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Oath of the Gatewatch
Previously, a group of Planeswalkers gathered on the plane of Zendikar to try to stem the onslaught of the Eldrazi, inscrutable beings recently freed from their eons-long slumber. The Planeswalkers gathered under the banner of the Zendikari, and with their coordinated efforts ensnared the Eldrazi titan Ulamog by luring him into a trap made of the hedrons that channeled Zendikar's vast supply of mana.
But the immense power flowing through the hedrons did not go unnoticed—particularly by the demon Ob Nixilis. By siphoning away the power that had been keeping Ulamog entrapped, Ob Nixilis reignited his Planeswalker spark. Though he was finally free to leave, he stayed to savor the taste of freedom...and sweet, sweet vengeance.
As he had learned many years ago when his spark first ignited, Ob Nixilis knew that he could also use this energy source to call forth a creature of great power. So with the remaining energy of the hedron network, he awoke the reality-distorting Eldrazi titan Kozilek.
Meanwhile, a confident Kiora imagined herself as the new incarnation of the trickster "Cosi," one of the false gods that had turned out to be memories of the Eldrazi titans. Many of the tales told of the trickster Cosi (derived from "Kozilek") fooling the sea god Ula (derived from "Ulamog"). After fooling one sea god already, Kiora was certain that she could make short work of Ula.
Joined by a cadre of sea monsters led by the massive octopus Lorthos, she launched an attack against Ulamog, but found herself facing the newly emerged Kozilek. As her false god struck her down, crushed Lorthos, and tossed her bident into the depths, Kiora realized she'd been the fool all along.
She understood, finally, where she had gone wrong. Cosi hadn't tricked her. Cosi had no understanding of the little story she'd been telling—the one that cast the tricksters as loyal dolphins and the other Planeswalkers as fools and herself, laughably, as Cosi. Thassa had hated her. Cosi couldn't even see her.
From the walls of Sea Gate, a reignited Ob Nixilis decided to enjoy his stay on Zendikar before a long-overdue departure. He began by watching Sea Gate and its defenders crumble beneath the two titans before turning his attention toward Gideon, Jace, and Nissa.
"If you had simply let me finish my work, I would have regained my spark and left your world. I didn't choose you as an enemy, but now I feel obliged to be the enemy you deserve. Kozilek's distortion will allow you to experience the last hours of Zendikar drawn out over the space of a thousand years. Suffering as I did. Normally I don't care for these kinds of theatrics, but you've earned yourself an exception."
The demon's enjoyment was cut short by the arrival of Chandra Nalaar, fresh from her lengthy-but-ultimately-rejected attempts to lead the pyromancers of Keral Keep. Instead of facing Ob Nixilis's considerable might one-on-one, Chandra freed the other Planeswalkers and mounted a counterattack. His idealized vengeance only partially achieved, Ob Nixilis pragmatically opted to delay retribution and planeswalked away, whereabouts unknown.
"That's right," Chandra said. "I'm a glorious beacon of mana and light, you bastards."
Meanwhile, the rise of Kozilek and his brood brought new threats. His spawn reached the last vestiges of the Tajuru elven settlements, where the twins Mina and Denn had journeyed from the destroyed continent of Bala Ged. The reality-distortion wake of Kozilek himself caught the Zendikari soldier Tazri and set her mind adrift through time and possibilities. As Kozilek's wake passed, Tazri stepped forward to organize the fragmented Zendikari allies in the absence of Commander-General Gideon Jura.
In the ruins of Sea Gate, Kiora stirred from beneath the massive corpse of Lorthos. Bones and pride damaged, Kiora enlisted the aid of the merfolk explorer Jori En to recover her prized weapon—the bident. The two scoured the claustrophobic underground caves of Kozilek's spawn. After a harrowing search, they returned to the surface with the bident in hand.
Slowly, Jori proceeded. And slowly, Kiora followed. Ahead, the ceiling began to slope toward the ground. It wasn't much, but it didn't need to be much for the path to become impassable. Jori slid her torch out in front of her and pulled herself forward with her arms. Soon she was forced to tilt her head so that her cheek scraped the stone surface beneath her, and as she inched on, she felt the stone of the ceiling press in on her back.
Gideon, Jace, Nissa, and Chandra emerged from Ob Nixilis's prison and beheld a sight of utter devastation. The army that Gideon had spent months gathering had been decimated. There was no sign of the titans, save the wastelands in each of their wakes. The four considered their options: leave or fight. Both options, as it happened, were well-suited to Planeswalkers.
Alone, none of them would ever survive, but to be able to depend on one another, they each needed to take an oath. Each oath was a pledge to keep watch over Sea Gate, over inter-planar threats, as the Gatewatch. Nissa was bound to Zendikar as more than just one of the plane's natives; the two shared a unique bond that she had no intention of breaking. Gideon had watched his own troops die, failed them as a leader in his promise to deliver safety. Jace saw threats stemming from Zendikar that could reach far beyond this plane, perhaps to his home of Ravnica, if they were not stopped here first. Chandra recalled a childhood—no, a lifetime—of trying to find her own path, and a family that had been destroyed for their independence.
"Every world has its tyrants, following their own desires with no concern for the people they step on....So I'll say it: never again. If it means that people can live in freedom, yeah, I'll keep watch. With you."
So they took an oath (well, four oaths)—then they needed a plan. They reunited with the remains of the Zendikari army, rallied together by Tazri. Here, they also found Kiora, unapologetically brash even after abandoning the other Planeswalkers in their attempt to trap Ulamog.
"We can't trap them, and we're not about to let them leave," said Jace. "That leaves one option. We're going to kill them."
And his companions, four other Planeswalkers and some very brave planebound fighters...nodded. Yes. Kill two enormous, unfathomably ancient beings using nothing but their own abilities and ingenuity. That made sense, didn't it?
Azor help me, he thought. I've signed on with heroes.
As Ugin had explained to Jace during their previous encounter at the Eye, the Eldrazi titans on Zendikar were only parts of their true forms, which resided outside of the plane in the Blind Eternities. Ugin described the nature of the titans as "a man sticking his hand in a pond," with the titans that they could see as the "hands," which the hedron network was able to pin down. But might it be possible to grab the "hand" and pull the entirety of the titans through to Zendikar and allow the plane itself to consume them?
The purpose of the hedrons had always been to direct the mana leylines within Zendikar in order to bind the Eldrazi. Though the members of the Gatewatch lacked the ability to create new hedrons, Nissa herself was able to manipulate the leylines through her bond with the plane.
While the others lured the titans forward, Jace and Nissa prepared a trap, channeling the power of the leylines using a massive glyph carved into the ground. As the titans passed over it, the leylines were tightened, anchoring them and pulling the remainder of their physical forms from the Blind Eternities into the physical world. Exhausted by the effort, Nissa was unable to finish the job of destroying them alone. The massive forms of the titans threatened to tear the plane apart, and overhead the sky began to rain Eldrazi.
A furious Kiora demanded that Nissa release them back into the Multiverse. Nissa, determined to see the titans destroyed, refused.
Kiora turned on the Gatewatch, lifting the Halimar Sea to kill Nissa, but was stopped by Jace's intervention.
[Kiora] reared back, and the sea reared back with her.
And with one bodily motion, she hurled the entire sea at Nissa.
Nissa's eyes widened.
—But the sea split in two, and each half split in two, and each resulting half split and split again, and the mass of water dissolved and dispersed into mist. Water roared down, sweeping away Eldrazi creatures. Sea life splashed down, flapping.
The mind mage stood between Kiora and Nissa, his eyes glowing with power under his hood, his extended hand edged with crackling blue magic.
Kiora did nothing for one stunned second. Then she bellowed, not words but inarticulate sounds of rage.
Though Nissa's strength faltered, Chandra saw a different option to end the titans: a single massive blast of flame. The blast would also destroy Nissa's binding of the titans at the same time. This had to be a one-shot kill.
Nissa channeled the last stores of the plane's wild mana toward Chandra, which the pyromancer combined with her own fury to unleash an apocalyptic inferno at the titans.
Chandra felt a hand resting softly on her shoulder.
And then she felt the mana of an entire world streaming into her.
As the dust settled, the survivors—the Gatewatch among them—arose from the wreckage. Wordlessly, Kiora turned and left.
Gideon abdicated his role as commander of the Zendikari forces in deference to Tazri. Chandra took some time to rest and recover with Nissa's assistance after the physical strain of producing a titan-destroying blast. Jace received a visitor—the spirit dragon Ugin, who was, understandably...disappointed.
"What have you done?" bellowed the spirit dragon. A blast of heat washed over Jace, Ugin's internal fires stoked by anger.
"You've killed two living creatures that were older than worlds," said Ugin. "Without knowing their purpose, their role, the impact of their lives or their deaths—you risked this entire plane and unknown consequences beyond it to kill them. Because you could."
In the silence that followed, only Chandra spoke: "You're damned right we did."
Ugin refused to provide further consultation to the Gatewatch, save for a warning that other ancient Planeswalkers would not be so forgiving of Jace's rash behavior. With the crisis on Zendikar complete, Jace prepared to conduct his investigation into the potential consequences of the titans' destruction on his own.
Nissa began her long task of restoring the plane, beginning with the last seeds from the destroyed continent of Bala Ged. Chandra reassured her that the Gatewatch had no intention of forcing her to leave the home she had fought so hard to protect.
Their moment of calm was interrupted by Jace's urgent inquiry—he needed to find out all she knew about one of the ancient Planeswalkers Ugin had mentioned: the vampire Planeswalker Sorin Markov.
Sorin was one of the three Planeswalkers who first captured the Eldrazi titans within Zendikar a thousand years ago. The last time Sorin and Ugin had spoken on Tarkir, Sorin claimed that he would bring Nahiri the Lithomancer, but neither of them had come.
So where is Sorin Markov, and what has he been up to? Jace only knows that the ancient Planeswalker is the lord of the plane known as "Innistrad." Jace has heard of this place before—in fact, he has one other...acquaintance there.
The story will continue in Shadows over Innistrad.