Welcome to Flavortown - Melira, Sylvok Outcast

Jubilee Finnegan • December 15, 2022

Melira, Sylvok Outcast | Illustrated by Min Yum

The Living Cure

Melira hated the taste of ash in the air. The way it wafted in from the far edges of the razor fields, crisp burning glades crumbling apart in the air before her. When the Resistance mortar shells exploded on the once-peaceful plains, the people of the Tree of Tales knew it only signaled more death.

Ash was death to Melira. Her isolation had pushed her far from the battlefield, far from the blood-stained blades, far from the soldiers who died with her name on their lips. The only thing Melira hated more than the ash were the screams that accompanied it.

The tangled vines that made up the floor of her abode swung in the winds of Mirrodin. As she sat alone, she wondered if she should call this plane "New Phyrexia." It felt like an admission of defeat to do so. To say that Mirrodin was gone and it was now a place for Phyrexians. But was it inaccurate? Listening to the cries of battle, Phyrexians just outside the gates of the Tree, it certainly did not sound like Mirrodin. She had forgotten the sounds of the old plane. The whistling sounds that the stones whirling from the Great Furnace, the sound of Ezuri's voice were distant memories to her. Perhaps it was New Phyrexia out there after all.

She was the most valuable asset to the Mirran Resistance. The sole being immune to the Glistening Oil and its corrupting effects. In the early days of the war, when confidence was high and casualties were low, she was allowed to fight alongside her Mirran companions. Tearing through the battlefield, immune to compleation, Melira was a shining hope for resistance soldiers. But as the oil evolved and more began to fall to the rule of the praetors, the decision to protect Melira was made. 

She was to be isolated in the heart of the Tree of Tales, far above the war-infested fields. A handful of keepers would attend to her needs. Cooking meals, cleaning the halls, or providing news from the trenches. But none were to interact with her. Perhaps it was out of fear of sleeper agents that the generals made the rule. But no keeper, soldier, or any person was to be in the same room as Melira. Meals were left on the table for her to collect. Letters were placed on her desk while she was away. Melira only saw the faint outline of faces through her window when she watched her defenders go to war. Truly a lonesome existence.

She could see the Phyrexians tearing at the walls of the Tree. This was the closest they'd gotten. Oddly enough, Melira had almost forgotten how exactly to be afraid of Phyrexians. In the same way that children stopped being afraid of monsters in the dark when they grew up, her immunity made her no longer fear Phyrexia. But she had feared them once. Gods, did she fear them.

The razor fields were no place for a child. To exist within them was an affront to their chaotic nature. But young Melira had survived within them for nearly a decade. After her family from the Sylvok tribe left her to die, it was left up to scholarly theory as to why she survived so long. Some offered the idea that her inoculation against Phyrexia was the byproduct of Sylvokian experimentation. Others thought she was blessed by the suns, the chosen child of the alignment of these celestial bodies. However, Melira knew the hard truth: she survived based on luck. Others that were abandoned died. For some reason, she didn't. And she hated herself for it.

She knew another child who had been abandoned by the Sylvok. Ich-Tekik was a young boy, a bit older than her. He too survived in the razor fields, sustaining himself off hunting wild beasts. They met by chance one day when they both attempted to slay the same masticore that had been plaguing their lands for weeks. The two locked eyes over the corpse of the slain beast. There, she looked at the first human she had seen in years. Someone who could understand her pain.

The two kindred souls fell for each other instantly. They burrowed into the ground and made space for each other, both in the soil and in each other's mind. There was still the fear of the Phyrexians that lurked outside of their home. But it was different now. When Melira heard the skittering of Phyrexian fleshrenders, she could hold Ich-Tekik's hand and wait for them to pass. And when Ich-Tekik heard the screeching sound of Phyrexian drones, he could stare into the eyes of Melira and let the world fade away. Love made them forget that they were living in a world plagued by extraplanar invaders. When the two kissed, everything was whole again. Ich-Tekik made her feel like it was Mirrodin again. 

While the two had made a life together, they knew it wasn't sustainable. One day, they would either run out of food or clean water. More likely, the Phyrexians would learn of Melira's immunity and seek her out. With their ramshackle machinery, they attuned to their airwaves, listening for any sign of the rumored Resistance forces that searched for survivors. After a few days of waiting, they got their answer. An outpost, just a few miles east, was about to head to a resistance enclave. If they wanted an out, this was their chance. Ich-Tekik had some reservations about the idea. After all, they were going off the word of a random broadcast. But Melira knew they weren't going to survive in the fields for much longer. If they wanted their love to persist, they were going to have to keep fighting. With that, the two packed their menial belongings and made their dash to freedom.

Thinking back on the day, Melira could only remember flashes of what happened. First, she remembered what the razor fields felt like underfoot. As the two ran faster than they ever had, each blade of grass seemed to spring up and propel them further. Second was what the shape of the camp looked like. It was like a massive egg sitting on the edge of the razor fields. Pulsing with a heartbeat all its own, the two only realized the danger when it was too late. Last was the face of the massive Phyrexian praetor that emerged from the egg. Of course it was a trap. What hubris made Melira think it was anything else? Vorinclex shredded the dirt below him as he charged at the two. In a flash, Ich-Tekik launched a barrage of smoke in order to protect them. The praetor was unfettered. Simply barreling through, he continued his pursuit as he leapt.

As Melira ran away, she saw Vorinclex's jaws sink into Ich-Tekik. A horrid thought raced through her mind. She wanted Ich-Tekik to die there. What happened next was worse than any death. Oil seeped from the jaws of the praetor, covering Ich-Tekik in metallic sheets. With the proximity to a praetor and the vicious wounds he had sustained, the process was swift. She watched Ich-Tekik become a Phyrexian before her eyes. Melira cursed herself at this moment, for she was not able to hold Ich-Tekik and comfort him in his fear as she had done so many times before.

Melira did not know why she had survived, but she lived to find the true Resistance. Wandering sobbing through the razor fields, the elderly troll, Thrun was shocked to see her surviving in the dangerous territory. A high-ranking member of the Mirrans, he gave her new clothes and a hot meal, luxuries that she had been deprived of for many years. Thrun picked away at her, getting any sort of information about her that he could. The story of a young woman who fought for years in the wild, eventually surviving an encounter with a praetor, was enthralling. Even more so, her immunity to Phyrexia fascinated him. He introduced Melira to the recovered Father of Machines, an almost mythological figure on Phyrexia. As she worked to restore his damaged form, Melira was amazed how his bulky, war-forged form was able to be so gentle. This golem, despite being made for violence, was able to find peace. 

Rising in the ranks of the Mirran Resistance, it wasn't long before her status as a valuable asset placed her under the isolation of the Tree of Tales. Now, she watched as a Phyrexian soldier burst through the front gates, the shouts of guards in the lower floors alerting her to their breach. Vorinclex's rage over her escape had only fueled their drive to see Melira dead. As more Phyrexians poured into the tower, she wasn't sure what to do. She certainly couldn't fight off the Phyrexians. Escape would be impossible now. It seemed like a lose-lose situation. So, Melira sat upon her bed and let a sense of calm wash over her. She would be with Ich-Tekik soon.

Silence. Where she expected Phyrexian battle cries, there was silence. Melira got up from her bed and poked her head out the door. The hallway was filled with ravaged Phyrexian bodies. Slashes from swords left deep wounds in their cybernetic skin. Glistening oil bubbled across the floor. Carnage lying all around her, Melira felt sick. Mirran blood mixed with oil, leaving maroon puddles all across the floor. Her keepers all looked to be dead or evacuated. The tree was deserted. Her breath was the only sign of life around her.

She saw a movement from across the floor. One of the Phyrexians. A compleated myr, glistening oil spurting from a wound. The knife of a Mirran soldier stuck out of its side, the creature's metallic skin falling from its body in sheets. It drug itself across the floor towards her, as if following one last command to kill her. But it was no threat to her now. This creature was so badly damaged, just barely clinging onto life, that it drifted between the space of life and death. Melira walked over to it, crouching down as the myr let out a screech of grinding metal.

Its eyes flickered on and off. It would die soon. Its body hissed with the vile sounds of Phyrexian biology. Oil bubbled from its wounds, as if it was taking on a life of its own. She wouldn't be able to save it. Not now. But she could do something. She cradled the myr in her arms, holding it tight as its many battle scars began to take hold of its life force. Fear left the myr's body as it embraced her. In this comfort, Phyrexia's hold escaped it. It no longer wanted Melira dead. It simply wanted to die peacefully.

As she watched the life fade from the myr, Melira shed a single tear before returning to her chambers. She would continue her role as the one and only source of hope on Mirrodin.

Jubilee 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.