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Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Gathering Dark - Chapter 14

Rediscover Phyrexia.

Chapter 14 -The Gate to Phyrexia

Jarsyl has always been a transitional figure in most of the respected histories - born too late for the Brothers' War, born much to early for the most interesting parts of the Dark. Yet he has been a key piece of the puzzle. What is known by modern man about the legendary dread lands of Phyrexia, comes from Jarsyl's personal notes, and though there are those who dismiss his legend as a folktale or moral fable, there are those who continue to seek out his truths and attempt to find Phyrexia for themselves. When they do not return, everyone assumes that they have finally found it.

-Arkol, Argivian scholar

The journal was the original and not a copy. Lord Mairsil entrusted it to Jodah's hands and he took the task to heart.

The journal was crammed with information - very little of it useful from a magical approach. It was written at the manor - of that much Jodah was certain. The text was an odd mix of magical theory and local gossip, of daily affairs and deep thought. A note of the purchase of several geese was right next to a long column of numbers, their purpose unknown. A drawing of weights and balances, of the placement of mirrors and lenses, was interrupted by a remembrance of Jarsyl's visit to his own grandmother's funeral pyre. There was a detailed proof, with no preamble, that continued for a page and a half and finished with the conclusion, "Of course it works!" written in a florid hand, but there was no indication of what it was he was trying to prove in the first place.

Lord Mairsil asks for daily reports on his findings. At first, Jodah writes a very dry report that he throws away because he realizes it's the kind of report that anyone could have written after reading through the journal. This task was given to him specifically because of his connection to the subject matter, so he injects the report with personal insights and adds details from his memory about his home and the surroundings mentioned in the journal.

Jodah supplements his knowledge through books that Nedda points him towards that were about that time period which are quite helpful in helping him to picture creatures that no longer exist, like something called an ox, as well as help to understand distances that are talked about.

By the fifth day, Jodah began to understand Jarsyl's basic concepts. There were worlds beyond this one, he was saying. Imagine the world as a house without doors. If you were within such a house, you would never be able to discover what was "outside." Indeed, the "outside" might be filled with water, or poisons, or fierce creatures. Let's say that you could make a door and discover that there was a house next door to yours, as big as yours, with other people living there.

That was what Jarsyl had done. He had found a way to open a door to another place - not another part of the same house but another house entirely. That house was called Phyrexia.

If Jodah couldn't find a reference he needed, one quick message to Lord Mairsil and the book would be in his hands before he knew it.

Jodah periodically walks out onto the balcony to once again study the mountains a necessary method to take a break from his search. He studies the mountains and the surrounding battlements that are lit by an eternal flame , and by the eighth day since being given this new task, he came to a true understanding of fire and could summon it just as well as Voska ever had.

By the tenth day, Jodah thinks he's pieced together the spell. And soon after he sends a message to Lord Mairsil, Barl himself appears to let him know that Lord Mairsil has him scheduled to attempt casting it after the dinner hour.

The door to Lord Mairsil's study unlocks and swings open at Jodah's touch, and Jodah finds Lord Mairsil sitting in front of some kind of device with gears of metal and stone, and he realizes this must be one of his secret projects of the kind Shannan had mentioned where people are assigned small tasks to complete without knowing how the whole thing comes together.

The Lord High Mage asks Jodah if he's ready, and Jodah nods. But first he wants to mention that the Phyrexia as described in the journal doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere in any other book he can find. It's a world of machines that seem to be more complex than anything Urza or Mishra ever created, although some of Mishra's machines have similarities. The strange thing is that there don't seem to be mention of any natives...

Jodah leaves the question about where the name of Phyrexia came from unasked.

Jodah set out the various components he knew he needed, from the descriptions given in Jarsy's tome. Some were scientific in nature, such as a set of five crystals set in a precise, evenly spaced pattern, or a glyph of a particular shape carved in a dark metal. Some of the components were mystical in nature, such as a goblin-skin bag of powdered bone, or the runes marked on the slate floor in chalk. Some Jodah did not know what purpose they severed, save that they were mentioned and might be important.

Jodah sets up a recording scarab on the side of the room to review the spell later regardless if it succeeds or fails. Lord Mairsil gives him some space, and Jodah begins.

Jodah closes his eyes, and thinks of his home. The mana gathers into a ball in his mind, and he releases into the spell framework he set up before him... and nothing happens. Lord Mairsil is trying to talk to him but Jodah doesn't listen. Instead Jodah tries to bring more memories to mind and gathers more and more mana, and he can feel the pressure build up inside of him but the mana refuses to activate the spell.

All of a sudden the story of how the Fallen are created comes to Jodah's mind, and with a cry, Jodah launches his arms in the air and unleashes a series of white hot fireworks into the air... and then blacks out.

He wakes to see Lord Mairsil looking down on him with curiosity. He demands to know what happened, and when Jodah explains that the matrix refused to accept the mana he had summoned, Mairsil sweeps everything off his desk in angry and slams his fist down so hard that Jodah can't believe that his desk did not break.

Eventually Mairsil composes himself enough to ask if Jodah's okay, and when Jodah asks him what they're to do next, Mairsil says they need to do what any good mage should do. They're going to review what happened, figure out what went wrong, and then try again.

As Jodah leaves the room, one glance back shows him that Mairsil has already immediately returned to working on his project , and Jodah walks away feeling both disappointed in himself and afraid that he's now lost the trust of the High Lord Mage.

* * *

Ten Days?

Man must Lord Mairsil either feel extremely incompetent or beyond lucky that Jodah has entered his life. Ten days! Jodah rediscovered a spell that would open the Gate to Phyrexia in less than two weeks, whereas I can only assume that Lord Mairsil has been searching for that secret since before he usurped the throne and took over the Conclave over twelve years ago.

Sure the book is limited as to how long it can be thanks to publisher preferences, but it really wouldn't have taken up any space at all to change that time frame to a month or two. But I guess the tiny bit of first hand and third hand knowledge that Jodah had really was the key to figuring almost all of it out.

Where do we go from here? And the book is quickly coming towards the end... but I really don't feel like we're approaching any kind of climax. With that said, this whole book has had a fairly nontraditional approach to it, so it's best to just go along for the ride and not worry about that until it's all over.

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