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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alara Unbroken - Section 1



We begin PART ONE of Alara Unbroken, Wizards' first attempt at the Block Novel, which will cover Shards of Alara, Conflux, and Alara Reborn. The book is divided into three PARTS and each is broken down into chapters. Small chapters. Sometimes extremely small. So rather than taking over three months to complete this Read Through if I only covered one chapter at a time, each post will cover five percent of the book at a time. (Something easy to gauge thanks to my Kindle.)


PART ONE
Alara Unbroken - Section 1

Grixis

Nicol Bolas stretched his wings, and the sounds he heard were unpleasant. Ligaments creaked, and joints popped. The membranes between his wing bones made dry sounds of friction as they stretched. For decades he had felt his age catching up to him; his age was an imposing enough figure that he felt deeply invested in eluding the arithmetic. But at least he could stretch. The chamber, deep under the Necropolis at Kederekt, was finally complete. The last of the dead soil had been scraped out from around his bulk, and the tomb had become a proper lair.

Nicol Bolas had hopee to avoid the affects of the Mending on Dominaria by fleeing the plane, but it hadn't worked. Much of his power and ability is gone. He feels mortal and isn't in a good mood.

However some of his servants claim they have important business to discuss with him, and so he commands his second-in-command, Malfegor , to send for them. Two humans are brought before him and grovel and say the signs have shown that the five shards are converging. They will collide within the year.

They've done well. This means he'll have to contact his other agents. As for these two, they've cast complex spells for decades and finally their efforts bear fruit. But they interrupt his thoughts with concern about the damage that will happen during the collision. As if any of a number of insignificant lives are of any importance. He commands the one that spoke to stand up. He gently places his claw upon the human's head and with a flash of black mana the human is left in a vegetative state. As for the other, he commands him to leave his presence, taking his partner with him. He's to let all the others know the reward for coming to certain conclusions.

The plan is all the matters. Nicol Bolas tells Malfegor that if he brings anyone else to waste his time with insignificant mortal concerns, he will kill the half-demon, half-dragon and leave his soul in a pathetic zombified state.

Once the five worlds of Alara collided, he would have his vitality back. The Multiverse owed him that much - and it had seen fit to provide him with the five little planes, ripe for the picking. He'd crash their worlds into one another and lick the sap from the wounds. And then, finally, he'd be ready to take his revenge.

(Revenge on the Multiverse? Uhh... okay.)


Naya

Ajani knows stalking a gargantuan alone isn't a good idea, but it's something he's got to do if he's going to earn the respect of his pride. His white fur has always made him and outcast, so much so that there was an incident when he was hunted by a pack of humans, Ajani was both singled out amongst the other nacatl and abandoned by the rest of his pridemates when the opportunity arose. All just because of the color of his fur. If his brother Jazal was not the kha of one of the most respected prides on all of Naya then Ajani would likely have left his pride and struck out on his own by now. But as it is, to do so would mean bringing more shame upon the only one who believes and defends him than he already does.

[Note: I know the gargantuan card isn't Naya colors, but the art depicts the creature as best as I can find.]

The wind changes too soon and Ajani knows he can't circle around in time before the beast senses his presence. There's no choice but to charge. Ajani swings his axe but it only penetrates the moss covering of the creature and doesn't even bite through its hide. It attacks and Ajani's axe gets tangled amongst its four tusks, and as it tosses its head his axe goes flying through air and gets caught up high in the branches.

The creature charges once more, and with his back to a tree, the leonin is forced to jump at the beast and climb its muzzle and ascend to its back. This is no good. He can't hang on forever. His only hope is to get at his axe which is far out of reach. Then Ajani falls into a rhythm with the bucking beast and uses that momentum to reach for his salvation. His aim is more than he hopes and he actually makes it to the axe handle rather than nearby branches, however his elation is short lived as the axe is securely lodged in the tree and his weight snaps the axe handle and he plummets back down toward the ground with broken shaft in hand.


Bant

Life is good for Gwafa Hazid . Every trade he makes is one-hundred percent profit. It's not his fault if other people can't recognize forgeries or scams until it's too late. They bring it upon themselves. However life may become a little less good if he doesn't act fast. Close to the border of Akrasa, a Knight of Bright Dove approaches. Their order was small but respected and not susceptible to bribes. There is no doubt they'll find things they shouldn't if they're allowed to inspect his caravan. This knight will have to be dealt with.

Hazid calls over one of his men. A man who fancies himself to be a thief despite not having the skills for it. He tells Ghedi that he knows he wants to prove himself, and it would be nice if he finds a good use for the knife he's about to give him. Ghedi nods in understanding and Hazdi goes to greet the knight.

The knight ignores all the merchant speak of Hazid and insists the caravan must be inspected. At the moment before Ghedi strikes him from behind, Hazdi yells out and warns the knight and Ghedi is efficiently disarmed and placed under an arrest spell. Ghedi was going to end up in the same situation eventually anyway so what did it matter if he helped him reach his fate a bit quicker.

Despite the warning, the knight sticks to his duty and still insists upon the inspection. It looks like Hazid will have to take care of the situation himself. One moment later with a second dagger the problem is no more.


Jund

Rakka Mar has power as a shaman and command over fire elementals have kept her alive for over fifty years. Quite a feat for this harsh world. But when the great dragon Nicol Bolas came out of the sky over a year ago, she knew she was nothing. She was offered the choice to serve or die, but once he granted her even more power than she already had, she served willingly.

Under the dragon's service she makes a speech to the Antaga clan, and it's having its intended effect. When she's done, tol Kresh continues to fuel his warriors' rage. The dragon Malactoth has already killed goblins beyond its typical hunting range and was moving towards the villages. It cannot be allowed to believe that it is the predator. Tomorrow it is they that will ascend Mount Jhal and begin the hunt, and its his nest that will be invaded.

* * *


Nicol Bolas, Mr. Grumpy

For the majestic planeswalker I know him to be, he sure did come off rather petty and pathetic in the Grixis section. I'm hoping that it's just a temporary condition while he gets used to the idea of being mortal after the events of the mending. It's understandable for him to be a little upset after being near omnipotent for more than twenty thousand years. This may very well just be used to contrast his change later down the line.


One Year

Speaking of... I like how it was mentioned that the collision of the shards would happen sometimes between several months to one year. This book won't be happening in the span of a few days like each book in the Ravnica trilogy did. We're going to have plenty of time to for pieces to move and settle into place while we watch their effects ripple throughout the story.


Flight of the White Cat, Part 1

Ajani's story about being hunted is told in Part 1 of the webcomic Flight of the White Cat. Parts 2 and 3 will no doubt be covered later on in the book.

As for the contents of this section, on one level the story of his being singled out sounds too simplistic. It sounds too on the nose about people hating those that are different from themselves. On the other hand it makes a lot of sense for tribemates to hate him if his color affects his camouflage amongst the trees and grass and makes him a danger to be around. It would have been nice if Beyer played up his pain a little bit more during the Naya section because I didn't really feel it in the paragraph he used to tell the story, but the section as a whole was more about his determination at redemption in his pride's eyes and not about him feeling sorry for himself. That might have made it more difficult considering the short length of each section.

Speaking of short chapters, I have a concern that because this book encompasses the story of not just one set, and not just an entire block, but a block made up of five distinct worlds, that the story will feel rushed and compressed and not have the room it needs to be fully developed. At first I thought the idea of the Block Novel was a great idea, now I'm not so sure. This is just the beginning, and it can go either way, but it's something that'll be on my mind. Beyer's got a tough job ahead of him.


Agents of Bolas

This is where some of my fears are alleviated. I don't really know much about these two agents of Nicol Bolas but their personalities and stances on life were communicated wonderfully. Hazid and Raaka Mar don't seem to have too much depth, but not all villains need to be incredibly complex. Sometimes you just want someone to root against.


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