Warning: As always, this”real story” installation is intended to give those who don’t have the time or interest to read the Magic novels a picture of what occurs during them. If you intend to read Legions, do not read this article, for spoilers abound in it.
It’s that time again – time to see what windows the flavor text commission of R&D opened up into the world of the Magic storyline. Just as Legions is a set unlike anything seen by Magic players before, it’s my opinion that the J. Robert King’s version of the set is just as unique. I’ve read a lot of Magic books, but this one doesn’t quite fit the mold of any of them. In relation to our last ongoing storyline, the events in Legions alone can be compared to those of the Rath Cycle (in novel form: Rath and Storm) through Planeshift (the book and the card set). That’s a lot of ground to cover!
Therefore, since so much happens in Legions, I’m not surprised that many of the aspects developed in the cards are not represented in the novel. However, although I see the reasoning, I would have preferred to have seen the events of Legions spread out over more books and to take in the gaping holes proven to exist by flavor texts of the cards. Hopefully, these answerless questions will be addressed in Scourge – but for now, we’re left with quite a bit of mystery.
That’s not to say that the cards are totally unrepresentative of the storyline, though. Here are almost fifty flavor texts from Legions that show both what is and what is not happening in the novel.
We’ll start with the greatest oversight in both Onslaught and Legions: The Riptide Project was mentioned in both sets, yet appears in neither book. In Legions, the mysterious activity is depicted by the following quotes:
~”Many wizards came to the Riptide Project hoping to return home with answers. Most, however, wouldn’t return home at all.”~
Okay, so here’s a clue about the Riptide Project. In The Real Story Behind Onslaught, I noted that”…many blue cards reference the Riptide Project, apparently something Empress Llawan is instigating to control the Mirari.” Well, this quote leads me to be less sure about the leader of the Cephalids in all of this. We learned in the Odyssey Cycle that Llawan doesn’t care too much about the outside world, and an open invitation to wizards to help her on this project just seems out of character. So, rather than answering a question, this quote poses a new one: Whose is the Riptide Project and why do all the wizards know about it but we don’t?
~Those who lead others to wisdom become the wisest themselves.~
The other”Riptide Representative” I chose for this article is this supposed”director” of the project. As we’ll soon see, it’s quite obvious that much (if not all) of the Riptide Project is geared towards recreation of the slivers. If this is so, I have to question why the Director’s quote deals with the spread of wisdom – this isn’t the Tolarian Academy.
But, in trying to make sense of what, exactly, this business is all about, I’ve tried to arrange the sliver quotes in such a fashion that they might read together to paint a picture. Follow them here and see if you arrive at the same conclusions I did:
~The directors of the Riptide Project wanted instant results on the sliver experiments. They got their wish.~
~Taking the form of a junior researcher, the first sliver slipped out of Riptide.~
~”Sure, I’ve seen agents of the Cabal here and there. Well, not here, and certainly not in any of the sliver labs. Oh dear, I’ve said too much.” -Apprentice researcher~
~”Species XR17 feeds upon the mental energies of its victims. This explains why the goblins remain unaffected.” –Riptide Project researcher~
~The first wave of slivers perished from the Riptide wizards’ magic. The second wave shrugged off their spells like water.~
~”Death couldn’t contain the slivers. What made us think we could?” –Riptide Project researcher~
~”Once the last few slivers the Riptide Project controlled were dead, there was nothing to keep the island from being completely overrun.”~
~As malleable as molten steel, but as dangerous as the finished blade.~
~It doesn’t need to use its venom – it just needs you to know it can.~
~Once they get the scent, there is no escape.~
~Overcoming extinction has only made the slivers more determined to live.~
~”After breaking free from the Riptide Project, the slivers quickly adapted to life on Otaria – much to the dismay of life on Otaria.”~
~”Within weeks, more slivers nested in Otaria than ever existed on Rath.”~
~”The slivers would survive, even at the expense of every other creature on Otaria.”~
~”It would take another apocalypse to stop the slivers now.” –Riptide Project researcher~
Here’s the picture I get: Someone (or a group of someones) stumbles upon the remnants of Rathi slivers. Finding that there’s a great deal of power to be used here, the Riptide Project is formally begun in order to engineer and use slivers for the ends of that someone(s). I also get the impression that the Riptide may be the machine or phenomenon that allows slivers to come into Dominaria from non-existence or Rath.
But the slivers get out of hand. As everyone knows, slivers get more powerful when they get together in groups, and this happened at the Riptide Project. (Sounds like The Lost World.) The slivers overran their creators and went to mainland Otaria where they’re going to cause a great deal of trouble – so much trouble, in fact, that nothing on earth can stop this immense force.
And, you see, here’s what I want to know: In Legions, Akroma has”disciples” made out of pure thought that scour the continent for news and converts to her cause. You’d think that she’d be aware of the slivers and their threat against her and her army, and I just don’t understand why they left something so important out of the novel. I can see leaving elements of the novel out of cards, but the other way around? I guess we’ll just have to see if Scourge is the Book Sliver!
But the sea of confusion doesn’t stop there:
~”New links are being added to the food chain on a daily basis.” –Riptide Project researcher~
Now, either those”new links” are slivers, in which case they’re not unstoppable, or the Riptide Project does not deal solely with slivers. Either way, this flavor text shows there’s more to the Project (or less to slivers) than meets the eye.
But wait – there’s more! Something else brought up in the card set Legions is the Mirari. One cycle of cards referencing the artifacts is the set of five Invokers:
~The Mirari glows in her eyes.~
~The Mirari flares in his mind.~
~The Mirari burns in his heart.~
~The Mirari pulses in his veins.~
~The Mirari festers in its flesh.~
Personally, I think these quotes are neat, if not entirely accurate. During Legions, the Mirari (in the form of the Mirari Sword) is buried in Krosan. In Onslaught, Kamahl was convinced to curb the sword’s power, thus bringing to an end the rampant growth of the forest. Although the Mirari really probably wouldn’t be interacting with these”invokers,” maybe they’re unseen creations of the Mirari that came about during the Odyssey cycle. Regardless of what they really are, they add a nice reminder to Magic players that the Mirari is still around.
Speaking of the Mirari:
~Even through the Mirari’s voice, the elves still hear the call of their kinship.~
See? When Stonebrow manages to arouse Kamahl from his comatose slumber in Krosan near the end of Legions, they do raise a small army, and there are some elves there. So, this quote goes nicely hand-in-hand with the facts: That the elves in their wisdom know the true Krosan and are still willing to protect it.
~As the Mirari’s mutating effects grew out of control, centaurs and druids fled – but insects swarmed closer.~
The insects, on the other hand, still have a thing or two to learn about the Mirari. I guess if you enjoy being blown up to a thousand times your original size, that’s cool. But, those insects are going to be the death of Krosan – and then where will they be?
~Most insects have been drawn to the Mirari. But all that remain in Wirewood are under my care.~
Oh, they can go there…. But where is”there?” This Wirewood forest wasn’t mentioned in the books I’ve read, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Since Krosan is slowly rotting away, I’d say this is as good a place as any to look for the next generation of green creatures to come from.
~”The harder we press forward, the harder Krosa pushes us back.” -Aven scout~
This, however, seems to contradict the previous conclusions. First of all, the Aven are never seen as an organization of their own. In Odyssey, most of them worked for or with the Order, while some of them acted independently. I don’t know what the Aven is scouting for – but if it’s the Order, the inconsistency is warranted, for the Order aren’t in Legions either. However, that’s not to say that they shouldn’t be. The Order were a huge part of they Odyssey cycle, and a simple change in leadership seems to have taken them out of the story altogether. Once again, I’m hoping that Scourge revives the Order, for Akroma can’t keep supplying white creatures for much longer!
~”Now that I have your attention, perhaps I can tell you of the Order.”~
Here it is again. The art of this card shows two figures, one which is obviously the Entangler and the other the entanglee. The connotation of the card says to me that the Order, though perhaps weakened by events in the Odyssey Cycle, is still around, though not in as strong of form as it used to be.
~”The Cabal and the Order really aren’t that different. After all, we are both empowered by faith.”~
Here’s our last example of the Order’s presence in the card set Legions. I think this is a clever parallel to draw; the Cabal follow whatever the First says – he is the Cabal. Similarly, the Order have always been used to following their leader with nearly blind passion, convinced that their cause is the righteous one. Furthermore, this quote allows us to segue into the cards’ representation of the actual circumstances of the novel Legions.
~In the wretched depths of the Grand Coliseum, his soul shines like a single torch blazing in the night.~
The triumphant return of White Knight to Standard Magic comes with a flavor text that says,”Yup, we’ve still got it” on behalf of the Cabal. In Chainer’s Torment, Chainer ravished Cabal City and sent the First into exile. Since then, the First has relocated his capital to the city of Aphetto and begun a mass movement to sweep Otaria with his coliseums in order that the Cabal will be able to capture the hearts and souls of Otaria without anyone being the wiser. Although gladiatorial battles like the one in which the White Knight here is going to engage in are still available, the First’s plans have evolved the pits in such a fashion that someday, he hopes, ordinary people will be using them for even the common business of settling disputes.
Merchant of Secrets
~To scrape out a living in Aphetto, wizards are reduced to selling rumors, lies, forgeries, or – if they get desperate enough – the truth.~
Oh, by the way, the Cabal are the bad guys. Despite how much attention they get in the books and how attached we get to those main characters, we must keep in mind that these black creatures really are fairly unpleasant. In Phage’s very short lifespan, she’s killed thousands of individuals. Braids has gone insane with evil. But neither of them compare to the First, who isn’t beyond killing 100,000 people in one fell swoop just to satisfy his desires. Let’s just try to keep things in perspective here.
~”Their blood is the nectar that nourishes the Cabal.” –Phage the Untouchable~
I picked this quote to show how important Phage has become. Second only to the First (funny, huh?), Phage is the one in charge of implementing the First’s grandiose plans of world domination.
~Cabal clerics serve two masters: their patriarch and their god.~
This quote is actually stunningly accurate to one of the main themes of Legions: The First and his relationship with the god of the Cabal, Kuberr. Whereas most Cabal citizens view Kuberr more as an essence, the spirit of Greed, the First knows the truth: That Kuberr is, in fact, alive and able to interact with the real world. Acting as the Kuberr’s most loyal servant, these Cabal clerics serve Kuberr when they serve the First. But, something in the course of the novel makes it so that the two are not necessarily on the same page…
~”Goblins won’t betray their own kind for any price. They’ll do it for a very specific price.” –Phage the Untouchable~
This quote fits more into Judgment than Legions, in that goblins were used in the construction of the Grand Coliseum, a project under Phage’s auspices. However, I bring it up here in order to point out that there really aren’t any goblins in King’s novel. They play a large part in the card set, but don’t appear in the book at all. As a matter of fact, blue and red creatures altogether get the shaft, receiving little to no representation in the narrative.
~”Her voice is disaster, painful and final.” -Matoc, lavamancer~
This red Muse further shows the stretch necessary to fit red cards and red creatures from the story together. Matoc does not exist, whereas Akroma, Kamahl, Ixidor, and Phage speak for the other colors. Seems like when black gets its own set, red has to take the backseat for a while.
~They pick at the remains of the city’s corpse.~
Right on. Having fled from the battle on the Nightmare Lands (in Onslaught), refugees from both Kamahl’s and Phage’s armies settle in a heretofore unknown city named Sanctum by the citizens. The picture on this card shows the birds swooping over extremely tall buildings. Well, that’s exactly what Sanctum turns into after it manifests itself as a god. Yes, you heard me correctly. But, as that’s not dealt with in the flavor texts, that aspect will wait for my next article. Moving along to what is in the book…
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
~No rest. No mercy. No matter what.~
Yeah, that about sums it up. As beastly as the card Akroma may be, she’s just as much (if not more so) in the book. And the term”Angel of Wrath” fits her nicely. See, one of Phage’s deathwurms swallowed Ixidor whole, and it’s her determination to get him back. She does, in fact, find Ixidor, but since this is Nivea’s deathwurm (Nivea is his wife, killed by Phage), Ixidor refuses to leave, at last joined with his love. Depressed that Ixidor’s not ready to come out (yet), Akroma focuses her vengeance on Phage – and boy, does she have vengeance to focus!
~Akroma asked for only one thing from her troops: unwavering, unconditional loyalty.~
Yeah, no sweat, right? Actually, such total devotion is not hard for Akroma to come by. She uses Ixidor’s disciples to spread the religion that treats Akroma’s creator as a god. These thought-animals imbed themselves in people’s brains, drawing out memories or pouring them in. With such effective proselytizers, Akroma’s Devoted number in the thousands.
~”I feed my hatred to the righteous and they join my crusade.” -Akroma, angelic avenger~
This quote shows that Akroma definitely believes she’s doing the right thing. Ixidor created Topos and then disappeared, leaving Akroma with the burden of running it. In her opinion, Ixidor would want all the world to be as perfect as his Topos, so she seeks to conquer it, starting with Otaria. Unable to take over the continent by herself, though, Akroma brainwashes a mighty army, each willing to be her tools against the infidels.
~I lost one home when Yavimaya was destroyed. I will not lose another.~
On the surface, this flavor texts represents an elf who was present during the final battles with Yawgmoth thousands of years ago. He apparently migrated to Krosan, which has now also been sacrificed to evil. However, I posit that there’s more to this quote that meets the eye: Starting in Legions, I’ve noticed more and more references to the Apocalypse, engaged by Yawgmoth and his crew. This is yet another reference to that fateful year. Legions ends with something big, and it could turn out to be nearly as big as Yawgmoth’s invasion of Dominaria. But, as Glowrider says:
~It is not yet time.~
Whatever’s cooking is coming up soon… But it’s not here yet. Just as the Invasion cycle took three sets to finish off what had been started by Gerrard and his crew, I feel that the monumental undertakings about to visit Otaria are also not going to be dealt with lightly. But more than acting as clever punctuation for my article, I believe that Glowrider is a subtle clue that there’s more to come. For many years, Magic’s storyline was quiet, existing in facts and creatures. Now, Magic’s storyline concerns itself with events, and for the past several years, these events have been of enormous importance. The Odyssey Cycle wasn’t that important, but it’s leading into something – and Glowrider is hinting at that for us.
So that’s it for what the flavor texts have to tell us. However, in exploring them, I’ve realized that Wizards seems to be on the trend of addressing the storyline with the cards less and less. So next week, my article will include a more in-depth look at what happened in Legions in order that those interested in the backstory may be able to explore it without reading the books.
Until then, may my hooks be intriguing enough to keep you wanting more!