Ancient, you’d need to harmonize with it, and no Coeros has ever done it…” replied the unfathomable. “I believe in her” said one of the nantuko to everyone’s surprise “I’ve been a disciple to Ankryss for years and the one thing I’ve learned from him is that he always sees much more than what’s in front of him. He’s always had blind faith in Orriana, and he always told me how he believed that if any Coeros was capable of harmonizing with the Alluring Ancient, it was her. So how about we stop our prejudices and follow what she has to say? It may not be a perfect plan, but it’s the best one we’ve got, and it’s good enough for me!” Everybody stared at the insect in awe. No argument could be given against this speech. Even the Unfathomable nodded at this. “I will trust you then, I guess. Ensure that the gorgons can exist in the new Medranos and I’ll ensure you get to the Alluring Ancient alive” she said “But betray us and I’ll find a way to make sure you regret it, understood?” Orriana nodded, a faint tear trickling down her cheek. Finally. Finally she had the recognition she’d always desired. People trusted her, she could help them, she could save them. At the end of the day, this was what she’d always fantasized when she desired to be the Warden. But her happiness was short-lived. Something that nobody expected to happen at least for a few more hours did. The ground began to shake, and a cackling, skittering noise began echoing through the Caverns. An aura of unease followed it, and everyone knew what that meant: the Lahessi had finally made it into the Ancestral caverns. Gondros and his kin were dead. “Run!” screamed the nantuko “I’ll stay back and stop them for as long as I can!” “Are you kidding?” asked Orriana “You won’t stand a chance against them!” “Then I’ll join him!” said the remaining Derrivan, immediately followed by one of the Krallynans “Orriana, Suvia, Arina, Garruk, you’re our only hope. You are our priority and we must keep you alive!” With no time to say goodbye, the reduced group ran along the Caverns, but where should they go? They’d been guided by some sort of implicit force to where the truth behind the Lahessi hid, but now they didn’t know of any exit. The best they could hope for was wandering the Caverns endlessly before the Lahessi caught up to them and killed them. “I know where to go!” screamed Endelya as her eyes shown blue “I don’t know how, but I just had an epiphany. There’s an exit a few hours from here that leads straight to Lateria!” It was all the information the group needed. Without even considering questioning their friend they followed her along the maze’s hallways, always alert. Throughout the way they got to see some interesting stories of the previous Medranos, but they couldn’t stop to read them, for that would be surrendering to their deaths. “How far away are we?” asked Orriana after a while as her lungs burned from the effort. “It shouldn’t be that far away now, just-“ Her sentence was interrupted by the crumbling sound of the roof collapsing behind them, followed by a horrific high-pitched screech. The Lahessi started pouring from the crack and they were forced into battle mode. Arina took the lead, raising her sword and pointing it at the floor, releasing a frost nova that enveloped the creatures, freezing them in place. But the Lahessi that were unaffected simply shattered their brethren and kept advancing relentlessly. She asked for backup, and the rest immediately responded, striking down as many Lahessi as they could. The swarm thinned, and some began retreating. The group would've considered themselves victorious, but experience had taught them otherwise. The roof above them collapsed and a gigantic creature emerged from it. It smashed the ground below it, causing it to tremble and leading for the group to fall to the ground. It advanced at them with uncanny speed, and Arina decided to use one of her strongest weapons. "Areto Soveri" she said. She focused, pouring all her mental effort into this one spell. She’d done it before, but not on such a gigantic creature. As her hands began shaking, some distortion waves began emanating from them, passing right through the Lahessi and appearing to have no effect whatsoever, but when the monster jumped at her face ready to tear it apart, it simply froze in midair. “What was that?” asked Orriana with a mixture of perplexity and fear. “Nothing so grave as it seems” replied Arina breathing heavily “I have simply removed it from our current time flow. It is no longer in the same level of reality as we are. It can see and hear us, but it cannot hurt us, it is frozen in place with time itself locked around it. This effect is temporary though, so let us continue moving before it reverts.” They did as told, especially after noticing she seemed exhausted from the effort. If a spell of that caliber took such a toll on her then it would be wise to save it for the direst of situations, and they’d rather have her well rested when that happened. “The exit is just around the corner!” said Endelya, her voice full of hope. But that hope faded as fast as it came. Even though they couldn’t afford to stop, they all did instinctively when they heard an ominous sound as the walls, the floor and the roof surrounding them shook with the might of an earthquake. As they turned around, they could see a swarm unlike they’d ever seen: none of them could understand infinity, yet when they saw the number of creatures advancing at them, they supposed that was as close as they’d get to it. Nobody would have the strength to stop them, not even Garruk in his feral form, and Arina was still weak from her last invocation. Was this it? Was Medranos doomed to relive Lahessi massacres every one thousand years? The answer was no. There was somebody else in the group who had a way to stop that horde. With her usual solemnity and poise, the Unfathomable took a few steps towards the swarm. She turned around and spoke directly to Orriana. “Remember our deal. Despite what happens next I’ll find a way of making sure you suffer if you stop my children from populating Medranos once more” she said pointing a menacing finger. She then added, this time to everyone “Now run, and make sure you hear nothing I say from now on!” The rest of the group was baffled, but they decided to obey, not because they wanted to leave the Unfathomable behind but because they were actually afraid of ignoring her orders. She smiled impishly at the power she’d mustered through the years, then she turned to the Lahessi once more and opened her eyes. “Ah, the pleasures of seeing normally once more…” she whispered as she ran towards her foes “Today is the day I die, but I’m not the only one who’ll do so. Hear me, Lahessi, hear the name of the creature you’re killing today. Hear my name and die, for my name is A…!” A few meters away, the group found themselves unable to hear the rest of that sentence, for whatever was spoken afterwards was suddenly muffled. When they could listen normally again, they heard the sound of thousands of stones dropping down, an avalanche that seemed to be after them, and then silence.
CHAPTER XIV: NO MERCY
Orriana’s eyes tried to adjust to the darkness but it was futile, everything was pitch-black. It was Endelya who cast a small orb of light that dimly illuminated them. The elven planeswalker had to suppress a gasp: standing right beside the mefolk witch was the petrified corpse of one of her escorts. “He died for me” whispered Endelya “I was muffling the Unfathomable’s name with a spell and a Lahessi jumped at me. He stepped out of the spell’s area of effect to kill it and heard her name. I saw him turn to stone right in front of me…” Orriana was unsure how to react. Yes, the Unfathomable had been her enemy, but she’d selflessly given her life for them. No, not for them, but for her children. Still, it had been a noble death. She looked around and saw who remained: Endelya, Garruk, Suvia, one of the nantuko escorts, Arina and herself. Fifteen people had started that journey, six remained, and they were still kilometers away from completing a mission they didn’t even know if it would make a difference. Her soul was crushed by a feeling of void, and she knew she just wanted to break into tears and anger, but something was stopping her. It wasn’t shame or fear of being judged by the rest, it was something far stronger. She knew what she had to be feeling, but for some reason she wasn’t reacting correctly to it, as if her emotions were being taken away from her as she felt them… Of course! The Unfathomable was dead, and so her influence over Suvia had vanished. The boy was depriving her of her right to feel. She wanted to ask him to stop, she wanted to be polite about it, but she couldn’t, the situation was too dire and she couldn’t handle him tinkering with her. “SUVIA!” she screamed lashing out “Stop it, just stop it! I don’t need you here taking away my only way to cope with this situation! Leave me alone! Let me live! Let me feel!” “I can't!” screamed Suvia in return, unable to stop himself from breaking down right along with Orriana. “I can't I can't I CAN'T! I feel all of it! All the pain, all the hate, all the fear, everyone who's died, their last m-moments...” The scream tapered down into a sob, and Suvia fell to his knees, tears and snot running down his face. “Everything, everything, everything... I c-can't be brave anymore... I can't b-b-bear it anymore... it h-h-hurts... why... why can't it all just...” “Suvia?” asked Endelya, holding on to her worry despite Suvia's aura; the vampire was trembling in a concerning way, and the air around him was abuzz with something strange. “It's alright, just calm dow-” “STOOOOOP!” screamed Suvia, face twisted in pain and directed at the rest – and as he did, a rough, but large wave of water surged into existence between him and Orriana, threatening to crash. Acting quickly, Arina froze the wave before it could cause serious harm; the nantuko attempted to apprehend Suvia, but an instinctive lash of water knocked him against a wall. The impact caused the fragile agglomerate of stones to shake, and they fell over the druid, splattering blood and entrails all around. Orriana couldn’t believe what she’d just seen. “Suvia, what have you done?!” she asked horrified. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” repeated Suvia over and over again, pushed over the edge of coherence, surrounded by rippling water; months of enduring a constant stream of grief from the Unfathomable, months of drinking everyone's pain, had mounted inside, and Orriana's anger had been the final straw. No thought existed in him but the end of all the pain. “I can't! I... I... this world was never for me! Never! The pain never stopped! But it will! Lahessi, they'll make it all stop! They don't hurt! Nothing will hurt anymore! Medranos... I can... finally... finally be comfortable! I'll finally have my home, like you promised!” The elf realized Suvia was too unstable to be provoked, and she was the cause. She took a few breaths to calm down and approached the situation differently. “Suvia, I’m sorry for-" But apologies weren’t enough, especially after how she’d lashed out against him. Suvia glared at her, releasing another wave of water in her direction. She took the blow but Garruk grabbed her before she suffered the same fate as their partner. When she recovered from the blow, Suvia was nowhere to be seen, and the footsteps echoing away from them suggested he’d ran away. “We have to find him! We need to stop him before he can hurt anybody… or himself!” said Endelya worried. The group started running through the narrow hallway, and Orriana could finally feel her pain abandoning her in the form of seemingly endless tears falling from her eyes, followed by the relief of being able to let go… Soon enough they saw an exit. “He couldn’t have gone anywhere else” declared Endelya. They exited the Ancestral Caverns in hopes of finding the boy, but what they’d be finding instead was a far more unpleasant surprise…
* * * * *
As he soared over Lateria, Sal’Thamek was ecstatic. He was flying, he was finally flying! The last time he’d been able to do it had been back in Okthuros, and none of the planes he’d visited had given him enough energy to regain that power, but Medranos had delivered, and it was glorious. No, better yet, he was glorious! He rejoiced while watching the massacre he’d left behind (granted, the Lahessi had helped, but he’d been the main cause). A whole country had been reduced to ashes. No living being remained, all of them had been drained and given him a surplus of energy. For a few seconds he even felt better than ever, as though a strange wave had hit him and remove all emotion other than joy and enjoyment from him, but that wave went away as fast as it had appeared, and he dismissed it. He was heading towards the Stormy Peaks to hunt the elementals that had come after him, but he found something else in the way: four creatures emerged from a cave nearby. He descended to meet with this mortals, his first subjects had finally arrived. “What’s that?” asked Garruk pointing at the glowing figure in the sky as it approached them. “I’ve no idea” said Orriana “But I wouldn’t let my guard down if I were you.” “Greetings, and welcome to my kingdom” said Sal’Thamek as he landed “This world is mine now, so I’m giving you the option to kneel before me and accept me as your new ruler or pay the consequences of defying me…” Orriana’s rage built up immediately. She’d been through too much, she’d faced countless horrors and she’d even pushed a friend away. She was not going to tolerate this intruder to talk her down. She felt a sudden rush flow through her, an implicit energy field she believed to be the Lifepulse, and a faint, almost inaudible voice saying Fight for me. “You’re delusional” she said immediately placing an arrow in her bow and pointing it at his face “I’m the Warden of this world, and I’m not giving it to you!” “Wrong answer” spat Sal’Thamek as his face contorted in rage. His hands shone white with uncanny speed, and he released a ray of light that struck Orriana and sent her flying away, having her release her arrow in a random direction. She fell flat on her back. Garruk reacted quickly and jumped at the intruder, raising his ax high. The vampire was quick and strong enough to grab the weapon by the hit and endure the momentum without even flinching. He tore the weapon from the man’s hand and punched him in the chest, violently extracting all the air out of his lungs and having him fall on his knees. He turned to Arina, who had unsheathed Mindmelder, and began sending white sparks her way. The woman began deflecting the attack as fast as she could, but the barrage was swift and unstoppable, so she barely had time to defend herself, she couldn’t even begin thinking about attacking him. Endelya was in charge of that, or so she thought. She prepared a shining blue orb, focusing most of her energy in it. She released the contained energy in a blue disruptive wave aimed at Sal’Thamek’s back, and, a second before impact, the creature simply waved his left hand, creating a pale barrier that took the blow imperviously as he continued his assault on the cryomancer. The few seconds it took him to deflect the merfolk’s attack were the distraction Arina needed, and she switched strategies, sending her sword at the vampire’s chest. He simply smiled, grabbed her by the wrist, stopping the sword a few centimeters away from his torso and raised his elbow, using it to strike her side. Arina crouched in pain and Sal’Thamek kicked her back, sending her towards the floor while, in the meantime, conveniently summoning force fields to stop Endelya’s attacks. He turned around, his body emanating black waves that struck the merfolk, making her eyes widen and paralyzing her completely. But before he could approach her the first hit was landed. An arrow pierced his knee, forcing him to kneel. He grabbed it and tore it from his leg suppressing a grunt, and the unbleeding wound closed. He turned around in time to grab another projectile that was flying towards his chest and shattered it with his fist. His hands glowed white once more and Orriana, who was already standing and readying a third arrow was struck again, only this time the rays pinned her to the floor, immobilizing her despite her struggling. Sal’Thamek raised both hands, forming a pale bright orb above him. A few seconds later he unleashed it against the elf. Orriana could do nothing but flinch as death came her way but, before she was struck, Endelya jumped in front of her, taking the blow. It was a horrifying sight. The merfolk was enveloped in light, and when it faded, there she was, semi-transparent, until she suddenly wasn’t there anymore. One of the greatest Medranians who’d ever lived had been excised from existence in less than a second. Orriana despaired as she saw Sal’Thamek prepare his spell once more. But this time he didn’t get it halfway through. Someone grabbed him from behind, or rather, something. As he fell to the ground, he saw the man he’d just defeated completely transformed. His eyes were shining with a grim purple light, and he looked completely deranged. Once more in his feral form, Garruk began beating on the vampire, throwing punch after punch at his face. A disgusting set of cracks was heard as his skull began splintering, but, unwilling to concede, he raised his legs and punched the man in the stomach, buying him enough time to shove him away. Garruk recovered quickly and charged once more, but Sal’Thamek was ready now. He braced himself and raised his hands to grab the man’s shoulders as he came running. They struggled for a while, neither of them willing to yield a single centimeter. The vampire proved to be stronger, though. He shook Garruk and threw him on the floor once more, releasing a new wave of white energy that chained him to the floor, leaving him struggling against his restrains like a wild beast. He heard a battle cry behind him and immediately turned around. Arina was charging once more, Mindmelder held up high. Stupid girl he thought You lost your chance to catch me by surprise. He ran at her as well, already preparing his next spell. She extended her sword arm as far as she could and, when they were a few meters away and she could see his devilish grin, she whispered "Severi aritae" as Mindmelder descended, slashing the air that separated both of them. Sal’Thamek’s face contorted with a mixture of terror and surprise. He stopped dead on his track, his spell dissolved, and he fell to his knees, immediately collapsing on the ground. Orriana, freed from her binding, ran towards the moaning Garruk. His eyes were still purple, and his chains hadn’t been dismissed yet. “Garruk, I know you told me to kill you, but I can’t. I need you if I am to finish this journey. I’ve lost most of my friends; I can’t lose you as well!” His face twitched, revealing his internal turmoil. He saw nothing but a red haze, and couldn’t understand a word she was saying. When she saw her all he knew was that she wanted her dead, but why? Why would she want her dead? What had she ever done to him? Who was she? She was Orriana, of course, Orriana Galerider. She was his friend, he was Garruk, Garruk Wildspeaker, not some mindless monster created by a necromancer. He returned to normal as his restrains dispelled and he stood up. “Thank you” he whispered. Orriana nodded. They both looked at Sal’Thamek’s body and then at Arina, who had already put Mindmelder away and was looking at them impassively. “What happened to him, Arina? Is he dead?” asked the elf. “He is” was Arina’s simple response. “How?” “Just dead. Not a single drop of blood, not a single cut in his body, no physically discernible cause, but trust me: he is dead.” Orriana didn’t know how to react to this. Removing a Lahessi from the flow of time was one thing, but killing another being in cold blood and in such a remorseless manner was a whole new story. Who was Arina Blue? Could she really be trusted? She couldn’t answer that question right now, so she’d have to trust her for the time being. After all, it was just the three of them now. Only a fifth of the original party had survived. Three planeswalkers alone in a dying world. Would they all survive this journey? Or rather, would any of them survive it? “Let’s keep going” said Orriana simply “We can’t waste a single second, not even to rest. We’re close to the Alluring Ancient…” The other two followed her silently. Their enemy had been beaten, but that had definitely not been a victory.
* * * * *
Sal’Thamek waited a couple of hours before getting back up. He’d had just enough time to realize the true power of the attack that was coming his way and he’d poured most of his energy into creating a shield that would take the full hit, barely making it on time. He tried to levitate, but bitterly found out he didn’t have enough power remaining in him. In fact, even though he was still far stronger than he’d been when he’d arrived, most of the energy he managed to drain had been lost to Arina’s coup-de-grace. “Arina” he whispered in rage recalling what the elf had called his executioner “I’ll recover what you have stolen from me today. I will become twice as powerful as I’ve ever been, and when I do, I will come after you! Pray that I never find you, for when I do, you’ll suffer as you never have before!” And with that threat powering his entire system, he planeswalked away.
CHAPTER XV: NO MORE TIME
Orriana, Garruk and Arina had been walking for hours now. They were exhausted, but they couldn’t stop. The only good thing that had happened to them since they exited the cave was that they had yet to encounter a single Lahessi. Apparently, now that Lateria had been completely decimated the creatures had retreated to more abundant places to continue with their mission. Orriana remembered how she used to consider that place a desert until she’d actually planeswalked away from Medranos and had found herself learning the true meaning of the word. She never thought Lateria would actually turn into a wasteland, nor did she think her whole world would suffer the same terrible fate. “We’re closer now, see that rocky formation in the distance? If we climb that we’ll be back in the Eternal Fronds, and it won’t be long until we reach the Alluring Ancient once we do.” She could hear her companions muffle some groans when she mentioned they’d have to climb, and she didn’t blame them. They were torn to shreds, most of their energy was gone, and the ordeals still hadn’t stopped. It was an inhuman situation, but they had no choice other than to endure it. When they finally got to the range, Orriana extracted a canteen from her belt. “Ankryss gave me this for the journey. I planned for us to drink it when we reached Gondros but the safe haven gave us the chance to regain strength. This contains a beverage that will revitalize even the most tired warrior. It contains enough to invigorate fifteen people for an hour, but now that it’s just us, it should keep us going for quite a few hours” she said to Arina and Garruk. The three of them drank, making sure they distributed it as equally as possible. They immediately felt better, as if a wave of energy displaced all pain and exhaustion and banished it from their bodies. They began climbing, but it didn’t feel tiresome at all, they just kept going for at least an hour until they reached the top. The scenario that greeted them tore most of their hope away from them. Most of Medranos was gone. All they could see was a fraction of the Eternal Fronds. The Alluring Ancient still stood immaculate at its center, but they knew it wouldn’t last. But unlike the other places they’d visited, this time around the ground was not left bare; instead it skittered with hundreds of thousands of Lahessi swarming all around. Their objective was so close, yet so far. There was no way around the creatures, and they definitely had no chance of defeating them in battle, and yet Orriana knew exactly what she had to do. It was not the vigor that Ankryss’ beverage instilled in her, it was something far more powerful: the same voice she’d heard when she’d met Sal’Thamek was talking to her, and its message was clear. Charge against the Lahessi it spoke Trust me. Orriana knew who was speaking to her, it was Medranos itself! True, the Lahessi were a part of Medranos, meant to eradicate all life on it, so this might as well be a way to ensure she’d die before she could escape, but she actually trusted the voice. It made sense, now that a greater amount of creatures had become sentient, control of the abundance was possible without the need to start from scratch. It seemed that Medranos itself knew it was time to move on, but it had no way of stopping the Lahessi by its own means. It was worth giving it a shot. “We have to charge” she declared “Fighting our way through the swarm is our only hope.” She ran forward, preparing an arrow. Garruk and Arina had no time to react, so they were forced to run behind her. They charged aimlessly, knowing they needed a miracle to survive, and hoping for one with all their might. And just as the Lahessi noticed them and were ready to tear them to pieces, the miracle occurred. The land itself became alive, the trees themselves incarnated into gigantic elementals that began facing the swarm, creatures of all kinds –eagles, kotoro, sprareos, flying manta, wolves, basically every wild species that remained –rose up for this final stand against the Lahessi. Orriana couldn’t believe her eyes: it was true, Medranos did want her to save it. Ankryss’ tonic had given her vitality, but this revelation had restored her faith and had driven the weight that dragged her soul down again. Hope still remained, nothing was truly lost, except for… “Suvia!” she screamed horrified when she saw the boy in front of her. He was moving alongside the Lahessi swarm, and not only did they not attack him, they seemed to aid him. They stood in the way of whatever could hurt him, and they opened a path for him to walk safely. Not only that, it seemed that all the fighting Medranian creatures were consciously avoiding him. This only had one explanation: he had renounced Medranos, and after being one with all of it, turning your back on the world was the greatest of crimes. The plane wanted nothing to do with him… This, of course, was only intensifying Suvia's rampage – wave after wave of water crashed, coupled with inarticulate sobbing and screaming. The terror before Orriana had once been her friend, with whom she'd suffered and laughed – but now, she knew with grim certainty, it was only something that she had to stop. Orriana steeled her resolve, hoping it would give her determination against the draining aura, and jumped into the fray. Orriana came closer, and Suvia froze still, rictus face trained on the galerider. “YOU!” he shrieked, lunging at her and pushing Lahessi aside. “LIE! YOU LIED!” Orriana deftly leapt out of the way of Suvia's charge – even in this state, the boy was too inexperienced in battle for elegance – but a wild waterspout knocked her to her knees. “YOU SAID!” cried Suvia as he turned around and lunged again, this time successfully connecting with Orriana and sending them both to the ground. “I WAS WELCOME!” “You were!” shouted Orriana as she attempted to shirk the vampire who was straddling her – although clumsy, it was amplified by supernatural strength. “You were, Suvia! Remember? We didn't know! We did welcome you!” “Only-only because...” A punch broke the earth right next to Orriana's head – Suvia couldn't bring himself to connect it. “because I'M LIKE THIS! I MADE YOU!” Another punch, weaker this time, still far from the galerider's body. “I made you I made you I made you I don't want to make anyone do it anymore why a-aren't I dead why aren't I...” The rambling slowly subsided into more sobs, aggression draining from Suvia along with his tears. Orriana could've turned the tides now, overcome Suvia, pushed her dagger in – but somehow, she knew in her heart that wasn't the right thing to do. “Orriana...” whispered Suvia, and there was apology and fondness in that word. “Why... I thought I... did everything right this time...” “Suvia... I wish I knew. Medranos is not your enemy, Suvia. I was wrong to have lashed out at you, I let my anger out against you and you’d done nothing wrong!” The Lahessi who'd been aiding Suvia were apprehensive, but Orriana could tell they wouldn't stay like that for long; her next words would have to count. It was clear that there was no more fight in Suvia left; she knew what to do. She had to get Suvia to leave Medranos, before he got hurt. “But this isn't the end. You got this far here, right? Before all this happened, things were alright, weren't they? Somewhere out there, there's got to be a world where you can live the life you need to.” Orriana smiled and patted Suvia's hand, and the gesture stopped his crying. “I know you'll find it. You're stronger than you think. Everyone has its place, Suvia, if your stay in Medranos has taught you anything, let this be it…” For a while, Suvia could only digest this, still sniffling and hiccuping; but then he took a deep breath and rose off Orriana, a wavering determination in his eyes. “Orriana...” he began. “I'm... I'm glad I could fight by your side. I think... it's best that I just... go now...” The vampire laughed a shaky laugh, the kind people laugh when they're all out of crying. “I'll find it. I won't stop looking. I won't let you down. I...” Suvia stopped, unable to come up with a farewell that could put everything into words – so he only planeswalked away, with a gesture that looked like a ballerina's twirl, with a tender smile. Orriana couldn’t tell how much of what she’d said came from her heart and what came out of her guilt for mistreating the boy, but she knew that at the end of the day she meant it. She did wish for him to reach peace of mind… But she had a much bigger issue to tend to right now. She could see the trunk of the Ancient, but there was still a considerable amount of Lahessi surrounding it. They seemed to be waiting to climb it though, and from what she’d learned, they wouldn’t assault the Ancient until everyone else was dead. If she could get to it, she’d be safe… As if they could read their thoughts, Arina and Garruk appeared by her side. They started assaulting the Lahessi, with the few Medranians that remained aiding them. Orriana found a gap in the swarm and reached the Ancient, beginning to climb it. The Lahessi were not pleased with this, and some left the fight to chase her. Realizing this, Arina addressed Garruk. “Go after them, help Orriana! I will stay behind and hold them back!” she said. The man nodded and began climbing the tree as well. The cryomancer decided to give it her all. This world had welcomed her as a part of it, and compared to how her homeland had treated her, she was willing to take a stand and save Medranos. She wielded Mindmelder with uncanny ferocity, not letting a single Lahessi past her, while her other hand spat kinetic waves that sent her targets flying away. This might have been a bigger effort at any other time, but between Ankryss’ beverage and the Lifepulse instilling her a great deal of energy, she was proving quite capable of handling the situation. “This world has always been warm and wild. I will show it the power of cold!” she said extending both her arms. A frost nova poured from her, freezing the swarm’s vanguard and shooting icicles at the Lahessi that came too close. She breathed heavily while she waited for them to come, but she’d bought herself at least a few minutes. She took the liberty of turning around and looking up the Ancient. She saw Orriana halfway through. “Now it is up to you” she said “You can do this.” She turned around once more, prepared Mindmelder and got back into the fray.
* * * * *
Orriana grabbed a branch and stood on it. This was it, the Alluring Ancient’s tallest spot. She was literally at the top of the world! If only she knew what to do… Garruk joined her soon. He groaned as he wiped some Lahessi blood off his clothes. “Thank you” she said, realizing he’d stopped the creatures from getting to her. “No problem” he said “What’s next?” “Ankryss always used to tell me how he’d felt when he’d harmonized with the Ancient. He told me he climbed to this very spot, took a deep breath, and heard what Medranos had to say to him. After that, he knew exactly which part the Ancient wanted to yield…” she said. She was looking around when she violently stopped. She saw a particular branch that caught her attention. It wasn’t the branch itself but rather one of its leaves. It was almost identical to every other leaf in the tree, and yet this one felt completely different. It was more than just a leaf, it was a leaf that had been meant for her ever since the Alluring Ancient of this Medranian cycle had sprouted. This was her piece of the Ancient… She grabbed the leaf and it detached from the tree almost immediately, and then Orriana finally saw it: Medranos, all of it, in the palm of her hand. It was more beautiful than she’d ever imagined it, she could see every place in Medranos from every angle and in every point in history. All that was and all that had been presented to her at the exact same moment in time. Infinity unfolded in her mind and opened it far wider, letting her see what she’d never seen. She could feel every creature, she could even feel and see herself holding that same leaf from an infinity of angles. And then, even though it seemed to last an eternity, it stopped, and she came back to the present. You’ve finally done it whispered Medranos in her ear You’re my new Warden, I know you’ll care for me for as long as you live… She smiled despite her current situation, everything she’d ever wanted had just come true and, unlike the child who’d started this journey the night Garruk had been crowned champion of the Hunt, she had now matured, and she knew she’d earned this. She mentally called for an elemental and it came, grabbing her and her friend and helping them descend. Once back on the ground, they created a barrier between Arina and the Lahessi. “You’re both free to leave now. My quest is complete. Unfortunately this Medranos will die, but Medranos as a whole will live forever, and the Lahessi will be no more!” she said gently caressing the leaf in her hand. The planeswalkers looked at each other and smiled. They had first been united by being a part of Medranos, but this journey had strengthened the bond between them: they’d fought to save an entire world, they’d faced death countless times and they’d emerged stronger than ever. Grabbing each other’s hands, each of them planeswalked, each to a different location, as the last remnants of Medranos fell to the Lahessi swarm and the most abundant plane in the Multiverse became nothing but a wasteland.
CHAPTER XVI: NO MORE LAHESSI
A cold wind blew on the barren land, spreading clouds of dust all over the world. Nothing but sand and mounts could be seen anywhere, whatever life had existed there once had been gone for years. Orriana’s eyes watered when she faced this sight. One hundred years had gone by, but for her it had been around ten. One of Medranos’ secrets for its overabundance was that time went by faster in that plane than in the rest of the Multiverse. The planeswalker remembered exactly how Medanos had looked before the Lahessi had arrived, mostly thanks to the leaf she carefully held in her hand, and the panorama that greeted her was a thorn in her side. Yes, she’d expected to see this, seeing Medranos restored would’ve meant her plan had failed, but still it hurt. It was just as she’d thought, unable to finish their mission since she was gone, the Lahessi couldn’t die and generate a new world. What had happened to them Orriana didn’t know, but they were clearly dead… She stopped her contemplation and headed towards the spot she remembered the Alluring Ancient being, ready to finish her mission. She sighed when she saw that the place where the tallest tree in the entire world had stood was just a pile of dust now, but she knew that when she was done a new Ancient would sprout and, hopefully, this one would grow even taller. She prepared to plant the leaf underground when something startled her. It was a loud rumble that came from a few meters away. The earth had also shaken slightly when the sound was heard. She held her breath hoping this meant nothing, that it was a natural occurrence and she was giving it more importance than it deserved. But in the back of her mind a concern began forming: what if…? A mount of dirt close to her exploded, spreading sand and rock chunks all around, and when the dust dispersed, a gigantic creature stood in its wake. It was undoubtedly a Lahessi, but it was far more gigantic than any Orriana had ever faced! It was three times as tall and her and its body was bloated, as if it had eaten more than it could, and it had… What Orriana didn’t know (but she could make it out now that she was here again) was that the Lahessi were born to eat until they died, and for as long as they lived they’d continue feeding on whatever came their way. Since they couldn’t die until they ate her, once the rest of Medranos was consumed they were forced to turn on each other. The Lahessi began cannibalizing themselves, an infinite horde eating each other, filling themselves with flesh they were unable to digest, until only one remained, and that one was still suffering the consequences of feeding on its kin. And now the last of the Lahessi was ready to finish its mission, to close this cycle that had begun 1100 years ago… Orriana immediately put the leaf away and prepared for combat. This was her final trial, once this Lahessi was killed, Medranos would be free once and for all! The creature charged, its movements sluggish and sloppy, but its size making it a force to be reckoned. It spread its arms, both ending in long, claw-like hands, and attempted to grab Orriana. The woman’s combat skills had grown over the years, and she avoided the attack with ease. She rolled out of harm’s way to the creature’s side, and climbed its back. The Lahessi became frenzied with this, and it started clawing its backside, trying to catch her and only managing to harm itself in the process. The woman simply ran to the top of its head, holding tight despite is convulsive movements and struck at its skull with her dagger, ready to crack bone and slay the creature. But her weapon broke upon contact. Her eyes widened when she realized this Lahessi was far more powerful than any she’d faced before and, in those few seconds of distraction, the creature finally caught her. She could feel its hands pressing her sides, the pressure building up until she was sure she was going to explode. She used all of her strength to squeeze an arm out of the airtight grip, and grabbed a crystal orb that was hanging from her belt. She hurled it at her opponent. The artifact exploded when it came in contact with its target, releasing a pale light that blinded the colossus. The creature instinctively released Orriana to cover its eyes. She fell gracelessly to the floor, biting her tongue and spitting some blood upon contact. Orriana got up and immediately pulled out her bow, placing an arrow and releasing it before her foe could recover. The projectile stabbed the Lahessi in its abdomen, followed by a couple more arrows, the wounds spurting some thick blood. The creature was not pleased with this and, with a horrifying screech, it charged towards Orriana, deflecting other arrows with its plated claws. It reached towards her once more, expecting her to repeat her previous escape, but she was a few steps ahead of it, and instead made a backflip, repeating the move she’d mustered for the Great Hunt and releasing an arrow midair and striking the creature in one of its multiple eyes. She whispered a silent thanks to Fatresya, the woman who’d taught her about fighting strategically. But as soon as she landed, she was taken by surprise. Whether intentionally or by accident, the Lahessi had slammed the floor in an enraged fit, causing it to shake due to its overbearing weight. Orriana could not stabilize, and she fell flat on her back. As she did, the leaf fell off of her, beginning to get dragged towards her enemy by the dry wind. The planeswalker immediately panicked. The future of Medranos was in that piece of the Ancient. She’d changed the rules, what if this Lahessi ingested her and the leaf and still Medranos wasn’t reborn? If that leaf was lost, everything she’d fought for would face a grim end. The Lahessi stared at the prize with a gluttonous smile, it knew what it was, it knew that as soon as it and Orriana had been dealt with it would finally be able to die… They both ran as fast as they could towards it, but Orriana knew she wouldn’t make it in time. A few meters before reaching it, the Lahessi already began shooting its tongue towards its morsel. The planeswalker didn’t even think it; she jumped at the beast, her right hand readying a second dagger. The creature noticed her assault and diverted its attention from the leaf, its tongue shooting at Orriana instead. It wrapped around her right arm, constricting it and forcing her to drop her weapon. She started tugging, the Lahessi dragging her each time closer to its maw as she tried to draw a new blade to sever the organ… but she was too late. She was suddenly paralyzed by an excruciating pain that extended from her right shoulder to the rest of her body, leaving her in a daze. She could hear herself screaming horribly, but she didn’t really feel herself in the moment, as if it was a different Orriana from a different reality. She stared at the origin of her pain as she saw blood dripping from the wound that had been left when the Lahessi ripped out her right arm from her body. She saw her severed limb as it flew away from her body and into the jaws of the Lahessi. She fought the will to faint right there and immediately produced a vial with her left hand. She uncorked it with her teeth and poured the white liquid in the wound, feeling it burn horribly as it cauterized. This potion had been given to her by a woman named Erika, who’d promise it would heal any wound, although she never expected to be using it in this situation. She breathed heavily trying to regain her composure. She wasn’t sure why the Lahessi hadn’t taken advantage of her vulnerability and attacked her until she saw it. It too was completely paralyzed. It had been a century since it had fed off of something other than its kin, and the taste of Medranian flesh had stunned it as well. It was now or never! But Orriana had no way of dealing with her foe. Both daggers were lost and she could not shoot her bow with only one arm. Let me help you she heard a soothing voice whispering in her ear. She turned and saw the leaf had landed right beside her. She grabbed it and immediately felt a rush of vigor course through her body. Without even fully realizing what she was doing she grabbed her bow with her left hand and prepared an arrow with… her right hand? She could feel some sort of phantasmal limb filling in for her amputated arm. She aimed her arrow, its tip glowing with the vital force of millions of memories the leaf carried with it. “It’s time your race faced extinction” bellowed Orriana releasing the projectile. The arrow flew at an unnatural speed and struck the Lahessi in the chest, exploding on contact. For a few seconds Orriana could see her whole friends and family, the same thing she’d experienced when she’d picked the leaf, tearing the Lahessi to pieces until it was erased from existence itself. She fell to her knees crying, partly from the pain of remembering all she had lost and partly from the joy that the ordeal was finally over. She looked hopefully at her right, expecting to see her arm restored, but it wasn’t there, and it was a huge blow. She stood up once more, heading once more to the place where the Alluring Ancient had once stood. She grabbed the leaf with her remaining arm and once more felt everything it represented flowing throw her. It was the beginning and the end, life and death, all that had ever been in Medranos, every creature and every plant, from the smallest of beings to the Alluring Ancient itself. There was also something else, something that felt unnatural yet was imprinted in the leaf alongside the rest of the world: some sort of oil, apparently mechanical in origin and yet perfectly organic to become one with the Ancient. Orriana decided not to give it much thought... She dug a small hole and placed the leaf in there, covering it again with dirt. “Here’s to the hope of Medranos returning to its former glory” she whispered with a dry mouth. Some of her tears fell over the mound she’d made, making it start glowing with a green light. She stared in amazement as the light grew brighter and brighter. A gigantic pulse of energy spread throughout the ravaged landscape. Orriana suddenly felt her recent wound beating frantically. She suppressed a squeal as vines began sprouting from the empty socket in her shoulder, intertwining and growing in size until they became an exact replica of her right arm. She moved her fingers and opened and closed her hand repeatedly to make sure what she was seeing was actually a reality.
“Thank you” she said to the world. She looked once more at the place where she’d planted the leaf and she smiled when she noticed a small sprout erupting from the earth. It had worked! It had actually worked! All the pain, all the suffering, all the losses, everything she’d had to endure had ended in her goals being accomplished! A new Medranos, beautiful, bountiful, perfect and, most importantly, endless. No more Lahessi, no more loss, no more suffering. The seed had been planted for the brightest of futures. She knew it would take some time for the new Alluring Ancient to grow, and subsequently the rest of life in Medranos. “I did my duty, Medranos, and now I must leave. I was your Warden in the moment in which you needed me the most, but now I know you don’t need me anymore, and I understand. I may return some day, and when I do I hope you’ll be as happy to see me as I’ll be to see you, but in order for both of us to grow, we must take on different paths” she said smiling. And with those final words, she stepped into the Blind Eternities, ready for whatever adventure was expecting for her next.