In the Early

Posted in Feature on January 7, 2008

By Rei Nakazawa

Absolute perfection is impossible, especially in the worlds of Magic. Serra Angel tried it with her Realm, and it all fell apart. Urza wanted to create the ultimate defense against the Phyrexians, only to fall into the sway of their leader, Yawgmoth. And although the plane of Lorwyn is peaceful and sunny, there is still danger and trouble. Morningtide offers up a few more sources of danger and trouble while still acknowledging Lorwyn's basic nature. The entire world is like a fairytale, but it's easy to forget that not all of them have happy endings.

The Morningtide novel is definitely proof of this concept, showing some of the shadier sides of this world without night. Rhys, once a prominent hunter among the elves, has two big problems. He's being blamed for a cataclysmic event that killed many of his fellows. Even worse, his horns are broken, which makes him ugly. This makes him doubly damned in the eyes of his society. Knowing his skill and reputation, they are pulling out all the stops to bring him to their vicious brand of justice. As if he didn't have enough to worry about with his own skin, he has to deal with the Aurora. What is the Aurora? Most know it as pretty lights in the sky, and apart from the kithkin, who use the event to mark one of their great celebrations, most don't think much of it. But a few wise heads seem very concerned about it, which in turns concerns Rhys.

While he strikes out to deal with the mysterious treefolk Colfenor and search for the giant Rosheen Meanderer, his associates take care of their own problems. As the kithkin hero Brigid searches for redemption, the flamekin Ashling for answers, and the mysterious elf Maralen for the queen of the fae, the Aurora draws nearer. Many feel as though they need to finish their tasks before then. Otherwise... what? They can't tell you. They'll find out when you do: when those colorful lights appear in the sky.

While the world hasn't changed much since the Lorwyn set (a state that most of its inhabitants prefer, thank you very much), it's also so deep that one article can't really do it justice. As you discovered over the past few months, there's a lot of thought and information that went into the making of this world. In fact, even I was surprised at how much I had to leave out of the first draft of my Lorwyn article, never mind this one. Here are more tidbits and lore about the eight sentient races of Lorwyn that didn't make it in last time around.

Giants are huge physically, mentally, and emotionally. Their every action and emotion are of world-shaking scale, though these are expressed in different ways, depending on their color. Red giants take extroverted actions, striking out in rage or determination at the rest of the world, while white giants turn inwards with contemplation or meditation. Giants are also packrats. Their subterranean lairs can stretch for miles, and contain a dizzying variety of odds and ends, collected and tossed aside during an epic lifetime. This hodgepodge of goods contain everything from junk to long-lost treasures of immense value and power. Giant lairs also contain knowledge, in the form of mysterious caverns that some lairs expand into. These caverns hold ancient runes that contain knowledge so arcane that only one giant has ever deciphered them—and that knowledge may have been what drove her to madness.

Treefolk are the other long-lived species of Lorwyn, with wisdom to match. With their lifespan, combined with the natural habits of normal trees, it makes sense that they respect great age and size, perhaps more than any other race. Just as normal trees cut off sunlight from shorter plants, thus stunting their growth, treefolk are in a constant struggle to reach for the sun, to grow taller and broader than any other. You may have also noticed that the art for  Battlewand Oak  depicts a treefolk with wooden weapons. If you did, this may have struck you as odd. But—as Doug mentioned in his Treefolk Week article—treefolk don't see the wood that makes up their bodies as fleshy beings see skin and bone. They don't mind shaping wood from fallen trees (or even treefolk) into weapons and armor. Some types of trees can even regrow wood and bark, allowing some treefolk, like the warrior oaks, to carefully cut off parts of their own bodies to fashion their armaments!


To the kithkin, the concept of the weave permeates all aspects of their culture, most notably in the empathic thoughtweft that binds them all together. But this basic idea is evident in other ways as well. For example, take the concept of lanamnas, which is any unequal relationship, like cenn and townsfolk, or overseer and worker. Kithkin believe that such relationships can only work out if both parties know that each side contributes something important. In other words, they are woven together by their obligations to the other party. Lammastide Weave  refers to another important aspect of kithkin life. At the regular Lammastide Dance, complex dances are performed by huge crowds. These are complex affairs in which the dancers dart among, around, and between each other at astonishing speeds (again, the weave), yet with almost perfect execution. This isn't just a demonstration of thoughtweft; there's some magic involved that actually strengthens that bond through these dances.

Merrow have a dizzying array of possible roles, such as the reejereys (who lead merrow schools), rudders (who, like Sygg, River Guide, guide travelers along the rivers), landspanners (hunters who take down landbound prey by leaping between close-grouped rivers), and deeptreads (who specialize in delving in the mysteries of the subterranean waterways called the Dark Meanders). Like boggart warrens, merrow schools often have distinct personalities, territory, or roles. The Silvergill school does a lot of mercantile business with the elves, while the Stonybrook school sticks to lowland territory often inhabited by kithkin. The Inkfathom school, meanwhile, barely comes to the surface at all, since their members are mostly deeptreads.

The short-lived and mischievous faeries are an ever-present, and ever-annoying, part of Lorwyn. It's that short life span, though, that makes them feel like they can do whatever they want. After all, they often won't be around long enough to have to deal with the consequences of their actions. Another reason for the fae's seeming ability to get into everyone's business is the rings I mentioned in my last article. These rings are circles of stones, mushrooms, or moss laid out on the ground. They are a common sight no matter where you go in Lorwyn, and most who see them don't have an inkling how powerful they are. These rings use powerful magic to teleport faerie cliques wherever they want, usually closer to their home of Glen Elendra. Those who mess with the rings usually pay a painful and embarrassing price.


Flamekin flavor text in Lorwyn sometimes mentioned the Path of Flame, the road of physical and spiritual enlightenment they try to follow. Each is marked by a different color of fire (usually reflected in the flamekin's own body), and new stages are reached by exploring the world, understanding one's inner self, and deep meditation. The first stage, red flame, is tied to a flamekin's physical senses, usually attained through travel and new experiences. The yellow flame stage comes with intense emotion. The white flame stage involves spiritual experience and larger emotional growth (often with other flamekin). Only soulstokes usually get to this difficult stage, never mind the fourth. No one is really sure what the blue flame stage entails, because those who come close find themselves consumed by their own inner fires. One who reaches this stage and survives would become the stuff of legend.

The adventurous boggarts have certainly made an impression in Lorwyn. To get a little more insight into how their minds work, take a look at the flavor text of Fire-Belly Changeling. The way the quoted Auntie Wort expresses herself in that piece is very typical of how boggarts in general see and talk about the world. They believe that each part of their bodies is responsible for a different sensation or a type of thought. Hands and feet, which have the most direct contact with the world around them, are sources of warning, often in the form of pain. Emotions come from the liver, analytical thought from the ears, and so on. It makes sense that beings who love sensation in all its forms would divide up those sensations in such a direct way.

Finally, there are the elves. They have a very different society and attitude than most elves Magic players know, but they are also unique in other ways. For example, Lorwyn's elves don't enjoy the long lives others of their kind do. In fact, they only live about thirty to forty years on average. They don't age during that time, which combines with their obsession with beauty to create an impatient and short-sighted society. As you probably picked up from elves in Lorwyn, there are specialized occupations that some take. Admirers are judges who are the final word on how beautiful (and thus how important) a being is. They always appear in public masked, to better add an aura of objectivity to their decisions. Winnowers are charged with destroying the worst eyeblights. Ambassadors are the elves' representatives among the treefolk, a rare but necessary concession to the reality of their forest existence. Scarblades are specialized assassins who attack to maim, not to kill, although in elvish society, it often ends in the same result.

I finish with the elves because my preview card this time around is an elf. He is, of course, legendary, and is already well-known to those of you who've read the Lorwyn novel. Rhys has been, and will continue to be, a major player in the events that are unfolding, so it's only natural that he gets a card of his own.

Although an exile, Rhys is still a Lorwyn elf at heart, and his card hits all the right notes for his race. First of all, he's a 3/2 for just three mana, already a bargain, as creatures of his color tend to be. But as a legendary elf, he needs more than just efficiency, and he gets it. His life gain ability takes great advantage of all the searchers and token makers that elves have gained not only in this block, but throughout the game's history. Just one attack can cause a massive life swing that will give you the time you need to run over your opponent with your massive horde. But, of course, creatures whose abilities activate when attacking always have the problem of surviving to do it again. But never fear! Now that Rhys's hatred has been turned towards his own kind, his quintessentially black regeneration ability lets him charge in again and again, at only a slight loss of life gain potency. Name, ability, and flavor text all combine into a nice little package that tells a lot about his character and backstory in a very short amount of space.

In the real world, nothing good lasts forever. Life always gives way to death, and the sun must set eventually. Will this be the case with Lorwyn? Or will its bright skies survive these omens as well? That's a question for the novels and future sets. For now, take this opportunity to bathe in this world's warmth while it lasts. Just remember: don't let your guard down.

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