Welcome to Flavortown - Pir, Imaginative Rascal
Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Vivien's Talent | Illustrated by Zoltan Boros & Eli Minaya
Pir's Superfriends Field Trip
Today is a special story! There's this little website called EDHREC (you might have heard of it). One of their authors, Philomène Gatien, writes a series called Do Your Worst. She focuses on building decks with popular archetypes in unusual places! As a lover of off-the-wall deckbuilding I'm a huge fan of hers. In honor of our mutual love of deckbuilding, we've teamed up to deliver a story-deckbuilding combo. She's brewed the deck and I've brewed the story. Enjoy!
"At a certain point, I began pondering if this was the consequence of a prolonged existence. I had seen so much, standing idly by as civilizations, even entire worlds, crumbled before my eyes. As these great horrors unfolded, I did nothing. With all the power I hold I could brush these threats away with nothing but a thought. Instead I watched, unwilling to intercede. Perhaps I had lost whatever mortal element allows for one to feel pity for those lost. Everything, even the culmination of centuries of culture and history, all seems so small when compared to my life."
Pir shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the Spirit Dragon spoke to him. "Mister Ugin, I really appreciate your time, but I think I'm gonna look for a different mentor."
The young boy had been sitting there for what felt like days meeting with these visitors from beyond. As the story was told to him they were launching an initiative in the wake of some war in a place called Ravnica. In order to better prepare planes for invasion they would educate the inhabitants on planeswalkers, ingratiating themselves into the population. In application this turned out to be nothing more than a simple after-school program. The Kylem School for Brave Teens would pair a student up with a compatible planeswalker, the student would learn from them for a few days, then report on the findings. A simple, if wasteful, system.
One of Pir's teachers had recommended he register for the program. She was worried about his increased silence in classes, as he'd gone from a jovial student to virtually silent. Oftentimes the only sound he would make would be grunts during physical education, though the clamor of students training in the arena drowned this out. Others would pry into his life, trying to get to the bottom of what was bothering him. But he wouldn't budge. He made it quite clear that he was maintaining his grades and ranking highly in the arena, so his silence shouldn't concern them. As Pir understood it, he was much better at imagining than speech. When the former faded, his desire for the latter did as well.
Apparently this line of logic didn't follow for them, meaning he would be stuck listening to the ramblings of these wayward travelers until one of them was deemed suitable to act as a mentor. Not that Pir thought he needed one. They didn't want him to become more skilled, just more manageable. Hell, they'd attempted to set him up with some sing-song bard in the hopes she'd quell his demeanor. But no. Pir was not going to listen to someone who'd never known the true nature of the world, his world, tell him he needed to conform. If they would not understand him, he wouldn't grant them his respect. This seemed fair.
The door opened slowly and what first emerged was not a person, but a massive longbow. Then, its wielder entered, a tall woman clad in leather hunting gear. Her face was dappled with dirt and ash, though it didn't seem to bother her. Making herself at home, she propped her bow against the wall and took a seat, tapping her boot against the hardwood floor.
There was a long pause as neither spoke, until Pir cleared his throat. "So, what's your pitch?"
"Hmm?" The woman seemed surprised. The kid had spunk, that much was true. "Didn't think I'd have to give a presentation. I'm doing this as a favor to a friend. Supposedly, I'm your last option. All you have to do is help me with some errands and I'll sign the little slip that gets you your grade. Got it?"
"So I'm your free labor?" Pir rolled his eyes. "I'm a fighter. Not anyone's secretary."
"You'd be compensated. I'm a good cook. Honest." She chuckled. "Sorry, did you say you were a fighter?"
He gave her the short of it. Pir used to be a fighter in Valor's Reach. A respected one at that, even going toe-to-toe with other interplanar visitors. Yet that was all in the past. He'd had a partner then. Not one that anybody saw, that is. But if you asked Pir, the partner was quite real. Real enough to carry them to victory dozens of times. But that friend was long gone. Not dead, as she assumed, but as if he'd never existed. The existential equivalent of paper dissolving in water.
"--he was massive, with dozens of tails, teeth bursting out of his mouth--"
"This was a dinosaur or something?" She did her best to hide her smile. Pir's demeanor seemed to shift when he spoke of his time in the arena. Instead of an aloof, detached drawl, his descriptions were full of love and passion for the act. This kind of idealism was sweet to her. It wasn't often, at least in her line of work, that one could find this kind of zeal. Sure, he hated class and socialization. But he loved adventure, danger, the grit of the outside world. The kid had some experience, though much of it was from long ago. His records showed an excellent proficiency in combat and athletics. He just needed something to fight for.
"What do you say we have a bit of a field trip?" She extended her hand to him. "My name is Vivien. And you're gonna help me hunt a monster."
Pir was given little to no explanation on what exactly they would be doing. He assumed that, after a short hike, they'd arrive and he would be able to surmise the general goal. But Vivien simply led them further and further from civilization until the thick blanket of trees above blotted out the sky, leaving them in an arboreal void.
The path was lit by dapples of sunlight from between the branches as well as Vivien's torch. It had been burning since they departed, lit by two spinning rings that spun atop an oak staff. When he'd asked what allowed for this to happen, she gave a brief, if unsatisfying, answer.
"It's a friend's invention. Never liked his trinkets. But it helps."
After a full day's worth of walking, Pir began to question what exactly was going on here. He'd heard of planeswalkers plotting world-domination and enacting evil schemes. If Vivien was a megalomaniacal warlord from across the planes, he'd likely be an easy target to sacrifice to some vile machine-god.
But Vivien didn't seem to operate that way. She was strong, able to move boulders and climb up massive trees with ease. Her strength was a well-wielded blade, not something heaved around without care or grace. In the middle of her walk, she stopped in the middle of the path. "This is where we'll make camp. Would you set up the tents, Pir?"
Vivien tended to their campfire, picking at the crackling firewood with one of her arrows. It didn't seem to melt under the heat. Instead, the arrowhead flickered with a soft, green light. He was mesmerized for a moment. Sitting there, not covered by industry or artifice, Vivien looked completely at ease. Pir allowed himself to attempt to enter this state and drift off into nature. This was somewhat successful until he heard his stomach begin to growl.
"Any chance you know where we could get some food, Ms. Reid?" Pir shifted uncomfortably in the dirt. She thought for a moment before snapping her fingers.
"I've got just the idea. Be right back." The second her sentence ended Vivien vanished into a puff of green mist. Scrambling to his feet, Pir watched the vapors dissipate into the air. Soon there was no trace of her, and Pir began to panic. She was the only one who knew how to get back. Did anyone else know where they had gone? Was this the trap she was setting? Where did she go? What if she was dead? Oh gods, had he killed her somehow?
After five minutes of panicking, Pir saw another bright flash as Vivien returned with a massive slab of meat in her hands, the shape of which was unlike anything Pir had ever seen. It seemed to him like if the texture of pork was applied to the build of a roast chicken. Confused, Pir began to shout and ask why she'd left him.
"Did you think I was going to leave you alone?" Vivien smiled. "I'm hurt, Pir. Wounded even."
"It's not funny. You just vanished. I thought you left me here. Alone. What kind of mentor does that?" Pir covered his ears. "I'm sorry, I'm just scared. I shouldn't--"
Vivien grimaced. "No, you're right. I've gotten used to popping in and out of places. I shouldn't have done that without warning you." She gave a slight bow to him as she prepared to cook the meat she'd brought.
"I just don't need more people vanishing on me."
Vivien froze. Damn. She figured part of being a mentor was dealing with the complexities of her student's well-being. But this was, well, it wasn't a field she was experienced in. The frivolous nature of human wants and needs seemed alien to her. For now, the best and only thing she could do would be offer a distraction.
"Ever had Kamigawin Serow kabobs?" Vivien cooked the meat over the fire. "It'll change your life. The stuff basically comes pre-seasoned."
"I thought you couldn't carry matter across the planes."
Vivien did her best to explain the mechanics of it. At least, her understanding of them. Because the beast was technically dead, the meat was no longer organic. Once the chefs preserved it with various spices and enchantments, the effects of the space between planes no longer affected it. The universe no longer understood the meat as belonging to a living creature, instead it was a wholly new creation.
Engrossed in conversation, neither heard the noise of wildlife bristling in the nearby woods. It crept on tangled, knotted hands, digging its claws into the ground and dragging itself across the dirt. Unseen, it seemed to absorb various rocks and sticks into its body, dissolving them in an instant and expanding its physical form. As it approached, Pir noticed the crackling of leaves behind them and spun around.
The elemental, its physical form made of sundry materials and objects, roared at them. Their fire went out in a flash, the two only lit by the meager moonlight. Vivien ordered Pir to get back, the young boy scrambling behind their camping gear. As the elemental stalked around the camp, he could see a sizzling acid dripping from its mouth. Vivien seemed to be eyeing her bow. Her fingers seemed to twirl around an invisible object, as if her body was preparing to take up arms.
The two were still, then Vivien dashed for her bow. Narrowly dodging the snap of the beast's jaws, she deftly hopped over the embers of their fire towards her bow. Globs of devouring acid flew across the campsite towards the ranger. As she ducked down, Pir saw as one blast caught Vivien on the shoulder, tearing a burning wound into her arm. She nearly dropped the bow, but gritted her teeth and drew back the string. As she prepared to fire, Pir realized she hadn't docked an arrow.
A glowing light appeared in the center of the bow, taking the form of a translucent arrow. Wisps of smoke drifted off the arrowhead, which shimmered in the moonlight and cast dazzling reflections across the elemental's face. She released the string, sending the arrow flying. In midair it began to morph and dissolve into space. What was once an arrow had taken the form of an identical creature. The cloned elemental roared at the other as Vivien scuttled behind it. Each elemental gazed at the other. Soon, the original let out an affirming grunt before trotting off into the forest. Vivien's conjuration vanished just as quickly as it came.
"Did you just summon an animal? Like, an animal from another world?" Pir was astonished at the display of magic.
"No. As I said, living flesh cannot travel between the planes." She held out her bow in front of her. "This is called the Arkbow. It's a creation from my homeworld of Skalla. It allows me to envision beasts from my past and call constructs of them to my aid."
Fascinating, thought Pir. Able to conjure beasts with nothing more than a thought. For a moment he allowed himself to remember Toothy. But it was best not to linger on that. "What was that thing? It looked angry."
Vivien began to gather her things. "Not angry. Scared. Which means the person who scared the beast is nearby."
"How do you know someone did it?"
Vivien nocked an arrow on the Arkbow's string. "There's a plague in these woods, and another creature brought it here."
As Vivien began to explain the young boy steadied himself for battle. This thing, whatever they were hunting, was going to strike again soon. If it had infected this elemental, it was likely close behind. Best not to wait around. The two gathered their weapons and headed into the forest to confront a beast whose name he had never heard of. Though, Vivien had something she called it. Vorinclex.
Vivien had theorized that the beast arrived in some sort of interplanar sojourn, caught up in the turbulent crossroads of Kylem's leylines. A friend of hers had caught word of a sighting of the beast on Kaldheim. If this creature had made its way onto Kylem, the two of them would need to handle it swiftly. The more time that they wasted hunting, the more wildlife it would be able to infect.
Pir stared into the depths of a cave, the one she'd lead him to. It sat somewhere deep in the heart of the forest, buried in the sound of hooting owls and bristling fauna. He could hear the heavy breaths of the beast, each wave like a blast of hot air. Somewhere, the creature lurked just out of sight. Either they would slay it or Kylem would be lost.
She'd expressed the dire nature of their situation. The way these creatures brought blight and sickness to every plane. A sickness that corrupted even the most stalwart of souls. She spoke of beautiful forests overrun by metal and dictatorship, an affront to everything she considered good and right in the world. Pir didn't know what he considered good, but he knew what he called home.
Vivien nocked an arrow in the Arkbow, allowing the magic the weapon held to flow freely. She wondered what she might be imagining in that moment, what creature she would conjure to try and save them. It must have been something she'd seen before. That is, unless she were to invent her own. But no, it had to be something real. Pir had been caught up in the unreal for so long. He decided he had to root himself in reality. Especially for this.
A soft thwip rang out as an arrow fired into the inky blackness of the cave. Slowly the light of the arrow faded into the depths of the cavern until it was gone. The two waited for a moment, considering that they might have gotten the wrong location. Then, the tension broke as the husk of a massive mechanical beast was thrown out of the cave. It sparked briefly before catching fire, its body stripped of parts and left to suffer.
"He was supposed to be weak," Vvien said to herself. "Wounded by the planar travel. He shouldn't be recovered." Grabbing another arrow from her quiver, she conjured the mental image of a massive Zendikari elemental. Then, the beast burst from the cave's mouth, a mass of muscle and sinew tied together by scrap metal. It roared in a high, shrieking tone that forced Pir to cover his ears. It was strange, seeing something made of materials he knew but assembled in a way that made it completely foreign.
Another arrow flew, this time towards Vorinclex's hide. It morphed into a massive construct of an elemental which slammed against the creature. Pir knew what role he'd have to play. Leaping across the rocks, he grabbed a knife tied to some rope. Whipping it around his head, he launched the knife into the beast's back and pulled the rope taught. Calling on the little magic he knew, Pir managed to steady himself and partially restrain the beast.
Vivien continued to fire a flurry of shots. These ones were quick, her hands seeming to move with a mechanical kind of precision. Her shots morphed into miniature birds whose claws raked against the hide of the creature. Eventually, one of the birds attempted to scratch at the eyes of Vorinclex. Not fast enough, the beast bit down on the bird, then spat its oil-coated remains at Vivien. The shards shredded her arms as the Arkbow flew out of her hands.
Vivien began to pant. She could feel the oil taking root. She'd have to act, but that would mean retreat. Could they afford that? Grabbing a metal syringe from her pocket, she injected the Halo into her wounds. The substance seemed to push out the corruption, but its effects caused a flood of nausea to hit her. Her hands shook as she reached for the weapon. Despite her best efforts, her fingers could barely grip the bow, let alone fire a shot. If only she could just fire one more shot, something to drive the beast away.
Pir didn't speak. He acted. It was just another fight in Valor's Reach. Deftly avoid the obstacles. Leap past the projectiles his opponent launched. Claim the prize. The Arkbow was heavy in his hands. As he readied himself, he felt a shift in the weapon. It seemed to adapt itself to his stature, becoming lighter and reforming itself to his preferences.
"Think of something!" shouted Vivien. "Something strong!"
"Anything?" Pir asked. As he drew back the weapon, he realized he didn't need an arrow. He just needed to imagine. Only in his mind, he spoke the name of a friend he'd not seen in a long time, compelling his essence to emerge from his mind and back into reality.
"Toothy!" And the creature responded.
It charged down Vorinclex, slashing at the beast's hide. It could do nothing but thrash as the metal was torn from its skin with violent rage. Vorinclex spoke something in a language neither of them knew, though the universal language of fear was clear. He was dying. Kylem was safe.
Then, a circular portal opened behind Vorinclex. As the creature's body began to leak oil, the tendrils of a massive tree picked up his husk of a body and dragged it through the portal. As Toothy dissipated, so did the invader as the portal shrunk down into nothingness.
Pir crouched down next to Vivien, tending to her wounds. This substance, Halo, it would cure her wounds in time; for now she was hurt quite badly. But when she saw Pir, all Vivien could do was smile.
"So, kid," she asked, "how'd you do it?"
"I just imagined something." Pir laughed. "I learned from the best."
Pir and Vivien's AdventureView on Archidekt
Philomène made an amazing deck and I can only hope my story did her work justice! You can find a link to her write-up on Pir Superfriends here. While you're there, check out all of her and the other amazing writers' articles on EDHREC. With so many talented writers, it's like our own version of the planeswalker mentors!
As the two hiked back towards the city, they discussed how they would explain the situation to the people of Pir's school. It was strange. How exactly do you explain that "stopping an interplanar invader" should count for course credit? It didn't matter, though. Pir was just happy to have someone to share a good discussion with. Vivien didn't need him to fill the space with pointless chatter. They could speak only when they felt they needed to. It was nice.
Above them, the sound of rumbling rang through the forest. Instinctively, the two ducked behind a tree and watched for any assailants. But the threat came from above. Another portal, this one much larger, tore itself open in the sky above. Then another, then another. From them, massive metallic tendrils poured from the skyline. Soon the stars themselves were blotted out by the chatter of thousands of metal creatures. It seemed as though every bit, every piece of the world was being torn asunder by something unknowable.
"The invasion," said Vivien. "It's begun."