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Theros Beyond Death: Chapter 5

5. 3. 2020

Tormented even in the promised paradise of Ilysium,and facing the prospect of yet another adopted home turning to hell, Elspeth finally and irrevocably decides to take her fate into her hands for once and ever. Follow her in her way to freedom.

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CHAPTER V: Elspeth

 

A long black tentacle ending with another, smaller mouth, darted out from the big-toothed mouth and snapped at Elspeth's face. She dodged and struck it by the handle of her spear - the blow has broken several of the monster's teeth. It screeched so loudly that Elspeth‘s eardrums nearly snapped, then charged. Elspeth slashed broadly, severed one of its tentacles, and cut the tendon on its hind leg. The monster fell and screeched again, this time in pain. Elspeth quickly leaped and sank the spear deep into its belly. The hideous monster screeched again, shuddered, and then lay still. Suddenly, a black smoke began to rise and wrapped up around its body, which slowly dissipated into nothingness. Yet another materialized nightmare. The people surrounding them began to cheer, and Elspeth raised her spear victoriously. The spear has changed quite a lot recently. There was no more darkness dripping off it, and the spear had the color and shine of tarnished steel. And the two glowing orbs weren't red anymore, now they shone warm, golden white.

 

***

 

After she woke up with the strange spear in her hand, Elspeth immediately found Kyra and told her. Although she hasn't much experience with sphinxes, Elspeth knew that these beings are quite hard to surprise. Kyra was astonished, though. She examined the spear rigorously, and even asked for help from several fellow philosophers. After quite long disputation they came to conclusion that the spear really was the dream of Khrusor made solid. The reason for this was unclear, but clearly it had something to do with Elspeth. Maybe because Ilysium hadn't had influenced her, maybe because she wasn't from Theros. Some of philosophers claimed that as an omen from Destiny, but general agreement was that the reason was in Elspeth. But Elspeth didn't know the reason. She told them again the story of her life, she told them about her childhood, about her youth on Bant, her running away from herself, her fight on Mirrodin, and, finally, about the events on Theros.

 

"I wanted to meet something greater, more powerful," she ended. "More powerful than the evil that can permeate everything until all is corrupted. I thought I found it in Theros gods, I thought that Heliod was it. But you know how it ended up. After that, I only longed for peace. That was my prayer: 'Give me quiet. Give me peace. Give me rest at last.' But I haven't had peace even there, in Ilysium."

 

After long silence, Kyra replied "I do not know how it works on other worlds, Elspeth, but in Theros, the destiny and fate have their tangible part. It may sound that is not possible to defy the fate, but in fact it is possible, exactly because of that tangible part. To change one's destiny is difficult, but here, on Theros, the threads of fate are ever-present, and it is possible to change them. And if you manage to change them, even the gods cannot prevent the change. Be certain, though, that they will attempt to, especially Kruphix, the god of horizons. You know, we all thought for hundreds of years that the gods were omnipotent, but after Xenagos ascended, we realized that the gods may be mighty and powerful, but even they cannot prevent some changes, if the person has a will strong enough to enforce them. You must believe, Elspeth. Believe in yourself, and you will know what will have to be done."

 

***

 

"Stop! In the name of Destiny!"

 

The man blocked her path, a long staff in his hand, from which strange white threads seemed to be unfolding The threads coiled around him, stretched along, and slowly vanished shortly after that. He was no ordinary man, as in the shadows of his body glittered the starlight of Nyx. He must have been blessed by some of the gods.

 

"Who are you?" asked Elspeth, the spear raised to strike. "Why are you standing in my way?"

 

"I am Calix, Destiny's Hand. You are attempting to defy the fate which is written for you."

 

"I do not want to fight you, Calix, but I think that my fate is mine to decide. I spent a long time in the Underworld, where I was supposed to find peace and accept my fate. But even there I haven't forgotten. Even there I haven't got rid of my nightmares. Now I know I do not belong there."

 

Calix raised his staff, and the white threads whirled in a wild dance. "I cannot let you leave!"

 

The fight was short. As an experienced warrior, Elspeth easily dodged Calix‘s first clumsy thrust and knocked him down and out.

 

***

 

Everyone in Ilysium soon realized that Elspeth's spear wasn't the only nightmare made solid. Creatures started to appear there, things that definitely didn't belong to this Underworld paradise. And exactly this was the last straw for Elspeth. Although Ilysium wasn't exactly a paradise for her, it was quite close, and what was even more important, it reminded her of Bant. Her beloved Bant before Conflux, when all five Alara shards began to merge. She escaped from Bant when it changed irreversibly for her, but now she decided otherwise. She began fighting the nightmares that emerged from who-knows-where, and her spear was, thankfully, especially effective against them.

 

***

 

"Stop! In the name of Destiny!"

 

"You know you are no match for me, Calix," said Elspeth for the umpteenth time. "You keep talking about being reconciled with one’s own fate. So maybe you should reconcile with the fact that you cannot stop me and stop trying?"

 

"I am a servant of Destiny. My mission and duty are to prevent others to change it or defy it."

 

And so it was every time. Calix stopped Elspeth on her way through the Underworld nearly every other day. She had to admit, though, that he was able to learn. Even the most talented Bant squires couldn’t grasp the combat prowess so quickly. The fights were still one-sided, but Calix definitely wasn't the unexperienced novice with staff like he was for the first time. Now, the combat took several precise lunges, ended by striking his forehead with the flat of her spear blade, after which Calix fell unconscious.

 

***

 

Attacks of nightmares were slowly subsiding, as if the force that had induced them was gone. Elspeth's spear didn't rest, though. Before the nightmares disappeared completely, a new, more sinister thread emerged.

 

It began with a kraken, that emerged from a small, peaceful lake in the middle of cypress grove. It disappeared again, before it managed to do any harm, but the terror and panic remained. After some time it slowly became clear that the boundaries of realms of the Underworld were becoming thin. No one was able to explain it. Erebos, the God of the Dead, was sovereign master, and here, in the Underworld, he was literally almost omnipotent. Finally Kyra said what others feared even to think about. The boundaries of Underworld should be impenetrable, and Erebos has always overseen that. The only explanation was that Erebos didn't want to anymore.

 

Only after that Elspeth realized that as Ilysium were supposed to be a paradise, there should probably also supposed to  be a hell somewhere else. Skeleton griffins, fiery hellhounds, monsters resembling gorgons (without their deadly gaze, but still terrible to behold), all of these were now an everyday occurrence in Ilysium. It would have been too much even for Elspeth, but luckily, Elspeth wasn't alone this time. In Ilysium, there were many heroes from recent and far past. Their existence in the Underworld certainly dulled their once-sharp edges, but the circumstances made them remember their previous heroic lives quite fast.

 

Elspeth decided to be in command, and her spear didn't rest. The stories about her, her small heroic group, and their help to other people spread around the Ilysium faster than wildfire, and new heroes kept joining. Since that time, a rumor started to spread, that the Elspeth's spear wasn't merely a dreamed Khrusor, but the real Khrusor that defied to serve its former master after he betrayed and killed his champion. Elspeth didn't disprove those rumors, and as the belief of others grew stronger, the darkness around the spear diminished, and the spear itself slowly started to shine.

 

After some time it also turned out that not only the boundaries within the Underworld crumbled, but also the boundary between the Underworld and Theros has become thin. That was a gleam of hope for Elspeth, after very long time, and she decided to take the opportunity. She would continue to fight and protect the innocent inhabitants of the Underworld, and if the boundaries of the Underworld are thin, she would attempt to escape, and the spear she would keep for herself, as a compensation for the Godsend, destroyed by Heliod.

 

***

 

"Stop! In the name of Destiny!"

 

"I haven't time for you now, Calix. I have taken my destiny in my own hands, and you won't prevent this."

 

"That's blasphemy! No one should alter the threads of fate! I cannot allow you-"

 

This time it ended without any fight. Kyra and others surrounded Elspeth and clearly demonstrated they would defend her.

 

Calix lowered his staff, backed away, and let Elspeth and others go. But after a while he called after them.

 

"This is not over, Elspeth. I will pray to Klothys, and if I am not able to stop you, she'll send someone who is."

 

Elspeth wanted to ask Kyra who or what is Klothys, and what she could send, but the sphinx was strangely deep in thought, and her gaze carefully followed Calix, who was standing still and looking defiantly. For some time, they walked in silence. When they were sufficiently far from the man, Kyra suddenly halted. Then she turned to Elspeth and the others and recognized the  same unspoken question on their astonished faces.

She slowly sat on her hind and folded her wings. She inhaled deeply. Then she sighed and began to speak.

 

"Klothys was - and still is - the goddess of Destiny. When in ancient times the gods defeated the titans and threw them into the Underworld, Klothys volunteered herself as their keeper, and she's held her duty to this day. No one, not even gods, know about her. This knowledge is closely guarded secret, passed on only within a secret fellowship of her devotees. In my life, I was honored to be among them. There were never more than a handful of us, and everyone knew the names of all followers of Klothys through all times by heart. Calix was one of the first, from before binding of titans."

 

"You're telling it's him?" asked Elspeth. "It must have been millennia ago."

 

"Yes. It is said that he was blessed by Nyx even then. Klothys must have resurrected him."

 

"And what about his threat? What could Klothys send? You think that she could release the titans?"

 

"Definitely not, Elspeth. But we must be on our guard."

 

***

 

The disrupted boundary was visible from afar, as a giant crack in the sky, stretched along to the horizon. Through it could be seen the outer world. As they came closer, Elspeth caught sight of the grassy plain, and she immediately recognized the Four Winds Plateau, near Meletis. Far away, the white walls of the city started to be visible. The way out was within reach.

 

They felt it much sooner than saw it. The ground shook under its mighty steps, and the remains of chains on its heads were whistling as they lashed through the air. When it appeared, everyone in sight froze with dread. Taller than a palace, so many heads with beaked maws, and thundering roar like avalanche. Polukranos. Elspeth recognized him immediately.

 

And Polukranos recognized her. All his black eyes pierced Elspeth, and from all his throats boomed a wrathful roar.

 

Elspeth remembered well how she was able to kill the mythical hydra before, and quickly spread the world the others. They would have to cut off all the heads, but not completely. A part of skin had to remain, so the heads would still be attached to necks. Then the hydra's natural regeneration spell wouldn't work out.

 

This time, all of them engaged in the fight. Centaurs and leonins took advantage of their agility, they evaded the heads and attacked them with swords and spears. The cuts healed immediately, but the hydra was kept busy. Elspeth grasped the spear, that was now glittering like tarnished silver, and attacked. With a clean cut she almost severed one of the heads, which toppled and remained hanging from the neck. The tissue immediately glowed with regeneration spell, but the glow vanished shortly thereafter, and the eyes of the severed head darkened. Other heroes cheered and continued to fight with renewed vigour. Suddenly a small group of satyrs and minotaurs emerged that Elspeth didn't know, and commenced hacking with axes and swords at the hydra's tendons. The cuts healed, but the hydra was each time paralyzed, at least for a short while. Elspeth wielded the spear with utmost prowess, and the others also managed to cut one head after the other. Nonetheless, the more heads they cut off, the nimbler and more dangerous the remaining ones appeared to be. One of the last heads attacked nastily from below and despite Elspeth’s quick dodge, its sharp beak managed to bluntly graze  Elspeth's forehead. Dazed, her vision darkened, she fell to her knees. The head swiftly turned and attacked again, its maw agape. But just before it managed to devour Elspeth, there came a giant axe that seemed to be dripping hot lava, and nearly cut it from its neck.

 

"Finish him, Cymede!" a deep voice boomed.

 

Polukranos, deprived of all heads, staggered. Through the impact-induced daze, Elspeth firmly grasped the spear, and exactly like the last time, when she fought Polukranos with Daxos at her side on Four Winds Plateau, threw the blade of the spear into hydra's heart. And exactly like the last time, Polukranos shuddered and hit the ground with a powerful quake. And so did Elspeth, just without  the quake.

 

A shadow fell on Elspeth. She looked up and through a hazy vision she spotted a silhouette of a man. At the first moment, she thought it was Daxos, but as her sight became clearer, the image of her once-lover had slowly changed into Anax. The late king of Akros extended his hand with a broad smile to help her on her feet, but then his smile disappeared.

 

"You are not Cymede. You are... Elspeth?"

 

In the shadows of his body, like in Calix's, glittered the starlight of Nyx.

 

 

to CHAPTER IV: Klothys

 

 

This fan-fictionis unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

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