It’s a new year, and that means a brand new M:EM serial!
In 2017, we’ll be enjoying RavenoftheBlack’s magisterial M:EM opus, The War of the Wheel.
So sit back, and enjoy…
The War of the Wheel
She did not walk through the boundless æther that surrounded the worlds, nor did she walk through any of the countless, unknown planes of the Multiverse, wandering, exploring, dueling those of her kind that refused to pass in friendship. No, Daneera walked in silence through a tranquil glen she had walked many times before. This was a magical place, a place where even the beasts and the birds hesitated to come without the consent of the deepest forces of nature this plane could wield. This was a place of meditation, of solitude, and of peace. Located on the disputed border between two warring nations, neither side would dare disturb the sylvan sanctity of this place. This was the Grove of Omens, and it was the only place Daneera truly felt at home.
Daneera had not been born to the plane of Arbagoth, but it was far more home to her than the desolate and dying world she had known in her youth. She had grown to womanhood feeling a deep and powerful connection to a nature that had not existed there in ages. Throughout her childhood years, she had cried herself to sleep in the nights dreaming of colors long since stolen from her world. But she had never given up her hope that one day she would find it, buried deep beneath the dead stone caverns or smothered under the emotionless streets. Daneera had spent her entire life wishing that those heartless stones would crack, and in their place would grow the mighty trees that only her storybooks had talked about. But they were only dreams.
The young planeswalker shook herself from her ponderings as she realized she was growing cold. It was late spring here on the massive island of Volbog, home to this miraculous Grove of Omens, and the cool breeze that blew across Daneera’s skin felt immediately out of place. Even winter in the Grove was never much worse than chilly, and as summer approached, it should have been sweltering, yet still Daneera shivered. From the moment she had first discovered this place, the Grove had welcomed her as a favorite child, and she was honored beyond expression that few others would have even been allowed to tread there. But it also meant that she knew the Grove better than anyone, and she knew something was wrong.
Daneera continued to walk around the interior of the Grove, waiting for whatever omen it might offer her. As she walked, she reflected deeply on how nearly everything had been going wrong recently. It was not so long ago that the Oakumbra Duchy had asked her help in eliminating the damnable Poacher-Mages who had been operating in the Farwood. The Farwood was vast, larger than any other forest on the entire forested plane, and even with Daneera’s considerable skills, it had taken months to track them down. When she did, they proved more of a match for her than she had expected, and had nearly killed her. She escaped by planeswalking away, although the wound from their æther arrow stayed with her even into the Blind Eternities.
After that, things had gotten even worse. After drifting aimlessly and nearly dead through the æther, Daneera had found herself on the small plane of Lefkos. Her wound left her bed-ridden and in the care of a kind, simple family. Unfortunately, her arrival also drew the attention of the Rulus, two powerful planeswalkers who had styled themselves gods, not only of Lefkos, but also of the other shards of the Wheel. They had dominated and subjugated the planes of the Wheel for centuries, and had no love for other ‘walkers in their domain. Daneera’s struggle against them had carried her to each of the planes of these Dual-Walkers, but eventually, she had been able to use their own power, and their fear of her nature magic, against them, defeating them in their stronghold and escaping with her life.
Things had not gotten much easier after that, however. She had stopped off briefly in Lefkos to return young Lem, an integral part of her deliverance, back to his family, who had been so kind to her. She returned to Arbagoth and finished off the Poacher-mages with a particularly vicious stampede of beasts, and then left again. It was some time after this that she had met Fisco Vane. Her memory was still unclear about exactly how he had captured her, but after dealing with him for a while, she decided it was likely best she didn’t know. Fisco had captured her at the behest of the Dual-Walkers, but fortunately for Daneera’s continued existence, Fisco had his own plans, and thanks to them, she again escaped from the clutches of Syl and Chardis.
But Daneera lived by her instincts, and her instincts were screaming that her troubles with the Dual-Walkers were far from over. The time she had spent in the presence of the Rulus totaled less than an hour, but that was plenty. A part of her felt like she knew them as well as if she had spent a lifetime studying their depravity. They would not stop at a single failed attempt at vengeance. She was convinced of that. But what could she do? A lifetime in the forests of the Multiverse had taught Daneera much, and she knew that strength, power, and cunning resulted in survival for a time, but there was always something at the top of the food chain. Daneera was strong, she had power, and she was clever enough to survive things that would claim most others. But the Dual-Walkers were a different sort of beast. Daneera was not delusional. In the jungle that was Dominia, Syl and Chardis were apex predators.
The cool breeze turned into a sudden gust of cold wind, and Daneera shivered. Something was coming on the horizon, something frightening and unstoppable. The planeswalker looked upward at the verdant green of the surrounding trees. She gasped in horror as a leaf grew suddenly brown and dropped off the branch. Several more followed, turning a variety of dead autumn colors as they fell to the ground of the Grove of Omens in late spring. No one knew the Grove better than Daneera, and she knew an omen when the Grove gave her one. Death was riding on that wind, and was approaching fast. The fallen leaves formed the pattern of a simple arrow, pointing southwest, toward the coast.
Daneera nodded. She had no idea what it meant, at least not specifically, but she knew the omen was telling her to follow the arrow. There was nothing else she could do. The Grove of Omens was a home to her, in some ways even a mother. It had never led her wrong before, but it had also never spoken so clearly or with so dire a portent. Something was coming, and Daneera would only find her answer by heading southwest. She knelt down momentarily and caressed the grass, as if telling the Grove that everything would be alright. As Daneera made her way out, she wondered just how wrong she was going to be.
(To be continued…)