Monday, January 14, 2013

Return to Argentum: 3

The huge metal man stumbled into a hole in the ground and fell flat on his face. He lay there, unable to remember what he was doing, why he was there, or how to stand up. The soil felt cool on his face. Soil? Wait—why was that here? Wasn’t this the world of metal? Plants here were supposed to replicate on a molecular level, they didn’t need to draw nutrients from an organic compound…did they? The metal man considered that perhaps he was mistaken, perhaps he was on the wrong plane, perhaps he should just lie there until he was dead.

I am a golem. I would never ‘be dead.’

The thought brought him deep sorrow. The metal man was unaccustomed to feeling lost and without agency. He knew that he should have a purpose, but he did not, and so his logical conclusion was that he was no longer fit to exist.

Slowly he pushed himself out of the hole. It was a beast’s footprint. There were beasts here? How? Why? What was their purpose?

Looking up into the sky, the golem saw a murky and fouled horizon. He looked to his right and left and saw metallic trees and rocks that were rusting and flaking away. He looked down at the ground and saw overheated, poor quality metal mixed with soil.

He put his hand to his chest and felt a foreign heartbeat within. This heart was not metal. It hurt him, and seemed to pump feelings of impatience, anxiety, sadness, and longing into every atom of his being. Why was this heart there? How did it get there? What was its purpose?

I will stand here until an idea comes to me.

The metal man bowed his head and stared at the ground. The sun heated his dome and ringed it round with an artificial halo. Finally, night fell again. Lightning bugs landed on the smooth  surface of his skin until he was a still statue covered in blinking luminescence—the only flicker of life in a cold dark that stretched for miles around him.

Vorinclex was almost absolutely sure he was tingling.

In the last moon cycle, he’d grown obscene amounts of flesh all over his body—up there, down there, here, everywhere.

And now, watching Glissa dismount her tyrranax (from the rear), he was sure he had some kind of fatal sickness.

Vorinclex was tingling.

The massive praetor turned away from the scene and wrapped his huge hands around the stacks of reports their spies had turned in overnight. He squeezed hard, until the papers were crumpled and illegible. He felt a slight relief after doing so.

“My lord. We have much to discuss,” Glissa addressed him confidently as she strode through the shadowy grove. No relief at all. Vorinclex smashed his fist down on his expansive praetor’s desk.

Glissa was taken aback at the sound and flinched slightly. She lowered her brow in consternation.

“Vorinclex?” she came right up to the table and peered at him intently. “Are you well?”

“Very,” Vorinclex replied, swallowing hard (against his will) and steeling himself (what did this even mean?) before he turned to face her.

The praetor of the Tangle was a mushy ball of nerves. He pulled himself up to his full height and took a deep breath.

“Too many burdens on my mind,” he said to his right-hand warrior. “That is all.”

“Well, we’ll alleviate those burdens soon enough,” said Glissa with her characteristic optimism. Vorinclex felt the corners of his mouth twitch upward. It disturbed him horribly.

Apparently it disturbed Glissa, too.

“Why do you look at me…like that?” she said.

“Slightly rancid wurm for lunch,” Vorinclex lied. The wurm had been fresh and cooked to perfection.

“Ah, of course,” said Glissa. “Indigestion always makes one look a bit queer.” She took out some maps from the scroll case she wore around her hips.

“Let’s get down to business.” The compleated elf spread the maps across Vorinclex’s desk with a deft move of her long-fingered hand.

Vorinclex, feared and vicious praetor of the Tangle, forced the corners of his mouth down.

“The organization of your tribe is admirable. You’re quite efficient,” Liliana was saying as they made their way slowly across the strange terra of Mirrodin, the morning after they’d been discovered by the Auriok while sleeping under the Tree of Tales.

“It’s a necessity,” said Jor-el. “Things are in chaos. The Auriok are not native to the Tangle. Everything’s shifted. Having guidelines of authority and procedures in place makes everyone feel more secure.”

Liliana nodded seriously, eyeing the Auriok mystic with a speculative, dark gaze.

Venser, from his place just behind and to the side of his mistress, dropped a parcel of razor grass with a thud. Jor-el and Liliana stopped and looked at him. The entire Auriok entourage stopped and looked at him.

“Sooooorry,” Venser whoosed. “Clumssssy.” The reanimated shaper savant had learned to force air through various parts of his face to form crude words.

Jor-el shrugged at him pityingly. Liliana narrowed her eyes. The Auriok bodybuilders (as Venser thought of them) struggled to hide expressions of derision and impatience.

Venser, Shaper Savant…Venser, the Sojourner…Venser, prodigal artificer from Urborg…had been relegated to the status of pack animal for a sickeningly pious tribal leader and an unscrupulous death-mage with questionable digestive capabilities.

Venser the zombie picked up the bundle of razor grass and put it back atop his shoulders. He turned his face toward Liliana. His blue eye flared as it met her violet ones. Her lips twitched into a subtle sneer that only he saw. She threaded her arm through Jor-el’s with a serpentine grace.

“Jor, the sun is…so hot. I’m unaccustomed to its intensity. I’m feeling lightheaded…”

“We’ve got a litter, it’ll only take a moment to construct. I should have thought of that earlier.” Jor touched his captain on the shoulder and the warrior immediately set to building the stretcher with the help of two female Auriok. The mystic grinned briefly at Liliana.

“I was distracted from practical matters.”

“Sublime conversation should do just that,” Liliana returned. Jor-el nodded appreciatively.

Venser thanked the Phyrexians that he didn’t have any innards, because, he thought to himself I would have barfed all of them up just now.

The gurney was built. Jor-el held Liliana’s hand gently as she lay down on the makeshift bed and closed her eyes. Jor-el turned and motioned for the Auriok to commence the journey. The sky stretched out before the mystic, bright puce as open and willing as his congregation-army.

Despite his aversion to the whole scene, Venser resumed his previous position slightly behind and to the left of the reclining Liliana. He took a step, feeling the weight of sixteen bushels of razor grass press down on his bony shoulders.

Liliana was looking at him. She winked, then again closed her eyes against the glaring Mirrodin suns.

No comments:

Post a Comment