Art courtesy Tyler Jacobson

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Hundreds of years invested in study and spellcraft, and yet, I am scrambling for time.

Teferi was never one to panic. He went about his work diligently but in an unhurried fashion. While his temporal senses were definitely in an agitated state, he himself maintained his control and delicately worked the observation of the timestream. It was precise work: one misstep or incomplete calculation, and he could throw all of Dominaria — and perhaps multiple planes — into absolute chaos.

Perhaps more than any other Planeswalker, he was keenly aware of not repeating the mistakes of the past.

He worked alone. The presence of other mages would have been a distraction, and he could afford no division of his focus. Tomes and scrolled hovered in open states around him as he made his preparations. It would be one of the most powerful and reality-bending spells of his career, but it was necessary, if his home plane was to survive what was coming.

What irked Teferi, in the back of his mind, was the vague nature of the portents. He only knew something was coming. Something both familiar and unfathomable. He’d heard rumors of eldritch horrors on other planes. His research and curiosity had made him oblivious to the details, and disinclined to investigate, until his instincts had grown to insistent to ignore. As one of the most adept archmages with time, wasting it was perhaps Teferi’s biggest pet peeve. And now, even as he made slow and careful motions with his arms to pull the threads of mana together, he felt an urgency that threatened to overcome his concentration with irritation.

There was nothing else for it. Time was running out.

Teferi closed his eyes and let his mind sink into the timestream. It was an old, familiar feeling, a comfort more than anything else. It felt like slowly sliding into a cool, running stream of fresh water, the babbling of the currents a pleasant white noise. So many events and tragedies and triumphs flashed through the mind’s eye of the archmage as he began to search for his objective.

The past was a fragile thing. As he sped through the decades gone by, Teferi kept his mind focused and calm. He had no desire to disrupt the timeline, to split things into fractured alternate possibilities. Truly, if he was to preserve the future of Dominaria, he had to preserve its past as well. He decelerated in his mental movement, his astral form holding up its hands to slow the flow of time as it had been.

There.

One hundred and three years in his past. He was in the right time. Now to the right place.

He spread his astral arms and shot across the surface of the plane like a Bird of Paradise. He left colors of mana in his wake, bleeding the magic he had gathered to make his journey. Again, precision was the watchword; overshoot his destination, and he wouldn’t have enough mana to work the spell he’d spent so many sleepless nights preparing for this moment. The deep greens and pulsing power of Skyshroud was, thankfully, hard to ignore, and he dove towards his final destination, slowing time as he did.

This was the work of split-seconds, of the tiniest fractions of time. He followed the mana, the moments, until he found who he sought. And then, he waited, counting microseconds. He watched movements in slow motion. In his mind’s eye he could see synapses firing, decisions being made, resignation settling in along with satisfaction and acceptance. His heart twinged. This would be hard. He knew it would be difficult to accept. But his choices were few and his time was short.

Now. The space between heartbeats, after the spell had been completed and before the explosion took place.

He reached out with his own mana, the power screaming from his soul. He wrapped himself around the Spark in front of him and pulled. He had done this sort of thing before, giving up his own Spark to save Dominaria when he sealed the time rift over Shiv. This was different, but the concept was similar enough that he’d been able to cobble together this spell. The Spark resisted, having accepted its fate. Teferi set his astral jaw and pulled harder. The moment stretched almost to infinity as the mages fought. Finally, Teferi prevailed, and he mentally tugged the life-line of mana that connected him to the present, taking the Spark with him.

In the present, he pushed the Spark out away from him, despite the hole in his heart calling to it. To take it upon himself would be to completely obliterate the soul attached to it, or at the very least, cast it into the dark void between planes, scattered and fragmented, shades of its former self. This was the last step of his plan, and the most difficult one, as green and white mana had never been his strongest suits.

Sweat on his physical brow, short of breath, Teferi summoned the last of his strength. He drew the remnants of his mana reserves into the final spell, and though his fingers ached and his eyes watered, he finished the incantation and pushed his power into his intent. Slowly, before his eyes, a nervous system began to appear, floating in midair, an eerie scene made all the more macabre when bones and muscles spread from the bright light of the Spark. His teeth ground together as he carefully followed the patterns of the spell and tapped the very foundations of his strength and knowledge. Finally, in a burst of power, with a soft thunderclap and an explosion of force, a body crumpled to the floor before him, naked and steaming and gasping for breath.

He managed to find the green cloak he’d set aside and spread it over the figure before him before he, too, collapsed.

Freyalise art courtesy Adam Paquette

“Hello… Freyalise.” The words came out cracked and halting, his mouth dry and his lungs burning.

“How…” The half-elf’s own voice was wracked with pain and confusion. “How dare you.”

“I had no choice,” Teferi said, managing to sit up. “Don’t worry — you finished the spell. Skyshroud was still saved. Your sacrifice was not in vain.” He reached up to a workbench, pulling down an eyepatch to hand to his friend.

She snatched it from his grip angrily. “By all of the gods in all of the planes, you are an arrogant son of a bitch.”

“I had —”

“No choice, I know.” She donned the eyepatch and sat up herself, pulling the cloak around her more due to the chill in the study than self-consciousness. “You could have taken my Spark for yourself, to do whatever it is you need to do.”

Teferi shook his head. “That is not my fate.”

“Hypocrite!” Freyalise spat on the floor. “You dare speak of fate when you do this to me?”

“You completed your fate,” Teferi replied. “But your particular skills, passion, experience — they are what will be needed to face what is to come.”

“And ‘what is to come,’ Teferi?”

A shiver ran down Teferi’s spine. “I don’t know.”

Freyalise stared at him, the fire in her eye changing from anger to confusion.

“You… don’t know?”

Teferi shook his head.

Freyalise paused. He could see her emotions shifting. They had been allies, once, and had come to know one another well. Her expression softened.

“You’re afraid.”

Teferi nodded.

“That’s something I never thought I’d see.” She rose, looking around the study. “Do you have any clues? Any at all?”

Teferi, slowly, got to his feet. His legs almost didn’t cooperate. He reached out with a tiny, well-practiced spell, and pulled his staff to him with his mind. His mana, at least, was returning.

Not quickly enough.

“I know that something is about to happen here that is both unprecedented and familiar. Revenge and horror wait on the edges of my perception. While I cannot discern details, I know that without you, the plane will fall.”

Freyalise studied the archmage. “What must I do?”

Teferi had always admired Freyalise. In the time leading up to her sacrifice in Skyshroud, she had put aside her selfish ambitions and her pride in light of their association. Her anger at him had been a knee-jerk reaction based on old patterns. Now that she was here, she was ready to give even more to save their home. Teferi had been counting on that, but still felt a bit less terrified seeing it for himself.

Hope is all I have.

He turned to a bookshelf nearby, stepping over the fallen tomes and scrolls he’d needed to rescue Freyalise in that split-second between completing her spell and dying for Dominaria. He found the spellbook he sought, turned, and handed it to the half-elf.

“You need to take this to Karn. Find him, bring him here, and help him study the text. He’ll understand.”

“How do you know?”

“That’s the only thing I know for sure about the future. It’s so dark for me. And I think I know why.”

Before he could elaborate, the study shifted around them. Bookshelves groaned and flagstones rattled, slowly lifting from the hardwood beneath as the grout splintered between them. The mages turned as one towards the undeniable source. Freyalise reached instinctively for a weapon, and murmured an elven curse when she found none.

“Go,” Teferi said. “Get out of here.”

“I am not going to leave you after you just saved my life.”

“I did not save your life only for you to lose it here.”

“You are too weak,” Freyalise insisted. “I can help!”

“Help me by finding Karn!” Teferi looked over his shoulder. “Please! Go!”

Freyalise stared at her ally, swallowing. Teferi managed a smile.

“Seeing you here, Freyalise… I’m not afraid anymore. I can face this. Please. Go.”

After a moment in which she might have protested one more time, Freyalise nodded. With a soft pop of imploding air, she was gone. The trail of mana lead back to Skyshroud. Teferi worked a brief spell to mask that trail, mixing it with the ambient noise of magic in his study. The effort almost made him pass out. Freyalise was right — he was weak.

But he would face this the way she had faced her sacrifice a century before. Bravely, calmly, knowing he had done all he could to save his home.

The bookshelves bent out of the way of a dark, swirling gateway to another plane. Teferi turned to face it, mouth twisting in disgust. It had neither the elegance nor cleanliness of a Planeswalker’s transition from one plane to another. Dull, shadowy metal tendrils reached through the portal’s edges to keep the portal open as small creatures crawled through, chattering one to the other in an odd machine tongue. Darksteel Myr, carrying an undeniable corruption.

Teferi gripped his staff, readying what mana he could.

It all dissipated when the figure stepped through the portal behind the myr.

He — it? — was tall. Piercing blue eyes studied Teferi, dark brown hair rustling in the unnatural wind of the portal. Beneath the sideburns, Teferi could see tendrils of darksteel sunk into pallid flesh like claws. The figure’s clothes were a hodgepodge of magical armor and bare skin, married with splotches consistent with phthisis and more swirls of seething darksteel. Teferi felt tears sting his eyes.

“No.” His voice was a whisper. “Not you.”

“Teferi of Jamuraa. You have been chosen by the Expeditionary Forces of New Phyrexia. You shall serve as an example of the glorious new order.”

The response was not conveyed in one voice, but many. He heard grinding gears, skittering legs, bubbling oil. He heard the screeching of corrupted birds, the hiss of insidious soldiers, the soft whispers of Praetors.

And, under it all, the anguish of an old friend.

“No. Venser. Oh, no.”

The figure smiled. It was a parody of an expression. It was as if the Praetors knew how human expressions worked but were ignorant of their meaning. It was a chilling sight.

“The one you call ‘Venser’ serves as our voice in this plane,” the Phyrexians said. “He has been perfected in line of our unified vision. All shall be aligned under the banner of Phyrexia. From this moment forward, you too shall serve us.”

“I would rather die.”

“You cannot serve us if you are dead. You cannot help us bring peace if you our dead. Submit to us and you shall not feel pain.”

Teferi set his jaw. He knew this battle would be short and full of anguish. But he was buying Freyalise time. He was buying Karn time. He knew others would come, to stand against a new invasion, a re-ignition of old threats to Dominaria.

But other ignitions would take place. That much, now, he could see.

They were lights of hope in the darkness of his future.

“Come on,” Teferi said to the Phyrexian marionette made of his old friend. “Show me this ‘new order’ of yours. And I will show you how Dominaria will respond.”

The ‘perfected’ Venser hadn’t stopped smiling.

“There is no response to Phyrexia save submission. And you will submit just as Dominaria will submit. All shall be Phyrexian. All shall be beautiful. All shall be peace. That is the future you cannot see. Come; let us make you a part of it.”

Mondays are for making or talking about art.

Credits: Magic the Gathering copyright Wizards of the Coast. Teferi, Temporal Archmage art courtesy Tyler Jacobson. Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury art courtesy Adam Paquette.