Lock the windows tight, close the shutters, pull the curtains. It’s that time of year when the cold begins to think for itself. There are frightful horrors on Innistrad, but none send a chill down my spine quite like the Niblis of Frost.
On Dominaria, in the deep forests, there’s new growth. A forgotten species feels the change of things long before anyone--or anything--else. Before the humans and elves, before the goblins and giants. Before the trees and birds. Spores strewn across every plane are the first to sense what’s coming. Already some gather within a skyship to form an agent. This one will be called Slimefoot. It’ll become one of their crew, he’ll live as the humans, angels, vampires, and Planeswalkers. Travel with them, explore, and learn.
On the other planes there are stirrings. Something is coming. Some great changing point. There’s a dragon at the center of that change. But when isn’t there a dragon at the heart of change? I’ve seen them, big and ugly--usually--and so full of themselves. It’s hard to decide which I find more appalling, their hubris or their breath of flame. We spores know better than to think we’re all there is. We’re only a piece of a much greater whole.
They call me a sporecrown. It sounds important in the simple languages of the bipedal species. It’s the word ‘crown’ they get hung up on. Associating a particular type of hat with royalty. But this thallid is no more special than an individual spore. It’s a collection of spores and every spore is a collection itself. Of memories, tastes, ideas, experience. A sporecrown is meeting place of sorts. If studied at Tolaria West the scholars might conclude that a sporecrown is much like a human brain, and they would be as right as wrong.
In seeing a sporecrown as a brain the scholars would give greater importance to it. They would say “It’s like a brain and rest are like cells, maybe limbs, a toe or ear, not quite as vital.” But that’s where they’re wrong. It’s all vital. It’s all the same thing, just a different view.
The sporecrown is a collection. Instead of a brain, it is better thought as a museum. A museum without a collection of art, displays, and exhibits is nothing more than an empty building. A sporecrown is a home for spores. With a sporecrown they’re stronger.
This one wanders the forests of Dominaria tending new growth. It lifts the cap of a mushroom, scatters some spores on the ground near the stem, and moves on. A saproling wanders up to the sporecrown, jumps onto its back, sits on its shoulder. Soon there’s a trail of saprolings following the sporecrown. The little saprolings double in size while in the presence of the sporecrown, happy to be nurtured.
Today I’m a sporecrown; tomorrow? Maybe a man, maybe cosmic dust, maybe a mushroom in a pan being cooked and eaten. Where I am changes, but what I am does not. Oh, how often the two get confused. It’s something I find...amusing.
Written by: Delio Pera @deliopera & deliopera.com
Do you know betrayal is considered one of the worst fates? So much worse than a simple lie. A lie is a dagger to the heart, yes. But a true betrayal is thrice the pain of a simple lie. Although there is no such thing as a ‘simple’ lie.
Picture the scene. Ravnica, autumn. The leaves are shades of brown, gold, orange, and yellow. Wet brick roads cast distorted reflections. It seems there isn’t a period longer than twelve hours without rain. The people wear warmer clothing, longer cloaks, taller boots--at least those who can afford such niceties. Beggars in rags still beg in rags.
A shy elvish merchant selling apples tries to attract buyers, but can’t summon the strength to her voice. “Apples...For sale...Apples here...Good apples...” But she’s not her father. He’s home sick. By this point in the day he would have sold two baskets worth, maybe even three. She’s sold less than half a basket. With head hung, she shuffles the fruit around the display, trying to stay busy, ashamed of her inability to sell.
“I thought members of Selesnya were better with people than that.” A low warm voice said.
“Oh,” she looked up. “I...Um...I’m not used to...Do you want an apple?”
The man smiled, his deep hood hiding most of his face. But what was visible was the image of a man sure of himself. “No thank you. I had a good breakfast.”
Before realizing the words had been formed, they’d already left her mouth, “Are you of House Dimir?” Why had she asked it? Where had the question come from?
The man grinned. “Perceptive of you. Yes.” He gave her a short nod.
Two days later her father was well enough to run the stall. The girl asked if she could join him. Not a thing she’d ever wanted to do before. When he asked her why--there had to be a reason--she told him.
Her father laughed. “An agent of Dimir? No, my girl, no. No agent of the House would ever be honest about it.”
She believed her father. When had the Dimir ever been honest? That was not what they were known for.
Later that day she saw the man again. As he passed by she called out to him, “Sir. Excuse me, sir.” He turned, his brows lifted in question. “Why did you lie to me? Why did you tell me you were a member of Dimir?”
“Because it’s true. Why did you ask?”
She didn’t have a good answer. “I...I don’t know. Sorry to bother you.”
Day after day she would look for him. Each time they met asked him the same thing, “Are you really a Dimir agent?” Each time he would tell her that he was. No matter how many times she heard it, she didn’t believe him. After a month of this she began to think he was flirting with her. Soon she began guessing what guild he was truly a member of.
“I think you’re one of the Legion. You hold yourself so well. I don’t see the Boros mark on you anywhere, but I still think you’re one of them.”
“I assure you, I’m not.” He told her.
When she asked if he was a member the Orzhov Syndicate he only smiled. This went on for a couple of months. She asking him simple questions, he giving simple answers. When they met, few words passed between them. She too shy, and he too reserved. If he responded at all it was usually with a nod or shake of the head. Sometimes he would buy an apple, but most of the time he went his way without acknowledging her whatsoever.
His actions, what little there were, only fed her curiosity. She convinced herself he was not part of Dimir. Eventually she decided he was part of her own guild, Selesnya. It was all some kind of a test, it had to be.
Who’s to blame when no lie has been told and still a betrayal takes place? Should the girl have been wiser? Should the Dimir agent been more clear?
One night, on her way home from a candle shop, the girl saw a misshapen figure halfway down a dark alley. The figured moved as if suffering from convulsions. She watched, transfixed. Soon she saw that it was not one figure, but two. One fell to the ground in a lump, hitting the brick road with an awful sound. The other stood tall and headed towards her. She recognized the stride. She’d looked for it every day for the past three months. It was him.
“No,” she said under her breath. “But...No, you’re. What did you do?” she asked.
“Killed a man. I needed his information, not his life.”
Her mind snapped. He hadn’t been lying. He was a Dimir agent, but she’d refused to accept it. It went against everything she knew. The Dimir lied, they were cowardly thieves skulking about in the dead of night. They didn’t tell the truth, why had he? No, it didn’t make sense. He was still lying.
“You still refuse to believe me, hm?” Finger by finger he pulled the glove off his right hand. “Let me show you.” He touched her head.
Visions flooded her mind. She saw death, murder, kidnappings. Secrets, lies, and, yes, truth too. All mixed. Artful takedowns, unexplained disappearances, deadly visits. “I-I...” she swallowed. “It doesn’t...But why would you...You didn’t lie?”
“I’m a Dimir agent, love, not a sociopath.” He headed down the road, leaving her behind.
On her knees, she shook her head in confusion. She couldn’t understand it. For as long as she’d been alive she’d been told that the Dimir never spoke truth. It was as much a fact to her as stone is hard. Sitting there, she wondered what else she’d been wrong about. Her mind reeled. It was too much. The images he’d shown her wouldn’t leave, playing through her mind again and again.
Hours later, her father found her shivering and mumbling nonsense.
Story written by Delio Pera. You can read more of his writing here.
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War is coming. The head of every guild knows it, but they don’t tell their members. The fools. The Conclave thinks they’re protecting their people. The League is too focused on other things. The Swarm is busy, always busy with something. And the Legion do not trust their people. Not like the House does. What is said of Dimir is little, but the one thing everyone on Ravnica knows is that Lazav is everyone. It’s the one truth the House has spread.
Half whispered, half thought, the Dimir agent pushed conscious idea towards the locket. “Quiet night.” He huddled under a bridge, out of the rain, and pulled his cloak tighter.
“The best kind.” An agent, two buildings away, on a rooftop, sent in reply. The second agent watched the city’s flow. Moving bodies, swaying arms, jostling each other out of the way. Some stop and look at wares being sold by merchants too stubborn to stay home on the dreary day.
“I would have told you.”
He grunted, rolled his shoulders, and tried to find a more comfortable position against the curved brick arch. To keep busy he scanned the thoughts of those passing--there’s anything left to eat, I should probably...Why didn’t she tell me if she wanted...Every cent I make, how am I supposed to live when they--Pointless. Mundane. Not one concerned about anything of value. “Eyes up.” The words of the rooftop agent, sent via locket, bloomed in his mind. He scanned the ever-shifting pattern of people. Ah-hah--there--with the hood pulled low, a Conclave elf. She moved up to a merchant’s stall and pretended to browse the wares. Her eyes darted this way and that.
What a joke. Did she truly think she was hidden from them? Maybe if she were trying to avoid one of the other guilds, but this was Dimir. She might as well have been an injured mouse in a room with a dozen hungry cats.
The agent drew his blade. She would come this way, she had to. This was where she was meant to go. This was the place where death would visit. Just as Lazav had said. She seemed to be aware of this. Taking her time, moving in half steps. The agent could almost feel her fear.
Perfect, she was putting on a splendid act. As she passed he would pretend to kill her and slip her a note with the location of the Dimir guildgate--one of them. And he, in time, would be paid an obscene price. The agent on the roof would be too far too see and, once the deed was done, would leave. Everything was going just as it’d been planned.
But something was wrong. That fear, it seemed to shift. There was fear, yes, and it was growing as the elf moved closer, eyes still shifting. But the agent was no longer so certain of where the emotion originated. “Do you see anything else?” He asked, sending the question to the agent on the roof. There was no response. Now he understood that the fear was his own. How? How could this have happened?
A moment later a blade--his own, turned against him with adroit and subtle ease--slid into his chest. His lungs filled with blood. The elf’s face began to change. Now an elf, now a face everyone on Ravnica would swear to having seen once...But where, or when, they couldn’t be sure.
“Lazav.” The agent gasped. “How?”
“I am everyone. You should have listened.”
“I-I thought...” the agent choked, blood filling his mouth. “I thought that was a lie.”
“No, no. Mix a few truths in with the lies and they’re so much harder to find. Now sleep.” Lazav’s face changed as they walked on. Becoming one of the city’s people, becoming them all.
Written by: Delio Pera @ deliopera.com @deliopera
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An orange sky and twin blue stars bath the surface of the planet in a jarring, unnatural light that is painful to the eyes until they adjust. The wildlife is overlarge and discolored, much like the splash of glaring color that is the sky. Because Pictor-4 is a trinary system, darkness is a rarity. The abundance of sunlight leads to an abundance of plantlife; Urus is rife with colossal, creeping plant structures that are as much a hazard as any predator.