“Hurry, before the rain picks up!”
With a flick of her wrist, Nissa Revane sent a squad of her kin to the other side of the clearing. Rain pooled between the walls of ancient roots and tendrils, each likely belonging to long extinct genera. The squad reached their mark, splashing puddles to one side with every footfall. They turned to Nissa, barely visible in the fast-moving fog that blanketed the forest.
“Ready!” one called back.
“Check for their spawns!” Nissa relayed. Wind rushed through the clearing, bringing an ominous chill to the party. Leaves rustled wildly overhead, and a distant rumble seeped through the camp. Thunder, perhaps. Yes, just best to think it’s thunder.
There was a pause. “Clear!”
Nissa searched the fog. Suddenly, she reached out her open hand. “I see it!”
Another pause. “Ready!” the scouts called.
Nissa clutched her hand and the roots in the clearing sprang to life, breaking free of their moorings and latching to something obscured by the mists. They fastened themselves to it, becoming upright as more leafy tendrils detached from the moist earth. Nissa’s clenched fist shivered as she inhaled deeply.
Another distant rumble.
Nissa unclenched her hand, and the vines at once fell in a tangled heap, like some alien shrub. Nissa exhaled, and the mist drifted away like a thought. The clearing was once again silent, and there before the party lay an enormous stone tetrahedron, covered top to bottom with innumerable carved lines and shapes. It rested back against the pile of vines.
Nissa stepped forward, her boots squishing in the muck. She extended her arm toward the tetrahedron and it began to hum. With each step, the hum got louder. Right as her index finger grazed the corner, the hum exploded into a deafening crescendo of force, knocking everyone, including Nissa, to the swampy ground.
Nissa brushed the splattered mud from her face, revealing an eager smile. “Gideon found his, too!”
Gideon Jura’s shoulders sagged under the weight. Each stride was harder than the last, but he had to get back. He cringed as the otherworldly roar of the Eldrazi chased him and his allies back to the treeline.
“It doesn’t look good, Relevol,” Gideon said. Relevol, a kor a full head shorter, looked up at two of his brethren draped across Gideon’s shoulders. “They won’t make it through the night.”
“None of us will make it to sunset at this rate,” Relevol conceded. He helped the two kor down and onto a soft pallet of ferns and brush, reached into his medic’s pouch, and began applying salves to both of them, groans accompanying each application. “We have to retreat before we lose any more, sir.”
Gideon looked back out across the deserted plain. “If we don’t capture that temple, not even retreating will save us.”
Relevol looked Gideon up and down. “It’s suicide, even for you, sir. Your Gatewatch has failed. So many of us had died with honor, but we never…we never thought they’d come back.”
“And they never will, brave Relevol.” Gideon looked around him. Soldiers, young and old, were sharpening blades, refitting climbing hooks, and slotting arrows. Other medics slaved over their wards, willing them to return to life or allowing them a peaceful expiration. Beastmasters wrangled mighty creatures of burden and war, spooked from the alien bellowing. He took a deep breath.
“Each of you has lived a hardship, not a life! Each of these terrors can destroy any one of us with a single strike.” All eyes were on him. “But we are not alone! Your brothers and sisters that stand beside you would die for you and for the life we all hope to live! Before the night is out, each one of you will claim victory over these faceless horrors! Before the night is out, we, too, shall know what victory means. Before the night is out, the forests will be silent of these interlopers and filled with the revelry of peace. None of us are invincible, but all of us are! To battle!”
A chorus of cheers erupted from the ranks. The crowd of soldiers, archers, and cavalry from the plane over surged towards Gideon as turned towards the plane, his sural in hand and the temple in sight.
“What you’re asking is impossible.” A slender, finned merfolk sat on a dilapidated but once-rich plush chair and steepled his webbed fingers. His robes were finely detailed with gold-lined seams and a bejeweled collar. “Our scholars have been researching this since the day they returned.”
A blue-cloaked human paced a portion of the Lighthouse’s ruined floor. The air smelled of worn leather and pungent sea water.
“You are a man of great import, Jace; they all say it. Why stay and help at all? Is your life worth losing?”
Jace paused at the edge of an upturned desk, scrolls still in their cubbyholes, leaning forward on the heels of his hands. “It’s not about any one being’s life, not yours or even mine. These…these creatures are ravenous. Ceaseless, vacuous creatures. They know nothing but voracity and their own basest instincts!”
“Zendikar is a grand plane; perhaps this is all they want. Look at all the damage they’ve done already.” The merfolk gestured to their ruined hall of learning with a flourish. “Perhaps this plane is as much ours as it is theirs.”
Jace pushed a stack of scrolls off the desk. “Zendikar is nothing,” Jace seethed. “When the Eldrazi destroy you, me, everyone on this plane, they’ll go to the next one, and the next one. They are reality’s parasite. I know the power to stop them lies here. There are more of my kind who are looking for that power right now. And you –“
Jace looked down at the wooden floors, long cured by the incessant, brackish winds. A scroll lay unhooked and splayed out, the corner of a pointy sketch barely visible. He swept his cloak to the side and knelt down, snatching the scroll and unfurling it. It was a large, rough sketch of a hedron, just like the one Nissa had described, depicted as runed and glowing. His gaze jerked to the seated merfolk. “Where is this?”
“Lost, I’m afraid.”
Jace didn’t blink. “Wait a minute.” He stood and advanced on the merfolk. The merfolk’s eyes widened as he suddenly found himself unable to move a muscle. Jace placed his hand on the merfolk’s forehead. Jace’s fingers ignited with a soft blue glow. The merfolk sat stunned and speechless. Soon, its eyes were glowing the same bluish tint.
His mouth spasmed as it tried to both form and conceal the words. “Mmm…mmmbeneath….mmmthe….Ha….mmm…Halimar.”
Jace released him, and he collapsed onto the rubble in a mound, slack as a bolt of cloth. “Kozilek’s agents have struck even their brightest,” he said. “If even the greatest minds of this world are lost, what will they do? What will be left to save?”
Jace picked up the scroll he’d cast on the ground and regarded the crude drawing, now recognizing the sea-like features that surrounded it.
“Ugin was wrong. These aberrations will be the end of us all!”
“No, don’t blast it!”
Chandra Nalaar walked along a craggy precipice, a solid wall of volcanic rock on one side and a bath of lava on the other.
Chandra grunted and shifted her shoulders forward, hoisting a huge sack more onto her back. The sack, which was only slightly smaller than her, was wrapped tight around a large, triangular object.
“See, you’re overthinking this, Chandra. Maybe the hedrons being around is why the Eldrazi came back in the first place!”
Her step turned over some loose rocks, causing her to pause and regain her footing.
“Yeah! Think about it; these things start showing up and the Eldrazi show up. Coincidence? Not likely, right?”
Chandra started breathing harder as the natural path began ascending.
“I don’t know, I mean, Nissa said these things had hidden power that we can all use to seal them away. Jace says she’s smart, and he’s pretty smart, so I’m kinda –“
“Look, friend, you’re overthinking this. Just toss it in the lava and let nature do its thing, all right?”
“No, it’s gotta be –” Chandra stopped suddenly at the verge of a gap in the path, sending broken shards of rock over the edge. Below, Chandra could see where she started a hundred feet down. She looked ahead and up, trying to mentally calculate how much farther she’d have to go and how long it’d take her at this rate. She stopped to consider how fast she’d been walking and realized she wasn’t going nearly as fast as Nissa had told her.
“There’s time for this.”
She leaned back, her pack burdening her more than she expected, and she extended her arm, releasing a ball of scorching flame towards the ceiling of the volcano. It exploded, sending a hail of shrapnel down into the belly of the mountain. A huge boulder landed on the gap, and Chandra held out her hands and watched as the rock glowed red-hot and melted, seeping down through the gap. When the molten rock had flattened in the crevasse, Chandra recoiled, and the rock solidified.
“Pretty cool, huh?”
Chandra’s breath slowed as she trudged uphill inside the stifling heat. She hadn’t even broken a sweat. It took longer than she’d calculated, but she’d promised herself that she couldn’t always guess and be right.
Once she couldn’t climb any higher, she set down her pointy pack, faced the wall beside her and blew a hole through it in a mighty explosion, revealing blue sky on the other side. She picked her up her pack and walked through the tunnel she’d made, emerging very near the top of one of the Teeth of Akoum.
“We did it! We did it, we — Oh. Oh yeah.”
She turned around. No one had been behind her.
Deep in the swamps of Bala Ged, Nissa placed her palms on an awakening stone, the magic of a thousand centuries coursing through her.
Within the ruins of an ancient Kor temple, surrounded by the warped, twisted bodies of dozens of Eldrazi spawn, Gideon held fast to the hedron, pouring his magic into its form by the light of the sunset.
Under the boundless Halimar Depths, Jace touched the pulsing hedron, his lungs unaffected by the walls of water around him.
At the top of Akoum’s highest mountains and aided by her magical strength, Chandra held the massive stone aloft, studying each of its runes while she awaited the signal…
Each hedron hummed in its own place, and as each member of the Gatewatch found their own, the humming grew louder. When at last Chandra raised hers, the humming swelled, drowning out everything else in mere moments. The sky grew red, like a titanic fire. The shadows of the Eldrazi were washed out. Each titan, great and small, screeched in defiance, overwhelmed by the power of the plane they sought to subjugate. The ground shook violently, as it might have the day it was formed. The sun became irrelevant.
Green light washed over Nissa’s party and every patch of forest in sight. Gideon’s muscles ached as mana flowed liked blood through his veins. Jace’s mind was, for the first time, utterly consumed by one singularity. Chandra, a woman as familiar with flame as air, grasped the rock more firmly as it slipped in her slick, sweating palms.
Everyone in Zendikar was watching. In fact, it was impossible to ignore. Every hedron in the world, large or small, hummed in its own frequency as they all moved into planar alignment. It was the song of Zendikar not heard for an eon.
Nissa planted her feet. “For the life of every plane!”
Gideon groaned. “For justice and peace!”
“For the sake of the Multiverse,” Jace recited, his eyes closed.
“For the freedom…of all people!” Chandra grunted.
Zendikar held its breath, and in one voice, they all shouted.
“I will keep watch!”