This entry is part 8 of 13 in the series (Vexing) Devil's Advocate

378127_10150441621792624_1477312954_nConcrete shrapnel whistled by my head as a blast of energy narrowly missed me, taking a chunk out of the alley I was running down instead. If I needed any more motivation to keep sprinting through the pain, that certainly provided it. I couldn’t take too many more hits like that.

“Calm down, Eric. Assess the situation. Look for advantages,” I muttered under my breath as I tried to keep up the pace of my sprint. Panic wasn’t going to do me any good, I needed to break things down into manageable bits.

Well, I was bleeding from a gash across my stomach that would have eviscerated me had it been an inch deeper, so that should probably be looked at. I could taste the metallic tang of blood in my mouth, my head was pounding with a dull throb that made focusing nearly impossible, and the softly glowing purple runes wreathed around my left hand reminded me that I wasn’t going to be getting any more power without a bit of pain first. Lyzolda, my right hand girl, was banished from my thoughts by some nasty blue spell and I couldn’t remember how to call her despite my best efforts. Meaning I was entirely on my own.

Oh, and the Vendilion Clique was chasing me down some crappy back alley in Ravnica. Meanwhile, their neck-bearded overseer cackled from… Somewhere way behind me.

Yup, I’m pretty much f#%^ed.

God, do I hate blue.

God, do I hate blue.

“Okay, let’s remove the immediate danger first,” I thought to myself. I glanced back over my left shoulder to see the sprite triad giggling and zipping around less than ten feet behind me. One of them would sporadically point a finger at me, sending out a brilliant beam of energy that I would barely dodge.

“F#%^ this. I’m not getting killed by some overhyped pixies,” I growled under my breath. I shifted my focus, and poured some of my remaining vitality into the violet runes on my forearm.

They abruptly changed from softly glowing purple to almost burning black, a shade so dark that the dim light in the alley seemed to recoil from it. A moment later, the power of the Necropotence filled my mind. The dull ache in my head was obliterated, and suddenly every sight and noise was coming at me in fine detail. My brain was handily sorting every sense and stimulus into simple categories for me to handle, faster than my conscience thought could keep up. More importantly, my memories were suddenly in high definition, every miniscule detail suddenly right at my fingertips.

It's like viagra for wizardry.

It’s like viagra for wizardry.

“Gotcha,” I growled. I closed my eyes and sent my thoughts into the stones under my feet, calling to the earth beneath me for mana. When I could begin to feel the channel of fiery red mana course through me, I stopped my sprint dead and pivoted. My spin had me facing the Clique, and I took aim at them with my empty right hand.

They saw what was coming a moment before it happened. They tried to pull straight up in a vertical flight to dodge, but I had already sent the mana coursing down my arm. As I did, I focused on the raw act of creation and the memory that Necropotence had drawn into my mind…

…The crackle and vibration of raw power, I could feel it in my bones, in my muscles, in the air around me and the ground beneath me. Blinding brightness, blocks out everything but a roar in my ears. A smell, equal parts burning ozone and searing flesh…

…And the red mana turned into a scarlet Lightning Bolt as it left my fingertips. The alley was filled with a blinding flash and the roar of thunder. When the smoke cleared, all that was left of the Vendilion Clique was three silhouettes burned into an alley wall.

"Do you know what happens to a pixie when it gets hit by lightning?"

“Do you know what happens to a pixie when it gets hit by lightning?”

I crumpled to my knees and started spitting up blood on the concrete. I was being too reckless with the Necropotence, there wasn’t much of me left to put into it. I needed to find a safe haven, somewhere I could take five minutes, get the gash on my abdomen sealed, and figure out how to get Lyzolda back.

“You know Eric, you should change your Commandercast profile picture to this,” I heard my opponent call out from the end of the alley. It looks like Neck-beard had finally caught up.

I looked up at him. He was walking towards me from the end of the alley, still a good thirty feet away. He was a little pudgy, about five-foot-ten, wearing blue jeans, a black hoodie, and some runners. He had brown curly hair and a pair of wire rimmed glasses. Really, the most remarkable thing about his appearance was how completely unremarkable it was. Except for his thick, unshaven neck-beard.

“Seriously dude, have you ever even heard of a razor?” I managed to spit out through mouthfuls of blood. I swear, if someone doesn’t write “Glib to his Grave” on my tombstone then I will have been done a massive disservice.

His face scrunched up, not unlike he had just smelled a particularly nasty fart. “I’m doing the Magic community a service by being rid of you. You’re inappropriate, preachy, and worst of all conceited. Your uninformative and stale, and you can’t go three seconds without making some joke at the expensive of your fellow players. You suck.”

“You forgot that I’m also adorable,” I groaned as I stood to my feet, still hunching over to give the impression that I couldn’t support my own weight. “And I practice basic hygiene. And I’m sn…” I trailed off, spitting up a little bit more blood. At least this one was mostly spit.

“You’re what?” he asked, turning his ear towards me and taking another couple of steps. A little less than twenty feet away, it’d have to do.

“I’m sneaky!” I roared, unleashing the mana I had drawn in while I had been hunched over. This mana hadn’t just been drawn from the earth beneath me, but also the sewers beneath that. Where things rotted and decomposed in the pitch darkness, generating fonts of black mana. I mixed this in with the explosive and untameable red mana, and shaped them into the form of a…

…I’m in a manor on Innistrad. The hardwood under my feet squeaks as I plant my feet, bracing myself. Blood and Perfume in the air, smells like iron and roses. There is a redhead, her skin pure porcelain, giving orders with a wave of her hand. When she does, another woman in a blood-soaked dress charges me, raging and spitting. Her fangs are an inch from me, her claws reaching for my throat. She’s faster than a heartbeat, she smells like overripe fruit, her feet aren’t touching the floor. I feel the impact as she knocks me over…

I'm a sucker for a girl in a red dress.

I’m a sucker for a girl in a red dress.

Falkenrath Aristocrat, one of the most vicious beings on Innistrad. She flew (literally) down the alley towards Neck-beard as fast and straight as a bullet, and he was on the ground with her clawing at his meager defenses before he could even cry out out.

“Boo ya!” I screamed as I jumped and pumped a fist into the air. I came crashing down a minute later, clutching at my stomach. My leaping had opened up the gash more, and this time when I spat up blood I could taste bile too. I was way too banged up to be celebrating, time to head home and collapse.

“That was close, you sack of s#&%! You are sneaky,” Neck-beard said through laboured breath. I looked up at him to see that his face had been bloodied and bruised, but he seemed okay otherwise. And he was pointing at the sky with the index finger of his right hand.

I looked up and saw my vampire battling it out with a translucent blue reflection of herself, a Phantasmal Image that Neck-beard had conjured up. I should have seen it coming, he had summoned a Phyrexian Metamorph to copy my Mana Crypt earlier. The guy was a mirror mage, and his reflection and my vampire tore each other apart in seconds.

“Damn, you said I was inappropriate. Language,” I quipped. I was laying on the ground now, partially in a puddle of my own blood. It suddenly occurred to me that now was probably not the best time to be cracking wise. Maybe I could try negotiating? So I turned to Neck-beard and said,”You know what? We’ve both had pretty long days. How about we just call it quits. I’ll go home and have sex with a cute ginger, and you can go home and keep cultivating that forest on your throat. We can meet up and pow wow later, yeah?”

So much for that realization.

His eyes bulged and his face went red in indignant rage. He looked like he would just skip the spells and walk over and kick me to death. And in fact, he started doing just that.

“You arrogant, ignorant little worm! I will kick your teeth down your throat!” He shrieked as he blundered another step towards me. He was standing directly above me now, and he had lifted his foot to formally introduce the rubber of his soles to my cheshire grin.

Seriously, who falls for the same trick twice? I filled the air between us with raw red and black mana, quickly forming it into a solid shape. I called back my memory of Innistrad, but this time I focused on the pale redhead. Her name was Olivia, and summoning her wasn’t going to be the same as the last vampire. When I summoned the aristocrat, it was nameless. It had no identity to me, just a shape to represent the memory of speed and claws and blood thirst.

But Olivia had a name, she had a identity to me. And I called on that identity…

…she had been impressed by me fending off her pawns. She stared at me from across the room and called out “Well, you are far more interesting then the usual cattle aren’t you?”¬†

I remembered her fighting me with her court, only to decide that I was “too entertaining to kill.” I remembered my encounter with Grimgrin, where I summoned her for the first time. She enslaved him and made him run laps around Thraben’s walls.

You think nerds without deoderant smell bad? Get a whiff of this guy!

You think nerds without deoderant smell bad? Get a whiff of this guy!

I remembered a fight against another red-black walker who had summoned her, and seeing the difference. My Olivia was coy, playful, and predatory, like a cat playing with a mouse that doesn’t know it’s dead yet. His Olivia had been stuck up and arrogant, her nose upturned the whole fight. They were reflections of their summoners, both identifiable as the same person but with certain characteristics brought into sharper relief. The way the same shirt can look blue or grey depending on lighting.

I remembered every fight she saved me in. I remembered when I summoned her to help tidy the (Vexing) Devil’s Advocate offices and she redecorated the whole place gothic. I remembered the time she turned a dragon, and the time she hypnotized an eldrazi. I remembered every time I watched her fall in battle. I remembered her ferocity, her confidence, her allure, her sadism…

… And I screamed out, “Olivia Voldaren! Take him!”

That's my girl!

That’s my girl!

Neck-beard stumbled (well, more like fell and rolled) back and away as she appeared in the air, hovering over me. She was the same as I remembered, all pale skin, red hair, and black dress. She hovered about five feet off the ground and took a slow and indifferent look around, as if she were watching a television show about a situation happening far, far away from her concerns.

“Oh dear, you have gotten yourself quite banged up. How does this happen, Eric?” She asked me. Her voice was like wine-soaked silk. There was concern in her tone, but she was still wearing a cocky smile. “You really should get up off the ground, sweetie. It’s not dignified.”

“I made comments about blue magic in my last article that Grouchy the Hairy over there didn’t really like,” I nodded towards Neck-beard, who had gotten to his feet and seemed to be gathering mana. “And I don’t wanna get up. From this spot, I can see straight up your dress.”

Olivia raised an her eyebrow at that, but before she could respond Neck-Beard had finished his summon, a Clone that took the form of Olivia.

Seriously now, how many of those did he have?

The most unoriginal card ever. Get it?

The most unoriginal card ever. Get it?

“You think your whore will save you? Now I have one too!” Neck-beard screamed, gesticulating with his arms and almost foaming at the mouth at this point. “Now just die already!”

“Hey a$$hat!” I called, standing up behind (my) Olivia, who I actually saw physically shake at the whore comment. “If you want to spout sexism, maybe don’t point it at the ancient and powerful vampire. Also, can yours do this?” I asked before funnelling red mana from myself into Olivia with a thought.

She stiffened up for a moment, then blurred towards the clone, faster than sight or sound.

Faster than the reflection could react.

Before faux-Olivia could even raise her arms in defence, my Olivia had taken two bites out of her neck and shoulders. She paused for a moment to gorge herself on blood, then she returned to me with the same supernatural speed. She stood before me again, blood dripping from her satisfied grin.

“And for my next trick,” Olivia purred as she took in black mana from me and gestured towards the Clone, “Come here, my pet.”

I saw the the moment the hypnotic magic hit the Clone. Faux-Olivia’s eyes went blank, and behind her Neck-beard’s went wide. He knew he had lost control of his best defence, and I enjoyed his panic for a moment.

My attention was diverted when I felt the link form between the Clone and myself. The black mana in the spell aimed at her had gone through Olivia from me, and now the hypnosis enchantment was anchored by a connection between (my) Olivia and myself.

But my brain wasn’t agreeing with this. Olivia was a construct made of massive amounts of memories and collected experiences. This came with many benefits, such as her actually having a personality, remembering all the times she was summoned, and growing from our shared experiences. But all those benefits came hinged upon the idea that she was singular to me, she was one Olivia, the one who I summoned and re-summoned over and over. Trying to focus my mind on her and her exact reflection at the same time was like trying to look in two directions at once.

Something had to give, so I let go of my focus on the Clone. With her connection to Neck-beard severed by Olivia’s hypnotism and me withdrawing my focus, there was no will keeping the mana composing faux-Olivia together. The moment I pulled my thoughts away from her, she faded into a fine mist of blue mana.

“I can still win!” Neck-beard roared at me. “You’re barely alive Eric! I don’t even have to do anything! I can just wait for you to bleed out! You’re still gonna die here, and everyone is going to know that I kill- AAAAGHHHHH!!!” His rant was cut off by a shriek of agony followed by his collapse to the ground. Olivia and I approached him as he began to seize and shake. By the time we closed the distance to him in the alley, he had stopped and was just laying flat on the ground, panting for breath.

“What was that?” he managed to gasp at me.

Mana Crypt,” I responded simply. “You copied mine. Using the souls of the dead to generate mana is a resourceful kind of recycling, but sometimes they bite you for it. It takes some getting used to.”

It's better than Sol Ring, as long as you don't mind eating lightning bolts.

It’s better than Sol Ring, as long as you don’t mind eating lightning bolts.

He just nodded in agreement with me, still short of breath. “Say, you might have been right earlier. Maybe we should just pick this up another day. Is that offer still on the table?” He panted desperately at me.

“Oh Neck-beard, it’s fine. It really is. I’m cool with calling it and getting out of here now. I mean, as long as Olivia has forgiven that nasty sexist comment from earlier. How are you feeling about that, my lady?” I asked, turning to her.

Neck-beard had less than a moment to scream and cower before Olivia was on him. She tore at him with teeth and claws, red mist flying off of him. He was reduced to a unidentifiable pile of gore in less than a minute.

I put the grizzly scene from my mind, turning around and gathering the energy for a walk. I would need to focus on this one, make sure I visualized my destination clearly in my mind. I didn’t know if I would have the time or energy for a second try.

But if I made it, I had some Bottle Gnomes waiting for me inside my desk.

Nothing is better for a brew than the tang of sentience.

Nothing is better for a brew than the tang of sentience.

“Where are you going, my dear?” Olivia called to me. I looked back at her, and wondered (not for the first time) how she could still be stunningly beautiful while coated head-to-toe in bits of dead body. Must be a vampire thing.

“Where else?” I replied, smirking through the pain. “Back to the office. I have work to do.”

Eric is the wise-ass author of (Vexing) Devil’s advocate, and if you want to reach him-

Sorry epilogue guy, I know you want to wrap things up but I forgot one thing. F#%^ Omniscience.

Why!? Why would someone think this was a good idea!?

I didn’t want you to think I’d forgotten.

… Ah, of course. What would we be if we forgot about that. Anyways, leave Eric a comment below or send him an email at EricBonvie@gmail.com.

 

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