Shadowmoor Nights, Part II

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2008 by Dr. Magic Cards
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Posted in best of, mtg

Continued from Part I

Sid untapped to find himself tied to a dolmen. He looked over to see an enormous foot, which he recognized as belonging to Hugo Rhodes, the giant who’d murdered his secretary. As he struggled, he heard a voice, high above him, laughing.

*****

As far as Sid could tell, the only reason Hugo hadn’t yet removed him from the game was that the giant enjoyed watching him struggle. Hugo had protection and, with it, the luxury of slow-rolling the win; there was nothing Sid could do about it. With that realization, Sid relaxed and awaited his fate.

Being a red creature, Sid had never given the removed-from-game zone much thought. He’d always known, in the abstract, that every creature ends up on the Farm sooner or later, but when the world got ugly, he’d have a drink, tap some red, and swing. Even when Ingrid took lethal, Sid didn’t stop to mourn: he went after those responsible, and, after the favor of the mighty foiled his quest for justice, the bottle gave him protection from reality. Now that Sid had the time to consider his situation, he realized that he wasn’t afraid. Faced with his imminent death, the undying rage that had driven him to revenge and then frustration began to seem like service to a fallen ideal, a mistake he was quite ready to correct if only he could find some kind of way out of this. Something within his nature was changing; he felt a new, darker sense of purpose, but, still at Hugo’s mercy, there was little he could do but stare into the distance.

He considered his position. He was tied to a dolmen in the middle of what seemed to be a large swamp. Though the giant’s lands were tapped, Hugo was holding enough cards to burn Sid out as early as next turn, when the mountains would untap. His hands tied, all Sid had were his wits. Far off, Sid could make out a large scarecrow carrying vats of acid for its kithkin masters. Overhead, a large group of faerie tokens was harassing some elementals. The giant’s rumbling laughter was coming to an end, and Sid knew that this turn would be his last unless he could act. Suddenly, Sid realized that he had the means to defeat Hugo right now!

Sid swore at the giant, in the most vulgar language he could muster, instructing the giant to perform a number of anatomically improbable acts on himself. Unable to make out the words, Hugo bent down, sizing Sid up with eyes nearly as tall as the flamekin. Sid repeated his curse, which elicited a gale of laughter that nearly toppled the dolmen, only to stop abruptly as Hugo’s expression shifted from amusement to confusion to anger.

Alarmed, the giant looked up: one of the elementals had died, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries, only to be replaced by another elemental and a body double of the first elemental, who promptly committed suicide after first killing one of the faeries. In short, nothing was happening up there.

Then he looked over to the kithkin and their scarecrow. Howling with rage, he flung the nearest cow at them, but the giant’s ire had no effect: the huge scarecrow, an even more expensive play than Hugo Rhodes himself, had gained protection from all colors. Losing that same protection meant that he’d become vulnerable, allowing Sid’s profane command to reduce him to zero toughness.

“What a sack,” roared the giant, turning back to Sid. “Obviously you would get that! Obviously. Obviously. What was that, your only out? So of course, I leave myself open for one turn, and you have the one card, the one card in the whole format that would turn things around for you. Better lucky than good, I guess. Ugh, oh my God!”

His whining finished, Hugo stood still, in defiance of his looming defeat, for exactly ten minutes. Then he died, and Ingrid returned from the graveyard to play. After her summoning sickness wore off, she freed Sid. Together, they began their long trek back to the city.

*****

The flamekin detective and his kithkin secretary made the trip in silence. By the time they reached Sid’s building, it was already the first main phase, and Philip Barksdale, Sr., the stooped-over old treefolk who served as the building’s doorman, was there to let them in.

“This place has changed,” Ingrid said as they returned to Sid’s office. “You’ve changed.” She glanced around the room, which had suffered in her absence. She looked at Sid with concern. “How long have I been gone?”

Sid lit up a cigar without answering her. Between long drags, Sid related the news since her untimely and unexpectedly temporary death. Ingrid shook her head as he related the ruse in which Larissa de Feuilledor, the elvish femme fatale, and Conrad Finn, the merrow Mafioso, had ensnared him.

“I had been on my way back to this office to warn you. I was looking into some records on the Oakenfold case, trying to identify the boggarts responsible for destroying Mr. Oakenfold’s forest. Apparently, they had a record; they had also been involved in arson, setting fire to some scarecrows. It was a dead end, though: the whole crew had been sacrificed, so there was nobody left to pin it on. But what caught my attention was a missing page, which should have described the sale of a forest to an unknown buyer. That led me to Hugo Rhodes. According to my source, Rhodes acted as an intermediary in the sale of the forest to Conrad Finn. That made me even more curious: why would a merrow be interested in a forest? Clearly, Finn used Rhodes, who was red and green, so as not to arouse suspicion about the land sale.”

“Why did Finn want the forest?”

“It’s not the forest Finn wanted. What’s a merrow going to do with green mana? Cast a Llanowar Elf?” She chuckled at her own joke, but then looked at Sid, who showed no reaction. Abashed, she continued: “It was what was on the forest. An aura. A Twilight Aura, to be precise. I had never heard of it. I checked it out in the Orb of Insight, which seemed to corroborate the rumors about it. Supposedly, it’s a green and white aura that enchants a plains or forest, and, while that forest is tapped, gives creatures +1/+1. The details are a little sketchy: the Twilight Aura seemed to be enchanting a leafy stretch of forest, even though Shadowmoor’s trees are bare, and the text describing the aura seemed like it might have been a forgery. Still, that didn’t seem to dissuade Finn.”

“Why would Finn need an anthem? He’s a merrow. He already has access to three in his colors.”

“Exactly. All merrow have access to three, which means that no particular school of merrow can get bigger than any other. But Finn got ambitious. What if there were a fourth anthem effect, an anthem that only he had access to? His men could get huge, as big as giants. He’d have enough of an advantage in the mirror to bring all the merrow schools under his control. Then, who knows where he’d go from there. Anyway, after I found all this out, I rushed back to tell you. The last thing I remember was a huge shadow hanging over me, and then seeming to fall through solid ground. The next thing I knew, I was with you in the swamp, next to Hugo’s body. It figures that you went straight to Finn’s place. Red creatures,” she sighed, “Where would you be without me?”

“We need to find out what Finn’s up to now. Who was your source about the land sale?”

“You’re not going to like it.”

“Ingrid, please—”

“It was Tess de Feuilledor.”

“The one-drop? Larissa’s sister?”

“The same. Do you know where to find her?”

*****

The Springleaf Drum was easy to find. Just follow the smell of lotus. Girls come to Shadowmoor from all around Lorwyn, expecting to find fame and fortune in the big city. Most of them end up in casual decks: a lucky one might get to put on an aura or three, but most of them end up chumping fatties, day-in and day-out, until they rotate, only to be replaced by fresh faces from the next set. As for the rest, if they have the looks (and lack the shame), the Springleaf Drum can get them mana of any color they like, whenever they like, as long as they’re willing to tap for it. Recent events had changed him: now a red and black creature, he was wary. The girls at the Drum might look like white creatures, but Sid knew they’d have deathtouch and first strike.

As he went to enter the club, Sid was double-blocked by a pair of merrow bouncers. He glanced at Ingrid, whose eyes glowed: Sid got +1/+1. The merrow were no match for that combat trick, and Sid brushed them aside, drawing a card in the process. It had been a long time since Sid had gotten his last three-for-one. It felt good.

Sid looked over at Ingrid, who was hesitating. She was mono-white; as his secretary and sometime research assistant, she’d been to some rough places, but the Drum inspired a different kind of discomfort. Realizing that he was waiting for her, she blushed and moved on. Together, they entered the club.

TO BE CONTINUED

 
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