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Miscellaneous - Fiction

Kindred to the Thran
Adam Chance Hollaway

Meretan stepped out of the portal to his home. A near-vacant plane, once containing the lush forest of Greenwood. Now, only a few of its branches grew still. An Automaton followed him through, shortly thereafter by a Djinn. Beings, newfound allies against the Dark Avatar. His last journey had nearly killed him, he was in no shape for new surprises.

Though Meretan had left his plane with caretakers, the Forest of Greenwood was in as bad a shape as the Ancient Planeswalker. He looked long at all he once new so fondly. A sound escaped his sinewy lips as he surveyed all there was left. "Home," he said.

Meretan collapsed to his knees. His cohorts quickly pulling him back to his feet, Ercria, the Djinn, spoke a few kind words to ease his mind. She placed a hand to the ground and felt the same pain as she had in her own forest, the feeling of loneliness she felt in Meretan when she first met him. As he had given her a cloak inscribed with her past, her powers grew to a legendary status, and she hoped to bring all three mercy with that power.

Meretan asked, exhausted, "Please, set me down there." He pointed to a small semicircle in the middle of the portal's courtyard. "I must save my plane. Besides the two of you," he said slowly remembering all the casualties, "this is all I have left."

Ceintik easily carried him to the spot he marked for recovery. Ceintik's Strength was far greater at the moment than Meretan's. Once a scholar of Resarven, the Sorcerer plane, he worked in artifice until donning the black arts as a means of controlling more resources. He bargained with demons and eventually lost his soul to the Automaton he now dwells inside. Thankful to his newfound friend for the release from the eternal torture from his Darkened daughter's twisted magic.

Ercria sat beside Meretan as he closed his eyes, she focused her energy on him, hoping it would be enough to help both him and his home. She was Djinn, a creation of Askarsect as a being no other 'walker could control, but when The Dark Avatar found herself not able to, she banished her sentinel to the Ercrian forest.

Her thoughts drifted back to her home in Owdash, she wondered if she could ever save the plane and shape it into a realm where she and others could live. She remembered her whereabouts as Meretan's words interrupted her dream.
"It's working," said Meretan in a soft, worn voice. "Watch, the vines unravel themselves...The branches." His voice lowered but kept its tone. "More than two years," he said, "I should have come back sooner." He again mesmerized himself with the changing of the leaves from black and red to green and yellow. "I must get to my study as soon as possible, the caretakers will have been there waiting since I left." He started along the way to the center of Greenwood. As he passed by trees, they sprouted with life and he as well, for the ties to his home were far greater than anything else. His was an incarnation of the Forest, an Avatar had never been absent from their greater part for so long as he had. His stature grew into the form of a young man, thin strands of roots flowed from his head, draping to his neck, they pulled the moisture from the air around him. A vitalizing overwhelmed the planeswalker. He glanced back toward Ercria and Ceintik. "Friends," he said, " I would not have survived so long without you, I never would have defeated Askarsect, I owe you both a great debt." He forced a smile, he was not easily capable of such a thing, but he tried to for them.

Ercria stepped closer to him, "Now I want know more about you," she said. She kept pace with him, as Meretan enjoyed her company. "Am I to stay in Greenwood with you as long as Owdash is in ruins?"

"Yes, I will make arrangements for both you and Ceintik to stay here. My plane was created from all Five of the Manas, that makes it more stable. You may wish to live in the Lea around which my study exists. Ceintik, the Peninsula where he will find the means to adjust and create the Artifice necessary to fend the Owdash from my home." He turned to face her, but he was always hard at speaking to anyone in such a manner. His appearance was not handsome, Meretan's face was wood and sinew, his body the same as well as the bones of a long dead druid, buried deep within. As all he could do was look at her with his green sphere-eyes, she looked deep into his. They needed no words to speak to each other, she knew what he meant even if he was unable to say so. He took her hand in his and led her past a few of the larger limbs of the great forest. Looking out to his study, he was surprised by what spectacle was taking place.

Three beings were in discussion about his study. One was a statuesque woman, she looked carved out of gray marble. The second, and Angel of the same stone, but with wings of fire, tucked into his back, Meretan wondered what the wings could be capable of when outspread. The last was likewise statuesque, but this one was more human, her dark skin complimented by the fiery hair that enveloped her. The planeswalker motioned to the last one as a possible leader. None of the Caretakers he placed were there, witnessing the event.

* * * *

Arcryn had no choice but listen to the bickering between her two creations. Holding the worn amulet in the palm of her hand, she wondered if relinquishing the power would have been a good idea. A new start wasn't out of the question, she would just have to carve out more statues.

She groaned at that plan, "Why was I the chosen one," she mumbled to herself. But then, it always came flooding back at that thought.

She lived with a small family of blacksmiths in the plane of Riolore. They weren't really her parents, and she heard them spout off the story all the time, how she was found in an abandoned pile of scrap, miraculously unharmed, and then how the little crystal was inside the blankets. Her father eventually molded an amulet for the jewel to be placed in. Ever since giving it to her, she always had a fascination with the Marble slabs that her parents carved from the mountains, and simple machines the old blacksmith's used.

On her seventeenth year in their family, she was offered a try at either craft. She set about to melt the scrap into forms of tools and other utensils, eventually making a chisel and iron hammer. She used the tools to chip Marble slabs into beautiful statues of people she knew so dearly.

Years passed by like moments, and she completed her favorite works. She looked over each one, trying to make it as perfect as it could be, she had sculpted them out of nothing but the marble, using what was in her mind to guide each strike of the chisel.

The fiery-winged angel before her and the Red-eyed sorceress were those two statues, both from marble of the same quarry. Arcryn was none the wise about being a planeswalker, but when she wanted so hard for the beings to live, she clutched the amulet, a habitual reflex for thinking about what she wants, and they slowly moved like they were real. The angel was without actual wings, the slab she used was much too small for them, and the sorceress was unable to see, as the eyes she sculpted were shut. She corrected both with the Amulet's powers, wishing the angel to have wings and the sorceress to see, but her power was limited to fire, the sorceress saw only shadows, and the angel's wings singed and destroyed rather than heal. The fire corrupted them both.

Her power brought her and her adopted family great recognition in Riolore. Soon, she was held in high mentioning as bride to the Ruler of Bogarden. Her challenge was to find a recognition with her powers, and from that she would have the respect to become a ruler. She wanted to find the Avatar, as word was he destroyed the evil in the Owdash plane. She hoped he would be able to help her on her quest.

But things didn't always work in the way she wanted. The two had already turned the argument into a battle. The sorceress, Engroam, casting all manner of pain-inflicting, paralysis-inducing spells, while Gherson, the angel, shrugged each one off while dodging another. It was at the moment when Engroam finally got a scream of mercy out of Gherson, that she noticed the green glow from the bushes.

"Meretan! Is the avatar here?" She shouted her questions to the bushes, which seemed less full before, she knew something had been there. Meretan had become known throughout adjoining planes for facing the Dark Avatar, most thought he was dead, but the tyranny of Askarsect had stopped, leading her to the belief he had won and was still alive.

And possibly able to help her.

Gherson finally spoke, "M'lady, do you want me to check the bushes you are looking at?" His wings opened into breathtaking flames, "It would be safer for me to do so, I am certainly less fragile," he said. Without a word of acknowledgment, he raised from the ground and darted toward the trees in the direction Arcryn was looking. Meretan stepped out only to see the angel coming towards him at a dizzying pace, the fiery wings gave him a greater pace than normal. There was little time to stop the angel, but from the looks of the beings, they were not responsible for the condition Greenwood was now in. "What is your business here?" He shouted to the angel, mid-flight. But the being did not cease his stride. "Who are you, why have you come here?"

Gherson raised one of his fists in front of him, planning to strike Meretan before he could cast a spell to save himself. Gherson's armor glistened like marble, a nacre helm placed upon his head. "I am Gherson, Fire Angel. My master and I have come to search for Meretan. Stand back from combat, or I will make you peaceful!"

It was at that moment that Ercria cast a spell from behind the bushes, an etty wisked away the angel, battering him with the wind's fury.

Gherson cried out his vengeance when Arcryn held up her hand for a ceasefire. "Are you Meretan?" She asked. "I have need of your assistance, I am Arcryn, an heir to Bogardan. I must prove myself if I am to carry out my destiny."

* * * *

The elder planeswalker raised his hand in truce, showing it to the automaton and djinn in the background. "Why attack me? Who are these two who fight in your name?" He motioned for Ceintik and Ercria to stand beside him. He questioned the wizard to his left if he had ever heard of an "Arcryn of Bogardan."

"Yes, actually," said Ceintik, "there are several, but one of them was always trying to put an end to Askarsect's wrath. I suppose this one would be you, madame." He created a charming smile on his artificial face, cobalt-blue eyes bore a hole into hers. "Yes, she is the one, the closest she could come was a treaty with Owdash. As I recall, that wasn't enough and you were banished to Riolore, sister plane to my old home."

She listened and nodded. "You seem to remember things well, automaton," she said. "The treaty did fall apart, but I was not sentenced to live in Riolore. As an agreement, I lived there to protect their people. When word came that Askarsect was dead, I decided they no longer needed my help."

"I'll update my records," he said smugly. "You have not answered why you came. Are you here to speak of your agreements and homes', or did you come to assassinate the champion of that epic battle?"

Engroam stepped into the middle of the conversation, grabbing the attention of everyone with a fireball into the sky. "We came for your help, Avatar," she said with a hint of anger, "now call off your silly machine before burn it into scrap." Her hands engulfed themselves in fire.

Ceintik merely shrugged at the notion of being melted, he knew them better than they knew him. "Is a blind witch going to hurt the great Kiburenre?" Ceintik responded to her flames with mist that grew up from the ground itself. "I have no need to challenge you, but you had better show your respect to a long dead warrior's incarnation."

"Engroam, stop now!" Said Arcryn. The statue-sorceress dropped her hands to her sides, the flame going out as she did so.

Meretan stopped Ceintik as well. The planeswalker looked heavily toward the ground before responding with another question. "How did you get here, and what is it exactly that you need my services for? I left many caretakers to watch and guide my home, but they are all gone now."

"There were no such people when we came, we have searched this realm for several months, no one was here. But," Arcryn showed Meretan the amulet she wore around her neck. "It's a crystal that allows me to shift between planes and bring life to these beings," she motioned to Egroam and Gherson. "I am looking to prove myself worthy of Bogardan and to protect my plane by some magical means. I am not yet a planeswalker and you could help with that." She tucked the jewel underneath her armor. "I want not only to learn magic, but to teach it as well. Then, there will be a guardian for each plane, each one taught the most powerful spells."

"I am skilled in some spells and summons, but my craft is Artifice. You have a great destiny, Arcryn, teaching others. For now, me and my friends must rest. Tomorrow we will speak more about your story."

Meretan led Ercria and Ceintik to his study, from there they would decide what next to do. Arcryn awaited with her creations for their next meeting.

The ship began as a metal skeleton. Slowly a shining skin was layered on without and odd-shaped vitals were crammed within. Still a question remained: would it work? As an artificial being Ceintik never slept. That made him powerful, as he could practice his magic, but without his dreams he never knew where to let his mind seek. The answer left sooner than the question, as the wings began to take form across the bow of his ship. Like a bird, these wings folded and were huge sky-altering appendages from which his vessel would take flight. He waited. Waited longer. Then it all came crashing to the ground.

"A first try is never expected to be the last," he said to himself, as he had learned to do so since he was created, this time his words were meant to console. "I suppose the body can be kept." And with that, the wings turned into dust, spreading helplessly over the entire ship. He began again, not sure of how to power his ship. Even with his knowledge of how he was made, he did not have the same resources to reenact such creation. He was an embodiment of the long-dead being Kiburenre, he had all of the ancient Lich's memories, but his own personality to guide them. He would need some other circumstances to make a living ship, and he knew where to find it, but not if it would work.

* * * *

Arcryn was in some restlessness, worried about her first impression, she needed Meretan's experience. Her two minions had fouled the meeting by attacking the Avatar, possibly ruining her chances for earning her birthright. Her minions were created by the amulet around her neck, the power inside was what allowed her to planeswalk to Greenwood Forest, the plane she now rested in. She felt surrounded by life at all times, a sensation she never would have realized without the amulet.

But she was awake, and nothing to keep her from exploring the plane. She surmised that Meretan was "sleeping," and he wouldn't have any reason to fear her. Her creations were, at rest, as marble, the stone she carved them from. With her amulet at full power, she knew anything that came her way she could fend off, provided it wasn't another planeswalker. As she stepped out of her crafted dwelling, she noticed how cool the air was at night in Greenwood. She shivered slightly and put on a cloak over her armor. At night she could still see the forest itself, dimly, but the crystal was helping with that. She wondered why she was cold, when she had the powers of a planeswalker to make her warm. She reasoned with the notion that she believed she was cold, and that in some way she would be.

"I suppose I need more training for my powers to grow. I have been taking my quest in strides and not steps." She was talking to herself, another habit she had from long ago. She was alone in her journey, save the two statues, but even they could not hold a decent conversation. She smiled and imagined a better time talking to a boulder. Then, a rustle came from the branches ahead of her. She shoved one hand in front of her, the other one grasping the amulet. "Show yourself," she said calm, but firm.

"I am in need of your assistance, m'lady, provided you would like a way to journey through planes with an entire crew at your side." It was the automaton she had met earlier, Ceintik, she recalled. He possibly knew about her powers.

"I have a vessel being built, he said, but I have run along problems with its design. Perhaps you would help me?" The Being said.

She still grasped the amulet, "What sort of problems, and why are you asking for my help when Meretan could help you just as easily?" She stepped carefully closer to the automaton. With each step, power surging into her, ready to be used.

"I have a hard time admitting my wrongs, dear Arcyrn, Meretan has no care for bringing life to a ship like mine, but he is resting now to restore this plane. You have something, some power to bring sense to lifeless objects, your statues." He placed one of his three-fingered hands on her shoulder, "Your crystal...the amulet...Meretan is a true planeswalker, he has his ability from a Thran crystal deep inside his body. He would have sensed another Thran powerstone, but yet he did not recognize yours."

"My people have little knowledge of the Thran, only of a few links to Phyrexia, but we know even less about those." She finally lowered her hands, but if the automaton decided to try anything else, she would be ready at an instance. "Have you any possibilities for why he did not sense it?" She asked.

Ceintik shifted a smile onto his face, "Of course, m'lady..."

"Don't call me that," she spoke differently all at once, "I am not a friend of yours, and you don't know me well enough to call me by anything other than my name."

"Very well, Arcryn, the answer is simple. The crystal is not Thran, it is from another race. Rather than animating artifacts, you seem to have brought it to a level of shaped stone." He erased the smile, now cobalt-blue eyes staring deeply into hers. "You have a power unheard of, it was only my deduction that led me to the belief. The Thran are possibly the most noted, but there are countless planes, somewhere there would have been a race as powerful. Meretan has no doubt considered the possibility." He turned around and set off in the direction he came, "Follow me." He said.

"We will start work on it now, and tell Meretan in the morning."

She hardly began to follow, instead staring toward the ground contemplating what was just revealed about her.

He stopped. Without turning around he called, "Perhaps you want to wait?"

"No," she said, slightly taken aback by the realization he didn't need to turn around to know she wasn't following, "I will help, but I need to think about what you have just offered."

Ceintik headed back towards her, placing both hands on her shoulders, "Come, We will discuss it while I build the ship once more."

"What do you want out of building this artifact?" She asked. "What payment do you want in return?"

He ceased any facial expressions, showing his true visage. He spoke to her, "I know I am not welcome here. I need a workshop, a place where I may create my artifice. I lost my rite of planeswalker centuries ago and am incapable of manufacturing anything like this..." He gestured to the world around him, "Every leave, each flower every branch or blade of grass. Meretan created it, he has that power and I no longer do. My former betrayed him and he will never trust me for that. My only hope is this ship, where I may live my eternity." He let go of her, turning towards the clearing where the remnants of his experiment were still placed, "You need my help, as I can guide you and train you if necessary. I need your help, when your quest is completed, we will part and I will take this ship once more. With it, I may regain the respect I have lost."

Arcryn half-closed her eyes in deep thought, she wanted her academy, perhaps she could build her own ships when she had learned more about her powers. She took hold of one of Ceintik's arms, grabbing his attention as well, "Lead me to this vessel," she said.

* * * *

As light filled the plane, he emerged from the center of his tree. A cape of finely woven vines danced about his shoulders in the cooling breeze. Everything had a purpose, the cape served as a way to collect moisture, as were the smooth, thin roots he had for hair. His armor was practical as well, the Iron Gauntlet served as a powerful source of mana, as were the spheres embedded in his fingertips and plates. His chest plate bore the symbol of Greenwood's domain, the armor in itself grew out of his body, an ironwood extension. The rest of his clothes gained semblance like that from the cape, a cotton-like appearance. Meretan surveyed his domain in a peace overwhelming. "Home," he said once more.

Meretan had no eyes, only the green glowing behind each socket. He saw what he wanted form the surrounding area, like looking at a mirror, only to see himself and everything on the other side. He could see far into the forest, even what lay before Ceintik's retreat. A great ship, something that was there but should not have been. He immediately set toward the Automaton, to demand an explanation.

* * * *

"Once again, I have failed," Ceintik spoke of his ship, "there isn't any other option for us to get this accursed piece of metal off the grass." He watched as it fell to the ground, he flicked all four of his thumbs as it hit the ground without a single noise. "At least Meretan may not have woken yet."

"We both failed," said Arcryn, reluctantly. "And I assume Meretan would know what is going on in his plane, if he is anything like what you describe."

"It helps to oppose reality only for the purpose of saving one's mentality. ...And thank you for sharing the blame." He smiled smugly once more, "I'm afraid we're about to find out in the meantime." He pointed to the far end of the clearing as Meretan stepped out. "We haven't hurt your home, dear friend. I am trying to help our visitor out of a trouble. You see, she wishes to have a ship to take her across planes, one big enough to house a crew. I made sure not to use any of your trees or animals in its creation, in actuality, Arcryn was going to bring it to life on her own."

Meretan sent the automaton to the ground. "I set you free on the condition you would not do any craft without my acknowledgment." He stopped short," You broke a bond, Ceintik, but it is not my rite to kill you."

Ceintik rose to his feet, "I apologize, Meretan. We have had trouble building a ship to carry Arcryn on her destiny." He brought back his hand and illustrated the wreckage behind him. "I have no more ideas, this was the sixth failure, can you do this better?"

As Meretan was unable to smile, this was one of the occasions he regretted it. He knew any sharp remark or confirmation of Ceintik's mistake would hurt more than the strike made earlier. "Why not model it after your own ship? Askarsect gave you the materials, and even if she built it, you could always design a new vessel from what remains."

"I am in no mood to try going through the portal again, and you haven't the strength in the first place." Ceintik turned around and faced the wreckage again. "But..." He started. "I have some personal items there, even a few artifacts that even Askarsect knew nothing about, it would be worth the effort to seek them for their usefulness."

Arcryn spoke up, feeling left out of the situation, "If you aren't able to go, maybe my statues will help?" She clutched the amulet and seconds later Gherson appeared in the skies above the clearing. Gherson's body was made of Marble, but Arcryn had carved only his body, the fire in her power was what created the angel's flight. "Close your wings!" She shouted. "You might burn the forest down!" Her first sentinel did according to her words, Engraom showing up a few minutes later.

The Dark marble statue was embittered. "Don't bother telling me what you discussed," the blind sorceress said, "I heard it all through Arcryn's ears. You may take us to the portal now." The Dark statue made an odd remark under her breath, regarding the automaton.

"I warn you, you haven't seen Owdash before," spoke Ceintik, "it isn't a place for the faint-hearted." Ceintik warned them before leading them to the portal. "Meretan can send us through the portal on the bow of my airship. From there we can enter it and make the neccessary schematics."

* * * *

They made way to the small area in Greenwood where a planesportal stood. Meretan rarely planeswalked on his own power, therefore he created the portal as a way to conserve his energy. A few words were spoken and a blue light filled the lea. In moments, the automaton and the statues were on their way to the dead plane.

* * * *

After arriving, Ceintik sabotaged the doorway. "If we came here so easily, it is not a good idea to let anyone else try to as well." He paused for a moment, as a cryptic smile appeared once more, "Or, if they have already come, they will not be capable of leaving."

Ceintik adjusted his glassy eyelids, there was extensive damage to the ship, "Hardly salvageable, but I made sure to keep my lab centered, it won't be ruined. I would fear more what has probably made this wreck its home." He opened the hatch with a mnemonic riddle, he joked something about a "sesame." There were halls all throughout the ship's hold, only Ceintik knew where his works lay, and he made haste to find them. "Through that door," he said, finally, "there is something blocking it."

Engraom began an incantation, but Gherson was the quicker one, striking the door down with a single swing of his stone arms. "I hope that did not disappoint you, sister?" He said with a mischievous quality, "I had not thought to outdo your powers."

Engroam gave no mind to his words, she shot a blaze in front of him, the fire condensing into a circle to illuminate the workroom. "I think nothing of it," she said.

Ceintik quickly began taking the plans for his creations, as well as a few already built artifacts. "We had best be going now, there is another portal to the stern of my ship, these newfound scolls should help me to open it. I had never the chance to try it out, since it required a steady amount of mana." As Engraom and Gherson headed out of the room, Ceintik grabbed a Helm sitting on his table. He saddened for a moment, looking longingly at the relic, "Beloved," he said before following them to the portal.

"This portal is transferable, once we are back in Greenwood, I can pull it back through itself with me." The artifacts in his pouch began to hum as the portal opened, "I cannot hold it for long, we'll have to go now!"

They all stepped through the portal as it shut on the Owdash side.

Weeks had passed since the automaton and statues passed through the portal. In that time, Arcryn had told Meretan of the Ceintik's words, that the crystal was a race other than Thran. Ercria had gone back to Owdash to seek for them, but after finding no trace, she asked to stay behind and tend to her forest home. Arcryn had taken each day especially badly. A week earlier, her crystal amulet, the one that gave life to her statues, Engroam and Gherson, had flickered and almost went out. A faint glowing lasted through the remaining time, causing Arcryn to be wrought with worry. On the morning of the seventh day, she came running to Meretan's study. The stone had regained itself up to full strength.

* * * *

Arcryn raced through the bushes, barely being careful enough to not harm them. "Meretan!" She shouted, "There has been a change!" The amateur planeswalker made her way back to the study, only to find it empty. "Meretan?" She questioned the tree in the center of the plane. "You're a part of this world, you must be able to hear me."

"I am here," said a strange voice, as the ground heaved forward a body, crushing through the dirt like it was water, "Your friends have finally arrived, though not as they left. I would like you to follow me to the portal." His body condensed from the ground as vines fell from the branches to mesh into his sinewy face. He spoke normally, "Your statues are a bit battered, but one of them is still the same."

"One of them?" She stared at him, shocked. "I must see them immediately, I made them, I know how to treat their wounds." She grabbed the amulet to summon them to her, but Meretan blocked.

"They are not rested." He said kindly, "We will walk to them, they are in no serious harm, but their ordeal has drained the strength out of them."

"The dimming of my Crystal amulet... That must have been one of them almost dying. We must hurry, I need to see them."

"I will take you there faster," said Meretan, before enveloping her in a carapace of forest growth. He pulled it through the trees as fast as the wind. He had taken her to the portal's clearing before she ran out of air.

* * * *

He relinquished the carapace in the midst of Ceintik and her statues, Gherson and Engroam. They were eager to see their creator, as the marble beings quickly took her to a gnarled root for her to sit upon.

She steadied herself, "Engraom?" she spoke.

"Yes, I am here, we have been gone for several months. Ceintik has told us about the different phases of time from one plane to the next." The sorceress stepped away to let her brother speak, "Here is Gherson, Arcryn, he was wounded in the third month from our transport. Ceintik fixed him as best as he could."

"Gherson, " her eyes were still blurred from the trek Meretan had taken her on, "I can't see you quite right. What did the automaton do to you that made you so different." She rubbed her eyes and look up to her creation. "Your wings!"

"Yes," his wings unfurled, they were no longer made from fire,"I am now functioning without the power of your amulet. When I was destroyed, Ceintik rebuilt most of my body from stone and crystals from...different planes." The angel just stared at her for a few moments. "I'm not used to being under my own control." He ran his left hand along the scar on his face, closing his eyes as though he were in pain."Freedom...has been strange these past few...months."

"What about—" she stopped after glancing at the automaton, he had changed as well. His smooth head now had silken white hair, beneath the locks were a blue-gold cloak and armor.

"I am quite different, Meretan, Arcryn." The armor slid open enough for another set of arms to slide through, they were metallic, like his original form. "These certainly helped when I was forced to think quick and act quicker, when your Angel broke down, I was the only one who could have saved him." Ceintik tucked the new appendages under his armor once more, he revealed a few parchments from his cloak, "This," he handed one of which to Meretan, "is a new schematics for a vessel, with all the time I had I decided to draw them out. Meretan, you may be able to grow the tree in one piece, I will supply the sails and wings, Arcryn will forge the necessary parts of the ship, while Engraom and Gherson recruit and find the supplies needed."

"You seem to have it planned out well," Meretan said. How many of the schematics did you make?" Ceintik handed the remaining ones to the aged Avatar. "If you have no disagreement, I would like to find a schematic that we can all agree on."

"Take as much time as you need, It won't take long to build it." He brought his new arms out once more, "I can build the artifacts to help it fly."

"Very well," said Arcryn, her statues waiting patiently by her side, "We will start soon. By the next seven days, it shall be finished."

As the night had been peaceful, the morning had become a rumbling quake after another when Greenwood grew large enough to hold the new vessel. Meretan and Ceintik had decided to compromise, the Avatar would grow ship's hull naturally, which would make it one, solid, stronger piece, while Arcryn would voyage to another plane to find the material for sails and rudders, Engroam joined her in the pursuit. Gherson stayed behind to think, something he was doing more and more often. As the ship slowly began taking effect, Ceintik decided to find the statue and speak to him.

* * * *

Gherson sat in Meretan's study, the center of the entire plane, thinking, wondering, he was no longer a servant to Arcryn. Now he could think and act for himself. Out of shear boredom, he ran out of the study and ignited the fire of his angelic wings, he always marveled at the chaotic flames. He made sure not to singe any of the flora located in Greenwood, but he flew as closely as he could, just to see what they were like. When he was under the mental control of Arcryn, he had wanted so longingly to see what something was, or why it did what it did. Now he found gratitude in the simplest of acts. He backed away from the trees and hovered closely to the ground, carefully studying the bugs, "Such intricate things." He poked a beetle's back, it turned about and stared at him. "Can you talk as well?" He asked the little being.

"No, Gherson, they cannot." A voice began from behind the bushes, "They are not intelligent enough to comprehend what we say, it felt something touch it on the back, probably thinks you are some sort of bird." It was Ceintik, the automaton, he had finished more than the day's chores of building the new vessel, after exhausting his supplies of energy, he decided to see how his other partial creation was doing.

The Fire Angel flew upright, relinquished the flames and landed safely on the ground. "Do you know when the ship will be finished?" He asked, somewhat impatiently, he didn't want to be interrupted.

"It will be some time," Ceintik directed the angel to a few rocks towards one end of the clearing, "Come, sit, I wish to speak with you." As Ceintik wasn't one for small talk, he immediately began a few steps to the stones, stopping after a bit to turn and say "Come on!"

Gherson knew what tones the other beings meant for anger, he began along with the automaton. Before sitting, he folded his wings, the shined marble glistened in the sunlight. "What is it you want to know?" The Fire Angel's attention was like a child, so filled with the wonders of the world around him, if the automaton didn't state his case soon, Gherson would burst into flames and fly off once more. He had found out that interruptions made him angry, that delighted him, he knew another emotion.

Ceintik just looked at the statue and smiled, since going through the portal, his appearance was more humanoid, save the four arms. Ceintik's hair was like a fine white silver, his eyes the cobalt-blue spheres that were replacing his true visage. "What are you going to do now that Arcryn is no longer your master? You seemed to take notice of the small things in this plane, perhaps you would like to see the wonders of the worlds beyond worlds?" But as Gherson didn't answer right away, Ceintik forced a vision on his friend. The light and shadows danced in Gherson's mind for a few moments before condensing into a new world. "This," said Ceintik, "Is what Dominaria is like, it is a multiverse beyond mortal comprehension. I have visited thousands of places in my lifetime, much as we had to when the portal closed in our last escape, do you remember?"

Gherson nodded, mesmerized. "So beautiful, " he reached out to the visions. Surprised that he could not touch them, he reeled back his hands, balling them into fists. "I want to see these places." Gherson's face was smashed from the battle in another realm, the scar still visible was glowing red and white mana. Most of the Angel's body had to be rebuilt by Ceintik, that was what gave the being freedom, and because his wings were now like regular marble, he could fly with the flames or without.

"I am offering that you come with us, Arcryn has agreed to take me along as ship's navigator, as I know the most planes of the multiverse. Meretan will provide the powers and resources he has created. Engraom will follow because she is still a servant to Arcryn, but you..." Ceintik stood up, "We may need someone to help defend us, in case of a battle. I built you to be as strong as a colossus. If you want, you may come with us to see the planes and peoples."

"Then perhaps I can help with the ship, my strength may be a great asset." The angel got up off the rock, then thrusting a single hand onto the hard stone, he dug his fingers in before lofting it high into the air. "Take me to Meretan, I wish to discuss my presence on the ship."

"Very well," said Ceintik. "If you like, I can teach you a few spells, it is helpful to be strong of mind as well in body." Ceintik looked up into the sky, "We had better start moving," he said. The angel agreed and followed him to the clearing where the vessel lay, the hull still growing.

* * * *

As they left, the rock fell to the ground, creating a crater in the soft dirt.

A final stage was being completed as they watched. Ceintik, with his own strength, was setting the sails. Soon they would be capable of leaving.

Arcryn had been trying her best to learn skills of planeswalkers, with some ease, but the tasks were usually too much for her.

* * * *

"Why a ship?" she asked Meretan and the Automaton.

"They float, most planes have water, someone sees a castle spring up overnight and they get a bit paranoid," spoke Mahnlin. "A ship would be thought to have arrived over the tides, not believed to be from another world. Water is a common necessity in most planes, and we will need it to survive at times. Ceintik and Meretan had the best considerations to fulfill." Mahnlin had become a friend of everyone recruited in the past week, he also made it onto the consideration list as 'Healer.' He was Wendti, from a planes full of trees that grow and intertwine with everything else, Mahnlin was their champion and was given the rite to journey on the quest for knowledge. Because he was Wendti, he gained a characteristic trait like all others, in addition to be six hands length above the rest of the Wendti, Mahnlin's arms were nearly as long as he was tall. An incredible guardian.

"Than we should begin setting the rations, and help Ceintik fix the rudder onto the ship," she said, "Mahnlin, please see what you can do to find Meretan."

"I will have him here before a seed falls from the next tree..." He spoke, before leaping into the trees with his long arms, swinging himself around tree trunks and branches at high-speed.

* * * *

Meretan was in his study, the tallest tree in Greenwood, a spire which supplied all light to the plane through a bright sphere at the top. He awoken healed, rested, finally at full power. He stepped through the wall of his study, the place where he slept, energizing himself and the forest.

It was at that time, a shard of Greenwood's past finally surfaced. The thought sent him reeling to the floor. Pain, blood-ridden club, ballistae, nothing could hurt this planeswalker as much as the loss of a memory. But then, memory hardly fights when reintroduced. He could hear the screams of his caretakers, the ones he left behind to guard his plane. He saw the skinny half-dead man, how they took him in and cared for his wounds. Then, he watched the being arise from his death bed, nothing but skin and bones. The being cast an incantation, the likes Meretan had never heard before, the bodies of the elves and animals he left behind tore themselves apart. A maniacal laughter, he could hear it so clearly he nearly destroyed the area around him. Their bodies, slain, bones torn from sockets, flesh from sinew. He saw the man, skinny, his flesh grew so taught it split.

"Come," the memory became too gruesome, "join with me...." The bones became brittle, cracking, popping, the flesh wrapped about his body. The remains of Meretan's caretakers flowed in the collective sweat, blood and biles, enwraveling the creature who deceived them all. Nothing was discarded, every piece had a place on the new body. "I am Hyral," he spoke out in the open, "Meretan, you have found your new challenger....."

The memory ceased, Hyral was a planeswalker, and Meretan now knew. Hyral had planted the memory only to be retrieved when he was at full strength. "A challenge, that is what he wants. Then I must give him one...." A new sensation, he scanned the trees around him.

* * * *

"Meretan!" Shouted Mahnlin, "We are about to set sail. Where are you?" The Wendti swung through the trees, calling. His keen eyesight located the planeswalker several stories below, on the ground. "Ceintik sends word that the ship is finished," he said as he lowered himself from the branches.

The Avatar was distraught, he knew the caretakers would not have left their posts, and now they were all dead. "Mahnlin," he said," I am afraid I will be unable to join this quest. A problem has arisen, and challenged me."

Mahnlin twisted his neck, side to side before believing Meretan's words, "But you would not have to face him if you came with us. I will help you, I am strong. No powers," he made a fist of one of his hands, extending his forefinger, "just me," he said, " I can do it, trust in that."

The Aged planeswalker began a path behind the Wendti, merging within the forest. "That will not be necessary," the world around Mahnlin spoke, "I will be meeting the others in moments."

* * * *

Mahnlin arrived a bit late, he dreaded when planeswalkers jumped through glass or walked into the floors. There was little the Wendti knew about planeswalking, as he was still quite young. "Only thirty-nine, 'Argive Reckoning,'" he rolled his eyes upwards, remembering what Meretan had said after their first meeting, "yet I seem to get wrapped up in this adventure so easily."

As he came closer to the others, he noticed Meretan was no longer present. A man, he assumed, was making orders to the first crew of The Catalyst. A strange being dressed in a dark cloak, concealing his visage to the crew. A few words were being spoken by the figure, then a crew member drew a sword behind his back.

* * * *

"A quick slash and you are dead, simple beggar." He tore through the back of the figure's cloak," Dressed in that rag, you are nothing better a captain of a wraith-ship. I will see to it that you will be mutinied and dropped on the first one we pass."

Before another stroke was made by the boasting crewman, a single, black blade was drawing blood from his throat. "With time," the familiar voice began, "you will be able to speak once more." A second hand slid out of the cloak and grabbed the sword, a simple flick of the wrist and the crewman's weapon was split apart, cracked at the handle. "I may be dead," the hood and cloak were discarded, Ceintik stood before the crewmembers, cobalt-blue eyes glaring like a cold prison, "but you will respect my age, at the very least."

Mahnlin was enjoying the spectacle immensely, nearly falling over when Ceintik broke a sword with his artificial hands. His laughter could easily be heard by them all, he stepped out of the foliage, frightening most of the first crew. "I mean you no harm," he stretched his arms from the sides of this body, showing off his webbed nature, "I am the new healer of the vessel."

There was a muttering from the crowd, there must have been forty or more shipmates. Ceintik stepped before the Wendti, "Meretan has conferred with me, Mahnlin, you will be the ship's healer in his place.... If you want it."

Mahnlin stared at the automaton for a few seconds before leaping into the air and onto the ship. "We set sail in the morning!" He called from afar, swinging from the masts.

Adam Hollaway is best known for his card ideas and Gate to Phyrexia ezine deck strategy articles in Gate to Phyrexia magazine. Email your thoughts on the continuing piece of fiction, Kindred to the Thran to the webmaster and the author so they can better serve you in the future.
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