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The Brothers' War - Magic: The Gathering

The Brothers' War - Magic: The Gathering

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Published by Selenia du Crovax
First Book of the Artifact Cycle, Magic: The Gathering universe. Author: Jeff Grubb.
First Book of the Artifact Cycle, Magic: The Gathering universe. Author: Jeff Grubb.

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Published by: Selenia du Crovax on Jan 15, 2009
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10/04/2015

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URZA'S MITER

"How can you stand these collars?" asked Tawnos,
tugging at the starched fabric around his neck.
"I can't," replied Urza. "When I was a child, I hated any
ceremony that forced me to dress up. I think it's one reason
religion fell out of favor among the nobility: it was too
uncomfortable to dress for."
Both men wore stiff cotton shirts with even stiffer
woolen jackets accompanied by heavy woolen pants. Each
garment was ironed with knife-edge folds. Leather boots,
new and shined to an incandescent glow, were equally
unwieldy. To Tawnos they felt more like lead weights than
footwear. The ceremonial gear was mandated by the most
august of ceremonies in which they were about to take part.
Tawnos wondered if they could just send the outfits and
stay home themselves.
Reflecting, Tawnos thought the pair had gotten off
lucky. There were costumes and ceremonial uniforms
among the gentry that reminded him of a ship under full
sail, so festooned were they with ribbons, banners, and
medals. But Argive had never had a Lord High Artificer
and Protector of the Realms before, nor a Master Scholar.
As a result both men were shielded from the worst of past
pageantry.

Tawnos had always heard the Argivians were a dour,
serious people. Even the way they treated such a
celebration was further proof, he thought. Never had he

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379

seen so many people dead set on enjoying themselves.
They were single-minded—even grim—in their pursuit of
pleasure. The past month had shown that beyond a doubt.
There had been celebrations beyond measure in Penregon.
First a royal wedding between the young crown prince of
Argive and the granddaughter of the redoubtable lord of
Korlis. Then the official notice of abdication of the
venerable (if weak) Argivian king in favor of the crown
prince and his new bride. Then there was the official
recognition of the combined kingdoms of Argive and
Korlis (though Korlis was effectively subsumed politically
into Argive). And now came the final act: recognition of
Urza as Lord High Artificer and Protector of the Realm of
the combined kingdoms.
The nobles of Argive were behind it all. They had been
feuding with their crown for years. The king (now referred
to as the Old King) advocated a policy of containment and
appeasement of the desert tribes. That policy had been
destroyed with Kroog, along with whatever power the king
still held. The nobles were behind the royal marriage, along
with the merchants of Korlis. They were no doubt
instrumental as well in convincing the Argivian king to
relinquish his crown. Tawnos knew for a fact that the
nobles had pressed Urza to accept the scepter and miter of
the Lord Protector of the Realms.
What Tawnos did not understand is why Urza had
accepted the position. When Tawnos put the question to
him, the artificer offered a weak excuse; at least it seemed
weak to Tawnos.

"In Yotia," said Urza, "the warlord let me build my
devices, but I had little control over their use and never
sufficient resources to develop them properly, even as Chief
Artificer. Now, as Lord Protector, I can control the use of
my devices and will have full access to sufficient resources."

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380

"I'm not sure about the nature of that control," returned
Tawnos. "From what I've seen, even leaders are driven by
events and situations beyond their control. That includes
the will of the masses. Already there are those who call to
retake Yotia."

"That may well yet happen," said Urza, "but it will
occur with a mechanized force, one filled with avengers,
mechanical soldiers, and the new sentinels we're
designing."

"It may happen before we have a chance to finish the
work," said Tawnos. "In fact this new position may bring
you under new pressure to launch an attack."
Urza ground his palms together slowly. At last he
shrugged. "You may be right, my former student."
"Then why accept the miter and scepter?" demanded

Tawnos.

"I have another reason," said Urza, and closed his

mouth firmly.

Tawnos wanted to press Urza about what such a reason
could be, when the door to the room flew open. A small
metal bird fluttered into the room, chased by young
Harbin. The seven year old laughed and lunged at the
small bird, which dodged his blows effortlessly and circled
the room.

Tawnos whistled a short tune, and the bird came to rest
on the mantelpiece. The boy also quieted immediately,
suddenly aware of the others in the room. "Uncle Tawnos,"
he said with a smile. Then his face turned stern. "Father,
I'm sorry for interrupting."
Urza smiled gently and said, "No interruption." He
looked at the bird. "One of yours?" he asked Tawnos.
Tawnos shrugged. "A small distraction, using some of
the ideas we've been working with. It avoids the boy's
blows because it detects the air moving in front of his
hands, much as an insect would. He can catch it if he

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381

moves slowly, but I have never seen a young boy who had
that much patience."
Urza nodded. "Yotians may have many souls, but at
your core you are still a toy maker."
Lady Kayla, Queen-in-Exile of Yotia, had entered
behind the boy, while a servant carrying her cloak
remained outside. "Harbin! You know better than to
disturb your father and Tawnos!"
Urza allowed himself another gentle smile and said
again, "No interruption. On a day like this, it would be
hard to get any real work done anyway. Come in, and let us
toast our good fortune."
Tawnos turned to pick up an oversized "elephant"
bottle of red wine, a gift of the nobles. The Argivians liked
their wines bloodred and furniture-polish bitter. Urza
fetched two goblets, one for each of the other adults, and
his own chalice. The last had been Urza's own handiwork.
He had converted the central pump that had worked the
last of Tocasia's onulets, a beast now as mythological in
Argive as minotaurs and rocs.
Tawnos poured a small amount for himself and for
Kayla and a more generous helping for Urza.
Urza raised his chalice in a toast. "We have passed
through fire over the past few years, and that has tempered
us. Now the fires grow hotter still, but we are stronger, and
we are proof against the flame. To Argive and Korlis!"
"To the memory of Yotia!" said Kayla.
"To the new Lord High Artificer and Lord Protector of
the Realms!" said Tawnos.
"To the new Chief Scholar!" replied Urza, and metal
clanked between them. Urza drained his cup and said, "We
had best be moving along. If we are late, the Argivians will
make being late part of every ceremony from here until
doomsday!"

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382

Urza started for the door, then paused. He whistled a
small tune, identical to the one Tawnos had used minutes
before. The mechanical bird unfurled its wings and sailed
off the mantelpiece. Harbin swatted at it but missed, and
the bird fluttered around the room, dodging the young
boy's best-aimed shots.

* * * * *

The ceremony itself was typical of all Argivian
ceremonies: long-winded and stifling. Tawnos had thought
he would not survive the wedding earlier in the month, but
this was infinitely worse, for he and Urza were at the center
of the activity. There was no chance to sneak out when
you were on the podium with all eyes on you.
The Great Hall had once been a cathedral to a god now
forgotten and out of fashion. It was packed with all manner
of Argivian nobles, clad in finery that swelled their forms
to twice their size. In addition the incense used in the hall
was overwhelmed by the clashing odors of perfume worn by
the Argivian women (and some of the men). Tawnos
wondered if he could afford to sneeze in his tight outfit,
and his eyes watered.
The Argivians bothered Tawnos, and the nobles worst
of all. Owing to the former apprentice's Yotian origin, most
tended to treat him like some rustic relative. He always felt
he was out of place in Kroog, a boy from the coastal
provinces in the big city. At least, though, in Kroog he was
among Yotians. Many of the Argivians seemed to assume
that all Yotians had trouble with the language. They spoke
slowly and loudly to him.
Worse still were those Argivians who acted as if he
were still no more than Urza's apprentice. Occasionally
they did not address him at all in the Lord High Artificer's
presence, as if he were no more than a hanger-on, a

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383

dogsbody, a servant to Urza. Even when the artificer made
sure to mention Tawnos's inventions, such as the
triskelion, a mobile fortification, the eyes of the nobles
glazed over and Tawnos could almost hear their ears
clicking off.

No, thought Tawnos, worst of all were the stiff collars.
He reached for his but halted his fingers in time. It would
be just like a rural bumpkin to pull at his neckline in the
middle of a ceremony.
The ritual was interminable. There was a presentation
of honors; a recognition of foreign delegations; a
recognition of important nobles that was effectively a roll-
call for the entire cathedral; a platitude by the
Chamberlain of Argive that was longer than most sermons.
This was followed by a listing of good things that had
happened of late, which were (truly or otherwise) ascribed
to the efforts of Urza and his faithful assistant, Tawnos.
The tawny-haired man's position on the podium gave
him a chance to sweep the crowd with his eyes and pick
out faces. Kayla and Harbin in the front row. She seemed
nearly wilted in her gown but was still game, while the boy
had surrendered to boredom a half-hour back and was now
kicking the sides of the pew in a desultory fashion. The
apprentices were led by Richlau the schoolmaster, the
senior students Rendall and Sanwell at his side. Sharaman
was in full military harness and looking almost comfortable
in his dress uniform.
There were others: Argivian noblewomen in full
regalia, and young courtiers vying with them for flashiness.
Korlisian merchant lords, more restrained, but still
bedecked in the most sumptuous of fashions. There were
dwarven diplomats from the Sardian Mountains, a dour
group of diminutive people who made the Argivians look
positively festive and the Korlisians evenhanded. Their
mountains held much of the resources that Urza needed,

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384

but they were willing to trade their metals and stones for
gold, which Urza considered a minor metal of little real
value in the battlefield.
There were Yotians present, dressed colorfully but
simply. They were refugees who had fled to Argive after the
fall and represented some of the most powerful families in
the region, yet next to the Argivians they seemed like poor
relations.

There were also others of whose identity Tawnos was
unsure. There were a band of fur-wearing barbarians from
Malpiri, and a group of priests, black-robed savants with
mechanical devices hung around their necks. Gixians,
Tawnos reminded himself, from a monastery far to the
northwest. Urza had received an offer from them to aid in
his studies, but Tawnos found them too fanatical in their
devotion to the machines themselves. They treated even
the ornithopters as if they were living creatures. It made
Tawnos nervous, and he avoided them, as did most of the
rest of the populace, who had no time for gods of any
stripe.

The chamberlain's invocation ground to a close, and he
was replaced by the lord of Korlis, whose voice was slightly
more pleasant but who seemed intent on showing everyone
that her nation could be just as long-winded as the
Argivians. She spoke of the recent events, of the erecting
of the defensive towers along the borders of both Korlis and
Argive, and of the continual ornithopter patrols that kept
them safe from the Fallaji devils.
It was more than just Urza's devices that kept them safe
for the moment, Tawnos thought. Word had reached
Penregon that Mishra had plundered most of Yotia and
drained Zegon as well, and was looking for new supply
sources. Apparently the attempts to fold Sarinth far to the
west into the Fallaji empire had not gone well, and a huge
force had settled there to besiege the principal cities.

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385

Instead of gaining needed resources, Mishra had succeeded
in opening another front. Should he continue in this
fashion, Urza's brother would soon surround himself with
enemies.

Of course the situation was not lost on the Argivian
nobles, nor on the Korlisian merchants who wanted to
reopen their precious trade routes. Now was the time, they
said, to press the advantage. Now was the time to retake
Yotia. Now was the time to put Mishra in his place.
Urza had surprised Tawnos with his response to the
noble demands. In Yotia he retreated to his orniary and let
others do the talking and planning. Now he met with the
nobles and the merchant lords whenever possible and
never shirked from showing them some new device or
implementation. They, in turn, had opened their vaults to
him, allowing him access to power stones, land, and other
resources needed to build.
Tawnos thought he knew Urza's plan. The artificer
would continue to build his avengers, ornithopters,
sentinels, and soldiers until he had more than any dragon
engine could best. Only then would he move against his
brother.

Tawnos hoped Urza would have time to carry out his
plan. Given the enthusiasm of the Argivians and the greed
of the Korlisians, he was not sure.
The lord of Korlis finally surrendered the podium, and
his young majesty presented the titles. Urza knelt (a feat in
itself, considering the stiffness of his costume), and the
young king placed the Lord High Artificer's mitre on Urza's
head. Then he laid the scepter of the Protector of the
Realms in Urza's hands. The crowd burst into applause as
Urza rose and recognized their cheers.
They were quieter for Tawnos, but only slightly. He
received the heavy velvet robes (lengthened to cover his
large frame) of the Chief Scholar. He knelt as well, and the

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386

king placed a golden circlet on his head. Even kneeling,
Tawnos was almost as tall as the king and had to bow
forward to prevent the Argivian from having to reach up.
Then the benediction, and Tawnos swore he saw the
entire audience shudder to a man as the chamberlain
remounted the podium and launched into a rousing screed
against the Fallaji devils. That was what was missing,
Tawnos thought. There were no Fallaji present, at least
none who would announce their heritage. The
chamberlain declared Urza to be Lord Protector of all the
lands not held by the Fallaji and their allies.
In other words, all lands not under the rulership of

Mishra.

Finally the ceremony was over, and the people filed out
for a ceremonial banquet, which would be dominated by
even more lengthy speeches. Every merchant and noble
with at least some claim to the title would rise and deliver
his own thoughts on the matter.
Tawnos couldn't wait.
Back in his chambers Urza smiled and pulled the miter
from his head. It was a heavy thing, and Tawnos had
wondered if the older man would fall over from the weight.
Urza hefted the miter, clearly delighted. Finally Tawnos
said, "I've never seen you this cheerful when the people
praised you in Kroog. Is it the fact that they are your own
countrymen that makes you smile?"
Urza looked up, puzzled for moment. Then he smiled
broadly. "You think that is it? That I have become a vain
old popinjay, thriving on the adulation of the crowds? Look
into my new hat, my former student, and see the truth of
the matter."

Tawnos moved over and looked over the brim of the
upturned miter. Gemstones were sewn into the lining of
the tall hat. That was why it was so heavy.

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387

No, not gemstones, Tawnos realized. Power stones, pure
and un-flawed. There were more than had been in the
chest Urza had shown him five years ago.
Tawnos looked at Urza, and the Lord Protector beamed
a warm smile. That was why he had put up with all the
pomp and trappings of the ceremony, the Chief Scholar
realized. That was why he had endured the speeches and
courted the nobles and why, while claiming modesty, had
accepted the post of Lord High Artificer.
All to gain more power. All to gain more resources.
Urza left the miter in Tawnos's hands and went to fetch
his chalice before the pair left for the interminable
banquet. Tawnos shook his head. His former master had
not changed at all. His devices were still at the center of
his universe.

Tawnos did not know if that knowledge made him feel

better or worse.

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388

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