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  • Writer's pictureAvacyn Believer

Lament for Bala Ged

The desolate landscape upon which Avacyn and Nahiri stood was eerily quiet and motionless in the wake of their brief duel, the disturbances in the white dust were the only physical evidence left behind by the conflict. However, Zendikar was rarely, if ever, at peace. The change of climate was subtle, and Avacyn might have not noticed at all if it wasn’t for the feathers on her wings being able to pick up even the smallest changes in the wind. Unfamiliar with the climate of the foreign plane, Avacyn didn’t think anything of it until the approaching storm demanded attention through a distant thunderous roar when the white bone-like twisted spires were ripped out of the ground.


Avacyn turned to face the darkening horizon and was forced to shield her eyes from the oncoming pale dust. Nahiri did the same, but the angel had the benefit of using one of her wings as a barrier. The quickly approaching dust storm rose so high it connected the earth and sky. Within moments the wind was blowing Avacyn’s long white hair in all directions.


“We need to leave.” As a native Kor of Zendikar, Nahiri recognised the Roil and knew the danger it posed. She added, without humour; “Now would be a great time to planeswalk away.”


“How fast can you teach me?” Avacyn retorted.


Despite the approaching danger, Nahiri laughed; “Not fast enough.”


And then there was no more time for talking. The elemental storm came abruptly and without mercy. While Avacyn could still see Nahiri, she saw that the lithomancer was trying to say something but the storm drowned out all other sound. Then in a blink of an eye, the two were separated by a thick cloud of dust. They could not see each other, but Avacyn did not panic, not yet. She was unmoved by the storm, now both of her wings shielding most of her body from the rough dust and fragments of stones.


Avacyn found herself in a storm many of times on Innistrad, she was confident that even storm clouds bowed before her. Unfortunately for Avacyn, the Roil was a ruthless power that did not care for foreign presence on Zendikar. The storm resisted any and all attempts to cloudshift, and only then Avacyn felt alarmed.


Lost with no sense of direction, Avacyn decided to fly through the storm and get above it. The storm resisted against her wings, even to lift from the ground required a great deal more of physical exertion than it usually did. With gritted teeth and force of will, Avacyn managed to lift up but as soon as she flew upwards she was at the mercy of the vortex. The Archangel did all she could to fight against the violence of Zendikar, but the Roil was stronger and when Avacyn was forced into the ground, it shattered beneath her. The sinkhole swallowed her whole without pause, forcing her underground into the caves of the corrupted land of Bala Ged.

 

“Will this place not cease its violence.” Avacyn muttered as she pushed herself off the ground. She found herself in near complete darkness, only wisps of light made it through the cracks in the white rock above, giving Avacyn some idea that she was in a cave system. The tempest of the Roil did not reach there, making the stark contrast with the silence of the cave even more obvious. Now that she was out of the elements, Avacyn became increasingly more aware of the aching of her body, and to make matters worse, there was dust and sand all over her. It crossed Avacyn’s mind if she was bothered by sand before her mind was freed.


At least nothing was broken, she thought. Avacyn tried to confirm the thought by moving her wings and quickly realised how confined the space around her was, forcing her to keep the wings close to her body.


“Angels are not meant to be underground.” Avacyn sighed as she conjured an orb of light to illuminate the cave. When she looked up, it became obvious she could not leave the same way she came in. The only option was to explore the cave system and hope there was a way out.


The composition of the cave was similar to the surface above; bleak and oddly devoid of life and colour. The surface of the tunnels was entirely monotone white, which allowed the light to reach further but it felt unnatural. The only indication that the caves might have been once inhabited was the near consistent dimensions of the tunnels, as if they were visited often once upon a time. Isolated in the tunnels, Avacyn was more keenly aware of her senses. The only sound was the echo of her boots against the whitewashed floor. Her wings constantly reminded her how claustrophobic the cave’s tunnels were, and instead of natural smells of earth there was a pervasive miasma of death.

It was impossible for Avacyn to tell how long she spent navigating the lifeless cave system. Eventually, she found herself in a large chamber. Avacyn assumed it was large because she could not see the full extent of the cavern as for the first time her magical light did not reach the ceiling, and her wings were not brushing against the walls. However, the comfort of extending her wings would soon prove to be short-lived.


In the distance, where only the edges of Avacyn’s light reached, was a figure shrouded by the shadows. With careful measured steps Avacyn drew closer. She was fully expecting to defend herself at a moment's notice, Zendikar has been nothing but hostile since the first moment she arrived on the plane. Slowly, the light revealed a figure that was vaguely human but its form was unnaturally twisted. It reminded Avacyn of the corrupted horrors that she saw on Innistrad.

Avacyn could only begin to guess at the origins of the abomination, she knew not what races were native to Zendikar. Whatever clothing or armour it once wore was now melded into its body. The only thing that stood out was the wooden staff it carried. Beyond the physical, Avacyn saw through the corrupted flesh and glimpsed a soul in agony, bound to the nightmarish body; not dissimilar to the unhallowed shambling corpses of Innistrad that were denied the Blessed Sleep.


The abomination offered little to no time for study of what it once might have been. When it took notice of Avacyn, the abomination responded with aggression. Its featureless face split into a jagged maw as the wooden staff surged with magical energy and Avacyn had only seconds to react. Glowing collar of Avacyn flashed into existence in front of the angel. A shield of golden light extended in all directions from the holy symbol to protect Avacyn from the abomination’s spell, deflecting the magical energy into a nearby wall, scorching it where the energy hit.


Before Avacyn could engage the abomination, a number of spirits appeared out of the shadows, as if summoned to join the battle. These spirits looked like humans to Avacyn but their ears were much longer. They carried spears and bows, attacking Avacyn’s magical shield with the ethereal weapons without hesitation. The Archangel responded with rays of purifying light, piercing the spirits one by one. However, for each one purged, another took its place.


Avacyn assumed that just like ghouls controlled by a necromancer, the spirits would stop appearing if she defeated the abomination, but the only way around the spirits was to fly over them. It was a risk without knowing how high the cavern’s ceiling was, so Avacyn only propelled herself high enough to get over the spirits. Unblocked, Avacyn was then able to target the abomination.


“Burn in the light, foul creature.” Avacyn decreed as she struck the abomination directly with a spell.


The spell caused the abomination’s body to erupt with light. It burned from within and soon it was naught but a pile of ashes, with only the staff remaining behind. Avacyn’s assumption proved correct as the other spirits ceased their aggression and faded away. One spirit remained, however. The spirit that was shackled to the remains of the abomination. Avacyn landed near, careful not to disturb the ashes, and observed for a moment before trying to address the lingering spirit.


“Who are you?” Avacyn asked.


The spirit did not show any awareness of her words. The only sign of perception was the movement of its head as it looked around, until eventually its ghostly gaze settled on Avacyn.


“I am what remains to grief within the waste of this land.” The spirit’s words were more like an echo than a voice.


“What happened to you?”


“We were so proud, so strong, we thought… so wrong.” The spirit lamented, the sense of regret was palpable. “We bled into the sand, and it is where our bones will remain.”


Only then Avacyn became aware of the scattered bones across much of the chamber as she looked down, so old that the bones appeared to simply be a make-up of the cavern’s floor. Startled by this revelation, Avacyn took a step back, trying not to stand on the bones.


“The nightmares consumed us, leaving only dark despair behind.” The spirit continued, drawing Avacyn’s attention back to it. The Archangel did not know the history of Zendikar or how the once proud elven nations were nearly eradicated by the Eldrazi, but she knew a suffering spirit when she saw one.

“You need to let your grief and rage fade. Your soul is chained to this nightmare by guilt.” She tried to reason with the spirit.


“I am the Speaker of my people, I have failed them but I will not leave them!” The spirit’s protest reverberated through the cavern.


“There is peace in Blessed Sleep, for you and your people. Their spirits will follow you in death as they followed you in life.” Avacyn insisted.

The spirit appeared to contemplate her words but the Archangel knew that troubled spirits were rarely receptive to comfort and hope. Avacyn wished the Flight of Alabaster was there to help guide the spirit to the quiet oblivion, but it was up to her to banish the spirit, even if it was going to resist the gift of Blessed Sleep. Without waiting for the spirit to protest further, Avacyn released the light of a banishing spell, severing the spirit’s link to the corrupted remains and allowing it to pass into the aether, known to Avacyn as Blessed Sleep.


Despite the spirit’s resistance, once it was released, Avacyn felt as if the oppressive atmosphere of the cavern had lifted. Curious by the wooden staff left behind, Avacyn reached for it. At first glance it appeared to be nothing more than a mage staff, but further inspection revealed a hidden sword. When unsheathed the thin blade was surrounded by glowing green vines. The sword felt flimsy in Avacyn’s hand when compared to the spear she was used to, only good for stabbing action. However, it was better than having no weapon at all, and seemingly it had some magical properties, which could prove to be useful. Avacyn decided to keep the staff-sword and returned the blade into the concealed sheath.


After exploring the cavern in full, whilst carefully avoiding the bones in the ground, Avacyn resigned herself to more time confined to the underground as she searched for a way out. She wasn’t sure how long it took or when exactly the environment began to change, but eventually the tunnels slowly transformed from a devoid wasteland into a more natural cave of dirt, mud and moss. During her exploration Avacyn was prepared for more conflict, but fortunately all craven beasts cowered out of sight in the shadows as the Archangel followed the tunnels, guided by a newly conjured sphere of light.


When Avacyn eventually emerged into sunlight, the sight in front of her was rather unexpected. The Archangel wrongly assumed that all of Zendikar was a barren wasteland, but what she saw was the exact opposite. The sun was high above expansive mountain ranges, which had valleys filled with forests and their peaks were broken up with floating rock platforms. It looked like an entirely different continent of untamed wilderness.

Avacyn was looking up into the sunlit sky, deciding where to go now that she was no longer trapped underground and able to spread her wings in full, but she was interrupted by a voice pleading for help. It was an inner voice that Avacyn recognised as a prayer, even if it was not the sort of prayer that she was accustomed to hearing. It has been a frustrating day for Avacyn to say the least, she felt like she barely had any respite ever since Sorin attempted to murder her, but hearing the prayer reminded Avacyn of her purpose, and so she focused on following the voice. Hoping she would be able to reach whomever was praying in time.

 

“Damn it!” Lamne cursed as she scrambled to escape. A sudden appearance of a winged shadow caused her hooked line to miss its target and the split second sensation of free fall caused an uncomfortable knot within the Kor’s stomach. She did not suffer from fear of heights, but the primal preservation instinct at the back of her mind was not pleased with the feeling of being prey.

She didn’t see what exactly ambushed her, only that the creature had too many claws and teeth, and it definitely wanted to make a meal out of her. She felt lucky to still be alive, even if her right arm was bleeding from deep cuts. Lamne should have known better than to venture too far on her own and get separated from the scouting group, Akoum was not a forgiving place. She hoped there would be time to lament over her mistake later, but first she had to focus on surviving and get away.


The mountainside did not give up passage easily. It was a maze of large rocks, with magma flows hiding out of sight, as if the terrain itself laid traps. Lamne managed to avoid the pursuing beast by pushing herself through crevices that were too small for the creature. She paid for it with cuts and burns across exposed skin, but being in pain was better than being eaten. Akoum’s treacherous terrain was as hostile to the beast as it was to Lamne, but the beast was no less deterred by the punishing environment than Lamne was to get through it to escape.


Lamne saw two options ahead of her, use hook and rope to try to climb up onto the floating rock platforms near the ridge, or get down from the slope and attempt to outrun the beast in the open. With her injured arm, Lamne was less confident in the hooked line than she was with her spells. Hoping she made the right decision, Lamne half tumbled, half ran down the slope. As soon as she reached flat ground a ghostly form of a hyena enveloped her, the umbra allowing her to move much quicker by channelling the creature’s abilities.

Daring a glance over her shoulder, Lamne did not see the beast and for a moment thought she might be able to get away. However, her hopes were snuffed out when the beast suddenly leaped over the rocks, propelled forward by wings at speed faster than Lamne’s umbra. As a Kor, Lamne was raised to rely on her skill and equipment but in the moment of desperation, when the winged nightmare was dangerously close, Lamne lifted her voice into the sky realm and let out a plea for help. The aloof angels of Zendikar were not exactly known for assisting the mortals but it did happen on rare occasions.


Just as Lamne uttered her plea to the heavens, the beast caught up to her and managed to shatter the umbra with a deadly blow. Lamne tumbled to the ground, believing it was all over for her.

 

To Lamne it looked like an angel flashed into existence. One moment the beast was going to end her life, and the next moment it was crushed into the ground with a sword pierced through it.


After overcoming the shock of her rescue, Lamne sat up in the dirt, wincing at the pain elicited by moving her injured body to gaze at the angel that was her salvation. The angel looked worn by battle. Her dark armour and clothes were damaged and torn, and her wings were blood-soaked and covered in dust. What surprised Lamne was that the angel was not blinded by a halo. Although Lamne did not know why the angels wore their halos the way they did, she knew from the stories that the few angels who did not have a halo had more wings, while the angel in front of her only had one pair. However, despite the odd appearance, Lamne recognised the sword of the animist used by the elvish clans, and so she had no reason to doubt the angel was of Zendikar.


“Thank you.” Lamne managed to find her voice eventually.


“Are you hurt?” The angel asked.


“Cuts, bruises and burns.” Lamne sighed as she carefully stood up, her body in pain but not broken. “Nothing the healers can’t fix, if I can get back to Goma Fada.” She added as she looked in the direction where Goma Fada was currently camping.


The anxiousness in Lamne’s expression did not escape Avacyn’s notice.


“I can protect you.” The angel offered. Avacyn had full intention to see the woman to safety, but she also had a selfish motivation. If Goma Fada was a settlement or a city, it would be as good a place as any to begin looking for Nahiri. The injured woman did look like she was of the same people as the Lithomancer.


“Oh, thank you! That would be most welcome.” Lamne was washed over with relief.

 

After ensuring Lamne was safe, and conversing with one of the local herders that greeted them, Avacyn withdrew before her presence drew too much attention. She was keen to observe the nomadic caravan from a distance. It was a fascinating display of how differently people lived on this plane. She has never seen anything like Goma Fada on Innistrad, though the mountain peaks of Akoum reminded Avacyn of the Geier Reach in Stensia. It did not fail to escape her notice that the hedrons dotted around the landscape stood out against nature the same way cryptoliths have on Innistrad. Avacyn wondered if Nahiri had a hand in those too.

 

“I see Zendikar has not killed you.” Nahiri observed dryly after she found the wayward angel observing the Walking City from a vantage point. “Good.”


“Not for lack of trying.” Avacyn responded.


“What happened to you?”


“I’ve granted Blessed Sleep to a corrupted spirit, and then saved a Kor woman that I heard praying. In turn one of the nomads granted me a boon.” Avacyn produced the basilisk collar she was given. “He was an interesting, boorish character. Told me I might have more feathers than brains.”


“That sounds like Bruse. Who knew you could fight an interdimensional threat with foul language.” Nahiri chuckled, joining by the angel’s side.


“They live so differently to my people, but in some regards they are the same.” Avacyn gestured towards the caravan sprawled across the landscape in front of them. “I can hear them, wishing for a peaceful life and praying to their gods for protection.”


Nahiri’s expression darkened as she crossed her arms, looking off into the distance. All she ever wanted to do was to protect Zendikar, but so much of it was lost, devastated, land and people alike.


“Can you protect them?” The Lithomancer’s voice carried a hint of hope.


“I fought countless demons personally, but neither myself nor my angels can be everywhere. It is faith that protects my people.” Avacyn trailed off in thought, contemplating her role as the protector of Innistrad. “How many planes are out there in the Multiverse?”


“I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does.” Nahiri shrugged.

“Then giving all the praying people hope will be a difficult task indeed.”

“Well, by the sound of it at least one Kor has a reason to believe in miracles of angels. That’s a start.” Nahiri observed, causing Avacyn to smile ever so slightly.

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