“So you’ve been talking to our enemies!” Liliana hissed, hands on hips.
“No—yes, I’ve been talking, but they are not necessarily our enemies,” Jor countered, his eyes blazing. Jor-el Galesun, formerly Jor Kadeen, ran his hand through his wayward brown hair. The spiritual leader of the Auriok was sweating bullets in his own office. An office that had been demolished by his fight with Liliana's undead minion "Venser" and that now was wrapped in stifling blackness so the conversation could not be overheard. Jor silently cursed himself for being so vulnerable to this turn of events.
“You figured you’d give them Melira, in exchange for information?” Liliana said softly, not looking at him. Melira gasped, looking at Jor with wide, fragile eyes.
“What are you talking about?!” Jor exclaimed, slamming his fist down on the broken desk. Liliana slid her eyes sideways and up, meeting Melira’s supergreen gaze.
“Perhaps,” Liliana continued, staring at Melira only, “Glissa promised you secrets to the inner workings of this World, if only you’d give her the healer that would stop the plague that is striking down their armies even as we speak.”
Liliana showed no emotion as Melira bit her lip, not breathing, not quite believing, looked to Jor-el for a contradiction, for assurance it was not so.
“She offered that, but—“ Jor began, then hesitated. The hesitation was all Liliana needed—she snorted condemnation on cue. Melira lowered her face and broke down in a silent sob, covering her face with her hands and her flaming hair.
Venser swiveled his head toward Liliana disapprovingly.
What are you doing? He thought to her.
Working to save our asses. Liliana replied. Quiet.
“I never agreed to such!” shouted Jor, but the seed was planted. Melira peered up at him with glittering, wet eyes, her broken heart carved in high relief on every part of her.
“Dear, men do what they have to do. They will never hesitate to use you,” Liliana said softly. Melira slowly turned and locked eyes with Liliana. She nodded ever so slightly. Liliana smiled confidentially, just for the two of them. She reached out an put her hand on Melira’s shaking arm.
She’s ours. Liliana exulted in her head.
You’re a raving bitch. Venser thought.
You’re a dead man short two balls.
Alright then. Attend to Melira.
“Jor, I don’t fault you for this,” Liliana was saying silkily. “It’s smart business. Why don’t you and I talk about it over dinner?”
Jor looked at her coldly. His gaze slid to Melira, who was standing weakly as Venser helped her put on her cloak with his one good arm.
“Please?” Liliana said. When Jor-el continued to stare at her impassively, she walked over to him, standing open and inviting, trusting, above him. “Please? You should tell me of your plans, so I can help. I would have done the same in your place, with the girl. But my feminist loyalties demanded she know the truth…”
“I did not—“ Jor started to say. Liliana bent down and kissed him hard.
“Don’t apologize. It’s not becoming,” Liliana breathed. Jor’s hands tightened around her upper arms.
I just threw up in my mouth—a lot. Venser’s one eye flared as he gently turned Melira away from the scene.
Following the confrontation about Jor’s overtures to The Tangle leadership, Liliana and the Auriok mystic cavorted around the Furnace Level like blossoming youths at a May festival. They danced, they drank, they laughed, they reveled in each other's good looks. Venser, broken jaw and all, was left to see to Melira.
“He was the first person I saw when I came here,” Melira was saying. Venser nodded automatically, his jaw waggling in its jacknifed state (held in place as it was by darksteel clothespins). His one dark eye socket and his flaring blue one drifted noncomittally toward the vents of the Furnace Level, where Liliana and Jor were tasting through an apparently endless array of fine Mirrodin wine.
“I was so scared, and he…he came over and put his cloak around me…” Melira said softly. Venser the zombie lowered his head into a skeletal hand and exhaled.
“I felt like I’d come home…finally,” Melira breathed, her voice trailing off painfully. Venser turned and looked at her.
She really was quite a beautiful girl, not in the gods-what-is-that?! way that Liliana was, but in a fey, youthful, hopeful way—like a sunrise through the fog. The fires of the Furnace Level were always reflecting off her hair, the phoenix shades cavorting in the twisted locks that hung down over ivory shoulders.
“Venser?” she said hesitantly, her expression confused as she caught him staring at her.
Once, a metal man thought he could create a world with a narrative so perfect that it would exist in harmony for ages unending.
Little did he know that his grand plan would be undone by a smear of something on his foot.
So long ago, Karn had made Argentum from his best creative instincts. He had imbued the perfect metal world with all of his passion for peace, beauty, and harmony. He hoped the new plane would be a reflection of the best parts of himself.
And it was. It was also a perfect reflection of his pride.
As he gave Memnarch his final instructions, a little bit of crap slipped from Karn’s silver boot onto the surface of Argentum. Memnarch, a golem created in the image of his master, was left alone with a perfect world and a tiny pile of poo.
“STOP.” The hordes of black and blue turned their heads at the bellow.
“That was good,” said Slobad’s hand.
“Thanks,” said Karn.
Jin-Gitaxias clicked his head in the direction of the intruders. There was a large, impossibly shiny silver golem with a goblin hand on his shoulder. The hand appeared to be whispering things into the golem’s ear. This was irregular.
“Excuse me, but can we get on to whatever’s next? I’m losing feeling in my tail,” Sheoldred said as she dangled upside-down over a Mimic Vat.
“Silence,” clicked Jin-Gitaxias.
“How rude!” hissed Sheoldred.
“You don’t remember me?” Karn said, his large eyes sad and heavy as he looked at Jin-Gitaxias.
“Jor, we need someone who can build what we need.” Liliana was strumming her fingers impatiently on the head of the metal dog that attended her.
“I told you that we don’t have such here, not that I’ve seen.” Jor inserted his nose deep into a bulbous wine goblet and inhaled deeply. Venser saw Liliana clench her teeth in annoyance and narrow her eyes. The zombie limped forward with Melira at his side. The healer beamed hopefully at Jor-el as she patted her smoothly combed hair.
“Yes?” Liliana snapped, turning toward them. Venser shrugged, his bright eye flaring innocently. Melira ducked her head and blushed visibly.
“I’m sorry, we didn’t know we were intruding,” she said.
“Unless you have a way to get the five suns of this godforsaken plane to realign in the center of the world and then somehow miraculously drift back to their places in the sky, then yes, you are intruding,” Liliana sighed loudly, draining the wine that Jor had carefully poured for her in a very unladylike gulp.
“Mmeeeeeeeeeeee,” Venser whooshed, standing beside Melira in a protective stance that annoyed Liliana to no end.
“Excuse me?” Liliana rolled her eyes at him. “Jor and I have been talking for hours about how to find some talent on this plane that can create a construct to do what it is we need done. I need to move suns, Venser, my dear. Suns. You have something to offer?”
The zombie took hold of his broken jaw in his hand and tilted it up in semblance of a smile.
Really. He heard Lilana sneer in his head.
“What was your previous occupation?” she said aloud, curiosity piqued. Jor-el deigned to grace him with a full-on look, brown eyes skeptical and distant.
“Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrtificsheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer,” whooshed Venser.
Liliana froze, wine goblet halway to her lusicous mouth. Jor-el raised an eyebrow.
Are you a walker? Liliana’s voice resounded in Venser’s head—pulsing, throaty, desirous, passionate.
Aren’t you? Venser thought to her in return.
Mmmmm, clever minion… Liliana replied. Aloud, she said,