Corrupted Conscience

Posted in Savor The Flavor on January 19, 2011

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.

The throne room is unexpectedly silent. As always, the air is hot and dense, weighing heavily on any who would venture into the chamber. It's midday, although the light of the five suns will never reach this place far beneath the surface of Mirrodin.

Soon the throne room will be filled with those seeking audience with Him, their uncrowned king. His attendants will scurry about, keeping order, making lists, smoothing ruffled egos, and cleaning up the remains of those who violated some rule or another.

All the while, his voice will drone, sometimes inscrutable, sometimes revelatory. His words will reverberate off the metal walls in an even rhythm, then explode into wailing yells. His rantings usually send the lesser beings into a panic. But those of higher rank and intelligence smile if they have lips or nod if they don't, blessed to be in the presence of such consummate wisdom.

Wisdom that will soon find its way into the canon of scripture.

Scripture that will soon be spoken from the lips of thousands who know nothing of the perfection that awaits them.

If only He would say the right words. Give the orders. (Did he say it today? Has he given his blessing?) Give the orders; we've been waiting for generations. Or so it seems to the ones in the throne room. Give the orders, and it will finally begin.

All are waiting. Will this be the day? But now, the throne room is unexpectedly silent. And He, the one who is meant to lead them, is decidedly alone.

Who am I? His voice rumbles from inside his massive chest. What is this place?

His eyes blink rapidly, as if to beat the shadows from his mind. His attendants are absent. There is no one to witness his lucidity. Or is it madness? If there is no one there to decide, to write it down, to catalogue it as the Truth, does it matter anyway?

Who am I? Who am I? He chants over and over, like a bored child. Until Half-His-Mind becomes petulant, and stops his annoying singsong. "There's who you were," Half-His-Mind reminds him. "And who you will become."

"And who was that? Who was I?" he whispers to himself. But there is no answer.

"Don't answer, see if I care," his voices thunders to the empty chamber. "Tell me instead: Who will I become?"

Someone laughs ironically. Someone weeps with grief. But since he is alone, mustn't it be him?

"You've been a witness for thousands of years. And now your moment has arrived. Hail, the new Father of Machines!"

Art by Jason Chan

But wait, perhaps it is not as clear as that. This isn't the old Phyrexia, united under the megalomaniacal banner of Yawgmoth, whose will coursed through his minions as if they were physical extensions of his awe-inspiring machinations.

This is New Phyrexia reborn of oil carried through the æther, brought here by the silver golem himself, and taking root deep into the abyss of his very own creation: Mirrodin.

"Thousands of years," the golem rumbles to the silence. "So much lost. Where else is my shadow festering? What other planes have become murderous hives in my wake?"

"You are the Father of Machines!" Half-His-Mind rages at its weaker self. "Every syllable you speak maneuvers us. Say the word and we will scour this ragged world of the unworthy. Listen now, a knock at the door. Today is the day, brother."

Indeed, a knock echoes through the chamber, and the golem lifts his weary eyes. It's only his head that moves now, and perhaps a finger. The rest of him has fused to his throne. The rest of him has become part of the core around him.

"Brothers like Urza and Mishra?" the golem storms at himself as the chamber door opens and his attendants file solemnly inside. "Urborg mires, you fool. There will be chasms of time, but I'm lost inside them!"

Art by Karl Kopinski

Beady eyes inside white porcelain faceplates survey him. Quills scratch against a malleable surface.

The head attendant steps forward. He's a creature with a name that sounded like shattering glass, but he's crafty, not mindless like some of the creatures skulking around the chamber. The mindless stayed in the light, at least. It was those who kept in the rim of shadows who were the true power players. Those were the ones to watch out for. They spoke with impeccable politeness while ordering their underlings to flay the skin from their enemies.

"Remember, this is Our throne," Half-His-Mind whispered to himself. "This is our machine. Perfect machine."

"My world was perfect before," the golem replied.

"You didn't know what perfect was then. We have transcended the boundary of mathematics."

"Step forward!" The golem yelled suddenly. No one moved. "You! Bring them in. All in."

"But, sir ... " the head attendant protested. "There will be fury at the injustice. Some have been waiting for days. We must observe protocol."

"Death. Killingbreathingragingdeath," the golem ranted.

The attendants consulted one another. "Yes, that would solve the problem," they agreed. "One head from each entourage will do it."

The attendants briskly arranged the slaughter to occur across the hall and ushered the waiting masters into the chamber—finally—for an audience with the silver golem.

Art by Igor Kieryluk

The two Phyrexians were lesser ranks, the subpriest of a Chancellor of Norn and an archivist for Thane Kraynox. They were not happy about seeing the golem together, as each had an agenda of their own.

"Thank you for seeing this humble servant. I bring you ill news," said the subpriest.

"We also have unfortunate news to bring you," said Kraynox's archivist.

"The Mirrans have sensed that something is amiss," Norn's subpriest warned. "They are organizing. This is no threat to the Great Ideal, of course, but our strategies might be altered if we do not act."

"Jin-Gitaxias does not believe in you," the archivist said bluntly. "He's not faithful like the Thanes who worship your blessed words. Worse still, there are reports of a strange being materializing in the midst of Geth's fortress."

"Redemption," the golem mused. "Expiation."

"We've learned that there are spies listening into your very throne room," the archivist continued. "Spies of Jin-Gitaxias monitoring everything that transpires within this room."

Art by Dan Scott

"Norn implores you to move on the surface now," said Norn's subpriest. "There is no better time to decapitate the bodies of heretics and lead them into the fold."

"Stop flagellating yourself," Half-His-Mind thought angrily to himself. "It is unbecoming for the Father! Make the decision and rid yourself of your pathetic shackles."

"Jin-Gitaxias does not believe in you," the archivist hissed. "He will spread lies among the praetors to put a false leader in your place. You are at risk, especially if you don't show decisive action."

"In this, Norn agrees," the subpriest said. "She serves you without question. But she can't wait any longer. Of course, the Mirrans are no threat against you, but it would be better to quash the unbelievers and harvest that which is useful."

"We are in rare accord," the archivist said. "We beg you, glorious one. Give us just one word!"

All the while his visitors were talking, the silver golem muttered to himself, words that meant nothing in any language. But when the archivist finished, the entire room fell silent, waiting for His response.

He peered skyward, glaring at all and none. His mouth opened and barked: "Offense!"

The Norn chancellor's subpriest and Kraynox's archivist glanced at each other with subtle surprise. Deep under Lumengrid, the spies monitoring the throne room clicked and twittered among themselves. Yes, they had all heard it. The order. Finally! The glorious war could begin!

Bowing and exiting as fast as they could, everyone hurried away to report the splendid news to their superiors. Soon the throne room was unexpectedly silent. And Karn sat alone, his mind splinted and unhinged, completely unaware of what he had unleashed upon the surface of his world.

"Offense," he whispered again. "I have committed the gravest offense."

Art by Daniel Ljunggren

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