~~Light crept into Gideon’s stone tomb, slowly growing in intensity. He was so numb; he could only assume that he was dead. He couldn’t feel the strength that normally flowed through his body, or the blood in his veins. His own thoughts seemed to be echoes in his mind, slowly fading into nothingness. The light outside continued to brighten until it was nearly blinding. A voice echoed in his ears, “I think I’ve found him!” The stones shifted to reveal the shining face of Elspeth Tirel standing over him.
She offered him her hand, but Gideon did not reach for it. He was still dazed and confused. Am I dead? Is she dead? Why is death so bright? “Get up.” She said. “You’re not dead yet Jura.” Elspeth was trying to lighten Gideon’s mood, but to no avail. She laid down her torch and sat with him, patiently waiting for his mind to settle. It was early in the night. To him, she seemed an apparition from some long lost dream. “I’m not dead?” He asked in a child-like manner. “No friend. You’re very much alive.” She said with a smile. She reached out and stroked his shoulder gently. “Do you think you can move?” She asked softly. “I think so…” His senses were beginning to clear. He could remember the avalanche, and Bolas, but everything else confused him.
Elspeth offered him her hand once more, which he gripped tightly. Elspeth pulled him from the rocks that held him in a fluid motion, and slung his arm around her shoulder. They walked slowly back to camp together, so as not to strain Gideon’s injuries. “What happened exactly?” Gideon asked. He was still piecing together his thoughts. “Bolas tempted you to fight him. He let you land a hit so he could use the resulting distraction to create a clone to preoccupy you. He tried to get the artifact from Sorin, but Chandra…” She suddenly became very solemn. Gideon quickly regained his sense. “What about Chandra?” He asked nervously. Elspeth couldn’t meet his gaze. “You’re better off then she is right now...” “Is she..?” “No, she’s alive, but severely injured.”
Guilt crept over Gideon, consuming all other thought. He tricked me. If I hadn’t been so reckless she wouldn’t have gotten hurt. I almost got myself killed for nothing! “There’s nothing you could’ve done, even if you’d known.” Elspeth reassured him. The guilt on his face was obvious. Elspeth continued to explain. “I woke up after you sliced Bolas in the neck. After you deflected the blightning, he conjured an essence form of himself to keep you preoccupied, further eliminating our ability to resist. He lunged in midair for Sorin, which Sorin would’ve countered with a swing from his claymore, but Bolas was enveloped in flames before he could reach Sorin. Chandra got a lucky shot on Bolas, and hit him with every ounce of power she had. She hurt him, so he retaliated tenfold. Bolas flew off to recover before he could finish her.
“From there, everything went downhill. Ajani stayed behind to tend to her injuries while we went to assemble the army against the enemy. We were met with horrors only I was ready for. I’d experienced Phyrexian onslaught before, but it proved to be too much for even me.” Elspeth looked sickly as she recalled the details of the battle. As if she was recalling a painful memory.
“We ended up losing over a third of our forces in that battle. The only reason we were able to force them back, was the exploding ballista we launched at them.” They arrived at the north entrance of the fort. By this time Gideon was mostly able to walk on his own, (Except for the occasional trip) once inside though, he could barely stand. There were sick, injured, and dead soldiers strewn everywhere. There weren’t enough medical tents and graves to hold them all, so they lie about like scrolls on a researcher’s desk.
Elspeth led Gideon to the tent where Chandra was recovering. The room wasn’t well lit. There were only two candles sitting on a table by the bed roll she slept in. When he looked down at her, he saw the damage Nicol Bolas had inflicted. Half her face was burnt, and the other half looked like it’d been rent by razor-blades. He sat down by her side, quietly hating himself. He swore he’d avenge her suffering. Gideon loved the fiery free spirit that was Chandra Nalaar. He’d grown close to her in their past travels. He wouldn’t face it, but he truly cared for her. Seeing her like this, made him ill with pain. He wasn’t sure whether to feel angry, upset, or guilty, so he chose a combination of all three. (Hence the pain)
A hand touched Gideon’s shoulder from behind. He turned to see Ajani standing over him with his mighty leonin eyes staring down at him. Ajani’s voice rolled deeply in the small tent like miniature thunder. “Come, we must go speak with the others.” Gideon was reluctant to leave Chandra’s side, but knew that he must. Ajani led him to the center of the fort, where the able bodied had constructed a kind of war room. Inside; standing around a sketched map of the battlefield; were Sorin, Jace, and Elspeth. Ajani and Gideon joined them.
Sorin looked at everyone with a calculating glance and began to speak. “Today obviously did not go well.” There were no responses. “But we now know that they won’t risk destroying the artifact.” “Great, now all we need to do is make the lens the size of the fort and hide behind it.” Jace said sarcastically. Sorin scowled at him. Gideon could tell that if someone didn’t do something this whole room would erupt into chaos just as it did at the gate before the battle. Gideon spoke above the others. “It doesn’t matter what happens to us. We just have to stop Bolas somehow. Our lives, and the lives of these bold men, are totally insignificant compared to what’s at stake! We CAN NOT fail!” He paused for a moment. “Earlier today I would’ve considered destroying the lens and being done with this situation. That would be folly.” Gideon now commanded the attention of everyone in the room. “Destroying the lens wouldn’t stop him. He’d just find a replacement component. Making our job harder, as we would be forced to track him all over the multiverse for ‘who-knows-how-long.’ While we possess the lens, we keep him stationary, and predictable. Destroying the lens won’t stop him, but destroying every other artifact he controls will…”
The room was heavy with the tension of the hypothetical bomb Gideon had just dropped. Jace was first to speak. “How would we do this?” Gideon smiled wryly. “The same way he gained the upper-hand today. Deception.”
Gideon stood on the wall with a young soldier, looking out at the carnage left from the battle. He had been deemed too young to fight in the fields, being only sixteen, so he guarded the walls by night. Gideon learned that he’d left home to help the army. The boy was an orphan; with no one back home to grieve for him should he perish. They stayed like this for most of the night, swapping stories and advice, till the sun began to lighten the grey sky in the distance. The boy’s shift was over, and he headed back to his tent.
The sound of clanking metal and stomping feet became audible, and progressively grew in intensity. The Phyrexians were on the move. Sentinels on the walls raised the alarm and the many soldiers got to their positions. There was no reason to meet with the others, they all knew the plan. He went to form up with the men at the east gate. He took note of the men around him, some were old veteran soldiers waiting for their last day of combat, some were lucky men who’d been doing this for a very short time, but more than Gideon would’ve liked were young boys. So young that they’d probably never even truly experienced adulthood, or the joys life offers. These ‘men’ held Gideon’s worry and pity most of all.
They formed ranks just a quarter mile from the fort, facing the fast approaching enemy with shield spear, and sword. Gideon noticed the man next to him trembling, and placed his hand on the man’s shoulder. “What’s your name son?” Gideon asked softly. “B-Ben.” “Ben, when the fighting starts, stay behind me. Ok?” Ben looked worried. “But, what abou…” “I need a brave soldier to cover my back don’t I?” Gideon asked reassuringly. “Y-yes sir.” Gideon smiled at him, and Ben slowly smiled back. The Phyrexians were close at hand, only one hundred feet away now, and charging rather than marching. Gideon raised his shield in preparation for the onslaught, his sural at the ready. Fifty feet, thirty feet, ten! Gideon caste an enchantment of fortifying. “DON’T GIVE THEM AN INCH!!!” Shouted Gideon as he whipped his sural through two porcelain legionnaires.
The enemy was strong, but the soldiers would not give in without a fight. Phyrexian soldiers slammed against Tolarian shields. The plague-carrying warriors would shred their way through the front line of shields only to be stabbed and hacked at by spears and swords. Gideon was mercilessly tearing through the forward movement of enemy forces, while Ben would follow behind and slay the few strays Gideon would occasionally let slip by.
They began to push the enemy back, and made a steady advance, leaving a trail of mangled constructs. The Lines of foes began to break ranks and scatter. At first, Gideon thought they might actually be scaring them off. He quickly learned the error of his ways. Two soldiers ahead of him had taken to celebrating and stabbing the mangled metal of a Phyrexian corpse, when the one farthest from Gideon suddenly sprouted a black, oily spear from his heart. It slipped back into the cavity it had created and the soldier fell over dead after a short, pained, gasp for breath. His friend tried to run, but was slain mercilessly by the creature from which the weapon had emanated. It stood over six feet tall, black, spiked, and bulky. Dripping with black Phyrexian oil, and glowing with red eyes of sinister hate. A Phyrexian crusader.
They immediately began tearing through the now scattering Tolarian soldiers. Gideon fought bravely, blocking and swinging his sural every which way. He was careful not to be injured by the monstrosities, as he knew that the oil that protruded from their exoskeleton would quickly corrupt and kill him if he came into contact with it. One gained the upper hand and would’ve killed Gideon with a downward stroke of its sword had Ben not returned and run the fowl construct through with his blade. They glanced at each other in silent in approval.
They now fought back to back, surrounded by Phyrexian crusaders and porcelain legionnaires. Gideon hoped the others weren’t fairing this bad. Gideon charged into the legionnaires in front of him and sliced them to bits, only to be knocked to the ground himself by a crusader. It would’ve slain Gideon had Ben not taken the blade for him. Ben went down with his sword protruding from the attacking crusader’s neck. Gideon didn’t have time to be affected by his death. He was now totally surrounded, and would be completely overrun within a few moments. “IF I’M DIEING TODAY, I’M TAKING EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU WITH ME!!” Gideon meant it. He knew that if he were to be any kind of help to anyone in death, he needed to reduce the enemy’s numbers by a substantial amount.
As Gideon prepared to make his last stand, he was suddenly surrounded by a wall of fire. It created a vortex around him, shielding him from his opponents. When it subsided, the Phyrexians that had just surrounded him were now charred, smoking scrap-piles. He looked up from the much-appreciated carnage to see a very tired-looking, still very injured, Chandra Nalaar...