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The House of Shadow

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OOC: my first time in writing a story so sorry for the wrong grammars...  ;D

This story is based on Magic the Gathering's Ravnica expansion, so for those who are familiar with it, then it will be much easier for you to understand...

Leave Comments in the comments thread please

Darkness engulfed the streets of Ravnica, just like any other night in this city it was dark in every direction you choose to look at, only the weak flickers of street lamps provide very poor illumination. Vile creatures dwell in the city's sewers and in the skies as well, preying on unsuspecting innocents who wander alone (or even in small groups). Tall structures soar all around the city, some reaching high up to the heavens and some are just two stories tall. The wealthy built their houses with elegant marble and steel while those who can't afford such luxuries built their abodes with stone, mud, wood, and some smuggled metal. Sidewalks are adorned with marble, the street is made with stone with some small hints of marble as well. The air is cool this night, since the season of cold has begun. People still wandered around the streets, going to the market or visiting a relative, not minding whatever might jump out in front of them in this darkness. But not much on this district, the first class district. Wealthy Ravnicans live here, also the Orzhov Church has set up their base here along with the Azorius Senate (the governors and lawmakers of Ravnica). In this district guards patrolled the area, hunting for bandits, assassins, and stray beasts. Everywhere is a sight to be marveled at, glamorous wealth all spent in decorations and exquisite monuments. But still darkness looms all around the city...

The darkness perfect for a Dimir Infiltrator.

Unknown to the citizens there, a man wearing a black robe and whose face is covered with a hood slithered in the dark shadows of the area, moving with perfect stealth and speed. He moved carefully as to avoid detection, sticking in the shadows and avoiding light at all costs. He walked on the sidewalk, people barely noticed him at all, as if he is a ghost who walked among the living. He moved quick, sidestepping those who walked slowly and held his hood lower everytime he walks near a street lamp. He walked through the marketplace, across the stone bridge that connects the first class district and the second class district (the middle class guys), and into a dark alley. He was about to step until something flashed in front of him.

"Hold it, mister. Where do you think you're going?" Someone in front of him asked.

Then it became clear to him: a bandit is in front of him, holding a knife pointed at his chest with the intention of robbing him.

"Give me everything you have and I will spare you."

With a sudden blur of motion the man knocked off the bandit's knife arm with enough force to snap off his wrist. The bandit howled in pain and dropped down to the damp stone floor, the man proceeded to bury the knife into the bandit's throat.

Nobody sees an Infiltrator and lives to tell about it.

The man continued walking on the alley, the place is dead silent except for the buzzing of flies hovering above a trash pile. Then he started to run fast until he reached the other end of the alley, an illuminated park for the middle class citizens (not exaggeratedly decorated like the first class). He entered the park, looked around (the park is empty), and moved towards the center of the park where the monument of a Boros Soldier was erected. A man wearing a blue colored robe stood there, obviously waiting for him to approach.

Dmitri lowered his hood, revealing a shaved head, gray skin, and blue eyes.

He removed the glove on his right hand to reveal a tattoo of a six-legged insect with an eye on its body.

"Dmitri eh. How fares your trip?" The man shook hands with Dmitri. Strange to say, the man's hand is skeletal. This man is actually a skeleton, wearing a blue robe and a hood so as to hide his true appearance.

A necrosage!

"As usual, drawn some blood thrice," Dmitri said as he refitted his glove. "What has Lord Szadek ordered us to do this time?"

"The usual, this time a wealthy Orzhov patriarch named Menelaus. He has gained information on the whereabouts of our Informants, and we don't want that information to be leaked anywhere. It seems he has bribed and killed an Informant, and Orzhova members are bound to those they kill even in death. He must be killed, his information will be the destruction of House Dimir. Also, we all know that wealthy Orzhova members return as spirits when they are slain, thanks to their necromancers," the man said.

"And how are we supposed to fulfill the Lord's orders?"

"With this," the man handed Dmitri a golden knife with an emerald embedded on its hilt. "This blade not only injures the physical body but also damages the soul, powerful enough to leave a victim writhing in pain even with just a mere cut."

"Lord Szadek expects ME to do that dirty job?"

"He trusts your talents, Dmitri, and besides this is your opportunity to show yourself off, after all you are just an initiate." Then the man suddenly vanished in an explosion of shadows.

Dmitri placed the powerful dagger in his pocket, raised his hood, and moved into the darkness of the city, his blade thirsting for blood again.

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II

A lone shadow emerged from the darkness and into the center of the training room. Moonlight illuminated the chamber, drowning the floor with a faint gray light. The swords and javelins resting on the wall glimmered in the moonlight, looking like stars resting on the wall.

Footsteps ruined the silence of the chamber. The sound of one, two, four, eight, then sixteen legs slowly pacing the chamber echoed all over the chamber. From the moonlight eight figures can be seen surrounding the lone figure standing in the center of the training pad,each unsheathing dual blades then charged. With a quick blur of motion the man vanished and with a few quick blows three of them lay dead on the floor while the rest still attempted to catch up with the man's blinding speed. The man leapt upward and, a second later,  dispatched four of the would-be attackers. The last attacker looked around in hopes of finding (and killing) the man. The man appeared right in front of him, dodged several futile swipes, then landed a hind kick right in the face of the attacker, severing its spine, breaking it into several pieces.

The man stood in the center of the training pad, surrounded by the bodies of those he has dispatched this night, just like the other nights, eight per night is suffice for his training. He has to keep up frequent rigorous sparring sessions with the House Guards, after all he has a reputation to keep. To some he is known as nothing more but a lobotomist, operating brains of individuals who knew too much of the secrets contained within House Dimir. But to all others, he is a ruthless warrior and a cunning assassin who slew countless Orzhov patriarchs and some Selesnya priests without a hint of mercy, orders given to him not by necrosages but by the Lord Szadek himself. He is no other than Circu, the Dimir Lobotomist.

He sat down on the cold stone floor, breathing hard and unscathed from his training session, body drenched in sweat and pulsing in fatigue.

More... I want more!

His blade thirsts for more carnage but his body refuses to do any more action but to take a rest. Then the fallen bodies, skeletons to be precise, around him suddenly rose into the air and their broken bones reformed back to shape, restoring their original forms as the Dimir House Guards.

"You may go nowwww.... We'll continue this...ahhhh...tomorrow nighttt..." Circu said to the undead guards who left the room after hearing their master's orders. Due to a blow delivered to his throat a few years ago, Circu suffers from a speech defect.

As a youngster he was abandoned in the sewers by his parents who couldn't accept the bodily deformity of their son (Circu only had one eye), left there to be eaten by Drekavacs (a carnivorous four-legged beast native in Ravnican sewers.It hunts its prey with muscular arms and huge jaws designed to rip apart flesh from their prey).

Young Circu lived his life there eating bugs and drinking sewage water. Frequently he was pursued by Drekavacs and in several occasions, vengeful ghosts of those who perished there. He lingered there in a span of one year and three months, everyday fighting for survival and something to be eaten. One day a Drekavac pounced above him and pinned him to the ground with its muscular forelimbs. As he was about to be devoured the beast suddenly writhed in pain and stubled dead in the sewer floor. The boy stood in amazement, looked around, trying to find what killed the beast. It was no other but the Lord of Secrets himself, Szadek. The psionic vampire released bursts of pain in the beast's body, overcoming it's threshold for pain, killing it. 

Circu approached the vampire, expressing his every ounce of gratitude. Szadek adopted the child and raised him in the arts of studying human brains. At his teenage years he lobotomized countless individuals who knew too much of House Dimir's secrets (like talking to Szadek himself or just stumbled upon the Palace itself). Then Szadek trained Circu in handling dual weapons and the perfection of hand to hand combat, but still he kept the mastery of psionic powers to himself. Then the following years of living in House Dimir changed Circu permanently, he became sadistic and ruthless.

Several knocks in the door interrupted Circu from his daydreaming. One of the Infiltrators peeked and asked "Are you finished, Master Circu?"

"Ahhhh.....Uhhmmahh..Yessss, I wil be leaving. Just give me a minutttte..."

He stood up, patted off the dust from his clothes and left the chamber.

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III

The sun dawns on the streets of Ravnica with a soft yellow tone, slowly creeping its way up to the tallest spire of the city. The church bells rang, and people are making their way towards the church. The church of Orzhova.

They fell in line upon entering the main hallway of the church, each inspected by spectral guards, checking if these people are carrying weapons with them. Inside the sanctuary golden pews are arranged vertically, the floor is adorned with golden symbols of various winged creatures,  a huge chandelier hung in the ceiling, completely illuminating the sanctuary and the brightness left no dark spaces. In the middle stood a huge ivory podium, behind it is a golden wall studded with emeralds.

After twenty minutes of silence, a low humming sound was heard from behind the podium. A bizarre human, no, gray-skinned creature appeared from behind the podium supported by a floating chair. After a rude belch from the creature, it rose up from its chair and faced the congregation.

"Greetings, faithful brethren of the Orzhova. Once again we are blessed to have another morning in our lives, may we be thankful for such a blessing."

"Amen," the congregation replied in unison.

"Now we will start our worship. Our life is nothing without him. Our Creator has blessed us, guided us, and given us strength to face our everyday trials. We only have this once every week to thank him, and let us take our time doing so."

"Amen."

He streched his grotesque arms towards the congregation, "May you all be blessed!"

"Amen!"

Some members of the congregation started to weep while some hung their heads low and began to pray silently. Then, five minutes later, the offering plate was passed on by ghosts. People threw all of what they have in the plate, whether it be gold coins or jewelry.

Perfect

The offering plates were passed up to the last member in the last bench, then arranged in a row by the ghosts then were brought up to the front where an altar lay, waiting for the valuables to be tossed in. Then the creature pointed his fat fingers towards the congregation and blessed them with some weird looking water.

The service is now over, the congregation again fell in line and slowly marched towards the exit of the church. The creature slowly descended his floating chair and levitated his way towards the back room of the church concealed by the golden coating of the wall. Inside lay a massive pile of gold coins and other expensive paraphernalia offered by Ravnicans to the "Creator" who "blessed them with life and strength."

Ravnicans are easily blinded by false religion, and easily fooled by false information. Information like the existence of the so-called House Dimir

Such information indeed. Only this man knows for sure what really happened to House Dimir. Menelaus scooped up some gold coins from the pile and smelled them. Ohhhh.. There is no other greater pleasure for this man than to smell these fresh gold coins.

And tonight, Ravnica WILL know the truth about House Dimir, after I spill everything I knew from that Informant who was easily bribed. After that I will become famous, and powerful! ... This is the life indeed...

To be precise, Menelaus is not a bizarre creature, he is also human. Orzhov patriarchs and matriarchs use their ill-gotten wealth to prolong their lives into such extent that their skin turns gray and their bodies become bloated, so bloated that they need floating chairs in order to support their weight.

Menelaus floated his way towards a small door which led to his private room. In here he would indulge himself in expensive food and be entertained by his enslaved ghosts. Upon entering he was shocked to see a corpse lying on his bed with its face ripped off and its entrails pulled out. In the ceiling a strange symbol is splashed using the blood of the murdered victim.

What the hell?

Sharp pain erupted from the back of his head. He was thrown off from his floating chair and he lay face down on the floor, unable to move because of his massive weight.

"You knew too much, noble patriarch. Of course it is my job to silence you, once and for all." 

Then some sharp object pierced his back, creating a powerful explosion of pain that rocked the very core of his being. As the blade made a surgical cut upward Menelaus felt that his soul is also being injured, a pain so great that he just screamed up to the top of his lungs.

"There you go, patriarch. Yes you will die but I'm afraid it will take hours for you to die. You will beg for death and it will not come to you. You will suffer!"

Now everything became clear to him: the assassin cut off his spinal cord thus disabling any movement and his internal organs, save his heart and lungs, were dismembered.

Fool. Little do you know that I shall return as a spectre, and I will haunt you!

Unfortunately his soul is also injured, and dying as well. There is no other hope for him to be alive again, physically or not.

Menelaus screamed and screamed in pain, helpless, unable to do anything but to scream and scream and scream.....

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IV

Kaboom!

Another explosion rocked the laboratory as Freinz Hotfrost poured the reagent into another flask full of red colored liquid. Freinz, like other Izzet scientists, love to experiment and though it always ends in an explosion or something more catastrophic, they never stopped in finding and mixing the right combinations. Freinz is a successful pyrohydrophonomancer (a scientist rank given to those who has mastered fire, ice and its possible combinations), graduated pyromancy school 10 years ago, hydromancy school 4 years ago, and successfully combined fire and ice to create an energy powerful enough to turn the temperature of a chamber into a comfortable degree.

Freinz patted the dust off of his red-blue suit. He tossed his shoulder-length gray hair backwards and wiped off any fluids dripping down on his face. He picked up the broken vials and tossed them into the garbage bin then went back to his mixing. A few moments later another explosion rocked the labs, tossing all vials from the shelves down to the floor and Freinz fell down from the explosion's shockwave.

Now that was close...

He stood up again and continued his mixing on a new vial. Then the silver colored door behind him opened, a tall woman wearing a plain red laboratory coat entered. She picked up shards of broken glass from the floor and placed it in her pocket. She walked up to Freinz' experiment table and examined his work. Her name is Shila, a 2nd-degree scientist working in a hydrophonic laboratory right in front of Freinz' lab. She tapped Freinz in his shoulder and stared at him.

"What is that?" Shila asked.

"My creation, a perfect mix of bioluminescent extract and phonosynthetic liquid, creating a beautiful illumination," Freinz said.

"And what is that for?"

"Well first I must show it to Niv-Mizzet, and if I survive the meeting this masterpiece will replace those useless street lamps. Ravnica will never linger in the dark anymore!"

"Ahh.. Some sort of a light giving energy, like the sun?"

"Quite near that... Except that this doesn't give that much glare."

Shila took a laboratory chair under the desk and sat on it then continued watching Freinz' frantic attempt in mixing.

"I'd be delighted if you stay back, Shila. Explosions are unpredictable," Freinz said.

"That's fine with me."

After mixing a total of twenty vials the vial Freinz is holding suddenly boiled like it was heated in an oven. Then it stopped boiling and suddenly the vial exploded, causing some significant damage to nearby equipment but not to the two scientists, who appeared to be unharmed. Then a small globe of light floated in front of them, giving illumination to the laboratory.

"Success!" Freinz exclaimed in joy as he hugged Shila, who also appeared happy.

"Congratulations, Freinz! I know you can do it. Well I must leave you now, I got work to do," Shila stood up and left the lab.

Upon leaving the laboratory Shila closed the door and suddenly her skin melted into the floor like liquid, slithering its way into the drainage chute.

The next day

The day looked gloomy as rainfall drenched the city. Streets were slippery, sidewalk stalls closed, and people walked around in raincoats and Izzet-manufactured levitating umbrellas. Among them is Freinz, running frantically towards a tall spire in the center of the first-class district, the spire named Nivix, aslo called the Aerie of the Firemind. Tucked under his arm is a bag containing the valuable flasks of his disastrous creations yesterday, hopefully this experiment is worth all of his pain and for the damages he paid for...

Upon entering the tower he removed his raincoat and brushed his hair with a small comb. He walked towards the spiral staircase, each step made his heart beat faster.

There is indeed a reason for Freinz to be scared. Niv-Mizzet, the most brilliant dragon in Ravnica, resides in Nivix. He is the leader of all Izzet, and under his guidance scientists achieve greatness, or doom. His short temper is legendary, scientists who fail to amuse him were found incinerated or squashed by his mighty tail. Therefore scientists who dare enter Niv-Mizzet's chamber risk a high chance of dying if the dragon is not appeased. And on the other hand those who were lucky enough to appease him were spared, promoted, and enlightened with more knowledge.

Freinz reached the top of the tower, the end of the spiral staircase. He followed the crimson carpet towards a huge ivory door leading to the chamber of Niv-Mizzet.

Oh damn..... Here goes nothing

Two aides wearing redblue robes opened the door for him, then they accompanied Freinz into a bench facing the door of the Firemind's room.

"Please wait, sir. A scientist is having a conversation with the gre---"

The huge door in front of them swung open then something was thrown with such force that it rebounded on the wall. It was the carcass of the scientist who seemed to fail Niv-Mizzet's expectations and then ended up as a chew toy for the great dragon.

Damn!!

"Please be careful, sir. I don't want to see you ending up like that guy," said the aide while pointng to the dismembered body of the scientist that was being carried away on a stretcher.

Another aide signaled Freinz that it was his turn.

----------------

"Hello, Freinz. We meet again." Said Niv-Mizzet as he inspected the scientist, as if he is inspecting lunch. The great red dragon stood atop a golden pedestal in front of Freinz. The room depends on sunlight for illumination, but since its raining outside, the room was a bit dark. Aides stood on both sides of the spherical room, surrounding Niv-Mizzet. The Guild's insignia is painted on the floor. "I must confess that I'm impressed with your first invention... Now Nivix has never been more comfortable for everyone, ehh?"

Freinz shuddered at the direct eye to eye stare of Niv-Mizzet. "Oh, uh, thank you Great One."

He sees me as his lunch!!

"Well your invention made many Ravnicans comfortable.. It made Izzet rich, Orzhov guys paid us heavily for your comfort-making thing... What do you call that invention of yours?"

"Um, uh, Coolant Respirator."

"Ahhh..... Nice name... Don't you agree, aides?" Niv-Mizzet looked to his left.

"Yes, uhh, it is indeed a great name," the aides replied in unison.

"How delightful they reply... Enough with the chit chat, what do you have now Freinz Hotfrost?" Niv-Mizzet returned his gaze to Freinz.

Freinz opened his bag and took out two small flasks. He opened both bottles and mixed them. "This is a mixture of bioluminescent extract and photosynthetic liquid. Upon mixing the two will react, creating this."

Like yesterday the mixture exploded, creating a globe of light that gave illumination to the chamber. The aides were awestruck. Niv-Mizzet withdrew his head as if blinded by the floating ball of energy. The ball floated upward and became more brighter. Then slowly it changed colors from white to yellow, from yellow to blue, from blue to red...

Niv-Mizzet was impressed, yet he might still eat Freinz for no apparent reason. The dragon roared, Freinz stumbled backward in fear. "No need to fear, great scientist," Niv-Mizzet said, "You amaze me."

Freinz couldn't believe what he has just heard. He successfully appeased Niv-Mizzet!

"You may go now, Freinz. Prepare yourself tomorrow, I will launch a grand unveiling of your invention to the public.

          ------------------

One of the aides left the room, went inside the comfort room, then vanished in thin air.

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V

Teysa Karlov couldn't believe her eyes. Her father horribly mutilated by some creature with razor sharp fangs. Post mortem report says that

his spine was snapped, his internal organs except for his heart and lungs were ripped off, giving him a slow and painful death. The news broke her heart, for it was very same day that her father will pass on the mantle on being a church matriarch.

She crumpled the newsletter and threw it on the floor. Boros legionnaires and Azorius lawkeepers cleared the way as her father's corpse is being carried away on a stretcher by spectral aides. Now her father will enter Agryem, the Ghost Quarter, where dead Orzhov patriarchs and matriarchs reside in order to continue family business. Spiritkeepers and Necromancers are preparing the altar for the attempt in fetching her father's soul. If only she knew who or what killed her father (surely it is a beast) she would singlehandedly massacre the murderer.

She left the church where her father preached his last service before dying. She sat on a bench right next to the church's gate. A man wearing a redblue lab coat sat next to her and hugged her. It was Freinz Hotfrost, her mutual friend and classmate in elementary magic school.

"Oh, hello Freinz." Teysa said, wiping off her tears.

"Hi, Teysa. I'm sorry for what happened to your father. I'm sorry I wasn't there to hel---"

"Oh Freinz don't say that. That's fine with me." She said.

"Really? Well, Teysa, I'm here also because of this." Freinz handed her a small invitation. An ivitation for the grand release to the public of Freinz' new invention that produces a brilliant sphere of light.

"Wha... Oh... Thanks Freinz. Don't worry I will attend. Tomorrow right?"

Freinz nodded.

Freinz stood up and brushed his coat, then suddenly a shockwave knocked him off his feet. Teysa stood up and supported the fallen scientist. "What was that?" Teysa said.

Freinz stood up and pointed to the sky behind the church. "Look!" He exclaimed while pointing towards a rising column of flame towards the sky. He thought for a moment on what that explosion might be: a failed Izzet experiment or an attack by cultists.

Teysa, Freinz, and a couple of Boros and Azorius soldiers rushed to the scene. Upon arrival to the blast site they were too late. All that was left here is a huge crater, thick, black smoke rising up to the sky and embers glowing orange on the ground. Flames devoured nearby plants and the acrid scent of smoke polluted the air. This is an obvious work of a powerful spell, not an experiment gone wild. As a pyromancer, Freinz quickly identified the spell as Pyroclasm, intended to eradicate living organisms and destroy buildings.

Boros soldiers and clerics cast protective barriers to everyone on the blast site. Azorius lawkeepers approached the crater and inspected the charred soil. Freinz pushed his way through the citizens towards the crater, took a handful of soil and sniffed it. Yes, the smell of offensive magic indeed.

Then the ground shook again. Citizens and bystanders, including Teysa, panicked and fled off. Boros and Azorius soldiers readied their weapons. They prepared themselves for battle, expecting a huge beast to rise from the crater. But they were wrong. Instead skeletons rose from the ground, wielding shields and sabres, readied for combat. The soldiers charged towards the rising legions of undead warriors, breaking and shattering their bones with powerful hand weapons. As the last skull of the last skeleton was shattered, the soldiers cheered, including Freinz who incinerated a few. But their victory was cut short. More and more undead warriors rose from the ground, eventually outnumbering them, surrounding them with blades pointed towards them.

"Oh damn..." Freinz muttered.

Without hesitation, the skeletons charged towards them.

------------------------------

Darkness covered the entire chamber, accompanied by silence, only the soft rustling of curtains can be heard. Circu knelt on the cold stone floor, his head bowed, his arms in front of him in a gesture of respect towards the man who saved his life, the guildmaster Szadek. The psionic vampire wore a golden robe which covered his entire body. His eyes were completely white, has short fangs in his mouth, and his hair extends up to his knee. He gestured Circu to stand up.

"What do you have for me today, Circu?" He asked.

"I mussst reporrt to youu aboutt the successs of thee desstructionnn invoked upon thee Orzhov early thiss afternooon. Some Borosss and Azzorriusss legionnairess arrived on the blassst site, accompanied by an Izzzzzzett scientisst and the daughterr of Dmitri'sss victim, Teyssa." Circu said.

"Tooo their surprisse, howeverrr, a band of armed skeletonsss attacked them, which in turn were hasstilly defeateddd by themmm... Unfortunatellly more skeletonsss rose from the ground and attacked them, without mercccyyyy..."

"Really, eh? I'm proud of you, Circu. Let it be known that the time has come for the domination of House Dimir."

Circu left the chamber and walked to his room with a thousand ideas buzzing in his mind.

Will I everrr get my share in that dominationn?

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VI

The stars filled the dark sky tonight, a beautiful full moon radiantly glowed and reflected on the cold waters of the ocean where a huge barge drifted. The barge is adorned with beautiful decorations and bright attractive lights, and its size is so huge it accomodated Niv-Mizzet, the brilliantly genius dragon, the leader of the Izzet guild. And there's still space for at least two more dragons.

 

Teysa Karlov walked around the barge, holding a mug of cold water in her hand. She couldn't forget what happened yesterday behind the great Orzhova Cathedral. The explosion, the ambush, the carnage.... Freinz Hotfrost was one of them who fought the skeletons, but fortunately he is also one of those who survived the ambush. The undead warriors outnumbered them, Freinz managed to summon a huge wall of fire, enabling him and a few soldiers to escape. The rest were sliced and diced to gobbets of meat and bone.  Despite his injuries Freinz boarded the barge along with Niv-Mizzet and Palma Marice, Freinz' sister, who tended his injuries. Freinz suffered from a broken leg and a dozen cuts on his back. Despite all that, he still managed to keep a smile everytime Teysa looks at him.

  The barge drifted on the dark waters of the Ravnican Strait. The event was announced to be held in front of Nivix, but after yesterday's events they decided to be afloat in a huge military barge, designed to hold at least ten thousand passengers and three dragons.

 

Then a booming voice came from the upper part of the ship. It was Niv-Mizzet. "Ladies and gentlemen, humans, spectres, everyone on board. Let the ceremonies begin!" Everyone, including Freinz and his sister, proceeded to the main platform of the barge. There, Niv-Mizzet stood on a platform in the center, surrounded by spectators, alive and spectral spectators. The ghosts who attended are departed Orzhov patriarchs who were close friends of Teysa and Freinz' parents, they intended to watch the festivities, especially the unveiling of Freinz' invention. Teysa sat next to Freinz, who held her hand with both of his.

  "Good evening everyone. We are pleased to have some very important persons here. First of all is the unmatched Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind!" The man in front of Niv-Mizzet spoke, his voice amplified by some magical enchantment. He continued: "Next is our dear friend and Teysa's uncle, Parimus, a member of the most powerful Orzhov Ghost Council!" The ghost drifted next to the man, accompanied by four other ghosts, they all bowed their heads and then suddenly vanished in thin air.

Other visitors were mentioned including one of the Azorius' court mages, several Boros commanders, and many Izzet students (friends of Freinz and Palma). Then Niv-Mizzet spoke: "Dear friends and students, our dear pyrohydromancer Freinz Hotfrost has yet again proved his brilliance by providing us with another invention that will surely benefit all Ravnicans, rich and poor alike."

 

He continued: "He has provided us in the past with many other inventions like the Hydrofaucet, the Propeller, the Coolant Respirator, and now, the Panorama Spectrum. Mr. Hotfrost, please come up here and kindly show it to us, please."

 

Freinz got up to his feet, Teysa and Palma patted him in the back for encouragement. Freinz walked up to the platform, right in front of Niv-Mizzet he stood, opening his bag containing the vials. He mixed two concoctions that promptly exploded, creating a radiant ball of energy that floated up in the air. The ball was so bright it attracted seagulls and fish were visible from underwater. The crowd applauded, cheered, his friends gave him the "thumbs-up" gesture. Freinz couldn't hide his joy, it was too much for him, even Niv-Mizzet lightly patted Freinz with his tail.

 

Twenty minutes later, the crowd disperesed to various parts of the ship, some took off to eat, while some chatted with their companions and friends. Freinz, Teysa,  and Palma stood on the edge of the ship, clutching the safety handles as the barge gently rocked back and forth. Niv-Mizzet proceeded to sleep in the dragon chambers.

 

"I can't believe after what happened yesterday you still managed to keep up a smile, Freinz," Teysa said while looking at the moon.

"Can't help it. These injuries mean nothing to me, though they sting a little," Freinz said. Palma excused herself for a while and proceeded to the sleeping chambers, leaving Freinz and Teysa alone.

 

"You know, Freinz, I'm starting to feel something weird towards you... You know...." Teysa said, she's having a hard time continuing.

 

"Um..Yeah...Really? Well..um..." Freinz grew a bit nervous. Then suddenly Teysa grabbed him and kissed him in the lips.

  "I know they call it love. I call this real love," Teysa whispered to Freinz, then left him, going also to the sleeping chambers for a nap.

 

  Freinz stood there, mouth wide open in disbelief... He wondered if the spectral visitors saw that as well..

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VII

His eyes darted left and right, and all that he could see is darkness, except for those two silver scalpels resting in front of him. Or is it? One of the scalpels moved towards his left arm and made a surgical cut, he howled in intense pain. Then a spectre carrying a candle hovered above him, illuminating the blood-stained blades and the man who seems to savor torturing him. He is strapped in an operating table, unable to move his body save his fingers and toes. Another cut was made in his right arm, and again he howled in pain.

"Oh, sssshut upp," The main said after cutting off one of his fingers. The man continued: "You desssserrrvvve thisss, Ecoz, forrr failurree in particcipationnn innn the innnterrrogationnn. Wellll, befforee I lobotomizzze youu, I willl give youuuu one moree chanccee too speeeaak."

Ecoz squirmed, gasped for air, and squinted his eyes. Fear took control of his mind, making him unable to think nor concentrate. If he doesn't speak up, he would be lobotomized, and that man will eventually know the truth, after he cuts out each and every brain cell. A fist landed on his face, making his nose bleed. "Ssspeak!" The man said.

Ecoz was captured a few hours ago, while strolling in the marketplace. First thing in the morning he attended the Orzhova Church, then proceeded to eat breakfast in a tavern. Then he went off to work as a rot farmer (tends corpses and decaying matter, which will be packed and given to the poor for food), he made quite a haul of five human corpses and five pounds of human waste. After receiving his wages he went to the marketplace to buy something for his children. Yesterday morning Freinz, an Izzet pyrohydrophonomancer, gave him an invitation to attend the party in front of Nivix, Niv-Mizzet's lair. But two hours later a man gave him a new invitation, stating that the party will be held in a military barge because some accident occured in the city. He kept the invitation but refused to go, instead he went off to farm decaying matter.

While talking to a merchant in the marketplace, Ecoz suddenly fainted. He woke up in a dark chamber, chained on the wall, facing a candle that flickered, casting shadows everywhere, as if he was surrounded. Then a man wearing a dark robe asked him questions, especially about the location of Freinz Hotfrost. The interrogator grew tired of Ecoz, and had him thrown in the torture chamber. Now he is suffering, all because of his refusal to talk.

A blade pierced his forehead, and a cylindrical device gouged out both of his eyes. "Okay! Okay!!" Ecoz said, "I give up!!!" Then his scream echoed throughout the whole chamber, bouncing on walls and irritiating the inquisitor in front of him. "Gooood. You fffinalllyy came tooooo yourrr senssssesss. Buttt itsss  a bittt toooo late, issss it?" The inquisitor said. "Now speakk."

Ecoz took a moment to think. Would he reveal Freinz? Well Freinz isn't his friend or anything, he just knew him a week ago, after buying two cans of dried human liver. Then he finally made his decision: "They're aboard a military barge on the Ravnican Strait." Then his body succumbed to the pain, and died.

"Perfecccttt." The inquisitor said. "Have hisss body crematteeddd."

Robed aides arrived to clear off the mess. Then Szadek arrived as well, accompanied by three skeletal warriors. The vampire stood in front of the inquisitor and gave him a pat on the shoulder. "Well done, Circu. Not only you stained the newly installed marble tiles, you also managed to reveal the location of that Freinz Hotfrost. His brain, once lobotomized, would give us a great deal of knowledge, especially where to locate Niv-Mizzet." Again Szadek was proud of Circu.

"Lett mee leeadd the atttackkk. Mayyy I have yourrr permisssion, my lord?" Circu said.

"Of course, you may lead the attack. Make sure you leave at least a dozen captives alive."

"My pleasssureee."

------------------

Freinz woke up an hour after midnight. Teysa slept next to him (they did not have sex), and Palma slept in Teysa's left. He stood and went out looking for a drink. He stumbled on a small icebox and took out a can of water. He rubbed his eyes and went to the main deck to watch the moon.

Everyone slept, even Niv-Mizzet whose snore can be heard all over the ship. There were no ghosts around, and the waters are calm, the barge didn't even sway. The air was cold that night, every breeze made Freinz shiver, making him regulate his temperature by casting a basic fire spell.

Then the sound of crashing waves was heard. Odd as it may seem to be. Waves in calm waters?

From the horizon, Freinz saw something coming towards them. Something fast. Something that came in a pair.

Ships!

Freinz ran towards the lower deck to sound the alarm, but it was too late. Something heavy hit the ship's hull, dropping Freinz to the floor. Many were awakened and went out of their rooms. Freinz went back to the main deck to see a ship right next to the barge, but the ship looked smaller and damaged.

A ghost ship!

Then skeletons leapt from the ghost ship and into the barge, wielding dual weapons, and made a straight line formation. Behind them a muscular-built man wielding dual scalpels moved in front, scanned the area with his snake-like eyes, and ordered the immediate slaughter of everyone on board. "Exxcccepttt Freinzzz Hottfrosssstt," he said.

That sent a shiver down Freinz' spine. They were looking for him! In an instant he launched bolts of fire from both of his hands, shattering skeletons and sending their blades flying in different directions. The man, who seemed to be the leader of this attack, darted left and right in blinding speed, slashing and hacking passengers and soldiers alike. Freinz went back to the room to look for Teysa and Palma. Upon opening the room they were gone. He went to the dragon chambers, Niv-Mizzet wasn't there also. Upon returning to the main deck Niv-Mizzet flew in the air, swooping down to the ship, causing significant damage to the undead attackers. Another ship suddenly appeared next to the ghost ship, it was another ghost ship. More and more skeletons poured out from the ship and attacked.

Then, the leader took out a small multicolored crystal, held it high up in the air, and threw it to Niv-Mizzet. The crystal sank in the dragon's chest, which caused great pain, and suddenly, Niv-Mizzet blew up. The great Firemind, the leader of the Izzet guild, blew up to smithereens, raining flesh, blood, and bones on the barge. The man smiled, then continued slaughtering Azorius and Boros legionnaires.

Freinz couldn't believe his eyes. The great and powerful Firemind suddenly blew up after that strange crystal sank in his chest. Then he heard Teysa's sweet voice, calling him: "Freinz! Freinz!!"

A pair of skeletons had her in her arms, dragging her towards the ghost ship. Freinz raced in pursuit of the skeletons, but was blocked by their human leader. "Not ssooo fassstt, misssterr Hottfrrossstt."

The man kicked Freinz in his face, sending him sliding towards a wall. The man quickly appeared right next to him and grabbed him in the neck, strangling him. Freinz used his right hand to deliver a powerful frost attack, making the man lose his grip. Then he saw that the ghost ships are both gone, and so is Teysa, and his sister, where was she?

Palma lay on the floor, breathing heavily. Freinz went to assist her but was again knocked off by the man who delivered a powerful elbow strike. Freinz got up to his feet and prepared a fire spell, but was again knocked off not by the man but someone else behind him. He dropped on the floor and turned to look, it was Palma!

"Donn't bee easilly foooled, Hottfrossst. Looook," the man pointed towards Freinz' sister who lay on the floor. Her body melted like liquid, along with her bones. Then Freinz turned to look at the other Palma. Her body was of Palma, but her face was skeletal! "Noww you seee, Hotfrossst, thee powwerrr of Housssee Dimirrr??"

House Dimir! That guild was among one of the other guilds who lost in the guild wars! This can't be!

Freinz was helpless as the skeletons carried him, dragged him towards another phantom ship. His body cried in pain. His heart cried for Teysa. And his mind cried for the truth, for reality.

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VIII

Titan's Keg Tavern, famous in Ravnica for its hard drinks, is built in the second class district of the city. Tonight the tavern is crammed with soldiers, gamblers, and goblins all drinking the same ginger root beer. Many played cards, while some just chatted with their companions, especially about the new hot gossip circulating all around the city:

Freinz Hotfrost, Niv-Mizzet, and ten thousand all others mysteriously disappeared in their barge party last night. The barge floated in the Ravnican Strait, abandoned like a ghost ship. No corpses, no blood, nothing remained, even their supplies and cargo vanished.

And another unsolved mystery: the murder of Menelaus still remained unsolved. Ravnica seemed to plunge into more mysteries each passing day.

The wooden door swung open, a man wearing a dark robe and a crimson hood entered the tavern, went straight to a table, and ordered a drink from the goblin waiter. After his drink was served he drank it straight, then ordered for another one. Then an Orzhov priest, wearing a green robe and wielding an oak staff, approached the man and sat right in front of him. He set his staff on the floor and rested his arms on the table while stretching his legs.

"Hello, Dmitri, we meet again," the priest said.

"Hello, Smestes," the hooded man replied.

The two Dimir agents met in an unusual place. Smestes ordered for a keg of beer and a plate of roasted human intestines. They must play their roles carefully so as not to expose their real identities.

"Well, Dmitri, any news regarding the disappearances of the barge partygoers?" Smestes asked.

"Dunno. Even Lord Szadek and that Circu guy is keeping something from me. Even the house guards and the skeletal soldiers don't know a thing. Well the hell I care about them," Dmitri said.

"Uhumm, that's interesting. Well at least Szadek is proud of your masterpiece in mutilating Menelaus and that murder is still one of the most unsolved cases in Ravnica's history."

"Really? Haha... I'm such a good murderer. Anyway, mind if I ask you one thing?"

"Go ahead."

"What the hell is the Guildpact? Heard it from a fish merchant yesterday."

"Ahh... The Guildpact... That's something ahh, ten thousand years ago..."

"Tell me."

"Okay... Well approximately twenty thousand years ago there were ten guilds in Ravnica. The Azorius, Boros, Dimir, Gruul, Golgari, Izzet, Orzhov, Rakdos, Selesnya, and the Simic. They all fought for control of the planet until the Guildpact was formed."

"Uhhumm..." Dmitri said after gulping a mug of beer.

"The Guildpact is a magical pact signed by the leaders of the guilds that kept them from fighting. Well all signed except for the Gruul. The Gruul were banished by the other nine guilds because they were "uncivilized and barbaric." Well in revenge the Gruul held raids in Ravnica until they made quite some damage the nine other guilds cooperated to vanquish them once and for all."

Dmitri nodded.

"The pact was stable for ten thousand years until it was broken after a conspiracy attempt was made by the leader of the Azorius himself, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, the Simic biomancer Momir Vig, and of course our very own Lord Szadek. They joined forces in hopes of eliminating the other guilds in order to take control of the planet. They failed however, and the pact was broken, thus allowiung the guilds to nip and tear each other again. The wars lasted for five thousand years until four guilds remained: The Azorius, Boros, Orzhov, and Izzet."

"What about the---" Dmitri asked.

"The Dimir? Well Lord Szadek and much of his remaining guildmembers fled to the city's sewers, creating a vast network of underground hideouts and bases. That's where House Dimir started as a phantom guild, everyone in Ravnica knows that House Dimir is extinct. Well only its own members and its victims know the truth."

Dmitri made a soundless "Oh".

"Now the remaining four guilds promised to keep the peace and to cooperate with each other, thus ending the guild wars, and Ravnica is now again stable. Except for the fact that many mysteries are lurking all around the planet. It's all the stench of House Dimir."

"Ahh... Interesting. Thank you for your tale, Smestes."

"My pleasure Dmitri. Now if you don't mind," Smestes took out a deck of cards and began shuffling them.

"Bring it on," Dmitri said as he shuffled his own deck.

=========

Full moon illuminated the streets around Titan's Keg Tavern. Dmitri left the tavern and walked alone in the streets illuminated by the light of the moon, swaying slightly. People barely noticed him as he moved, his stealth perfectly executed though slightly drunk. Smestes left the tavern after losing to Dmitri a dozen of times in that card game. Now Dmitri must make his way back to the sewers where he would take a light nap.

As he moved Dmitri's senses were a bit dulled by the beer's effects. He couldn't see well, hear well, nor smell well. He entered a dark alley, and as he moved deeper and deeper into the darkness a strange feeling of fear is looming all around him.

Then something blunt hit his skull. He fell down to his knees, then another blow landed in his chest, and to his back. He lay down on the damp dirt, barely able to move. Then he heard several footsteps and a strange scraping sound, almost like the sound of metal.

His eyes slowly closed, his vision slowly faded into darkness, the darkness a Dimir used to loveand used to live, now filled Dmitri's heart with dread...

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IX

Whattt a wassssstttte......

Circu washed his bloody hands and his tools on the sink. Blood flowed with water, and some bits of brain matter. He enjoys lobotomy, lobotomy is his passion, yet he is still disgusted at the feel of soft brain matter in his fingers, some stuck in his nails.

After washing he lay down on his bed and read a book about the human brain. He spent time reading and studying more about his profession which was taught to him by Szadek. The vampire told him to study hard about lobotomy, for it will be his life's calling. Then he fell asleep.

A few hours later Circu rose from his bed and went back to the operating table to examine his victim/patient/subject. The man's head was shaved then cut off, his skull sawed open to reveal the pink colored brain. Circu cut the brain into smaller pieces and studied them with his gyroscope (a device used to magnify an object a thousand times) and wrote down whatever he discovered. Then he placed the cubes of brain matter in a small box and prepared it for Szadek later. He will take the pleasure of absorbing everything from this mind by using his powerful psionic energies.

Then Szadek will be proud of him again, reward him with new operating tools, or a new operating chamber. That would be great. But the vampire never rewarded him anything after thousands and thousands of individuals killed and lobotomized just for the sake of knowledge he wouldn't even share. Good thing for Circu he knows how to read dissected minds. Well Szadek paid him a bag of gold coins for his very first lobotomy, an Azorius court judge, and Circu used the money to buy himself a couple of books about surgery and human brains, and some operating tools including the pair of scalpels he used to kill those soldiers in the barge party. Despite their small size, those scalpels, along with perfect precision, can slit throats in just a heartbeat.

A skeletal maid entered the chamber to clean up the mess on the floor. Then the mortician, accompanied by two other men, picked up the brainless corpse to be sold in the rot farms for food later. Circu picked up the boxed package, tossed his hair backwards, then left the chamber.

Pooooorrrr Freinzzzzzz Hotfrossssst. Afterrrr yearsssss of sssstudy and harrrrrrd worrrrrkkk, you jussssst ended up assssss a brainnnnlessssss corpssssse to beeee ssssssold and eatennnn by ffffellowwww humannnnssss....

----------------------

Beneath the basement of Duskmantle (House Dimir's home base, situated in the city sewers) lies a chamber that contains a deep pit that Szadek calls the Pit of Souls. In here were the trapped souls of those Szadek has bitten or killed. The Pit is sealed by a magical barrier (in order to keep the deafening cries at bay) and Szadek placed a throne a few meters in front of the pit. Now he sits there, snoring, his chin rested on his chest as he dozed his night off.

Circu entered the chamber, his footsteps awakend Szadek. Szadek stood up, patted Circu in his shoulder, and led him to sit down on the throne. Szadek stood right behind the throne and examined the boxed package of Freinz' brain.

"You have outdone yourself again this time, Circu. This will prove to be a great help to House Dimir, a great help to me. It seems I might as well ask you to lobotomize that Orzhova woman, can you?" Szadek said.

Circu shifted from the throne and crossed his legs then said: "Yessss I willll. Toooo badd Niv-Mizzzzzet died beforee I could haulll himmm intooo the sshippp. The dragonn cryssstalll dessstroyyedd himm inssteadd of capturringg himmm."

The multicolored crystal Circu threw into Niv-Mizzet is a dragon crystal, a device of Izzet manufacture that was used to capture dragons for taming. Seems that Niv-Mizzet blew himself up rather than let himself get captured. Quite an honorable act.

Szadek opened the box and studied the brain matter contained in a small transparent case. "Perfect. Perfect... After I absorb the information stored within, Ravnica must prepare for the inevitable. The inevitable domination of House Dimir, that is!" Circu felt a cold shiver down his spine at the thought of House Dimir's ascension and takeover of Ravnica, of course after eliminating the remaining guilds. He preferred House Dimir to be secretive, staying in the shadows rather than ruling a planet that consisted of irritating people.

Szadek placed the box on the floor and opened the magical barrier that kept the pit shut. Wails and screams from the captive souls filled the chamber and echoed throughout Duskmantle, waking up some of those who slept. "Music to my ears. See that Circu? That's where they fall, those who chose to defy House Dimir."

Circu stood up and took a peek on the pit. From there he saw a sea of countless faces of individuals screaming, pleading, crying, and begging. The sea of faces drifted just like water, some were fortunate enough to extend an arm while begging for help, a spectral arm.

"You seem to want a closer look,eh?" Szadek said. Circu didn't seem to hear him. Then Szadek raised his hands in front of him and formed a small globe of purple energy. The energy globe grew larger until it occupied Szadek's hands, then he released it with such force that it hit Circu's back, leaving him screaming in pain as he fell down on the pit, consumed by the souls undulating around him, like a man drowning in water, Circu slowly sank in the sea of souls.

"Not to mention that this pit also contains the souls of those who have outlived their usefulness. A pity it is that I don't need any lobotomists in my takeover of Ravnica. Farewell, Circu," Szadek said as he closed the magical barrier and left the chamber.

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X

Its a bright sunny day in Ravnica. And here in the first class district stands Prahv, the blue/white Spire of Order, the main headquarters of the Azorius guild, rising in a conical shape, with the pointed tip high up in the sky. Soldiers marched around the huge tower, keeping an hourly routine of tweny soldiers guarding the home of Ravnica's lawmakers and of course, the Grand Arbiter's home. The tower is surrounded by massive stone walls decorated with Azorius insignias, and the walls are surrounded by a deep moat inhabited by poisonous aquatic vipers. Tall trees and beautifully carved topiaries give the surroundings of the tower a cool breeze that blows gently to the face of the guards marching now.

A man in his 30's entered the tower and went to the reception desk.  The man wore an Azorius phalanx armor adorned with sapphires and an Azorius signet in its chest, a flowing blue cape, and a sapphire helmet. The receptionist looked for the man's name in the checklist, and there it was: Josef Hawkwing, Phalanx (Equivalent to Commander) of the 1st Winged Division. This man is the boss of the Azorius Air Force (composed of fierce winged creatures like griffins, hawks, and sphinxes).

Josef then climbed up a long set of stairs leading into the Grand Arbiter's Tribunal. Inside is an oval shaped room with a purple carpet. The ceiling is made of glass, thus allowing sunlight to cast a powerful glare inside this huge chamber. The walls are adorned with various aerial sceneries, and rows of Azorius soldiers stood in both ends of the chamber. The Grand Arbiter sat on his throne in the far end of the chamber, and a trio of Senators sat on the Arbiter's both sides, taking down notes and making calculations. Grand Arbiters were once humans, but when they die their souls were recovered and manifested themselves into ornate obsidian statues that sat on thrones, moving not even a single finger.  A man stood in front of the Grand Arbiter, wearing a purple robe that covered his whole body, and his face concealed with a black hood. Josef stood a few feet in front of the man then knelt down and bowed his head, a gesture of respect for the Azorius. One of the Senators motioned him to stand up.

"What brings you here, Phalanx?" The robed man asked him.

So this is the Speaker, the one who acts as the Grand Arbiter's voice

"I would like to take a leave today. I have some matters to atten---"

"No, Phalanx. I have something in store for you today, I am in need of your services, and as your Grand Arbiter I expect you to follow me, understood?"

"Yes."

"Good. I would like you to investigate the grisly murder of the Orzhov Patriarch Menelaus. That thing went on for a week and still no reports. Our Senators are having problems regarding that unsolved crime."

"What are your speculations regarding that murder, Grand Arbiter?"

"That crime was masterfully executed by a well-trained assassin. I don't believe the rumors that some wild creature attacked the Patriarch, it was a human. Just by looking at the corpse gives you the slightest hint. Would an animal just sever the victim's spine, rip out his internal organs save his heart and lungs, and just leave him there bleeding to the death? Ordinary carnivores would devour their prey whole, leaving nothing not even a drip of blood."

Josef was impressed at the Grand Arbiter's powerful ability of foresight. Though not as powerful as prediction iteslf, foresight grants an individual the power to unleash his full potential in terms of calculations and solving. Azorius Senators are initiates in foresight, while Grand Arbiters are sworn masters.

"And to think that you didn't have that in mind, Josef Hawkwing? I'm sure you have some small bits of foresight in your brain, do you?"

Josef avoided the Speaker's cold gaze and cleared his throat.

"Speak, Phalanx. Silence insults a Grand Arbiter."

"Umm... Yes, Grand Arbiter, I have already thought of such possibility that the killer is a human."

"Good... Now I must ask you to go to Agryem, the Ghost Quarter, and consult the Ghost Council regarding this matter. Do not return here until the crime is solved or you will suffer a demotion, is it clear Phalanx?"

"Certainly most clear, Grand Arbiter."

Josef again bowed and turned towards the door. He walked out of the Tribunal and out of the tower. The Grand Arbiter is always cold and hard to please, especially towards Josef.

---------------

To reach Agryem, Josef went airborne and flew north from Prahv for 2 hours straight. Upon reaching Utavra, the abandoned district, Josef left his griffin and followed a broken down road towards a small cave. Utavra was once a powerful district ruled by the Selesnya (a guild that preaches about the very importance of life and nature), but the Gruul (a guild that was shunned by the nine guilds because of their worthlesness, now they exacted revenge by attacking the most civilized districts of the city. They were the first guild to be eliminated) ran frequent raids here, especially when there is a celebration going on. It took only three waves to completely destroy Utavra, but the Selesnya escaped, sought help from the Azorius (this happened in the midpoint of the Guildpact) and the nine guilds banded together to destroy the Gruul. Now Utavra became the ideal breeding ground for wild beasts like wurms (huge serpentine creatures that burrows), and trolls. And Utavra also became the ideal place for Agryem's gateway.

Josef entered the cave and saw the shimmering gateway of Agryem. Agryem, the Ghost Quarter, is the district for Ravnica's deceased, especially the deceased Orzhov members. The Ghost Council, the Orzhov guild leader composed of five of the most wealthiest Orzhov patriarchs (no matriarchs), dwelled in Agryem, communicating with Orzhov members through the use of telepathy.

Josef stepped inside the gateway and fell down to his knees upon entering Agryem. He stumbled upon a ledge, and he quickly got back up to his feet. Agrym is such a gloomy place, a dark place illuminated by floating lamps, ghosts wandered everywhere, and the sky is dead dark, not even a single star or any other source of light except for the lamps. Abandoned structures and damaged towers are also part of Agryem, making Josef feel like Agryem is a part of Utavra. He walked slowly towards the ghost who stood next to a floating lamp. Josef approached the ghost and asked for directions. The ghost stared at him with sunken eyes, then pointed to the left without removing his gaze from Josef.

Josef followed the ghost's directions and he ended up in front of a domed structure, looked beautiful but it was severely damaged. The dome is cracked in the middle, and the walls are crumbled, pillars lay on the ground in pieces and some of them were buried in piles of rubble. Josef entered the unstable structure and was surprised to see that the structure was huge on the inside. Darkness engulfed the domed structure, only a faint purplish light penetrated from the dome's cracks, revealing an altar that lay in pieces in the center of the what seemed to be a ransacked church. Josef was about to move when the air grew cold, and a voice out of nowhere stopped him.

"Halt, mortal!"

Josef froze. Whatever that may be he must be careful, he doesn't have anything in hand to hurt these ghosts in case they attack him. Then five ghosts appeared in front of him, the one in the middle had fierce red eyes and wrists wrapped in bandages. The ghosts wore torn robes, those robes seem to be their funeral garments.

"We are the Ghost Council, and I am Parimus, the head of the Council. What brings you here, Azorius?" The ghost in the middle spoke.

"Um, I'm Josef Hawkwing, an Azorius Phalanx, and I am here to ask you something about Menelaus' grisly murder."

"Menelaus... Brother Menelaus, the great Patriarch who led hundreds to salvation. Yes we have heard about his murder, but unfortunately even our spectral agents don't know anything about the identity of the killer, except that the killer is indeed human, not a wild carnivore."

"Yes I knew that. But even ghosts did not witness the crime?"

"No one, not even ghosts, nor any spectre alive or dead witnessed the crime."

Josef was stunned. What a feat that assassin has just displayed. A grisly murder without even a single clue, no fingerprints, no footprints, no witnesses. Josef then proceeded to leave the building until Parimus spoke up again:

"Be on your guard, Azorius. Remember to be careful, especially to those who lurk in the shadows." Then the Council vanished in thin air.

Josef left Agryem and mounted his griffin. What would he tell the Grand Arbiter? He fears demotion if he ever returns to Prahv. He steered his griffin west, he intends not to show up for a few days.

-----------------------------

"Lord Szadek, the Panorama Spectrum is now completely analyzed. We now await your further orders."

The Dimir scientist gave his complete report regarding the study of the late Freinz Hotfrost's invention. Whatever the vampire is thinking is a great mystery to everyone, even to his own subordinates.

"Good. Leave everything to me. It won't be long before the entire Ravnica bows down to me!"

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XI

At the very top floor of Duskmantle lies Szadek's throne room. The vampire sat on his golden throne, watching the scientists as they prepare the Panorama Spectrum for whatever his vile plans may be. They worked with the vials of the late Freinz Hotfrost, mixing and concocting strange colored liquids as the vampire watched them. The throne room is adorned with various paintings of winged creatures and the black Dimir Signet is painted on the ceiling. A dozen columns supported the celiing and a dark red carpet muffled the footsteps of those inside. The scientist, four of them to be precise, worked on a table in front of the vampire, careful not to make any mistakes or accidents. Szadek's instructions were crystal clear to them:

"Alter the Panorama Spectrum's ingridients. Make a single mistake and face the consequences."

Szadek gave them a mysterious green crystal in which he has ordered them to mix it with the altered Panorama Spectrum. Whatever the vampire plans, its a great mystery to everyone in Duskmantle, except for himself. One of the scientists took the mysterious crystal, examined it, then gently dipped the crystal in the concotion. A mild explosion rocked the chamber, the scientists were vaporized by the explosion, and the vials lie broken on the floor, the concoctions spilled.

Szadek leapt up to his feet in surprise. "What the?!" He said. He cast his eyes towards the scientists whose ashes were scattered on the carpet. The concoction swirled in front of him then rose up to the air, forming a faint ball of energy that radiated a blue glow. Unlike Freinz' original Panorama Spectrum that radiated a bright white light, this one radiated a faint blue light.

The explosion rocked various parts of Duskmantle, thus calling the attention of House Guads who rushed to the throne room, armed with dual blades, eyes darting left and right looking for the assailant or whatever caused the explosion. Suddenly the House Guads stood petrified, not moving even a single joint as they stared at the floating orb of light. Szadek also stared in amazement at the guards who stood still, like skeletal statues. The vampire snapped his fingers then ordered the skeletons to leave the chamber in which they instantly did.

Szadek absorbed the floating orb into himself then smiled. His plan worked perfectly, it even held his own minions captive. Just as how he wanted it: complete control like hapless puppets.

-------------------

Ravnica's slum district is the worst of all of the planet's three districts. In here disease, filth, decay, and death mix, thus making an ecosystem of slums, creatures, and Golgari creations. After the destruction of the Golgari Guild in the guild wars and the eventual death of Savra, the guildmaster, the creatures left the slum area but much of the decaying matter remained. And to the delight of the slums, they made business by cultivating the decaying bodies of dead humans and animals, making profit by selling their parts for food (which is considered by many Ravnicans as the best meat in all of Ravnica).

Ecoz, a rot farmer, went back to work after a 30 minute break. The rot farm he runs is submerged in a knee-deep pile of sludge and feces. His nose is used to such scents after his 11th year working here, making piles and piles of cash from these disgusting yet appetizing corpses. His work consists of digging fresh corpses from the graveyard, burying them in the pile of sludge for a couple of months, digging them up again and cut in pieces to be packed and sold.

As he plowed through the immense piles of sludge he heard a strange noise that came somewhere north of him. 

Something that sounded like breathing from a huge creature. Then the breathing turned into faster, shorter gasps. He went out of the farm and into the streets, hoping to find the source of that strange sound.

From the horizon he saw a group of people standing, not moving even a single muscle. He approached them and saw that they didn't even blink their eyes and their breathing became fast gasps that filled the air. What happened to these people? They looked like statues blocking the way. Then a faint blue light radiated from the sky, blinding Ecoz for a second and making him unable to move his body, just like the others who stood there.

Then a voice from his mind ordered him to march. He saw the mob behind him march as well, moving on the streets in unison, just like puppets from the hands of a master puppeteer.

As his eyes were forced to look, he saw more and more mobs of slums marching like zombies, gathering on the abandoned water tower in the slum district, for reasons unknown to them. Their free will is taken from them, and they can't do a single thing to resist this.

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XII

His joints ached, his muscles groaned as he swam upward, fighting the currents that dragged him lower and lower in the sea of darkness. He felt a thousand hands dragging him down, preventing him from swimming upward. He felt like he swam for days after he fell down here. Or was pushed down here, by force. After his own master blasted him down here he fought his way upward, swimming in the river of souls who were held captive here, dragging him down, forcing him to join them.

I will find a way out of here!

A dozen hands grabbed him by the shoulders and dragged him down to the darkness.

--------------------------

The Grand Arbiter Praxis summoned Josef Hawkwing from his quarters to the Tribunal. In here the Grand Arbiter, the Speaker, a dozen Azorius soldiers, and the archangel Razia (the Boros guildmaster) are on a meeting. Judging by the look of their faces (and the Grand Arbiter's emotional tone through the Speaker) the situation looked dire and needed immediate action.

"Welcome, Phalanx. Meet Razia, the Archangel, the Boros guildmaster."  the Speaker said as Jopsef shook hands with the radiant archangel. Razia stood slightly taller than Josef, bore wings that had pearl-white feathers, a golden battle armor from shoulder to feet, and long flowing purple hair. She looked extemely striking to Josef, who looked at her with eager anticipation, and infatuation.

"Well met, noble archangel." Josef shook Razia's hand, which felt warm. The archangel merely smiled at him then let go of his hand and faced the Speaker. They stood in front of a map posted on the wall, the map of Ravnica's slum district. Several red and yellow pins were placed in various parts of the map, possibly showing a viral infestation. The Speaker pinned a red pin on the map's southern district then spoke: "We face a grave situation, not that much grave like the Guildwar, but is taking a toll especially to our slums."

Josef leaned closer to the wall and examined the pins. The Speaker continued: "A strange device that resembled the late Freinz Hotfrost's invention, the Panorama Spectrum, was seen hovering above the slum district. Then a few moments later a huge mob gathered on the abandoned water tower. One of our guards reported that they just stood, frozen, not moving. I have jumped into the conclusion that they were infected by some plague, for their breathing came in quick, short gasps."

Razia pinned a yellow pin just below the red one then said: "My scouts have reported that the mob grew larger and larger in numbers. Up to now they just stood, apparently waiting for something, or worse." One of the Azorius guards approached then pinned another yellow pin, far north from Razia's pin: "Another mob was seen gathering here. Now my scouts have reported that they are slowly marching towards the water tower."

"I was thinking of sending medics to help but I fear contamination. I don't trust the slum districts, especially their rot farms.  Razi----" The ground trembled, the Speaker paused for a while then looked at the window. Up in the sky hundreds of winged creatures flew high. To Josef, those winged creatures were Moroii (life draining gargoyles). The Azorius guards left the Tribunal to prepare for combat while Razia telepathically contacted her soldiers to take action.

The Speaker motioned Josef to leave the Tribunal as well. Josef rushed to the stables to fetch his griffin. He mounted the griffin, unsheathed his silver lance, then took flight to fight the swarming mass of Moroii.

---------------

Teysa sat on the cold stone floor, crying like a little girl. Earlier this morning a House Guard informed her about Freinz' demise, which took place two days ago. She couldn't even picture her loved one mutilated and lobotomized. Then the House Guard also informed her that "she is next."

She was held prisoner here for five days after their capture from the barge party. As she was being dragged by the skeletal warriors she saw countless Dimir signets painted on the wall and ceiling. Her father was right after all! Menelaus told her that House Dimir still exists but she just waved her father off, saying that he is just imagining things. Then her father said that he would tell the public the next day, in which ended up having him murdered. Dimir agents killed him, that convinced Teysa to believe, and here in Duskmantle, the legendary House of Shadow, she rots in her cell, waiting for someone to rescue her, which looked impossible. Completely impossible.

She stood up and held the cold metal bars that kept her. Her tears never stopped flowing as she thought of Freinz and his sister Palma who was slain in the barge. She stared helplessly in the air, staring at the dim corridors of Duskmantle. Then something darted in front of her. She squinted her eyes and rubbed it, as if seeing a mere illusion. Then it passed in front of her again, but this time it stopped. It stood in front of her and stared with snake like eyes, lightly covered by hair. She drew back in shock and fell on the floor as the figure gripped the metal bars then tore them with brute strength. Teysa was sure this creature will finish her off, as what the House Guard had told her earlier.

The creature entered the cell then stood in front of her. The creature extended its arms and grabbed Teysa in her shoulders. A cold damp grip. The creature then helped Teysa get up to her feet and patted off the dust from her hair. The floating lamps suddenly went on, illuminating the dark hallways, revealing the creature who helped her stand up. It was a man who bore many scratches and injuries in his face and arms. His upper clothing was ripped apart, revealing a muscular torso that also showed injuries.

Three House Guards rushed to the cell, armed with dual blades. The man dashed in front of them with blinding speed and delivered a powerful kick that shattered the first House Guard's skull then the man darted to the next two House Guards and smashed their rib cages with a palm thrust. It was over in just three heartbeats.

"Who are you?" Teysa asked the man. Then another trio of House Guards arrived, forming a wall that blocked the cell's entrance. The man grabbed Teysa in her arm and dashed right through the House Guards, smashing them with precisely aimed blows. The man carried Teysa on his back as he dashed in Duskmantle's damp corridors, smashing every House Guard they encounter.

The man ran without stopping for a short moment of breath. The man stopped as they reached the sewers, allowing Teysa to sit on the floor as the man gasped for air. Then he hugged Teysa and dived down in the cold sewer waters. Teysa tightened her hug as the man swam like a dolphin, not stopping until he reached the other end of the sewers. Then they surfaced and climbed up the utility ladder which led to the slum districts.

Teysa patted her hair and clothes dry. The man tossed his hair upward, revealing his snake eyes and a face that bore many scratches. He squeezed his torn clothing, then used it to wipe off the blood that flowed on his face.

Then they heard groans, moans, and gasps all around them. As they stood and turned to look it was too late. What seemed to be a legion of mindless humans surrounded them, wielding clubs, swords, bottles, and whatever things that can be used to kill.

A purple orb hovered above them, casting a faint purple light to everyone below it. Teysa and the man were bathed in purple light, and whatever that may be it had no particular effect on them.

-----------------

Elbaz, one of those who were controlled by the weird floating orb, stood along with the countless other slums who were controlled as well, wielding a broken pipe. They just stood there, watching the pair stand, surrounded.

Then a voice in his mind commanded him to attack the pair, kill them, show them no mercy. without hesitation his body obeyed but his mind refused. The rest of the mob also charged towards the pair, what seemed to Elbaz is that they were simultaneuosly commanded by the mysterious voice in their minds.

Elbaz was helpless as the man snapped off his neck with a powerful hind kick. The last images that he saw was bloodshed, then dead bodies dropping. Then a bright light bathed in his body, casting a comforting warmth that carried his soul to the sky.

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XIII

Josef soared high in the sky, steering his powerful griffin like an ace pilot, avoiding the vicious attacks of the Moroii while driving his shining silver lance through their fetid bodies. Behind him a squad of six other griffin riders rode with him, following a tactical battle formation that gave them enough space to manuever and avoid incoming attacks while at the same time kill their targets easily. The Moroii came in large swarms, huge powerful wings, decaying bodies, fierce long claws, and long canines. These creatures came out of nowhere after a short earthquake rocked Ravnica. And from the ground the diseased slums continue to grow in number, now moving like zombies.

Not far from his current position, Razia took flight along with her archangels, slaying these fiends with powerful swords. Razia wields a bright burning blade that sends bolts of fire when she slashes with it. To Josef, she looked much more beautiful in combat.

Josef remembered the stories by the Grand Arbiter Praxis about the Guild Wars. The ten guilds fought for the control of Ravnica, and to settle personal grudges between Guild leaders. Razia was one of the Guild leaders who lived from the beginning of the Boros Guild, through the Guild Wars, even signed the Guildpact representing the Boros Guild, and the Guildpact was broken after 1000 years of peace. The Grand Arbiter Augustin IV (the previous Grand Arbiter) and the vampire lord Szadek, the leader of the Dimir Guild (also called House Dimir), conspired in breaking the Guildpact, allowing the other guilds to fight again. But the matter was put to rest after the death of many Guild leaders, including Augustin IV. Szadek and House Dimir suddenly vanished out of thin air, and those who remained (Boros, Azorius, Orzhov, and Izzet) signed many peace treaties and promises of cooperation in hopes of keeping Ravnica stable.

Josef ordered his squad to follow him towards the slum district, where a swarm of Moroii seemed to gather. As they approached the swarm suddenly took flight and charged towards them. Josef and his squad formed a single-line formation and charged towards the advancing creatures with their lances pointed forward. As they clashed, much of the Moroii were skewered while two of the riders were cut and fell to a deep drop to their deaths. Then the remaining riders made a U turn to finish off the remaining Moroii, and in an instant they were purged by powerful bolts of flame from Razia.

Then more and more Moroii came flying down from the sky, thus blocking much of the sun because of their large numbers. Razia ordered her archangels to hold their positions and blast the incoming fiends with their fire bolts and light beams. Josef ordered his squad to land on the slum quarters and look for survivors, then head back to Prahv and defend the Grand Arbiter if he ever comes under attack. Upon landing on the damp earth of the slum districts, Josef spotted a pile of corpses, dead slums with necks broken and eyes white. He ordered his squad to follow him, lances ready, as they went on in search of those who are responsible for these horrible neck-break deaths.

--------

Teysa channeled what remains of her black mana in order to create a powerful barrier that held the advancing mindless slums at bay, staring at them with white eyes, drooling with eager anticipation to smash their skulls as they pounded Teysa's barrier with their weapons. The man who rescued her from Duskmantle sat next to her, panting, breathing heavily in fatigue after killing hundreds of these "creatures" and yet they still grow in number, like zombies. Then the barrier seemed to weaken as Teysa is starting to lose her energies, her body slowly swaying as she began to run out of black mana. The man next to her stood up and supported her as she fell down to his arms, the barrier slowly faded in thin air.

"Sshhhiittt." The man said as the zombie-slums advanced towards them, swinging their weapons above their heads.

Suddenly a bolt of fire came crashing down from the sky, incinerating much of the zombie-slums. Those who remained seemed ignorant of the fire bolt and continued moving towards the pair who stood helpless and weak. Then another bolt crashed down, annihilating another half of the zombie-slums.

The man carried Teysa on his back and fled towards a small shack. In there an Azorius soldier bandaged his wounds while sitting on a broken desk. The soldier stood and helped the man carry Teysa to a bedroll where she lay down, breathing heavily. The zombie-slums were numbered, but still hellbent on killing the pair. They advanced towards the shack until another bolt of flame eradicated the last of the zombie-slums.

"Wwwhatt wass thatt?" The man asked the Azorius soldier who applied a cold compress on Teysa's forehead.

"The bolts of flame came from Razia, the Archangel. Who might you be, good man?" The soldier asked.

"Myy namee isss Circu."

"Nice to meet you, Circu. Im Josef, Phalanx of the Azorius Flight Squadron." Josef shook hands with Circu.

The burned corpses of the zombie-slums filled the shack with an unpleasant odor of charred flesh. Teysa coughed and seemed to regain consciousness as she moved her head slowly towads Circu. Circu knelt beside her and applied a cold compress to her right arm. Then the door swung open as a wounded Azorius soldier entered the shack, carrying his bloody lance as he slowly walked towards Josef.

Josef hurried to the soldier and held him by the shoulders. "What happened to you?" Josef asked.

"Moroii...Too many... Attacked us.... Rest of squad killed.... Grand Arbiter under attack.... Nee..d hell.ppp... Immediatelly...." Then the solider fell on the cold earth. Josef checked the soldier's pulse. Nothing.

"I must go now, I want you to come with me. You must not stay here, the slum district is chaotic for now." Josef said as he helped Teysa stand up, her eyes slowly opening. As they left the shack Josef summoned his golden griffin from the sky. Not even a wisp of air came. Josef immediately knew that his griffin was killed. No choice. They must run to Prahv. He only hoped that there is much time remaining.

--------

The Elite Guards fired arrows and threw daggers at the incoming Moroii. Prahv was surrounded by these winged creatures,  and the Grand Arbiter is in jeopardy. Another Guild leader hangs for dear life.

The Speaker launched bolts of lightning, desperate to defend the Grand Arbiter whom he had served for 200 years. Much of the Azorius Flight Squad and Ground Squad were in action in various parts of Ravnica, and not much have remained to defend Prahv and the Grand Arbiter.

The Moroii slashed and banged on the huge ivory gates of Prahv, desperate to get in. The soldiers inside braced themselves as the hinges of the great gate gave up. The swarm of incoming Moroii filled the main chamber, the soldiers were helpless as they were ripped and dismembered to leaky pieces of meat.

Desperate, the Grand Arbiter tried to contact Razia by telepathy. No response came. It seems that Razia fell prey to the Moroii.

Then screams were heard from the main hall, screams of poor, defenseless soldiers facing death.

------------

Razia received a telepathic message from the Grand Arbiter, a desperate plea for help. She ordered her archangels to head back to Sunhome, the Boros headquarters, and prepare defenses while she heads to Prahv to help the fellow Guild leader.

As she approached the three towers of Prahv, a telekinetic jolt ran through her spine, rendering her immobile in midair as the pain surged up to her temples. The pain was unbearable, making her drop the flaming sword as she writhed in agony. Who or what could have caused this torment?

Then everything around her became black. Prahv, the buildings, the sky, and the Moroii vanished,  as if she was teleported in a dark chamber.A purple orb floated in front of her, casting a faint purple glow which covered her body and seemed to enter her brain, but it had no particular effect on her.

The orb suddenly vanished, then a voice from midair said: "Ineffective against Guild leaders. Even on Guild members this orb is ineffective..."

"Who are you?! Show yourself!" Razia demanded, then another jolt of pain rocked her body.

"Silence, fool! You don't know who I am, do you? After all this years, you have forgotten about me." A figure in front of her appeared. A man with white eyes, fangs, long hair, wearing a golden robe and glowed with a powerful black and blue aura stood a few feet in front of her.

"It can't be! Szadek!!" Razia was shocked at the presence of the most powerful yet evil Guild member. Everyone thought that House Dimir and Szadek were killed in the Guildpact conspiracy, but they were wrong.

"You have witnessed the long awaited power of House Dimir, flocking the skies of Ravnica, eager to slay the remaining Guild leaders, paving way for my ascension as the ultimate Guild leader. Right now the Grand Arbiter Praxis is surrounded by my Moroii, about to be torn apart. And as for you...."

Another wave of pain embraced her body, then suddenly stopped. She was no longer immobile. Her flaming sword appeared next to her.

"Come, fight me, Razia. Show me your true power." Szadek levitated in midair and his hands were filled with powerful black and blue energies.

"My pleasure." Razia's burning blade radiated with blinding intensity as she charged towards Szadek. Another epic battle between two Guild leaders is about to take place, and only one will survive. Only the powerful will survive this.

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XIV

Josef arrived in Prahv just in time to see the place painted red with blood, and dozens of dead soldiers lay in piles, adorned with countless bite and scratch marks from the Moroii. Upon entering the tower Josef saw more carnage in the main hall, as if a battle took place here. A couple of dead Azorius soldiers lay in different directions, some with necks snapped. And a few dead Moroii were piled in the center of the main hall, slowly decaying. Josef readied his lance in case of an ambush and made his way towards the long spiral stairway that led to the Tribunal.

Inside the Tribunal were more dead Azorius soldiers. Then to confirm his fears Josef saw the dead Speaker lying in his own pool of blood. At the far end of the Tribunal lies the crumpled obsidian statue that held the Grand Arbiter's spirit, the "impenetrable" statue was crumbled like a crushed rock. Josef knelt before the rubble and muttered a short prayer for the departed soul of the Guld leader. Then he left Prahv with a only one thing in mind: go after Circu and Teysa who went to the Orzhova Church.

-------------

"He's coming around now..."

The world around him swam in different directions. He lay motionless on the cold stone floor, unable to move as he listened to a pair talking somewhere beside him. He couldn't determine their direction, for their voices bounced all over the room.

"Try to move."

He was surprised to see himself floating in midair, weightless, unable to feel anything, not even wisps of air. A man appeared to his right with the Orzhov insignia tatooed on his forehead. An Orzhov Pontiff.

"Hello there, Dmitri. How do you feel?"

"What have you done to me?!" Dmitri asked. The last thing he remembered is that he was assaulted by a group of unknown men in a dark alley near the Titan's Keg Tavern after a drink with Smestes. Now he found himself floating in midair, as if the Orzhov are playing tricks on him. Have they found out that he is Dimir?

"We found you lying in a dark alley near the Titan's Keg Tavern. We brought you here to the Church, but you were dead on arrival. So we tried to retrieve your soul, and we were successful. You are no longer human, Dmitri. You are now a spirit, you are dead."

So that explains his floating experience, and his inability to have any sensations. Then he tried to move forward, or fly forward. Dmitri passed through walls, hovered above the Pontiff, then he passed through the ceiling, then back into the room. Suddenly a powerful burning pain gripped his head, rendering him unable to move.

"I thought that spirits can no longer feel pain?!" Dmitri said as an explosion of pain erupted from within his head.

"Spirits that are not tied to the Orzhov experience great pain when outside of Agryem. If you don't want to become an Orzhova, you must go to Agryem in order to stop the advancing pain."

"How will one become an Orzhova?"

The Pontiff motioned Dmitri to follow him in a small chamber where a pedestal stood in the center. Atop the pedestal lies a golden orb that gave illumination to this otherwise dark room. The Pontiff picked up the orb, blessed it with his staff, uttered a short prayer, then handed it to Dmitri. The Pontiff then instructed Dmitri to pray to the Ghost Council for guidance, in which he did just to stop this pain. Then the Orzhov Insignia appeared in Dmitri's right hand and forehead, an insignia that resembled the sun.

Immediately the pain stopped. The glowing orb returned to the pedestal. Dmitri found himself free of the pain, then he instantly flew out of the Church and into the fields where he saw countless Moroii flying above him, filling the skies with a pitch black color.

Szadek! He remembered his master, who assigned him to kill the Titan's Keg Tavern owner but got himself drunk and killed. Had Smestes told Szadek of his failed mission then the vampire sent assassins to kill him right on the spot? That he did not know. What he did know that this Moroii invasion is unleashed by Szadek himself, the vampire has waited long enough for his attack against the remaining Guild leaders, waited long enough in the shadows. Now the time has come for Ravnica to tremble upon the awesome fury of House Dimir, unleashed after ages of waiting and scheming.

He felt like he betrayed House Dimir after accepting the Orzhov Insignia. Now he was no longer Dimir, for no man can serve two Guilds at once. These Moroii might drain the life out of him (Moroii can drain lives out of spirits) if they see him, making Dmitri dart back into the Church. Upon entering he saw a beautiful young girl sitting in the last pew in the worship chamber. She had shoulder length hair, a beautiful black robe with the Orzhov insignia printed on the chest in gold, and a smooth face with exquisite features. Then a man sat next to her, a man with muscula----

Damn! Circu! What the hell is he doing here?

Dmitri fled, not wanting to be caught by the lobotomist. What if Circu was still loyal to Szadek? But what was he doing here in the Orzhova Church? Courting that girl?

------------

As Josef walked the bloodied streets of the first class district he readied his lance and himself for battle just in case a Moroii would swoop down for him. His griffin was killed, his squad was eliminated, now he was the only one who remained. What about the other Azorius soldiers, were they killed? Have they got the news regarding Grand Arbiter Praxis' demise?

And what about Razia? She did not even assist the Grand Arbiter during the siege in Prahv. Are the rumors true concerning the personal grudges still embedded within Razia towards the Azorius? Did she let the Grand Arbiter die like that, without even lending personal help?

Many questions bugged Josef as he walked, until something pushed him from behind. He fell down to the ground and as he turned he saw a dozen Moroii diving from the sky, claws pointed towards him, emitting deafening shrieks as they charge towards their prey.

Josef sprang back up to his feet and readied his lance. The first incoming Moroii were met with a vicious lance stab to its face, then the next one received a powerful knee smash to the torso. Josef ran away from the others who came for him but another swarm came in front of him. He leapt up in the air, using his lance as a pole to boost his jump, and managed to slay at least three Moroii in midair. Upon landing one of the Moroii managed to bite him in the neck, placing a powerful viral agent that rendered him dizzy.

Josef struggled to run away from the advancing swarm but was too dizzy and weak to proceed. As a last act of vengeance he threw his lance to the air, impaling one Moroii and pinning it to the ground. That made him smile before collapsing to the ground, losing his last bits of consciousness. Then the swarm of Moroii eagerly took pieces of Josef from his body and devoured him up to the last chunk of meat.

----------------

"Pathetic."

Razia swung her flaming sword left and right, emitting bolts of flame that went for Szadek, but the psionic vampire lord easily dodged the incoming missiles. Razia rose to the air and swooped down towards Szadek, her sword pointed towards her target. After two heartbeats Szadek suddenly vanished in thin air and reappeared behind Razia, then gave the archangel a vicious kick to her back, sending her crashing down on the floor.

"You are weak, Razia!"

Szadek charged himself with a powerful blue energy that gave him tremendous speed. Then he vanished, and in the next heartbeat, he appeared in front of the archangel, about to deliver a series of blows. But that was too predictable for Razia, and in a splitsecond before the blows were dealt, she slashed the vampire with her blade, severing his beautiful golden robe and burning some parts of it. The archangel stood up and flew towards the vampire and delivered a succession of slashes and strikes that rendered him helpless, and damaged.

"Is that your all, Razia?"

The vampire appeared next to her, then another Szadek appeared in front of her, behind her, and to her right, surrounding Razia. Then the four Szadeks delivered their repeated hand and knee strikes, rendering the archangel beaten back to the ground. The four Szadeks became one again, who channeled a globe of energy which grew larger, obviously the finishing move.

Razia couldnt even move her legs, she was immobile, except for her wings and her arms. She channeled much of her white energy to form a powerful shell of protection that would hopefully deflect Szadek's energy globe.

The globe became larger and larger until it dispersed into a black beam which went for Razia, the vampire laughed and laughed as the beam nears its target.

Razia closed her eyes. If the shell fails to protect her, another Guild leader would die this day. She was helpless as the news regarding Grand Arbiter Praxis' demise reached her, and now her demise would be next. Then the Ghost Council will be the last Guild leader to be destroyed before Szadek becomes the sole ruler of Ravnica, and everyone has no other choice but to bow down to the last remaining Guild leader.

The beam came closer and closer, Razia's shell of white energy is complete, yet unsure if it would really protect her.

Then the beam crashed into the shell's bright surface, creating a blinding explosion that rendered the two Guild leaders blinded. Then searing pain came next....

Then oblivion....

---------------

After a short prayer, the Orzhov Insignia appeared in Circu's right hand and forehead, a sign that he gave up being a Dimir after his master's betrayal and attempt in killing him.

"Thank you, Circu. I want you to meet the Ghost Council, tell them everything about House Dimr, before its too late." Teysa said as she hugged the former lobotomist.

Then the Church was rocked by a shockwave, then horrible screams came from the lobby.

--------------------

As the smoke cleared, a lone figure stood in the dark chamber. He patted the dust off from his robe, straightened his back, scratched his eyes, then laughed. The laugh of triumph.

The laughter of evil.

Szadek once again triumphed. Razia was vaporized by the reaction of black and white energies, too bad Szadek was more powerful.

Now the darkness around him vanished, and there he stood in front of the Orzhova Church..

"Tremble, Ghost Council," He said as he proceeded towards the gate.

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XV

"What time is it?" Teysa asked the Pontiff who stood in the altar, looking for his golden staff. The Pontiff looked at the sky then said: "I think it's uh..... Ten more hours until midnight? The winged creatures block the sun, thus making it hard for me to predict the time."

"Thank you," Teysa replied, then she went back to the third pew where Circu sat.

"Thee sswarrmm sseemmsss tooo bee dimminisshingg. Sssommeetthinngg'ss aboutt to happennn. Sssommethingg badd," Circu said while rubbing his temples. The scars he bore from the zombie-slums remained and it became quite an irritation for the young lobotomist. Teysa spent an hour rubbing his wounds with ointment, and it seemed to do quite the trick. A special relationship formed between these two, Teysa seemed to like Circu even though he is the one who killed Freinz, her boyfriend. She accepted that, Circu was just following orders, and he did not even know that Szadek would eventually betray him, after all what he has done for the Guild. Circu vows that he would change, no more of being a sadistic guy.

He rubbed his eyes, stretched his arms, then yawned. Circu stood and went to the sleeping quarters to get some sleep. Teysa remained in the pew, praying for her departed father's soul.

The Moroii swarm is diminishing, as what Circu had said. Seems that much of their numbers were slain by Azorius and Boros soldiers. And what about that Josef guy? He told Teysa that he would come to the Church after saving the Grand Arbiter. He never came. Seems that the battle in Prahv is taking too long. She wiped the tears off her eyes and sat straight, watching the Pontiff clean his golden staff.

Ever since the swarm came, the Orzhova Church became deathly silent. No more visitors nor members came. The staff, clergymen, and even the Pontiff spoke very little, they just walked around calmly, doing their everyday business. Everyone here in the Church knows that this place is safe, only a Guild leader can destroy a Guild's Headquarters, so the Moroii can't even land a blow to the Church. If the attack against the Grand Arbiter is successful, then the three towers of Prahv would become graveyards for countless corpses of soldiers and Moroii, the structure virtually undamaged.

Her eyes also started to drop, and her head is slightly swaying. Teysa lay down on the pew and took a brief nap.

---------------------------

Dmitri flew around the Church, exploring their treasure chambers filled with piles and piles of gold, abandoned guest rooms, Circu's sleeping chamber (where he is sleeping right now), the main worship chamber where Teysa slept on a pew and the Pontiff is still wiping his staff, the reception hallway where clergymen stood talking to each other. The Church is gargantuan! Dmitri found himself to be lost in this huge structure, though he could just pass through the walls in order to get back to the worship chamber.

He peered his head on the ceiling and saw that there are fewer Moroii, the sun is now halfway visible, and the skies can now be seen. He saw Moroii attacking soldiers, civilians, and animals, and some Azorius air brigades are busy fighting alongside Boros archangels.

Then he saw something coming towards the great gates of the Church. A familiar figure, walking slowly towards the gates. A familiar figure who radiated evil, and Dmitri can feel its presence as if he was just beside that man, or creature.

-----------------------

Anton, the Orzhov gatekeeper, busied himself by reading a tabloid newspaper, not minding the Moroii swarm who flew in the skies. He did his job by opening the gates for visitors, closing when they leave, and killing intruders and thieves. It was also his job to kick out unwanted visitors.

The wind stopped blowing, and it became uncomfortable in his guard shack. Anton went outside for a while to get some fresh air. As he stood in the gate, he saw a man, having a long hair and wearing a golden robe, approaching. He readied his crossbow and took position, waiting for the approaching stranger.

"Halt!" Anton barked as the stranger stood a few feet from the gate. "What do you want?" Anton demanded from the man.

In a split second Anton's head suddenly jerked backwards with such force it was snapped. Then the gates swung open, and the man entered with ease.

-------------------------

Teysa washed her face in the restroom then gargled. After freshening up she went to the main lobby, and was surprised to see the place empty. The clergymen were gone, and not even a wisp of air blew. She ran towards the main worship chamber, and the Pontiff was gone. She rushed to the treasury and the keeper wasn't there. She became nervous as she saw not even a single staff member of the Church.

She went back to the worship chamber and approached the altar. The golden staff was there, broken in half. This made Teysa scream for help.

Then she heard footsteps from the hallway, slow footsteps. She tried to run but something heavy landed on her back, making her fall down.

She looked up and saw three Dimir House Guards, like the ones guarding her cell in Duskmantle, blocked her path and pointed their blades towards her.

Then Szadek, the Lord of Secrets himself, floated above the House Guards, arms folded across his chest. "Hello, Teysa. You managed to escape Duskmantle by yourself, eh?"

Teysa refused to talk. One of the House Guards grabbed her hair and forced her to stand up.

"So much for that... I have something else important in mind. Where is the Ghost Council?" Szadek asked her.

Silence.

"Speak, Teysa, and I will spare you."

Silence.

A powerful wave of pain rocked Teysa's head, crashing through her skull, hammering her brain hard with pain. She winced, tears flowing down her eyes. Then a House Guard delivered a swift knee strike to her chest, making her gasp.

"Talk, Orzhova," Szadek said.

"I will not," Teysa rebelled despite the pain.

"Very well," Szadek motioned the House Guard to decapitate her. Teysa screamed to the top of her lungs as the two skeletal warriors grabbed both of her arms and the third one prepared a blade.

Suddenly the executioner dropped to its feet, head snapped. The two other skeletons exploded as their rib cages were smashed with a powerful blow. Then Szadek fell to the ground after a blow to his back. Circu appeared next to Teysa and helped her stand up, wiping off blood from her mouth. Szadek stood up again, undamaged, and levitated in front of them.

"Well well well, if it isn't the dimwitted lobotomist Circu. I saved you from the sewers and took care of you as a child, and this is how you repay me?" Szadek said.

"Youuu thinnkkk I havve ffforgotttenn howww youu ttrieddd to killl mee?"

"Ha! Because you have already outlived your usefulness, and I can sense rebellion within you."

"Thennn whyyy arrree youuu heeerrre?"

"Only one Guild Leader must remain alive, and whoever that Guild Leader is will reign supreme all over Ravnica. And that is no other but me. And I am here to take my rightful mantle."

"Nottt untilll there'sss a breathh in my bodddy!" Circu prepared his body with a fighting pose, ready to strike the vampire lord.

"That you cannot do, lobotomist. You are too weak!" Szadek launched multiple balls of energy that hit various parts of the Church, including support columns and pews. Circu managed to dodge the balls that came to him and leapt up in the air, preparing to land an elbow strike towards the vampire.

Szadek vanished as Circu was inches away from hitting his target. Then Szadek reappeared behind him and seized him with a powerful psionic jolt, rendering Circu immobile on the floor. Then Szadek channeled a globe of energy and disperesed it all over the worship chamber, creating sparks and minor explosions. Then the vampire lord vanished in thin air, laughing.

The Church rocked hard as the explosions did their part in shattering major support columns. As a Guild leader, Szadek was capable of destroying the Orzhova Church, the Orzhov headquarters. Teysa ran towards Circu and helped him stand up. She put his arms around her and ran towards the main entry gate.

Walls and columns collapsed all around them. The beautiful stained glass ceiling shattered, raining shards all over the floor,  some scraping Teysa's smooth skin. Then more explosions were heard from the hallway as the columns finally gave up, dropping the ceiling and crushing everything underneath, including the massive piles of gold.

At last they made it outside, past Anton's twisted corpse and the fallen gate. Teysa sat on the grassy earth facing the collapsing Church. She laid the unconscious Circu's head on her lap as she watched the very foundations of the Church give up, and the great Orzhova Church collapsed, burying all of its treasures and ill-gotten wealth. Even Teysa regretted on how her father squeezed every single cent the members have in their worship services.

The smoke rose up to the sky as the Church lay in ruins, destroyed by the vampire lord himself. After the destruction, Teysa only thought on how to stop such a powerful monster.

==============

Szadek stood in front of Prahv, the Azorius headquarters. After his Moroii slew everyone in there, including the Grand Arbiter, Szadek now plans to unleash another surgical move to ensure dominance in Ravnica.

He raised both of his hands and his body glowed black. Then the ground trembled. Prahv shook violently, rocking the three towers like jellies. Then the towers collapsed, leaving a rising column of smoke and rubble, just like the Orzhova Church.

Then the ground beneath the ruins of Prahv opened, swallowing the ruins of the Azorius headquearters. Whats left is a clean empty spot, surrounded by abandoned homes and trees.

The ground once again shook, and the ground where Prahv was once again opened. This time a tower, twice larger than Prahv, rose from the ground. The tower was painted black with very few windows, spikes protruding from some areas, and chains dangling as if it was chained from some support beams. Then the tower radiated a dark aura.

"Behold Duskmantle. All Ravnica shall tremble in your mighty presence, for you are the effigy of my immense and unstoppable power. And the impending domination of Ravnica shall come faster than the wind itself, once the circle of deaths are completed," Szadek said as he dropped his arms to his sides. There in front of him stood the House of Shadow itself, Duskmantle.

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XVI

The vampire lord Szadek is on a rampage, destroying all those who managed to resist his hypnotic wiles. All of Ravnica was shocked at the appearance of House Dimir, some say ressurection, for they believed that the Guild was destroyed in the Guildpact Conspiracy. Now the remaining Guilds tremble at the awesome supernatural might and power of House Dimir, as what the Boros soldiers have said: "We have glimpsed the unthinkable!"

First was the strange purple orb that made the slums sick and move like zombies. Then the death of the Grand Arbiter Praxis, then the death of Razia the Archangel, then the destruction of the Orzhova Church. Szadek is hellbent on destroying the remaining Guilds (Boros, Izzet and Orzhov. A Guild is "destroyed" when the Guild Leader and their headquarters is annihilated, even if they still have living members the Guild is considered destroyed). Now Boros angels have spotted the Lord of Secrets heading towards Nivix, the Izzet headquarters, the Aerie of the late Niv-Mizzet the Firemind.

The angels nor the Boros soldiers couldn't make a move, for the numbers of the undead are swelling. The Moroii now hunt in smaller swarms, and much of Ravnica is infested by skeletal warriors.

Now many Izzet scientists, Guild members, and aides are evacuating Nivix. Some chose to stay and defend the Guild headquarters, but their fates are all decided.

Earthquakes and lightning storms frequently hit various districts, causing significant damage to Ravnicans and their property. Whatever caused these calamities to strike, many believe that it is the product of the monstrous black tower that rose from the ground, emitting a dark aura that left the surrounding districts in darkness.

From the horizon the vampire lord is approaching, as how the Izzet soldiers see them in Nivix' balcony. Their doom is fast approaching, and they have nowhere else to run.

------------------------------

After the destruction of Orzhova, Teysa and Circu have nowhere to go. They stayed in an inn for a few days, and luckily the inn wasn't razed by Szadek's minions, yet.

Dmitri followed them as well, keeping an eye on the pair who developed a close relationship with each other, though not intimate. He's now convinced that Circu is no longer loyal to Szadek, and the time has come to show himself.

One night Circu sat on a chair, facing the window. He couldn't sleep this night, while Teysa slept in her room. Dmitri drifted next to the lobotomist and shifted himself to his corporeal form.

Surprised, Circu leapt from his chair and cocked into a killing position. Dmitri waved his hands to stop, Circu not moving.

"Whooo arrre youuu?" Circu asked, still on his fighting position.

"Circu it's me, Dmitri! Have you forgotten me already? I am your apperentince in Duskmantle."

"Dmitttrrriii... Ahhhh yessss, youuuu, my perrrfeccttt assssassssssinnn. Youu dieeeddd ehhh. Waittt, what'ss thattt onn yourr forreeheadd?"

Dmitri raised his hair to reveal the mark of the Orzhov on his forehead. Then he raised his right hand to reveal the mark.

"Orrzzhovvvaaa asss welll? Looook at minnnee," Circu removed the glove on his right hand to reveal the same mark. Circu also had the mark on his forehead.

The two embraced like long lost friends. Dmitri sat on the floor while Circu returned to his chair. "Who's that girl you're always with?" Dmitri asked.

"Ssshee'sss Teyysssa, daughterrr off the latteee Mennnelausss, thee murrderr victimm I persssonnallly assignned the Necrossagee to orrrderr youu tooo killl."

"Man, now I feel guilty. You're not gonna despise me for what I have done to your friend?"

"Noooo, forrrgett thhe passstt. Wee havee worssee probblemmmsss noww."

"Thanks, master. Anyway Szadek is attacking Nivix as we speak. Another Guild falls this night, and there will be only two left when morning comes. What do we do?"

Circu stood up and surveyed the view from his window. Smoke rose from various parts of the scene, and Duskmantle can be seen from the horizon, radiating its dark aura.

Thee mosssttt evilll Guilddd, anddd I cannn'ttt believvvee I usssseddd tooo bee deeevotttteddd tooo ittt. Nowww I plannn it'ssss desssstructionnn

 

"Ifff onnlyyy I didn'ttt lobotomizzze Freinzzz Hotfrossttt... Waittt.."

Circu paced back and forth, trying to remember something from the bits of Freinz' leaky brain parts.

"I remmemmberr sssommethingg. Thee purrrpllee orrbb!"

"What about it?"

"Szzadekkk orrderreed Freinzzz' lobotommmyyy. Affterr I opperrattedd himm I studdiieedd hiss brainn firsssttt befoorrre givvingg the samplless to Szzadekk. That purrrpllee orrb isss Freinzzzz' inventionnn, theee Pannoramma Spectrumm."

"I know that one. Smestes told me about it, and I was there when the barge departed for the party. It's that thing that radiates a bright light, and was made to replace the street lamps."

"Yesss... Szzadekkk repplaccedd it'sss lightt givvinngg ennergiesss inttooo hisss ownn hypnotticc enerrgiesss. Forttunatelly onlly one orbb wass madee, forr thee scientisstss weree killedd in a blassttt afterrr makingg the firsstt orbb."

"In which?"

"Weee musstt huntt dowwnnn thattt orbbb andd dessstroyy itt. Thattt woulldd liberratee thosee whoo aree undder itss spelll. Thattt woulldd be a siggniffficannt blowww aggaiinnnstt Dimirrr."

Then a shockwave from an explosion knocked Circu from his feet, making him fall down on the floor. The door burst open and Teysa came running towards the men. She appeared to have hastily put on her robe and quickly made a dash towards Circu's room. Dmitri helped Circu get back up to his feet, and Teysa patted off the dust on his clothes.

"Who is that guy?" Teysa asked Circu.

"The name's Dmitri, a pleasure to meet you Ms. Teysa." Dmitri shook hands with Teysa.

I can't even look at her. Her touch feels so cold. Damn, I killed this poor girl's father. Good thing I destroyed his soul, or else he would be haunting me

A Boros soldier entered the room. "Are you guys all right?" He asked.

"Yes we are. Where did the explosion come from?" Teysa asked.

"Nivix. The Izzet were mercilessly slain by Szadek and his minions. Now the Izzet Guild is no more, only the Orzhov and the Boros remain standing. And there's no telling where and when would the vampire strike next."

"Thannkk youu. Aree youuu commmanddinggg a smalll forrccee, orr aree youuu onn yourrr owwwnn?"

"Me and my squad of ten men are staying in the lobby to get something to eat when the explosion rocked us from the bench. Why?"

"Calll themmm heree, wee havvee a meeettinnng to connducttt. I havvee plannnsss."

------------------

Nivix lay in ruins, just like the Orzhova Church, except for this one was defended by the Guild members. The siege only took ten minutes, five for eliminating every trace of Izzet on Nivix, and another five for laying waste on the tower itself.

Szadek enjoyed the wanton destruction of his enemies. In the past he only enjoyed killing enemies without spilling blood and without causing too much destruction on his wake. But now he and even his Moroii minions enjoy sheer brutality instead of stealth attacks. The Azorius were powerless to stop them, the Izzet were far too outnumbered, and now the Boros will be the next to fall.

Two more guilds, then Szadek will destroy the Guildpact Orb (the legendary Guildpact Orb is where the signatures of the Guild leaders are found, and their departed souls are kept inside), shattering the souls of the Guild leaders, thus making him the ultimate Guild leader of the whole Ravnica, and House Dimir will emerge as the most powerful Guild ever.

All around him flames licked the rubble of Nivix, burning nearby vegetation and consuming corpses of fallen Izzet scientists and soldiers. His skeletal warriors stood in a horizontal line formation, eagerly waiting for an order from their master.

"Tonight we return to Duskmantle. Tomorrow, Sunhome will fall!" Szadek said with an amplified voice. His warriors marched back home, and he teleported himself back to the throne room to get a nap before conducting another bloody siege which will come in a few hours.

And no one seemed to be capable of stopping him.

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XVII

"Incoming!"

Flaming rocks rained from the sky and smashed the gleaming walls of Sunhome, the Boros Fortress and Headquarters. Dimir warriors now employed the use of catapults that hurl flaming boulders and spiked iron balls to smash the great walls of the Boros Legion's HQ, and if they succeed, another Guild will go down into extinction.

Szadek operated the Juggernaut: a gigantic vehicle with five cannons that launch iron balls. He enjoyed the sheer pleasure of destruction, especially the destruction of a rival Guild, a Guild that opposed him since the Guild Wars. Now they are cornered like animals, pathetic weaklings that cowered for safety as the wrath of House Dimir falls upon them, literally.

House Guards, Dopplegangers, Infiltrators, and Moroii swarm around Sunhome, looking for a possible entrance to squeeze in and wreak havoc inside. All windows were magically barricaded and the great titanium gates are shut, impenetrable by any physical blow. After Szadek grows bored with the Juggernaut, he will come down and use his psionic energies to blast the gate open.

Boros soldiers trapped inside prepared their weapons for the impending battle. Guildmages charged their energies in order to hurl fireballs, and archers took their respective vantage positions to rain arrows at the enemy. The once proud and powerful Boros Legion was shattered in an instant after the death of Razia, now they are numbered, and doomed.

Szadek's Juggernaut launched twenty iron balls that severely damaged Sunhome's gleaming walls, but did nothing to damage the gates. Finally he stood up and slowly walked towards the gate, his hands cracking blue with the static energy of fury.

--------------------

Circu stood in the abandoned bellfry and surveyed the surrounding slum district with a spyglass borrowed from Ken, the Boros Commander he met in the inn last night. Teysa, Dmitri, Ken, and his squad of ten soldiers stayed in the abandoned Orzhov chapel here in the slum districts. After extensive planning last night, they all have agreed to hunt down and destroy the hovering purple orb that hypnotized the slums, thus liberating its hapless captives.

Ken and Dmitri studied the map of the slum district, showing the previous locations of the swelling masses of the hypnotized slums with brightly colored pins. Teysa tried to contact the Ghost Council telepathically, but still there was no response. This made her worry.

Then loud footsteps were heard from the bellfry steps. Circu ran as fast as he can back to the ruined chapel and said that he found the purple orb, hovering not far from the church.

The soldiers, Ken, Dmitri, and Teysa stood from the pews and prepared themselves to liberate the slum districts.

---------------------------

The mists swirled around the darkness of Agryem. In the abandoned domed church, the mists formed into five humanoid figures with robes. They stood in a circle, facing each other. The Ghost Council, the Orzhov Guildmasters, are holding a meeting. The leader, Parimus, raised his hands and his eyes glowed furious red. His members: Vuliev, Astoria, Xanadu, and Navindo, eagerly await their leader's counsel and instructions.

"Marvel, Ghost Council, at the impending doom of the Boros Legion. They were once our enemies, and our allies, and now we have nothing to do to help them."

Vuliev: "Cannot we send ghosts or even gargoyles to help?"

Navindo: "That is certainly most futile, brother."

Vuliev: "We can't just...."

Xanadu: "Patience, Vuliev. We will find a way."

Astoria: "Force is irrelevant to use against the swarming Dimir."

Parimus: "And especially if we aid the Boros, we risk exposing ourselves, though Szadek will find us eventually."

Astoria: "Then we hope for a delay... Will this be possible?"

Vuliev: "Hoping that Teysa is still alive."

Parimus: "She is still alive. She sent a telepathic message."

An image of Teysa appeared in front of Parimus. "Ghost Council, please respond. The Dimir are swelling in front of Sunhome, and it won't be long before the Legion falls. We are currently hunting down the hypnotic orb in the slum quarters. I will update if all ends as expected."

Astoria: "Most pleasing..."

Xanadu: "Bright, loyal girl..."

Navindo: "What now, Parimus?"

Parimus: "We wait..."

-------------------------

Szadek wiped off the sweat from his forehead as he snapped the neck of the last Boros soldier standing. The House Guards raised their swords in respect for the Lord of Secrets. Now they eagerly await their master's instructions.

"Hmmm... We will rest again. Then let me find the Ghost Council, and I will kill them myself. All of you return to Duskmantle."

The undead soldiers obeyed and marched back towards the House of Shadow. Szadek squeezed his eyes shut and focused his energies to his mind, amplifying his senses, acting as a radar, a radar to hunt down the last Guild Leader.

--------------------------

The purple orb hovered in front of them. This task would be easy, if it were not for the mob of hypnotized slums blocking their path. Circu, Ken, and the Boros soldiers prepared themselves for a bloody confrontation.

The mob charged towards them with a blood curdling scream. They wielded broken pipes and sharp wooden stakes, ready to beat the crap out of Circu's party. Circu flashed out of sight and ,in an instant, five necks were snapped off with blinding flash kicks. Ken used his huge broadsword to cut through the bodies of the hapless hypnotized slums. He felt sorry for killing these mindless innocents, but to free them from this suffering, certain sacrifices must be made, like the loss of lives. Innocent lives.

Teysa and Dmitri sat on a bench, watching the bloody melee. Teysa had no experience in combat while Dmitri can't fight as a ghost. Then more and more screams of the dying and skewered pierced the air of the slum district.

After five minutes of fighting Ken, Circu, and three remaining soldiers stood in triumph over the lifeless bodies of seven of their comrades and the hypnotized slums. Then the orb hovered in front of them, unaware of its impending destruction.

With one mighty swing from his broadsword, Ken shattered the orb, unleashing hypnotic energies that faded into the air, incapable of doing any more damage.

-------------------------

Vuliev: "They have succeeded."

Astoria: "Teysa never let us down."

Xanadu: "What's next?"

Parimus: "I should persuade them to attack Duskmantle itself..."   

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XVIII

That night Circu's party went back to the inn where they stayed and met Ken, the Boros Commander, and his squad of ten men, now only three survived. Circu sat on the edge of his bed, Teysa and Dmitri on the floor while Ken stood up, his soldiers slept though their wounds throbbed in pain. The four studied the map of Duskmantle, provided by Circu himself. The map looked like an 8x8 tile of squares, for Duskmantle had numerous chambers and hidden rooms.

Circu pointed to a small box at the very first tile. "Heeerreee iss thee maiinnn enntrannccee off Dusskkmantttle. Iffff weee plannn toooo innfillltrattte annnd murrderr Szzzaddekkk, weee willl ennddd uppp asss onnee off theee soullls driffftinngg innn hisss soull pitt wheerree hee onccceee thrreeww meee."

Ken scratched his head then spoke: "What if we try to rig the basement with explosives?"

"Spectral guards will find them, and we will end up as mindless House Guards," Dmitri said.

"Ask the Ghost Council to summon a wave of ghosts to attack?" Teysa recommended.

"Annnddd Szzzaddekkk willl easssillyy repelll themmm likkee pessstttss."

Ken: "Artillery?"

Dmitri: "Moroii will be a problem."

Then Teysa spoke up again: "You might not like this one but... What if we try to rally the slums and hold an attack against Duskmantle, you know like an offensive. We will try to enter via underground sewers."

Ken: "We can't do that... After what happened to Sunhome and Nivix, remember?"

Circu: "Theee Dimmirrr arrree inddeeedd nnnummeerrouuus. Weee migghttt succceeeeddd inn smasshiinngg thee Housssee Guarrddss buttt theyyy wiilll riiiisse upp aggaiinnn."

Dmitri: "Won't the Ghost Council be able to at least control these undead warriors?"

Teysa: "I don't know..."

---------------------------------

Parimus' body was formed by the swirling mist. Then Vuliev reformed right next to him. The two chose to meet without the presence of the other Ghost Council Members, for plans are needed, and fast. And these two are the brightest of the Council Members.

Parimus: "They are planning to hold a siege against Duskmantle, but can't seem to find an effective way. What do we do?"

Vuliev: "If nothing, they would end up dead. All of them. We can't go out of Agryem and slay a handful of Dimir."

Parimus: "Not like that, Vuliev. Think..."

Vuliev: "Teysa's friend insists that we control the undead warriors, for we have ultimate ties with black and white mana."

Parimus: "Yes, and Dimir only has ties with black, for their other mana color is blue."

Vuliev: "What if we send our spectral warriors to aid them? At least let them reach Szadek himself."

Parimus: "Brilliant."

Vuliev: "But if we do that..."

Parimus: "Szadek will locate us. But he would be dead after this encounter."

Vuliev: "We have no other choice... Contact Teysa."

---------------------------------- 

The next day Circu and Teysa spent their time amassing the slums for a vengeance campaign against House Dimir. The slums were gathered in the abandoned Orzhov chapel, Teysa stood in the front with Circu beside her. And the air is thick with bloodlust.

"Brothers, sisters, you were all manipulated by the machinations of House Dimir. You were rendered helpless, mindless as you wandered the streets, helpless as the Moroii pick some of you off to be eaten. Many of you were killed in the numerous encounters with Boros and Azorius soldiers." Teysa spoke at the very top of her lungs. "And the time has come for you to execute your desired vengeance!!!"

The swarm of slums, approximately 856 of them, cheered and raised their blunt weapons in the air. Much of the slums stood outside, listening at Teysa's voice from the windows, and they are part of the bloodlust. 

"Lets go!" Someone shouted.

"But wait, you can't just go with what you have! I know some people who will supply you with arms and train you--"

"No more training!!" Someone again shouted.

"We can't! Don't be arrogant please. We must make plans first."

-------Next Day-------------

The sun rose high in the Ravnican sky, and the sky never looked this serene before, as if it was an omen that something is about to come, or happen.

And in the very heart of the slum quarters, the 856 slums were armed with swords and full battle armor. Circu and Ken prepared the sewer entrance, for their plans are finally complete: Half of the slums led by Circu will enter via the sewers and launch a surprise attack. Then the remaining half will attack from the main gates, led by Ken. Dmitri will accompany Circu to help him scout in the darkness of the sewers while Teysa will assisst Ken by casting protective barriers and launching weak bolts of black energy.

Circu entered the sewers and led his troops to the mazelike chambers towards Duskmantle. Dmitri flew past walls and obstacles, finding possible ways to reach the House of Shadow faster. Circu fantasized at the thought of killing Szadek without mercy, but how can he kill a Guild Leader? His power barely matched Szadek's.

Ken, Teysa, and the remainder of the attack squad marched towards Duskmantle. It won't be a long march before the bloodshed begins.

---------------------------

House Guards stood like statues in the dark hallway of Duskmantle's first floor entrance. It was a silent day, a very silent one, and barely even a wisp of wind blew inside. The flickering wall torches provided illumination, and the cackling of the torch fires echoed through the entire labyrinth hallways, with no other sound to interfere.

Then something from outside interfered with the silence. Something that sounded like chains. Then the main gates bulged, as if something heavy hit it. The House Guards rushed to open the gates to inspect, but were crushed as the weight of the heavy iron gates fell upon them.

Then Ken's troops swarmed in, slashing and hacking the House Guards. Teysa prevented the warriors from regenerating by casting an enchantment on Duskmantle itself, aided by Vuliev himself. The shattered House Guards lay on the floor like broken statues, unable to do something to stand up again.

Ken only hoped that Szadek would hear the crashing and breaking of the bones of his House Guards, and they are drawing near to kill him. And he relished at the fantasy of ripping the Guild Leader to pieces with a million sword cuts.

Down at Duskmantle's basement, the same chaos was wreaking havoc. House Guards lay shattered as their bones were trampled by the frenzied and hellbent vengeance-thirsty warriors led by Circu and Dmitri, both vengeance-hungry as well. They swarmed up towards the first floor, destroying anything Dimir that came to their path (Circu and Teysa are both capable of banishing ghosts to Agryem). They will not stop until they are dead or until they decapitate Szadek himself.

------------------------

Floor by floor the same scene greeted anyone who would enter. The carpet ripped apart, walls cracked, bones littered the ground, wall paintings splashed with blood, armor and weaponry lay on the floor. Like Szadek's armada that destroyed three Guilds in just two days, this combined vengeance force was unstoppable, thanks to the enchantment cast by Teysa and Vuliev.

And the side effect? The Ghost Council can now be detected by Szadek, if he should ever come out of Duskmantle alive, he might hunt down and kill the Ghost Council. The Ghost Council took the opportunity of sending their own ghost warriors to help in the siege.

Xanadu, a Council Member, also helped in the siege. A Guild Leader is needed in order to destroy a Guild HQ, and Xanadu IS a Guild Leader.

Circu followed his past memories here in Duskmantle in order to locate a several hundred secret chambers, now all ransacked. Now he climbed the spiral staircase that led to the fifth floor: Szadek's throne room.

After Szadek's betrayal again rushed in his mind, Circu gathered each and every rage he can accumulate in this fateful encounter with his ex-master. How he longed to slaughter Szadek with his bare hands, or with the same scalpels he used to lobotomize his victims including the great Freinz Hotfrost, Teysa's now dead boyfriend.

Circu delivered a series of kicks in order to smash the throne room door open. Then he led his squad in, hellbent on murder.

--------------------------

The Ridge Plateau is home to a hundred ruins of buildings that fell prey to Gruul raids back in the days of the Guild Wars. Then the Selesnyans came and planted flora which quickly decayed at the infestation of the Golgari swarm. Then all came to dust as the Guilds went extinct, and Ridge Plateau is nothing more but a grim reminder of Ravnica's bloody past, and home to various animals.

And Ridge plateau overlooked Utavra, the district ruled by the Selesnyans, which later succumbed to the might of the Gruul.  And by following a broken road, you can find the cave that hides Agryem's gateway. The Ghost Quarter. The Ghost Council's domain.

"And not for long, the late Ghost Council's domain," Szadek said as he entered the cave.

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XIX

"This can't be!"

The slum soldiers looked everywhere. Teysa, Dmitri, Circu, Ken, and the rest of the surviving slum soldiers couldn't believe their eyes. Szadek wasn't in his throne room, and wasn't in Duskmantle itself!

A sliver of fear went down Teysa's spine as she thought of the Ghost Council. Could Szadek have escaped Duskmantle and went to Agryem?

"The possibilities are high, Teysa, but I doubt it that he would destroy the Council. He would rather kill us first," Vuliev said.

"If he isn't anywhere here, burn Duskmantle to the ground! We can destroy the Dimir Guild HQ, we have a Guild Leader with us," Ken barked at his men, furious at the disappearance of Szadek.

They all left Duskmantle save for Ken and Circu. The pair went down to the basement in order to plant explosives. Teysa and Dmitri dismissed the remaining 90 slum soldiers but they hesitated, saying that they must first watch the destruction of the House of Shadow.

Circu and Ken dashed towards the survivors and waited for the climatic explosion. Vuliev's enchantment crumbled some of the support columns and damaged much of the lower floors, thus making the gargantuan tower sway.

Then the loud roar of the explosives came from below, sending the legendary House of Shadow down to the ground in an impressive column of thick black smoke, the smoke of evil. Circu felt much better after exacting some revenge, but not yet enough to stir his heart. He could imagine the trapped souls in Szadek's pit now flying home to Agryem, finally finding peace within themselves. But peace is not yet in the air if Szadek still breathes.

Vuliev returned to Agryem back to the Ghost Council. Now with Szadek's sudden disappearance, the nightmares never seem to come to an end.

--------------------------

The souls of the departed darted off as Szadek walked in Agryem. No one dared to come near him, for he is evil personified, an unstoppable torrent of malignant force, demonstrated to the three Guilds that fell in two days. Now he is on the hunt for the Ghost Council of Orzhova, and if he ever succeeds in killing them, there will be no doubt that Szadek will become the ultimate controller of Ravnica.

He ventured near the domed church where the Ghost Council usually appears. Szadek walked near the fence but refused to enter, as if something else lingers in his mind.

Then he chose to walk on forward, ignoring the domed church, obviously heading towards someplace else.

------------------------------

Parimus summoned the Ghost Council in the domed church for a flash meeting. They all saw Szadek stand right in front of the church, grasping the iron fence, but he ignored the church and continued walking eastward.

Parimus: "We all saw it, brothers. Where is he going? I know he is looking for us, but..."

Astoria: "Maybe he plans on destroying Agryem first?"

Xanadu: "Or scaring us?"

Vuliev: "No, brothers, he indeed has something in his mind. He escaped the destruction of Duskmantle just to get here."

Navindo: "Maybe he will teleport right in front of us?"

Astoria: "Can we defeat him if he ever chooses to attack us?"

Parimus: "No. Unless we overload the black and white mana, which will---"

Xanadu: "Destroy us, our existence."

Navindo: "And produce a powerful blast capable of annihilating a Guild Leader."

Parimus: "We are not that desperate!"

Then a spectre entered the domed church in a hurry. "Master Parimus, the Guildpact Orb's barriers were opened by Szadek!"

Parimus: "Damn..."

Parimus tried to contact Teysa telepathically, but his mind is clouded by countless Dimir insignias. Szadek is scrambling the Ghost Council's telepathy!

Xanadu: "I long for a miracle."

------------------------------

Teysa received no messages from the Ghost Council. What if Szadek really went there? This made her worry.

She along with Circu sat on a wooden bench on the inn. Dmitri and Ken talked outside, the slum soldiers returned to the slum districts.

"What if Szadek really went there?" Teysa asked Circu.

Circu said nothing. Sweat trickled down Teysa's smooth face.

"Well if you won't talk then fine, I will go to Agryem myself!" Teysa bolted out of the inn, past Dmitri and Ken, and walked towards the aviary to rent a griffin.

Ken went inside and stood in front of Circu, arms akimbo. "Well, young man, what have you done to her?"

Circu just stared.

"Hey I'm talking to you! Dmitri, follow her!" Ken signaled to Dmitri to follow Teysa.

Circu couldn't move. He's paralyzed by some unknown force. A thousand Dimir insignias flooded his vision, making him nauseate, yet he can't move a muscle. Ken gripped both of Circu's muscular arms and shook him hard, his skin was cold.

"Are you all right, Circu? Damn..."

Then Circu's consciousness succumbed.

-----------------------------

Circu found himself drifting in an ocean of darkness, undulating as he floated facing the dark starless sky above. He stood up, and everything became solid, as if the ocean froze. Then the Dimir insignia appeared in front of him, the eye staring at him. Circu charged towards the insignia and shattered it with an elbow strike. Then another insignia appeared behind him, then another in front of him, above him, below him, everywhere!

Szadek appeared a few feet in front of him. He clasped his hands and stared at Circu. "You can't escape reality, Circu. I will be the ultimate Guild Leader! Can't you see how I manipulate your mind, and how I cripple your weak body?"

Tentacles rose from the ground and grabbed Circu's legs, effectively disabling him. He couldn't even open his mouth.

"I know you are the only one capable of killing me. You are the only one who has the skills to defeat me. And I won't let that happen."

Circu's vision restored to see the bright blue sky as he was being carried by Ken on his back.

He heard Ken talking to a man somewhere that smelled like feathers.

"Two please, overnight rent, here's the payment," Ken said, then the sound of coins being counted.

Then Ken strapped Circu on a passenger seat. Clearly he was going for a griffin ride.

"Okay... To Agryem!" Ken shouted as they went airborne.

----------Two Hours Later---------------

Teysa stood in front of the Ghost Council. She couldn't believe her eyes as she stared at five of the wealthiest of all Orzhov patriarchs, now ghosts who serve as leaders of the Guild.

Parimus drifted next to her. Teysa remembered Parimus in her father's stories. Parimus was once a bright young man who financed the construction of the Orzhova Church, but he was killed by a Gruul barbarian. She always imagined herself being one of the Ghost Council back when she was a little girl, living a very long life as a ghost, drifting in Agryem doing nothing.

"It sure is a miracle, young girl, that you came. We are in grave danger. The Guildpact Orb was seized by Szadek!" Parimus said.

The Guildpact Orb is a huge orb that floated in Agryem's magically-sealed underground chamber. It contained the signatures of the eight Guild Leaders (Szadek's signature was hidden)signed in the Guildpact and it stopped Guilds from fighting each other. But when the pact was broken the Orb lost its powers. Now it contained not only the signautres but also the souls of the fallen Guild Leaders.

"What would happen if he seizes it?" Teysa asked.

"Well he might absorb it and possess the powers of all of the fallen Guild Leaders."

"Or?"

"Leave in intact and use it after he is done dealing with us."

Teysa wanted to run towards the Guildpact Orb chamber and stop Szadek, but she was too eak, and Szadek will just enjoy killing her.

Then the door swung open. Ken entered the domed church with the paralyzed Circu on his back. Dmitri drifted behind him. Teysa ran towards Ken and checked Circu's pulse. Normal.

"What happened to him?" Teysa asked.

"After you left him I went in to talk to him, then he suddenly passed out," Ken said.

Parimus drifted towards Circu and examined him. "Bad case of Szadek's psionic manipulation. He really isn't unconscious, only immobile. He can hear us, he can see, he can feel, but can't move nor interact. Szadek immobilized him for some reasons unknown. Luckily I can stop it," Parimus touched Circu's face with his weathered hands and suddenly Circu leaped from Ken's back and stood behind him.

"Welcome back, Circu," Teysa said as she hugged Circu, who hugged her back as well.

Teysa turned to Ken and Dmitri and explained to them the grave situation they are facing right now. Ken brandished his broadsword and recommended to go down there and kill Szadek.

"That is indeed an idea, young man. You'd better go and stop Szadek," Parimus said.

The four ran outside and followed the path that led them to the Guildpact Orb. And this time, the stage is set for the final confrontation.

-------------------------------------

"Almighty Guildpact Orb. You gave Ravnica a millennium of peace, and yet you failed after I broke the pact. Now you lay down here, unable to do anything as I ravage at the streets above. Yes they cheer at the collapse of Duskmantle, but I don't need such rabble after I take Ravnica as my own!"

Szadek stood in front of the Guildpact Orb. The huge radiant orb floated in the center of this huge chamber. The names of the eight Guild Leaders and their respective Guilds swam all around the Orb (Grand Arbiter Praxis - Azorius.. Razia - Boros.. Niv-Mizzet - Izzet.. Rakdos - Cult of Rakdos.. Ghost Council Parimus, Vuliev, Xanadu, Astoria, Navindo - Orzhov.. Chorus of the Conclave - Selesnya.. Momir Vig - Simic.. Savra - Golgari.. ) and inside the Orb were the souls of the seven dead Guild Leaders.

"Ahhh... No Szadek eh? That's right. My identity is hidden from anyone."

Then footsteps interrupted the silence of the chamber. Four figures stood from the far end of the chamber, then walked towards Szadek. One of them is holding a shining silver broadsword.

"Szadek!" The one wielding a sword shouted.

"Well well well if it isn't Circu and Dmitri, teacher and student eh? You brought along a friend and that bitch who escaped Duskmantle. What brings you here?"

"Weeee havvvee commmee tooo forrrevverrr puttt youuuurr liifffee too annn ennnddd," Circu said, drawing his twin scalpels from his pockets.

"And you have also come for the Guildpact Orb, right? Well, take it!"

Szadek delivered two powerful punches at the Orb which cracked it in half, then exploded in a bright blast of white light, blinding everyone in the chamber for a moment, then their visions restored. Souls of the departed Guild Leaders flew upward towards Agryem, then the ground shook for a moment.

"You want me? Come and get me," Szadek said as his body glowed black and blue.

"Me first!" Ken charged towards Szadek, gripping his broadsword tight with both hands.

Szadek blocked the furious combination blows and slashes from Ken. Then Circu appeared next to Szadek and delivered a powerful kick that sent the Lord of Secrets crashing against the wall. He rose again and slammed Circu in the chest with a shocking psionic blast that rendered him immobile, at least temporarily.

Ken leaped up in the air and made a diving cut towards Szadek. The vampire dispersed in thin air as the sword made contact with his head. Then he reappeared behind Ken and attacked him with a combination of chops and elbow strikes.

Teysa's black bolts did not even singe Szadek's flowing golden robe. She stopped attacking and instead tried to contact the Ghost Council. Telepathy still useless. Dmitri, in his ghost form, can't do anything but watch.

Szadek raised Ken to the air with powerful telekinesis and threw him to the opposite side of the chamber. His face hit the stone floor, making his nose bleed.

"Bastard!" Ken shouted.

Circu found himself able to move again. He flashed next to Ken and helped him stand up.

"Am I too much for the two of you? What can you do to stop me?" Szadek said. Then he launched a sharp black energy that went through Ken's chest, spilling blood. Teysa screamed, Circu grabbed his friend as Ken staggered then finally collapsed in Circu's arms.

"Sorry, pal. Can't.....kill....himm.....Itss..up...to..you---" Then Ken stopped breathing.

Circu gently laid Ken's body on the stone floor then closed his eyelids. Then Circu stood up and pointed his scalpels towards Szadek.

"Youuuu willl payyyyy!"

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XX

After a series of precisely aimed blows, Circu managed to injure Szadek in his chest. Blood poured out from many small cuts and stained Szadek's golden robe.

"Curse you!" Szadek cursed Circu. Szadek knows that Circu can kill him, for Szadek himself trained Circu back in his childhood days. Every fighting style and secrets of killing was taught to Circu, and Szadek regretted it dearly.

Szadek unleashed a furious swarm of small energy globes. The globes produced sparks of lightning that hit various parts of the chamber and ricocheted on the walls. Teysa conjured a shell of protection that rendered her safe from the bolts. Dmitri was confident that he won't get hit, for he is ethereal.

Circu dodged the frenzied lightning bolts that jumped all around the vast chamber. Szadek stood up again and commanded the lightning bolts to chase Circu. The lobotomist was severly shocked by the powerful jolts delivered by the lightning bolts. Then Szadek furiously kicked Circu in the face, smashing his skull, badly deforming his face.

"Circu!" Teysa shouted with tears streaming down her face. Dmitri had nothing to do. He felt worthless, useless.

Szadek grabbed Circu by the neck and tightened it, thus strangling him. "I will kill you, you idiot!" Szadek barked at Circu whose badly damaged face gushed with blood.

Dmitri turned to Teysa then said: "Hope you don't get mad, Ms. Karlov, but I have a confession to make."

"What?" Teysa said.

"I.....I am the one who murdered your father. I mutilated him in the Church, as ordered to me by my Dimir superiors. To pay for what I have done, I will do this. Farewell," Then Dmitri drifted towards Szadek and dispersed himself into a blinding mist that distracted the vampire. Circu managed to break free from Szadek's vicious grip and pummeled him with multiple scalpel stabs.

Teysa dropped to her knees and cried hard. She became friends with her father's murderer. The mystery that went unsolved for a month puzzled everyone, even the Ghost Council. And the killer was with her, befriending her. She couldn't believe her ears.

Circu ran towards her and helped her stand up. She almost gasped at the sight of Circu's barely recognizable face: A critically damaged nose that kept flowing with blood, dislocated left eye, and a few teeth missing. Then he turned to look at Szadek.

Szadek waved off Dmitri's mist then suddenly a series of explosions rocked Szadek's body. Teysa watched with flowing tears and her mouth agape. Orzhov ghosts have a special skill that allows them to self-destruct, severely harming Guild Leaders at the cost of their existence. Dmitri sacrificed himself to pay for his sins and to exact a revenge against Szadek.

"I...forgive you," Teysa said.

Szadek was on his knees, gasping for air. Then Circu took the opportunity to deliver a flying kick straight in Szadek's face, making him drop down to the floor. Then the Ghost Council, all five of them, appeared in front of Szadek.

"Szadek, Guild Leader of House Dimir, we have come to personally execute you for the crimes of genocide and conspiring with the late Momir Vig and Grand Arbiter Augustin IV in breaking the Guildpact," Parimus said as he channeled black and white mana with both of his hands.

"Not if I can help it." Szadek suddenly got up to his feet and blasted Parimus with a powerful black/blue energy shot. But Parimus also managed to unleash his channeled energy towards Szadek, damaging him as well. But Parimus was critically damaged.

"No!" Teysa screamed at the sight of her Guild Leader damaged. Though ghosts, the Ghost Council can be damaged and killed by a fellow Guild Leader, and Szadek seemed to have succeeded. The Ghost Council share a single life force. If one of them dies, all of them will die.

Parimus slowly faded, as well as his fellow Council Members. He cast one final look at Teysa, then the Ghost Council dispersed into molecules of white and black mana. Another Guild dies, and if they fail to kill Szadek, then all is lost.

Szadek was also heavily damaged by Parimus' energy blast, and he lay gasping as he gripped the cold stone floor. Circu delivered repeated kicks and elbow strikes against Szadek, and the vampire couldn't even retaliate nor resist.

As if one final desperate attack Szadek released a powerful wave of psionic energy that sent chains that pinned Circu on the wall. Teysa ran next to him and cast a protective barrier. Szadek glowed black and blue with such intensity that it made Teysa cover her eyes. Then multiple bolts of energy burst from Szadek and raced towards Teysa, which was unprotected by the barrier (the barrier she casted can only protect an individual). Circu had nothing to do but look in horror as his friend, or should I say lover, was hit by numerous energy bolts. Teysa screamed in pain, then she dropped to the floor, barely breathing.

Then Szadek himself stood up and screamed in pain. The bonds that kept Circu pinned on the wall vanished, allowing him to go straight to Szadek. He drove his twin scalpels on the vampire's heart, then kicked him in the stomach with such force that it knocked Szadek off his feet and down to the floor, finally dead.

Circu ran towards Teysa and shook her in her arms. She was dead.

--------------------------------------

An earthquake suddenly rocked Agryem, shattering much of the buildings and toppling posts and fences. Circu left the Guildpact Orb Chamber carrying Ken and Teysa's lifeless bodies on his back as he ran towards the Ghost Quarter.

There was chaos everywhere. Buildings fell, ghosts drifted back and forth as if afraid of getting crushed by the falling debris. Circu had a hard time seeing his surroundings, for his left eye is now blind.

He avoided falling buildings, smashed fences, and ran until he reached the very gateway itself. He leaped towards the gateway until he was in Utavra. He watched in disbelief as the gateway slowly closed, and it won't be long before the link between the Ghost Quarter and Ravnica will be permanently severed.

He carried the lifeless bodies of his friend and his lover to the rented griffin and flew his way back to the city, in haste.

EPILOGUE

Two years later

Circu took the throne as Ravnica's sole ruler after his victory against the Dimir two years ago. With the city thrown in chaos after the Dimir attacks, he stood up and proclaimed to lead the city into regeneration, just like the fabled phoenix rising from its ashes. Under his rule Ravnica was rebuilt, and the three districts were merged into one peaceful global city. Unfortunately Agryem can never be opened anymore, so there is no other way for Ravnicans to cheat death.

He built a palace where he stayed with his family. He had a wife and a daughter. As he looked on the mirror he saw on his body the numerous scars he bore from fighting the swelling masses of House Dimir. His face was reconstructed by doctors, along with his speech defect (a damage found in his voice box).

Today it rained on Ravnica, and Circu stood on the balcony, allowing himself to get drenched in the cold rain. Then his wife entered the balcony and stood next to him, grabbing his muscular arm. Her smooth skin caressed Circu's arm, which made him smile and kiss her.

"After all these years, I never knew how much I loved you." Circu told her as he hugged her tight.

After escaping Agryem two years ago Circu immediately headed towards an Orzhov necromancer and had Teysa and Ken's souls fetched while Agryem was still closing. He couldn't contain his joy at the sight of his resurrected friend and lover, and a few months later (after Circu's facial reconstruction) they were married. Ken became Circu's Military Commander and had a wife named Danikka and lived in the palace. Unfortunately there was nothing he can do for Teysa's father's soul, Dmitri's, and Freinz'. All that he has to do is to accept whatever was left, and love them as well.

To the Ravnicans, many mysteries remained unsolved like who attacked and killed Freinz Hotfrost, Niv-Mizzet, Menelaus, Dmitri, where the Moroii came from, and many other mysteries. To Circu, they were a part of his life, how he first became a bloodthirsty lobotmist, then an unlikely savior. Now he believes that life is a wheel, sometimes spinning to your favor, sometimes not.

He no longer believes that he is a loner, rejected because of his deformities, now he is respected as the sole ruler of Ravnica.

What happened to the remaining Moroii and Dimir? They exploded along with their fallen Guild Leader. What about the remaining Orzhov, Boros, and Azorius? They serve the city as guards, soldiers, tax collectors, store owners, and teachers. No more Guilds will be initiated. No more pacts. And by Teysa's request, no more religion. Everyone has his or her own free will to worship whoever he or she feels to.

And life never became sweeter for Circu. He hoped that everything will stay like this until he breathes his last.

END

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