Pattern Recognition #76 - The Story of Ravnica, Part 2
19 July 2018
19 July 2018
Hello everyone! I am berryjon, your resident Old Fogey . Welcome back to Pattern Recognition, Tappedout.net's most regular article series - barring the occasional week off for work or just because I'm out of energy. I endeavor to provide insightful, thought provoking and educational material for you all. Or at least a convenient target for all of you to aim your Electrostatic Bolt s at.
Ravnica's story is massive. It was also one of the last book series written by Wizards and published as paperbacks before they moved to the current style of short stories and web serials. This trilogy was written by Cory J. Herndon, whom oddly enough, doesn't have a Wikipedia page. By having a single author pen the whole trilogy you get consistent characterization and a certain degree of proper continuity between books. Not like some other times, where different authors were writing the same story at the same time and they portray the same events completely differently.
I'm looking at you, End-of-Ixalan-Jace and Dominaria-Jace.
Anyway, we next pick up our story in the novel "Guildpact". Twelve years after the ending of the previous novel, Agrus Kos, the most famous Boros Wojek in the history of Ravnica, has retired and is now working as a bouncer in the Utvara region in the emply of the Orzhov businessman and friend, Pivlic.
During one of his shifts, several members of the upper hierarchy of the Orzhov Church arrive at the bar. Leading them is Teysa, Orzhov Scion , who is carrying the body of the man she calls simply "Uncle". In order to keep Guild business inside the Guilds (and Teysa recognizes Agrus, but doesn't do anything about that yet), Agrus is sent home for the day.
One of the reasons why Agrus took up the job offer from the Mafia-Church is that in the Utvara region, there is a ... distortion in the sky that is called "The Schism". When the sun passes through it each day, for about five minutes, it refracts the whole of Ravnica's sky into one area - where Agrus Kos lives. You see, in the immediate aftermath of the previous novel, all the Boros Angels picked up, and left, leaving the leadership of the Boros in turmoil. Agrus didn't want to get involved in the politics of leadership, but he also wanted to find his friend - Feather - and knew that the Searching the skies through the Schism was the best way he could do it given his advanced age precluding a more direct search of Ravnica.
On occasion, a Kugamot would pass near the Schism. This was a smaller distortion in the sky, not like the Schism, but one that would fade in and out, coming and going. It was thought that it was related to the Schism, but no one could prove anything.
As for Tesya, after dealing with Uncle's body, she goes about the nature of her actual business in the Utvara region. As the Baroness of Utvara, Teysa has been levied with the responsibility to develop the region into a stronghold for the Church. As she soon discovers, there are two primary problems in her way of that goal. The first is that there is a persistent plague in the region, called the Kuga. No obvious relation to the Kugamot, but it does share the same colour, which meant that the people who name the plague simply used the first relevant descriptor they had to hand.
Uncle had, in some years prior, arranged for the Izzet facility in the area - called the Cauldron - to deploy a device that would kill off the Kuga, as well as those infected by it. This device was constructed by Zomaj Hauc, who still resides and works in the Cauldron. It failed when the project was sabotaged.
However, in the absence of a cleansing of the plague, the Selesnya have deployed a special tree in the major population centers called Vitar Yescu, which acts to keep the plague away, but cannot cure it.
Annoyed at the lack of resolution on either front, Teysa contracts a Simic Biomancer by the name of Nebun. The Vedalken will apply his skill to the plague, and be paid well for the cure as well as the prestige in doing what two other Guilds could not. And the Orzhov always pay their debts.
After doing some diplomacy with the Gruul, who present the second major problem given that they are opposed to any development of the region, Teysa returns to Nebun to inquire about some medicine for her latent narcolepsy, and what progress has been made on the Kuga cure.
Nebun reveals that he had the cure all along. He made it years ago, and was just waiting for someone to ask him for it. On the spot, Teysa buys it after having its effectiveness proven. She doesn't like what Nebun did, but she does respect it.
As for her narcoleptic states, Nebun diagnoses them as not being narcolepsy at all, but some form of enchantment which he cannot remove.
Meanwhile, at the request of Pivlic, Agrus has been investigating leads for the Orzhov's deals with the Gruul. During one of these excursions, he aids Teysa is recovering Crix, an Izzet messenger who held important information for Zomaj Huac. The rescue is successful, but they are chased by Zombie-Gruul, which is most decidedly not a thing that the Gruul would approve of.
Concerned about the enchantment on her, Teysa takes her case to the Ghost Council of Orzhova , the leaders of the Guild. Yes, that's right. The leaders of the Church of Money are the spirits of the deceased who have not passed on to what constitutes the afterlife. They still rule.
They tell Teysa that if she swears loyalty to them, they would be required to inform her of the nature of said enchantment. She does so, and is told that the enchantment was one laid upon her by Melisk, the assistant of her Uncle, for his benefit and to use her to act in his stead, including the murder of Uncle (who has, unknown to her, joined the Ghost Council). They have also struck a deal with Niv-Mizzet to deal with the Schism - for reasons they don't yet explain to her, but were using her to complete their end of the bargain.
Teysa, as one might guess, is pissed, and swears to kill Melisk and quickly breaks her oath to the Council, knowing that this might have been needed.
Crix, Agrus, and a few Gruul infiltrate the Cauldron on the worries of Crix. There, they discover the plans of Hauc, and it's not pretty.
During the excavation of the Cauldron, Magelord Hauc discovered three Dragon eggs. Given that the only actual Dragon with a name that isn't a Dragon by dint of similar biology is Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind , Parun of the Guild that bears his name and his face as their sigil, this could turn ugly. However, the eggs cannot hatch, and so Hauc's deal with the Orzhov is two-fold.
The Schism in the sky over Utvara sucks in ghosts and spirits of any form - which naturally frightens the undead leadership of the Mafia of Deals. By using their resources to augment his Izzet resources, Hauc plans to drain the ectoplasm from the Schism, closing it off and using it to power the devices he needs to hatch the eggs and imprinting his own control magic on their minds.
At the end, he plans to kill his Parun with three Dragons to his one. And the last piece he needs is the message written into Crix's metal arm.
Teysa returns to Utava, and rallies the people against the Cauldron. She administers the cure and distributes it as much as she can over the objections of the Selesnyan representatives. Gathering an impromptu army compused mostly of Gruul, but also of the Guildless and individuals from other Guilds, she marches on the Cauldron. On the way, she is intercepted by Melisk and the undead Gruul - whom it turns out, are ghosts who found they could enter the region inside dead bodies and acted as assassins for him.
Being higher in the Orzhov than Melisk now, Teysa orders the ghost-assassins to kill Melisk and join her attack on the Cauldron, which they do.
Inside the Cauldron though, Agrus, Crix, Pivlic and their Gruul allies are damaging and destroying what they can, hoping to stop or stall the awakening Dragons. However, Hauc isn't an idiot, and has enough redundancy built into the system that the damage isn't fatal at any point.
Then Teysa kicks in the front door (not literally), and gives her Gruul escorts the one order she knows they will follow without hesitation.
All the named protagonists meet up and compare notes. Teysa deduces that the young dragons will need to breath Kuga in order to sustain themselves, and that Hauc has been deliberately releasing it to prepare for the Dragon's births. Once they destroy the source of the plague, the Selesnya trees can filter the air, and the Simic cure can be applied to people directly, all to deny the unborn Dragons their need.
One Dragon Egg is crushed when the Gruul bring down part of the Cauldron on it. The second is hatched, and Hauc uses the spell written on Crix to mentally take control of it. He aims to burn down the Selesnya trees, knowing that by the time more are grown it will be too late, and the Dragons will no longer require the plague to grow.
Teysa, having memorized the spell used, uses it on the last dragon, and takes off after Hauc. She's not about to let anyone ruin her property. Agrus, Crix and Pivlic follow as best they can in one of the Cauldron's observation spheres, leaving the Gruul to take care of the rest.
Huac confronts Teysa in the skies of Utvara, and the two fight. The Izzet schemer damages the observation sphere with Kos and the others in it, sending it crashing. However, this distraction was enough for Teysa to gain the upper hand, and send him flying into a cliff-face, killing him instantly. Now feral, the dragon attacks Teysa's mount, and she releases it, allowing the two to kill each other.
The Observation sphere hits the ground, hard. Crix is only lightly injured, and takes a healing drop from Kos to use on Pivlic first. However, Kos is mortally wounded, impaled through the torso. Crix uses the last of the healing drop to try and heal Kos, but after a lifetime of using the Drops, he can take no more.
He looks up at the sky, and sees Feather come screaming out of the Kugamot, far, far too late to rescue her only friend. Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran dies of mana shock from the healing.
His funeral is solemn, and private, with Crix, Teysa and Feather as his pallbearers.
The Dissension novel picks up almost immediately after.
In the ruins of the Cauldron, a Dimir agent is tasked with extracting the cranial fluid of one of the dead dragons, and succeeds. However, during this, the Dimir Infiltrator observes that bodies of the dragons are being devoured by creatures not seen since before the Guildpact. The Nephilim
Fonn, having joined the Wojek part time after the death of Agrus, and the Selesnyan Ledev Knights is investigating a murder in Old Ravnica, the original city from which the name of the world/plade came from. The deceased was killed by Rats, which is a bad sign as it is taken as an omen that Rakdos the Defiler may be waking up, bringing the Kill-Guild to the foreground again. She laments the death of a Birds of Paradise the victim had, knowing that it is extremely rare.
Fonn then goes to her ex-husband, Jarad, to take their son out training with the Ledev scouts to better learn the terrain of Ravnica. However, during this excursion, the group is attacked, and Fonn survives, but finds her son missing.
Teysa comes back to the plot here. She has been summoned the Azorious Leaguehall at the request by one of the inmates to be her advocate at their trial. Surprised that someone would do such a thing, she attends if only to learn who would dare try this before throwing them to the Azorious for their just punishment.
Her client is Feather, arrested and charged with cowardice, dereliction of duty and the murder of Razia, Parun of the Boros. Teysa takes the case.
Back in Utvara, Niv-Mizzet arrives to investigate the Cauldron and the dead dragons in person. Given that this is the first time he has left the Izzet guildhall in over two-thousand years, this is seen as a pretty important event. He kills two of the Nephilim before quitting the field with minor injuries claiming "boredom", which causes Crix - now Crixizix - to lose faith in her guild.
Unaware of his missing son, Jarad is approached by a Simic Biomancer, Otrovac, who attempts to sell the guild leader on the Cytoplasts that the Simic are offering, stating that they would make all who bore them more powerful. Jarad declines, not trusting the presentation and finding the whole thing fishy.
Feather is taken to court for her trial, escorted by Teysa. The Azorious maintain an honor guard of ghosts of the greatest heroes of Ravnica, and their newest member, despite being quite dead, recalls working with Feather during their life, and worries.
In the skies of Ravnica, one of the Boros Skyknight Legionnaire s spots the flying fortress of the Boros Angels - the Parhelion - and sends word that it is on a collision course with Prahv, Spires of Order , where Feather's trial is taking place. The Skyknight - Wenslauv - boards the fortress to try and fix that, but all she finds are dead angels.
The Dimir agents who took the deal for the dragon's body fluids are expressing some quite valid concerns over the contract. The most important one being that the fluids were sold to Lyzolda, the Blood Witch , the acting head of the Rakdos Guild while their Parun sleeps. They go to meet with their contractor to make sure that everything is on the up and up - well as much as can be done with anything involving the Dimir - under the guise of making sure there are no loose ends. Their contact is the head of the Simic Guild, Momir Vig, Simic Visionary , who assures them that his partners by the names of Szadek and Savra are well aware of what is going on and everything is under control.
Feather takes the stand and is immediately given the most important question. Where did all the angels go? After all, it's hard to prove that someone was murdered if you don't even know if they're dead or not.
Feather reveals that in ages before the Guildpact, powerful beings (implied to be Planeswalkers) visited Ravnica with some regularity, but sometime after the Pact was signed, these visits stopped. One of the long term projects of the Boros was to investigate why this happened, and the Parhelion was Razia's attempt to determine where these visitors came from and go there. They discovered that Ravnica was sealed off from the outside multiverse, but they could observe it to a limited extent. The seal wasn't perfect, the angels discovered that there was a 'fold' in the seal around Ravnica, called Agyrem. It was where Ghosts went when they passed on and were not trapped by the Azorious or the Orzhov. The Schism over Utvara held the entrance to this place in one location - the Kugamot.
She relates that upon entering this place, the Angels were attacked by a ghost army led by Szadek himself, having been executed on the order of Grand Arbiter Augustin IV , the leader of the Azorious after a secret and expedited trial.
Feather watched as Szadek murdered Razia with her own sword before fleeing and seeking a way out of the Schism to warn the rest of Ravnica of the growing threat.
In response, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV suspends the trial and begins to invoke extreme measures. First, he pulled Agrus Kos' spirit off guard duty, and placed him in the body of one Obez Murzeddi, an Azorious Ghost Channeler whose primary task before this was to interview the deceased for evidence of crimes and present them to the Lawmages of Azor. The Grand Arbiter tells Agrus that Szadek has escaped captivity (though neglects his own part in it), and charges him with capturing the Dimir Parun.
Here is where the fact that Kos broke the Guildpact is explained and laid out. Not only were the Dimir written silently into the Guildpact as participants, they were also given an important task. The Dimir were to try and break the Pact in order to strengthen it, to find loopholes, and exploit them so that the Azorious could close them. Much in the same way that the Rakdos participated to create chaos so that the Guildpact could respond with order.
During the Decamillenia Celebration, Szadek deliberately let down his guard to Kos so that the Wojek could arrest him and prevent him from fulfilling his duties to the Guildpact. In doing so, Kos created a form of magical Paradox where he had to arrest Szadek in order to prevent the Guildpact from being destroyed, but in performing the arrest, he had to break the Guildpact.
Now, the Guildpact still exists. It's been broken, but not destroyed. It can still be repaired, but not if Szadek is on the loose. And Kos is the only one who can do this, as when Szadek let himself be arrested, he inadvertently gave Kos power over him, which would allow him to be arrested and contained again. The beating with the Boros Signet didn't hurt anything either.
On the Parhelion, Skyjek Wenslauv finds Razia, alive but wounded. They try to right the slowly-falling fortress ship, but fail, and it crashes into Prahv.
Meanwhile, Teysa, still reeling from the revelations about the Guildpact, is informed by Pivlic that the Utava region is destroyed by the remaining Nephilim, who are heading for the seats of Ravnican power as an unstoppable force.
Jarad, having found out about the kidnapping, works with Fonn and the Ledev scouts to track his son. He finds that the boy, Myc, has been taken to Lyzolda in the area of Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace , where Rakdos sleeps, but stirs. He discovers that the Blood-Witch is attempting to gain control over the Rakdos Demon-Parun, and the spell required the brain-fluid of a dragon and the blood of a Guildmaster - and Myc is close enough for her.
The ritual is interrupted, and Lyzoda escapes. However, Rakdos wakes, and finds his mind is being shared by Myc. The Demon decides killing the boy isn't worth the trouble it could cause, and instead decides to take him along for some fun time until this is sorted out.
Said "fun" involves doing his best Godzilla impression on Ravncia. Rakdos encounters one of the Nephilim, and kills it, leaving only two. He then turns his attention to Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree , home of the Selesnya and makes to destroy it.
Feather and Teysa board the crashed Perhilion to investigate while the Grand Arbiter calls the Senate of Azor to order in the undamaged parts of the building. Kos in Obez's body (which is finds to be woefully out of shape) and Pivlic at Teysa's command, head for Novijen, Heart of Progress , where Szadek is supposed to be contained.
Infiltrating the capital of the Simic, Kos switches bodies to a "virusoid" to better blend in. Leaving the other two behind. He breaks his cover by accident in the presence of Momir Vig, who correctly deduces that the Haunted Virusoid is an agent of the Azorious. Vig, quite mad at this point, delivers more exposition.
He was working on the Experiment Kraj , a creature that would gain the power of every other being on Ravnica that has one of the Simic Cytoplasts. To complete his work, he needed the dragon's cerebral fluid, and convinced Lyzoda that she would need some too for her plans, but in reality it was to make sure that Rakdos woke up on his schedule. Rakdos would go on a rampage, and the Kraj would defeat Rakdos, establishing the Simic as the most powerful Guild on Ravnica. He then throws Kos out a window, watching as the Virusoid is destroyed on impact. No sense in assuming a death after all.
However, in the room was the body of Savra. After her death at the hands of Szadek, the vampire left her for the use of Svogthir, the Parun of the Golgari to use to reclaim his throne after being disposed of by the Sisters of Stone Death . A powerful Elf Lich, Svogthir allied with Momir to activate the Kraj, knowing that he would benefit greatly from the death the battle between the Kraj and Rakdos would cause.
Agrus Kos, having abandoned the virusoid body before Momir Vig defenestrated it, jumped into Savra's body. There, he came into mental conflict with the mind of the Golgari Parun, and having lost all patience with everyone and their plans, Kos subdued the dead Elf's mind.
Unable to stop the activation of the Kraj, Kos-in-Savra waits for the right time, then kills Momir Vig, turning the Kraj feral and unable to use all the powers granted to it by the cytoplasts intelligently. The Kraj starts it rampage by destroying Novijen, and Kos retreats back to Obez and the three of them run like hell.
The Kraj eventually gets to the surface, and kills a Nephilim.
Jarad catches up to Lyzoda, and is killed by the Blood-Witch in order to free his son from the madness of Rakdos. However, being a necromancer himself, he possesses his own body shortly after.
Fonn and her scouts encounter and slay another Nephilim, the last one. She then encounters her son, who fled from Rakdos once the mind-link was severed. Arriving at the same time is Pivlic and Obez/Kos, who saw people who weren't hostile to everyone else and decided to join up.
Feather arrives, and tells Kos that he is needed back at Prahv to give information to the Senate. Kos figured as much given that he just killed a Guildmaster, and heads there.
On the Parhelion, Feather discovered the body of Razia was one of Szadek's shapeshifters. No, this isn't a plothole. The shapeshifters have been seen throughout the novel, and were introduced back in the first book.
In a battle that would make Godzilla nod in approval, Rakdos and the Kraj begin fighting, each drawn to the other thanks to the dragon fluid in them. The Kraj eventually engulfs the demon, sending him into a coma, but the Kraj itself becomes inert in the process.
Lyzoda, being linked with Rakdos at the time, collapses from the shock, and is devoured alive by the mad cultists around her who want part of that power for themselves.
At the Senate, despite, you know, the crashed fortress right over there, the Grand Arbiter points to everything that has happened this day, and asks the Senate to grant him the power to declare Martial Law until the crisis has passed. Senator Amidala from Naboo watches in horror as Democracy dies, not with a whimper, but with a standing ovation.
No. Wait. Wrong story. Let me check... Dissension was published in May 2006, and Attack of the Clones, where Palpatine does the exact same damned thing to become Emperor was released in ... May 2002.
Eh, not the first time Magic has stolen ideas from Star Wars. Gerrard Capashen is based on Han Solo!
Anyway, the Grand Arbiter finds that the lone voice of Dissension (hah!) is Agrus Kos. The Feather that brought him there was in fact, one of Szadek's shapeshifters, whom he killed.
Obez, at some point, realizes that he doesn't compare at all physically to the ghost of a Boros Wojek who lived to be over a hundred, and resolves to get in shape should he survive the madness around him.
Augustin then delivers the second rant that Agrus has heard in the past hour or so. He proclaims that everything that has happened has occurred to his design. That Kos really did break the Guildpact by arresting Szadek, and that Augustin helped things along by killing Szadek without a proper trial, capturing his ghost and sending him to Agyrem to deal with Razia, who might object to him getting all the power. Kos served his part well, even exceeding expectations when he killed Momir Vig.
Now, Augustin would remake Ravnica in the image of Azor, one of pure law and order.
Kos bravely runs away, heading for the Parhelion crash site. He has the idea to overload the engines of the fortress, detonating them and destroying Prahv and Augustin with it. Pilvic doesn't like this plan, but goes along with it. Obez also expresses sanity, and does his best to keep up with the demands of Agrus' spirit.
As part of their sabotage, they make their way to the control room where they find Feather, Teysa and Wenslauv (who isn't a shapeshifter to everyone's surprise) defending themselves from the Razia-shapeshifter and Szadek's ghost.
Kos ambushes the ghost, capturing him in a Grounder, a device designed to contain errant energy temporarily, giving Feather and Teysa the chance to destroy the false Razia.
Finishing the sabotage, Wenslauv takes the lead to begin evacuating the civilians from the area with Feather's help. While running away and getting the innocent to safety, Kos and Obez spot Augustin trying to leave Prahv. However, they throw the grounder at him, which releases Szadek. The two go at it while the protagonists run away.
Szadek wins, ripping the soul out of the Grand Arbiter and devouring it. Then the Parhelion explodes, taking him and Prahv out, leaving behind a large crater in which nothing remained.
In the epilogue, Myc chooses to honor his father and joins the Golgari as a hunter. his mother is proud of him.
Teysa and Pivlic return to Utvara, where they are greeted by Crixizix and the three begin to plot the rebuilding of the region after the devastation of the Nephilim.
Feather, along with Isperia the Inscrutable , now Guildmaster of the Azorious, bring the spirit of Kos back to Ravnica. They explain that with the closing of the Schism due to Hauc no longer making it worse, Agyrem has rejoined Ravnica properly, and they offer the deceased Wojek the chance to become the new Boros Commander for Ravnica's Ghost Quarter , to keep doing in death what he loved in life.
And Teysa Orzhov, in her home in Utvara, begins to write a new Guildpact. One to replace the destroyed document.
Join me next time when I relate the small side-stories that happen on Ravnica before the Return to Ravnica block. Fucking Jace has to get involved, doesn't he? Oh well, the good times couldn't last forever.
Until then, please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!
I just have to say that I really have enjoyed these last two "crash course" style lore articles. I know you sprinkle a bit of that into the usual ones, which is great, but I do hope you consider doing more like these.
July 20, 2018 3:07 p.m.
The Ravnica "Crash Course" is something that I felt was needed given that there's already been two blocks set on the plane, and not everyone has my advantage of first-hand experience. ;)
Also, today is "Break the MTG Arena Day"! See if you can encounter me there, as I'll be doing my part.