The Quest for Karn Robert B. Wintermute

They scuffed over a small rise from the south, with the blinding rays of the Sky Tyrant in their eyes and the heat of the other four suns burning at their backs. Underfoot, the hills themselves creaked and popped as their metal sides expanded in the hot morning sunlight. Venser of Urborg pulled off his helmet and surveyed the rusted horizon before casting a wary eye at the two beings walking ahead of him. One towered over the other and both dragged their feet over the tarnished hill.

"I would have come on my own if you'd only asked," Venser said.

The large one stopped and turned. In the almost blinding light of the five suns the iron spikes growing from his shoulders looked dull and tired. But not his teeth, as a sly smile spread over his face.

"Would you really have come, artificer?"

"Venser is my name."

The muscular vulshok shrugged as if to show just what he thought of a name like Venser. "And yes, I would have come," Venser said.

"Well, this is my world and my people," Koth the vulshok grunted, bringing his foot down on the metal floor. "I do not have the luxury of pleasantries." He looked out over the jagged razor of mountains jut¬ting against the horizon. "We should arrive at my village by nightfall," he said. "Be ready for meat and drink served by those with fire in their veins. We will find the one who will know what has become of the situation."

Venser watched the vulshok walk away.

"I can hardly wait," he said. As the rest of the day passed, the suns switched places in the sky and a far range of dun-colored, symmetrical mountains grew closer. Their chipped tips of jagged metal thrust at uniform angles, and the round clouds that massed around their serrated tops reflected the rosy brilliance of lava in the valleys below. The vulshok stopped walking.

"Why have we stopped?" Venser asked. "We should keep walking. I haven't had enough walking."

The third companion turned away and Venser thought he heard a stifled laugh from under her hood.

"Kuldotha, the great mother of thunder and fire nears," Koth said.

"What? In there?" Venser said, pointing to the val-leys between the lumbering mountains.

The vulshok turned slowly to look at the young artificer. "You have fear in your heart?" Koth said. It was more of a statement than a question, but Venser held Koth's gaze.

"No," Venser said. "I was simply saying that can-yons are perfect for ambush."

"And you are a leader now, as well as a prodigy?" Koth said. "Elspeth, what do you think?"

The other figure raised her hands and pulled down her hood.

"I think he is right," she said, adjusting the greatsword strapped at her hip. "You brought him here against his will. The least you can do is listen to him," she said.

"Well," Koth said, flustered. "There is no other way to Kuldotha but through the canyons of the Oxidda Chain."

Elspeth squinted at the near mountains.

"That is true," Venser said.

"How would you know truth in the Oxidda Chain?"

"I have been to this plane of yours." Venser slipped his helmet back on his sweaty head. Through its eye slit he watched as Koth scowled at him. "A clock¬work planet," the artificer said. "Karn brought me here." He stopped short. The geomancer was watch¬ing him intently and when Venser did not continue speaking, Koth's eyes widened.

"Karn?" Koth said.

"An old friend," Venser said, looking away.

Koth's mouth tightened. "I know nobody by that name," Koth said.

"Do you know every being on Mirrodin?" Venser said, still looking away. He showed an uncharacteris¬tic tightness around his eyes and mouth. Koth's eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"We are here to see if the stories I have heard are true," Koth said. "If they are, we will fight. This is why we brought you here. You will perform."

A wry smile appeared on Venser's face. "You do your world no good by threatening those you wish to recruit. You attack me, suffocate me, and expect me to do as you instruct. You are mad if you—"

A squeaking sound was blowing on the wind, and Venser cocked his head to the side taking the sound in. How far, three leagues or just over the next hill? It was hard to judge distance in this steely place . . . without vegetation sound could echo and travel great dis¬tances unobstructed. But Koth appeared not to have heard the sound. He was absolutely red in the face and taking shallow breaths as he stared at Venser.

"Are you well?" Venser said.

"It is you who will follow me and do what I suggest on my plane."

"I think it may be time to separate the boys from the women," Elspeth interrupted, her own head cocked, listening to the sound that had caught Venser's attention.

Venser followed the white-clad woman's gaze. Far off, over the heat-bent air, a form was clearly visible. As they watched, it lumbered and jerked closer on four sprawled legs. As they watched, the thing suddenly came to an abrupt stop and its legs pulled into the main body. A tube came out of the top and turned until it was pointed at the three of them. No sooner than the tube had pointed at them, the creature hopped to its feet again and began scurrying toward them at an alarming speed. They watched it come.

"Is it a machine?" Elspeth said.

"A biomechanical entity, I would think," Venser

"A biomechanical entity," Koth said in a mocking tone. "What do you think it is?" Venser said.

"You are both fools," Koth said.

"It is an artifact creature."

"A biomechanical entity, as I said."

The leveler sped over the dun-colored hill toward
them. As it came nearer they could gauge its size better: larger than an average human and double as wide, with a dome-shaped turret on its top that spun with large, spiked metal balls affixed on chains. Its old, jagged metal sides squeaked as it glided across the space between them on small legs.

Venser stepped forward and took a deep breath. When he exhaled, the beds of his fingernails glowed a dull blue. Elspeth drew her sword and Koth fell into a squat. The creature shot directly at Venser, who was farther to the side than the others. Venser put out his hand. As fast as it was moving, the machine came to an abrupt and jarring stop at Venser's touch, and the balls spinning around its turreted top jerked free and spun away to clatter over the metal hill. The machine stood still.

"Well, let's take a look," Venser said.

He rapped twice on the side of the creature and the rivets holding one of its panels in place popped free. Venser whispered a word under his breath and the panel snapped to his palm as though magnetized. He placed the panel carefully at his feet. Then, to Elspeth's surprise, he pushed his head into the hole and began taking deep breaths.

Koth glanced at Elspeth. Venser suddenly jerked his head out of the hole.

"Fascinating and good."

"What is fascinating?" Koth said.

"This creature, of course. It has never had any synaptic taint . . . ," Venser said.

Elspeth slipped her blade back in its sheath.

"That is good news," Koth said.
Venser waited. "That means no taint of, uh, infection."

"Superior," Elspeth said. "One machine we don't have to send to the scrap heap."

She sounded confident and angry, Venser thought, but there was something else in her tone—some slight tremble in the upper ranges that did not sound con¬fident in the slightest.

Koth knocked carefully on the artifact's thick side. "What do we do with this?"

"We will leave it and my spell will eventually wear off and this marvel will continue on its way."

"Why not dismantle it now so we do not have to
fight it later?" Koth said.

"Because it has done nothing to us," Venser said.

"Except try to destroy us."

"Let us keep walking," Elspeth said, ignoring them both. "This heat tires me greatly."

They kept walking. Soon the mountains they'd seen in the distance were upon them. Their dull iron sides shot up at right angles never seen in nature . . . at least never seen in any kind of nature that Venser had spent time in.

"The Oxidda Chain," Koth said reverently.

The Chain seemed to be composed of corroded, notched slab iron run through with winding conduit tubing. Dark caves and holes abounded in the tight valleys between the peaks. Unaccountably, walkways of metal welded to the sides of the mountains wound away through the valleys. Venser smelled oxidation in the air and something else . . . rotting meat maybe. Nothing moved. No tree limbs stirred in the hot breeze. There were no birds. No sand blew around the cornice of a hill. The view appeared as still and remote as a painted picture.

They pieced their way through the jagged debris that had corroded and rolled off the higher peaks and came to rest deep in the valley. Eventually they reached the base of one of the raised walkways and clambered up its side. The walkway's metal gang-planks were buffed to a dull sheen, but many were oxidized through and derelict.

"Enough of this," Koth said. He put his two sizable hands before him and made a seizing motion, as if to grab one of the huge iron boulders lying in the bed of the valley. To Venser's momentary shock, three of the chunks rose off the ground and floated toward them, guided by Koth's glowing hands. The chunks stopped, one in front of each of the Planeswalkers. Koth stepped on his, and soon Elspeth and Venser were on theirs. Koth's boulder began to float out over the valley floor, a bit higher than the stature of a man. Venser was next. When it was Elspeth's turn, she shot her arms out to her sides to steady herself as her chunk glided forward.

The heat seemed to increase as they moved deeper and between the riven spires of the Oxidda Chain. There was no noise save the wind skittering the loose metal flakes along the valley floor.

Koth had to maintain a lifting motion as the slabs flew. For a moment Venser considered teasing the geomancer for the pose, but then thought better of it and looked out over the raw landscape. He thought about how it had appeared when he visited all that time ago. The same. Just as harsh and, to his eyes, unforgiving. He remembered Karn's pride in Mir¬rodin. He would go into great detail explaining how many days it had taken him to create a certain ridge, or sculpt a peak with just the right sheer. As Venser looked around at the tortured aspect of the Oxidda Chain's brown and orange mountains, he wondered . . . where the creator of Mirrodin was. Where was Karn?

"Where are the living things?" Elspeth said.

"I too would have expected to have encountered a border patrol by this point," Koth said.

"Perhaps the situation on this plane is not as dire as we had thought?" Elspeth said.

"Do any of these suns ever set?" Venser said, gazing upward at a low red sun. "I mean, one falls and another rises, and so on and so on."

Koth glanced up at the sky. "They pull into align-ment, and then fall. This will happen soon and quickly—and by that time we should be in the safety of my village."

"Why?" Venser said.

"It is not safe to wander through the Chain at night. The dangers of falling into something sharp or strik¬ing metal is enough."

"But there are creatures, as well?"

"Oh yes, there are many creatures."

Venser let the comment hang in the air before turn-
ing to Elspeth.

"What is Bant like, fair knight?" Venser said to Elspeth, with only the barest lilt of jest in his voice. The corner of Elspeth's mouth turned down. "It was beautiful," she said. "But there is sadness, now. Is there not?" Venser said. Elspeth was looking down the canyon. She did not shift her gaze at Venser's words.

"There used to be only honor, bravery, and perfec¬tion," Elspeth said. "In my dreams it is still as it was, and people serve for the greater good."

Koth let out a gruff laugh. "Service?" he said. "I have never heard something so . . ." he stopped and turned to Elspeth, who was staring at him intently. "I have never heard of anything so . . . foolish. The strong lead. The weak follow or die."

"Foolish?" Venser said. "Strength comes in all forms. Sometimes working together is the only way to achieve an end. You may be required to cooperate to save your precious Mirrodin, by the end."

Koth growled at Venser before gliding away on his rock.

The suns lined up in the sky as Koth said they would. They fell in a line toward the craggy horizon. Their light was almost extinguished by the time the village came into view. Sunset found them floating above a high precipice looking down on the quiet village.

"It is too still," Koth muttered. How could a vil-lage that had been bustling when he left Mirrodin be completely still now? Where are the fires?

The suns sank still farther in the sky. It would be dark soon. Almost all the light had drained from the sky, and their view would be in question.

Except for the wind, the silence that lay on them as they floated through the village was unbroken and total. They glided along the road that passed between a rough huddle of huts made of rolled-up lengths of metal hammered into tubes. Some of the tubes were wide and some were narrow enough to fit only a body. Elspeth noticed some structures composed of rolls piled together into triangles. There were metal mesh curtains that acted as doors, but most curtains were thrown back to reveal the darkness within the tubes. Many of the curtains whipped and snapped in the wind.

They stopped above the well that marked the center of the village. An iron bucket that acted as the village dipper creaked on a chain in the wind.

"This is a warm reception," Venser said. "Are vulshok homecomings always so lively? If so, I have to make a point of attending more of them. They remind me of home on Dominaria."

But nobody laughed. Even Elspeth did not chuckle. The white warrior had droplets of sweat on her top lip, Venser noticed. Her right hand, resting in what she undoubtedly hoped was a casual pose on her sword hilt, was clenched in a fist.

Koth closed his eyes. Lines began to glow red along his ribs until his whole body was as an ember might be. His eyes popped open suddenly, as red as the tracer lines on his body.

"Be ready," he said.

Elspeth, at least, was ready. She drew her sword in a clatter of steel, her eyes wide. "I smell something strange," she said.

Venser smelled it as well. It could be anything, but he knew what it was just as he knew a million compounds from their smells alone. One could not be an artificer without knowing the smell of things. How could you tell old oil from new or solid metal from corruption without smell? No, he knew corrup-tion when he smelled it, and called deeply to siphon mana from the lines he could feel pulsing deep under the metal surface of the plane. Oh, there was mana in this place. Much mana. Hopefully we will not need it. Hopefully we will find Karn easily and leave Mirrodin to its own devices.

"Something is watching us from the huts," the geo¬mancer said.

From behind them came the sound of metal scraping metal, coupled with a low moan. The scraping sounded like many fingernails dragged across flaking iron. It had been some time since the hairs on Venser's back stood, and he was not altogether happy to be visited by that feeling again. "I think we should move," he said.

"Yes," Koth said. "I think that is a good idea." Venser and Koth's slabs moved forward.

But Elspeth did not move. She had put one of her feet on the iron ground. Her wide eyes slowly narrowed.

"Elspeth? This is the time now to find my friend on the outskirts of the village. He will be able to tell us what is happening here."

"The knights of Bant do not flee, ever."

"Of course they don't," Venser said. "Nobody would ever ask you to do that. To flee. Koth here is suggesting we visit his friend."

Koth nodded.

"Do not patronize me, artificer."

"How do we know there are enemies out there?" Venser said. "And if they were, don't you think our position here is not the best? Strategically, I mean. We are as vulnerable as plucked pullets, and what¬ever is making that noise has many in its party." You only just kidnapped me here. I can't die yet, he added to himself.

Elspeth blinked.

"Yes, this is low ground. Let's repair to a better position," she said, taking her foot off the ground and putting it back on the slab, which floated to catch up with the other two.

"A wise choice," Venser said, when she was float¬ing next to him. If she'd waited more than a second longer he would have snapped a submission spell on her.

They moved very quickly after Koth who led them over more tube huts.

The scrabbling sound they had heard earlier continued behind them. Elspeth was reminded of another time she had heard a similar sound: fleeing a certain prison as a child. When she had run, the beasts had screeched and clawed at their own bars. She remembered the smell of them in that moment and brought her gloved hand up to pinch her nose as she floated along on the slab.

Koth moved them over the land. They saw not a single living thing, except a strange mechanical bird which alighted on the ground and turned its one good eye to stare at them as they passed. Soon the huts became fewer and fewer, and they were away from the village. Elspeth sheathed her sword.

Soon a different type of hut came into view. It was composed of a series of large tubes welded together and nestled in the valley between two vast iron hills that leaned toward each other.

"Is this your friend's house?" Elspeth said.

Koth said nothing for a time. He glided his slab to a stop near the entrance of the hut.

"We'll stop here a moment. This is where I was raised. My family has gel-fruit orchards," Koth stepped off his slab. "And beds."

"Good, I think I might fall down," Venser said. He had taken his helmet off sometime earlier, and had it under his arm.

"You will watch your mannerisms around my mother," Koth said to them. "She has yet to meet one such as yourselves."

"What does that mean?"

"A being of only flesh," he whispered. "Flesh is dis¬trusted by many Mirrans. You must do your people credit."

"My people?"

Elspeth eyed the house surrounded by its low, metal trees. The noise that had been behind them seemed to have disappeared, and she felt more at ease. The dark was on them, and she could see lights in the window of the large hut and smell roasting meat. The night was silent. She realized suddenly that she did not like this plane for its utter silence.

"What is your opinion, my lady?" Venser said, the half smile that played frequently across his face in evidence. Koth was already moving past the twisted metal tubes that made up the gel-fruit trees around the hut.

Elspeth nodded as she watched Koth, thinking Venser was talking about the vulshok. "I watched the vulshok fight in the pits at Urborg. I fought him there as well."

"And what is your impression?"

"He is as good a fighter as I have ever seen, and a strong mage, but . . ."


"He is given to the foolishnesses of all men, and one of those is impulsiveness."

Venser straightened a bit. "Excuse me? Am I not a man?"

She looked back at him. "Yes, and what of it? I am sure you are as thickheaded as the rest of them."

Venser bobbed his head in agreement. "You are probably correct."

"Now that that is settled," Elspeth continued, "we should follow him before he does something foolish that gets us all throttled."

And they did. They caught up with Koth just before he reached the house. The smell of roasting meat was strong. And there was something else in the air as well, Venser thought. Koth pushed the mesh aside and walked headlong into the largest tube of the dwelling.

The interior was brightly lit with sconces welded to the wall and holding globs of what looked like bright molten metal. A fireplace cut out of a chunk of iron stood at one end of the room.

"Hello," Koth said. He walked to the hearth, turned, and looked around the room. "Hello?"

Elspeth put her gloved finger to her lips. "I am not
sure that we should . . ."

"Look who has arrived at long last." The voice came from the dark doorway next to the hearth. A woman's voice, made by a woman who sounded as though she needed to clear her throat, Elspeth thought. A form moved in the shadow and Venser found himself sucking mana through his eyes and temples in anticipation of an emergency teleport. He wasn't the only one concerned—he noticed that Elspeth dropped her hand to her sword's pommel when the woman spoke.

"Mother?" Koth said. "Is it you? Come from the
shadows, Mother."

"It is I, Son. None other." There was more shuffling in the shadows but nobody came out. Koth took a step closer.

"Mother we were being pursued . . . by something making strange sounds. We must leave this place and take to the mountains. Mother?" The vulshok took another step closer to the form in the darkness. Venser snatched a deep breath and thought, do not step any closer.

The figure in the darkness shifted and stepped forward a bit. "You always were a coward. Afraid of shadows and sleeping alone."

"But Mother."

The figure in the darkness stepped forward and into the flickering light from the sconces. Elspeth's hand left the pommel of her sword. The being standing before them seemed as harmless as could be: a vulshok mother in a simple robe, with spiky silver hair and forearms of alloy that glimmered in the dim light.

But Koth seemed bothered. He cocked his head at the woman. "You have changed, Mother. You are thinner. Your hair is different."

The mother's expression did not change, though. Her face remained impassive, plain somehow, as though emotion had never occurred to her.

"You have nothing to fear, I am the same as I have always been. It is I, your mother."

But Koth's unease increased by the second. The tracer lines along his wide chest began to glow red, as did his eyes.

"Where is Father?" Koth said. "Collect him and we must flee."

"It is not time for that," she said.

The woman went to the hearth. She snapped her fingers and a lick of flame ignited in the firebox. The smell of food, of roasting meat, was suddenly over¬powering. Venser's stomach turned as he realized he had not eaten in days.

"Perhaps she's right," Venser said. "Surely we have time for a snack before we flee."

Koth set his teeth together and scowled at Venser.

Just then someone screamed outside. The cry echoed off the mountains. It came from far away, Elspeth thought, and was soon cut short, but it was a cry of utter fear and despair.

"That cry will have to do with whatever is pursuing us," Elspeth said.

But Koth was staring at his mother, who was look¬ing into the fire she'd created in the fireplace.

"There is no need to fear," she whispered to herself. "No need to fear. No need to fear. No need . . ."

Elspeth felt a tug on the sleeve of her tunic. She looked and Venser pointed at Koth's mother's feet. It was hard to see in the dimness of the room, but there seemed to be a snake on the floor at her feet. The smell of roasting meat was strong in Elspeth's nostrils, too. She squinted and looked again at the thing on the floor. Venser leaned in close, so close that his helmet touched her ear.

"Tube," he hissed.

Tube? Elspeth looked again, and now the shape she thought was a snake looked more like a conduit that went from under the woman's robe and into the dark doorway she had stepped from.

"Koth," Elspeth said casually. The vulshok turned to her. "Let us be off, we will come back for your mother as soon as we've found a secure place in the mountains." It was a desperate move, but worth trying.

Koth's mother remained unmoving. Her expression had not changed since she came from the doorway.

"Come give your mother a hug," she said, and lurched toward Koth with stiff knees. "Then we will go eat your father, he is roasting in the other room."

She opened her mouth wide and something shot out with an audible snap. Then a metal mouth was clamped on Koth's face. The event only took a frac¬tion of a moment and the vulshok was rolling on the floor pulling at the writhing metal creature attached to his face. A thin tube extended from it and lolled in a wet loop into the mother's mouth.

Elspeth drew her sword and in a decisive slash sev-ered the tube. Koth's mother stood still next to the hearth, her eyes staring blankly ahead. A moment later a crease appeared on her forehead and down the middle of her nose and chin, down her throat and farther. Then a click and blood appeared at the seam, and in the shocked silence her skin suddenly peeled back to reveal dark sinew. Jagged bones began to push out, followed by a great maw of serrated teeth and the mandible that held them, and then a whole face of jags and two black eyes unfolded itself from within.

As the creature opened up like a puzzle to stand as high as the ceiling, Elspeth felt the blood in her body drop a degree. The creature unfolded more, sloughing off the body of the vulshok like the peel of an eaten fruit.

It was huge. A grotesque, irregular, twisted skeleton of barbed bone and pitted metal shot through with bands of stretched sinew and muscle. An amber glow emanated from deep in its rib cage and then it opened its alloy mouth to reveal rows of chipped teeth.

The lunge came suddenly. Elspeth manage to side-step the strike, but the force of it knocked her off her feet. She was up in a second. With numb fingers she hoisted her greatsword. The blow caught the creature between the eyes, but the bright blade glanced off, and Elspeth had to fight to keep it from flying out of her hands. The creature lunged again. Elspeth twisted away. She regained control and whispered the words she knew so well. White fire leaped momentarily from her sword's tip. Elspeth stepped forward and brought her blade down in an overhead sweep. The moment before impact a white light filled the room and thousands of flashing blades blurred the air. The strikes seemingly came from all angles at the same time. Venser rubbed his eyes and looked again at the creature's body where it lay hacked as though by one hundred swords.

Venser would have asked Elspeth about her sword right there and then if not for Koth. The vulshok ran to the wet rumple of his mother's skin and dropped to his knees. His tears smoked as they ran down his cheek. "Mother," he wailed, holding the skin in his large hands.

But there was no time for grief, and less for tears. A shadow moved in the next room. Venser sensed it first, of course . . . the creature from the dark doorway, the one who had been controlling Koth's mother through the wire she dragged with her. But no sooner had he detected its brain movement in the next room than it exploded through the wall. A hulking creature with long, filthy claws and a dark metal head shaped like a gigantic, battle-chipped spear tip. Most of it was grown of black, chipped metal and burned bone, and its jaw extended well past what was typical on any plane Venser had ever traveled to, and only the end of the jaw was toothed and vicious. It brought its head down and charged Elspeth, who swept up with her sword and caught the creature in the jaw, slicing it delicately in half.

The horrific thing reached up and took hold of its bisected jaw and tore the parts loose with a wicked chortle. The black blood ran down its stretched muscles and soon a torrent of fluid was splashing from its gullet. It tossed its jaw pieces aside, turned, and charged Venser. The artificer waited until the creature was almost upon him before disappearing in a sudden blue flash and reappearing on the other side of the room. Meanwhile, the creature continued in its charge, running headlong into the house and driving its head blade halfway into the metal of the structure. Thus trapped, Elspeth ran, screaming at the beast, chopping it until it breathed no more. She kept hacking with tears running down her own cheeks and froth collecting at the corners of her mouth, until Venser's yelling stayed her hand and she stood blink¬ing in the flickering lights from the magma lamps.

"I think you have done him to death," Venser said. What was left of the thing was gashed and raw and lying in a clump of black reek on the floor of the house.
Venser glanced at Elspeth as she wiped her eyes. A disturbed individual.

"What do you feel?" Venser said toeing what was left of the creature, which was mostly claw and tooth. Worthy of investigation, if he only had the time.

The white warrior was staring at the wall. Venser's words took some moments to register. Finally she turned to him. A bit of black fluid was spattered on her forehead, but Venser thought it would not be the right time to point that out to her.

"I feel nothing."

"Do you feel fear?"

"I will admit that I have felt fear in the past," Elspeth said. "But heroes shed no tears. And I will fight these things with every fiber of my being until I've drawn my last."

"But my lady, I saw you weeping," Venser said. It was out of his mouth before he knew it. So many times he'd encountered that type of person who claimed not to feel. It made him sick. One could not understand how machines and biotic creatures worked without empathy. Parts of Dominaria were full of those beings who claimed not to feel.

"I feel only hatred," she said. "They will all pay and I will not rest until this happens. Any who stand before me will feel this wrath." With that she turned and walked out of the home.

Koth was standing at the far side of the room star-ing at the dead creature. He made no sound as Elspeth threw the steel mesh curtain aside and strode out. "I hoped it wasn't true. Not here," he said.

"So you kidnapped me and brought me here to fight this infection?" Venser said. "Knowing that now I cannot leave, or I risk spreading the contagious oil to any other plane I visit?"

"Are you afraid?" Koth said, standing as tall as possible.

"Am I afraid? I would be a fool indeed to not feel trepidation on a plane that seems to be freshly infested with Phyrexians. Your mother would have killed me if left to her own devices."

"That was not my mother."

"She looked real enough for me. Part of her at least."

"Not my mother," Koth repeated decisively. The vulshok's tone of voice warned against further pursuit of the subject.

"Since our worst thoughts proved true, and Phy-rexia has reached this metallic shore, then our only hope is to find Karn."

"Karn?" Elspeth said. She'd moved into the door-way so soundlessly that Venser had not detected her. Very nice.

"His friend," Koth said. "Who brought him to Mir-rodin. Some unknown Mirran."

"He created Mirrodin," Venser said. "He is the artisan who made this plane. The Silver Golem himself."

They said nothing for a time. "That is not true,"
Koth said. "We vulshok have our own stories."

"It is true, I assure you."

"Venser," Elspeth said. "Why would he be here?
And if he is, then he has surely been consumed. And in that case, we do not want to find him."

"Last I heard he was traveling here. He sent a mes¬sage that none should follow him. He is my friend and I would have followed him."

"Eventually?" Koth said

"Yes," Venser said, staring darkly at Koth.

"What is our next course of action?" Elspeth said.

Venser turned to her. "We don't know just how badly this place is infected yet. I have not seen many of the telltale signs of septic infiltration. He could be somewhere fighting the Phyrexians even as we speak."

Elspeth nodded once to acknowledge that that was indeed a possibility. Koth, on the other hand, frowned.

"Silver golems and Phyrexians are both foreigners and will be expelled as soon as possible," Koth said. "You will see that Mirrodin does not stand alone. Her children will fight for her. People like my comrade Malach. We will find him. He can tell us how bad the infection has become." Koth walked out the door.


Excerpted from The Quest for Karn by Robert B. Wintermute. Copyright (C) 2011 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.



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