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Barrin of Tolaria
Gerrard Capashen. Urza Planeswalker. Dominaria has its share of heroes whose lives irrevocably change the face of history forever. But sometimes Dominaria’s saviors lurk in the shadows, forever turning the gears of history but never appearing directly in the midst of great battles and cosmic duels. One of those heroes was Barrin.
Barrin was born Barrinalo during the early days of Kjeldoran rule in Terisiare. Barrinalo possessed no great magical talent, and was content to live his days as a humble scribe for a local guild. All that would change however when Barrinalo’s guild has elected to chronicle the last remaining words of Kjeld’s most powerful sorcerer, the wizard Pharon. Barrinalo, along with various other scribes in his guild, eagerly made note of Pharon’s limitless wisdom and magical prowess. However, all was not as innocent as it first appeared. The House of Letters was a mere pawn of the Kjeldoran wizard guilds, who wanted Pharon’s near-omnipotent power for themselves. One spell in particular, the spell known as Obliterate, was rumored to lie somewhere in the recesses of Pharon’s mind. This spell, purported to be the very spell Urza used to destroy Argoth during the ancient days of the Brothers’ War, would become a world-breaking tool if it fell into the wrong hands. Pharon, in his fevered state, knew this to be the case and confided in Barrinalo something that he has long sensed. Barrinalo would in time become a powerful wizard, surpassing even Pharon in his knowledge of the arcane arts. Pharon confided in Barrinalo the secrets of his most powerful magic, including the dreaded spell Obliterate. Barrinalo, amazed and bewildered by the wizard’s premonitions, silently accepted Pharon’s gifts and left Kjeld shortly after Pharon’s death. Before leaving the city-state, however, Barrinalo had to leave his name as an account of his departure at the local guard’s office. Barrinalo’s pen ran out of ink before he could finish his name, but decided to take upon him this new name instead. On that day, Barrinalo departed Kjeld and Barrin took his first step on his centuries-long journey.
“Knowledge is no more expensive than ignorance, and at least as satisfying.”
Barrin almost effortlessly learned the arcane arts in the seclusion of the wastes of Terisiare. Through his affinity with magic, Barrin managed to prolong his life for untold centuries until at last the long Ice Age came to an end. As his studies drew to a close, he began to attract the attention of one of the multiverse’s most powerful and menacing figures: Barrin had attracted the attention of Urza Planeswalker. A figure out of an almost mythological past, Urza was the very being responsible for the slow collapse of Dominaria into the dreaded Ice Age. Urza confided in Barrin a terrible premonition. The planeswalker had spent the better part of three millennia battling Dominaria’s true foes, the force that was ultimately more responsible for the horrors of the Brothers’ War than even Urza or his brother Mishra. These beings, a race of monsters in the form of machines, were even now planning the total annihilation of everyone and everything upon the face of Dominaria. Urza spoke to Barrin of the Phyrexians, nightmare stories that had haunted Barrin’s mind and the minds of all the children of Dominaria for untold years. Still, Urza’s appearance was undeniable and his words could be nothing short of absolute truth. Urza admitted that Barrin was a wizard of unparalleled power and could become a great asset in the defense of his home plane. The planeswalker revealed his plan, a school dedicated to the study of magic where Urza would gather the greatest minds from across Dominaria to create a force that could halt the Phyrexian invasion. Barrin, overwhelmed by this revelation, agreed to serve as Urza’s right-hand man. He could not have known the price he would pay for that loyalty.
The next few decades were spent in building an academy on the far-distant isle of Tolaria. Barrin’s tireless efforts soon filled the halls of that academy with a vast gathering of the most brilliant minds from across Dominaria. Two students in particular, the Zhalfirin boy Teferi and the Shivan girl Jhoira, were sure to become the future masters of whatever fields they devoted their time to. However, Urza’s true goal never left Barrin’s mind. Urza was more than content to serve as the academy’s mysterious benefactor and took upon himself the name of Malzra, fearing the students would rebel if they knew his true identity. The planeswalkers plan involved the building of a great time machine, able to transport a man nearly 8000 years into the past to the ancient days of the Thran Empire. There, the time-traveler could warn the Thran not to rely too heavily upon the ways of artifice and perhaps stop to Phyrexians from ever coming to power.
“All we could lose, we did. All we could keep, we do. And both are shrouded by mists.” The first step in Urza’s plan was the creation of a sentient artifact capable of withstanding the intense pressures of time travel. This golem, labeled simply “Probe 1”, was capable of constantly evolving and fulfilling whatever task Urza might have in store for him. This progression was possible via the probe’s power source, an artifact used by a Phyrexian sleeper agent Urza had befriended and reformed during his millennia of traveling the planes. The golems creation and lifelike demeanor proved one of Urza’s most notable successes, but was possessed of little more than a childlike mentality. Barrin and Urza agreed that the best possible course of action for the probe was to interact with the other students and thereby become a more well-rounded individual. Barrin was alarmed at Urza’s negligence of the golem. It seemed to Barrin that Urza felt this creation was just another of his lifeless machines, and not a sentient being in desperate need of parental guidance.
“You have no mother. You have no father, either. You have a pair of creators, but that is not the same. Neither of us knows how to comfort and protect you. If you need too much nurturing, we may even consider you defective. Perhaps it is because you were designed to be a tool, a weapon-not a person. Perhaps it is because we have not expected to have to save you. We were hoping you would save us.”
Days passed and at last Probe 1 was made aware of the reason for his creation. The probe entered the time machine and was able to travel back in time a few days to witness his own creation. Returning to the present, the golem immediately became distraught and depressed, knowing that he was indeed just another artifact instead of a unique being. Barrin feared the probe was becoming unstable and decided to entrust it into the care of Jhoira, one of his most promising students.
Barrin confided in Urza his worry over the mistreatment of the silver golem. The wizard felt that Urza was being much too trusting of several of the academy’s more troublesome students, particularly the young Zhalfirin, Teferi. Teferi’s pranks were the stuff of legend and now he had a giant, if defenseless, golem on which to prey. Urza felt that if Teferi did somehow manage to injure or deactivate the probe, it would prove that the golem was not adequate for his master plan and would therefore be labeled a failure. Barrin was more than a little alarmed at Urza’s apathetic stance towards his greatest creation, a being that was capable of feeling the planeswalkers scorn every bit as much as a human could. One day, Barrin’s fears about the probe’s welfare were put aside after a visit to Jhoira’s quarters. The young Shivan and the golem were in the beginnings of what would certainly become a lifelong friendship. Jhoira had even seen fit to give the golem his own name, forever dubbing him Karn, after the ancient Thran word “mighty.”
Barrin and Urza continued their time-traveling experiments with extremely limited success. Karn was able now to travel back only a few weeks into the past and the timestream’s manipulations were having disastrous effects of the students and teachers of the academy. Extreme illnesses were common, as were strange spatial anomalies. Still, Urza’s insistence that any price the academy would pay in stopping the Phyrexians from ever coming to power was minimal compared to the overall goal. Barrin noticed a strange pendant given to Karn by his new friend Jhoira and urged Urza to run tests on the artifact. Urza was alarmed that the metal was evidently of Thran origin, something that had never before been seen outside of Jhoira’s homeland.
Weeks passed and Tolaria was faced with its first small disaster. The rebellious upstart Teferi had managed to sneak outside the academy during the early hours of the night. Urza swore to Barrin that he could smell a Phyrexian somewhere on the island, and currently Teferi proved the most likely candidate. Jhoira came to Teferi’s rescue, convincing Barrin and Urza that Teferi was only outside the academy to catch a rare bird in the hopes of winning her affection. Barrin and Urza were wary, but agreed that Teferi proved no immediate threat.
“Teferi is a problem student. Always late for class. No appreciation for constructive use of time. I don’t understand why he works so hard on a device to duplicate a sound so easily made with hand and armpit.” Mere days after this seemingly innocent incident, Tolaria was torn asunder. The tiny island was forever altered by horrible time rifts, and Barrin could not guess at the answer until Urza revealed the source of the island’s terrible disaster. Somehow, the silver golem Karn had traveled back in time to prevent a Phyrexian incursion into the academy. Although neither Urza nor Barrin had any recollection of the events, apparently either one or both of them had sent Karn back in time to alter an almost certain Phyrexian victory. However, the island could not contain the massive influx of spatial energies and was nearly ripped into pieces because of this. Urza, Barrin, and Karn had managed to locate each other but were only successful in saving a handful of students and scholars. But the island fared even worse. Tolaria was no longer in alliance with the passage of time, but instead different locales on the island were divided into different time frames. On one part of the island, days passed in mere seconds, while on the other part, the horrible disaster was even now only beginning. Urza vowed to return, but knew that the island was now beyond his influence.
“Time flows like a river. In Tolaria, we practice the art of building dams.”
Barrin, “Malzra,” and Karn continued in the ways of the island aboard New Tolaria, a vast seagoing vessel that served as Urza’s new base of operations. Things continued aboard the ship much as they had during the academy’s glory days, until at last Urza vowed to return to Tolaria and somehow repay the island and its inhabitants for the horrors he had unleashed upon them.
Barrin’s students began to explore the island, but Urza’s reclamation of Tolaria would be a long and arduous task. The island’s myriad time streams were dangerous, containing vast temporal energies that could slay Barrin’s students within fractions of a moment. Despite Urza’s warnings, one student died in the opening days of exploration. As horrible as this occurrence was, Barrin and company discovered newfound joy in Tolaria’s only surviving native: Jhoira.
Jhoira had lived on Tolaria these past years, becoming a stronger and wiser young woman in “Malzra”’s absence. But the fires that forged Jhoira into the wild-woman that Barrin saw before him were still alive and well on the island. Jhoira took Malzra’s party on a tour of the island, but nothing could have prepared them for the wonders and horrors that waited. Barrin discovered that Tolaria was now host to entire civilizations, many generations strong, that had developed in the few years since Urza’s disaster. Other time zones held students that were still bearing witness to the horrible event, years after it had happened. One student in particular, the prankster Teferi, now stood as still as a statue. Despite these horrors, Tolaria was now host to a veritable paradise, a place where the falling rain and beaming sun were amplified a hundredfold. This place, which Jhoira had named Angelwood, was more glorious than any site Barrin had ever beheld. But if Angelwood was the sum of Tolaria’s light, the Giant’s Pate was its antithesis. The Phyrexian invaders had been trapped in this slow-moving time zone. For every moment that passed on Tolaria, hours passed for the monsters, allowing them centuries to prepare for a coming invasion. Barrin realized the cold irony: In attempting to prevent a Phyrexian invasion from starting, Urza had created another race of Phyrexians bent on destroying his works and now in possession of countless years to prepare. Somewhere in the darkness, the Phyrexian sleeper agent that Jhoira had befriended years ago lay in wait. Kerrick had become another Yawgmoth, as bent on Urza’s death as his master.
Barrin’s students at once set out to build a new academy, a monument in honor of those who lost their lives at the original disaster. Urza himself oversaw the construction of a memorial to Teferi, a young boy with a genius that would never be allowed to flourish. Years passed and the new academy slowly came into being. Urza at once began to construct war machines the likes of which had not been seen since the Brothers’ War. The planeswalker believed that the Giant’s Pate problem must be solved immediately, for already Phyrexians were experimenting with ways to cross the time threshold. The attack on Kerrick’s forces proved an ultimate failure, merely providing Kerrick with greater tools with which to slay his enemies. Jhoira’s life was nearly lost in the attack, and the youth now lay comatose in the makeshift infirmary.
Years passed in a blur. Due to Tolaria’s slowtime water, Barrin and the rest were given incredibly prolonged lifespans. Further exposure to the water could prove a source of immortality. Urza began the construction of falcon engines, several times as deadly as those used during the Brothers’ War. But still, a shadow of defeat loomed over the new academy. Jhoira’s coma showed no sign of dissolving. Karn spent most of the day staying by his best friends side. Finally his silent vigil succeeded in bringing the young Ghitu back to life. Jhoira awakened with a renewed vigor, convinced she had solved the riddle of the time streams through a vision. Jhoira’s calculations were flawless, and within days the youth Teferi was returned to the world of the living, still as young and impetuous as he had been decades before.
Somewhere in this happy time, Barrin took it upon himself to try and further Urza’s time travel experiments behind the planeswalker’s back. Barrin routinely devoted his immense magical prowess in an attempt to contact a higher power, a god that would be reveal to Barrin the way to cross the boundaries of time. It was in this pursuit that Barrin unwittingly allowed a type of phantom monster to have free reign over Tolaria. Barrin and another student were attacked by the phantom monster, a creature that wanted only to return to its proper place in the multiverse. Barrin’s pupil was brutally slaughtered, and only through Urza’s intervention was Barrin able to triumph over the creature. It was perhaps at this time that Barrin realized the true price he must pay, or rather that others must pay, in order to save their world.
Nearly a decade later, Urza’s falcon engine army was complete and the time had come to once again attempt to drive the Phyrexians from Tolaria. Urza’s second attempt nearly proved successful, but again Kerrick’s forces were much too fast. The sleeper agent succeeded in destroying Urza’s war vessel, casting the planeswalker down into his lair. Barrin and the rest of his students were helpless to reclaim their fallen mentor, but Karn took a gamble that his silver hide would be sufficient to protect him from the ravages of time. Thousands of falcon engines managed to free Urza, while the planeswalker retaliated with his unmatched power. Eventually, the planeswalker’s spells were used up and Karn barely managed to drag his master from the warzone. Kerrick, whose name had become K’rrik in the long years, was now in possession of a veritable arsenal far surpassing Urza’s own.
“He cocooned himself alone in his workshop for months. When he finally emerged, all broad grins and excited chatter, I knew he’d found his answer.”
Urza had finally had enough. The planeswalker revealed his true identity to those in his care, and once again vowed to rid the Phyrexians from Tolaria. But to create a weapon powerful enough to withstand the horrors which were even now emerging from the Giant’s Pate, Urza had to travel Dominaria in search of a trove of artifacts capable of defending the entire plane from the coming Phyrexian invasion. These artifacts, Urza’s unborn Legacy, would not only rid Tolaria of its infestation, but would prove instrumental in Dominaria’s victory over the horrors of Yawgmoth. Urza began his search in the fires of Shiv, Jhoira’s homeland. Barrin was left in charge of the island’s day-to-day activities, as well as the defense of several thousand students and scholars.
“You cannot possibly know the toll your alliances will exact from you, Urza.”
Barrin’s every waking moment was now filled with the horrors of war. In order to protect his homeland, Barrin served as general to Urza’s artifact forces, directing their attacks and defenses from the now almost daily Phyrexian incursions. Urza occasionally returned to Tolaria, but only for further supplies. The planeswalker had managed to befriend a race of lizard-humanoids named Viashino, who were in constant battle with a race of Shivan goblins over control of a long-abandoned Thran powerstone factory. Urza gathered Karn, Jhoira, and Teferi to his side, leaving Barrin truly alone in the war to protect his home.
Urza left Barrin notice that soon he would be traveling to the sentient forest of Yavimaya to partition the forest to join his crusade on Dominaria’s behalf. Barrin continued to protect his home for years until all hope was lost. Barrin began to suspect that Yavimaya must have destroyed Urza, for the planeswalker never returned from his journey. Tolaria was dying and would not last more than a few months at the current rate. Barrin activated a beacon Urza had given him centuries ago, but the planeswalker did not come. With the island’s defenses rapidly crumbling, Barrin began to lose all hope.
Finally, Barrin’s prayers were answered and Urza at last returned home, an army of viashino and goblins in his wake. In addition, the planeswalker brought two Shivan dragons, Gherridarigaaz and her son Rhammidarigaaz. Filled with new vigor, Barrin’s forces fought with a madness rarely seen in this place of such learning. In the end, Urza won the day with the help of a Yavimayan avatar, the maro-sorcerer Multani. At last, the Phyrexian threat was driven from Tolaria and Urza had secured the allies necessary to defend all of Dominaria in the coming invasion. However, Urza’s victories had a bitter aftertaste. Just before slaying the monster K’rrik, Urza learned that the Phyrexians were even now assaulting Serra’s Realm, a land of peace and serenity Urza had traveled to millennia ago. Urza felt that it was his duty to return, and Barrin hoped that at last Urza had begun to take responsibility for his actions. If he knew the truth, however, the wizard may never have left Tolaria forever.
Urza’s Legacy had begun to take shape in the form of a single flying vessel. Named Weatherlight from the Yavimayan Weatherseed it was created from, the ship would serve as a rallying point around which the Dominarian forces could gather. Created from the wood of Yavimaya, the metal of Shiv, and the genius of Urza Planeswalker, Weatherlight was a sight to behold even in its infancy.
While Weatherlight slowly grew, Barrin enjoyed a temporary respite. The wizard at long last began the simple act of teaching, something he had longed for since the old academy was destroyed. Teferi worked more and more away from home, often settling disputes in his homeland of Zhalfir. Jhoira and Karn continued to practice their artifice at the Shivan Mana Rig, working fervently on the smaller pieces of the Legacy. Urza, however, could find no rest. The planeswalker made several journeys to Serra’s Realm in an attempt to find a peaceful solution to the Phyrexian invasion of that plane. However, history has shown us that wherever Urza goes, peace is nowhere to be found. Serra’s Realm was now in the hands of a despotic archangel named Radiant. As the Phyrexians invaded more and more, Serra’s Realm was crumbling and Urza’s offers to transport Radiant’s subjects fell on deaf ears. Radiant blamed Urza for the destruction of Serra’s Realm, and branded Urza her lifelong enemy.
Urza confided in Barrin that Serra’s Realm would eventually collapse, at its energies would forever disappear. Urza felt that Serra’s people could be saved, and their plane converted into pure energy, powering the Thran powerstone that was the power source of Weatherlight. Barrin agreed to Urza’s proposal and began making battle plans for the rescue operation. Urza continued to scout ahead into Serra’s Realm, taking what refugees he could. The planeswalker eventually found the true source of the Realm’s destruction. The soul-torches used in holy rituals of purification were harnessing the life forces of Radiant’s subjects for Phyrexia’s use. Radiant’s own war minister, Gorig, was himself a Phyrexian sleeper agent. Radiant, driven mad in Serra’s absence, believed that millions of innocent subjects were Phyrexians and had them executed in a brutal fashion.
Urza’s forces, consisting of the combined armies of Shiv and Tolaria as well as thousands of artifact creatures, began their assault. While Weatherlight would serve to carry the refugees away from the plane after being energized by the decaying Realm’s mana, Barrin would lead the majority of artifact creatures in the head-on assault against Radiant’s forces. Barrin, riding aback the dragon Rhammidarigaaz, confronted the Phyrexian Gorig. With the help of the dragon, Barrin destroyed Gorig, preventing another Serran soul from ever being used by Phyrexia.
As the battle raged on, Urza was taken captive by Radiant herself. Eventually, Urza managed to return after destroying Radiant along with Serra’s Sanctum. Casting a massive spell, Urza collapsed Serra’s Realm and forever powered the Thran Crystal at the heart of Weatherlight. With nearly a thousand refugees aboard, Weatherlight departed the collapsing plane mere moments before it imploded.
The next few years were filled with precious moments of serenity. Teferi had proven more powerful than Barrin at first suspected, rising from his mortal form and becoming a planeswalker. He now worked to protect his homeland Zhalfir from internal disputes and foreign invasion. Jhoira left the academy to continue her work independently at the Shivan Mana Rig. Karn proved even more resourceful, constantly evolving and proving invaluable in Urza’s research. Barrin was content to simply teach, but routinely traveled on missions of peace and alliance against the coming invasion. Urza constantly traveled Dominaria, ever searching for new inspiration for his Legacy. In time, the Tolarian Academy became even more powerful than its older namesake. Barrin realized, of course, that this peace could not last forever. A storm was coming, one that would shake Dominaria to its very core. Barrin believed that storm would originate from the far distant plane of Phyrexia. He could not have realized that Urza would again be at the core of the horrors to come.
Sometime during this short quiet calm before the storm, Barrin aided in one of Urza’s most peculiar experiments. Urza had created a dragon, an easy task for a planeswalker of such power and skill. However, this dragon was different from the typical summoned creature. It was alive, sentient, and even aware of its own being. Urza had created the beast in an effort to understand just how the Phyrexians created life from nothingness through purely artificial means. Unfortunately, the dragon became increasingly resentful of the planeswalker’s control, eventually tricking Urza into transforming him into a living creature free of the ‘walker’s control. Of course Urza was not truly manipulated, and confided in Barrin that this act of progressively increasing the perfection of his creation put him one step closer to understand Yawgmoth’s grand design.
One night, as Barrin was returning from an extended vacation, the wizard was made privy to a terrible secret. Barrin had believed that Urza’s Legacy was complete with the creation of Weatherlight. The planeswalker admitted that that was not the case, however. If something should happen to Urza, Dominaria would be left without a leader in the coming war. This was a chance Urza was unwilling to take, but he knew that no living man could possess the character traits necessary to serve as a proper leader in Dominaria’s greatest hour of need. Urza confided in Barrin the secret of the Bloodlines, a project Urza had begun several centuries before founding Tolaria. By manipulating the races of Dominaria, Urza hoped to one day inadvertently create a human being with the cunning and knowledge to outwit the Phyrexians, no matter the threat Yawgmoth placed in his way. Barrin was appalled at this new knowledge; Urza was manipulating history forever in an effort to stop his greatest foe. While Urza’s motives were just, Barrin believed that this was an issue of morality that no man, or planeswalker, should have the ability to make. Despite his firm protests, Barrin reluctantly agreed to continue his work at Tolaria.
“Urza says he’s sane. Perhaps, but measures of sanity among planeswalkers are hard to come by.”
Barrin and several of the other high-ranking scholars and wizards of Tolaria devoted much, if not all, of their waking hours to the Bloodlines Project. One wizard in particular, an Argivian wizard named Gatha, showed remarkable promise in Urza’s work. While Gatha’s tactics were brutal, Barrin and Urza were both surprised at the results the Argivian procured. During this time, Barrin also began an intense romantic relationship with Rayne, who would later become Tolaria’s chancellor. Barrin and Rayne were madly in love, despite their tremendous age difference. Still, Barrin felt that age mattered little on Tolaria, a place where seconds could last decades. Barrin and Rayne consummated their relationship and were wed.
Years passed as they always did on Tolaria. Gatha, now an accomplished mage and scholar, began taking the Bloodlines in frightening new directions. At Barrin’s request, Urza intervened and ordered Gatha to cease his blatant disregard for the projects protocols and guidelines. Barrin continued to feel increasingly wary of the Argivian, but Urza again felt the mage’s fears were ill founded. During this time, Karn had begun to show increasingly troublesome side effects of his ancient life. The golem was apparently incapable of forgetting bad memories, chief of which was Jhoira’s leaving the island to continue Urza’s work at Shiv.
After a time, Barrin was given notice of a startling discovery in the very makeup of the Bloodlines Project. Timein, an increasingly accomplished scholar, made Barrin aware of a flaw in the project’s details. Urza had ordered the routine use of Tolaria’s slow-time areas for the project’s use, believing that several generations could be accomplished in mere days. However, Timein had discovered that this removed from the natural flow of time caused sentient creatures to lose their affinity with the land. Human beings must be allowed natural time to connect to the land, otherwise they risked contamination, deformity, and eventually death. Barrin feared that Urza’s project was doomed to failure.
“The solution is entirely in the hands of Urza Planeswalker.”
Before Barrin could confide in Urza, however, a most unusual surgery was taking place. Urza removed Xantcha’s heartstone from Karn’s makeup, altering it to allow the golem’s memory a storage time of only forty years. Urza hoped this would prevent Karn from succumbing to despair, but in fact it only led the golem to become increasingly withdrawn. Days after this horrible occurrence, Barrin was shocked to find that Gatha had deserted the academy, stowing away on Weatherlight as it made a routine trip to Argive.
Word began to reach Tolaria that Gatha was continuing his demented genetic experiments in the far barbarian nation of Keld. Barrin insisted Urza take action, but Urza was quite content to allow Gatha to continue his study. Urza felt that an occasional breaking of the rules was necessary to determine the flaws and limits of the Bloodlines experiment. Barrin was shocked at Urza’s moral apathy; the planeswalker was content to let Gatha manipulate the Keldon warlords, making them a now-constant threat to the rest of Dominaria. Urza also blatantly ignored Barrin’s concerns about the loss of affinity with the land that was now common in the Bloodlines subjects. Hundreds of other scholars and wizards shared Barrin’s concerns, even going so far to create a colony on Tolaria completely separate from Urza’s academy. Timein, after learning Urza’s response to his concerns, resigned his position immediately and began leading the colony as headmaster.
After several centuries, Barrin learned that Phyrexians had begun attacking Keld at an alarming rate. Believing that Keld was in some way connected to Urza Planeswalker, the Phyrexians had slain Gatha and completely upended Keld’s hierarchy. The nation was now little more than a mercenary state in the service of the highest bidder. Urza was typically apathetic towards this revelation. The ‘walker unintentionally made Barrin aware of something that filled the mage with utter horror. The students and teachers of Tolaria were not exempt from their inclusion in the Bloodlines Project. Urza was manipulating the students of the academy just as he was doing in Benalia, Jamuraa, Urborg, and all across the globe. Even more horrible to Barrin was the realization that he himself was an unwitting participant in the project. His marriage to Rayne had been part of Urza’s master plan; Barrin was no different than a cog Urza had placed in one of his clockwork mechanisms. Barrin made no mention of this horror to his wife, but the couple began to wonder if their involvement at the academy could continue on its present course.
As time went on, Urza had less and less work for Barrin, Rayne, and the rest of the scholars. Barrin noticed Urza shifting his resources away from Tolaria to several secure locations around Dominaria. Barrin of course realized Urza’s purpose; the Phyrexian invasion was rapidly approaching and soon Tolaria would serve no purpose in Urza’s plans. Barrin was almost ecstatic over this revelation; soon the nightmare would end and Barrin could be content to teach the arcane arts without interference from Urza’s terrible plans.
At last, Tolaria was empty. The academy was still full of students willing to better their understanding of magic, but Urza would play no part in their lives any longer. Barrin and Rayne settled into a quiet life and began the simple act of teaching young learners. Barrin was overjoyed to learn that he would soon become a father. Urza still stopped by the academy at least once a year, but only for routine tasks. Barrin’s role in Urza’s plans was far from over, however, and the wizard would soon learn the consequences of following the mad planeswalker these long centuries.
After a time, all trace of Urza’s involvement in Tolaria disappeared. Barrin and Rayne raised their daughter Hanna lovingly, but problems were always present. Hanna was every bit as knowledgeable as her parents, but focused that knowledge on subjects Barrin felt inappropriate and dangerous. Hanna studied artifacts with a passion, and greatly desired to be allowed to travel to New Argive and study there. Barrin tried time and again to get his daughter interested in magic, believing Hanna’s love of artifice to be another grand design of Urza’s Bloodlines. Still, Hanna was adamant and even went so far as to escape the island and travel alone to Argive.
Barrin and Rayne were both saddened and furious at their daughter’s departure. Barrin would have to wait over a decade before again having the chance to see his daughter. When Hanna returned to Tolaria, she arrived aboard Weatherlight, which had been given to a Jamuraan family in order to prevent the Phyrexians from realizing its importance. The current captain of the Weatherlight had been abducted by Volrath, ruler of the Phyrexian-controlled plane Rath. Accompanying Hanna was Gerrard Capashen, the ultimate product of the Bloodlines experiment, Urza’s future heir. Though Gerrard was not yet aware of his creation, Barrin was still more than willing to help them in any way he could. Hanna asked Barrin to join Weatherlight’s crew and help them planeshift to Rath. Unfortunately, Barrin still had many responsibilities on Tolaria and was unable to attend. However, the mage sent one of his most promising students, the young wizard adept Ertai, in his stead.
During one of the planeswalker’s scarce visits to Tolaria, Urza asked Barrin to journey to northeastern Jamuraa and give a report of the escalating Keldon aggression occurring there. Barrin almost enthusiastically agreed, if for nothing else than a chance to escape the mundane life on Tolaria. Barrin met up with his longtime friend Teferi, who had become a vital part in the lives of all northern Jamuraa. Teferi showed Barrin the wonders of the Kipamu League’s artifice, which was being employed on a vast scale against the Keldon invasion. After a brief skirmish, Barrin agreed to aid the League in any way he could during these trying times.
Barrin set up a base of operations at a local airbase. It was here that Barrin befriended the local wizard Alexi, whose ship had been shot down by Keldon barges. Vowing revenge for the deaths of her crew, Alexi eagerly agreed to help the League in any endeavor against their mutual foe. Together, Barrin and Alexi managed to retake an supply depot that the Keldons had overtaken.
The next several weeks were spent attacking Keldon scouting vessels. Barrin and Alexi used their combined magic to slow Keld’s eventual incursion into League territory. However, it became increasingly obvious that without Teferi’s help, the League was sorely underpowered. Barrin knew that even a planeswalker could not be in ten places at once, and so decided to call in a few favors. Within the week, Rayne had arrived from Tolaria, bringing with her dozens of students and a large assortment of artifact creatures. Barrin was glad for the help, but appalled that Urza would send so little reinforcements for such an important battle. After Teferi expressed similar concerns, Rayne explained that Tolaria’s defenses were needed elsewhere in the world for the quickly approaching Phyrexian invasion.
Distraught over Urza’s negligence of the Kipamu League, Teferi looked elsewhere for reinforcements. He found those reinforcements with the help of an old friend, Jolrael, who had had a decidedly important part in the Mirage Wars several decades earlier. Rayne and Jolrael set out with several students in the hopes of providing Barrin important information before the true battle began.
Barrin relocated the entirely of his forces to Arsenal City, a strategic League base and the next target in Keld’s aggression. Barrin met with Mageta the Lion, general of all League forces in the immediate area. Mageta outlined to Barrin the importance of the League’s rather limited artifact creatures, which Barrin prayed would be sufficient in defending the city. Barrin was shocked at the frightening information Mageta delivered next: the city had absolutely no combat forces whatsoever. Should the machines fail, the city would certainly fall.
“It startles me how alive one feels on the edge of death.”
Barrin and Teferi prepared their strategy for defending Arsenal City, while Rayne and Jolrael continued their scouting excursions. Rayne had discovered a plague that was ravaging the local fauna and flora, and would undoubtedly begin to claim lives on both sides of the war. However, the Keldons had not exhibited any of the plague’s symptoms, greatly adding to the growing fear in Arsenal City.
“An army on the march is a terrible thing to behold.”
At last the day of war arrived. The League artifact creatures, alongside Tolaria’s own mechanisms, succeeded in preventing the Keldon forces from getting too close to the city’s walls. Mageta attacked the Keldons himself, boosting the morale of the weary League defenders. Along with Barrin’s help, Mageta succeeded in defeating the immediate Keldon threat, and it was not long before the invading forces were in retreat. Angry that the Keldons had managed to escape and regroup, Barrin ordered the League forces to leave the city and track their foes down.
As the League forces trekked endlessly through the Jamuraan forestland, Rayne’s fears began to be justified. The plague was ravaging the local area. Entire forests were now nothing more than detritus. What’s more, one of Rayne’s assistants had discovered that the plague was equal parts bacterial and mechanical in origin. What part Phyrexia played in the Prophecy War remains to be seen. Eventually, Barrin’s forces succeeded in locating the fleeing Keldons. Alexi managed to destroy a great number of land barges via an aerial assault. Now the landscape was enveloped in chaos, each Keldon fighting for his very life on mere bloodlust alone. The tide of battle had turned, and now the might of Keld was thwarting the pitiful League defenders. Just when things couldn’t look worse, Barrin discovered a sight that made him retch with fury and sadness. Rayne now lay dead at the feet of a horrible monstrosity of a man.
“They’re dead. They’ll all burn.”
Barrin was enraged and obliterated Greel without a second thought. Next he turned his fury on the Keldon warriors, destroying hundreds with his powerful magic. Even when Barrin’s tremendous magic was exhausted, the wizard slew several attackers armed with only a sword. Still, the Keldons were beginning to overtake the League forces. Just as all hope was lost, Teferi suddenly appeared and ended the Prophecy War in one fell swoop, slaying nearly every Keldon on the battlefield. Exhausted, Barrin rested near an overturned wagon. There he discovered Latulla, the leader of the entire Keldon invasion. Trapped under the wagon, Latulla ordered Barrin to free her, thinking he was merely a slave. Without another word, Barrin savagely decapitated Latulla, ensuring the Keldon attacks were at an end. Despite the victory, Barrin was distraught over the loss of his wife of nearly a millennia. Barrin ordered the remainder of the Keldon attackers to be mercilessly executed.
Barrin returned home to Tolaria a changed man. Never before had he realized exactly what price he must pay for following Urza Planeswalker. When he at last returned to his home, however, it appeared that Urza had a new task for Barrin. The Phyrexian invasion had at last begun, and all of Dominaria would need Barrin’s talents to survive. Barrin wearily agreed.
“Will history remember this as the day demons arrived or the day savior’s arrived?”
At last, Dominaria’s day of judgment had arrived. Barrin accompanied Urza to Benalia, where Weatherlight had returned from its adventures in Rath to shut down two massive Phyrexian portals. Urza and Barrin managed to shut down the last of the three portals over Benalia with their own magics. After the fight, Urza left Barrin in charge of the defense of one section of Benalia and left the wizard in charge of thousands of Serrans and Metathran. Still, the battle was doomed before it had even begun. Despite Barrin’s efforts, and those of Weatherlight, Benalia was soon the conquered, the first casualty in the horrible Phyrexian War.
“He’s shoving at you, Urza. Shove back.”
When Barrin and Urza were next reunited, it was upon the green plains of Zhalfir. Teferi, Zhalfir’s longtime guardian, was more than happy for Barrin’s help. Urza, however, was less welcome. The Prophecy War had convinced Teferi more than anything that Dominaria’s salvation would not come at Urza Planeswalker’s hands, and so he refused to allow his former mentor to defend Zhalfir. Instead, Teferi convinced Urza to aid him in shutting down the Phyrexian portal, claiming the ambient energies for himself. Once the portal was destroyed, Teferi cast a massive spell, which seemingly obliterated all of Zhalfir. The reality of what had just occurred was far stranger. Teferi had converted the entirety of northeastern Jamuraa into idea, effectively phasing the land into his own plane. Urza was furious, believing that Teferi would rather run and hide than use his tremendous talents in the defense of the world. Regardless of Urza’s protests, Teferi soon left his two former masters without the might of Zhalfir, Femeref, or Suq’Ata to aid in the defense of Dominaria.
Urza and Barrin reconvened at Tolaria, now stripped of each and every resource, save two. Agnate and Thaddeus, two Metathran soldiers engineered to serve as the perfect fighting machines and brilliant strategists, were awakened with Barrin’s help. Although Barrin once again expressed concern at the mistreatment of sentient creatures, Urza characteristically ignored his longtime friend. Agnate and Thaddeus were dispatched to fight what would become the most crucial battle of the first wave of the invasion, the Battle of Koilos.
Urza and Barrin next journeyed to the Shivan Mana Rig, which was even now under assault. With the help of the two mages, as well as that of the Shivan dragon lord Rhammidarigaaz, the Rig was able to defend itself against the opening Phyrexian salvo. Barrin insisted they congratulate Jhoira, who was doubtlessly responsible for the Rig’s many advances in defense. After meeting with his former student, Barrin was shocked to discover that Teferi’s meddling was taking Shiv away from Dominaria just as it had done Zhalfir. Urza was furious, but the spell was already in effect. Darigaaz vowed to stay on Dominaria and defend it with a host of dragons, and the mobile portion of the Mana Rig that contained the powerstone factories would also stay under Urza’s control. Still, Urza and Barrin both felt that Teferi and Jhoira were deserting their home plane rather than fight for its defense.
Barrin was next relocated the Keld, to defend the very people who had viciously slain his wife. Barrin managed to win the Keldons’ favor, but knew in his heart that Keld would soon be another casualty in the war. Urza ordered Barrin to relocated his forces to the stagnant island of Urborg. Should the Phyrexians conquer Urborg they would have untold deposits of black mana at their disposal. Barrin cursed Urza for abandoning Keld for readily, but reluctantly agreed to convince the Keldons to sail to Urborg. Barrin’s Keldon forces met with several Benalish refugees, as well as panther warriors under the command of the planeswalker Lord Windgrace. Despite the numerous resources at his command, Barrin again felt that Urborg would very soon be the next nation to fall.
“Benalia is lost. Zhalfir and Shiv are gone. Now Keld is falling too. I thought I could forget Rayne in the war but not when war screams‘Loss! Loss! Loss!’”
Barrin’s fears proved true. Within mere weeks, the majority of Urborg was in the control of Yawgmoth’s minions. Barrin abandoned his post and journeyed to Koilos, begging Urza for further reinforcements. Urza admitted that further reinforcements were not possible at this stage in the invasion, and that nothing could be done to prevent the Phyrexians from conquering Urborg. Barrin reluctantly agreed, and made plans to meet with his daughter Hanna after being apart from her for so long. It was then that Barrin’s world fell apart. With his usual apathetic tone, Urza informed Barrin that Hanna had been dead for several weeks, a victim of the rampant Phyrexian plague that had already claimed millions of lives. At last, Barrin’s eyes were opened. He could not believe that he had allowed himself to fight Urza’s war in the defense of people and things that he cared so little for, all the while losing what was most dear to him.
“Your work was always the most important thing. Of course I wasn’t there when my daughter died. I wasn’t there when she lived. You stole her away from me, and that’s not the worst of it-I let you steal her from me! I have spent my life fighting battles I did not believe in because I believed in you. I fought for things I did not love and let what I loved slip away-first my wife, and then my daughter, and now myself. I’m done. I’m taking Hanna back to Tolaria. I’m fighting for my home and her home and my wife’s grave. I’m finally going to fight a battle I believe in-I’m going to fight a final battle I believe in.”
Barrin left Urza’s side for the last time, using his magics to exhume his daughter’s buried body and deliver it to Tolaria. Once there, Barrin found his homeland under siege from Phyrexians. Hundreds of students and scholars were being slain by the handful. Barrin hugged his daughter’s still body to his chest and called upon the one spell Barrin promised himself never to use: Obliterate, the same spell Urza had unleashed at Argoth and the very first spell Barrinalo was taught by the dying mage Pharon.
“All my life I have fought these monsters. Today I finish that fight.”
All Phyrexians on the island were disintegrated, and Barrin’s still form lay near his wife’s grave with the corpse of his daughter clasped in his dead hands and the Academy he had long taught burning in the background.
“Only vengeance matters now.”