Why I'm A Vorthos

Posted in My Favorite Flavor on September 1, 2015

By Cassie LaBelle

Cassie LaBelle is a freelance writer. When she's not at her keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find her playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

The following story is (quite obviously) not part of the official Magic storyline. For Vorthos week, I decided to take a few creative liberties with a few interesting characters from Magic's past. Enjoy!

—Chas


"You told me you were going to clean this place up," Sidisi said, running her fingers down the dusty oak door frame. The room was small and dull by Sultai standards, but there was enough room for five players to sit comfortably around the table in the center. Floor-to-ceiling bookshelves blocked most of the walls, but a few brightly colored tapestries hung from the stone ceiling. One of them had a picture of an old rotary-style telephone. Another showed an austere woman wearing a business suit. A third was covered with bar graphs and pie charts.

"My apologies," Riku said. "I've been kind of busy. Have you ever tried to keep track of two Maelstrom Wanderers at once? Let's just say they live up to their name."

"I still don't understand what this has to do with law enforcement," Argus Kos said, bursting through the door and taking the seat closest to the door.

Rakka Mar followed close behind him. "Nothing," she said. She shot Riku an angry glare. "Personally, I think Mr. Thinky-Pants over here should take us all home. Fire Elementals don't summon themselves, you know."

Sidisi saw Riku's eyes darken, his hands beginning to glow with soft blue light. She slapped him on the back of his head and the glow disappeared. "No mind control," she chastised. "You and I both know that this game gets boring when you hold the other players in thrall."

Riku rolled his eyes. "I was just going to . . . suggest that she might want to stay for a while longer. What's the harm in that?"

There was a tentative knock on the door, and all four figures around. Titania stood there, a large leash in her hand and an uncertain expression on her face. "Um," she said. "Is there enough room in here for my Argothian Wurm?"

"I'm sorry, Titania," Riku said, his voice kind but firm. "Your Wurm needs to stay outside."

Titania opened her mouth to protest, but she was cut off by a deep hooting sound and the crash of breaking glass. "The Gibbons, too," said Riku.

"They'll stay hidden!" Titania promised.

"Yeah, for about five seconds. Sorry, Titania—no animals in the game room."

Sidisi coughed. "Except Naga," Riku clarified.

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant | Art by Karl Kopinski

Titania walked outside, muttered a few words in a language that no one else understood, and returned. All five players took their seats, and Riku picked up a small stack of deck boxes. "The name of the game is Office: The Businessing," he said. "We each take on the role of a mid-level office employee on a plane with no magic whatsoever. Whoever contributes the most to the company by the end of the month wins."

"No magic? What happens when a monster breaks into your office and starts eating people?" Argus Kos asked.

"That won't happen," Riku said. "This is a game, remember? It takes place in a fantasy world where there aren't any monsters. People just live their lives and try to become productive members of society."

"Sounds lovely," Titania sighed.

"Here—you might like the Office Manager deck," Riku replied. "She's in charge of maintaining the environment, ordering supplies, and making sure everyone is in harmony with their workspace."

"Thanks," Titania said, picking up the deck and flicking through its bright green sleeves.

"Argus, you can be in Human Resources," Riku said, handing him a thick stack of white cards. "You get to set policies, manage compliance training, and moderate disputes. And Rakka, you might enjoy leading a team of coders. It won't be easy—you'll have to pour your heart and soul into volatile pieces of game-changing tech."

"I'll burn down your office if you cancel my project before we go live," she said.

"That's a perfectly valid move," Riku said. "And Sidisi—"

"I brought my own deck," Sidisi said, pulling a leather deck box out of her jewel-studded valise. "Marketing, as always."

"Excellent," said Riku. "I'll play as Research and Development. Shall we begin?"

The first few turns were relatively uneventful. Argus got off to a fast start, and everyone was forced to spend most of their time filling out paperwork and completing training modules. Rakka Mar and Titania became allies when the elementalist's requisition form for a case of sugar-free energy drinks was approved. Riku tried to start development on a smart watch that tracks calorie intake in real time via skin sensors, but his funding was denied. Sidisi began trading favors all over the office, building up vendor and management connections for the end game.

"All right, here we go." Rakka Mar said, playing a Mobile Developer creature and attaching a Linux-Based Laptop to it. "My Energy Drinks give all of my creatures haste, and they all untap on each of your turns as well. I'm going to tap all three of my Developers and give each of them a Code counter."

Vampire Outcasts | Art by Clint Cearley

"I cast Departmental Requisition in response," Riku said. "Your team is working on my project for the next three turns."

"No!" Rakka shouted. "A little help, Titania?"

"I could deny his request for additional office space, but I'm not going to. His project actually sounds pretty interesting."

"Oh, come on! My guys are making an app that replaces all the content on your enemies' DVRs with reruns of arena league football games. It's one-click revenge!"

"Actually, I'm pretty sure you guys need to spend the rest of the day brushing up on our corporate parking policies," Argus said, laughing and dropping a card onto the middle of the table while everyone else groaned. "This is the most fun I've had in months. Now I know how I want to spend my retirement."

"I'm glad you can see why I brought you here," Riku said, smiling. "This game is special to me. My mind is always searching for patterns and creative ways to fit things together, and the game mechanics of Office allow me to be do some pretty clever things. And when the story matches up, too? That's when I really feel the rush of creativity." 

Titania nodded. "If the game were just a series of mechanical things that happened one after the other, I'd get bored rather quickly. The world of the game is so rich that I feel like the decisions I make actually have weight, though. I can connect with Office on a deep level and escape into its world. That's something I have trouble doing with most of the games I play."

"I just like messing with people," Sidisi said.

"It's more than that." Riku prodded. "Come on, I can read minds, remember? Evasion doesn't work on me."

Sidisi sighed and paused for a moment, collecting her thoughts. "Okay, well, I don't think it'll come as a shock to any of you that I like to feel powerful and in control. But even though I'm the leader of the most powerful clan on Tarkir, there are times in my life when it feels like my desires are just beyond my grasp. In the world of the game, I control my destiny. I brought my own deck because I wanted to make sure that I could completely express myself, no matter what."

"Plus, the flavor text is pretty great," Argus said, grinning. "Check this one out—it's a Break Room Refrigerator, and the flavor text is, 'A small dollop of ghost pepper sauce put an end to Frank's lunchtime pilfering.' Isn't that lovely? It tells a whole story in just one sentence!"

"I actually made that happen once," Riku said, his eyes lighting up. "My reflection had Frank in play, and he kept using his Free Lunch ability to steal my sandwiches. I cast Online Shopping, which let me look through my collection for any Personal Sundry card that cost three dollars or less. I had opened a copy of Essence of Ghost Pepper a few days earlier and already had the Fridge in play. I couldn't resist making the flavorful play."

"Fantastic!" Argus said, slapping Riku on the back.

Artisan's Sorrow | Art by Jung Park

Rakka flicked her cards impatiently. "Can we end this love-fest and get back to the game?"

"Sure," Riku said. "It's Argus's turn, right?"

"I have a play to make first," said Rakka Mar. She tapped all seven of her cubicles and slammed Security Breach onto the table. "Our latest app had a critical vulnerability, so we're shutting down production for the rest of the month so we can regroup."

Riku slammed his cards onto the table in frustration. "You just blew my delivery deadline. I had all the cards I needed for successful implementation, too."

"Why would you do that?" Titania asked Rakka. "That breach came from your department! Now there's no way you'll be Employee of the Month!"

Rakka shrugged, trying to hide her grin. "I don't really care about winning. I just wanted to see how everyone would react when something bad happened. The four of you are approaching this game like it's a story where you're the protagonist. I like having the ability to express myself beyond that narrow spectrum of "good" and "bad" plays." She twirled her right hand and a tiny Fire Elemental leapt out of the candle in the center of the table. It danced toward the ceiling, where it exploded in a tiny flash of light. A few pieces of ash floated back down, harmlessly.

"All right," Riku said. "Well, you're out of the running. Argus is too, since we're pretty far off the map in terms of HR compliance."

"If Rakka Mar hadn't kept parking in the CEO's reserved space—"

"You tried to get me fired for a parking violation!" She spat back at him.

He shrugged. "Rules are rules."

"Yeah, and the rules state pretty clearly that you can't fire anyone because of where they park," Riku said. "Anyway, I'm out, too. My project's too far off schedule. And if Sidisi can't roll out on time, that leaves Titania as Employee of the Month."

"Woohoo! Go me!" Titania said.

"Who says I can't roll out in time?" Sidisi said.

Riku shot her a frustrated look. "We don't actually have anything to sell, remember? We spent too much time fighting each other, so now both my project and Rakka Mar's are at least two weeks behind. Neither one will be finished by the end of the month."

"That's immaterial," Sidisi said, playing three cards from her hand in quick succession. "The ad campaign is done, we've got pre-orders from five of our six distributors, and I just gave a press conference downplaying our tech vulnerabilities. If we have to ship a little late, I'll blame the factory or the post office."

Titania scratched her head. "Dang, you're good."

Sidisi picked up her cards. "I'm the best. Don't you forget it."

"Got time for one more game?" Riku asked.

The five players looked around the table, nodded at each other, and reshuffled their decks. They each knew what was waiting for them back home—giant dragons, horrifying beasts, and terrors beyond all imagination. For now, though, their minds were far away, completely immersed in a fantasy world of office politics and giddy innovation.

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