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Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Brothers' War - Chapter 34



The end.


Chapter 34 - Urza and Mishra

Every aide and apprentice had fled or had rushed off as reinforcements leave Urza alone in camp. Urza considers pulling back but there's nothing to pull back to. There are no more resources and no more men. Before he left Harbin had told him he was wrong about magic. After seeing what he's seen here his son finally believed in it. Urza thought he might even be right, but what good would that do? It is too late to go down that path.

Urza hears footsteps and turns around hoping to find that Tawnos has survived the battle only to find his brother greeting him instead. A brother that looks exactly the same since the last time they met years ago in Korlis, or perhaps even younger and stronger.

Mishra greets him and wonders aloud about how long they've fought and what for. For trinkets and nations? Urza tells him he just wanted to learn and build his devices. Mishra comments on how old his brother has gotten, how weak. He asks Urza if they should have one last talk or if he should just slay him then and there. Urza doesn't have much energy in him for battle and tells Mishra with an exhausted voice that he knows he still wants his stone. Mishra smiles. He says if Urza wants it, he should take it.

Mishra strikes with his hand wrapped around his stone and Urza dodges, only to run right into the strike from his other arm and the razor sharp end of his ankh. Urza falls backward with a gash across his forehead and Mishra laughs.

Mishra tells his brother that he's never felt true power because he's never had to struggle. His life has always been a comfortable life. Mishra will kill him and his lands, people, and inventions will all be taken. Mishra moves in for the killing blow and an anger that Urza has never felt before wells up inside of him. He drops every defense and instead channels all his energy into his stone and focuses in into one solid beam of energy.

He poured all his rage, and all his other emotions as well: how he loved his brother and how he hated him, how their war had wrecked their lives and their world. All this he poured through the stone in one blast of energy.

And as he did so, he felt something give within him. It was as when a muscle suddenly pulled from strain, or a gear changed within a device. Suddenly the mental walls around him fell away, and he realized his brother had been right.

He had never realized true power.

Until now.

Mishra's chest explodes in fire and he retreats back into the valley, and just for a moment, beneath the burning Fallaji robes and the melting flesh, Urza understood why Mishra had become so powerful. He saw metal plates flash before his eyes where ribs should have been and realized his brother had been consumed by his own machines.

Urza wasn't unaffected by the attack either. There is a new awareness within him. He can feel the land, feel its power and its pain.

Urza raises his mightstone when a flicker of motion catches his attention and he is relieved to actually see Tawnos this time. Tawnos tells him about the demon, and Urza looks once more upon the battlefield and sees the chaos at hand. Urza's former apprentice them gives him a brass bowl and tells him it must be activated by filling it with memories of the land. Tawnos is just passing along the message, but he doesn't quite sure what that means.

"I know," said Urza, and he did know. The moment he took the bowl from Tawnos he knew what its purpose was and how he was to use it. The understanding flowed through him like an electric jolt.

"We should go," said Tawnos.

"No," said Urza, softly.

"Urza, you're hurt-" began Tawnos, but Urza cut him off.

"No," he repeated. "It ends here, for me and for him." For a moment, his eyes focused on Tawnos, and Urza said, "You must go and find  safe refuge. Find some place to take cover."

"Urza, I'm not..."

"Do Not Argue!" thundered Urza, and his eyes flashed with rage. "Find the deepest cave, the farthest tree, the strongest fortification. Find anything to protect yourself and Do It Now!"

Tawnos leaves and a clanking noise from the other direction sounds. A giant dragon engine appears with Mishra atop it... no... cables and wires from Mishra's mechanized body had joined with wires from the dragon engine and they have become one. Nearly all the flesh from his brother's body had fallen away except from his face. He could see the metallic jaw bellowing threats.

Urza knows what must happen. He pulled energy from the land, and the ground beneath the Mishra engine gave way. That would slow him down enough for Urza to do what needs to be done. He sits down cross-legged and places the bowl into his lap. Urza summons the memories of his home and his life, of his towers and his workshop and the orniary at Kroog. Urza pulls on all the memories of every land he's ever been to, and he can feel the bowl filling with power.

The Mishra-engine is coming for him, his brother was screaming something that he can't hear. All he hears is the land. Then Urza releases the power. The looks of triumph on Mishra's face distorts as the systems within his body fail. The very particles of Mishra's being are destroyed in the release of so much energy and Urza disappears as well.


...Argoth...

The last bit of Argoth dies. The survivors had only but a moment to see a flash of light when the explosion takes them. The forest burns and Gaea screams.


...Out at sea...

The eyes of the unfortunate men of Harbin's ship who were looking south when it happened melt into liquid and blood, and the sails of the ship itself catch fire. Harbin can see the reddish glow of the forests ablaze when giant waves assault the ship.


...The coast...

Gwenna feels Gaea cry out as her land dies. Warriors on both sides of the battle cast their swords down as they know the war is over. There will be no victors. She notices the oceans retreat from the shore and knows that can only mean one thing. She orders for everyone to run for higher ground and runs without checking to see if anyone obeys.


...Penregon...

Kayla hears a booming thunder that keeps getting louder and then feels the wind pick up and the earth shake. Harbin's eldest boy comes running into the room looking for comfort.


...Caves of Koilos...

In his weakened state, Gix scrambles to get the portal opened before its too late.  With talons covered in blood, he places some power stones where the recombined mightstone and weakstone were meant to sit. He jumps through the doorway feet first as the wind picks up and the cave begins to crumble. He releases one last scream as one of his arms gets sliced off as the door immediately closes. The severed arm clenches and unclenches as if grasping for something that isn't there.


...Ronom glacier...

Feldon and Loran watch as dust from hundreds of miles away sweep over everything.

Feldon surveyed the terrain below them as one valley after another disappeared beneath the blast, leaving only a churned fog of dust and despair that was already trying to climb their mountain. The lower peaks were already vanishing beneath the assault.

"Well," he said at last, "it's over."

Loran said, "Good."


...Terisaire...

And there was silence in Terisiare.


* * *


Urza vs Mishra

That was much shorter than I expected. After all that build up, the final fight ends so quickly, and in a completely unexpected way. Watching his flesh melt away to reveal that he's mostly machine now was one thing, but to have Urza win the powerstone battle and have him merge with a dragon engine was so bizarre. Not horrible, but definitely bizarre.

Maybe equally strange is how quickly Urza was able to master mana and magic after starting the chapter with him thinking about it was too late to pursue that line of study.

In the end though, both concepts still felt within the bounds of where the story was going to go. Mishra's camp was always about how to adapt the living and the mechanical, while Urza has always struggled with understanding things beyond his narrow world view until Tawnos shows up and gives him a nudge in the right direction.

The whole thing was short but epic and quite satisfying.


Now, That's An Explosion

I loved being able to watch the explosion travel from Argoth to Terisiare leading all the way back to the Ronom glacier and Loran. Excellent uses out of the minor characters of the book, and all in all quite ominous. Gwenna's section where everyone realizes that the war is over and no one has won is quite sad, and the simple closing line definitely gave me chills.


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