Preview Article: Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

Posted in Feature on January 16, 2012

By Jenna Helland

Jenna Helland is a designer and writer for the Magic creative team. She's a member of the story team, a creative liaison with design teams, and the author of the Theros novella, Godsend.

Dear Sister,

The news of the fire was most unfortunate. The loss of our family's ancestral manor is saddening, but the fact that it was caused by our own kin is disgraceful.

I do not wish to trouble you with the state of affairs here in Thraben. The weakening of the protective wards is grave indeed. The incessant accounts of ghoul migrations, blood slayings, and werewolf attacks have caused me many sleepless nights.

Pray for Avacyn's return with all your heart. Until that time, I must not leave Thraben. I fear that my power—weak as it is compared to hers—is the only cord that binds our faith together.



Mikaeus, the Lunarch (Detail) | Art by Steve Belledin

My dear Gisa,

Must you always cheat?

We AGREED on rules of conduct. The Five Laws of NecroWarfare:

  • No spontaneous awakenings.
  • No luring, killing, and raising of bystanders or livestock.
  • Combatants face off at a predetermined place and time.
  • Combatants must have at least three limbs to play.
  • Headquarters are off limits.

You can't raise ghouls mid-battle! You must send your army to meet me in the valley. Do not flank me! Do not sneak up behind me!

Legless torsos do not count as soldiers. My skaabs have teeth marks all over their legs from your draggy little meat sacks. Oh, I want my sextant back. And do not come into my laboratory again!

You signed in blood. So it counts.


Gravecrawler | Art by Steven Belledin


Must you always whine?

I agreed to nothing.

  • I'll raise ghouls anytime I wish. You're just mad because you have to run back and sew more while I can just whistle them up from the grave.
  • If a farmer is stupid enough to check out a creepy light, then he deserves to be killed with a shovel and become my servant.
  • A predetermined place and time? What is this, a tea party?
  • Those so-called "meat sacks" are models of efficiency. You can't even make a skaab walk without giving it 17 different body parts.
  • I didn't take your stupid sextant. It probably melted in the fire.

As always, you lack the brains of an infant.


P.S. It wasn't even my blood.

Dear Gisa,

I have decided that your lack of adherence to the Rules of NecroWarfare have utterly ruined our game. Therefore, I will no longer send my elite troops to the field of battle. I have far more devious plans.

Have fun with your lesser specimens.



While I have no interest in your "devious plans," I must insist you inform me of your intentions if you plan to pass through my territory. As you know, my territory begins at Angel's Road and extends to Thraben.


Art by Karl Kopinski

Dear Gisa,

Can you hear me laughing all the way from Trostad? Your territory does not begin at Angel's Road, but I can't be bothered to prove you wrong. If you must know, I plan to raze Thraben to the ground. It will be a glorious city of undead with me as the lunarch.

In an attempt to better myself, I've been musing on the nature of the Blessed Sleep. I postulate that the state of a skaab's mind is equivalent to that of a person who has attained that holy state. So, in actuality, I'm giving these poor sheep exactly what they desire most.

Despite your past offenses, I extend you an invitation. Let us join together in this charitable venture. I claim the Thraben Cathedral, but the rest of the city is yours.

Oh, I must introduce you to my Skaab General. I named him Grimgrin in honor of your face.

Your loving brother,



You've piqued my interest. I will join my forces with yours. Half the city is acceptable. But I demand half the corpses as well.


Bishop Alwin,

With all due respect, you're underestimating the situation. You must inform the lunarch immediately and demand that he act! This is not isolated to Trostad Village. Or the Hanweir Parish. Or the even the Moorlands. This zombie infestation is the most dire situation I've come across in my 15 years as an inquisitor. Our last census found nearly 700 souls living in this parish. I would estimate less than 100 remain. Have they fled? Or all killed? I fear the worst.

Perhaps you have heard of Gisa and Geralf before. Their macabre "war games" decimated this region. You have not heard the name Grimgrin. He is a scourge, a bringer of destruction. You must act now, before he is upon the walls of Thraben.

Lieutenant Traken, Elgaud Inquisitor

Art by Ryan Pancoast

Lieutenant Traken,

I assure you that I have received your correspondences. But I must have more information before I will trouble the lunarch. Perhaps you could do a census of the residents and see how many remain?

As you surely know, the lunarch is dealing with the issue of Avacyn's sabbatical. If you cannot handle the situation yourself, perhaps you would like us to find an inquisitor who can?

Bishop Alwin

Bishop Alwin,

We discovered the mutilated bodies of the entire village at daybreak along the Westvale Road. At the crest of the hill, we saw Grimgrin for ourselves—a towering skaab twice the size of a man. Its head was sunk into its chest, surrounded by a nest of iron and haphazard flesh. Legions of walking undead followed it, like sheep behind a shepherd. You know I am not a man to exaggerate, and I cannot convey the scale of this.

You must take my account to the lunarch immediately. The Moorlands have become a killing ground. This skaab is a force like none we've reckoned with.

Lieutenant Traken, Elgaud Inquisitor

Art by David Rapoza

To Bishop Alwin

I am incredulous that you would trouble me over a single skaab. Every province in Innistrad is bleeding. You speak of a siege of Thraben? Our entire existence is under siege! Soon, the faithful will turn to dark sorcery out of necessity, mark my words. What would you have me do?

If you have concerns, speak to Lothar. As Guardian of Thraben, he has done much to bolster the protections around the city. The walls will stand, with or without the blessing of the church.

Lunarch of Thraben

Loyal Cathar | Art by Ryan Pancoast


Time grows short, old friend. The riders are superb but they are ineffectual in siege warfare. You cannot deny the reports any longer. The first wave will be upon Thraben soon.

You are the guardian of this holy city! We must build our defenses against the threat of skaabs who would dig below our walls. Add more artillery batteries to the walls and more belfries for crossbows. Recall the soldiers from Stensia. They can be at our threshold in three days. Give the signal to raise the militia in Kessig. They could be here in five.

The Great Walls of Thraben have never been breached. But the wards are failing, Lothar. I know it breaks your heart, but that doesn't change the reality. If it helps, I will always be at your side.

Thalia, Thraben Guard

Art by Zoltan Boros

My dear Gisa,

The spires of Thraben are visible on the horizon! Soon our forces will crash upon the walls like waves upon a rocky shore. I must commend you on your ghouls' stamina. What they lack in speed, they have made up for in perseverance. They make fine infantry for my war machine.

We are entering the last phase of my plan. I must embark on a secret mission, leaving you in charge of our formidable army. I have studied necrotic siegecraft extensively. Follow these rules of engagement:

  • Blockade all routes out of the city. If you have any ghouls with tongues, make them the sentries.
  • Burn the belfries. But keep the crossbowman's arms if possible. They have good muscle tone.
  • Tunnel under the walls. Now who is mocking my four-armed skaabs?
  • Shell the city with whatever rock or flesh you have on hand.

I know you must be dying to know about my secret mission. All in good time, dear sister, all in good time.

Your loving brother,


Your love of the dramatic is so tiresome. Let me guess: You're going to sneak in before the siege and kill the lunarch. Though it pains me to admit it, I'm actually quite impressed with your forethought. Did you know we're related to Mikaeus the Lunarch? Yes, cousins on the Cecani side. But I digress.

And sod your rules of engagement. Here is mine: point them at the walls. Grimgrin can handle the front door.


Art by Clint Cearley

Thraben is a carcass and the buzzards have descended upon us. To the heavens, the undead army must look like a swarm of ants, devouring all that is good and leaving a black stain in its wake. The ground shakes beneath my feet. I hear the outer wall crumbling under the assault. Without Avacyn, stones that have stood a thousand years will crumble into dust.

I have a plan, but Lothar is nowhere to be found. I must make him hear me before the outer wall is breached. But it's as if devils have plugged his ears and reason can no longer sway him.

Journal of Thalia, Thraben Guard

My riders barely made it ahead of the relentless hordes. The Guardian of the City seems to have deserted his post. That upstart Thalia has set us on the most inane task—pulling the thatch from every roof in the city. Fear has touched her mind, I suppose. First chance, I must find Bishop Alwin and figure out who is really in charge here on the wall.

Field Notes of Lieutenant Traken

Art by Todd Lockwood

I've just heard news that Lothar's body has been found on the rocks at the foot of the waterfall. What a pathetic end to a man of weak faith. I've appointed his second in command as Guardian of the City. If she is equal to the task, I cannot tell. And faith provides no answers.

My hand shakes. I feel my every year in my aching bones. I am nothing but an old man in heavy robes standing over the skeleton of a church that no longer pulses with life. Even the angels have hid themselves in the Loft, grieving for all they've lost.

I hear a faint tapping at the door. I pray for good news at last.

Last Entry of Mikaeus the Lunarch

My dear Gisa,

May I commend you on your excellent progress! I see smoke rising from the wall. Your triumphal entry into the city will be glorious indeed.

You will be pleased to know that I write you from the lunarch's chambers! It was all too simple really. Knock knock, it's death calling. He simply answered the door. I killed him with a golden letter opener and kept the heart for you!

While I could bask in my ascendancy for hours, I don't want to leave you on the doorstep by yourself. What kind of host would I be? I shall leave the splendor of my new cathedral and be at your side presently.

Your loving brother,

When I told Traken to move his men away from the main gate, he was resigned. We will lose the first ring of the city. But the sacrifice will not be in vain. At least, that's what he must believe.

Journal of Thalia, Guardian of the City

Zombie Apocalypse | Art by Peter Mohrbacher

The main gate fell in mere moments. The repugnant mob poured into the outer ring, their stench so foul it sickened the soldiers. We held the inner gates, letting the ghouls pile up on themselves in their relentless assault. When our defenses faltered, I struck a single match.

It seemed to take an eternity for the tiny flame to fall from my fingers onto the dry thatch stolen from Thraben's roofs. Within seconds, the outer ring became a wheel of flame. A small stick of pinewood became the savior of our city.

We lost more cathars than I can count. Some fires still smolder. But most of the city stands, and the cathedral is unscathed. I must go report to the lunarch before my fatigue takes what is left of my wits.

Journal of Thalia, Guardian of the City


You imbecilic toddler. What did you make your skaabs with? Paper? Paraffin oil? At least my ghouls have a little rot on them so they don't ignite like tinderboxes. This fiasco lies squarely on your diminutive shoulders.

You're hopeless and I'm going back to the moors. I hope they quarter you and feed you to the hounds.


The news of Mikaeus's death must be kept secret at all cost. He will be sealed in the Tomb of the Lunarchs with no ceremony. Church business must carry on.

As to the murderer, we have set our best inquisitors on solving this heinous crime. Most of the corpse was recovered, but the heart is unaccounted for.

Bishop Alwin


I never should have included you in my venture. You and your maggot bags ruined everything once again. But I forgive you because I met someone special! A most delightful girl by the name of Lili. She was lingering outside the cathedral like a lost little puppy, her long black hair lit by the sparks from the burning city. I most happily agreed to take her under my wing.

Let the world gloat about how I lost Thraben. Let them crow about how the lunarch will dwell happily in eternal rest, snug in the Blessed Sleep. My dear Lili has taken an unusual interest in our now-dead Mikaeus. She promised me that eternity isn't such a long time after all.


Mikaeus, the Unhallowed | Art by Chris Rahn

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