Welcome to Flavortown - Daxos the Returned

John Finnegan • December 29, 2022

Daxos the Returned | Illustrated by Adam Paquette

The Underworld Forgets

Who is Daxos Hatzis?

Every thought in Daxos's mind was cloaked in a layer of golden fog. Flashes of memories painted in watercolor melted together on the canvas that was his sense of self. He knew shapes and images of some things. Sitting in the boughs of the Underworld, Daxos would etch his memories into the brimstone. Whether this was to preserve them for himself or others, he did not know. His name sat with him, spindles of thought jutting out from it. There were these words and names without context, but Daxos still felt emotions. Lingering aspects of the self.

There was a god, one bathed in golden light that descended from Nyx to spread his divine justice to all. When Daxos thought of him, his stomach went sick, as if a knife was being twisted in his side. Another god. The Sun's brother. One whose Whip of Erebos wrapped around souls of the dead; it had been he who had taken his soul and dragged it into the underworld. A chill went down his spine as he wrote, as if the God of Death's skeletal fingers were squeezing his neck with each etching. And then, the war between them. Conquest of the Underworld. Daxos fought in this war. Or something that was made of him. He remembered the Sun God twisting the very nature of his soul into a vessel for their crusade. Whatever man called himself Daxos in that war was not in the Underworld now. When he wrote of this, he wept for the faceless soldiers he killed, now consigned to the Underworld. 

There was a woman. Cloaked in white. Porcelain fury in resplendent form. Daxos did not know who she was. He did not know her name. But he knew he loved her. He would wander the Underworld in a haze, asking the wayward dead if they knew anything of this woman. Some had heard tales of a warrior like her, one forsaken by the Sun who seized destiny by its reigns, but Daxos knew nothing of what they spoke. His time in the Underworld War had torn his mind and memory to tatters, as if making the perfect soldier meant killing the man. Whatever made up Daxos Hatzis was lost in the fabric of Nyx. 

It was here, in the throes of his despair, that the man approached Daxos. Another undead, this one wearing a golden mask. Bits of starlight dappled his robes, snaking around his chest in a dizzying pattern. His fingers rested on a sword's hilt, which was similarly adorned with gold to match his mask.

"Is this where great soldiers go to rest?" His voice seemed to crawl out his mouth, the words in their own form of unlife.

"I've been told I was a warrior. If this is true, I suppose it is." Daxos said. He put on his own golden mask, a sign of respect in the Underworld. "I take it you're seeking such a soldier?"

The man chuckled. "My name is Tymaret, and I come to you, Daxos, with a beast we must slay."

More war. More lives to take. Daxos knew he'd fought in both life and undeath. He entered the Underworld with a sword in his hands, one streaked with blood and inscribed in a language he did not speak. "I'm no monster hunter. And how did you know my name?"

"We knew each other in life. I stood by you on the battlefield. In your last moments, I was beside you, sword in hand." Tymaret eyed him, his still mask hiding deep thought. "This is all I can speak of now. But come with me, and you will re-learn who you are."

"My days of war are over. This is my home now." He gestured to the Underworld around him. "Whoever I was is truly dead; I am his unliving memory."

Tymaret shook his head, kneeling next to Daxos. "This creature, she is a vile manifestation of the Death God's will. She is the chaotic and scattered mind given form." The strange man placed a hand on Daxos's shoulder. "Claim her head, and you claim back your memories. The Daxos I knew would do it."

The Daxos he knew. Who was that man from his memories? The one who lived in the beautiful cities, who dined on magnificent meals, who loved this woman he knew nothing of. Perhaps slaying this creature of memories could tell him her name, or even reunite them. He would claim power from his past. He was once a brave warrior, a soldier. There was power in that title.

"Then let us bring back this Daxos you speak of."

Who was Daxos Hatzis?

His mind kept circling back to the question. His new ally had gotten them onto a ferry to the depths of the Underworld, where this creature was rumored to lurk. Over the Erebosi Sea, thousands of souls swarmed in an indistinguishable mass. He could make out individual aspects. A face of one, a hand of another. But he could not tell where one body ended and another began. He reached down, attempting to just brush the hand of one of these restless souls.

Daxos often imagined what his death was like. In the purging for his memories, the exact details were lost. But like many things, flashes lingered. A white light. Cliche, but it was there. A feeling of sharp pain, then red. When he imagined these moments in line, none of it lined up. Perhaps death was not meant to be orderly. By its very nature, death is sudden. Whatever happened, it had instantly stolen both the tangible and intangible pleasures of life. Looking at the river of souls below him, he couldn't help but feel seasick.

Tymaret watched from the back of the ship, sharpening his blade against the obsidian hull. He'd been silent since boarding. While the rest of the passengers milled about the deck, Tymaret simply sat there as unmoving as the stone fixtures around them. From the bits of conversation, Daxos could piece together the entity they were hunting. All of the memories that the God of Death had plucked from their minds during the war were discarded, tossed into the caverns of the Underworld where they festered into a cacophony of madness. Slaying this beast would return the piecesto their rightful owners. Namely, it would restore Daxos's mind and give him some closure.

"You with the Murder King over there?" A voice asked. In his pensive thought, a young woman had snuck up next to him. Draped in blue robes, her eyes dappled with gemstones, this wayward soul seemed to regard Daxos's companion with an air of suspicion. "What do you think of him? He's all spooky and skulky."

"I'm sorry, who are you?"

"Psemilla. Poet in life. Scholar in death." She shook his hand, still eyeing Tymaret. "So, you knew him in life?"

"So I've been told. My memories were lost in the Underworld War." Daxos paused. "Did you call him 'The Murder King'?"

Psemilla hopped on the railing of the ship. "Well, if I was friends with him, I'd be scared to learn whatever my past was. Vicious killer, he was. A good chunk of the souls below were probably felled by his blade." She watched the spirits in the sea shuffle about.

Tymaret noticed the pair and began to approach. The poet began to panic, patting her robes for something. From her pocket Daxos could see the flash of cold steel. "All I'm saying is you might want to take this chance to bail. You don't know what you'll find," said Psemilla.

Daxos hadn't noticed until now, but Tymaret towered over him. His zombified body seemed to expand, the muscle and sinew enveloping them. He'd also noticed the young woman's dagger, as he readied his own sword. Psemilla went to leap over the ship's edge, but she was grabbed by the towering man. His breath was hot, like he was breathing the fumes of the Underworld itself.

"What lies have you poisoned his mind with, thief?" Tymaret asked, spitting the words out with a venomous tone.

Psemilla stammered for a moment. "Please, I don't want any trouble, I-"

"Did you know souls can still die, even in death?" He readied his sword, its golden blade glittering in the dim lights. "I was a cruel man in life. But this realm has blessed me with a new chance at life. My friend and I are using this to seize a new destiny. Do not give me a reason to be cruel again."

He let go of Psemilla, who sprinted off, leaping from the deck to the sails, then quickly out of sight. Tymaret let out a sigh of exhaustion, wiping the dirt from his robes. The two men stared at each other, both unsure of what to say.

"Is it true, what the woman said? Were we cruel?" Daxos asked.

"You'll see soon enough," Tymaret said. "A new future is at hand. Let us claim it."

What will Daxos Hatzis be?

The crypts of the Underworld boggled the mind. Near infinite tunnels shuffled together, each indistinguishable from the last. Daxos simply followed his companion, who seemed to have a better understanding of the Underworld's interweaving paths. The walls bore carvings of souls long-departed. Each and every war that the people of the living world had waged was depicted in magnificent portraits. 

He caught sight of one of particular interest to him. In it, a shimmering being raised a massive spear made of pure light. The sketch seemed to peel itself off the wall with a luminescence that was perhaps real, perhaps imagined. The spear pointed towards a woman. A warrior. Was this being knighting her? No, that couldn't be it. Then what did it depict? Staring deep into the drawing, all he knew is that he loathed whatever being held the spear.

Daxos did not know how to feel about the gods. Part of him hated them. They were the ones that stole his memory. The ones that took him from the woman he loved. But they upheld the world. It was the God of Light who made the sun rise in the morning, the God of the Sea who made waves crash against the beaches. Without them, all of the things he loved would simply die off.

Well, all of the things he thought he loved.

"We're here," Tymaret said. In front of them was a massive obsidian door. Some indecipherable words were inscribed on it, some ancient form of the Therosian language. The language of the gods themselves. Tymaret seemed to understand it immediately, his eyes flickering below his bronze mask. From his pockets he produced a pouch of ashes, rubbing them off his hands. "Borrowed this from some ghasts. Here, coat your palms."

Daxos took the pouch and followed suit. As Tymaret placed his hands on the door, it roared to life. The massive structure sunk into the ground, seemingly disappearing into a shapeless void. There, the two saw what lay before them.

A harpy, one with wings made of dark stars. Their light danced across the stone floors. Its face was warped, as if the gods themselves reached down to twist it into some foul shape. From her throat, dozens of voices spoke at once. Stories of life, memories stolen from them. Bronze chains held the beast in place, her wings bound as well.

"Aphemia." Tymaret spoke. "We've come to claim what is rightfully ours." He took his sword from the sheath and approached the harpy. With delicate precision, the blade ran lightly across the edge of the harpy's neck. Blood, dark, inky blood dripped down from her neck and onto the sword. Then, the man held the blade to his own face.

And drank the blood.

Daxos could only watch in horror. The harpy screamed out as Tymaret let out a guttural roar. The man's flesh seemed to ripple, his head convulsing. The gilded mask slipped from his face, and Daxos now saw him for the first time. Tymaret's entire body was stained with crimson red flashes, running from his neck to his face. Blood of those who had slain.

"She took your memories. She took my power." Tymaret laughed. As Daxos turned to run from the horrid creature that now spoke, Tymaret lunged at him. "Take back what is yours!" His blade pierced Daxos's back. Aphemia's blood poured into his very soul. With all the pain of the Underworld, his memories returned.

He saw his death. Elspeth stood before him, speaking with a madness he had never seen from her. Phyrexians! They've returned! she shouted in a dreamlike trance. The woman's eyes were coated in a layer of vile mist. Her sword, Godsend, burned bright in front of Daxos. Before he could speak, she stabbed him in the chest. His flesh burned from the heat of Heliod's divine light. The machinations of the trickster god faded from Elspeth as she saw what she had done. As the life faded from Daxos, he could see a glimmer of a face behind Elspeth. Tymaret stood there, a sick grin on his face.

He awoke in the crypts, Tymaret once again before him. "You. You could have stopped it. You were there." 

Tymaret shook his head. "I needed an ally. And Tirel, gods bless her, she was a bit occupied with Heliod. Now she's roaming the planes. But you, Daxos. You're stuck here. So I told the trickster where you two were, and planted the seed in Elspeth's mind to kill you."

"You took her from me."

"Only so we could do something greater." Tymaret gestured to the harpy. "Heliod is imprisoned. The gods are in disarray. The pantheon holds empty seats. The people, they beg for powerful people to ascend to godhood. With Aphemia's knowledge, she will be the start of our ascension. I simply need you to slay her."

"You're mad. You never stopped being the Murder King, did you?" Daxos shook at the man's words. "And why me? Why bring me here?"

"I've been in this body for too long. I've lost my humanity." The Murder King's body seemed to decay as he approached Daxos. "But you're fresh. Still human. Once blessed by Heliod.Kill Aphemia, drink the power of the Underworld denizens, and prepare to become a god."

Daxos steadied himself. He'd trained for situations like this. Meletian generals always stressed the importance of finding exits during warfare. But there were none. Tymaret blocked the door, and Daxos knew he wasn't quick enough to escape him. Instead, he spoke with a wavering voice. "I'm not a killer. I'm not like you." 

"But why not?" asked Tymaret. "I know you desire purpose. You desire an identity. What better identity than a god? Seize it! Tear Heliod's divine flesh from bone. End the squabbles of gods. Take your revenge on the world and we will rule."

Revenge. The word seized Daxos by the throat with a passionate fervor. The world had constantly beat down on Daxos. He was killed for a sick joke. Then, Elspeth was slain by her god. He was conscripted to fight for a petty war. Then, his mind was stolen from him, the few motes of joy he still held lost. He wasn't a killer in life, but the chance to remake himself presented a new option. 

Daxos approached Aphemia with his sword raised. He would claim godhood with the harpy's blood. The Murder King followed behind him, quietly celebrating his success. Daxos's sword hovered above the harpy's head, ready to bisect it. Rage clouded Daxos's mind. All he saw was visions of blood and glory. Then, he saw an inscription on the handle, written in a once illegible script. But with his memories, he understood it. 

Sti zoí, sto thánato. "In life, in death." A gift from Elspeth.

He swung his sword, not at the harpy, but at Tymaret. It passed through his zombified body cleanly, leaving no tears or tatters. Bright light seeped from his wounds. His body fell to the ground in two, his face slack with confusion, still clinging to life.

"Maybe I want it. But she wouldn't." Daxos slammed the sword into the Murder King, and he was gone.

My dearest Elspeth

I am told you are doing amazing things. My allies tell me stories of worlds you have saved. But I want to thank you for saving me. My life has been confusing as of late. From the depths of the Underworld, it is difficult to find hope. But I no longer wander it blind. With my memories returned, I have your face to hold onto. I've begun reuniting the people with their memories. Perhaps one day we will see the surface of Theros once again. But perhaps we can find some hope here, to live now as our true selves. Once I desired power from my memories. Not now. I love you, Elspeth. I live now only for the hope of seeing your face once again.

Yours throughout eternity

Daxos

Daxos the Returned

Commander (1)
Creatures (23)
Planeswalkers (1)
Spells (9)
Artifacts (5)
Enchantments (24)
Lands (37)



John Finnegan (they/them) is a writer based out of Southern California and student of Chapman University. They've been playing Magic since Throne of Eldraine and haven't stopped since. Their work has been published in Chapman Calliope, The B'K', and Beestung Quarterly. You can find them on Twitter @FinneyFlame or Instagram @JWFinnegan.